Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and the GhostsAbout this time, whether it was owing to the coolness of the morning that approached, or to his having supped upon something that was laxative; or, which is more probable, to the operation of nature --- Sancho was seized with an inclination and desire of doing that which could not be performed by proxy. But such was the terror that had taken possession of his soul that he durst not move the breadth of a nail-paring from his master's side. At the same time, it was as impossible for him to resist the motion of his bowels. And, therefore, to compromise the matter, he flipp'd his right hand from the hinder part of the saddle, and without any noise, softly undid the slip knot by which his breeches were kept up, upon which they of themselves fell down to his heels, where they remained like a pair of shackles. He then gathered up his shirt behind as well as he could, and exposed his posteriors --- which were none of the smallest --- to the open air.
This being done, and he imagined it was the chief step he could take to deliver himself from the pressing occasion and dilemma in which he was --- another difficulty, still greater, occurred; namely, that he should not be able to disencumber himself without noise. He therefore began to fix his teeth close, shrug up his shoulders, and hold in his breath with all his might. But --- notwithstanding these precautions --- he was so unlucky in the issue as to produce a rumbling sound very different from that which had terrified him so much. It did not escape the ears of Don Quixote who immediately cried, "What noise is that, Sancho?"
"I know not, sir," said the squire. "It must be some new affair, for adventures and misventures never begin with trifles." He tried his fortune a second time, and, without any more noise or disorder, freed himself from the load which had given him so much uneasiness. But, as Don Quixote's sense of smell was altogether as acute as that of his hearing, and Sancho stood so close to him, the vapours ascended towards him, almost in a direct line, and he could not exclude some of them from paying a visit to his nose.
No sooner was he sensible of the first salutation, than in his own defense he pressed his nose between his finger and thumb, and, in a snuffling tone, pronounced, "Sancho, thou seemest to be in great fear."
"I am so," answered the squire, "but, how comes your worship to perceive my fears now, more than ever?"
"Because, at present, thou smellest more than ever --- and that not of amber," replied the knight.
"That may be," said Sancho, "but I am not so much to blame as your worship, who drags me at such unseasonable hours into these uninhabited places."
"Retire three or four steps farther off, friend," resumed Don Quixote, stopping his nose all the time, "and henceforth take more heed of thy own person, and remember what thou owest to mine. For I find the frequent conversation I maintain with thee hath engendered this disrespect."
"I'll lay a wager," replied Sancho, "that your worship thinks I have been doing something I ought not to have done."
"The more you stir it, friend Sancho," said the knight, "the more it will stink."In this and other such discourse the master and his squire passed the night --- but Sancho perceiving the day begin to break apace, with great care and secrecy, unbound Rosinante and tied up his breeches. The beast, which was naturally none of the briskest, seemed to rejoice at his freedom, and began to paw the ground. Don Quixote finding him so mettlesome, conceived a good omen from his eagerness, believing it a certain presage of his success in the dreadful adventure he was about to achieve.
Aurora now disclosed herself, and --- objects appearing distinctly --- Don Quixote found himself in a grove of tall chestnut-trees which formed a very thick shade. The strokes still continuing, though he could not conceive the meaning of them, he, without further delay, made Rosinante feel the spur but not before turning to take leave of Sancho and commanding him to wait three days at farthest, as he had directed before. And if he should not return before that time was expired, he might take it for granted that God had been pleased to put a period to his life, in that perilous adventure.
He again recommended to him the embassy and message he should carry from him to his mistress Dulcinea, and bade him give himself no uneasiness about his wages, for he had made a will before he quitted his family in which he should find his services repaid by a salary proportioned to the time of his attendance.
But if heaven should be pleased to bring him off from that danger, safe, sound and free --- he might, beyond all question, lay his account with the government of the island he had promised him.
Sancho, hearing these dismal expressions of his worthy master repeated, began to blubber afresh, and resolved not to leave him, until the last circumstance and issue of the affair.
From these tears, and this honorable determination of Sancho Panza, the author of this history concludes that he must have been a gentleman born, or an old christian at least. His master himself was melted a little at this testimony of his affection but not so much as to discover the least weakness. On the contrary, disguising his sentiments, he rode forward towards the place from whence the noise of the strokes and water seemed to come. Sancho followed on foot, and, according to custom, by the halter leading his ass which was the constant companion of his good and evil fortune.
Having travelled a good way among those shady chestnut-trees, they arrived in a small meadow lying at the foot of a huge rock over which a stream of water rushed down with vast impetuosity. Below appeared a few wretched huts that looked more like ruins than houses, and they observed that from them proceeded the horrible din of the strokes which had not yet ceased.
Rosinante being startled at the dreadful noise of the strokes and water, Don Quixote endeavoured to sooth him, and advanced little by little towards the huts, recommending himself in the most earnest manner to his mistress, whose favor he implored in the achievement of that fearful enterprise: neither did he omit praying to God for his protection.
Sancho, who never stirred from his side, thrust his neck as far as he could between the legs of Rosinante, in order to discover the objects that kept him in such terror and suspense, and, when they had proceeded about an hundred paces farther, at the doubling of a corner, stood fully disclosed to view the very individual and undoubted cause of this tremendous sound and terrible noise, which had filled them with such doubts and consternation all night long.
Be not offended gentle reader: this was no other than six fulling-hammers, which by their alternate strokes produced that amazing din. Don Quixote was struck dumb with astonishment at the sight. Sancho looked at him, and found his head hanging down upon his breast along with other manifest signs of his being out of countenance.
The knight, in his turn, looked at the squire and saw his mouth shut, his cheeks puffed up, with other symptoms of his being ready to burst with laughing.
This comical situation of the squire, in spite of all his own melancholy, obliged the master to begin to do the same. And had Sancho no sooner beheld the severity of the knight's features relaxed than he opened the flood-gates of his mirth, which broke forth with such violence that he was under the necessity of supporting his sides with both fists that they might not be rent to pieces by the convulsion.
Four times did he exhaust and as often renew the laugh with the same impetuousity as that first; for which, Don Quixote already wished him at the devil, more especially, when he heard him pronounce, by way of sneer, "Know, friend Sancho that I was born by heaven's appointment in these iron times, to revive the age of gold, or the Golden Age! I am he, for whom strange perils, valiant deeds, and vast adventures are reserved!" And in this manner he proceeded, repeating all or the greater part of the knight's exclamation, when they first heard the terrible noise.