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Home -> Miguel de Cervantes -> Don Quixote -> Chapter 6

Don Quixote - Chapter 6

1. The Author's Preface

2. Dedication of Volume I

3. Chapter 1

4. Chapter 2

5. Chapter 3

6. Chapter 4

7. Chapter 5

8. Chapter 6

9. Chapter 7

10. Chapter 8

11. Chapter 9

12. Chapter 10

13. Chapter 11

14. Chapter 12

15. Chapter 13

16. Chapter 14

17. Chapter 15

18. Chapter 16

19. Chapter 17

20. Chapter 18

21. Chapter 19

22. Chapter 20

23. Chapter 21

24. Chapter 22

25. Chapter 23

26. Chapter 24

27. Chapter 25

28. Chapter 26

29. Chapter 27

30. Chapter 28

31. Chapter 29

32. Chapter 30

33. Chapter 31

34. Chapter 32

35. Chapter 33

36. Chapter 34

37. Chapter 35

38. Chapter 36

39. Chapter 37

40. Chapter 38

41. Chapter 39

42. Chapter 40

43. Chapter 41

44. Chapter 42

45. Chapter 43

46. Chapter 44

47. Chapter 45

48. Chapter 46

49. Chapter 47

50. Chapter 48

51. Chapter 49

52. Chapter 50

53. Chapter 51

54. Chapter 52

55. Dedication of Volume II

56. The Author's Preface

57. Chapter 1

58. Chapter 2

59. Chapter 3

60. Chapter 4

61. Chapter 5

62. Chapter 6

63. Chapter 7

64. Chapter 8

65. Chapter 9

66. Chapter 10

67. Chapter 11

68. Chapter 12

69. Chapter 13

70. Chapter 14

71. Chapter 15

72. Chapter 16

73. Chapter 17

74. Chapter 18

75. Chapter 19

76. Chapter 20

77. Chapter 21

78. Chapter 22

79. Chapter 23

80. Chapter 24

81. Chapter 25

82. Chapter 26

83. Chapter 27

84. Chapter 28

85. Chapter 29

86. Chapter 30

87. Chapter 31

88. Chapter 32

89. Chapter 33

90. Chapter 34

91. Chapter 35

92. Chapter 36

93. Chapter 37

94. Chapter 38

95. Chapter 39

96. Chapter 40

97. Chapter 41

98. Chapter 42

99. Chapter 43

100. Chapter 44

101. Chapter 45

102. Chapter 46

103. Chapter 47

104. Chapter 48

105. Chapter 49

106. Chapter 50

107. Chapter 51

108. Chapter 52

109. Chapter 53

110. Chapter 54

111. Chapter 55

112. Chapter 56

113. Chapter 57

114. Chapter 58

115. Chapter 59

116. Chapter 60

117. Chapter 61

118. Chapter 62

119. Chapter 63

120. Chapter 64

121. Chapter 65

122. Chapter 66

123. Chapter 67

124. Chapter 68

125. Chapter 69

126. Chapter 70

127. Chapter 71

128. Chapter 72

129. Chapter 73

130. Chapter 74



While Sancho Panza and his wife, Teresa Cascajo, held the above
irrelevant conversation, Don Quixote's niece and housekeeper were not
idle, for by a thousand signs they began to perceive that their uncle and
master meant to give them the slip the third time, and once more betake
himself to his, for them, ill-errant chivalry. They strove by all the
means in their power to divert him from such an unlucky scheme; but it
was all preaching in the desert and hammering cold iron. Nevertheless,
among many other representations made to him, the housekeeper said to
him, "In truth, master, if you do not keep still and stay quiet at home,
and give over roaming mountains and valleys like a troubled spirit,
looking for what they say are called adventures, but what I call
misfortunes, I shall have to make complaint to God and the king with loud
supplication to send some remedy."

To which Don Quixote replied, "What answer God will give to your
complaints, housekeeper, I know not, nor what his Majesty will answer
either; I only know that if I were king I should decline to answer the
numberless silly petitions they present every day; for one of the
greatest among the many troubles kings have is being obliged to listen to
all and answer all, and therefore I should be sorry that any affairs of
mine should worry him."

Whereupon the housekeeper said, "Tell us, senor, at his Majesty's court
are there no knights?"

"There are," replied Don Quixote, "and plenty of them; and it is right
there should be, to set off the dignity of the prince, and for the
greater glory of the king's majesty."

"Then might not your worship," said she, "be one of those that, without
stirring a step, serve their king and lord in his court?"

"Recollect, my friend," said Don Quixote, "all knights cannot be
courtiers, nor can all courtiers be knights-errant, nor need they be.
There must be all sorts in the world; and though we may be all knights,
there is a great difference between one and another; for the courtiers,
without quitting their chambers, or the threshold of the court, range the
world over by looking at a map, without its costing them a farthing, and
without suffering heat or cold, hunger or thirst; but we, the true
knights-errant, measure the whole earth with our own feet, exposed to the
sun, to the cold, to the air, to the inclemencies of heaven, by day and
night, on foot and on horseback; nor do we only know enemies in pictures,
but in their own real shapes; and at all risks and on all occasions we
attack them, without any regard to childish points or rules of single
combat, whether one has or has not a shorter lance or sword, whether one
carries relics or any secret contrivance about him, whether or not the
sun is to be divided and portioned out, and other niceties of the sort
that are observed in set combats of man to man, that you know nothing
about, but I do. And you must know besides, that the true knight-errant,
though he may see ten giants, that not only touch the clouds with their
heads but pierce them, and that go, each of them, on two tall towers by
way of legs, and whose arms are like the masts of mighty ships, and each
eye like a great mill-wheel, and glowing brighter than a glass furnace,
must not on any account be dismayed by them. On the contrary, he must
attack and fall upon them with a gallant bearing and a fearless heart,
and, if possible, vanquish and destroy them, even though they have for
armour the shells of a certain fish, that they say are harder than
diamonds, and in place of swords wield trenchant blades of Damascus
steel, or clubs studded with spikes also of steel, such as I have more
than once seen. All this I say, housekeeper, that you may see the
difference there is between the one sort of knight and the other; and it
would be well if there were no prince who did not set a higher value on
this second, or more properly speaking first, kind of knights-errant;
for, as we read in their histories, there have been some among them who
have been the salvation, not merely of one kingdom, but of many."

"Ah, senor," here exclaimed the niece, "remember that all this you are
saying about knights-errant is fable and fiction; and their histories, if
indeed they were not burned, would deserve, each of them, to have a
sambenito put on it, or some mark by which it might be known as infamous
and a corrupter of good manners."

"By the God that gives me life," said Don Quixote, "if thou wert not my
full niece, being daughter of my own sister, I would inflict a
chastisement upon thee for the blasphemy thou hast uttered that all the
world should ring with. What! can it be that a young hussy that hardly
knows how to handle a dozen lace-bobbins dares to wag her tongue and
criticise the histories of knights-errant? What would Senor Amadis say if
he heard of such a thing? He, however, no doubt would forgive thee, for
he was the most humble-minded and courteous knight of his time, and
moreover a great protector of damsels; but some there are that might have
heard thee, and it would not have been well for thee in that case; for
they are not all courteous or mannerly; some are ill-conditioned
scoundrels; nor is it everyone that calls himself a gentleman, that is so
in all respects; some are gold, others pinchbeck, and all look like
gentlemen, but not all can stand the touchstone of truth. There are men
of low rank who strain themselves to bursting to pass for gentlemen, and
high gentlemen who, one would fancy, were dying to pass for men of low
rank; the former raise themselves by their ambition or by their virtues,
the latter debase themselves by their lack of spirit or by their vices;
and one has need of experience and discernment to distinguish these two
kinds of gentlemen, so much alike in name and so different in conduct."

"God bless me!" said the niece, "that you should know so much,
uncle--enough, if need be, to get up into a pulpit and go preach in the
streets--and yet that you should fall into a delusion so great and a
folly so manifest as to try to make yourself out vigorous when you are
old, strong when you are sickly, able to put straight what is crooked
when you yourself are bent by age, and, above all, a caballero when you
are not one; for though gentlefolk may be so, poor men are nothing of the

"There is a great deal of truth in what you say, niece," returned Don
Quixote, "and I could tell you somewhat about birth that would astonish
you; but, not to mix up things human and divine, I refrain. Look you, my
dears, all the lineages in the world (attend to what I am saying) can be
reduced to four sorts, which are these: those that had humble beginnings,
and went on spreading and extending themselves until they attained
surpassing greatness; those that had great beginnings and maintained
them, and still maintain and uphold the greatness of their origin; those,
again, that from a great beginning have ended in a point like a pyramid,
having reduced and lessened their original greatness till it has come to
nought, like the point of a pyramid, which, relatively to its base or
foundation, is nothing; and then there are those--and it is they that are
the most numerous--that have had neither an illustrious beginning nor a
remarkable mid-course, and so will have an end without a name, like an
ordinary plebeian line. Of the first, those that had an humble origin and
rose to the greatness they still preserve, the Ottoman house may serve as
an example, which from an humble and lowly shepherd, its founder, has
reached the height at which we now see it. For examples of the second
sort of lineage, that began with greatness and maintains it still without
adding to it, there are the many princes who have inherited the dignity,
and maintain themselves in their inheritance, without increasing or
diminishing it, keeping peacefully within the limits of their states. Of
those that began great and ended in a point, there are thousands of
examples, for all the Pharaohs and Ptolemies of Egypt, the Caesars of
Rome, and the whole herd (if I may such a word to them) of countless
princes, monarchs, lords, Medes, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and
barbarians, all these lineages and lordships have ended in a point and
come to nothing, they themselves as well as their founders, for it would
be impossible now to find one of their descendants, and, even should we
find one, it would be in some lowly and humble condition. Of plebeian
lineages I have nothing to say, save that they merely serve to swell the
number of those that live, without any eminence to entitle them to any
fame or praise beyond this. From all I have said I would have you gather,
my poor innocents, that great is the confusion among lineages, and that
only those are seen to be great and illustrious that show themselves so
by the virtue, wealth, and generosity of their possessors. I have said
virtue, wealth, and generosity, because a great man who is vicious will
be a great example of vice, and a rich man who is not generous will be
merely a miserly beggar; for the possessor of wealth is not made happy by
possessing it, but by spending it, and not by spending as he pleases, but
by knowing how to spend it well. The poor gentleman has no way of showing
that he is a gentleman but by virtue, by being affable, well-bred,
courteous, gentle-mannered, and kindly, not haughty, arrogant, or
censorious, but above all by being charitable; for by two maravedis given
with a cheerful heart to the poor, he will show himself as generous as he
who distributes alms with bell-ringing, and no one that perceives him to
be endowed with the virtues I have named, even though he know him not,
will fail to recognise and set him down as one of good blood; and it
would be strange were it not so; praise has ever been the reward of
virtue, and those who are virtuous cannot fail to receive commendation.
There are two roads, my daughters, by which men may reach wealth and
honours; one is that of letters, the other that of arms. I have more of
arms than of letters in my composition, and, judging by my inclination to
arms, was born under the influence of the planet Mars. I am, therefore,
in a measure constrained to follow that road, and by it I must travel in
spite of all the world, and it will be labour in vain for you to urge me
to resist what heaven wills, fate ordains, reason requires, and, above
all, my own inclination favours; for knowing as I do the countless toils
that are the accompaniments of knight-errantry, I know, too, the infinite
blessings that are attained by it; I know that the path of virtue is very
narrow, and the road of vice broad and spacious; I know their ends and
goals are different, for the broad and easy road of vice ends in death,
and the narrow and toilsome one of virtue in life, and not transitory
life, but in that which has no end; I know, as our great Castilian poet
says, that--

It is by rugged paths like these they go
That scale the heights of immortality,
Unreached by those that falter here below."

"Woe is me!" exclaimed the niece, "my lord is a poet, too! He knows
everything, and he can do everything; I will bet, if he chose to turn
mason, he could make a house as easily as a cage."

"I can tell you, niece," replied Don Quixote, "if these chivalrous
thoughts did not engage all my faculties, there would be nothing that I
could not do, nor any sort of knickknack that would not come from my
hands, particularly cages and tooth-picks."

At this moment there came a knocking at the door, and when they asked who
was there, Sancho Panza made answer that it was he. The instant the
housekeeper knew who it was, she ran to hide herself so as not to see
him; in such abhorrence did she hold him. The niece let him in, and his
master Don Quixote came forward to receive him with open arms, and the
pair shut themselves up in his room, where they had another conversation
not inferior to the previous one.

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