OF THE STRANGE ADVENTURE WHICH THE VALIANT DON QUIXOTE HAD WITH THE CAR
OR CART OF "THE CORTES OF DEATH"
Dejected beyond measure did Don Quixote pursue his journey, turning over
in his mind the cruel trick the enchanters had played him in changing his
lady Dulcinea into the vile shape of the village lass, nor could he think
of any way of restoring her to her original form; and these reflections
so absorbed him, that without being aware of it he let go Rocinante's
bridle, and he, perceiving the liberty that was granted him, stopped at
every step to crop the fresh grass with which the plain abounded.
Sancho recalled him from his reverie. "Melancholy, senor," said he, "was
made, not for beasts, but for men; but if men give way to it overmuch
they turn to beasts; control yourself, your worship; be yourself again;
gather up Rocinante's reins; cheer up, rouse yourself and show that
gallant spirit that knights-errant ought to have. What the devil is this?
What weakness is this? Are we here or in France? The devil fly away with
all the Dulcineas in the world; for the well-being of a single
knight-errant is of more consequence than all the enchantments and
transformations on earth."
"Hush, Sancho," said Don Quixote in a weak and faint voice, "hush and
utter no blasphemies against that enchanted lady; for I alone am to blame
for her misfortune and hard fate; her calamity has come of the hatred the
wicked bear me."
"So say I," returned Sancho; "his heart rend in twain, I trow, who saw
her once, to see her now."
"Thou mayest well say that, Sancho," replied Don Quixote, "as thou sawest
her in the full perfection of her beauty; for the enchantment does not go
so far as to pervert thy vision or hide her loveliness from thee; against
me alone and against my eyes is the strength of its venom directed.
Nevertheless, there is one thing which has occurred to me, and that is
that thou didst ill describe her beauty to me, for, as well as I
recollect, thou saidst that her eyes were pearls; but eyes that are like
pearls are rather the eyes of a sea-bream than of a lady, and I am
persuaded that Dulcinea's must be green emeralds, full and soft, with two
rainbows for eyebrows; take away those pearls from her eyes and transfer
them to her teeth; for beyond a doubt, Sancho, thou hast taken the one
for the other, the eyes for the teeth."
"Very likely," said Sancho; "for her beauty bewildered me as much as her
ugliness did your worship; but let us leave it all to God, who alone
knows what is to happen in this vale of tears, in this evil world of
ours, where there is hardly a thing to be found without some mixture of
wickedness, roguery, and rascality. But one thing, senor, troubles me
more than all the rest, and that is thinking what is to be done when your
worship conquers some giant, or some other knight, and orders him to go
and present himself before the beauty of the lady Dulcinea. Where is this
poor giant, or this poor wretch of a vanquished knight, to find her? I
think I can see them wandering all over El Toboso, looking like noddies,
and asking for my lady Dulcinea; and even if they meet her in the middle
of the street they won't know her any more than they would my father."
"Perhaps, Sancho," returned Don Quixote, "the enchantment does not go so
far as to deprive conquered and presented giants and knights of the power
of recognising Dulcinea; we will try by experiment with one or two of the
first I vanquish and send to her, whether they see her or not, by
commanding them to return and give me an account of what happened to them
in this respect."
"I declare, I think what your worship has proposed is excellent," said
Sancho; "and that by this plan we shall find out what we want to know;
and if it be that it is only from your worship she is hidden, the
misfortune will be more yours than hers; but so long as the lady Dulcinea
is well and happy, we on our part will make the best of it, and get on as
well as we can, seeking our adventures, and leaving Time to take his own
course; for he is the best physician for these and greater ailments."
Don Quixote was about to reply to Sancho Panza, but he was prevented by a
cart crossing the road full of the most diverse and strange personages
and figures that could be imagined. He who led the mules and acted as
carter was a hideous demon; the cart was open to the sky, without a tilt
or cane roof, and the first figure that presented itself to Don Quixote's
eyes was that of Death itself with a human face; next to it was an angel
with large painted wings, and at one side an emperor, with a crown, to
all appearance of gold, on his head. At the feet of Death was the god
called Cupid, without his bandage, but with his bow, quiver, and arrows;
there was also a knight in full armour, except that he had no morion or
helmet, but only a hat decked with plumes of divers colours; and along
with these there were others with a variety of costumes and faces. All
this, unexpectedly encountered, took Don Quixote somewhat aback, and
struck terror into the heart of Sancho; but the next instant Don Quixote
was glad of it, believing that some new perilous adventure was presenting
itself to him, and under this impression, and with a spirit prepared to
face any danger, he planted himself in front of the cart, and in a loud
and menacing tone, exclaimed, "Carter, or coachman, or devil, or whatever
thou art, tell me at once who thou art, whither thou art going, and who
these folk are thou carriest in thy wagon, which looks more like Charon's
boat than an ordinary cart."
To which the devil, stopping the cart, answered quietly, "Senor, we are
players of Angulo el Malo's company; we have been acting the play of 'The
Cortes of Death' this morning, which is the octave of Corpus Christi, in
a village behind that hill, and we have to act it this afternoon in that
village which you can see from this; and as it is so near, and to save
the trouble of undressing and dressing again, we go in the costumes in
which we perform. That lad there appears as Death, that other as an
angel, that woman, the manager's wife, plays the queen, this one the
soldier, that the emperor, and I the devil; and I am one of the principal
characters of the play, for in this company I take the leading parts. If
you want to know anything more about us, ask me and I will answer with
the utmost exactitude, for as I am a devil I am up to everything."
"By the faith of a knight-errant," replied Don Quixote, "when I saw this
cart I fancied some great adventure was presenting itself to me; but I
declare one must touch with the hand what appears to the eye, if
illusions are to be avoided. God speed you, good people; keep your
festival, and remember, if you demand of me ought wherein I can render
you a service, I will do it gladly and willingly, for from a child I was
fond of the play, and in my youth a keen lover of the actor's art."
While they were talking, fate so willed it that one of the company in a
mummers' dress with a great number of bells, and armed with three blown
ox-bladders at the end of a stick, joined them, and this merry-andrew
approaching Don Quixote, began flourishing his stick and banging the
ground with the bladders and cutting capers with great jingling of the
bells, which untoward apparition so startled Rocinante that, in spite of
Don Quixote's efforts to hold him in, taking the bit between his teeth he
set off across the plain with greater speed than the bones of his anatomy
ever gave any promise of.
Sancho, who thought his master was in danger of being thrown, jumped off
Dapple, and ran in all haste to help him; but by the time he reached him
he was already on the ground, and beside him was Rocinante, who had come
down with his master, the usual end and upshot of Rocinante's vivacity
and high spirits. But the moment Sancho quitted his beast to go and help
Don Quixote, the dancing devil with the bladders jumped up on Dapple, and
beating him with them, more by the fright and the noise than by the pain
of the blows, made him fly across the fields towards the village where
they were going to hold their festival. Sancho witnessed Dapple's career
and his master's fall, and did not know which of the two cases of need he
should attend to first; but in the end, like a good squire and good
servant, he let his love for his master prevail over his affection for
his ass; though every time he saw the bladders rise in the air and come
down on the hind quarters of his Dapple he felt the pains and terrors of
death, and he would have rather had the blows fall on the apples of his
own eyes than on the least hair of his ass's tail. In this trouble and
perplexity he came to where Don Quixote lay in a far sorrier plight than
he liked, and having helped him to mount Rocinante, he said to him,
"Senor, the devil has carried off my Dapple."
"What devil?" asked Don Quixote.
"The one with the bladders," said Sancho.
"Then I will recover him," said Don Quixote, "even if he be shut up with
him in the deepest and darkest dungeons of hell. Follow me, Sancho, for
the cart goes slowly, and with the mules of it I will make good the loss
"You need not take the trouble, senor," said Sancho; "keep cool, for as I
now see, the devil has let Dapple go and he is coming back to his old
quarters;" and so it turned out, for, having come down with Dapple, in
imitation of Don Quixote and Rocinante, the devil made off on foot to the
town, and the ass came back to his master.
"For all that," said Don Quixote, "it will be well to visit the
discourtesy of that devil upon some of those in the cart, even if it were
the emperor himself."
"Don't think of it, your worship," returned Sancho; "take my advice and
never meddle with actors, for they are a favoured class; I myself have
known an actor taken up for two murders, and yet come off scot-free;
remember that, as they are merry folk who give pleasure, everyone favours
and protects them, and helps and makes much of them, above all when they
are those of the royal companies and under patent, all or most of whom in
dress and appearance look like princes."
"Still, for all that," said Don Quixote, "the player devil must not go
off boasting, even if the whole human race favours him."
So saying, he made for the cart, which was now very near the town,
shouting out as he went, "Stay! halt! ye merry, jovial crew! I want to
teach you how to treat asses and animals that serve the squires of
knights-errant for steeds."
So loud were the shouts of Don Quixote, that those in the cart heard and
understood them, and, guessing by the words what the speaker's intention
was, Death in an instant jumped out of the cart, and the emperor, the
devil carter and the angel after him, nor did the queen or the god Cupid
stay behind; and all armed themselves with stones and formed in line,
prepared to receive Don Quixote on the points of their pebbles. Don
Quixote, when he saw them drawn up in such a gallant array with uplifted
arms ready for a mighty discharge of stones, checked Rocinante and began
to consider in what way he could attack them with the least danger to
himself. As he halted Sancho came up, and seeing him disposed to attack
this well-ordered squadron, said to him, "It would be the height of
madness to attempt such an enterprise; remember, senor, that against sops
from the brook, and plenty of them, there is no defensive armour in the
world, except to stow oneself away under a brass bell; and besides, one
should remember that it is rashness, and not valour, for a single man to
attack an army that has Death in it, and where emperors fight in person,
with angels, good and bad, to help them; and if this reflection will not
make you keep quiet, perhaps it will to know for certain that among all
these, though they look like kings, princes, and emperors, there is not a
"Now indeed thou hast hit the point, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "which
may and should turn me from the resolution I had already formed. I cannot
and must not draw sword, as I have many a time before told thee, against
anyone who is not a dubbed knight; it is for thee, Sancho, if thou wilt,
to take vengeance for the wrong done to thy Dapple; and I will help thee
from here by shouts and salutary counsels."
"There is no occasion to take vengeance on anyone, senor," replied
Sancho; "for it is not the part of good Christians to revenge wrongs; and
besides, I will arrange it with my ass to leave his grievance to my
good-will and pleasure, and that is to live in peace as long as heaven
grants me life."
"Well," said Don Quixote, "if that be thy determination, good Sancho,
sensible Sancho, Christian Sancho, honest Sancho, let us leave these
phantoms alone and turn to the pursuit of better and worthier adventures;
for, from what I see of this country, we cannot fail to find plenty of
marvellous ones in it."
He at once wheeled about, Sancho ran to take possession of his Dapple,
Death and his flying squadron returned to their cart and pursued their
journey, and thus the dread adventure of the cart of Death ended happily,
thanks to the advice Sancho gave his master; who had, the following day,
a fresh adventure, of no less thrilling interest than the last, with an