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Stories of Don Quixote by  James Baldwin

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WITH FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS

[164] FOR nearly a month Don Quixote remained at home, seeing no one at all but his niece and the housekeeper. The curate and the barber came daily to inquire how he was doing; but they kept carefully out of his sight lest they might hinder his recovery.

At length the niece told them that he was well and in his right mind. Would they not come in and see him?

"With much pleasure," answered the barber; and they were ushered in.

They found the poor gentleman sitting up in his bed. He wore a waistcoat of green baize, and on his head was a red nightcap. His eyes were bright, and his voice was clear; but his face and body were so withered and wasted that he looked like a mummy.

He seemed glad to see his two old friends. They sat down by his bedside, and talked with him [165] about a great many matters. They tried to say nothing about knight-errantry, but at last the subject came up in spite of them.


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Then Don Quixote grew eloquent. He talked about knights and giants and famous heroes, scarcely giving the curate room to put in a word.

His friends saw with sadness that his mind still ran towards the same great passion. They saw that it was his intention, sooner or later, to ride out again to seek new adventures. So when at last they took their departure, the curate again whispered a word of caution to the niece.

"Keep a good watch upon him," he said. "Let [166] everything be very quiet around him, and don't let him think about going away from home."

As Don Quixote improved in strength and became able to walk about the house, other neighbors and friends dropped in to see him. He welcomed each one cheerfully, and never failed to say something in praise of knighthood. But they, having been cautioned by the curate, talked to him only about the weather and the crops, and soon took their leave. And so the poor man gradually grew stronger and seemed to be quite well contented.

One morning, however, who should knock at the door but Sancho Panza.

"I have come to see the valorous Don Quixote," he said to the niece.

"You shall see nobody!" she answered, holding the door against him. "You shall not enter the house, you vagabond!"

"Go, go!" cried the housekeeper. "It's all along of you and nobody else, that he has been enticed and carried a-rambling all over the world."

"No such thing," answered Sancho. "It's I that have been enticed and carried a-rambling, and not your master. It was he that took me from house [167] and home, saying he would give me an island; and I'm still waiting for it."

"An island! What's that?" said the niece. "If it's anything to eat, I hope it'll choke you."

"You're wrong there," answered Sancho. "Islands are not to eat; they're to govern."


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"Well, anyhow, you don't come in here," said the niece. "Go govern your own house, plow your own field, and don't trouble yourself about anybody's islands and dry lands. They're not for such as you."

It so happened that the curate and the barber, who were just taking their leave after a short visit, heard the whole of this little quarrel. They were much amused by it, and were about to give their help to the niece when Don Quixote himself came to the door.

[168] "Welcome, my faithful friend," he said; and giving his niece a sharp rebuke, he led Sancho into the house.

"Now mark me," whispered the curate, "our neighbor will soon be rambling again in spite of all that we can do."

Don Quixote led his squire into the bedroom and locked the door. Then the two sat down together and talked of the glories and perils of knighthood.

"What say you, friend Sancho?" said the knight. "Will you return to my service? What does your good wife say?"

"She says that a man must not be his own carver," answered Sancho. "She says that it is good to be certain; that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; that one hold-fast is better than two may-be-so's. A woman's counsel is not worth much, yet he that despises it is no better than he should be."

"I say so too," said Don Quixote. "You talk like pearls to-day. But what shall I understand from all that?"

"Why, sir," answered Sancho, "I wish you to [169] give me so much a month for my wages. For other rewards come late, and may not come at all. A little in one's own pocket is better than much in another's purse. Set a hen upon an egg. Every little makes a mickle."

"You are wise, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "and I understand the drift of all your proverbs."

"Certainly," answered Sancho, "and I should like to know what I am going to get. If you should sometime give me that island, I would then be willing to knock a proper amount off of the wages."

"As to the wages," said Don Quixote, "I would pay them willingly if it were allowed by our order. But in all the books I have ever read, there is no account of a knight paying wages to his squire. The servant was always given an island, or something of that sort, and there was an end of it."

"But suppose that the island was not forthcoming?" said Sancho.

"I abide by the customs of chivalry," said Don Quixote, firmly. "If you desire not to take the same risks of fortune as myself, heaven be with [170] you. I can find a squire more obedient and careful than you have ever been, and much less talkative."

Sancho's heart sank within him. He had not expected an answer like this. In fact he had thought that Don Quixote could not possibly do without him. He was so taken aback that he did not know what to say or do.

At that moment there was a knock at the door. It was opened, and in came the housekeeper and the niece, and with them a young man of the village whose name was Samson Carrasco.

This young man was just home from the great college at Salamanca, where he had received his bachelor's degree. He was none of the biggest in body, but a very great man in all sorts of drollery. He was about twenty-four years old; his face was round; his mouth was large; and his eyes sparkled with good humor.

"You are a scholar," whispered the niece, as they entered the room. "Try to persuade him from riding out again."

But Samson liked nothing so well as sport, and he was a great actor and mimic. He threw himself [171] at Don Quixote's feet and delivered a speech that was full of flattery and big words.

"O flower of chivalry," he cried, "refulgent glory of arms, the pride of Spain! Let all who would prevent thy third going out be lost and disappointed in their perverse wishes."

Then, turning to the housekeeper, he said, "You must not detain him; for while he stays here idle, the poor are without a helper, orphans are without a friend, the oppressed are without a defender, and the world is deprived of a most valorous knight."

To this speech the housekeeper could make no reply, and Samson therefore turned again to Don Quixote.

"Go forth then, my graceful, my fearless hero," he said. "Let your greatness be on the wing. And if anything be needful to your comfort or your service, here I am to supply it. I am ready to do anything. I am ready, yes, ambitious, to attend you as your squire and faithful servant."

Don Quixote was deeply moved. He took the young man by the hand, and embraced him. "No, my friend," he said, "it would be unfair that Samson Carrasco, the darling of courts and the glory of [172] the Salamanca schools, should devote his talents to such a purpose. I forbid it. Remain in thy country, the honor of Spain and the delight of thy parents. Although Sancho declines to go with me, there are plenty of others who will be glad to serve as my squire.


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At these words Sancho burst into tears and cried out, "Oh, I'll go! I'll go with you, sir! I have not a heart of flint; and if I spoke about wages, it was only to please my wife."

[173] So the two embraced, and were as good friends as before; and with the advice of Samson Carrasco it was agreed that on the third day they would set out on their new trial of adventures.

The niece and the housekeeper made a woeful out-cry. They tore their hair. They scratched their faces. They scolded; they pleaded; they wept bitter tears. But nothing could change the designs of the valorous knight.

The curate and the barber, as well as the women, blamed Samson Carrasco for the whole business. But he understood the case better than they. "It is wiser not to restrain him," he said. "He will find the cure for his malady not here, but on the road. So let us humor him."


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