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Stories of Don Quixote by  James Baldwin


 

 

THE INNKEEPER OF SARAGOSSA

[274] ONE morning towards the end of summer Don Quixote surprised the duke by calling for his armor and his steed.

"My Lord Duke, I must away, to seek new adventures," he said. "I cannot tarry here any longer."

"But has not your stay with us been agreeable to you?" asked the duke. "Why should you wish to leave us?"

"You have indeed been kind, and I thank you for it," answered the knight. "But it is wrong to linger here among the dainties and delights which you have provided, while there are so many things in the world that need doing. I shall have to give an account for all these idle days."

So, bidding the duke and duchess a kind farewell, he mounted his steed and rode away towards Saragossa; and Sancho, on his dappled donkey, followed him as before.

Time would fail me to tell of the many happenings [275] on the road. They traveled leisurely along, making no plans, and letting each day and hour take care of itself. Yet the knight was ever on the alert for some new adventure.

One evening they arrived at an inn on the outskirts of the city, feeling very tired and hungry. The innkeeper met them at the door.

"Have you lodgings for two weary travelers and their beasts?" asked Sancho.

"Yes," answered the innkeeper, "there are no better lodgings in Saragossa."

So they alighted. Sancho led the beasts to the stable and gave them their food. Then he returned to the house to wait on his master.

"What have you for supper, my good host?" he asked.

"You may measure your mouth and ask for anything you like," said the innkeeper. "Here you will find everything in abundance—fowls of the air, birds of the earth, and fishes of the sea."

"Well," said Sancho, "if you will roast a couple of chickens for us it will be enough. My master eats but little, and I am not a glutton."

"I am sorry," said the innkeeper, "but I have not [276] a single chicken left. The hawks have carried them all away."

"Why, then, if that is the case, you may roast us a duck," said Sancho.

"A duck, sir!" cried the innkeeper, "I sent fifty to the market yesterday, and there is not another one. But, aside from ducks and chickens, ask for anything you like."

"Well," said Sancho, "a little veal or boiled kid would taste quite good."

"Next week, my friend, we shall have plenty of both," said the host, "but now we are just out of such meats."

"Bring on some fried eggs and bacon, then," said Sancho.

"You are a good one at guessing," cried the host. "But I told you that I had neither chickens nor ducks, and so how can I have eggs?"

"Oh, bother!" said Sancho, losing his patience. "Have done with your ramblings, Mr. Landlord, and tell me just what you have."

"I will do so," answered the innkeeper. "What I really have is nothing more nor less than a pair of cow heels, dressed with beans, onions, and bacon; [277] and all these are cooked to a turn and even now crying, 'Eat me, eat me!' "

"I set my mark on them this minute," said Sancho. "Let nobody else touch them."

"Nobody else will wish to touch them," said the inn-keeper; "for all the other guests are of such quality that they take their cook and their larder with them."

"As for quality," cried Sancho, "my master is as good as the best, but his profession doesn't allow him to carry a pantry wherever he goes."

Presently the host brought in the kettle, and they all sat down to a supper of cow's heel and onions.

The knight and his squire were used to rough fare, and they had learned to take things as they found them. They rested well that night, and in the morning set forth again upon their travels. But now, instead of going into Saragossa, they took another road and journeyed on to Barcelona.

The fame of Don Quixote had gone before him, and at Barcelona there were those who gladly received him and entertained him. And so they spent some days in that great city, looking at its wonders and most of all at the sea which neither of them had ever before beheld.


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