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Stories of Don Quixote by  James Baldwin


 

 

THE LAST ADVENTURE OF ALL

[283] FOR six days Don Quixote lay in bed, sullen and sorrowful because of his overthrow. And all this time Sancho Panza sat beside him and tried to comfort him.


[Illustration]

"My master," he said, "pluck up your head and be of good cheer if you can. Let us go home and quit seeking adventures in lands and places we do not know. And if you will only think, I am the one who loses most, though it is you that are in the worst pickle."

The squire's cheerful words gave fresh hope to the knight. Gradually his courage came back to him, and at length the two bade good-by to Barcelona [284] and started for home. Don Quixote rode on Rozinante. He was unarmed and clad in a traveling coat. Sancho followed him on foot, leading his donkey, which was laden with Don Quixote's armor.

"I should not have been defeated had it not been for Rozinante's weakness," said the knight.

They traveled for many days with their faces turned steadfastly towards La Mancha. But their steeds made slow progress and they stopped often by the way.

At length they got to the top of a hill from which they could see their own peaceful little village lying in the green valley below. At this sight Sancho fell upon his knees and cried out:—

"O thou long-wished-for village, open thy eyes and behold thy child, Sancho Panza. He has come back to thee again, not very rich, yet very well flogged. O village, open thy arms, and receive also thy son, Don Quixote. While he has been vanquished by others, he has gained the victory over himself—and that is the best of all victories."

"Hush your prattle," said Don Quixote, ''and let us put our best foot foremost to enter our village."

[285] So they went down the hill, and were soon met by their old friends, the curate and the barber and faithful Samson Carrasco. Don Quixote alighted and embraced them all quite lovingly.

"I have returned home for a year," he said; "and I have a mind to turn shepherd and enjoy the solitude of the fields. If you have not much to do, I shall be pleased to have you for my companions."

They answered him pleasantly, and then, surrounded by a troop of boys, they made their way to Don Quixote's house.

The housekeeper and the niece were at the door to welcome the wanderer.

"My dear niece," he said, "I have come home for a little while. I think that I shall soon leave you again, to live the simple life of a shepherd. But help me to bed, now, for it seems to me that I am not very well."

They led him in, and made him as comfortable as they could. They cared most lovingly for him day and night. But all the strength seemed to have gone from his poor body.

The curate, the barber, and Samson Carrasco came often to see him. His good squire, Sancho [286] Panza, sat all the time by his bedside. But in spite of every care he steadily grew more feeble.

On the sixth day the doctor told him that he was in danger and might not live long. Don Quixote asked them to leave him alone a little while, for he thought that he could sleep.

They went out of the room. He soon fell into a deep slumber, and he lay so still, with such a look of peace upon his face, that they thought he would never wake in this world.

At the end of six hours, however, he opened his eyes, and cried out: "Blessed be Almighty God, who has done me so much good. His mercies are without end."

Then they saw that his madness had left and that his mind was clear and bright.

"Send for my good friends, the curate and the barber and Samson Carrasco," he said; "for I am at the point of death, and I would make my will."

But these gentlemen had all the time been waiting at the door, and now they entered the room. Don Quixote was overjoyed to see them. "Welcome, kind friends!" he said. "I am no longer Don Quixote de la Mancha, but plain Alonzo [287] Quixana, whom our townspeople used to call The Good. My mind is clear now, and I see the great folly that I was led into through the reading of foolish books. All those vulgar stories of knights and magicians are hateful to me, and I abhor them. But now send for my lawyer, that he may draw up my will, for my hours are numbered."

They looked at one another, wondering, and Samson Carrasco went to fetch the lawyer. The sick man roused himself and his face brightened when the man of law came and sat down by his bedside.

The will was drawn up in due form. It provided that a small sum of money should be paid to Sancho Panza for his good services, and that all the rest of the estate should go to the niece. It was signed by Alonzo Quixana, and witnessed by the curate and the barber.

Then the sick man fell back in his bed, and lay for three days without knowing anything at all. In the afternoon of the third day he fell into a gentle sleep from which he never awoke.

So ended the adventures of as good a man and as brave as Spain has ever seen.


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