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OF WHAT TOOK PLACE BETWEEN DON QUIXOTE AND HIS NIECE AND HOUSEKEEPER; ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTERS IN THE WHOLE HISTORY
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
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."
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