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CHAPTER IX. (CONT'D)
"That cannot be," said Don Quixote, "for, at any rate, thou saidst, on bringing back the answer to the letter I sent by thee, that thou sawest her sifting wheat."
"Don't mind that, senor," said Sancho; "I must tell you that my seeing her and the answer I brought you back were by hearsay too, for I can no more tell who the lady Dulcinea is than I can hit the sky."
"Sancho, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "there are times for jests and times when jests are out of place; if I tell thee that I have neither seen nor spoken to the lady of my heart, it is no reason why thou shouldst say thou hast not spoken to her or seen her, when the contrary is the case, as thou well knowest."
While the two were engaged in this conversation, they perceived some one with a pair of mules approaching the spot where they stood, and from the noise the plough made, as it dragged along the ground, they guessed him to be some labourer who had got up before daybreak to go to his work, and so it proved to be. He came along singing the ballad that says--
Ill did ye fare, ye men of France, In Roncesvalles chase--
"May I die, Sancho," said Don Quixote, when he heard him, "if any good will come to us tonight! Dost thou not hear what that clown is singing?"
"I do," said Sancho, "but what has Roncesvalles chase to do with what we have in hand? He might just as well be singing the ballad of Calainos, for any good or ill that can come to us in our business."
By this time the labourer had come up, and Don Quixote asked him, "Can you tell me, worthy friend, and God speed you, whereabouts here is the palace of the peerless princess Dona Dulcinea del Toboso?"
"Senor," replied the lad, "I am a stranger, and I have been only a few days in the town, doing farm work for a rich farmer. In that house opposite there live the curate of the village and the sacristan, and both or either of them will be able to give your worship some account of this lady princess, for they have a list of all the people of El Toboso; though it is my belief there is not a princess living in the whole of it; many ladies there are, of quality, and in her own house each of them may be a princess."
"Well, then, she I am inquiring for will be one of these, my friend," said Don Quixote.
"May be so," replied the lad; "God be with you, for here comes the daylight;" and without waiting for any more of his questions, he whipped on his mules.
Sancho, seeing his master downcast and somewhat dissatisfied, said to him, "Senor, daylight will be here before long, and it will not do for us to let the sun find us in the street; it will be better for us to quit the city, and for your worship to hide in some forest in the neighbourhood, and I will come back in the daytime, and I won't leave a nook or corner of the whole village that I won't search for the house, castle, or palace, of my lady, and it will be hard luck for me if I don't find it; and as soon as I have found it I will speak to her grace, and tell her where and how your worship is waiting for her to arrange some plan for you to see her without any damage to her honour and reputation."
"Sancho," said Don Quixote, "thou hast delivered a thousand sentences condensed in the compass of a few words; I thank thee for the advice thou hast given me, and take it most gladly. Come, my son, let us go look for some place where I may hide, while thou dost return, as thou sayest, to seek, and speak with my lady, from whose discretion and courtesy I look for favours more than miraculous."
Sancho was in a fever to get his master out of the town, lest he should discover the falsehood of the reply he had brought to him in the Sierra Morena on behalf of Dulcinea; so he hastened their departure, which they took at once, and two miles out of the village they found a forest or thicket wherein Don Quixote ensconced himself, while Sancho returned to the city to speak to Dulcinea, in which embassy things befell him which demand fresh attention and a new chapter.
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