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CHAPTER XXXII. (CONT'D)
"Go down on thy knees, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "and kiss the feet of his excellence for the favour he has bestowed upon thee."
Sancho obeyed, and on seeing this the ecclesiastic stood up from table completely out of temper, exclaiming, "By the gown I wear, I am almost inclined to say that your excellence is as great a fool as these sinners. No wonder they are mad, when people who are in their senses sanction their madness! I leave your excellence with them, for so long as they are in the house, I will remain in my own, and spare myself the trouble of reproving what I cannot remedy;" and without uttering another word, or eating another morsel, he went off, the entreaties of the duke and duchess being entirely unavailing to stop him; not that the duke said much to him, for he could not, because of the laughter his uncalled-for anger provoked.
When he had done laughing, he said to Don Quixote, "You have replied on your own behalf so stoutly, Sir Knight of the Lions, that there is no occasion to seek further satisfaction for this, which, though it may look like an offence, is not so at all, for, as women can give no offence, no more can ecclesiastics, as you very well know."
"That is true," said Don Quixote, "and the reason is, that he who is not liable to offence cannot give offence to anyone. Women, children, and ecclesiastics, as they cannot defend themselves, though they may receive offence cannot be insulted, because between the offence and the insult there is, as your excellence very well knows, this difference: the insult comes from one who is capable of offering it, and does so, and maintains it; the offence may come from any quarter without carrying insult. To take an example: a man is standing unsuspectingly in the street and ten others come up armed and beat him; he draws his sword and quits himself like a man, but the number of his antagonists makes it impossible for him to effect his purpose and avenge himself; this man suffers an offence but not an insult.
Another example will make the same thing plain: a man is standing with his back turned, another comes up and strikes him, and after striking him takes to flight, without waiting an instant, and the other pursues him but does not overtake him; he who received the blow received an offence, but not an insult, because an insult must be maintained. If he who struck him, though he did so sneakingly and treacherously, had drawn his sword and stood and faced him, then he who had been struck would have received offence and insult at the same time; offence because he was struck treacherously, insult because he who struck him maintained what he had done, standing his ground without taking to flight.
And so, according to the laws of the accursed duel, I may have received offence, but not insult, for neither women nor children can maintain it, nor can they wound, nor have they any way of standing their ground, and it is just the same with those connected with religion; for these three sorts of persons are without arms offensive or defensive, and so, though naturally they are bound to defend themselves, they have no right to offend anybody; and though I said just now I might have received offence, I say now certainly not, for he who cannot receive an insult can still less give one; for which reasons I ought not to feel, nor do I feel, aggrieved at what that good man said to me; I only wish he had stayed a little longer, that I might have shown him the mistake he makes in supposing and maintaining that there are not and never have been any knights-errant in the world; had Amadis or any of his countless descendants heard him say as much, I am sure it would not have gone well
"I will take my oath of that," said Sancho; "they would have given him a slash that would have slit him down from top to toe like a pomegranate or a ripe melon; they were likely fellows to put up with jokes of that sort! By my faith, I'm certain if Reinaldos of Montalvan had heard the little man's words he would have given him such a spank on the mouth that he wouldn't have spoken for the next three years; ay, let him tackle them, and he'll see how he'll get out of their hands!"
The duchess, as she listened to Sancho, was ready to die with laughter, and in her own mind she set him down as droller and madder than his master; and there were a good many just then who were of the same opinion.
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