Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

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The History of the
Valorous & Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha

By Miguel de Cervantes, Translated by Thomas Shelton

The Second Part

CHAPTER XXV: Of the Adventure of the Braying, and the Merry One of the Puppet-man, with the Memorable Soothsaying of the Prophesying Ape


DON QUIXOTE stood upon thorns till he might hear and know the promised wonders of the man that carried the arms, and went where the venter had told him, to seek him; where finding him, he said that by all means he must tell him presently what he had promised him upon the way. The man answered him, ‘The story of the wonders requires more leisure, and must not be told thus standing. Good sir, let me make an end of provendering my beast, and I will tell you things that shall admire you. ‘Let not that hinder you,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘for I’ll help you’; and so he did, sifting his barley and cleansing the manger, a humility that obliged the fellow to tell him his tale heartily. Thus sitting down upon a bench, Don Quixote by him, with the scholar, page, and Sancho, and the venter, for his complete senate and auditory, he began:

‘You shall understand that in a town some four leagues and an half from this vent it fell out that an alderman there, by a trick and wile of a wench, his maid-servant (which were long to tell how), lost his ass; and, though the said alderman used all manner of diligence to find him, it was impossible. His ass was wanting, as the public voice and fame goeth, fifteen days, when the alderman that lost him, being in the market-place, another alderman of the same town told him, “Pay me for my news, gossip, for your ass is forthcoming.” “I will willingly, gossip,” said the other; “but let me know where he is.” “This morning,” said the second, “I saw him upon the mountains without his pack-saddle or any other furniture, so lean that it was pity to see him. I would have gotten him before me, and have driven him to you, but he is so mountainous and wild that when I made towards him he flew from me, and got into the thickest of the wood. If you please, we will both return and seek him; let me first put up this ass at home, and Ill come by and by.” “You shall do me a great kindness,” quoth he, “and I will repay you, if need be, in the like kind.”

‘With all these circumstances, just as I tell you, all that know the truth relate it. In fine, the two aldermen, afoot, and hand to hand, went to the hills, and, coming to the place where they thought to find the ass, they missed of him, neither could they find him for all their seeking round about. Seeing then there was no appearance of him, the alderman that had seen him said to the other, “Hark you, gossip, I have a trick in my head with which we shall find out this beast, though he be hidden under ground, much more if in the mountain. Thus it is: I can bray excellent well, and so can you a little—well, ‘tis a match.” “A little, gossip I” quoth the other; “verily, I’ll take no odds of anybody, nor of an ass himself.” “We shall see then,” said the second alderman; “for my plot is that you go on one side of the hill, and I on the other, so that we may compass it round; now and then you shall bray, and so will I, and it cannot be but that your ass will answer one of us, if he be in the mountain.

‘To this the owner of the ass answered, “I tell you, gossip, the device is rare, and worthy your great wit.” So dividing themselves, according to the agreement, it fell out that just at one instant both brayed, and each of them cozened with the other’s braying came to look one another, thinking now there had been news of the ass; and as they met the loser said, “Is it possible, gossip, that it was not mine ass that brayed?“ “No, ‘twas I,” said the other. “Then,” replied the owner, “gossip, between you and an ass there is no difference touching your braying; for in my life I never heard a thing more natural.” “These praises and extolling,” said the other, “do more properly belong to you than me; for truly you may give two to one to the best and skilfullest brayer in the world; for your sound is lofty, you keep very good time, and your cadences thick and sudden. To conclude, I yield myself vanquished, and give you the prize and glory of this rare ability.” “Well,” said the owner, “I shall like myself the better for this hereafter, and shall think I know something, since I have gotten a quality; for, though I ever thought I brayed well, yet I never thought I was so excellent at it as you say.” “Let me tell you,” said the other, “there be rare abilities in the world that are lost and ill employed in those that will not good themselves with them.” “Ours,” quoth the owner, “can do us no good but in such businesses as we have now in hand, and pray God in this they may.

‘This said, they divided themselves again, and returned to their braying, and every foot they were deceived and met, till they agreed upon a countersign, that, to know it was themselves and not the ass, they should bray twice together; so that with this doubling their brays every stitch-while they compassed the hill, the lost ass not answering so much as by the least sign; but how could the poor and ill-thriving beast answer, when they found him in the thicket eaten with wolves? And his owner seeing him said, “I marvelled he did not answer; for if he had not been dead he would have brayed, if he had heard us, or else he had been no ass. But i’ faith, gossip, since I have heard your delicate braying, I think my pains well bestowed in looking this ass, though I have found him dead.” “‘Tis in a very good hand, gossip,” said the other;1 “and if the abbot sing well the little monk comes not behind him.”2

‘With this, all comfortless and hoarse, home they went, where they told their friends, neighbours, and acquaintances what had happened in the search for the ass, the one exaggerating the other’s cunning in braying, all which was known and spread abroad in the neighbouring towns; and the devil, that always watcheth how he may sow and scatter quarrels and discord everywhere, raising brabbles in the air, and making great chimeras of nothing, made the people of other towns that when they saw any of ours they should bray, as hitting us in the teeth with our aldermen’s braying. The boys at length fell to it, which was as if it had fallen into the jaws of all the devils in hell; so this braying spread itself from one town to the other, that they which are born in our town are as well known as the beggar knows his dish; and this unfortunate scoff hath proceeded so far that many times those that were scoffed at have gone out armed in a whole squadron, to give battle to the scoffers, without fear or wit, neither king nor kaiser being able to prevent them. I believe that tomorrow or next day those of my town will be in field—to wit, the brayers—against the next town, which is two leagues off, one of them that doth most persecute us; and, because we might be well provided, I have bought those halberds and lances that you saw. And these be the wonders that I said I would tell you of; and, if these be not so, I know not what may.’

And here the poor fellow ended his discourse; and now there entered at the door of the vent one clad all in his chamois, in hose and doublet, and called aloud, ‘Mine host, have you any lodging? for here comes the prophesying ape, and the motion of Melisendra.’ ‘Body of me!’ quoth the venter, ‘here is Master Peter; we shall have a brave night of it.’ I had forgot to tell how this Master Peter had his left eye and half his cheek covered with a patch of green taffeta, a sign that all that side was sore. So the venter proceeded, saying, ‘You are welcome, Master Peter. Where’s the ape and the motion, that I see ‘em not?’ ‘They are not far off,’ quoth the chamois-man; ‘only I am come before to know if you have any lodging.’ ‘I would make bold with the Duke of Alva himself;’ said the venter, ‘rather than Master Peter should be disappointed. Let your ape and your motion come, for we have guests here to-night that will pay for seeing that, and the ape’s abilities.’ ‘In good time,’ said he of the patch, ‘for I will moderate the price, so my charges this night be paid for; and therefore I will cause the cart where they are to drive on.’ With this he went out of the vent again.

Don Quixote straight asked the venter what Master Peter that was, and what motion or ape those he brought. To which the venter answered, ‘He is a famous puppet-master, that this long time hath gone up and down these parts of Aragon, showing this motion of Melisendra and Don Gayferos, one of the best histories that hath been represented these many years in this kingdom. Besides, he hath an ape, the strangest that ever was; for, if you ask him anything, he marketh what you ask, and gets up upon his master’s shoulder, and tells him in his ear, by way of answer, what he was asked, which Master Peter declares. He tells things to come as well as things past; and, though he do not always hit upon the right, yet he seldom errs, and makes us believe the devil is in him. Twelve-pence for every answer we give, if the ape do answer,—I mean, if his master answer for him, after he hath whispered in his ear; so it is thought that Master Peter is very rich. He is a notable fellow, and, as your Italian saith, a boon companion, hath the best life in the world, talks his share for six men, and drinks for a dozen, all at his tongue’s charge, his motion, and his ape’s.’

By this Master Peter was returned, and his motion and ape came in a small carnage; his ape was of a good bigness, without a tail, and his bum as bare as a felt, but not very ill-favoured. Don Quixote scarce beheld him when he demanded, ‘Master prophesier, what fish do we catch? Tell us what will become of us, and here is twelve-pence,’ which he commanded Sancho to give Master Peter, who answered for the ape and said, ‘Sir, this beast answers not, nor gives any notice of things to come; of things past he knows something, and likewise a little of things present.’ ‘Zwookers!’ quoth Sancho, ‘I’ll not give a farthing to know what is past; for who can tell that better than myself? and to pay for what I know is most foolish; but, since you say he knows things present, here’s my twelve-pence, and let goodman ape tell me what my wife Teresa Panza doth, and in what she busies herself.’

Master Peter would not take his money, saying, ‘I will not take your reward beforehand, till the ape hath first done his duty’; so, giving a clap or two with his right hand on his left shoulder, at one frisk the ape got up, and, laying his mouth to his ear, grated his teeth apace; and, having showed this feat the space of a creed’s saying, at another frisk he leaped to the ground, and instantly Master Peter very hastily ran and kneeled down before Don Quixote, and embracing his legs said, ‘These legs I embrace as if they were Hercules’ Pillars. O famous reviver of the long-forgotten knight-errantry! O never-sufficiently-extolled knight, Don Quixote de la Mancha! Raiser of the fainthearted, propper of those that fall, the staff and comfort of all the unfortunate!’

Don Quixote was amazed, Sancho confused, the scholar in suspense, the page astonished, the braytownsman all in a gaze, the venter at his wit’s end, and all admiring that heard the puppet-man’s speech, who went on saying: ‘And thou, honest Sancho Panza, the best squire to the best knight of the world, rejoice, for thy wife Teresa is a good housewife, and at this time she is dressing a pound of flax; by the same token, she hath a good broken-mouthed pot at her left side that holds a pretty scantling of wine, with which she easeth her labour.’

‘I believe that very well,’ said Sancho, ‘for she is a good soul; and if she were not jealous I would not change her for the giantess Andandona, that, as my master says, was a woman for the nonce; and my Teresa is one of those that will not pine herself; though her heirs smart for it.’

‘Well, I say now,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘he that reads much and travels much sees much and knows much. This I say, for who in the world could have persuaded me that apes could prophesy, which now I have seen with mine own eyes? For I am the same Don Quixote that this beast speaks of; although he have been somewhat too liberal in my praise; but, howsoever I am, I give God thanks that He hath made me so relenting and compassionate; always inclined to do good to all, and hurt to no man.

‘If I had money,’ said the page, ‘I would ask master ape what should befal me in the peregrination I have in hand.’ To which Master Peter answered (that was now risen from Don Quixote’s foot), ‘I have told you once that this little beast foretells not things to come; for, if he could, ‘twere no matter for your money; for here is Signior Don Quixote present, for whose sake I would forego all the interest in the world; and to show my duty to him, and to give him delight, I will set up my motion, and freely show all the company in the vent some pastime gratis.’ Which the ventner hearing, unmeasurably glad, pointed him to a place where he might set it up, which was done in an instant.

Don Quixote liked not the ape’s prophesying very well, holding it to be frivolous that an ape should only tell things present, and not past or to come. So, whilst Master Peter was fitting his motion, Don Quixote took Sancho with him to a corner of the stable, and in private said: ‘Look thee, Sancho, I have very well considered of this ape’s strange quality, and find that this Master Peter hath made a secret express compact with the devil, to infuse this ability into the ape, that he may get his living by it, and when he is rich he will give him his soul, which is that that this universal enemy of mankind pretends. And that which induceth me to this belief is that the ape answers not to things past, but only present, and the devil’s knowledge attains to no more; for things to come he knows not, only by conjecture; for God alone can distinguish the times and moments; and to Him nothing is past or to come, but all is present. Which being so, it is most certain that this ape speaks by instinct from the devil, and I wonder he hath not been accused to the Inquisition, and examined, and that it hath not been pressed out of him, to know by what virtue this ape prophesieth; for certainly neither he nor his ape are astrologers, nor know how to cast figures, which they call judiciary, so much used in Spain; for you have no paltry woman nor page nor cobbler that presumes not to cast a figure, as if it were one of the knaves at cards upon a table, falsifying that wondrous science with their ignorant lying. I knew a gentlewoman that asked one of these figure-fingers if a little foisting-hound of hers should have any puppies, and, if it had, how many, and of what colour the whelps should be. To which my cunning man, after he had cast his figure, answered that the bitch should have young, and bring forth three little whelps, the one green, the other carnation, and the third of a mixed colour,—with this proviso, that she should take the dog between eleven and twelve of the clock at noon, or at night, which should be on the Monday or the Saturday. And the success was that some two days after the bitch died of a surfeit, and master figure-raiser was reputed in the town a most perfect judiciary, as all or the greatest part of such men are.

‘For all that,’ said Sancho, ‘I would you would bid Master Peter ask his ape whether all were true that befel you in Montesinos’ Cave; for I think, under correction, all was cogging and lying, or at least but a dream.’ ‘All might be,’ said Don Quixote; ‘yet I will do as thou dost advise me, though I have one scruple remaining.’

Whilst they were thus communing, Master Peter came to call Don Quixote, and to tell him that the motion was now up, if he would please to see it, which would give him content. Don Quixote told him his desire, and wished that his ape might tell him if certain things that befel him in Montesinos’ Cave were true or but dreams, for himself was uncertain whether. Master Peter, without answering a word, fetched his ape, and, putting him before Don Quixote and Sancho, said, ‘Look you, master ape, Signior Don Quixote would have you tell him whether certain things that happened to him in Montesinos’ Cave were true or false.’ And, making the accustomed sign, the ape whipped upon his left shoulder, and, seeming to speak to him in his ear, Master Peter straight interpreted: ‘The ape, signior, says that part of those things are false and part of them true, and this is all he knows touching this demand; and now his virtue is gone from him, and, if you will know any more, you must expect till Friday next, and then he will answer you all you will ask, for his virtue will not return till then.’

‘Law ye there!’ quoth Sancho, ‘did not I tell you that I could not believe that all you said of Montesinos’ Cave could hold current?‘ ‘The success hereafter will determine that,’ quoth Don Quixote,’ for time, the discoverer of all things, brings everything to the sun’s light, though it be hidden in the bosom of the earth. And now let this suffice, and let us go see the motion, for I believe we shall have some strange novelty.’ ‘Some strange one!’ quoth Master Peter; ‘this motion of mine hath a thousand strange ones. I tell you, signior, it is one of the rarest things to be seen in the world; “Operibus credite et non verbis,” and now to work, for it is late, and we have much to do, say, and show.’

Don Quixote and Sancho obeyed, and went where the motion was set and opened, all full of little wax-lights, that made it most sightly and glorious. Master Peter straight clapped himself within it, who was he that was to manage the artificial puppets, and without stood his boy to interpret and declare the mysteries of the motion; in his hand he had a white wand, with which he pointed out the several shapes that came in and out. Thus, all that were in the vent being placed, and some standing over against the motion, Don Quixote, Sancho, the scholar, and the page placed in the best seats, the trudgeman3 began to speak what shall be heard or seen by him that shall hear or read the next chapter.

1 En buena mano esta: alluding to two that strive that make one another drink first.
2 The one as very an ass as the other.
El Trujaman,
’ an interpreter amongst the Turks, but here taken for any in general.

Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

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