OF THE FREEDOM DON QUIXOTE CONFERRED ON SEVERAL UNFORTUNATES WHO
AGAINST THEIR WILL WERE BEING CARRIED WHERE THEY HAD NO WISH TO GO
Cide Hamete Benengeli, the Arab and Manchegan author, relates in
this most grave, high-sounding, minute, delightful, and original
history that after the discussion between the famous Don Quixote of La
Mancha and his squire Sancho Panza which is set down at the end of
chapter twenty-one, Don Quixote raised his eyes and saw coming along
the road he was following some dozen men on foot strung together by
the neck, like beads, on a great iron chain, and all with manacles
on their hands. With them there came also two men on horseback and two
on foot; those on horseback with wheel-lock muskets, those on foot
with javelins and swords, and as soon as Sancho saw them he said:
"That is a chain of galley slaves, on the way to the galleys by
force of the king's orders."
"How by force?" asked Don Quixote; "is it possible that the king
uses force against anyone?"
"I do not say that," answered Sancho, "but that these are people
condemned for their crimes to serve by force in the king's galleys."
"In fact," replied Don Quixote, "however it may be, these people are
going where they are taking them by force, and not of their own will."
"Just so," said Sancho.
"Then if so," said Don Quixote, "here is a case for the exercise
of my office, to put down force and to succour and help the wretched."
"Recollect, your worship," said Sancho, "Justice, which is the
king himself, is not using force or doing wrong to such persons, but
punishing them for their crimes."
The chain of galley slaves had by this time come up, and Don Quixote
in very courteous language asked those who were in custody of it to be
good enough to tell him the reason or reasons for which they were
conducting these people in this manner. One of the guards on horseback
answered that they were galley slaves belonging to his majesty, that
they were going to the galleys, and that was all that was to be said
and all he had any business to know.
"Nevertheless," replied Don Quixote, "I should like to know from
each of them separately the reason of his misfortune;" to this he
added more to the same effect to induce them to tell him what he
wanted so civilly that the other mounted guard said to him:
"Though we have here the register and certificate of the sentence of
every one of these wretches, this is no time to take them out or
read them; come and ask themselves; they can tell if they choose,
and they will, for these fellows take a pleasure in doing and
talking about rascalities."
With this permission, which Don Quixote would have taken even had
they not granted it, he approached the chain and asked the first for
what offences he was now in such a sorry case.
He made answer that it was for being a lover.
"For that only?" replied Don Quixote; "why, if for being lovers they
send people to the galleys I might have been rowing in them long ago."
"The love is not the sort your worship is thinking of," said the
galley slave; "mine was that I loved a washerwoman's basket of clean
linen so well, and held it so close in my embrace, that if the arm
of the law had not forced it from me, I should never have let it go of
my own will to this moment; I was caught in the act, there was no
occasion for torture, the case was settled, they treated me to a
hundred lashes on the back, and three years of gurapas besides, and
that was the end of it."
"What are gurapas?" asked Don Quixote.
"Gurapas are galleys," answered the galley slave, who was a young
man of about four-and-twenty, and said he was a native of Piedrahita.
Don Quixote asked the same question of the second, who made no
reply, so downcast and melancholy was he; but the first answered for
him, and said, "He, sir, goes as a canary, I mean as a musician and
"What!" said Don Quixote, "for being musicians and singers are
people sent to the galleys too?"
"Yes, sir," answered the galley slave, "for there is nothing worse
than singing under suffering."
"On the contrary, I have heard say," said Don Quixote, "that he
who sings scares away his woes."
"Here it is the reverse," said the galley slave; "for he who sings
once weeps all his life."
"I do not understand it," said Don Quixote; but one of the guards
said to him, "Sir, to sing under suffering means with the non sancta
fraternity to confess under torture; they put this sinner to the
torture and he confessed his crime, which was being a cuatrero, that
is a cattle-stealer, and on his confession they sentenced him to six
years in the galleys, besides two bundred lashes that he has already
had on the back; and he is always dejected and downcast because the
other thieves that were left behind and that march here ill-treat, and
snub, and jeer, and despise him for confessing and not having spirit
enough to say nay; for, say they, 'nay' has no more letters in it than
'yea,' and a culprit is well off when life or death with him depends
on his own tongue and not on that of witnesses or evidence; and to
my thinking they are not very far out."
"And I think so too," answered Don Quixote; then passing on to the
third he asked him what he had asked the others, and the man
answered very readily and unconcernedly, "I am going for five years to
their ladyships the gurapas for the want of ten ducats."
"I will give twenty with pleasure to get you out of that trouble,"
said Don Quixote.
"That," said the galley slave, "is like a man having money at sea
when he is dying of hunger and has no way of buying what he wants; I
say so because if at the right time I had had those twenty ducats that
your worship now offers me, I would have greased the notary's pen
and freshened up the attorney's wit with them, so that to-day I should
be in the middle of the plaza of the Zocodover at Toledo, and not on
this road coupled like a greyhound. But God is great; patience- there,
that's enough of it."
Don Quixote passed on to the fourth, a man of venerable aspect
with a white beard falling below his breast, who on hearing himself
asked the reason of his being there began to weep without answering
a word, but the fifth acted as his tongue and said, "This worthy man
is going to the galleys for four years, after having gone the rounds
in ceremony and on horseback."
"That means," said Sancho Panza, "as I take it, to have been
exposed to shame in public."
"Just so," replied the galley slave, "and the offence for which they
gave him that punishment was having been an ear-broker, nay
body-broker; I mean, in short, that this gentleman goes as a pimp, and
for having besides a certain touch of the sorcerer about him."
"If that touch had not been thrown in," said Don Quixote, "be
would not deserve, for mere pimping, to row in the galleys, but rather
to command and be admiral of them; for the office of pimp is no
ordinary one, being the office of persons of discretion, one very
necessary in a well-ordered state, and only to be exercised by persons
of good birth; nay, there ought to be an inspector and overseer of
them, as in other offices, and recognised number, as with the
brokers on change; in this way many of the evils would be avoided
which are caused by this office and calling being in the hands of
stupid and ignorant people, such as women more or less silly, and
pages and jesters of little standing and experience, who on the most
urgent occasions, and when ingenuity of contrivance is needed, let the
crumbs freeze on the way to their mouths, and know not which is
their right hand. I should like to go farther, and give reasons to
show that it is advisable to choose those who are to hold so necessary
an office in the state, but this is not the fit place for it; some day
I will expound the matter to some one able to see to and rectify it;
all I say now is, that the additional fact of his being a sorcerer has
removed the sorrow it gave me to see these white hairs and this
venerable countenance in so painful a position on account of his being
a pimp; though I know well there are no sorceries in the world that
can move or compel the will as some simple folk fancy, for our will is
free, nor is there herb or charm that can force it. All that certain
silly women and quacks do is to turn men mad with potions and poisons,
pretending that they have power to cause love, for, as I say, it is an
impossibility to compel the will."
"It is true," said the good old man, "and indeed, sir, as far as the
charge of sorcery goes I was not guilty; as to that of being a pimp
I cannot deny it; but I never thought I was doing any harm by it,
for my only object was that all the world should enjoy itself and live
in peace and quiet, without quarrels or troubles; but my good
intentions were unavailing to save me from going where I never
expect to come back from, with this weight of years upon me and a
urinary ailment that never gives me a moment's ease;" and again he
fell to weeping as before, and such compassion did Sancho feel for him
that he took out a real of four from his bosom and gave it to him in
Don Quixote went on and asked another what his crime was, and the
man answered with no less but rather much more sprightliness than
the last one.
"I am here because I carried the joke too far with a couple of
cousins of mine, and with a couple of other cousins who were none of
mine; in short, I carried the joke so far with them all that it
ended in such a complicated increase of kindred that no accountant
could make it clear: it was all proved against me, I got no favour,
I had no money, I was near having my neck stretched, they sentenced me
to the galleys for six years, I accepted my fate, it is the punishment
of my fault; I am a young man; let life only last, and with that all
will come right. If you, sir, have anything wherewith to help the
poor, God will repay it to you in heaven, and we on earth will take
care in our petitions to him to pray for the life and health of your
worship, that they may be as long and as good as your amiable
This one was in the dress of a student, and one of the guards said
he was a great talker and a very elegant Latin scholar.
Behind all these there came a man of thirty, a very personable
fellow, except that when he looked, his eyes turned in a little one
towards the other. He was bound differently from the rest, for he
had to his leg a chain so long that it was wound all round his body,
and two rings on his neck, one attached to the chain, the other to
what they call a "keep-friend" or "friend's foot," from which hung two
irons reaching to his waist with two manacles fixed to them in which
his hands were secured by a big padlock, so that he could neither
raise his hands to his mouth nor lower his head to his hands. Don
Quixote asked why this man carried so many more chains than the
others. The guard replied that it was because he alone had committed
more crimes than all the rest put together, and was so daring and such
a villain, that though they marched him in that fashion they did not
feel sure of him, but were in dread of his making his escape.
"What crimes can he have committed," said Don Quixote, "if they have
not deserved a heavier punishment than being sent to the galleys?"
"He goes for ten years," replied the guard, "which is the same thing
as civil death, and all that need be said is that this good fellow
is the famous Gines de Pasamonte, otherwise called Ginesillo de
"Gently, senor commissary," said the galley slave at this, "let us
have no fixing of names or surnames; my name is Gines, not
Ginesillo, and my family name is Pasamonte, not Parapilla as you
say; let each one mind his own business, and he will be doing enough."
"Speak with less impertinence, master thief of extra measure,"
replied the commissary, "if you don't want me to make you hold your
tongue in spite of your teeth."
"It is easy to see," returned the galley slave, "that man goes as
God pleases, but some one shall know some day whether I am called
Ginesillo de Parapilla or not."
"Don't they call you so, you liar?" said the guard.
"They do," returned Gines, "but I will make them give over calling
me so, or I will be shaved, where, I only say behind my teeth. If you,
sir, have anything to give us, give it to us at once, and God speed
you, for you are becoming tiresome with all this inquisitiveness about
the lives of others; if you want to know about mine, let me tell you I
am Gines de Pasamonte, whose life is written by these fingers."
"He says true," said the commissary, "for he has himself written his
story as grand as you please, and has left the book in the prison in
pawn for two hundred reals."
"And I mean to take it out of pawn," said Gines, "though it were
in for two hundred ducats."
"Is it so good?" said Don Quixote.
"So good is it," replied Gines, "that a fig for 'Lazarillo de
Tormes,' and all of that kind that have been written, or shall be
written compared with it: all I will say about it is that it deals
with facts, and facts so neat and diverting that no lies could match
"And how is the book entitled?" asked Don Quixote.
"The 'Life of Gines de Pasamonte,'" replied the subject of it.
"And is it finished?" asked Don Quixote.
"How can it be finished," said the other, "when my life is not yet
finished? All that is written is from my birth down to the point
when they sent me to the galleys this last time."
"Then you have been there before?" said Don Quixote.
"In the service of God and the king I have been there for four years
before now, and I know by this time what the biscuit and courbash
are like," replied Gines; "and it is no great grievance to me to go
back to them, for there I shall have time to finish my book; I have
still many things left to say, and in the galleys of Spain there is
more than enough leisure; though I do not want much for what I have to
write, for I have it by heart."
"You seem a clever fellow," said Don Quixote.
"And an unfortunate one," replied Gines, "for misfortune always
persecutes good wit."
"It persecutes rogues," said the commissary.
"I told you already to go gently, master commissary," said
Pasamonte; "their lordships yonder never gave you that staff to
ill-treat us wretches here, but to conduct and take us where his
majesty orders you; if not, by the life of-never mind-; it may be that
some day the stains made in the inn will come out in the scouring; let
everyone hold his tongue and behave well and speak better; and now let
us march on, for we have had quite enough of this entertainment."
The commissary lifted his staff to strike Pasamonte in return for
his threats, but Don Quixote came between them, and begged him not
to ill-use him, as it was not too much to allow one who had his
hands tied to have his tongue a trifle free; and turning to the
whole chain of them he said:
"From all you have told me, dear brethren, make out clearly that
though they have punished you for your faults, the punishments you are
about to endure do not give you much pleasure, and that you go to them
very much against the grain and against your will, and that perhaps
this one's want of courage under torture, that one's want of money,
the other's want of advocacy, and lastly the perverted judgment of the
judge may have been the cause of your ruin and of your failure to
obtain the justice you had on your side. All which presents itself now
to my mind, urging, persuading, and even compelling me to
demonstrate in your case the purpose for which Heaven sent me into the
world and caused me to make profession of the order of chivalry to
which I belong, and the vow I took therein to give aid to those in
need and under the oppression of the strong. But as I know that it
is a mark of prudence not to do by foul means what may be done by
fair, I will ask these gentlemen, the guards and commissary, to be
so good as to release you and let you go in peace, as there will be no
lack of others to serve the king under more favourable
circumstances; for it seems to me a hard case to make slaves of
those whom God and nature have made free. Moreover, sirs of the
guard," added Don Quixote, "these poor fellows have done nothing to
you; let each answer for his own sins yonder; there is a God in Heaven
who will not forget to punish the wicked or reward the good; and it is
not fitting that honest men should be the instruments of punishment to
others, they being therein no way concerned. This request I make
thus gently and quietly, that, if you comply with it, I may have
reason for thanking you; and, if you will not voluntarily, this
lance and sword together with the might of my arm shall compel you
to comply with it by force."
"Nice nonsense!" said the commissary; "a fine piece of pleasantry he
has come out with at last! He wants us to let the king's prisoners go,
as if we had any authority to release them, or he to order us to do
so! Go your way, sir, and good luck to you; put that basin straight
that you've got on your head, and don't go looking for three feet on a
'Tis you that are the cat, rat, and rascal," replied Don Quixote,
and acting on the word he fell upon him so suddenly that without
giving him time to defend himself he brought him to the ground
sorely wounded with a lance-thrust; and lucky it was for him that it
was the one that had the musket. The other guards stood
thunderstruck and amazed at this unexpected event, but recovering
presence of mind, those on horseback seized their swords, and those on
foot their javelins, and attacked Don Quixote, who was waiting for
them with great calmness; and no doubt it would have gone badly with
him if the galley slaves, seeing the chance before them of
liberating themselves, had not effected it by contriving to break
the chain on which they were strung. Such was the confusion, that
the guards, now rushing at the galley slaves who were breaking
loose, now to attack Don Quixote who was waiting for them, did nothing
at all that was of any use. Sancho, on his part, gave a helping hand
to release Gines de Pasamonte, who was the first to leap forth upon
the plain free and unfettered, and who, attacking the prostrate
commissary, took from him his sword and the musket, with which, aiming
at one and levelling at another, he, without ever discharging it,
drove every one of the guards off the field, for they took to
flight, as well to escape Pasamonte's musket, as the showers of stones
the now released galley slaves were raining upon them. Sancho was
greatly grieved at the affair, because he anticipated that those who
had fled would report the matter to the Holy Brotherhood, who at the
summons of the alarm-bell would at once sally forth in quest of the
offenders; and he said so to his master, and entreated him to leave
the place at once, and go into hiding in the sierra that was close by.
"That is all very well," said Don Quixote, "but I know what must
be done now;" and calling together all the galley slaves, who were now
running riot, and had stripped the commissary to the skin, he
collected them round him to hear what he had to say, and addressed
them as follows: "To be grateful for benefits received is the part
of persons of good birth, and one of the sins most offensive to God is
ingratitude; I say so because, sirs, ye have already seen by
manifest proof the benefit ye have received of me; in return for which
I desire, and it is my good pleasure that, laden with that chain which
I have taken off your necks, ye at once set out and proceed to the
city of El Toboso, and there present yourselves before the lady
Dulcinea del Toboso, and say to her that her knight, he of the
Rueful Countenance, sends to commend himself to her; and that ye
recount to her in full detail all the particulars of this notable
adventure, up to the recovery of your longed-for liberty; and this
done ye may go where ye will, and good fortune attend you."
Gines de Pasamonte made answer for all, saying, "That which you,
sir, our deliverer, demand of us, is of all impossibilities the most
impossible to comply with, because we cannot go together along the
roads, but only singly and separate, and each one his own way,
endeavouring to hide ourselves in the bowels of the earth to escape
the Holy Brotherhood, which, no doubt, will come out in search of
us. What your worship may do, and fairly do, is to change this service
and tribute as regards the lady Dulcinea del Toboso for a certain
quantity of ave-marias and credos which we will say for your worship's
intention, and this is a condition that can be complied with by
night as by day, running or resting, in peace or in war; but to
imagine that we are going now to return to the flesh-pots of Egypt,
I mean to take up our chain and set out for El Toboso, is to imagine
that it is now night, though it is not yet ten in the morning, and
to ask this of us is like asking pears of the elm tree."
"Then by all that's good," said Don Quixote (now stirred to
wrath), "Don son of a bitch, Don Ginesillo de Paropillo, or whatever
your name is, you will have to go yourself alone, with your tail
between your legs and the whole chain on your back."
Pasamonte, who was anything but meek (being by this time
thoroughly convinced that Don Quixote was not quite right in his
head as he had committed such a vagary as to set them free), finding
himself abused in this fashion, gave the wink to his companions, and
falling back they began to shower stones on Don Quixote at such a rate
that he was quite unable to protect himself with his buckler, and poor
Rocinante no more heeded the spur than if he had been made of brass.
Sancho planted himself behind his ass, and with him sheltered
himself from the hailstorm that poured on both of them. Don Quixote
was unable to shield himself so well but that more pebbles than I
could count struck him full on the body with such force that they
brought him to the ground; and the instant he fell the student pounced
upon him, snatched the basin from his head, and with it struck three
or four blows on his shoulders, and as many more on the ground,
knocking it almost to pieces. They then stripped him of a jacket
that he wore over his armour, and they would have stripped off his
stockings if his greaves had not prevented them. From Sancho they took
his coat, leaving him in his shirt-sleeves; and dividing among
themselves the remaining spoils of the battle, they went each one
his own way, more solicitous about keeping clear of the Holy
Brotherhood they dreaded, than about burdening themselves with the
chain, or going to present themselves before the lady Dulcinea del
Toboso. The ass and Rocinante, Sancho and Don Quixote, were all that
were left upon the spot; the ass with drooping head, serious,
shaking his ears from time to time as if he thought the storm of
stones that assailed them was not yet over; Rocinante stretched beside
his master, for he too had been brought to the ground by a stone;
Sancho stripped, and trembling with fear of the Holy Brotherhood;
and Don Quixote fuming to find himself so served by the very persons
for whom he had done so much.