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Don Quixote

By Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Don QuixoteLoading... read one book too many about chivalry. One day, he decides to apply what he learned from the books. With his steed, which he names RocinanteLoading..., he leaves his home wearing his grandfather's armor, delusionally believing that he is a knight who is on a knight-errant. The purpose is to impress a woman he calls Dulcinea and whom he is in love with — something she does not know.

His loyal companion Sancho had joined him after Don Quixote had promised that their adventures would eventually lead to Sancho becoming a governor of his island.

At an inn, Don QuixoteLoading... is having dinner with SanchoLoading..., and the PreacherLoading... and the BarberLoading... from his village, and CardenioLoading... and Don FernandoLoading... and DorotheaLoading... and LuscindaLoading... whom they met in previous adventures. They had been joined by a captive who had a woman with him dressed in Moorish clothes.

As Don QuixoteLoading... finished a lecture, the captive is asked to tell his life's story, and the previous chapter ends when he is about to start telling his story.

Wherein the captive tells the story of his life and adventures

M
y family had its origin in a village in the mountains of Leon, and nature had been kinder and more generous to it than fortune, though my father would have passed for a rich man even, in these generally poverty-stricken communities, and he would have actually been wealthy had he been as dedicated to preserving his property as he was in spending it.

He had acquired this tendency of his to be liberal and profuse from having been a soldier in his youth, because the soldier's life is a school in which the penny-pincher becomes free-handed and the free-handed prodigal at spending, and if any soldiers are to be found who are money-hoarders, they are animals of a rare occurrence.

I leaped on-board the enemy's galley.

My father went beyond liberality and bordered on prodigality, a disposition by no means advantageous to a married man who has children to succeed to his name and position.

My father had three, all sons, and all of sufficient age to make choice of a profession.

Finding, then, that he was unable to resist his propensity, he decided to divest himself of the instrument and cause of his prodigality and lavishness, to divest himself of wealth, without which Alexander himself would have seemed greedy.

And so one day, he called all three of us into a room and addressed us in words somewhat to the following effect:

“My sons, to assure you that I love you, no more needs to be known or said than that you are my sons, and, to encourage a suspicion that I do not love you, no more is needed than the knowledge that I have no self-control as far as preservation of your inheritance is concerned.

“Therefore, so that you may in the future feel sure that I love you like a father and that I have no wish to ruin you like a stepfather, I propose to do with you what I have been contemplating for some time, and after mature deliberation decided upon.

“You are now of an age to choose your line of life, or at least, to make choice of a calling that will bring you honor and profit when you are older.

“And what I have decided to do is to divide my property into four parts. Three, I will give to you, to each his own share without making any difference, and the other I will retain to live upon and support myself for whatever remainder of life Heaven may be pleased to grant me.

“But I wish each of you to — on taking possession of the share that falls to him — follow one of the paths I shall indicate.

“In this Spain of ours, there is a proverb which to my mind is very true — as they all are, being short aphorisms drawn from long practical experience — and the one I refer to says, 'The church, or the sea, or the king's house,' which, in clearer language, says as much as that whoever wants to flourish and become rich must follow one of these three: either be a churchman, or be a merchant and try his fortune at sea, or go into the king's service in his household, because, as they say, 'Better a king's crumb than a lord's favor.'

“I say this because it is my will and pleasure that one of you should follow letters, another trade, and the third serve the king in the wars, because it is a complicated matter to gain admission to his service in his household, and if war does not bring much wealth it confers great distinction and fame.

I found myself alone and surrounded by enemies.

“Eight days from now I will give you your full shares in money, without defrauding you of a coin, as you will see in the end.

“Now tell me if you are willing to follow out my idea and advice as I have laid it out before you.”

He called upon me as the eldest to answer first, and I — after trying in vain to convince him not to strip himself of his property but to spend it all as he pleased instead, because we were young men who were able to make our own living — consented to comply with his wishes, and said that mine was to follow the profession of arms and to serve God, and thereby my king.

“My second brother, after having been made the same proposal, decided upon going to the Indies, embarking the portion that fell to him in trade.

“The youngest, and in my opinion the wisest, said he would instead follow the church, or go to complete his studies at Salamanca.

“As soon as we had come to an understanding and had chosen our professions, my father embraced us all, and after the short time he had mentioned he carried into effect everything he had promised.

“And when he had given to each his share, which as well as I remember was three thousand ducats apiece in cash (because an uncle of ours bought the estate and paid for it so as to not to let it go out of the family), all three of us said goodbye to our good father on the same day and at the same time.

They proceeded to cut off his head.

As it seemed to me inhuman to leave my father with such scanty means in his old age, I induced him to take two of my three thousand ducats, as the remainder would be enough to provide me with all a soldier needed.

My two brothers, moved by my example, each gave him a thousand ducats also so that there was left for my father four thousand ducats in money, besides three thousand, the value of the portion that fell to him which he preferred to retain in land instead of selling it.

Finally, as I said, we said goodbye to him, and to our uncle whom I have mentioned, not without sorrow and tears on both sides.

They ordered us, whenever there was an opportunity, to let them know how we fared, whether well or ill.

We promised to do so, and when he had embraced us and given us his blessing, one set out for Salamanca, the other for Seville, and I for Alicante, where I had heard there was a Genoese vessel taking in a cargo of wool for Genoa.

It is now some twenty-two years since I left my father's house, and all that time, though I have written several letters, I have had no news whatever of him or of my brothers.

I will now briefly relate my own adventures during that period.

I embarked at Alicante and reached Genoa after a prosperous voyage. And then I proceeded to Milan, where I provided myself with arms and a few soldier's accouterments.

From there, I intended to go and take service in Piedmont, but as I was already on the road to Alessandria della Paglia, I learned that the great Duke of Alva was on his way to Flanders.

I changed my plans, joined him, served under him in the campaigns he made, was present at the deaths of the Counts Egmont and Horn, and was promoted to be ensign under a famous captain of Guadalajara who was named Diego de Urbina.

Some time after my arrival in Flanders, news came of the the army of his Holiness Pope Pius V joining forces with Venice and Spain against their common enemy, the Turkish, who had just then, with their fleet, taken the famous island of Cyprus which belonged to the Venetians, a deplorable and disastrous loss.

It was known as a fact that the Most Serene Don John of Austria, the natural brother of our good king Don Philip, was going to be the commander-in-chief of the allied forces, and the rumors in the entire country were of the vast warlike preparations which were being made, all of which moved my heart and filled me with a longing to take part in the campaign which was expected.

As I had reason to believe, and almost certain promises, that on the first opportunity that presented itself I should be promoted to be captain, I preferred to leave everything behind and go, as I did, to Italy.

It was my good fortune that Don John had just arrived at Genoa and was going on to Naples to join the Venetian fleet, as he did afterward at Messina.

In short, I may say that I was promoted to captain of infantry, to which honorable rank my good luck rather than my merits had raised me, and that I took part in that glorious expedition.

And that day — so which was such a fortunate day for Christendom, because all the nations of the world were disabused of the error under which they lay in imagining the Turks to be invincible on sea-on that day, I say, on which the Ottoman pride and arrogance were broken, among all that were there made happy (because the Christians who died that day were even more satisfied than those who remained alive and victorious) — only I was miserable, because, instead of some naval crown that I might have expected had it been in Roman times, on the night that followed that famous day of our victory, I found myself with shackles around my ankles and around my wrists.

It happened in this way: El Uchali, the king of Algiers, a daring and successful pirate, attacked and took the leading Maltese galley, with only three knights being left alive on it, and severely wounded.

The main galley of John Andrea on board of which my company and I were placed came to its relief and did as it was obligated to do in such a case.

I leaped on-board the enemy's galley, but it swerved away from that which had attacked it, which prevented my men from following me, and so I found myself alone in the midst of my enemies, who surrounded me in such large numbers that I was unable to put up much resistance.

In short, I was taken a prisoner, covered with wounds.

El Uchali, as you know, sirs, made his escape with his entire squadron, and I was left a prisoner in his power, the only sad soldier among so many who were filled with joy, and the only captive among so many who were free, because there were fifteen thousand Christians, all at the oar in the Turkish fleet, that regained their longed-for liberty that day.

They carried me to Constantinople, where the Grand Turk, Selim, made my master general at sea for having done his duty in the battle and carried off the standard of the Order of Malta as evidence of his bravery.

The following year — which was the year seventy-two — I found myself rowing in the leading galley with the three lanterns at Navarino.

There, I saw how the opportunity to capture the whole Turkish fleet in harbor was lost, because all the marines and Turkish elite infantry that belonged to it were ready in case they were about to be attacked inside the very harbor, and that they had their kits and shoes ready to flee to shore at once without waiting to be assailed, so great was their fear of our fleet.

But Heaven ordered it otherwise, not for any fault or neglect of the general who commanded the army on our side, but for the sins of Christendom, and because it was God's will and pleasure that we should always have instruments of punishment to chastise us.

As it was, El Uchali took refuge at Modon, which is an island near Navarino, and the landing forces fortified the mouth of the harbor and waited quietly until Don John left.

The galley called the Prize — whose captain was a son of the famous pirate Barbarossa — was taken on this expedition.

It was taken by the main Neapolitan galley called the She-wolf, commanded by that thunderbolt of war, that father of his men, that successful and unconquered captain Don Alvaro de Bazan, Marquis of Santa Cruz, and I cannot help but tell you what took place at the capture of the Prize.

The son of Barbarossa was so cruel, and treated his slaves so badly, that, when those who were at the oars saw that the She-wolf galley was bearing down upon them and gaining upon them, they all immediately dropped their oars and seized their captain who stood on the stage at the end of the gangway shouting to them to row lustily, and they passed him on from bench to bench, from the back to the front, while they beat him so hard, that before he had gotten much past the mast, his soul had already gone to hell.

That was, as I said, how cruel he treated them, and how much they hated him because of that.

We returned to Constantinople, and the following year, seventy-three, it became known that Don John had seized Tunis and taken the kingdom from the Turks, and placed Muley Hamet in possession, putting an end to the hopes which Muley Hamida, the cruelest and bravest Moor in the world, entertained of returning to reign there.

The Grand Turk took the loss to heart, and with the cunning which all his race possess, he made peace with the Venetians (who were much more eager for it than he was), and the following year, seventy-four, he attacked the Goletta and the fort which Don John had left half-built near Tunis.

While all these events were occurring, I was laboring at the oar without any hope of freedom. I had little hope of obtaining it through ransom because I had firmly decided not to write to my father to tell him of my misfortunes.

Eventually, the Goletta and the fort were both taken, after some resistance: the Turkish army consisted of seventy-five thousand regular Turkish soldiers and more than four hundred thousand Moors and Arabs from all parts of Africa, and with so much food and munition and guns and canons, and so many pioneers that with their hands they could have easily defended the Goletta and the fort, had they been the ones inside instead.

The first to fall was the Goletta, until then reckoned impregnable, and it fell, not by any fault of its defenders, who did all that they could and should have done, but because experiments proved how easily entrenchments could be made in the desert sand there, because water used to be found at two palms depth, while the Turks found none at two yards even.

And so, with a large number of sandbags piled on onto the other, they raised the stack so high that they raised it up to the top of the walls of the fort, and cleared the walls of soldiers so that no one was able to make a stand or maintain the defense.

The prevailing opinion was that our men should not have locked themselves up in the Goletta, but should have waited in the open at the landing-place.

But those who say that, speak of these things ad random and without experience or knowledge of such matters, because, if in the Goletta and in the fort there were barely seven thousand soldiers, how could such a small number, however resolute, sally out and hold their own against such a vast amount of soldiers like those of the enemy?

And how is it possible to not lose a stronghold that is not helped by other armies, especially when they are surrounded by the many determined enemies who are fighting in their own country?

But many thought, and I thought so too, that it was special favor and mercy which Heaven showed to Spain in permitting the destruction the Tunisian Goletta, of that source and hiding place of mischief, that devourer, sponge, and moth of infinite amounts of money that was fruitlessly wasted there for no other purpose than to preserve the memory of the capture of its city by the invincible Charles V on one of his conquests, as if it had been necessary to support the eternal fame of his glory with the indestructible stones that were needed to support it.

The fort also fell, but the Turks had to win it inch by inch because the soldiers who defended it fought so courageously and firmly that the number the enemy soldiers killed in twenty-two general assaults exceeded twenty-five thousand.

Of the three-hundred soldiers that remained alive, not one was taken unwounded, clear and indisputable proof of their gallantry and resolution, and evidence of how sturdily they had defended themselves and held their post.

Likewise, a small fort or tower which was in the middle of the lagoon and which was under the command of Don Juan Zanoguera, a Valencian gentleman and a famous soldier, capitulated and was also taken.

They took Don Pedro Puertocarrero prisoner, commandant of the Goletta, who had done everything in his power to defend his fortress, and who took the loss of it so much to heart that he died of grief on the way to Constantinople, where they were taking him to as a prisoner.

They also took the commander of the fort, whose name was Gabrio Cerbellon, a Milanese gentleman, a great engineer, and a fearless soldier.

Many notable persons perished in these two fortresses, and among them was Pagano Doria, knight of the Order of St. John, a man of generous disposition, as was demonstrated by his extreme generosity to his brother, the famous John Andrea Doria.

What made his death all the more sad was that he was murdered by some Arabs to whom — seeing that the fort was now lost — he had surrendered. The Arabs had offered to disguise as a Moor and to then bring him to Tabarca, a small fort or station on the coast held by the Genoese and employed in the coral fishery.

These Arabs proceeded to cut off his head and carried it to the commander of the Turkish fleet, and as they did, they proved the truth of our Castilian proverb which says that “though the treason may please, the traitor is hated,” because they say he ordered those who brought him his head to be hanged for not having brought him alive.

Among the Christians who were taken in the fort was one named Don Pedro de Aguilar, a native of some place, I don't know where, but somewhere in Andalusia, who had been an ensign in the fort, a soldier of high repute and rare intelligence, and who had a special gift in particular for what they call poetry.

I am telling you this because his fate brought him to my galley and to my bench and made him a slave to the same master.

And before we left the port, this gentleman composed two sonnets by way of epitaphs, one about the Goletta and the other about the fort.

Indeed, I may as well repeat them, because I know them by heart, and I think they will be liked rather than disliked.

The instant the captive mentioned the name of Don Pedro de Aguilar, Don Fernando looked at his companions, and all three of them smiled, and when he came to speak of the sonnets, one of them said, “Before you proceed any further I beg you to tell me what became of that Don Pedro de Aguilar you have spoken of.”

“All I know is,” the captive replied, “that, after having been in Constantinople two years, he escaped in the disguise of a Turkish soldier and accompanied by a Greek spy.

But whether he regained his liberty or not, I cannot tell, though I fancy he did, because a year afterward I saw the Greek at Constantinople, though I was unable to ask him how their journey had ended.”

“Well then, you are right,” the gentleman replied, “because that Don Pedro is my brother, and he is now in our village in good health, rich, married, and with three children.”

“Thank God for all the mercies he has shown him,” the captive said, “because, to my mind, no happiness on earth can compare with recovering lost liberty.”

“And what is more,” the gentleman said, “I know the sonnets my brother made.”

“Then please repeat them,” the captive said, “because you will recite them better than I can.”

“With all my heart,” the gentleman said, “and the one about the Goletta goes as follows.”