DON QUIXOTE AND THE GOATHERDS
Retold by Judge Parry
As they rode along, Don Quixote turned to his squire and said to him:
"Tell me now in very good earnest, didst thou ever see a more valorous
knight than I am throughout the face of the earth? Didst thou ever
read in histories of any other that hath or ever had more courage in
fighting, more dexterity in wounding, or more skill in overthrowing?"
"The truth is," replied Sancho, "that I have never read any history
whatever, for I can neither read nor write. But what I dare wager is,
that I never in my life served a bolder master than you are, and I
only trust that all this boldness does not land us within the four
walls of the gaol."
"Peace, friend Sancho," said Don Quixote, "when didst thou read of a
knight-errant that was brought before the judge though he killed ever
so many people?"
"I have read nothing, as you know, good master; but a truce to all
this, let me attend to your wound, for you are losing a good deal of
blood in that ear, and I have got some lint and a little white
ointment in my wallet."
"That," said Don Quixote, "would have been unnecessary if I had
remembered to make a bottleful of the balsam of Fierabras, for with
only one drop of it both time and medicines are saved."
"What balsam is that, then?" asked Sancho Panza.
"It is a balsam, the receipt of which I have in my memory, and whoever
possesses it need not fear death nor think to perish by any
wound. Therefore after I have made it and given it unto thee, thou
hast nothing else to do but when thou shalt see that in any battle I
be cloven in twain, than deftly to take up the portion of the body
which is fallen to the ground and put it up again on the half which
remains in the saddle, taking great care to fix it exactly in the
right place. Then thou shalt give me two draughts of the balsam I have
mentioned, and I shall become as sound as an apple."
"If that be true," said Sancho, "I renounce from now the government of
the promised island, and will demand nothing else in payment of my
services but only the receipt of this precious liquor. But tell me, is
it costly in making?"
"With less than three reals" said Don Quixote, "a man may make
three gallons of it. But I mean to teach thee greater secrets than
this, and do thee greater favours also. And now let me dress my wound,
for this ear pains me more than I would wish."
Sancho took out of his wallet his lint and ointment to cure his
master. But before he could use them Don Quixote saw that the visor of
his helmet was broken, and he had like to have lost his senses.
Setting his hand to his sword, he cried: "I swear an oath to lead the
life which was led by the great Marquis of Mantua when he swore to
revenge the death of his nephew Baldwin, which was not to eat off a
tablecloth, nor to comb his hair, nor to change his clothes, nor to
quit his armour, and other things which, though I cannot now remember,
I take as said, until I have had complete revenge on him that hath
done this outrage."
"Look, your worship, Sir Don Quixote." said Sancho, when he heard
these strange words, "you must note that if the Biscayan has done what
you told him, and presented himself before my Lady Dulcinea of Toboso,
then he has fully satisfied his debt, and deserves no other penalty
unless he commits a new fault."
"Thou hast spoken well and hit the mark truly," answered Don Quixote;
"and, therefore, in respect of that, I set the oath aside. But I make
it and confirm it again, that I will lead the life I have said, until
I take by force another helmet as good as this from some other
"Such oaths are but mischief," said Sancho discontentedly, "for tell
me now, if by chance we do not come across a man armed with a helmet,
what are we to do? Do but consider that armed men travel not these
roads, but only carriers and waggoners, who not only wear no helmets,
but never heard them named all the days of their life."
"Thou art mistaken in this," said Don Quixote, "for we shall not have
been here two hours before we shall see more knights than went up
against Albraca to win Angelica the Fair."
"So be it," said Sancho, "and may all turn out well for us, that the
time may come for the winning of that island which is costing me so
"Have no fear for thine island, Sancho Panza," said Don Quixote; "and
now look if thou hast aught to eat in thy wallet, for soon we should
go in search of some castle where we may lodge the night and make the
balsam of which I have spoken, for in truth this ear of mine pains me
"I have got here an onion and a bit of cheese and a few crusts of
bread, but such coarse food is not fit for so valiant a knight as your
"How little dost thou understand the matter," replied Don Quixote,
"for it is an honour to knights-errant not to eat more than once a
month, and if by chance they should eat, to eat only of that which is
next at hand! And all this thou mightest have known hadst thou read as
many books as I have done. For though I studied many, yet did I never
find that knights-errant did ever eat but by mere chance, or at some
costly banquets that were made for them. And the remainder of their
days they lived on herbs and roots. Therefore, friend Sancho, let not
that trouble thee which is my pleasure, for to a knight-errant that
which comes is good."
"Pardon me, sir," said Sancho, "for since I can neither read nor
write, as I have already told you, I have not fallen in rightly with
the laws of knighthood. But from henceforth my wallet shall be
furnished with all sorts of dried fruits for your worship, because you
are a knight, and for myself, seeing I am none, I will provide fowls
and other things, which are better eating."
So saying he pulled out what he had, and the two fell to dinner in
good peace and company.
But being desirous to look out for a lodging for that night, they cut
short their meagre and sorry meal, mounted at once a-horseback, and
made haste to find out some dwellings before night did fall.
But the sun and their hopes did fail them at the same time, they being
then near the cabins of some goatherds. Therefore they determined to
pass the night there. And though Sancho's grief was great to lie out
of a village, yet Don Quixote was more joyful than ever, for he
thought that as often as he slept under the open heaven, so often did
he perform an act worthy of a true knight-errant.
They were welcomed by the goatherds very cordially, and Sancho, having
put up Rozinante and his ass the best way he could, made his way
towards the smell given out by certain pieces of goat's flesh which
were boiling in a pot on the fire. And though he longed that very
instant to see if they were ready, he did not do so, for he saw the
goatherds were themselves taking them off the fire and spreading some
sheep-skins on the ground, and were laying their rustic table as
quickly as might be. Then with many expressions of good will they
invited the two to share in what they had. Those who belonged to the
fold, being six in number, sat round on the skins, having first with
rough compliments asked Don Quixote to seat himself upon a trough
which they placed for him turned upside down.
Don Quixote sat down, but Sancho remained on foot to serve him with
the cup which was made of horn. Seeing him standing, his master said:
"That thou mayest see, Sancho, the good which is in knight-errantry,
and how fair a chance they have who exercise it to arrive at honour
and position in the world, I desire that here by my side, and in
company of these good people, thou dost seat thyself, and be one and
the same with me that am thy master and natural lord. That thou dost
eat in my dish and drink in the same cup wherein I drink. For the
same may be said of knight-errantry as is said of love, that it makes
all things equal."
"Thanks for your favour," replied Sancho, "but I may tell your worship
that provided I have plenty to eat I can eat it as well and better
standing and by myself, than if I were seated on a level with an
emperor. And, indeed, if I speak the truth, what I eat in my corner
without ceremony, though it be but a bread and onion, smacks much
better than turkeycocks at other tables, where I must chaw my meat
leisurely, drink but little, wipe my hands often, nor do other things
that solitude and liberty allow."
"For all that," said Don Quixote, "here shalt thou sit, for the humble
shall be exalted," and taking him by the arm, he forced his squire to
sit down near himself.
The goatherds did not understand the gibberish of squires and
knights-errant, and did nothing but eat, hold their peace, and stare
at their guests, who with great relish were gorging themselves with
pieces as big as their fists. The course of flesh being over, the
goatherds spread on the skins a great number of parched acorns and
half a cheese, harder than if it had been made of mortar. The horn in
the meantime was not idle, but came full from the wineskins and
returned empty, as though it had been a bucket sent to the well.
After Don Quixote had satisfied his appetite, he took up a fistful of
acorns, and beholding them earnestly, began in this manner: "Happy
time and fortunate ages were those which our ancestors called Golden:
not because goldŚso much prized in this our Iron AgeŚwas gotten in
that happy time without any labours, but because those who lived in
that time knew not these two words, Thine and Mine. In
that holy age all things were in common. No man needed to do aught but
lift up his hand and take his food from the strong oak, which did
liberally invite them to gather his sweet and savoury fruit. The clear
fountains and running rivers did offer them transparent water in
magnificent abundance, and in the hollow trees did careful bees erect
their commonwealth, offering to every hand without interest the
fertile crop of their sweet labours." Thus did the eloquent knight
describe the Golden Age, when all was peace, friendship, and concord,
and then he showed the astonished goatherds how an evil world had
taken its place, and made it necessary for knights-errant like himself
to come forward for the protection of widows and orphans, and the
defence of distressed damsels. All this he did because the acorns that
were given him called to his mind the Golden Age. The goatherds sat
and listened with grave attention, and Sancho made frequent visits to
the second wine-skin during his discourse. At length it was ended, and
they sat round the fire, drinking their wine and listening to one of
the goat herds singing, and towards night, Don Quixote's ear becoming
very painful, one of his hosts made a dressing of rosemary leaves and
salt, and bound up his wound. By this means being eased of his pain,
he was able to lie down in one of the huts and sleep soundly after his
Don Quixote spent several days among the goatherds, and at length,
when his wound was better, he thanked them for their hospitality, and
rode away in search of new adventures, followed by the faithful
They came to a halt in a pleasant meadow rich with beautiful grass, by
the side of a delightful and refreshing stream, which seemed to invite
them to stop and spend there the sultry hours of noon, which were
already becoming oppressive.
Don Quixote and Sancho dismounted, and leaving Rozinante and Dapple
loose, to feed on the grass that was there in plenty, they ransacked
the wallet, and without any ceremony fell to eating what they found in
Sancho had neglected to tie up Rozinante, and, as luck would have it,
a troop of Galician ponies belonging to some Yanguesian carriers,
whose custom it is to rest at noon with their teams in spots and
places where grass and water abound, were feeding in the same valley.
It must be believed that Rozinante supposed that the grass the ponies
were feeding on was better than his own; but be that as it may, he
started off at a little swift trot to feed among them. They resented
his appearance, and, as he sought to enter their ranks and feed among
them, they received him with their heels and teeth, with such vigour
that in a trice he had burst his girth, and his saddle was stripped
from his back. But the worst of all was that the carriers, taking part
with their own ponies, ran up with stakes and so belaboured him that
they brought him to the ground in a sore plight.
Upon this Don Quixote and Sancho, who witnessed the basting of
Rozinante, came running up all out of breath, and Don Quixote said to
Sancho: "From what I see, friend Sancho, these be no knights, but
base, rascally fellows of low breeding. I say this, that thou mayest
freely aid me in taking vengeance for the wrong which they have done
to Rozinante before our eyes."
"What vengeance can we take," replied Sancho, "when there are more
than twenty, and we are but twoŚnay, perhaps but one and a half?"
"I count for a hundred," said Don Quixote, and without further parley
he drew his sword and flew upon the Yanguesians, boldly followed by
With his first blow Don Quixote pierced a buff coat that one of them
wore, wounding him grievously in the shoulder. Then the Yanguesians,
finding themselves so rudely handled by two men only, they being so
many, betook themselves to their stakes, and hemming in their
adversaries in the midst of them, they laid on with great fury. In
fact the second thwack brought Sancho to the ground, and the same fate
soon befell Don Quixote, whose dexterity and courage availed him
nothing, for he fell at the feet of his unfortunate steed, who had not
yet been able to arise.
Then, seeing the mischief they had done, the Yanguesians loaded their
team with as much haste as possible, and went their way, leaving the
adventurers in a doleful plight and a worse humour.