Stories of Don Quixote - James Baldwin

Sancho in his Island

The duke and the duchess were so well pleased with the success of their latest jest that they soon formed plans for another; and this time Sancho Panza was to be the chosen hero.

"Sancho Panza," said the duke one day, "is it true that your master has promised to make you the governor of an island?"

"Aye, so he has," answered Sancho; "and I am he that deserves it as well as anybody. I have kept my master company many a month; and if he live and I live, there will be no lack of islands for me to govern."

"Well," said the duke, "I have a few spare islands of my own lying around, and I will give you one for the sake of my good friend Don Quixote."

"Down, down on thy knees, Sancho," cried Don Quixote, "and kiss the duke's feet for this favor."

And Sancho obeyed.

A few days later the duke said to the squire, "Sancho, do you remember the island which I promised you?"

"Most assuredly, sir, I have not forgotten it," said Sancho.

"Well, you must prepare to take possession of your government to-morrow," said the duke. "The islanders are longing for you as a farmer longs for rain in summer. They will not be put off any longer."

Sancho bowed humbly and answered, "Well then, I will do my best. But since I looked down from the sky the other day and saw the earth so very small, I don't care half so much about being governor. What does it matter to rule over half-a-dozen men no bigger than hazelnuts?"

"Oh, Sancho," said the duke, "when once you have had a taste of ruling you will never leave off licking your fingers, you will find it so sweet to command and so pleasant to be obeyed."

"Indeed it is a dainty thing to command," said Sancho. "I know it, for I once commanded a flock of sheep."

"Well, I hope you will be as good a governor as you were a shepherd," said the duke. "Now get ready to set out for your island to-morrow morning. My servants will furnish you with dress suitable to your high office."

"Let them dress me as they will, I'll be Sancho Panza still," answered the squire.

When Don Quixote heard that Sancho was to leave for his island in the morning he sat down with him and gave him a great deal of good advice. Among a thousand other things, he said:—

"First of all, fear God; for the fear of Him is wisdom.

"Secondly, make it thy business to know thyself.

"Pride thyself more on being humble and virtuous than proud and vicious.

"Despise not thy poor relations.

"Let the tears of the poor find more compassion than the testimony of the rich.

"Revile not with words him whom thou hast to punish in deed.

"In the trial of a criminal remember the temptations of our depraved nature, and show thyself full of pity and mercy.

"As to the government of thy person, my first command is cleanliness.

"Pare thy nails.

"Keep thy clothes well-fitted about thee.

"Defile not thy breath with onions and garlic.

"Walk softly, speak with deliberation.

"Drink moderately.

"Be careful not to chew on both sides.

"Sleep with moderation.

"As for thy dress, wear long hose, an ample coat, and a cloak a little larger.

"Lastly, do not overlard thy discourse with proverbs, as thou art wont to do."

Sancho listened quietly to all this advice and promised that he would observe as much of it as he could remember.

"But please let me have it all in black and white," he said; "for my memory is poor. True, I can neither write nor read, but I will give it to the priest of my island and tell him to hammer it into me as often as I need it."

"Oh, sinner that I am!" cried Don Quixote. "How scandalous it is that a governor should not be able to read or write! I would have thee at least learn to write thy name."

"Oh, I can write my name." answered Sancho. "I used to scrawl a sort of letters, and they told me it was my name. Besides, I can pretend that I've hurt my hand, and get somebody else to sign for me. For there is a remedy for all things but death. Let them backbite me to my face, I will bite-back the biters. Let them come for wool and go home shorn. The rich man's follies pass for wise sayings. What a man has, so much is he worth, said my grandmother."

"Enough! enough!" said Don Quixote. "We have had enough of your proverbs. They will make your islanders plot against you and pull you down."

"For pity's sake, master!" said Sancho, "don't grudge me the use of my own goods. Proverbs are all my stock. Whether the pitcher hit the stone, or the stone hit the pitcher, it is bad for the pitcher."

"Well, Sancho," answered Don Quixote, "you have a good disposition, and you mean well. So let us go to dinner."

The very next day Sancho set out for his island. He was dressed in fine clothes, and rode a tall mule in gaudy trappings. Behind him was led his own donkey, adorned like a horse of state.

He kissed the hands of the duke and duchess, and bowed his head to receive his master's blessing. Then he rode tearfully away with a great train of servants, every one of whom had been told how to behave towards him.

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

It was not a long journey. Soon they came to a little town which belonged to the duke, and Sancho was told that it was his island. Its name was Barataria.

At the gates of the town he was met by the chief officers. The bells rang, and the people shouted their joy. Then he was led to the church, and the keys of the town were put in his hands.

"Hail to our noble governor!" shouted young and old; and Sancho began to feel very much elated.

He was so short and fat, and he looked so funny in his fine clothes, that all who did not know that it was one of the duke's jokes were puzzled to think what kind of man he was. But still they shouted, "Hail to our lord, Don Sancho Panza!"

Sancho turned to his secretary and asked, "Whom do they call Don Sancho Panza?"

"Why, your lordship, yourself," answered the secretary.

"Well, friend," said Sancho, "take notice that Don does not belong to me. Plain Sancho Panza is my name. My father and my grandfather and all of us have been plain Panzas without Dons or Donnas added. Now, I guess the Dons are as thick as stones on this island, but if my government lasts four days I'll clear them out, like so many flies."

From the church Sancho was taken with much ceremony to the Hall of Justice. There he was set in a great chair, and all who wished to appeal to him for justice came and made their wants known.

The first who came were two men, one dressed like a country fellow, the other like a tailor.

"My lord governor," said the tailor, "this farmer and I have come for you to settle a dispute between us. Yesterday the farmer came into my shop with a piece of cloth. He asked me if there was enough of it to make a cap. I measured the stuff and answered, Yes. Then he asked if there was enough for two caps, and I again said, Yes. At last, I told him there was enough for five caps. This morning he came for his caps. They were finished and I gave them to him. But he would not pay me. He says I must give him his cloth again, or the price of it."

Sancho turned to the farmer and said, "Is this true, my friend?"

"Yes," answered the man, "but let him show you the five caps he has made."

"With all my heart," said the tailor; and with that he held up his hand, showing four tiny caps on his fingers and one on his thumb.

"There," said he, "you see the five caps he asked for, and I have not a snip of cloth left."

Everybody in the room laughed to see the number of caps and their smallness.

Sancho put his hand to his chin and thought for a little while. Then he said, "It is the judgment of this court that the tailor shall lose his making, and the farmer his cloth. The caps shall be given to the prisoners in jail; and that ends the whole matter."

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

All who heard this decision were pleased because of its justice.

Two old men next came before the governor. One of them carried a cane, which he used to help him along.

"My lord," said the other man, "some time ago I lent this good man ten gold crowns. I did it as an act of kindness, and he was to repay me whenever I asked him. I did not demand it for a long time; but since he seemed so careless about it, I at last said to him that I wanted the money. What do you think? He not only refuses to pay me, but he says I never lent him the money, or if I did, he returned it. I have no witnesses, but I beg you to put him on his oath. If he will swear that he has paid me, I will forgive him."

"Old man of the staff," said Sancho, "what say you to this?"

"Sir," answered the old man, "I own that he lent me the money. And if you will hold out your rod of office, I will swear upon it that I have returned it in full."

Sancho held out the rod. The old man handed his staff to the other man to hold while he took the oath. Then he put his hands on the cross of the governor's rod, and swore that it was true that the other had lent him the money, but that he had returned the same sum into his hands.

Sancho turned to the other man and asked, "What do you say to that?"

"Well," said the poor man, "my neighbor is a good Christian, and I don't believe he would swear falsely. Perhaps I have forgotten when and how he repaid me."

Then the owner of the staff took his stick, and the two men left the court.

Sancho leaned his head over his breast, he put his forefinger on his eyebrows, and sat silent for a time. Then he suddenly said:—

"Where is that man with the staff? Bring him back to me instantly."

Soon both men were again brought before him.

"Good man," said he to the one with the staff, "let me see your cane. I have use for it."

"Certainly, sir. Here it is," answered the man. Sancho took the staff and immediately gave it to the other man.

"There," he said, "go your way in peace, for now you are paid."

"How so, my lord?" cried the man. "Is this cane worth ten gold crowns?"

"Well, if it is not, then I am the greatest fool in the world," said Sancho. "If you will but return the cane to me for a moment, you shall see with your own eyes."

He took the staff between his hands and broke it in two; and out fell the ten gold crowns.

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

Everybody in the court was amazed. They began to think that Sancho was a second Solomon, whose wisdom was past finding out. The truth was, however, that Sancho had once heard of the same kind of trick being played in a distant town. It was an old story, but unknown in Barataria.

The end of the matter was that one old man went away very much ashamed, and the other returned home well satisfied.

Thus, one case after another was brought before the "governor," and he gave such wise judgment that the people wondered how such wisdom could be contained in a little round head like his. And yet, with all the attention that was shown him, Sancho was not happy in his island.

He was never allowed to eat a good meal; for the doctor always stood by and refused to let him touch anything that would hurt his digestion. He could not even eat roast partridge, although it was set on the table before him, and was of all things the dish which he liked best.

He was wearied, too, with all the tedious ceremonies at court. His fine clothes were irksome. His night's sleep was broken into by the cares of state. And then, at last, there came a dreadful letter from the duke.

The letter was full of warnings. Some enemies, it said, were marching against the island. Four men had gone to the town for the purpose of killing the governor. The duke therefore advised Sancho to be careful, and not eat anything that was set before him, lest he should be poisoned.

All this was a part of the duke's great joke, and it frightened Sancho Panza terribly.

Seven days had passed since he came to Barataria. He had had no rest. He was tired and hungry. It was very late when he was at last allowed to go to bed.

He was just dropping off to sleep when he heard a great noise in the street. He was alarmed and jumped up to see what was the matter.

Bells were ringing, drums were beating, men were shouting. Sancho trembled with fear. He put on his slippers, and hurried to the door.

Several men with torches and drawn swords came running up. They shouted:—

"Arm, arm, Lord Governor! The enemy have got into the island. Come and lead us against them. We have arms for you!"

"Why, then arm me, and good luck to us all," said Sancho, trying to be very brave.

They brought two shields and put them over his shirt, one behind and one before. They fastened these shields together with cords drawn as tightly as possible. Then they put a spear in his hand and said, "Lead on, now, Lord Governor!"

"How can I lead on, when I am trussed up like this?" asked Sancho; and indeed he looked much like a turtle between two great shells.

"I cannot so much as bend my legs," said he. "You must carry me."

"Nonsense, my Lord Governor," said one of the men. "It is fear that keeps you from moving. Lead on, for the danger is greater every minute."

Poor Sancho tried to walk; but he fell to the floor with such a crash that he thought himself broken to pieces. He lay there, helpless and praying for deliverance.

Suddenly all the lights went out. He could hear men fighting all around. Some tripped on him. Some stood on him and shouted. He was never so frightened in his life.

"Oh, that this island were taken," he moaned, "or that I were dead and out of this trouble."

Then he heard shouts of "Victory! victory! Where is our lord governor?"

Sancho could only cry in a weak voice, "Here I am. Help me up!"

His shields were taken off, and he was carried into his chamber. There he fell back on his bed in a dead swoon, and those who had been playing this joke upon him became really frightened.

By and by, however, he began to come to himself.

"What time is it?" he asked.

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

"It is near daybreak," they answered.

He spoke not again, but very quietly began to put on his clothes.

When he was dressed he went out slowly and feebly, for he was too much bruised to move fast. He went to the stable and found the stall where his donkey was standing.

He flung his arms around the beast's neck and kissed him.

"Oh, my dear Dapple!" he said, while tears fell from his eyes. My faithful companion, my best friend! When all my cares were only to feed thy little body, my hours, my days, my years were happy. But since I clambered up upon the tower of ambition, I have a thousand woes, a thousand toils, and four thousand tribulations."

While he was talking he bridled and saddled the donkey. Then he slowly got upon him and took hold of the reins.

"Make way, gentlemen!" he cried to those who were standing around. "Let me return to liberty. I was not born to be a governor, or to defend islands. May heaven bless you, my good people! Tell my lord duke that I have neither won nor lost; for I came into this island without a penny, and without a penny I leave it. Clear the way, then, and let me go!"

So saying, he chirruped to his donkey and rode slowly away to rejoin his master, Don Quixote.

Everybody appeared to be astonished when he finally arrived at the duke's castle. Yet all welcomed him kindly and heartily, and listened to his story of what had happened to him.

"It is now eight days since I began to govern the island that was given me," he said. "In all that time I never had enough to eat. I had no leisure either to take bribes or to receive what were my just dues. Enemies trampled over my bones. My life was a burden. But man proposes, and God disposes. Heaven knows what is best for us all. Let no man say, I will not drink of this water. I say no more."

"Never mind, Sancho, never mind," said Don Quixote. "If a governor returns rich from his government, they say he has robbed. If he returns poor, then they call him a do-little. But if thy conscience is clear, thou hast nothing to fear."

"Yes," said Sancho, "but this time they will be likelier to call me an idiot than a robber."