Stories of Don Quixote - James Baldwin

The Knight of the Mirrors

That night Don Quixote and Sancho Panza sought shelter under some trees by the roadside. Sancho unsaddled his Dapple and turned the beast loose to graze among the shrubs and thistles; then he threw himself down at the foot of a cork tree and was soon fast asleep.

But poor Rozinante was doomed to stand saddled all night; for his master suddenly remembered that it was the custom of knights-errant to take off only the bridles of their steeds when thus resting in the open air.

Don Quixote lay down beneath a spreading oak tree and tried to compose himself to rest. He lay and watched the stars twinkling in the sky above him, and he tried to remember all the noble knights who had likewise reposed at night under the canopy of a tree. Suddenly he was aroused by hearing a noise near him. He sat up and listened.

He heard voices in the road. He heard them approaching the grove of trees.

Soon he was aware that two men on horseback were close at hand. He could see only their shadowy figures in the midsummer darkness as they came slowly toward his resting place. Then he could distinguish what they said.

"Let us alight here, friend," said one. "Me-thinks this is a pleasant place to rest for the night."

Don Quixote, watching from the shadows of the oak, saw him slide carelessly from his horse and throw himself down in the tall grass. He heard a rattling like that of armor; he thought he saw the dim outlines of a shield; and all this filled his heart with with joy.

"This stranger is a knight like myself," he thought.

Then, with the greatest caution, he went softly over to the cork tree and woke his squire.

"Sancho," he whispered, "wake up! Here is an adventure for us."

"Well, I hope it is a good one," said Sancho. "Where is it?"

"Where? Only turn your head, man, and look yonder. There is a knight-errant lying in the grass. I think he is melancholy, for I heard him sigh as he slid from his horse."

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

"Well, what of that? How do you make an adventure out of it, even if he did sigh?"

"I'm not sure it is an adventure," answered Don Quixote; "but it looks that way. Hark! He is sitting up now, and tuning his guitar. He is going to sing."

They sat and listened. Soon the voice of the strange knight was heard mingling with the sweet thrumming tones of the guitar.

"What! what!" whispered Don Quixote. "He is singing of the cruelty of his lady love. Didn't I tell you he was melancholy?"

When the knight had finished his song he began to sigh most dolefully. He arose, and leaning against a tree, cried out in a mournful voice, "Oh, thou fair Casildea de Vandalia, thou fairest of the fair! Is it not enough to be known as the fairest lady in the world? For all the brave knights of Castile and Leon and La Mancha declare that thou hast no equal in beauty and queenly grace."

"It is not so," said Don Quixote, speaking softly to Sancho. "I am the only knight of La Mancha, and I have never said, nor shall I ever say that any lady is as beautiful as my own Dulcinea. It is plain that this knight is out of his senses. But let us listen. We shall hear more."

"Yes, I think we shall hear enough," answered Sancho; "for he seems likely to keep on grumbling for a month."

He spoke so loudly that the strange knight heard him. "Who's there?" he called, coming out from the shadows.

"Friends," answered Sancho.

"Are you of the happy, or of the miserable?" asked the knight.

"The miserable! the miserable!" answered Don Quixote.

"Then I welcome you," said the stranger. "Come over here and sit with me."

Don Quixote went over. The knight shook hands with him and seemed very glad.

"I am a knight," said Don Quixote.

"And so am I," answered the other.

Then they sat down in the grass and talked together very peaceably and lovingly, and not at all like two men who were going to break each other's heads.

In the meanwhile Sancho went across the road to the spot where the strange knight's squire was resting by the side of his steed.

"Hello, stranger!" he said.

"Hello to you, my friend," said the other. "Sit down here, and let us chat freely to ourselves, just as squires always do."

"With all my heart," answered Sancho. "I'll talk with you, and tell you who I am and what I am. Then you will know whether I'm fit to be a squire or not."

So the two sat down by the trunk of a tree and for some time talked as foolishly as their masters were talking wisely.

The hours wore pleasantly on under the starry sky. The two squires soon dropped asleep, and lay snoring side by side on the warm earth. But the two knights were so full of talk that they never thought of slumber; and many were the tales of valor which each related to the other.

The strange knight was a great boaster. There was no war in which he had not fought; there was no trial of arms in which he had not been the victor. "I reckon that I have vanquished every wandering knight in the universe," he said. "I once jousted with the renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha and overcame him in fair combat."

"Hold!" cried Don Quixote in wonder and anger. "Don't say that! You may have vanquished all the knights in Spain, save one; but you have never encountered Don Quixote."

"But I say that I have," answered the stranger.

"Perhaps you have fought with some one who looks like him," said Don Quixote; "but had you met the man himself, you would not now be boasting of your encounter."

"What do you mean?" cried the stranger, rising to his feet. "I tell you that it was Don Quixote himself whom I vanquished. There is no one who looks like him. He is a tall, slim-faced, leather-jawed fellow. His hair is grizzled. He is hawk-nosed. He has a long, lank mustache. The name of his squire is Sancho Panza; and the name of his lady is Dulcinea del Toboso. Now, if you don't believe me, let me say that I wear a sword and I will make you believe."

"Not so fast, Sir Knight," answered Don Quixote. "I am acquainted with this same valorous knight of La Mancha. In fact he is the best friend I have in the world, and I love him as well as I love myself. You have described him well; but you have never fought with him. The enchanters, who are his enemies, have probably made some other knight look like him."

The stranger shook his head.

"It is even so," continued Don Quixote. "Indeed, it was not many days ago that they transformed the beautiful Dulcinea del Toboso into the ugly image of a coarse country girl. But if you still insist that you really overcame Don Quixote, let me tell you something: Here is that renowned knight himself, ready to make good his words either on foot or on horseback or in any other way you choose!"

As he said this, he jumped up and laid his hand on his sword. But the strange knight sat still on the ground.

"Sir," he said quietly, "if I could vanquish Don Quixote when transformed why shall I fear him in his true shape? But knights do not fight in the dark. Let us wait till morning, so that the sun may behold our valor."

"You speak well," answered Don Quixote; "I am willing to wait."

Having come to an agreement, the two knights, went across the road to look for their squires. They found them stretched on the ground and snoring. They roused them and bade them get their steeds ready; for with the rising of the sun the combat was to begin.

Sancho Panza was astounded at this news; but he said not a word. He went at once with the strange squire to look for the horses.

"Well, friend," said the other, "since our masters are going to fight, I guess that you and I must also have a brush. That is the way they do in Andalusia where I came from. Servants never stand idle while their masters are fighting."

"They may follow that custom in Andalusia," answered Sancho, "but I'm sure I won't follow it. I'm no hand at fighting. I never had a sword in my life."

"Oh, never mind the swords," said the strange squire. "I have a couple of bags here. You take one, and I'll take one, and we'll let drive at each other."

"That's good," cried Sancho. "We'll dust each other's jackets and not get hurt."

"Hardly so good as that," said the stranger. "We'll put half a dozen stones in each bag, so that we may fight the better."

"Then I say again that I don't feel like fighting," said Sancho. "Let us live and be merry while we may. I'm not angry with you, and I can't fight in cold blood."

"Oh, if that's all," said the other, "I can soon warm your blood. For, you see, I'll walk up to you quite gently and give you three or four slaps on the head and knock you down. Your blood will begin to boil then, won't it?"

"Boil or no boil, I'll meet you at that trick," answered Sancho. "I'll break your head with a stick. Every man for himself. Many come for wool and go home shorn. A baited cat may prove as fierce as a lion. Nobody knows what I may do when I'm stirred up."

By this time they had found the horses and were grooming them for the combat.

"Well, well! May the sun hasten to rise," said the strange squire. "I can hardly wait to begin the fight."

And in fact it was not long until the day began to break. Through the gray light of the dawn Sancho looked at his companion. His heart leaped with surprise, and he began to tremble. For he saw that the nose of the stranger was the most wonderful and fearful that could be imagined.

It was so big that it overshadowed the rest of his face. It was crooked in the middle and as red as a tomato.

"I would rather be kicked two hundred times than fight with that nose," said Sancho.

It was quite different with Don Quixote. He stood up boldly and gazed at the knight with whom he was about to fight. But the stranger's helmet was closed and he could not see his face.

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

His armor, however, was of the best fashion, and over it he wore a coat of cloth of gold. This was covered with numbers of tiny mirrors shaped like half moons.

The plume in his helmet was of yellow, green, and white feathers. His lance was very thick and long. The knight himself was slender, but shapely and quick of motion.

"Sir Knight of the Mirrors," said Don Quixote, "be pleased to lift up your helmet a little, so that I may see your face."

"Nay," answered the knight, "I cannot satisfy your curiosity now. After the combat you will have plenty of time to look at my face. But see, it is broad daylight. Let us begin."

"I am ready," answered Don Quixote. "But while we are getting on horseback, please tell me if I look like that Don Quixote whom you say you overthrew in fair fight."

"Certainly," said the Knight of the Mirrors, "You are as like him as one egg is like another."

"Then let us begin the business," said Don Quixote. "I'll soon show you that I'm not the Quixote whom you think."

So, without further words, they mounted. They rode some distance apart, and then wheeled about with their horses and made ready to charge.

At that moment, however, Don Quixote chanced to see the big nose of the strange squire. He paused in wonder, while the Knight of the Mirrors waited impatiently for him to begin the onset. Sancho Panza, seeing his master's surprise, ran up and caught hold of his stirrup.

"Please, dear master," he said, "before you run upon your enemy, help me up into this cork tree. I wish to sit where I can see your brave battle."

"I rather think you wish to be perched out of danger," said Don Quixote.

"To tell you the truth, master, I am a little afraid of that nose," said Sancho.

"I blame you not," answered Don Quixote. "It is indeed a sight to strike terror into any heart less brave than my own. So, put your foot in this stirrup, and then swing lightly up among the branches."

In the meanwhile the Knight of the Mirrors had again wheeled his horse about, and losing all patience, he now charged at full speed down upon his unready foe.

His steed, however, was old and shabby, in fact more so than Rozinante, and even with much spurring and urging, his swiftest speed was only a slow trot. Down the road he came, lumbering awkwardly and stumbling at every step; but at the middle of the course, his rider pulled suddenly upon the reins and he stopped short.

At this moment Don Quixote looked up. Seeing his enemy so near, he put spurs to Rozinante so sharply that the poor beast sprang wildly forward and, for the first time in his life, really galloped.

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

Before the Knight of the Mirrors could get his horse to moving again, Don Quixote dashed furiously upon him. The knight's lance was hurled from his grasp, and he himself was knocked out of his saddle and thrown sprawling in the dust. He was so stunned by the fall that he lay for some time without showing any signs of life.

Sancho had watched the short affray from his perch in the tree. He now slid down as quickly as he could, and ran to the help of his master.

As for Don Quixote, he checked his steed, threw himself from his saddle, and hurried to the side of his fallen foe. He unlaced the knight's helmet, to give him air, and gently lifted it from his head.

Who can relate his surprise when he saw the face of the unlucky Knight of the Mirrors? For there he beheld the very visage, the very aspect, the very features of his friend and neighbor, Samson Carrasco of La Mancha!

"See here, Sancho!" he cried. "See what those enchanters have been doing again."

Sancho looked and turned pale with fear.

"Master, take my advice," he whispered. "This is one of those enchanters who are all the time making trouble for you. He has now taken the form of our friend Samson Carrasco in order to injure both him and you. Run your sword down his throat, and so rid the world of at least one of the vile crew."

"That's a good thought, Sancho," answered Don Quixote. "I'll do as you say, and then we'll have fewer enemies."

With that, he drew his sword and was about to strike, when a voice at his elbow cried out, "Hold, Don Quixote!"

He looked around. There stood the strange squire, but his terrible nose had vanished.

"Have a care, Don Quixote," he said. "This fallen knight is your friend, Samson Carrasco, and I am his squire."

"Where is your nose?" asked Sancho.

"In my pocket," answered the squire; and he pulled out a great nose of varnished pasteboard.

"Why! why! why! Bless me!" cried Sancho. "Who is this? My old friend and neighbor, Thomas Cecial! Is it you, Tom?"

"The very same, friend Sancho," was the answer. "We have followed you all the way from La Mancha; and this is a trick we had planned to frighten Don Quixote and so persuade him to go back home."

"And you're not an enchanter?"

"I am only Thomas Cecial, your friend and neighbor. Look at me."

By this time the Knight of the Mirrors had come to himself. He groaned and looked around; then he sat up on the ground.

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

Don Quixote set the point of his sword against his face, and cried out, "Now confess that Dulcinea del Toboso is the most beautiful lady in the world. Confess it, or die."

"I do confess it," answered the knight. "The lady Dulcinea's old shoe is more beautiful than my Casildea."

"Will you go to the city of Toboso and confess it to my Dulcinea herself?"

"I will do anything that you command."

"Do you also confess that you never vanquished Don Quixote in fight, but only somebody else who looked like him?"

"All this I do confess, believe, and feel," said the fallen knight.

Then Don Quixote helped him to rise. He grasped his hand and shook it heartily.

"You look like my friend Samson Carrasco," he said, "but I know you are not he. You are some other man whom the enchanters have made to wear his countenance in order to deceive me. But I understand their tricks. They don't fool me."

Samson Carrasco was much put out. His carefully planned scheme to persuade his old neighbor to return home had failed at the very start. Don Quixote would not listen to him, nor believe that he was aught but some stranger in the service of the enchanters, or some poor knight who had been duped by them.

So, at length, with battered body and a sore heart, Samson remounted his sorry steed. Then, with his squire beside him, he rode painfully away toward the nearest town, where he hoped to find plasters and ointments for his bruises.

"I half believe it is really our friend Samson," said Sancho.

"Be not deceived by appearances, Sancho," answered his master.

Then they mounted their steeds and renewed their journey.