Stories of Don Quixote - James Baldwin

The Choosing of a Squire

For fifteen days the good old gentleman stayed at home. He moved quietly about the house, and seemed happy and contented. The loss of his library did not disturb him.

"A true knight will bear the disappointments of life with becoming fortitude." he said.

The niece and the housekeeper, and indeed every one else, began to hope that he would forget his strange delusion. They spoke to him cheerfully and tried to keep his mind on other things.

The curate called to see him every day, and they had many pleasant talks on many pleasant subjects. But always towards the end, Don Quixote would ramble back to the thoughts which still seemed uppermost in his memory.

"I tell you what, my dear friend," he would say, "the world would be better off if there were more knights in it. What we need most is knights, knights, plenty of knights."

Then he would go on for an hour or more talking upon his favorite subject. The good curate would nod his head and smile. He knew that it was better to humor his poor friend and let him have his own way.

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

As the days passed by, Don Quixote became more and more uneasy. The house was too quiet for him. He longed to be riding forth in quest of new adventures. He could not think or talk of anything else.

"But there is one thing lacking," said he to the curate. "I must find me a squire. All the knights that I ever read about had faithful squires who followed them on their journeys and looked on while they were fighting."

The curate smiled and said nothing.

Now there lived in the village a poor man whose name was Sancho Panza. He was a common laborer who had often done odd jobs about Don Quixote's farm. He was honest but poor—poor in purse and poor in brains.

To this man Don Quixote had taken a strange fancy. Almost every day he walked down the street to talk with him. He was just the kind of fellow he wished for his squire.

At last he mentioned the matter. "Sancho Panza," he said, "I am a knight and I shall soon ride out on a knightly errand. You cannot do better than to go with me as my squire. I promise that you shall earn great renown, second only to myself."

"Renown, good master?" queried Sancho; "and what sort of a thing is that?"

"Why, your name will be in everybody's mouth," answered Don Quixote. "All the great ladies and gentlemen will be talking about your achievements."

[Illustration] from Stories of Don Quixote by James Baldwin

"How very fine that will be!" said Sancho.

"And it may happen that in one of my adventures I shall conquer an island," continued Don Quixote. "Indeed, it is very likely that I shall conquer an island. Then, if you are with me, I will give it to you to be its governor."

"Well, I don't know much about islands," said Sancho, "but I'm sure I should like to govern one. So, if you'll promise me the first island you get, I'll be your man. I'll go with you and do as you say."

"I promise," said Don Quixote. "You shall be my squire; and since you will share my labors, you shall also share my rewards."

Then followed busy days for Don Quixote. He provided himself with money by selling a part of his farm. He mended his broken armor. He borrowed a lance of a friendly neighbor. He patched up his old helmet as best he could.

At last everything was in readiness, and the knight went down the street to talk with Sancho Panza. He wished to advise him of the hour he expected to start.

"I will be ready, sir," said Sancho.

"And be sure you have with you whatever it is necessary to carry," said Don Quixote. "Above all things, bring your wallet."

"Indeed I will, master," said Sancho; "and I will also bring my dappled donkey along. For I am not much used to foot travel."

Don Quixote was puzzled. He could not remember of reading about any knight whose squire rode on a donkey. Yet he feared to offend Sancho, lest he should lose his services, which now seemed indispensable to him.

"Your dappled donkey? Oh, certainly!" he said. "You may ride him until good fortune shall present you with a horse. And I promise that the first discourteous knight who meets us shall give up his steed to you."

"I thank you, master," said Sancho Panza; "but being used to the donkey, I shall be more at home on his back than on the back of any prancing steed you might give me."