How Don Quixote set at liberty many poor Wretches who were being taken to a Place to which they had no wish to go

As they rode onwards, Don Quixote lifted up his eyes and saw coming
along the road about a dozen men on foot, strung together on a great
wire chain like beads. The chain was fastened round their necks,
and they had manacles on their hands. There rode with them two men
a-horseback, and two others followed on foot. The horsemen had
firelocks, and those on foot javelins and swords.
As soon as Sancho saw them he said: ‘This is a chain of galley slaves,
people forced by the King to go to the galleys.’
‘How! People forced?’ asked Don Quixote. ‘Is it possible that the King
will force anybody?’
‘I say not so,’ answered Sancho, ‘but they are people condemned for
their offences to serve the King in the galleys.’
‘In fact,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘however you put it, these folk are
being taken where they go by force and not of their own free will.’
‘That is so,’ said Sancho.
‘Then if it be so,’ continued his Master, ‘here I see before me my duty
to redress outrages and to give help to the poor and the afflicted.’
‘I pray you, Sir,’ said Sancho, ‘consider that Justice, representing
the King himself, does wrong or violence to nobody, but only punishes
those who have committed crimes.’
By this time the chain of galley slaves came up, and Don Quixote in
very courteous words asked those in charge of them to be good enough to
inform him why they carried people away in that manner.
One of the guardians a-horseback answered that they were slaves
condemned by his Majesty to the galleys, and that there was no more to
be said, nor ought Don Quixote to desire any further information.
‘For all that,’ replied Don Quixote very politely, ‘I would fain learn
from every one of them the cause of his disgrace.’
To this the guardian a-horseback answered: ‘Although we carry here the
register of the crimes of all these wretches, yet if you wish to do so,
ask it from themselves; and no doubt they will tell you their stories,
for they are men who take delight in boasting of their rascalities.’
With this permission, which Don Quixote would have taken for himself if
they had not given it, he went up to the chain and asked of the first
one for what sins he had found himself in such straits.
He answered that his offence was no other than for being in love.
‘For that and no more?’ cried Don Quixote; ‘but if folk are sent there
for being in love, I should have been pulling an oar there long ago.’
‘My love was not of the kind your Worship imagines,’ replied the galley
slave, ‘for mine was that I loved overmuch a basket stuffed with fine
linen, which I embraced so lovingly, that if the law had not taken it
from me by violence, I should not of my own free will have forsaken
it till now. I was taken in the act and sent for three years to the
galleys.’
Don Quixote now inquired of the second his cause of offence, but he
answered him not a word, seeming too downcast and melancholy to speak.
But the first one spoke for him, and said: ‘Sir, this man goes for
being a Canary bird—I mean a musician or singer.’
‘Is it possible,’ said Don Quixote, ‘that musicians and singers are
sent to the galleys?’
‘Yes, indeed,’ said the slave, ‘there is nothing worse than to sing in
anguish.’
‘I do not understand it,’ said Don Quixote, ‘but I have heard say that
he who sings scares away sorrow.’
But one of the guards interrupted him and said: ‘Sir Knight, among
these wretches “to sing in anguish” means to confess on the rack. They
put this poor wretch to the torture, and he confessed that he was a
stealer of beasts. And because he has confessed he is condemned to the
galleys for six years. And he is sad and pensive because the other
thieves maltreat, abuse, and despise him. For, as they say, a _nay_ has
as many letters as a _yea_, and it is good luck for a criminal when
there are no witnesses and proofs, and his fate depends on his own
tongue, and in my opinion there is much reason in that.’
‘I think so likewise,’ said Don Quixote, and he passed on to where the
third slave stood, and put to him the same question as to the others.
The man replied very coolly, saying: ‘I go to the galleys because I
wanted ten ducats.’
‘I will give thee twenty with all my heart to free thee from that
misfortune,’ said Don Quixote.
‘That,’ replied the Slave, ‘would be like one that hath money in the
midst of the sea, and yet is dying of hunger because he can get no meat
to buy with it. If I had had the twenty ducats your Worship offers me
at the right time, I would have greased the lawyer’s pen with them, and
so sharpened the advocate’s wit, that instead of being trailed along
here like a greyhound, I should now have been walking about in the
market-place of Toledo. But patience. What must be must be!’
Don Quixote went from one to another, receiving different answers,
until he came to the last, who was a man about thirty years old, of
very comely looks, except that he had a squint. He was differently tied
from the rest, for he wore a chain to his leg, so long that it wound
round his whole body. He had besides round his neck two iron rings,
from one of which two wires came down to his waist, on which were
fastened two manacles. These held his hands fast locked with a great
hanging lock, so that he could neither put his hand to his mouth nor
bend down his head to his hands.
Don Quixote asked why he was so loaded with iron more than the rest.
The Guard answered that it was because he had committed more crimes
than all the rest put together, and that he was such a desperate
scoundrel that although they carried him tied up in that fashion, they
were not sure of him, but feared that he might make an escape. ‘He
goes,’ continued the Guard, ‘to the galleys for ten years; and when
I tell you he is the infamous Gines of Passamonte, you will need, I
think, to know no more about him.’
At this, Gines, who seemed very impatient at the Guard’s history, broke
out into a torrent of abuse, and then, turning to Don Quixote, said:
‘Sir Knight, if you have anything to bestow on us, give it us now, and
begone, for you do but weary us by wanting to know the stories of
other men’s lives; and if you want to learn more, know that I am Gines
of Passamonte, whose life has been written by his own hand.’
‘He speaks truly,’ said the Guard, ‘for he himself hath penned his own
history.’
‘And how is the book called?’ asked Don Quixote.
‘It is called the _Life of Gines of Passamonte_,’ replied the Slave.
‘And is it yet ended?’ inquired the Knight.
‘How can it be finished,’ replied Gines, ‘seeing my life is not yet
finished? I intend to finish it in the galleys.’
‘You seem to be a clever fellow,’ said Don Quixote.
‘And an unlucky one,’ replied Gines, ‘for bad luck always pursues
genius.’
‘It pursues knaves,’ interrupted the Guard; and at this Gines burst out
again into abuse and bad language, which ended in the Guard threatening
to beat him with his rod if he did not hold his peace.
At this Don Quixote put himself between them, and entreated the Guard
not to use him hardly, seeing that it was not much that one who carried
his hands so tied should have his tongue free.
Then turning himself towards the slaves he said: ‘I have gathered from
all you have said, dear brethren, that although they punish you for
your faults, yet the pains you suffer do not please you, and that you
march towards them with a very ill will. All this prompts me to do that
for you, for which I was sent into the world, and for which I became a
Knight Errant, and to which end I vowed at all times to succour the
poor and help those that are oppressed. But as it is prudent not to do
by foul means what can be done by fair, I will entreat these gentlemen
your guardians that they will unloose you and let you depart in peace,
for it seems to me a harsh thing to make slaves of those who are born
free.’ And turning to the guards he continued: ‘These things I ask of
you in a peaceable and quiet manner, and if you grant my request I
shall give you my thanks; but if you will not do it willingly, then
shall this lance and sword of mine, guided by the invincible valour of
mine arm, force you to do my will.’
‘This is pretty fooling,’ replied the Guard. ‘Would you have us release
to you those the King has imprisoned? Go your way, good Sir, settle the
basin on your head more straightly, and study to find out, if you have
wits enough, how many feet a cat has.’
‘You are a cat and a rat and a knave!’ said Don Quixote in a rage.
And without a word he set on him so fiercely, and without giving him
time to defend himself, that he struck him to the earth badly wounded
with his lance. Luckily for the Knight this was the Guard that had the
firelock.
At first the other guards stood astounded at this unexpected event.
Then they recovered themselves, and the horsemen drew their swords, the
footmen grasped their javelins, and all of them attacked Don Quixote,
who quietly prepared to receive them. No doubt he would have been in
some danger, but the slaves, seeing a chance of liberty, broke the
chain by which they were linked together. The hurly-burly was such that
the guards first ran to prevent the slaves getting free, then to defend
themselves from Don Quixote who attacked them, so that they could do
nothing to any purpose to keep their prisoners. Sancho, for his part,
helped to loose Gines of Passamonte, who was the first to leap into
the field free from all fetters, and setting upon the other overthrown
guard, he took his sword and firelock from him. With the latter in his
hand, by pointing it at one and aiming it at the other, he cleared the
field of all the guards, who were the more easily got rid of because
the galley slaves were now all at liberty, and showered at their late
keepers volleys of stones.
When their victory was complete, Don Quixote called all the slaves
together, and they gathered round to hear what he commanded, when he
spoke to them as follows: ‘It is the duty of well-bred people to be
grateful for benefits received, and ingratitude is one of the worst of
sins. I say this, Sirs, because you know what good you have received
at my hand, and the only reward I ask, is that you all go from here
laden with the chains from which I have just freed your necks to the
City of Toboso, and there present yourselves before the Lady Dulcinea
of Toboso, and tell her that her Knight of the Rueful Countenance sends
you there to do her service. Relate unto her the way in which I won
your freedom; and this being done, you may then go your ways.’
Gines answered for all the rest, saying: ‘That which you demand is
impossible to perform, because we must not travel the roads together,
but go alone and divided, to the end that we be not captured again
by the guards of the Holy Brotherhood, who will make search for us.
To tell us to go to Toboso is as absurd as to seek for pears on an
elm-tree, and we shall not do it.’
At this Don Quixote was mightily enraged, and said: ‘I tell thee, Don
Gines, or whatever thy name is, that after what thou hast said thou
shalt go thyself alone, with thy tail between thy legs and bearing the
whole length of the chains with thee.’
Gines, who was a violent fellow, and quite understood that Don Quixote
was not very wise, seeing the foolish way in which he had set them at
liberty, would not stand this abuse, and winked at his companions, who,
stepping aside, sent such a shower of stones against Don Quixote that
he had not time to cover himself with his shield, and poor Rozinante
was in such terror that he would not move forward to the attack. Sancho
ran behind his Ass, and by this means sheltered himself from the
tempest of stones that rained on both of them. Several stones struck
Don Quixote on the body with such force that at last he fell from his
horse and on to the ground, and no sooner was he fallen than Gines
leaped upon him, and, taking the basin from his head, gave him three
or four blows with it on the shoulders, and afterwards struck it on
the ground so as to break it into pieces. They then stripped him of a
tunic he wore over his armour, and would have taken his stockings if
they could have got them from under his armour. From Sancho they took
his coat, leaving him in his shirt sleeves, and, dividing the spoils of
battle among themselves, they made the best of their way off, each one
as it pleased him, with no further thought of their benefactor or his
Lady Dulcinea of Toboso.
The Ass, Rozinante, Sancho, and Don Quixote remained alone. The Ass,
with drooping head, stood shaking his ears every now and then as if he
thought the storm of stones was not yet over, Rozinante lay overthrown
by his Master, who was lying on the ground, Sancho stood trembling at
the thought of the bullets of the Holy Brotherhood, and Don Quixote was
amazed to see himself so wickedly used by those to whom he had done so
great a service.