The great Adventure and rich Winning of the Helmet of Mambrino

It now began to rain, and Sancho would have entered one of the
fulling-mills for shelter, but Don Quixote had taken such a dislike to
them, on account of the jest of which he had been the victim, that he
would not go near them.
Turning to the right, he made away into a highroad not unlike the one
on which they had travelled the day before. Very shortly Don Quixote
espied a man a-horseback who wore on his head something that glittered
like gold. Scarce had he seen him when he turned to Sancho and said:
‘Methinks, Sancho, that there is no proverb that is not true, for all
proverbs are sentences taken out of experience itself, which is the
universal mother of all sciences. And there is a proverb which says,
“When one door shuts another opens.” I say this because if Fortune
closed the door for us last night, deceiving us in the adventure of
the fulling-mills, to-day it opens wide the door to a better and more
certain adventure. For here, if I be not deceived, there comes one
towards us that wears on his head the helmet of Mambrino, about
which I made the oath thou knowest of.’
‘See well what you say, Sir, and better what you do,’ said Sancho,
‘for I would not meet with more fulling-mills to hammer us out of our
‘Peace, fellow!’ cried Don Quixote; ‘what has a helmet to do with
‘I know not,’ replied Sancho; ‘but if I might speak as I used to, I
would give you such reasons that your Worship should see that you were
mistaken in what you say.’
‘How can I be mistaken in what I say?’ cried Don Quixote. ‘Tell me,
seest thou not that Knight who comes riding towards us on a dapple grey
horse, with a helmet of gold on his head?’
‘That which I see and make out,’ replied Sancho, ‘is nothing but a man
on a grey ass like mine carrying on his head something which shines.’
‘Why that is Mambrino’s helmet,’ said Don Quixote. ‘Stand aside and
leave me alone with him, and thou shalt see how, without a word, this
adventure shall be ended and the helmet I have longed for be mine.’
‘As to standing aside,’ muttered Sancho, ‘that I will take care to do,
but I trust this is not another case of fulling-mills.’
‘I have already told thee,’ said Don Quixote angrily, ‘to make no
mention of the mills, and if thou dost not obey me, I vow that I will
batter the soul out of thy body.’
At this Sancho, fearing lest his Master should carry out his threat,
held his peace.
Now the truth of the matter as to the helmet, the horse, and the Knight
which Don Quixote saw, was this. There were in that neighbourhood two
villages, the one so small that it had neither shop nor barber, but the
larger one had; and the barber, therefore, served the smaller village
on any occasion when any one wanted his beard trimmed. It so happened
that he was now journeying to the smaller village, bringing with him a
brazen basin, and as he rode along it chanced to rain, and therefore,
to save his hat, which was a new one, he clapped the basin on his
head, and the basin being clean scoured, glittered half a league off.
He rode upon a grey ass, as Sancho said, and that was the reason why
Don Quixote took him to be a Knight with a helmet of gold riding on a
dapple grey steed, for everything he came across he made to fit in with
the things he had read of in the books of Knighthood.
And when he saw the unfortunate rider draw near, without stopping to
speak a word, he ran at him with his lance, putting Rozinante at full
gallop, and intending to pierce him through and through. And as he
came up to him, without stopping his horse, he shouted to him: ‘Defend
thyself, caitiff wretch, or else render to me of thine own will what is
mine by all the rights of war.’
The barber, who saw this wild figure bearing down on him as he was
riding along without thought or fear of attack, had no other way to
avoid the thrust of the lance than to fall off his ass on to the
ground. And no sooner did he touch the earth than he sprang up more
nimbly than a deer and raced away across the plain faster than the
wind, leaving behind him on the ground the coveted basin. With this Don
Quixote was well content, and said that the Pagan was a wise man in
leaving behind him that for which he was attacked.
Then he commanded Sancho to take up the helmet, who lifting it said:
‘The basin is a good one, and is worth eight _reals_ if it is worth a
He gave it to his Master, who placed it upon his head, turning it about
from side to side in search of the visor, and seeing he could not find
it, said: ‘Doubtless the Pagan for whom this helmet was first forged
had a very great head, and the worst of it is that half of the helmet
is wanting.’
When Sancho heard him call the basin a helmet he could not contain his
laughter, but presently remembering his Master’s anger, he checked
himself in the midst of it.
‘Why dost thou laugh, Sancho?’ said Don Quixote.
‘I laugh,’ said he, ‘to think of the great head the Pagan owner of this
helmet had. For it is all the world like a barber’s basin.’
‘Know, Sancho, that I imagine,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘that this famous
piece of the enchanted helmet must by some strange accident have fallen
into some one’s hands that knew not its great worth, and seeing that it
was of pure gold, he hath melted down one half and made of the other
half this, which seems, as thou sayest, to be a barber’s basin. But be
that as it may, to me, who know its value, its transformation makes no
matter. I will have it altered at the first village where I can find a
smith, and meanwhile I will wear it as well as I can, for something is
better than nothing, all the more as it will do to protect me against
any blow from a stone.’
‘That is,’ said Sancho, ‘if they do not shoot from a sling, as they
shot in the battle of the two armies, when they made their mark on
your Worship’s grinders and broke the oil-pot wherein you carried that
blessed Balsam.’
‘I do not much care for the loss of the Balsam,’ replied Don Quixote,
‘for as thou knowest, Sancho, I have the receipt for it in my memory.’
‘So have I too,’ groaned Sancho; ‘but if ever I make it or try it again
as long as I live may this be my last hour. But letting that pass, what
shall we do with this dapple grey steed that looks so like a grey ass,
that Martino, or whatever his name was, has left behind him? For from
the haste he made to get away I do not think he intends to come back,
and by my beard the beast is a good one.’
‘I am not accustomed to ransack and spoil those whom I overcome, nor is
it the practice of Knighthood to take the horses of others unless the
victor chance in combat to lose his own. Therefore, Sancho, leave the
horse or ass, or what else thou pleasest to call it, for when his owner
sees us departed he will return again for it.’
‘Truly,’ said Sancho, ‘the laws of Knighthood are strict, and if I may
not change one ass for another, may I at least change the harness?’
‘Of that I am not very sure,’ said Don Quixote, ‘and as it is a matter
of doubt, you must not change them unless thy need is extreme.’
‘So extreme,’ said Sancho, ‘that if they were for mine own person I
could not need them more.’
So saying he decked out his Ass with a thousand fineries robbed from
the other, and made him look vastly better. Then, having taken a drink
at the stream, they turned their backs on the hateful fulling-mills,
and rode along the highroad, Don Quixote all the way describing to
Sancho the successes in store for them, until he was interrupted by an
adventure that must be told in another chapter.