Wherein is finally decided the Dispute about Mambrino's Helmet and the Pannel

‘Good Sirs,’ cried the Barber, ‘what do you think of those who will
contend that this is not a basin but a helmet?’
‘He that shall say the contrary,’ said Don Quixote, ‘I will make him
know that he lies, if he be a Knight; and if he be but a Squire, that
he lies and lies again a thousand times.’
The Barber Nicholas, Don Quixote’s friend, who was then with the rest,
had a mind to carry the jest further, and make them all laugh, so,
speaking to the other Barber, he said: ‘Sir Barber, or whoever you are,
know that I am also of your profession, and have held a certificate
for more than twenty years, and I know all the instruments of a
Barber’s art well. Moreover, in my youth I was a soldier, and I know
what a helmet is like, and a morion, and a casque, and other kinds of
soldiers’ arms. And therefore I say, always subject to better opinion,
that this good piece which is laid here before us, and which this good
Knight holds in his hand, not only is not a Barber’s basin, but is as
far from being one as white is from black. It is a helmet, though, as I
think, not a complete helmet.’
‘No, truly,’ said Don Quixote, ‘for it wants the half, namely the lower
part and the visor.’
‘That is true,’ said the Curate, who understood his friend’s intention.
And Cardenio, Fernando, and his companions fell in with this design.
‘Lord a’ mercy!’ cried the poor Barber, half beside himself. ‘Is
it possible that so many honourable men should say that this is no
basin but a helmet? It is a thing to strike with amazement a whole
University, be they never so wise. Enough; if this basin is a helmet,
then must the pack-saddle be a horse’s trappings.’
‘To me it looks like a pack-saddle,’ said Don Quixote, ‘but I have
already said I do not meddle with that matter.’
‘Whether it be a pannel or not,’ said the Curate, ‘it is but for Don
Quixote to say, for in these matters of Knighthood, all these gentlemen
and myself bow to his knowledge.’
‘Sirs,’ said Don Quixote, ‘so many and strange are the things that
have befallen me in this Castle these two times I have lodged here,
that it would be rash in me to pronounce a judgment in the matter. To
those who say this is a basin and no helmet I have made my answer, but
whether this be a pannel or the furniture of a horse I will leave it to
others to decide.’
To those who knew Don Quixote’s madness this was a matter of much
laughter and good sport, but to the four travellers who had arrived
that morning, and who were officers of justice, and soldiers of the
Holy Brotherhood, it seemed the greatest folly in the world.
But he that was most of all beside himself with wrath was the Barber,
whose basin they had transformed before his face into the helmet of
Mambrino, and whose pannel, he felt sure, would now be turned into the
rich furniture and equipage of a great horse.
Those who were in the secret laughed heartily to see Don Fernando go up
and down taking the opinion of this man and that, whispering in their
ear that they might give their verdict to him in secret.
And after he had gone round to all those who knew Don Quixote, he said
to the Barber in a loud voice: ‘The truth is, good fellow, that I grow
weary of asking so many opinions, for I no sooner ask what I want to
know than they answer me that it is mere madness to say that this is
the pannel of an ass, but rather is it the furniture of a horse, yes
and of a chief horse of service.’
‘May I never go to heaven,’ said the poor distracted Barber, ‘if you be
not all deceived! It is a pannel and no horse’s trappings. But the law
takes it from me, and so farewell to it.’
The Barber’s simplicity caused no less laughter than the follies of Don
Quixote, who said: ‘There is now no more to be done than for every one
to take his own.’
But at that moment one of the four officers of justice, who had
listened to the dispute, full of anger to hear such nonsense seriously
spoken, cried out: ‘If this be not a planned jest, I cannot understand
why men of such intelligence as all these seem to be, should dare to
say that this is not a basin nor this a pannel. For indeed it is as
very a pannel as my father is my father, and he that hath said or will
say anything else must be drunk.’
‘Thou liest like a clownish knave,’ said Don Quixote. And lifting up
his lance, which he always held in his hand, he aimed such a blow at
the trooper’s pate, that if he had not avoided it, it would have thrown
him to the ground.
The lance was broken into splinters by the fall of the blow, and the
other troopers, seeing their comrade so misused, cried out for help
in the name of the Holy Brotherhood. The Innkeeper, whose duty it was
to help all officers of justice, ran for his sword, and stood by to
help them. The Barber laid hold of his pannel, and Sancho Panza did
the same. Don Quixote set hand to his sword and attacked the troopers,
and Cardenio and Don Fernando took his part. The Curate cried out,
the Hostess shrieked, the daughter screamed, Maritornes howled, while
Dorothea and Lucinda stood frightened and amazed. The Barber battered
Sancho, and Sancho pounded him back again, while Don Fernando got one
of the troopers at his feet, and belaboured him soundly. The Innkeeper
cried aloud for help for the Holy Brotherhood, and all the Inn seemed
full of wails, cries, screeches, confusion, fears, terrors, disasters,
slashes, buffets, cudgellings, kicks, and the shedding of blood.
In the midst of this chaos, Don Quixote began to imagine that he was
plunged up to the ears in the battle of the King Agramante, and he
cried aloud in a voice that thundered through the Inn, ‘Hold all your
hands, put up your swords, and keep the peace, if you wish to continue
That great and monstrous voice made them all stand still; on which he
continued: ‘Did I not tell you, Sirs, that this Castle was enchanted,
and that some legion of magicians did inhabit it? Note how the discord
of King Agramante’s Camp is among us, so that we all of us fight, and
none know for what. Come, therefore, Master Curate, and make you peace
and atonement between us, for I swear that it is a great wrong and pity
that so many noblemen as we are here should be slain for so slight
The Barber was well content that this should be so, by reason that both
his beard and his pannel had been torn to pieces, and Sancho was at
once obedient to his Master’s voice, as became a dutiful servant. As
for the troopers, when they learned Don Fernando’s rank and position,
they were quieted, but they retired from the brawl grumbling, and by
no means satisfied with the turn things had taken.
Now it happened that one of these officers—the very one who was so
buffeted by Don Fernando—had with him a warrant to take into custody
one Don Quixote, who was charged with setting free certain galley
slaves. As soon as he remembered this, he must needs try whether the
description of Don Quixote tallied with the person before him.
He took from his bosom a scroll of parchment, and reading it very
leisurely, for he was no great scholar, at every other word he stared
at Don Quixote, and compared the marks of his warrant with those in the
Knight’s face, and found that without doubt he was the man that was
No sooner had he made up his mind about this than, holding the warrant
in his left hand, he laid hold of Don Quixote’s collar with his right
so strongly that he could hardly breathe, and cried aloud: ‘Aid for the
Holy Brotherhood. And that you may see that I am in good earnest, read
that warrant, wherein you shall find that this robber of the highways
is to be taken into custody.’
The Curate took the warrant, and saw that what the trooper said was
true, and that the marks described Don Quixote very nearly.
As for the Knight, when he found himself abused by so base a rascal—as
he considered him—his anger was roused to its height, and he caught
the trooper by the throat with both hands, in such a way that if he
had not been speedily rescued by his companions, he would have given
up his life there and then, before Don Quixote would have released his
The Innkeeper was forced to assist his fellow-officer, and his wife,
seeing her husband engaged anew in battle, raised a fresh cry, which
was caught up by her daughter and Maritornes, who called for help from
all the company.
Sancho, seeing all that passed, called out: ‘By my faith, all that my
Master hath said of the enchantments of this Castle is true, for it is
not possible for a man to live quietly in it for an hour together.’
Don Fernando soon parted the trooper and Don Quixote, but the officers
did not cease to demand their prisoner, and called on the others to
help them to bind him and deliver him up to their pleasure, for so the
service of the King and the Holy Brotherhood required, in whose name
they demanded help in arresting this robber and brigand of the public
paths and highways.
Don Quixote laughed to hear them speak so idly, and said with great
calmness: ‘Come hither, filthy and baseborn crew. Dare you call the
loosing of the enchained, the freeing of prisoners, the assisting of
the wretched, the raising of such as are fallen, the giving to those
in want,—dare you, I say, call these things robbing on the highway?
O infamous brood, how little do you know of the virtue which lies
in Knight Errantry! We give you to understand the sin and error in
which you lie, in not adoring the very shadow, much more the actual
presence of a Knight Errant. Come hither, I say, and tell me who was
the blockhead who signed a warrant of arrest against such a Knight as
I am? Who was he, that knows not that Knights Errant are free from all
tribunals; their sword is their law, their valour their court, and
their own will and pleasure their statutes? I say again, What madman
was he that knows not the privileges that belong to a Knight Errant,
from the day he is dubbed a Knight and devotes himself to a Knightly
calling? What Knight Errant did ever pay tax or custom? What tailor
ever had of him money for a suit of clothes? What Constable ever lodged
him in his Castle, and made him pay his shot? What King hath not placed
him at his own table? And, finally, what Knight Errant was there ever,
is, or shall be in the world, who hath not the courage himself alone to
give four hundred cudgellings to four hundred officers if they stand in
his way?’
Whilst Don Quixote raved in this way, the Curate was trying to persuade
the troopers that Don Quixote was out of his wits, and that even if
they did arrest him they would have to release him afterwards, as he
was a madman.
‘Indeed,’ said the Curate, ‘you must not take him, nor do I believe
that he will let himself be taken.’
The officers were with difficulty persuaded to this view, but they had
seen enough of Don Quixote to convince them of his madness, and in the
end they agreed that it was better the Curate should endeavour, as he
proposed, to take him to his home, than that they should arrest him at
the risk of their lives.
The dispute between Sancho and the Barber was now easily settled, for
there was very little left of the pannel for Sancho to keep; and the
Curate, without Don Quixote knowing anything of it, gave the Barber
eight _reals_ for the price of his basin, so that they should hear
nothing further of the dispute of Mambrino’s helmet.