A TEI Project

Chapter XXiX

About the famous adventure of the Enchanted Boat.

TWO DAYS AFTER LEAVING the poplar grove, don Quixote and Sancho came upon the Ebro river, and seeing it gave great pleasure to don Quixote, because he could see in it the pleasantness of its banks, the clarity of its waters, the calmness of its current, and the abundance of its liquid crystal. This refreshing sight caused a thousand amorous thoughts to course through his memory. He especially thought about what he’d seen in the Cave of Montesinos, and although maese Pedro’s ape had told him that some of the things was fact and part fiction, he thought more of them were true than false, quite the reverse of what Sancho thought, for he held that everything was lies, and nothing but.

As they continued along in this way, a small boat without oars or any other rigging, and tied to the trunk of a tree near the bank, came into view. Don Quixote looked all around and saw no one, and then just like that, he got off Rocinante and told Sancho to get off the donkey as well, and secure both animals to a poplar or a willow that was nearby. Sancho asked the reason for dismounting and having the animals tied up so suddenly.

Don Quixote responded: “I want you to know, Sancho, that this boat you see right here is enchanted—it can’t be anything else—and is beckoning and inviting me to board it and rescue some knight or some other noble person who must be in great danger, because this is what happens in books that deal with histories of knights and of enchanters who act and perform their dark arts. When some knight is in great difficulty, and he cannot be helped except by another certain knight, even though they’re separated by two or three thousand leagues, or even farther, either the knight is carried off on a cloud, or is given a boat to get into, and in the twinkling of an eye he’s taken—either through the air or on the sea—wherever his help is needed. So, Sancho, this boat has been put here for the same effect, and this is as true as it’s day right now, and before this day is over, tie the donkey and Rocinante together, and let the hand of God guide us, for I must sail away, even though barefoot friars ask me not to.”

“All right,” responded Sancho, “and since your grace wants to give in to these things, which I don’t know if I should call nonsense, I guess I just have to obey and lower my head, heeding the saying that says: «do what your master tells you to and sit with him at his table». But even so, so I can unburden my conscience, I want to tell your grace that to me, it doesn’t look like this boat is enchanted, but rather belongs to some fishermen who work this river because in it you catch the best shad in the world.”

Sancho said this while he tethered the animals, leaving them to the protection of the enchanters, with a great grief in his soul. Don Quixote told him not to worry about abandoning the animals, because the one who would take them to such longicuous regions would make sure they were taken care of as well.

“I don’t understand this business of logicual,” said Sancho, “and I’ve never heard that word in all my life.”

“Longicuous,” responded don Quixote, “means remote, and I’m not surprised you don’t understand it because you aren’t supposed to know Latin, as some who think they do, but don’t.”

“Well, they’re tied up,” replied Sancho. “What do we have to do now?”

“What do we have to do?” responded don Quixote, “just cross ourselves and weigh anchor—I mean, get on board and cut the rope that’s securing this boat.”

And jumping into it, followed by Sancho, don Quixote cut the line and the boat began to drift away slowly from the bank, and when Sancho saw that the boat had gone about six feet into the river, he began to tremble, fearing for his life. But nothing gave him more grief than to hear his donkey bray and to see Rocinante struggling to get loose, and he said to his master: “The donkey is braying, grieving over our absence, and Rocinante is trying to get free to jump in after us. Dear friends, stay there in peace, and may the madness that takes us away from you change to sanity and allow us to return to your presence.”

And then he began to cry so bitterly that don Quixote, anoyed and angry, said to him: “What are you afraid of, cowardly creature? What are you crying about, heart of butter? Who is pursuing or harassing you, you who have the courage of a mouse? Or what do you lack—you think you’re needy while you’re amidst abundance? By chance are you shoeless and on foot in the Rhiphæian Mountains, and not sitting on a bench like an archduke, floating along the silent current of this delightful river, where in a short time we’ll flow into the vast sea? But by now we must have gone out into it and traveled at least seven or eight hundred leagues; and if I had an astrolabe with which to tell the longitude, I would tell you how far we’ve traveled, although, either I know little, or we have crossed or are about to cross the equator that divides the two opposite poles into equal halves.”

“And when we arrive at the quaker your grace has mentioned,” asked Sancho, “how far will we have gone?”

“Quite a distance,” replied don Quixote, “because of the three hundred sixty degrees that the globe of water and earth encompasses, according to the computation of Ptolemy, who was the best cosmographer ever known, we will have traveled half of it when we arrive at the line I mentioned.”

“God help us,” said Sancho, “your grace has brought in an odd witness to what you’re saying, what with the amputation of Tully-Mee who was a good cause-monger. What does that mean?”

Don Quixote laughed heartily at the way Sancho interpreted COMPUTATION, PTOLEMY and COSMOGRAPHER, and said to him: “You know, Sancho, that when Spaniards embark for the East Indies from Cádiz, one of the ways they can tell that they have passed the equator that I’ve told you about, is that all the lice on the sailors die, without a single one surviving, and you can’t find a one of them on board, even though they’d pay for them in gold. So, Sancho, you can slide your hand over your thigh, and if you find any living thing, we’ll have no further doubt, and in that case, we’ll have passed the equator.”

“I don’t believe any of that,” responded Sancho, “but I’ll do what your grace asks me to do, although I don’t know why we need to do those experiments since I can see with my eyes that we’re not yet fifteen feet from the bank, nor have we gone too far from the animals, because there are Rocinante and the donkey in the same place we left them, and looking around me, I swear that we’re not moving faster than an ant.”

“Do the demonstration I told you to do and don’t worry about anything else, because you don’t know what colures, lines, parallels, zodiac signs, ecliptics, poles, solstices, equinoxes, planets, astrological signs, points of the compass, and measurements are, of which the celestial sphere and the terrestrial sphere are composed. If you knew all these things, or even some of them, you would see clearly which parallels we have crossed, or which signs of the Zodiac we’ve left behind, and which we’re crossing right now. So, I say once again that you should do that search. As for me, I’m convinced that you’re cleaner than a smooth sheet of white paper.”

Sancho slid his hand neatly toward his left knee, then raised his head and looked at his master and said: “Either the test doesn’t work, or we haven’t gotten to the place your grace has mentioned, not by a longshot.”

“So, what?” asked don Quixote, “have you come across something?”

“Even somethings,” responded Sancho.

And shaking his fingers, he rinsed his whole hand in the river, along which the boat was gently drifting in the middle of the stream, and it wasn’t some unknown power or some hidden enchanter guiding it, but rather the current of the water, which was still calm and smooth.

Just then they saw some large water-mills in the middle of the river, and as soon as don Quixote saw them, he shouted to Sancho: “Don’t you see over there, my friend, a city, castle, or fort where there must be some oppressed knight or some queen or wronged princess, for whose assistance I’ve been summoned?”

“What the devil kind of city, fort, or castle are you talking about, señor?” said Sancho. “Can’t you see that they’re water-mills in the river, where flour is milled?”

“Hush, Sancho,” said don Quixote, “although they appear to be water-mills, they are not, and I’ve told you that enchantments change things from their natural state. I don’t mean that the enchanters really change the form of things, but rather it just looks that way, as experience has shown in the transformation of Dulcinea, the sole refuge of my hope.”

At this point the boat, having gone into the middle of the river’s current, began to travel not as slowly as it had to that point. Many millers in the water-mills who saw the boat coming toward them down the river, realized that it was going to enter into the millrace leading to the waterwheels, jumped out with long sticks to prevent it, and since their faces and clothing were covered with flour, they were a menacing sight. They shouted loudly saying: “You devils! Where are you going? Are you depressed and want to kill yourselves and be crushed to pieces by these water wheels?”

“Didn’t I tell you, Sancho,” said don Quixote, “that we have come to a place where I must show the strength of my arm? Look at how those brigands and rogues have come to attack us. Look how many monsters are against me. Look at the ugly grimaces they’re making at us. Well, now you’ll see, you scoundrels!”

He stood up in the boat and with a very loud voice began to threaten the millers, saying: “Evil and ill-advised rabble, set the oppressed person free that you’re keeping in this fort or prison, whether he be noble or plebeian, of whatever condition or station in life. I’m don Quixote de La Mancha, also called the Knight of the Lions, for whom the happy conclusion of this adventure is reserved.”

And saying this, he clapped his hand on his sword and began to brandish it in the air toward the millers, who, hearing, but not understanding his foolish banter, tended to the business of stopping the boat, which was going into the torrent of the channel leading to the mill-wheels, with their poles. Sancho got on his knees and was praying devoutly to heaven to free him from such imminent danger. The millers, with great skill and speed pushed against the boat with their poles and stopped it, but not without turning it over and causing don Quixote and Sancho to be thrown overboard into the water. It came out all right for don Quixote, who knew how to swim like a gander, although the weight of the armor he was wearing took him to the bottom twice, and if it weren’t for the millers, who plunged in after them and took them out as dead weight, it would have been another Troy for the two of them.

When they were on shore, more drenched than dying of thirst, Sancho, once again on his knees and his hands joined in prayer, asked God, through a long and devout supplication, to free him starting right then from the daring plans and assaults of his master. At this point the fisherman, owners of the boat that the water wheels had smashed to bits, arrived, and when they saw it in pieces, they attacked Sancho so they could strip him, and demand payment from don Quixote, who, with great calmness, as if nothing had happened to him, told the millers and fisherman that he would pay for the boat very willingly, provided that they set the person or persons who were languishing in that castle free and uninjured.

“What person or castle are you talking about,” replied one of the millers, “you crazy man? Do you want to carry off the people who bring wheat to grind in these mills?”

“That’s enough,” said don Quixote to himself. “It would be like preaching in the wilderness to persuade this rabble to do anything good. In this adventure there must have been two fierce enchanters—one of them prevents what the other attempts. One of them presented me with the boat and the other threw me overboard. May God provide the remedy, for the world is filled with plots and tricks, all contrary to each other. I can’t do any more.”

And raising his voice, he proceeded, looking toward the mills: “Friends, whoever you may be who remain locked up in that prison, pardon me, for by my misfortune and yours, I cannot remove you from your afflictions. This adventure is doubtless reserved for some other knight.”

After he said this, the fishermen and he came to an agreement on the price, and don Quixote paid 50 reales for the boat, which Sancho disbursed much against his will, saying: “Two more boat trips like this one, and all our wealth will have sunk to the bottom.”

The fisherman and millers were amazed, seeing those two figures, so uncommon and different from other men. They never did understand where don Quixote’s words and questions were leading, and considering the two of them to be crazy, they left them; the millers went back to their mills and the fishermen to their huts. Don Quixote and Sancho returned to their animals, and this was the end of the adventure of the enchanted boat.


Date: June 1, 2009
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