SINCE NO things human are eternal, but rather decline from their beginnings to their ultimate end, especially the lives of men, and since don Quixote had no privilege from heaven to stay its course, his end came when least he expected, either because of the melancholy caused by his being vanquished, or because of the will of heaven, which ordered that a fever take hold of him and put him in bed for six days, during which time he was visited many times by the priest, the bachelor, and the barber—his friends—, and Sancho never left his bedside.
These men, thinking it was the grief at seeing himself vanquished and of not seeing his desire for the freedom and disenchantment of Dulcinea fulfilled that had him in that state, through all possible means tried to raise his spirits. The bachelor told him to cheer up and get out of bed to begin their pastoral calling, for which he’d already written an eclogue, and too bad for all those Sanazzaro had written; and that he’d bought with his own money two fine dogs to guard the fold, one of them named Barcino and the other Butrón that a cattleman from El Quintanar had sold him. But not for all this did don Quixote come out of his sadness. His friends called the doctor who took his pulse and was not too pleased. He said that, just in case, they should tend to the salvation of his soul, because the health of his body was in danger.
Don Quixote heard this with great calm, but not so his housekeeper, niece, and squire, who began to weep tenderly, as if he were already dead in front of them. The doctor’s opinion was that grief and dejection were finishing him off. Don Quixote asked to be left alone so he could sleep a bit. They did that, and he slept a stretch—as they say—of more than six hours, and it was so long that the housekeeper and niece thought he would never come out of that sleep. He woke up at the end of that time, crying in a loud voice: “Blessed be the Almighty God who has done so much for me! His mercies are limitless, and they’re not reduced or restrained by the sins of men.”
The niece heard these words of her uncle and they seemed more rational than he was accustomed to saying, at least during that illness, and she asked him: “What is your grace saying, señor? Is this something new? What mercies are these, or what sins of men do you mean?”
“The mercies,” responded don Quixote, “are those God has given me this instant, and He, as I said, is not swayed by my sins. I’m sane now, free and clear-minded, without the dark shadows of ignorance the detestable books of chivalry shrouded over me, owing to my bitter and continual reading of them. I now see their foolishness and their deceits, and my only grief is that this realization has come to me so late that it doesn’t allow me time to compensate by reading other books that could be the light of my soul.
“I feel, niece, that I’m about to die. I would like to meet death in such a way that I could make people understand that my life was not so bad that I should be remembered as a crazy man. But since I was one, I wouldn’t like to confirm it in my death. Call to my bedside my good friends—the priest, the bachelor Sansón Carrasco, and maese Nicolás, the barber. I want to confess and dictate my will.”
But the niece didn’t need to fetch them, since all three happened in right then. As soon as don Quixote saw them he said: “Good news, worthy señores, for I’m no longer don Quixote de La Mancha, but rather Alonso Quixano, who, because of my good qualities, I have earned the epithet «THE GOOD». I’m now the enemy of Amadís de Gaula, and the whole multitude of his lineage, and now the profane histories of knight-errantry are hateful to me. I realize my folly and the danger into which my having read them has placed me. Now, by the grace of God, and having learned by my own experience, I abominate them.”
When the three heard him say this, they believed that some new craziness had overcome him. And Sansón said to him: “Now that we have news that señora Dulcinea is disenchanted, señor don Quixote, you’re telling us this? Now that we’re about to become shepherds to spend our lives singing like princes, you want to become a hermit? Don’t talk like that, on your life. Collect your senses and stop this folderol.”
“What has happened up to now,” replied don Quixote, “has been truly to my detriment, but my death, with the help of heaven, will set things right. I, señores, feel that death is coming at full speed. Leave these jests aside, and find a confessor so I can confess, and bring a notary to prepare my will, for in such critical moments as this one, a man ought not to trifle with his soul. And so I beg you, while I’m confessing, to fetch the notary.”
They all looked at each other, amazed by don Quixote’s words, and although they were in some doubt, they tried to believe him, and one of the signs by which they conjectured that he was dying was that he’d gone so easily from crazy to sane, because he’d added to those words others that were so well stated, so Christian, and so sensible, that they removed all doubt and they believed he was truly sane.
The priest made everyone leave, and he stayed behind with don Quixote and confessed him. The bachelor went for the notary and came back a short while later with him and with Sancho Panza. Sancho, who had heard news about the state of his master from the bachelor, found the housekeeper and niece in tears, and he began to whimper and weep himself. The confession ended and the priest came out saying: “Truly he’s dying, and truly Alonso Quixano, the Good, is sane. We can go in now so that he can dictate his will.”
This news started a flow of tears from the eyes of the housekeeper, niece, and Sancho Panza, and they began to cry, accompanied by a thousand sobs from their hearts, because, truly, as has been said once, both while he was plain Alonso Quixano, the Good, and while he was don Quixote de La Mancha, he always had a gentle nature and a pleasant demeanor, and for this reason he was loved, not only in his household, but by everyone who knew him.
The notary came in with the others, and after don Quixote had dictated the opening of his will and put his soul in order, and tended to all the other required Christian details, when he came to the list of bequests, he said: “ARTICLE 1: It’s my will that certain money Sancho Panza, whom in my madness I made my squire, has—because there have been between him and me certain accountings and credits and debits—I want no claim to be made against him nor that he be asked for any accounting at all, and if anything is left over after he’s paid what I owe him, he can keep the rest, which will be very little, and may it do him much good. And if when I was crazy I was responsible in part for giving him the government of an ínsula, if I could now, being sane, give him a kingdom, I would, because the simplicity of his nature and the fidelity of his services make him worthy of it.”
And turning toward Sancho Panza, he said to him: “Forgive me, my friend, for having made you seem crazy like myself, making you fall into the same error into which I fell, of believing that there were and are knights errant in the world.”
“Ah,” responded Sancho in tears, “don’t die, señor mío, but take my advice and live many years, because the craziest thing a man can do is to let himself die just like that, without anyone killing him, nor any other hands finishing him off except those of melancholy. Look, don’t be lazy—get out of bed, and let’s go into the countryside dressed as shepherds, as we agreed. Maybe behind some bush we’ll find the lady Dulcinea, disenchanted as nice as can be. If you’re dying because of the grief of seeing yourself vanquished, let me take the blame, saying that because I didn’t tighten Rocinante’s saddle right you were knocked over. Moreover, your grace probably saw in your books of chivalry that knights are always overcoming others, and he who is defeated today is a victor tomorrow.”
“That’s true.” said Sansón, “the good Sancho Panza is quite right in this matter.”
“Señores,” said don Quixote, “not so fast, because «in the nests of yesteryear there are no birds this year». I was crazy, and now I’m sane, I was don Quixote de La Mancha, and now I’m Alonso Quixano, the Good. May my repentance and truth restore me to the esteem in which I used to be held. And let’s move along, señor notary.
“ARTICLE 2: I bequeath all my estate to Antonia Quixana, my niece, here present, having first taken off the top what is necessary to fulfill the bequests that I’ll have made. And the first payment I want to be made is to pay the salary I owe for the time my housekeeper has served me, plus twenty ducados for a dress. I appoint as my executors the priest and the bachelor Sansón Carrasco, here present.
“ARTICLE 3: It’s my will that if Antonia Quixana, my niece, should wish to marry, that she marry someone about whom it will have been first learned that he doesn’t know what books of chivalry are, and if it’s found out that he does know, and she should want to marry him, and she does marry him, she’ll lose what I’ve bequeathed, and my executors are free to distribute it for pious works as they see fit.
“ARTICLE 4: I ask those señores, my executors, that if good fortune leads them to meet the author who they say wrote a history that’s circulating called Second Part of the Deeds of don Quixote de La Mancha, that they beg his pardon as earnestly as they can for my having caused him to write so much and such great foolishness as he has written in it, because I leave this life with the misgiving of having given him the reason to write it.”
He closed his will, and was overcome by a fainting spell and lay stretched out on his bed, to the dismay of everyone, and everyone tended to his care. In the three days he lived after they say he made his will, he fainted frequently. The house was in an uproar, but withal, the niece ate, the housekeeper drank, and Sancho Panza was joyful, because inheriting something erases, or at least suppresses, the sense of grief in which the dead person leaves behind to the inheritor.
Finally, don Quixote’s final hour came, after he received all the sacraments, and after he cursed the books of chivalry with many powerful words. The notary was present, and he said that he’d never read in any book of chivalry that a knight errant had died in his bed so calmly, and in such a Christian way as don Quixote, who, amidst pity and tears of those surrounding him, gave up the ghost; that is, he died.
When the priest saw it, he asked the notary to write an affidavit that Alonso Quixano, the Good, commonly called don Quixote de La Mancha, had passed away from this present life, and died of natural causes. And he asked for such an affidavit to remove the possibility that another author other than Cide Hamete Benengeli might bring him back to life falsely and write endless histories about his deeds.
This is the end that the ingenious hidalgo don Quixote de La Mancha had, whose village Cide Hamete Benengeli refused to declare, so that all the towns and villages of La Mancha might contend among themselves to adopt him and claim his as their own as did the seven cities of Greece for Homer.
The lamentations of Sancho, of the niece, and of the housekeeper are not included here, nor is the new epitaph for his grave, although Sansón wrote this one:
And the most prudent Cide Hamete said to his quill: “Here you will rest, hanging on this rack and from this wire—whether skillfully cut or not, I don’t know—where you will live long centuries, if presumptuous and rude historians don’t take you down to profane you. But before they touch you, you can warn them, saying in as good a form as you can:
“For me alone don Quixote was born, and I for him. He knew how to act and I how to write. Together we make a unit, in spite of the fictional and Tordesillesque writer who dared, or may dare, to write with his coarse ostrich quill, which is incapable of good writing, the deeds of my brave knight—no burden for the shoulders of, nor a subject for his ungraceful wit. And if you meet him by chance, tell him to leave the weary and rotted bones of don Quixote alone, and that he shouldn’t carry him off, against all laws of death, to Old Castile, making him leave the grave, where really and truly he lies stretched out and helpless to make a third expedition and fresh outing. To make fun of all those expeditions by so many knights errant, the two he made already suffice, to the pleasure and approval of people who heard of them, in this country and abroad. And with this you’ll fulfill your Christian calling, giving good advice to one who wishes you ill, and I’ll be satisfied and proud to have been the first one to have enjoyed