The History of That Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quijote de la Mancha

By Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra; Burton Raffel | Go to book overview

a coat collar, the other gripping a neck — but nevertheless the policemen would not back off, urging in the name of the law, and of the king, that they be assisted in securing their prisoner, this notorious robber and highwayman, this menace to every street and road, and that they have him in their hands, bound and delivered. Don Quijote laughed in their faces, saying quite calmly:

"Now look here, you vulgar, lowborn wretches: Do you call it highway robbery to free people from their chains, to release them from captivity, to help the miserable, lift up the fallen, and protect the needy? Ah, you're vile, disgusting people, and it's because of your low, despicable minds that Heaven has concealed from you the treasures hidden in ancient knighthood and kept you from knowing what ignorance, what sinfulness you dwell in, knowing nothing and caring less about the ghost, let alone the living presence, of a knight errant! Just look here, you uniformed thieves, who aren't true police officers but highway robbers with official licenses — just tell me: what illiterate peasant signed an arrest warrant against a knight like me? What kind of ignoramus is he, unaware that knights errant are exempt from the application of all laws and statutes, that for them law is their sword, statutes are their spirit, and edicts and proclamations are their will and desire? Tell me, I say, who was the idiot who had no idea that, on the day a man's dubbed a knight errant and devotes himself to his rigorous profession, he acquires privileges and exemptions surpassing anything granted by charters of nobility? What knight errant has ever paid taxes — rent-tax, king's wedding-tax, land-tax — or paid a highway toll or a ship toll? When did a tailor ever charge for making a knight's clothes? What warden, giving him lodging in his castle, ever charged a knight for his bed? What king ever denied him a seat at his table? What lovely maiden could keep herself from loving him and humbly surrendering herself to his will and his desire? And, finally, what knight errant has there ever been or will there ever be, in all the world, without the spirit to deliver four hundred blows, single-handed, against four hundred policemen, if they happen to get in his way?"


Chapter Forty-Six

— more about our worthy knight Don Quijote's remarkable encounter
with the policemen, and his incredible ferocity

While Don Quijote was saying these things, the priest was busy persuading the policemen that our worthy knight was out of his head, as they should be able to see by both his actions and his words, and there was no point to proceeding any further because, even if they arrested him and took him off, he'd immediately be set free again, as a madman, to which the policemen replied that it wasn't their business to determine Don Quijote's sanity, but just to do what they'd been commanded to do, and after he'd been arrested once he could be set free three hundred times, as far as they were concerned.

-306-

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