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

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

Chapter Fifty-One

— how Sancho Panza's governorship progressed, along with other matters
just as interesting

Dawn broke, the morning after the governor's nocturnal patrolling, but the butler did not close his eyes, that night, his mind possessed by thoughts of the girl in disguise and her face, her charm, her beauty, and the steward spent what was left of the night recording for his lords, the duke and duchess, exactly what Sancho Panza had said and done, quite as astonished by the new governor's actions as by his words, for in both there was a simultaneous blending of wisdom and foolishness.

My lord governor woke up, finally, and by Doctor Pedro Recio's orders made his breakfast on a bit of fruit preserves and four swigs of cold water, though Sancho would have been glad to trade all this for a crust of bread and some fried eggs, but though his heart ached, and his stomach along with it, he accepted his fate, seeing that it involved force more than it did volition — and, besides, Pedro Recio had persuaded him that lean portions of delicate foods heightened the mind's powers, which was the most important thing for persons placed in positions of command and high importance, positions which called for mental exertions rather than physical ones.

So Sancho endured his hunger, for the sake of this sophistry, but he was longing for food so piercingly that, secretly, he was beginning to curse the governorship and he who had given it to him, but nevertheless — hunger and fruit preserves and all — he set himself to judge court cases that day, and the first problem he had to deal with came from a stranger, and was presented in the presence of the steward and all the other attendants:

"My lord, a broad river separates the two parts of a single domain (and please, your grace, follow me closely, because this is an important case, as well as a rather complex one). Now, there's a bridge over this river, and at one end there stands a gallows and a court building, in which four judges usually preside, applying the law formulated by the lord of this river, this bridge, and this entire realm, which ran as follows: 'Anyone passing over this bridge, from one section of this domain to the other, must first declare under oath where he is coming from and where he is going, and if he swears truly, he shall be allowed to pass, but if he lies, he shall be hanged from the gallows standing nearby, without any appeal or reprieve allowed.' This law, and its rigorous application, was well-known; many people used the bridge and, since it was obvious they were telling the truth, the judges would let them cross over. Well, it happened, one day, that a man came and swore the required oath, saying among other things that he had come to be hanged on that gallows, and for no other purpose. The judges considered his oath, saying: 'If we simply let this man cross the bridge, his oath will be a lie, and then, according to the law, he ought to die, but if we hang him, the oath he swore about being hanged on this gallows will be true, and then the same law decrees that he be allowed to cross over in peace.' Please consider, my lord governor, your grace, what the judges should do with this fellow, for even now they remain anxious and unsure

-617-

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