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The Helmet Of Mambrino

The morning after the last adventure Don Quixote and his squire were

riding along the road, when the knight saw in front of him a man on

horseback, with something on his head which looked as if it were made of


'If my eyes do not deceive me,' he said, turning to Sancho Panza, 'here

comes one who wears on his head the helmet of Mambrino.'

'If I had your worship's leave to speak,' answere
Sancho, who was by

this time beginning to learn a little wisdom, 'I could give many reasons

to show that you are mistaken.'

'How _can_ I be mistaken?' cried Don Quixote angrily. 'Do not you see

for yourself that a knight is coming towards us, mounted on a grey horse

and with a golden helmet on his head?'

'All that _I_ can see,' replied the squire, 'is that the man is mounted

on a grey donkey like my own, and he has on his head something that


'What you see,' answered Don Quixote solemnly, 'is the helmet of

Mambrino.[194-1] Go, stand aside and let _me_ deal with him, for without

even speaking to him I will get possession of his helmet, for which my

soul has always longed.'

[194-1] Mambrino was one of the Moorish kings, to whom the helmet

belonged. He who wore it could not be wounded in battle.

Truth to tell, the real story of the helmet, for so Don Quixote took it

to be, was very simple. A rich man who lived in a village only a few

miles away had sent for the nearest barber to shave and bleed him. The

man started, taking with him a brass basin, which he was accustomed to

use, and, as a shower of rain soon came on, he put the basin on his head

to save his hat, which was a new one. The ass, as Sancho Panza rightly

said, was very like his own.

The good man was jogging comfortably along, thinking what he would like

for supper, when suddenly he saw Don Quixote galloping towards him, head

bent and lance in rest. As he drew near he cried loudly:

'Defend yourself, or give me up the helmet, to which you have no right.'

The barber was so taken by surprise that for a moment he did nothing;

then he had only just time to escape the lance thrust by sliding off his

ass and running so swiftly over the plain that even the wind could

scarcely overtake him. In his flight the basin fell from his head, to

the great pleasure of Don Quixote, who bade his squire bring it to him.

'The Unbeliever who wore this helmet first must have had indeed a large

head,' cried he, turning it over in his hands, seeking the vizor; 'yet,

even so, half of it is wanting.'

At this Sancho began to laugh, and his master asked him what he found to

divert him so much.

'I cannot but laugh when I think how large was the head of the

Unbeliever,' replied Sancho gravely, knowing that the knight did not

love the mirth of other men. 'But, to my mind, the helmet looks exactly

like a barber's basin.'

'Listen to me,' answered Don Quixote, 'and I will tell you what has

happened. By a strange accident this famous helmet must have fallen to

the lot of someone who did not know the value of his prize. But, seeing

it was pure gold, he melted half of it for his own uses, and the rest he

made into a barber's basin. Be sure that in the first village where I

can meet with a skilled workman I will have it restored to its own

shape again, and meanwhile I will wear it as it is, for half a helmet is

better than none.'

'And what,' inquired Sancho, 'shall we do with the grey horse that looks

so like an ass? The beast is a good beast.'

'Leave the ass or horse, whichever it pleases you to call it,' replied

the Don, 'for no knight ever takes the steed of his foe, unless it is

won in fair fight. And perchance, when we have ridden out of sight, its

master will come back and seek for it.'

Sancho, however, was not overmuch pleased by this speech.

'Truly the laws of chivalry are strict,' he grumbled, 'if they will not

let a man change one donkey for another! And is it forbidden to change

the pack-saddle also?'

'Of that I am in doubt,' replied Don Quixote; 'and until I have certain

information on this point, if your need is great, you may take what you


Sancho hardly expected such good fortune to befall him, and stripping

the ass of his harness he speedily put it upon his own beast, and then

laid out the dinner he had stolen from the sumpter mule for himself and

his master.

Not long after this event, as Don Quixote and his squire were riding

along the road, discoursing as they went of matters of chivalry, they

saw approaching them from a distance a dozen men or more, with iron

chains round their necks, stringing them together like beads on a

rosary, and bearing iron fetters on their hands. By their side were two

men on horseback carrying firelocks, and two on foot with swords and


'Look!' cried Sancho Panza, 'here come a gang of slaves, sent to the

galleys by the king.'

'What is that you say--_sent_?' asked Don Quixote. 'Can any king _send_

his subjects where they have no mind to go?'

'They are men who have been guilty of many crimes,' replied the squire,

'and to punish them they are being led by force to the galleys.'

'They go,' inquired Don Quixote, 'by force and not willingly?'

'You speak truly,' answered Sancho Panza.

'Then if that is so,' said the knight, 'it is my duty to set them free.'

'But think a moment, your worship,' cried Sancho, terrified at the

consequences of this new idea; 'they are bad men, and deserve punishment

for the crimes they have committed.'

Don Quixote was silent. In fact, he had heard nothing of what his squire

had said. Instead he rode up to the galley-slaves, who by this time were

quite near, and politely begged one of the soldiers who had charge of

them to tell him of his courtesy where these people were going, and why

they were chained in such a manner.

The guard, who had never read any of the romances of chivalry, and was

quite ignorant of the speech of knights, answered roughly that they were

felons going to the galleys, and that was all that mattered to anybody.

But Don Quixote was not to be put aside like this.

'By your leave,' he said, 'I would speak with them, and ask of every man

the reason of his misfortune.'

Now this civility of the knight made the soldiers feel ashamed of their

own rudeness, so one of them replied more gently than before:

'We have here set down the crimes of every man singly, but if your

worship pleases you may inquire of the prisoners yourself. And be sure

you will hear all about their tricks, and more too, for it is a mighty

pleasure to them to tell their tales.'

The soldier spoke truly; and wonderful were the stories which Don

Quixote listened to and believed, until the knight, smitten by

compassion, turned to the guards and implored them to set free the poor

fellows, whose sins would be punished elsewhere.

'I ask you to do this as a favour,' he ended, 'for I would willingly owe

you this grace. But, if you deny me, my arm and my sword will teach you

to do it by force.'

'That is a merry jest indeed,' cried the soldier. 'So we are to let go

the king's prisoners just because you tell us to do it. You had better

mind your own business, fair sir, and set that pot straight on your

head, and do not waste your time in looking for five feet in a cat.'

Don Quixote was so furious at the man's words that he felled him to the

earth with a blow from his sword, while for a moment the other guards

stood mute from surprise. Then seizing their weapons they rushed at Don

Quixote, who sat firm in his saddle as became a knight, awaiting their

onslaught. But for all his valour it would have gone hard with him had

not the attention of the soldiers been hastily called off by the

galley-slaves, who were taking advantage of the tumult to break their

fetters. The chief among them had snatched the sword and firelock of the

man whom Don Quixote had overthrown, and by merely pointing it at the

other guards he so frightened them that they fled in all directions,

followed by a shower of stones from the rest of the captives.

'Let us depart from here,' whispered Sancho Panza, knowing better than

his master in what a sorry plight they might presently find themselves.

'If we once reach those hills, none can overtake us.'

'It is well,' replied the knight; 'but first I must settle this matter,'

and, calling together the prisoners, he bade them go with all speed and

present themselves before the Lady Dulcinea del Toboso, and say that

they had come by the command of the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance,

and further to relate the doughty deeds by which they had been set free.

At this the convicts only laughed, and replied that if they were to

fulfil his desires and travel together in a body they would soon be

taken captive by their enemies, and would be no better off than before,

but that in gratitude for his services they would be willing to pray for

him, which they could do at their leisure.

This discourse enraged Don Quixote nearly as much as the words of the

guard had done, and he answered the fellow in terms so abusive that the

convict's patience, which was never very great, gave way altogether, and

he and his comrades, picking up what stones lay about, flung them with

such hearty goodwill at the knight and Rozinante, that at length they

knocked him right out of the saddle. The man then dragged the basin from

his head, and after dealing him some mighty blows with it dashed it to

the ground, where it broke in pieces. They next took the coat which he

wore over his armour, and stripped the squire of all but his shirt.

Having done this, they went their ways, fearing lest they might be