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
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