"Oh, if you don't understand me," replied Sancho, "it is no wonder my words are taken for nonsense; but no matter; I understand myself, and I know I have not said anything very foolish in what I have said; only your worship, senor, is always gravelling at everything I say, nay, everything I do."
"Cavilling, not gravelling," said Don Quixote, "thou prevaricator of honest language, God confound thee!"
"Don't find fault with me, your worship," returned Sancho, "for you know I have not been bred up at court or trained at Salamanca, to know whether I am adding or dropping a letter or so in my words. Why! God bless me, it's not fair to force a Sayago-man to speak like a Toledan; maybe there are Toledans who do not hit it off when it comes to polished talk."
"That is true," said the licentiate, "for those who have been bred up in the Tanneries and the Zocodover cannot talk like those who are almost all day pacing the cathedral cloisters, and yet they are all Toledans. Pure, correct, elegant and lucid language will be met with in men of courtly breeding and discrimination, though they may have been born in Majalahonda; I say of discrimination, because there are many who are not so, and discrimination is the grammar of good language, if it be accompanied by practice. I, sirs, for my sins have studied canon law at Salamanca, and I rather pique myself on expressing my meaning in clear, plain, and intelligible language."
"If you did not pique yourself more on your dexterity with those foils you carry than on dexterity of tongue," said the other student, "you would have been head of the degrees, where you are now tail."
"Look here, bachelor Corchuelo," returned the licentiate, "you have the most mistaken idea in the world about skill with the sword, if you think it useless."
"It is no idea on my part, but an established truth," replied Corchuelo; "and if you wish me to prove it to you by experiment, you have swords there, and it is a good opportunity; I have a steady hand and a strong arm, and these joined with my resolution, which is not small, will make you confess that I am not mistaken. Dismount and put in practice your positions and circles and angles and science, for I hope to make you see stars at noonday with my rude raw swordsmanship, in which, next to God, I place my trust that the man is yet to be born who will make me turn my back, and that there is not one in the world I will not compel to give ground."
"As to whether you turn your back or not, I do not concern myself," replied the master of fence; "though it might be that your grave would be dug on the spot where you planted your foot the first time; I mean that you would be stretched dead there for despising skill with the sword."
"We shall soon see," replied Corchuelo, and getting off his ass briskly, he drew out furiously one of the swords the licentiate carried on his beast.
"It must not be that way," said Don Quixote at this point; "I will be the director of this fencing match, and judge of this often disputed question;" and dismounting from Rocinante and grasping his lance, he planted himself in the middle of the road, just as the licentiate, with an easy, graceful bearing and step, advanced towards Corchuelo, who came on against him, darting fire from his eyes, as the saying is. The other two of the company, the peasants, without dismounting from their asses, served as spectators of the mortal tragedy. The cuts, thrusts, down strokes, back strokes and doubles, that Corchuelo delivered were past counting, and came thicker than hops or hail. He attacked like an angry lion, but he was met by a tap on the mouth from the button of the licentiate's sword that checked him in the midst of his furious onset, and made him kiss it as if it were a relic, though not as devoutly as relics are and ought to be kissed. The end of it was that the licentiate reckoned up for him by thrusts every one of the buttons of the short cassock he wore, tore the skirts into strips, like the tails of a cuttlefish, knocked off his hat twice, and so completely tired him out, that in vexation, anger, and rage, he took the sword by the hilt and flung it away with such force, that one of the peasants that were there, who was a notary, and who went for it, made an affidavit afterwards that he sent it nearly three-quarters of a league, which testimony will serve, and has served, to show and establish with all certainty that strength is overcome by skill.
Corchuelo sat down wearied, and Sancho approaching him said, "By my faith, senor bachelor, if your worship takes my advice, you will never challenge anyone to fence again, only to wrestle and throw the bar, for you have the youth and strength for that; but as for these fencers as they call them, I have heard say they can put the point of a sword through the eye of a needle."
"I am satisfied with having tumbled off my donkey," said Corchuelo, "and with having had the truth I was so ignorant of proved to me by experience;" and getting up he embraced the licentiate, and they were better friends than ever; and not caring to wait for the notary who had gone for the sword, as they saw he would be a long time about it, they resolved to push on so as to reach the village of Quiteria, to which they all belonged, in good time.
During the remainder of the journey the licentiate held forth to them on the excellences of the sword, with such conclusive arguments, and such figures and mathematical proofs, that all were convinced of the value of the science, and Corchuelo cured of his dogmatism.
It grew dark; but before they reached the town it seemed to them all as if there was a heaven full of countless glittering stars in front of it. They heard, too, the pleasant mingled notes of a variety of instruments, flutes, drums, psalteries, pipes, tabors, and timbrels, and as they drew near they perceived that the trees of a leafy arcade that had been constructed at the entrance of the town were filled with lights unaffected by the wind, for the breeze at the time was so gentle that it had not power to stir the leaves on the trees. The musicians were the life of the wedding, wandering through the pleasant grounds in separate bands, some dancing, others singing, others playing the various instruments already mentioned. In short, it seemed as though mirth and gaiety were frisking and gambolling all over the meadow. Several other persons were engaged in erecting raised benches from which people might conveniently see the plays and dances that were to be performed the next day on the spot dedicated to the celebration of the marriage of Camacho the rich and the obsequies of Basilio. Don Quixote would not enter the village, although the peasant as well as the bachelor pressed him; he excused himself, however, on the grounds, amply sufficient in his opinion, that it was the custom of knights-errant to sleep in the fields and woods in preference to towns, even were it under gilded ceilings; and so turned aside a little out of the road, very much against Sancho's will, as the good quarters he had enjoyed in the castle or house of Don Diego came back to his mind.