Hearing this, Don Quixote said to himself, "It is easy to see these folk have never seen my Dulcinea del Toboso; for if they had they would be more moderate in their praises of this Quiteria of theirs."
Shortly after this, several bands of dancers of various sorts began to enter the arcade at different points, and among them one of sword-dancers composed of some four-and-twenty lads of gallant and high-spirited mien, clad in the finest and whitest of linen, and with handkerchiefs embroidered in various colours with fine silk; and one of those on the mares asked an active youth who led them if any of the dancers had been wounded. "As yet, thank God, no one has been wounded," said he, "we are all safe and sound;" and he at once began to execute complicated figures with the rest of his comrades, with so many turns and so great dexterity, that although Don Quixote was well used to see dances of the same kind, he thought he had never seen any so good as this. He also admired another that came in composed of fair young maidens, none of whom seemed to be under fourteen or over eighteen years of age, all clad in green stuff, with their locks partly braided, partly flowing loose, but all of such bright gold as to vie with the sunbeams, and over them they wore garlands of jessamine, roses, amaranth, and honeysuckle. At their head were a venerable old man and an ancient dame, more brisk and active, however, than might have been expected from their years. The notes of a Zamora bagpipe accompanied them, and with modesty in their countenances and in their eyes, and lightness in their feet, they looked the best dancers in the world.
Following these there came an artistic dance of the sort they call "speaking dances." It was composed of eight nymphs in two files, with the god Cupid leading one and Interest the other, the former furnished with wings, bow, quiver and arrows, the latter in a rich dress of gold and silk of divers colours. The nymphs that followed Love bore their names written on white parchment in large letters on their backs. "Poetry" was the name of the first, "Wit" of the second, "Birth" of the third, and "Valour" of the fourth. Those that followed Interest were distinguished in the same way; the badge of the first announced "Liberality," that of the second "Largess," the third "Treasure," and the fourth "Peaceful Possession." In front of them all came a wooden castle drawn by four wild men, all clad in ivy and hemp stained green, and looking so natural that they nearly terrified Sancho. On the front of the castle and on each of the four sides of its frame it bore the inscription "Castle of Caution." Four skillful tabor and flute players accompanied them, and the dance having been opened, Cupid, after executing two figures, raised his eyes and bent his bow against a damsel who stood between the turrets of the castle, and thus addressed her:
I am the mighty God whose sway
Is potent over land and sea.
The heavens above us own me; nay,
The shades below acknowledge me.
I know not fear, I have my will,
Whate'er my whim or fancy be;
For me there's no impossible,
I order, bind, forbid, set free.
Having concluded the stanza he discharged an arrow at the top of the castle, and went back to his place. Interest then came forward and went through two more figures, and as soon as the tabors ceased, he said:
But mightier than Love am I,
Though Love it be that leads me on,
Than mine no lineage is more high,
Or older, underneath the sun.
To use me rightly few know how,
To act without me fewer still,
For I am Interest, and I vow
For evermore to do thy will.
Interest retired, and Poetry came forward, and when she had gone through her figures like the others, fixing her eyes on the damsel of the castle, she said:
With many a fanciful conceit,
Fair Lady, winsome Poesy
Her soul, an offering at thy feet,
Presents in sonnets unto thee.
If thou my homage wilt not scorn,
Thy fortune, watched by envious eyes,
On wings of poesy upborne
Shall be exalted to the skies.
Poetry withdrew, and on the side of Interest Liberality advanced, and after having gone through her figures, said:
To give, while shunning each extreme,
The sparing hand, the over-free,
Therein consists, so wise men deem,
The virtue Liberality.
But thee, fair lady, to enrich,
Myself a prodigal I'll prove,
A vice not wholly shameful, which
May find its fair excuse in love.
In the same manner all the characters of the two bands advanced and retired, and each executed its figures, and delivered its verses, some of them graceful, some burlesque, but Don Quixote's memory (though he had an excellent one) only carried away those that have been just quoted. All then mingled together, forming chains and breaking off again with graceful, unconstrained gaiety; and whenever Love passed in front of the castle he shot his arrows up at it, while Interest broke gilded pellets against it. At length, after they had danced a good while, Interest drew out a great purse, made of the skin of a large brindled cat and to all appearance full of money, and flung it at the castle, and with the force of the blow the boards fell asunder and tumbled down, leaving the damsel exposed and unprotected. Interest and the characters of his band advanced, and throwing a great chain of gold over her neck pretended to take her and lead her away captive, on seeing which, Love and his supporters made as though they would release her, the whole action being to the accompaniment of the tabors and in the form of a regular dance. The wild men made peace between them, and with great dexterity readjusted and fixed the boards of the castle, and the damsel once more ensconced herself within; and with this the dance wound up, to the great enjoyment of the beholders.
Don Quixote asked one of the nymphs who it was that had composed and arranged it. She replied that it was a beneficiary of the town who had a nice taste in devising things of the sort. "I will lay a wager," said Don Quixote, "that the same bachelor or beneficiary is a greater friend of Camacho's than of Basilio's, and that he is better at satire than at vespers; he has introduced the accomplishments of Basilio and the riches of Camacho very neatly into the dance." Sancho Panza, who was listening to all this, exclaimed, "The king is my cock; I stick to Camacho." "It is easy to see thou art a clown, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "and one of that sort that cry 'Long life to the conqueror.'"
"I don't know of what sort I am," returned Sancho, "but I know very well I'll never get such elegant skimmings off Basilio's pots as these I have got off Camacho's;" and he showed him the bucketful of geese and hens, and seizing one began to eat with great gaiety and appetite, saying, "A fig for the accomplishments of Basilio! As much as thou hast so much art thou worth, and as much as thou art worth so much hast thou. As a grandmother of mine used to say, there are only two families in the world, the Haves and the Haven'ts; and she stuck to the Haves; and to this day, Senor Don Quixote, people would sooner feel the pulse of 'Have,' than of 'Know;' an ass covered with gold looks better than a horse with a pack-saddle. So once more I say I stick to Camacho, the bountiful skimmings of whose pots are geese and hens, hares and rabbits; but of Basilio's, if any ever come to hand, or even to foot, they'll be only rinsings."
"Hast thou finished thy harangue, Sancho?" said Don Quixote. "Of course I have finished it," replied Sancho, "because I see your worship takes offence at it; but if it was not for that, there was work enough cut out for three days."
"God grant I may see thee dumb before I die, Sancho," said Don Quixote.
"At the rate we are going," said Sancho, "I'll be chewing clay before your worship dies; and then, maybe, I'll be so dumb that I'll not say a word until the end of the world, or, at least, till the day of judgment."
"Even should that happen, O Sancho," said Don Quixote, "thy silence will never come up to all thou hast talked, art talking, and wilt talk all thy life; moreover, it naturally stands to reason, that my death will come before thine; so I never expect to see thee dumb, not even when thou art drinking or sleeping, and that is the utmost I can say."
"In good faith, senor," replied Sancho, "there's no trusting that fleshless one, I mean Death, who devours the lamb as soon as the sheep, and, as I have heard our curate say, treads with equal foot upon the lofty towers of kings and the lowly huts of the poor. That lady is more mighty than dainty, she is no way squeamish, she devours all and is ready for all, and fills her alforjas with people of all sorts, ages, and ranks. She is no reaper that sleeps out the noontide; at all times she is reaping and cutting down, as well the dry grass as the green; she never seems to chew, but bolts and swallows all that is put before her, for she has a canine appetite that is never satisfied; and though she has no belly, she shows she has a dropsy and is athirst to drink the lives of all that live, as one would drink a jug of cold water."
"Say no more, Sancho," said Don Quixote at this; "don't try to better it, and risk a fall; for in truth what thou hast said about death in thy rustic phrase is what a good preacher might have said. I tell thee, Sancho, if thou hadst discretion equal to thy mother wit, thou mightst take a pulpit in hand, and go about the world preaching fine sermons." "He preaches well who lives well," said Sancho, "and I know no more theology than that."
"Nor needst thou," said Don Quixote, "but I cannot conceive or make out how it is that, the fear of God being the beginning of wisdom, thou, who art more afraid of a lizard than of him, knowest so much."
"Pass judgment on your chivalries, senor," returned Sancho, "and don't set yourself up to judge of other men's fears or braveries, for I am as good a fearer of God as my neighbours; but leave me to despatch these skimmings, for all the rest is only idle talk that we shall be called to account for in the other world;" and so saying, he began a fresh attack on the bucket, with such a hearty appetite that he aroused Don Quixote's, who no doubt would have helped him had he not been prevented by what must be told farther on.