"That is true," said the duchess; "but tell me, Sancho, what is this you say about the cave of Montesinos, for I should like to know."
Sancho upon this related to her, word for word, what has been said already touching that adventure, and having heard it the duchess said, "From this occurrence it may be inferred that, as the great Don Quixote says he saw there the same country wench Sancho saw on the way from El Toboso, it is, no doubt, Dulcinea, and that there are some very active and exceedingly busy enchanters about."
"So I say," said Sancho, "and if my lady Dulcinea is enchanted, so much the worse for her, and I'm not going to pick a quarrel with my master's enemies, who seem to be many and spiteful. The truth is that the one I saw was a country wench, and I set her down to be a country wench; and if that was Dulcinea it must not be laid at my door, nor should I be called to answer for it or take the consequences. But they must go nagging at me at every step — 'Sancho said it, Sancho did it, Sancho here, Sancho there,' as if Sancho was nobody at all, and not that same Sancho Panza that's now going all over the world in books, so Samson Carrasco told me, and he's at any rate one that's a bachelor of Salamanca; and people of that sort can't lie, except when the whim seizes them or they have some very good reason for it. So there's no occasion for anybody to quarrel with me; and then I have a good character, and, as I have heard my master say, 'a good name is better than great riches;' let them only stick me into this government and they'll see wonders, for one who has been a good squire will be a good governor."
"All worthy Sancho's observations," said the duchess, "are Catonian sentences, or at any rate out of the very heart of Michael Verino himself, who florentibus occidit annis. In fact, to speak in his own style, 'under a bad cloak there's often a good drinker.'"
"Indeed, senora," said Sancho, "I never yet drank out of wickedness; from thirst I have very likely, for I have nothing of the hypocrite in me; I drink when I'm inclined, or, if I'm not inclined, when they offer it to me, so as not to look either strait-laced or ill-bred; for when a friend drinks one's health what heart can be so hard as not to return it? But if I put on my shoes I don't dirty them; besides, squires to knights-errant mostly drink water, for they are always wandering among woods, forests and meadows, mountains and crags, without a drop of wine to be had if they gave their eyes for it."
"So I believe," said the duchess; "and now let Sancho go and take his sleep, and we will talk by-and-by at greater length, and settle how he may soon go and stick himself into the government, as he says."
Sancho once more kissed the duchess's hand, and entreated her to let good care be taken of his Dapple, for he was the light of his eyes.
"What is Dapple?" said the duchess.
"My ass," said Sancho, "which, not to mention him by that name, I'm accustomed to call Dapple; I begged this lady duenna here to take care of him when I came into the castle, and she got as angry as if I had said she was ugly or old, though it ought to be more natural and proper for duennas to feed asses than to ornament chambers. God bless me! what a spite a gentleman of my village had against these ladies!"
"He must have been some clown," said Dona Rodriguez the duenna; "for if he had been a gentleman and well-born he would have exalted them higher than the horns of the moon."
"That will do," said the duchess; "no more of this; hush, Dona Rodriguez, and let Senor Panza rest easy and leave the treatment of Dapple in my charge, for as he is a treasure of Sancho's, I'll put him on the apple of my eye."
"It will be enough for him to be in the stable," said Sancho, "for neither he nor I are worthy to rest a moment in the apple of your highness's eye, and I'd as soon stab myself as consent to it; for though my master says that in civilities it is better to lose by a card too many than a card too few, when it comes to civilities to asses we must mind what we are about and keep within due bounds."
"Take him to your government, Sancho," said the duchess, "and there you will be able to make as much of him as you like, and even release him from work and pension him off."
"Don't think, senora duchess, that you have said anything absurd," said Sancho; "I have seen more than two asses go to governments, and for me to take mine with me would be nothing new."
Sancho's words made the duchess laugh again and gave her fresh amusement, and dismissing him to sleep she went away to tell the duke the conversation she had had with him, and between them they plotted and arranged to play a joke upon Don Quixote that was to be a rare one and entirely in knight-errantry style, and in that same style they practised several upon him, so much in keeping and so clever that they form the best adventures this great history contains.