I.--The Knight-Errant of La Mancha
In a certain village of La Mancha, there lived one of those old-fashioned gentlemen who keep a lance in the rack, an ancient target, a lean horse, and a greyhound for coursing. His family consisted of a housekeeper turned forty, a niece not twenty, and a man who could saddle a horse, handle the pruning-hook, and also serve in the house. The master himself was nigh fifty years of age, lean-bodied and thin-faced, an early riser, and a great lover of hunting. His surname was Quixada, or Quesada.
You must know now that when our gentleman had nothing to do--which was almost all the year round--he read books on knight-errantry, and with such delight that he almost left off his sports, and even sold acres of land to buy these books. He would dispute with the curate of the parish, and with the barber, as to the best knight in the world. At nights he read these romances until it was day; a-day he would read until it was night. Thus, by reading much and sleeping little, he lost the use of his reason. His brain was full of nothing but enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, amorous plaints, torments, and abundance of impossible follies.
Having lost his wits, he stumbled on the oddest fancy that ever entered madman's brain--to turn knight-errant, mount his steed, and, armed cap-à-pie, ride through the world, redressing all manner of grievances, and exposing himself to every danger, that he might purchase everlasting honour and renown.
The first thing he did was to secure a suit of armour that had belonged to his great-grandfather. Then he made himself a helmet, which his sword demolished at the first stroke. After repairing this mischief, he went to visit his horse, whose bones stuck out, but who appeared to his master a finer beast than Alexander's Bucephalus. After four days of thought, he decided to call his horse Rozinante, and when the title was decided upon, he spent eight days more before he arrived at Don Quixote as a name for himself.
And now he perceived that nothing was wanting save only a lady, on whom he might bestow the empire of his heart. There lived close at hand a hard-working country lass, Aldonza Lorenzo, on whom sometimes he had cast an eye, but who was quite unmindful of the gentleman. Her he selected for his peerless lady, and dubbed her with the sweet-sounding name of Dulcinea del Toboso...