In the previous episode, the group at the inn listened to the man from Algiers tell his life story, which started when he was given his inheritance, became a soldier and rose to the rank of captain. He was captured by the King of Algiers, a former Calabrian, in whose galley he rowed. But that king died, and his successor proved brutal and cruel. When he was confined to a bagnio in Algiers, the opportunity arose to escape back to Spain. He conspired with a wealthy and beautiful young Moorish woman named Zoraida to buy a boat, pay off his ransom, and meet her at her father’s villa on the coast. She wanted to escape with him so she could become a Christian in Spain.
Several times over the next couple of weeks, the man’s renegade friend who had bought the boat took it along the coast to where Zoraida was waiting in her father’s villa. He even went to the villa to ask for fruit, but she naturally wasn’t allowed to meet him. The man himself recruited a crew of Spaniards to row for him.
He then went and posed as a Christian slave gathering wild salad leaves and not only gained entry to the villa’s garden but met and talked with Zoraida. He managed to tell her that he wasn’t married or promised to any other woman apart from her, and that they’d come and collect her the following Friday to take her to Spain on the boat.
That Friday, they took the boat round and anchored it by the villa after nightfall. The Christian crew boarded and replaced the Moors who had rowed the boat until then. The man easily gained entry to the villa’s garden, and Zoraida brought out a coffer heavy with gold coins. But as she was leaving, her father awoke and started to raise the alarm, so the other Christians in the group gagged, bound and abducted him.
Within two hours, they were all on board the boat, and untied and removed the gag from Zoraida’s father. She asked that he might be released with the Moorish crew, but after discussion they agreed to keep them on board until they reached a Christian port. They set course for the closest, Majorca, but were unable to hold that heading and drifted towards Oran, which could have put them in danger of contact with trading vessels.
Then the wind got up and they had to hoist sails, stop rowing and head for Oran. The Christians assured the crew and Zoraida’s father that no harm would come to them, and he offered them as much money as they wanted to release him and his daughter, before crying bitterly and asking his daughter what was going on. The renegade explained to him that his daughter was now a Christian and was there of her own free will, and he became so distraught that he threw himself overboard. They rescued him with difficulty and brought his unconscious body back on board, where he recovered slowly.
They took shelter in a small isolated creek, where they released the Moorish crew, but Zoraida’s father had to be put ashore there still loudly cursing his daughter and the Christians. They sailed with a favourable wind, hoping to reach Spain the following day, but met a French privateer in the night. The French ship fired cannon at their boat. As it was rapidly sinking the French sent a boat to rescue the Christians, although the renegade threw Zoraida’s coffer of coins overboard.
Once on board the privateer, they were stripped of all their possessions, and Zoraida of all her jewellery. Having got what they wanted, the privateers agreed to allow the group to go ashore to Spain shortly before they passed Gibraltar on their way home to La Rochelle. They landed just before midnight, and soon after dawn came upon a lonely shepherd boy, who immediately panicked, thinking they were Moorish invaders.
The boy’s alarm raised the local coastguard. One of the Christians in the group recognised one of the coastguards, who in turn realised that he was his nephew, who had been given up for dead. The coastguards arranged mounts for them to ride to the city of Vélez-Málaga nearby, where they were welcomed by crowds. They then went to church to give thanks to God, and Zoraida was introduced to the holy images on display there.
The group stayed in the city for almost a week, then dispersed. The renegade returned to rejoin the church in Granada, the other Christians went back to their families, and the man and Zoraida were left with just enough money to buy the donkey on which she had ridden to the inn. With that, the man completed his story and fell quiet.
After the others had offered the man from Algiers and Zoraida every assistance, he thanked them and said that he first wanted to discover what had become of his father and brothers.
Next a coach containing a judge arrived, with his beautiful daughter who looked about sixteen years old. Don Quixote welcomed them with a short speech about the castle and its comforts, which amazed the judge, as did the knight’s appearance. The ladies were bedded down together upstairs, and the men remained downstairs, where the man from Algiers thought that he recognised the judge as one of his long-lost brothers. The priest offered to introduce them to one another and reveal their identities during supper.
Over the meal, the priest told the judge much of his brother’s story, but stopped short of its resolution. The judge then revealed that the youngest of the three brothers was immensely rich and living in Peru, and had sent back so much money to their father that he too was living in comfort again. But he was worried about his older brother, from whom nothing had been heard. The priest then fetched Zoraida and the other women, and introduced her and the man from Algiers to the judge.
Once the judge had recognised his brother, they all embraced and talked together, full of joy at their reunion. With Don Quixote silent and pondering these remarkable events, the judge invited his brother and Zoraida to go with him to Seville, where their father could join them at her baptism and their wedding, and the judge could travel on to take up his appointment in the Supreme Court of Mexico.
They all retired for what was left of the night, with Don Quixote left on guard against attacks by giants, and Sancho Panza asleep on his donkey’s tack. Just before dawn, they were awakened by the fine voice of one of the judge’s footmen, singing an enchanting song.
That completes the forty-second chapter of the first book of Don Quixote.
List of characters
English translation by John Ormsby (1885)
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, trans John Rutherford (1604, 2000) Don Quixote, Penguin, ISBN 978 0 140 44909 9.
Roberto González Echevarría (2015) Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Yale UP, ISBN 978 0 300 19864 5.
Roberto González Echevarría (ed) (2005) Cervantes’ Don Quixote, A Casebook, Oxford UP, ISBN 978 0 19 516938 6.