A pack of ragged Portuguese muleteers crowded around us, offering their beasts at half a dollar an hour--more rascality to the stranger, for the market price is sixteen cents.
The donkeys all stood still after the catastrophe and waited for their dismembered saddles to be patched up and put on by the noisy muleteers. Blucher was pretty angry and wanted to swear, but every time he opened his mouth his animal did so also and let off a series of brays that drowned all other sounds.
There were six of them coming along under their sunshades, with four servants mounted, and three muleteers on foot.
One of the muleteers in attendance, who could not have had much good nature in him, hearing the poor prostrate man blustering in this style, was unable to refrain from giving him an answer on his ribs; and coming up to him he seized his lance, and having broken it in pieces, with one of them he began so to belabour our Don Quixote that, notwithstanding and in spite of his armour, he milled him like a measure of wheat.
If several large troops are turned into one field to graze, in the morning the muleteers have only to lead the madrinas a little apart, and tinkle their bells; although there may be two or three hundred together, each mule immediately knows the bell of its own madrina, and comes to her.
It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the muleteers, and to watch the long descending string of the animals; they appeared so diminutive, there being nothing but the black mountains with which they could be compared.
These messages I was supposed to deliver to the Arragonese muleteers
(who were sure to await at certain times the Tremolino in the neighbourhood of the Gulf of Rosas), for faithful transportation inland, together with the various unlawful goods landed secretly from under the Tremolino's hatches.
He told us at random of the attack on the windmills and the flocks of sheep, of the night in the valley of the fulling-mills with their trip-hammers, of the inn and the muleteers
, of the tossing of Sancho in the blanket, of the island that was given him to govern, and of all the merry pranks at the duke's and duchess's, of the liberation of the galley-slaves, of the capture of Mambrino's helmet, and of Sancho's invention of the enchanted Dulcinea, and whatever else there was wonderful and delightful in the most wonderful and delightful book in the world.
27 Porters 3 Coarse Washers and Ironers 44 Mules 1 Fine ditto 44 Muleteers
7 Cows 2 Milkers
Through this wild country it was that Sir Nigel and his Company pushed their way, riding at times through vast defiles where the brown, gnarled cliffs shot up on either side of them, and the sky was but a long winding blue slit between the clustering lines of box which fringed the lips of the precipices; or, again leading their horses along the narrow and rocky paths worn by the muleteers
upon the edges of the chasm, where under their very elbows they could see the white streak which marked the gave which foamed a thousand feet below them.
His naturally dark complexion had assumed a still further shade of brown from the habit the unfortunate man had acquired of stationing himself from morning till eve at the threshold of his door, on the lookout for guests who seldom came, yet there he stood, day after day, exposed to the meridional rays of a burning sun, with no other protection for his head than a red handkerchief twisted around it, after the manner of the Spanish muleteers
. This man was our old acquaintance, Gaspard Caderousse.
It was the boy who used to hang about the stable of a muleteer
's inn in a little shallow valley with a shallow little stream in it, and where we had been hiding most of the day before coming down to the shore.