Don QuixoteLoading... read one book too many about chivalry. One day, he decides to apply what he learned from the books. With his steed, which he names RocinanteLoading..., he leaves his home wearing his grandfather's armor, delusionally believing that he is a knight who is on a knight-errant. The purpose is to impress a woman he calls Dulcinea and whom he is in love with — something she does not know.
In the previous episode, Don QuixoteLoading... finds himself having a simple meal in an inn, and reflecting on the fact that he has not been dubbed a knight, and that he can, therefore, not go on a knight-errant yet, which is something he believes he must do to gain DulcineaLoading...'s love.
He decides to ask the landlord of the inn to knight him. The landlord realizes Don QuixoteLoading... has lost his mind and so the landlord chooses to play along. When Don QuixoteLoading... becomes a physical threat to the landlord's other guests, he hastens the process of dubbing Don QuixoteLoading... a knight so that Don QuixoteLoading... can be on his way that very evening. Happy to have been knighted, Don QuixoteLoading... leaves the inn and sallies forth out into the plains.
He called to mind the advice the innkeeper had given him as to the essentials he ought to also carry with him, money and clean shirts in particular, and so he decided to go home and provide himself with these. He also made the decision to arrange for a squire, because he reckoned he could secure a farm-laborer, a neighbor of his, a poor man with a family, who he thought was very well qualified for the office of squire to a knight.
He charged with leveled lance against the one who had spoken.
With this goal in mind, he turned onto the road toward his village, and RocinanteLoading... — reminded of his old quarters — stepped out so briskly that his heels seemed to hardly touch the ground.
He had not gone far when out of a bush on his right there seemed to come feeble cries as of someone in distress.
The instant he heard them he exclaimed, “Thank heaven for the favor it accords me, that it so soon offers me an opportunity of fulfilling the obligation I have undertaken and gathering the fruit of my ambition. These cries, no doubt, come from some man or woman in want of help, and needing my aid and protection.”
He turned RocinanteLoading... to the side from where the cries came. He had gone just a few steps into the wood when he saw a mare tied to an oak, and he also saw a fifteen-year-old boy — from whom the cries came — who was naked from the waist up and who was tied to another oak.
He determined to go home and provide himself with a squire.
The boy had a reason to cry because a lusty farmer was flogging him with a belt and following up every blow with scoldings and commands, repeating, “Your mouth shut and your eyes open!” while the boy answered, “I won't do it again, master. By God's passion, I won't do it again, and I'll take better care of the flock next time.”
Seeing what was going on, Don QuixoteLoading... said in an angry voice, “Discourteous knight, it ill becomes you to assail one who cannot defend himself. Mount your steed and take your lance,” —, because there was something that looked like a lance leaning against the oak to which the mare was tied — “and I will make you know that you are behaving like a coward.”
The farmer, seeing before him this figure in full armor brandishing a lance over his head, became timid. He answered meekly, “Sir Knight, this boy that I am chastising is my servant. I employ him to watch a flock of sheep that I have not far off. But he is so careless that I lose one every day, and when I punish him for his carelessness and knavery he says I do it out of greed, to escape paying him the wages I owe him, and before God, and on my soul, he lies.”
Out of a thicket on his right came feeble cries as of someone in distress.
“You dare to lie to me, you rude clown!” Don QuixoteLoading... said. “By the sun that shines on us, I have a mind to run you through with this lance. Pay him immediately without another word. If not, by the God that rules us I will make an end of you, and I will annihilate you on the spot. Release him instantly.”
The farmer hung his head, and without a word, he untied his servant, of whom Don QuixoteLoading... asked how much his master owed him.
He replied, nine months at seven reals a month. Don QuixoteLoading... added it up, found that it came to sixty-three reals, and told the farmer to pay it down immediately if he did not want to lose his life that very moment.
A farmer was flogging him with a belt.
The poor countryman, trembling of fear, replied that as he was on the brink of death, and by the oath he had sworn — though he had not sworn any — he did not owe the boy so much. Because there was to be deducted three pairs of shoes he had given him, and a real for two blood-lettings when he was sick.
“All that is very well,” Don QuixoteLoading... said, “but let the shoes and the blood-lettings stand as a setoff against the blows you have given him without any cause. Because if he spoiled the leather of the shoes you have paid for, you have damaged that of his body, and if the BarberLoading... took blood from him when he was sick, you drew it when he was sound. So on that score, he owes you nothing.”
“I won't do it again, master!”
“The difficulty is, Sir Knight, that I have no money here. Let Andres come home with me, and I will pay him everything I owe him, real for real.”
“Me, go with him?” the boy said. “Never! God forbid! No, sir, not for anything in the world. Because once alone with me, he would flay me alive like they did with Saint Bartholomew.”
“He will do nothing of the kind,” Don QuixoteLoading... said, “I command him, and he will obey me. And as he has sworn to me by order of the knighthood which he has received, I leave him free, and I guarantee the payment.”
“Consider what you are saying, sir,” the boy said. “This master of mine is not a knight, nor has he received any order of knighthood because he is Juan Haldudo, the Rich farmer from Quintanar.”
“That matters little,” Don QuixoteLoading... replied, “because there may be knights among the Haldudos. Moreover, everyone is the son of his works.”
“That is true,” Andres said, “but of what works can this master of mine be the son, when he refuses to pay me the wages which I have earned with sweat and labor?”
“I do not refuse to pay you, brother Andres,” the farmer said. “Be good enough to come along with me, and I swear by all the orders of knighthood there are in the world to pay you as I have agreed, real for real, and perfumed to boot.”
“It ill becomes you to assail one who cannot defend himself.”
“You may spare your perfume,” Don QuixoteLoading... said, “but do pay him in reals, and I shall be satisfied. But see that you do as you have sworn, because if you don't, by the same oath I swear to come back and hunt you down and punish you, and I shall find you even if you should hide like a lizard. And if you desire to know who it is who lays this command upon you, that you be more firmly obligated to obey it, know that I am the valorous Don QuixoteLoading... of La Mancha, righter of wrongs and injustices. And so, may God be with you. And keep in mind what you have promised and sworn under those penalties that have been already declared to you.”
Having said that, he gave RocinanteLoading... the spur and was soon out of reach. The farmer followed him with his eyes, and when he saw that he had cleared the wood and was no longer in sight, he turned to his boy Andres, and said, “Come here, my son, I want to pay you what I owe you, as that righter of wrongs has commanded me.”
“I will annihilate you on the spot.”
“On my word,” Andres said, “you will be well advised to obey the command of that good knight — may he live a thousand years — for, as he is a valiant and just judge, by Roque, if you do not pay me, he will come back and do as he said.”
“On my word, too,” the farmer said, “but as I have a strong affection for you, I want to add to the debt to add to the payment.” And seizing him by the arm, he tied him up again and gave him such a flogging that he left him for dead.
“Now call your righter of wrongs, Mister Andres,” the farmer said, “and you will find that he will never be able to right that, though I am not sure that I am quite done with you, because I have a good mind to flay you alive.” But at last, he untied him and gave him leave to go look for his judge to put the sentence pronounced into execution.
He gave him such a flogging that he left him for dead.
Andres went his way, not very well pleased, you may be sure. Swearing, he went to look for the valiant Don QuixoteLoading... of La Mancha and tell him exactly what had happened, and that all would have to be repaid him sevenfold. But for all that, he went off weeping, while his master stood there, laughing.
Thus did the valiant Don QuixoteLoading... right that wrong. And he was thoroughly satisfied with what had taken place, as he thought that he had made a very happy and noble beginning with his knighthood.
He took the road toward his village in perfect self-content, saying in a low voice, “Well may you this day call yourself fortunate above all on earth, oh DulcineaLoading... from El TobosoLoading..., fairest of the fair! Since it has fallen to your lot to hold subject and submissive to your full will and pleasure a knight so renowned as is and will be Don QuixoteLoading... of La Mancha, who, as all the world knows, yesterday received the order of knighthood, and has today righted the greatest wrong and grievance that ever injustice conceived and cruelty perpetrated, who has today plucked the rod from the hand of that ruthless oppressor over there who was so wantonly lashing that tender child.”
He now came to a road branching into four directions, and immediately he was reminded of those cross-roads where knights-errant used to stop to consider which road they should take.
In imitation of them he halted for a while, and after having deeply considered it, he gave RocinanteLoading... the reins, submitting his own will to that of his horse, who followed his first instincts, which was to make straight for his own stable.
After he had gone about two miles, Don QuixoteLoading... saw a large party of people who, as afterward appeared, were some Toledo traders on their way to buy silk at Murcia. There were six of them coming along under their sunshades, with four servants mounted, and three muleteers on foot.
Scarcely had Don QuixoteLoading... described them when the fancy possessed him that this must be some new adventure. And to help him to imitate as far as he could those passages he had read of in his books, here seemed to come one made on purpose, which he decided to attempt.
So with a lofty bearing and determination, he fixed himself firmly in his stirrups, got his lance ready, brought his shield before his breast, and planted himself in the middle of the road, and stood there awaiting the approach of these knights-errant.
Because such he now considered and held them to be. And when they had come near enough to see and hear, he exclaimed with a haughty gesture, “Halt! let mankind stand, nor hope to pass on further, unless all the world acknowledge and confess that there is in all the world is no damsel more beautiful than the Empress of La Mancha, the peerless DulcineaLoading... from El TobosoLoading....”
The traders halted at the sound of this language and the sight of the strange figure that uttered it, and from both figure and language they immediately guessed that the poor gentleman had lost his mind.
They did, however, wish to understand more about this confession that was demanded of them, and one of them, who was rather fond of a joke and was very sharp-witted, said to him, “Sir Knight, we do not know who this good lady is that you speak of. Show her to us, for, if she is of such beauty as you suggest, with all our hearts and without any pressure we will confess the truth that is on your part required of us.”
“If I were to show her to you,” Don QuixoteLoading... replied, “what merit would you have in confessing a truth so manifest? The essential point is that, without seeing her, you must believe, confess, affirm, swear, and defend it, else ye have to do with me in battle, ill-conditioned, arrogant rabble that ye are, and come ye on, one by one as the order of knighthood requires, or all together as is the custom and vile usage of your breed, here do I bide and await you relying on the justice of the cause I maintain.”
“Sir Knight,” the trader replied, “I appeal to you in the name of this present company of princes, that, to save us from charging our consciences with the confession of a thing we have never seen or heard of, and one moreover so much to the prejudice of the Empresses and Queens of the Alcarria and Estremadura, you will be pleased to show us some portrait of this lady, though it be no bigger than a grain of wheat. Because by the thread one gets at the ball, and in this way, we shall be satisfied and easy, and you will be content and pleased. No, I believe we are already so far agreed with you that even though her portrait should show her blind of one eye, and distilling vermilion and sulfur from the other, we would nevertheless, to gratify you, say anything in her favor that you desire.”
“She distills nothing of the kind, vile rabble,” Don QuixoteLoading... said, burning with rage, “nothing of the kind, I say, only ambergris and civet in cotton; nor is she one-eyed or humpbacked, but straighter than a Guadarrama spindle. But ye must pay for the blasphemy ye have uttered against beauty like that of my lady.”
And so saying, with his lance leveled, he ran so furiously at the merchant who had thus provoked him that, had good fortune not so ordered it that RocinanteLoading... should stumble midway and come down, the rash trader would have paid dearly for his good-natured ridicule.
As RocinanteLoading... fell, he threw down his master, who rolled over the ground for some distance. And when he tried to rise, he found himself unable to, encumbered as he was by his lance, shield, spurs, helmet, and the weight of his old armor. And while he was struggling to get up, he kept saying, “Flee not, cowards and wretches! stay, because not by my fault, but my horse's, am I stretched here.”
One of the muleteers in attendance, who was not one of the best-natured creatures, on hearing the overthrown knight so insolently treat his master, was unable to refrain from giving him an answer on his ribs. He came up to him, seized his lance and broke it in pieces. With one of the pieces he began so to belabor our Don QuixoteLoading... so much that, notwithstanding and in spite of his armor, he thrashed him like a measure of wheat.
His masters called out not to lay on so vigorously and to leave him alone, but the muleteer's blood was boiling, and he did not care to drop the game until he had vented the rest of his wrath.
He gathered up the remaining fragments of the lance, and finished with a discharge upon the unhappy victim who, all through the storm of sticks that rained on him, never ceased threatening heaven, and earth, and the brigands, because such they seemed to him.
At last, the muleteer was tired, and all the pieces were splintered, and the traders continued on their journey, taking with them matter for discourse at the poor knight's expense.
When he found himself alone, he made another attempt to rise. But if he was unable when whole and sound, how was he to rise after having been thrashed and well-nigh knocked to pieces?
And yet he esteemed himself to be fortunate, as it seemed to him that this was a regular knight-errant's mishap, and entirely, he considered, the fault of his horse. However, battered in body as he was, to rise was beyond his power.