In the previous episode, Sancho Panza told the young graduate a rather different story of how his donkey had been stolen from under him as he slept, and how he recovered it from the thief. He also insisted that he had given some money to his family. Don Quixote decided to leave on a third sally in three or four days, and head to Saragossa for jousting. He asked the graduate to write a farewell poem that he could give Lady Dulcinea. Sancho Panza told his wife that they’d soon be leaving, and argued with her over marrying their daughter above her station. Don Quixote’s housekeeper and niece had been trying to discover what was going on when Sancho arrived, and the two men shut themselves away to plan their next sally.
The housekeeper realised what was going on, so rushed off to get the young graduate, thinking that he would talk some sense into Don Quixote. He reassured her, and sent her back to prepare lunch for him, as he went to find the priest.
Meanwhile Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were arguing over the latter’s use of incorrect words. After several misunderstandings and red herrings, they came to discuss the thorny issue of Sancho’s wages. The knight told his squire that there seemed to be no precedent of fixed wages, merely the reward of an island or estate as a bounty.
As Sancho stood bewildered and disappointed, the housekeeper and Don Quixote’s niece arrived with the graduate. As the two women wondered how the young man was going to persuade the knight to abandon his plans, the two men embraced and the younger reassured the knight that no one should ever try to prevent him from leaving on his third sally. The graduate then offered his services as squire, which forced Sancho to offer to serve Don Quixote again. The two women then cursed the graduate, and lamented Don Quixote’s departure as if he had died.
Over the remaining days, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza made their peace with their womenfolk and completed their preparations before setting out together at nightfall for El Toboso. The young graduate rode with them for a while before bidding them farewell and returning to the village.
As they rode into the gathering darkness, Rocinante neighed and Sancho’s donkey sighed, which they both assumed to be good omens. Don Quixote confirmed that he intended reaching El Toboso before dawn, so his Lady Dulcinea could give her blessing and leave to proceed. The knight and his squire fell once again to arguing over whether the lady had been sieving wheat when Sancho had visited her before. Don Quixote insisted that what his squire thought he saw was the result of an enchantment. He then launched into a story to support his case that the desire for fame was the motivation for many famous deeds.
When Sancho asked where all those famous people were, his master told him the pagans went to hell, while the Christians either went to purgatory or heaven. Sancho then asked about their tombs, leading on to his next question about whether it was better to revive the dead or kill a giant. Don Quixote couldn’t follow his squire’s reasoning, but Sancho made it clear when he asserted that it was better to be a saint than the most famous knight. His master, though, refused to be dissuaded from being a knight errant.
All night and the next day they continued their discussions, finally reaching El Toboso at nightfall. Don Quixote was joyful at this sight, but Sancho, who hadn’t really ever been here before, was worried that he didn’t know where to find the Lady Dulcinea. The knight decided to wait for night before entering the city, so they stayed for a while in a nearby oak wood.
They rode into El Toboso in the dead of night, its streets deserted under the moonlight, and only the occasional barking dog and other animal sounds. Don Quixote asked his squire to lead them to the Lady Dulcinea’s palace, but Sancho could only bluster defensively, as he had never been there before. When the knight saw the shadows of what he presumed to be a large building, he led them towards what turned out to be the church. When the two fell to arguing again, Sancho told his master that he should be able to find the lady’s house, as he had visited so many times.
Don Quixote then revealed that he too had never seen the lady or her palace, leading Sancho to admit that his meeting was by hearsay. Their chat was interrupted by the arrival of a young farmhand leading two mules drawing a plough. When they asked him where to find the lady, he admitted to being a stranger, but directed them to the house of the village priest and sexton.
As the farmhand hurried away to work, it was starting to get light, so Sancho suggested that his master hid in a nearby wood while he searched for the lady. Fortunately, Don Quixote agreed, and was soon tucked away in a wood a couple of miles out of town. Sancho Panza then went back to find the Lady Dulcinea.
That completes the ninth chapter of the second book of Don Quixote.
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.