In the previous episode, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were entertained by the newly married couple for three days, during which the knight arranged himself a guide to take them on to the Cave of Montesinos and the Lakes of Ruidera; the guide turned out to be an author of books on chivalry. Sancho and the guide lowered Don Quixote into the cave, and paid out the rope to which he was attached. After half an hour, they hauled it back in, but when the knight reached the mouth of the cave he was deeply asleep. They woke him, and he told them that he had been shown round a crystal castle, and had seen the three girls whom they had met outside El Toboso, and one of them really was his Lady Dulcinea after all. Knowing the truth behind his earlier subterfuge, Sancho didn’t believe a word.
The guide, though, was shocked at the squire’s attitude towards his master. He then pointed out a nearby hermitage which took guests, where the three of them might stay the night. As they were talking, a man passed them with a mule loaded up with lances and halberds.
When Don Quixote tried to get him to stop, or even slow down for the sake of his mule, the man responded that he couldn’t stop, but would be staying that night in the inn near the hermitage. Don Quixote thus decided to travel to the same inn and stay there, rather than using the accommodation at the hermitage as the guide had wished.
When they were near the hermitage, the guide asked if they could drop in and visit it as they passed, but they discovered that the hermit was out and there was no wine available, so they headed towards the inn. On the way they came across a scantily clad young man who said he’d left Madrid and was going to war. Don Quixote lectured him about honour before inviting him to dine with them at the inn, which they reached as it was getting dark.
As soon as they arrived at the inn, Don Quixote was desperate to hear what the man with the mule and its arms was up to. The knight found him feeding his donkey, and to expedite this lent him a hand. Once he had finished, the man said that he lived in a village about fifteen miles away, where a local councillor’s jackass had gone missing. A fortnight later, another councillor told him it had been found, but wanted a reward. As the jackass had become wild, the man who found it offered to fetch it with his she-ass.
When the two councillors went into the wood to look for the jackass, they couldn’t find any sign of it. They agreed to go to opposite sides of the wood and bray until the jackass responded. When they did that, they mistook one another’s braying for that of the missing donkey. They continued trying several times more, but remained unsuccessful.
Braying caught on, though, and soon all the villagers were following those councillors, to the point where the place became known for its braying residents. Others nearby started to mock them for this, and that had escalated such that the braying villagers needed to arm themselves against those who were persecuting them, hence the lances and halberds that his mule was carrying.
Just then a man dressed in chamois leather walked in and asked the landlord for a room for the night. He was recognised immediately as Master Pedro the puppeteer, whose left eye and cheek were covered with green taffeta. Once the landlord had welcomed him, Pedro returned to fetch his cart containing his show and his performing ape.
While he was out, the innkeeper explained to Don Quixote that Master Pedro’s show was about Melisendra being freed by Don Gaiferos, and had been universally well-received. In addition, his ape listened to questions put by an audience, and whispered the answers in Pedro’s ear. Each question cost two reals for an answer.
When Pedro reappeared, Don Quixote paid his two reals and asked the ape what would become of them, but the puppeteer explained that the ape didn’t answer questions about the future, only the past and present, so refunded the knight’s money, which he wouldn’t take in advance. The ape then chattered profusely in Pedro’s ear, following which the puppeteer knelt before Don Quixote and praised his chivalry as a knight-errant, which amazed everyone. Pedro then praised Sancho Panza, telling him that his wife Teresa was carding flax at that moment.
Pedro proceeded to set up his puppet theatre, but Don Quixote wasn’t happy, being convinced that the puppeteer must have made a pact with the devil. Before the show started, the knight asked Pedro to get his ape to tell whether the adventure he’d said he’d experienced in the Cave of Montesinos was accurate or imaginary. The ape replied via Pedro that part of his account was false and part true, but as his powers were then exhausted, he’d give full details on Friday when they had recovered.
Pedro then persuaded Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to go and watch his puppet theatre. With his audience ready, Master Pedro’s servant boy announced the start of the show.
That completes the twenty-fifth chapter of the second 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.