In the previous episode, Don Quixote had assured the Countess of Trifaldi that he would stop at nothing to relieve her and the dozen duennas of their long and thick beards. She told the knight that the enchanter who had done this to them had promised to send his magic wooden horse to collect them shortly after dusk, and transport them thousands of miles to Kandy in a few moments. Once it had grown dark, the wooden horse arrived, and the knight and his squire mounted it and were blindfolded. The staff of the Duke and Duchess then blew air at them with bellows and singed the pair with burning fibres, convincing them there were flying high over the earth. They finally lit the tail and the firecrackers inside the horse exploded, tossing them into the air. Once they had recovered they read a parchment proclaiming the success of their quest, and the duennas were no longer bearded. Sancho Panza told the Duchess that he’d removed his blindfold and seen the earth far below him, as well as celestial goats. Don Quixote took the opportunity to point out that he’d best believe the knight’s account of what he had seen in the Cave of the Montesinos, if he wanted to be believed himself.
Further encouraged by the success of the trick they had played on the pair, the Duke and Duchess decided to move onto the next the following day. The Duke told Sancho Panza to dress and prepare himself to assume his governorship, but Sancho’s enthusiasm had waned and he asked if he could be given just a little bit of heaven instead. The Duke replied that was in the gift of God, but his island was awaiting him.
When the Duke told him that he was to be dressed for both arms and letters, Sancho’s feet got even colder. But Don Quixote took him to his room, sat him down, and lectured him on his good fortune, the need to fear God, and to know himself.
After that he continued to give advice on the dispensation of justice and its pitfalls. Next came recommendations on personal hygiene, tidiness in dress, even avoiding the eating of garlic and onions and belching in public, which the knight insisted on referring to as eructating.
The knight’s torrent of advice continued, with tips on riding a horse and sleeping at night, until he reached the thorny issue of reading and writing. When Sancho pointed out that he was unable to do either, Don Quixote said that at the very least he had to learn to sign his name, a task his squire claimed he had achieved once. In any case, as governor he could just say that something was wrong with his right hand. With that Sancho once again resorted to quoting multiple proverbs, infuriating the knight as much as ever.
As their discussion came to an end, though, Sancho declared that despite his ignorance of gubernatorial skills, he’d rather go to heaven as himself than go to hell as a governor. Don Quixote declared that made his squire more than worthy of being governor, and the pair went to eat with their hosts.
Once he had eaten, Don Quixote gave his squire a written copy of all his advice, which quickly reached the eyes of the Duke and Duchess, who read it with amusement before sending Sancho off with his grand retinue to the town that was to function as his island. The butler who had played the part of the Countess of Trifaldi in the last trick was in charge of this next one. When Sancho saw him, he was sure that the butler was identical to the Countess, but the knight told him that would be a contradiction. Sancho said that he’d keep quiet for now but would watch the butler carefully.
Sancho left in the clothes of a scholar, over which he wore a dashing coat and cap, and his donkey was incongruously dressed overall in silk.
Don Quixote was forlorn without his squire, and the Duchess noticed the change in his mood, so offered him the service of four of her prettiest maids. The knight wasn’t to be persuaded, so she promised to leave him alone. She then announced that it was almost time for them to dine, as he’d surely need an early night to recover from the previous day’s lightning journey to Kandy.
After dinner, Don Quixote locked himself in his room, to ensure his chastity was preserved for his Lady Dulcinea. As he was undressing for bed, the stitches on one of his stockings came undone, and they laddered badly.
As Sancho had left him a pair of riding boots, he decided that he’d wear those in the morning to conceal the damage. After he had blown out his candles, it was too hot to sleep, so he opened the window. With that he could hear voices in the garden below.
Altisidora and Emerencia were speaking to one another, the former confessing to her desire for the stranger who had entered the castle. Her friend assured her that the Duchess was asleep and that the object of her desire had just opened his window, so she should sing with her harp. Don Quixote immediately assumed that Altisidora had fallen in love with him, and in order to let her know that he was listening he sneezed. She responded with a song telling him all about her, including confirmation that she was one of the Duchess’s maidservants.
The knight wasn’t persuaded from his devotion to the Lady Dulcinea, slammed his window shut and lay down on his bed. Meanwhile, Sancho Panza was reaching the end of his first day as the governor.
That completes the forty-fourth 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.