In the previous episode, after a light breakfast, Sancho Panza had been asked to give judgement on a case more like a logic puzzle before he could adjourn for a more liberal lunch. A messenger then arrived with a letter from Don Quixote, who suggested that he was about to fall out of favour with the Duke and Duchess. Sancho made a series of by-laws which were so successful that they were retained long after his brief spell as governor. Just as Don Quixote was about to ask permission to leave the Duke’s palace for Saragossa and jousting, the old duenna and her daughter burst in and begged him to challenge the daughter’s suitor to marry her. He agreed, and issued his challenge to the young man. The Duchess’s page then returned with Teresa Panza’s letters, which were read aloud. That night, as Sancho was about to fall asleep, his ‘island’ was attacked. He was trussed up in a couple of shields to protect him, and the attackers were repelled by the townspeople. That was all too much for the squire, who announced that he was returning to his former life and relinquishing his post as their governor.
As the young man who had promised to marry the duenna’s daughter had fled to Flanders, the Duke and Duchess arranged a proxy to duel with Don Quixote, who was delighted at the opportunity to display his knightly qualities.
Sancho was riding his donkey away from his ‘island’ when he came across six pilgrims, whom he presumed were asking him for alms. He gave them some bread and cheese, and tried to ride through their line. One of them revealed that he was Sancho’s village shopkeeper and his neighbour, a Spanish Moor. They all went over to a grove of poplars where they ate lunch and drank large quantities of wine.
When the rest had fallen asleep, the shopkeeper explained his predicament. A royal proclamation requiring all Moors to leave the country had forced him to leave the village without his family, in search of somewhere to take them to. He had been to France, Italy and Germany, finally settling in a village near Augsburg, from where he was travelling with German locals as a pilgrim to Spain. He intended to dig up his buried treasure, rejoin his family in Algiers, and take them back with him to Germany. Sancho warned him that he believed his brother-in-law had already taken possession of the treasure, but the shopkeeper didn’t believe him, and offered Sancho a share if he’d help him to recover his riches.
Sancho told the shopkeeper that he’d just walked away from his governorship and its promises of riches. After discussion, Sancho made it clear that he wouldn’t help search for buried treasure, but they wished one another well on their journeys and parted.
Sancho hadn’t quite reached the Duke’s palace when night fell, and while he was stumbling around in the dark looking for somewhere to sleep, he and his donkey fell into a deep hole between two old buildings. Although both were unscathed, the sides of the pit were smooth and he was unable to climb out in the dark. When it grew light the following morning he righted his donkey and gave it some bread before discovering a passage which led to a cave. He cut a way through and he and his donkey walked on in the gloom in search of a way out.
By coincidence, as Sancho and his mount were exploring the depths, Don Quixote had been exercising Rocinante and nearly fell into a hole in the ground. Hearing his squire’s voice emanating from the hole, the knight assumed that he was talking to his spirit. With the help of the braying of Sancho’s donkey, Don Quixote was persuaded to fetch assistance to return the pair to the surface.
With the aid of ropes and tackle, Sancho and his donkey were recovered and they all headed for the palace. On the way there, they engaged in banter about the sudden ending of Sancho’s governorship.
Once Sancho had seen that his donkey had been cared for, he knelt before the Duke and Duchess and gave them account of his time as governor, and his resignation because of all the burdens it had imposed on him. He declared that in his ten days as governor he had learned that he didn’t give a hoot about being a governor, and would happily return to the service of Don Quixote, so long as he was well fed. The Duke and Duchess embraced Sancho and sympathised with him.
That completes the fifty-fifth 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.