In the previous episode, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza rode on towards Barcelona. They came to blows when the knight decided he’d help his squire reach his goal of three thousand lashes in order to disenchant the lady Dulcinea. They then discovered they were among the hanging bodies of outlaws. Just as they were about to leave in the morning, they were surrounded by bandits who were soon relieving them of their possessions. Their captain arrived, and stopped the robbery. After him came a young woman who had shot her lover, and they aided her as her lover died in her arms. After three days with the outlaws, Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and their captain rode to Barcelona’s beach. In the morning the pair rode into the city, but not before they were thrown from their mounts by a children’s prank.
Don Antonio Moreno welcomed the pair into his house in Barcelona, and was soon looking for ways to display Don Quixote’s presence to others. The knight was put onto a balcony overlooking one of the busiest streets where those passing by would notice him. They then lunched with a group of friends who listened attentively to the knight’s rambling speeches and Sancho’s ripostes.
After lunch, Don Antonio took Don Quixote into a room, locked the door, and showed him a bronze bust on a slab of jasper. Once he had made the knight swear to secrecy, Don Antonio explained that the bust had been made for him by a great sorcerer and enchanter, and answered truthfully all questions put to it, except on Fridays, when it remained silent. As this was a Friday, the knight had to wait to experience this for himself.
That afternoon Don Antonio took the knight for a ride. Don Quixote wore a long robe, and on his back, unknown to the knight, was a parchment declaring that he was Don Quixote de la Mancha. The knight was surprised when everyone who saw him repeated his name as if they already knew him, although one man took exception and asked how the knight had managed to survive his adventures.
That night there was a ball to which Don Antonio’s wife had invited many women, some of whom kept the knight dancing continuously until he could only sit in the middle of the floor exhausted.
The following day Don Antonio took a small group including Don Quixote in to the enchanted bust to try it out. It was Don Antonio who asked the first question, as to what he was thinking at that moment. The bust replied that it didn’t divine thoughts, which astonished them all.
The bust next answered a question about how many were present in the room by listing everyone there, which increased their amazement. Some of Don Antonio’s friends then asked the bust various questions, which it answered skilfully every time.
Eventually, Don Quixote came to ask the bust whether what he had seen in the Cave of Montesinos had been real or just a dream, whether Sancho Panza’s lashing would ever be completed, and whether the lady Dulcinea would be disenchanted. The bust told him there was a little of both truth and dream in what he saw in the cave, that his squire’s lashing would take time, but the lady Dulcinea would be disenchanted in due course.
Finally it was Sancho’s turn; he asked whether he was going to be a governor again, if he’d ever escape from being a squire, and whether he’d see his wife and family again. The bust told him that he’d govern his own house, that once he stopped serving he’d no longer be a squire, and that he’d see his family if he returned home to them. Those answers left Sancho unimpressed.
What none of them, apart from Don Antonio and two of his closest friends, knew was that the talking bust was just a clever trick, in which a person in the room below was responsible for all the answers, their voice being transmitted into the bust via a speaking tube. After a couple of weeks, Don Antonio dismantled it for fear that it would become known to the church and bring a visit from the Inquisition. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza never discovered the truth behind the trick their host had played on them.
On another morning, the knight and his squire, and two servants assigned to them, went walking in the city and discovered a printing house, which they entered. Don Quixote was fascinated to see all the stages of work in progress, and spoke to the author of the book they were busy printing. This was a Castilian translation of an Italian work titled Trifles. The knight asked the author some questions about Italian, which prompted a speech about the role of a translator, then questioning the translator’s motives.
When he came across copies of the second part of Don Quixote, he condemned it as fit only for burning and strode out of the printing-house.
While Don Quixote was out of his host’s house, the latter had been arranging for the knight and his squire to visit some galleys which were moored off the beach.
That completes the sixty-second 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.