By this time the company of friends who had been passing their days so pleasantly at the inn, were called away by other business, but, not liking to leave Don Quixote to himself, they contrived a plan by which the priest and barber were to carry him home, where they hoped his wits might come back to him.
So they set about making secretly a large cage of poles, having the sides latticed, so that Don Quixote should receive both air and light, and this cage was to be placed on a bullock-cart which happened to be going in the same direction. The rest of the company put on masks and disguised themselves in various manners, so that the knight might not know them again.
These preparations being finished, they stole softly into his room at the dead of night and tied his hands and feet firmly together. He woke with a start, and, seeing the array of strange figures about him, took them to be the phantoms which hovered about the enchanted castle, and believed without doubt that he himself was enchanted likewise, for he could neither move nor fight.
This reasoning pleased the priest greatly, as in just such a manner he had reckoned that the knight would behave. Sancho alone had been left in the garments that he commonly wore, and he was not deceived by the ghosts who passed before him. But he looked on and said nothing till he should see how the matter turned out.
When all was ready, Don Quixote was picked up and carried to the cage, where they laid him at full length, but taking good care to nail the door, so that it could not be opened. Then a voice was heard from behind to utter a prophecy, which Don Quixote understood to mean that he was setting forth on his wedding journey, and that he was to be bound in marriage to the Lady Dulcinea del Toboso, whose name he had always upheld in battle.
The knight responded joyfully to the words he heard, beseeching the mighty enchanter in whose power he was not to leave him in his prison till these glorious promises had been fulfilled, and appealing to Sancho never to part from him either in good or ill fortune. Sancho bowed in answer and kissed his master’s hand; then the ghosts took up the cage and placed it on a waggon.
Don Quixote beguiled the way after his usual fashion, recalling the stories of enchantments he had read, yet never finding a knight who had been enchanted after his fashion.
‘No knight that ever I heard,’ said he, ‘was drawn by such heavy and sluggish animals. Strange it is indeed to be carried to adventures in an ox-cart, instead of flying through the air on a griffin or a cloud! Yet, mayhap, the new chivalry, of which I am the first knight, may have new ways’; and with that he contented himself, and discoursed to Sancho about the ghosts, while Rozinante and the ass were saddled. Then Sancho mounted his ass and took Rozinante’s rein, the priest meanwhile giving the troopers a few pence a day to ride by the ox-cart as far as Don Quixote’s native village.
After allowing Don Quixote to bid farewell to the good people gathered at the inn door, the priest, still masked, gave the signal to the driver, and the cart drawn by the oxen started at a foot’s pace. The troopers rode on each side to guard it, and behind them came Sancho riding on his ass, leading Rozinante, while the priest and the barber, mounted on a pair of fine mules, brought up the rear.
They journeyed in silence for some time, till the driver of the ox-cart, who was a lazy fellow, called a halt as he himself wished to rest, and the grass was rich and green for the oxen. Soon they were joined by a company of well-dressed men on horseback, who stopped in surprise on seeing such a strange sight as that of a man in a cage. The leader of the party, who made himself known to them as a canon of Toledo, entered into conversation with the captive knight. Don Quixote informed him that he was enchanted by reason of envy of his glorious deeds, which was denied by Sancho Panza, who declared that when he was at liberty his master ate, drank, and slept like other people, and if no one hindered him would talk more than thirty lawyers.
The canon and his friends rode on with the priest for some distance, as he desired greatly to hear the tale of Don Quixote’s adventures, for never before had he met with such a strange man. In the heat of the day they again rested in a shady spot, and here, at the petition of the squire, Don Quixote was unloosed from his bonds and set at liberty.
For a while he was content to pass the hours of his journey in hearing and telling of matters of chivalry, rejoicing to find himself once more on the back of Rozinante. But unfortunately the sight of a procession of men in white approaching him stirred up all his anger, for, as was his custom, he instantly divined that they were assembled for some unlawful purpose, though in sooth they were a body of penitents praying that rain might fall upon their thirsty land. He dashed up to battle, followed by Sancho on foot, who arrived just at the moment that his master fell to the ground stunned by a tremendous blow. The penitents who formed the procession, seeing so many men running up, received them with fists and candlesticks, but when one of them cast his eyes on the priest who was journeying with Don Quixote he found that he had known him formerly, and begged him to tell what all this might mean.
By the time the story was told Don Quixote’s wits began to return to him, and he called to Sancho to put him back into the cage, as he had been nigh dead, and could not hold himself on Rozinante.
‘With all my heart,’ answered Sancho, thankful that the adventure had ended no worse; ‘and if these gentlemen will do us the honour to go with us, we will return home and there make plans for adventures that will bring us more profit and glory.’
The villagers were all gathered together in the great square, when at the end of six days a cage containing a man passed through their midst. The people pressed close to see who the captive might be, and when they saw it was Don Quixote, they sent a boy to tell his housekeeper and his niece that the knight had come back looking pale and lean from his wanderings.
Loud were the cries raised by the good women when they saw him in so sorry a plight, and they undressed him and put him to bed with what speed they were able.
‘Keep him there as long as you may,’ said the priest who had brought him; but it is whispered that this period of rest and repose did not last, and that soon Don Quixote might have been seen again mounted on Rozinante and seeking adventures.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11