Don Quixote's Home-coming
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 Quixot
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
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.