But ere he had gone far on his way, coming from a thicket he fancied that he heard cries of distress.
“Certainly these are the moans of some poor creature in want of help,” thought Don Quixote. “I thank Heaven for so soon giving me the chance to perform my duty as a knight.”
And he rode quickly towards the sounds. No sooner had he reached the wood than he saw a horse tied to a tree, and bound to another was a lad of fifteen, all naked above the waist. By his side stood a countryman beating him with a strap, and with every blow calling out, “I’ll teach you to keep your eyes open, you young scamp. I’ll teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
The boy howled with pain. Quickly Don Quixote rode up to the man.
“Sir Knight,” said he angrily, “I would have thee to know that it is an unworthy act to strike one who cannot defend himself. Mount thy steed, therefore, take thy spear, and I will teach thee that thou art a coward.”
The countryman gave himself up for lost, and he gasped out very humbly that the boy was his servant, through whose carelessness many of the sheep that he should have watched had been lost, and that therefore he was giving him a sound beating. “And,” said he, “because I beat him for his carelessness, he says I do it to cheat him out of his wages.”
“What!” shouted Don Quixote, “do you dare to lie to me? By the sun above us, I have a mind to run you through with my spear. Pay the boy this instant, and let him go free. What does he owe you, boy?”
The boy said that the man owed him nine months’ wages.
“Pay at once, you scoundrel, unless you want to be killed,” roared Don Quixote.
The poor man, trembling with fear, said that there was a mistake; he did not owe nearly so much, and besides, he had no money with him. But if Andres would go home with him he would pay every penny.
“Go home with him!” cried the boy. “I know a trick worth two of that. No sooner will he have me home than he’ll take the skin off me. No, no, not I!”
“He will not dare to touch you,” said the Knight. “I command him, and that is enough. If he swears by his order of knighthood to do this thing, I will let him go, and he will pay you your wages.”
“Of course I will,” said the man. “Come along with me. Andres, and I swear I’ll give you all I owe.”
“Remember, then, what you have promised, for I am Don Quixote de la Mancha, the righter of wrongs, and it is at your peril to disobey me.”
So saying, Don Quixote clapped spurs to his horse, and galloped off through the trees.
The countryman watched till the Knight was out of sight. Then, turning, he said “Come, my lad, and I’ll pay thee what I owe, and more.”
“Ay,” answered the boy, “see that you do, for if you do not, that brave man will come back and make you.”
“I dare swear that,” said the man. “And just to show how much I love you, I am going to increase the debt, so that I may pay you more. Come here!”