And with that he caught the boy by the arm, tied him again to the tree, and belted him till his arm was tired.
“Now go,” he said, “and tell your righter of wrongs. I wish I had flayed you alive, you young whelp.”
And so ended Don Quixote’s first attempt to right wrongs.
As the Knight cantered along, very well pleased with himself, about two miles from where he had freed the boy he saw riding towards him six men, each shading himself under a large umbrella. With them were four mounted servants, and three on foot.
No sooner did Don Quixote see this party than it struck him that here was the chance for which, above all others, he had been longing.
Posting himself in the middle of the road, he waited till the men were at no great distance. Then, “Halt!” shouted he. “Let all know that no man shall pass further till he owns that in the whole world there is no damsel more beautiful than the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso.”
“But,” said the men (who were merchants of Toledo, on their way to buy silks), “we do not know the lady. We have never seen her. How then can we say that she is beautiful?”
“What!” roared Don Quixote in a terrible rage, “not know the beauteous Lady Dulcinea del Toboso! That only makes matters worse. Do you dare to argue?”
And with that he couched his spear, drove his spurs into “Rozinante,” and rode furiously at the nearest merchant.
What he would have done it is not possible to say. But as he galloped, it chanced that “Rozinante” stumbled and fell heavily, rolling Don Quixote over and over. There the Knight lay helpless, the weight of his armor preventing him from rising to his feet. But as he lay, he continued to cry out at the top of his voice, “Stop, you rascals! Do not fly. It is my horse’s fault that I lie here, you cowards!”
One of the grooms, hearing his master called a rascal and a coward, thereupon ran up and snatched away Don Quixote’s spear, which he broke in pieces. Then with each piece he belabored the poor Knight till the broken lance flew into splinters. The merchants then rode away, leaving Don Quixote lying where he fell, still shouting threats, but quite unable to rise.
There he was found by a man who knew him well, and who with great difficulty mounted him on his donkey and took him home. When at last they reached Don Quixote’s house, the poor Knight was put to bed, where he lay for many days, raving, and very ill.
During this time the Curate of the village and the Barber came and burned nearly all the books which Don Quixote had so loved.
“For,” said they, “it is by reading these books that the poor gentleman has lost his mind, and if he reads them again he will never get better.”
So a bonfire was made of the books, and the door of Don Quixote’s study was bricked up.
When the Knight was again able to go about, he made at once for his study and his beloved books. Up and down the house he searched without saying a word, and often he would stand where the door of the study used to be, feeling with his hands and gazing about. At last he asked his housekeeper to show him the study.