So weary were he and his squire, that one night, when they had ridden into a wood, and it chanced that the horse and the ass stood still, both Don Quixote and Sancho Panza fell sound asleep without even getting out of their saddles. There sat the Knight, leaning on his lance; and Sancho, doubled over the pommel, snored as loud as if he had been in a four-post feather bed.
It happened that a wandering thief saw them as he passed.
“Now,” thought he, “I want something to ride upon, for I’m tired of walking in these abominable mountains. Here’s a chance of a good ass. But how am I to get it, without waking its master?”
Very quietly he cut four long sticks. One after the other he placed these under each side of Sancho’s saddle; then loosening the girths, he gradually raised the sticks till the saddle was clear of the animal’s back.
Gently, in the moonlight, he led the tired ass away, and Sancho, undisturbed, snored on.
When it was broad daylight, the squire awoke, and without opening his eyes, stretched himself. Down fell the sticks; down with a terrible bump fell Sancho.
“Body o’ me!” he yelled, “where is my ass?” And with many tears he searched high and low, but no ass was then to be found, nor for many months afterwards. And how at last Sancho got back the ass you must read for yourself in the History of Don Quixote. For yourself, too, you must read of Don Quixote’s adventures in the mountains; how he there did penance; and of many other things, till at last the Curate and the Barber of La Mancha took him home in a cart which the Knight believed to be an enchanted chariot.
HOW DON QUIXOTE SAW DULCINEA
Now a third time did Don Quixote set off on his search for adventures, and as he and Sancho Panza rode again away from their village, it seemed to Don Quixote that certainly it was his duty as a knight-errant to visit the Mistress of his Heart, the beautiful Dulcinea.
It was midnight when they reached Toboso, and the whole town was still, everybody in bed and asleep.
“Lead me to her palace, Sancho,” said Don Quixote.
“Palace?” cried Sancho, “What palace do you mean? Body o’ me! When last I saw her, she lived in a little cottage in a blind alley. And even if it were a palace, we can’t go and thunder at the door at this time o’ night.”
“When we find it, I will tell thee what to do. But, here! What is this?” said the Knight, riding up to a huge building, and knocking at the door. “This indeed, without doubt, must be her palace.”
But it was only the great Church of Toboso. Hunt as he would, he found no Dulcinea’s palace, and as morning began to break, Sancho persuaded him to come and rest in a grove of trees two miles outside the town. From there Sancho was again sent to look for Dulcinea, bearing many messages from his sorrowful master.