AT the earliest break of day, Don Quixote made ready to ride out in quest of adventures. He buckled on his armor. He took his lance and his shield in his hands. His gallant steed, Rozinante, stood saddled and bridled at the door of the inn.
He again embraced the innkeeper. "Farewell, thou greatest of my benefactors," he cried. "May heaven bless thee for having made me a knight."
Then, with the help of a groom, he mounted and rode forth into the world.
Right gayly did he ride. For he felt that he was now in truth a knight, and his mind was filled with lofty thoughts.
Right gayly also did Rozinante canter along the highway, and proudly did he hold his head. For did he not know that he was carrying the bravest of brave men?
They had gone but a little way when Don Quixote suddenly remembered the innkeeper's command to provide himself with money, clean shirts, and some salve.
"The command must be obeyed," he said. "I must go home and get those necessary things."
So he turned his horse's head and took the first byroad that led towards his village. And now Rozinante seemed to have new life put into his lean body. He sniffed the air and trotted so fast that his heels seemed scarcely to touch the ground.
"This is after the manner of heroes," said Don Quixote. "Yet I still lack one thing. I need a faithful squire to ride with me and serve me. All the knights I have ever read about had squires who followed in their footsteps and looked on while they were fighting. I think, therefore, that while I am providing myself with money and shirts, I will also get me a squire."
Presently, as they were passing through a lonely place, the knight fancied that he heard distressing cries. They seemed to come from the midst of a woody thicket near the roadside.
"I thank Heaven for this lucky moment," he said to himself. "I shall now have an adventure. No doubt I shall rescue some one who is in peril, or I shall correct some grievous wrong."
He put spurs to Rozinante and rode as fast as he could to the spot from which the cries seemed to issue.
At the edge of the woody thicket he saw a horse tied to a small oak tree. Not far away, a lad of about fifteen years was tied to another oak. The lad's shoulders and back were bare, and it was he who was making the doleful outcry. For a stout country fellow was standing over him and beating him unmercifully with a horsewhip.
"Hold! hold!" cried Don Quixote, rushing up. "It is an unmanly act to strike a person who cannot strike back."
The farmer was frightened at the sudden appearance of a knight on horseback. He dropped his whip. He stood with open mouth and trembling hands, not knowing what to expect.
"Come, sir," said Don Quixote, sternly. "Take your lance, mount your horse, and we will settle this matter by a trial of arms."
The farmer answered him very humbly. "Sir Knight," he said, "this boy is my servant, and his business is to watch my sheep. But he is lazy and careless, and I have lost half of my flock through his neglect."
"What of that?" said Don Quixote. "You have no right to beat him, when you know he cannot beat you."
"I beat him only to make a better boy of him," answered the farmer. "He will tell you that I do it to cheat him out of his wages: but he tells lies even while I am correcting him."
"What! what!" cried Don Quixote. "Do you give him the lie right here before my face? I have a good mind to run you through the body with my lance. Untie the boy and pay him his money. Obey me this instant, and let me not hear one word of excuse from you."
The farmer, pale with fear, loosed the boy from the cords which bound him to the tree.
"Now, my young man," said Don Quixote, "how much does this fellow owe you?"
"He owes me nine months' wages at seven dollars a month," was the answer.
"Nine times seven are sixty-three," said the knight. "Sir, you owe this lad sixty-three dollars. If you wish to save your life pay it at once."
The farmer was now more alarmed than before. He fell upon his knees. He lifted his hands, imploring mercy. He sobbed with fright.
"Noble sir," he cried, "it is too much; for I have bought him three pairs of shoes at a dollar a pair; and twice when he was sick, I paid the doctor a dollar."
"That may be," answered Don Quixote, "but we will set those dollars against the beating you have given him without cause. Come, pay him the whole amount."
"I would gladly do so," said the farmer, "but I have not a penny in my pocket. If you will let the lad go home with me, I will pay him every dollar."
"Go home with him!" cried the lad. "Not I. Why, he would beat me to death and not pay me at all."
"He won't dare to do it," answered Don Quixote. "I have commanded him and he must obey. His money is at his house. I give him leave to go and get it. His honor as a knight will make him pay his debt to you."
"A knight!" said the lad. "He is no knight. He is only John Haldudo, the farmer."
"What of that?" said Don Quixote. "Why may not the Haldudos have a knight in the family?"
"Well, he is not much of a knight. A knight would pay his debts," said the lad.
"And he will pay you, for I have commanded him," said Don Quixote.
Then turning to the farmer, he said, "Go, and make sure that you obey me. I will come this way again soon, and if you have failed, I will punish you. I will find you out, even though you hide yourself as close as a lizard."
The farmer arose from his knees and was about to speak, but the knight would not listen.
"I will have no words from you," he said. "You have naught to do but to obey. And if you would ask who it is that commands you, know that I am the valorous Don Quixote de la Mancha, the righter of wrongs and the friend of the downtrodden. So, good-by!"
Having said this, he gave spurs to Rozinante and galloped away.
The farmer watched him until he was quite out of sight. Then he turned and called to the boy.
"Come, Andrew," he said. "Come to me now, and I will pay thee what I owe thee. I will obey this friend of the downtrodden."
"You will do well to obey him," said the boy. "He is a knight, and if you fail to pay me, he will come back and make things hot for you."
"Yes, I know," answered the farmer. "I will pay you well and show you how much I love you."
Then, without another word, he caught hold of the boy and again tied him to the tree. The boy yelled lustily, but Don Quixote was too far away to hear his cries. The farmer fell upon him and beat him with fists and sticks until he was almost dead. Finally he loosed him and let him go.
"Now, Andrew, find your friend of the downtrodden," he said. "Tell him how well I have paid you."
Poor Andrew said nothing. He hobbled slowly away, while the farmer mounted his horse and rode grimly homeward.
In the meanwhile, Don Quixote was speeding toward his own village. He was very much pleased with himself and with his first adventure as a knight.
"O Dulcinea, most beautiful of beauties," he cried, "well mayest thyself be happy. For thy knight has done a noble deed this day."
And thus he rode gallantly onward, his lance clanging against his coat of mail at every motion of his steed.