As they ride away, Don Quixote says that the enchanters must have stopped him from helping Sancho, and Sancho says that with all these enchanters and misadventures maybe they should go home and look after the harvest. Quixote says that there’s no pleasure like defeating an enemy, but Sancho counters that their only pleasures have been awful beatings. Suddenly they see two dust clouds approaching them from either direction; they are herds of sheep, but Don Quixote thinks they are armies. Quixote takes a story from one of the books to explain the battle.
Quixote sees their adventures thus far in a golden light – the imaginary halo of how they should be, how they will be, and all they represent. For him, even the painful and humiliating adventures are colored pink by good intentions. But Sancho can’t see this halo very well. He only sees a series of pathetic series of beatings and absurdities.
“Seeing in his imagination what he didn’t see and what didn’t exist,” Don Quixote describes in great detail the soldiers not approaching them, as Sancho listens with excitement. Suddenly, though, he hears sheep bleating and becomes suspicious. Don Quixote charges at the sheep and the shepherds pelt him with stones. A stone bruises his ribs and some others smash his potion bottle, some teeth and some fingers. He slides off his horse, and the shepherds ride away. Don Quixote explains to Sancho that enchanters turned the armies into sheep to spite him. Quixote had had a little of the balsam before it shattered, and both of the friends throw up – one from the emetic, the other from disgust.
Quixote does and does not see: seeing what is not there is a hallmark of madness, but Quixote also sees what is, in some sense, there – he is looking at a picture in his mind’s eye. His complete faith in this picture is a hallmark of his insanity, because it marks his inability to distinguish fantasy from reality; but it also presents itself as a kind of sanity, because it is sane to believe in something one so sees so clearly.
Sancho decides to leave Don Quixote and go home. The knight perceives his squire’s unhappiness and assures him that better times are ahead. They realize that the saddlebags are missing, so they have nothing to eat. Sancho asks Quixote to gather the nuts and berries he’s always talking about, but Quixote admits that he’d rather have bread and fish. He laments his many missing teeth and they set off to find a place to sleep.
Sancho’s faith in Quixote’s imaginary world is wavering – it has been waning and waxing ever since they set out. Quixote is a little down at heart as well. He sets his sights on earth for a little while, thinking about bread, fish, teeth, and sleep.