Quixote says Sancho must have found Dulcinea sorting gold or pearls, but Sancho pretends that she was sieving buckwheat in the yard. When Quixote says she must have been lofty, Sancho says she was even taller than he is; when Quixote says she must smell exquisitely, Sancho says she was a little sweaty. Sancho also tells Quixote that Dulcinea tore up the letter and requested that he come see her at once. Instead of the traditional jewel, he says, she gave him bread and cheese. Quixote decides to go see Dulcinea as soon as he helps the princess.
The heart of the book is Sancho and Quixote’s conversations, their affectionate and quarrelsome back-and-forth. Their conversations pick out a tenuous middle ground between the real and the imaginary, even when they can’t find that middle ground themselves. Sancho’s description evokes Dulcinea’s virility, which Quixote sublimates into femininity.
Sancho asks him why he embarrasses the discreet Dulcinea by sending all these people to her to speak of Quixote’s love, and Quixote explains that a knight’s love is chaste; a knight expects nothing in return for his valor. Sancho remarks that one’s love for god is meant to be similarly pure and selfless, though he prefers a love that yields some rewards. Don Quixote compliments his good sense with amazement.
Quixote’s love for Aldonza/Dulcinea might in reality resemble Fernando’s lust for Dorotea – a gentleman’s lust for a peasant girl, a recurring literary trope. But Quixote transforms that earthly passion into a completely platonic love.
In a little while, the company sits down to eat. Suddenly a boy runs down from the road and hugs Quixote’s legs in tears – it is the shepherd boy that had been tied to a tree and beaten by his master. Quixote tells the story to the others, noting how necessary knight-errantry is in this day and age. But the boy points out that after Quixote left his enraged master beat him so badly he spent months in the hospital. Quixote decides that his mistake was leaving the scene too soon, and vows to punish the cruel master – just after he fulfills his vow to the princess. Sancho gives the boy some bread and cheese, and Andrés asks Quixote never to help him ever again and curses him as rushes away.
In these chapters, Quixote is often confronted with the negative consequences of his actions. By trying to protect the shepherd boy, he caused him to receive a much more vicious beating and to lose his job. But unlike earlier, Quixote takes responsibility for the negative consequences of his well-intentioned interference. He decides to punish the boy’s master – if not to undo the harm he has unwillingly caused, the at least to avenge it.