When night comes, the two friends have neither food nor a place to sleep. Suddenly they notice lights coming at them from a distance. Soon they see a group of figures in white carrying torches and a plank covered in a black mourning cloth, and followed by six men on mules. Imagining this is an adventure from his books, Quixote approaches them and tells them his duty is “either to punish you for the wrong you have done or to avenge you for the wrong done you.” The riders brush him off, so Quixote grabs one of their mules by the bridle, which makes the mule and rider fall over. The riders shout insults at him, so he charges the whole group, wounding many people and scattering the rest, who seem to be unarmed.
The world in Quixote’s eyes is divided into the wrongdoers and the wronged, along with a few knight-avengers. Quixote believes that everyone he meets requires either punishment or help. This misconception, too, derives from the particularities of the chivalry books he loves: nearly every plot point in such books is a knight battling evil, helping the innocent, or loving chastely. In making Quixote’s life imitate art, Cervantes is satirizing the omissions and naiveté of chivalry books. But perhaps Cervantes is also praising Quixote for his faithful reading.
One of the fallen figures tells Quixote that he is a student and priest who has come with eleven other priests to bring a dead body to its funeral. The man died of fever, and Quixote is satisfied that he does not have to avenge his death. The man thinks that Quixote has done not good but harm, because he has maimed many innocent people, but Quixote explains that he had no choice but to attack a group that looked so suspicious. Sancho takes some of the group’s food and decides to rename his master Knight of the Sorry Face, because he looks very pathetic at that moment. They walk a little, settle down in a valley, and make a nice meal of the priests’ food.
Once again, Quixote has insulted and hurt a group of defenseless priests. As readers, we feel sorry for everyone involved. But it’s important to note that priests are not entirely innocent in this novel; remember the priest from Quixote’s village who burned Quixote’s books. Quixote’s explanation shows that he feels compelled to act impulsively, confusing impetuousness with courage.