Don Quixote tells the goatherd that he would rescue Leandra from the convent right away, were he not engaged in another quest. The goatherd says that Quixote must be mad to speak this way and they have a very messy food fight on the picnic blanket. The fighting is interrupted by the sound of a trumpet. The people of the nearby village have been holding public rain prayers, and a group of penitents in white carrying a holy image comes toward the company. Quixote imagines that the image is an abducted lady and charges at the penitents. When he orders them to set the lady free, they realize that he is a madman and begin laughing. One penitent comes over to Don Quixote, splits his sword in two with a cudgel, smashes his shoulder, and throws him to the ground.
We are coming to the end of the first part of the novel. It is important to remember that, originally, the novel ended here; Quixote did not publish the second part until 1615, a decade later. Most scholars agree that he did not initially plan to write a second part. Quixote’s final fight of the original novel is not a silly food fight, but a true fight: it is as filled with misplaced nobility and illusion as the best of them. We are glad that Quixote gets to come home wounded in battle, not confined to a cage.
Sancho sees that his master is not moving and begins crying, lamenting, and singing his praises: he was brave, generous, humble, “imitator of the good, scourge of the wicked.” Don Quixote wakes up and agrees to come back to the village while his shoulder heals. They arrive six days later. The story ends here, because the author has not been able to find any reliable information about Quixote’s third sally. He did find a lead casket full of poems about Dulcinea, Rocinante, Sancho, and Don Quixote, written by a ridiculous group called “The Academicians of Argamasilla.”
Sancho’s moving soliloquy paints a loving, contradictory picture of Quixote: a strange mixture of the admirable and the comic, the good and the pathetic. Sancho describes Quixote both as he wishes to be and as he appears to the rest of the world, both his big-hearted intentions and his impractical fumbling. He paints a picture of Quixote that brings the imaginary and the real worlds together, and that establishes Quixote as real in between them.