Don Diego tries to warn Quixote that the cart is probably carrying royal property and ought not be tampered with, but Quixote thinks that everything that comes his way is an adventure. During his master’s long speech, Sancho had wandered off to buy curds from some shepherds. When Quixote calls him over he finds no place to put the curds except his master’s helmet. And when his master puts it on to prepare for battle, the curds run down over his face, so that he thinks his brain is melting out of his ears. He is angry to realize that the liquid is curds, but Sancho swears that the devil himself must have put them there.
Just when Quixote is proud and dignified, pleased at his recent victory and waxing eloquent about the nature of poetry, Sancho gets sour cheese slime all over his face. Every time, Quixote falls from grace – not morally, but spiritually. When he assumes that the curds are his melted brains, we see that he too has become anxious about his sanity.
When the cart drives by them, Quixote asks them about the purpose of their journey. The driver explains that he is delivering crates containing two wild lions to the king of Spain. Quixote asks him to release the lions so that he can prove his courage by defeating them. He ignores the green man’s prudent warnings and forces the driver to open the crates. The driver asks if he can first take himself and his animals to a safe distance, and Sancho and Don Diego follow suit. “O you of little faith!” says he in response to the other men’s fear.
Quixote’s phrase rings familiarly in the reader’s ears. “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” says Jesus to his followers in the gospel of Matthew, and then he calms a storm. Consciously or not, Quixote tells the others he is about to perform a miracle. But his miracle is not supernatural; it is a secular miracle, an act of courage.
As the keeper prepares to open the crate, the author exclaims in praise of Quixote’s bravery. The first crate contains an enormous lion, which yawns, looks at Don Quixote, and turns its back languorously. Don Quixote and the other men count this a glorious victory, and Sancho renames him Knight of the Lions. Don Diego says to himself that Quixote speaks very sensibly but acts quite insanely. Quixote hears or intuits these thoughts and admits that his actions appear mad, but he points out that “it is a fine sight” to see a knight acting bravely, helping others, and seeking adventures. He adds that it is better to seem foolhardy than cowardly. After travelling for a few hours, they reach Don Diego’s house.
Chance saves Quixote from a gruesome death. All the onlookers agree that the important thing is not the lion’s indifference or the brevity of the “battle” – Quixote’s courage is central, and defines the event as a victory. In other words, it is not circumstances that define a person but that person’s beliefs and choices. Quixote belief in individual agency is contagious. Yet Quixote himself, here, is newly preoccupied with appearances: he imagines that he is a “fine sight” for others.