After lunch, Quixote describes his adventure. About thirty yards from the bottom of the cave, he decided to rest in a little alcove and suddenly fell asleep. He woke up to see a beautiful field and a castle of crystal. An old man in a purple cloak came towards him, telling him that the enchanted inhabitants of the castle have waited for his arrival for a long time. The old man, who is Montesinos himself, told Quixote that he once cut out his friend Durandarte’s heart to bring it to lady Belerma – a story Quixote had read in a chivalry book.
Quixote’s story about the Cave of Montesinos in many details resembles a story he once told Sancho, in which a knight dives into a frightening lake and finds himself in a beautiful kingdom full of flowers and pretty girls. The adventure confirms all of Quixote’s expectations about life as a knight-errant, and affirms his usefulness and importance.
He took Quixote into a room in the palace, where the dead knight Durandante lay sighing and asking Montesinos to cut out his heart. Montesinos explained that the great enchanter Merlin has trapped the knight, his squire, Lady Belerma and many others inside the cave. He said to Durandante that he cut out his heart long ago, just as he’d asked, and that he has brought with him the great knight Don Quixote, who has come to revive the practice of knight-errantry. A strange-looking Lady Belerma joined them, and Montesinos explained that her suffering has robbed of her great beauty.
Just as Quixote suspected throughout the book, an evil enchanter is responsible for everyone’s troubles. This part of the story accords perfectly with chivalry romances, except for one detail: the tragic beloved, Lady Belerma, is not beautiful – she is quite ugly. The comic, absurd adventures of the novel have changed Quixote’s worldview: he has created a place for ugliness and disharmony.
The guide wonders how Quixote could have seen so much in the span of thirty minutes, but Quixote explains that he was there for three days and three nights. Sancho does not believe Quixote’s story, but he doesn’t suggest that his master’s lying: rather, he thinks Merlin put the memories in his head. But Quixote insists that everything he described is real. He even saw the enchanted Dulcinea and the other two peasant girls playing in the fields. Sancho, who invented this enchantment, almost laughs out loud. Quixote tells them that one of Dulcinea’s maids asked Quixote to lend her mistress some money, and Quixote gave her all he had. Sancho is sad that enchanters have stolen his master’s sanity.
Quixote either invents or dreams the adventure in the cave. We have been tracing the path of his imaginative decline and disenchantment, and this (conscious or subconscious) invention marks an important fall. He has been disappointed with his sallies, and he has tired of trying to align his imagination with reality, so he invents an adventure that does correspond perfectly his imagination. He is trying to cut ties with reality.