Curious to learn more about the Knight of the White Moon, Don Antonio follows him to his lodging. "I am the bachelor Carrasco," answers the knight. "I live in the same town with Don Quixote." He tells of his first attempt to vanquish the knight, and says Samson, to retrieve my credit, I made this second attempt and have now succeeded. He packs his armor on a mule and slowly rides homeward. Don Quixote, meanwhile, melancholy and out of humor, keeps to his bed, with Sancho trying to comfort him. The knight says that after a year's retirement he shall again take up his profession. Don Antonio now enters the room, telling them of the Don Gaspar's successful escape from prison. The lovers are reunited, and the Viceroy now promises Ricote to petition the king and gain permission for him and his family to remain in Spain. Two days after this joyful scene, Don Quixote, his armor piled on Dapple, rides Rosinante slowly homeward, Sancho walking beside him.
On their fourth day of travel, they encounter a group of peasants disputing in front of an inn. The argument is between a fat and a skinny rival who intend to run a race. The three-hundred-pound challenger insists that the other man carry a heavy load in order to equalize their weights during the race. Sancho is asked to render judgment. Being experienced at this, he decides: "The challenger, so big and fat, must cut, pare, slice, or shave off a hundred and fifty pounds of his flesh," and then they can run an equal race. The peasants approve the judgment, and Don Quixote and his wise squire continue on their way. The next person they meet is Tosilos, the duke's footman. For his desire to marry Rodriguez's daughter, the duke had him flogged, packed off the girl to a nunnery, and released the duenna from his service. So terminated one of Don Quixote's most successful adventures.
Don Quixote asks Sancho if Tosilos gave out any news about Altisidora. They discourse until they arrive at the place where the bulls had trampled them. Don Quixote reveals to Sancho how he will live a pastoral life. He shall buy a flock of sheep and call himself the Shepherd Quixotis, Sancho the Shepherd Pansino, with suitable names for the curate, the barber, and the bachelor. Sancho is agreeable to try this new way of life, and they converse in this manner for a while. As it is getting late, however, they make shift with a slender meal and prepare to sleep in a field by the roadside.
Don Quixote again suffers a restless night from thinking of Dulcinea's enchantment. He awakens Sancho and suggests the squire give himself three or four hundred lashes toward the disenchantment of his peerless mistress. While they are arguing, they suddenly hear grunts and squeals resounding through the valley. More than six hundred swine come rushing out of the darkness, trampling the men and their beasts. While Sancho is full of curses, Don Quixote passively accepts the occurrence as a just disgrace for a vanquished knight-errant. They resume their journey and encounter some armed horsemen who take them as prisoners in a different direction. As night falls, the knight and squire are really frightened, but after an hour or so of riding in the dark, the company arrives at the ducal castle.
A carefully constructed tableau greets the startled gaze of knight and squire. Lit with flickering tapers, the stage centers on a huge tomb covered with black velvet on which lies the body of a beautiful damsel. Nearby are enthroned two theatrically attired kings whom Don Quixote recognizes as the duke and duchess. With a closer look, he also sees that the maiden is none other than Altisidora, dead of a broken heart. Now a young lad steps to the side of the tomb, singing a dirge which tells of Altisidora's hopeless passion and her sad end. Two other actors speak lines which tell that Sancho alone has the power to restore the maiden back to life if he accept the penance of being twitched and pinched on the face by six waiting-women and pricked by pins in his arms and backside. Overruled in all his panicked objections, poor Sancho suffers the duennas to come solemnly forth. After a few pinches, Altisidora finally stirs, awakens, and steps down from her tomb.
Cid Hamet now relates to the reader the background of these strange events. After his defeat as the Knight of the Mirrors, Samson Carrasco followed Don Quixote, thinking to find him at the duke's castle where he learned that the knight just left for Saragossa. The duke asked Samson to stop by on his way home and give him the news of his encounter with Don Quixote. This Samson did, and the duke posted his servants on all the roads that Don Quixote would be liable to take. Funeral preparations were made as soon as the duke received word that his servants were returning with the knight. Returning to Don Quixote, the author describes how the knight awakens to find Altisidora in his room. Seating herself next to his bed (he covers his head with the blankets), she sighs and speaks of her desperate love for the hero. She also describes a fanciful scene which Altisidora says happened while she was in Hell. The devils were playing tennis, with books instead of tennis balls, especially abusing a shameful volume called the Second Part of the History of Don Quixote, which the fiends thought even they could have written better. Some musicians and a poet come to talk with Don Quixote, and then the duke and duchess enter his chamber. Don Quixote advises the duke that Altisidora has not enough to occupy her, and that is why she wastes her time worrying about an unsuccessful love. After a dinner with their noble hosts, Don Quixote and Sancho take their leave.
Don Quixote, more convinced then ever at Sancho's natural talents for disenchanting and resurrecting, asks his squire to begin the lashings at a certain price per lash. Sancho, reckoning a reasonable fee, immediately and eagerly whips himself. After a few smarts, however, he retires out of sight and whips the trees instead, moaning at every few strokes. Don Quixote, who keeps count, can bear his squire's sufferings no longer and begs him to stop. The next inn they find lodging at is recognized by the Don to be an inn, not a castle.
At the inn, they meet a man named Don Alvaro Tarfe whom the knight recognizes as a character in Avellaneda's book. Don Alvaro tells him that he accompanied Don Quixote to the tournament at Saragossa. The true hero convinces him that he accompanied two pretenders, and he asks Don Alvaro to make a deposition to this effect: "That the said Don Quixote was not the same person as the one mentioned in a certain printed history written by Avellaneda." That night, Sancho ends his penance among some other trees while Don Quixote scans the face of every woman he passes in order to find the disenchanted Dulcinea. Without realizing it, they suddenly discover themselves on a hilltop overlooking their native valley.