Much against the grain, and very slowly, Sancho proceeded to mount, and, after settling himself as well as he could on the croup, found it rather hard, and not at all soft, and asked the duke if it would be possible to oblige him with a pad of some kind, or a cushion; even if it were off the couch of his lady the duchess, or the bed of one of the pages; as the haunches of that horse were more like marble than wood. On this the Trifaldi observed that Clavileno would not bear any kind of harness or trappings, and that his best plan would be to sit sideways like a woman, as in that way he would not feel the hardness so much.
Sancho did so, and, bidding them farewell, allowed his eyes to be bandaged, but immediately afterwards uncovered them again, and looking tenderly and tearfully on those in the garden, bade them help him in his present strait with plenty of Paternosters and Ave Marias, that God might provide some one to say as many for them, whenever they found themselves in a similar emergency.
At this Don Quixote exclaimed, "Art thou on the gallows, thief, or at thy last moment, to use pitiful entreaties of that sort? Cowardly, spiritless creature, art thou not in the very place the fair Magalona occupied, and from which she descended, not into the grave, but to become Queen of France; unless the histories lie? And I who am here beside thee, may I not put myself on a par with the valiant Pierres, who pressed this very spot that I now press? Cover thine eyes, cover thine eyes, abject animal, and let not thy fear escape thy lips, at least in my presence."
"Blindfold me," said Sancho; "as you won't let me commend myself or be commended to God, is it any wonder if I am afraid there is a region of devils about here that will carry us off to Peralvillo?"
They were then blindfolded, and Don Quixote, finding himself settled to his satisfaction, felt for the peg, and the instant he placed his fingers on it, all the duennas and all who stood by lifted up their voices exclaiming, "God guide thee, valiant knight! God be with thee, intrepid squire! Now, now ye go cleaving the air more swiftly than an arrow! Now ye begin to amaze and astonish all who are gazing at you from the earth! Take care not to wobble about, valiant Sancho! Mind thou fall not, for thy fall will be worse than that rash youth's who tried to steer the chariot of his father the Sun!"
As Sancho heard the voices, clinging tightly to his master and winding his arms round him, he said, "Senor, how do they make out we are going up so high, if their voices reach us here and they seem to be speaking quite close to us?"
"Don't mind that, Sancho," said Don Quixote; "for as affairs of this sort, and flights like this are out of the common course of things, you can see and hear as much as you like a thousand leagues off; but don't squeeze me so tight or thou wilt upset me; and really I know not what thou hast to be uneasy or frightened at, for I can safely swear I never mounted a smoother-going steed all the days of my life; one would fancy we never stirred from one place. Banish fear, my friend, for indeed everything is going as it ought, and we have the wind astern."
"That's true," said Sancho, "for such a strong wind comes against me on this side, that it seems as if people were blowing on me with a thousand pair of bellows;" which was the case; they were puffing at him with a great pair of bellows; for the whole adventure was so well planned by the duke, the duchess, and their majordomo, that nothing was omitted to make it perfectly successful.
Don Quixote now, feeling the blast, said, "Beyond a doubt, Sancho, we must have already reached the second region of the air, where the hail and snow are generated; the thunder, the lightning, and the thunderbolts are engendered in the third region, and if we go on ascending at this rate, we shall shortly plunge into the region of fire, and I know not how to regulate this peg, so as not to mount up where we shall be burned."
And now they began to warm their faces, from a distance, with tow that could be easily set on fire and extinguished again, fixed on the end of a cane. On feeling the heat Sancho said, "May I die if we are not already in that fire place, or very near it, for a good part of my beard has been singed, and I have a mind, senor, to uncover and see whereabouts we are."
"Do nothing of the kind," said Don Quixote; "remember the true story of the licentiate Torralva that the devils carried flying through the air riding on a stick with his eyes shut; who in twelve hours reached Rome and dismounted at Torre di Nona, which is a street of the city, and saw the whole sack and storming and the death of Bourbon, and was back in Madrid the next morning, where he gave an account of all he had seen; and he said moreover that as he was going through the air, the devil bade him open his eyes, and he did so, and saw himself so near the body of the moon, so it seemed to him, that he could have laid hold of it with his hand, and that he did not dare to look at the earth lest he should be seized with giddiness. So that, Sancho, it will not do for us to uncover ourselves, for he who has us in charge will be responsible for us; and perhaps we are gaining an altitude and mounting up to enable us to descend at one swoop on the kingdom of Kandy, as the saker or falcon does on the heron, so as to seize it however high it may soar; and though it seems to us not half an hour since we left the garden, believe me we must have travelled a great distance."
"I don't know how that may be," said Sancho; "all I know is that if the Senora Magallanes or Magalona was satisfied with this croup, she could not have been very tender of flesh."
The duke, the duchess, and all in the garden were listening to the conversation of the two heroes, and were beyond measure amused by it; and now, desirous of putting a finishing touch to this rare and well-contrived adventure, they applied a light to Clavileno's tail with some tow, and the horse, being full of squibs and crackers, immediately blew up with a prodigious noise, and brought Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to the ground half singed. By this time the bearded band of duennas, the Trifaldi and all, had vanished from the garden, and those that remained lay stretched on the ground as if in a swoon. Don Quixote and Sancho got up rather shaken, and, looking about them, were filled with amazement at finding themselves in the same garden from which they had started, and seeing such a number of people stretched on the ground; and their astonishment was increased when at one side of the garden they perceived a tall lance planted in the ground, and hanging from it by two cords of green silk a smooth white parchment on which there was the following inscription in large gold letters: "The illustrious knight Don Quixote of La Mancha has, by merely attempting it, finished and concluded the adventure of the Countess Trifaldi, otherwise called the Distressed Duenna; Malambruno is now satisfied on every point, the chins of the duennas are now smooth and clean, and King Don Clavijo and Queen Antonomasia in their original form; and when the squirely flagellation shall have been completed, the white dove shall find herself delivered from the pestiferous gerfalcons that persecute her, and in the arms of her beloved mate; for such is the decree of the sage Merlin, arch-enchanter of enchanters."
As soon as Don Quixote had read the inscription on the parchment he perceived clearly that it referred to the disenchantment of Dulcinea, and returning hearty thanks to heaven that he had with so little danger achieved so grand an exploit as to restore to their former complexion the countenances of those venerable duennas, he advanced towards the duke and duchess, who had not yet come to themselves, and taking the duke by the hand he said, "Be of good cheer, worthy sir, be of good cheer; it's nothing at all; the adventure is now over and without any harm done, as the inscription fixed on this post shows plainly."