"Go your own way, brother," said Don Antonio, "and don't offer advice to those who don't ask you for it. Senor Don Quixote is in his full senses, and we who bear him company are not fools; virtue is to be honoured wherever it may be found; go, and bad luck to you, and don't meddle where you are not wanted."
"By God, your worship is right," replied the Castilian; "for to advise this good man is to kick against the pricks; still for all that it fills me with pity that the sound wit they say the blockhead has in everything should dribble away by the channel of his knight-errantry; but may the bad luck your worship talks of follow me and all my descendants, if, from this day forth, though I should live longer than Methuselah, I ever give advice to anybody even if he asks me for it."
The advice-giver took himself off, and they continued their stroll; but so great was the press of the boys and people to read the placard, that Don Antonio was forced to remove it as if he were taking off something else.
Night came and they went home, and there was a ladies' dancing party, for Don Antonio's wife, a lady of rank and gaiety, beauty and wit, had invited some friends of hers to come and do honour to her guest and amuse themselves with his strange delusions. Several of them came, they supped sumptuously, the dance began at about ten o'clock. Among the ladies were two of a mischievous and frolicsome turn, and, though perfectly modest, somewhat free in playing tricks for harmless diversion sake. These two were so indefatigable in taking Don Quixote out to dance that they tired him down, not only in body but in spirit. It was a sight to see the figure Don Quixote made, long, lank, lean, and yellow, his garments clinging tight to him, ungainly, and above all anything but agile.
The gay ladies made secret love to him, and he on his part secretly repelled them, but finding himself hard pressed by their blandishments he lifted up his voice and exclaimed, "Fugite, partes adversae! Leave me in peace, unwelcome overtures; avaunt, with your desires, ladies, for she who is queen of mine, the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso, suffers none but hers to lead me captive and subdue me;" and so saying he sat down on the floor in the middle of the room, tired out and broken down by all this exertion in the dance.
Don Antonio directed him to be taken up bodily and carried to bed, and the first that laid hold of him was Sancho, saying as he did so, "In an evil hour you took to dancing, master mine; do you fancy all mighty men of valour are dancers, and all knights-errant given to capering? If you do, I can tell you you are mistaken; there's many a man would rather undertake to kill a giant than cut a caper. If it had been the shoe-fling you were at I could take your place, for I can do the shoe-fling like a gerfalcon; but I'm no good at dancing."
With these and other observations Sancho set the whole ball-room laughing, and then put his master to bed, covering him up well so that he might sweat out any chill caught after his dancing.
The next day Don Antonio thought he might as well make trial of the enchanted head, and with Don Quixote, Sancho, and two others, friends of his, besides the two ladies that had tired out Don Quixote at the ball, who had remained for the night with Don Antonio's wife, he locked himself up in the chamber where the head was. He explained to them the property it possessed and entrusted the secret to them, telling them that now for the first time he was going to try the virtue of the enchanted head; but except Don Antonio's two friends no one else was privy to the mystery of the enchantment, and if Don Antonio had not first revealed it to them they would have been inevitably reduced to the same state of amazement as the rest, so artfully and skilfully was it contrived.
The first to approach the ear of the head was Don Antonio himself, and in a low voice but not so low as not to be audible to all, he said to it, "Head, tell me by the virtue that lies in thee what am I at this moment thinking of?"
The head, without any movement of the lips, answered in a clear and distinct voice, so as to be heard by all, "I cannot judge of thoughts."
All were thunderstruck at this, and all the more so as they saw that there was nobody anywhere near the table or in the whole room that could have answered. "How many of us are here?" asked Don Antonio once more; and it was answered him in the same way softly, "Thou and thy wife, with two friends of thine and two of hers, and a famous knight called Don Quixote of La Mancha, and a squire of his, Sancho Panza by name."
Now there was fresh astonishment; now everyone's hair was standing on end with awe; and Don Antonio retiring from the head exclaimed, "This suffices to show me that I have not been deceived by him who sold thee to me, O sage head, talking head, answering head, wonderful head! Let some one else go and put what question he likes to it."
And as women are commonly impulsive and inquisitive, the first to come forward was one of the two friends of Don Antonio's wife, and her question was, "Tell me, Head, what shall I do to be very beautiful?" and the answer she got was, "Be very modest."
"I question thee no further," said the fair querist.
Her companion then came up and said, "I should like to know, Head, whether my husband loves me or not;" the answer given to her was, "Think how he uses thee, and thou mayest guess;" and the married lady went off saying, "That answer did not need a question; for of course the treatment one receives shows the disposition of him from whom it is received."
Then one of Don Antonio's two friends advanced and asked it, "Who am I?" "Thou knowest," was the answer. "That is not what I ask thee," said the gentleman, "but to tell me if thou knowest me." "Yes, I know thee, thou art Don Pedro Noriz," was the reply.
"I do not seek to know more," said the gentleman, "for this is enough to convince me, O Head, that thou knowest everything;" and as he retired the other friend came forward and asked it, "Tell me, Head, what are the wishes of my eldest son?"
"I have said already," was the answer, "that I cannot judge of wishes; however, I can tell thee the wish of thy son is to bury thee."
"That's 'what I see with my eyes I point out with my finger,'" said the gentleman, "so I ask no more."
Don Antonio's wife came up and said, "I know not what to ask thee, Head; I would only seek to know of thee if I shall have many years of enjoyment of my good husband;" and the answer she received was, "Thou shalt, for his vigour and his temperate habits promise many years of life, which by their intemperance others so often cut short."
Then Don Quixote came forward and said, "Tell me, thou that answerest, was that which I describe as having happened to me in the cave of Montesinos the truth or a dream? Will Sancho's whipping be accomplished without fail? Will the disenchantment of Dulcinea be brought about?"
"As to the question of the cave," was the reply, "there is much to be said; there is something of both in it. Sancho's whipping will proceed leisurely. The disenchantment of Dulcinea will attain its due consummation."
"I seek to know no more," said Don Quixote; "let me but see Dulcinea disenchanted, and I will consider that all the good fortune I could wish for has come upon me all at once."
The last questioner was Sancho, and his questions were, "Head, shall I by any chance have another government? Shall I ever escape from the hard life of a squire? Shall I get back to see my wife and children?" To which the answer came, "Thou shalt govern in thy house; and if thou returnest to it thou shalt see thy wife and children; and on ceasing to serve thou shalt cease to be a squire."
"Good, by God!" said Sancho Panza; "I could have told myself that; the prophet Perogrullo could have said no more."
"What answer wouldst thou have, beast?" said Don Quixote; "is it not enough that the replies this head has given suit the questions put to it?"
"Yes, it is enough," said Sancho; "but I should have liked it to have made itself plainer and told me more."