Book II: Chapter XXIX - Chapter XXX Summaries
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza travel towards the River Ebro, passing through a grove of poplar trees along the way. The beauty of the riverbanks reminds Quixote of the beauty that he'd seen in The Cave of Montesinos. At the riverbank, Don Quixote spies a small oar-less boat tied to a tree trunk. Don Quixote tells Sancho "that this vessel lies here for no other reason in the world but to invite me to embark in it." Don Quixote has read of such things in his books of chivalry, though Sancho is particularly upset by the idea. In fact, he begins to weep bitterly.
The small boat is swept in an eddy. Fortunately, there are millers nearby who fish Don Quixote and Sancho out of the water. Don Quixote rails against the millers, claiming that they hold a knight prisoner in their mill, but the millers disregard Quixote. Don Quixote does compensate the fisherman who owns the "enchanted" though now sunken boat. Sancho is upset about the considerable expense of paying the fisherman for his destroyed boat.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are suffering from melancholy at this point, heading away from the River Ebro. Sancho Panza is steadily becoming convinced that he is being led by an imbecilic master who is seeks bad fortune wherever he goes. After riding for hours, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza approach a green pasture in which a refined and noble lady is sitting with her attendants. Don Quixote sends Sancho Panza to introduce "the knight of the Lions" into the Lady's presence. As it turns out, the lady is a duchess and she is a great fan of Don Quixote, having read The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha.
The duchess summons the duke and they both greet Don Quixote with all of the honor befitting a knight-errant. Don Quixote offers his services and the duke and duchess are happy to have Don Quixote and Sancho in their company. As it turns out, the duke and duchess will pretend that Don Quixote's delusion is reality, reconstructing a world suitable for knights-errant.
Don Quixote tries to impress Sancho with his superior knowledge of astronomy and geography but this excess verbiage and vocabulary makes no sense to Sancho and only frightens the squire even more. Sancho hears the word computation' and calls it amputation' which becomes a pun: Don Quixote is discussing the computation of 360 degrees and "the equinoctial line, which divides and cuts [amputates] the opposite poles at equal distances." Don Quixote can understand the concepts of geography but when applying these principles to his own "enchanted" context, the knight concludes that he has traveled 2000 miles though it has not been even five yards - and Rocinante and Dapple are still in sight!
Don Quixote's assertion that this vessel has been left specifically "to invite me to embark in it" is recidivistic: Don Quixote is falling back into his old patterns of thinking. Much earlier in the novel (Part I, Chapter XV), while Don Quixote is wounded in a ditch, he exclaims that "Fortune always leaves some door open in disasters, whereby to come at a remedy." Then, as now, the same irony lies in Don Quixote's words. Don Quixote takes the open door' to disaster,' and Fortune' supplies a remedy' that Quixote is too blind to recognize. Don Quixote believes the boat will "succor [support, comfort] some knight, or other person of high degree, who is in extreme distress." Instead, Don Quixote takes the boat and seeks out extreme distress' - only to curse and vilify the patient millers who save his life.
As for extreme distress, the duchess proves to be one of the most dominating characters in Book II. It is important for the reader to be immediately forewarned that the duchess' intentions are not pure. Our initial response is to be endeared to the duchess because she has read the novel recounting Don Quixote's earlier adventures. Like Sampson Carrasco, the duchess uses this information to deceive Don Quixote. Here again we find a re-creation of the real world: characters have read a book that was actually published.
Even though the duke and duchess function as outside characters (they are not included in The Ingenious Gentleman), they are capable of direct contact with characters from The Ingenious Gentleman. With productions as vast and intricate as these, it is difficult to define Don Quixote's perception as delusion because what he perceives is what is actually occurring. This is particularly ironic because this intentionally elaborate deception thoroughly convinces Don Quixote that he is "a true knight-errant." Up to that point, Don Quixote feared that he was merely an "imaginary" knight.