Sancho shows the Duchess a letter he wrote to his wife to tell her about his governorship. The Duchess shows the letter to the Duke over lunch. After lunch, to the sound of beating drums, a man appears, announces himself as Trifaldin of the White Beard, and requests that the Duke hear the plight of his maidservant. The Duke says he has heard about her misfortunes before and encourages her to come in.
Given his difficult history with the maidservants, Sancho fears that they will interfere with his governorship. Doña Rodriguez defends her profession and derides squires like Sancho. The Duke tells them to listen to Trifaldin’s maidservant, who is hereafter referred to as the Countess.
Cervantes says that Cide Hamete Benengeli briefly explains that the Countess Trifaldi’s name—which means “the countess with the three skirts”—derives from her dress. Benengeli tells how she arrives accompanied by a dozen maids, all wearing black opaque veils. The Countess throws herself down before Don Quixote and begs his assistance, which he promises her. The Countess says she helped a knight at her king’s court to gain access to the princess, whom she served as a maid. As a result, the princess got pregnant and had to marry the knight.
The Countess says that the princess’s indiscretion so shocked her mother, the queen, that her mother died three days later. To punish the princess and the knight, the giant Malambruno turned the princess into a brass monkey and the knight into a metal crocodile on the queen’s grave. Malambruno also posted a metal post between them with a note indicating that only Don Quixote can save them from their fate. Finally, in return for the Countess’s treachery, Malambruno gave her and all the other maids beards that cannot be removed.
Don Quixote swears to avenge the Countess and the princess. The Countess tells him that the giant will send a flying wooden horse named Clavileño the Swift and that Don Quixote must fly on this horse to journey to her country that night to fight the giant. Sancho dislikes the idea of flying anywhere on a wooden horse, but the Duchess convinces him that he must go with his master.
Now that I’ve to be sitting on a bare board, does your worship want me to flay my bum?
As the group waits in the garden, savages appear with a large wooden horse, which they deliver to Don Quixote with instructions that he blindfold himself and Sancho for the journey. Don Quixote pulls Sancho aside and asks him to whip himself a few hundred times to get started on the disenchantment of Dulcinea. Sancho, who dislikes the idea of riding on the back of a wooden saddle, refuses to whip himself.