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Even in the moment of imminent peril they did not think of retreat, but clung to their original purpose of taking San Antonio. Ned, tense and restless, was unable to remain more than a few minutes on the sofa. He wandered into another room and saw a large table spread with food. Bread and meat were in the dishes, and there were pots of coffee. All was now cold.
The others had already preceded him to the spot where the horses were concealed. Carlos saw that there were five of these animals. A gleam of joy shot from his eyes as he recognised his noble steed. Antonio had recovered him. Antonio was there, on the spot. All were soon in the saddles. Two of the horses carried Rosita and Catalina; the other two were ridden by Antonio and the groom Andres.
Salvator and Antonio lifted him out of bed and wrapped him in a wide mantle which had belonged to Dame Caterina's husband, and which she lent them for this purpose. The old gentleman implored them by all the saints to take off the villainous cold bandages in which his bald head was swathed, and to give him his wig and plumed hat.
The old gentleman lay buried in cushions; moreover, as an extra precaution, Antonio had bound a thick piece of cloth well steeped in water round his head, so that he might not hear the lovers whispering together. This was the first time they unburdened all their hearts to each other, swearing eternal fidelity in the midst of tears and rapturous kisses.
The bank for which we were making was steep, but still our brave steeds might climb it, if not too much fatigued by their swim. I shouted to Antonio that we would lead them up, as we should gain in the end by it. Most thankful was I when at length I found my horse beginning to walk, and I soon set my own feet on the ground.
"Ah, yes, indeed! Then come, Antonio let us fly." "My dear lord, one man only can leave this room. The porter is ready with his dagger if both should attempt to pass." "You would remain here in my place! You would sacrifice your life to liberate me, Antonio!" "The parricide would fain be at rest," replied Antonio, gently.
His skin was hairy, his arms enormous, his legs like sword blades, and his feet as flat as ducks'. In short, he was the most hideous and laughable object in the world. But Antonio, who, with all his faults, was no coward, and was moreover a very civil-spoken lad, took off his hat, and said: 'Good-day, sir; I hope you are pretty well.
They acted merely on impulse. The manner in which their aged companion had triumphed on the preceding day, his cold repulse by the Doge, and the scene of the Lido, which in truth led to the death of Antonio, had prepared their minds for the tumult.
As they set out upon their excursion the placard attracted the eyes of all who chanced to see him, and as they read out, "This is Don Quixote of La Mancha," Don Quixote was amazed to see how many people gazed at him, called him by his name, and recognised him, and turning to Don Antonio, who rode at his side, he observed to him, "Great are the privileges knight-errantry involves, for it makes him who professes it known and famous in every region of the earth; see, Don Antonio, even the very boys of this city know me without ever having seen me."
We forded it at a distance of ten miles from Lamani, and were surprised to find it already a large and deep stream, frequently impassable for days and weeks together, during the season of rains. Half a mile beyond the ford we came to the Villa de San Antonio, a considerable place, and, next to the capital itself and the town of Las Piedras, the largest in the plain.