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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 60)


It was a common opinion that our men should not have shut themselvesup in the Goletta, but should have waited in the open at thelanding-place; but those who say so talk at random and with littleknowledge of such matters; for if in the Goletta and in the fort therewere barely seven thousand soldiers, how could such a small number,however resolute, sally out and hold their own against numbers likethose of the enemy? And how is it possible to help losing a strongholdthat is not relieved, above all when surrounded by a host ofdetermined enemies in their own country? But many thought, and Ithought so too, that it was special favour and mercy which Heavenshowed to Spain in permitting the destruction of that source andhiding place of mischief, that devourer, sponge, and moth of countlessmoney, fruitlessly wasted there to no other purpose save preservingthe memory of its capture by the invincible Charles V; as if to makethat eternal, as it is and will be, these stones were needed tosupport it. The fort also fell; but the Turks had to win it inch byinch, for the soldiers who defended it fought so gallantly and stoutlythat the number of the enemy killed in twenty-two general assaultsexceeded twenty-five thousand. Of three hundred that remained alivenot one was taken unwounded, a clear and manifest proof of theirgallantry and resolution, and how sturdily they had defendedthemselves and held their post. A small fort or tower which was in themiddle of the lagoon under the command of Don Juan Zanoguera, aValencian gentleman and a famous soldier, capitulated upon terms. Theytook prisoner Don Pedro Puertocarrero, commandant of the Goletta,who had done all in his power to defend his fortress, and took theloss of it so much to heart that he died of grief on the way toConstantinople, where they were carrying him a prisoner. They alsotook the commandant of the fort, Gabrio Cerbellon by name, aMilanese gentleman, a great engineer and a very brave soldier. Inthese two fortresses perished many persons of note, among whom wasPagano Doria, knight of the Order of St. John, a man of generousdisposition, as was shown by his extreme liberality to his brother,the famous John Andrea Doria; and what made his death the more sad wasthat he was slain by some Arabs to whom, seeing that the fort wasnow lost, he entrusted himself, and who offered to conduct him inthe disguise of a Moor to Tabarca, a small fort or station on thecoast held by the Genoese employed in the coral fishery. These Arabscut off his head and carried it to the commander of the Turkish fleet,who proved on them the truth of our Castilian proverb, that "thoughthe treason may please, the traitor is hated;" for they say he orderedthose who brought him the present to be hanged for not havingbrought him alive.

Among the Christians who were taken in the fort was one named DonPedro de Aguilar, a native of some place, I know not what, inAndalusia, who had been ensign in the fort, a soldier of greatrepute and rare intelligence, who had in particular a special gift forwhat they call poetry. I say so because his fate brought him to mygalley and to my bench, and made him a slave to the same master; andbefore we left the port this gentleman composed two sonnets by wayof epitaphs, one on the Goletta and the other on the fort; indeed, Imay as well repeat them, for I have them by heart, and I think theywill be liked rather than disliked.

The instant the captive mentioned the name of Don Pedro deAguilar, Don Fernando looked at his companions and they all threesmiled; and when he came to speak of the sonnets one of them said,"Before your worship proceeds any further I entreat you to tell mewhat became of that Don Pedro de Aguilar you have spoken of."

"All I know is," replied the captive, "that after having been inConstantinople two years, he escaped in the disguise of an Arnaut,in company with a Greek spy; but whether he regained his liberty ornot I cannot tell, though I fancy he did, because a year afterwardsI saw the Greek at Constantinople, though I was unable to ask him whatthe result of the journey was."

"Well then, you are right," returned the gentleman, "for that DonPedro is my brother, and he is now in our village in good health,rich, married, and with three children."

"Thanks be to God for all the mercies he has shown him," said thecaptive; "for to my mind there is no happiness on earth to comparewith recovering lost liberty."

"And what is more," said the gentleman, "I know the sonnets mybrother made."

"Then let your worship repeat them," said the captive, "for you willrecite them better than I can."

"With all my heart," said the gentleman; "that on the Goletta runsthus."

CHAPTER XL

IN WHICH THE STORY OF THE CAPTIVE IS CONTINUED.

SONNET

"Blest souls, that, from this mortal husk set free,In guerdon of brave deeds beatified,Above this lowly orb of ours abideMade heirs of heaven and immortality,With noble rage and ardour glowing yeYour strength, while strength was yours, in battle plied,And with your own blood and the foeman's dyedThe sandy soil and the encircling sea.It was the ebbing life-blood first that failedThe weary arms; the stout hearts never quailed.Though vanquished, yet ye earned the victor's crown:Though mourned, yet still triumphant was your fallFor there ye won, between the sword and wall,In Heaven glory and on earth renown."

"That is it exactly, according to my recollection," said thecaptive.

"Well then, that on the fort," said the gentleman, "if my memoryserves me, goes thus:

SONNET

"Up from this wasted soil, this shattered shell,Whose walls and towers here in ruin lie,Three thousand soldier souls took wing on high,In the bright mansions of the blest to dwell.The onslaught of the foeman to repelBy might of arm all vainly did they try,And when at length 'twas left them but to die,Wearied and few the last defenders fell.And this same arid soil hath ever beenA haunt of countless mournful memories,As well in our day as in days of yore.But never yet to Heaven it sent, I ween,From its hard bosom purer souls than these,Or braver bodies on its surface bore."

The sonnets were not disliked, and the captive was rejoiced atthe tidings they gave him of his comrade, and continuing his tale,he went on to say:

The Goletta and the fort being thus in their hands, the Turks gaveorders to dismantle the Goletta- for the fort was reduced to such astate that there was nothing left to level- and to do the work morequickly and easily they mined it in three places; but nowhere werethey able to blow up the part which seemed to be the least strong,that is to say, the old walls, while all that remained standing of thenew fortifications that the Fratin had made came to the ground withthe greatest ease. Finally the fleet returned victorious andtriumphant to Constantinople, and a few months later died my master,El Uchali, otherwise Uchali Fartax, which means in Turkish "the scabbyrenegade;" for that he was; it is the practice with the Turks toname people from some defect or virtue they may possess; the reasonbeing that there are among them only four surnames belonging tofamilies tracing their descent from the Ottoman house, and the others,as I have said, take their names and surnames either from bodilyblemishes or moral qualities. This "scabby one" rowed at the oar asa slave of the Grand Signor's for fourteen years, and when overthirty-four years of age, in resentment at having been struck by aTurk while at the oar, turned renegade and renounced his faith inorder to be able to revenge himself; and such was his valour that,without owing his advancement to the base ways and means by which mostfavourites of the Grand Signor rise to power, he came to be king ofAlgiers, and afterwards general-on-sea, which is the third place oftrust in the realm. He was a Calabrian by birth, and a worthy manmorally, and he treated his slaves with great humanity. He had threethousand of them, and after his death they were divided, as hedirected by his will, between the Grand Signor (who is heir of all whodie and shares with the children of the deceased) and his renegades. Ifell to the lot of a Venetian renegade who, when a cabin boy onboard a ship, had been taken by Uchali and was so much beloved byhim that he became one of his most favoured youths. He came to bethe most cruel renegade I ever saw: his name was Hassan Aga, and hegrew very rich and became king of Algiers. With him I went therefrom Constantinople, rather glad to be so near Spain, not that Iintended to write to anyone about my unhappy lot, but to try iffortune would be kinder to me in Algiers than in Constantinople, whereI had attempted in a thousand ways to escape without ever finding afavourable time or chance; but in Algiers I resolved to seek for othermeans of effecting the purpose I cherished so dearly; for the hopeof obtaining my liberty never deserted me; and when in my plots andschemes and attempts the result did not answer my expectations,without giving way to despair I immediately began to look out for orconjure up some new hope to support me, however faint or feeble itmight be.

In this way I lived on immured in a building or prison called by theTurks a bano in which they confine the Christian captives, as wellthose that are the king's as those belonging to private individuals,and also what they call those of the Almacen, which is as much as tosay the slaves of the municipality, who serve the city in the publicworks and other employments; but captives of this kind recover theirliberty with great difficulty, for, as they are public property andhave no particular master, there is no one with whom to treat fortheir ransom, even though they may have the means. To these banos,as I have said, some private individuals of the town are in thehabit of bringing their captives, especially when they are to beransomed; because there they can keep them in safety and comfort untiltheir ransom arrives. The king's captives also, that are on ransom, donot go out to work with the rest of the crew, unless when their ransomis delayed; for then, to make them write for it more pressingly,they compel them to work and go for wood, which is no light labour.

I, however, was one of those on ransom, for when it was discoveredthat I was a captain, although I declared my scanty means and wantof fortune, nothing could dissuade them from including me among thegentlemen and those waiting to be ransomed. They put a chain on me,more as a mark of this than to keep me safe, and so I passed my lifein that bano with several other gentlemen and persons of qualitymarked out as held to ransom; but though at times, or rather almostalways, we suffered from hunger and scanty clothing, nothingdistressed us so much as hearing and seeing at every turn theunexampled and unheard-of cruelties my master inflicted upon theChristians. Every day he hanged a man, impaled one, cut off the earsof another; and all with so little provocation, or so entirely withoutany, that the Turks acknowledged he did it merely for the sake ofdoing it, and because he was by nature murderously disposed towardsthe whole human race. The only one that fared at all well with him wasa Spanish soldier, something de Saavedra by name, to whom he nevergave a blow himself, or ordered a blow to be given, or addressed ahard word, although he had done things that will dwell in the memoryof the people there for many a year, and all to recover his liberty;and for the least of the many things he did we all dreaded that hewould be impaled, and he himself was in fear of it more than once; andonly that time does not allow, I could tell you now something ofwhat that soldier did, that would interest and astonish you muchmore than the narration of my own tale.

To go on with my story; the courtyard of our prison was overlookedby the windows of the house belonging to a wealthy Moor of highposition; and these, as is usual in Moorish houses, were ratherloopholes than windows, and besides were covered with thick andclose lattice-work. It so happened, then, that as I was one day on theterrace of our prison with three other comrades, trying, to passaway the time, how far we could leap with our chains, we beingalone, for all the other Christians had gone out to work, I chanced toraise my eyes, and from one of these little closed windows I saw areed appear with a cloth attached to the end of it, and it kept wavingto and fro, and moving as if making signs to us to come and take it.We watched it, and one of those who were with me went and stoodunder the reed to see whether they would let it drop, or what theywould do, but as he did so the reed was raised and moved from sideto side, as if they meant to say "no" by a shake of the head. TheChristian came back, and it was again lowered, making the samemovements as before. Another of my comrades went, and with him thesame happened as with the first, and then the third went forward,but with the same result as the first and second. Seeing this I didnot like not to try my luck, and as soon as I came under the reed itwas dropped and fell inside the bano at my feet. I hastened to untiethe cloth, in which I perceived a knot, and in this were ten cianis,which are coins of base gold, current among the Moors, and eachworth ten reals of our money.

It is needless to say I rejoiced over this godsend, and my joy wasnot less than my wonder as I strove to imagine how this good fortunecould have come to us, but to me specially; for the evidentunwillingness to drop the reed for any but me showed that it was forme the favour was intended. I took my welcome money, broke the reed,and returned to the terrace, and looking up at the window, I saw avery white hand put out that opened and shut very quickly. From thiswe gathered or fancied that it must be some woman living in that housethat had done us this kindness, and to show that we were gratefulfor it, we made salaams after the fashion of the Moors, bowing thehead, bending the body, and crossing the arms on the breast. Shortlyafterwards at the same window a small cross made of reeds was putout and immediately withdrawn. This sign led us to believe that someChristian woman was a captive in the house, and that it was she whohad been so good to us; but the whiteness of the hand and thebracelets we had perceived made us dismiss that idea, though wethought it might be one of the Christian renegades whom theirmasters very often take as lawful wives, and gladly, for they preferthem to the women of their own nation. In all our conjectures wewere wide of the truth; so from that time forward our soleoccupation was watching and gazing at the window where the cross hadappeared to us, as if it were our pole-star; but at least fifteen dayspassed without our seeing either it or the hand, or any other sign andthough meanwhile we endeavoured with the utmost pains to ascertain whoit was that lived in the house, and whether there were any Christianrenegade in it, nobody could ever tell us anything more than that hewho lived there was a rich Moor of high position, Hadji Morato byname, formerly alcaide of La Pata, an office of high dignity amongthem. But when we least thought it was going to rain any more cianisfrom that quarter, we saw the reed suddenly appear with anothercloth tied in a larger knot attached to it, and this at a time when,as on the former occasion, the bano was deserted and unoccupied.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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