Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 61)

We made trial as before, each of the same three going forward beforeI did; but the reed was delivered to none but me, and on my approachit was let drop. I untied the knot and I found forty Spanish goldcrowns with a paper written in Arabic, and at the end of the writingthere was a large cross drawn. I kissed the cross, took the crowns andreturned to the terrace, and we all made our salaams; again the handappeared, I made signs that I would read the paper, and then thewindow was closed. We were all puzzled, though filled with joy at whathad taken place; and as none of us understood Arabic, great was ourcuriosity to know what the paper contained, and still greater thedifficulty of finding some one to read it. At last I resolved toconfide in a renegade, a native of Murcia, who professed a verygreat friendship for me, and had given pledges that bound him tokeep any secret I might entrust to him; for it is the custom with somerenegades, when they intend to return to Christian territory, to carryabout them certificates from captives of mark testifying, inwhatever form they can, that such and such a renegade is a worthyman who has always shown kindness to Christians, and is anxious toescape on the first opportunity that may present itself. Some obtainthese testimonials with good intentions, others put them to acunning use; for when they go to pillage on Christian territory, ifthey chance to be cast away, or taken prisoners, they produce theircertificates and say that from these papers may be seen the objectthey came for, which was to remain on Christian ground, and that itwas to this end they joined the Turks in their foray. In this way theyescape the consequences of the first outburst and make their peacewith the Church before it does them any harm, and then when theyhave the chance they return to Barbary to become what they werebefore. Others, however, there are who procure these papers and makeuse of them honestly, and remain on Christian soil. This friend ofmine, then, was one of these renegades that I have described; he hadcertificates from all our comrades, in which we testified in hisfavour as strongly as we could; and if the Moors had found thepapers they would have burned him alive.

I knew that he understood Arabic very well, and could not only speakbut also write it; but before I disclosed the whole matter to him, Iasked him to read for me this paper which I had found by accident in ahole in my cell. He opened it and remained some time examining itand muttering to himself as he translated it. I asked him if heunderstood it, and he told me he did perfectly well, and that if Iwished him to tell me its meaning word for word, I must give him penand ink that he might do it more satisfactorily. We at once gave himwhat he required, and he set about translating it bit by bit, and whenhe had done he said:

"All that is here in Spanish is what the Moorish paper contains, andyou must bear in mind that when it says 'LelaMarien' it means 'Our Lady the Virgin Mary.'"

We read the paper and it ran thus:

"When I was a child my father had a slave who taught me to praythe Christian prayer in my own language, and told me many things aboutLela Marien. The Christian died, and I know that she did not go to thefire, but to Allah, because since then I have seen her twice, andshe told me to go to the land of the Christians to see Lela Marien,who had great love for me. I know not how to go. I have seen manyChristians, but except thyself none has seemed to me to be agentleman. I am young and beautiful, and have plenty of money totake with me. See if thou canst contrive how we may go, and if thouwilt thou shalt be my husband there, and if thou wilt not it willnot distress me, for Lela Marien will find me some one to marry me.I myself have written this: have a care to whom thou givest it toread: trust no Moor, for they are all perfidious. I am greatlytroubled on this account, for I would not have thee confide in anyone,because if my father knew it he would at once fling me down a well andcover me with stones. I will put a thread to the reed; tie theanswer to it, and if thou hast no one to write for thee in Arabic,tell it to me by signs, for Lela Marien will make me understandthee. She and Allah and this cross, which I often kiss as thecaptive bade me, protect thee."

Judge, sirs, whether we had reason for surprise and joy at the wordsof this paper; and both one and the other were so great, that therenegade perceived that the paper had not been found by chance, buthad been in reality addressed to some one of us, and he begged us,if what he suspected were the truth, to trust him and tell him all,for he would risk his life for our freedom; and so saying he tookout from his breast a metal crucifix, and with many tears swore by theGod the image represented, in whom, sinful and wicked as he was, hetruly and faithfully believed, to be loyal to us and keep secretwhatever we chose to reveal to him; for he thought and almostforesaw that by means of her who had written that paper, he and all ofus would obtain our liberty, and he himself obtain the object he somuch desired, his restoration to the bosom of the Holy MotherChurch, from which by his own sin and ignorance he was now severedlike a corrupt limb. The renegade said this with so many tears andsuch signs of repentance, that with one consent we all agreed totell him the whole truth of the matter, and so we gave him a fullaccount of all, without hiding anything from him. We pointed out tohim the window at which the reed appeared, and he by that means tooknote of the house, and resolved to ascertain with particular carewho lived in it. We agreed also that it would be advisable to answerthe Moorish lady's letter, and the renegade without a moment's delaytook down the words I dictated to him, which were exactly what I shalltell you, for nothing of importance that took place in this affair hasescaped my memory, or ever will while life lasts. This, then, wasthe answer returned to the Moorish lady:

"The true Allah protect thee, Lady, and that blessed Marien who isthe true mother of God, and who has put it into thy heart to go to theland of the Christians, because she loves thee. Entreat her that shebe pleased to show thee how thou canst execute the command she givesthee, for she will, such is her goodness. On my own part, and onthat of all these Christians who are with me, I promise to do all thatwe can for thee, even to death. Fail not to write to me and informme what thou dost mean to do, and I will always answer thee; for thegreat Allah has given us a Christian captive who can speak and writethy language well, as thou mayest see by this paper; without fear,therefore, thou canst inform us of all thou wouldst. As to what thousayest, that if thou dost reach the land of the Christians thou wiltbe my wife, I give thee my promise upon it as a good Christian; andknow that the Christians keep their promises better than the Moors.Allah and Marien his mother watch over thee, my Lady."

The paper being written and folded I waited two days until thebano was empty as before, and immediately repaired to the usual walkon the terrace to see if there were any sign of the reed, which wasnot long in making its appearance. As soon as I saw it, although Icould not distinguish who put it out, I showed the paper as a signto attach the thread, but it was already fixed to the reed, and toit I tied the paper; and shortly afterwards our star once more madeits appearance with the white flag of peace, the little bundle. It wasdropped, and I picked it up, and found in the cloth, in gold andsilver coins of all sorts, more than fifty crowns, which fifty timesmore strengthened our joy and doubled our hope of gaining our liberty.That very night our renegade returned and said he had learned that theMoor we had been told of lived in that house, that his name wasHadji Morato, that he was enormously rich, that he had one onlydaughter the heiress of all his wealth, and that it was the generalopinion throughout the city that she was the most beautiful woman inBarbary, and that several of the viceroys who came there had soughther for a wife, but that she had been always unwilling to marry; andhe had learned, moreover, that she had a Christian slave who was nowdead; all which agreed with the contents of the paper. Weimmediately took counsel with the renegade as to what means would haveto be adopted in order to carry off the Moorish lady and bring usall to Christian territory; and in the end it was agreed that forthe present we should wait for a second communication from Zoraida(for that was the name of her who now desires to be called Maria),because we saw clearly that she and no one else could find a way outof all these difficulties. When we had decided upon this therenegade told us not to be uneasy, for he would lose his life orrestore us to liberty. For four days the bano was filled withpeople, for which reason the reed delayed its appearance for fourdays, but at the end of that time, when the bano was, as itgenerally was, empty, it appeared with the cloth so bulky that itpromised a happy birth. Reed and cloth came down to me, and I foundanother paper and a hundred crowns in gold, without any other coin.The renegade was present, and in our cell we gave him the paper toread, which was to this effect:

"I cannot think of a plan, senor, for our going to Spain, nor hasLela Marien shown me one, though I have asked her. All that can bedone is for me to give you plenty of money in gold from this window.With it ransom yourself and your friends, and let one of you go to theland of the Christians, and there buy a vessel and come back for theothers; and he will find me in my father's garden, which is at theBabazon gate near the seashore, where I shall be all this summerwith my father and my servants. You can carry me away from there bynight without any danger, and bring me to the vessel. And rememberthou art to be my husband, else I will pray to Marien to punishthee. If thou canst not trust anyone to go for the vessel, ransomthyself and do thou go, for I know thou wilt return more surely thanany other, as thou art a gentleman and a Christian. Endeavour tomake thyself acquainted with the garden; and when I see thee walkingyonder I shall know that the bano is empty and I will give theeabundance of money. Allah protect thee, senor."

These were the words and contents of the second paper, and onhearing them, each declared himself willing to be the ransomed one,and promised to go and return with scrupulous good faith; and I toomade the same offer; but to all this the renegade objected, sayingthat he would not on any account consent to one being set freebefore all went together, as experience had taught him how ill thosewho have been set free keep promises which they made in captivity; forcaptives of distinction frequently had recourse to this plan, payingthe ransom of one who was to go to Valencia or Majorca with money toenable him to arm a bark and return for the others who had ransomedhim, but who never came back; for recovered liberty and the dread oflosing it again efface from the memory all the obligations in theworld. And to prove the truth of what he said, he told us briefly whathad happened to a certain Christian gentleman almost at that verytime, the strangest case that had ever occurred even there, whereastonishing and marvellous things are happening every instant. Inshort, he ended by saying that what could and ought to be done wasto give the money intended for the ransom of one of us Christians tohim, so that he might with it buy a vessel there in Algiers underthe pretence of becoming a merchant and trader at Tetuan and along thecoast; and when master of the vessel, it would be easy for him tohit on some way of getting us all out of the bano and putting us onboard; especially if the Moorish lady gave, as she said, moneyenough to ransom all, because once free it would be the easiestthing in the world for us to embark even in open day; but the greatestdifficulty was that the Moors do not allow any renegade to buy orown any craft, unless it be a large vessel for going on rovingexpeditions, because they are afraid that anyone who buys a smallvessel, especially if he be a Spaniard, only wants it for thepurpose of escaping to Christian territory. This however he couldget over by arranging with a Tagarin Moor to go shares with him in thepurchase of the vessel, and in the profit on the cargo; and undercover of this he could become master of the vessel, in which case helooked upon all the rest as accomplished. But though to me and mycomrades it had seemed a better plan to send to Majorca for thevessel, as the Moorish lady suggested, we did not dare to opposehim, fearing that if we did not do as he said he would denounce us,and place us in danger of losing all our lives if he were todisclose our dealings with Zoraida, for whose life we would have allgiven our own. We therefore resolved to put ourselves in the handsof God and in the renegade's; and at the same time an answer was givento Zoraida, telling her that we would do all she recommended, forshe had given as good advice as if Lela Marien had delivered it, andthat it depended on her alone whether we were to defer the business orput it in execution at once. I renewed my promise to be her husband;and thus the next day that the bano chanced to be empty she atdifferent times gave us by means of the reed and cloth two thousandgold crowns and a paper in which she said that the next Juma, thatis to say Friday, she was going to her father's garden, but thatbefore she went she would give us more money; and if it were notenough we were to let her know, as she would give us as much as weasked, for her father had so much he would not miss it, and besidesshe kept all the keys.

We at once gave the renegade five hundred crowns to buy thevessel, and with eight hundred I ransomed myself, giving the moneyto a Valencian merchant who happened to be in Algiers at the time, andwho had me released on his word, pledging it that on the arrival ofthe first ship from Valencia he would pay my ransom; for if he hadgiven the money at once it would have made the king suspect that myransom money had been for a long time in Algiers, and that themerchant had for his own advantage kept it secret. In fact my masterwas so difficult to deal with that I dared not on any account pay downthe money at once. The Thursday before the Friday on which the fairZoraida was to go to the garden she gave us a thousand crowns more,and warned us of her departure, begging me, if I were ransomed, tofind out her father's garden at once, and by all means to seek anopportunity of going there to see her. I answered in a few wordsthat I would do so, and that she must remember to commend us to LelaMarien with all the prayers the captive had taught her. This havingbeen done, steps were taken to ransom our three comrades, so as toenable them to quit the bano, and lest, seeing me ransomed andthemselves not, though the money was forthcoming, they should make adisturbance about it and the devil should prompt them to dosomething that might injure Zoraida; for though their position mightbe sufficient to relieve me from this apprehension, nevertheless I wasunwilling to run any risk in the matter; and so I had them ransomed inthe same way as I was, handing over all the money to the merchant sothat he might with safety and confidence give security; without,however, confiding our arrangement and secret to him, which might havebeen dangerous.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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