Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 62)



Before fifteen days were over our renegade had already purchasedan excellent vessel with room for more than thirty persons; and tomake the transaction safe and lend a colour to it, he thought itwell to make, as he did, a voyage to a place called Shershel, twentyleagues from Algiers on the Oran side, where there is an extensivetrade in dried figs. Two or three times he made this voyage in companywith the Tagarin already mentioned. The Moors of Aragon are calledTagarins in Barbary, and those of Granada Mudejars; but in the Kingdomof Fez they call the Mudejars Elches, and they are the people the kingchiefly employs in war. To proceed: every time he passed with hisvessel he anchored in a cove that was not two crossbow shots fromthe garden where Zoraida was waiting; and there the renegade, togetherwith the two Moorish lads that rowed, used purposely to stationhimself, either going through his prayers, or else practising as apart what he meant to perform in earnest. And thus he would go toZoraida's garden and ask for fruit, which her father gave him, notknowing him; but though, as he afterwards told me, he sought tospeak to Zoraida, and tell her who he was, and that by my orders hewas to take her to the land of the Christians, so that she mightfeel satisfied and easy, he had never been able to do so; for theMoorish women do not allow themselves to be seen by any Moor orTurk, unless their husband or father bid them: with Christian captivesthey permit freedom of intercourse and communication, even more thanmight be considered proper. But for my part I should have been sorryif he had spoken to her, for perhaps it might have alarmed her to findher affairs talked of by renegades. But God, who ordered it otherwise,afforded no opportunity for our renegade's well-meant purpose; and he,seeing how safely he could go to Shershel and return, and anchorwhen and how and where he liked, and that the Tagarin his partnerhad no will but his, and that, now I was ransomed, all we wanted wasto find some Christians to row, told me to look out for any I shouldhe willing to take with me, over and above those who had beenransomed, and to engage them for the next Friday, which he fixedupon for our departure. On this I spoke to twelve Spaniards, all stoutrowers, and such as could most easily leave the city; but it was noeasy matter to find so many just then, because there were twenty shipsout on a cruise and they had taken all the rowers with them; and thesewould not have been found were it not that their master remained athome that summer without going to sea in order to finish a galliotthat he had upon the stocks. To these men I said nothing more thanthat the next Friday in the evening they were to come out stealthilyone by one and hang about Hadji Morato's garden, waiting for methere until I came. These directions I gave each one separately,with orders that if they saw any other Christians there they werenot to say anything to them except that I had directed them to wait atthat spot.

This preliminary having been settled, another still more necessarystep had to be taken, which was to let Zoraida know how mattersstood that she might be prepared and forewarned, so as not to be takenby surprise if we were suddenly to seize upon her before she thoughtthe Christians' vessel could have returned. I determined, therefore,to go to the garden and try if I could speak to her; and the daybefore my departure I went there under the pretence of gatheringherbs. The first person I met was her father, who addressed me inthe language that all over Barbary and even in Constantinople is themedium between captives and Moors, and is neither Morisco norCastilian, nor of any other nation, but a mixture of all languages, bymeans of which we can all understand one another. In this sort oflanguage, I say, he asked me what I wanted in his garden, and towhom I belonged. I replied that I was a slave of the Arnaut Mami(for I knew as a certainty that he was a very great friend of his),and that I wanted some herbs to make a salad. He asked me then whetherI were on ransom or not, and what my master demanded for me. Whilethese questions and answers were proceeding, the fair Zoraida, who hadalready perceived me some time before, came out of the house in thegarden, and as Moorish women are by no means particular aboutletting themselves be seen by Christians, or, as I have said before,at all coy, she had no hesitation in coming to where her fatherstood with me; moreover her father, seeing her approaching slowly,called to her to come. It would be beyond my power now to describeto you the great beauty, the high-bred air, the brilliant attire of mybeloved Zoraida as she presented herself before my eyes. I willcontent myself with saying that more pearls hung from her fair neck,her ears, and her hair than she had hairs on her head. On herankles, which as is customary were bare, she had carcajes (for sobracelets or anklets are called in Morisco) of the purest gold, setwith so many diamonds that she told me afterwards her father valuedthem at ten thousand doubloons, and those she had on her wrists wereworth as much more. The pearls were in profusion and very fine, forthe highest display and adornment of the Moorish women is deckingthemselves with rich pearls and seed-pearls; and of these there aretherefore more among the Moors than among any other people.Zoraida's father had to the reputation of possessing a great number,and the purest in all Algiers, and of possessing also more than twohundred thousand Spanish crowns; and she, who is now mistress of meonly, was mistress of all this. Whether thus adorned she would havebeen beautiful or not, and what she must have been in herprosperity, may be imagined from the beauty remaining to her afterso many hardships; for, as everyone knows, the beauty of some womenhas its times and its seasons, and is increased or diminished bychance causes; and naturally the emotions of the mind will heighten orimpair it, though indeed more frequently they totally destroy it. In aword she presented herself before me that day attired with theutmost splendour, and supremely beautiful; at any rate, she seemedto me the most beautiful object I had ever seen; and when, besides,I thought of all I owed to her I felt as though I had before me someheavenly being come to earth to bring me relief and happiness.

As she approached her father told her in his own language that I wasa captive belonging to his friend the Arnaut Mami, and that I had comefor salad.

She took up the conversation, and in that mixture of tongues Ihave spoken of she asked me if I was a gentleman, and why I was notransomed.

I answered that I was already ransomed, and that by the price itmight be seen what value my master set on me, as I had given onethousand five hundred zoltanis for me; to which she replied, "Hadstthou been my father's, I can tell thee, I would not have let himpart with thee for twice as much, for you Christians always telllies about yourselves and make yourselves out poor to cheat theMoors."

"That may be, lady," said I; "but indeed I dealt truthfully withmy master, as I do and mean to do with everybody in the world."

"And when dost thou go?" said Zoraida.

"To-morrow, I think," said I, "for there is a vessel here fromFrance which sails to-morrow, and I think I shall go in her."

"Would it not be better," said Zoraida, "to wait for the arrivalof ships from Spain and go with them and not with the French who arenot your friends?"

"No," said I; "though if there were intelligence that a vesselwere now coming from Spain it is true I might, perhaps, wait for it;however, it is more likely I shall depart to-morrow, for the longing Ifeel to return to my country and to those I love is so great that itwill not allow me to wait for another opportunity, however moreconvenient, if it be delayed."

"No doubt thou art married in thine own country," said Zoraida, "andfor that reason thou art anxious to go and see thy wife."

"I am not married," I replied, "but I have given my promise to marryon my arrival there."

"And is the lady beautiful to whom thou hast given it?" saidZoraida.

"So beautiful," said I, "that, to describe her worthily and tellthee the truth, she is very like thee."

At this her father laughed very heartily and said, "By Allah,Christian, she must be very beautiful if she is like my daughter,who is the most beautiful woman in all this kingdom: only look ather well and thou wilt see I am telling the truth."

Zoraida's father as the better linguist helped to interpret mostof these words and phrases, for though she spoke the bastard language,that, as I have said, is employed there, she expressed her meaningmore by signs than by words.

While we were still engaged in this conversation, a Moor camerunning up, exclaiming that four Turks had leaped over the fence orwall of the garden, and were gathering the fruit though it was not yetripe. The old man was alarmed and Zoraida too, for the Moors commonly,and, so to speak, instinctively have a dread of the Turks, butparticularly of the soldiers, who are so insolent and domineering tothe Moors who are under their power that they treat them worse than ifthey were their slaves. Her father said to Zoraida, "Daughter,retire into the house and shut thyself in while I go and speak tothese dogs; and thou, Christian, pick thy herbs, and go in peace,and Allah bring thee safe to thy own country."

I bowed, and he went away to look for the Turks, leaving me alonewith Zoraida, who made as if she were about to retire as her fatherbade her; but the moment he was concealed by the trees of thegarden, turning to me with her eyes full of tears she said, Tameji,cristiano, tameji?" that is to say, "Art thou going, Christian, artthou going?"

I made answer, "Yes, lady, but not without thee, come what may: beon the watch for me on the next Juma, and be not alarmed when thouseest us; for most surely we shall go to the land of the Christians."

This I said in such a way that she understood perfectly all thatpassed between us, and throwing her arm round my neck she began withfeeble steps to move towards the house; but as fate would have it (andit might have been very unfortunate if Heaven had not otherwiseordered it), just as we were moving on in the manner and position Ihave described, with her arm round my neck, her father, as he returnedafter having sent away the Turks, saw how we were walking and weperceived that he saw us; but Zoraida, ready and quickwitted, tookcare not to remove her arm from my neck, but on the contrary drewcloser to me and laid her head on my breast, bending her knees alittle and showing all the signs and tokens of ainting, while I at thesame time made it seem as though I were supporting her against mywill. Her father came running up to where we were, and seeing hisdaughter in this state asked what was the matter with her; she,however, giving no answer, he said, "No doubt she has fainted in alarmat the entrance of those dogs," and taking her from mine he drew herto his own breast, while she sighing, her eyes still wet with tears,said again, "Ameji, cristiano, ameji"- "Go, Christian, go." To thisher father replied, "There is no need, daughter, for the Christianto go, for he has done thee no harm, and the Turks have now gone; feelno alarm, there is nothing to hurt thee, for as I say, the Turks at myrequest have gone back the way they came."

"It was they who terrified her, as thou hast said, senor," said I toher father; "but since she tells me to go, I have no wish to displeaseher: peace be with thee, and with thy leave I will come back to thisgarden for herbs if need be, for my master says there are nowherebetter herbs for salad then here."

"Come back for any thou hast need of," replied Hadji Morato; "for mydaughter does not speak thus because she is displeased with thee orany Christian: she only meant that the Turks should go, not thou; orthat it was time for thee to look for thy herbs."

With this I at once took my leave of both; and she, looking asthough her heart were breaking, retired with her father. Whilepretending to look for herbs I made the round of the garden at myease, and studied carefully all the approaches and outlets, and thefastenings of the house and everything that could be taken advantageof to make our task easy. Having done so I went and gave an account ofall that had taken place to the renegade and my comrades, and lookedforward with impatience to the hour when, all fear at an end, I shouldfind myself in possession of the prize which fortune held out to me inthe fair and lovely Zoraida. The time passed at length, and theappointed day we so longed for arrived; and, all following out thearrangement and plan which, after careful consideration and many along discussion, we had decided upon, we succeeded as fully as wecould have wished; for on the Friday following the day upon which Ispoke to Zoraida in the garden, the renegade anchored his vessel atnightfall almost opposite the spot where she was. The Christians whowere to row were ready and in hiding in different places roundabout, all waiting for me, anxious and elated, and eager to attack thevessel they had before their eyes; for they did not know therenegade's plan, but expected that they were to gain their libertyby force of arms and by killing the Moors who were on board thevessel. As soon, then, as I and my comrades made our appearance, allthose that were in hiding seeing us came and joined us. It was now thetime when the city gates are shut, and there was no one to be seenin all the space outside. When we were collected together we debatedwhether it would be better first to go for Zoraida, or to makeprisoners of the Moorish rowers who rowed in the vessel; but whilewe were still uncertain our renegade came up asking us what kept us,as it was now the time, and all the Moors were off their guard andmost of them asleep. We told him why we hesitated, but he said itwas of more importance first to secure the vessel, which could be donewith the greatest ease and without any danger, and then we could gofor Zoraida. We all approved of what he said, and so without furtherdelay, guided by him we made for the vessel, and he leaping on boardfirst, drew his cutlass and said in Morisco, "Let no one stir fromthis if he does not want it to cost him his life." By this almostall the Christians were on board, and the Moors, who werefainthearted, hearing their captain speak in this way, were cowed, andwithout any one of them taking to his arms (and indeed they had few orhardly any) they submitted without saying a word to be bound by theChristians, who quickly secured them, threatening them that if theyraised any kind of outcry they would be all put to the sword. Thishaving been accomplished, and half of our party being left to keepguard over them, the rest of us, again taking the renegade as ourguide, hastened towards Hadji Morato's garden, and as good luckwould have it, on trying the gate it opened as easily as if it had notbeen locked; and so, quite quietly and in silence, we reached thehouse without being perceived by anybody. The lovely Zoraida waswatching for us at a window, and as soon as she perceived that therewere people there, she asked in a low voice if we were "Nizarani,"as much as to say or ask if we were Christians. I answered that wewere, and begged her to come down. As soon as she recognised me shedid not delay an instant, but without answering a word came downimmediately, opened the door and presented herself before us all, sobeautiful and so richly attired that I cannot attempt to describe her.The moment I saw her I took her hand and kissed it, and the renegadeand my two comrades did the same; and the rest, who knew nothing ofthe circumstances, did as they saw us do, for it only seemed as ifwe were returning thanks to her, and recognising her as the giver ofour liberty. The renegade asked her in the Morisco language if herfather was in the house. She replied that he was and that he wasasleep.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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