CONTINUATION, AND CONCLUSION, OF THE FORCE OF FRIENDSHIP
SUCCESS had not attended the endeavours of the servants of Donna Theodora to prevent her eing carried away; but they had at least opposed it with courage, and their resistance had been fatal to some of the companions of Alvaro Ponza. Among others, whose wounds had not permitted them to follow their comrades, there was a man, stretched almost lifeless on the sand, whom they recognized as one of Alvaro's own attendants. Perceiving that he still breathed, they carried him to the house, and spared no pains to restore him to his senses. In this they at last succeeded, although the quantity of blood which had escaped from his numerous wounds had reduced his stream of life to its lowest ebb, and left him extremely weak. To induce him to speak, they promised to take every care to prolong his days, and not to deliver him into the hands of justice, provided that he would inform them of the place to which his master had designed to take the Donna Theodora.
Gratified by these assurances, although the state to which he was reduced left him but small hope to profit by their realization, he rallied all his remaining strength, and, with a faltering voice, confirmed by his confession the information that Don Fabricio had received. He added, however, that Don Alvaro designed to conduct the widow of Cifuentes to Sassari, in the island of Sardinia, where he had a relation whose protection and power promised him a safe asylum.
The deposition of the dying man, for he expired a few hours afterwards, raised Mendoza and the Toledan from complete despair; and as their stay at Donna Theodora's seat was now useless, they at once returned to Valencia. After debating for some time on the steps most expedient to be taken, they resolved to seek their common enemy in his chosen retreat, and in a few days embarked, without attendants, at Denia, for Port Mahon, not doubting that they would there find some means of transport to the island of Sardinia. It so happened that scarcely had they reached their destined port, when they learned that a vessel freighted for Cagliari was about to sail, and in it they immediately secured a passage.
The vessel left the island of Minorca with breezes friendly to their hopes; but five or six hours after their departure there came on a calm, and night brought with it winds directly in their teeth; so that they were obliged to tack about and wait for a favourable change. Three days were thus passed in sailing without progress; when, on the fourth, about two hours after noon, they discovered a strange sail, all its canvass spread, and bearing down directly upon them. At first they took it for a merchantman, bound for the shores they steered from; but observing that it came within the range of cannon-shot without shewing its colours, they began to fear it was a corsair.
They were not deceived: it was a Tunisian pirate, which approached them in full expectation that the Christians would yield without a blow. As it came near enough, however, for the corsairs to discern what was passing on board of their expected prey, and to observe that the sails were reefed and the guns run out, they guessed that the affair was likely to turn out more seriously than they had expected. They therefore shortened sail, wore round, hurriedly cleared the deck, and prepared for action.
A brisk exchange of shots soon commenced, and the Christians, taking advantage of the surprise which their unexpected resistance had occasioned, began to prevail over their opponent; but an Algerine pirate, larger and of heavier metal than either of the others, arriving in the middle of the action, took part with its brother of Tunis, and the Christians were thus placed between two fires.
Discouraged by this unlooked-for circumstance, and feeling that it was useless to continue the unequal strife, they gradually slackened their fire, and at last it ceased altogether. On this a slave appeared on the bow of the Algerine vessel, who hailed them in their own language, bidding them, if they hoped for mercy, to strike to Algiers. A Turk then advanced, holding in his hand a green silk flag studded with silver crescents interlacing each other, which he waved in the air. The Christians, looking upon further resistance as hopeless, gave themselves up to all the grief that the idea of slavery inspires in the breasts of freemen, until the master of the vessel, fearing that a further delay of submission would only serve to irritate their barbarian conqueror, hauled down his colours, threw himself into a boat with some of his sailors, and went to surrender to the Algerine corsair.
The latter immediately sent a portion of his crew on board the Spanish vessel to examine, or rather to pillage it of all that it contained. The Tunisian pirate gave similar orders to some of his men, so that all the passengers it contained were in an instant disarmed and plundered and were shortly afterwards exchanged into the Algerine vessel, when the two pirates divided their prisoners by lot.
It would have been at least some consolation for Mendoza and his friend to have both fallen into the hands of the same corsair; they would have found their chains somewhat the less heavy to have borne them together; but Fortune, apparently disposed to make them feel the terrors of her caprice, allotted Don Fabricio to the pirate of Tunis, and Don Juan to his competitor of Algiers. Picture to yourself the grief of the two friends, when told that they must part. They threw themselves at the feet of the corsairs, and entreated them that they might not be separated. But their entreaties were vain; the barbarians before whom they knelt were too much accustomed to the sight of human misery not to be proof against the prayers of their present victims. On the contrary, judging by their demeanour that the two captives were men of wealth and station, and that they would consequently pay a weighty ransom, they were the more resolved to divide them.
Mendoza and Zarata, perceiving that they were in the power of men with hearts insensible to all but gain, turned towards each other, their looks expressing the depth of their affliction. But when the booty had been shared, and the Tunisian pirate prepared to return to his own vessel with his proportion, and the slaves which it included, they seemed as though they would expire with despair. Mendoza rushed into the arms of the Toledan, and embracing him, exclaimed: Must we then separate? Cruel necessity! Is it not enough that we should be borne to slavery, and unavenged?
Must we even be denied to bear in union the sorrows to which we are destined? Ah! Don Juan, what have we done that Heaven should thus visit us with its terrible wrath? Seek not elsewhere the cause of our disgrace, replied Don Juan; I only am to blame. The death of two unfortunates, immolated to my revenge, although excused to mortal eyes, is deep offence to Heaven; and you, my friend, are punished for the fault of loving one who took upon himself the vengeance that belongs to God alone.
While they spoke thus, tears, strangers to the eyes of men, streamed down their cheeks, and sighs but choked their utterance. So touching was their grief, that those who shared their fate were yet as much affected by the sight as with their own misfortune. Not so the wretches who formed the crew of the Tunisian corsair. Perceiving that Mendoza was the last to quit the Algerine vessel, they tore him without ceremony from the arms of the Toledan; and, as they dragged him away, added blows to insult. Adieu, dear friend, he cried; adieu for ever! Donna Theodora is yet unavenged! and, parted from you, the miseries that these wretches prepare will be the least that slavery can bring to me.
Don Juan was unable to reply to the exclamations of his friend; the treatment that he saw him endure filled his breast with a horror which deprived him of speech. And so, Signor Don Cleophas, as the course of my narrative requires that we should follow the Toledan, we will leave Don Fabricio, in solemn silence, to be conducted on board of the Tunisian pirate.
The Algerine returned toward his port, where, having arrived, he conducted his slaves to the house of the superintending basha, and thence to the public market. An officer of the Dey, Mezzomorto, purchased Don Juan for his master; and the new slave was at once employed as an assistant in the gardens of the harem. This occupation, although laborious for a gentleman, was however the less disagreeable to Don Juan, on account of the solitude to which it left him; for, situated as he was, it was a pleasure to have at least the liberty of indulging his own melancholy thoughts. Incessantly occupied with his misfortunes, his mind, far from endeavouring to lighten them with hope, seemed to delight in dwelling on the past, and to inspire his bosom with gloomiest presages for the future.
One day he was occupied with his work, murmuring the while one of his now usual songs of sorrow, when the Dey, who was walking in the garden, came upon him without being perceived, and stopped to listen. Pleased with his voice, and moved by curiosity, he approached the captive and asked his name. The Toledan replied, that he was called Alvaro; for, following the usual custom with slaves, of concealing their station, he thought fit to change his name, and, as the outrage upon Donna Theodora was ever uppermost in his thoughts, the name of the detested Alvaro had come soonest to his lips when suddenly asked his own. Mezzomorto, who spoke the Spanish language tolerably well, then questioned him as to the customs of Spain, and particularly as to the conduct observed by those of its cavaliers who would render themselves agreeable to their ladies;? to all of which Don Juan replied in such a manner as to greatly please the Dey.
Alvaro, said he to him at last, you appear to be intelligent; and I judge you to have been a man of rank in your own country: but, however that may be, you are fortunate enough to please me, and I will honour you with my confidence. At these words, Don Juan prostrated himself before the Dey, and with well-affected humility, kissed the hem of his master's robe, and after touching with it his eyes and forehead, arose, and stood before him in silence.
To begin by giving you proof of my regard, resumed the Dey, you know, that in my seraglio, I have some of the fairest women which Europe can offer for my pleasures. Among these, however, there is one whose beauty is beyond compare; nor do I believe that the Grand Signor himself possesses so exquisite a creature, although for him the winds of heaven daily waft ships with their lovely burden from all quarters of the globe. In her visage the dazzling sun seems reflected, and her form is graceful as the rose's stem which grows in the gardens of Eram. My soul is enchanted with her perfections.
Alas! this miracle of nature, all beauteous as she is, maintains and nourishes the deepest grief; which neither time nor all the efforts of my love can dissipate. Although fortune has yielded her to my will, I have ever respected her grief, and controlled my desires and unlike those who, placed as I am, seek but the momentary gratifications of sense, I fain would win her heart, and have striven to gain it by respectful attentions, such as the vilest Mussulman that lives would feel degraded to offer to the fairest Christian slave.
Still, all my cares seem but to add to her affliction; and I will not disguise that its obstinacy begins to weary me. The sense of slavery is not imprinted in the minds of others of my slaves in characters so deep, but that a look of favour from myself can soon efface or gild them; so that I may well tire of this incessant grief. Nevertheless, before I abandon myself to the passion which transports me, I would make one last endeavour to touch her insensible heart; and I will leave this task to you. As my fair slave is christian, and even of your own country, she may confide in you, and you may persuade her to my wishes better than another. Go, then! tell her of my riches and my power; tell her that among my many slaves, I care for only her; and, if it must be so, bid her even hope that she may one day be the honoured wife of Mezzomorto. Tell her that I would rather win her love, than receive the hand of a Sultana from the grace of his Highness the Sultan himself.
Don Juan threw himself a second time before the Dey; and although not over-delighted with this commission, assured him that he would do his utmost to execute it to his satisfaction. Enough! replied Mezzomorto, leave your work and follow me. I am about, contrary to our usages, to permit you privately to see this slave. But, tremble, if you dare abuse the confidence I place in you! Tortures, such as even were never yet inflicted by the Turks, shall punish your temerity. Strive to overcome your own sorrows, and dream of liberty as the reward of ending the sufferings that I endure. Don Juan threw down his hoe, and silently followed the Dey, who, when they entered the palace, left him, that he might prepare the afflicted captive to receive his messenger of love.
She was with two aged slaves, who retired as soon as Mezzomorto appeared. The beauteous slave herself saluted the Dey with great respect, but she could not behold him without greater fear, as indeed had ever been the case when he presented himself before her. He perceived it, and to reassure her mind: Amiable captive, he said, I come but to inform you that among my slaves there is a Spaniard with whom you would perhaps be glad to converse. If you wish to see him, I will give him permission to speak with you, and even alone.
As the lovely slave expressed no objection to receive her countryman: I go, resumed the Dey, to send him to you: may he, by the information he conveys, serve to relieve you of your troubles! He left her as he spoke: and as he went out, meeting the Toledan, said to him in a low voice: Enter! and when you have communicated what I desire, come to my cabinet and inform me of the result.
Zarata entered as he was directed, closed the door, and bowed before the favoured slave, who returned his salute, without either particularly observing the other. When, however, their eyes at last met, a cry of surprise and joy escaped them both: Oh Heaven! exclaimed the Toledan, approaching the captive, is it not a vision that deceives mine eyes? Can it be the Donna Theodora whom I see? Ah! Don Juan, ere he had uttered these words, cried the lady he addressed, is it indeed yourself who speaks to me? Yes, madam, replied the Toledan, while he fell upon his knee and tenderly kissed her hand, it is Don Juan. Let these tears, that my eyes, rejoiced to behold you again, cannot restrain; let this transport, that you alone can excite in the heart of him who kneels before you, witness for my presence! I murmur no longer against my destiny, since it conducts me to you? Alas! what does my ecstacy inspire? I forget that you are in chains. By what unhappy chance do I find you here? How have you escaped from the frantic passion of Alvaro? Ah, what horror fills my soul to mention his very name! How do I tremble to learn the fate for which Heaven reserved you, when it abandoned you to his perfidy!
Heaven, replied the Donna Theodora, has avenged me on Alvaro Ponza. Had I but time to relate to you? Time! interrupted Don Juan,? you have plenty, and to spare. The Dey himself permitted me to see you, and, what may well surprise you, alone. Profit by the happy moments which his confidence affords, and inform me of all that has happened to you since you were carried off by Alvaro. And who, then, told you that it was by him I was taken away, inquired Donna Theodora. Alas! madam, I know it but too well, replied the Toledan. He then shortly narrated the manner in which he had become acquainted with Alvaro's design, and had witnessed its execution; how Mendoza and himself had followed him in the hope of preserving her from his violence, or to revenge it; and of their unfortunate, but for this meeting, encounter with the pirates, and its consequence.
As soon as he had finished this recital, Donna Theodora began the story of her own sufferings, as follows: I need not dwell upon my astonishment at finding myself seized by a masked band of ruffians? indeed, I had hardly time to wonder at the outrage, for I swooned in the arms of the first who laid hold of me; and when I recovered my senses, which must have been after the lapse of some hours, I found myself alone with Agnes, one of my own attendants, in a cabin on the poop of a vessel, in the open sea, sailing with all its canvas spread before the wind.
The perfidious Agnes, on perceiving my tears, exhorted me to bear my misfortune with patience; but from a few words which dropped from her as she spoke, I was not long in divining that she was in the confidence of Alvaro, who shortly afterwards appeared. Throwing himself at my feet: Madam, he exclaimed, pardon to a too fond lover the means by which he has dared to possess himself of your person! You know how deeply I have loved you, and how ardently I disputed with Mendoza for your heart, up to the fatal day when you declared your preference for him. Had my passion been the cold and empty feeling that mortals dignify with the name of love, I might have vanquished it as easily as such a feeling is inspired; but my misfortune was beyond consolation. I live but to adore those charms; and, despised though I be, I cannot free myself from their spell. But, madam, let not the fury of my passion alarm you! I have not deprived you of liberty, that I may rob you of honour; I seek only that, in the retreat unto which we are hastening, a sacred tie may unite our hearts for ever.
He continued in this strain for some time, but in terms which I cannot remember. To hear him, it would have seemed that, in forcing me to wed him, he did me no wrong; and that where I saw but an insolent ravisher, I should have beheld alone an impassioned lover. As, however, while he spoke thus, I answered him but with tears, and exhibited an evident despair, he left me; but not without making signs to Agnes, which I plainly understood as directions for her to second, as well as she was able, the splendid arguments by which he had sought to dazzle my weak understanding.
She did her best; representing to me that, after the eclat of an abduction, I could not do otherwise than graciously accept the offered hand of Alvaro Ponza; that, whatever aversion I might feel for his excessive tenderness, my reputation demanded of my heart this sacrifice. As, however, the necessity which she painted, of a hated marriage, was not exactly the way to dry my tears, I still remained inconsolable; and Agnes had exhausted all her eloquence, when we suddenly heard upon the deck a noise which attracted the attention of us both.
This noise, which proceeded from Alvaro's people, was caused by the apparition of a large ship, which was sweeping with its wings all spread upon us; and from which, as our vessel was by no means so good a sailer, there was no escaping. Down it came, and we soon heard cries of, Lie to, and send a boat aboard! But Alvaro Ponza and his men, who knew what they had to expect from yielding, chose rather to die, or at least to run the chance of a combat. The action was sharp, but of short duration: I cannot pretend to give you its details, and will therefore only say, that Alvaro and every one of his crew perished, after fighting like men who preferred death to slavery. For myself, and Agnes, we were removed into the other vessel, which belonged to Mezzomorto, and was commanded by Aby Aly Osman, one of his officers.
Aby Aly looked at me for some time, with much surprise; and recognizing me, by my dress, for a Spaniard, he said to me in almost pure Castilian: Moderate your grief, lady, for having fallen into slavery: it is a consolation in our woes to know that they are inevitable. But what do I speak of? ? Woe! Happiness alone awaits you. You are far too lovely for the homage of Christian dogs. Heaven never made you for the pleasure of the miserable wretches whom we trample under foot. You were formed to receive the admiration of the men of the world; a Mussulman alone is worthy to possess such beauty. I shall return at once, he added, to Algiers. Albeit I have made no other prize, I know our Dey too well not to be persuaded that with you I shall not be all unwelcome. I have no great fear that he will condemn my impatience to place within his hands a beauty whom our Prophet must have sent on earth expressly for his enjoyment, and to be the light of his harem.
These compliments, Don Juan, told me too plainly all I had to fear, and my tears flowed the faster as he spoke. Aby Aly was pleased, however, to interpret my fears after his own fashion; and, laughing at my timidity, gave orders to sail towards Algiers. Never was port so dreaded by the ship-bound habitant of ocean! Sometimes I threw myself on my knees, and implored Heaven for its protection; at others, my doubting spirit wished for the assistance of man in Christian guise who might come to my rescue, or sink the pirate vessel, which contained me, in the waves,? or that these in their mercy would engulf us. Then, again, I hoped that my tears, and the sorrow which caused them, would render me so unsightly that the tyrant to whom they bore me might fly my sight with horror. Vain wishes, that my modesty had formed! We arrived at the dreaded port; they conducted me to the palace; I appeared before Mezzomorto.
I know not what Aby Aly said on presenting me to his master, nor what the latter replied, for they spoke in their own tongue; but I thought I could perceive by the looks and gestures of the Dey that I had the misfortune to please him. But what, after they had conversed thus for some time, was addressed to me in my own language, completed my despair by confirming me in the opinion I had formed.
Vainly I cast myself before him, offering him whatever sum he chose to name as my ransom; in vain did I tempt his avarice by the promise of all that I possessed, or could command: he answered me by saying, that I offered him in my own person more than all the riches in the world could bestow. He then conducted me to this apartment, the most splendid his palace contains, and from that hour to the present moment, he has spared no pains to dispel the grief with which he sees me overcome. All his slaves who either dance, sing, or play, have tried by his command their skill before me. He removed from me Agnes, because he thought that she served to remind me of my home, and I am now attended by two aged female slaves, whose sole discourse is of love and the Dey, and of the happiness which through his favour I may secure.
Need I say, Don Juan, that all their efforts to divert my grief add but to its intensity, and that nothing can console me? Captive in this detestable palace, which resounds from day to day with the cries of innocence oppressed, I suffer less from the mere loss of liberty than from the terror which the hated tenderness of the Dey inspires. It is true I have hitherto found in him but a lover gentle and respectful; but I am not the less alarmed. I fear lest, wearied by a semblance of devotion, which cannot but constrain him to put on, he should resume the rights of power; and this fear agitates me without ceasing, making of my life but one long torment.
As Donna Theodora finished these words, she wept; and her tears fell like iron on the heart of poor Don Juan. It is not without cause, he at last exclaimed, that you look on the future with dread; I am, myself, as much alarmed for it as you. The respect of the Dey is melting faster than even you imagine; your submissive lover will soon abandon all the mildness he assumes. Alas! I know too well the dangers which surround you.
But, he continued, his voice changing as he spoke, shall I calmly witness your dishonour? Slave though I be, he may feel the weight of my despair. Before Mezzomorto injures you, I will plunge in his heart? Ah! Don Juan, interrupted the widow of Cifuentes, what dreadful project do you dream of? For Heaven's sake, think of it no more! With what dreadful cruelties would they avenge his death! Torments the most refined? I cannot think of them without trembling! Besides, to what end would you encounter such a peril? In taking the life of the Dey, would you restore me to liberty? Alas! I should be sold to some other tyrant who would treat me with less respect than Mezzomorto. No! she exclaimed, throwing herself on her knees, it is thou, Almighty Father, who canst alone protect me. Thou knowest my weakness, and the infamous designs of him in whose power I am placed. Thou, who forbiddest me to save myself by poison or the steel, Thou wilt save me in thy justice from a crime that is abhorrent in thy sight.
Yes, madam, replied Zarata, Heaven will avert the misfortune with which you are threatened! I feel already that it inspires me;? the ideas which flash across my mind are doubtless prompted by its mercy. Hear me! The Dey has permitted me to see you, only that I might induce you to return his love. It is time that I rendered him an account of our interview; and, in so doing, I shall deceive him. I will tell him that your grief may be overcome; that his conduct towards you has already won for him your esteem, and that, from a continuance in that conduct, he has everything to hope. Do you assist me in my design. When he comes next to visit you, let him find you less sorrowful than usual; and appear, at least, to be interested in his conversation.
What a task would you impose on me! Interrupted Donna Theodora. How is my soul, always frank and open, to assume such a disguise, and what will be the fruit of so painful a deception? The Dey, replied Zarata, will be flattered by this change in your deportment, and will be anxious to complete his conquest of you by gentle means. In the meanwhile, I will endeavour to effect your freedom: it will be difficult, I acknowledge; but I am acquainted with a slave on whose address and enterprise some reliance may be placed.
I leave you, he continued, as no time is to be lost: we shall meet again. I now go to the Dey; whose impetuous ardour I hope to restrain by some well-invented fables. And you, madam, prepare to receive him; constrain yourself to deceit. Let your eyes, which his presence offends, display neither hatred nor pride; let your lips, which now unclose but to express your affliction, form for him honied words of respect; you must indirectly promise all, in order that you may concede nothing. Enough! replied the lady, I will do as you desire, since the danger that impends over me compels me to this cruel necessity. Go! Don Juan, employ all your thoughts to end my slavery: my freedom will be doubly sweet, if owing to you.
As soon as the Toledan repaired to Mezzomorto, the latter cried with great emotion: Well! Alvaro, what news do you bring to me of my lovely captive? Have you inclined her to listen to my vows? Tell me not that her ceaseless grief refuses to yield to my tenderness; or I swear, by the head of the Commander of the Faithful himself, that force shall wring from her what affection cannot win. Signor, replied Don Juan, that oath were useless now: you will have no need of violence to gratify your passion. Your slave is young,? has never loved;? and she whose pride disdained the offers of the noblest of her native land, in which she lived as queen, and here exists in chains, may well ask time to reconcile her haughty spirit to her new condition. This, proud as she is, habit will soon effect; and even now, I dare affirm, the yoke is felt less heavy: the kindness you have shewn, the respectful cares which she could never have expected from yourself, have already lessened her misfortune, and must triumph over her disdain. Continue, Signor, this gentle observance; continue? and complete the charm which dissipates her grief, by new attentions to each fond caprice; and you will shortly find her yield to your desires, and lose her love of liberty, encircled in your arms.
Your words enrapture me, exclaimed the Dey: the hopes which you inspire engage me to what you will. Yes! I will restrain my impatient love, that I may satisfy it the more worthily. But, do you not deceive me, or are you not deceived yourself? I will this moment see my lovely mistress; I will endeavour to discern in her eyes some expression of the flattering appearances you speak of. And so saying, he hastened to seek Theodora; while the Toledan returned to the garden, where he found the slave whose skill he proposed to employ in the liberation of the widow of Cifuentes.
This slave, named Francisco, was a Navarrese, and was perfectly acquainted with Algiers and its customs, having there served two or three masters before he was purchased by the Dey as a gardener. Francisco, my friend, said Don Juan, accosting him, you see me in deep affliction. There is, in the harem of the Dey, a young lady of the highest distinction of Valencia: she has entreated Mezzomorto to name a ransom of any amount; but he refuses to do so, having fallen in love with her. And why should that annoy you so much? asked Francisco. Because I come from the same town, replied the Toledan; her relations and my own are intimately connected; and there is nothing which I would not do to restore her to liberty.
Well! though that is no easy matter to accomplish , said Francisco, I dare undertake to bring it about, provided her relations are disposed to come down pretty handsomely. Be assured of that, replied Don Juan; I answer for their gratitude, and especially for her own. Her name is Donna Theodora: she is the widow of a man who has left her immense possessions, and she is generous as rich. For myself, I am a Spaniard, and a noble; my word may suffice to convince you of what I state.
Well, again! resumed the gardener: on the faith of your word then, I will seek a Catalonian renegade whom I know, and propose to him? What say you? interrupted the Toledan, in alarm;? would you confide in a wretch who has not been ashamed to abandon his religion for? Although a renegade, interrupted Francisco, in his turn, he is nevertheless an honest man. He is rather deserving of your pity than contempt; and, if the crime he has committed can be excused at all, I think he may be pardoned. I will tell you his history in a few words.
He was born in Barcelona, where he practised as a surgeon. Finding, however, that he was worse off there than his patients, he resolved to establish himself at Carthagena, thinking of course to better his condition. He accordingly embarked with his mother, for that town; but they were taken on the way by pirate, who brought them hither. They were sold , his mother to a Moor, and he to a Turk, who used him so badly that he assumed the turban to release himself from slavery, as also to enable him to free his parent, who was no better off in the house of the Moor, her master. With this view, he entered into service with the Dey, and made several voyages, in which he gained four hundred patacoons: he employed a portion of this in the ransom of his mother; and, to make the best use of the remainder, took it in his head to scour the seas on his own account.
Appointed captain, he purchased a small open vessel, and with some Turkish seamen who had sailed with him before, he set out to cruize between Alicant and Carthagena, and returned to Algiers, laden with booty. He repeated this several times; and succeeded always so well that at last he was able to arm a large vessel, with which he made several prizes, but was in the end unfortunate. One day, he was imprudent enough to attack a French frigate, which so mauled his ship that it was with difficulty he escaped, and regained Algiers. As pirates are judged here, like their betters elsewhere, according to their success, the renegade gained the contempt of the Turks, as the reward of his misfortune. Disgusted by this injustice, he sold his vessel, and retired to a house without the town; where, since then, he has lived on the produce of his ship, and what remained of the fruits of his former enterprises, in company with his mother, and attended by several slaves.
I often go to see him, for he served with me under my first master, and we are intimate friends. He conceals nothing from me; and, only three days ago, he told me, with tears in his eyes, that, despite his wealth, he had known no peace since he had renounced his faith; that to appease the remorse which preyed on him without ceasing, he was sometimes tempted to trample his turban under foot, and, at the risk of being burned alive, to repair, by a public avowal of his repentance, the insult he had offered to the Mediator whom in secret he still adored.
Such is the renegade whom I am about to consult, continued Francisco: surely, a man like him may be trusted by you. I will seek him, under pretext of going to the bagnio; I will represent to him, that instead of consuming his life in vain regret at his exclusion from the bosom of the church, he should act so as to assure his forgiveness and reception; that to do this he has only to equip a vessel, as if, disgusted with a life of inaction, he intended to resume his piracies; and that, with this vessel, we may gain the coast of Valencia, where, once arrived, Donna Theodora will give him wherewith to pass the remainder of his life in tranquillity at Barcelona.
Yes! my dear Francisco, cried Don Juan, transported with joy at the hope thus raised by the Navarrese slave,? yes! you may promise all this, and more, to your renegade friend; both he and yourself may be sure of a rich reward. But, do you conceive it possible to execute the project you conceive? There may be difficulties, replied Francisco, which I do not contemplate; but, rely on it, that I and my friend will overcome them all. Alvaro, he added, as they parted, I hope well for our enterprise; and I trust that, when we meet again, I shall have good news to tell you.
With what anxiety did the Toledan await the return of Francisco! At last he came. I have seen the renegade, he said, and have opened to him our design. After much deliberation, we have arranged that, to save time, he shall purchase a vessel already fitted for sea; that, as it is permitted to employ slaves as sailors, he shall take with him those who now serve him; that, however, to guard against suspicion, he shall also engage some dozen others, as if he really designed what he pretended; but that, two days before the time fixed for his departure, he shall embark, by night, with his own people, and weigh anchor, after coming for us with his boat to a little door which leads from the garden, close by the sea. This is our plan; of which you can inform the captive lady, assuring her that in a fortnight from this time she shall be free.
How great was the joy of Zarata, to be able to convey such welcome intelligence to the Donna Theodora! To obtain permission to see her, on the following day, he sought, without appearing to do so, Mezzomorto; and, having met with him: Signor, said he, dare I inquire how you have found your lovely slave? Are my hopes fulfilled? ? I am delighted, interrupted the Dey; her eyes no longer shun the tender glance of mine; her words, which heretofore presented but the picture of her griefs, no longer breathe complaint; and for the first time, she seemed to listen to my own without aversion.
It is to you, Alvaro, he continued, that I owe this happy change: I see, he added good-humouredly, that you are in favour with the ladies of your country. I will trust you, however, to speak with her again, that you may finish well what you have so well begun. Exhaust thy fertile genius to attain the bliss I seek, and thy chains are turned to gold. Yes! I swear by the spirit of our Holy Prophet, that I will restore you to your home, so loaded with my favours, that your Christian friends shall not believe you, when you tell them you return from slavery.
The Toledan, although somewhat conscience-stricken, did not fail to continue Mezzomorto in the flattering error he indulged. Affecting gratitude for his kindness, and under pretext of hastening its accomplishment, he left the Dey at once to see the charming slave; and, finding her alone in her apartment, he lost no time in informing her of what the Navarrese and the renegade intended on her behalf.
The lady was of course greatly delighted to hear that already such strides were making towards her deliverance. Is it possible, she cried, that I may hope again to see Valencia, my own dear native land? Joy, joy! she continued,? after so many dangers and alarms, to live in peace once more with you! Ah! Don Juan, this is happiness indeed! Can I doubt that your heart partakes of it? Remember, Zarata, that, in snatching me from the Dey, you bear away your wife!
Alas! replied the Toledan, sighing deeply, how delicious were those words to my expecting soul, did not the remembrance of an unhappy aspirant for thy love dash their sweet fragrance with alloy! Pardon me, madam, that at such a moment I should think of aught but you! But you must acknowledge that a friend like Mendoza merits thy pity as my own. It was for thee he left Valencia; it was in search of thee that he became a slave; and I feel sure that, at Tunis, he is not bowed down so much by the weight of his chains, as with despair at failing to avenge thee.
He merited indeed a happier lot, said Donna Theodora; and I call Heaven to witness that I am deeply affected at what he suffers on my account. Yes! I accuse myself of the pains which he endures; but, such is my destiny, my heart can never be their recompense.
This conversation was interrupted by the coming of the two old dames who attended on the widow of Cifuentes. Don Juan immediately assumed the confidant of the Dey: Yes, fair lady, said he to Theodora, you have deprived him of liberty who keeps you in chains. Mezzomorto, your master and my own, the most loving and the most amiable of Turks, is your slave. Treat him with the favour you now deign to shew him, and soon will a joyous end arrive to his sufferings and your own. Zarata bowed respectfully as he pronounced these words, the purport of which was well understood by the lady to whom they were addressed, and left the apartment.
During the following week, affairs remained in this position in the palace of the Dey. In the meantime, however, the renegade had purchased a small sloop, and was making preparations for its putting to sea; but, six days before it was ready, a new subject for alarm occurred to Don Juan.
Mezzomorto sent for him, and, taking him into his cabinet: Alvaro, he said, thou art free!? free to return when thou wilt to Spain; the reward that I have promised now awaits thee. I have seen my lovely slave this day;? ah! how unlike the creature whose sorrow filled my breast with anguish! Daily does the feeling of captivity grow weaker; and so bright are now her charms, that I have resolved at once to make her mine: in two days she shall be my wife.
Don Juan changed colour at these words, and, with all the effort that he made to constrain them, could not conceal his trouble and surprise from the Dey, who asked him the cause of this emotion.
Signor, replied the Toledan, with embarrassment, I cannot control my astonishment at hearing one of the greatest princes of the Ottoman empire avow his intention of so far humbling himself as to wed with a slave. I know that this is not without precedent; but, for the illustrious Mezzomorto, who might aspire to the daughter of the highest in the service of the Sultan, to? I agree to what you say, interrupted the Dey; I might marry with the daughter of the Grand Vizier, and even hope to succeed him in his office: but I have great wealth, and small ambition. I prefer repose, and the delights I enjoy here in my viceroyalty, to the dangerous honours to which we are no sooner elevated, than the fear of our sovereign, or the jealousy of the envious who surround him, prepares for us a fall. Besides, I love this slave; and her beauty and virtue render her worthy of the rank to which my affection calls her.
It is however necessary, he added, that she should at once renounce her religion, to attain the honour for which I destine her. Think you that absurd prejudices will induce her to despise that honour? No, Signor, replied Don Juan; I am persuaded that on reflection, she will hold her faith as too small a sacrifice to your love. But, permit me to say that this should not be proposed too hastily. There is no doubt that the idea of abandoning the creed she lisped almost on her mother's bosom will at first revolt her: give her therefore time to reflect on the inducements to a change. When she remembers that, instead of using your power over her person, and then abandoning her to grow old among the neglected slaves of your caprice, you seek to unite her to yourself for ever, by a marriage which crowns her with honour, her gratitude? her woman's vanity? will by degrees vanquish her scruples. Defer therefore for a week, at least, the execution of your design.
The Dey remained for some time in deep thought: the delay that his confidant proposed suited but ill to his desires; nevertheless, the counsel appeared judicious. I yield to your advice, Alvaro, at last he said, impatient as I am to press the lovely captive to my heart. I will wait a week, as you request. Go! he continued, see her at once, and dispose her to fulfil my wishes, when that time shall have passed. I am anxious that Alvaro, who so well has tutored the fair one to my will, should have the honour of tendering to her my hand.
Don Juan hastened to the apartment of Theodora, and informed her of what had passed between the Dey and himself, that she might conduct herself accordingly. He also informed her that in six days the vessel would be ready; and, as she was anxious to know how, when the time arrived, she was to escape, seeing that all the doors of the rooms she had to traverse, in the usual way of reaching the staircase, were well secured: Let not that embarrass you, he answered; a window of your ante-room looks upon the garden; and you may thence descend, by a ladder which I will take care to provide.
The six days added their units to eternity, and Francisco informed the Toledan that the renegade was prepared to sail on the coming night: you may guess with what impatience it was expected. It came, and, graciously for the fugitives, shrouded in its thickest mantle to cover their flight. At the appointed moment, Don Juan placed the ladder against the window of the ante-room, and the watchful captive hastened to descend, trembling with agitation and suspense. She reached the ground in safety, and leaning on the arm of the Toledan, the latter lost no time in conducting her to the little door which opened on the sea.
They walked with hasty steps, enjoying, by anticipation, the happiness of recovered freedom; but Fortune, not even now disposed to favour these unhappy lovers, plunged them into grief more dire than they had yet experienced, and of a nature that they least expected.
They had already left the garden, and were advancing to the shore, where the sloop awaited them, when a man whom they took for an accomplice in their escape, and of whom, therefore, they had no suspicion, came upon Don Juan, sword in hand, and thrust it in his breast. Perfidious Alvaro Ponza! he exclaimed, it is thus that Don Fabricio de Mendoza punishes a base seducer: you deserve not that I should attack you openly as an honest man.
The Toledan could not resist the force of the blow, which stretched him on the earth; and, at the same moment, Donna Theodora, whom he supported, struck with surprise, with grief and fear, fell in a swoon beside him. Ah! Mendoza, cried Don Juan, what have you done? It is your friend whose bosom you have pierced. Gracious Heaven! exclaimed Don Fabricio, is it possible that I have assassinated? I pardon you my death, interrupted Zarata; destiny is alone to blame, or rather it has so willed it, to end our misfortunes. Yes! my dear Mendoza, I die contented, since I restore to your hands the Donna Theodora, who will convince you that my friendship for you has never belied itself for an instant.
Too generous friend, said Don Fabricio, prompted by a feeling of despair, you shall not die alone; the same point which wounded you shall punish your assassin: if my error may excuse my crime, it cannot console me for its committal. As he spoke, he turned his sword against his breast, plunged it therein nearly to the hilt, and fell upon the body of Don Juan, who fainted less from loss of blood, than from horror at the frenzy of his friend.
Francisco and the renegade, who were not ten paces from the spot, and who had their reasons for not having defended the slave Alvaro, were amazed to hear the last words of Don Fabricio, and still more so to witness his last act. They had heard enough, however, to know that he had been mistaken, and that the wounded pair were friends, instead of deadly enemies as they had believed. They now therefore hastened to their assistance; but, finding them both senseless, as also the Donna Theodora, they were at a loss how to proceed. Francisco advised that they should content themselves with bearing off the lady, leaving the two cavaliers on the shore; where, according to him, if they were not already dead, they would soon be so. The renegade, however, was not of this opinion: he said that it would be cruel to abandon the two unfortunates; that their wounds were probably not mortal, and that he would look to them when on board his vessel, where he had been provident enough to stow away all the implements of his ancient trade.
To this, Francisco made no objection; so, as they both agreed that there was no inducement to stay where they were, by the assistance of some slaves, they carried the unhappy widow of Cifuentes, and her still more unfortunate lovers, to the boat, and soon joined their ship. There, no time was lost in spreading the sails; while some upon their knees poured forth to Heaven the most fervent prayers which fear could suggest, that they might escape the cruisers of the Dey.
The renegade, having left the management of the vessel to a French slave whom he could trust, gave his attention to his passengers. The lady, of course, claimed his first care; and, having restored her to life, he took his measures so skilfully, that Don Fabricio and the Toledan also speedily recovered their senses.
Donna Theodora, who had swooned the instant Don Juan was struck, was greatly astonished on her recovery to behold Mendoza; and, although she soon comprehended that the latter had wounded himself for having incautiously assailed his friend, she could not look upon him but as the murderer of the man she loved.
You would have been affected, Don Cleophas, could you have seen these three persons at the moment I speak of: the deathlike stillness from which they had emerged would not have commanded half your pity. There was Donna Theodora, gazing on Don Juan with eyes which spoke all the feelings of a soul filled with grief and despair; while the two friends, each fondly turning upon her their dying looks, were striving to control the sighs which rent their hearts.
The scene lasted for some time in silence, which Mendoza was the first to break. Madam, said he, addressing Donna Theodora, I die; but I have the satisfaction of knowing you are free. Would to Heaven that thy liberty were owing to myself! But it has decreed that you should owe that obligation to him whose image you cherish in your heart. I love too much my rival to complain; and trust that the blow which my blindness dealt may be too light to prevent his sweet reward. The lady answered not this touching speech. Insensible, for the time, to the fate of Mendoza, she could not restrain the feelings of aversion which the condition of the Toledan, over whom she hung, inspired in her bosom towards him who had caused it.
The renegade surgeon now examined and probed the wounds of the two friends. Beginning with Zarata, he pronounced it favourable, inasmuch as the sword had only glanced through the muscles of the left breast, without touching any of the vital parts. This report, while it lessened the grief of Donna Theodora, gave great delight to Don Fabricio, who, turning his head towards the lady, exclaimed, Madam, I die without regret, since the life of my friend is out of danger: you will forgive me now.
He pronounced these words with so much pathos, that the widow of Cifuentes was moved beyond expression. As she no longer feared for Don Juan, she ceased to hate Mendoza, and beheld in him now but an object of the deepest pity. Ah! Don Fabricio, she exclaimed, her generous nature resuming its influence, let them attend to your wound; it is, I trust, not more dangerous than that of your friend. Let not your feelings interfere to render the cares of those who love you useless. Live!? if I cannot yield felicity to you, at least I will never bestow it on another. Friendship and compassion shall restrain the hand that I would give to Don Juan: I will sacrifice for you, as he has done, the dearest wishes of my heart.
Don Fabricio would have replied; but the surgeon, fearing that in his case, as in trouble generally, talking would only increase the ill, imposed silence, while he examined his wound. On so doing, he saw that it was likely to prove mortal, as the sword had penetrated the lungs, and the consequent loss of blood had been excessive. Having however dressed it with care, he left the cavaliers to repose; and that a matter so essential to them, in their present state, might be secured, he took with him, as he left the cabin, Donna Theodora, whose presence seemed likely to disturb it.
But despite all these precautions, Mendoza was seized with fever, and towards midnight the wound began to bleed afresh. The renegade then thought it right to inform him that all hope of recovery was over, and that, if he had anything which he wished to communicate to his friend, or to Donna Theodora, he had no time to lose. The Toledan was greatly affected on hearing the declaration of the surgeon: for Don Fabricio, he listened to it with indifference. He calmly requested that the renegade would summon the widow of Cifuentes to his side.
Donna Theodora hastened to the dying man, in a state more easy to conceive than to describe: tears streamed down her cheeks, and sobs choked her utterance;? so violent was her affliction, that Mendoza could not repress his agitation at the sight. Madam, he exclaimed, I am unworthy of the precious drops which dim those lovely eyes: restrain them, I entreat you, and listen to me for a few moments. And you also, my dear Zarata, he continued, observing the excess of grief in which his friend indulged, control your feelings for a while, and hear me. I well know that to you this separation is a painful shock; your friendship is too well assured for me to doubt it; but wait, both of you, until the earth shall have hidden me from your sight; and honour, with those marks of tenderness and pity, my silent grave.
Suspend until then your affliction; I feel it now more than the loss of life. Let me relate to you the way by which the fate that pursues me conducted me this night to the fatal shore which I have stained with the blood of my friend, and my own. You must he anxious to learn how it happened that I mistook Don Juan for Alvaro; I will tell you, if the short time which it is permitted me to live will enable me to do so.
Some hours after the vessel in which I was had quitted that wherein I had left Don Juan, we met a French privateer, which attacked and took the Tunisian pirate, and landed us near Alicant. I was no sooner free, than I thought on the ransom of my friend; and, to effect this I went to Valencia to obtain the necessary funds. There, learning that at Barcelona some brothers of the holy Order of Redemption were just about to sail for Algiers, I set out for the former town. Before leaving Valencia, however, I begged my uncle the governer, Don Francisco de Mendoza, to use all his influence with the court of Madrid to obtain the pardon of Zarata, that, on his return with me, he might be reinstated in his former possessions, which had been confiscated in consequence of the death of the Duke of Naxera.
As soon as we had arrived at Algiers, I went to all the places frequented by the slaves; but in vain did I run them through, I found not the object of my search. This morning, I met the renegade Catalonian, to whom this vessel belongs, and whom I recognized as a man who had formerly attended my uncle. I told him the motive of my voyage, and requested him to make strict inquiry for my friend. I am sorry, he replied, that it is out of my power to serve you. I leave Algiers to-night, with a lady of Valencia, one of the Dey's slaves. And who is this lady, I demanded: She is called the Donna Theodora, was his startling answer.
The surprise which I exhibited at this information told the renegade at once that I was interested in this lady's fate. He therefore informed me of the design which he had formed for her liberation; and as, during his recital, he mentioned the slave Alvaro, I had no doubt that it was Alvaro Ponza himself of whom he spoke. When he had finished: Assist me in my resentment! I exclaimed, with transport; furnish me with the means of avenging myself upon my enemy! You shall soon be satisfied, replied the renegade; but, tell me first what subject of complaint you have against this same Alvaro. I related to him all our history; which, when he had heard: Enough! he cried, you shall accompany me to-night. They will point out to you your rival; and, when you have punished him for his villainy, you shall take his place, and join with us in conducting Donna Theodora to Valencia.
Nevertheless, my impatience did not cause me to forget Don Juan. I left the money for his ransom in the hands of Francisco Capati, an Italian merchant, who resides at Algiers, and who promised me to effect it, if by any means he could discover him. At last, the night arrived; I went to the house of the renegade, who led me, as he had promised, to the sea shore. We concealed ourselves near a little door, whence shortly issued a man who came directly towards us, and, pointing to two persons who followed him said, There are Alvaro and Donna Theodora.
Furious at this sight, I drew my sword, ran to meet the unfortunate Alvaro, and, imagining that it was my hated rival whom I struck, I thrust my weapon into the bosom of the faithful friend whom I had come to seek. But, Heaven be praised! he continued with emotion, my error will not cost him his life, nor cause eternal grief to Donna Theodora.
Ah! Mendoza, interrupted the lady, you do injustice to my tears; never shall I console myself for your own loss. Even should I espouse your friend, it will be only to unite our griefs: your love, your friendship, your misfortunes will ever be present to our recollection,? the sole topic for our tongues. It is too much, madam, replied Don Fabricio; I am not worthy thus to trouble thy repose. Permit, I entreat thee, Zarata to call thee his, on the day when he shall have revenged thy wrongs on Alvaro Ponza. Don Alvaro, said the widow of Cifuentes, is no more; on the same day that he forced me from my home, he was killed by the pirate who enslaved me.
Madam, replied Mendoza, my wavering soul rejoices at the welcome news; my friend will be the sooner happy. Follow without control your mutual inclinations. I see, with joy, the hour approach, which removes from you, for ever, the obstacle which your generous compassion has raised against your happiness. May your days glide in peace, and in an union which the envy of fortune may never dare to trouble! Adieu, Madam!? adieu, Don Juan!? think sometimes, in your joy, of one who has never loved but you.
Donna Theodora and the Toledan were unable to reply to this affectionate address, except by tears, which redoubled as he spoke. Mendoza, therefore, perceiving their grief, thus continued: But I have done with earth! Death already points me out my way; and I have not yet supplicated the Divine mercy to pardon me for having, by my own folly, shortened a life of which it should have alone disposed. He spoke no more; but, raising his eyes to Heaven, appeared to be engaged in mental prayer for its forgiveness; when a gurgling in his throat told that a last out-breaking of his wound had taken place, and he expired.
Don Juan, as he heard the fatal rattling which indicated what was passing, was maddened with despair. His hands sought his own wound; and tearing it open, he would have soon joined his friend, but that the renegade and Francisco threw themselves upon him, and withheld his fury: Donna Theodora, womanlike, forgetful of her own woes at sight of the transport of the Toledan, hastened to soothe him by her tenderness; and? what will not love do? ? soon brought him to himself: in short, the lover triumphed over the friend. But, if reason regained its sway, it was only to resist the insensate frenzy of his grief, and not to weaken its sentiment.
The renegade, who, among the many things which he was bearing from Algiers, happened to have balsam of Arabia, and other precious requisites, undertook to embalm the body of Mendoza, at the request of Donna Theodora and her now unrivalled lover; who were anxious to render to their friend's remains all proper honours of sepulture at Valencia. Love, with them, did nothing but sigh and moan, during the voyage; not so, however, with their companions: they were rejoiced by favourable winds, which soon brought them in sight of the coast of Spain, to the inexpressible delight of those, which included the whole crew, who had never expected to behold it again.
When the vessel had happily arrived at the port of Denia, every one took his own course. For the widow of Cifuentes and the Toledan, they sent a courier to Valencia, with letters for the governor and the friends of Donna Theodora. Alas! while the intelligence of the return of this lady brought joy to her relations, that of the death of his nephew caused the deepest affliction to Don Francisco de Mendoza.
The poor old man, accompanied by the relatives of the released lady, lost no time in repairing to Denia; and there, insisting on beholding the body of the unhappy Don Fabricio, he bathed it with his tears, uttering such deep complaints as melted the hearts of the beholders. Then, turning to the Toledan, he requested to be informed of the unfortunate events which had brought his nephew to so sad an end.
I will tell you, replied Zarata: far from seeking to efface them from my memory, I feel a mournful pleasure in recalling them to my mind, and in indulging my grief. He then related to Don Francisco all that had occurred; and this recital, while it brought fresh tears to his own eyes, added to those which flowed from those of his aged listener. Meanwhile the friends of Theodora were occupied in testifying the delight which was elicited by her unexpected return, and in felicitating her on the miraculous manner in which she had been delivered from the tyranny of Mezzomorto.
After all things had been satisfactorily explained, they placed the body of Don Fabricio in a hearse, and bore it to Valencia. It was not however buried there, because, as the period of the viceroyalty of Don Francisco was nearly expired, that nobleman was preparing to return to Madrid, where he had resolved that his nephew should be interred. While the preparations for the funeral were making, the widow of Cifuentes was employed in loading Francisco and the renegade with the fruits of her gratitude. The Navarrese retired to his own province, and the surgeon returned with his mother to Barcelona, where he sought once more the bosom of the church, in which he lives to this day snugly enough. And now, when all was completed, Don Francisco received an express from the court, conveying the pardon of Don Juan, which the king, notwithstanding his consideration for the house of Naxera, had been unable to refuse to all the Mendozas who had united to ask the grace. This pardon was the more welcome to the Toledan, inasmuch as it gave him liberty to accompany the body of his friend to its last home, which he would not otherwise have dared to do.
At last the sorrowful procession, attended by a numerous concourse of noble mourners, set out for Madrid; where it was no sooner arrived, than all that remained of Don Fabricio was deposited in yonder church, where Zarata and the Donna Theodora, with the permission of the Mendozas, erected a splendid monument to his memory. Nor did they bury their grief with their friend: they bore at least its outward sign for the unusual space of an entire year, that the world might know how deeply they deplored his loss.
After having exhibited such signal proofs of their affection for Mendoza, they married; but, by an inconceivable effort of the force of friendship, Don Juan for a length of time still preserved a melancholy that not even love could banish. Don Fabricio, his dear Don Fabricio, was ever present in his thoughts by day; and, by night, he saw him in his dreams, and mostly as he had beheld him when the last sigh escaped him. His mind, however, began to be relieved from these saddening visions,? the charms of his beloved Theodora, which had ever possessed his soul, commenced their triumph over his baneful remembrances; in short, Don Juan once more touched upon happiness. But, a few days since, while hunting, he was thrown from his horse, fell upon his head, and fractured his skull. Physicians could not save him; he is just dead: and it is Theodora whom you see, in the arms of the two women, and who will probably soon follow him to the grave.