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CHAPTER XXXIX

WHEREIN THE CAPTIVE RELATES HIS LIFE AND ADVENTURES

My family had its origin in a village in the mountains of Leon,
and nature had been kinder and more generous to it than fortune;
though in the general poverty of those communities my father passed
for being even a rich man; and he would have been so in reality had he
been as clever in preserving his property as he was in spending it.
This tendency of his to be liberal and profuse he had acquired from
having been a soldier in his youth, for the soldier's life is a school
in which the niggard becomes free-handed and the free-handed prodigal;
and if any soldiers are to be found who are misers, they are
monsters of rare occurrence. My father went beyond liberality and
bordered on prodigality, a disposition by no means advantageous to a
married man who has children to succeed to his name and position. My
father had three, all sons, and all of sufficient age to make choice
of a profession. Finding, then, that he was unable to resist his
propensity, he resolved to divest himself of the instrument and
cause of his prodigality and lavishness, to divest himself of
wealth, without which Alexander himself would have seemed
parsimonious; and so calling us all three aside one day into a room,
he addressed us in words somewhat to the following effect:

"My sons, to assure you that I love you, no more need be known or
said than that you are my sons; and to encourage a suspicion that I do
not love you, no more is needed than the knowledge that I have no
self-control as far as preservation of your patrimony is concerned;
therefore, that you may for the future feel sure that I love you
like a father, and have no wish to ruin you like a stepfather, I
propose to do with you what I have for some time back meditated, and
after mature deliberation decided upon. You are now of an age to
choose your line of life or at least make choice of a calling that
will bring you honour and profit when you are older; and what I have
resolved to do is to divide my property into four parts; three I
will give to you, to each his portion without making any difference,
and the other I will retain to live upon and support myself for
whatever remainder of life Heaven may be pleased to grant me. But I
wish each of you on taking possession of the share that falls to him
to follow one of the paths I shall indicate. In this Spain of ours
there is a proverb, to my mind very true- as they all are, being short
aphorisms drawn from long practical experience- and the one I refer to
says, 'The church, or the sea, or the king's house;' as much as to
say, in plainer language, whoever wants to flourish and become rich,
let him follow the church, or go to sea, adopting commerce as his
calling, or go into the king's service in his household, for they say,
'Better a king's crumb than a lord's favour.' I say so because it is
my will and pleasure that one of you should follow letters, another
trade, and the third serve the king in the wars, for it is a difficult
matter to gain admission to his service in his household, and if war
does not bring much wealth it confers great distinction and fame.
Eight days hence I will give you your full shares in money, without
defrauding you of a farthing, as you will see in the end. Now tell
me if you are willing to follow out my idea and advice as I have
laid it before you."

Having called upon me as the eldest to answer, I, after urging him
not to strip himself of his property but to spend it all as he
pleased, for we were young men able to gain our living, consented to
comply with his wishes, and said that mine were to follow the
profession of arms and thereby serve God and my king. My second
brother having made the same proposal, decided upon going to the
Indies, embarking the portion that fell to him in trade. The youngest,
and in my opinion the wisest, said he would rather follow the
church, or go to complete his studies at Salamanca. As soon as we
had come to an understanding, and made choice of our professions, my
father embraced us all, and in the short time he mentioned carried
into effect all he had promised; and when he had given to each his
share, which as well as I remember was three thousand ducats apiece in
cash (for an uncle of ours bought the estate and paid for it down, not
to let it go out of the family), we all three on the same day took
leave of our good father; and at the same time, as it seemed to me
inhuman to leave my father with such scanty means in his old age, I
induced him to take two of my three thousand ducats, as the
remainder would be enough to provide me with all a soldier needed.
My two brothers, moved by my example, gave him each a thousand ducats,
so that there was left for my father four thousand ducats in money,
besides three thousand, the value of the portion that fell to him
which he preferred to retain in land instead of selling it. Finally,
as I said, we took leave of him, and of our uncle whom I have
mentioned, not without sorrow and tears on both sides, they charging
us to let them know whenever an opportunity offered how we fared,
whether well or ill. We promised to do so, and when he had embraced us
and given us his blessing, one set out for Salamanca, the other for
Seville, and I for Alicante, where I had heard there was a Genoese
vessel taking in a cargo of wool for Genoa.

It is now some twenty-two years since I left my father's house,
and all that time, though I have written several letters, I have had
no news whatever of him or of my brothers; my own adventures during
that period I will now relate briefly. I embarked at Alicante, reached
Genoa after a prosperous voyage, and proceeded thence to Milan,
where I provided myself with arms and a few soldier's accoutrements;
thence it was my intention to go and take service in Piedmont, but
as I was already on the road to Alessandria della Paglia, I learned
that the great Duke of Alva was on his way to Flanders. I changed my
plans, joined him, served under him in the campaigns he made, was
present at the deaths of the Counts Egmont and Horn, and was
promoted to be ensign under a famous captain of Guadalajara, Diego
de Urbina by name. Some time after my arrival in Flanders news came of
the league that his Holiness Pope Pius V of happy memory, had made
with Venice and Spain against the common enemy, the Turk, who had just
then with his fleet taken the famous island of Cyprus, which
belonged to the Venetians, a loss deplorable and disastrous. It was
known as a fact that the Most Serene Don John of Austria, natural
brother of our good king Don Philip, was coming as
commander-in-chief of the allied forces, and rumours were abroad of
the vast warlike preparations which were being made, all which stirred
my heart and filled me with a longing to take part in the campaign
which was expected; and though I had reason to believe, and almost
certain promises, that on the first opportunity that presented
itself I should be promoted to be captain, I preferred to leave all
and betake myself, as I did, to Italy; and it was my good fortune that
Don John had just arrived at Genoa, and was going on to Naples to join
the Venetian fleet, as he afterwards did at Messina. I may say, in
short, that I took part in that glorious expedition, promoted by
this time to be a captain of infantry, to which honourable charge my
good luck rather than my merits raised me; and that day- so
fortunate for Christendom, because then all the nations of the earth
were disabused of the error under which they lay in imagining the
Turks to be invincible on sea-on that day, I say, on which the Ottoman
pride and arrogance were broken, among all that were there made
happy (for the Christians who died that day were happier than those
who remained alive and victorious) I alone was miserable; for, instead
of some naval crown that I might have expected had it been in Roman
times, on the night that followed that famous day I found myself
with fetters on my feet and manacles on my hands.

It happened in this way: El Uchali, the king of Algiers, a daring
and successful corsair, having attacked and taken the leading
Maltese galley (only three knights being left alive in it, and they
badly wounded), the chief galley of John Andrea, on board of which I
and my company were placed, came to its relief, and doing as was bound
to do in such a case, I leaped on board the enemy's galley, which,
sheering off from that which had attacked it, prevented my men from
following me, and so I found myself alone in the midst of my
enemies, who were in such numbers that I was unable to resist; in
short I was taken, covered with wounds; El Uchali, as you know,
sirs, made his escape with his entire squadron, and I was left a
prisoner in his power, the only sad being among so many filled with
joy, and the only captive among so many free; for there were fifteen
thousand Christians, all at the oar in the Turkish fleet, that
regained their longed-for liberty that day.

They carried me to Constantinople, where the Grand Turk, Selim, made
my master general at sea for having done his duty in the battle and
carried off as evidence of his bravery the standard of the Order of
Malta. The following year, which was the year seventy-two, I found
myself at Navarino rowing in the leading galley with the three
lanterns. There I saw and observed how the opportunity of capturing
the whole Turkish fleet in harbour was lost; for all the marines and
janizzaries that belonged to it made sure that they were about to be
attacked inside the very harbour, and had their kits and pasamaques,
or shoes, ready to flee at once on shore without waiting to be
assailed, in so great fear did they stand of our fleet. But Heaven
ordered it otherwise, not for any fault or neglect of the general
who commanded on our side, but for the sins of Christendom, and
because it was God's will and pleasure that we should always have
instruments of punishment to chastise us. As it was, El Uchali took
refuge at Modon, which is an island near Navarino, and landing
forces fortified the mouth of the harbour and waited quietly until Don
John retired. On this expedition was taken the galley called the
Prize, whose captain was a son of the famous corsair Barbarossa. It
was taken by the chief Neapolitan galley called the She-wolf,
commanded by that thunderbolt of war, that father of his men, that
successful and unconquered captain Don Alvaro de Bazan, Marquis of
Santa Cruz; and I cannot help telling you what took place at the
capture of the Prize.

The son of Barbarossa was so cruel, and treated his slaves so badly,
that, when those who were at the oars saw that the She-wolf galley was
bearing down upon them and gaining upon them, they all at once dropped
their oars and seized their captain who stood on the stage at the
end of the gangway shouting to them to row lustily; and passing him on
from bench to bench, from the poop to the prow, they so bit him that
before he had got much past the mast his soul had already got to hell;
so great, as I said, was the cruelty with which he treated them, and
the hatred with which they hated him.

We returned to Constantinople, and the following year,
seventy-three, it became known that Don John had seized Tunis and
taken the kingdom from the Turks, and placed Muley Hamet in
possession, putting an end to the hopes which Muley Hamida, the
cruelest and bravest Moor in the world, entertained of returning to
reign there. The Grand Turk took the loss greatly to heart, and with
the cunning which all his race possess, he made peace with the
Venetians (who were much more eager for it than he was), and the
following year, seventy-four, he attacked the Goletta and the fort
which Don John had left half built near Tunis. While all these
events were occurring, I was labouring at the oar without any hope
of freedom; at least I had no hope of obtaining it by ransom, for I
was firmly resolved not to write to my father telling him of my
misfortunes. At length the Goletta fell, and the fort fell, before
which places there were seventy-five thousand regular Turkish
soldiers, and more than four hundred thousand Moors and Arabs from all
parts of Africa, and in the train of all this great host such
munitions and engines of war, and so many pioneers that with their
hands they might have covered the Goletta and the fort with handfuls
of earth. The first to fall was the Goletta, until then reckoned
impregnable, and it fell, not by any fault of its defenders, who did
all that they could and should have done, but because experiment
proved how easily entrenchments could be made in the desert sand
there; for water used to be found at two palms depth, while the
Turks found none at two yards; and so by means of a quantity of
sandbags they raised their works so high that they commanded the walls
of the fort, sweeping them as if from a cavalier, so that no one was
able to make a stand or maintain the defence.

It was a common opinion that our men should not have shut themselves
up in the Goletta, but should have waited in the open at the
landing-place; but those who say so talk at random and with little
knowledge of such matters; for if in the Goletta and in the fort there
were barely seven thousand soldiers, how could such a small number,
however resolute, sally out and hold their own against numbers like
those of the enemy? And how is it possible to help losing a stronghold
that is not relieved, above all when surrounded by a host of
determined enemies in their own country? But many thought, and I
thought so too, that it was special favour and mercy which Heaven
showed to Spain in permitting the destruction of that source and
hiding place of mischief, that devourer, sponge, and moth of countless
money, fruitlessly wasted there to no other purpose save preserving
the memory of its capture by the invincible Charles V; as if to make
that eternal, as it is and will be, these stones were needed to
support it. The fort also fell; but the Turks had to win it inch by
inch, for the soldiers who defended it fought so gallantly and stoutly
that the number of the enemy killed in twenty-two general assaults
exceeded twenty-five thousand. Of three hundred that remained alive
not one was taken unwounded, a clear and manifest proof of their
gallantry and resolution, and how sturdily they had defended
themselves and held their post. A small fort or tower which was in the
middle of the lagoon under the command of Don Juan Zanoguera, a
Valencian gentleman and a famous soldier, capitulated upon terms. They
took prisoner Don Pedro Puertocarrero, commandant of the Goletta,
who had done all in his power to defend his fortress, and took the
loss of it so much to heart that he died of grief on the way to
Constantinople, where they were carrying him a prisoner. They also
took the commandant of the fort, Gabrio Cerbellon by name, a
Milanese gentleman, a great engineer and a very brave soldier. In
these two fortresses perished many persons of note, among whom was
Pagano Doria, knight of the Order of St. John, a man of generous
disposition, as was shown by his extreme liberality to his brother,
the famous John Andrea Doria; and what made his death the more sad was
that he was slain by some Arabs to whom, seeing that the fort was
now lost, he entrusted himself, and who offered to conduct him in
the disguise of a Moor to Tabarca, a small fort or station on the
coast held by the Genoese employed in the coral fishery. These Arabs
cut off his head and carried it to the commander of the Turkish fleet,
who proved on them the truth of our Castilian proverb, that "though
the treason may please, the traitor is hated;" for they say he ordered
those who brought him the present to be hanged for not having
brought him alive.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Don Quixote by Migeul de Cervantes
Category:
Romance Literature - Spanish
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