Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
XIII. Wherein Is Prosecuted the History of the Captive
‘I have it even in the very same manner,’ quoth the Captive.
‘Well, then,’ said the gentleman, ‘that of the fort is thus, if I do not forget it:
‘The Goleta and the fort being rendered, the Turks gave order to dismantle Goleta; for the fort was left in such sort as there remained nothing up that might be overthrown: and to do it with more brevity and less labour, they undermined it in three places, but that which seemed least strong could not be blown up by any of them, which was the old walls; but all that which had remained afoot of the new fortifications and works of Fratin, fell down to the ground with great facility. And this being ended, the navy returned triumphant and victorious to Constantinople, where, within a few months afterward, my lord Uchali died, whom they called Uchali Far, tax which signifies in the Turkish language, the Scald or Scurvy Runagate, for he was such. And it is a custom among the Turks to give one another nicknames, either of the defects or perfections and virtues which they have; and the reason hereof is, that among them all they have but four lineages that have surnames, and these do contend with that of Ottoman’s, for nobility of blood; and all the rest, as I have said, do take denomination sometime from the blemishes of the body, and sometime from the virtues of the mind. And this scurvy fellow did row fourteen years, being the Great Turk’s slave, and did renounce his faith, being four-and-thirty years old, for despite, and because he might be revenged on a Turk that gave him a cuff on the face as he rowed; and his valour was so great, as without ascending by the dishonourable means and ways usually taken by the greatest minions about the Great Turk, he came first to be King of Algiers, and after to be General of the Sea, which is the third most noble charge and dignity of all the Turkish empire. He was born in Calabria, and was a good moral man, and used with great humanity his slaves, whereof he had above three thousand, which were after his death divided, as he had left in his testament, between the Great Turk (who is ever an inheritor to every dead man, and hath a portion among the deceased his children) and his runagates. I fell to the lot of a Venetian runagate, who being a ship-boy in a certain vessel, was taken by Uchali,
‘With this did I pass away my life, shut up in a prison or house, which the Turks call baths, wherein they do enclose the captive Christians, as well those that belong to the king as other particular men’s, and those which they call of the Almazen, which is as much to say, as slaves of the council, who are deputed to serve the city in the public works and other affairs thereof; and these of all other captives do with most difficulty attain to liberty; for, by reason they belong to the commonalty, and have no particular master, there is none with whom a man may treat of their redemption, although they should have the price of their ransom. To these baths, as I have said, some particular men carry their captives to be kept, chiefly if they be to be ransomed; for there they have them at their ease and secure, until they be redeemed. The king’s captives of ransom, also, do not go forth to labour with the other poor crew, if it be not when the paying of their ransom is deferred; for then, to the end they may make them write for money more earnestly, they make them labour and go to fetch wood with the rest, which is no small toil and trouble. I then was one of those of ransom; for as soon as it was known how I was a captain, notwithstanding that I told them of my little possibility and
‘There were over the square court of our prison certain windows that looked into it, and belonged to a certain rich and principal Moor; the which windows (as ordinarily are all the Moors’ windows) rather seemed to be holes than windows, and even these were also very closely covered and shut fast with linen coverings. It therefore befell that, standing one day upon the battlements of our prison with other three companions, trying which of us could leap best in his shackles to pass away the time, and being alone (for all the other Christians were gone abroad to labour), I lifted up by chance mine eyes, and I saw thrust out at one of those so close shut windows a cane, and a linen tied at the end thereof, and the cane was moved and wagged up and
‘Finally, the third approached it, with no better success than the former two; which I perceiving, would not omit to try my fortitude: and as soon as I came near to stand under the cane, it was let slip, and fell within the baths, just at my feet. I forthwith went to untie the linen which was knotted, wherein I found ten zianiys, which are certain pieces of base gold used among the Moors, and worth, each of them, ten reals of our money. I leave to your discretion to think if I was not glad of my booty; certes, my joy and admiration was much, to think whence that good might come unto us, but specially to myself, since the signs of refusal to let it fall to the other did confirm clearly that the favour was only addressed to myself. I took my welcome money, broke the cane, and returned to the battlements, and viewed the window earnestly, and perceived a very beautiful hand issue out thereat, which did open and shut it again very speedily. By which imagining and thinking that some woman that dwelled in that house had done us the charity and benefit, in token of our thankful minds, we made our courtesies after the Moorish fashion, by inclining of our heads, bending of the body, and pressing our hands to our breasts. Within a while after, there appeared out of the same window a little cross made of canes, which presently was taken in again. This sign did confirm us in the opinion that there was some Christian woman captive in that place, and that it was she which did to us the courtesy; but the whiteness of her hand, and her rich bracelets, destroyed this presumption: although we did, notwithstanding, conjecture that it was some runagate Christian, whom their masters there do very ordinarily take to wives, yea, and account very
‘Yet in all these discourses we strayed very far from the truth of the accident; and so, from thenceforward, all our passing of the time was employed in beholding that window as our north, wherein had appeared the star of the cane. But fifteen days passed over, or we could descry either it or the hand again, or any other sign. And although in the meantime we endeavoured all that we might to know who dwelled in that house, or whether there were any runagate Christian therein, yet never a one could tell us any other things but that it belonged to a very rich and noble Moor, called Aguimorato, who had been constable of the Pata—a dignity among them of very great quality.
‘But when we thought least that it would rain any more zianiys by that way, we saw the cane suddenly to appear and another linen hanging on it, whose bulk was much greater. And this befel when the bath was freed of concourse, and void, as the other time before. We made the accustomed trial, every one approaching it before me, but without effect until I came; for presently, as I approached it, it was permitted to fall. I untied the knot, and found enwreathed in it forty ducats of Spanish gold, with a letter written in the Arabian tongue, and at the end thereof was drawn a very great cross. I kissed the cross, took up the money, and returned again to the battlements, and we all together made our receivers. The hand also appeared. I made signs that I would read the paper, and the window was shut incontinently. All of us were marvelously astonished, yet joyful at that which had befallen us; and by reason that none of us understood the Arabian tongue, the desire that we had to understand the contents of the letter was surpassing great, but greater the difficulty to find out some trusty persons that might read it. In the end I resolved to trust in this affair a runagate of Murcia, who did profess himself to be my very great friend, and having, by my liberality and other good turns done secretly, obliged him to be secret in the affair wherein I would use him—for some runagates are accustomed, when they have an intention to return into the Christian countries, to bring with them testimonies of the
‘See, good sir, if it was not great reason, that the reasons comprehended in this letter should recreate and astonish us. And certainly the one and the other was so great, as the runagate perceived well that the paper was not found by chance, but was really addressed unto some one of us; and therefore desired us earnestly, that if that were true which he suspected, that we would trust and tell it unto him, and he would adventure his life to procure our liberties. And saying this, he took out of his bosom a crucifix of metal, and protested, with very many tears, by the God which that image represented, in whom he, although a sinner and wicked man, did most firmly believe, that he would be most loyal and secret to us in all that which we would discover unto him; for it seemed to him, and he almost divined, that
‘“The true Allah preserve you, dear lady, and that blessed Marien who is the true mother of God, and is she that hath put in your mind the desire to go into the Christian countries, because she doth love you well. Pray unto her that she will vouchsafe to instruct you how you may bring the matter to pass which she commandeth you to do; for she is so good as she will easily condescend to do it. As for my part, I do promise, as well for myself as for these other Christians that are with me, to do for you all that we are able to do until death. Do not omit to write unto me, and acquaint me with your purposes, and I will answer you every time; for great Allah hath given us a captive Christian that can write and read your language well, as you may perceive by this paper; so that you may securely, and without any dread, advise us of all that you shall think good. And as concerning that which you say, that you will become my wife after we arrive to the Christian countries, I do promise you the same, as I am a good Christian; and you
‘The letter being written and enclosed, I expected two days, that the baths might be free of concourse, as it was wont, which as soon as it befel, I went up to my accustomed place of the battlements, to see whether the cane appeared; which was presently after thrust out at the window. And as soon as I perceived it, although I could not note who it was that set it, I showed my paper, to give them warning to set on the thread; but it was already hanging thereon; to the which I tied the letter, and within a while after began to appear our star, with the white flag of peace, and the knotted linen; which they let fall, and I took up: and I found therein, in divers sorts of money and gold, more than fifty ducats, which redoubled our joys more than fifty times, and confirmed the hope we conceived of attaining liberty. The very same night our runagate returned to us, and told how he had learned that the very same Moor which we were informed of before, called Aguimorato, dwelt there, and was excessive rich, and had one only daughter, the heir of all his goods; of whom the common opinion throughout the city was, that she was the fairest woman of all Barbary; and that many of the viceroys that came there had demanded her to wife, but she would never condescend to any notion of marriage; and that he likewise had understood that she had sometimes a Christian captive, which now was deceased: all which agreed with the contents of the letter. We presently entered in council with the runagate about the means we were to use to fetch away the Moor, and come all of us to Christian lands; and in the end we concluded to attend, for that time, the second advice of Zoraida (for so was she then called, who now means to name herself Maria), forasmuch as we clearly perceived that it was she, and none other, that could minister to us the means to remove all these difficulties. After we had rested on this resolution, the runagate bid us be of good courage, for he would engage his life, or set us at liberty. Four days after, the baths were troubled with people, which was an occasion that the cane appeared not all that while; but that impediment being removed, and the accustomed
‘“I know not, good sir, what order to give for our going into Spain nor hath Lela Marien told me anything concerning it, although I have demanded her counsel. That which at present I conceive may be done is, that I will through this window give unto you great store of money, wherewith you may redeem yourself and your friends. And let one of you go into the Christian’s country and buy a barque, and after return for his fellows, and he shall find me in my father’s garden, which is at the gate of Babazon, near to the sea-coast, where I mean to stay all the summer, with my father and my servants; from whence you may take me out boldly by night, and carry me to the barque. And see well that thou wilt be my husband; for if thou wilt not, I will demand of Marien to chastise thee: and if thou darest trust nobody to go for the vessel, redeem thyself and go, for I know thou wilt rather return than another, seeing thou art a gentleman and a Christian. Learn out the garden, and when I see thee walk there where thou now art, I will make account that the bath is empty, and will give thee great store of money. Allah preserve thee, my dear friend!”
‘These were the contents of the second letter, which being heard by us all, every one offered to be himself the ransomed person, and promised to go and return with all punctuality, and among the rest I also made a proffer of myself; to all which resolutions the runagate opposed himself, saying that he would consent in no wise that any one of us should be freed until we were all together delivered; for experience had taught him how evil ransomed men were wont to keep those promises which they passed in the times of their thraldom; for many times certain principal captives had made that kind of trial, redeeming of some one or other that should go to Valencia or Majorca, with money to freight
‘The Thursday before the Friday of the beautiful Zoraida’s departure towards the garden, she gave unto us other two thousand ducats, and did likewise advise us of her going away, entreating me, that as soon as I had ransomed myself, I should learn the way to the garden, and take occasion howsoever to go to it, and see her. I answered her briefly that I would do so, and prayed her that she would carefully commend our proceedings to Lela Marien with those prayers which the captive had taught her. This being done, order was also given for the ransoming of my three companions to facilitate our issue out of the baths, and also that they seeing me free, and themselves undelivered, might not be troubled or persuaded by the devil to do anything in prejudice of Zoraida; for although that they, being the men of that quality they were, might assure me from this fear, I would not, for all that, adventure the matter; and therefore