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Biografía de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra en Albalearning
|The generous lover|
"O lamentable ruins of the ill-fated Nicosia, still moist with the blood of your valorous and unfortunate defenders! Were you capable of feeling, we might jointly bewail our disasters in this solitude, and perhaps find some relief for our sorrows in mutually declaring them. A hope may remain that your dismantled towers may rise again, though not for so just a defence as that in which they fell; but I, unfortunate! what good can I hope for in my wretched distress, even should I return to my former state? Such is my hard fate, that in freedom I was without happiness, and in captivity I have no hope of it."
These words were uttered by a captive Christian as he gazed from an eminence on the ruined walls of Nicosia; and thus he talked with them, comparing his miseries with theirs, as if they could understand him,--a common habit with the afflicted, who, carried away by their imaginations, say and do things inconsistent with all sense and reason.
Meanwhile there issued from a pavilion or tent, of which there were four pitched in the plain, a young Turk, of good-humoured and graceful appearance, who approached the Christian, saying,
"I will lay a wager, friend Ricardo, that the gloomy thoughts you are continually ruminating have led you to this place."
"It is true," replied Ricardo, for that was the captive's name; "but what avails it, since, go where I will, I find no relief from them; on the contrary, the sight of yonder ruins have given them increased force."
"You mean the ruins of Nicosia?"
"Of course I do, since there are no others visible here."
"Such a sight as that might well move you to tears," said the Turk; "for any one who saw this famous and plenteous isle of Cyprus about two years ago, when its inhabitants enjoyed all the felicity that is granted to mortals, and who now sees them exiled from it, or captive and wretched, how would it be possible not to mourn over its calamity? But let us talk no more of these thing's, for which there is no remedy, and speak of your own, for which I would fain find one. Now I entreat you, by what you owe me for the good-will I have shown you, and for the fact that we are of the same country, and were brought up together in boyhood, that you tell me what is the cause of your inordinate sadness. For even, admitting that captivity alone is enough to sadden the most cheerful heart in the world, yet I imagine that your sorrows have a deeper source; for generous spirits like yours do not yield to ordinary misfortunes so much as to betray extraordinary grief on account of them. Besides, I know that you are not so poor as to be unable to pay the sum demanded for your ransom; nor are you shut up in the castles of the Black Sea as a captive of consideration, who late or never obtains the liberty he sighs for. Since, then, you are not deprived of the hope of freedom, and yet manifest such deep despondency, I cannot help thinking that it proceeds from some other cause than the loss of your liberty. I entreat you to tell me what is that cause, and I offer you my help to the utmost of my means and power. Who knows but that it was in order that I might serve you that fortune induced me to wear this dress which I abhor. "You know, Ricardo, that my master is the cadi (which is the same thing as the bishop) of this city. You know, too, how great is his power, and my influence with him. Moreover, you are not ignorant of the ardent desire I feel not to die in this creed, which I nominally profess; but if it can be done in no other way, I propose to confess and publicly cry aloud my faith in Jesus Christ, from which I lapsed by reason of my youth and want of understanding. Such a confession I know will cost me my life, which I will give freely, that I may not lose my soul. From all this I would have you infer, and be assured, that my friendship may be of some use to you. But that I may know what remedies or palliations your case may admit of, it is necessary that you explain it to me, as the sick man does to the doctor, taking my word for it, that I will maintain the strictest secrecy concerning it."
Ricardo, who had listened in silence all this while, finding himself at last obliged to reply, did so as follows:
"If, as you have guessed rightly, respecting my misfortune, friend Mahmoud," (that was the Turk's name,) "so also you could hit upon the remedy for it, I should think my liberty well lost, and would not exchange my mischance for the greatest imaginable good fortune. But I know that it is such, that though all the world should know the cause whence it proceeds, no one ever would make bold to find for it a remedy, or even an alleviation. That you may be satisfied of this truth, I will relate my story to you, as briefly as I can; but before I enter upon the confused labyrinth of my woes, tell me what is the reason why my master, Hassan Pasha, has caused these pavilions to be pitched here in the plain, before he enters Nicosia, to which he has been appointed pasha, as the Turks call their viceroys."
"I will satisfy you briefly," replied Mahmoud. "You must know, then, that it is the custom among the Turks, for those who are sent as viceroys of any province, not to enter the city in which their predecessor dwells until he quits it, and leaves the new comer to take up his residence freely; and when the new pasha has done so, the old one remains encamped beyond the walls, waiting the result of the inquiry into his administration, which is made without his being able to interfere, and avail himself of bribery or affection, unless he has done so beforehand. The result of the inquiry, enrolled on a sealed parchment, is then given to the departing pasha, and this he must present to the Sublime Porte, that is to say, the court in front of the grand council of the Turk. It is then read by the vizier pasha and the four lesser pashas, (or, as we should say, by the president and members of the royal council,) who punish or reward the bearer according to its contents; though, if these are not favourable, he buys off his punishment with money. If there is no accusation against him, and he is not rewarded, as commonly happens, he obtains by means of presents the post he most desires; for, at that court, offices are not bestowed by merit, but for money; everything is bought and sold. The bestowers of office fleece the receivers; but he who purchases a post, makes enough by it to purchase another which promises more profit.
"Everything proceeds as I tell you; in this empire all is violence: a fact which betokens that it will not be durable; but, as I full surely believe, it is our sins that uphold it, the sins, I mean, of those who imprudently and forwardly offend God, as I am doing: may he forgive me in his mercy!
"It is, then, for the reason I have stated that your master, Hassan Pasha, has been encamped here four days, and if the Pasha of Nicosia has not come out as he should have done, it is because he has been very ill. But he is now better, and he will come out to-day or to-morrow without fail, and lodge in some tents behind this hill, which you have not seen, after which your master will immediately enter the city. And now I have replied to the question you put to me."
"Listen, then, to my story," said Ricardo, "but I know not if I shall be able to fulfil my promise to be brief, since my misfortune is so vast that it cannot be comprised within any reasonable compass of words. However, I will do what I may and as time allows. Let me ask you, in the first place, if you knew in our town of Trapani, a young lady whom fame pronounced to be the most beautiful woman in Sicily? A young lady, I say, of whom the most ingenious tongues, and the choicest wits declared that her beauty was the most perfect ever known in past ages or the present, or that may be looked for in the future. One, of whom the poets sang that she had hair of gold, that her eyes were two shining suns, her cheeks roses, her teeth pearls, her lips rubies, her neck alabaster; and that every part of her made with the whole, and the whole with every part, a marvellous harmony and consonance, nature diffusing all over her such an exquisite sweetness of tone and colour, that envy itself could not find a fault in her. How is it possible, Mahmoud, that you have not already named her? Surely you have either not listened to me, or when you were in Trapani you wanted common sensibility."
"In truth, Ricardo," replied Mahmoud, "if she whom you have depicted in such glowing colours is not Leonisa, the daughter of Rodolfo Florencio, I know not who she is, for that lady alone was famed as you have described."
"Leonisa it is, Mahmoud," exclaimed Ricardo; "Leonisa is the sole cause of all my bliss and all my sorrow; it is for her, and not for the loss of liberty, that my eyes pour forth incessant tears, my sighs kindle the air, and my wailings weary heaven and the ears of men. It is she who makes me appear in your eyes a madman, or at least a being devoid of energy and spirit. This Leonisa, so cruel to me, was not so to another, and this is the cause of my present miserable plight. For you must know that, from my childhood, or at least from the time I was capable of understanding, I not only loved, but adored and worshipped her, as though I knew no other deity on earth. Her parents and relations were aware of my affection for her, and never showed signs of disapproving it, for they knew that my designs were honourable and virtuous; and I know that they often said as much to Leonisa, in order to dispose her to receive me as her betrothed; but she had set her heart on Cornelio, the son of Ascanio Rotulo, whom you well know--a spruce young gallant, point-de-vice in his attire, with white hands, curly locks, mellifluous voice, amorous discourse--made up, in short, of amber and sugar-paste, garnished with plumes and brocade. She never cared to bestow a look on my less dainty face, nor to be touched in the least by my assiduous courtship; but repaid all my affection with disdain and abhorrence; whilst my love for her grew to such an extreme, that I should have deemed my fate most blest if she had killed me by her scorn, provided she did not bestow open, though maidenly, favours on Cornelio. Imagine the anguish of my soul, thus lacerated by her disdain, and tortured by the most cruel jealousy. Leonisa's father and mother winked at her preference for Cornelio, believing, as they well might, that the youth, fascinated by her incomparable beauty, would chose her for his wife, and thus they should have a wealthier son-in-law than myself. That he might have been; but they would not have had one (without arrogance, be it said) of better birth than myself, or of nobler sentiments or more approved worth. Well, in the course of my wooing, I learned one day last May, that is to say, about a year ago, that Leonisa and her parents, Cornelio and his, accompanied by all their relations and servants had gone to enjoy themselves in Ascanio's garden, close to the sea shore on the road to the Saltpits.
"I know the place well," interrupted Mahmoud, "and passed many a merry day there in better times. Go on, Ricardo."
"The moment I received information of this party, such an infernal fury of jealousy possessed my soul that I was utterly distraught, as you will see, by what I straightway did; and that was to go to the garden, where I found the whole party taking their pleasure, and Cornelio and Leonisa seated together under a nopal-tree, a little apart from the rest. What were their sensations on seeing me I know not, all I know is that my own were such that a cloud came over my sight, and I was like a statue without power of speech or motion. But this torpor soon gave way to choler, which roused my heart's blood, and unlocked my hands and my tongue. My hands indeed were for a while restrained by respect for that divine face before me; but my tongue at least broke silence. 'Now hast thou thy heart's content,' I cried, 'O mortal enemy of my repose, thine eyes resting with so much composure on the object that makes mine a perpetual fountain of tears! Closer to him! Closer to him, cruel girl! Cling like ivy round that worthless trunk. Comb and part the locks of that new Ganymede, thy lukewarm admirer. Give thyself up wholly to the capricious boy on whom thy gaze is fixed, so that losing all hope of winning thee I may lose too the life I abhor. Dost thou imagine, proud, thoughtless girl, that the laws and usages which are acknowledged in such cases by all mankind, are to give way for thee alone? Dost thou imagine that this boy, puffed up with his wealth, vain of his looks, presuming upon his birth, inexperienced from his youth, can preserve constancy in love, or be capable of estimating the inestimable, or know what riper years and experience know? Do not think it. One thing alone is good in this world, to act always consistently, so that no one be deceived unless it be by his own ignorance. In extreme youth there is much inconstancy; in the rich there is pride; in the arrogant, vanity; in men who value themselves on their beauty, there is disdain; and in one who unites all these in himself, there is a fatuity which is the mother of all mischief. As for thee, boy, who thinkest to carry off so safely a prize more due to my earnest love than to thy idle philandering, why dost thou not rise from that flowery bank, and tear from my bosom the life which so abhors thine? And that not for the insult thou puttest upon myself, but because thou knowest not how to prize the blessing which fortune bestows upon thee. 'Tis plain, indeed, how little thou esteemest it, since thou wilt not budge to defend it for fear of ruffling the finical arrangement of thy pretty attire. Had Achilles been of as placid temper as thou art, Ulysses would certainly have failed in his attempt, for all his show of glittering arms and burnished helmets. Go, play among thy mother's maids; they will help thee to dress thy locks and take care of those dainty hands that are fitter to wind silk than to handle a sword.'
"In spite of all these taunts Cornelio never stirred from his seat, but remained perfectly still, staring at me as if he was bewitched. The loud tones in which I spoke had brought round us all the people who were walking in the garden, and they arrived in time to hear me assail Cornelio with many other opprobrious terms. Plucking up heart, at last, from the presence of numbers, most of whom were his relations, servants, or friends, he made a show as if he would rise; but before he was on his feet my sword was out, and I attacked not him only but all who were before me. The moment Leonisa saw the gleam of my sword she swooned away, which only exasperated my frantic rage. I know not whether it was that those whom I assailed contented themselves with acting on the defensive as against a raving madman, or that it was my own good luck and adroitness, or Heaven's design to reserve me for greater ills, but the fact was that I wounded seven or eight of those who came under my hand. As for Cornelio, he made such good use of his heels that he escaped me.
"In this imminent danger, surrounded by enemies who were now incensed to vengeance, I was saved by an extraordinary chance; but better would it have been to have lost my life on the spot than to be saved in order to suffer hourly death. On a sudden the garden was invaded by a great number of Turkish corsairs, who had landed in the neighbourhood without being perceived by the sentinels in the castles on the coast, or by our cruisers. As soon as my antagonists descried them they left me, and escaped with all speed. Of all the persons in the garden the Turks captured only three, besides Leonisa, who was still in her swoon. As for me, I fell into their hands after receiving four ugly wounds, which, however, I had revenged by laying four Turks dead upon the ground. The Turks having effected this onslaught with their usual expedition, returned to their galleys, ill-satisfied with a success which had cost them so dear. Having set sail they quickly arrived at Fabiana, where mustering their hands to see who was missing, they found that they had lost four Levantine soldiers whom they esteemed their best men. They resolved to revenge the loss on me, and the commander of the galley immediately ordered the yard-arm to be lowered in order to hang me.
"Leonisa was present at all this. She had come to her senses, and seeing herself in the power of the corsairs, she stood weeping and wringing her delicate hands, without saying a word, but listening if she could understand what was said by the Turks. One of the Christian slaves at the oar told her in Italian that the captain had ordered that Christian to be hanged, pointing to me, because he had killed in his own defence four of the best soldiers belonging to the galley. On hearing this, Leonisa (it was the first time she showed any pity for me) bade the captive tell the Turks not to hang me, for they would lose a large ransom, but return at once, to Trapani, where it would be paid them. This, I say, was the first, as it will also be the last mark of compassion bestowed on me by Leonisa, and all for my greater woe. The Turks believed what the captive told them: interest got the better of their resentment, and they returned next morning with a flag of peace. I passed a night of the greatest anguish, not so much from the pain of my wounds, as from thinking of the danger in which my fair and cruel enemy was placed among those barbarians.
"When we arrived at the town one galley entered the port, the other remained in the offing. The Christian inhabitants lined the whole shore, and the effeminate Cornelio stood watching from a distance what was going on in the galley. My steward immediately came to treat for my ransom, and I told him on no account to bargain for it but for that of Leonisa, for which he should offer all I was worth. I furthermore ordered him to return to shore, and toll Leonisa's parents that they might leave it to him to treat for their daughter's liberation, and give themselves no trouble about the matter. The chief captain, who was a Greek renegade named Yusuf, demanded six thousand crowns for Leonisa and four thousand for me, adding that he would not give up the one without the other. He asked this large sum, as I afterwards ascertained, because he was in love with Leonisa, and did not wish to ransom her, but to give me and a thousand crowns to boot to the other captain, with whom he was bound to share equally whatever prizes they made, and to keep Leonisa for himself as valued at five thousand crowns. It was for this reason that he appraised us both at ten thousand. Leonisa's parents made no offer at all, relying on my promise, nor did Cornelio so much as open his lips on the matter. After much bargaining my steward agreed to pay five thousand crowns for Leonisa and three for me.
"Yusuf accepted this offer at the persuasion of the other captain and of all his men. But as my agent had not so large an amount in ready money, he asked for three days to get it in, being resolved to expend all I possessed rather than fail to rescue us. Yusuf was glad of this, thinking that something might possibly occur in the interval to prevent the completion of the bargain, and he departed for the isle of Fabiana, saying that in three days he would return for the money. But fortune, never weary of persecuting me, ordained that a Turkish sentinel descried from the highest point of the island, far out at sea, six vessels which appeared to be either the Maltese squadron or one belonging to Sicily. He ran down to give warning, and as quick as thought the Turks who were on shore, some cooking their dinners, some washing their linen, embarked again, heaved anchor, got out their oars, hoisted sail, and heading in the direction of Barbary, in less than two hours lost sight of the galleys.
"I leave you to conjecture, friend Mahmoud, what I suffered in that voyage, so contrary to my expectation, and more when we arrived the following day at the south-west of the isle of Pantanalea. There the Turks landed, and the two captains began to divide all the prizes they had made. All this was for me a lingering death. When Leonisa's turn and mine came, Yusuf gave Fatallah (the other captain) myself and six other Christians, four of them fit for the oar, and two very handsome Corsican boys, as an equivalent for Leonisa, whom he himself retained; Fatallah being content with that arrangement. I was present at all this, but knew not what they said, though I saw what they did, nor should I have then understood the nature of the partition, had not Fatallah come up to me and said in Italian, 'Christian, you now belong to me; you have cost me two thousand crowns; if you desire your liberty you must pay me four thousand, or else die here.' I asked him if the Christian maiden was his also. He said she was not, but that Yusuf had kept her with the intention to make her a Moor and marry her; and this was true, for I was told the same thing by one of the Christian rowers, who understood Turkish very well, and had overheard the conversation that had passed between Yusuf and Fatallah. I told my master to take measures for possessing himself of the maiden, and that I would give him for her ransom alone ten thousand gold crowns. He replied that it was impossible, but he would let Yusuf know the large sum I had offered for the Christian girl, and perhaps he would be tempted to change his intention and ransom her. He did so, and ordered all his crew to go on board again immediately, for he intended to sail to Tripoli, to which city he belonged. Yusuf also determined to make for Biserta, and they all embarked with as much speed as they use when they discover galleys to give them chase or merchant craft to plunder. They had reason for this haste, for the weather seemed to be changing, and to threaten a storm.
"Leonisa was ashore, but not where I could see her, until just as we were embarking we met at the water side. Her new master and newer lover led her by the hand, and as she set foot on the ladder that reached from the shore to the galley, she turned her eyes upon me. Mine were fixed on her, and such a pang of mingled tenderness and grief came over me that a mist overspread my eyes, and I fell senseless on the ground. I was told afterwards that Leonisa was affected in the same way, for she fell off the ladder into the sea, into which Yusuf plunged after her and brought her out in his arms. This was told me in my master's galley into which I had been carried insensible. When I came to my senses, and found myself there, and saw the other galley steering a different course and carrying off the half of my soul or rather the whole of it, my heart sank within me again; again I cursed my unhappy fate, and clamorously invoked! death, till my master, annoyed by my loud lamentations, threatened me with a great stick if I did not hold my tongue. I restrained my tears and groans, believing that the force with which I compressed them would make them burst a passage for my soul, which so longed to quit this miserable body. But my misfortune did not end here. The storm which had been foreseen suddenly burst upon us. The wind veered round to the south and blew in our teeth with such violence that we were forced to quit our course and run before it.
"It was the captain's intention to make for the island and take shelter under its northern shore, but in this he was disappointed; for such was the fury of the storm that although before it we had been making way continually for two days and nights, yet in little more than fourteen hours we saw ourselves again within six or seven miles of the island, and driving helplessly against it, not where the shore was low, but just where the rocks were highest and threatened us with inevitable death. We saw near us the other galley, on board of which was Leonisa, and all its Turk and captive rowers straining every nerve to keep themselves off the rocks. Ours did the same, but with more success than the crew of our consort, who, spent with toil, and vanquished in the desperate struggle with the elements, let fall their oars, and suffered themselves to drift ashore, where the galley struck with such violence that it was dashed to pieces before our eyes. Night began to close in, and such were the shrieks of those who were drowning, and the alarm of those on board our galley, that none of our captain's orders were heard or executed. All the crew did, was to keep fast hold of their oars, turn the vessel's head to the wind, and let go two anchors, in hopes to delay for a little while the death that seemed certain. Whilst all were in dread of dying, with me it was quite the reverse; for in the fallacious hope of seeing in the other world her who had so lately departed from this, every instant the galley delayed to founder or drive ashore was to me an age of agony. I watched every billow that dashed by us and over us, to see if they bore the body of the unfortunate Leonisa.
"I will not detain you, Mahmoud, with a recital of the tortures that distracted my soul in that long and bitter night; it is enough to say that they were such that had death come, it would have had little to do in bereaving me of life.
"Day broke with every appearance of worse weather than ever, and we found that our vessel had shifted its course considerably, having drifted away from the rocks and approached a point of the island. Setting all of us to work, both Turks and Christians, with renewed hope and strength, in six hours we doubled the point, and found ourselves in calmer water, so that we could better use our oars; and the Turks saw a prospect of going on shore to see if there were any remains of the galley that had been wrecked the night before. But Heaven denied me the consolation I hoped for in seeing in my arms the body of Leonisa. I asked a renegade, who was about to land, to look for it and see if it had been cast on the strand. But, as I have said, Heaven denied me this consolation, for at that moment the wind rose with such fresh fury that the shelter of the island was no longer of any avail to us. Seeing this, Fatallah would no longer strive against the fortune that so persecuted him. He ordered some sail to be spread, turned the prow to the sea and the poop to the wind, and himself taking the helm, let the vessel run over the wide sea, secure of not being crossed in his way by any impediment. The oars were all placed in their regular positions, the whole crew was seated on the benches, and no one else was seen on foot in the whole galley but the boatswain, who had lashed himself strongly amidship for his greater security. The vessel flew so swiftly that in three days and nights, passing in sight of Trapani, Melazo, and Palermo, she entered the straits of Messina, to the dismay of all on board, and of the spectators on shore.
"Not to be as long-winded as the storm that buffeted us, I will only say that wearied, famishing, and exhausted by such a long run, almost all round the island of Sicily, we arrived at Tripoli, where my master, before he had divided the booty with his partners, and accounted to the king for one-fifth part, according to custom, was seized with such a pleurisy that in three days it carried him off to hell. The king of Tripoli, and the alcayde of the Grand Turk, who, as you know, is heir to all those who die without natural heirs, immediately took possession of all Fatallah's effects. I became the property of the then viceroy of Tripoli, who a fortnight afterwards received the patent appointing him viceroy of Cyprus, and hither I am come with him without any intention of redeeming myself. He has often told me to do so, since I am a man of station, as Fatallah's soldiers informed him; I have never complied, but have declared that he was deceived by those who had exaggerated my means. If you would have me tell you my whole purpose, Mahmoud, you must know that I desire not to turn in any direction in which I may find any sort of consolation, but that the sad thoughts and memories which have never left me since the death of Leonisa may become so identified with my captive life that it may never afford me the least pleasure. And if it is true that continual sorrow must at last wear out itself, or him who suffers it, mine cannot fail to wear me out, for I am resolved to give it such free scope that in a few days it shall put an end to the wretched life I endure so unwillingly.
"This is, brother Mahmoud, my sad story; this is the cause of my sighs and tears; judge now if it is enough to draw them forth from my inmost vitals, and to engender them in the desolation of my afflicted heart, Leonisa is dead, and with her all my hope; and though whilst she lived it hung by the merest thread, yet, yet--"
Here the speaker's voice faltered, so that he could not utter another word, or restrain the tears which coursed each other down his cheeks so fast that they bedewed the ground. Mahmoud mingled his own with them; and when the paroxysm had somewhat abated, he tried to console Ricardo with the best suggestions he could offer; but the mourner cut them short, saying,
"What you have to do, friend, is to advise me how I shall contrive to fall into disgrace with my master, and with all those I have to do with, so that, being abhorred by him and by them, I may be so maltreated and persecuted that I may find the death I so much long for."
"I have now," said Mahmoud, "experienced the truth of the common saying, that what is deeply felt is well expressed, though it is true that sometimes excess of feeling paralyses the tongue. Be that as it may, friend Ricardo,--whether your woes inspire your language, or your language exalts your woes,--you shall always find in me a true friend, to aid or to counsel, though my youth, and the folly I committed in assuming this garb, cry aloud that I am little to be relied on in this capacity. I will try, however, to prove that such a conclusion is unfounded; and though you do not desire either counsel or help, I will not the more desist from doing what your case requires, just as people give a sick man not what he asks for, but what is good for him. There is no one who has more power and influence in this city than my master, the Cadi; not even your own master, who comes to it as viceroy, will have so much. This being the case, I may say that I am the most powerful person here, since I can do what I please with my master. I mention this because it may be that I shall so contrive with him that you shall become his property, and being constantly with me, time will tell us what we had best do, both for your consolation, if you will or can be consoled, and to enable me to exchange the life I lead here for a better one."
"I thank you, Mahmoud, for the friendship you offer me," replied Ricardo, "though I well know that, do what you may, it will avail nothing. But let us quit this subject, and go to the tents, for, as I perceive, great numbers of people are coming forth from the city; no doubt it is the old viceroy who is quitting it to give place to my master."
"It is so," said Mahmoud. "Come then, Ricardo, and you will see the ceremony of the reception."
"Come on," said Ricardo; "perhaps I shall have need of you, if the superintendent of my master's slaves have missed me, for he is a Corsican renegade of no very tender heart."
The latter came attended by all the janissaries who have formed the garrison of Nicosia ever since the Turks have had possession of it, in number about five hundred. They marched in two divisions, the one armed with guns, the other with drawn scimetars. Arrived at the tent of Hassan, the new Pasha, they all surrounded it. Ali made a low obeisance to Hassan, who returned the salutation, but did not bow so low. Ali then entered Hassan's tent, and the Turks placed the new Pasha on a powerful steed, richly caparisoned, and led him round the tents, and up and down the plain; vociferating in their own language, "Long live Sultan Soliman, and Hassan Pasha, his representative!" which cry they frequently repeated, and each time louder and louder. This part of the ceremony being ended, they brought Hassan back to Ali's tent, where the two pashas and the cadi remained alone together for an hour to consult, as Mahmoud informed Ricardo, as to what was to be done upon some works which Ali had begun. Afterwards the cadi appeared at the door of the tent, and proclaimed in Turkish, Arabic, and Greek, that all who desired to crave justice or make any other appeal against Ali Pasha, might now enter freely, for there was Hassan Pasha, sent by the Grand Signor to be viceroy of Cyprus, who would accord them all reason and justice. In conformity with this permission the janissaries opened a passage to the door of the tent, and every one entered who pleased. Mahmoud made Ricardo go in along with him, for being Hassan's slave his entrance was not opposed.
Several Greek Christians and some Turks appeared as appellants, but all upon such trifling matters, that the cadi despatched most of them without the formality of written declarations, rejoinders, and replications. It is, in fact, the custom of the Turks that all causes, except those which relate to marriage, shall be immediately and summarily decided, rather by the rules of common sense than of legal precedent; and among these barbarians (if such they are in this respect) the cadi is the sole judge in all cases, cuts short the pleadings, gives sentence in a breath, and there is no appeal from his decision.
Presently a khawass (that is to say, a Turkish alguazil) entered and said that a Jew stood without, at the door of the tent, with a most beautiful Christian maiden for sale. The cadi gave orders to admit him. The khawass withdrew and immediately returned, accompanied by a Jew of venerable appearance, who led by the hand a young woman clothed in the Moorish dress, which became her so well that the most richly arrayed women of Fez or Morocco could not be compared with her, though in the art of adorning themselves they surpass all the other women of Africa, not excepting even those of Algiers, with all their profusion of pearls. The face of the female slave was covered with a mask of crimson taffety. On her naked ankles she wore two rings, apparently of pure gold; and two others, set with large pearls, on her arms, which shone through the sleeves of a transparent camisole. Her whole dress was rich, gay, and graceful.
Struck by her appearance, the first thing the cadi and the pashas did, was to bid the Jew make the Christian uncover her face. She did so, and disclosed a countenance which, like the sun bursting through thick clouds which have long obscured it, dazzled the eyes and gladdened the hearts of the beholders. But on none did that marvellous light produce such an effect as on the woe-worn Ricardo, for he saw before him no other than his cruel and beloved Leonisa, whom he had so often and with such bitter tears bewailed as dead.
At the unexpected sight of such unparalleled loveliness, Ali felt his heart transfixed; Hassan's was pierced with as deep a wound; nor did the cadi's escape scatheless, but, even more deeply smitten than the two pashas, he could not take his eyes off the Christian's face. All three were seized at the same moment with an absolute determination to possess her; and without stopping to inquire how, or where, or when, she had come into the hands of the Jew, they bade him name her price. Four thousand doblas, he replied.
The words were no sooner out of the Jew's mouth than Ali Pasha said he would give the price, and that the Jew had only to go to his tent to fetch the money. Hassan Pasha, however, who looked as if he had no mind to lose her, though she were to cost him his life, interposed and said,
"I myself will give the four thousand doblas demanded by the Jew, though I would not interfere with Ali's bargain or oppose his wishes, were I not compelled by motives the imperious force and obligation of which he will himself acknowledge. This exquisitely beautiful slave is not for us, but for the Grand Signor alone, and therefore I say that I purchase her in his name. Let us see now who will be so bold as to dispute the purchase with me."
"That will I," replied Ali, "for it is for that very purpose I buy her of the Jew; and it suits me the better to make the present to his Highness, as I have the opportunity of taking her to Constantinople in a few days, and thus winning the favour of the Sultan; for being, as you see, Hassan, a man without employment, I must seek means for obtaining one; whereas, you are secure in that respect for three years, since to-day you enter upon the government of this rich realm of Cyprus. On these grounds, and as I was the first to offer the price demanded for the slave, it stands to reason, Hassan, that you should yield her to me."
"The satisfaction I shall feel in purchasing and sending her to the Sultan," said Hassan, "is so much the greater, as I shall do it without being prompted by any motives of interest whatever. And as for a convenient means of sending her to Constantinople, she shall go thither in a galley manned only by my own slaves."
Ali now started up in wrath, and, clutching his scimetar, cried out,
"Since we both intend the same thing, Hassan, namely, to present this Christian to the Grand Signor, and since I was the first purchaser, reason and justice require that you should leave her to me; if you will not, this blade in my hand shall defend my right, and punish your audacity."
The cadi, who had been closely watching this contest, and who was himself no less inflamed with desire than either of the pashas, bethought him how he might remain possessor of the prize, without giving any cause to suspect his insidious designs. Rising therefore to his feet, he stepped between the two angry pashas.
"Be quiet, Hassan," he said; "calm yourself, Ali; here am I who can and will arrange your differences in such wise that you shall both have your intentions fulfilled, the Sultan shall be gratified as you desire, and shall be under obligations to you both alike for your loyal and acceptable homage."
The two pashas submitted at once to the cadi, as they would have done even had the terms he imposed appeared harder to them, such is the respect which is paid to their elders by those of that accursed sect. The cadi then continued his address to them.
"Ali," said he, "you say that you want this Christian to present her to the Grand Signor; and Hassan says the same. You allege that, having been the first to offer the price required, she ought to be yours; but Hassan denies this; and though he does not know how to assign valid grounds for his claim, yet I find that he has the same as yourself, namely, the intention, which doubtless must have arisen within him at the same time as within yourself, to purchase the slave for the self-same purpose; only you had the advantage of him in being the first to declare yourself. This, however, is no reason why he should be out and out defrauded of the benefit of his good-will, and therefore I am of opinion that it will be well to arrange matters between you in this wise: let the slave be bought by you both; and since she is to belong to the Grand Signor, for whom you buy her, it will be for him to dispose of her. Meanwhile, you Hassan shall pay two thousand doblas, and you Ali another two thousand, and the slave shall remain in my custody, so that I may send her in the name of you both to Constantinople, and thus I too shall not be without some reward for my presence and aid on this occasion. Accordingly, I undertake to send her at my own cost in a style worthy of the great sovereign to whom she is to be presented; and I will write to the Grand Signor a true account of all that has occurred here, and of the good-will you have shown in his service."
The two enamoured pashas could find no pretext for gainsaying this decision; and though it thwarted their desires, they were constrained to submit, each of them comforting himself with the hope, however doubtful, that he would succeed at last. Hassan, who was to remain viceroy of Cyprus, resolved to make such presents to the cadi as would induce him to give up the slave. Ali formed other plans, and as he flattered himself that he should carry them into successful operation, they both professed themselves satisfied, and paid the Jew two thousand doblas each on the spot. The Jew then said that he had sold the slave, but not the clothes she wore, which were worth another two thousand doblas; and this indeed was true, for her hair which she wore partly loose on her shoulders, and partly braided on her forehead, was most gracefully interwoven with strings of pearls; her bracelets and anklets too were set with very large pearls, and her green satin robe was heavily flounced and embroidered with gold. In short, all agreed that the Jew had set a low price on the dress, and the cadi, to show himself no less liberal than the two pashas, said that he would pay for it, that the slave might appear before the Grand Signor as she then stood. The two competitors agreed in approving of this, each of them believing that slave, dress, and all would soon be his own.
It is impossible to describe Ricardo's feelings, when he saw the treasure of his soul thus put up for sale, and found that he had regained it only to lose it more cruelly. He knew not whether he was asleep or awake, and could not believe his own eyes; for it seemed incredible that they should have so unexpectedly before them her whom he had supposed to have disappeared for ever. "Do you know her?" he whispered in Mahmoud's ear.
"No! I do not," was the reply.
"Then I must tell you that it is Leonisa."
"What do you say, Ricardo?" exclaimed Mahmoud.
"I say it is Leonisa."
"Say no more; fortune is proving your friend, and all is turning out for the best, for she is to remain in my master's custody."
"What think you? Shall I place myself where I may be seen by her?"
"By no means, lest you give her a sudden shock; nor must you let it be known that you have seen her, for that might disconcert the plan I have in view."
"I will do as you advise," said Ricardo.
Turning away his eyes, and carefully avoiding those of Leonisa, which were meanwhile bent upon the ground. Presently the cadi went up to her, and taking her by the hand, delivered her to Mahmoud, ordering him to take her into the city and give her up to his lady, Halema, with directions to keep her as a slave of the Grand Signor. Mahmoud obeyed and left Ricardo alone, following with his eyes the star of his soul, until it disappeared behind the walls of Nicosia. He then went up to the Jew, and asked him where he had bought that Christian slave, or how he had become possessed of her. The Jew replied that he had bought her in the island of Pantanalea, of some Turks who had been shipwrecked there. Ricardo would have pursued his inquiries, but the Jew was called away to give the pashas the very same information which Ricardo so much longed to obtain.
During the long walk from the tents to the city Mahmoud conversed with Leonisa in Italian, and asked her whence she came. She replied that she belonged to the illustrious city of Trapani, and that her parents were noble and wealthy, though as for herself she was utterly unfortunate. Mahmoud then asked her if she knew a gentleman of birth and fortune in that city, named Ricardo. On hearing that name a sigh escaped her that seemed to come from the bottom of her heart. "I know him," she replied, "to my sorrow."
"Why to your sorrow?"
"Because it was to his sorrow that he knew me, and for my misfortune."
"Perhaps," said Mahmoud, "you may also know in the same city another gentleman of very amiable disposition, the son of very wealthy parents, and himself a person of great spirit, liberality, and discretion. His name is Cornelio."
"Him too I know, and of him still more than Ricardo I may say that I know him to my sorrow. But who are you, sir, who know these gentlemen and inquire of me respecting them? Doubtless, Heaven, in compassion for the trouble and mischances I have undergone, has sent me to a place where, if they do not cease, at least I may find a person to console me for them."
"I am a native of Palermo," said Mahmoud, "brought by various chances to wear this garb, and to be in appearance so different from what I am in my secret soul. I know the gentlemen in question, because not many days ago they were with me. Cornelio was captured by some Moors of Tripoli, and sold by them to a Turk who brought him to this island, whither he came to trade, for he is a merchant of Rhodes, and so highly satisfied was he with Cornelio, and such was the confidence he reposed in his truth and integrity, that he entrusted him with his whole property."
"He will be sure to take care of it," said Leonisa, "for he takes very good care of his own. But tell me, señor, how or with whom did Ricardo come to this island?"
"He came," said Mahmoud, "with a corsair who had captured him in a garden on the coast near Trapani, and along with him a damsel, whose name I never thought of asking, though the corsair often spoke to me in praise of her beauty. Ricardo remained hero some days with his master until the latter went to visit the tomb of Mahomet, which is in the city of Almedina, and then Ricardo fell into such a sickness that his master left him with me, as being my countryman, that I might take care of him until the return of the pilgrim to Cyprus, should that happen; or else I was to send Ricardo to Constantinople, when his master should advise me of his arrival there. But heaven ordered it otherwise; for the unfortunate Ricardo died in a few days, always invoking to the last the name of one Leonisa, whom he had told me he loved more than his life and soul. She had been drowned, he said, in the wreck of a galley on the coast of the island of Pantanalea; and he never ceased to deplore her death till his grief destroyed him, for that in fact was the only malady I discovered in him."
"Tell me, señor," said Leonisa, "in the conversations you had with the other young man, did he sometimes name this Leonisa? Did he relate the manner in which he and she and Ricardo were captured?"
"He did name her," replied Mahmoud, "and asked me if there had been brought to this island a Christian of that name, of such and such appearance; for if so he should like to ransom her, provided her owner had been undeceived as to his notion that she was richer than she really was, or should it chance that having enjoyed her, he held her in less esteem. If her price did not exceed three or four hundred crowns, he would pay it gladly, because he had once had some regard for her."
"It must have been very little," said Leonisa, "since it was worth no more than four hundred crowns. Ricardo was more generous. Heaven forgive her who was the cause of his death, and that was myself; for I am the unhappy maiden whom he wept as dead, and God knows how I should rejoice were he alive, that I might repay him by letting him see how I felt for his misfortunes. Yes, señor, I am the little loved of Cornello, the truly wept of Ricardo, whom various chances have brought to the miserable state in which I now am; but through all my perils, by the favour of Heaven, I have preserved my honour unsullied, and that consoles me in my misery. I know not at this moment where I am, nor who is my master, nor what my adverse fates have determined is to become of me. I entreat you, therefore, señor, by the Christian blood that flows in your veins, that you will advise me in my difficulties; for though they have already taught me something by experience, yet they are so great and never-ending, that I know not what to do."
Mahmoud assured her he would do what he could to help her to the best of his understanding and his power. He acquainted her with the nature of the dispute there had been between the pashas concerning her, and how she was now in the keeping of his master the cadi, who was to send her to Constantinople to the Grand Turk Selim; but that he trusted that the true God, in whom he, though a bad Christian, believed, would dispose of her otherwise. He advised her to conciliate Halima, the wife of his master the cadi, with whom she was to remain until she was sent to Constantinople, and of whose character he gave her some details. Having given her this and other useful counsel, he arrived at the cadi's house, and delivered her over to Halima along with his master's message.
The Moorish woman received her well, seeing her so beautiful and so handsomely dressed, and Mahmoud returned to the tents, where he recounted to Ricardo, point by point, all that had passed between himself and Leonisa; and the tears came into his eyes when he spoke of the feeling displayed by Leonisa, when he told her that Ricardo was dead. He stated how he had invented the story of Cornelio's captivity, in order to see what impression it made on her; and in what disparaging terms he had spoken of him. All this was balm to Ricardo's afflicted heart.
"I remember, friend Mahmoud," he said, "an anecdote related to me by my father; you know how ingenious he was, and you have heard how highly he was honoured by the emperor, Charles V., whom he always served in honourable posts in peace and war. He told me that when the emperor was besieging Tunis, a Moorish woman was brought to him one day in his tent, as a marvel of beauty, and that some rays of the sun, entering the tent, fell upon her hair, which vied with them in its golden lustre; a rare thing among the Moorish women, whoso hair is almost universally black. Among many other Spanish gentlemen present on that occasion, there were two of distinguished talent as poets, the one an Andalusian, the other a Catalan. Struck with admiration at the sight before him, the Andalusian began to extemporise some verses, but stopped short in the middle of the last line, unable to finish them for want of a rhyme; whereupon the Catalan, who saw his embarrassment, caught the line as it were out of his mouth, finished it, continued the thought, and completed the poem. This incident came into my mind when I saw the exquisitely beautiful Leonisa enter the pasha's tent obscuring not only the rays of the sun, but the whole firmament with all its stars."
"Gently, gently, friend Ricardo," said Mahmoud; "I am afraid if you praise your mistress at that rate you will seem to be a heathen rather than a Christian."
"Well, tell me then," said Ricardo, "what you think of doing in our business. Whilst you were conducting Leonisa to Halima, a Venetian renegade who was in the pasha's tent, and who understands Turkish very well, explained to me all that had passed between them. Above all things, then, we must try to find some means of preventing Leonisa's being sent to the Grand Signor."
"The first thing to be done is to have you transferred to my master," said Mahmoud, "and then we will consider what next."
The keeper of Hassan's Christian slaves now came up and took Ricardo away with him. The cadi returned to the city with Hassan, who in a few days made out the report on Ali's administration, and gave it to him under seal that he might depart to Constantinople. Ali went away at once, laying strict injunctions on the cadi to send the captive without delay to the sultan, along with such a letter as would be serviceable to himself. The cadi promised all this with a treacherous heart, for it was inflamed for the fair Christian. Ali went away full of false hopes, leaving Hassan equally deluded by them. Mahmoud contrived that Ricardo should pass into the possession of his master; but day after day stole on, and Ricardo was so racked with longing to see Leonisa, that he could have no rest. He changed his name to Mario, that his own might not reach her ears before he saw her, which, indeed, was a very difficult thing, because the Moors are exceedingly jealous, and conceal the faces of their women from the eyes of all men; it is true they are not so scrupulous with regard to Christian slaves, perhaps, because being slaves they do not regard them as men.
Now it chanced that one day the lady Halima saw her slave Mario, and gazed so much upon him that his image regained printed on her heart. Not very well satisfied with the languid embraces of her old husband, she readily gave admission to a reprehensible desire, and as readily communicated it to Leonisa, whom she liked much for her agreeable temper, and treated with great respect as a slave of the Grand Signor. She told her how the cadi had brought home a Christian captive of such graceful manners and appearance, that she had never set eyes on a more engaging man in all her life; she understood that he was a chilidi (that is, a gentleman) of the same country as her renegade Mahmoud, and she knew not how to make known to him her inclination, so that the Christian might not despise her for her voluntary declaration. Leonisa asked what was the captive's name, and being told that it was Mario, she replied.
"If he was a gentleman, and of the place they say, I should know him; but there is no one of that name in Trapani. But let me see him, and speak with him, lady, and I will tell you who he is, and what may be expected of him."
"It shall be so," said Halima. "On Friday, when the cadi is at prayers in the mosque, I will make Mario come in here where you may speak to him alone, and if you can give him a hint of my desires you will do so in the best way you can."
Not two hours after this conversation the cadi sent for Mahmoud and Mario, and with no less earnestness than Halima had unbosomed herself to Leonisa, the amorous graybeard opened his own to his two slaves, asking their advice as to what he should do to enjoy the Christian and cheat the Grand Signor, to whom she belonged, for he would sooner die a thousand deaths, than give her up to him. So earnestly did the reverend Turk declare his passion that he inspired his two slaves with no less earnestness, though their purposes were quite the reverse of his. It was settled between them that Mario, as a countryman of the fair Christian's, should take it in hand to solicit her on the cadi's part; and that if that failed, the latter should use force, since she was in his power, and afterwards account for not sending her to Constantinople by pretending that she was dead.
The cadi was highly delighted with the advice of his two slaves, and with all imaginable alacrity he gave Mahmoud his freedom on the spot, and promised to bequeath him half his property when he died. To Mario likewise he promised, in case of success his liberty and money enough to enable him to return home a wealthy man. If he was liberal in promises, his slaves were prodigal; they would bring down the moon to him from Heaven, much more Leonisa, if only he gave them an opportunity of speaking with her.
"Mario shall have one whenever he pleases," said the cadi, "for I will make Halima go for some days to the house of her parents, who are Greek Christians, and when she is away I will order the porter to admit Mario into the house as often as he pleases, and I will tell Leonisa that she may converse with her countryman whenever she has a mind."
Thus did the wind begin to shift in Ricardo's favour, his master and mistress working for him without knowing it;
...and the first who began was Halima, as was to be expected of her, for it is the nature of women ever to be prompt and bold where their pleasures are concerned. That same day the cadi told Halima that she might pay a visit to her parents, and stay with them some time if she liked; but elated as she was with the false hopes given her by Leonisa, she was so far from wishing to visit her parents, that she would not have cared to go to the imaginary paradise of Mahomet. She replied then that she had no such wish at that moment; when she had she would mention it, and then she would take the Christian maiden with her.
"That you must not," replied the cadi, "for it is not right that the Grand Signor's slave should be seen by any one, much less should she converse with Christians; for you know that when she comes into the Sultan's possession she will be shut up in the seraglio, and must become a Turk whether she will or not."
"As she will be in my company," said Halima, "there will be no harm in her being in the house of my parents, or conversing with them. I do so myself, and I am not less a good Turk for all that. Besides, I do not intend to remain with them more than four or five days at most, for my love for you will not allow me to be so long without seeing you."
Here the conversation dropped, the cadi not venturing to make any further objection, for fear of rousing her suspicions.
Friday being come, he went to the mosque, from which he was sure not to return for about four hours. He was no sooner gone than Halima sent for Mario; but a Corsican slave who acted as porter, would not have admitted him into the court-yard if Halima had not called out to let him pass, whereupon he came in confused and trembling as if he were going to encounter a host of enemies.
Leonisa was seated at the foot of a great marble staircase, in the dress in which she had appeared before the pashas. Her right arm resting on her knee supported her head, and her back was towards the door by which Mario entered, so that though he advanced to where she sat, she did not see him. Ricardo cast his eyes all round the place when he entered; all was silence and solitude till he turned his gaze to where Leonisa sat. Instantly he was seized with a thousand conflicting emotions. He was within twenty paces of the object of his soul's desire; but he was a captive, and the glory of his life was in the power of another. Thus agitated with fear and exultation, joy and sadness, he advanced towards her slowly, until Leonisa suddenly turned round and her eyes met his earnest gaze. He stopped, unable to move another step. Leonisa, who believed him to be dead, was struck with awe and consternation at seeing him so unexpectedly before her. With her eyes still fixed upon him and without turning her back, she retreated up four or five stairs, took a little cross from her breast, kissed it again and again, and crossed herself repeatedly, as though a being from the other world stood before her.
Ricardo presently recovered himself, and perceiving from Leonisa's gestures what was the cause of her terror, he said:
"It grieves me, beautiful Leonisa, that the news which Mahmoud gave you of my death was not true, so that I might be free from the fear I now feel lest the rigour you have also shown towards me still subsists entire. Set your mind at ease, lady, and come down; and if you will do what you have never yet done--approach me--you will see that I am not a phantom. I am Ricardo, Leonisa,--Ricardo the happy, if you will bid him be so."
Here Leonisa put her finger to her lips, giving Ricardo to understand that he should be silent or speak more low. Gathering a little courage, he drew near enough to hear her whisper thus:
"Speak softly, Mario (for so I hear you are now called): talk of nothing but what I talk of, and bear in mind that if we are overheard it will be the cause of our never meeting again. I believe that Halima, our mistress, is listening to us: she has told me that she adores you, and has sent me here as her intercessor. If you will respond to her desires, you will consult the interest of your body more than of your soul; and if you will not, you must feign to do so, were it only because I request it, and for sake of what is due to the declared desires of a woman."
"Never did I think, never could I imagine, beauteous Leonisa," replied Ricardo, "that you could ever ask anything of me with which I should find it impossible to comply; but this present request of yours has undeceived me. Is the inclination so slight a thing that it can be moved this way or that at pleasure? Or would it become a man of truth and honour to feign in matters of such weight? If you think that such things can or ought to be done, be it as you will, since it is for you to command and for me to obey; and that it may not be said I failed to do so with regard to the first order you laid upon me, I will impose silence on the voice of my honour, and will pretend to return Halima's passion, as you desire, if I may thereby secure the blessing of seeing you; and you have only to signify as much to her in such terms as you shall think proper. In return for this sacrifice, to me the greatest possible, I entreat you to tell me briefly how you escaped from the hands of the corsairs, and fell into those of the Jew who sold you."
"The recital of my misfortunes," Leonisa answered, "demands more time than we have now at our disposal; nevertheless, I will tell you some particulars. The day after we parted company, Yusuf's galley was driven back by a contrary wind to the island of Pantanalea, where we also saw your galley, but ours, in spite of all efforts, was driven upon the rocks. My master, seeing death so near, quickly emptied two water-casks, closed them tightly, lashed them together with ropes, and placed me between them. Then stripping off his clothes he took another cask in his arms, and passing round his body a rope attached to the casks on which I was placed, he boldly plunged into the sea. I had not the courage to follow his example, but another Turk pushed me in. I fell senseless into the water, and did not recover until I found myself on land, in the arms of two Turks, who held me with my mouth downwards, discharging a great quantity of water which I had swallowed. I opened my eyes, and looking wildly round me, the first thing I saw was Yusuf lying beside me with his skull shattered, having, as I afterwards learned, been dashed head foremost against the rocks. The Turks told me that they had hawled me ashore by the rope, more dead than alive. Only eight persons escaped out of the unfortunate galley.
"We remained eight days on the island, during which the Turks treated me with as much respect as if I were their sister. We lay hid in a cave, the Turks being afraid of being captured by some of the Christian garrison of a fort in the island, and we supported ourselves with biscuits from the foundered galley which the waves cast ashore, and which the men collected by night. It happened for my misfortune that the commandant of the fort had died a few days before, and that there were in it only twenty soldiers; this fact we learned from a boy whom the Turks captured as he was amusing himself gathering shells on the shore. At the end of eight days a Moorish vessel, of the kind which the Turks call caramuzal, hove in sight; the Turks quitted their hiding-place, and made signals which were recognised by the crew of the caramuzal. They landed, and hearing from their countrymen an account of their disasters, they took us all on board, where there was a very rich Jew, to whom the whole cargo, or the greater part of it, belonged, consisting of carpets, stuffs, and other wares, which are commonly exported by the Jews from Barbary to the Levant. The vessel carried us to Tripoli, and during the voyage I was sold to the Jew, who gave two thousand doubloons, an excessive price; but the Jew was made liberal by the love he conceived for me.
"After leaving the Turks in Tripoli, the vessel continued its voyage, and the Jew began to importune me with his solicitations, which I treated with the scorn they deserved. Despairing, therefore, of success, he resolved to get rid of me upon the first opportunity; and knowing that the two pashas, Ali and Hassan, were in this island, where he could sell his goods as well as in Scio, whither he had been bound, he landed here in hopes of disposing of me to one of the two pashas, with which view he had me dressed as you now see me. I find that I have been purchased by the cadi, for the purpose of being presented to the Grand Turk, which causes me no little dread. Here I heard of your pretended death, which, if you will believe me, grieved me to the soul; yet I envied rather than pitied you, not from ill will towards you, for, if insensible to love, I am yet neither unfeeling nor ungrateful, but because I believed that your sorrows were all at an end."
"You would be right, lady," said Ricardo, "were it not that death would have robbed me of the bliss of seeing you again. The felicity of this moment is more to me than any blessing that life or death could bring me, that of eternity alone excepted. My master, the cadi, into whose hands I have fallen by as strange a series of adventures as your own, is just in the same disposition towards you as Halima is towards me, and has deputed me to be the interpreter of his feelings. I accepted the office, not with the intention of serving his wishes, but my own in obtaining opportunities to speak with you. Only see, Leonisa, to what a pass our misfortunes have brought us; you to ask from me what you know to be impossible; and me to propose to you what I would give my life not to obtain, dear as that life is to me now, since I have the happiness to behold you."
"I know not what to say to you, Ricardo," replied Leonisa, "nor what issue we can find from the labyrinth in which we are involved. I can only say that we must practise, what would not be expected from us, dissimulation and deceit. I will repeat to Halima some phrases on your part which will rather encourage than make her despair; and you may tell the cadi whatever you think may serve, with safety to my honour, to keep him in his delusion. And since I place my honour in your hands, you may be assured that I have preserved it intact, in spite of all the perils and trials I have undergone. Opportunity to converse together will be easily afforded us, and to me this will be most pleasing, provided you never address me on the subject of your suit; from the moment you do so, I shall cease to see you; for I would not have you suppose that my spirit is so weak as to be swayed by captivity. With the favour of heaven, I hope to prove like gold which becomes the purer the more it is passed through the furnace. Be content with the assurance I have given you, that I shall no longer look upon you with repugnance, as I used to do; for I must tell you, Ricardo, that I always found you somewhat more arrogant and presumptuous than became you. I confess, also, that I was deceived, and that my eyes being now opened, if the experiment were to be made over again, perhaps I should be more humane to you, within the bounds of honour. Go now, and God be with you; for I am afraid lest Halima may have been listening to us, and she understands something of our language."
"I fully acknowledge the propriety of all you have said, lady," replied Ricardo. "I am infinitely obliged for the explanation you have given me, and perhaps time will show you how profoundly respectful is the adoration I profess for you. Rely upon me that I will deal in the best manner with the cadi, and do you do the same with Halima. Believe me, lady, since I have seen you, there has sprung up in my heart an assured hope that we shall soon achieve our freedom; and so I commend you to God's keeping, deferring to another time to tell you the events by which fortune brought me to this place, after we were parted."
They now separated, Leonisa well pleased with Ricardo's modest behaviour, and he overjoyed at having heard from her lips words unmixed with harshness.
Halima, meanwhile, had shut herself up in her room, and was praying to Mahomet for Leonisa's success in the commission she had given her. The cadi was in the mosque, burning, like his wife, with desire, and anxiously awaiting the answer to be brought him by the slave he had sent to speak to Leonisa, and whom Mahmoud was to admit to her presence for that purpose, even though Halima was at home. Leonisa inflamed Halima's impure desires, giving her very good hopes that Mario would do all she wished, but telling her that two months must elapse before he could consent to what he longed for even more than herself; and that he asked that delay that he might complete a course of devotion for the recovery of his freedom. Halima was satisfied with this excuse, but begged Leonisa to tell her dear Mario to spare himself the trouble and her the delay he proposed, for she would give him, at once, whatever the cadi required for his ransom.
Before Ricardo went with his answer to his master, he consulted Mahmoud as to what it should be. They agreed between them that it should be as discouraging as possible, and that he should advise the cadi to take the girl as soon as possible to Constantinople, and accomplish his wishes on the way by fair means or by force. Moreover, that in order to prevent the unpleasant consequences that might ensue from supplanting the sultan, it would be well to purchase another slave, then pretend, or contrive on the voyage, that Leonisa should fall sick, and throw the newly-purchased Christian woman into the sea by night, with all possible secrecy, giving out that the person who had died was Leonisa, the sultan's slave. All this might be done in such a manner that the truth should never be known, and the cadi would remain blameless in the sultan's eyes, and have the full enjoyment of his desires. The wretched old cadi, who was so blinded by his passion that he would have listened to any absurdity they proposed, eagerly fell in with this scheme as one full of promise; and so indeed it was, but not as he imagined; for the intention of his two advisers was to make off with the boat, and pitch the old fool into the sea. But a difficulty occurred to the cadi, one of the greatest in his eyes that could possibly be. It occurred to him that his wife would not let him go to Constantinople without her; but presently he got over this obstacle by saying, that instead of buying a Christian woman to put to death in Leonisa's name, he would make Halima serve his turn, for he longed with all his heart to be rid of her.
Mahmoud and Ricardo agreed to this expedient as readily as he proposed it, and this being finally settled, the cadi that same day imparted to his wife his design of setting out at once for Constantinople, to present the Christian captive to the Sultan, who, he expected would, in his munificence, make him grand cadi of Cairo or Constantinople. Halima, with great alacrity, expressed her approval of his intention, believing that Mario would be left at home; but when the cadi told her that he would take both him and Mahmoud along with him, she changed her mind, and began to dissuade him from what she had before advised; and finally, she told him that unless she went with him she would not allow him to go at all. The cadi had great satisfaction in complying with her desire, for he thought he would soon get rid of a burden that hung like a millstone round his neck.
All this while Hassan Pasha was indefatigable in pressing the cadi to give up the slave girl to him, in return for which he offered him mountains of gold, and had already made him a present of Ricardo, whose ransom he valued at two thousand crowns. Moreover, to facilitate the transfer, he suggested to the cadi the same expedient which the latter had himself devised, namely, that when the Grand Turk sent for Leonisa he should pretend she was dead. But all the pasha's gifts, promises, and entreaties, had no other effect on the cadi than to increase his eagerness to hasten his departure. Tormented therefore by his own desires, by Hassan's importunities, and by those of Halima (for she, too, was amusing herself with vain hopes) he made such despatch that in twenty days he had equipped a brigantine of fifteen benches, which he manned with able Turkish mariners and some Greek Christians. He put all his wealth on board it; Halima, too, left nothing of value behind her, and asked her husband to let her take her parents with her that they might see Constantinople. Halima entertained the same designs as Mahmoud and Ricardo; she intended, with their help, to seize the brigantine, but would not make this known to them until she found herself actually embarked. Afterwards she proposed to land among Christians, return to her old creed, and marry Ricardo; for she had reason to suppose that bringing so much wealth with her, he would not fail to take her to wife on her again becoming a Christian.
Ricardo had another interview with Leonisa, and made known to her the whole scheme they had projected; and she in return apprised him of the designs of Halima, who kept no secret from Leonisa. After mutual injunctions of secrecy, they bade each other adieu until the day of embarkation. When it arrived, Hassan escorted the party to the shore with all his soldiers, and did not leave them until they had set sail. Even then he never took his eyes off the brigantine until it was out of sight. It almost seemed as if the sighs heaved by the enamoured mussulman swelled the gale, and impelled with more force the sails that were wafting away his soul. But as love had allowed him no rest, but plenty of time to consider what he should do to escape being killed by the vehemence of his unsatisfied desire, he immediately put in operation a plan he had long matured. He put fifty soldiers, all trusty men, bound to him by many favours received and expected, on board a vessel of seventeen benches, which he had secretly fitted out in another port; and he ordered them to pursue and capture the brigantine with all its wealth, and put every soul on board to the sword, with the exception of Leonisa, whom he desired to have as his own sole share of the immense booty. He also ordered them to sink the brigantine, so that no trace of her fate might remain. Animated with the hope of plunder the soldiers proceeded with the utmost alacrity to execute the pasha's orders, which seemed the more easy as the crew of the brigantine were unarmed, not anticipating any such encounter.
It had been now two days under sail, which seemed two centuries to the cadi, who would fain, on the very first of them, have carried his design into effect. But his two slaves represented to him the absolute necessity that Leonisa should first fall sick in order to give colour to the report of her death, and that the feigned malady ought to last some days. The cadi was much more disposed to say that she died suddenly, finish the whole job at once, despatch his wife, and allay the raging fire that was consuming his vitals; but he was obliged to submit to the advice of his two counsellors.
Meanwhile, Halima had declared her design to Mahmoud and Ricardo, who had signified their readiness to accomplish it when passing the Crosses of Alexandria, or entering the castles of Anatolia; but so intolerably did the cadi importune them, that they made up their minds to do so upon the first opportunity that offered. After they had been six days at sea the cadi thought that Leonisa's feigned malady had lasted quite long enough, and was very urgent with them that they should finish with Halima on the following day, and to quiet him they promised that they would do so.
But when that day came, which, as they expected, was to witness the accomplishment of their own secret plans, or to be the last of their lives, they suddenly discovered a vessel giving chase to them, with all speed of sails and oars. They were afraid it was a Christian corsair, from which neither party had any good to expect; for if it were one, the mussulmans would be made captive, and the Christians, though left at liberty, would be plundered of everything. Mahmoud and Ricardo, however, took comfort in the prospect of freedom for Leonisa and themselves; nevertheless, they were not without fear of the insolence of the corsairs, for people who abandon themselves to such practices, whatever be their religion or law, are invariably cruel and brutal. The cadi's crew made preparation to defend themselves; but without quitting their oars, and still doing all in their power to escape; but the vessel in chase gained upon them so fast that in less than two hours it was within cannon-shot. Seeing her so close, they lowered their sails, stood to their arms, and awaited the assault, though the cadi told them they had nothing to fear, for the stranger was under Turkish colours and would do them no harm. He then gave orders to hoist the white flag of peace. Just then Mahmoud chanced to turn his head, and espied another galley of some twenty benches apparently, bearing down upon them from the west. He told the cadi, and some Christians at the oar said that this was a vessel of their own people. The confusion and alarm was now doubled, and all awaited the issue in anxious suspense, not knowing whether to hope or fear it.
I fancy the cadi, just then, would have gladly foregone all his amorous hopes to be safe again in Nicosia, so great was his perplexity. It did not last long however; for the first galley, without paying the least regard to the flag of peace, or to what was due to a community in religion, bore down upon his brigantine with such fury as nearly to send it to the bottom. The cadi then perceived that the assailants were soldiers of Nicosia, and guessing what was the real state of the case, he gave himself up for lost; and had it not been for the greed of the soldiers, who fell to plundering in the first instance, not a soul would have been left alive. Suddenly, however, while they were busy with all their might in pillaging, a voice cried out in Turkish,
"To arms! to arms! Here's a Christian galley bearing down upon us!"
And this indeed was true, for the galley which Mahmoud had descried to the westward was bearing furiously down upon Hassan's under Christian colours; but before it came to close quarters it hailed the latter. "What galley is that?""Hassan Pasha's, viceroy of Cyprus."
"How comes it, then, that you, being mussulmans are plundering this brigantine, on board of which, as we know, is the cadi of Nicosia?"
The reply to this was that they only knew that the pasha had ordered them to take it, and that they, as his soldiers, had done his bidding.
The commander of the galley under Christian colours having now ascertained what he wanted to know, desisted from attacking Hassan's and fell upon the cadi's brigantine, killed ten of its Turkish crew at the first volley, and immediately boarded it with great impetuosity. Then the cadi discovered that his assailant was no Christian, but Ali Pasha, Leonisa's lover, who had been laying wait to carry her off, and had disguised himself and his soldiers as Christians, the better to conceal his purpose. The cadi, finding himself thus assailed on all sides, began loudly to exert his lungs.
"What means this, Ali Pasha, thou traitor?" he cried. "How comes it that, being a mussulman, thou attackest me in the garb of a Christian? And you, perfidious soldiers of Hassan, what demon has moved you to commit so great an outrage? How dare you, to please the lascivious appetite of him who sent you, set yourselves against your sovereign?"
At these words, the soldiers on both sides lowered their arms, looked upon and recognised each other, for they had all served under one captain and one flag. Confounded by the cadi's words, and by their conscious criminality, they sheathed their blades, and seemed quite discomfited. Ali alone shut his eyes and his ears to everything, and rushing upon the cadi, dealt him such a stroke on the head with his scimetar, that, but for the hundred ells of stuff that formed his turban, he would certainly have cleft it in two. As it was, he knocked the cadi down among the rower's benches, where he lay, exclaiming amid his groans.
"O cruel renegade! Enemy of the Prophet! Can it be that there is no true mussulman left to avenge me? Accursed one! to lay violent hands on thy cadi, on a minister of Mahomet!"
The cadi's denunciations made a strong impression on the minds of Hassan's soldiers, who, fearing besides that Ali's men would despoil them of the booty they already looked upon as their own, determined to put all to the hazard of battle. Suddenly they fell upon Ali's men with such vehemence that, although the latter were the stronger party, they soon thinned their numbers considerably; the survivors, however, quickly rallied, and so well avenged their slaughtered comrades, that barely four of Hassan's men remained alive, and those too badly wounded.
Ricardo and Mahmoud, who had been watching the fight, putting their heads out every now and then at the cabin hatchway, seeing now that most of the Turks were dead, and the survivors all wounded, and that they might very easily be mastered, called upon Halima's father and two of his nephews to aid them in seizing the vessel. Then arming themselves with the dead men's scimetars, they rushed amidships, shouting "Liberty! Liberty!" and with the help of the stout Christian rowers, they soon despatched all the Turks. Then they boarded Ali Pasha's galley. He had been one of the first slain in the last conflict, a Turk having cut him down in revenge for the cadi, and the galley being defenceless, they took possession of it with all its stores.
By Ricardo's advice, all the valuables on board the brigantine and Hassan's galley were transhipped to Ali's, that being the largest of the three vessels, with plenty of stowage room, and a good sailer. The rowers, too, were Christians, and being highly delighted with the acquisition of their freedom, and with the gifts which Ricardo liberally divided amongst them, they offered to carry him to Trapani, or to the end of the world, if he desired it. After this, Mahmoud and Ricardo, exulting in their success, went to Halima, and told her that if she desired to return to Cyprus they would give her her own brigantine, with its full complement of men, and half the wealth she had put on board it; but as her affection for Ricardo was unabated, she replied that she would rather go with them to Christian lands, whereat her parents were exceedingly rejoiced.
The cadi having by this time got upon his legs again, he, too, had his choice given him either to go into Christendom or return to Nicosia in his own vessel. He replied that, "as fortune had reduced him to his present situation, he thanked them for the boon of his liberty; and that he desired to go to Constantinople to complain to the Grand Signor of the outrage he had received at the hands of Ali and Hassan." But when he heard that Halima was leaving him, and intended to go back to Christianity, he was almost beside himself. Finally, they put him on board his own vessel, supplying him abundantly with all accessories for his voyage, and even giving him back some of his own sequins; and he took leave of them all with the intention of returning to Nicosia; but first he entreated that Leonisa would embrace him, declaring that if she would graciously grant him that favour, it would wipe out the recollection of all his misfortunes. All joined in entreating Leonisa to grant him what he so earnestly desired, since she might do so without prejudice to her honour. She complied, and the cadi besought her to lay her hands on his head, that he might have hopes of his wound being healed. These adieux concluded, and having scuttled Hassan's galley, they sailed away with a favouring breeze and soon lost sight of the brigantine, on the deck of which stood the unlucky cadi, watching with swimming eyes how the wind was wafting away his property, his delight, his wife, and his whole soul.
With very different feelings did Ricardo and Mahmoud pursue their way. They passed in sight of Alexandria, and without shortening sail, or needing to have recourse to their oars, they touched at Corfu, where they took in water; and then without more delay they left behind them the ill-famed Acroceraunian rocks, and descried afar off Paquino, a promontory of the most fertile Trinacria, at sight of which, and of the illustrious island of Malta, their prosperous barque seemed to fly across the waters.
In fine, fetching a compass round the island, in four days afterwards they made Lampadosa, and then the island where Leonisa had been shipwrecked, at sight of which she almost swooned. On the following day the beloved native land they so longed for gladdened their eyes and their hearts. Their spirits rose tumultuously with this new joy, one of the greatest that can be known in this life, to return safe and sound to one's country after long captivity; and one which may compare with it is that of victory achieved over its enemies.
There was in the galley a chest full of flags and streamers of various colours, with which Ricardo had the rigging adorned. Soon after daybreak they were within less than a league of the city, when taking to their oars, and uttering every now and then joyous cries, they advanced to the harbour, the shore of which was immediately lined by a great concourse of people; for the gaily adorned galley had been so long in sight, that the whole town had come down to observe it more closely.
Meanwhile, Ricardo had entreated Leonisa to dress herself just as she had appeared in the tent before the two pashas, for he wished to play off a pleasant trick upon his relations. She did so, adding jewels to jewels, pearls to pearls, and beauty to beauty (for it increases with the satisfaction of the heart), to the renewed admiration and astonishment of all. Ricardo and Mahmoud also dressed themselves in the Turkish costume, and made the crew put on the garments of the dead Turks. It was about eight o'clock when they entered the harbour, and the morning was so calm and clear that it seemed as though it were intent on beholding this joyful arrival. Before coming into port, Ricardo fired a salute with the three pieces belonging to the galley, which were one gun amidships, and two falconets; the town returned the salute with an equal number. The whole shore was in lively commotion, watching the approach of the gaily decked galley; but when they had a nearer view of it, and saw by the white turbans of the pretended mussulmans that it was a Turkish craft, there was a general alarm.
Suspecting some stratagem, the people flew to arms, all the soldiers in the town were marched down to the port, and the cavalry scoured the coast. Highly amused at all this, the navigators held on their course, entered the port, and anchored close to the shore. Then running out a plank they all stepped ashore one after the other as if in procession, and falling on their knees kissed the ground with tears of joy--a clear proof to all who witnessed their proceedings that they were no Turks. When all the crew were out of the vessel, Halima with her father and mother, and her two nephews, followed next, all dressed as Turks; and the beautiful Leonisa, her face covered with a crimson veil, and escorted on either side by Mahmoud and Ricardo, closed the procession, while the eyes of the whole multitude were fixed upon her.
They too did as the others had done, and knelt and kissed the ground. Presently the captain and governor of the city advanced towards them, perceiving that they were the principal persons belonging to the vessel. The moment he set eyes on Ricardo he recognised him, ran to him with open arms, and embraced him with the liveliest demonstrations of joy. With the governor came Cornelio and his father, Leonisa's parents and relations, and those of Ricardo, all of whom were among the principal persons in the city. Ricardo returned the governor's embrace and his cordial greeting; held out his hand to Cornelio (who had changed colour at sight of him, and almost quaked for fear), and, holding Leonisa also by the hand, thus addressed the bystanders:
"Under your favour, gentlemen, I beg that, before we enter the city and the temple to return the thanks so justly due to our Lord for the great mercies vouchsafed to us in our distresses, that you will listen to a few words I have to say to you."
The governor bade him say on, for all present would listen to him with pleasure and in silence.
All the principal people then formed a circle round him, and he addressed them as follows:--
"You must well remember, gentlemen, the misfortune which befel me some mouths ago in the garden of the Salt Pits, and the loss of Leonisa: nor can you have forgotten the exertions I made to procure her liberation, since, regardless of my own, I offered all I was worth for her ransom. But this seeming generosity is not to be imputed to me as a merit, since I did but offer my fortune for the ransom of my soul. What has since happened to us both requires more time to relate, a more convenient season, and a speaker less agitated than myself. For the present, let it suffice to tell you that after various extraordinary adventures, and after a thousand disappointments of our hopes of relief, merciful Heaven has, without any merit of ours, restored us to our beloved country, with hearts full of joy and with abundance of wealth. It is not from this, nor from the recovery of my freedom, that springs the incomparable pleasure I now experience, but from that which I imagine this sweet enemy of mine in peace and in war enjoys on seeing herself restored to freedom and to her birth-place. Yet, I rejoice in the general joy of those who have been my companions in misery; and though grievous disasters are apt to alter the disposition and debase worthy minds, it has not been so with the fair destroyer of my hopes, for with more fortitude and invincibility than can well be told, she has passed through the wrecking sea of her disasters and the encounters of my ardent though honourable importunities. "But to return to the point from which I set out: I offered my fortune for her ransom, and with it the surrender of my soul's desires; I strove for her liberation, and ventured more for her than for my own life. All these things might seem to be obligations of some moment, but I will not have them regarded in that light; what I would have so considered, is that which I now do;"
And so saying, he raised his hand and respectfully withdrew the veil from Leonisa's face--it was like removing a cloud from before the sun--and then he continued:
"See, Cornelio; here I present to you the prize which you should value above all precious things on earth; and here, beauteous Leonisa, I present to you him whom you have always borne in memory. This is what I would have you all esteem as generosity, in comparison with which to give fortune, life, and honour, is nothing. "Take her, O fortunate youth, take her; and if your understanding can reach the height of comprehending the greatness of her worth, esteem yourself the most fortunate of mankind. With her I will also give you my whole share of what Heaven has bestowed on us all; it will exceed, as I fully believe, thirty thousand crowns. You may enjoy it all freely and at your ease, and Heaven grant you to do so for many happy years. For my hapless self, since I am left without Leonisa, it is my pleasure to be poor. To want Leonisa, is to find life superfluous."
Here he ceased speaking, as if his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, but soon afterwards, before any one else had spoken, he exclaimed,
"Good heavens! how toil and trouble confuse the understanding! In the eagerness of my desire to do right, I have spoken inconsiderately, for no one can be generous in disposing of what is not his own. What authority have I over Leonisa to give her to another? Or how can I bestow what is so far from being mine? Leonisa is her own mistress, and so much so, that failing her parents (long and happily may they live), her wishes could have no opposition to encounter. Should they meet an imaginary obstacle in the obligations which she, in her good feeling, may think she is under to me, from this moment I cancel them, and declare them null and void. I unsay, then, what I have said, and I give Cornelio nothing, for I cannot; only I confirm the transfer of my property made to Leonisa, without desiring any other recompense than that she will believe in the sincerity of my honourable sentiments towards her, and be assured that they never had an aim unbecoming her incomparable virtue, her worth, and her infinite beauty."
Ricardo closed his speech with these words, and Leonisa thus replied,
"If you imagine, Ricardo, that I bestowed any favour on Cornelio during the time when you were enamoured of me and jealous, think that it was in all honour, as being done by the express desire of my parents, who wished to have him for their son-in-law. If you are satisfied with this explanation, I am sure you are no less so with what you have yourself experienced as to my virtue and modesty. I say this, Ricardo, that you may know that I have always been mistress of myself, and subject to no one else except my parents, whom I now entreat humbly, as is meet, to grant me leave and license to dispose of what your magnanimous generosity has given me."
Her parents said she might do so, for they relied on her great discretion that she would make such use of it as would always redound to her honour and advantage.
"With that permission, then," said Leonisa, "I beg it may not be taken amiss if I choose rather to seem overbold than ungrateful; and so, worthy Ricardo, my inclination, hitherto coy, perplexed, and dubious, declares in your favour, that the world may know that women are not all ungrateful. I am yours, Ricardo, and yours I will be till death, unless better knowledge move you to refuse me your hand."
Ricardo was almost beside himself to hear her speak thus, and could make no other reply than by falling on his knees before her, grasping her hands, and kissing them a thousand times, with delicious tears. Cornelio wept with vexation, Leonisa's parents for joy, and all the bystanders for admiration and sympathy. The bishop, who was present, led them with his blessing to the church, and dispensing with the usual forms, married them at once. The whole city overflowed with gladness, which it testified that night by a splendid illumination, and for many days following in jousts and rejoicings given by the relations of Ricardo and Leonisa. Halima, who had lost all hope of having Ricardo for her husband, was content to become the wife of Mahmoud, having returned with him to the bosom of the church. Her parents and her two nephews were, by Ricardo's bounty, presented with so much out of his share of the spoil as sufficed to maintain them for the rest of their lives. In a word, all were happy to their heart's content; and the fame of Ricardo, spreading beyond the limits of Sicily, extended throughout all Italy and beyond it. He was universally known as the Generous Lover, and his renown is still prolonged in the persons of the many sons borne to him by Leonisa, who was a rare example of discretion, virtue, modesty, and beauty.
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