Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XIII. Wherein Is Prosecuted the History of the Captive

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The Fourth Book

XIII. Wherein Is Prosecuted the History of the Captive

  • ‘“A SONNET
  • ‘“O HAPPY souls, which from this mortal vale
  • Freed and exempted, through the good you wrought,
  • Safe from the harms that here did you assail,
  • By your deserts to highest heaven were brought,
  • Which here inflamed by wrath, and noble thought,
  • Showed how much your forces did avail:
  • When both your own and foreign bloods you taught,
  • From sandy shores, into the deeps to trail.
  • Your lives before your valour’s end deceased
  • In your tired arms, which, though they were a-dying
  • And vanquish’d, yet on victory have seized.
  • And this your life, from servile thraldom flying,
  • Ending, acquires, between the sword and wall,
  • Heaven’s glory there, fame here on earth, for all.”’
  • ‘I have it even in the very same manner,’ quoth the Captive.

    ‘Well, then,’ said the gentleman, ‘that of the fort is thus, if I do not forget it:

  • ‘“A SONNET
  • ‘“FROM midst the barren earth, here overthrown,
  • In these sad clods, which on the ground do lie,
  • Three thousand soldiers’ holy souls are flown,
  • And to a happier mansion gone on high:
  • Here, when they did in vain the vigour try
  • Of their strong arms, to cost of many a one,
  • After the most, through extreme toil, did die,
  • The cruel sword a few did light upon.
  • And this same plot eternally hath been,
  • With thousand doleful memories replete,
  • As well this age, as in foregoing time.
  • But from his cruel bosom Heaven ne’er yet
  • Received sincerer souls than were the last,
  • Nor earth so valiant bodies aye possess’d.”’
  • The sonnets were not misliked; and the Captive was greatly recreated with the news which he received of his companion, and, prosecuting his history, he said:

    ‘The Goleta and the fort being rendered, the Turks gave order to dismantle Goleta; for the fort was left in such sort as there remained nothing up that might be overthrown: and to do it with more brevity and less labour, they undermined it in three places, but that which seemed least strong could not be blown up by any of them, which was the old walls; but all that which had remained afoot of the new fortifications and works of Fratin, fell down to the ground with great facility. And this being ended, the navy returned triumphant and victorious to Constantinople, where, within a few months afterward, my lord Uchali died, whom they called Uchali Far, tax which signifies in the Turkish language, the Scald or Scurvy Runagate, for he was such. And it is a custom among the Turks to give one another nicknames, either of the defects or perfections and virtues which they have; and the reason hereof is, that among them all they have but four lineages that have surnames, and these do contend with that of Ottoman’s, for nobility of blood; and all the rest, as I have said, do take denomination sometime from the blemishes of the body, and sometime from the virtues of the mind. And this scurvy fellow did row fourteen years, being the Great Turk’s slave, and did renounce his faith, being four-and-thirty years old, for despite, and because he might be revenged on a Turk that gave him a cuff on the face as he rowed; and his valour was so great, as without ascending by the dishonourable means and ways usually taken by the greatest minions about the Great Turk, he came first to be King of Algiers, and after to be General of the Sea, which is the third most noble charge and dignity of all the Turkish empire. He was born in Calabria, and was a good moral man, and used with great humanity his slaves, whereof he had above three thousand, which were after his death divided, as he had left in his testament, between the Great Turk (who is ever an inheritor to every dead man, and hath a portion among the deceased his children) and his runagates. I fell to the lot of a Venetian runagate, who being a ship-boy in a certain vessel, was taken by Uchali, who loved him so tenderly as he was one of the dearest youths he had, and he became after the most cruel runagate that ever lived. He was called Azanaga, and came to be very rich, and King of Algiers. With him I came from Constantinople somewhat contented in mind, because I should be nearer unto Spain; not for that I meant to write unto any one of my unfortunate success, but only to see whether fortune would prove more favourable to me in Algiers than at Constantinople, where I had attempted a thousand ways to escape, but none of them sorted to any good effect. And I thought to search out in Algiers some other means to compass that which I so greedily desired, for the hope of attaining liberty some time had never abandoned me; and when in the contriving I thought, or put my designs in practice, and that the success did not answer mine expectation, presently without forsaking me, it forged and sought out for another hope that might sustain me, although it were debile and weak.

    ‘With this did I pass away my life, shut up in a prison or house, which the Turks call baths, wherein they do enclose the captive Christians, as well those that belong to the king as other particular men’s, and those which they call of the Almazen, which is as much to say, as slaves of the council, who are deputed to serve the city in the public works and other affairs thereof; and these of all other captives do with most difficulty attain to liberty; for, by reason they belong to the commonalty, and have no particular master, there is none with whom a man may treat of their redemption, although they should have the price of their ransom. To these baths, as I have said, some particular men carry their captives to be kept, chiefly if they be to be ransomed; for there they have them at their ease and secure, until they be redeemed. The king’s captives of ransom, also, do not go forth to labour with the other poor crew, if it be not when the paying of their ransom is deferred; for then, to the end they may make them write for money more earnestly, they make them labour and go to fetch wood with the rest, which is no small toil and trouble. I then was one of those of ransom; for as soon as it was known how I was a captain, notwithstanding that I told them of my little possibility and want of means, all could not prevail to dissuade them from consorting me with the multitude of gentlemen, and those of ransom. They put on me then a chain, rather to be a token that I was there for my ransom than to keep me the better with it. And so I passed away my time there with many other gentlemen and men of mark, held and kept in there for their ransom. And although both hunger and nakedness did vex us now and then, or rather evermore, yet nothing did afflict us so much as to hear and see every moment the cruelties that may master used towards Christians. Every day he hanged up one; he set this man on a stake, and would cut off the other’s ears, and that for so little occasion, or wholly without it, as the very Turks themselves perceived that he did it not for any other cause but because he had a will to do it, and that it was his natural inclination to be a homicide of all human kind. Only one Spanish soldier, called such a one of Saavedra, was in his good grace, who although he did sundry things that will remain in the memory of that nation for many years, and all to the end to get his liberty, yet he never struck him, nor commanded him to be stricken, nor said as much as an evil word unto him; and yet we all feared that he should be broached on a stake for the least of many things which he did, and himself did also dread it more than once; and if it were not that time denieth me leisure to do it, I would recount unto you things done by this soldier, which might both entertain and astonish you much more than the relation of my life.

    ‘There were over the square court of our prison certain windows that looked into it, and belonged to a certain rich and principal Moor; the which windows (as ordinarily are all the Moors’ windows) rather seemed to be holes than windows, and even these were also very closely covered and shut fast with linen coverings. It therefore befell that, standing one day upon the battlements of our prison with other three companions, trying which of us could leap best in his shackles to pass away the time, and being alone (for all the other Christians were gone abroad to labour), I lifted up by chance mine eyes, and I saw thrust out at one of those so close shut windows a cane, and a linen tied at the end thereof, and the cane was moved and wagged up and down, as if it had made signs that we should come and take it. We looked upon it, and one of my companions went under the cane, to see whether they would let it fall, or what they would do else; but as soon as he approached it, the cane was lifted up, and did stir it to either side, as if they had said (with wagging of the head), “No.” The Christian returned to us; and the cane being eftsoons let fall, and beginning to move as it had done before, another of my fellows went, and the same succeeded unto him that did to the first.

    ‘Finally, the third approached it, with no better success than the former two; which I perceiving, would not omit to try my fortitude: and as soon as I came near to stand under the cane, it was let slip, and fell within the baths, just at my feet. I forthwith went to untie the linen which was knotted, wherein I found ten zianiys, which are certain pieces of base gold used among the Moors, and worth, each of them, ten reals of our money. I leave to your discretion to think if I was not glad of my booty; certes, my joy and admiration was much, to think whence that good might come unto us, but specially to myself, since the signs of refusal to let it fall to the other did confirm clearly that the favour was only addressed to myself. I took my welcome money, broke the cane, and returned to the battlements, and viewed the window earnestly, and perceived a very beautiful hand issue out thereat, which did open and shut it again very speedily. By which imagining and thinking that some woman that dwelled in that house had done us the charity and benefit, in token of our thankful minds, we made our courtesies after the Moorish fashion, by inclining of our heads, bending of the body, and pressing our hands to our breasts. Within a while after, there appeared out of the same window a little cross made of canes, which presently was taken in again. This sign did confirm us in the opinion that there was some Christian woman captive in that place, and that it was she which did to us the courtesy; but the whiteness of her hand, and her rich bracelets, destroyed this presumption: although we did, notwithstanding, conjecture that it was some runagate Christian, whom their masters there do very ordinarily take to wives, yea, and account very good hap to light on one of them, for they are much more accounted of than the women of the nation itself.

    ‘Yet in all these discourses we strayed very far from the truth of the accident; and so, from thenceforward, all our passing of the time was employed in beholding that window as our north, wherein had appeared the star of the cane. But fifteen days passed over, or we could descry either it or the hand again, or any other sign. And although in the meantime we endeavoured all that we might to know who dwelled in that house, or whether there were any runagate Christian therein, yet never a one could tell us any other things but that it belonged to a very rich and noble Moor, called Aguimorato, who had been constable of the Pata—a dignity among them of very great quality.

    ‘But when we thought least that it would rain any more zianiys by that way, we saw the cane suddenly to appear and another linen hanging on it, whose bulk was much greater. And this befel when the bath was freed of concourse, and void, as the other time before. We made the accustomed trial, every one approaching it before me, but without effect until I came; for presently, as I approached it, it was permitted to fall. I untied the knot, and found enwreathed in it forty ducats of Spanish gold, with a letter written in the Arabian tongue, and at the end thereof was drawn a very great cross. I kissed the cross, took up the money, and returned again to the battlements, and we all together made our receivers. The hand also appeared. I made signs that I would read the paper, and the window was shut incontinently. All of us were marvelously astonished, yet joyful at that which had befallen us; and by reason that none of us understood the Arabian tongue, the desire that we had to understand the contents of the letter was surpassing great, but greater the difficulty to find out some trusty persons that might read it. In the end I resolved to trust in this affair a runagate of Murcia, who did profess himself to be my very great friend, and having, by my liberality and other good turns done secretly, obliged him to be secret in the affair wherein I would use him—for some runagates are accustomed, when they have an intention to return into the Christian countries, to bring with them testimonies of the most principal captives, wherein they inform, and in the amplest manner they may, how the bearer is an honest man, and that he hath ever done many good turns to the Christians, and that he hath himself a desire to escape by the first commodity. Some runagates there are which procure those testimonies sincerely, and with a good intention; others take the benefit of them either by chance or industry, who, intending to go and rob into the countries of Christians, if by chance they be astray or taken, bring forth their testimonies, and say that by those papers may be collected the purpose wherewithal they came, that is, to remain in Christian countries, and that therefore they came abroad a-pirating with the other Turks; and by this means they escape that first brunt, and are reconciled again to the Church, without receiving any harm at all; and when they espy their time, do return again into Barbary, to be such as they were before. Others there are which procure those writings with a pure intention, and do after stay in Christian countries. Well, this my friend was a runagate of this last kind, who had the testimonies of all my companions, wherein we did commend him as amply as we could devise. And certainly if the Moors had found those papers about him, they would have burnt him for it. I understand how he could speak the Arabian tongue very perfectly, and not only that alone, but also write it withal; yet before I would wholly break my mind to him, I requested him to read me that scroll which I had found by chance in a hole of my cabin. He opened it, and stood a good while beholding and construing thereof, murmuring somewhat between his teeth. I demanded therefore of him whether he understood it. And he answered that he did very well, and that if I desired to have it translated verbatim I should bring unto him pen and ink, to the end he might do it more completely. We presently gave unto him that which he asked, and he did translate it by little and little; and having finished it, he sad, “All that is here in Spanish, is punctually, without omitting a letter, the contents of the Moorish paper. And here you must note that where it says Lela Marien, it means our Lady the blessed Virgin Mary.” We read the paper, whereof the contents were these which ensue:

    ‘“When I was a child, my father had a certain Christian woman captive, that taught me in mine own tongue all the Christian religion, and told me many things of Lela Marien. The Christian died, and I know she went not to the fire, but to Allah; for she appeared to me twice after her death, and bade me go to the Christian country to see Lela Marien, who loved me much. I know not how I may go. I have seen many Christians through this window, and none of them hath seemed to me a gentleman but thyself. I am very beautiful and young, and I have a great deal of riches to carry with me. See thou whether thou canst contrive the way how we may depart, and thou shalt there be my husband, if thou pleasest; and if thou wilt not, I do not greatly care, for Lela Marien will provide me of a husband. I wrote myself the billet; be therefore wary whom thou trustest to read it. Do not trust any Moor; for they are all of them deceitful traitors. It is this that grieves me most of all; for I would not have thee, if it were possible, to disclose the matter to any living body; for if my father did know it, he would throw me down into a well, and oppress me in it with stones. I will hang a thread to the end of the cane, and therein thou mayst tie thine answer. And if thou canst not write the Arabian, tell me thy mind by signs, for Lela Marien will make me to understand it, who, with Allah, preserve thee, and this cross, which I do many times kiss; for so the captive commanded me to do.”

    ‘See, good sir, if it was not great reason, that the reasons comprehended in this letter should recreate and astonish us. And certainly the one and the other was so great, as the runagate perceived well that the paper was not found by chance, but was really addressed unto some one of us; and therefore desired us earnestly, that if that were true which he suspected, that we would trust and tell it unto him, and he would adventure his life to procure our liberties. And saying this, he took out of his bosom a crucifix of metal, and protested, with very many tears, by the God which that image represented, in whom he, although a sinner and wicked man, did most firmly believe, that he would be most loyal and secret to us in all that which we would discover unto him; for it seemed to him, and he almost divined, that both himself and we all should recover our liberties by her means that did write the letter; and he should then also see himself in the state which he most desired, to wit, in the bosom of his mother the holy Catholic Church; from which, through his ignorance and sin, he was departed and divided as an unprofitable and corrupt member. The runagate said this with so many tears, and with such evident tokens of repentance, as all of us consented to open our minds unto him, and declare the truth of the matter; and so we recounted unto him the whole discourse, without concealing any circumstance, and showed unto him the window by which the cane was wont to appear; and he marked the house from thence, and rested with special charge to inform himself well of those that dwelled therein. We thought also that it was requisite to answer the Moorish lady’s letter; and therefore, having him present that could so well perform that task, we caused the runagate to draw out an answer presently as I did dilate it to him, which was punctually such as I will recount; for of all the most substantial points that befel me in that affair, no one is fallen out of my memory, nor shall ever as long as I have breath. In effect that which I answered to the Moor was this:

    ‘“The true Allah preserve you, dear lady, and that blessed Marien who is the true mother of God, and is she that hath put in your mind the desire to go into the Christian countries, because she doth love you well. Pray unto her that she will vouchsafe to instruct you how you may bring the matter to pass which she commandeth you to do; for she is so good as she will easily condescend to do it. As for my part, I do promise, as well for myself as for these other Christians that are with me, to do for you all that we are able to do until death. Do not omit to write unto me, and acquaint me with your purposes, and I will answer you every time; for great Allah hath given us a captive Christian that can write and read your language well, as you may perceive by this paper; so that you may securely, and without any dread, advise us of all that you shall think good. And as concerning that which you say, that you will become my wife after we arrive to the Christian countries, I do promise you the same, as I am a good Christian; and you shall understand that the Christians do accomplish their words far better than do the Moors. Allah and Marien his mother preserve you, my dearest lady!”

    ‘The letter being written and enclosed, I expected two days, that the baths might be free of concourse, as it was wont, which as soon as it befel, I went up to my accustomed place of the battlements, to see whether the cane appeared; which was presently after thrust out at the window. And as soon as I perceived it, although I could not note who it was that set it, I showed my paper, to give them warning to set on the thread; but it was already hanging thereon; to the which I tied the letter, and within a while after began to appear our star, with the white flag of peace, and the knotted linen; which they let fall, and I took up: and I found therein, in divers sorts of money and gold, more than fifty ducats, which redoubled our joys more than fifty times, and confirmed the hope we conceived of attaining liberty. The very same night our runagate returned to us, and told how he had learned that the very same Moor which we were informed of before, called Aguimorato, dwelt there, and was excessive rich, and had one only daughter, the heir of all his goods; of whom the common opinion throughout the city was, that she was the fairest woman of all Barbary; and that many of the viceroys that came there had demanded her to wife, but she would never condescend to any notion of marriage; and that he likewise had understood that she had sometimes a Christian captive, which now was deceased: all which agreed with the contents of the letter. We presently entered in council with the runagate about the means we were to use to fetch away the Moor, and come all of us to Christian lands; and in the end we concluded to attend, for that time, the second advice of Zoraida (for so was she then called, who now means to name herself Maria), forasmuch as we clearly perceived that it was she, and none other, that could minister to us the means to remove all these difficulties. After we had rested on this resolution, the runagate bid us be of good courage, for he would engage his life, or set us at liberty. Four days after, the baths were troubled with people, which was an occasion that the cane appeared not all that while; but that impediment being removed, and the accustomed solitude returned, the cane did again appear, with a linen hanging thereat so grossly impregned as it promised to be delivered of a most happy burden. Both cane and linen bent themselves to me, and in them I found another paper, and a hundred ducats in gold, besides other small money. The runagate was present, and we gave him the letter to read, the effect whereof was this:

    ‘“I know not, good sir, what order to give for our going into Spain nor hath Lela Marien told me anything concerning it, although I have demanded her counsel. That which at present I conceive may be done is, that I will through this window give unto you great store of money, wherewith you may redeem yourself and your friends. And let one of you go into the Christian’s country and buy a barque, and after return for his fellows, and he shall find me in my father’s garden, which is at the gate of Babazon, near to the sea-coast, where I mean to stay all the summer, with my father and my servants; from whence you may take me out boldly by night, and carry me to the barque. And see well that thou wilt be my husband; for if thou wilt not, I will demand of Marien to chastise thee: and if thou darest trust nobody to go for the vessel, redeem thyself and go, for I know thou wilt rather return than another, seeing thou art a gentleman and a Christian. Learn out the garden, and when I see thee walk there where thou now art, I will make account that the bath is empty, and will give thee great store of money. Allah preserve thee, my dear friend!”

    ‘These were the contents of the second letter, which being heard by us all, every one offered to be himself the ransomed person, and promised to go and return with all punctuality, and among the rest I also made a proffer of myself; to all which resolutions the runagate opposed himself, saying that he would consent in no wise that any one of us should be freed until we were all together delivered; for experience had taught him how evil ransomed men were wont to keep those promises which they passed in the times of their thraldom; for many times certain principal captives had made that kind of trial, redeeming of some one or other that should go to Valencia or Majorca, with money to freight a barque or frigate, and return for him that had ransomed them, and did never return again; for the recovered liberty, and the fear of adventuring to lose it again concurring, did blot out of their memory all the other obligations of the world. And to confirm the truth which he averred, he briefly recounted unto us an accident which befel much about the same time to certain Christian gentlemen, the strangest as I suppose that ever happened in those quarters, wherein do succeed every other day events full of wonder and admiration; and therefore concluded that what ought and might be done was, that they would give unto him to buy a barque such money as they meant to employ in the ransom of a captive, and he would buy it there in Algiers, under pretext of becoming a merchant and sailor in Tetuan and that coast. And being once owner of a barque, he would easily devise how to have them out of the baths and embark them all: how much more, if the Moorish lady did as she promised, give them money enough to ransom them all, was it a most easy thing, they being free, to embark themselves at midday. But the greatest difficulty in this affair was, that the Moors use not to permit any runagate to buy any barque or other small vessel, but only great vessels of war; for they suspect that he that buys a barque, specially if he be a Spaniard, does it for no other end but to run away to Christian countries. And yet he knew how to facilitate that inconvenience, by inducing a Tangerine Moor to become his partner of the barque and the gains that should be gotten by the commodities thereof, and with this colour he would become lord of it himself, and therewithal accounted the matter ended. And although that myself and my comrades held it the better course to send unto Mallorca for one, as the Moorish lady said, yet durst we not contradict him, fearful that if we did not what he would have us to do he would discover us and endanger our lives, if he did once detect Zoraida’s practices, for the safeguard of whose life we would all of us most willingly adventure our own; and therefore we determined to put ourselves into God’s and the runagate’s hands. And so we answered at the same instant to Zoraida, telling her that we would accomplish all that she had admonished us, because she had advertised us as well as if Lela Marien had told her what she should say, and that the dilating or shortening of the affair did consist only in herself. I did offer myself anew to become her husband; and with this the day ensuing wherein the bath was also free, she sent me down at divers times by the cane two thousand ducats and a letter, wherein she said that she would go to her father’s garden the next Juma, that is, the Friday following, and that before she went away she would give us more money; and that if it were not enough, we should advise her, and she would give unto us as much as we would demand; for her father had so much treasure as he would never perceive it; how much more, seeing she had and kept the keys of all. We gave five hundred crowns presently to the runagate to buy a barque, and with eight hundred I redeemed myself, giving the money to a Valencian merchant which was at that season in Algiers, who did ransom me of the king, taking me forth on his word, which he passed to pay my ransom at the arrival of the first ship that should come from Valencia; for if he had delivered the money instantly, it would have given occasion to the king to suspect that my ransom was many days before in Algiers, and that the merchant had kept it silently to make his benefit thereof. Finally, my master was so cavillous as I durst not in any wise pay him presently.

    ‘The Thursday before the Friday of the beautiful Zoraida’s departure towards the garden, she gave unto us other two thousand ducats, and did likewise advise us of her going away, entreating me, that as soon as I had ransomed myself, I should learn the way to the garden, and take occasion howsoever to go to it, and see her. I answered her briefly that I would do so, and prayed her that she would carefully commend our proceedings to Lela Marien with those prayers which the captive had taught her. This being done, order was also given for the ransoming of my three companions to facilitate our issue out of the baths, and also that they seeing me free, and themselves undelivered, might not be troubled or persuaded by the devil to do anything in prejudice of Zoraida; for although that they, being the men of that quality they were, might assure me from this fear, I would not, for all that, adventure the matter; and therefore I caused them to be ransomed by the same means that I was redeemed myself, giving all the money to the merchant, that he might with the more security pass his word for us; to whom yet we never did discover our practice and secret, by reason of the eminent danger of the discovery thereof.’