Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XII. Wherein the Captive Recounteth His Life, and Other Accidents

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

The Fourth Book

XII. Wherein the Captive Recounteth His Life, and Other Accidents

‘IN a certain village of the mountains of Leon my lineage had beginning, wherewithal nature dealt much more liberally than fortune, although my father had the opinion, amidst the penury and poverty of that people, to be a rich man, as indeed he might have been, had he but used as much care to hoard up his wealth as prodigality to spend it. And this his liberal disposition proceeded from his being a soldier in his youthful years; for war is the school wherein the miser is made frank, and the frank man prodigal. And if among soldiers we find some wretches and niggards, they are accounted monsters which are seldom seen. My father passed the bounds of liberality, and touched very nearly the confines of prodigality; a thing nothing profitable for a married man, who had children that should succeed him in his name and being. My father had three sons, all men, and of years sufficient to make an election of the state of life they meant to lead; wherefore he perceiving, as he himself was wont to say, that he could not bridle his nature in that condition of spending, he resolved to deprive himself of the instrument and cause which made him such a spender and so liberal, to wit, of his goods; without which Alexander the Great himself would be accounted a miser; and therefore, calling us all three together on a day into his chamber, he used these or such like reasons to us:

‘“Sons, to affirm that I love you well may be presumed, seeing I term you my sons; and yet it may be suspected that I hate you, seeing I do not govern myself so well as I might in the husbanding and increasing of your stock. But to the end that you may henceforth perceive that I do affect you with a fatherly love, and that I mean not to overthrow you like a step-father, I will do one thing to you which I have pondered, and with mature deliberation purposed these many days. You are all of age to accept an estate, or at least to make choice of some such exercise as may turn to your honour and profit at riper years; and therefore, that which I have thought upon, is to divide my goods into four parts; the three I will bestow upon you, to every one that which appertains to him, without exceeding a jot; and I myself will reserve the fourth to live and maintain me with as long as it shall please Heaven to lend me breath. Yet I do greatly desire that after every one of you is possessed of his portion, he would take one of the courses which I mean to propose. There is an old proverb in this our Spain, in mine own opinion very true (as ordinarily all proverbs are, being certain brief sentences collected out of long and discreet experiences), and it is this, ‘The Church, the Sea, or the Court.’ The meaning is, that whosoever would become wealthy, or worthy, must either follow the Church, haunt the seas by exercising the trade of merchandises, or get him a place of service and entertainment in the king’s house; for men say that ‘A king’s crumb is more worth than a lord’s loaf.’ This I say because I desire, and it is my will, that one of you do follow his book, another merchandise, and the third the war, seeing that the service of his own house is a difficult thing to compass; and although the war is not wont to enrich a man, yet it adds unto him great worth and renown. Within these eight days I do mean to give you all your portions in money, without defrauding you of a mite, as you shall see in effect. Therefore, tell me now whether you mean to follow mine opinion and device in this which I have proposed?” And then he commanded me, by reason that I was the eldest, to make him an answer.

‘I, after I had entreated him not to make away his goods, but to spend and dispose of them as he listed, seeing we were both young and able enough to gain more, at last I concluded that I would accomplish his will, and that mine was to follow the wars, therein serving God and my king together. The second brother made the same offer, and, employing his portion in commodities, would venture it to the Indies. The youngest, and as I deem the discreetest, said that either he would follow the Church, or go at the least to Salamanca to finish his already commenced studies. And as soon as we had ended the agreement and election of our vocations, my father embraced us all, and afterwards performed unto us, in as short a time as he had mentioned, all that he promised; giving unto each of us a portion, amounting, if I do well remember, to three thousand ducats apiece in money; for an uncle of ours bought all the goods, and paid ready money, because he would not have them made away from our own family and lineage. We all took our leave of our good father in one day; and in that instant, it seeming to me a great inhumanity to leave my father so old and with so little means, I dealt so with him as I constrained him to take back again two thousand ducats of the three he had given me, forasmuch as the rest was sufficient to furnish me in very good sort with all things requisite for a soldier. My brothers, moved by mine example, did each of them give him a thousand crowns; so that my father remained with four thousand crowns in money, and three in goods, as they were valued, which goods he would not sell, but keep them still in stock. Finally, we bade him (and our said uncle) farewell, not without much feeling and many tears on both sides; and they charged us that we would from time to time acquaint them with our successes, whether prosperous or adverse. We promised to perform it; and then, embracing us, and giving us his blessing, one departed towards Salamanca, another to Seville, and myself to Alicante.

I arrived prosperously at Genoa, and from thence went to Milan, where I did accommodate myself with arms and other braveries used by soldiers, and departed from thence to settle myself in Piedmont; and being in my way towards the city of Alexandria de la Paglia, I heard news that the great Duke of Alva did pass towards Flanders; wherefore, changing my purpose, I went with him, and served him in all the expeditions he made. I was present at the beheading of the Earls of Egmont and Hornes, and obtained at last to be ensign to a famous captain of Guadalajara, called Diego de Urbina. Within a while after mine arrival to Flanders, the news were divulged of the league that Pius V., the pope of famous memory, had made with the Venetians and the King of Spain, against our common enemy the Turk, who had gained by force the famous island of Cyprus much about the same time, which island belonged to the state of Venice, and was an unfortunate and lamentable loss. It was also certainly known that the most noble Don John of Austria, our good King Don Philip’s natural brother, did come down for general of this league, and the great provision that was made for the war was published everywhere.

‘All this did incite and stir on my mind and desire to be present at the expedition so much expected; and therefore, although I had conjectures, and half promises to be made a captain in the first occasion that should be offered, yet I resolved to leave all those hopes, and to go into Italy, as in effect I did. And my good fortune so disposed, as the lord Don John of Austria arrived just at the same time at Genoa, and went towards Naples, to join himself with the Venetian navy, as he did after at Messina. In this most fortunate journey I was present, being by this made a captain of foot, to which honourable charge I was mounted rather by my good fortune than by my deserts. And that very day which was so fortunate to all Christendom; for therein the whole world was undeceived, and all the nations thereof freed of all the error they held, and belief they had, that the Turk was invincible at sea: in that very day I say, wherein the swelling stomach and Ottomanical pride was broken among so many happy men as were there (for the Christians that were slain were much more happy than those which they left victorious alive), I alone was unfortunate, seeing that in exchange of some naval crown which I might expect had I lived in the times of the ancient Romans, I found myself the night ensuing that so famous a day with my legs chained and my hands manacled, which befell in this manner, that Uchali, king of Algiers, a bold and venturous pirate, having invested and distressed the admiral of Malta (for only three knights remained alive, and those very sore wounded), John Andrea’s chief galley came to her succour, wherein I went with my company; and doing what was requisite in such an occasion, I leapt into the enemy’s vessel, the which falling off from that which had assaulted her, hindered my soldiers from following me; by which means I saw myself alone amidst mine enemies, against whom I could make no long resistance, they were so many. In fine, I was taken, full of wounds. Now, as you may have heard, Uchali saved himself and all his squadron, whereby I became captive in his power, and only remained sorrowful among so many joyful, and captive among so many freed; for that day fifteen thousand Christians, which came slaves and enchained in the Turkish galleys, recovered their desired liberty. I was carried to Constantinople, where the Great Turk, Selim, made my lord General of the Sea, by reason that he had so well performed his duty in the battle, having brought away, for a witness of his valour, the standard of the Order of Malta. I was the year ensuing of 1572 in Navarino, rowing in the Admiral of the Three Lanterns, and saw and noted there the opportunity that was lost, of taking all the Turkish navy within the haven; for all the janizaries and other soldiers that were in it made full account that they should be set upon, even within the very port, and therefore trussed up all their baggage, and made ready their shoes, to fly away presently to the land, being in no wise minded to expect the assault, our navy did strike such terror into them. But God disposed otherwise of the matter, not through the fault or negligence of the general that governed our men, but for the sins of Christendom, and because God permits and wills that we have always some executioners to chastise us. In sum, Uchali got into Modon, which is an island near to Navarino, and, landing his men there, he fortified the mouth of the haven, and there remained until Don John departed. In this voyage was taken the galley called Presa, whereof the famous pirate Barbarossa his son was captain; it was surprised by the captain-galley of Naples, called the She-Wolf, that was commanded by the thunderbolt of war, the father of soldiers-that fortunate and never overthrown Don Alvaro de Baçan, the Marquis of Santa Cruz. And here I will not forget to recount what befell at the taking of the Presa. This son of Barbarossa’s was so cruel, and used his slaves so ill, that as soon as they that were rowing perceived the She-Wolf to approach them, and that she had overtaken them, they cast away their oars all at one time, and laying hands on their captain that stood on the poop, crying to them to row with more speed, and passing him from one bank to another, from the poop to the prow, they took so many bits out of him, as he had scarce passed beyond the mast when his soul was already wasted to hell; such was the cruelty wherewithal he entreated them, and so great the hate they also bore towards him. We returned the next year after to Constantinople, being that of seventy and three, and there we learned how Don John had gained Tunis, and, taking that kingdom away from the Turks, had, by installing Muley Hamet therein, cut away all Muley Hameda’s hopes to reign again there, who was the most cruel and valiant Moor that ever lived.

“The Great Turk was very much grieved for this loss; and therefore, using the sagacity wherewithal all his race wise endued, he made peace with, the Venetians, which for it much more than he did himself. And the year after of seventy-and-four, he assaulted the fortress of Goleta, and the other fortress that Don John had raised near unto Tunis. And in all these occasions I was present, tied to the oar without any hope of liberty, at leastwise by ransom, being resolved never to signify by letter my misfortunes to my father. The Goleta was lost, in fine, and also the fortress, before which two places lay in siege seventy-five thousand Turks, and more than four hundred thousand Moors, and other Saracens of all the other parts of Africa, being furnished with such abundance of munition and warlike engines, and so many pioneers as were able to cover Goleta and the fortress, if every one did cast but his handful of earth upon them. Thus was Goleta, accounted until then impregnable, first lost, the which did not happen through default of valour in the defendants, who in defence thereof did all they could or ought to have done, but because experience showed the facility wherewithal trenches might be raised in that desert sand; for though water had been found in it within two span’s depth, the Turks could not find it in the depth of two yards; and therefore, filing many sacks full of sand, they raised their trenches so high as they did surmount the walls of the sconce, and did so gall the defendants from them with their shot as no one could stand to make any defense. It was a common report that our men would not immure themselves within Goleta, but expect the enemy in the champaign at their disembarking; but those that gave this out spake widely, as men very little acquainted with the like affairs; for if in Goleta and the fortress there were scarce seven thousand soldiers, how could so few a number, were they ever so resolute, make a sally, and remain in the forts against so great a number of enemies? or how is it possible that the forces which are not second and supplied should not be overcome, specially being besieged by many and obstinate enemies, and those in their own country? But many others esteemed, and so did I likewise among the rest, that Almighty God did a particular grace and favour unto Spain in that manner, permitting to be destroyed the stop and cloak of all wickedness, and the sponge and moth of innumerable sums of money spent there unprofitably, without serving to any other end than to preserve the memory of being gained by the Emperor Charles the Fifth, as if it had been requisite for the keeping of it eternal (as it is, and shall be ever) that those stones should sustain it. The fortress was also won; but the Turks were constrained to gain it span by span, for the soldiers which defended it fought so manfully and resolutely, as the number of the enemies slain in two-and-twenty general assaults which they gave unto it, did pass five-and-twenty thousand. Never a one was taken prisoner but three hundred which survived their fellows-a certain and manifest token of their valour and strength, and how well they had defended themselves and kept their fortresses with great magnanimity. A little fort or turret that stood in the midst of the place, under the command of Don John Zanoguera, a Valencian gentleman and famous soldier, was yielded upon composition; and Don Pedro de Puerto Carrero, general of Goleta, was taken prisoner, who omitted no diligence possible to defend the place but, yet was so grieved to have lost it as he died for very grief on the way towards Constantinople, whither they carried him captive. The general likewise of the fort, called Gabriel Cerbellon, being a gentleman of Milan, and a great engineer, and most resolute soldier, was taken; and there died; in both the places may persons of worth, among which Pagan de Oria was one, a knight of the Order of Saint John, of a most noble disposition, as the exceeding liberality which he used towards his brother, the famous John Andrea de Oria, clearly demonstrates; and that which rendered his death more deplorable was, that he was slain by certain Saracens (which he trusted, perceiving how the fort was lost), who had offered to convey him thence in the habit of a Moor to Tabarca, which is a little haven or creek possessed by the Genoese that fish for coral in that coast. These Saracens cut off his head and brought it to the general of the Turkish army, who did accomplish in them the Spanish proverb, “That although the treason pleaseth, yet is the traitor hated.” and so it is reported that he commanded those to be hanged that had brought him the present, because they had not brought it alive.

‘Among the Christians that were lost in the fort there was one, called Don Pedro de Aguilar, born in Andalusia, in some town whose name I have forgotten; he had been Ancient in the fortress, and was a soldier of great account, and of a rare understanding, and specially had a particular grace in poetry. This I say because his fortune brought him to be slave to my patron, even into the very same galley and bench whereon I sat. This gentleman made two sonnets in form of epitaphs, the one for the Goleta, the other for the fort; and I will repeat them, because I remember them very well, and do believe that they will be rather grateful than anything disgustful to the audience.’

As soon as ever the Captive named Don Pedro de Aguilar, Don Fernando beheld his camaradas, and they all three did smile. And when he began to talk of the sonnets, one of them said, ‘Before your pass further, I beseech you, good sir, let me entreat you to tell me what became of that Don Pedro de Aguilar whom you have named.’

‘That which I know of that affair,’ answered the Captive, ‘is that, after he had been two years in Constantinople, he fled away in the attire of an Armenian with a Greek spy, and I cannot tell whether he recovered his liberty or no, although I suppose he did, for within a year after I saw the Greek in Constantinople, but I had not the opportunity to demand of him the success of that voyage.’

‘He came then into Spain,’ quoth the gentleman; ‘for that same Don Pedro is my brother, and dwells now at home in our own town, very well, rich married, and a father of three sons.’

‘God be thanked,’ quoth the captive, ‘for the infinite favour He hath showed unto him; for in mine opinion there is not on earth any contentment able to be compared to that of recovering a man’s lost liberty.’

I do moreover,’ said the gentleman, ‘know the sonnets which my brother composed.’

‘I pray you then, good sir,’ quoth the Captive, ‘repeat them; for perhaps you can say them better than I.’

‘With a very good will,’ answered the gentleman; ‘and that of the Goleta is thus.’