SLAVERY AND A SEA-FIGHT

John Smith is delivered to the Lady Charatza, his future mistress–He
falls into kind hands and excites the Turkish Maiden’s interest–Her
mother intervenes and he is sent to an outlying province–He
finds a brutal master and is subjected to treatment “beyond the
endurance of a dog”–He slays the cruel Timariot and escapes upon
his horse–Wanders about for weeks and at length reaches a Christian
settlement–Adventures in Africa–A trip to sea with Captain
Merham–The Britisher fights two Spanish ships and holds his own–Smith
renders good service in the fight and employs one of his novel
“stratagems”–Return to England.

John Smith had never found himself in worse straits than now, as
shackled to a fellow slave he tramped along the road between Axopolis
and the Turkish capital. Hopeless as the situation seemed to be, he
did not give himself up to despair, nor wear himself by repining over
a condition which was beyond his power to remedy. He had learned from
experience that the sun is apt to break through the clouds of the
darkest day and when we are least expecting it. So, with the philosophy
that is characteristic of the true soldier of fortune, he determined
to await the turn of events with patience, and meanwhile found
entertainment for his mind in a study of the strange people and places
that came to his notice on the way. He has left an interesting account
of these, but as they had no direct bearing upon the actual events of
his life, we will pass them over.

The Pasha Bogall appears to have been a character somewhat like Sir
John Falstaff, the hero of imaginary military exploits. He prepared the
Lady Charatza–as Smith calls her–for the reception of his gift by a
letter. In this fanciful missive the Giaour was described as a Bohemian
nobleman whom the valiant Bogall had defeated in single combat and made
prisoner. In his desire to exalt himself in the mind of his mistress,
the Turk fell into two errors. He took it for granted that the slave
and the Turkish damsel would be unable to converse with each other and
he expatiated on Smith’s prowess in order to enhance by comparison his
own valor in overcoming him.

The fair Charatza was naturally curious to see this noble and
unfortunate slave for whom she could hardly fail to entertain feelings
of compassion. When they met, the lady was more impressed than she
would have cared to acknowledge by the bearing and address of the
handsome captain. They found a ready means of communication in Italian
which both understood and spoke with tolerable fluency. Questioned as
to the combat in which the Pasha had defeated him, Smith laughed and
declared that he had never set eyes on the doughty Turk until they met
in the market place of Axopolis. As to being a Bohemian nobleman, he
claimed no greater distinction than that of an English gentleman and a
captain of horse.

Charatza did not doubt the truth of Captain Smith’s statement to her,
but she caused inquiry to be made about him amongst the other captives
who had been distributed here and there in the city. Thus she learned
that her slave, whilst in truth no more than a captain in rank, was one
of the most renowned soldiers in the army of the Emperor, and indeed
had no equal among men of his age. The story of the three Turks reached
her through the same sources and aroused admiration where curiosity and
compassion had before been excited. The outcome was something like that
in the story of Othello and Desdemona.

The Turkish lady, young and romantic, found the stories of Captain
Smith’s adventures so interesting that she insisted upon his telling
them over and over again. In order to enjoy this pleasure, without
arousing criticism of her unusual familiarity with a male slave, she
had him assigned to work in her private garden which formed a part of
the extensive grounds attached to the mansion. There undisturbed, hours
were spent daily by the captive in reciting to his fair owner stories
of his varied experiences and in giving her accounts of different
places and peoples in the wonderful world of which she knew almost
nothing.

Thus several weeks passed and our hero, who was well fed and
comfortably lodged meanwhile, fast regained his wonted strength and
energy. It may be asked, why did he not attempt to escape? The thought
of course entered his mind, but investigation soon satisfied him that
the difficulties in the way were almost insurmountable. The place was
surrounded by high walls which were guarded day and night by armed
eunuchs. Smith had no clothes but his own nor any means of securing
others. Even if he gained the streets he would be marked as a foreigner
and suspected of being an escaped slave. Under the circumstances he
determined to abide his time in the hope that his fair mistress might
become willing to release him and aid in his escape.

But affairs took a turn that neither of the young people, who were
beginning to feel a strong regard for each other, had looked for.
The mother of Charatza, informed by a jealous Turkish servant of the
meetings between her daughter and the Giaour, came upon them one day
and expressed her indignation in stinging terms. She declared her
determination to sell the English slave immediately and would have
carried her threat into effect but for the suggestion of Charatza
that the Pasha might not be pleased at such disposition of his gift.
Finally a compromise was agreed upon. The brother of Charatza was a
Timariot, that is a Turkish feudal chieftain, at Nalbrits, in a distant
province. It was decided that Smith should be sent there, Charatza
hoping to be able to contrive his return, and indeed having some idea
that the captive might be induced to turn Muhammadan and enter the
Sultan’s army.

So John Smith was sent to Nalbrits and at the same time Charatza
despatched a letter to her brother in which she begged him to treat
the young Englishman kindly and to give him the lightest sort of work.
Any good effect that might have accrued from this well-intentioned but
ill-advised letter was prevented by another which went forward at the
same time. In it the Pasha’s mother told of the extraordinary interest
Charatza had displayed in the infidel slave and expressed a suspicion
that the young girl’s affections had become fastened upon him. This of
course enraged the haughty and fanatical Turk and the unfortunate Smith
immediately felt the weight of his new master’s displeasure. Within an
hour of his arrival at Nalbrits he was stripped naked, his head and
face were shaved “as smooth as the palm of his hand” and he was put
into a garment of undressed goat-skin with an iron ring round his neck.

Our hero now entered upon a life too miserable for description
and, as he expresses it, “beyond the endurance of a dog.” He was
subjected to the hardest and vilest tasks and, being the latest comer
among hundreds of slaves, became slave to the whole herd, for such
was the custom which he was in no position to contest. He found his
companions a poor lot, broken in body and spirit, and sunk in apathetic
resignation to their condition. He endeavored to discover among them
a few with sufficient courage and enterprise to plan an uprising, but
soon abandoned the idea. It was clear that any chance that might arise
for escape would be impaired by the co-operation of such hopelessly
sunken wretches. During the months that he remained in this terrible
bondage his main effort was to sustain his own spirits and to combat
the tendency to fall into despair. Few men could have succeeded in
this, but John Smith combined with great physical strength and the
highest courage an unshakable trust in Providence. The event justified
his confidence and he fully deserved the good fortune which ultimately
befell him.

When he had been several months at Nalbrits, it happened that Smith
was put to work on the threshing floor at a country residence of the
Pasha. Here he labored with a long heavy club, the flail not being
known to the people of those parts. The Pasha seems to have entertained
a feeling of positive hatred for the slave, fanned no doubt by frequent
letters from Charatza, who could have no knowledge of his condition.
It was a favorite pastime with the Turk to stand over Smith whilst
at his labor and taunt him. At such times, it was with the greatest
difficulty that the captain restrained the desire to leap upon his
persecutor and strangle him. He knew, however, that to have raised his
hand against his cruel master would have entailed torture and probably
a lingering death.

One morning the Pasha came into the barn where Smith was alone at work.
The malicious Turk fell to sneering at his slave as usual and when the
latter, goaded beyond endurance, replied with spirit, the Pasha struck
him across the face with a riding whip. Smith’s threshing bat whistled
through the air, and at the first blow the brutal Timariot lay dead at
the feet of his slave. There was not an instant to be lost. It was by
the merest chance that Smith was alone. The overseer might return at
any moment. Stripping the body of the slain Pasha and hiding it under a
heap of straw, Smith threw off his goat-skin and hurriedly donned the
Turkish costume. He loosed the horse which the Turk had ridden to the
spot, sprang into the saddle and galloped at random from the place.

Smith’s first impulse was to ride as fast as possible in the opposite
direction to Nalbrits, and this he did, continuing his career until
night overtook him. He entered a wood at some distance from the road
and there passed the hours of darkness. He never failed to keep
a clear head in the most critical emergencies and in the haste of
departure had not neglected to secure the Pasha’s weapons and to
snatch up a sack of corn from the threshing floor. The latter would
preserve his life for some time and with the former he proposed to sell
it dearly if overtaken. He had no idea as to what direction to take
in order to reach a Christian community. Daybreak found him in this
condition of perplexity, and he resumed his wandering flight with less
impetuosity and a careful regard to avoid every locality that appeared
to be inhabited. At a distance his costume might prove a protection,
but on closer inspection a beholder could not fail to note the iron
collar that proclaimed him a slave.

Smith had ridden about aimlessly for three days and nights, not knowing
where he was nor how far from Nalbrits, when he suddenly chanced upon
one of the great caravan roads that traversed Asia and connected with
the main highways of Europe. He knew that if he followed this road far
enough westward he must come eventually into some Christian country,
but caution was more necessary than ever, for these were much travelled
routes. He concluded to skirt the road by day and ride upon it only
after dark. At the close of the fourth day after his escape he came to
the meeting point of several crossroads and then learned the peculiar
method employed by the people of those parts to direct travellers.
The sign posts were painted with various designs to indicate the
directions of different countries. For instance, a half moon pointed to
the country of the Crim Tartars, a black man to Persia, a sun to China,
and a cross–which our hero perceived with joy–distinguished the road
leading to the Christian realm of Muscovy, the Russia of today.

After sixteen days’ riding, without encountering a mishap, Smith
arrived safely at a Muscovite settlement on the Don where he was warmly
received. The galling badge of bondage was filed from his neck and
he felt then, but not before, once more a free man. His wants were
supplied and he was furnished with sufficient money to enable him to
continue his journey in comfort. He proceeded into Transylvania where
his old comrades welcomed him as one from the grave, having lamented
him as among the dead at Rothenthrum. The Earl of Meldritch was
delighted to meet his old captain and “Master of Stratagem” once more
and regretted that the existing state of peace prevented their fighting
together again. That condition determined our hero to seek service in
Africa where he heard that a war was in progress. Before his departure,
Prince Sigismund presented him with fifteen hundred ducats, and so he
set out with a well-filled purse and a light heart.

Captain Smith journeyed to Barbary in company with a French adventurer
who, like himself, cared little where he went so that the excursion
held out a prospect of fighting and new experiences. On this occasion,
however, they were disappointed in their hope of military service. They
found the conditions such as they were not willing to become involved
in. The Sultan of Barbary had been poisoned by his wife, and two of his
sons, neither of whom had a right to the succession, were contending
for the throne. Our adventurers considered this state of things more
akin to murder than to war and declined to take any part in it,
although they might without doubt have enriched themselves by doing so.

Upon his return to the port of Saffi, Captain Smith found a British
privateering vessel in the harbor under the command of a Captain
Merham. An acquaintance sprang up between the two which quickly ripened
into friendship. One evening, Smith with some other guests was paying a
visit to the privateer, when a cyclone suddenly swept down upon them.
Captain Merham barely had time to slip his cable before the hurricane
struck his ship and drove it out to sea. All night they ran before the
wind, and when at length the storm had ceased they were in the vicinity
of the Canaries. The Captain wished to “try some conclusions,” after
the manner of Captain La Roche on a former occasion, before returning
to port. His guests were not averse to the proposal and so he hung
about to see what vessels chance might throw in their way.

They were soon rewarded by intercepting a Portuguese trader laden
with wine from Teneriffe. This they eased of its cargo and allowed to
go its way. The next day they espied two sails some miles distant and
proceeded to overhaul them. They did this with such success that they
were within small-arm range of the ships before they perceived them
to be Spanish men-of-war, either superior to themselves in armament
and probably in men. Seeing himself so greatly overmatched, Merham
endeavored to escape, and a running fight was maintained for hours. At
length, towards sunset, the Spaniards damaged the Britisher’s rigging
and coming up with him, boarded from either side. Merham’s ship must
have been captured by the enemy, who greatly outnumbered his own men,
but whilst the fight on deck was in progress, Captain Smith secured
“divers bolts of iron”–cross-bars, probably–with which he loaded one
of the guns. The charge tore a hole so large in one of the Spanish
ships that it began to sink. At this both the attacking vessels threw
off their grappling irons and withdrew.

The Spaniards were busy for two or more hours repairing the breach
in their ship and Merham was occupied as long in putting his sailing
gear in order, so that he could not profit by the damage to the enemy.
When at length he did get under way the Spaniards were in condition
to follow and the chase was continued all night. With the break of
day the fight was resumed, but not before the Spanish senior officer
had offered the British captain quarter if he would surrender. Merham
answered this proposal with his cannon and hove to with the intention
of fighting it out.

The Spaniards realized that they were no match for the Britisher in
gun-play and they therefore lost no time in grappling. A fierce hand
to hand conflict ensued and lasted for an hour with varying success,
but the odds were beginning to tell against Merham’s men when their
captain turned the tide by a clever stratagem. He sent some sailors
aloft to unsling the mainsail and let it fall on the top of a number
of Spaniards beneath. Whilst these were struggling to get clear of the
canvas, about twenty of them were killed. This disheartening occurrence
induced the attacking ships to disengage. The cannonading continued on
both sides, however, and after a while the Spanish captains once more
boarded with all the men available.

Again the combat raged at close quarters for an hour or more and again
Merham’s men began to give way under the weight of superior numbers.
This time it was Captain Smith who saved the situation by a desperate
expedient. A number of Spaniards had gathered near the centre of the
ship upon a grating which afforded them the advantage of an elevated
station. Beneath this body of the enemy, our hero exploded a keg of
powder. This had the effect of blowing about thirty Spaniards off the
scene but at the same time it set fire to the ship. The flames sent the
boarders scurrying back to their own vessels which sailed to a safe
distance.

Whilst Merham was engaged in putting out the fire the Spaniards
kept their guns playing upon him, ceasing only at intervals to make
proposals for surrender, at all of which the British captain laughed.
When the flames were extinguished he invited the Spanish officers
with mock ceremony to come on board his vessel again, assuring them
that Captain Smith was yearning to afford them further entertainment.
But the Spaniards had no longer any stomach for boarding parties and
contented themselves with firing at long range until nightfall when
they sailed away.

Captain Merham took his crippled ship back to Saffi to undergo repairs
and there our hero left him, after expressing his gratification for
the diversion the privateersman had afforded him, and took ship for
England.