THE THREE TURKS

Captain Smith meets the Turkish champion in a duel with lances–The
gorgeous pasha makes a brave appearance but loses his life at the first
encounter–Smith presents Prince Moyses with a grizzly trophy–The
slain Turk’s bosom friend challenges Smith–The combatants’ lances are
shattered to splinters–They continue the fight with pistols and the
Englishman is hit–The gallant war-horse saves the issue–Grualgo bites
the dust–Smith sends a challenge into Regall–Meets Boni Mulgro and
for the third time is victor–He is honored with a pageant–Receives
rich presents, promotion and a patent of Nobility.

A truce having been declared for the day of the combat, the opposing
armies approached each other without restraint but their soldiery
did not mingle. The Christians were drawn up, a short distance from
the city, in battle array with a grand display of banners, trophies
and the various insignia of heraldry. The Moslems assembled in an
irregular mass beneath the gray walls of the beleaguered town, whilst
their women, attended by slaves, occupied points of vantage along the
ramparts.

Between the bodies of eager spectators lay a stretch of sward, which
had been enclosed in a barricade after the fashion of the lists in
the old-time tournaments. Long before the hour set for the contest
the troops had assembled on either side. In both armies the keenest
interest in the affair prevailed and both realized that it was
something more than a duel to the death, for the result would surely
encourage the fighting men of one party as much as it would depress
those of the other. In those days of superstition, men were ever ready
to find an augury in every important event, and the army to whom the
victory should fall would accept it as a promise of success in the
final issue.

It must be confessed that the greater degree of confidence was enjoyed
by the Turks. Their champion was a man in the prime of life and a
soldier of approved valor and skill in arms. He had never been defeated
in single combat, although twice pitted against Germans of renown.
The Christians, on the other hand, could not shake off the doubt and
apprehension which they shared with their leader when the lot fell
to the young Briton. The army had long since learned to respect his
courage and fighting qualities in battle, and of his quick-wittedness
they had received ample proof on the march to Regall. But none of
them had any evidence of his ability to yield the lance, a weapon
that demanded years of practice before a man might become expert with
it. Thus it happened that the Germans, of whom the army was mostly
composed, stood grim, silent and anxious, whilst the swarthy Ottomans
gave vent to their elation in song and jest.

The combatants were to meet when the sun should be precisely in
mid-heaven so that neither might be at the disadvantage of having its
rays in his eyes. The rules required the challenger to be the first
in the field and in due time Tur Pasha, heralded by the sounds of
hautboys, passed through the gates of the city and slowly made his way
into the lists. His appearance elicited enthusiastic shouts from his
countrymen and even forced ejaculations of admiration from the ranks of
their enemies.

The Turkish champion presented a brave figure. His proud bearing and
graceful carriage in the saddle were enhanced by the stately action of
the beautiful white Arab steed which he rode. He was clad in a splendid
suit of burnished steel armor, richly inlaid with arabesque figures in
gold. Upon his shoulders were fixed a pair of large wings made from
eagles’ feathers set in a frame of silver and garnished with gold and
precious stones. He was attended by three Janizaries, one going before
and bearing his lance, the others walking on either side and leading
his horse to the station assigned him.

No sooner had Tur Pasha taken up position at his end of the lists, than
a flourish of trumpets announced the appearance of John Smith. The
champion of the Christians presented an aspect as simple as his name
and no less sturdy. His chestnut horse was a big, strong Norman, of the
breed far-famed for service in battle. His armor was of plain steel and
bore upon its surface many a dent in eloquent witness of hard knocks.
The only touch of finery about the Englishman was the plume of black
feathers which surmounted his helmet. He came upon the field attended
by one page carrying his lance.

After Captain Smith had halted at his post, the two champions sat like
statues facing each other for a few minutes, affording the spectators
opportunity to compare their points. At a signal blast from the
trumpet, the antagonists rode forward slowly and met midway in the
course. Saluting courteously, they passed each other, wheeled about and
returned to their respective stations.

A prolonged note from the trumpet warned the combatants to let down
their vizors and set their lances in rest. The next gave the signal for
the onset, and before it had died away each horseman had sprung forward
urging his charger to its utmost speed. As soon as he felt that his
horse was in full career, Smith leant forward, slackening the bridle
and grasping the pommel of the saddle with his left hand to steady
himself. His lance was couched at a level with his adversary’s breast
and his gaze was steadily fixed on the slit in the vizor through which
the wearer looked.

Nearer and nearer approached the onrushing horsemen. A few more
strides, two brief seconds and they must meet in the shock. John can
at last discern the glistening eyes of the Turk and in that instant
he raises the point of his lance toward the other’s face. The sudden
movement disconcerts the Turkish champion. Involuntarily he shifts his
aim and his weapon passes harmlessly over the Englishman’s shoulder
at the moment that our hero’s lance enters the eye of Tur Pasha and
penetrates his brain. He fell from his horse and Smith leapt to the
ground and unbuckled his helmet. A glance sufficed to show that the
Turk was dead and with a stroke of his sword John severed the head from
the body.

Whilst the pagans in mournful procession carried the headless trunk of
their recent champion into Regall, Smith was triumphantly escorted back
to the camp of the besiegers. He ordered the head of Tur Pasha to be
borne to the quarters of Prince Moyses, who was pleased to accept the
grizzly trophy. The spoils of victory were not unacceptable to John,
but he had no desire to trick himself out in the fancy armor with its
trimmings, and these he sold for a good round sum. The horse, however,
he was glad to keep, for he had long wished for an extra mount for
light service, but heretofore his slender means had denied him that
advantage. In the wars of the time, captains who could afford to do so
kept two or more horses during a campaign, one to carry them on the
march and another to ride in battle, for a man in armor was no light
burden, and a beast that had borne its master ten or twelve miles would
not be fit at the end of the journey for great exertion, although the
life of its owner might depend upon its rendering spirited service.
Captain Smith now had the satisfaction of knowing that he was one of
the best mounted men in the army, for the Arab was a marvel of speed
and agility and the Norman had been thoroughly trained by himself and
was a perfect battle-horse.

The chief mourner in Regall was one Grualgo, a fierce warrior, who had
been the bosom friend of the slain pasha. When the funeral rites had
been performed after the Muhammadan custom, Grualgo sent a message to
Captain John Smith proposing to redeem his friend’s head at the risk of
his own. He also offered to pledge his horse, arms and accoutrements
on the issue. It is hardly necessary to say that the challenge was
accepted with alacrity. Flushed with his recent victory and more than
ever confident in his skill, our champion was delighted at this early
chance for another display of his prowess. The consent of the general
was readily obtained. Prince Moyses was greatly pleased at the cheering
effect Smith’s success had worked upon the troops and he was no longer
doubtful of the Briton’s ability to uphold the honor of the Christian
army. The preparations were made as before, and the next day was
appointed for the combat.

Once more the walls were lined with the fair dames of Regall and in
their shadow assembled the garrison, more subdued than on the former
occasion but buoyed by hopes of better fortune. The Christians, on
their part, lined up, exultant and strong in the expectation of another
victory for their champion.

Grualgo entered the lists almost as splendidly mounted and equipped
as the pasha had been. Captain Smith wore the same plain but
serviceable suit of armor and rode his trusty Norman charger. He had
again exercised his right as the challenged to name the lance as the
principal weapon of the combat.

At the trumpet signal, the combatants spurred forward at full speed,
each with his weapon well and firmly aimed at his opponent’s breast.
They met in mid-career with a crash that resounded over the field. The
lances flew into pieces. The horses fell back upon their haunches. Both
riders reeled under the shock but each contrived to keep his seat.
Casting aside the splintered spears, they drew their pistols from the
saddle pockets. Smith was the first to fire, but at the instant of the
discharge the Turk’s horse swerved and the bullet hummed harmlessly by
his master’s head. Grualgo had reserved his shot and now took careful
aim. The Norman, in response to the pressure of his rider’s legs, was
gathering himself for a spring out of the line of fire when the report
of the Turk’s pistol rang out. The ball struck John’s headpiece fair in
the centre of the forehead but failed to penetrate the steel. Our hero
was stunned and sight suddenly forsook him. The bridle dropped from his
nerveless fingers and he swayed in his seat. He gave himself up for
lost as he felt his senses deserting him. Then came the thought that he
was the champion of the Christian army, that they were watching him,
depending upon him to secure victory for them. Exerting all the will at
his command, he set his teeth together and fought back the inclination
to swoon.

Grualgo seeing his enemy at his mercy, smiled with grim satisfaction
as he drew his second pistol, intending to dispatch the Christian
youth with deliberate and sure aim. But the trusty Norman had not been
trained to battle for nothing. The loose seat in the saddle and the
relaxed grip of the bridle told him that his master was in distress
and depended upon him to save his life. With quick but easy action, so
as not to unseat the rider, the intelligent beast strode out of range.
The Turk wheeled and galloped after him. His was the swifter steed and
he had no difficulty in overtaking Smith’s charger, but each time as
he levelled his weapon to fire, the Norman darted away at an angle. In
this manner the gallant animal contrived to prolong the combat for many
minutes. Meanwhile Smith’s senses and his strength were fast reviving.
It gladdened the noble steed to feel the returning firmness of seat
and grasp of the bridle, and his master, as his sight cleared, began to
lend his guidance to the clever tactics of the animal.

When Captain Smith fully realized the situation, he made up his mind
that success could be secured only by bold and daring action. In his
weakened state he could not hope to overcome the Turk in a prolonged
fight. He must rely upon surprising the other and bringing the affair
to an issue by a sudden attack. Grualgo would not risk his last shot
until he could make sure of his aim. He probably believed our hero to
be sorely wounded and had no thought of his reviving or resuming the
offensive.

In one of his horse’s evasive rushes, Smith bent forward upon the
animal’s neck as though overcome by sudden pain, but the movement
was made to enable him to stealthily draw his loaded pistol from the
holster. Holding it concealed behind the high pommel of his saddle, he
braced his nerves for the final effort. Once more Grualgo approached
his foe but this time, instead of allowing his horse to spring aside,
John urged him forward, straight at the astonished Turk. Before the
latter could recover his presence of mind sufficiently to use his
weapon, the Englishman’s pistol was discharged full in his face, and he
fell to the ground in a dying state. Smith dismounted and gave the Turk
his _coup de grace_, or finishing stroke, and then cut off his head.

This proceeding must strike us as being cold-blooded and merciless,
but it was strictly in accordance with the terms of the combat and the
character of the age in which our hero lived. Our forefathers of the
seventeenth century were as rough as they were brave. They lived amid
scenes of strife and bloodshed, and men who hazarded their own lives
daily naturally held those of their enemies cheap.

This second defeat was a severe blow to the defenders of Regall. Their
two foremost champions had been vanquished and by a beardless boy, for
Captain Smith at this time had barely passed his twenty-first year.
There were no more challenges from the disheartened garrison. They lost
all desire to afford pastime for the ladies and they ceased to find
the Christians subjects for contemptuous jests as they had done in the
early days of the siege. Their sallies were now of rare occurrence and
were easily repelled, so that the work of preparation for the final
assault upon the city went forward with little interruption.

Our hero, in whom love of action was second nature, chafed sorely
under the slow and tedious engineering operations. At length he sought
and obtained permission from Prince Moyses to send a challenge into
the city. This message was couched in the most courteous terms and
was addressed to the ladies of Regall, our hero shrewdly suspecting
that in this way he would more quickly touch the honor of the men.
Captain John Smith begged to assure the ladies of Regall that he was
not so enamored of the heads of their servants, but that he was ready
to restore them upon proper terms. He urged the ladies to send forth a
champion who would risk his head in the effort to regain those of the
vanquished Turks. Captain Smith concluded by expressing his willingness
that his own head should accompany the others in case the champion of
the ladies proved the victor in the proposed combat. In due time an
acceptance of this challenge was received from one Boni Mulgro, and a
day was set for the trial of arms.

The conditions of this third duel were similar to those that governed
the two preceding combats, with the exception of one important
particular. John Smith, being the challenger on this occasion, the
choice of weapons rested with his adversary. Mulgro had no stomach for
a contest with the lance, of which Smith had proved himself a master.
He chose to fight with the pistol, battle axe and falchion. In the use
of these weapons, and especially the battle axe, he was expert. This
wise decision of the Turk came near to undoing our hero as the sequel
will show.

At the signal of attack, the combatants advanced upon each other but
not at the charge as would have been the case had lances been their
weapons. Instead, they caused their horses to curvet and prance
and change suddenly from one direction to another. These manœuvres,
resembling those of two wrestlers, were designed to disconcert the aim,
and in the present instance did so with such complete effect that each
of the champions emptied two pistols without touching his enemy.

They now resorted to the battle axe, on which the Turk rested his
hope of success. He found in Captain John Smith an antagonist little
less proficient than himself. For a while the strife waxed warm and
fast without any perceptible advantage to either. Heavy blows were
aimed and fended without ceasing, leaving neither, as Smith tells us,
with “scarce sense enough to keep his saddle.” At length a hard blow
delivered by the Turk struck John’s weapon near the head and it flew
from his hand. At the sight of this advantage gained by their champion,
the people of Regall set up such a shout as to shake the walls of the
city.

It was a critical moment. Smith was disarmed. The Turk was within arm’s
length of him. He raised his battle axe to strike a crushing blow.
Before it could descend the Norman charger had sprung aside and the
weapon cut the air harmlessly. But the danger was only averted for a
moment. The Turk pressed close upon his adversary, striving to strike,
but each time the axe was raised the good horse reared suddenly or
sprung away.

Meanwhile Captain Smith had succeeded in drawing his falchion. Hardly
had its point cleared the scabbard, when Mulgro again came on with an
incautious rush. As the Turk raised his arm to swing the heavy weapon,
Smith thrust with full force and ran his sword through the body of Boni
Mulgro.

The Christian army was fairly wild with delight at this third victory
of Captain John Smith, and the commander ordered a pageant in his
honor. With an escort of six thousand men-at-arms, the three Turk’s
heads and the spoils of the three combats borne before him, Captain
Smith was conducted to the pavilion of the general, who received
him surrounded by his principal officers. Prince Moyses embraced
our hero in the presence of the troops and, after complimenting him
warmly on his valiant deeds, presented him with a splendid charger
richly caparisoned, a beautiful scimitar of Damascus steel and a belt
containing three hundred ducats.

But more highly than these gifts John valued the distinction bestowed
upon him by his old commander. Count Meldritch, truly proud of his
young protégé, there and then appointed him a major-captain in his
regiment.

Nor were these the only rewards that fell to the lot of Captain John
Smith on account of his prowess at the siege of Regall. At a later
period, when the knowledge of his conduct came to Duke Sigismund Bathor
of Transylvania, he presented our hero with a picture of himself set
in gold, conferred upon him a yearly pension of three hundred ducats–a
snug sum in those days–and capped all with a patent of nobility. This
patent entitled Captain John Smith to a coat of arms, bearing three
Turks’ heads in a shield.

John Smith’s patent of nobility, setting forth the deeds for which it
was conferred, may be seen in the College of Heralds, London, where, in
its original Latin form, it was officially recorded August 19th, 1625,
by Sir William Segar, Garter King-at-arms.