Obrázky stránek

physiognomy of the Voivode, who could not conceal the savage joy he felt, that his mortal foe had at last fairly run his head into the toils.

I now saw that I had come to beard the lion in his den. To retreat was difficult, perhaps impossible, even if it could have been done without disgrace; to remain, was to submit myself to the mercy of a couple of ruffians, to one of whom I had offered an inexpiable insult. Agitated by the contending passions of pride, revenge, and defiance, I remained for a few seconds motionless, perfectly unable to determine what line of conduct I ought to pursue. There was no time for hesitation. Having formerly known the Disdar in an inferior capacity, and oftener than once fought in battle by his side, I resolved to avail myself of this circumstance, and to accost my ancient companion in arms. I did so. He seemed at first confused by my firm and hardy appeal; but quickly recovering himself, he shrunk back with a wellaffected or involuntary horror, darting at me a frown of hatred and abhorrence,—a scowl of such withering demonical expression, that, were I destined, like the fabled Hebrew wanderer," to endure a peripatetic immortality, it would never be obliterated from my memory. Even now the figure and look of the wretch are as vividly before my imagination, as if the scene had only passed yesterday. There are some events in our lives, which, deeply impressed on the memory by accidental accompaniments

of irresistible interest or imminent danger, become identified with the being of the mind itself, and can never be obscured or destroyed. Ere I had time to collect my ideas, somewhat disturbed by my critical situation, and by the certainty that the Disdar Agà, from whom I expected civility, if not justice, had made common cause with my deadly foe,→ an enormous ruffian-looking Turk, of Herculean build and gigantic stature, seized me by the left arm with an iron grasp, and hurried me, as I at first believed, towards the gate.

As you have frequently told me that you never were in the Acropolis (rò negre), it may be proper to mention, that in going from the town to the garrison, the first gate is at the foot of the rock, facing nearly north-east; that having turned to the north-west angle of the citadel, you approach a second gate to the right, facing the Pirous; opposite to which is a third gate, the entrance of the Acropolis. At the second gate, which is less than thirty yards from the first, sits the Guard, cross-legged, smoking and sleeping alternately, and manifesting an indifference about all human affairs, which Diogenes himself might have envied.

For a few seconds I yielded to the iron gripe of the lumbering brute, who had so promptly obeyed the signal given him by his commander, and, without offering the least resistance, suffered myself to be hurried along, till I found him directing his course, not to the last of the three gates I have des

cribed, or the first in order to those making their exit, but to the northern angle of the rampart, built on the extreme ledge of the precipice, which is here nearly two hundred feet in perpendicular height. It was obvious he meant to hurl me from the angular projection of the rampart. I was not yet weary of life, and determined to make a desperate effort to escape destruction. Confiding in his enormous strength, the barbarian who was now dragging me to this Tarpeian death, had neglected to deprive me of my dagger. Little did he dream with whom he had to deal. With the rapidity of lightning I unsheathed the weapon, and, animated at once by the fear of death and the thirst for revenge, plunged the steel in the huge ruffian's heart. This was the work of a moment:-he reeled for an instantuttered a horrid groan-and fell, dragging me to the earth in his death-grasp. My ready dagger quickly relieved me from his hold.

The shock was so sudden, that no precautions had been taken to secure the gate, to which I now bounded off with the speed of a wild horse, and before the drowsy animal of a Turk, who stood there, had time to think what he was about. The Disdar and Voivode both fired their pistols at me as I fled, but with no better fortune; although the report of the fire-arms roused the Guard at the middle gate, which they were in the act of shutting as I approached, foaming like a wild beast at bay, and uttering imprecations and menaces of instant death

to any one that should oppose my exit. Believing me mad,* the Turks instantly abandoned the halfclosed gate, calling upon Allah to protect them against the evil spirit by which I was possessed. My heart bounded with ineffable delight when I found myself fairly, beyond this barrier, which, at one moment, seemed to me as impassable as the gulf fixed between the rich man in hell, and the glorified mendicant in the patriarch's bosom. Dropping shots, it is true, were fired at me from all parts of the rampart where I was visible in my flight; but these I despised, scorning to urge my flight, as I knew that there were no sentinels at the city gate; and now that fortune had enabled me to escape dangers apparently insurmountable, I trusted she would so far stand my friend as to ward off such as were merely accidental and secondary. In truth, flight from the face of man, or even the fair terrors of death, has ever appeared to me so indelibly disgraceful, that I was fain to make this compromise with my natural sentiments of honour and courage, and to expose myself needlessly, that I might not sink in my own estimation.


I paid dearly for my foolish temerity.

"Escaped from shot, unharmed by steel,

Or scarcely grazed its force to feel,"

The Turks have a superstitious reverence for insane or fatuous perto whom they ascribe certain supernatural endowments, and, among others, the power of seeing into futurity. Hence the probability of the conduct ascribed to the Guards at the middle gate.

I was congratulating myself, that the deep and murderous vengeance of the Voivode had, by the ascen dant of my happy stars, been rendered abortive; when a shot fired by some viewless hand, with too sure an aim, took effect in my left arm, which was broken by it below the elbow-joint; and I, who had thus far, by a miracle of fortune, eluded the fury of my enemies, and might have been in safety beyond their reach, rendered incapable of further flight or resistance, from the violent pain of the wound, and the feeling of overpowering sickness which instantly thrilled through and unnerved my panting, agitated frame. At that dreadful moment, the récollection of which even now brings out a cold and clammy sweat over my war-worn, time-worn carcase, and compared to the agonizing sufferings of which, the bitterness of death itself must be a jest,

at that moment of inexpressible misery and despair, as I leaned against the wall, and began to feel the mists of insensibility and delirium stealing over my eyes, your matchless brother, the long-tried, ever-faithful Spiridion, happened to pass near the gate, and glancing his eye towards me, seemed instantaneously to comprehend the nature of my situation, and to discover what was proper for him to do. Without uttering a word, he seized me by the unwounded arm, put his own arm around my waist, and hurried me off in a state of incipient insensibility, before the lazy miscreants were able to ascertain in what direction I had been carried.

« PředchozíPokračovat »