« PředchozíPokračovat »
tiate in vengeance, as the children of Othman! My sudden apparition from the sacred retreat of the women-my frenzy-my despair, had appalled the craven multitude whom the shrieks and noise had assembled; but I well knew that the men I had outraged and dishonoured were of a different mould; that their first and only thought would be vengeance; that they would fly with the speed of lightning in quest of their enemy; that the time we had una voidably lost they would improve. Add to all this, that we were only three in number, from one of whom little could be expected; that we were now entangled among trees, thickets, and brakes, places adapted for ambuscade and surprise; that in seeking to shun, we were perhaps running into the very jaws of danger; and that, by the sure aim of concealed foes, we might be levelled with the dust, without the satisfaction of striking a blow in our own defence, or the chance of even the most unequal combat. As we anxiously puzzled our way through the underwood, these reflections crowded on my mind; and aided, perhaps, by the death-stillness that pervaded the solitude, gave rise to apprehensions sufficient to unnerve a spirit less determined than mine,
Having accidentally stumbled upon one of the tracks formed by the cattle in the copse-wood, we advanced with greater facility, till we were beyond Ketisia, to the right of which we passed; and were beginning to congratulate ourselves on the prospect
of deliverance from the entanglement and uncertainty which had proved so oppressive, when about a mile to the north of the village, Haroun, who had the ears of a wild deer, suddenly pulled up, and leaned forward in the attitude of listening. This aroused my attention, which was continually led away by the current of my own thoughts: I, too, halted, looked round me in every direction, and ́endeavoured to catch any flitting sound; but I neither saw nor heard any thing. The poor fellow looked full in my face, then in the direction in which he heard some sound, to me inaudible, and pulling out a pistol, motioned me to follow his example and make ready. Assured that there could be no danger in front, of which my faithful Albanian would not return to apprize me, I was in no hurry in complying with this intimation; but as my attendant repeated the signal, with great earnestness of gesture, I put myself in readiness for instant combat. At this moment we both discovered Giorgio returning dismounted, with the bridle under his arm, and alternately looking eagerly behind him, and stooping to converse with a man who appeared to be a shepherd. My Albanian, with his unlooked for attendant, joined us almost immediately, and motioning me aside, quickly unravelled the mystery. The shepherd, for so he in reality was, having observed my servant proceeding in the cautious manner of a bandit, and having mistaken him for one of a gang of robbers, with whom all the shepherds of this dis
trict were in league, stole forward, and planted himself in the track. Giorgio's first impulse, on seeing him, was to blow out his brains; but perceiving his crook, he restrained himself. In a few words, the shepherd told him, that a body of from sixteen to twenty horsemen, all well armed, had, a few minutes before, taken post in an open glade a short way in advance, athwart the very track we were pursuing; that they were not travellers, but Turks, many of whose faces were familiar to him; and that they had sent out scouts in all directions.
This was appalling intelligence. I made a signal to the shepherd to approach in order to examine him more closely than my servant had done; but the report of a pistol to the right cut short all further inquiries or deliberation. "Turn loose the horses," exclaimed I with a loud voice, "and follow me." The order was instantly obeyed, and we retired into a thicket a little to the left of the place where we stood. But scarcely had we done this before the enemy were upon us. Thinking themselves now sure of their prey, they sent forth a savage yell of triumph, and discharged their arms, happily without effect. We returned the fire with surer aim, and three of the foremost dropped. Maddened by this loss, especially as our fire told too well how few we were, they now charged, with the utmost fury, into the thicket, hewing down the branches with their sabres, and uttering the most deafening shouts, re-echoed from the cliffs and dells around
us. We retreated a few paces that they might entangle themselves more thoroughly, and that we might profit by the confusion, which was increased by the plunging of the horses without riders, in their endeavours to extricate themselves; and having reloaded, we singled out each his man, and brought two more to the ground. This forced our antagonists to pause; they perceived that in attempting to force their horses through the thicket, they were exposing themselves to be brought down in detail, and that it was absolutely necessary to dismount, and charge into the midst of it sword in hand. After a little hesitation, the exigency of the moment compelled them to submit to a mode of fighting extremely repugnant to Turks of the better class; but even Turks must yield to necessity. By the adoption of this resolution on the part of our assailants, our fate seemed to be sealed. It is impossible to imagine a more hopeless or unequal contest than that we had now to wage; our antagonists were still five to one, inflamed with the most fanatical and desperate fury, and individually as fearless as the blades they wielded; but we were now at bay, re solved to sacrifice the lives we could not hope to save, as dearly as possible, and to die, like brave men, with harness on our backs.
<..Our resolution was speedily put to a fearful test. The Turks, shouting "Allah illah Allah!" rushed forward like lions raging for blood. My brave Albanian now showed himself, and singling out the
foremost, cleft him to the chin with a stroke of his sabre. But his usual fortune forsook him; almost at the same instant he received a pistol shot in the breast, which closed his account for ever. The fall of my long tried, ever faithful, and gallant servant, intercepted the last ray of hope, and armed me with preternatural strength." Brave one," said I, "thy master shall soon follow thee, but Moslemin blood shall yet flow to appease thy shade, still hovering near!" With these words I plunged into the midst of my foes; and surrounded, hacked at, and streaming with blood, though insensible to the gashes which poured it out, I rained down my blows with indiscriminating but fatal fury on the assailants crowded around me, their number and impetuosity neutralizing their efforts, and exposing them to a dreadful vengeance.
But though nobly seconded by Haroun, who fought with the courage of despair, this frenzied transport could not endure. Human strength is like the stone of Sisyphus; no sooner is it urged to the highest point, than it recoils, and tumbles down again, to the very depths of lassitude and weakness. With me the relapse had already commenced, and I awaited the stroke of destiny from the uplifted sabre of a Turk, when his arm was suddenly arrested and paralyzed by a blow dealt him from behind. This was instantly followed by a discharge of fire-arms close at hand, accompanied with a loud shout of triumph that made the very welkin rebound. Our assailants, struck with