"Tell me, dog," said the general, "what led thee to kill my soldiers, when thou sawest it was impossible for thee to escape? Is that the way to behave to chief galleys? Knowest thou not that rashness is not valour? Faint prospects of success should make men bold, but not rash."
The rais was about to reply, but the general could not at that moment listen to him, as he had to hasten to receive the viceroy, who was now coming on board the galley, and with him certain of his attendants and some of the people.
"You have had a good chase, senor general," said the viceroy.
"Your excellency shall soon see how good, by the game strung up to this yard," replied the general.
"How so?" returned the viceroy.
"Because," said the general, "against all law, reason, and usages of war they have killed on my hands two of the best soldiers on board these galleys, and I have sworn to hang every man that I have taken, but above all this youth who is the rais of the brigantine," and he pointed to him as he stood with his hands already bound and the rope round his neck, ready for death.
The viceroy looked at him, and seeing him so well-favoured, so graceful, and so submissive, he felt a desire to spare his life, the comeliness of the youth furnishing him at once with a letter of recommendation. He therefore questioned him, saying, "Tell me, rais, art thou Turk, Moor, or renegade?"
To which the youth replied, also in Spanish, "I am neither Turk, nor Moor, nor renegade."
"What art thou, then?" said the viceroy.
"A Christian woman," replied the youth.
"A woman and a Christian, in such a dress and in such circumstances! It is more marvellous than credible," said the viceroy.
"Suspend the execution of the sentence," said the youth; "your vengeance will not lose much by waiting while I tell you the story of my life."
What heart could be so hard as not to be softened by these words, at any rate so far as to listen to what the unhappy youth had to say? The general bade him say what he pleased, but not to expect pardon for his flagrant offence. With this permission the youth began in these words.
"Born of Morisco parents, I am of that nation, more unhappy than wise, upon which of late a sea of woes has poured down. In the course of our misfortune I was carried to Barbary by two uncles of mine, for it was in vain that I declared I was a Christian, as in fact I am, and not a mere pretended one, or outwardly, but a true Catholic Christian. It availed me nothing with those charged with our sad expatriation to protest this, nor would my uncles believe it; on the contrary, they treated it as an untruth and a subterfuge set up to enable me to remain behind in the land of my birth; and so, more by force than of my own will, they took me with them. I had a Christian mother, and a father who was a man of sound sense and a Christian too; I imbibed the Catholic faith with my mother's milk, I was well brought up, and neither in word nor in deed did I, I think, show any sign of being a Morisco. To accompany these virtues, for such I hold them, my beauty, if I possess any, grew with my growth; and great as was the seclusion in which I lived it was not so great but that a young gentleman, Don Gaspar Gregorio by name, eldest son of a gentleman who is lord of a village near ours, contrived to find opportunities of seeing me. How he saw me, how we met, how his heart was lost to me, and mine not kept from him, would take too long to tell, especially at a moment when I am in dread of the cruel cord that threatens me interposing between tongue and throat; I will only say, therefore, that Don Gregorio chose to accompany me in our banishment. He joined company with the Moriscoes who were going forth from other villages, for he knew their language very well, and on the voyage he struck up a friendship with my two uncles who were carrying me with them; for my father, like a wise and far-sighted man, as soon as he heard the first edict for our expulsion, quitted the village and departed in quest of some refuge for us abroad. He left hidden and buried, at a spot of which I alone have knowledge, a large quantity of pearls and precious stones of great value, together with a sum of money in gold cruzadoes and doubloons. He charged me on no account to touch the treasure, if by any chance they expelled us before his return. I obeyed him, and with my uncles, as I have said, and others of our kindred and neighbours, passed over to Barbary, and the place where we took up our abode was Algiers, much the same as if we had taken it up in hell itself. The king heard of my beauty, and report told him of my wealth, which was in some degree fortunate for me. He summoned me before him, and asked me what part of Spain I came from, and what money and jewels I had. I mentioned the place, and told him the jewels and money were buried there; but that they might easily be recovered if I myself went back for them. All this I told him, in dread lest my beauty and not his own covetousness should influence him. While he was engaged in conversation with me, they brought him word that in company with me was one of the handsomest and most graceful youths that could be imagined. I knew at once that they were speaking of Don Gaspar Gregorio, whose comeliness surpasses the most highly vaunted beauty. I was troubled when I thought of the danger he was in, for among those barbarous Turks a fair youth is more esteemed than a woman, be she ever so beautiful. The king immediately ordered him to be brought before him that he might see him, and asked me if what they said about the youth was true. I then, almost as if inspired by heaven, told him it was, but that I would have him to know it was not a man, but a woman like myself, and I entreated him to allow me to go and dress her in the attire proper to her, so that her beauty might be seen to perfection, and that she might present herself before him with less embarrassment. He bade me go by all means, and said that the next day we should discuss the plan to be adopted for my return to Spain to carry away the hidden treasure. I saw Don Gaspar, I told him the danger he was in if he let it be seen he was a man, I dressed him as a Moorish woman, and that same afternoon I brought him before the king, who was charmed when he saw him, and resolved to keep the damsel and make a present of her to the Grand Signor; and to avoid the risk she might run among the women of his seraglio, and distrustful of himself, he commanded her to be placed in the house of some Moorish ladies of rank who would protect and attend to her; and thither he was taken at once. What we both suffered (for I cannot deny that I love him) may be left to the imagination of those who are separated if they love one another dearly. The king then arranged that I should return to Spain in this brigantine, and that two Turks, those who killed your soldiers, should accompany me. There also came with me this Spanish renegade" — and here she pointed to him who had first spoken — "whom I know to be secretly a Christian, and to be more desirous of being left in Spain than of returning to Barbary. The rest of the crew of the brigantine are Moors and Turks, who merely serve as rowers. The two Turks, greedy and insolent, instead of obeying the orders we had to land me and this renegade in Christian dress (with which we came provided) on the first Spanish ground we came to, chose to run along the coast and make some prize if they could, fearing that if they put us ashore first, we might, in case of some accident befalling us, make it known that the brigantine was at sea, and thus, if there happened to be any galleys on the coast, they might be taken. We sighted this shore last night, and knowing nothing of these galleys, we were discovered, and the result was what you have seen. To sum up, there is Don Gregorio in woman's dress, among women, in imminent danger of his life; and here am I, with hands bound, in expectation, or rather in dread, of losing my life, of which I am already weary. Here, sirs, ends my sad story, as true as it is unhappy; all I ask of you is to allow me to die like a Christian, for, as I have already said, I am not to be charged with the offence of which those of my nation are guilty;" and she stood silent, her eyes filled with moving tears, accompanied by plenty from the bystanders. The viceroy, touched with compassion, went up to her without speaking and untied the cord that bound the hands of the Moorish girl.
But all the while the Morisco Christian was telling her strange story, an elderly pilgrim, who had come on board of the galley at the same time as the viceroy, kept his eyes fixed upon her; and the instant she ceased speaking he threw himself at her feet, and embracing them said in a voice broken by sobs and sighs, "O Ana Felix, my unhappy daughter, I am thy father Ricote, come back to look for thee, unable to live without thee, my soul that thou art!"
At these words of his, Sancho opened his eyes and raised his head, which he had been holding down, brooding over his unlucky excursion; and looking at the pilgrim he recognised in him that same Ricote he met the day he quitted his government, and felt satisfied that this was his daughter. She being now unbound embraced her father, mingling her tears with his, while he addressing the general and the viceroy said, "This, sirs, is my daughter, more unhappy in her adventures than in her name. She is Ana Felix, surnamed Ricote, celebrated as much for her own beauty as for my wealth. I quitted my native land in search of some shelter or refuge for us abroad, and having found one in Germany I returned in this pilgrim's dress, in the company of some other German pilgrims, to seek my daughter and take up a large quantity of treasure I had left buried. My daughter I did not find, the treasure I found and have with me; and now, in this strange roundabout way you have seen, I find the treasure that more than all makes me rich, my beloved daughter. If our innocence and her tears and mine can with strict justice open the door to clemency, extend it to us, for we never had any intention of injuring you, nor do we sympathise with the aims of our people, who have been justly banished."
"I know Ricote well," said Sancho at this, "and I know too that what he says about Ana Felix being his daughter is true; but as to those other particulars about going and coming, and having good or bad intentions, I say nothing."
While all present stood amazed at this strange occurrence the general said, "At any rate your tears will not allow me to keep my oath; live, fair Ana Felix, all the years that heaven has allotted you; but these rash insolent fellows must pay the penalty of the crime they have committed;" and with that he gave orders to have the two Turks who had killed his two soldiers hanged at once at the yard-arm. The viceroy, however, begged him earnestly not to hang them, as their behaviour savoured rather of madness than of bravado. The general yielded to the viceroy's request, for revenge is not easily taken in cold blood. They then tried to devise some scheme for rescuing Don Gaspar Gregorio from the danger in which he had been left. Ricote offered for that object more than two thousand ducats that he had in pearls and gems; they proposed several plans, but none so good as that suggested by the renegade already mentioned, who offered to return to Algiers in a small vessel of about six banks, manned by Christian rowers, as he knew where, how, and when he could and should land, nor was he ignorant of the house in which Don Gaspar was staying. The general and the viceroy had some hesitation about placing confidence in the renegade and entrusting him with the Christians who were to row, but Ana Felix said she could answer for him, and her father offered to go and pay the ransom of the Christians if by any chance they should not be forthcoming. This, then, being agreed upon, the viceroy landed, and Don Antonio Moreno took the fair Morisco and her father home with him, the viceroy charging him to give them the best reception and welcome in his power, while on his own part he offered all that house contained for their entertainment; so great was the good-will and kindliness the beauty of Ana Felix had infused into his heart.