From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated edition, c. 1900; first published c. 1824]; pp. 352-369.
Mansor now freely availed himself of the invitation, and dismounting from his horse, sought refuge from the still raging storm. The poor steed likewise shared the accommodation prepared in a little outhouse for the good man’s ass, partaking of the corn and hay. Seated by the side of a good fire, the king was employed in drying himself and recruiting his exhausted strength, while the wife was busily cooking the eels for his royal supper. When they were served, having a decided distaste for fish, he somewhat anxiously inquired whether there was no kind of meat for which he might exchange them. The fisherman very honestly declared that it was true he had a she-goat with a kid; and perceiving that his guest was no unworthy personage, he directly offered to serve it up to table; which having done, he presented the king with those parts generally esteemed the best and the most delicious. After supper, the monarch retiring to his rustic couch, reposed his wearied limbs and slumbered until the sun was up.
At the appointed hour he once more mounted his steed, attended by his kind host, who now took upon himself the office of a guide. They had scarcely proceeded beyond the confines of the marshes, when they encountered several of the king’s party, calling aloud in the utmost anxiety and searching for their royal master in every direction. Unbounded was the joy and congratulation of the courtiers on thus meeting with him safe and uninjured, The king then turning round to the poor fisherman, informed him that he was the monarch whom he had so much praised, and whom he had so humanely and honourably received the foregoing evening, and that he might rely upon him that his singular courtesy and good-will should not go unrewarded.
Now, there were certain hunting-lodges which the king had erected in those parts for the convenience which they afforded in his excursions, and several of his nobles had likewise adorned the surrounding country with various seats and other dwellings, so as to give a pleasing 357 relief to the prospect. With the view of bestowing a handsome remuneration upon the good fisherman, the grateful monarch gave orders that the pools and marshes adjacent to these dwellings should be drained. He then circumscribed the limits of a noble city, comprehending the palaces and houses already erected, and after conferring upon it various rich immunities, by which it shortly became both very populous and powerful, he named the place Cesar Elcabir, or the Great Palace, and presented it as a token of his gratitude to the honest fisherman.
At the period when his sons succeeded to it, no city throughout the king’s dominions was to be compared with it in point of splendour and beauty of appearance. During the time I remained there it was filled with merchants and artisans of every description. The mosques were extremely grand, nor were the colleges and hospitals less worthy of admiration. As they have but few good wells, the cisterns and other public conduits are very large and numerous. The inhabitants of the places I visited are in general liberal and kind-hearted men, of simple manners, and neat and plain in their dress and appearance. The gardens are at once spacious and beautiful, abounding in all kinds of fruits, which supply a weekly market, the emporium of all the surrounding country. It is situated not above eighteen miles distant from Azella, now called Arzilla, in the possession of the Portuguese.
Now, simple as the whole of this story may appear, it will at least be found to inculcate one beautiful moral; it teaches us to behave with courtesy towards every one, courtesy being like virtue its own reward, and sure of meeting sooner or later, as in the instance of the poor fisherman, that reward here below.
* We are told by Mr. Dunlop that the incident of the monarch losing his way in the chase is also related in the “Fabliaux,” as well as in many of the old English ballads, and probably had its origin in some adventure of the Caliph Haroun Alraschid. The tale of Bandello is the origin of “Le Roi et le Fermier” of M. Sedaine. — History of Fiction, vol. iii. p. 461.
After feasting his eyes long and vainly in her sight, he at length contrived to obtain the pleasure of an introduction; but she had scarcely spoken two words to him, when she excused herself, and retreated, as usual, home. In truth she had been short with him, and he felt it in such a way that he made a strong resolution, which he almost as suddenly broke, of renouncing all thoughts of her for ever. He next enlisted some of her own sex among her most intimate acquaintance to employ their influence with her to vanquish her obduracy, in order that, after having carried the outworks, he might take the castle of Moncaliero by storm. But the enemy was on the alert, and all his efforts proved abortive. He looked, he sighed, he wrote, he went to mass, he walked before and behind the castle, in the woods, by the river-side, where he threatened to drown himself; but the lady’s heart was more impregnable than a rock, harder than everything except his own fate; for she deigned neither to smile upon nor to write to him. What should the wretched lover do? He had already lost his appetite, his complexion, and his rest, besides his heart, and really felt very unwell. Though physicians were not the persons to prescribe for such a case, they were nevertheless called in, and made him a great deal worse; for he was now rapidly advancing towards that bourne from which neither lovers nor travellers return; and without other help, it became very evident that the poor young gentleman would soon give up the ghost.
While his life hung suspended in this languishing state, one of his friends and fellow-officers, a happy fellow from Spoleto, hearing of his condition, came posting to his succour, determined at least to be in time for his funeral, and see that all due military honours were paid to his loving spirit. When he arrived, Messer Filiberto had just strength enough to tell the story of his love and the cruel disdain of the lady, intending afterwards, as he assured his friend, to think no more about it, but quietly to expire. His friend, however, having really a regard for him, and believing he would grow wiser as he grew older, strongly dissuaded him from the latter alternative, observing that he ought to think about it; that it was a point of honour on which he ought to pique himself to bring it, like a good comedy, to a happy conclusion. “My poor Filiberto,” he continued, “leave the affair to me, and be assured you shall speak to her as much as you please.” “That is all I wish,” exclaimed the patient with a little more animation, while a slight colour suffused his cheek; “persuade her only to listen to me, 359 and, trust me, I can manage the rest myself. But it is all a deception. What can you do, when I have wasted all kinds of love-messages, gifts, oaths, and promises in vain?” “Do you get well; that is all you have to do,” returned our Spoletino, “and leave the rest to me.” He spoke with so much confidence that the patient in a short time grew wonderfully better; and when the physician a few days afterwards stepped in, he gave himself infinite credit for the improvement which had taken place. Now the reader must know that the wits of Spoleto are renowned all over Italy; they are the most loose-tongued rattlers, the most diligent petitioners for alms in the name of St. Antony; the most audacious and sleight-of-hand gentry in the world. They have a very excellent gift of talking and making something out of nothing; and no less of persuading people to be of their own opinion, almost against their will. Nearly the whole of that amusing generation who are in the habit of getting through the world by easing the rich and simple of their superfluous cash, who dance upon two poles, dole out the grace of St. Paul, charm the dancing serpents, or sing wicked songs in the public streets, will be found to trace their birth to Spoleto.
Messer Filiberto’s friend was well qualified, therefore, as a relation of these itinerant wits, to assist a brother in distress, especially in such a dilemma as that in which our hero found himself. Considering him, at length, sufficiently convalescent, our Spoletino fixed upon a sort of travelling pedlar to forward the designs he had formed for the relief of the unhappy lover. Bribing him to exchange dresses, he took possession for a period of his collection of wares, consisting of every article most tempting to a woman’s eyes, either for ornament or for use. Thus armed, he set out in the direction of Donna Zilia’s residence, announcing himself as the old travelling merchant with a fresh supply of the choicest goods. These tidings reaching the ears of the lady, she sent to desire him to call at her house, which he directly entered with the utmost familiarity, as if by no means for the first time, and addressed her in the most courteous language he could command. Then opening his treasures, she entered upon a review of the whole assortment, displacing and undervaluing everything, while she purchased nothing. At length, fixing her eyes upon some beautiful veils and ribbons, of which she fancied she was in want, she inquired how much he expected for such very ordinary articles. “If you will sell them, good man, for what they are really worth, I will take no less than five-and-thirty yards; but if you ask too much, I will not look at them; I will not have a single ell.” “My lady,” replied the false merchant, “do my veils indeed please you? They are at your service, and say nothing as to the price; it is already paid. And not only these, but the whole of this excellent assortment is your own, if you will but deign to receive it.” “No, no, not so,” cried the lady, “that would not be right. I thank you, good man; though I certainly should like to have them at as low a rate as I can. So ask what you please, and I will give what I please, and then we shall understand one another: you gain your livelihood in this way, and surely it would be cruel, however much I might wish it, to take them for nothing. So deal fairly with me, and I will give you what I think the goods are really worth.” “But, your ladyship, please you,” 360 replied the wary merchant, “I shall consider it no loss, but a favour, if you will condescend to receive them under no conditions at all. And I am sure if you possess as courteous a mind as your face betokens, you will accept these trifles presented to you on the part of one who would gladly lay down not only his whole property, but his life at your feet.” At these words, the lady, “blushing celestial rosy red,” eyed the merchant keenly for a moment, “I am astonished to hear you talk thus, and I insist upon knowing who you really are. There is some mystery in all this, and I am rather inclined to think you must have mistaken the person to whom you speak.” The merchant, however, not in the least abashed, being a native of Spoleto, acquainted her in the mildest and most flattering terms with the long and passionate attachment entertained for her by poor Messer Filiberto, and the delicacy with which he had concealed it until the very last. Handsome, accomplished, rich, and powerful, he was prepared to lay all his extensive seigniories at her feet, and account himself the most fortunate of mankind. In short, he pleaded so eloquently, and played his part so well, that she at length, after a pretty long resistance, consented to see his friend. He then hastened back to Messer Filiberto, who overwhelmed him with the most rapturous thanks, and lost no time in preparing to pay a visit to his beloved, who received him at the appointed hour in the drawing-room of her own house. There was a single maid-servant in her company, who sat at work in a recess, so that she could scarcely overhear their discourse.
Bending lowly before her, Messer Filiberto expressed his deep sense of the honour she had conferred on him, and proceeded in impassioned terms to relate the origin and progress of his affection, his almost unexampled sufferings, and the sole hope which still rendered his life supportable to him. He further assured her that his gratitude would be eternal, in proportion to the amount of the obligations under which she laid him. The sole reply which he received to his repeated and earnest protestations was, that she was resolved to remain faithful to the memory of her departed consort, and devote herself to the education of her only son. She was, moreover, grateful for his good opinion, though she was sure he could not fail to meet with ladies far more beautiful and more worthy of his regard. Finding that all his efforts proved quite fruitless and that it was impossible to make any impression, he threw himself once more at her feet with tears in his eyes, declaring that if she possessed the cruelty to deprive him of all hope, he should not long survive. The lady remained silent, and Messer Filiberto then summoning his utmost pride and fortitude to his aid, prepared to take his leave, beseeching her only, in the common courtesy and hospitality of the country, to grant him in return for his long love and sufferings a single kiss, which, against all social laws, she had before denied him, although it was generally yielded to all strangers who entered an hospitable roof. “I wish,” replied Donna Zilia, “I knew whether your affection for me is so strong as you pretend, for then, if you will but take a vow to observe one thing, I will grant what you require. I shall then believe I am truly beloved, but never till then.” The lover eagerly swore to observe the conditions she should impose, and seized the 361 price of the promise he had given. “Now, Signor Filiberto,” exclaimed the lady, “prepare to execute the cruel sentence I shall impose. It is my will and pleasure that you no longer trouble me with such entreaties for the future, at least for some time; and if you are a true knight, you will not again unseal your lips for the space of three years.” The lover was greatly surprised and shocked on hearing so harsh and unjust a sentence, though at the same time he signified his submission by his silence, merely nodding his assent. Soon after, making the lady a low bow, he took his departure for his own residence. There, taking the affair into his most serious consideration, he at last came to the fixed resolution of submitting to this very severe penalty, as a punishment, at least, for his folly in so lightly sporting with his oath. Suddenly, then, he became dumb, and feigning that he had met with some accident, he set out from Moncaliero on his return to Virle. His friends on finding him in this sad condition expressed the utmost sorrow and surprise; but as he retained his usual cheerfulness and sense enough to conduct his own affairs, they corresponded with him as well as if he had retained the nine parts of speech. Committing his affairs to the conduct of his steward, a distant relation in whom he had the highest confidence, he determined to set out on a tour for France, to beguile, if possible, the irksomeness of his situation. Of an extremely handsome person, and possessing noble and imposing manners, the misfortune under which he appeared to labour was doubly regretted wherever our hero made his appearance.
About the period of his arrival in France, Charles, the seventh of that name, was engaged in a warm and sanguinary war against the English, attempting to recover possession of the dominions which his predecessors had lost. Having already driven them from Gascony and other parts, he was busily preparing to follow up his successes in Normandy. On arriving at this sovereign’s court, Messer Filiberto had the good fortune to find several of his friends among the barons and cavaliers in the king’s service, from whom he experienced a very kind reception, which was rather enhanced by their knowledge of the cruel misfortune under which he laboured. But as it was not of such a nature as to incapacitate him for battle, he made signs that he wished to enter into the king’s bodyguards; and being a knight of well-known prowess, this resolution was much applauded, no less by his majesty than by all his friends. Having equipped himself in a suitable manner, he accompanied a division of the army intended to carry Rouen by assault. Here he performed such feats of strength and heroic valour in the presence of the king as to excite the greatest admiration; and on the third attack the place was carried by storm. His majesty afterwards inquiring more particularly into the history of the valiant knight, and learning that he was one of the lords of Virle in Piedmont, instantly conferred upon him an office in his royal household, and presented him with a large sum of money as an encouragement to persevere in the noble career he had commenced, observing at the same time that he trusted some of his physicians would be enabled to remove the impediment in his speech. Our hero, smiling at this 362 observation, expressed his gratitude for these royal favours as well as he could, shaking his fist at the same time, in token that he would punish his majesty’s adversaries. Soon after, a sharp skirmish occurred between the French and the enemy for the possession of a bridge. The affair becoming serious, and the trumpets sounding to arms, the king, in order to encourage his troops, galloped towards the spot. Talbot, the commander of the English forces, was already there, and had nearly obtained possession of the bridge. His majesty was in the act of encouraging his soldiers, when Messer Filiberto, on his black charger, passed him at full speed with his company. With his lance in rest, he rode full at the horse of Talbot, which fell to the ground. Then seizing his huge club, and followed by his companions, he made such terrible havoc among the English, that, dealing death in every blow, he shortly dispersed them on all sides, and compelled them to abandon their position on the bridge. It was with difficulty that their commander himself effected his escape; while King Charles, following up his success, in a short time obtained possession of the whole of Normandy.
On this occasion the king returned public thanks to the heroic Filiberto, and in the presence of all the first nobility of his kingdom invested him with the command of several castles, with a hundred men-at-arms to attend him. He now stood so high in favour at court, that the monarch spared no expense to obtain the first professional advice that could be found in every country, with the hope of restoring him to the use of speech; and, after holding a solemn tournament in honour of the French victories, he proclaimed a reward of ten thousand francs to be paid to any physician, or other person, who should be fortunate enough to discover the means of restoring the use of speech to a dumb cavalier who had lost his voice in a single night. The fame of this reward reaching as far as Italy, many adventurers, induced by the hope of gain, sallied forth to try their skill, however vainly, since it was impossible to make him speak against his will. Incensed at observing such a concourse of people at his court under the pretence of performing experiments on the dumb gentleman, until the whole capital became infested with quacks, his majesty ordered a fresh proclamation to go forth, stating that whoever undertook to effect the cure should thenceforth, in case of failing to perform what he promised, be put to death, unless he paid down the sum of ten thousand francs. The good effect of this regulation was quickly perceived in the diminution of pretenders to infallible cures, few caring to risk their fortunes or their lives, in case of their inability to pay, though they had before been so liberal of their reputation. When the tidings of Messer Filiberto’s good fortune and favour at the French king’s court reached Moncaliero, Donna Zilia, imagining that his continued silence must be solely owing to the vow he had taken, and the time being at length nearly expired, fancied it would be no very bad speculation to secure the ten thousand francs for herself. Not doubting but that his love remained still warm and constant, and that she really possessed the art of removing the dumbness at her pleasure, she resolved to lose no time in setting off directly for Paris, where she was introduced to the 363 commissioners appointed to preside over Messer Filiberto’s case. “I am come, my lords,” she observed, “hearing that a gentleman of the court has for some time past lost his speech, to restore to him that invaluable faculty, possessing for that purpose some secret remedies which I trust will prove efficacious. In the course of a fortnight he will probably be one of the most eloquent men at court; and I am quite willing to run the risk of the penalty if I perform not my engagement as required. There must, however, be no witness to my proceedings; the patient must be intrusted entirely to me. I should not like every pretender to obtain a knowledge of the secret I possess; it is one which will require the utmost art in its application.” Rejoiced to hear her speak with so much confidence on the subject, the commissioners immediately despatched a message to Messer Filiberto, informing him that a lady had just arrived from Piedmont, boasting that she could perform what the most learned of the faculty in France had failed to do, by restoring the dumb to speech. The answer to this was an invitation to wait upon our hero at his own residence, when he recognised the cruel beauty who had imposed so severe a penance, and concluded at the same time that she had undertaken the journey not out of any affection for him, but with the most mercenary views. Reflecting on his long sufferings and unrequited affection, his love was suddenly converted into a strong desire of revenge; he therefore came to a determination of still playing the mute, and not deigning to exchange a single word with her, merely bowed to her politely at a distance. After some moments’ silence, the lady, finding that he had no inclination to speak, inquired in a gentle tone whether he was at a loss to discover in whose company he was. He gave her to understand that he knew her perfectly well, but that he had not yet recovered his speech, motioning, at the same time, with his fingers towards his mouth. On this, she informed him that she now absolved him from his vow, that she had travelled to Paris for that purpose, and that he might talk as much as he pleased. But the dumb lover, only motioning his thanks, still continued as silent as before; until the lady, losing all patience, very freely expressed her disappointment and displeasure. Still it availed her nothing, and fearful of the consequences to herself if he persisted in his unaccountable obstinacy, she had at length recourse to caresses and concessions, which, whatever advantage he chose to take of them, proved ultimately as fruitless to restore his eloquence as every other means. The tears and prayers of the lady to prevail upon him to speak became now doubly clamorous, while she sorely repented her former cruelty and folly, which had brought her into the predicament of forfeiting either ten thousand francs or her life. She would immediately have been placed under a military guard, had it not been for the intercession of the dumb gentleman, who made signs that they should desist. The penalty, however, was to be enforced; but the lady, being of an excessively avaricious turn, resolved rather to die than to furnish the prescribed sum, and thus deprive her beloved boy of a portion of his inheritance. When reduced to this extremity, Messer Filiberto, believing that upon the whole he had sufficiently revenged himself, took compassion 364 upon her sufferings, and hastened to obtain an audience of the king. He entreated as a special favour that his majesty would remit the fine, and grant liberty to her, as well as to some other debtors, which, in the utmost surprise at hearing the sound of his voice, the king promised to do. He then proceeded to inform his majesty of the whole history of his attachment to the lady, and the strange results by which it had been attended to both parties, though fortunately all had ended well. Messer Filiberto then hastened to hold an audience with the lady, seriously proposing to give her a little good advice; and she was quite as much rejoiced as his majesty when she first heard him speak. “You may recollect, madam,” he observed, “that some time ago, when at Moncaliero, I expressed the most ardent and constant attachment to you, an attachment which I did not then think that time could have ever diminished. But your conduct in cheating me into the vow of silence, and your cruelty to me as well before that time as since, have wrought a complete change in my sentiments towards you. I have acquired wealth and honours; I stand high in the favour of my monarch; and having, I think, taken ample revenge upon you by the fears and trouble you have experienced, I have not only granted you your liberty and your life, but ordered you to be freely supplied with every convenience and facility for your return home. I need not advise you to conduct yourself in future with care and prudence; in all the economical virtues you are reputed to be unrivalled; but I would venture to hint, that from the example I have in this instance afforded you, you will be more cautious how you sport with the feelings of those who love you, as it is an old saying, that the wily are often taken in their own nets.” He then provided her with an honourable escort and money to defray her expenses, while he himself not long after received the hand of a young beauty of the court, bestowed upon him by his royal master. By this union he received an accession of several castles and domains, and sent for his witty young friend from Spoleto to share with him a portion of his prosperity. Still retaining his favour at court, upon the death of Charles VII. he continued to enjoy the same appointments and the same influence under Louis XI., his successor.
While the funeral ceremonies were preparing, and the last offices rendered to the deceased, the monkey appeared to pay remarkable attention to all that was going forward. The corpse being dressed, and placed on the funeral bier, the holy sisterhood then attended with the usual ceremonies, offering up hymns and aves to the Virgin for the soul of the deceased. The body was afterwards borne to the parish church not far distant, not unobserved by the monkey, who watched the procession depart. But he soon turned his attention to the state of things around him; and after feasting on the cake and wine, being a little elevated, he began to empty the boxes and drawers, and examine the contents. Having observed the deceased in her last habiliments, and the form of her headdress when she was laid out, the facetious ape immediately began to array himself in the cast-off garments, exactly in the manner he had witnessed; and so perfect was the resemblance, that when he had covered himself up in bed, 366 the physician himself would have been puzzled to detect the cheat. Here the false patient lay when the domestics entered the chamber; and suddenly perceiving the monkey thus dexterously laid out, they ran back in the utmost terror and surprise, believing that they had really seen either the corpse or the spirit of the deceased. After recovering sufficient presence of mind to speak, they declared, as they hoped to be saved, that they had seen their mistress reposing upon her sick couch as usual. On the return of the two brothers with their friends and relatives from church, they directly resolved to ascend in a body into the sick chamber; and night already approaching, they all felt, in spite of their affected indifference, an unpleasant sensation on entering the room. Drawing near the bedside, they not only fancied they saw and heard a person breathe, but observing the coverings move, as if the patient were about to spring from the couch, they retreated with the utmost precipitation and alarm. When they had recovered their spirits a little, the guests requested that a priest might be sent for, to whom, on his arrival, they proceeded to explain the case. On hearing the nature of it, the good friar, being of a truly prudent and pious turn, despatched a person back for his clerk, with orders to bring him the large ivory crucifix and the illuminated psalter. These, with the help of holy water, the wafer, and the priest’s stole, were judged a sufficient match for the devices of the Evil One; and thus armed, repeating the seven psalms, with due ejaculations to the Virgin, they once more ascended the stairs, the clerk, in obedience to the friar, bearing the huge ivory crucifix at their head. He had previously exhorted the brothers to have no fears for the final salvation of their parent, as the number and excellence of her confessions were an effectual preservative against the most diabolical efforts of the adversary. He maintained that there was not the least cause for alarm, for what the servants had beheld were merely Satanic illusions, which he had frequently been in the habit of dispelling with singular success; and that having made use of his exorcisms, he would then bless the house, and with the Lord’s help, lay such a curse upon the bad spirits, as would deprive them of the least inclination to return.
When they arrived at the chamber door, all the guests, in spite of these encouraging exhortations and the sprinkling of holy water, drew back, while the bold friar ordered his clerk to advance in the name of the Lord; which he did, followed only by his superior. Approaching the sick bed, they perceived Monna Bertuccia, our facetious ape, laid out, as we have said, in perfect personification of the deceased. After mumbling some prayers, and flourishing the cross in vain, for some time, they began to entertain doubts of their success, though at the same time they felt ashamed to retreat. So sprinkling the holy water with a more liberal hand, crying: “Asperges me domine; asperges me;” they complimented the ape with a portion of it in his face. Expecting upon this to be next saluted with a blow of the huge cross, he suddenly began to grin and chatter in so horrible a manner, that the sacred vessel fell from the priest’s hands, and the clerk at the same time dropping the crucifix, they both fled together. Such was their haste, that they stumbled one over the other down the stairs, the priest falling upon his clerk when they reached the bottom.367
On hearing the sudden crash, and the terrified exclamations of the good friar, “Jesus, Jesus, Domine, adjuva me,” the brothers, followed by the rest of the party, rushed towards the spot, eagerly inquiring what dreadful accident had occurred. Both of the holy personages gazed on the guests without being able to utter a word, but their pallid looks spoke volumes sufficient to answer all demands. The poor clerk fainted away, no less from excess of fear than from the terrible fall he had just received. Having obliged both to partake of some restoratives, the priest at length summoned courage enough to say: “It is true, my dear children, I have indeed seen your poor departed mother in the form of a fierce demon;” when just as he had finished these words, the cause of all their disturbance, desirous of securing the remnants of the feast, was heard approaching at a pretty brisk and clattering pace down the unlucky stairs. Without giving any of the party time to discover a fresh place of refuge, or even to prepare their minds for his reception, he bounced suddenly into the room, armed cap-à-pie, in the fearful petticoats of the deceased. His head was dressed to a nicety exactly in the same manner as the old lady’s, and his whole body very decently arrayed in her late habiliments. He placed himself in the midst of the company, all of whom stood rooted to the spot, silent and awe-stricken, awaiting the dreadful scene that might ensue. The wrinkles in his countenance certainly bore no small resemblance to those in the features of the deceased, to which his very serious demeanour added not a little. Yet after a few secret ejaculations for divine protection on the part of the guests, the facetious visitor was soon recognized by one of the brothers, the only person who had possessed courage to look the monkey in the face on his sudden entrance into the room. Momentary prayers and exclamations were then as suddenly converted into bursts of laughter, and in a few minutes the author of all their sufferings began to resume the usual hilarity of his disposition, to exhibit his best manœuvres in the saltic art, and with the greatest politeness severally to accost the company. He evinced, however, the utmost aversion to disrobing himself of his new honours, snapping at any one who ventured to approach him, while he performed his antics in the ablest and most whimsical manner. In full dress he thus set out on his return to the castle, meeting with reiterated plaudits as he passed along the streets. In this state he was welcomed home by the domestics of the castle, producing infinite diversion among the courtiers, and all those who witnessed his exploits. Nor did the two brothers punish him for his involuntary fault; rather kindly permitting him to return to his old haunts, where he feasted and frolicked away his days, until he attained to a happy and respectable old age.
Among the women who displayed the courage of the bravest warriors was a daughter of this hero, who, in the act of encouraging the soldiers to follow to her father’s rescue, witnessed his fall. She was of a noble and imposing figure, and though only in her twentieth year, evinced the utmost fortitude under the perils which surrounded her. Her name was Marulla, and she was no less strikingly beautiful than intrepidly courageous. Instead of yielding herself up to lamentations and despair on beholding the heroic fate of her sire, she exhorted his fellow-citizens to revenge his death, and seizing his sword, led them forward with increased energy to the attack. With the rage of a hungry lioness springing upon a herd of cattle, she fell upon the nearest of her foes, dealing death on all sides in the name and with the spirit of her father. In the enthusiasm of the moment numbers of her own sex, following her example, encouraged the soldiers to make fresh exertions; and such was the impression produced by this conduct, that the invaders were speedily overpowered and driven to take refuge in their ships. Those who had not the good fortune to escape were indiscriminately put to the sword, and thus, by the heroic example of a single woman, the chief city and the whole island of Lemnos were relieved from the invasion of the infidels. I was myself told by their commander, Morsbecco, one of their most able and distinguished captains, during the time I was a prisoner at Constantinople, when he was giving an account of this desperate engagement, that as soon as he beheld the Grecian heroine rushing amidst the thickest of his troops, he felt as if all his former courage and confidence had forsaken him; a circumstance which he never recollected to have happened to him during the numerous battles and campaigns in which he had been engaged. 369 On the liberation of the island, Antonio Loredano, the Venetian admiral, arriving with a strong force, and hearing of the extraordinary exploits of the maiden Marulla, immediately requested to be introduced to her, when he expressed the greatest admiration both of her conversation and appearance. In presence of the Venetian soldiers and the citizens of Coccino, he next bestowed the highest praises on her unequalled generosity and heroism, her filial affection and other virtues, for all of which she was so proudly distinguished. He then presented her with several rich gifts on the part of the republic, and his example was immediately followed by the commanders of the different galleys and by the people of the island, who vied with each other in laying their contributions at her feet. When more than sufficient for a handsome marriage portion had been collected, the admiral proceeded to address the young heroine in the following words: “Most excellent and noble lady, in order to convince you of the sincerity with which our Venetian senate is ever inclined to honour real worth, in whichever sex it may be found, and to display its gratitude for the obligations conferred upon it, I have here offered you these slight tokens of its regard. Deign to accept them as an earnest only of higher rewards, when I shall have forwarded to our noble senators a more particular account of the splendid actions you have performed in defence of their territories and of the country to which you owe your birth. In the meantime, bright and beautiful as you are brave, should you deign to cast your eye on the first and proudest of your countrymen who have combated at your side, be assured that he will feel himself honoured by such a preference, and that his interests will be nobly promoted by our senate of Venice!”
In returning her grateful thanks to the admiral and the Venetian republic for the generous consideration of her poor services, the maiden heroine, in reference to the last article of their proposals, replied that high as she estimated true bravery, it was by no means superior physical courage and daring deeds in man which constituted his highest claims to her regard. These, without the still nobler attributes of an intellectual and moral character, were nearly worthless in her eyes, when destitute of those virtues which embellish an unstained and upright life, and produce great and honourable actions.
Repeated plaudits and commendations from all ranks of people immediately followed this truly noble and beautiful reply; the admiral afterwards declaring that the innate worth and wisdom exhibited in her language and demeanour had not merely surpassed his expectations, but deserved to be compared with the happiest instances of feminine excellence and accomplishments recorded in the annals either of Greece or Rome.
An accurate and eloquent account of the whole of this interesting scene was shortly after despatched to the noble senators of Venice, who, entering upon a consideration of the singular merits of their fair champion, not only decreed that her espousals should be splendidly provided for and celebrated by the republic, but that numerous privileges and exemptions from the public burdens imposed upon her fellow-subjects should be likewise secured to her and to her children for evermore.