Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional | Annotated Tale

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Irish Princess, The

I WAS born in Venice the renowned. When I had completed my twenty Aprils, my father called me to him one day, and said to me, "Dear son, I have overflowing wealth of possessions, and in silver and gold twenty thousand doubloons fully told; you are my only heir, and I am infirm and stricken in years. I am thinking of selling the good ship, that even now lies anchored in port."

               To which I replied, "Father and lord, observe, the possessions, silver and gold, may all in an instant be reduced to nothing. But freight the good ship now with rich merchandise and wares which shall profit in exchange."

               A few days after this, I sailed forth in the good ship, well freighted with precious stores; her linen sails filled out with the soft wind, and her keel ploughing the berdinegros [1] waters of the crystal main.

               Thus to Tunis we came, where my affairs succeeded prosperously. My merchandise was all disposed of to great advantage in a short time, and before leaving the port I wandered forth to see the town. Passing by one of the great public squares, I saw some Turkish sentinels walking up and down, guarding a dead body; I addressed them, asking why they did not inter it.

               "Because," said they, "he was of the Christian people, and in his days of life traded with his ship, wherefore a Turk of great consideration in our city, and a friend of his, entrusted to him a thousand ducats in silver, with which he bought great provision of cloth, and sent his servants to trade with it, while he remained in Tunis. The ship left the port with a prosperous wind, but before four days were out, a balandra [2] came in, bearing the news that the ship had been overtaken by a tempest, and all the merchandise had gone down into the boiling deep. With that the Christian merchant was so overcome, that he fainted and fell down dead, and we hold his body in bail for the thousand ducats he owed the Turk."

               To which I replied, "I will pay the sum you have named." And then, taking the body on my shoulders, I carried it to the church of Serafic Francis, which there is in Tunis, to give it burial, and paid the stipend of the priest who should say a hundred masses for the soul's rest. Then I returned to pay the debt to the Turk.

               Scarcely had I passed the threshold of his house, when I heard the sound of great wailing and lamentation, as of one taking leave of life.

               So I turned and asked two turbaned renegades who stood in waiting, what meant the wail. And they said, "There came to Tunis a female slave, a captive Christian, causing envy to all the womanhood of this place, so beauteously had Heaven arrayed her. Her our master bought, with the intention of making her recant and marrying her. But she said to him, 'Señor, it is vain you weary yourself, to persuade me to do this thing, for never will I deny my God and His laws, though to lay down my life I am ready.'

               "When the master heard this he was wroth, and taking her by the shoulders let her down into a mazmorra [3] under his house, binding her with a heavy chain, and feeding her day by day with but six ounces of coarse bread and half a pint of water."

               Hearing that, I said I would buy the maid, and redeem her; but they answered it was vain. The Turk would not part with her to any one, and in mockery he had set her price at a hundred millions. So I saw I must have recourse to stratagem, and asked accordingly whether the maid had declared herself a Christian, and they answered, "No, she had only spoken of her God and of His law," then, while I bethought me how to arrange my plan, they exclaimed suddenly, "Here comes the master;" and the moment that he entered the house, eagerly prostrating themselves at his feet, they said:--

               "Great lord of this mighty alcázar [4], behold a man who comes to pay the debt of the dead Christian, and who is also desirous to buy the maiden, the slave."

               Nor was I sorry to find myself thus launched into the middle of the business, but I stood perplexed, praying in my own mind that God would give me some well-conceived idea which should serve for the redemption of the maiden.

               Meantime, I counted out the sum that was due from the dead man; and then I said, "Know you that this Mustafa, my sister, whom you keep in your mazmorra, feeding her with the bread of affliction, is the most pious Jewess of our nation, and that in this you do a great wrong?"

               I could proceed no further, for the Moors think it a terrible discredit to have any Jew within their precincts; and this one flew into an ungovernable rage at the bare idea that he had been harbouring one; plucking out his beard by handfuls, he cried out with a loud voice of desolation,--

               "Woe is me, for my fame and my honour before my people is gone, now that I have suffered this scum of the earth to be with me! Let her be thrust forth from my gates."

               So his servants ran and took her up, more dead than alive, and putting her into my arms drove us forth with ignominy and imprecations.

               I was no sooner in the street, than I gave great thanks to God for the rescue He had provided, and then I bore her along to the church, thinking she needed the rites of sepulture; but I had scarcely entered the sacred place, than she opened her eyes and breathed. So I gave her such means of refreshment as I had about me, and by degrees the sad lady came to herself; and to give her greater consolation, I bid her observe she was no longer in the estate of a slave, but that by the mercy of Heaven she was redeemed and free.

               As soon as her strength had begun to return, I deemed it prudent to run no risk of danger from the Turk, and therefore used every possible diligence to conduct her to the harbour, where at once we went down into my good ship, and giving the crew word to get to sea with all despatch, we were soon steering swiftly between two azure fields.

               Thus we came to Venice, my country, where I found that during my absence my dear old father had died; and I should well-nigh have died of sorrow too, but that I had the charge of the beautiful captive lady upon me, and I had to provide for her welfare.

               One day I took her aside, and asked her respectfully to tell me what country she was of, and who were her people; but she shook her head in a melancholy way, and bid me ask her nothing, but that with time I should learn all her eventful history. For she came from a far country, and she was not bold enough to propose to me the travail and peril of bearing her home.

               "But," I replied, "most beauteous Diana, I asked the question that in the end I might have become thy beloved husband, and if I am not worthy to know thy country, what shall become of my hope."

               And she--"From this day I will be thy beloved wife, for it is thus meet that love should be paid with love."

               When I heard this answer, I was beside myself with joy, and instantly arranged every thing for the marriage festival, which was celebrated with great pomp and rejoicing, cañas [5] and alcancías [6], music, jousts, and dancing. Among the people who collected from all parts to enjoy the sports, was the captain of one of the ships in port, and he fastened himself on to me with every exterior token of friendship: I too was taken with him, and we were soon inseparable. Nothing would satisfy him, but that one fair bright morning when our fêtes were over, we should come down to this vessel that he might give us a banquet there.

               After this there was dancing, and singing, and much merry-making; and while we were enchanted with the dulcet tones of the marvellous instruments his minstrels played, we failed to perceive we were being carried out to sea.

               It was about six in the evening when my beloved bride came and took me by the hand, and said, "Without doubt there is some perfidy, for my heart is filled with fear, and my soul is troubled."

               So I took her hand, thinking to reassure her by taking her on shore. But when we came upon the deck, there was nothing to be seen all around but sea and sky, and sea and sky.

               My bride, when she saw that, fell into my arms in a swoon; and the cruel captain and half-a-dozen of his men urged by his command, fell upon me, and tore her from me, and cast me into the sea.

               "O Holy Virgin of Carmel," I cried, "and thou S. Anthony of Padua, and Santa Barbara the glorious, and thou my guardian angel, pray for me now, that I perish not in this dire distress!"

               As I uttered this petition, I felt a plank of wood strike against my breast; and on it I skimmed the waters all night, and by the first streak of dawn merciful Heaven commanded the waves to throw me upon a soft sandy shore. I could not refrain from kissing the ground which brought me safety; and as I rose up again, I beheld a holy hermit coming towards me, who led me to a little hut, where every day he brought me a basket of sufficient food.

               At the end of six months, the hermit came to me very early one morning, and bid me go stand upon the shore, for there a vessel awaited me in which my passage-money was paid.

               At the shore I found the vessel, and embarked as the hermit had directed me, not knowing whither we were bound.

               At last, after six months' sailing, we came opposite the coast of Ireland, and as we drew near shore, "Friends," said the captain, "it is necessary that this letter and this folded paper be taken to the illustrious King of Ireland; which of you will undertake the charge?"

               The crew answered, "Señor, let the Venetian take them."

               And I, having no aim before me, cheerfully undertook the commission; and springing on shore, went straight to the royal palace, where I found myself in presence of Cæsar's majesty, into whose august hands I delivered the folded paper.

               This having opened, he read aloud these words:--"Illustrious Lord! most powerful King of Ireland, the bearer of this letter is a physician of great renown; the sickness of thy daughter, which none can cure, shall flee away at the very sight of him."

               Then I was troubled, and would have explained to the King how I was no physician, and the way in which the lot had fallen upon me to bring the letter, which might equally have fallen on the most ignorant sea-boy aboard; and in truth I knew no more of medicaments than the lowest sea-boy of them all.

               But the King was overjoyed at the prospect of the healing of his daughter, and would listen to no explanations. And in proportion as he manifested his joy, my dismay increased, for I feared his anger when the undeception came.

               Meantime, at his command, I was ushered into a vast hall, where were assembled a thousand lords. But, gentle reader, you will well believe me, it was not upon one of them I looked, for at first entering my eye lighted upon a casket covered with emeralds and brilliants which I had given to my beloved bride on the day of our espousals.

               I threw myself upon it, crying, "Beautiful Isabela! Ah! where art thou? Where art thou mourning over my grief, as I mourn over thine?"

               She, who lay sunk down in the depths of her white couch, at hearing these words darted up from it, and flinging her arms round me, embraced me.

               I knew her as our lips met; and full of a thousand joys, we sat talking over the past, forgetful of all present.

               And first, I asked what had become of the wicked captain.

               "Oh, he!" she said, "when I told my father what he had done, he sent and had him put to death.

               "And now," she continued, "did I not tell you that time would reveal to you all about my history? For now that you have seen who and where I am, there is little left to tell. While I was yet little more than a child, my father would have married me against my inclination to a prince of Scotland; and I, knowing his intention, went out from the palace in the night, disguised, upon a swift mare, and when I had ridden a long way, I came to the sea-coast. I found a ship into which, thoughtless child, I sought refuge, only caring to get away from the prince of Scotland.

               "But they were corsairs who manned the vessel; and they carried me off with them to Tunis, where you found me, and set me free from that terrible suffering."

               While we were talking, the king came up; and as I was yet musing on the marvellous direction of Providence, by which the lot had fallen on me, rather than another, to come on the embassage to the palace, without which I had been like never again to have met my bride, it fell into my mind that I had yet the letter to give to his Majesty, which having reached to him, he read thus aloud:--

               "That I rest in holy ground, my soul at peace, is due to thee; therefore, when the perfidious captain threw thee into the deep sea, I was there; I provided the plank which carried thee to shore; I was the hermit that received and nourished thee; I was captain of the ship that brought thee to Ireland. And now live long with thy good spouse, and rest after many misfortunes, even as I rest in the eternal habitations."

               Then I knew that it was the soul of him I buried at Tunis that had thus befriended me.

               Not very long after this the king died, and all the people acclaimed me as their sovereign, where I have been reigning ever since, full of happiness and glory. [7]



[1] Dark green (lit. black-green).

[2] A small coasting-boat, carrying only a boom sail.

[3] A word borrowed from the Turkish, to signify a dungeon, and used when speaking of a Turkish prison.

[4] Moorish palace.

[5] A Spanish game, forming a sort of mock tournament, the combatants being armed with canes instead of lances.

[6] A Spanish game, consisting in pelting each other with alcancías, or round earthen pots, in which flowers and other things were enclosed before they were baked (in the sun), and which fell out when broken against the shield of those at whom they were thrown. I do not know if these games were also in use in Venice, or if their introduction here is a vulgar error.

[7] Though neither of the persons in this piece are Spanish, nor the scene laid in the Peninsula, it is thoroughly Spanish in character, and the subject of one or two popular ballads, and several dramas, by the best authors.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Irish Princess, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Book Title: Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1870
Country of Origin: Spain
Classification: unclassified

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