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Title: The Rise of Iskander
Author: Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE RISE OF ISKANDER

By Benjamin Disraeli



CHAPTER 1


The sun had set behind the mountains, and the rich plain of Athens was
suffused with the violet glow of a Grecian eye. A light breeze rose; the
olive-groves awoke from their noonday trance, and rustled with returning
animation, and the pennons of the Turkish squadron, that lay at anchor
in the harbour of Piræus, twinkled in the lively air. From one gate
of the city the women came forth in procession to the fountain; from
another, a band of sumptuous horsemen sallied out, and threw their
wanton javelins in the invigorating sky, as they galloped over the
plain. The voice of birds, the buzz of beauteous insects, the breath of
fragrant flowers, the quivering note of the nightingale, the pattering
call of the grasshopper, and the perfume of the violet, shrinking from
the embrace of the twilight breeze, filled the purple air with music and
with odour.

A solitary being stood upon the towering crag of the Acropolis, amid
the ruins of the Temple of Minerva, and gazed upon the inspiring scene.
Around him rose the matchless memorials of antique art; immortal columns
whose symmetry baffles modern proportion, serene Caryatides, bearing
with greater grace a graceful burthen, carvings of delicate precision,
and friezes breathing with heroic life. Apparently the stranger, though
habited as a Moslemin, was not insensible to the genius of the locality,
nor indeed would his form and countenance have misbecome a contemporary
of Pericles and Phidias. In the prime of life and far above the common
stature, but with a frame the muscular power of which was even exceeded
by its almost ideal symmetry, white forehead, his straight profile, his
oval countenance, and his curling lip, exhibited the same visage that
had inspired the sculptor of the surrounding demigods.

The dress of the stranger, although gorgeous, was, however, certainly
not classic. A crimson shawl was wound round his head and glittered with
a trembling aigrette of diamonds. His vest which set tight to his form,
was of green velvet, richly embroidered with gold and pearls. Over this
he wore a very light jacket of crimson velvet, equally embroidered, and
lined with sable. He wore also the full white camese common among the
Albanians; and while his feet were protected by sandals, the lower part
of his legs was guarded by greaves of embroidered green velvet. From
a broad belt of scarlet leather peeped forth the jewelled hilts of
a variety of daggers, and by his side was an enormous scimitar, in a
scabbard of chased silver.

The stranger gazed upon the wide prospect before him with an air of
pensive abstraction. “Beautiful Greece,” he exclaimed, “thou art still
my country. A mournful lot is mine, a strange and mournful lot, yet not
uncheered by hope. I am at least a warrior; and this arm, though trained
to war against thee, will not well forget, in the quick hour of battle,
the blood that flows within it. Themistocles saved Greece and died
a Satrap: I am bred one, let me reverse our lots, and die at least a
patriot.”

At this moment the Evening Hymn to the Virgin arose from a neighbouring
convent. The stranger started as the sacred melody floated towards
him, and taking a small golden cross from his heart, he kissed it with
devotion, and then descending the steep of the citadel, entered the
city.

He proceeded alone the narrow winding streets of Athens until he at
length arrived in front of a marble palace, in the construction of which
the architect had certainly not consulted the surrounding models which
Time bad spared to him, but which, however, it might have offended
a classic taste, presented altogether a magnificent appearance.
Half-a-dozen guards, whose shields and helmets somewhat oddly contrasted
with the two pieces of cannon, one of which was ostentatiously placed on
each side of the portal, and which had been presented to the Prince of
Athens by the Republic of Venice, lounged before the entrance, and paid
their military homage to the stranger as he passed them. He passed
them and entered a large quadrangular garden, surrounded by arcades,
supported by a considerable number of thin, low pillars, of barbarous
workmanship, and various-coloured marbles. In the midst of the garden
rose a fountain, whence the bubbling waters flowed in artificial
channels through vistas of orange and lemon trees. By the side of the
fountain on a luxurious couch, his eyes fixed upon a richly-illuminated
volume, reposed Nicæus, the youthful Prince of Athens.

“Ah! is it you?” said the Prince, looking up with a smile, as the
stranger advanced. “You have arrived just in time to remind me that we
must do something more than read the Persæ, we must act it.”

“My dear Nicæus,” replied the stranger, “I have arrived only to bid you
farewell.”

“Farewell!” exclaimed the Prince in a tone of surprise and sorrow; and
he rose from the couch. “Why! what is this?”

“It is too true;” said the stranger, and he led the way down one of the
walks. “Events have occurred which entirely baffle all our plans and
prospects, and place me in a position as difficult as it is harrowing.
Hunniades has suddenly crossed the Danube in great force, and carried
everything before him. I am ordered to proceed to Albania instantly, and
to repair to the camp at the head of the Epirots.”

“Indeed!” said Nicæus, with a thoughtful air. “My letters did not
prepare me for this. ‘Tis sudden! Is Amurath himself in the field?”

“No; Karam Bey commands. I have accounted for my delay to the Sultan by
pretended difficulties in our treaty, and have held out the prospect of
a larger tribute.”

“When we are plotting that that tribute should be paid no longer!” added
Nicæus, with a smile.

“Alas! my dear friend,” replied the Turkish commander, “my situation
has now become critical. Hitherto my services for the Moslemin have been
confined to acting against nations of their own faith. I am now suddenly
summoned to combat against my secret creed, and the best allies of what
I must yet call my secret country. The movement, it appears to me, must
be made now or never, and I cannot conceal from myself, that it never
could have been prosecuted under less auspicious circumstances.”

“What, you desponding!” exclaimed Nicæus; “then I must despair. Your
sanguine temper has alone supported me throughout all our dangerous
hopes.”

“And Æschylus?” said the stranger, smiling.

“And Æschylus, certainly,” replied Nicæus; “but I have lived to find
even Æschylus insipid. I pant for action.”

“It may be nearer than we can foresee,” replied the stranger. “There is
a God who fashions all things. He will not desert a righteous cause.
He knoweth that my thoughts are as pure as my situation is difficult. I
have some dim ideas still brooding in my mind, but we will not discuss
them now. I must away, dear Prince. The breeze serves fairly. Have you
ever seen Hunniades?”

“I was educated at the Court of Transylvania,” replied Nicæus,
looking down with a somewhat embarrassed air. “He is a famous knight,
Christendom’s chief bulwark.”

The Turkish commander sighed. “When we meet again,” he said, “may we
meet with brighter hopes and more buoyant spirits. At present, I must,
indeed, say farewell.”

The Prince turned with a dejected countenance, and pressed his
companion to his heart. “‘Tis a sad end,” said he, “to all our happy
hours and lofty plans.”

“You are as yet too young to quarrel with Fortune,” replied the
stranger, “and for myself, I have not yet settled my accounts with her.
However, for the present farewell, dear Nicæus!”

“Farewell,” replied the Prince of Athens, “farewell, dear Iskander!”



CHAPTER 2


Iskander was the youngest son of the Prince of Epirus, who, with the
other Grecian princes, had, at the commencement of the reign of Amurath
the Second, in vain resisted the progress of the Turkish arms in Europe.
The Prince of Epirus had obtained peace by yielding his four sons as
hostages to the Turkish sovereign, who engaged that they should be
educated in all the accomplishments of their rank, and with a due
deference to their faith. On the death of the Prince of Epirus, however,
Amurath could not resist the opportunity that then offered itself
of adding to his empire the rich principality he had long coveted. A
Turkish force instantly marched into Epirus, and seized upon Croia, the
capital city, and the children of its late ruler were doomed to death.
The beauty, talents, and valour of the youngest son, saved him, however,
from the fate of his poisoned brothers. Iskander was educated at
Adrianople, in the Moslemin faith, and as he, at a very early age,
exceeded in feats of arms all the Moslemin warriors, he became a prime
favourite of the Sultan, and speedily rose in his service to the highest
rank.

At this period the irresistible progress of the Turkish arms was the
subject of alarm throughout all Christendom.

Constantinople, then the capital of the Greek Empire, had already been
more than once besieged by the predecessors of Amurath, and had only
been preserved by fortunate accidents and humiliating terms. The despots
of Bosnia, Servia, and Bulgaria, and the Grecian princes of Etolia,
Macedon, Epirus, Athens, Phocis, Boeotia, and indeed of all the regions
to the straits of Corinth, were tributaries to Amurath, and the rest of
Europe was only preserved from his grasp by the valour of the Hungarians
and the Poles, whom a fortunate alliance had now united under the
sovereignty of Uladislaus, who, incited by the pious eloquence of the
cardinal of St. Angelo, the legate of the Pope, and, yielding to the
tears and supplications of the despot of Servia, had, at the time our
story opens, quitted Buda, at the head of an immense army, crossed the
Danube, and, joining his valiant viceroy, the famous John Hunniades,
vaivode of Transylvania, defeated the Turks with great slaughter,
relieved all Bulgaria, and pushed on to the base of Mount Hæmus, known
in modern times as the celebrated Balkan. Here the Turkish general,
Karam Bey, awaited the Christians, and hither to his assistance was
Iskander commanded to repair at the head of a body of Janissaries, who
had accompanied him to Greece, and the tributary Epirots.

Had Iskander been influenced by vulgar ambition, his loftiest desires
might have been fully gratified by the career which Amurath projected
for him. The Turkish Sultan destined for the Grecian Prince the hand
of one of his daughters, and the principal command of his armies. He
lavished upon him the highest dignities and boundless wealth; and,
whether it arose from a feeling of remorse, or of affection for a
warrior whose unexampled valour and unrivalled skill had already added
some of the finest provinces of Asia to his rule, it is certain that
Iskander might have exercised over Amurath a far greater degree of
influence than was enjoyed by any other of his courtiers. But the heart
of Iskander responded with no sympathy to these flattering favours.
His Turkish education could never eradicate from his memory the
consciousness that he was a Greek; and although he was brought up in
the Moslemin faith, he had at an early period of his career, secretly
recurred to the creed of his Christian fathers. He beheld in Amurath the
murderer of his dearest kinsmen, and the oppressor of his country; and
although a certain calmness of temper, and coolness of judgment, which
very early developed themselves in his character, prevented him from
ever giving any indication of his secret feelings, Iskander had long
meditated on the exalted duty of freeing his country.

Dispatched to Greece, to arrange the tributes and the treaties of the
Grecian princes, Iskander became acquainted with the young Nicæus;
and their acquaintance soon matured into friendship. Nicæus was
inexperienced; but nature had not intended him for action. The young
Prince of Athens would loll by the side of a fountain, and dream of the
wonders of old days. Surrounded by his eunuchs, his priests, and his
courtiers, he envied Leonidas, and would have emulated Themistocles. He
was passionately devoted to the ancient literature of his country, and
had the good taste, rare at that time, to prefer Demosthenes and Lysias
to Chrysostom and Gregory, and the choruses of the Grecian theatre to
the hymns of the Greek church. The sustained energy and noble simplicity
of the character of Iskander, seemed to recall to the young prince the
classic heroes over whom he was so often musing, while the enthusiasm
and fancy of Nicæus, and all that apparent weakness of will, and those
quick vicissitudes of emotion, to which men of a fine susceptibility are
subject, equally engaged the sympathy of the more vigorous and constant
and experienced mind of his companion.

To Nicæus, Iskander had, for the first time in his life, confided much
of his secret heart; and the young Prince fired at the inspiring tale.
Often they consulted over the fortunes of their country, and, excited
by their mutual invention, at length even dared to hope that they might
effect its deliverance, when Iskander was summoned to the army. It was
a mournful parting. Both of them felt that the last few months of
their lives had owed many charms to their companionship. The parting of
friends, united by sympathetic tastes, is always painful; and friends,
unless this sympathy subsist, had much better never meet. Iskander
stepped into the ship, sorrowful, but serene; Nicæus returned to his
palace moody and fretful; lost his temper with his courtiers, and, when
he was alone, even shed tears.



CHAPTER 3


Three weeks bad elapsed since the parting of Iskander and Nicæus, when
the former, at the head of ten thousand men, entered by a circuitous
route the defiles of Mount Hæmus, and approached the Turkish camp, which
had been pitched, upon a vast and elevated table-ground, commanded
on all sides by superior heights, which, however, were fortified and
well-garrisoned by Janissaries. The Epirots halted, and immediately
prepared to raise their tents, while their commander, attended by a few
of his officers, instantly proceeded to the pavilion of Karam Bey.

The arrival of Iskander diffused great joy among the soldiery; and as he
passed through the encampment, the exclamations of the Turkish warriors
announced how ready they were to be led to the charge by a chieftain who
had been ever successful. A guard of honour, by the orders of Karam Bey,
advanced to conduct Iskander to his presence; and soon, entering the
pavilion, the Grecian prince exchanged courtesies with the Turkish
general. After the formal compliments had passed, Karam Bey waved his
hand, and the pavilion was cleared, with the exception of Mousa, the
chief secretary, and favourite of Karam.

“You have arrived in good time, Iskander, to assist in the destruction
of the Christian dogs,” said the Bey. “Flushed with their accursed
success, they have advanced too far. Twice they have endeavoured to
penetrate the mountains; and each time they have been forced to retire,
with great loss. The passages are well barricadoed with timber and huge
fragments of rock. The dogs have lost all heart, and are sinking under
the joint sufferings of hunger and cold. Our scouts tell me they
exhibit symptoms of retreat. We must rush down from the mountains, and
annihilate them.”

“Is Hunniades here in person?” inquired Iskander.

“He is here,” replied Karam, “in person, the dog of dogs! Come,
Iskander, his head would be a fine Ramadan present to Amurath. ‘Tis a
head worth three tails, I guess.”

Mousa, the chief secretary, indulged in some suppressed laughter at this
joke. Iskander smiled.

“If they retreat we must assuredly attack them,” observed Iskander,
musingly. “I have a persuasion that Hunniades and myself will soon
meet.”

“If there be truth in the Prophet!” exclaimed Karam. “I have no doubt
of it. Hunniades is reserved for you, Bey. We shall hold up our heads at
court yet, Iskander. You have had letters lately?”

“Some slight words.”

“No mention of us, of course?”

“Nothing, except some passing praise of your valour and discretion.”

“We do our best, we do our best. Will Isa Bey have Ætolia, think you?”

“I have no thoughts. Our royal father will not forget his children, and
Isa Bey is a most valiant chieftain.”

“You heard not that he was coming here?” inquired Karam.

“Have you?” responded the cautious Iskander.

“A rumour, a rumour,” replied Karam. “He is at Adrianople, think you?”

“It may be so: I am, you know, from Athens.”

“True, true. We shall beat them, Iskander, we shall beat them.”

“For myself, I feel sanguine,” replied the Prince, and he arose to
retire. “I must at present to my men. We must ascertain more accurately
the movements of the Christians before we decide on our own. I am
inclined myself to reconnoitre them. How far may it be?”

“There is not room to form our array between them and the mountains,”
 replied Karam.

“‘Tis well. Success attend the true believers! By to-morrow’s dawn we
shall know more.”



CHAPTER 4


Iskander returned to his men. Night was coming on. Fires and lights
blazed and sparkled in every direction. The air was clear, but very
cold. He entered his tent, and muffling himself up in his pelisse of
sables, he mounted his horse, and declining any attendance, rode for
some little distance, until he had escaped from the precincts of the
camp. Then he turned his horse towards one of the wildest passes of
the mountain, and galloping at great speed, never stopped until he had
gained a considerable ascent. The track became steep and rugged. The
masses of loose stone rendered his progress slow; but his Anatolian
charger still bore him at intervals bravely, and in three hours’ time he
had gained the summit of Mount Hæmus. A brilliant moon flooded the broad
plains of Bulgaria with shadowy light. At the base of the mountainous
range, the red watch-fires denoted the situation of the Christian camp.

Iskander proceeded down the descent with an audacious rapidity; but his
charger was thorough-bred, and his moments were golden. Ere midnight, he
had reached the outposts of the enemy, and was challenged by a sentinel.

“Who goes there?”

“A friend to Christendom.”

“The word?”

“I have it not--nay calmly. I am alone, but I am not unarmed. I do not
know the word. I come from a far country, and bear important tidings to
the great Hunniades; conduct me to that chief.”

“May I be crucified if I will,” responded the sentinel, “before I know
who and what you are. Come, keep off, unless you wish to try the effect
of a Polish lance,” continued the sentinel; “‘tis something, I assure
you, not less awkward than your Greek fire, if Greek indeed you be.”

“My friend, you are a fool,” said Iskander, “but time is too precious
to argue any longer.” So saying, the Turkish commander dismounted, and
taking up the brawny sentinel in his arms with the greatest ease,
threw him over his shoulder, and threatening the astounded soldier with
instant death if he struggled, covered him with his pelisse, and entered
the camp.

They approached a watch-fire, around which several soldiers were warming
themselves.

“Who goes there?” inquired a second sentinel.

“A friend to Christendom,” answered Iskander.

“The word?”

Iskander hesitated.

“The word, or I’ll let fly,” said the sentinel, elevating his cross bow.

“The Bridge of Buda,” instantly replied the terrified prisoner beneath
the pelisse of Iskander.

“Why did not you answer before, then?” said one of the guards.

“And why do you mock us by changing your voice?” said another. “Come,
get on with you, and no more jokes.”

Iskander proceeded through a street of tents, in some of which were
lights, but all of which were silent. At length, he met the esquire of a
Polish knight returning from a convivial meeting, not a little elevated.

“Who are you?” inquired Iskander.

“I am an Esquire,” replied the gentleman.

“A shrewd man, I doubt not, who would make his fortune,” replied
Iskander. “You must know great things have happened. Being on guard
I have taken a prisoner, who has deep secrets to divulge to the Lord
Hunniades. Thither, to his pavilion, I am now bearing him. But he is a
stout barbarian, and almost too much for me. Assist me in carrying him
to the pavilion of Hunniades, and you shall have all the reward, and
half the fame.”

“You are a very civil spoken young gentleman,” said the Esquire. “I
think I know your voice. Your name, if I mistake not, is Leckinski?”

“A relative. We had a common ancestor.”

“I thought so. I know the Leckinskies ever by their voice. I am free
to help you on the terms you mention--all the reward and half the fame.
‘Tis a strong barbarian, is it? We cannot cut his throat, or it will not
divulge. All the reward and half the fame! I will be a knight to-morrow.
It seems a sort of fish, and has a smell.”

The Esquire seized the Shoulders of the prisoner, who would have spoken
had he not been terrified by the threats of Iskander, who, carrying the
legs of the sentinel, allowed the Polish gentleman to lead the way to
the pavilion of Hunniades. Thither they soon arrived; and Iskander,
dropping his burthen, and leaving the prisoner without to the charge of
his assistant, entered the pavilion of the General of the Hungarians.

He was stopped in a small outer apartment by an officer, who inquired
his purpose, and to whom he repeated his desire to see the Hungarian
leader, without loss of time, on important business. The officer
hesitated; but, summoning several guards, left Iskander in their
custody, and, stepping behind a curtain, disappeared. Iskander heard
voices, but could distinguish no words. Soon the officer returned, and,
ordering the guards to disarm and search Iskander, directed the Grecian
Prince to follow him. Drawing aside the curtain, Iskander and his
attendant entered a low apartment of considerable size. It was hung
with skins. A variety of armour and dresses were piled on couches. A
middle-aged man, of majestic appearance, muffled in a pelisse of furs,
with long chestnut hair, and a cap of crimson velvet and ermine, was
walking up and down the apartment, and dictating some instructions to a
person who was kneeling on the ground, and writing by the bright flame
of a brazen lamp. The bright flame of the blazing lamp fell full upon
the face of the secretary. Iskander beheld a most beautiful woman.

She looked up as Iskander entered. Her large dark eyes glanced through
his soul. Her raven hair descended to her shoulders in many curls on
each side of her face, and was braided with strings of immense pearls.
A broad cap of white fox-skin crowned her whiter forehead. Her features
were very small, but sharply moulded, and a delicate tint gave animation
to her clear fair cheek. She looked up as Iskander entered, with an air
rather of curiosity than embarrassment.

Hunniades stopped, and examined his visitor with a searching
inquisition. “Whence come you?” inquired the Hungarian chieftain.

“From the Turkish camp,” was the answer.

“An envoy or a deserter?”

“Neither.”

“What then?”

“A convert.”

“Your name?”

“Lord Hunniades,” said Iskander, “that is for your private ear. I am
unarmed, and were I otherwise, the first knight of Christendom can
scarcely fear. I am one in birth and rank your equal; if not in fame, at
least, I trust, in honour. My time is all-precious: I can scarcely stay
here while my horse breathes. Dismiss your attendant.”

Hunniades darted a glance at his visitor which would have baffled a
weaker brain, but Iskander stood the scrutiny calm and undisturbed.
“Go, Stanislaus,” said the Vaivode to the officer. “This lady, sir,”
 continued the chieftain, “is my daughter, and one from whom I have no
secrets.”

Iskander bowed lowly as the officer disappeared.

“And now,” said Hunniades, “to business. Your purpose?”

“I am a Grecian Prince, and a compulsory ally of the Moslemin. In a
word, my purpose here is to arrange a plan by which we may effect, at
the same time, your triumph, and my freedom.”

“To whom, then, have I the honour of speaking?” inquired Hunniades.

“My name, great Hunniades, is perhaps not altogether unknown to you:
they call me Iskander.”

“What, the right arm of Amurath, the conqueror of Caramania, the
flower of Turkish chivalry? Do I indeed behold that matchless warrior?”
 exclaimed Hunniades, and he held forth his hand to his guest, and
ungirding his own sword, offered it to the Prince. “Iduna” continued
Hunniades, to his daughter, “you at length behold Iskander.”

“My joy is great, sir,” replied Iduna, “if I indeed rightly understand
that we may count the Prince Iskander a champion of the Cross.”

Iskander took from his heart his golden crucifix, and kissed it before
her. “This has been my companion and consolation for long years, lady,”
 said Iskander; “you, perhaps, know my mournful history, Hunniades.
Hitherto my pretended sovereign has not required me to bare my scimitar
against my Christian brethren. That hour, however, has at length
arrived, and it has decided me to adopt a line of conduct long
meditated. Karam Bey who is aware of your necessities, the moment you
commence your retreat, will attack you. I shall command his left wing.
In spite of his superior power and position, draw up in array, and meet
him with confidence. I propose, at a convenient moment in the day, to
withdraw my troops, and with the Epirots hasten to my native country,
and at once raise the standard of independence. It is a bold measure,
but Success is the child of Audacity. We must assist each other with
mutual diversions. Single-handed it is in vain for me to commence a
struggle, which, with all adventitious advantages, will require the
utmost exertion of energy, skill, and patience. But if yourself and
the King Uladislaus occupy the armies of Amurath in Bulgaria, I am not
without hope of ultimate success, since I have to inspire me all the
most urgent interests of humanity, and combat, at the same time, for my
God, my country, and my lawful crown.”

“Brave Prince, I pledge you my troth,” said Hunniades, coming forward
and seizing his hand; “and while Iskander and Hunniades live, they will
never cease until they have achieved their great and holy end.”

“It is a solemn compact,” said Iskander, “more sacred than if registered
by all the scribes of Christendom. Lady Iduna, your prayers!”

“They are ever with the champions of the Cross,” replied the daughter
of Hunniades. She rose, the large cloak in which she was enveloped fell
from her exquisite form. “Noble Iskander, this rosary is from the Holy
Sepulchre,” continued Iduna; “wear it for the sake and memory of that
blessed Saviour who died for our sins.”

Iskander held forth his arm and touched her delicate hand as he received
the rosary, which, pressing to his lips, he placed round his neck.

“Great Hunniades,” said the Grecian Prince, “I must cross the mountains
before dawn. Let me venture to entreat that we should hear to-morrow
that the Christian camp is in retreat.”

“Let it be even so,” said the Hungarian, after some thought, “and may
to-morrow’s sun bring brighter days to Christendom.” And with these
words terminated the brief and extraordinary visit of Iskander to the
Christian general.



CHAPTER 5


The intelligence of the breaking up of the Christian camp, and the
retreat of the Christian army, soon reached the Divan of Karam Bey, who
immediately summoned Iskander to consult on the necessary operations.
The chieftains agreed that instant pursuit was indispensable, and soon
the savage Hæmus poured forth from its green bosom swarms of that light
cavalry which was perhaps even a more fatal arm of the Turkish power
than the famous Janissaries themselves. They hovered on the rear of the
retreating Christians, charged the wavering, captured the unwary. It
was impossible to resist their sudden and impetuous movements, which
rendered their escape as secure as their onset was overwhelming. Wearied
at length by the repeated assaults, Hunniades, who, attended by some
chosen knights, had himself repaired to the rear, gave orders for the
army to halt and offer battle.

Their pursuers instantly withdrew to a distance, and gradually forming
into two divisions, awaited the arrival of the advancing army of the
Turks. The Moslemin came forward in fierce array, and with the sanguine
courage inspired by expected triumph. Very conspicuous was Iskander
bounding in his crimson vest upon his ebon steed and waving his gleaming
scimitar.

The Janissaries charged, calling upon Allah! with an awful shout. The
Christian knights, invoking the Christian saints, received the Turks
at the points of their lances. But many a noble lance was shivered that
morn, and many a bold rider and worthy steed bit the dust of that field,
borne down by the irresistible numbers of their fierce adversaries.
Everywhere the balls and the arrows whistled through the air, and
sometimes an isolated shriek heard amid the general clang, announced
another victim to the fell and mysterious agency of the Greek fire.

Hunniades, while he performed all the feats of an approved warrior,
watched with anxiety the disposition of the Turkish troops. Hitherto,
from the nature of their position, but a portion of both armies had
interfered in the contest, and as yet Iskander had kept aloof. But now,
as the battle each instant raged with more fury, and as it was evident
that ere long the main force of both armies must be brought into
collision, Hunniades, with a terrible suspense, watched whether the
Grecian prince were willing or even capable of executing his plan.
Without this fulfilment, the Christian hero could not conceal from
himself that the day must be decided against the Cross.

In the meantime Iskander marked the course of events with not less
eagerness than Hunniades. Already Karam Bey had more than once summoned
him to bring the Epirots into action. He assented; but an hour passed
away without changing his position. At length, more from astonishment
than rage, the Turkish commander sent his chief secretary Mousa himself
to impress his wishes upon his colleague, and obtain some explanation
of his views and conduct. Mousa found Iskander surrounded by some of the
principal Epirot nobles, all mounted on horseback, and standing calmly
under a wide-spreading plane tree. The chief secretary of Karam Bey
was too skilful a courtier to permit his countenance to express his
feelings, and he delivered himself of a mission rather as if he had come
to request advice, than to communicate a reprimand.

“Your master is a wise man, Mousa,” replied Iskander; “but even
Karam Bey may be mistaken. He deems that a battle is not to be won by
loitering under a shadowy tree. Now I differ with him, and I even mean
to win this day by such a piece of truancy. However, it may certainly
now be time for more active work. You smile encouragement, good Mousa.
Giorgio, Demetrius, to your duty!”

At these words, two stout Epirots advanced to the unfortunate secretary,
seized and bound him, and placed him on horseback before one of their
comrades.

“Now all who love their country follow me!” exclaimed Iskander. So
saying, and at the head of five thousand horsemen, Iskander quitted the
field at a rapid pace.



CHAPTER 6


With incredible celerity Iskander and his cavalry dashed over the plains
of Roumelia, and never halted, except for short and hurried intervals
of rest and repose, until they had entered the mountainous borders of
Epirus, and were within fifty miles of its capital, Croia. On the eve
of entering the kingdom of his fathers, Iskander ordered his guards
to produce the chief secretary of Karam Bey. Exhausted with fatigue,
vexation, and terror, the disconsolate Mousa was led forward.

“Cheer up, worthy Mousa!” said Iskander, lying his length on the green
turf. “We have had a sharp ride; but I doubt not we shall soon find
ourselves, by the blessing of God, in good quarters. There is a city at
hand which they call Croia, and in which once, as the rumour runs, the
son of my father should not have had to go seek for an entrance. No
matter. Methinks, worthy Mousa, thou art the only man in our society
that can sign thy name. Come now, write me an order signed Karam Bey
to the governor of this said city, for its delivery up to the valiant
champion of the Crescent, Iskander, and thou shalt ride in future at a
pace more suitable to a secretary.”

The worthy Mousa humbled himself to the ground, and then talking his
writing materials from his girdle, inscribed the desired order, and
delivered it to Iskander, who, glancing at the inscription, pushed it
into his vest.

“I shall proceed at once to Croia, with a few friends,” said Iskander;
“do you, my bold companions, follow me this eve in various parties,
and in various routes. At dead of the second night, collect in silence
before the gates of Croia!”

Thus speaking, Iskander called for his now refreshed charger, and,
accompanied by two hundred horsemen, bade farewell for a brief period
to his troops, and soon having crossed the mountains, descended into the
fertile plains of Epirus.

When the sun rose in the morning, Iskander and his friends beheld at the
further end of the plain a very fine city shining in the light. It was
surrounded with lofty turreted walls flanked by square towers, and was
built upon a gentle eminence, which gave it a very majestic appearance.
Behind it rose a lofty range of purple mountains of very picturesque
form, and the highest peaks capped with snow. A noble lake, from which
troops of wild fowl occasionally rose, expanded like a sheet of silver
on one side of the city. The green breast of the contiguous hills
sparkled with white houses.

“Behold Croia!” exclaimed Iskander. “Our old fathers could choose
a site, comrades. We shall see whether they expended their time and
treasure for strangers, or their own seed.” So saying, he spurred his
horse, and with panting hearts and smiling faces, Iskander and his
company had soon arrived in the vicinity of the city.

The city was surrounded by a beautiful region of corn-fields and
fruit-trees. The road was arched with the over-hanging boughs. The birds
chirped on every spray. It was a blithe and merry morn. Iskander plucked
a bunch of olives as he cantered along. “Dear friends,” he said, looking
round with an inspiring smile, “let us gather our first harvest!” And,
thereupon, each putting forth his rapid hand, seized, as he rushed
by, the emblem of possession, and following the example of his leader,
placed it in his cap.

They arrived at the gates of the city, which was strongly garrisoned;
and Iskander, followed by his train, galloped up the height of the
citadel. Alighting from his horse, he was ushered into the divan of the
governor, an ancient Pacha, who received the conqueror of Caramania with
all the respect that became so illustrious a champion of the Crescent.
After the usual forms of ceremonious hospitality, Iskander, with a
courteous air presented him the order for delivering up the citadel; and
the old Pacha, resigning himself to the loss of his post with Oriental
submission, instantly delivered the keys of the citadel and town to
Iskander, and requested permission immediately to quit the scene of his
late command.

Quitting the citadel, Iskander now proceeded through the whole town, and
in the afternoon reviewed the Turkish garrison in the great square. As
the late governor was very anxious to quit Croia that very day, Iskander
insisted on a considerable portion of the garrison accompanying him as a
guard of honour, and returning the next morning. The rest he divided in
several quarters, and placed the gates in charge of his own companions.

At midnight the Epirots, faithful to their orders, arrived and united
beneath the walls of the city, and after inter-changing the signals
agreed upon, the gates were opened. A large body instantly marched
and secured the citadel. The rest, conducted by appointed leaders,
surrounded the Turks in their quarters. And suddenly, in the noon of
night, in that great city, arose a clang so dreadful that people leapt
up from their sleep and stared with stupor. Instantly the terrace of
every house blazed with torches, and it became as light as day. Troops
of armed men were charging down the streets, brandishing their scimitars
and yataghans, and exclaiming, “The Cross, the Cross!” “Liberty!”
 “Greece!” “Iskander and Epirus!” The townsmen recognised their
countrymen by their language and their dress. The name of Iskander
acted as a spell. They stopt not to inquire. A magic sympathy at once
persuaded them that this great man had, by the grace of Heaven, recurred
to the creed and country of his fathers. And so every townsman, seizing
the nearest weapon, with a spirit of patriotic frenzy, rushed into
the streets, crying out, “The Cross, the Cross!” “Liberty!” “Greece!”
 “Iskander and Epirus!” Ay! even the women lost all womanly fears,
and stimulated instead of soothing the impulse of their masters. They
fetched them arms, they held the torches, they sent them forth with vows
and prayers and imprecations, their children clinging to their robes,
and repeating with enthusiasm, phrases which they could not comprehend.

The Turks fought with the desperation of men who feel that they are
betrayed, and must be victims. The small and isolated bodies were soon
massacred, all with cold steel, for at this time, although some of the
terrible inventions of modern warfare were introduced, their use was not
general. The citadel, indeed, was fortified with cannon; but the greater
part of the soldiery trusted to their crooked swords, and their unerring
javelins. The main force of the Turkish garrison had been quartered in
an old palace of the Archbishop, situate in the middle of the city on a
slightly rising and open ground, a massy building of rustic stone. Here
the Turks, although surrounded, defended themselves desperately, using
their cross bows with terrible effect; and hither, the rest of the city
being now secured, Iskander himself repaired to achieve its complete
deliverance.

The Greeks had endeavoured to carry the principal entrance of the palace
by main force, but the strength of the portal had resisted their utmost
exertions, and the arrows of the besieged had at length forced them to
retire to a distance. Iskander directed that two pieces of cannon should
be dragged down from the citadel, and then played against the entrance.
In the meantime, he ordered immense piles of damp faggots to be lit
before the building, the smoke of which prevented the besieged from
taking any aim. The ardour of the people was so great that the cannon
were soon served against the palace, and their effects were speedily
remarked. The massy portal shook; a few blows of the battering ram, and
it fell. The Turks sallied forth, were received with a shower of Greek
fire, and driven in with agonising yells. Some endeavoured to escape
from the windows, and were speared or cut down; some appeared wringing
their hands in despair upon the terraced roof. Suddenly the palace was
announced to be on fire. A tall white-blueish flame darted up from a
cloud of smoke, and soon, as if by magic, the whole back of the building
was encompassed with rising tongues of red and raging light. Amid a
Babel of shrieks, and shouts, and cheers, and prayers, and curses,
the roof of the palace fell in with a crash, which produced amid the
besiegers an awful and momentary silence, but in an instant they started
from their strange inactivity, and rushing forward, leapt into the
smoking ruins, and at the same time completed the massacre and achieved
their freedom.



CHAPTER 7


At break of dawn Iskander sent couriers throughout all Epirus,
announcing the fall of Croia, and that he had raised the standard
of independence in his ancient country. He also despatched a trusty
messenger to Prince Nicæus at Athens, and to the great Hunniades.
The people were so excited throughout all Epirus, at this great and
unthought-of intelligence, that they simultaneously rose in all the open
country, and massacred the Turks, and the towns were only restrained in
a forced submission to Amurath, by the strong garrisons of the Sultan.

Now Iskander was very anxious to effect the removal of these garrisons
without loss of time, in order that if Amurath sent a great power
against him, as he expected, the invading army might have nothing to
rely upon but its own force, and that his attention might not in any way
be diverted from effecting their overthrow. Therefore, as soon as his
troops had rested, and he had formed his new recruits into some order,
which, with their willing spirits, did not demand many days, Iskander
set out from Croia, at the head of twelve thousand men, and marched
against the strong city of Petrella, meeting in his way the remainder of
the garrison of Croia on their return, who surrendered themselves to him
at discretion. Petrella was only one day’s march from Croia, and when
Iskander arrived there he requested a conference with the governor, and
told his tale so well, representing the late overthrow of the Turks by
Hunniades, and the incapacity of Amurath at present to relieve him,
that the Turkish commander agreed to deliver up the place, and leave the
country with his troops, particularly as the alternative of Iskander to
these easy terms was ever conquest without quarter. And thus, by a happy
mixture of audacity and adroitness, the march of Iskander throughout
Epirus was rather like a triumph than a campaign, the Turkish garrisons
imitating, without any exception, the conduct of their comrades at
Petrella, and dreading the fate of their comrades at the capital. In
less than a month Iskander returned to Epirus, having delivered the
whole country from the Moslemin yoke.

Hitherto Iskander had heard nothing either of Hunniades or Nicæus. He
learnt, therefore, with great interest, as he passed through the
gates of the city, that the Prince of Athens had arrived at Croia
the preceding eve, and also that his messenger had returned from
the Hungarian camp. Amid the acclamations of an enthusiastic people,
Iskander once more ascended the citadel of Croia. Nicæus received him at
the gate. Iskander sprang from his horse, and embraced his friend.
Hand in hand, and followed by their respective trains, they entered the
fortress palace.

“Dear friend,” said Iskander, when they were once more alone, “you see
we were right not to despair. Two months have scarcely elapsed since we
parted without prospect, or with the most gloomy one, and now we are in
a fair way of achieving all that we can desire. Epirus is free!”

“I came to claim my share in its emancipation,” said Nicæus, with a
smile, “but Iskander is another Cæsar!”

“You will have many opportunities yet, believe me, Nicæus, of proving
your courage and your patriotism,” replied Iskander; “Amurath will never
allow this affair to pass over in this quiet manner. I did not commence
this struggle without a conviction that it would demand all the energy
and patience of a long life. I shall be rewarded if I leave freedom
as an heritage to my countrymen; but for the rest, I feel that I bid
farewell to every joy of life, except the ennobling consciousness of
performing a noble duty. In the meantime, I understand a messenger
awaits me here from the great Hunniades. Unless that shield of
Christendom maintain himself in his present position, our chance of
ultimate security is feeble. With his constant diversion in Bulgaria,
we may contrive here to struggle into success. You sometimes laugh at
my sanguine temper, Nicæus. To say the truth, I am more serene than
sanguine, and was never more conscious of the strength of my opponent
than now, when it appears that I have beaten him. Hark! the people
cheer. I love the people, Nicæus, who are ever influenced by genuine and
generous feelings. They cheer as if they had once more gained a country.
Alas! they little know what they must endure even at the best. Nay!
look not gloomy; we have done great things, and will do more. Who waits
without there? Demetrius! Call the messenger from Lord Hunniades.”

An Epirot bearing a silken packet was now introduced, which he delivered
to Iskander. Reverently touching the hand of his chieftain, the
messenger then kissed his own and withdrew. Iskander broke the seal, and
drew forth a letter from the silken cover.

“So! this is well!” exclaimed the prince, with great animation, as he
threw his quick eye over the letter. “As I hoped and deemed, a most
complete victory. Karam Bey himself a prisoner, baggage, standards,
great guns, treasure. Brave soldier of the Cross! (may I prove so!) Your
perfectly-devised movement, (poh, poh!) Hah! what is this?” exclaimed
Iskander, turning pale; his lip quivered, his eye looked dim. He walked
to an arched window. His companion, who supposed that he was reading,
did not disturb him.

“Poor, poor Hunniades!” at length exclaimed Iskander, shaking his head.

“What of him?” inquired Nicæus, quickly.

“The sharpest accident of war!” replied Iskander. “It quite clouds my
spirit. We must forget these things, we must forget. Epirus! he is not
a patriot who can spare a thought from thee. And yet, so young, so
beautiful, so gifted, so worthy of a hero! when I saw her by her great
father’s side, sharing his toils, aiding his councils, supplying his
necessities, methought I gazed upon a ministering angel! upon--”

“Stop, stop in mercy’s name, Iskander!” exclaimed Nicæus, in a very
agitated tone. “What is all this? Surely no, surely not, surely Iduna--”

“‘Tis she!”

“Dead?” exclaimed Nicæus, rushing up to his companion, and seizing his
arm.

“Worse, much worse!”

“God of Heaven!” exclaimed the young Prince, with almost a frantic air.
“Tell me all, tell me all! This suspense fires my brain. Iskander, you
know not what this woman is to me; the sole object of my being, the
bane, the blessing of my life! Speak, dear friend, speak! I beseech you!
Where is Iduna?”

“A prisoner to the Turk.”

“Iduna a prisoner to the Turk. I’ll not believe it! Why do we wear
swords? Where’s chivalry? Iduna, a prisoner to the Turk! ‘Tis false. It
cannot be. Iskander, you are a coward! I am a coward! All are cowards! A
prisoner to the Turk! Iduna! What, the Rose of Christendom! has it been
plucked by such a turbaned dog as Amurath? Farewell, Epirus! Farewell,
classic Athens! Farewell, bright fields of Greece, and dreams that made
them brighter! The sun of all my joy and hope is set, and set for ever!”

So saying, Nicæus, tearing his hair and garments, flung himself upon the
floor, and hid his face in his robes.

Iskander paced the room with a troubled step and thoughtful brow. After
some minutes he leant down by the Prince of Athens, and endeavoured to
console him.

“It is in vain, Iskander, it is in vain,” said Nicæus. “I wish to die.”

“Were I a favoured lover, in such a situation,” replied Iskander, “I
should scarcely consider death my duty, unless the sacrifice of myself
preserved my mistress.”

“Hah!” exclaimed Nicæus, starting from the ground. “Do you conceive,
then, the possibility of rescuing her?”

“If she live, she is a prisoner in the Seraglio at Adrianople. You are
as good a judge as myself of the prospect that awaits your exertions.
It is, without doubt, a difficult adventure, but such, methinks, as a
Christian knight should scarcely shun.”

“To horse;” exclaimed Nicæus, “to horse--And yet what can I do? Were she
in any other place but the capital I might rescue her by force, but in
the heart of their empire, it is impossible. Is there no ransom that can
tempt the Turk? My principality would rise in the balance beside this
jewel.”

“That were scarcely wise, and certainly not just,” replied Iskander;
“but ransom will be of no avail. Hunniades has already offered to
restore Karam Bey, and all the prisoners of rank, and the chief
trophies, and Amurath has refused to listen to any terms. The truth is,
Iduna has found favour in the eyes of his son, the young Mahomed.”

“Holy Virgin! hast thou no pity on this Christian maid?” exclaimed
Nicæus. “The young Mahomed! Shall this licentious infidel--ah!
Iskander, dear, dear Iskander, you who have so much wisdom, and so much
courage; you who can devise all things, and dare all things; help me,
help me; on my knees I do beseech you, take up this trying cause of foul
oppression, and for the sake of all you love and reverence, your creed,
your country, and perchance your friend, let your great genius, like
some solemn angel, haste to the rescue of the sweet Iduna, and save her,
save her!”

“Some thoughts like these were rising in my mind when first I spoke,”
 replied Iskander. “This is a better cue, far more beseeming princes than
boyish tears, and all the outward misery of woe, a tattered garment
and dishevelled locks. Come, Nicæus, we have to struggle with a mighty
fortune. Let us be firm as Fate itself.”



CHAPTER 8


Immediately after his interview with Nicæus, Iskander summoned some of
the chief citizens of Croia to the citadel, and submitting to them his
arrangements for the administration of Epirus, announced the necessity
of his instant departure for a short interval; and the same evening, ere
the moon had risen, himself and the Prince of Athens quitted the city,
and proceeded in the direction of Adrianople. They travelled with great
rapidity until they reached a small town upon the frontiers, where they
halted for one day. Here, in the Bazaar, Iskander purchased for himself
the dress of an Armenian physician. In his long dark robes, and large
round cap of black wool, his face and hands stained, and his beard and
mustachios shaven, it seemed impossible that he could be recognised.
Nicæus was habited as his page, in a dress of coarse red cloth, setting
tight to his form, with a red cap, with a long blue tassel. He carried a
large bag containing drugs, some surgical instruments, and a few books.
In this guise, as soon as the gates were open on the morrow, Iskander,
mounted on a very small mule, and Nicæus on a very large donkey, the
two princes commenced the pass of the mountainous range, an arm of the
Balkan which divided Epirus from Roumelia.

“I broke the wind of the finest charger in all Asia when I last ascended
these mountains,” said Iskander; “I hope this day’s journey way be
accepted as a sort of atonement.”

“Faith! there is little doubt I am the best mounted of the two,” said
Nicæus. “However, I hope we shall return at a sharper pace.”

“How came it, my Nicæus,” said Iskander, “that you never mentioned to me
the name of Iduna when we were at Athens? I little supposed when I made
my sudden visit to Hunniades, that I was about to appeal to so fair a
host. She is a rarely gifted lady.”

“I knew of her being at the camp as little as yourself,” replied the
Prince of Athens, “and for the rest, the truth is, Iskander, there
are some slight crosses in our loves, which Time, I hope, will fashion
rightly.” So saying Nicæus pricked on his donkey, and flung his stick
at a bird which was perched on the branch of a tree. Iskander did not
resume a topic to which his companion seemed disinclined. Their journey
was tedious. Towards nightfall they reached the summit of the usual
track; and as the descent was difficult, they were obliged to rest until
daybreak.

On the morrow they had a magnificent view of the rich plains of
Roumelia, and in the extreme distance, the great city of Adrianople,
its cupolas and minarets blazing and sparkling in the sun. This glorious
prospect at once revived all their energies. It seemed that the moment
of peril and of fate had arrived. They pricked on their sorry steeds;
and on the morning of the next day, presented themselves at the gates of
the city. The thorough knowledge which Iskander possessed of the Turkish
character obtained them an entrance, which was at one time almost
doubtful, from the irritability and impatience of Nicæus. They repaired
to a caravansera of good repute in the neighbourhood of the seraglio;
and having engaged their rooms, the Armenian physician, attended by his
page, visited several of the neighbouring coffee-houses, announcing, at
the same time, his arrival, his profession, and his skill.

As Iskander felt pulses, examined tongues, and distributed drugs and
charms, he listened with interest and amusement to the conversation of
which he himself was often the hero. He found that the Turks had not
yet recovered from their consternation at his audacity and success. They
were still wondering, and if possible more astounded than indignant.
The politicians of the coffee-houses, chiefly consisting of Janissaries,
were loud in their murmurs. The popularity of Amurath had vanished
before the triumph of Hunniades, and the rise of Iskander.

“But Allah has in some instances favoured the faithful,” remarked
Iskander; “I heard in my travels of your having captured a great
princess of the Giaours.”

“God is great!” said an elderly Turk with a long white heard. “The Hakim
congratulates the faithful because they have taken a woman!”

“Not so merely,” replied Iskander; “I heard the woman was a princess. If
so, the people of Franguestan will pay any ransom for their great women;
and, by giving up this fair Giaour, you may free many of the faithful.”

“Mashallah!” said another ancient Turk, sipping his coffee. “The Hakim
speaks wisely.”

“May I murder my mother!” exclaimed a young Janissary, with great
indignation. “But this is the very thing that makes me wild against
Amurath. Is not this princess a daughter of that accursed Giaour, that
dog of dogs, Hunniades? and has he not offered for her ransom our brave
Karam Bey himself, and his chosen warriors? and has not Amurath said
nay? And why has he said nay? Because his son, the Prince of Mahomed,
instead of fighting against the Giaours, has looked upon one of their
women, and has become a Mejnoun. Pah! May I murder my mother, but if the
Giaours were in full march to the city, I’d not fight. And let him tell
this to the Cadi who dares; for there are ten thousand of us, and we
have sworn by the Kettle but we will not fight for Giaours, or those who
love Giaours!”

“If you mean me, Ali, about going to the Cadi,” said the chief eunuch of
Mahomed, who was standing by, “let me tell you I am no tale-bearer,
and scorn to do an unmanly act. The young prince can beat the Giaours
without the aid of those who are noisy enough in a coffee-house when
they are quiet enough in the field. And, for the rest of the business,
you may all ease your hearts; for the Frangy princess you talk of is
pining away, and will soon die. The Sultan has offered a hundred purses
of gold to any one who cures her; but the gold will never be counted by
the Hasnadar, or I will double it.”

“Try your fortune, Hakim,” said several laughing loungers to Iskander.

“Allah has stricken the Frangy princess,” said the old Turk with a white
beard.

“He will strike all Giaours,” said his ancient companion, sipping his
coffee. “It is so written.”

“Well! I do not like to hear of women slaves pining to death,” said the
young Janissary, in a softened tone, “particularly when they are young.
Amurath should have ransomed her, or he might have given her to one of
his officers, or any young fellow that had particularly distinguished
himself.” And so, twirling his mustachios, and flinging down his
piastre, the young Janissary strutted out of the coffee-house.

“When we were young,” said the old Turk with the white beard to his
companion, shaking his head, “when we were young--”

“We conquered Anatolia, and never opened our mouths,” rejoined his
companion.

“I never offered an opinion till I was sixty,” said the old Turk; “and
then it was one which had been in our family for a century.”

“No wonder Hunniades carries everything before him,” said his companion.

“And that accursed Iskander,” said the old man.

The chief eunuch, finishing his vase of sherbet, moved away. The
Armenian physician followed him.



CHAPTER 9


The chief eunuch turned into a burial-ground, through which a way led,
by an avenue of cypress-trees, to the quarter of the Seraglio. The
Armenian physician, accompanied by his page, followed him.

“Noble sir!” said the Armenian physician; “may I trespass for a moment
on your lordship’s attention?”

“Worthy Hakim, is it you?” replied the chief eunuch, turning round with
an encouraging smile of courteous condescension, “your pleasure?”

“I would speak to you of important matters,” said the physician.

The eunuch carelessly seated himself on a richly-carved tomb, and
crossing his legs with an air of pleasant superiority, adjusted a fine
emerald that sparkled on his finger, and bade the Hakim address him
without hesitation.

“I am a physician,” said the Armenian.

The eunuch nodded.

“And I heard your lordship in the coffee-house mention that the Sultan,
our sublime Master, had offered a rich reward to any one who could
effect the cure of a favourite captive.”

“No less a reward than one hundred purses of gold,” remarked the eunuch.
“The reward is proportioned to the exigency of the cue. Believe me,
worthy sir, it is desperate.”

“With mortal means,” replied the Armenian; “but I possess a talisman of
magical influence, which no disorder can resist. I would fain try its
efficacy.”

“This is not the first talisman that has been offered us, worthy
doctor,” said the eunuch, smiling incredulously.

“But the first that has been offered on these terms,” said the Armenian.
“Let me cure the captive, and of the one hundred purses, a moiety shall
belong to yourself. Ay! so confident am I of success, that I deem it
no hazard to commence our contract by this surety.” And so saying, the
Armenian took from his finger a gorgeous carbuncle, and offered it to
the eunuch. The worthy dependent of the Seraglio had a great taste in
jewellery. He examined the stone with admiration, and placed it on
his finger with complacency. “I require no inducements to promote the
interests of science, and the purposes of charity,” said the eunuch,
with a patronising air. “‘Tis assuredly a pretty stone, and, as the
memorial of an ingenious stranger, whom I respect, I shall, with
pleasure, retain it. You were saying something about a talisman. Are
you serious? I doubt not that there are means which might obtain you the
desired trial; but the Prince Mahomed is as violent when displeased or
disappointed as munificent when gratified. Cure this Christian captive,
and we may certainly receive the promised purses: fail, and your head
will as assuredly be flung into the Seraglio moat, to say nothing of my
own.”

“Most noble sir!” said the physician, “I am willing to undertake the
experiment on the terms you mention. Rest assured that the patient, if
alive, must, with this remedy, speedily recover. You marvel! Believe
me, had you witnessed the cures which it has already effected, you would
only wonder at its otherwise incredible influence.”

“You have the advantage,” replied the eunuch, “of addressing a man who
has seen something of the world. I travel every year to Anatolia with
the Prince Mahomed. Were I a narrow-minded bigot, and had never been
five miles from Adrianople in the whole course of my life, I might
indeed be sceptical. But I am a patron of science, and have heard of
talismans. How much might this ring weigh, think you?”

“I have heard it spoken of as a carbuncle of uncommon size,” replied the
Armenian.

“Where did you say you lodged, Hakim?”

“At the Khan of Bedreddin.”

“A very proper dwelling. Well, we shall see. Have you more jewels? I
might, perhaps, put you in the way of parting with some at good prices.
The Khan of Bedreddin is very conveniently situated. I may, perhaps,
towards evening, taste your coffee at the Khan of Bedreddin, and we will
talk of this said talisman. Allah be with you, worthy Hakim!” The eunuch
nodded, not without encouragement, and went his way.

“Anxiety alone enabled me to keep my countenance,” said Nicæus. “A
patron of science, forsooth! Of all the insolent, shallow-brained,
rapacious coxcombs--”

“Hush, my friend!” said Iskander, with a smile. “The chief eunuch of
the heir apparent of the Turkish empire is a far greater man than a poor
prince, or a proscribed rebel. This worthy can do our business, and I
trust will. He clearly bites, and a richer bait will, perhaps, secure
him. In the meantime, we must be patient, and remember whose destiny is
at stake.”



CHAPTER 10


The chief eunuch did not keep the adventurous companions long in
suspense; for, before the muezzin had announced the close of day from
the minarets, he had reached the Khan of Bedreddin, and inquired for the
Armenian physician.

“We have no time to lose,” said the eunuch to Iskander. “Bring with you
whatever you may require, and follow me.”

The eunuch led the way, Iskander and Nicæus maintaining a respectful
distance. After proceeding down several streets, they arrived at the
burial-ground, where they had conversed in the morning; and when they
had entered that more retired spot, the eunuch fell back, and addressed
his companion.

“Now, worthy Hakim,” he said, “if you deceive me, I will never patronize
a man of science again. I found an opportunity of speaking to the
Prince this afternoon of your talisman, and he has taken from my
representations such a fancy for its immediate proof, that I found it
quite impossible to postpone its trial even until to-morrow. I mentioned
the terms. I told the Prince your life was the pledge. I said nothing
of the moiety of the reward, worthy Hakim. That is an affair between
ourselves. I trust to your honour, and I always act thus with men of
science.”

“I shall not disgrace my profession or your confidence, rest assured,”
 replied Iskander. “And am I to see the captive to-night?”

“I doubt it not. Are you prepared? We might, perhaps, gain a little
time, if very necessary.”

“By no means, sir; Truth is ever prepared.”

Thus conversing, they passed through the burial-ground, and approached
some high, broad walls, forming a terrace, and planted with young
sycamore-trees. The eunuch tapped with his silver stick, at a small
gate, which opened, and admitted them into a garden, full of large
clumps of massy shrubs. Through these a winding walk led for some way,
and then conducted them to an open lawn, on which was situate a vast
and irregular building. As they approached the pile, a young man of
very imperious aspect rushed forward from a gate, and abruptly accosted
Iskander.

“Are you the Armenian physician?” he inquired.

Iskander bowed assent.

“Have you got your talisman? You know the terms? Cure this Christian
girl and you shall name your own reward; fail, and I shall claim your
forfeit head.”

“The terms are well understood, mighty Prince,” said Iskander, for the
young man was no less a personage than the son of Amurath, and future
conqueror of Constantinople; “but I am confident there will be no
necessity for the terror of Christendom claiming any other heads than
those of his enemies.”

“Kaflis will conduct you at once to your patient,” said Mahomed. “For
myself, I cannot rest until I know the result of your visit. I shall
wander about these gardens, and destroy the flowers, which is the only
pleasure now left me.”

Kaflis motioned to his companions to advance, and they entered the
Seraglio.

At the end of a long gallery they came to a great portal, which Kaflis
opened, and Iskander and Nicæus for a moment supposed that they had
arrived at the chief hall of the Tower of Babel, but they found the
shrill din only proceeded from a large company of women, who were
employed in distilling the rare atar of the jasmine flower. All their
voices ceased on the entrance of the strangers, as if by a miracle; but
when they had examined them, and observed that it was only a physician
and his boy, their awe, or their surprise, disappeared; and they crowded
round Iskander, some holding out their wrists, others lolling out their
tongues, and some asking questions, which perplexed alike the skill
and the modesty of the adventurous dealer in magical medicine. The
annoyance, however, was not of great duration, for Kaflis so belaboured
their fair shoulders with his official baton, that they instantly
retreated with precipitation, uttering the most violent shrieks, and
bestowing on the eunuch so many titles, that Iskander and his page were
quite astounded at the intuitive knowledge which the imprisoned damsels
possessed of that vocabulary of abuse, which is in general mastered only
by the experience of active existence.

Quitting this chamber, the eunuch and his companions ascended a lofty
staircase. They halted at length before a door. “This is the chamber of
the tower,” said their guide, “and here we shall find the fair captive.”
 He knocked, the door was opened by a female slave, and Iskander and
Nicæus, with an anxiety they could with difficulty conceal, were ushered
into a small but sumptuous apartment. In the extremity was a recess
covered with a light gauzy curtain. The eunuch bidding them keep in the
background, advanced, and cautiously withdrawing the curtain slightly
aside, addressed some words in a low voice to the inmate of the recess.
In a few minutes the eunuch beckoned to Iskander to advance, and
whispered to him: “She would not at first see you, but I have told her
you are a Christian, the more the pity, and she consents.” So saying,
he withdrew the curtain, and exhibited a veiled female figure lying on a
couch.

“Noble lady,” said the physician in Greek, which he had ascertained
the eunuch did not comprehend; “pardon the zeal of a Christian friend.
Though habited in this garb, I have served under your illustrious sire.
I should deem my life well spent in serving the daughter of the great
Hunniades.”

“Kind stranger,” replied the captive, “I was ill prepared for such a
meeting. I thank you for your sympathy, but my sad fortunes are beyond
human aid.”

“God works by humble instruments, noble lady,” said Iskander, “and with
his blessing we may yet prosper.”

“I fear that I must look to death as my only refuge,” replied Iduna,
“and still more, I fear that it is not so present a refuge as my
oppressors themselves imagine. But you are a physician; tell me then how
speedily Nature will make me free.”

She held forth her hand, which Iskander took and involuntarily pressed.
“Noble lady,” he said, “my skill is a mere pretence to enter these
walls. The only talisman I bear with me is a message from your friends.”

“Indeed!” said Iduna, in an agitated tone.

“Restrain yourself, noble lady,” said Iskander, interposing, “restrain
yourself. Were you any other but the daughter of Hunniades I would not
have ventured upon this perilous exploit. But I know that the Lady Iduna
has inherited something more than the name of her great ancestors--their
heroic soul. If ever there were a moment in her life in which it behoved
her to exert all her energies, that moment has arrived. The physician
who addresses her, and his attendant who waits at hand, are two of the
Lady Iduna’s most devoted friends. There is nothing that they will not
hazard, to effect her delivery; and they have matured a plan of escape
which they are sanguine must succeed. Yet its completion will require,
on her part, great anxiety of mind, greater exertion of body, danger,
fatigue, privation. Is the Lady Iduna prepared for all this endurance,
and all this hazard?”

“Noble friend,” replied Iduna, “for I cannot deem you a stranger, and
none but a most chivalric knight could have entered upon this almost
forlorn adventure; you have not, I trust, miscalculated my character. I
am a slave, and unless heaven will interpose, must soon be a dishonoured
one. My freedom and my fame are alike at stake. There is no danger, and
no suffering which I will not gladly welcome, provided there be even a
remote chance of regaining my liberty and securing my honour.”

“You are in the mind I counted on. Now, mark my words, dear lady. Seize
an opportunity this evening of expressing to your gaolers that you have
already experienced some benefit from my visit, and announce your rising
confidence in my skill. In the meantime I will make such a report that
our daily meetings will not be difficult. For the present, farewell. The
Prince Mahomed waits without, and I would exchange some words with him
before I go.”

“And must we part without my being acquainted with the generous friends
to whom I am indebted for an act of devotion which almost reconciles me
to my sad fate?” said Iduna. “You will not, perhaps, deem the implicit
trust reposed in you by one whom you have no interest to deceive, and
who, if deceived, cannot be placed in a worse position than she at
present fills, as a very gratifying mark of confidence, yet that trust
is reposed in you; and let me, at least, soothe the galling dreariness
of my solitary hours, by the recollection of the friends to whom I am
indebted for a deed of friendship which has filled me with a feeling of
wonder from which I have not yet recovered.”

“The person who has penetrated the Seraglio of Constantinople in
disguise to rescue the Lady Iduna,” answered Iskander, “is the Prince
Nicæus.”

“Nicæus!” exclaimed Iduna, in an agitated tone. “The voice to which I
listen is surely not that of the Prince Nicæus; nor the form on which I
gaze,” she added, as she unveiled. Beside her stood the tall figure
of the Armenian physician. She beheld his swarthy and unrecognised
countenance. She cast her dark eyes around with an air of beautiful
perplexity.

“I am a friend of the Prince Nicæus,” said the physician. “He is here.
Shall he advance? Alexis,” called cut, Iskander, not waiting for
her reply. The page of the physician came forward, but the eunuch
accompanied him. “All is right,” said Iskander to Kaflis. “We are sure
of our hundred purses. But, without doubt, with any other aid, the case
were desperate.”

“There is but one God,” said the eunuch, polishing his carbuncle, with a
visage radiant as the gem. “I never repented patronizing men of science.
The prince waits without. Come along!” He took Iskander by the arm.
“Where is your boy? What are you doing there, sir?” inquired the eunuch,
sharply, of Nicæus, who, was tarrying behind, and kissing the hand of
Iduna.

“I was asking the lady for a favour to go to the coffee-house with;”
 replied Nicæus, “you forget that I am to have none of the hundred
purses.”

“True,” said the eunuch; “there is something in that. Here, boy, here
is a piastre for you. I like to encourage men of science, and all that
belong to them. Do not go and spend it all in one morning, boy, and when
the fair captive is cured, if you remind me, boy, perhaps I may give you
another.”



CHAPTER 11


Kaflis and his charge again reached the garden. The twilight was nearly
past. A horseman galloped up to them, followed by several running
footmen. It was the prince.

“Well, Hakim,” he inquired, in his usual abrupt style, “can you cure
her?”

“Yes;” answered Iskander, firmly.

“Now listen, Hakim,” said Mahomed. “I must very shortly leave the city,
and proceed into Epirus at the head of our troops. I have sworn two
things, and I have sworn them by the holy stone. Ere the new moon, I
will have the heart of Iduna and the head of Iskander!”

The physician bowed.

“If you can so restore the health of this Frangy girl,” continued
Mahomed, “that she may attend me within ten days into Epirus, you shall
claim from my treasury what sum you like, and become physician to the
Seraglio. What say you?”

“My hope and my belief is,” replied Iskander, “that within ten days she
may breathe the air of Epirus.”

“By my father’s beard, you are a man after my own heart,” exclaimed the
prince; “and since thou dealest in talismans, Hakim, can you give me a
charm that you will secure me a meeting with this Epirot rebel within
the term, so that I may keep my oath. What say you? what say you?”

“There are such spells,” replied Iskander. “But mark, I can only secure
the meeting, not the head.”

“That is my part,” said Mahomed, with an arrogant sneer. “But the
meeting, the meeting?”

“You know the fountain of Kallista in Epirus. Its virtues are renowned.”

“I have beard of it.”

“Plunge your scimitar in its midnight waters thrice, on the eve of the
new moon, and each time summon the enemy you would desire to meet. He
will not fail you.”

“If you cure the captive, I will credit the legend, and keep the
appointment,” replied Mahomed, thoughtfully.

“I have engaged to do that,” replied the physician.

“Well, then, I shall redeem my pledge,” said the prince

“But mind,” said the physician, “while I engage to cure the lady and
produce the warrior, I can secure your highness neither the heart of the
one nor the head of the other.”

“‘Tis understood,” said Mahomed.



CHAPTER 12


The Armenian physician did not fail to attend his captive patient at an
early hour on the ensuing morn. His patron Kaflis received him with an
encouraging smile.

“The talisman already works;” said the eunuch: “she has passed a good
night, and confesses to an improvement. Our purses are safe. Methinks
I already count the gold. But I say, worthy Hakim, come hither, come
hither,” and Kaflis looked around to be sure that no one was within
hearing, “I say,” and here he put on a very mysterious air indeed, “the
prince is generous; you understand? We go shares. We shall not quarrel.
I never yet repented patronizing a man of science, and I am sure I never
shall. The prince, you see, is violent, but generous. I would not cure
her too soon, eh?”

“You take a most discreet view of affairs,” responded Iskander, with an
air of complete assent, and they entered the chamber of the tower.

Iduna performed her part with great dexterity; but, indeed, it required
less skill than herself and her advisers had at first imagined. Her
malady, although it might have ended fatally, was in its origin entirely
mental, and the sudden prospect of freedom, and of restoration to her
country and her family, at a moment when she had delivered herself up to
despair, afforded her a great and instantaneous benefit. She could not,
indeed, sufficiently restrain her spirits, and smiled incredulously when
Iskander mentioned the impending exertion and fatigues with doubt and
apprehension. His anxiety to return immediately to Epirus, determined
him to adopt the measures for her rescue without loss of time, and on
his third visit, he prepared her for making the great attempt on the
ensuing morn. Hitherto Iskander had refrained from revealing himself to
Iduna. He was induced to adopt this conduct by various considerations.
He could no longer conceal from himself that the daughter of Hunniades
exercised an influence over his feelings which he was unwilling to
encourage. His sincere friendship for Nicæus, and his conviction that It
was his present duty to concentrate all his thought and affection in the
cause of his country, would have rendered him anxious to have resisted
any emotions of the kind, even could he have flattered himself that
there was any chance of their being returned by the object of his rising
passion. But Iskander was as modest as he was brave and gifted. The
disparity of age between himself and Iduna appeared an insuperable
barrier to his hopes, even had there been no other obstacle. Iskander
struggled with his love, and with his strong mind the struggle, though
painful, was not without success. He felt that he was acting in a
manner which must ultimately tend to the advantage of his country,
the happiness of his friend, and perhaps the maintenance of his own
self-respect. For he had too much pride not to be very sensible to the
bitterness of rejection.

Had he perceived more indications of a very cordial feeling subsisting
between Nicæus and Iduna, he would perhaps not have persisted in
maintaining his disguise. But he had long suspected that the passion of
the Prince of Athens was not too favourably considered by the daughter
of Hunniades, and he was therefore exceedingly anxious that Nicæus
should possess all the credit of the present adventure, which Iskander
scarcely doubted, if successful, would allow Nicæus to urge irresistible
claims to the heart of a mistress whom he had rescued at the peril of
his life from slavery and dishonour, to offer rank, reputation, and
love. Iskander took, therefore, several opportunities of leading Iduna
to believe that he was merely the confidential agent of Nicæus, and that
the whole plan of her rescue from the Seraglio of Adrianople bad been
planned by his young friend. In the meantime, during the three days
on which they had for short intervals met, very few words had been
interchanged between Nicæus and his mistress. Those words, indeed, had
been to him of the most inspiring nature, and expressed such a deep
scale of gratitude, and such lively regard, that Nicæus could no
longer resist the delightful conviction that he had at length created a
permanent interest in her heart. Often he longed to rush to her
couch, and press her hand to his lips. Even the anticipation of future
happiness could not prevent him from envying the good fortune of
Iskander, who was allowed to converse with her without restraint; and
bitterly, on their return to the khan, did he execrate the pompous
eunuch for all the torture which he occasioned him by his silly
conversation, and the petty tyranny of office with which Kaflis always
repressed his attempts to converse for a moment with Iduna.

In the meantime all Adrianople sounded with the preparations for the
immediate invasion of Epirus, and the return of Iskander to his country
became each hour more urgent. Everything being prepared, the adventurers
determined on the fourth morning to attempt the rescue. They repaired as
usual to the Serail, and were attended by Kaflis to the chamber of
the tower, who congratulated Iskander on their way on the rapid
convalescence of the captive. When they had fairly entered the chamber,
the physician being somewhat in advance, Nicæus, who was behind,
commenced proceedings by knocking down the eunuch, and Iskander
instantly turning round to his assistance, they succeeded in gagging and
binding the alarmed and astonished Kaflis. Iduna then exhibited herself
in a costume exactly similar to that worn by Nicæus, and which her
friends had brought to her in their big. Iskander and Iduna then
immediately quitted the Serail without notice or suspicion, and hurried
to the khan, where they mounted their horses, that were in readiness,
and hastened without a moment’s loss of time to a fountain without the
gates, where they awaited the arrival of Nicæus with anxiety. After
remaining a few minutes in the chamber of the tower, the Prince of
Athens stole out, taking care to secure the door upon Kaflis, he
descended the staircase, and escaped through the Serail without meeting
any one, and had nearly reached the gate of the gardens, when he was
challenged by some of the eunuch guard at a little distance.

“Hilloa!” exclaimed one; “I thought you passed just now?”

“So I did,” replied Nicæus, with nervous effrontery; “but I came back
for my bag, which I left behind,” and, giving them no time to reflect,
he pushed his way through the gate with all the impudence of a page. He
rushed through the burial-ground, hurried through the streets, mounted
his horse, and galloped through the gates. Iskander and Iduna were in
sight, he waved his hand for them at once to proceed, and in a moment,
without exchanging a word, they were all galloping at full speed, nor
did they breathe their horses until sunset.

By nightfall they had reached a small wood of chestnut-trees, where they
rested for two hours, more for the sake of their steeds than their own
refreshment, for anxiety prevented Iduna from indulging in any repose,
as much as excitement prevented her from feeling any fatigue. Iskander
lit a fire and prepared their rough meal, unharnessed the horses, and
turned them out to their pasture. Nicæus made Iduna a couch of fern
and supported her head, while, in deference to his entreaties she
endeavoured in vain to sleep. Before midnight they were again on their
way, and proceeded at a rapid pace towards the mountains, until a few
hours before noon, when their horses began to sink under the united
influence of their previous exertions and the increasing heat of the
day. Iskander looked serious, and often threw a backward glance in the
direction of Adrianople.

“We must be beyond pursuit,” said Nicæus. “I dare say poor Kaflis is
still gagged and bound.”

“Could we but reach the mountains,” replied his companion, “I should
have little fear, but I counted upon our steeds carrying us there
without faltering. We cannot reckon upon more than three hours’ start,
prince. Our friend Kaflis is too important a personage to be long
missed.”

“The Holy Virgin befriend us!” said the Lady Iduna. “I ca urge my poor
horse no more.”

They had now ascended a small rising ground, which gave the wide
prospect over the plain. Iskander halted and threw an anxious glance
around him.

“There are some horsemen in the distance whom I do not like,” said the
physician.

“I see them,” said Nicæus; “travellers like ourselves.”

“Let us die sooner than be taken,” said Iduna.

“Move on,” said the physician, “and let me observe these horsemen
alone. I would there were some forest at hand. In two hours we may gain
the mountains.”

The daughter of Hunniades and the Prince of Athens descended the rising
ground. Before them, but at a considerable distance was a broad and
rapid river, crossed by a ruinous Roman bridge. The opposite bank of the
river was the termination of a narrow plain, which led immediately to
the mountains.

“Fair Iduna, you are safe,” said the Prince of Athens.

“Dear Nicæus,” replied his companion, “imagine what I feel.”

“It is too wild a moment to express my gratitude.”

“I trust that Iduna will never express her gratitude to Nicæus,”
 answered the prince; “it is not, I assure you, a favourite word with
him.”

Their companion rejoined them, urging his wearied horse to its utmost
speed.

“Nicæus!” he called out, “halt.”

They stopped their willing horses.

“How now! my friend;” said the prince; “you look grave.”

“Lady Iduna!” said the Armenian, “we are pursued.”

Hitherto the prospect of success, and the consciousness of the terrible
destiny that awaited failure, had supported Iduna under exertions, which
under any other circumstances must have proved fatal. But to learn, at
the very moment that she was congratulating herself on the felicitous
completion of their daring enterprise, that that dreaded failure was
absolutely impending, demanded too great an exertion of her exhausted
energies. She turned pale; she lifted up her imploring hands and eyes to
heaven in speechless agony, and then, bending down her head, wept with
unrestrained and harrowing violence. The distracted Nicæus sprung from
his horse, endeavoured to console the almost insensible Iduna, and then
woefully glancing at his fellow adventurer, wrung his hands in despair.
His fellow adventurer seemed lost in thought.

“They come,” said Nicæus, starting; “methinks I see one on the brow of
the hill. Away! fly! Let us at least die fighting. Dear, dear Iduna,
would that my life could ransom thine! O God! this is indeed agony.”

“Escape is impossible,” said Iduna, in a tone of calmness which
astonished them. “They must overtake us. Alas! brave friends, I have
brought ye to this! Pardon me, pardon me! I am ashamed of my selfish
grief. Ascribe it to other causes than a narrow spirit and a weak mind.
One course alone is left to us. We must not be taken prisoners. Ye are
warriors, and can die as such. I am only a woman, but I am the daughter
of Hunniades. Nicæus, you are my father’s friend; I beseech you sheathe
your dagger in my breast.”

The prince in silent agony pressed his hands to his sight. His limbs
quivered with terrible emotion. Suddenly he advanced and threw himself
at the feet of his hitherto silent comrade. “Oh! Iskander!” exclaimed
Nicæus, “great and glorious friend! my head and heart are both too weak
for these awful trials; save her, save her!”

“Iskander! exclaimed the thunderstruck Iduna. Iskander!”

“I have, indeed, the misfortune to be Iskander, beloved lady,” he
replied. “This is, indeed, a case almost of desperation, but if I have
to endure more than most men, I have, to inspire me, influences which
fall to the lot of few, yourself and Epirus. Come! Nicæus, there is but
one chance, we must gain the bridge.” Thus speaking, Iskander caught
Iduna in his arms, and remounting his steed, and followed by the Prince
of Athens, hurried towards the river.

“The water is not fordable,” said Iskander, when they had arrived at its
bank. “The bridge I shall defend; and it will go hard if I do not keep
them at bay long enough for you and Iduna to gain the mountains. Away;
think no more of me; nay! no tear, dear lady, or you will unman me.
An ins inspiring smile, and all will go well. Hasten to Croia, and let
nothing tempt you to linger in the vicinity, with the hope of my again
joining you. Believe me, we shall meet again, but act upon what I say,
as if they were my dying words. God bless you, Nicæus! No murmuring. For
once let the physician, indeed, command his page. Gentle lady, commend
me to your father. Would I had such a daughter in Epirus, to head my
trusty brethren if I fall. Tell the great Hunniades my legacy to him is
my country. Farewell, farewell!”

“I will not say farewell!” exclaimed Iduna; “I too can fight. I will
stay and die with you.”

“See they come! Believe me I shall conquer. Fly, fly, thou noble girl!
Guard her well, Nicæus. God bless thee, boy! Live and be happy. Nay,
nay, not another word. The farther ye are both distant, trust me, the
stronger will be my arm. Indeed, indeed, I do beseech ye, fly!”

Nicæus placed the weeping Iduna in her saddle, and after leading her
horse over the narrow and broken bridge, mounted his own, and then they
ascended together the hilly and winding track. Iskander watched them as
they went. Often Iduna waved her kerchief to her forlorn champion. In
the meantime Iskander tore off his Armenian robes and flung them into
the river, tried his footing on the position he had taken up, stretched
his limbs, examined his daggers, flourished his scimitar.

The bridge would only permit a single rider to pass abreast. It was
supported by three arches, the centre one of very considerable size, the
others small, and rising out of the shallow water on each side. In many
parts the parapet wall was broken, in some even the pathway was almost
impassable from the masses of fallen stone, and the dangerous fissures.
In the centre of the middle arch was an immense key-stone, on which was
sculptured, in high relief, an enormous helmet, which indeed gave, among
the people of the country, a title to the bridge.

A band of horsemen dashed at full speed, with a loud shout, down the
bill. They checked their horses, when to their astonishment they found
Iskander with his drawn scimitar, prepared to resist their passage. But
they paused only for a moment, and immediately attempted to swim the
river. But their exhausted horses drew back with a strong instinct from
the rushing waters: one of the band alone, mounted on a magnificent
black mare, succeeding in his purpose. The rider was half-way in the
stream, his high-bred steed snorting and struggling in the strong
current. Iskander, with the same ease as if he were plucking the ripe
fruit from a tree, took up a ponderous stone, and hurled it with fatal
precision at his adventurous enemy. The rider shrieked and fell, and
rose no more: the mare, relieved from her burthen, exerted all her
failing energies, and succeeded in gaining the opposite bank. There,
rolling herself in the welcome pasture, and neighing with a note of
triumph, she revelled in her hard escape.

“Cut down the Giaour!” exclaimed one of the horsemen, and he dashed
at the bridge. His fragile blade shivered into a thousand pieces as it
crossed the scimitar of Iskander, and in a moment his bleeding head fell
over the parapet.

Instantly the whole band, each emulous of revenging his comrades, rushed
without thought at Iskander, and endeavoured to overpower him by their
irresistible charge. His scimitar flashed like lightning. The two
foremost of his enemies fell, but the impulse of the numbers prevailed,
and each instant, although dealing destruction with every blow, he felt
himself losing ground. At length he was on the centre of the centre
arch, an eminent position, which allowed him for a moment to keep
them at bay, and gave him breathing time. Suddenly he made a desperate
charge, clove the head of the leader of the band in two, and beat them
back several yards; then swiftly returning to his former position, he
summoned all his supernatural strength, and stamping on the mighty, but
mouldering keystone, he forced it from its form, and broke the masonry
of a thousand years. Amid a loud and awful shriek, horses and horsemen,
and the dissolving fragments of the scene for a moment mingled as it
were in airy chaos, and then plunged with a horrible plash into the
fatal depths below. Some fell, and, stunned by the massy fragments, rose
no more; others struggled again into light, and gained with difficulty
their old shore. Amid them, Iskander, unhurt, swam like a river god, and
stabbed to the heart the only strong swimmer that was making his way
in the direction of Epirus. Drenched and exhausted, Iskander at length
stood upon the opposite margin, and wrung his garments, while he watched
the scene of strange destruction.

Three or four exhausted wretches were lying bruised and breathless on
the opposite bank: one drowned horse was stranded near them, caught by
the rushes. Of all that brave company the rest had vanished, and the
broad, and blue, and sunny waters rushed without a shadow beneath the
two remaining arches.

“Iduna! thou art safe,” exclaimed Iskander. “Now for Epirus!” So
saying, he seized the black mare, renovated by her bath and pasture,
and vaulting on her back, was in a few minutes bounding over his native
hills.



CHAPTER 13


In the meantime let us not forget the Prince of Athens and the Lady
Iduna. These adventurous companions soon lost sight of their devoted
champion, and entered a winding ravine, which gradually brought them
to the summit of the first chain of the Epirot mountains. From it they
looked down upon a vast and rocky valley, through which several mule
tracks led in various directions, and entered the highest barrier of the
mountains, which rose before them covered with forests of chestnut
and ilex. Nicæus chose the track which he considered least tempting to
pursuit, and towards sunset they had again entered a ravine washed by a
mountain stream. The course of the waters had made the earth fertile
and beautiful. Wild shrubs of gay and pleasant colours refreshed their
wearied eye-sight, and the perfume of aromatic plants invigorated
their jaded senses. Upon the bank of the river, too, a large cross of
roughly-carved wood brought comfort to their Christian hearts, and while
the holy emblem filled them with hope and consolation, and seemed an
omen of refuge from their Moslemin oppressors, a venerable Eremite,
with a long white beard descending over his dark robes, and leaning on
a staff of thorn, came forth from an adjoining cavern to breathe the
evening air and pour forth his evening orisons.

Iduna and Nicæus had hitherto prosecuted their sorrowful journey almost
in silence. Exhausted with anxiety, affliction, and bodily fatigue, with
difficulty the daughter of Hunniades could preserve her seat upon her
steed. One thought alone interested her, and by its engrossing influence
maintained her under all her sufferings, the memory of Iskander. Since
she first met him, at the extraordinary interview in her father’s
pavilion, often had the image of the hero recurred to her fancy, often
had she mused over his great qualities and strange career. His fame, so
dangerous to female hearts, was not diminished by his presence. And now,
when Iduna recollected that she was indebted to him for all that she
held dear, that she owed to his disinterested devotion, not only life,
but all that renders life desirable, honour and freedom, country and
kindred, that image was invested with associations and with sentiments,
which, had Iskander himself been conscious of their existence, would
have lent redoubled vigour to his arm, and fresh inspiration to his
energy. More than once Iduna had been on the point of inquiring of
Nicæus the reason which had induced alike him and Iskander to preserve
so strictly the disguise of his companion. But a feeling which she did
not choose to analyse struggled successfully with her curiosity: she
felt a reluctance to speak of Iskander to the Prince of Athens. In the
meantime Nicæus himself was not apparently very anxious of conversing
upon the subject, and after the first rapid expressions of fear and hope
as to the situation of their late comrade, they relapsed into silence,
seldom broken by Nicæus, but to deplore the sufferings of his mistress,
lamentations which Iduna answered with a faint smile.

The refreshing scene wherein they had now entered, and the cheering
appearance of the Eremite, were subjects of mutual congratulation;
and Nicæus, somewhat advancing, claimed the attention of the holy
man, announcing their faith, imprisonment, escape, and sufferings, and
entreating hospitality and refuge. The Eremite pointed with his staff
to the winding path, which ascended the bank of the river to the cavern,
and welcomed the pilgrims, in the name of their blessed Saviour, to his
wild abode and simple fare.

The cavern widened when they entered, and comprised several small
apartments. It was a work of the early Christians, who had found
a refuge in their days of persecution, and art had completed the
beneficent design of nature. The cavern was fresh, and sweet, and clean.
Heaven smiled upon its pious inmate through an aperture in the roof; the
floor was covered with rushes; in one niche rested a brazen cross, and
in another a perpetual lamp burnt before a picture, where Madonna smiled
with meek tenderness upon her young divinity.

The Eremite placed upon a block of wood, the surface of which he had
himself smoothed, some honey, some dried fish and a wooden bowl filled
from the pure stream that flowed beneath them: a simple meal, but
welcome. His guests seated themselves upon a rushy couch, and while
they refreshed themselves, he gently inquired the history of their
adventures. As it was evident that the Eremite, from her apparel,
mistook the sex of Iduna, Nicæus thought fit not to undeceive him, but
passed her off as his brother. He described themselves as two Athenian
youths, who had been captured while serving as volunteers under the
great Hunniades, and who had effected their escape from Adrianople under
circumstances of great peril and difficulty; and when he had gratified
the Eremite’s curiosity respecting their Christian brethren in Paynim
lands, and sympathetically marvelled with him at the advancing fortunes
of the Crescent, Nicæus, who perceived that Iduna stood in great need of
rest, mentioned the fatigues of his more fragile brother, and requested
permission for him to retire. Whereupon the Eremite himself, fetching a
load of fresh rushes, arranged them in one of the cells, and invited the
fair Iduna to repose. The daughter of Hunniades, first humbling herself
before the altar of the Virgin, and offering her gratitude for all the
late mercies vouchsafed unto her, and then bidding a word of peace to
her host and her companion, withdrew to her hard-earned couch, soon was
buried in a sleep as sweet and innocent as herself.

But repose fell not upon the eye-lids of Nicæus in spite of all labours.
The heart of the Athenian Prince was distracted by two most powerful of
passions--Love and Jealousy--and when the Eremite, pointing out to his
guest his allotted resting-place, himself retired to his regular and
simple slumbers, Nicæus quitted the cavern, and standing upon the bank
of the river, gazed in abstraction upon the rushing waters foaming in
the moonlight. The Prince of Athens, with many admirable qualities, was
one of those men who are influenced only by their passions, and who, in
the affairs of life, are invariably guided by their imagination instead
of their reason. At present all thought and feeling, all considerations,
and all circumstances, merged in the overpowering love he entertained
for Iduna, his determination to obtain her at all cost and peril, and
his resolution that she should never again meet Iskander, except as the
wife of Nicæus. Compared with this paramount object, the future seemed
to vanish. The emancipation of his country, the welfare of his friend,
even the maintenance of his holy creed, all those great and noble
objects for which, under other circumstances, he would have been
prepared to sacrifice his fortune and his life, no longer interested or
influenced him; and while the legions of the Crescent were on the point
of pouring into Greece to crush that patriotic and Christian cause
over which Iskander and himself had so often mused, whose interests the
disinterested absence of Iskander, occasioned solely by his devotion to
Nicæus, had certainly endangered, and perhaps, could the events of the
last few hours be known, even sacrificed, the Prince of Athens resolved,
unless Iduna would consent to become his, at once to carry off the
daughter of Hunniades to some distant country. Nor indeed, even with his
easily excited vanity, was Nicæus sanguine of obtaining his purpose
by less violent means. He was already a rejected suitor, and under
circumstances which scarcely had left hope. Nothing but the sole credit
of her chivalric rescue could perhaps have obtained for him the interest
in the heart of Iduna which he coveted. For while this exploit proffered
an irresistible claim to her deepest gratitude, it indicated also, on
the part of her deliverer, the presence and possession of all those
great qualities, the absence of which in the character and conduct of
her suitor, Iduna had not, at a former period, endeavoured to conceal to
be the principal came of his rejection. And now, by the unhappy course
of circumstances, the very deed on which he counted, with sanguine hope,
as the sure means of his success, seemed as it were to have placed him
in a more inferior situation than before. The constant society of his
mistress had fanned to all its former force and ardour, the flame which,
apart from her, and hopeless, he had endeavoured to repress; while, on
the other hand, he could not conceal from himself, that Iduna must feel
that he had played in these rest proceeding but a secondary part;
that all the genius and all the generosity of the exploit rested with
Iskander, who, after having obtained her freedom by so much energy,
peril, sagacity and skill, had secured it by a devoted courage which
might shame all the knights of Christendom; perhaps, too, had secured it
by his own life.

What if Iskander were no more? It was a great contingency. The eternal
servitude of Greece, and the shameful triumph of the Crescent, were
involved, perhaps, in that single event. And could the possession of
Iduna compensate for such disgrace and infamy? Let us not record the
wild response of passion.

It was midnight ere the restless Nicæus, more exhausted by his agitating
reverie than by his previous exertions, returned into the cavern, and
found refuge in sleep from all his disquietudes.



CHAPTER 14


The Eremite rose with the Sun; and while he was yet at matins, was
joined by Iduna, refreshed and cheerful after her unusual slumbers.
After performing their devotions, her venerable host proposed that
they should go forth and enjoy the morning air. So, descending the
precipitous bank of the river, he led the way to a small glen, the
bed of a tributary rivulet, now nearly exhausted. Beautiful clumps of
birch-trees and tall thin poplars, rose on each side among the rocks
covered with bright mosses, and parasitical plants of gay and various
colours. One side of the glen was touched with the golden and grateful
beams of the rising sun, and the other was in deep shadow.

“Here you can enjoy nature and freedom in security;” said the Eremite,
“for your enemies, if they have not already given up their pursuit, will
scarcely search this sweet solitude.”

“It is indeed sweet, holy father,” said Iduna; “but the captive, who has
escaped from captivity, can alone feel all its sweetness.”

“It is true,” said the Eremite; “I also have been a captive.”

“Indeed! holy father. To the Infidels?”

“To the Infidels, gentle pilgrim.”

“Have you been at Adrianople?”

“My oppressors were not the Paynim,” replied the Eremite, “but they
were enemies far more dire, my own evil passions. Time was when my eye
sparkled like thine, gentle pilgrim, and my heart was not as pure.”

“God is merciful,” said Iduna, “and without His aid, the strongest are
but shadows.”

“Ever think so,” replied the Eremite, “and you will deserve rather His
love than His mercy. Thirty long years have I spent in this solitude,
meditating upon the past, and it is a theme yet fertile in instruction.
My hours are never heavy, and memory is to me what action is to other
men.”

“You have seen much, holy father?”

“And felt more. Yet you will perhaps think the result of all my
experience very slight, for I can only say unto thee, trust not in
thyself.”

“It is a great truth,” remarked Iduna, “and leads to a higher one.”

“Even so,” replied the Eremite. “We are full of wisdom in old age, as
in winter this river is full of water, but the fire of youth, like the
summer sun, dries up the stream.”

Iduna did not reply. The Eremite attracted her attention to a patch of
cresses on the opposite bank of the stream. “Every morn I rise only
to discover fresh instances of omnipotent benevolence,” he exclaimed.
“Yesterday ye tasted my honey and my fish. To-day I can offer ye a fresh
dainty. We will break our fast in this pleasant glen. Rest thou here,
gentle youth, and I will summon thy brother to our meal. I fear me much
he does not bear so contented a spirit as thyself.”

“He is older, and has seen more,” replied Iduna.

The Eremite shook his head, and leaning on his staff, returned to
the cavern. Iduna remained, seated on a mossy rock, listening to the
awakening birds, and musing over the fate of Iskander. While she was
indulging in this reverie, her name was called. She looked up with a
blush, and beheld Nicæus.

“How fares my gentle comrade?” inquired the Prince of Athens.

“As well as I hope you are, dear Nicæus. We have been indeed fortunate
in finding so kind a host.”

“I think I may now congratulate you on your safety,” said the Prince.
“This unfrequented pass will lead us in two days to Epirus, nor do I
indeed now fear pursuit.”

“Acts and not words must express in future how much we owe to you,” said
Iduna. “My joy would be complete if my father only knew of our safety,
and if our late companion were here to share it.”

“Fear not for my friend,” replied Nicæus. “I have faith in the fortune
of Iskander.”

“If any one could succeed under such circumstances, he doubtless is the
man,” rejoined Iduna; “but it was indeed an awful crisis in his fate.”

“Trust me, dear lady, it is wise to banish gloomy thoughts.”

“We can give him only our thoughts,” said Iduna, “and when we remember
how much is dependent on his life, can they be cheerful?”

“Mine must be so, when I am in the presence of Iduna,” replied Nicæus.

The daughter of Hunniades gathered moss from the rock, and threw it into
the stream.

“Dear lady,” said the Prince of Athens, seating himself by her side,
and stealing her gentle hand. “Pardon me, if an irrepressible feeling at
this moment impels me to recur to a subject, which, I would fain hope,
were not so unpleasing to you, as once unhappily you deemed it. O!
Iduna, Iduna, best and dearest, we are once more together; once more
I gaze upon that unrivalled form, and listen to the music of that
matchless voice. I sought you, I perhaps violated my pledge, but I
sought you in captivity and sorrow. Pardon me, pity me, Iduna! Oh!
Iduna, if possible, love me!”

She turned away her head, she turned away her streaming eyes. “It
is impossible not to love my deliverers,” she replied, in a low and
tremulous voice, “even could he not prefer the many other claims
to affection which are possessed by the Prince of Athens. I was not
prepared for this renewal of a most painful subject, perhaps not under
any circumstances, but least of all under those in which we now find
ourselves.”

“Alas!” exclaimed the prince, “I can no longer control my passion. My
life, not my happiness merely, depends upon Iduna becoming mine. Bear
with me, my beloved, bear with me! Were you Nicæus, you too would need
forgiveness.”

“I beseech you, cease!” exclaimed Iduna, in a firmer voice; and,
withdrawing her hand, she suddenly rose. “This is neither the time nor
place for such conversation. I have not forgotten that, but a few days
back, I was a hopeless captive, and that my life and fame are even now
in danger. Great mercies have been vouchsafed to me; but still I perhaps
need the hourly interposition of heavenly aid. Other than such worldly
thoughts should fill my mind, and do. Dear Nicæus,” she continued, in a
more soothing tone, “you have nobly commenced a most heroic enterprise:
fulfil it in like spirit.”

He would have replied; but at this moment the staff of the Eremite
sounded among the rocks. Baffled, and dark with rage and passion, the
Prince of Athens quitted Iduna, and strolled towards the upper part of
the glen, to conceal his anger and disappointment.

“Eat, gentle youth,” said the Eremite. “Will not thy brother join us?
What may be his name?”

“Nicæus, holy father.”

“And thine?”

Iduna blushed and hesitated. At length, in her confusion, she replied,
“Iskander.”

“Nicæus,” called out the Eremite, “Iskander and myself await thee!”

Iduna trembled. She was agreeably surprised when the prince returned
with a smiling countenance, and joined in the meal, with many cheerful
words.

“Now I propose,” said the Eremite, “that yourself and your brother
Iskander should tarry with me some days, if, indeed, my simple fare have
any temptation.”

“I thank thee, holy father,” replied Nicæus, “but our affairs are
urgent; nor indeed could I have tarried here at all, had it not been
for my young Iskander here, who, as you may easily believe, is little
accustomed to his late exertions. But, indeed, towards sunset, we must
proceed.”

“Bearing with us,” added Iduna, “a most grateful recollection of our
host.”

“God be with ye, wherever ye may proceed,” replied the Eremite.

“My trust is indeed in Him,” rejoined Iduna.



CHAPTER 15


And so, two hours before sunset, mounting their refreshed horses, Nicæus
and Iduna quitted, with many kind words, the cavern of the Eremite,
and took their way along the winding bank of the river. Throughout the
moonlit night they travelled, ascending the last and highest chain of
mountains and reaching the summit by dawn. The cheerful light of morning
revealed to them the happy plains of a Christian country. With joyful
spirits they descended into the fertile land, and stopped at a beautiful
Greek village, embowered in orchards and groves of olive-trees.

The Prince of Athens instantly inquired for the Primate, or chief
personage of the village, and was conducted to his house; but its
master, he was informed, was without, supervising the commencement of
the vintage. Leaving Iduna with the family of the Primate, Nicæus went
in search of him. The vineyard was full of groups, busied in the most
elegant and joyous of human occupations, gathering, with infinite bursts
of merriment, the harvest of the vine. Some mounted on ladders, fixed
against the festooning branches, plucked the rich bunches, and threw
them below, where girls, singing in chorus, caught them in panniers, or
their extended drapery. In the centre of the vineyard, a middle-aged
man watched with a calm, but vigilant eye, the whole proceedings, and
occasionally stimulated the indolent, or prompted the inexperienced.

“Christo,” said the Prince of Athens, when he had approached him. The
Primate turned round, but evidently did not immediately recognise the
person who addressed him.

“I see,” continued the prince, “that my meditated caution was
unnecessary. My strange garb is a sufficient disguise.”

“The Prince Nicæus!” exclaimed the Primate. “He is, indeed, disguised,
but will, I am sure, pardon his faithful servant.”

“Not a word, Christo!” replied the prince. “To be brief, I have crossed
the mountains from Roumelia, and have only within this hour recognised
the spot whither I have chanced to arrive. I have a companion with me.
I would not be known. You comprehend? Affairs of state. I take it for
granted that there are none here who will recognise me, after three
years’ absence, in this dress.”

“You may feel secure, my lord,” replied Christo. “If you puzzled me, who
have known you since you were no bigger than this bunch of grapes, you
will quite confound the rest.”

“‘Tis well. I shall stay here a day or two, in order to give them
an opportunity to prepare for my reception. In the meantime, it is
necessary to send on a courier at once. You must manage all this for me,
Christo. How are your daughters?”

“So, so, please your Highness,” replied Christo. “A man with seven
daughters has got trouble for every day in the week.”

“But not when they are so pretty as yours are!”

“Poh! poh! handsome is that handsome does; and as for Alexina, she wants
to be married.”

“Very natural. Let her marry, by all means.”

“But Helena wants to do the same.”

“More natural still; for, if possible, she is prettier. For my part, I
could marry them both.”

“Ay, ay! that is all very well; but handsome is that handsome does. I
have no objection to Alexina marrying, and even Helena; but then there
is Lais--”

“Hah! hah! hah!” exclaimed the prince. “I see, my dear Christo, that
my foster sisters give you a very proper portion of trouble. However, I
must be off to my travelling companion. Come in as soon as you can, my
dear fellow, and will settle everything. A good vintage to you, and only
as much mischief as necessary.” So saying, the prince tripped away.

“Well! who would have thought of seeing him here!” exclaimed the worthy
Primate. “The same gay dog as ever! What can he have been doing at
Roumelia? Affairs of state, indeed! I’ll wager my new Epiphany scarf,
that, whatever the affairs are, there is a pretty girl in the case.”



CHAPTER 16


The fair Iduna, after all her perils and sufferings, was at length
sheltered in safety under a kind and domestic roof. Alexina, and
Helena, and Lais, and all the other sisters emulated each other in the
attentions which they lavished upon the two brothers, but especially the
youngest. Their kindness, indeed, was only equalled by their ceaseless
curiosity, and had they ever waited for the answers of Iduna to their
questions, the daughter of Hunniades might, perhaps, have been somewhat
puzzled to reconcile her responses with probability. Helena answered the
questions of Alexina; Lais anticipated even Helena. All that Iduna had
to do was to smile and be silent, and it was universally agreed that
Iskander was singularly shy as well as excessively handsome. In the
meantime, when Nicæus met Iduna in the evening of the second day of
their visit, he informed her that he had been so fortunate as to
resume an acquaintance with an old companion in arms in the person of
a neighbouring noble, who had invited them to rest at his castle at
the end of their next day’s journey. He told her likewise that he
had dispatched a courier to Croia to inquire after Iskander, who, he
expected, in the course of a few days, would bring them intelligence
to guide their future movements, and decide whether they should at once
proceed to the capital of Epirus, or advance into Bulgaria, in case
Hunniades was still in the field. On the morrow, therefore, they
proceeded on their journey. Nicæus had procured a litter for Iduna, for
which her delicate health was an excuse to Alexina and her sisters, and
they were attended by a small body of well-armed cavalry, for, according
to the accounts which Nicæus had received, the country was still
disturbed. They departed at break of day, Nicæus riding by the side of
the litter, and occasionally making the most anxious inquiries after the
well-being of his fair charge. An hour after noon they rested at a well,
surrounded by olive-trees, until the extreme heat was somewhat allayed;
and then remounting, proceeded in the direction of an undulating ridge
of green hills, that partially intersected the wide plain. Towards
sunset the Prince of Athens withdrew the curtains of the litter, and
called the attention of Iduna to a very fair castle, rising on a fertile
eminence and sparkling in the quivering beams of dying light.

“I fear,” said Nicæus, “that my friend Justinian will scarcely have
returned, but we are old comrades, and he desired me to act as his
Seneschal. For your sake I am sorry, Iduna, for I feel convinced that he
would please you.”

“It is, indeed, a fair castle,” replied Iduna, “and none but a true
knight deserves such a noble residence.”

While she spoke the commander of the escort sounded his bugle, and they
commenced the ascent of the steep, a winding road, cut through a thick
wood of ever-green shrubs. The gradual and easy ascent soon brought them
to a portal flanked with towers, which admitted them into the outworks
of the fortification. Here they found several soldiers on guard, and the
commander again sounding his bugle, the gates of the castle opened,
and the Seneschal, attended by a suite of many domestics, advanced and
welcomed Nicæus and Iduna. The Prince of Athens dismounting, assisted
his fair companion from the litter, and leading her by the band, and
preceded by the Seneschal, entered the castle.

They passed through a magnificent hall, hung with choice armour, and
ascending a staircase, of Pentelic marble, were ushered into a suite of
lofty chambers, lined with Oriental tapestry, and furnished with many
costly couches and cabinets. While they admired a spectacle so different
to anything they had recently beheld or experienced, the Seneschal,
followed by a number of slaves in splendid attire, advanced and offered
them rare and choice refreshments, coffee and confectionery, sherbets
and spiced wines. When they had partaken of this elegant cheer, Nicæus
intimated to the Seneschal that the Lady Iduna might probably wish to
retire, and instantly a discreet matron, followed by six most beautiful
girls, each bearing a fragrant torch of cinnamon mind roses, advanced
and offered to conduct the Lady Iduna to her apartments.

The matron and her company of maidens conducted the daughter of
Hunniades down a long gallery, which led to a suite of the prettiest
chambers in the world. The first was an antechamber, painted like a
bower, but filled with the music of living birds; the second, which was
much larger, was entirely covered with Venetian mirrors, and resting
on a bright Persian carpet were many couches of crimson velvet, covered
with a variety of sumptuous dresses; the third room was a bath, made
in the semblance of a gigantic shell. Its roof was of transparent
alabaster, glowing with shadowy light.



CHAPTER 17


A flourish of trumpets announced the return of the Lady Iduna and the
Prince of Athens, magnificently attired, came forward with a smile, and
led her, with a compliment on her resuming the dress of her sex, if
not of her country, to the banquet. Iduna was not uninfluenced by that
excitement which is insensibly produced by a sudden change of scene and
circumstances, and especially by an unexpected transition from hardship,
peril, and suffering, to luxury, security, and enjoyment. Their spirits
were elevated and gay: she smiled upon Nicæus with a cheerful sympathy.
They feasted, they listened to sweet music, they talked over their
late adventures, and, animated by their own enjoyment, they became more
sanguine as to the fate of Iskander.

“In two or three days we shall know more,” said Nicæus. “In the
meantime, rest is absolutely necessary to you. It is only now that you
will begin to be sensible of the exertion you have made. If Iskander be
at Croia, he has already informed your father of your escape; if he
have not arrived, I have arranged that a courier shall be dispatched
to Hunniades from that city. Do not be anxious. Try to be happy. I
am myself sanguine that you will find all well. Come, pledge me your
father’s health, fair lady, in this goblet of Tenedos!”

“How know I that at this moment he may not be at the point of death,”
 replied Iduna. “When I am absent from those I love, I dream only of
their unhappiness.”

“At this moment also,” rejoined Nicæus, “he dreams perhaps of your
imprisonment among barbarians. Yet how mistaken! Let that consideration
support you. Come! here is to the Eremite.”

“As willing, if not as sumptuous, a host as our present one,” said
Iduna; “and when, by-the-bye, do you think that your friend, the Lord
Justinian, will arrive?”

“Oh! never mind him,” said Nicæus. “He would have arrived to-morrow, but
the great news which I gave him has probably changed his plans. I told
him of the approaching invasion, and he has perhaps found it necessary
to visit the neighbouring chieftains, or even to go on to Croia.”

“Well-a-day!” exclaimed Iduna, “I would we were in my father’s camp!”

“We shall soon be there, dear lady,” replied the Prince. “Come, worthy
Seneschal,” he added, turning to that functionary, “drink to this noble
lady’s happy meeting with her friends.”



CHAPTER 18


Three or four days passed away at the castle of Justinian, in which
Nicæus used his utmost exertions to divert the anxiety of Iduna. One
day was spent in examining the castle, on another he amused her with a
hawking party, on a third he carried her to the neighbouring ruins of a
temple, and read his favourite Æschylus to her amid its lone and
elegant columns. It was impossible for any one to be more amiable and
entertaining, and Iduna could not resist recognising his many virtues
and accomplishments. The courier had not yet returned from Croia,
which Nicæus accounted for by many satisfactory reasons. The suspense,
however, at length became so painful to Iduna, that she proposed to the
Prince of Athens that they should, without further delay, proceed to
that city. As usual, Nicæus was not wanting in many plausible arguments
in favour of their remaining at the castle, but Iduna was resolute.

“Indeed, dear Nicæus,” she said, “my anxiety to see my father, or hear
from him, is so great, that there is scarcely any danger which I would
not encounter to gratify my wish. I feel that I have already taxed your
endurance too much. But we are no longer in a hostile land, and guards
and guides are to be engaged. Let me then depart alone!”

“Iduna!” exclaimed Nicæus, reproachfully. “Alas! Iduna, you are cruel,
but I did not expect this!”

“Dear Nicæus!” she answered, “you always misinterpret me! It would
infinitely delight me to be restored to Hunniades by yourself, but these
are no common times, and you are no common person. You forget that there
is one that has greater claims upon you even than a forlorn maiden, your
country. And whether Iskander be at Croia or not, Greece requires the
presence and exertions of the Prince of Athens.”

“I have no country,” replied Nicæus, mournfully, “and no object for
which to exert myself.”

“Nicæus! Is this the poetic patriot who was yesterday envying
Themistocles?”

“Alas! Iduna, yesterday you were my muse. I do not wonder you are
wearied of this castle!” continued the prince in a melancholy tone.
“This spot contains nothing to interest you; but for me, it holds all
that is dear, and, O! gentle maiden, one smile from you, one smile of
inspiration, and I would not envy Themistocles, and might perhaps rival
him.”

They were walking together in the hall of the castle; Iduna stepped
aside and affected to examine a curious buckler, Nicæus followed her,
and placing his arm gently in hers, led her away.

“Dearest Iduna,” he said, “pardon me, but men struggle for their fate.
Mine is in your power. It is a contest between misery and happiness,
glory and perhaps infamy. Do not then wonder that I will not yield my
chance of the brighter fortune without an effort. Once more I appeal to
your pity, if not to your love. Were Iduna mine, were she to hold out
but the possibility of her being mine, there is no career, solemnly I
avow what solemnly I feel, there is no career of which I could not be
capable, and no condition to which I would not willingly subscribe. But
this certainty, or this contingency, I must have: I cannot exist without
the alternative. And now upon my knees, I implore her to grant it to
me!”

“Nicæus,” said Iduna, “this continued recurrence to a forbidden subject
is most ungenerous.”

“Alas! Iduna, my life depends upon a word, which you will not speak, and
you talk of generosity. No! Iduna, it is not I that I am ungenerous.”

“Let me say then unreasonable, Prince Nicæus.”

“Say what you like, Iduna, provided you say that you are mine.”

“Pardon me, sir, I am free.”

“Free! You have ever underrated me, Iduna. To whom do you owe this
boasted freedom?”

“This is not the first time,” remarked Iduna, “that you have reminded
me of an obligation, the memory of which is indelibly impressed upon my
heart, and for which even the present conversation cannot make me
feel less grateful. I can never forget that I owe all that is dear to
yourself and your companion.”

“My companion!” replied the Prince of Athens, pale and passionate. “My
companion! Am I ever to be reminded of my companion?”

“Nicæus!” said Iduna; “if you forget what is due to me, at least
endeavour to remember what is due to yourself?”

“Beautiful being!” said the prince, advancing and passionately seizing
her hand; “pardon me! pardon me! I am not master of my reason; I am
nothing, I am nothing while Iduna hesitates!”

“She does not hesitate, Nicæus. I desire, I require, that this
conversation shall cease; shall never, never be renewed.”

“And I tell thee, haughty woman,” said the Prince of Athens, grinding
his teeth, and speaking with violent action, “that I will no longer be
despised with impunity. Iduna is mine, or is no one else’s.”

“Is it possible?” exclaimed the daughter of Hunniades. “Is it, indeed,
come to this? But why am I surprised! I have long known Nicæus. I quit
this castle instantly.”

“You are a prisoner,” replied the prince very calmly, and leaning with
folded arms against the wall.

“A prisoner!” exclaimed Iduna, a little alarmed. “A prisoner! I defy
you, sir. You are only a guest like myself. I will appeal to the
Seneschal in the absence of his lord. He will never permit the honour
of his master’s flag to be violated by the irrational caprice of a
passionate boy.”

“What lord?” inquired Nicæus.

“Your friend, the Lord Justinian,” answered Iduna. “He could little
anticipate such an abuse of his hospitality.”

“My friend, the Lord Justinian!” replied Nicæus, with a malignant smile.
“I am surprised that a personage of the Lady Iduna’s deep discrimination
should so easily be deceived by ‘a passionate boy!’ Is it possible that
you could have supposed for a moment that there was any other lord of
this castle, save your devoted slave?”

“What!” exclaimed Iduna, really frightened.

“I have, indeed, the honour of finding the Lady Iduna my guest,”
 continued Nicæus, in a tone of bitter raillery. “This castle of
Kallista, the fairest in all Epirus, I inherit from my mother. Of late
I have seldom visited it; but, indeed, it will become a favourite
residence of mine, if it be, as I anticipate, the scene of my nuptial
ceremony.”

Iduna looked around her with astonishment, then threw herself upon a
couch, and burst into tears. The Prince of Athens walked up and down the
hall with an air of determined coolness.

“Perfidious!” exclaimed Iduna between her sobs.

“Lady Iduna,” said the prince; and he seated himself by her side. “I
will not attempt to palliate a deception which your charms could
alone inspire and can alone justify. Hear me, Lady Iduna, hear me
with calmness. I love you; I love you with a passion which has been
as constant as it is strong. My birth, my rank, my fortunes, do not
disqualify me for an union with the daughter of the great Hunniades.
If my personal claims may sink in comparison with her surpassing
excellence, I am yet to learn that any other prince in Christendom can
urge a more effective plea. I am young; the ladies of the court have
called me handsome; by your great father’s side I have broken some
lances in your honour; and even Iduna once confessed she thought me
clever. Come, come, be merciful! Let my beautiful Athens receive a
fitting mistress! A holy father is in readiness dear maiden. Come now,
one smile! In a few days we shall reach your father’s camp, and then we
will kneel, as I do now, and beg a blessing on our happy union.” As he
spoke, he dropped upon his knee, and stealing her hand, looked into her
face. It was sorrowful and gloomy.

“It is in vain, Nicæus,” said Iduna, “to appeal to your generosity;
it is useless to talk of the past; it is idle to reproach you for
the present. I am a woman, alone and persecuted, where I could least
anticipate persecution. Nicæus, I never can be yours; and now I deliver
myself to the mercy of Almighty God.”

“‘Tis well,” said Nicæus. “From the tower of the castle you may behold
the waves of the Ionian Sea. You will remain here a close prisoner,
until one of my galleys arrive from Piræus to bear us to Italy. Mine you
must be, Iduna. It remains for you to decide under what circumstances.
Continue in your obstinacy, and you may bid farewell for ever to your
country and to your father. Be reasonable, and a destiny awaits you,
which offers everything that has hitherto been considered the source or
cause of happiness.” Thus speaking, the prince retired, leaving the Lady
Iduna to her own unhappy thoughts.



CHAPTER 19


The Lady Iduna was at first inclined to view the conduct of the Prince
of Athens as one of those passionate and passing ebullitions in which
her long acquaintance with him had taught her he was accustomed to
indulge. But when on retiring soon after to her apartments, she was
informed by her attendant matron that she must in future consider
herself a prisoner, and not venture again to quit them without
permission, she began to tremble at the possible violence of an
ill-regulated mind. She endeavoured to interest her attendant in her
behalf; but the matron was too well schooled to evince any feeling
or express any opinion on the subject; and indeed, at length, fairly
informed Iduna that she was commanded to confine her conversation to the
duties of her office.

The Lady Iduna was very unhappy. She thought of her father, she thought
of Iskander. The past seemed a dream; she was often tempted to believe
that she was still, and had ever been, a prisoner in the Serail of
Adrianople; and that all the late wonderful incidents of her life were
but the shifting scenes of some wild slumber. And then some slight
incident, the sound of a bell or the sign of some holy emblem, assured
her she was in a Christian land, and convinced her of the strange truth
that she was indeed in captivity, and a prisoner, above all others,
to the fond companion of her youth. Her indignation at the conduct of
Nicæus roused her courage; she resolved to make an effort to escape.
Her rooms were only lighted from above; she determined to steal forth at
night into the gallery; the door was secured. She hastened back to her
chamber in fear and sorrow, and wept.

Twice in the course of the day the stern and silent matron visited Iduna
with her food; and as she retired, secured the door. This was the only
individual that the imprisoned lady ever beheld. And thus heavily rolled
on upwards of a week. On the eve of the ninth day, Iduna was surprised
by the matron presenting her a letter as she quitted the chamber for
the night. Iduna seized it with a feeling of curiosity not unmixed
with pleasure. It was the only incident that had occurred during her
captivity. She recognised the hand-writing of Nicæus, and threw it down
with; vexation at her silliness in supposing, for a moment, that the
matron could have been the emissary of any other person.

Yet the letter must be read, and at length she opened it. It informed
her that a ship had arrived from Athens at the coast, and that to-morrow
she must depart for Italy. It told her also, that the Turks, under
Mahomed, had invaded Albania; and that the Hungarians, under the
command of her father, had come to support the Cross. It said nothing of
Iskander. But it reminded her that little more than the same time that
would carry her to the coast to embark for a foreign land, would, were
she wise, alike enable Nicæus to place her in her father’s arms, and
allow him to join in the great struggle for his country and his creed.
The letter was written with firmness, but tenderly. It left, however,
on the mind of Iduna an impression of the desperate resolution of the
writer.

Now it so happened, that as this unhappy lady jumped from her couch, and
paced the room in the perturbation of her mind, the wind of her drapery
extinguished her lamp. As her attendant, or visitor, had paid her
last visit for the day, there seemed little chance of its being again
illumined. The miserable are always more unhappy in the dark. Light is
the greatest of comforters. And so this little misfortune seemed to the
forlorn Iduna almost overwhelming. And as she attempted to look around,
and wrung her hands in very woe, her attention was attracted by a
brilliant streak of light upon the wall, which greatly surprised her.
She groped her way in its direction, and slowly stretching forth her
hand, observed that it made its way through a chink in the frame of one
of the great mirrors which were inlaid in the wall. And as she pressed
the frame, she felt to her surprise that it sprang forward. Had she not
been very cautious the advancing mirror would have struck her with great
force, but she had presence of mind to withdraw her hand very gradually,
repressing the swiftness of the spring. The aperture occasioned by
the opening of the mirror consisted of a recess, formed by a closed-up
window. An old wooden shutter, or blind, in so ruinous a state, that the
light freely made its way, was the only barrier against the elements.
Iduna, seizing the handle which remained, at once drew it open with
little difficulty.

The captive gazed with gladdened feelings upon the free and beautiful
scene. Beneath her rose the rich and aromatic shrubs tinged with the
soft and silver light of eve: before her extended wide and fertile
champaign, skirted by the dark and undulating mountains: in the clear
sky, glittering and sharp, sparkled the first crescent of the new moon,
an auspicious omen to the Moslemin invaders.

Iduna gazed with, joy upon the landscape, and then hastily descending
from the recess, she placed her hands to her eyes, so long unaccustomed
to the light. Perhaps, too, she indulged in momentary meditation. For
suddenly seizing a number of shawls; which were lying on one of the
couches, she knotted them together, and then striving with all her
force, she placed the heaviest, coach on one end of the costly cord, and
then throwing the other out of the window, and entrusting herself to
the merciful care of the holy Virgin, the brave daughter of Hunniades
successfully dropped down into the garden below.

She stopped to breathe, and to revel in her emancipated existence. It
was a bold enterprise gallantly achieved. But the danger had now only
commenced. She found that she had alighted at the back of the castle.
She stole along upon tip-toe, timid as a fawn. She remembered a small
wicket-gate that led into the open country. She arrived at the gate. It
was of course guarded. The single sentinel was kneeling before an image
of St. George, beside him was an empty drinking-cup and an exhausted
wineskin.

“Holy Saint!” exclaimed the pious sentinel, “preserve us from all
Turkish infidels!” Iduna stole behind him. “Shall men who drink no wine
conquer true Christians!” continued the sentinel. Iduna placed her hand
upon the lock. “We thank thee for our good vintage,” said the sentinel.
Iduna opened the gate with the noiseless touch which a feminine finger
can alone command. “And for the rise of the Lord Iskander!” added the
sentinel. Iduna escaped!

Now she indeed was free. Swiftly she ran over the wide plain. She hoped
to reach some town or village before her escape could be discovered, and
she hurried on for three hours without resting. She came to a beautiful
grove of olive-trees that spread in extensive ramifications about the
plain. And through this beautiful grove of olive-trees her path seemed
to lead. So she entered and advanced. And when she had journeyed for
about a mile, she came to an open and very verdant piece of ground,
which was, as it were, the heart of the grove. In its centre rose a fair
and antique structure of white marble, shrouding from the noon-day sun
the perennial flow of a very famous fountain. It was near midnight.
Iduna was wearied, and she sat down upon the steps of the fountain for
rest. And while she was musing over all the strange adventures of her
life, she heard a rustling in the wood, and being alarmed, she rose and
hid herself behind a tree.

And while she stood there, with palpitating heart, the figure of a man
advanced to the fountain from an opposite direction of the grove. He
went up the steps, and looked down upon the spring as if he were about
to drink, but instead of doing that, he drew his scimitar, and plunged
it into the water, and called out with a loud voice the name of
“Iskander!” three times. Whereupon Iduna, actuated by an irresistible
impulse, came forward from her hiding-place, but instantly gave a loud
shriek when she beheld the Prince Mahomed!

“Oh! night of glory!” exclaimed the prince, advancing. “Do I indeed
behold the fair Iduna! This is truly magic!”

“Away! away!” exclaimed the distracted Iduna, as she endeavoured to fly
from him.

“He has kept his word, that cunning leech, better than I expected,” said
Mahomed, seizing her.

“As well as you deserve, ravisher!” exclaimed a majestic voice. A tall
figure rushed forward from the wood, and dashed back the Turk.

“I am here to complete my contract, Prince Mahomed,” said the stranger,
drawing his sword.

“Iskander!” exclaimed the prince.

“We have met before, prince. Let us so act now that we may meet for the
last time.”

“Infamous, infernal traitor,” exclaimed Mahomed, “dost thou, indeed,
imagine that I will sully my imperial blade with the blood of my
run-away slave! No I came here to secure thy punishment, but I cannot
condescend to become thy punisher. Advance, guards, and seize him! Seize
them both!”

Iduna flew to Iskander, who caught her in one arm, while he waved his
scimitar with the other. The guards of Mahomed poured forth from the
side of the grove whence the prince had issued.

“And dost thou indeed think, Mahomed,” said Iskander, “that I have been
educated in the Seraglio to be duped by Moslemin craft. I offer thee
single combat if thou desirest it, but combat as we may, the struggle
shall be equal.” He whistled, and instantly a body of Hungarians,
headed by Hunniades himself, advanced from the side of the grove whence
Iskander had issued.

“Come on, then,” said Mahomed; “each to his man.” Their swords clashed,
but the principal attendants of the son of Amurath deeming the affair
under the present circumstances assumed the character of a mere rash
adventure, bore away the Turkish prince.

“To-morrow then, this fray shall be decided on the plains of Kallista,”
 said Mahomed.

“Epirus is prepared,” replied Iskander.

The Turks withdrew. Iskander bore the senseless form of Iduna to her
father. Hunniades embraced his long-lost child. They sprinkled her face
with water from the fountain. She revived.

“Where is Nicæus?” inquired Iskander; “and how came you again, dear
lady, in the power of Mahomed?”

“Alas! noble sir, my twice deliverer,” answered Iduna, “I have, indeed,
again been doomed to captivity, but my persecutor, I blush to say, was
this time a Christian prince.”

“Holy Virgin!” exclaimed Iskander. “Who can this villain be?”

“The villain, Lord Iskander, is your friend; and your pupil, dear
father.”

“Nicæus of Athens!” exclaimed Hunniades.

Iskander was silent and melancholy.

Thereupon the Lady Iduna recounted to her father and Iskander, sitting
between them on the margin of the fount, all that had occurred to her,
since herself and Nicæus parted with Iskander; nor did she omit to
relate to Hunniades all the devotion of Iskander, respecting which,
like a truly brave man, he had himself been silent. The great Hunniades
scarcely knew which rather to do, to lavish his affection on his beloved
child, or his gratitude upon Iskander. Thus they went on conversing
for some time, Iskander placing his own cloak around Iduna, and almost
unconsciously winding his arm around her unresisting form.

Just as they were preparing to return to the Christian camp, a great
noise was heard in the grove, and presently, in the direction whence
Iduna had arrived, there came a band of men bearing torches and
examining the grove in all directions in great agitation. Iskander and
Hunniades stood upon their guard, but soon perceived they were Greeks.
Their leader, seeing a group near the fountain, advanced to make
inquiries respecting the object of his search, but when he indeed
recognised the persons who formed the group, the torch fell from his
grasp, and he turned away his head and hid his face in his hands.

Iduna clung to her father; Iskander stood with his eyes fixed upon the
ground, but Hunniades, stern and terrible, disembarrassing himself of
the grasp of his daughter, advanced and laid his hand upon the stranger.

“Young man,” said the noble father, “were it contrition instead of shame
that inspired this attitude, it might be better. I have often warned you
of the fatal consequences of a reckless indulgence of the passions.
More than once I have predicted to you, that however great might be your
confidence in your ingenuity and your resources, the hour would arrive
when such a career would place you in a position as despicable as it was
shameful. That hour has arrived, and that position is now filled by the
Prince of Athens. You stand before the three individuals in this world
whom you have most injured, and whom you were most bound to love and to
protect. Here is a friend, who hazarded his prosperity and his existence
for your life and your happiness. And you have made him a mere pander
to your lusts, and then deserted him in his greatest necessities. This
maiden was the companion of your youth, and entitled to your kindest
offices. You have treated her infinitely worse than her Turkish captor.
And for myself, sir, your father was my dearest friend. I endeavoured to
repay his friendship by supplying his place to his orphan child. How I
discharged my duty, it becomes not me to say: how you have discharged
yours, this lady here, my daughter, your late prisoner, sir, can best
prove.”

“Oh! spare me, spare me, sir,” said the Prince of Athens, turning and
falling upon his knee. “I am most wretched. Every word cuts to my
very core. Just Providence has baffled all my arts, and I am grateful.
Whether this lady can, indeed, forgive me, I hardly dare to think, or
even hope. And yet forgiveness is a heavenly boon. Perhaps the memory
of old days may melt her. As for yourself, sir--but I’ll not speak, I
cannot. Noble Iskander, if I mistake not, you may whisper words in that
fair ear, less grating than my own. May you be happy! I will not profane
your prospects with my vows. And yet I’ll say farewell!”

The Prince of Athens turned away with an air of complete wretchedness,
and slowly withdrew. Iskander followed him.

“Nicæus,” said Iskander; but the prince entered the grove, and did not
turn round.

“Dear Nicæus,” said Iskander. The prince hesitated.

“Let us not part thus,” said Iskander. “Iduna is most unhappy. She bade
me tell you she had forgotten all.”

“God bless her, and God bless you, too!” replied Nicæus. “I pray you let
me go.”

“Nay! dear Nicæus, are we not friends?”

“The best and truest, Iskander. I will to the camp, and meet you in your
tent ere morning break. At present, I would be alone.”

“Dear Nicæus, one word. You have said upon one point, what I could well
wish unsaid, and dared to prophesy what may never happen. I am not made
for such supreme felicity. Epirus is my mistress, my Nicæus. As there is
a living God, my friend, most solemnly I vow, I have had no thoughts in
this affair, but for your honour.”

“I know it, my dear friend, I know it,” replied Nicæus. “I keenly feel
your admirable worth. Say no more, say no more! She is a fit wife for a
hero, and you are one!”



CHAPTER 20


After the battle of the bridge, Iskander had hurried to Croia without
delay. In his progress, he had made many fruitless inquiries after Iduna
and Nicæus, but he consoled himself for the unsatisfactory answers he
received by the opinion that they had taken a different course, and
the conviction that all must now be safe. The messenger from Croia that
informed Hunniades of the escape of his daughter, also solicited his
aid in favour of Epirus against the impending invasion of the Turks, and
stimulated by personal gratitude as well as by public duty, Hunniades
answered the solicitation in person at the head of twenty thousand
lances.

Hunniades and Iskander had mutually flattered themselves, when apart,
that each would be able to quell the anxiety of the other on the
subject of Iduna. The leader of Epirus flattered himself that his
late companions had proceeded at once to Transylvania, and the Vaivode
himself had indulged in the delightful hope that the first person he
should embrace at Croia would be his long-lost child. When, therefore,
they met, and were mutually incapable of imparting any information
on the subject to each other, they were filled with astonishment and
disquietude. Events, however, gave them little opportunity to indulge
in anxiety or grief. On the day that Hunniades and his lances arrived at
Croia, the invading army of the Turks under the Prince Mahomed crossed
the mountains, and soon after pitched their camp on the fertile plain of
Kallista.

As Iskander, by the aid of Hunniades and the neighbouring princes, and
the patriotic exertions of his countrymen, was at this moment at the
head of a force which the Turkish prince could not have anticipated, he
resolved to march at once to meet the Ottomans, and decide the fate of
Greece by a pitched battle.

The night before the arrival of Iduna at the famous fountain, the
Christian army had taken up its position within a few miles of the
Turks. The turbaned warriors wished to delay the engagement until the
new moon, the eve of which was at hand. And it happened on that said eve
that Iskander calling to mind his contract with the Turkish prince made
in the gardens of the Seraglio at Adrianople, and believing from the
superstitious character of Mahomed that he would not fail to be at the
appointed spot, resolved, as we have seen, to repair to the fountain of
Kallista.

And now from that fountain the hero retired, bearing with him a prize
scarcely less precious than the freedom of his country, for which he was
to combat on the morrow’s morn.

Ere the dawn had broken, the Christian power was in motion. Iskander
commanded the centre, Hunniades the right wing. The left was entrusted
at his urgent request to the Prince of Athens. A mist that hung about
the plain allowed Nicæus to charge the right wing of the Turks almost
unperceived. He charged with irresistible fury, and soon disordered the
ranks of the Moslemin. Mahomed with the reserve hastened to their aid.
A mighty multitude of Janissaries, shouting the name of Allah and his
Prophet, penetrated the Christian centre. Hunniades endeavoured to
attack them on their flank, but was himself charged by the Turkish
cavalry. The battle was now general, and raged with terrible fury.
Iskander had secreted in his centre, a new and powerful battery of
cannon, presented to him by the Pope, and which had just arrived from
Venice. This battery played upon the Janissaries with great destruction.
He himself mowed them down with his irresistible scimitar. Infinite was
the slaughter! awful the uproar! But of all the Christian knights this
day, no one performed such mighty feats of arms as the Prince of Athens.
With a reckless desperation he dashed about the field, and everything
seemed to yield to his inspired impulse. His example animated his men
with such a degree of enthusiasm, that the division to which he was
opposed, although encouraged by the presence of Mahomed himself, could
no longer withstand the desperate courage of the Christians, and fled
in all directions. Then, rushing to the aid of Iskander, Nicæus, at the
head of a body of picked men, dashed upon the rear of the Janissaries,
and nearly surrounded them. Hunniades instantly made a fresh charge upon
the left wing of the Turks. A panic fell upon the Moslemin, who were
little prepared for such a demonstration of strength on the part of
their adversaries. In a few minutes, their order seemed generally
broken, and their leaders in vain endeavoured to rally them. Waving his
bloody scimitar, and bounding on his black charger, Iskander called upon
his men to secure the triumph of the Cross and the freedom of Epirus.
Pursuit was now general.



CHAPTER 21


The Turks were massacred by thousands. Mahomed, when he found that all
was lost, fled to the mountains, with a train of guards and eunuchs,
and left the care of his dispersed host to his Pachas. The hills were
covered with the fugitives and their pursuers. Some fled also to the
seashore, where the Turkish fleet was at anchor. The plain was strewn
with corpses and arms, and tents and standards. The sun was now high in
the heavens. The mist had cleared away; but occasional clouds of smoke
still sailed about.

A solitary Christian knight entered a winding pass in the green hills,
apart from the scene of strife. The slow and trembling step of his
wearied steed would have ill qualified him to join in the triumphant
pursuit, even had he himself been physically enabled; but the Christian
knight was covered with gore, unhappily not alone that of his enemies.
He was, indeed, streaming, with desperate wounds, and scarcely could his
fainting form retain its tottering seat.

The winding pass, which for some singular reason he now pursued in
solitude, instead of returning to the busy camp for aid and assistance,
conducted the knight to a small green valley, covered with sweet herbs,
and entirely surrounded by hanging woods. In the centre rose the ruins
of a Doric fane: three or four columns, grey and majestic. All was still
and silent, save that in the clear blue sky an eagle flew, high in the
air, but whirling round the temple.

The knight reached the ruins of the Doric fane, and with difficulty
dismounting from his charger, fell upon the soft and flowery turf, and
for some moments was motionless. His horse stole a few yards away,
and though scarcely less injured than its rider, instantly commenced
cropping the inviting pasture.

At length the Christian knight slowly raised his head, and leaning on
his arm, sighed deeply. His face was very pale; but as he looked up, and
perceived the eagle in the heaven, a smile played upon his pallid cheek,
and his beautiful eye gleamed with a sudden flash of light.

“Glorious bird!” murmured the Christian warrior, “once I deemed that my
career might resemble thine! ‘Tis over now and Greece, for which I would
have done so much, will soon forget my immemorial name. I have stolen
here to die in silence and in beauty. This blue air, and these green
woods, and these lone columns, which oft to me have been a consolation,
breathing of the poetic past, and of the days wherein I fain had
lived, I have escaped from the fell field of carnage to die among
them. Farewell my country! Farewell to one more beautiful than Greece,
farewell, Iduna!”

These were the last words of Nicæus, Prince of Athens.



CHAPTER 22


While the unhappy lover of the daughter of Hunniades breathed his last
words to the solitary elements, his more fortunate friend received, in
the centre of his scene of triumph, the glorious congratulations of his
emancipated country. The discomfiture of the Turks was complete, and
this overthrow, coupled with their recent defeat in Bulgaria, secured
Christendom from their assaults during the remainder of the reign
of Amurath the Second. Surrounded by his princely allies, and the
chieftains of Epirus, the victorious standards of Christendom, and the
triumphant trophies of the Moslemin, Iskander received from the great
Hunniades the hand of his beautiful daughter. “Thanks to these brave
warriors,” said the hero, “I can now offer to your daughter a safe, an
honourable, and a Christian home.”

“It is to thee, great sir, that Epirus owes its security,” said an
ancient chieftain, addressing Iskander, “its national existence, and
its holy religion. All that we have to do now is to preserve them; nor
indeed do I see that we can more effectually obtain these great objects
than by entreating thee to mount the redeemed throne of thy ancestors.
Therefore I say GOD SAVE ISKANDER, KING OF EPIRUS!”

And all the people shouted and said, “GOD SAVE THE KING! GOD SAVE
ISKANDER, KING OF EPIRUS!”





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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