ASTONISHED, and transported with joy, to hear my own country language, I roused myself and determined to relate the great misfortunes that had befallen me. I then gave him a short account of the horrid scenes I had undergone, and relapsed again into a swoon. He carried me to a neighboring house, caused me to be put to bed, gave me something to eat, waited upon me, comforted and flattered me, and said that he had never seen any one so handsome as I was.
"I was born at Naples," said he, "where they castrate two or three thousand children every year; some die of the operation, others acquire a finer voice than that of any woman, and others become governors of states. This operation was performed on me with great success, and I became a singer in the chapel of her Highness, the Princess of Palestrina."
"Of my mother!" cried I.
"Of your mother?" cried he again, shedding tears. "What! are you that young princess, whom I had the care of bringing up till she was six years old, and who bid fair, even then, to be as handsome as you are now?"
"It is myself; my mother lies about four hundred paces from hence, cut into four quarters, under a heap of dead bodies."
I related to him all that had befallen me; he likewise told me his adventures, and informed me that he was sent to the King of Morocco, by a Christian prince, to conclude a treaty with that monarch, by which he was to furnish him with ammunition, artillery, and ships, to enable him entirely to destroy the commerce of other Christians.
"My commission is fulfilled," said the honest eunuch to me, "I am going to embark at Ceuta, and will carry you to Italy."
I thanked him with tears of gratitude; but instead of conducting me to Italy, he carried me to Algiers, and sold me to the Dey of that province. Scarce was I sold, when the plague, which had made the tour of Africa, Asia, and Europe, broke out at Algiers with great fury.
"You have seen earthquakes; but pray, Miss, have you ever had the plague!"
"Never," answered the Baroness.
"Had you had it," replied the old woman, "you would confess that it is far more terrible than an earthquake."
It is very common in Africa; I was seized with it. Figure to yourself the situation of a king's daughter, about fifteen years of age, who, in the space of three months, had undergone poverty and slavery, had been ravished almost every day, had seen her mother cut into four quarters, had experienced both famine and war, and was dying of the plague at Algiers. I did not die for all that. But my eunuch, and the Dey, and almost all the seraglio at Algiers perished.
When the first ravages of this dreadful pestilence were over, they sold the slaves belonging to the Dey. A merchant purchased me, and carried me to Tunis. There he sold me to another merchant, who sold me again at Tripoli; from Tripoli, I was sold again at Alexandria; from Alexandria, I was sold again at Smyrna; and from Smyrna at Constantinople. At last, I became the property of an Aga of the Janissaries, who was soon after ordered to go to the defence of Asoph, then besieged by the Russians.
The Aga, who was a man of great gallantry, took all his seraglio along with him, and lodged us in a small fort on the Palus Maeotis, under the guard of two black eunuchs and twenty soldiers. We killed a great number of the Russians, who returned the compliment with interest. Asoph was put to fire and sword, and no regard was paid to age or sex. There remained only our little fort, which the enemy resolved to reduce by famine. The twenty Janissaries had sworn that they would never surrender. The extremities of famine to which they were reduced, obliged them to eat our two eunuchs, for fear of violating their oath; and a few days after, they resolved to devour the women.
We had an Iman, a very religious and humane man. He preached an excellent sermon to them, in which he dissuaded them from killing us all at once.
"Cut only one of the backs of these ladies," said he, "and you will fare excellently well; if you must come to it again, you will have the same entertainment a few days hence. Heaven will bless you for so charitable an action, and you will find relief."
As he had an eloquent tongue, he easily persuaded them. This horrible operation was performed upon us, and the Iman applied the same balsam to us that is applied to children. We were all ready to die.
The Janissaries had scarce finished the feast with which we had supplied them, when the Russians came in their flat bottomed boats, and not a single Janissary escaped. The Russians showed no concern about the condition we were in. As there are French surgeons in every country, one of them who was a person of very great skill took us under his care and cured us; and I shall remember as long as I live that when my wounds were pretty well healed, he made me amorous proposals. To be short, he told us all to cheer up, and assured us that the like misfortune had happened in several sieges; and that it was the law of war.
As soon as my companions were able to walk, they were obliged to go to Moscow. I fell to the lot of a Boyard, who made me his gardener, and gave me twenty lashes with his whip every day. But my lord having been broke on the wheel, within two years after, along with thirty more Boyards, on account of some quarrel at court, I availed myself of this event, and made my escape. After traversing over all Russia, I was a long time servant to an innkeeper at Riga, afterwards at Rostock, Wismar, Leipsic, Cassel, Utrecht, Leyden, the Hague, and Rotterdam. I grew old in misery and disgrace, having only one half of my back, but still remembering that I was a king's daughter. A hundred times have I had thoughts of killing myself; but still I was fond of life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most melancholy foibles. For can anything be more stupid than to be desirous of continually carrying a burden, which one has a good mind to throw down on the ground? To dread existence, and yet preserve it? In a word, to caress the serpent that devours us, till he has gnawed our very heart out?
In the countries through which it has been my fate to travel, and in the inns where I have been a servant, I have seen a prodigious number of people who looked upon their own existence as a curse; but I never knew of more than eight who voluntarily put an end to their misery, viz., three negroes, four Englishmen, and a German professor named Robeck. My last service was with Don Issachar the Jew, who placed me near your person, my fair lady. I am resolved to share your fate; and I have been more affected with your misfortunes than with my own. I should never have spoken of my sufferings, if you had not vexed me a little, and if it had not been customary, on board a ship, to tell stories, by way of amusement. In short, Miss, I have a good deal of experience, and I have known the world. Divert yourself, and prevail upon each passenger to tell you his story; and if there is one found who has not frequently cursed his life, and has not as often said to himself, that he was the unhappiest of mortals, I will give you leave to throw me into the sea, head foremost.
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