AMONGST the spoils which the English carried away from the city of Cadiz, Clotaldo, an English gentleman, captain of a squadron of ships, brought to London a girl of the age of seven years, little more or less; and this, contrary to the will and knowledge of the Earl of Essex, who with great diligence caused search to be made for the child, that she might be returned back to her parents. For they had complained unto him of the wanting of their daughter, humbly beseeching him that since his Excellency was pleased to content himself with their goods, and had left their persons free, that they only might not be so miserable and unhappy; and that seeing they were now left poor, they might not be robbed of their daughter, who was the joy of their hearts, the light of their eyes, and the fairest and most beautiful creature that was in all the city. The Earl caused proclamation to be made throughout all the whole fleet, that upon pain of death he whosoever had the child should restore her back to her parents. But no penalties nor fears of punishment could move Clotaldo to obey the Earl's command; for he kept her very secret and close in his own ship, standing wonderfully affectioned, though very Christianly, to the incomparable beauty of Isabella (for so was the child called).
In conclusion, her parents remained without her very sad and disconsolate, and Clotaldo beyond measure exceeding glad and joyful. He arrived in London, and delivered up this fair maid as a most rich spoil to his wife; but as good luck would have it, all they of Clotaldo's house were Catholics in heart, though in public they made show to follow the religion of their Queen.
Clotaldo had a son named Ricaredo, about some twelve years of age, taught by his parents to love and fear God, and to be acquainted with all the truths of the Catholic faith. Catalina, the wife of Clotaldo, a noble Christian, and prudent lady, bare such great love and affection to Isabella that as if she had been her own daughter she bred, cherished, and instructed her; and the child had such good natural abilities that she did easily apprehend and learn whatsoever they taught her. With time, and the kind usage she received, she went forgetting those cockerings of her true parents, but not so much that she did cease to think on them and to sigh often for them; and although she went learning the English tongue, yet did she not lose her Spanish, for Clotaldo took care to bring Spaniards secretly to his house to talk and converse with her; and so, without forgetting her own natural language, she spake English as well as if she had been born in London.
After that they had taught her all manner of needlework which a well-bred damsel could or ought to learn, they taught her to read and to write more than indifferently well. But that wherein she did excel was in playing upon all those instruments of music which might with most decency become a woman, accompanying the same with such a voice, which Heaven had bestowed on her in so rare and singular a kind, that when she chanted she enchanted all that heard her.
All these her acquired graces, besides those that were natural unto her, went by little and little kindling the coals of love in Ricaredo's heart; to whom, as to her master's son, she wished all good and happiness, and carried herself towards him with all fair respects.
At first love led him on with only a kind of liking and complacency in beholding the unmatchable beauty of Isabella, and in considering her infinite virtues and graces, and loving her as if she had been his sister, his desires not going beyond their honest and virtuous bounds. But whenas Isabella began to grow towards woman (for then when Ricaredo burned in the flames of love she was twelve years of age) that his former goodwill and that complacency and liking was turned into most fervent desires of enjoying and possessing her; not that he did aspire thereunto by any other means than by those of being her husband, since that from the incomparable virtue of Isabella (for so did they call her) no other thing could be hoped for, neither would he himself, though he could, have expected that favour from her, because his noble condition and the high esteem wherein he held Isabella would not give the least way or consent that any the least evil thought should take any rooting in his soul.
A thousand times did he determine with himself to manifest the love he bare her to his parents, and again as oft did he not approve this his determination, because he knew that they had dedicated him for to be the husband of a very rich and principal gentlewoman, a Scottish damsel, who was likewise, like them, in secret a Catholic Christian; and it was clear and apparent, as he conceived and said with himself, that they would not be willing to give unto a slave (if this name may be given to Isabella) that which they had treated and in a manner concluded on to give to a gentlewoman; and therefore being much perplexed and pensive, not knowing what course to take for to attain to the end of his good desire, he passed such a kind of life as had almost brought him to the point of losing it. But it seeming unto him to be great cowardice and faint-heartedness to suffer himself to die without seeking out some kind of remedy for his grief, he did hearten and encourage himself to open his mind and declare his intent to Isabella.
All they of the house were very sad and heavy and much troubled by reason of Ricaredo's sickness, for he was well beloved of them all; but his father and mother were exceeding sorrowful, as well for that they had no other child as also for that his great virtue, valour, and understanding did deserve it. The physicians did not hit right upon his disease, neither durst he, neither would he, discover it unto them.
In the end, being fully resolved to break through these difficulties which he imagined with himself, one day amongst the rest that Isabella came into serve and attend him, seeing her all alone, with a low voice and a troubled tongue he spake unto her after this manner:
"Fair Isabella, thy much worth, thy great virtue, and exceeding beauty, not to be equalled by any, have brought me to that extremity wherein you see me; and therefore if you will that I should leave my life in the hands of the greatest extremity that may be imagined, let thy good desire be answerable unto mine, which is no other than to receive thee for my spouse. But this must be carried closely, and kept hid from my parents, of whom I am afraid (who because they know not that which I know, thy great deservingness) that they will deny me that good which doth so much concern me. If thou wilt give me thy word to be mine, I shall forthwith pass mine as a true Christian to be thine. And put case that I should never come to enjoy thee, as I will not till that I have the Church's benediction and my parents' goodwill, yet, with this my imagining that thou wilt be assuredly mine, it will be sufficient to recover me my health and to make me live merrily and contented till that happy and desired time shall come."
Whilst that Ricaredo discoursed thus with her, Isabella stood hearkening unto him with downcast eyes, showing in that her modest and sober look that her honesty did equal her beauty, and her circumspection her great discretion. And seeing that Ricaredo had made an end of speaking and was silent, this honest, fair, and discreet damsel made him this answer:
"Since that the rigour or clemency of Heaven (for I know not to which of these extremes I may attribute it) would, Señor Ricaredo, quit me of my parents and give me unto yours, thankfully acknowledging the infinite favours they have done me, I resolved with myself that my will should never be any other than theirs; and therefore, without it, the inestimable grace and favour which you are willing to do me I should not hold it a happiness but a misery, not a good but a bad fortune. But if, they being made acquainted therewith, I might be so happy as to deserve you, from this day forward I offer unto you that will and consent which they shall give me. And in the meanwhile if this shall be deferred or not effected at all, let your desires entertain themselves with this, that mine shall be eternal and pure in wishing you all that good which Heaven can give you."
Here did Isabella put a period to her honest and discreet words, and there began Ricaredo's recovery. And now began to be revived those hopes of his parents which in this his sickness were almost quite dead.
These two modest lovers, with a great deal of courtesy and kindness, took leave each of other; he with tears in his eyes, she with admiration in her soul to see that Ricaredo should render up his love to hers. And being raised from his bed, to his parents' seeming, by miracle, he would not now any longer conceal his thoughts, and therefore one day he manifested them to his mother, telling her in the end of his discourse that if they did not marry him to Isabella, that to deny him her and give him his death it was one and the same thing. With such words and with such endearings Ricaredo did extol to the heavens the virtues of Isabella, that it seemed to his mother that Isabella had not wrought upon her son to win him to be her husband. She did put her son in good hope so to dispose his father that he might like as well thereof as she did; and it so fell out, that repeating to her husband word by word what her son had said unto her, he was easily moved to give way to that which his son so earnestly desired, framing excuses to hinder that marriage which was in a manner agreed upon for the Scottish damsel.
When this was in agitation Isabella was fourteen years of age and Ricaredo twenty, but in these their so green and flourishing years their great discretion and known prudence made them older.
There were but four days wanting to come, which being accomplished, Ricaredo's parents were willing that their son should enter into the state of matrimony, holding themselves both wise and happy in having chosen their prisoner to be their daughter, esteeming more the dowry of her virtues than the great store of wealth that was offered with the Scottish damsel.
The wedding-clothes were already made, their kinsfolk and friends invited thereunto; and there was no other thing wanting save making the Queen acquainted with the marriage, because without her goodwill and consent, amongst those of noble blood not any marriage is effected; but they doubted not of her good leave and licence, and therefore had so long deferred the craving of it.
I say, then, that all things standing in this estate, when there wanted but four days till that of the wedding, one evening gave disturbance to all this their joy. A servant of the Queen's came and brought a message to Clotaldo, with express command from her Majesty that the next morning he should bring to her presence his Spanish prisoner that he brought from Cadiz.
Clotaldo returned answer that her Majesty's pleasure should most willingly be obeyed. The gentleman went his way, leaving the hearts of all the whole house full of passion, perturbations, and fears.
"Ay me," said the lady Catalina, "if it be come to the Queen's knowledge that I have bred up this child in the Catholic religion, and shall from thence infer that all we of this family are Catholics! Besides, if the Queen shall ask her what she hath learned in eight years since that she was our prisoner, what can the poor harmless soul answer which shall not, notwithstanding all her discretion, condemn us?"
Which Isabella hearing, spake thus unto her:
"Let not, dear lady, this fear give you any trouble at all; for my trust is in God that He will put words into my mouth at that instant, out of His divine mercy towards me, that shall not only not condemn you, but shall much redound to your good."
Ricaredo was much startled therewith, as divining thereby some ill success. Clotaldo sought out means that might give some courage to his great fear, but found none save in the great confidence which he had in God and in the wisdom of Isabella; and he earnestly entreated her that by all the ways she possibly could devise she should excuse her condemning of them to be Catholics; for though in spirit they were ready to receive martyrdom, yet notwithstanding the flesh was weak, and was loath to drink of that bitter cup.
Not once, but often, Isabella assured them that they were secure, and that, because of her, that thing should not come to pass which they feared and suspected; for albeit she then knew not what answer to make to those interrogatories and questions which in such a case as this might be put unto her, yet had she such a lively and assured hope that she should answer thereunto in such sort (as she had at other times told them) that her answers should rather do them good than hurt.
They discoursed that night on many things, especially on this particular, that if the Queen had known that they were Catholics she would not have sent them so mild a message; whence they might infer that she was only desirous to see Isabella, whose unequalled beauty and ability had come to her ears, and to those of the Court, as it did to all those of the city. But because they had not before this presented her unto her Majesty, they found themselves faulty, of which fault they thought good to excuse themselves by saying that from that very instant that she came into his power he had made choice of her, and as it were marked her out for to be the wife of his son Ricaredo. But in this, too, they likewise found themselves faulty for having made such a match without her Majesty's leave and licence; howbeit this fault did not seem unto them worthy of any great punishment. With this they comforted themselves, and agreed amongst themselves, by a joint consent, that Isabella should not go meanly clad to Court, but like a bride, since that she was the spouse of his son Ricaredo.
Being thus resolved, the next day they apparelled Isabella after the Spanish fashion, in a gown of green satin cut upon cloth of gold, embroidered with esses of pearls, wearing a great chain of most rich orient pearls about her neck, having a hatband of diamonds, and a fan in her hand, after the manner of your Spanish ladies. The hairs of her head which were full and long, and of a bright pleasing colour, sown and interwoven with diamonds and pearls, did serve her instead of a coif. With this most rich dressing, and lively disposition and admirable beauty, she showed herself that day in London, riding in a fair caroche, carrying along with her, taken by so beautiful a sight, the souls and eyes of as many as looked on her. There were with her in the same caroche Clotaldo and his wife and Ricaredo, and on horseback many noble gentlemen of their kindred and alliance. All this honour Clotaldo was willing to do his prisoner for to oblige the Queen to use her as the spouse of his son.
Being come now to the Court, and brought into the chamber of presence where the Queen was, Isabella entered thereinto, presenting there the fairest show which can fall within the compass of imagination. The room was large and spacious, and the train that came with her had not gone above two steps forward but they stood still, and Isabella, alone by herself, advanced herself towards the state where the Queen sat; and being thus alone, she seemed to appear just like that star or exhalation which by the region of fire is wont to move itself in a clear and quiet night, or like unto a ray or beam of the sun which at the opening of the day discovers itself between two mountains. All this did she seem to be, or rather like a comet which did prognosticate the inflaming and setting on fire of many of those souls that were present, which love had thoroughly heated if not burned with the rays of those resplendent suns of beautiful Isabella; who, full of humility and courtesy, made her approaches by degrees, addressing herself to kneel down before the Queen, and then, after a short pausing, said thus unto her:
"May it please your most excellent Majesty so far forth to honour this your servant that she may kiss your royal hand; so shall I ever hereafter hold myself to be a lady, since that I have been so happy as to come to see your greatness."
The Queen continued looking upon her a good while without speaking one word, it seeming unto her, as she afterwards told a great lady of her bedchamber, that she had a starry heaven before her, whose stars were those many pearls and diamonds which Isabella bare about her. Her fair face and eyes were the sun and moon; and take all together in the whole piece, she was a new wonder of beauty. The ladies that attended about the Queen's person wished that they had been all eyes, that there might not remain anything in or about Isabella which they might not behold and view a full. Some commended the quickness of her eyes, some the colour of her face and pureness of complexion, some the properness of her body, and some the sweetness of her speech; and some likewise, who out of mere envy said:
"The Spaniard is a very handsome woman, but her habit and dressing seemeth very strange and out of fashion."
After some little suspense, the Queen causing Isabella to rise up, she said unto her:
"Speak, pretty maid, unto me in Spanish; for I understand it well, and shall take much pleasure therein."
And turning herself towards Clotaldo, she said unto him:
"Clotaldo, you have done Us wrong in keeping this treasure so long concealed from Us; but it is such and so rich that it hath moved you to covetousness. You are bound to restore it unto Us, for by right it is Ours, and properly belongeth unto Us."
"Madam," answered Clotaldo, "it is true which your Majesty saith. I confess my fault, if it be a fault to have kept this treasure, that it might be preserved in that perfection as was fitting to appear in your Majesty's presence. And now that it is here before your eye, I thought to have much improved it by craving your Majesty's leave that Isabella might be the spouse of my son Ricaredo, and to give your most excellent Majesty in these two all that I am able to give you."
"Her very name gives Us very good content," replied the Queen; "there could nothing have been more wanting save the name of Isabella the Spaniard to take off something from that perfection which is in her. But how is it, Clotaldo, that without Our leave you have promised her to your son?"
"It is true, madam," answered Clotaldo, "I have made him a promise of her, but it was upon the confidence that the many and noble services which myself and my ancestors have done this crown might obtain of your Majesty other more difficult favours than this of your leave, and the rather for that my son is not yet espoused unto her."
"Neither shall he," said the Queen, "marry Isabella till he by himself and in his own person shall deserve her. Our meaning is, that I will not that either your own or your ancestors' services shall any whit benefit him in this particular, but that he in his own person shall dispose himself to serve me, and to merit for himself, and by his own prowess, this sweet pledge, whom We esteem and reckon of as if she were Our own daughter."
Isabella had scarce heard this last word delivered when, humbling herself again on her knees before the Queen, she spake unto her in the Spanish tongue, to this effect:
"Disgraces, which bring such graces with them, most noble Queen, are rather to be accounted happiness than misfortunes; and since that your Majesty hath been pleased to grace me with the name of daughter upon so good a pledge, what ill can I fear, or what good may I not hope for?"
Lo, what Isabella uttered came from her so gracefully and so wittingly that the Queen stood extremely affected towards her, and commanded that she should remain at Court in her service, and recommended her to a great lady, the chiefest amongst those of her bedchamber, that she might train her up according to the Court fashion.
Ricaredo, who saw that his life was taken away in taking away Isabella, was ready almost to have lost his wits; and therefore, though overtaken with a tumbling and sudden passion of heart, he went and fell upon his knees before the Queen, and said unto her: "That I may serve your Majesty, I need not to be incited thereunto by any other rewards than by those which my forefathers and ancestors have gotten by serving their kings; but since that it is your Majesty's pleasure that I should serve you with good desires and pretensions, I would gladly know in what kind and in what employment I may manifest that I comply with that obligation which I owe unto your Majesty, and put myself to that which you shall impose upon me."
"I have two ships royal," answered the Queen, "ready to put forth to sea, whereof I have made General the Baron of Lansac; of one of these I make you Captain, for the blood from whence you come, doth assure me that it will supply the defect of your years. And consider well the favour which We do you, since that therein I give you occasion that, corresponding with that which you are, and doing things answerable to the race from whence you come, by serving your Queen you may show the worth of your noble disposition and of your person, and you shall receive thereby the greatest reward which in your opinion you can wish or desire. I myself will be Isabella's guard, though she give Us manifest tokens that her own honesty will be her safest and surest protection. God bless you in your voyage; and since that you go hence deeply, as I imagine, in love, I promise great matters unto myself of your noble exploits. Happy shall be that king that goes to war who shall have in his army ten thousand soldiers that are in love, for they will live in hope that the reward of their victories shall be the enjoying of their best beloved. Rise up, Ricaredo, and bethink yourself if you will or have anything to say to Isabella, for to-morrow you must be gone."
Ricaredo kissed the Queen's hand, humbly thanking her, and highly esteeming the favour which she did him, and presently went from her to Isabella, and would fain have spoken unto her, but could not, for love and grief had knit such a knot in his throat, and so tied his tongue, that had his life lain upon it he could not utter one word. But the water stood in his eyes, and were so brimful that they ran over and silently trickled down his cheeks, which he thought to dissemble and smother them all that he possibly could. Yet notwithstanding could he not hide them from the eyes of the Queen, and therefore she said unto him:
"Think it no shame, Ricaredo, to weep, neither value yourself the less for having given at this your farewell such tender demonstrations of your heart; for it is one thing to fight with your enemies, and another thing to take your leave of her you love. Isabella, embrace Ricaredo, and give him your benediction, for his excessive sorrow and loathness to leave you doth very well deserve it."
Isabella, who stood amazed and astonished to see Ricaredo's tenderheartedness and how truly he did grieve, and all for her sake, whom she loved as her husband, did not understand what the Queen had commanded her; but began to shed tears, without thinking what she did, and stood so still, and without any motion, that it seemed not to be a living soul but a statue of alabaster that wept.
The affections of these two true and tender lovers made the standers-by to melt likewise into tears. And so Ricaredo, without speaking a word to Isabella, or Isabella to him, they turned each from other; and Clotaldo and they that came with him, doing reverence to the Queen, went out of the presence full of compassion, discontent, and tears.
Isabella now remained like a poor orphan coming from the burial of her father and mother, and as full now of fear as before of grief, lest that her new lady to whom she was recommended would make her to change those manners and customs wherein she had been formerly bred up.
In conclusion, there she remained; and within two days after, Ricaredo hoisted sail and put forth to sea, beaten amongst many others with this thought, that he must do some notable piece of service that might entitle him to be the deserver of Isabella.
But in conclusion he besought Heaven to be propitious unto him that such occasions might be offered unto him wherein by showing himself valiant he might comply with the duty of a Christian, leaving the Queen satisfied and Isabella deserved.
Six days these two ships sailed with a prosperous wind, shaping their course for the Terceira Islands—a place where never are wanting either ships of Portugal, from the East Indies, or some that come thither from the West Indies. And at six days' end there arose such a cross-wind full in the teeth of them, and continued so long and so strong, that without suffering them to reach the islands, they were enforced to make for Spain; near unto whose coast, at the mouth of the Strait of Gibraltar, they descried three ships, the one a very tall and goodly ship, and the other two much less.
Ricaredo's ship made up to that which was admiral, for to know of his General whether or no he would set upon those three ships which they had descried; but before that he came up unto them he might discern that upon the top of the mainmast there was hung out a black streamer, and coming a little nearer, he might hear fifes and trumpets sounding faintly and hoarsely; clear and apparent signs that the General was dead, or some other principal person of the ship. At last, coming within hearing, that they might speak one to another, which they had not done since their first putting forth, they might hear them from out the admiral call out aloud unto them to have the Vice-Admiral Ricaredo to come aboard their ship, because the General the night before died of an apoplexy.
All upon this news were very sad save Ricaredo, who was inwardly glad, not for the loss of his General, but to see that he was left at liberty, and might freely command both ships; for so was it ordered by the Queen, that the General miscarrying, Ricaredo should succeed in his room; who presently went aboard the admiral, where he found some that mourned for their dead General, and others that rejoiced with him that was now living. In a word, both the one and the other presently yielded him obedience, and with short ceremonies cried him up for their General, two of those three ships which they had discovered not giving leave for greater; for going aloof from the great ship, they made up to the two. They straight knew them to be galleys, and Turkish galleys, by the half-moons which they bare in their flags, which gave Ricaredo great contentment, it seeming unto him that that prize, if Heaven should grant it him, would be of great benefit, without having given offence to any Catholic.
The Turkish galleys came to know the English ships, who did not carry the arms of England in their flags, but of Spain, for to deceive those that should chance to descry them, and might take them to be ships of piracy. The Turks thought they had been ships that had come from the Indies, and that they would quickly yield and be taken; whereupon they came encroaching by little and little upon them, thinking presently to board them. And Ricaredo suffered them to come nearer and nearer unto him, till he had them in command of his ordnance, and then let fly at them, and giving them a broadside, discharged so luckily, that he put five balls into one of the galleys with such fury, that one half of it lay all open and naked. She heeled over forthwith and began to sink, without any possibility of righting herself. The other galley seeing its fellow's ill success, threw out a tow rope in all haste, and strove to bring her under the side of the great ship; but Ricaredo, who had ships that were light laden, and were quick and nimble, and such excellent sailers that they would turn and wind and come off and on as if they had been plied with oars, commanded them to charge the ordnance anew, chasing them even to the ship, showering upon them a world of shot. They of the opened galley, as soon as they came to the ship, forsook their galley, and with all possible haste endeavoured to get into the ship. This being perceived by Ricaredo, and that the sound galley employed itself in relieving the other, he sets upon her with both his ships; and without giving her leave to tack about, or to make any use of her oars, he did put her to that strait, that the Turks likewise that were in her were forced to flee for refuge to the ship, not with any hope to defend themselves therein, or to stand it out in fight, but for to escape for the present with their lives. The Christians wherewith those galleys were manned, tearing out the rings and breaking their chains, intermingled with the Turks, sought to recover their ship; and as they were clambering up by the side of her, with musket shot from the ships they went shooting at them as at a mark. But Ricaredo gave order that they should shoot only at the Turks, and spare the Christians. Thus were all the Turks almost slain; and they who entered the ship with the Christians, for they were mingled one amongst another, making use of their weapons, were cut in pieces; for the force of the valiant when they begin to fall must yield to the weakness of those that are rising. And therefore the Christians, taking heart, laid about them with such courage and mettle that they did wonders for the working of their liberty, thinking all this while that those English ships were Spanish.
In conclusion, the Christians having killed nearly all the Turks, some Spaniards put themselves on board the large ship, and called out aloud unto those whom they supposed to be Spaniards that they would come aboard them, and enjoy the reward of their victory. Ricaredo asked them in Spanish what ship that was. They told him that she was come from the Portuguese East Indies laden with spices and as many pearls and diamonds as were worth a million, and that by a storm they were driven upon that coast, all rent and torn, and without any ordnance, for the foulness of the weather and high working of the sea enforced them to throw it overboard; that their men were most of them sick, and almost dead of thirst and hunger; and that those two galleys, which were belonging to the pirate Arnaut Mamí, had taken her but the day before, without making any defence at all; and that, as it was told them, because they were not able to carry so great a quantity of riches in those two small vessels, they towed her along, with purpose to put her into the river of Larache, which was near thereunto.
Ricaredo returned them answer that if they conceived that those his two ships were Spanish they were deceived, for they were nothing less but ships belonging to the Queen of England; which news gave those that heard it occasion of fear and sorrow, imagining, and not without reason, that they were fallen out of one net into another. But Ricaredo told them that they should receive no harm, and that they should rest assured of their liberty, on condition that they should not put themselves upon their defence.
"Nor is it possible for us," replied they, "so to do; for, as we formerly told you, this ship hath no ordnance, nor we any offensive arms. And therefore we must of force, whether we will or no, have recourse to the gentle and noble disposition of your General, and the liberality and courtesy which he shall use towards us; since that it is meet and just that he who hath freed us from the insufferable captivity of the Turks should reap the reward and benefit thereof, and shall be made famous of all those to whose ears the news shall come of this memorable victory and of his kind usage towards them."
These words of the Spaniard did not sound ill in Ricaredo's ears, and therefore calling those of his ship to a council, he demanded of them how he might send all the Christians to Spain, without putting themselves in danger of any sinister result, if being so many as they were they should take courage unto them for to rise up against them. Some were of opinion that he should pass them one by one to his own ship, and clapping them under hatches, kill them man after man; and so they might easily and without any noise kill them all, and carry the great ship along with them to London without any further fear or care-taking.
But to this Ricaredo thus replied:
"Since that God hath done us this so great a favour in giving us such great riches, I will not requite Him with a cruel and unthankful mind; nor is it meet that that which I may remedy by industry I should remedy by the sword. And therefore I, for my part, am of opinion that no Catholic Christian should die the death; not because I wish them so well, but because I wish well to myself, and would that this day's noble action, neither to me nor to you, should mingle the name of valiant with the surname of cruel, for cruelty did never sort well with valour. That which is to be done is this: that all the ordnance of one of these our ships be put into the great Portugal ship, without leaving the ship any arms, or any other thing, save sufficient victual, and so manning that ship with our men, we will carry it home, and the Spaniards go in the other to Spain."
None durst contradict that which Ricaredo had propounded, and some held him to be valiant, magnanimous, and of good understanding and judgement, and others in their hearts to be more Catholic than he ought to have been.
Ricaredo then having resolved on this course, he put fifty musketeers into the Portugal ship all ready fitted and furnished, their pieces charged with shot, and their matches burning in their cocks. He found in the ship well near three hundred persons, with those that had escaped out of the galleys. He presently called for their cocket, or bill of lading, and the same person who at first spake to him from the deck made him answer that the Turkish pirate had already taken their cocket from them, and that it was drowned with him. He did instantly put his pulley in order, and bringing his lesser vessel and lashing it close to the side of the great ship, with wonderful celerity and with the help of strong ropes they hoisted all their ordnance with their carriages out of the lesser into the greater ship.
This being done, he forthwith made a short speech to the Christians. He commanded them to go into the ship that was now disencumbered, where they should find good store of victual for more than a month, and more mouths than they had. And as they went embarking themselves, he gave to every one of them four Spanish pistolets, which he caused to be brought from his own ship, for to relieve in part their necessity when they came on land; which was so near that from thence they might ken the high mountains of Abyla and Calpe. All of them gave him infinite thanks for the favour he had done them; and the last that went to embark himself was he who had been the mouth of the rest, who said unto Ricaredo:
"Most valiant sir, I should hold it a happiness for me, that you would rather carry me along with you to London than send me into Spain; for albeit that it be my country, and that it is not above six days since I left it, yet shall I not find anything therein which will not minister occasions unto me of reviving my former sorrows and solitudes. I would have you to know, noble sir, that in the loss of Cadiz, which is now some fifteen years since, I lost a daughter, which some of the English carried away into their own country; and with her I lost the comfort of my old age, and the light of mine eyes, which since they might not see her have never seen that thing which could be pleasing unto them. The great discontentment wherein her loss left me, together with that of my wealth, which likewise was taken from me, brought me to that low ebb that I neither would nor could any more exercise the trade of merchandise, whose great dealings in that kind made me in the opinion of the world held to be the richest merchant in all that city. And indeed so I was, for besides my credit, which would pass for many hundred thousands of crowns, the wealth that I had within the doors of mine own house was more than fifty thousand ducats, all which I lost; yet had I lost nothing so as I had not lost my daughter. After this general misfortune, and so particularly mine, necessity, the more to vex me, set upon me, never ceasing to give me over till such a time as not being able any longer to resist her, my wife and I (which is that sorrowful woman that sits there) resolved to go for the Indies, the common refuge of poor gentlemen. And having embarked ourselves but six days since in a ship of advice, we had no sooner put out of Cadiz but that those two vessels of the pirates took our ship, and we became their slaves; whereupon our misery was renewed, and our misfortune confirmed; and it had been greater had not the pirates taken that ship of Portugal, who entertained them so long, till that succeeded which you have seen."
Ricaredo then asked him what was his daughter's name? He answered, Isabella.
With this Ricaredo was confirmed in that which before he suspected, which was that he who recounted this unto him was his beloved Isabella's father; and without giving him any tidings of her, he told him that very willingly he would carry him and his wife to London, where happily they might hear some news of that which they so much desired. He made them presently go aboard his own ship, leaving mariners and soldiers sufficient in that of Portugal.
That night they hoisted sail and set themselves to get off from the coast of Spain; and for that in the ship wherein were the freed captives there were likewise twenty Turks, whom Ricaredo had also set at liberty, for to show that more out of his own noble disposition and generous mind he had dealt so graciously with them, than enforced by that love which he bare to the Christians, he entreated the Spaniards at their parting that upon the first occasion that should offer itself they should set the Turks at liberty, wherein they should show themselves thankful unto him.
The wind, which gave good tokens of being large and prosperous, began to be very much calmer, which calm did stir up a great tempest of fear in the mariners and soldiers, who blamed Ricaredo and his bounty, not sticking to tell him that they whom he had freed might give advice of these happenings in Spain, and that if happily they should have their galleons lying there in the haven, they might put forth to sea in search of them, and so put them to a narrow strait and in danger of losing, together with their lives, all that treasure which they had got.
Ricaredo knew very well that they had reason on their side, but over-coming all of them with good words, he made them quiet; but that which did most quiet them was the wind, which returned again to refresh itself in such sort, that having as fair a gale as could blow in the sky, they clapped on all their sails, and without having need to strike any one of them, or but in the least manner to restrain them, within nine days they came within sight of London; and when they were returned home thus victorious, there were thirty wanting of those that went that voyage.
Ricaredo would not enter the river with tokens of joy, by reason of the death of his General, and therefore mixed his joyful with sorrowful signs, one while the trumpets sounding loud and shrill, and another while low and hoarse; one while the drums did beat lively and the fifes go merrily, and another while dead and softly, answering each other with mournful and lamentable notes. On one of the cages of the ship hung the contrary way a flag embroidered with half-moons, and on another a long streamer of black taffeta, whose points did touch the water.
In conclusion, with these and the like contrary extremes, they entered the London river with their own ship, because the other drew so much water that the river could not bear her, and therefore lay at anchor in the sea.
These such contrary signs and tokens held a world of people in suspense, who beheld them from each side of the shore. They knew very well by some arms and coats in their colours that that lesser ship was the admiral wherein the Lord of Lansac went; but they could not guess how that other ship should come to be changed for that great vast ship which lay at sea. But they were quickly put out of this doubt by Ricaredo's leaping out of his boat on shore in rich and resplendent arms like a soldier; who afoot, without staying for any other company, attended only with the innumerable vulgar that followed him, he went directly to the Court, where the Queen being in a gallery, stood expecting the news should be brought her of her ships.
There was, besides many other ladies with the Queen, Isabella, apparelled after the English fashion, though with a little touch of the Spanish. Before that Ricaredo came, there came another, who told the Queen that Ricaredo was come. Isabella hearing the name of Ricaredo, began to change colour, and seemed to be somewhat troubled, and in that very instant did fear and hope both the evil and good success of his coming.
Ricaredo was tall of stature, a gentleman, and well proportioned, and for that he came armed, with his gorget, corselet, and pouldrons all Milan work, richly gilded and engraven, it became him extremely well, and did please the eyes of the beholders. He had no casque on his head, but a broad-brimmed hat of a lion colour, with a great large feather, diversified with a few different colours, a broad short sword by his side, a very rich girdle and hangers, and his breeches somewhat large and full, like unto those of the Swizzers.
Being thus accoutred, what with the goodliness of his presence and stateliness of his gait, some were so taken therewith that they compared him to Mars, the god of war; and others, taken with the beauty of his countenance, compared him to Venus, who for to put a jest upon Mars had put this disguise upon him. In conclusion, he came before the Queen, and humbling himself on his knee he said unto her:
"Most renowned and redoubted Sovereign, in the strength of your good fortune, and in the consecution of my desire, after that our General, the Lord of Lansac, was dead of an apoplexy, I succeeding in his place, thanks be rendered therefor to your Majesty, I lighted by chance on two Turkish galleys, which went towing away that great ship which I have now brought home, and lies not far off, safe in the road. I did set upon them; your soldiers fought, as they always use to do, very manfully. We sunk both the Turkish vessels, and in one of ours I gave, in your Majesty's royal name, liberty to the Christians which escaped out of the hands of the Turks. Only I brought along with me one man and a woman, both Spaniards, who out of their own liking and election were wonderfully desirous to come with me into our Island, that they might see the greatness of your Majesty's person and Court. That ship which is now yours is a Portugal, one of those great carracks which come from the East Indies, the which by a storm came to fall into the power of the Turks, who with little trouble, or, to say better, none at all, made her to yield herself unto them; and as I am informed by some of those Portugals that came in her, she is worth above a million in gold and spice, and other rich merchandise of pearls and diamonds which are in her. Whereof nothing hath hitherto been touched, neither did the Turks come to finger anything therein, because Heaven hath dedicated it wholly unto you, and I have commanded it to be kept and reserved whole and entire for your Majesty. With one jewel only that your Majesty shall be pleased to bestow upon me, I shall remain indebted for ten such other ships. That jewel your Majesty hath already promised me, which is my good Isabella. With her I shall rest rich and rewarded, not only for this service that I have done your Majesty, but for many others which I mean to do, for to pay some part of that great if not infinite worth which in this jewel your Majesty offereth me."
"Arise, Ricaredo," replied the Queen, "and believe me, that if I should upon a price give you Isabella according to that value I esteem her at, you would never be able to pay it, neither with that which you have brought home in this ship nor with all that treasure which remaineth in the Indies. Well, I will give her you, because I made you a promise of her, and because she is worthy of you, and you of her; your valour only doth deserve her. And if you have kept those jewels of the ship for me, I have likewise kept this your jewel for you; and albeit it may seem unto you that I have not done any great matter for you in returning you that which is your own, yet I know that I do you an especial favour therein, for those pledges that are bought by our desires, and have their estimation and value in the soul of the buyer, they are worth a world, there being no price that can countervail it. Isabella is yours, there she is; and when you will yourself, you may take possession of her, and I believe with her good liking and content, for she is discreet, and knows well how to weigh the friendship which you do her, for I will not style it by the name of favour but friendship; for I will take that name only upon me of doing favours. Go, and take your ease, and come and wait upon Us to-morrow, and then will I more particularly hear you relate unto Us what you did in this voyage, and how valiantly you behaved yourself; and bring those two with you who you say were so willing to come and see Us, that We may thank them for their love."
Ricaredo thanked her Majesty for the many favours she had done him, and then the Queen presently left the gallery and retired herself. And the ladies came round about Ricaredo, and one of them, which held great love and friendship with Isabella, called the lady Tansi, accounted the discreetest, the wittiest, and pleasantest amongst them, said unto Ricaredo:
"What means this, Ricaredo? what arms are these? Did you happily imagine that you came to fight with your enemies? Believe me, we all here are your friends, unless it be Isabella, who for that she is a Spaniard is bound not to bear you any goodwill."
"Sure, my lady Tansi, she bears me some; for since that she hath me in her remembrance," said Ricaredo, "I know that her goodwill is towards me; for the foulness of being unthankful cannot have the least footing in her so great worth, understanding, and incomparable beauty."
Whereunto Isabella replied:
"Señor Ricaredo, since that I am to be yours, it is in your power to take all satisfaction whatsoever you will of me, that I may make you some small requital of those undeserved praises which you have given me, and of those further favours which you intend to do me."
These and other the like honest discoursings Ricaredo passed with Isabella and with the rest of the ladies, amongst which there was a pretty little damsel, young both in growth and years, who did nothing but gaze upon Ricaredo all the while he was there. She lifted up his bases to see if he had anything under them; she tampered with his sword, and in a childish simplicity would make his glittering armour her looking-glass, coming very near, thinking to see her face in them. And when she went away from him, turning herself to the ladies, she said, "Now, ladies, I assure you I imagine that war is a most beautiful thing, since that even amongst women armed men look lovely."
"And how can they otherwise choose?" replied the lady Tansi; "if not, look upon Ricaredo, who looks like the sun come down from heaven on earth, and in that habit goes walking up and down amongst us."
They all of them laughed at the little maid's simplicity, and no less at the ridiculous rodomontado of the lady Tansi; and some murmurers were not wanting who held it an impertinency that Ricaredo should come armed to Court. Though other some sought as much to excuse him, saying that as a soldier he might do it for to show his bravery and gallantry.
Ricaredo was by his parents, friends, kinsfolk, and acquaintance received with lively expressions of singular love and affection; and that night there were made general bonfires throughout London, and other public tokens of their joy. The father and mother of Isabella were already in Clotaldo's house, whom Ricaredo had acquainted who they were, but entreated his parents that they might not have any the least notice given them of Isabella till that he himself should give it them; the like advice was given to all the servants of the house.
That very night, accompanied with many boats, barges, and barks, and with no fewer eyes to look on them, the great ship began to discharge her lading, which in eight days could not be disburdened of her pepper, and other rich merchandise which she had in her bulk. The next day after Ricaredo went to Court, carrying with him the father and mother of Isabella, both of them being newly clad after the fashion of London, telling them that the Queen desired to see them.
They came all of them where the Queen was sitting amidst her ladies expecting Ricaredo, whom she was willing to grace and favour by placing Isabella next to her, having on the same attire and dressing which she wore when she came first to the Court, appearing therein no less beautiful now than she did then. The parents of Isabella were stricken with admiration and wonder to see so much greatness and bravery met together. They settled their eyes on Isabella, but did not know her, though their hearts, presagers of that good which was so near them, began to leap in their bosoms; not out of any sudden passion that might cause sorrow or grief in them, but out of I know not what pleasure and contentment, which they could not hit upon to understand aright.
The Queen would not suffer Ricaredo to continue kneeling before her, but made him rise, and willed him to sit down in a velvet chair, which was by her appointment set there for that purpose—an unusual favour, considering the stately condition of the Queen. And one whispered in another's ear, "Ricaredo sits not on the chair which was brought him, but on the pepper which he brought in." Another says unto him that stood by him, "Now is that old proverb verified, Dadivas quebrantan peñas —that 'gifts will break through stone walls'; for those that Ricaredo hath given her Majesty hath softened and mollified our Queen's hard heart." Another tells his next fellow, "Now that he is well seated, more hands than two must go to it to heave him out."
In conclusion, from that grace and honour which the Queen was pleased to do Ricaredo, envy took occasion to grow in many of those courtiers' breasts, who were eyewitnesses of this her Majesty's extraordinary favour extended towards him; for there is not that favour which a prince confers on his favourite which is not a spear that pierceth the heart of the envious.
The Queen was desirous to know from Ricaredo, point by point, how that fight passed with the Turkish pirates' galleys; he recounted it anew, attributing the victory to God and the valour of his soldiers, endearing the services of them all jointly, and particularizing the valiant acts of some of them, who had put themselves most forward, and done her Majesty very notable service; whereby he obliged the Queen to do all of them favours, and in particular those particular persons.
And when he began to speak of the liberty which in her Majesty's name he had given the Turks and Christians, he said unto her:
"That woman and that man who stand there" (pointing to Isabella's parents) "are they whom yesterday I told your Majesty, who out of the great desire which they had to see your greatness and magnificence did so earnestly entreat me that I would bring them along with me. They are of Cadiz, and by that which they have told me, and by that likewise which I have seen and observed in them, I know that they are of especial rank and worth."
The Queen commanded them that they should draw near unto her. Isabella lifted up her eyes that she might see these who said they were Spaniards, and more particularly of Cadiz, out of a desire that she had to learn if happily they knew her parents. And just as Isabella lifted up her eyes, her mother fixed hers upon her, and stood still a while, that she might view and behold her the more attentively; and on the other side there began to be awakened in Isabella's memory some certain confused notions which gave her to understand that heretofore she had seen that woman which stood before her. Her father was in the like confusion, without daring to determine to give credit to that truth which his eyes represented unto him.
Ricaredo was very attentive to see and observe the affections and motions of these three doubtful and perplexed souls, which were so confounded and amazed between the yea and nay of knowing each other. The Queen took notice of both their suspense, as also of Isabella's distraction, by her interwhile sweatings, by her changing colour, and by her lifting up her hand to order and compose her hair.
Isabella thus troubled, not knowing well what to think of it, did earnestly wish that she would speak whom she imagined might be her mother, for peradventure her ears would put her out of that doubt whereinto her eyes had put her. The Queen willed Isabella that she should speak Spanish to that woman and that man, and they should tell her what was the cause that moved them not to accept and enjoy that their liberty which Ricaredo had given them, being that liberty is a thing above all other the dearest and best beloved, not only of reasonable creatures, but of those that want it.
All this Isabella demanded of her mother, who, without returning her any one word, suddenly and half stumbling for haste, came unto Isabella, and without regarding respect, fear, or the courtiers looking on her, with her hand she lifted up Isabella's right ear, and having there discovered a black mole, which mark confirmed her suspicion, and plainly perceiving that it was her daughter Isabella, she could no longer contain herself, but embracing her, cried out aloud, saying, "O daughter of my heart! O dear pledge of my soul!" and not being able to utter a word more, her speech failing, she fainted and fell into a swoon in Isabella's arms.
Her father, no less tender than prudent, gave manifest signs how sensible he was of all this, but with no other words than a silent shedding of tears, which softly trickling down bedewed both his cheeks and beard. Isabella laid her face to that of her mother, and turning her eyes towards her father, in such a kind of manner looked on him that thereby she gave him to understand the pleasure and contentment her soul took in seeing them there.
The Queen wondering at this so rare and strange an accident, said to Ricaredo:
"I conceive, Ricaredo, that this interview was thus preordered in your discretion; but I must tell you I know not whether you did well in so doing, for we see by experience that a sudden joy as soon kills as a sudden sorrow."
And having said this, she turned herself to Isabella, and took her apart from her mother, who having a little water sprinkled in her face, came again to herself, and calling her wits a little better about her, humbling herself on her knees before the Queen, she said unto her:
"I beseech your Majesty to pardon my boldness, for it is no marvel that I should forget myself and lose my senses with the overmuch joy I have received in the finding out this my beloved pledge."
The Queen made answer that she had a great deal of reason on her side, making use of an interpreter that she might the better understand her.
Isabella came in this manner, as I told you before, to the knowledge of her parents, and her parents of her; whom the Queen commanded to reside in the Court, to the end that they might with the better leisure both see and talk with their daughter, and rejoice and make merry with her. Wherewith Ricaredo was wonderfully well pleased, and craved anew of the Queen that she would be pleased to make good her promise by bestowing Isabella upon him, in case he did deserve her; and if not, he humbly besought her Majesty that she would be pleased presently to put him upon some other employment that might make himself worthy of obtaining that which he so earnestly desired.
The Queen understood very well that Ricaredo rested well satisfied of himself and of his great valour, insomuch that there needed not any new proofs for to qualify him; and therefore told him that four days from that present being fully ended, she would deliver Isabella unto him, doing both of them all the grace and honour she possibly could. Upon this answer Ricaredo took his leave, being the most joyful and most contented man in the world, transported with that near hope which he now had of having Isabella in his power without any fear of losing her, which is the last and utmost desire of lovers.
Time ran, but not with that light and nimble foot as he wished; for they who live by the hope of promise to come do evermore imagine that time doth not fly with wings swift enough, but that he hath lead tied to his heels, and treads the steps of slothfulness itself.
Well, at last come that desired day, not wherein Ricaredo thought to put an end to his desires, but to find in Isabella new graces which might move him to love her the more, if more he could, than he did already. But in that short time whenas he thought the ship of his good fortune sailed with a prosperous wind towards the desired port, a contrary chance and cross accident raised up in this calm sea such a tempestuous storm that he feared a thousand times to see it sunk.
The case, then, is this. The chief bedchamber lady to the Queen, to whose charge Isabella was committed, had a son of the age of twenty-two years, called the Earl of Arnesto. The greatness of his estate, the nobleness of his blood, and the great favour which his mother held with the Queen, made him not only do those things which did not become him, and to break out into excesses, but also made him arrogant, proud, haughty, and confident of himself.
This Arnesto, then, was enamoured of Isabella, and so inflamedly that his very soul did burn in the sparkling light of Isabella's eyes; and albeit in that time that Ricaredo was absent he had by some signs discovered his desires, yet was he never admitted by Isabella, or received any the least encouragement. And howbeit that repugnancy and disdains in love's infancy are wont to make lovers to desist from their enterprise, yet in Arnesto the many and known disdains which Isabella showed him wrought the clean contrary, for he was set on fire with his own jealousies, and burned with desire to attempt her honesty.
And for that he saw that Ricaredo in the Queen's opinion had deserved Isabella, and that within so little a while she was to be given unto him for wife, he was ready to run into despair, and to offer violence to himself. But before that he would go about to use so infamous and cowardly a remedy, he spake with his mother, entreating her that she would speak unto the Queen to give him Isabella to be his wife, which if she did not bring to pass, that he would then have her to know, and assuredly believe, that death stood knocking at the doors of his life.
The mother wondered to hear such words fall from her son, and for that she knew the roughness of his harsh nature and headstrong condition, and the fastness wherewith these desires did cleave unto his soul, she was afraid that this his love would end in some sinister event and unhappy issue. Yet notwithstanding, as a mother (to whom it is natural to desire and procure the good of her children), she promised to prefer his pretension to the Queen; though not with any hope to obtain such an impossibility of her as the breaking of her princely word, but that she might not omit to try in so desperate a case the utmost remedy.
And Isabella being that morning apparelled, by order from the Queen, so richly that my pen dares not presume to deliver the manner thereof unto you, and the Queen herself having put a chain of pearl about her neck, the best that was brought home by Ricaredo in the ship, valued at twenty thousand ducats, and a diamond ring on her finger worth six thousand or thereabouts, and the ladies being assembled and met together for to celebrate the approaching feast of this glorious wedding, came in the chief bedchamber woman to the Queen, and besought her on her knees that she would be pleased to suspend Isabella's espousals two days more; for with this favour only which her Majesty should do her she should hold herself well satisfied and recompensed for all whatsoever she deserved or hoped for her service.
The Queen would first know of her why she did so earnestly desire this suspension, which went so directly against her word which she had given to Ricaredo. But that lady would not render her the reason until that she had granted her request, and that then she would make it known unto her. The Queen longed to know the cause of that her demand. And therefore, after that the lady had obtained that which she much desired, she recounted to her Majesty the love that her son bare to Isabella, and how that she feared that if she were not given him to wife he would either grow desperate to his utter undoing, or do some scandalous act or other. And that whereas she had craved those two days of delaying the business, it was only to this end and purpose, that her Majesty might have time to think upon some course, which might in her Majesty's wisdom be most fit and convenient for her son's good.
The Queen made answer that if she had not passed unto her her royal word she would easily have found a way to get out of that labyrinth, but that she would neither break her promise with her nor yet defraud Ricaredo of his hopes for all the interest of the world.
This answer the lady of the bedchamber gave her son, who flying instantly from his mother, frying in the flames of love and jealousy, armed himself at all points, and being mounted upon a fair and strong-limbed horse, presented himself before the house of Clotaldo, and with a loud voice requested that Ricaredo would come to the window that he might speak a word with him. He at that instant was all in his gallantry, like a bridegroom, and was even upon the point of going to Court with such company as such a solemnity required. But having heard a loud call, and being told who he was that called unto him, and in what kind of fashion he came, being somewhat troubled with it, he came to the window; whom as soon as Arnesto saw, he said unto him:
"Ricaredo, hearken well unto that which I shall now tell thee. My mistress the Queen commanded thee to go forth in her service, and to do such noble exploits as should make thee worthy of deserving the not-to-be-paralleled, incomparable Isabella. Thou didst go, and returnedst with thy ships laden with gold, wherewith thou thinkst that thou hast bought and deserved Isabella. And albeit the Queen my mistress hath promised her unto thee, it was as being persuaded that there was not any one in Court that hath done her better service, not any that with better title may deserve Isabella, and herein it may very well be that she was deceived. And therefore leaning to this opinion, which I hold for an approved truth, I tell thee that thou hast neither done such things as may make thee to deserve Isabella, neither canst thou do any which may be able to raise thee to so great a height of happiness. And therefore in regard that thou nor dost nor canst deserve her, if thou shalt avouch the contrary, I challenge thee the field, and defy thee to the death."
And here the Earl ended his speech, and Ricaredo made answer thereunto after this manner:
"This challenge, my lord, doth in no manner of wise concern me, for I confess that I not only do not deserve Isabella, but that there is not that man now living in the world that doth deserve her. So that I confessing that to be true which you say, this your challenge no way toucheth me; yet notwithstanding I accept of it for that your insolence and indiscretion which you have shown in this your challenging of me."
And with this he withdrew himself from the window, and called in all haste for his arms. This unexpected cross accident much troubled his parents, and all those that were come to Clotaldo's house to accompany Ricaredo to the Court.
Amongst those many that had seen the Earl Arnesto armed, and had heard the challenge he had made, there were not some wanting who acquainted the Queen therewith, who commanded the captain of her guard that he should go presently and apprehend the Earl. The captain made such good haste that he came just in the very nick whenas Ricaredo was going out of his house, armed with those arms wherein he disembarked, being mounted on a goodly horse.
When the Earl saw the captain of the guard, he forthwith imagined the cause of his coming, and determined (if possibly he could avoid it) not to be apprehended; and speaking aloud to Ricaredo, said:
"Thou now seest, Ricaredo, the impediment which hinders us from deciding this quarrel. If, notwithstanding this interruption, thou shalt have a mind to chastise me, thou wilt seek after me, and I shall have the like mind to chastise thee, and seek likewise after thee; and since two that seek after each other are easily found, let the execution of our desires surcease for the present."
"Content," replied Ricaredo. By this time the captain was come in with all the guard, and told the Earl that he must yield himself his prisoner, for in her Majesty's name he was to apprehend him. The Earl yielded himself unto him, and told the captain that he submitted himself to her Majesty's command, but with this condition, that he should not carry him to any other place save the Queen's presence.
The captain remained therewith satisfied, and carrying him in the midst of the guard, brought him to Court before the Queen, who had already been informed by his mother of the great love which her son bare to Isabella, and with tears besought her Majesty that she would pardon the Earl, who being a young man, and deeply in love, was liable to far greater errors. Arnesto was brought before the Queen, who, without entertaining any speech with him, commanded his sword to be taken from him, and afterwards sent him to prison.
All these things tormented the heart of Isabella, as likewise of her parents, who so suddenly saw the sea of their quietness troubled.
The lady of the bedchamber, Arnesto's mother, advised the Queen that for to remove that mischief betwixt her house and that of Ricaredo, the cause thereof might be taken away (which was Isabella, by sending her into Spain) and so those effects would cease which now were to be feared. She added to these reasons the assertion that Isabella was a Catholic, and so Christian a one that none of her persuasions (which had been many) had been able to bend her in any way from her Catholic intent.
Whereunto the Queen answered, that for the sending of her into Spain she should treat no more on that point, because her fair presence and her many graces and virtues gave her great content, and that doubtless, if not that very day, the next following without all fail she would marry her to Ricaredo, according to the promise she had made him.
With this resolution of the Queen's, Arnesto's mother was so disheartened and discomforted that she replied not so much as one word. And approving that for good which she had already forecast in her mind: that there was no other way, no other means in the world, for the mollifying of that rigorous condition of her son, nor for the reducing of Ricaredo to terms of peace, save by taking away Isabella; she determined to put in practice one of the greatest cruelties that could ever enter into the thought of any noble woman, and especially so principal a one as she was. And this her determination was, to make away with Isabella by poison. And because it is commonly the condition of women to be speedy and resolute in what they go about, that very evening she gave Isabella poison in a certain conserve, forcing her in a manner to take it, telling her that it was excellent good against those passions of the heart wherewith she seemed to be troubled.
Having satisfied her importunity, within a little while after that Isabella had taken it, her tongue and her throat began to swell, and her lips to grow black, her voice hoarse, her eyes troubled, and her stomach and bowels tormented with gripings: all manifest signs and tokens that she was poisoned.
The ladies came to the Queen, acquainting her Majesty how it was with her, and certifying her how that the lady of her bedchamber who had the charge of Isabella had done her this ill office. There needed not much pressing to induce the Queen to believe that it was true, and therefore went presently to see Isabella, who was almost breathing her last.
The Queen commanded her physicians should be sent for in all haste, and in the meanwhile, before they came, she caused a quantity of the powder of unicorn's horn to be given her, and some other preservatives against poison, which great princes use always to have ready at hand upon the like cases of necessity. The physicians came and applied their best remedies, and besought the Queen that she would be pleased to cause that lady of her bedchamber to make known unto them what kind of poison that was which she had given her, for it was not to be doubted that any other person but herself had poisoned her. She did discover what she had given her, and having notice of it, the physicians applied so many and such effectual remedies, that by them and God's helping hand Isabella remained with life, or at least in good hope of having it.
The Queen commanded her bedchamber woman to be apprehended, and to be locked up in a strait and narrow lodging in her Court, with intention to punish her according to the nature and quality of this her foul offence, although that she sought to excuse herself by saying that in killing Isabella she did sacrifice to heaven above by ridding the earth of a Catholic, and together with her, removing the occasion of her son's further quarrels.
This sad news being brought to Ricaredo made him almost out of his wits; such were the things he did, and such were the complaints he made.
In conclusion, Isabella did not lose her life; yet the poison had gotten that power over her that she lost the hair of her head and of her eyebrows, her face was strangely puffed up, the grain of her skin spoiled, her complexion marred, her whole body mightily swollen, and her eyes distilling watery humours. In a word, she was grown so foul and ill-favoured, that she who till then seemed to be a miracle of beauty did now seem to be a monster of ugliness; and they who knew her before held it the greater misfortune of the two that she remained in this evil plight than if she had died of the poison. Notwithstanding all this, Ricaredo sued anew unto the Queen for her, and besought her Majesty that she would give him leave to carry her home to his house, because the love which he bare her passed from his body to his soul; yet comforted himself with this, that though Isabella had lost her beauty, yet could she not lose her infinite virtues.
"Thou sayest true," replied the Queen; "go, take her home with thee, Ricaredo, and make account that thou carriest with thee a most rich jewel in a coarse case. I would have given her as fair to thee as thou deliveredst her unto me; but since this is not possible, forgive me that fault; happily the chastisement which I shall give to the committers of this foul offence shall in part satisfy thy desire of revenge."
Many things did Ricaredo say unto the Queen, seeking to excuse the lady of her bedchamber, beseeching her Majesty to pardon her, since that the reasons she alleged in her excuse were sufficient for to move her to forgive her greater excesses than these.
In conclusion, Isabella and her parents were delivered unto him, and Ricaredo carried them home, I mean to his father's house. To those rich pearls and that diamond the Queen added other jewels and other changes of raiment, which were such and so costly that they discovered the great love which she bare to Isabella, who remained for the space of two months without being able to be reduced to her former beauty. But the time being past, her skin began to peel and fall away, and a fair and smooth grain of skin to disclose itself.
In this interim, Ricaredo's parents presuming that it was not possible that Isabella should become the same woman which heretofore she was, resolved to send for that Scottish damsel with whom, before that ever they treated with Isabella, Ricaredo (by agreement) was to marry; and all this they did without his knowledge, not doubting but that the present beauty of this new bride would blot out of his son's remembrance that of Isabella, which was now past; whom either they purposed to send into Spain, together with her father and mother, giving them such store of wealth and riches as should fully recompense their former received losses.
There passed not above a month and a half whenas, without Ricaredo's privity, the new spouse entered within his father's doors, accompanied as befitted her station, and so fair and beautiful a creature, that next to Isabella, when she was in her prime, there was not the like unto her in all London. Ricaredo was mightily startled with the sudden and unexpected sight of the damsel, and feared lest the suddenness of her coming would put Isabella into some passion, and make an end of her life; and therefore, for to remove this fear, he went to the bed's side where Isabella lay, and finding her only accompanied with her father and mother, before them he spake unto her after this manner:
"Isabella of my soul, my parents out of the great love which they bear unto me, being not as yet well informed of that exceeding love which I still bear unto thee, have brought a damsel into this house, with whom they have treated and concluded to marry me, before that I should know the worth that is in thee, or that thou shouldst recover thy lost health. And this they have done, as I verily believe, with intention that the great beauty of this damsel should blot thine out of my soul, which is therein so deeply engraven. I, Isabella, from the very instant that I loved thee, it was with another kind of love than that which hath its aim and end in satisfying the sensual appetite. For albeit that thy corporal beauty did captivate my senses, yet thy infinite virtues were they which imprisoned my soul; so that if being fair I did love thee, being now foul I adore thee. And for the further confirming of this truth give me this hand"; and she giving him her right hand, and he holding it fast in his, prosecuted his speech, saying, "By that faith which my Christian parents taught me, and by that true God who heareth what we say, I promise thee, my dear Isabella, the one half of my heart. I vow myself thy husband, and am so even from this very hour, if thou wilt raise me to that height of happiness to be thine."
Isabella remained in some suspense upon these words of Ricaredo, and her parents amazed and astonished. She knew not what to say, nor do any other thing save her often kissing of Ricaredo's hand, and telling him with a voice intermingled with tears that she accepted him for hers, and rendered herself to be his servant. Ricaredo kissed that her foul face, which when it was fair he durst never presume to touch. Isabella's parents with tender and many tears solemnized this nuptial feast. Ricaredo told them that he would put off his marrying with the Scottish damsel which was now in the house, in such manner as he would hereafter give them to understand. And in case that his parents should send all three of them into Spain, that they should not decline it, but by all means get them gone; and that they should look for him within two years, either in Cadiz or Seville; assuring them on the word of a gentleman that ere that time were expired he would not fail to be with them, if Heaven should so long lend him life; and that if the time prefixed should be preterlapsed they should then rest assured that some great impediment, or death, which was the more certain, had crossed his intended journey.
Isabella made him answer that she would not stay only two years for him but all those of his life, till that she were truly certified that he had left this life, and that in that instant that this should come to her knowledge the same likewise would be her death.
With these kind words fresh tears fell from them all. And Ricaredo went and told his parents that he would by no means be married, nor give his hand to the Scottish damsel to be his spouse, till he had quieted his mind by a year's travel. He knew well how to express himself, and gave them such good reasons for it, as likewise to the parents that came with Clisterna (for that was the damsel's name), that being, as they were, all Catholics, they did easily give credit unto them; and Clisterna was contented to remain in her father-in-law's house till Ricaredo should return, who craved a year's time.
This being thus concluded and agreed upon, Clotaldo told Ricaredo how that he was resolved to send Isabella and her parents to Spain, if the Queen would give him leave so to do. "For," said he, "peradventure the air of her own country will hasten and facilitate her health," which she now began to recover.
Ricaredo, that he might not give any the least inkling of his designs, answered (though but coldly) his father, that he should do that which seemed best in his own eyes; only he besought him that he would not take aught of those riches from Isabella which the Queen had bestowed on her. Clotaldo promised he would not; and that very day he went to crave license of the Queen, as well for the marrying of his son to Clisterna as for the sending of Isabella with her father and mother into Spain.
The Queen was well contented with both his requests, and approved Clotaldo's determination. And that very day, without calling her bedchamber woman in question, she dismissed her of her service, and condemned her (besides the loss of her place) in ten thousand crowns to Isabella. And the Earl Arnesto, for his challenging of Ricaredo, she banished him for six years. Four days were scarce spent and gone but that Arnesto was upon the point to go to comply with his banishment, and the money had been paid.
The Queen commanded a rich merchant to come unto her that dwelt in London, and was a Frenchman who had very good correspondence in France, Italy, and Spain; to whom she delivered ten thousand crowns, and required of him bills of exchange for the returning of them to Isabella's father in Seville or in any other part of Spain. The merchant discounting his interest and profit, told the Queen that he would make certain and sure payment of them in Seville, by bills of exchange upon another French merchant, his correspondent, in this manner and form, viz., that he would write to Paris, to the end that the bills might be made there by another correspondent of his, because they would accept and allow of those that came from France, but not from England, by reason of the prohibition of commerce betwixt those two kingdoms, and that a letter of advice from him should serve the turn, by a privy mark that passed between them two; and that without any more ado the merchant of Seville should give him the moneys, who should be advised thereof from Paris.
In fine, the Queen took such good security of the merchant that she made no doubt of the true payment of it. And not contenting herself with this, she sent for the master of a Flemish ship that lay in the river, and was to put forth the day following for France, to take a certificate thereof in some port, that he might be the better able to pass into Spain under the title of coming from France, and not from England; whom she earnestly entreated to carry with him in his ship Isabella and her parents, and that he should use them well and kindly, and land them in Spain at the very first place he should come at on that coast.
The master, who desired to give the Queen contentment, told her that he would do it, and that he would land them either in Lisbon, Cadiz, or Seville. Having taken sufficient security of the merchant, and assurance from the master, the Queen, by way of message, sent unto Clotaldo that he should not take anything of that away from Isabella which she had given her, as well in jewels as in clothes.
The next day came Isabella with her father and mother to take their leave of the Queen, who received them with a great deal of love. The Queen gave them the merchant's letter and many other gifts, as well in money as other curious dainties for their voyage. And Isabella with such courtship thanked her Majesty, that she left the Queen anew obliged unto her for to continue her favours still towards her. She took her leave likewise of the ladies, who now that she was grown disfigured would not that she should have left them, seeing themselves free from that envy which they bare unto her beauty, and would have been very well content to enjoy her gifts of wit and discretion. The Queen embraced all three of them, and recommending them to their good fortune and to the master of the ship, and desiring Isabella to advertise her of her safe arrival in Spain, and from time to time of her welfare, by the way of the French merchant, she took her leave of Isabella and her parents, who that very evening embarked themselves, not without the tears of Clotaldo and his wife, and of all those of the house, of whom she was extremely beloved.
At this their taking of their leaves Ricaredo was not present, who that he might not make show of his tender-heartedness and manifest his sorrow, procured some of his friends to go abroad that day a-hunting with him. The gifts which the lady Catalina gave Isabella for her voyage were many, her embracings infinite, her tears in abundance, her entreatings that she would write often unto her without number. And the thanks rendered by Isabella and her parents were answerable thereunto, so that though weeping they left each other well satisfied.
That night the ship hoisted sail, and having with a prosperous gale of wind touched upon the coast of France, and there taking in such provisions as were necessary for their voyage into Spain, within thirty days after they entered the bar of Cadiz, where Isabella and her parents disembarked themselves. And being known by all those of the city, they received them with expressions of much content. They received a thousand congratulations of the finding out of Isabella, and of the liberty which they had gotten, being first captured by the Moors and afterwards by the English, having been made acquainted with all the passages of that business by those captives whom the liberality of Ricaredo had set free.
Now, Isabella in the meanwhile began to give great hopes of returning to recover her former beauty. They remained but a little more than a month in Cadiz, refreshing themselves of their weariness in their voyage, and then they went to Seville for to see whether the payment would prove good of the ten thousand crowns which were to be put to the account of the French merchant who had undertaken for to see it disbursed. Two days after their arrival at Seville they inquired after him, and found him, and gave him the French merchant's letter; he did acknowledge the bill, but told them that until he had received letters from Paris and a letter of advice he could not let them have the money, but yet that he looked every moment to be advertised thereof.
Isabella's parents had hired a very fair house, right over against Santa Paula, by reason that there was a nun in that nunnery a near kinswoman of theirs, who had the rarest and sweetest voice in all Spain, as well that they might be near unto her as also for that Isabella had told Ricaredo that if he should come to seek her he should find her in Seville, and that her cousin the nun of Santa Paula would direct him to her house, and that for to know where to find her he needed not to give himself any further trouble than to inquire after that nun which had the best voice in the nunnery, because this token could not easily be forgotten.
It was forty days before letters of advice came from Paris, and within two days after they were come the French merchant delivered the ten thousand crowns to Isabella, and she them to her parents; and with them and some other which they had got together by selling some of those many of Isabella's jewels, her father began again to follow his trade of merchandise, not without the admiration of those who knew his great losses.
In conclusion, within a few months he went repaying his lost credit, and Isabella's beauty returned to its former perfection; insomuch that when any speech was had of fair women all of them gave the laurel to the English Spaniard, who was as well known by this name as she was for her beauty throughout the whole city.
By means of the French merchant of Seville Isabella and her parents writ letters to the Queen of England of their safe arrival in Spain, with such acknowledgements and submissions at her Majesty's feet as the many favours from her received did require. They likewise writ to Clotaldo and to his lady Catalina—Isabella styling them her father and mother and her father and mother them their lords. From the Queen they received no answer, but from Clotaldo and his wife they did; whom in their letters gave them the felicitation of their safe arrival, certifying them besides how that their son Ricaredo the next day after that they had hoisted sail was gone for France, and from thence to pass to some other parts of Christendom, whither it was fitting for him to go for the settling and securing of his conscience. Adding to these other discourses and compliments of much love and affection, besides many other fair and friendly offers. To which letters of theirs they made answer with another, no less courteous and loving than thankful.
Isabella presently imagined that Ricaredo's leaving his country was to come to seek her out in Spain, and feeding herself with this hope she began to lead the most contented life in the world, and studied to live in such sort that when Ricaredo should come to Seville he might sooner hear the good report that went of her virtues than come to the knowledge of her house. Seldom or never did she go out of doors unless it were to the nunnery; she reaped no benefit by any other jubilees save those which she gained by the convent. From her house and from her oratory she visited in her meditations on the Fridays in Lent, and on the seven days of Whitsun week, the most holy stations of the Cross. She never visited the river, nor walked to the Triana; she never went to see the common pastimes in the Field of Tablada, nor to see the Gate of Xeres, nor to go, if it were a fair day, to the feast of Saint Sebastian, celebrated by so many people as can hardly be reduced to any number. In short, she did not witness any public rejoicing or other festival in Seville: but spent all her whole time in retirement, in prayers, and good desires, still looking for the coming of her Ricaredo.
This her great retirement did set on fire and inflame the desires not only of those young gallants of that street where she dwelt but of all those that had but once had a sight of her. Hence they made night-music at her window, and by day careers with their jennets. And from this her not suffering herself to be seen, and from others much desiring to see her, increased their seeking out of cunning bawds which were mistresses in their art, and promised to show themselves no less in soliciting Isabella; and there were not some wanting who endeavoured to bring this their wicked purpose to pass by witchcraft, charms, sorcery, and the like lewd courses. But against all these Isabella was like a rock in the midst of the sea, against which the waves and the winds dash and beat, but do not move it.
A year and a half was now past when the approaching hope of those two years promised by Ricaredo began with more earnestness than hitherto it had done to vex and grieve the heart of Isabella; and whiles she was now and then thinking with herself that her husband was come, and that she had him before her eyes, and asked him what was the cause that hindered his coming and had kept him so long from her. And while again she imagined the just excuses that Ricaredo made her for his long absence, and how willingly she did believe and receive them, and how lovingly she embraced him in her arms and hugged him in her bosom as being the half part of her own soul. Then, even then when she was thinking on these love fancies, a letter came to her hands from the lady Catalina, bearing date from London some fifty days since. It was written in the English tongue, but she reading it in Spanish saw that it spake thus:
Daughter of my soul, thou knowest very well Guillarte, Ricaredo's page; he went along with him in this his journey. And by a former of mine unto you I advertised you that Ricaredo made for France the second day after your departure, and from thence was to travel farther. Now this his servant Guillarte, at the end of sixteen months, in all which time we had no news of our son, came home to us yesterday, and brought us these sad tidings that the Earl Arnesto had by treachery killed Ricaredo in France.
Now then, daughter, consider in what case his father, myself, and his spouse are in with this heavy news; being such, I say, that they have not left us any hope of putting this our misfortune in doubt. That which Clotaldo and myself entreat of you again and again is that you will truly and earnestly remember Ricaredo, who well deserveth this good office from you, considering how dearly he loved you, as you yourself best know.
You shall likewise beg of God that He will give us patience and bring us to a good death; to whom we likewise will make the same request, and humbly beseech Him that He will give unto you and your parents many long and happy years of life.
By the letter, hand, and seal there was not any the least doubt left to Isabella for not giving credit to the death of her husband. She knew very well his page Guillarte, and knew that he was true and trusty, and that in his own nature he hated a lie, and that he had no reason in the world for to feign that his death, and as little his mother lady Catalina, being that it imported nothing to send her such sorrowful news. In conclusion, no discourse that she could make with herself, nothing that she could imagine, could put it out of her thought that this unfortunate news was not true.
Having ended the reading of her letter without shedding a tear and without showing any signs of sorrow, with a composed countenance and with to appearance a quieted and contented mind, she arose from the parlour where she sat, and kneeling down devoutly, she made a solemn vow to be a nun, since that she might lawfully do it being now a widow.
Her parents dissembled their grief and covered that sorrow with the cloak of discretion which this sad news had caused in them, that they might be the better able to comfort Isabella in this bitterness of her soul; who being now as it were fully satisfied of her sorrow, moderating it with the resolution which she had put on, she fell to comforting of her parents, to whom she discovered her intent. But they did advise her that she should not put it in execution until that those two years were overpast which Ricaredo had set down for the term of his coming; for thereupon much depended the confirming of the truth of Ricaredo's death, and she might then with the more safety and security change this her estate.
Isabella followed their counsel, and the six months and a half which remained for the accomplishing of the two years she spent them in the exercises of a religious damsel, and for the better preparing and fitting of herself for her entering into the nunnery, having made choice of that of Santa Paula, where her cousin was.
The term of the two years was expired, and the day was come wherein she was to take upon her the habit; the news whereof was spread throughout the whole city amongst those who knew her by sight and by those that knew her only by report. Now the convent stood not far off from Isabella's house, and her father inviting his friends, and they others, Isabella had one of the noblest and most honourable trains to accompany her thither as in the like occasions was never seen in Seville.
There accompanied her the Asistente, the Dean of the Church, and the Vicar-General of the Archbishop, and all the ladies and gentlemen of title and quality that were in the city, so great was the desire that all of them had to see that sun of Isabella's beauty which had so many months been eclipsed. And because it is the custom and fashion of those damsels which go to take the habit to be as gallant and as bravely adorned as possibly they can devise, who as one that ever after from that instant takes her leave and farewell of all bravery and wholly discards it, Isabella was willing, that she might not break so ancient a custom, to trick and set forth herself in the best and most curious manner that possibly she could invent. And therefore she did put on that gown and kirtle and those rich dressings which she had on when she went to see the Queen of England, and we have heretofore told you how rich, how sightly, and how magnificent it was. There came forth to public view those orient pearls and that glittering diamond, with the carcanet, chain, and girdle, which likewise were of great value.
With this adornment and her own good looks, that gave occasion to all to praise God in her, Isabella went out of her house on foot, for her being so near unto the convent excused coaches and caroches. The concourse of the people was so great that it repented them that they had not taken coach, for they would not give them way to get to the nunnery. Some blessed her parents, others Heaven that had enriched her with so much beauty; some did stand on tiptoe for to see her, others having seen her once, ran to get afore that they might see her again.
But he that showed himself most solicitous in this kind, and so much that many took notice of him for it, was a man clad in one of those habits which they wear who return home redeemed from their captivity with a mark of the Trinity on their breasts, in token that they have been liberated by the charity of their redeemers. This captive, then, at that very time that Isabella had set one foot within the porch of the convent, whither were come forth to receive her, as the use is amongst them, the Prioress and the nuns, with a loud voice he cried out, "Stay, Isabella, stay! for whilst that I shall be alive thou canst not enter into any religious order."
At the hearing of these words Isabella and her parents looked back, and saw that, cleaving out his way through the thickest of the throng, that captive came making towards them, whose blue round bonnet being fallen off which he wore on his head, he discovered a confused and entangled skein of golden-wired hairs, curling themselves into rings, and a face intermixed with crimson and snow, so pure red and white was his complexion, all of them assured signs and tokens inducing all of them to take and hold him to be a stranger.
In effect, one while falling through too much haste, and then getting him up quickly again, he came at last where Isabella was, and taking her by the hand said unto her, "Knowest thou me, Isabella? Look well upon me; behold that I am Ricaredo thy husband."
"Yes, I know thee," replied Isabella, "if thou art not a phantasma, that is come to disturb my repose."
Her parents drew nearer and nearer unto him, and did view and eye him very narrowly, and in conclusion came certainly to know that this captive was Ricaredo; who with tears in his eyes, falling down on his knees before Isabella, besought her that the strangeness of that habit wherein she now saw him might not be a bar to her better knowledge of him, nor that this his mean and baser fortune should be a hindrance to the making good of that word and faithful promise which they had given and plighted each to other.
Isabella, maugre the impression which Ricaredo's mother's letter had made in her memory, sending her the news of his death, chose rather to give more credit to her eyes and the truth which she had present before her, than to trouble herself to make a further needless inquiry. And therefore, kindly embracing the captive, she said unto him:
"You doubtless, sir, are the only man who can hinder my determination; since that you are truly my husband, you can be no less than the better half of my soul. I have thee imprinted in my memory, and have laid thee up in my heart. The news of your death, which my lady and your mother wrote to me, if it did not take away my life, made me choose the life of religion, which at this moment I sought to enter, to live in it. But since God by so just an impediment shows that He desires otherwise, neither can we hinder it nor does it become me that on my part His will should be hindered. Come therefore, sir, unto my father's house, which is yours, and there I will deliver up unto you the possession of my person, on the terms which our holy Catholic faith demands."
All these words the standers-by heard, together with the Asistente, the Dean, and the Archbishop's Vicar-General of Seville; at the hearing whereof they were all of them stricken with admiration, and stood a while as men astonished; and were desirous that it might presently be told them what history this, and what stranger that was, and of what marriage they treated. Whereunto Isabella's father made answer, saying that that history required another place and some time for to tell it; and therefore besought them, since that they were so willing to know it, that they would be pleased to return back with him to his house, seeing that it was so near, and that there it should be recounted unto them, and in such a manner that with the truth thereof they should remain satisfied, and at the strangeness of that sequel amazed.
This was no sooner said but that one of those there present spake aloud, saying, "Gentlemen, this young man is a great English pirate, for I know him well enough; and this is he who, some two years since and somewhat more, took from the pirates of Algiers that ship of Portugal which came from the Indies. Ye need not doubt that this is the man, for I confidently tell you that I know him; for he gave me my liberty and money to bring me home to Spain, and did not only free me, but three hundred captives more, furnishing them with victuals and moneys." With these words the vulgar were in an uproar, and the desire afresh revived which all of them had to know and see such intricate things as these to be fully cleared.
In fine, the gentlemen of more especial rank and quality, with the Asistente and those two principal Churchmen, returned back to accompany Isabella to her house, leaving the nuns sorrowful and weeping that they had lost so fair a sister and companion as Isabella; who being come home, and having brought the gentlemen into a spacious large hall, entreated them to sit down. And albeit Ricaredo was willing enough to take upon him the relating of this desired history, yet notwithstanding it seemed good unto him rather to trust Isabella's tongue and discretion with it than his own, who did not very perfectly speak the language of Spain. All that were present were in a still silence, and having their ears and souls ready prepared to hear what Isabella would say, she began to recount the story, which I reduce briefly to this: that she delivered all that unto them which happened from the day that Clotaldo by stealth carried her away from Cadiz till her return thither again; not omitting the battle which Ricaredo fought with the Turks, and the liberality and bounty which he had used towards the Christians, and the faith which both of them had plighted each to other to be man and wife; the promise of two years, the news which she had received of his death, and that so certain to her seeming that it put her into that course which they had so lately seen of professing herself a nun. She did endear the Queen of England's bounty towards her, and the Christianity of Ricaredo and his parents; and ended her speech with desiring Ricaredo that he would relate what had befallen him from the time that he left London until this very present, wherein they saw him clad in the habit of a captive and with a badge in his breast, betokening that he was redemed by way of alms.
"It is true as you say," replied Ricaredo, "and in a few short words I will sum up unto you my many and great troubles. After that I went out of London for to excuse the marriage which I could not make with Clisterna (that Scottish Catholic damsel with whom Isabella told you my parents would have me to marry,) taking Guillarte along with me (that page who, as my mother's letters made mention, brought the news to London of my death,) crossing France, I came to Rome, where my soul was cheered and my faith fortified. I kissed the feet of the chief Pontiff, I confessed my sins to the Grand Penitentiary; he absolved me of them, and handed me the necessary credentials which should give testimony of my confession and penitence, and of the submission I had made to our universal mother, the Church. This done, I visited the places, as holy as they are numerous, that there are in that holy city; and of those two thousand crowns which I had in gold, I delivered a thousand and six hundred to a banker, who gave me a bill to receive so much in this city, upon one Roqui, a Florentine; and with those four hundred which remained with me, with intention to come for Spain, I made for Genoa; whence I had notice given me that there were two galleys of that signory to go for Spain.
"I came with Guillarte my servant to a certain town called Aquapendente, which as you come from Rome to Florence is the last which the Pope holds; and in an osteria or inn where I alighted I found the Earl Arnesto, my mortal enemy, who with four servants went disguised, and went, as I conceive, more from curiosity than from being a Catholic, to Rome. I did verily believe that he had not known me; I shut myself up in my lodging with my servant, and there kept myself close, and with a great deal of care and vigilance, and with a determination and purpose at the shutting-in of night to get me gone, and to change that my lodging for a safer. But I did not do it, because the great carelessness which I observed in the Earl and his followers did assure me that he did not know me. I supped in my lodging; I made fast the door, stood upon my guard with my sword in my hand; I recommended myself to God, and would not that night go to bed. Myself and my servant lay down on a bench to take a little rest and sleep, and myself was half fallen asleep.
"But a little after midnight they awakened me with purpose to make me sleep an eternal sleep. Four pistols, as I afterwards understood, the Earl and his servants discharged against me, leaving me for dead; and having their horses already in a readiness, they presently put foot in stirrup and went away, bidding the host of the inn that he would see me fairly buried, for that I was a man of principal note and quality. My servant, as mine host afterwards told me, awakened with the noise, out of very fear leapt down from a window that looked out into a base-court, crying out, 'O miserable and unfortunate that I am! they have slain my lord and master!' and having said this he hied him out of the inn, and that with such fear and haste that he did not so much as look back or make any stay till he came to London, so that it was he who brought the news of my death.
"They of the inn got up, found me shot athwart my body with four bullets and wounded with many other lesser shot, but all of them lighting on such parts that there was not one mortal wound amongst them all. I begged for confession and all the sacraments, like a Catholic Christian. They gave me them, and cured me, but it was two months and longer before I was able to travel.
"At the end whereof I came to Genoa, where I found no other passage save in two small boats which myself and two other principal Spaniards hired, the one to go before as a vessel of advice for discovery, and the other we went in ourselves.
"With this security we embarked ourselves; sailing along the shore with intention not to go out to sea. But coming over against that place which they call Las Tres Marias, or The Three Marys, which is on the coast of France, and our first boat going forward to see if she could discover anything, in an unlucky hour there came forth two Turkish galleys that lay lurking there in a little creek of the sea, and the one of them putting herself forth to the sea and the other keeping close by the land, when we meant to run ashore, we were prevented in our course, and taken by the Turks. We went on board, and they stripped us of all that we had even to our naked skins. They rifled the boats of all that they had, and suffered them to run ashore, without offering to sink them, saying that they would serve another time to bring them another galima (for by this name they call those spoils and booties which they take from the Christians).
"Ye may very well believe me if I tell you that I felt in my soul the soreness of my captivity, and above all the loss of those certificates and provisions I received at Rome, which I brought along with me, lapped up in a little box of tin, as likewise my bill of exchange for a thousand and six hundred crowns. But, as good luck would have it, they lighted into the hands of a Christian captive, a Spaniard, who kept them safe; for if they had once come to the Turks' fingering, I should at least have given for my ransom as much as my bill made mention of.
"They brought me to Algiers, where I found the Fathers of the Order of the Blessed Trinity treating of the redeeming of Christian captives. I spake with them; I told them who I was; and moved out of charity, though I was a stranger unto them, they redeemed me in this form and manner following. They gave for me three hundred ducats, one hundred to be laid down presently, and the other two at the next return of the ship that should come to redeem the father of that society, who remained in Algiers, engaged in four thousand ducats more than those that he brought with him; for to such great pity and compassion extendeth the charity of these men, that they give their own for other folk's liberty, and remain themselves captives for to free others from captivity. And for an addition of this happiness of my liberty, I found my lost box, with my certificates and my bill also of exchange. I showed it to that holy father who had ransomed me, and I offered him five hundred ducats more than my ransom came to, towards the payment of his engagement.
"It was almost a year ere the ship of alms returned, and that which in the interim happened unto me, if I should go about to recount it now unto you, it would be another new history. Only I will tell you that I was known of one of the twenty Turks whom I had set at liberty with the rest of the Christians before mentioned. But he was so thankful and so honest a man that he would not discover me. For had the Turks known that I was the man that sunk their two galleys, and took out of their hands that great ship of India, they would either have presented me to the Great Turk, or have taken away my life; and to have presented me to the Great Turk had been the loss of my liberty during life.
"In conclusion, the father that did ransom me came to Spain with me, together with other fifty redeemed captives. In Valencia we made a general procession, and from thence every one went his own way which he liked best, with these ensigns and tokens of their liberty which are these poor kind of habits. This day I came to this city, with so great and earnest a desire to see my espoused Isabella, that without any other thing detaining me, I inquired for this convent, where I was to have notice given me of my spouse. That which herein hath befallen me ye have already seen; that which remaineth to be seen are these certificates in order that my story may be known to be true, for it has in it as much of miracle as of truth."
And with that he took out from a tin box the certificates of which he spoke, and put them into the Dean's hand, who perused them together with the Asistente, who did not find anything in them that might make doubt of the truth of that which Ricaredo had delivered unto them; and for further confirmation thereof, Heaven had so ordained it that the Florentine merchant was present at all this upon whom the bill was for the payment of sixteen hundred ducats. He entreated that they would let him see the bill; and they showing it him, he presently acknowledged and accepted it, for it was many months since that he had ordered for it. All this was but to add admiration to admiration, and amazement to amazement.
The Asistente embraced Ricaredo, and Isabella's parents, and herself; all of them in very courteous language offering them their service. The like did the two clergymen, and entreated Isabella that she would set down this story in writing, that the Archbishop might read it, which she promised she would.
The great silence, which all those standing by had preserved in listening to this strange tale, was broken in giving thanks to God for His marvellous works; and the people from the highest to the lowest giving congratulation to Isabella, Ricaredo, and their parents, they took their leaves. And they on the other side besought the Asistente that he would honour their wedding with his presence, which some eight days hence they did purpose to celebrate. The Asistente was very well pleased with the motion; and within eight days after, accompanied with all the highest and principal persons of the city, he waited on them to church.
By these turnings and windings, and by these circumstances, Isabella's parents recovered their daughter, and were restored to their former wealth; and she, assisted by her many virtues, in despite of so many inconveniencies, lighted on a husband of such especial rank and quality as Ricaredo; in whose company, it is said, she still liveth in that house which they rented right over against Santa Paula, which since they bought of the heirs of a gentleman of Burgos, called Hernando de Cifuentes.
This tale may teach us what great power virtue and beauty have, since that both of them together, and each of them by themselves, are of force to make even their enemies in love with them, as likewise how that Heaven knows from the greatest adversities and afflictions to draw the greatest benefits and comforts.