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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"The Vroucolacas: A Tale" by James K. Paulding (full text)


James Kirke Paulding (August 22, 1778 – April 6, 1860) was an American writer and, for a time, the United States Secretary of the Navy. He was born in Pleasant Valley, New York and largely self-educated. He became a close friend of Washington Irving, with whom he began a periodical. The result was Salmagundi; a short-lived satirical periodical, from which the word 'Gotham' was first ascribed as a name for New York City. After writing many other things, in June 1846 he published "The Vroucolacas: A Tale" in Graham's American Monthly Magazine of Literature and Art out of Philadelphia. This is among the earliest American tales influenced directly from true accounts of Greek vampire tales, half a century before the publishing of Bram Stoker's Dracula. He died at his farm near Hyde Park, New York. He is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

The Vroucolacas: A Tale

By James K. Paulding

Every classical reader is doubtless familiar with the celebrated Island of Crete, where flourished the illustrious Minos, the pattern of judges; where Jupiter was cradled on Mount Ida; where the great labyrinth exhibited its inextricable windings; where the wine was super-excellent, and the people, according to all ancient authorities, no better than they should be. In the various mutations of this world, the island has changed its name to that of Candia, and the government of Minos for that of the representative of the Prophet. But the wine and the people remain as they were, one fit for the gods, the other for the penitentiary. They fear nothing but the Turks, the Corsairs, and the Vroucolacas.

When a Christian dies in Candia, they cannot afford him Christian burial without giving ten pence to the papas, or priest, two crowns to the bishop, and double that sum to the grand-vicar, the arch treasurer, and the archivist; nay, it goes hard but the Patriarch of Constantinople comes in for a share. If these things are neglected, ten to one but the unfortunate deceased becomes a Vroucolacas, which, in the modern Greek jargon, signifies the specter of a dead body possessed by a demon. They are always mischievous, and not infrequently malignant, according to the previous character of the person they represent, playing all sorts of tricks, and occasionally indulging in cruel, unseemly amusements, not unlike the witches and necromancers of old, as certified by undoubted authority, ecclesiastical, civil and judicial. Having recorded these indispensable preliminaries, we shall now proceed with our tale.

More than a century ago there resided in the city of Candia, capital of the island of that name, and famous in history for sustaining one of the most obstinate sieges on record, a very dignified person of Latin extraction, who either was, or pretended to be, descended not only from the ancient Dukes of the Archipelago, but the Greek Emperors of Constantinople, and carried his head erect accordingly, except in the presence of a turban. Among his down trodden and oppressed race he gave himself great airs of superiority, but the sight of a turban instantly converted him into a cringing slave, and a visit from a janizary gave him a fit of the ague. His name was Crispo Sanudo; he possessed a house in the city, highly creditable to a people that knew nothing of architecture, and a garden containing abundance of citron, lemon, orange, olive and pomegranate trees, planted without the least regard to order or regularity, and looking very much like a little wilderness. Besides, he paid the highest tax of any inhabitant of the whole island, except the Superior of the Monastery of Arcadi, the monks of which, as is the case all the world over, and more especially in the Grecian Archipelago, possessed the richest lands, and the finest olive and laudanum trees in Candia. In addition to all this, he, as before stated, boasted of having in his veins a sprinkling of the blood of the Commenii Emperors of Constantinople, the meanest race that ever occupied the throne of the Caesars. Every thing else that was Greek he despised, but still he gloried in being descended from Michael the Stammerer, whose daughter had married one of his ancestors, a Duke of the Archipelago, of the family of Sanudo.

But his most valuable possession was an only child, a daughter called Florentia, now just on the eve of finished womanhood, and the fairest of all the daughters of the isle. It was a great reflection, however, on her intellect, that she was quite blind to the foibles of her father, and her own beauties, both which were universally acknowledged. But the truth is, she was kept so close that she had no opportunity of comparing him with any body but her old nurse, and a young man she had more than once seen through the lattice of her window, gazing at her with looks peculiarly expressive. Crispo was proud of his daughter, for he had loved her deceased mother as well as a selfish man can love any thing but himself; and, besides this, she was docile as a lamb, and descended from the Greek emperors—not forgetting Michael the Stammerer.

Florentia, though confined to her cage, was as lively as a Canary bird, and tripped about the castle, as Signor Crispo called it, till she was tired, after which she sung the old nurse to sleep with the voice of a seraph, though the poor soul had almost entirely lost her hearing, in her youth, by the tremendous cannonading of the Knights Templars at the siege of Candia. The young Grecian maid was indeed very happy until she attained the age of sixteen, for such innocent beings can be happy almost anywhere. About this time, however, an event occurred, which, in its consequences, led to a gradual interruption of that serenity and repose she had hitherto enjoyed.

She was frequently permitted to walk in the garden, which was surrounded by a pretty high wall, accompanied sometimes by her father, but generally by her old nurse, who was wonderfully addicted to dozing in warm weather, and who, in that state, could only be roused by an exemplary shaking. On one of these occasions, as Florentia was standing under an orange tree laden with the choicest fruit, there suddenly fell at her feet one of the most beautiful pomegranates she had ever seen. She picked it up, and admired, and inhaled its delicious odors, when all at once it occurred to her to wonder whence it came. The tree under which she stood did not certainly bear such fruit, and yet the pomegranate as certainly fell from the tree. While in this state of perplexity, her wonder was changed to astonishment and dismay by a still more remarkable phenomenon. A man came tumbling down from the tree instead of a pomegranate, and having luckily escaped with his limbs whole, threw himself at the feet of Florentia, and looked in her face with such an air of profound humility that she could not but find in her heart to forgive his intrusion. Indeed she was so frightened at his first appearance that she uttered a faint scream, but it reached not the dozing nurse, who was reclining on a grassy terrace; and having at length ventured to look in the face of the new comer, she at once recognized the young man who had of late so frequently passed the house, gazing intently on the lattice of her window. She sometimes thought, and had dreamed of him two or three times, but her imagination had never gone further either sleeping or waking. She was at first highly offended at this most unceremonious visit; the next feeling was curiosity to know its motive, and this was soon gratified.

The jealous policy of the Orientals, which denies to women that salutary freedom to which all rational beings are fairly entitled, renders such meetings as this generally very brief and conclusive. The citadel must be carried by storm, or surprise, or it will be relieved to a certainty; and where young persons of different sexes are secluded from each other, the attraction of propinquity is almost irresistible. The young intruder was very handsome, and possessed all the fluent eloquence of a Greek. He declared his love, in an Oriental rhapsody, and besought her pity and forgiveness—in other words to return his affection. He announced himself as the son of Signor Constantachi, the oldest physician of the island, who was bred at the University of Padua, and had narrowly escaped the bastinado for having administered a dose of calomel to the Bashaw of Retisno, which made his mouth so sore that he could not smoke his pipe in peace. Being, however, deputy vice-consul for his Most Christian Majesty, the doctor pleaded his privilege, and was let off for a present of coffee and tobacco. The name of the young man was Miquelachi, or Michael, the achi being equivalent to a title of nobility. It is like the De of Europe, and indicates a descent from somebody

Florentia, knowing that the old nurse would not sleep forever, and that no time was to be lost, modestly responded a gentle assent to the ardent solicitations of the enamored youth, just as the old woman was awakened by the sting of a bee, which had probably mistaken her face for a flower-bed, and, being disappointed, revenged himself in that manner. Miquelachi thereupon made a precipitate retreat among the trees of the garden, which, as before stated, formed a perfect wilderness, but not so quick as to escape the notice of the old nurse, whose sight was, however, none of the brightest, and who, rubbing her eyes as she came forward, declared she had seen either a man or a ghost flit before her, insisting at the same time on knowing who or what it was. It has long since been observed that the most innocent and sincere maiden, who never before dreamed of deceit or falsehood, will, when placed in the predicament of Florentia, be sorely tempted to the com mission of both these grievous offences. Be this as it may, the young lady, though she did not absolutely deny the fact, insisted that the old nurse had become half blind, as well as half deaf, and dexterously, as she thought, turned her attention to the wonderful circumstance of a pomegranate falling from an orange tree.

As this is not a tale of love, we shall forbear to dwell minutely on the various steps in the progress of the intimacy between Miquelachi and Florentia, which, like all others on record, ended in a discovery. Though no more pomegranates dropped from the orange-tree, Miquelachi often made his appearance in the garden, while the old nurse was napping and Signor Crispo attending his vocations abroad, he being one of those men who are always busy about nothing. In a surprisingly short time a strong mutual affection grew up between the young people, who frequently discussed the expediency of either asking the signor's consent, or marrying without it. The first was rather a forlorn hope, the latter impossible, without absconding to some one of the neighboring islands. The old nurse, however, saved them the trouble of deciding, by one day awaking in a most miraculous manner half an hour before her time, and not only discovering the apparition was a man, but detecting his identity. No explanation was necessary; she comprehended the whole affair, and discreetly shutting her eyes, began to define her position; that is, to think seriously on the relative advantages of keeping the secret of Florentia, or discovering it to her father. She really had a strong regard for that young lady, but still more highly appreciated the comforts of her present situation. Finally, she came to the conclusion that the whole affair must come out some time or other, and the discovery ruin all her prospects in life, unless made by herself

Accordingly she disclosed the whole matter to Signor Sanudo, whereby she roused all the blood of the Pascologii, the Comnenii—not forgetting Michael the Stammerer—and of the ancient Dukes of the Archipelago, into a fury. The illustrious descendant of these worthies despised, from the bottom of his soul, the Constantachi, Ianachi, Miquelachi, and all the other achis—whom he considered a pack of ignoble upstarts, though in truth they could claim a far nobler lineage than his own, being descended from the ancient proprietors of the island under the reign of King Minos, if all they said were true. Beside this general contempt, he had a special personal antipathy to Signor Constantachi. Being as ignorant as a caloyer or a papas, he cherished a peculiar hostility to every species of learning, and hated the worthy doctor because he had been educated at the University of Padua, and pretended to understand that detestable jargon, the ancient Greek language. Moreover, the family of Constantachi all belonged to the Greek church, and were tainted with the heresies of Eutychius, whose doctrines were condemned by the Council of Chalcedon, while Signor Crispo himself adhered to the Latin communion. Those who have so often seen, in the records of the past, that religion which is all charity and love, made a pretext for the indulgence of all the malignant passions of the human mind, will not be surprised at being told that this difference, of the grounds and principles of which the signor was profoundly ignorant, except that one acknowledged the Pope of Rome, the other the Patriarch of Constantinople, should add greatly to the bitterness of his spleen and hatred. Finally, he was negotiating a marriage between Florentia and the son of a descendant of the noble family of Cornari in Venice

All these excitements operating on a man who carried more sail than ballast, raised his wrath to the highest pitch of ludicrous extravagance. He poured a deluge of reproaches on his daughter; threatened to tie the faithful old nurse in a sack and throw her into the sea, for not foreseeing this before it happened; invoked the shades of his ancestors—not forgetting Michael the Stammerer—to rise up and avenge the insult offered to their descendant; and after shutting up Florentia in a part of the house whence she could see nothing but the sky, proceeded majestically into his garden, where he ordered the tree which produced the forbidden fruit to be grubbed up by the roots. Not content with this, after serious reflection he resolved to lay his grievances before the Bashaw of Candia, and demand justice on the presumptuous intruder not only into his garden, but the heart of his daughter. Putting a purse of sequins in his pocket, he accordingly proceeded to execute his purpose.

The Bashaw was a hale, hearty old man, somewhat rising threescore, named Redschid, but commonly called Djezzar, or the butcher, in compliment to his taste for cutting off heads, and the inimitable skill as well as grace with which he performed that opera tion. He paid as little respect to the life of a human being, especially if not one of the Faithful, as to that of a swine, which all know every true disciple of the Prophet holds in utter abomination. There was nothing on earth Signor Crispo stood in such awe of as a Bashaw of Three Tails, especially one who, like Djezzar, could take off heads in the twinkling of an eye with a blow of his scimitar. His rage, however, on this occasion overcame his apprehensions, and he strutted boldly to the residence of the Bashaw, which was an old dilapidated castle built by the Venetians when masters of the island, and which had fallen into decay; it being against the conscience of a Turk to repair any thing. The Bashaws are ap pointed only for a brief period, and the chances are they will lose their heads before that expires. They, therefore, never do any thing for those who come after them. Djezzar was one day asked by a traveler why he did not repair his castle, which, in truth, kept out neither wind nor weather—“Mashallah!” replied he, “for what? I shall probably encounter a Hatta-Sheriff before long, and lose my head by the scimitar, or my breath by the bow-string. I should only be taking trouble for my successor. Allah Kerib-God is great, Mahomet is his Prophet, the Commander of the Faithful his representative, and I am his slave.”

Crispo found this philosophical Bashaw sitting cross-legged, in a room, the roof of which let in day light at various points, on a sofa, which, though almost the only furniture to be seen, was much the worse for wear. He was smoking a long pipe, the tube of which passed through a jar of cold water, in order to render the smoke more refreshing. On one side stood a slave fanning him ; on the other lay his saber of blue Damascus steel, which made Signor Crispo turn of the same color, in order that he might have it handy to cut off the head of the fanner if he suffered a fly to come within striking distance of his beard. The signor trembled to the very marrow of

his bones at this formidable exhibition; but having bowed three times almost to the ground, the floor being literally nothing else, he summoned courage to relate his wrongs, but unluckily in his trepidation forgot the offering of the purse. The Bashaw heard him with becoming gravity, and then simply asked—

“Is thy daughter so very beautiful as I have heard?”

Crispo felt his blood run cold at this question, for he well knew its purport. He answered, however, as promptly and firmly as possible—

“No, most illustrious Djezzar, she is the least beautiful of all the daughters of the city. But consider her noble descent—”

“Bah!” exclaimed Djezzar, interrupting him, contrary to the Oriental custom always to listen patiently till a story is finished—“Bah! what is all that I am myself the son of a Georgian slave, yet I command half this island, and you among the rest, though you pretend to a descent from those recreant Christian emperors whom the representatives of the Prophet scattered before them like so many Christian dogs, as they were. Why talk of thy forefathers? Thou didst not beget them; they are no more to thee than the dust of the earth, and to boast of them is to boast of that which hath no existence. The son of a captive, who hath risen to be a Bashaw of Three Tails, has reason to be proud, but the descendant of emperors, who is sunk into a wretched slave, ought to be ashamed to appeal to his ancestors. Go thy ways, and trouble me no more, or—” here he cast his eyes significantly on the naked scimitar lying at his side. Crispo retrograded from his presence, and departed in that unhappy state of mind in which a man has neither the philosophy to endure nor the courage to resent contempt.

“The Christian dog!” muttered Djezzar, as he retired—“Does he think I will quarrel with my physician, who might revenge himself by poisoning me with the first dose he administers?”

Matters were in this state, when a fellow who resided in the suburbs of the city, whose name was Policarpo, and who, besides being a thief and a robber, was suspected of being guilty of still more atrocious crimes, died of a malignant fever, and, having neither money, effects nor friends, was buried without the usual fees to the papas, the bishop, the arch-treasurer, the archivist, and the Patriarch of Constantinople. Of course he was a fair subject for the Vroucolacas; and, accordingly, scarcely was he cold in the grave, when the citizens of Candia began to be disturbed at nights with various and unaccountable annoyances; appalling noises and unseemly visitations clearly indicating that the spectre demon was abroad. At first he merely amused himself by entering certain houses, tumbling about their goods and chattels, putting out the lights, and then pinching the inmates behind, black and blue, or raining such a shower of dry blows on their shoulders as was evidently supernatural. It was also affirmed that he dealt in terrible threats in case any one refused his request, whatever it might be, and had been heard to declare in the silence of midnight, in the ears of more than one person of good credit, that unless he was properly conciliated there should be neither rest nor safety in Candia.

Matters became so serious that a public meeting was called, at which Signor Crispo presided, and for which offence he was that very night visited by the Vroucolacas, and pinched and threatened almost out of his wits. Many papas, caloyers, and monks attended, and a┼┐ter long deliberation it was resolved to adopt the only mode ever known to be effectual in silencing these specter demons, namely, that of disinterring the body of Policarpo, extracting the heart, and consuming it by fire. This was accordingly performed with great ceremony, but, wonderful to relate, the Vroucolacas, as if aggravated to new enormities by this rough treatment, became, if possible, ten times worse than before. The good people were, of course, frightened in like proportion, most especially as the person who performed this operation of extracting the heart solemnly declared that the interior of the body, though it had been interred ten days before, was as warm as that of a living person. Others affirmed the blood was most unnaturally red; and others again, that the body was at first perfectly flexible, and afterward became as hard and stiff as a mummy. People gathered together in crowds, shouting through the streets the name of Vroucolacas, and rending the air with a repetition of that musical, sonorous sound. But the obstinate demon only waxed more intractable and tormenting. It was the opinion of some of the papas that they had committed a great oversight in not burning the heart of Policarpo on the seashore, where there would have been plenty of room for the Vroucolacas to escape; but as there was no possibility of repeating the experiment, the truth or falsehood of this theory could not be fairly tested.

Every succeeding night increased the perplexity and dismay of the good people of the city. They met every morning to debate on the subject, and devise ways and means for quieting this obstinate demon, who equally resisted fire and water. Processions were made several nights in succession; they obliged the papas and caloyers to fast till they were" almost starved to death; they ran about all day sprinkling the streets and houses with holy-water, washing the doors, and pouring it, as they said, down the throat of the Vroucolacas. They next proceeded to the grave of Policarpo, where they stuck naked swords into it, which they pulled out several times a day, and every time thrust them in still deeper. The failure of this last expedient having occasioned a sagacious caloyer to suggest that the handles of the swords being made in the form of a cross must needs prevent the demon, who of course stood in great awe of such an emblem, from budging an inch; they tried other weapons, but to no purpose — the Vroueolacas was incorrigible.

The consternation now became indescribable, for the demon grew every night more presumptuous and daring—increasing in his pranks with every expedient to keep him in order, while rumor invented a thousand new extravagances. He took to ordering people to do this, that and the other thing, according to his own will and pleasure, and punished their neglect or disobedience by pinching or beating them soundly the very next night; he was accused of breaking down doors; ripping up the roofs of houses; knocking and chattering at windows in an unknown gibberish; tearing clothes, and emptying all the jars, bottles and wine tubs, for he was a most thirsty demon. In addition to all this, he discovered and blabbed so many secrets, and invented so many scandals, that he nearly set the whole community together by the ears.

What increased the terror and perplexities of the citizens, was the untoward circumstance of the papas not knowing the precise name of the evil spirit who had thus got possession of the body of Policarpo, nor what saint to invoke in this terrible predicament. Whole families began now to pack up their goods, and retreat to the neighboring isles of Syra, Tinos, Milo and Argentiera; and there was great reason to apprehend that if the Vroucolacas persisted in his persecutions, the whole city, if not the entire country, would be depopulated. The demon continued in the meantime to disseminate so many abominable slanders, that almost every family was at feud, and there was scarcely a good character left in the city, except that of Florentia, and the family of Dr. Constantachi, who, it was somewhat remarkable, continued entirely exempt from the annoyances of the demon.

But not so with the illustrious Signor Crispo Sanudo, who had, from the first appearance of the mysterious non-descript, come in for more than his full share of attention. Notwithstanding all the care he took to protect his premises, there being at that time, as at the present, neither locks nor bolts in Candia, the demon never failed in paying his nightly visits, and after diverting himself with a variety of malicious devices, such as putting out the lights, turning the furniture upside down, drinking his wine, and breaking his crockery, invariably concluded by giving him a hearty pinch, and uttering in an awful voice, “I will never cease until thou givest thy daughter Florentia to my particular friend Miquelachi, son to the great physician Constantachi.” Signor Crispo continued, however, to hold out man fully, and swore he would do no such thing; where upon his pinches were repeated with additions and improvements. Florentia, shut up in a remote part of the house, heard or saw nothing of all this, and when the signor detailed his grievances, would intimate to him that it was in all probability only a dream, arising from eating too many pomegranates for supper.

“Head of my ancestors!” would Crispo exclaim in a fury—“Do you think dreams could cover me thus with black and bloody bruises? I tell you that schismatic hound, Miquelachi, is in league with the Vroucolacas. But it wont do—I tell you it wont do. I'd rather be pinched to a jelly, and be deviled for a thousand years, than disgrace my illustrious ancestors—not forgetting Michael, the Stammerer—by calling that low-born slave my son.”

“But, my father, is he not descended by the mother's side, from the Justiniani of Scios ?” said Florentia meekly.

“The Justiniani! pooh, what are they compared with the Pascologii, the Comnenii, the Porphyro genitii, and the Grand Dukes of the Archipelago—not forgetting Michael, the Stammerer? I tell you, it wont do. I swear by their dust, their bones, and their immortal memory, that sooner than see you the wife of that Greek schismatic, I would consign you to the black eunuch of the seraglio.” It should be premised that Crispo said this with a mental reservation, that Djezzar should not propose to him the alternative of the scimitar or the bowstring.

About this period it began to be whispered abroad, from some mysterious source, that all these public calamities were owing to the obstinacy of Signor Crispo, who refused to bestow his daughter on Miquelachi, son of Doctor Constantachi, notwithstanding the repeated instances of the Vroucolacas, who, for some secret reasons of his own, had set his heart on the match. A deputationof the oldest and most respectable citizens accordingly waited on Crispo, to remonstrate against his thus involving his native city in trouble and dismay by his obstinacy, entreating him to relent for the good of the community. But he scoffed at their solicitations, and repeated a hundred times — “It wont do—I tell you it wont do.”

The deputation then determined to lay the whole affair before the Bashaw, who had just returned from fleecing his flock in the remote parts of his paschalic, just in time to receive their application. Djezzar forthwith commanded the attendance of Signor Crispo, his daughter and Miquelachi, omitting the Vroucolacas, who was the principal delinquent, for reasons best known to himself. In good time they appeared — Crispo pale with apprehension — Florentia shivering under her long white veil, and Miquelachi displaying the most perfect self-possession. The Bashaw was seated on his thread-bare cushion, his long pipe in his mouth, his scimitar naked by his side as usual, and attended by two janizaries, the silent executioners of his will and pleasure.

“Dog, and son of a dog,” said Djezzar, with great gravity and severity. “What is this I hear? They tell me the good people of the city, not excepting the faithful, are grievously afflicted by the visitations of the Vroucolacas, as he is called in your heathen Greek jargon, to the great damage of their property, their rest at night, and their peace of mind by day, so that many have abandoned the island, and more are on the eve of going. It is moreover delivered to me, that the specter demon—whom may the Prophet confound — has repeatedly declared that he will never cease tormenting the good people, until thou givest thy daughter, Florentia, to this young man, son to my learned physician, Dr. Constantachi, as his wife, and that thou dost obstinately refuse his reasonable request. Dog, and son of a dog, is it so?"

“I cannot deny it, your highness,” faltered the signor.

“And why dost thou refuse?”

“He is not her equal in descent. My daughter is of the Pascologii, the Comnenii, and the Sanudos, while he is only the son of a physician.”

“Bah!” exclaimed Djezzar impatiently — “Let me hear no more of this. Is not his father my physician, and has he not the life of the representative of the Prophet in his hands? Doth not this place him above thy dead ancestors, who could not preserve their own lives, much less those of others? And did I not once tell thee I am the son of a slave? Know, egregious fool, that there is but one man above another in this world, and that is the commander of the faithful, my master. All others are equal, and all his slaves. What other objections hast thou?”

“He is of the Greek, I of the Latin Church. He does not acknowledge the holy father at Rome as its head, but blasphemously bows to him they call the patriarch of Constantinople.

“By the beard of the Prophet, but this is a wonderful difference. Is there any other God but God, any other head of the church but Mahomet? And is not the patriarch of Constantinople appointed by his representative, the grand signor, my master, solely in consideration of twelve hundred paras, presented by the scoundrel Greeks, for the pleasure of being plundered and excommunicated for their pains? What use then in differing about one point where all is wrong? Hast thou any other reasons to urge? Be quick, for I am very tired.”

“I was about contracting my daughter to a descendant of the illustrious family of the Cornari, in Venice.”

“Mashallah! what, the obstinate infidel dog, who defended this city four-and-twenty years against the arms of the commander of the faithful, and occasioned the loss of an hundred thousand of the true believers? Say no more. I will have none of that accursed breed propagated here. But enough. Dost thou consent to the demand of the Vroucolacas and the prayers of thy neighbors?”

“I cannot — my birth, my religion, and my honor, forbid.

The Bashaw made a sign to the janizaries, who seized Signor Crispo, and prepared that fatal bow string, the very thought of which gives even a true Mussulman a touch of bronchitis. At this moment Florentia reached forward and cast herself at the feet of the Bashaw, beseeching him to spare the life of her father. In her agitation her veil had been cast aside, and she appeared in all the pride of beauty, become more exquisitely touching from the deep feelings of her heart.

“By the beard of the Prophet,” exclaimed Djezzar — “a Houri—she is too beautiful for the arms of a Christian dog, and I must consider whether to make her my tenth wife, or elevate her to the celestial happiness of administering to the delights of the commander of the faithful.”

Saying this, he seemed to reflect on the subject deeply, while Signor Crispo remained in the keeping of the janizaries, without once thinking of his illustrious ancestors; Miquelachi for the first time exhibited great agitation; and Florentia continued on her knees in agonizing despair.

“It is settled,” at length said Djezzar, “I shall send her a present to the commander of the faithful, as a proof of my gratitude for his bounty. She is too beautiful even for a Bashaw of three tails, and shall depart to-morrow in the galley destined for Constantinople, as you Christian dogs call it. Away, fellows' and leave this Houri with me. I have said it.”

Fiorentia sank to the ground, while Crispo remained mute as a statue, overpowered by a sense of his approaching fate, and the degradation preparing for his only child. Miquelachi, after hesitating a moment, came forward, and saluting Djezzar with pro found respect, asked in a fine voice—

“May it please your highness, will this rid your faithful subjects of the visits of the Vroucolacas? It was for that we were called before you.

“Mashallah! I had forgot the demon entirely. But there is no help for it now, and he must play his part till he is either tired, or has drank up all the wine, when I suppose he will depart in peace.”

“If your highness will recall the sentence against the daughter of Signor Crispo, I pledge my head to rid you of the Vroucolacas.”

“Bah! what care I for that fool's head of thine? It is mine already whenever I choose to take it. Depart, I say, or I will make your shadow shorter by a head.

At this critical moment the venerable Doctor Constantachi made his appearance. He was the only man in the island the Bashaw either feared or respected. He stood in awe of his great skill, which had more than once been exercised on his own person, and could never divest himself of the idea that the doctor could as easily kill as cure him. For these reasons he always treated him with great courtesy and respect — partly from gratitude, partly from fear. The doctor came to plead the cause of Florentia, knowing how dear she was to his son, and the Bashaw was pleased to listen graciously to his suit, which involved in fact the only practicable mode of ridding the city of its diabolical persecutor, who had so frequently intimated the sole condition on which he would discontinue his visits.

“But if he should break his word,” cried Djezzar;

“these demons are slippery fellows, and fear neither the law nor the Prophet.”

“May it please your highness, I–"

“But it does not please my highness that you should give any more pledges,” said Djezzar, interrupting Miquelachi.

It is doubtless possible, notwithstanding the testimony of all orthodox historians, poets and romance writers—by which latter we mean travelers—to the contrary, that a follower of Mahomet may, by way of miracle, possess some bowels of compassion, and occasionally, as it were, degenerate into an act of justice or humanity. Djezzar was cruel in conformity with the spirit of his religion and the maxims of his government, which held life cheap in comparison with the mild, merciful, and forgiving doctrines of Christianity. He also was guilty of violence and extortion toward those he governed; but here, too, he only acted in conformity to the universal custom of all the great and little dignitaries of the Ottoman Empire. He had bought his office at the price of eight hundred paras, and considered himself fairly entitled to extract at least three times that surn from the pockets of his subjects; more especially as he at the same time incurred the imminent risk of going the way of almost all Mussulman flesh in high station, and dying suddenly of a sore throat. On the whole, he was not a bad man for a Turk.

Djezzar had from the first decided on a compliance with the conditions demanded by the Vroucolacas, as a means of quieting the apprehensions of the people, and at the same time doing a good turn to his old friend the doctor, who had traveled a great deal and seen so many varieties of human faith, that so far from being a bigot, he might be said to be almost in different to all religions. He was exceedingly fond of his son, and anxious for his marriage with Florentia, because the young man declared it was indispensable to his happiness. It was with a view merely to operate on the personal fears and parental affection of Signor Crispo, that he had affected to proceed to such entreaties. Apparently, however, being moved by the arguments and entreaties of Dr. Constantachi, he addressed himself once more to Signor Crispo, and proposed as the last alternative either that he should give his daughter to Miquelachi, or lose her forever, and his life in the bargain.

While the father was hesitating, the young man suddenly threw himself at the feet of the Bashaw, exclaiming–

“Spare her and spare her father! I cannot consent to receive my happiness at such a price. I resign the dearest treasure of my life, provided you will spare that of Signor Sanudo, and permit his daughter to remain with him, to soothe his declining age.”

“And what will the Vroucolacas say to that?” asked Djezzar. “He will rage ten times more than ever, and very likely attack me in my own castle. It will not do — either the consent or the bowstring. I perceive maiden thou art going to entreat me again. But spare your words—the consent or the bowstring.”

Signor Crispo was observed to be greatly agitated. The truth is, though a vain and somewhat silly man, he was not altogether insensible to generous emotions. He was, therefore, not a little touched with the frank manly style in which Miquelachi had interfered in his behalf, as well as the disinterested sacrifice he had offered to make. There was, however, a still more powerful motive gradually acquiring greater force and energy, namely, fear of The bowstring, which, not being one of the faithful, he held in great abhorrence. After a succession of writhing and grimaces, and just as the Bashaw had given the signal to the janizaries, there bolted from the mouth of Signor Crispo, as if precipitated by some violent in ward explosion, the following words—

“I consent—and may my illustrious ancestors, the Pascologii, the Comnenii, the Porphyrogenitii, and the Sanudos—not forgetting Michael, the Stammerer — forgive me!”

“Mashallah!—by the beard of the Prophet,” cried Djezzar, “but thou hast decided wisely for once, after being a fool all thy life; and as for thine ancestors, with the long names, depend upon it they wont trouble you about the matter. See that thou keepest thy word, and art kind to this young man, who must possess great merit since he is patronized by the Vroueolacas, and most especially to the beautiful Houri, thy daughter—or,” here he cast a significant glance at the awful bowstring which caused Sigmor Crispo to tremble even to the soles of his slippers.

The Bashaw decreed that the marriage should take place on the spot, dispensing with all preliminary ceremonies, such as were practiced among the Christians of Candia. His word was law and gospel too, and the young lovers were forthwith married, to the satisfaction of all parties except Signor Crispo, who looked as if he had just lost all his illustrious ancestors. He continued discontented and sour for some time, but the fear of the Bashaw kept him from any overt act of unkindness; and when in the natural course of human events Florentia presented him with a grandson, he was in great perplexity as to the name he should bestow on him. At last he hit upon the happy expedient of calling the young stranger — who, by the way, had a vivid impression of a pomegranate on his left shoulder — Comnenius Pascologus Crispo Sanudo Miquelachi, with which he was quite delighted, seeing there were four to one in his favor.

The most remarkable circumstance, however, attending or rather succeeding this marriage, was, that the Vroucolacas kept his word like a demon of honor, and from that time ceased his nightly visits. When it was clearly demonstrated that he had departed, the people of the city began at first to doubt whether he had been there at all. Then they began to laugh at each other for believing it; and finally ended in laughing at themselves, perfectly unconscious that if the same thing were to happen again, they would be just as much frightened as before. Whether Miquelachi had any agency in the exploits of the Vroucolacas was never perfectly known. Florentia often bantered him on the subject, but he was too discreet a man to trust his wife with a secret of such consequence.


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