Captain John Smith by Charles Dudley Warner, chapter name CAPTIVITY AND WANDERING


Our hero never stirs without encountering a romantic adventure. Noble ladies nearly always take pity on good-looking captains, and Smith was far from ill-favored. The charming Charatza delighted to talk with her slave, for she could speak Italian, and would feign herself too sick to go to the bath, or to accompany the other women when they went to weep over the graves, as their custom is once a week, in order to stay at home to hear from Smith how it was that Bogall took him prisoner, as the Bashaw had written her, and whether Smith was a Bohemian lord conquered by the Bashaw's own hand, whose ransom could adorn her with the glory of her lover's conquests. Great must have been her disgust with Bogall when she heard that he had not captured this handsome prisoner, but had bought him in the slave-market at Axopolis. Her compassion for her slave increased, and the hero thought he saw in her eyes a tender interest. But she had no use for such a slave, and fearing her mother would sell him, she sent him to her brother, the Tymor Bashaw of Nalbrits in the country of Cambria, a province of Tartaria (wherever that may be). If all had gone on as Smith believed the kind lady intended, he might have been a great Bashaw and a mighty man in the Ottoman Empire, and we might never have heard of Pocahontas. In sending him to her brother, it was her intention, for she told him so, that he should only sojourn in Nalbrits long enough to learn the language, and what it was to be a Turk, till time made her master of herself. Smith himself does not dissent from this plan to metamorphose him into a Turk and the husband of the beautiful Charatza Tragabigzanda. He had no doubt that he was commended to the kindest treatment by her brother; but Tymor "diverted all this to the worst of cruelty." Within an hour of his arrival, he was stripped naked, his head and face shaved as smooth as his hand, a ring of iron, with a long stake bowed like a sickle, riveted to his neck, and he was scantily clad in goat's skin. There were many other slaves, but Smith being the last, was treated like a dog, and made the slave of slaves.

The geographer is not able to follow Captain Smith to Nalbrits. Perhaps Smith himself would have been puzzled to make a map of his own career after he left Varna and passed the Black Sea and came through the straits of Niger into the Sea Disbacca, by some called the Lake Moetis, and then sailed some days up the River Bruapo to Cambria, and two days more to Nalbrits, where the Tyrnor resided.

Smith wrote his travels in London nearly thirty years after, and it is difficult to say how much is the result of his own observation and how much he appropriated from preceding romances. The Cambrians may have been the Cossacks, but his description of their habits and also those of the "Crym-Tartars" belongs to the marvels of Mandeville and other wide-eyed travelers. Smith fared very badly with the Tymor. The Tymor and his friends ate pillaw; they esteemed "samboyses" and "musselbits" "great dainties, and yet," exclaims Smith, "but round pies, full of all sorts of flesh they can get, chopped with variety of herbs." Their best drink was "coffa" and sherbet, which is only honey and water. The common victual of the others was the entrails of horses and "ulgries" (goats?) cut up and boiled in a caldron with "cuskus," a preparation made from grain. This was served in great bowls set in the ground, and when the other prisoners had raked it thoroughly with their foul fists the remainder was given to the Christians. The same dish of entrails used to be served not many years ago in Upper Egypt as a royal dish to entertain a distinguished guest.

It might entertain but it would too long detain us to repeat Smith's information, probably all secondhand, about this barbarous region. We must confine ourselves to the fortunes of our hero. All his hope of deliverance from thraldom was in the love of Tragabigzanda, whom he firmly believed was ignorant of his bad usage. But she made no sign. Providence at length opened a way for his escape. He was employed in thrashing in a field more than a league from the Tymor's home. The Bashaw used to come to visit his slave there, and beat, spurn, and revile him. One day Smith, unable to control himself under these insults, rushed upon the Tymor, and beat out his brains with a thrashing bat "for they had no flails," he explains put on the dead man's clothes, hid the body in the straw, filled a knapsack with corn, mounted his horse and rode away into the unknown desert, where he wandered many days before he found a way out. If we may believe Smith this wilderness was more civilized in one respect than some parts of our own land, for on all the crossings of the roads were guide-boards. After traveling sixteen days on the road that leads to Muscova, Smith reached a Muscovite garrison on the River Don. The governor knocked off the iron from his neck and used him so kindly that he thought himself now risen from the dead. With his usual good fortune there was a lady to take interest in him "the good Lady Callamata largely supplied all his wants."

After Smith had his purse filled by Sigismund he made a thorough tour of Europe, and passed into Spain, where being satisfied, as he says, with Europe and Asia, and understanding that there were wars in Barbary, this restless adventurer passed on into Morocco with several comrades on a French man-of-war. His observations on and tales about North Africa are so evidently taken from the books of other travelers that they add little to our knowledge of his career. For some reason he found no fighting going on worth his while. But good fortune attended his return. He sailed in a man-of-war with Captain Merham. They made a few unimportant captures, and at length fell in with two Spanish men-of-war, which gave Smith the sort of entertainment he most coveted. A sort of running fight, sometimes at close quarters, and with many boardings and repulses, lasted for a couple of days and nights, when having battered each other thoroughly and lost many men, the pirates of both nations separated and went cruising, no doubt, for more profitable game. Our wanderer returned to his native land, seasoned and disciplined for the part he was to play in the New World. As Smith had traveled all over Europe and sojourned in Morocco, besides sailing the high seas, since he visited Prince Sigismund in December, 1603, it was probably in the year 1605 that he reached England. He had arrived at the manly age of twenty-six years, and was ready to play a man's part in the wonderful drama of discovery and adventure upon which the Britons were then engaged.