[This story was published in the New-York Weekly Magazine in eight weekly installments from July to September 1796. The installments are marked in the e-text with double rows of asterisks. For more about the story and its origins, see the end of the text.
Sets of two, four or more hyphens represent long dashes in the original. Sets of three hyphens —- are shown as printed.]
Interesting History of
THE PRINCESS DE PONTHIEU.
Translated from the French.
Among all the great families which flourished in France in the reign of Philip the First, the Count de St. Paul and the Count de Ponthieu were the most distinguished; but especially the Count de Ponthieu, who, possessing a great extent of dominion, maintained the title of sovereign with inconceiveable magnificence. He was a widower, and had an only daughter, whose wit and beauty, supported by the shining qualities of her father, made his court polite and sumptuous, and had attracted to it the bravest Cavaliers of that age. The Count de St. Paul had no children but a nephew, son of his sister, by the Sieur la Domar, who was the only heir of his title and possessions. This expectation was for the present his only fortune; but Heaven having formed him to please, he might be said to be one of those whose intrinsic worth is sufficient to render them superior to the rest of mankind: courage, wit, and a good mien, together with a high birth, made ample atonement for his want of riches. This young Cavalier having engaged the notice of the Count de Ponthieu in a tournament, where he had all the honour; he conceived so great an esteem for him, that he invited him to his court. The considerable advantages he offered him were so much above what the Count de St. Paul's nephew could for the present expect, that he embraced the proposals he made him with pleasure, and the Count thought himself happy in having prevailed on him to stay with him. Thibault, for so history calls this young Cavalier, was no sooner come to court, than the beauty of the princess inspired him with admiration, which soon ripened into love; and it was but in vain that reason opposed his passion, by representing how little he was in a condition to make any such pretensions. Love is not to be controuled, it is not to be repelled.—But in some measure to punish his temerity, he condemned himself to an eternal silence; yet, though his tongue was mute, the princess, who had as great a share of sensibility as beauty, soon perceived the effect of her charms written in his eyes, and imprinted in all his motions, and, in secret, rejoiced at the conquest she had gained. But the same reasons which obliged Thibault to conceal his sentiments, prevented her from making any discovery of her's, and it was only by the language of their glances, they told each other that they burned with a mutual flame.
As at that time there were great numbers of sovereign princes, there were very often wars between them; and as the Count de Ponthieu had the greatest extent of land, so he was the most exposed: But Thibault, by his courage and prudence, rendered him so formidable to his neighbours, that he both enlarged his dominions and made the possession of them secure. These important services added to that esteem the Count and Princess had for him before; but at last, a signal victory which he gained, and which was of the utmost consequence to the Count, carried the gratitude of that prince to such a height, that in the middle of his court, and among the joyful acclamations of the people, he embraced the young hero, and begged him to demand a reward for his great services; assuring him, that did he ask the half of his dominions, he should think himself happy in being able to give a mark of his tenderness and gratitude. Thibault, who had done nothing but with a view of rendering himself worthy of owning the passion he so long and painfully had concealed, encouraged by such generous offers, threw himself at the feet of the Count, telling him, that his ambition was entirely satisfied in having been able to do him any service; but that he had another passion more difficult to be pleased, which induced him to beg a favour, on which depended the whole felicity of his life. The Count pressed him to an explanation of these words, and swore to him by the faith of a knight, an oath inviolably sacred in those times, that there was nothing in his power he would refuse him. This promise entirely recovering the trembling lover from that confusion which the fears that accompany that passion had involved him in, "I presume then, my lord," said he, "to beg, I may have leave to declare myself the Princess's knight, and that I may serve and adore her in that quality. I am not ignorant," continued he, "of the temerity of my wishes, but if a crown be wanting to deserve her, let me flatter myself with the hope that this sword, already successful over your enemies, may one day, enforced by love, make my fortune worthy of the glory to which I aspire." The joy which appeared in the face of the Count at this demand, would be impossible to represent: he raised Thibault, and again tenderly embracing him, "My son," said he, "for so henceforth I call you, I pray heaven to dispose my daughter to receive your vows as favourably as I shall satisfy them." He took him by the hand with these words, and led him to the Princess's apartment; "Daughter," said he, "as I have nothing so dear to me as yourself, you alone can recompense the obligations I have to this young warrior.—The respect he has for you, makes him desire only to be entertained as your knight; but I come to let you know. I would have you receive him as your husband." The Princess blushing cast down her eyes; but being commanded to reply, she confessed the choice he had made for her was agreeable to her inclinations, and that it was with pleasure she submitted to her father's will. Thibault thanked the kind concession in terms that testified his excess of transport. The Count perceiving their mutual wishes, suffered them not to languish in expectation of a blessing he had resolved on; but gave immediate orders for the marriage preparations, and a few days after it was celebrated with the magnificence the occasion deserved. Hymen, in agreement with love, only rendered their flames more lasting; possession was so far from extinguishing them, that it seemed to be the torch which kindled them. The Count was charmed with the happy union he saw between them, and his heart could scarce decide which he most loved, his own daughter, or son-in-law.
* * * * * * * * *
Two years passed away without any other interruption of their joy, than the want of heirs; and though that no way diminished their love, yet it gave Thibault some uneasiness, which made him resolve on a progress to St. James of Gallicia; that age was not so corrupted as this is, the heroes fought as much to shew their piety as their courage; and what would now be thought a weakness, at that time gave a greater lustre to their virtue. It was not surprising therefore to see the valiant Thibault taking a resolution of going to Compostella; but the Princess not being able to bear a separation from so dear a husband, would needs accompany him, and join her vows with his; his unabated affection for her, made him receive the proposal with joy, and the Count de Ponthieu, always ready to oblige him, ordered an equipage to be got ready, worthy of those illustrious pilgrims, being willing that they should be well enough accompanied, to prevent any accident during their journey. They set out, and the hope of seeing them again in a little time, lessened the Count's affliction at the separation.
They got safe to a little village within a day's journey of Compostella; there Thibault stopped, to rest the Princess; and the next day, finding themselves somewhat fatigued, he sent his attendants before him to provide for their coming, that they might lose no time, retaining only his chamberlain. When they thought themselves sufficiently reposed, they set forward; but having learned there was a dangerous place in the forest, through which they were obliged to pass, the Prince sent his chamberlain to recal some of his people. Nevertheless they still went on, and their ill fortune engaged them in a road, which had so many cross ways to it, that they knew not which to take. The robbers had made an easy plain path, which led travellers into the most intricate part of the forest, getting numbers by this means into their power: it was this fatal one; the unhappy Thibault and his lady imagined to be in the right; but they soon perceived their error. When not having gone above two bow-shots into it they found it terminated in a thicket: out of which, before they could avoid them, rushed eight men completely armed, and surrounded them, commanding them to alight. Thibault had no arms, but his courage disdaining to yield obedience to these ruffians, made him answer in terms which let them see it must be to their number they must be obliged to force him: one of them thinking to do so, quitting his rank, made at him with his lance; but Thibault with an admirable dexterity avoided the blow, and seized the lance as it passed him, with the vigour of an arm accustomed to victory; then seeing himself in a state of defence, he set on them with an heroic fierceness, killing one immediately, and facing them all, pierced a second; but in attacking a third, the lance flew into a thousand shivers, and disabled him from resisting farther. The remaining five encompassing him, and killing his horse, seized him; and notwithstanding his efforts, and the piercing cries of the Princess, stripped him, and tied him fast to a tree, not being willing to steep their hands in the blood of so brave a man. The heat of the combat, and their eagerness in tearing off his rich habit, had hindered them from casting their eyes on the Princess; but she being now left alone, she appeared a more precious booty than what they had just taken. Love inspires virtuous minds with a desire of doing only great and noble actions, and in the hearts of any others than these barbarians, would have endeavoured to have insinuated itself by pity: but that virtue being unknown to them, the charms of this unfortunate lady only redoubled their cruelty. Their fury and brutality inflamed them; and no intreaty could deter such hardened wretches from being guilty of the most shameful crimes!—-What a spectacle was this for a husband!—-The soul of the wretched Thibault was torn with the most poignant anguish—-distracted at not being able either to succour, or revenge her, who was a thousand times dearer to him than his life—-he conjured heaven to strike him dead that moment—-all that can be conceived of horror, of misery, without a name, was his.—-But if his despair was more than words can represent, how much more was that of the afflicted Princess?—-she tore her hair and face, begged, threatened, struggled, till her delicate limbs had lost the power of motion; filled all the forest with her piercing cries, without making those relentless monsters recede from their design. Never woman so ardently wished to be beautiful, as she did to become deformed, she would have rejoiced so have had her lovely face that moment changed into the likeness of Medusa; but all her prayers and tears were ineffectual; victim of force and rage.—-The cruel leader of these fiends had just effected his diabolical intentions, when a sudden noise of the trampling of horses and the distant voices of men, forced them to fly. Fear, the companion of villainous actions, made them abandon their prey, and make off with incredible swiftness, so that the wretched Princess soon lost sight of them; but her irremediable misfortune, too present to her mind, to vanish with the authors of it, disordered her senses so cruelly, that abhorring herself, and believing she could no longer inspire her husband with any thing but contempt, she looked on him as one that was become her cruellest enemy; witness of her disgrace, her troubled imagination made her believe she ought to free herself from the only one who had the power of publishing it.—-Struck with the idea of being unworthy of his affection, all the love she had formerly bore him, now changed into hatred and fury; and becoming as barbarous as the very ruffians, who had just left her, she snatched up one of the dying villain's swords, and ran with her arm lifted up to take away the life of her wretched husband: but little accustomed to such actions, the blow fell on the cords which bound him, and gave him liberty to wrest the weapon from her hands.—-He discovered immediately her thoughts, and made use of the most moving softness to calm the tempest of her soul: "If," said he, "you could read my heart, you would find grief and pity only there—-with what alas! can I accuse you!—-What are you guilty of?—-I still am your husband—-still love you with the same unabated fondness—-am the only witness of your ill fortune; I'll hide it from the eyes of the world, nor shall you ever be sensible that I myself remember it—-seek not therefore by a blind fury to publish our mutual shame—-comfort yourself, and let us by sentiments of piety, endeavour to purify ourselves from an involuntary crime." In this manner did he talk to her, but all his love and tenderness made no impression on her mind—-she answered him only by her endeavours to snatch away the sword, and stab him. During this melancholy struggle their attendants arrived; they had also lost themselves, and having sought their master all over the forest, the noise of their horses, though then at a distance, had frighted the robbers, and saved the Princess from further violation.
Thibault took a cloak from one of his equipage, and having mounted his disconsolate lady on horseback, did the same himself, and in a short time arrived at Compostella, neither he nor she speaking a word. Deep affliction was imprinted in both their countenances; but the princess had a wildness in her eyes and air, that discovered the distraction of her mind. Thibault placed her in an abbey, and went and prostrated himself at the feet of the altars; not with the design he went for, but to beg of heaven to enable him to undergo so terrible an adventure. This act of piety being over, he returned to the Princess: who remaining still in the same humour, not being able to get any expressions from her but threats against his life, he took her out, and returned with all possible speed to Ponthieu, where they were received with a joy that they were not able to partake.
* * * * * * * * *
During their journey, and on their arrival, Thibault omitted no act of tenderness, to convince the Princess she was still as dear to him as ever; but finding all his protestations in vain, and that she concealed a dagger in the bed one night with an intent to assassinate him, he took a separate apartment, still endeavouring by his behaviour to her, to prevent the public from finding out the cause of their disagreement; and he was the more to be pitied, because he could not help loving her still with the same ardency as ever. In the mean time, the Count de Ponthieu perceived there was something more than ordinary between them, they could not hide it from his penetration; Thibault was overwhelmed with a secret melancholy—the Princess would be seen but rarely; her silence, and when she was obliged to speak, the incoherency of her words, in fine, all her actions implied a strange alteration, and made him resolve to oblige Thibault to a discovery of the cause.—-He defended himself a long time, but being too closely pressed by a prince, to whom he owed every thing, he at last revealed all the particulars of his misfortune to him, and painted his love, and the unjust fury of the Princess, in such moving colours, that the Count was so thoroughly affected, that he could scarce contain his anger against her. He pitied Thibault, comforted him, and promised him to speak to the Princess in a manner, which should oblige her to change her conduct. "Yours," said he, "is so prudent and so tender, that I cannot sufficiently admire it; and I hope my daughter will not always be insensible of it, but return to her duty."
He left him, and passed to the Princess's apartment, whom he found sitting in an elbow-chair; her head reclined, and in the posture of one buried in thought, her women round her in a profound silence. The Count making a sign for them to withdraw; "What, daughter," said he, "will you never lay aside this gloomy melancholy which so much troubles me, and astonishes my whole court.—-I know your misfortune, your generous husband has just discovered it to me—-I am very sensible of it, but much more so of his proceeding; who, notwithstanding your blind rage, has preserved so great a regard for you, as never to complain."
At these words, the Princess fixing her eyes full of fury on the face of her father, "How!" cried she, "has Thibault dared to reveal that secret to you?" "Ah Princess," interrupted the Count, "speak with more moderation of a man who adores you——think a moment, remember you have loved this husband——that I did not force you to accept of him, that your misfortune, dreadful as it is, has not impaired his esteem; you, in return, owe him the same affection and confidence; I desire it of you as a friend, and demand it of you as a parent and a sovereign. Make good use of the pity that pleads in my breast in your behalf—-and dread irritating me, lest I throw aside the father, and act wholly as a prince." This discourse, so far from softening the Princess, redoubled her distraction, and she discovered so much rage of temper to the Count, that he deferred, till a more favourable opportunity, the reclaiming her. He went out, ordering her to be strictly guarded in her apartment, and that she should not be suffered to have communication with any one but her women; and so returning to Thibault, informed him of the ill success he had met with. Yet he did not despair, but every day for a whole month made fresh attempts on her disordered mind; but every thing proving in vain, and her fury rather increasing than diminishing, he resolved to free his family of a woman whom he looked on as a monster.—-With this intent, on pretence of taking the air, he carried her with him in a shallop, and having got a considerable distance from shore, he ordered her to be seized by some sailors, and put into a tun prepared for that purpose, and closing it up again, thrown into the sea. After this cruel expedition he landed; but alas! what became of Thibault, when the other, still transported with rage, told him what he had done! how great was his affliction! and what reproaches did he not vent against so barbarous a father! He ran to the fatal place which he heard had been the grave of his unhappy Princess; but finding nothing that could flatter him with any hope of there being a possibility to save her, he returned to court in a condition truly pitiable;—-the many charms of his lost Princess dwelt for ever on his mind, and he thought himself the most miserable creature living, because he had it not in his power to revenge her. It was not long before the Count himself repented of the action, and his remorse became so great, that even the miserable Thibault endeavoured to mitigate it. At last it wore off, and he began to think a second marriage, and the hope of an heir, would dissipate his afflictions; and well knowing that his son-in-law would never engage himself again, he married, and was happy enough at the expiration of a year to have a son: yet his grief was not wholly vanished, his daughter came ever fresh into his memory, and the light of Thibault, who continued overwhelmed with the deepest melancholy, added to his despair.
In this manner they passed almost nine years, when the Count becoming once more a widower, resolved, together with Thibault, and his little son, to travel to the Holy Land, hoping by devotion to expiate his crime. Thibault, who now thought he had an opportunity of dying gloriously in fighting for the faith, readily embraced the proposal. Every thing was soon ready for the voyage, and the Count de Ponthieu having entrusted the government of his dominions to persons of confidence, they set out, and arrived safely at Jerusalem. The Count and Thibault engaged themselves for the space of a year in serving the temple, in which they had frequent opportunities of testifying their zeal and courage. The year finished, and their vows accomplished, they embarked in order to return. The winds were for some days favourable, but a most violent tempest succeeding the calm, they were so shook by the fury of it, that they expected nothing but death; when on a sudden, a contrary gust arising, drove them on the coast of Almeria, a land belonging to the infidels; they were soon surrounded by the barks and brigantines of the Saracens, and as the ship was incapable of putting to sea again, they were much less so in a condition of defence.
The Count de Ponthieu, the young Prince his son, and Thibault, were made prisoners, and thrown into dungeons; all the christians in the ship were served in the same manner, and so loaded with irons, that they immediately found they had been preserved from the rage of the sea, only to perish in a more cruel manner on land. Those heroes prepared themselves for death with a resolution worthy of their courage; but the infidels believing them a noble sacrifice, permitted them to live till the day on which they celebrated the birth of the Sultan, it being the custom of that country, to offer to their gods on that day a certain number of criminals, or christians.
* * * * * * * * *
The day being come, they were obliged to cast lots which of them should die first: the fatal chance fell on the Count de Ponthieu; his son and Thibault contended for the preference, but all they could obtain was, to wait on him to the place of execution. The whole court was assembled to see this spectacle—The Sultan was present himself, and his Sultaness, whose extraordinary beauty had attracted the eyes of all the Infidels, when they were drawn off by the arrival of the illustrious victims, that were going to be sacrificed to the honour of the day. But that Queen, whose soul was as perfect as her body, was surprized at the majestic air of the Count de Ponthieu, who was as yet at a great distance from her: his venerable age, and the contempt with which he seemed to look on his approaching fate, made her order him to be brought nearer to her; he being a stranger, she let down her veil, the women of that country never suffering themselves to be seen by any but Saracens.
As he approached, she found emotions which at that time she knew not had any other source than pity; but having attentively looked on his face, she soon discovered the true cause: but making use of her utmost efforts to prevent her disorder from being taken notice of, she asked him his name, of what country he was, and by what accident he had been taken. The softness of her voice, and the manner of her delivery, gave him a sensible alarm, though he knew not the meaning of it—He answered her without hesitation, that he was of France, and of the sovereignty of Ponthieu. "Are you here alone?" demanded the Queen. "I have two companions in my misfortunes," replied he, "my son and my son-in-law." The Queen ordered them immediately to be brought to her; and having heedfully observed them for some time, ordered the sacrifice to be suspended, and ran to the throne where the Sultan was sitting, and throwing herself at his feet "My lord," said she "if ever I have been happy enough to please you, and may flatter myself with your affection, grant me the lives of these three slaves: they are of my country, and pity makes me interest myself for them, and I hope your clemency will be rewarded by the merit of those I am going to bind to your service." The Sultan, who adored her, raised her tenderly; "You are mistress of my fate, madam," replied he, "can I refuse you then the being so of that of those strangers? Dispose of them as you please, I give them entirely up to you, without reserving to myself any right over them." She thanked him, in terms full of gratitude and respect, and returning to the noble captives, informed them of their pardon; and being secretly too much disordered to stay till the conclusion of the feast, she ordered them to follow her to her apartment; where seeing herself alone with them, she was obliged to renew her efforts, to conceal the confusion of her soul; and assuming an air of as much fierceness as she could, which was heightened by a natural majesty; "I have saved your lives," said she, "and you may judge by such a proof of my power, that I have authority enough to put you again into the same danger; resolve therefore to satisfy my curiosity, in discovering without disguise all your adventures: I give you till to-morrow to prepare yourselves; I must know your names, qualities, and by what strange accident fate brought you into this country—-if you are sincere you may expect every thing from my goodness." Thibault who had not ventured to lift his eyes upon her while they were before the Sultan, now endeavoured to discover, with the nicest penetration, her beauties; which the thin gauze, of which her veil was made, did not altogether conceal. The dazzling lustre of her sparkling eyes, and the thousand charms which played about her lovely mouth, notwithstanding this impediment, were not wholly obscured from the view. The daring gazer found himself agitated with emotions, which had been unknown to him since the death of his unhappy wife. He felt a pleasure in contemplating this adorable queen, which nothing but itself could equal; and perceiving the Count was silent, perhaps kept so by sentiments which he knew not how to account for, he threw himself at her feet; "As for me, madam," said he, "it will not be the fears of death that would prevail on me to relate the particulars of a life which has been full of such unheard-of woes, that what to others would be the greatest dread, to me would be a blessing—-but there is something far more terrible than what you have named, the abusing a generosity such as yours, prevents me from concealing any part of what you command me to disclose—-if therefore the recital of our misfortunes can testify our acknowledgments, depend on our sincerity."
All the resolution which she had assumed for this rencounter, had like to have forsook her at so moving a discourse; but making a new effort, "Rise," said she, "your destiny promises something very touching, I am concerned in it more than you can yet imagine. The Sultan will soon appear, therefore I would have you retire, you shall want for nothing this palace can afford, recover yourselves of your fears and fatigues, and to-morrow you shall receive my orders; and till then, I will defer the history I have engaged you to give me." She then called a slave in whom she entirely confided; "Sayda," said she to her, "conduct them as I have ordered;" and then making a sign to them to withdraw, they obeyed, and followed the slave. As they went out they heard the Queen sigh, and neither of them could forbear doing so too—-Thibault, who quitted her with regret, returning to look on her once more, perceiving she put her handkerchief to her eyes to wipe away some tears, he could not restrain his own. Sayda led them to a little apartment behind the Queen's, it consisted of three rooms, and at the end an arched gallery, where the fruit was kept that was every day served up to her table.—-"This," said Sayda, "is the only service the Sultaness expects from you; she could not have placed you so commodiously, without giving you some employment that required your attendance near her person, you must therefore take care of this fruit, put it in order in baskets provided for that use, and present it to her at her repasts—-under this pretence you may possess these apartments, and be served by the slaves appointed for that purpose—-you are to be subservient only to the Sultan and Sultaness."
In speaking these words, she quitted them, leaving them in an inconceivable surprize at all they had seen. When they were by themselves, Thibault, who could no longer contain in his breast the different agitations which crouded one on another, and seemed to struggle for utterance, approached the Count, and tenderly embracing him; "What a woman is this Queen, my lord," said he, "and by what miracle does she reign over these barbarians! what have we done to deserve her generous care of us! Ah! my lord, I find her companion dangerous—-Alas! my dear Princess!" added he, "you alone were wont to raise these emotions in my soul!" "I don't know," replied the Count, "what will be our fate, or what are the designs of the Queen: her goodness does not affect me as it does you; you are young, and your heart still preserves a fund of passion, which may cause more violent perturbations in it than mine; yet I own, I have felt for her the tenderness of a father; and that when she spoke, my daughter came into my mind—-But I am afraid, my dear Thibault, that you will doubly lose your liberty in this fatal place." Thibault made no other answer than by sighs; and some refreshments being brought in, they were forced to drop a discourse, that did not admit of witnesses.
The Queen, in the mean time, was too much interested in the affairs of the day to be very easy, and was no sooner left alone with her dear Sayda, than giving a loose to the transports she had so long restrained, her beautiful face was bathed all over in tears. The faithful slave, astonished at her excess of grief, kneeled down at her feet, and taking one of her hands; "Alas! madam," said she, "what is this sudden misfortune—-are these strangers come to trouble the tranquility you were beginning to enjoy!—-you have hitherto honoured me with your confidence—-may I not now know what has occasioned this grief?" "Ah! dear Sayda," replied her royal mistress, "let not appearances deceive you.—Love, joy, nature, and fear, makes me shed tears much more than any grief—-that husband so dear to me, and of whom thou hast heard me speak so much, is one of the captives whose lives I have saved—-the other is my father, and the young lad my brother. The horror of seeing my father die for the diversion of a people to whom I am Queen, has pierced me with so lively an affliction, that I wonder the apprehension of it did not a second time deprive me of my reason—-my husband, partaker of the same fate, his melancholy, his resignation before me, his looks full of that love and tenderness which once made my happiness, has touched my soul in the most nice and delicate part: I dare not discover myself, before I know their sentiments; and the constraint I have put on myself, has been such, as nature scarce can bear—-Preserve my secret, dear Sayda, and don't expose me again to tremble for lives on which my own depends." "Doubt not of my fidelity, madam," answered the other, "'tis inviolable, my religion, your goodness which I have so often experienced, and the confidence with which you have honoured me, have attached me to your service till death."
* * * * * * * * *
These assurances entirely satisfied the Queen, and they consulted together on measures by which they might be at liberty to entertain the illustrious slaves the next day. The Sultan's coming in, put an end to their conversation for this time. This Prince, who had no other defect than his being a Saracen, accosted her with that joy, which his having had it in his power to oblige her, gave him—-"Well madam," said he, "can you doubt of my love!—-may I flatter myself, that what I have done will dispel the grief and melancholy that has so long possessed you?"—-"I owe you every thing, my lord," said she, "and my whole endeavours shall be to express my gratitude." The Sultan, charmed to find her in so good a humour, entertained her a little longer, and then told her (for he was just come from council) that it was resolved to oppose vigorously an irruption that a neighbouring prince had made into his dominions, and that war was going to be declared immediately.
This news inspired the Queen with a thought, which succeeded to her wish; and being willing to take advantage of the disposition she found the Sultan in, of granting her every thing; "Heaven," said she, "favours me in an extraordinary manner, in giving me an opportunity of acknowledging your goodness. One of the captives, my lord, whom you have given me, is the most valiant man of his time, nor is his conduct in war inferior to his courage, which the wonders he has done evinces. I am almost assured you will have the victory, if you permit him to combat the enemy." The Sultan remonstrated to her the difference of their religions, and the little assurance he could have in the faith of a Christian. "I'll be the pledge of his fidelity; and the better to assure you, I'll keep the two other captives, who are, I know, very dear to him, as hostages." The Sultan seemed satisfied with these words, and granted her request, leaving her absolute mistress to act in this affair as she pleased; and retired to his apartment, much more affected with the joy of obliging her, than disturbed at the success of the war.
The beautiful Queen passed the night in very different emotions; love had renewed his forces in her soul, nature that did for a while revolt at the remembrance of the cruelty inflicted on her, returned to its obedience, and was wholly taken up with the fear of not being loved, and remembered enough to be acknowledged, when discovered, with the joy she wished.——The Counts of Ponthieu and St. Paul spent not their hours more quietly. Thibault found himself agitated with the perturbations of a dawning passion; he accused himself of it as a crime. The Count was no less embarrassed about his, tho' he was very well assured they proceeded not from love, but the prodigious resemblance he found between his daughter and this lovely Queen, reminded him of the barbarity he had been guilty of.——He could not imagine there had been a possibility of saving that unhappy princess; but the tenderness with which the Sultaness had inspired him, was so near that he felt for his daughter, that it gave him an astonishment not to be conceived.
Day appearing, they rose, and set themselves about preparing the fruit, as Sayda had ordered them; which done, they were not long before they received a command to bring it to the Queen. Nothing could be more pleasing than this commission; both found an undescribable impatience to see her again, and followed the faithful slave 'till they came into her presence. They found her dressed with an incredible magnificence, resplendent with an infinite number of diamonds; she was reclined on a sofa, and after having looked a moment on them, "Well," said she, "are you ready to satisfy me?—-I will not give you the pains of relating your names and qualities, neither are unknown to me; only tell me by what strange adventure you arrived at this place.—-Count de Ponthieu, it is to you in particular I address."
The Count was in a surprize which cannot be expressed, to hear himself named, and finding there was indeed no room for dissimulation, told his story with sincerity; but when he came to that part which concerned his daughter, his sighs made many interruptions in his discourse, yet did he forget no circumstance, but confessed the crime he had been guilty of, in putting her to death: "But alas!" added he, "with what remorse has my soul been torn since that fatal day!—-my tenderness for her revived with fresh vigour, and the torments I have endured, have been such, that if her spirit has any knowledge of what is transacted in this lower world, she must believe my punishment at least equal to my guilt."—-Then he told her of their vow, their voyage to Jerusalem, the tempest, and their slavery and condemnation.—-"This, madam," said he, "is a faithful account of our misfortunes; and though they are of a nature beyond the common rank of woes, yet they receive no inconsiderable alleviation, by the concern your excessive goodness makes you take in them."—-And, indeed, the fair Sultaness, during the latter part of his relation, had seemed drowned in tears, and was some time before she could recover herself enough to speak; but at last—-"I own," said she, "that what you have told me, very much touches me.—I extremely pity the Princess of Ponthieu, she was young, her reason might have returned to her; the generous proceeding of her husband, would doubtless have reclaimed her in time: but Heaven has punished you for your cruelty, you must not therefore be any more reproached with it. But to prove your penitence sincere, what reception would you give that Princess if by any miracle, which I cannot at present conceive, she should have escaped that destiny your rashness exposed her to?" "Ah madam!" cried the Count, "were there a possibility of such a blessing, my whole life should be employed in rendering hers fortunate!" "And you," said she to Thibault, who she saw overwhelmed in tears, "would your wife be dear to you? Could you forgive her distracted behaviour? Could you restore her to your heart, as fond, as tender as ever?—in short, could you still love her?"—"Question it not, madam," answered he, with a voice interrupted with sighs, "nothing but her presence can ever make me happy."—"Receive her, then," cried she, casting aside her veil, and throwing herself into his arms, "I am that unfortunate wife—I am that daughter," added she, running to her father, "that has cost you so many melancholy hours. Own her, my lord; take her to your breast, my dear Thibault, nor let the sight of her dissipate the tenderness you expressed for her when unknown."
Who can describe the joy and astonishment of these illustrious persons! their eyes were now opened, the secret emotions they had felt, were now easy to be accounted for.—-She was acknowledged for the wife, blessed as the daughter, with a torrent of inexpressible delight. Thibault threw himself at her feet, bathing her hands in tears of joy; while the Count held her in his arms, without being able to utter more than—-my daughter—-my dear—-my long lost daughter.—-The young Prince kissed her robe; and Sayda, only witness of this moving scene, dissolved in tears of tenderness and joy.—-At length the first surprise being over, this mute language was succeeded by all the fond endearing things that nature, wit, and love had the power of inspiring. The beautiful Queen had now time to return the caresses of the young Prince her brother, who, though she knew no otherwise than by her father's account, his youth and beauty had very much affected her from the first time she saw him.—-After having a little indulged their transports, "It is time," said she, "to inform you of my adventures. The Sultan is taken up with making preparations for a war he is obliged to enter into, so that we may have the liberty of conversing, without the apprehension of being interrupted."——Then having seated themselves, and Sayda being placed on the outside of the cabinet, to give them notice if any suspicious person should appear, the charming Sultaness addressing herself to the Count, began her discourse in this manner:
"I will not repeat," said she, "the cause of your designing my death, you are but too sensible of it, and the loss of my reason is too well known to you for me to go about to renew the affliction it occasioned you: I shall only say, that it was excess of love which caused my distraction, and being prepossessed with an idea of being no longer worthy of my husband's affection, imagining that I saw him reproaching me with my misfortune, and endeavouring to get rid of me; I was so abandoned by my senses, as to wish his death, as the only thing that could restore me to my repose. This thought so wholly engrossed my soul, that I looked on the sentence you inflicted on me, as caused by him; my frenzy prevented the horror of my fate from making any impression on me; and you may remember, Sir, that I neither endeavoured by intreaties or strugglings to avert it, being rather in a state of insensibility than any thing else. Which course my little vessel steered, or how long I continued in it, I know not—-all I can tell, is, that I found myself in a real ship, in the midst of a great many unknown persons, busily employed in bringing me to myself; but what is most surprising, I recovered my sight, memory and reason, at the same instant; whether it was owing to the common effect which the fear of death has, or to the property of the sea, or, to judge better, the work of heaven: but all I had said, or done, or thought, came into my mind, and I found myself so guilty against you and my husband, that the first sign of life that my deliverers perceived in me, was by shedding an excessive shower of tears; which was the more violent, because I had never wept since that fatal adventure in the forest: and indeed I thought, as did all about me, that they would have suffocated me; but so much care was taken of me, that without putting an end to my affliction, my life was out of danger.
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"The people of the ship had placed about me a young woman extremely amiable;—the tenderness she expressed for the griefs she saw I was involved in, made me conceive a very great friendship for her; and, indeed, as she was the only woman there, it was natural for us to be more than ordinarily pleased with each other. When she found me a little composed, she informed me that we were with Flemish merchants, who were trading to the Levant; that having perceived from deck my extraordinary tomb, the hope of finding something valuable in it, had made them take it aboard; but having opened it, they were surprised to see a woman richly habited: that at first they thought me dead, because I was very much swelled, but having placed me in the open air, a little motion of my heart gave them hope of recovering me; that accordingly, with great difficulty, they effected it; and finding, as they thought, some beauty in me, they resolved, at the expence of my liberty, to make themselves amends for having found nothing but me in the tun. ''Tis with this design,' added she, 'that we are sailing towards Almeria, where these merchants design to sell you to the Sultan of that place: it is now six months since they took me away from the coast of France, which is my native country, on the same account; but I very well foresee that your beauty will preserve me from being exposed to the Sultan's desires: yet, as I cannot avoid slavery, I beg, madam, that you will not let me be separated from you. The Sultan will without doubt buy you; contrive it so, that he may think I am a dependant of yours.' I was very glad to have a French woman with me, so promised her, that whatever was my fate, she should, if she pleased, share it with me; but what she had told me, giving me great uneasiness, I desired to speak with the captain of the ship. I began with thanking him for the succour he had given me, and thinking to have gained him with the hope of a reward, I assured him it should be made even beyond his wishes, if he would land me on the coast of France. He answered me that he doubted not my generosity, nor my being considerable enough to recompense the service he had done me; but that he could not follow his own inclination in doing what I desired him, because he was accountable to his companions, who had resolved to sell me and the other young French woman to the Sultan of Almeria: that they knew would be certain gain to them, without running the risque of what my promises might produce. With these words he returned to his companions, and gave me not leave no answer him; I made several other efforts, but finding it impossible to persuade them to alter their resolutions, I was obliged to submit to my ill destiny. In proportion, as I recovered my reason, my affection to my dear Thibault resumed its empire over my soul.—I was sensible of the whole extent of my misfortunes, and my despair would perhaps have kept no bounds, if it had not been for the prudence and good-nature of my young companion. Yet for all her cares, I fell into such a melancholy, as frighted the merchant, lest I should lose the lustre of my beauty, of which he proposed to himself so great an advantage.
"At length they arrived at Almeria, and we were immediately led to the Sultan. As he was accustomed to traffic with those people, he received them perfectly well, and was so well pleased with their prize, that he gave them their demand both for myself and Sayda. We were placed in the palace of the Sultan's women, where he soon followed us; and I had the misfortune of affecting him in so extraordinary a manner, that he seemed to make his loving me an affair of state.—I call that a misfortune, which any one but me would have looked on as the highest felicity: for I owe the Sultan the justice to say, that he is full of merit, and adorned with the most heroic virtues; but I was a christian, and prepossessed with a passion, which left no room for any other; I therefore considered his assiduity as my worst of troubles. This prince perceiving my regard for Sayda, gave her to me; (Sayda is a name I made her assume to conceal her own.) He placed me, in an apartment different from those the rest of the women were lodged in, and commanded that I should be served as queen. All these honours added to my uneasiness; yet the submission with which he treated me, gave me sometimes a hope he never would have recourse to force that which I was resolved never to grant; but alas! this prince at last, worn out with his own consuming passion and the continual murmurs of his subjects, who could ill endure he should express so much consideration for a christian, resolved to speak to me in stronger terms than he had hitherto done. My resistance had lasted a whole year, and he thought he had sufficiently testified his respect, in allowing me so long a time: he came to me therefore one day, and finding me extremely melancholy, 'Madam,' said he, 'it is with great regret I find myself obliged to exceed the bounds I have prescribed myself in gaining your heart, but you must now consent either to marry me or publicly abjure your religion; all my power cannot exempt you from the laws which oblige the women of the seraglio to embrace our faith.—-I adore you, and though I ought to compel you to a change so beneficial to you, yet I will not, since it is not your desire.—I promise you the free exercise of your religion in private, provided you accept of the crown I offer you;—-my subjects, and all my court, will then believe you have changed your religion, without seeking any further proofs, and you will be at liberty to observe your own in secret:—-this is the only means to preserve you from the fury of a people, who, when enraged, have no regard even for their sovereign. It would have been more agreeable to me, if my love and attentions had engaged you; but I hope time will inspire your heart with those sentiments, that will be conducive to my felicity, and your repose.' I could not refrain from tears at this discourse of the Sultan:—-the choice appeared terrible to me; 'Is it possible, my lord!' replied I, 'that among the number of beauties who would be proud of the honour you offer me, you cannot find one more worthy than myself? If you had not distinguished me, your subjects would have thought nothing of me.—-Consider, my lord, what glory you might gain by subduing your passion, and suffering me to return to my native country.—-What felicity can it be, to live with a woman obtained but by fear and force, who will always be regretting her parents and liberty.'
"The Sultan smiled at these words; 'I see, madam,' said he, 'that you are ignorant of your own condition—-you are in this place for life—-when once a woman has entered within these walls, there is no hope of ever getting out again, law and custom have decreed it so. Therefore you are more obliged to me than you imagined, for the respect I have paid you, being from the first moment the master of your destiny.' I then intreated he would give me three days to answer him; he granted my request, and I spent them in prayers: but at length seeing myself without any hope of relief, or ever returning to my country, that my death there was thought certain, and that I had no means of letting you know I was living, or if I had, could not promise myself, that, since you had consented to my death, the news would find a welcome: I looked on myself as utterly abandoned; and the facility of following in private my own devotions, determined me, in submitting to the Sultan's persuasions. The three days being expired, he came to me again, and I then told him, that if he would swear never to force me to alter my religion, I was ready to give him my hand. His joy at my consent was inconceiveable; and though he saw plainly that what I did was out of necessity, he assured me he thought himself the happiest man on earth, and bound himself by an oath sacred in their law, to suffer me to exercise my own religion, provided I took care not to be discovered.
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"This news was soon blazed through all Almeria, and fated ever to be guilty of constrained infidelities, I was proclaimed and crowned Sultana Queen, with a magnificence that would have dazzled any one but the Princess de Ponthieu. During the whole ceremony, the image of Thibault never quitted me, I spoke to it, begged its pardon, in short, I was so lost in thought, that Sayda has since told me I had more the appearance of a statue than a living person. As for you, my lord, I often reproached your cruelty, that had brought me to the precipice in which I found myself. There has not passed one day in the nine years I have been married to the Sultan, on which I have not talked of my dear Thibault to the faithful Sayda, with a torrent of tears. The Sultan has kept his word with me, all his court thinks me a Renegada, he alone knows the truth, and without reproaching me with my melancholy, has done his utmost to disperse it. The same respect and complaisance has always accompanied his actions, and you yourselves have been witnesses of my power, by his granting me without hesitation your lives. I knew you again the first moment I saw your faces, and should have discovered myself yesterday, but had a mind to know whether my memory was yet dear. These are my unhappy adventures; but this is not all I have to say: You must, my dear Thibault, in order to regain your wife and liberty, expose your life to fresh dangers: speak, do you think me worthy of so great a testimony of your continued love and tenderness?" "You cannot make a doubt of it," answered he, "without being guilty of a greater offence than all your distraction made you act——I swear to you, my dear Princess, by the pleasure I had in obtaining you from your father, by the felicity I enjoyed in being beloved by you, by my misfortune, and by the joy I feel in seeing you again, that I never adored you with more ardour than I now do——Fear not therefore to explain yourself, command me, dispose of me as you please." The fair Sultaness was charmed with this tender assurance, and there being nobody present that she suspected, she again embraced her much loved husband, and then told him what she had proposed to the Sultan. "'Tis of the utmost importance," added she, "that you should gain his confidence by some signal service, that my designs may the better succeed—he has already lost several battles, through the ill conduct of his generals; but if you fight for him I doubt not of the victory.—He cannot refuse you his esteem, which will enable me to put my project in execution."
The Count and Thibault approved of what she said; but the young Prince begged she would contrive it so, that he might accompany his brother to the army, his youthful heart burning with impatience to behold so noble a sight; but the Queen told him she could not possibly gratify those testimonies of so early a courage, though she admired them, because she had given her promise to the Sultan, that both he and his father should remain at court as hostages for the fidelity of Thibault. After some further discourse, and renewed embraces, she ordered them to retire, it growing towards the hour in which the Sultan was used to visit her. They were scarce out of the room, before that Prince entered; and having asked her if the valiant captain agreed with her intentions: "Yes, my lord," replied she, "he is impatient to express by his services the grateful sense he has of his obligation to us." The Sultan immediately commanded they should all three be brought before him; and observing them more heedful than he had done before, was infinitely charmed with their good mien: the venerable age, and commanding aspect of the Prince of Ponthieu, excited his respect; the beauty and vivacity of the young Prince, his admiration; but in the noble air, and manly graces of the accomplished Thibault, he fancied he discovered an assurance he would be able to answer the character the Sultaness had given of him—The more he considered him, the more he found to increase his love and esteem for him.—-"The Sultaness," said he, "who has saved your life, will needs, out of love for me, and respect for you, have you expose it in my service.—-I see nothing about you but what serves to convince me I do not err, when I place entire confidence in you: therefore you must prepare to set out to-morrow, I have in my council declared you general. My subjects are fatigued, and heartless with continual losses, and though you are a christian, my soldiers will with joy obey you, if your valour does but answer their expectations, and the character they have of you." After Thibault had in the most handsome and submissive manner assured him of his zeal and fidelity, that prince proceeded to give him those instructions which were necessary; and retiring, left him, to receive those of the Sultaness.
He was no sooner gone, than turning towards Thibault, "You are going to fight against infidels," said she, "tho' you fight for one; but, my dear husband! consult my repose as well as your own courage, and fight to conquer, not to die;—-remember I expose you, that I may the better save you." He thanked her for her obliging fears, and promised to combat only to preserve his honour, and gain the opportunity to deliver her.—-It being time to retire, they quitted the Queen's apartment, and returning to their own, a slave brought up Thibault, a stately vest and sabre, adorned with precious stones, a present to him from the Sultan; he put them on, and attended that prince at dinner, who saw him with pleasure. They discoursed on the different methods of making war, and the Sultan found his new general so consummate in the art, that he assured himself of victory: he then presented him to the chief men of his court. The rest of the day was employed in reviewing the troops that were in Almeria. As he was to go the next, he begged of the Sultaness by Sayda, that he might be permitted to bid her adieu without any witnesses; the fair Queen, who desired it with equal ardour, appointed night for the interview:—-so when all was quiet in the palace, he was introduced by that faithful slave into the apartment of his dear Princess. Then it was, that this long separated husband and wife, now more in love, if possible, than ever, renewed their protestations of everlasting affection, and, forgetting the rest of the world, gave a loose to the raptures of being once more blessed, and the soft hope of re-uniting themselves, no more to be divided. Thus the best part of the night passed, and day would have surprised them, had not Sayda given them notice it was time to part. The Sultaness wept, and Thibault was extremely moved, but reason reassuming its empire, they embraced and bade each other adieu, and begged heaven they might soon meet again. He went not to bed, employing the remaining hours in taking leave of the Count de Ponthieu, and the young Prince his son.—-He recommended his dear Princess to the former, intreating him to neglect no opportunities of being with her. He then repaired to the Sultan, to receive his last commands, and set out with a cheerfulness that seemed to presage success.
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During his absence, the watchful policy of the fair Sultaness contrived to acquire a great number of creatures, ready to undertake any thing to serve her; she caused several favours to be conferred on them, through the interest the Count had with the Sultan. He was now grown prodigiously in his favour—The Sultan used frequently to divert himself with hunting, it was an exercise he extremely loved, and the Count understanding it perfectly, was always one of the party.—The expresses which were continually brought of the victories Thibault had gained over the enemy, increased the Sultan's esteem for the two hostages. Three months passed thus, with creating new friends on the Queen's side, and confidence on the Sultan's; but the joy of both, though for different reasons was compleated, when a courier arrived with the news that the conquering Thibault had entirely vanquished, cut the whole army of the foe in pieces, killed their prince with his own hand, and not only recovered the dominion they had taken from the Sultan, but also added that of the bold invader to his empire.—These glorious actions were celebrated in Almeria by great rejoicings;—nothing was talked of but the bravery of the captive, and the obligations both king and people had to him. As for him, when he found no more enemies to combat, he made haste to garrison the conquered places, and having deputed such governors as he thought were faithful, returned in triumph to Almeria. The Sultan received him as his guardian angel, restored him his liberty, and pressed him to accept the greatest places in his empire, if he would change his religion; but the other gave him to understand, though with the greatest respect, that he could not embrace his favours, but assured him he would stay at his court as long as he should be wanted. This refusal was so far from incensing, that the Sultan gave him the greater esteem for it; and this illustrious warrior became so considerable at the court of Almeria, that nothing was done but by his advice. The Sultaness finding the success of her project, now thought it time to put the finishing stroke to it. She pretended to be with child, and that the air of Almeria did not agree with her; a Renegada physician, that she had gained to her interest, assured the Sultan that her life would be in danger, if she did not remove from where the was; that prince alarmed by the tenderness he had for her, begged her to make choice of any of his houses of pleasure, to go and reside in.—The Sultaness pitched on one which was by the seaside, and the way to which was by sea.—The Sultan immediately gave orders for the equipping a galley, and the Queen took care to fill it with persons entirely devoted to her interest.—When every thing was ready, she begged the Sultan that she might be accompanied thither by the French cavalier, for the security of her person; as for the Count de Ponthieu and his son, there was no occasion for asking leave for their attendance, because they belonged immediately to her. The Sultan made no scruple of granting every thing she desired, and she embarked with her father, her brother, and husband, and the faithful Sayda; taking with her a son of seven years old, which she had by the Sultan, leaving in Almeria a daughter that was still at the breast. Heaven seeming to favour their designs, they were no sooner got to sea, than our warriors, seconded by the Queen's creatures, obliged the slaves of the galley to row directly to Brindes, where they happily arrived. The Princess gave the christian slaves their liberty, and put in their places all the Saracens she could purchase, with orders to give the Sultan the following letter:
The Princess of Ponthieu to the Sultan of Almeria.
"If I had only your generosity to have combated, I would have discovered to you the cause which urged me to this flight—convinced, that you would rather have favoured than opposed it; but your love and religion being insurmountable obstacles, I was obliged to make use of artifice to be just.—I quit you not, my lord, through inconstancy, I follow my husband, my father, and my brother, who were the three captives whose lives you granted me; my husband having exposed his for your glory, and the security of your dominions, has, in part, acquitted me of the obligations I owe you.—I am a christian, and was a sovereign before your wife; judge therefore, whether my rank and religion did not demand this of me.—-I shall always with gratitude remember the honour you have done me; I have left you my daughter, being obliged to abandon her on account of her youth:—-Look on her, I intreat you, with the eyes of a father.—-I wish you all the happiness you deserve, and shall with fervency beg of Heaven to bless you with that divine illumination, which is the only thing in which your heroic virtues are deficient.
The Sultan saw the galley return, and received the Princess's letter, while she was prosecuting her journey to Rome; he was inconceivably afflicted at the news, but his reason at length getting the better of his despair, he endeavoured to comfort himself, by transplanting all the tenderness he had paid the mother to the little daughter. In the mean time, our illustrious fugitives arrived at Rome; where they were received by the Pope with extraordinary honours; and after having reconciled the Princess and Sayda to the bosom of the church, they departed, loaded with presents and favours to Ponthieu, where the unanimous joy of the people for their return is not to be expressed. The Count dying some time after, his son inherited his dominions; but that young prince not long surviving, he left the sovereignty to the Princess his sister, who with her husband reigned a long time in perfect glory and happy unity. The son she had by the Sultan, married a rich Heiress of Normandy, from whom are descended the lords of Preau; and the princess, who was left behind with the Sultan, was married to a Saracen prince, and from a daughter of that princess was born the famous Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, so known and dreaded by all christianity.
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About the Story:
The present version is taken from the New-York Weekly Magazine. Neither the translator nor the original author are identified. A book with the same title was published a few years later; it may have been the same story or a longer version.
The printed text used marginal quotation marks. Handling of mid-line opening and closing quotes was sometimes inconsistent.
... what has occasioned this grief?" [missing close quote] which the wonders he has done evinces. [evinces..] from the first time she saw him [from the the] the apprehension of being interrupted." [missing close quote]