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- A Word Only A Word, Volume 4. - 6/10 -
the other did not follow instantly, for his friend Don Miguel had joined him, and asked to share the adventure. Navarrete and the captain strove to dissuade the sick man, but the latter suddenly felt cured of his fever, and with flashing eyes insisted on having his own way.
Ulrich did not wait for the end of the dispute, for Farnese was now springing into the hostile ship, and the former, with a bold leap, followed.
Alexander, like himself, carried a two-Banded sword, and both swung them as mowers do their scythes. They attacked, struck, felled, and the foremost foes shrank from the grim destroyers. Mustapha Pacha, the treasurer and captain of the galley, advanced in person to confront the terrible Christians, and a sword-stroke from Alexander shattered the hand that held the curved sabre, a second stretched the Moslem on the deck.
But the Turks' numbers were greatly superior and threatened to crush the heroes, when Don Miguel Cervantes, Ulrich's friend, appeared with twelve fresh soldiers on the scene of battle, and cut their way to the hard- pressed champions. Other Spanish and Genoese warriors followed and the fray became still more furious.
Ulrich had been forced far away from his royal companion-in-arms, and was now swinging his blade beside his invalid friend. Don Miguel's breast was already bleeding from two wounds, and he now fell by Ulrich's side; a bullet had broken his left arm.
Ulrich stooped and raised him; his men surrounded him, and the Turks were scattered, as the tempest sweeps clouds from the mountain.
Don Miguel tried to lift the sword, which had dropped from his grasp, but he only clutched the empty air, and raising his large eyes as if in ecstasy, pressed his hand upon his bleeding breast, exclaiming enthusiastically: "Wounds are stars; they point the way to the heaven of fame-of-fame...."
His senses failed, and Ulrich bore him in his strong aims to a part of the treasure-ship, which was held by Genoese soldiers. Then he rushed into the fight again, while in his ears still rang his friend's fervid words:
"The heaven of fame!"
That was the last, the highest aim of man! Fame, yes surely fame was the "word"; it should henceforth be his word!
It seemed as if a gloomy multitude of heavy thunderclouds had gathered over the still, blue arm of the sea. The stifling smoke of powder darkened the clear sky like black vapors, while flashes of lightning and peals of thunder constantly illumined and shook the dusky atmosphere.
Here a magazine flew through the air, there one ascended with a fierce crash towards the sky. Wails of pain and shouts of victory, the blare of trumpets, the crash of shattered ships and falling masts blended in hellish uproar.
The sun's light was obscured, but the gigantic frames of huge burning galleys served for torches to light the combatants.
When twilight closed in, the Christians had gained a decisive victory. Don Juan had killed the commander-in-chief of the Ottoman force, Ali Pacha, as Farnese hewed down the treasurer. Uncle and nephew emerged from the battle as heroes worthy of renown, but the glory of this victory clung to Don Juan's name.
Farnese's bold assault was kindly rebuked by the commander-in-chief, and when the former praised Navarrete's heroic aid before Don Juan, the general gave the bold warrior and gallant trooper, the honorable commission of bearing tidings of the victory to tile king. Two galleys stood out to sea in a westerly direction at the same time: a Spanish one, bearing Don Juan's messenger, and a Venetian ship, conveying the courier of the Republic.
The rowers of both vessels had much difficulty in forcing a way through the wreckage, broken masts and planks, the multitude of dead bodies and net work of cordage, which covered the surface of the water; but even amid these obstacles the race began.
The wind and sea were equally favorable to both galleys; but the Venetians outstripped the Spaniards and dropped anchor at Alicante twenty-four hours before the latter.
It was the rider's task, to make up for the time lost by the sailors. The messenger of the Republic was far in advance of the general's. Everywhere that Ulrich changed horses, displaying at short intervals the prophet's banner, which he was to deliver to the king as the fairest trophy of victory--it was inscribed with Allah's name twenty-eight thousand nine hundred times--he met rejoicing throngs, processions, and festal decorations.
Don Juan's name echoed from the lips of men and women, girls and children. This was fame, this was the omnipresence of a god; there could be no higher aspiration for him, who had obtained such honor.
Fame, fame! again echoed in Ulrich's soul; if there is a word, which raises a man above himself and implants his own being in that of millions of fellow-creatures, it is this.
And now he urged one steed after another until it broke down, giving himself no rest even at night; half an hour's ride outside of Madrid he overtook the Venetian, and passed by him with a courteous greeting.
The king was not in the capital, and he went on without delay to the Escurial.
Covered with dust, splashed from head to foot with mud, bruised, tortured as if on the rack, he clung to the saddle, yet never ceased to use whip and spur, and would trust his message to no other horseman.
Now the barren peaks of the Guadarrama mountains lay close before him, now he reached the first workshops, where iron was being forged for the gigantic palace in process of building. How many chimneys smoked, how many hands were toiling for this edifice, which was to comprise a royal residence, a temple, a peerless library, a museum and a tomb.
Numerous carts and sledges, on which blocks of light grey granite had been drawn hither, barred his way. He rode around them at the peril of falling with his horse over a precipice, and now found himself before a labyrinth of scaffolds and free-stone, in the midst of a wild, grey, treeless mountain valley. What kind of a man was this, who had chosen this desert for his home, in life as well as in death! The Escurial suited King Philip, as King Philip suited the Escurial. Here he felt most at ease, from here the royal spider ceaselessly entangled the world in his skilful nets.
His majesty was attending vespers in the scarcely completed chapel. The chief officer of the palace, Fray Antonio de Villacastin, seeing Ulrich slip from his horse, hastened to receive the tottering soldier's tidings, and led him to the church.
The 'confiteor' had just commenced, but Fray Antonio motioned to the priests, who interrupted the Mass, and Ulrich, holding the prophet's standard high aloft, exclaimed: "An unparalleled victory!--Don Juan.... October 7th....! at Lepanto--the Ottoman navy totally destroyed....!"
Philip heard this great news and saw the standard, but seemed to have neither eyes nor ears; not a muscle in his face stirred, no movement betrayed that anything was passing in his mind. Murmuring in a sarcastic, rather than a joyous tone: "Don Juan has dared much," he gave a sign, without opening the letter, to continue the Mass, remaining on his knees as if nothing had disturbed the sacred rite.
The exhausted messenger sank into a pew and did not wake from his stupor, until the communion was over and the king had ordered a Te Deum for the victory of Lepanto.
Then he rose, and as he came out of the pew a newly-married couple passed him, the architect, Herrera, and Isabella Coello, radiant in beauty.
Ulrich clenched his fist, and the thought passed through his mind, that he would cast away good-fortune, art and fame as carelessly as soap- bubbles, if he could be in Herrera's place.
What fame is--Ulrich was to learn!
He saw in Messina the hero of Lepanto revered as a god. Wherever the victor appeared, fair hands strewed flowers in his path, balconies and windows were decked with hangings, and exulting women and girls, joyous children and grave men enthusiastically shouted his name and flung laurel-wreaths and branches to him. Messages, congratulations and gifts arrived from all the monarchs and great men of the world.
When he saw the wonderful youth dash by, Ulrich marvelled that his steed did not put forth wings and soar away with him into the clouds. But he too, Navarrete, had done his duty, and was to enjoy the sweetness of renown. When he appeared on Don Juan's most refractory steed, among the last of the victor's train, he felt that he was not overlooked, and often heard people tell each other of his deeds.
This made him raise his head, swelled his heart, urged him into new paths of fame.
The commander-in-chief also longed to press forward, but found himself condemned to inactivity, while he saw the league dissolve, and the fruit of his victory wither. King Philip's petty jealousy opposed his wishes, poisoned his hopes, and barred the realization of his dreams.
Don Juan was satiated with fame. "Power" was the food for which he longed. The busy spider in the Escurial could not deprive him of the laurel, but his own "word," his highest ambition in life, his power, he would consent to share with no mortal man, not even his brother.
"Laurels are withering leaves, power is arable land," said Don Juan to Escovedo.
It befits an emperor's son, thought Ulrich, to cherish such lofty wishes; to men of lower rank fame can remain the guiding star on life's pathway.
The elite of the army was in the Netherlands; there he could find what he desired.
Don Juan let him go, and when fame was the word, Ulrich had no cause to complain of its ill-will.
He bore the standard of the proud "Castilian" regiment, and when strange
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