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when Mercanti was absent at Palermo, they burnt and plundered his house, and took away Bianca; whose horror you may well conceive, when by the blazing light of her own dwelling, she was carried off by such swarthy barbarians, whose very language was a sphynx's riddle to her, and might concern her life or death, and then embarked upon a sea of fire; for there happened that night a phenomenon not unusual in the Mediterranean, namely, the phosphorescence of the waters, which, whether caused by glowing marine insects or otherwise, makes the waves roll like so many blue burning flames. Those who have witnessed it, know well its dismal appearance on a gloomy night, when the billows come and vanish away like fluxes of pallid fire, and withal so vapour-like and unsubstantial, that apparently the vessel, or any gross corporal substance, must needs sink into its ghastly abyss. With such a dreary scene, therefore, and in the midst of those tawnycoloured infidel Moors, with their savage visages
and uncouth garments and glittering arms, 'tis no marvel if Bianca thought herself amongst infernals and the demons of torture, on the sulphurous lake.
On the morrow, which scarcely brought any assuagement of her fears, they had lost sight of Sicily, and at last she was disembarked at Oran, which is an African port, over against Spain. Meanwhile Tebaldo was landing at Palermo, where he learnt, with a renewal of all his pangs, the fate of his beloved mistress. Forgetting all his enmity, therefore, he repaired presently to Mercanti, to concert with him how to redeem her out of the hands of the accursed Moors, a proceeding which he would not have paused for, had fortune put it in his power to proceed instantly to her ransom.
The merchant lamenting his years and infirmities, which forbade him to go in search of his wife. Tebaldo readily offered himself to proceed irt his behalf; adding, "that it was only through the poverty of his means that he had not sailed already at his own suggestion, but that if Mercanti would furnish him with the requisite sums, he should hope to restore the unfortunate Bianca to his arms." The merchant wondering very much at this proposal, and asking, what securities he could offer for such a trust,—
"Alas!" quoth Tebaldo, "I have nothing to pledge for my performance, except an unhappy love for her, that would undergo thricetold perils for her sake; I am that hopeless Tebaldo Zanche, who was made so eminently miserable by her marriage: nevertheless, I will forgive that, as well as all other mischances, if I may but approve my honourable regard for her, by this self-devoted service. There are yet some reasonable doubts you may well entertain of my disinterestedness and fidelity on such a mission, and I know not how to remove them; but when you think of the dangerous infidels in whose hands she now is, I have a hope that you may bring yourself to think her as safe at least in mine."
The passionate Tebaldo enforced these arguments with so many sincere tears and solemn oaths, and, besides, depicted so naturally the horrible condition of the lady amongst the Moors, that at last the merchant consented to his request, and furnishing him with the proper authorities, the generous lover, with a loyal heart, which designed nothing less than he had professed, set sail on his arduous adventure.
Let us pass over the hardships and dangers of such an enterprize, and above all its cruel anxieties, the hopes which were raised at Tunis being wrecked again at Algiers, till at last he discovered Bianca amongst the slaves of a chief pirate at Oran, who, despairing of a ransom, began to contemplate her as his own mistress. Tebaldo's bargain was soon made; whereupon the lady was set at liberty, and to her unspeakable joy, by the hands of her own beloved Zanche; yet when they remembered the final consequence of her freedom, the brightness of their delight was quenched with some very bitter tears. The generosity of their natures, however, triumphed over these regrets, and with sad hearts, but full of virtuous resolution, they re-embarked together, in a Genoese carrack for Palermo.
And now their evil fortune still pursued them, for falling in with a Sallee rover, although they escaped a second capture by the fast-sailing of their ship, they were chased a long way out of their course, into the Straits of Gibraltar, and the wind turning contrary, increased towards night to a violent tempest. In this extremity it required all the tenderness of Tebaldo to encourage Bianca, whose low-spirited condition made her more fearfully alive to the horrors of the raging sea; which indeed roared round them as if the watery desert had hungry lions of its own, as well as the sandy wastes of Africa, but ten times more terrible; the ship's timbers, besides, straining as if they would part asunder, and the storm howling through the cordage, like the voices of those evil angels,