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well mauled in the engagement, with many iron pellets sticking in her sides, and her tackling in a state of great disorder, made all the sail she i could into port, where the captives were disposed of as slaves to the highest bidder.
Now it chanced luckily for Benetto, that he was purchased by an agent of the Sultan of Constantinople, and sent to work as an assistant in the gardens of the Seraglio; whereas others, being bought by avaricious people, underwent a variety of changes, passing from one master to another, but without any difference for the better in their condition. The fortunate Benetto, on the contrary, led an easy life enough, having only to tend upon the flowers and shrubs for the gratification of the ladies of the Harem; and what proved a great comfort to him was, that he had no mistress to mourn for in a distant country; so that though he sighed sometimes for liberty, he never gave himself up to despondency like the rest of the captives. Thus he continued to dig, and water the
plants very contentedly, as though he had been born for that task, being a man of that happy cheerful disposition which can accommodate itself to any circumstances; and besides, the superintendent of the pleasure-grounds was of as pleasant a humour as himself, which tended very materially to his ease. And truly it was well that Benetto kept up a better heart than the captive Jews in Babylon; for he had by nature a melodious voice, improved by art to great perfection, the science of music having been his peculiar study; and oftentimes he beguiled himself after his day's work by singing over his most favourite airs.
The apartment of the ladies of the Harem stood, luckily, at such a convenient distance, that Benetto's voice found its way through the windows, which were sure to be left open every night, for the sake of the warbling of the nightingales that harboured amongst the trees. The discourse of the ladies turning one evening on the ravishing notes of that bird, and its amours with the rose, there came a deep sigh from the bosom of one of the Sultanas, a Circassian, and she affirmed that there was a voice more enchanting than that which had been so much commended.
"As for the bird it belongs to," she said, "to judge from his tune, he must be of a most delicate figure and plumage; for though I cannot make out a single word, there seems a most passionate meaning in whatever he sings."
At this speech, one of the ladies burst into tears, and leaned down her beautiful face be- • tween her hands; for she was an Italian by birth, and remembered well the sweet languishing and love-breathing ditties of her native land; the rest of the women crowding about her at these symptoms of emotions, and inquiring the reason,
"Alas !" she sobbed, "the songs that you hear come from no bird, but from a human voice, which belongs to some unfortunate captive from my own dear country beyond the sea. I wonder not that you found it so touching, for that kind of melody belongs naturally to our clime. The songs there are so full of love and tenderness, that the amorous rose, instead of merely opening her bosom as she does to the song of the bulbul, would put forth wings in place of leaves, to fly after the musician."
Nor did the fond lady speak beyond her feeling in this matter, so dearly does memory exaggerate the merits of things beloved. Anon 'the clear voice of Benetto sounded again upon the distant wind; and when it was silent, the mournful lady responded with a canzonet so exquisitely pathetic, that the listeners, though they did not comprehend even one syllable of the words, were melted instantly into tears. The singer herself, coming at last to a certain passage, which seemed to cause the very breaking of her heartstrings, was so overcome, that she could proceed no farther ; but, with a throat swelling with grief instead of harmony, cast herself upon a sofa, and gave way to an ecstasy of tears.
In the mean time Benetto, hearing the voice in the garden, had drawn near to the window, and recognized the song to be one of the compositions of Italy, which set his heart aching more seriously than ever since he had been a captive. However, he soon plucked up his spirits; and congratulating himself that there was one person at least in Constantinople to take part with him in a duett, he concerned himself only to contrive how to get admitted to the concert.
Accordingly, choosing the best of his pieces, he sang them in the garden every night with the tenderest expression, the ladies being always confined after dusk within the palace. At last, the Sultan happening to hear his music, had a mind to enjoy it nearer; so, sending a slave to fetch the gardener into an ante-chamber,