Regarding the exact particulars of my earliest wanderings, I do confess I
am somewhat uncertain. This may tempt you to reply that one whose
memory is so far-reaching and capacious as mine will presently prove
might well have stored up everything that befell him from his very
beginning. All I can say is, things are as I set them down; and those facts
which you can not believe you must continue to doubt. The first thirty
years of my life, it will be guessed in extenuation, were full of the frailties
and shortcomings of an ordinary mortal; while those years which followed
have impressed themselves indelibly upon my mind by right of being
curious past experience and I credibility.

Looking back, then, into the very remote past is like looking upon a
country which a low sun at once illuminates and blurs. I dimly perceive in
the golden haze of the ancient time a fair city rising, tier upon tier, out of
the blue waters of the midland sea. A splendid harbor frames itself out of
the mellow uncertainty -- a harbor whereof the long white arms are
stretched out to welcome the commerce of all the known world; and under
the white fronts and at the temple steps of that ancient city, Commerce
poured into the lap of Luxury every commodity that could gratify cupidity
or minister to human pleasure.

I was young then, no doubt, nor need I say a fool; and very likely the sight
of a thousand strange sails at my father's door excited my daily-wonders
while the avarice which recognizes no good fortune in a present having
was excited by the silks and gems, the rich stuffs and the gums, the quaint
curiosities of human ingenuity and the frolic things of nature, which


were piled up there. More than all, my imagination must have been fired
by the sea-captains' tales of wonder or romance, and, be the cause what it
may, I made up my mind to adventure like them, and carried out my
willful fancy.

It is a fitting preface to all I have learned since that my first real
remembrance should be one of vanity. Yet so it was. More than a
thousand years ago -- I will not lower my record by a single luster to
propitiate your utmost unbelief -- I set out on a first voyage. It might be
yesterday, so well it comes before me -- with my youthful pride as the
spirit of a man was born within, and I felt the strong beat of the fresh salt
waves of the open sea upon my trading vessel's prow, and knew, as I
stood there by her steering-oar, that she was stuffed with a hundred bales
of purple cloth from my father's vats along the shore, and bound whither I
listed. Who could have been prouder than I? -- who could have heard finer
songs of freedom in the merry hum of the warm southern air in the
brown cordage overhead, or the frothy prattle of the busy water alongside
as we danced that day out of the white arms of Tyre, the queenly city of
the ancient seas, and saw the young world unfurl before us, full of
magnificent possibilities?

It is not my wish or intention to write of my early travels, were it possible.
On this voyage (or it may be on some others that followed, now merged
into the associations of the first) we traded east and west with adventure
and success. The adventure was sure enough, for the great midland sea
was then the center of the world, and, what between white-winged
argosies of commerce, the freebooters of a dozen nations who patrolled its
bays and corners, and rows of royal galleys sailing to the conquest of
empires, it was a lively and perilous place enough. As for the profit, it came
quickly to those who opened a hundred virgin markets in the olden days.

We sailed into the great Egyptian river up to Heliopolis, bartering stuffs
for gold-dust and ivory; at another time we took Trinacrian wine and
oranges into Ostia -- a truly magnificent port, with incredible capacities for
all the fair and pleasant things of life. Then we sailed among the beautiful
Achaean islands with corn and olives; and so, profiting everywhere, we
lived, for long, a jolly, uncertain life, full of hardship and pleasure.

For the most part we hugged the coasts and avoided the open sea. It was
from the little bays, whose mouths we thus crossed, that the pirates we
greatly dreaded dropped down upon merchantmen, like falcons from their
perches. When


they took a vessel that resisted, the crew, at those rough hands, got scanty
mercy. I have come across a galley drifting idly before the wind, with all
her crew, a grim row of skeletons, hanging in a row along her yard and
swinging this way and that, and rattling drearily against the sail and each
other in melancholy union with the listless wallow of their vessel. At
another time, a Roman trireme fell upon a big pirate of Melita and stormed
and captured her. The three hundred men on board were too ugly and
wicked to sell, so the Romans drove them overboard like sheep, and
burned the boat. When we sailed over the spot at sundown the next day,
she was still spluttering and hissing, with the water lapping over the edge
of her charred side, and round among the curls of yellow smoke overhead
a thousand gulls were screeching, while a thousand more sat gorged and
stupid upon the dead pirates. Not for many nights did we forget the evil
picture of retribution, and how the setting sun flooded the sea with blood,
and how the dead villains, in all their horror, swirled about in twos and
threes in that crimson light, and fell into our wake, drawn by the current,
and came jostling and grinning and nodding after us, though we made all
sail to outpace them, in a gloomy procession for a mile or so.

It often seemed to me in those days there were more freebooters afloat
than honest men. At times we ran from these, at times we fought them,
and again we would give a big marauder a share of cargo to save the ship
from his kindred who threatened us. It was a dangerous game, and one
never knew on rising where his couch would be at night, nor whether the
prosperous merchant of the morning might not be the naked slave of the
evening, storing his own wealth in a robber cave under the lash of some
savage sea-tyrant.

Yet even these cruel rovers did me a good turn. We were short of water,
and had run down along a lonely coast to a green spring we knew of to fill
water-butts and skins. When we let go in the little inlet where the well was
to be found, another vessel, and, moreover, a pirate, lay anchored before
us. However, we were consciously virtuous, and, what was of more
consideration, a larger vessel and crew than the other, so we went ashore
and made acquaintance round the fresh water with as villainous a gang of
sea-robbers as ever caused the blood of an honest trader to run cold in his
veins. The very air of their neighborhood smelled so of treachery and
cruelty we soon had but one thought -- to load up and be gone.

But this was a somewhat longer process than we wished,


our friends had baled the little spring dry, and we had to wait its refilling.
While we did so, I strolled over to a group of miserable slaves turned out
for an airing, and cowering on the black and shadeless rocks. There were
in that abject group captives from every country that fared upon those
seas, and some others besides. The dusky peasant of Boetia, that fronts the
narrow straits, wrung her hands by the fair-cheeked girl snapped up from
the wide Gulf of Narbo; the dark Numidian pearl-fisher cursed his patron
god; and the tall Achaean from the many islands of Peloponnesian waters
grit his teeth as he cowered beneath his rags and bemoaned the fate that
threw him into the talons of the sea-hawks.

I looked upon them with small interest, for new-taken slaves were no
great sight to me, until I chanced, a little way from the others, upon such a
captive as I had rarely or never seen. She struck me at once as being the
fiercest and most beautiful creature that mortal eyes had ever lighted
upon. Never was Umbrian or Iberian girl like that; never was Cyprian
Aphrodite served by a maid so pink and white. Her hair was fiery red
gold, gleaming in the sunshine like the locks of the young goddess
Medusa. Her face was of ruddy ivory, and her native comeliness gleamed
through the unwashed dust and tears of many long days and nights. Her
eyes were as blue under her shaggy wild hair as the sky overhead, and her
body -- grimy under its sorrow stains -- was still as fair as that of some
dainty princess.

Knowing the pirate captain would seek a long price for his property, I
determined to use a little persuasion with him. I went back to my men, and
sent one of them, proficient in the art of the bowstring, to look at the
slaves. Then I drew the unsuspecting scoundrel up there for a bargain, and,
well out of sight of his gang, we faced the red-haired girl and discussed her
price. The rascal's first figure was three hundred of your modern pounds, a
sum which would then have fetched the younger daughter of a sultan, full
of virtue and accomplishments. As this girl very likely had neither one nor
the other, I did not see why it was necessary to pay so much, and, stroking
my beard, in an agreed signal, with my hand, as my man was passing
behind the old pirate he slipped a length of twisted cloth over his wicked
neck and tightened it with a jerk that nearly started the eyes from his head,
and brought him quickly to his knees.

"Now, delicately minded one, I said, "I don't want to fight you and your
crew for this maid here, on whom I have set my heart, but you know we
are numerous and well armed,


so let us have a peaceful and honest bargain. Give me a fairer price;" and
obedient to my signal the bond was loosened.

"Not a sesterce will I take off," spluttered the wretch, "not a drachma, not
an ounce. "

"Come! come' think again," I said, persuasively, "and the cloth shall help
you." Thereon another turn was takcn, and my henchrnan turned his
knuckles into the nape of the swarthy villain's neck, until the veins on his
forehead stood out like cordage and the blood ran from his nose and eyes.

In a minute the rover threw up his hands and signed he had enough, and
when he got his breath we found he had knocked off a hundred pounds.
We gave him the cord again, and brought him down, twist by twist, to
fifty. By this time he was almost at his last gasp, and I was contented,
paying the coins out on a rock and leaving them there with the rogue, well
bound. I was always honest, though, as became the times, a trifle hard at

Then I cut the red maid loose and took her by the elbow and led her down
to the beach, where we were secretly picked up by my fellows, and shortly
afterward we set sail again for the open main.

Thus was acquired the figure-head of my subsequent adventures -- the
Siren who lured me to that coast where I have lived a thousand years and

t was the inscrutable will of Destiny that those shining coins I paid down
on the bare, hot African rock should cost me all my wealth, my cash and
credit at many ports, and that that fair slave, who I deemed would serve
but to lighten a voyage or two, should mock my forethought, and lead my
fate into the strangest paths that ever were trodden by mortal foot.

In truth, that sunny virago bewitched me. She combined such ferocity with
her grace, and was so pathetic in her reckless grief at times, that I, the
immovable, was moved, and softened the rigor of her mischance as time
went on so much as might be. At once, on this, like some caged wild
creature, which forgives to one master alone the sorrows of captivity, she
softened to me; and before many days were over she had bathed, and,
discarding her rags for a length or two of cloth, had tied up her hair with a
strand of ribbon she found, and, looking down at her reflection in a vessel
of water (her only mirror, for we carried women but seldom), she smiled
for the first time

After this progress was rapid, and, though at first we could only with
difficulty make ourselves understood, yet she soon


picked up something of the southern tongue from me, while I very fairly
acquired the British language of this comely tutoress. Of her I learned she
was of that latter country where her father was a chief, how their coast-
village had been surprised by a southern rover's foray; she knew not how
many of the people were slain or made captive, and herself carried off.
Afterward she had fallen into the hands of other pirates by an act of sea-
barter, and they were taking her to Alexandria, hoping, as I guessed, in
that luxurious city to obtain a higher price than in the ordinary markets of
Gaul or Italy.

What I heard of Britain from these warm lips greatly fired my curiosity,
and, after touching at several ports and finding trade but dull, chance
clinched my resolution.

We had sailed northward with a cargo of dates, and on the sixth day ran in
under the high promontory of Massilia, which you moderns call Marseilles.
Here I rid myself of my fruit at a very good profit, and, after talking to a
brother merchant I met by chance upon the quay, fully determined to load
up with oil, wine, stuffs, and such other things as he recommended, and
sail at once for Britain.

Little did I think how momentous this hasty decision would be! It was
brought about partly as I have explained, and partly by the interest which
just then that country was attracting. All the weapons and things of Britain
were then in good demand; no tin and gold, the smiths roundly swore,
were like the British; no furs in winter, the Roman ladies vowed, were so
warm as those; while no patrician from Tarentum to the Tiber held his
house well furnished unless a red-haired slave-girl or two from that
remote place idled, sad and listlessly, in his painted porticoes.

In these slaves there was a brisk and increasing traffic. I went into the
market that ran just along inside the harbor one day, and saw there an
ample supply of such curious goods suitable for every need.

All down the middle of a wide street rough booths of sailcloth had been
run up, and about and before these crouched slaves of every age and
condition. There were old men and young men -- fierce and wild-looking
barbarians, in all truth -- some with the raw, red scars on chest and limbs
they had taken a few weeks before in a last stand for liberty, and some
groaning in the sicknesses that attended the slaver's lash and their

There were lank-haired girls submitting with sullen hate to the appraising
fingers of purchasers laughing and chatting in Latin or Gaulish, as they
dealt with them no more gently than


a buyer deals with sheep when mutton is cheap. Mothers, again -- sick and
travel-stained themselves -- were soothing the unkempt little ones who
cowered behind them and shrunk from every Roman footstcp as the
quails shrink from a kestrel's shadow. Some of these children were very
flowers of comeliness, though trodden into the mire of misfortune. I
bought a little girl to attend upon her upon my ship, who, though she
wore at the time but one sorry cloth, and was streaked with dirt and dust,
had eyes clear as the southern sky overhead, and hair that glistened in
uncared-for brightness upon her shoulders like a tissue of golden threads.
Her mother was loath to part with her, and fought like a tiger when we
separated them. It was only after the dealer's lash had cut a dozen red
furrows into her back, and a by-stander had beat her on the head with the
flat of his sword, that she gave in and swooned, and I led the weeping little
one away.

So we loaded up again with eastern things, such as the barbarians might be
supposed to like, and in a few weeks started once more. We sailed down
the green coast of Hispania, through the narrow waters of Herculis
Fretum, and then, leaving the undulating hills of that pleasant strait
behind, turned northward through the long waves of the black outer sea.

For many days we rolled up a sullen and dangerous coast, but one
morning our pilot called me from my breakfast of fruit and millet cakes,
and, pointing over the green expanse, told me yonder white surf on the
right was breaking on the steep rocks of Armorica, while the misty British
shore lay ahead.

So I called out Blodwen the slave, and told her to snuff the wind and find
what it bad to say. She knew only too well, and was vastly delighted,
wistfully scanning the long gray horizon ahead, and being beside herself
with eagerness.

We steered westwardly toward the outer islands called Cassiterides, where
most of our people collected and bought their tin, but we were fated not to
reach them. On the morrow so fierce a gale sprung out of the deep we
could by no means stand against it, but turned and fled through the storm
and over such a terrible expanse of mighty billows as I never saw the like

To my surprise, my girl thought naught of the wind and sea, but came
constantly to the groaning bulwarks, where the angry green water swirled
and gleamed like a caldron, and, holding on by a shroud, looked with
longing but familiar eyes at the ragged shore we were running down. At
one time I


saw her smile to recognize, close in shore, and plunging heavily toward
some unknown haven, half a dozen of her own native fisher-boats. Later
on, Blodwen, brightened up even more as the savage cliffs of the west
gave way to rolling downs of grass, and when these, as we fled with the
sea-spume, grew lower, and were here and there clothed with woods, and
little specks among them of corn-fields, she shouted with joy, and, leaping
down from the tall prow, where she had stood indifferent to the angry
thunder of the bursting surges upon our counter, and the sting and rattle
of the white spray that flew up to the swinging yard every time we
dropped into the bosom of the angry sea, she said exultingly, with her face
red and gleaming in a salt-wet glaze, she could guide us to a harbor if we

I was by this time a little sick at heart for the safety of all my precious
things in bales and boxes below, and something like the long invoice of
them I knew so well rose in my throat every time we sunk with a horrible
sinking into one of those shadowy valleys between the hissing crests -- so I
nodded. Blodwen at once made the helmsman draw us nearer the coast.
By the time we had approached the shore within a mile or so, the white
squalls were following each other fast, while heavy columns of western
rain were careering along the green sea in many tall, spectral forms. But
nothing cared that purchase of mine. She had gone to the tiller, and, like
some wild goddess of the foam, stood there, her long hair flying on the
wet sea-wind and her fierce, bright eyes aglow with pleasure and
excitement, as she scanned the white ramparts of the coast down which we
were hurtling. She was oblivious of the swarthy seamen, who eyed her
with wonder and awe; oblivious of the white bed of froth which boiled and
flashed all down the rim of our dipping gunwale; and equally indifferent to
the heavy rain that smoked upon our decks, and made our straining sails
as hard and stiff as wood.

Just as the great shore began to loom over us, and I sorely doubted my
wisdom in sailing these unknown waters with such a pilot, she gave a
scream of pleasure -- an exulting, triumphant note, that roused a
sympathetic chorus in the piping wildfowl overhead -- and, following the
point of her finger; we saw the solid rampart of cliffs had divided, and a
little estuary was opening before us.

Round went our felucca to the imperious gesture of that girl, and, gripping
the throbbing tiller over the hands of the strong steersman, aglow with
excitement yet noting everything, while the swart-brown sailors shouted
at the humming


cordage, she took us down through an angry caldron of sea and over a
foaming bar (where I cursed in my haste every ounce I had spent upon
her) into the quieter water beyond; and when, a few minutes later --
reeking with salt spray, but safe and sound -- we slowly rolled in with the
making tide to a secure, land-locked haven, that brave girl left the rudder,
and, going forward, gave one look at the opening valley, which I
afterward knew was her strangely recovered home, and then her fair head
fell upon her arms, and, leaning against the mast, under the tent of her red
hair she burst into a passionate storm of tears.

She soon recovered, and, stealing a glance at me, as she wiped her lids with
the back of her hands, to note if I were angry, her feminine perception
found my eyes gave the lie to the frown upon my forehead, so she put on
some extra importance (as though the air of the place suited her dignity),
and resumed command of the ship.

Well! There is much to tell, so it must be told briefly. We sailed into a fair
green estuary, with woods on either hand dipping into the water and
nodding to their own glistening reflections, until we turned a bend and
came upon a British village down by the edge. There were, perhaps, two
hundred huts scattered round the slope of a grassy mound, upon top of
which was a stockade of logs and mud walls encompassing a few better-
built houses. Canoes and bigger boats were drawn upon the beach, and
naked children and dogs were at play along the margin; while women and
some few men were grinding corn and fashioning boat-gear.

As our sails came round the headland, with one single accord the
population took to flight, flung down their meal-bags and tools, tumbling
over each other in their haste, and yelling and scrambling they streamed
away to the hill.

This amused Blodwen greatly, and she let them run until the fat old
women of the crowd had sorted themselves out into a panting rear-guard
half-way up, and the long-legged youngsters were already scrambling
over the barrier; then, with her hand over her mouth, she exerted her
powerful voice in a long wailing signal-cry. The effect was instantaneous.
The crowd stopped, hesitated, and finally came scrambling down again to
the beach; and after a little parley, being assured of their good-will, and
greatly urged by Blodwen, we landed, and were soon overwhelmed in a
throng of wondering jostling excited British.

But it was not to me to whom they thronged, but rather her; and such
wonder and surprise, broadening slowly in joy


as she, with her nimble woman's tongue, answered their countless
questions, I never witnessed. At last they set up yelling and shouting, and,
seizing her, dragged and carried her in a tumultuous procession up the
zigzag into the fortalice.

Blodwen had come home -- that was all; and from a slave-girl had
blossomed into a princess!

Never before was there such a yelling and chattering, and blowing of
horns and beating of shields. While messengers rushed off down the
woodland paths to rouse the country, the villagers crowded round me and
my men, and, having by the advice of one of their elders relinquished their
first intention of cutting all our throats in the excess of their pleasure,
treated us very handsomely, feeding and feasting the crew to the utmost
of their capacity.

I, as you will suppose, was ill at ease for my fair barbarian who had thus
turned the tables upon me, and in whose power it was impossible not to
recognize that we now lay. How would the slave princess treat her captive
master? I was not long in doubt. Her messenger presently touched me on
the shoulder as I sat, a little rueful, on a stone apart from my rollicking
men, and led me through that prehistoric village street up the gentle slope,
and between the oak-log barrier into the long, low dwelling that was at
once the palace and the citadel of the place.

Entering, I found myself in a very spacious hall, effective in its gloomy
dignity. All round the three straight sides the massive walls were hidden in
drapery of the skins and furs of bear, wolf, and deer, and over these were
hung in rude profusion light round shields embossed with shining metal
knobs, javelins, and boar-spears, with a hundred other implements of war
or woodcraft. Below them stood along the walls rough settles, and benches
with rougher tables, enough to seat, perhaps, a hundred men. At the
crescent-shaped end of the hall, facing the entrance door, was a dais -- a
raised platform of solid logs closely placed together and covered with skins
-- upon which a massive and ample chair stood, also of oak, and
wonderfully fashioned and carved by the patient labor of many hands.

Nigh it were a group of women, and one or two white-robed Druids, as
these people call their priests. But chief among them was she who stepped
forth to meet me, clad (for her first idea had been to change her dress) in
fine linen and fair furs -- how, I scarcely know, save that they suited her
marvelously. Fine chains of hammered gold were about her neck, a


gorget belt set with a great boss of native pearls upon her middle, and her
two bare white arms gleamed like ivory under their load of bracelets of
yellow metal and prismatic pearl-shell that clanked harmoniously to her
every movement. But the air she put on along with these fine things was
equally becoming, and she took me by the hand with an affectionate
condescension, while, turning to her people, she briefly harangued them,
running glibly over my virtues, and bestowing praise upon the way in
which I had "rescued and restored her to her kindred," until, so gracefully
did she pervert the truth, I felt a blush of unwonted virtue under my
callous skin; and when they acclaimed me friend and ally, I stood an inch
taller among them to find myself of such unexpected worth -- one tall
Druid alone scowling on me evilly.

For long that pleasant village by the shallow waters remembered the
coming of Blodwen to her own. Her kinsmen had all been slain in the raid
of the sea-rovers which brought about her captivity, and thus -- the
succession to headship and rule being very strictly observed among the
Britons -- she was elected, after an absence of six months, to the oak throne
and the headship of the clan with an almost unbroken accord. But that
priest, Dhuwallon, her cousin, and next below her in birth, scowled again
to see her seated there, and hated me, I saw, as the unconscious thwarter
of his ambition.

Those were fine times, and the princess bought my cargo of wine and oil
and southern things, distributing it to all that came to pay her homage, so
that for days we were drunk and jolly. Fires gleamed on twenty hill-tops
round about, and the little becks ran red down to the river with the blood
of sheep and bullocks slaughtered in sacrifice; and the foot-tracks in the
woods were stamped into high-ways; and the fords ran muddy to the
ocean; and the grass was worn away; and birds and beasts fled to quieter
thickets; and fishes swam out to the blue sea; and everything was eaten up,
far and wide, that time my fair slave-girl first put her foot upon the dais
and prayed to the manes of her ancestors among the oak-trees.

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Chapter 2