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He was tall of stature, immensely broad at the shoulders, deep lunged, comparatively light and trim in the loins, as the close drawn sash beneath the embroidered jacket revealed: arms long; hands large. He looked as if he might wrestle with a bear without a weapon.

CHAPTER I. CHILDHOOD: ABOUT TURN

His features were not less notable than his form. His forehead was high and square, with such fulness at the corners as to leave two cross valleys in the middle. Deep-set eyes gleamed from beneath broad and heavy brows. The chin was heavy, and would have unduly protruded were it not that there were needed bulk and strength to stand as the base of such prominent upper features. Altogether his face would have been pronounced hard and forbidding, had it not been relieved as remarkably by that strange radiance with which strong intelligence and greatness of soul sometimes transfigure the coarsest features.

These peculiarities of the man were observed and commented upon by two officers who were sitting in the embrasure of the parapet at the farther end of the battlement. The elder of the two, who had grown gray in the service, addressed his comrade, a young man, though wearing the insignia of rank equal to that of the other.

You know his history? The veteran warmed with enthusiasm as he narrated, "I well remember him as a lad when he was brought from the Arnaout's [3] country. He was not over nine years of age when Sultan Mahomet conquered the lands of Epirus, where our general's father, John Castriot, was duke.

As a hostage young George Castriot was brought with his three brothers to Adrianople. And well he might, for a lad more lithe of limb and of wit never walked the ground since Allah bade the angels worship the goodly form of Adam.

CHAPTER I. CHILDHOOD: ABOUT TURN

In the after wrestling matches he put upon his hip the best of them, Turcomans from Asia, and Moors from Africa, and Giaours [6] from the West. And he was as skilful on a horse's legs as he was on his own. His namesake, Alexander, could not have managed Bucephalus better than he. I well remember his game with the two Scythians. They came from far to have a joust with the best of the Padishah's court.

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They were to fight singly: if one were overthrown, the other, after the victor had breathed himself, was to redeem the honor of his comrade. Scanderbeg sent his spear-head into the throat of his antagonist at the first encounter, when the second barbarian villain treacherously set upon him from the rear. The young champion wheeled his horse as quickly as a Dervish twists his body, and with one blow of his sword, clove him in twain from skull to saddle.

When he was scarce nineteen years old he was at the siege of Constantinople, in of the 6 Hegira, [7] with Sultan Amurath. His skill there won him a Sanjak. As the general approached, the two bashaws bowed low to the ground, and then stood in the attitude of profound obeisance until he addressed them.

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His face gleamed with frank and genial familiarity as he exchanged with them a few words; but it was again masked in sombre thoughtfulness as he passed on. Near the gate by which the fortress was entered from the lower town was gathered a group of soldiers who were bantering a strange looking creature with hands tied behind him—evidently some captive.

What tongue has he, Aladdin?


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You who were once interpreter to the Bey of Anatolia should know any man by his tongue. He is dumb as a toad. He has not performed his ablutions since the last shower washed him, and his ears are so filled with dirt plugs that he could not hear a thunder clap. The face of the captive seemed to strangely interest the general, who said as he turned away, "Send him to our quarters.

The Padishah has taken a fancy to deaf mutes of late.

They overhear no secrets and tell no tales. We will scrape him deep enough to find if he has a soul. If he knows his foot from his buttocks he will be as valued a present to His Majesty as a fifth wife. The general soon returned to the fortress. A room dimly lighted through two narrow windows that opened into a small inner court, and contained a divan or couch, a table, and a motley collection of arms, was the residence of the commandant.

A soldier stood by the entrance guarding the unfortunate captive. The man was thrust into the apartment, and stood with head bowed until the guard withdrew. The general turned quickly upon him as soon as they were alone. Were my ears dull as the stones they would open to hear such words," said the man with suppressed emotion. Beware, man, lest you mistake.

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Moses Goleme was with us, for you know he was thy father's dearest friend and wisest counsellor, and to him thy father gave charge that word should be sent thee that to thee he bequeathed his lands. But go on. He did not curse me, then? Swear to me,"—and he turned facing the man—"swear to me that my father did not curse me with his dying breath!

Swear it! These are the tidings which the noble Moses bade me bring thee, though I found thee at the Indus or under the throne of the Sultan himself. I have no other message. That I might tell thee this in the free speech of Albania I have kept dumb to all others.

THE CAPTAIN OF THE JANIZARIES

If it be treason to the Sultan for thee to hear it, let my head pay the penalty. But know, Sire, that our land will rest under no other rule than that of a Castriot. Ho, guard!


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Take this fellow! Let him share your mess! When alone the general threw himself upon the divan for a moment, then paced again the apartment, and muttered to himself——. Yet I did not betray my land and myself. They stole me. They seduced my judgment as a child. They flattered my conceit as a man. Like a leopard I have fought in the Padishah's arena, and for a leopard's pay—the meat that makes him strong, and the gilded cage that sets off his spots. I have led his armies, for what? For glory. But whose glory? The Padishah cries in every emergency, 'Where is my Scanderbeg?

Scanderbeg to the rescue! He calls me his lightning, but he is honored as the invisible Jove who hurls it. And I am a Castriot! A Christian!

AUTHOR'S NOTE TO REX

Ay, 10 a Christian dog, [10] indeed, to fawn and lick the hands of one who would despise me were he not afraid of my teeth.