Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the great one, being as it were chambers for their women to dwell, and to each of the houses belong two hundred carts, When they take their houses off their carts, the principal wife placeth her court on the west, and so all the rest in order; so that the last wife's house is on the east frontier, and the court of each wife is distant from another about a stone's cast.

Hence it is that the court of a rich Tartar will appear like a very large village, few men being to be seen therein. One woman will guide twenty or thirty carts at once, for their country is very flat, and they fasten the carts with camels or oxen one behind another. wench sits in the foremost cart driving the oxen, and all the rest of themselves follow at a like pace. When they come to a place which is a bad passage, they loose them, and guide them one by one, for they go at a slow pace, and not much faster than an ox can walk.

On my arrival among these barbarous people I thought, as I before observed, that I was come into a new world; for they came flocking about us on horseback, after they had made us wait for them in the shade under the black carts. The first question they asked was, whether we had ever been with them heretofore or not; and on our answering that we had not, they began impudently to beg our victuals from us. We gave them some of our biscuit and wine, which we had brought with us from the town of Soldai; and having drunk off one flaggon of our wine, they demanded another, telling us that a man does not go into a house with one foot. We gave them no more, however, excusing ourselves that we had but little. Then they asked us whence we came,

and whither we were bound. I answered them in these words, That we had beard concerning their Prince Sartach, that he was become a Christian, and that

[ocr errors]

unto him our determination was to travel, having your majesty's letter to deliver unto him. They were very inquisitive to know if I came of mine own accord, or whether I was sent. I answered that no man compelled me to come, neither had I come unless I had been willing; and that there I was come, according to my own will and that of my superior. I took the utmost care never to say I was your majesty's ambassador. Then they asked what we had in our carts, whether it were gold, silver, or rich garments to take to Sartach. I answered that Sartach should see what we had brought when we were come unto him; that they had nothing to do to ask such questions, but rather ought to conduct me unto their captain ; and that he, if he thought proper, should cause me to be directed to Sartach—if not, that I would return; for there was in the same province one of Baatu's kinsmen, called Zagatai, to whom the Emperor of Constantinople had written letters to suffer me to. pass through his territories.

With this answer of ours they were satisfied, giving us horses and oxen and two men to conduct us. But before they would allow us these necessaries, they made us wait a long while, begging our bread for their brats, wondering at all things they saw about our servants, as their knives, gloves, purses, and points, and desiring to have them. excused myself, saying we had a long way to travel, and we could not deprive ourselves of things necessary to finish so long a journey. They said I was a niggardly scoundrel. It is true they took nothing by force from me, but they will beg all they see very importunately, and if a man bestows anything upon them, it is but lost.; for they are thanklėss wretches. They, esteem themselves lords, and think that nothing should be denied them by any man.

If a man gives them nothing, and afterwards stands in need of their

assistance, they will do nothing for him. They gave us of their cows' milk to drink after their butter was churned out of it, which was very sour, which they call Apram ; so we departed from them; and indeed it seemed to me that we were escaped out of the hands of devils. The next day we were introduced to their captain. From the time wherein we departed from Soldai till we arrived at the court of Sartach, which was the

space

of two months, we never lay in house or tent, but always under the canopy of heaven, and in the open air, or under our carts; neither saw we any village, or heard of any building where any village had been; but the graves of the Comanians we saw in great abundance.

We met the day following with the carts of Zagatai, laden with houses, and I really thought that a great city came to meet me. I wondered at the multitudes of droves of oxen and of horses, and droves of sheep; I could see but few men that guided all these, upon which I inquired how many men he bad under him, and they told me that he had not above five hundred in all, and that one-half of this number never lay in another lodging. Then the servant, which was our guide, told me that I must present somewhat to Zagatai, and so he caused us to stay, going themselves before to give notice of our coming. By this time it was past three, and they unladed their houses near a river, and there came unto us his interpreter, who, being informed by us that we were never there before, demanded some of our victuals, and we granted his request. He also required of us some garment as a reward, because he was to interpret our message to his master. We excused ourselves as well as we could. Then he asked us what we would prefer to his lord, and we took a flaggon of wine, and filled a basket with biscuit, and a salver with apples and other fruits; but

he was not contented therewith, because we brought him not some rich garment.

We were however admitted into his presence with fear and bashfulness. He sat on his bed, holding a musical instrument in his hand, and his wife sat by him, who, in my opinion, had cut and pared her nose between the eyes that sho might seem to be more flat-nosed; for she had left herself no nose at all in that place, having anointed the very scar with black ointment, as she also did her eyebrows, which sight seemed to us most ugly. Then I repeated to him the same words which I had done in other places; for we were directed in this circumstance by some that had been amongst the Tartars, that we should never vary in our tale. I besought him that he would accept this small gift at our hands, excusing myself that I was a monk, and that it was against our profession to possess gold, silver, or precious garments, and therefore that I had not any such thing to give him, unless he would receive some part of our victuals instead of a blessing. He caused thereupon our present to be received, and immediately distributed the same amongst his men, who were net together for that purpose, to drink and make merry. I delivered also to him the Emperor of Constantinople's letters, eight days after the feast of Ascension, and he sent them to Soldai to have them interpreted there; for they were written in Greek, and he had none about him that was skilled in the Greek tongue.

He asked us if we could drink any Cosmos—that is to say, mare's milk, for those that are Christians among them, as the Russians, Grecians, and Alans, who keep their own laws very strictly, will not drink thereof, for they account themselves no Christians after they have once drank of it; and their priests reconcile them to the church, as if they

had renounced the Christian faith. I answered, that as yet, we had sufficient of our own to drink, and that when it failed us we should be constrained to drink such as should be given us. He inquired also what was contained in the letters your majesty sent to Sartach.

answered they were sealed up, and nothing contained in them but friendly words. And he asked what words we would deliver unto Sartach. I answered the words of Christian Faith. He asked again what those words were, for he was very desirous to hear them. Then I expounded to him, as well as I could by my interpreter, who was a very sorry one, the Apostle's Creed, which after he had heard he shook his head.

[ocr errors]

Here endeth (as far as our pages are concerned) good. William de Rubruquis; and here beginneth the good Signor Jeweller and noble Venetian, Messer Marco Polo.

MARCO POLO.

HARRIS suffered his pen to slip in his table of contents when he described Marco Polo travelling in the middle of the twelfth century. That was the date of the father and uncle of Marco, who went into China and Tartary before him. Marco, however, includes the history of their travels in his own, so that Harris's date does not violate the spirit of the truth. The father and uncle, Niccolo and Maffeo Polo, had had better luck than Rubruquis. They saw not only the wild and roving Tartars, but the civilized; those who lived in great cities, not of houses on carts, but of magnificent palaces, descendants of the conquerors under Genghis Khan, lord of India, Persia, and Northern China, whose descendant Kubla (Coleridge's Kubla) was now reigning

"In Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Khan."

PARADISE LOST.

Milton had seen him before Coleridge, in the pages of Marco Polo. The.

« AnteriorContinuar »