Зображення сторінки

tired to his native lordship of Tepeleni, where, harassed by the neighbouring beys and agas, who were little better than freebooters, and unable to make head against bis enemies, he is said to have died of grief and vexation. He left two widows and three children.

The mother of Ali and of his sister Shaïnitza, was a woman of uncommon talents, undoubted courage, and determined resolution, but fierce and implacable as a tigress. Her first act was to get rid of her rival, whom together with her child she took off by poison, thus securing all the rights and property of her husband to Ali, who at this time was about fourteen years of age. Far from yielding under the disastrous circumstances of fortune, she armed herself with double fortitude, and rising superior to the weakness of her sex, carried a musket against her enemies in the field at the head of her faithful clan, performing all the duties both of general and soldier. In most of these enterprises she took Ali as an associate, though she kept him within the strictest limits of obedience. Plainly foreseeing that his security depended chiefly upon his military education, she accustomed him early to the perils of an active and romantic life, and improved his naturally strong constitution by exercise and temperance: she engaged the oldest and most faithful retainers of her family to animate his zeal by a recital of the history and exploits of his ancestors, to correct his rash impetuosity by their experience, to instruct him in all the manly exercises of an Albanian palikar, and to school him in the knowledge of mankind and the arts of governing them, rather than in the lore of book learning and science. Ali's progress kept pace with her most sanguine hopes.

Mr. Hughes has rather too paraphrastic a style in stating a fact. As to what this worthy old lady plainly foresaw, it is mere conjecture or assumption, nor is it a matter of any consequence : what we want to come at, is, the fact, what she did, which was neither more nor less than this; she brought up her son according to the custom of the country, and be soon became an accomplished robber. At an early age he distinguished himself as the best horseman, the swiftest runner, and the most expert marksman of bis day; and by traversing the country wiih bis musket on his shoulder, he acquired a perfect knowledge of all the mountain fastnesses, and every opening for advance or retreat. His memory is said to be so strong, that when an old associate in the profession of kleftes has been taken and brought before him, he bas sometimes astonished the culprit with a recital of all the principal events of his life.

While he was yet very young, an event is stated to have occurred, wbich, if well autheuticated, would seem, on the principle of retaliation, to justify almost any excess of vengeance, and iņ the mind of a barbarian to constitute revenge a sacred duty. Mr. Hughes's account of it, however, has all the character of an imperfect relation. The inhabitants of Gardiki, a

large town in the mountains of Liapuria, made a secret expedition by night against Tepeleni, and succeeded in carrying off both the mother and daughter, Ali being accidentally absent. The seizure of their persons could not, however, have been the primary object of the expedition, especially as undertaken by the inhabitants at large of a distant town, unless it was expected that they should obtain a bigh ransom. The atrocious treatment which these defenceless women are described as having met with at Gardiki, would not in that case have been ventured upon; nor is it credible that the leaders of the expedition, or the chiefs of the place, should have permitted so general a participation of their prize. Conduct such as Mr. Hughes mentions, has scarcely a parallel in barbarian annals, and must, if it took place, have originated in some powerful motive, -in cool, refined malignity. Unexplained, it carries on the face of it the highest degree of inprobability. After they had been detained prisoners more than a month, the indignant Ali, we are told, was just preparing to attempt their liberation, when a bey of Gardiki, at the hazard of his life, conducted their escape to Tepeleni.

• This stain upon the honour of Ali's house was considered indelible but by blood. The authority of his mother, and the never-ceasing entreaties of his sister, who inherited all her mother's spirit, (and who, as the old governor of Tepeleni told us, had she been a man, would have fought with Ali inch by inch for his dominions,) were exerted to keep alive within his heart the flame of vengeance. The former on her death-bed conjured her son, never to stop till he had exterminated the guilty race; and the latter, in all her conversations with him, ended every speech by the expression that she never could know peace of mind, or die with satisfaction, till she had stuffed the couches of her apartment with the hair of the Gardikiote women. After a lapse of forty years the vengeance of these furies was executed to the full by Ali's stern decree-the guilty but unfortunate Gardiki is no more, and Shaïnitza's head reclines upon the raven tresses of its daughters.'

Forty years was rather a long term of impunity for this devoted town to enjoy. The authors of the outrage would, in the natural course of events, be all extinct, and the raven tresses of even their daughters have become tolerably grey, before Ali fulfilled his mother's dying injunction. There is nothing, however, so patient as revenge. It must have been no ordinary provocation, assuredly, that induced the Vizir, when he had attained the plenitude of his power, to inflict such sig. nal vengeance on a town, the population of which was entirely Mahommedan. Ali's own generals discovered are luctance to execute bis vindictive intentions, upon which he despatched a confidential officer, at the head of a large body of Greek and Albanian troops, with instructions to act promptly in combination with all the other Greeks in the army.' They, he well

knew, would exterminate a Mahommedan tribe with the greatest alacrity; and as the Turkish generals did not dare interfere, the city was soon given up to all the horrors of assault. Very few persons escaped. Those who were reserved as prisoners, were afterwards, to the number of between seven and eight hundred, massacred in cold blood in the presence of Ali, and their bodies left unburied to rot upon the place of execution, which was a large han near the commencement of the Gardikiote territory. The gateway of the area was then walled up, and an inscription placed over it cut in stone, which sigpifies, • Thus perish all the enemies of Ali's house.' It is stated, that every individual victim underwent a personal examination by the Vizir himself, previously to the order being given for the execution, and that some few were in consequence spared, probably on its being found that they were unconnected with the old inhabitants. On the same day, seventy-two Gardikiote beys and other prisoners of distinction, who had been conveyed to loanpina, and treated with a delusive shew of clemency and respect, were all strangled. From the han Ali marched to Gardiki itself, which he laid in ruins, placing it under an apathema, and prohibiting it from ever again becoming the habitation of man.

The property of its citizens he had already converted to his own use; and as they were great merchants, he is stated to have kept an accurate account of all the debts due to them, and to have exacted the most punctual payment.

• Every Gardikiote that was subsequently discovered within the dominions of Ali was arrested and put to death, when his corpse was sent to augment the mouldering heap of his unfortunate countrymen at the han of Soliarè. The vizir was grievously offended with his son Vely, who refused to put to death some Gardikiotes in his service, or surrender them up. It is scarcely necessary to observe that Ali glories in this deed, which he considers one of just and pious retribution. It occurred on the 15th of March, 1812.

We have deviated from the course of the narrative for the purpose of connecting with the most marked circumstance in Ali's early life, the tragical and characteristic sequel. Soon after it had occurred, the young chieftain, impatient to try his strength against his enemies, extorted from his mother an unwilling consent that he should take the field.

• He was fortunate in his first attempts, but had neither troops nor money to prosecute his success: he was then defeated in his turn, and wandering about the country to escape his pursuers, was indebted for his safety to the benevolence and didelity of several individuals. On his return to Tepeleni, he was received with the most indignant reproaches by his mother, who it is said threatened to clothe him in female attire, and shut him up in the harem; and when, after the most ardent solicitations, he gained from her fresh supplies, and permission again to try the fortune of war, she added, in the true laconic style, that she expected to see him return upon the shoulders of his troops, either as a conqueror or a corpse.'

Again he met with reverses, but in his retreat, accidentally discovered, we are told, a treasure within the ruins of a deserted monastery, that enabled him to appease his mother and to raise fresh levies. At the same time he is stated to have connected himself very advantageously in a matrimonial alliance; but the particulars which should verify the statement, are not given. His mother still held the reins of goveroment, and Ali appears to bave taken the field as her general, accompanied in the expedition both by his mother and his bride. The contest, however; appears to have been very unequal : against the forces headed by this youthful hero, the confederate beys of ArgyroCastro, Gardiki, Kaminitza, Goritza, Chomovo, and some others, brought an over-whelming army. The Tepelenites were routed and dispersed among the mountains of Mertzika, whose barriers alone saved them from the fury of the conquerors. At this crisis, Ali exhibited all the latent energy and sagacity of his character. The measure which he resolved upon, will appear most extraordinary: it was a desperate ove; as such, it was suited to the state of his fortunes; but the result shewed that Ali had not inaccurately calculated upon the probabilities of success. Mr. Huglies tells us, indeed, that he ran no hazard from thus placing himself in the power of his foes, inasmuch as the voluntary suppliant of an Albanian chieftain, whatever may be bis demerits, is sure not only of protection in

but of an escort on bis return. • Knowing that a very considerable detached portion of his enemies were encamped upon the plain, and that the chiefs of ArgyroCastro and Gardiki, the most powerful of his opponents, had retired to their respective cities, he at once determined upon his mode of action. Leaving his bed about midnight, he gave strict orders to his wife that she should keep the door of their apartment locked, and that when his mother came, according to custom, very early in the morning to inquire after her son, she should answer that he was asleep and wished not to be disturbed. He then departed alone and unprotected, gained the camp of the confederates, and soon after the dawn of day stood in the presence of those who sought his life. Astonished at his appearance they demand the inotives of his conduct : when the young chieftain with a modest but undaunted air thus addresses them: « The life and fortunes of Ali are in your hands ; the honour and existence of his house depends upon your will : here I am, driven to despair: I have fought till my means are exhausted ; I now throw myself into your power, and you must either destroy or support me against my enemies : but do not deceive yourselves and suppose that you would derive benefit from the death of Ali: my enemies are in fact your own, and they seek my destruction only to be enabled more

his presence,

[ocr errors]

easily to place the yoke upon your necks. The chiefs of ArgyroCastro and Gardiki, already too formidable for the liberty of their neighbours, will profit by my fall to gain the sovereignty of the whole district. Tepeleni, strong by nature, fortified by art, and garrisoned by my faithful Arnaouts, might, if I were supported, present an invincible barrier against their ambitious designs : but if they once gain possession of this fortress, they will not only have the means of annoying their neighbours, but of securing themselves from all retaliation. Destroy me then, if you please, but be assured that my destruction will be the prelude to your own.

It is a most fortunate circumstance, that there was a shorthand writer in the camp to take down this pithy oration, which Mr. Hughes has doubtless faithfully translated from the original Albanian. He is, however, singularly reserved in mentioning bis authorities.

• In the mean time Ali's mother came as usual to his chamber door, and was answered by his wife according to her instructions. In about an hour she returned, and received a similar answer : this being repeated a third time, she began to be alarmed, and suspecting that all was not right, ordered the door to be broken open. Not finding Ali within, and learning in what manner he had departed, she tore her hair, and rushing out of the house in wild disorder, took the same route her son had taken, shrieking violently, and calling upon his name till the mountains echoed with her cries. No long time elapsed before she met the object of her search returning to her presence at the head of those very troops who had espoused his cause, and whose assistance enabled him so effectually to make head against his remaining enemies, that he obtained a peace, strengthened the fortifications of his native place, and secured his family and fortune. It is from this decisive act that he dates the commencement of all his future glory.'

The old lady died soon after-some will have it not a natural death, but our Author totally disbelieves the accusation that would add to her son's crimes that of matricide: he only kept ber a state prisoner in the apartments of the harem, to prevent her from fatiguing herself any further with the cares of government. Ali, now his own master, became a leader of banditti on a grand scale ; but, some how or other, his good fortune, which has always served him in intrigue, has repeatedly failed him in the field. He fell into the hands of Kourt, pasha of Berat ; but the conqueror, instead of treating him like a rebel, honour

ed him,' as Mr. Hughes has it, with his confidence that is to say, he made good use of his services in a war in wbich he was engaged with the pasha of Scutari ; and at length, finding the young hero too great a favourite with the soldiery, as well as with certain members of his own household, sent bim back to Tepeleni enriched with presents of considerable value. Again Ali resumed the profession of kleftes, choosing the mountains of Epirus as the scene of his operations. Again he became a

« НазадПродовжити »