The Two Captains

Author: Friedrich Heinrich Karl de la Motte

Chapter I.

A Mild summer evening was resting on the shores of Malaga, awakening the guitar of many a merry singer among the ships in the harbor, and in the city houses, and in many an ornamental garden villa. Emulating the voices of the birds, the melodious tones greeted the refreshing coolness, and floated like perfumed exhalations from meadow and water, over the enchanting region. Some troops of infantry who were on the shore, and who purposed to spend the night there, that they might be ready for embarkation early on the following morning, forgot amid the charms of the pleasant eventide that they ought to devote these last few hours on European soil to ease and slumber; they began to sing military songs, to drink to each other with their flasks filled to the brim with the rich wine of Xeres, toasting to the long life of the mighty Emperor Charles V., who was now besieging the pirate-nest Tunis, and to whose assistance they were about to sail. The merry soldiers were not all of one race. Only two companies consisted of Spaniards; the third was formed of pure Germans, and now and then among the various fellowcombatants the difference of manners and language had given rise to much bantering. Now, however, the fellowship of the approaching seavoyage and of the glorious perils to be shared, as well as the refreshing feeling which the soft southern evening poured over soul and sense, united the band of comrades in perfect and undisturbed harmony. The Germans tried to speak Castilian, and the Spaniards to speak German, without its occurring to any one to make a fuss about the mistakes and confusions that happened. They mutually helped each other, thinking of nothing else but the good-will of their companions, each drawing near to his fellow by means of his own language.

Somewhat apart from the merry tumult, a young German captain, Sir Heimbert of Waldhausen, was reclining under a cork-tree, gazing earnestly up at the stars, apparently in a very different mood to the fresh, merry sociability which his comrades knew and loved in him. Presently the Spanish captain, Don Fadrique Mendez, approached him; he was a youth like the other, and was equally skilled in martial exercises, but he was generally as austere and thoughtful as Heimbert was cheerful and gentle. "Pardon, Senor," began the solemn Spaniard, "if I disturb you in your meditations. But as I have had the honor of often seeing you as a courageous warrior and faithful brother in amrs in many a hot encounter, I would gladly solicit you above all others to do me a knightly service, if it does not interfere with your own plans and projects for this night." "Dear sir," returned Heimbert courteously, "I have certainly an affair of importance to attend to before sunrise, but till midnight I am perfectly free, and ready to render you any assistance as a brother in aims." "Enough," said Fadrique, "for at midnight the tones must long have ceased with which I shall have taken farewell of the dearest being I have ever known in this my native city. But that you may be as fully acquainted with the whole affair as behoves a noble companion, listen to me attentively for a few moments.

"Some time before I left Malaga to join the army of our great emperor and to aid in spreading the glory of his arms through Italy, I was devoted, after the fashion of young knights, to the service of a beautiful girl in this city, named Lucila. She had at that time scarcely reached the period which separates childhood from ripe maidenhood, and as I—a boy only just capable of bearing arms— offered my homage with a childlike, friendly feeling, it was also received by my young mistress in a similar childlike manner. I marched at length to Italy, and as you yourself know, for we have been companions since then, I was in many a hot fight and in many an enchantingly alluring region in that luxurious land. Amid all our changes, I held unalterably within me the image of my gentle mistress, never pausing in the honorable service I had vowed to her, although I cannot conceal from you that in so doing it was rather to fulfil the word I had pledged at my departure than from any impelling and immoderately ardent feeling in my heart. When we returned to my native city from our foreign wanderings, a few weeks ago, I found my mistress married to a rich and noble knight residing here. Fiercer far than love had been was the jealousy—that almost almighty child of heaven and hell—which now spurred me on to follow Lucila’s steps, from her home to the church, from thence to the house of a friend, from thence again to her home or to some noble circle of knights and ladies, and all this as unweariedly and as closely as was possible. When I had at length assured myself that no other young knight attended her, and that she devoted herself entirely to the husband chosen for her by her parents rather than desired by herself, I felt perfectly satisfied, and I should not have troubled you at this moment had not Lucila approached me the day before yesterday and whispered in my ear that I must not provoke her husband, for he was very passionate and bold; that not the slightest danger threatened her in the matter, because he loved and honored her above everything, but that his wrath would vent itself all the more furiously upon me. You can readily understand, my noble comrade, that I could not help proving my contempt of all personal danger by following Lucila more closely than ever, and singing nightly serenades beneath her flowerdecked windows till the morning star began to be reflected in the sea. This very night Lucila’s husband sets out at midnight for Madrid, and from that hour I will in every way avoid the street in which they live; until then, however, as soon as it is sufficiently dark to be suitable for a serenade, I will have love-romances unceasingly sang before his house. It is true I have information that not only he but Lucila’s brothers are really to enter upon a quarrel with me, and it is for this reason, Senor, that I have requested you to bear me company with your good sword in this short expedition."

Heimbert seized the Spaniard’s hand as a pledge of his readiness, saying as he did so, "To show you, dear sir, how gladly I will do what you desire of me, I will requite your confidence with confidence, and will relate a little incident which occurred to me in this city, and will beg you after midnight also to render me a small service. My story is short, and will not detain us longer than we must wait before the twilight has become deeper and more gloomy.

"On the day after we arrived here I amused myself with walking in the beautiful gardens with which the place abounds. I have now been long in these southern lands, but I cannot but believe that the dreams which transport me nightly back to my German home are the cause for my feeling everything here so strange and astonishing. At all events, every morning when I wake I wonder anew, as if I were only just arrived. So I was walking then, like one infatuated, among the aloe trees, which were scattered among the laurels and oleanders. Suddenly a cry sounded near me, and a slender girl, dressed in white, fled into my arms, fainting, while her companions dispersed past us in every direction. A soldier can always tolerably soon gather his senses together, and I speedily perceived a furious bull was pursuing the beautiful maiden. I threw her quickly over a thickly planted hedge, and followed her myself, upon which the beast, blind with rage, passed us by, and I have heard no more of it since, except that some young knights in an adjacent courtyard had been making a trial with it previous to a bull-fight, and that it was on this account that it had broken so furiously through the gardens.

"I was now standing quite alone, with the fainting lady in my arms, and she was so wonderfully beautiful to look at that I have never in my life felt happier than I then did, and also never sadder. At last I laid her down on the turf, and sprinkled her angelic brow, with water from a neighboring little fountain. And so she came to herself again, and when she opened her bright and lovely eyes I thought I could imagine how the glorified spirits must feel in heaven.

"She thanked me with graceful and courteous words, and called me her knight; but in my state of enchantment I could not utter a syllable, and she must have almost thought me dumb. At length my speech returned, and the prayer at once was breathed forth from my heart, that the sweet lady would often again allow me to see her in this garden; for that in a few weeks the service of the emperor would drive me into the burning land of Africa, and that until then she should vouchsafe me the happiness of beholding her. She looked at me half smiling, half sadly, and said, ’Yes.’ And she has kept her word and has appeared almost daily, without our having yet spoken much to each other. For although she has been sometimes quite alone, I could never begin any other topic but that of the happiness of walking by her side. Often she has sung to me, and I have sung to her also. When I told her yesterday that our departure was so near, her heavenly eyes seemed to me suffused with tears. I must also have looked sorrowful, for she said to me, in a consoling tone, ’Oh, pious, childlike warrior! one may trust you as one trusts an angel.’ After midnight, before the morning dawn breaks for your departure, I give you leave to take farewell of me in this very spot. If you could, however, find a true and discreet comrade to watch the entrance from the street, it would be well, for many a soldier may be passing at that hour through the city on his way from some farewell carouse. Providence has now sent me such a comrade, and at one o’clock I shall go joyfully to the lovely maiden."

"I only wish the service on which you require me were more rich in danger," rejoined Fadrique, "so that I might better prove to you that I am yours with life and limb. But come, noble brother, the hour for my adventure is arrived."

And wrapped in their mantles, the youths walked hastily toward the city, Fadrique carrying his beautiful guitar under his arm.


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Chicago: Friedrich Heinrich Karl de la Motte, "Chapter I.," The Two Captains, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Cooper, Frederic Taber, 1864-1937 in The Two Captains (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed November 26, 2022,

MLA: Karl de la Motte, Friedrich Heinrich. "Chapter I." The Two Captains, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Cooper, Frederic Taber, 1864-1937, in The Two Captains, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 26 Nov. 2022.

Harvard: Karl de la Motte, FH, 'Chapter I.' in The Two Captains, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, The Two Captains, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 26 November 2022, from