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ters, a multitude of ships of burden bringing the horses of the Spahis, and such heavy battering-cannon as rendered the dangers of a siege infinitely greater than in former days. These Janissaries were a strange, distorted resemblance of the knights themselves, for they were bound in a strict brotherhood of arms, and were not married, so as to care for nothing but each other, the Sultan, and the honor of their troop. They were not dull, apathetic Turks, but chiefly natives of Circassia and Georgia, the land where the human race is most beautiful and nobly formed. They were stolen from their homes, or, too often, sold by their parents when too young to remember their Christian baptism, and were bred up as Mahometans, with no home but their corps, no kindred but their fellow-soldiers. Their title, given by the Sultan who first enrolled them, meant New Soldiers, their ensign was a camp kettle, as that of their Pashas was one, two, or three horses' tails, in honor of the old Kurdish chief, the founder of the Turkish empire ; but there was no homeliness in their appointments, their weapons - scimitars, pistols, and carabines were crusted with gold and jewels; their head-dress, though made in imitation of a sleeve, was gorgeous, and their garments were of the richest wool and silk, dyed with the deep, exquisite colors of the East. Terrible warriors were they, and almost equally dreaded were the Spahis, light horsemen from Albania and the other Greek and Bulgarian provinces, who had entered the Turkish service, and were great plunderers, swift and cruel, glittering, both man and horse, with the jewels they had gained in their forays.
These were chiefly troops for the land attack, and they were set on shore at Port St. Thomas, where the commanders, Mustafa and Piali, held a council, to decide where they should first attack. Piali wished to wait for Dragut, who was daily expected,
but Mustafa was afraid of losing time, and of being caught by the Spanish fleet, and insisted on at once laying siege to Fort St. Elmo, which was, he thought, so small that it could not hold out more than five or six days. Indeed, it could not hold above 300 men,
but these were some of the bravest of the knights, and as it was only attacked on the land side, they were able to put off boats at night and communicate with the Grand Master and their brethren in the Borgo. The Turks set up their batteries, and fired their enormous cannon-shot upon the fortifications. One of their terrible pieces of ordnance carried stone balls of 160 lbs., and no wonder that stone and mortar gave way before it, and that a breach was opened in a few days' time. That night, when, as usual, boatloads of wounded men were transported across to the Borgo, the Bailiff of Negropont sent the knight La Cerda to the Grand Master to give an account of the state of things and ask for help. La Cerda spoke strongly, and, before a great number of knights, declared that there was no chance of so weak a place holding out for more than a week.
“What has been lost,” said the Grand Master, since
you cry out for help?” “Sir," replied La Cerda, “ the castle may be regarded as a patient in extremity and devoid of strength, who can only be sustained by continual remedies and constant succor.”
“I will be doctor myself,” replied the Grand Master, “and will bring others with me, who, if they cannot cure you of fear, will at least be brave enough to prevent the infidels from seizing the fort.”
The fact was, as he well knew, that the little fort could not hold out long, and he grieved over the fate of his knights ; but time was everything, and the fate of the whole isle depended upon the white cross being still on that point of land when the tardy Sicilian fleet should set sail. He was one who would ask no one to run into perils that he would not share, and he was bent on throwing himself into St. Elmo, and being rather buried under the ruins than to leave the Mussulmans free a moment sooner than could be helped to attack the Borgo and Castle of St. Angelo. But the whole Chapter of Knights entreated him to abstain, and so many volunteered for this desperate service, that the only difficulty was to choose among them. Indeed, La Cerda had done the garrison injustice; no one's heart was failing but his own; and the next day there was a respite, for a cannon-shot from St. Angelo falling into the enemy's camp, shattered a stone, a splinter of which struck down Piali Pasha. He was thought dead, and the camp and feet were in confusion, which enabled the Grand Master to send off his nephew, the Chevalier de la Valette Cornusson, to Messina, to entreat the Viceroy of Sicily to hasten to their relief; to give him a chart of the entrance of the harbor, and a list of signals, and to desire in especial that two ships belonging to the Order, and filled with the knights who had hurried from distant lands too late for the beginning of the siege, might come to him at once. To this the Viceroy returned a promise that at latest the fleet should sail on the 15th of June, adding an exhortation to him at all sacrifices to maintain St. Elmo. This reply the Grand Master transmitted to the garrison, and it nerved them to fight even with more patience and self-sacrifice.
A desperate sally was led by the Chevalier de Médran, who fought his way into the trenches where the Turkish cannon were planted, and at first drove all before him ; but the Janissaries rallied and forced back the Christians out of the trenches. Unfortunately there was a high wind, which drove the smoke of the artillery down on the counter-scarp (the slope of masonry facing the rampart), and while it was thus hidden from the Christians, the Turks succeeded in effecting a lodgment there, fortifying themselves with trees and sacks of earth and wool. When the smoke cleared off, the knights were dismayed to see the horse-tail ensigns of the Janissaries so near them, and cannon already prepared to batter the ravelin, or outwork protecting the gateway.
La Cerda proposed to blow this fortification up, and abandon it, but no other knight would hear of deserting an inch of wall while it could yet be held.
But again the sea was specked with white sails from the southeast. Six galleys came from Egypt, bearing 900 troops,
-Mameluke horsemen, troops recruited much like the Janissaries and quite as formidable. These ships were commanded by Ulucciali, an Italian, who had denied his faith and become a Mahometan, and was thus regarded with especial horror by the chivalry of Malta. And the swarm thickened for a few days more ; like white-winged and beautiful but venomous insects hovering round their prey, the graceful Moorish galleys and galliots came up from the south, bearing 6oo dark-visaged, white-turbaned, lithe-limbed Moors from Tripoli, under Dragut himself
. The thunders of all the guns roaring forth their salute of honor, told the garrison that the most formidable enemy of all had arrived. And now their little white rock was closed in on every, side, with nothing but its own firmness to be its aid.
Dragut did not approve of having begun with attacking Fort St. Elmo; he thought that the inland towns should have been first taken, and Mustafa offered to discontinue the attack, but this the Corsair said could not now be done with honor, and under him the attack went on more furiously than ever. He planted a battery of four guns on the point guarding the entrance of Marza Muscat, the other gulf, and the spot has ever since been called Dragut's Point.
Strange to say, the soldiers in the
ravelin fell asleep, and thus enabled the enemy to scramble up by climbing on one another's shoulders and enter the place. As soon as the alarm was given, the Bailiff of Negropont, with a number of knights, rushed into the ravelin, and fought with the utmost desperation, but all in vain ; they never succeeded in dislodging the Turks, and had almost been followed by them into the fort itself. Only the utmost courage turned back the enemy at last, and, it was believed, with a loss of 3,000. The Order had twenty knights and a hundred soldiers killed, with many more wounded. One knight named Abel de Bridiers, who was shot through the body, refused to be assisted by his brethren, saying, “Reckon me no more among the living. You will be doing better by defending our brothers.” He dragged himself away, and was found dead before the altar in the castle chapel. The other wounded were brought back to the Borgo in boats at night, and La Cerda availed himself of a slight scratch to come with them and remain, though the Bailiff of Negropont, a very old man, and with a really severe wound, returned as soon as it had been dressed, together with the reinforcements sent to supply the place of those who had been slain. The Grand Master, on finding how small had been La Cerda's hurt, put him in prison for several days; but he was afterwards released, and met his death bravely on the ramparts of the Borgo.
The 15th of June was passed. Nothing would make the Sicilian Viceroy move, nor even let the war-ships of the Order sail with their own knights, and the little fort that had been supposed unable to hold out a week, had for full a month resisted every attack of the enemy.
At last Dragut, though severely wounded while reconnoitring, set up a battery on the hill of Calcara, so as to command the strait, and hinder the suc