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Title: Old Court Life in Spain; vol. 1/2
Author: Elliot, Frances
Language: English
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                          _By Frances Elliot_


                       Old Court Life in France
                        Old Court Life in Spain

        [Illustration: Entrance to the Mosque of the Alhambra.]



                            [Illustration]

                               OLD COURT
                             LIFE IN SPAIN

                                  BY
                            FRANCES ELLIOT
              AUTHOR OF “OLD COURT LIFE IN FRANCE,” ETC.

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                             _ILLUSTRATED_

                               VOLUME I.

                          G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                        The Knickerbocker Press

                   The Knickerbocker Press, New York


                                  To
                           MRS. HUMPHRY WARD

                          TO WHOSE RESEARCHES
                I AM SO MUCH INDEBTED, THIS REVIVAL OF
                           OLD SPANISH TIMES
                      IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED



PREFACE


In no boastful spirit I gratefully acknowledge the flattering success of
_Old Court Life in France_, written twenty years ago. It is precisely
owing to the favour with which the public in England, America, and on
the Continent still honour this work that I have endeavoured to
reproduce on the same plan some pictures of early Spanish history
comparatively little known to the general public.

Nothing can possibly be more thrilling and more romantic.

It is with the earlier and less known passages of old Court life I have
dealt down to the reign of Ferdinand and Isabel, from which period the
history of Spain loses its peculiar identity and becomes merged into
that of Europe.

If I have loved the courtly history I also love the country. A great
part of this work was written in Spain, in the very places where the
events occurred. May the reader share the same enthusiasm I felt in
describing them!



AUTHORITIES


     Dozy--Histories.

     Mrs. Humphry Ward in Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Biography on
     Gothic Ecclesiastical History.

     Biographie Universelle.

     Bradley--Story of the Nations.

     Lane Poole--The Moors.

     Romanceros, Ballads of the Cid, Ballads of Bernardo del Carpio.

     Lockhart--Spanish Ballads.

     Cid Campeador, by Prince Odescalchi.

     Storia de Don Pedro Abogado da los Tribunales Nacionales.

     Chronicles of King Alfonso El Sabio.

     Washington Irving’s Works.

     Murray’s Guide for Spain.

     Diary of an Idle Woman in Spain.

     Prescott’s History of Ferdinand and Isabel.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

I.--INTRODUCTION                                                       1

II.--DON RODERICH.--GATHERING OF THE
CHIEFS.--TRIAL OF WITICA                                              39

III.--DON RODERICH’S PERFIDY                                          58

IV.--DON JULIAN GOES OVER TO THE MOORS                                76

V.--LANDING OF THE MOORS.--THE EVE OF
BATTLE                                                                83

VI.--BATTLE OF GUADALETE.--OVERTHROW
OF DON RODERICH                                                       92

VII.--CORDOBA.--PELISTES.--DON JULIAN.--FLORINDA                     100

VIII.--FRANDINA AND HER SON PUT TO DEATH
BY ALABOR                                                            112

IX.--THE MOORS AT SEVILLE.--MOUSA AND
ABDUL-ASIS                                                           124

X.--ABDUL-ASIS AND EGILONA                                           135

XI.--THE MOORS AT CORDOBA                                            154

XII.--ABDURRAMAN, SULTAN OF CORDOBA                                  160

XIII.--ONESINDA AND KERIM                                            168

XIV.--TRAGIC DEATH OF ONESINDA                                       176

XV.--PELAYO PROCLAIMED KING BY THE
GOTHS                                                                182

XVI.--BERNARDO DEL CARPIO                                            190

XVII.--KING ALONSO                                                   202

XVIII.--BERNARDO DEL CARPIO’S VOW                                    208

XIX.--BERNARDO LEADS THE GOTHS AGAINST
CHARLEMAGNE                                                          214

XX.--DEATH OF SIR ROLAND THE BRAVE                                   221

XXI.--BERNARDO LEARNS THE SECRET OF
HIS BIRTH.--JOINS THE MOORS                                          226

XXII.--EL CONDE DE CASTILA                                           237

XXIII.--DOÑA AVA                                                     249

XXIV.--MARRIAGE OF DOÑA AVA AND EL
CONDE DE CASTILA.--TREACHERY
OF DOÑA TERESA                                                       257

XXV.--DOÑA AVA OUTWITS DON SANCHO
AND RELEASES HER HUSBAND                                             265

XXVI.--THE CID--1037                                                 276

XXVII.--DON DIEGO LAYNEZ AND THE CONDE
DE GORMEZ                                                            280

XXVIII.--DON RODRIGO (THE CID) KILLS THE
CONDE DE GORMEZ                                                      285

XXIX.--MARRIAGE OF THE CID AND DOÑA
XIMENA                                                               292

XXX.--DEATH OF KING FERNANDO.--DOÑA
URRACA AT ZAMORA                                                     299

XXXI.--DON ALFONSO BANISHES THE CID                                  305

XXXII.--THE CID BIDS DOÑA XIMENA FAREWELL                            311

XXXIII.--ADVENTURES OF THE CID.--DEATH
AND BURIAL                                                           315

XXXIV.--FERNANDO EL SANTO                                            326

XXXV.--DON PEDRO                                                     340



ILLUSTRATIONS IN PHOTOGRAVURE


                                                                    PAGE

ENTRANCE TO THE MOSQUE OF THE ALHAMBRA                     _Frontispiece_

THE GUADALQUIVIR AND MOSQUE, CORDOVA                                  22

THE ALHAMBRA, GRANADA, AND THE VEGA
FROM THE GENERALIFE                                                   52

INTERIOR OF THE GREAT MOSQUE, CORDOVA                                 82

TORRE DEL MIHRAB AND GRANADA                                         110

MOORISH MILLS IN THE GUADALQUIVIR, AT
CORDOVA                                                              142

A PROCLAMATION IN GRANADA, BY BOABDIL                                166

From a painting by Placido Francés, National
Exhibition of Fine Arts, Madrid, 1884.

THE GENERALIFE, GRANADA                                              204


ILLUSTRATIONS OTHER THAN PHOTOGRAVURE

A VIEW IN TOLEDO                                                      10

IN THE CATHEDRAL--CORDOVA                                             34

From an etching by Samuel Colman.

THE CLOISTERS, TOLEDO                                                 42

THE EXTERIOR OF THE GREAT MOSQUE AT
CORDOVA                                                               60

THE GATE OF THE MOSQUE OF CORDOVA                                     74

MOHAMMED                                                              82

A VIEW OF MECCA IN THE 17TH CENTURY                                   96

THE GOLDEN TOWER, SEVILLE                                            102

INTERIOR OF SAN ISIDORO, WITH TOMBS OF
KINGS                                                                118

CHURCH OF SAN ISIDORO (LEON)                                         130

PANTEON DE LOS REYES, THE BURIAL PLACE
OF THE ANCIENT KINGS OF LEON                                         154

THE CHARLEMAGNE OF EPIC                                              172

From the painting by Albrecht Dürer.

THE ROMAN BRIDGE AT SALAMANCA                                        184

THE BRIDGE, GATEWAY, AND CATHEDRAL OF
BURGOS                                                               196

THE CATHEDRAL OF ZAMORA, ELEVENTH CENTURY                            210

THE WALLS OF ZAMORA                                                  224

A MOORISH GATEWAY (BURGOS)                                           232

THE GATEWAY ON SITE OF ANCIENT PUERTA
DE SERRANOS (VALENCIA)                                               244

THE PUERTA DI SANTA MARIA, BURGOS                                    260

THE GIRALDA, SEVILLE                                                 282

THE BRIDGE AT SARAGOSSA                                              304

A DRINKING FOUNTAIN IN SEVILLE                                       316

Photo Levy et Fils.

A VIEW OF THE INTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL
AT BURGOS                                                            330

Photo Levy et Fils.

THE BURGOS CATHEDRAL                                                 342



Old Court Life in Spain



CHAPTER I

Introduction


How great is Spain! How mighty! From the rugged mountains of the
Asturias, their base washed by stormy waves, and the giddy heights of
the Pyrenean precipices--an eternal barrier between rival peoples--to
the balmy plains of the South, where summer ever reigns! A world within
itself, with a world’s variety! _Quien dice España dice todo!_

And its history is as varied as the land. First, according to the
legend, Hercules set his pillars, or “keys”--the _ne plus ultra_ of land
and sea--on the rock of Calpe (Gibraltar) in Europe, and on Abyla
(Ceuta) in Africa. And, that no one should doubt it, he placed his
temple on the water-logged flats, half-sea, half-land, behind Cadiz,
long remembered by the Moors as the “district of Idols,” near the city
of Gades, where Geryon dwelt, from whom Hercules “lifted” that troop of
fat oxen which he was destined so long to drive wearily about the earth.
In memory of all which Charles the Fifth, the great Emperor, carried
Hercules’ pillars on his shield, with the proud motto, _Ne plus ultra_,
and the city of Cadiz (Gades) still bears them as its arms.

Then, tradition past, came invaders from the earliest times, Celts,
Phœnicians, and Greeks, driving the Iberians from their rightful
lands. The Carthaginians, too, crossed from Africa along the southern
coast, and settled at Cartagena, which still bears their name.

The Romans next appeared, victorious under Pompey and Cæsar, spreading
over Spain, but especially powerful at Seville, Cordoba, Toledo,
Segovia, and Tarragona, where they have left their mark in mighty
monuments.

A race of uncivilised warriors followed from the North, so powerful that
two Roman emperors perished in battle with them. Of the precise seat of
the Gothic nation it is hard to speak with certainty. It is, however,
known that they came from the extreme north, spreading to the borders of
the Black Sea, into Asia Minor in the east, and to the south of Spain in
the west. They are mentioned by Pliny, about sixty years before Christ,
and later by Tacitus, who twice refers to them as “Gothones.” There were
so many tribes, Visigoths, Astrogoths, Gepidæ, and even Vandals, that
their story is as a tangled web, mixed with that of all nations, but it
is clear that those who concern our present purpose came down into
Spain from Narbonne and Toulouse.

It is strange how soon these savage northmen discarded their wooden
idols, Woden, Thor, and Balder, the gods of thunder and of the sun--so
that when Constantine the Great christianised the world, the Gothic
chief Wulfila was ready to become a convert. Who this Wulfila was, and
how he came to be at Constantinople, is not clear. As Bishop of the
Goths he returned to missionarise his countrymen, the Dacian tribes, in
the mighty plains of Philippopolis (A.D. 310-314), and made a
translation of the Bible into Gothic. Even in our own day something of
this precious manuscript remains, beautifully written in letters of gold
on purple vellum, at the Swedish University of Upsala.

From the earliest times the Goths had a rude alphabet (Runes), which
Wulfila increased, with letters closely resembling English, in his
translation of the Scriptures.

Rude indeed! The letters were formed by staves on wooden boards, but all
the same were destined to become most ornamental. Gothic letters are
still in use for decorative purposes. Numerous Gothic manuscripts exist,
written in these picturesque characters, and the inscription over the
portal of Pedro el Cruel at the Alcazar at Seville is in Gothic. To this
day, too, in the Muzaraba Chapel, under the eastern tower of the
Cathedral of Toledo, the service is celebrated according to the
Christian rite from Gothic missals, dating from the time of King
Recaredo.

       *       *       *       *       *

The line of Gothic rulers in Spain lasted for nearly two centuries and a
half. No less than thirty kings succeeded each other in that period,
most of whom died either by violence or in battle.

Alaric, “the scourge of God,” never came into Spain, but Eurico, his
immediate successor, did. Eurico was the greatest warrior of his time,
and so versed in Christian polemics that he insisted on the entire
nation becoming Arians like himself. Nothing but the close contact of
the Goths with that hotbed of heresy, Constantinople, can account for a
semi-barbarian indulging in a choice of divers forms of doctrine, nor
for the power the Gothic bishops arrogated to themselves after the
precedent of the Eastern prelates up to the time of Witica. Like the
Greek patriarchs they were mixed up in every political intrigue,
conspiracy, and revolution; made and unmade kings at their pleasure, and
greatly influenced the ecclesiastical world by the decrees of their
councils at Toledo. The Goths were, indeed, for ages a priest-ridden
nation, and the names of their great archbishops have come down to us as
landmarks in the land.

So high did party feeling run between Arians and Orthodox that
Leovigildô caused his only son to be executed because he had called an
Arian bishop “a servant of the devil,” and refused to “communicate” with
him. Yet Leovigildô was a great king according to his lights, sat on a
raised throne among his long-haired chiefs, and had money coined in his
name bearing an effigy of himself. Even now a dim halo of the pomp of
the Basileus seems to shine around him, as we picture him wearing the
Gothic crown, clothed in an ermine mantle, with the purple sandals of
empire on his feet.

How early is the religion of peace turned to strife! We are in the sixth
century among a new race, and already the flames of persecution are
blazing. Two parties divide the kingdom, “the bigots” and “the
Romanisers,” degenerate Goths, who aspire in dress and manners to ape
the culture of Byzantium, as opposed to the cloddish habits of the
“bigots,” content to know how to master a horse, draw the long bow,
launch the javelin, and follow their king to battle. Whether this type
of original Goth would have brought back the worship of Thor and Woden
does not appear. At least under these idols there was unity; the
sacrifice of human victims formed a convenient method of getting rid of
prisoners, and the temporary altars among migratory tribes, served by
male and female priests, were simple and convenient.

But Recaredo, on his accession, settled the question by becoming (like
the mass of his subjects) a Catholic, after a synod of sixty-seven
bishops, held at Toledo, had solemnly decided in favour of the orthodoxy
of that Church. Perhaps his religious divergences might not have been
so unquestioningly accepted, had he not defeated King Gouteran and
60,000 Franks. A Goth must know how to fight, or he was nothing; and
thus it came to pass that the theology of a commander, brave enough to
hurl destruction on his foes, was thankfully accepted.

Unlike the majority of his predecessors, Recaredo died in his bed (A.D.
601), applauded by all men for his wisdom in completing the union of the
conquered Iberians with the Goths, and forming what was destined to
become the future kingdom of Spain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eleven kings pass, and now (A.D. 680) Recesvinto, whom all men loved,
son of Chindavinto, lies dead upon a bed of state, raised on a dais,
draped with purple hangings; the four pillars of the canopy are plated
with sheets of gold, and a crown formed by strings of jewels, depending
from a circlet set with uncut stones, hangs over his head.

So bushy and matted is his hair--worn in the fashion of the Goths, in
long loose curls--and so thick his beard, that the sunken features of
the good old King are almost hidden. For twenty-three years Recesvinto
has reigned in peace, and now he lies in honoured death, while gathered
around him is such pomp as the nation possesses of golden crome and
kingly insignia; ermine-lined robe, and silken vest, sandals and buskins
laced with gold, the baton of command and the Gothic sceptre long borne
in battle by their kings.

The vaulted chamber in which he lies in the castle of Gerticos is lined
with planks of shining pine, on which some rude embroidery is stretched.
The hallowed roof is formed of thick beams and rafters, and huge
fireplaces flank either end, filled now with strong-smelling herbs,
rosemary and wild myrtle, lavender and thyme, loose sprigs of which,
with yew and cypress, are strewn on the rudely worked counterpane which
covers the corpse. Broadswords with huge hilts are crossed upon the
walls, along with solidly embossed shields and heavily topped lances,
the implements of the chase, and skins of wolves and deer, which have
fallen by the prowess of those royal hands, now lying white and cold in
death, crossed on his breast, clasping a crucifix! Saddles, too, and the
silver trappings of his war-horse, are there, and Runic bracelets,
collars, and buckles; all the paraphernalia of a Gothic chief, come down
from Dacian ancestors, ranged on tables full in the crimson rays of the
setting sun, streaming through the small bars of the uncurtained
casements, and illuminating each detail in flickering patches as of
flame.

On an oaken bench an altar has been raised to receive his last
confession, devoutly made, as he felt death approaching. The Eucharist
is still present in a jewelled box, the cup, platter, and crucifix,
while priests and acolytes, in stoles and copes, offer up silent prayers
for his departed soul. Clouds of incense darken the room and mount into
the lofty vaulting of the roof in huge shadowy masses, which to the
superstitious mind might shape into the outlines of dead Gothic kings,
hovering over the form of the royal brother who has joined them in the
world beyond.

Around the chamber are gathered the warriors and chiefs who have
followed him in battle, habited in the full loose garments of peace,
bound in with girdles and waistbands. Tall, strong men, with blue eyes
and fair skins, who, by their dress, might be mistaken for Roman
senators, save for the pervading colour of their abundant hair, passing
from every tint of pale straw colour to a dull red, their bare arms
circled with bracelets and amulets, on which, spite of Christian
doctrine, charms and cabalistic signs are engraved.

Chief among them stands Hilderic, Governor of Nîmes (for the south of
France up to the centre is Gothic), a massive, large-limbed man of
brutal courage, whose life has passed in feuds and battles with Franks
and Basques, never hesitating at any act of cruelty that would extend
his power. A fierce crimson hue is on his broad face from constant
exposure, and there are scars on neck and cheek, calculated to inspire
sympathy with his courage, if his ferocious expression did not turn them
rather into a cause of dread. Beside him stands Gunhild of Maguelone, a
turbulent soldier of inferior position, wanting in the authority assumed
by Hilderic.

Both these ambitious chiefs have been intriguing for the crown, as
Recesvinto grew old, hating each other bitterly while he lived, and now
that he is dead, bearing themselves with an irreverent indifference
painful to behold, talking in loud whispers to those about, and laughing
at rude jokes, especially Hilderic, who stands apart stroking the head
of a favourite wolf-dog of gigantic size.

Beside them is a Greek, Paul by name, who has made his way into favour
by extraordinary valour. Of his origin no one is certain; of polished
exterior, his superior civilisation is apparent in manners and in dress,
much more gaudy and ornate than that of the rest. A mantle of fine blue
cloth falls in ample folds about his graceful form, with a certain
Oriental amplitude easy to distinguish, and in his hand he carries a
scarlet cap.

Paul is to head a revolution by-and-by, under Hilderic; then,
unsuccessful, to be dragged by the hair of his head (_more Gotico_),
between two horses--friends and allies to-day, mortal enemies
to-morrow--such is the custom of these chiefs, often incited by the
rancour of the women, who appear in history as more bloodthirsty, if
possible, than the men.

Aëtius is there also, and Turismundo and Sisenanth, all mighty nobles,
and placed modestly behind a noble Goth, verging into years, noticeable
for the merciful disposition expressed in his wrinkled face; Wamba is
his name, the friend of the oppressed and of the tillers of the soil,
poor slaves whom no man heeds--even of the Jews, whom he insists upon
treating as members of the great human family; a brave, determined man
of the old Dacian type, notable among the fiery spirits around. As he
has great possessions, to which he attends himself, he is known as “the
farmer,” in derision of his simple tastes. Wamba is no kinsman to
Recesvinto, but a whisper has gone forth that he is destined to succeed
him. The Church, at this time most powerful, favours him, and he is the
only chief present whose record is free from crime. Many and many a time
he has fought shoulder to shoulder with the king who now lies dead. To
him the funeral chamber brings a genuine sorrow--not even pretended by
the rest--and as he gazes on the features of his friend, tears rise and
moisten his eyes.

Behind Wamba stands his beloved follower, Ervig, a youth whose
olive-complexioned face and clear brown eyes show alien blood. His
mother, a Gothic princess, was kinswoman to King Chindavinto, but his
father was a Greek. As yet no one reads the unscrupulous ambition of his
soul. Indeed, he hardly realises it himself. Crime often lies dormant in
seemingly innocent natures, until occasion discovers it. The evil spirit
within him is to be developed by the indulgence of his patron Wamba,
who, unknowingly, is warming a serpent in his breast.

All present fall back as Julianus, the Archbishop of Toledo, enters. He
has hurried from Toledo to be present ere the old king breathes his

[Illustration: A VIEW IN TOLEDO.]

last. But death waits for no man. As he enters the homely chamber of
death with an overwhelming majesty of look and manner, his cold,
impassive glance dominates them all. Nor is the dignity of costume
wanting. His monastic mantle is secured at the neck by a golden clasp,
and drapes heavily about him; the sleeves of his tunic are lined with
precious fur; on his finger is the pastoral ring, and from his neck is
suspended a jewelled cross; a dress at once simple and costly, answering
to the imperious expression of his face, looking out from the folds of a
dark silken cowl, which falls back from his head, his deeply-sunk eyes
taking in at a glance all the details around him.

Julianus is the foremost prelate in learning and power the Goths ever
had. Next, indeed, in historical importance to Isidor of Seville, though
much earlier in point of date; his influence and preponderance are at
this time supreme. Possibly he was by birth a Jew, though early attached
to the Chapter of Toledo. A churchman of great literary gifts, restless,
unscrupulous, ambitious; the very Hildebrand of those early times, who
raised the see of Toledo to a position of unparallelled supremacy,
presiding during his life at various councils most important in the
history of the mediæval church.

The archbishop is attended by his secretary, a lay brother, habited in
black, carrying papers, who (as reflecting the tyranny of his master)
stands, without daring to raise his eyes, more like an automaton than a
living man.

The only one whom the archbishop condescends to notice among the
assembly is Wamba, who holds himself somewhat apart from the rest. He at
once singles him out and salutes him with a profound obeisance which
Wamba, without evincing any surprise, returns in silence.

To look on the face of the dead is a duty among these savage races, who
believe that the soul of the departed lingers for awhile about its
tenement of clay. But there is another and more powerful incentive which
has assembled these chiefs from the far-off provinces of the kingdom.

Round the bed of the dead king they stand to choose his successor.
Absolute silence reigns. Each man is jealous of his neighbour, and
convinced that his own claims will prevail. Especially is this the case
with Hilderic, who has a secret compact with the Jews who fled from
oppression in the south of Spain to his government of Narbonne, and he
knows that they will gladly furnish him with funds to harass the
Christian nobles.

At last the voice of the archbishop is raised to break the strange hush
around.

“Chiefs and nobles of the Gothic nation,” he says, in a tone of
authority, while all eyes are fixed on him, “the king who lies here
reigned in peace according to the Gospel. I am not come to make his
funeral oration. All present know his good deeds and the moderation of
his rule. For twenty-three years the sword of the Goth has rested in
the scabbard. But this calm cannot continue. An able man must succeed
him. One”--and as he spoke the silken cowl fell altogether back,
displaying the powerful lines of his tonsured head, the broad
intellectual brow, and the erectness of command--“one, I say, alone is
worthy, and that is Wamba. He has no enemies.”

As a long-drawn breath of eager expectation looses itself with a
distinct note of relief, so did a low sound pass through the dead
chamber as Julianus spoke. On every countenance came an expression of
astonishment, but it was astonishment unmixed with opposition or anger.
A relief indeed to pent-up feelings, which finally found vent in a burst
of loud applause, each man falling back instinctively to where Wamba had
placed himself at the foot of the bed. Then, as with one voice, came the
response:

“Yes, Wamba! He shall be our king!”

“But,” cried Wamba, his wrinkled face working with emotion, as he
advanced quickly to where Julianus stood, “my consent is needful to this
proposal. Now I refuse it. I am not of an age to rule over my valorous
countrymen. I am old, I am unworthy. The strength of my arm is gone. I
am unfit to lead the dauntless Goths to battle.”

“Then rule over them at home,” is the short rejoinder of the archbishop.
“In a nation of soldiers a peaceful sovereign is best. You are great in
wisdom, O Wamba! Recesvinto was no warrior, and we are here to mourn his
loss.”

“Yes,” replies Hilderic, secretly rejoiced at the choice of Julianus, as
from the age of Wamba he will have time and occasion to complete his
treacherous plans before the new king’s probable death, for to Hilderic
Wamba appears an aged visionary, easy to be put aside when opportunity
is ripe, a convenient stop-gap for a time--“yes, Wamba, you are the only
man we will accept without bloodshed.”

“Impossible!” cries Wamba, his cheeks reddening with anger. “I will
accept nothing which I cannot righteously fulfil. I am unfit to reign.”

“No, no!” exclaims Ervig, casting his arms about his patron’s neck and
affectionately saluting him. “Goodness and wisdom are the best, and
those are yours, dear master.”

“We _will_ have you! Speak! Consent!” come as one word from the circle
of nobles. “You dare not refuse the will of the chiefs,” cry all,
gathering round him, each more or less approving the choice on the same
grounds as did Hilderic, or as considering Wamba an easy ruler, under
whom every man would be his own master. Already the brows of some begin
to darken at his continued refusal.

“Choose some younger man,” he persists, struggling from the hands which
are now laid on him; “one better fitted for the arduous duties of your
king. Look at me,” and he raises his grey locks and bares his furrowed
forehead, “I am long past my prime.” As he speaks he is retreating as
best he can towards the door, when the fiery Hilderic, seizing him with
one hand, with the other brandishes a naked spear.

“Look you, Wamba,” says he, a dangerous fire kindling his eye, “you
shall never leave this chamber, save as a dead man, or as our king.”

“Dead, or as our king,” came as a war-cry from all the fierce Goths,
closing round him with such unseeming shouts and din, that it seemed as
if their rude clamour must disturb the last sleep of the dead whose
presence all had forgotten.

“You accept the crown in the sight of God?” demands the archbishop in a
solemn voice, stretching forth his hands towards Wamba, who, perceiving
that further opposition is useless, bows his head. “Then at this altar
let us offer up our thanksgivings. The Church is with you, Wamba.” And
Julianus turns to the oaken table on which stands the Host, and falls
upon his knees, with the priests and acolytes around, followed by all
those fierce spirits quelled for an instant by the might of his power.

“And,” says Wamba, as last of all that assembly he slowly bends his knee
in the place of honour reserved for him next to the archbishop,
“countrymen! let your prayers be for me also, that I may not be deemed
unworthy!”

Again the incense rises in shadowy clouds, filling the chamber with
strange outlines. Again the voices of the priests rise and fall, and
human interests are lulled for awhile in the presence of the dead king.
Again the chiefs remember for a brief moment his just and tranquil
reign, and many prayers are recited with apparent fervour for the repose
of his soul.

       *       *       *       *       *

Within nineteen days after the election of his successor, Recesvinto was
buried and Wamba crowned by Julianus in the Cathedral of Toledo. All
Spain was jubilant, for he was a blameless man; indeed, a fond
remembrance yet clings to his name at Toledo. The words _Tiempo del Rey
Wamba_ still point to some lingering impression of national prosperity
and of a time of plenty, answering to the days of the “Saxon kings” in
England. And Wamba was indeed no imbecile, or weak-handed in war, as
Hilderic and his friend the Greek Paul pretended, when, helped by the
Jews, they broke into rebellion. He was a warrior indeed, who, though
old, could lead the Goths to victory and punish his enemies by slaughter
and torture as was the habit of his nation. After which the “Farmer
King,” as he was affectionately called, to indicate his simple tastes
and care for the neglected serfs, returned to Toledo to enjoy his
triumph, descending the hill to the cathedral, through the narrow
streets, much as we see them now, followed by a long procession of
captive Basques with shaven heads, a signal mark of humiliation to the
abundant-haired Goths (the rebel Paul, in impious mockery, decorated
with a leather crown, stuck on his head with melted pitch, and a sceptre
of reeds in his hand), to be received by the Archbishop Julianus under
the sculptures of the Gate, at the head of his clergy.

But the decline of native valour had gone too far for any single man to
stem the downward tide. The free constitution of the Nomad tribes had
given place to a military despotism, alternating with, and controlled
by, a bigoted priesthood. The tremendous superiority of Julianus delayed
for a time this downward course, but could not arrest it. Even his iron
will could not stop the decadence of a nation. Each chief--or duke
(_dux_)--was king in his own district, and free to lead a life of
idleness and crime. If the Goths still fought well, it was only against
each other, or when pressed by necessity to arrest the inroads of the
Franks, a much more masculine nation than themselves.

In the south, the Moors were eagerly watching for some chance of
crushing out the Northmen. At home, the Jews, persecuted, ill-treated,
and numerous, were ready to join with every rebel, and to welcome any
invader, while, in spite of the efforts of the king, the freedmen, sunk
in hopeless slavery, tilled the land for their masters and lived like
the beasts of the field. All who possessed more than themselves or who
amassed riches were exposed to the envious rapacity of the nobles.

Thus the nation was threatened with destruction on all sides, yet so
short-sighted and effete had the Goths become, that, deluded with the
semblance of a false peace, they lived as they listed, unconscious of
the ruin gathering around.

For a time all went well with Wamba. The vigour of his government had
been a surprise to those who had elected him, to none more than the
archbishop himself, who little expected to find a ruler of such
determination in the modest-minded chief. No woman swayed his councils,
neither wife, daughter, nor leman. All his love was centred in Ervig,
whom he constantly advanced step by step to fresh honours and commands.
So much was Wamba beloved by the people and nation, that the erudite but
ambitious Julianus, still hoping to govern him with courtly flattery,
wrote his panegyric in the _Storia Wamba_, extolling him as the pattern
of a Christian hero; and Ervig, who had developed into a subtle
statesman, greatly favoured by the archbishop, helped him to turn the
elegant sentences.

When Julianus had declared on Wamba’s election that “the Church was with
him,” it was in the belief that he was dealing with a weak old man whom
he could blindly lead. He never dreamed that he would dare to touch the
privileges of his order. Perhaps Wamba thought so himself before power
imposed duties on his conscience. But when he insisted on keeping the
clergy in check, and exercised his prerogative in enacting new laws of
reform, Julianus secretly resolved on his destruction. Imbued with the
spirit of the Roman pontiffs he would permit no meddling of the secular
arm with his authority. Even the king, according to Julianus, must
submit to the decrees of the great councils which he, as archbishop, was
so fond of calling together, and which were destined to make his name
famous throughout the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

To effect the downfall of Wamba a tool was needed, and that tool was
Ervig. Striking with a master hand on the baser chords of his nature,
vanity and ambition, the relentless archbishop crushed out of him every
spark of gratitude and love and moulded him to his hand as the potter
moulds the clay.

“It is for the salvation of the Church of God,” whispered Julianus, “a
holy deed. It is Wamba who is the Judas, not you, my son,” in answer to
Ervig’s feeble arguments. “Wamba has basely betrayed his master, and
must be cast out as a brand to the burning! You are of royal blood,
Wamba is but a hireling. Instead of standing as second to the throne, it
is your right to mount it, and prove to this backslider that the same
hand which crowned him can cast him down.”

“But you will spare his life,” pleaded Ervig, pricked sorely in his
conscience in spite of the casuistry of the archbishop.

“That will be in the hands of the Lord,” answered the arrogant priest.
“I am but the instrument of the Most High.”

Wamba did not live in the fortress over the city of Toledo, the present
Alcazar, but in a palace near the church now called Juan de los Reyes,
situated on a plateau overlooking the Tagus, and lower down in the town
among the citizens. Instinctively he was conscious of a change in Ervig.
He shunned him, he was short and reticent in his replies, assumed a
haughty indifference to his commands, and so openly opposed the new
clerical laws that Wamba severely reproved him. After which a strange
thing happened. Wamba fell into a deep sleep, sitting in the hall of his
palace, lulled by the ripple of the river far below; a stupor, rather
than a sleep, for he could not be aroused.

“The hand of God is upon him,” cried the false Ervig, whom the
attendants had summoned. “Call the archbishop. He must not die
unshriven.”

When consciousness returned, Wamba found himself habited as a monk, with
a dark cowl over his eyes, lying on a wooden trestle, more like a bier
than a resting-place for a living man. The walls around were bare and
discoloured with mildew, a dim uncertain light fell on his face from a
narrow window too high in the wall to reveal anything without. A
terrible oppression overwhelmed him; he could scarcely open his eyes,
and every limb seemed paralysed.

Whether the sleeping potion administered by Ervig had not been potent
enough to end life, or whether the strength of his constitution had
resisted its full action, no man will ever know. Gradually, as his
senses returned, he understood the treason of which he was the victim.
He was in a monk’s dress, and, according to the Gothic law, whoever once
assumes the ecclesiastical habit is dead to actual life. As far as his
kingly office was concerned they might as well have sealed him in a
tomb, and read the prayers for the dead over him!

“And Ervig had done this! Ervig!” For he dimly remembered a drink which
Ervig had at his request offered him before he fell asleep. In that
moment more than the bitterness of death passed over him. Death brings
forgetfulness. Wamba’s returning senses came with an agonised recalling
of all his former life, out of which rose the image of that one false
friend whom he had so loved and trusted. Moment by moment all became
clear; Ervig had, during his swoon, clothed him as a monk. He was
dethroned!

Suddenly the door of the cell opens, and the stately figure of the
archbishop appears. With straight swift strides he advances to where
Wamba lies; his priestly robe drooping around him with a heavy patrician
grace, his ebon hair falling over his ample brow, a veil to the
glittering eyes beneath, which burn with an evil fire. Like a phantom he
stands over the prostrate king--his form in shadow, sombrely defined
against the window, and in an instant all the cell seems to palpitate
with life; the walls animate with the expectant eyes of monks placed
there to watch the swoon of the king--a dark and sinister background
revealed by the scanty light, in which Julianus dominates like some
wicked giant about to pounce upon his prey.

Ervig was beside him, standing with averted looks that he might not meet
the gaze of Wamba, who still lay with half closed eyes, passively
watching the movements of his enemies.

Was it to be life or death? He cared not! A chill as of death curdled
his blood. The cell whirled and a mighty darkness reeled down upon him.
Wounded to the quick, he would not even condescend to expostulate.
Before such base treachery his righteous soul revolted. They had him in
their power, let them wreak their will. His life was done, his reign
ended. Against the law under which he lay there was no appeal. Shut up
in a subterranean prison how could he communicate with any who might
dare to restore him to his throne? It was subtly planned, and by a
master mind!

Wamba is, however, the first to break silence. He heaves a deep sigh and
opens his eyes, passing his hands slowly over his face, ghastly under
the effects of the poison. “You have been a false friend to me,” he
says, addressing himself, not to the archbishop, but to the muffled
figure which stands behind him. “You have returned evil for good. In
what have I injured you?” His voice is low, but he speaks with the
calmness of one who has already passed the gates of death.

[Illustration: The Guadalquivir and Mosque, Cordova.]

“Accuse not Ervig,” answers the archbishop, in a tone of lofty command,
placing himself before Wamba, so as to fill with his ample draperies the
narrow space of light. “It is the Holy Church in my person you have
offended. As an unfaithful son you are cast out. Ervig has but done his
duty, for you, Wamba, are a recreant unfit to reign.”

“And does the duty of Ervig lead him to succeed me?” asks Wamba, raising
himself painfully from the pallet and leaning forward, so that the
outlines of his sunken features appear under the cowl.

“It does,” answers Julianus, still shielding Ervig from the glance of
contempt which shoots from the eyes of Wamba.

“It is well,” is the answer. “You made me king, Julianus, against my
will. Now, against my will, you unmake me. Poor and wretched
instrument,” he adds, raising his hand towards Ervig, who was crouching
in the shadow near the wall, “beware how you cross Julianus. Take
example by me, and let no love for the Gothic tempt you to do justice to
the people.”

“Dare not to question the judgment of God,” exclaims the archbishop, an
expression of lofty scorn lighting up the evil brilliancy of his deeply
sunken eyes. “To Ervig you owe your life. I would have flung you into
the fires of purgatory to purify your sinful soul, but his counsels were
of mercy.”

“I thank him not,” replies Wamba. “I am old, and my time in this world
is short. I would far rather have sunk into eternal sleep, than lead the
life to which you have condemned me.”

So deeply moved was Ervig, despite the dignity which awaited him, that
he did not reply. He was a weak, unworthy nature, bad, but not wholly
depraved. He had been worked upon and warped by the sophistries of the
unscrupulous archbishop, which now, in the presence of his benefactor,
seemed to lose all their weight. Even his ambition to reign wavered for
the moment before his remorse, as one who having braced himself to
commit a crime, yet lacks the courage to carry out the measure of his
iniquity.

So evident was this, that, full of the fear of what his affection for
Wamba might prompt him to do, Julianus brought the interview to an
abrupt end. Without another word he passed out of the cell followed by
Ervig, and the army of tonsured monks, who had borne Wamba in, now
returned to watch his gradual return to active life.

The “Farmer King” had, however, many friends. The Goths loved him, and
the Jews (a powerful contingent, richer than all the rest) respected
him. So humble was he in peace, so brilliant in war, and under that calm
exterior gifted with such energy that he had inspired the State with a
new life, as the last great spirit of the old Dacian stock, that
Julianus became seriously alarmed, and hastened to call a Council of
Bishops to ratify the accession of Ervig to the throne.

The sentence which was passed upon Wamba was thus worded: “As there are
some who, being clothed in the garments of penitence when in peril of
death, after having recovered, claim that the vow is not binding--let
all such remember that they are baptised without will or knowledge, and
yet no man can remove baptism without damnation; as it is with baptism,
so with monastic vows, and we [the Council] declare that all who violate
this law are worthy of the severest punishment, and are incapable of
holding any office or civil dignity during their natural lives.”

By this it would seem that, however the nation clung to the memory of
the good old king, yet these once brave and manly warriors had sunk into
an incredibly superstitious and priest-ridden nation, fit only to be
crushed in the hands of the first bold invader, and that all this
internal strife was but as an invitation to the Moors across the
Straits, and the Basques in the mountains of the north, to take
advantage of their weakness.

Of Ervig it is said that, after a few years passed in vassalage to
Julianus, remorse overcame him, and he took to his bed and died.

       *       *       *       *       *

Under Witica the Court of Toledo was stained with blood. He was an
ignorant, arrogant tyrant, who only understood present advantage to
himself. To prevent possible rebellion--and hostile parties were many
and ran high, as in preceding reigns--he dismantled the city walls and
fortresses, and in his mad eagerness for the security of the throne
murdered every kinsman whose life lay within his hand. Particularly was
his insane jealousy directed against his cousin Favila, Dux of
Cantabria, who was executed, and Witica had prepared the same fate for
his son Pelayo, but he escaped to become later on the saviour of his
country in driving out the Moors from the north of Spain.

Then his suspicions spent themselves on another kinsman, the Gothic
chief Theodofredo. His eyes were put out, and he was imprisoned in the
damp vault under the castle of Cordoba.

Half Mussulman, and wholly brutal, Witica ingeniously united the vices
of both nations--the Iberians and the Goths--and indulged in such a
numerous harem as put even the Moors to shame. In vain did the Church
thunder against this very peccant son. Julianus was long dead. He
laughed at the threats of the Pope, and, like his Gothic ancestor,
Alaric, threatened to lay siege to Rome.

“Why,” cried he, when presiding in the Chapter at Toledo, clothed in his
royal robes, the crown and sceptre beside him, in the midst of the
trembling canons, who knew it was at their life’s peril to venture to
contradict him--“why shall not our Gothic damsels adorn themselves with
the jewels of the Vatican, and our coffers be replenished with the
treasury of St. Peter’s?”

Incensed at the opposition of the Archbishop Sindaredo, who dared to
expostulate with him, he appointed his own brother Opas, at heart as
profligate as himself, Archbishop of Seville, to take his seat along
with Sindaredo in the episcopal chair of Toledo. (Opas was the most
unscrupulous prelate that ever wore the mitre. Even Julianus was his
inferior in secular power, for Opas was a prince, born of the old Gothic
stock.)

“Since the Church of Toledo will not yield to me, her lawful spouse,”
said Witica, with savage sarcasm, “she shall, like a harlot, have two
husbands--Sindaredo and Opas. No foreign potentate with a triple crown
shall preach to _me_.”

Witica, bad as he was, is yet entitled to be considered as the first
reformer. He promulgated a law freeing the clergy from the vow of
celibacy. No threats or anathemas of any mitred Julianus stopped him. No
obedience to monkish precepts governed his mind. He revelled in lawless
licentiousness, and in outraging the pietism of the time. Of Witica it
was said that “he taught all Spain to sin.” Naturally the monkish
chronicles have unmercifully vilified him. Yet there is much of the
humoristic coarseness of the Middle Ages in his character; a grotesque
setting at naught of all law and _convenance_, which the fashion of
politer times--not a whit less vile--softened and refined into a
quasi-elegance perhaps more repulsive.

While the churches are closed under an interdict, the altars bare, the
people disarmed, the castles and fortresses dismantled lest they might
harbour enemies, and disorder and sensuality reign unchecked throughout
the land, a youthful avenger is growing up in the person of Roderich,
son of Theodofredo, now dead, some say _murdered_, in the gloomy
dungeons of Cordoba.

Of royal birth, reared and educated among the cultivated Romans,
Roderich is not only a brilliant knight, but a master of all the
civilisation of the age, prompt at all martial exercise, of graceful and
polished manners, and eager to avenge the wrongs of his father and of
the Goths. Like a meteor, this young hero flashes upon Spain, defeats
Witica “the Wicked,” in a pitched battle, and imprisons him in the same
castle of Cordoba, where his father has lately died. Not a dissentient
voice is heard on the battle-field when Roderich, raised on a shield by
the soldiers, as was the custom of his ancestors, and standing erect to
face the four quarters of the world, is proclaimed King of the Western
Goths, in place of the sons of Witica.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now we come to the history of the beautiful Moor, Egilona, daughter
of the King of Algiers, who was at this time shipwrecked on the coast of
Spain at Denia. As the royal vessel grounded on the sand (says the
chronicle), the rabble of Denia--and what a rabble, in all ages, is that
of Spain, how greedy, how rapacious--rushed into the surf, to capture
and make spoil. But the grandeur of the illustrious company assembled on
the deck somewhat awed them as they paused with greedy eyes,--men and
women, sumptuously attired, facing them with all the haughtiness of
Oriental dignity. In the stern, closely pressed within a circle of her
Moslem guards, stood a lovely princess, lightly veiled, her turban
ablaze with jewels, and as the vessel heaved in upon the swell, and the
mob found themselves close upon the strangers, scimitars flashed and
jewelled daggers gleamed. Then some of the older Moors, understanding
the helplessness of their position, leaped on shore, and falling on
their knees before the alcaide, who stood by, unable to understand the
meaning of what he saw, implored his mercy towards a royal princess.

“She whom you behold,” said one sumptuously robed African, who seemed to
lead the expedition, his brow covered by a green turban, on which
glittered an aigrette of inestimable worth, “is the only daughter of the
King of Algiers, whom we are conducting to her affianced husband, the
King of Tunis. Foul winds, as you see, have driven us on your coast. We
were compelled to make for land, or imperil the life of our inimitable
mistress. Allah has preserved her. Do you, Señor Alcaide, not prove more
cruel than the waves.”

The alcaide, a worthy man, much overcome by the magnificence of these
sea-borne guests, bowed his head in acquiescence, and called on his
alguazils to keep off the crowd. “I will myself conduct your princess to
the castle,” he replied to the noble Moor who had addressed him. “Let
her freely tread the Spanish soil. It shall be to her as safe as the
African land of her fathers.”

“The castle!” cried the same dazzling Moor who had already spoken,
stopping the alcaide short. “The castle! You would then treat this regal
bride as a captive? By the tomb of the Prophet, Señor Alcaide, you do
ill! Know that her ransom will be to you, and to your race for ever,
riches incalculable, such as the genii in dreams bear to the
faithful--if you deal well with her and let her go.”

Another and another of the circle of superbly robed strangers also
spoke.

“All we have is yours, Sir Alcaide.”

The fair captive herself held out her hands in supplication towards the
excellent magistrate, who stood perplexed, as divided between duty and
inclination.

“Will you,” she asked, in a soft voice, “imprison one whom the sea has
set free?”

In vain! The honesty of this Spanish official is a record to all time.
He was a Goth of the old school, and cared neither for jewels nor gold.
Much as it moved him to withstand the entreaties of so beautiful a
creature, his sense of duty conquered.

“Sir Moslem,” he answered, afraid at first to address himself directly
to the lady with a churlish refusal, but singling out the illustrious
Moor, whose words and presence showed him to be of exalted rank, “and
you, fair and virtuous lady, whom the storm has drifted on our shores,
greatly does it grieve me to say you nay, but my loyalty to my
sovereign, Don Roderich, leaves me no choice. This princess,”--pointing
to the lady, who had sunk back fainting in the arms of her attendants,
as soon as she was convinced of her failure to move the alcaide--“is a
royal captive, whom chance has landed within the Gothic realm. Don
Roderich can alone decide her fate. Within the castle I command let her
seek shelter and repose, more I cannot promise.”

       *       *       *       *       *

To the court at Toledo the beautiful African journeyed, shedding many
tears. To the Eastern mind she was a slave, awaiting the will of her new
master. Yet it was refreshing to her feelings to be received in every
town and castle with royal honours, to be still surrounded by her
Moorish court, and to travel mounted on a snow-white palfrey, the wonder
and astonishment of all who beheld her. Slave though she was, her head
was carried high as one accustomed to receive homage. Her clear, dark
eyes, sparkling and mild, shone out under the strongly marked eyebrows
of the East, profuse braids of black hair hung loosely about her neck,
tinkling with golden coins; a veil of silver tissue was twined about her
head, to be drawn over the face and bosom at pleasure, under a turban,
to which a diadem was attached, decked with bright feathers; a long
tunic, woven in the looms of her country, heavy with pearls, and
trousers of a transparent fabric descended to her feet, incased in
delicate slippers, a loose mantle of changing silk covering all. Nor was
her horse unadorned; an embroidered saddle-cloth swept the ground, the
bridle and stirrup were inlaid with gems, and even the shoes were
wrought in gold.

At length, high over the wide plains which encircle Toledo, the bulk of
a lofty castle rises to her eyes; the rock on which it stands so hard
and defined in outline, it seems as if nature had planted it there as a
pedestal to receive the burden, and to guide the majestic current of the
Tagus through solemn defiles round the walls.

There, as now, the Alcazar stands, the servile city grouping at its base
in long, flat lines, granite rocks breaking out between, and giant
buttresses bordering the deep flood--a sadly tinted scene, terrible and
weird, just touched with burning flecks when the sun sets.

In a deep valley beside the Tagus Egilona rested under a silken pavilion
prepared for her, to await the coming of the king. Gloomy were her
thoughts on the banks of that rock-bound river, black with granite
boulders and rash and hasty in its course. What a country was this,
after the exotic landscapes of Algiers, the palmy groves and plantains,
the orange and lemon orchards, the ruddy pomegranates and olive grounds,
and the deep valleys of the hills! What pale, dismal tints! What stern,
sunless skies! Terror struck to Egilona’s heart as she asked herself
what kind of man this Northern king would be who dwelt in that frowning
castle. Would those walls enclose her in a life-long prison? or would
the dark flood beside her be her grave? Poor Egilona! a captive and a
slave! How could she guess the brilliant future before her, when the
aspect of nature itself heightened her fears?

Meanwhile, descending by the winding path which proudly zigzags down the
hill, a glittering cavalcade reaches the archway of the Golden Gate (a
monument formed in all ages for triumphant conquerors to pass through)
to defile upon the bridge upheld by many piers. Gothic chiefs,
magnificent in glittering armour, lances, heavy embossed casques, and
gold-inlaid corselets, riding deeply-flanked horses, champing bits of
gold--the great princes of the Northern court, the magnificent
successors of those iron-hearted warriors who well-nigh conquered the
world; mules with embroidered saddle-cloths, and gay litters and arabas
furnished with striped curtains for such attendant _demoiselles_ as
cannot ride; gorgeous chariots, too, horsed with battle-steeds and
surrounded by archers and spearmen, flags and banners waving in the sun,
pages and attendants bright as exotic birds; and last of all, more
dazzling than the rest, Roderich himself, clad in crimson robes, active,
vigorous, and graceful, his face aglow with an excitement which
heightened the wondrous beauty of his features.

For such a reputation of comeliness to have come down to us from the
eighth century argues Roderich a royal Apollo indeed; but whether he
favoured the raven, or if his curling locks recalled the glow of the
dawn, can only be conjectured.

As he draws rein and dismounts before the silken draperies of the
pavilion, within which the peerless Egilona rests, his soul is moved
with tender expectation. He enters; their eyes meet, and he is struck
dumb! That mischievous boy, Cupid, has pierced him with his dart, and
then and there he swears a silent oath that Egilona shall be his queen.

“Come to me,” he says, in a soft voice, as he bends on her his glowing
eyes. “Come without fear. Let no sorrow cloud that royal brow. Beside
me, your path shall ever be made smooth, and a shelter found, where you
shall rest alone. As in the court of your father, so shall you be in
mine. All I crave is leave to kiss your feet, most incomparable
stranger. This favour you will not refuse.”

At which Egilona, blushing to the painted henna circles which increased
the splendour of her eyes under his ardent gaze, bows her dark head.

Then taking her hand, Roderich, kissing the delicate finger-tips
tenderly, forbade her to kneel before him as she desired. With his own
hands he mounted her on a palfrey, and accompanied her up the ascent to
the castle, where he installed her in the richest chambers facing the
sun. And, ever more and more enslaved, the handsome young Goth, amorous
by temperament and habit, became

[Illustration: IN THE CATHEDRAL--CORDOVA.

From an etching by Samuel Colman.]

dearer and dearer to her, and fainter and fainter grew the remembrance
of her African home, and that Tunisian bridegroom she had never seen;
until, at last, her dainty lips opened with a “Yes,” to his entreaties,
and Egilona consented to become a Christian and his queen.

Wonderful are the ways of love! All this took place in a brief space.
Not only Egilona, but many of her Moorish damsels, wooed by Gothic
knights, eloquent with the words of passion, found their arguments so
convincing, that they also not only shared in her conversion, but
followed her example in marriage.

Happy Egilona! The shops in the Yacatin, the Jews’ quarter, and the
bales of the African merchants travelling from city to city, were
ransacked for her use. The most precious merchandise, silks, gems,
perfumes, and sweetmeats--all that Europe and the East possessed richest
and rarest to please a lady’s eye--were showered upon her, when Don
Roderich led her by the broad marble stairs of the Alcazar into the
pillared _patio_, followed by her African retinue, down the steep
streets to the Cathedral--very different to what we see it now, though
standing on the same spot, and in all ages a fair and stately edifice,
said to have been founded by the Virgin herself. Children, according to
ancient custom, ran before to throw flowers in her path; and bowls
filled with uncut jewels and gold coins were presented to her by noble
youths in silken robes. The wedding chorus was sung as she passed by, a
poet reciting “How the god of love had wounded the heart of the king,”
the Archbishop Opas himself meeting them at the great Puerta, and
blessing them as they knelt.

Jousts, tournaments and banquets, followed; the great chiefs appearing
resplendent in burnished armour, embossed and enamelled in the ancient
style; nothing was too costly for these delicate descendants of the
rudely armed Alaric; carpet knights, all plumes and banners and worked
scarfs, glittering in and out of silken tents; and revelry and dances
presided over by the king and queen.

For twenty days princes and knights, assembled from all parts of Spain,
kept holiday at Toledo. Every tongue declared the dark-skinned Egilona
peerless among queens, and Don Roderich the comeliest of the Gothic
race. Egilona was adored by her Christian consort. He turned no more
longing eyes upon the venal fair who hitherto had contended for his
favour, and the vessel of state glided over a crystal sea to the soft
winds of prosperity under a cloudless sky.

The old lays and ballads make Roderich, in the magnificence of his
youth, a rival of the Cid Campeador himself. Even his mortal enemies,
the Moors, glorify him in their songs sung to the cither under the
orange groves of Granada.

But already the “cloud no bigger than a man’s hand” is rising on the
horizon, by-and-by to obscure and darken the sun of his success.

A crown acquired by violence sits uneasily on the usurper’s head. Like
Witica, Don Roderich was tormented with suspicions of conspiracies and
treachery among his powerful nobles. So little did the fate of his
ill-starred predecessor teach him wisdom, that he permitted the same
fears to haunt him, of all who were allied to him by blood. Witica’s two
sons were banished from Spain, and, to avoid the chance of rebellion,
such defences in walls and castles as yet remained were thrown down, and
the carefully constructed fortifications of the Romans levelled to the
earth. Nor could a rude and warlike race be expected to maintain their
early valour in the midst of such luxury and licentiousness as
prevailed. For two hundred years the Gothic kings had held Spain
by the prowess of their arms, and the simple habits of their
forefathers--Ataulfo, Sigeric, Theodoric, Alaric, Amalaric, and his
successors up to the frugal-minded Wamba, the “Farmer King.”

Now, under Witica and Roderich, effeminacy and sloth led on to
cowardice. The Gothic soldiers who had been galvanised into a temporary
show of valour by the recent strife between Witica and Roderich, soon
sank back into the inactivity of a wanton court, feasting, dancing, and
wassailing in a style more becoming the satraps of an Eastern potentate
than the chiefs of a free and generous people. Who could have recognised
in these voluptuous youths, who hung about the person of Don Roderich,
the descendants of those stern and frugal Teutonic heroes of the North,
marching down like thunder-gods to conquer the nations?

Pomp there was, it is true, and splendour, and civilisation, and an
elegance of manners and of thought unknown before; but the heart of the
Gothic nation was cankered at the core, and the warlike Moors, ever on
the lookout to snatch from their grasp the fertile Peninsula showing out
so fair across the Straits, noted it with joy.



CHAPTER II

Don Roderich--Gathering of the Chiefs--Trial of Witica


How strange to think of Cordoba before the Moors, who so imbued it with
the spirit of Moslem life! Those famous Caliphs of the rival houses of
Mirvan and Ummaija, and the great Abdurraman, whose wealth and luxury
read like a dream; Eastern luxury in banquets under painted domes;
odalisques and white-robed eunuchs gliding beneath fretted arches,
vaults of alabaster and porphyry; harems with walls shedding showers of
jasmine and rose-leaves, the soft breathings of _guzla_ and cither, dark
heads crowned with orient pearls, and tissue-robed Sultanas reclining on
golden thrones.

“Kartuba the important,” the gem of the Carthaginians,--ancient when the
Gentiles reigned in the time of Moses; possessed in turn by Greeks and
Romans, the birthplace of Seneca, Lucan, Averroës, and El Gran Capitan
Gonsalvo Aguilar de Cordoba; for ages the capital of Southern Spain,--is
to be considered exclusively, before the advent of the Moors, as a
Roman settlement, the grandly regular aspect of these masters of the
world impressed upon its buildings. Siding with Pompey in the time of
the Republic, it was destroyed by the vengeance of Cæsar. Rebuilt by
Marcellus and repeopled by penniless patricians from Rome, it was for a
time called “Patricia”; under all names a sober and dignified capital
gathered round its ancient castle on the banks of the Guadalquivir.

At all times Cordoba is beautiful; the verdant slopes of the Sierra
Morena, rising precipitously from the very gates, look down serenely on
the strife of rival peoples; lovely retreats, dotted with white
_quintas_, farms, mills, vineyards, and olive-grounds; the rugged
summits rising westwards to the limits of Lusitania; the lazy
Guadalquivir flowing at their base, through grassy plains dark with
orange and myrtle.

Now what a desolation! A solitary shepherd pipes to his flock, as he
passes at the _Ave Maria_, on the lonely road; a file of mules carrying
bricks or corn succeed him; a ragged goatherd watches his kids grazing
beside the river, and droves of swine burrow in the mould once trodden
by the steps of heroes! Two boldly crenelated towers and a portion of
the outer walls, rising from an ancient garden of exceeding sweetness,
are all that remains of the palace and fortress of the Gothic kings.
Thickets of roses and lilacs engulf you as you enter, broad palm leaves
shroud decay, and quivering cane-brakes whisper softly of the past. A
little to the left rises a lower tower, grey against the sky, another
and another, the stones scarcely held together by entwining ropes of
ivy--all that remains of the royal castle.

In the prison beneath, on a level with the Guadalquivir, the noble
Theodofredo, father of Roderich, languishes, deprived of sight by
red-hot irons held before the eyes, a favourite mode of torture,
borrowed, like all that is degraded, from the Byzantines. Now Witica,
who commanded this savage act, has taken his place in the same prison,
and is to be judged by Theodofredo’s son. Wiser would it be, and more
merciful, if Roderich should forego this vengeance. But with power have
come the savage instincts of his race. The indulgence of his life has
already begun to tell on his once generous nature. Little by little, he
has fallen from the high position of regenerator of Spain, and, led on
by evil counsel and a natural weakness inherent in his nature, has
adopted the same false and cruel principles of government which he was
called to the throne to reform.

       *       *       *       *       *

Within a broad vaulted hall, the high roof supported by carved rafters,
the walls hung with tapestry woven with silver thread--in which the
stories of Gothic victories are rudely depicted--Roderich sits on a low
silver throne. It is shaped like a shield, in remembrance of the early
custom of the nomad chiefs, his ancestors, who, when invested with
military command, were three times, standing upon a shield, carried
round the camp, on the shoulders of stalwart Goths. A rich mantle of
purple brocade covers a lightly wrought cuirass inlaid with gold. The
Gothic crown, which has, in the altered manners of the time, come to be
not of iron but of gold, set with resplendent jewels, rests upon his
head, almost concealed by luxuriant masses of hair, falling on neck and
shoulders, in beard and love-locks. His buskins are red, like the
Eastern emperors’, and his feet, shod with pearled sandals, rest on an
inlaid footstool. The sceptre lies beside him with his sword, and over
his head is a raised canopy of cloth of gold, decorated with
inscriptions in Runic characters and quaint devices, come down from
early times.

Around are the chiefs and nobles of the nation, gathered from all
quarters of Spain--to judge him who lately was their king. All are men
of war, habited in the superb but cumbrous armour of the time, before
the delicate handling of the Moor turned metal into thin plates of
steel, made swords as fine and piercing as needles, and armory a
science.

Nearest to Roderich stands Ataulfo, next in succession to the throne, a
generous-hearted youth, full of the old virtues of his nation. With much
of the ruddy countenance of the king, he shows his Northern origin in
the chestnut locks which escape from his burnished cap, and a certain
blond fairness in spite of exposure to a southern sun.

[Illustration: THE CLOISTERS, TOLEDO.]

Teodomir, a veteran general, comes next; as too rigid a disciplinarian
for the degenerate times, he has somewhat fallen into neglect among the
younger chiefs who have risen to power with the accession of the king.
Teodomir is well past the prime of life, but retains the keen eye and
stalwart limbs of youth, as at the head of an army he will show before
many years are past. The historic warrior, Pelistes, is here too,
already sunk into the vale of years, but, like Teodomir, strong and
ready of hand and purpose, his grizzled hair shading a noble
countenance. These two trusty chiefs, who present themselves in the
antiquated armour of the Goths, were close friends of Roderich’s father,
and were specially active in raising the hasty levies for the battle
which placed his son on the throne; spite of which services, as time
goes by, they find themselves somewhat disregarded by the young king,
who listens to more flattering counsels and secretly laughs at the
rustic virtues applauded in the days of Recaredo and Wamba.

The royal lad Pelayo is also bidden, the son of that Favila, Dux of
Cantabria, put to death by Witica, when he purposed to slaughter all of
his blood. Pelayo stands somewhat back as becomes his youth, for who can
guess that this beardless boy, with a smiling, artless face, and full
blue Northern eyes will, by his fortitude, become the founder of a new
race of Gothic kings, and by his endurance and valour raise up a native
dynasty in Spain?

A crowd of young courtiers, most careful of the adornment of their
persons, fill up the space behind, apparelled in long embroidered
mantles of many brilliant shades, held in by jewelled cinctures and
buckles, elaborately worked caps upon their heads (the first idea of the
later _toque_ of the Renaissance)--fashions which have taken the place
of the short tunic, leather girdle, and heavy head-piece of former
times.

Beside these stands one on whom all eyes are turned. Stern and composed
of aspect, as if conscious of the possession of such power that he is
cautious of displaying it. His name is Julian, and it is he who chiefly
seconded the rising in favour of Roderich. Yet this man, Espatorios of
Spain, Lord of Consuegra and Algeciras, commander of the Goths on the
African seaboard, and governor of Ceuta, half royal himself, is a
dangerous subject and a doubtful friend. Why he supported Roderich is
the enigma of the day; he had but to stretch out his hand to seize the
crown himself, and with a much more legitimate claim. The ambition of
his wife Frandina is well known, and that she chafes at her inferior
position, and shuns the Court of Toledo and the royal house since
Egilona is the queen; yet, strange to say, Julian as yet, has never
swerved in his allegiance to Roderich. If any dark purpose of treason is
brooding in his soul, as yet it appears not. To this time he is
faithful, and is now present at Cordoba to judge his own near kinsman
Witica for divers misdeeds, but principally for his share in the death
of Roderich’s father, Theodofredo.

What that judgment will be is very plain to see. Rather to behold the
wretched tyrant die than to judge him are they all assembled there, for
the settled purpose in the mind of Roderich is revenge.

If Julian is an enigma, much more so is his smooth-faced brother-in-law,
Opas, Archbishop of Seville, brother of the fallen king, and his aider
and abettor in all his vice and cruelty. A very Judas in cunning is
Opas, who, with the fall of the supremacy of the Church has, for the
sake of power, accommodated himself to the new ideas, and looks out now
upon the course of events with a cold eye. What are his present motives?
None can guess. Yet in the fiendish treachery and bitter hatred he came
later to display towards Roderich some explanation may be found in the
cruel punishment he inflicted on his unfortunate brother. But the
present unnatural compliance of Opas, even in these rough days, is
looked on with disgust. There he stands, however, scornfully indifferent
to what men think, clothed in a rich cope and jewel-adorned dalmatica, a
double tiara on his head, resplendent with gems, for as he is in the
presence of one king, to judge another who has worn the crown, Opas has
arrayed himself in the splendid paraphernalia of his double office of
Archbishop of Seville and of Toledo. Attended by two deacons he presents
the very picture of the prelate of the day, ready to lead in war, or
govern in peace; a cross upon his neck, his waist girded with a sword,
and his feet cased in steel.

More than any one else present, however, the royal lad Pelayo, for whom
so romantic a future is in store, is personally interested in the
punishment of Witica, the murderer of his father; yet the composure of
his face and the carelessness of his attitude, as he leans against one
of the columns that uphold the raftered roof, are as if he were but one
among the many. Outwardly he betrays no consciousness of his great
wrong. Death and torture are familiar to the Gothic mind, and, like the
rest, he appears prepared to abide by the judgment of the king.

The heavy hangings shrouding the southern entrance to the hall are drawn
aside, and, with a rush of sunshine and scent of aromatic herbs and
odorous flowers, Witica appears, led in by slaves, heavy chains clanking
at his feet, and manacles binding his arms. Common woollen garments of a
dark colour cling to his emaciated frame, and his long, unkempt hair
streams down to his waist. So greatly is he changed that it is almost
impossible to recognise the lineaments of the jubilant and
gross-featured voluptuary in this thin, care-ravaged face. As he slowly
approaches the throne upon which Roderich is seated, he stops abruptly.
The rude guards on either side push him on, and weighted by the grasp of
the fetters he falls helplessly forward on his knees. Thus he remains
motionless. No friendly hand is outstretched to help him--the miserable
king. Not a single eye in that assembly softens with a pitying glance.

A wan, craven look comes over his face as he raises his eyes
beseechingly to the superb young monarch who has taken his place--so
miserable an object, that whatever have been his crimes it seems
impossible he can now inspire anything but pity. But Don Roderich thinks
otherwise; he contemplates the wretched figure before him with a stern
glance. Then, turning to the assembled chiefs and addressing himself
more especially to Julian, standing as sword-bearer at the right of the
throne, he speaks in a hard, resonant voice:

“In this man you behold the butcher of my father. To amuse his caprice,
he put out his eyes and imprisoned him in the dungeon of this castle
until, worn out by suffering, he died. My father,” he repeats, in a
ringing voice, which sounds hollow in the vast bare hall, “the noble
Theodofredo, whose only crime was being born near the throne.”

As he speaks there is so cruel an echo in his voice, the miserable
Witica shivers and cowers still lower on the floor. Never possessed of
much intelligence it would seem as if the long imprisonment and
certainty of death have deadened within him the little sense he has.
Dragged from the darkness of a dungeon into the full light of day,
before the varied pageant of a court once his own, his brain has become
confused. A dreadful horror is all he feels.

“What punishment,” continues Don Roderich, “think you, noble Goths,
most revered archbishop, and brother chiefs, should be inflicted on him
for this death, and all the evil he has wrought in Spain?”

“My lord,” replies Julian, bowing low, apparently unmoved by the
miserable object grovelling before him, “that is a personal matter,
which you alone can decide. The wrongs of a father are the wrongs of his
child.”

“That is my mind also,” briefly spoke the veteran Teodomir. “And
mine--and mine,” ran round the warlike circle, to whom the soft
attribute of mercy was unknown--“blood calls for blood. Such is the law
of our ancestors.”

Loud, too, in assent was heard the voice of Pelistes, moved to something
like feeling, as the image of his friend, the noble Theodofredo, rose to
his mind, condemned to a slow death within the very castle in which they
stand. For the shifting of the Gothic Court to Cordoba, for the trial of
Witica on the very spot where Theodofredo suffered was indeed a
master-stroke on the part of Roderich to heighten to the utmost pitch of
intensity not only the acuteness of his own vengeance, but the
sanguinary passions of the Goths.

While each noble gives assent, the young Pelayo grows very pale. Was not
Favila, his father, lord of the wide district of Cantabria, on the
iron-bound coast, besides the range of the Asturian mountains, a
Northern king in all but the name? Was not Favila also cruelly put to
death. And had not Witica sought to lay his murderous hands on him
also? Yet no man heeded. The death of Favila passed unnoticed, and
Roderich, at best but a usurper, and Roderich’s wrongs are alone in
every mouth! Too young to remonstrate with these elder chiefs, the heart
of Pelayo chafes in silent indignation, and he swears to himself that if
he lives, the day shall come when ancient Iberia shall ring with the
forgotten name of his sire!

“And you, most venerable archbishop,” continues Roderich, turning to
address himself to Opas, who, as if some claim of kindred had sounded at
his heart, had further withdrawn himself when Witica appeared, and stood
so placed as to conceal the view of the pathetic spectacle before
him--“you who, by your presence here this day, give us so signal a proof
of your loyalty, what seems to you just in this matter, so closely
touching yourself? We would willingly carry the Church with us. Speak
your mind freely, nor let our royal presence in aught prejudice the
prisoner.”

“My lord,” answers Opas, in a voice which, spite of his efforts to
steady it, still sounds scarcely in its natural tone, “my vote lies with
my kinsman, Julian. In a matter so nearly concerning myself as a
brother’s life and death, it fitteth best for me to be silent.”

Something in the familiar tones of his voice, some subtle affinity of
blood betwixt brother and brother, struck the dull sense of Witica. As
Opas spoke he raised his head, and, as he seemed to listen, a sickly
smile played for a moment about his sunken lips, and a more human
expression passed into his eyes. Listening, listening eagerly, as if
expecting some help, a wistful gleam of hope striking across the depths
of blank despair, his glance swept upwards with a pleading impotency
terrible to behold, the vibration as it were of some subtle instrument
set mysteriously in motion. Watching for what was to come, with open
mouth and anxious eyes, thus he remained some time, then gradually the
tension ceased, the heavy eye clouded, the jaw dropped, and the head,
with its shaggy, unkempt locks, freely mixed with grey, once more sank
hopelessly on his breast. All this occupied but the space of a few
minutes.

Don Roderich spoke once more. “Witica,” says he, lowering his eyes to
the level of the prostrate king, “you have heard the judgment of your
kinsmen and those who were your former subjects. What have you to
answer?”

An inarticulate sound breaks the silence. Witica makes a feeble effort
to raise himself in the arms of the slaves, who have never withdrawn
their hold, opens his mouth to answer, and then falls back speechless.

The Goths were ever a people cruel and savage in their laws, but so
terrible a spectacle as that one, lately monarch in the land, should
have fallen into such a strait might have touched even the heart of an
enemy, how much more kinsmen so nearly allied to him? But it was not so,
neither did any generous impulse move the king from his cruel purpose.
With the kindling eye of vengeance Roderich contemplates what was left
of that Witica whose kingdom he had seized, and proceeds to give
sentence in clear, ringing tones, audible in every corner of the hall.

“Let the evil Witica has wrought on others be visited on himself. The
eyes of my father Theodofredo were put out by his order, even so be it
done with him. In the same dungeon here at Cordoba, where my father
died, shall his life end. Away with the prisoner.”

The sounds of approval which follow these words, especially from the
group of young courtiers, serve in some sort to drown the piercing
shrieks which break from Witica when his dulled senses grasp the full
meaning of the sentence. Quick as thought he is borne away, and the spot
where he has lain is rapidly covered by the feet of the crowd of chiefs
and princes who gather in groups in front of the throne.

With a careless laugh Roderich descends the marble steps on which the
throne is placed, and placing his crown in the hands of a daintily
apparelled page, moves freely about among his nobles. The friends of his
father, Pelistes and Teofredo, coming from Murcia, are specially
greeted. To the Archbishop Opas he again addresses himself with the
studied courtesy he learned in civilised Italy. But again Pelayo is
passed over in silence, an affront which calls up a flush of anger on
his face, as he silently turns and leaves the hall. At last, singling
out Julian, Roderich moves aside under the range of the low pillars
which divide the hall.

“This judgment,” says he, speaking with caution, “relieves my mind of
much care. Witica has been condemned by those of his own blood. Brother,
brother-in-law, and kinsmen have joined together to make secure my
position on the throne. The dam indeed is scotched, but what of the
lambkins? Witica will be executed forthwith, but his sons remain. Where
are they? While they live the kingdom will never be safe from traitors.”

“Have no fear, my lord,” answered Julian, who, through all this painful
scene seemed to be lost in the contemplation of the expression of the
king, as a student pores over the page of a precious manuscript, the
sense of which may escape him by its obscurity. What manner of man is
this they have chosen, he was asking himself? Was Roderich as ferocious
as he seemed? Or was his conduct but the effort of a vacillating mind to
play the tyrant to excess, conscious of an inherent weakness? And as he
watched him, a feeling of deadly hatred came over him for the commission
of the very act of cruelty he had just sanctioned. But his answer to
Roderich’s question was as unmoved as though no hostile sentiments were
warring within him.

“The youths are already fled to Africa, my lord, where the Spanish
Governor of Tangiers

[Illustration: The Alhambra, Granada, and the Vega from the
Generalife.]

harbours them out of gratitude to their father. Let them rest, they will
not trouble you.”

“You say well, count,” answers Roderich in a light tone; “vengeance for
my father is a duty. For awhile we will grant them life, but later they
must pay the forfeit of Witica’s crimes. But now to other matters. How
fares the Lady Frandina, your virtuous consort, and the young Florinda,
whom report extols as beautiful beyond measure?”

The manners of the king were frank and soldierly, and history records
that he possessed to a great degree that winning demeanour which charms
in the high ones of the earth. To Julian, whose powerful aid had mainly
helped him to the possession of the crown, he had hitherto shown a
deference that flattered while it controlled. To Don Roderich’s question
Julian answered with a smile: “It is well with my consort, who is at our
castle of Algeciras; she bade me greet your grace. As to my daughter, it
was of her I was about to speak. Florinda is with me in Cordoba. I have
brought her as a fair present and hostage to your bride, Queen Egilona,
to attend on her, along with the other noble damsels of the court, and
to learn those lessons of virtue and excellence in which she is
paramount. Will you, my lord, be my surety with the queen?”

“That will I, gladly,” answers Don Roderich, his countenance lighting up
with a gracious smile. “The confidence which you repose in me is of all
else the crown and proof of your loyalty. As such I accept it. To me
Florinda shall be as a daughter. I will watch over her as yourself, and
see that she is trained in the same rigid principles of piety which
honour her mother’s name.”

Julian, his pale, olive-skinned face flushed with the gratification
these words afford, bows low. “Florinda,” he replies, “is but a timid
girl brought up by her mother’s side, as yet unacquainted with the state
which fittingly surrounds Queen Egilona. You will pardon her
inexperience; she is quick and sensitive of nature, and keen to
appreciate kindness. It is by her wish that she will attend the queen; I
have but followed her own desire. Her mother indeed consented, but
unwillingly, to part with her.”

“This is welcome news. It is as a shaft which tells both ways, in the
sentiment of attachment in which she has been reared, and of the mind of
the fair maid herself. No parents shall be tenderer or more careful than
we to her. Would that I had a son to match with her in marriage.”

“And now,” says Julian, making a low obeisance, “I will crave to be
permitted to withdraw; my presence is demanded in my government. The
Moors have received considerable reinforcements, and advance upon Ceuta
from the neighbouring hills. By way of Damascus they come, despatched by
Almanzor from Bagdad, called by those unbelievers ‘The sword of God.’
Our Gothic province on the margin of the Straits needs vigorous and
constant watching.”

“And it is for that reason,” is Roderich’s reply, “that I have placed
the government in your hands, valiant Espatorios, first and most trusted
of all my Gothic chiefs.”

“I will do my duty, my lord,” is the rejoinder. “You need, I trust, no
assurance of this; but, spite of precautions, I fear greatly that a
battle or a siege is imminent. The Moslems are gathered in such numbers,
savage tribes of Arabs and Berbers, under the Moorish general, Mousa ben
Nozier of Damascus, and his son Abd-el-asis, that it will need all our
resources to baffle. Mousa swears that he will drive the Cross from the
confines of Africa, and raise the Crescent on every Christian fortress
we hold in Tingitana.”

“This is a confirmation of evil news,” replies Don Roderich, whose
beaming countenance had darkened as Julian gave these details. “I am
well advised of the concentration of the Arabs in the north of Africa. I
but awaited your coming to confirm it. But had you not been present with
the archbishop it would have been argued in the nation that as his
relative you disapproved my sentence. Now we are hand in hand. Command
all the resources of the mainland to drive the invaders back. Light
sloops can be run from Algeciras to Ceuta with soldiers and arms.”

“My lord, I have enough; should a siege be threatened every mouth has to
be fed. But it is to me, the leader, that the Christians look. It is I
who am needed on the coast of Barbary. I have personally, too, great
credit with the Moors; they are noble enemies.”

“I doubt it not,” is Roderich’s answer. “Wherever my trusty Espatorios
draws the sword, victory follows.”

“My lord, it was but to excuse my hasty parting, not to ask for more
supplies, that I spoke. To know that my daughter is well disposed of in
a safe asylum is a balm to me greater than any boon you could bestow. My
wife, Frandina, fights by my side. I have no fear for her, and our son
is consigned to the care of the Archbishop Opas. Now, thanks to you, my
lord, I am free-handed to face the Moors. I have but to settle more
matters connected with Florinda, and to depart. The queen is at Toledo;
I must accompany her thither.”

“By no means,” cries Don Roderich, “unless such is your wish. She shall
go with me, accompanied by suitable attendants. I myself will present
her to Egilona as our child.”

Meanwhile, the assemblage had gradually diminished. Each chief was in
haste to depart, for the country was full of enemies, more especially in
the south and east, where the vessels of the Moors continually landed
Berbers and Arabs to plunder and carry off the inhabitants as slaves.
That serious invasion was near at hand all understood, except perhaps
Roderich and the idle young Goths who formed his court. As yet, it is
true, Don Julian held the enemy at bay in Africa, but, his presence or
his support withdrawn, the Moors would pour like a torrent on the land,
and, save for a few of the old leaders who had survived the disastrous
reign of Witica, and the enervating atmosphere spreading everywhere from
the court into all ranks, _who_ was there to oppose them?



CHAPTER III

Don Roderich’s Perfidy


The court life shifts from the green Sierras of Cordoba to the old city
of Toledo. Again we are in the corn-bearing plains, the outlines of the
domes, pinnacles, and turrets of the Alcazar before us gay and jocund
with the security of two hundred years of Gothic rule. What footsteps
have echoed through those courts! What regal presences haunt them!
Iberian, Roman, and Gothic; Recaredo, Wamba, Witica, and comely
Roderich; to be followed by Moors, and Castilian kings; El Caballero, El
Emplazado, El Valente, El Impotente; a red haired bastard of Trastamare
succeeding his brother Don Pedro el Cruel, a swaggering Alfonso,
Velasque’s, Philip, the staid dowager-queen Berenguela, fair Isabel the
Catholic, the widow of Philip the Fourth, the mother of Charles el Soco,
Johana el Loca, not to forget the Cid, first Christian alcaide and
governor; a palace in old times marking the utmost limits of the known
world, beyond which the East looked into the hyperborean darkness of the
West; the geographical centre of all Spain--supremely regal, its
foundations laid in legend, and its ramparts raised in the glamour of
Oriental song; a refuge from Moorish invasion for the defenceless Goth,
and the superb residence of later kings. In a hollow beneath rise the
towers of the cathedral, and the outline of many ancient synagogues, for
the Jews were always powerful in Toledo--El Transito and El Blanco are
the principal ones, and hospitals for the chosen race. If Toledo was the
Gothic capital, it was also long before known under the name of
“Toledoth,” where the Jews came in great numbers after the sack of
Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. “The Jews fled to Tarshish,” says the
Bible, and Tarshish is the scriptural name for Southern Spain.

Other churches and oratories there were, for the Goths were a pious
people, also the house of Wamba over the Tagus, and the mystic tower of
Hercules, rising on a rock, the entrance guarded by an inscription
setting forth “that whenever a king passes the threshold, the empire of
Spain shall fall”; a warning much respected by the Gothic kings--Wamba,
Ervig, Eric, and Witica, who each in turn ordered fresh locks and chains
to be added to make it fast. Baths there were also, and on the hills
summer houses and _huertas_ moistened by fountains and streams, the dark
Tagus making, as it were, a defence and barrier about the walls.

One plaisance there was, particularly noted, on a terrace overhanging
the river, where the spires and domes of many-painted pavilions uprose,
with tile-paved _patios_, and arcades and _miradores_ open to the sky,
which Roderich had formed for Egilona, from the pattern of a Moorish
retreat she loved at Algiers. Here soft fluffy plane-trees whispered to
the breeze, violets blossomed in low damp trenches, and the blue-green
fronds of the palms cut against the sky. A garden, indeed, most
cunningly adapted to intoxicate the senses, where every tree and branch
was vocal with nightingale and thrush, the soft rhythm of _zambras_ and
flutes thrilling through the boughs from invisible orchestras; a place
in itself so lovely and so lonely that life passed by in an atmosphere
of delight, akin to the houri-haunted paradise prepared for the brave
Moslems who fall in battle. Hither came Egilona, as into the solitude of
an Eastern harem, shut out from the foot of man. Even Roderich rarely
entered to disturb her hours of innocent delight, surrounded by a band
of fair damsels, who, like Florinda, had been committed to her care.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a delicious evening after a day of fiery heat. So oppressive had
been the sun, that even the orange leaves flagged on their stems and the
song-birds were mute. In the broad plains without, the rarefied air
trembled; nothing but the sharp note of the cicala broke the silence of
mid-day.

Now the air was cool in these leafy gardens, over-hanging the river,
from which delicate

[Illustration: THE EXTERIOR OF THE GREAT MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.]

rippling gusts rose up to fan the atmosphere. The dazzling pavilions
with open galleries lay in shadow, and only a transient ray from the
setting sun lit up some detail of lace-worked panel or gilded pinnacle
into a transient flame.

On a broad terrace, from which the roofs of the city are dimmed into
vague outlines, a merry party of the queen’s maidens emerge from one of
the galleries, amid peals of that shrill and joyous laughter heard only
among the young, and running swiftly along scare the peacocks, who drop
their tails and fly into the covered avenues beyond. Some of the maidens
ensconce themselves in verdant kiosks, others wander into the
bamboo-thickets to lie on flowery banks, or wade in the shallow streams
which flow around. One delicately limbed girl, oppressed by the heat,
divests herself of the light draperies she wears, and like a playful
Nereid plunges into a pool, scattering water on her laughing companions.

One of these maidens, Zora, by name, who came from Barbary with Egilona,
is of a darker colouring than the rest. Zora can sing to the cither and
relate stories like a true Arab as she is. Now a circle of her
companions gather about her, and beg her to tell them a tale.

“But you have heard all my stories so often,” pleads poor Zora, whose
little feet are tingling with the desire of movement after the
confinement of the long hot day.

“Never mind, you must invent a new one, Zora.” A cloud passes over her
merry face. “_Invent_ a story! Well, I will try,” and after a few
minutes she seats herself on a porcelain bench under a clump of cedars,
and begins.


ZORA’S STORY

“There were once three sisters, I don’t know where, but they were
princesses. They had an ugly old father with one eye, who shut them up
in a tower high in a wall. They were never to go out, and had an old
slave to watch them; her name was Wenza, and there was a eunuch too, who
carried a scimitar; but he does not matter, for he stayed out of doors.

“Now the tower was very beautiful, only the sisters did not like it,
because they called it a prison. There was a _patio_ with an alabaster
fountain, which kept up a running murmur day and night; the walls were
wrought in a coloured net-work of flowers, and arches and angles were
worked beautifully to look like crystal caves. All around were the
sweetest little rooms for the sisters to sleep in, not forgetting Wenza,
who, they said, snored, so she was put in the farthest one. The walls
were hung with golden tapestry, and the divans worked with shells and
stones. So beautiful! Like a casket! There were curtains with monsters
and beasts embroidered in fine silk, hung at the doors to keep out
draughts, and so many singing-birds in golden cages, that there were
times when they could not hear themselves speak. A little kitchen, too,
lay in a corner, where Wenza cooked the food, but the sisters lived on
cakes and fruit quite in a fairy-like way, which often made Wenza say
she knew she would be starved, only the eunuch was kind and sometimes
handed in on his scimitar a piece of meat. High up in the walls were
barred casemates, but oh! so small, mere slits and the princesses often
tore their robes clambering up to look out. They could see the sky--a
passing cloud was a variety, but what delighted them most, and, indeed,
occupied the day, when they were not playing on lutes and cithers, or
teaching tricks to the birds, was a rocky valley, oh! so deep down! They
could just see it. The sun never shone there, and the rocks looked
always damp. A valley, and a stream with a strange echo like voices,
only what it said was past their power to know; and Wenza could not help
them, she only pulled them down from the windows and scolded them, and
threatened she would call in the eunuch with his drawn sword. But Wenza
liked to hear about it all the same, and asked often if the voices of
the stream had spoken more plainly.

“The only one who minded what Wenza said was the youngest princess,
Zeda. She was much more timid than her sisters, with cheeks as white as
a lily. She could touch the stops of a silver lute and sing Moorish
ballads. She was so gentle; she would nurse a sick bird in her warm hand
for hours and hours, and feed the little starlings that settled on the
window edge. All day she was in and out about the flowers, which stood
in pots round the fountain and lived on the spray.

“Zoda, the second, was very vain, and looked at herself in a steel
mirror twenty times a day, painting her eyes and trimming her hair, and
Lindaxara, the eldest, was proud, and would sometimes beat poor gentle
Zeda when she offended her.”

“And their clothes?” asked a little Gothic maiden interrupting her, “you
have told us nothing of their clothes.”

“Ah! that is true,” and Zora paused and thought a little. “Well! they
were all in tunics of white satin with gemmed waistbands and borders,
and trousers of Broussa gauze, lined with rose colour, little caps upon
their heads twinkling with coins, and necklaces of pearl. Very lovely
clothes, I assure you, and they looked lovely, too, standing with the
spray of the fountain behind them.

“Well,” continued Zora, growing eager herself as her tale went on, and
the eyes of all her companions riveted on her, “you may fancy what it
was, when Lindaxara, who was tall and slim, clamoured up one day to the
latticed window and saw _three Christian knights_ working among the
stones in the valley below. She was so astonished that she gave a loud
scream, which brought her sisters and Wenza, to the window. So there was
no secret about it, and they all strained their necks as far as the bars
would let them.

“Just to think of it! Three adorable knights in the flower of youth.
Eyes full of love, and the sweetest heads of hair, not cut and trimmed
like the Arabs’ under big turbans, but hanging loose in curls upon their
shoulders. Captives, alas! loaded with chains! The tears came into the
sisters’ eyes as they gazed. ‘The one in green,’ cried Lindaxara,
thrilling all over as she leaned out of the bars, ‘he is my knight. What
grace! What beauty!’

“‘No, the crimson one for me,’ said Zoda, arranging her hair. ‘I love
him already. He shall never be a slave.’

“Gentle little Zeda said nothing, but heaved a great sigh. ‘No one will
ever care for me,’ she whispered, ‘but it is that other one I like best.
He has such a heavenly smile.’

“After which, Wenza, suddenly remembering her duty, drove them all down,
and shut up the window. But too late, the harm was done; Wenza
protested, but she was the worst of all. The eunuch was bribed by her
with so much gold, he put up his scimitar, and did all that he was bid.

“The Christian knights were told that three beautiful princesses,
daughters of the one-eyed king, loved them. It made them very happy in
spite of their chains. They managed to talk together by signs and to
arrange their plans.

“One night, when the moon was sinking, and all was still, a whistle,
heard from below, struck on impatient ears. The bars had been sawn from
the window by the eunuch, who was strong, and Wenza had cut the sheets
into strips and tied them all together into a long rope; then one by
one they went down, at first trembling, but quite brave and glad at
last, as they fell into the arms of the Christian knights, Wenza into
the arms of the eunuch, who took care of her--all save poor little Zeda.

“When it came to her turn to descend, she had no courage to move, but
stood at the window clasping her hands, and casting down wistful glances
on her sisters. Now her fingers were on the cord, then she withdrew
them; she saw her Christian knight beckoning to her; listened, listened
as the stream called Zeda. Again she grasped the cord. In vain, her
heart failed her.

“‘Too late, too late, dear sisters,’ she cried. ‘Go forth and be happy.
Think sometimes of the poor little prisoner left behind.’ And so,”
concluded Zora, evidently at a loss how to finish her tale, “Ansa, the
one-eyed king, her father, coming to visit his daughters, found her
alone, and condemned her to die of hunger in the tower.

“Poor little Zeda! But she still lives in the spirit of the fountain,
when it boils and bubbles at night in the form of a Moslem princess,
flower-crowned, singing to a silver lute, ‘Ay de mi Zeda!’”

       *       *       *       *       *

A great clapping of hands, and many thanks to Zora for the story,
greeted its conclusion. The little Gothic maiden, who was very fond of
Zora, cried at the fate of the poor princess starved to death. She is
sure none of them were comelier than Zora; and in this she speaks
truly. An African sun had dyed her skin to a ruddier colour, given
symmetry to her limbs, and a dark fire to her eyes. As a stranger Zora
is by turns laughed at and petted. And as the setting sun now catches
the swarthy ebony of her long hair, and blazes on the rich brown of her
cheek, the difference between her and the rest suddenly strikes a lively
little playmate, who is forming a pattern on the ground from the
coloured petals of roses.

“I should like to know,” says she, contemplating Zora, “which is
prettier, dark Zora with the flashing eyes, or pale Florinda with the
chestnut curls. In my opinion Zora is worth a whole bevy of us
white-faced Goths.”

“No, no, no,” echoes from all sides, while poor Zora, put to shame,
blushes under tawny skin and retreats to the farthest corner of the
garden.

“I will not give the palm of beauty to Zora,” cries another voice, “but
to Florinda. Where is she?” A general search is made for a long time in
vain, but at last she is discovered fast asleep under a palm. Slumber
has lent a lustre to her cheek, and her white bosom rises and falls
under the transparent tissue of her bodice.

“Look!” cry the maidens exultingly, “can you compare Zora with
Florinda?” And in their eagerness the giddy group tear asunder the
sheltering draperies which cling about her.

Alas! little did they know, these joyous maidens, that the fate of the
Gothic kingdom turned on the balance of their childish games, and that,
mere puppets in the hands of fate, they were destined to be the
instruments of destruction to their country!

In the gloom that precedes the setting of the sun, amid the dusky
shadows of huge-leaved plants and myrtle hedges which broke the space
into squares in every direction, Don Roderich had stolen from the
Alcazar to enjoy the evening freshness and to visit the queen. Hearing
from afar the bursts of girlish laughter, at the contest of beauty
between dark and fair, he looked out from the latticed _mirador_ of the
pavilion, and beheld the undraped form of Florinda before she could
escape from the hands of her companions.

That glance is fatal. Forgetful of the sacred pledges given to her
father, forgetful of his honour as a knight and his gratitude as a king,
a mighty passion rises within his breast. But Florinda gives no
response; his fervid glances are met with downcast eyes, and a blush
rises on her cheek as she involuntarily approaches him. This does but
serve to fan his lawless love; and so great is his infatuation he cannot
persuade himself that she does not return it. His whole soul is as a
furnace, which consumes his life. Speak to her he must, and a wicked
hope whispers it will not be in vain!

Meeting her one day, a little later, by chance in the queen’s
antechamber, he called her to him, and presented to her his hand.

“Sweet one,” says he, in a voice he can scarcely command, every pulse
within him beating tumultuously, “a thorn has sorely pricked me, can
you draw it out?”

Florinda, who unconsciously has come rather to fear him, kneels at his
feet and takes his hand in hers. At the touch of her light fingers a
tremor runs through his frame. Is this slight girl to resist the
transports that shake his being to the core, as the fury of the tempest
shakes the light leaves?

As she kneels the tresses of her auburn hair fall as a veil around her,
and blush after blush flushes her cheeks. Vainly she seeks for the thorn
in Don Roderich’s hand. In her surprise she lifts her eyes to his, which
are bent on her with ill-controlled passion; then, starting to her feet
in confusion, “My lord,” she says, retreating from where he stands
leaning against a painted pillar, his jewelled cap pressed down upon his
brows, “there is no thorn.”

She turns to go, filled with an apprehension she cannot explain, but he
catches her hand, and presses it to his heart.

“Here, here is the thorn, Florinda; will you pluck _that_ out?”

“My lord, my lord,” cries the alarmed girl, “I do not catch your
meaning.”

“Then I will teach you,” he answers, fast losing command over himself.
“Do you love me?” and he draws her to him so near that his quick-coming
breath plays upon her cheek.

Ever farther and farther she strives to retreat; ever nearer and nearer
Don Roderich presses her, his glowing eyes resting on her like flames.

“My lord,” she says at last, trembling from head to foot, “my father
told me to revere you as himself. I was to be to you and to the queen as
a daughter. To your protection I look, may it never fail.”

A terrible fear possessed her of coming danger, as she shaped her words
to this appeal, and had a spark of loyalty remained in the heart of Don
Roderich, her reproof would have brought him to a better mind, but an
evil destiny had doomed him to work out his own ruin.

“Florinda,” he cries, seizing her by both hands so as to draw her to him
by force, “innocent as you are, you must understand me. It is not the
love for a father nor the submission to a king I ask of you. It is
_love_. Ah! tremble not, fair one, there is nothing to scare you. None
shall know it. Deep in our hearts it shall lie. Nor does the love of
your king degrade you like that of a common man. All the power of the
Gothic throne shall compass you with delights, and I will make your
father Julian greater than myself.”

At these base words the rising terror of Florinda gave place to
indignation. Her soft eyes kindled with a fire far different from that
which Don Roderich would have desired.

“I understand, my lord,” she answers, in a firm voice; “but none of my
race hold power by evil means. My father would rather die than accept
such dishonour. But,” and an ill-assured smile plays about her mouth, “I
believe you mean but to try me; you think me too stupid and childish to
serve the queen. I pray your pardon for taking a jest in such foolish
earnest.”

The blanched face of Florinda ill-corresponded with the words which her
quivering lips could scarcely articulate.

“May I die,” cries Don Roderich, “if I speak aught but truth. My heart,
my kingdom, are at your command. Be mine, fair angel, and the Goths
shall know no rule but yours.”

But now, the courage of Florinda, timid and girlish as she was, rises up
within her. “My lord, I am in your power,” are her words. “You may kill
me, but there you stop. My will you can never force.” Then, casting up
her arms with a gesture of despair, she flees, vanishing among the long
lines of pillars in the hall; and such was the power of her anger that
the king dares not follow her. And here we must leave her with a wonder
whether the assiduous worship paid her by Roderich was _always_ repulsed
with a like vigour, or if the opprobrious name of _La Cava_ with which
she came to be branded in the legends of the time was not undeserved.

That the king was so depraved by the indulgence of his life as not to be
haunted by the shame of what he had done is difficult to believe. That
he counted, however, on the secrecy of Florinda would seem certain from
the indifference he displayed to the consequences of his action as
affecting his relations with Julian, at that very time leading his army
against the Moorish hosts, commanded by the veteran general, Mousa, in
the neighbourhood of Ceuta.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Those whom the gods forsake, they blind,” says the Pagan proverb. It is
certainly impossible to explain the inactivity of the once valiant
Roderich by any rational course of reasoning. Not only had the rumour of
approaching battle come from the African shores, but swift messengers
had brought to Toledo the news that the rock of Calpe (Gibraltar) in
Spain bristled with scimitars, led by the ferocious old Berber, Tháryk,
with his single eye.

“Tell Roderich the Goth,” ran the message, “that Tháryk has crossed the
Straits to conquer his kingdom, and that he will not return until he has
made the Goth lick the dust before him.”

Whatever blindness had fallen on Roderich, the consciousness of her
disgrace soon forced itself on the mind of Florinda. Guilty or not,
despair at last took possession of her. For a time she was silent, but
unable to endure her shame, and horrified at her treason towards the
queen, who ever tenderly cherished her, in a paroxysm of remorseful
grief she caught up a pen and wrote to Julian:

“Would to God, my father, that the earth had swallowed me ere I came to
Toledo! What am I to tell you of that which it is meet to conceal?
Alas! my father, your lamb has been entrusted to the wolf. She were
better dead than dishonoured. Hasten to rescue your unhappy Florinda.
Come quickly.”

Tying this brief missive in a square of silk, and fastening it with a
ribbon, she called to her a young page, bred at her father’s court, who
had been especially appointed to her service.

“Adolfo,” said she, and sobs were in her voice, “saddle the swiftest
steed you can lay hands on, and if ever, dear _niño_, you aspire to the
honours of a belted knight in the service of my father, or hope for
lady’s grace in the tourney; if ever--” here she burst into a flood of
tears, moved by her own vehemence. “Oh, sweet Adolfo, dear little page,
reared up in my home, for the love of Christ, ride day and night until
you reach the sea. Then, at the price of gold, which I give you,” and
she placed in his hands a heavy purse, “take the best boat and the
swiftest rowers, and with flowing sail speed to my father at Ceuta, nor
eat nor drink until you have placed this writing in his hand.”

Before the eager Florinda, whose every feature spoke the deadly anxiety
she felt, the page, cap in hand, bowed low.

“Trust me, noble daughter of my honoured lord. I will truly execute your
trust. Swiftly will I ride, nor turn aside for aught but death, either
by land or sea.”

Placing the letter in the bosom of his gaudy vest, he kissed her hand
and sped his way, mounted a fast horse he found in the _patio_ of the
Palace, galloped down the declivity, through the Golden Gate, and so on
into the eternal plains which gird about Toledo, until clouds of dust
concealed him from Florinda’s anxious gaze.

Meanwhile, Julian, fighting valiantly in Africa, had just repulsed an
attack of Mousa on the castle of Ceuta, standing on a cape which juts
out into the Straits, the nearest point to the Spanish mainland. It was
a desperate struggle; the Moors, under the command of the famous Arabs,
rallying again and again.

The news of such a success spread round not only in Africa but over all
the breadth of Spain. The landing of the Moors in Andalusia was a
constant subject of terror on the mainland. Men knew that the Gothic
nation no longer held together as under the early kings, and that each
chief looked to himself alone, caring but little what became of his
neighbours. The castles were dismantled by the selfish policy of Witica
and Roderich, and the army was sunk into the same luxurious ease as the
rest of the nation.

The name of Julian was soon on every lip. He was hailed as a saviour,
and blessings invoked on him as the bulwark of the Cross.

With the sound of this homage ringing in his ears, the page arrives at
Ceuta, bearing the letter from Florinda. Julian at once summons him to
his tent, as perchance the bearer of some signal

[Illustration: THE GATE OF THE MOSQUE OF CORDOVA.]

honour bestowed upon him by the king, or of some royal recompense for
his services.

“What tidings from Don Roderich?” he asks.

“None, my lord,” is the answer. “I rode in haste away, without seeing
the king. What I bear is a letter from the Lady Florinda.”

“Florinda--how fares she?”

“Well, my lord,” answers the page, as he takes the silken packet from
his bosom.

Cutting the ribbon that binds it with his dagger, Julian reads the
miserable lines; word after word brings a terrible certainty to his
mind; he stands in speechless anguish, then, flinging the parchment from
him, he folds his arms, while one by one the burning remembrance of each
act of devotion to Roderich stings him to the soul. It is a terrible
reckoning; a dark and malignant fury enters into his soul, not only
against Roderich, but against all Spain, the scene of his dishonour, the
home of his disgrace.

“And this,” cries he, when words come to his lips, “is my reward for
serving a villain! This is the return he makes me for the hostage of my
child! May I die a slave if I rest until I have given him full measure
in return!”



CHAPTER IV

Don Julian Goes over to the Moors


Julian’s first object is, without exciting suspicion, to remove his
daughter from Toledo. Full of the project of revenge, he crosses the
Straits and repairs to the Court. Wherever he appears is hailed as the
leader to whose prowess the nation owes its safety. Roderich, counting
on the silence of Florinda, receives him with a frank and generous
welcome, and loads him with new honours. Julian, meanwhile, artfully
magnifies the present danger which threatens the frontier, and prepares
all things for his return to Africa. For Florinda he obtains leave of
absence from the queen “to attend upon her mother Frandina, dangerously
ill at Algeciras.” Together they cross the bridge of the Tagus, followed
by the shouting populace, but as his horse’s hoofs strike on the
opposite bank he raises his mailed hand, and shakes it in the air as he
turns his eyes towards the Alcazar.

“My curse rest on thee, Don Roderich!” are his words. “May desolation
fall on thy dwelling and thy realm!”

Journeying on with Florinda, he came to a wild range of mountains near
Consucara--still called the Mountain of Treason--where he meets his
kinsman, Archbishop Opas, and his wife Frandina, a formidable amazon,
who not only followed her lord in battle, but concentrated in herself
all the duplicity of her brother.

She had long hated Roderich for his marriage with Egilona, now she could
revenge herself.

“I would rather die,” she exclaims, as she gazed at Florinda, prostrate
at her feet, “than submit to this outrage!”

“Be satisfied,” replies Don Julian; “she shall be avenged. Opas will
bind our friends by dreadful oaths. I myself will go to Africa to seek
great Mousa, and negotiate his aid.”

       *       *       *       *       *

From Malaga Julian embarked for Africa with Frandina and Florinda, his
treasure and his household, and ever since the gate in the city wall
through which they passed has been called _Puerta de la Cava_ (Gate of
the Harlot), by which name the unhappy Florinda was known among the
Moors.

The dark tents of the Moslems were spread in a pastoral valley at the
foot of the billowy chain of hills which follow along the north of
Barbary (as it was called of old), outshoots from the great Atlas range
which towers in the far distance. A motley host from Egypt and
Mauretania--Saracens, Tartars, Syrians, Copts, and Berbers,--all,
Christian or Moslem, fair-skinned or negro, united under the banner of
Mousa, Governor of North Africa for the Caliph of Damascus, a man long
past middle life, but who concealed his years cunningly.

As Mousa sits to administer justice among the mixed tribes of his host,
raised on a divan covered with sheep-skins, under a wide-spreading oak,
near which a rapid streamlet runs down into the sea, the flag of Islam
floating beside him, Tháryk, his lieutenant, on his right hand, a bugle
sounds from above among the hills, and the gay apparel of a herald
appears in the distance, attended by a single trumpeter. Cautiously
descending the steep path among a forest-like grove, the herald, bearing
on his tabard the Gothic arms, pauses at the base; the trumpeter sounds
another loud blast, then both ride boldly into the circle gathered round
Mousa. After an obeisance, responded to in silence by the astonished
Moors, he speaks, lowering his cognisance before the chief: “I demand,”
says he, “a safe passage for my master, Don Julian Espatorios of Spain,
under King Roderich the Goth. Can he come without danger to life and
limb and depart when he lists?”

To which Mousa, touching with the tips of his fingers the folds of the
green turban which he wears, then carrying them down and crossing them
on his chest, in an Eastern salute of ceremony replies:

“The demand of Don Julian is granted. Let my noble adversary advance
without fear. So brave a leader shall eat of our salt were he ten times
our foe.”

Clad in a complete suit of armour, and mounted on a powerful charger,
Julian appears. A surcoat of black is over his armour, his legs are
encased in fluted steel, and on his helmet rests a sable plume. Behind
him rides his esquire, bearing his lance and shield. With grave courtesy
he salutes the Moslem chiefs whom he has so lately defeated, then, upon
the motion of Mousa, who rises at his approach, he dismounts, and,
flinging the bridle to his esquire, takes the place assigned to him.

The deep-set eyes of Julian, for he wears his vizor raised, are fixed on
the face of Mousa, who with the refinement of Eastern courtesy, affects
to smile, although much exercised in his mind as to what motive can have
induced his adversary thus voluntarily to place himself in his power.
His lieutenant Tháryk, a rough warrior, gifted with little command over
his countenance, glares at him meanwhile out of his single eye with
unconcealed hatred.

An awkward pause follows, broken only by the low ripple of the brook,
carolling swiftly over the glancing pebbles, which separates Julian from
Mousa, thus as it were symbolising the position of the late combatants
by its slender barrier. At last Julian speaks: “Hitherto, O Emir of the
Faithful, we have met as enemies. Now I am come to offer you my country
and my king. Country,” he repeats bitterly, as a dark frown overshadows
his face, pale under his helmet, “I have none; Roderich the Goth is my
deadliest enemy. He has blasted the honour of my name. Aid me, O Mousa,
to revenge, and all Spain is in your hand.”

Not even the grave immobility of countenance in which the Moslem is
trained to conceal his emotions could altogether prevent the movement of
amazement with which this speech was received by Mousa and Tháryk and
those around. What motive, however, was powerful enough to cause Julian
thus to present himself in the face of the assembled chiefs of Islam
mattered not to Mousa. Julian had spoken, and his heart leaped within
him at the words. How often had he gazed on the low hills along the
Spanish coast washed by the Straits! How often had he longed to possess
himself of the fair plains lying beyond: a land rich with rivers and
pastures, vines, olives, and pomegranates, splendid cities and castles,
flowing with milk and honey--and now it was his own! But, wary by
nature, and cautious by age, the henna-stained warrior (for it was said
of Mousa that, to retain his youthful appearance, he dyed his hair and
beard) pauses ere he replies, and turns towards the sheikhs who sit
around:

“Don Julian,” says he, affecting to knit his bushy eyebrows, “comes here
as a traitor. The same treason may be hidden in his word that he shows
to his own master. But lately he held the garrisons of the Goths against
us in the stronghold of Ceuta, and prevailed. The faithful were driven
out, and the Arab camp broken. How can we credit him? The Koran teaches
that those who deceive an enemy are blessed.”

“Ceuta!” shouts Julian, “yes, O Mousa, you have said well. It is true I
drove your Moslems from the field like sheep before the wolves. Yes!”
(and even as he speaks his voice grows loud and fierce) “on every side I
was hailed as a deliverer, and my heart swelled within me as I thought
upon the victory I had won. Then, in the moment when the shouts of the
Goths were echoing in my ears, and Roderich made of me almost a king, a
letter came to my hand.” Here all expression died out of his face, his
powerful frame seemed to stiffen into stone, but from out of the
upraised bars of his helmet a menacing fire shone in his eyes, which
belied the seeming calm of his demeanour. His gaze was fixed on Mousa,
not as though he perceived him, but rather as if the eyes of his mind
were ranging far away among the scenes which had brought him to this
pass.

“Explain, noble Goth,” replies Mousa, “else is your coming vain.”

Recalled to himself by the Emir’s voice, Julian proceeded; but he
visibly faltered as the words came slowly to his lips. “The dishonour of
my house is my reward. My name is blasted while Roderich lives. For this
purpose am I come.”

“This is a wild tale,” answers Mousa, crossing his arms within the
draperies of his robe. “Your own words proclaim you a traitor. You may
be true. If false, Allah judge you!”

Then it was that Tháryk-el-Tuerto rose and stood forth from among the
sheikhs, his one eye gleaming with a savage joy.

“Doubt not the words of Don Julian, O Emir,” he cries. “The wrong which
Roderich has wrought him would move the lowest Berber of the desert to
revenge. By his offer, O Emir, a new land spreads out before us,
inviting us to conquest. What is to prevent us from becoming the
inheritors of the Goth? Let me go forth with Don Julian and prove the
land.”

The bold words of “the one-eyed Tháryk” find favour with Mousa and the
chiefs. “Allah is great,” is their answer. “Mahomet the Prophet speaks
by the mouth of Tháryk. Let it be as he desires.”

So Julian and Tháryk departed with five galleys and five hundred men;
landed at Algeciras in the Bay of Gibraltar (Gibel Taric to this day, in
memory of him), and returned to Africa with such tidings of the power of
Julian to raise the land, that a formidable invasion was decided on.

[Illustration]

[Illustration: MOHAMMED.]



CHAPTER V

Landing of the Moors--The Eve of Battle


Don Roderich, seated with the beauteous Queen Egilona in the royal
castle of Toledo, eagerly questions a herald sent forward by Teodomir
from Murcia.

“What tidings from the south?” he asks.

“Of great woe,” is the answer. “Already the rock of Calpe has fallen.
The noble Teodomir is wounded. The Gothic troops, O King, fly before the
Moslem. Whether they come from heaven or hell we know not. They have no
ships, yet they overrun the coast. Send us aid with speed.”

At this dismal news Roderich turned to the wall and covered his face
with his robe. Changed as he was from the valorous young hero of earlier
days, enervated and sensual, the blood of brave warriors flowed in his
veins, and shame and remorse overwhelmed him. Not one word could Egilona
draw from him. To the pressure of her soft arms he did not respond; nor
did he heed the kisses she showered on him, as, parting the long meshes
of his flowing locks, she strove to uncover his face.

Around, the courtiers stand mute, each man with his eyes fixed on the
earth. An awful silence follows, broken only by the sobs of the queen,
as messenger after messenger rides in, distracting the city with fresh
tales of woe. So easy had the treachery of Julian made conquest for the
Moors, that already the coast of Andalusia bristled with scimitars, and
bands of turbaned horsemen had overrun the plains to the banks of the
Guadalete.

What were Roderich’s thoughts as he sat motionless? Did he recall the
prophecy of his fall, when, contrary to the advice of the archbishop,
who implored him to respect a mystery held sacred for generations, he
had forced his way into the magic Tower of Hercules, planted on the
cliffs outside Toledo, and in spite of all warnings had broken the lock
of the enchanted casket, and unfolded the linen cloths on which were
painted miniature figures of horsemen wearing turbans and Eastern
tunics, scimitars at their sides, and crossbows at their saddle-bows,
carrying pennons and banners with crescents and Moorish devices--all of
which at first appeared small, as a pattern to be folded up, then grew
and expanded into the size of life,--squadrons of Moorish warriors
filling the space, as they moved upwards out of the cloth, in
ever-lengthening lines, to the faint sound of distant warlike
instruments; becoming ever larger and louder as the enchantment grew,
and the figures waxing greater to the far-off clash of cymbals and
trumpets, the neighing of war-steeds snorting in the charge, and shouts
as of the approach of serried hosts?

And, as Don Roderich gazed as one stupefied before the vision he had
audaciously invoked, plainer and plainer became the motion of the
figures, and wilder the din, as the linen cloth rolled itself higher and
higher and spread and amplified out of the casket, until it rose into
the dome of the hall, its texture no longer visible, but moving with the
air, the shadowy figures plainer and yet plainer in their fierce
warfare, and the din and uproar more appalling as they formed into the
semblance of a great battlefield where Christians and Moors strove with
each other in deadly conflict; the rush and tramp of horses ever
clearer, the blast of trumpet and clarion shriller and louder, the clash
of swords and maces, the thud of battle-axes striking together, the
whistle of ghostly arrows through the air, and the hurling of lances and
darts--while phantom drums rumbled as by thousands with the under-note
of war; two battling hosts clearly discerned, presenting all the phases
of a desperate combat. And now, behold the phantom lines of Christians
quail before the infidel, pressing on them in shadowy thousands, the
standard of the Cross is felled, the Gothic banner fouled, the air
resounds with shouts, yells of fury, and groans of dying men; and plain
among the flying hosts is seen a mounted form, bearing the semblance of
a shadowy king--a golden crown encircles his helmet--mounted on a white
steed with blood-stained haunches, the satin-coated Orelia gallantly
bearing him out of the battle. No countenance is visible, for his back
is turned, but in the fashion of the inlaid armour, the jewelled
circlet, the device, and graceful lines of his favourite war-horse, Don
Roderich, with eyes dilated with horror, beholds himself flying across
the plains! Unseated in the _mêlée_ he disappears; and Orelia, without a
rider, careers wildly on, as though in search of the loved master, the
touch of whose hand she knows so well!

Roderich, paralysed with horror, sees no more, but rushing from the
magic hall, the rumble of phantom drums and trumpets in his ear,
commands that the iron doors of the Tower of Hercules be for ever
closed.

Such was the warning, but he heeded not.

       *       *       *       *       *

On July 26, 711, beside the river Guadalete (Wady Lete), near Xerez, was
fought out the fate of Spain. A dull, dreary region, over which the eye
now wanders objectless, save for a far-off lying tower, or a solitary
pine marked against the horizon; the scent of lavender and rosemary
strong in the wind, like incense rising up for the forgotten dead, whose
bones whitened the plain.

The Moors, under the command of Tháryk, “the one-eyed,” were inferior in
numbers to the Goths, but compacter and more dexterous, accustomed to
constant warfare, and headed by experienced leaders. As the rays of the
setting sun caught the wide circle of the Moslem camp the evening before
the battle, a motley crowd of many tribes met the astonished eyes of the
Goths: Berbers from North Africa in white turbans and white flying
bournous, armed with lance and wattled shields; roving Bedouins on the
fleetest steeds, their glossy coats hung with beads and charms;
Ethiopians, black as night; Nubians with matted hair, and men from
Barbary and Tunis.

On landing at Tarifa, near the rock of Gibraltar, Thàryk had burnt every
ship. “Behold,” said he, pointing to the flames which ran swiftly along
the wood of the light African _triremes_, “there is now no escape for
cowards. We conquer, or we die. Your home is before you,” and he pointed
to the low line of inland hills which bound the horizon. As he spoke, an
ancient woman, covered with a woollen sheet gathered about her naked
limbs, drew near to where he was standing surrounded by his sheikhs,
waving a white rag.

“Great Emir,” quoth she, falling on the earth to kiss his feet in
Eastern fashion, “I am the bearer of a prophecy written by an ancient
seer. He foretold that the Moors would overrun our country, if a leader
should appear known by these signs: On his right shoulder is a mole, and
his right arm is longer than his left, so that he can cover his knee
with one hand without bending down.”

Tháryk listened with grave attention, then laid bare his arms. There was
the mole, and so much did his right arm exceed the left in length, that
he could clasp his knee with his hand.

The Christians had pitched their tents at sunset, somewhat distant from
the Moors, whose black banners, with mysterious signs, dark tents, and
savage weapons inspired them with awe. Before night, Don Roderich sent
out a picked squadron of the Gothic bodyguard to skirmish with the
enemy, with flags and standards bearing the same device as those which
had floated before Alaric at the walls of Rome. Each chief, encased in
ponderous armour, in singular contrast to the light-armed
Moors--attended by esquires heavily armed also, and bowmen and
men-at-arms. Old Teodomir led them, having come from his government of
Murcia, with many another tried Gothic chief; Ataulfo, and the
grey-headed Pelistes, heading, with the traditions of the earliest
times, his vassals and retainers. With him was his young son, who had
never borne arms but in the lists of the tourney. The young Pelayo had
craved to be present, to flesh his maiden sword against the enemy, but
the jealousy of Roderich, who hated all those of the old race, had
forbidden it; an affront that so rankled in his soul that he swore what
seemed then a foolish oath, but which time ratified--to lead his
countrymen or to die.

To this goodly array of Christian knights the Moors were not slow to
correspond. Ranks of fleet horsemen rode out in the failing light,
under the command of Julian (ever to the fore where the fighting was
hottest), sacrificing many a gallant life in empty skirmishing, all by
the advice of the Archbishop Opas, whose tent lay near to Roderich,
while he secretly guided the Moors.

Old Tháryk, astonished by this prompt display of the valour of the
Goths, and their devotion to their king, sought out Julian, sternly
remonstrating:

“You told me your countrymen were sunk in sloth and effeminacy under a
dastard king. But behold, I see their tents whitening the plains and his
army to be reckoned by thousands upon thousands of good fighting men.
Woe unto you, O Christian knight, if, to work out your own vengeance,
you have lured me with false words.”

Julian, greatly troubled, retired to his tent, and called to him his
page, the same who had brought him the letter of Florinda from Toledo.

“My pretty boy,” he said, passing his arm about his neck, “you know that
I love you almost as a son. Now is the time to serve me. Hie to the
Christian camp, and find the tent of my kinsman, Archbishop Opas. Show
him this ring, and tell him Julian greets him and demands how Florinda
can be avenged. Mark well his answer. Repeat it word by word. Carry
close lips and open eyes in the enemy’s camp. If challenged, say you are
one of the household of the archbishop, bearing missives from Cordoba.
So speed you well, my boy. Away, away, away.”

Along the margin of the Guadalete he rode, the soft turf giving back no
sound. A sword girded to his saddle-bow, a dagger in his belt, mounted
on a steed as fleet as air, and black in colour as the night.

Brightly gleamed the Christian fires around their camp, but sadly to his
ear came the plaints of the soldiers wounded in the skirmish, who had
crawled to the river bank to slake their thirst. Then with a groan, a
dying Moor, doomed to expire alone under an alien sky, called on him to
stay, and his trusty horse stumbled, and nearly fell, over the prostrate
body of a dead knight lately prancing proudly under the sun. The heart
of the page faltered. Fain would he have stayed, for he had served in
courts, and was of a gentle nature, but never for a moment did he tarry
on his course, or let compassion tempt him to help such as called on him
for aid. His master’s word was law, and he had said, “Haste thee on thy
way for life and death.”

Challenged by the Christian sentinels, he spoke the words Julian had
taught him, and passed through to the tent of the archbishop.

Opas, as one of those militant churchmen so common in that age, having
doffed his suit of mail, was resting after the fight. When his own
brother had fallen, without remorse he turned to Roderich. Now Roderich
in his turn was betrayed and he bethought himself of his kinsfolk.

A stern, high-featured man, with a ready smile, like winter sunshine
upon snow, merciless and hypocritical, he had steered his way through
two stormy reigns, and was now believed by Roderich to be as devoted to
his cause as he had seemed to be to the unhappy Witica. When he saw the
ring his brother-in-law had sent him, he made no reply. For awhile he
contemplated the page curiously, slowly passing his jewelled fingers
over his clean-shaven chin, lost in thought; then he broke silence:

“Doubtless,” said the hypocrite, “the message is from God. Your master
Julian is but the mouthpiece of the Most High. Since the divine voice
has spoken, and given us time to consider its judgment, it behoves me,
his servant in all things, to accomplish his will. Hasten back to your
lord, good page, and tell him to have faith in his wife’s brother. As
yet my own troops have not unsheathed the sword, but are fresh and
ready. At the hour of noon to-morrow, when both armies are engaged, let
him look out; I will pass over to the Moslem.”

With this treacherous message the page departed, making no noise, and as
he guided his black horse along the lines of the river as he had come,
the sound of an arrow whistled by his ear, a random shot which did not
harm him.



CHAPTER VI

Battle of Guadalete--Overthrow of Don Roderich


All night a light burned in the tent of Don Roderich. If he slept, his
slumbers were troubled. Now the pale form of Florinda rises before him
with sad eyes, then the hideous vision of the necromantic Tower of
Hercules haunts him. He starts up, and, opening the purple hangings of
his tent, gazes out at the starry splendour of the Southern night.

Before him lay the grassy flats about Xerez, dimly lit by the dark glow
of the signal fires marking the verge of the opposite camps. A pale
crescent moon hanging over the Moslem tents brought out the lines of low
hills far back on the horizon. Not a sound was heard but the tramp of
the sentinels, or the neigh of a war-horse, ill-stabled on the turf. The
distant click of a horse’s hoofs roused him to attention, and he
distinctly saw the shadowy outline of a single horseman hurrying along
the river’s verge, the bearer of the message big with his doom.

From his belt he drew an arrow and sped it swiftly from a golden bow,
watching its silent course, but the dark figure still rode on.

Heavy was his heart within him as he watched the dawn of day (say the
old chroniclers), not for himself, but for the thousands who lay
stretched in slumber around, and the thought of the lonely Egilona
called from him a sigh. Of all things, to a brave heart treachery is the
sorest woe, and treachery he knew was at work with Julian close at hand.
He would have challenged him to single battle, as knight to knight, but
for the memory of his crime. This made him shrink before the father
whose just vengeance had brought the invaders into the land.

With the glorious burst of morning all these dismal thoughts vanished.
Again he became the brilliant chief who had wrested from Witica the
crown of Spain. Again his heart swelled with the ardour of battle, as he
prepared to lead his army with the pomp proper to a Gothic king.

A comelier monarch never drew breath than Roderich as--attired in a robe
of beaten gold, sandals embroidered in pearls and diamonds on his feet,
a sceptre in his hand, and a gold crown on his head resplendent with
priceless gems--he mounted the lofty chariot of ivory, drawn by
milk-white horses champing bits of gold, the wheels and pole covered
with plates of gold, and a crimson canopy overhead. As he advanced in
front of the army shouts of delight rent the air.

“Forward, brave Goths,” he cried, waving his glittering sceptre, as he
halted in the front of the royal standard. “God is above to bless the
Christian cause! Your king leads you! Forward to the fight, and death be
his portion who shows any fear!”

Ere his voice had ceased, the sun, which had risen brilliantly, sank
behind a bank of vapour, and a rising sirocco raised such clouds of dust
that the very air was darkened.

Various was the fortune of the day. To the battalions of light Arab
horsemen, throwing showers of arrows, stones, and javelins, the old
Gothic valour opposed lines of steady troops. Where the Moslem fell, the
Christian rushed in, seized both horse and armour. Desperately they
fought and well, until the plain was strewn with prostrate Moors.

Don Roderich, throwing off the cumbrous robes of state, and mounting his
satin-coated steed, Orelia, a horned helmet on his head, sternly
grasping his buckler, was foremost wherever danger menaced. With the
reins loose upon Orelia’s neck (who utters a wild snort rushing forward
at full speed to meet the charge) the Moors fled before him, as though
he were a second Santiago descended from the skies.

Tháryk, the one-eyed, maddened at seeing his battalions retreating,
flung himself before them, and, rising in his stirrups, strove to stem
the tide.

“Oh, Mussulmen,” he shouted, “whither would you fly? The sea is behind
you, the enemy in front. You have no hope but in valour. Follow me; aim
at the leaders. Pick off the Christian knights. He who brings in the
head of the Goth shall swim in gold.” And putting spurs to his charger,
he laid about him to right and left, trampling down the foot-soldiers,
followed by Tenedos, a Spanish renegade, and a whole company of savage
Berbers, who fell upon Ataulfo and the men he led.

A hand-to-hand conflict ensued. Ataulfo was wounded while he struggled
with Tenedos, whom he had felled to the earth with his battle-axe, but
his good horse being disabled and useless, obliged him to dismount. He
tried to seize the reins of that of Tenedos, but the sagacious animal,
as if recognising the hand which had smitten his master, reared and
plunged, and would not let him mount. On foot he repulsed a whole circle
of assailants. Blow after blow he dealt upon the enemy, keeping back the
fierce crew of turbaned Berbers that sought to strike him down.

“All honour to Christian chivalry,” cried Tháryk, who, seeing the quick
gleam of swords and scimitars around the Gothic prince, spurred to the
spot. But a selfish thought came to crush the generous impulse which had
moved him for a moment.

“If Ataulfo falls, it will be death to the army of Roderich,” whereupon
he dealt him such a cruel blow with his scimitar as felled him to the
earth. A pool of blood formed round him. Then the Moor, for an instant
separated from him by a squadron of horse, led by Pelistes, hastened to
deal him the death-blow.

No Goth possessed the moral influence of Pelistes. He was the high
priest of chivalry. With him rode his only son. In vain he warned him
not to expose himself. In vain! The die was cast--he fell! His maiden
battle was doomed to be his last! Alas! poor father! Borne on the
shields of his vassals, they carried the boy towards the royal tent,
where Roderich was leading his Gothic guards forward to terminate the
battle by a victorious onslaught.

At this moment, when the sun, long obscured by clouds, reached the
meridian, and shone forth in sudden lustre, a deafening shout was heard,
and Archbishop Opas, in a complete suit of armour, struck out from the
centre of the Christian army at a gallop to join the Moors.

From that moment the fortune of battle changes. In vain does Pelistes,
forgetting his grief, lead on such as would follow him. For the first
time his voice falls on deaf ears. In vain Teodomir endeavours to rally
his veterans. In vain Roderich on his war-horse, grasps sword and
buckler, to reform his flying troops. Surrounded and assailed by his own
treacherous subjects, his sword flies like lightning round his homed
casque, each stroke felling an enemy. Around him the fight thickens. “A
kingdom for his head,” cries the voice of Julian, pressing closer and
closer with his perjured band.

[Illustration: A VIEW OF MECCA IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.]

A mortal panic falls on the Christians. Not only do they not fight, but
they throw away their arms and fly!

For three whole days the Bedouins and Berbers, the fleetest riders among
the Africans, pursue the flying Goths over the plains. But few of that
vast host live to tell the tale. Alone, with a compact body of men,
Teodomir manages to escape into the East, and Pelistes, carrying the
body of his son, shuts himself up behind the walls of Cordoba.

And Roderich?

The Christian chronicler who furnishes these details records that the
king fell by the sword of Julian, but this is too much of a monkish
morality to be true. It is said that Orelia, stained with blood and
disabled, was found entangled in a marsh on the borders of the
Guadalete, the sandals and mantle of her master beside her.

But where history is silent romancers take up the tale, in those same
ballads, parodied by Cervantes, in the inimitable scene of the puppets,
in the second part of Don Quixote, when Master Peter, representing
Roderich’s tragic death, grows alarmed at the Don’s frantic wrath, and
his drawn sword, and cries, “Hold! hold! These are no real Berbers and
Moors, but harmless dolls of pasteboard, picturing unhappy King
Roderich, who said, ‘Yesterday I was lord of Spain, and to-day I have
not a foot of land which I can call my own. Not half an hour ago I had
knights and empire at my command, horses in abundance, and chests and
bags of gold, but now you see me a ruined and undone man!’”

Roderich, say the ballads, did not perish in the battle of the
Guadalete, but seeing that the day was lost, he fled. But not far, for
the sleek-skinned Orelia, bleeding with wounds to death, soon fell. Then
the king wandered on foot, faint and sick, his sword hacked into a saw,
his jewelled mail drilled through. On the top of the highest rock (that
is not much, for we are in the eternal plains) he sits down and weeps.
Wherever he turns the sight of death meets his gaze. His valiant Goths
have fallen or have fled. No refuge is left in the walled cities, or by
the sea-shore. Toledo, his capital, is far away, and who knows if his
banner still floats from the Alcazar towers? Below is the battlefield
stained with Christian blood. There his royal banner trails in the dust.
The bodies of his dying troops cover the plain. The shrill cry of the
Arab comes sharply to his ear. He can discern the form of Julian, sword
in hand, dealing destruction to such as still linger, and Tháryk, on his
Arab courser white-turbaned, more terrible than the phantoms of the
black kings who haunt the desert!

Just, however, as Roderich, in despair, is about to kill himself (so the
ballad says) a shepherd appears, who gives him food, and conducts him to
a neighbouring hermit. The hermit, on learning who he is, regards him
somewhat dubiously, exhorts him to pray, and purify himself from sin.
As to hospitality he can offer him only an open grave, into which
Roderich descends without a murmur, in company with a big black snake.
If his repentance be sincere, the hermit tells him, the snake will leave
him harmless; if not, it will bite him until he dies.

In the grave the king lies silent for three days. Then the hermit
appears, and asks: “How fares it, most noble king? How do you relish
your dark bed and dismal bedfellow?”

“The snake,” answers Roderich, “is black, and rears its crest, but it
does not bite me. Pray for me, good father, that I may be unharmed.”

But that very afternoon, sore and doleful moans smite the hermit’s ear.
It is Roderich from the grave crying, “Father, father, the snake gnaws
me. Now, now I feel his pointed teeth. O God, will it soon end?”

At which the hermit, gazing down, exhorts him to bear the pain, “to save
his sinful soul,” in the true style of monkish consolation.

And thus poor Roderich dies a miserable death, verifying what Sancho
Panza says to the duchess, “that all the silks and riches of the Goths
did not prevent his being cut off,” and the traitor and renegade,
Julian, helps the Moors to possess Xerez, and the plain from Seville to
the rock of Gibraltar, called _Gebel Tháryk_ (hill of Tháryk,) which
they kept for many centuries, until driven out by Alonso, the wise King
of Leon and Castile.



CHAPTER VII

Cordoba--Pelistes--Don Julian--Florinda


Again we are at Cordoba! Under the protection of its river-girt walls
the flying Goths draw breath. From Cordoba the king has started his
great army, spreading like waves over the Andalusian plains. To Cordoba,
Pelistes and a few terrified fugitives return, bringing tidings of the
catastrophe.

The men of Cordoba crowd round them with terror in their looks. Pelistes
shakes his aged head, tears gather in his eyes.

“Roderich is fallen,” they cry. “Your silence reveals it. Be to us a
king, O Pelistes, and defend us from the Moors.”

He listens in silence. He neither refuses the offer, nor gives consent.
His heart is dead within him. Then he lifts his eyes to the green
mountains of the Sierra Morena, which give so pleasant an aspect to the
great Plaza where he stands, and the long-suppressed tears well over and
run down his furrowed cheeks, at the thought that these fair lands and
the white city, so jocund in the sun, with avenues of spreading palms,
and plane-trees, and jasmine-planted gardens, shall fall.

“Citizens,” he says, turning to the hundreds whose eager eyes are fixed
on him as shipwrecked mariners note the advance of a raft in a stormy
sea, “I swear to stand by you to the end. I will undertake the defence
of your city.”

A solemn oath is registered there on the Plaza (still planted with palms
and called now _del gran Capitan_, in memory of another great leader,
Gonsalo de Cordoba), a solemn oath, and as a sign of accepting all held
up their right hands.

But, shameful to relate, so soon as the scouts bring word of the advance
of the victorious Moors, every wealthy burgher within Cordoba packs up
his goods and flees to the deepest recesses of the Sierra. The monks
abandon their convents, the women follow, and only the poor and
destitute are left to the mercy of the invaders.

To the sound of drums and cymbals the Moors march in. In front rides the
Christian renegade, Maguel, his turbaned head decorated with the
crescent of command, his war-horse carrying strings of Christian heads,
dropping blood upon the stones. Next is Julian, a dark scowl upon his
face, as of a man carrying a load of care. How well he knows each tree
and _huerta_ and tower along the march--the little creek in the
Guadalquivir, where the boats are moored; a lone castle of defence,
looking towards the hills (now called “of Almodar”), he often has
defended against the wild forays of the Arabs; the Sierra broken into
cliffs and precipices, with groves and gardens, and silvery streams,
studded by _quintas_ and hamlets. There, in a green retreat among the
wooded hills, he and Frandina had lived when Florinda was a child. Here,
in the Alcazar, he had met Don Roderich; and the remembrance fills him
with such sudden rage, he digs his spurs into the smooth flanks of his
Arab charger, an uncalled-for violence, resenting which, the fiery
animal rears, and half unseats him.

Yes, it was at Cordoba that he consigned Florinda to his care, the
fair-faced profligate. There he parted from her, guileless as a babe,
and now, through the length and breadth of Spain, she is known by the
name of _La Cava_. He himself is but a vile renegade. Already the poison
of jealousy is working at his heart. The Moors distrust him, though they
owe all to him. Where would “the one-eyed” have been but for him? And
Mousa, and Maguel, and the rest? And such an uncontrollable burst of
wrath passes over him that he curses aloud. At least _he_ was the first
in the court of Roderich, and now, who knows when Andalusia is conquered
and the Moors need him no more, what form their suspicion may assume?

Then came to his mind uneasy thoughts of Frandina and of his son. For
himself he cares not. A dagger thrust can settle all his fate--but the
boy! his only son! Is he safe under his mother’s care? May he not be
made a hostage by Tháryk?

[Illustration: THE GOLDEN TOWER, SEVILLE.]

Already the scent of treason is in the air!

Here a wild clamour breaks in upon his thoughts. The white walls of
Cordoba are in front, and a mighty shout of “Allah! there is no God but
Allah, and Mahomet is his Prophet,” rises from a thousand throats of
swarthy Africans, careering wildly over the grass, Numidians, with
fringed bands and armlets on elbow and ankle, sun-dried sheikhs and
wandering Kalenders and Fakirs in the front of the great army, mounted
on camels and mules.

       *       *       *       *       *

For three long months Pelistes, well-named the “Father of the Goths,”
defended the battered Convent of St. George, within which he barricaded
himself. Hope of succour supports his courage. Teodomir may come, or
young Pelayo, from Asturia or Leon.

But day follows day, and night passes on to night, under the lustre of
the southern stars, and no help comes. Eager eyes hail every cloud of
dust that sweeps the plain, and interpret dark shadows of the clouds,
which summer tempests cast, into troops of Christian knights
approaching. Alas! no human form is visible, save now and then an Arab
horseman, riding with light rein, charged with some mission from Mousa
in the south.

Famine, too, comes to try them with its ghastly face. One by one they
kill the horses, which had carried them so gallantly from the Guadalete
(to a trooper an act as repulsive as the murdering of his child), and
strive with divers ills which hunger brings.

Pelistes, unable to bear the sight of the sufferings of his friends,
assembles what remains of the miserable garrison, and thus speaks his
mind:

“Comrades,” he cries, in a voice which he endeavours to make cheerful,
“it is needless to conceal danger from brave men; our case is desperate.
One by one we shall die and leave no sign. There is but one chance, and
I shall brave it. To-morrow, before break of day, I will ride forth
disguised as one of these base renegades of whom there are so many in
Cordoba, and, God willing, spur on to Toledo. If my errand prosper, I
shall be back in twenty days. If not, at least I shall return to die
with you. Keep a sharp lookout! Five beacon fires blazing on the lowest
line of hills mean success. If not, the blackness of despair engulfs
me.”

And so it was. As the faint streaks of light tipped the craggy tops of
the Sierra with points of gold, warning the shepherds to rise and tend
their sheep, and the birds flew low, waiting for further light to wing
their course into the upper regions of the air, Pelistes rode forth, a
turban on his head, along the silent streets of Cordoba, to which the
shadows of long lines of wall give such an Eastern aspect. He passed the
gate, but lazily guarded at that early hour, unchallenged, in company
with droves of cattle and mules laden with sacks. Then, pricking the
sides of his willing horse, he galloped at full speed along the tracks
which mount upwards, and, ere the sun rose, had gained the lower spurs
of the Sierra.

At the gateway of a _quinta_ he draws rein, willing to rest his panting
steed. But alas! while he tarries the sound of horses’ hoofs, riding at
topmost speed over the rocky path he has just traversed, smites his ear.
In an instant he is again in the saddle, and straining upwards to
conceal himself in a rugged hollow beside the dried-up course of a
mountain torrent.

His tired horse, wind-blown and trembling, falters at the edge and
falls, rolling with Pelistes to the bottom. Greatly shaken and bleeding,
Pelistes extricates himself with difficulty and strives to raise his
horse, but when the generous beast, rising with a groan to his master’s
call, stands up, it falls again on the hard stones, unable to keep its
feet.

Meanwhile, on comes the horseman through the falling stones, and a face
he knows too well looks over the brink of the ravine, and a voice calls
out, “Well met, brave Pelistes, even in a hole. You have ridden bravely
from Cordoba, and are well mounted. We followed you ill, but here we are
in time.”

The voice is that of Maguel. For all reply, Pelistes, standing by his
horse, draws his sword.

“Do you bandy words with me as a coward!” he thunders, brandishing his
weapon. “Stand forth! If you are a man, tie your horse to a tree and
come down on foot. We will see who is the better man, a Christian
renegade or a Gothic knight.”

And fight they did, and desperately, as if each held a nation’s ransom
at his sword’s point. Better matched warriors never clashed steel.
Fragments of shields flew around; then casques were split, and blood
flowed freely. Still they fought. At length Pelistes, who had been much
injured by his fall, began to show signs of weakness, and Maguel
perceiving this, pressed on him the more, until Pelistes, summoning all
his remaining strength to strike a final blow, failed in his aim and
fell prostrate on the earth.

“This is a brave foe,” quoted Maguel to his followers, who, renegade
though he was, we must allow had generous qualities or he would have run
Pelistes through. “Let us save his life, such a knight will honour our
triumph.” So, unlacing his buckler, they throw water on his face, and
raise him upright against a barrier of rock.

Though plunged in a deep swoon, Pelistes lived, and strapped to a stout
palfrey reached Cordoba.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the imprisoned captives, straining their eyes for any sign, see him
surrounded by dusky Africans, to their eyes a bleeding corpse, their
very souls seem dead within them. Pelistes gone, no help can come. To
sell their lives dear, they sally forth, but are soon driven back into
the convent, each noble Goth dying sword in hand. The convent is
immediately occupied by the Moors, and from that time is known as “St.
George of the Captives.”

Meanwhile, Pelistes found friends among his foes. Slowly his wounds
healed, and until he was restored to health the Arabs carefully tended
him. At length, when he was able to walk, Maguel (who frankly gloried in
his apostasy) bade him to a banquet within the Alcazar. It was a sore
trial to the feelings of the old warrior, but they were generous foes.
As a prisoner, he could not refuse the hospitality of his hosts, but the
woes of his country lay heavy at his heart. The grass was still green
over the graves of his comrades, and to his fancy the weapons of the
Moors were crimsoned with their blood.

Pelistes occupied the seat of honour on the right hand of Maguel, and
with that exquisite courtesy, for which the Moors were famous, his host
turned the talk on the valour displayed by the Christians, and extolled
their gallant defence of Cordoba, specially remembering that devoted
little band who had perished in the convent.

“Could I have saved their lives,” added Maguel, “it would have done me
honour. Such enemies ennoble victory. Had those brave knights consented
to surrender when I sent in a flag of truce I should have cherished them
as brothers.”

Pelistes silently acknowledged the enlightened chivalry of these words,
but his heart smote him so sorely that he could not speak for some
moments. But for his final charge to them “not to surrender” they might
be with him now! At length words came to him.

“Happy are the dead,” was his reply, in a voice that vibrated with
emotion. “They rest in peace after the hard-fought struggle. My
companions in arms have fallen with honour, while I live to see fair
Spain the prey of strangers. My son is dead, cut down by my side in
battle. My friends are gone, I have reason to weep for them. But one
there is”--and he raised his voice and a dark fire came into his pale
eye--“one for whom I shall never cease to mourn; of all my brothers in
arms he was the dearest. Of all the Gothic knights he was the bravest.
Alas! where is he? I know not. There is no record of his death in
battle, or I would seek for him in the waters of the Guadalete, or on
the plains of Xerez; or if, like so many others, he is doomed to slavery
in a foreign land, I would join him in exile, and we would mourn our
country’s loss together.”

So pathetic was the tone of Pelistes, so thrilling, that Maguel and the
emirs who sat round asked anxiously, “Who is he?”

“His name,” answered Pelistes, with lowered voice, glancing round the
table as he spoke, “was Don Julian, Conde Espatorios of Spain.”

“How,” cried Maguel, “my honoured guest, are you smitten with sudden
blindness? Behold your friend. Do you not see him? He is seated there,”
pointing to Julian, at some distance down the board, attired in the
turban and long embroidered caftan of a Moor.

Pelistes paused, slowly raised his eyes, then sternly fixed them on
Julian. “In the name of God, stranger, answer me,” he said, “how dare
you presume to personate the Conde Espatorios?”

Stung to the quick, Julian rose, flinging a furious glance on the calm,
cold eyes riveted upon him. “Pelistes,” he cried, “what means this
mockery? You know me well. I am Julian.”

“I know you for a base apostate,” thundered Pelistes, the great wrath
within him finding sudden vent, “an apostate and a traitor. Julian, my
friend, was a Christian knight, devoted, true, and valiant, but _you_,
you have no name. Infidel, renegade, and traitor, the earth you tread
abhors you. The men you lead curse you, for you have betrayed Spain and
your king. Therefore, I repeat, O man unknown, if you declare you are
Don Julian, you lie. He, alas! is dead, and you are some fiend from hell
who wears his semblance. No longer can I brook the sight.”

So, rising from the table, Pelistes departed, turning his back on
Julian, overwhelmed with confusion, amid the scornful smiles of the
Moslem knights, who used while they despised him.

As yet, however, all had gone well with him. If a traitor, his treason
was successful. He held high command among the Arabs under Tháryk and
Mousa, and amassed great wealth by his country’s spoil, but he loathed
himself more and more. He knew that all men despised him. Too old and
too serious for the sensual life of the Moors, and as a warrior little
caring to be delicately fed and housed, he sought solace in the company
of his masculine but faithful wife, Florinda, and his little son.

Florinda, alas! how changed! Her sweet, soft eyes were wild. The
delicate bloom upon her cheek had deepened into a fixed red; her mouth
made for kisses, lined and hard, her whole face strangely haggard. No
words can paint the anguish she suffered at returning into Spain with
her mother. Julian would have folded her in his arms, but she turned
from him:

“Touch me not, my father,” she cried, shuddering. “Your hand pollutes
me. Why have you brought me here?”

“But, my daughter,” answered the unhappy parent, averting his face, not
to catch the reproachful anguish of her eyes, “surely it is not for you
to accuse me? All I have done was to avenge you.”

“Ah!” she answered with a wild laugh. “That is false. I called for you
in my trouble to take me from the court, and the reproachful eyes of
Egilona. But never, never, did I bid you visit the wrong I had suffered
upon the land. What had Spain to do with me? No, not Florinda, but your
own ambition prompted you. To wear the crown of Roderich was your aim. I
was but the instrument of your ambition. Let me go,” she

[Illustration: Torre del Mihrab and Granada.]

[Illustration]

shrieked, struggling to rush out. “Do you see”--and she pointed upwards
to the chain of heights shutting in the city--“the hills of the Sierra
take strange shapes--I dare not look on the green valleys! See the
flying Goths curse me. They come! They come! showing their gaping
wounds. Look, look, the plains run with blood. The figure of the king
rides by! I know him! He is fair. It is Roderich, but sick to death.
See, his horse falters. He falls. On, on they come, the Gothic host, but
with the faces of corpses. Surely they did not ride thus to battle? Do
you hear the voices in the air? Death, death to Florinda! And I will
die, as they bid me!”

With a wild cry that rang round the perfumed groves of the Alcazar,
before Julian could stop her, she had rushed to the entrance of a tower
which jutted from the walls into the garden, and, bounding up the
stairs, barred the upper door.

Her father, speechless with horror, stood rooted to the spot; a moment
more, and her slight form leaned over the battlements. “Now, now, I
come,” she shouted. “No ghost can haunt me there,” and from the topmost
parapet she flung herself!

Hapless Florinda! Thus she passed; but still in that garden, it is said,
the spiked palm-leaves rustle in the breeze, like souls in pain; the
canes and the reeds bow their heads over the fountains, the frogs croak
sadly in the cisterns, and a Moorish cascade, rushing down a flight of
marble steps, sings in voiceless melodies her name.



CHAPTER VIII

Frandina and her Son Put to Death by Alabor


At this time a Mussulman Emir, named Alabor, ruled in Cordoba under the
Sultan Suleiman of Damascus. Alabor, who was a hard and zealous follower
of Mahomet, looked with suspicion on the Christian apostates, who
professed his faith simply to save their lives, but who in their hearts
regarded the Moslem invaders with the natural hatred of a conquered
race.

Of all those Gothic knights who bore arms under Tháryk, he most
misdoubted Julian. Certain movements of insurrection which took place
among the Christians in Pelayo’s possessions in the yet unconquered
district of the Asturias were not without suspicion of powerful
encouragement from the south.

Julian, on the death of Florinda, had resolved to send Frandina and his
little son back to Africa. Did this mean that he was preparing to play
false with his allies? “A traitor once, a traitor ever,” thought the
crafty Alabor. That he might decide his doubts in true Moslem fashion,
he called in one of those miserable impostors called fakirs, who wander
over the face of the land in the East, and profess to read the future by
the stars.

After listening to all the Emir had to say, the Fakir began his
incantation. First sand was sprinkled, then squares and circles and
diagrams were drawn upon the floor; then, while standing in the midst,
he affected to read the lines of fate from a parchment covered with
cabalistic characters. “O Emir,” he said, “your words of wisdom are
justified. Beware of the apostates.”

“Enough,” replied the Emir. “They shall die.”

At that time Julian was still at Cordoba in great grief for the recent
death of Florinda. “Tell my lord,” he said, in reply to the earnest
invitation of Alabor, “I pray him to hold me excused from coming to
visit him. Such of my followers as can aid him in any warlike project I
freely send; but for myself I am unable.”

This was enough for Alabor; here was ample confirmation of the Fakir’s
prediction. So, not to be behindhand with the voice of fate, he at once
condemned to death that wily churchman and renegade, Archbishop Opas,
Frandina’s brother, who had turned the battle of the Guadalete against
Roderich, and with him the two sons of Witica, as possible pretenders to
the crown.

Still Julian escaped him by a rapid flight into Aragon. But his wife
Frandina and his only son could be reached.

The castle of Ceuta, which formed part of the Gothic (Iberian) African
possessions, then called Tingitana, stood on an extreme point, a cape of
rocky altitude, with bastions and mullioned walls; in the midst rose a
central tower or citadel, in which the governor had his abode. Few
casements there were, and those looking over the tossing billows of that
unquiet Strait which flows between the two continents, so that each
coming vessel could be noted long before it touched the quay; a place
wholly of defence, and which had therefore been chosen to shelter
Julian’s wife and son.

Frandina, a woman of masculine courage and keen understanding, had at
all times fanned the flame of her husband’s ambition. No longer young,
she still bore traces of that radiant beauty which had held her lord
faithful in the dissolute courts of Witica and Roderich.

On _her_ brow should have rested the pointed diadem worn by the Gothic
queens; not on a Moorish stranger who could never learn the customs of
the land. Ever hoping to attain the object of her desires she wilfully
worked on the evil passions of her lord, before the calamity which
befell Florinda came as a cause and a reason for treason.

No figure of that romantic period stands out in stronger relief than
that of Frandina, who moves and speaks before us in her habit as she
lived in spite of the long track of centuries.

Without news from Spain, knowing nothing of what has happened at
Cordoba to her brother Opas or to her lord, she eats out her heart in
ceaseless watching for some white-sailed felucca or swift-rowed
_trireme_ to bring her tidings. All day she has trod the battlements
looking north-ward, and strained her eyes in vain. Now she sits in her
chamber. An iron lamp casts a weird light on the tapestries which line
the walls, the wind moans without about the turrets, and the dashing
waves roll deep below.

Is it the hollow moan of the far-off tempest, or the screech of an owl
which makes her start from her seat and eagerly listen?

There is no fall of feet upon the winding stairs, but a well-known voice
comes to her so plainly that she rushes to the door. Ere she can reach
it, her brother Opas stands before her, habited as she last saw him in
the flowing vestments of an archbishop; not in aspect as he appeared in
life, but as a wan and shadowy spectre unfolding itself to her sight in
the darkness around. Before she can speak he waves her off. He is
ghastly pale, and drops of blood seem to fall from his head. With one
hand he points to the opposite wall where burns like orbs of fire the
word, BEWARE!

“Touch me not, sister,” a hollow voice utters; “I am come from the grave
to warn you. Guard well your son. The enemies of our house are near.”
Thus speaking all disappears. His coming and going are alike mysterious.
Brave as she is, a horror she never knew before comes over Frandina.

Next morning, in the fair sunlight, a swiftly rowing galley brings the
news of Opas’s death and Julian’s flight. Not a moment is to be lost!
There in the offing she descries the Moorish fleet, bearing the Emir
from Cordoba. The wind blows fair for Africa--before noon he will be off
the shore. Fifty Moors, who form part of the garrison, are put to death
with incredible cruelty for fear of treachery; the city gates are
closed.

Alabor, whose fury knows no bounds, for he has calculated on arriving
before the news has reached Frandina, orders the castle to be assaulted
on every side. The walls are carried. Frandina, shut up in the citadel
with a forlorn hope, has no thought but for the safety of her son. How
conceal him? A mother’s wit is keen. Among the living he is not safe,
but surely they will not seek him with the dead. Passing down long
flights of narrow steps she carries him below into a dark, damp chapel.
Scarcely a ray of light penetrates the gloom.

“Are you afraid of the darkness, my boy?” she asks, kissing his warm
cheek.

“No, mother. I shall fancy that it is night, and try to sleep.”

On one side of a narrow marble aisle, held up by clustered pillars, is
the freshly built tomb of Florinda, whose body has been carried here
from Cordoba.

“Do you fear your dead sister, my boy?” again Frandina asks.

“No, mother; the dead can do no harm. Why should I fear Florinda?”

Unbarring the entrance which leads into the vault, Frandina stands on
the threshold, her arms around her son.

“Listen,” she says, and her kisses rain upon his cheek as she strains
him to her bosom in an agony of fear. “The Moors from Spain have sailed
over to murder you. Stay here with your dead sister, dear child; her
spirit will guard you. Lie quiet for your life!”

The boy kissed his mother, and fearlessly descended the steps, to where
the marble coffin holding Florinda’s body lay on a still uncovered
stand. The faded wreaths cast on it gave out a stale perfume.

All that day and the next and the following night the brave boy lay
still.

Meanwhile, the troops of the Emir penetrated into the citadel, and
Alabor himself forced his way into the chamber of the countess.

“My lord,” she said, rising from the ponderous chair in which she was
seated, a sarcastic courtesy in her tone and in the low obeisance with
which she greeted him, “you are pleased to profit somewhat ungallantly
by the absence of my lord. Do you deem this a fitting way to enter the
stronghold of him to whom you owe the conquest of Spain?”

The Emir, surprised by the dignified calm of her demeanour, would have
withdrawn, but the Fakir who had followed him, pulled the sleeve of his
garment, and whispered in his ear: “Ask for her son.”

Low as the words were spoken, she heard them and turned pale. “My son,
great Alabor, is with the dead. Let him rest in peace.”

“Wife of Don Julian,” cried the Emir, “you trifle with me. Where is he?
Tell me, or torture shall make you.”

“Emir,” she spoke again, and her calm face showed no trace of fear, “if
I have not spoken the truth, may everlasting fire be my portion. He is
with the dead.”

Alabor was confounded by the composure of her answer. So great was her
courage and the dignity with which she faced him, that he was just about
to retire, when the Fakir again broke in:

“Let me deal with her, my lord,” he said. “The heart of the Emir is too
tender. I will find the boy. Soldiers, search the vaults of the castle.”

No trace upon the countenance of Frandina betrayed alarm. She herself
led the way to the different subterranean chambers within the citadel.
When the searchers and the grim old Fakir, hideous and naked, save for a
ragged cloth about his loins, but esteemed all the more holy from his
filth, descended the winding stairs leading to the chapel, Frandina did
not falter. In her presence every corner was ransacked by the aid of
torches. Nothing was found. But as all were leaving, and she stood
already under the arch of the door, to see them all file safely by, some
gleam of relief, some

[Illustration: THE INTERIOR OF SAN ISIDORA, WITH TOMBS OF KINGS.]

unconscious look of joy passed over her face. It was noted by the
horrible Fakir.

“She rejoices,” was his thought. “We are leaving the boy behind. Let
further search be made,” he commands, turning back the soldiers, whose
feet were already on the stairs.

“The boy is with the dead,” Frandina had said. Now the words came back
to him with a special meaning, for the walls were lined with tombs which
stood out conspicuous in the vivid glare of the torches, striking on the
marble panels. On one was the escutcheon of an ancient knight,
surmounted by a coronet; there a sculptured figure in armour lay at
rest; further on a deeply indented effigy in coloured stone, upon which
an inscription set forth the valour of the mouldering bones within. The
tomb of Florinda, white and glistening by the side of the others,
displayed her effigy in polished marble, a delicately chiselled
form--this at once attracted the attention of the Fakir.

“Who lies there?” he asked, turning his twinkling eyes, overshadowed by
hairy eyebrows, on the shrinking figure of Frandina, who, trembling from
head to foot, sought to hide her face in the deep shadow of a pillared
vault, beside the gate of entrance; “this tomb seems the newest.”

“It is my daughter’s tomb,” replied Frandina; but with all her
fortitude, she was conscious of a trembling in her voice, and her dry
lips could scarcely articulate the words, “She is but lately dead.”

The Fakir eyed her with a devilish glance. Then, turning to the Moorish
soldier, whose eyes rolled under the high turban with a wicked
satisfaction at the discomfiting of the Christian,--

“Search within,” he orders, his gaze bent on her. Alas! it was soon
done. The entrance of the recently entered monument was partly open;
within lay what death had spared of Florinda, the bier covered with a
fine cloth of Eastern tissue, the hands covered with precious stones.

At first, the Nubian guard, staggered at the strange sight, fall back,
but soon recalled by the stern voice of the Fakir, they lifted the pall.
The boy lay underneath! He was asleep, his soft cheek turned upwards,
cradled on his arm.

Like a figure carved in stone stood Frandina, but when she saw her son
her mother’s heart gave way. With a shriek, so piercing that it woke the
echoes in the prisons underneath, she dashed forward and cast herself
upon the child.

“Mercy, O Emir! if you have ever known a mother’s care! Mercy! mercy!
This is my only child--the joy of my life--my little son! Take me for
him!” and raising herself on her knees with frantic passion, the boy
clinging round her neck, she tries to grasp his hands.

Wrenching himself from her as if she were some noxious animal, Alabor
thunders to the guards: “Take this woman’s son from her, and bear her
hence to the deepest dungeon.”

The boy stood alone before the Emir, big tears rolling down his face,
not from fear, but for the sake of his mother, whose frantic screams
were heard long after they had dragged her away.

If Alabor had but a spark of human pity, he would have melted to the
pretty boy, who faced him so bravely, but he had sworn the destruction
of Don Julian’s race, and his heart hardened within him as he gazed on
the innocent eyes. With a keen searching glance he measured the slight
figure of the child, and smiled to see how frail he was and small.

“Yusa,” he said to the Fakir, “be you the keeper of Julian’s son. Guard
him as you love me.” And so he and his guards departed, leaving them
alone.

“I pray you,” said the boy, undaunted by the looks of his grim
companion, who stood holding a torch and watching him under his
overhanging eyebrows, “to give me air. I have lain three days in this
close tomb, and I am faint.”

Without a word they mount the winding stair, until they reach the
platform of the keep. Through the high turrets was a wondrous view
across the Straits, lined by broad currents of varying blues and greens,
to where, dim in the distance, lay the lowlands of Spain. Round and
round flew the seagulls, below the waves beat, thundering on the rocks
which guard the harbour, cresting back in foam. As the child stood near
the battlements, the sea wind raising his curly hair, he gave a cry of
joy and clapped his hands.

“Do you know what land that is opposite?” asks the Fakir, pointing to
the dim coast line, an evil leer upon his lips.

“It is my country,” is the answer, “we come from Spain; my mother told
me.”

“Then bless it, my boy; stretch forth your arms.”

As the boy loosened his hold of the parapet, the cunning Fakir seized
him by the waist, and, with a sudden motion, flung him over the
battlements. Every bone in his delicate body was broken ere it reached
the rock where he lay, a little lifeless heap.

“How fares it with Julian’s son?” asks the voice of Alabor, as he
appears on the platform of the keep.

“Well,” is the brief answer.

“Is he safe?” he asks again, looking round.

“He is safe,” answered Yusa; “behold!”

And the Emir looked over and saw the battered form, like a slight speck
below, around it the seagulls and vultures already circling.

The following morning, at the break of day, in the great court of the
castle, from which all the issues to the different towers open, Frandina
is led out for execution.

That she knows her son is dead, is written in her eyes. No word passes
her lips. Like a queen she moves, command in every gesture. With her the
Christians of the garrison are brought forth to suffer. As the dismal
procession passes round the court, the voice of the insatiable Alabor is
heard:

“Behold, O men of Spain, the wife of your commander. See the ruin to
which her treason would have brought you. Let every man take a stone and
fling it at her till she dies. He that refuses shall have his head
struck off. In the hand of God is vengeance. Not on our heads be her
blood.”

       *       *       *       *       *

How or where Julian himself died is not certain. Some chronicles say he
perished in the mountains of Navarre, where he had taken refuge; others
that he met his death in the castle of Marmello, near Huesca, in Aragon.
A violent death of some sort came to the great Kingmaker of Spain.

On his name a perpetual curse rests, and to this day, in Spain “Julian”
is synonymous with _traitor_.



CHAPTER IX

The Moors at Seville--Mousa and Abdul-asis


Meanwhile the great Emir Mousa is moved by fierce jealousy of the
success of Tháryk of the one-eye. Not only had he overrun the mountains
of the Moon and conquered Granada, but the city of Toledo, the capital
of Northern Spain, was opened to him by the Jews.

This is too much to bear from an inferior. Swift messengers are
despatched across the Straits to bid him wait until Mousa arrives. He
laughs to scorn the message, and battles as before, his light squadrons
penetrating farther and farther into the north of Spain.

Mousa had many sons, but history concerns itself with one only, by name
Abdul-asis, pale-skinned, with large romantic eyes and a too tender
heart. Abdul-asis sailed with his father across the Straits, and a great
army of Moors and illustrious emirs accompanied them.

“By the head of the Prophet,” quoth Mousa, as he consulted the map of
Spain, “that hireling of the one-eye has left us no land to conquer. He
is a glutton, who eateth all.” But on a more minute examination, it was
found that there was still room in the vast country of Spain for earning
further laurels. Tháryk had as yet left Andalusia unconquered.

Andalusia! the very name is poetry--mystic, unfathomed, vague! Reaching
far back into fabulous ages where history cannot follow! The home of
_jonglerie_, magic, and song! Would that I could paint the turquoise of
its skies, the endless purple of its boundless plains, the dusky shade
of orange and myrtle woods dashed with the vivid green!

What art! what knowledge! And the sensuous charm of a heavenly climate,
where winter is never known, and spring passes into summer without a
struggle; a land loved by the veiled beauties of the East, looking down
through shadows of the fretted _miradores_, marble galleries, and
_patios_, on barbican towers and Roman walls!

And what a people, cloudless in temper as the heavens! To love flowers,
to dance _seguidillas_, and _oles_, and to tell tales, that is your
Andalusian--grouped in circles anywhere, under a hedge or a plane-tree,
on a grassy knoll, in gilded halls, or beneath painted arches. A happy,
thoughtless race at all times, taking life and conquest as it comes.

If Andalusia is left to Mousa, Tháryk has lost the fairest jewel of
Spain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Abdul-asis spoke to his father.

“My lord and father,” he said, “as yet I have done nothing to deserve a
sword. Behold, when my service is over, and I return to Egypt and appear
before the Sultan, what will he say when I answer that I have gained no
battle, and taken no city or castle? Good my father, if you love me,
grant me some command, and let me gain a name worthy of your son.”

To this Mousa answered: “Allah be praised! The heart of Abdul-asis beats
in the right place. Your desire, my son, shall be granted. While I go
north, to besiege Merida, you shall march southwards. Seville has
defeated the Moors, and quartered Christian troops in the barbican. Be
it your care to drive out these unbelieving dogs, and plant once more
the Crescent on the Giralda tower. Reduce the city, and spoil the land.
Then pass southward, and conquer the province of Murcia, where the
Gothic Teodomir defends himself with a handful of troops.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When Abdul-asis, who read the Persian poets and had himself tried his
hand at verse, came in sight of beautiful Seville, lying like a white
lily surrounded by the shadows of dark woods, he sighed:

“Alas! is it for me,” he said, “to bring destruction upon so fair a
scene? Why am I come to dye with blood those flowery groves, and burden
the tide of the Guadalquivir with corpses? Alas! why did not my father
choose some place less lovely on which to bring ruin than this the
palm-crowned queen of cities!”

Thus mourned Abdul-asis, but not so the fiery Africans whom he
commanded. They gazed on the walls with wrath, and longed to flesh their
scimitars in Christian blood.

It was with the utmost difficulty that the merciful Abdul-asis stopped
the massacre when the city fell. It pained his gentle heart, for its
many beauties, especially the palm-planted gardens of the Alcazar, vocal
with purling streams and bubbling fountains, so dear to the Arab fancy.

“Here,” thought Abdul-asis, as he wandered among the myrtle-bordered
paths, fragrant with jasmine and violet, “is the paradise promised to
the faithful, but where are the houris, whose white embraces are to make
it sweet?” Neither did the voluptuous movements of the dancing girls
(for Seville in all ages has been famed for the _baile_), moving with
uplifted arms and quivering limbs in the _vito_ or the _zapateado_,
intoxicate his senses; nor did the voices of the young _niñas_, chanting
the _malagueñas_ to cither and lute, draw him from the poetic melancholy
which possessed his soul, as he turned his steps from alley to alley,
not having yet found the ideal of which he was in search.

But the son of Mousa was a warrior, though the gods had made him
poetical. He could not long be idle, and hastened to fulfil the second
mission confided to him by Mousa--to overcome the far-off province of
Murcia.

Another faithful knight who had survived the battle of the Guadalete was
Teodomir, who, by skilful management had entrenched himself in Murcia.
Not only brave, but singularly prudent, Teodomir had observed that to
oppose the Moors openly in the field was to ensure defeat, therefore he
had fortified as best he could, every wild recess of the rocky hills
lying toward the coast, and every rise and knoll whence he could shoot
down arrows and missiles. So that when Abdul-asis appeared in the land,
cleft asunder by wide rivers and divided by swamps and flats, he
encountered no enemy.

“This is a blind warfare,” he cried, “a war without a foe. What manner
of man is this Goth who wages war in the clouds, and with a few raw
troops holds my army in check?”

With a grim smile Teodomir marked the success of his tactics. Spies told
him that, in the council of Abdul-asis, retreat had already been mooted,
and more and more he insisted upon giving his enemy no chance in the
open.

Not so his sons. “What glory is there here?” say these youths. “Let us
go forth and face him. We are as good as he. If our men are less
disciplined, courage makes up the balance.”

“Fools,” answered old Teodomir, laying his wrinkled hands upon them, and
drawing them to him, that he might make them if possible understand his
counsels. “Glory dazzles from afar, but safety is the best when a foe
knocks at the door.”

Continued dropping wears a stone. To his great joy, as the sun rose and
the weary eyes of handsome Abdul-asis turned towards the marshy plains,
he beheld Teodomir riding onwards towards the camp at the head of his
troops, a son on either hand, the old Goth in the centre in shining
armour, with nodding plumes, preceded by flags and horsemen.

“Now Allah be praised!” he exclaims. “At last! Saddle my war-horse
Suleiman, and let all the sheikhs follow me, for it is written in the
book of fate that these dogs of Christians are given into our hands.”

“Alas! my sons,” said Teodomir, reining up his steed, as his practised
eye showed him the purpose of the dark body of advancing Arabs, with the
green flags, galloping rapidly in the rear, under the cover of the
heights. “Alas! it has happened as I said. We are cut off. What can our
raw troops do against these well-armed Arabs? Let us make for the
fastness of Orihuela while we can.”

The sons, however, would not listen, but like vain youths opposed their
father’s counsel, as did also the captains. The Moor asked for nothing
better. He attacked then fiercely in the open plain, cut down the two
presumptuous boys before their father’s eyes, and beat his troops, who
fled on all sides.

Nor could Teodomir stay the flight. Seeing that all was lost, and his
sons dead, he seized the bridle of a horse ridden for him by a little
page, who tended him in his tent, and who like the rest was spurring
onward in full flight.

“Tarry a moment, my son,” says Teodomir, grasping the bridle with an
iron grip. “Mount behind and part not from me, for I will save thy
life!”

So digging his huge spurs into his horse’s flanks, at which the
well-trained animal, used to his practised touch, reared indignantly on
its hind legs and pawed the air, then started off in a wild gallop,
swift as the rushing wind. Nor did they pause until, mounting the steep
zig-zag path, they were both safe within the fortress of Orihuela.

There it still stands, a castle of defence, crowned by dark bulwarks on
a mountain chain, an outlook for scores of miles over a flat country
towards Granada and the sea. Round and round the base winds the road
from Alicante, through overhanging lanes, under palm-trees and
embowering citron woods, broken by red earthed _barrancas_. The town
itself (Auri-welah) is still very Eastern, with domed church and
castellated towers, the whole district with great tidal rivers cutting
through, fertile beyond words.

As the day fell, and the sun went down in lemon-coloured clouds,
Abdul-asis approached, thinking to find an easy conquest. But to his
amazement the walls appeared fully garrisoned, and from the keep a proud
flag floated, bearing the colours of the Goths.

“How is this?” said the son of Mousa. “Is it a necromancy? Or have these
men risen from the

[Illustration: THE CHURCH OF SAN ISIDORA.

(Leon.)]

earth? With my own eyes I saw Teodomir flying alone, a page riding
behind him. His sons are dead, his forces scattered. Who are these but
fiends he has summoned by magic to his aid?”

And fear fell upon him as he gazed, and he commanded that no attack be
ventured, but that the camp should be formed at the base of the rock
until morning.

Upon which Teodomir, who was looking out, took a flag of truce, fastened
it to a lance, put a herald’s tabard on the back of the page who had
fled with him, and a high-crowned hat on his head, and went down to
where the purple tent and the Crescent standard marked the spot where
Abdul-asis was to be found.

“I come,” said Teodomir, in a tone of lofty courtesy, raising his iron
vizor, and showing the stern face of a warrior, the young page behind
him, proud of the particoloured dress, and swaying the flag of truce in
cadence to his words, “I come as a Gothic knight into your presence,
most magnanimous son of Mousa, whom men call ‘the merciful,’ to treat of
the surrender of the castle. As you see, our walls are fully manned, and
we have food for a lengthened siege. But much blood has flowed. I have
lost my sons, and fain would spare the lives of my people. Promise that
we may pass unmolested, and when the rising sun tips the circle of
mountains towards the east, we will surrender. Otherwise, we will fight
until none are left.”

Abdul-asis, young in craft and unsuspecting, as became the poetic
quality of his soul, was greatly struck with the bold words of the
veteran, who stood his ground so valiantly alone against an army. The
castle, too, was strong, and appeared amply defended. Generosity in this
case was policy. He consented gladly, standing forth alone, a crimson
caftan thrown over his armour, the folds of his turban shading his
massive Egyptian features and his lustrous eyes. To the articles of
capitulation, he hastened to affix his seal. Then he addressed Teodomir:

“Tell me, bold Christian,” said he, “you who have ventured alone into
the Moorish camp, now that we are friends, of what force is the garrison
of Orihuela?”

A grim smile spread over the face of the veteran. “Wait and see,” was
his answer. “With the morning light we will evacuate the place.”

       *       *       *       *       *

As the sun rises in glory behind the eastern mountain tips, and its
first rays strike upon the battlements, Teodomir appears, followed by a
motley crowd of old women, greybeards, and children tottering down the
descent.

Abdul-asis waited with wondering eyes until they had reached the plain.
“Where,” he said, “O Teodomir, are the valiant soldiers who lined the
walls, and have so well maintained the honour of the Goths?”

“Soldiers,” answers Teodomir; “by the Lord, I have none. My garrison is
before you. These manned the walls. My page”--here he pointed to the
stripling disguised in the habit of a herald, the heavy coat dragging
after him upon the ground, the helmet falling over his face--“is my
herald, guard, and army.”

Ere Teodomir had finished speaking, a great uproar arose among the
Moors.

“Tear him limb from limb,” cry the sheikhs. “Cut the throat of the
Christian dog. Let him not live who deceives the Moslems of Islam!” But
with a stern gesture Abdul-asis interposed: “Let no man dare to touch
the Christian knight,” he orders. “By righteous fraud he has defended
his castle. I command that the rights of war are granted him.”

Then, taking Teodomir by the hand he led him to his tent, and ordered
wine and meat to be served to him as to himself. And in memory of this
defence the provinces of Murcia and Valencia, all through the Moorish
occupation, were known as “the Land of _Tadmir_” or “_Teodomir_.”

Thanks to the rivalry between these two commanders, Mousa and Tháryk,
Gothic Spain had fallen to the Moors in an incredibly short space of
time: the banners of the Crescent waved from Pelayo’s country in the
mountains of the Asturias in the north, to Calpe and the Pillars of
Hercules in the south; from the borders of Lusitania (Estremadura) in
the west, to the coast of Tarragona and Valencia in the east; and the
mighty city of Saragossa, where so many Christians had taken refuge,
also yielded.

At length a summons came from Sultan Suleiman, at Damascus, to both
leaders, to appear before him, to render an account of their conquests
and their spoils, as well as to settle the justice of those dissensions
which raged so fiercely between them.

Before he left Spain, Mousa addressed a letter to his son, at Seville.
“Son of my heart,” he wrote, “may Allah guard thee! Thou art of too
tender and confiding a nature. Listen to thy father’s words. Avoid all
treachery, for, being in thyself loyal, thou mayest be caught by it.
Trust no one who counsels it. I have placed with thee at Seville,
according to the inexperience of thy age, our kinsman, the discreet
Ayub. Listen to his counsels in all things, as thou wouldst to myself.
Beware, too, O my son, of the seductions of love. As yet thy heart is
untouched. May Allah so preserve it! Love is an idle passion, which
enfeebles the soul and blinds the judgment. Love renders the mighty
weak, and makes slaves of princes. Farewell. May Allah guard thee and
lengthen thy days.”



CHAPTER X

Abdul-asis and Egilona


The Alcazar at Seville (each Spanish city has its Alcazar) still stands
in the centre of the city. Not the decorated palace we see it now,
rebuilt by the Toledan Zalubi for Prince Abdurrahman, and afterwards
enlarged and beautified by Don Pedro el Cruel, in imitation of the
Alhambra of Granada, but a veritable citadel, surrounded by low tapia
walls, on the verge of the tidal current of the Guadalquivir, and
flanked by the Gothic tower (_Torre del oro_) which still remains.

Not a poetic ruin, this Alcazar like the Alhambra, but a real castle,
whole and entire, ready to receive, to this day, emirs or sultans,
kings, queens, or princes, whenever their good pleasure calls them to
Seville.

Behind lie the gardens, flushed with roses, oleanders, and pomegranates,
approached by stately terraces sweet with the familiar scent of
carnation, violet, and jasmine. A delicious plaisance formed into a
series of squares, divided by low myrtle hedges, and orange-lined walls,
central fountains bubbling up in sheets of foam, and streams and
runnels, tanks and ponds, along which are walks paved with variegated
tiles.

The _azahar_ of a thousand blossoms is in the air, golden oranges hang
tempting on the stem, and deeply tinted butterflies course each other
among embowered alleys, leading to gaily painted kiosks and pavilions
with latticed walls.

Whether Abdul-asis exacted the tribute demanded by the Moorish law of a
hundred Christian “virgins, fifty rich and fifty poor,” to adorn his
harem, I cannot say. He would scarcely have dared openly to omit it. But
instead of choosing from among these damsels that pleased his eye, and
selling the rest as slaves, he contented himself with selecting one, and
dowered such others who were poor, and married them to his Moors.

In his harem he also maintained many Christian captives as hostages for
the land. But they were treated not only with respect, but with luxury,
within the precincts of the lovely little _Patio de las Muñecas_--from
all time devoted to the harem--the loveliest sheet of snowy lace-work
ever beheld. Not a speck of colour on the pure stone; not a badge or
motto, only tiers of open galleries, latticed in white.

If ever these dark Eastern beauties return to haunt the glimpses of the
moon, it is surely in this _patio_ their dazzling forms will linger!

Here they lived a pleasant life, plied their fingers in rich embroidery
copied from the looms of Damascus, danced _ole_ or _cachucha_, to
castanets, or sang to lute and cither those wild _malagueñas_, with
long sad notes.

Many were even contented with their lot. But all followed with longing
eyes the graceful form of the young Emir, putting forth their charms to
attract his roving eyes.

“Beware, O my son, of the seductions of love,” had written Mousa to his
son. “It is an idle passion which enfeebles the heart and blinds the
judgment.”

And so his discreet cousin Ayub continually repeated, but, spite of
these warnings, Abdul-asis often solaced himself in the company of the
fair, specially among the Christian captives, who were both beautiful
and well-educated. Indeed, it was here the lonely young Emir spent his
happiest hours, as the moon mounted into the realm of blue and star
after star shone out to be doubled in the basins of the fountains, the
murmur of innumerable jets and streamlets falling on the ear.

It was peace, absolute peace, such as comes to those balancing on the
bosom of the sea, or on desert plains, or in the mystery of deep
forests, or in the grave!

       *       *       *       *       *

One night as his eyes range unconsciously into the gloom, he is startled
to find that he is not alone.

Deep within a thicket of aloes the lines of a woman’s form are visible,
seated upon the ground.

“Who can this be?” he asks himself with breathless haste. “I cannot
recall having seen her before, either in the harem or among the
captives.”

Yet it was a form, once seen, not to be forgotten. Her dark hair hung
like a cloud over her shoulders, and her eyes, as she turned them
upwards, catching a ray of moonlight, shone out like stars.

“Who is she?” And Abdul-asis rises softly, the better to observe her.
“Yes, she is matchless, but that sadness is not natural. Her attitude,
her movements are languid and full of pain. Her hands lie weary. She
avoids her companions. What can it mean? Some tale of deep sorrow is
shut up in her soul. She is under my roof and I am ignorant of her life.
I will at once address her.”

For some minutes he stood silent, his eyes wandering over the many
beauties which disclosed themselves to his gaze; but to his
astonishment, as he looked closer, he perceived from the dark olive of
her skin that the stranger must be an Egyptian or a Moor.

At last, moved by a singular emotion, he addressed her.

“Who are you, gentle lady?” he asked, his naturally sweet voice tuned to
its softest accents. “Why do you sit alone? Confide to me your grief.”

“Death alone can end it,” was her reply.

“Nay,” whispered Abdul-asis, in a voice melting with pity, “fair one,
seek not to sacrifice that which Allah has made so perfect. The very
sense of loveliness is yours. Let it be mine. As the houris of Paradise
dwell under the shadow of the Great Angel’s wings, so, lady, shall you
dwell under mine. I am Lord of Andalusia. Power is in my hands. Speak to
me,” and he drew near and touched the tips of her henna-stained fingers.
“Have faith in me.” If he had dared he would have clasped her to his
heart. Never had the veiled fair ones of the harem moved him so.

With his lustrous eyes fixed on hers he waited for an answer, or at
least for some sign that she was not displeased. None came.

Now this to Abdul-asis was a new development of woman which served only
to heighten the ardour of his sudden passion. Opposition proverbially is
a spur to love, and now the old axiom operated in full force upon one
who had never known repulse.

Again he assayed to clasp her delicate fingers within his own and gently
draw her towards him.

“Light of my life,” he murmured, “speak!” In vain--the lady replied only
by her sobs. Nor was it in the power of Abdul-asis to make her speak.

At length--was it the languid beauty of the night, the power of the
moon, great in the annals of unspoken love, or some occult mystery
communicated to her by his touch?--a rosy bloom rose on her dark cheeks
and, withdrawing her hand from his ardent clasp, she suddenly unlocked
the mystery of her coral lips.

“I am Egilona,” she whispered, as if she feared to confide the name to
the night air; “once wife of Don Roderich and Queen of Spain.”

Words cannot paint the amazement of Abdul-asis. That the beautiful
stranger, known to have become a captive after the defeat of the
Guadalete, should be dwelling within his Alcazar, unknown to himself,
seems too astonishing to comprehend! That he, too, unconsciously, should
have presumed to approach her with the facile dalliance of love grieves
his generous soul.

All which he endeavours to express to Egilona in the most eloquent
language he can command, while he bends the knee before her as a vassal
to his queen.

Then he sighed. Her royal position placed an insuperable barrier between
them. Besides, he felt that the Caliph at Damascus ought to be notified
at once of the possession of such an illustrious captive.

“Could he do so?” he asked himself. “Could he run the risk of losing
her? No! a thousand times no!”

Chance or fate had thrown her in his way. She was actually a slave in
his harem. There she should remain unless she herself wished otherwise.

Fortunately that tiresome person, the discreet Ayub, knew nothing about
her. His reproaches, at all events, were not to be encountered.
Possibly!--ah! possibly--a tender project formed itself in his brain.
Would she, the wife of the royal Goth, consent to share an Emir’s
throne?

But at that moment he was too much overcome and self-diffident to allow
himself to pursue so roseate a dream.

Calling together his guards, hidden about the garden, but ever present
near his person, Abdul-asis, with a heart torn by conflicting emotions,
conducted Egilona through the marble courts to the _Patio de las
Muñecas_.

       *       *       *       *       *

All that the tenderest love could dictate was showered upon her by the
amorous Emir. She lived in the royal apartments, and a special train of
slaves, eunuchs, and women attended upon her. Before the
gold-embroidered draperies of her door turbaned guards stood day and
night, holding naked scimitars. Her table was served with the same
luxury as that of a sultana. When she went abroad into the streets of
Seville she rode on a beautiful palfrey, caparisoned with silken
fringes, a silver bridle and stirrup, and a bit of gold. At the sound of
the tinkling bells which hung about the harness, all who met her
prostrated themselves to the earth, as though the Emir himself were
passing. Even the muezzin, ringing out the hour of prayer from the
galleries of the Giralda, was commanded to pronounce a blessing on her
head.

Such a complete change in the life of Abdul-asis could not but arouse
the wrath of the discreet Ayub. Numberless were the times he tried to
waylay him, always ineffectually, however, for the Emir gave orders he
was not to be admitted.

One day they did meet in the outer _Patio de las Bandieras_ (where now
the superb portal of Don Pedro blazes in the sun), just as Abdul-asis
was mounting his horse for the chase.

“Hold, my cousin and lord,” cries Ayub, laying hold of his bridle.
“Tarry awhile, I pray you, for the sake of our kinship. Am I a dog, that
you should drive me with kicks and imprecations from your door?”

“Far from me be such a thought,” replies Abdul-asis, colouring. “No one
thinks better of you than I. But, my cousin, permit me now to depart.
Another time we will pursue the subject.”

“Bear with me now awhile rather,” cries Ayub, detaining him by the folds
of his embroidered robe. “O Abdul-asis, remember the words of your
father: ‘Beware, my son, of the seductions of love. It renders the
mighty weak and makes slaves of princes.’”

The colour on the face of the Emir deepened into a flush of wrath. He
was weary of hearing these words ever repeated--yet he kept silence.

“Time was, my cousin,” continues the discreet Ayub, “when you listened
to my words, and all went well. Now, for the sake of a strange woman, a
slave, a captive, you are bartering your kingdom.”

At this coarse allusion to the royal Egilona

[Illustration: Moorish Mills in the Guadalquivir, at Cordova.]

[Illustration]

Abdul-asis could scarcely resist the temptation of enlightening Ayub as
to her real condition, but he forebore.

“It is my right, O Ayub, to love whom I choose,” he answers coldly,
again preparing to mount his horse.

Again Ayub arrests him, and, forgetting all respect in the heat of his
argument, fairly shouts in his ear:

“Yes, O son of the great Mousa, but not like that glorious warrior. Yes,
free to love a whole tribe of slaves if you please, gather all the
beauties from the corners of the earth, the houris of Paradise, if you
can get them, but you have no right to sacrifice your throne and bring
ruin on your race.”

To this torrent of reproach Abdul-asis answered not a word. Steadying by
his touch and voice the exasperated horse, which had now become restive
under the delay, as if sharing in the irritation of his master,
Abdul-asis surveyed his cousin as if to demand what more abuse he had in
store--a look and manner which only exasperated Ayub all the more.

“What kind of a sovereign are you,” he continued, in the same shrill
voice, which echoed round the court and could not fail to reach the ears
of the guards and eunuchs, however unmoved their countenances might
remain, “who pretend to have no time to administer justice in the Gate
as your Moorish ancestors did? Who neglect to review your troops in the
great plains about the city and to take counsel upon the affairs of
state with the chiefs and counsellors sent hither by the Caliph? Can you
expect that he will continue you as governor, when the report of your
acts comes to his ears? With you will fall your father Mousa and your
brothers in Africa. Who is this witch who has overlooked you? Send her
away, or by the name of Allah I will no longer screen you!”

Even the discreet Ayub paused here for lack of breath, and the young
Emir, quickly vaulting into the saddle, rode off in a cloud of dust,
followed by his attendants.

Yet, spite of these stinging words, his passion for Egilona was so
consuming, that although he felt their truth and that he was entering
upon a career full of danger, he could neither pause before it was too
late, nor turn back altogether.

Day and night her image pursues him. Spite of all the warnings of Ayub,
who, having once broken the ice, never ceases his threats and
reproaches, every hour is devoted to her. In the shade of the Alcazar
gardens, on the river Guadalquivir, where they float in a silver barge
with perfumed sails, under canopies of cloth of gold and silver; within
the gaudy halls, sculptured with glowing panels of arabesque, painted
roofs, and dazzling dados; and in the _Baños_, full of breezes from the
river and currents of free mountain air, planted with such shrubs and
herbs as are used to scent the water, he is ever at her side.

So well did Egilona love the _Baños_, which reminded her of her African
home, that she was wont to say to her favourite slave, the same
dark-skinned girl from Barbary who had followed her from Toledo, “When I
am dead, Zora, bury me here.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet all this time Egilona had never opened her heart to Abdul-asis. Nor,
eager as he was to know her history, had he ventured further to urge
her, so great was his respect.

At length, of her own accord, she unveiled the mystery.

“Think not, O noblest of Moors,” she said, in a voice so soft it seemed
to lull the agitation of his heart, “that I am insensible to your
devotion. I dare not question my own heart.”

“My love, my sultana!” is all that he could answer, casting himself on
the earth before her. “Happy destiny that I was born to be your slave!”

Egilona at once raised him, and entreated him to sit beside her.

“No, Abdul-asis, it is not within the power of a woman to resist you. My
heart has long been yours. But,” and she sighed, and big tears gathered
in her mild eyes and dropped one by one upon the hand Abdul-asis held
clasped in his, “I fear that with my love I bring you an evil destiny.
Remember the end of Roderich. Can I, oh, can I sacrifice you to the
chances of the dark fate that pursues all who love me?”

The face of the Emir grew pale as he gazed at her. Spite of himself, an
icy hand seemed to touch his heart and chill it into stone. These were
the warnings of the discreet Ayub from her own lips.

Did ruin really lie in those matchless eyes? Was that pure chiselled
face indeed the messenger of evil? A rising wave of passion cast these
sinister forebodings from him, and, with a calm and steady voice, he
answered:

“But why, my queen, should you, the wife of Roderich, be answerable for
his doom? It is said that the Gothic king tempted the infernal powers
when he forced open the portals of the Tower of Hercules and let forth
the demons confined there upon the earth.”

“That is true,” answered Egilona, “and the rash act was doubtless the
cause of his death. Still the misfortunes which cling to me seem to have
led on to his. Had he not loved me he might have married the daughter of
Don Julian.”

“And what misfortunes has my Egilona encountered? You forget I know not
who you are, or how you came here.”

Then she recounted to him her royal birth, and how from childhood she
had been affianced to the son of the King of Tunis; the history of the
storm which threw her on the coast of Spain; the Alcaide of Denia (now
Malaga), upon whom she had made so favourable an impression. (Here the
enamoured Emir drew a deep sigh, and pressed his lips upon her hand as
she lay half-reclining upon a pile of gold-worked cushions.)

“Again I wore the bridal robes,” she continued, “which I had on when I
was shipwrecked, as I awaited Don Roderich.”

Here was a pause. Egilona drops her eyes and is silent. The veins on the
forehead of Abdul-asis suddenly swell with agony. Every word she utters
plunges a dagger in his breast. “This was the man she loved,” he tells
himself. “By the Prophet, she will never be to me as she was to him--dog
of a Christian!”

Meanwhile, guessing his thoughts, a thousand blushes suffuse the cheeks
of poor Egilona and dye her olive skin with a ruddy brilliance. “What
could I do?” she asks in a plaintive voice. “I had broken through the
bonds of Eastern custom; I had despised the laws of the harem; I had
stood face to face with man. The beauty and variety of the outer world
was known to me. The visits of Don Roderich----”

“Say no more, my queen!” exclaims the generous-hearted Abdul-asis,
ashamed of his jealous weakness. “Could any one approach you without
love? I guess the conclusion.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When the discreet Ayub was informed of the purpose of his cousin to wed
the Gothic Queen, he covered his head and sat in sackcloth and ashes. In
this unbecoming guise he forced himself into the presence of the Emir.

“Are you mad?” he cries, “O son of Mousa! Remember the words of your
great father, bravest among the chiefs of Damascus: ‘Beware of love, my
son. It is a passion----’”

“Enough, enough,” answers Abdul-asis, rising from the divan on which he
had thrown himself, as the spectacle his cousin presented had moved him
to laughter, “I have heard these words before.”

“And you will hear them again, O son of my kinsman! I will not forsake
you, by Allah! for his sake, nor give you over to the evil genius that
possesses you.”

But the wrongs of Ayub, however terrible, melted as wax before the
fierce fire of the Emir’s love.

His nuptials with Egilona were celebrated with great pomp. Nor did
possession cool his ardour. He lived but for her. He consulted with her
in all the affairs of his government, and rejected the counsels of the
discreet though most troublesome cousin.

For a time no evil consequences ensued, and the fears of Ayub were
almost lulled. Yet who can resist his fate?

Reposing one day in a gorgeous chamber of the Alcazar (it is now called
the room of Maria de Padilla, but it was then known as the Hall of the
Sultana), Egilona drew from under the folds of her mantle a circlet of
gold.

“See, love,” said she, “the crown of Roderich the Goth. Let me place it
on your brow. It will become you well.”

Holding up as she spoke a steel mirror attached to her girdle by a rope
of pearls, she called upon him to admire the majesty of his appearance.

With a sigh he looked at himself, the crown placed on the folds of his
turban, then put it from him and, like Cæsar, sighed that it could not
be his.

“My love,” says Egilona, replacing it, “the wearer of a crown is a
sovereign indeed. Believe me, the Christians are right; it sanctifies
the rule.”

A second time, like Cæsar, Abdul-asis put the crown from him. Yet did
his fingers linger on the rim, while he endeavoured to explain to
Egilona that, as a Moslem, she must not urge him to go against the
custom of his nation.

Still Egilona insists, her soft fingers clasped in his, her tempting
lips resting on his own.

“There has been no real king in Spain,” she urges, “without a crown. I
pray you, dear husband, do not refuse me.”

At first it was only worn in private, but the fact was too strange not
to be noised abroad. The Moorish damsels in attendance on Egilona and
the guards and eunuchs which fill an Eastern Court bore the news from
mouth to mouth as a strange wonderment.

“The Emir not only has wedded a Christian wife, but he wears the Gothic
crown,” is whispered in Seville. “He seeks to rule us as Roderich did.”
To this was added by the many-tongued voice of calumny, “that not only
Egilona had induced him to become a king, but, oh horror of horrors,
that he was surely a Christian!”

“By the head of the Prophet, I swear it is a lie!” cried the discreet
Ayub to the ancient counsellors Mousa had placed about his son, who, in
their long dark robes, gathered round him in dismay. “Not a day passes
but Abdul-asis may be seen offering up his prayers in the Zeca, his face
turned towards Mecca. Ask the muezzin at the Giralda if it be not so.
Five times a day does he prostrate himself; and as to purifying, there
is not water enough in Seville to serve him.”

“But the crown, most powerful vizier, does not the Emir wear a crown?”

At this Ayub, feigning a sudden fit of coughing, turned aside. “I have
never seen it,” he answers at last; “I swear I have never seen it.”

“That may very likely be,” is the answer; “but it is well known, and for
a Moslem to wear a Christian crown is against the laws of the Koran.
Allah Achbar! we have spoken.” So, covering their faces with their
robes, as those that mourn the dead, they departed from the presence of
Ayub.

Enemies were not wanting to Abdul-asis in Seville, his own, and those
who hated him as the son of the famous Mousa.

These wrote hasty letters to Damascus, accusing him not only of
detaining captives of price, but as seeking to establish the Gothic
kingdom by right of Egilona, acknowledged as their queen by all the
Christians.

Now Suleiman, a new Caliph, was on the throne, and it so happened that
he cherished a deep hatred against Mousa, whom he had divested of all
his high commands in favour of the One-Eyed, who had brought rich spoil
to Damascus.

The Caliph waited for no proofs, he wanted none. It was enough that
Abdul-asis was accused, and that his death would be the heaviest
punishment he could inflict on the unfortunate Mousa.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the fatal scroll was laid before Ayub the parchment dropped from
his hand.

“Allah is great!” cried he, as soon as words came to him. “It is known
of all men I have taken no part in my cousin’s marriage; rather that I
have always opposed it. Beware, said I, of the seductions of love. Avoid
the strange woman upon whose face is written an evil fate. As long as I
could I counselled him well, as I had promised his father. Now the
Caliph’s commands must be obeyed, else we shall all lose our heads,
which will not keep that of Abdul-asis on his shoulders.”

Thus spoke Ayub, discreet to the last. As long as he could shield the
Emir he had done so loyally. Now that he must die he hastened to assist
at his downfall.

       *       *       *       *       *

The assassins came upon them as they sat together beneath a purple
awning, drawn from tree to tree,--four naked Nubians, black as night,
with four naked scimitars. So lightly fell their bare feet as they
glided behind them, they looked like some hideous vision of the night.

Before the dawn of day, Abdul-asis and Egilona had risen, disturbed by
the noise of the populace without. No one would tell them what it meant.
While the Emir was preparing to go himself to the walls, to inquire if
Egilona had returned from praying in a little chapel she had caused to
be erected within the limits of the harem, their fate came to them.
Together they fell under the cruel steel, together their bodies lay
exposed upon the stones.

The dogs of the palace would have mangled them, but that some friendly
hand gathered them up and interred them secretly in one of the many
squares of the garden.

Where they lie, no one knows, or if it was the discreet Ayub who buried
them. But as the time of the year comes round when they suffered, in the
hour preceding dawn, stifled sighs and groans are heard in the angles of
the walls, and a universal tremor runs through the space; although the
outer air is still, a sudden tempest seems to rustle, the fan palms
quiver as if shaken by unseen hands, the pale-leaved citrons bow their
heads to a mysterious blast, clouds of white blossoms cover the earth
like snow, and the leaves of the yellow jasmine fly as if with wings.

Then a clash of scimitars breaks the silence, the shadowy form of a
stately lady floats across the pavement, closely followed by the figure
of a Moor, who sighs and wrings his hands, gliding on into the thickness
of the woods, when a dark cloud gathers and they disappear.



CHAPTER XI

The Moors at Cordoba


At Cordoba we come upon the full splendour of the Moors, a whole world
of chivalry, _jonglerie_, magic, and song, from the old East, their
home. What noble devotion to their race! What unalterable faith! What
generous courage in life, and silent constancy in death! What knowledge,
could we but grasp it!

We know but what is left to us of their outward life in Andalusia and
Granada. Their exquisite sense of proportion and colour, in palaces
vermilion walled and vocal with many waters; the massive grandeur of
barbicans of defence, the sensuous charm of lace-covered chambers and
gigantic leap of arch, tower, and minaret, destined to live as their
mark for ever.

Their whole existence in Spain is a romance anomalous but dazzling; a
nation within a nation, never amalgamated; a people without a country; a
wave of the great Moslem invasion cast into Europe; a brilliant
phantasmagoria, various and rare!

The Moors took no solid root in Spain as the

[Illustration: PANTEON DE LOS REYES, THE BURIAL PLACE OF THE ANCIENT
KINGS OF LEON.]

Saxons in England or the Arabs in Sicily, but lived as an exotic race,
divided from the Christians and from the Jews by impassable barriers of
religious customs and laws; their occupation but a long chivalric
struggle for a foothold in the land they had _gained_ but never
conquered.

Not all the fiery valour of the African was proof against the obstinate
resistance of the Goths. Never was defence more complete! In the midst
of apparent victory loomed defeat!

A new era opens in Cordoba, with its million inhabitants and three
hundred mosques, in the reign of the Caliph Abdurraman, of the race of
the Ummaÿa, who overthrew the rival princes sent by the Sultan of
Damascus.

After him from A.D. 756 to A.D. 1000, ten independent sultans reigned in
Cordoba, their wealth and luxury like the record of a tale.

Most notable among these were three other Abdurramans, Hakin, surnamed
“the bookworm,” Hisham, and Hazin, not to forget the great Sultan and
statesman Almanzor, a Moorish Lorenzo de’ Medici, collecting books all
over the world, and drawing learned men to his court even from remote
Britain.

While the north, in perpetual warfare, was plunged in the darkness of
the Middle Ages, solid learning, poetry, and elegant literature charmed
the minds of the enlightened Moors, the pioneers of civilisation in
Europe.

At Cordoba Averroës, the great Grecian scholar, translated and
expounded Aristotle. Ben Zaid and Abdulmander wrote histories of the
people at Malaga. Ibn el Baal searched the mountains and plains to
perfect a knowledge of botany; the Jew Tudela was the successor of Galen
and Hippocrates; Albucaris is remembered as a notable surgeon, some of
whose operations coincide with modern practice; and Al Rasi and his
school studied chemistry and rhetoric.

Not only at Cordoba, but at Seville, and later at Granada, colleges and
schools were endowed, and libraries founded in which the higher sciences
were taught, which drew the erudite of the Moslem world from all parts
of the globe, and became the resort of Christian students anxious to
instruct themselves in superior knowledge.

And Christian knights came also to perfect themselves in chivalric
fashions and martial exercises, as well as to master the graceful
evolutions of the “tilt of reeds” in the tourneys of the Moors.

From the court of the first Abdurraman came _la gaya ciencia_, poetic
discussions of love and chivalry transplanted later to the Court of
Provence.

In architecture no building that ever was erected can compare to the
elegance of his Mesquita (come down to us almost entire) as a monument
of the taste and culture of the age. The most mystic and astounding of
temples, with innumerable aisles of double horseshoe arches, suspended
like ribbons in mid-air, resting on pillars of jasper, _pavonazzo_,
porphyry, and verd antique crossing and re-crossing each other in a
giddy maze of immeasurable distances, red, yellow, green, and white
dazzling the eye in a very rainbow of colour!

No windows are visible, and the light, weird and grim, comes as from a
cave peopled by demons; no central space at all, but vistas of endless
arcades, which for a time the eye follows assiduously, then turns
confused, and the brain reels.

Deep hidden in the heart of the temple is the throne or _macsurah_, a
marvel of embroidered stone, where the Sultan takes his seat. Here the
Koran is read in the pale light of scented tapers and torches, and those
ecstatic visions evoked by the Faithful of a sensual paradise of
dark-haired houris.

Opposite is the Zeca, or holiest of holies, turned towards Mecca, where
the gorgeous decorations of the East blend with Byzantine mosaics of
vivid colours on a gold ground; a most lovely shrine, a great marble
conch-shell for the roof, the sides dazzling with burnished gold, and
round and round, deep in the pavement, the footprints of centuries of
pilgrims.

Such is the Mesquita of Cordoba in our day, the desecrated shelter of an
old faith, a sanctuary rifled, a mystery revealed!

       *       *       *       *       *

But how glorious in the time of the great Abdurraman when the blaze of a
thousand coloured lanterns, fed with perfumed oil, played like gems
upon jewelled surfaces, vases, and censers filled with musk and attar,
making the air heavy with fragrance, golden candelabra blazing among
mosaics, crescent banners floating beside the _almimbar_ or pulpit,
where green-turbaned Almuedans mount to intone the Selan, as the Sultan
emerges from a subterranean passage leading from the Alcazar, treading
on Persian carpets sown with jewels, to take his place on a golden
throne within the _macsurah_, surrounded by swarthy Africans, bare-armed
Berbers, helmeted knights bristling with scimitars, Numidians with
fringed head-bands and golden armlets, superb Emirs, wandering
Kalenders, who live by magic, the dervish of the desert, and hoary
Imaums in full gathered robes.

Then the talismanic words are heard from the open galleries of the
Giralda from which the Muezzin calls to daily prayer: “There is no God
but Allah, and Mahomet is his prophet.” To which the prostrate multitude
echoes: “God is great,” each one striking the pavement with his
forehead, and the sonorous chant answers, “Amen.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When Abdurraman reigned, the lonely quarter beyond the Mesquita swarmed
with Alcazars, Bazars, Cuartos, Zacatines, Baños, and Alamedas.

Three miles to the north, sheltered under the green heights of the
Sierra Morena, rose the plaisance of Medina-a-Zehra, created by him, a
_congerie_ of kiosks and pavilions entered by gates of blue and yellow
porcelain, overtopping woods of exotic shrubs, choice plants, and rare
fruit-trees--here the Safary peach (nectarine) was first ripened in
Europe--divided by the fountains, canals, and fish-ponds so dear to the
Arab fancy; twelve statues in pure gold set with precious stones
spouting perfumed water within a _patio_ girt in by crystal pillars.

Hither came emirs, ambassadors, merchants, and pilgrims, all agreed that
nothing could be compared to these matchless gardens. And besides
Ez-Zahra there were other monuments, which have all disappeared under
the mantle of green turf that lines the banks of the Guadalquivir. Not a
stone left of the pavilion of Flowers, of Lovers, and of Content, the
palace of the Diadem, evidently destined for the royal jewels, and
another called after the city of Damascus.

About were many noble streets and plazas with baths and mosques, for
next to the mosque stood the bath in credit among the Moslem, and as
such despised by the Christians to that point, that after Ferdinand and
Isabella drove the Moors out of Spain, their grandson, Philip II.,
ordered the destruction of all public baths as relics of Mohammedanism.



CHAPTER XII

Abdurraman, Sultan of Cordoba


Abdurraman, first Sultan of Cordoba, was a kindly hearted man, with none
of the traditional cruelty of the Arab, eloquent in speech, and of a
quick perception--quite the Caliph of Eastern tales. Never in repose,
never entrusting the care of his kingdom to viziers, intrepid in battle,
terrible in anger and intolerant of opposition; yet ready to follow the
biers of his subjects, pray over the dead, and even to mount the pulpit
of the mosque on Fridays and address the people.

His majestic presence and dark, commanding face, lit up by a pair of
penetrating eyes, shadowed by thick black eyebrows, inspired fear rather
than love in those around him, and though it was said of him “he never
forgot a friend,” it was added, “nor ever forgave an enemy.”

As he passed at evening alone into the garden of Ez-Zahra, the porphyry,
jasper, and marble of the pavement absorbed by the intense blue of the
sky, all his attendants fell back. His brow was knit with thought, for
the fame of the victories of Charles Martel troubled him sorely. He
knew that in knowledge and science the Frankish king was as a peasant
compared to him, yet his name was in all men’s mouths as the conqueror
of the Moors.

Not only did Charles Martel, after the victory of Tours, excel him in
renown, but the remnant of the Goths, driven out of the cities of Spain,
had taken refuge in the mountains bordering the Bay of Biscay, among the
caves and untrodden defiles of the Asturias, and, small and
insignificant as they were, still defied him.

Just and generous in character, the Sultan would have gladly drawn to
him this patriotic band by an equitable rule, if they would have
submitted; but the obstinate endurance of the Spaniard was never more
displayed than in the fierce determination of these fugitives never to
yield.

Thinking of all this, Abdurraman heaved a deep sigh. His soul was full
of sympathy for the brave Goths, but, as Sultan, he was bound to
suppress what was in fact open rebellion.

Long did he pace slowly up and down, musing in a silence broken only by
the distant click of the castanets from the quarter of the harem, where
the light of coloured lanterns shone out athwart huge branches of
magnolia and pepper trees.

That these sounds of revelry were not to his taste was shown by the
disdainful glance he cast in that direction, and a certain gathering
about him of the dark caftan which hung from his shoulders.

Turning his eyes in the direction of one of the many illuminated kiosks
standing out clear in the twilight, he paused, as if expecting some one
to appear.

Nor did he wait long; a dark figure emerged from the gloom, the features
of the face so dusky that but for the general outline of the figure it
might have passed unseen as a phantom of the night.

“Mahoun,” says the Caliph, sharply, as the vizier approached and,
prostrating himself on the earth, awaited his commands, “stand up and
tell me what tidings from the north.”

“By the Prophet, O Caliph,” answers Mahoun, crossing his arms as he rose
to his feet, and bending his supple body in a deep salaam, “tidings of
many colours--good and bad.”

“Give me the bad first, O Vizier! After a storm the sun’s rays shine
brightest. Proceed.”

“Don Pelayo, the Goth, son of the Christian noble, Dux of Cantabria,
murdered by his kinsman,” continued the vizier, “or, as some call him,
Pelagius--for these Gothic dogs much affect Roman names--the leader of
the Christians, has disappeared. Nor can the cunning inquiries of Kerim,
whom in your wisdom you have placed as governor over these newly
conquered provinces, obtain any record of where he has gone. Some say to
the French Court to ask succour for the remnant who still cling to his
fortunes; others that he has died by treachery, or fallen in fight. So
constant were these rumours, O Caliph, that the Goths, discouraged by
his long absence, had fallen into disunion; the wisest (and they are
few) were willing to submit to the rule of Kerim; the greater part
(fools) prepared to elect the Gothic Infanta Onesinda, his sister, as
queen--when of a sudden, Pelayo himself returns, and, with a horde of
Christian beggars at his back, raises the standard of revolt in Galicia
near Gijon.”

“What!” cries the Caliph, suddenly interested, “is Pelayo the youth,
cousin of Don Roderich, who fought at the battle of the Guadalete close
to his chariot, and never left him until he himself vanished from the
battlefield? I have heard of Pelayo. He is of royal birth.”

“The same, O Caliph. Grandson of King Chindavinto, his father, murdered
by that unclean beast Witica, predecessor of Roderich. Pelayo ends the
line of Gothic princes. Kerim despises him as a despicable barbarian
shut up on a mountain, where his followers die of hunger; they have no
food but herbs and honey gathered in the rocks. Let not my Lord regard
him.”

“Call you this good news, O Mahoun? A hero is ever a hero, even in rags!
Though he is my enemy, I respect his valour. Had Roderich fought with
like courage in the defence of Spain, we might now be eating dates in
our tents under our native palms. The courage of the chief represents
the spirit of the nation, as the flash of the lightning precedes the
thunderbolt. _One_ cannot scathe without the other.”

“But, O Caliph of the Faithful,” interrupts the vizier, again
prostrating himself to the ground, “the good news is yet untold.
Pelayo’s sister, Onesinda, is now in our hands,--Kerim, the Governor of
Gijon, has captured her.”

A smile of satisfaction overspread the Caliph’s face. Then, as other
thoughts seemed to gather in his mind, he raised his hand and
thoughtfully passed it across the thick black curls of his beard.

“Surely all courtesy has been used towards this royal lady? I would
rather that Kerim had shown his skill in overcoming men. Do Mussulmen
wage war on women and children? I know Kerim as a valiant leader in the
fight, but I misdoubt much his courtesy towards this daughter of the
Goths. Are we not well-founded enough in Spain to spare this lady?”

“Yes, confined within the strong walls of your harem. Make her your
sultana, O Caliph, she will be free, and, subdued by the wisdom of your
lips, will bring her countrymen with her; otherwise she is too important
a hostage to surrender. For his sister’s sake Pelayo himself may yield.”

“Never, if I know him,” exclaims Abdurraman, “while the fountain of life
flows within his veins--never! Dishonour not the noble Goth so far. To
turn a Christian maiden into a slave would be honour, for a Gothic
princess a sore degradation. Mahoun, I want no sultana to share my
throne. ‘Beware of the wiles of women,’ saith the sage. By the help of
the Prophet, I will still steer clear. But that this noble lady shall
have cause to extol the courtesy of the Moslem is my command.”

“How then shall we deal with her?” asks the vizier with anxious haste,
too well aware of the generous nature of the Caliph. “If Pelayo lays
down his arms, the Infanta might be escorted back in safety to the rocks
and caverns he makes his home, but if he still raises the standard of
revolt, a bow-string would better suit the lady’s throat.”

“Silence, slave,” replies Abdurraman in a deep voice. “Great Allah!
Shall we degrade ourselves to make success depend on the life of a
woman? Summon her here at once. When she arrives in Cordoba, let her
immediately be conducted to my harem. Let orders be given for her
immediate departure from Gijon with suitable attendants.”

“Oh, justest of men and greatest of rulers,” answers the vizier, “permit
your slave yet to speak one word. These infidels must be reached through
their women. Leave, I pray you, Onesinda to the Governor of Gijon, and
she will be bait to catch her brother Pelayo.”

“I have spoken,” answers Abdurraman, haughtily, and turned away. “Be it
according to my commands.”

Deep was the obeisance with which this order was received, but the
astute vizier had views of his own. In the main he was a faithful
servant of his lord, but where a woman was concerned, he deemed it no
crime to temper obedience with interest. An unbeliever! the sister of a
Goth! what was this Onesinda but a toy, a slave, honoured by a glance
from her conqueror? Had the Caliph commanded her immediate execution he
would willingly have obeyed, but to bring her to Cordoba after what he
knew of her treatment at Gijon was more than his head was worth.

Now it so happened that the Governor of Gijon was his friend, and that
Mahoun knew much more about Onesinda than he intended to impart. Her
capture had been a cruel stratagem, and at this very time she was
forcibly lodged in the harem of Kerim.

The vizier had not dared altogether to conceal the important fact of her
capture from the Sultan, but that she should reach Cordoba alive and
tell the tale of her misfortunes, was not at all his intention. The
passion Kerim had conceived for her was well known to Mahoun, and that
she was surrounded by Moorish slaves, who not only urged his suit by
threats and persuasion, but watched her every action. If Onesinda did
not yield to the desires of Kerim, her brother’s fate was certain, were
he taken dead or alive.

On Pelayo rested the hope of the fugitive Goths. The last of the long
line of hereditary princes, all the trust of the conquered lay in him.
That this base intrigue should come to the knowledge of the

[Illustration: A Proclamation in Granada, by Boabdil.

From a Painting by Placido Francés. National Exhibition of Fine Arts,
Madrid, 1884.]

[Illustration]

Caliph was death to all concerned. Not all the bribes offered him by
Kerim in rich stuffs, jewels, and slaves, could blind the astute vizier
to the danger of his position.

“May Allah confound Kerim and his harem!” he exclaimed in a rage, as he
paced the gardens after the Sultan’s departure until late into the
night, his silken sandals falling lightly on the coloured patterns drawn
upon the walks. “Why could not the dark-skinned beauties of Barbary
content him without meddling with the pale-faced Goth? Truly the flag of
the Crescent has triumphed over the Cross in the length and breadth of
Spain; but it is not wise to provoke a fallen people. These Goths have
the endurance of the camel of the desert, which lives long without food
or drink, but even that patient animal will turn upon his driver if he
rains down blows upon him causelessly. Better let the infidels starve in
holes and caverns than bring them down into the plains, bent on a
desperate revenge. A curse on Kerim! The Sultan forgets nothing. He will
ask for Onesinda. What in the name of Allah am I to reply?”



CHAPTER XIII

Onesinda and Kerim


Kerim-El-Nozier, the Governor of Gijon in Galicia, is a Berber,
infinitely less cultured than the Moors, and the distance from the
capital at Cordoba has made him almost independent of all rule.

Little did the noble-minded Caliph, Abdurraman, guess what was passing
at this moment in the remote peninsula at Gijon, sheltered on one side
by the dark hill of Santa Catalina, on the other exposed to the full
force of the rollers of the Bay of Biscay, and that the governor he had
appointed was a tyrant who knew no law but his own will.

Kerim is not a warrior to please a lady’s eye. The voluminous folds of a
white turban rest on a forehead bare of hair, a rough and matted beard
curls on his chin and reaches to his ears, in which hang two uncut
emeralds. He is low in stature and corpulent in person. His long dark
arms are bare, ornamented with glittering bangles, his body swathed with
a gaudily striped cloth over a rich vest, and full trousers descend to
his feet. Sudden and abrupt in his movements, he sits uneasily on a
raised dais covered with skins, a drapery of Eastern silk over his head.
A strong perfume of attar pervades the recess, lined with divans, at the
extremity of an immense Gothic hall, open at the opposite end, and
divided into separate apartments by Oriental screens and tapestry.

The recent conquests in the North had given the Moors as yet no time to
erect either dwellings, mosques, or baths, those necessities of Eastern
life, and they were fain to accept the rough habitations and castles of
the Goths as they found them.

Terrible is the expression of his eyes, the white against the tawny
sockets, as he turns them full on the slender form before him, wrapped
in an embroidered mantle, held in the strong grasp of a Nubian slave. A
naked scimitar lies on the ground and the shadow of a mute darkens the
curtained entrance.

Of the lady’s face nothing is seen. She holds her hands clasped over her
eyes, as if to shut out the repellent visage of the Berber.

Taking in his hand, from a salver placed on the ground, one of the
jewelled goblets which lay on it, and filling it with sherbet, Kerim
rises to his feet.

“I drink,” he says, in a loud jarring voice, “to the success of the
Goths and of Pelayo. Will you pledge me, Christian lady?”

No answer comes from the veiled figure, but the trembling of the drapery
shows that she is convulsed with fear.

“Unhand the Infanta,” says Kerim to the Nubian, “and retire.”

Between them lay the scimitar, catching the light.

“Onesinda,” and Kerim seizes her passive hand, “listen! Kerim is not the
senseless tyrant you deem him. But before I unfold my projects to your
ear, I warn you to take heed. You are my prisoner, held by the right of
war. A motion of my hand and that fair skin is dyed as crimson as the
petals of the fiery pomegranate expanding in the heat of noon. As yet
you have refused all speech with me. Urge me not too far, I warn you.”

“Alas!” answers Onesinda, speaking with quick breath, as she tears
asunder the drapery which falls upon her face, and displays an ashy
countenance belying her bold words, “I do not fear death, but infamy.
Now, God be gracious to me, for the succour of man is vain.” As she
spoke she drew herself back to the farthest limit of the curtained space
in an attitude, not of resistance, for that was useless, but as one
unwilling to provoke assault, yet if offered, resolved to repel it to
the utmost of her power.

She who, were her brother dead, would be proclaimed by the small remnant
of her people Queen of the Goths, was fair as became her race and of
good proportions. A native loftiness in features and bearing took from
her all notion of the insipidity which attaches itself to that
complexion; her eyes were blue, untouched by the unnatural glitter so
loved by the Moorish women, and her profuse flaxen hair fell in ringlets
about her neck, on which a solid gold chain and heavy medallion rested.
A kirtle over a vest, open at the throat, of blue taffetas worked in
coloured silks, formed a loose robe lined with fur, and a veil of silk,
falling at the back of her neck, concealed the snowy skin of her neck
and bosom and served as a covering to her hair.

“You have no reason to fear me,” cries Kerim, but the base passion which
looked out of his eyes gave to his words a very different
interpretation.

“There can be no peace between us,” answers Onesinda, trembling in every
limb, as she presses closer and closer to the wooden pillars at her
back. “Had your purpose been honest, you would not have captured me
treacherously and kept me here. Pelayo’s sister will never yield to
force. To plant that steel in my breast,” pointing to the richly set
dagger he wore at his waist, “is the only service you can do me.”

“But you must listen,” retorts Kerim, drawing so near his hot breath
fell on her cheek; “for the sake of Pelayo. To further the good of this
growing kingdom of the Moors, I desire to ally myself with the royal
blood of Spain and rally about me those Christians who still gather
round your brother. The throne of Cordoba is too distant, the empire too
vast. Abdurraman needs able lieutenants. Kerim will free him of these
northern provinces and govern them himself. It is a feeble mind which
waits for Fortune’s wheel, the brave must seize it, and turn it for
themselves. Under me the sons of the Goths shall serve, Alonso and
Friula and the rest, Pelayo above all, next to myself, for the fair
Onesinda’s sake! Again I ask you, Christian Princess, will you pledge me
to our success?” And his hand again seizes the goblet, which he holds to
her lips.

Had Onesinda seen the look which accompanied this gesture she would have
sunk insensible to the earth, so revolting was the effect of love in
such a form, so savage and brutal the nature; but her head had fallen on
her bosom, and her closed eyes and deadly pallor disconcerted Kerim,
who, with widely opened eyes, contemplated his victim in doubt if she
were not already dead. A slight trembling of the eyelids and a
convulsive motion about the lips relieved him of this fear. With the
utmost care he placed her on a divan, and pouring into her white lips
some of the sherbet contained in the goblet, anxiously watched the
efforts which Nature made to revive her. As she heaved a deep sigh, she
opened her eyes, then closed them again with a shrill cry at the sight
of the black visage of Kerim bent over her.

“Listen,” he says again, in a much gentler voice. He understood that
excessive fear or a too great repugnance would be fatal, therefore he
curbed his passion.

“If you will consent to be my sultana, Pelayo

[Illustration: THE CHARLEMAGNE OF EPIC.

From the painting by Albrecht Dürer.]

shall be my second in the kingdom of the Asturias. If not”--and, spite
of himself, such a look of ferocity came over his face that Onesinda
shrank from him with inexpressible disgust--“the blood of every knight I
have taken shall water the earth of Gijon, specially that of Pelayo, who
shall expire in unknown torments. Choose, Christian, between life with
me, or certain ruin to your race.”

As he awaits her answer, Kerim seats himself by her side. With a smile
on his dark face he strove to take her hand. In this gentler mood, he
seemed to Onesinda a thousand times more loathsome than in his fiercest
moments.

One glance was enough. Gathering her robes about her, she darts to the
farthest extremity of the vast hall.

“Moor,” she cries, and the horror she felt was expressed in her
features, “for me death has no terrors. For my brother, I do not believe
you. Can the eagle nest with the vulture? the dove with the serpent? It
is but a cruel wile to deceive me.”

“I swear it, lady, by the tomb of the Prophet. Think well before you
take your own life and that of those who are dear to you.” He paused,
and the unhappy Onesinda felt all the agony of her position. To allow
this hideous African to approach her was to her a fate so horrible that
flesh and blood rose up in revolt against it. To open the possible
chance of success to Pelayo and his followers by the sacrifice of
herself is, as a daughter of the Goths, her duty, did she believe his
words to be sincere.

Looking into his dark face, what assurance had she? In his cruel eyes?
In those full red lips, cutting like blood athwart the blackness of his
beard? It is the countenance of a savage. Not a generous quality could
dwell under such a mask. No, there is nothing in the hard nature of this
African on which to form a hope! And yet her brother’s life, if he
speaks truly, hangs on his will. She had no means to prove his words.
Pelayo is absent, some said already dead. Was this dark treachery
towards his Sultan true? Or rather is it not some fiendish scheme to
entrap the last remnant of the Goths and raise himself to power and
favour with Abdurraman?

Bursting into a flood of tears, she casts herself upon the ground and
fixes on him her pale blue eyes.

“Alas! you know not the heart of woman to make such a proposal. To
invoke your pity,” and her voice trembles, “would be as useless as it is
mean. Help the noble sons of the land, but insist not on such a
sacrifice. By the memory of your father, by the bones of your chiefs,
seek not an end so wicked.”

Unmoved, Kerim contemplates her, a smile of triumph on his dark face.

“It is your turn now to supplicate, proud Infanta, mine to deny. Either
you comply, or every Moslem soldier in the citadel of Gijon shall hunt
the Goths in the length and breadth of the Asturias like vermin. Reflect
ere you decide. I swear by the Holy Caaba I speak truth.”

With a menacing gesture he departed, leaving Onesinda prostrate on the
ground and the Moorish slaves returned to bear her into the dark grove
where the harem stood fronting the ever-beating sea that washes the
iron-bound coast which girds the north of Spain.



CHAPTER XIV

Tragic Death of Onesinda


The Plaza of Gijon swarms with a motley crowd. The news of some great
event to take place has spread abroad and brought down peasants from the
distant mountain-tops, clad in primitive coverings of skins, and the
thick-set natives of Galicia from their groves of wide-branching oaks
and thick copse wood, too often stained with blood in the fierce
encounters between Moslem and Christian.

Townsmen there are, in coarse hempen garments, and artificers from the
lowly dwellings of Gijon, mixed with mounted groups of naked Nubians, as
black as night; Bedouins carrying long lances and wattled shields;
Berbers and Kurds on foot among the crowd, casting looks of defiance on
the sons of the soil, easily recognised by the fairness of their faces
and long auburn hair, grouped about native musicians singing wild
melodies to the click of the castanets; Moorish knights in the light
armour which contrasts so favourably with the heavy accoutrements of the
West--an indistinguishable rabble of the conquered and the conquerors,
remarkable for nothing but the contentious and sullen spirit in which
the Moslem ousts the Christian at all points.

In the centre of the plaza rises a gaudy pavilion formed of sheets of
the brightest silk, scarlet, yellow, blue, and orange, the tent-poles
and pillars glittering with tiny flags, before which the astounding
clamour of bands of Eastern musicians raise martial echoes. Within,
visible through the partially withdrawn curtains, is placed a throne
with such magnificence as the limited means permit.

Planted in front the standard of Kerim floats heavily in the breeze,
this Arab of the desert pretending to no distinction but the Star and
the Crescent, the emblems of his faith. Horsemen and foot-soldiers are
ranged on either side, and banners and pennons are displayed by each
Moorish knight or captain before his own tent, dazzling with the flash
of splendid accoutrements and gorgeous display of brocade and tossing
plumes, fluttering to the sound of drums, trumpets, and shrill-voiced
pipes, recalling to the Arabs the deserts of their home.

A mass of dismounted cavalry is stationed before the pavilion on which
all eyes are turned, each Moslem erect by the side of his gaily draped
charger, until, at a shrill cry, surmounting even the din of the music,
each man vaults into the saddle and spurs forward towards a cloud of
dust announcing the arrival of Kerim surrounded by his Ethiopian
bodyguard.

At full gallop they approach, bristling with spears and brandishing
their scimitars, disposing themselves in a semicircle which leaves Kerim
alone, so resplendent with steel, feathers, and gems that, as the sun
shines down upon him, he looks like a statue of light.

The grim forms and wild faces of the Africans, tossing their arms in
every direction with savage shouts, reining up their horses but a
hair’s-breadth from the edge of the crowd of spectators--who, uttering
piercing screams, rush backwards upon those behind, who in their turn
lift up their voices in screams of utmost terror--create such a scene of
noise and confusion that a white silk litter borne by slaves, round
whose arms and legs are bound rich bangles and bracelets, followed by a
crowd of veiled women in snowy garments, is scarcely noticed.

Yet a group of dark-robed Goths have marked it, and the sadness of their
faces and their looks of shame and sorrow show how abhorrent to them is
this Eastern pageant and its cause. For who has not guessed the occasion
of these rejoicings? Onesinda, for the sake of her people, has consented
to become the bride of Kerim.

Nor is she and her countrymen around her, to whom, through the light
lattice of the litter, she is plainly visible, without hope that Pelayo,
if yet alive, may have planned a rescue. But in the face of such an
array of forces, called out purposely by Kerim, it would be a mad and
senseless sacrifice of life.

The agony of mind of Onesinda is not to be described. Did he indeed
appear, what would Pelayo think of her? Would he understand the amount
of the sacrifice? To become a vile and nameless thing? To submit to this
crowning outrage of the Moor, with no power to whisper into his ear the
sacredness of her motive?

Alas! poor Onesinda, she is of too gentle a nature to battle with such a
fate! So colourless has she become, her face is scarcely visible among
the silken cushions of the litter as she breathlessly scans the
assembled crowd.

A wild hope seizes her. May not Alonso or Friula, if Pelayo is away, be
present? Some valiant ally or devoted follower still faithful to her?
Some pitying Goth with a soul for her distress? At least one by his look
to remind her that he is there?

Nothing! She sees the threatening faces of the Moors, she hears their
muttered curses, she beholds their contemptuous gestures as they point
at her. Do they believe she is a willing victim?

And now Kerim has dismounted from his charger; a tall white turban is
set upon his head, crowned with a spiral diadem, in which a ruby
crescent blazes, surrounded by drops of pearls; a white robe, sown with
jewels, clothes his limbs, held up by a golden sash worked with gems, in
which the blade of a small dagger rests, incrusted with precious stones,
of so fine a temper one touch is sufficient to cut the thread of life.

Followed by his guards, he follows the litter towards the pavilion,
surrounded by a phalanx of sheikhs and alcaides. And as he approaches
the litter the drapery is drawn aside, the clash of discordant music
strikes up, and the voice of the Imaum chants _Allah Akbar_.

The moment is come; Onesinda must descend. A look of mingled triumph and
love lights up Kerim’s swarthy face and brings out the whiteness of his
eyes into a revolting prominence. Already his naked arms, glittering
with bracelets, are stretched out to clasp his bride, already the soft
aroma of her presence comes wafting to his senses like spicy perfumes of
paradise, when, by a deft and sudden movement, breaking from the strong
arms which bear her up, Onesinda seizes the dagger which lies beneath
his sash and with desperate courage plunges it in her breast.

With frantic haste Kerim tears it from the wound, but her life-blood
follows it. Clasping her in his arms, he gazes on her face. Has death
come to her instantly? Her eyes are closed, yet a faint flush is still
upon her cheek. Then the lids slowly rise, but the orbs are fixed, and
glazed. Gradually the flush vanishes and gives place to the pallid hue
of death!

Ere the poor remains of the Gothic maiden can be borne away, a great
clattering of horses’ feet is heard advancing; a Moslem herald gallops
forward, followed by trumpeters and men-at-arms, and several knights,
who ride into the plaza. After a flourish of trumpets and due recital
and summoning of Kerim, Governor of Gijon, to listen, he is commanded,
in the name of the redoubtable Sultan Abdurraman, to appear without
delay at Cordoba, together with his Christian captive, Onesinda, sister
of the royal Goth, known as Pelayo, Dux of Cantabria.



CHAPTER XV

Pelayo Proclaimed King by the Goths


To those who have not visited the north of Spain, the grandeur of the
dark chain of the Asturian mountains rising sheer out of the plains of
Leon and Lugo can hardly be imagined. The change is so abrupt, the
aspect so dark and threatening of frowning defiles, deeply scored
precipices, and pointed summits heavy with mist. Here winter lingers
into latest spring and the tardy summer soon retreats before the grey
and deathlike hue which clothes the rocks and narrows inch by inch with
the green mantle which sunshine brings.

This is the true Iberia, the cradle of the race, the title borne by the
eldest born of Spain, the stronghold which has held out last against all
conquerors. The Romans left their mark at Gijon; in the south the Moors
stamped the soil with their lineaments; in the east, Catalonia formed a
separate kingdom, with laws and customs; Navarre, with its ancient line
of kings, raised Alpine barriers. But the mountain crests are free, and
those deep cavernous recesses which cut the rocks resound only to the
shrill cry of the eagle or the bleat of the wild deer.

Full in the front of a stupendous face of rock, facing east, the mouth
of a deep cave opens; the narrow track which leads to it ends here,
Nature herself forbids further progress. Piles, avalanches rather, of
black boulders, the spittle and waste of mountains shaken by earthquakes
in bygone ages, have fallen from above, and, smoothed by time to dull
surfaces of greys and greens, guard its opening, shrouded by a feathery
veil of thorn, ivy, and wild trailing plants which love the shade.

From within the cave a transparent rivulet murmurs forth in a bed of
coloured pebbles to meet the sun and join its feeble ripple to the
louder sound of other waters flowing from the gorge above.

In front the grass spreads soft and verdant; cups of the early crocuses
peep out, lilac and white, and dark purple violets nestle under dry
leaves, filling the air with fragrance. A few scraggy beech-trees turn
their white trunks outwards, the roots deeply imbedded in the rocks, and
clumps of low firs and juniper follow the almost imperceptible track
which leads onwards to remoter glens.

       *       *       *       *       *

Slowly mounting from below, a little band of Goths, clad in the homespun
jerkins which distinguish them at once from their gaudily attired
conquerors, ascend the path, stepping from rock to rock. The dry leaves
of winter rustle beneath their feet as they pass up under the gnarled
boughs of scraggy oaks.

Carefully the foremost ones plant their steps upon the stones, as they
bear upon a crossed frame the body of Onesinda, which the Christians of
Gijon secured in the confusion following her death and the arrival of
the herald summoning Kerim to Cordoba.

A dark pall covers her, and so slight and fragile is her form that the
outline of her figure scarcely raises the folds.

Behind appears the stalwart figure of Pelayo, wearing the Gothic cap of
steel and armed with the simple accoutrements of a Dacian warrior.

Not a tear moistens his eye. His face is set and white, marked by the
vicissitudes and hardships of his life; a countenance on which Nature
has set her seal as a leader of men--the sole remaining link of the
early Gothic kings.

Behind him follow three other chiefs, who have joined in an eternal
hatred to the Moor, Friula, Teudis, and Recesvinto.

A sorrowful procession, fitly set in the impenetrable wilds which
surround them, solemn as themselves, who want no spur to their resolve
to sell their blood dear in the cause of their country. But if they did,
surely the slight form they are bearing, so cruelly sacrificed to the
Moor, is enough to stir up their souls to never-ending vengeance.

[Illustration: THE ROMAN BRIDGE AT SALAMANCA.]

Silently the bearers rest the bier upon the green platform of grass
before the cave.

Then Pelayo advances to the front, and putting back with his hands the
thickly trailing thorns that impede the opening, the bier is placed
within under the shadows of an overlapping stone.

Not a word has been spoken, but many streams murmur as they go bubbling
in the sun, and the splash of the distant waterfalls answers, and the
sighing of the wind passes with hollow sound. Only the shrill cry of an
eagle catches the ear as it swoops upon its prey, unconscious of the
presence of man.

By a common instinct the Gothic chiefs gather before the cave, the lofty
figure of Pelayo towering above them all. These men represent a nation
conquered, fugitive, helpless, but still a nation which will never die,
but live to bring forth long lines of kings in succeeding centuries to
rule over two hemispheres.

They know it, these Gothic chiefs, the prophecy is in them--a solemn
faith in the justice of their cause, which tells them the hordes of
unbelievers shall not prevail.

And as they wait, by other paths, invisible to the eye but known to the
fugitives, emerge the dark forms of other brothers-in-arms, who now join
the group.

Every eye seeks Pelayo, by whose invincible courage, wisdom, and
endurance this small remnant has been saved. Every eye seeks his as he
stands aside leaning against a rock, insensible, as it seems, to all but
his own affliction.

Then Friula, nearest in kinship to the royal line, speaks:

“The time is come, brothers, that we must choose a chief. Long has the
noble Pelayo led us. He has now another vengeance to fulfil. The moment
is opportune. Onesinda is dead. The butcher Kerim has been summoned to
Cordoba. The garrison of Gijon lacks a defender. Let him lead us there
as king.”

“As king,” comes ringing from every side of the shrouded summits, which
catch the words and bear them from hollow, spanless depths to wild,
yawning gorges among the black cliffs, down which green waters pour from
the gloomy precincts of the cave where rest the remains of Onesinda.

“Let him be king!” sounds in many tones like a chant of freedom, intoned
by these Asturian wilds, which never had felt the foot of mortal foe.

As the voices die away amid a thousand echoes, Pelayo turns and raises
his steel helmet, showing the careworn lines of his deeply wrinkled face
lit up by no gleam of triumph. Ere he speaks he raises his hand, and
points to the deep shadow of the cave.

“We are in the presence of the dead. The shade of Onesinda yet lingers
in that body she died to save. Before her corpse, speak softly. Let the
dead rest in peace.”

“Then in her presence let us crown him!” cries Friula, taking up the
word. “For her sake let the vengeance of the Goths not tarry.”

“We are but as a handful against a nation,” says Recesvinto, “numberless
as the sands of the desert; but we will fight for Pelayo and for Spain.”

“For Pelayo and for Spain!” again thunders round. Even the tiny
streamlet which cleaves the grass they stand on seems to snatch the
words, and goes dancing downwards, bearing them to the world.

“My friends and brothers,” cries Pelayo, rousing himself from the cloud
of sorrow into which the death of his sister has plunged him, “I accept
your trust. We have been together in many a hard-fought day since the
rout of the Guadalete sent us to these wilds. It is no crown I crave,
even were it the glorious iron circlet which bound the brows of Alaric,
but to lead you in danger and in toil. For this I will be your king. God
willing, I will cut off the Moors to the depth of my hatred, root and
branch. They shall learn to curse the day when Pelayo was proclaimed. At
the cave of Cavadonga a new nation commences, which, with God’s help,
shall exceed the old. In the name of Onesinda we will triumph.”

A burst of joyful enthusiasm follows this address. He speaks with a
dignity and confidence which inspires his followers with the reckless
courage he feels within his breast.

The Gothic chiefs gather round him as the sheep round the faithful
shepherd when the howl of the wolf is borne upon the wind. No lack of
valour is visible upon their dark brows, and looks of deadly defiance
shoot from eye to eye as they hasten to bind the shields they carry
together, place Pelayo on them, and bear him three times round the face
of the cave of Cavadonga, the rest following with bare heads and naked
swords.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Moslems of Gijon, when they heard that the fugitive Goths had
elected a king in the Asturian mountains, laughed with scorn. But he
soon made his presence felt by frequent incursions, causing great havoc
among the Moors.

At length he collected a sufficient force to meet them in a pitched
battle. The great victory of Caincas followed, and ere the eighteen
years were passed during which Pelayo ruled over the Goths, the garrison
of Gijon surrendered, and El Conde de Gijon was one of the titles he
bore upon his shield.

In the solitude of the Asturias the cave of Cavadonga is still to be
found; the very spot or _campo_ before it on which Pelayo was carried on
the shields of his followers, is somewhat vulgarised by a commemorative
obelisk erected by the Duc de Montpensier. The valley, a perfect
_cul-de-sac_, ascends abruptly to the site. Pelayo lies within the small
church of Saint Eulalia, near at hand at Abaima. A simple stone is
engraved with his name and a carved sword of Roman pattern.

It was he who dealt the first serious blow to the invaders. From that
time they grew cautious in their approaches to the north.

Again the Goths became a name in the old kingdom. At Oviedo, south of
Gijon, the new dynasty took root, concealed at first in the obscure
reigns of Friula, Orelio, Ramiro, and Ordoño, calling themselves Kings
of Galicia and Oviedo, up to Alonso the Second, surnamed “the Chaste,”
791, when Leon came to be both the court and capital of the kingdom of
the Goths.



CHAPTER XVI

Bernardo del Carpio


The city of Leon is a very ancient place, old even in the days of the
Romans. Around it circles the line of walls spared by Witica when he
levelled the defences throughout Spain.

It is entered by four gates opening into four wide streets, crossing
each other at right angles. Many have been the changes, but there still
stand the city walls, substantially the same, the huge stones worked
into coarse rubble, capped by frequent towers with _tapia_ turrets from
which the eye ranges over the leafy plains of mountain-bound Galicia.

The houses are low-roofed and homely, as befits the rough climate of the
north; the streets narrow and grey. Red-brown and sepia is the colouring
against the sky, with whiffs of chill air from the mountains and the
scent of fields and flowers, the shelter of green thickets and verdant
banks, sown with tall poplars, beside purling streams.

A homelike and pleasant place, despised by the Moors after the African
fantasies of the south, but absolute luxury to the Spaniards, as so
much larger and nobler than their late capital, Oviedo.

Alonso, surnamed “the Chaste,” second of that name, passing to the
conclusion of a long and prosperous reign, finds much that is congenial
to his monkish prejudices and austere life in the simplicity of the
nature around.

That Alonso’s habits are more of a friar than of a king may be explained
by the aspect of the times. As successor to the pious “_Il Diacono_,”
and as a protest against Mauregato, his kinsman, who, for the assistance
given him by the Moors, agreed to pay them what is often mentioned in
history as the “Maiden Tribute,” a hundred Christian maidens to be sent
to the Caliph at Cordoba for his harem, fifty rich and fifty poor, a
shameful agreement faithfully fulfilled until the reign of Ramiro in
866.

This specially develops in Alonso a sentiment of religious protest in
the form of a rigid chastity, not only enforced in his own person, but
in all those about him. As he grows older these ideas take more and more
hold upon him, and increase to such a degree as actually to pervert his
judgment. Obviously it is the interest of the Church to encourage them,
and for this reason he seeks his companions among priests and monks.

What care his subjects that Alonso is called “the Chaste,” or that his
wife, Queen Berta, lives like a nun? The royal claims to sanctity are
utterly thrown away upon a sarcastic, laughter-loving court, especially
as Doña Ximena, his sister, a buxom dame, with the fair amplitude of her
Gothic ancestors, has so far strayed from the fold as to become the
mother of a boy!

Imagine the scandal! She is promptly ordered off to a cloister for life,
and her lover, the heroic Conde de Saldaña, imprisoned in the castle of
Luna, where, _more gothicum_, he is deprived of sight; Alonso fasting,
and scourging himself until nature well-nigh gives way, and Berta, the
Queen, bathed in tears, doing nothing but confess, although she has
nothing to say except that she has lived in company with such a sinner
as Ximena!

But the boy thrives apace, a very lusty and proper child, with no notion
of dying or care as to who are his parents, provided he has enough to
eat and playmates to amuse him, horses to ride and dogs to follow him
about the court, where, with singular inconsistency, Alonso allows him
to remain and bear the name of Bernardo del Carpio.

Not that he is acknowledged by the king--heaven forfend! Though one of
those secrets known to every one, Bernardo himself was never told how he
came into the world, but accepted himself in ignorance as one standing
alone, not in arrogance and pride, but out of the simplicity of his
heart, which prompted him to be second to none, seeing that he had
already given good proofs of his valour in tilts and tourneys and in
continual encounters with the Moors, pressing hard on the little
Christian kingdom, so narrow against the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a gusty morning in the month of June; a mass of black clouds rides
up from the west, portending a coming storm. Distant thunder rumbles
between snatches of fitful sunshine, lighting up the inner court of the
royal palace where the Roman prefects once ruled--a plain edifice, built
of stone, with open arcades running round supported by pilasters of
coarsely grained marble.

In and out there is an air of unusual bustle and movement. Sturdy Goths
are hurrying to and fro, their long, unkempt hair hanging on their
shoulders, and others of a slighter mould, in outlandish draperies and
white turbans, whose finer features betray an Eastern origin; for, as
was often the case, African captives in battle gladly accepted, as
slaves, the more peaceful service of the Christians, when no necessity
was imposed on them of fighting their Moslem brethren.

In the countenances of all there is a look of surprise as they hurry by,
carrying such golden utensils as served for the celebration of the Mass,
jewelled cups, golden patens, embroidered cushions, and rich folds of
arras and tapestry worked in Algerian looms, with which the chapel walls
are decorated on high occasions of state.

A master of the ceremonies, or Jefe, bearing an ivory wand, stands in
the centre of the court directing the servants. His flat Castilian cap
of a bright colour, and dark _manto_ lined with fur, sharp aquiline
features and piercing eyes proclaim him a native-born Spaniard of the
old type.

“Is it that foreign palmer,” he mutters between his teeth, “arrived from
Navarre, or that Gallic knight who flies the fleur-de-lis with such
heavy armour and delicate forms of speech? I warrant me he is a
hypocrite to the core, as he comes from the Frankish king. One or both,
they have bewitched our master. The palmer, with his sandalled feet and
cockle-shell, an ill-favoured fellow one scents a mile off, dirt being,
I am told, a quality next to holiness--but I like it not, the odour of
garlic is strong enough for me--is shut up with my lord in his private
closet. Anyway, the king has encountered the foul fiend somewhere, that
he is tempted to risk his crown. Now they have been singing a _laudamus_
in the chapel for the safe arrival of the French king, whom the devil
confound as a stranger and an invader! Well-a-day! The Holy Virgin of
Saragossa help us! We can die but once! Here, Poilo, Poilo!” he shouts
at the top of his voice, to a rough, wolfish-looking dog which has
precipitated itself with an angry growl and clenched teeth into the
arcade.

“Fie upon you for an ill-mannered brute. Leave the king’s guests
alone.”

Doffing his scarlet cap, the Jefe at once assumes the humble aspect of
his condition, as two personages, evidently of importance, emerge from
the arcade, taking no notice of his repeated low salutations or of the
snarls of the dog which he now holds by a silver collar, as they walk up
and down the court in eager conversation.

“Was the like ever heard?” exclaims one of them, a tall figure of
martial aspect, attired in a rich robe trimmed at neck and shoulder with
miniver, and secured on the breast with a huge gold brooch.

“Let Alonso forfeit his crown if he please,” is the answer, “but I will
never consent to cut my own throat.”

“Nor I, Favila,” replies the other, a younger man, who holds the office
of Chamberlain, wearing a heavy gold chain about his neck, his slight
figure set off by a coquettishness in the fashion of the time--a
close-fitting tunic of dark green, with a hood attached reaching to his
waist, and a plume fixed by a jewel in a small cap poised on one ear.

“I, for one, will stoutly defend my castle and shake off all allegiance
to Alonso. I would rather join the Moors, treacherous as they are and
ready to pounce on us at every corner, than submit to an inroad of new
enemies to overrun the land we have rescued with so much blood. Bad
enough to have Charlemagne for a neighbour, without bringing him here to
rule over us with the king’s leave. They say he and his paladins are
already on the march. Why cannot the king be content to name his
sister’s son his successor? Whom will he find better than the son of
Saldaña and a royal infanta? I love Bernardo with all my heart.”

“That Alonso will never do,” rejoins the older man, “in face of his
obstinate refusal to admit the legality of the marriage of Doña Ximena
to the Count of Saldaña. They say he has destroyed the documents, and
that Bernardo can never prove himself his father’s son.”

“He has no notion of trying,” answers Don Ricardo, “as far as I can see.
He is strangely indifferent to name and position.”

“But is the reason of the king’s strange perversity known?” asked Don
Favila.

“In part it is. First there is in his head this maggot of chastity.”

“He will not find that virtue among the Gallic monks he is so fond of
harbouring,” Don Favila observes, twirling his black moustache. “Of all
the hoary sinners----”

“No matter,” interrupts Don Ricardo, “that is not to the point. You
question me of the reason--if he has any tangible one and is not
mad--that Alonso treats Bernardo as he does. Chastity in the first
place. The propagation of his royal race offends him. He glories in the
name of ‘the Chaste.’ He would have all his family the same.”

“Fool,” mutters Don Favila, but he offers no further interruption.

“Doña Ximena, his only sister, was destined to

[Illustration: THE BRIDGE, GATEWAY, AND CATHEDRAL OF BURGOS.]

become the Abbess of the great Convent of San Marcos, outside the gate
of Leon, which he is building. So averse to love is he himself----”

“Then why in the foul fiend’s name did he marry Queen Berta?” puts in
the younger man, evidently of an impatient temperament, but Don Ricardo
passes the question by as irrelevant and proceeds:

“When he found that the Infanta preferred a mortal to an immortal
spouse, and had actually gone the length of bearing him a child, he fell
into such a state of blind rage that he declared she had never married,
and shut her up with such rigour that she died.”

“By Santiago, a most barbarous act,” is the response; “but saints are
always cruel.”

“About as barbarous,” answers Don Ricardo, “as calling in to inherit the
Gothic throne a foreigner, Charlemagne, a Frank, to whom he offers the
succession, when his own sister’s child is beside him branded with
infamy.”

“If this is the Church’s teaching, I would fain be a Mussulman. What
will Bernardo say when he hears of it?”

“Who speaks of me?” cries a clear young voice, coming from a more
distant part of the _patio_ where an arched gateway led out into the
place of arms in which the Spanish knights and soldiers exercised
themselves. A knight’s chain and spurs of gold show out from under a
_manto_ of dark velvet, which he throws on the ground, and which is
instantly, with every sign of reverence, picked up by the Jefe, with
difficulty holding Poilo back, who with sharp, quick barks and yells of
delight seeks to precipitate itself on the young knight, much too
preoccupied to observe it, save that with a quick wave of the hand he
dismisses both the dog and the Jefe.

Bernardo’s somewhat short and sturdy figure is clothed in linked mail
which rattles as he hastens forward to join Favila and Ricardo, at the
moment that a louder and nearer clap of thunder is audible and a deeper
shadow falls.

“Favila, Ricardo, you have heard this cursed news? I see it in your
faces. By the blood of Saint Isidore, is the king distraught that he
disposes of the kingdom of Leon as though he were a churl chaffering
away his field? Can it be true? I am just come from the mountains, where
I have met with sport both of men and beasts, for the Moor Kirza has
planted himself at Selagon, and sends out detachments to the foot of the
Asturias. Tell me, friends, can it be true?”

Both bow their heads.

“We will never submit,” said Favila, “to the Frankish king. Many are
already gone from the court to place their castles in a state of
defence.”

“What!” exclaims Bernardo, whose cheeks are flushing scarlet and the
veins in his forehead swelling with growing passion. “What! give away
the whole kingdom of Leon, with its warriors and nobles, to a foreigner,
as if we were a flock of sheep? I am of no illustrious race myself”--at
these words a significant look passes between his two companions, who
turn their eyes on the ground. “Faith! I know not of what race I am,”
with a short laugh, “nor do I care while the king continues his favour
to me, but I am a Spaniard; I will sell my living to no man.”

“The king has no heir,” observes Favila, in a dry tone, raising curious
eyes on Bernardo. “He says he desires to settle the succession before
his death.”

“True,” answers Ricardo, “no _legal_ heir,” and he, in his turn, shot a
significant glance at Bernardo, who does not in the least observe it.
“He may fear that some one of his blood might take his place that he
would not approve.”

“Sir, you speak in riddles,” cries Bernardo, cutting in. “Who is there
that the king fears will step into his place? Marry for me I know not,
nor do I care. Confusion to his surname of ‘the Chaste,’ if Alonso
brings in Charlemagne and his paladins into the hard-won land that the
noble Pelayo wrested from the Moor. By the memory of the cave of
Cavadonga and the sacred oath our ancestors swore among the savage rocks
of the Asturias” (at these words, Bernardo raises his steel cap from his
head, and stands with open brow and glistening eyes full in the glory of
the fitful sunshine), “I pledge myself never to sheathe my unworthy
sword until every invader, be he enemy or friend, Frank, Berber, or
Moor, be driven out of the limits of Leon. I swear it,” he adds in a
deep tone, laying his right hand on his breast, where, on a laced front
of velvet, was embroidered the cognizance he had received from the king.
“You are witnesses, my friends?” At which Don Favila and Don Ricardo
incline their heads, and Bernardo replaces the helmet on his head from
which floated a sombre plume, then adding, with a light laugh, “Let
Alonso play the anchorite if he will, but all of us are not blest with
his virtues.”

“Mock not, profane youth, the saintly name of our master. There is no
danger that _your_ virtues will reach the height of _his_ excellency.
His pure soul lives more in heaven than on earth,” says the voice of an
older man, an ancient Jefe much honoured by the king, advancing to join
the group, which has moved, in the energy of talk, higher up towards the
stone border of a fountain which rises from the base of a Roman statue
overgrown with moss and weeds.

“Your challenge, Bernardo, comes too late. Charlemagne is already near
the Pyrenees, with all his knights and vassals, the renowned Roland
among them; they will soon touch the soil of Leon, to accept the
inheritance our gracious king has given him. Once arrived in Leon, you
dare not, presumptuous boy, who judge your betters by yourself, draw
your sword upon the guest of Alonso.”

“He shall never be his guest,” shouts Bernardo, fire flashing from his
eyes; “neither Charlemagne nor his peers, his knights or paladins,
Roland and the rest shall set their feet in Leon. I, Bernardo del
Carpio, will bar the way.” A laugh of derision comes from the old
chamberlain, at what he considers such madness. Even Favila and Ricardo
smile, so vain it seems that this youth could stay the advance of the
greatest monarch in Christendom.

“You laugh!” cries Bernardo, turning fiercely round, his glittering eyes
aglow. “You deem I boast? Be it so. Time will show. I speak not of
Divine help, Santiago on his milk-white charger armed _cap-à-pie_ in
radiant steel interposing, or other monkish tales. If deeds are the
language of the brave, words lie with fools. Was it with words Pelayo
revenged his sister’s death and raised the Gothic standard against the
great Abdurraman? Excuse me, good sir,” he adds, breaking off suddenly,
the inspired look passing from his countenance as he addresses the older
man, whose sarcastic countenance is still sharpened to a sneer--“if I
who am so young, speak my mind. I go to the king to remonstrate.”

“You would do better to forbear,” hastily interrupts the old courtier.
“The king is at his devotions, assisted by a learned monk lately arrived
from Navarre.”

“I care not, though the air breed monks as thick as flies; you stay me
not, Sir Chamberlain.”



CHAPTER XVII

King Alonso


Bernardo hastily passed the court with swift, straight strides, his form
in shadow defined against the light. A heavy peal of thunder sounded
overhead as he turned to the right, where a marble stair, with a
sculptured balustrade, guarded by soldiers, led to the royal apartments
on the first floor, under a flat roof.

“‘Tis indeed a foul shame,” said Don Favila, looking after him, as he
and his companions took shelter under the arcade from the now thickly
falling rain, “that our king, who loves him well, does not grant him the
honours of his birth and name him his successor. He guesses not who he
is. You noted his words?” turning to Ricardo, who nodded.

“What! a bastard!” exclaimed the aged chamberlain; “a braggart and a
bastard, instead of the victorious Charlemagne? Good gentlemen, you are
distraught. Would you have a sovereign, the pureness of whose life will
pass as an example in all time, forget so far his principles as to
countenance his sister’s shame? The king, my master, has done right to
protect his kingdom from such reproach.”

Meanwhile Bernardo passes the alguazils who knew him well, his mailed
feet resounding on the marble floor as step by step he reaches a door
before which a heavy panel of tapestry is displayed, bearing a royal
crown, and beneath, the arms of Leon and Oviedo, bound by an inscription
in old Gothic letters.

The first chamber, lined with wooden wainscot and a groined oaken roof,
is bare of other furniture, save some rudely carved benches, on which
meanly attired attendants sit or lounge.

These Bernardo passes with a hasty salute, which they respectfully
return, then on into another and another chamber floored with coloured
Moorish tiles, into the last, a hugely proportioned hall, the carved
roof supported by lofty pillars. This hall, through the window of which
the lightning plays, though void of furniture, is far more ornate than
the rest, seeing that at the farther end, on a raised platform,
surmounted by a dusty canopy, is a throne, on which a royal chair is
placed, used on such rare occasions as when Alonso receives his
_compañeros_ and knights in state.

Nothing can exceed the neglect of this primitive apartment, now seen in
the deep shadow of the coming storm. Trophies of early Gothic armour are
fixed on hangings of once embroidered damask; but so little care has
been taken that the nails have given way, the tapestry has fallen, and
the mortar which knit together the solid blocks of stone is visible.

Before the throne stands a long wooden table, on which rests a rich
enamelled crucifix, set with jewels, and huge candelabra of silver,
holding waxen torches such as are used in churches to light up the
shrines of saints, a rude attempt at splendour which leaves the rest
more bare. Seats there are with time-stained leather coverings, and a
royal chair inlaid with ivory, as was also the curiously formed
footstool. Two low doors open in a recess behind the throne into two
opposite turrets, one leading to the private apartments of the king, who
lives alone--Queen Berta being relegated to a distant part of the
palace, which formed three sides of a square, fronting the cathedral,
where there is an array of delicately carved saints and martyrs niched
round the deep curves of three arched portals under two turreted
towers;--the other door opening into a small chapel, where King Alonso,
kneeling on the bare stones, passes a great part of the day and often of
the night, in ecstatic prayer and meditation.

Not for a moment did Bernardo hesitate. As he knocked on the oaken
panels interspersed with heavy nails, which opened to the chapel, the
latch yielded to his hand, and he entered as a blinding flash of
lightning gleamed bright and strong and the thunder broke loudly
overhead. An instant after, all had darkened into so profound a gloom

[Illustration: The Generalife, Granada.]

[Illustration]

that at first nothing was visible, except the dim outline of a gilt
_retablo_ behind the altar, on which a light burned day and night before
the ever-present host and such sacred bones and relics as had been saved
from desecration by the Moors.

“Who dares to break in on my devotions?” cried a harsh voice, speaking
as it were from the depths of sudden night before a shrine concealed in
the sunken curvings of the wall. “Begone! leave me to commune with the
saints.”

“It is in their name I come, O King, to defend the land they love,”
answered Bernardo, bending his knee, in a voice so young and fresh, life
and youth seemed to waft with it into the gloom.

There was a moment of silence.

“Not now, Bernardo, not now, my boy. Leave me. I have vowed a _novena_
to the Virgin of Saragossa, whose favour I specially implore, with that
of the Holy Santiago and Saint Isidore our patrons, on a great project I
have in hand. Not now.”

“Yes, _now_,” in a stern voice came from Bernardo, fronting the king,
who had turned reluctantly towards him. “What I have to say brooks not a
moment’s delay.” Another crash from without interrupts him, and a wild
whirl of hail and rain rattle outside on the casement. “Oh, my lord,” he
continues, “are there no valiant knights in Leon that you should betray
your kingdom into the hands of a strange king?”

“Betray? you dare to say _betray_, after the long and prosperous reign
heaven has vouchsafed me?” cried Alonso, rising up from where he was
kneeling as a subdued ray of light lit the sunken features of his
emaciated face, with long white hair and beard, the natural fairness of
his skin turned by time into a yellow tinge; his eyes full and grey,
with thin imperceptible eyebrows, and cheeks deeply lined with wrinkles
which collected on his high forehead under a silken cap. A noble face,
once full of manly beauty, but with an expression of coldness and
fickleness in the wandering eye, and weakness in the thin-lined mouth
which marred it. Then in a louder tone he continued: “It ill becomes
your slender years, Bernardo, and your lack of experience, to question
the wisdom of your sovereign.”

“But to sell us to a foreigner, my lord, to give us over into the hands
of the Frankish wolf! This can never be. A courage equal to
Charlemagne’s beats in a thousand Spanish breasts, and I, Bernardo, will
lead them. Not secretly and treacherously, but in the light of day.
Therefore I am come to warn you against yourself. For by no unbiassed
will of your own have you done this thing.”

“Silence, rash boy,” answered Alonso, roused into unwonted passion by
these stinging words, “you presume upon my constant favour to insult
me.”

“Never, oh never! All that I know of kindness is from you,” and Bernardo
cast himself at Alonso’s feet and seized his hands. “You are my king
and master. I forget none of your bounties to a friendless boy” (at this
word Alonso started, and laid his hand tenderly on Bernardo’s head, but
presently withdrew it with a sigh); “but neither the crown you wear nor
your bounties, had they been ten times greater, would make me a traitor
to the land.”



CHAPTER XVIII

Bernardo del Carpio’s Vow


As Bernardo knelt upon the steps of the darkened altar, on which the
outline of a saint with a dim glory seemed to bless him with
outstretched arms, something in the ardent auburn of his hair, relieved
from the pressure of his cap of steel, which he had removed before
entering, his open manly brow and honest eyes fixed on him with such
pleading warmth, touched some subtle chord of tenderness within the
King.

His sister Ximena in her youth rose up and gazed at him in Bernardo’s
eyes. Deep down in his cold heart a thrill of human affection throbbed
as he recalled their games as children and a thousand ties of girlish
love she had woven about his heart. Alas! how he had loved her! How he
still mourned her, and importuned Heaven with constant prayers, spite of
what he considered the deadly sin of her apostasy in forming an
adulterous union which shut out her son from the legal pale of kinship!
Therefore he had destroyed all record of the marriage, ever, in the
consideration of the Church, a sacrilegious act.

That the son of his sister should inherit the crown had ever been to him
a horror and a dread. Indeed, in the ramifications of his strangely
mixed nature, this fear had mainly influenced him in the choice he had
made of Charlemagne.

Now, by a sudden revulsion of feeling, the very boldness of Bernardo,
his open-handed valour and the fiery words in which he pleaded, invested
him with something sacred as the utterance of the true and rightful
defender of his people. From that moment a tardy remorse began to
possess him, and doubts of the rightfulness of his act in destroying the
proofs of his legitimacy.

“Too late, too late,” he murmured, gazing sorrowfully into the depths of
Bernardo’s clear blue eyes, and unconsciously passing his fingers
through the beads of an agate rosary suspended at his waist, as if to
invoke the assistance of the saints to maintain the steadfastness of his
resolve--then shook his head, which sank upon his breast.

All this time the war of the elements was raging without. Thunder,
lightning, wind, and rain had burst forth in one of those sudden
tempests which sweep down from the mountains even in the midst of
summer. The walls of the old palace seemed to rock, and at times the
voices of the speakers were barely audible.

“My lord, you answer not,” pleaded Bernardo, rising to his feet,
offended at the long silence, as a gleam of vivid lightning at the same
moment swept over him. “Hark! The very powers of nature protest against
your act. At least before you made us over as vassals to Charlemagne you
might have called the Cortes together, and heard what the nation had to
say. But let me tell you, Don Alonso, you have made a promise you can
never keep. Instead of the crown of Leon, Charlemagne will have to face
a nation in arms. Every man that bears the name of Castilian will rise
and water the soil with his blood rather than yield, and I, Bernardo del
Carpio, will lead them!”

For an instant the fury within him overtopped all control, but he
checked himself as Alonso answered:

“Bernardo, Bernardo! Again I warn you not to overstep the respect you
owe me. Your words are sharp, but there is a ring of truth in them, I
admit. Bethink you, my boy,” and Alonso’s voice fell suddenly into a
feeble tone, “Charlemagne is a Christian king, and a great warrior,
whose power has always curbed the Moor. To exterminate the Moslem is the
duty of sovereigns who love the saints. Who is so strong as he? Wage no
war on Christians, but keep your sword for the vile Infidels who press
round the limits of our land.”

“Christian or Moslem, my lord, Charlemagne shall never lead the knights
of Leon,” cried Bernardo. “But before I go”--(and again he bowed his
knee before the king, who had now seated himself in an arched niche, a
silver lamp suspended over his head among the rich details of garlands
and shields, crowns and badges at moments visible

[Illustration: THE CATHEDRAL OF ZAMORA, ELEVENTH CENTURY.]

in startling distinctness in the rapidly succeeding sheets of
lightning)--“tell me, I pray you, what name I bear, and from whom I am
sprung? I crave it as a boon. Men call me Bernardo del Carpio, by the
name of the castle you bestowed upon me. When I question further they
turn aside and smile. But a knight in such a battle as I go to lead
against the Franks must wear his own escutcheon on his shield, not one
granted him by favour.”

Had a viper suddenly fixed its sharpest fangs upon his flesh Alonso
could not have started with greater horror. His glassy eyes fixed
themselves on the unconscious Bernardo, who eagerly awaited his answer
to be gone, with an expression of mingled dread and terror, eyeing him
as if the foul fiend himself had crossed his path, while a tremendous
explosion of thunder overhead rattled around, and flash after flash of
lightning quivered upon the walls. At length, out of his mouth came
inarticulate words, mixed with broken phrases, but spoken so low in the
uproar created by the storm no sense came to Bernardo.

“Begone, bastard!” cried the king at length, every feature in his face
working with the violence of his passion. “Have I harboured you so many
years to open the wound of my dishonour? Is this the return you make for
all my care? Neither name nor kindred have you, so get you gone. The
sight of you offends me.”

“Oh, my lord!” answered Bernardo, whose open countenance had grown very
white, deep lines forming on mouth and brow with a sudden look of age
the course of years could not have wrought, “had any man but you spoken
thus to me, he would not have lived to draw another breath. Your words
point to some hideous secret, some foul crime, in which you share. Great
God! whence am I sprung? The very beasts have dams that suckle them, and
is Bernardo alone deprived of the common claims of nature?”

No answer came from the king; no sign, no yielding. Bernardo’s question
had struck him to the quick.

“As you pray for mercy, sire, speak one word,” urged Bernardo, the
trembling of his lips telling what he suffered. “Are father and mother
dead?”

“Both to me,” was the stern answer. “The mortal spark of life can never
reanimate the soul dead in sin. Question me no more, audacious youth.
And think not, because my blood runs in your veins that I will favour
your ambition. Rather have I called in the stranger to occupy the
throne. Now you know my mind. Were I dead, my spirit would stand as with
a flaming sword to shut you out.”

“Then sweeter far than life and honour and glory, come death!” exclaimed
Bernardo, throwing up his arms. “From this day I am a desperate man. My
sword is to me the staff of life; bloodshed and carnage the food on
which I live. Come now over the grey heights of the mountains the
Frankish host and I will meet them as never mortal did his country’s
foes. Come, great Charlemagne and all your peers; iron-fisted Guarinos,
good Ferragol, Oliver, Gayferos, and Roland, bravest of paladins. Come
all. Despair, dishonour are the keen edges to the weapon which I draw
for your destruction. An unknown knight, degraded from my place, I will
leave a name behind me that shall be honoured as long as Spain cleaves
the seas. Adieu, my lord,” turning to the king, “you have forgotten your
duty to the land you rule, come to you inch by inch, bathed in Gothic
blood. I, Bernardo del Carpio, the nameless outcast, go forth to defend
it. You have planted a dagger in my heart not hecatombs of the enemy can
draw forth. Adieu!”

“Now stay, my boy,” cried the king, laying his hand on his shoulder as
he turned to go. “Spite of the past, my heart warms to you. Take the
lion of Leon and place it on your shield; and when men ask you by what
right, answer, ‘By order of the King.’”

At this moment the tempest seemed to have reached its climax; a loud and
hollow reverberation, like the sound of a blow upon a brass timbrel,
shook the palace to its foundations and the whole firmament pulsated
with flame. But Bernardo heeded not: with his features locked in a cold,
impassive silence, he passed out.



CHAPTER XIX

Bernardo Leads the Goths against Charlemagne


The day is warm and genial, the landscape flushed with green, and such
homely blossoms as hawthorne and elder, briony and honeysuckle, flourish
in the fields.

An immense plain spreads around, verdant with pastures, gardens and
_huertas_ full of fruit-trees and clumps of planes and oaks, while
across it, flung like a silver ribbon, flows the current of the Torio
River. Hayfields, ploughed land, and squares of maize and yellowing rye,
follow each other in its course, divided by groves and wooded hedgerows
rich in roadside flowers--Canterbury bells, pink willow-wand, the humble
star daisy, and the wild rose.

Behind rise the turrets and spires of Leon, ruddy in colour, on a gentle
slope crowned by the cathedral backed by a waving line of hills fading
into the darkness of fantastic rocks, rising to the giddy heights of the
Asturian mountains capped with snow.

Nor is the fairness of the earth less than the brilliancy of the sky.
Not a cloud floats on the horizon to mar the view,--winding in and out
among the trees, the dazzle of glittering helmets in the sun; sleek
war-horses, cased in armour, curveting gaily spite of the heavy weight
laid on them; flags and emblazoned shields breaking through masses of
bright lances held aloft, battle-axes and broadswords--each knight as he
passes, followed by his esquire, trumpeter and page, riding forth on the
sacred mission, led by Bernardo del Carpio.

As one man the city follows him as he rides forth from the gate on a
white charger, the banner of Leon waving before him, a gold lion rampant
on a field of red. “It is the standard of Leon,” say those around. “The
king allows him to bear it--a high honour to a nameless knight who, men
say, never came legally into the world.”

Now cries of “Bernardo! Bernardo!” rend the air; the brazen trumpets
sound, the shrill clarion calls to arms--and as he hears the warlike
sound, the peasant quits his team to grasp a spear, the shepherd
watching his flock by running streams flings down his crook and rushes
forward, the youth whose limbs have never felt the weight of armour, the
old men who sit at home at ease--all swell the crowd, as mountain
torrents receive neighbouring rills.

“We are born free,” they say, “and free we will remain. No Frankish king
shall rule over Leon. Anointed cravens may barter the land, but under
the lion who bathes his paws in blood we will fight for ‘our land.’”

Three thousand men follow Bernardo to the field, all animated with the
spirit of their chief. The secret infamy which hangs over his birth he
dares not fathom, nor why his father is concealed, or in what manner he
is connected with the king! Some foul injustice has clearly been done
him. The thought of it rankles deeply in his soul. With this feeling
comes a growing hatred to Alonso, who at least has been privy to this
concealment, if not the cause.

Then, ashamed of permitting his own private griefs to intrude on the
noble mission he has in hand, Bernardo calls to Don Favila to ride
beside him.

“What will the king say to this armament, _amigo_?” are his first words.
“Surely he will now understand the vainness of his purpose! In what
disposition did you leave him?”

“I think he is much shaken,” is the reply, “but there are secret
reasons. You, my lord, best know his mind.”

Bernardo heaves a deep sigh.

“Talk not to me of him,” he exclaims, “he is a hypocrite, unworthy of an
honest man’s regard.” Then, seeing the look of amazement on Don Favila’s
face, “Yes! by Santiago! such is my mind, and I will fling my mailed
glove into his cursed face and tell him so, if I return from the present
adventure.”

More and more amazed, Don Favila listens. “If it were not so early in
the day, good Bernardo, I should think you had quaffed too many beakers
of wine to our success.”

“Do I look like a man who has wine in him?” answers Bernardo, bitterly.
“If wine would drown my care, I would drink a sack.”

“Tell me,” continues Favila, burning with curiosity, “by our long
friendship, what is there amiss between you and King Alonso? You were
wont to love him well.”

“Then it is past,” replies Bernardo, chafing under the questioning. “I
hate him now. It is possible you can judge of the reason better than I.
I pray you, good Favila, ask me no more; it is useless looking back.”

Don Favila, as a prudent man, held his peace. Although of a gentle and
courteous nature, there was that in Bernardo that no one dared to cross.
A look of sullen wrath is on his face he has never seen before. Has he
at last discovered the secret of his birth and the cruelty of the chaste
king?

       *       *       *       *       *

Now the little army, passing by pleasant hedgerows and fertile fields,
reaches the borders of the Ordega, crossed by a wooden bridge so narrow
that much time is occupied by the passage of the troops.

A sound of the approach of many horsemen, galloping rapidly, comes from
the road they have just traversed, and clouds of dust from the dry soil
sweep to the height of the tree-tops. Voices are heard, and the roll of
drums and the call of trumpets, but nothing as yet is seen.

“We are set upon by foes,” shouts Don Ricardo, hastily seeking out
Bernardo, who, with a set white face, watches, immovable in the saddle,
the passage of the knights across the bridge.

“Foes,” answers Bernardo, with a mocking laugh; “methinks, Ricardo, you
are suddenly grown blind not to recognise your countrymen. These are no
foes, but our own townsmen come out to join us.”

As he speaks, nearer and nearer comes the clamour, and louder and louder
upon the breeze rises the cry, “_El Rey, El Rey_,” echoing back from a
thousand voices along the line.

“Yes, it is he,” says Bernardo to those around. “I know him by his
helmet, set with gems, and the fur collar over his corselet. By the
rood, it is well he acknowledges his wrong.”

And as he turns his eyes upon Don Alonso, such a loathing possesses him,
nothing but the cause he has in hand keeps his hand from his weapon to
avenge his wrong.

Meanwhile the king’s arrival in face of the army is greeted by a shout
so long and loud mountain and hill ring with it.

In the tall, thin warrior, with a long white beard, nobly wearing a
regal diadem about his burnished helmet, no one would recognise the
emaciated anchorite who scourged and starved himself. The words of
Bernardo have stung him to the quick. He has cast off the delusions
which filled his brain; the French monks have been sent whence they
came, the armed messenger dismissed, the pledges given to Charlemagne
have been withdrawn. Even the horror of his sister’s sin in the person
of Bernardo has yielded to the nobleness of his conduct, and like a man
distraught suddenly restored to his right senses, he has ridden out to
join him.

The shouts of the crowd (for the distance from Leon has not prevented
many of the citizens following the soldiers) for a time drowns every
other sound.

Again and again King Alonso bows to the saddle-bow, and again and again
from three thousand voices comes the cry, “_Viva el Rey!_ Leon! Leon to
the rescue!”

Nor, in this moment of triumph, as he lingers on the brink of the river,
proudly contemplating the gallant body of knights, who crowd round him
to touch, if possible, the nobler charger which bears him, his mailed
hands, his rich saddle-cloth, and the royal standard borne before him,
does he forget Bernardo.

Calling to him in a loud voice he commands him to leave the van of the
army and place himself at his side.

Then raising the crossed hilt of his jewelled sword before his face, he
utters a brief prayer, and turns towards the thousands of eager visages
upraised to his.

“O men of Leon,” are his words, contemplating them with moistening eyes,
“to this brave knight--Bernardo del Carpio--I confide the land. Where he
leads, follow!”



CHAPTER XX

Death of Sir Roland the Brave


In front of the many valleys opening out from under the dark range of
the Pyrenees, they met--the Gaul and the Spaniard. The Emperor
Charlemagne with good cause curses the fickleness of the King of Leon,
who had invited him to inherit his kingdom, and instead came out to
offer him battle. Personally, he is not mentioned as taking part in the
battle--indeed, it is said he was encamped eight miles off, near
Fontarabia, but he sent forward the flower of his chivalry, those
doughty paladins, to be sung by the romanceros and troubadours to all
time: Guarinos, ferocious Ferragol, Sir Oliver the Gentle, handsome
Gayferos, and Roland the Brave, who went mad for the love of Angelica,
mounted on a powerful steed, which bounds and caracoles as if preparing
for a tourney, firmly ruled with one hand, while with the other he
carried aloft his famous sword Durindana, followed by his vassals and
retainers, in short hauberks and upright caps, with round targets like
the Moors.

The two armies met on undulating ground, descending from the chain of
the Pyrenees in front of the Pass of Roncesvalles--through which the
French had marched into Spain confident of victory--a close and terrible
defile, narrow and deep, cleft into precipitous cliffs following from
St. Jean de Luz and the defile of Guvarni on the French side, among
almost impassable gorges, which back the city of Pampeluna close on the
province of Cantabria, the land of Pelayo.

As a forest of lances and spears set on a plain of gold did the
glittering helmets look from afar in the radiance of the sunshine,
darkened by clouds of arrows, and the blades of javelins and lances
cutting the light of day as the ranks closed in deadly strife of
quivering spears and flying pennons falling round wounded horses, the
blast of trumpets and cries of dying men.

And gallantly did the King of Leon bear himself, the jewelled crown on
his _morion_ shining out in the thick of the battle, Favila and Ricardo
fighting by his side, when lo! a company of Gallic lords bore down with
such force as to leave the king alone, face to face with a knight in
dark armour, taller than the rest, a steel helmet pressing on his fiery
eyes, and the bars of his vizor raised that all might know him, as he
brandished a sword no other man could wield.

“Where,” cries this terrible paladin known as Sir Roland the Brave,
flashing fire as he whirls his good sword Durindana in the air, “is
that perjured Goth, Alonso of Leon, who bids strangers to his land and
seeks to slay them?”

“If you mean me,” answers Alonso, spurring forward, “I am here to answer
the charge.”

“Then make short shrift, false king,” cries Roland, “for traitor and
felon you are to Charlemagne, and as such you shall die.”

In courage the king is not wanting, but he stands almost alone; several
of the knights about him are dismounted, and swarms of the enemy are
gathering about them where they lie. Already the swords strike fire, but
he is soon in evil plight; Durindana has cleft the crown on his
head-piece and wounded his good charger. The weakness of his blows show
that he is no match for such an antagonist. Alonso staggers in the
saddle, when Bernardo, pounding through the centre of the Gothic knights
as with the shock of a thunderbolt, spurs forward.

“Shame on you, Sir Paladin,” he shouts, “as a craven. Are you blind,
that you see not the king’s arm is stiff with age? Turn now the fury of
your weapon on me, Bernardo del Carpio.”

“I know you not, vain boy,” is the reply, eyeing Bernardo with disdain.
“Get you a beard upon your chin before you feel the steel of Durindana.”

“Come on!” shouts Bernardo, glaring at him through the bars of his
helmet. “I promise you, you shall know me all too soon for your glory. I
am a man in search of death.”

The onslaught is so furious that blood flows in the first encounter;
the horses are disabled by the shock. To extricate themselves is the
work of a moment, and on their feet they fight.

Then Bernardo, round whose head the good sword Durindana flashes
dangerously near, seizes a battle-axe from the hands of a warrior lying
lifeless at his feet, and gathering all his strength, deals such a blow
on Sir Roland that the steel pierces down upon his neck, and stretches
him, mortally wounded, on the ground.

Smitten to death, like a pious Christian he prepares to yield up his
soul to God. But first, collecting all his strength, he clutches his
faithful sword and thus addresses it: “O sword of unparalleled
brightness, fair Durindana, with hilt of ivory and cross of gold, on
which is graven the name of God--whom now wilt thou call master? He that
possessed thee was never conquered before; nor daunted by foes, nor
appalled by phantoms. O happy sword, never was a fellow made like thee!
That thou shalt never fall into the hands of a craven or an infidel, I
will smite thee on a rock in twain.” And so he did, in the throes of
death as he was, cleaving the weapon in twain and flinging it afar. The
“_Breach of Roland_,” in the Pyrenees, is noted from that day. Then,
raising the horn slung over his corselet to his lips, with fast-ebbing
breath he blew a blast so shrill that the sound reached even to
Charlemagne’s camp, who, ignorant of the great disaster, lay in

[Illustration: THE WALLS OF ZAMORA.]

the valley of Fontarabia awaiting the issue of the battle.

At length those eyes called by the minstrels, “the bright stars of
battle and victory,” close in death, the hands drop which could root up
live trees, the noble form stiffens as he lay with outstretched arms in
the form of the cross, the sword-hilt of Durindana and the bugle by his
side.

Not only Roland, but the gentle Oliver lost his life, and the grim
admiral, Guarino, was taken prisoner, so that the Franks lost heart and
retreated into the mountain paths by which they came. A terrible
massacre ensues, led by Bernardo, and to this day Roncesvalles is known
as the “Valley of the Pass of Blood.”



CHAPTER XXI

Bernardo Learns the Secret of his Birth--Joins the Moors


And now Bernardo is home again in the red-walled streets of Leon. Others
long for life, he has sought for death; but the dark angel has not
answered to his call.

As he paces along a narrow path bordering the city walls, above him the
low turrets which Witica had spared, looking over to the green plains of
Galicia, he knows that he has won himself a name as great as that of
Pelayo, but a dark frown is on his young face, and gloomy thoughts chase
each other through his brain.

How changed from the frank and joyous youth is this dark-visaged
warrior! He shuns all his former friends; to no one will he speak, and
least of all to the king, whom he justly accuses as the cause of his
dishonour.

“What matters the splendour of my deeds,” he tells himself, speaking
aloud, “when the mystery of my birth shuts me out from knightly deeds?
Who will cross swords with Bernardo, save in the tumult of the
battlefield? The fair face of woman never will shine on me; no love
token touch my hand, no child call me father. O cruel parents, could not
all my achievements move you to own a son so long forgotten? Who are
you? Are you dead, to remain unmoved when the name of Bernardo rings
throughout Spain? Who knows”--and his mind shifts to another train of
thought--“but that my father himself may feel that his name will
dishonour me?”

“O Bernardo, wrong not your father,” speaks a low voice behind him. “It
is not his fault, the deep vaults of a prison cover him.”

Bernardo, who has not realised that he had been thinking aloud, turns
with amazement and finds himself face to face with Doña Sol, an ancient
gentlewoman, _camaréra_ to Queen Berta.

“Now may the saints bless thee, venerable Señora,” he cries, seizing her
wrinkled hands, “if you can tell me aught of that which never leaves my
thoughts.”

“All is known to me,” is the answer. “The king was but a child when I
first came to the palace, but,” and she moves to and fro uneasily, and
searches around cautiously with her eyes, “if I should be suspected of
having disclosed the secret, nothing but my death would satisfy the
king. These ramparts are too public for such speech. Come into the
shadow of that tower yonder, where no one can hear us.”

Bernardo, who had faced without a thrill the flash of Durindana, grows
pale and trembles like a girl.

“Be calm, Bernardo,” says the lady, about whose head and neck a long
lace mantilla is folded, disclosing among the folds a worn and gentle
face, marked with the trace of many sorrows. “No base blood is in your
veins, not a knight in Leon is more nobly born.”

“Go on, go on!” urges Bernardo, wringing her hands, “more than my life
is in your words.”

“The blood of kings,” she continues, “is in your veins.”

“Ha!” exclaims Bernardo, “then my suspicions are true? The king has ever
favoured me. Is he my father? Why should he conceal it?”

“No, no,” answers Doña Sol, “the king, dear Bernardo, is not your
father, but you are of his blood. That keeps every one silent who would
dare to tell you, for the king has forbidden it, on pain of death!”

“Then who is my father?”

“Don Sancho Diaz, Count of Saldaña,” answers the Dueña, “the greatest
noble in Leon, and your mother is the Infanta Doña Ximena, sister of the
king.”

“But the king called me Bastard!” cries Bernardo.

“It was a true marriage all the same,” replies the _camaréra_, “only, as
Doña Ximena was destined to be the Abbess of the Convent of San Marcos,
the king considered it an adulterous union, she being dedicated to the
Church. I should know all about it, seeing I stood by them at the
altar.”

“You! you!” exclaims Bernardo, passing from astonishment to
astonishment, as, following her step by step, she draws aside, alarmed
at his threatening countenance. “Why did you never speak?”

“Because your mother, alas! is dead, and your father”--here Doña Sol
stopped, her courage failed. She heartily wished she had never
undertaken the dangerous office. She was as one who, having let loose
the bulwarks of a mighty flood, stands trembling by, to contemplate the
havoc he has made. How was she to tell the truth to this impetuous
soldier, standing over her trembling in every limb?

“My mother dead!” repeats Bernardo in a deep low voice, his fingers
grasping the hilt of a dagger at his waist, his haggard face turned on
her, “and my father, where?”

“Alas! I know not,” sobs the terrified Dueña, bursting into tears. “For
long he lay in the castle of Luna, imprisoned, but if he is alive still
I do not know.”

“Then I will speedily discover!” says Bernardo, and without a word he
rushes from her presence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alonso, returned from the wars, has resumed his former mode of life.
With his armour he has doffed the sentiments of a man. He is too old to
change. Again monks and friars gather round him, and flatter him with
praises of the virtue of continence which will make his name
illustrious. Again he fasts and flagellates himself as before.

The thought of what he owes Bernardo troubles him, but not for a moment
does the obstinacy of his resolution relax. Never will he acknowledge
him, or liberate his father.

It is evening, the fretted towers of the Gothic cathedral glisten
against a bank of heavy mists, rapidly welling up from the south. The
clouds deepen with the twilight. The lustre of a stormy sunset is fading
out. The sun disappears, and darker and denser shadows gather and
obscure the light. Low thunder rumbles in the distance and a few heavy
raindrops have fallen.

Again, with rapid steps, Bernardo traverses the Roman court of the
palace; again he is challenged by the guards as he passes. Neither Don
Ricardo nor Favila is there. Ricardo was badly wounded at Roncesvalles,
and the gay Favila has gone to lead a sally against the Moors, those
ever-pressing adversaries, not to be wholly overcome for many a long
year.

But the dog Poilo is there, the noble hound who forgets neither friend
nor foe. Wagging his tail, he leaps forward and with sharp barks of joy
flings himself upon Bernardo, licking his hands and thrusting his large
nose between his fingers.

But Bernardo passes and heeds him not; nay, in his fierce mood, he
raises his hand as if to strike him, as barring his desperate path--but
he forbears as he meets a keen pair of faithful eyes fixed on his face,
which, if a dog can shed tears as some pretend, are filled with moisture
at the rude rebuff; then, retiring to a distance, his tail between his
legs, Poilo sadly watches the figure of Bernardo as he strides hastily
onwards up the stairs to seek the king.

He is seated at a table, in company with a monk, and is at that moment
employed in turning over the leaves of an illuminated missal, on the
value of which he is descanting. The same aged chamberlain, who so
stoutly maintained the justice of the king’s conduct towards Doña
Ximena, peaceably slumbers in a corner, his ivory wand of office in his
hand.

Suddenly the monotonous voice of the monk ceases, for, raising the arras
which hangs before the entrance, Bernardo del Carpio stands in the
doorway. His cap is in his hand, his eyes are turned on the ground, but
his compressed lips and tightly knitted hands betray his agitation.

Since the battle of Roncesvalles, Bernardo and the king have not met
alone. The debt of gratitude he owes him has envenomed the king’s mind.
His tenderness has turned to jealousy and suspicion.

“How now, Bernardo,” he says in an angry voice, raising his eyes from
the manuscript, “do you presume so much on your success that you dare to
come unbidden into my presence?”

“Perhaps I do,” replies Bernardo, advancing into the room and placing
himself at the head of the table in front of the king, spite of the
feeble efforts of the old chamberlain, who has waked up and endeavours
to prevent it.

“Perhaps I have the right.”

“Ha! what right?” demands Alonso, gazing at him curiously from under the
bushy fringe of his eyebrows.

“The right of your nearest of blood,” answers Bernardo, his eyes fixed
on the king.

“Now curses on you!” exclaims Alonso rising, and stretching out his thin
hands, as if to shut out the image of one who represented to him mortal
sin. “It is a lie. Who can have told you?”

“No matter,” answers Bernardo; “suffice it that I know.”

“Talk not to me of kinship. You have no name save that of the traitor
who bore you.”

“Nay, drive me not too far, old man. You are my king and I have saved
your life. Your horse was wounded under you, the sword of Roland was at
your throat, your blood flowed like water when I ventured mine.”

“Seize him, seize him!” shouts Alonso. “Guards where are you? What?”
turning to the chamberlain, “do you favour this braggart?” But no one
stirs. The monk glided out at the first entrance of Bernardo, and the
old chamberlain, whose peaceful life has never led him into scenes of
strife, stands with open eyes, transfixed with terror.

“Now listen, Don Alonso,” cries Bernardo,

[Illustration: A MOORISH GATEWAY.

(Burgos.)]

mastering the rage which, like a whirlwind, seized him at sight of the
king. “Either on the instant you promise to give into my hand my father,
Don Sancho of Saldaña, or I will fortify my castle of Carpio and take
service with the Moor. I am at least near enough the throne in blood not
to serve a liar and a hypocrite.”

These words are spoken slowly. His voice has a strange ring in it. “Now,
by this blade, which I have proved owes no lord but Heaven and me, King,
Conde, or Grandeza, swear, King Don Alonso, to set my father free.”

“Nay, Bernardo,” answers the king, putting by the weapon with his hand.
“Not in this guise let us speak.”

His look and manner have suddenly changed. He is roused into alarm at
Bernardo’s threat of taking service with the Moor, not in his case only
but in many others the last refuge of disappointed patriots.

“Your father shall be free, according to your desire. I give you my
royal word. On the seventh day from this, you yourself shall meet him at
Salamanca. Of the imprisonment of the Conde de Saldaña and my treatment
of--” (even now he could not bring himself to pronounce Doña Ximena’s
name), “I am answerable to God and to the Church alone. My conscience
absolves me; my reasons are my own. No oath is needful,” seeing that
Bernardo still holds his sword. “Let us part friends.”

“No, by the Holy Virgin of Compostela, we never can be friends. You have
blasted my life and that of those who bore me. I would die a hundred
deaths ere such a thing could be.”

“Bethink you of my former kindness to you,” urges the king. “You bore
the standard of Leon in the wars.”

No answer comes from Bernardo. There was that in the sudden change of
the king’s demeanour which roused his suspicions. He liked not the
smoothness of Alonso’s speech nor the smile he had called up. Could he
be mocking him?

“You hesitate!” cries Alonso. “Are you bold enough to doubt a king’s
word?”

Still no answer, but Bernardo’s eyes gather upon him, as though he would
read his soul. Then, boldly as he had come, he turns on his heel, and
raising the arras, passes out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon the broad corn-bearing country about Salamanca a pavilion is
erected, by order of the king, at the spot where Bernardo is to meet his
father.

With him are Don Ricardo and Favila, by the king’s command, and a
company of knights “to do honour to the meeting of a father and
long-parted son.”

As they draw near the city walls, the noise of timbrels and trumpets
sounds on the breeze, and a glittering band of fifty guards with naked
swords, and a troop of knights wearing their vizors up, are seen
advancing along the Roman bridge of many arches which crosses the river.

Foremost among them rides a splendidly accoutred figure in a coat of
mail; long sleeves of crimson velvet fall from his shoulders, a shield
with his cognisance catches the light, a hood and collar of mail conceal
his face; his lower limbs are sheathed like the body in plates of steel,
a broadsword and poniard hang at the saddle-bow, and his horse, a
massive charger, is enveloped, like his master, in plaited mail.

When Bernardo beholds this superbly armed cavalier slowly passing the
bridge, the linked bridle of his war horse held by two pages, and an
esquire behind carrying his lance and shield, “O God!” is all he can
say; “it is the Count of Saldaña. He is coming at last--my father,” and
he spurs his horse into a wild gallop.

Already he has dismounted to kiss his father’s hand, already he clasps
his mailed gauntlet and looks into his face. Great God! It is the livid
countenance of a corpse! The dead weight of Bernardo’s hand causes the
body to swerve and fall forward upon the saddle-bow.

Alonso has kept his word, the Count of Saldaña is given free into his
hands, but he has been secretly murdered in prison, and it is his
dressed-up body that appears before his son.

A cry of agony comes from Bernardo.

“O father, Don Sancho Diaz,” are his words, as he reverently replaces
the body on the saddle, “in an evil hour did you beget me; I have given
everything for you, and now I have lost all.”

       *       *       *       *       *

To his stronghold, the castle of Carpio, Bernardo carries his father’s
corpse, and places it in the centre of the chapel before the altar.
Beside it he kneels, a broken-hearted man.

There lies the parent he has so long sought in vain, and whose existence
was a mystery to him from his birth. Dead he is, and yet to this lonely
man something tangible is before him even in his corpse--something with
which he can commune as with his own.

After a while rising up, his eyes fixed on the bier, Bernardo unsheathes
the sword with which he slew Roland and saved the king at Roncesvalles.

“O sword!” he cries, “my trusted blade. In my hand you have drunk the
blood of France, be strong for my revenge! Never in a more sacred cause
was weapon drawn. My father thirsts for your sure stroke, and his son
can wield it. Go up, go up, thou blessed spirit, into the hands of God,”
and he stoops to kiss the dead man’s hand, “and fear not that the blood
flowing in Bernardo’s veins shall be spared in vengeance on Alonso.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Here the _romanceros_ leave him. He did not kill the king, but he made
good his promise of joining the Moors in revenge for his father’s
murder, and died fighting against the king.



CHAPTER XXII

_El Conde de Castila_


Castile formed no part of the new kingdom of Leon and was governed by
its own lord. And here we come on a noticeable history of how the lion
was added to the castle on the arms of Spain by the last Conde de
Castila, Fernan Goncalze, the founder of the line of the present
dynasty, as distinguished from that of the early Gothic kings, who died
out in the person of Bernardo the Third, the last descendant of Pelayo,
A.D. 999.

Now King Sancho the Fat, King of Leon, A.D. 955, noticeably a heavy and
lazy man, leaving much in the hands of his mother, Doña Teresa, is
jealous of the power of Castila, and has joined with her brother, the
King of Navarre, in a conspiracy to divide it between them, for which
purpose the count is invited to Leon to attend the Cortes, where vital
matters concerning that never-ending strife between the Christians and
the Moors are to be considered.

Fernan comes, but misdoubting Don Sancho’s good faith, brings with him
so numerous a retinue of knights and men-at-arms that no open attack on
him is possible. But the Queen Doña Teresa, like a wicked fairy, steps
in.

“What matters,” says she to the fat Sancho, speaking within the recesses
of the same Roman palace where Alonso prayed and fasted and Bernardo
raged--“what matters how many he brings? We must befool him, flatter,
deceive--thus you will take him. Make great show of favour to him, my
son, cover him with false words, and unsuspecting he will send his
people home.”

The Conde de Castila, say the ballads, was a very proper man, in the
full bloom of manhood, tall, slender, and gay; he wore his mailed armour
with a wondrous grace on a perfect form, the red plume on his casque
gave him a lordly air, and that he was brave and romantic his history
will show.

“Good, my kinsman,” says the king to him after many soft phrases, “you
have brought with you to Leon the most perfect steed that ever I set
eyes on. Methinks if I bestrode him in battle, I could laugh at the
Moors.”

“Greatly it pleases me,” answers the Conde, “that my mare should win
your praise; she is a noble animal; a cross with an Arab mare. I pray
you to accept Sila for your own.”

“Nay,” replies the wily king, “that is not fair. Had you come with that
intention, it might be otherwise; but, as I have induced you to so
generous an offer, let us fix a just price, especially as the hawk you
wear upon your wrist has greatly caught my fancy too. For horse and hawk
we will settle thus: If the sum fixed on between us be not paid by this
day year, it shall be _doubled_ every succeeding one.”

“As you will, King Don Sancho,” the Conde makes reply. “I would have
given them both freely to you; but so let it be.”

Showing in this most cunning answer that, great _hidalgo_ as he was, he
was not above accepting such moneys, as came in his way. Nor did the
King of Leon disdain to make a bargain to his mind, which gave him both
horse and hawk for nothing, seeing that he and his wicked mother did not
intend the Conde to live.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here they are interrupted by Queen Doña Teresa entering the chamber,
preceded by her Jefe bearing a silver wand and followed by her dueña. A
stately and commanding figure, even in middle age, and splendid in her
apparel. The rings on her fingers are worth a king’s ransom; her widow’s
coif is sown with pearls, and the edges of her long robe trimmed with a
dark fur and jewels. A very imposing personage, Doña Teresa, who rules
both her son and in the palace with a rod of iron. As Regent, she
attempted to do the same with Castila, but the Gothic nobles and the
Gothic church resisted, and put her down.

“How now?” says she, seating herself on a ponderous chair, heavy with
carving, as the others rise and make low obeisance, her dueña, in a
stiff starched black robe and high head-dress, standing behind her.
“Your talk is of horses and of hawks, when such serious matter presses
in the Cortes? Have you no better entertainment,” turning to her son,
“for the Conde when Almanzor reigns at Cordoba, and harries us with his
troops? Hakim, the book-worm, was an easy man, and spent his time in
buying rare manuscripts and parchments; but this one is a fire-brand,
and his generals, Ghalid and the Prince of Zab, take from us much booty
and many towns. If God aid us not, we shall again become tributaries to
the Moors.”

“Doña Teresa the Queen,” answers the Conde, bowing with the lofty
courtesy natural to him, in reply to this somewhat rude and boisterous
speech, “you cannot address one more of your own mind than myself. If
Don Sancho and I discoursed on lighter matters, it is not that I am
unmindful of the growing power of the infidels. For this cause I am come
to the Cortes. By Santiago, do I not know that your royal brother, the
King of Navarre, was lately brought to his knees by this same swarthy
Almanzor, whom the devil blast! because one Moslem woman was harboured
in his land?”

“Truly I have cause to remember it,” is her answer, and an evil twinkle
came into her eyes. “What say you, Conde, to a closer alliance among the
Christians with Navarre, a marriage for instance, as a tighter bond? The
Gothic nations can only hope to drive back our enemy by standing by
each other. King Garcia has a daughter, very fair, and of singular
courage and accomplishments. What say you, whom Nature has formed at all
points to please a lady’s eye”--(at this compliment the Conde again bows
low, and kisses the queen’s hand)--“to an alliance which will bind
together the powers of Leon, Navarre, and Castile?”

In the king’s face, turned somewhat aside, first came a look of blank
astonishment, succeeded by a smile so malignant that had Castila seen it
he would certainly not have consented.

“By my faith,” are the king’s words, suddenly assuming an aspect of the
most intense interest, “a very excellent proposal. Refuse it not, my
lord. Men say in Leon that I rule, but that Queen Doña Teresa holds the
reins of state. Who better? Follow my example. Her judgment is
excellent.”

But the Conde saw not the matter in that simple light. With much
misgiving he had come to Leon. Hostile to him, he knew, was the queen,
and Don Sancho was ruled by her.

“You hesitate,” exclaims Doña Teresa, her visage forming into a dark
frown; “better not to give good counsel than to have it cast in one’s
teeth.”

“Nay, Doña the Queen, I did but consider your words. The matter is too
important to be accepted offhand.”

“You bestow your own hand, I suppose, yourself?” she asks with a sneer.

Again the Conde bowed.

“Where else could you give it better? You are not already married, I
presume, from a weariness in your mind at having so many who would claim
the title.”

“It would not become me to say so,” put in Fernan, a genuine blush
rising on his cheek.

“This alliance would certainly knit the Christians together,” urges the
king, now speaking with a certain vehemence, “at a moment of great
danger to us all. Almanzor is a leader of renown, backed by great
riches.”

“Why not see the Infanta for yourself?” asks the queen. “Start from here
on this joyous pilgrimage of love.” Again that strange look came into
her eyes, as she fixed them on Fernan, and again the fat king showed his
contentment by a hidden glance.

“To see the lady would indeed be my desire,” the Conde answers, all the
same somewhat staggered by this insistence for his advantage in those he
had good cause to know bore him no goodwill. He had hitherto little
considered the subject of marriage. Still it was true; the alliance was
for the good of all.

“The idea pleases me,” he says at last--(perhaps these enemies had come
to a better mind). “Thank you, Doña the Queen, and my good kinsman, Don
Sancho. This occasion also assures me of your friendship, which I have
sometimes had in doubt.” Here deprecatory looks passed between the king
and his mother, as under protest at such an assertion. “Indeed, at Leon,
I am half-way on the road. I will go.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Gaily Fernan set forth on his journey over the mountains to the Court of
Navarre. Not followed, as he came to Leon, with a warlike train, but
with gorgeously arrayed chamberlains, esquires, and pages, covered with
silk and embroidery, and showy heralds with nodding plumes flying the
pennon of Castile, all mounted on horses with fine and slender limbs,
accoutred with saddle-cloths, and trappings as richly decorated as their
riders.

He himself, as Doña Teresa truly said, “was formed by Nature to please a
lady’s eye,” graceful, athletic, with light-brown hair curling on his
neck and a short beard worn in the fashion of the day, partly concealing
his regular features, expressive of a singular sweetness; with a voice,
too, although well tuned to the tone of command, capable of modulating
into the gentlest tones of love.

Thus he rode over the plains of Northern Spain and through the gorges of
the mountains, up the rocky defiles where Roland’s blood was shed, to
the ancient Roman city of Narbonne, standing on a rock over the sea,
time-worn and rugged in aspect, as having borne many a siege, for the
small kingdom of Navarre was ever industrious in war.

Don Garcia, the king, feigned great joy at the Conde’s arrival. His
royal kinsfolk at Leon had put him on the track, but the redoubtable
courage of the Conde called for great caution.

And the Infanta, Doña Ava? From the first moment his heart was won.

Entering from her bower chamber into the old hall of the castle of
Navarre, where reigned an atmosphere of troubadours and song, he saw her
taking her place at a banquet held in his honour.

A very Queen of Hearts she seemed to him, blandly sweet, with tender
eyes of heavenly blue, under the curve of faultless eyebrows, a little
dimple in her cheek, the very home of love, and smiling lips, curved
like Cupid’s bow.

“By my faith!” muttered Fernan to himself, as he doffed his jewelled
cap, and advanced to kiss her hand; “but she is fair enough to move St.
Anthony himself. Methinks I have been most unjust in doubting the good
faith of Doña Teresa in proposing to me so sweet a bride.”

And the Infanta loved him; and her treacherous father, Garcia Sanchez,
tempted by the prize to be attained, of half of the kingdom of Castile,
by all means encouraged their frequent meetings in bower and hall, in
hawking, falcon on wrist, when they rode together in the woods, or when
the troubadours tuned their lyres to sing _cancioneros_ when the
sea-winds were still.

How can words tell of the raptures of the Conde? His greatest enemies
had procured his greatest joy! He had only to stretch out his hand to
clasp

[Illustration: THE GATEWAY ON SITE OF ANCIENT PUERTA DE SERRANOS.

(Valencia.)]

a jewel without price. Tender delusions of youth! alas! why should fate
shatter them?

       *       *       *       *       *

One moonlight night they had wandered together on the battlements of the
castle into a pleasaunce of ancient elms, interlacing in thick arches
overhead; the dueña, who never left them, disposing of herself apart at
a discreet distance.

Below the sea lay calm and still, wrapped in deep shadow, save where
wave followed wave, gently catching the moonbeams for an instant, then
falling back into an endless rotation.

“Oh, love, how fair is the night,” says the Infanta, with a happy sigh,
casting her eyes round on earth and heaven. “Methinks I have nothing
more to wish.”

But Fernan answers not. His gaze is fixed on her; the pale tresses of
her golden hair shining through the meshes of a jewelled veil, her eyes
melting with fondness, the soft outline of her face and that adorable
dimple--from the first sight of which he dates his present
transports--intoxicate his sense, and forgetting that she is an Infanta,
daughter of a king, in a moment of passion he clasps her in his arms.

“See, sweetheart,” says he, still holding her in his embrace, “how the
moonlight flickers on yonder trees.”

“Yes,” is her answer. “Yet, did I not know we were safe, I could almost
believe some one was watching behind the trees. Let us go back to the
castle.”

“I can see nothing but you,” he answers, looking down at her. “You are
the very goddess of the night!”

“But it is late,” she urges, rising to her feet; “if I stay longer I
shall have bad dreams. Let us go.”

“Oh, Ava, my Infanta!” he murmurs pressing her in his arms, “I could
stay here for ever! Tell me again you love me! Repeat it a thousand
times!”

The language of love is the same in all ages. This was said nearly a
thousand years ago, and has been repeated since, millions of times, but
what matter? When soul speaks to soul, however fervently, language has
limits, therefore there is a certain sameness in the expression.

While the hot words of love are on his lips, the branches of the trees
are parted by unseen hands, a group of dark, muffled figures rush out,
daggers glitter in the moonlight, and before he can draw his sword he is
mastered. Cords bind him hand and foot, a mask is placed upon his face,
and he is hurried below into the deep dungeon of the castle.

The treason is so vile, the act so base, for awhile it seems to him like
the glamour of a dream, but the weight of the heavy fetters pressing
into his flesh, the dark and narrow cell where light barely penetrates,
the damp cold that chills his blood, the shame, the loneliness, the
silence--these are no dreams!

“Ah, Ava! Ava! you never loved me!” he cries in his anguish. “Your
baneful charms served but as a bait. Now God forgive you, lady! my heart
will break, and by your act! The Moors will rejoice, as they pour over
the land, that my hand is shortened and I cannot strike! Alas! falseness
is in your blood! Who could guess that those heavenly eyes were but as
nets to lure me? Ah, King Don Garcia, is this the honour of a Christian
knight? Fool, madman that I was, I knew they were traitors, and for the
sake of a woman I am trapped, like a page seeking butterflies!”

Thus did the unhappy Conde complain, returning ever to the name of the
Infanta. Her treachery was the deepest wound of all.

Now it is that the _romanceros_ take up the tale of his captivity, and
thus they sing:

“They have carried him into Navarre, the great Conde de Castila, and
they have bound him sorely, hand and heel!

“The tidings up to the mountains go, and down among the valleys!

“To the rescue! to the rescue, ho!”

And the Infanta? Need I say that charming princess did not deserve his
accusations? But she was forced to dissemble, lest his life should be
taken by her father, as cruel and remorseless a parent as ever figured
in fairy tale or song. Such monsters were frequently met with in the
olden time, and the nature of their characters and motives are hard to
read by the light of modern times. It is possible indeed such may still
exist, but now they snare their daughters’ lovers by other means than
poison and iron chains, though, perchance, they leave them as husbands
as disconsolate as before.



CHAPTER XXIII

Doña Ava


At a great festival given by Don Garcia, Doña Ava sat at the board. The
jewels that decked her coif and neck but increased the paleness of her
eyes. No love-dimple dented her fair cheek; it had vanished with the
presence of Fernan, and the white lips he had so boldly kissed gave
utterance to secret sighs. She spoke no word as she sat in the light of
the torches fixed on the walls, nor took any heed of the company of
guests, but leaned back, lost in dismal remembrance of the night when
her lover, with soft brown hair, who had ridden across the mountains to
ask her hand, was beside her.

On the raised dais was a pilgrim knight with a red cross on his breast,
arrived from Normandy, and riding through Navarre to cross swords with
the Moors at Saragoza. But who he was, or on what special errand he had
come, he did not reveal even to the king.

The Infanta took little heed of him, but as the feast proceeded and the
gold loving-cup passed round from hand to hand, and each guest quaffed
the red wine in honour of the king, she looked up and saw his eyes
earnestly fixed on her.

Then a whisper came to her ear, so low that the voice did not ruffle a
hair of the delicate locks which so beautified her face and neck.

“Fernan still loves you,” said the voice, “spite of the little kindness
you have shown him. I have visited him in prison; I bribed the Alcaide
with many golden bezants; you might do the same. Bethink you of the
curse which will cleave to your name--worse than Don Julian’s daughter,
_La Cava_--if his life be lost. For your sake he came into Navarre. It
is for you to set him free!”

As the pilgrim spoke Ava’s cheeks grew red and white by turns. She
trembled, hesitated, while silent tears rose in her eyes, and fell one
by one on her rich robe. At length, with faltering voice she whispered
back again, watching the moment when the king had turned aside in
earnest speech with some nobles from Leon, quaffing to their health in a
cup of Cyprus wine taken in the last foray with Almanzor in the North:

“I promise you I will. Tell me who you are and whence you come. Happy is
the prince who possesses such a friend.”

Then the stranger explained that he was no pilgrim from Normandy, but a
trusty Castilian knight come from Burgos to find his lord, and that so
well had he acted his part that he had deceived the whole court and
discovered him.

The dungeon into which the Conde de Castila had been borne by the slaves
of Don Garcia (for so much did Moslem habits prevail at that time, it
was common for Christians also to have Nubian and Ethiopian slaves) lay
at the foot of many steep flights of stairs in the very foundations of
the castle. Overhead the sea boomed against the walls in ceaseless
waves, bellowing with thundering uproar.

He had at first been callous to his fate. In the immediate expectation
of a violent death, life and its interests had faded from his thoughts.
The image of the Infanta was ever with him, but as a bright phantom from
another world with whom he could have no concern, rather than as the
reality of a mortal love.

Was she true or false? _That_ lay in the mystery of the past. As a dying
man he had no past. He forgave her, even if she were false. Whither he
went she could not follow. He must die, and leave revenge to his people.
Soon they will know the treachery of the king. His faithful subject, the
seeming pilgrim, will ride straight to Burgos, call together the Cortes,
and declare war. But little will that help him when he is dead! Alas!
all fails!

Day after day he waited for some sign from the friend who had risked his
life to find him. None came. He was forgotten, and he longed to die!

In the dead of night he had thrown himself on a rough couch of ox-hide,
and, hiding his face in his hands, groaned heavily. At length a
feverish sleep had come to his relief, when, starting up, it seemed
that the silence was broken by a sound of footsteps.

“Now, by the wounds of Christ, my hour is come,” he told himself. “King
Garcia will take from me that life he dare not attempt by combat in the
field,” and he rose up to meet death as became a man.

The footsteps came nearer and nearer and now there is the dim glimmer of
a light.

“They come, they come; but how cautiously. Is it that the assassins
would strike me while I sleep?”

Plainer and plainer were the steps, and brighter and brighter shone the
light which fell across the floor. Now they are at hand, close at the
door. Deftly and noiselessly the heavy chains are loosed. The door
opens. A figure, dim in the shadow, stands before him. He strains his
eyes in the darkness. Great God! Can it be true? It is the Infanta! She
is alone.

“Ava, my princess!” cries Fernan, and such a transport of rapture
possesses him the words will scarcely come, “you are not false,” and he
clasps her to his heart.

Then she explains to him how, following the counsel of the pilgrim
knight whom he had sent to her, she bribed the Alcaide with all the
jewels she possessed.

“And could you, Don Conde,” says she, gazing up into his face from under
the folds of the heavy mantilla which concealed her features, “could
you doubt my honour and my faith? Out on the base thought! Shame on your
weak love! I waited but the occasion, and it came.”

“Oh! let me hear your voice,” sighs the love-sick Conde, “though it rain
curses on me! Forgive my unworthy doubt, or that in aught I misjudged
you. I am sure you pleaded for me. Have you softened the king’s heart?”

“No, not a whit,” answers Ava, with a sigh. “His enmity but grows more
dangerous as the time wears on for him to depart to Burgos to meet King
Don Sancho and his mother.”

“To Burgos, my capital?”

“Yes, they will divide your kingdom, and then march against Almanzor.
Fernan, you have no friend but me!”

“Now may the foul fiend seize them on the way!” cries the Conde. “Oh!
that I had a sword to fight! Castile and Burgos in their hands! The
dastards! And I am bound here like a slave!”

“But I am come to free you!” replies the Infanta, with such courage in
her voice that already the fresh air of freedom seems to fan his cheek,
as with deft hands she loosens his fetters. “The door is open, before
you lies the way.”

“And you, dear Ava,” clasping her willing hand “are we to part thus?”

At this question she hung her head, and a great blush mounted to her
cheeks.

“Ah, my lord,” she whispered, and the little dimple came back again,
forming near her lip, “I fain would fly with you. For this I came, never
to part again.”

“Then,” says the ballad, “he solemnly saluted the Infanta as his bride
on brow and lip, and hand in hand they went forth together into the
night.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Had there been court painters in those days, they might fitly have
depicted the Conde, flushed with hope, the Infanta at his side, feminine
and sweet, as one of those blonde images adored on altars pale amid the
perfume of incense, caracoling through the greenwood on their way to
Burgos.

The geography of the Conde’s progress is rather loose, but we will
figure to ourselves a forest glade of wide-branching oaks, which had
perhaps sheltered the advance of the Roman legions from Gaul. Athwart
rambles a rocky stream, a gentle eminence lies in front, crowned by a
group of olives.

As they address themselves to the ascent, the figure of a priest
appears, mounted on a mule, equipped in a strange fashion, a mixture of
cassock and huntsman, a bugle round his neck and a hawk upon his wrist.

“Now stop you. Stop you,” he shouts, placing himself full across the
way; “Castila knows you both, fair Infanta, and you, Lord of Castila. I
have seen you at the castle. What unlawful game are you after? Dismount,
Sir Conde, and give account to me, the purveyor of these forests for
the king.” And the bold priest presses his mule close up to them.

“By the rood! Conde or no Conde, I will dismount to please no man,”
answers he. “Nor shall the Infanta, as you say you know her. Remove
yourself, I pray, Sir Priest, from our way, or your tonsure shall not
save you from a whipping.”

“That is at my pleasure,” is the reply. “But as the Infanta seems to
have yielded willingly to your blandishments, Conde de Castila, I stay
you not if you pay me a fitting ransom.”

“A ransom!” quoth he, “that is a most singular demand from a consecrated
priest, who ought to be saying his prayers, instead of hawking in the
greenwood. No ransom will I pay.”

“Then I will teach you a lesson,” and the vagrant churchman raises his
bugle to his lips. “A note from my little instrument and you will soon
lie again in chains.”

“Do your worst, craven,” shouts the Conde in a rage, spite of the
whispers of the Infanta, seated behind him on a pad of the broad saddle,
her arms clasped round his waist; “it shall never be said that Fernan
Gonzales yielded to a pilfering clerk.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than, reddening with rage, the
priest blew a long loud blast, among the ancient oaks. At this the
Infanta could no longer keep silence.

“Help, help!” she shouted, “for the Conde de Castila,” and Gonzales,
though embarrassed with her weight, rode fiercely forward raising his
hand to strike, for he had no sword. But the treacherous priest,
setting spurs to his mule, galloped down the glade at headlong speed,
sounding his horn. The noise he made was heard by others--the rattle of
horses’ hoofs came rapidly in the wind, and a company of horsemen
advanced with threatening aspect.

“Ah, now is our time come!” cries the Infanta, “the vile priest has done
for us. We cannot fly. Alack! alack! the evil day!”

“Nay, comfort thee, sweet one,” answers Fernan, “I will face them,
though I die.” At which the tears stream down Doña Ava’s face, and she
clasps her arm tighter around him.

“Now, by the heaven above us,” exclaims the Conde, “what miracle is
this? It is my own dear standard--the banner of Castile! There is ‘the
castle’ as large as life on its gold ground. Long may it flourish, the
blessed sign. Draw near, draw near, my merry men! Behold, my sweet
Infanta,”--stealing a hidden kiss--“these are my own true subjects!
Castile, Castile to the rescue! Look, how bright are their lances! How
the sun shines on the blades! Every sword is for my Ava; every sword
gleams for her! Ah! there is my trusty knight, brave Nuño Ansares, who
visited me in prison,” addressing the leader of the troop. “Never did
vassal better serve his lord! The horn of that robber-priest, instead of
harming us, has saved our lives. Now to Burgos ride, ride for our
lives!”



CHAPTER XXIV

Marriage of Doña Ava and El Conde de Castila--Treachery of Doña Teresa


Burgos was reached without further incident, and in a few days the
marriage of the Conde and the Infanta was solemnised with great pomp in
the church of Sant’ Agueda on the hill, under a mantle of delicate
sculpture which lined the walls.[1]

 [1] The beautiful cathedral at Burgos was built later by Fernando El
 Santo, King of Castile.

Now here it should be said, as in the fairy tales, “They married and
lived happily ever after.” Not at all. We are only at the beginning of
their troubles.

The rage of Don Sancho of Leon and King Garcia of Navarre, the father of
Doña Ava, knew no bounds. Genuine rage, for they had both been caught in
their own trap, a thing utterly unbearable to malignant natures, be they
kings or commons.

As to the King of Navarre, who not only had lost a highly valuable
marriageable daughter, but the half of the kingdom of Castile, he at
once assembled a strong army, under the pretence that the Conde had
feloniously carried off the Infanta--a curious accusation, considering
that he himself had consented to their nuptials.

“Let us wait till he comes to a better mind,” urged Doña Ava, from her
palace at Burgos, looking out over those rich plains which are the glory
of Central Spain; “after all, I _am_ his daughter, he cannot harm _me_.”

But this Christian point of view was not shared by the King of Navarre,
who from his mountains executed such raids on Castile that Gonzales had
no choice but to face him.

Near Ogroño was the battle, not far from Burgos, by the river Ebro, and
hardly was it fought, and victory only gained by a clever feint, headed
by the Conde in person. Don Garcia’s camp was seized and he himself
taken prisoner.

Now face to face they stood within a tent, the father-in-law and son.
The casque of the king battered, his armour bleared, his chief knights
in a like plight, prisoners beside him--the Conde in front brandishing a
blood-stained sword, with such a sense of wrong gnawing at his heart as
for a time leaves him speechless.

Then the words of reproach came rushing to his lips. “False king, did I
not come in peace to Narbonne, and you gave me the royal kiss of
welcome? Did I not eat at your board? Sleep the sleep of peace under
your roof? Ride with you? Jest with you? Live as man to man of the
kinship we are to each other? Did you not” (and here his upraised voice
breaks into a softer tone as he names her) “give me your daughter, the
Infanta, as my wife, and, while her hand was clasped in mine, her kiss
upon my cheek, did you not bind me, vile king, in chains, and hurl me
into a dungeon, where but for her help, the angel of my life, I should
have died unheeded?”

To all this Don Garcia, with eyes cast on the ground, answered not a
word, his armed figure defined against the pattern of rich brocade which
lined the tent under the light of torches.

“Now to Burgos with you, King of Navarre, and as you did by me, so be it
done to you! That is bare justice!”

“Ah! good my lord,” came the soft voice of Doña Ava into his ear, as she
went out to meet him with her ladies to the gate of Santa Maria, beside
the river which flows by the walls of Burgos “remember, Don Garcia is my
father.”

“Now prythee hold your peace, fair wife,” was his reply, “much as I love
you he shall this time meet his due. Nor shall he return to Navarre
until he pays me a full ransom.”

But like the gentle dropping of water (and drops, we know, wear even
stones, much more the soft substance of which hearts are made) came the
entreaties of the Infanta. After all they were married, and Don Garcia
had suffered a grievous defeat, which had weakened him for mischief for
many a day!

So at the end of a year the prison was unbarred and a great festival
held in the old palace of Burgos, of which no trace remains; a throne
glittering with cloth of gold was raised in the midst of carpets and
screens and awnings of brocaded silk, a luxury borrowed from the
Moors--from whom, much as they fought them, all refined tastes were
acquired; and afterwards, at the board in royal robes, Don Garcia is
seated side by side with Castile (Doña Ava, crowned with a royal diadem,
between), as they quaff the generous wine of Valdepeñas in healths of
eternal amity and alliance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Again the Cortes were assembled in haste, in the northern city of Leon,
to determine conclusions against the Moors.

The Caliph Almanzor, coming from Cordoba, had penetrated north as far as
Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, sacked the shrine, the very Mecca of
Spain, where countless miracles were wrought by his bones; and, insult
of insults, pulled down the bells and hung them (oh, horrors!) in the
Mesquita of Cordoba, where they still remain! So that Fernan gladly
hastened to obey Don Sancho’s summons, along with the kings of Aragon
and Navarre. Years had passed, a son had been born to him, and many acts
of courtesy exchanged, as between royal kinsfolk.

To recall the past was by no means in harmony

[Illustration: THE PUERTA DI SANTA MARIA, BURGOS.]

with his forgiving temper. “Perhaps he will pay the debt he owes me,”
was his thought, “for my horse Sila and the hawk he bought of me so long
ago; the sum must by this time be a big one.”

It was night when the council ended, and the royal company assembled in
the hall, having exchanged their heavier garments for fanciful doublets
and mantles of tissues woven in Eastern looms, set off with fur and
gems--graceful _toques_ to correspond, replacing helmet and head-piece,
a feather lying low on the shoulder, or peaked caps encircled with
garlands of jewels, the badge of his house embroidered on each knight’s
breast. As each guest took his place with that solemn demeanour common
to Spaniards, a flourish of trumpets sounded, a side door opened, and
Doña Teresa appeared, upright to stiffness, wearing her crown upon her
head, her son Don Sancho advancing with respectful courtesy to place her
on his right hand.

All eyes were fixed on Don Fernan Gonzales, the youngest of the princes.
Happiness and loyalty looked out of his comely face, grace was in every
movement, as he exchanged compliments with his royal kinsmen--Aragon, a
broad-shouldered man, frank and true in nature; Navarre, dark and
preponderant, his eyes bent significantly on his son-in-law; and his
nephew of Leon, Don Sancho the Fat, grown so obese he moved in his royal
robes with difficulty.

The feast, spread on oaken tables covered with scarlet cloths, blazed
with the sheen of precious candelabra, cups inlaid with rubies, and
silver figures trimmed with posies of flowers, aromatic herbs and green
boughs from the wood, the walls hung with damascened draperies and a
fair Moorish carpet on the floor. The fish, flesh, and fowl served in
heavy silver platters were offered entire to each guest, who with his
dagger cut his own portion, drinking from silver goblets placed at his
side.

At the conclusion of the banquet, to the blare of trumpets, King Don
Sancho rose to lead his mother to her retiring room, with the same state
as she had entered.

Already the kings of Navarre and Aragon had passed on, and the Conde de
Castile was preparing to follow when an armed hand was placed on his
shoulder and a voice uttered in his ear: “You are my prisoner.”

“Your prisoner?” cried he, looking round to behold a circle of armed
men, who had silently gathered behind his chair as he was in the act of
making obeisance to the queen, “by my troth! this is an idle jest. You
have mistaken your man, my masters. Look elsewhere.”

“Not at all,” cried Queen Doña Teresa, disengaging her hand from that of
the king, the old malignant smile glittering in her black eyes. “Did you
think, Sir Conde, we were as green as you, who come unarmed a second
time among your foes? The bird that had flown is recaptured! Ha! ha!”
and she gave a bitter laugh. “I think I can prophesy you will not escape
this time! The dungeons of Leon are better guarded than those of
Narbonne!”

“Queen Doña Teresa,” was his answer, his arms already bound by fetters,
“_I_ take no shame for _my_ lack of suspicion. Rather is it for _you_,
so royally born, to blush at such baseness. _You_,” and, spite of
himself, his eyes flamed with rage as he realised that he had again
fallen into the power of his remorseless kinsfolk, “you are a disgrace
to the royal lineage you represent. See, even the king, your son, casts
down his eyes. Don Sancho is ashamed of his mother!”

Stung by his reproaches the queen raised her hand as a signal to the
guards to bear him away.

“What manner of man is this?” she said, turning to the king, who, though
he had joined in the conspiracy, now stood irresolute and pale, a silent
witness to his mother’s treachery. “He dares to jeer at me with the
chains about his neck. But a long life passed in a Gothic dungeon will
bring down his pride. Fear not, my son, what can he do? When the half of
his kingdom is in your hands you will thank me.”

“But our kinswoman the Infanta will offer a large ransom. Can you refuse
_her_?”

“Refuse!” retorted the queen, her tall figure drawn up to its full
height; “there is no treasure in the world that shall buy off the Conde
de Castila. His death alone will satisfy me.”

And with a menacing gesture in the direction by which he had
disappeared, she swept out of the hall as she had come, followed by her
retinue.



CHAPTER XXV

Doña Ava Outwits Don Sancho and Releases her Husband


Time passed and a new element made itself felt in the struggle between
the Christians and the Moors. The powerful tribe of the Berbers had
fastened like leeches on the Gothic lands of the north, and Almanzor, by
his constant attacks in the south, had paralysed the kings of Leon and
Navarre into mere tributaries. But selfish and disloyal as they were,
Doña Teresa and the kings of Leon and Navarre never lost sight of their
determination to possess Castile, and instead of joining heartily
against a common enemy they each summoned every lord and vassal they
possessed to appear in arms to march against Burgos.

Don Sancho at least understood his real position, and would willingly
have accepted the large ransom offered by the Infanta for her lord, but
his mother was not to be persuaded. His dark-browed uncle of Navarre,
too, was as violent and as short-sighted as she, so that Don Sancho
could only offer up fervent prayers to Santiago, the patron of Spain,
whose shrine at Compostela had, to his everlasting shame, been so
ill-defended.

Would the celestial knight again appear on his milk-white charger clad
in radiant mail and ensure a victory as when King Ramiro, his
predecessor, refused to pay “the Maiden Tribute” exacted by the Caliph?
Would he come? And never did sovereign put up more fervent _Ora pro
nobis Sancta Maria_ than the fat king, and invocations to all the
calendar of saints.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the midst of his devotions a scratch is heard at the door, the
curtain is drawn aside, and the head of a jefe appears. At an impatient
motion of the king, indicating that he would not be disturbed, the jefe
bows low.

“Good, my lord,” are his words, “what am I to do? Here is a pious
pilgrim bound for Compostela, earnestly desiring to see your Grace.”

“For Compostela,” answers the king. “Ah! he is welcome, admit him at
once. He can tell me, on his return, in what precise condition the
sanctuary is left. That last raid of the Moors lies heavy on my soul.”

In a few moments the pilgrim stands before him, his face concealed by a
close-fitting cap, heavily charged with drapery, which he wears on his
head.

“In what matter,” asks Don Sancho, with a gracious smile, “can the King
of Leon advantage you, good pilgrim? If it is within my power, command
me.”

“My lord,” answers the pilgrim, in tones which fell caressingly on the
ear, “I humbly thank your Grace. I am bound for Compostela, to fulfil a
vow concerning your prisoner, the Conde de Castila.”

“The Conde de Castila!” exclaims the king, half starting from his chair.
“He is clean forgotten. As well talk of a dead man.”

“I crave your pardon if I have said aught amiss, but the Conde has
caused deep sorrow to me. In my wrath I invoked a curse upon him, in the
name of the blessed saint, and now I am bound to render thanks for his
death.”

“Death!” ejaculates Don Sancho, turning pale, “who talks of his death?”

“I,” answers the pilgrim, with a singular decision. “I know that the
death of the Conde is near!”

“By whose hand?” demands the king, greatly excited. (Did this holy
person know of some secret conspiracy of Doña Teresa to assassinate him,
and had he come to reveal it?)

“By mine,” whispers the pilgrim, mysteriously approaching him. “I have
about me a subtle poison, the venom of snakes, given me by a Berber. It
never fails; silently it extinguishes life. But it must be properly
administered. Lead me to the prison--I will answer for the rest.”

Even Don Sancho is staggered by the proposal of this cold-blooded
pilgrim, and replies with caution:

“Should this prove true, I shall not be unmindful of the saint’s claims
on me. But, holy pilgrim, much as I honour your design and wish you
success, in these warlike times I must demand some sign to assure me of
your truth.”

“Signs shall not be wanting, O King,” answers the pilgrim, in whose
voice an eager sweetness seems to penetrate. “The Holy Apostle has
himself appeared to me in a vision and unfolded deep mysteries
concerning Navarre and Leon. The time is not far off when Castile and
Leon will be united under one crown, and that union will end the
Mussulman rule in Spain.”

“O great and holy seer!” ejaculates Sancho the Fat, folding his hands,
greatly impressed by what appears the complete fulfilment of his utmost
ambition, “much do I honour you. Disclose, if not bound by a vow, what
is your name, that I may impart it to my mother, Doña Queen Teresa.”

To this request the pilgrim pays no heed.

“Perhaps you will tell me if the death of the Conde prefigures these
events?”

“By the aid of Santiago, yes,” is the answer. “Such is the prophecy I
have to impart.”

Now had Don Sancho been less eager to rid himself of Gonzales by every
means, he would have noted the violent agitation which shook the
pilgrim’s frame.

To poison a sovereign in prison--and a kinsman to boot--is a serious
undertaking. Already the words of refusal are on Sancho’s lips when the
curtains of the apartment fly open and Doña Teresa rushes in.

“What is this I hear?” cries this imperious woman, who has been
listening outside, her cruel face darkened by anger. “Shame on your
cowardice, Don Sancho; you are no son of mine. What! you would refuse
the proposal of this worthy pilgrim? I understand and applaud him. To
kill the Conde de Castila is a work of mercy, for by his death the lives
of thousands will be spared on the battle-field.”

In the presence of his mother the fat king becomes mute. Against his
better judgment he consents to the death of the Conde.

       *       *       *       *       *

Again we come upon Fernan in prison, a very unlikely place for so
brilliant a cavalier, but, alas! adverse destiny has again doomed him to
pass many months in this second dungeon--much more rough and dismal than
the prison of Narbonne, as the old city of Leon, with its Gothic
traditions, was more uncouth and uncivilised than the capital of
Navarre.

“Who are you?” he asks in great surprise as a pilgrim is ushered in.
“Nor need I ask; coming from the vile king you can only be a foe.”

“I am your friend,” answers a voice that strikes like music on his ear,
“your best, your only friend, my lord and husband,” and as the disguise
falls to the ground the faithful Infanta stands before her lord.

We will pass over their transports. A decent veil must conceal the
mysteries of married life. Naturally the first question he asked was how
she came there? Together they laughed while she explained the murderous
purpose of the wicked queen.

“But time speeds,” she says, tearing herself from his arms. “You must
fly. The courage of our good Castilians is damped by your long absence.
Not a moment must be lost.”

“What! in broad daylight?” asks he. “Is it so easy a thing to go?” and
he gives a bitter laugh.

“No, love, most difficult, but we must change our clothes! I am you, and
you are me. In that bed,” pointing to a straw pallet, “I stretch myself
to die. I have swallowed the poison, and you, my noble husband, in the
pilgrim’s dress, speed to Burgos. Once under the gateway, you are safe.
Oh! greet them well, my dear ones,” and, spite of herself, as she thinks
of her child, silent tears gather in her eyes.

“But, Ava,” he exclaims, “greatly as I honour your courage, your
fortitude, your skill, ask me not to return to Castile by such means. My
sweet wife, the stars in their courses must have willed that I should
die; leave me to my fate.”

“Never!” cries the valiant woman. “Here,” and she plunges her hand into
her bosom, “is the poison. If you do not fly, I will swallow it before
your eyes.”

A gesture of horror is his reply.

“Besides,” she continues, her face lighting up. “What have I to fear?
Danger to my life there is none! You cannot imagine my own aunt would
murder me! Away, away, or some fatal accident may hinder!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, what pen shall paint the anxiety of the king? How minute by
minute he pictured each detail of the agonies of the expiring Conde.
Truly the possession of Castile seemed to his guilty mind at that moment
too small a boon to compensate for the throes of his guilty conscience.
Had such tortures continued, Sancho would never have come down to
posterity with the surname of “the Fat,” but rather have melted into a
shadow in the land of dreams! At last, unable any longer to bear such
suspense, he called a page, and commanded that the pilgrim should be
brought before him.

“He is gone,” replies one of the officers of the prison, who has
presented himself to reply.

“Gone!” shouts Sancho, “without my leave? What does this mean? Is the
Conde safe?”

“Safe, indeed,” answers the officer; “but half an hour ago I carried him
a meal, by special order, and a good one.”

“A meal?” quoth the king, utterly amazed. “Could he eat?”

“Surely,” is the answer, “and glad he seemed to get it.”

“Did he not appear to suffer? Was he--well--did nothing ail him?”

“Nothing, my liege. I never saw a prisoner more _débonnaire_, but he
seems grown strangely short to my eyes; he certainly has dwindled.”

“You are a fool!” cries the irritated king; “I must look into this
matter myself. Bring him to my presence.”

“By the rood, but he does seem strangely altered,” mutters the king, as
the prisoner stands before him. “Surely”--and a suspicion shoots through
his mind, to be dismissed at once as ridiculous, as they approach each
other.

“Well, Sir Conde, are the prisons of Leon better guarded than those of
Narbonne?” he asks, with a sneer.

“Much better, Sir King, one can escape more easily. For a sovereign so
versed in plots and conspiracies--_murder_ even”--(at this word the king
gives a great start)--“you are marvellously at ease.”

King Sancho became so bewildered, his head was going round. Was he
bewitched? Was this the Conde or not? And if not, _who_?

Then Doña Ava, speaking in her own natural voice, broke out into peals
of laughter.

“Surely, Don Sancho, a bachelor like you cannot be so ungallant as to
imprison a lady.”

“A lady! A woman! God’s mercy! what does this mean? Who has dared to
deceive me?”

“I,” answered the Infanta. “Shower your wrath on _me_, your kinswoman.
May I not be a deceiver when so many of my blood excel? The queen, for
instance? Now look at me, Sancho, and let this folly end.”

And the king did look, and into a most towering passion he fell, using
more bad language than I care to repeat.

“A curse upon you!” are his first intelligible words. “Where is that
villain, your husband?”

“In Castile,” she answers, “or far on the way. Never fear, he will soon
return to settle accounts with _you_.”

“False woman,” and the king, fuming with a sense of intolerable wrong at
having been made such a fool of, lifts his hand as if to strike her,
“learn to fear my vengeance!”

“Not I,” is her answer, laughing again. “You dare do nothing to _me_,
and my loved lord is free, skimming like a fleet bird over the plains. I
fear you not, you dastard king!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Consigning the Infanta into the hands of the palace guards, Don Sancho
rushed off to the apartments of the queen. For once that wicked woman
was powerless. No one dared harm Doña Ava, especially as rapid news soon
spread of the wild joy with which Fernan had been received in Burgos,
and that, at the head of his army, he was marching on Leon.

On the other hand, the dark King of Navarre, hard pressed by the Moors,
executing forays into the north, as the safety of his daughter was at
stake, refused to use his troops for her capture; thus the King of Leon
was left alone to bear the brunt of the attack, pillaging, demolishing,
and burning in true mediæval style.

But Queen Doña Teresa still held good.

“Keep her close. She shall not go, without the ransom of half his
kingdom,” were her words.

“Now, by Santiago!” exclaims the exasperated king, “ransom or no ransom,
she _shall_ go. You ruined the kingdom in my father’s time, but, by
heaven! you shall not play the same game with me!”

For once the fat king insists. The Condesa de Castila is to be restored
to her husband, on condition of the withdrawal of his troops. All seems
accommodated when an unexpected difficulty arises.

That little account for the horse and the hawk, which had so pleased the
King of Leon on his cousin’s first visit, accepted on the condition of
making payment in a year or of doubling the price, had never been
settled, and it had grown so enormous that King Sancho found himself at
a loss to find the money. Convenient Jews did not exist in those days as
we read of later in the time of the Cid. Now, even a royal debtor looks
round in vain for help.

It was in vain that King Sancho cursed the horse and cursed the hawk,
then cursed them both together; that did no good, the debt remained
unpaid. In this world from little causes spring great events. That horse
and hawk, so innocently purchased from the bright-faced Conde, were
finally the cause of the independence of Castile. Not able to discharge
the debt, King Don Sancho agreed to free Castile from all vassalage to
Leon. And the Conde and the Infanta rode back in triumph to Burgos, as
the founders of that dynasty which became the most powerful and glorious
of the Peninsula, to merge at last in the royal crown of Spain.



CHAPTER XXVI

The Cid--1037


Now we come upon a larger view, a more extended horizon of Old Court
Life, hitherto shut up in the pastoral city of Leon.

Don Fernando el Magno is king. He has transferred the Christian capital
to Burgos on succeeding to the states of Leon, Castile, and Galicia by
the death of his brother-in-law, Bernardo the Third, in right of his
wife, Doña Sancha.

_Succeeded_ is hardly the fit word, for Fernando actually slew Bernardo
in the battle of Tamara, clearing thus for himself the way; for
Bernardo’s sister Sancha was the last of the second line of the Gothic
kings descended from Pelayo.

From the time of Fernan Gonzales, Castile became a kingdom instead of a
county, as the Conde would have had it, only he died too soon; and
though still mixed up in continual battles with the Moors about
Saragossa, Toledo, Merida, Samego, and Badajos (each town and city a
small kingdom of its own), the greater part of the north-centre of Spain
belonged to the Christians, rough warriors for the most part and fond of
fighting, of little education, narrow-minded, poor, and rapacious. So
poor indeed and rapacious that they constantly served the Moors against
themselves as _condottieri_, or mercenaries, as is heard of later in
French and Italian wars.

Now the Moors might be cruel and bloodthirsty, but their crimes were
those of a highly civilised race, the very salt of the earth compared to
the Gothic Spaniards--only the Moors were falling gradually asunder by
reason of dissensions amongst the various races of which the nation was
composed.

So the Christians grew bold as the others waxed weak, and though
Fernando el Magno committed the folly of dividing his kingdom among his
five children, it all came together again under his unscrupulous
successor, Alonso el Valiente, sixth of that name (1173).

Fernando el Magno was out and out the most powerful king that had
reigned in Spain since the time of Roderich. He held an iron grip on the
Moors, with great cities tributary to him. In fact, it was only the
payment of heavy tribute which kept them in possession so long. Money
was money in those days, from whatever source it came, and in the
impoverished north there was little of it.

Fernando was a good king, according to his lights, upon whose conscience
the murder of his brother-in-law Bernardo lay lightly. Had he not slain
Bernardo, Bernardo would undoubtedly have killed him, in which case
royal murder comes under the head of self-defence. So he reigned
happily at Burgos, and had born to him a numerous family. Doña Urraca,
the Infanta, was his eldest child, a most excellent lady of good customs
and beauty, the Infante Don Sancho, who was to make much noise in the
world, was his heir, and Don Alonso and Don Garcia were his younger
sons.

Fernando put them all to read that they might gain understanding, and he
made his sons knights to carry arms and know how to demean themselves in
battle, also to be keen huntsmen. Doña Urraca was brought up in the
studies becoming dames, so that she might be instructed in devotion and
all things which it behoved an Infanta to know.

       *       *       *       *       *

But there is one fact which makes the name of Fernando remembered to all
time, for in his reign was born at Burgos, Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, known
as the famous _Capitán_, the Cid Campeador.

Beside the glittering vision of Santiago, the tutelary saint of Spain,
in white armour, waving celestial banners, rises the image of the Cid.
Encased in steel, he sits proudly astride on his good horse Babieca; a
close casque on his head, under which a pair of all-seeing eyes gaze
fiercely out, giving expression to the strongly marked features of a
thin long face, with wildly flying beard. His scimitar hangs at his
side, and at his waist, encircled by a leather thong, the formidable
sword “Tizona” he alone can wield. A loose white garment or kilt floats
out from under his armour, metal buskins are on his legs, and he is shod
in steel.

Thus he appears, with mighty action, an aureole of power about him not
to be put in words, “the Cid” or “Master”--the terror of the Moors, the
scourge of traitorous kings, marking an epoch, and a principle, lifting
him out of the confused chivalry of the Goths, and standing out clear
from shifting details into the light of day.

Cunning, astute, and valorous, implacable in conquest, sanguinary in
victory, he fought while he lived. A king in all but the name, and proud
of it, boasting with haughty scorn, “That none of his blood were royal”;
“That he had never possessed an acre,” “But that the city of Valencia
had pleased him, and that God had permitted him to take it as his own.”
“Spain,” he said, “had fallen by a Roderich, and by a Roderich it should
be restored.”

Now he was battling with the Christian king, then he was making alliance
with the Moors, when banished, on his own account--to his own advantage
ever--_por murzar_, as he said (to eat).

For in the midst of all his glory the Cid was practical at heart, and at
all times, be it owned, a sad ruffian (though ever tender to his own),
and more keen and cruel in a bargain than a Jew.



CHAPTER XXVII

Don Diego Laynez and the Conde de Gormez


I wonder if Burgos looked then as it does now?--a well-washed, trim
little city, Dutch in its neatness, tinted, upon the principle of
Joseph’s coat of many colours, pink, blue, peach, and yellow; each house
totally unlike its neighbour in height and shape; the streets sprouting
out all over with balconies, _miradores_, and low arcades under flat
roofs, an unexpected Gothic tower or barbican breaking through; entered
by the ancient gate of Santa Maria beside the bridge with castellated
bartizans and statues of notables in flat square niches.

Of the Cathedral I say nothing, because the present one was built later
by Fernando el Santo, but the line of towers of the Gothic castle stood
out darkly prominent on the hill behind--Calle Alta, as it was
called--as old as 300; the fortress and residence of the Condes de
Castila, and the place where the bright-faced Fernan Gonzales lived his
merry life, shutting up his prisoners--Garcia, King of Navarre, Doña
Ava’s treacherous father, for a year, and other kings and queens too
numerous to mention,--with celebrations of royal births and marriages a
score; the old church of Sant’ Agueda, an “_Iglesia juradera_” (church
of purgation), on the brow of the hill, the family _posada_, or house of
the Cid, to be seen to this day, the ancestral shields hung outside on
pedestals forming part of the front, setting forth the quarterings of
Laynez Calvo, of ancient Castilian lineage, the father of the Cid; a
priceless old _Suelo_, on which you can still observe the measure of the
Cid’s arm, marked on marble; and the mouth of a mediæval passage through
which he could ride into the plains with his men without being seen by
the citizens in the streets below.

       *       *       *       *       *

At this moment “the child of Burgos,” as the Cid is called, has thrown
aside his warlike accoutrements, having been present at a council at the
Ayuntamiento presided over by the king, and is now on his way to visit
his lady love, Doña Ximena, the daughter of the Conde de Gormez.

As he passes along the Calle, gay as a butterfly in the bright sunshine,
under the barbicans and towers which so nobly break the lines, it may be
said he has too much of a swagger in his gait, but he has reason to be
proud, for, young as he is, Doña Ximena loves him, and the good old King
Fernando has admitted him to his council because he is already strong in
arms and of _good custom_.

Just as Don Rodrigo has passed out of the Palace of Ayuntamiento (town
hall) in the great plaza, its front honeycombed with sculptured
cornices, badges, and devices on a warmly tinted stone, two _hidalgos_
appear under the arched doorway talking loud.

“I tell you the king does wrong,” the younger man is saying in a loud
voice--no other than the Conde Don Gormez, with flashing eyes, moving
with a haughty swagger, a tall olive-complexioned Castilian in cap and
plume, laced boots, and ample cloak, “very wrong in affronting the
Emperor of Germany and the Pope in a little state like Castile.”

“The king does right,” answers the other, very determinedly, but in a
feebler voice, for he is stricken in years. “What, Conde Don Gormez,
would you have Castile do? Become bounden to a foreign power, when we
have so lately gained our freedom from Leon?”

“I think the matter ill-considered,” is the reply; “but of course you
approve it, Don Diego Laynez. The king is old and foolish, and loves age
and infirmity about him. No one exceeds you now in arrogance, since your
young son Rodrigo sits by you at the council. He is reported of good
courage against the Moors, but his youth makes him incompetent to advise
the king.”

“Conde Gormez,” answers the other, reddening with anger, “your
indiscreet words prove that it is not age or experience which gives
judgment.”

“What do you mean, Don Diego?” asks the

[Illustration: THE GIRALDA. SEVILLE.]

Conde fiercely. “I allow no observations on my conduct.”

“I do not condescend to fathom it,” is the answer, with a contemptuous
glance. “Jealousy and thirst for power----”

“Take that, old fool,” cried the Conde, silencing him with a sounding
blow on the cheek, which made him reel backwards against the wall.

He could not speak, all his passion had vanished in the humiliation of
being struck. White and tottering he stood, while his trembling hand
sought the hilt of his sword.

“Mother of God!” he said at last, “you had better have finished me
altogether than put this insult on me. Is it that you deem my arm so
weak you mock me, Sir Count?” And as he spoke, with difficulty he drew
his sword.

“Perhaps it is,” replies the other with an insolent laugh. “Put up your
weapon, old man, or worse may come to you.”

“No, no,” returns Don Diego, the colour mounting to his cheek as his
fingers feel the temper of the blade; “as knight to knight, who have so
often stood side by side in battle, I demand a fair fight and no
quarter.”

“As you will,” he answers, and an evil fire comes into his eyes. “It is
a favour which, at your age, you have no right to demand. If you desire
to be spitted, I will oblige you all the same.”

And then and there he drew his rapier, and placed himself in a posture
of defence.

But the combat was too unequal. It lasted but a few minutes. The Conde
de Gormez was the first _espadero_ in Castile, in the flower of his age,
graceful, skilful, strong; Don Diego was old and weak. His blows fell
like water on his stalwart adversary, who treated him as one does a
wayward child.

“Mark you,” he said at last, throwing up Don Diego’s sword, “I spare
your life. Go home, you dotard, and teach your son to hold his tongue
before his betters and learn to be a wiser man.”

With that he sheathed his formidable weapon, turned his back, and with a
quick step disappeared.



CHAPTER XXVIII

Don Rodrigo (the Cid) Kills the Conde de Gormez


It was the hottest hour of the day, when the citizens took their
_siesta_; the sun poured down in splendour on the white walls, absorbing
the shade; the river was dried up.

No one had witnessed the encounter. But what did that matter? Conde
Gormez would be sure to publish it abroad. Oh, shame and grief! Don
Diego was for ever dishonoured!

Just as, with wavering steps, he was addressing himself to seek his
horse where he had left him, he heard the clank of spurs upon the
pavement, and his son Rodrigo appeared.

“Well met!” cried he, clutching his arm and gazing up wistfully into his
beaming face; “the saints have sent you.”

“May their blessing be ever on you, my honoured father,” is the reply,
as he stops to kiss his hand. “I was hastening home to tell you that the
marriage is fixed, and that the king, Don Fernando, gives away the
bride. But, father, are you ill?” noting his blanched aspect as his
father leaned heavily upon him.

“Rodrigo,” he whispers, and with an unutterable expression of despair he
looks into his eyes, “are you brave?”

“Sir!” answers Rodrigo, drawing back his arm, “any other but you should
feel it on the instant.”

“Oh, blessed anger!” replies Don Diego, watching the deep flush mounting
on his face, “you are indeed my son. My blood flows in your veins. I was
like that once. Prompt, ready, dexterous. Rodrigo, will you avenge me?”

“For what?” asks Rodrigo, more and more perplexed.

“For that,” returns Don Diego--and as he speaks his voice gathers
strength and he draws himself back, and stands upright before
him--“which touches your honour as nearly as my own. A blow, a cruel
blow! Had I been of your age, his blood would have wiped it out. But it
is not with swords such an outrage is avenged. Go--die--or slay him. But
I warn you, he is a hero. I have seen him in the front of a hundred
battles, making a rampart of his body against the foe. He is----”

“Tell me, father, tell me!” exclaims Don Rodrigo, breathlessly following
his father’s words.

“The father of Ximena.”

“The----”

No sound came to his white lips. As if struck by a mortal blow, Rodrigo
staggered back against the sculptured pilasters of the Ayuntamiento.

“Speak not, my son,” says Don Diego, laying his hand upon him. “I know
how much you love her. But he who accepts infamy is unworthy to live. I
have told you vengeance is in your hand, for me, for you. Be worthy of
your father, who was once a valiant knight. Go, I say,--rush--fly,--as
though the earth burned under your footsteps! Nor let me behold you
until you have washed out the stain!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The chronicles say that, insolent as he was, the Conde de Gormez had
already repented of his furious act. Certain of the wrath of the king,
who greatly esteemed Don Diego Laynez, and shrinking from the reproaches
of his daughter, he was preparing to leave the city when he came upon
the Cid.

They met beside the banks of the Arlanzon, which still presents the
sandy emptiness of an ill-fed river, under a screen of plane-trees
whispering to the summer wind, the space without thronged with hidalgos
and cheerful citizens in ample cloaks and _capas_ muffled up to the
eyes, spite of the heat, in true Castilian fashion.

As Don Rodrigo, with lofty stride, approached, the Conde stood still,
guessing his errand.

Of all the knights of Castile, Don Gormez was a palm higher than the
rest. A dark defiant head was firmly set on massive shoulders, youthful
in aspect for his period of middle age, an approved and complete warrior
at all points, and full to the brim, as one may say, of the chivalric
traditions of the time.

Rodrigo beside him looked a slender youth; the down was on his cheek,
the lustre of boyhood in his eyes, now dilated with fury as he drew
near.

“Sir Conde,” he says shortly, as he doffs his cap, to which the other
responds with a haughty smile, “I ask two words of you.”

“Speak!” is the Conde’s answer, twirling his moustache.

“Tell me, do you know Don Diego, my father?”

“Yes,” in a loud tone. “Why ask?”

“Speak lower. Listen. Do you know that in his time he was the honour of
the land, brave as yourself? You know it?”

Nearer and nearer Rodrigo came as he spoke, until their faces almost
touched.

“I care not,” is the answer, with a sneer.

“Stand back in the shade of that thicket and I will teach you,” roars
the Cid, his rage bursting in all bounds.

“Presumptuous boy!” exclaims the Conde with ineffable scorn; yet, spite
of his affected contempt, the words have stung him, and he turns
crimson.

“I am young, it is true,” answers Rodrigo, “but once so were you. Valour
goes not by the number of our years.”

“You--_you_ dare to measure yourself with me!” cries he, losing all
control in the climax of his rage.

“I do. I well know your prowess. You have always prevailed, but to him
who fights for his father nothing is impossible. Come on, Sir Conde,”
drawing his sword.

“Seek not so vainly to end your days,” answers Gormez, laying his hand
on the hilt of his weapon. “Your death will be no credit to my sword.”

“Mock me not by this insulting pity,” answers Rodrigo, “or by God I
shall think it is _you_ who are tired of living, not I.” And as he
speaks he strikes the Conde de Gormez with the flat of his sword.

The attack, on both sides is furious. Rodrigo grows cold with the thirst
of vengeance; the Conde burns to cut off a life which rivals with his
own.

But the sure aim of Rodrigo and his strength prevail. With one stroke of
his good sword Tizona, he fells Gormez to the earth and plunges his
weapon straight into his heart. Red with his life-blood he draws it out
to bear it as a trophy to his father.

“Die! Lord of Gormez,” are his words, wiping his brow, as he watches the
blood slowly ooze from the wound to mix itself, a sinister stream, with
the sand. “Alas! had your courtesy equalled your knighthood and your
birth, you might have lived to see your child’s children mine. Farewell,
oh my enemy”; and he stoops reverently to cover the face of the dead
with his mantle, reading the while with horror in the still set
features the softer lineaments of his Ximena. “Alas!”--and his
countenance darkens and he heaves a great sigh--“I am but Ruy Diaz, your
lover, the most wretched of men! Oh! that I could lie there dead,
instead of him! Ximena, oh, my love, will you ever forgive me?”

And sorrowing thus he turns away by intricate windings to mount the hill
to the Suelos where Don Diego awaits him, seated in the hall, the food
lying on the table before him untouched.

“Behold!” cries he, unsheathing the bloody sword. “The tongue which
insulted you, Don Diego, is no longer a tongue; the hand which struck
you is no longer a hand. You are avenged, oh, my father, and I----”

He could not continue.

With a loud laugh Don Diego rose up, taking in his hand the
blood-stained sword and placing it beside him on the board below the
salt; then turned to embrace Rodrigo.

He spoke never a word, but stood like one stupefied, his arms folded on
his breast, his eyes fixed on the ground.

“Son of my heart,” says Don Diego, “I pray you turn and eat. Mourn not
what you have done. My youth comes back to me in you. Greater than me
shall you be, and win back broad lands from the Moors, and be rich like
a king, when I am low in the dust. Take the head of the board, Rodrigo.
Higher than myself is the place of the son who has brought the sword of
Conde Gormez to his Suelos. The place of honour is yours, and I will
pledge you with wine.” And as he speaks the old man rises, and taking
Rodrigo by the hand places him above him, and with his own hand serves
him with meat and drink.

Poetry and the drama in latter days have much dealt with the story of
the Cid, and altogether altered it from its ancient simplicity.

Not so the chronicles, which depict the facts in the language of the
time very straightforwardly, specially the chronicle of King Alfonso of
Castile, surnamed _El Sabio_, written soon after the Cid’s death. If not
penned by the hand of the king himself, at least it was largely dictated
by him, and not at all partial, for as King of Castile he deeply
resented the rebellion of the Cid against his father Alonso.



CHAPTER XXIX.

Marriage of the Cid and Doña Ximena


Three years had passed when King Fernando solemnly knighted Rodrigo.

It was in this manner. The king girded on him his sword Tizona, to
become famous to all time, and gave him a kiss, but no blow; the queen
gave him a horse, perhaps Babieca; and the Infanta Doña Urraca stooped
to the earth and fastened on his spurs--an act of honour so exceptional
even in those days of chivalry she would not have performed it unless
Rodrigo was dearer to her than appeared. But if there was love on her
side or on his, or on both, is not known, except that some words in the
chronicles would lead one to suppose that the Cid honoured her beyond
all women, and that the lady herself would never marry a meaner man.

From that day he was called the Cid Campeador. It was the Moors who gave
him the title of “Said” (Cid) or “master,” so often had he beaten them,
and Campeador, or “champion” in single combat, such as was Roland the
Brave, slain by Bernardo del Carpio.

Especially he deserved these honours when he overcame five Moorish
kings, who had presumptuously crossed the mountain of Oca, and were
plundering the plains near Burgos. He took them captive, divided the
booty with his knights, and brought them to his mother in the Suelos on
the hill with great honour. “For it is not meet,” he said, “to keep
kings prisoners, but to let them go freely home.”

Like a practical man, however, as he was, he demanded a large ransom.

Fernando, who loved Rodrigo, endeavoured to end the feud between the
families of Gormez and Laynez. Nor was it difficult. Don Diego, full of
years, slept the sleep of death. The lord of Gormez was slain, and
Ximena was left, the youngest of three daughters.

The age was one of war, and knightly honour counted as the highest
virtue in a man.

So when the king called her to him in the castle, Ximena answered,
falling on her knees before him, according to the love she bore Rodrigo.

“Don King Fernando,” she said, “had you not sent for me, I would have
craved as a boon that you would give me Rodrigo to be my husband. With
him I shall hold myself well married, and greatly honoured. Certain I am
that he will one day be greater than any man in the kingdom of Castile,
and as his wife I truly pardon him for what he did.”

So King Fernando ordered letters to be sent to the Cid at Valencia,
commanding him at once to return to Burgos upon an affair greatly for
God’s service and his own.

He came mounted on his war-horse, attired in his fairest suit of chain
armour, wearing that high steel cap in which we see him now; his
rippling braids of hair hanging down on his shoulders in the ancient
fashion of the Goths, and in his company were many knights, both his own
and of his kindred and friends--in all two hundred peers--in festive
guise, streamers in various colours flying from their shields, and
scarfs upon their arms, each knight attended by a mounted squire bearing
his lance and cognisance.

In the courtyard of the castle beside the keep the king received them
sitting on his throne; the queen and her ladies and Doña Urraca, resting
on raised _estrades_ tented with silk, attired in brocade and tissue,
lined with rare fur.

As he entered the enclosure which was marked with gilded poles, the Cid
dismounted, as did the other knights, to do obeisance to the king and
queen, but he alone advanced to kiss the royal hand--a distinction which
greatly offended his fellows, who were further angered by being
dismissed while Rodrigo was invited to remain beside the king.

“I have called you, my good Rodrigo,” said King Fernando, with a voice
lowered to reach his ear alone, “to question you respecting Doña Ximena
de Gormez, whose sire you slew. She is too fair a flower to bloom
alone.”

At these words Don Rodrigo reddened like a boy and hung his head.

So greatly was he moved who had never known fear that the power of
speech left him suddenly, and for a time he stood like one distraught.
Whether the eyes of Doña Urraca being upon him he was confused, or that
the transport of love he felt for Ximena overcame him, who knows?

“Speak, noble Cid, I pray you,” said the king at last, weary of waiting.

“It is for you, my gracious lord and king, to question _me_,” was at
last his answer. “Alas! her blood is on my hand.”

“In fair fight,” was the rejoinder, “as becomes a belted knight. But the
lady already forgives you, and would rejoice to be your bride. I have it
from herself. Nor shall my favour be wanting to you both in lands and
gifts.”

Then Rodrigo raised his head proudly, and his face lit with joy.
Whatever tokens had passed between him and Doña Urraca, it was clear he
had not forgotten his love to Ximena, nor questioned the claim she had
upon him.

“In this, as in all else, I will obey my lord the king,” he said again,
making obeisance on bended knee. “Dear shall Ximena be to me as my own
life, and my honoured mother shall tend and keep her in our house while
I am away on my lord’s business against the Moors.”

King Don Fernando, greatly contented, rose from his throne, and bidding
Don Rodrigo follow him, he passed into the great court of the castle
followed by the queen and Doña Urraca, already of great courage, and
casting glances at the Cid from under the silken coil which bound her
head. Not so hidden but that some of the court observed her, and
remembered it later at Zamora, when the Cid refused to bear arms against
her.

Within the great hall of the castle the marriage feast is held. The
whole city is hung with garlands and tapestry, banners, flags, and
devices, as though each street is a separate tent; the people swarming
on balconies and roofs, and the sandy plain outside dark with the
companies of knights who come riding in. All the great names are
there--Ordoñez, Gonzalez, Peranzurez, Vellidas, on fleet Arab steeds;
some rich turbans also of the Moors to be distinguished in the crowd,
for the parties are so strangely mixed that the Cid has many close
friends among his enemies. Crowds of the common folk come, and retainers
from the castle of Bivar, each one with some story to tell about the
Cid. From Las Huelgas, the royal burying-ground and fortress, surrounded
by walls, a mile out of the city, arrives the abbess, who takes rank as
a Princess Palatine, attended by her female chapter, in the full dress
of the order, all mounted on mules; monks from the Church of San Pedro
de Cardeña, the burying place of the Laynez, and companies of the
Ricoshombres from the adjacent cities, trotting over the hills--all
disappearing into the huge gateway of Santa Maria to reach the Calle
Alta, where the procession is to be formed.

The first to appear is the Bishop of Valencia on a mule. He is followed
by the Cid, decked in his bridal state, under a trellis-work of green
branches, held up by the lances and scimitars he has taken from the
Moors, his own troop of true men with him, friends and kinsmen--all
dressed in one colour, and shining in new armour.

As he passes, olive branches and rushes are laid upon the streets,
ladies fling posies and wreaths, and bulls are led before with gilded
horns, covered with rich housings. The court fool follows in cap and
bells, his particoloured legs astride an ass. A harmless devil comes
after, horned and hoofed, hired to frighten the women, and crowds of
captive maidens dance to cymbals and flutes. The Queen Doña Sancha walks
next, wearing her crown and a “fur pall,” attended by her ladies and
dueñas, but the name of Doña Urraca nowhere occurs.

Then, hand in hand with the smiling king, comes Ximena; “the king always
talking,” as the ballad says, but Ximena holding down her head. “It is
better to be silent than meaningless,” she said.

Upon her fall showers of yellow wheat. Every shooter, young and old,
makes her his mark. From her white shoulders and breast the king picks
it off. “A fine thing to be a king,” laughs the fool, “but I would
rather be a grain.”

In the Gothic Church of Sant’ Agueda, close on the hill, the nuptial
knot is tied. After which the king does them great honour at the feast,
conferring on them many noble gifts and adding to the lands of the Cid
more than as much again.

To his own Suelos on the hill (for indeed all these great doings were
confined to a very narrow space), the Cid conducts his bride, to place
her under his mother’s keeping, and as his foot touches his own
threshold, under the escutcheon of his race, he pauses and kisses her on
the cheek. “By the love I bear you, dear Ximena, I swear that I will
never set eyes on you again until I have won five pitched battles
against the Moors.” Again he kisses her, drying her tears; then goes out
to the frontier of Aragon, taking with him his trusty knights.



CHAPTER XXX

Death of King Fernando--Doña Urraca at Zamora


After this there was a great change. The good king Fernando fell ill
with the malady of which he died. For three days he lay on his bed
lamenting in pain; on the fourth, at the hour of _sexte_, he called to
him his son Don Sancho, and recommended him to the Cid, to give him good
counsel, and not to go against his will, which was to divide the kingdom
into three parts, a most unaccountable act, seeing that all his life he
had been fighting to maintain it united.

With Don Sancho came the other Infantes, Alfonso and Garcia, and stood
round his bed--all three comely youths, and very expert in knightly
exercises, but as yet too young to carry a beard. Alfonso and Garcia
were well contented with their kingdom, but Don Sancho, the eldest, was
wroth against his father, and already turned in his mind how he could
overcome his brothers and possess Castile and Leon alone.

Fernando, suffering great anguish, had turned his face to the wall to
die, when his daughter Doña Urraca came rushing in.

“Oh, father!” cries she, kissing his hand, “if God had not laid His hand
upon you, and brought you to this death hour, I should reproach you
bitterly. It is well known you have meted out your kingdom between my
three brothers. To me alone you give nothing. Why should your daughter
be left to be blown like a waif before the wind? Whither can I fly?
Shall I address myself to the Moors for protection. A fine sight,
indeed, will it be to see a king’s daughter brought to such a pass!”

Now Doña Urraca was a princess of great presence and power in her
speech. Her words were cutting, and they roused even the dying king.
Slowly he turned on his side to look at her, and though his lips were
already livid his eyes showed he understood; thrice he essayed to speak;
at last, between pangs of mortal pain, the words came forth:

“Cease, Urraca, cease; a noble mother bore you, but a churlish slave
gave you milk. Take Zamora for your portion; may my curse fall on any of
your brothers who take it from you.”

“Swear to me, my sons.”

“Amen,” answered Don Alfonso heartily, for he loved his sister. Don
Garcia, the youngest, repeated the same; only Don Sancho moved his lips,
but no word came.

       *       *       *       *       *

Zamora _la ben cercada_, a Moorish fortress as the name indicates,
lately conquered by Fernando, stands on the river Duero, which flows
away to the west through a beautifully wooded valley, in the kingdom of
Leon, between Valladolid and Medina. It was then surrounded by seven
lines of walls, with deep moats between. From the bridge by the city
walls is still to be seen the ruins of the palace of Doña Urraca, with
her likeness, a mutilated head in a niche over the gateway, and the
inscription, _Afuera Afuera Rodrigo el soberbio Castellano_.

Within her council chamber sits the Infanta, the white coif of a queen
under a Gothic crown on her auburn head and long robes of black about
her stately form. She is accustomed to the calm majesty of state, but
her blue eyes shine with wonderful lustre, and, spite of herself, her
fingers move nervously on the rich carving of her chair. The Cid
Campeador is coming, sent by her brother Don Sancho, who is encamped
outside, and has ridden three times round the walls to study the
defences, attended by his knights.

For no sooner was the breath out of his father’s body than he attacked
his brothers, and now he is come to take Zamora.

With Doña Urraca in the council chamber are Don Pero Anonras, Don
Vellido, and Dolfos, a knight of no good fame, but devoted to her
service.

The Cid enters in full armour, a green feather in his casque. His face
has lost the sweetness of youth, and is hard and thin, the nose arched
and prominent in advanced life, and his eyes of such searching
fierceness that he terrifies his enemies before he draws his sword.

Not now; for as the Infanta hastens to the door to greet him, and he
sinks on one knee to kiss her dimpled hand, his face melts into the most
winning softness, and he smiles on her as she leads him to the
_estrade_, enclosed by golden banisters, within which her chair of state
is placed.

“Now, Cid,” says Doña Urraca, when they have seated themselves, “what is
my brother about to do? All Spain is in arms. Is it against the Moors or
the Christians?”

“Lady,” he answers--and the tone of his voice is wonderfully
subdued--“the king your brother sends to greet you by me. He beseeches
you to give up to him the fortress of Zamora; he will in return swear
never to do you harm.”

“And you, Don Ruy Diaz de Bivar, bring me such a message!” she exclaims,
half rising from her chair, a great reproach coming into her blue eyes;
“you, who have been brought up with me in this very city of Zamora,
which my father conquered!”

“I did not want to be the messenger,” replies the Cid, gazing into her
comely face with a great freedom of admiration, “except that I might
again see my Infanta, and give her some comfort. I strove with the king
not to send me. How could I refuse him whom I have sworn to stand by?
Better I than another man.”

“That is true,” she replies, “but I think before you swore to the king,
my father, you had bound yourself to me.”

Now this speech put the Cid in a great strait. He and Doña Urraca had
had love passages together as long as he could remember, yet he had
wooed another and married her, and the Infanta was still alone. The Cid
was great in battle, but he was simple in the language of love. All he
could do was to hang his head and blush, which made Doña Urraca very
angry.

“Wretch that I am!” cries she, clasping her hands, “what evil messages
have I had since my father’s death? This is the worst of all. As for my
brothers, Alfonso is among the Moors; Garcia imprisoned like a slave
with an iron chain; I must give up Zamora; and Ruy Diaz, my playmate is
come to tell me so! Now may the earth open and swallow me up that I may
not suffer so many wrongs! Remember, I _am_ a woman!”

To all this the Cid answers nothing. He is bound by his oath to the
king, but his darkened countenance shows how much he is moved as he sits
straight upright on the _estrade_, contemplating the face of Doña
Urraca.

Then her foster-father, Don Arias Gonzalo, stands out from the other
counsellors, and says, “Lady Doña Urraca, prove the men of Zamora,
whether they will cleave to you or to Don Sancho.” To which she agrees,
and calling in her ladies to bring her mantilla and manto, she goes out
through the broad corridor of the palace in which the banners and the
armour are hung, by the gateway with her effigy over it, down to the
church of San Salvador; the Cid, as her brother’s messenger, walking on
her right hand.

The townsmen arrive, called by the voice of Don Miño, and thus they
speak:

“We beseech you, Doña Lady Infanta, not to give up Zamora. We will spend
all our money, and devour our mules and horses; nay, even feast on our
own children, in your defence. If you cleave to us, we will cleave to
you.”

Doña Urraca was well pleased. She had a bitter tongue but a warm heart,
and now it was touched. The beauty returned to her countenance as she
turned it on the Cid, the stately beauty of royalty to which no lower
born can attain.

“See, Cid Campeador,” she says, proudly launching on him a look out of
her glowing eyes, “many kings would have envied you, who were bred up
with me, yet you hold me of little count. Go to my brother, and entreat
him to leave me alone. I would rather die with these men in Zamora than
live elsewhere. Tell him what you have seen and heard, and may God speed
you on the way.” With which answer the Cid departs.

[Illustration: THE BRIDGE AT SARAGOSSA.]



CHAPTER XXXI

Don Alfonso Banishes the Cid


Don Sancho was young. He was arrogant. He had already crowned himself
king of the three kingdoms, and believed he was invincible. As the Cid
entered his tent and delivered Doña Urraca’s message, he turned upon him
savagely.

“This is your counsel,” he cried. “Oh, Cid, such courage does not belong
to a woman! My sister defies me because you were bred up with her, and
because----”

What more Don Sancho might have said, remained unspoken, for the Cid
broke in with a terrible oath:

“It is false. I have served you faithfully, according to my word. But I
declare I will not take arms against the Infanta, nor against the city
of Zamora, because of the days that are past.”

“Traitor!” shouted Don Sancho, incensed beyond all bounds. “If it were
not for my father, I would order you this instant to be hanged!”

“It is not your father’s desires, but your own use for me which
restrains you, Don Sancho. Have you not two brothers alive? And who
shall gainsay me if I place one of them on the throne?”

Without another word the Cid turned and left the tent, and calling to
him his kinsmen and friends, rode out of the camp towards Toledo.

King Don Sancho, greatly alarmed, sent after him and brought him back.

So hard-pressed was Zamora, that although Doña Urraca was of a stout
heart, she determined, by the advice of her foster-father and her
council, as she would not willingly see all her people die, to retreat
with them to Toledo, to join her brother, Don Alfonso, who was with the
Moors.

Now this was exactly what the traitor Dolfos was waiting for.

“Lady Doña Infanta,” he said, kissing her hand as she sat on an ancient
seat in her retiring room debating what she was to do, signs of hunger
and grief on her royal face, “I have served you long, and never had any
reward, though I have seen you gracious to other men. But if you will
look with favour on me, I will make Don Sancho raise the siege.”

Now this speech, which the chroniclers give us word for word, would seem
to infer either that he was a villain, who took advantage of her strait,
or that Doña Urraca was not that faultless dame we would fain believe
her to be.

Her answer, too, was calm, as of one to whom the aspirations of love
were no strange matter.

“Don Dolfos, I will answer you as the wise men did the fool. Bargains
are made with the slothful, and with those in need. I am in sore need. I
do not bid you to commit an evil deed, but I say there is _nothing_ I
would not grant to the man who saves Zamora from the king.”

Again Dolfos kissed her hand.

Now it is well known that the king was treacherously slain by Dolfos,
with his own gilded hunting-spear, outside the walls, believing that he
had come to him secretly pretending to give Zamora up. The Cid, who was
riding near, met him flying back towards the postern, and charged him
with the deed, but he put spurs to his horse and got back within the
walls. The Cid, eager to pursue him, took his lance from his esquire,
but did not wait to buckle on his spurs, which was the only fault ever
found with him in all his life.

Without spurs he could not urge his horse as swiftly as the other, and
so he escaped.

Once inside the postern, Dolfos, in mortal fear of those within, rushed
to the palace and flung himself at Doña Urraca’s feet, drawing her royal
mantle over him for protection.

But when her foster-father, Don Arias, knew it, he went to her and
spoke:

“My Infanta, you cannot harbour this traitor, otherwise all the
Castilians outside will accuse you of murder.”

“What can I do?” she answers. “See how he clings to my robe.”

She knew she had encouraged him in what he had done, and in the letters
she had written, and fain would she have saved him. But Don Arias would
listen to nothing.

“Give Dolfos up to me;” and he drew him away by force, the poor wretch
trembling all over, with no strength to stand. “Come, Dolfos,” says Don
Arias, “be of good cheer; to please the Infanta, I will hide you three
days in my house. If the Castilians impeach us, I must give you up. If
they do not, you shall escape from the town. Here you cannot bide, for
we are honourable men, and keep no company with traitors.”

After King Sancho’s death came Don Alfonso, to be known as _El Sabio_,
to join his sister at Zamora, who had always loved him well.

A council was called in the palace. The Castilians, Navarrese, Leonese,
and the Gallegos, being already his subjects, are ready to acknowledge
him as king if he can clear himself of all knowledge of the murder of
his brother.

The ricoshombres, counts and knights, the prelates and chief persons
have already kissed his hand; but the Cid sits apart. The image of his
dead master rises up between him and Alfonso. It was he who had found
Don Sancho by the side of the Douro wounded to death by his own
hunting-spear, which he dared not draw forth for fear of killing him
outright.

“Now, how is this, Cid Campeador?” asks the new king, who, in majesty of
person and speech and wisdom, was much more like his sister Doña Urraca
than Don Sancho. “See you not that all have received me for their lord
except you? Why have you not kissed my hand?”

“Sir,” answers the Cid, rising from where he sat, “the reason is this:
all these present, as well as I, suspect you of having compassed your
brother’s death. Unless you can clear yourself, I will never kiss your
hand or acknowledge you as king.”

“Your words please me well,” is the king’s reply, spoken softly, but
rage was in his heart. “I swear to God and St. Mary I never slew him or
took counsel of his death, and I will clear myself of the charge by oath
within the church of Sant’ Agueda at Burgos.”

The ancient church of St. Gaden or Sant’ Agueda, not far from the Suelos
of the Cid, and where he was married, is filled with the noblest company
in Castile; the Cid, towering over all, at the high altar, in chain
armour from top to heel, his good sword Tizona at his side, and in his
hand a cross-bow of wood and steel.

Face to face is King Alfonso in royal robes, his hand upon a painted
missal beside the Host.

“King Don Alfonso,” says the Cid, in his terrible voice, so well known
in the battle-field, “will you swear that you have not compassed the
death of my king and master, your brother Don Sancho? If you swear
falsely, may you die the death of a traitor and a slave.”

To which King Alfonso, joining his hands on the Cid’s answers, “Amen.”

_But he changed colour._

Then the Cid repeats a second time, “King Don Alfonso, will you further
swear you neither counselled nor favoured the murder of the king, your
brother, and my master? If you swear falsely, may you die the death of a
traitor and a slave.”

Again the king presses his hand and answers, “Amen.”

_But he changed colour._

Then came forth twelve vassals who confirmed the king’s word, and the
Cid was at last satisfied, and the knights also said, “Amen.” The Cid
would have embraced the king, but he turned away, and though he had
shown himself invincible, the king banished him (1081).

Then the Cid sent for all his kinsmen and vassals and asked who would
follow him, and who remain at home?

“We will all go with you,” answers his cousin, Alvar Fañez, “and be your
loyal friends.”

“I thank you,” replies the Cid. “The time will come when I shall reward
you tenfold.”



CHAPTER XXXII

The Cid Bids Doña Ximena Farewell


When the Cid returned to Burgos, men and women went forth to look at
him, others were on the roofs and at the windows weeping, so great was
the sorrow at the manner of his return. Every one desired to welcome
him, but no one dared, for King Don Alfonso had sent letters to say,
“None should give the Cid lodging or food, and that whoever disobeyed
should lose all he had, and the eyes out of his head.”

The Cid went up Calle Alta to his Suelos, but he found the door fastened
for fear of the king. He called out with a loud voice, but no one
answered. Then he took his foot out of the stirrup and gave it a kick,
but the lock stood firm, being well secured. The only one who appeared
was a little girl nine years old, who ran out of one of the houses near.

“O Cid, we dare not open our doors to you, for we should lose all we
have, and the eyes in our heads. This would not help you, dear Cid. But
we pray that God and His angels may keep you. Adios.”

When the Cid understood what the king had done, he turned his horse
aside to St. Mary’s chapel (at the gateway), and knelt and prayed with
all his heart at the altar, then rode out of the town and pitched his
tent on the banks of the Arlanzon.

At this time occurred his dealing with the Jews.

The Cid’s purse was empty, and he must fill it. “Take two chests,” he
said to his nephew, “and fill them with sand, and go to Rachel and Vidal
and bid them come hither privately, because I cannot take my treasure
with me on horseback, and money I must have before I start. Let them
come for the chests at night when no one will see. God knows I do not
this willingly, but of necessity, and I will redeem all.”

Martin Antolinez did as he was told. To the Jews he said, “If you give
me your hands that you do not betray me to Christian or Moor, you shall
be rich men for ever. The Campeador has great wealth in tribute. He has
two chests full of gold. He will leave them in your hands, and you shall
lend him money upon them, if you swear solemnly not to open the chests
nor look at the gold.”

The confiding Jews swore by Father Abraham, gave the money, and received
the chests. They were covered with leather, red and gold, the nails
gilt, and the sides ribbed with bars of iron; each chest was fastened by
a lock, and they were very heavy, being filled with sand. The Jews came
to the Cid’s tent and kissed his hand, then, spreading a sheet on the
carpet, they counted out the gold, and also gave a handsome present to
his nephew.

“Let us be gone,” whispered Martin into the Cid’s ear, not at all
ashamed. So at cock-crow they started to meet Doña Ximena at San Pedro
de Cardeña. (In the chapel of Santa Isabel, outside the Puerta del
Sarmental of the cathedral, is still to be seen one of these chests,
called the _Cofre del Cid_, clamped with iron and nailed up to the
wall.)

At San Pedro the Cid found Ximena and his two little daughters. “Abbot,”
he said, addressing himself to the priest. “I commend my two little
_niñas_ to your care. Take care of them while I fight, and my wife and
her ladies, and when the money I now give you is gone, supply them all
the same, for every mark I will hereafter give you four.” And the abbot
promised.

Doña Ximena and her daughters kissed the Cid, and she knelt down at his
feet weeping bitterly.

The Cid, whose heart was tender for his own however hard with his
enemies, wept too, and took the children in his arms, for he dearly
loved them.

“My dear and honoured wife,” he said, “cheer up, I shall yet live to
give these children in marriage to great lords. Have faith in me,
Ximena, whom I love as my own soul.”

Again and again the Cid commended Ximena to the abbot, then he and all
the knights loosened the reins of their horses and pricking forward to
the Sierra entered into the country of the Moors.



CHAPTER XXXIII

Adventures of the Cid--Death and Burial


From this time began that life of knight-errantry which has made the Cid
famous in all ages.

First he betook himself to the court of the Count of Barcelona, but not
agreeing with him, passed into the service of the Sheikh Móstadri, the
most powerful of the Moslem princes of Saragossa. At his death, which
occurred soon after, the Cid continued with his eldest son, Montamin,
and assisted him against his two brothers with prodigies of valour.

In five days he overran Aragon and harried a large tract of country for
spoil, returning in triumph to Saragossa, bringing with him prisoner the
Count of Barcelona.

“Blessed be God and all His saints,” said the Cid to his followers. “By
this victory we have bettered our quarters for horses and for men. Hear
me, all you knights,” and he raised his mighty voice, “we shall get
nothing by killing these Moors. Let us make them show us the treasures
they have hidden in their houses. That will serve us better than their
death.”

All this and much more was done, as the Cid said, _por murzar_. Enemies
or friends, money must be had.

But the great feat of the Cid’s life is his conquest of Valencia, where
he was called to protect the Sheikh Yahia along with the Moorish king of
Saragossa. Upon whatever cause he went (and the chronicles are extremely
confused after he took service with the Moslem), ambition was his motive
and pillage his object.

From Jativa, on the hills over the sea, he came down with his army into
the _Huerta_, an unexampled garden, beautiful in all time: woods of palm
and orange-trees, fences of aloes and prickly pear, the glory of the
Roman, the pleasaunce of the Goth, the delight of the Arab, who declared
“that heaven had fallen here.”

Valencia itself lies sweetly on either side of a river, the banks
breaking into _bosques_ and gardens, with tall towers shooting into the
blue sky. El Miguelete, square and Gothic, its rival Aliberfar, all
points, minarets, and domes,--the Zeca (bazaar) and Alcazar,--bridge,
twelve gates, and _tapia_ battlements, turreted and machicolated, hemmed
in by fruitful plains, the rich country studded with _posadas_ and
_quintas_ to the sea-shore, about a mile distant.

The Moorish Sheikh Yahia received the Cid honourably, and gave him a
great revenue in

[Illustration: A DRINKING FOUNTAIN IN SEVILLE.

Photo Levy et Fils]

return for his protection. But this did not last long.

Seeing how powerful he was, King Alfonso suddenly claimed all his
conquests as his suzerain, which led to further strife between them,
Alfonso attacking Valencia in his absence with the Moors to gain it for
himself; in revenge for which act of treason the Campeador carried his
arms into his own land, Castile, destroying castles and sacking towns.
“Make war and deceive,” was his motto now. He had learned it from the
Moors, and acted up to it till he died. Still in his heart he loved the
country where he was born and where he had left his wife and children,
only that he hated King Alfonso more.

       *       *       *       *       *

On his return the gates of Valencia were shut against him, and the
terrible siege began, the Cid attacking the city as cruelly as he could,
and food becoming dearer every day till at last it was not to be had;
the people were carried off in waves of death, dropping and dying in the
streets, the Alcazar full of corpses, and no grave with less than ten
bodies in it.

At last the gates were opened to him by his friend, Abeniaf, the
Adelantado, in return for which he had him first stoned, then burned
alive in the plaza.

In these days one seeks in vain for the noble qualities of Ruy Diaz de
Bivar. The only excuse to be found is the harshness and injustice with
which Don Alfonso treated him.

Valencia surrendered in June, 1694, and the Cid at once bethought him of
his wife and children, now grown up to womanhood, left in the Abbey of
St. Peter, and sent his nephew Alvar Fañez and Martin Antolinez, with
two hundred knights, on a mission to the king. He also sent money to
redeem the debt of the chests filled with sand, and to excuse himself to
the Jews, Rachel and Vidal, for having cheated them in his great need.

“What tidings bring you me of the Cid?” asks the king (of Alvar and
Martin), whom they find in the city of Burgos.

Then Alvar stood out and spake boldly: “The tidings are good, Sir King,
but we come to ask a boon, for the love of your Maker. You banished the
Cid from the land, and behold, he has won six pitched battles against
the Moors, also the city of Valencia; and he places all he has at your
feet, if of your bounty he may have his wife and his daughters with him
there.”

“It pleases me well,” is the king’s answer. “I will give them a guard
through Castile. When they have passed it, the Cid Campeador will look
after them himself. Moreover, I grant him Valencia and all that he has
won as his own, to be held under me, who am his liege lord and
suzerain.”

Great joy was there at San Pedro de Cardeña when the knights appeared,
Doña Ximena and her daughters running out on foot to meet them, and
weeping plenteously for joy.

“And how does my dear lord fare?” asks the gentle Doña Ximena, wiping
her eyes. “In all all these years I have had no news of him.”

“Well, and safe and sound,” answers Alvar Fañez, saluting her. “Be of
good cheer, my cousin, for the great city of Valencia is his, and his
heart’s desire is to see you and have you with him there.”

“Alas! what am I,” cries poor Ximena, ever humble in her mind, “that he
could show me this favour after so many years! God and the Virgin be
thanked for his constancy.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When they were within three miles of Valencia, under the thick shade of
the orange woods of the Huerta, word of their coming was brought to the
Cid, who ordered that Babieca should be saddled, and girt on his sword.

He was much changed. He had the same commanding aspect and far-seeing
eyes, but his white beard was so long and flowing, it was a wonder to
behold. No man ever put his hand on it in life but himself, or touched
it with a razor, and when he fought it was screwed up like a curl under
his chin. Every gesture was imperious, as of a king. At that time,
indeed, no king in Spain could compare with the Cid in power.

“Dear and honoured wife,” he exclaimed, as he embraces Doña Ximena, who
received him on her knees, “and you, my daughters, come with me into
Valencia, the inheritance I have won for you.”

He leads them through the gate called “of the Snake,” then mounts into
the famous tower of the Miguelete, now the Campanile of the
Cathedral,--and in the clear transparent air shows them the city which
lies at their feet, the green Huerta, thick with shade, and the blue
ocean beyond, on which ride the ships of the King of Morocco, come to
besiege the city, a sight which made poor Ximena tremble.

But the Cid comforted her.

“You shall see with your own eyes how I fight and how I gain our bread.
Fear not, honoured wife,” seeing that Ximena’s courage fails her, “my
heart kindles to the fight because you are here. More Moors, more
gain----”

The tambours of the enemy now sound a great alarm, but the Cid smiles
and strokes his beard, gazing fondly on Ximena, now a wrinkled woman in
middle age.

“Dear wife, look boldly out over Valencia. All this I give you for a
marriage gift. I have won it, and I will send the King of Morocco
packing whence he came. In fifteen days, please God, his rattling
tambours shall be hung up in the church of St. Mary. Pray God I may live
for your sakes, and still overcome the Moor!”

Thus speaking, they descend the tower and enter the Alcazar, all gold
and painted walls on stone and wood, in the Arab manner, with hangings
above and below, purple and crimson, and rich cloths thick with gold and
silver, and take their seats on benches set with precious stones, the
Cid placing himself on an ivory divan like a throne.

       *       *       *       *       *

About this time King Alfonso and the Cid met at last as friends on the
banks of the Tagus, a river of very rapid flood, where tents were
pitched and many knights assembled.

The Cid knelt on the ground before him, and would have kissed his foot
in the jewelled stirrup, but King Alfonso cried out: “My hand, Cid
Campeador, my hand!” and embracing him said he forgave him with all his
heart (the Cid still on his knees), then raised him up and gave him the
kiss of peace.

Afterwards they ate together, and Alfonso proposed his kinsmen, the two
Infantes of Currion, as husbands to the Cid’s two daughters, Elvira and
Sol. Very scornful and haughty young princes they were, who did not
please the Cid nor Doña Ximena at all, but the Cid dared not say “No,”
on account of the king.

The marriages indeed turned out ill; and the dames were afterwards
affianced to Don Sancho of Aragon, and the Infante Ramiro of Navarre.
The Infantes of Currion were dismissed and dishonoured for their crimes,
at the Cortes held in the palace of Burgos, before Alfonso, the Cid
sitting beside him, within the golden _estrado_, on the ivory divan he
had taken from the Moors--a throne, in fact, which had served a
sheikh--a great triumph for him, at Burgos especially, his native city,
where he had begged in vain for bread and was forced to cheat the Jews
to fill his purse!

The Cid was in the prime of life, untouched by the hand of time, lord of
a great capital and of a powerful state--far-seeing and wise, heroically
audacious in all he did, capable of love, yet tremendous in hate. “Our
Cid,” as the people called him, “born in a happy hour,” none dreaming of
a united kingdom of which he was to be the head when he was struck in
the midst of his career by the hand of death.

“Be you sure,” he said to his household and his companions in arm, whom
he had called together, “that I am at the end of my life. In thirty days
I shall die. More than once lately I have seen my father, Don Diego
Laynez, and the son whom I lost. They say to me each time, ‘You have
tarried on earth too long, come now with us, among the people who live
for ever.’”

After this, having sickened of the malady of which he died, he called
for the casket of gold in which was the balsam and the myrrh the Soldan
of Persia had given him, and he drank it, and, for the seven days which
he lived, he neither ate nor drank aught else, and his body and his
countenance appeared fairer and fresher and his voice clearer, though he
waxed weaker and weaker.

On the day before he departed, he called for Doña Ximena and his nephew
Alvar Fañez, and directed them what to do after his death.

“You know,” he said, “that the King Bucar, of Morocco, will presently
return to besiege the city; therefore, when I am dead, make no cries or
lamentations, but wash my body and dry it well, and anoint it with the
myrrh and balsam out of the gold casket, from head to foot; then saddle
you my horse Babieca, and arm her as for battle, apparel my body as I
went in life against the Moors, and set me on her back, and tie me fast,
so as not to fall, and fix my good sword Tizona in my hand, and when
thus accoutred lead me out against the king, whom God has delivered into
my hands.”

Three days after the Cid died (1099). On the morning of the twelfth day,
when all was ready, as the Cid had commanded, they went against the army
of the Moor and prevailed, and the dead body of the Cid left Valencia,
on his horse Babieca, armed at all points and passed through the camp of
the Moors, followed by Doña Ximena and his trusty friends--taking the
road for the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña, near Burgos, where he
was to be interred; and the king came from Toledo to meet them.

When they took the Cid from off his horse and set him on a frame before
the altar, so fair and comely did he appear, Doña Ximena entreated the
king not to have the body laid in a coffin underground. So king Alfonso
sent to Burgos for the ivory divan on which the Cid had sat as king at
the Cortes, and gave orders that he should be placed in it, to the right
of the altar, and a graven tabernacle placed over him, bearing the
blazon of Castile and Leon, Navarre, and Aragon, and his own arms as the
Cid Ruy Diaz the Campeador. There it was left for ten years, and when
the garments waxed old others were put on.

In a side _capella_ of the church of San Pedro, five miles from Burgos,
the square monument of the Cid is still to be seen. It is much
mutilated, but his lofty figure can still be traced on the lid, wearing
a coat of mail and grasping his double-hilted sword Tizona, the effigy
of the faithful Ximena at his side.

Legend says that while the body was left alone in the church before
being interred, it was visited by a Jew, who, wagging his head,
contemptuously contemplated the face of the dead hero and his sacred
beard, of which the Cid had said, “Thanks be to God, it is long because
I keep it for my pleasure, and never a son of Moor or Jew has dared to
touch it.”

“Yes,” said the Jew to himself, recalling all the cruelties of which he
had been guilty towards his race, “you are the great Cid, low enough
now, and that is your fine black beard, grey and thin, of which you were
so proud. I should like to see what you will do to me if I pluck it.” At
which he stretched forth his hand, but drew it back sharp enough when,
with a hollow sound, the dead hand seized the hilt of Tizona and drew
forth the blade more than half a palm. Down fell the Jew in a fit, and
in rushed the priests, and lo! the dead hand still grasped Tizona, and
the fierce eyes seemed to roll. Who, after such an experience, would
dare to trifle with the remains of the Cid?

At the present time these remains are said to be deposited at the
Ayuntamiento at Burgos, in a case of walnut wood, in the centre of a
large hall, along with the skeleton of poor Ximena, still faithful to
him in death.



CHAPTER XXXIV

Fernando el Santo


After the death of Alfonso el Valiente, which followed close upon that
of the Cid, our Old Court Life brings us to the reign of Fernando el
Santo, third of that name--1217--brother of that well-beloved Eleanor,
Queen of Edward the First, destined to conquer Seville after five
hundred years of Moslem rule, the first Christian king who inhabited the
Alcazar.

With Fernando the shadow of a great king rises before us. He wears a
high pointed crown surrounded by a glory, his face is set and stern,
with the prominent far-seeing eyes of a prophet, his features aquiline
and pure; his hair fair and curly, thrown back as if in an ecstasy, and
a full beard covers his closely shut mouth and finely modelled chin. It
is an essentially modern countenance for the time in which he lived,
full of life and expression, only the stiff ruff round the long neck is
old Castilian, and the heavy armour in which the tall, stalwart body is
encased very different from the elegance in wrought steel and gold which
was manufactured by the Moors.

Around him hang the ample folds of a royal mantle, a deep ermine collar
descending to his waist. In one hand he carries a drawn sword, in the
other the globe of empire and the keys of Seville.

Thus he is to be seen in a statue in the Cathedral of Seville, and in a
curious painting by Murillo in the Library, the reproduction of some
earlier likeness.

When not bearing arms against the Moors he occupied himself in burning
them, for in religious zeal he was the precursor of Torquemada, the
parent of the Inquisition. Indeed the malicious chroniclers insist that
he was “_sainted_” for carrying fagots to the stake with his own hands.

Not an attractive monarch, though cousin to St. Louis of France, whom he
somewhat resembles in person, and his emulator in crusades against the
heathen. With this difference: no crime was ever imputed to the French
king, who died tending plague-stricken Africans, while the record of
much cruelty attaches to the memory of Fernando.

Not to be too severe on him, however, it must be remembered that from
his time the Castilian Spaniards assumed the grave and dignified
demeanour that characterises them to this day, and marks them as a race
at once loyal, valiant and sincere.

Fernando first conquered Cordoba, occupied the palace of the great
Abdurraman, and actually endeavoured to turn the inimitable mosque into
a church. Happily the Moorish architecture was too much for him; a
_mezquita_ it is, and _mezquita_ it will remain, as long as horseshoe
arch and pillar hold together.

Cordoba conquered, Fernando turned his victorious arms against the
capital of Andalusia, for call it as you please, Boetica or Italica,
Seville was and ever will be the chief city of the south--still
encircled by portions of the Roman walls, untouched since the days of
Cæsar and Pompey.

There were seven suburbs and as many gates, and 166 castellated towers.
Azataff was the Moorish caliph who held it, as brave a knight and
chivalric a prince as ever drew blade.

At the mouth of the Guadalquivir, by the white shores of Cadiz, he held
his fleet, and his vassals and troops were with him in the Alcazar. From
the Patio de las Banderas floated his flag, a black crescent and a star
on a yellow ground, and his turbaned body-guard thronged the walls.

Fernando fixed his camp on the low hills over Sancti Ponce. In such a
world of flats as surround Seville any height is valuable, and he seized
it. As the eye ranges afar, these olive-planted hills appear paltry and
monotonous, but they command the city. At their base winds the
Guadalquivir in many a graceful bend, otherwise the land is unprotected
to the sea.

Not only did Fernando fix his camp scientifically, but he was expert
enough to understand that to succeed he must block the river. A fleet
of Castilian boats intercepted the Moorish vessels at the mouth of the
Guadalquivir at Cadiz, and stopped all supplies.

Such were the dispositions of the Castilian king; and as the siege drew
on, and the Christian host gazed down upon the walls, great
encouragement came to them from the visible interposition of the Virgin
in many notable visions and miracles.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day as Don Fernando stands at the entrance of the royal tent,
casting those prominent eyes of his across the plains, and counting by
the number of outposts in how many days he may hope to plant the flag of
Castile upon the Giralda tower, rising so tall and graceful before him,
he beholds a Christian knight with a companion and an esquire riding by
the bank of the river below, carelessly as a man who takes the air on a
fine summer’s day, and loiters on the way the better to enjoy it.
Lightly the knight carries his lance in rest upon his thigh. His vizor
is raised over a bright young face. At his side hangs his sword, held by
a golden chain; on his arm flutters a scarf striped red and blue, and
the same colours shine radiant in the sunshine on the plume which nods
from his helmet.

“Now, who is this young fool,” cries Fernando in a rage, “who dares ride
forth into the enemy’s camp as if he were the herald of a tournament?
Does he think that I allow my knights thus to sacrifice their lives? or
that he has a right to risk it?” Then, as he watches his progress,
always farther and farther into the outworks of the Moor, “Who is he?”
he cries again. “Will no one tell me his name? Methinks it were well for
him he had shriven himself before he started, or his soul will be the
worse for it very briefly.”

Before the king could be answered, a loud voice shouted at his ear:
“Ride, ride for your life, Garcia Perez of Varga. I see the gleam of
Moorish lances near at hand. Ride on, or you are lost.”

The voice that shouted was that of the Conde Lorenzo, the king’s Jefe,
who, coming up behind the king at that moment, and having longer sight
than his, recognised Don Garcia’s cognisance, a red cross and a green
tree, and called out to warn him of his danger.

“Sire,” says he, in a lower tone, bowing before Fernando, “pardon me, I
see seven Moors on horseback. They are in ambuscade in that wood yonder.
They have sighted Don Garcia, and are waiting to break out upon him as
he passes. Therefore I warned him.”

“Don Garcia Perez is it?” quoth the king, his eyes following those of
Count Lorenzo upon the plain. “I could lose no better man. For die he
will, as surely as Christ suffered on the cross. Blow for blow he will
give them, but seven to one is too great odds.”

As to Don Garcia, he is too far off to hear any voice, let them shout
ever so loudly. On he rides tranquilly, as a lover to his mistress; but
as

[Illustration: Photo Levy et Fils.

A VIEW OF THE INTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL AT BURGOS.]

if some instinct suddenly struck him, at the same moment that the Conde
Lorenzo calls out to him from the hill, he lowers the vizor of his
helmet, crested by the wing of a black eagle, grasps the hilt of his
lance firmly in his hand, and turning back to his companion, by no means
so well armed as himself, and secretly recommending himself to every
saint in the calendar, “The Moors are sure to be on us,” he says, “it
were well to make ready for them. Buckle your girths tightly and take
care they do not shake you from the saddle.”

Instead of answering, Don Juan Attiz (for that was his name) set spurs
to his horse, riding furiously towards the back camp, leaving Don Garcia
alone with his esquire.

“Ha! ha! is it so?” laughs he, watching his companion as his horse’s
hoofs tear up the turf. “Better to be alone with me, Baldo” (to his
esquire), “than to have such a coward at my heels. Hey! for Castile and
Leon!”

Now softly, one by one, the Moors come creeping out from their ambush in
the wood (there is no mistaking them now, the sun shone upon their round
steel caps and their smooth shields), one by one, like Agag,
“delicately,” until seven Moslem knights place themselves across the
path by which Don Garcia rides, the last one carrying a flag bearing the
mystic symbol of an open hand, the same as is still to be seen carved
over the principal gateway of the Alhambra.

“By Santiago!” cries King Fernando, anxiously watching from the hill.
“Observe Don Garcia. The seven Moors are ranging themselves on the
grass. Yet, to look at them, one would say it is they who are afraid,
not he, he rides on so boldly.”

“And so it is, sire,” answers the chamberlain, his eye fixed on the
plain; “I warrant their hearts beat louder than his. The Moors stand
back in line, while Garcia advances. See, now he pauses, as though he
did not see them--pauses and speaks to his esquire. My lord, you will
soon sing a _Te Deum_ in the Seville mosque, if all your army be as
brave as Don Garcia.”

“Did ever man behold the like?” replies King Fernando, shading his eyes
the better to observe him. “Now Garcia is taking off his casque. He is
wiping his head. He is calling his esquire up beside him. God be thanked
we have such Christian knights! May the Blessed Virgin guard him, and
bring him safe back.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Come hither,” Don Garcia is saying to his esquire, taking no more
notice of the seven Moors than if they were seven statues; while they,
in their turn, mark with dismay the red cross and the green tree
emblazoned on his shield. Too well they know that device, and when they
see whom they have waylaid they wish themselves elsewhere.

“Come hither, the sun is hot upon my head. Take my casque from me and
hold it for awhile; there is no need why I should heat myself with such
a weight.”

As he speaks, he lifts his arm to remove his casque, and behold, his
striped scarf has vanished. “Alas! how have I lost it?” he cries in much
distress. “I must have dropped it but a moment ago. Now, I would rather
fight ten battles than lose that scarf. My liege lady worked it for me
and bound it on my arm long ago, and there I have worn it ever since.
Find it I will, or I will die for it.”

As he speaks Don Garcia turns himself round in his saddle unhelmeted as
he is, his hair flying in the breeze, and gazes eagerly upon the path by
which he has come, a track upon the greensward.

Then for the first time he raises his eyes upon the Moors, seven knights
ranged in a line, wearing green turbans on their helmets and carrying
lances in their hands; and there, suspended upon the point of a spear,
is his scarf striped white and red--a Moslem has picked it up and looped
it there.

“Now, by my faith!” says Garcia, considering them with a frown, “these
are uncourteous enemies. Folks say the unbelievers exceed us in that
quality, but it is not so. They have come out to steal, these Moslem
dogs. They shall pay for it. No Moor that ever lived shall ride back
into Seville and call that scarf his own! Come on, ye thieves and
robbers! give me my lady’s token!”

As he speaks, Don Garcia falls upon them and hacks and hews them with
such deadly blows right and left, that ere much time is passed such as
are not dead are scouring the plain to Seville.

Fernando, watching anxiously from the hill, still sees Don Garcia on the
plain. Again he is alone, now he is fastening the scarf, which his
esquire has unloosed from the Moorish spear, securely upon his arm.
Then, humming a roundelay, he girds his sword, streaming with blood,
upon his thigh, and turning his horse’s head towards the Christian camp,
rides gaily up the hill, four green-turbaned heads dangling from his
saddle-bow.

Meanwhile the jefe is telling the king a pleasant tale of Don Garcia’s
brother, Don Diego de Varga, who, having snapped his sword in the heat
of an engagement outside Xerez, tore up by the roots a wild olive-tree,
and laid about him with such fury among the Moors, that to this day he
is known by the name of _El Machuca_ (the Pounder).

       *       *       *       *       *

For sixteen months the Caliph Azataff gallantly defended the walls of
Seville, but before an army of such chivalric knights and a king
prepared for canonisation, what city could hope to stand?

On the 23d November (_el dia de San Clemente_) the strong fortress of
the Alcazar is stormed and Azataff capitulates. Then, amid an inaudible
blare of trumpets and fifes, ringing of bells and beating of drums, King
Fernando, in a suit of fine steel armour, a royal crown of wrought gold
encircling his casque, and mounted on a graceful Andalusian charger
caparisoned with silver housings, enters the gate nearest to the river
on the north, from henceforth to be known as “La Puerta del Trionfo.”
By his side rides Don Garcia de Varga and his brother Don Diego (whom it
is said the immortal Don Quixote de la Mancha chose as his model for
tearing up the wild oak-tree, and which act of valour he proposed to
perform equally), the Conde Lorenzo, the Lord of Haro, Pelayo Correa,
the Master of Santiago, and many other champions of the times.

Over Fernando’s head waves the banner of Castile, the Golden Castle, and
the Lion of Leon, his hand resting upon the hilt of that same iron
sword, still to be seen in the sacristy at Seville, and fixed on his
saddle-bow is a small ivory statue of the Virgen de los Reyes, which
accompanies him everywhere.

The procession is superb. First, men-at-arms bearing the escutcheons of
the twin kingdoms he rules and the black standards and flags captured
from the Moors, a long string of swarthy prisoners following
bare-headed--the greatest humiliation an Arab can endure; other banners
floating in the sun, heralds in golden tabards proclaiming with a loud
voice the feats of arms accomplished during the siege; bowmen,
_pursuivants_, knights and esquires in squadrons behind, with gleaming
spears and glistening targets, mounted on proudly prancing war-horses, a
sheet of mail.

As Fernando passes the drawbridge, marked now by a sensible depression
in the road (for the Puerta del Trionfo disappeared in the last
revolution, and the fosse is filled up), a cup of rock-crystal is
presented to him under an Arab arch by the Christian citizens, filled to
the brim with golden Xerez wine. This he quaffs to the health of his
victorious army, turning himself around in his saddle-bow so that all
may see.

“Castile! Castile! Leon to the rescue! Viva el Rey Fernando! Viva el
Cristo Deo!” come ringing through the air from every Christian throat of
mailed warriors and tried men-at-arms. Their arms and hands are weary
from the toil, but their hearts make merry at the pageant and the booty
in store for all.

Then two men, a Jew and a Moor, advance from the crowd, one an aged
Rabbi, with a long white beard, habited in a Hebrew gabardine reaching
to the ground, the other a young Arab of stately presence, fully
equipped for battle, the nephew of Caliph Azataff, but without casque or
scimitar--both bearing offerings to the King. The Jewish gift is an iron
key, bearing on the wards the words in Hebrew: “The King of kings shall
open; the King of all the earth shall enter.” The Moor also bears a key,
but it is of silver, inscribed in Arabic characters with the motto: “May
Allah render the dominion of Islam eternal;” and as the young knight
offers it to Fernando, kneeling in the dust beside his stirrup, he
raises his other hand to put back the bitter tears that blind his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the moment King Fernando entered Seville, the caliph fled by the
side where is now the _Hospital del Sangre_, near to the Convent of San
Jeronima in the fields, on the spot where the lepers had their ancient
refuge.

Whither the caliph went no one knew, or if he died by his own hand or
that of another, Fernando little heeding his fate as he passed into the
city to take possession of the castle of the Alcazar.

And there he lived till he died, and was buried in the Capilla Real of
the great mosque he turned into a cathedral.

Over the altar, placed on a silver throne embossed with the double knout
of Castile and Leon, sits the little ivory image of the Virgen de los
Reyes, given him by St. Louis--the same mediæval figure, with a
glistening gown, hair spun in gold, and shoes worked with Gallic lillies
and the word Amor, he always carried on his saddle-bow in battle.

The Capilla Real is a church within a church, entered by golden gates
behind the altar, where, under a richly incrusted dome, in a
shell-shaped vault, lies Saint Fernando in a crystal coffin. The body is
wonderfully preserved. On his head is the pointed crown he wore in life,
and his royal mantle is wrapped about his loins. On one side lies the
sword with which he fought his way into Toledo and Seville, on the other
the baton of command. Beside him rest his son, Alonso the Wise, and his
Queen Beatrice, and on a wall near at hand are the medallions of the
chivalric brothers Don Garcia and Don Diego de Varga.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hour to enter the cathedral is at the _Ave Maria_, when the sun is
low and its rays tremble on the burnished walls in irises of gold, and
the great painted windows stand out in a pale light, alive with
venerable forms of law-givers, prophets, and kings; the delicate curves
of the arches melt into dim lines, and rays of yellow light pierce like
arrows across the floor.

Then the sculptured saints seem to take form and live, the flying pipes
of the twin organs to glitter like angels’ wings, the statues in the
choir to murmur in strange tongues, the many famous pictures which line
the walls to grow terrible in the half-light, with dark forms of
archbishops and priests, monks and canons long laid to rest in the
repose of painted shrines, beside which deacons keep watch with silver
croziers; and from the boundless gloom a burst of sound rolls forth like
the thunder of an earthquake from the deep-mouthed pipes of the two
organs, replying to each other as in a voice of Titans--the rattle of
conquering drums, the shrill bray of trumpets, the crying voice of
pipes, and all the clash and clamour as of a battle-field.

On the anniversary of St. Fernando’s death the troops still march in to
hear the military mass and to lower the standard of Spain before his
body, each soldier bearing a lighted torch. Once it was a company of a
hundred Moors, bareheaded, who carried the torches to the royal bier,
sent in token of submission by the Caliph of Granada. Could any
conqueror wish for more?



CHAPTER XXXV

Don Pedro


Oh! the beautiful south it is at Seville! Nothing can shut it out! With
its glamour of all strange things in nature, story, and song; Moslem and
Christian knights and lovely sultanas hung with priceless pearls, dead
caliphs haunting blood-stained towers, shades of Christian conquerors
and swarthy slaves, the curse of a murderous past, the glitter of a
glorious present, the clash, the confusion, Arab palaces, marble-paved,
heavy with far-off tales, and gates, walls, and castles of nations long
died out, yet with a poetic life still speaking!

The narrow streets, across which lovers still whisper to each other
under the moon, the unshuttered windows, iron-bound, where Inez may
creep down and warble to Alonso, concealed in a dark mantle behind the
shadow of a wall, where roses fling curtains of perfumed blossom, orange
petals scent the air, and southern sunsets spread sudden splendours in
the afterglow, as the earth lies black under a sky palpitating like a
furnace, till night falls and countless stars come forth to light a
paler day!

Two things are most notable at Seville; the great mosque, now the
cathedral, and the Alcazar. The Alcazar, inhabited by long generations
of Arab caliphs up to the time of St. Fernando, is still untouched, a
Moorish fortress in the centre of the city, girt by _tapia_ walls and
castellated towers. Not a poetic ruin like the Alhambra, but a real
substantial castle, reached through the Plaza del Trionfo by which
Fernando passed.

It was again rebuilt and redecorated by Don Pedro el Cruel, 1350, King
of Castile and Leon, at the same period as the Alhambra, Yussuf, Caliph
of Granada, being on such friendly terms with Don Pedro that the same
Moorish architect wrought for both.

Passing an outer barbican with two low towers the Patio de las Banderas,
where floats the flag of Spain, a dark corridor leads to the inner Patio
de la Monteria, where the portal of Don Pedro blazes in the sun, a
glittering blending of red, blue, and gold, set on snowy surfaces of
finest fretwork; painted roofs casting rich shadows, arabesques formed
into Cufic letters, diapered borders parting into groups of horseshoe
arches, and a Gothic inscription setting forth “that the most high and
powerful Don Pedro, by the Grace of God King of Castile and Leon,
ordered these castles and fortresses to be re-erected.” The magic of it
all is wonderful, coming into sight as it does, rising tier above tier,
parapet on parapet, in a glow of Oriental colour, to a central dome
cutting against the azure sky; the door a curious mosaic of dark wood,
and on either side low marble benches, sunk into the arcaded carvings of
the wall, where the young King Don Pedro sat to administer justice to
all who came, while his dark-haired mistress, Maria de Padilla, watched
from above, leaning out of the central _mirador_ (window) of her
chamber, still used as a retiring room for the queens of Spain.

       *       *       *       *       *

One morning Don Pedro, taking his place as usual, surrounded by his
alguazils, commanded that certain men should be brought before him whose
arrest he had ordered as they were drifting down the Guadalquivir with
the tide to Cadiz upon a wooden raft. His knitted brows and sinister
aspect boded ill to the rough-looking countrymen brought trembling into
the court.

“How comes it, fellows,” asks the king, his steely-blue eyes fixed on
the foremost man, “that you dare to come to Seville to cheat me of the
dues on the timber that floats down the stream? Think you you will
escape unpunished?”

“O King,” one of the men answers, falling on his knees, “in what have we
offended? We are four poor men from Puerta Santa Maria, incapable of
deceiving any one--much less your royal Grace.”

“Liar!” roars the young king, starting from

[Illustration: THE BURGOS CATHEDRAL.]

his seat. “Look at me. Do you not know me?”

“No, my lord, I have never to my knowledge set eyes on you before.”

“You did not meet me last night upon the quay?”

“No, my liege.”

“Come now,” and a cynical smile spreads over his fair young face,
“remember! Did not a stranger help you to unload a raft? A fellow you
found sleeping under a boat wrapped in a cloak? Did you not wake him and
promise to pay him well, if he would aid you to land certain timber so
that you might start before sunrise?”

“O King, it is true; we spoke with such a fellow--mean, almost in
rags--and he did help us after sunset to land some wood. We paid him and
let him go, and the king’s dues on it were lodged at the Torre d’Oro
before we left.”

“Villains!” cries the king, his features darkening. “A pretty example!
This is how my subjects rob and cheat and lie. I should like to cut off
your heads with my own hand. Know you that I was that fellow who helped
you, ‘_that mean person in rags_.’ Did you not say the night was dark,
and that no man would see you land the timber and you would escape the
dues? And did you not add that those dues were wrung unjustly from poor
men? and that the king who slept in the golden chambers would be none
the worse if he lost them? And did I not tell you that my name was
_Pedro_--_Pedro?_” Here the cruel boy broke into a mocking laugh, more
terrible than threats. “Now I am that Pedro, King of Castile and Leon
and Caliph of Cordoba and Seville!”

Then turning to the mutes, who stood with drawn swords behind: “Cut off
the heads of these carrion and set them on the wharf, that all men may
know me as I am, _El Rey Justiciero_.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Looking at Don Pedro, son of Alonso XI.--1312--(who was cruel also and
made away with his enemies remorselessly)--he is not such a remote
personage after all. He was contemporary with the Black Prince, son of
Eleanor of Castile, daughter of Alfonso el Sabio, and four short reigns
bring him almost into modern times with Fernando and Isabel, the parents
of Caterina of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII.

The times were stirring when he came to the throne. The Crusades were
not over, and the world was moved by wars, murders, and pestilence.

Young as he was, under twenty when he succeeded his father, Don Pedro
fixed the attention of Europe; the most prominent figure in Spain since
the time of San Fernando, and as fantastic, brave, handsome, and
unscrupulous as a Castilian prince should be.

Yet it must not be forgotten that during his short reign he civilised
the south of Spain by a close alliance with the cultivated Moors of
Granada; that he loved the arts and industries in which they excelled,
and during his brief periods of leisure from incessant wars, surrounded
himself with all that was illustrious in the Mussulman race--still the
mediæval depositors of knowledge in Spain, as the monks were in Central
Europe. As long as he lived he never abandoned these artistic tastes,
and has left in the Alcazar a monument of exquisite architecture, which
sends down his name to posterity with honour.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a small plaza not far from the Casa de Pilatos, popularly believed to
have been constructed on the model of the Proconsular Palace at
Jerusalem in which Pilate lived, by a travelled ancestor of the San
Sidonia family, a small bust of Don Pedro is let into a house wall.

From this we know him as he was: regular aquiline features, with soft
youthful lines, long waves of rippling curls fall on his shoulders, and
a low pointed crown presses upon his smooth brow. One hand rests on the
hilt of a sword, the other grasps a Gothic sceptre. The place where the
bust is placed is called the _Calle del Candilejo_, in the middle of
narrow alleys unaltered since the Moors.

Now the story goes that in one of his midnight rambles, for he wandered
about like the Caliph Haroun el Raschid, Don Pedro found himself in the
_Calle del Candilejo_ (of the candle), where he ran up against a
hidalgo, who turned and struck him. Some say that he was a noted
duellist, with whom Don Pedro had long desired to measure swords;
others that he did not run up against the king at all, but that Don
Pedro purposely attacked him. Anyhow swords were drawn freely. Neither
would let the other go with his life, and both would sell their own
dearly. At last, by a cunning lunge, Don Pedro ripped up his adversary
and laid him at his feet.

Now, shortly before, the king had made a decree forbidding all fighting
in the streets upon pain of death. What with love, revenge, jealousy,
and robbery, so many citizens were killed that there were not enough
left to fight.

What was to be done? There lay his adversary dead, and as Don Pedro
gazed down upon his face he remembered that, according to his own
decree, he had condemned himself to death. While he was wiping the blood
from his sword, an idea struck him and he began to laugh. No one had
seen the fight, no one could identify him. What an excellent occasion
this would be of showing the carelessness of the Alcaide. If the Alcaide
had done his duty and put guards about, such a thing could not have
happened. Further, if the Alcaide could not discover him as the living
man, he, Don Pedro, would have the pleasure of wringing off his neck.
Altogether he returned to the Alcazar in high good humour.

The first thing he did next morning was to summon the Alcaide. “Sir
Alcaide,” said he, leading him by the hand to a seat on his own divan,
“I have called you to inquire whether any miscreant has dared to
transgress my law against street-fighting. In these unsettled times it
is needful that the king should be obeyed.”

“My lord,” replied the Alcaide, not altogether reassured by the king’s
manner, too gracious to be sincere, “I am not aware that any one has
offended.”

“Ha! say you so? Are you sure? For remember, if any fighting takes place
within the city and the survivor escapes, I shall hold you responsible
for the blood that is shed.”

At this the Alcaide grew very grave. He was quite aware that Don Pedro
would be as good as his word, and trembled lest some hidden motive was
prompting him. Nor was he left long in doubt. Before he could reply a
Moorish page entered, bearing a paper on a silver salver, which no
sooner had the king glanced at, than, starting to his feet, he swore a
big oath.

“What,” he cries, “while you, Alcaide, are come here to lie and cringe,
a more faithful servant warns me that a dead body was found last night
in the plaza behind Pilatos’ house!”

“Sire,” replies the Alcaide, “if it be so, you have good reason to
reproach me.”

“_If!_” shouts the king, in a well-simulated rage. “Do you dare to doubt
_me_? Now, to teach you your duty, I warn you that if the criminal is
not found in two days, you yourself shall hang in his place.”

The feelings of the Alcaide, a comfortable man with a wife and family,
may be imagined. No sooner did he reach the Ayuntamiento than he found
that a fight had really taken place, and a dead body been discovered.
But alas! no one could give him the slightest clue. No one had seen the
fight; no one knew the survivor.

At last, on the evening of the second day, when in sheer despair he had
taken leave of his wife and children and sent for his confessor, an old
woman looking like a witch, was shown into his presence, and astonished
him by declaring that she could name the man. But what with his
impatience and the breathless state of the old woman it was some time
before he could get her to explain.

At last she spoke. “I had just fastened my door and was going upstairs,
for it was late, when I heard a great clatter of swords at the opening
of the _Calle_. As the night was dark and I could not see, I lit a
candle and looked out of the window. There I saw two men fighting. As
one, or both, will be sure to want to be laid out to-morrow (for my
trade is with the dead), I will make sure, I said to myself. One had his
back to me, the other was _the king_.”

“_The king?_”

“Yes, my lord, and no other. He was in common clothes and wore a mask;
but when he had run his enemy through he took it off, and stood wiping
his sword. I could see him as plainly as I see you. In a terrible
fright, I blew out my candle, lest he should look up and kill me also;
but he was too busy. If I had not seen his face,” continued the old
woman, chuckling to herself, “I should have known him by the knocking of
his knees. Everybody in Seville knows the noise the king makes when he
walks.”

The old woman dismissed with proper thanks and a liberal reward, the
Alcaide presented himself betimes at the Alcazar next morning, arriving
just as Don Pedro was taking his seat upon the marble bench outside his
dazzling portal, to judge all who came.

When Don Pedro beckoned to him to approach, the Alcaide smiled. “Well,
sir officer,” says he, eyeing him all over with an evil smile, “have you
found the man?”

“Yes, my lord, and nothing is easier than for your Grace to meet him
face to face.” At which notion the Alcaide became so overwhelmed with
mirth he had to turn away his face not to laugh outright.

“Is the man mad?” thought Don Pedro, “or is he mocking me?” Then a fit
of passion seized him. “Villain,” he shouts, “you have found no one. You
are shirking to save your life. Unless the real man is brought here----”

“But, my lord,” breaks in the Alcaide, “if you know who the real man is,
why do you command me to seek him?” To which shrewd question Don Pedro
could find no reply; only if he hated the Alcaide before, he then and
there resolved on the very next opportunity to cut off his head.

“Now,” and the Alcaide looks the young king full in the face, “will my
lord permit me to take leave in order to make preparation for the
execution? I think you insisted on the third day from the murder, that
is to-morrow? As you yourself will be present, all must be arranged with
fitting care.”

Then he called to him skilful Moorish artificers, for all the delicate
work at that time was done by Moors, and caused them to construct during
the night a life-sized figure or dummy, dressed in royal robes, to
represent the king, a sword in one hand and a sceptre in the other. The
next morning this figure was hung on a gibbet in the Plaza de San
Francisco, Don Pedro himself being present, attended by all his court.

How he looked or in what manner he explained so strange a proceeding,
tradition does not say; but when the crowned dummy was swinging in the
air, the king called the Alcaide to him and said, “Justice has been
done--I am satisfied.”

Ever since that time the spot where the King fought is called the
“_Calle della Cabeza del Rey Don Pedro_,” and the narrow alley close by,
where the old woman looked out of the window, the “_Calle del
Candilejo_”; while, that there might be no mistake as to what took place
there, a bust of Don Pedro is let into the wall.

END OF VOLUME I

       *       *       *       *       *

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

familar tones of his voice=> familiar tones of his voice {pg 49}

of those who who are dear to you=> of those who are dear to you {pg 173}

it was the the discreet Ayub=> it was the discreet Ayub {pg 152}

answed not a word=> answered not a word {pg 259}

your kindgom between my three brother=> your kingdom between my three
brother {pg 300}





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