Leila or, The Siege of Granada, Book II.
Edward Bulwer Lytton
This eBook was produced by David Widger [email@example.com]
THE SIEGE OF GRANADA
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
THE ROYAL TENT OF SPAIN.--THE KING AND THE DOMINICAN--THE VISITOR
AND THE HOSTAGE.
Our narrative now summons us to the Christian army, and to the tent in
which the Spanish king held nocturnal counsel with some of his more
confidential warriors and advisers. Ferdinand had taken the field with
all the pomp and circumstance of a tournament rather than of a campaign;
and his pavilion literally blazed with purple and cloth of gold.
The king sat at the head of a table on which were scattered maps and
papers; nor in countenance and mien did that great and politic monarch
seem unworthy of the brilliant chivalry by which he was surrounded. His
black hair, richly perfumed and anointed, fell in long locks on either
side of a high imperial brow, upon whose calm, though not unfurrowed
surface, the physiognomist would in vain have sought to read the
inscrutable heart of kings. His features were regular and majestic: and
his mantle, clasped with a single jewel of rare price and lustre, and
wrought at the breast with a silver cross, waved over a vigorous and
manly frame, which derived from the composed and tranquil dignity of
habitual command that imposing effect which many of the renowned knights
and heroes in his presence took from loftier stature and ampler
proportions. At his right hand sat Prince Juan, his son, in the first
bloom of youth; at his left, the celebrated Rodrigo Ponce de Leon,
Marquess of Cadiz; along the table, in the order of their military rank,
were seen the splendid Duke of Medina Sidonia, equally noble in aspect
and in name; the worn and thoughtful countenance of the Marquess de
Villena (the Bayard of Spain); the melancholy brow of the heroic Alonzo
de Aguilar; and the gigantic frame, the animated features, and sparkling
eyes, of that fiery Hernando del Pulgar, surnamed "the knight of the
"You see, senores," said the king, continuing an address, to which his
chiefs seemed to listen with reverential attention, "our best hope of
speedily gaining the city is rather in the dissensions of the Moors than
our own sacred arms. The walls are strong, the population still
numerous; and under Muza Ben Abil Gazan, the tactics of the hostile army
are, it must be owned, administered with such skill as to threaten very
formidable delays to the period of our conquest. Avoiding the hazard of
a fixed battle, the infidel cavalry harass our camp by perpetual
skirmishes; and in the mountain defiles our detachments cannot cope with
their light horse and treacherous ambuscades. It is true, that by dint
of time, by the complete devastation of the Vega, and by vigilant
prevention of convoys from the seatowns, we might starve the city into
yielding. But, alas! my lords, our enemies are scattered and numerous,
and Granada is not the only place before which the standard of Spain
should be unfurled. Thus situated, the lion does not disdain to serve
himself of the fox; and, fortunately, we have now in Granada an ally that
fights for us. I have actual knowledge of all that passes within the
Alhambra: the king yet remains in his palace, irresolute and dreaming;
and I trust that an intrigue by which his jealousies are aroused against
his general, Muza, may end either in the loss of that able leader, or in
the commotion of open rebellion or civil war. Treason within Granada
will open its gates to us."
"Sire," said Ponce de Leon, after a pause, "under your counsels, I no
more doubt of seeing our banner float above the Vermilion Towers, than I
doubt the rising of the sun over yonder hills; it matters little whether
we win by stratagem or force. But I need not say to your highness, that
we should carefully beware lest we be amused by inventions of the enemy,
and trust to conspiracies which may be but lying tales to blunt our
sabres, and paralyse our action."
"Bravely spoken, wise de Leon!" exclaimed Hernando del Pulgar, hotly:
"and against these infidels, aided by the cunning of the Evil One,
methinks our best wisdom lies in the sword-arm. Well says our old
'Curse them devoutly,
Hammer them stoutly.'"
The king smiled slightly at the ardour of the favourite of his army, but
looked round for more deliberate counsel. "Sire," said Villena, "far be
it from us to inquire the grounds upon which your majesty builds your
hope of dissension among the foe; but, placing the most sanguine
confidence in a wisdom never to be deceived, it is clear that we should
relax no energy within our means, but fight while we plot, and seek to
conquer, while we do not neglect to undermine."
"You speak well, my Lord," said Ferdinand, thoughtfully; "and you
yourself shall head a strong detachment to-morrow, to lay waste the Vega.
Seek me two hours hence; the council for the present is dissolved."
The knights rose, and withdrew with the usual grave and stately
ceremonies of respect, which Ferdinand observed to, and exacted from, his
court: the young prince remained.
"Son," said Ferdinand, when they were alone, "early and betimes should
the Infants of Spain be lessoned in the science of kingcraft. These
nobles are among the brightest jewels of the crown; but still it is in
the crown, and for the crown, that their light should sparkle. Thou
seest how hot, and fierce, and warlike, are the chiefs of Spain--
excellent virtues when manifested against our foes: but had we no foes,
Juan, such virtues might cause us exceeding trouble. By St. Jago, I have
founded a mighty monarchy! observe how it should be maintained--by
science, Juan, by science! and science is as far removed from brute force
as this sword from a crowbar. Thou seemest bewildered and amazed, my
son: thou hast heard that I seek to conquer Granada by dissensions among
the Moors; when Granada is conquered, remember that the nobles themselves
are at Granada. Ave Maria! blessed be the Holy Mother, under whose eyes
are the hearts of kings!" Ferdinand crossed himself devoutly; and then,
rising, drew aside a part of the drapery of the pavilion, and called; in
a low voice, the name of Perez. A grave Spaniard, somewhat past the
verge of middle age, appeared.
"Perez," said the king, reseating himself, "has the person we expected
from Granada yet arrived?"
"Sire, yes; accompanied by a maiden."
"He hath kept his word; admit them. Ha! holy father, thy visits are
always as balsam to the heart."
"Save you, my son!" returned a man in the robes of a Dominican friar, who
had entered suddenly and without ceremony by another part of the tent,
and who now seated himself with smileless composure at a little distance
from the king.
There was a dead silence for some moments; and Perez still lingered
within the tent, as if in doubt whether the entrance of the friar would
not prevent or delay obedience to the king's command. On the calm face
of Ferdinand himself appeared a slight shade of discomposure and
irresolution, when the monk thus resumed:
"My presence, my son, will not, I trust, disturb your conference with the
infidel--since you deem that worldly policy demands your parley with the
men of Belial."
"Doubtless not--doubtless not," returned the king, quickly: then,
muttering to himself, "how wondrously doth this holy man penetrate into
all our movements and designs!" he added, aloud, "Let the messenger
Perez bowed, and withdrew.
During this time, the young prince reclined in listless silence on his
seat; and on his delicate features was an expression of weariness which
augured but ill of his fitness for the stern business to which the
lessons of his wise father were intended to educate his mind. His,
indeed, was the age, and his the soul, for pleasure; the tumult of the
camp was to him but a holiday exhibition--the march of an army, the
exhilaration of a spectacle; the court as a banquet--the throne, the best
seat at the entertainment. The life of the heir-apparent, to the life of
the king possessive, is as the distinction between enchanting hope and
The small grey eyes of the friar wandered over each of his royal
companions with a keen and penetrating glance, and then settled in the
aspect of humility on the rich carpets that bespread the floor; nor did
he again lift them till Perez, reappearing, admitted to the tent the
Israelite, Almamen, accompanied by a female figure, whose long veil,
extending from head to foot, could conceal neither the beautiful
proportions nor the trembling agitation, of her frame.
"When last, great king, I was admitted to thy presence," said Almamen,
"thou didst make question of the sincerity and faith of thy servant; thou
didst ask me for a surety of my faith; thou didst demand a hostage; and
didst refuse further parley without such pledge were yielded to thee.
Lo! I place under thy kingly care this maiden--the sole child of my
house--as surety of my truth; I intrust to thee a life dearer than my
"You have kept faith with us, stranger," said the king, in that soft and
musical voice which well disguised his deep craft and his unrelenting
will; "and the maiden whom you intrust to our charge shall be ranked with
the ladies of our royal consort."
"Sire," replied Almamen, with touching earnestness, you now hold the
power of life and death over all for whom this heart can breathe a prayer
or cherish a hope, save for my countrymen and my religion. This solemn
pledge between thee and me I render up without scruple, without fear. To
thee I give a hostage, from thee I have but a promise."
"But it is the promise of a king, a Christian, and a knight," said the
king, with dignity rather mild than arrogant; "among monarchs, what
hostage can be more sacred? Let this pass: how proceed affairs in the
"May this maiden withdraw, ere I answer my lord the king?" said Almamen.
The young prince started to his feet. "Shall I conduct this new charge
to my mother?" he asked, in a low voice, addressing Ferdinand.
The king half smiled: "The holy father were a better guide," he returned,
in the same tone. But, though the Dominican heard the hint, he retained
his motionless posture; and Ferdinand, after a momentary gaze on the
friar, turned away. "Be it so, Juan," said he, with a look meant to
convey caution to the prince; "Perez shall accompany you to the queen:
return the moment your mission is fulfilled--we want your presence."
While this conversation was carried on between the father and son, the
Hebrew was whispering, in his sacred tongue, words of comfort and
remonstrance to the maiden; but they appeared to have but little of the
desired effect; and, suddenly falling on his breast, she wound her arms
around the Hebrew, whose breast shook with strong emotions, and exclaimed
passionately, in the same language, "Oh, my father! what have I done?--
why send me from thee?--why intrust thy child to the stranger? Spare me,
"Child of my heart!" returned the Hebrew, with solemn but tender accents,
"even as Abraham offered up his son, must I offer thee, upon the altars
of our faith; but, O Leila! even as the angel of the Lord forbade the
offering, so shall thy youth be spared, and thy years reserved for the
glory of generations yet unborn. King of Spain!" he continued in the
Spanish tongue, suddenly and eagerly, "you are a father, forgive my
weakness, and speed this parting."
Juan approached; and with respectful courtesy attempted to take the hand
of the maiden.
"You?" said the Israelite, with a dark frown. "O king! the prince is
"Honour knoweth no distinction of age," answered the king. "What ho,
Perez! accompany this maiden and the prince to the queen's pavilion."
The sight of the sober years and grave countenance of the attendant
seemed to re-assure the Hebrew. He strained Leila in his arms; printed a
kiss upon her forehead without removing her veil; and then, placing her
almost in the arms of Perez, turned away to the further end of the tent,
and concealed his face with his hands. The king appeared touched; but
the Dominican gazed upon the whole scene with a sour scowl.
Leila still paused for a moment; and then, as if recovering her self-
possession, said, aloud and distinctly,--"Man deserts me; but I will not
forget that God is over all." Shaking off the hand of the Spaniard, she
continued, "Lead on; I follow thee!" and left the tent with a steady and
even majestic step.
"And now," said the king, when alone with the Dominican and Almamen, "how
proceed our hopes?"
"Boabdil," replied the Israelite, "is aroused against both his army and
their leader, Muza; the king will not quit the Alhambra; and this
morning, ere I left the city, Muza himself was in the prisons of the
"How!" cried the king, starting from his seat.
"This is my work," pursued the Hebrew. coldly. "It is these hands that
are shaping for Ferdinand of Spain the keys of Granada."
"And right kingly shall be your guerdon," said the Spanish monarch:
"meanwhile, accept this earnest of our favour." So saying, he took from
his breast a chain of massive gold, the links of which were curiously
inwrought with gems, and extended it to the Israelite. Almamen moved
not. A dark flush upon his countenance bespoke the feelings he with
"I sell not my foes for gold, great king," said he, with a stern smile:
"I sell my foes to buy the ransom of my friends."
"Churlish!" said Ferdinand, offended: "but speak on, man, speak on!"
"If I place Granada, ere two weeks are past, within thy power, what shall
be my reward?"
"Thou didst talk to me, when last we met, of immunities to the Jews."
The calm Dominican looked up as the king spoke, crossed himself, and
resumed his attitude of humility.
"I demand for the people of Israel," returned Almamen, "free leave to
trade and abide within the city, and follow their callings, subjected
only to the same laws and the same imposts as the Christian population."
"The same laws, and the same imposts! Humph! there are difficulties in
the concession. If we refuse?"
"Our treaty is ended. Give me back the maiden--you will have no further
need of the hostage you demanded: I return to the city, and renew our
interviews no more."
Politic and cold-blooded as was the temperament of the great Ferdinand,
he had yet the imperious and haughty nature of a prosperous and long-
descended king; and he bit his lip in deep displeasure at the tone of the
dictatorial and stately stranger.
"Thou usest plain language, my friend," said he; "my words can be as
rudely spoken. Thou art in my power, and canst return not, save at my
"I have your royal word, sire, for free entrance and safe egress,"
answered Almamen. "Break it, and Granada is with the Moors till the
Darro runs red with the blood of her heroes, and her people strew the
vales as the leaves in autumn."
"Art thou then thyself of the Jewish faith?" asked the king. "If thou
art not, wherefore are the outcasts of the world so dear to thee?"
"My fathers were of that creed, royal Ferdinand; and if I myself desert
their creed, I do not desert their cause. O king! are my terms scorned
"I accept them: provided, first, that thou obtainest the exile or death
of Muza; secondly, that within two weeks of this date thou bringest me,
along with the chief councillors of Granada, the written treaty of the
capitulation, and the keys of the city. Do this: and though the sole
king in Christendom who dares the hazard, I offer to the Israelites
throughout Andalusia the common laws and rights of citizens of Spain; and
to thee I will accord such dignity as may content thy ambition."
The Hebrew bowed reverently, and drew from his breast a scroll, which he
placed on the table before the king. "This writing, mighty Ferdinand,
contains the articles of our compact."
"How, knave! wouldst thou have us commit our royal signature to
conditions with such as thou art, to the chance of the public eye? The
king's word is the king's bond!"
The Hebrew took up the scroll with imperturbable composure, "My child!"
said he; "will your majesty summon back my child? we would depart."
"A sturdy mendicant this, by the Virgin!" muttered the king; and then,
speaking aloud, "Give me the paper, I will scan it."
Running his eyes hastily over the words, Ferdinand paused a moment, and
then drew towards him the implements of writing, signed the scroll, and
returned it to Almamen.
The Israelite kissed it thrice with oriental veneration, and replaced it
in his breast.
Ferdinand looked at him hard and curiously. He was a profound reader of
men's characters; but that of his guest baffled and perplexed him.
"And how, stranger," said he, gravely,--"how can I trust that man who
thus distrusts one king and sells another?"
"O king!" replied Almamen (accustomed from his youth to commune with and
command the possessors of thrones yet more absolute),--"O king! if thou
believest me actuated by personal and selfish interests in this our
compact, thou has but to make, my service minister to my interest, and
the lore of human nature will tell thee that thou hast won a ready and
submissive slave. But if thou thinkest I have avowed sentiments less
abject, and developed qualities higher than those of the mere bargainer
for sordid power, oughtest thou not to rejoice that chance has thrown
into thy way one whose intellect and faculties may be made thy tool? If
I betray another, that other is my deadly foe. Dost not thou, the lord
of armies, betray thine enemy? The Moor is an enemy bitterer to myself
than to thee. Because I betray an enemy, am I unworthy to serve a
friend? If I, a single man, and a stranger to the Moor, can yet command
the secrets of palaces, and render vain the counsels of armed men, have I
not in that attested that I am one of whom a wise king can make an able
"Thou art a subtle reasoner, my friend," said Ferdinand, smiling gently.
"Peace go with thee! our conference for the time is ended. What ho,
Perez!" The attendant appeared.
"Thou hast left the maiden with the queen?"
"Sire, you have been obeyed."
"Conduct this stranger to the guard who led him through the camp. He
quits us under the same protection. Farewell! yet stay--thou art
assured that Muza Ben Abil Gazan is in the prisons of the Moor?"
"Blessed be the Virgin!"
"Thou hast heard our conference, Father Tomas?" said the king, anxiously,
when the Hebrew had withdrawn.
"I have, son."
"Did thy veins freeze with horror?"
"Only when my son signed the scroll. It seemed to me then that I saw the
cloven foot of the tempter."
"Tush, father, the tempter would have been more wise than to reckon upon
a faith which no ink and no parchment can render valid, if the Church
absolve the compact. Thou understandest me, father?"
"I do. I know your pious heart and well-judging mind."
"Thou wert right," resumed the king, musingly, "when thou didst tell us
that these caitiff Jews were waxing strong in the fatness of their
substance. They would have equal laws--the insolent blasphemers!"
"Son!" said the Dominican, with earnest adjuration, "God, who has
prospered your arms and councils, will require at your hands an account
of the power intrusted to you. Shall there be no difference between His
friends and His foes--His disciples and His crucifiers?"
"Priest," said the king, laying his hand on the monk's shoulder, and with
a saturnine smile upon his countenance, "were religion silent in this
matter, policy has a voice loud enough to make itself heard. The Jews
demand equal rights; when men demand equality with their masters, treason
is at work, and justice sharpens her sword. Equality! these wealthy
usurers! Sacred Virgin! they would be soon buying up our kingdoms."
The Dominican gazed hard on the king. "Son, I trust thee," he said, in a
low voice, and glided from the tent.
THE AMBUSH, THE STRIFE, AND THE CAPTURE.
The dawn was slowly breaking over the wide valley of Granada, as Almamen
pursued his circuitous and solitary path back to the city. He was now in
a dark and entangled hollow, covered with brakes and bushes, from amidst
which tall forest trees rose in frequent intervals, gloomy and breathless
in the still morning air. As, emerging from this jungle, if so it may be
called, the towers of Granada gleamed upon him, a human countenance
peered from the shade; and Almamen started to see two dark eyes fixed
upon his own.
He halted abruptly, and put his hand on his dagger, when a low sharp
whistle from the apparition before him was answered around--behind; and,
ere he could draw breath, the Israelite was begirt by a group of Moors,
in the garb of peasants.
"Well, my masters," said Almamen, calmly, as he encountered the wild
savage countenances that glared upon him, "think you there is aught to
fear from the solitary santon?"
"It is the magician," whispered one man to his neighbour--"let him pass."
"Nay," was the answer, "take him before the captain; we have orders to
seize upon all we meet."
This counsel prevailed; and gnashing his teeth with secret rage, Almamen
found himself hurried along by the peasants through the thickest part of
the copse. At length, the procession stopped in a semicircular patch of
rank sward, in which several head of cattle were quietly grazing, and a
yet more numerous troop of peasants reclined around upon the grass.
"Whom have we here?" asked a voice which startled back the dark blood
from Almamen's cheek; and a Moor of commanding presence rose from the
midst of his brethren. "By the beard of the prophet, it is the false
santon! What dost thou from Granada at this hour?"
"Noble Muza," returned Almamen--who, though indeed amazed that one whom
he had imagined his victim was thus unaccountably become his judge,
retained, at least, the semblance of composure--"my answer is to be given
only to my lord the king; it is his commands that I obey."
"Thou art aware," said Muza, frowning, "that thy life is forfeited
without appeal? Whatsoever inmate of Granada is found without the walls
between sunrise and sunset, dies the death of a traitor and deserter."
"The servants of the Alhambra are excepted," answered the Israelite,
without changing countenance.
"Ah!" muttered Muza, as a painful and sudden thought seemed to cross him,
"can it be possible that the rumour of the city has truth, and that the
monarch of Granada is in treaty with the foe?" He mused a little; and
then, motioning the Moors to withdraw, he continued aloud, "Almamen,
answer me truly: hast thou sought the Christian camp with any message
from the king?"
"I have not."
"Art thou without the walls on the mission of the king?"
"If I be so, I am a traitor to the king should I reveal his secret."
"I doubt thee much, santon," said Muza, after a pause; "I know thee for
my enemy, and I do believe thy counsels have poisoned the king's ear
against me, his people and his duties. But no matter, thy life is spared
a while; thou remainest with us, and with us shalt thou return to the
"But, noble Muza----"
"I have said! Guard the santon; mount him upon one of our chargers; he
shall abide with us in our ambush." While Almamen chafed in vain at his
arrest, all in the Christian camp was yet still. At length, as the sun
began to lift himself above the mountains, first a murmur, and then a
din, betokened warlike preparations. Several parties of horse, under
gallant and experienced leaders, formed themselves in different quarters,
and departed in different ways, on expeditions of forage, or in the hope
of skirmish with the straggling detachments of the enemy. Of these, the
best equipped, was conducted by the Marquess de Villena, and his gallant
brother Don Alonzo de Pacheco. In this troop, too, rode many of the best
blood of Spain; for in that chivalric army, the officers vied with each
other who should most eclipse the meaner soldiery in feats of personal
valour; and the name of Villena drew around him the eager and ardent
spirits that pined at the general inactivity of Ferdinand's politic
The sun, now high in heaven, glittered on the splendid arms and gorgeous
pennons of Villena's company, as, leaving the camp behind, it entered a
rich and wooded district that skirts the mountain barrier of the Vega.
The brilliancy of the day, the beauty of the scene, the hope and
excitement of enterprise, animated the spirits of the whole party.
In these expeditions strict discipline was often abandoned, from the
certainty that it could be resumed at need. Conversation, gay and loud,
interspersed at times with snatches of song, was heard amongst the
soldiery; and in the nobler group that rode with Villena, there was even
less of the proverbial gravity of Spaniards.
"Now, marquess," said Don Estevon de Suzon, "what wager shall be between
us as to which lance this day robs Moorish beauty of the greatest number
of its worshippers?"
"My falchion against your jennet," said Don Alonzo de Pacheco, taking up
"Agreed. But, talking of beauty, were you in the queen's pavilion last
night, noble marquess? it was enriched by a new maiden, whose strange and
sudden apparition none can account for. Her eyes would have eclipsed the
fatal glance of Cava; and had I been Rodrigo, I might have lost a crown
for her smile."
"Ay," said Villena, "I heard of her beauty; some hostage from one of the
traitor Moors, with whom the king (the saints bless him!) bargains for
the city. They tell me the prince incurred the queen's grave rebuke for
his attentions to the maiden."
"And this morning I saw that fearful Father Tomas steal into the prince's
tent. I wish Don Juan well through the lecture. The monk's advice is
like the algarroba;--[The algarroba is a sort of leguminous plant common
in Spain]--when it is laid up to dry it may be reasonably wholesome, but
it is harsh and bitter enough when taken fresh."
At this moment one of the subaltern officers rode up to the marquess, and
whispered in his ear.
"Ha!" said Villena, "the Virgin be praised! Sir knights, booty is at
hand. Silence! close the ranks." With that, mounting a little eminence,
and shading his eyes with his hand, the marquess surveyed the plain
below; and, at some distance, he beheld a horde of Moorish peasants
driving some cattle into a thick copse. The word was hastily given, the
troop dashed on, every voice was hushed, and the clatter of mail, and the
sound of hoofs, alone broke the delicious silence of the noon-day
Ere they reached the copse, the peasants had disappeared within it. The
marquess marshalled his men in a semicircle round the trees, and sent on
a detachment to the rear, to cut off every egress from the wood. This
done the troop dashed within. For the first few yards the space was more
open than they had anticipated: but the ground soon grew uneven, rugged,
and almost precipitous, and the soil, and the interlaced trees, alike
forbade any rapid motion to the horse. Don Alonzo de Pacheco, mounted on
a charger whose agile and docile limbs had been tutored to every
description of warfare, and himself of light weight and incomparable
horsemanship--dashed on before the rest. The trees hid him for a moment;
when suddenly, a wild yell was heard, and as it ceased uprose the
solitary voice of the Spaniard, shouting, "_Santiago, y cierra_, Espana;
St. Jago, and charge, Spain!"
Each cavalier spurred forward; when suddenly, a shower of darts and
arrows rattled on their armour; and upsprung from bush and reeds, and
rocky clift, a number of Moors, and with wild shouts swarmed around the
"Back for your lives!" cried Villena; "we are beset--make for the level
He turned-spurred from the thicket, and saw the Paynim foe emerging
through the glen, line after line of man and horse; each Moor leading his
slight and fiery steed by the bridle, and leaping on it as he issued from
the wood into the plain. Cased in complete mail, his visor down, his
lance in its rest, Villena (accompanied by such of his knights as could
disentangle themselves from the Moorish foot) charged upon the foe. A
moment of fierce shock passed: on the ground lay many a Moor, pierced
through by the Christian lance; and on the other side of the foe was
heard the voice of Villena--"St. Jago to the rescue!" But the brave
marquess stood almost alone, save his faithful chamberlain, Solier.
Several of his knights were dismounted, and swarms of Moors, with lifted
knives, gathered round them as they lay, searching for the joints of the
armour, which might admit a mortal wound. Gradually, one by one, many of
Villena's comrades joined their leader, and now the green mantle of Don
Alonzo de Pacheco was seen waving without the copse, and Villena
congratulated himself on the safety of his brother. Just at that moment,
a Moorish cavalier spurred from his troop, and met Pacheco in full
career. The Moor was not clad, as was the common custom of the Paynim
nobles, in the heavy Christian armour. He wore the light flexile mail of
the ancient heroes of Araby or Fez. His turban, which was protected by
chains of the finest steel interwoven with the folds, was of the most
dazzling white--white, also, were his tunic and short mantle; on his left
arm hung a short circular shield, in his right hand was poised a long and
slender lance. As this Moor, mounted on a charger in whose raven hue not
a white hair could be detected, dashed forward against Pacheco, both
Christian and Moor breathed hard, and remained passive. Either nation
felt it as a sacrilege to thwart the encounter of champions so renowned.
"God save my brave brother!" muttered Villena, anxiously. "Amen," said
those around him; for all who had ever witnessed the wildest valour in
that war, trembled as they recognised the dazzling robe and coal-black
charger of Muza Ben Abil Gazan. Nor was that renowned infidel mated with
an unworthy foe. "Pride of the tournament, and terror of the war," was
the favourite title which the knights and ladies of Castile had bestowed
on Don Alonzo de Pacheco.
When the Spaniard saw the redoubted Moor approach, he halted abruptly for
a moment, and then, wheeling his horse around, took a wider circuit, to
give additional impetus to his charge. The Moor, aware of his purpose,
halted also, and awaited the moment of his rush; when once more he darted
forward, and the combatants met with a skill which called forth a cry of
involuntary applause from the Christians themselves. Muza received on
the small surface of his shield the ponderous spear of Alonzo, while his
own light lance struck upon the helmet of the Christian, and by the
exactness of the aim rather than the weight of the blow, made Alonzo reel
in his saddle.
The lances were thrown aside--the long broad falchion of the Christian,
the curved Damascus cimiter of the Moor, gleamed in the air. They reined
their chargers opposite each other in grave and deliberate silence.
"Yield thee, sir knight!" at length cried the fierce Moor, "for the motto
on my cimiter declares that if thou meetest its stroke, thy days are
numbered. The sword of the believer is the Key of Heaven and Hell."
--[Such, says Sale, is the poetical phrase of the Mohammedan divines.]
"False Paynim," answered Alonzo, in a voice that rung hollow through his
helmet, "a Christian knight is the equal of a Moorish army!"
Muza made no reply, but left the rein of his charger on his neck; the
noble animal understood the signal, and with a short impatient cry rushed
forward at full speed. Alonzo met the charge with his falchion upraised,
and his whole body covered with his shield; the Moor bent--the Spaniards
raised a shout--Muza seemed stricken from his horse. But the blow of the
heavy falchion had not touched him: and, seemingly without an effort, the
curved blade of his own cimiter, gliding by that part of his antagonist's
throat where the helmet joins the cuirass, passed unresistingly and
silently through the joints; and Alonzo fell at once, and without a
groan, from his horse--his armour, to all appearance, unpenetrated, while
the blood oozed slow and gurgling from a mortal wound.
"Allah il Allah!" shouted Muza, as he joined his friends; "Lelilies!
Lelilies!" echoed the Moors; and ere the Christians recovered their
dismay, they were engaged hand to hand with their ferocious and swarming
foes. It was, indeed, fearful odds; and it was a marvel to the Spaniards
how the Moors had been enabled to harbour and conceal their numbers in so
small a space. Horse and foot alike beset the company of Villena,
already sadly reduced; and while the infantry, with desperate and savage
fierceness, thrust themselves under the very bellies of the chargers,
encountering both the hoofs of the steed and the deadly lance of the
rider, in the hope of finding a vulnerable place for the sharp Moorish
knife,--the horsemen, avoiding the stern grapple of the Spaniard
warriors, harrassed them by the shaft and lance,--now advancing, now
retreating, and performing, with incredible rapidity, the evolutions of
Oriental cavalry. But the life and soul of his party was the indomitable
Muza. With a rashness which seemed to the superstitious Spaniards like
the safety of a man protected by magic, he spurred his ominous black barb
into the very midst of the serried phalanx which Villena endeavoured to
form around him, breaking the order by his single charge, and from time
to time bringing to the dust some champion of the troop by the noiseless
and scarce-seen edge of his fatal cimiter.
Villena, in despair alike of fame and life, and gnawed with grief for his
brother's loss, at length resolved to put the last hope of the battle on
his single arm. He gave the signal for retreat; and to protect his
troop, remained himself, alone and motionless, on his horse, like a
statue of iron. Though not of large frame, he was esteemed the best
swordsman, next only to Hernando del Pulgar and Gonsalvo de Cordova, in
the army; practised alike in the heavy assault of the Christian warfare,
and the rapid and dexterous exercise of the Moorish cavalry. There he
remained, alone and grim--a lion at bay--while his troops slowly
retreated down the Vega, and their trumpets sounded loud signals of
distress, and demands for succour, to such of their companions as might
be within bearing. Villena's armour defied the shafts of the Moors; and
as one after one darted towards him, with whirling cimiter and momentary
assault, few escaped with impunity from an eye equally quick and a weapon
more than equally formidable. Suddenly, a cloud of dust swept towards
him; and Muza, a moment before at the further end of the field, came
glittering through that cloud, with his white robe waving and his right
arm bare. Villena recognised him, set his teeth hard, and putting spurs
to his charger, met the rush. Muza swerved aside, just as the heavy
falchion swung over his head, and by a back stroke of his own cimiter,
shore through the cuirass just above the hip-joint, and the blood
followed the blade. The brave cavaliers saw the danger of their chief;
three of their number darted forward, and came in time to separate the
Muza stayed not to encounter the new reinforcement; but speeding across
the plain, was soon seen rallying his own scattered cavalry, and pouring
them down, in one general body, upon the scanty remnant of the Spaniards.
"Our day is come!" said the good knight Villena, with bitter resignation.
"Nothing is left for us, my friends, but to give up our lives--an example
how Spanish warriors should live and die. May God and the Holy Mother
forgive our sins and shorten our purgatory!"
Just as he spoke, a clarion was heard at a distance and the sharpened
senses of the knights caught the ring of advancing hoofs.
"We are saved!" cried Estevon de Suzon, rising on his stirrups. While he
spoke, the dashing stream of the Moorish horse broke over the little
band; and Estevon beheld bent upon himself the dark eyes and quivering
lip of Muza Ben Abil Gazan. That noble knight had never, perhaps, till
then known fear; but he felt his heart stand still, as he now stood
opposed to that irresistible foe.
"The dark fiend guides his blade!" thought De Suzon; "but I was shriven
but yestermorn." The thought restored his wonted courage; and he spurred
on to meet the cimiter of the Moor.
His assault took Muza by surprise. The Moor's horse stumbled over the
ground, cumbered with the dead and slippery with blood, and his uplifted
cimiter could not do more than break the force of the gigantic arm of De
Suzon; as the knight's falchion bearing down the cimiter, and alighting
on the turban of the Mohammedan, clove midway through its folds, arrested
only by the admirable temper of the links of steel which protected it.
The shock hurled the Moor to the ground. He rolled under the saddle-
girths of his antagonist.
"Victory and St. Jago!" cried the knight, "Muza is--"
The sentence was left eternally unfinished. The blade of the fallen Moor
had already pierced De Suzoii's horse through a mortal but undefended
part. It fell, bearing his rider with him. A moment, and the two
champions lay together grappling in the dust; in the next, the short
knife which the Moor wore in his girdle had penetrated the Christian's
visor, passing through the brain.
To remount his steed, that remained at band, humbled and motionless, to
appear again amongst the thickest of the fray, was a work no less rapidly
accomplished than had been the slaughter of the unhappy Estevon de Suzon.
But now the fortune of the day was stopped in a progress hitherto so
triumphant to the Moors.
Pricking fast over the plain were seen the glittering horsemen of the
Christian reinforcements; and, at the remoter distance, the royal banner
of Spain, indistinctly descried through volumes of dust, denoted that
Ferdinand himself was advancing to the support of his cavaliers.
The Moors, however, who had themselves received many and mysterious
reinforcements, which seemed to spring up like magic from the bosom of
the earth--so suddenly and unexpectedly had they emerged from copse and
cleft in that mountainous and entangled neighbourhood--were not
unprepared for a fresh foe. At the command of the vigilant Muza, they
drew off, fell into order, and, seizing, while yet there was time, the
vantage-ground which inequalities of the soil and the shelter of the
trees gave to their darts and agile horse, they presented an array which
Ponce de Leon himself, who now arrived, deemed it more prudent not to
assault. While Villena, in accents almost inarticulate with rage, was
urging the Marquess of Cadiz to advance, Ferdinand, surrounded by the
flower of his court, arrived at the rear of the troops and after a few
words interchanged with Ponce de Leon, gave the signal to retreat.
When the Moors beheld that noble soldiery slowly breaking ground, and
retiring towards the camp, even Muza could not control their ardour.
They rushed forward, harassing the retreat of the Christians, and
delaying the battle by various skirmishes.
It was at this time that the headlong valour of Hernando del Pulgar, who
had arrived with Ponce de Leon, distinguished itself in feats which yet
live in the songs of Spain. Mounted upon an immense steed, and himself
of colossal strength, he was seen charging alone upon the assailants, and
scattering numbers to the ground with the sweep of his enormous two-
handed falchion. With a loud voice, he called on Muza to oppose him; but
the Moor, fatigued with slaughter, and scarcely recovered from the shock
of his encounter with De Suzon, reserved so formidable a foe for a future
It was at this juncture, while the field was covered with straggling
skirmishers, that a small party of Spaniards, in cutting their way to the
main body of their countrymen through one of the numerous copses held by
the enemy, fell in at the outskirt with an equal number of Moors, and
engaged them in a desperate conflict, hand to hand. Amidst the infidels
was one man who took no part in the affray: at a little distance, he
gazed for a few moments upon the fierce and relentless slaughter of Moor
and Christian with a smile of stern and complacent delight; and then
taking advantage of the general confusion, rode gently, and, as he hoped,
unobserved, away from the scene. But he was not destined so quietly to
escape. A Spaniard perceived him, and, from something strange and
unusual in his garb, judged him one of the Moorish leaders; and presently
Almamen, for it was he, beheld before him the uplifted falchion of a foe
neither disposed to give quarter nor to hear parley. Brave though the
Israelite was, many reasons concurred to prevent his taking a personal
part against the soldier of Spain; and seeing he should have no chance of
explanation, he fairly puts spurs to his horse, and galloped across the
plain. The Spaniard followed, gained upon him, and Almamen at length
turned, in despair and the wrath of his haughty nature.
"Have thy will, fool!" said he, between his grinded teeth, as he griped
his dagger and prepared for the conflict. It was long and obstinate, for
the Spaniard was skilful; and the Hebrew wearing no mail, and without any
weapon more formidable than a sharp and well-tempered dagger, was forced
to act cautiously on the defensive. At length the combatants grappled,
and, by a dexterous thrust, the short blade of Almamen pierced the throat
of his antagonist, who fell prostrate to the ground.
"I am safe," he thought, as he wheeled round his horse; when lo! the
Spaniards he had just left behind, and who had now routed their
antagonists, were upon him.
"Yield, or die!" cried the leader of the troop.
Almamen glared round; no succour was at hand. "I am not your enemy,"
said he, sullenly, throwing down his weapon--"bear me to your camp."
A trooper seized his rein, and, scouring along, the Spaniards soon
reached the retreating army.
Meanwhile the evening darkened, the shout and the roar grew gradually
less loud and loud---the battle had ceased--the stragglers had joined
their several standards and, by the light of the first star, the Moorish
force, bearing their wounded brethren, and elated with success,
re-entered the gates of Granada, as the black charger of the hero of the
day, closing the rear of the cavalry, disappeared within the gloomy
THE HERO IN THE POWER OF THE DREAMER.
It was in the same chamber, and nearly at the same hour, in which we
first presented to the reader Boabdil el Chico, that we are again
admitted to the presence of that ill-starred monarch. He was not alone.
His favourite slave, Amine, reclined upon the ottomans, gazing with
anxious love upon his thoughtful countenance, as he leant against the
glittering wall by the side of the casement, gazing abstractedly on the
From afar he heard the shouts of the populace at the return of Muza, and
bursts of artillery confirmed the tidings of triumph which had already
been borne to his ear.
"May the king live for ever!" said Amine, timidly; "his armies have gone
forth to conquer."
"But without their king," replied Boabdil, bitterly, and headed by a
traitor and a foe. I am meshed in the nets of an inextricable fate!"
"Oh!" said the slave, with sudden energy, as, clasping her hands, she
rose from her couch,--"oh, my lord, would that these humble lips dared
utter other words than those of love!"
"And what wise counsel would they give me?" asked Boabdil with a faint
smile. "Speak on."
"I will obey thee, then, even if it displease," cried Amine; and she
rose, her cheek glowing, her eyes spark ling, her beautiful form dilated.
"I am a daughter of Granada; I am the beloved of a king; I will be true
to my birth and to my fortunes. Boabdil el Chico, the last of a line of
heroes, shake off these gloomy fantasies--these doubts and dreams that
smother the fire of a great nature and a kingly soul! Awake--arise--rob
Granada of her Muza--be thyself her Muza! Trustest thou to magic and to
spells? then grave them on they breastplate, write them on thy sword, and
live no longer the Dreamer of the Alhambra; become the saviour of thy
Boabdil turned, and gazed on the inspired and beautiful form before him
with mingled emotions of surprise and shame. "Out of the mouth of woman
cometh my rebuke!" said he sadly. "It is well!"
"Pardon me, pardon me!" said the slave, falling humbly at his knees; "but
blame me not that I would have thee worthy of thyself. Wert thou not
happier, was not thy heart more light and thy hope more strong when, at
the head of thine armies, thine own cimiter slew thine own foes, and the
terror of the Hero-king spread, in flame and slaughter, from the
mountains to the seas. Boabdil! dear as thou art to me-equally as I
would have loved thee hadst thou been born a lowly fisherman of the
Darro, since thou art a king, I would have thee die a king; even if my
own heart broke as I armed thee for thy latest battle!"
"Thou knowest not what thou sayest, Amine," said Boabdil, "nor canst thou
tell what spirits that are not of earth dictate to the actions and watch
over the destinies, of the rulers of nations. If I delay, if I linger,
it is not from terror, but from wisdom. The cloud must gather on, dark
and slow, ere the moment for the thunderbolt arrives."
"On thine own house will the thunderbolt fall, since over thine own house
thou sufferest the cloud to gather," said a calm and stern voice.
Boabdil started; and in the chamber stood a third person, in the shape of
a woman, past middle age, and of commanding port and stature. Upon her
long-descending robes of embroidered purple were thickly woven jewels of
royal price, and her dark hair, slightly tinged with grey, parted over a
majestic brow while a small diadem surmounted the folds of the turban.
"My mother!" said Boabdil, with some haughty reserve in his tone; "your
presence is unexpected."
"Ay," answered Ayxa la Horra, for it was indeed that celebrated, and
haughty, and high-souled queen, "and unwelcome; so is ever that of your
true friends. But not thus unwelcome was the presence of your mother,
when her brain and her hand delivered you from the dungeon in which your
stern father had cast your youth, and the dagger and the bowl seemed the
only keys that would unlock the cell."
"And better hadst thou left the ill-omened son that thy womb conceived,
to die thus in youth, honoured and lamented, than to live to manhood,
wrestling against an evil star and a relentless fate."
"Son," said the queen, gazing upon him with lofty and half disdainful
compassion, "men's conduct shapes out their own fortunes, and the unlucky
are never the valiant and the wise."
"Madam," said Boabdil, colouring with passion, "I am still a king, nor
will I be thus bearded--withdraw!"
Ere the queen could reply, a eunuch entered, and whispered Boabdil.
"Ha!" said he, joyfully, stamping his foot, "comes he then to brave the
lion in his den? Let the rebel look to it. Is he alone?"
"Alone, great king."
"Bid my guards wait without; let the slightest signal summon them.
Amine, retire! Madam--"
"Son!" interrupted Ayxa la Horra in visible agitation, "do I guess
aright? is the brave Muza--the sole bulwark and hope of Granada--whom
unjustly thou wouldst last night have placed in chains--(chains! Great
Prophet! is it thus a king should reward his heroes)--is, I say, Muza
here? and wilt thou make him the victim of his own generous trust?"
"Retire, woman?" said Boabdil, sullenly.
"I will not, save by force! I resisted a fiercer soul than thine when I
saved thee from thy father."
"Remain, then, if thou wilt, and learn how kings can punish traitors.
Mesnour, admit the hero of Granada." Amine had vanished. Boabdil seated
himself on the cushions his face calm but pale. The queen stood erect at
a little distance, her arms folded on her breast, and her aspect knit and
resolute. In a few moments Muza entered alone. He approached the king
with the profound salutation of oriental obeisance; and then stood before
him with downcast eyes, in an attitude from which respect could not
divorce a natural dignity and pride of mien.
"Prince," said Boabdil, after a moment's pause, "yestermorn, when I sent
for thee thou didst brave my orders. Even in mine own Alhambra thy
minions broke out in mutiny; they surrounded the fortress in which thou
wert to wait my pleasure; they intercepted, they insulted, they drove
back my guards; they stormed the towers protected by the banner of thy
king. The governor, a coward or a traitor, rendered thee to the
rebellious crowd. Was this all? No, by the Prophet! Thou, by right my
captive, didst leave thy prison but to head mine armies. And this day,
the traitor subject--the secret foe--was the leader of a people who defy
a king. This night thou comest to me unsought. Thou feelest secure from
my just wrath, even in my palace. Thine insolence blinds and betrays
thee. Man, thou art in my power! Ho, there!"
As the king spoke, he rose; and, presently, the arcades at the back of
the pavilion were darkened by long lines of the Ethiopian guard, each of
height which, beside the slight Moorish race, appeared gigantic; stolid
and passionless machines, to execute, without thought, the bloodiest or
the slightest caprice of despotism. There they stood; their silver
breastplates and long earrings contrasting their dusky skins; and
bearing, over their shoulders, immense clubs studded with brazen nails.
A little advanced from the rest, stood the captain, with the fatal
bowstring hanging carelessly on his arm, and his eyes intent to catch the
slightest gesture of the king. "Behold!" said Boabdil to his prisoner.
"I do; and am prepared for what I have foreseen." The queen grew pale,
but continued silent.
"Lord of the faithful!" said he, "if yestermorn I had acted otherwise, it
would have been to the ruin of thy throne and our common race. The
fierce Zegris suspected and learned my capture. They summoned the troops
they delivered me, it is true. At that time had I reasoned with them, it
would have been as drops upon a flame. They were bent on besieging thy
palace, perhaps upon demanding thy abdication. I could not stifle their
fury, but I could direct it. In the moment of passion, I led them from
rebellion against our common king to victory against our common foe.
That duty done, I come unscathed from the sword of the Christian to bare
my neck to the bowstring of my friend. Alone, untracked, unsuspected, I
have entered thy palace to prove to the sovereign of Granada, that the
defendant of his throne is not a rebel to his will. Now summon the
guards--I have done."
"Muza!" said Boabdil, in a softened voice, while he shaded his face with
his hand, "we played together as children, and I have loved thee well: my
kingdom even now, perchance, is passing from me, but I could almost be
reconciled to that loss, if I thought thy loyalty had not left me."
"Dost thou, in truth, suspect the faith of Muza Ben Abil Gazan?" said the
Moorish prince, in a tone of surprise and sorrow. "Unhappy king! I
deemed that my services, and not my defection, made my crime."
"Why do my people hate me? why do my armies menace?" said Boabdil,
evasively; "why should a subject possess that allegiance which a king
"Because," replied Muza, boldly, "the king has delegated to a subject the
command he should himself assume. Oh, Boabdil!" he continued,
passionately--"friend of my boyhood, ere the evil days came upon us,--
gladly would I sink to rest beneath the dark waves of yonder river, if
thy arm and brain would fill up my place amongst the warriors of Granada.
And think not I say this only from our boyish love; think not I have
placed my life in thy hands only from that servile loyalty to a single
man, which the false chivalry of Christendom imposes as a sacred creed
upon its knights and nobles. But I speak and act but from one principle
--to save the religion of, my father and the land of my birth: for this I
have risked my life against the foe; for this I surrender my life to the
sovereign of my country. Granada may yet survive, if monarch and people
unite together. Granada is lost for ever, if her children, at this fatal
hour, are divided against themselves. If, then, I, O Boabdil! am the
true obstacle to thy league with thine own subjects, give me at once to
the bowstring, and my sole prayer shall be for the last remnant of the
Moorish name, and the last monarch of the Moorish dynasty."
"My son, my son! art thou convinced at last?" cried the queen, struggling
with her tears; for she was one who wept easily at heroic sentiments, but
never at the softer sorrows, or from the more womanly emotions.
Boabdil lifted his head with a vain and momentary attempt at pride; his
eye glanced from his mother to his friend, and his better feelings gushed
upon him with irresistible force; he threw himself into Muza's arms.
"Forgive me," he said, in broken accents, "forgive me! How could I have
wronged thee thus? Yes," he continued, as he started from the noble
breast on which for a moment he indulged no ungenerous weakness,--"yes,
prince, your example shames, but it fires me. Granada henceforth shall
have two chieftains; and if I be jealous of thee, it shall be from an
emulation thou canst not blame. Guards, retire. Mesnour! ho, Mesnour!
Proclaim at daybreak that I myself will review the troops in the
Vivarrambla. Yet"--and, as he spoke his voice faltered, and his brow
became overcast, "yet stay, seek me thyself at daybreak, and I will give
thee my commands."
"Oh, my son! why hesitate?" cried the queen, "why waver? Prosecute thine
own kingly designs, and--"
"Hush, madam," said Boabdil, regaining his customary cold composure; "and
since you are now satisfied with your son, leave me alone with Muza."
The queen sighed heavily; but there was something in the calm of Boabdil
which chilled and awed her more than his bursts of passion. She drew her
veil around her, and passed slowly and reluctantly from the chamber.
"Muza," said Boabdil, when alone with the prince, and fixing his large
and thoughtful eyes upon the dark orbs of his companion,--"when, in our
younger days, we conversed together, do you remember how often that
converse turned upon those solemn and mysterious themes to which the
sages of our ancestral land directed their deepest lore; the enigmas of
the stars--the science of fate--the wild searches into the clouded
future, which hides the destines of nations and of men? Thou
rememberest, Muza, that to such studies mine own vicissitudes and
sorrows, even in childhood--the strange fortunes which gave me in my
cradle the epithet of El Zogoybi--the ominous predictions of santons and
astrologers as to the trials of my earthly fate,--all contributed to
incline my soul. Thou didst not despise those earnest musings, nor our
ancestral lore, though, unlike me, ever more inclined to action than to
contemplation, that which thou mightest believe had little influence upon
what thou didst design. With me it hath been otherwise; every event of
life hath conspired to feed my early prepossessions; and, in this awful
crisis of my fate, I have placed myself and my throne rather under the
guardianship of spirits than of men. This alone has reconciled me to
inaction--to the torpor of the Alhambra--to the mutinies of my people.
I have smiled, when foes surround and friends deserted me, secure of the
aid at last--if I bided but the fortunate hour--of the charms of
protecting spirits, and the swords of the invisible creation. Thou
wonderest what this should lead to. Listen! Two nights since (and the
king shuddered) I was with the dead! My father appeared before me--not
as I knew him in life--gaunt and terrible, full of the vigour of health,
and the strength of kingly empire, and of fierce passion--but wan, calm,
shadowy. From lips on which Azrael had set his livid seal, he bade me
beware of thee!"
The king ceased suddenly; and sought to read on the face of Muza the
effect his words produced. But the proud and swarthy features of the
Moor evinced no pang of conscience; a slight smile of pity might have
crossed his lip for a moment, but it vanished ere the king could detect
it. Boabdil continued:
"Under the influence of this warning, I issued the order for thy arrest.
Let this pass--I resume my tale. I attempted to throw myself at the
spectre's feet--it glided from me, motionless and impalpable. I asked
the Dead One if he forgave his unhappy son the sin of rebellion alas!
too well requited even upon earth. And the voice again came forth, and
bade me keep the crown that I had gained, as the sole atonement for the
past. Then again I asked, whether the hour for action had arrived! and
the spectre, while it faded gradually into air, answered, 'No!' 'Oh!' I
exclaimed, 'ere thou leavest me, be one sign accorded me, that I have not
dreamt this vision; and give me, I pray thee, note and warning, when the
evil star of Boabdil shall withhold its influence, and he may strike,
without resistance from the Powers above, for his glory and his throne.'
'The sign and the warning are bequeathed thee,' answered the ghostly
image. It vanished,--thick darkness fell around; and, when once more the
light of the lamps we bore became visible, behold there stood before me
a skeleton, in the regal robe of the kings of Granada, and on its grisly
head was the imperial diadem. With one hand raised, it pointed to the
opposite wall, wherein burned, like an orb of gloomy fire, a broad dial-
plate, on which were graven these words, BEWARE--FEAR NOT--ARM! The
finger of the dial moved rapidly round, and rested at the word beware.
From that hour to the one in which I last beheld it, it hath not moved.
Muza, the tale is done; wilt thou visit with me this enchanted chamber,
and see if the hour be come?"
"Commander of the faithful," said Muza, "the story is dread and awful.
But pardon thy friend--wert thou alone, or was the santon Almamen thy
"Why the question?" said Boabdil, evasively, and slightly colouring.
"I fear his truth," answered Muza; "the Christian king conquers more foes
by craft than force; and his spies are more deadly than his warriors.
Wherefore this caution against me, but (pardon me) for thine own undoing?
Were I a traitor, could Ferdinand himself have endangered thy crown so
imminently as the revenge of the leader of thine own armies? Why, too,
this desire to keep thee inactive? For the brave every hour hath its
chances; but, for us, every hour increases our peril. If we seize not
the present time,--our supplies are cut off,--and famine is a foe all our
valour cannot resist. This dervise--who is he? a stranger, not of our
race and blood. But this morning I found him without the walls, not far
from the Spaniard's camp."
"Ha!" cried the king, quickly, "and what said he?"
"Little, but in hints; sheltering himself, by loose hints, under thy
"He! what dared he own?--Muza, what were those hints?"
The Moor here recounted the interview with Almamen, his detention, his
inactivity in the battle, and his subsequent capture by the Spaniards.
The king listened attentively, and regained his composure.
"It is a strange and awful man," said he after a pause. "Guards and
chains will not detain him. Ere long he will return. But thou, at
least, Muza, are henceforth free, alike from the suspicion of the living
and the warnings of the dead. No, my friend," continued Boabdil, with
generous warmth, "it is better to lose a crown, to lose life itself, than
confidence in a heart like thine. Come, let us inspect this magic
tablet; perchance--and how my heart bounds as I utter the hope!--the hour
may have arrived."
A FULLER VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF BOABDIL.--MUZA IN THE GARDENS OF HIS
Muza Ben Abil Gazan returned from his visit to Boabdil with a thoughtful
and depressed spirit. His arguments had failed to induce the king to
disdain the command of the magic dial, which still forbade him to arm
against the invaders; and although the royal favour was no longer
withdrawn from himself, the Moor felt that such favour hung upon a
capricious and uncertain tenure so long as his sovereign was the slave of
superstition or imposture. But that noble warrior, whose character the
adversity of his country had singularly exalted and refined, even while
increasing its natural fierceness, thought little of himself in
comparison with the evils and misfortunes which the king's continued
irresolution must bring upon Granada.
"So brave, and yet so weak," thought he; "so weak, and yet so obstinate;
so wise a reasoner, yet so credulous a dupe! Unhappy Boabdil! the stars,
indeed, seem to fight against thee, and their influences at thy birth
marred all thy gifts and virtues with counteracting infirmity and error."
Muza,--more perhaps than any subject in Granada,--did justice to the real
character of the king; but even he was unable to penetrate all its
complicated and latent mysteries. Boabdil el Chico was no ordinary man;
his affections were warm and generous, his nature calm and gentle; and,
though early power, and the painful experience of a mutinous people and
ungrateful court, had imparted to that nature an irascibility of temper
and a quickness of suspicion foreign to its earlier soil, he was easily
led back to generosity and justice; and, if warm in resentment, was
magnanimous in forgiveness. Deeply accomplished in all the learning of
his race and time, he was--in books, at least--a philosopher; and,
indeed, his attachment to the abstruser studies was one of the main
causes which unfitted him for his present station. But it was the
circumstances attendant on his birth and childhood that had perverted his
keen and graceful intellect to morbid indulgence in mystic reveries, and
all the doubt, fear, and irresolution of a man who pushes metaphysics
into the supernatural world. Dark prophecies accumulated omens over his
head; men united in considering him born to disastrous destinies.
Whenever he had sought to wrestle against hostile circumstances, some
seemingly accidental cause, sudden and unforeseen, had blasted the
labours of his most vigorous energy,--the fruit of his most deliberate
wisdom. Thus, by degrees a gloomy and despairing cloud settled over his
mind; but, secretly sceptical of the Mohammedan creed, and too proud and
sanguine to resign himself wholly and passively to the doctrine of
inevitable predestination, he sought to contend against the machinations
of hostile demons and boding stars, not by human but spiritual agencies.
Collecting around him the seers and magicians of orient-fanaticism, he
lived in the visions of another world; and, flattered by the promises of
impostors or dreamers, and deceived by his own subtle and brooding
tendencies of mind, it was amongst spells and cabala that he thought to
draw forth the mighty secret which was to free him from the meshes of the
preternatural enemies of his fortune, and leave him the freedom of other
men to wrestle, with equal chances, against peril and adversities. It
was thus, that Almamen had won the mastery over his mind; and, though
upon matters of common and earthly import, or solid learning, Boabdil
could contend with sages, upon those of superstition he could be fooled
by a child. He was, in this, a kind of Hamlet: formed, under prosperous
and serene fortunes, to render blessings and reap renown; but over whom
the chilling shadow of another world had fallen--whose soul curdled back
into itself--whose life had been separated from that of the herd--whom
doubts and awe drew back, while circumstances impelled onward--whom a
supernatural doom invested with a peculiar philosophy, not of human
effect and cause--and who, with every gift that could ennoble and adorn,
was suddenly palsied into that mortal imbecility, which is almost ever
the result of mortal visitings into the haunted regions of the Ghostly
and Unknown. The gloomier colourings of his mind had been deepened, too,
by secret remorse. For the preservation of his own life, constantly
threatened by his unnatural predecessor, he had been early driven into
rebellion against his father. In age, infirmity, and blindness, that
fierce king had been made a prisoner at Salobrena by his brother, El
Zagal, Boabdil's partner in rebellion; and dying suddenly, El Zagal was
suspected of his murder. Though Boabdil was innocent of such a crime,
he felt himself guilty of the causes which led to it; and a dark memory,
resting upon his conscience, served to augment his superstition and
enervate the vigour of his resolves; for, of all things that make men
dreamers, none is so effectual as remorse operating upon a thoughtful
Revolving the character of his sovereign, and sadly foreboding the ruin
of his country, the young hero of Granada pursued his way, until his
steps, almost unconsciously, led him towards the abode of Leila. He
scaled the walls of the garden as before--he neared the house. All was
silent and deserted; his signal was unanswered--his murmured song brought
no grateful light to the lattice, no fairy footstep to the balcony.
Dejected, and sad of heart, he retired from the spot; and, returning
home, sought a couch, to which even all the fatigue and excitement he had
undergone, could not win the forgetfulness of slumber. The mystery that
wrapt the maiden of his homage, the rareness of their interviews, and the
wild and poetical romance that made a very principle of the chivalry of
the Spanish Moors, had imparted to Muza's love for Leila a passionate
depth, which, at this day, and in more enervated climes, is unknown to
the Mohammedan lover. His keenest inquiries had been unable to pierce
the secret of her birth and station. Little of the inmates of that
guarded and lonely house was known in the neighbourhood; the only one
ever seen without its walls was an old man of the Jewish faith, supposed
to be a superintendent of the foreign slaves (for no Mohammedan slave
would have been subjected to the insult of submission to a Jew); and
though there were rumours of the vast wealth and gorgeous luxury within
the mansion, it was supposed the abode of some Moorish emir absent from
the city--and the interest of the gossips was at this time absorbed in
more weighty matters than the affairs of a neighbour. But when, the next
eve, and the next, Muza returned to the spot equally in vain, his
impatience and alarm could no longer be restrained; he resolved to lie in
watch by the portals of the house night and day, until, at least, he
could discover some one of the inmates, whom he could question of his
love, and perhaps bribe to his service. As with this resolution he was
hovering round the mansion, he beheld, stealing from a small door in one
of the low wings of the house, a bended and decrepit form: it supported
its steps upon a staff; and, as now entering the garden, it stooped by
the side of a fountain to cull flowers and herbs by the light of the
moon, the Moor almost started to behold a countenance which resembled
that of some ghoul or vampire haunting the places of the dead. He smiled
at his own fear; and, with a quick and stealthy pace, hastened through
the trees, and, gaining the spot where the old man bent, placed his hand
on his shoulder ere his presence was perceived.
Ximen--for it was he--looked round eagerly, and a faint cry of terror
broke from his lips.
"Hush!" said the Moor; "fear me not, I am a friend. Thou art old, man--
gold is ever welcome to the aged." As he spoke, he dropped several broad
pieces into the breast of the Jew, whose ghastly features gave forth a
yet more ghastly smile, as he received the gift, and mumbled forth,
"Charitable young man! generous, benevolent, excellent young man!"
"Now then," said Muza, "tell me--you belong to this house--Leila, the
maiden within--tell me of her--is she well?"
"I trust so," returned the Jew; "I trust so, noble master."
"Trust so! know you not of her state?"
"Not I; for many nights I have not seen her, excellent sir," answered
Ximen; "she hath left Granada, she hath gone. You waste your time and
mar your precious health amidst these nightly dews: they are unwholesome,
very unwholesome at the time of the new moon."
"Gone!" echoed the Moor; "left Granada!--woe is me!--and whither?--there,
there, more gold for you,--old man, tell me whither?"
"Alas! I know not, most magnanimous young man; I am but a servant--I know
"When will she return?"
"I cannot tell thee."
"Who is thy master? who owns yon mansion?"
Ximen's countenance fell; he looked round in doubt and fear, and then,
after a short pause, answered,--"A wealthy man, good sir--a Moor of
Africa; but he hath also gone; he but seldom visits us; Granada is not so
peaceful a residence as it was,--I would go too, if I could."
Muza released his hold of Ximen, who gazed at the Moor's working
countenance with a malignant smile--for Ximen hated all men.
"Thou hast done with me, young warrior? Pleasant dreams to thee under
the new moon--thou hadst best retire to thy bed. Farewell! bless thy
charity to the poor old man!"
Muza heard him not; he remained motionless for some moments; and then
with a heavy sigh as that of one who has gained the mastery of himself
after a bitter struggle, the said half aloud, "Allah be with thee, Leila!
Granada now is my only mistress."
BOABDIL'S RECONCILIATION WITH HIS PEOPLE.
Several days had elapsed without any encounter between Moor and
Christian; for Ferdinand's cold and sober policy, warned by the loss he
had sustained in the ambush of Muza, was now bent on preserving rigorous
restraint upon the fiery spirits he commanded. He forbade all parties of
skirmish, in which the Moors, indeed, had usually gained the advantage,
and contented himself with occupying all the passes through which
provisions could arrive at the besieged city. He commenced strong
fortifications around his camp; and, forbidding assault on the Moors,
defied it against himself.
Meanwhile, Almamen had not returned to Granada. No tidings of his fate
reached the king; and his prolonged disappearance began to produce
visible and salutary effect upon the long-dormant energies of Boabdil.
The counsels of Muza, the exhortations of the queen-mother, the
enthusiasm of his mistress, Amine, uncounteracted by the arts of the
magician, aroused the torpid lion of his nature. But still his army and
his subjects murmured against him; and his appearance in the Vivarrambla
might possibly be the signal of revolt. It was at this time that a most
fortunate circumstance at once restored to him the confidence and
affections of his people. His stern uncle, El Zagal--once a rival for
his crown, and whose daring valour, mature age, and military sagacity had
won him a powerful party within the city--had been, some months since,
conquered by Ferdinand; and, in yielding the possessions he held, had
been rewarded with a barren and dependent principality. His defeat, far
from benefiting Boabdil, had exasperated the Moors against their king.
"For," said they, almost with one voice, "the brave El Zagal never would
have succumbed had Boabdil properly supported his arms." And it was the
popular discontent and rage at El Zagal's defeat which had indeed served
Boabdil with a reasonable excuse for shutting himself in the strong
fortress of the Alhambra. It now happened that El Zagal, whose dominant
passion was hatred of his nephew, and whose fierce nature chafed at its
present cage, resolved in his old age to blast all his former fame by a
signal treason to his country. Forgetting everything but revenge against
his nephew, who he was resolved should share his own ruin, he armed his
subjects, crossed the country, and appeared at the head of a gallant
troop in the Spanish camp, an ally with Ferdinand against Granada. When
this was heard by the Moors, it is impossible to conceive their indignant
wrath: the crime of El Zagal produced an instantaneous reaction in favour
of Boabdil; the crowd surrounded the Alhambra and with prayers and tears
entreated the forgiveness of the king. This event completed the conquest
of Boabdil over his own irresolution. He ordained an assembly of the
whole army in the broad space of the Vivarrambla: and when at break of
day he appeared in full armour in the square, with Muza at his right
hand, himself in the flower of youthful beauty, and proud to feel once
more a hero and a king, the joy of the people knew no limit; the air was
rent with cries of "Long live Boabdil el Chico!" and the young monarch,
turning to Muza, with his soul upon his brow exclaimed, "The hour has
come--I am no longer El Zogoybi!"
LEILA.--HER NEW LOVER.--PORTRAIT OF THE FIRST INQUISITOR OF SPAIN.--THE
CHALICE RETURNED TO THE LIPS OF ALMAMEN.
While thus the state of events within Granada, the course of our story
transports us back to the Christian camp. It was in one of a long line
of tents that skirted the pavilion of Isabel, and was appropriated to the
ladies attendant on the royal presence, that a young female sat alone.
The dusk of evening already gathered around, and only the outline of her
form and features was visible. But even that, imperfectly seen,--the
dejected attitude of the form, the drooping head, the hands clasped upon
the knees,--might have sufficed to denote the melancholy nature of the
reverie which the maid indulged.
"Ah," thought she, "to what danger am I exposed! If my father, if my
lover dreamed of the persecution to which their poor Leila is abandoned!"
A few tears, large and bitter, broke from her eyes, and stole unheeded
down her cheek. At that moment, the deep and musical chime of a bell was
heard summoning the chiefs of the army to prayer; for Ferdinand invested
all his worldly schemes with a religious covering, and to his politic war
he sought to give the imposing character of a sacred crusade.
"That sound," thought she, sinking on her knees, "summons the Nazarenes
to the presence of their God. It reminds me, a captive by the waters of
Babylon, that God is ever with the friendless. Oh! succour and defend
me, Thou who didst look of old upon Ruth standing amidst the corn, and
didst watch over Thy chosen people in the hungry wilderness, and in the
Wrapt in her mute and passionate devotions, Leila remained long in her
touching posture. The bell had ceased; all without was hushed and still
--when the drapery, stretched across the opening of the tent, was lifted,
and a young Spaniard, cloaked, from head to foot, in a long mantle, stood
within the space. He gazed in silence, upon the kneeling maiden; nor was
it until she rose that he made his presence audible.
"Ah, fairest!" said he, then, as he attempted to take her hand, "thou
wilt not answer my letters--see me, then, at thy feet. It is thou who
teachest me to kneel."
"You, prince." said Leila, agitated, and in great and evident fear.
"Why harass and insult me thus? Am I not sacred as a hostage and a
charge? and are name, honour, peace, and all that woman is taught to
hold most dear, to be thus robbed from me under the pretext of a love
dishonouring to thee and an insult to myself?"
"Sweet one," answered Don Juan, with a slight laugh, "thou hast learned,
within yonder walls, a creed of morals little known to Moorish maidens,
if fame belies them not. Suffer me to teach thee easier morality and
sounder logic. It is no dishonour to a Christian prince to adore beauty
like thine; it is no insult to a maiden hostage if the Infant of Spain
proffer her the homage of his heart. But we waste time. Spies, and
envious tongues, and vigilant eyes, are around us; and it is not often
that I can baffle them as I have done now. Fairest, hear me!" and this
time he succeeded in seizing the hand which vainly struggled against his
clasp. "Nay, why so coy? what can female heart desire that my love
cannot shower upon thine? Speak but the word, enchanting maiden, and I
will bear thee from these scenes unseemly to thy gentle eyes. Amidst the
pavilions of princes shalt thou repose; and, amidst gardens of the orange
and the rose, shalt thou listen to the vows of thine adorer. Surely, in
these arms thou wilt not pine for a barbarous home and a fated city. And
if thy pride, sweet maiden, deafen thee to the voice of nature, learn
that the haughtiest dames of Spain would bend, in envious court, to the
beloved of their future king. This night--listen to me--I say, listen--
this night I will bear thee hence! Be but mine, and no matter, whether
heretic or infidel, or whatever the priests style thee, neither Church
nor king shall tear thee from the bosom of thy lover."
"It is well spoken, son of the most Christian monarch!" said a deep
voice; and the Dominican, Tomas de Torquemada, stood before the prince.
Juan, as if struck by a thunderbolt, released his hold, and, staggering
back a few paces, seemed to cower, abashed and humbled, before the eye of
the priest, as it glared upon him through the gathering darkness.
"Prince," said the friar, after a pause, "not to thee will our holy
Church attribute this crime; thy pious heart hath been betrayed by
"Father," said the prince,--in a tone into which, despite his awe of that
terrible man, THE FIRST GRAND INQUISITOR OF SPAIN, his libertine spirit
involuntarily forced itself, in a half latent raillery,--"sorcery of eyes
like those bewitched the wise son of a more pious sire than even
Ferdinand of Arragon."
"He blasphemes!" muttered the monk. "Prince, beware! you know not what
The prince lingered, and then, as if aware that he must yield, gathered
his cloak round him, and left the tent without reply.
Pale and trembling,--with fears no less felt, perhaps, though more vague
and perplexed, than those from which she had just been delivered,--Leila
stood before the monk.
"Be seated, daughter of the faithless," said Torquemada, "we would
converse with thee: and, as thou valuest--I say not thy soul, for, alas!
of that precious treasure thou art not conscious--but mark me, woman! as
thou prizest the safety of those delicate limbs, and that wanton beauty,
answer truly what I shall ask thee. The man who brought thee hither--is
he, in truth, thy father?"
"Alas!" answered Leila, almost fainting with terror at this rude and
menacing address, "he is, in truth, mine only parent."
"And his faith--his religion?"
"I have never beheld him pray."
"Hem! he never prays--a noticeable fact. But of what sect, what creed,
does he profess himself?"
"I cannot answer thee."
"Nay, there be means that may wring from thee an answer. Maiden, be not
so stubborn; speak! thinkest thou he serves the temple of the
"No! oh, no!" answered poor Leila, eagerly, deeming that her reply, in
this, at least, would be acceptable. "He disowns, he scorns, he abhors,
the Moorish faith,--even," she added, "with too fierce a zeal."
"Thou dost not share that zeal, then? Well, worships he in secret after
the Christian rites?"
Leila hung her head and answered not.
"I understand thy silence. And in what belief, maiden, wert thou reared
beneath his roof?"
"I know not what it is called among men," answered Leila, with firmness,
"but it is the faith of the ONE GOD, who protects His chosen, and shall
avenge their wrongs--the God who made earth and heaven; and who, in an
idolatrous and benighted world, transmitted the knowledge of Himself and
His holy laws, from age to age, through the channel of one solitary
people, in the plains of Palestine, and by the waters of the Hebron."
"And in that faith thou wert trained, maiden, by thy father?" said the
Dominican, calmly. "I am satisfied. Rest here, in peace: we may meet
The last words were spoken with a soft and tranquil smile--a smile in
which glazing eyes and agonising hearts had often beheld the ghastly omen
of the torture and the stake.
On quitting the unfortunate Leila, the monk took his way towards the
neighbouring tent of Ferdinand. But, ere he reached it, a new thought
seemed to strike the holy man; he altered the direction of his steps, and
gained one of those little shrines common in Catholic countries, and
which had been hastily built of wood, in the centre of a small copse, and
by the side of a brawling rivulet, towards the back of the king's
pavilion. But one solitary sentry, at the entrance of the copse, guarded
the consecrated place; and its exceeding loneliness and quiet were a
grateful contrast to the animated world of the surrounding camp. The
monk entered the shrine, and fell down on his knees before an image of
the Virgin, rudely sculptured, indeed, but richly decorated.
"Ah, Holy Mother!" groaned this singular man, "support me in the trial to
which I am appointed. Thou knowest that the glory of thy blessed Son is
the sole object for which I live, and move, and have my being; but at
times, alas! the spirit is infected with the weakness of the flesh. Ora
pro nobis, O Mother of mercy! Verily, oftentimes my heart sinks within
me when it is mine to vindicate the honour of thy holy cause against the
young and the tender, the aged and the decrepit. But what are beauty and
youth, grey hairs and trembling knees, in the eye of the Creator?
Miserable worms are we all; nor is there anything acceptable in the
Divine sight but the hearts of the faithful. Youth without faith, age
without belief, purity without grace, virtue without holiness, are only
more hideous by their seeming beauty--whited sepulchres, glittering
rottenness. I know this--I know it; but the human man is strong within
me. Strengthen me, that I pluck it out; so that, by diligent and
constant struggle with the feeble Adam, thy servant may be reduced into
a mere machine, to punish the godless and advance the Church."
Here sobs and tears choked the speech of the Dominican; he grovelled in
the dust, he tore his hair, he howled aloud: the agony was fierce upon
him. At length, he drew from his robe a whip, composed of several
thongs, studded with small and sharp nails; and, stripping his gown, and
the shirt of hair worn underneath, over his shoulders, applied the
scourge to the naked flesh with a fury that soon covered the green sward
with the thick and clotted blood. The exhaustion which followed this
terrible penance seemed to restore the senses of the stern fanatic. A
smile broke over the features, that bodily pain only released from the
anguished expression of mental and visionary struggles; and, when he
rose, and drew the hair-cloth shirt over the lacerated and quivering
flesh, he said--"Now hast thou deigned to comfort and visit me, O pitying
Mother; and, even as by these austerities against this miserable body, is
the spirit relieved and soothed, so dost thou typify and betoken that
men's bodies are not to be spared by those who seek to save souls and
bring the nations of the earth into thy fold."
With that thought the countenance of Torquemada reassumed its wonted
rigid and passionless composure; and, replacing the scourge, yet clotted
with blood, in his bosom, he pursued his way to the royal tent.
He found Ferdinand poring over the accounts of the vast expenses of his
military preparations, which he had just received from his treasurer; and
the brow of the thrifty, though ostentatious monarch, was greatly
overcast by the examination.
"By the Bulls of Guisando!" said the king, gravely, "I purchase the
salvation of my army in this holy war at a marvellous heavy price; and
if the infidels hold out much longer, we shalt have to pawn our very
patrimony of Arragon."
"Son," answered the Dominican, "to purposes like thine fear not that
Providence itself will supply the worldly means. But why doubtest thou?
are not the means within thy reach? It is just that thou alone shouldst
not support the wars by which Christendom is glorified. Are there not
"I know what thou wouldst say, father," interrupted the king, quickly--
"thou wouldst observe that my brother monarchs should assist me with arms
and treasure. Most just. But they are avaricious and envious, Tomas;
and Mammon hath corrupted them."
"Nay, not to kings pointed my thought."
"Well, then," resumed the king, impatiently, "thou wouldst imply that
mine own knights and nobles should yield up their coffers, and mortgage
their possessions. And so they ought; but they murmur already at what
they have yielded to our necessities."
"And in truth," rejoined the friar, "these noble warriors should not be
shorn of a splendour that well becomes the valiant champions of the
Church. Nay, listen to me, son, and I may suggest a means whereby, not
the friends, but enemies, of the Catholic faith shall contribute to the
down fall of the Paynim. In thy dominions, especially those newly won,
throughout Andalusia, in the kingdom of Cordova, are men of enormous
wealth; the very caverns of the earth are sown with the impious treasure
they have plundered from Christian hands, and consume in the furtherance
of their iniquity. Sire, I speak of the race that crucified the Lord."
"The Jews--ay, but the excuse--"
"Is before thee. This traitor, with whom thou boldest intercourse, who
vowed to thee to render up Granada, and who was found the very next
morning, fighting with the Moors, with the blood of a Spanish martyr red
upon his hands, did he not confess that his fathers were of that hateful
race? did he not bargain with thee to elevate his brethren to the rank of
Christians? and has be not left with thee, upon false pretences, a harlot
of his faith, who, by sorcery and the help of the Evil One, hath seduced
into frantic passion the heart of the heir of the most Christian king?"
"Ha! thus does that libertine boy ever scandalise us!" said the king,
"Well," pursued the Dominican, not heeding the interruption, "have you
not here excuse enough to wring from the whole race the purchase of their
existence? Note the glaring proof of this conspiracy of hell. The
outcasts of the earth employed this crafty agent to contract with thee
for power; and, to consummate their guilty designs, the arts that seduced
Solomon are employed against thy son. The beauty of the strange woman
captivates his senses; so that, through the future sovereign of Spain the
counsels of Jewish craft may establish the domination of Jewish ambition.
How knowest thou," he added as he observed that Ferdinand listened to him
with earnest attention--"how knowest thou but what the next step might
have been thy secret assassination, so that the victim of witchcraft, the
minion of the Jewess, might reign in the stead of the mighty and
"Go on, father," said the king, thoughtfully; "I see, at least, enough to
justify an impost upon these servitors of Mammon."
"But, though common sense suggests to us," continued Torquemada, "that
this disguised Israelite could not have acted on so vast a design without
the instigation of his brethren, not only in Granada, but throughout all
Andalusia,--would it not be right to obtain from him his confession, and
that of the maiden, within the camp, so that we may have broad and
undeniable evidence, whereon to act, and to still all cavil, that may
come not only from the godless, but even from the too tender scruples of
the righteous? Even the queen--whom the saints ever guard!--hath ever
too soft a heart for these infidels; and--"
"Right!" cried the king, again breaking upon Torquemada; "Isabel, the
queen of Castile, must be satisfied of the justice of all our actions."
"And, should it be proved that thy throne or life were endangered, and
that magic was exercised to entrap her royal son into a passion for a
Jewish maiden, which the Church holds a crime worthy of excommunication
itself, surely, instead of counteracting, she would assist our schemes."
"Holy friend," said Ferdinand, with energy, "ever a comforter, both for
this world and the next, to thee, and to the new powers intrusted to
thee, we commit this charge; see to it at once; time presses--Granada is
obstinate--the treasury waxes low."
"Son, thou hast said enough," replied the Dominican, closing his eyes,
and muttering a short thanksgiving. "Now then to my task."
"Yet stay," said the king, with an altered visage; "follow me to my
oratory within: my heart is heavy, and I would fain seek the solace of
The monk obeyed: and while Ferdinand, whose wonderful abilities were
mingled with the weakest superstition, who persecuted from policy, yet
believed, in his own heart, that he punished but from piety,--confessed
with penitent tears the grave offences of aves forgotten, and beads
untold; and while the Dominican admonished, rebuked, or soothed,--neither
prince nor monk ever dreamt that there was an error to confess in, or a
penance to be adjudged to, the cruelty that tortured a fellow-being, or
the avarice that sought pretences for the extortion of a whole people.
THE TRIBUNAL AND THE MIRACLE
It was the dead of night--the army was hushed in sleep--when four
soldiers belonging to the Holy Brotherhood, bearing with them one whose
manacles proclaimed him a prisoner, passed in steady silence to a huge
tent in the neighbourhood of the royal pavilion. A deep dyke, formidable
barricadoes, and sentries stationed at frequent intervals, testified the
estimation in which the safety of this segment of the camp was held. The
tent to which the soldiers approached was, in extent, larger than even
the king's pavilion itself--a mansion of canvas, surrounded by a wide
wall of massive stones; and from its summit gloomed, in the clear and
shining starlight, a small black pennant, on which was wrought a white
broad-pointed cross. The soldiers halted at the gate in the wall,
resigned their charge, with a whispered watchword, to two gaunt sentries;
and then (relieving the sentries who proceeded on with the prisoner)
remained, mute and motionless, at the post: for stern silence and Spartan
discipline were the attributes of the brotherhood of St. Hermandad.
The prisoner, as he now neared the tent, halted a moment, looked round
steadily, as if to fix the spot in his remembrance, and then, with an
impatient though stately gesture, followed his guards. He passed two
divisions of the tent, dimly lighted, and apparently deserted. A man,
clad in long black robes, with a white cross on his breast, now appeared;
there was an interchange of signals in dumb-show-and in another moment
Almamen, the Hebrew, stood within a large chamber (if so that division of
the tent might be called) hung with black serge. At the upper part of
the space was an estrado, or platform, on which, by a long table, sat
three men; while at the head of the board was seen the calm and rigid
countenance of Tomas de Torquemada. The threshold of the tent was
guarded by two men, in garments similar in hue and fashion to those of
the figure who had ushered Almamen into the presence of the inquisitor,
each bearing a long lance, and with a long two-edged sword by his side.
This made all the inhabitants of that melancholy and ominous apartment.
The Israelite looked round with a pale brow, but a flashing and scornful
eye; and, when he met the gaze of the Dominican, it almost seemed as if
those two men, each so raised above his fellows, by the sternness of his
nature and the energy of his passions, sought by a look alone to assert
his own supremacy and crush his foe. Yet, in truth, neither did justice
to the other; and the indignant disdain of Almamen was retorted by the
cold and icy contempt of the Dominican.
"Prisoner," said Torquemada (the first to withdraw his gaze), "a less
haughty and stubborn demeanour might have better suited thy condition:
but no matter; our Church is meek and humble. We have sent for thee in a
charitable and paternal hope; for although, as spy and traitor, thy life
is already forfeited, yet would we fain redeem and spare it to
repentance. That hope mayst thou not forego, for the nature of all of us
is weak and clings to life--that straw of the drowning seaman."
"Priest, if such thou art," replied the Hebrew, "I have already, when
first brought to this camp, explained the causes of my detention amongst
the troops of the Moor. It was my zeal for the king of Spain that
brought me into that peril. Escaping from that peril, incurred in his
behalf, is the king of Spain to be my accuser and my judge? If, however,
my life now be sought as the grateful return for the proffer of
inestimable service, I stand here to yield it. Do thy worst; and tell
thy master, that he loses more by my death than he can win by the lives
of thirty thousand warriors."
"Cease this idle babble," said the monk-inquisitor, contemptuously, "nor
think thou couldst ever deceive, with thy empty words, the mighty
intellect of Ferdinand of Spain. Thou hast now to defend thyself against
still graver charges than those of treachery to the king whom thou didst
profess to serve. Yea, misbeliever as thou art, it is thine to vindicate
thyself from blasphemy against the God thou shouldst adore. Confess the
truth: thou art of the tribe and faith of Israel?"
The Hebrew frowned darkly. "Man," said he, solemnly, "is a judge of the
deeds of men, but not of their opinions. I will not answer thee."
"Pause! We have means at hand that the strongest nerves and the stoutest
hearts have failed to encounter. Pause--confess!"
"Thy threat awes me not," said the Hebrew; "but I am human; and since
thou wouldst know the truth, thou mayst learn it without the torture.
I am of the same race as the apostles of thy Church--I am a Jew."
"He confesses--write down the words. Prisoner, thou hast done wisely;
and we pray the Lord that, acting thus, thou mayst escape both the
torture and the death. And in that faith thy daughter was reared?
"My daughter! there is no charge against her! By the God of Sinai and
Horeb, you dare not touch a hair of that innocent head!"
"Answer," repeated the inquisitor, coldly.
"I do answer. She was brought up no renegade to her father's faith."
"Write down the confession. Prisoner," resumed the Dominican, after a
pause, "but few more questions remain; answer them truly, and thy life is
saved. In thy conspiracy to raise thy brotherhood of Andalusia to power
and influence--or, as thou didst craftily term it, to equal laws with the
followers of our blessed Lord; in thy conspiracy (by what dark arts I
seek not now to know _protege nos, beate Domine_!) to entangle in wanton
affections to thy daughter the heart of the Infant of Spain-silence, I
say--be still! in this conspiracy, thou wert aided, abetted, or
instigated by certain Jews of Andalusia--"
"Hold, priest!" cried Almamen, impetuously, "thou didst name my child.
Do I hear aright? Placed under the sacred charge of a king, and a belted
knight, has she--oh! answer me, I implore thee--been insulted by the
licentious addresses of one of that king's own lineage? Answer! I am a
Jew--but I am a father and a man."
"This pretended passion deceives us not," said the Dominican, who,
himself cut off from the ties of life, knew nothing of their power.
"Reply to the question put to thee: name thy accomplices."
"I have told thee all. Thou hast refused to answer one. I scorn and
defy thee: my lips are closed."
The Grand Inquisitor glanced to his brethren, and raised his hand. His
assistants whispered each other; one of them rose, and disappeared behind
the canvas at the back of the tent. Presently the hangings were
withdrawn; and the prisoner beheld an, interior chamber, hung with
various instruments the nature of which was betrayed by their very shape;
while by the rack, placed in the centre of that dreary chamber, stood a
tall and grisly figure, his arms bare, his eyes bent, as by an instinct,
on the prisoner.
Almamen gazed at these dread preparations with an unflinching aspect.
The guards at the entrance of the tent approached: they struck off the
fetters from his feet and hands; they led him towards the appointed place
Suddenly the Israelite paused.
"Priest," said he, in a more humble accent than he had yet assumed, "the
tidings that thou didst communicate to me respecting the sole daughter of
my house and love bewildered and confused me for the moment. Suffer me
but for a single moment to recollect my senses, and I will answer without
compulsion all thou mayst ask. Permit thy questions to be repeated."
The Dominican, whose cruelty to others seemed to himself sanctioned by
his own insensibility to fear, and contempt for bodily pain, smiled with
bitter scorn at the apparent vacillation and weakness of the prisoner:
but, as he delighted not in torture merely for torture's sake, he
motioned to the guards to release the Israelite; and replied in a voice
unnaturally mild and kindly, considering the circumstances of the scene,
"Prisoner, could we save thee from pain, even by the anguish of our own
flesh and sinews, Heaven is our judge that we would willingly undergo the
torture which, with grief and sorrow, we ordained to thee. Pause--take
breath--collect thyself. Three minutes shalt thou have to consider what
course to adopt ere we repeat the question. But then beware how thou
triflest with our indulgence."
"It suffices--I thank thee," said the Hebrew, with a touch of gratitude
in his voice. As he spoke he bent his face within his bosom, which he
covered, as in profound meditation, with the folds of his long robe.
Scarcely half the brief time allowed him had expired, when he again
lifted his countenance and, as he did so, flung back his garment. The
Dominican uttered a loud cry; the guards started back in awe. A
wonderful change had come over the intended victim; he seemed to stand
amongst them literally--wrapt in fire; flames burst from his lip, and
played with his long locks, as, catching the glowing hue, they curled
over his shoulders like serpents of burning light: blood-red were his
breast and limbs, his haughty crest, and his outstretched arm; and as for
a single moment, he met the shuddering eyes of his judges, he seemed,
indeed, to verify all the superstitions of the time--no longer the
trembling captive but the mighty demon or the terrible magician.
The Dominican was the first to recover his self-possession. "Seize the
enchanter!" he exclaimed; but no man stirred. Ere yet the exclamation
had died on his lip, Almamen took from his breast a phial, and dashed it
on the ground--it broke into a thousand shivers: a mist rose over the
apartment--it spread, thickened, darkened, as a sudden night; the lamps
could not pierce it. The luminous form of the Hebrew grew dull and dim,
until it vanished in the shade. On every eye blindness seemed to fall.
There was a dead silence, broken by a cry and a groan; and when, after
some minutes, the darkness gradually dispersed, Almamen was gone. One,
of the guards lay bathed in blood upon the ground; they raised him: he
had attempted to seize the prisoner, and had been stricken with a mortal
wound. He died as he faltered forth the explanation. In the confusion
and dismay of the scene none noticed, till long afterwards, that the
prisoner had paused long enough to strip the dying guard of his long
mantle; a proof that he feared his more secret arts might not suffice to
bear him safe through the camp, without the aid of worldly stratagem.
"The fiend hath been amongst us!" said the Dominican, solemnly falling on
his knees,--"let us pray!"
Back to Full Books