Leila or, The Siege of Granada, Complete
Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 2 out of 4
"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!"
ISABEL AND THE JEWISH MAIDEN.
While this scene took place before the tribunal of Torquemada, Leila had
been summoned from the indulgence of fears, which her gentle nature and
her luxurious nurturing had ill-fitted her to contend against, to the
presence of the queen. That gifted and high-spirited princess, whose
virtues were her own, whose faults were of her age, was not, it is true,
without the superstition and something of the intolerant spirit of her
royal spouse: but, even where her faith assented to persecution, her
heart ever inclined to mercy; and it was her voice alone that ever
counteracted the fiery zeal of Torquemada, and mitigated the sufferings
of the unhappy ones who fell under the suspicion of heresy. She had,
happily, too, within her a strong sense of justice, as well as the
sentiment of compassion; and often, when she could not save the accused,
she prevented the consequences of his imputed crime falling upon the
innocent members of his house or tribe.
In the interval between his conversation with Ferdinand and the
examination of Almamen, the Dominican had sought the queen; and had
placed before her, in glowing colours, not only the treason of Almamen,
but the consequences of the impious passion her son had conceived for
Leila. In that day, any connection between a Christian knight and a
Jewess was deemed a sin, scarce expiable; and Isabel conceived all that
horror of her son's offence which was natural in a pious mother and a
haughty queen. But, despite all the arguments of the friar, she could
not be prevailed upon to render up Leila to the tribunal of the
Inquisition; and that dread court, but newly established, did not dare,
without her consent, to seize upon one under the immediate protection
of the queen.
"Fear not, father," said Isabel, with quiet firmness, "I will take upon
myself to examine the maiden; and, at least, I will see her removed from
all chance of tempting or being tempted by this graceless boy. But she
was placed under the charge of the king and myself as a hostage and a
trust; we accepted the charge, and our royal honor is pledged to the
safety of the maiden. Heaven forbid that I should deny the existence of
sorcery, assured as we are of its emanation from the Evil One; but I
fear, in this fancy of Juan's, that the maiden is more sinned against
than sinning: and yet my son is, doubtless, not aware of the unhappy
faith of the Jewess; the knowledge of which alone will suffice to cure
him of his error. You shake your head, father; but, I repeat, I will act
in this affair so as to merit the confidence I demand. Go, good Tomas.
We have not reigned so long without belief in our power to control and
deal with a simple maiden."
The queen extended her hand to the monk, with a smile so sweet in its
dignity, that it softened even that rugged heart; and, with a reluctant
sigh, and a murmured prayer that her counsels might be guided for the
best, Torquemada left the royal presence.
"The poor child!" thought Isabel, "those tender limbs, and that fragile
form, are ill fitted for yon monk's stern tutelage. She seems gentle:
and her face has in it all the yielding softness of our sex; doubtless by
mild means, she may be persuaded to abjure her wretched creed; and the
shade of some holy convent may hide her alike from the licentious gaze of
my son and the iron zeal of the Inquisitor. I will see her."
When Leila entered the queen's pavilion, Isabel, who was alone, marked
her trembling step with a compassionate eye; and, as Leila, in obedience
to the queen's request, threw up her veil, the paleness of her cheek and
the traces of recent tears appealed to Isabel's heart with more success
than had attended all the pious invectives of Torquemada.
"Maiden," said Isabel, encouragingly, "I fear thou hast been strangely
harassed by the thoughtless caprice of the young prince. Think of it no
more. But, if thou art what I have ventured to believe, and to assert
thee to be, cheerfully subscribe to the means I will suggest for
preventing the continuance of addresses which cannot but injure thy fair
"Ah, madam!" said Leila, as she fell on one knee beside the queen, "most
joyfully, most gratefully, will I accept any asylum which proffers
solitude and peace."
"The asylum to which I would fain lead thy steps," answered Isabel,
gently, "is indeed one whose solitude is holy--whose peace is that of
heaven. But of this hereafter. Thou wilt not hesitate, then, to quit
the camp, unknown to the prince, and ere he can again seek thee?"
"Hesitate, madam? Ah rather, how shall I express my thanks?"
"I did not read that face misjudgingly," thought the queen, as she
resumed. "Be it so; we will not lose another night. Withdraw yonder,
through the inner tent; the litter shall be straight prepared for thee;
and ere midnight thou shalt sleep in safety under the roof of one of the
bravest knights and noblest ladies that our realm can boast. Thou shalt
bear with thee a letter that shall commend thee specially to the care of
thy hostess--thou wilt find her of a kindly and fostering nature. And,
oh, maiden!" added the queen, with benevolent warmth, "steel not thy
heart against her--listen with ductile senses to her gentle ministry; and
may God and His Son prosper that pious lady's counsel, so that it may win
a new strayling to the Immortal Fold!"
Leila listened and wondered, but made no answer; until, as she gained the
entrance to the interior division of the tent, she stopped abruptly, and
said, "Pardon me, gracious queen, but dare I ask thee one question?--it
is not of myself."
"Speak, and fear not."
"My father--hath aught been heard of him? He promised, that ere the
fifth day were past, he would once more see his child; and, alas! that
date is past, and I am still alone in the dwelling of the stranger."
"Unhappy child!" muttered Isabel to herself; "thou knowest not his
treason nor his fate--yet why shouldst thou? Ignorant of what would
render thee blest hereafter, continue ignorant of what would afflict thee
here. Be cheered, maiden," answered the queen, aloud. "No doubt, there
are reasons sufficient to forbid your meeting. But thou shalt not lack
friends in the dwelling-house of the stranger."
"Ah, noble queen, pardon me, and one word more! There hath been with me,
more than once, a stern old man, whose voice freezes the blood within my
veins; he questions me of my father, and in the tone of a foe who would
entrap from the child something to the peril of the sire. That man--thou
knowest him, gracious queen--he cannot have the power to harm my father?"
"Peace, maiden! the man thou speakest of is the priest of God, and the
innocent have nothing to dread from his reverend zeal. For thyself, I
say again, be cheered; in the home to which I consign thee thou wilt see
him no more. Take comfort, poor child--weep not: all have their cares;
our duty is to bear in this life, reserving hope only for the next."
The queen, destined herself to those domestic afflictions which pomp
cannot soothe, nor power allay, spoke with a prophetic sadness which yet
more touched a heart that her kindness of look and tone had already
softened; and, in the impulse of a nature never tutored in the rigid
ceremonials of that stately court, Leila suddenly came forward, and
falling on one knee, seized the hand of her protectress, and kissed it
warmly through her tears.
"Are you, too, unhappy?" she said. "I will pray for you to _my_ God!"
The queen, surprised and moved at an action which, had witnesses been
present, would only perhaps (for such is human nature) have offended her
Castilian prejudices, left her hand in Leila's grateful clasp; and laying
the other upon the parted and luxuriant ringlets of the kneeling maiden,
said, gently,--"And thy prayers shall avail thee and me when thy God and
mine are the same. Bless thee, maiden! I am a mother; thou art
THE TEMPTATION OF THE JEWESS,--IN WHICH THE HISTORY PASSES FROM THE
OUTWARD TO THE INTERNAL.
It was about the very hour, almost the very moment, in which Almamen
effected his mysterious escape from the tent of the Inquisition, that the
train accompanying the litter which bore Leila, and which was composed of
some chosen soldiers of Isabel's own body-guard, after traversing the
camp, winding along that part of the mountainous defile which was in the
possession of the Spaniards, and ascending a high and steep acclivity,
halted before the gates of a strongly fortified castle renowned in the
chronicles of that memorable war. The hoarse challenge of the sentry,
the grating of jealous bars, the clanks of hoofs upon the rough pavement
of the courts, and the streaming glare of torches--falling upon stern and
bearded visages, and imparting a ruddier glow to the moonlit buttresses
and battlements of the fortress--aroused Leila from a kind of torpor
rather than sleep, in which the fatigue and excitement of the day had
steeped her senses. An old seneschal conducted her, through vast and
gloomy halls (how unlike the brilliant chambers and fantastic arcades of
her Moorish home) to a huge Gothic apartment, hung with the arras of
Flemish looms. In a few moments, maidens, hastily aroused from slumber,
grouped around her with a respect which would certainly not have been
accorded had her birth and creed been known. They gazed with surprise at
her extraordinary beauty and foreign garb, and evidently considered the
new guest a welcome addition to the scanty society of the castle. Under
any other circumstances, the strangeness of all she saw, and the frowning
gloom of the chamber to which she was consigned, would have damped the
spirits of one whose destiny had so suddenly passed from the deepest
quiet into the sternest excitement. But any change was a relief to the
roar of the camp, the addresses of the prince, and the ominous voice and
countenance of Torquemada; and Leila looked around her, with the feeling
that the queen's promise was fulfilled, and that she was already amidst
the blessings of shelter and repose. It was long, however, before sleep
revisited her eyelids, and when she woke the noonday sun streamed broadly
through the lattice. By the bedside sat a matron advanced in years, but
of a mild and prepossessing countenance, which only borrowed a yet more
attractive charm from an expression of placid and habitual melancholy.
She was robed in black; but the rich pearls that were interwoven in the
sleeves and stomacher, the jewelled cross that was appended from a chain
of massive gold, and, still more, a certain air of dignity and command,--
bespoke, even to the inexperienced eye of Leila, the evidence of superior
"Thou hast slept late, daughter," said the lady, with a benevolent smile;
"may thy slumbers have refreshed thee! Accept my regrets that I knew not
till this morning of thine arrival, or I should have been the first to
welcome the charge of my royal mistress."
There was in the look, much more than in the words of the Donna Inez de
Quexada, a soothing and tender interest that was as balm to the heart of
Leila; in truth, she had been made the guest of, perhaps, the only lady
in Spain, of pure and Christian blood, who did not despise or execrate
the name of Leila's tribe. Donna Inez had herself contracted to a Jew a
debt of gratitude which she had sought to return to the whole race. Many
years before the time in which our tale is cast, her husband and herself
had been sojourning at Naples, then closely connected with the politics
of Spain, upon an important state mission. They had then an only son, a
youth of a wild and desultory character, whom the spirit of adventure
allured to the East. In one of those sultry lands the young Quexada was
saved from the hands of robbers by the caravanserai of a wealthy
traveller. With this stranger he contracted that intimacy which
wandering and romantic men often conceive for each other, without any
other sympathy than that of the same pursuits. Subsequently, he
discovered that his companion was of the Jewish faith; and, with the
usual prejudice of his birth and time, recoiled from the friendship he
had solicited, and shrank from the sense of the obligation he had
incurred he--quitted his companion. Wearied, at length, with travel, he
was journeying homeward, when he was seized with a sudden and virulent
fever, mistaken for plague: all fled from the contagion of the supposed
pestilence--he was left to die. One man discovered his condition--
watched, tended, and, skilled in the deeper secrets of the healing art,
restored him to life and health: it was the same Jew who had preserved
him from the robbers. At this second and more inestimable obligation the
prejudices of the Spaniard vanished: he formed a deep and grateful
attachment for his preserver; they lived together for some time, and the
Israelite finally accompanied the young Quexada to Naples. Inez retained
a lively sense of the service rendered to her only son, and the
impression had been increased not only by the appearance of the
Israelite, which, dignified and stately, bore no likeness to the cringing
servility of his brethren, but also by the singular beauty and gentle
deportment of his then newly-wed bride, whom he had wooed and won in that
holy land, sacred equally to the faith of Christian and of Jew. The
young Quexada did not long survive his return: his constitution was
broken by long travel, and the debility that followed his fierce disease.
On his deathbed he had besought the mother whom he left childless, and
whose Catholic prejudices were less stubborn than those of his sire,
never to forget the services a Jew had conferred upon him; to make the
sole recompense in her power--the sole recompense the Jew himself had
demanded--and to lose no occasion to soothe or mitigate the miseries to
which the bigotry of the time often exposed the oppressed race of his
deliverer. Donna Inez had faithfully kept the promise she gave to the
last scion of her house; and, through the power and reputation of her
husband and her own connections, and still more through an early
friendship with the queen, she had, on her return to Spain, been enabled
to ward off many a persecution, and many a charge on false pretences, to
which the wealth of some son of Israel made the cause, while his faith
made the pretext. Yet, with all the natural feelings of a rigid
Catholic, she had earnestly sought to render the favor she had thus
obtained amongst the Jews minister to her pious zeal for their more than
temporal welfare. She had endeavored, by gentle means, to make the
conversions which force was impotent to effect; and, in some instances,
her success had been signal. The good senora had thus obtained high
renown for sanctity; and Isabel thought rightly that she could not select
a protectress for Leila who would more kindly shelter her youth, or more
strenuously labor for her salvation. It was, indeed, a dangerous
situation for the adherence of the maiden to that faith which it had cost
her fiery father so many sacrifices to preserve and to advance.
It was by little and little that Donna Inez sought rather to undermine
than to storm the mental fortress she hoped to man with spiritual allies;
and, in her frequent conversation with Leila, she was at once perplexed
and astonished by the simple and sublime nature of the belief upon which
she waged war. For whether it was that, in his desire to preserve Leila
as much as possible from contact even with Jews themselves, whose general
character (vitiated by the oppression which engendered meanness, and the
extortion which fostered avarice) Almamen regarded with lofty though
concealed repugnance; or whether it was, that his philosophy did not
interpret the Jewish formula of belief in the same spirit as the herd,--
the religion inculcated in the breast of Leila was different from that
which Inez had ever before encountered amongst her proselytes. It was
less mundane and material--a kind of passionate rather than metaphysical
theism, which invested the great ONE, indeed, with many human sympathies
and attributes, but still left Him the August and awful God of the
Genesis, the Father of a Universe though the individual Protector of a
fallen sect. Her attention had been less directed to whatever appears,
to a superficial gaze, stern and inexorable in the character of the
Hebrew God, and which the religion of Christ so beautifully softened and
so majestically refined, than to those passages in which His love watched
over a chosen people, and His forbearance bore with their transgressions.
Her reason had been worked upon to its belief by that mysterious and
solemn agency, by which--when the whole world beside was bowed to the
worship of innumerable deities, and the adoration of graven images,--in a
small and secluded portion of earth, amongst a people far less civilised
and philosophical than many by which they were surrounded, had been alone
preserved a pure and sublime theism, disdaining a likeness in the things
of heaven or earth. Leila knew little of the more narrow and exclusive
tenets of her brethren; a Jewess in name, she was rather a deist in
belief; a deist of such a creed as Athenian schools might have taught to
the imaginative pupils of Plato, save only that too dark a shadow had
been cast over the hopes of another world. Without the absolute denial
of the Sadducee, Almamen had, probably, much of the quiet scepticism
which belonged to many sects of the early Jews, and which still clings
round the wisdom of the wisest who reject the doctrine of Revelation; and
while he had not sought to eradicate from the breast of his daughter any
of the vague desire which points to a Hereafter, he had never, at least,
directed her thoughts or aspirations to that solemn future. Nor in the
sacred book which was given to her survey, and which so rigidly upheld
the unity of the Supreme Power, was there that positive and unequivocal
assurance of life beyond "the grave where all things are forgotten," that
might supply the deficiencies of her mortal instructor. Perhaps, sharing
those notions of the different value of the sexes, prevalent, from the
remotest period, in his beloved and ancestral East, Almamen might have
hopes for himself which did not extend to his child. And thus she grew
up, with all the beautiful faculties of the soul cherished and unfolded,
without thought, without more than dim and shadowy conjectures, of the
Eternal Bourne to which the sorrowing pilgrim of the earth is bound. It
was on this point that the quick eye of Donna Inez discovered her faith
was vulnerable: who would not, if belief were voluntary, believe in the
world to come? Leila's curiosity and interest were aroused: she
willingly listened to her new guide--she willingly inclined to
conclusions pressed upon her, not with menace, but persuasion. Free from
the stubborn associations, the sectarian prejudices, and unversed in the
peculiar traditions and accounts of the learned of her race, she found
nothing to shock her in the volume which seemed but a continuation of the
elder writings of her faith. The sufferings of the Messiah, His sublime
purity, His meek forgiveness, spoke to her woman's heart; His doctrines
elevated, while they charmed, her reason: and in the Heaven that a Divine
hand opened to all,--the humble as the proud, the oppressed as the
oppressor, to the woman as to the lords of the earth,--she found a haven
for all the doubts she had known, and for the despair which of late had
darkened the face of earth. Her home lost, the deep and beautiful love
of her youth blighted,--that was a creed almost irresistible which told
her that grief was but for a day, that happiness was eternal. Far, too,
from revolting such of the Hebrew pride of association as she had formed,
the birth of the Messiah in the land of the Israelites seemed to
consummate their peculiar triumph as the Elected of Jehovah. And while
she mourned for the Jews who persecuted the Saviour, she gloried in those
whose belief had carried the name and worship of the descendants of David
over the furthest regions of the world. Often she perplexed and startled
the worthy Inez by exclaiming, "This, your belief, is the same as mine,
adding only the assurance of immortal life--Christianity is but the
Revelation of Judaism."
The wise and gentle instrument of Leila's conversion did not, however,
give vent to those more Catholic sentiments which might have scared away
the wings of the descending dove. She forbore too vehemently to point
out the distinctions of the several creeds, and rather suffered them to
melt insensibly one into the other: Leila was a Christian, while she
still believed herself a Jewess. But in the fond and lovely weakness of
mortal emotions, there was one bitter thought that often and often came
to mar the peace that otherwise would have settled on her soul. That
father, the sole softener of whose stern heart and mysterious fates she
was, with what pangs would he receive the news of her conversion! And
Muza, that bright and hero-vision of her youth--was she not setting the
last seal of separation upon all hope of union with the idol of the
Moors? But, alas! was she not already separated from him, and had not
their faiths been from the first at variance? From these thoughts she
started with sighs and tears; and before her stood the crucifix already
admitted into her chamber, and--not, perhaps, too wisely--banished so
rigidly from the oratories of the Huguenot. For the representation of
that Divine resignation, that mortal agony, that miraculous sacrifice,
what eloquence it hath for our sorrows! what preaching hath the symbol
to the vanities of our wishes, to the yearnings of our discontent!
By degrees, as her new faith grew confirmed, Leila now inclined herself
earnestly to those pictures of the sanctity and calm of the conventual
life which Inez delighted to draw. In the reaction of her thoughts, and
her despondency of all worldly happiness, there seemed, to the young
maiden, an inexpressible charm in a solitude which was to release her for
ever from human love, and render her entirely up to sacred visions and
imperishable hopes. And with this selfish, there mingled a generous and
sublime sentiment. The prayers of a convert might be heard in favour of
those yet benighted: and the awful curse upon her outcast race be
lightened by the orisons of one humble heart. In all ages, in all
creeds, a strange and mystic impression has existed of the efficacy of
self-sacrifice in working the redemption even of a whole people: this
belief, so strong in the old orient and classic religions, was yet more
confirmed by Christianity--a creed founded upon the grandest of historic
sacrifices; and the lofty doctrine of which, rightly understood,
perpetuates in the heart of every believer the duty of self-immolation,
as well as faith in the power of prayer, no matter how great the object,
how mean the supplicator. On these thoughts Leila meditated, till
thoughts acquired the intensity of passions, and the conversion of the
Jewess was completed.
THE HOUR AND THE MAN
It was on the third morning after the King of Granada, reconciled to his
people, had reviewed his gallant army in the Vivarrambla; and Boabdil,
surrounded by his chiefs and nobles, was planning a deliberate and
decisive battle, by assault on the Christian camp,--when a scout suddenly
arrived, breathless, at the gates of the palace, to communicate the
unlooked-for and welcome intelligence that Ferdinand had in the night
broken up his camp, and marched across the mountains towards Cordova. In
fact, the outbreak of formidable conspiracies had suddenly rendered the
appearance of Ferdinand necessary elsewhere; and, his intrigues with
Almamen frustrated, he despaired of a very speedy conquest of the city.
The Spanish king resolved, therefore, after completing the devastation of
the Vega, to defer the formal and prolonged siege, which could alone
place Granada within his power, until his attention was no longer
distracted to other foes, and until, it must be added, he had replenished
an exhausted treasury. He had formed, with Torquemada, a vast and wide
scheme of persecution, not only against Jews, but against Christians
whose fathers had been of that race, and who were suspected of relapsing
into Judaical practices. The two schemers of this grand design were
actuated by different motives; the one wished to exterminate the crime,
the other to sell forgiveness for it. And Torquemada connived at the
griping avarice of the king, because it served to give to himself, and to
the infant Inquisition, a power and authority which the Dominican foresaw
would be soon greater even than those of royalty itself, and which, he
imagined, by scourging earth, would redound to the interests of Heaven.
The strange disappearance of Almamen, which was distorted and
exaggerated, by the credulity of the Spaniards, into an event of the most
terrific character, served to complete the chain of evidence against the
wealthy Jews, and Jew-descended Spaniards, of Andalusia; and while, in
imagination, the king already clutched the gold of their redemption here,
the Dominican kindled the flame that was to light them to punishment
Boabdil and his chiefs received the intelligence of the Spanish retreat
with a doubt which soon yielded to the most triumphant delight. Boabdil
at once resumed all the energy for which, though but by fits and starts,
his earlier youth had been remarkable.
"Alla Achbar! God is great!" cried he; "we will not remain here till it
suit the foe to confine the eagle again to his eyrie. They have left us
--we will burst on them. Summon our alfaquis, we will proclaim a holy
war! The sovereign of the last possessions of the Moors is in the field.
Not a town that contains a Moslem but shall receive our summons, and we
will gather round our standard all the children of our faith!"
"May the king live for ever!" cried the council, with one voice.
"Lose not a moment," resumed Boabdil--"on to the Vivarrambla, marshal the
troops--Muza heads the cavalry; myself our foot. Ere the sun's shadow
reach yonder forest, our army shall be on its march."
The warriors, hastily and in joy, left the palace; and when he was alone,
Boabdil again relapsed into his wonted irresolution. After striding to
and fro for some minutes in anxious thought, he abruptly quitted the hall
of council, and passed in to the more private chambers of the palace,
till he came to a door strongly guarded by plates of iron. It yielded
easily, however, to a small key which he carried in his girdle; and
Boabdil stood in a small circular room, apparently without other door or
outlet; but, after looking cautiously round, the king touched a secret
spring in the wall, which, giving way, discovered a niche, in which stood
a small lamp, burning with the purest naphtha, and a scroll of yellow
parchment covered with strange letters and hieroglyphics. He thrust the
scroll in his bosom, took the lamp in his hand, and pressing another
spring within the niche, the wall receded, and showed a narrow and
winding staircase. The king reclosed the entrance, and descended: the
stairs led, at last, into clamp and rough passages; and the murmur of
waters, that reached his ear through the thick walls, indicated the
subterranean nature of the soil through which they were hewn. The lamp
burned clear and steady through the darkness of the place; and Boabdil
proceeded with such impatient rapidity, that the distance (in reality,
considerable) which he traversed, before he arrived at his destined
bourne, was quickly measured. He came at last into a wide cavern,
guarded by doors concealed and secret as those which had screened the
entrance from the upper air. He was in one of the many vaults which made
the mighty cemetery of the monarchs of Granada; and before him stood the
robed and crowned skeleton, and before him glowed the magic dial-plate of
which he had spoken in his interview with Muza.
"Oh, dread and awful image!" cried the king, throwing himself on his
knees before the skeleton,--"shadow of what was once a king, wise in
council, and terrible in war, if in those hollow bones yet lurks the
impalpable and unseen spirit, hear thy repentant son. Forgive, while it
is yet time, the rebellion of his fiery youth, and suffer thy daring soul
to animate the doubt and weakness of his own. I go forth to battle,
waiting not the signal thou didst ordain. Let not the penance for a
rashness, to which fate urges me on, attach to my country, but to me.
And if I perish in the field, may my evil destinies be buried with me,
and a worthier monarch redeem my errors and preserve Granada!"
As the king raised his looks, the unrelaxed grin of the grim dead, made
yet more hideous by the mockery of the diadem and the royal robe, froze
back to ice the passion and sorrow at his heart. He shuddered, and rose
with a deep sigh; when, as his eyes mechanically followed the lifted arm
of the skeleton, he beheld, with mingled delight and awe, the hitherto
motionless finger of the dial-plate pass slowly on, and rest at the word
so long and so impatiently desired. "ARM!" cried the king; "do I read
aright?--are my prayers heard?" A low and deep sound, like that of
subterranean thunder, boomed through the chamber; and in the same instant
the wall opened, and the king beheld the long-expected figure of Almamen,
the magician. But no longer was that stately form clad in the loose and
peaceful garb of the Eastern santon. Complete armour cased his broad
chest and sinewy limbs; his head alone was bare, and his prominent and
impressive features were lighted, not with mystical enthusiasm, but with
warlike energy. In his right hand, he carried a drawn sword--his left
supported the staff of a snow-white and dazzling banner.
So sudden was the apparition, and so excited the mind of the king, that
the sight of a supernatural being could scarcely have impressed him with
more amaze and awe.
"King of Granada," said Almamen, "the hour hath come at last; go forth
and conquer! With the Christian monarch, there is no hope of peace or
compact. At thy request I sought him, but my spells alone preserved the
life of thy herald. Rejoice! for thine evil destinies have rolled away
from thy spirit, like a cloud from the glory of the sun. The genii of
the East have woven this banner from the rays of benignant stars. It
shall beam before thee in the front of battle--it shall rise over the
rivers of Christian blood. As the moon sways the bosom of the tides,
it shall sway and direct the surges and the course of war!"
"Man of mystery! thou hast given me a new life."
"And, fighting by thy side," resumed Almamen, "I will assist to carve out
for thee, from the ruins of Arragon and Castile, the grandeur of a new
throne. Arm, monarch of Granada!--arm! I hear the neigh of thy charger,
in the midst of the mailed thousands! Arm!"
LEILA IN THE CASTLE--THE SIEGE.
The calmer contemplations and more holy anxieties of Leila were, at
length, broken in upon by intelligence, the fearful interest of which
absorbed the whole mind and care of every inhabitant of the castle.
Boabdil el Chico had taken the field, at the head of a numerous army.
Rapidly scouring the country, he had descended, one after one, upon the
principal fortresses, which Ferdinand had left, strongly garrisoned, in
the immediate neighbourhood. His success was as immediate as it was
signal; the terror of his arms began, once more to spread far and wide;
every day swelled his ranks with new recruits; and from the snow-clad
summits of the Sierra Nevada poured down, in wild hordes, the fierce
mountain race, who, accustomed to eternal winter, made a strange
contrast, in their rugged appearance and shaggy clothing, to the
glittering and civilised soldiery of Granada.
Moorish towns, which had submitted to Ferdinand, broke from their
allegiance, and sent their ardent youth and experienced veterans to the
standard of the Keys and Crescent. To add to the sudden panic of the
Spaniards, it went forth that a formidable magician, who seemed inspired
rather with the fury of a demon than the valour of a man, had made an
abrupt appearance in the ranks of the Moslems. Wherever the Moors shrank
back from wall or tower, down which poured the boiling pitch, or rolled
the deadly artillery of the besieged, this sorcerer--rushing into the
midst of the flagging force, and waving, with wild gestures, a white
banner, supposed by both Moor and Christian to be the work of magic and
preternatural spells--dared every danger, and escaped every weapon: with
voice, with prayer, with example, he fired the Moors to an enthusiasm
that revived the first days of Mohammedan conquest; and tower after
tower, along the mighty range of the mountain chain of fortresses, was
polluted by the wave and glitter of the ever-victorious banner. The
veteran, Mendo de Quexada, who, with a garrison of two hundred and fifty
men, held the castle of Almamen, was, however, undaunted by the
unprecedented successes of Boabdil. Aware of the approaching storm, he
spent the days of peace yet accorded to him in making every preparation
for the siege that he foresaw; messengers were despatched to Ferdinand;
new out-works were added to the castle; ample store of provisions laid
in; and no precaution omitted that could still preserve to the Spaniards
a fortress that, from its vicinity to Granada, its command of the Vega
and the valleys of the Alpuxarras, was the bitterest thorn in the side of
the Moorish power.
It was early, one morning, that Leila stood by the lattice of her lofty
chamber gazing, with many and mingled emotions, on the distant domes of
Granada, as they slept in the silent sunshine. Her heart, for the
moment, was busy with the thoughts of home, and the chances and peril of
the time were forgotten.
The sound of martial music, afar off, broke upon her reveries; she
started, and listened breathlessly; it became more distinct and clear.
The clash of the zell, the boom of the African drum, and the wild and
barbarous blast of the Moorish clarion, were now each distinguishable
from the other; and, at length, as she gazed and listened, winding along
the steeps of the mountain were seen the gleaming spears and pennants of
the Moslem vanguard. Another moment and the whole castle was astir.
Mendo de Quexada, hastily arming, repaired, himself, to the battlements;
and, from her lattice, Leila beheld him, from time to time, stationing to
the best advantage his scanty troops. In a few minutes she was joined by
Donna Inez and the women of the castle, who fearfully clustered round
their mistress,--not the less disposed, however, to gratify the passion
of the sex, by a glimpse through the lattice at the gorgeous array of the
The casements of Leila's chamber were peculiarly adapted to command a
safe nor insufficient view of the progress of the enemy; and, with a
beating heart and flushing cheek, the Jewish maiden, deaf to the voices
around her, imagined she could already descry amidst the horsemen the
lion port and snowy garments of Muza Ben Abil Gazan.
What a situation was hers! Already a Christian, could she hope for the
success of the infidel? ever a woman, could she hope for the defeat of
her lover? But the time for meditation on her destiny was but brief; the
detachment of the Moorish cavalry was now just without the walls of the
little town that girded the castle, and the loud clarion of the heralds
summoned the garrison to surrender.
"Not while one stone stands upon another!" was the short answer of
Quexada; and, in ten minutes afterwards, the sullen roar of the artillery
broke from wall and tower over the vales below.
It was then that the women, from Leila's lattice, beheld, slowly
marshalling themselves in order, the whole power and pageantry of the
besieging army. Thick-serried--line after line, column upon column--they
spread below the frowning steep. The sunbeams lighted up that goodly
array, as it swayed, and murmured, and advanced, like the billows of a
glittering sea. The royal standard was soon descried waving above the
pavilion of Boabdil; and the king himself, mounted on his cream-coloured
charger, which was covered with trappings of cloth-of-gold, was
recognised amongst the infantry, whose task it was to lead the assault.
"Pray with us, my daughter!" cried Inez, falling on her knees.-Alas!
what could Leila pray for?
Four days and four nights passed away in that memorable siege; for the
moon, then at her full, allowed no respite, even in night itself. Their
numbers, and their vicinity to Granada, gave the besiegers the advantage
of constant relays, and troop succeeded to troop; so that the weary had
ever successors in the vigour of new assailants.
On the fifth day, all of the fortress, save the keep (an immense tower),
was in the hands of the Moslems; and in this last hold, the worn-out and
scanty remnant of the garrison mustered, in the last hope of a brave,
Quexada appeared, covered with gore and dust-his eyes bloodshot, his
cheek haggard and hollow, his locks blanched with sudden age-in the hall
of the tower, where the women, half dead with terror, were assembled.
"Food!" cried he,--"food and wine!--it may be our last banquet."
His wife threw her arms round him. "Not yet," he cried, "not yet; we
will have one embrace before we part."
"Is there, then, no hope?" said Inez, with a pale cheek, yet steady eye.
"None; unless to-morrow's dawn gild the spears of Ferdinand's army upon
yonder hills. Till morn we may hold out." As he spoke, he hastily
devoured some morsels of food, drained a huge goblet of wine, and
abruptly quitted the chamber.
At that moment, the women distinctly heard the loud shouts of the Moors;
and Leila, approaching the grated casement, could perceive the approach
of what seemed to her like moving wails.
Covered by ingenious constructions of wood and thick hides, the besiegers
advanced to the foot of the tower in comparative shelter from the burning
streams which still poured, fast and seething, from the battlements;
while, in the rear came showers of darts and cross-bolts from the more
distant Moors, protecting the work of the engineer, and piercing through
almost every loophole and crevice in the fortress.
Meanwhile the stalwart governor beheld, with dismay and despair, the
preparations of the engineers, whom the wooden screen-works protected
from every weapon.
"By the Holy Sepulchre!" cried he, gnashing his teeth, "they are mining
the tower, and we shall be buried in its ruins! Look out, Gonsalvo! see
you not a gleam of spears yonder over the mountain? Mine eyes are dim
"Alas! brave Mendo, it is only the sloping sun upon the snows--but there
is hope yet."
The soldier's words terminated in a shrill and sudden cry of agony; and
he fell dead by the side of Quexada, the brain crushed by a bolt from a
"My best warrior!" said Quexada; "peace be with him! Ho, there! see you
yon desperate infidel urging on the miners? By the heavens above, it is
he of the white banner!--it is the sorcerer! Fire on him! he is without
the shelter of the woodworks."
Twenty shafts, from wearied and nerveless arms, fell innocuous round the
form of Almamen: and as, waving aloft his ominous banner, he disappeared
again behind the screen-works, the Spaniards almost fancied they could
hear his exulting and demon laugh.
The sixth day came, and the work of the enemy was completed. The tower
was entirely undermined--the foundations rested only upon wooden props,
which, with a humanity that was characteristic of Boabdil, had been
placed there in order that the besieged might escape ere the final crash
of their last hold.
It was now noon: the whole Moorish force, quitting the plain, occupied
the steep that spread below the tower, in multitudinous array and
breathless expectation. The miners stood aloof--the Spaniards lay
prostrate and exhausted upon the battlements, like mariners who, after
every effort against the storm, await, resigned, and almost indifferent,
the sweep of the fatal surge.
Suddenly the lines of the Moors gave way, and Boabdil himself, with Muza
at his right hand, and Almamen on his left, advanced towards the foot of
the tower. At the same time, the Ethiopian guards, each bearing a torch,
marched slowly in the rear; and from the midst of them paced the royal
herald and sounded the last warning. The hush of the immense armament--
the glare of the torches, lighting the ebon faces and giant forms of
their bearers--the majestic appearance of the king himself--the heroic
aspect of Muza--the bare head and glittering banner of Almamen--all
combined with the circumstances of the time to invest the spectacle with
something singularly awful, and, perhaps, sublime.
Quexada turned his eyes, mutely, round the ghastly faces of his warriors,
and still made not the signal. His lips muttered--his eyes glared: when,
suddenly, he heard below the wail of women; and the thought of Inez, the
bride of his youth, the partner of his age, came upon him; and, with a
trembling hand, he lowered the yet unquailing standard of Spain. Then,
the silence below broke into a mighty shout, which shook the grim tower
to its unsteady and temporary base.
"Arise, my friends," he said, with a bitter sigh; "we have fought like
men--and our country will not blush for us." He descended the winding
stairs--his soldiers followed him with faltering steps: the gates of the
keep unfolded, and these gallant Christians surrendered themselves to the
"Do with it as you will," said Quexada, as he laid the keys at the hoofs
of Boabdil's barb; "but there are women in the garrison, who--"
"Are sacred," interrupted the king. "At once we accord their liberty,
and free transport whithersoever ye would desire. Speak, then! To what
place of safety shall they be conducted?"
"Generous king!" replied the veteran Quexada, brushing away his tears
with the back of his hand; "you take the sting from our shame. We accept
your offer in the same spirit in which it is made. Across the mountains,
on the verge of the plain of Olfadez, I possess a small castle,
ungarrisoned and unfortified. Thence, should the war take that
direction, the women can readily obtain safe conduct to the queen at
"Be it so," returned Boabdil. Then, with Oriental delicacy, selecting
the eldest of the officers round him, he gave him instructions to enter
the castle, and, with a strong guard, provide for the safety of the
women, according to the directions of Quexada. To another of his
officers he confided the Spanish prisoners, and gave the signal to his
army to withdraw from the spot, leaving only a small body to complete the
ruin of the fortress.
Accompanied by Almamen and his principal officers, Boabdil now hastened
towards Granada; and while, with slower progress, Quexada and his
companions, under a strong escort, took their way across the Vega, a
sudden turn in their course brought abruptly before them the tower they
had so valiantly defended. There it still stood, proud and stern, amidst
the blackened and broken wrecks around it, shooting aloft, dark and grim,
against the sky. Another moment, and a mighty crash sounded on their
ears, while the tower fell to the earth, amidst volumes of wreathing
smoke and showers of dust, which were borne, by the concussion to the
spot on which they took their last gaze of the proudest fortress on which
the Moors of Granada had beheld, from their own walls, the standard of
Arragon and Castile.
At the same time, Leila--thus brought so strangely within the very reach
of her father and her lover, and yet, by a mysterious fate, still divided
from both,--with Donna Inez, and the rest of the females of the garrison,
pursued her melancholy path along the ridges of the mountains.
ALMAMEN'S PROPOSED ENTERPRISE.--THE THREE ISRAELITES--CIRCUMSTANCE
IMPRESSES EACH CHARACTER WITH A VARYING DIE.
Boadbil followed up his late success with a series of brilliant assaults
on-the neighbouring fortresses. Granada, like a strong man bowed to the
ground, wrenched one after one the bands that had crippled her liberty
and strength; and, at length, after regaining a considerable portion of
the surrounding territory, the king resolved to lay siege to the seaport
of Salobrena. Could he obtain this town, Boabdil, by establishing
communication between the sea and Granada, would both be enabled to avail
himself of the assistance of his African allies, and also prevent the
Spaniards from cutting off supplies to the city, should they again
besiege it. Thither, then, accompanied by Muza, the Moorish king bore
his victorious standard.
On the eve of his departure, Almamen sought the king's presence. A great
change had come over the canton since the departure of Ferdinand; his
wonted stateliness of mien was gone; his eyes were sunk and hollow; his
manner disturbed and absent. In fact, his love for his daughter made the
sole softness of his character; and that daughter was in the hands of the
king who had sentenced the father to the tortures of the Inquisition!
To what dangers might she not be subjected, by the intolerant zeal of
conversion! and could that frame, and gentle heart, brave the terrific
engines that might be brought against her fears? "Better," thought he,
"that she should perish, even by the torture, than adopt that hated
faith." He gnashed his teeth in agony at either alternative. His
dreams, his objects, his revenge, his ambition--all forsook him: one
single hope, one thought, completely mastered his stormy passions and
In this mood the pretended santon met Boabdil. He represented to the
king, over whom his influence had prodigiously increased since the late
victories of the Moors, the necessity of employing the armies of
Ferdinand at a distance. He proposed, in furtherance of this policy, to
venture himself in Cordova; to endeavour secretly to stir up those Moors,
in that, their ancient kingdom, who had succumbed to the Spanish yoke,
and whose hopes might naturally be inflamed by the recent successes of
Boabdil; and, at least, to foment such disturbances as might afford the
king sufficient time to complete his designs, and recruit his force by
aid of the powers with which he was in league.
The representations of Almamen at length conquered Boabdil's reluctance
to part with his sacred guide; and it was finally arranged that the
Israelite should at once depart from the city.
As Almamen pursued homeward his solitary way, he found himself suddenly
accosted in the Hebrew tongue. He turned hastily, and saw before him an
old man in the Jewish gown: he recognised Elias, one of the wealthiest
and most eminent of the race of Israel.
"Pardon me, wise countryman!" said the Jew, bowing to the earth, "but I
cannot resist the temptation of claiming kindred with one through whom
the horn of Israel may be so triumphantly exalted."
"Hush, man!" said Almamen, quickly, and looking sharply round; "I thy
countryman! Art thou not, as thy speech betokens, an Israelite?"
"Yea," returned the Jew, "and of the same tribe as thy honoured father--
peace be with his ashes! I remembered thee at once, boy though thou wert
when thy steps shook off the dust against Granada. I remembered thee, I
say, at once, on thy return; but I have kept thy secret, trusting that,
through thy soul and genius, thy fallen brethren might put off sackcloth
and feast upon the house-tops."
Almamen looked hard at the keen, sharp, Arab features of the Jew; and at
length he answered, "And how can Israel be restored? wilt thou fight for
"I am too old, son of Issachar, to bear arms; but our tribes are many,
and our youth strong. Amid these disturbances between dog and dog--"
"The lion may get his own," interrupted Almamen, impetuously,--"let us
hope it. Hast thou heard of the new persecutions against us that the
false Nazarene king has already commenced in Cordova--persecutions that
make the heart sick and the blood cold?"
"Alas!" replied Elias, "such woes indeed have not failed to reach mine
ear; and I have kindred, near and beloved kindred, wealthy and honoured
men, scattered throughout that land."
"Were it not better that they should die on the field than by the rack?"
exclaimed Almamen, fiercely. "God of my fathers! if there be yet a spark
of manhood left amongst thy people, let thy servant fan it to a flame,
that shall burn as the fire burns the stubble, so that the earth may bare
before the blaze!"
"Nay," said Elias, dismayed rather than excited by the vehemence of his
comrade,--"be not rash, son of Issachar, be not rash: peradventure thou
wilt but exasperate the wrath of the rulers, and our substance thereby
will be utterly consumed."
Almamen drew back, placed his hand quietly on the Jew's shoulder, looked
him hard in the face, and, gently laughing, turned away.
Elias did not attempt to arrest his steps. "Impracticable," he muttered;
"impracticable and dangerous! I always thought so. He may do us harm:
were he not so strong and fierce, I would put my knife under his left
rib. Verily, gold is a great thing; and--out on me! the knaves at home
will be wasting the oil, now they know old Elias is abroad." Thereat the
Jew drew his cloak around him, and quickened his pace.
Almamen, in the meanwhile, sought, through dark and subterranean
passages, known only to himself, his accustomed home. He passed much of
the night alone; but, ere the morning star announced to the mountain tops
the presence of the sun, he stood, prepared for his journey, in his
secret vault, by the door of the subterranean passages, with old Ximen
"I go, Ximen," said Almamen, "upon a doubtful quest: whether I discover
my daughter, and succeed in bearing her in safety from their
contaminating grasp, or whether I fall into their snares and perish,
there is an equal chance that I may return no more to Granada. Should
this be so, you will be heir to such wealth as I leave in these places I
know that your age will be consoled for the lack of children when your
eyes look upon the laugh of gold."
Ximen bowed low, and mumbled out some inaudible protestations and thanks.
Almamen sighed heavily as he looked round the room. "I have evil omens
in my soul, and evil prophecies in my books," said he, mournfully. "But
the worst is here," he added, putting his finger significantly to his
temples; "the string is stretched--one more blow would snap it."
As he thus said, he opened the door and vanished through that labyrinth
of galleries by which he was enabled at all times to reach unobserved
either the palace of the Alhambra or the gardens without the gates of the
Ximen remained behind a few moments in deep thought. "All mine if he
dies!" said he: "all mine if he does not return! All mine, all mine!
and I have not a child nor a kinsman in the world to clutch it away from
me!" With that he locked the vault, and returned to the upper air.
THE FUGITIVE AND THE MEETING
In their different directions the rival kings were equally successful.
Salobrena, but lately conquered by the Christians, was thrown into a
commotion by the first glimpse of Boabdil's banners; the populace rose,
beat back their Christian guards, and opened the gates to the last of
their race of kings. The garrison alone, to which the Spaniards
retreated, resisted Boabdil's arms; and, defended by, impregnable walls,
promised an obstinate and bloody siege.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand had no sooner entered Cordova than his extensive
scheme of confiscation and holy persecution commenced. Not only did more
than five hundred Jews perish in the dark and secret gripe of the Grand
Inquisitor, but several hundred of the wealthiest Christian families, in
whose blood was detected the hereditary Jewish taint, were thrown into
prison; and such as were most fortunate purchased life by the sacrifice
of half their treasures. At this time, however, there suddenly broke
forth a formidable insurrection amongst these miserable subjects--the
Messenians of the Iberian Sparta. The Jews were so far aroused from
their long debasement by omnipotent despair, that a single spark, falling
on the ashes of their ancient spirit, rekindled the flame of the
descendants of the fierce warriors of Palestine. They were encouraged
and assisted by the suspected Christians, who had been involved in the
same persecution; and the whole were headed by a man who appeared
suddenly amongst them, and whose fiery eloquence and martial spirit
produced, at such a season, the most fervent enthusiasm. Unhappily, the
whole details of this singular outbreak are withheld from us; only by
wary hints and guarded allusions do the Spanish chroniclers apprise us
of its existence and its perils. It is clear that all narrative of an
event that might afford the most dangerous precedent, and was alarming to
the pride and avarice of the Spanish king, as well as the pious zeal of
the Church, was strictly forbidden; and the conspiracy was hushed in the
dread silence of the Inquisition, into whose hands the principal
conspirators ultimately fell. We learn, only, that a determined and
sanguinary struggle was followed by the triumph of Ferdinand, and the
complete extinction of the treason.
It was one evening, that a solitary fugitive, hard chased by an armed
troop of the brothers of St. Hermandad, was seen emerging from a wild and
rocky defile, which opened abruptly on the gardens of a small, and, by
the absence of fortification and sentries, seemingly deserted, castle.
Behind him; in the exceeding stillness which characterises the air of a
Spanish twilight, he heard, at a considerable distance the blast of the
horn and the tramp of hoofs. His pursuers, divided into several
detachments, were scouring the country after him, as the fishermen draw
their nets, from bank to bank, conscious that the prey they drive before
the meshes cannot escape them at the last. The fugitive halted in doubt,
and gazed round him: he was well-nigh exhausted; his eyes were bloodshot;
the large drops rolled fast down his brow; his whole frame quivered and
palpitated, like that of a stag when he stands at bay. Beyond the castle
spread a broad plain, far as the eye could reach, without shrub or hollow
to conceal his form: flight across a space so favourable to his pursuers
was evidently in vain. No alternative was left unless he turned back on
the very path taken by the horsemen, or trusted to such scanty and
perilous shelter as the copses in the castle garden might afford him. He
decided on the latter refuge, cleared the low and lonely wall that girded
the demesne, and plunged into a thicket of overhanging oaks and
At that hour, and in that garden, by the side of a little fountain, were
seated two females: the one of mature and somewhat advanced years; the
other, in the flower of virgin youth. But the flower was prematurely
faded; and neither the bloom, nor sparkle, nor undulating play of
feature, that should have suited her age, was visible in the marble
paleness and contemplative sadness of her beautiful countenance.
"Alas! my young friend," said the elder of these ladies, "it is in these
hours of solitude and calm that we are most deeply impressed with the
nothingness of life. Thou, my sweet convert, art now the object, no
longer of my compassion, but my envy; and earnestly do I feel convinced
of the blessed repose thy spirit will enjoy in the lap of the Mother
Church. Happy are they who die young! but thrice happy they who die in
the spirit rather than the flesh: dead to sin, but not to virtue; to
terror, not to hope; to man, but not to God!"
"Dear senora," replied the young maiden, mournfully, "were I alone on
earth, Heaven is my witness with what deep and thankful resignation I
should take the holy vows, and forswear the past; but the heart remains
human, however divine the hope that it may cherish. And sometimes I
start, and think of home, of childhood, of my strange but beloved father,
deserted and childless in his old age."
"Thine, Leila," returned the elder Senora, "are but the sorrows our
nature is doomed to. What matter, whether absence or death sever the
affections? Thou lamentest a father; I, a son, dead in the pride of his
youth and beauty--a husband, languishing in the fetters of the Moor.
Take comfort for thy sorrows, in the reflection that sorrow is the
heritage of all."
Ere Leila could reply, the orange-boughs that sheltered the spot where
they sat were put aside, and between the women and the fountain stood the
dark form of Almamen the Israelite. Leila rose, shrieked, and flung
herself, unconscious, on his breast.
"O Lord of Israel!" cried Almamen, in atone of deep anguish. "I, then,
at last regain my child? Do I press her to my heart? and is it only for
that brief moment, when I stand upon the brink of death? Leila, my
child, look up! smile upon thy father; let him feel, on his maddening and
burning brow, the sweet breath of the last of his race, and bear with
him, at least, one holy and gentle thought to the dark grave."
"My father! is it indeed my father?" said Leila, recovering herself, and
drawing back, that she might assure herself of that familiar face; "it is
thou! it is--it is! Oh! what blessed chance brings us together?"
"That chance is the destiny that hurries me to my tomb," answered
Almamen, solemnly. "Hark! hear you not the sound of their rushing
steeds--their impatient voices? They are on me now!"
"Who? Of whom speakest thou?"
"My pursuers--the horsemen of the Spaniard."
"Oh, senora, save him!" cried Leila, turning to Donna Inez, whom both
father and child had hitherto forgotten, and who now stood gazing upon
Almamen with wondering and anxious eyes. "Whither can he fly? The
vaults of the castle may conceal him. This way-hasten!"
"Stay," said Inez, trembling, and approaching close to Almamen: "do I see
aright? and, amidst the dark change of years and trial, do I recognise
that stately form, which once contrasted to the sad eye of a mother the
drooping and faded form of her only son? Art thou not he who saved my
boy from the pestilence, who accompanied him to the shores of Naples, and
consigned him to these arms? Look on me! dost thou not recall the mother
of thy friend?"
"I recall thy features dimly and as in a dream," answered the Hebrew;
"and while thou speakest, there rush upon me the memories of an earlier
time, in lands where Leila first looked upon the day, and her mother sang
to me at sunset by the stream of the Euphrates, and on the sites of
departed empires. Thy son--I remember now: I had friendship then with a
Christian--for I was still young."
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