Leila or, The Siege of Granada, Complete
Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 4 out of 4
"No chance of that," muttered Ximen; "he will return no more to Granada.
The vulture and the worm have divided his carcass between them ere this;
and (he added inly with a hideous smile) his house and his gold have
fallen into the hands of old childless Ximen."
"This is a strange and fearful vault," said Isaac, quaffing a large
goblet of the hot wine of the Vega; "here might the Witch of Endor have
raised the dead. Yon door--whither doth it lead?"
"Through passages none that I know of, save my master, hath trodden,"
answered Ximen. "I have heard that they reach even to the Alhambra.
Come, worthy Elias! thy form trembles with the cold: take this wine."
"Hist!" said Elias, shaking from limb to limb; "our pursuers are upon us
--I hear a step!"
As he spoke, the door to which Isaac had pointed slowly opened and
Almamen entered the vault.
Had, indeed, a new Witch of Endor conjured up the dead, the apparition
would not more have startled and appalled that goodly trio. Elias,
griping his knife, retreated to the farthest end of the vault. Isaac
dropped the goblet he was about to drain, and fell upon his knees.
Ximen, alone, growing, if possible, a shade more ghastly--retained
something of self-possession, as he muttered to himself--"He lives! and
his gold is not mine! Curse him!"
Seemingly unconscious of the strange guests his sanctuary shrouded,
Almamen stalked on, like a man walking in his sleep.
Ximen roused himself--softly unbarred the door which admitted to the
upper apartments, and motioned to his comrades to avail themselves of the
opening, but as Isaac--the first to accept the hint--crept across,
Almamen fixed upon him his terrible eye, and, appearing suddenly to awake
to consciousness, shouted out, "Thou miscreant, Ximen! whom hast thou
admitted to the secrets of thy lord? Close the door--these men must
"Mighty master!" said Ximen, calmly, "is thy servant to blame that he
believed the rumour that declared thy death? These men are of our holy
faith, whom I have snatched from the violence of the sacrilegious and
maddened mob. No spot but this seemed safe from the popular frenzy."
"Are ye Jews?" said Almamen. "Ah, yes! I know ye now--things of the
market-place and bazaar'. Oh, ye are Jews, indeed! Go, go! Leave me!"
Waiting no further licence, the three vanished; but, ere he quitted the
vault, Elias turned back his scowling countenance on Almamen (who had
sunk again into an absorbed meditation) with a glance of vindictive ire
--Almamen was alone.
In less than a quarter of an hour Ximen returned to seek his master; but
the place was again deserted.
It was midnight in the streets of Granada--midnight, but not repose.
The multitude, roused into one of their paroyxsms of wrath and sorrow,
by the reflection that the morrow was indeed the day of their subjection
to the Christian foe, poured forth through the streets to the number of
twenty thousand. It was a wild and stormy night; those formidable gusts
of wind, which sometimes sweep in sudden winter from the snows of the
Sierra Nevada, howled through the tossing groves, and along the winding
streets. But the tempest seemed to heighten, as if by the sympathy of
the elements, the popular storm and whirlwind. Brandishing arms and
torches, and gaunt with hunger, the dark forms of the frantic Moors
seemed like ghouls or spectres, rather than mortal men; as, apparently
without an object, save that of venting their own disquietude, or
exciting the fears of earth, they swept through the desolate city.
In the broad space of the Vivarrambla the crowd halted, irresolute in all
else, but resolved at least that something for Granada should yet be
done. They were for the most armed in their Moorish fashion; but they
were wholly without leaders: not a noble, a magistrate, an officer, would
have dreamed of the hopeless enterprise of violating the truce with
Ferdinand. It was a mere popular tumult--the madness of a mob;--but not
the less formidable, for it was an Eastern mob, and a mob with sword and
shaft, with buckler and mail--the mob by which oriental empires have been
built and overthrown! There, in the splendid space that had witnessed
the games and tournaments of that Arab and African chivalry--there, where
for many a lustrum kings had reviewed devoted and conquering armies--
assembled those desperate men; the loud winds agitating their tossing
torches that struggled against the moonless night.
"Let us storm the Alhambra!" cried one of the band: "let us seize
Boabdil, and place him in the midst of us; let us rush against the
Christians, buried in their proud repose!"
"Lelilies, Lelilies!--the Keys and the Crescent!" shouted the mob.
The shout died: and at the verge of the space was suddenly heard a once
familiar and ever-thrilling voice.
The Moors who heard it turned round in amaze and awe; and beheld, raised
upon the stone upon which the criers or heralds had been wont to utter
the royal proclamations, the form of Almamen, the santon, whom they had
deemed already with the dead.
"Moors and people of Granada!" he said, in a solemn but hollow voice, "I
am with ye still. Your monarch and your heroes have deserted ye, but I
am with ye to the last! Go not to the Alhambra: the fort is
impenetrable--the guard faithful. Night will be wasted, and day bring
upon you the Christian army. March to the gates; pour along the Vega;
descend at once upon the foe!"
He spoke, and drew forth his sabre; it gleamed in the torchlight--the
Moors bowed their heads in fanatic reverence--the santon sprang from the
stone, and passed into the centre of the crowd.
Then, once more, arose joyful shouts. The multitude had found a leader
worthy of their enthusiasm; and in regular order, they formed themselves
rapidly, and swept down the narrow streets.
Swelled by several scattered groups of desultory marauders (the ruffians
and refuse of the city), the infidel numbers were now but a few furlongs
from the great gate, whence they had been wont to issue on the foe. And
then, perhaps, had the Moors passed these gates and reached the Christian
encampment, lulled, as it was, in security and sleep, that wild army of
twenty thousand desperate men might have saved Granada; and Spain might
at this day possess the only civilised empire which the faith of Mohammed
But the evil star of Boabdil prevailed. The news of the insurrection in
the city reached him. Two aged men from the lower city arrived at the
Alhambra--demanded and obtained an audience; and the effect of that
interview was instantaneous upon Boabdil. In the popular frenzy he saw
only a justifiable excuse for the Christian king to break the conditions
of the treaty, rase the city, and exterminate the inhabitants. Touched
by a generous compassion for his subjects, and actuated no less by a high
sense of kingly honor, which led him to preserve a truce solemnly sworn
to, he once more mounted his cream-coloured charger, with the two elders
who had sought him by his side; and, at the head of his guard, rode from
the Alhambra. The sound of his trumpets, the tramp of his steeds, the
voice of his heralds, simultaneously reached the multitude; and, ere they
had leisure to decide their course, the king was in the midst of them.
"What madness is this, O my people?" cried Boabdil, spurring into the
midst of the throng,--"whither would ye go?"
"Against the Christian!--against the Goth!" shouted a thousand voices.
"Lead us on! The santon is risen from the dead, and will ride by thy
"Alas!" resumed the king, "ye would march against the Christian king!
Remember that our hostages are in his power: remember that he will desire
no better excuse to level Granada with the dust, and put you and your
children to the sword. We have made such treaty as never yet was made
between foe and foe. Your lives, laws, wealth--all are saved. Nothing
is lost, save the crown of Boabdil. I am the only sufferer. So be it.
My evil star brought on you these evil destinies: without me, you may
revive, and be once more a nation. Yield to fate to-day, and you may
grasp her proudest awards to-morrow. To succumb is not to be subdued.
But go forth against the Christians, and if ye win one battle, it is but
to incur a more terrible war; if you lose, it is not honourable
capitulation, but certain extermination, to which you rush! Be
persuaded, and listen once again to your king."
The crowd were moved, were softened, were half-convinced. They turned,
in silence, towards their santon; and Almamen did not shrink from the
appeal; but stood forth, confronting the king.
"King of Granada!" he cried aloud, "behold thy friend--thy prophet!
Lo! I assure you victory!"
"Hold!" interrupted Boabdil; "thou hast deceived and betrayed me too
long! Moors! know ye this pretended santon? He is of no Moslem creed.
He is a hound of Israel who would sell you to the best bidder. Slay
"Ha!" cried Almamen, "and who is my accuser?"
"Thy servant-behold him!" At these words the royal guards lifted their
torches, and the glare fell redly on the death-like features of Ximen.
"Light of the world! there be other Jews that know him," said the
"Will ye suffer a Jew to lead ye, O race of the Prophet?" cried the king.
The crowd stood confused and bewildered. Almamen felt his hour was come;
he remained silent, his arms folded, his brow erect.
"Be there any of the tribes of Moisa amongst the crowd?" cried Boabdil,
pursuing his advantage; "if so, let them approach and testify what they
know." Forth came--not from the crowd, but from amongst Boabdil's train,
a well-known Israelite.
"We disown this man of blood and fraud," said Elias, bowing to the earth;
"but he was of our creed."
"Speak, false santon! art thou dumb?" cried the king.
"A curse light on thee, dull fool!" cried Almamen, fiercely. "What
matters who the instrument that would have restored to thee thy throne?
Yes! I, who have ruled thy councils, who have led thine armies, I am of
the race of Joshua and of Samuel--and the Lord of Hosts is the God of
A shudder ran through that mighty multitude: but the looks, the mien, and
the voice of the man awed them, and not a weapon was raised against him.
He might, even then, have passed scathless through the crowd; he might
have borne to other climes his burning passions and his torturing woes:
but his care for life was past; he desired but to curse his dupes, and to
die. He paused, looked round and burst into a laugh of such bitter and
haughty scorn, as the tempted of earth may hear in the halls below from
the lips of Eblis.
"Yes," he exclaimed, "such I am! I have been your idol and your lord.
I may be your victim, but in death I am your vanquisher. Christian and
Moslem alike my foe, I would have trampled upon both. But the Christian,
wiser than you, gave me smooth words; and I would have sold ye to his
power; wickeder than you, he deceived me; and I would have crushed him
that I might have continued to deceive and rule the puppets that ye call
your chiefs. But they for whom I toiled, and laboured, and sinned--for
whom I surrendered peace and ease, yea, and a daughter's person and a
daughter's blood--they have betrayed me to your hands, and the Curse of
Old rests with them evermore--Amen! The disguise is rent: Almamen, the
santon, is the son of Issachar the Jew!"
More might he have said, but the spell was broken. With a ferocious
yell, those living waves of the multitude rushed over the stern fanatic;
six cimiters passed through him, and he fell not: at the seventh he was a
corpse. Trodden in the clay--then whirled aloft--limb torn from limb,--
ere a man could have drawn breath nine times, scarce a vestige of the
human form was left to the mangled and bloody clay.
One victim sufficed to slake the wrath of the crowd. They gathered like
wild beasts whose hunger is appeased, around their monarch, who in vain
had endeavored to stay their summary revenge, and who now, pale and
breathless, shrank from the passions he had excited. He faltered forth a
few words of remonstrance and exhortation, turned the head of his steed,
and took his way to his palace.
The crowd dispersed, but not yet to their homes. The crime of Almamen
worked against his whole race. Some rushed to the Jews' quarter, which
they set on fire; others to the lonely mansion of Almamen.
Ximen, on quitting the king, had been before the mob. Not anticipating
such an effect of the popular rage, he had hastened to the house, which
he now deemed at length his own. He had just reached the treasury of his
dead lord--he had just feasted his eyes on the massive ingots and
glittering gems; in the lust of his heart he had just cried aloud, "And
these are mine!" when he heard the roar of the mob below the wall,--when
he saw the glare of their torches against the casement. It was in vain
that he shrieked aloud, "I am the man that exposed the Jew!" the wild
wind scattered his words over a deafened audience. Driven from his
chamber by the smoke and flame, afraid to venture forth amongst the
crowd, the miser loaded himself with the most precious of the store: he
descended the steps, he bent his way to the secret vault, when suddenly
the floor, pierced by the flames, crashed under him, and the fire rushed
up in a fiercer and more rapid volume, as the death-shriek broke through
that lurid shroud.
Such were the principal events of the last night of the Moorish dynasty
Day dawned upon Granada: the populace had sought their homes, and a
profound quiet wrapped the streets, save where, from the fires committed
in the late tumult, was yet heard the crash of roofs or the crackle of
the light and fragrant timber employed in those pavilions of the summer.
The manner in which the mansions of Granada were built, each separated
from the other by extensive gardens, fortunately prevented the flames
from extending. But the inhabitants cared so little for the hazard, that
not a single guard remained to watch the result. Now and then some
miserable forms in the Jewish gown might be seen cowering by the ruins of
their house, like the souls that, according to Plato, watched in charnels
over their own mouldering bodies. Day dawned, and the beams of the
winter sun, smiling away the clouds of the past night, played cheerily on
the murmuring waves of the Xenil and the Darro.
Alone, upon a balcony commanding that stately landscape, stood the last
of the Moorish kings. He had sought to bring to his aid all the lessons
of the philosophy he had cultivated. "What are we," thought the musing
prince, "that we should fill the world with ourselves--we kings! Earth
resounds with the crash of my falling throne: on the ear of races unborn
the echo will live prolonged. But what have I lost?--nothing that was
necessary to my happiness, my repose; nothing save the source of all my
wretchedness, the Marah of my life! Shall I less enjoy heaven and earth,
or thought or action, or man's more material luxuries of food or sleep--
the common and the cheap desires of all? Arouse thee, then, O heart
within me! many and deep emotions of sorrow or of joy are yet left to
break the monotony of existence."
He paused; and, at the distance, his eyes fell upon the lonely minarets
of the distant and deserted palace of Muza Ben Abil Gazan.
"Thou went right, then," resumed the king--"thou wert right, brave
spirit, not to pity Boabdil: but not because death was in his power;
man's soul is greater than his fortunes, and there is majesty in a life
that towers above the ruins that fall around its path." He turned away,
and his cheek suddenly grew pale, for he heard in the courts below the
tread of hoofs, the bustle of preparation: it was the hour for his
departure. His philosophy vanished: he groaned aloud, and re-entered the
chamber just as his vizier and the chief of his guard broke upon his
The old vizier attempted to speak, but his voice failed him.
"It is time, then, to depart," said Boabdil, with calmness; "let it be
so: render up the palace and the fortress, and join thy friend, no more
thy monarch, in his new home."
He stayed not for reply: he hurried on, descended to the court, flung
himself on his barb, and, with a small and saddened train, passed through
the gate which we yet survey, by a blackened and crumbling tower
overgrown with vines and ivy; thence, amidst gardens, now appertaining to
the convent of the victor faith, he took his mournful and unwitnessed
way. When he came to the middle of the hill that rises above those
gardens, the steel of the Spanish armour gleamed upon him as the
detachment sent to occupy the palace marched over the summit in steady
order and profound silence.
At the head of this vanguard rode, upon a snow-white palfrey, the Bishop
of Avila, followed by a long train of barefooted monks. They halted as
Boabdil approached, and the grave bishop saluted him with the air of one
who addresses an infidel and an inferior. With the quick sense of
dignity common to the great, and yet more to the fallen, Boabdil felt,
but resented not, the pride of the ecclesiastic. "Go, Christian," said
he, mildly, "the gates of the Alhambra are open, and Allah has bestowed
the palace and the city upon your king: may his virtues atone the faults
of Boabdil!" So saying, and waiting no answer, he rode on, without
looking to the right or left. The Spaniards also pursued their way. The
sun had fairly risen above the mountains, when Boabdil and his train
beheld, from the eminence on which they were, the whole armament of
Spain; and at the same moment, louder than the tramp of horse, or the
flash of arms, was heard distinctly the solemn chant of Te Deum, which
preceded the blaze of the unfurled and lofty standards. Boabdil, himself
still silent, heard the groans and exclamations of his train; he turned
to cheer or chide them, and then saw, from his own watch-tower, with the
sun shining full upon its pure and dazzling surface, the silver cross of
Spain. His Alhambra was already in the hands of the foe, while, beside
that badge of the holy war, waved the gay and flaunting flag of St.
Iago, the canonised Mars of the chivalry of Spain.
At that sight the king's voice died within him: he gave the rein to his
barb, impatient to close the fatal ceremonial, and did not slacken his
speed till almost within bow-shot of the first ranks of the army. Never
had Christian war assumed a more splendid or imposing aspect. Far as the
eye could reach extended the glittering and gorgeous lines of that goodly
power, bristling with sunlit spears and blazoned banners; while beside
murmured, and glowed, and danced, the silver and laughing Xenil, careless
what lord should possess, for his little day, the banks that bloomed by
its everlasting course. By a small mosque halted the flower of the army.
Surrounded by the arch-priests of that mighty hierarchy, the peers and
princes of a court that rivalled the Rolands of Charlemagne, was seen the
kingly form of Ferdinand himself, with Isabel at his right hand and the
highborn dames of Spain, relieving, with their gay colours and sparkling
gems, the sterner splendour of the crested helmet and polished mail.
Within sight of the royal group, Boabdil halted--composed his aspect so
as best to conceal his soul,--and, a little in advance of his scanty
train, but never, in mien and majesty, more a king, the son of Abdallah
met his haughty conqueror.
At the sight of his princely countenance and golden hair, his comely and
commanding beauty, made more touching by youth, a thrill of compassionate
admiration ran through that assembly of the brave and fair. Ferdinand
and Isabel slowly advanced to meet their late rival--their new subject;
and, as Boabdil would have dismounted, the Spanish king place his hand
upon his shoulder. "Brother and prince," said he, "forget thy sorrows;
and may our friendship hereafter console thee for reverses against which
thou hast contended as a hero and a king-resisting man, but resigned at
length to God!"
Boabdil did not affect to return this bitter, but unintentional mockery
of compliment. He bowed his head, and remained a moment silent; then,
motioning to his train, four of his officers approached, and kneeling
beside Ferdinand, proffered to him, upon a silver buckler, the keys of
"O king!" then said Boabdil, "accept the keys of the last hold which has
resisted the arms of Spain! The empire of the Moslem is no more. Thine
are the city and the people of Granada: yielding to thy prowess, they yet
confide in thy mercy."
"They do well," said the king; "our promises shall not be broken. But,
since we know the gallantry of Moorish cavaliers, not to us, but to
gentler hands, shall the keys of Granada be surrendered."
Thus saying, Ferdinand gave the keys to Isabel, who would have addressed
some soothing flatteries to Boabdil: but the emotion and excitement were
too much for her compassionate heart, heroine and queen though she was;
and, when she lifted her eyes upon the calm and pale features of the
fallen monarch, the tears gushed from them irresistibly, and her voice
died in murmurs. A faint flush overspread the features of Boabdil, and
there was a momentary pause of embarrassment which the Moor was the first
"Fair queen," said he, with mournful and pathetic dignity; "thou canst
read the heart that thy generous sympathy touches and subdues: this is
thy last, nor least glorious, conquest. But I detain ye: let not my
aspect cloud your triumph. Suffer me to say farewell."
"May we not hint at the blessed possibility of conversion?" whispered the
pious queen through her tears to her royal consort.
"Not now--not now, by St. Iago!" returned Ferdinand, quickly, and in the
same tone, willing himself to conclude a painful conference. He then
added, aloud, "Go, my brother, and fair fortune with you! Forget the
Boabdil smiled bitterly, saluted the royal pair with profound and silent
reverence, and rode slowly on, leaving the army below, as he ascended the
path that led to his new principality beyond the Alpuxarras. As the
trees snatched the Moorish cavalcade from the view of the king, Ferdinand
ordered the army to recommence its march; and trumpet and cymbal
presently sent their music to the ear of the Moslems.
Boabdil spurred on at full speed till his panting charger halted at the
little village where his mother, his slaves, and his faithful Amine (sent
on before) awaited him. Joining these, he proceeded without delay upon
his melancholy path.
They ascended that eminence which is the pass into the Alpuxarras. From
its height, the vale, the rivers, the spires, the towers of Granada,
broke gloriously upon the view of the little band. They halted,
mechanically and abruptly; every eye was turned to the beloved scene.
The proud shame of baffled warriors, the tender memories of home--of
childhood--of fatherland, swelled every heart, and gushed from every eye.
Suddenly, the distant boom of artillery broke from the citadel and rolled
along the sunlit valley and crystal river. A universal wail burst from
the exiles! it smote--it overpowered the heart of the ill-starred king,
in vain seeking to wrap himself in Eastern pride or stoical philosophy.
The tears gushed from his eyes, and he covered his face with his hands.
Then said his haughty mother, gazing at him with hard and disdainful
eyes, in that unjust and memorable reproach which history has preserved
--"Ay, weep like a woman over what thou couldst not defend like a man!"
Boabdil raised his countenance, with indignant majesty, when he felt his
hand tenderly clasped, and, turning round, saw Amine by his side.
"Heed her not! heed her not, Boabdil!" said the slave; "never didst thou
seem to me more noble than in that sorrow. Thou wert a hero for thy
throne; but feel still, O light of mine eyes, a woman for thy people!"
"God is great!" said Boabdil; "and God comforts me still! Thy lips;
which never flattered me in my power, have no reproach for me in my
He said, and smiled upon Amine--it was her hour of triumph.
The band wound slowly on through the solitary defiles: and that place
where the king wept, and the woman soothed, is still called "El, ultimo
suspiro del Moro,--THE LAST SIGH OF THE MOOR!"
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