Part 3 out of 4
"Waste not the time--father--senora!" cried Leila, impatiently clinging
still to her father's breast.
"You are right; nor shall your sire, in whom I thus wonderfully recognise
my son's friend, perish if I can save him."
Inez then conducted her strange guest to a small door in the rear of the
castle; and after leading him through some of the principal apartments,
left him in one of the tiring-rooms adjoining her own chamber, and the
entrance to which the arras concealed. She rightly judged this a safer
retreat than the vaults of the castle might afford, since her great name
and known intimacy with Isabel would preclude all suspicion of her
abetting in the escape of the fugitive, and keep those places the most
secure in which, without such aid, he could not have secreted himself.
In a few minutes, several of the troop arrived at the castle, and on
learning the name of its owner contented themselves with searching the
gardens, and the lower and more exposed apartments; and then recommending
to the servants a vigilant look-out remounted, and proceeded to scour the
plain, over which now slowly fell the starlight and shade of night. When
Leila stole, at last, to the room in which Almamen was hid, she found
him, stretched on his mantle, in a deep sleep. Exhausted by all he had
undergone, and his rigid nerves, as it were, relaxed by the sudden
softness of that interview with his child, the slumber of that fiery
wanderer was as calm as an infant's. And their relation almost seemed
reversed; and the daughter to be as a mother watching over her offspring,
when Leila seated herself softly by him, fixing her eyes--to which the
tears came ever, ever to be brushed away-upon his worn but tranquil
features, made yet more serene by the quiet light that glimmered through
the casement. And so passed the hours of that night; and the father and
the child--the meek convert, the revengeful fanatic--were under the same
ALMAMEN HEARS AND SEES, BUT REFUSES TO BELIEVE; FOR THE BRAIN,
OVERWROUGHT, GROWS DULL, EVEN IN THE KEENEST.
The dawn broke slowly upon the chamber, and Almamen still slept. It was
the Sabbath of the Christians--that day on which the Saviour rose from
the dead--thence named so emphatically and sublimely by the early Church
THE LORD'S DAY.
[Before the Christian era, the Sunday was, however, called the
Lord's day--i.e., the day of the Lord the Sun.]
And as the ray of the sun flashed in the east it fell like a glory, over
a crucifix, placed in the deep recess of the Gothic casement; and brought
startlingly before the eyes of Leila that face upon which the rudest of
the Catholic sculptors rarely fail to preserve the mystic and awful union
of the expiring anguish of the man with the lofty patience of the God.
It looked upon her, that face; it invited, it encouraged, while it
thrilled and subdued. She stole gently from the side of her father; she
crept to the spot, and flung herself on her knees beside the consecrated
"Support me, O Redeemer!" she murmured--"support thy creature!
strengthen her steps in the blessed path, though it divide her
irrevocably from all that on earth she loves: and if there be a sacrifice
in her solemn choice, accept, O Thou, the Crucified! accept it, in part
atonement of the crime of her stubborn race; and, hereafter, let the lips
of a maiden of Judaea implore thee, not in vain, for some mitigation of
the awful curse that hath fallen justly upon her tribe."
As broken by low sobs, and in a choked and muttered voice, Leila poured
forth her prayer, she was startled by a deep groan; and turning, in alarm
she saw that Almamen had awaked, and, leaning on his arm, was now bending
upon her his dark eyes, once more gleaming with all their wonted fire.
"Speak," he said, as she coweringly hid her face, "speak to me, or I
shall be turned to stone by one horrid thought. It is not before that
symbol that thou kneelest in adoration; and my sense wanders, if it tell
me that thy broken words expressed the worship of an apostate? In mercy,
"Father!" began Leila; but her lips refused to utter more than that
touching and holy word.
Almamen rose; and plucking the hands from her face, gazed on her some
moments, as if he would penetrate her very soul; and Leila, recovering
her courage in the pause, by degrees met his eyes unquailing--her pure
and ingenuous brow raised to his, and sadness, but not guilt, speaking
from every line of that lovely face.
"Thou dost not tremble," said Almamen, at length, breaking the silence,
"and I have erred. Thou art not the criminal I deemed thee. Come to my
"Alas!" said Leila, obeying the instinct, and casting herself upon that
rugged bosom. "I will dare, at least, not to disavow my God. Father!
by that dread anathema which is on our race, which has made us homeless
and powerless--outcasts and strangers in the land; by the persecution and
anguish we have known, teach thy lordly heart that we are rightly
punished for the persecution and the anguish we doomed to Him, whose
footstep hallowed our native earth! FIRST, IN THE HISTORY of THE WORLD,
DID THE STERN HEBREWS INFLICT UPON MANKIND THE AWFUL CRIME OF PERSECUTION
FOR OPINIONS SAKE. The seed we sowed hath brought forth the Dead Sea
fruit upon which we feed. I asked for resignation and for hope: I looked
upon yonder cross, and I found both. Harden not thy heart; listen to thy
child; wise though thou be, and weak though her woman spirit, listen to
"Be dumb!" cried Almamen, in such a voice as might have come from the
charnel, so ghostly and deathly sounded its hollow tone; then, recoiling
some steps, he placed both his hands upon his temples, and muttered,
"Mad, mad! yes, yes, this is but a delirium, and I am tempted with a
devil! Oh, my child!" he resumed, in a voice that became, on the sudden,
inexpressibly tender and imploring, "I have been sorely tried; and I
dreamt a feverish dream of passion and revenge. Be thine the lips, and
thine the soothing hand, that shall wake me from it. Let us fly for ever
from these hated lands; let us leave to these miserable infidels their
bloody contest, careless which shall fall. To a soil on which the iron
heel does not clang, to an air where man's orisons rise, in solitude, to
the Great Jehovah, let us hasten our weary steps. Come! while the castle
yet sleeps, let us forth unseen--the father and the child. We will hold
sweet commune by the way. And hark ye, Leila," he added, in a low and
abrupt whisper, "talk not to me of yonder symbol; for thy God is a
jealous God, and hath no likeness in the graven image."
Had he been less exhausted by long travail and racking thoughts, far
different, perhaps, would have been the language of a man so stern. But
circumstance impresses the hardest substance; and despite his native
intellect and affected superiority over others, no one, perhaps, was more
human, in his fitful moods,--his weakness and his strength, his passion
and his purpose,--than that strange man, who had dared, in his dark
studies and arrogant self-will, to aspire beyond humanity.
That was, indeed, a perilous moment for the young convert. The
unexpected softness of her father utterly subdued her; nor was she
sufficiently possessed of that all-denying zeal of the Catholic
enthusiast to which every human tie and earthly duty has been often
sacrificed on the shrine of a rapt and metaphysical piety. Whatever her
opinions, her new creed, her secret desire of the cloister, fed as it was
by the sublime, though fallacious notion, that in her conversion, her
sacrifice, the crimes of her race might be expiated in the eyes of Him
whose death had been the great atonement of a world; whatever such higher
thoughts and sentiments, they gave way, at that moment, to the
irresistible impulse of household nature and of filial duty. Should she
desert her father, and could that desertion be a virtue? Her heart put
and answered both questions in a breath. She approached Almamen, placed
her hand in his, and said, steadily and calmly, "Father, wheresoever thou
goest, I will wend with thee."
But Heaven ordained to each another destiny than might have been theirs,
had the dictates of that impulse been fulfilled.
Ere Almamen could reply, a trumpet sounded clear and loud at the gate.
"Hark!" he said, griping his dagger, and starting back to a sense of the
dangers round him. "They come--my pursuers and my murtherers!--but these
limbs are sacred from--the rack."
Even that sound of ominous danger was almost a relief to Leila: "I will
go," she said, "and learn what the blast betokens; remain here--be
cautious--I will return."
Several minutes, however, elapsed before Leila reappeared; she was
accompanied by Donna Inez, whose paleness and agitation betokened her
alarm. A courier had arrived at the gate to announce the approach of the
queen, who, with a considerable force, was on her way to join Ferdinand,
then, in the usual rapidity of his movements, before one of the Moorish
towns that had revolted from his allegiance. It was impossible for
Almamen to remain in safety in the castle; and the only hope of escape
was departing immediately and in disguise.
"I have," she said, "a trusty and faithful servant with me in the castle,
to whom I can, without anxiety, confide the charge of your safety; and
even if suspected by the way, my name, and the companionship of my
servant, will remove all obstacles; it is not a long journey hence to
Guadix, which has already revolted to the Moors: there, till the armies
of Ferdinand surround the walls, your refuge may be secure."
Almamen remained for some moments plunged in a gloomy silence. But, at
length, he signified his assent to the plan proposed, and Donna Inez
hastened to give the directions of his intended guide.
"Leila," said the Hebrew, when left alone with his daughter, "think not
that it is for mine own safety that I stoop to this flight from thee.
No! but never till thou wert lost to me, by mine own rash confidence in
another, did I know how dear to my heart was the last scion of my race,
the sole memorial left to me of thy mother's love. Regaining thee once
more, a new and a soft existence opens upon my eyes; and the earth seems
to change, as by a sudden revolution, from winter into spring. For thy
sake, I consent to use all the means that man's intellect can devise for
preservation from my foes. Meanwhile, here will rest my soul; to this
spot, within one week from this period--no matter through what danger I
pass--I shall return: then I shall claim thy promise. I will arrange all
things for our flight, and no stone shall harm thy footstep by the way.
The Lord of Israel be with thee, my daughter, and strengthen thy heart!
But," he added, tearing himself from her embrace, as he heard steps
ascending to the chamber, "deem not that, in this most fond and fatherly
affection, I forget what is due to me and thee. Think not that my love
is only the brute and insensate feeling of the progenitor to the
offspring: I love thee for thy mother's sake--I love thee for thine own--
I love thee yet more for the sake of Israel. If thou perish, if thou art
lost to us, thou, the last daughter of the house of Issachar, then the
haughtiest family of God's great people is extinct."
Here Inez appeared at the door, but withdrew, at the impatient and lordly
gesture of Almamen, who, without further heed of the interruption,
"I look to thee, and thy seed, for the regeneration which I once trusted,
fool that I was, mine own day might see effected. Let this pass. Thou
art under the roof of the Nazarene. I will not believe that the arts we
have resisted against fire and sword can prevail with thee. But, if I
err, awful will be the penalty! Could I once know that thou hadst
forsaken thy ancestral creed, though warrior and priest stood by thee,
though thousands and ten thousands were by thy right hand, this steel
should save the race of Issachar from dishonour. Beware! Thou weepest;
but, child, I warn, not threaten. God be with thee!"
He wrung the cold hand of his child, turned to the door, and, after such
disguise as the brief time allowed him could afford, quitted the castle
with his Spanish guide, who, accustomed to the benevolence of his
mistress, obeyed her injunction without wonder, though not without
The third part of an hour had scarcely elapsed, and the sun was yet on
the mountain-tops, when Isabel arrived. She came to announce that the
outbreaks of the Moorish towns in the vicinity rendered the half-
fortified castle of her friend no longer a secure abode; and she honoured
the Spanish lady with a command to accompany her, with her female suite,
to the camp of Ferdinand.
Leila received the intelligence with a kind of stupor. Her interview
with her father, the strong and fearful contests of emotion which that
interview occasioned, left her senses faint and dizzy; and when she found
herself, by the twilight star, once more with the train of Isabel, the
only feeling that stirred actively through her stunned and bewildered
mind, was, that the hand of Providence conducted her from a temptation
that, the Reader of all hearts knew, the daughter and woman would have
been too feeble to resist.
On the fifth day from his departure, Almamen returned to find the castle
deserted, and his daughter gone.
IN THE FERMENT OF GREAT EVENTS THE DREGS RISE.
The Israelites did not limit their struggles to the dark conspiracy to
which allusion has been made. In some of the Moorish towns that revolted
from Ferdinand, they renounced the neutrality they had hitherto
maintained between Christian and Moslem. Whether it was that they were
inflamed by the fearful and wholesale barbarities enforced by Ferdinand
and the Inquisition against their tribe, or whether they were stirred up
by one of their own order, in whom was recognised the head of their most
sacred family; or whether, as is most probable, both causes combined--
certain it is, that they manifested a feeling that was thoroughly unknown
to the ordinary habits and policy of that peaceable people. They bore
great treasure to the public stock--they demanded arms, and, under their
own leaders, were admitted, though with much jealousy and precaution,
into the troops of the arrogant and disdainful Moslems.
In this conjunction of hostile planets, Ferdinand had recourse to his
favourite policy of wile and stratagem. Turning against the Jews the
very treaty Almamen had once sought to obtain in their favour, he caused
it to be circulated, privately, that the Jews, anxious to purchase their
peace with him, had promised to betray the Moorish towns, and Granada
itself into his hands. The paper, which Ferdinand himself had signed in
his interview with Almamen, and of which, on the capture of the Hebrew,
he had taken care to repossess himself, he gave to a spy whom he sent,
disguised as a Jew, into one of the revolted cities.
Private intelligence reached the Moorish ringleader of the arrival of
this envoy. He was seized, and the document found on his person. The
form of the words drawn up by Almamen (who had carefully omitted mention
of his own name--whether that which he assumed, or that which, by birth,
he should have borne) merely conveyed the compact, that if by a Jew,
within two weeks from the date therein specified, Granada was delivered
to the Christian king, the Jews should enjoy certain immunities and
The discovery of this document filled the Moors of the city to which the
spy had been sent with a fury that no words can describe. Always
distrusting their allies, they now imagined they perceived the sole
reason of their sudden enthusiasm, of their demand for arms. The mob
rose: the principal Jews were seized and massacred without trial; some by
the wrath of the multitude, some by the slower tortures of the
magistrate. Messengers were sent to the different revolted towns, and,
above all, to Granada itself, to put the Moslems on their guard against
these unhappy enemies of either party. At once covetous and ferocious,
the Moors rivalled the Inquisition in their cruelty, and Ferdinand in
It was the dark fate of Almamen, as of most premature and heated
liberators of the enslaved, to double the terrors and the evils he had
sought to cure. The warning arrived at Granada at a time in which the
vizier, Jusef, had received the commands of his royal master, still at
the siege of Salobrena, to use every exertion to fill the wasting
treasuries. Fearful of new exactions against the Moors, the vizier
hailed, as a message from Heaven, so just a pretext for a new and
sweeping impost on the Jews. The spendthrift violence of the mob was
restrained, because it was headed by the authorities, who were wisely
anxious that the state should have no rival in the plunder it required;
and the work of confiscation and robbery was carried on with a majestic
and calm regularity, which redounded no less to the credit of Jusef than
it contributed to the coffers of the king.
It was late, one evening, when Ximen was making his usual round through
the chambers of Almamen's house. As he glanced around at the various
articles of wealth and luxury, he ever and anon burst into a low, fitful
chuckle, rubbed his lean hands, and mumbled out, "If my master should
die! if my master should die!"
While thus engaged, he heard a confused and distant shout; and, listening
attentively, he distinguished a cry, grown of late sufficiently familiar,
of, "Live, Jusef the just--perish, the traitor Jews!"
"Ah!" said Ximen, as the whole character of his face changed; "some new
robbery upon our race! And this is thy work, son of Issachar! Madman
that thou wert, to be wiser than thy sires, and seek to dupe the
idolaters in the council chamber and the camp--their field, their vantage
ground; as the bazaar and the market-place are ours. None suspect that
the potent santon is the traitor Jew; but I know it! I could give thee
to the bow-string--and, if thou Overt dead, all thy goods and gold, even
to the mule at the manger, would be old Ximen's."
He paused at that thought, shut his eyes, and smiled at the prospect his
fancy conjured up and completing his survey, retired to his own chamber,
which opened, by a small door, upon one of the back courts. He had
scarcely reached the room, when he heard a low tap at the outer door;
and, when it was thrice repeated, he knew that it was one of his Jewish-
brethren. For Ximen--as years, isolation, and avarice gnawed away
whatever of virtue once put forth some meagre fruit from a heart
naturally bare and rocky--still reserved one human feeling towards his
countrymen. It was the bond which unites all the persecuted: and Ximen
loved them, because he could not envy their happiness. The power--the
knowledge--the lofty, though wild designs of his master, stung and
humbled him--he secretly hated, because he could not compassionate or
contemn him. But the bowed frame, and slavish voice, and timid nerves of
his crushed brotherhood presented to the old man the likeness of things
that could not exult over him. Debased and aged, and solitary as he was,
he felt a kind of wintry warmth in the thought that even he had the power
He thus maintained an intercourse with his fellow Israelites; and often,
in their dangers, had afforded them a refuge in the numerous vaults and
passages, the ruins of which may still be descried beneath the mouldering
foundations of that mysterious mansion. And, as the house was generally
supposed the property of an absent emir, and had been especially
recommended to the care of the cadis by Boabdil, who alone of the Moors
knew it as one of the dwelling-places of the santon, whose ostensible
residence was in apartments allotted to him within the palace,--it was,
perhaps, the sole place within Granada which afforded an unsuspected and
secure refuge to the hunted Israelites.
When Ximen recognised the wonted signal of his brethren, he crawled to
the door; and, after the precaution of a Hebrew watchword, replied to in
the same tongue, he gave admittance to the tall and stooping frame of the
"Worthy and excellent master!" said Ximen, after again securing the
entrance; "what can bring the honoured and wealthy Elias to the chamber
of the poor hireling?"
"My friend," answered the Jew; "call me not wealthy, nor honoured. For
years I have dwelt within the city; safe and respected, even by the
Moslemin; verily and because I have purchased with jewel and treasure the
protection of the king and the great men. But now, alas! in the sudden
wrath of the heathen--ever imagining vain things--I have been summoned
into the presence of their chief rabbi, and only escaped the torture by a
sum that ten years of labour and the sweat of my brow cannot replace.
Ximen! the bitterest thought of all is, that the frenzy of one of our own
tribe has brought this desolation upon Israel."
"My lord speaks riddles," said Ximen, with well-feigned astonishment in
his glassy eyes.
"Why dost thou wind and turn, good Ximen?" said the Jew, shaking his
head; "thou knowest well what my words drive at. Thy master is the
pretended Almamen; and that recreant Israelite (if Israelite, indeed,
still be one who hath forsaken the customs and the forms of his
forefathers) is he who hath stirred up the Jews of Cordova and Guadix,
and whose folly hath brought upon us these dread things. Holy Abraham!
this Jew hath cost me more than fifty Nazarenes and a hundred Moors."
Ximen remained silent; and, the tongue of Elias being loosed by the
recollection of his sad loss, the latter continued: "At the first, when
the son of Issachar reappeared, and became a counsellor in the king's
court, I indeed, who had led him, then a child, to the synagogue--for old
Issachar was to me dear as a brother--recognised him by his eyes and
voice: but I exulted in his craft and concealment; I believed he would
work mighty things for his poor brethren, and would obtain, for his
father's friend, the supplying of the king's wives and concubines with
raiment and cloth of price. But years have passed: he hath not lightened
our burthens; and, by the madness that hath of late come over him,
heading the heathen armies, and drawing our brethren into danger and
death, he hath deserved the curse of the synagogue, and the wrath of our
whole race. I find, from our brethren who escaped the Inquisition by the
surrender of their substance, that his unskilful and frantic schemes were
the main pretext for the sufferings of the righteous under the Nazarene;
and, again, the same schemes bring on us the same oppression from the
Moor. Accursed be he, and may his name perish!"
Ximen sighed, but remained silent, conjecturing to what end the Jew would
bring his invectives. He was not long in suspense. After a pause, Elias
recommenced, in an altered and more careless tone, "He is rich, this son
of Issachar--wondrous rich."
"He has treasures scattered over half the cities of Africa and the
Orient," said Ximen.
"Thou seest, then, my friend, that thy master hath doomed me to a heavy
loss. I possess his secret; I could give him up to the king's wrath; I
could bring him to the death. But I am just and meek: let him pay my
forfeiture, and I will forego mine anger."
"Thou dost not know him," said Ximen, alarmed at the thought of a
repayment, which might grievously diminish his own heritage--of Almamen's
effects in Granada.
"But if I threaten him with exposure?"
"Thou wouldst feed the fishes of the Darro," interrupted Ximen. "Nay,
even now, if Almamen learn that thou knowest his birth and race, tremble!
for thy days in the land will be numbered."
"Verily," exclaimed the Jew, in great alarm, "then have I fallen into the
snare; for these lips revealed to him that knowledge."
"Then is the righteous Elias a lost man, within ten days from that in
which Almamen returns to Granada. I know my master: and blood is to him
"Let the wicked be consumed!" cried Elias, furiously stamping his foot,
while fire flashed from his dark eyes, for the instinct of self-
preservation made him fierce. "Not from me, however," he added, more
calmly, "will come his danger. Know that there be more than a hundred
Jews in this city, who have sworn his death; Jews who, flying hither from
Cordova, have seen their parents murdered and their substance seized, and
who behold, in the son of Issachar, the cause of the murder and the
spoil. They have detected the impostor, and a hundred knives are
whetting even now for his blood: let him look to it. Ximen, I have
spoken to thee as the foolish speak; thou mayest betray me to thy lord;
but from what I have learned of thee from our brethren, I have poured my
heart into thy bosom without fear. Wilt thou betray Israel, or assist us
to smite the traitor?"
Ximen mused for a moment, and his meditation conjured up the treasures of
his master. He stretched forth his right hand to Elias; and when the
Israelites parted, they were friends.
BOADBIL'S RETURN.--THE REAPPEARANCE OF GRANADA.
The third morning from this interview, a rumour reached Granada that
Boabdil had been repulsed in his assault on the citadel of Salobrena with
a severe loss; that Hernando del Pulgar had succeeded in conducting to
its relief a considerable force; and that the army of Ferdinand was on
its march against the Moorish king. In the midst of the excitement
occasioned by these reports, a courier arrived to confirm their truth,
and to announce the return of Boabdil.
At nightfall, the king, preceding his army, entered the city, and
hastened to bury himself in the Alhambra. As he passed dejectedly into
the women's apartments, his stern mother met him.
"My son," she said, bitterly, "dost thou return and not a conqueror?"
Before Boabdil could reply, a light and rapid step sped through the
glittering arcades; and weeping with joy, and breaking all the Oriental
restraints, Amine fell upon his bosom. "My beloved! my king! light of
mine eyes! thou hast returned. Welcome--for thou art safe."
The different form of these several salutations struck Boabdil forcibly.
"Thou seest, my mother," said he, "how great the contrast between those
who love us from affection, and those who love us from pride. In
adversity, God keep me, O my mother, from thy tongue!"
"But I love thee from pride, too," murmured Amine; "and for that reason
is thine adversity dear to me, for it takes thee from the world to make
thee more mine own and I am proud of the afflictions that my hero shares
with his slave."
"Lights there, and the banquet!" cried the king, turning from his haughty
mother; "we will feast and be merry while we may. My adored Amine, kiss
Proud, melancholy, and sensitive as he was in that hour of reverse,
Boabdil felt no grief: such balm has Love for our sorrows, when its wings
are borrowed from the dove! And although the laws of the Eastern life
confined to the narrow walls of a harem the sphere of Amine's gentle
influence; although, even in romance, THE NATURAL compels us to portray
her vivid and rich colours only in a faint and hasty sketch, yet still
are left to the outline the loveliest and the noblest features of the
sex--the spirit to arouse us to exertion, the softness to console us in
While Boabdil and the body of the army remained in the city, Muza, with a
chosen detachment of the horse, scoured the country to visit the newly-
acquired cities, and sustain their courage.
From this charge he was recalled by the army of Ferdinand, which once
more poured down into the Vega, completely devastated its harvests, and
then swept back to consummate the conquests of the revolted towns. To
this irruption succeeded an interval of peace--the calm before the storm.
From every part of Spain, the most chivalric and resolute of the Moors,
taking advantage of the pause in the contest, flocked to Granada; and
that city became the focus of all that paganism in Europe possessed of
brave and determined spirits.
At length, Ferdinand, completing his conquests, and having refilled his
treasury, mustered the whole force of his dominions--forty thousand foot,
and ten thousand horse; and once more, and for the last time, appeared
before the walls of Granada. A solemn and prophetic determination filled
both besiegers and besieged: each felt that the crowning crisis was at
THE CONFLAGRATION.--THE MAJESTY OF AN INDIVIDUAL PASSION IN THE MIDST OF
It was the eve of a great and general assault upon Granada, deliberately
planned by the chiefs of the Christian army. The Spanish camp (the most
gorgeous Christendom had ever known) gradually grew calm and hushed. The
shades deepened--the stars burned forth more serene and clear. Bright,
in that azure air, streamed the silken tents of the court, blazoned with
heraldic devices, and crowned by gaudy banners, which, filled by a brisk
and murmuring wind from the mountains, flaunted gaily on their gilded
staves. In the centre of the camp rose the pavilion of the queen--a
palace in itself. Lances made its columns; brocade and painted arras its
walls; and the space covered by its numerous compartments would have
contained the halls and outworks of an ordinary castle. The pomp of that
camp realised the wildest dreams of Gothic, coupled with Oriental
splendour; something worthy of a Tasso to have imagined, or a Beckford to
create. Nor was the exceeding costliness of the more courtly tents
lessened in effect by those of the soldiery in the outskirts, many of
which were built from boughs, still retaining their leaves--savage and
picturesque huts;--as if, realising old legends, wild men of the woods
had taken up the cross, and followed the Christian warriors against the
swarthy followers of Termagaunt and Mahound. There, then, extended that
mighty camp in profound repose, as the midnight threw deeper and longer
shadows over the sward from the tented avenues and canvas streets. It
was at that hour that Isabel, in the most private recess of her pavilion,
was employed in prayer for the safety of the king, and the issue of the
Sacred War. Kneeling before the altar of that warlike oratory, her
spirit became rapt and absorbed from earth in the intensity of her
devotions; and in the whole camp (save the sentries), the eyes of that
pious queen were, perhaps, the only ones unclosed. All was profoundly
still; her guards, her attendants, were gone to rest; and the, tread of
the sentinel, without that immense pavilion, was not heard through the
It was then that Isabel suddenly felt a strong grasp upon her shoulder,
as she still knelt by the altar. A faint shriek burst from her lips; she
turned, and the broad curved knife of an eastern warrior gleamed close
before her eyes.
"Hush! utter a cry, breathe more loudly than thy wont, and, queen though
thou art, in the centre of swarming thousands, thou diest!"
Such were the words that reached the ear of the royal Castilian,
whispered by a man of stern and commanding, though haggard aspect.
"What is thy purpose? wouldst thou murder me?" said the queen, trembling,
perhaps for the first time, before a mortal presence.
"Thy life is safe, if thou strivest not to delude or to deceive me. Our
time is short--answer me. I am Almamen, the Hebrew. Where is the
hostage rendered to thy hands? I claim my child. She is with thee--I
know it. In what corner of thy camp?"
"Rude stranger!" said Isabel, recovering somewhat from her alarm,--"thy
daughter is removed, I trust for ever, from thine impious reach. She is
not within the camp."
"Lie not, Queen of Castile," said Almamen, raising his knife; "for days
and weeks I have tracked thy steps, followed thy march, haunted even thy
slumbers, though men of mail stood as guards around them; and I know that
my daughter has been with thee. Think not I brave this danger without
resolves the most fierce and dread. Answer me, where is my child?"
"Many days since," said Isabel, awed, despite herself, by her strange
position,--"thy daughter left the camp for the house of God. It was her
own desire. The Saviour hath received her into His fold."
Had a thousand lances pierced his heart, the vigour and energy of life
could scarce more suddenly have deserted Almamen. The rigid muscles of
his countenance relaxed at once, from resolve and menace, into
unutterable horror, anguish, and despair. He recoiled several steps; his
knees trembled violently; he seemed stunned by a death-blow. Isabel, the
boldest and haughtiest of her sex, seized that moment of reprieve; she
sprang forward, darted through the draperies into the apartments occupied
by her train, and, in a moment, the pavilion resounded with her cries for
aid. The sentinels were aroused; retainers sprang from their pillows;
they heard the cause of the alarm; they made to the spot; when, ere they
reached its partition of silk, a vivid and startling blaze burst forth
upon them. The tent was on fire. The materials fed the flame like
magic. Some of the guards had yet the courage to dash forward; but the
smoke and the glare drove them back, blinded and dizzy. Isabel herself
had scarcely time for escape, so rapid was the conflagration. Alarmed
for her husband, she rushed to his tent--to find him already awakened by
the noise, and issuing from its entrance, his drawn sword in his hand.
The wind, which had a few minutes before but curled the triumphant
banners, now circulated the destroying flame. It spread from tent to
tent, almost as a flash of lightning that shoots along neighbouring
clouds. The camp was in one continued blaze, ere a man could dream of
checking the conflagration.
Not waiting to hear the confused tale of his royal consort, Ferdinand,
exclaiming, "The Moors have done this--they will be on us!" ordered the
drums to beat and the trumpets to sound, and hastened in person, wrapped
merely in his long mantle, to alarm his chiefs. While that well-
disciplined and veteran army, fearing every moment the rally of the foe,
endeavoured rapidly to form themselves into some kind of order, the flame
continued to spread till the whole heavens were illumined. By its light,
cuirass and helmet glowed, as in the furnace, and the armed men seemed
rather like life-like and lurid meteors than human forms. The city of
Granada was brought near to them by the intensity of the glow; and, as a
detachment of cavalry spurred from the camp to meet the anticipated
surprise of the Paynims, they saw, upon the walls and roofs of Granada,
the Moslems clustering and their spears gleaming. But, equally amazed
with the Christians, and equally suspicious of craft and design, the
Moors did not issue from their gates. Meanwhile the conflagration, as
rapid to die as to begin, grew fitful and feeble; and the night seemed to
fall with a melancholy darkness over the ruin of that silken city.
Ferdinand summoned his council. He had now perceived it was no ambush of
the Moors. The account of Isabel, which, at last, he comprehended; the
strange and almost miraculous manner in which Almamen had baffled his
guards, and penetrated to the royal tent; might have aroused his Gothic
superstition, while it relieved his more earthly apprehensions, if he had
not remembered the singular, but far from supernatural dexterity with
which Eastern warriors and even robbers continued then, as now, to elude
the most vigilant precautions and baffle the most wakeful guards; and it
was evident that the fire which burned the camp of an army had been
kindled merely to gratify the revenge, or favour the escape of an
individual. Shaking, therefore, from his kingly spirit the thrill of
superstitious awe that the greatness of the disaster, when associated
with the name of a sorcerer, at first occasioned, he resolved to make
advantage out of misfortune itself. The excitement, the wrath of the
troops, produced the temper most fit for action.
"And Heaven," said the King of Spain to his knights and chiefs, as they
assembled round him, "has, in this conflagration, announced to the
warriors of the Cross, that henceforth their camp shall be the palaces of
Granada! Woe to the Moslem with to-morrow's sun!"
Arms clanged, and swords leaped from their sheaths, as the Christian
knights echoed the anathema--"WOE TO THE MOSLEM!"
THE GREAT BATTLE.
The day slowly dawned upon that awful night; and the Moors, still upon
the battlements of Granada, beheld the whole army of Ferdinand on its
march towards their wails. At a distance lay the wrecks of the blackened
and smouldering camp; while before them, gaudy and glittering pennons
waving, and trumpets sounding, came the exultant legions of the foe. The
Moors could scarcely believe their senses. Fondly anticipating the
retreat of the Christians, after so signal a disaster, the gay and
dazzling spectacle of their march to the assault filled them with
consternation and alarm.
While yet wondering and inactive, the trumpet of Boabdil was heard
behind; and they beheld the Moorish king, at the head of his guards,
emerging down the avenues that led to the gate. The sight restored and
exhilarated the gazers; and, when Boabdil halted in the space before the
portals, the shout of twenty thousand warriors rose ominously to the ears
of the advancing Christians.
"Men of Granada!" said Boabdil, as soon as the deep and breathless
silence had succeeded to that martial acclamation,--"the advance of the
enemy is to their destruction! In the fire of last night the hand of
Allah wrote their doom. Let us forth, each and all! We will leave our
homes unguarded--our hearts shall be their wall! True, that our numbers
are thinned by famine and by slaughter, but enough of us are yet left for
the redemption of Granada. Nor are the dead departed from us: the dead
fight with us--their souls animate our own. He who has lost a brother,
becomes twice a man. On this battle we will set all. Liberty or chains!
empire or exile! victory or death! Forward!"
He spoke, and gave the rein to his barb. It bounded forward, and cleared
the gloomy arch of the portals, and Boabdil el Chico was the first Moor
who issued from Granada, to that last and eventful field. Out, then,
poured, as a river that rushes from caverns into day, the burnished and
serried files of the Moorish cavalry. Muza came the last, closing the
array. Upon his dark and stern countenance there spoke not the ardent
enthusiasm of the sanguine king. It was locked and rigid; and the
anxieties of the last dismal weeks had thinned his cheeks, and ploughed
deep lines around the firm lips and iron jaw which bespoke the obstinate
and unconquerable resolution of his character.
As Muza now spurred forward, and, riding along the wheeling ranks,
marshalled them in order, arose the acclamation of female voices; and the
warriors, who looked back at the sound, saw that their women--their wives
and daughters, their mothers and their beloved (released from their
seclusion, by a policy which bespoke the desperation of the cause)--were
gazing at them, with outstretched arms, from the battlements and towers.
The Moors knew that they were now to fight for their hearths and altars
in the presence of those who, if they failed, became slaves and harlots;
and each Moslem felt his heart harden like the steel of his own sabre.
While the cavalry formed themselves into regular squadrons, and the tramp
of the foemen came more near and near, the Moorish infantry, in
miscellaneous, eager, and undisciplined bands, poured out, until,
spreading wide and deep below the walls, Boabdil's charger was seen,
rapidly careering amongst them, as, in short but distinct directions, or
fiery adjurations, he sought at once to regulate their movements, and
confirm their hot but capricious valour.
Meanwhile the Christians had abruptly halted; and the politic Ferdinand
resolved not to incur the full brunt of a whole population, in the first
flush of their enthusiasm and despair. He summoned to his side Hernando
del Pulgar, and bade him, with a troop of the most adventurous and
practised horsemen, advance towards the Moorish cavalry, and endeavour to
draw the fiery valour of Muza away from the main army. Then, splitting
up his force into several sections, he dismissed each to different
stations; some to storm the adjacent towers, others to fire the
surrounding gardens and orchards; so that the action might consist rather
of many battles than of one, and the Moors might lose the concentration
and union, which made, at present, their most formidable strength.
Thus, while the Mussulmans were waiting in order for the attack, they
suddenly beheld the main body of the Christians dispersing, and, while
yet in surprise and perplexed, they saw the fires breaking out from their
delicious gardens, to the right and left of the walls, and hear the boom
of the Christian artillery against the scattered bulwarks that guarded
the approaches of that city.
At that moment a cloud of dust rolled rapidly towards the post occupied
in the van by Muza, and the shock of the Christian knights, in their
mighty mail, broke upon the centre of the prince's squadron.
Higher, by several inches, than the plumage of his companions, waved the
crest of the gigantic del Pulgar; and, as Moor after Moor went down
before his headlong lance, his voice, sounding deep and sepulchral
through his visor, shouted out--"Death to the infidel!"
The rapid and dexterous horsemen of Granada were not, however,
discomfited by this fierce assault: opening their ranks with
extraordinary celerity, they suffered the charge to pass comparatively
harmless through their centre, and then, closing in one long and
bristling line, cut off the knights from retreat. The Christians wheeled
round, and charged again upon their foe.
"Where art thou, O Moslem dog! that wouldst play the lion'?--Where art
thou, Muza Ben Abil Gazan'?"
"Before thee, Christian!" cried a stern and clear voice; and from amongst
the helmets of his people, gleamed the dazzling turban of the Moor.
Hernando checked his steed, gazed a moment at his foe, turned back, for
greater impetus to his charge, and, in a moment more, the bravest
warriors of the two armies met, lance to lance.
The round shield of Muza received the Christian's weapon; his own spear
shivered, harmless, upon the breast of the giant. He drew his sword,
whirled it rapidly over his head, and, for some minutes, the eyes of the
bystanders could scarcely mark the marvellous rapidity with which strokes
were given and parried by those redoubted swordsmen.
At length, Hernando, anxious to bring to bear his superior strength,
spurred close to Muza; and, leaving his sword pendant by a thong to his
wrist, seized the shield of Muza in his formidable grasp, and plucked it
away, with a force that the Moor vainly endeavoured to resist: Muza,
therefore, suddenly released his bold; and, ere the Spaniard had
recovered his balance (which was lost by the success of his own strength,
put forth to the utmost), he dashed upon him the hoofs of his black
charger, and with a short but heavy mace, which he caught up from the
saddlebow, dealt Hernando so thundering a blow upon the helmet, that the
giant fell to the ground, stunned and senseless.
To dismount, to repossess himself of his shield, to resume his sabre, to
put one knee to the breast of his fallen foe, was the work of a moment;
and then had Don Hernando del Pulgar been sped, without priest or
surgeon, but that, alarmed by the peril of their most valiant comrade,
twenty knights spurred at once to the rescue, and the points of twenty
lances kept the Lion of Granada from his prey. Thither, with similar
speed, rushed the Moorish champions; and the fight became close and
deadly round the body of the still unconscious Christian. Not an instant
of leisure to unlace the helmet of Hernando, by removing which, alone,
the Moorish blade could find a mortal place, was permitted to Muza; and,
what with the spears and trampling hoofs around him, the situation of the
Paynim was more dangerous than that of the Christian. Meanwhile,
Hernando recovered his dizzy senses; and, made aware of his state,
watched his occasion, and suddenly shook off the knee of the Moor. With
another effort he was on his feet and the two champions stood confronting
each other, neither very eager to renew the combat. But on foot, Muza,
daring and rash as he was, could not but recognise his disadvantage
against the enormous strength and impenetrable armour of the Christian.
He drew back, whistled to his barb, that, piercing the ranks of the
horsemen, was by his side on the instant, remounted, and was in the midst
of the foe, almost ere the slower Spaniard was conscious of his
But Hernando was not delivered from his enemy. Clearing a space around
him, as three knights, mortally wounded, fell beneath his sabre, Muza now
drew from behind his shoulder his short Arabian bow, and shaft after
shaft came rattling upon the mail of the dismounted Christian with so
marvellous a celerity, that, encumbered as he was with his heavy
accoutrements, he was unable either to escape from the spot, or ward off
that arrowy rain; and felt that nothing but chance, or Our Lady, could
prevent the death which one such arrow would occasion, if it should find
the opening of the visor, or the joints of the hauberk.
"Mother of Mercy," groaned the knight, perplexed and enraged, "let not
thy servant be shot down like a hart, by this cowardly warfare; but, if I
must fall, be it with mine enemy, grappling hand to hand."
While yet muttering this short invocation, the war-cry of Spain was heard
hard by, and the gallant company of Villena was seen scouring across the
plain to the succour of their comrades. The deadly attention of Muza was
distracted from individual foes, however eminent; he wheeled round,
re-collected his men, and, in a serried charge, met the new enemy in
While the contest thus fared in that part of the field, the scheme of
Ferdinand had succeeded so far as to break up the battle in detached
sections. Far and near, plain, grove, garden, tower, presented each the
scene of obstinate and determined conflict. Boabdil, at the head of his
chosen guard, the flower of the haughtier tribe of nobles who were
jealous of the fame and blood of the tribe of Muza, and followed also by
his gigantic Ethiopians, exposed his person to every peril, with the
desperate valour of a man who feels his own stake is greatest in the
field. As he most distrusted the infantry, so amongst the infantry he
chiefly bestowed his presence; and wherever he appeared, he sufficed, for
the moment, to turn the changes of the engagement. At length, at mid-day
Ponce de Leon led against the largest detachment of the Moorish foot a
strong and numerous battalion of the best-disciplined and veteran
soldiery of Spain. He had succeeded in winning a fortress, from which
his artillery could play with effect; and the troops he led were
composed, partly of men flushed with recent triumph, and partly of a
fresh reserve, now first brought into the field. A comely and a
breathless spectacle it was to behold this Christian squadron emerging
from a blazing copse, which they fired on their march; the red light
gleaming on their complete armour, as, in steady and solemn order, they
swept on to the swaying and clamorous ranks of the Moorish infantry.
Boabdil learned the danger from his scouts; and hastily quitting a tower
from which he had for a while repulsed a hostile legion, he threw himself
into the midst of the battalions menaced by the skilful Ponce de Leon.
Almost at the same moment, the wild and ominous apparition of Almamen,
long absent from the eyes of the Moors, appeared in the same quarter, so
suddenly and unexpectedly, that none knew whence he had emerged; the
sacred standard in his left hand--his sabre, bared and dripping gore, in
his right--his face exposed, and its powerful features working with an
excitement that seemed inspired; his abrupt presence breathed a new soul
into the Moors.
"They come! they come!" he shrieked aloud. "The God of the East hath
delivered the Goth into your hands!" From rank to rank--from line to
line--sped the santon; and, as the mystic banner gleamed before the
soldiery, each closed his eyes and muttered an "amen" to his adjurations.
And now, to the cry of "Spain and St. Iago," came trampling down the
relentless charge of the Christian war. At the same instant, from the
fortress lately taken by Ponce de Leon, the artillery opened upon the
Moors, and did deadly havoc. The Moslems wavered a moment when before
them gleamed the white banner of Almamen; and they beheld him rushing,
alone and on foot, amidst the foe. Taught to believe the war itself
depended on the preservation of the enchanted banner, the Paynims could
not see it thus rashly adventured without anxiety and shame: they
rallied, advanced firmly, and Boabdil himself, with waving cimiter and
fierce exclamations, dashed impetuously at the head of his guards and
Ethiopians into the affray. The battle became obstinate and bloody.
Thrice the white banner disappeared amidst the closing ranks; and thrice,
like a moon from the clouds, it shone forth again--the light and guide of
the Pagan power.
The day ripened; and the hills already cast lengthening shadows over the
blazing groves and the still Darro, whose waters, in every creek where
the tide was arrested, ran red with blood, when Ferdinand, collecting his
whole reserve, descended from the eminence on which hitherto he had
posted himself. With him moved three thousand foot and a thousand horse,
fresh in their vigour, and panting for a share in that glorious day. The
king himself, who, though constitutionally fearless, from motives of
policy rarely perilled his person, save on imminent occasions, was
resolved not to be outdone by Boabdil; and armed cap-a-pied in mail, so
wrought with gold that it seemed nearly all of that costly metal, with
his snow-white plumage waving above a small diadem that surmounted his
lofty helm, he seemed a fit leader to that armament of heroes. Behind
him flaunted the great gonfanon of Spain, and trump and cymbal heralded
his approach. The Count de Tendilla rode by his side.
"Senor," said Ferdinand, "the infidels fight hard; but they are in the
snare--we are about to close the nets upon them. But what cavalcade is
The group that thus drew the king's attention consisted of six squires,
bearing, on a martial litter, composed of shields, the stalwart form of
Hernando del Pulgar.
"Ah, the dogs!" cried the king, as he recognised the pale features of the
darling of the army,--"have they murdered the bravest knight that ever
fought for Christendom?"
"Not that, your majesty," quoth he of the Exploits, faintly, "but I am
"It must have been more than man who struck thee down," said the king.
"It was the mace of Muza Ben Abil Gazan, an please you, sire," said one
of the squires; "but it came on the good knight unawares, and long after
his own arm had seemingly driven away the Pagan."
"We will avenge thee well," said the king, setting his teeth: "let our
own leeches tend thy wounds. Forward, sir knights! St. Iago and Spain!"
The battle had now gathered to a vortex; Muza and his cavalry had joined
Boabdil and the Moorish foot. On the other hand, Villena had been
reinforced by detachments that in almost every other quarter of the field
had routed the foe. The Moors had been driven back, though inch by inch;
they were now in the broad space before the very walls of the city, which
were still crowded by the pale and anxious faces of the aged and the
women: and, at every pause in the artillery, the voices that spoke of
HOME were borne by that lurid air to the ears of the infidels. The shout
that rang through the Christian force as Ferdinand now joined it struck
like a death-knell upon the last hope of Boabdil. But the blood of his
fierce ancestry burned in his veins, and the cheering voice of Almamen,
whom nothing daunted, inspired him with a kind of superstitious frenzy.
"King against king--so be it! Let Allah decide between us!" cried the
Moorish monarch. "Bind up this wound 'tis well! A steed for the santon!
Now, my prophet and my friend, mount by the side of thy king--let us, at
least, fall together. Lelilies! Lelilies!"
Throughout the brave Christian ranks went a thrill of reluctant
admiration, as they beheld the Paynim king, conspicuous by his fair beard
and the jewels of his harness, lead the scanty guard yet left to him once
more into the thickest of their lines. Simultaneously Muza and his
Zegris made their fiery charge; and the Moorish infantry, excited by the
example of their leaders, followed with unslackened and dogged zeal. The
Christians gave way--they were beaten back: Ferdinand spurred forward;
and, ere either party were well aware of it, both kings met in the same
melee: all order and discipline, for the moment, lost, general and
monarch were, as common soldiers, fighting hand to hand. It was then
that Ferdinand, after bearing down before his lance Naim Reduon, second
only to Muza in the songs of Granada, beheld opposed to him a strange
form, that seemed to that royal Christian rather fiend than man: his
raven hair and beard, clotted with blood, hung like snakes about a
countenance whose features, naturally formed to give expression to the
darkest passions, were distorted with the madness of despairing rage.
Wounded in many places, the blood dabbled his mail; while, over his head,
he waved the banner wrought with mystic characters, which Ferdinand had
already been taught to believe the workmanship of demons.
"Now, perjured king of the Nazarenes!" shouted this formidable champion,
"we meet at last!--no longer host and guest, monarch and dervise, but man
to man! I am Almamen! Die!"
He spoke; and his sword descended so fiercely on that anointed head that
Ferdinand bent to his saddle-bow. But the king quickly recovered his
seat, and gallantly met the encounter; it was one that might have tasked
to the utmost the prowess of his bravest knight. Passions which, in
their number, their nature, and their excess, animated no other champion
on either side, gave to the arm of Almamen the Israelite a preternatural
strength; his blows fell like rain upon the harness of the king; and the
fiery eyes, the gleaming banner of the mysterious sorcerer, who had
eluded the tortures of his Inquisition,--who had walked unscathed through
the midst of his army,--whose single hand had consumed the encampment of
a host, filled the stout heart of a king with a belief that he
encountered no earthly foe. Fortunately, perhaps, for Ferdinand and
Spain, the contest did not last long. Twenty horsemen spurred into the
melee to the rescue of the plumed diadem: Tendilla arrived the first;
with a stroke of his two-handed sword, the white banner was cleft from
its staff, and fell to the earth. At that sight the Moors round broke
forth in a wild and despairing cry: that cry spread from rank to rank,
from horse to foot; the Moorish infantry, sorely pressed on all sides,
no sooner learned the disaster than they turned to fly: the rout was as
fatal as it was sudden. The Christian reserve, just brought into the
field, poured down upon them with a simultaneous charge. Boabdil, too
much engaged to be the first to learn the downfall of the sacred
insignia, suddenly saw himself almost alone, with his diminished
Ethiopians and a handful of his cavaliers.
"Yield thee, Boabdil el Chico!" cried Tendilla, from his rear, "or thou
canst not be saved."
"By the Prophet, never!" exclaimed the king: and he dashed his barb
against the wall of spears behind him; and with but a score or so of his
guard, cut his way through the ranks that were not unwilling, perhaps, to
spare so brave a foe. As he cleared the Spanish battalions, the
unfortunate monarch checked his horse for a moment and gazed along the
plain: he beheld his army flying in all directions, save in that single
spot where yet glittered the turban of Muza Ben Abil Gazan. As he gazed,
he heard the panting nostrils of the chargers behind, and saw the
levelled spears of a company despatched to take him, alive or dead, by
the command of Ferdinand. He laid the reins upon his horse's neck and
galloped into the city--three lances quivered against the portals as he
disappeared through the shadows of the arch. But while Muza remained,
all was not yet lost: he perceived the flight of the infantry and the
king, and with his followers galloped across the plain: he came in time
to encounter and slay, to a man, the pursuers of Boabdil; he then threw
himself before the flying Moors:
"Do ye fly in the sight of your wives and daughters? Would ye not rather
they beheld ye die?"
A thousand voices answered him. "The banner is in the hands of the
infidel--all is lost!" They swept by him, and stopped not till they
gained the gates.
But still a small and devoted remnant of the Moorish cavaliers remained
to shed a last glory over defeat itself. With Muza, their soul and
centre, they fought every atom of ground: it was, as the chronicler
expresses it, as if they grasped the soil with their arms. Twice they
charged into the midst of the foe: the slaughter they made doubled their
own number; but, gathering on and closing in, squadron upon squadron,
came the whole Christian army--they were encompassed, wearied out, beaten
back, as by an ocean. Like wild beasts, driven, at length, to their
lair, they retreated with their faces to the foe; and when Muza came, the
last--his cimiter shivered to the hilt,--he had scarcely breath to
command the gates to be closed and the portcullis lowered, ere he fell
from his charger in a sudden and deadly swoon, caused less by his
exhaustion than his agony and shame. So ended the last battle fought for
the Monarchy of Granada!
It was in one of the cells of a convent renowned for the piety of its
inmates and the wholesome austerity of its laws that a young novice sat
alone. The narrow casement was placed so high in the cold grey wall as
to forbid to the tenant of the cell the solace of sad or the distraction
of pious thoughts, which a view of the world without might afford.
Lovely, indeed, was the landscape that spread below; but it was barred
from those youthful and melancholy eyes: for Nature might tempt to a
thousand thoughts, not of a tenor calculated to reconcile the heart to an
eternal sacrifice of the sweet human ties. But a faint and partial gleam
of sunshine broke through the aperture and made yet more cheerless the
dreary aspect and gloomy appurtenances of the cell. And the young novice
seemed to carry on within herself that struggle of emotions without which
there is no victory in the resolves of virtue: sometimes she wept
bitterly, but with a low, subdued sorrow, which spoke rather of
despondency than passion; sometimes she raised her head from her breast,
and smiled as she looked upward, or as her eyes rested on the crucifix
and the death's head that were placed on the rude table by the pallet on
which she sat. They were emblems of death here, and life hereafter,
which, perhaps, afforded to her the sources of a twofold consolation.
She was yet musing, when a slight tap at the door was heard, and the
abbess of the convent appeared.
"Daughter," said she, "I have brought thee the comfort of a sacred
visitor. The Queen of Spain, whose pious tenderness is maternally
anxious for thy full contentment with thy lot, has sent hither a holy
friar, whom she deems more soothing in his counsels than our brother
Tomas, whose ardent zeal often terrifies those whom his honest spirit
only desires to purify and guide. I will leave him with thee. May the
saints bless his ministry!" So saying the abbess retired from the
threshold, making way for a form in the garb of a monk, with the hood
drawn over the face. The monk bowed his head meekly, advanced into the
cell, closed the door, and seated himself, on a stool--which, save the
table and the pallet, seemed the sole furniture of the dismal chamber.
"Daughter," said he, after a pause, "it is a rugged and a mournful lot
this renunciation of earth and all its fair destinies and soft
affections, to one not wholly prepared and armed for the sacrifice.
Confide in me, my child; I am no dire inquisitor, seeking to distort thy
words to thine own peril. I am no bitter and morose ascetic. Beneath
these robes still beats a human heart that can sympathise with human
sorrows. Confide in me without fear. Dost thou not dread the fate they
would force upon thee? Dost thou not shrink back? Wouldst thou not be
"No," said the poor novice; but the denial came faint and irresolute from
"Pause," said the friar, growing more earnest in his tone: "pause--there
is yet time."
"Nay," said the novice, looking up with some surprise in her countenance;
"nay, even were I so weak, escape now is impossible. What hand could
unbar the gates of the convent?"
"Mine!" cried the monk, with impetuosity. "Yes, I have that power. In
all Spain, but one man can save thee, and I am he."
"You!" faltered the novice, gazing at her strange visitor with mingled
astonishment and alarm. "And who are you that could resist the fiat of
that Tomas de Torquemada, before whom, they tell me, even the crowned
heads of Castile and Arragon veil low?"
The monk half rose, with an impatient and almost haughty start, at this
interrogatory; but, reseating himself, replied, in a deep and half-
whispered voice "Daughter, listen to me! It is true, that Isabel of
Spain (whom the Mother of Mercy bless! for merciful to all is her secret
heart, if not her outward policy)--it is true that Isabel of Spain,
fearful that the path to Heaven might be made rougher to thy feet than it
well need be (there was a slight accent of irony in the monk's voice as
he thus spoke), selected a friar of suasive eloquence and gentle manners
to visit thee. He was charged with letters to yon abbess from the queen.
Soft though the friar, he was yet a hypocrite. Nay, hear me out! he
loved to worship the rising sun; and he did not wish always to remain a
simple friar, while the Church had higher dignities of this earth to
bestow. In the Christian camp, daughter, there was one who burned for
tidings of thee,--whom thine image haunted--who, stern as thou wert to
him, loved thee with a love he knew not of, till thou wert lost to him.
Why dost thou tremble, daughter? listen, yet! To that lover, for he was
one of high birth, came the monk; to that lover the monk sold his
mission. The monk will have a ready tale, that he was waylaid amidst the
mountains by armed men, and robbed of his letters to the abbess. The
lover took his garb, and he took the letters; and he hastened hither.
Leila! beloved Leila! behold him at thy feet!"
The monk raised his cowl; and, dropping on his knee beside her, presented
to her gaze the features of the Prince of Spain.
"You!" said Leila, averting her countenance, and vainly endeavouring to
extricate the hand which he had seized. "This is indeed cruel. You, the
author of so many sufferings--such calumny--such reproach!"
"I will repair all," said Don Juan, fervently. "I alone, I repeat it,
have the power to set you free. You are no longer a Jewess; you are one
of our faith; there is now no bar upon our loves. Imperious though my
father,--all dark and dread as is this new POWER which he is rashly
erecting in his dominions, the heir of two monarchies is not so poor in
influence and in friends as to be unable to offer the woman of his love
an inviolable shelter alike from priest and despot. Fly with me!--quit
this dreary sepulchre ere the last stone close over thee for ever! I
have horses, I have guards at hand. This night it can be arranged. This
night--oh, bliss!--thou mayest be rendered up to earth and love!"
"Prince," said Leila, who had drawn herself from Juan's grasp during this
address, and who now stood at a little distance erect and proud, "you
tempt me in vain; or, rather you offer me no temptation. I have made my
choice; I abide by it."
"Oh! bethink thee," said the prince, in a voice of real and imploring
anguish; "bethink thee well of the consequences of thy refusal. Thou
canst not see them yet; thine ardour blinds thee. But, when hour after
hour, day after day, year after year, steals on in the appalling monotony
of this sanctified prison; when thou shalt see thy youth--withering
without love--thine age without honour; when thy heart shall grow as
stone within thee, beneath the looks of you icy spectres; when nothing
shall vary the aching dulness of wasted life save a longer fast or a
severer penance: then, then will thy grief be rendered tenfold by the
despairing and remorseful thought, that thine own lips sealed thine own
sentence. Thou mayest think," continued Juan, with rapid eagerness,
"that my love to thee was at first light and dishonouring. Be it so. I
own that my youth has passed in idle wooings, and the mockeries of
affection. But for the first time in my life I feel that--I love. Thy
dark eyes--thy noble beauty--even thy womanly scorn, have fascinated me.
I--never yet disdained where I have been a suitor--acknowledge, at last,
that there is a triumph in the conquest of a woman's heart. Oh, Leila!
do not--do not reject me. You know not how rare and how deep a love you
The novice was touched: the present language of Don Juan was so different
from what it had been before; the earnest love that breathed in his
voice--that looked from his eyes, struck a chord in her breast; it
reminded her of her own unconquered, unconquerable love for the lost
Muza. She was touched, then--touched to tears; but her resolves were not
"Oh, Leila!" resumed the prince, fondly, mistaking the nature of her
emotion, and seeking to pursue the advantage he imagined he had gained,
"look at yonder sunbeam, struggling through the loophole of thy cell. Is
it not a messenger from the happy world? does it not plead for me? does
it not whisper to thee of the green fields and the laughing vineyards,
and all the beautiful prodigality of that earth thou art about to
renounce for ever? Dost thou dread my love? Are the forms around thee,
ascetic and lifeless, fairer to thine eyes than mine? Dost thou doubt my
power to protect thee? I tell thee that the proudest nobles of Spain
would flock around my banner, were it necessary to guard thee by force of
arms. Yet, speak the word--be mine--and I will fly hence with thee to
climes where the Church has not cast out its deadly roots, and, forgetful
of crowns and cares, live alone for thee: Ah, speak!"
"My lord," said Leila, calmly, and rousing herself to the necessary
effort, "I am deeply and sincerely grateful for the interest you express
--for the affection you avow. But you deceive yourself. I have pondered
well over the alternative I have taken. I do not regret nor repent--much
less would I retract it. The earth that you speak of, full of affections
and of bliss to others, has no ties, no allurements for me. I desire
only peace, repose, and an early death."
"Can it be possible," said the prince, growing pale, "that thou lovest
another? Then, indeed, and then only, would my wooing be in vain."
The cheek of the novice grew deeply flushed, but the color soon subsided;
she murmured to herself, "Why should I blush to own it now?" and then
spoke aloud: "Prince, I trust I have done with the world; and bitter the
pang I feel when you call me back to it. But you merit my candour; I
have loved another; and in that thought, as in an urn, lie the ashes of
all affection. That other is of a different faith. We may never--never
meet again below, but it is a solace to pray that we may meet above.
That solace, and these cloisters, are dearer to me than all the pomp, all
the pleasures, of the world."
The prince sank down, and, covering his face with his hands, groaned
aloud--but made no reply.
"Go, then, Prince of Spain," continued the novice; "son of the noble
Isabel, Leila is not unworthy of her cares. Go, and pursue the great
destinies that await you. And if you forgive--if you still cherish a
thought of--the poor Jewish maiden, soften, alleviate, mitigate, the
wretched and desperate doom that awaits the fallen race she has abandoned
for thy creed."
"Alas, alas!" said the prince, mournfully; "thee alone, perchance, of
all thy race, I could have saved from the bigotry that is fast covering
this knightly land like the rising of an irresistible sea--and thou
rejectest me! Take time, at least, to pause--to consider. Let me see
thee again tomorrow."
"No, prince, no--not again! I will keep thy secret only if I see thee no
more. If thou persist in a suit that I feel to be that of sin and shame,
then, indeed, mine honour--"
"Hold!" interrupted Juan, with haughty impatience, "I torment, I harass
you no more. I release you from my importunity. Perhaps already I have
stooped too low." He drew the cowl over his features, and strode
sullenly to the door; but, turning for one last gaze on the form that had
so strangely fascinated a heart capable of generous emotions, the meek
and despondent posture of the novice, her tender youth, her gloomy fate,
melted his momentary pride and resentment. "God bless and reconcile
thee, poor child!" he said, in a voice choked with contending passions--
and the door closed upon his form.
"I thank thee, Heaven, that it was not Muza!" muttered Leila, breaking
from a reverie in which she seemed to be communing with her own soul: "I
feel that I could not have resisted him." With that thought she knelt
down, in humble and penitent self-reproach, and prayed for strength.
Ere she had risen from her supplications, her solitude was again invaded
by Torquemada, the Dominican.
This strange man, though the author of cruelties at which nature recoils,
had some veins of warm and gentle feeling streaking, as it were, the
marble of his hard character; and when he had thoroughly convinced
himself of the pure and earnest zeal of the young convert, he relaxed
from the grim sternness he had at first exhibited towards her. He loved
to exert the eloquence he possessed, in raising her spirit, in
reconciling her doubts. He prayed for her, and he prayed beside her,
with passion and with tears.
He stayed long with the novice; and, when he left her, she was, if not
happy, at least contented. Her warmest wish now was to abridge the
period of her novitiate, which, at her desire, the Church had already
rendered merely a nominal probation. She longed to put irresolution out
of her power, and to enter at once upon the narrow road through the
The gentle and modest piety of the young novice touched the sisterhood;
she was endeared to all of them. Her conversion was an event that broke
the lethargy of their stagnant life. She became an object of general
interest, of avowed pride, of kindly compassion; and their kindness to
her, who from her cradle had seen little of her own sex, had a great
effect towards calming and soothing her mind. But, at night, her dreams
brought before her the dark and menacing countenance of her father.
Sometimes he seemed to pluck her from the gates of heaven, and to sink
with her into the yawning abyss below. Sometimes she saw him with her
beside the altar, but imploring her to forswear the Saviour, before
whose crucifix she knelt. Occasionally her visions were haunted, also,
with Muza--but in less terrible guise She saw his calm and melancholy
eyes fixed upon her; and his voice asked, "Canst thou take a vow that
makes it sinful to remember me?"
The night, that usually brings balm and oblivion to the sad, was thus
made more dreadful to Leila than the day.
Her health grew feebler, and feebler, but her mind still was firm. In
happier time and circumstance that poor novice would have been a great
character; but she was one of the countless victims the world knows not
of, whose virtues are in silent motives, whose struggles are in the
Of the prince she heard and saw no more. There were times when she
fancied, from oblique and obscure hints, that the Dominican had been
aware of Don Juan's disguise and visit. But, if so, that knowledge
appeared only to increase the gentleness, almost the respect, which
Torquemada manifested towards her. Certainly, since that day, from some
cause or other the priest's manner had been softened when he addressed
her; and he who seldom had recourse to other arts than those of censure
and of menace, often uttered sentiments half of pity and half of praise.
Thus consoled and supported in the day,--thus haunted and terrified by
night, but still not repenting her resolve, Leila saw the time glide on
to that eventful day when her lips were to pronounce that irrevocable vow
which is the epitaph of life. While in this obscure and remote convent
progressed the history of an individual, we are summoned back to witness
the crowning fate of an expiring dynasty.
THE PAUSE BETWEEN DEFEAT AND SURRENDER.
The unfortunate Boabdil plunged once more amidst the recesses of the
Alhambra. Whatever his anguish or his despondency, none were permitted
to share, or even to witness, his emotions. But he especially resisted
the admission to his solitude, demanded by his mother, implored by his
faithful Amine, and sorrowfully urged by Muza: those most loved, or most
respected, were, above all, the persons from whom he most shrank.
Almamen was heard of no more. It was believed that he had perished in
the battle. But he was one of those who, precisely as they are effective
when present, are forgotten in absence. And, in the meanwhile, as the
Vega was utterly desolated, and all supplies were cut off, famine, daily
made more terrifically severe, diverted the attention of each humbler
Moor from the fall of the city to his individual sufferings.
New persecutions fell upon the miserable Jews. Not having taken any
share in the conflict (as was to be expected from men who had no stake in
the country which they dwelt in, and whose brethren had been taught so
severe a lesson upon the folly of interference), no sentiment of
fellowship in danger mitigated the hatred and loathing with which they
were held; and as, in their lust of gain, many of them continued, amidst
the agony and starvation of the citizens, to sell food at enormous
prices, the excitement of the multitude against them--released by the
state of the city from all restraint and law--made itself felt by the
most barbarous excesses. Many of the houses of the Israelites were
attacked by the mob, plundered, razed to the ground, and the owner
tortured to death, to extort confession of imaginary wealth. Not to sell
what was demanded was a crime; to sell it was a crime also. These
miserable outcasts fled to whatever secret places the vaults of their
houses or the caverns in the hills within the city could yet afford them,
cursing their fate, and almost longing even for the yoke of the Christian
Thus passed several days; the defence of the city abandoned to its naked
walls and mighty gates. The glaring sun looked down upon closed shops
and depopulated streets, save when some ghostly and skeleton band of the
famished poor collected, in a sudden paroxysm of revenge or despair,
around the stormed and fired mansion of a detested Israelite.
At length Boabdil aroused himself from his seclusion; and Muza, to his
own surprise, was summoned to the presence of the king. He found Boabdil
in one of the most gorgeous halls of his gorgeous palace.
Within the Tower of Comares is a vast chamber, still called the hall of
the Ambassadors. Here it was that Boabdil now held his court. On the
glowing walls hung trophies and banners, and here and there an Arabian
portrait of some bearded king. By the windows, which overlooked the most
lovely banks of the Llarro, gathered the santons and alfaquis, a little
apart from the main crowd. Beyond, through half-veiling draperies, might
be seen the great court of the Alberca, whose peristyles were hung with
flowers; while, in the centre, the gigantic basin, which gives its name
to the court, caught the sunlight obliquely, and its waves glittered on
the eye from amidst the roses that then clustered over it.
In the audience hall itself, a canopy, over the royal cushions on which
Boabdil reclined, was blazoned with the heraldic insignia of Granada's
monarchs. His guard, and his mutes, and his eunuchs, and his courtiers,
and his counsellors, and his captains, were ranged in long files on
either side the canopy. It seemed the last flicker of the lamp of the
Moorish empire, that hollow and unreal pomp! As Muza approached the
monarch, he was startled by the change of his countenance: the young and
beautiful Boabdil seemed to have grown suddenly old; his eyes were
sunken, his countenance sown with wrinkles, and his voice sounded broken
and hollow on the ears of his kinsman.
"Come hither, Muza," said he; "seat thyself beside me, and listen as thou
best canst to the tidings we are about to hear."
As Muza placed himself on a cushion, a little below the king, Boabdil
motioned to one amongst the crowd. "Hamet," said he, "thou hast examined
the state of the Christian camp; what news dost thou bring?"
"Light of the Faithful," answered the Moor, "it is a camp no longer--it
has already become a city. Nine towns of Spain were charged with the
task; stone has taken the place of canvas; towers and streets arise like
the buildings of a genius; and the misbelieving king hath sworn that this
new city shall not be left until Granada sees his standard on its walls."
"Go on," said Boabdil, calmly.
"Traders and men of merchandise flock thither daily; the spot is one
bazaar; all that should supply our famishing country pours its plenty
into their mart."
Boabdil motioned to the Moor to withdraw, and an alfaqui advanced in his
"Successor of the Prophet, and darling of the world!" said the reverend
man, "the alfaquis and seers of Granada implore thee on their knees to
listen to their voice. They have consulted the Books of Fate; thy have
implored a sign from the Prophet; and they find that the glory has left
thy people and thy crown. The fall of Granada is predestined; God is
"You shall have my answer forthwith," said Boabdil. "Abdelemic,
From the crowd came an aged and white-bearded man, the governor of the
"Speak, old man," said the king.
"Oh, Boabdil!" said the veteran, with faltering tones, while the tears
rolled down his cheeks; "son of a race of kings and heroes! would that
thy servant had fallen dead on thy threshold this day, and that the lips
of a Moorish noble had never been polluted by the words that I now utter!
Our state is hopeless; our granaries are as the sands of the desert:
there is in them life neither for beast nor man. The war-horse that bore
the hero is now consumed for his food; the population of thy city, with
one voice, cry for chains and--bread! I have spoken."
"Admit the Ambassador of Egypt," said Boabdil, as Abdelmelic retired.
There was a pause: one of the draperies at the end of the hall was drawn
aside; and with the slow and sedate majesty of their tribe and land,
paced forth a dark and swarthy train, the envoys of the Egyptian soldan.
Six of the band bore costly presents of gems and weapons, and the
procession closed with four veiled slaves, whose beauty had been the
boast of the ancient valley of the Nile.
"Sun of Granada and day--star of the faithful!" said the chief of the
Egyptians, "my lord, the Soldan of Egypt, delight of the world, and rose-
tree of the East, thus answers to the letters of Boabdil. He grieves
that be cannot send the succour thou demandest; and informing himself of
the condition of thy territories, he finds that Granada no longer holds a
seaport by which his forces (could he send them) might find an entrance
into Spain. He implores thee to put thy trust in Allah, who will not
desert his chosen ones, and lays these gifts, in pledge of amity and
love, at the feet of my lord the king."
"It is a gracious and well-timed offering," said Boabdil, with a writhing
lip; "we thank him." There was now a long and dead silence as the
ambassadors swept from the hall of audience, when Boabdil suddenly raised
his head from his breast and looked around his hall with a kingly and
majestic look: "Let the heralds of Ferdinand of Spain approach."
A groan involuntarily broke from the breast of Muza: it was echoed by a
murmur of abhorrence and despair from the gallant captains who stood
around; but to that momentary burst succeeded a breathless silence, as
from another drapery, opposite the royal couch, gleamed the burnished
mail of the knights of Spain. Foremost of these haughty visitors, whose
iron heels clanked loudly on the tesselated floor, came a noble and
stately form, in full armour, save the helmet, and with a mantle of azure
velvet, wrought with the silver cross that made the badge of the
Christian war. Upon his manly countenance was visible no sign of undue
arrogance or exultation; but something of that generous pity which brave
men feel for conquered foes dimmed the lustre of his commanding eye, and
softened the wonted sternness of his martial bearing. He and his train
approached the king with a profound salutation of respect; and falling
back, motioned to the herald that accompanied him, and whose garb, breast
and back, was wrought with the arms of Spain, to deliver himself of his
"To Boabdil!" said the herald, with a loud voice, that filled the whole
expanse, and thrilled with various emotions the dumb assembly. "To
Boabdil el Chico, King of Granada, Ferdinand of Arragon and Isabel of
Castile send royal greeting. They command me to express their hope that
the war is at length concluded; and they offer to the King of Granada
such terms of capitulation as a king, without dishonour, may receive. In
the stead of this city, which their Most Christian Majesties will restore
to their own dominion, as is just, they offer, O king, princely
territories in the Alpuxarras mountains to your sway, holding them by
oath of fealty to the Spanish crown. To the people of Granada, their
Most Christian Majesties promise full protection of property, life, and
faith under a government by their own magistrates, and according to their
own laws; exemption from tribute for three years; and taxes thereafter,
regulated by the custom and ratio of their present imposts. To such
Moors as, discontented with these provisions, would abandon Granada, are
promised free passage for themselves and their wealth. In return for
these marks of their royal bounty, their Most Christian Majesties summon
Granada to surrender (if no succour meanwhile arrive) within seventy
days. And these offers are now solemnly recorded in the presence, and
through the mission, of the noble and renowned knight, Gonzalvo of
Cordova, deputed by their Most Christian Majesties from their new city of
When the herald had concluded, Boabdil cast his eye over his thronged and
splendid court. No glance of fire met his own; amidst the silent crowd,
a resigned content was alone to be perceived: the proposals exceeded the
hope of the besieged.
"And," asked Boabdil, with a deep-drawn sigh, "if we reject these
"Noble prince," said Gonzalvo, earnestly, "ask us not to wound thine ears
with the alternative. Pause, and consider of our offers; and, if thou
doubtest, O brave king! mount the towers of thine Alhambra, survey our
legions marshalled beneath thy walls, and turn thine eyes upon a brave
people, defeated, not by human valour, but by famine, and the inscrutable
will of God."
"Your monarchs shall have our answer, gentle Christian, perchance ere
nightfall. And you, Sir Knight, who hast delivered a message bitter for
kings to bear, receive, at least, our thanks for such bearing as might
best mitigate the import. Our vizier will bear to your apartment those
tokens of remembrance that are yet left to the monarch of Granada to
"Muza," resumed the king, as the Spaniards left the presence--"thou hast
heard all. What is the last counsel thou canst give thy sovereign?"
The fierce Moor had with difficulty waited this licence to utter such
sentiments as death only could banish from that unconquerable heart. He
rose, descended from the couch, and, standing a little below the king,
and facing the motley throng of all of wise or brave yet left to Granada,
"Why should we surrender? two hundred thousand inhabitants are yet within
our walls; of these, twenty thousand, at least, are Moors, who have hands
and swords. Why should we surrender? Famine presses us, it is true; but
hunger, that makes the lion more terrible, shall it make the man more
base? Do ye despair? so be it! despair in the valiant ought to have an
irresistible force. Despair has made cowards brave: shall it sink the
brave to cowards? Let us arouse the people; hitherto we have depended
too much upon the nobles. Let us collect our whole force, and march upon
this new city, while the soldiers of Spain are employed in their new
profession of architects and builders. Hear me, O God and prophet of the
Moslem! hear one who never was forsworn! If, Moors of Granada, ye adopt
my counsel, I cannot promise ye victory, but I promise ye never to live
without it: I promise ye, at least, your independence--for the dead know
no chains! If we cannot live, let us so die that we may leave to
remotest ages a glory that shall be more durable than kingdoms.
King of Granada! this is the counsel of Muza Ben Abil Gazan."
The prince ceased. But he, whose faintest word had once breathed fire
into the dullest, had now poured out his spirit upon frigid and lifeless
matter. No man answered--no man moved.
Boabdil alone, clinging to the shadow of hope, turned at last towards the
"Warriors and sages!" he said, "as Muza's counsel is your king's desire,
say but the word, and, ere the hour-glass shed its last sand, the blast
of our trumpet shall be ringing through the Vivarrambla."
"O king! fight not against the will of fate--God is great!" replied the
chief of the alfaquis.
"Alas!" said Abdelmelic, "if the voice of Muza and your own falls thus
coldly upon us, how can ye stir the breadless and heartless multitude?"
"Is such your general thought and your general will?" said Boabdil.
An universal murmur answered, "Yes!"
"Go then, Abdelmelic;" resumed the ill-starred king; "go with yon
Spaniards to the Christian camp, and bring us back the best terms you can
obtain. The crown has passed from the head of El Zogoybi; Fate sets her
seal upon my brow. Unfortunate was the commencement of my reign--
unfortunate its end. Break up the divan."
The words of Boabdil moved and penetrated an audience, never till then
so alive to his gentle qualities, his learned wisdom, and his natural
valour. Many flung themselves at his feet, with tears and sighs; and the
crowd gathered round to touch the hem of his robe.
Muza gazed at them in deep disdain, with folded arms and heaving breast.
"Women, not men!" he exclaimed, "ye weep, as if ye had not blood still
left to shed! Ye are reconciled to the loss of liberty, because ye are
told ye shall lose nothing else. Fools and dupes! I see, from the spot
where my spirit stands above ye, the dark and dismal future to which ye
are crawling on your knees: bondage and rapine--the violence of lawless
lust--the persecution of hostile faith--your gold wrung from ye by
torture--your national name rooted from the soil. Bear this, and
remember me! Farewell, Boabdil! you I pity not; for your gardens have
yet a poison, and your armories a sword. Farewell, nobles and santons of
Granada! I quit my country while it is yet free."
Scarcely had he ceased, ere he had disappeared from the hall. It was as
the parting genius of Granada!
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY HORSEMAN.
It was a burning and sultry noon, when, through a small valley, skirted
by rugged and precipitous hills, at the distance of several leagues from
Granada, a horseman, in complete armour, wound his solitary way; His
mail was black and unadorned; on his vizor waved no plume. But there was
something in his carriage and mien, and the singular beauty of his coal-
black steed, which appeared to indicate a higher rank than the absence of
page and squire, and the plainness of his accoutrements, would have
denoted to a careless eye. He rode very slowly; and his steed, with the
licence of a spoiled favourite, often halted lazily in his sultry path,
as a tuft of herbage, or the bough of some overhanging tree, offered its
temptation. At length, as he thus paused, a noise was heard in a copse
that clothed the descent of a steep mountain; and the horse started
suddenly back, forcing the traveller from his reverie. He looked
mechanically upward, and beheld the figure of a man bounding through the
trees, with rapid and irregular steps. It was a form that suited well
the silence and solitude of the spot; and might have passed for one of
those stern recluses--half hermit, half soldier--who, in the earlier
crusades, fixed their wild homes amidst the sands and caves of Palestine.
The stranger supported his steps by a long staff. His hair and beard
hung long and matted over his broad shoulders. A rusted mail, once
splendid with arabesque enrichments, protected his breast; but the loose
gown--a sort of tartan, which descended below the cuirass--was rent and
tattered, and his feet bare; in his girdle was a short curved cimiter, a
knife or dagger, and a parchment roll, clasped and bound with iron.
As the horseman gazed at this abrupt intruder on the solitude, his frame
quivered with emotion; and, raising himself to his full height, he called
aloud, "Fiend or santon--whatsoever thou art--what seekest thou in these
lonely places, far from the king thy counsels deluded, and the city
betrayed by thy false prophecies and unhallowed charms?"
"Ha!" cried Almamen, for it was indeed the Israelite; "by thy black
charger, and the tone of thy haughty voice, I know the hero of Granada.
Rather, Muza Ben Abil Gazan, why art thou absent from the last hold of
the Moorish empire?"
"Dost thou pretend to read the future, and art thou blind to the present?
Granada has capitulated to the Spaniard. Alone I have left a land of
slaves, and shall seek, in our ancestral Africa, some spot where the
footstep of the misbeliever hath not trodden."
"The fate of one bigotry is, then, sealed," said Almamen, gloomily; "but
that which succeeds it is yet more dark."
"Dog!" cried Muza, couching his lance, "what art thou that thus
"A Jew!" replied Almamen, in a voice of thunder, and drawing his cimiter:
"a despised and despising Jew! Ask you more? I am the son of a race of
kings. I was the worst enemy of the Moors till I found the Nazarene more
hateful than the Moslem; and then even Muza himself was not their more
renowned champion. Come on, if thou wilt--man to man: I defy thee"
"No, no," muttered Muza, sinking his lance; "thy mail is rusted with the
blood of the Spaniard, and this arm cannot smite the slayer of the
Christian. Part we in peace."
"Hold, prince!" said Almamen, in an altered voice: "is thy country the
sole thing dear to thee? Has the smile of woman never stolen beneath
thine armour? Has thy heart never beat for softer meetings than the
encounter of a foe?"
"Am I human, and a Moor?" returned Muza. "For once you divine aright;
and, could thy spells bestow on these eyes but one more sight of the last
treasure left to me on earth, I should be as credulous of thy sorcery as
"Thou lovest her still, then--this Leila?"
"Dark necromancer, hast thou read my secret? and knowest thou the name of
my beloved one? Ah! let me believe thee indeed wise, and reveal to me
the spot of earth which holds the delight of my soul! Yes," continued
the Moor, with increased emotion, and throwing up his vizor, as if for
air--"yes; Allah forgive me! but, when all was lost at Granada, I had
still one consolation in leaving my fated birthplace: I had licence to
search for Leila; I had the hope to secure to my wanderings in distant
lands one to whose glance the eyes of the houris would be dim. But I
waste words. Tell me where is Leila, and conduct me to her feet!"
"Moslem, I will lead thee to her," answered Almamen, gazing on the prince
with an expression of strange and fearful exultation in his dark eyes: "I
will lead thee to her-follow me. It is only yesternight that I learned
the walls that confined her; and from that hour to this have I journeyed
over mountain and desert, without rest or food."
"Yet what is she to thee?" asked Muza, suspiciously.
"Thou shalt learn full soon. Let us on."
So saying, Almamen sprang forward with a vigour which the excitement of
his mind supplied to the exhaustion of his body. Muza wonderingly pushed
on his charger, and endeavoured to draw his mysterious guide into
conversation: but Almamen scarcely heeded him. And when he broke from
his gloomy silence, it was but in incoherent and brief exclamations,
often in a tongue foreign to the ear of his companion. The hardy Moor,
though steeled against the superstitions of his race, less by the
philosophy of the learned than the contempt of the brave, felt an awe
gather over him as he glanced, from the giant rocks and lonely valleys,
to the unearthly aspect and glittering eyes of the reputed sorcerer; and
more than once he muttered such verses of the Koran as were esteemed by
his countrymen the counterspell to the machinations of the evil genii.
It might be an hour that they had thus journeyed together, when Almamen
paused abruptly. "I am wearied," said he, faintly; "and, though time
presses, I fear that my strength will fail me."
"Mount, then, behind me," returned the Moor, after some natural
hesitation: "Jew though thou art, I will brave the contamination for the
sake of Leila."
"Moor!" cried the Hebrew, fiercely, "the contamination would be mine.
Things of yesterday, as thy Prophet and thy creed are, thou canst not
sound the unfathomable loathing which each heart faithful to the Ancient
of Days feels for such as thou and thine."
"Now, by the Kaaba!" said Muza, and his brow became dark, "another such
word and the hoofs of my steed shall trample the breath of blasphemy from
"I would defy thee to the death," answered Almamen, disdainfully; "but I
reserve the bravest of the Moors to witness a deed worthy of the
descendant of Jephtha. But hist! I hear hoofs."
Muza listened; and his sharp ear caught a distinct ring upon the hard and
rocky soil. He turned round and saw Almamen gliding away through the
thick underwood, until the branches concealed his form. Presently, a
curve in the path brought in view a Spanish cavalier, mounted on an
Andalusian jennet: the horseman was gaily singing one of the popular
ballads of the time; and, as it related to the feats of the Spaniards
against the Moors, Muza's haughty blood was already stirred, and his
moustache quivered on his lip. "I will change the air," muttered the
Moslem, grasping his lance, when, as the thought crossed him, he beheld
the Spaniard suddenly reel in his saddle and lay prostrate on the ground.
In the same instant Almamen had darted from his hiding-place, seized the
steed of the cavalier, mounted, and, ere Muza recovered from his
surprise, was by the side of the Moor.
"By what harm," said Muza, curbing his barb, "didst thou fell the
Spaniard--seemingly without a blow?"
"As David felled Goliath--by the pebble and the sling," answered Almamen,
carelessly. "Now, then, spur forward, if thou art eager to see thy
The horsemen dashed over the body of the stunned and insensible Spaniard.
Tree and mountain glided by; gradually the valley vanished, and a thick
forest loomed upon their path. Still they made on, though the interlaced
boughs and the ruggedness of the footing somewhat obstructed their way;
until, as the sun began slowly to decline, they entered a broad and
circular space, round which trees of the eldest growth spread their
motionless and shadowy boughs. In the midmost sward was a rude and
antique stone, resembling the altar of some barbarous and departed creed.
Here Almamen abruptly halted, and muttered inaudibly to himself.
"What moves thee, dark stranger?" said the Moor; "and why dost thou
mutter and gaze on space?"
Almamen answered not, but dismounted, hung his bridle to a branch of a
scathed and riven elm, and advanced alone into the middle of the space.
"Dread and prophetic power that art within me!" said the Hebrew, aloud,--
"this, then, is the spot that, by dream and vision, thou hast foretold me
wherein to consummate and record the vow that shall sever from the spirit
the last weakness of the flesh. Night after night hast thou brought
before mine eyes, in darkness and in slumber, the solemn solitude that I
now survey. Be it so! I am prepared!"
Thus speaking, he retired for a few moments into the wood: collected in
his arms the dry leaves and withered branches which cumbered the desolate
clay, and placed the fuel upon the altar. Then, turning to the East, and
raising his hands he exclaimed, "Lo! upon this altar, once worshipped,
perchance, by the heathen savage, the last bold spirit of thy fallen and
scattered race dedicates, O Ineffable One! that precious offering Thou
didst demand from a sire of old. Accept the sacrifice!"
As the Hebrew ended his adjuration he drew a phial from his bosom, and
sprinkled a few drops upon the arid fuel. A pale blue flame suddenly
leaped up; and, as it lighted the haggard but earnest countenance of the
Israelite, Muza felt his Moorish blood congeal in his veins, and
shuddered, though he scarce knew why. Almamen, with his dagger, severed
from his head one of his long locks, and cast it upon the flame. He
watched it until it was consumed; and then, with a stifled cry, fell upon
the earth in a dead swoon. The Moor hastened to raise him; he chafed his
hands and temples; he unbuckled the vest upon his bosom; he forgot that
his comrade was a sorcerer and a Jew, so much had the agony of that
excitement moved his sympathy.
It was not till several minutes had elapsed that Almamen, with a deep-
drawn sigh, recovered from his swoon. "Ah, beloved one! bride of my
heart!" he murmured, "was it for this that thou didst commend to me the
only pledge of our youthful love? Forgive me! I restore her to the
earth, untainted by the Gentile." He closed his eyes again, and a strong
convulsion shook his frame. It passed; and he rose as a man from a
fearful dream, composed, and almost as it were refreshed, by the terrors
he had undergone. The last glimmer of the ghastly light was dying away
upon that ancient altar, and a low wind crept sighing through the trees.
"Mount, prince," said Almamen, calmly, but averting his eyes from the
altar; "we shall have no more delays."
"Wilt thou not explain thy incantation?" asked Muza; "or is it, as my
reason tells me, but the mummery of a juggler?"
"Alas! alas!" answered Almamen, in a sad and altered tone, "thou wilt
soon know all."
The sun was now sinking slowly through those masses of purple cloud which
belong to Iberian skies; when, emerging from the forest, the travellers
saw before them a small and lovely plain, cultivated like a garden. Rows
of orange and citron trees were backed by the dark green foliage of
vines; and these again found a barrier in girdling copses of chestnut,
oak, and the deeper verdure of pines: while, far to the horizon, rose the
distant and dim outline of the mountain range, scarcely distinguishable
from the mellow colourings of the heaven. Through this charming spot
went a slender and sparkling torrent, that collected its waters in a
circular basin, over which the rose and orange hung their contrasted
blossoms. On a gentle eminence above this plain, or garden, rose the
spires of a convent: and, though it was still clear daylight, the long
and pointed lattices were illumined within; and, as the horsemen cast
their eyes upon the pile, the sound of the holy chorus--made more sweet
and solemn from its own indistinctness, from the quiet of the hour, from
the sudden and sequestered loveliness of that spot, suiting so well the
ideal calm of the conventual life--rolled its music through the odorous
and lucent air.
But that scene and that sound, so calculated to soothe and harmonise the
thought, seemed to arouse Almamen into agony and passion. He smote his
breast with his clenched hand; and, shrieking, rather than exclaiming,
"God of my fathers! have I come too late?" buried his spurs to the rowels
in the sides of his panting steed. Along the sward, through the fragrant
shrubs, athwart the pebbly and shallow torrent, up the ascent to the
convent, sped the Israelite. Muza, wondering and half reluctant,
followed at a little distance. Clearer and nearer came the voices of the
choir; broader and redder glowed the tapers from the Gothic casements:
the porch of the convent chapel was reached; the Hebrew sprang from his
horse. A small group of the peasants dependent on the convent loitered
reverently round the threshold; pushing through them, as one frantic,
Almamen entered the chapel and disappeared.
A minute elapsed. Muza was at the door; but the Moor paused
irresolutely, ere he dismounted. "What is the ceremony?" he asked of the
"A nun is about to take the vows," answered one of them.
A cry of alarm, of indignation, of terror, was heard within. Muza no
longer delayed: he gave his steed to the bystanders, pushed aside the
heavy curtain that screened the threshold and was within the chapel.
By the altar gathered a confused and disordered group--the sisterhood,
with their abbess. Round the consecrated rail flocked the spectators,
breathless and amazed. Conspicuous above the rest, on the elevation of
the holy place, stood Almamen with his drawn dagger in his right hand,
his left arm clasped around the form of a novice, whose dress, not yet
replaced by the serge, bespoke her the sister fated to the veil; and, on
the opposite side of that sister, one hand on her shoulder, the other
rearing on high the sacred crucifix, stood a stern, commanding form, in
the white robes of the Dominican order; it was Tomas de Torquemada.
"Avaunt, Almamen!" were the first words which reached Muza's ear as he
stood, unnoticed, in the middle of the aisle: "here thy sorcery and thine
arts cannot avail thee. Release the devoted one of God!"
"She is mine! she is my daughter! I claim her from thee as a father, in
the name of the great Sire of Man!"
"Seize the sorcerer! seize him!" exclaimed the Inquisitor, as, with a
sudden movement, Almamen cleared his way through the scattered and
dismayed group, and stood with his daughter in his arms, on the first
step of the consecrated platform.
But not a foot stirred--not a hand was raised. The epithet bestowed on
the intruder had only breathed a supernatural terror into the audience;
and they would have sooner rushed upon a tiger in his lair, than on the
lifted dagger and savage aspect of that grim stranger.
"Oh, my father!" then said a low and faltering voice, that startled Muza
as a voice from the grave--"wrestle not against the decrees of Heaven.
Thy daughter is not compelled to her solemn choice. Humbly, but
devotedly, a convert to the Christian creed, her only wish on earth
is to take the consecrated and eternal vow."
"Ha!" groaned the Hebrew, suddenly relaxing his hold, as his daughter
fell on her knees before him, "then have I indeed been told, as I have
foreseen, the worst. The veil is rent--the spirit hath left the temple.
Thy beauty is desecrated; thy form is but unhallowed clay. Dog!" he
cried, more fiercely, glaring round upon the unmoved face of the
Inquisitor, "this is thy work: but thou shalt not triumph. Here, by
thine own shrine, I spit at and defy thee, as once before, amidst the
tortures of thy inhuman court. Thus--thus--thus--Almamen the Jew
delivers the last of his house from the curse of Galilee!"
"Hold, murderer!" cried a voice of thunder; and an armed man burst
through the crowd and stood upon the platform. It was too late: thrice
the blade of the Hebrew had passed through that innocent breast; thrice
was it reddened with that virgin blood. Leila fell in the arms of her
lover; her dim eyes rested upon his countenance, as it shone upon her,
beneath his lifted vizor-a faint and tender smile played upon her lips--
Leila was no more.
One hasty glance Almamen cast upon his victim, and then, with a wild
laugh that woke every echo in the dreary aisles, he leaped from the
place. Brandishing his bloody weapon above his head, he dashed through
the coward crowd; and, ere even the startled Dominican had found a voice,
the tramp of his headlong steed rang upon the air; an instant--and all
But over the murdered girl leaned the Moor, as yet incredulous of her
death; her head still unshorn of its purple tresses, pillowed on his lap
--her icy hand clasped in his, and her blood weltering fast over his
armour. None disturbed him; for, habited as the knights of Christendom,
none suspected his faith; and all, even the Dominican, felt a thrill of
sympathy at his distress. How he came hither, with what object,--what
hope, their thoughts were too much locked in pity to conjecture. There,
voiceless and motionless, bent the Moor, until one of the monks
approached and felt the pulse, to ascertain if life was, indeed, utterly
The Moor at first waved him haughtily away; but, when he divined the
monk's purpose, suffered him in silence to take the beloved hand. He
fixed on him his dark and imploring eyes; and when the father dropped the
hand, and, gently shaking his head, turned away, a deep and agonising
groan was all that the audience heard from that heart in which the last
iron of fate had entered. Passionately he kissed the brow, the cheeks,
the lips of the hushed and angel face, and rose from the spot.
"What dost thou here? and what knowest thou of yon murderous enemy of God
and man?" asked the Dominican, approaching.
Muza made no reply, as he stalked slowly through the chapel. The
audience was touched to sudden tears. "Forbear!" said they, almost with
one accord, to the harsh Inquisitor; "he hath no voice to answer thee."
And thus, amidst the oppressive grief and sympathy of the Christian
throng, the unknown Paynim reached the door, mounted his steed, and as he
turned once more and cast a hurried glance upon the fatal pile, the
bystanders saw the large tears rolling down his swarthy cheeks.
Slowly that coal-black charger wound down the hillock, crossed the quiet
and lovely garden, and vanished amidst the forest. And never was known,
to Moor or Christian, the future fate of the hero of Granada. Whether he
reached in safety the shores of his ancestral Africa, and carved out new
fortunes and a new name; or whether death, by disease or strife,
terminated obscurely his glorious and brief career, mystery--deep and
unpenetrated, even by the fancies of the thousand bards who have
consecrated his deeds--wraps in everlasting shadow the destinies of Muza
Ben Abil Gazan, from that hour, when the setting sun threw its parting
ray over his stately form and his ebon barb, disappearing amidst the
breathless shadows of the forest.
THE RETURN--THE RIOT--THE TREACHERY--AND THE DEATH.
It was the eve of the fatal day on which Granada was to be delivered to
the Spaniards, and in that subterranean vault beneath the house of
Almamen, before described, three elders of the Jewish persuasion were
"Trusty and well-beloved Ximen," cried one, a wealthy and usurious
merchant, with a twinkling and humid eye, and a sleek and unctuous
aspect, which did not, however, suffice to disguise something fierce and
crafty in his low brow and pinched lips--"trusty and well-beloved Ximen,"
said this Jew--"truly thou hast served us well, in yielding to thy
persecuted brethren this secret shelter. Here, indeed, may the heathen
search for us in vain! Verily, my veins grow warm again; and thy servant
hungereth, and hath thirst."
"Eat, Isaac--eat; yonder are viands prepared for thee; eat, and spare
not. And thou, Elias--wilt thou not draw near the board? the wine is old
and precious, and will revive thee."
"Ashes and hyssop--hyssop and ashes, are food and drink for me," answered
Elias, with passionate bitterness; "they have rased my house--they have
burned my granaries--they have molten down my gold. I am a ruined man!"
"Nay," said Ximen, who gazed at him with a malevolent eye--for so utterly
had years and sorrows mixed with gall even the one kindlier sympathy he
possessed, that he could not resist an inward chuckle over the very
afflictions he relieved, and the very impotence he protected--"nay,
Elias, thou hast wealth yet left in the seaport towns sufficient to buy
up half Granada."
"The Nazarene will seize it all!" cried Elias; "I see it already in his
"Nay, thinkest thou so?--and wherefore?" asked Ximen, startled into
sincere, because selfish anxiety.
"Mark me! Under licence of the truce, I went, last night, to the
Christian camp: I had an interview with the Christian king; and when he
heard my name and faith, his very beard curled with ire. 'Hound of
Belial!' he roared forth, 'has not thy comrade carrion, the sorcerer
Almamen, sufficiently deceived and insulted the majesty of Spain? For
his sake, ye shall have no quarter. Tarry here another instant, and thy
corpse shall be swinging to the winds! Go, and count over thy misgotten
wealth; just census shall be taken of it; and if thou defraudest our holy
impost by one piece of copper, thou shalt sup with Dives!' Such was my
mission, and mine answer. I return home to see the ashes of mine house!
Woe is me!"
"And this we owe to Almamen, the pretended Jew!" cried Isaac, from his
solitary but not idle place at the board. "I would this knife were at
his false throat!" growled Elias, clutching his poniard with his long