HOW THE DUKE OF MEDINA SIDONIA AND THE CHIVALRY OF ANDALUSIA HASTENED TO THE RELIEF OF ALHAMA.
The perilous situation of the Christian cavaliers, pent up and beleaguered within the walls of the Alhama, spread terror among their friends and anxiety throughout all Andalusia. Nothing, however, could equal the anguish of the marchioness of Cadiz, the wife of the gallant Roderigo Ponce de Leon. In her deep distress she looked round for some powerful noble who had the means of rousing the country to the assistance of her husband. No one appeared more competent for the purpose than Don Juan de Guzman, the duke of Medina Sidonia. He was one of the most wealthy and puissant grandees of Spain; his possessions extended over some of the most fertile parts of Andalusia, embracing towns and seaports and numerous villages. Here he reigned in feudal state like a petty sovereign, and could at any time bring into the field an immense force of vassals and retainers.
The duke of Medina Sidonia and the marques of Cadiz, however, were at this time deadly foes. An hereditary feud existed between them, which had often risen to bloodshed and open war; for as yet the fierce contests between the proud and puissant Spanish nobles had not been completely quelled by the power of the Crown, and in this respect they exerted a right of sovereignty in leading their vassals against each other in open field.
The duke of Medina Sidonia would have appeared, to many, the very last person to whom to apply for aid of the marques of Cadiz; but the marchioness judged of him by the standard of her own high and generous mind. She knew him to be a gallant and courteous knight, and had already experienced the magnanimity of his spirit, having been relieved by him when besieged by the Moors in her husband's fortress of Arcos. To the duke, therefore, she applied in this moment of sudden calamity, imploring him to furnish succor to her husband. The event showed how well noble spirits understand each other. No sooner did the duke receive this appeal from the wife of his enemy than he generously forgot all feeling of animosity and determined to go in person to his succor. He immediately despatched a courteous letter to the marchioness, assuring her that in consideration of the request of so honorable and estimable a lady, and to rescue from peril so valiant a cavalier as her husband, whose loss would be great, not only to Spain, but to all Christendom, he would forego the recollection of all past grievances, and hasten to his relief with all the forces he could raise.
The duke wrote at the same time to the alcaydes of his towns and fortresses, ordering them to join him forthwith at Seville with all the forces they could spare from their garrisons. He called on all the chivalry of Andalusia to make a common cause in the rescue of those Christian cavaliers, and he offered large pay to all volunteers who would resort to him with horses, armor, and provisions. Thus all who could be incited by honor, religion, patriotism, or thirst of gain were induced to hasten to his standard, and he took the field with an army of five thousand horse and fifty thousand foot.* Many cavaliers of distinguished name accompanied him in this generous enterprise. Among these was the redoubtable Alonso de Aguilar, the chosen friend of the marques of Cadiz, and with him his younger brother, Gonsalvo Fernandez de Cordova, afterward renowned as the grand captain; Don Roderigo Giron also, master of the order of Calatrava, together with Martin Alonso de Montemayor and the marques de Villena, esteemed the best lance in Spain. It was a gallant and splendid army, comprising the flower of Spanish chivalry, and poured forth in brilliant array from the gates of Seville bearing the great standard of that ancient and renowned city.
* Cronica de los Duques de Medina Sidonia, por Pedro de Medina, MS.
Ferdinand and Isabella were at Medina del Campo when tidings came of the capture of Alhama. The king was at mass when he received the news, and ordered "Te Deum" to be chanted for this signal triumph of the holy faith. When the first flush of triumph had subsided, and the king learnt the imminent peril of the valorous Ponce de Leon and his companions, and the great danger that this stronghold might again be wrested from their grasp, he resolved to hurry in person to the scene of action. So pressing appeared to him the emergency that he barely gave himself time to take a hasty repast while horses were providing, and then departed at furious speed for Andalusia, leaving a request for the queen to follow him.* He was attended by Don Beltram de la Cueva, duke of Albuquerque, Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, count of Tendilla, and Don Pedro Mauriques, count of Trevino, with a few more cavaliers of prowess and distinction. He travelled by forced journeys, frequently changing his jaded horses, being eager to arrive in time to take command of the Andalusian chivalry. When he arrived within five leagues of Cordova the duke of Albuquerque remonstrated with him upon entering with such incautious haste into the enemies' country. He represented to him that there were troops enough assembled to succor Alhama, and that it was not for him to venture his royal person in doing what could be done by his subjects, especially as he had such valiant and experienced captains to act for him. "Besides, sire," added the duke, "Your Majesty should bethink you that the troops about to take the field are mere men of Andalusia, whereas your illustrious predecessors never made an inroad into the territory of the Moors without being accompanied by a powerful force of the stanch and iron warriors of Old Castile."
* Illescas, Hist. Pontifical.
"Duke," replied the king, "your counsel might have been good had I not departed from Medina with the avowed determination of succoring these cavaliers in person. I am now near the end of my journey, and it would be beneath my dignity to change my intention before even I had met with an impediment. I shall take the troops of this country who are assembled, without waiting for those of Castile, and with the aid of God shall prosecute my journey."*
* Pulgar, Cronica, p. 3, cap. 3.
As King Ferdinand approached Cordova the principal inhabitants came forth to receive him. Learning, however, that the duke of Medina Sidonia was already on the march and pressing forward into the territory of the Moors, the king was all on fire to overtake him and to lead in person the succor to Alhama. Without entering Cordova, therefore, he exchanged his weary horses for those of the inhabitants who had come forth to meet him, and pressed forward for the army. He despatched fleet couriers in advance, requesting the duke of Medina Sidonia to await his coming, that he might take command of the forces.
Neither the duke nor his companions-in-arms, however, felt inclined to pause in their generous expedition and gratify the inclinations of the king. They sent back missives representing that they were far within the enemies' frontier, and it was dangerous either to pause or turn back. They had likewise received pressing entreaties from the besieged to hasten their speed, setting forth their great sufferings and their hourly peril of being overwhelmed by the enemy.
The king was at Ponton del Maestre when he received these missives. So inflamed was he with zeal for the success of this enterprise that he would have penetrated into the kingdom of Granada with the handful of cavaliers who accompanied him, but they represented the rashness of such a journey through the mountainous defiles of a hostile country thickly beset with towns and castles. With some difficulty, therefore, he was dissuaded from his inclination, and prevailed upon to await tidings from the army in the frontier city of Antiquera.
SEQUEL OF THE EVENTS AT ALHAMA.
While all Andalusia was thus in arms and pouring its chivalry through the mountain-passes of the Moorish frontiers, the garrison of Alhama was reduced to great extremity and in danger of sinking under its sufferings before the promised succor could arrive. The intolerable thirst that prevailed in consequence of the scarcity of water, the incessant watch that had to be maintained over the vast force of enemies without and the great number of prisoners within, and the wounds which almost every soldier had received in the incessant skirmishes and assaults, had worn grievously both flesh and spirit. The noble Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, still animated the soldiery, however, by word and example, sharing every hardship and being foremost in every danger, exemplifying that a good commander is the vital spirit of an army.
When Muley Abul Hassan heard of the vast force that was approaching under the command of the duke of Medina Sidonia, and that Ferdinand was coming in person with additional troops, he perceived that no time was to be lost: Alhama must be carried by one powerful attack or abandoned entirely to the Christians.
A number of Moorish cavaliers, some of the bravest youth of Granada, knowing the wishes of the king, proposed to undertake a desperate enterprise which, if successful, must put Alhama in his power. Early one morning, when it was scarcely the gray of the dawn, about the time of changing the watch, these cavaliers approached the town at a place considered inaccessible from the steepness of the rocks on which the wall was founded, which, it was supposed, elevated the battlements beyond the reach of the longest scaling-ladder. The Moorish knights, aided by a number of the strongest and most active escaladors, mounted these rocks and applied the ladders without being discovered, for to divert attention from them Muley Abul Hassan made a false attack upon the town in another quarter.
The scaling party mounted with difficulty and in small numbers; the sentinel was killed at his post, and seventy of the Moors made their way into the streets before an alarm was given. The guards rushed to the walls to stop the hostile throng that was still pouring in. A sharp conflict, hand to hand and man to man, took place on the battlements, and many on both sides fell. The Moors, whether wounded or slain, were thrown headlong without the walls, the scaling-ladders were overturned, and those who were mounting were dashed upon the rocks, and from thence tumbled upon the plain. Thus in a little while the ramparts were cleared by Christian prowess, led on by that valiant knight Don Alonzo Ponce, the uncle, and that brave esquire Pedro Pineda, nephew, of the marques of Cadiz.
The walls being cleared, these two kindred cavaliers now hastened with their forces in pursuit of the seventy Moors who had gained an entrance into the town. The main party of the garrison being engaged at a distance resisting the feigned attack of the Moorish king, this fierce band of infidels had ranged the streets almost without opposition, and were making their way to the gates to throw them open to the army.* They were chosen men from among the Moorish forces, several of them gallant knights of the proudest families of Granada. Their footsteps through the city were in a manner printed in blood, and they were tracked by the bodies of those they had killed and wounded. They had attained the gate; most of the guard had fallen beneath their scimetars; a moment more and Alhama would have been thrown open to the enemy.
* Zurita, lib. 20, c. 43.
Just at this juncture Don Alonzo Ponce and Pedro de Pineda reached the spot with their forces. The Moors had the enemy in front and rear; they placed themselves back to back, with their banner in the centre. In this way they fought with desperate and deadly determination, making a rampart around them with the slain. More Christian troops arrived and hemmed them in, but still they fought, without asking for quarter. As their number decreased they serried their circle still closer, defending their banner from assault, and the last Moor died at his post grasping the standard of the Prophet. This standard was displayed from the walls, and the turbaned heads of the Moors were thrown down to the besiegers.*
* Pedro de Pineda received the honor of knighthood from the hand of King Ferdinand for his valor on this occasion (Alonzo Ponce was already knight.)—See Zuniga, Annales of Seville, lib. 12, an. 1482.
Muley Abul Hassan tore his beard with rage at the failure of this attempt and at the death of so many of his chosen cavaliers. He saw that all further effort was in vain; his scouts brought word that they had seen from the heights the long columns and flaunting banners of the Christian army approaching through the mountains. To linger would be to place himself between two bodies of the enemy. Breaking up his camp, therefore, in all haste, he gave up the siege of Alhama and hastened back to Granada; and the last clash of his cymbals scarce died upon the ear from the distant hills before the standard of the Duke of Medina Sidonia was seen emerging in another direction from the defiles of the mountains.
When the Christians in Alhama beheld their enemies retreating on one side and their friends advancing on the other, they uttered shouts of joy and hymns of thanksgiving, for it was as a sudden relief from present death. Harassed by several weeks of incessant vigil and fighting, suffering from scarcity of provisions and almost continual thirst, they resembled skeletons rather than living men. It was a noble and gracious spectacle—the meeting of those hitherto inveterate foes, the duke of Medina Sidonia and the marques of Cadiz. At sight of his magnanimous deliverer the marques melted into tears: all past animosities only gave the greater poignancy to present feelings of gratitude and admiration. The late deadly rivals clasped each other in their arms, and from that time forward were true and cordial friends.
While this generous scene took place between the commanders a sordid contest arose among their troops. The soldiers who had come to the rescue claimed a portion of the spoils of Alhama, and so violent was the dispute that both parties seized their arms. The duke of Medina Sidonia interfered, and settled the question with his characteristic magnanimity. He declared that the spoil belonged to those who had captured the city. "We have taken the field," said he, "only for honor, for religion, and for the rescue of our countrymen and fellow-Christians, and the success of our enterprise is a sufficient and a glorious reward. If we desire booty, there are sufficient Moorish cities yet to be taken to enrich us all." The soldiers were convinced by the frank and chivalrous reasoning of the duke; they replied to his speech by acclamations, and the transient broil was happily appeased.
The marchioness of Cadiz, with the forethought of a loving wife, had despatched her major-domo with the army with a large supply of provisions. Tables were immediately spread beneath the tents, where the marques gave a banquet to the duke and the cavaliers who had accompanied him, and nothing but hilarity prevailed in this late scene of suffering and death.
A garrison of fresh troops was left in Alhama, and the veterans who had so valiantly captured and maintained it returned to their homes burdened with precious booty. The marques and duke, with their confederate cavaliers, repaired to Antiquera, where they were received with great distinction by the king, who honored the marques of Cadiz with signal marks of favor. The duke then accompanied his late enemy, but now most zealous and grateful friend, the marques of Cadiz, to his town of Marchena, where he received the reward of his generous conduct in the thanks and blessings of the marchioness. The marques celebrated a sumptuous feast in honor of his guest; for a day and night his palace was thrown open and was the scene of continual revel and festivity. When the duke departed for his estates at St. Lucar the marques attended him for some distance on his journey, and when they separated it was as the parting scene of brothers. Such was the noble spectacle exhibited to the chivalry of Spain by these two illustrious rivals. Each reaped universal renown from the part he had performed in the campaign—the marques from having surprised and captured one of the most important and formidable fortresses of the kingdom of Granada, and the duke from having subdued his deadliest foe by a great act of magnanimity.
EVENTS AT GRANADA, AND RISE OF THE MOORISH KING, BOABDIL EL CHICO.
The Moorish king, Abul Hassan, returned, baffled and disappointed, from before the walls of Alhama, and was received with groans and smothered execrations by the people of Granada. The prediction of the santon was in every mouth, and appeared to be rapidly fulfilling, for the enemy was already strongly fortified in Alhama, in the very heart of the kingdom. At the same time, the nobles who had secretly conspired to depose the old king and elevate his son Boabdil to the throne had matured their plans in concert with the prince, who had been joined in Guadix by hosts of adherents. An opportunity soon presented to carry their plans into operation.
Muley Abul Hassan had a royal country palace, with gardens and fountains, called the Alixares, situated on the Cerro del Sol, or Mountain of the Sun, a height the ascent to which leads up from the Alhambra, but which towers far above that fortress, and looks down as from the clouds upon it and upon the subjacent city of Granada. It was a favorite retreat of the Moorish kings to inhale the pure mountain-breezes and leave far below the din and turmoil of the city; Muley Abul Hassan had passed a day among its bowers, in company with his favorite wife Zoraya, when toward evening he heard a strange sound rising from the city, like the gathering of a storm or the sullen roar of the ocean. Apprehensive of evil, he ordered the officers of his guard to descend with all speed to the city and reconnoitre. The intelligence brought back was astounding. A civil war was raging in the city. Boabdil had been brought from Guadix by the conspirators, the foremost of whom were the gallant race of the Abencerrages. He had entered the Albaycin in triumph, and been hailed with rapture and proclaimed king in that populous quarter of the city. Abul Cacim Vanegas, the vizier, at the head of the royal guards had attacked the rebels, and the noise which had alarmed the king was the din of fighting in the streets and squares.
Muley Abul Hassan hastened to descend to the Alhambra, confident that, ensconced in that formidable fortress, he could soon put an end to the rash commotion. To his surprise and dismay, he found the battlements lined with hostile troops: Aben Comixa, the alcayde, had declared in favor of Boabdil and elevated his standard on the towers: thus cut off from his stronghold, the old monarch was fain to return to the Alixares.
The conflict lasted throughout the night with carnage on both sides. In the morning Abul Cacim, driven out of the city, appeared before the old king with his broken squadrons, and told him there was no safety but in flight. "Allah Akbar!" (God is great!) exclaimed old Muley; "it is in vain to contend against what is written in the book of fate. It was predestined that my son should sit upon the throne—Allah forfend the rest of the prediction." So saying, he made a hasty retreat, escorted by Abul Cacim Vanegas and his troops, who conducted him to the castle of Mondujar in the valley of Locrin. Here he was joined by many powerful cavaliers, relatives of Abul Cacim and partisans of Zoraya, among whom were Cid Hiaya, Aben Jamy, and Reduan Vanegas, men who had alcaydes, vassals, at their command, and possessed great influence in Almeria and Baza. He was joined also by his brother Abdallah, commonly called El Zagal, or the Valiant, who was popular in many parts of the kingdom. All these offered to aid him with their swords in suppressing the rebellion.
Thus reinforced, Muley Abul Hassan determined on a sudden blow for the recovery of his throne and the punishment of the rebels. He took his measures with that combination of dexterity and daring which formed his character, and arrived one night under the walls of Granada with five hundred chosen followers. Scaling the walls of the Alhambra, he threw himself with sanguinary fury into its silent courts. The sleeping inmates were roused from their repose only to fall by the exterminating scimetar. The rage of Abul Hassan spared neither age nor rank nor sex; the halls resounded with shrieks and yells, and the fountains ran red with blood. The alcayde, Aben Comixa, retreated to a strong tower with a few of the garrison and inhabitants. The furious Abul Hassan did not lose time in pursuing him; he was anxious to secure the city and to wreak his vengeance on its rebellious inhabitants. Descending with his bloody band into the streets, he cut down the defenceless inhabitants as, startled from their sleep, they rushed forth to learn the cause of the alarm. The city was soon completely roused; the people flew to arms; lights blazed in every street, revealing the scanty number of this band that had been dealing such fatal vengeance in the dark. Muley Abul Hassan had been mistaken in his conjectures: the great mass of the people, incensed by his tyranny, were zealous in favor of his son. A violent but transient conflict took place in the streets and squares: many of the followers of Abul Hassan were slain, the rest driven out of the city, and the old monarch, with the remnant of his band, retreated to his loyal city of Malaga.
Such was the commencement of those great internal feuds and divisions which hastened the downfall of Granada. The Moors became separated into two hostile factions, headed by the father and the son, the latter of whom was called by the Spaniards "El Rey Chico," or the Young King; but, though bloody encounters took place between them, they never failed to act with all their separate force against the Christians as a common enemy whenever an opportunity occurred.
ROYAL EXPEDITION AGAINST LOXA.
King Ferdinand held a council of war at Cordova, where it was deliberated what was to be done with Alhama. Most of the council advised that it should be demolished, inasmuch as, being in the centre of the Moorish kingdom, it would be at all times liable to attack, and could only be maintained by a powerful garrison and at a vast expense. Queen Isabella arrived at Cordova in the midst of these deliberations, and listened to them with surprise and impatience. "What!" said she, "destroy the first fruits of our victories? Abandon the first place we have wrested from the Moors? Never let us suffer such an idea to occupy our minds. It would argue fear or feebleness, and give new courage to the enemy. You talk of the toil and expense of maintaining Alhama. Did we doubt on undertaking this war that it was to be one of infinite cost, labor, and bloodshed? And shall we shrink from the cost the moment a victory is obtained and the question is merely to guard or abandon its glorious trophy? Let us hear no more about the destruction of Alhama; let us maintain its walls sacred, as a stronghold granted us by Heaven in the centre of this hostile land; and let our only consideration be how to extend our conquest and capture the surrounding cities."
The language of the queen infused a more lofty and chivalrous spirit into the royal council. Preparations were made to maintain Alhama at all risk and expense, and King Ferdinand appointed as alcayde Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero, senior of the house of Palma, supported by Diego Lopez de Ayala, Pero Ruiz de Alarcon, and Alonso Ortis, captains of four hundred lances and a body of one thousand foot, supplied with provisions for three months.
Ferdinand resolved also to lay siege to Loxa, or Loja, a city of great strength at no great distance from Alhama, and all-important to its protection. It was, in fact, a military point situated in a pass of the mountains between the kingdoms of Granada and Castile, and commanded a main entrance to the Vega. The Xenil flowed by its walls, and it had a strong castle or citadel built on a rock. In preparing for the siege of this formidable place Ferdinand called upon all the cities and towns of Andalusia and Estramadura, and the domains of the orders of Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcantara, and of the priory of San Juan, and the kingdom of Toledo, and beyond to the cities of Salamanca, Toro, and Valladolid, to furnish, according to their repartimientos or allotments, a certain quantity of bread, wine, and cattle to be delivered at the royal camp before Loxa, one half at the end of June and one half in July. These lands, also, together with Biscay and Guipuscoa, were ordered to send reinforcements of horse and foot, each town furnishing its quota, and great diligence was used in providing lombards, powder, and other warlike munitions.
The Moors were no less active in their preparations, and sent missives into Africa entreating supplies and calling upon the Barbary princes to aid them in this war of the faith. To intercept all succor, the Castilian sovereigns stationed an armada of ships and galleys in the Straits of Gibraltar under the command of Martin Diaz de Mina and Carlos de Valera, with orders to scour the Barbary coast and sweep every Moorish sail from the sea.
While these preparations were making, Ferdinand made an incursion at the head of his army into the kingdom of Granada, and laid waste the Vega, destroying its hamlets and villages, ravaging its fields of grain, and driving away the cattle.
It was about the end of June that King Ferdinand departed from Cordova to sit down before the walls of Loxa. So confident was he of success that he left a great part of the army at Ecija, and advanced with but five thousand cavalry and eight thousand infantry. The marques of Cadiz, a warrior as wise as he was valiant, remonstrated against employing so small a force, and indeed was opposed to the measure altogether, as being undertaken precipitately and without sufficient preparation. King Ferdinand, however, was influenced by the counsel of Don Diego de Merlo, and was eager to strike a brilliant and decided blow. A vainglorious confidence prevailed about this time among the Spanish cavaliers; they overrated their own prowess, or rather they undervalued and despised their enemy. Many of them believed that the Moors would scarcely remain in their city when they saw the Christian troops advancing to assail it. The Spanish chivalry, therefore, marched gallantly and fearlessly, and almost carelessly, over the border, scantily supplied with the things needful for a besieging army in the heart of an enemy's country. In the same negligent and confident spirit they took up their station before Loxa.
The country around was broken and hilly, so that it was extremely difficult to form a combined camp. The river Xenil, which runs by the town, was compressed between high banks, and so deep as to be fordable with extreme difficulty; and the Moors had possession of the bridge. The king pitched his tents in a plantation of olives on the banks of the river; the troops were distributed in different encampments on the heights, but separated from each other by deep rocky ravines, so as to be incapable of yielding each other prompt assistance. There was no room for the operations of the cavalry. The artillery also was so injudiciously placed as to be almost entirely useless. Alonso of Aragon, duke of Villahermosa and illegitimate brother of the king, was present at the siege, and disapproved of the whole arrangement. He was one of the most able generals of his time, and especially renowned for his skill in battering fortified places. He recommended that the whole disposition of the camp should be changed, and that several bridges should be thrown across the river. His advice was adopted, but slowly and negligently followed, so that it was rendered of no avail. Among other oversights in this hasty and negligent expedition, the army had no supply of baked bread, and in the hurry of encampment there was no time to erect furnaces. Cakes were therefore hastily made and baked on the coals, and for two days the troops were supplied in this irregular way.
King Ferdinand felt, too late, the insecurity of his position, and endeavored to provide a temporary remedy. There was a height near the city, called by the Moors Santo Albohacen, which was in front of the bridge. He ordered several of his most valiant cavaliers to take possession of this height and to hold it as a check upon the enemy and a protection to the camp. The cavaliers chosen for this distinguished and perilous post were the marques of Cadiz, the marques of Villena, Don Roderigo Tellez Giron, master of Calatrava, his brother the count of Urena, and Don Alonso de Aguilar. These valiant warriors and tried companions-in-arms led their troops with alacrity to the height, which soon glittered with the array of arms, and was graced by several of the most redoubtable pennons of warlike Spain.
Loxa was commanded at this time by an old Moorish alcayde whose daughter was the favorite wife of Boabdil. The name of this Moor was Ibrahim Ali Atar, but he was generally known among the Spaniards as Alatar. He had grown gray in border warfare, was an implacable enemy of the Christians, and his name had long been the terror of the frontier. Lord of Zagra and in the receipt of rich revenues, he expended them all in paying scouts and spies and maintaining a small but chosen force with which to foray into the Christian territories; and so straitened was he at times by these warlike expenses that when his daughter married Boabdil her bridal dress and jewels had to be borrowed. He was now in the ninetieth year of his age, yet indomitable in spirit, fiery in his passions, sinewy and powerful in frame, deeply versed in warlike stratagem, and accounted the best lance in all Mauritania. He had three thousand horsemen under his command, veteran troops with whom he had often scoured the borders, and he daily expected the old Moorish king with reinforcements.
Old Ali Atar had watched from his fortress every movement of the Christian army, and had exulted in all the errors of its commanders: when he beheld the flower of Spanish chivalry glittering about the height of Albohacen, his eye flashed with exultation. "By the aid of Allah," said he, "I will give those pranking cavaliers a rouse."
Ali Atar privately and by night sent forth a large body of his chosen troops to lie in ambush near one of the skirts of Albohacen. On the fourth day of the siege he sallied across the bridge and made a feint attack upon the height. The cavaliers rushed impetuously forth to meet him, leaving their encampment almost unprotected. Ali Atar wheeled and fled, and was hotly pursued. When the Christian cavaliers had been drawn a considerable distance from their encampment, they heard a vast shout behind them, and, looking round, beheld their encampment assailed by the Moorish force which had been placed in ambush, and which had ascended a different side of the hill. The cavaliers desisted from the pursuit, and hastened to prevent the plunder of their tents. Ali Atar, in his turn, wheeled and pursued them, and they were attacked in front and rear on the summit of the hill. The contest lasted for an hour; the height of Albohacen was red with blood; many brave cavaliers fell, expiring among heaps of the enemy. The fierce Ali Atar fought with the fury of a demon until the arrival of more Christian forces compelled him to retreat into the city. The severest loss to the Christians in this skirmish was that of Roderigo Tellez Giron, grand master of Calatrava, whose burnished armor, emblazoned with the red cross of his order, made him a mark for the missiles of the enemy. As he was raising his arm to make a blow an arrow pierced him just beneath the shoulder, at the open part of the (1) corselet. The lance and bridle fell from his hands, he faltered in his saddle, and would have fallen to the ground, but was caught by Pedro Gasca, a cavalier of Avila, who conveyed him to his tent, where he died. The king and queen and the whole kingdom mourned his death, for he was in the freshness of his youth, being but twenty-four years of age, and had proved himself a gallant and high-minded cavalier. A melancholy group collected about his (2) corpse on the bloody height of Albohacen: the knights of Calatrava mourned him as a commander; the cavaliers who were encamped on the height lamented him as their companion-in-arms in a service of peril; while the count de Urena grieved over him with the tender affection of a brother.
King Ferdinand now perceived the wisdom of the opinion of the marques of Cadiz, and that his force was quite insufficient for the enterprise. To continue his camp in its present unfortunate position would cost him the lives of his bravest cavaliers, if not a total defeat in case of reinforcements to the enemy. He called a council of war late in the evening of Saturday, and it was determined to withdraw the army early the next morning to Rio Frio, a short distance from the city, and there wait for additional troops from Cordova.
The next morning early the cavaliers on the height of Albohacen began to strike their tents. No sooner did Ali Atar behold this than he sallied forth to attack them. Many of the Christian troops, who had not heard of the intention to change the camp, seeing the tents struck and the Moors sallying forth, supposed that the enemy had been reinforced in the night, and that the army was on the point of retreating. Without stopping to ascertain the truth or to receive orders they fled in dismay, spreading confusion through the camp, nor did they halt until they had reached the Rock of the Lovers, about seven leagues from Loxa.*
* Pulgar, Cronica.
The king and his commanders saw the imminent peril of the moment, and made face to the Moors, each commander guarding his quarter and repelling all assaults while the tents were struck and the artillery and ammunition conveyed away. The king, with a handful of cavaliers, galloped to a rising ground, exposed to the fire of the enemy, calling upon the flying troops and endeavoring in vain to rally them. Setting upon the Moors, he and his cavaliers charged them so vigorously, that they put a squadron to flight, slaying many with their swords and lances and driving others into the river, where they were drowned. The Moors, however, were soon reinforced, and returned in great numbers. The king was in danger of being surrounded, and twice owed his safety to the valor of Don Juan de Ribera, senior of Montemayor.
The marques of Cadiz beheld from a distance the peril of his sovereign. Summoning about seventy horsemen to follow him, he galloped to the spot, threw himself between the king and the enemy, and, hurling his lance, transpierced one of the most daring of the Moors. For some time he remained with no other weapon than his sword; his horse was wounded by an arrow and many of his followers were slain; but he succeeded in beating off the Moors and rescuing the king from imminent jeopardy, whom he then prevailed upon to retire to less dangerous ground.
The marques continued throughout the day to expose himself to the repeated assaults of the enemy: he was ever found in the place of the greatest danger, and through his bravery a great part of the army and camp was preserved from destruction.*
* Cura de los Palacios, c. 58.
It was a perilous day for the commanders, for in a retreat of the kind it is the noblest cavaliers who most expose themselves to save their people. The duke of Medina Celi was struck to the ground, but rescued by his troops. The count de Tendilla, whose tents were nearest to the city, received several wounds, and various other cavaliers of the most distinguished note were exposed to fearful jeopardy. The whole day was passed in bloody skirmishings, in which the hidalgos and cavaliers of the royal household distinguished themselves by their bravery: at length, the encampments being all broken up and most of the artillery and baggage removed, the bloody height of Albohacen was abandoned and the neighborhood of Loxa evacuated. Several tents, a quantity of provisions, and a few pieces of artillery were left upon the spot from the want of horses and mules to carry them off.
Ali Atar hung upon the rear of the retiring army, and harassed it until it reached Rio Frio; Ferdinand returned thence to Cordova, deeply mortified, though greatly benefited, by the severe lesson he had received, which served to render him more cautious in his campaigns and more diffident of fortune. He sent letters to all parts excusing his retreat, imputing it to the small number of his forces, and the circumstance that many of them were quotas sent from various cities, and not in royal pay; in the mean time, to console his troops for their disappointment and to keep up their spirits, he led them upon another inroad to lay waste the Vega of Granada.
HOW MULEY ABUL HASSAN MADE A FORAY INTO THE LANDS OF MEDINA SIDONIA, AND HOW HE WAS RECEIVED.
Muley Abul Hassan had mustered an army and marched to the relief of Loxa, but arrived too late; the last squadron of Ferdinand had already passed over the border. "They have come and gone," said he, "like a summer cloud, and all their vaunting has been mere empty thunder." He turned to make another attempt upon Alhama, the garrison of which was in the utmost consternation at the retreat of Ferdinand, and would have deserted the place had it not been for the courage and perseverance of the alcayde, Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero. That brave and loyal commander cheered up the spirits of his men and kept the old Moorish king at bay until the approach of Ferdinand, on his second incursion into the Vega, obliged him to make an unwilling retreat to Malaga.
Muley Abul Hassan felt that it would be in vain, with his inferior force, to oppose the powerful army of the Christian monarch, but to remain idle and see his territories laid waste would ruin him in the estimation of his people. "If we cannot parry," said he, "we can strike; if we cannot keep our own lands from being ravaged, we can ravage the lands of the enemy." He inquired and learnt that most of the chivalry of Andalusia, in their eagerness for a foray, had marched off with the king, and left their own country almost defenceless. The territories of the duke of Medina Sidonia were particularly unguarded: here were vast plains of pasturage covered with flocks and herds—the very country for a hasty inroad. The old monarch had a bitter grudge against the duke for having foiled him at Alhama. "I'll give this cavalier a lesson," said he, exultingly, "that will cure him of his love of campaigning." So he prepared in all haste for a foray into the country about Medina Sidonia.
Muley Abul Hassan sallied out of Malaga with fifteen hundred horse and six thousand foot, and took the way by the sea-coast, marching through Estiponia, and entering the Christian country between Gibraltar and Castellar. The only person that was likely to molest him on this route was one Pedro de Vargas, a shrewd, hardy, and vigilant soldier, alcayde of Gibraltar, and who lay ensconced in his old warrior rock as in a citadel. Muley Abul Hassan knew the watchful and daring character of the man, but had ascertained that his garrison was too small to enable him to make a sally, or at least to ensure him any success. Still, he pursued his march with great silence and caution; sent parties in advance to explore every pass where a foe might lie in ambush; cast many an anxious eye toward the old rock of Gibraltar as its cloud-capped summit was seen towering in the distance on his left; nor did he feel entirely at ease until he had passed through the broken and mountainous country of Castellar and descended into the plains. Here he encamped on the banks of the Celemin, and sent four hundred corredors, or fleet horsemen, armed with lances, to station themselves near Algeziras and keep a strict watch across the bay upon the opposite fortress of Gibraltar. If the alcayde attempted to sally forth, they were to waylay and attack him, being almost four times his supposed force, and were to send swift tidings to the camp. In the mean time two hundred corredors were sent to scour that vast plain called the Campina de Tarifa, abounding with flocks and herds, and two hundred more were to ravage the lands about Medina Sidonia. Muley Abul Hassan remained with the main body of the army as a rallying-point on the banks of the Celemin.
The foraging parties scoured the country to such effect that they came driving vast flocks and herds before them, enough to supply the place of all that had been swept from the Vega of Granada. The troops which had kept watch upon the rock of Gibraltar returned with word that they had not seen a Christian helmet stirring. The old king congratulated himself upon the secrecy and promptness with which he had conducted his foray, and upon having baffled the vigilance of Pedro de Vargas.
He had not been so secret, however, as he imagined; the watchful alcayde of Gibraltar had received notice of his movements, but his garrison was barely sufficient for the defence of his post. Luckily, there arrived at this juncture a squadron of the armed galleys, under Carlos de Valera, recently stationed in the Straits. Pedro de Vargas prevailed upon him to take charge of Gibraltar during his temporary absence, and forthwith sallied out at midnight at the head of seventy chosen horsemen. By his command alarm-fires were lighted on the mountains, signals that the Moors were on the ravage, at sight of which the peasants were accustomed to drive their flocks and herds to places of refuge. He sent couriers also spurring in every direction, summoning all capable of bearing arms to meet him at Castellar. This was a town strongly posted on a steep height, by which the Moorish king would have to return.
Muley Abul Hassan saw by the fires blazing on the mountains that the country was rising. He struck his tents, and pushed forward as rapidly as possible for the border; but he was encumbered with booty and with the vast cavalgada swept from the pastures of the Campina de Tarifa. His scouts brought him word that there were troops in the field, but he made light of the intelligence, knowing that they could only be those of the alcayde of Gibraltar, and that he had not more than a hundred horsemen in his garrison. He threw in advance two hundred and fifty of his bravest troops, and with them the alcaydes of Marabella and Casares. Behind this van-guard followed a great cavalgada of cattle, and in the rear marched the king with the main force of his little army.
It was near the middle of a sultry summer day when they approached Castellar. De Vargas was on the watch, and beheld, by an immense cloud of dust, that they were descending one of the heights of that wild and broken country. The van-guard and rear-guard were above half a league asunder, with the cavalgada between them, and a long and close forest hid them from each other. De Vargas saw that they could render but little assistance to each other in case of a sudden attack, and might be easily thrown into confusion. He chose fifty of his bravest horsemen, and, making a circuit, took his post secretly in a narrow glen opening into a defile between two rocky heights through which the Moors had to pass. It was his intention to suffer the van-guard and the cavalgada to pass, and to fall upon the rear.
While thus lying perdu six Moorish scouts, well mounted and well armed, entered the glen, examining every place that might conceal an enemy. Some of the Christians advised that they should slay these six men and retreat to Gibraltar. "No," said De Vargas; "I have come out for higher game than these; and I hope, by the aid of God and Santiago, to do good work this day. I know these Moors well, and doubt not but that they may readily be thrown into confusion."
By this time the six horsemen approached so near that they were on the point of discovering the Christian ambush. De Vargas gave the word, and ten horsemen rushed upon them; in an instant four of the Moors rolled in the dust; the other two put spurs to their steeds and fled toward their army, pursued by the ten Christians. About eighty of the Moorish van-guard came galloping to the relief of their companions; the Christians turned and fled toward their ambush. De Vargas kept his men concealed until the fugitives and their pursuers came clattering pell-mell into the glen. At a signal trumpet his men sallied forth with great heat and in close array. The Moors almost rushed upon their weapons before they perceived them; forty of the infidels were overthrown, the rest turned their back. "Forward!" cried De Vargas; "let us give the van-guard a brush before it can be joined by the rear." So saying, he pursued the flying Moors down hill, and came with such force and fury upon the advance-guard as to overturn many of them at the first encounter. As he wheeled off with his men the Moors discharged their lances, upon which he returned to the charge and made great slaughter. The Moors fought valiantly for a short time, until the alcaydes of Marabella and Casares were slain, when they gave way and fled for the rear-guard. In their flight they passed through the cavalgada of cattle, threw the whole in confusion, and raised such a cloud of dust that the Christians could no longer distinguish objects. Fearing that the king and the main body might be at hand, and finding that De Vargas was badly wounded, they contented themselves with despoiling the slain and taking above twenty-eight horses, and then retreated to Castellar.
When the routed Moors came flying back upon the rear-guard, Muley Abul Hassan feared that the people of Xeres were in arms. Several of his followers advised him to abandon the cavalgada and retreat by another road. "No," said the old king; "he is no true soldier who gives up his booty without fighting." Putting spurs to his horse, he galloped forward through the centre of the cavalgada, driving the cattle to the right and left. When he reached the field of battle, he found it strewed with the bodies of upward of one hundred Moors, among which were those of the two alcaydes. Enraged at the sight, he summoned all his crossbowmen and cavalry, pushed on to the very gates of Castellar, and set fire to two houses close to the walls. Pedro de Vargas was too severely wounded to sally forth in person, but he ordered out his troops, and there was brisk skirmishing under the walls, until the king drew off and returned to the scene of the recent encounter. Here he had the bodies of the principal warriors laid across mules, to be interred honorably at Malaga; the rest of the slain were buried on the field of battle. Then, gathering together the scattered cavalgada, he paraded it slowly, in an immense line, past the walls of Castellar by way of taunting his foe.
With all his fierceness, old Muley Abul Hassan had a gleam of warlike courtesy, and admired the hardy and soldier-like character of Pedro de Vargas. He summoned two Christian captives, and demanded what were the revenues of the alcayde of Gibraltar. They told him that, among other things, he was entitled to one out of every drove of cattle that passed his boundaries. "Allah forbid," cried the old monarch, "that so brave a cavalier should be defrauded of his dues!"
He immediately chose twelve of the finest cattle from the twelve droves which formed the cavalgada. These he gave in charge to an alfaqui to deliver to Pedro de Vargas. "Tell him," said he, "that I crave his pardon for not having sent these cattle sooner; but I have this moment learnt the nature of his rights, and I hasten to satisfy them with the punctuality due to so worthy a cavalier. Tell him, at the same time, that I had no idea the alcayde of Gibraltar was so active and vigilant in collecting his tolls."
The brave alcayde relished the stern soldier-like pleasantry of the old Moorish monarch. He ordered a rich silken vest and a scarlet mantle to be given to the alfaqui, and dismissed him with great courtesy. "Tell His Majesty," said he, "that I kiss his hands for the honor he has done me, and regret that my scanty force has not permitted me to give him a more signal reception on his coming into these parts. Had three hundred horsemen, whom I have been promised from Xeres, arrived in time, I might have served up an entertainment more befitting such a monarch. I trust, however, they will arrive in the course of the night, in which case His Majesty may be sure of a royal regale in the dawning."
Muley Abul Hassan shook his head when he received the reply of De Vargas. "Allah preserve us," said he, "from any visitation of these hard riders of Xeres! A handful of troops acquainted with the wild passes of these mountains may destroy an army encumbered as ours is with booty."
It was some relief to the king, however, to learn that the hardy alcayde of Gibraltar was too severely wounded to take the field in person. He immediately beat a retreat with all speed before the close of day, hurrying with such precipitation that the cavalgada was frequently broken and scattered among the rugged defiles of the mountains, and above five thousand of the cattle turned back and were regained by the Christians. Muley Abul Hassan returned triumphantly with the residue to Malaga, glorying in the spoils of the duke of Medina Sidonia.
King Ferdinand was mortified at finding his incursion into the Vega of Granada counterbalanced by this inroad into his dominions, and saw that there were two sides to the game of war, as to all other games. The only one who reaped real glory in this series of inroads and skirmishings was Pedro de Vargas, the stout alcayde of Gibraltar.*
* Alonzo de Palencia, 1. 28, c. 3, MS.
FORAY OF SPANISH CAVALIERS AMONG THE MOUNTAINS OF MALAGA.
The foray of old Muley Abul Hassan had touched the pride of the Andalusian chivalry, and they determined on retaliation. For this purpose a number of the most distinguished cavaliers assembled at Antiquera in the month of March, 1483. The leaders of the enterprise were, the gallant marques of Cadiz; Don Pedro Henriquez, adelantado of Andalusia; Don Juan de Silva, count of Cifuentes and bearer of the royal standard, who commanded in Seville; Don Alonso de Cardenas, master of the religious and military order of Santiago; and Don Alonso de Aguilar. Several other cavaliers of note hastened to take part in the enterprise, and in a little while about twenty-seven hundred horse and several companies of foot were assembled within the old warlike city of Antiquera, comprising the very flower of Andalusian chivalry.
A council of war was held by the chiefs to determine in what quarter they should strike a blow. The rival Moorish kings were waging civil war with each other in the vicinity of Granada, and the whole country lay open to inroads. Various plans were proposed by the different cavaliers. The marques of Cadiz was desirous of scaling the walls of Zahara and regaining possession of that important fortress. The master of Santiago, however, suggested a wider range and a still more important object. He had received information from his adalides, who were apostate Moors, that an incursion might be safely made into a mountainous region near Malaga called the Axarquia. Here were valleys of pasture-land well stocked with flocks and herds, and there were numerous villages and hamlets, which would be an easy prey. The city of Malaga was too weakly garrisoned and had too few cavalry to send forth any force in opposition; nay, he added, they might even extend their ravages to its very gates, and peradventure carry that wealthy place by sudden assault.
The adventurous spirits of the cavaliers were inflamed by this suggestion: in their sanguine confidence they already beheld Malaga in their power, and they were eager for the enterprise. The marques of Cadiz endeavored to interpose a little cool caution. He likewise had apostate adalides, the most intelligent and experienced on the borders: among these he placed especial reliance on one named Luis Amar, who knew all the mountains and valleys of the country. He had received from him a particular account of these mountains of the Axarquia.* Their savage and broken nature was a sufficient defence for the fierce people who inhabited them, who, manning their rocks and their tremendous passes, which were often nothing more than the deep dry beds of torrents, might set whole armies at defiance. Even if vanquished, they afforded no spoil to the victor. Their houses were little better than bare walls, and they would drive off their scanty flocks and herds to the fastnesses of the mountains.
* Pulgar, in his Chronicle, reverses the case, and makes the marques of Cadiz recommend the expedition to the Axarquia; but Fray Antonio Agapida is supported in his statement by that most veracious and contemporary chronicler, Andres Bernaldez, curate of Los Palacios.
The sober counsel of the marques, however, was overruled. The cavaliers, accustomed to mountain-warfare, considered themselves and their horses equal to any wild and rugged expedition, and were flushed with the idea of terminating their foray by a brilliant assault upon Malaga.
Leaving all heavy baggage at Antiquera, and all such as had horses too weak for this mountain-scramble, they set forth full of spirit and confidence. Don Alonso de Aguilar and the adelantado of Andalusia led the squadron of advance. The count of Cifuentes followed with certain of the chivalry of Seville. Then came the battalion of the most valiant Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz: he was accompanied by several of his brothers and nephews and many cavaliers who sought distinction under his banner, and this family band attracted universal attention and applause as they paraded in martial state through the streets of Antiquera. The rear-guard was led by Don Alonso Cardenas, master of Santiago, and was composed of the knights of his order and the cavaliers of Ecija, with certain men-at-arms of the Holy Brotherhood whom the king had placed under his command. The army was attended by a great train of mules, laden with provisions for a few days' supply until they should be able to forage among the Moorish villages. Never did a more gallant and self-confident little army tread the earth. It was composed of men full of health and vigor, to whom war was a pastime and delight. They had spared no expense in their equipments, for never was the pomp of war carried to a higher pitch than among the proud chivalry of Spain. Cased in armor richly inlaid and embossed, decked with rich surcoats and waving plumes, and superbly mounted on Andalusian steeds, they pranced out of Antiquera with banners flying and their various devices and armorial bearings ostentatiously displayed, and in the confidence of their hopes promised the inhabitants to enrich them with the spoils of Malaga.
In the rear of this warlike pageant followed a peaceful band intent upon profiting by the anticipated victories. They were not the customary wretches that hover about armies to plunder and strip the dead, but goodly and substantial traders from Seville, Cordova, and other cities of traffic. They rode sleek mules and were clad in goodly raiment, with long leather purses at their girdles well filled with pistoles and other golden coin. They had heard of the spoils wasted by the soldiery at the capture of Alhama, and were provided with moneys to buy up the jewels and precious stones, the vessels of gold and silver, and the rich silks and cloths that should form the plunder of Malaga. The proud cavaliers eyed these sons of traffic with great disdain, but permitted them to follow for the convenience of the troops, who might otherwise be overburdened with booty.
It had been intended to conduct this expedition with great celerity and secrecy, but the noise of the preparations had already reached the city of Malaga. The garrison, it is true, was weak, but it possessed a commander who was himself a host. This was Muley Abdallah, commonly called El Zagal, or the Valiant. He was younger brother of Muley Abul Hassan, and general of the few forces which remained faithful to the old monarch. He possessed equal fierceness of spirit with his brother, and surpassed him in craft and vigilance. His very name was a war-cry among his soldiery, who had the most extravagant opinion of his prowess.
El Zagal suspected that Malaga was the object of this noisy expedition. He consulted with old Bexir, a veteran Moor, who governed the city. "If this army of marauders should reach Malaga," said he, "we should hardly be able to keep them without its walls. I will throw myself with a small force into the mountains, rouse the peasantry, take possession of the passes, and endeavor to give these Spanish cavaliers sufficient entertainment upon the road."
It was on a Wednesday that the pranking army of high-mettled warriors issued forth from the ancient gates of Antiquera. They marched all day and night, making their way, secretly as they supposed, through the passes of the mountains. As the tract of country they intended to maraud was far in the Moorish territories, near the coast of the Mediterranean, they did not arrive there until late in the following day. In passing through these stern and lofty mountains their path was often along the bottom of a barranco, or deep rocky valley, with a scanty stream dashing along it among the loose rocks and stones which it had broken and rolled down in the time of its autumnal violence. Sometimes their road was a mere rambla, or dry bed of a torrent, cut deep into the mountains and filled with their shattered fragments. These barrancos and ramblas were overhung by immense cliffs and precipices, forming the lurking-places of ambuscades during the wars between the Moors and Spaniards, as in after times they have become the favorite haunts of robbers to waylay the unfortunate traveller.
As the sun went down the cavaliers came to a lofty part of the mountains, commanding to the right a distant glimpse of a part of the fair vega of Malaga, with the blue Mediterranean beyond, and they hailed it with exultation as a glimpse of the promised land. As the night closed in they reached the chain of little valleys and hamlets locked up among these rocky heights, and known among the Moors by the name of the Axarquia. Here their vaunting hopes were destined to meet with the first disappointment. The inhabitants had heard of their approach: they had conveyed away their cattle and effects, and with their wives and children had taken refuge in the towers and fastnesses of the mountains.
Enraged at their disappointment, the troops set fire to the deserted houses and pressed forward, hoping for better fortune as they advanced. Don Alonso de Aguilar and the other cavaliers in the van-guard spread out their forces to lay waste the country, capturing a few lingering herds of cattle, with the Moorish peasants who were driving them to some place of safety.
While this marauding party carried fire and sword in the advance and lit up the mountain-cliffs with the flames of the hamlets, the master of Santiago, who brought the rear-guard, maintained strict order, keeping his knights together in martial array, ready for attack or defence should an enemy appear. The men-at-arms of the Holy Brotherhood attempted to roam in quest of booty, but he called them back and rebuked them severely.
At length they came to a part of the mountain completely broken up by barrancos and ramblas of vast depth and shagged with rocks and precipices. It was impossible to maintain the order of march; the horses had no room for action, and were scarcely manageable, having to scramble from rock to rock and up and down frightful declivities where there was scarce footing for a mountain-goat. Passing by a burning village, the light of the flames revealed their perplexed situation. The Moors, who had taken refuge in a watch-tower on an impending height, shouted with exultation when they looked down upon these glistening cavaliers struggling and stumbling among the rocks. Sallying forth from their tower, they took possession of the cliffs which overhung the ravine and hurled darts and stones upon the enemy. It was with the utmost grief of heart that the good master of Santiago beheld his brave men falling like helpless victims around him, without the means of resistance or revenge. The confusion of his followers was increased by the shouts of the Moors multiplied by the echoes of every crag and cliff, as if they were surrounded by innumerable foes. Being entirely ignorant of the country, in their struggles to extricate themselves they plunged into other glens and defiles, where they were still more exposed to danger. In this extremity the master of Santiago despatched messengers in search of succor. The marques of Cadiz, like a loyal companion-in-arms, hastened to his aid with his cavalry: his approach checked the assaults of the enemy, and the master was at length enabled to extricate his troops from the defile.
In the mean time, Don Alonso de Aguilar and his companions, in their eager advance, had likewise got entangled in deep glens and the dry beds of torrents, where they had been severely galled by the insulting attacks of a handful of Moorish peasants posted on the impending precipices. The proud spirit of De Aguilar was incensed at having the game of war thus turned upon him, and his gallant forces domineered over by mountain-boors whom he had thought to drive, like their own cattle, to Antiquera. Hearing, however, that his friend the marques of Cadiz and the master of Santiago were engaged with the enemy, he disregarded his own danger, and, calling together his troops, returned to assist them, or rather to partake their perils. Being once more together, the cavaliers held a hasty council amidst the hurling of stones and the whistling of arrows, and their resolves were quickened by the sight from time to time of some gallant companion-in-arms laid low. They determined that there was no spoil in this part of the country to repay for the extraordinary peril, and that it was better to abandon the herds they had already taken, which only embarrassed their march, and to retreat with all speed to less dangerous ground.
The adalides, or guides, were ordered to lead the way out of this place of carnage. These, thinking to conduct them by the most secure route, led them by a steep and rocky pass, difficult for the foot-soldiers, but almost impracticable to the cavalry. It was overhung with precipices, from whence showers of stones and arrows were poured upon them, accompanied by savage yells which appalled the stoutest heart. In some places they could pass but one at a time, and were often transpierced, horse and rider, by the Moorish darts, impeding the progress of their comrades by their dying struggles. The surrounding precipices were lit up by a thousand alarm-fires: every crag and cliff had its flame, by the light of which they beheld their foes bounding from rock to rock and looking more like fiends than mortal men.
Either through terror and confusion or through real ignorance of the country their guides, instead of conducting them out of the mountains, led them deeper into their fatal recesses. The morning dawned upon them in a narrow rambla, its bottom formed of broken rocks, where once had raved along the mountain-torrent, while above there beetled great arid cliffs, over the brows of which they beheld the turbaned heads of their fierce and exulting foes. What a different appearance did the unfortunate cavaliers present from that of the gallant band that marched so vauntingly out of Antiquera! Covered with dust and blood and wounds, and haggard with fatigue and horror, they looked like victims rather than like warriors. Many of their banners were lost, and not a trumpet was heard to rally up their sinking spirits. The men turned with imploring eyes to their commanders, while the hearts of the cavaliers were ready to burst with rage and grief at the merciless havoc made among their faithful followers.
All day they made ineffectual attempts to extricate themselves from the mountains. Columns of smoke rose from the heights where in the preceding night had blazed the alarm-fire. The mountaineers assembled from every direction: they swarmed at every pass, getting in the advance of the Christians, and garrisoning the cliffs like so many towers and battlements.
Night closed again upon the Christians when they were shut up in a narrow valley traversed by a deep stream and surrounded by precipices which seemed to reach the skies, and on which blazed and flared the alarm-fires. Suddenly a new cry was heard resounding along the valley. "El Zagal! El Zagal!" echoed from cliff to cliff.
"What cry is that?" said the master of Santiago.
"It is the war-cry of El Zagal, the Moorish general," said an old Castilian soldier: "he must be coming in person, with the troops of Malaga."
The worthy master turned to his knights: "Let us die," said he, "making a road with our hearts, since we cannot with our swords. Let us scale the mountain and sell our lives dearly, instead of staying here to be tamely butchered."
So saying, he turned his steed against the mountain and spurred him up its flinty side. Horse and foot followed his example, eager, if they could not escape, to have at least a dying blow at the enemy. As they struggled up the height a tremendous storm of darts and stones was showered upon them by the Moors. Sometimes a fragment of rock came bounding and thundering down, ploughing its way through the centre of their host. The foot-soldiers, faint with weariness and hunger or crippled by wounds, held by the tails and manes of the horses to aid them in their ascent, while the horses, losing their foothold among the loose stones or receiving some sudden wound, tumbled down the steep declivity, steed, rider, and soldier rolling from crag to crag until they were dashed to pieces in the valley. In this desperate struggle the alferez or standard-bearer of the master, with his standard, was lost, as were many of his relations and his dearest friends. At length he succeeded in attaining the crest of the mountain, but it was only to be plunged in new difficulties. A wilderness of rocks and rugged dells lay before him beset by cruel foes. Having neither banner nor trumpet by which to rally his troops, they wandered apart, each intent upon saving himself from the precipices of the mountains and the darts of the enemy. When the pious master of Santiago beheld the scattered fragments of his late gallant force, he could not restrain his grief. "O God!" exclaimed he, "great is thine anger this day against thy servants. Thou hast converted the cowardice of these infidels into desperate valor, and hast made peasants and boors victorious over armed men of battle."
He would fain have kept with his foot-soldiers, and, gathering them together, have made head against the enemy, but those around him entreated him to think only of his personal safety. To remain was to perish without striking a blow; to escape was to preserve a life that might be devoted to vengeance on the Moors. The master reluctantly yielded to the advice. "O Lord of hosts!" exclaimed he again, "from thy wrath do I fly, not from these infidels: they are but instruments in thy hands to chastise us for our sins." So saying, he sent the guides in the advance, and, putting spurs to his horse, dashed through a defile of the mountains before the Moors could intercept him. The moment the master put his horse to speed, his troops scattered in all directions. Some endeavored to follow his traces, but were confounded among the intricacies of the mountain. They fled hither and thither, many perishing among the precipices, others being slain by the Moors, and others taken prisoners.
The gallant marques of Cadiz, guided by his trusty adalid, Luis Amar, had ascended a different part of the mountain. He was followed by his friend, Don Alonso de Aguilar, the adelantado, and the count of Cifuentes, but in the darkness and confusion the bands of these commanders became separated from each other. When the marques attained the summit, he looked around for his companions-in-arms, but they were no longer following him, and there was no trumpet to summon them. It was a consolation to the marques, however, that his brothers and several of his relations, with a number of his retainers, were still with him: he called his brothers by name, and their replies gave comfort to his heart.
His guide now led the way into another valley, where he would be less exposed to danger: when he had reached the bottom of it the marques paused to collect his scattered followers and to give time for his fellow-commanders to rejoin him. Here he was suddenly assailed by the troops of El Zagal, aided by the mountaineers from the cliffs. The Christians, exhausted and terrified, lost all presence of mind: most of them fled, and were either slain or taken captive. The marques and his valiant brothers, with a few tried friends, made a stout resistance. His horse was killed under him; his brothers, Don Diego and Don Lope, with his two nephews, Don Lorenzo and Don Manuel, were one by one swept from his side, either transfixed with darts and lances by the soldiers of El Zagal or crushed by stones from the heights. The marques was a veteran warrior, and had been in many a bloody battle, but never before had death fallen so thick and close around him. When he saw his remaining brother, Don Beltran, struck out of his saddle by a fragment of a rock and his horse running wildly about without his rider, he gave a cry of anguish and stood bewildered and aghast. A few faithful followers surrounded him and entreated him to fly for his life. He would still have remained, to have shared the fortunes of his friend Don Alonso de Aguilar and his other companions-in-arms, but the forces of El Zagal were between him and them, and death was whistling by on every wind. Reluctantly, therefore, he consented to fly. Another horse was brought him: his faithful adalid guided him by one of the steepest paths, which lasted for four leagues, the enemy still hanging on his traces and thinning the scanty ranks of his followers. At length the marques reached the extremity of the mountain-defiles, and with a haggard remnant of his men escaped by dint of hoof to Antiquera.
The count of Cifuentes, with a few of his retainers, in attempting to follow the marques of Cadiz wandered into a narrow pass, where they were completely surrounded by the band of El Zagal. The count himself was assailed by six of the enemy, against whom he was defending himself with desperation, when their leader, struck with the inequality of the fight, ordered the others to desist, and continued the combat alone. The count, already exhausted, was soon compelled to surrender; his brother, Don Pedro de Silva, and the few of his retainers who survived, were likewise taken prisoners. The Moorish cavalier who had manifested such a chivalrous spirit in encountering the count singly was (3) Reduan Vanegas, brother of the former vizier of Muley Abul Hassan, and one of the leaders of the faction of the sultana Zoraya.
The dawn of day found Don Alonso de Aguilar with a handful of his followers still among the mountains. They had attempted to follow the marques of Cadiz, but had been obliged to pause and defend themselves against the thickening forces of the enemy. They at length traversed the mountain, and reached the same valley where the marques had made his last disastrous stand. Wearied and perplexed, they sheltered themselves in a natural grotto under an overhanging rock, which kept off the darts of the enemy, while a bubbling fountain gave them the means of slaking their raging thirst and refreshing their exhausted steeds. As day broke the scene of slaughter unfolded its horrors. There lay the noble brothers and nephews of the gallant marques, transfixed with darts or gashed and bruised with unseemly wounds, while many other gallant cavaliers lay stretched out dead and dying around, some of them partly stripped and plundered by the Moors. De Aguilar was a pious knight, but his piety was not humble and resigned, like that of the worthy master of Santiago. He imprecated holy curses upon the infidels for having thus laid low the flower of Christian chivalry, and he vowed in his heart bitter vengeance upon the surrounding country.
By degrees the little force of De Aguilar was augmented by numbers of fugitives who issued from caves and chasms where they had taken refuge in the night. A little band of mounted knights was gradually formed, and, the Moors having abandoned the heights to collect the spoils of the slain, this gallant but forlorn squadron was enabled to retreat to Antiquera.
This disastrous affair lasted from Thursday evening, throughout Friday, the twenty-first of March, the festival of St. Benedict. It is still recorded in Spanish calendars as the defeat of the mountains of Malaga, and the spot where the greatest slaughter took place is called "la Cuesta de la Matanza," or the Hill of the Massacre. The principal leaders who survived returned to Antiquera. Many of the knights took refuge in Alhama and other towns: many wandered about the mountains for eight days, living on roots and herbs, hiding themselves during the day and sallying forth at night. So enfeebled and disheartened were they that they offered no resistance if attacked. Three or four soldiers would surrender to a Moorish peasant, and even the women of Malaga sallied forth and made prisoners. Some were thrown into the dungeons of frontier towns, others led captive to Granada, but by far the greater number were conducted to Malaga, the city they had threatened to attack. Two hundred and fifty principal cavaliers, alcaydes, commanders, and hidalgos of generous blood were confined in the alcazaba, or citadel, of Malaga to await their ransom, and five hundred and seventy of the common soldiery were crowded in an enclosure or courtyard of the alcazaba to be sold as slaves.*
* Cura de los Palacios.
Great spoils were collected of splendid armor and weapons taken from the slain or thrown away by the cavaliers in their flight, and many horses, magnificently caparisoned, together with numerous standards,—all which were paraded in triumph in the Moorish towns.
The merchants also who had come with the army, intending to traffic in the spoils of the Moors, were themselves made objects of traffic. Several of them were driven like cattle before the Moorish viragoes to the market of Malaga, and, in spite of all their adroitness in trade and their attempts to buy themselves off at a cheap ransom, they were unable to purchase their freedom without such draughts upon their money-bags at home as drained them to the very bottom.
EFFECTS OF THE DISASTERS AMONG THE MOUNTAINS OF MALAGA.
The people of Antiquera had scarcely recovered from the tumult of excitement and admiration caused by the departure of the gallant band of cavaliers upon their foray when they beheld the scattered wrecks flying for refuge to their walls. Day after day and hour after hour brought some wretched fugitive, in whose battered plight and haggard woebegone demeanor it was almost impossible to recognize the warrior who had lately issued so gayly and gloriously from their gates.
The arrival of the marques of Cadiz almost alone, covered with dust and blood, his armor shattered and defaced, his countenance the picture of despair, filled every heart with sorrow, for he was greatly beloved by the people. The multitude asked of his companions where was the band of brothers which had rallied round him as he went forth to the field, and when told that one by one they had been slaughtered at his side, they hushed their voices or spake to each other only in whispers as he passed, gazing at him in silent sympathy. No one attempted to console him in so great an affliction, nor did the good marques speak ever a word, but, shutting himself up, brooded in lonely anguish over his misfortune. It was only the arrival of Don Alonso de Aguilar that gave him a gleam of consolation, rejoicing to find that amidst the shafts of death which had fallen so thickly among his family his chosen friend and brother-in-arms had escaped uninjured.
For several days every eye was turned in fearful suspense toward the Moorish border, anxiously looking in every fugitive from the mountains for the lineaments of some friend or relative whose fate was yet a mystery. At length every hope and doubt subsided into certainty; the whole extent of this great calamity was known, spreading grief and consternation throughout the land and laying desolate the pride and hopes of palaces. It was a sorrow that visited the marble hall and silken pillow. Stately dames mourned over the loss of their sons, the joy and glory of their age, and many a fair cheek was blanched with woe which had lately mantled with secret admiration. "All Andalusia," says a historian of the time, "was overwhelmed by a great affliction; there was no drying of the eyes which wept in her."*
* Cura de los Palacios.
Fear and trembling reigned for a time along the frontier. Their spear seemed broken, their buckler cleft in twain: every border town dreaded an attack, and the mother caught her infant to her bosom when the watch-dog howled in the night, fancying it the war-cry of the Moor. All for a time seemed lost, and despondency even found its way to the royal breasts of Ferdinand and Isabella amidst the splendors of their court.
Great, on the other hand, was the joy of the Moors when they saw whole legions of Christian warriors brought captive into their towns by rude mountain-peasantry. They thought it the work of Allah in favor of the faithful. But when they recognized among the captives thus dejected and broken down some of the proudest of Christian chivalry; when they saw several of the banners and devices of the noblest houses of Spain, which they had been accustomed to behold in the foremost of the battle, now trailed ignominiously through their streets; when, in short, they witnessed the arrival of the count of Cifuentes, the royal standard-bearer of Spain, with his gallant brother, Don Pedro de Silva, brought prisoners into the gates of Granada,—there were no bounds to their exultation. They thought that the days of their ancient glory were about to return, and that they were to renew their career of triumph over the unbelievers.
The Christian historians of the time are sorely perplexed to account for this misfortune, and why so many Christian knights, fighting in the cause of the holy faith, should thus miraculously, as it were, be given captive to a handful of infidel boors, for we are assured that all this rout and destruction was effected by five hundred foot and fifty horse, and those mere mountaineers without science or discipline.* "It was intended," observes one historiographer, "as a lesson to their confidence and vainglory, overrating their own prowess and thinking that so chosen a band of chivalry had but to appear in the land of the enemy and conquer. It was to teach them that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that God alone giveth the victory."
* Cura de los Palacios.
The worthy father Fray Antonio Agapida, however, asserts it to be a punishment for the avarice of the Spanish warriors. They did not enter the kingdom of the infidels with the pure spirit of Christian knights, zealous only for the glory of the faith, but rather as greedy men of traffic, to enrich themselves by vending the spoils of the infidels. Instead of preparing themselves by confession and communion, and executing their testaments, and making donations and bequests to churches and convents, they thought only of arranging bargains and sales of their anticipated booty. Instead of taking with them holy monks to aid them with their prayers, they were followed by a train of trading-men to keep alive their worldly and sordid ideas, and to turn what ought to be holy triumphs into scenes of brawling traffic. Such is the opinion of the excellent Agapida, in which he is joined by that most worthy and upright of chroniclers, the curate of Los Palacios. Agapida comforts himself, however, with the reflection that this visitation was meant in mercy to try the Castilian heart, and to extract from its present humiliation the elements of future success, as gold is extracted from amidst the impurities of earth; and in this reflection he is supported by the venerable historian Pedro Abarca of the Society of Jesuits.*
* Abarca, Anales de Aragon, Rey 30, cap. 2, xA4 7.
HOW KING BOABDIL EL CHICO MARCHED OVER THE BORDER.
The defeat of the Christian cavaliers among the mountains of Malaga, and the successful inroad of Muley Abul Hassan into the lands of Medina Sidonia, had produced a favorable effect on the fortunes of the old monarch. The inconstant populace began to shout forth his name in the streets, and to sneer at the inactivity of his son Boabdil el Chico. The latter, though in the flower of his age and distinguished for vigor and dexterity in jousts and tournaments, had never yet fleshed his weapon in the field of battle; and it was murmured that he preferred the silken repose of the cool halls of the Alhambra to the fatigue and danger of the foray and the hard encampments of the mountains.
The popularity of these rival kings depended upon their success against the Christians, and Boabdil el Chico found it necessary to strike some signal blow to counterbalance the late triumph of his father. He was further incited by his father-in-law, Ali Atar, alcayde of Loxa, with whom the coals of wrath against the Christians still burned among the ashes of age, and had lately been blown into a flame by the attack made by Ferdinand on the city under his command.
Ali Atar informed Boabdil that the late discomfiture of the Christian knights had stripped Andalusia of the prime of her chivalry and broken the spirit of the country. All the frontier of Cordova and Ecija now lay open to inroad; but he especially pointed out the city of Lucena as an object of attack, being feebly garrisoned and lying in a country rich in pasturage, abounding in cattle and grain, in oil and wine. The fiery old Moor spoke from thorough information, for he had made many an incursion into these parts, and his very name was a terror throughout the country. It had become a by-word in the garrison of Loxa to call Lucena the garden of Ali Atar, for he was accustomed to forage its fertile territories for all his supplies.
Boabdil el Chico listened to the persuasions of this veteran of the borders. He assembled a force of nine thousand foot and seven hundred horse, most of them his own adherents, but many the partisans of his father; for both factions, however they might fight among themselves, were ready to unite in any expedition against the Christians. Many of the most illustrious and valiant of the Moorish nobility assembled round his standard, magnificently arrayed in sumptuous armor and rich embroidery, as though for a festival or a tilt of canes rather than an enterprise of iron war. Boabdil's mother, the sultana Ayxa la Horra, armed him for the field, and gave him her benediction as she girded his scimetar to his side. His favorite wife Morayma wept as she thought of the evils that might befall him. "Why dost thou weep, daughter of Ali Atar?" said the high-minded Ayxa: "these tears become not the daughter of a warrior nor the wife of a king. Believe me there lurks more danger for a monarch within the strong walls of a palace than within the frail curtains of a tent. It is by perils in the field that thy husband must purchase security on his throne."
But Morayma still hung upon his neck with tears and sad forebodings, and when he departed from the Alhambra she betook herself to her mirador, overlooking the Vega, whence she watched the army as it went in shining order along the road leading to Loxa, and every burst of warlike melody that came swelling on the breeze was answered by a gush of sorrow.
As the royal cavalcade issued from the palace and descended through the streets of Granada the populace greeted their youthful sovereign with shouts, anticipating deeds of prowess that would wither the laurels of his father. The appearance of Boabdil was well calculated to captivate the public eye, if we may judge from the description given by the abbot of Rute in his manuscript history of the House of Cordova. He was mounted on a superb white charger magnificently caparisoned. His corselets were of polished steel richly ornamented, studded with gold nails, and lined with crimson velvet. He wore a steel casque exquisitely chiselled and embossed; his scimetar and dagger of Damascus were of highest temper; he had a round buckler at his shoulder and bore a ponderous lance. In passing through the gate of Elvira, however, he accidentally broke his lance against the arch. At this certain of his nobles turned pale and entreated him to turn back, for they regarded it as an evil omen. Boabdil scoffed at their fears as idle fancies. He refused to take another spear, but drew forth his scimetar and led the way (adds Agapida) in an arrogant and haughty style, as though he would set both Heaven and earth at defiance. Another evil omen was sent to deter him from his enterprise: arriving at the rambla, or dry ravine, of Beyro, which is scarcely a bowshot from the city, a fox ran through the whole army and close by the person of the king, and, though a thousand bolts were discharged at it, escaped uninjured to the mountains. The principal courtiers now reiterated their remonstrances against proceeding; the king, however, was not to be dismayed by these portents, but continued to march forward.*
* Marmol, Rebel. de los Moros, lib. 1, c. xii., fol. 14.
At Loxa the army was reinforced by old Ali Atar with the chosen horsemen of his garrison and many of the bravest warriors of the border towns. The people of Loxa shouted with exultation when they beheld Ali Atar armed at all points and mounted on his Barbary steed, which had often borne him over the borders. The veteran warrior, with nearly a century of years upon his head, had all the fire and animation of youth at the prospect of a foray, and careered from rank to rank with the velocity of an Arab of the desert. The populace watched the army as it paraded over the bridge and wound into the passes of the mountains, and still their eyes were fixed upon the pennon of Ali Atar as if it bore with it an assurance of victory.
The Moorish army entered the Christian frontier by forced marches, hastily ravaging the country, driving off the flocks and herds, and making captives of the inhabitants. They pressed on furiously, and made the latter part of their march in the night, to elude observation and come upon Lucena by surprise. Boabdil was inexperienced in warfare, but had a veteran counsellor in his old father-in-law; for Ali Atar knew every secret of the country, and as he prowled through it his eye ranged over the land, uniting in its glare the craft of the fox with the sanguinary ferocity of the wolf. He had flattered himself that their march had been so rapid as to outstrip intelligence, and that Lucena would be an easy capture, when suddenly he beheld alarm-fires blazing upon the mountains. "We are discovered," said he to Boabdil; "the country will be up in arms; we have nothing left but to strike boldly for Lucena: it is but slightly garrisoned, and we may carry it by assault before it can receive assistance." The king approved of his counsel, and they marched rapidly for the gate of Lucena.