HOW THE COUNT DE CABRA SALLIED FORTH FROM HIS CASTLE IN QUEST OF KING BOABDIL.
Don Diego de Cordova, count of Cabra, was in the castle of Vaena, which, with the town of the same name, is situated on a lofty sun-burnt hill on the frontier of the kingdom of Cordova and but a few leagues from Lucena. The range of mountains of Horquera lies between them. The castle of Vaena was strong and well furnished with arms, and the count had a numerous band of vassals and retainers; for it behooved the noblemen of the frontiers in those times to be well prepared with man and horse, with lance and buckler, to resist the sudden incursions of the Moors. The count of Cabra was a hardy and experienced warrior, shrewd in council, prompt in action, rapid and fearless in the field. He was one of the bravest of cavaliers for an inroad, and had been quickened and sharpened in thought and action by living on the borders.
On the night of the 20th of April, 1483, the count was about to retire to rest when the watchman from the turret brought him word that there were alarm-fires on the mountains of Horquera, and that they were made on the signal-tower overhanging the defile through which the road passes to Cabra and Lucena.
The count ascended the battlement and beheld five lights blazing on the tower—a sign that there was a Moorish army attacking some place on the frontier. The count instantly ordered the alarm-bells to be sounded, and despatched couriers to rouse the commanders of the neighboring towns. He called upon his retainers to prepare for action, and sent a trumpet through the town summoning the men to assemble at the castle-gate at daybreak armed and equipped for the field.
Throughout the remainder of the night the castle resounded with the din of preparation. Every house in the town was in equal bustle, for in these frontier towns every house had its warrior, and the lance and buckler were ever hanging against the wall ready to be snatched down for instant service. Nothing was heard but the din of armorers, the shoeing of steeds, and furbishing up of weapons, and all night long the alarm-fires kept blazing on the mountains.
When the morning dawned the count of Cabra sallied forth at the head of two hundred and fifty cavaliers of the best families of Vaena, all well appointed, exercised in arms, and experienced in the warfare of the borders. There were besides twelve hundred foot-soldiers, brave and well-seasoned men of the same town. The count ordered them to hasten forward, whoever could make most speed, taking the road to Cabra, which was three leagues distant. That they might not loiter on the road he allowed none of them to break their fast until they arrived at that place. The provident count despatched couriers in advance, and the little army on reaching Cabra found tables spread with food and refreshments at the gates of the town. Here they were joined by Don Alonso de Cordova, senior of Zuheros.
Having made a hearty repast, they were on the point of resuming their march when the count discovered that in the hurry of his departure from home he had forgotten to bring the standard of Vaena, which for upward of eighty years had always been borne to battle by his family. It was now noon, and there was no time to return: he took, therefore, the standard of Cabra, the device of which is a goat, and which had not been seen in the wars for the last half century. When about to depart a courier came galloping at full speed, bringing missives to the count from his nephew, Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova, senior of Lucena and alcayde de los Donceles,* entreating him to hasten to his aid, as his town was beset by the Moorish king, Boabdil el Chico, with a powerful army, who were actually setting fire to the gates.
* The "Donceles" were young cavaliers who had been pages in the royal household, but now formed an elite corps in the army.
The count put his little army instantly in movement for Lucena, which is only one league from Cabra; he was fired with the idea of having the Moorish king in person to contend with. By the time he reached Lucena the Moors had desisted from the attack and were ravaging the surrounding country. He entered the town with a few of his cavaliers, and was received with joy by his nephew, whose whole force consisted but of eighty horse and three hundred foot. Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova was a young man, yet he was a prudent, careful, and capable officer. Having learnt, the evening before, that the Moors had passed the frontiers, he had gathered within his walls all the women and children from the environs, had armed the men, sent couriers in all directions for succor, and had lighted alarm-fires on the mountains.
Boabdil had arrived with his army at daybreak, and had sent in a message threatening to put the garrison to the sword if the place were not instantly surrendered. The messenger was a Moor of Granada, named Hamet, whom Don Diego had formerly known: he contrived to amuse him with negotiation to gain time for succor to arrive. The fierce old Ali Atar, losing all patience, had made an assault upon the town and stormed like a fury at the gate, but had been repulsed. Another and more serious attack was expected in the course of the night.
When the count de Cabra had heard this account of the situation of affairs, he turned to his nephew with his usual alacrity of manner, and proposed that they should immediately sally forth in quest of the enemy. The prudent Don Diego remonstrated at the rashness of attacking so great a force with a mere handful of men. "Nephew," said the count, "I came from Vaena with a determination to fight this Moorish king, and I will not be disappointed."
"At any rate," replied Don Diego, "let us wait but two hours, and we shall have reinforcements which have been promised me from Rambla, Santaella, Montilla, and other places in the neighborhood." "If we await these," said the hardy count, "the Moors will be off, and all our trouble will have been in vain. You may await them if you please; I am resolved on fighting."
The count paused for no reply, but in his prompt and rapid manner sallied forth to his men. The young alcayde de los Donceles, though more prudent than his ardent uncle, was equally brave; he determined to stand by him in his rash enterprise, and, summoning his little force, marched forth to join the count, who was already on the move. They then proceeded together in quest of the enemy.
The Moorish army had ceased ravaging the country, and was not to be seen, the neighborhood being hilly and broken with deep ravines. The count despatched six scouts on horseback to reconnoitre, ordering them to return with all speed on discovering the enemy, and by no means to engage in skirmishing with stragglers. The scouts, ascending a high hill, beheld the Moorish army in a valley behind it, the cavalry ranged in five battalions keeping guard, while the foot-soldiers were seated on the grass making a repast. They returned immediately with the intelligence.
The count now ordered the troops to march in the direction of the enemy. He and his nephew ascended the hill, and saw that the five battalions of Moorish cavalry had been formed into two, one of about nine hundred lances, the other of about six hundred. The whole force seemed prepared to march for the frontier. The foot-soldiers were already under way with many prisoners and a great train of mules and beasts of burden laden with booty. At a distance was Boabdil el Chico: they could not distinguish his person, but they knew him by his superb black and white charger, magnificently caparisoned, and by his being surrounded by a numerous guard sumptuously armed and attired. Old Ali Atar was careering about the valley with his usual impatience, hurrying the march of the loitering troops.
The eyes of the count de Cabra glistened with eager joy as he beheld the royal prize within his reach. The immense disparity of their forces never entered into his mind. "By Santiago!" said he to his nephew as they hastened down the hill, "had we waited for more forces the Moorish king and his army would have escaped us."
The count now harangued his men to inspirit them to this hazardous encounter. He told them not to be dismayed at the number of the Moors, for God often permitted the few to conquer the many, and he had great confidence that through the divine aid they were that day to achieve a signal victory which should win them both riches and renown. He commanded that no man should hurl his lance at the enemy, but should keep it in his hands and strike as many blows with it as he could. He warned them also never to shout except when the Moors did, for when both armies shouted together there was no perceiving which made the most noise and was the strongest. He desired his uncle Lope de Mendoza, and Diego de Cabrera, alcayde of Dona Mencia, to alight and enter on foot in the battalion of infantry to animate them to the combat. He appointed also the alcayde of Vaena and Diego de Clavijo, a cavalier of his household, to remain in the rear, and not to permit any one to lag behind, either to despoil the dead or for any other purpose.
Such were the orders given by this most adroit, active, and intrepid cavalier to his little army, supplying by admirable sagacity and subtle management the want of a more numerous force. His orders being given and all arrangements made, he threw aside his lance, drew his sword, and commanded his standard to be advanced against the enemy.
THE BATTLE OF LUCENA.
The Moorish king had descried the Spanish forces at a distance, although a slight fog prevented his seeing them distinctly and ascertaining their numbers. His old father-in-law, Ali Atar, was by his side, who, being a veteran marauder, was well acquainted with all the standards and armorial bearings of the frontiers. When the king beheld the ancient and long-disused banner of Cabra emerging from the mist, he turned to Ali Atar and demanded whose ensign it was. The old borderer was for once at a loss, for the banner had not been displayed in battle in his time. "In truth," replied he, after a pause, "I have been considering that standard for some time, but I confess I do not know it. It cannot be the ensign of any single commander or community, for none would venture single-handed to attack you. It appears to be a dog, which device is borne by the towns of Baeza and Ubeda. If it be so, all Andalusia is in movement against you, and I would advise you to retire."
The count de Cabra, in winding down the hill toward the Moors, found himself on much lower ground than the enemy: he ordered in all haste that his standard should be taken back, so as to gain the vantage-ground. The Moors, mistaking this for a retreat, rushed impetuously toward the Christians. The latter, having gained the height proposed, charged upon them at the same moment with the battle-cry of "Santiago!" and, dealing the first blows, laid many of the Moorish cavaliers in the dust.
The Moors, thus checked in their tumultuous assault, were thrown into confusion, and began to give way, the Christians following hard upon them. Boabdil el Chico endeavored to rally them. "Hold! hold! for shame!" cried he; "let us not fly, at least until we know our enemy." The Moorish chivalry were stung by this reproof, and turned to make front with the valor of men who feel that they are fighting under their monarch's eye.
At this moment, Lorenzo de Porres, alcayde of Luque, arrived with fifty horse and one hundred foot, sounding an Italian trumpet from among a copse of oak trees which concealed his force. The quick ear of old Ali Atar caught the note. "That is an Italian trumpet," said he to the king; "the whole world seems in arms against Your Highness!"
The trumpet of Lorenzo de Porres was answered by that of the count de Cabra in another direction, and it seemed to the Moors as if they were between two armies. Don Lorenzo, sallying from among the oaks, now charged upon the enemy: the latter did not wait to ascertain the force of this new foe; the confusion, the variety of alarums, the attacks from opposite quarters, the obscurity of the fog, all conspired to deceive them as to the number of their adversaries. Broken and dismayed, they retreated fighting, and nothing but the presence and remonstrances of the king prevented their retreat from becoming a headlong flight. If Boabdil had displayed little of the talents of a general in the outset of his enterprise, he manifested courage and presence of mind amid the disasters of its close. Seconded by a small body of cavalry, the choicest and most loyal of his guards, he made repeated stand against the press of the foe in a skirmishing retreat of about three leagues, and the way was strewn with the flower of his chivalry. At length they came to the brook of Martin Gonzales (or Mingozales, as it is called by the Moorish chroniclers), which, swollen by recent rain, was now a deep and turbid torrent. Here a scene of confusion ensued. Horse and foot precipitated themselves into the stream. Some of the horses stuck fast in the mire and blocked up the ford; others trampled down the foot-soldiers; many were drowned and more carried down the stream. Such of the foot-soldiers as gained the opposite side immediately took to flight; the horsemen, too, who had struggled through the stream, gave reins to their steeds and scoured for the frontier.
The little band of devoted cavaliers about the king serried their forces to keep the enemy in check, fighting with them hand to hand until he should have time to cross. In the tumult his horse was shot down, and he became environed in the throng of foot-soldiers struggling forward to the ford and in peril from the lances of their pursuers. Conscious that his rich array made him a conspicuous object, he retreated along the bank of the river, and endeavored to conceal himself in a thicket of willows and tamarisks. Thence, looking back, he beheld his loyal band at length give way, supposing, no doubt, he had effected his escape. They crossed the ford, followed pell-mell by the enemy, and several of them were struck down in the stream.
While Boabdil was meditating to throw himself into the water and endeavor to swim across, he was discovered by Martin Hurtado, regidor of Lucena, a brave cavalier who had been captive in the prisons of Granada and exchanged for a Christian knight. Hurtado attacked the king with a pike, but was kept at bay until, seeing other soldiers approaching, Boabdil cried for quarter, proclaiming himself a person of high rank who would pay a noble ransom. At this moment came up several men of Vaena, of the troop of the count de Cabra. Hearing the talk of ransom and noticing the splendid attire of the Moor, they endeavored to secure for themselves so rich a prize. One of them seized hold of Boabdil, but the latter resented the indignity by striking him to the earth with a blow of his poniard. Others of Hurtado's townsmen coming up, a contest arose between the men of Lucena and Vaena as to who had a right to the prisoner. The noise brought Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova to the spot, who by his authority put an end to the altercation. Boabdil, finding himself unknown by all present, concealed his quality, giving himself out as the son of Aben Alnayer, a cavalier of the royal household.* Don Diego treated him with great courtesy, put a red band round his neck in sign of his being a captive, and sent him under an escort to the castle of Lucena where his quality would be ascertained, his ransom arranged, and the question settled as to who had made him prisoner.
* Garibay, lib. 40, cap 31.
This done, the count put spurs to his horse and hastened to rejoin the count de Cabra, who was in hot pursuit of the enemy. He overtook him at a stream called Reanaul, and they continued together to press on the skirts of the flying army during the remainder of the day. The pursuit was almost as hazardous as the battle, for had the enemy at any time recovered from their panic, they might, by a sudden reaction, have overwhelmed the small force of their pursuers. To guard against this peril, the wary count kept his battalion always in close order, and had a body of a hundred chosen lancers in the advance. The Moors kept up a Parthian retreat; several times they turned to make battle, but, seeing this solid body of steeled warriors pressing upon them, they again took to flight.
The main retreat of the army was along the valley watered by the Xenil and opening through the mountains of Algaringo to the city of Loxa. The alarm-fires of the preceding night had aroused the country; every man snatched sword and buckler from the wall, and the towns and villages poured forth their warriors to harass the retreating foe. Ali Atar kept the main force of the army together, and turned fiercely from time to time upon his pursuers: he was like a wolf hunted through the country he had often made desolate by his maraudings.
The alarm of this invasion had reached the city of Antiquera, where were several of the cavaliers who had escaped from the carnage in the mountains of Malaga. Their proud minds were festering with their late disgrace, and their only prayer was for vengeance on the infidels. No sooner did they hear of the Moor being over the border than they were armed and mounted for action. Don Alonso de Aguilar led them forth—a small body of but forty horsemen, but all cavaliers of prowess and thirsting for revenge. They came upon the foe on the banks of the Xenil where it winds through the valleys of Cordova. The river, swelled by the late rains, was deep and turbulent and only fordable at certain places. The main body of the army was gathered in confusion on the banks, endeavoring to ford the stream, protected by the cavalry of Ali Atar.
No sooner did the little band of Alonso de Aguilar come in sight of the Moors than fury flashed from their eyes. "Remember the mountains of Malaga!" cried they to each other as they rushed to combat. Their charge was desperate, but was gallantly resisted. A scrambling and bloody fight ensued, hand to hand and sword to sword, sometimes on land, sometimes in the water. Many were lanced on the banks; others, throwing themselves into the river, sank with the weight of their armor and were drowned; some, grappling together, fell from their horses, but continued their struggle in the waves, and helm and turban rolled together down the stream. The Moors were far greater in number, and among them were many warriors of rank; but they were disheartened by defeat, while the Christians were excited even to desperation.
Ali Atar alone preserved all his fire and energy amid his reverses. He had been enraged at the defeat of the army and the ignominious flight he had been obliged to make through a country which had so often been the scene of his exploits; but to be thus impeded in his flight and harassed and insulted by a mere handful of warriors roused the violent passions of the old Moor to perfect frenzy. He had marked Don Alonso de Aguilar dealing his blows (says Agapida) with the pious vehemence of a righteous knight, who knows that in every wound inflicted upon the infidels he is doing God service. Ali Atar spurred his steed along the bank of the river to come upon Don Alonso by surprise. The back of the warrior was toward him, and, collecting all his force, the Moor hurled his lance to transfix him on the spot. The lance was not thrown with the usual accuracy of Ali Atar: it tore away a part of the cuirass of Don Alonso, but failed to inflict a wound. The Moor rushed upon Don Alonso with his scimetar, but the latter was on the alert and parried his blow. They fought desperately upon the borders of the river, alternately pressing each other into the stream and fighting their way again up the bank. Ali Atar was repeatedly wounded, and Don Alonso, having pity on his age, would have spared his life: he called upon him to surrender. "Never," cried Ali Atar, "to a Christian dog!" The words were scarce out of his mouth when the sword of Don Alonso clove his turbaned head and sank deep into the brain. He fell dead without a groan; his body rolled into the Xenil, nor was it ever found or recognized.* Thus fell Ali Atar, who had long been the terror of Andalusia. As he had hated and warred upon the Christians all his life, so he died in the very act of bitter hostility.
* Cura de los Palacios.
The fall of Ali Atar put an end to the transient stand of the cavalry. Horse and foot mingled together in the desperate struggle across the Xenil, and many were trampled down and perished beneath the waves. Don Alonso and his band continued to harass them until they crossed the frontier, and every blow struck home to the Moors seemed to lighten the load of humiliation and sorrow which had weighed heavy on their hearts.
In this disastrous rout the Moors lost upward of five thousand killed and made prisoners, many of whom were of the most noble lineages of Granada; numbers fled to rocks and mountains, where they were subsequently taken.
Boabdil remained a prisoner in the state tower of the citadel of Lucena under the vigilance of Alonso de Rueda, esquire of the alcayde of the Donceles; his quality was still unknown until the 24th of April, three days after the battle. On that day some prisoners, natives of Granada, just brought in, caught a sight of the unfortunate Boabdil despoiled of his royal robes. Throwing themselves at his feet, they broke forth in loud lamentations, apostrophizing him as their lord and king.
Great was the astonishment and triumph of the count de Cabra and Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova on learning the rank of the supposed cavalier. They both ascended to the castle to see that he was lodged in a style befitting his quality. When the good count beheld in the dejected captive before him the monarch who had so recently appeared in royal splendor surrounded by an army, his generous heart was touched by sympathy. He said everything to comfort him that became a courteous and Christian knight, observing that the same mutability of things which had suddenly brought him low might as rapidly restore him to prosperity, since in this world nothing is stable, and sorrow, like joy, has its allotted term.
The action here recorded was called by some the battle of Lucena, by others the battle of the Moorish king, because of the capture of Boabdil. Twenty-two banners, taken on the occasion, were borne in triumph into Vaena on the 23d of April, St. George's Day, and hung up in the church. There they remain (says a historian of after times) to this day. Once a year, on the festival of St. George, they are borne about in procession by the inhabitants, who at the same time give thanks to God for this signal victory granted to their forefathers.*
* Several circumstances relative to the capture of Boabdil vary in this from the first edition, in consequence of later light thrown on the subject by Don Miguel Lafuente Alcantara in his History of Granada. He has availed himself much of various ancient documents relative to the battle, especially the History of the House of Cordova by the abbot of Rute, a descendant of that family—a rare manuscript of which few copies exist.
The question as to the person entitled to the honor and reward for having captured the king long continued a matter of dispute between the people of Lucena and Vaena. On the 20th of October, 1520, about thirty-seven years after the event, an examination of several witnesses to the fact took place before the chief justice of the fortress of Lucena, at the instance of Bartolomy Hurtado, the son of Martin, when the claim of his father was established by Dona Leonora Hernandez, lady in attendant on the mother of the alcayde of los Donceles, who testified being present when Boabdil signalized Martin Hurtado as his captor.
The chief honor of the day, and of course of the defeat and capture of the Moorish monarch, was given by the sovereign to the count de Cabra; the second to his nephew, Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova.
Among the curious papers cited by Alcantara is one existing in the archives of the House of Medina Celi, giving the account of the treasurer of Don Diego Fernandez as to the sums expended by his lord in the capture of the king, the reward given to some soldiers for a standard of the king's which they had taken, to others for the wounds they had received, etc.
Another paper speaks of an auction at Lucena on the 28th of April of horses and mules taken in the battle. Another paper states the gratuities of the alcayde of los Donceles to the soldiery—four fanegas, or about four hundredweight, of wheat and a lance to each horseman, two fanegas of wheat and a lance to each foot-soldier.
LAMENTATIONS OF THE MOORS FOR THE BATTLE OF LUCENA.
The sentinels looked out from the watch-towers of Loxa along the valley of the Xenil, which passes through the mountains of Algaringo. They looked to behold the king returning in triumph at the head of his shining host, laden with the spoil of the unbeliever. They looked to behold the standard of their warlike idol, the fierce Ali Atar, borne by the chivalry of Loxa, ever foremost in the wars of the border.
In the evening of the 21st of April they descried a single horseman urging his faltering steed along the banks of the Xenil. As he drew near they perceived, by the flash of arms, that he was a warrior, and on nearer approach by the richness of his armor and the caparison of his steed they knew him to be a warrior of rank.
He reached Loxa faint and aghast, his courser covered with foam and dust and blood, panting and staggering with fatigue and gashed with wounds. Having brought his master in safety, he sank down and died before the gate of the city. The soldiers at the gate gathered round the cavalier as he stood by his expiring steed: they knew him to be Cidi Caleb, nephew of the chief alfaqui of the mosque in the Albaycin, and their hearts were filled with fearful forebodings.
"Cavalier," said they, "how fares it with the king and army?"
He cast his hand mournfully toward the land of the Christians. "There they lie!" exclaimed he. "The heavens have fallen upon them. All are lost! all dead!"*
* Bernaldez (Cura de los Palacios), Hist. de los Reyes Catol., MS., cap. 61.
Upon this there was a great cry of consternation among the people, and loud wailings of women, for the flower of the youth of Loxa were with the army.
An old Moorish soldier, scarred in many a border battle, stood leaning on his lance by the gateway. "Where is Ali Atar?" demanded he eagerly. "If he lives the army cannot be lost."
"I saw his helm cleft by the Christian sword; his body is floating in the Xenil."
When the soldier heard these words he smote his breast and threw dust upon his head, for he was an old follower of Ali Atar.
Cidi Caleb gave himself no repose, but, mounting another steed, hastened toward Granada. As he passed through the villages and hamlets he spread sorrow around, for their chosen men had followed the king to the wars.
When he entered the gates of Granada and announced the loss of the king and army, a voice of horror went throughout the city. Every one thought but of his own share in the general calamity, and crowded round the bearer of ill tidings. One asked after a father, another after a brother, some after a lover, and many a mother after her son. His replies all spoke of wounds and death. To one he replied, "I saw thy father pierced with a lance as he defended the person of the king;" to another, "Thy brother fell wounded under the hoofs of the horses, but there was no time to aid him, for the Christian cavalry were upon us;" to another, "I saw the horse of thy lover covered with blood and galloping without his rider;" to another, "Thy son fought by my side on the banks of the Xenil: we were surrounded by the enemy and driven into the stream. I heard him cry upon Allah in the midst of the waters: when I reached the other bank he was no longer by my side."
Cidi Caleb passed on, leaving all Granada in lamentation: he urged his steed up the steep avenue of trees and fountains that leads to the Alhambra, nor stopped until he arrived before the Gate of Justice. Ayxa, the mother of Boabdil, and Morayma, his beloved and tender wife, had daily watched from the Tower of Comares to behold his triumphant return. Who shall describe their affliction when they heard the tidings of Cidi Caleb? The sultana Ayxa spake not much, but sat as one entranced. Every now and then a deep sigh burst forth, but she raised her eyes to heaven. "It is the will of Allah!" said she, and with these words endeavored to repress the agonies of a mother's sorrow. The tender Morayma threw herself on the earth and gave way to the full turbulence of her feelings, bewailing her husband and her father. The high-minded Ayxa rebuked the violence of her grief. "Moderate these transports, my daughter," said she; "remember magnanimity should be the attribute of princes: it becomes not them to give way to clamorous sorrow, like common and vulgar minds." But Morayma could only deplore her loss with the anguish of a tender woman. She shut herself up in her mirador, and gazed all day with streaming eyes upon the Vega. Every object recalled the causes of her affliction. The river Xenil, which ran shining amidst groves and gardens, was the same on whose banks had perished her father, Ali Atar; before her lay the road to Loxa, by which Boabdil had departed, in martial state, surrounded by the chivalry of Granada. Ever and anon she would burst into an agony of grief. "Alas! my father!" she would exclaim; "the river runs smiling before me that covers thy mangled remains; who will gather them to an honored tomb in the land of the unbeliever? And thou, O Boabdil, light of my eyes! joy of my heart! life of my life! woe the day and woe the hour that I saw thee depart from these walls! The road by which thou hast departed is solitary; never will it be gladdened by thy return: the mountain thou hast traversed lies like a cloud in the distance, and all beyond is darkness."
The royal minstrels were summoned to assuage her sorrows: they attuned their instruments to cheerful strains, but in a little while the anguish of their hearts prevailed and turned their songs to lamentations.
"Beautiful Granada!" exclaimed they, "how is thy glory faded! The flower of thy chivalry lies low in the land of the stranger; no longer does the Vivarrambla echo to the tramp of steed and sound of trumpet; no longer is it crowded with thy youthful nobles gloriously arrayed for the tilt and tourney. Beautiful Granada! the soft note of the lute no longer floats through thy moonlit streets; the serenade is no more heard beneath thy balconies; the lively castanet is silent upon thy hills; the graceful dance of the Zambra is no more seen beneath thy bowers! Beautiful Granada! why is the Alhambra so lorn and desolate? The orange and myrtle still breathe their perfumes into its silken chambers; the nightingale still sings within its groves; its marble halls are still refreshed with the plash of fountains and the gush of limpid rills. Alas! alas! the countenance of the king no longer shines within those halls! The light of the Alhambra is set for ever!"
Thus all Granada, say the Arabian chroniclers, gave itself up to lamentation; there was nothing but the voice of wailing from the palace to the cottage. All joined to deplore their youthful monarch, cut down in the freshness and promise of his youth; many feared that the prediction of the astrologers was about to be fulfilled, and that the downfall of the kingdom would follow the death of Boabdil; while all declared that had he survived he was the very sovereign calculated to restore the realm to its ancient prosperity and glory.
HOW MULEY ABUL HASSAN PROFITED BY THE MISFORTUNES OF HIS SON BOABDIL.
An unfortunate death atones, with the world, for a multitude of errors. While the populace thought their youthful monarch had perished in the field nothing could exceed their grief for his loss and their adoration of his memory; when, however, they learnt that he was still alive and had surrendered himself captive to the Christians, their feelings underwent an instant change. They decried his talents as a commander, his courage as a soldier; they railed at his expedition as rash and ill-conducted; and they reviled him for not having dared to die on the field of battle, rather than surrender to the enemy.
The alfaquis, as usual, mingled with the populace and artfully guided their discontents. "Behold," exclaimed they, "the prediction is accomplished which was pronounced at the birth of Boabdil! He has been seated on the throne, and the kingdom has suffered downfall and disgrace by his defeat and captivity. Comfort yourselves, O Moslems! The evil day has passed by; the prophecy is fulfilled: the sceptre which has been broken in the feeble hand of Boabdil is destined to resume its former sway in the vigorous grasp of Abul Hassan."
The people were struck with the wisdom of these words: they rejoiced that the baleful prediction which had so long hung over them was at an end, and declared that none but Muley Abul Hassan had the valor and capacity necessary for the protection of the kingdom in this time of trouble.
The longer the captivity of Boabdil continued, the greater grew the popularity of his father. One city after another renewed allegiance to him, for power attracts power and fortune creates fortune. At length he was enabled to return to Granada and establish himself once more in the Alhambra. At his approach his repudiated spouse, the sultana Ayxa, gathered together the family and treasures of her captive son, and retired, with a handful of the nobles, into the Albaycin, the rival quarter of the city, the inhabitants of which still retained feelings of loyalty to Boabdil. Here she fortified herself and held the semblance of a court in the name of her son. The fierce Muley Abul Hassan would have willingly carried fire and sword into this factious quarter of the capital, but he dared not confide in his new and uncertain popularity. Many of the nobles detested him for his past cruelty, and a large portion of the soldiery, besides many of the people of his own party, respected the virtues of Ayxa la Horra and pitied the misfortunes of Boabdil.
Granada therefore presented the singular spectacle of two sovereignties within the same city. The old king fortified himself in the lofty towers of the Alhambra, as much against his own subjects as against the Christians; while Ayxa, with the zeal of a mother's affection, which waxes warmer and warmer toward her offspring when in adversity, still maintained the standard of Boabdil on the rival fortress of the Alcazaba, and kept his powerful faction alive within the walls of the Albaycin.
CAPTIVITY OF BOABDIL EL CHICO.
The unfortunate Boabdil remained a prisoner closely guarded, but treated with great deference and respect, in the castle of Lucena, where the noblest apartments were appointed for his abode. From the towers of his prison he beheld the town below filled with armed men, and the lofty hill on which it was built girdled by massive walls and ramparts, on which a vigilant watch was maintained night and day. The mountains around were studded with watch-towers overlooking the lonely roads which led to Granada, so that a turban could not stir over the border without the alarm being given and the whole country put on the alert. Boabdil saw that there was no hope of escape from such a fortress, and that any attempt to rescue him would be equally in vain. His heart was filled with anxiety as he thought on the confusion and ruin which his captivity must cause in his affairs, while sorrows of a softer kind overcame his fortitude as he thought on the evils it might bring upon his family.
A few days only had passed away when missives arrived from the Castilian sovereigns. Ferdinand had been transported with joy at hearing of the capture of the Moorish monarch, seeing the deep and politic uses that might be made of such an event; but the magnanimous spirit of Isabella was filled with compassion for the unfortunate captive. Their messages to Boabdil were full of sympathy and consolation, breathing that high and gentle courtesy which dwells in noble minds.
This magnanimity in his foe cheered the dejected spirit of the captive monarch. "Tell my sovereigns, the king and queen," said he to the messenger, "that I cannot he unhappy being in the power of such high and mighty princes, especially since they partake so largely of that grace and goodness which Allah bestows upon the monarchs whom he greatly loves. Tell them, further, that I had long thought of submitting myself to their sway, to receive the kingdom of Granada from their hands in the same manner that my ancestor received it from King John II., father to the gracious queen. My greatest sorrow, in this my captivity, is that I must appear to do that from force which I would fain have done from inclination."
In the mean time, Muley Abul Hassan, finding the faction of his son still formidable in Granada, was anxious to consolidate his power by gaining possession of the person of Boabdil. For this purpose he sent an embassy to the Catholic monarchs, offering large terms for the ransom, or rather the purchase, of his son, proposing, among other conditions, to release the count of Cifuentes and nine other of his most distinguished captives, and to enter into a treaty of confederacy with the sovereigns. Neither did the implacable father make any scruple of testifying his indifference whether his son were delivered up alive or dead, so that his person were placed assuredly within his power.
The humane heart of Isabella revolted at the idea of giving up the unfortunate prince into the hands of his most unnatural and inveterate enemy: a disdainful refusal was therefore returned to the old monarch, whose message had been couched in a vaunting spirit. He was informed that the Castilian sovereigns would listen to no proposals of peace from Muley Abul Hassan until he should lay down his arms and offer them in all humility.
Overtures in a different spirit were made by the mother of Boabdil, the sultana Ayxa la Horra, with the concurrence of the party which still remained faithful to him. It was thereby proposed that Mahomet Abdallah, otherwise called Boabdil, should hold his crown as vassal to the Castilian sovereigns, paying an annual tribute and releasing seventy Christian captives annually for five years; that he should, moreover, pay a large sum upon the spot for his ransom, and at the same time give freedom to four hundred Christians to be chosen by the king; that he should also engage to be always ready to render military aid, and should come to the Cortes, or assemblage of nobles and distinguished vassals of the Crown, whenever summoned. His only son and the sons of twelve distinguished Moorish houses were to be delivered as hostages.
An embassy composed of the alcayde Aben Comixa, Muley, the royal standard-bearer, and other distinguished cavaliers bore this proposition to the Spanish court at Cordova, where they were received by King Ferdinand. Queen Isabella was absent at the time. He was anxious to consult her in so momentous an affair, or, rather, he was fearful of proceeding too precipitately, and not drawing from this fortunate event all the advantage of which it was susceptible. Without returning any reply, therefore, to the mission, he ordered that the captive monarch should be brought to Cordova.
The alcayde of the Donceles was the bearer of this mandate, and summoned all the hidalgos of Lucena and of his own estates to form an honorable escort for the illustrious prisoner. In this style he conducted him to the capital. The cavaliers and authorities of Cordova came forth to receive the captive king with all due ceremony, and especial care was taken to prevent any taunt or insult from the multitude, or anything that might remind him of his humiliation. In this way he entered the once proud capital of the Abda'rahmans, and was lodged in the house of the king's major-domo. Ferdinand, however, declined seeing the Moorish monarch. He was still undetermined what course to pursue—whether to retain him prisoner, set him at liberty on ransom, or treat him with politic magnanimity; and each course would require a different kind of reception. Until this point should be resolved, therefore, he gave him in charge to Martin de Alarcon, alcayde of the ancient fortress of Porcuna, with orders to guard him strictly, but to treat him with the distinction and deference due unto a prince. These commands were strictly obeyed: he was escorted, as before, in royal state, to the fortress which was to form his prison, and, with the exception of being restrained in his liberty, was as nobly entertained there as he could have been in his regal palace at Granada.
In the mean time, Ferdinand availed himself of this critical moment, while Granada was distracted with factions and dissensions, and before he had concluded any treaty with Boabdil, to make a puissant and ostentatious inroad into the very heart of the kingdom at the head of his most illustrious nobles. He sacked and destroyed several towns and castles, and extended his ravages to the very gates of Granada. Muley Abul Hassan did not venture to oppose him. His city was filled with troops, but he was uncertain of their affection. He dreaded that should he sally forth the gates of Granada might be closed against him by the faction of the Albaycin.
The old Moor stood on the lofty tower of the Alhambra (says Antonio Agapida) grinding his teeth and foaming like a tiger shut up in his cage as he beheld the glittering battalions of the Christians wheeling about the Vega, and the standard of the cross shining forth from among the smoke of infidel villages and hamlets. The most Catholic king (continues Agapida) would gladly have continued this righteous ravage, but his munitions began to fail. Satisfied, therefore, with having laid waste the country of the enemy and insulted Muley Abul Hassan in his very capital, he returned to Cordova covered with laurels and his army laden with spoils, and now bethought himself of coming to an immediate decision in regard to his royal prisoner.
OF THE TREATMENT OF BOABDIL BY THE CASTILIAN SOVEREIGNS.
A stately convention was held by King Ferdinand in the ancient city of Cordova, composed of several of the most reverend prelates and renowned cavaliers of the kingdom, to determine upon the fate of the unfortunate Boabdil.
Don Alonso de Cardenas, the worthy master of Santiago, was one of the first who gave his counsel. He was a pious and zealous knight, rigid in his devotion to the faith, and his holy zeal had been inflamed to peculiar vehemence since his disastrous crusade among the mountains of Malaga. He inveighed with ardor against any compromise or compact with the infidels: the object of this war, he observed, was not the subjection of the Moors, but their utter expulsion from the land, so that there might no longer remain a single stain of Mahometanism throughout Christian Spain. He gave it as his opinion, therefore, that the captive king ought not to be set at liberty.
Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, on the contrary, spoke warmly for the release of Boabdil. He pronounced it a measure of sound policy, even if done without conditions. It would tend to keep up the civil war in Granada, which was as a fire consuming the entrails of the enemy, and effecting more for the interests of Spain, without expense, than all the conquests of its arms.
The grand cardinal of Spain, Don Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, coincided in opinion with the marques of Cadiz. Nay (added that pious prelate and politic statesman), it would be sound wisdom to furnish the Moor with men and money and all other necessaries to promote the civil war in Granada: by this means would be produced great benefit to the service of God, since we are assured by his infallible word that "a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand."*
* Salazar, Cronica del Gran Cardinal, p. 188.
Ferdinand weighed these counsels in his mind, but was slow in coming to a decision: he was religiously attentive to his own interests (observes Fray Antonio Agapida), knowing himself to be but an instrument of Providence in this holy war, and that, therefore, in consulting his own advantage he was promoting the interests of the faith. The opinion of Queen Isabella relieved him from his perplexity. That high-minded princess was zealous for the promotion of the faith, but not for the extermination of the infidels. The Moorish kings had held their thrones as vassals to her progenitors: she was content at present to accord the same privilege, and that the royal prisoner should be liberated on condition of becoming a vassal to the Crown. By this means might be effected the deliverance of many Christian captives who were languishing in Moorish chains.
King Ferdinand adopted the magnanimous measure recommended by the queen, but he accompanied it with several shrewd conditions, exacting tribute, military services, and safe passages and maintenance for Christian troops throughout the places which should adhere to Boabdil. The captive king readily submitted to these stipulations, and swore, after the manner of his faith, to observe them with exactitude. A truce was arranged for two years, during which the Castilian sovereigns engaged to maintain him on his throne and to assist him in recovering all places which he had lost during his captivity.
When Boabdil el Chico had solemnly agreed to this arrangement in the castle of Porcuna, preparations were made to receive him in Cordova in regal style. Superb steeds richly caparisoned and raiments of brocade and silk and the most costly cloths, with all other articles of sumptuous array, were furnished to him and to fifty Moorish cavaliers who had come to treat for his ransom, that he might appear in state befitting the monarch of Granada and the most distinguished vassal of the Castilian sovereigns. Money also was advanced to maintain him in suitable grandeur during his residence at the Castilian court and his return to his dominions. Finally, it was ordered by the sovereigns that when he came to Cordova all the nobles and dignitaries of the court should go forth to receive him.
A question now arose among certain of those ancient and experienced men who grow gray about a court in the profound study of forms and ceremonials, with whom a point of punctilio is as a vast political right, and who contract a sublime and awful idea of the external dignity of the throne. Certain of these court sages propounded the momentous question whether the Moorish monarch, coming to do homage as a vassal, ought not to kneel and kiss the hand of the king. This was immediately decided in the affirmative by a large number of ancient cavaliers, accustomed (says Antonio Agapida) to the lofty punctilio of our most dignified court and transcendent sovereigns. The king, therefore, was informed by those who arranged the ceremonials that when the Moorish monarch appeared in his presence he was expected to extend his royal hand to receive the kiss of homage.
"I should certainly do so," replied King Ferdinand, "were he at liberty and in his own kingdom, but I certainly shall not do so, seeing that he is a prisoner and in mine."
The courtiers loudly applauded the magnanimity of this reply, though many condemned it in secret as savoring of too much generosity toward an infidel; and the worthy Jesuit, Fray Antonio Agapida, fully concurs in their opinion.
The Moorish king entered Cordova with his little train of faithful knights and escorted by all the nobility and chivalry of the Castilian court. He was conducted with great state and ceremony to the royal palace. When he came in presence of Ferdinand he knelt and offered to kiss his hand, not merely in homage as his subject, but in gratitude for his liberty. Ferdinand declined the token of vassalage, and raised him graciously from the earth. An interpreter began, in the name of Boabdil, to laud the magnanimity of the Castilian monarch and to promise the most implicit submission. "Enough!" said King Ferdinand, interrupting the interpreter in the midst of his harangue: "there is no need of these compliments. I trust in his integrity that he will do everything becoming a good man and a good king." With these words he received Boabdil el Chico into his royal friendship and protection.
RETURN OF BOABDIL FROM CAPTIVITY.
In the month of August a noble Moor, of the race of the Abencerrages, arrived with a splendid retinue at the city of Cordova, bringing with him the son of Boabdil el Chico and other of the noble youth of Granada as hostages for the fulfilment of the terms of ransom. When the Moorish king beheld his son, his only child, who was to remain in his stead a sort of captive in a hostile land, he folded him in his arms and wept over him. "Woe the day that I was born!" exclaimed he, "and evil the stars that presided at my birth! Well was I called El Zogoybi, or the Unlucky, for sorrow is heaped upon me by my father, and sorrow do I transmit to my son!" The afflicted heart of Boabdil, however, was soothed by the kindness of the Christian sovereigns, who received the hostage prince with a tenderness suited to his age and a distinction worthy of his rank. They delivered him in charge to the worthy alcayde Martin de Alarcon, who had treated his father with such courtesy during his confinement in the castle of Porcuna, giving orders that after the departure of the latter his son should be entertained with great honor and princely attention in the same fortress.
On the 2d of September a guard of honor assembled at the gate of the mansion of Boabdil to escort him to the frontiers of his kingdom. He pressed his child to his heart at parting, but he uttered not a word, for there were many Christian eyes to behold his emotion. He mounted his steed, and never turned his head to look again upon the youth, but those who were near him observed the vehement struggle that shook his frame, wherein the anguish of the father had wellnigh subdued the studied equanimity of the king.
Boabdil el Chico and King Ferdinand sallied forth side by side from Cordova, amidst the acclamations of a prodigious multitude. When they were a short distance from the city they separated, with many gracious expressions on the part of the Castilian monarch, and many thankful acknowledgments from his late captive, whose heart had been humbled by adversity. Ferdinand departed for Guadalupe, and Boabdil for Granada. The latter was accompanied by a guard of honor, and the viceroys of Andalusia and the generals on the frontier were ordered to furnish him with escorts and to show him all possible honor on his journey. In this way he was conducted in royal state through the country he had entered to ravage, and was placed in safety in his own dominions.
He was met on the frontier by the principal nobles and cavaliers of his court, who had been secretly sent by his mother, the sultana Ayxa, to escort him to the capital. The heart of Boabdil was lifted up for a moment when he found himself on his own territories, surrounded by Moslem knights, with his own banners waving over his head, and he began to doubt the predictions of the astrologers: he soon found cause, however, to moderate his exultation. The royal train which had come to welcome him was but scanty in number, and he missed many of his most zealous and obsequious courtiers. He had returned, indeed, to his kingdom, but it was no longer the devoted kingdom he had left. The story of his vassalage to the Christian sovereigns had been made use of by his father to ruin him with the people. He had been represented as a traitor to his country, a renegado to his faith, and as leagued with the enemies of both to subdue the Moslems of Spain to the yoke of Christian bondage. In this way the mind of the public had been turned from him; the greater part of the nobility had thronged round the throne of his father in the Alhambra; and his mother, the resolute sultana Ayxa, with difficulty maintained her faction in the opposite towers of the Alcazaba.
Such was the melancholy picture of affairs given to Boabdil by the courtiers who had come forth to meet him. They even informed him that it would be an enterprise of difficulty and danger to make his way back to the capital and regain the little court which still remained faithful to him in the heart of the city. The old tiger, Muley Abul Hassan, lay couched within the Alhambra, and the walls and gates of the city were strongly guarded by his troops. Boabdil shook his head at these tidings. He called to mind the ill omen of his breaking his lance against the gate of Elvira when issuing forth so vaingloriously with his army, which he now saw clearly had foreboded the destruction of that army on which he had so confidently relied. "Henceforth," said he, "let no man have the impiety to scoff at omens."
Boabdil approached his capital by stealth and in the night, prowling about its walls like an enemy seeking to destroy rather than a monarch returning to his throne. At length he seized upon a postern-gate of the Albaycin, that part of the city which had always been in his favor; he passed rapidly through the streets before the populace were aroused from their sleep, and reached in safety the fortress of the Alcazaba. Here he was received into the embraces of his intrepid mother and his favorite wife Morayma. The transports of the latter on the safe return of her husband were mingled with tears, for she thought of her father, Ali Atar, who had fallen in his cause, and of her only son, who was left a hostage in the hand of the Christians.
The heart of Boabdil, softened by his misfortunes, was moved by the changes in everything round him; but his mother called up his spirit. "This," said she, "is no time for tears and fondness. A king must think of his sceptre and his throne, and not yield to softness like common men. Thou hast done well, my son, in throwing thyself resolutely into Granada: it must depend upon thyself whether thou remain here a king or a captive."
The old king, Muley Abul Hassan, had retired to his couch that night in one of the strongest towers of the Alhambra, but his restless anxiety kept him from repose. In the first watch of the night he heard a shout faintly rising from the quarter of the Albaycin, which is on the opposite side of the deep valley of the Darro. Shortly afterward horsemen came galloping up the hill that leads to the main gate of the Alhambra, spreading the alarm that Boabdil had entered the city and possessed himself of the Alcazaba.
In the first transports of his rage the old king would have struck the messenger to earth. He hastily summoned his counsellors and commanders, exhorting them to stand by him in this critical moment, and during the night made every preparation to enter the Albaycin sword in hand in the morning.
In the mean time the sultana Ayxa had taken prompt and vigorous measures to strengthen her party. The Albaycin was the part of the city filled by the lower orders. The return of Boabdil was proclaimed throughout the streets, and large sums of money were distributed among the populace. The nobles assembled in the Alcazaba were promised honors and rewards by Boabdil as soon as he should be firmly seated on the throne. These well-timed measures had the customary effect, and by daybreak all the motley populace of the Albaycin were in arms.
A doleful day succeeded. All Granada was a scene of tumult and horror. Drums and trumpets resounded in every part; all business was interrupted; the shops were shut, the doors barricadoed. Armed bands paraded the streets, some shouting for Boabdil, and some for Muley Abul Hassan. When they encountered each other they fought furiously and without mercy; every public square became a scene of battle. The great mass of the lower orders was in favor of Boabdil, but it was a multitude without discipline or lofty spirit: part of the people were regularly armed, but the greater number had sallied forth with the implements of their trade. The troops of the old king, among whom were many cavaliers of pride and valor, soon drove the populace from the squares. They fortified themselves, however, in the streets and lanes, which they barricadoed. They made fortresses of their houses, and fought desperately from the windows and the roofs, and many a warrior of the highest blood of Granada was laid low by plebeian hands and plebeian weapons in this civic brawl.*
* Conde, Domin. de los Arabes, p. 4, c. 37.
It was impossible that such violent convulsions should last long in the heart of the city. The people soon longed for repose and a return to their peaceful occupations, and the cavaliers detested these conflicts with the multitude, in which were all the horrors of war without its laurels. By the interference of the alfaquis an armistice was at length effected. Boabdil was persuaded that there was no dependence upon the inconstant favor of the multitude, and was prevailed upon to quit a capital where he could only maintain a precarious seat upon his throne by a perpetual and bloody struggle. He fixed his court at the city of Almeria, which was entirely devoted to him, and which at that time vied with Granada in splendor and importance. This compromise of grandeur for tranquillity, however, was sorely against the counsels of his proud-spirited mother, the sultana Ayxa. Granada appeared, in her eyes, the only legitimate seat of dominion, and she observed, with a smile of disdain, that he was not worthy of being called a monarch who was not master of his capital.
FORAY OF THE MOORISH ALCAYDES, AND BATTLE OF LOPERA.
Though Muley Abul Hassan had regained undivided sway over the city of Granada, and the alfaquis, by his command, had denounced his son Boabdil as an apostate doomed by Heaven to misfortune, still the latter had many adherents among the common people. Whenever, therefore, any act of the old monarch was displeasing to the turbulent multitude, they were prone to give him a hint of the slippery nature of his standing by shouting out the name of Boabdil el Chico. Long experience had instructed Muley Abul Hassan in the character of the inconstant people over whom he ruled. "A successful inroad into the country of the unbelievers," said he, "will make more converts to my cause than a thousand texts of the Koran expounded by ten thousand alfaquis."
At this time King Ferdinand was absent from Andalusia on a distant expedition with many of his troops. The moment was favorable for a foray, and Muley Abul Hassan cast about his thoughts for a leader to conduct it. Ali Atar, the terror of the border, the scourge of Andalusia, was dead, but there was another veteran general, scarce inferior to him for predatory warfare. This was old Bexir, the gray and crafty alcayde of Malaga, and the people under his command were ripe for an expedition of the kind. The signal defeat and slaughter of the Spanish knights in the neighboring mountains had filled the people of Malaga with vanity and self-conceit. They had attributed to their own valor the defeat caused by the nature of the country. Many of them wore the armor and paraded in public with the horses of the unfortunate cavaliers slain on that occasion, vauntingly displaying them as trophies of their boasted victory. They had talked themselves into a contempt for the chivalry of Andalusia, and were impatient for an opportunity to overrun a country defended by such troops. This Muley Abul Hassan considered a favorable state of mind for a daring inroad, and sent orders to old Bexir to gather together the choicest warriors of the borders and carry fire and sword into the very heart of Andalusia. Bexir immediately despatched his emissaries among the alcaydes of the border towns, calling upon them to assemble with their troops at the city of Ronda.
Ronda was the most virulent nest of Moorish depredators in the whole border country. It was situated in the midst of the wild Serrania, or chain of mountains of the same name, which are uncommonly lofty, broken, and precipitous. It stood on an almost isolated rock, nearly encircled by a deep valley, or rather chasm, through which ran the beautiful river called Rio Verde. The Moors of this city were the most active, robust, and warlike of all the mountaineers, and their very children discharged the crossbow with unerring aim. They were incessantly harassing the rich plains of Andalusia; their city abounded with Christian captives, who might sigh in vain for deliverance from this impregnable fortress. Such was Ronda in the time of the Moors, and it has ever retained something of the same character, even to the present day. Its inhabitants continue to be among the boldest, fiercest, and most adventurous of the Andalusian mountaineers, and the Serrania de Ronda is famous as the most dangerous resort of the bandit and the contrabandista.
Hamet Zeli, surnamed El Zegri, was the commander of this belligerent city and its fierce inhabitants. He was of the tribe of the Zegries, and one of the most proud and daring of that warlike race. Besides the inhabitants of Ronda and some of his own tribe, he had a legion of African Moors in his immediate service. They were of the tribe of the Gomeres, so called from their native mountains—mercenary troops whose hot African blood had not yet been tempered by the softer living of Spain, and whose whole business was to fight. These he kept always well armed and well appointed. The rich pasturage of the valley of Ronda produced a breed of horses famous for strength and speed; no cavalry, therefore, was better mounted than the band of Gomeres. Rapid on the march, fierce in the attack, it would sweep down upon the Andalusian plains like a sudden blast from the mountains, and pass away as suddenly before there was time for pursuit.
There was nothing that stirred up the spirit of the Moors of the frontiers more thoroughly than the idea of a foray. The summons of Bexir was gladly obeyed by the alcaydes of the border towns, and in a little while there was a force of fifteen hundred horse and four thousand foot, the very pith and marrow of the surrounding country, assembled within the walls of Ronda. The people of the place anticipated with eagerness the rich spoils of Andalusia soon to crowd their gates; throughout the day the city resounded with the noise of kettle-drum and trumpet; the high-mettled steeds stamped and neighed in their stalls as if they shared the impatience for the foray; while the Christian captives sighed as the varied din of preparation reached their rocky dungeons, denoting a fresh expedition against their countrymen.
The infidel host sallied forth full of spirits, anticipating an easy ravage and abundant booty. They encouraged each other in a contempt for the prowess of the foe. Many of the warriors of Malaga and of some of the mountain-towns had insultingly arrayed themselves in the splendid armor of the Christian knights slain or taken prisoners in the famous massacre, and some of them rode the Andalusian steeds captured on that occasion.
The wary Bexir concerted his plans so secretly and expeditiously that the Christian towns of Andalusia had not the least suspicion of the storm gathering beyond the mountains. The vast rocky range of the Serrania de Ronda extended like a screen, covering all their movements from observation.
The army made its way as rapidly as the rugged nature of the mountains would permit, guided by Hamet el Zegri, the bold alcayde of Ronda, who knew every pass and defile: not a drum nor the clash of a cymbal nor the blast of a trumpet was permitted to be heard. The mass of war rolled quietly on as the gathering cloud to the brow of the mountains, intending to burst down like the thunderbolt upon the plain.
Never let the most wary commander fancy himself secure from discovery, for rocks have eyes, and trees have ears, and the birds of the air have tongues, to betray the most secret enterprise. There chanced at this time to be six Christian scouts prowling about the savage heights of the Serrania de Ronda. They were of that kind of lawless ruffians who infest the borders of belligerent countries, ready at any time to fight for pay or prowl for plunder. The wild mountain-passes of Spain have ever abounded with loose rambling vagabonds of the kind—soldiers in war, robbers in peace, guides, guards, smugglers, or cutthroats according to the circumstances of the case.
These six marauders (says Fray Antonio Agapida) were on this occasion chosen instruments, sanctified by the righteousness of their cause. They were lurking among the mountains to entrap Moorish cattle or Moorish prisoners, both of which were equally salable in the Christian market. They had ascended one of the loftiest cliffs, and were looking out like birds of prey, ready to pounce upon anything that might offer in the valley, when they descried the Moorish army emerging from a mountain-glen. They watched it as it wound below them, remarking the standards of the various towns and the pennons of the commanders. They hovered about it on its march, skulking from cliff to cliff, until they saw the route by which it intended to enter the Christian country. They then dispersed, each making his way by the secret passes of the mountains to some different alcayde, that they might spread the alarm far and wide, and each get a separate reward.
One hastened to Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero, the same valiant alcayde who had repulsed Muley Abul Hassan from the walls of Alhama, and who now commanded at Ecija in the absence of the master of Santiago. Others roused the town of Utrera and the places of that neighborhood, putting them all on the alert.*
* Pulgar, p. 3, c. 24; Cura de los Palacios, cap. 67.
Puerto Carrero was a cavalier of consummate vigor and activity. He immediately sent couriers to the alcaydes of the neighboring fortresses, to Herman Carrello, captain of a body of the Holy Brotherhood, and to certain knights of the order of Alcantara. Puerto Carrero was the first to take the field. Knowing the hard and hungry service of these border scampers, he made every man take a hearty repast and see that his horse was well shod and perfectly appointed. Then, all being refreshed and in valiant heart, he sallied forth to seek the Moors. He had but a handful of men, the retainers of his household and troops of his captaincy, but they were well armed and mounted, and accustomed to the sudden rouses of the border—men whom the cry of "Arm and out! to horse and to the field!" was sufficient at any time to put in a fever of animation.
While the northern part of Andalusia was thus on the alert, one of the scouts had hastened southward to the city of Xeres, and given the alarm to the valiant marques of Cadiz. When the marques heard that the Moor was over the border and that the standard of Malaga was in the advance, his heart bounded with a momentary joy, for he remembered the massacre in the mountains, where his valiant brothers had been mangled before his eyes. The very authors of his calamity were now at hand, and he flattered himself that the day of vengeance had arrived. He made a hasty levy of his retainers and of the fighting men of Xeres, and hurried off with three hundred horse and two hundred foot, all resolute men and panting for revenge.
In the mean time, the veteran Bexir had accomplished his march, as he imagined, undiscovered. From the openings of the craggy defiles he pointed out the fertile plains of Andalusia, and regaled the eyes of his soldiery with the rich country they were about to ravage. The fierce Gomeres of Ronda were flushed with joy at the sight, and even their steeds seemed to prick up their ears and snuff the breeze as they beheld the scenes of their frequent forays.
When they came to where the mountain-defile opened into the low land, Bexir divided his force into three parts: one, composed of foot-soldiers and such as were weakly mounted, he left to guard the pass, being too experienced a veteran not to know the importance of securing a retreat; a second body he placed in ambush among the groves and thickets on the banks of the river Lopera; the third, consisting of light cavalry, he sent forth to ravage the Campina (or great plain) of Utrera. Most of this latter force was composed of the Gomeres of Ronda, mounted on the fleet steeds bred among the mountains. It was led by Hamet el Zegri, ever eager to be foremost in the forage. Little suspecting that the country on both sides was on the alarm, and rushing from all directions to close upon them in the rear, this fiery troop dashed forward until they came within two leagues of Utrera. Here they scattered themselves about the plain, careering round the great herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, and sweeping them into droves to be hurried to the mountains.
While thus dispersed a troop of horse and body of foot from Utrera came suddenly upon them. The Moors rallied together in small parties and endeavored to defend themselves; but they were without a leader, for Hamet el Zegri was at a distance, having, like a hawk, made a wide circuit in pursuit of prey. The marauders soon gave way and fled toward the ambush on the banks of the Lopera, being hotly pursued by the men of Utrera.
When they reached the Lopera the Moors in ambush rushed forth with furious cries, and the fugitives, recovering courage from this reinforcement, rallied and turned upon their pursuers. The Christians stood their ground, though greatly inferior in number. Their lances were soon broken, and they came to sharp work with sword and scimetar. The Christians fought valiantly, but were in danger of being overwhelmed. The bold Hamet collected a handful of his scattered Gomeres, left his prey, and galloped toward the scene of action. His little troop of horsemen had reached the crest of a rising ground at no great distance when trumpets were heard in another direction, and Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero and his followers came galloping into the field, and charged upon the infidels in flank.
The Moors were astounded at finding war thus breaking upon them from various quarters of what they had expected to find an unguarded country. They fought for a short time with desperation, and resisted a vehement assault from the knights of Alcantara and the men-at-arms of the Holy Brotherhood. At length the veteran Bexir was struck from his horse by Puerto Carrero and taken prisoner, and the whole force gave way and fled. In their flight they separated and took two roads to the mountains, thinking by dividing their forces to distract the enemy. The Christians were too few to separate. Puerto Carrero kept them together, pursuing one division of the enemy with great slaughter. This battle took place at the fountain of the fig tree, near to the Lopera. Six hundred Moorish cavaliers were slain and many taken prisoners. Much spoil was collected on the field, with which the Christians returned in triumph to their homes.
The larger body of the enemy had retreated along a road leading more to the south, by the banks of the Guadalete. When they reached that river the sound of pursuit had died away, and they rallied to breathe and refresh themselves on the margin of the stream. Their force was reduced to about a thousand horse and a confused multitude of foot. While they were scattered and partly dismounted on the banks of the Guadalete a fresh storm of war burst upon them from an opposite direction. It was the (4) marques of Cadiz, leading on his household troops and the fighting men of Xeres. When the Christian warriors came in sight of the Moors, they were roused to fury at beholding many of them arrayed in the armor of the cavaliers who had been slain among the mountains of Malaga. Nay, some who had been in that defeat beheld their own armor, which they had cast away in their flight to enable themselves to climb the mountains. Exasperated at the sight they rushed upon the foe with the ferocity of tigers rather than the temperate courage of cavaliers. Each man felt as if he were avenging the death of a relative or wiping out his own disgrace. The good marques himself beheld a powerful Moor bestriding the horse of his brother Beltran: giving a cry of rage and anguish at the sight, he rushed through the thickest of the enemy, attacked the Moor with resistless fury, and after a short combat hurled him breathless to the earth.
The Moors, already vanquished in spirit, could not withstand the assault of men thus madly excited. They soon gave way, and fled for the defile of the Serrania de Ronda, where the body of troops had been stationed to secure a retreat. These, seeing them come galloping wildly up the defile, with Christian banners in pursuit and the flash of weapons at their deadly work, thought all Andalusia was upon them, and fled without awaiting an attack. The pursuit continued among glens and defiles, for the Christian warriors, eager for revenge, had no compassion on the foe.
When the pursuit was over the marques of Cadiz and his followers reposed themselves upon the banks of the Guadalete, where they divided the spoil. Among this were found many rich corselets, helmets, and weapons, the Moorish trophies of the defeat in the mountains of Malaga. Several were claimed by their owners; others were known to have belonged to noble cavaliers who had been slain or taken prisoners. There were several horses also, richly caparisoned, which had pranced proudly with the unfortunate warriors as they sallied out of Antiquera upon that fatal expedition. Thus the exultation of the victors was dashed with melancholy, and many a knight was seen lamenting over the helmet or corselet of some loved companion-in-arms.
NOTE.—"En el despojo de la Batalla se vieron muchas ricas corazas e capacetes, e barberas de las que se habian perdido en el Axarquia, e otras muchas armas, e algunes fueron conocidas de sus duenos que las habian dejado por fuir, e otras fueron conocidas, que eran mui senaladas de hombres principales que habian quedado muertos e cautivos, i fueron tornados muchos de los mismos Caballos con sus ricas sillas, de los que quedaron en la Axerquia, e fueron concidos cuios eran."—"Cura de los Palacios," cap. 67.
RETREAT OF HAMET EL ZEGRI, ALCAYDE OF RONDA.
The bold alcayde of Ronda, Hamet el Zegri, had careered wide over the Campina of Utrera, encompassing the flocks and herds, when he heard the burst of war at a distance. There were with him but a handful of his Gomeres. He saw the scamper and pursuit afar off, and beheld the Christian horsemen spurring madly toward the ambuscade on the banks of the Lopera. Hamet tossed his hand triumphantly aloft for his men to follow him. "The Christian dogs are ours!" said he as he put spurs to his horse to take the enemy in rear.
The little band which followed Hamet scarcely amounted to thirty horsemen. They spurred across the plain, and reached a rising ground just as the force of Puerto Carrero had charged, with sound of trumpet, upon the flank of the party in ambush. Hamet beheld the headlong rout of the army with rage and consternation. He found the country was pouring forth its legions from every quarter, and perceived that there was no safety but in precipitate flight.
But which way to fly? An army was between him and the mountain-pass; all the forces of the neighborhood were rushing to the borders; the whole route by which he had come was by this time occupied by the foe. He checked his steed, rose in the stirrups, and rolled a stern and thoughtful eye over the country; then, sinking into his saddle, he seemed to commune a moment with himself. Turning quickly to his troop, he singled out a renegado Christian, a traitor to his religion and his king. "Come hither," said Hamet. "Thou knowest all the secret passes of the country?"—"I do," replied the renegado.—"Dost thou know any circuitous route, solitary and untravelled, by which we can pass wide within these troops and reach the Serrania?"—The renegado paused: "Such a route I know, but it is full of peril, for it leads through the heart of the Christian land."—"'Tis well," said Hamet; "the more dangerous in appearance, the less it will be suspected. Now hearken to me. Ride by my side. Thou seest this purse of gold and this scimetar. Take us, by the route thou hast mentioned, safe to the pass of the Serrania, and this purse shall be thy reward; betray us, and this scimetar shall cleave thee to the saddle-bow."*
* Cura de los Palacios, ubi sup.
The renegado obeyed, trembling. They turned off from the direct road to the mountains and struck southward toward Lebrixa, passing by the most solitary roads and along those deep ramblas and ravines by which the country is intersected. It was indeed a daring course. Every now and then they heard the distant sound of trumpets and the alarm-bells of towns and villages, and found that the war was still hurrying to the borders. They hid themselves in thickets and in dry beds of rivers until the danger had passed by, and then resumed their course. Hamet el Zegri rode on in silence, his hand upon his scimetar and his eye upon the renegado guide, prepared to sacrifice him on the least sign of treachery, while his band followed, gnawing their lips with rage at having thus to skulk through a country they had come to ravage.
When night fell they struck into more practicable roads, always keeping wide of the villages and hamlets, lest the watch-dogs should betray them. In this way they passed in deep midnight by Arcos, crossed the Guadalete, and effected their retreat to the mountains. The day dawned as they made their way up the savage defiles. Their comrades had been hunted up these very glens by the enemy. Every now and then they came to where there had been a partial fight or a slaughter of the fugitives, and the rocks were red with blood and strewed with mangled bodies. The alcayde of Ronda was almost frantic with rage at seeing many of his bravest warriors lying stiff and stark, a prey to the hawks and vultures of the mountains. Now and then some wretched Moor would crawl out of a cave or glen, whither he had fled for refuge, for in the retreat many of the horsemen had abandoned their steeds, thrown away their armor, and clambered up the cliffs, where they could not be pursued by the Christian cavalry.
The Moorish army had sallied forth from Ronda amidst shouts and acclamations, but wailings were heard within its walls as the alcayde and his broken band returned without banner or trumpet and haggard with famine and fatigue. The tidings of their disaster had preceded them, borne by the fugitives of the army. No one ventured to speak to the stern Hamet as he entered the city, for they saw a dark cloud upon his brow.
It seemed (says the pious Antonio Agapida) as if Heaven meted out this defeat in exact retribution for the ills inflicted upon the Christian warriors in the heights of Malaga. It was equally signal and disastrous. Of the brilliant array of Moorish chivalry which had descended so confidently into Andalusia, not more than two hundred escaped. The choicest troops of the frontier were either taken or destroyed, the Moorish garrisons enfeebled, and many alcaydes and cavaliers of noble lineage carried into captivity, who were afterward obliged to redeem themselves with heavy ransoms.
This was called the battle of Lopera, and was fought on the 17th of September, 1483. Ferdinand and Isabella were at Vittoria in Old Castile when they received news of the victory and the standards taken from the enemy. They celebrated the event with processions, illuminations, and other festivities. Ferdinand sent to the marques of Cadiz the royal raiment which he had worn on that day, and conferred on him and all those who should inherit his title the privilege of wearing royal robes on our Lady's Day in September in commemoration of this victory.*
* Mariana, Abarca, Zurita, Pulgar, etc.
Queen Isabella was equally mindful of the great services of Don Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero. Besides many encomiums and favors, she sent to his wife the royal vestments and robe of brocade which she had worn on the same day, to be worn by her during her life on the anniversary of that battle.*
OF THE RECEPTION AT COURT OF THE COUNT DE CABRA AND THE ALCAYDE DE LOS DONCELES.
In the midst of the bustle of warlike affairs the worthy chronicler Fray Antonio Agapida pauses to note, with curious accuracy, the distinguished reception given to the count de Cabra and his nephew, the alcayde de los Donceles, at the stately and ceremonious court of the Castilian sovereigns, in reward for the capture of the Moorish king Boabdil. The court (he observes) was held at the time in the ancient Moorish palace of the city of Cordova, and the ceremonials were arranged by that venerable prelate Don Pedro Gonzales de Mendoza, bishop of Toledo and grand cardinal of Spain.
It was on Wednesday, the 14th of October (continues the precise Antonio Agapida), that the good count de Cabra, according to arrangement, appeared at the gate of Cordova. Here he was met by the grand cardinal and the duke of Villahermosa, illegitimate brother of the king, together with many of the first grandees and prelates of the kingdom. By this august train was he attended to the palace amidst strains of martial music and the shouts of a prodigious multitude.
When the count arrived in the presence of the sovereigns, who were seated in state on a dais or raised part of the hall of audience, they both arose. The king advanced exactly five steps toward the count, who knelt and kissed his royal hand; however, the king would not receive him as a mere vassal, but embraced him with affectionate cordiality. The queen also advanced two steps, and received the count with a countenance full of sweetness and benignity: after he had kissed her hand the king and queen returned to their thrones, and, cushions being brought, they ordered the count de Cabra to be seated in their presence. This last circumstance is written in large letters and followed by several notes of admiration in the manuscript of the worthy Fray Antonio Agapida, who considers the extraordinary privilege of sitting in presence of the Catholic sovereigns an honor well worth fighting for.
The good count took his seat at a short distance from the king, and near him was seated the duke of Najera, then the bishop of Palencia, then the count of Aguilar, the count Luna, and Don Gutierre de Cardenas, senior commander of Leon.
On the side of the queen were seated the grand cardinal of Spain, the duke of Villahermosa, the count of Monte Rey, and the bishops of Jaen and Cuenca, each in the order in which they are named. The infanta Isabella was prevented by indisposition from attending the ceremony.
And now festive music resounded through the hall, and twenty ladies of the queen's retinue entered, magnificently attired; upon which twenty youthful cavaliers, very gay and galliard in their array, stepped forth, and, each seeking his fair partner, they commenced a stately dance. The court in the mean time (observes Fray Antonio Agapida) looked on with lofty and becoming gravity.
When the dance was concluded the king and queen rose to retire to supper, and dismissed the count with many gracious expressions. He was then attended by all the grandees present to the palace of the grand cardinal, where they partook of a sumptuous banquet.
On the following Saturday the alcayde de los Donceles was received likewise with great honors, but the ceremonies were so arranged as to be a degree less in dignity than those shown to his uncle, the latter being considered the principal actor in this great achievement. Thus the grand cardinal and the duke of Villahermosa did not meet him at the gate of the city, but received him in the palace and entertained him in conversation until summoned to the sovereigns. # When the alcayde de los Donceles entered the presence-chamber the king and queen rose from their chairs, but without advancing. They greeted him graciously, and commanded him to be seated next to the count de Cabra.
The infanta Isabella came forth to this reception, and took her seat beside the queen. When the court were all seated the music again sounded through the hall, and the twenty ladies came forth as on the preceding occasion, richly attired, but in different raiment. They danced as before, and the infanta Isabella, taking a young Portuguese damsel for a partner, joined in the dance. When this was concluded the king and queen dismissed the alcayde de los Donceles with great courtesy, and the court broke up.
The worthy Fray Antonio Agapida here indulges in a long eulogy on the scrupulous discrimination of the Castilian court in the distribution of its honors and rewards, by which means every smile and gesture and word of the sovereigns had its certain value and conveyed its equivalent of joy to the heart of the subject—a matter well worthy the study (says he) of all monarchs, who are too apt to distribute honors with a heedless caprice that renders them of no avail.
On the following Sunday both the count de Cabra and the alcayde de los Donceles were invited to sup with the sovereigns. The court that evening was attended by the highest nobility, arrayed with that cost and splendor for which the Spanish nobility of those days were renowned.
Before supper there was a stately and ceremonious dance, befitting the dignity of so august a court. The king led forth the queen in grave and graceful measure; the count de Cabra was honored with the hand of the infanta Isabella; and the alcayde de los Donceles danced with a daughter of the marques de Astorga.
The dance being concluded, the royal party repaired to the supper-table, which was placed on an elevated part of the saloon. Here, in full view of the court, the count de Cabra and the alcayde de los Donceles supped at the same table with the king, the queen, and the infanta. The royal family were served by the marques of Villena. The cup-bearer to the king was his nephew, Fadrigue de Toledo, son to the duke of Alva. Don Alexis de Estaniga had the honor of fulfilling that office for the queen, and Tello de Aguilar for the infanta. Other cavaliers of rank and distinction waited on the count and the alcayde de los Donceles. At one o'clock the two distinguished guests were dismissed with many courteous expressions by the sovereigns.
Such (says Fray Antonio Agapida) were the great honors paid at our most exalted and ceremonious court to these renowned cavaliers, but the gratitude of the sovereigns did not end here. A few days afterward they bestowed upon them large revenues for life, and others to descend to their heirs, with the privilege for them and their descendants to prefix the title of Don to their names. They gave them, moreover, as armorial bearings a Moor's head crowned, with a golden chain round the neck, in a sanguine field, and twenty-two banners round the margin of the escutcheon. Their descendants, of the houses of Cabra and Cordova, continue to bear these arms at the present day in memorial of the victory of Lucena and the capture of Boabdil el Chico.*
* The account given by Fray Antonio Agapida of this ceremonial, so characteristic of the old Spanish court, agrees in almost every particular with an ancient manuscript made up from the chronicles of the curate of los Palacios and other old Spanish writers.
HOW THE MARQUES OF CADIZ CONCERTED TO SURPRISE ZAHARA, AND THE RESULT OF HIS ENTERPRISE.
The valiant Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, was one of the most vigilant of commanders. He kept in his pay a number of converted Moors to serve as adalides, or armed guides. These mongrel Christians were of great service in procuring information. Availing themselves of their Moorish character and tongue, they penetrated into the enemy's country, prowled about the castles and fortresses, noticed the state of the walls, the gates, and towers, the strength of their garrisons, and the vigilance or negligence of their commanders. All this they minutely reported to the marques, who thus knew the state of every fortress upon the frontier and when it might be attacked with advantage. Besides the various town and cities over which he held feudal sway, he had always an armed force about him ready for the field. A host of retainers fed in his hall who were ready to follow him to danger, and death itself, without inquiring who or why they fought. The armories of his castles were supplied with helms and cuirasses and weapons of all kinds, ready burnished for use; and his stables were filled with hardy steeds that could stand a mountain-scamper.
The marques was aware that the late defeat of the Moors on the banks of the Lopera had weakened their whole frontier, for many of the castles and fortresses had lost their alcaydes and their choicest troops. He sent out his war-hounds, therefore, upon the range to ascertain where a successful blow might be struck; and they soon returned with word that Zahara was weakly garrisoned and short of provisions.
This was the very fortress which, about two years before, had been stormed by Muley Abul Hassan, and its capture had been the first blow of this eventful war. It had ever since remained a thorn in the side of Andalusia. All the Christians had been carried away captive, and no civil population had been introduced in their stead. There were no women or children in the place. It was kept up as a mere military post, commanding one of the most important passes of the mountains, and was a stronghold of Moorish marauders. The marques was animated by the idea of regaining this fortress for his sovereigns and wresting from the old Moorish king this boasted trophy of his prowess. He sent missives, therefore, to the brave Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero, who had distinguished himself in the late victory, and to Juan Almaraz, captain of the men-at-arms of the Holy Brotherhood, informing them of his designs, and inviting them to meet him with their forces on the banks of the Guadalete.
It was on the day (says Fray Antonio Agapida) of the glorious apostles St. Simon and Judas, the twenty-eighth of October, in the year of grace one thousand four hundred and eighty-three, that this chosen band of Christian soldiers assembled suddenly and secretly at the appointed place. Their forces when united amounted to six hundred horse and fifteen hundred foot. Their gathering-place was at the entrance of the defile leading to Zahara. That ancient town, renowned in Moorish warfare, is situated in one of the roughest passes of the Serrania de Ronda. It is built round the craggy cone of a hill, on the lofty summit of which is a strong castle. The country around is broken into deep barrancas or ravines, some of which approach its very walls. The place had until recently been considered impregnable, but (as the worthy Fray Antonio Agapida observes) the walls of impregnable fortresses, like the virtue of self-confident saints, have their weak points of attack.