Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada
by Washington Irving
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The marques of Cadiz advanced with his little army in the dead of the night, marching silently into the deep and dark defiles of the mountains, and stealing up the ravines which extended to the walls of the town. Their approach was so noiseless that the Moorish sentinels upon the walls heard not a voice or a footfall. The marques was accompanied by his old escalador, Ortega de Prado, who had distinguished himself at the scaling of Alhama. This hardy veteran was stationed, with ten men furnished with scaling-ladders, in a cavity among the rocks close to the walls. At a little distance seventy men were hid in a ravine, to be at hand to second him when he should have fixed his ladders. The rest of the troops were concealed in another ravine commanding a fair approach to the gate of the fortress. A shrewd and wary adalid, well acquainted with the place, was appointed to give signals, and so stationed that he could be seen by the various parties in ambush, but not by the garrison.

By orders of the marques a small body of light cavalry passed along the glen, and, turning round a point of rock, showed themselves before the town: they (6) skirred the fields almost to the gates, as if by way of bravado and to defy the garrison to a skirmish. The Moors were not slow in replying to it. About seventy horse and a number of foot who had guarded the walls sallied forth impetuously, thinking to make easy prey of these insolent marauders. The Christian horsemen fled for the ravine; the Moors pursued them down the hill, until they heard a great shouting and tumult behind them. Looking round toward the town, they beheld a scaling party mounting the walls sword in hand. Wheeling about, they galloped for the gate: the marques of Cadiz and Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero rushed forth at the same time with their ambuscade, and endeavored to cut them off, but the Moors succeeded in throwing themselves within the walls.

While Puerto Carrero stormed at the gate the marques put spurs to his horse and galloped to the support of Ortega de Prado and his scaling party. He arrived at a moment of imminent peril, when the party was assailed by fifty Moors armed with cuirasses and lances, who were on the point of thrusting them from the walls. The marques sprang from his horse, mounted a ladder sword in hand, followed by a number of his troops, and made a vigorous attack upon the enemy.* They were soon driven from the walls, and the gates and towers remained in possession of the Christians. The Moors defended themselves for a short time in the streets, but at length took refuge in the castle, the walls of which were strong and capable of holding out until relief should arrive. The marques had no desire to carry on a siege, and he had not provisions sufficient for many prisoners; he granted them, therefore, favorable terms. They were permitted, on leaving their arms behind them, to march out with as much of their effects as they could carry, and it was stipulated that they should pass over to Barbary. The marques remained in the place until both town and castle were put in a perfect state of defence and strongly garrisoned.

* Cura de los Palacios, c. 68.

Thus did Zahara return once more in possession of the Christians, to the great confusion of old Muley Abul Hassan, who, having paid the penalty of his ill-timed violence, was now deprived of its vaunted fruits. The Castilian sovereigns were so gratified by this achievement of the valiant Ponce de Leon that they authorized him thenceforth to entitle himself duke of Cadiz and marques of Zahara. The warrior, however, was so proud of the original title under which he had so often signalized himself that he gave it the precedence, and always signed himself marques, duke of Cadiz. As the reader may have acquired the same predilection, we shall continue to call him by his ancient title.



In this part of his chronicle the worthy father Fray Antonio Agapida indulges in triumphant exultation over the downfall of Zahara. Heaven sometimes speaks (says he) through the mouths of false prophets for the confusion of the wicked. By the fall of this fortress was the prediction of the santon of Granada in some measure fulfilled, that "the ruins of Zahara should fall upon the heads of the infidels."

Our zealous chronicler scoffs at the Moorish alcayde who lost his fortress by surprise in broad daylight, and contrasts the vigilance of the Christian governor of Alhama, the town taken in retaliation for the storming of Zahara.

The important post of Alhama was at this time confided by King Ferdinand to Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, count of Tendilla, a cavalier of noble blood, brother to the grand cardinal of Spain. He had been instructed by the king not merely to maintain his post, but also to make sallies and lay waste the surrounding country. His fortress was critically situated. It was within seven leagues of Granada, and at no great distance from the warlike city of Loxa. It was nestled in the lap of the mountains commanding the high-road to Malaga and a view over the extensive Vega. Thus situated, in the heart of the enemy's country, surrounded by foes ready to assail him and a rich country for him to ravage, it behooved this cavalier to be for ever on the alert. He was in fact an experienced veteran, a shrewd and wary officer, and a commander amazingly prompt and fertile in expedients.

On assuming the command he found that the garrison consisted but of one thousand men, horse and foot. They were hardy troops, seasoned in rough mountain-campaigning, but reckless and dissolute, as soldiers are apt to be when accustomed to predatory warfare. They would fight hard for booty, and then gamble it heedlessly away or squander it in licentious revelling. Alhama abounded with hawking, sharping, idle hangers-on, eager to profit by the vices and follies of the garrison. The soldiers were oftener gambling and dancing beneath the walls than keeping watch upon the battlements, and nothing was heard from morning till night but the noisy contests of cards and dice, mingled with the sound of the bolero or fandango, the drowsy strumming of the guitar, and the rattling of the castanets, while often the whole was interrupted by the loud brawl and fierce and bloody contest.

The count of Tendilla set himself vigorously to reform these excesses: he knew that laxity of morals is generally attended by neglect of duty, and that the least breach of discipline in the exposed situation of his fortress might be fatal. "Here is but a handful of men," said he; "it is necessary that each man should be a hero."

He endeavored to awaken a proper ambition in the minds of his soldiers and to instil into them the high principles of chivalry. "A just war," he observed, "is often rendered wicked and disastrous by the manner in which it is conducted; for the righteousness of the cause is not sufficient to sanction the profligacy of the means, and the want of order and subordination among the troops may bring ruin and disgrace upon the best-concerted plans." But we cannot describe the character and conduct of this renowned commander in more forcible language than that of Fray Antonio Agapida, excepting that the pious father places in the foreground of his virtues his hatred of the Moors. "The count de Tendilla," says he, "was a mirror of Christian knighthood—watchful, abstemious, chaste, devout, and thoroughly filled with the spirit of the cause. He labored incessantly and strenuously for the glory of the faith and the prosperity of their most Catholic majesties; and, above all, he hated the infidels with a pure and holy hatred. This worthy cavalier discountenanced all idleness, rioting, chambering, and wantonness among his soldiery. He kept them constantly to the exercise of arms, making them adroit in the use of their weapons and management of their steeds, and prompt for the field at a moment's notice. He permitted no sound of lute or harp or song or other loose minstrelsy to be heard in his fortress, debauching the ear and softening the valor of the soldier; no other music was allowed but the wholesome rolling of the drum and braying of the trumpet, and such like spirit-stirring instruments as fill the mind with thoughts of iron war. All wandering minstrels, sharping peddlers, sturdy trulls, and other camp trumpery were ordered to pack up their baggage, and were drummed out of the gates of Alhama. In place of such lewd rabble he introduced a train of holy friars to inspirit his people by exhortation and prayer and choral chanting, and to spur them on to fight the good fight of faith. All games of chance were prohibited except the game of war, and this he labored, by vigilance and vigor, to reduce to a game of certainty. Heaven smiled upon the efforts of this righteous cavalier. His men became soldiers at all points and terrors to the Moors. The good count never set forth on a ravage without observing the rites of confession, absolution, and communion, and obliging his followers to do the same. Their banners were blessed by the holy friars whom he maintained in Alhama; and in this way success was secured to his arms and he was enabled to lay waste the land of the heathen."

The fortress of Alhama (continues Fray Antonio Agapida) overlooked from its lofty site a great part of the fertile Vega, watered by the Cazin and the Xenil; from this he made frequent sallies, sweeping away the flocks and herds from the pasture, the laborer from the field, and the convoy from the road; so that it was said by the Moors that a beetle could not crawl across the Vega without being seen by Count Tendilla. The peasantry, therefore, were fain to betake themselves to watch-towers and fortified hamlets, where they shut up their cattle, garnered their corn, and sheltered their wives and children. Even there they were not safe: the count would storm these rustic fortresses with fire and sword, make captives of their inhabitants, carry off the corn, the oil, the silks, and cattle, and leave the ruins blazing and smoking within the very sight of Granada.

"It was a pleasing and refreshing sight," continues the good father, "to behold this pious knight and his followers returning from one of these crusades, leaving the rich land of the infidel in smoking desolation behind them; to behold the long line of mules and asses laden with the plunder of the Gentiles—the hosts of captive Moors, men, women, and children—droves of sturdy beeves, lowing kine, and bleating sheep,—all winding up the steep acclivity to the gates of Alhama, pricked on by the Catholic soldiery. His garrison thus thrived on the fat of the land and the spoil of the infidel; nor was he unmindful of the pious fathers whose blessings crowned his enterprises with success. A large portion of the spoil was always dedicated to the Church, and the good friars were ever ready at the gate to hail him on his return and receive the share allotted them. Besides these allotments, he made many votive offerings, either in time of peril or on the eve of a foray, and the chapels of Alhama were resplendent with chalices, crosses, and other precious gifts made by this Catholic cavalier."

Thus eloquently does the venerable Fray Antonio Agapida dilate in praise of the good count de Tendilla; and other historians of equal veracity, but less unction, agree in pronouncing him one of the ablest of Spanish generals. So terrible, in fact, did he become in the land that the Moorish peasantry could not venture a league from Granada or Loxa to labor in the fields without peril of being carried into captivity. The people of Granada clamored against Muley Abul Hassan for suffering his lands to be thus outraged and insulted, and demanded to have this bold marauder shut up in his fortress. The old monarch was roused by their remonstrances. He sent forth powerful troops of horse to protect the country during the season that the husbandmen were abroad in the fields. These troops patrolled in formidable squadrons in the neighborhood of Alhama, keeping strict watch upon its gates, so that it was impossible for the Christians to make a sally without being seen and intercepted.

While Alhama was thus blockaded by a roving force of Moorish cavalry, the inhabitants were awakened one night by a tremendous crash that shook the fortress to its foundations. The garrison flew to arms, supposing it some assault of the enemy. The alarm proved to have been caused by the rupture of a portion of the wall, which, undermined by heavy rains, had suddenly given way, leaving a large chasm yawning toward the plain.

The count de Tendilla was for a time in great anxiety. Should this breach be discovered by the blockading horsemen, they would arouse the country, Granada and Loxa would pour out an overwhelming force, and they would find his walls ready sapped for an assault. In this fearful emergency the count displayed his noted talent for expedients. He ordered a quantity of linen cloth to be stretched in front of the breach, painted in imitation of stone and indented with battlements, so as at a distance to resemble the other parts of the walls: behind this screen he employed workmen day and night in repairing the fracture. No one was permitted to leave the fortress, lest information of its defenceless plight should be carried to the Moor. Light squadrons of the enemy were seen hovering about the plain, but never approached near enough to discover the deception; and thus in the course of a few days the wall was rebuilt stronger than before.

There was another expedient of this shrewd veteran which greatly excites the marvel of Agapida. "It happened," he observes, "that this Catholic cavalier at one time was destitute of gold and silver wherewith to pay the wages of his troops; and the soldiers murmured greatly, seeing that they had not the means of purchasing necessaries from the people of the town. In this dilemma what does this most sagacious commander? He takes me a number of little morsels of paper, on the which he inscribes various sums, large and small, according to the nature of the case, and signs me them with his own hand and name. These did he give to the soldiery in earnest of their pay. 'How!' you will say, 'are soldiers to be paid with scraps of paper?' Even so, I answer, and well paid too, as I will presently make manifest, for the good count issued a proclamation ordering the inhabitants of Alhama to take these morsels of paper for the full amount thereon inscribed, promising to redeem them at a future time with silver and gold, and threatening severe punishment to all who should refuse. The people, having full confidence in his word, and trusting that he would be as willing to perform the one promise as he certainly was able to perform the other, took those curious morsels of paper without hesitation or demur. Thus by a subtle and most miraculous kind of alchymy did this Catholic cavalier turn worthless paper into precious gold, and make his late impoverished garrison abound in money!"

It is but just to add that the count de Tendilla redeemed his promises like a loyal knight; and this miracle, as it appeared in the eyes of Fray Antonio Agapida, is the first instance on record of paper money, which has since inundated the civilized world with unbounded opulence.



The Spanish cavaliers who had survived the memorable massacre among the mountains of Malaga, although they had repeatedly avenged the deaths of their companions, could not forget the horror and humiliation of their defeat. Nothing would satisfy them but a second expedition of the kind to carry fire and sword throughout a wide part of the Moorish territories, and leave the region which had triumphed in their disaster a black and burning monument of their vengeance. Their wishes accorded with the policy of the king to destroy the resources of the enemy; every assistance was therefore given to their enterprise.

In the spring of 1484 the ancient city of Antiquera again resounded with arms; numbers of the same cavaliers who had assembled there so gayly the preceding year came wheeling into the gates with their steeled and shining warriors, but with a more dark and solemn brow than on that disastrous occasion, for they had the recollection of their slaughtered friends present to their minds, whose deaths they were to avenge.

In a little while there was a chosen force of six thousand horse and twelve thousand foot assembled in Antiquera, many of them the very flower of Spanish chivalry, troops of the established military and religious orders and of the Holy Brotherhood.

Precautions had been taken to furnish this army with all things needful for its perilous inroad. Numerous surgeons accompanied it, who were to attend upon the sick and wounded without charge, being paid for their services by the queen. Isabella also, in her considerate humanity, provided six spacious tents furnished with beds and all things needful for the wounded and infirm. These continued to be used in all great expeditions throughout the war, and were called the Queen's Hospital. The worthy father, Fray Antonio Agapida, vaunts this benignant provision of the queen as the first introduction of a regular camp hospital in campaigning service.

Thus thoroughly prepared, the cavaliers issued forth from Antiquera in splendid and terrible array, but with less exulting confidence and vaunting ostentation than on their former foray; and this was the order of the army: Don Alonso de Aguilar led the advance guard, accompanied by Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova, the alcayde de los Donceles, and Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero, count of Palma, with their household troops. They were followed by Juan de Merlo, Juan de Almara, and Carlos de Biezman of the Holy Brotherhood, with the men-at-arms of their captaincies.

The second battalion was commanded by the marques of Cadiz and the master of Santiago, with the cavaliers of Santiago and the troops of the house of Ponce Leon; with these also went the senior commander of Calatrava and the knights of that order, and various other cavaliers and their retainers.

The right wing of this second battalion was led by Gonsalvo de Cordova, afterward renowned as grand captain of Spain; the left by Diego Lopez de Avila. They were accompanied by several distinguished cavaliers and certain captains of the Holy Brotherhood with their men-at-arms.

The duke of Medina Sidonia and the count de Cabra commanded the third battalion, with the troops of their respective houses. They were accompanied by other commanders of note with their forces.

The rear-guard was brought up by the senior commander and knights of Alcantara, followed by the Andalusian chivalry from Xeres, Ecija, and Carmona.

Such was the army that issued forth from the gates of Antiquera on one of the most extensive "talas," or devastating inroads, that ever laid waste the kingdom of Granada.

The army entered the Moorish territory by the way of Alora, destroying all the cornfields, vineyards, and orchards and plantations of olives round that city. It then proceeded through the rich valleys and fertile uplands of Coin, Cazarabonela, Almexia, and Cartama, and in ten days all those fertile regions were a smoking and frightful desert. Hence it pursued its slow and destructive course, like the stream of lava of a volcano, through the regions of Pupiana and Alhendin, and so on to the vega of Malaga, laying waste the groves of olives and almonds and the fields of grain, and destroying every green thing. The Moors of some of those places interceded in vain for their groves and fields, offering to deliver up their Christian captives. One part of the army blockaded the towns, while the other ravaged the surrounding country. Sometimes the Moors sallied forth desperately to defend their property, but were driven back to their gates with slaughter and their suburbs pillaged and burnt. It was an awful spectacle at night to behold the volumes of black smoke mingled with lurid flames rising from the burning suburbs, and the women on the walls of the town wringing their hands and shrieking at the desolation of their dwellings.

The destroying army on arriving at the sea-coast found vessels lying off shore laden with all kinds of provisions and munitions sent from Seville and Xeres, and was thus enabled to continue its desolating career. Advancing to the neighborhood of Malaga, it was bravely assailed by the Moors of that city, and there was severe skirmishing for a whole day; but, while the main part of the army encountered the enemy, the rest ravaged the whole vega and destroyed all the mills. As the object of the expedition was not to capture places, but merely to burn, ravage, and destroy, the host, satisfied with the mischief they had done in the vega, turned their backs upon Malaga and again entered the mountains. They passed by Coin and through the regions of Allazayna, and Gatero, and Alhaurin, all which were likewise desolated. In this way did they make the circuit of a chain of rich and verdant valleys, the glory of those mountains and the pride and delight of the Moors. For forty days did they continue on like a consuming fire, leaving a smoking and howling waste to mark their course, until, weary with the work of destruction, and having fully sated their revenge for the massacre of the Axarquia, they returned in triumph to the meadows of Antiquera.

In the month of June, King Ferdinand took command in person of this destructive army; he increased its force, and added to its means of mischief several lombards and other heavy artillery, intended for the battering of towns and managed by engineers from France and Germany. With these the (7) marques of Cadiz assured the king he would soon be able to reduce the Moorish fortresses, which were only calculated for defence against the engines anciently used in warfare. Their walls and towers were high and thin, depending for security on their rough and rocky situations. The stone and iron balls thundered from the lombards would soon tumble them in ruins upon the heads of their defenders.

The fate of Alora speedily proved the truth of this opinion. It was strongly posted on a rock washed by a river. The artillery soon battered down two of the towers and a part of the wall. The Moors were thrown into consternation at the vehemence of the assault and the effect of those tremendous engines upon their vaunted bulwarks. The roaring of the artillery and the tumbling of the walls terrified the women, who beset the alcayde with vociferous supplications to surrender. The place was given up on the 20th of June, on condition that the inhabitants might depart with their effects. The people of Malaga, as yet unacquainted with the power of this battering ordnance, were so incensed at those of Alora for what they considered a tame surrender that they would not admit them into their city.

A similar fate attended the town of Setenil, built on a lofty rock and esteemed impregnable. Many times had it been besieged under former Christian kings, but never taken. Even now, for several days the artillery was directed against it without effect, and many of the cavaliers murmured at the marques of Cadiz for having counselled the king to attack this unconquerable place.*

* Cura de los Palacios.

On the same night that these reproaches were uttered the marques directed the artillery himself: he levelled the lombards at the bottom of the walls and at the gates. In a little while the gates were battered to pieces, a great breach was effected in the walls, and the Moors were fain to capitulate. Twenty-four Christian captives, who had been taken in the defeat of the mountains of Malaga, were rescued from the dungeons of this fortress, and hailed the marques as their deliverer.

Needless is it to mention the capture of various other places which surrendered without waiting to be attacked. The Moors had always shown great bravery and perseverance in defending their towns; they were formidable in their sallies and skirmishes, and patient in enduring hunger and thirst when besieged; but this terrible ordnance, which demolished their walls with such ease and rapidity, overwhelmed them with dismay and rendered vain all resistance. King Ferdinand was so struck with the effect of this artillery that he ordered the number of lombards to be increased; and these potent engines had henceforth a great influence on the fortunes of this war.

The last operation of this year, so disastrous to the Moors, was an inroad by Ferdinand, in the latter part of summer, into the Vega, in which he ravaged the country, burnt two villages near to Granada, and destroyed the mills near the very gates of the city.

Old Muley Abul Hassan was overwhelmed with dismay at the desolation which during the whole year had raged throughout his territories and had now reached the walls of his capital. His fierce spirit was broken by misfortunes and infirmity; he offered to purchase a peace and to hold his crown as a tributary vassal. Ferdinand would listen to no propositions: the absolute conquest of Granada was the great object of this war, and he was resolved never to rest content without its complete fulfilment. Having supplied and strengthened the garrisons of the places taken in the heart of the Moorish territories, he enjoined their commanders to render every assistance to the younger Moorish king in the civil war against his father. He then returned with his army to Cordova in great triumph, closing a series of ravaging campaigns which had filled the kingdom of Granada with grief and consternation.



During this year of sorrow and disaster to the Moors the younger king, Boabdil, most truly called the Unfortunate, held a diminished and feeble court in the maritime city of Almeria. He retained little more than the name of king, and was supported in even this shadow of royalty by the countenance and treasures of the Castilian sovereigns. Still he trusted that in the fluctuation of events the inconstant nation might once more return to his standard and replace him on the throne of the Alhambra.

His mother, the high-spirited sultana Ayxa la Horra, endeavored to rouse him from this passive state. "It is a feeble mind," said she, "that waits for the turn of fortune's wheel; the brave mind seizes upon it and turns it to its purpose. Take the field, and you may drive danger before you; remain cowering at home, and it besieges you in your dwelling. By a bold enterprise you may regain your splendid throne in Granada; by passive forbearance you will forfeit even this miserable throne in Almeria."

Boabdil had not the force of soul to follow these courageous counsels, and in a little time the evils his mother had predicted fell upon him.

Old Muley Abul Hassan was almost extinguished by age and paralysis. He had nearly lost his sight, and was completely bedridden. His brother, Abdallah, surnamed El Zagal, or the Valiant, the same who had assisted in the massacre of the Spanish chivalry among the mountains of Malaga, was commander-in-chief of the Moorish armies, and gradually took upon himself most of the cares of sovereignty. Among other things, he was particularly zealous in espousing his brother's quarrel with his son, and he prosecuted it with such vehemence that many affirmed there was something more than mere fraternal sympathy at the bottom of his zeal.

The disasters and disgraces inflicted on the country by the Christians during this year had wounded the national feelings of the people of Almeria, and many felt indignant that Boabdil should remain passive at such a time, or, rather, should appear to make a common cause with the enemy. His uncle Abdallah diligently fomented this feeling by his agents. The same arts were made use of that had been successful in Granada. Boabdil was secretly but actively denounced by the alfaquis as an apostate leagued with the Christians against his country and his early faith; the affections of the populace and soldiery were gradually alienated from him, and a deep conspiracy concerted for his destruction.

In the month of February, 1485, El Zagal suddenly appeared before Almeria at the head of a troop of horse. The alfaquis were prepared for his arrival, and the gates were thrown open to him. He entered with his band and galloped to the citadel. The alcayde would have made resistance, but the garrison put him to death and received El Zagal with acclamations. The latter rushed through the apartments of the Alcazar, but he sought in vain for Boabdil. He found the sultana Ayxa la Horra in one of the saloons with Aben Haxig, a younger brother of the monarch, and several Abencerrages, who rallied round them to protect them. "Where is the traitor Boabdil?" exclaimed El Zagal.

"I know no traitor more perfidious than thyself," exclaimed the intrepid sultana; "and I trust my son is in safety, to take vengeance on thy treason."

The rage of El Zagal was without bounds when he learnt that his intended victim had escaped. In his fury he slew the prince Aben Haxig, and his followers fell upon and massacred the Abencerrages. As to the proud sultana, she was borne away prisoner and loaded with revilings as having upheld her son in his rebellion and fomented a civil war.

The unfortunate Boabdil had been apprised of his danger by a faithful soldier just in time to make his escape. Throwing himself on one of his fleetest horses and followed by a handful of adherents, he galloped in the confusion out of the gates of Almeria. Several of the cavalry of El Zagal, stationed without the walls, perceived his flight and attempted to pursue him; their horses were jaded with travel, and he soon left them far behind. But whither was he to fly? Every fortress and castle in the kingdom of Granada was closed against him; he knew not whom among the Moors to trust, for they had been taught to detest him as a traitor and an apostate. He had no alternative but to seek refuge among the Christians, his hereditary enemies. With heavy heart he turned his horse's head toward Cordova. He had to lurk, like a fugitive, through a part of his own dominions, nor did he feel himself secure until he had passed the frontier and beheld the mountain-barrier of his country towering behind him. Then it was that he became conscious of his humiliated state—a fugitive from his throne, an outcast from his nation, a king without a kingdom. He smote his breast in an agony of grief. "Evil indeed," exclaimed he, "was the day of my birth, and truly I was named El Zogoybi, the Unlucky."

He entered the gates of Cordova with downcast countenance and with a train of but forty followers. The sovereigns were absent, but the cavaliers of Andalusia manifested that sympathy in the misfortunes of the monarch which becomes men of lofty and chivalrous souls. They received him with great distinction, attended him with the utmost courtesy, and he was honorably entertained by the civil and military commanders of that ancient city.

In the mean time, El Zagal put a new alcayde over Almeria to govern in the name of his brother, and, having strongly garrisoned the place, repaired to Malaga, where an attack of the Christians was apprehended. The young monarch being driven out of the land, and the old monarch blind and bedridden, El Zagal at the head of the armies was virtually the sovereign of Granada. He was supported by the brave and powerful families of the Alnayans and Vanegas; the people were pleased with having a new idol to look up to and a new name to shout forth; and El Zagal was hailed with acclamations as the main hope of the nation.



The recent effect of the battering ordnance in demolishing the Moorish fortresses induced King Ferdinand to procure a powerful train for the campaign of 1485, intending to assault some of the most formidable holds of the enemy.

An army of nine thousand cavalry and twenty thousand infantry assembled at Cordova early in the spring, and the king took the field on the 5th of April. It had been determined in secret council to attack the city of Malaga, that ancient and important seaport on which Granada depended for foreign aid and supplies. It was thought proper previously, however, to get possession of various towns and fortresses in the valleys of Santa Maria and Cartama, through which pass the roads to Malaga.

The first place assailed was the town of Benamexi or Bonameji. It had submitted to the Catholic sovereigns in the preceding year, but had since renounced its allegiance. King Ferdinand was enraged at the rebellion of the inhabitants. "I will make their punishment," said he, "a terror to others: they shall be loyal through force, if not through faith." The place was carried by storm: one hundred and eight of the principal inhabitants were either put to the sword or hanged on the battlements; the rest were carried into captivity.*

* Pulgar, Garibay, Cura de los Palacios.

The towns of Coin and Cartama were besieged on the same day—the first by a division of the army led on by the marques of Cadiz; the second by another division commanded by Don Alonso de Aguilar and Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero, the brave senior of Palma. The king, with the rest of the army, remained posted between the two places to render assistance to either division. The batteries opened upon both places at the same time, and the thunder of the lombards was mutually heard from one camp to the other. The Moors made frequent sallies and a valiant defence, but they were confounded by the tremendous uproar of the batteries and the destruction of their walls. In the mean time, the alarm-fires gathered together the Moorish mountaineers of all the Serrania, who assembled in great numbers in the city of Monda, about a league from Coin. They made several attempts to enter the besieged town, but in vain: they were each time intercepted and driven back by the Christians, and were reduced to gaze at a distance in despair on the destruction of the place. While thus situated there rode one day into Monda a fierce and haughty Moorish chieftain at the head of a band of swarthy African horsemen: it was Hamet el Zegri, the fiery-spirited alcayde of Ronda, at the head of his band of Gomeres. He had not yet recovered from the rage and mortification of his defeat on the banks of the Lopera in the disastrous foray of old Bexir, when he had been obliged to steal back furtively to his mountains with the loss of the bravest of his followers. He had ever since panted for revenge. He now rode among the host of warriors assembled at Monda. "Who among you," cried he, "feels pity for the women and children of Coin exposed to captivity and death? Whoever he is, let him follow me, who am ready to die as a Moslem for the relief of Moslems." So saying, he seized a white banner, and, waving it over his head, rode forth from the town, followed by the Gomeres. Many of the warriors, roused by his words and his example, spurred resolutely after his banner. The people of Coin, being prepared for this attempt, sallied forth as they saw the white banner and made an attack upon the Christian camp, and in the confusion of the moment Hamet and his followers galloped into the gates. This reinforcement animated the besieged, and Hamet exhorted them to hold out obstinately in defence of life and town. As the Gomeres were veteran warriors, the more they were attacked the harder they fought.

At length a great breach was made in the walls, and Ferdinand, who was impatient of the resistance of the place, ordered the duke of Naxara and the count of Benavente to enter with their troops, and, as their forces were not sufficient, he sent word to Luis de Cerda, duke of Medina Celi, to send a part of his people to their assistance.

The feudal pride of the duke was roused at this demand. "Tell my lord the king," said the haughty grandee, "that I have come to succor him with my household troops: if my people are ordered to any place, I am to go with them; but if I am to remain in the camp, my people must remain with me. For the troops cannot serve without their commander, nor their commander without his troops."

The reply of the high-spirited grandee perplexed the cautious Ferdinand, who knew the jealous pride of his powerful nobles. In the mean time, the people of the camp, having made all preparations for the assault, were impatient to be led forward. Upon this Pero Ruyz de Alarcon put himself at their head, and, seizing their mantas or portable bulwarks, and their other defences, they made a gallant assault and fought their way in at the breach. The Moors were so overcome by the fury of their assault that they retreated, fighting, to the square of the town. Pero Ruyz de Alarcon thought the place was carried, when suddenly Hamet and his Gomeres came scouring through the streets with wild war-cries, and fell furiously upon the Christians. The latter were in their turn beaten back, and, while attacked in front by the Gomeres, were assailed by the inhabitants with all kinds of missiles from their roofs and windows. They at length gave way and retreated through the breach. Pero Ruyz de Alarcon still maintained his ground in one of the principal streets: the few cavaliers that stood by him urged him to fly: "No," said he; "I came here to fight, and not to fly." He was presently surrounded by the Gomeres; his companions fled for their lives: the last they saw of him he was covered with wounds, but still fighting desperately for the fame of a good cavalier.*

* Pulgar, part 3, cap. 42.

The resistance of the inhabitants, though aided by the valor of the Gomeres, was of no avail. The battering artillery of the Christians demolished their walls; combustibles thrown into their town set it on fire in various places; and they were at length compelled to capitulate. They were permitted to depart with their effects, and the Gomeres with their arms. Hamet el Zegri and his African band rode proudly through the Christian camp, nor could the Spanish cavaliers refrain from regarding with admiration that haughty warrior and his devoted and dauntless followers.

The capture of Coin was accompanied by that of Cartama: the fortifications of the latter were repaired and garrisoned, but Coin, being too extensive to be defended by a moderate force, its walls were demolished. The siege of these places struck such terror into the surrounding country that the Moors of many of the neighboring towns abandoned their homes, and fled with such of their effects as they could carry away, upon which the king gave orders to demolish their walls and towers.

King Ferdinand now left his camp and his heavy artillery near Cartama, and proceeded with his lighter troops to reconnoitre Malaga. By this time the secret plan of attack arranged in the council of war at Cordova was known to all the world. The vigilant warrior, El Zagal, had thrown himself into the place, put all the fortifications, which were of vast strength, into a state of defence, and sent orders to the alcaydes of the mountain-towns to hasten with their forces to his assistance.

The very day that Ferdinand appeared before the place El Zagal sallied forth to receive him at the head of a thousand cavalry, the choicest warriors of Granada. A sharp skirmish took place among the gardens and olive trees near the city. Many were killed on both sides, and this gave the Christians a foretaste of what they might expect if they attempted to besiege the place.

When the skirmish was over the marques of Cadiz had a private conference with the king. He represented the difficulty of besieging Malaga with their present force, especially as their plans had been discovered and anticipated, and the whole country was marching to oppose them. The marques, who had secret intelligence from all quarters, had received a letter from Juceph Xerife, a Moor of Ronda of Christian lineage, apprising him of the situation of that important place and its garrison, which at that moment laid it open to attack, and the marques was urgent with the king to seize upon this critical moment, and secure a place which was one of the most powerful Moorish fortresses on the frontiers, and in the hands of Hamet el Zegri had been the scourge of Andalusia. The good marques had another motive for his advice, becoming a true and loyal knight. In the deep dungeons of Ronda languished several of his companion-in-arms who had been captured in the defeat in the Axarquia. To break their chains and restore them to liberty and light he felt to be his peculiar duty as one of those who had most promoted that disastrous enterprise.

King Ferdinand listened to the advice of the marques. He knew the importance of Ronda, which was considered one of the keys to the kingdom of Granada, and he was disposed to punish the inhabitants for the aid they had rendered to the garrison of Coin. The siege of Malaga therefore, was abandoned for the present, and preparations made for a rapid and secret move against the city of Ronda.



The bold Hamet el Zegri, the alcayde of Ronda, had returned sullenly to his stronghold after the surrender of Coin. He had fleshed his sword in battle with the Christians, but his thirst for vengeance was still unsatisfied. Hamet gloried in the strength of his fortress and the valor of his people. A fierce and warlike populace was at his command; his signal-fires could summon all the warriors of the Serrania; his Gomeres almost subsisted on the spoils of Andalusia; and in the rock on which his fortress was built were hopeless dungeons filled with Christian captives carried off by these war-hawks of the mountains.

Ronda was considered as impregnable. It was situated in the heart of wild and rugged mountains, and perched upon an isolated rock crested by a strong citadel, with triple walls and towers. A deep ravine, or rather a perpendicular chasm of the rocks, of frightful depth, surrounded three parts of the city; through this flowed the Rio Verde, or Green River. There were two suburbs to the city, fortified by walls and towers, and almost inaccessible from the natural asperity of the rocks. Around this rugged city were deep rich valleys, sheltered by the mountains, refreshed by constant streams, abounding with grain and the most delicious fruits, and yielding verdant meadows, in which was reared a renowned breed of horses, the best in the whole kingdom for a foray.

Hamet el Zegri had scarcely returned to Ronda when he received intelligence that the Christian army was marching to the siege of Malaga, and orders from El Zagal to send troops to his assistance. Hamet sent a part of his garrison for that purpose; in the mean time he meditated an expedition to which he was stimulated by pride and revenge. All Andalusia was now drained of its troops; there was an opportunity, therefore, for an inroad by which he might wipe out the disgrace of his defeat at the battle of Lopera. Apprehending no danger to his mountain-city, now that the storm of war had passed down into the vega of Malaga, he left but a remnant of his garrison to man its walls, and, putting himself at the head of his band of Gomeres, swept down suddenly into the plains of Andalusia. He careered, almost without resistance, over those vast campinas or pasture-lands which formed a part of the domains of the duke of Medina Sidonia. In vain the bells were rung and the alarm-fires kindled: the band of Hamet had passed by before any force could be assembled, and was only to be traced, like a hurricane, by the devastation it had made.

Hamet regained in safety the Serrania de Ronda, exulting in his successful inroad. The mountain-glens were filled with long droves of cattle and flocks of sheep from the campinas of Medina Sidonia. There were mules, too, laden with the plunder of the villages, and every warrior had some costly spoil of jewels for his favorite mistress.

As the Zegri drew near to Ronda he was roused from his dream of triumph by the sound of heavy ordnance bellowing through the mountain-defiles. His heart misgave him: he put spurs to his horse and galloped in advance of his lagging cavalgada. As he proceeded the noise of the ordnance increased, echoing from cliff to cliff. Spurring his horse up a craggy height which commanded an extensive view, he beheld, to his consternation, the country about Ronda white with the tents of a besieging army. The royal standard, displayed before a proud encampment, showed that Ferdinand himself was present, while the incessant blaze and thunder of artillery and the volumes of overhanging smoke told the work of destruction that was going on.

The royal army had succeeded in coming upon Ronda by surprise during the absence of its alcayde and most of its garrison; but its inhabitants were warlike and defended themselves bravely, trusting that Hamet and his Gomeres would soon return to their assistance.

The fancied strength of their bulwarks had been of little avail against the batteries of the besiegers. In the space of four days three towers and great masses of the walls which defended the suburbs were battered down and the suburbs taken and plundered. Lombards and other heavy ordnance were now levelled at the walls of the city, and stones and missiles of all kinds hurled into the streets. The very rock on which the city stood shook with the thunder of the artillery, and the Christian captives, deep within its dungeons, hailed the sound as a promise of deliverance.

When Hamet el (8) Zegri beheld his city thus surrounded and assailed, he called upon his men to follow him and cut their way through to its relief. They proceeded stealthily through the mountains until they came to the nearest heights above the Christian camp. When night fell and part of the army was sunk in sleep, they descended the rocks, and, rushing suddenly upon the weakest part of the camp, endeavored to break their way through and gain the city. The camp was too strong to be forced; they were driven back to the crags of the mountains, whence they defended themselves by showering down darts and stones upon their pursuers.

Hamet now lit alarm-fires about the heights: his standard was joined by the neighboring mountaineers and by troops from Malaga. Thus reinforced, he made repeated assaults upon the Christians, cutting off all stragglers from the camp. All his attempts to force his way into the city, however, were fruitless; many of his bravest men were slain, and he was obliged to retreat into the fastnesses of the mountains.

In the mean while the distress of Ronda increased hourly. The marques of Cadiz, having possession of the suburbs, was enabled to approach to the very foot of the perpendicular precipice rising from the river on the summit of which the city is built. At the foot of this rock is a living fountain of limpid water gushing into a great natural basin. A secret mine led down from within the city to this fountain by several hundred steps cut in the solid rock. Hence the city obtained its chief supply of water, and these steps were deeply worn by the weary feet of Christian captives employed in this painful labor. The marques of Cadiz discovered this subterraneous passage, and directed his pioneers to countermine in the side of the rock; they pierced to the shaft, and, stopping it up, deprived the city of the benefit of this precious fountain.

While the marques was thus pressing the siege with the generous thought of soon delivering his companions-in-arms from the Moorish dungeons, far other were the feelings of the alcayde, Hamet el Zegri. He smote his breast and gnashed his teeth in impotent fury as he beheld from the mountain-cliffs the destruction of the city. Every thunder of the Christian ordnance seemed to batter against his heart. He saw tower after tower tumbling by day, and various parts of the city in a blaze at night. "They fired not merely stones from their ordnance," says a chronicler of the times, "but likewise great balls of iron cast in moulds, which demolished everything they struck. They threw also balls of tow steeped in pitch and oil and gunpowder, which, when once on fire, were not to be extinguished, and which set the houses in flames. Great was the horror of the inhabitants: they knew not where to fly for refuge: their houses were in a blaze or shattered by the ordnance; the streets were perilous from the falling ruins and the bounding balls, which dashed to pieces everything they encountered. At night the city looked like a fiery furnace; the cries and wailings of the women between the thunders of the ordnance reached even to the Moors on the opposite mountains, who answered them by yells of fury and despair."

All hope of external succor being at an end, the inhabitants of Ronda were compelled to capitulate. Ferdinand was easily prevailed upon to grant them favorable terms. The place was capable of longer resistance, and he feared for the safety of his camp, as the forces were daily augmenting on the mountains and making frequent assaults. The inhabitants were permitted to depart with their effects, either to Barbary, Granada, or elsewhere, and those who chose to reside in Spain had lands assigned them and were indulged in the practice of their religion.

No sooner did the place surrender than detachments were sent to attack the Moors who hovered about the neighboring mountains. Hamet el Zegri, however, did not remain to make a fruitless battle. He gave up the game as lost, and retreated with his Gomeres, filled with grief and rage, but trusting to fortune to give him future vengeance.

The first care of the good marques of Cadiz on entering Ronda was to deliver his unfortunate companion-in-arms from the dungeons of the fortress. What a difference in their looks from the time when, flushed with health and hope and arrayed in military pomp, they had sallied forth upon the mountain-foray! Many of them were almost naked, with irons at their ankles and beards reaching to their waists. Their meeting with the marques was joyful, yet it had the look of grief, for their joy was mingled with many bitter recollections. There was an immense number of other captives, among whom were several young men of noble families who with filial piety had surrendered themselves prisoners in place of their fathers.

The captives were all provided with mules and sent to the queen at Cordova. The humane heart of Isabella melted at the sight of the piteous cavalcade. They were all supplied by her with food and raiment, and money to pay their expenses to their homes. Their chains were hung as pious trophies against the exterior of the church of St. Juan de los Reyes in Toledo, where the Christian traveller may regale his eyes with the sight of them at this very day.*

* Seen by the author in 1826.

Among the Moorish captives was a young infidel maiden, of great beauty, who desired to become a Christian and to remain in Spain. She had been inspired with the light of the true faith through the ministry of a young man who had been a captive in Ronda. He was anxious to complete his good work by marrying her. The queen consented to their pious wishes, having first taken care that the young maiden should be properly purified by the holy sacrament of baptism.

"Thus this pestilent nest of warfare and infidelity, the city of Ronda," says the worthy Fray Antonio Agapida, "was converted to the true faith by the thunder of our artillery—an example which was soon followed by Cazarabonela, Marbella, and other towns in these parts, insomuch that in the course of this expedition no less than seventy-two places were rescued from the vile sect of Mahomet and placed under the benignant domination of the Cross."



The people of Granada were a versatile, unsteady race, and exceedingly given to make and unmake kings. They had for a long time vacillated between old Muley Abul Hassan and his son, Boabdil el Chico, sometimes setting up the one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both at once, according to the pinch and pressure of external evils. They found, however, that the evils still went on increasing in defiance of every change, and were at their wits' end to devise some new combination or arrangement by which an efficient government might be wrought out of two bad kings. When the tidings arrived of the fall of Ronda, and the consequent ruin of the frontier, a tumultuous assemblage took place in one of the public squares. As usual, the people attributed the misfortunes of the country to the faults of their rulers, for the populace never imagine that any part of their miseries can originate with themselves. A crafty alfaqui, named Alyme Mazer, who had watched the current of their discontents, rose and harangued them. "You have been choosing and changing," said he, "between two monarchs; and who and what are they? Muley Abul Hassan for one, a man worn out by age and infirmities, unable to sally forth against the foe, even when ravaging to the very gates of the city; and Boabdil el Chico for the other, an apostate, a traitor, a deserter from his throne, a fugitive among the enemies of his nation, a man fated to misfortune, and proverbially named 'the Unlucky.' In a time of overwhelming war like the present he only is fit to sway a sceptre who can wield a sword. Would you seek such a man? You need not look far. Allah has sent such a one in this time of distress to retrieve the fortunes of Granada. You already know whom I mean. You know that it can be no other than your general, the invincible Abdallah, whose surname of El Zagal has become a watchword in battle rousing the courage of the faithful and striking terror into the unbelievers."

The multitude received the words of the alfaqui with acclamations; they were delighted with the idea of a third king over Granada, and Abdallah el Zagal being of the royal family, and already in the virtual exercise of royal power, the measure had nothing in it that appeared either rash or violent. A deputation was therefore sent to El Zagal at Malaga inviting him to repair to Granada to receive the crown.

El Zagal expressed great surprise and repugnance when the mission was announced to him, and nothing but his patriotic zeal for the public safety and his fraternal eagerness to relieve the aged Abul Hassan from the cares of government prevailed upon him to accept the offer. Leaving, therefore, Reduan Vanegas, one of the bravest Moorish generals, in command of Malaga, he departed for Granada, attended by three hundred trusty cavaliers.

Muley Abul Hassan did not wait for the arrival of his brother. Unable any longer to buffet with the storms of the times, his only solicitude was to seek some safe and quiet harbor of repose. In one of the deep valleys which indent the Mediterranean coast, and which are shut up on the land side by stupendous mountains, stood the little city of Almunecar. The valley was watered by the limpid river Frio, and abounded with fruits, with grain, and pasturage. The city was strongly fortified, and the garrison and alcayde were devoted to the old monarch. This was the place chosen by Muley Abul Hassan for his asylum. His first care was to send thither all his treasures; his next care was to take refuge there himself; his third, that his sultana Zoraya and their two sons should follow him.

In the mean time, Muley Abdallah el Zagal pursued his journey toward the capital, attended by his three hundred cavaliers. The road from Malaga to Granada winds close by Alhama, and is dominated by that lofty fortress. This had been a most perilous pass for the Moors during the time that Alhama was commanded by the count de Tendilla: not a traveller could escape his eagle eye, and his garrison was ever ready for a sally. The count de Tendilla, however, had been relieved from this arduous post, and it had been given in charge to Don Gutiere de Padilla, clavero (or treasurer) of the order of Calatrava—an easy, indulgent man, who had with him three hundred gallant knights of his order, besides other mercenary troops. The garrison had fallen off in discipline; the cavaliers were hardy in fight and daring in foray, but confident in themselves and negligent of proper precautions. Just before the journey of El Zagal a number of these cavaliers, with several soldiers of fortune of the garrison, in all about one hundred and seventy men, had sallied forth to harass the Moorish country during its present distracted state, and, having ravaged the valleys of the Sierra Nevada, or Snowy Mountains, were returning to Alhama in gay spirits and laden with booty.

As El Zagal passed through the neighborhood of Alhama he recollected the ancient perils of the road, and sent light cerradors in advance to inspect each rock and ravine where a foe might lurk in ambush. One of these scouts, overlooking a narrow valley which opened upon the road, descried a troop of horsemen on the banks of a little stream. They were dismounted, and had taken the bridles from their steeds, that they might crop the fresh grass on the banks of the river. The horsemen were scattered about, some reposing in the shades of rocks and trees, others gambling for the spoil they had taken: not a sentinel was posted to keep guard; everything showed the perfect security of men who consider themselves beyond the reach of danger.

These careless cavaliers were in fact the knights of Calatrava returning from their foray. A part of their force had passed on with the cavalgada; ninety of the principal cavaliers had halted to refresh themselves in this valley. El Zagal smiled with ferocious joy when he heard of their negligent security. "Here will be trophies," said he, "to grace our entrance into Granada."

Approaching the valley with cautious silence, he wheeled into it at full speed at the head of his troop, and attacked the Christians so suddenly that they had no time to put the bridles upon their horses or even to leap into the saddles. They made a confused but valiant defence, fighting among the rocks and in the rugged bed of the river. Their defence was useless; seventy-nine were slain, and the remaining eleven were taken prisoners.

A party of the Moors galloped in pursuit of the cavalgada: they soon overtook it winding slowly up a hill. The horsemen who convoyed it, perceiving the enemy at a distance, made their escape, and left the spoil to be retaken by the Moors. El Zagal gathered together his captives and his booty, and proceeded, elate with success, to Granada.

He paused before the gate of Elvira, for as yet he had not been proclaimed king. This ceremony was immediately performed, for the fame of his recent exploit had preceded him and intoxicated the minds of the giddy populace. He entered Granada in a sort of triumph. The eleven captive knights of Calatrava walked in front: next were paraded the ninety captured steeds, bearing the armor and weapons of their late owners, and led by as many mounted Moors: then came seventy Moorish horsemen, with as many Christian heads hanging at their saddle-bows: Muley Abdallah followed, surrounded by a number of distinguished cavaliers splendidly attired, and the pageant was closed by a long cavalgada of the flocks and herds and other booty recovered from the Christians.*

* Zurita, lib. 20, c. 62; Mariana, Hist. de Espana; Abarca, Anales de Aragon.

The populace gazed with almost savage triumph at these captive cavaliers and the gory heads of their companions, knowing them to have been part of the formidable garrison of Alhama, so long the scourge of Granada and the terror of the Vega. They hailed this petty triumph as an auspicious opening of the reign of their new monarch; for several days the name of Muley Abul Hassan and Boabdil el Chico were never mentioned but with contempt, and the whole city resounded with the praises of El Zagal, or the Valiant.



The elevation of a bold and active veteran to the throne of Granada in place of its late bedridden king made an important difference in the aspect of the war, and called for some blow that should dash the confidence of the Moors in their new monarch and animate the Christians to fresh exertions.

Don Diego de Cordova, the brave count de Cabra, was at this time in his castle of Vaena, where he kept a wary eye upon the frontier. It was now the latter part of August, and he grieved that the summer should pass away without an inroad into the country of the foe. He sent out his scouts on the prowl, and they brought him word that the important post of Moclin was but weakly garrisoned. This was a castellated town, strongly situated upon a high mountain, partly surrounded by thick forests and partly girdled by a river. It defended one of the rugged and solitary passes by which the Christians were wont to make their inroads, insomuch that the Moors, in their figurative way, denominated it the shield of Granada.

The count de Cabra sent word to the monarchs of the feeble state of the garrison, and gave it as his opinion that by a secret and rapid expedition the place might be surprised. King Ferdinand asked the advice of his councillors. Some cautioned him against the sanguine temperament of the count and his heedlessness of danger: Moclin, they observed, was near to Granada and might be promptly reinforced. The opinion of the count, however, prevailed, the king considering him almost infallible in matters of border warfare since his capture of Boabdil el Chico.

The king departed, therefore, from Cordova, and took post at Alcala la Real, for the purpose of being near to Moclin. The queen also proceeded to Vaena, accompanied by her children, Prince Juan and the princess Isabella, and her great counsellor in all matters, public and private, spiritual and temporal, the venerable grand cardinal of Spain.

Nothing could exceed the pride and satisfaction of the loyal count de Cabra when he saw the stately train winding along the dreary mountain-roads and entering the gates of Vaena. He received his royal guests with all due ceremony, and lodged them in the best apartments that the warrior castle afforded.

King Ferdinand had concerted a wary plan to ensure the success of the enterprise. The count de Cabra and Don Martin Alonso de Montemayor were to set forth with their troops so as to reach Moclin by a certain hour, and to intercept all who should attempt to enter or should sally from the town. The master of Calatrava, the troops of the grand cardinal, commanded by the count of Buendia, and the forces of the bishop of Jaen, led by that belligerent prelate, amounting in all to four thousand horse and six thousand foot, were to set off in time to co-operate with the count de Cabra, so as to surround the town. The king was to follow with his whole force and encamp before the place.

And here the worthy padre Fray Antonio Agapida breaks forth into a triumphant eulogy of the pious prelates who thus mingled personally in these scenes of warfare. As this was a holy crusade (says he), undertaken for the advancement of the faith and the glory of the Church, so was it always countenanced and upheld by saintly men; for the victories of their most Catholic majesties were not followed, like those of mere worldly sovereigns, by erecting castles and towers and appointing alcaydes and garrisons, but by the founding of convents and cathedrals and the establishment of wealthy bishoprics. Wherefore their majesties were always surrounded in court or camp, in the cabinet or in the field, by a crowd of ghostly advisers inspiriting them to the prosecution of this most righteous war. Nay, the holy men of the Church did not scruple, at times, to buckle on the cuirass over the cassock, to exchange the crosier for the lance, and thus with corporal hands and temporal weapons to fight the good fight of the faith.

But to return from this rhapsody of the worthy friar. The count de Cabra, being instructed in the complicated arrangements of the king, marched forth at midnight to execute them punctually. He led his troops by the little river that winds below Vaena, and so up to the wild defiles of the mountains, marching all night, and stopping only in the heat of the following day to repose under the shadowy cliffs of a deep barranca, calculating to arrive at Moclin exactly in time to co-operate with the other forces.

The troops had scarcely stretched themselves on the earth to take repose, when a scout arrived bringing word that El Zagal had suddenly sallied out of Granada with a strong force, and had encamped in the vicinity of Moclin. It was plain that the wary Moor had received information of the intended attack. This, however, was not the idea that presented itself to the mind of the count de Cabra. He had captured one king; here was a fair opportunity to secure another. What a prisoner to deliver into the hands of his royal mistress! Fired with the thoughts, the good count forgot all the arrangements of the king; or rather, blinded by former success, he trusted everything to courage and fortune, and thought that by one bold swoop he might again bear off the royal prize and wear his laurels without competition.* His only fear was that the master of Calatrava and the belligerent bishop might come up in time to share the glory of the victory; so, ordering every one to horse, this hot-spirited cavalier pushed on for Moclin without allowing his troops the necessary time for repose.

* Mariana, lib. 25, c. 17; Abarca, Zurita, etc.

The evening closed as the count arrived in the neighborhood of Moclin. It was the full of the moon and a bright and cloudless night. The count was marching through one of those deep valleys or ravines worn in the Spanish mountains by the brief but tremendous torrents which prevail during the autumnal rains. It was walled on each side by lofty and almost perpendicular cliffs, but great masses of moonlight were thrown into the bottom of the glen, glittering on the armor of the shining squadrons as they silently passed through it. Suddenly the war-cry of the Moors rose in various parts of the valley. "El Zagal! El Zagal!" was shouted from every cliff, accompanied by showers of missiles that struck down several of the Christian warriors. The count lifted up his eyes, and beheld, by the light of the moon, every cliff glistening with Moorish soldiery. The deadly shower fell thickly round him, and the shining armor of his followers made them fair objects for the aim of the enemy. The count saw his brother Gonzalo struck dead by his side; his own horse sank under him, pierced by four Moorish lances, and he received a wound in the hand from an arquebuse. He remembered the horrible massacre of the mountains of Malaga, and feared a similar catastrophe. There was no time to pause. His brother's horse, freed from his slaughtered rider, was running at large: seizing the reins, he sprang into the saddle, called upon his men to follow him, and, wheeling round, retreated out of the fatal valley.

The Moors, rushing down from the heights, pursued the retreating Christians. The chase endured for a league, but it was a league of rough and broken road, where the Christians had to turn and fight at almost every step. In these short but fierce combats the enemy lost many cavaliers of note, but the loss of the Christians was infinitely more grievous, comprising numbers of the noblest warriors of Vaena and its vicinity. Many of the Christians, disabled by wounds or exhausted by fatigue, turned aside and endeavored to conceal themselves among rocks and thickets, but never more rejoined their companions, being slain or captured by the Moors or perishing in their wretched retreats.

The arrival of the troops led by the master of Calatrava and the bishop of Jaen put an end to the rout. El Zagal contented himself with the laurels he had gained, and, ordering the trumpets to call off his men from the pursuit, returned in great triumph to Moclin.*

* Zurita, lib. 20, c. 4; Pulgar, Cronica.

Queen Isabella was at Vaena, awaiting with great anxiety the result of the expedition. She was in a stately apartment of the castle looking toward the road that winds through the mountains from Moclin, and regarding the watch-towers on the neighboring heights in hopes of favorable signals. The prince and princess, her children, were with her, and her venerable counsellor, the grand cardinal. All shared in the anxiety of the moment. At length couriers were seen riding toward the town. They entered its gates, but before they reached the castle the nature of their tidings was known to the queen by the shrieks and wailings from the streets below. The messengers were soon followed by wounded fugitives hastening home to be relieved or to die among their friends and families. The whole town resounded with lamentations, for it had lost the flower of its youth and its bravest warriors. Isabella was a woman of courageous soul, but her feelings were overpowered by spectacles of woe on every side: her maternal heart mourned over the death of so many loyal subjects, who shortly before had rallied round her with devoted affection, and, losing her usual self-command, she sank into deep despondency.

In this gloomy state of mind a thousand apprehensions crowded upon her. She dreaded the confidence which this success would impart to the Moors; she feared also for the important fortress of Alhama, the garrison of which had not been reinforced since its foraging party had been cut off by this same El Zagal. On every side she saw danger and disaster, and feared that a general reverse was about to attend the Castilian arms.

The grand cardinal comforted her with both spiritual and worldly counsel. He told her to recollect that no country was ever conquered without occasional reverses to the conquerors; that the Moors were a warlike people, fortified in a rough and mountainous country, where they never could be conquered by her ancestors; and that, in fact, her armies had already, in three years, taken more cities than those of any of her predecessors had been able to do in twelve. He concluded by offering to take the field himself with three thousand cavalry, his own retainers, paid and maintained by himself, and either hasten to the relief of Alhama or undertake any other expedition Her Majesty might command. The discreet words of the cardinal soothed the spirit of the queen, who always looked to him for consolation, and she soon recovered her usual equanimity.

Some of the counsellors of Isabella, of that politic class who seek to rise by the faults of others, were loud in their censures of the rashness of the count. The queen defended him with prompt generosity. "The enterprise," said she, "was rash, but not more rash than that of Lucena, which was crowned with success, and which we have all applauded as the height of heroism. Had the count de Cabra succeeded in capturing the uncle, as he did the nephew, who is there that would not have praised him to the skies?"

The magnanimous words of the queen put a stop to all invidious remarks in her presence, but certain of the courtiers, who had envied the count the glory gained by his former achievements, continued to magnify, among themselves his present imprudence; and we are told by Fray Antonio Agapida that they sneeringly gave the worthy cavalier the appellation of count de Cabra the king-catcher.

Ferdinand had reached the place on the frontier called the Fountain of the King, within three leagues of Moclin, when he heard of the late disaster. He greatly lamented the precipitation of the count, but forbore to express himself with severity, for he knew the value of that loyal and valiant cavalier.* He held a council of war to determine what course was to be pursued. Some of his cavaliers advised him to abandon the attempt upon Moclin, the place being strongly reinforced and the enemy inspirited by his recent victory. Certain old Spanish hidalgos reminded him that he had but few Castilian troops in his army, without which stanch soldiery his predecessors never presumed to enter the Moorish territory, while others remonstrated that it would be beneath the dignity of the king to retire from an enterprise on account of the defeat of a single cavalier and his retainers. In this way the king was distracted by a multitude of counsellors, when, fortunately, a letter from the queen put an end to his perplexities. Proceed we in the next chapter to relate what was the purport of that letter.

* Abarca, Anales de Aragon.



"Happy are those princes," exclaims the worthy padre Fray Antonio Agapida, "who have women and priests to advise them, for in these dwelleth the spirit of counsel." While Ferdinand and his captains were confounding each other in their deliberations at the Fountain of the King, a quiet but deep little council of war was held in the state apartment of the old castle of Vaena between Queen Isabella, the venerable Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, grand cardinal of Spain, and Don Garcia Osoria, the belligerent bishop of Jaen. This last worthy prelate, who had exchanged his mitre for a helm, no sooner beheld the defeat of the enterprise against Moclin than he turned the reins of his sleek, stall-fed steed and hastened back to Vaena, full of a project for the employment of the army, the advancement of the faith, and the benefit of his own diocese. He knew that the actions of the king were influenced by the opinions of the queen, and that the queen always inclined a listening ear to the counsels of saintly men: he laid his plans, therefore, with the customary wisdom of his cloth, to turn the ideas of the queen into the proper channel; and this was the purport of the worthy bishop's suggestions:

The bishopric of Jaen had for a long time been harassed by two Moorish castles, the scourge and terror of all that part of the country. They were situated on the frontiers of the kingdom of Granada, about four leagues from Jaen, in a deep, narrow, and rugged valley surrounded by lofty mountains. Through this valley runs the Rio Frio (or Cold River) in a deep channel worn between high, precipitous banks. On each side of the stream rise two vast rocks, nearly perpendicular, within a stone's throw of each other, blocking up the gorge of the valley. On the summits of these rocks stood the two formidable castles, Cambil and Albahar, fortified with battlements and towers of great height and thickness. They were connected together by a bridge thrown from rock to rock across the river. The road which passed through the valley traversed this bridge, and was completely commanded by these castles. They stood like two giants of romance guarding the pass and dominating the valley.

The kings of Granada, knowing the importance of these castles, kept them always well garrisoned and victualled to stand a siege, with fleet steeds and hard riders to forage the country of the Christians. The warlike race of the Abencerrages, the troops of the royal household, and others of the choicest chivalry of Granada made them their strongholds or posts of arms, whence to sally forth on those predatory and roving enterprises in which they delighted. As the wealthy bishopric of Jaen lay immediately at hand, it suffered more peculiarly from these marauders. They drove off the fat beeves and the flocks of sheep from the pastures and swept the laborers from the field; they scoured the country to the very gates of Jaen, so that the citizens could not venture from their walls without the risk of being borne off captive to the dungeons of these castles.

The worthy bishop, like a good pastor, beheld with grief of heart his fat bishopric daily waxing leaner and leaner and poorer and poorer, and his holy ire was kindled at the thoughts that the possessions of the Church should thus be at the mercy of a crew of infidels. It was the urgent counsel of the bishop, therefore, that the military force thus providentially assembled in the neighborhood, since it was apparently foiled in its attempt upon Moclin, should be turned against these insolent castles and the country delivered from their domination. The grand cardinal supported the suggestion of the bishop, and declared that he had long meditated the policy of a measure of the kind. Their united opinions found favor with the queen, and she despatched a letter on the subject to the king. It came just in time to relieve him from the distraction of a multitude of counsellors, and he immediately undertook the reduction of those castles.

The marques of Cadiz was accordingly sent in advance, with two thousand horse, to keep a watch upon the garrisons and prevent all entrance or exit until the king should arrive with the main army and the battering artillery. The queen, to be near at hand in case of need, moved her quarters to the city of Jaen, where she was received with martial honors by the belligerent bishop, who had buckled on his cuirass and girded on his sword to fight in the cause of his diocese.

In the mean time, the marques of Cadiz arrived in the valley and completely shut up the Moors within their walls. The castles were under the command of Mahomet Lentin Ben Usef, an Abencerrage, and one of the bravest cavaliers of Granada. In his garrisons were many troops of the fierce African tribe of Gomeres. Mahomet Lentin, confident in the strength of his fortresses, smiled as he looked down from his battlements upon the Christian cavalry perplexed in the rough and narrow valley. He sent forth skirmishing parties to harass them, and there were many sharp combats between small parties and single knights; but the Moors were driven back to their castles, and all attempts to send intelligence of their situation to Granada were frustrated by the vigilance of the marques of Cadiz.

At length the legions of the royal army came pouring, with vaunting trumpet and fluttering banner, along the defiles of the mountains. They halted before the castles, but the king could not find room in the narrow and rugged valley to form his camp; he had to divide it into three parts, which were posted on different heights, and his tents whitened the sides of the neighboring hills. When the encampment was formed the army remained gazing idly at the castles. The artillery was upward of four leagues in the rear, and without artillery all attack would be in vain.

The alcayde Mahomet Lentin knew the nature of the road by which the artillery had to be brought. It was merely a narrow and rugged path, at times scaling almost perpendicular crags and precipices, up which it was utterly impossible for wheel carriages to pass, neither was it in the power of man or beast to draw up the lombards and other ponderous ordnance. He felt assured, therefore, that they never could be brought to the camp, and without their aid what could the Christians effect against his rock-built castles? He scoffed at them, therefore, as he saw their tents by day and their fires by night covering the surrounding heights. "Let them linger here a little while longer," said he, "and the autumnal torrents will wash them from the mountains."

While the alcayde was thus closely mewed up within his walls and the Christians remained inactive in their camp, he noticed, one calm autumnal day, the sound of implements of labor echoing among the mountains, and now and then the crash of a falling tree or a thundering report, as if some rock had been heaved from its bed and hurled into the valley. The alcayde was on the battlements of his castle, surrounded by his knights. "Methinks," said he, "these Christians are making war upon the rocks and trees of the mountains, since they find our castle unassailable."

The sounds did not cease even during the night: every now and then the Moorish sentinel as he paced the battlements heard some crash echoing among the heights. The return of day explained the mystery. Scarcely did the sun shine against the summits of the mountains than shouts burst from the cliffs opposite to the castle, and were answered from the camp with joyful sounds of kettledrums and trumpets.

The astonished Moors lifted up their eyes and beheld, as it were, a torrent of war breaking out of a narrow defile. There was a multitude of men with pickaxes, spades, and bars of iron clearing away every obstacle, while behind them slowly moved along great teams of oxen dragging heavy ordnance and all the munitions of battering artillery.

"What cannot women and priests effect when they unite in council?" exclaims again the worthy Antonio Agapida. The queen had held another consultation with the grand cardinal and the belligerent bishop of Jaen. It was clear that the heavy ordnance could never be conveyed to the camp by the regular road of the country, and without battering artillery nothing could be effected. It was suggested, however, by the zealous bishop that another road might be opened through a more practicable part of the mountains. It would be an undertaking extravagant and chimerical with ordinary means, and therefore unlooked for by the enemy; but what could not kings effect who had treasure and armies at command?

The project struck the enterprising spirit of the queen. Six thousand men with pickaxes, crowbars, and every other necessary implement were set to work day and night to break a road through the very centre of the mountains. No time was to be lost, for it was rumored that El Zagal was about to march with a mighty host to the relief of the castles. The bustling bishop of Jaen acted as pioneer to mark the route and superintend the laborers, and the grand cardinal took care that the work should never languish through lack of means.*

* Zurita, Anales de Aragon, lib. 20, c. 64; Pulgar, part 3, cap. 51.

"When kings' treasures," says Fray Antonio Agapida, "are dispensed by priestly hands, there is no stint, as the glorious annals of Spain bear witness." Under the guidance of these ghostly men it seemed as if miracles were effected. Almost an entire mountain was levelled, valleys were filled up, trees hewn down, rocks broken and overturned; in short, all the obstacles which nature had heaped around entirely and promptly vanished. In little more than twelve days this gigantic work was effected and the ordnance dragged to the camp, to the great triumph of the Christians and confusion of the Moors.*

* Zurita

No sooner was the heavy artillery arrived than it was mounted in all haste upon the neighboring heights: Francisco Ramirez de Madrid, the first engineer in Spain, superintended the batteries, and soon opened a destructive fire upon the castles.

When the alcayde, Mahomet Lentin, found his towers tumbling about him and his bravest men dashed from the walls without the power of inflicting a wound upon the foe, his haughty spirit was greatly exasperated. "Of what avail," said he, bitterly, "is all the prowess of knighthood against these cowardly engines that murder from afar?"

For a whole day a tremendous fire kept thundering upon the castle of Albahar. The lombards discharged large stones which demolished two of the towers and all the battlements which guarded the portal. If any Moors attempted to defend the walls or repair the breaches, they were shot down by ribadoquines and other small pieces of artillery. The Christian soldiery issued from the camp under cover of this fire, and, approaching the castles, discharged flights of arrows and stones through the openings made by the ordnance.

At length, to bring the siege to a conclusion, Francisco Ramirez elevated some of the heaviest artillery on a mount that rose in form of a cone or pyramid on the side of the river near to Albahar and commanded both castles. This was an operation of great skill and excessive labor, but it was repaid by complete success, for the Moors did not dare to wait until this terrible battery should discharge its fury. Satisfied that all further resistance was in vain, the valiant alcayde made signal for a parley. The articles of capitulation were soon arranged. The alcayde and his garrisons were permitted to return in safety to the city of Granada, and the castles were delivered into the possession of King Ferdinand on the day of the festival of St. Matthew in the month of September. They were immediately repaired, strongly garrisoned, and delivered in charge to the city of Jaen.

The effects of this triumph were immediately apparent. Quiet and security once more settled upon the bishopric. The husbandmen tilled their fields in peace, the herds and flocks fattened unmolested in the pastures, and the vineyards yielded corpulent skinsful of rosy wine. The good bishop enjoyed in the gratitude of his people the approbation of his conscience, the increase of his revenues, and the abundance of his table a reward for all his toils and perils. "This glorious victory," exclaims Fray Antonio Agapida, "achieved by such extraordinary management and infinite labor, is a shining example of what a bishop can effect for the promotion of the faith and the good of his diocese."



While these events were taking place on the northern frontier of the kingdom of Granada the important fortress of Alhama was neglected, and its commander, Don Gutiere de Padilla, clavero of Calatrava, reduced to great perplexity. The remnant of the foraging party which had been surprised and massacred by El Zagal when on his way to Granada to receive the crown had returned in confusion and dismay to the fortress. They could only speak of their own disgrace, being obliged to abandon their cavalgada and fly, pursued by a superior force: of the flower of their party, the gallant knights of Calatrava, who had remained behind in the valley, they knew nothing. A few days cleared up the mystery of their fate: tidings were brought that their bloody heads had been borne in triumph into Granada. The surviving knights of Calatrava, who formed a part of the garrison, burned to revenge the death of their comrades and to wipe out the stigma of this defeat; but the clavero had been rendered cautious by disaster—he resisted all their entreaties for a foray. His garrison was weakened by the loss of so many of its bravest men; the Vega was patrolled by numerous and powerful squadrons sent forth by El Zagal; above all, the movements of the garrison were watched by the warriors of Zalea, a strong town only two leagues distant on the road toward Loxa. This place was a continual check upon Alhama when in its most powerful state, placing ambuscades to entrap the Christian cavaliers in the course of their sallies. Frequent and bloody skirmishes had taken place in consequence; and the troops of Alhama, when returning from their forays, had often to fight their way back through the squadrons of Zalea. Thus surrounded by dangers, Don Gutiere de Padilla restrained the eagerness of his troops for a sally, knowing that an additional disaster might be followed by the loss of Alhama.

In the mean while provisions began to grow scarce; they were unable to forage the country as usual for supplies, and depended for relief upon the Castilian sovereigns. The defeat of the count de Cabra filled the measure of their perplexities, as it interrupted the intended reinforcements and supplies. To such extremity were they reduced that they were compelled to kill some of their horses for provisions.

The worthy clavero, Don Gutiere de Padilla, was pondering one day on this gloomy state of affairs when a Moor was brought before him who had surrendered himself at the gate of Alhama and claimed an audience. Don Gutiere was accustomed to visits of the kind from renegado Moors, who roamed the country as spies and adalides, but the countenance of this man was quite unknown to him. He had a box strapped to his shoulders containing divers articles of traffic, and appeared to be one of those itinerant traders who often resorted to Alhama and the other garrison towns under pretext of vending trivial merchandise, such as amulets, perfumes, and trinkets, but who often produced rich shawls, golden chains and necklaces, and valuable gems and jewels.

The Moor requested a private conference with the clavero. "I have a precious jewel," said he, "to dispose of."

"I want no jewels," replied Don Gutiere.

"For the sake of Him who died on the cross, the great prophet of your faith," said the Moor solemnly, "refuse not my request; the jewel I speak of you alone can purchase, but I can only treat about it in secret."

Don Gutiere perceived there was something hidden under these mystic and figurative terms, in which the Moors were often accustomed to talk. He motioned to his attendants to retire. When they were alone the Moor looked cautiously around the apartment, and then, approaching close to the knight, demanded in a low voice, "What will you give me if I deliver the fortress of Zalea into your hands?"

Don Gutiere looked with surprise at the humble individual that made such a suggestion.

"What means have you," said he, "of effecting such a proposition?"

"I have a brother in the garrison of Zalea," replied the Moor, "who for a proper compensation would admit a body of troops into the citadel."

Don Gutiere turned a scrutinizing eye upon the Moor. "What right have I to believe," said he, "that thou wilt be truer to me than to those of thy blood and thy religion?"

"I renounce all ties to them, either of blood or religion," replied the Moor; "my mother was a Christian captive; her country shall henceforth be my country, and her faith my faith."*

* Cura de los Palacios.

The doubts of Don Gutiere were not dispelled by this profession of mongrel Christianity. "Granting the sincerity of thy conversion," said he, "art thou under no obligations of gratitude or duty to the alcayde of the fortress thou wouldst betray?"

The eyes of the Moor flashed fire at the words; he gnashed his teeth with fury. "The alcayde," cried he, "is a dog! He has deprived my brother of his just share of booty; he has robbed me of my merchandise, treated me worse than a Jew when I murmured at his injustice, and ordered me to be thrust forth ignominiously from his walls. May the curse of God fall upon my head if I rest content until I have full revenge!" "Enough," said Don Gutiere: "I trust more to thy revenge than thy religion."

The good clavero called a council of his officers. The knights of Calatrava were unanimous for the enterprise—zealous to appease the manes of their slaughtered comrades. Don Gutiere reminded them of the state of the garrison, enfeebled by their late loss and scarcely sufficient for the defence of the walls. The cavaliers replied that there was no achievement without risk, and that there would have been no great actions recorded in history had there not been daring spirits ready to peril life to gain renown.

Don Gutiere yielded to the wishes of his knights, for to have resisted any further might have drawn on him the imputation of timidity: he ascertained by trusty spies that everything in Zalea remained in the usual state, and he made all the requisite arrangements for the attack.

When the appointed night arrived all the cavaliers were anxious to engage in the enterprise, but the individuals were decided by lot. They set out under the guidance of the Moor, and when they had arrived in the vicinity of Zalea they bound his hands behind his back, and their leader pledged his knightly word to strike him dead on the first sign of treachery. He then bade him to lead the way.

It was near midnight when they reached the walls of the fortress. They passed silently along until they found themselves below the citadel. Here their guide made a low and preconcerted signal: it was answered from above, and a cord let down from the wall. The knights attached to it a ladder, which was drawn up and fastened. Gutiere Munoz was the first that mounted, followed by Pedro de Alvarado, both brave and hardy soldiers. A handful succeeded: they were attacked by a party of guards, but held them at bay until more of their comrades ascended; with their assistance they gained possession of a tower and part of the wall. The garrison by this time was aroused, but before they could reach the scene of action most of the cavaliers were within the battlements. A bloody contest raged for about an hour—several of the Christians were slain, but many of the Moors: at length the citadel was carried and the town submitted without resistance.

Thus did the gallant knights of Calatrava gain the strong town of Zalea with scarcely any loss, and atone for the inglorious defeat of their companions by El Zagal. They found the magazines of the place well stored with provisions, and were enabled to carry a seasonable supply to their own famishing garrison.

The tidings of this event reached the sovereigns just after the surrender of Cambil and Albahar. They were greatly rejoiced at this additional success of their arms, and immediately sent strong reinforcements and ample supplies for both Alhama and Zalea. They then dismissed the army for the winter. Ferdinand and Isabella retired to Alcala de Henares, where the queen on the 16th of December, 1485, gave birth to the princess Catharine, afterward wife of Henry VIII. of England. Thus prosperously terminated the checkered campaign of this important year.



Muley Abdallah el Zagal had been received with great acclamations at Granada on his return from defeating the count de Cabra. He had endeavored to turn his victory to the greatest advantage with his subjects, giving tilts and tournaments and other public festivities in which the Moors delighted. The loss of the castles of Cambil and Albahar and of the fortress of Zalea, however, checked this sudden tide of popularity, and some of the fickle populace began to doubt whether they had not been rather precipitate in deposing his brother, Muley Abul Hassan.

That superannuated monarch remained in his faithful town of Almunecar, on the border of the Mediterranean, surrounded by a few adherents, together with his wife Zoraya and his children, and he had all his treasures safe in his possession. The fiery heart of the old king was almost burnt out, and all his powers of doing either harm or good seemed at an end.

While in this passive and helpless state his brother, El Zagal, manifested a sudden anxiety for his health. He had him removed, with all tenderness and care, to Salobrena, another fortress on the Mediterranean coast, famous for its pure and salubrious air; and the alcayde, who was a devoted adherent to El Zagal, was charged to have especial care that nothing was wanting to the comfort and solace of his brother.

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