When the Christian host arrived in sight of this valley, a squadron was hovering on the smooth sea before it displaying the banner of Castile. This was commanded by the count of Trevento, and consisted of four armed galleys, convoying a number of caravels laden with supplies for the army.
After surveying the ground, King Ferdinand encamped on the side of a mountain which advanced close to the city, and was the last of a rugged sierra, or chain of heights, that extended quite to Granada. On the summit of this mountain, and overlooking the camp, was a Moorish town, powerfully fortified, called Bentomiz, considered capable of yielding great assistance to Velez Malaga. Several of the generals remonstrated with the king for choosing a post so exposed to assaults from the mountaineers, but he replied that he should thus cut off all communication between Bentomiz and the city, and that, as to the danger, his soldiers must keep the more vigilant guard against surprise.
King Ferdinand rode about, attended by several cavaliers and a small number of cuirassiers, appointing the various stations of the camp. Having directed a body of foot-soldiers to possess themselves, as an advanced guard, of an important height which overlooked the city, he retired to a tent to take refreshment. While at table he was startled by a sudden uproar, and, looking forth, beheld his soldiers flying before a superior force of the enemy. The king had on no other armor but a cuirass: seizing a lance, however, he sprang upon his horse and galloped to protect the fugitives, followed by his handful of knights and cuirassiers. When the soldiers saw the king hastening to their aid, they turned upon their pursuers. Ferdinand in his eagerness threw himself into the midst of the foe. One of his grooms was killed beside him, but before the Moor who slew him could escape the king transfixed him with his lance. He then sought to draw his sword, which hung at his saddle-bow, but in vain. Never had he been exposed to such peril; he was surrounded by the enemy without a weapon wherewith to defend himself.
In this moment of awful jeopardy the marques of Cadiz, the count de Cabra, the adelantado of Murcia, with two other cavaliers, named Garcilasso de la Vega and Diego de Atayde, came galloping to the scene of action, and, surrounding the king, made a rampart of their bodies against the assaults of the Moors. The horse of the marques was pierced by an arrow, and that worthy cavalier exposed to imminent danger; but with the aid of his valorous companions he quickly put the enemy to flight, and pursued them with slaughter to the very gates of the city.
When those loyal warriors returned from the pursuit they remonstrated with the king for exposing his life in personal conflict, seeing that he had so many valiant captains whose business it was to fight. They reminded him that the life of a prince was the life of his people, and that many a brave army was lost by the loss of its commander. They entreated him, therefore, in future to protect them with the force of his mind in the cabinet, rather than of his arm in the field.
Ferdinand acknowledged the wisdom of their advice, but declared that he could not see his people in peril without venturing his person to assist them—a reply (say the old chroniclers) which delighted the whole army, inasmuch as they saw that he not only governed them as a good king, but protected them as a valiant captain. He, however, was conscious of the extreme peril to which he had been exposed, and made a vow never again to venture into battle without having his sword girt to his side.*
* Illescas, Hist. Pontif., lib. 6, c. 20; Vedmar, Hist. Velez Malaga.
When this achievement of the king was related to Isabella, she trembled amidst her joy at his safety, and afterward, in memorial of the event, granted to Velez Malaga, as the arms of the city, the figure of the king on horseback, with a groom lying dead at his feet and the Moors flying.*
The camp was formed, but the artillery was yet on the road, advancing with infinite labor at the rate of merely a league a day, for heavy rains had converted the streams of the valleys into raging torrents and completely broken up the roads. In the mean time, King Ferdinand ordered an assault on the suburbs of the city. They were carried after a sanguinary conflict of six hours, in which many Christian cavaliers were killed and wounded, and among the latter Don Alvaro of Portugal, son of the duke of Braganza. The suburbs were then fortified toward the city with trenches and palisades, and garrisoned by a chosen force under Don Fadrique de Toledo. Other trenches were digged round the city and from the suburbs to the royal camp, so as to cut off all communication with the surrounding country.
Bodies of troops were also sent to take possession of the mountain-passes by which the supplies for the army had to be brought. The mountains, however, were so steep and rugged, and so full of defiles and lurking-places, that the Moors could sally forth and retreat in perfect security, frequently swooping down upon Christian convoys and bearing off both booty and prisoners to their strongholds. Sometimes the Moors would light fires at night on the sides of the mountains, which would be answered by fires from the watch-towers and fortresses. By these signals they would concert assaults upon the Christian camp, which in consequence was obliged to be continually on the alert.
King Ferdinand flattered himself that the manifestation of his force had struck sufficient terror into the city, and that by offers of clemency it might be induced to capitulate. He wrote a letter, therefore, to the commanders, promising, in case of immediate surrender, that all the inhabitants should be permitted to depart with their effects, but threatening them with fire and sword if they persisted in defence. This letter was despatched by a cavalier named Carvajal, who, putting it on the end of a lance, reached it to the Moors on the walls of the city. Abul Cacim Vanegas, son of Reduan, and alcayde of the fortress, replied that the king was too noble and magnanimous to put such a threat in execution, and that he should not surrender, as he knew the artillery could not be brought to the camp, and he was promised succor by the king of Granada.
At the same time that he received this reply the king learnt that at the strong town of Comares, upon a height about two leagues distant from the camp, a large number of warriors had assembled from the Axarquia, the same mountains in which the Christian cavaliers had been massacred in the beginning of the war, and that others were daily expected, for this rugged sierra was capable of furnishing fifteen thousand fighting-men.
King Ferdinand felt that his army, thus disjoined and enclosed in an enemy's country, was in a perilous situation, and that the utmost discipline and vigilance were necessary. He put the camp under the strictest regulations, forbidding all gaming, blasphemy, or brawl, and expelling all loose women and their attendant bully ruffians, the usual fomenters of riot and contention among soldiery. He ordered that none should sally forth to skirmish without permission from their commanders; that none should set fire to the woods on the neighboring mountains; and that all word of security given to Moorish places or individuals should be inviolably observed. These regulations were enforced by severe penalties, and had such salutary effect that, though a vast host of various people was collected together, not an opprobrious epithet was heard nor a weapon drawn in quarrel.
In the mean time the cloud of war continued to gather about the summits of the mountains, and multitudes of the fierce warriors of the sierra descended to the lower heights of Bentomiz, which overhung the camp, intending to force their way to the city. A detachment was sent against them, which, after sharp fighting, drove them to the higher cliffs, where it was impossible to pursue them.
Ten days had elapsed since the encampment of the army, yet still the artillery had not arrived. The lombards and other heavy ordnance were left in despair at Antiquera; the rest came groaning slowly through the narrow valleys, which were filled with long trains of artillery and cars laden with munitions. At length part of the smaller ordnance arrived within half a league of the camp, and the Christians were animated with the hopes of soon being able to make a regular attack upon the fortifications of the city.
HOW KING FERDINAND AND HIS ARMY WERE EXPOSED TO IMMINENT PERIL BEFORE VELEZ MALAGA.
While the standard of the cross waved on the hills before Velez Malaga, and every height and cliff bristled with hostile arms, the civil war between the factions of the Alhambra and the Albaycin, or rather between El Zagal and El Chico, continued to convulse the city of Granada. The tidings of the investment of Velez Malaga at length roused the attention of the old men and the alfaquis, whose heads were not heated by the daily broils, and they endeavored to arouse the people to a sense of their common danger.
"Why," said they, "continue these brawls between brethren and kindred? What battles are these where even triumph is ignominious, and the victor blushes and conceals his scars? Behold the Christians ravaging the land won by the valor and blood of your forefathers, dwelling in the houses they built, sitting under the trees they planted, while your brethren wander about houseless and desolate. Do you wish to seek your real foe?—he is encamped on the mountain of Bentomiz. Do you want a field for the display of your valor?—you will find it before the walls of Velez Malaga."
When they had roused the spirit of the people they made their way to the rival kings, and addressed them with like remonstrances. Hamet Aben Zarraz, the inspired santon, reproached El Zagal with his blind and senseless ambition. "You are striving to be king," said he, bitterly, "yet suffer the kingdom to be lost!"
El Zagal found himself in a perplexing dilemma. He had a double war to wage—with the enemy without and the enemy within. Should the Christians gain possession of the sea-coast, it would be ruinous to the kingdom; should he leave Granada to oppose them, his vacant throne might be seized on by his nephew. He made a merit of necessity, and, pretending to yield to the remonstrances of the alfaquis, endeavored to compromise with Boabdil. He expressed deep concern at the daily losses of the country caused by the dissensions of the capital: an opportunity now presented to retrieve all by a blow. The Christians had in a manner put themselves in a tomb between the mountains—nothing remained but to throw the earth upon them. He offered to resign the title of king, to submit to the government of his nephew, and fight under his standard; all he desired was to hasten to the relief of Velez Malaga and to take full vengeance on the Christians.
Boabdil spurned his proposition as the artifice of a hypocrite and a traitor. "How shall I trust a man," said he, "who has murdered my father and my kindred by treachery, and has repeatedly sought my own life both by violence and stratagem?"
El Zagal boiled with rage and vexation, but there was no time to be lost. He was beset by the alfaquis and the nobles of his count; the youthful cavaliers were hot for action, the common people loud in their complaints that the richest cities were abandoned to the mercy of the enemy. The old warrior was naturally fond of fighting; he saw also that to remain inactive would endanger both crown and kingdom, whereas a successful blow might secure his popularity in Granada. He had a much more powerful force than his nephew, having lately received reinforcements from Baza, Guadix, and Almeria; he could march with a large force, therefore, to the relief of Velez Malaga, and yet leave a strong garrison in the Alhambra. He took his measures accordingly, and departed suddenly in the night at the head of one thousand horse and twenty thousand foot, and urged his way rapidly by the most unfrequented roads along the chain of mountains extending from Granada to the heights above Velez Malaga.
The Christians were alarmed one evening by the sudden blazing of great fires on the mountains about the fortress of Bentomiz. By the ruddy light they beheld the flash of weapons and the array of troops, and they heard the distant sound of Moorish drums and trumpets. The fires of Bentomiz were answered by fires on the towers of Velez Malaga. The shouts of "El Zagal! El Zagal!" echoed along the cliffs and resounded from the city, and the Christians found that the old warrior-king of Granada was on the mountain above the camp.
The spirits of the Moors were suddenly raised to a pitch of the greatest exultation, while the Christians were astonished to see the storm of war ready to burst upon their heads. The count de Cabra, with his accustomed eagerness when there was a king in the field, would fain have scaled the heights and attacked El Zagal before he had time to form his camp; but Ferdinand, more cool and wary, restrained him. To attack the height would be to abandon the siege. He ordered every one, therefore, to keep a vigilant watch at his post and stand ready to defend it to the utmost, but on no account to sally forth and attack the enemy.
All night the signal-fires kept blazing along the mountains, rousing and animating the whole country. The morning sun rose over the lofty summit of Bentomiz on a scene of martial splendor. As its rays glanced down the mountain they lighted up the white tents of the Christian cavaliers cresting its lower prominences, their pennons and ensigns fluttering in the morning breeze. The sumptuous pavilions of the king, with the holy standard of the cross and the royal banners of Castile and Aragon, dominated the encampment. Beyond lay the city, its lofty castle and numerous towers glistening with arms, while above all, and just on the profile of the height, in the full blaze of the rising sun, were descried the tents of the Moor, his troops clustering about them and his infidel banners floating against the sky. Columns of smoke rose where the night-fires had blazed, and the clash of the Moorish cymbal, the bray of trumpet, and the neigh of steed were faintly heard from the airy heights. So pure and transparent is the atmosphere in this region that every object can be distinctly seen at a great distance, and the Christians were able to behold the formidable hosts of fires gathering on the summits of the surrounding mountains.
One of the first measures of the Moorish king was to detach a large force, under Reduan de Vanegas, alcayde of Granada, to fall upon the convoy of ordnance, which stretched for a great distance through the mountain-defiles. Ferdinand had anticipated this attempt, and sent the commander of Leon with a body of horse and foot to reinforce the master of Alcantara. El Zagal from his mountain-height beheld the detachment issue from the camp, and immediately recalled Reduan. The armies now remained quiet for a time, the Moor looking grimly down upon the Christian camp, like a tiger meditating a bound upon his prey. The Christians were in fearful jeopardy—a hostile city below them, a powerful army above them, and on every side mountains filled with implacable foes.
After El Zagal had maturely considered the situation of the Christian camp, and informed himself of all the passes of the mountain, he conceived a plan to surprise the enemy which he flattered himself would ensure their ruin and perhaps the capture of King Ferdinand. He wrote a letter to the alcayde of the city, commanding him in the dead of the night, on a signal-fire being made from the mountain, to sally forth with all his troops and fall furiously upon the Christian camp. The king would, at the same time, rush down with his army from the mountain, and assail it on the opposite side, thus overwhelming it at the hour of deep repose. This letter he despatched by a renegado Christian, who knew all the secret roads of the country, and if taken could pass himself for a Christian who had escaped from captivity.
El Zagal, confident in his stratagem, looked down upon the Christians as his devoted victims. As the sun went down and the long shadows of the mountains stretched across the vega, he pointed with exultation to the camp below, apparently unconscious of the impending danger. "Behold," said he, "the unbelievers are delivered into our hands; their king and choicest chivalry will soon be at our mercy. Now is the time to show the courage of men, and by one glorious victory retrieve all that we have lost. Happy he who falls fighting in the cause of the Prophet! he will at once be transported to the paradise of the faithful and surrounded by immortal houris. Happy he who shall survive victorious! he will behold Granada—an earthly paradise!—once more delivered from its foes and restored to all its glory." The words of El Zagal were received with acclamations by his troops, who waited impatiently for the appointed hour to pour down from their mountain-hold upon the Christians.
RESULT OF THE STRATAGEM OF EL ZAGAL TO SURPRISE KING FERDINAND.
Queen Isabella and her court had remained at Cordova in great anxiety for the result of the royal expedition. Every day brought tidings of the difficulties which attended the transportation of the ordnance and munitions and of the critical state of the army.
While in this state of anxious suspense couriers arrived with all speed from the frontiers, bringing tidings of the sudden sally of El Zagal from Granada to surprise the camp. All Cordova was in consternation. The destruction of the Andalusian chivalry among the mountains of this very neighborhood was called to mind; it was feared that similar ruin was about to burst forth from rocks and precipices upon Ferdinand and his army.
Queen Isabella shared in the public alarm, but it served to rouse all the energies of her heroic mind. Instead of uttering idle apprehensions, she sought only how to avert the danger. She called upon all the men of Andalusia under the age of seventy to arm and hasten to the relief of their sovereign, and she prepared to set out with the first levies. The grand cardinal of Spain, old Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, in whom the piety of the saint and the wisdom of the counsellor were mingled with the fire of the cavalier, offered high pay to all horsemen who would follow him to aid their king and the Christian cause, and, buckling on armor, prepared to lead them to the scene of danger.
The summons of the queen roused the quick Andalusian spirit. Warriors who had long since given up fighting and had sent their sons to battle now seized the sword and lance rusting on the wall, and marshalled forth their gray-headed domestics and their grandchildren for the field. The great dread was, that all aid would arrive too late; El Zagal and his host had passed like a storm through the mountains, and it was feared the tempest had already burst upon the Christian camp.
In the mean time, the night had closed which had been appointed by El Zagal for the execution of his plan. He had watched the last light of day expire, and all the Spanish camp remained tranquil. As the hours wore away the camp-fires were gradually extinguished. No drum nor trumpet sounded from below. Nothing was heard but now and then the dull heavy tread of troops or the echoing tramp of horses—the usual patrols of the camp—and the changes of the guards. El Zagal restrained his own impatience and that of his troops until the night should be advanced and the camp sunk in that heavy sleep from which men are with difficulty awakened, and when awakened prone to be bewildered and dismayed.
At length the appointed hour arrived. By order of the Moorish king a bright flame sprang up from the height of Bentomiz, but El Zagal looked in vain for the responding light from the city. His impatience would brook no longer delay; he ordered the advance of the army to descend the mountain-defile and attack the camp. The defile was narrow and overhung by rocks; as the troops proceeded they came suddenly, in a shadowy hollow, upon a dark mass of warriors who, with a loud shout, rushed to assail them. Surprised and disconcerted, they retreated in confusion to the height. When El Zagal heard of a Christian force in the defile, he doubted some counter-plan of the enemy, and gave orders to light the mountain-fires. On a signal given bright flames sprang up on every height from pyres of wood prepared for the purpose: cliff blazed out after cliff until the whole atmosphere was in a glow of furnace light.
The ruddy glare lit up the glens and passes, and fell strongly upon the Christian camp, revealing all its tents and every post and bulwark. Wherever El Zagal turned his eyes he beheld the light of his fires flashed back from cuirass and helm and sparkling lance; he beheld a grove of spears planted in every pass, every assailable point bristling with arms, and squadrons of horse and foot in battle array awaiting his attack.
In fact, his letter to the alcayde of Velez Malaga had been intercepted by the vigilant Ferdinand, the renegado messenger hanged, and secret measures taken after nightfall to give the Moors a warm reception. El Zagal saw that his plan of surprise was discovered and foiled; furious with disappointment, he ordered his troops forward to the attack. They rushed down the defile, but were again encountered by the mass of Christian warriors, being the advance guard of the army commanded by Don Hurtado de Mendoza, brother of the grand cardinal. The Moors were again repulsed, and retreated up the height. Don Hurtado would have followed them, but the ascent was steep and rugged and easily defended. A sharp action was kept up through the night with crossbows, darts, and arquebuses. The cliffs echoed with deafening uproar, while the fires blazing upon the mountains threw a lurid and uncertain light upon the scene.
When the day dawned and the Moors saw that there was no co-operation from the city, they slackened in their ardor: they beheld also every pass of the mountain filled with Christian troops, and began to apprehend an assault in return. Just then King Ferdinand sent the marques of Cadiz with horse and foot to seize upon a height occupied by a battalion of the enemy. The marques assailed the Moors with his usual intrepidity, and soon put them to flight. The others, who were above, seeing their comrades fly, threw down their arms and retreated. One of those unaccountable panics which now and then seize upon great bodies of people, and to which the light-spirited Moors were prone, now spread throughout the camp. They were terrified, they knew not why nor at what, and, throwing away swords, lances, breast-plates, crossbows, everything that could impede their motions, scattered themselves wildly in every direction. They fled without pursuers—from the glimpse of each other's arms, from the sound of each other's footsteps. Reduan de Vanegas, the brave alcayde of Granada, alone succeeded in collecting a body of the fugitives; he made a circuit with them through the passes of the mountain, and, forcing his way across a weak part of the Christian lines, galloped toward Velez Malaga. The rest of the Moorish host was completely scattered. In vain did El Zagal and his knights attempt to rally them; they were left almost alone, and had to consult their own security by flight.
The marques of Cadiz, finding no opposition, ascended from height to height, cautiously reconnoitring and fearful of some stratagem or ambush. All, however, was quiet. He reached with his men the place which the Moorish army had occupied: the heights were abandoned and strewed with cuirasses, scimetars, crossbows, and other weapons. His force was too small to pursue the enemy, but returned to the royal camp laden with spoils.
Ferdinand at first could not credit so signal and miraculous a defeat, but suspected some lurking stratagem. He ordered, therefore, that a strict watch should be maintained throughout the camp and every one be ready for instant action. The following night a thousand cavaliers and hidalgos kept guard about the royal tent, as they had done for several preceding nights; nor did the king relax this vigilance until he received certain intelligence that the enemy was completely scattered and El Zagal flying in confusion.
The tidings of this rout and of the safety of the Christian army arrived at Cordova just as reinforcements were on the point of setting out. The anxiety and alarm of the queen and the public were turned to transports of joy and gratitude. The forces were disbanded, solemn processions were made, and "Te Deums" chanted in the churches for so signal a victory.
HOW THE PEOPLE OF GRANADA REWARDED THE VALOR OF EL ZAGAL.
The daring spirit of Muley Abdallah el Zagal in sallying forth to defend his territories while he left an armed rival in his capital struck the people of Granada with admiration. They recalled his former exploits, and again anticipated some hardy achievement from his valor. Couriers from the army reported its formidable position on the height of Bentomiz. For a time there was a pause in the bloody commotions of the city; all attention was turned to the blow about to be struck at the Christian camp. The same considerations which diffused anxiety and terror through Cordova swelled every bosom with exulting confidence in Granada. The Moors expected to hear of another massacre like that in the mountains of Malaga. "El Zagal has again entrapped the enemy!" was the cry. "The power of the unbelievers is about to be struck to the heart. We shall soon see the Christian king led captive to the capital." Thus was the name of El Zagal on every tongue. He was extolled as the savior of the country, the only one worthy of wearing the Moorish crown. Boabdil was reviled as basely remaining passive while his country was invaded and so violent became the clamor of the populace that his adherents trembled for his safety.
While the people of Granada were impatiently looking out for tidings of the anticipated victory scattered horsemen came spurring across the Vega. They were fugitives from the Moorish army, and brought the first incoherent account of its defeat. Every one who attempted to tell the tale of this unaccountable panic and dispersion was as if bewildered by the broken recollection of some frightful dream. He knew not how or why it came to pass. He talked of a battle in the night, among rocks and precipices, by the glare of bale-fires; of multitudes of armed foes in every pass, seen by gleams and flashes; of the sudden horror that seized upon the army at daybreak, its headlong flight, and total dispersion. Hour after hour the arrival of other fugitives confirmed the story of ruin and disgrace.
In proportion to their recent vaunting was the humiliation that now fell upon the people of Granada. There was a universal burst, not of grief, but indignation. They confounded the leader with the army—the deserted with those who had abandoned him, and El Zagal, from being their idol, became suddenly the object of their execration. He had sacrificed the army; he had disgraced the nation; he had betrayed the country. He was a dastard, a traitor; he was unworthy to reign.
On a sudden one among the multitude shouted, "Long live Boabdil el Chico!" The cry was echoed on all sides, and every one shouted, "Long live Boabdil el Chico! long live the legitimate king of Granada! and death to all usurpers!" In the excitement of the moment they thronged to the Albaycin, and those who had lately besieged Boabdil with arms now surrounded his palace with acclamations. The keys of the city and of all the fortresses were laid at his feet; he was borne in state to the Alhambra, and once more seated with all due ceremony on the throne of his ancestors.
Boabdil had by this time become so accustomed to be crowned and uncrowned by the multitude that he put no great faith in the duration of their loyalty. He knew that he was surrounded by hollow hearts, and that most of the courtiers of the Alhambra were secretly devoted to his uncle. He ascended the throne as the rightful sovereign who had been dispossessed of it by usurpation, and he ordered the heads of four of the principal nobles to be struck off who had been most zealous in support of the (9) usurper. Executions of the kind were matters of course on any change in Moorish government, and Boabdil was lauded for his moderation and humanity in being content with so small a sacrifice. The factions were awed into obedience; the populace, delighted with any change, extolled Boabdil to the skies; and the name of Muley Abdallah el Zagal was for a time a by-word of scorn and opprobrium throughout the city.
Never was any commander more astonished and confounded by a sudden reverse of fortune than El Zagal. The evening had seen him with a powerful army at his command, his enemy within his grasp, and victory about to cover him with glory and to consolidate his power: the morning beheld him a fugitive among the mountains, his army, his prosperity, his power, all dispelled, he knew not how—gone like a dream of the night. In vain had he tried to stem the headlong flight of the army. He saw his squadrons breaking and dispersing among the cliffs of the mountains, until of all his host only a handful of cavaliers remained faithful. With these he made a gloomy retreat toward Granada, but with a heart full of foreboding. As he drew near to the city he paused on the banks of the Xenil and sent forth scouts to collect intelligence. They returned with dejected countenances. "The gates of Granada," said they, "are closed against you. The banner of Boabdil floats on the tower of the Alhambra."
El Zagal turned his steed and departed in silence. He retreated to the town of Almunecar, and thence to Almeria, which places still remained faithful to him. Restless and uneasy at being so distant from the capital, he again changed his abode, and repaired to the city of Guadix, within a few leagues of Granada. Here he remained, endeavoring to rally his forces and preparing to avail himself of any sudden change in the fluctuating politics of the metropolis.
SURRENDER OF VELEZ MALAGA AND OTHER PLACES.
The people of Velez Malaga had beheld the camp of Muley Abdallah covering the summit of Bentomiz and glittering in the last rays of the setting sun. During the night they had been alarmed and perplexed by signal-fires on the mountain and by the sound of distant battle. When the morning broke the Moorish army had vanished as if by enchantment. While the inhabitants were lost in wonder and conjecture, a body of cavalry, the fragment of the army saved by Reduan de Vanegas, the brave alcayde of Granada, came galloping to the gates. The tidings of the strange discomfiture of the host filled the city with consternation, but Reduan exhorted the people to continue their resistance. He was devoted to El Zagal and confident in his skill and prowess, and felt assured that he would soon collect his scattered forces and return with fresh troops from Granada. The people were comforted by the words and encouraged by the presence of Reduan, and they had still a lingering hope that the heavy artillery of the Christians might be locked up in the impassable defiles of the mountains. This hope was soon at an end. The very next day they beheld long laborious lines of ordnance slowly moving into the Spanish camp—lombards, ribadoquines, catapults, and cars laden with munitions—while the escort, under the brave master of Alcantara, wheeled in great battalions into the camp to augment the force of the besiegers.
The intelligence that Granada had shut its gates against El Zagal, and that no reinforcements were to be expected, completed the despair of the inhabitants; even Reduan himself lost confidence and advised capitulation.
Ferdinand granted favorable conditions, for he was eager to proceed against Malaga. The inhabitants were permitted to depart with their effects except their arms, and to reside, if they chose it, in Spain in any place distant from the sea. One hundred and twenty Christians of both sexes were rescued from captivity by the surrender, and were sent to Cordova, where they were received with great tenderness by the queen and her daughter the infanta Isabella in the famous cathedral in the midst of public rejoicings for the victory.
The capture of Velez Malaga was followed by the surrender of Bentomiz, Comares, and all the towns and fortresses of the Axarquia, which were strongly garrisoned, and discreet and valiant cavaliers appointed as their alcaydes. The inhabitants of nearly forty towns of the Alpuxarras mountains also sent deputations to the Castilian sovereigns, taking the oath of allegiance as mudexares or Moslem vassals.
About the same time came letters from Boabdil el Chico announcing to the sovereigns the revolution of Granada in his favor. He solicited kindness and protection for the inhabitants who had returned to their allegiance, and for those of all other places which should renounce adherence to his uncle. By this means (he observed) the whole kingdom of Granada would soon be induced to acknowledge his sway, and would be held by him in faithful vassalage to the Castilian Crown.
The Catholic sovereigns complied with his request. Protection was immediately extended to the inhabitants of Granada, permitting them to cultivate their fields in peace and to trade with the Christian territories in all articles excepting arms, being provided with letters of surety from some Christian captain or alcayde. The same favor was promised to all other places which within six months should renounce El Zagal and come under allegiance to the younger king. Should they not do so within that time, the sovereigns threatened to make war upon them and conquer them for themselves. This measure had a great effect in inducing many to return to the standard of Boabdil.
Having made every necessary arrangement for the government and security of the newly-conquered territory, Ferdinand turned his attention to the great object of his campaign, the reduction of Malaga.
OF THE CITY OF MALAGA AND ITS INHABITANTS.—MISSION OF HERNANDO DEL PULGAR.
The city of Malaga lies in the lap of a fertile valley, surrounded by mountains, excepting on the part which lies open to the sea. As it was one of the most important, so it was one of the strongest, cities of the Moorish kingdom. It was fortified by walls of prodigious strength studded with a great number of huge towers. On the land side it was protected by a natural barrier of mountains, and on the other the waves of the Mediterranean beat against the foundations of its massive bulwarks.
At one end of the city, near the sea, on a high mound, stood the Alcazaba, or citadel, a fortress of great strength. Immediately above this rose a steep and rocky mount, on the top of which in old times had been a pharos or lighthouse, from which the height derived its name of Gibralfaro.* It was at present crowned by an immense castle, which, from its lofty and cragged situation, its vast walls, and mighty towers, was deemed impregnable. It communicated with the Alcazaba by a covered way six paces broad, leading down between two walls along the profile or ridge of the rock. The castle of Gibralfaro commanded both citadel and city, and was capable, if both were taken, of maintaining a siege. Two large suburbs adjoined the city: in the one toward the sea were the dwelling-houses of the most opulent inhabitants, adorned with hanging gardens; the other, on the land side, was thickly peopled and surrounded by strong walls and towers.
* A corruption of "Gibel-faro," the hill of the lighthouse.
Malaga possessed a brave and numerous garrison, and the common people were active, hardy, and resolute; but the city was rich and commercial, and under the habitual control of numerous opulent merchants, who dreaded the ruinous consequences of a siege. They were little zealous for the warlike renown of their city, and longed rather to participate in the enviable security of property and the lucrative privileges of safe traffic with the Christian territories granted to all places which declared for Boabdil. At the head of these gainful citizens was Ali Dordux, a mighty merchant of uncounted wealth, connected, it is said, with the royal family of Granada, whose ships traded to every part of the Levant and whose word was as a law in Malaga. Ali Dordux assembled the most opulent and important of his commercial brethren, and they repaired in a body to the Alcazaba, where they were received by the alcayde, Aben Comixa, with that deference generally shown to men of their great local dignity and power of purse. Ali Dordux was ample and stately in his form and fluent and emphatic in his discourse; his eloquence had an effect, therefore, upon the alcayde as he represented the hopelessness of a defence of Malaga, the misery that must attend a siege, and the ruin that must follow a capture by force of arms. On the other hand, he set forth the grace that might be obtained from the Castilian sovereigns by an early and voluntary acknowledgment of Boabdil as king, the peaceful possession of their property, and the profitable commerce with the Christian ports that would be allowed them. He was seconded by his weighty and important coadjutors; and the alcadye, accustomed to regard them as the arbiters of the affairs of the place, yielded to their united counsels. He departed, therefore, with all speed to the Christian camp, empowered to arrange a capitulation with the Castilian monarch, and in the mean time his brother remained in command of the Alcazaba.
There was at this time as alcayde in the old crag-built castle of Gibralfaro a warlike and fiery Moor, an implacable enemy of the Christians. This was no other than Hamet Zeli, surnamed El Zegri, the once-formidable alcayde of Ronda and the terror of its mountains. He had never forgiven the capture of his favorite fortress, and panted for vengeance on the Christians. Notwithstanding his reverses, he had retained the favor of El Zagal, who knew how to appreciate a bold warrior of the kind, and had placed him in command of this important fortress of Gibralfaro.
Hamet el Zegri had gathered round him the remnant of his band of Gomeres, with others of the same tribe recently arrived from Morocco. These fierce warriors were nestled like so many war-hawks about their lofty cliff. They looked down with martial contempt upon the commercial city of Malaga, which they were placed to protect; or, rather, they esteemed it only for its military importance and its capability of defence. They held no communion with its trading, gainful inhabitants, and even considered the garrison of the Alcazaba as their inferiors. War was their pursuit and passion; they rejoiced in its turbulent and perilous scenes; and, confident in the strength of the city, and, above all, of their castle, they set at defiance the menace of Christian invasion. There were among them also many apostate Moors, who had once embraced Christianity, but had since recanted and fled from the vengeance of the Inquisition.* These were desperadoes who had no mercy to expect should they again fall into the hands of the enemy.
* Zurita, lib. 30, cap. 71.
Such were the fierce elements of the garrison of Gibralfaro, and its rage may easily be conceived at hearing that Malaga was to be given up without a blow; that they were to sink into Christian vassals under the intermediate sway of Boabdil el Chico; and that the alcayde of the Alcazaba had departed to arrange the terms of capitulation.
Hamet determined to avert by desperate means the threatened degradation. He knew that there was a large party in the city faithful to El Zagal, being composed of warlike men who had taken refuge from the various mountain-towns which had been captured; their feelings were desperate as their fortunes, and, like Hamet, they panted for revenge upon the Christians. With these he had a secret conference, and received assurances of their adherence to him in any measures of defence. As to the counsel of the peaceful inhabitants, he considered it unworthy the consideration of a soldier, and he spurned at the interference of the wealthy merchant Ali Dordux in matters of warfare.
"Still," said Hamet el Zegri, "let us proceed regularly." So he descended with his Gomeres to the citadel, entered it suddenly, put to death the brother of the alcayde and such of the garrison as made any demur, and then summoned the principal inhabitants of Malaga to deliberate on measures for the welfare of the city.* The wealthy merchants again mounted to the citadel, excepting Ali Dordux, who refused to obey the summons. They entered with hearts filled with awe, for they found Hamet surrounded by his grim African guard and all the stern array of military power, and they beheld the bloody traces of the recent massacre.
* Cura de los Palacios, c. 82.
Hamet rolled a dark and searching eye upon the assembly. "Who," said he, "is loyal and devoted to Muley Abdallah el Zagal?" Every one present asserted his loyalty. "Good!" said Hamet; "and who is ready to prove his devotion to his sovereign by defending this his important city to the last extremity?" Every one present declared his readiness. "Enough!" observed Hamet. "The alcayde Aben Comixa has proved himself a traitor to his sovereign and to you all, for he has conspired to deliver the place to the Christians. It behooves you to choose some other commander capable of defending your city against the approaching enemy." The assembly declared unanimously that no one was so worthy of the command as himself. So Hamet was appointed alcayde of Malaga, and immediately proceeded to man the forts and towers with his partisans and to make every preparation for a desperate resistance.
Intelligence of these occurrences put an end to the negotiations between King Ferdinand and the superseded alcayde Aben Comixa, and it was supposed there was no alternative but to lay siege to the place. The marques of Cadiz, however, found at Velez a Moorish cavalier of some note, a native of Malaga, who offered to tamper with Hamet el Zegri for the surrender of the city, or at least of the castle of Gibralfaro. The marques communicated this to the king. "I put this business and the key of my treasury into your hands," said Ferdinand; "act, stipulate, and disburse in my name as you think proper."
The marques armed the Moor with his own lance, cuirass, and target and mounted him on one of his own horses. He equipped in similar style also another Moor, his companion and relative. They bore secret letters to Hamet from the marques offering him the town of Coin in perpetual inheritance and four thousand doblas in gold if he would deliver up Gibralfaro, together with a farm and two thousand doblas for his lieutenant, Ibrahim Zenete, and large sums to be distributed among his officers and soldiers; and he offered unlimited rewards for the surrender of the city.
Hamet had a warrior's admiration of the marques of Cadiz, and received his messengers with courtesy in his fortress of Gibralfaro. He even listened to their propositions with patience, and dismissed them in safety, though with an absolute refusal. The marques thought his reply was not so peremptory as to discourage another effort. The emissaries were despatched, therefore, a second time, with further propositions. They approached Malaga in the night, but found the guards doubled, patrols abroad, and the whole place on the alert. They were discovered, pursued, and only saved themselves by the fleetness of their steeds and their knowledge of the passes of the mountains.*
* Cura de los Palacios, MS., c. 82.
Finding all attempts to tamper with the faith of Hamet utterly futile, King Ferdinand publicly summoned the city to surrender, offering the most favorable terms in case of immediate compliance, but threatening captivity to all the inhabitants in case of resistance.
It required a man of nerve to undertake the delivery of such a summons in the present heated and turbulent state of the Moorish community. Such a one stepped forward in the person of a cavalier of the royal guards, Hernan Perez del Pulgar by name, a youth of noble descent, who had already signalized himself by his romantic valor and daring enterprise. Furnished with official papers for Hamet el Zegri and a private letter from the king to Ali Dordux, he entered the gates of Malaga under the protection of a flag, and boldly delivered his summons in presence of the principal inhabitants. The language of the summons or the tone in which it was delivered exasperated the fiery spirit of the Moors, and it required all the energy of Hamet and the influence of several of the alfaquis to prevent an outrage to the person of the ambassador. The reply of Hamet was haughty and decided. "The city of Malaga has been confided to me," said he—"not to be surrendered, but defended, and the king shall witness how I acquit myself of my charge."*
* Pulgar, part 3, cap. 74.
His mission at an end, Hernan del Pulgar rode slowly and deliberately through the city, utterly regardless of the scowls and menaces and scarcely restrained turbulence of the multitude, and bore to Ferdinand at Velez the haughty answer of the Moor, but at the same time gave him a formidable account of the force of the garrison, the strength of the fortifications, and the determined spirit of the commander and his men. The king immediately sent orders to have the heavy artillery forwarded from Antiquera, and on the 7th of May marched with his army toward Malaga.
ADVANCE OF KING FERDINAND AGAINST MALAGA.
The army of Ferdinand advanced in lengthened line, glittering along the foot of the mountains which border the Mediterranean, while a fleet of vessels, freighted with heavy artillery and warlike munitions, kept pace with it at a short distance from the land, covering the sea with a thousand gleaming sails. When Hamet el Zegri saw this force approaching, he set fire to the houses of the suburbs which adjoined the walls and sent forth three battalions to encounter the advance guard of the enemy.
The Christian army drew near to the city at that end where the castle and rocky height of Gibralfaro defended the seaboard. Immediately opposite, at about two bow-shots' distance, stood the castle, and between it and the high chain of mountains was a steep and rocky hill, at present called the hill of St. Christobal, commanding a pass through which the Christians must march to penetrate to the vega and surround the city. Hamet ordered the three battalions to take their stations—one on this hill, another in the pass near the castle, and a third on the side of the mountain near the sea.
A body of Spanish foot-soldiers of the advance guard, sturdy mountaineers of Galicia, sprang forward to climb the side of the height next the sea, at the same time a number of cavaliers and hidalgos of the royal household attacked the Moors who guarded the pass below. The Moors defended their posts with obstinate valor. The Galicians were repeatedly overpowered and driven down the hill, but as often rallied, and, being reinforced by the hidalgos and cavaliers, returned to the assault. This obstinate struggle lasted for six hours: the strife was of a deadly kind, not merely with crossbows and arquebuses, but hand to hand with swords and daggers; no quarter was claimed or given on either side—they fought not to make captives, but to slay. It was but the advance of the Christian army that was engaged; so narrow was the pass along the coast that the army could proceed only in file: horse and foot and beasts of burden were crowded one upon another, impeding each other and blocking up the narrow and rugged defile. The soldiers heard the uproar of the battle, the sound of trumpets, and the war-cries of the Moors, but tried in vain to press forward to the assistance of their companions.
At length a body of foot-soldiers of the Holy Brotherhood climbed with great difficulty the steep side of the mountain which overhung the pass, and advanced with seven banners displayed. The Moors, seeing this force above them, abandoned the pass in despair. The battle was still raging on the height; the Galicians, though supported by Castilian troops under Don Hurtado de Mendoza and Garcilasso de la Vega, were severely pressed and roughly handled by the Moors: at length a brave standard-bearer, Luys Mazeda by name, threw himself into the midst of the enemy and planted his banner on the summit. The Galicians and Castilians, stimulated by this noble self-devotion, followed him, fighting desperately, and the Moors were at length driven to their castle of Gibralfaro.*
* Pulgar, Cronica.
This important height being taken, the pass lay open to the army, but by this time evening was advancing, and the host was too weary and exhausted to seek proper situations for the encampment. The king, attended by several grandees and cavaliers, went the rounds at night, stationing outposts toward the city and guards and patrols to give the alarm on the least movement of the enemy. All night the Christians lay upon their arms, lest there should be some attempt to sally forth and attack them.
When the morning dawned the king gazed with admiration at this city which he hoped soon to add to his dominions. It was surrounded on one side by vineyards, gardens, and orchards, which covered the hills with verdure; on the other side its walls were bathed by the smooth and tranquil sea. Its vast and lofty towers and prodigious castles, hoary with age, yet unimpaired in strength, showed the labors of magnanimous men in former times to protect their favorite abode. Hanging gardens, groves of oranges, citrons, and pomegranates, with tall cedars and stately palms, were mingled with the stern battlements and towers, bespeaking the opulence and luxury that reigned within.
In the mean time, the Christian army poured through the pass, and, throwing out its columns and extending its lines, took possession of every vantage-ground around the city. King Ferdinand surveyed the ground and appointed the stations of the different commanders.
The important mount of St. Christobal, which had cost so violent a struggle and faced the powerful fortress of Gibralfaro, was given in charge to Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, who in all sieges claimed the post of danger. He had several noble cavaliers with their retainers in his encampment, which consisted of fifteen hundred horse and fourteen thousand foot, and extended from the summit of the mount to the margin of the sea, completely blocking up the approach to the city on that side. From this post a line of encampments extended quite round the city to the seaboard, fortified by bulwarks and deep ditches, while a fleet of armed ships and galleys stretched before the harbor, so that the place was completely invested by sea and land. The various parts of the valley now resounded with the din of preparation, and was filled with artificers preparing warlike engines and munitions; armorers and smiths with glowing forges and deafening hammers; carpenters and engineers constructing machines wherewith to assail the walls; stone-cutters shaping stone balls for the ordnance; and burners of charcoal preparing fuel for the furnaces and forges.
When the encampment was formed the heavy ordnance was landed from the ships and mounted in various parts of the camp. Five huge lombards were placed on the mount commanded by the marques of Cadiz, so as to bear upon the castle of Gibralfaro.
The Moors made strenuous efforts to impede these preparations. They kept up a heavy fire from their ordnance upon the men employed in digging trenches or constructing batteries, so that the latter had to work principally in the night. The royal tents had been stationed conspicuously and within reach of the Moorish batteries, but were so warmly assailed that they had to be removed behind a hill.
When the works were completed the Christian batteries opened in return, and kept up a tremendous cannonade, while the fleet, approaching the land, assailed the city vigorously on the opposite side.
"It was a glorious and delectable sight," observes Fray Antonio Agapida, "to behold this infidel city thus surrounded by sea and land by a mighty Christian force. Every mound in its circuit was, as it were, a little city of tents bearing the standard of some renowned Catholic warrior. Besides the warlike ships and galleys which lay before the place, the sea was covered with innumerable sails, passing and repassing, appearing and disappearing, being engaged in bringing supplies for the subsistence of the army. It seemed a vast spectacle contrived to recreate the eye, did not the volleying bursts of flame and smoke from the ships, which seemed to lie asleep on the quiet sea, and the thunder of ordnance from camp and city, from tower and battlement, tell the deadly warfare that was waging.
"At night the scene was far more direful than in the day. The cheerful light of the sun was gone; there was nothing but the flashes of artillery or the baleful gleams of combustibles thrown into the city, and the conflagration of the houses. The fire kept up from the Christian batteries was incessant: there were seven great lombards in particular, called the Seven Sisters of Ximenes, which did tremendous execution. The Moorish ordnance replied in thunder from the walls; Gibralfaro was wrapped in volumes of smoke rolling about its base; and Hamet and his Gomeres looked out with triumph upon the tempest of war they had awaked. Truly they were so many demons incarnate," concludes the pious Fray Antonio Agapida, "who were permitted by Heaven to enter into and possess this infidel city for its perdition."
SIEGE OF MALAGA.
The attack on Malaga by sea and land was kept up for several days with tremendous violence, but without producing any great impression, so strong were the ancient bulwarks of the city. The count de Cifuentes was the first to signalize himself by any noted achievement. A main tower, protecting what is at present called the suburb of Santa Ana, had been shattered by the ordnance and the battlements demolished, so as to yield no shelter to its defenders. Seeing this, the count assembled a gallant band of cavaliers of the royal household and advanced to take it by storm. They applied scaling-ladders and mounted sword in hand. The Moors, having no longer battlements to protect them, descended to a lower floor, and made furious resistance from the windows and loopholes. They poured down boiling pitch and rosin, and hurled stones and darts and arrows on the assailants. Many of the Christians were slain, their ladders were destroyed by flaming combustibles, and the count was obliged to retreat from before the tower. On the following day he renewed the attack with superior force, and after a severe combat succeeded in planting his victorious banner on the tower.
The Moors now assailed the tower in their turn. They undermined the part toward the city, placed props of wood under the foundation, and, setting fire to them, drew off to a distance. In a little while the props gave way, the foundation sunk, and the tower was rent; part of its wall fell with a tremendous noise; many of the Christians were thrown out headlong, and the rest were laid open to the missiles of the enemy.
By this time, however, a breach had been made in the wall of the suburb adjoining the tower, and troops poured in to the assistance of their comrades. A continued battle was kept up for two days and a night by reinforcements from camp and city. The parties fought backward and forward through the breach of the wall and in the narrow and winding streets adjacent with alternate success, and the vicinity of the tower was strewn with the dead and wounded. At length the Moors gradually gave way, disputing every inch of ground, until they were driven into the city, and the Christians remained masters of the greater part of the suburb.
This partial success, though gained with great toil and bloodshed, gave temporary animation to the Christians; they soon found, however, that the attack on the main works of the city was a much more arduous task. The garrison contained veterans who had served in many of the towns captured by the Christians. They were no longer confounded and dismayed by the battering ordnance and other strange engines of foreign invention, and had become expert in parrying their effects, in repairing breaches, and erecting counter-works.
The Christians, accustomed of late to speedy conquests of Moorish fortresses, became impatient of the slow progress of the siege. Many were apprehensive of a scarcity of provisions from the difficulty of subsisting so numerous a host in the heart of the enemy's country, where it was necessary to transport supplies across rugged and hostile mountains or subjected to the uncertainties of the sea. Many also were alarmed at a pestilence which broke out in the neighboring villages, and some were so overcome by these apprehensions as to abandon the camp and return to their homes.
Several of the loose and worthless hangers-on that infest all great armies, hearing these murmurs, thought that the siege would soon be raised, and deserted to the enemy, hoping to make their fortunes. They gave exaggerated accounts of the alarms and discontents of the army, and represented the troops as daily returning home in bands. Above all, they declared that the gunpowder was nearly exhausted, so that the artillery would soon be useless. They assured the Moors, therefore, that if they persisted a little longer in their defence, the king would be obliged to draw off his forces and abandon the siege.
The reports of these renegados gave fresh courage to the garrison; they made vigorous sallies upon the camp, harassing it by night and day, and obliging every part to be guarded with the most painful vigilance. They fortified the weak parts of their walls with ditches and palisadoes, and gave every manifestation of a determined and unyielding spirit.
Ferdinand soon received intelligence of the reports which had been carried to the Moors: he understood that they had been informed, likewise, that the queen was alarmed for the safety of the camp, and had written repeatedly urging him to abandon the siege. As the best means of disproving all these falsehoods and destroying the vain hopes of the enemy, he wrote to the queen entreating her to come and take up her residence in the camp.
SIEGE OF MALAGA CONTINUED.—OBSTINACY OF HAMET EL ZEGRI.
Great was the enthusiasm of the army when they beheld their patriot queen advancing in state to share the toils and dangers of her people. Isabella entered the camp attended by the dignitaries and the whole retinue of her court to manifest that this was no temporary visit. On one side of her was her daughter, the infanta; on the other, the grand cardinal of Spain: Hernando de Talavera, the prior of Prado, confessor to the queen, followed, with a great train of prelates, courtiers, cavaliers, and ladies of distinction. The cavalcade moved in calm and stately order through the camp, softening the iron aspect of war by this array of courtly grace and female beauty.
Isabella had commanded that on her coming to the camp the horrors of war should be suspended and fresh offers of peace made to the enemy. On her arrival, therefore, there had been a general cessation of firing throughout the camp. A messenger was at the same time despatched to the besieged, informing them of her being in the camp, and of the determination of the sovereigns to make it their settled residence until the city should be taken. The same terms were offered in case of immediate surrender that had been granted to Velez Malaga, but the inhabitants were threatened with captivity and the sword should they persist in their defence.
Hamet el Zegri received this message with haughty contempt, and dismissed the messenger without deigning a reply, and accompanied by an escort to prevent his holding any communication with the inhabitants in the streets. "The Christian sovereigns," said Hamet to those about him, "have made this offer in consequence of their despair. The silence of their batteries proves the truth of what has been told us, that their powder is exhausted. They have no longer the means of demolishing our walls, and if they remain much longer the autumnal rains will interrupt their convoys and fill their camp with famine and disease. The first storm will disperse their fleet, which has no neighboring port of shelter: Africa will then be open to us to procure reinforcements and supplies."
The words of Hamet el Zegri were hailed as oracular by his adherents. Many of the peaceful part of the community, however, ventured to remonstrate, and to implore him to accept the proffered mercy. The stern Hamet silenced them with a terrific threat: he declared that whoever should talk of capitulating or should hold any communication with the Christians should be put to death. The Gomeres, like true men of the sword, acted upon the menace of their chieftain as upon a written law, and, having detected several of the inhabitants in secret correspondence with the enemy, set upon and slew them and confiscated their effects. This struck such terror into the citizens that those who had been loudest in their murmurs became suddenly mute, and were remarked as evincing the greatest bustle and alacrity in the defence of the city.
When the messenger returned to the camp and reported the contemptuous reception of the royal message, King Ferdinand was exceedingly indignant. Finding the cessation of firing on the queen's arrival had encouraged a belief among the enemy that there was a scarcity of powder in the camp, he ordered a general discharge from all the batteries. The sudden burst of war from every quarter soon convinced the Moors of their error and completed the confusion of the citizens, who knew not which most to dread, their assailants or their defenders, the Christians or the Gomeres.
That evening the sovereigns visited the encampment of the marques of Cadiz, which commanded a view over a great part of the city, the camp, and the sea with its flotillas. The tent of the marques was of great magnitude, furnished with hangings of rich brocade and French cloth of the rarest texture. It was in the Oriental style, and, as it crowned the height, with the surrounding tents of other cavaliers, all sumptuously furnished, presented a gay and silken contrast to the opposite towers of Gibralfaro. Here a splendid collation was served up to the sovereigns, and the courtly revel that prevailed in this chivalrous encampment, the glitter of pageantry, and the bursts of festive music made more striking the gloom and silence that reigned over the Moorish castle.
The marques of Cadiz while it was yet light conducted his royal visitors to every point that commanded a view of the warlike scene below. He caused the heavy lombards also to be discharged, that the queen and ladies of the court might witness the effect of those tremendous engines. The fair dames were filled with awe and admiration as the mountain shook beneath their feet with the thunder of the artillery and they beheld great fragments of the Moorish walls tumbling down the rocks and precipices.
While the good marques was displaying these things to his royal guests he lifted up his eyes, and to his astonishment beheld his own banner hanging out from the nearest tower of Gibralfaro. The blood mantled in his cheek, for it was a banner which he had lost at the time of the memorable massacre of the heights of Malaga.* To make this taunt more evident, several of the Gomeres displayed themselves upon the battlements arrayed in the helmets and cuirasses of some of the cavaliers slain or captured on that occasion. The marques of Cadiz restrained his indignation and held his peace, but several of, his cavaliers vowed loudly to revenge this cruel bravado on the ferocious garrison of Gibralfaro.
* Diego de Valera, Cronica, MS.
ATTACK OF THE MARQUES OF CADIZ UPON GIBRALFARO.
The marques of Cadiz was not a cavalier that readily forgave an injury or an insult. On the morning after the royal banquet his batteries opened a tremendous fire upon Gibralfaro. All day the encampment was wrapped in wreaths of smoke, nor did the assault cease with the day, but throughout the night there was an incessant flashing and thundering of the lombards, and the following morning the assault rather increased than slackened in fury. The Moorish bulwarks were no proof against those formidable engines. In a few days the lofty tower on which the taunting banner had been displayed was shattered, a smaller tower in its vicinity reduced to ruins, and a great breach made in the intervening walls.
Several of the hot-spirited cavaliers were eager for storming the breach sword in hand; others, more cool and wary, pointed out the rashness of such an attempt, for the Moors had worked indefatigably in the night; they had digged a deep ditch within the breach, and had fortified it with palisadoes and a high breastwork. All, however, agreed that the camp might safely be advanced near to the ruined walls, and that it ought to be done in return for the insolent defiance of the enemy.
The marques of Cadiz felt the temerity of the measure, but was unwilling to dampen the zeal of these high-spirited cavaliers, and, having chosen the post of danger in the camp, it did not become him to decline any service merely because it might appear perilous. He ordered his outposts, therefore, to be advanced within a stone's-throw of the breach, but exhorted the soldiers to maintain the utmost vigilance.
The thunder of the batteries had ceased; the troops, exhausted by two nights' fatigue and watchfulness, and apprehending no danger from the dismantled walls, were half of them asleep; the rest were scattered about in negligent security. On a sudden upward of two thousand Moors sallied forth from the castle, led on by Ibrahim Zenete, the principal captain under Hamet. They fell with fearful havoc upon the advanced guard, slaying many of them in their sleep and putting the rest to headlong flight.
The marques was in his tent, about a bow-shot distant, when he heard the tumult of the onset and beheld his men dying in confusion. He rushed forth, followed by his standard-bearer. "Turn again, cavaliers!" exclaimed he; "I am here, Ponce de Leon! To the foe! to the foe!" The flying troops stopped at hearing his well-known voice, rallied under his banner, and turned upon the enemy. The encampment by this time was roused; several cavaliers from the adjoining stations had hastened to the scene of action, with a number of Galicians and soldiers of the Holy Brotherhood. An obstinate and bloody contest ensued; the ruggedness of the place, the rocks, chasms, and declivities broke it into numerous combats: Christian and Moor fought hand to hand with swords and daggers, and often, grappling and struggling, rolled together down the precipices.
The banner of the marques was in danger of being taken: he hastened to its rescue, followed by some of his bravest cavaliers. They were surrounded by the enemy, and several of them cut down. Don Diego Ponce de Leon, brother to the marques, was wounded by an arrow, and his son-in-law, Luis Ponce, was likewise wounded: they succeeded, however, in rescuing the banner and bearing it off in safety. The battle lasted for an hour; the height was covered with killed and wounded and the blood flowed in streams down the rocks; at length, Ibrahim Zenete being disabled by the thrust of a lance, the Moors gave way and retreated to the castle.
They now opened a galling fire from their battlements and towers, approaching the breaches so as to discharge their crossbows and arquebuses into the advanced guard of the encampment. The marques was singled out: the shot fell thick about him, and one passed through his buckler and struck upon his cuirass, but without doing him any injury. Every one now saw the danger and inutility of approaching the camp thus near to the castle, and those who had counselled it were now urgent that it should be withdrawn. It was accordingly removed back to its original ground, from which the marques had most reluctantly advanced it. Nothing but his valor and timely aid had prevented this attack on his outpost from ending in a total rout of all that part of the army.
Many cavaliers of distinction fell in this contest, but the loss of none was felt more deeply than that of Ortega del Prado, captain of escaladors. He was one of the bravest men in the service, the same who had devised the first successful blow of the war, the storming of Alhama, where he was the first to plant and mount the scaling-ladders. He had always been high in the favor and confidence of the noble Ponce de Leon, who knew how to appreciate and avail himself of the merits of all able and valiant men.*
* Zurita, Mariana, Abarca.
SIEGE OF MALAGIA CONTINUED.—STRATAGEMS OF VARIOUS KINDS.
Great were the exertions now made, both by the besiegers and the besieged, to carry on the contest with the utmost vigor. Hamet went the rounds of the walls and towers, doubling the guards and putting everything in the best posture of defence. The garrison was divided into parties of a hundred, to each of which a captain was appointed. Some were to patrol, others to sally forth and skirmish with the enemy, and others to hold themselves armed and in reserve. Six albatozas, or floating batteries, were manned and armed with pieces of artillery to attack the fleet.
On the other hand, the Castilian sovereigns kept open a communication by sea with various parts of Spain, from which they received provisions of all kinds; they ordered supplies of powder also from Valencia, Barcelona, Sicily, and Portugal. They made great preparations also for storming the city. Towers of wood were constructed to move on wheels, each capable of holding one hundred men; they were furnished with ladders to be thrown from their summits to the tops of the walls, and within those ladders others were encased, to be let down for the descent of the troops into the city. There were gallipagos, or tortoises, also being great wooden shields, covered with hides, to protect the assailants and those who undermined the walls.
Secret mines were commenced in various places: some were intended to reach to the foundations of the walls, which were to be propped up with wood, ready to be set on fire; others were to pass under the walls, and remain ready to be broken open so as to give entrance to the besiegers. At these mines the army worked day and night, and during these secret preparations the ordnance kept up a fire upon the city to divert the attention of the besieged.
In the mean time, Hamet displayed wonderful vigor and ingenuity in defending the city and in repairing or fortifying by deep ditches the breaches made by the enemy. He noted also every place where the camp might be assailed with advantage, and gave the besieging army no repose night or day. While his troops sallied on the land, his floating batteries attacked the besiegers on the sea, so that there was incessant skirmishing. The tents called the Queen's Hospital were crowded with wounded, and the whole army suffered from constant watchfulness and fatigue. To guard against the sudden assaults of the Moors, the trenches were deepened and palisadoes erected in front of the camp; and in that part facing Gibralfaro, where the rocky heights did not admit of such defences, a high rampart of earth was thrown up. The cavaliers Garcilasso de la Vega, Juan de Zuniga, and Diego de Atayde were appointed to go the rounds and keep vigilant watch that these fortifications were maintained in good order.
In a little while Hamet discovered the mines secretly commenced by the Christians: he immediately ordered counter-mines. The soldiers mutually worked until they met and fought hand to hand in these subterranean passages. The Christians were driven out of one of their mines; fire was set to the wooden framework and the mine destroyed. Encouraged by this success, the Moors attempted a general attack upon the camp, the mines, and the besieging fleet. The battle lasted for six hours on land and water, above and below ground, on bulwark, and in trench and mine; the Moors displayed wonderful intrepidity, but were finally repulsed at all points, and obliged to retire into the city, where they were closely invested, without the means of receiving any assistance from abroad.
The horrors of famine were now added to the other miseries of Malaga. Hamet, with the spirit of a man bred up to war, considered everything as subservient to the wants of the soldier, and ordered all the grain in the city to be gathered and garnered up for the sole use of those who fought. Even this was dealt out sparingly, and each soldier received four ounces of bread in the morning and two in the evening for his daily allowance.
The wealthy inhabitants and all those peacefully inclined mourned over a resistance which brought destruction upon their houses, death into their families, and which they saw must end in their ruin and captivity; still, none of them dared to speak openly of capitulation, or even to manifest their grief, lest they should awaken the wrath of their fierce defenders. They surrounded their civic champion, Ali Dordux, the great and opulent merchant, who had buckled on shield and cuirass and taken spear in hand for the defence of his native city, and with a large body of the braver citizens had charge of one of the gates and a considerable portion of the walls. Drawing Ali Dordux aside, they poured forth their griefs to him in secret. "Why," said they, "should we suffer our native city to be made a mere bulwark and fighting-place for foreign barbarians and desperate men? They have no families to care for, no property to lose, no love for the soil, and no value for their lives. They fight to gratify a thirst for blood or a desire for revenge, and will fight on until Malaga becomes a ruin and its people slaves. Let us think and act for ourselves, our wives, and our children. Let us make private terms with the Christians before it is too late, and save ourselves from destruction."
The bowels of Ali Dordux yearned toward his fellow citizens; he bethought him also of the sweet security of peace and the bloodless yet gratifying triumphs of gainful traffic. The idea also of a secret negotiation or bargain with the Castilian sovereigns for the redemption of his native city was more conformable to his accustomed habits than this violent appeal to arms, for, though he had for a time assumed the warrior, he had not forgotten the merchant. Ali Dordux communed, therefore, with the citizen-soldiers under his command, and they readily conformed to his opinion. Concerting together, they wrote a proposition to the Castilian sovereigns, offering to admit the army into the part of the city entrusted to their care on receiving assurance of protection for the lives and properties of the inhabitants. This writing they delivered to a trusty emissary to take to the Christian camp, appointing the hour and place of his return that they might be ready to admit him unperceived.
The Moor made his way in safety to the camp, and was admitted to the presence of the sovereigns. Eager to gain the city without further cost of blood or treasure, they gave a written promise to grant the condition, and the Moor set out joyfully on his return. As he approached the walls where Ali Dordux and his confederates were waiting to receive him, he was descried by a patrolling band of Gomeres, and considered a spy coming from the camp of the besiegers. They issued forth and seized him in sight of his employers, who gave themselves up for lost. The Gomeres had conducted him nearly to the gate, when he escaped from their grasp and fled. They endeavored to overtake him, but were encumbered with armor; he was lightly clad, and he fled for his life. One of the Gomeres paused, and, levelling his crossbow, let fly a bolt which pierced the fugitive between the shoulders; he fell and was nearly within their grasp, but rose again and with a desperate effort attained the Christian camp. The Gomeres gave over the pursuit, and the citizens returned thanks to Allah for their deliverance from this fearful peril. As to the faithful messenger, he died of his wound shortly after reaching the camp, consoled with the idea that he had preserved the secret and the lives of his employers.*
* Pulgar, Cronica, p. 3, c. 80.
SUFFERINGS OF THE PEOPLE OF MALAGA.
The sufferings of Malaga spread sorrow and anxiety among the Moors, and they dreaded lest this beautiful city, once the bulwark of the kingdom, should fall into the hands of the unbelievers. The old warrior-king, Abdallah el Zagal, was still sheltered in Guadix, where he was slowly gathering together his shattered forces. When the people of Guadix heard of the danger and distress of Malaga, they urged to be led to its relief, and the alfaquis admonished El Zagal not to desert so righteous and loyal a city in its extremity. His own warlike nature made him feel a sympathy for a place that made so gallant a resistance, and he despatched as powerful a reinforcement as he could spare under conduct of a chosen captain, with orders to throw themselves into the city.
Intelligence of this reinforcement reached Boabdil el Chico in his royal palace of the Alhambra. Filled with hostility against his uncle, and desirous of proving his loyalty to the Castilian sovereigns, he immediately sent forth a superior force of horse and foot under an able commander to intercept the detachment. A sharp conflict ensued; the troops of El Zagal were routed with great loss and fled back in confusion to Guadix.
Boabdil, not being accustomed to victories, was flushed with this melancholy triumph. He sent tidings of it to the Castilian sovereigns, accompanied with rich silks, boxes of Arabian perfume, a cup of gold richly wrought, and a female captive of Ubeda as presents to the queen, and four Arabian steeds magnificently caparisoned, a sword and dagger richly mounted, and several albornozes and other robes sumptuously embroidered for the king. He entreated them at the same time always to look upon him with favor as their devoted vassal.
Boabdil was fated to be unfortunate, even in his victories. His defeat of the forces of his uncle destined to the relief of unhappy Malaga shocked the feelings and cooled the loyalty of many of his best adherents. The mere men of traffic might rejoice in their golden interval of peace, but the chivalrous spirits of Granada spurned a security purchased by such sacrifices of pride and affection. The people at large, having gratified their love of change, began to question whether they had acted generously by their old fighting monarch. "El Zagal," said they, "was fierce and bloody, but then he was faithful to his country; he was an usurper, it is true, but then he maintained the glory of the crown which he usurped. If his sceptre was a rod of iron to his subjects, it was a sword of steel against their enemies. This Boabdil sacrifices religion, friends, country, everything, to a mere shadow of royalty, and is content to hold a rush for a sceptre."
These factious murmurs soon reached the ears of Boabdil, and he apprehended another of his customary reverses. He sent in all haste to the Castilian sovereigns beseeching military aid to keep him on his throne. Ferdinand graciously complied with a request so much in unison with his policy. A detachment of one thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry was sent under the command of Don Fernandez Gonsalvo of Cordova, subsequently renowned as the grand captain. With this succor Boabdil expelled from the city all those who were hostile to him and in favor of his uncle. He felt secure in these troops, from their being distinct in manners, language, and religion from his subjects, and compromised with his pride in thus exhibiting that most unnatural and humiliating of all regal spectacles, a monarch supported on his throne by foreign weapons and by soldiers hostile to his people. Nor was Boabdil el Chico the only Moorish sovereign that sought protection from Ferdinand and Isabella. A splendid galley with latine sails and several banks of oars, displaying the standard of the Crescent, but likewise a white flag in sign of amity, came one day into the harbor. An ambassador landed from it within the Christian lines. He came from the king of Tremezan, and brought presents similar to those of Boabdil, consisting of Arabian coursers, with bits, stirrups, and other furniture of gold, together with costly Moorish mantles: for the queen there were sumptuous shawls, robes, and silken stuffs, ornaments of gold, and exquisite Oriental perfumes.
The king of Tremezan had been alarmed at the rapid conquests of the Spanish arms, and startled by the descent of several Spanish cruisers on the coast of Africa. He craved to be considered a vassal to the Castilian sovereigns, and that they would extend such favor and security to his ships and subjects as had been shown to other Moors who had submitted to their sway. He requested a painting of their arms, that he and his subjects might recognize and respect their standard whenever they encountered it. At the same time he implored their clemency toward unhappy Malaga, and that its inhabitants might experience the same favor that had been shown toward the Moors of other captured cities.
The embassy was graciously received by the Christian sovereigns. They granted the protection required, ordering their commanders to respect the flag of Tremezan unless it should be found rendering assistance to the enemy. They sent also to the Barbary monarch their royal arms moulded in escutcheons of gold, a hand's-breadth in size.*
* Cura de los Palacios, c. 84; Pulgar, part 3, c. 68.
While thus the chances of assistance from without daily decreased, famine raged in the city. The inhabitants were compelled to eat the flesh of horses, and many died of hunger. What made the sufferings of the citizens the more intolerable was to behold the sea covered with ships daily arriving with provisions for the besiegers. Day after day also they saw herds of fat cattle and flocks of sheep driven into the camp. Wheat and flour were piled in huge mounds in the centre of the encampments, glaring in the sunshine, and tantalizing the wretched citizens, who, while they and their children were perishing with hunger, beheld prodigal abundance reigning within a bow-shot of their walls.
HOW A MOORISH SANTON UNDERTOOK TO DELIVER THE CITY OF MALAGA FROM THE POWER OF ITS ENEMIES.
There lived at this time in a hamlet in the neighborhood of Guadix an ancient Moor of the name of Ibrahim el Guerbi. He was a native of the island of Guerbes, in the kingdom of Tunis, and had for several years led the life of a santon or hermit. The hot sun of Africa had dried his blood, and rendered him of an exalted yet melancholy temperament. He passed most of his time in caves of the mountains in meditation, prayer, and rigorous abstinence, until his body was wasted and his mind bewildered, and he fancied himself favored with divine revelations and visited by angels sent by Mahomet. The Moors, who had a great reverence for all enthusiasts of the kind, believed in his being inspired, listened to all his ravings as veritable prophecies, and denominated him "el santo," or the saint.
The woes of the kingdom of Granada had long exasperated the gloomy spirit of this man, and he had beheld with indignation this beautiful country wrested from the dominion of the faithful and becoming a prey to the unbelievers. He had implored the blessings of Allah on the troops which issued forth from Guadix for the relief of Malaga, but when he saw them return routed and scattered by their own countrymen, he retired to his cell, shut himself up from the world, and was plunged for a time in the blackest melancholy.
On a sudden he made his appearance again in the streets of Guadix, his face haggard, his form emaciated, but his eyes beaming with fire. He said that Allah had sent an angel to him in the solitude of his cell, revealing to him a mode of delivering Malaga from its perils and striking horror and confusion into the camp of the unbelievers. The Moors listened with eager credulity to his words: four hundred of them offered to follow him even to the death and to obey implicitly his commands. Of this number many were Gomeres, anxious to relieve their countrymen who formed part of the garrison of Malaga.
They traversed the kingdom by the wild and lonely passes of the mountains, concealing themselves in the day and travelling only in the night to elude the Christian scouts. At length they arrived at the mountains which tower above Malaga, and, looking down, beheld the city completely invested, a chain of encampments extending round it from shore to shore and a line of ships blockading it by sea, while the continual thunder of artillery and the smoke rising in various parts showed that the siege was pressed with great activity. The hermit scanned the encampments warily from his lofty height. He saw that the part of the encampment of the marques of Cadiz which was at the foot of the height and on the margin of the sea was most assailable, the rocky soil not admitting ditches or palisadoes. Remaining concealed all day, he descended with his followers at night to the sea-coast and approached silently to the outworks. He had given them their instructions: they were to rush suddenly upon the camp, fight their way through, and throw themselves into the city.
It was just at the gray of the dawning, when objects are obscurely visible, that they made this desperate attempt. Some sprang suddenly upon the sentinels, others rushed into the sea and got round the works, others clambered over the breastworks. There was sharp skirmishing; a great part of the Moors were cut to pieces, but about two hundred succeeded in getting into the gates of Malaga.
The santon took no part in the conflict, nor did he endeavor to enter the city. His plans were of a different nature. Drawing apart from the battle, he threw himself on his knees on a rising ground, and, lifting his hands to heaven, appeared to be absorbed in prayer. The Christians, as they were searching for fugitives in the clefts of the rocks, found him at his devotions. He stirred not at their approach, but remained fixed as a statue, without changing color or moving a muscle. Filled with surprise, not unmingled with awe, they took him to the marques of Cadiz. He was wrapped in a coarse albornoz, or Moorish mantle, his beard was long and grizzled, and there was something wild and melancholy in his look that inspired curiosity. On being examined, he gave himself out as a saint to whom Allah had revealed the events that were to take place in that siege. The marques demanded when and how Malaga was to be taken. He replied that he knew full well, but he was forbidden to reveal those important secrets except to the king and queen. The good marques was not more given to superstitious fancies than other commanders of his time, yet there seemed something singular and mysterious about this man; he might have some important intelligence to communicate; so he was persuaded to send him to the king and queen. He was conducted to the royal tent, surrounded by a curious multitude exclaiming "El Moro Santo!" for the news had spread through the camp that they had taken a Moorish prophet.
The king, having dined, was taking his siesta, or afternoon's sleep, in his tent, and the queen, though curious to see this singular man, yet from a natural delicacy and reserve delayed until the king should be present. He was taken, therefore, to an adjoining tent, in which were Dona Beatrix de Bovadilla, marchioness of Moya, and Don Alvaro of Portugal, son of the duke of Braganza, with two or three attendants. The Moor, ignorant of the Spanish tongue, had not understood the conversation of the guards, and supposed, from the magnificence of the furniture and the silken hangings, that this was the royal tent. From the respect paid by the attendants to Don Alvaro and the marchioness he concluded that they were the king and queen.
He now asked for a draught of water: a jar was brought to him, and the guard released his arm to enable him to drink. The marchioness perceived a sudden change in his countenance and something sinister in the expression of his eye, and shifted her position to a more remote part of the tent. Pretending to raise the water to his lips, the Moor unfolded his albornoz, so as to grasp a scimetar which he wore concealed beneath; then, dashing down the jar, he drew his weapon and gave Don Alvaro a blow on the head that struck him to the earth and nearly deprived him of life. Turning then upon the marchioness, he made a violent blow at her; but in his eagerness and agitation his scimetar caught in the drapery of the tent; the force of the blow was broken, and the weapon struck harmless upon some golden ornaments of her head-dress.*
* Pietro Martyr, Epist. 62.
Ruy Lopez de Toledo, treasurer to the queen, and Juan de Belalcazar, a sturdy friar, who were present, grappled and struggled with the desperado, and immediately the guards who had conducted him from the marques de Cadiz fell upon him and cut him to pieces.*
* Cura de los Palacios
The king and queen, brought out of their tents by the noise, were filled with horror when they learned the imminent peril from which they had escaped. The mangled body of the Moor was taken by the people to the camp and thrown into the city from a catapult. The Gomeres gathered up the body with deep reverence as the remains of a saint; they washed and perfumed it and buried it with great honor and loud lamentations. In revenge of his death they slew one of their principal Christian captives, and, having tied his body upon an ass, they drove the animal forth into the camp.