There a banquet was served up to the two kings according to the rigorous style and etiquette of the Spanish court. They were seated in two chairs of state under the same canopy, El Zagal on the left hand of Ferdinand. The cavaliers and courtiers admitted to the royal pavilion remained standing. The count de Tendilla served the viands to King Ferdinand in golden dishes, and the count Cifuentes gave him to drink out of cups of the same precious metal; Don Alvaro Bazan and Garcilasso de la Vega performed the same offices, in similar style and with vessels of equal richness, to the Moorish monarch.
The banquet ended, El Zagal took courteous leave of Ferdinand, and sallied from the pavilion attended by the cavaliers who had been present. Each of these now made himself known to the old monarch by his name, title, or dignity, and each received an affable gesture in reply. They would all have escorted the old king back to the gates of Almeria, but he insisted on their remaining in the camp, and with difficulty could be persuaded upon to accept the honorable attendance of the marques of Villena, the commander, Don Gutierrez de Cardenas, the count de Cifuentes, and Don Luis Puerto Carrero.
On the following morning (22d December) the troops were all drawn out in splendid array in front of the camp, awaiting the signal of the formal surrender of the city. This was given at mid-day, when the gates were thrown open and a corps marched in, led by Don Gutierrez de Cardenas, who had been appointed governor. In a little while the gleam of Christian warriors was seen on the walls and bulwarks; the blessed cross was planted in place of the standard of Mahomet, and the banner of the sovereigns floated triumphantly above the Alcazar. At the same time a numerous deputation of alfaquis and the noblest and wealthiest inhabitants of the place sallied forth to pay homage to King Ferdinand.
On the 23d of December the king himself entered the city with grand military and religious pomp, and repaired to the mosque of the castle, which had previously been purified and sanctified and converted into a Christian temple: here grand mass was performed in solemn celebration of this great triumph of the faith.
These ceremonies were scarcely completed when joyful notice was given of the approach of the queen Isabella with the rear-guard of the army. She came accompanied by the princess Isabella, and attended by her ghostly counsellor the cardinal Mendoza and her confessor Talavera. The king sallied forth to meet her, accompanied by El Zagal, and it is said the reception of the latter by the queen was characterized by the deference and considerate delicacy which belonged to her magnanimous nature.
The surrender of Almeria was followed by that of Almunecar, Salobrena, and other fortified places of the coast and the interior, and detachments of Christian troops took quiet possession of the Alpuxarras mountains and their secluded and fertile valleys.*
* Cura de los Palacios, cap. 93, 94; Pulgar, Cron., part 3, cap. 124; Garibay, Comp. Hist., lib. 18, cap. 37, etc. etc.
EVENTS AT GRANADA SUBSEQUENT TO THE SUBMISSION OF EL ZAGAL.
Who can tell when to rejoice in this fluctuating world? Every wave of prosperity has its reacting surge, and we are often overwhelmed by the very billow on which we thought to be wafted into the haven of our hopes. When Yusef Aben Comixa, the vizier of Boabdil, surnamed El Chico, entered the royal saloon of the Alhambra and announced the capitulation of El Zagal, the heart of the youthful monarch leaped for joy. His great wish was accomplished; his uncle was defeated and dethroned, and he reigned without a rival, sole monarch of Granada. At length he was about to enjoy the fruits of his humiliation and vassalage. He beheld his throne fortified by the friendship and alliance of the Castilian monarchs; there could be no question, therefore, of its stability. "Allah Akbar! God is great!" exclaimed he. "Rejoice with me, O Yusef; the stars have ceased their persecution. Henceforth let no man call me El Zogoybi."
In the first moment of his exultation Boabdil would have ordered public rejoicings, but the shrewd Yusef shook his head. "The tempest has ceased from one point of the heavens," said he, "but it may begin to rage from another. A troubled sea is beneath us, and we are surrounded by rocks and quicksands: let my lord the king defer rejoicings until all has settled into a calm." El Chico, however, could not remain tranquil in this day of exultation: he ordered his steed to be sumptuously caparisoned, and, issuing out of the gate of the Alhambra, descended, with glittering retinue, along the avenue of trees and fountains, into the city to receive the acclamations of the populace. As he entered the great square of the Vivarrambla he beheld crowds of people in violent agitation, but as he approached what was his surprise to hear groans and murmurs and bursts of execration! The tidings had spread through Granada that Muley Abdallah el Zagal had been driven to capitulate, and that all his territories had fallen into the hands of the Christians. No one had inquired into the particulars, but all Granada had been thrown into a ferment of grief and indignation. In the heat of the moment old Muley was extolled to the skies as a patriot prince who had fought to the last for the salvation of his country—as a mirror of monarchs, scorning to compromise the dignity of his crown by any act of vassalage. Boabdil, on the contrary, had looked on exultingly at the hopeless yet heroic struggle of his uncle; he had rejoiced in the defeat of the faithful and the triumph of unbelievers; he had aided in the dismemberment and downfall of the empire. When they beheld him riding forth in gorgeous state on what they considered a day of humiliation for all true Moslems, they could not contain their rage, and amidst the clamors that met his ears Boabdil more than once heard his name coupled with the epithets of traitor and renegado.
Shocked and discomfited, the youthful monarch returned in confusion to the Alhambra, shut himself up within its innermost courts, and remained a kind of voluntary prisoner until the first burst of popular feeling should subside. He trusted that it would soon pass away—that the people would be too sensible of the sweets of peace to repine at the price at which it was obtained; at any rate, he trusted to the strong friendship of the Christian sovereigns to secure him even against the factions of his subjects.
The first missives from the politic Ferdinand showed Boabdil the value of his friendship. The Christian monarch reminded him of a treaty which he had made when captured in the city of Loxa. By this he had engaged that in case the Catholic sovereigns should capture the cities of Guadix, Baza, and Almeria he would surrender Granada into their hands within a limited time, and accept in exchange certain Moorish towns to be held by him as their vassal. Guadix, Baza, and Almeria had now fallen; Ferdinand called upon him, therefore, to fulfil his engagement.
If the unfortunate Boabdil had possessed the will, he had not the power to comply with this demand. He was shut up in the Alhambra, while a tempest of popular fury raged without. Granada was thronged by refugees from the captured towns, many of them disbanded soldiers, and others broken-down citizens rendered fierce and desperate by ruin. All railed at him as the real cause of their misfortunes. How was he to venture forth in such a storm? Above all, how was he to talk to such men of surrender? In his reply to Ferdinand he represented the difficulties of his situation, and that, so far from having control over his subjects, his very life was in danger from their turbulence. He entreated the king, therefore, to rest satisfied for the present with his recent conquests, promising that should he be able to regain full empire over his capital and its inhabitants, it would be but to rule over them as vassal to the Castilian Crown.
Ferdinand was not to be satisfied with such a reply. The time was come to bring his game of policy to a close, and to consummate his conquest by seating himself on the throne of the Alhambra. Professing to consider Boabdil as a faithless ally who had broken his plighted word, he discarded him from his friendship, and addressed a second letter, not to him, but to the commanders and council of the city. He demanded a complete surrender of the place, with all the arms in the possession either of the citizens or of others who had recently taken refuge within its walls. If the inhabitants should comply with this summons, he promised them the indulgent terms granted to Baza, Guadix, and Almeria; if they should refuse, he threatened them with the fate of Malaga.*
* Cura de los Palacios, cap. 96.
This message produced the greatest commotion in the city. The inhabitants of the Alcaiceria, that busy hive of traffic, and all others who had tasted the sweets of gainful commerce during the late cessation of hostilities, were for securing their golden advantages by timely submission: others, who had wives and children, looked on them with tenderness and solicitude, and dreaded by resistance to bring upon them the horrors of slavery.
On the other hand, Granada was crowded with men from all parts, ruined by the war, exasperated by their sufferings, and eager only for revenge—with others who had been reared amidst hostilities, who had lived by the sword, and whom a return of peace would leave without home or hope. Besides these, there were others no less fiery and warlike in disposition, but animated by a loftier spirit. These were valiant and haughty cavaliers of the old chivalrous lineages, who had inherited a deadly hatred to the Christians from a long line of warrior ancestors, and to whom the idea was worse than death that Granada—illustrious Granada, for ages the seat of Moorish grandeur and delight—should become the abode of unbelievers.
Among these cavaliers the most eminent was Muza Abul Gazan. He was of royal lineage, of a proud and generous nature, and a form combining manly strength and beauty. None could excel him in the management of the horse and dextrous use of all kinds of weapons: his gracefulness and skill in the tourney were the theme of praise among the Moorish dames, and his prowess in the field had made him the terror of the enemy. He had long repined at the timid policy of Boabdil, and endeavored to counteract its enervating effects and keep alive the martial spirit of Granada. For this reason he had promoted jousts and tiltings with the reed, and all those other public games which bear the semblance of war. He endeavored also to inculcate into his companions-in-arms those high chivalrous sentiments which lead to valiant and magnanimous deeds, but which are apt to decline with the independence of a nation. The generous efforts of Muza had been in a great measure successful: he was the idol of the youthful cavaliers; they regarded him as a mirror of chivalry and endeavored to imitate his lofty and heroic virtues.
When Muza heard the demand of Ferdinand that they should deliver up their arms, his eye flashed fire. "Does the Christian king think that we are old men," said he, "and that staffs will suffice us? or that we are women, and can be contented with distaffs? Let him know that a Moor is born to the spear and scimetar—to career the steed, bend the bow, and launch the javelin: deprive him of these, and you deprive him of his nature. If the Christian king desires our arms, let him come and win them, but let him win them dearly. For my part, sweeter were a grave beneath the walls of Granada, on the spot I had died to defend, than the richest couch within her palaces earned by submission to the unbeliever."
The words of Muza were received with enthusiastic shouts by the warlike part of the populace. Granada once more awoke, as a warrior shaking off a disgraceful lethargy. The commanders and council partook of the public excitement, and despatched a reply to the Christian sovereigns, declaring that they would suffer death rather than surrender their city.
HOW FERDINAND TURNED HIS HOSTILITIES AGAINST THE CITY OF GRANADA.
When King Ferdinand received the defiance of the Moors, he made preparations for bitter hostilities. The winter season did not admit of an immediate campaign; he contented himself, therefore, with throwing strong garrisons into all his towns and fortresses in the neighborhood of Granada, and gave the command of all the frontier of Jaen to Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, count of Tendilla, who had shown such consummate vigilance and address in maintaining the dangerous post of Alhama. This renowned veteran established his head-quarters in the mountain-city of Alcala la Real, within eight leagues of the city of Granada and commanding the most important passes of that rugged frontier.
In the mean time, Granada resounded with the stir of war. The chivalry of the nation had again control of its councils, and the populace, having once more resumed their weapons, were anxious to wipe out the disgrace of their late passive submission by signal and daring exploits.
Muza Abul Gazan was the soul of action. He commanded the cavalry, which he had disciplined with uncommon skill; he was surrounded by the noblest youths of Granada, who had caught his own generous and martial fire and panted for the field, while the common soldiers, devoted to his person, were ready to follow him in the most desperate enterprises. He did not allow their courage to cool for want of action. The gates of Granada once more poured forth legions of light scouring cavalry, which skirred the country up to the very gates of the Christian fortresses, sweeping off flocks and herds. The name of Muza became formidable throughout the frontier; he had many encounters with the enemy in the rough passes of the mountains, in which the superior lightness and dexterity of his cavalry gave him the advantage. The sight of his glistening legion returning across the Vega with long cavalgadas of booty was hailed by the Moors as a revival of their ancient triumphs; but when they beheld Christian banners borne into their gates as trophies, the exultation of the light-minded populace was beyond all bounds.
The winter passed away, the spring advanced, yet Ferdinand delayed to take the field. He knew the city of Granada to be too strong and populous to be taken by assault, and too full of provisions to be speedily reduced by siege. "We must have patience and perseverance," said the politic monarch; "by ravaging the country this year we shall produce a scarcity the next, and then the city may be invested with effect."
An interval of peace, aided by the quick vegetation of a prolific soil and happy climate, had restored the Vega to all its luxuriance and beauty; the green pastures on the borders of the Xenil were covered with flocks and herds; the blooming orchards gave promise of abundant fruit, and the open plain was waving with ripening corn. The time was at hand to put in the sickle and reap the golden harvest, when suddenly a torrent of war came sweeping down from the mountains, and Ferdinand, with an army of five thousand horse and twenty thousand foot, appeared before the walls of Granada. He had left the queen and princess at the fortress of Moclin, and came attended by the duke of Medina Sidonia, the marques of Cadiz, the marques de Villena, the counts of Urena and Cabra, Don Alonso de Aguilar, and other renowned cavaliers. On this occasion he for the first time led his son, Prince Juan, into the field, and bestowed upon him the dignity of knighthood. As if to stimulate him to grand achievements, the ceremony took place on the banks of the grand canal almost beneath the embattled walls of that warlike city, the object of such daring enterprises, and in the midst of that famous Vega, the field of so many chivalrous exploits. Above them shone resplendent the red towers of the Alhambra, rising from amidst delicious groves, with the standard of Mahomet waving defiance to the Christian arms.
The duke of Medina Sidonia and Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, were sponsors, and all the chivalry of the camp was assembled on the occasion. The prince, after he was knighted, bestowed the same honor on several youthful cavaliers of high rank, just entering, like himself, on the career of arms.
Ferdinand did not loiter in carrying his desolating plans into execution. He detached parties in every direction to lay waste the country: villages were sacked, burnt, and destroyed, and the lovely Vega was once more laid waste with fire and sword. The ravage was carried so close to Granada that the city was wrapped in the smoke of its gardens and hamlets. The dismal cloud rolled up the hill and hung about the towers of the Alhambra, where the unfortunate Boabdil still remained shut up from the indignation of his subjects. The hapless monarch smote his breast as he looked down from his mountain-palace on the desolation effected by his late ally. He dared not even show himself in arms among the populace, for they cursed him as the cause of the miseries once more brought to their doors.
The Moors, however, did not suffer the Christians to carry on their ravages unmolested, as in former years. Muza incited them to incessant sallies. He divided his cavalry into small squadrons, each led by a daring commander. They were taught to hover round the Christian camp; to harass it from various and opposite quarters, cutting off convoys and straggling detachments; to waylay the army in its ravaging expeditions, lurking among rocks and passes of the mountains or in hollows and thickets of the plain, and practising a thousand stratagems and surprises.
The Christian army had one day spread itself out rather unguardedly in its foraging about the Vega. As the troops commanded by the marques of Villena approached the skirts of the mountains, they beheld a number of Moorish peasants hastily driving a herd of cattle into a narrow glen. The soldiers, eager for booty, pressed in pursuit of them. Scarcely had they entered the glen when shouts arose from every side, and they were furiously attacked by an ambuscade of horse and foot. Some of the Christians took to flight; others stood their ground and fought valiantly. The Moors had the vantage-ground; some showered darts and arrows from the cliffs of the rocks, others fought hand to hand on the plain, while their cavalry carried havoc and confusion into the midst of the Christian forces.
The marques de Villena, with his brother, Don Alonso de Pacheco, at the first onset of the Moors spurred into the hottest of the fight. They had scarce entered when Don Alonso was struck lifeless from his horse before the eyes of his brother. Estevan Luzon, a gallant captain, fell fighting bravely by the side of the marques, who remained, with his chamberlain Soler and a handful of knights, surrounded by the enemy. Several cavaliers from other parts of the army hastened to their assistance, when King Ferdinand, seeing that the Moors had the vantage-ground and that the Christians were suffering severely, gave signal for retreat. The marques obeyed slowly and reluctantly, for his heart was full of grief and rage at the death of his brother. As he was retiring he beheld his faithful chamberlain Soler defending himself valiantly against six Moors. The marques turned and rushed to his rescue; he killed two of the enemy with his own hand and put the rest to flight. One of the Moors, however, in retreating, rose in his stirrups, and, hurling his lance at the marques, wounded him in the right arm and crippled him for life.*
* In consequence of this wound the marques was ever after obliged to write his signature with his left hand, though capable of managing his lance with his right. The queen one day demanded of him why he had adventured his life for that of a domestic? "Does not Your Majesty think," replied he, "that I ought to risk one life for him who would have adventured three for me had he possessed them?" The queen was charmed with the magnanimity of the reply, and often quoted the marques as setting an heroic example to the chivalry of the age.—Mariana, lib. 25, c. 15.
Such was one of the many ambuscadoes concerted by Muza; nor did he hesitate at times to present a bold front to the Christian forces and defy them in the open field. Ferdinand soon perceived, however, that the Moors seldom provoked a battle without having the advantage of the ground, and that, though the Christians generally appeared to have the victory, they suffered the greatest loss; for retreating was a part of the Moorish system by which they would draw their pursuers into confusion, and then turn upon them with a more violent and fatal attack. He commanded his captains, therefore, to decline all challenges to skirmish, and pursue a secure system of destruction, ravaging the country and doing all possible injury to the enemy with slight risk to themselves.
THE FATE OF THE CASTLE OF ROMA.
About two leagues from Granada, on an eminence commanding an extensive view of the Vega, stood the strong Moorish castle of Roma. Hither the neighboring peasantry drove their flocks and herds and hurried with their most precious effects on the irruption of a Christian force, and any foraging or skirmishing party from Granada, on being intercepted in their return, threw themselves into Roma, manned its embattled towers, and set the enemy at defiance. The garrison were accustomed to have parties of Moors clattering up to their gates so hotly pursued that there was barely time to throw open the portal, receive them within, and shut out their pursuers; while the Christian cavaliers had many a time reined up their panting steeds at the very entrance of the barbican, and retired, cursing the strong walls of Roma that robbed them of their prey.
The late ravages of Ferdinand and the continual skirmishings in the Vega had roused the vigilance of the castle. One morning early, as the sentinels kept watch upon the battlements, they beheld a cloud of dust advancing rapidly from a distance: turbans and Moorish weapons soon caught their eyes, and as the whole approached they descried a drove of cattle urged on in great haste and convoyed by one hundred and fifty Moors, who led with them two Christian captives in chains.
When the cavalgada arrived near the castle, a Moorish cavalier of noble and commanding mien and splendid attire rode up to the foot of the tower and entreated admittance. He stated that they were returning with rich booty from a foray into the lands of the Christians, but that the enemy was on their traces, and they feared to be overtaken before they could reach Granada. The sentinels descended in all haste and flung open the gates. The long cavalgada defiled into the courts of the castle, which were soon filled with bleating and lowing flocks and herds, with neighing and stamping steeds, and with fierce-looking Moors from the mountains. The cavalier who had asked admission was the chief of the party; he was somewhat advanced in life, of a lofty and gallant bearing, and had with him a son, a young man of great spirit and fire. Close by them followed the two Christian captives, with looks cast down and disconsolate.
The soldiers of the garrison had roused themselves from their sleep, and were busily occupied attending to the cattle which crowded the courts, while the foraging party distributed themselves about the castle to seek refreshment or repose. Suddenly a shout arose that was echoed from courtyard and hall and battlement. The garrison, astonished and bewildered, would have rushed to their arms, but found themselves, almost before they could make resistance, completely in the power of an enemy.
The pretended foraging party consisted of mudexares, or Moors tributary to the Christians, and the commanders were the prince Cid Hiaya and his son Alnayar. They had hastened from the mountains with this small force to aid the Catholic sovereigns during the summer's campaign, and had concerted to surprise this important castle and present it to King Ferdinand as a gage of their faith and the first fruits of their devotion.
The politic monarch overwhelmed his new converts and allies with favors and distinctions in return for this important acquisition, but he took care to despatch a strong force of veteran and genuine Christian troops to man the fortress.
As to the Moors who had composed the garrison, Cid Hiaya remembered that they were his countrymen, and could not prevail upon himself to deliver them into Christian bondage. He set them at liberty, and permitted them to repair to Granada—"a proof," says the pious Agapida, "that his conversion was not entirely consummated, but that there were still some lingerings of the infidel in his heart." His lenity was far from procuring him indulgence in the opinions of his countrymen; on the contrary, the inhabitants of Granada, when they learnt from the liberated garrison the stratagem by which Roma had been captured, cursed Cid Hiaya for a traitor, and the garrison joined in the malediction.*
* Pulgar, Cron., part 3, cap. 130; Cura de los Palacios, cap. 90.
But the indignation of the people of Granada was destined to be roused to tenfold violence. The old warrior Muley Abdallah el Zagal had retired to his little mountain-territory, and for a short time endeavored to console himself with his petty title of king of Andarax. He soon grew impatient, however, of the quiet and inaction of his mimic kingdom. His fierce spirit was exasperated by being shut up within such narrow limits, and his hatred rose to downright fury against Boabdil, whom he considered as the cause of his downfall. When tidings were brought him that King Ferdinand was laying waste the Vega, he took a sudden resolution. Assembling the whole disposable force of his kingdom, which amounted but to two hundred men, he descended from the Alpuxarras and sought the Christian camp, content to serve as a vassal the enemy of his faith and his nation, so that he might see Granada wrested from the sway of his nephew.
In his blind passion the old wrathful monarch injured his cause and strengthened the cause of his adversary. The Moors of Granada had been clamorous in his praise, extolling him as a victim to his patriotism, and had refused to believe all reports of his treaty with the Christians; but when they beheld from the walls of the city his banner mingling with the banners of the unbelievers and arrayed against his late people and the capital he had commanded, they broke forth into revilings and heaped curses upon his name.
Their next emotion, of course, was in favor of Boabdil. They gathered under the walls of the Alhambra and hailed him as their only hope, as the sole dependence of the country. Boabdil could scarcely believe his senses when he heard his name mingled with praises and greeted with acclamations. Encouraged by this unexpected gleam of popularity, he ventured forth from his retreat and was received with rapture. All his past errors were attributed to the hardships of his fortune and the usurpation of his tyrant uncle, and whatever breath the populace could spare from uttering curses on El Zagal was expended in shouts in honor of El Chico.
HOW BOABDIL EL CHICO TOOK THE FIELD, AND HIS EXPEDITION AGAINST ALHENDIN.
For thirty days had the Vega been overrun by the Christian forces, and that vast plain, late so luxuriant and beautiful, was one wide scene of desolation. The destroying army, having accomplished its task, passed over the bridge of Pinos and wound up into the mountains on the way to Cordova, bearing away the spoils of towns and villages and driving off flocks and herds in long dusty columns. The sound of the last Christian trumpet died away along the side of the mountain of Elvira, and not a hostile squadron was seen glistening on the mournful fields of the Vega.
The eyes of Boabdil el Chico were at length opened to the real policy of King Ferdinand, and he saw that he had no longer anything to depend upon but the valor of his arm. No time was to be lost in hastening to counteract the effect of the late Christian ravage and
in opening the channel for distant supplies to Granada.
Scarcely had the retiring squadrons of Ferdinand disappeared among the mountains when Boabdil buckled on his armor, sallied forth from the Alhambra, and prepared to take the field. When the populace beheld him actually in arms against his late ally, both parties thronged with zeal to his standard. The hardy inhabitants also of the Sierra Nevada, or chain of snow-capped mountains which rise above Granada, descended from their heights and hastened into the city gates to proffer their devotion to their youthful king. The great square of the Vivarrambla shone with legions of cavalry decked with the colors and devices of the most ancient Moorish families, and marshalled forth by the patriot Muza to follow the king to battle.
It was on the 15th of June that Boabdil once more issued forth from the gates of Granada on martial enterprise. A few leagues from the city, within full view of it, and at the entrance of the Alpuxarras mountains, stood the powerful castle of Alhendin. It was built on an eminence rising from the midst of a small town, and commanding a great part of the Vega and the main road to the rich valleys of the Alpuxarras. The castle was commanded by a valiant Christian cavalier named Mendo de Quexada, and garrisoned by two hundred and fifty men, all seasoned and experienced warriors. It was a continual thorn in the side of Granada: the laborers of the Vega were swept off from their fields by its hardy soldiers; convoys were cut off in the passes of the mountains; and, as the garrison commanded a full view of the gates of the city, no band of merchants could venture forth on their needful journeys without being swooped up by the war-hawks of Alhendin.
It was against this important fortress that Boabdil first led his troops, and for six days and nights it was closely besieged. The alcayde and his veteran garrison defended themselves valiantly, but were exhausted by fatigue and constant watchfulness; for the Moors, being continually relieved by fresh troops from Granada, kept up an unremitted and vigorous attack. Twice the barbican was forced, and twice the assailants were driven forth headlong with excessive loss. The garrison, however, was diminished in number by the killed and wounded; there were no longer soldiers sufficient to man the walls and gateway; and the brave alcayde was compelled to retire with his surviving force to the keep of the castle, in which he continued to make a desperate resistance.
The Moors now approached the foot of the tower under shelter of wooden screens covered with wet hides to ward off missiles and combustibles. They went to work vigorously to undermine the tower, placing props of wood under the foundations, to be afterward set on fire, so as to give the besiegers time to escape before the edifice should fall. Some of the Moors plied their crossbows and arquebuses to defend the workmen and drive the Christians from the walls, while the latter showered down stones and darts and melted pitch and flaming combustibles on the miners.
The brave Mendo de Quexada had cast many an anxious eye across the Vega in hopes of seeing some Christian force hastening to his assistance. Not a gleam of spear or helm was to be descried, for no one had dreamt of this sudden irruption of the Moors. The alcayde beheld his bravest men dead or wounded around him, while the remainder were sinking with watchfulness and fatigue. In defiance of all opposition, the Moors had accomplished their mine; the fire was brought before the walls that was to be applied to the stanchions in case the garrison persisted in defence. In a little while the tower would crumble beneath him, and be rent and hurled a ruin to the plain. At the very last moment the brave alcayde made the signal of surrender. He marched forth with the remnant of his veteran garrison, who were all made prisoners. Boabdil immediately ordered the walls of the fortress to be razed and fire to be applied to the stanchions, that the place might never again become a stronghold to the Christians and a scourge to Granada. The alcayde and his fellow-captives were led in dejected convoy across the Vega, when they heard a tremendous crash behind them. They turned to look upon their late fortress, but beheld nothing but a heap of tumbling ruins and a vast column of smoke and dust where once had stood the lofty tower of Alhendin.
EXPLOIT OF THE COUNT DE TENDILLA.
Boabdil el Chico followed up his success by capturing the two fortresses of Marchena and Albolodny, belonging to Cid Hiaya; he also sent his alfaquis in every direction to proclaim a holy war and to summon all true Moslems of town or castle, mountain or valley, to saddle steed and buckle on armor and hasten to the standard of the faith. The tidings spread far and wide that Boabdil el Chico was once more in the field and was victorious. The Moors of various places, dazzled by this gleam of success, hastened to throw off their sworn allegiance to the Castilian Crown and to elevate the standard of Boabdil, and the youthful monarch flattered himself that the whole kingdom was on the point of returning to its allegiance.
The fiery cavaliers of Granada, eager to renew those forays into the Christian lands in which they had formerly delighted, concerted an irruption to the north, into the territory of Jaen, to harass the country about Quezada. They had heard of a rich convoy of merchants and wealthy travellers on the way to the city of Baza, and anticipated a glorious conclusion to their foray in capturing this convoy.
Assembling a number of horsemen, lightly armed and fleetly mounted, and one hundred foot-soldiers, they issued forth by night from Granada, made their way in silence through the defiles of the mountains, crossed the frontier without opposition, and suddenly appeared, as if fallen from the clouds, in the very heart of the Christian country.
The mountainous frontier which separates Granada from Jaen was at this time under the command of the count de Tendilla, the same veteran who had distinguished himself by his vigilance and sagacity when commanding the fortress of Alhama. He held his head-quarters at the city of Alcala la Real, in its impregnable fortress perched high among the mountains, about six leagues from Granada, and dominating all the frontier. From this cloud-capt hold he kept an eagle eye upon Granada, and had his scouts and spies in all directions, so that a crow could not fly over the border without his knowledge. His fortress was a place of refuge for the Christian captives who escaped by night from the Moorish dungeons of Granada. Often, however, they missed their way in the defiles of the mountains, and, wandering about bewildered, either repaired by mistake to some Moorish town or were discovered and retaken at daylight by the enemy. To prevent these accidents, the count had a tower built at his own expense on the top of one of the heights near Alcala, which commanded a view of the Vega and the surrounding country. Here he kept a light blazing throughout the night as a beacon for all Christian fugitives to guide them to a place of safety.
The count was aroused one night from his repose by shouts and cries which came up from the town and approached the castle walls. "To arms! to arms! the Moor is over the border!" was the cry. A Christian soldier, pale and emaciated, who still bore traces of Moorish chains, was brought before the count. He had been taken as guide by the Moorish cavaliers who had sallied from Granada, but had escaped from them among the mountains, and after much wandering had found his way to Alcala by the signal-fire.
Notwithstanding the bustle and agitation of the moment, the count de Tendilla listened calmly and attentively to the account of the fugitive, and questioned him minutely as to the time of departure of the Moors and the rapidity and direction of their march. He saw that it was too late to prevent their incursion and ravage, but he determined to await them and give them a warm reception on their return. His soldiers were always on the alert and ready to take the field at a moment's warning. Choosing one hundred and fifty lances, hardy and valiant men, well disciplined and well seasoned—as indeed were all his troops—he issued forth quietly before break of day, and, descending through the defiles of the mountains, stationed his little force in ambush in a deep barranca, or dry channel of a torrent near Barzina, but three leagues from Granada, on the road by which the marauders would have to return. In the mean time he sent out scouts to post themselves upon different heights and look out for the approach of the enemy.
All day they remained concealed in the ravine and for a great part of the following night; not a Moor, however, was to be seen, excepting now and then a peasant returning from his labor or a solitary muleteer hastening toward Granada. The cavaliers of the count began to grow restless and impatient, fearing that the enemy might have taken some other route or might have received intelligence of their ambuscade. They urged the count to abandon the enterprise and return to Alcala. "We are here," said they, "almost at the gates of the Moorish capital, our movements may have been descried, and before we are aware Granada may pour forth its legions of swift cavalry and crush us with an overwhelming force." The count, however, persisted in remaining until his scouts should come in. About two hours before daybreak there were signal-fires on certain Moorish watch-towers of the mountains. While they were regarding these with anxiety the scouts came hurrying into the ravine. "The Moors are approaching," said they; "we have reconnoitred them near at hand. They are between one and two hundred strong, but encumbered with many prisoners and much booty." The Christian cavaliers laid their ears to the ground and heard the distant tramp of horses and the tread of foot-soldiers. They mounted their horses, braced their shields, couched their lances, and drew near to the entrance of the ravine where it opened upon the road.
The Moors had succeeded in waylaying and surprising the Christian convoy on its way to Baza. They had captured a great number of prisoners, male and female, with great store of gold and jewels and sumpter mules laden with rich merchandise. With these they had made a forced march over the dangerous parts of the mountains, but now, finding themselves so near to Granada, fancied themselves in perfect security. They loitered along the road, therefore, irregularly and slowly, some singing, others laughing and exulting at having eluded the boasted vigilance of the count de Tendilla, while ever and anon was heard the plaint of some female captive bewailing the jeopardy of her honor or the heavy sighing of the merchant at beholding his property in the grasp of ruthless spoilers.
The count waited until some of the escort had passed the ravine; then, giving the signal for assault, his cavaliers set up great shouts and cries and charged into the centre of the foe. The obscurity of the place and the hour added to the terrors of the surprise. The Moors were thrown into confusion; some rallied, fought desperately, and fell covered with wounds. Thirty-six were killed and fifty-five were made prisoners; the rest under cover of the darkness made their escape to the rocks and defiles of the mountains.
The good count unbound the prisoners, gladdening the hearts of the merchants by restoring to them their merchandise. To the female captives also he restored the jewels of which they had been despoiled, excepting such as had been lost beyond recovery. Forty-five saddle horses of the choice Barbary breed remained as captured spoils of the Moors, together with costly armor and booty of various kinds. Having collected everything in haste and arranged his cavalgada, the count urged his way with all speed for Alcala la Real, lest he should be pursued and overtaken by the Moors of Granada. As he wound up the steep ascent to his mountain-city the inhabitants poured forth to meet him with shouts of joy. His triumph was doubly enhanced by being received at the gates of the city by his wife, the daughter of the marques of Villena, a lady of distinguished merit, whom he had not seen for two years, during which he had been separated from his home by the arduous duties of these iron wars.
We have yet another act to relate of this good count de Tendilla, who was in truth a mirror of knightly virtue. One day a Christian soldier, just escaped from captivity in Granada, brought word to the count that an illustrious damsel named Fatima, niece of the alcayde Aben Comixa, was to leave the city on a certain day, escorted by a numerous party of relatives and friends of distinguished rank, on a journey to Almunecar, there to embark for the African coast to celebrate her nuptials with the alcayde of Tetuan. This was too brilliant a prize to be neglected. The count accordingly sallied forth with a light company of cavalry, and, descending the defiles of the mountains, stationed himself behind the rocky sierra of Elvira, not far from the eventful bridge of Pinos, within a few short miles of Granada. Hence he detached Alonso de Cardenas Ulloa, with fifty light horsemen, to post himself in ambush by the road the bridal party had to travel. After a time the latter came in sight, proving less numerous than had been expected, for the damsel was escorted merely by four armed domestics and accompanied by a few relatives and two female attendants. The whole party was surrounded and captured almost without resistance, and carried off to the count at the bridge of Pinos. The good count conveyed his beautiful captive to his stronghold at Alcala, where he treated her and her companions with all the delicacy and respect due to their rank and to his own character as a courteous cavalier.
The tidings of the capture of his niece gave poignant affliction to the vizier Aben Comixa. His royal master, Boabdil, of whom he was the prime favorite and confidential adviser, sympathized in his distress. With his own hand he wrote a letter to the count, offering in exchange for the fair Fatima one hundred Christian captives to be chosen from those detained in Granada. This royal letter was sent by Don Francisco de Zuniga, an Aragonese cavalier, whom Aben Comixa held in captivity, and who was set at liberty for the purpose.
On receiving the letter of Boabdil the count de Tendilla at once gave freedom to the Moorish maid, making her a magnificent present of jewels, and sending her and her companions under honorable escort to the very gates of Granada.
Boabdil, exceeding his promises, immediately set free twenty captive priests, one hundred and thirty Castilian and Aragonian cavaliers, and a number of peasant-women. His favorite and vizier, Aben Comixa, was so rejoiced at the liberation of his niece, and so struck with the chivalrous conduct of her captor, that he maintained from that day a constant and amicable correspondence with the count de Tendilla, and became in the hands of the latter one of the most efficacious agents in bringing the war of Granada to a triumphant close.*
* This interesting anecdote of the count de Tendilla, which is a key to the subsequent conduct of the vizier Aben Comixa, and had a singular influence on the fortunes of Boabdil and his kingdom, is originally given in a manuscript history of the counts of Tendilla, written about the middle of the sixteenth century by Gabriel Rodriguez de Ardila, a Granadine clergyman. It has been brought to light recently by the researches of Alcantara for his History of Granada (vol. 4, cap. 18).
EXPEDITION OF BOABDIL EL CHICO AGAINST SALOBRENA.—EXPLOIT OF HERNAN PEREZ DEL PULGAR.
King Boabdil found that his diminished territory was too closely dominated by Christian fortresses like Alcala la Real, and too strictly watched by vigilant alcaydes like the count of Tendilla, to be able to maintain itself by internal resources. His foraging expeditions were liable to be intercepted and defeated, while the ravage of the Vega had swept off everything on which the city depended for future sustenance. He felt the want of a seaport through which, as formerly, he might keep open a communication with Africa and obtain reinforcements and supplies from beyond the sea. All the ports and harbors were in the hands of the Christians, and Granada and its remnant of dependent territory were completely landlocked.
In this emergency the attention of Boabdil was called by circumstances to the seaport of Salobrena. This redoubtable town has already been mentioned in this chronicle as a place deemed impregnable by the Moors, insomuch that their kings were accustomed in time of peril to keep their treasures in its citadel. It was situated on a high rocky hill dividing one of those rich little vegas or plains which lie open to the Mediterranean, but run like deep green bays into the stern bosoms of the mountains. The vega was covered with beautiful vegetation, with rice and cotton, with groves of oranges, citrons, figs, and mulberries, and with gardens enclosed by hedges of reeds, of aloes, and the Indian fig. Running streams of cool water from the springs and snows of the Sierra Nevada kept this delightful valley continually fresh and verdant, while it was almost locked up by mountain-barriers and lofty promontories stretching far into the sea.
Through the centre of this rich vega the rock of Salobrena reared its rugged back, nearly dividing the plain and advancing to the margin of the sea, with just a strip of sandy beach at its foot laved by the blue waves of the Mediterranean.
The town covered the ridge and sides of the rocky hill, and was fortified by strong walls and towers, while on the highest and most precipitate part stood the citadel, a huge castle that seemed to form a part of the living rock, the massive ruins of which at the present day attract the gaze of the traveller as he winds his way far below along the road through the vega.
This important fortress had been entrusted to the command of Don Francisco Ramirez de Madrid, captain-general of the artillery and the most scientific of all the Spanish leaders. That experienced veteran, however, was with the king at Cordova, having left a valiant cavalier as alcayde of the place.
Boabdil had full information of the state of the garrison and the absence of its commander. Putting himself at the head of a powerful force, therefore, he departed from Granada, and made a rapid march through the mountains, hoping to seize upon Salobrena before King Ferdinand could come to its assistance.
The inhabitants of Salobrena were mudexares, or Moors who had sworn allegiance to the Christians. Still, when they heard the sound of the Moorish drums and trumpets, and beheld the squadrons of their countrymen advancing across the vega, their hearts yearned toward the standard of their nation and their faith. A tumult arose in the place; the populace shouted the name of Boabdil el Chico and, throwing open the gates, admitted him within the walls.
The Christian garrison was too few in number to contend for the possession of the town: they retreated to the citadel and shut themselves within its massive walls, which were considered impregnable. Here they maintained a desperate defence, hoping to hold out until succor should arrive from the neighboring fortresses.
The tidings that Salobrena was invested by the Moorish king spread along the sea-coast and filled the Christians with alarm. Don Francisco Enriquez, uncle of the king, commanded the city of Velez Malaga, about twelve leagues distant, but separated by ranges of those vast rocky mountains which are piled along the Mediterranean and tower in steep promontories and precipices above its waves.
Don Francisco summoned the alcaydes of his district to hasten with him to the relief of this important fortress. A number of cavaliers and their retainers answered to his call, among whom was Hernan Perez del Pulgar, surnamed "El de las hazanas" (He of the exploits)—the same who had signalized himself in a foray by elevating a handkerchief on a lance for a banner and leading on his disheartened comrades to victory. As soon as Don Francisco beheld a little band collected round him, he set out with all speed for Salobrena. The march was rugged and severe, climbing and descending immense mountains, and sometimes winding along the edge of giddy precipices, with the surges of the sea raging far below. When Don Francisco arrived with his followers at the lofty promontory that stretches along one side of the little vega of Salobrena, he looked down with sorrow and anxiety upon a Moorish army of great force encamped at the foot of the fortress, while Moorish banners on various parts of the walls proved that the town was already in possession of the infidels. A solitary Christian standard alone floated on the top of the castle-keep, showing that the brave garrison were hemmed up in their rock-built citadel. They were, in fact, reduced to great extremity through want of water and provisions.
Don Francisco found it impossible, with his small force, to make any impression on the camp of the Moors or to get to the relief of the castle. He stationed his little band upon a rocky height near the sea, where they were safe from the assaults of the enemy. The sight of his friendly banner waving in their neighborhood cheered the heart of the garrison, and gave them assurance of speedy succor from the king, while the hostile menaces of Don Francisco served to check the attacks of the Moors upon the citadel.
In the mean time, Hernan Perez del Pulgar, who always burned to distinguish himself by bold and striking exploits, had discovered in the course of his prowlings a postern gate of the castle opening upon the steep part of the rocky hill looking toward the mountains. The thought occurred to him that by a bold dash at a favorable moment this postern might be attained and succor thrown into the castle. He pointed the place out to his comrades. "Who will follow my banner," said he, "and make a dash for yonder postern?" A bold proposition in time of warfare never wants for bold spirits to accept it. Seventy resolute men stepped forward to second him. Pulgar chose the early daybreak for his enterprise, when the Moors, just aroused from sleep, were changing guard and making the various arrangements of the morning. Favored by these movements and the drowsiness of the hour, Pulgar approached the Moorish line silently and steadily, most of his followers armed with crossbows and espingardas, or muskets. Then, suddenly making an onset, they broke through a weak part of the camp before the alarm had spread through the army, and succeeded in fighting their way up to the gate, which was eagerly thrown open to receive them.
The garrison, roused to new spirit by this unlooked-for reinforcement, was enabled to make a more vigorous resistance. The Moors, however, who knew there was a great scarcity of water in the castle, exulted in the idea that this additional number of warriors would soon exhaust the cisterns and compel a surrender. Pulgar, hearing of this hope, caused a bucket of water to be lowered from the battlements and threw a silver cup in bravado to the Moors.
The garrison, in truth, suffered intensely from thirst, while, to tantalize them in their sufferings, they beheld limpid streams winding in abundance through the green plain below them. They began to fear that all succor would arrive too late, when one day they beheld a little squadron of vessels far at sea, but standing toward the shore. There was some doubt at first whether it might not be a hostile armament from Africa, but as it approached they descried, to their great joy, the banner of Castile.
It was a reinforcement, brought in all haste by the governor of the fortress, Don Francisco Ramirez. The squadron anchored at a steep rocky island which rises from the very margin of the smooth sandy beach directly in front of the rock of Salobrena and stretches out into the sea. On this island Ramirez landed his men, and was as strongly posted as if in a fortress. His force was too scanty to attempt a battle, but he assisted to harass and distract the besiegers. Whenever King Boabdil made an attack upon the fortress his camp was assailed on one side by the troops of Ramirez, who landed from their island, and on another by those of Don Francisco Enriquez, who swept down from their rock, while Hernan del Pulgar kept up a brave defence from every tower and battlement of the castle.
The attention of the Moorish king was diverted also, for a time, by an ineffectual attempt to relieve the little port of Adra, which had recently declared in his favor, but which had been recaptured for the Christians by Cid Hiaya and his son Alnayar. Thus, the unlucky Boabdil, bewildered on every hand, lost all the advantage that he had gained by his rapid march from Granada. While he was yet besieging the obstinate citadel, tidings were brought him that King Ferdinand was in full march with a powerful host to its assistance. There was no time for further delay: he made a furious attack with all his forces upon the castle, but was again repulsed by Pulgar and his coadjutors, when, abandoning the siege in despair, he retreated with his army, lest King Ferdinand should get between him and his capital. On his way back to Granada, however, he in some sort consoled himself for his late disappointment by overrunning a part of the territories and possessions lately assigned to his uncle El Zagal and to Cid Hiaya. He defeated their alcaydes, destroyed several of their fortresses, burnt their villages, and, leaving the country behind him reeking and smoking with his vengeance, returned with considerable booty to repose himself within the walls of the Alhambra.*
* Pulgar, Cron., p. 3, c.131; Cura de los Palacios, cap. 97.
HOW KING FERDINAND TREATED THE PEOPLE OF GUADIX, AND HOW EL ZAGAL FINISHED HIS REGAL CAREER.
Scarcely had Boabdil (11) ensconced himself in his capital when King Ferdinand, at the head of seven thousand horse and twenty thousand foot, again appeared in the Vega. He had set out in all haste from Cordova to the relief of Salobrena, but hearing on his march that the siege was raised, he turned to make a second ravage round the walls of devoted Granada. His present forage lasted fifteen days, in the course of which almost everything that had escaped his former desolating visit was destroyed, and scarce a green thing or a living animal was left on the face of the land. The Moors sallied frequently and fought desperately in defence of their fields, but the work of destruction was accomplished, and Granada, once the queen of gardens, was left surrounded by a desert.
Ferdinand next hastened to crush a conspiracy in the cities of Guadix, Baza, and Almeria. These recently conquered places had entered into secret correspondence with Boabdil, inviting him to march to their gates, promising to rise upon the Christian garrisons, seize upon the citadels, and surrender them into his power. The marques of Villena had received notice of the conspiracy, and suddenly thrown himself with a large force into Guadix. Under pretence of a review of the inhabitants he made them sally forth into the fields before the city. When the whole Moorish population capable of bearing arms was thus without the walls, he ordered the gates to be closed. He then permitted them to enter two by two and three by three, and take forth their wives, children, and effects. The houseless Moors were fain to make themselves temporary hovels in the gardens and orchards about the city; they were clamorous in their complaints at being thus excluded from their homes, but were told they must wait with patience until the charges against them could be investigated and the pleasure of the king be known.*
* Zurita, lib.—, c. 85; Cura de los Palacios, c. 97.
When Ferdinand arrived at Guadix, he found the unhappy Moors in their cabins among the orchards. They complained bitterly of the deception practised upon them, and implored permission to return into the city and live peaceably in their dwellings, as had been promised them in their articles of capitulation.
King Ferdinand listened graciously to their complaints. "My friends," said he in reply, "I have been informed that there has been a conspiracy among you to kill my alcayde and garrison and to take part with my enemy, the king of Granada. I shall make a thorough investigation of this conspiracy. Those among you who shall be proved innocent shall be restored to their dwellings, but the guilty shall incur the penalty of their offences. As I wish, however, to proceed with mercy as well as justice, I now give you your choice—either to depart at once without further question, going wherever you please, and taking with you your families and effects under an assurance of safety, or to deliver up those who are guilty, not one of whom, I give you my royal word, shall escape punishment."
When the people of Guadix heard these words they communed among themselves; and, as most of them (says the worthy Agapida) were either culpable or feared to be considered so, they accepted the alternative and departed sorrowfully, they and their wives and their little ones. "Thus," in the words of that excellent and contemporary historian Andres Bernaldez, commonly called the curate of Los Palacios,—"thus did the king deliver Guadix from the hands of the enemies of our holy faith after seven hundred and seventy years that it had been in their possession, ever since the time of Roderick the Goth; and this was one of the mysteries of our Lord, who would not consent that the city should remain longer in the power of the Moors"—a pious and sage remark which is quoted with peculiar approbation by the worthy Agapida.
King Ferdinand offered similar alternatives to the Moors of Baza, Almeria, and other cities accused of participation in this conspiracy, who generally preferred to abandon their homes rather than incur the risk of an investigation. Most of them relinquished Spain as a country where they could no longer live in security and independence, and departed with their families for Africa; such as remained were suffered to live in villages and hamlets and other unwalled places.*
* Garibay, lib. 13, cap. 39; Pulgar, part 3, cap. 132.
While Ferdinand was thus occupied at Guadix, dispensing justice and mercy and receiving cities in exchange, the old monarch, Muley Abdallah, surnamed El Zagal, appeared before him. He was haggard with care and almost crazed with passion. He had found his little territory of Andarax and his two thousand subjects as difficult to govern as had been the distracted kingdom of Granada. The charm which had bound the Moors to him was broken when he appeared in arms under the banner of Ferdinand. He had returned from his inglorious campaign with his petty army of two hundred men, followed by the execrations of the people of Granada and the secret repining of those he had led into the field. No sooner had his subjects heard of the successes of Boabdil el Chico than they had seized their arms, assembled tumultuously, declared for the young monarch, and threatened the life of El Zagal.* The unfortunate old king had with difficulty evaded their fury; and this last lesson seemed entirely to have cured him of his passion for sovereignty. He now entreated Ferdinand to purchase the towns and castles and other possessions which had been granted to him, offering them at a low rate, and begging safe passage for himself and his followers to Africa. King Ferdinand graciously complied with his wishes. He purchased of him three-and-twenty towns and villages in the valleys of Andarax and Alhaurin, for which he gave him five millions of maravedis. El Zagal relinquished his right to one-half of the salinas or salt-pits of Malaha in favor of his brother-in-law, Cid Hiaya. Having thus disposed of his petty empire and possessions, he packed up all his treasure, of which he had a great amount, and, followed by many Moorish families, passed over to Africa.**
* Cura de los Palacios, cap. 97.
* *Conde, part 4, cap. 41.
And here let us cast an eye beyond the present period of our chronicle, and trace the remaining career of El Zagal. His short and turbulent reign and disastrous end would afford a wholesome lesson to unprincipled ambition, were not all ambition of the kind fated to be blind to precept and example. When he arrived in Africa, instead of meeting with kindness and sympathy, he was seized and thrown into prison by the caliph of Fez, Benimerin, as though he had been his vassal. He was accused of being the cause of the dissensions and downfall of the kingdom of Granada, and, the accusation being proved to the satisfaction of the king of Fez, he condemned the unhappy El Zagal to perpetual darkness. A basin of glowing copper was passed before his eyes, which effectually destroyed his sight. His wealth, which had probably been the secret cause of these cruel measures, was confiscated and seized upon by his oppressor, and El Zagal was thrust forth, blind, helpless, and destitute, upon the world. In this wretched condition the late Moorish monarch groped his way through the regions of Tingitania until he reached the city of Velez de la Gomera. The emir of Velez had formerly been his ally, and felt some movement of compassion at his present altered and abject state. He gave him food and raiment and suffered him to remain unmolested in his dominions. Death, which so often hurries off the prosperous and happy from the midst of untasted pleasures, spares, on the other hand, the miserable to drain the last drop of his cup of bitterness. El Zagal dragged out a wretched existence of many years in the city of Velez. He wandered about blind and disconsolate, an object of mingled scorn and pity, and bearing above his raiment a parchment on which was written in Arabic, "This is the unfortunate king of Andalusia."*
* Marmol, De Rebelione Maur., lib. 1, cap. 16; Padraza, Hist. Granad., part 3, c. 4; Suarez, Hist. Obisp. de Guadix y Baza, cap. 10.
PREPARATIONS OF GRANADA FOR A DESPERATE DEFENCE.
How is thy strength departed, O Granada! how is thy beauty withered and despoiled, O city of groves and fountains! The commerce that once thronged thy streets is at an end; the merchant no longer hastens to thy gates with the luxuries of foreign lands. The cities which once paid thee tribute are wrested from thy sway; the chivalry which filled thy Vivarrambla with sumptuous pageantry have fallen in many battles. The Alhambra still rears its ruddy towers from the midst of groves, but melancholy reigns in its marble halls, and the monarch looks down from his lofty balconies upon a naked waste where once extended the blooming glories of the Vega!
Such is the lament of the Moorish writers over the lamentable state of Granada, now a mere phantom of former greatness. The two ravages of the Vega, following so closely upon each other, had swept off all the produce of the year, and the husbandman had no longer the heart to till the field, seeing the ripening harvest only brought the spoiler to his door.
During the winter season Ferdinand made diligent preparations for the campaign that was to decide the fate of Granada. As this war was waged purely for the promotion of the Christian faith, he thought it meet that its enemies should bear the expenses. He levied, therefore, a general contribution upon the Jews throughout his kingdom by synagogues and districts, and obliged them to render in the proceeds at the city of Seville.*
* Garibay, lib. 18, c. 39.
On the 11th of April, Ferdinand and Isabella departed for the Moorish frontier, with the solemn determination to lay close siege to Granada and never quit its walls until they had planted the standard of the faith on the towers of the Alhambra. Many of the nobles of the kingdom, particularly those from parts remote from the scene of action, wearied by the toils of war and foreseeing that this would be a tedious siege, requiring patience and vigilance rather than hardy deeds of arms, contented themselves with sending their vassals, while they stayed at home to attend to their domains. Many cities furnished soldiers at their cost, and the king took the field with an army of forty thousand infantry and ten thousand horse. The principal captains who followed him in this campaign were Roderigo Ponce de Leon, the marques of Cadiz, the master of Santiago, the marques of Villena, the counts of Tendilla, Cifuentes, Cabra, and Urena, and Don Alonso de Aguilar.
Queen Isabella, accompanied by her son the prince Juan and the princesses Juana, Maria, and Cathalina, her daughters, proceeded to Alcala la Real, the mountain-fortress and stronghold of the count de Tendilla. Here she remained to forward supplies to the army, and to be ready to repair to the camp whenever her presence might be required.
The army of Ferdinand poured into the Vega by various defiles of the mountains, and on the 23d of April the royal tent was pitched at a village called Los Ojos de Huescar, about a league and a half from Granada. At the approach of this formidable force the harassed inhabitants turned pale, and even many of the warriors trembled, for they felt that the last desperate struggle was at hand.
Boabdil el Chico assembled his council in the Alhambra, from the windows of which they could behold the Christian squadrons glistening through clouds of dust as they poured along the Vega. The utmost confusion and consternation reigned in the council. Many of the members, terrified with the horrors impending over their families, advised Boabdil to throw himself upon the generosity of the Christian monarch: even several of the bravest suggested the possibility of obtaining honorable terms.
The wazir of the city, Abul Casim Abdel Melic was called upon to report the state of the public means for sustenance and defence. There were sufficient provisions, he said, for a few months' supply, independent of what might exist in the possession of merchants and other rich inhabitants. "But of what avail," said he, "is a supply for a few months against the sieges of the Castilian monarch, which are interminable?"
He produced also the lists of men capable of bearing arms. "The number," said he, "is great, but what can be expected from mere citizen soldiers? They vaunt and menace in time of safety; none are so arrogant when the enemy is at a distance; but when the din of war thunders at the gates they hide themselves in terror."
When Muza heard these words he rose with generous warmth. "What reason have we," said he, "to despair? The blood of those illustrious Moors, the conquerors of Spain, still flows in our veins. Let us be true to ourselves, and fortune will again be with us. We have a veteran force, both horse and foot, the flower of our chivalry, seasoned in war and scarred in a thousand battles. As to the multitude of our citizens, spoken of so slightly, why should we doubt their valor? There are twenty thousand young men, in the fire of youth, whom I will engage that in the defence of their homes they will rival the most valiant veterans. Do we want provisions? Our horses are fleet and our horsemen daring in the foray. Let them scour and scourge the country of those apostate Moslems who have surrendered to the Christians. Let them make inroads into the lands of our enemies. We shall soon see them returning with cavalgadas to our gates, and to a soldier there is no morsel so sweet as that wrested with hard fighting from the foe."
Boabdil, though he wanted firm and durable courage, was readily excited to sudden emotions of bravery. He caught a glow of resolution from the noble ardor of Muza. "Do what is needful," said he to his commanders; "into your hands I confide the common safety. You are the protectors of the kingdom, and, with the aid of Allah, will revenge the insults of our religion, the deaths of our friends and relations, and the sorrows and sufferings heaped upon our land."*
To every one was now assigned his separate duty. The wazir had charge of the arms and provisions and the enrolling of the people. Muza was to command the cavalry, to defend the gates, and to take the lead in all sallies and skirmishings. Naim Reduan and Muhammed Aben Zayde were his adjutants. Abdel Kerim Zegri and the other captains were to guard the walls, and the alcaydes of the Alcazaba and of the Red Towers had command of the fortresses.
Nothing now was heard but the din of arms and the bustle of preparation. The Moorish spirit, quick to catch fire, was immediately in a flame, and the populace in the excitement of the moment set at naught the power of the Christians. Muza was in all parts of the city, infusing his own generous zeal into the bosoms of the soldiery. The young cavaliers rallied round him as their model; the veteran warriors regarded him with a soldier's admiration; the vulgar throng followed him with shouts; and the helpless part of the inhabitants, the old men and the women, hailed him with blessings as their protector.
On the first appearance of the Christian army the principal gates of the city had been closed and secured with bars and bolts and heavy chains: Muza now ordered them to be thrown open. "To me and my cavaliers," said he, "is entrusted the defence of the gates; our bodies shall be their barriers." He stationed at each gate a strong guard chosen from his bravest men. His horsemen were always completely armed and ready to mount at a moment's warning: their steeds stood saddled and caparisoned in the stables, with lance and buckler beside them. On the least approach of the enemy a squadron of horse gathered within the gate, ready to launch forth like the bolt from the thunder-cloud. Muza made no empty bravado nor haughty threat; he was more terrible in deeds than in words, and executed daring exploits beyond even the vaunt of the vainglorious. Such was the present champion of the Moors. Had they possessed many such warriors, or had Muza risen to power at an earlier period of the war, the fate of Granada might have been deferred, and the Moor for a long time have maintained his throne within the walls of the Alhambra.
HOW KING FERDINAND CONDUCTED THE SIEGE CAUTIOUSLY, AND HOW QUEEN ISABELLA ARRIVED AT THE CAMP.
Though Granada was shorn of its glories and nearly cut off from all external aid, still its mighty castles and massive bulwarks seemed to set all attack at defiance. Being the last retreat of Moorish power, it had assembled within its walls the remnants of the armies which had contended, step by step, with the invaders in their gradual conquest of the land. All that remained of high-born and high-bred chivalry was here; all that was loyal and patriotic was roused to activity by the common danger; and Granada, so long lulled into inaction by vain hopes of security, now assumed a formidable aspect in the hour of its despair.
Ferdinand saw that any attempt to subdue the city by main force would be perilous and bloody. Cautious in his policy, and fond of conquests gained by art rather than valor, he resorted to the plan so successful with Baza, and determined to reduce the place by famine. For this purpose his armies penetrated into the very heart of the Alpuxarras, and ravaged the valleys and sacked and burnt the towns upon which the city depended for its supplies. Scouting parties also ranged the mountains behind Granada and captured every casual convoy of provisions. The Moors became more daring as their situation became more hopeless. Never had Ferdinand experienced such vigorous sallies and assaults. Muza at the head of his cavalry harassed the borders of the camp, and even penetrated into the interior, making sudden spoil and ravage, and leaving his course to be traced by the slain and wounded. To protect his camp from these assaults, Ferdinand fortified it with deep trenches and strong bulwarks. It was of a quadrangular form, divided into streets like a city, the troops being quartered in tents and in booths constructed of bushes and branches of trees. When it was completed Queen Isabella came in state, with all her court and the prince and princesses, to be present at the siege. This was intended, as on former occasions, to reduce the besieged to despair by showing the determination of the sovereigns to reside in the camp until the city should surrender. Immediately after her arrival the queen rode forth to survey the camp and its environs: wherever she went she was attended by a splendid retinue, and all the commanders vied with each other in the pomp and ceremony with which they received her. Nothing was heard from morning until night but shouts and acclamations and bursts of martial music; so that it appeared to the Moors as if a continual festival and triumph reigned in the Christian camp.
The arrival of the queen, however and the menaced obstinacy of the siege, had no effect in damping the fire of the Moorish chivalry. Muza inspired the youthful warriors with the most devoted heroism. "We have nothing left to fight for," said he, "but the ground we stand on; when this is lost we cease to have a country and a name."
Finding the Christian king forbore to make an attack, Muza incited his cavaliers to challenge the youthful chivalry of the Christian army to single combat or partial skirmishes. Scarce a day passed without gallant conflicts of the kind in sight of the city and the camp. The combatants rivalled each other in the splendor of their armor and array, as well as in the prowess of their deeds. Their contests were more like the stately ceremonials of tilts and tournaments than the rude conflicts of the field. Ferdinand soon perceived that they animated the fiery Moors with fresh zeal and courage, while they cost the lives of many of his bravest cavaliers: he again, therefore, forbade the acceptance of any individual challenges, and ordered that all partial encounters should be avoided. The cool and stern policy of the Catholic sovereign bore hard upon the generous spirits of either army, but roused the indignation of the Moors when they found that they were to be subdued in this inglorious manner: "Of what avail," said they, "are chivalry and heroic valor? The crafty monarch of the Christians has no magnanimity in warfare; he seeks to subdue us through the weakness of our bodies, but shuns to encounter the courage of our souls."
OF THE INSOLENT DEFIANCE OF TARFE THE MOOR, AND THE DARING EXPLOIT OF HERNAN PEREZ DEL PULGAR.
When the Moorish knights beheld that all courteous challenges were unavailing, they sought various means to provoke the Christian warriors to the field. Sometimes a body of them, fleetly mounted, would gallop up to the skirts of the camp and try who should hurl his lance farthest within the barriers, having his name inscribed upon it or a label affixed containing some taunting defiance. These bravadoes caused great irritation; still, the Spanish warriors were restrained by the prohibition of the king.
Among the Moorish cavaliers was one named Tarfe, renowned for strength and daring spirit, but whose courage partook of fierce audacity rather than chivalric heroism. In one of these sallies, when skirting the Christian camp, this arrogant Moor outstripped his companions, overleaped the barriers, and, galloping close to the royal quarters, launched his lance so far within that it remained quivering in the earth close by the pavilions of the sovereigns. The royal guards rushed forth in pursuit, but the Moorish horsemen were already beyond the camp and scouring in a cloud of dust for the city. Upon wresting the lance from the earth a label was found upon it importing that it was intended for the queen.
Nothing could equal the indignation of the Christian warriors at the insolence of the bravado and the discourteous insult offered to the queen. Hernan Perez del Pulgar, surnamed "He of the exploits," was present, and resolved not to be outbraved by this daring infidel. "Who will stand by me," said he, "in an enterprise of desperate peril?" The Christian cavaliers well knew the harebrained valor of Hernan, yet not one hesitated to step forward. He chose fifteen companions, all of powerful arm and dauntless heart.
His project was to penetrate Granada in the dead of the night by a secret pass made known to him by a Moorish renegade of the city, whom he had christened Pedro Pulgar, and who was to act as guide. They were to set fire to the Alcaiceria and other principal edifices, and then effect their retreat as best they might. At the hour appointed the adventurous troops set forth provided with combustibles. The renegade led them silently to a drain or channel of the river Darro, up which they proceeded cautiously, single file, until they halted under a bridge near the royal gate. Here dismounting, Pulgar stationed six of his companions to remain silent and motionless and keep guard, while, followed by the rest and still guided by the renegade, he continued up the drain or channel of the Darro, which passes under a part of the city, and was thus enabled to make his way undiscovered into the streets. All was dark and silent. At the command of Pulgar the renegade led him to the principal mosque. Here the cavalier, pious as brave, threw himself on his knees, and, drawing forth a parchment scroll on which was inscribed in large letters "AVE MARIA," nailed it to the door of the mosque, thus converting the heathen edifice into a Christian chapel and dedicating it to the Blessed Virgin. This done, he hastened to the Alcaiceria to set it in a blaze. The combustibles were all placed, but Tristan de Montemayor, who had charge of the firebrand, had carelessly left it at the door of the mosque. It was too late to return there. Pulgar was endeavoring to strike fire with flint and steel into the ravelled end of a cord when he was startled by the approach of the Moorish guards going the rounds. His hand was on his sword in an instant. Seconded by his brave companions, he assailed the astonished Moors and put them to flight. In a little while the whole city resounded with alarms, soldiers were hurrying through the streets in every direction; but Pulgar, guided by the renegade, made good his retreat by the channel of the Darro to his companions at the bridge, and all, mounting their horses, spurred back to the camp. The Moors were at a loss to imagine the meaning of this wild and apparently fruitless assault, but great was their exasperation on the following day when the trophy of hardihood and prowess, the "AVE MARIA," was discovered thus elevated in bravado in the very centre of the city. The mosque thus boldly sanctified by Hernan del Pulgar was actually consecrated into a cathedral after the capture of Granada.*
* The account here given of the exploit of Hernan del Pulgar differs from that given in the first edition, and is conformable to the record of the fact in a manuscript called "The House of Salar," existing in the library of Salazar and cited by Alcantara in his History of Granada.
In commemoration of this daring feat of Pulgar, the emperor Charles V. in after years conferred on that cavalier and on his descendants, the marqueses of Salar, the privilege of sitting in the choir during high mass, and assigned as the place of sepulture of Pulgar himself the identical spot where he kneeled to affix the sacred scroll; and his tomb is still held in great veneration. This Hernan Perez del Pulgar was a man of letters, as well as art, and inscribed to Charles V. a summary of the achievements of Gonsalvo of Cordova, surnamed the Great Captain, who had been one of his comrades-in-arms. He is often confounded with Hernando del Pulgar, historian and secretary to Queen Isabella. (See note to Pulgar's Chron. of the Catholic Sovereigns, part 3, c. iii., edit. Valencia, 1780.)
HOW QUEEN ISABELLA TOOK A VIEW OF THE CITY OF GRANADA, AND HOW HER CURIOSITY COST THE LIVES OF MANY CHRISTIANS AND MOORS.
The royal encampment lay so distant from Granada that the general aspect of the city only could be seen as it rose gracefully from the Vega, covering the sides of the hills with palaces and towers. Queen Isabella had expressed an earnest desire to behold nearer at hand a city whose beauty was so renowned throughout the world; and the marques of Cadiz, with his accustomed courtesy, prepared a great military escort and guard to protect her and the ladies of the court while they enjoyed this perilous gratification.
On the morning of June the 18th a magnificent and powerful train issued from the Christian camp. The advanced guard was composed of legions of cavalry, heavily armed, looking like moving masses of polished steel. Then came the king and queen, with the prince and princess and the ladies of the court, surrounded by the royal body-guard, sumptuously arrayed, composed of the sons of the most illustrious houses of Spain; after these was the rear-guard, a powerful force of horse and foot, for the flower of the army sallied forth that day. The Moors gazed with fearful admiration at this glorious pageant, wherein the pomp of the court was mingled with the terrors of the camp. It moved along in radiant line across the Vega to the melodious thunders of martial music, while banner and plume and silken scarf and rich brocade gave a gay and gorgeous relief to the grim visage of iron war that lurked beneath.
The army moved toward the hamlet of Zubia, built on the skirts of the mountain to the left of Granada, and commanding a view of the Alhambra and the most beautiful quarter of the city. As they approached the hamlet the marques of Villena, the count Urena, and Don Alonso de Aguilar fled off with their battalions, and were soon seen glittering along the side of the mountain above the village. In the mean time, the marques of Cadiz, the count de Tendilla, the count de Cabra, and Don Alonso Fernandez, senior of Alcaudrete and Montemayor, drew up their forces in battle array on the plain below the hamlet, presenting a living barrier of loyal chivalry between the sovereigns and the city.
Thus securely guarded, the royal party alighted, and, entering one of the houses of the hamlet which had been prepared for their reception, enjoyed a full view of the city from its terraced roof. The ladies of the court gazed with delight at the red towers of the Alhambra rising from amid shady groves, anticipating the time when the Catholic sovereigns should be enthroned within its walls and its courts shine with the splendor of Spanish chivalry. "The reverend prelates and holy friars who always surrounded the queen looked with serene satisfaction," says Fray Antonio Agapida, "at this modern Babylon, enjoying the triumph that awaited them when those mosques and minarets should be converted into churches, and goodly priests and bishops should succeed to the infidel alfaquis."
When the Moors beheld the Christians thus drawn forth in full array in the plain, they supposed it was to offer battle, and hesitated not to accept it. In a little while the queen beheld a body of Moorish cavalry pouring into the Vega, the riders managing their fleet and fiery steeds with admirable address. They were richly armed and clothed in the most brilliant colors, and the caparisons of their steeds flamed with gold and embroidery. This was the favorite squadron of Muza, composed of the flower of the youthful cavaliers of Granada. Others succeeded, some heavily armed, others "a la gineta" with lance and buckler, and lastly came the legions of foot-soldiers with arquebuse and crossbow and spear and scimetar.
When the queen saw this army issuing from the city she sent to the marques of Cadiz, and forbade any attack upon the enemy or the acceptance of any challenge to a skirmish, for she was loth that her curiosity should cost the life of a single human being.
The marques promised to obey, though sorely against his will, and it grieved the spirit of the Spanish cavaliers to be obliged to remain with sheathed sword's while bearded by the foe. The Moors could not comprehend the meaning of this inaction of the Christians after having apparently invited a battle. They sallied several times from their ranks, and approached near enough to discharge their arrows, but the Christians were immovable. Many of the Moorish horsemen galloped close to the Christian ranks, brandishing their lances and scimetars and defying various cavaliers to single combat; but Ferdinand had rigorously prohibited all duels of the kind, and they dared not transgress his orders under his very eye.
Here, however, the worthy Fray Antonio Agapida, in his enthusiasm for the triumphs of the faith, records the following incident, which we fear is not sustained by any grave chronicler of the times, but rests merely on tradition or the authority of certain poets and dramatic writers who have perpetuated the tradition in their works: While this grim and reluctant tranquillity prevailed along the Christian line, says Agapida, there rose a mingled shout and sound of laughter near the gate of the city. A Moorish horseman, armed at all points, issued forth, followed by a rabble who drew back as he approached the scene of danger. The Moor was more robust and brawny than was common with his countrymen. His visor was closed; he bore a huge buckler and a ponderous lance; his scimetar was of a Damascus blade, and his richly ornamented dagger was wrought by an artificer of Fez. He was known by his device to be Tarfe, the most insolent yet valiant of the Moslem warriors—the same who had hurled into the royal camp his lance inscribed to the queen. As he rode slowly along in front of the army his very steed, prancing with fiery eye and distended nostril, seemed to breathe defiance to the Christians.
But what were the feelings of the Spanish cavaliers when they beheld, tied to the tail of his steed and dragged in the dust, the very inscription—"AVE MARIA"—which Hernan Perez del Pulgar had affixed to the door of the mosque! A burst of horror and indignation broke forth from the army. Hernan was not at hand to maintain his previous achievement, but one of his young companions-in-arms, Garcilasso de la Vega by name, putting spurs to his horse, galloped to the hamlet of Zubia, threw himself on his knees before the king, and besought permission to accept the defiance of this insolent infidel and to revenge the insult offered to our Blessed Lady. The request was too pious to be refused. Garcilasso remounted his steed, closed his helmet, graced by four sable plumes, grasped his buckler of Flemish workmanship and his lance of matchless temper, and defied the haughty Moor in the midst of his career. A combat took place in view of the two armies and of the Castilian court. The Moor was powerful in wielding his weapons and dextrous in managing his steed. He was of larger frame than Garcilasso, and more completely armed, and the Christians trembled for their champion. The shock of their encounter was dreadful; their lances were shivered, and sent up splinters in the air. Garcilasso was thrown back in his saddle: his horse made a wide career before he could recover, gather up the reins, and return to the conflict. They now encountered each other with swords. The Moor circled round his opponent as a hawk circles where about to make a swoop; his steed obeyed his rider with matchless quickness; at every attack of the infidel it seemed as if the Christian knight must sink beneath his flashing scimetar. But if Garcilasso was inferior to him in power, he was superior in agility: many of his blows he parried; others he received upon his Flemish shield, which was proof against the Damascus blade. The blood streamed from numerous wounds received by either warrior. The Moor, seeing his antagonist exhausted, availed himself of his superior force, and, grappling, endeavored to wrest him from his saddle. They both fell to earth: the Moor placed his knee upon the breast of his victim, and, brandishing his dagger, aimed a blow at his throat. A cry of despair was uttered by the Christian warriors, when suddenly they beheld the Moor rolling lifeless in the dust. Garcilasso had shortened his sword, and as his adversary raised his arm to strike had pierced him to the heart. "It was a singular and miraculous victory," says Fray Antonio Agapida; "but the Christian knight was armed by the sacred nature of his cause, and the Holy Virgin gave him strength, like another David, to slay this gigantic champion of the Gentiles."
The laws of chivalry were observed throughout the combat—no one interfered on either side. Garcilasso now despoiled his adversary; then, rescuing the holy inscription of "AVE MARIA" from its degrading situation, he elevated it on the point of his sword, and bore it on as a signal of triumph amid the rapturous shouts of the Christian army.*
* The above incident has been commemorated in old Spanish ballads, and made the subject of a scene in an old Spanish drama ascribed by some to Lope de Vega.
The sun had now reached the meridian, and the hot blood of the Moors was inflamed by its rays and by the sight of the defeat of their champion. Muza ordered two pieces of ordnance to open a fire upon the Christians. A confusion was produced in one part of their ranks: Muza called to the chiefs of the army, "Let us waste no more time in empty challenges—let us charge upon the enemy: he who assaults has always an advantage in the combat." So saying, he rushed forward, followed by a large body of horse and foot, and charged so furiously upon the advance guard of the Christians that he drove it in upon the battalion of the marques of Cadiz.
The gallant marques now considered himself absolved from all further obedience to the queen's commands. He gave the signal to attack, "Santiago!" was shouted along the line, and he pressed forward to the encounter with his battalion of twelve hundred lances. The other cavaliers followed his example, and the battle instantly became general.