It was at this time that the headlong valour of Hernando del Pulgar, who had arrived with Ponce de Leon, distinguished itself in feats which yet live in the songs of Spain. Mounted upon an immense steed, and himself of colossal strength, he was seen charging alone upon the assailants, and scattering numbers to the ground with the sweep of his enormous two-handed falchion. With a loud voice, he called on Muza to oppose him; but the Moor, fatigued with slaughter, and scarcely recovered from the shock of his encounter with De Suzon, reserved so formidable a foe for a future contest.
It was at this juncture, while the field was covered with straggling skirmishers, that a small party of Spaniards, in cutting their way to the main body of their countrymen through one of the numerous copses held by the enemy, fell in at the outskirt with an equal number of Moors, and engaged them in a desperate conflict, hand to hand. Amidst the infidels was one man who took no part in the affray: at a little distance, he gazed for a few moments upon the fierce and relentless slaughter of Moor and Christian with a smile of stern and complacent delight; and then taking advantage of the general confusion, rode gently, and, as he hoped, unobserved, away from the scene. But he was not destined so quietly to escape. A Spaniard perceived him, and, from something strange and unusual in his garb, judged him one of the Moorish leaders; and presently Almamen, for it was he, beheld before him the uplifted falchion of a foe neither disposed to give quarter nor to hear parley. Brave though the Israelite was, many reasons concurred to prevent his taking a personal part against the soldier of Spain; and seeing he should have no chance of explanation, he fairly puts spurs to his horse, and galloped across the plain. The Spaniard followed, gained upon him, and Almamen at length turned, in despair and the wrath of his haughty nature.
"Have thy will, fool!" said he, between his grinded teeth, as he griped his dagger and prepared for the conflict. It was long and obstinate, for the Spaniard was skilful; and the Hebrew wearing no mail, and without any weapon more formidable than a sharp and well-tempered dagger, was forced to act cautiously on the defensive. At length the combatants grappled, and, by a dexterous thrust, the short blade of Almamen pierced the throat of his antagonist, who fell prostrate to the ground.
"I am safe," he thought, as he wheeled round his horse; when lo! the Spaniards he had just left behind, and who had now routed their antagonists, were upon him.
"Yield, or die!" cried the leader of the troop.
Almamen glared round; no succour was at hand. "I am not your enemy," said he, sullenly, throwing down his weapon—"bear me to your camp."
A trooper seized his rein, and, scouring along, the Spaniards soon reached the retreating army.
Meanwhile the evening darkened, the shout and the roar grew gradually less loud and loud—-the battle had ceased—the stragglers had joined their several standards and, by the light of the first star, the Moorish force, bearing their wounded brethren, and elated with success, re-entered the gates of Granada, as the black charger of the hero of the day, closing the rear of the cavalry, disappeared within the gloomy portals.
CHAPTER III. THE HERO IN THE POWER OF THE DREAMER.
It was in the same chamber, and nearly at the same hour, in which we first presented to the reader Boabdil el Chico, that we are again admitted to the presence of that ill-starred monarch. He was not alone. His favourite slave, Amine, reclined upon the ottomans, gazing with anxious love upon his thoughtful countenance, as he leant against the glittering wall by the side of the casement, gazing abstractedly on the scene below.
From afar he heard the shouts of the populace at the return of Muza, and bursts of artillery confirmed the tidings of triumph which had already been borne to his ear.
"May the king live for ever!" said Amine, timidly; "his armies have gone forth to conquer."
"But without their king," replied Boabdil, bitterly, "and headed by a traitor and a foe. I am meshed in the nets of an inextricable fate!"
"Oh!" said the slave, with sudden energy, as, clasping her hands, she rose from her couch,—"oh, my lord, would that these humble lips dared utter other words than those of love!"
"And what wise counsel would they give me?" asked Boabdil with a faint smile. "Speak on."
"I will obey thee, then, even if it displease," cried Amine; and she rose, her cheek glowing, her eyes spark ling, her beautiful form dilated. "I am a daughter of Granada; I am the beloved of a king; I will be true to my birth and to my fortunes. Boabdil el Chico, the last of a line of heroes, shake off these gloomy fantasies—these doubts and dreams that smother the fire of a great nature and a kingly soul! Awake—arise—rob Granada of her Muza—be thyself her Muza! Trustest thou to magic and to spells? then grave them on they breastplate, write them on thy sword, and live no longer the Dreamer of the Alhambra; become the saviour of thy people!"
Boabdil turned, and gazed on the inspired and beautiful form before him with mingled emotions of surprise and shame. "Out of the mouth of woman cometh my rebuke!" said he sadly. "It is well!"
"Pardon me, pardon me!" said the slave, falling humbly at his knees; "but blame me not that I would have thee worthy of thyself. Wert thou not happier, was not thy heart more light and thy hope more strong when, at the head of thine armies, thine own cimiter slew thine own foes, and the terror of the Hero-king spread, in flame and slaughter, from the mountains to the seas. Boabdil! dear as thou art to me-equally as I would have loved thee hadst thou been born a lowly fisherman of the Darro, since thou art a king, I would have thee die a king; even if my own heart broke as I armed thee for thy latest battle!"
"Thou knowest not what thou sayest, Amine," said Boabdil, "nor canst thou tell what spirits that are not of earth dictate to the actions and watch over the destinies, of the rulers of nations. If I delay, if I linger, it is not from terror, but from wisdom. The cloud must gather on, dark and slow, ere the moment for the thunderbolt arrives."
"On thine own house will the thunderbolt fall, since over thine own house thou sufferest the cloud to gather," said a calm and stern voice.
Boabdil started; and in the chamber stood a third person, in the shape of a woman, past middle age, and of commanding port and stature. Upon her long-descending robes of embroidered purple were thickly woven jewels of royal price, and her dark hair, slightly tinged with grey, parted over a majestic brow while a small diadem surmounted the folds of the turban.
"My mother!" said Boabdil, with some haughty reserve in his tone; "your presence is unexpected."
"Ay," answered Ayxa la Horra, for it was indeed that celebrated, and haughty, and high-souled queen, "and unwelcome; so is ever that of your true friends. But not thus unwelcome was the presence of your mother, when her brain and her hand delivered you from the dungeon in which your stern father had cast your youth, and the dagger and the bowl seemed the only keys that would unlock the cell."
"And better hadst thou left the ill-omened son that thy womb conceived, to die thus in youth, honoured and lamented, than to live to manhood, wrestling against an evil star and a relentless fate."
"Son," said the queen, gazing upon him with lofty and half disdainful compassion, "men's conduct shapes out their own fortunes, and the unlucky are never the valiant and the wise."
"Madam," said Boabdil, colouring with passion, "I am still a king, nor will I be thus bearded—withdraw!"
Ere the queen could reply, a eunuch entered, and whispered Boabdil.
"Ha!" said he, joyfully, stamping his foot, "comes he then to brave the lion in his den? Let the rebel look to it. Is he alone?"
"Alone, great king."
"Bid my guards wait without; let the slightest signal summon them. Amine, retire! Madam—"
"Son!" interrupted Ayxa la Horra in visible agitation, "do I guess aright? is the brave Muza—the sole bulwark and hope of Granada—whom unjustly thou wouldst last night have placed in chains—(chains! Great Prophet! is it thus a king should reward his heroes)—is, I say, Muza here? and wilt thou make him the victim of his own generous trust?"
"Retire, woman?" said Boabdil, sullenly.
"I will not, save by force! I resisted a fiercer soul than thine when I saved thee from thy father."
"Remain, then, if thou wilt, and learn how kings can punish traitors. Mesnour, admit the hero of Granada." Amine had vanished. Boabdil seated himself on the cushions his face calm but pale. The queen stood erect at a little distance, her arms folded on her breast, and her aspect knit and resolute. In a few moments Muza entered alone. He approached the king with the profound salutation of oriental obeisance; and then stood before him with downcast eyes, in an attitude from which respect could not divorce a natural dignity and pride of mien.
"Prince," said Boabdil, after a moment's pause, "yestermorn, when I sent for thee thou didst brave my orders. Even in mine own Alhambra thy minions broke out in mutiny; they surrounded the fortress in which thou wert to wait my pleasure; they intercepted, they insulted, they drove back my guards; they stormed the towers protected by the banner of thy king. The governor, a coward or a traitor, rendered thee to the rebellious crowd. Was this all? No, by the Prophet! Thou, by right my captive, didst leave thy prison but to head mine armies. And this day, the traitor subject—the secret foe—was the leader of a people who defy a king. This night thou comest to me unsought. Thou feelest secure from my just wrath, even in my palace. Thine insolence blinds and betrays thee. Man, thou art in my power! Ho, there!"
As the king spoke, he rose; and, presently, the arcades at the back of the pavilion were darkened by long lines of the Ethiopian guard, each of height which, beside the slight Moorish race, appeared gigantic; stolid and passionless machines, to execute, without thought, the bloodiest or the slightest caprice of despotism. There they stood; their silver breastplates and long earrings contrasting their dusky skins; and bearing, over their shoulders, immense clubs studded with brazen nails.
A little advanced from the rest, stood the captain, with the fatal bowstring hanging carelessly on his arm, and his eyes intent to catch the slightest gesture of the king. "Behold!" said Boabdil to his prisoner.
"I do; and am prepared for what I have foreseen." The queen grew pale, but continued silent.
"Lord of the faithful!" said he, "if yestermorn I had acted otherwise, it would have been to the ruin of thy throne and our common race. The fierce Zegris suspected and learned my capture. They summoned the troops they delivered me, it is true. At that time had I reasoned with them, it would have been as drops upon a flame. They were bent on besieging thy palace, perhaps upon demanding thy abdication. I could not stifle their fury, but I could direct it. In the moment of passion, I led them from rebellion against our common king to victory against our common foe. That duty done, I come unscathed from the sword of the Christian to bare my neck to the bowstring of my friend. Alone, untracked, unsuspected, I have entered thy palace to prove to the sovereign of Granada, that the defendant of his throne is not a rebel to his will. Now summon the guards—I have done."
"Muza!" said Boabdil, in a softened voice, while he shaded his face with his hand, "we played together as children, and I have loved thee well: my kingdom even now, perchance, is passing from me, but I could almost be reconciled to that loss, if I thought thy loyalty had not left me."
"Dost thou, in truth, suspect the faith of Muza Ben Abil Gazan?" said the Moorish prince, in a tone of surprise and sorrow. "Unhappy king! I deemed that my services, and not my defection, made my crime."
"Why do my people hate me? why do my armies menace?" said Boabdil, evasively; "why should a subject possess that allegiance which a king cannot obtain?"
"Because," replied Muza, boldly, "the king has delegated to a subject the command he should himself assume. Oh, Boabdil!" he continued, passionately—"friend of my boyhood, ere the evil days came upon us,—gladly would I sink to rest beneath the dark waves of yonder river, if thy arm and brain would fill up my place amongst the warriors of Granada. And think not I say this only from our boyish love; think not I have placed my life in thy hands only from that servile loyalty to a single man, which the false chivalry of Christendom imposes as a sacred creed upon its knights and nobles. But I speak and act but from one principle—to save the religion of, my father and the land of my birth: for this I have risked my life against the foe; for this I surrender my life to the sovereign of my country. Granada may yet survive, if monarch and people unite together. Granada is lost for ever, if her children, at this fatal hour, are divided against themselves. If, then, I, O Boabdil! am the true obstacle to thy league with thine own subjects, give me at once to the bowstring, and my sole prayer shall be for the last remnant of the Moorish name, and the last monarch of the Moorish dynasty."
"My son, my son! art thou convinced at last?" cried the queen, struggling with her tears; for she was one who wept easily at heroic sentiments, but never at the softer sorrows, or from the more womanly emotions.
Boabdil lifted his head with a vain and momentary attempt at pride; his eye glanced from his mother to his friend, and his better feelings gushed upon him with irresistible force; he threw himself into Muza's arms.
"Forgive me," he said, in broken accents, "forgive me! How could I have wronged thee thus? Yes," he continued, as he started from the noble breast on which for a moment he indulged no ungenerous weakness,—"yes, prince, your example shames, but it fires me. Granada henceforth shall have two chieftains; and if I be jealous of thee, it shall be from an emulation thou canst not blame. Guards, retire. Mesnour! ho, Mesnour! Proclaim at daybreak that I myself will review the troops in the Vivarrambla. Yet"—and, as he spoke his voice faltered, and his brow became overcast, "yet stay, seek me thyself at daybreak, and I will give thee my commands."
"Oh, my son! why hesitate?" cried the queen, "why waver? Prosecute thine own kingly designs, and—"
"Hush, madam," said Boabdil, regaining his customary cold composure; "and since you are now satisfied with your son, leave me alone with Muza."
The queen sighed heavily; but there was something in the calm of Boabdil which chilled and awed her more than his bursts of passion. She drew her veil around her, and passed slowly and reluctantly from the chamber.
"Muza," said Boabdil, when alone with the prince, and fixing his large and thoughtful eyes upon the dark orbs of his companion,—"when, in our younger days, we conversed together, do you remember how often that converse turned upon those solemn and mysterious themes to which the sages of our ancestral land directed their deepest lore; the enigmas of the stars—the science of fate—the wild searches into the clouded future, which hides the destines of nations and of men? Thou rememberest, Muza, that to such studies mine own vicissitudes and sorrows, even in childhood—the strange fortunes which gave me in my cradle the epithet of El Zogoybi—the ominous predictions of santons and astrologers as to the trials of my earthly fate,—all contributed to incline my soul. Thou didst not despise those earnest musings, nor our ancestral lore, though, unlike me, ever more inclined to action than to contemplation, that which thou mightest believe had little influence upon what thou didst design. With me it hath been otherwise; every event of life hath conspired to feed my early prepossessions; and, in this awful crisis of my fate, I have placed myself and my throne rather under the guardianship of spirits than of men. This alone has reconciled me to inaction—to the torpor of the Alhambra—to the mutinies of my people. I have smiled, when foes surround and friends deserted me, secure of the aid at last—if I bided but the fortunate hour—of the charms of protecting spirits, and the swords of the invisible creation. Thou wonderest what this should lead to. Listen! Two nights since (and the king shuddered) I was with the dead! My father appeared before me—not as I knew him in life—gaunt and terrible, full of the vigour of health, and the strength of kingly empire, and of fierce passion—but wan, calm, shadowy. From lips on which Azrael had set his livid seal, he bade me beware of thee!"
The king ceased suddenly; and sought to read on the face of Muza the effect his words produced. But the proud and swarthy features of the Moor evinced no pang of conscience; a slight smile of pity might have crossed his lip for a moment, but it vanished ere the king could detect it. Boabdil continued:
"Under the influence of this warning, I issued the order for thy arrest. Let this pass—I resume my tale. I attempted to throw myself at the spectre's feet—it glided from me, motionless and impalpable. I asked the Dead One if he forgave his unhappy son the sin of rebellion alas! too well requited even upon earth. And the voice again came forth, and bade me keep the crown that I had gained, as the sole atonement for the past. Then again I asked, whether the hour for action had arrived! and the spectre, while it faded gradually into air, answered, 'No!' 'Oh!' I exclaimed, 'ere thou leavest me, be one sign accorded me, that I have not dreamt this vision; and give me, I pray thee, note and warning, when the evil star of Boabdil shall withhold its influence, and he may strike, without resistance from the Powers above, for his glory and his throne.' 'The sign and the warning are bequeathed thee,' answered the ghostly image. It vanished,—thick darkness fell around; and, when once more the light of the lamps we bore became visible, behold there stood before me a skeleton, in the regal robe of the kings of Granada, and on its grisly head was the imperial diadem. With one hand raised, it pointed to the opposite wall, wherein burned, like an orb of gloomy fire, a broad dial-plate, on which were graven these words, BEWARE—FEAR NOT—ARM! The finger of the dial moved rapidly round, and rested at the word beware. From that hour to the one in which I last beheld it, it hath not moved. Muza, the tale is done; wilt thou visit with me this enchanted chamber, and see if the hour be come?"
"Commander of the faithful," said Muza, "the story is dread and awful. But pardon thy friend—wert thou alone, or was the santon Almamen thy companion?"
"Why the question?" said Boabdil, evasively, and slightly colouring.
"I fear his truth," answered Muza; "the Christian king conquers more foes by craft than force; and his spies are more deadly than his warriors. Wherefore this caution against me, but (pardon me) for thine own undoing? Were I a traitor, could Ferdinand himself have endangered thy crown so imminently as the revenge of the leader of thine own armies? Why, too, this desire to keep thee inactive? For the brave every hour hath its chances; but, for us, every hour increases our peril. If we seize not the present time,—our supplies are cut off,—and famine is a foe all our valour cannot resist. This dervise—who is he? a stranger, not of our race and blood. But this morning I found him without the walls, not far from the Spaniard's camp."
"Ha!" cried the king, quickly, "and what said he?"
"Little, but in hints; sheltering himself, by loose hints, under thy name."
"He! what dared he own?—Muza, what were those hints?"
The Moor here recounted the interview with Almamen, his detention, his inactivity in the battle, and his subsequent capture by the Spaniards. The king listened attentively, and regained his composure.
"It is a strange and awful man," said he after a pause. "Guards and chains will not detain him. Ere long he will return. But thou, at least, Muza, are henceforth free, alike from the suspicion of the living and the warnings of the dead. No, my friend," continued Boabdil, with generous warmth, "it is better to lose a crown, to lose life itself, than confidence in a heart like thine. Come, let us inspect this magic tablet; perchance—and how my heart bounds as I utter the hope!—the hour may have arrived."
CHAPTER IV. A FULLER VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF BOABDIL.—MUZA IN THE GARDENS OF HIS BELOVED.
Muza Ben Abil Gazan returned from his visit to Boabdil with a thoughtful and depressed spirit. His arguments had failed to induce the king to disdain the command of the magic dial, which still forbade him to arm against the invaders; and although the royal favour was no longer withdrawn from himself, the Moor felt that such favour hung upon a capricious and uncertain tenure so long as his sovereign was the slave of superstition or imposture. But that noble warrior, whose character the adversity of his country had singularly exalted and refined, even while increasing its natural fierceness, thought little of himself in comparison with the evils and misfortunes which the king's continued irresolution must bring upon Granada.
"So brave, and yet so weak," thought he; "so weak, and yet so obstinate; so wise a reasoner, yet so credulous a dupe! Unhappy Boabdil! the stars, indeed, seem to fight against thee, and their influences at thy birth marred all thy gifts and virtues with counteracting infirmity and error."
Muza,—more perhaps than any subject in Granada,—did justice to the real character of the king; but even he was unable to penetrate all its complicated and latent mysteries. Boabdil el Chico was no ordinary man; his affections were warm and generous, his nature calm and gentle; and, though early power, and the painful experience of a mutinous people and ungrateful court, had imparted to that nature an irascibility of temper and a quickness of suspicion foreign to its earlier soil, he was easily led back to generosity and justice; and, if warm in resentment, was magnanimous in forgiveness. Deeply accomplished in all the learning of his race and time, he was—in books, at least—a philosopher; and, indeed, his attachment to the abstruser studies was one of the main causes which unfitted him for his present station. But it was the circumstances attendant on his birth and childhood that had perverted his keen and graceful intellect to morbid indulgence in mystic reveries, and all the doubt, fear, and irresolution of a man who pushes metaphysics into the supernatural world. Dark prophecies accumulated omens over his head; men united in considering him born to disastrous destinies. Whenever he had sought to wrestle against hostile circumstances, some seemingly accidental cause, sudden and unforeseen, had blasted the labours of his most vigorous energy,—the fruit of his most deliberate wisdom. Thus, by degrees a gloomy and despairing cloud settled over his mind; but, secretly sceptical of the Mohammedan creed, and too proud and sanguine to resign himself wholly and passively to the doctrine of inevitable predestination, he sought to contend against the machinations of hostile demons and boding stars, not by human but spiritual agencies. Collecting around him the seers and magicians of orient-fanaticism, he lived in the visions of another world; and, flattered by the promises of impostors or dreamers, and deceived by his own subtle and brooding tendencies of mind, it was amongst spells and cabala that he thought to draw forth the mighty secret which was to free him from the meshes of the preternatural enemies of his fortune, and leave him the freedom of other men to wrestle, with equal chances, against peril and adversities. It was thus, that Almamen had won the mastery over his mind; and, though upon matters of common and earthly import, or solid learning, Boabdil could contend with sages, upon those of superstition he could be fooled by a child. He was, in this, a kind of Hamlet: formed, under prosperous and serene fortunes, to render blessings and reap renown; but over whom the chilling shadow of another world had fallen—whose soul curdled back into itself—whose life had been separated from that of the herd—whom doubts and awe drew back, while circumstances impelled onward—whom a supernatural doom invested with a peculiar philosophy, not of human effect and cause—and who, with every gift that could ennoble and adorn, was suddenly palsied into that mortal imbecility, which is almost ever the result of mortal visitings into the haunted regions of the Ghostly and Unknown. The gloomier colourings of his mind had been deepened, too, by secret remorse. For the preservation of his own life, constantly threatened by his unnatural predecessor, he had been early driven into rebellion against his father. In age, infirmity, and blindness, that fierce king had been made a prisoner at Salobrena by his brother, El Zagal, Boabdil's partner in rebellion; and dying suddenly, El Zagal was suspected of his murder. Though Boabdil was innocent of such a crime, he felt himself guilty of the causes which led to it; and a dark memory, resting upon his conscience, served to augment his superstition and enervate the vigour of his resolves; for, of all things that make men dreamers, none is so effectual as remorse operating upon a thoughtful temperament.
Revolving the character of his sovereign, and sadly foreboding the ruin of his country, the young hero of Granada pursued his way, until his steps, almost unconsciously, led him towards the abode of Leila. He scaled the walls of the garden as before—he neared the house. All was silent and deserted; his signal was unanswered—his murmured song brought no grateful light to the lattice, no fairy footstep to the balcony. Dejected, and sad of heart, he retired from the spot; and, returning home, sought a couch, to which even all the fatigue and excitement he had undergone, could not win the forgetfulness of slumber. The mystery that wrapt the maiden of his homage, the rareness of their interviews, and the wild and poetical romance that made a very principle of the chivalry of the Spanish Moors, had imparted to Muza's love for Leila a passionate depth, which, at this day, and in more enervated climes, is unknown to the Mohammedan lover. His keenest inquiries had been unable to pierce the secret of her birth and station. Little of the inmates of that guarded and lonely house was known in the neighbourhood; the only one ever seen without its walls was an old man of the Jewish faith, supposed to be a superintendent of the foreign slaves (for no Mohammedan slave would have been subjected to the insult of submission to a Jew); and though there were rumours of the vast wealth and gorgeous luxury within the mansion, it was supposed the abode of some Moorish emir absent from the city—and the interest of the gossips was at this time absorbed in more weighty matters than the affairs of a neighbour. But when, the next eve, and the next, Muza returned to the spot equally in vain, his impatience and alarm could no longer be restrained; he resolved to lie in watch by the portals of the house night and day, until, at least, he could discover some one of the inmates, whom he could question of his love, and perhaps bribe to his service. As with this resolution he was hovering round the mansion, he beheld, stealing from a small door in one of the low wings of the house, a bended and decrepit form: it supported its steps upon a staff; and, as now entering the garden, it stooped by the side of a fountain to cull flowers and herbs by the light of the moon, the Moor almost started to behold a countenance which resembled that of some ghoul or vampire haunting the places of the dead. He smiled at his own fear; and, with a quick and stealthy pace, hastened through the trees, and, gaining the spot where the old man bent, placed his hand on his shoulder ere his presence was perceived.
Ximen—for it was he—looked round eagerly, and a faint cry of terror broke from his lips.
"Hush!" said the Moor; "fear me not, I am a friend. Thou art old, man—gold is ever welcome to the aged." As he spoke, he dropped several broad pieces into the breast of the Jew, whose ghastly features gave forth a yet more ghastly smile, as he received the gift, and mumbled forth,
"Charitable young man! generous, benevolent, excellent young man!"
"Now then," said Muza, "tell me—you belong to this house—Leila, the maiden within—tell me of her—is she well?"
"I trust so," returned the Jew; "I trust so, noble master."
"Trust so! know you not of her state?"
"Not I; for many nights I have not seen her, excellent sir," answered Ximen; "she hath left Granada, she hath gone. You waste your time and mar your precious health amidst these nightly dews: they are unwholesome, very unwholesome at the time of the new moon."
"Gone!" echoed the Moor; "left Granada!—woe is me!—and whither?—there, there, more gold for you,—old man, tell me whither?"
"Alas! I know not, most magnanimous young man; I am but a servant—I know nothing."
"When will she return?"
"I cannot tell thee."
"Who is thy master? who owns yon mansion?"
Ximen's countenance fell; he looked round in doubt and fear, and then, after a short pause, answered,—"A wealthy man, good sir—a Moor of Africa; but he hath also gone; he but seldom visits us; Granada is not so peaceful a residence as it was,—I would go too, if I could."
Muza released his hold of Ximen, who gazed at the Moor's working countenance with a malignant smile—for Ximen hated all men.
"Thou hast done with me, young warrior? Pleasant dreams to thee under the new moon—thou hadst best retire to thy bed. Farewell! bless thy charity to the poor old man!"
Muza heard him not; he remained motionless for some moments; and then with a heavy sigh as that of one who has gained the mastery of himself after a bitter struggle, the said half aloud, "Allah be with thee, Leila! Granada now is my only mistress."
CHAPTER V. BOABDIL'S RECONCILIATION WITH HIS PEOPLE.
Several days had elapsed without any encounter between Moor and Christian; for Ferdinand's cold and sober policy, warned by the loss he had sustained in the ambush of Muza, was now bent on preserving rigorous restraint upon the fiery spirits he commanded. He forbade all parties of skirmish, in which the Moors, indeed, had usually gained the advantage, and contented himself with occupying all the passes through which provisions could arrive at the besieged city. He commenced strong fortifications around his camp; and, forbidding assault on the Moors, defied it against himself.
Meanwhile, Almamen had not returned to Granada. No tidings of his fate reached the king; and his prolonged disappearance began to produce visible and salutary effect upon the long-dormant energies of Boabdil. The counsels of Muza, the exhortations of the queen-mother, the enthusiasm of his mistress, Amine, uncounteracted by the arts of the magician, aroused the torpid lion of his nature. But still his army and his subjects murmured against him; and his appearance in the Vivarrambla might possibly be the signal of revolt. It was at this time that a most fortunate circumstance at once restored to him the confidence and affections of his people. His stern uncle, El Zagal—once a rival for his crown, and whose daring valour, mature age, and military sagacity had won him a powerful party within the city—had been, some months since, conquered by Ferdinand; and, in yielding the possessions he held, had been rewarded with a barren and dependent principality. His defeat, far from benefiting Boabdil, had exasperated the Moors against their king. "For," said they, almost with one voice, "the brave El Zagal never would have succumbed had Boabdil properly supported his arms." And it was the popular discontent and rage at El Zagal's defeat which had indeed served Boabdil with a reasonable excuse for shutting himself in the strong fortress of the Alhambra. It now happened that El Zagal, whose dominant passion was hatred of his nephew, and whose fierce nature chafed at its present cage, resolved in his old age to blast all his former fame by a signal treason to his country. Forgetting everything but revenge against his nephew, who he was resolved should share his own ruin, he armed his subjects, crossed the country, and appeared at the head of a gallant troop in the Spanish camp, an ally with Ferdinand against Granada. When this was heard by the Moors, it is impossible to conceive their indignant wrath: the crime of El Zagal produced an instantaneous reaction in favour of Boabdil; the crowd surrounded the Alhambra and with prayers and tears entreated the forgiveness of the king. This event completed the conquest of Boabdil over his own irresolution. He ordained an assembly of the whole army in the broad space of the Vivarrambla: and when at break of day he appeared in full armour in the square, with Muza at his right hand, himself in the flower of youthful beauty, and proud to feel once more a hero and a king, the joy of the people knew no limit; the air was rent with cries of "Long live Boabdil el Chico!" and the young monarch, turning to Muza, with his soul upon his brow exclaimed, "The hour has come—I am no longer El Zogoybi!"
CHAPTER V. LEILA.—HER NEW LOVER.—PORTRAIT OF THE FIRST INQUISITOR OF SPAIN.—THE CHALICE RETURNED TO THE LIPS OF ALMAMEN.
While thus the state of events within Granada, the course of our story transports us back to the Christian camp. It was in one of a long line of tents that skirted the pavilion of Isabel, and was appropriated to the ladies attendant on the royal presence, that a young female sat alone. The dusk of evening already gathered around, and only the outline of her form and features was visible. But even that, imperfectly seen,—the dejected attitude of the form, the drooping head, the hands clasped upon the knees,—might have sufficed to denote the melancholy nature of the reverie which the maid indulged.
"Ah," thought she, "to what danger am I exposed! If my father, if my lover dreamed of the persecution to which their poor Leila is abandoned!"
A few tears, large and bitter, broke from her eyes, and stole unheeded down her cheek. At that moment, the deep and musical chime of a bell was heard summoning the chiefs of the army to prayer; for Ferdinand invested all his worldly schemes with a religious covering, and to his politic war he sought to give the imposing character of a sacred crusade.
"That sound," thought she, sinking on her knees, "summons the Nazarenes to the presence of their God. It reminds me, a captive by the waters of Babylon, that God is ever with the friendless. Oh! succour and defend me, Thou who didst look of old upon Ruth standing amidst the corn, and didst watch over Thy chosen people in the hungry wilderness, and in the stranger's land."
Wrapt in her mute and passionate devotions, Leila remained long in her touching posture. The bell had ceased; all without was hushed and still—when the drapery, stretched across the opening of the tent, was lifted, and a young Spaniard, cloaked, from head to foot, in a long mantle, stood within the space. He gazed in silence, upon the kneeling maiden; nor was it until she rose that he made his presence audible.
"Ah, fairest!" said he, then, as he attempted to take her hand, "thou wilt not answer my letters—see me, then, at thy feet. It is thou who teachest me to kneel."
"You, prince." said Leila, agitated, and in great and evident fear. "Why harass and insult me thus? Am I not sacred as a hostage and a charge? and are name, honour, peace, and all that woman is taught to hold most dear, to be thus robbed from me under the pretext of a love dishonouring to thee and an insult to myself?"
"Sweet one," answered Don Juan, with a slight laugh, "thou hast learned, within yonder walls, a creed of morals little known to Moorish maidens, if fame belies them not. Suffer me to teach thee easier morality and sounder logic. It is no dishonour to a Christian prince to adore beauty like thine; it is no insult to a maiden hostage if the Infant of Spain proffer her the homage of his heart. But we waste time. Spies, and envious tongues, and vigilant eyes, are around us; and it is not often that I can baffle them as I have done now. Fairest, hear me!" and this time he succeeded in seizing the hand which vainly struggled against his clasp. "Nay, why so coy? what can female heart desire that my love cannot shower upon thine? Speak but the word, enchanting maiden, and I will bear thee from these scenes unseemly to thy gentle eyes. Amidst the pavilions of princes shalt thou repose; and, amidst gardens of the orange and the rose, shalt thou listen to the vows of thine adorer. Surely, in these arms thou wilt not pine for a barbarous home and a fated city. And if thy pride, sweet maiden, deafen thee to the voice of nature, learn that the haughtiest dames of Spain would bend, in envious court, to the beloved of their future king. This night—listen to me—I say, listen—this night I will bear thee hence! Be but mine, and no matter, whether heretic or infidel, or whatever the priests style thee, neither Church nor king shall tear thee from the bosom of thy lover."
"It is well spoken, son of the most Christian monarch!" said a deep voice; and the Dominican, Tomas de Torquemada, stood before the prince.
Juan, as if struck by a thunderbolt, released his hold, and, staggering back a few paces, seemed to cower, abashed and humbled, before the eye of the priest, as it glared upon him through the gathering darkness.
"Prince," said the friar, after a pause, "not to thee will our holy Church attribute this crime; thy pious heart hath been betrayed by sorcery. Retire!"
"Father," said the prince,—in a tone into which, despite his awe of that terrible man, THE FIRST GRAND INQUISITOR OF SPAIN, his libertine spirit involuntarily forced itself, in a half latent raillery,—"sorcery of eyes like those bewitched the wise son of a more pious sire than even Ferdinand of Arragon."
"He blasphemes!" muttered the monk. "Prince, beware! you know not what you do."
The prince lingered, and then, as if aware that he must yield, gathered his cloak round him, and left the tent without reply.
Pale and trembling,—with fears no less felt, perhaps, though more vague and perplexed, than those from which she had just been delivered,—Leila stood before the monk.
"Be seated, daughter of the faithless," said Torquemada, "we would converse with thee: and, as thou valuest—I say not thy soul, for, alas! of that precious treasure thou art not conscious—but mark me, woman! as thou prizest the safety of those delicate limbs, and that wanton beauty, answer truly what I shall ask thee. The man who brought thee hither—is he, in truth, thy father?"
"Alas!" answered Leila, almost fainting with terror at this rude and menacing address, "he is, in truth, mine only parent."
"And his faith—his religion?"
"I have never beheld him pray."
"Hem! he never prays—a noticeable fact. But of what sect, what creed, does he profess himself?"
"I cannot answer thee."
"Nay, there be means that may wring from thee an answer. Maiden, be not so stubborn; speak! thinkest thou he serves the temple of the Mohammedan?"
"No! oh, no!" answered poor Leila, eagerly, deeming that her reply, in this, at least, would be acceptable. "He disowns, he scorns, he abhors, the Moorish faith,—even," she added, "with too fierce a zeal."
"Thou dost not share that zeal, then? Well, worships he in secret after the Christian rites?"
Leila hung her head and answered not.
"I understand thy silence. And in what belief, maiden, wert thou reared beneath his roof?"
"I know not what it is called among men," answered Leila, with firmness, "but it is the faith of the ONE GOD, who protects His chosen, and shall avenge their wrongs—the God who made earth and heaven; and who, in an idolatrous and benighted world, transmitted the knowledge of Himself and His holy laws, from age to age, through the channel of one solitary people, in the plains of Palestine, and by the waters of the Hebron."
"And in that faith thou wert trained, maiden, by thy father?" said the Dominican, calmly. "I am satisfied. Rest here, in peace: we may meet again, soon."
The last words were spoken with a soft and tranquil smile—a smile in which glazing eyes and agonising hearts had often beheld the ghastly omen of the torture and the stake.
On quitting the unfortunate Leila, the monk took his way towards the neighbouring tent of Ferdinand. But, ere he reached it, a new thought seemed to strike the holy man; he altered the direction of his steps, and gained one of those little shrines common in Catholic countries, and which had been hastily built of wood, in the centre of a small copse, and by the side of a brawling rivulet, towards the back of the king's pavilion. But one solitary sentry, at the entrance of the copse, guarded the consecrated place; and its exceeding loneliness and quiet were a grateful contrast to the animated world of the surrounding camp. The monk entered the shrine, and fell down on his knees before an image of the Virgin, rudely sculptured, indeed, but richly decorated.
"Ah, Holy Mother!" groaned this singular man, "support me in the trial to which I am appointed. Thou knowest that the glory of thy blessed Son is the sole object for which I live, and move, and have my being; but at times, alas! the spirit is infected with the weakness of the flesh. Ora pro nobis, O Mother of mercy! Verily, oftentimes my heart sinks within me when it is mine to vindicate the honour of thy holy cause against the young and the tender, the aged and the decrepit. But what are beauty and youth, grey hairs and trembling knees, in the eye of the Creator? Miserable worms are we all; nor is there anything acceptable in the Divine sight but the hearts of the faithful. Youth without faith, age without belief, purity without grace, virtue without holiness, are only more hideous by their seeming beauty—whited sepulchres, glittering rottenness. I know this—I know it; but the human man is strong within me. Strengthen me, that I pluck it out; so that, by diligent and constant struggle with the feeble Adam, thy servant may be reduced into a mere machine, to punish the godless and advance the Church."
Here sobs and tears choked the speech of the Dominican; he grovelled in the dust, he tore his hair, he howled aloud: the agony was fierce upon him. At length, he drew from his robe a whip, composed of several thongs, studded with small and sharp nails; and, stripping his gown, and the shirt of hair worn underneath, over his shoulders, applied the scourge to the naked flesh with a fury that soon covered the green sward with the thick and clotted blood. The exhaustion which followed this terrible penance seemed to restore the senses of the stern fanatic. A smile broke over the features, that bodily pain only released from the anguished expression of mental and visionary struggles; and, when he rose, and drew the hair-cloth shirt over the lacerated and quivering flesh, he said—"Now hast thou deigned to comfort and visit me, O pitying Mother; and, even as by these austerities against this miserable body, is the spirit relieved and soothed, so dost thou typify and betoken that men's bodies are not to be spared by those who seek to save souls and bring the nations of the earth into thy fold."
With that thought the countenance of Torquemada reassumed its wonted rigid and passionless composure; and, replacing the scourge, yet clotted with blood, in his bosom, he pursued his way to the royal tent.
He found Ferdinand poring over the accounts of the vast expenses of his military preparations, which he had just received from his treasurer; and the brow of the thrifty, though ostentatious monarch, was greatly overcast by the examination.
"By the Bulls of Guisando!" said the king, gravely, "I purchase the salvation of my army in this holy war at a marvellous heavy price; and if the infidels hold out much longer, we shalt have to pawn our very patrimony of Arragon."
"Son," answered the Dominican, "to purposes like thine fear not that Providence itself will supply the worldly means. But why doubtest thou? are not the means within thy reach? It is just that thou alone shouldst not support the wars by which Christendom is glorified. Are there not others?"
"I know what thou wouldst say, father," interrupted the king, quickly—"thou wouldst observe that my brother monarchs should assist me with arms and treasure. Most just. But they are avaricious and envious, Tomas; and Mammon hath corrupted them."
"Nay, not to kings pointed my thought."
"Well, then," resumed the king, impatiently, "thou wouldst imply that mine own knights and nobles should yield up their coffers, and mortgage their possessions. And so they ought; but they murmur already at what they have yielded to our necessities."
"And in truth," rejoined the friar, "these noble warriors should not be shorn of a splendour that well becomes the valiant champions of the Church. Nay, listen to me, son, and I may suggest a means whereby, not the friends, but enemies, of the Catholic faith shall contribute to the down fall of the Paynim. In thy dominions, especially those newly won, throughout Andalusia, in the kingdom of Cordova, are men of enormous wealth; the very caverns of the earth are sown with the impious treasure they have plundered from Christian hands, and consume in the furtherance of their iniquity. Sire, I speak of the race that crucified the Lord."
"The Jews—ay, but the excuse—"
"Is before thee. This traitor, with whom thou boldest intercourse, who vowed to thee to render up Granada, and who was found the very next morning, fighting with the Moors, with the blood of a Spanish martyr red upon his hands, did he not confess that his fathers were of that hateful race? did he not bargain with thee to elevate his brethren to the rank of Christians? and has he not left with thee, upon false pretences, a harlot of his faith, who, by sorcery and the help of the Evil One, hath seduced into frantic passion the heart of the heir of the most Christian king?"
"Ha! thus does that libertine boy ever scandalise us!" said the king, bitterly.
"Well," pursued the Dominican, not heeding the interruption, "have you not here excuse enough to wring from the whole race the purchase of their existence? Note the glaring proof of this conspiracy of hell. The outcasts of the earth employed this crafty agent to contract with thee for power; and, to consummate their guilty designs, the arts that seduced Solomon are employed against thy son. The beauty of the strange woman captivates his senses; so that, through the future sovereign of Spain the counsels of Jewish craft may establish the domination of Jewish ambition. How knowest thou," he added as he observed that Ferdinand listened to him with earnest attention—"how knowest thou but what the next step might have been thy secret assassination, so that the victim of witchcraft, the minion of the Jewess, might reign in the stead of the mighty and unconquerable Ferdinand?"
"Go on, father," said the king, thoughtfully; "I see, at least, enough to justify an impost upon these servitors of Mammon."
"But, though common sense suggests to us," continued Torquemada, "that this disguised Israelite could not have acted on so vast a design without the instigation of his brethren, not only in Granada, but throughout all Andalusia,—would it not be right to obtain from him his confession, and that of the maiden, within the camp, so that we may have broad and undeniable evidence, whereon to act, and to still all cavil, that may come not only from the godless, but even from the too tender scruples of the righteous? Even the queen—whom the saints ever guard!—hath ever too soft a heart for these infidels; and—"
"Right!" cried the king, again breaking upon Torquemada; "Isabel, the queen of Castile, must be satisfied of the justice of all our actions."
"And, should it be proved that thy throne or life were endangered, and that magic was exercised to entrap her royal son into a passion for a Jewish maiden, which the Church holds a crime worthy of excommunication itself, surely, instead of counteracting, she would assist our schemes."
"Holy friend," said Ferdinand, with energy, "ever a comforter, both for this world and the next, to thee, and to the new powers intrusted to thee, we commit this charge; see to it at once; time presses—Granada is obstinate—the treasury waxes low."
"Son, thou hast said enough," replied the Dominican, closing his eyes, and muttering a short thanksgiving. "Now then to my task."
"Yet stay," said the king, with an altered visage; "follow me to my oratory within: my heart is heavy, and I would fain seek the solace of the confessional."
The monk obeyed: and while Ferdinand, whose wonderful abilities were mingled with the weakest superstition, who persecuted from policy, yet believed, in his own heart, that he punished but from piety,—confessed with penitent tears the grave offences of aves forgotten, and beads untold; and while the Dominican admonished, rebuked, or soothed,—neither prince nor monk ever dreamt that there was an error to confess in, or a penance to be adjudged to, the cruelty that tortured a fellow-being, or the avarice that sought pretences for the extortion of a whole people.
CHAPTER VII. THE TRIBUNAL AND THE MIRACLE
It was the dead of night—the army was hushed in sleep—when four soldiers belonging to the Holy Brotherhood, bearing with them one whose manacles proclaimed him a prisoner, passed in steady silence to a huge tent in the neighbourhood of the royal pavilion. A deep dyke, formidable barricadoes, and sentries stationed at frequent intervals, testified the estimation in which the safety of this segment of the camp was held. The tent to which the soldiers approached was, in extent, larger than even the king's pavilion itself—a mansion of canvas, surrounded by a wide wall of massive stones; and from its summit gloomed, in the clear and shining starlight, a small black pennant, on which was wrought a white broad-pointed cross. The soldiers halted at the gate in the wall, resigned their charge, with a whispered watchword, to two gaunt sentries; and then (relieving the sentries who proceeded on with the prisoner) remained, mute and motionless, at the post: for stern silence and Spartan discipline were the attributes of the brotherhood of St. Hermandad.
The prisoner, as he now neared the tent, halted a moment, looked round steadily, as if to fix the spot in his remembrance, and then, with an impatient though stately gesture, followed his guards. He passed two divisions of the tent, dimly lighted, and apparently deserted. A man, clad in long black robes, with a white cross on his breast, now appeared; there was an interchange of signals in dumb-show-and in another moment Almamen, the Hebrew, stood within a large chamber (if so that division of the tent might be called) hung with black serge. At the upper part of the space was an estrado, or platform, on which, by a long table, sat three men; while at the head of the board was seen the calm and rigid countenance of Tomas de Torquemada. The threshold of the tent was guarded by two men, in garments similar in hue and fashion to those of the figure who had ushered Almamen into the presence of the inquisitor, each bearing a long lance, and with a long two-edged sword by his side. This made all the inhabitants of that melancholy and ominous apartment.
The Israelite looked round with a pale brow, but a flashing and scornful eye; and, when he met the gaze of the Dominican, it almost seemed as if those two men, each so raised above his fellows, by the sternness of his nature and the energy of his passions, sought by a look alone to assert his own supremacy and crush his foe. Yet, in truth, neither did justice to the other; and the indignant disdain of Almamen was retorted by the cold and icy contempt of the Dominican.
"Prisoner," said Torquemada (the first to withdraw his gaze), "a less haughty and stubborn demeanour might have better suited thy condition: but no matter; our Church is meek and humble. We have sent for thee in a charitable and paternal hope; for although, as spy and traitor, thy life is already forfeited, yet would we fain redeem and spare it to repentance. That hope mayst thou not forego, for the nature of all of us is weak and clings to life—that straw of the drowning seaman."
"Priest, if such thou art," replied the Hebrew, "I have already, when first brought to this camp, explained the causes of my detention amongst the troops of the Moor. It was my zeal for the king of Spain that brought me into that peril. Escaping from that peril, incurred in his behalf, is the king of Spain to be my accuser and my judge? If, however, my life now be sought as the grateful return for the proffer of inestimable service, I stand here to yield it. Do thy worst; and tell thy master, that he loses more by my death than he can win by the lives of thirty thousand warriors."
"Cease this idle babble," said the monk-inquisitor, contemptuously, "nor think thou couldst ever deceive, with thy empty words, the mighty intellect of Ferdinand of Spain. Thou hast now to defend thyself against still graver charges than those of treachery to the king whom thou didst profess to serve. Yea, misbeliever as thou art, it is thine to vindicate thyself from blasphemy against the God thou shouldst adore. Confess the truth: thou art of the tribe and faith of Israel?"
The Hebrew frowned darkly. "Man," said he, solemnly, "is a judge of the deeds of men, but not of their opinions. I will not answer thee."
"Pause! We have means at hand that the strongest nerves and the stoutest hearts have failed to encounter. Pause—confess!"
"Thy threat awes me not," said the Hebrew; "but I am human; and since thou wouldst know the truth, thou mayst learn it without the torture. I am of the same race as the apostles of thy Church—I am a Jew."
"He confesses—write down the words. Prisoner, thou hast done wisely; and we pray the Lord that, acting thus, thou mayst escape both the torture and the death. And in that faith thy daughter was reared? Answer."
"My daughter! there is no charge against her! By the God of Sinai and Horeb, you dare not touch a hair of that innocent head!"
"Answer," repeated the inquisitor, coldly.
"I do answer. She was brought up no renegade to her father's faith."
"Write down the confession. Prisoner," resumed the Dominican, after a pause, "but few more questions remain; answer them truly, and thy life is saved. In thy conspiracy to raise thy brotherhood of Andalusia to power and influence—or, as thou didst craftily term it, to equal laws with the followers of our blessed Lord; in thy conspiracy (by what dark arts I seek not now to know protege nos, beate Domine!) to entangle in wanton affections to thy daughter the heart of the Infant of Spain-silence, I say—be still! in this conspiracy, thou wert aided, abetted, or instigated by certain Jews of Andalusia—"
"Hold, priest!" cried Almamen, impetuously, "thou didst name my child. Do I hear aright? Placed under the sacred charge of a king, and a belted knight, has she—oh! answer me, I implore thee—been insulted by the licentious addresses of one of that king's own lineage? Answer! I am a Jew—but I am a father and a man."
"This pretended passion deceives us not," said the Dominican, who, himself cut off from the ties of life, knew nothing of their power. "Reply to the question put to thee: name thy accomplices."
"I have told thee all. Thou hast refused to answer one. I scorn and defy thee: my lips are closed."
The Grand Inquisitor glanced to his brethren, and raised his hand. His assistants whispered each other; one of them rose, and disappeared behind the canvas at the back of the tent. Presently the hangings were withdrawn; and the prisoner beheld an interior chamber, hung with various instruments the nature of which was betrayed by their very shape; while by the rack, placed in the centre of that dreary chamber, stood a tall and grisly figure, his arms bare, his eyes bent, as by an instinct, on the prisoner.
Almamen gazed at these dread preparations with an unflinching aspect. The guards at the entrance of the tent approached: they struck off the fetters from his feet and hands; they led him towards the appointed place of torture.
Suddenly the Israelite paused.
"Priest," said he, in a more humble accent than he had yet assumed, "the tidings that thou didst communicate to me respecting the sole daughter of my house and love bewildered and confused me for the moment. Suffer me but for a single moment to recollect my senses, and I will answer without compulsion all thou mayst ask. Permit thy questions to be repeated."
The Dominican, whose cruelty to others seemed to himself sanctioned by his own insensibility to fear, and contempt for bodily pain, smiled with bitter scorn at the apparent vacillation and weakness of the prisoner: but, as he delighted not in torture merely for torture's sake, he motioned to the guards to release the Israelite; and replied in a voice unnaturally mild and kindly, considering the circumstances of the scene,
"Prisoner, could we save thee from pain, even by the anguish of our own flesh and sinews, Heaven is our judge that we would willingly undergo the torture which, with grief and sorrow, we ordained to thee. Pause—take breath—collect thyself. Three minutes shalt thou have to consider what course to adopt ere we repeat the question. But then beware how thou triflest with our indulgence."
"It suffices—I thank thee," said the Hebrew, with a touch of gratitude in his voice. As he spoke he bent his face within his bosom, which he covered, as in profound meditation, with the folds of his long robe. Scarcely half the brief time allowed him had expired, when he again lifted his countenance and, as he did so, flung back his garment. The Dominican uttered a loud cry; the guards started back in awe. A wonderful change had come over the intended victim; he seemed to stand amongst them literally—wrapt in fire; flames burst from his lip, and played with his long locks, as, catching the glowing hue, they curled over his shoulders like serpents of burning light: blood-red were his breast and limbs, his haughty crest, and his outstretched arm; and as for a single moment, he met the shuddering eyes of his judges, he seemed, indeed, to verify all the superstitions of the time—no longer the trembling captive but the mighty demon or the terrible magician.
The Dominican was the first to recover his self-possession. "Seize the enchanter!" he exclaimed; but no man stirred. Ere yet the exclamation had died on his lip, Almamen took from his breast a phial, and dashed it on the ground—it broke into a thousand shivers: a mist rose over the apartment—it spread, thickened, darkened, as a sudden night; the lamps could not pierce it. The luminous form of the Hebrew grew dull and dim, until it vanished in the shade. On every eye blindness seemed to fall. There was a dead silence, broken by a cry and a groan; and when, after some minutes, the darkness gradually dispersed, Almamen was gone. One, of the guards lay bathed in blood upon the ground; they raised him: he had attempted to seize the prisoner, and had been stricken with a mortal wound. He died as he faltered forth the explanation. In the confusion and dismay of the scene none noticed, till long afterwards, that the prisoner had paused long enough to strip the dying guard of his long mantle; a proof that he feared his more secret arts might not suffice to bear him safe through the camp, without the aid of worldly stratagem.
"The fiend hath been amongst us!" said the Dominican, solemnly falling on his knees,—"let us pray!"
CHAPTER I. ISABEL AND THE JEWISH MAIDEN.
While this scene took place before the tribunal of Torquemada, Leila had been summoned from the indulgence of fears, which her gentle nature and her luxurious nurturing had ill-fitted her to contend against, to the presence of the queen. That gifted and high-spirited princess, whose virtues were her own, whose faults were of her age, was not, it is true, without the superstition and something of the intolerant spirit of her royal spouse: but, even where her faith assented to persecution, her heart ever inclined to mercy; and it was her voice alone that ever counteracted the fiery zeal of Torquemada, and mitigated the sufferings of the unhappy ones who fell under the suspicion of heresy. She had, happily, too, within her a strong sense of justice, as well as the sentiment of compassion; and often, when she could not save the accused, she prevented the consequences of his imputed crime falling upon the innocent members of his house or tribe.
In the interval between his conversation with Ferdinand and the examination of Almamen, the Dominican had sought the queen; and had placed before her, in glowing colours, not only the treason of Almamen, but the consequences of the impious passion her son had conceived for Leila. In that day, any connection between a Christian knight and a Jewess was deemed a sin, scarce expiable; and Isabel conceived all that horror of her son's offence which was natural in a pious mother and a haughty queen. But, despite all the arguments of the friar, she could not be prevailed upon to render up Leila to the tribunal of the Inquisition; and that dread court, but newly established, did not dare, without her consent, to seize upon one under the immediate protection of the queen.
"Fear not, father," said Isabel, with quiet firmness, "I will take upon myself to examine the maiden; and, at least, I will see her removed from all chance of tempting or being tempted by this graceless boy. But she was placed under the charge of the king and myself as a hostage and a trust; we accepted the charge, and our royal honor is pledged to the safety of the maiden. Heaven forbid that I should deny the existence of sorcery, assured as we are of its emanation from the Evil One; but I fear, in this fancy of Juan's, that the maiden is more sinned against than sinning: and yet my son is, doubtless, not aware of the unhappy faith of the Jewess; the knowledge of which alone will suffice to cure him of his error. You shake your head, father; but, I repeat, I will act in this affair so as to merit the confidence I demand. Go, good Tomas. We have not reigned so long without belief in our power to control and deal with a simple maiden."
The queen extended her hand to the monk, with a smile so sweet in its dignity, that it softened even that rugged heart; and, with a reluctant sigh, and a murmured prayer that her counsels might be guided for the best, Torquemada left the royal presence.
"The poor child!" thought Isabel, "those tender limbs, and that fragile form, are ill fitted for yon monk's stern tutelage. She seems gentle: and her face has in it all the yielding softness of our sex; doubtless by mild means, she may be persuaded to abjure her wretched creed; and the shade of some holy convent may hide her alike from the licentious gaze of my son and the iron zeal of the Inquisitor. I will see her."
When Leila entered the queen's pavilion, Isabel, who was alone, marked her trembling step with a compassionate eye; and, as Leila, in obedience to the queen's request, threw up her veil, the paleness of her cheek and the traces of recent tears appealed to Isabel's heart with more success than had attended all the pious invectives of Torquemada.
"Maiden," said Isabel, encouragingly, "I fear thou hast been strangely harassed by the thoughtless caprice of the young prince. Think of it no more. But, if thou art what I have ventured to believe, and to assert thee to be, cheerfully subscribe to the means I will suggest for preventing the continuance of addresses which cannot but injure thy fair name."
"Ah, madam!" said Leila, as she fell on one knee beside the queen, "most joyfully, most gratefully, will I accept any asylum which proffers solitude and peace."
"The asylum to which I would fain lead thy steps," answered Isabel, gently, "is indeed one whose solitude is holy—whose peace is that of heaven. But of this hereafter. Thou wilt not hesitate, then, to quit the camp, unknown to the prince, and ere he can again seek thee?"
"Hesitate, madam? Ah rather, how shall I express my thanks?"
"I did not read that face misjudgingly," thought the queen, as she resumed. "Be it so; we will not lose another night. Withdraw yonder, through the inner tent; the litter shall be straight prepared for thee; and ere midnight thou shalt sleep in safety under the roof of one of the bravest knights and noblest ladies that our realm can boast. Thou shalt bear with thee a letter that shall commend thee specially to the care of thy hostess—thou wilt find her of a kindly and fostering nature. And, oh, maiden!" added the queen, with benevolent warmth, "steel not thy heart against her—listen with ductile senses to her gentle ministry; and may God and His Son prosper that pious lady's counsel, so that it may win a new strayling to the Immortal Fold!"
Leila listened and wondered, but made no answer; until, as she gained the entrance to the interior division of the tent, she stopped abruptly, and said, "Pardon me, gracious queen, but dare I ask thee one question?—it is not of myself."
"Speak, and fear not."
"My father—hath aught been heard of him? He promised, that ere the fifth day were past, he would once more see his child; and, alas! that date is past, and I am still alone in the dwelling of the stranger."
"Unhappy child!" muttered Isabel to herself; "thou knowest not his treason nor his fate—yet why shouldst thou? Ignorant of what would render thee blest hereafter, continue ignorant of what would afflict thee here. Be cheered, maiden," answered the queen, aloud. "No doubt, there are reasons sufficient to forbid your meeting. But thou shalt not lack friends in the dwelling-house of the stranger."
"Ah, noble queen, pardon me, and one word more! There hath been with me, more than once, a stern old man, whose voice freezes the blood within my veins; he questions me of my father, and in the tone of a foe who would entrap from the child something to the peril of the sire. That man—thou knowest him, gracious queen—he cannot have the power to harm my father?"
"Peace, maiden! the man thou speakest of is the priest of God, and the innocent have nothing to dread from his reverend zeal. For thyself, I say again, be cheered; in the home to which I consign thee thou wilt see him no more. Take comfort, poor child—weep not: all have their cares; our duty is to bear in this life, reserving hope only for the next."
The queen, destined herself to those domestic afflictions which pomp cannot soothe, nor power allay, spoke with a prophetic sadness which yet more touched a heart that her kindness of look and tone had already softened; and, in the impulse of a nature never tutored in the rigid ceremonials of that stately court, Leila suddenly came forward, and falling on one knee, seized the hand of her protectress, and kissed it warmly through her tears.
"Are you, too, unhappy?" she said. "I will pray for you to my God!"
The queen, surprised and moved at an action which, had witnesses been present, would only perhaps (for such is human nature) have offended her Castilian prejudices, left her hand in Leila's grateful clasp; and laying the other upon the parted and luxuriant ringlets of the kneeling maiden, said, gently,—"And thy prayers shall avail thee and me when thy God and mine are the same. Bless thee, maiden! I am a mother; thou art motherless—bless thee!"
CHAPTER II. THE TEMPTATION OF THE JEWESS,—IN WHICH THE HISTORY PASSES FROM THE OUTWARD TO THE INTERNAL.
It was about the very hour, almost the very moment, in which Almamen effected his mysterious escape from the tent of the Inquisition, that the train accompanying the litter which bore Leila, and which was composed of some chosen soldiers of Isabel's own body-guard, after traversing the camp, winding along that part of the mountainous defile which was in the possession of the Spaniards, and ascending a high and steep acclivity, halted before the gates of a strongly fortified castle renowned in the chronicles of that memorable war. The hoarse challenge of the sentry, the grating of jealous bars, the clanks of hoofs upon the rough pavement of the courts, and the streaming glare of torches—falling upon stern and bearded visages, and imparting a ruddier glow to the moonlit buttresses and battlements of the fortress—aroused Leila from a kind of torpor rather than sleep, in which the fatigue and excitement of the day had steeped her senses. An old seneschal conducted her, through vast and gloomy halls (how unlike the brilliant chambers and fantastic arcades of her Moorish home) to a huge Gothic apartment, hung with the arras of Flemish looms. In a few moments, maidens, hastily aroused from slumber, grouped around her with a respect which would certainly not have been accorded had her birth and creed been known. They gazed with surprise at her extraordinary beauty and foreign garb, and evidently considered the new guest a welcome addition to the scanty society of the castle. Under any other circumstances, the strangeness of all she saw, and the frowning gloom of the chamber to which she was consigned, would have damped the spirits of one whose destiny had so suddenly passed from the deepest quiet into the sternest excitement. But any change was a relief to the roar of the camp, the addresses of the prince, and the ominous voice and countenance of Torquemada; and Leila looked around her, with the feeling that the queen's promise was fulfilled, and that she was already amidst the blessings of shelter and repose. It was long, however, before sleep revisited her eyelids, and when she woke the noonday sun streamed broadly through the lattice. By the bedside sat a matron advanced in years, but of a mild and prepossessing countenance, which only borrowed a yet more attractive charm from an expression of placid and habitual melancholy. She was robed in black; but the rich pearls that were interwoven in the sleeves and stomacher, the jewelled cross that was appended from a chain of massive gold, and, still more, a certain air of dignity and command,—bespoke, even to the inexperienced eye of Leila, the evidence of superior station.
"Thou hast slept late, daughter," said the lady, with a benevolent smile; "may thy slumbers have refreshed thee! Accept my regrets that I knew not till this morning of thine arrival, or I should have been the first to welcome the charge of my royal mistress."
There was in the look, much more than in the words of the Donna Inez de Quexada, a soothing and tender interest that was as balm to the heart of Leila; in truth, she had been made the guest of, perhaps, the only lady in Spain, of pure and Christian blood, who did not despise or execrate the name of Leila's tribe. Donna Inez had herself contracted to a Jew a debt of gratitude which she had sought to return to the whole race. Many years before the time in which our tale is cast, her husband and herself had been sojourning at Naples, then closely connected with the politics of Spain, upon an important state mission. They had then an only son, a youth of a wild and desultory character, whom the spirit of adventure allured to the East. In one of those sultry lands the young Quexada was saved from the hands of robbers by the caravanserai of a wealthy traveller. With this stranger he contracted that intimacy which wandering and romantic men often conceive for each other, without any other sympathy than that of the same pursuits. Subsequently, he discovered that his companion was of the Jewish faith; and, with the usual prejudice of his birth and time, recoiled from the friendship he had solicited, and shrank from the sense of the obligation he had incurred he—quitted his companion. Wearied, at length, with travel, he was journeying homeward, when he was seized with a sudden and virulent fever, mistaken for plague: all fled from the contagion of the supposed pestilence—he was left to die. One man discovered his condition—watched, tended, and, skilled in the deeper secrets of the healing art, restored him to life and health: it was the same Jew who had preserved him from the robbers. At this second and more inestimable obligation the prejudices of the Spaniard vanished: he formed a deep and grateful attachment for his preserver; they lived together for some time, and the Israelite finally accompanied the young Quexada to Naples. Inez retained a lively sense of the service rendered to her only son, and the impression had been increased not only by the appearance of the Israelite, which, dignified and stately, bore no likeness to the cringing servility of his brethren, but also by the singular beauty and gentle deportment of his then newly-wed bride, whom he had wooed and won in that holy land, sacred equally to the faith of Christian and of Jew. The young Quexada did not long survive his return: his constitution was broken by long travel, and the debility that followed his fierce disease. On his deathbed he had besought the mother whom he left childless, and whose Catholic prejudices were less stubborn than those of his sire, never to forget the services a Jew had conferred upon him; to make the sole recompense in her power—the sole recompense the Jew himself had demanded—and to lose no occasion to soothe or mitigate the miseries to which the bigotry of the time often exposed the oppressed race of his deliverer. Donna Inez had faithfully kept the promise she gave to the last scion of her house; and, through the power and reputation of her husband and her own connections, and still more through an early friendship with the queen, she had, on her return to Spain, been enabled to ward off many a persecution, and many a charge on false pretences, to which the wealth of some son of Israel made the cause, while his faith made the pretext. Yet, with all the natural feelings of a rigid Catholic, she had earnestly sought to render the favor she had thus obtained amongst the Jews minister to her pious zeal for their more than temporal welfare. She had endeavored, by gentle means, to make the conversions which force was impotent to effect; and, in some instances, her success had been signal. The good senora had thus obtained high renown for sanctity; and Isabel thought rightly that she could not select a protectress for Leila who would more kindly shelter her youth, or more strenuously labor for her salvation. It was, indeed, a dangerous situation for the adherence of the maiden to that faith which it had cost her fiery father so many sacrifices to preserve and to advance.
It was by little and little that Donna Inez sought rather to undermine than to storm the mental fortress she hoped to man with spiritual allies; and, in her frequent conversation with Leila, she was at once perplexed and astonished by the simple and sublime nature of the belief upon which she waged war. For whether it was that, in his desire to preserve Leila as much as possible from contact even with Jews themselves, whose general character (vitiated by the oppression which engendered meanness, and the extortion which fostered avarice) Almamen regarded with lofty though concealed repugnance; or whether it was, that his philosophy did not interpret the Jewish formula of belief in the same spirit as the herd,—the religion inculcated in the breast of Leila was different from that which Inez had ever before encountered amongst her proselytes. It was less mundane and material—a kind of passionate rather than metaphysical theism, which invested the great ONE, indeed, with many human sympathies and attributes, but still left Him the August and awful God of the Genesis, the Father of a Universe though the individual Protector of a fallen sect. Her attention had been less directed to whatever appears, to a superficial gaze, stern and inexorable in the character of the Hebrew God, and which the religion of Christ so beautifully softened and so majestically refined, than to those passages in which His love watched over a chosen people, and His forbearance bore with their transgressions. Her reason had been worked upon to its belief by that mysterious and solemn agency, by which—when the whole world beside was bowed to the worship of innumerable deities, and the adoration of graven images,—in a small and secluded portion of earth, amongst a people far less civilised and philosophical than many by which they were surrounded, had been alone preserved a pure and sublime theism, disdaining a likeness in the things of heaven or earth. Leila knew little of the more narrow and exclusive tenets of her brethren; a Jewess in name, she was rather a deist in belief; a deist of such a creed as Athenian schools might have taught to the imaginative pupils of Plato, save only that too dark a shadow had been cast over the hopes of another world. Without the absolute denial of the Sadducee, Almamen had, probably, much of the quiet scepticism which belonged to many sects of the early Jews, and which still clings round the wisdom of the wisest who reject the doctrine of Revelation; and while he had not sought to eradicate from the breast of his daughter any of the vague desire which points to a Hereafter, he had never, at least, directed her thoughts or aspirations to that solemn future. Nor in the sacred book which was given to her survey, and which so rigidly upheld the unity of the Supreme Power, was there that positive and unequivocal assurance of life beyond "the grave where all things are forgotten," that might supply the deficiencies of her mortal instructor. Perhaps, sharing those notions of the different value of the sexes, prevalent, from the remotest period, in his beloved and ancestral East, Almamen might have hopes for himself which did not extend to his child. And thus she grew up, with all the beautiful faculties of the soul cherished and unfolded, without thought, without more than dim and shadowy conjectures, of the Eternal Bourne to which the sorrowing pilgrim of the earth is bound. It was on this point that the quick eye of Donna Inez discovered her faith was vulnerable: who would not, if belief were voluntary, believe in the world to come? Leila's curiosity and interest were aroused: she willingly listened to her new guide—she willingly inclined to conclusions pressed upon her, not with menace, but persuasion. Free from the stubborn associations, the sectarian prejudices, and unversed in the peculiar traditions and accounts of the learned of her race, she found nothing to shock her in the volume which seemed but a continuation of the elder writings of her faith. The sufferings of the Messiah, His sublime purity, His meek forgiveness, spoke to her woman's heart; His doctrines elevated, while they charmed, her reason: and in the Heaven that a Divine hand opened to all,—the humble as the proud, the oppressed as the oppressor, to the woman as to the lords of the earth,—she found a haven for all the doubts she had known, and for the despair which of late had darkened the face of earth. Her home lost, the deep and beautiful love of her youth blighted,—that was a creed almost irresistible which told her that grief was but for a day, that happiness was eternal. Far, too, from revolting such of the Hebrew pride of association as she had formed, the birth of the Messiah in the land of the Israelites seemed to consummate their peculiar triumph as the Elected of Jehovah. And while she mourned for the Jews who persecuted the Saviour, she gloried in those whose belief had carried the name and worship of the descendants of David over the furthest regions of the world. Often she perplexed and startled the worthy Inez by exclaiming, "This, your belief, is the same as mine, adding only the assurance of immortal life—Christianity is but the Revelation of Judaism."
The wise and gentle instrument of Leila's conversion did not, however, give vent to those more Catholic sentiments which might have scared away the wings of the descending dove. She forbore too vehemently to point out the distinctions of the several creeds, and rather suffered them to melt insensibly one into the other: Leila was a Christian, while she still believed herself a Jewess. But in the fond and lovely weakness of mortal emotions, there was one bitter thought that often and often came to mar the peace that otherwise would have settled on her soul. That father, the sole softener of whose stern heart and mysterious fates she was, with what pangs would he receive the news of her conversion! And Muza, that bright and hero-vision of her youth—was she not setting the last seal of separation upon all hope of union with the idol of the Moors? But, alas! was she not already separated from him, and had not their faiths been from the first at variance? From these thoughts she started with sighs and tears; and before her stood the crucifix already admitted into her chamber, and—not, perhaps, too wisely—banished so rigidly from the oratories of the Huguenot. For the representation of that Divine resignation, that mortal agony, that miraculous sacrifice, what eloquence it hath for our sorrows! what preaching hath the symbol to the vanities of our wishes, to the yearnings of our discontent!
By degrees, as her new faith grew confirmed, Leila now inclined herself earnestly to those pictures of the sanctity and calm of the conventual life which Inez delighted to draw. In the reaction of her thoughts, and her despondency of all worldly happiness, there seemed, to the young maiden, an inexpressible charm in a solitude which was to release her for ever from human love, and render her entirely up to sacred visions and imperishable hopes. And with this selfish, there mingled a generous and sublime sentiment. The prayers of a convert might be heard in favour of those yet benighted: and the awful curse upon her outcast race be lightened by the orisons of one humble heart. In all ages, in all creeds, a strange and mystic impression has existed of the efficacy of self-sacrifice in working the redemption even of a whole people: this belief, so strong in the old orient and classic religions, was yet more confirmed by Christianity—a creed founded upon the grandest of historic sacrifices; and the lofty doctrine of which, rightly understood, perpetuates in the heart of every believer the duty of self-immolation, as well as faith in the power of prayer, no matter how great the object, how mean the supplicator. On these thoughts Leila meditated, till thoughts acquired the intensity of passions, and the conversion of the Jewess was completed.
CHAPTER III. THE HOUR AND THE MAN
It was on the third morning after the King of Granada, reconciled to his people, had reviewed his gallant army in the Vivarrambla; and Boabdil, surrounded by his chiefs and nobles, was planning a deliberate and decisive battle, by assault on the Christian camp,—when a scout suddenly arrived, breathless, at the gates of the palace, to communicate the unlooked-for and welcome intelligence that Ferdinand had in the night broken up his camp, and marched across the mountains towards Cordova. In fact, the outbreak of formidable conspiracies had suddenly rendered the appearance of Ferdinand necessary elsewhere; and, his intrigues with Almamen frustrated, he despaired of a very speedy conquest of the city. The Spanish king resolved, therefore, after completing the devastation of the Vega, to defer the formal and prolonged siege, which could alone place Granada within his power, until his attention was no longer distracted to other foes, and until, it must be added, he had replenished an exhausted treasury. He had formed, with Torquemada, a vast and wide scheme of persecution, not only against Jews, but against Christians whose fathers had been of that race, and who were suspected of relapsing into Judaical practices. The two schemers of this grand design were actuated by different motives; the one wished to exterminate the crime, the other to sell forgiveness for it. And Torquemada connived at the griping avarice of the king, because it served to give to himself, and to the infant Inquisition, a power and authority which the Dominican foresaw would be soon greater even than those of royalty itself, and which, he imagined, by scourging earth, would redound to the interests of Heaven.
The strange disappearance of Almamen, which was distorted and exaggerated, by the credulity of the Spaniards, into an event of the most terrific character, served to complete the chain of evidence against the wealthy Jews, and Jew-descended Spaniards, of Andalusia; and while, in imagination, the king already clutched the gold of their redemption here, the Dominican kindled the flame that was to light them to punishment hereafter.
Boabdil and his chiefs received the intelligence of the Spanish retreat with a doubt which soon yielded to the most triumphant delight. Boabdil at once resumed all the energy for which, though but by fits and starts, his earlier youth had been remarkable.
"Alla Achbar! God is great!" cried he; "we will not remain here till it suit the foe to confine the eagle again to his eyrie. They have left us—we will burst on them. Summon our alfaquis, we will proclaim a holy war! The sovereign of the last possessions of the Moors is in the field. Not a town that contains a Moslem but shall receive our summons, and we will gather round our standard all the children of our faith!"
"May the king live for ever!" cried the council, with one voice.
"Lose not a moment," resumed Boabdil—"on to the Vivarrambla, marshal the troops—Muza heads the cavalry; myself our foot. Ere the sun's shadow reach yonder forest, our army shall be on its march."
The warriors, hastily and in joy, left the palace; and when he was alone, Boabdil again relapsed into his wonted irresolution. After striding to and fro for some minutes in anxious thought, he abruptly quitted the hall of council, and passed in to the more private chambers of the palace, till he came to a door strongly guarded by plates of iron. It yielded easily, however, to a small key which he carried in his girdle; and Boabdil stood in a small circular room, apparently without other door or outlet; but, after looking cautiously round, the king touched a secret spring in the wall, which, giving way, discovered a niche, in which stood a small lamp, burning with the purest naphtha, and a scroll of yellow parchment covered with strange letters and hieroglyphics. He thrust the scroll in his bosom, took the lamp in his hand, and pressing another spring within the niche, the wall receded, and showed a narrow and winding staircase. The king reclosed the entrance, and descended: the stairs led, at last, into clamp and rough passages; and the murmur of waters, that reached his ear through the thick walls, indicated the subterranean nature of the soil through which they were hewn. The lamp burned clear and steady through the darkness of the place; and Boabdil proceeded with such impatient rapidity, that the distance (in reality, considerable) which he traversed, before he arrived at his destined bourne, was quickly measured. He came at last into a wide cavern, guarded by doors concealed and secret as those which had screened the entrance from the upper air. He was in one of the many vaults which made the mighty cemetery of the monarchs of Granada; and before him stood the robed and crowned skeleton, and before him glowed the magic dial-plate of which he had spoken in his interview with Muza.
"Oh, dread and awful image!" cried the king, throwing himself on his knees before the skeleton,—"shadow of what was once a king, wise in council, and terrible in war, if in those hollow bones yet lurks the impalpable and unseen spirit, hear thy repentant son. Forgive, while it is yet time, the rebellion of his fiery youth, and suffer thy daring soul to animate the doubt and weakness of his own. I go forth to battle, waiting not the signal thou didst ordain. Let not the penance for a rashness, to which fate urges me on, attach to my country, but to me. And if I perish in the field, may my evil destinies be buried with me, and a worthier monarch redeem my errors and preserve Granada!"
As the king raised his looks, the unrelaxed grin of the grim dead, made yet more hideous by the mockery of the diadem and the royal robe, froze back to ice the passion and sorrow at his heart. He shuddered, and rose with a deep sigh; when, as his eyes mechanically followed the lifted arm of the skeleton, he beheld, with mingled delight and awe, the hitherto motionless finger of the dial-plate pass slowly on, and rest at the word so long and so impatiently desired. "ARM!" cried the king; "do I read aright?—are my prayers heard?" A low and deep sound, like that of subterranean thunder, boomed through the chamber; and in the same instant the wall opened, and the king beheld the long-expected figure of Almamen, the magician. But no longer was that stately form clad in the loose and peaceful garb of the Eastern santon. Complete armour cased his broad chest and sinewy limbs; his head alone was bare, and his prominent and impressive features were lighted, not with mystical enthusiasm, but with warlike energy. In his right hand, he carried a drawn sword—his left supported the staff of a snow-white and dazzling banner.
So sudden was the apparition, and so excited the mind of the king, that the sight of a supernatural being could scarcely have impressed him with more amaze and awe.
"King of Granada," said Almamen, "the hour hath come at last; go forth and conquer! With the Christian monarch, there is no hope of peace or compact. At thy request I sought him, but my spells alone preserved the life of thy herald. Rejoice! for thine evil destinies have rolled away from thy spirit, like a cloud from the glory of the sun. The genii of the East have woven this banner from the rays of benignant stars. It shall beam before thee in the front of battle—it shall rise over the rivers of Christian blood. As the moon sways the bosom of the tides, it shall sway and direct the surges and the course of war!"
"Man of mystery! thou hast given me a new life."
"And, fighting by thy side," resumed Almamen, "I will assist to carve out for thee, from the ruins of Arragon and Castile, the grandeur of a new throne. Arm, monarch of Granada!—arm! I hear the neigh of thy charger, in the midst of the mailed thousands! Arm!"
CHAPTER. I. LEILA IN THE CASTLE—THE SIEGE.
The calmer contemplations and more holy anxieties of Leila were, at length, broken in upon by intelligence, the fearful interest of which absorbed the whole mind and care of every inhabitant of the castle. Boabdil el Chico had taken the field, at the head of a numerous army. Rapidly scouring the country, he had descended, one after one, upon the principal fortresses, which Ferdinand had left, strongly garrisoned, in the immediate neighbourhood. His success was as immediate as it was signal; the terror of his arms began, once more to spread far and wide; every day swelled his ranks with new recruits; and from the snow-clad summits of the Sierra Nevada poured down, in wild hordes, the fierce mountain race, who, accustomed to eternal winter, made a strange contrast, in their rugged appearance and shaggy clothing, to the glittering and civilised soldiery of Granada.
Moorish towns, which had submitted to Ferdinand, broke from their allegiance, and sent their ardent youth and experienced veterans to the standard of the Keys and Crescent. To add to the sudden panic of the Spaniards, it went forth that a formidable magician, who seemed inspired rather with the fury of a demon than the valour of a man, had made an abrupt appearance in the ranks of the Moslems. Wherever the Moors shrank back from wall or tower, down which poured the boiling pitch, or rolled the deadly artillery of the besieged, this sorcerer—rushing into the midst of the flagging force, and waving, with wild gestures, a white banner, supposed by both Moor and Christian to be the work of magic and preternatural spells—dared every danger, and escaped every weapon: with voice, with prayer, with example, he fired the Moors to an enthusiasm that revived the first days of Mohammedan conquest; and tower after tower, along the mighty range of the mountain chain of fortresses, was polluted by the wave and glitter of the ever-victorious banner. The veteran, Mendo de Quexada, who, with a garrison of two hundred and fifty men, held the castle of Almamen, was, however, undaunted by the unprecedented successes of Boabdil. Aware of the approaching storm, he spent the days of peace yet accorded to him in making every preparation for the siege that he foresaw; messengers were despatched to Ferdinand; new out-works were added to the castle; ample store of provisions laid in; and no precaution omitted that could still preserve to the Spaniards a fortress that, from its vicinity to Granada, its command of the Vega and the valleys of the Alpuxarras, was the bitterest thorn in the side of the Moorish power.