[The spelling (sometimes archaic: shew, extacy, stopt, etc.) of the original book has been retained. (Note of transcriber)]
THE MOORS OF THE ALPUJARRAS.
A SPANISH HISTORICAL ROMANCE.
DON TELESFORO DE TRUEBA Y COSIO.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
PREFACE. CHAPTER I., II., III., IV., V., VI., VII., VIII., IX., X., XI., XII., XIII., XIV.
VOL. II. CHAPTER I., II., III., IV., V., VI., VII., VIII., IX., X., XI., XII., XIII., XIV.
VOL. III. CHAPTER I., II., III., IV., V., VI., VII., VIII., IX., X., XI. CONCLUSION.
LONDON: HURST, CHANCE, AND CO. 65, ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD. 1828.
GUNNELL AND SHEARMAN, PRINTERS, SALISBURY SQUARE.
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE LORD HOLLAND.
It is with pleasure I avail myself of your permission to dedicate the following Work to your name, as a small mark of my respect for your Lordship's character.
As a Spaniard, I find an additional motive for addressing it to one who has uniformly shewn the interest he feels in the prosperity and literature of my country.
I have the honor to be,
Most obedient and obliged Servant,
TELESFORO DE TRUEBA Y COSIO.
London, March 1, 1828.
Let me intreat the reader not to be alarmed at the hacknied word, which generally augurs that a person is going to be very egotistical and prosy. This, at least, it will be my ambition to avoid. Nor is it my intention to assume its literary prerogatives in any way as a mask for a sort of mock humility, endeavouring to impose upon good-natured persons by protestations of demerits, want of experience and talent, with that long series of et ceteras with which a writer generally opens his first campaign.
The public has nothing to do with an exculpatory doctrine, which carries with it the aggravating circumstance of not being sincere; for I am sure that no man, with a moderate share of common sense, will suppose that an author really believes the accusation he so humbly utters against himself. Could he indeed persuade himself that his book was so very indifferent a performance, he might assuredly more justly accuse himself of acting the part of an unnatural parent in thus gratuitously exposing his intellectual offspring to the neglect and compassion of the world.
Besides, when an author presents his readers with this stultifying catalogue of demerits, he supplies them with the very best reasons to retort upon him:—"Good heavens; if the man has neither talents nor information, why does he write at all?" Having thus waved my claims to any similar indulgence, it only remains for me to say a few words respecting the origin and the object of the following Romance.
As an enthusiastic admirer of the lofty genius, the delightful and vivid creations of that great founder of English historical fiction, Sir Walter Scott, it often struck me, while reading his enchanting novels, as rather singular that he had never availed himself of the beautiful and inexhaustible materials for works upon a similar plan to be met with in Spain. It has, indeed, been generally admitted that Spain was the classic ground of chivalry and romance. The long dominion of the Moors—the striking contrast between their religion, their customs and manners, and those of their Christian enemy—the different petty kingdoms into which Spain was divided, with the consequent feuds, intrigues and battles,—all concurred to produce a succession of extraordinary incidents and character, highly adapted for romantic and dramatic illustration. Yet, while the less abundant chronicles and traditions of England, Scotland, Ireland and France, were successively ransacked by the great magician and his most successful imitators, they seem almost studiously to have avoided dwelling upon those glowing, luxuriant productions, replete with such variety of incident and character, which form the national treasures of Spain.
Conceiving, then, that I had the same right as any one else to spoil, if I failed to give attraction to a fine subject, I found that my ideas were further confirmed by the encouragement of some of the most eminent amongst my fellow-countrymen. I accordingly engaged in the undertaking, the result of which is the following Romance.
With regard to the hero, I cannot well determine whether he ever existed or not. In spite of my researches, I have no other authority for his reality than the well known comedy of the celebrated Calderon de la Barca, entitled "La nina de Gomez Arias." The probability is, that Calderon took the hint of this comedy, according to a generally prevailing custom in his time, from some legend or tradition now lost. Be this as it may, it is enough that such characters as Gomez Arias are unfortunately within the pale of human nature. I have endeavoured, however, to soften the character, as it is depicted, from that of an utterly abandoned libertine into a man of extraordinary ambition; for great passions, though they cannot palliate crime, are nevertheless not inconsistent with a dereliction of moral and legal ties.
To conclude my prefatory reasons for not writing a long preface, there is one point on which I am anxious to appeal to the indulgence of my readers. It is obvious that the work being written in English by a Spaniard, must bear some traces of its foreign descent. In extenuation of these unavoidable faults of style and language, I can only entreat that the English public will extend the same generous sympathy and benevolence to the errors of the author, which it has already evinced, in far more important matters, on behalf of his unfortunate fellow-countrymen.
THE MOORS OF THE ALPUJARRAS.
The ancient city of Granada has ever proved a source of gratification to those who have occupied themselves with the investigation of its earlier history. It abounds with objects curious and interesting; and is no less celebrated for the conspicuous place which it holds in the page of Spanish history, than for the more pleasing associations of chivalry and romance. Situated at the base of the snow-capt mountains of the Sierra Nevada, and extending into the luxuriant plain of the Vega, it seems placed by nature as a barrier between an eternal winter and a constant spring—
"Not as elsewhere with fervours frosts severe, Or clouds with calms divide the happy hours, But heaven than whitest crystal e'en more clear, A flood of sunshine in all seasons showers; Nursing to fields their herbs, to herbs their flowers, To flowers their smell, leaves to th' immortal trees: Here by its lake the splendid palace towers, On marble columns rich with golden frieze, For leagues and leagues around, o'erhanging hills and seas."
Amongst the many architectural remains which adorn the city, the palace of the Alhambra is perhaps the most conspicuous. It was originally founded by one of the Moorish kings, after the conquest of the kingdom of Granada, and became, in process of time, the favorite residence of a long line of princes, by whom it was enriched with the spoils of conquest, and all the embellishments which wealth could supply. Nothing, indeed, that imagination could devise, or human industry effect, was omitted, to render it a retreat worthy of the Moorish sovereigns of Granada.
Ages have gone by since its foundation, kingdoms have been overthrown, and whole generations have passed away, but the Alhambra still remains a proud record of the Moslem's power. It is the last monument of their glory, amidst the changes that have long since taken place, and that still proclaim their fall.
The city commands an extensive view of the surrounding country, and the eye wanders with delight over the picturesque and varied scenery which opens on every side. Far as the eye can reach, a fertile plain teeming with life exhibits nature in her most lovely and fascinating forms; large flocks and herds are seen browzing and disporting amongst the luxuriant herbage, while the distant quiet villages interspersed throughout the landscape, are thrown out in bold relief by the dark green foliage in which they are embosomed. Here the orange-flower and the jasmin of the gardens, decked in all the pride of cultivation, load the air with their grateful perfume; and sparkling jets of limpid water, thrown aloft from fountains of alabaster, impart a continual freshness and beauty to the scene, whilst they contribute to dissipate the languor which in this luxurious climate softly steals over the senses.
After dwelling with delight upon this living landscape of happiness and tranquillity, the feelings of the beholder are aroused by the imposing aspect of the Sierra Nevada. The never-varying hue, the sameness of desolation exhibited by these gigantic mountains, offer a striking contrast to the glowing and lively tints of the surrounding country. On their lofty summits the clouds appear to have fixed their abode; and in their inhospitable regions no living thing can dwell.—Still barren and dreary they remain, in the very bosom of luxuriance and cheerfulness; throughout the vicissitudes of climate and season they are for ever the same.
Granada was the last strong hold of the Moors in Spain. They had for seven centuries defied the power of different Christian sovereigns, who by unremitted efforts slowly and progressively regained those territories which had been suddenly wrested from their ancestors. Indeed, it required the lapse of ages and a series of successes, wrought by the exertions of many a distinguished warrior, to recover those possessions which had been thus lost by the weakness of a king, and the treason of a prelate.
Ferdinand and Isabella, happily uniting by marriage the crowns of Arragon and Castile, consolidated the power and gave a new impulse to the energies of the Christians. After a variety of minor advantages, they resolved to lay siege to Granada, fortunately at a time when that city was a prey to civil dissentions, occasioned by the rival families of the Zegris and Abencerrages. The Moors, gradually weakened by their domestic broils, offered but an inadequate opposition to the enemy, who pressed them, on this account, with increasing ardour. After a protracted siege of eight months, in which a host of warriors distinguished themselves, Granada, the royal residence of the Moslems for seven hundred years, surrendered, and the banner of the Cross streamed triumphantly over the turrets of the Alhambra.
The Moors seemed satisfied with their new masters, and the partial change of government which ensued; so that King Ferdinand returned to Seville, leaving the subdued city in apparent tranquillity. This calm was, however, but of short duration. Strong symptoms of disaffection were soon observable in the conduct of the vanquished Moors, and the murmurs of discontent which prevailed in every quarter, shortly terminated in open revolt.
The Archbishop of Toledo, in his intemperate zeal for the conversion of the infidels, had adopted measures which tended rather to increase their natural aversion to the Christian religion, than to wean them from a creed, the mandates of which were in greater harmony with their habits and inclination. The prelate seeing his designs thwarted by the inhabitants of the Albaycin, commissioned one of his officers to arrest those whom he suspected of promoting the opposition. This last ill-advised and imprudent step so greatly exasperated the malcontents, that no sooner did the alguazil proceed to the discharge of his duty, than he became a victim to their fury. Imprecations were first heaped upon him; menaces succeeded; and finally a large stone, hurled from a window, stretched the unfortunate officer lifeless an the ground.
This murder was the signal for open rebellion. The Moors were aware that so flagrant an act could not escape an adequate punishment, and they accordingly prepared themselves for a vigorous resistance. Some of the most daring hurried from street to street, summoning their fellow-countrymen to arms, and exclaiming that the articles of the treaty, in virtue of which they had surrendered, were violated, since they could not continue unmolested in the exercise of their religious duties.
This untoward event was the occasion of great anxiety to the Count de Tendilla, who had been entrusted with the government of the city by the queen. He took active measures to subdue the increasing fury of the malcontents. But desirous of trying the effect of negociation before he had recourse to extremes, he set forth to the rebels, in the strongest light, the criminality and madness of the enterprise in which they had embarked, and the little probability of their ever again struggling with success against the Christian power. All his efforts to restore order proved for some time ineffectual. But the promise of amnesty and redress of their grievances, the well known integrity of the count, and his generosity in sending his lady and son as hostages for the fulfilment of the treaty, induced at length the majority of the rebels to lay down their arms and accept the proffered pardon.
The forty chiefs, however, who had been chosen by the insurgents, considered this conduct as pusillanimous, and despised it accordingly. Dazzled by dreams of ambition, fired with hopes of asserting their independence, and aware that the wild recesses of the mountains afforded facilities for conducting the war with greater security and success; they fled from Granada in the night, and succeeded in instilling their sentiments into the minds of the Moors who inhabited the adjacent country. The towns of Guejar, Lanjaron and Andarax soon rose up in arms; all the mountaineers of the Alpujarras followed the example, and the Christians were threatened with the loss of those acquisitions, which their valour and perseverance had so nobly won.
It is at this interesting period that the following romance takes place; and some of the subsequent events of the rebellion form the historical portion of its subject.
We are up in arms, If not to fight with foreign enemies, Yet to beat down these rebels here at home.
Alarming accounts of the resolution taken by the insurgents being communicated to the queen, she lost no time in adopting measures for the preservation of her power. She summoned around her all those counsellors in whose judgment she had ever confided, and those champions on whose valour, in the hour of danger, she firmly relied.
At the upper end of the hall of audience in which they were now assembled, was seen the queen seated on a magnificent throne, over which was suspended a rich canopy of crimson velvet. Isabella could scarcely be considered at first sight as one born to command; her stature was not above the middle size; but there was a certain air of dignity which pervaded her every action. The mildness which beamed in her bright blue eye seemed rather to act as a persuasive to the observance of her mandates, than as a command, and her displeasure was manifested more by reproaches than by threats. Few women could boast of greater personal attractions—none a better regulated mind; if fault there were, it might be traced in the cloud which darkened her brow, when a consciousness of what was due to religion stood most prominently forward. At such times she became severe and abstracted; and yet her occasional austerity could hardly be condemned by her subjects, when it led to that firmness and courage, and that inflexibility in the decrees of justice, for which she was so remarkable. If the grave historian has stamped her character with these attributes of heroism, what scope may not be allowed to the writer of historical fiction? Distinguished by his noble bearing and his honorable station, on the right hand of the queen stood the renowned Alonso de Aguilar, the terror of the Moorish name. He had, like his brother, the heroic Gonzalo de Cordova, particularly distinguished himself in the wars against Granada, and was honored with the regard and unlimited confidence of Isabella. Of a lofty and imposing stature, he united with gigantic strength an air of dignity which well became the most accomplished warrior of the age. His noble countenance wore an expression of resolution and intrepidity, blended with openness and candour, that inspired the beholder with sentiments of awe and admiration. His fine athletic form was rendered more interesting from its still retaining the elasticity of ardent youth, unsubdued by the chill of fifty winters, which he had chiefly spent in the toils of the camp. His character bore out the impression thus formed in his favor. The active courage of his earlier days was chastened, not subdued, by the experience of a more mature age; whilst the furrows on his manly brow, and the few gray locks that slightly silvered his raven hair, heightened the feeling of respect and veneration which his many virtues were so well calculated to inspire.
On the opposite side stood Don Inigo Mendoza, Count de Tendilla, Governor of Granada, a man who had numerous claims to the gratitude of Spain.—Nor was it the least, that of being father of a son, who afterwards served his country in the triple capacities of a valiant soldier, an enlightened statesman, and a profound scholar.
Near these warriors were seen the Master of the Order of Calatrava, the Aleayde de los Donceles, Count Urena, and other renowned chiefs. The rest of the nobles, taking precedence, according to their rank, completed this imposing assembly.
An universal silence prevailed, and every one seemed impatient to ascertain the object of the council to which they had been so hastily summoned, the nature of which they could only conjecture.
But from these noble ranks, a gallant knight was absent—one who, though young in years, was already a veteran in military achievements, and whose brilliant abilities had won him the right of sharing with these distinguished personages the marked favor of his sovereign.—Gomez Arias was not there, and Alonso de Aguilar, who considered him already as his son, felt chagrined at his unavoidable absence.
This young nobleman was now a voluntary exile from court, and nowise anxious to appear at Granada, where his presence would be attended with danger. Neither his own merits, nor the influence of Aguilar, could induce Isabella to deviate from the path of justice, loudly demanded by the family and friends of Don Rodrigo de Cespedes, who, at that time, was stretched on a bed of sickness, in consequence of a dangerous wound inflicted by Gomez Arias, his fortunate rival in the affections of Leonor de Aguilar.
The members of the council, with this solitary exception, being assembled, the queen rose to address them.—"Noble Christians," she said, "my friends and brave defenders! You are no doubt already aware of the important motive which summons you to our presence. Unless a speedy remedy be applied, we are threatened with the loss of those territories for which we have so long toiled, and which have been purchased with the dearest blood in Spain. Again the noble patriotic fire which animates you must be called forth, and the redoubled strength of your arms be displayed against the enemies of our faith and native land. Scarcely had you, by courage and perseverance, reduced this last strong hold of Granada, and compelled the Moors to surrender the inheritance of our forefathers, when the seeds of discontent were sown, and sprung into open rebellion. Whatever may have been the complaints of the inhabitants of the Albaycin, it was by calm remonstrance, and by applications to our throne of justice, that they ought to have sought redress; not by the force of arms, in which they have had but too many occasions to acknowledge our superiority.—Our officers of justice have been insulted, and one of them has been murdered in the discharge of his duty. The prudent and active conduct of the Count de Tendilla succeeded in putting down the first commotion, but the leaders of the outrage have sought, in the wild passes of the Alpujarras, to conduct by stratagem a war which they are not able to sustain against us in the field. Let us then hasten to chastise their insolence before the evil gain ground. Not that I entertain any doubts of success, but for the purpose of saving the valuable lives which such procrastination might endanger. Amongst the rebel chiefs, who appear to possess in the greatest degree the confidence of their comrades, and most resolutely to defy our power, are el Negro, of Lanjaron, and el Feri de Benastepar. The former, blockaded in the Castle of Lanjaron, will not long brave a siege; but the latter is a more formidable enemy, and being well acquainted with the innermost passes of those wild mountains, will offer a greater resistance. Against this man, therefore, our chief efforts must be directed."
She then took a banner, on which was splendidly emblazoned the arms of Castile and Arragon.—"To thee, Don Alonso de Aguilar," she said, "do we intrust the chief command in this expedition, and to thy care and keeping do we commit this precious gage, which thou must fix on the summit of the Alpujarras."
Saying this, she delivered the standard to the veteran warrior. He bowed on receiving it, and the fire of enthusiasm kindled in his dark eyes as he knelt, and kissed the hand of the donor; then waving the banner on high, he exclaimed—"All that human efforts can achieve, will I do. My Liege, from your hands Alonso de Aguilar receives this pledge of royal favor, and he will not prove ungrateful for the noble distinction. Yes, I will punish these accursed infidels, and this sacred standard shall not be separated from me till it streams in triumph on the summit of the mountain. Noble warriors," he continued with a burst of exultation—"if this banner be lost, search for it in the midst of slaughtered Moors—there you will find it, dyed in the blood, but still in the grasp of Alonso de Aguilar."
As he uttered these words, he again raised the banner on high, and the surrounding chiefs sent forth, simultaneously, a shout of approbation. Isabella then motioning with her hand to command attention, again addressed the council.—"Listen further to our sovereign decree. From this time let no one of our subjects hold communion or any intercourse whatever with the rebels. The least infringement of this order shall be accounted treason, and the transgressor shall be dealt with according to the law. Let an edict be proclaimed, that no one may plead ignorance of its purport."
The chiefs now gradually withdrew; and Don Alonso having made his obeisance, was likewise about to retire, when his royal mistress detained him.—"Stay, Aguilar. It grieves me much that the marriage of thy daughter should be thus deferred, nay, perhaps set aside, by the unfortunate adventure of her lover with Don Rodrigo de Cespedes. How is the wounded man?"
"Most gracious Queen"—replied Don Alonso, "I have received intelligence that he is even now considered almost out of danger. The issue of a few days will determine, and then if the result be favorable, I may safely welcome the return of Don Lope Gomez Arias."
"As good a knight as Spain can boast"—returned the queen—"and possessed of those accomplishments which insure the favor of our sex. But I hear he has a failing, which, as a woman, I ought rather to call a grievous fault. I am told he is of a very fickle character. Is not your Leonor alarmed at the reported inconstancy of her future husband?"
"Is she not the child of Aguilar?"—proudly cried the warrior—"And where is the man that dared wrong one of that name?"
"Nay," replied Isabella, in the most condescending tone and manner, "I do not mean that Leonor will repent her choice when once made; she has attractions to fix the most volatile and inconstant of men; and I sincerely hope that Gomez Arias will have discernment sufficient to appreciate them."
"Don Lope is not so fickle as some have wished your Highness to believe," observed Don Alonso. "Moreover, I use no compulsion; they love each other well, and I only am concerned that their marriage should not be celebrated before I march against el Feri de Benastepar. In the face of danger I would then feel tranquil, from the consciousness that there was one to protect my child, should aught happen to her father in this hazardous expedition."
"The daughter of Don Alonso de Aguilar"—replied the queen—"can never need one to supply her father's place whilst Isabella lives. She shall remain constantly with me, and I shall be gratified to manifest by my attention and kindness to Leonor, the high estimation in which I hold her father. But how does it happen that you are not the Mantenedor of the lists in the games of to-morrow?"
"One more capable than myself has already assumed the charge. Besides, I can feel little interested with the display of a tournament, when we are shortly to meet the enemy in mortal encounter. These sports suit well with gay young cavaliers, but not with veterans like myself. Those gallant knights have admiring ladies to look upon their prowess, and reward their success. But my only ambition is to sustain the laurels earned in bloody fray against the enemy of my country,—to gain the approbation of that country, and the favor of its greatest ornament,—my noble sovereign."
The resolute and manly tone in which Don Alonso spoke, perfectly accorded with the frankness and generosity of his character. He bent his knee as he pressed to his lips the extended hand of his queen.
"And well hast thou deserved that favor," she exclaimed, "my best, and most faithful friend: thy country will pay with gratitude thy long proved services. Go; prosper in thy brilliant career!"
The remainder of the day was passed in preparations for the games of the morrow. Gallant knights were busily engaged in preparing their accoutrements, and examining their armour, whilst many a fair hand was as anxiously occupied in ornamenting the devices, and arranging the colours of the favored knight. The city was thronged with visitors, the inhabitants of the adjacent country having been attracted by the fame of the reported games, insomuch that Granada could not hold her numerous guests. For more accommodation, numerous temporary tents had been pitched along the smiling plain of the Vega. The voices of vacant joy and revelry were heard on all sides, and the warriors and irregular groups, moving along in all the recklessness of anticipated pleasure, presented a gay and lively picture.
Cada uno dellos mientes tiene al so, Abrazan los escudos delant los corazones: Abaxan las lauzas abueltas con los pendones; Enclinaban las caras sobre los arzones: Batien los cavallos con los espolones, Tembrar quierie la tierra dod eran movedores.
Poema del Cid.
The morning arrived, and the entrances to the lists were thronged by the inhabitants of Granada and their visitors; all anxious to witness a display which it was expected would surpass in magnificence any thing of the kind they had ever seen. A large piece of ground, perfectly level and free from impediment, had been appropriately chosen without the walls of the city, for the exhibition of the games of strength, valour, and skill, and a temporary gallery had been constructed, extending on either side to the extremity of the lists. At the end nearest the city, was erected a temporary wooden fortress, painted in imitation of stone-work, curiously fabricated, covered over with canvas, and capable of containing a number of men-at-arms. On the front turret of this castle streamed a large banner, on which was emblazoned a red cross decorated with gold, being the arms of the order of Calatrava, of which the Mantenedor was the grand master. Other smaller banners were placed around it, and they appertained to the four knights, who had volunteered to support the Mantenedor, and who, in conjunction with him, were bound to accept the challenge of all knights adventurers disposed to encounter them. On each side of the castle were two tents, before which were placed the pennon and shield of the knights to whom they belonged, and at the entrance stood a squire, ready to meet the demands of all comers.
Directly facing the castle, at the other extremity of the lists, was pitched a large and magnificent pavilion, ornamented with little pennons, and numberless armorial devices curiously interwoven with gold and silver thread on green silk brocade. Before it were artificially grouped swords, lances, shields, and every description of armour, emblematical of the intent to which the pavilion was appropriated, it being set apart for the use of those knights who were willing to enter the lists against the Mantenedor and his assistants. About the middle of the gallery on the right of the castle, a platform had been erected for the accommodation of the queen and her retinue. It was covered with scarlet cloth, and shaded by a rich canopy of purple brocade, on the top of which were seen the royal and united arms of Arragon and Castile shining in burnished gold. The whole of this platform was occupied by the maids of honour, and other principal ladies, as well as the noblemen and gentlemen of the court. In front of the place occupied by the queen, were stationed the umpires of the tournament, whose duty it was to decide the merits of the candidates, and award the prizes. Other places on either side of the throne were allotted to the various nobility and gentry of Granada, whilst the two extremities of this gallery and the whole of the other were assigned to the public, without any claim to precedence, but that of a priority of occupation.
And now the ponderous bells of the cathedral filled the air with their tolling; and immediately the bands of martial instruments within the lists, struck up a glorious and enlivening strain, in signal of the queen's approach.
At length she made her appearance, surrounded by a numerous suite, and heartily was she welcomed by the multitude, whose joy at the sight of their beloved sovereign was equal to the anticipated pleasure of the tournament.
Isabella was sumptuously attired in a rich dress of crimson velvet, ornamented with pearls. A delicate and costly scarf, of the finest lace, was attached to the back part of her head, and covered with its graceful folds her beautiful neck and shoulders. On this splendid scarf were wrought in gold thread, lions and castles, and other insignia of the arms of Spain. The queen wore likewise the crosses of the orders of Santiago and Calatrava, richly studded with diamonds and precious gems of immense value.
The lists now offered a most dazzling and noble spectacle. On one side was displayed all the splendour of the court, and the sparkling jewellery, the costly attire, and the waving plumes indicated the spot where the rank and beauty of Spain was assembled in all its glory and magnificence. Indeed towards this part of the lists the attention was more particularly directed, as in all courteous exhibitions of martial prowess, the interest is chiefly centered in those objects, to win whose smile lances are broken and helmets shivered.—Nor was the feeling of enthusiasm on beholding this scene lessened by the appearance of the opposite gallery, which, though more humble, nevertheless contributed, by the variety and gaiety of their costume, together with the cheerful animation expressed in their countenances, to the general effect of the picture. Then the proud display of all the panoplies of the court; the rich waving plumage of the crests; the lustre of the burnished shields and polished armour, together with the neighing of the spirited charger that caracolled the lists, and the warlike strains that at intervals floated on the air, powerfully tended to strike the imagination and inspire the heart to deeds of chivalry and arms.
A flourish of trumpets and clarions now indicated that the tournament was about to commence. In a few moments therefore the lists were cleared, with the exception of the heralds, who, gorgeously equipped in suits of crimson and gold, and attended by trumpeters, advanced to the four corners of the lists to proclaim the challenge. It was couched in the formula of chivalric language, which it would be superfluous here to transcribe. The meaning, however, was, that the Mantenedor and his supporters, Don Manuel Ponce de Leon, the Alcayde de los Donceles, Count Cifuentes, and Don Antonio de Leyva, invited all knights adventurers to break lances, if they were hardy enough to dispute their right to the lists. As soon as the challenge had been pronounced, the heralds retired to their posts; when the trumpets sounded again, the gates of the castle were thrown open, and the five challengers came forward.
Nothing could surpass the richness of their harness, the splendour of their armour, and the gallantry of their bearing. The grand master was attired in a costly suit of steel, the corslet of which was entirely burnished with silver, and the ornaments chased with the same precious metal. Over this he wore a short mantle of white velvet, which was the colour he had adopted. On his shield, upon a field argent, was portrayed the red cross of Calatrava, which he also bore on his breast, and which was surrounded with the following device—"Por esta y por mi Rey."
Don Manuel Ponce de Leon next fixed the attention of the spectators; his armour was the same as the Mantenedor's, excepting that the ropa which hung from his shoulder was crimson. On his ample buckler were emblazoned the bars of the arms of Arragon, granted to his warlike ancestors by the kings of that country; and likewise quartered thereon, was a lion rampant, in field argent, a device which, tradition says, was adopted by the famous Trojan, Hector, from whom the old French chroniclers assert the Ponces de Leon to be descended. Beneath the arms was legible in red letters the motto—"Soy como mi nombre."
The armour of the other knights was made to correspond with that of the Mantenedor, the only distinguishing mark being the colour of the ropas, and the different device which each bore upon his shield, either as indicative of his feelings, or from the armorial bearings of his family. The colour of the spirited chargers of these challengers was snow white. Nothing could exceed the beauty of their proportions and the splendour of their trappings. They beat the ground with short quick tramp, and shook the white foam from their mouths, as they fretted at the discipline by which their fiery ardour was restrained. They were caparisoned with long housings of costly brocade, and ornamented with gold or silver, according to the colour of the rider's dress, and their manes and tails were decorated with knots of gay ribbons.
The five challengers now advanced at a stately pace, till they arrived before the queen, when, with a graceful and simultaneous motion, they made their horses kneel down; and after saluting the courtly retinue with their lances, they caracolled round the lists, as if to reconnoitre their dominions. At last, after various martial evolutions, in which they were accompanied by the animating strains of the music, they proceeded to the middle of the lists—there they halted, and, throwing down their gauntlets, retreated to the castle in the same order in which they had advanced. The trumpets then sounded, and immediately there was a rush of gallant knights, who pricked into the lists, all eager to take up these tokens of defiance. So upon retiring, five of their number, who had succeeded in securing the gage, came forward from the pavilion. The champions wore fine Spanish shirts of mail, with a polished breast-plate inlaid with gold, and their pliant barbs of raven black, seemed to have been chosen to contrast with those of the challengers. The helmets of the knights were almost hidden in a shadowing plumage of white and red feathers. The chief of this gallant band declined giving his name, though he was known to his four companions, who pledged themselves for him. However, from the superior courage and address which the strange knight afterwards displayed, it was generally believed that he could be no other than the renowned Gonzalo de Cordova, who, from a pique in a momentary fit of passion, had withdrawn from court, and lost the friendship of the queen. The other four knights were easily distinguished by their devices and colours. Amongst them, the most conspicuous, appeared the young Don Pedro, son of Don Alonso de Aguilar. He carried himself with a bearing far superior to his years, and inspired a general interest, both on his own account and for that of his illustrious sire. On his shield he bore a golden eagle, emblematical of his name, flying towards heaven, and carrying in his claws a bleeding Moor. Underneath was the motto—
"Le subire hasta el cielo, Porque de mayor caida."
This shield belonged to Alonso de Aguilar himself, who was no less pleased than surprised that his son should have chosen such a device for the occasion. But every one applauded the young Don Pedro for that unconquerable hatred towards the enemies of his country, which he had inherited from his ancestors, and which engrossed their thoughts even in pastimes and games. By the side of Don Pedro, rode Garcilaso de la Vega, who was proud to bear the brazen shield which he had inherited from his father, and upon which was displayed the bleeding head of a Moor, hanging on a black charger's tail, and round which were the words—"Ave Maria"—a device which the Garcilasos wore in commemoration of the famous single combat which one of their house had sustained against the fierce Moor Audala, who, with impious insolence, had interwoven the sacred salutation to the virgin, in token of derision, in his horse's tail. The two other champions were the Count de Urena and young Sayavedra, both equally renowned in that age of chivalry, brave and gallant knights.
They now proceeded to the castle, and after the ceremony of striking twice the gong which was placed beside it, and selecting their tents, they again retreated. The five challengers next presented themselves, and a desperate encounter was anticipated. Indeed ten more valiant knights were scarcely to be found in all Spain, and their acknowledged skill promised a display of more than usual interest for the beholders.
At the signal given, they rushed impetuously forward, yet such was their perfection in horsemanship, and so well trained and disciplined were their chargers, that they all arrived at the middle of the lists at the same time, meeting in a shock, the abrupt and fearful clash of which seemed as if it had been the effect of a single but awful concussion. The lances were splintered to the very hilts, but the knights resumed their places amidst the loud applause of the multitude. Again they darted with the velocity of the wind, and again they met with the same precision, but not with the same success; for in this encounter the challengers were considered the victors—the two chiefs alone having sustained no injury—their lances broke as before, but they remained firm and erect in their saddle. Not so with the rest—for young Don Pedro was not able to withstand the superior force of Ponce de Leon's more manly age. Garcilaso was unhorsed by Don Antonio de Leyva, and the two others sustained great inconvenience from the Alcayde and Count Cifuentes.
The shouts of the spectators, and the flourish of instruments, proclaimed the victory of the Mantenedor and his supporters, who retired to the castle with their good fortune, ready to meet the demands of all other adventurers. The chief of the vanquished party who had so handsomely maintained his ground against the Maestre, now signified his intention of encountering that champion singly; but in this he was opposed by the marshals of the games, who declared that after the demand of his challenge had been acceded to, he could not, according to the rules, encounter again the same knight on that day. The matter was referred to the judges, who decided against the stranger chief, and he was accordingly obliged to desist from his purpose.
Great was the joy of the Mantenedor and his associates, who, having vanquished the most formidable knights, proudly imagined that all who might now appear, would afford an easy victory. Indeed this opinion seemed generally to prevail, as for some time no one shewed himself in the lists to dispute their supremacy.
Don Pedro, vexed at heart, now mounted a strong charger—rode up to the castle, and challenged the Mantenedor himself. Don Alonso de Aguilar saw the noble daring of his son at once with pleasure and dismay; for although he was overjoyed to perceive him possessed of such undaunted courage, he yet trembled for the consequences of his temerity.
The gong sounded twice—the Maestre appeared, and was struck at the presumption of the young adventurer.—They took their places—the trumpets gave the signal—forward the champions started, and at the first meeting displayed such an equality that the whole place rung with acclamations. Indeed this was the most important encounter, and every one waited its issue in breathless expectation—the ladies in particular, always interested where youth dares against manhood, waved their kerchiefs and scarfs to animate the young knight, whose heart in sooth needed no such stimulus. In the second encounter, however, he was not equally fortunate; for the Mantenedor, jealous of his fame, now risked against a youth, stood more on his guard, and summoned all his might and skill to his assistance.—Don Pedro was unable to withstand the shock; the lance flew unharmed from his grasp, and he was compelled to leave the field honorably, but still in possession of the challengers.
The castle now sent forth a blast of clarions, in sign of triumph and defiance, whilst at the pavilion, no knight evinced any desire of renewing the engagement. In this state of suspense, some time elapsed, and the heralds, according to form, proceeded to summon the knights adventurers, but no one appeared—again ten minutes elapsed, and a second summons was pronounced, but again it met with no answer. The triumph of the Mantenedor now seemed certain, and the heralds were about to utter the third and last proclamation, when, lo! a knight was seen riding at full speed towards the lists, and, after thundering at the barrier for admittance, without further ceremony, was directing his course to the castle, when his career was arrested by the marshals, as no one could pretend to enter the lists against the challengers, without previously delivering his name and titles, or at least presenting a known friend to vouch for his being a true and loyal knight.
The incognito knight was accordingly obliged to give way; but making a sign to the herald not to proceed to the third summons, he rode up to Don Pedro and, taking him aside, conferred with him in secret. Young Aguilar immediately advanced with visible surprise and pleasure, and pledged himself for his new companion. This circumstance, no less than the general appearance of the champion in question, commanded universal interest and attention. He was completely accoutred in a blue steel armour, over which he wore a short mantle of black velvet, sumptuously adorned with gold. On his burnished helmet he wore a profusion of white and sable feathers, and on his lance streamed a pennon of the same colours. His breast was covered with a ponderous shield, bearing no device, but the solitary motto—"Conocelle por sus fechos." The incognito knight brought with him neither squire nor page, and there was an air of mystery about his person that tended considerably to heighten the interest which his sudden appearance had already excited.
He now rushed impetuously towards the castle, when the charger seemed to be under no command, and the knight was apparently in peril of being dashed to pieces;—a simultaneous cry of terror burst from the surrounding multitude, when the incognito knight on the point of being hurled against the wall of the castle, and at the distance of scarcely two feet, suddenly reined up, and both he and his charger appeared rooted to the ground. A burst of admiration now superseded the terror which his precipitous career had occasioned, and every one was lost in conjectures relating to the incognito knight. The noble arrogance of the motto—"Conocelle por sus fechos," made them better appreciate the feat he had just performed. He advanced to the gong, and sounded a redoubled and protracted peal, and flourishing his lance in the face of the castle and tents, indicated his willingness to do battle with all. This daring act excited a second burst of applause, and the astonished challengers appeared at the castle in a mood of mixed perplexity and indignant pride. The incognito knight, however, vaulted on his charger, and then retreated to await the pleasure of the Mantenedor; who, according to rank, was the first to engage. The flourish of trumpets acted as a signal, and the champions rushed against each other at full speed; the shock was tremendous—the lances were shivered, and the powerful chargers staggered with the violent concussion. The champions taking new lances, prepared for a second encounter, when the horse of the Mantenedor, either from sudden fright or other cause, swerved in the middle of its career, and its master, being obliged to deviate from his intended aim, would have offered an easy victory to his antagonist. The knight, however, generously refused to take advantage of this accident, and, making a demi-volte, returned to await the Mantenedor's leisure. But the latter, overcome by the courteous behaviour of his adversary, declined a second encounter, and retired to the castle.
Don Manuel Ponce de Leon next advanced, happy in the opportunity which chance offered him of gathering the laurels, which his principal had forgone. This knight, in the opinion of many, was the most formidable of the five challengers—the repeated single combats in which he had engaged against the Moors, and other feats of arms, having won for him very great reputation. He came therefore into the lists, as if conscious of his powers, and fully confident of success. In the first shock, there was a slight advantage on his part, having succeeded in striking his lance so forcibly, and directly on the breast-plate of his adversary, that the incognito knight was observed somewhat to stagger; while Don Manuel remained immoveable as a rock—however, as no decided advantage could be claimed, the two champions prepared to renew the engagement. Again the swift-footed steeds fly over the lists, and again the combatants meet with a terrific clash. It proved unfortunate for Ponce de Leon, who was dealt such a severe blow, that had it not been for the extreme goodness of his armour, the queen would have lost one of her most gallant warriors. As it was, the saddle girths broke, and the horse, unable to withstand the shock, staggered backward—tottered, and rolled over, throwing his rider, with a tremendous fall, into the middle of the lists. Ponce de Leon with difficulty arose, having received a sore contusion, and was assisted back to the castle, from whence the Alcayde de los Donceles soon issued forth, intent upon revenging the disgrace of his companion. He offered, however, a faint resistance; for the incognito knight, at every encounter, appeared to acquire new strength. The opposition afforded by Count de Cifuentes was still weaker; the unfortunate knight being fairly unhorsed in such a manner, that he seemed for a moment to be carried on the point of his antagonist's lance to the ground. The shouts of the spectators, and the peal of instruments redoubled at every new proof of strength and skill thus manifested, and the triumph of the incognito knight was hailed as certain. He had now only to meet the youngest; and, to the opinion of all, the least renowned of the challengers. Young Don Antonio de Leyva, however, by the martial and undaunted manner in which he came forward, showed that he was in no ways intimidated by the repeated and extraordinary good fortune of the doughty champion.
The trumpets sounded—the lances are couched—the horses started—the silence is intense—when, with one fearful resounding clash, the knights meet—the charm is broken, and all is converted into an uproar of wonder and delight.—The champions, though so unequal in all appearances, now proved to be fairly matched—both lances descended from the air in splinters, and the tremendous shock which the combatants had sustained, appeared to produce no other effect than to check their steeds in their impetuous course. The knights soon recovered and regained their stations.—Again the signal is heard—and again they speed with the swiftness of the arrow—the lances break, and both the horses recede with the violent shock.—Surprise and delight agitate the bosom of the spectators.—Hope inspires the drooping spirits of the Mantenedor and those of the castle.—Disappointment and vexation rage in the heart of the incognito knight. He made a movement of impatient anger, as he grasped firmly the lance which was now presented to him, and poised it as if to ascertain its consistency; then, making a circuit with his steed, he appeared resolved to put a termination to the hopes of his adversary in the present encounter.—With a desperate start he rushed headlong against his opponent, who, aware of the furious attack he was about to sustain, collected all his might to meet it with a suitable resistance.—The incognito knight inclined himself more forward on his horse, and turned his aim full at the breast of his antagonist, while Don Antonio, who perceived his intention, resolved to direct his lance towards his adversary's head, which, though a difficult manoeuvre, would, if successful, insure the advantage.—The incognito knight, however, broke the tendency of the blow by suddenly inclining his head forward, while the anger that boiled within his bosom, so powerfully seconded his efforts, that the gallant Don Antonio fell, bearing, however, his adversary backwards on his seat, and carrying away, on the point of his lance, the plumage that adorned his casque.
The victory was now completed, and the whole place resounded with shouts of admiration. The incognito knight having thus vanquished the champions, for some time gallantly paraded the lists, making his obedient and tutored steed perform several graceful evolutions. Then suddenly advancing before the throne of the queen, he lowered the point of his lance and made his charger to kneel. Passing onwards to Leonor de Aguilar, he again made the graceful salute, whilst a shower of many-colored ribbons, white and highly-scented gloves, flowers, and other favors, fell profusely from fair hands—a due tribute to bravery and skill. Having performed this mark of courtesy, without waiting to receive the guerdon he had so well merited, he applied spurs to his horse and was soon lost to the sight of the delighted and admiring multitude.
The incognito knight became the subject of general speculation—he had overcome five champions to whom the court of Isabella could afford no equals—only one man perhaps might be capable of such valorous achievements, but he was now an exile whom the law pursued, and whose appearance in the lists would be attended with danger. Still the extraordinary prowess of the knight, and the circumstance of Don Pedro coming forward to answer for him when he entered the lists, left no room to doubt that he was that illustrious exile. Indeed the significant smile which the queen directed to Alonso de Aguilar, when the champion saluted his daughter, and the blush that mantled on the cheek of that lady implied a perfect recognition of her lover.
His absence from the lists gave the judges an opportunity of awarding the principal prize to Don Antonio de Leyva, by whom, according to their own, as well as the general opinion, it was more justly merited. The different bands now struck up a martial air; the queen departed with her numerous and splendid train, and every one retired from the lists, perfectly satisfied with the sports of the day, to spend the remainder of it in feasting and discussing the various merits of the knights who had afforded them so much pleasure.
Poi la Vittoria da quel canto stia, Che vorra la divina providenza: Il cavalier non havra colpa alcuna, Ma il tutto impulterassi a la fortuna.
The following morning shone equally bright as the preceding, and the expectations of the public were equally sanguine. The same pomp and ceremony presided in the court; the same precision and gallant deportment was observable in the knights, the heralds, and all other persons connected with the sports.
As these, however, as far as concerned the tournament, were but a repetition of the antecedent day, and more to be enjoyed by being an active witness than a passive reader of them, we will not dwell on the subject further than to observe, that those of the castle sustained the challenge most gallantly. Although many were the fresh arrivals of adventurers who fearlessly advanced to engage the Mantenedor and his comrades, none were sufficiently accomplished to bear away the palm. Indeed, the incognito knight, the most redoubtable of all the combatants, either from fear of discovery, or from some secret injunction, had abstained from making a second appearance in the lists.
The signal was now given, and the heralds proclaimed that the games of valour and strength were ended, and those of skill about to commence.
An interval of two hours was employed in clearing the lists, and preparing the ground for the juego de la sortija, which was peculiarly gratifying to the queen. This intermediate time was devoted by the assembled and motley crowd, to the rational, and provident purpose of a substantial repast.
A tall and slight pine tree, beautifully decorated with ribbons, was placed in the ground, and a gold ring of proportion suitable to the occasion, suspended on one of the projecting branches, under which the candidates were to pass at full career. The queen herself resolved to reward the victor with her own royal hand. Her portrait, superbly set in sparkling jewellery, and hanging on a ponderous gold chain of curious workmanship, was suspended by her side—a meet reward for the successful competitor. The nature of the guerdon, the quality of the bestower, and the circumstance that there was but one prize to be obtained, greatly stimulated the emulation of every knight to deserve an honor the more desirable from its admitting of no participation.
Chirimias, dulzainas, and other musical instruments which are now grown obsolete, but which in those days were in high request, now filled the air with harmony, while the attention of the gay and motley concourse was arrested by the sudden arrival of heralds on horseback, gorgeously apparelled, and preceded by black slaves playing on the cymbals. These paraded the lists for a short time, and then retiring to their posts, gave way to beautiful pages, mounted on elegant palfreys, and attired in costly silken dresses of light blue, bedizened with ribbons, and bearing a turban of crimson velvet with white feathers. These pages carried before them the light and slender lances appropriated for the games, and having deposited them near the queen, they retired and took their stations opposite to the troop of heralds and black musicians.
The attention of the public was then simultaneously attracted to the four corners of the lists, from whence four quadrilles of equestrians proceeded, all vieing with each other in the richness of their dresses, the splendor of ornaments, and the gaiety of their bearing. These quadrilles were distinguished by the different colours which they wore, and out of each were selected three champions to dispute the prize. At the signal given, they started severally according to the order of precedence, which had been obtained by casting lots, and in the first course seven candidates passed their lances clearly through the ring, carrying it along in their headlong career.
The music sounded a flourish, and the seven competitors underwent another trial, in which only two were successful—young Garcilaso, and Antonio de Leyva. The contest was now to be divided by the two, and pink and green were the colours that contended for the victory; accordingly their quadrilles, as well as the spectators of both sexes who had adopted those colours, awaited the result of the contest, with anxious suspense. Garcilaso now made a graceful curvet, and spring at once with the celerity of an arrow, in the middle of his precipitous career he extended his lance with perfect ease and dexterity, and again carried away the ring. Don Antonio next advanced; and having indulged for a short space in several feats of horsemanship, he sped towards the honored tree on which was suspended victory or defeat. His horsemanship was so perfect that, excepting the feather on his head which streamed before the wind, all appeared like the figure of a centaur, flying meteor-like along the plain. His lance, however, missed the middle of the ring, and touching one of its edges, such was the rapidity of Don Antonio's motion that the ring sprung high in the air, when the dexterous cavalier, to the admiration of the surrounding multitude, turned short, and before the ring had time to fall, he caught it fairly with his lance. This extraordinary feat excited universal applause, and some even vociferated that Don Antonio was deservedly entitled to the prize. However, as Garcilaso had likewise succeeded in carrying away the ring, the candidates were obliged to refer to another trial, which was decided in favor of young de Leyva, who was immediately escorted by the triumphant party to receive the reward amidst the exhilarating strains of the music, and the acclamation of the vast concourse.
As soon as the victorious cavalcade arrived near the queen, Don Antonio and the chief of the quadrille vaulted nimbly from their horses, when the conqueror knelt at the feet of his gracious sovereign, who, with a condescending smile, threw the portrait round his neck.
"Wear this," she then said, "in commemoration of thy skill, and the regard of Isabella. Remember that this gift is a gage of my royal word to accord to the bearer any boon he may have to demand. Upon the presentation of this token it shall be granted. My royal word is passed."
Don Antonio humbly kissed the hand of his queen, and mingling again with his party, they paraded the place in ceremonial triumph, previous to their departure. The feats of De Leyva, both in the tourney and the game of the ring, had secured for him the admiration of all the spectators, and more particularly amongst the fairer part. Many were the glances bestowed upon him by sparkling eyes and many a gentle bosom beat high with emotion as he inclined towards them his handsome figure in graceful salutations.—Even the proud Leonor could not entirely conceal the inward satisfaction she felt at the triumph of the young Don Antonio; for, notwithstanding her efforts, she could but ill disguise a latent feeling of interest and delight. Certainly it was not love; for, according to general opinion, she had irretrievably fixed her affections on another object. But yet she was in that state of mind which is more easily felt than described; a state too glowing to be called mere friendship—too cold to be denominated love; it was something between both—a tender sentiment of regard towards one whom she was taught to consider her inferior in point of rank and fortune.
Leonor de Aguilar had inherited from her warlike father that pride and loftiness of spirit which in some measure spurned the softer sensations of the heart. She scarcely believed in the existence of unbounded, unconquerable passion; her ideas were too much engrossed in the dazzling visions of glory and fame to descend to a minute analysis of the various gradations of tenderness, and the progressive workings of love.—She seemed to sympathize more with the lofty feelings of her father, than with those of her woman's heart. She had implicitly trusted to him the care of her happiness, and upon his slightest intimation she had consented to receive Gomez Arias as her future husband, and he had too many brilliant qualities not to meet with her approbation.
Gomez Arias possessed in an eminent degree great military talents, and an unbounded desire of glory and renown,—qualities which, in the opinion of Leonor, were paramount to every other consideration. Accordingly, she loved him, as she thought, in a manner worthy of the daughter of Don Alonso de Aguilar.
In this state of mind she awaited the marriage, which had only been retarded by the untoward accident which had unhappily brought the life of Don Rodrigo de Cespedes into mortal jeopardy.
Meantime the extraordinary valour and address which Gomez Arias had displayed in the tournament (for Leonor felt conscious that the incognito knight could be no other), tended considerably to increase her admiration for him, and to enhance her desire of uniting her fortunes to those of a man so well calculated to merit by his services the approbation of his country.
The games being over, various chiefs, such as the Alcayde de los Donceles, Count Cifuentes, and others of equal merit, departed with the forces under their command, to act against the rebels, now daily increasing both in number and strength.
Meantime Don Alonso de Aguilar, on whom devolved the most dangerous part of the enterprize, that of penetrating into the heart of those terrible mountains of the Alpujarras, felt scarcely satisfied with his detention at Granada, as he considered every moment spent in inactivity as lost to glory and renown.
Great, therefore, was his satisfaction when he communicated to his daughter the perfect recovery of Don Rodrigo de Cespedes. Nothing now could prevent the immediate appearance of Gomez Arias at Granada, for the celebration of the nuptials, or throw any impediment on Don Alonso's departure against the rebel Moors. Intelligence, therefore, was sent to Don Lope, who lay concealed at Guadix, that he might repair with the utmost expedition to Granada,—an invitation which Aguilar entertained no doubt would be most anxiously welcomed by that cavalier. Under this impression Don Alonso now turned his thoughts solely to the object that was ever in his mind, and engrossed his every sentiment. Two or three days more and he would be marching against the enemies of his country, and adding new laurels to the flourishing branches that already graced his glorious name.
Meantime his daughter Leonor evinced an equal anxiety for the return of her lover, not so much for any selfish gratification of feeling as for the more noble ambition of claiming the prerogative to call by the endearing names of father and husband, the two first warriors of the land.
Thus impressed, both father and daughter awaited with impatience the following day, which, beyond the possibility of doubt, was to bring Gomez Arias to the city.
Sterling. True, True; and since you only transfer from one girl to another, it is no more than transferring so much stock, you know.
Sir John. The very thing.
Sterling. Odso! I had quite forgot. We are reckoning without our host here.
"What is to be the wonder now?" asked Gomez Arias, as he observed his valet and confidant, Roque, approaching, with an unusual expression of gravity upon his countenance, such indeed as was seldom discernible in the features of the merry buffoon.
"What is it you want?"
"I wish to leave your service, Senor."
"Leave my service! Surely, Roque, you are not tired of so indulgent a master?"
"Yes, Sir," answered Roque, "I am; and what is more, I have been so these three years—may I speak out?"
"Why," said Don Lope, "you never till now asked leave to be impertinent—but let me hear your complaints."
"In the first place you are not rich—a grievous fault."
"How can I help that?" demanded Gomez Arias.
"Senor, you could have helped it once; but that is passed. Then you play——"
"Here's the devil preaching morality," exclaimed his master, with a laugh. "Oh! most conscientious Roque, what are thine objections to this amusement?"
"To the amusement in itself, none; I am only discontented with the consequences. If you gain, you very composedly enjoy the whole fruits of your success; if, on the contrary, you lose, I get more than a reasonable share of your ill-humours, with which you most liberally indulge me. Now, Don Lope, I should like fair play, if play you will; to feel a little more the effect of the first, and not quite so much of the second."
"Thou art a pleasant sort of a fool, Roque," said Gomez Arias, as he leisurely twirled round his curling jet-black mustachios, and with much complacency eyed his fine figure in a mirror.
"Thank you, Sir," replied the valet, with a low bow; "but be pleased to consider, that the good opinion you entertain of my talents is unfortunately no adequate compensation for the privations and numberless perils which I undergo in your service. To continue, then, the list of——"
"My faults!" interrupted his master.
"I only say of my complaints," returned the valet: "next to your being a gamester, what I most deprecate is, your military profession, and the fame which you have acquired by your bravery."
"Good heavens!" cried Gomez Arias, "why thou art precisely complaining of the qualities that most become a gentleman."
"But I am no gentleman," pertinently observed Roque; "and I cannot imagine why I should be exposed to the dangers attendant on heroes, without likewise reaping their rewards."
"I glory in being a soldier," exclaimed Don Lope, a sudden burst of martial enthusiasm glowing on his manly countenance.—"Yes, I have laid low many of the enemies of my country; and before I die I hope often to try my good sword against those accursed and rebellious Moors of the Alpujarras."
"All that is very fine, certainly," said Roque; "but do you know, Senor, that I do not consider the country so much indebted to you, as no doubt you most complacently imagine."
"What!" cried the cavalier, with looks of displeasure.
"Pray be temperate, Don Lope; I do not mean to offend. You have unquestionably done great services to Spain, by ridding her of many an unbelieving Moor; but reflect, Sir, that your sword has not been less fatal to Christian blood. In battle you hew down infidels to your soul's content, and in the intervals of peace, to keep you in practice, I suppose, you take no less care to send the bravest of her majesty's warriors to the grave. Now put this in the balance, and let us consider whether the country does not suffer more by your duels in peace, than she actually gains by your courage in war. But now comes the most terrible of all your peccadilloes—of all my complaints, I mean."
"And which is that, pray?"
"The invincible propensity you have for intrigue, and the no less unfortunate attendant upon it—inconstancy."
"Inconstancy!" exclaimed Gomez Arias. "How should it be otherwise? Inconstancy is the very soul of love."
"I will not attempt to argue that point with so great an adept; my remonstrances are merely limited to the results, and I can truly aver that my life in time of peace is, if possible, more miserable than in war; for what with carrying love-letters, bribing servants, attending serenades, watching the movements of venerable fathers, morose duennas, and fierce-looking brothers, I cannot enjoy a moment's rest."
"Why, 'tis true," said Don Lope, "my life is solely devoted to love and war."
"I rather think it a continual war," retorted the valet. "It may be much to your taste, Sir, but I, that am neither of so amorous a temperament, nor of so warlike a disposition, cannot enjoy the amusement so well. Instead of passing the nights quietly in bed, as good Christians should do, we employ them in parading the silent streets, putting in requisition all the established signals of love, and singing amorous songs to the tender cadences of the love-inspiring guitar. Even this I might endure with Christian resignation, were it not for the disagreeable results which generally terminate our laudable occupations. It often happens that whilst you are dying with love, and I with fear and apprehension, we meet with persons who unfortunately are not such decided amateurs of music. Some surly ill-disposed brother, or unsuccessful lover of the beauty, is invariably sure to come and disturb our harmony; then discord begins—swords are drawn—women scream—alguazils pounce upon us, and thus the sport goes on, till one of the galanes is dead or wounded, or till the alguazils are so strong as to render a prudent retreat advisable. Then by some ill fortune I am sure to be collared by the brother or the alguazils in question, and without further ceremony, by way of remunerating merit and encouraging a servant for faithfully serving his master, I am entertained with sundry hearty cudgellings, liberally bestowed on my miserable hide. When they have not left a single sound bone in my skin, they kindly permit me to go, telling me, for consolation, to thank my stars, and that another time I shall not escape so easily. With this pleasing assurance, I creep home as well as I can, and then my humane and grateful master, by way of sympathising with the misfortunes I suffer on his account, fiercely demands—'Roque! where have you been loitering, Sir?' Calls me a most negligent rascal, and other names equally gratifying, and upon the recital of my tragical adventure, very coolly, and as he thinks very justly, observes—'It serves you right—'tis all your fault—why did you not watch better?'"
"Roque," said Gomez Arias, "you have told me the same story over and over again, and I do not see the necessity of your repeating it now."
"I beg your pardon, Don Lope Gomez Arias," responded the valet, with most ludicrous solemnity, "but I am firmly resolved to quit your service in good earnest; for I perceive you are bent on getting into new difficulties, and I feel no inclination to go in search of fresh adventures. Lately you suddenly disappeared on some mysterious expedition, and I am sure you have been to Granada, to be a candidate in the tournament, notwithstanding the perilous nature of such an undertaking; for had you been discovered!——"
"Enough, Roque—that danger is past."
"Very well, Sir; but there are a thousand others that are not. Will you be pleased to reply to a few questions?"
Gomez Arias, to spare any superfluous expenditure of words, nodded assent.
"How long is it since we left Granada?"—asked the valet.
"Two months or so," replied his master.
"We quitted that city," proceeded Roque, "in consequence of the mortal wounds you inflicted on Don Rodrigo de Cespedes, your rival in the affections of Leonor de Aguilar."
"We sought a refuge here in Guadix, to lie concealed until the storm blow over."
"And you are now creditably employed in gaining the affections of a young and innocent girl, who knows no more of you than she does of his holiness the pope."
"I don't suppose you intend to marry both these ladies?"
"Then it puzzles me to decide how you can reconcile these matters; and as I foresee that mischief is likely to ensue, you must excuse me if I prudently think of withdrawing before the evil is unavoidable. If fortunately both or even one of your mistresses were a plebeian beauty, I might be persuaded to hush my apprehensions, but as it is I cannot; two ladies of rank are concerned."
Thus far had Roque proceeded in his eloquent and moral remonstrance, when Gomez Arias turned round, took up a cane that lay near him, and walking very deliberately to his valet with the most perfect composure—"Now, Roque," he said, "you must allow I have listened very attentively to your prosing. I have had quite enough of your nonsense for this morning, so I beg you to close your arguments, unless you really wish that I should honor them with a most unanswerable reply."
Here to illustrate his meaning, he very expressively shook the cane, and Roque as prudently retreated; for he knew his master strictly adhered to his word on occasions of this nature.
"With respect to your quitting my service," continued Don Lope, "I have no sort of objection, provided that when you part with me, you are likewise disposed to part with your ears, for I have taken such a fancy to you, my dear Roque, that I cannot possibly allow you to quit me, without leaving me behind a token of remembrance. And now," he added in a more serious tone, "withdraw immediately, and mind your business."
Roque made an humble bow and retired. Gomez Arias in this instance, as well as in many others, took advantage of that uncontrollable authority which strong minds generally assume over their inferiors. The valet had indeed resolved several times to leave his master, for it happened that this same Roque had no particular relish for canings, and other favors of the kind which were liberally administered to him, as a remuneration for his master's achievements. Moreover, he had the nicest sense of justice, and he could not but feel the shocking impropriety of accepting a reward that was unquestionably due to his superiors. Indeed, it is but fair to add, he never acquiesced in the obligation, until it was actually forced upon him.
Roque was moreover blessed with a conscience—that sort of prudential conscience which must be considered as a most valuable acquisition. He certainly was not so unreasonable as to expect a spirited nobleman to lead the life of a sequestered monk, nor could he object to his master's intrigues, but he nevertheless found it extremely objectionable that these should not be kept within the bounds of common prudence. Now, could Gomez Arias have limited his gallantries to the seduction of farmers' daughters, or debauching trademen's wives, Roque would most implicitly have approved of the practice, inasmuch as in this case, his master would only be asserting a sort of hereditary right attached to those of his class. But to be deceiving two ladies of distinction was really too much for the delicate feelings of the conscientious menial.
Again, Roque could not urge anything against the courage of his master; he only objected to the effects of its superabundance; for this superabundance, together with Don Lope's unusually amorous disposition, were constantly in opposition with the nicety of Roque's conscience, by reason of the difficulties they gave rise to, in the fulfilment of the natural law of self-preservation.
It is an averred fact that Roque never wilfully put himself in the way of infringing so rational a precept, and most fortunately he was endowed with a quality highly favorable to the observance thereof. A quality which other individuals not blessed with the same scruples, would denominate cowardice.
This is not all: the valet was far from being of a romantic turn of mind; he evinced no taste whatever for moonlit scenery, and nocturnal adventure; and he was vulgar enough to prefer the gross advantages of a sound slumber to all the sentimental beauties of the silvered moon and its appendages.
These considerations dwelt strongly on the mind of Roque, and he had accordingly several times resolved to quit his master, but such was the dominion which Gomez Arias held over him, that the valet's resolutions fell to the ground, whenever he attempted to put them in practice.
Ma chi'l vede e non l'ama? Ardito umano cor, nobil fierezza, Sublime ingegno—Ah! perche tal ti fero Natura e il cielo?
The bloom of op'ning flowers, unsullied beauty, Softness and sweetest innocence she wears, And looks like nature in the world's first spring.
Don Lope Gomez Arias was a man whose will had seldom been checked, and he placed the most unbounded confidence in the magnitude of his resources, physical and intellectual. Nature had indeed been lavished in conferring on this individual her choicest favors. To the most undaunted courage and quickness of resolve, he united the greatest powers of mind, and brilliancy of talent, but he was unfortunately divested of those genuine feelings of the heart, which alone can render these qualities desirable.
His courage, talents, and abilities, had rendered him an object of dread, not only to the enemies of his country, but to the rivals of his love or ambition. By the men he was generally disliked, feared or envied. Unfortunately the softer sex entertained for him far different sentiments.—Alas! they could not discover the void within his heart, through the dazzling splendour of his outward form, and habitual allurements of manner. Many had already been the victims of his seducing arts; were they to blame?—perhaps they were only to be pitied. He possessed every resource that professed libertines employ, to inveigle the affections of the innocent maiden, or attract the admiration of the more experienced woman. Besides his courage and resolution—qualities as much more prized by females, as they seldom fall to their share, Gomez Arias was engaging in his deportment and without any alloy of servility in his address; indeed he seemed rather to command attention, than to court it, and the general expression of his features was that of pride, tempered with the polish of gentlemanly bearing.
In his personal appearance he was remarkably handsome, being of tall and majestic stature, to which his finely turned limbs were in strict proportion. There was an intelligence in the piercing glance of his dark eye, and a smile of mixed gaiety and satire sat habitually upon his lip. To his other attractions he added a set of regular though somewhat large features, which were shaded by a profusion of black glossy curls, and the superb mustachios and pera that clothed his upper lip and chin.
Such was the principal hero of this tale. Spite of all the resources of his mind, Gomez Arias found himself at the present moment involved in deep perplexity, and much at a loss how to extricate himself therefrom. He had received a letter from Don Alonso de Aguilar, father of his future bride, announcing the perfect recovery of his rival, Don Rodrigo, and urging a speedy return to Granada. But, unluckily, Gomez Arias felt in no hurry to return. Certainly, Granada was at the time particularly interesting, and far preferable to Guadix. Again, the beauty of Leonor was unrivalled at court—a great consideration to Don Lope. She was rich and of the first rank—greater consideration still; and bearing in mind the influence that her father, the celebrated Aguilar, enjoyed with the queen, a marriage with his daughter would open the road to the highest preferment, and yet our hero felt loath to return to Granada. The blooming Theodora de Monteblanco was then the reigning idol of the moment. She had fixed for a time his errant heart, and it was now that Don Lope perceived the great inconveniency of the unity of man; and certainly a lover of his description ought to be duplex for the opportunity of satisfying both duty and inclination.
In this state of irresolution Gomez Arias remained for some time. His sacred engagement to Leonor, and the brilliant dreams of ambition that sported before his fancy, could not all chase away the image of Theodora; for in this lovely girl he found all the perfections of his former mistresses, with an absolute exemption from their foibles.
Theodora, at the tender age of seventeen, exhibited already the matured charms of a form voluptuously beautiful, blended with the delightful innocence of manner characteristic of that early stage of life, when the heart is yet unacquainted with guile, and unpractised in the deceits of the world. Her complexion was of a delicate white, without any other colour than that which occasionally mantled upon her cheek when called forth by the sensibility of her feelings, or diffused by the influence of some passing emotion. So lovely and yet so pensive was her countenance that but for the rapturous expression of her large dark eyes, partially revealed through their long silken fringes, and the profusion of sable ringlets which floated with unrestrained luxuriance over her exquisitely turned neck and shoulders, you might have thought that she had been a master-piece of some divine sculptor, who had successfully imitated, in the purest alabaster, the fairest work of nature.
Theodora loved Gomez Arias with all the enthusiasm of a romantic girl's first love. She felt the most ardent attachment, and could not,—would not conceal it from the object of her adoration. She loved him with the genuine simplicity of a heart incapable of deceit; and, unpractised in the school of worldly prudence, unacquainted with the arts to which more experienced women resort for the purpose of enhancing their own charms, or fixing more firmly the affections of men, she had surrendered her whole soul to her lover with the most confiding innocence, and an implicit reliance on his unbounded return to her tenderness.
This complete devotedness flattered the vanity of Gomez Arias. He beheld an angelic girl who centered all her happiness in his love, and in the ardour of her feelings was incapable of admitting the least alloy of cold calculating precaution. He was charmed with a character cast in the mould of nature, untutored yet by art, and, as amongst his former mistresses he had never met with one so entirely devoted, he returned her love with the warmest admiration.
Gomez Arias was fondly indulging in these pleasing reveries, when his man, Roque, suddenly burst upon him with a look full of information.
"Well, Sirrah!" cried Don Lope, "what means this intrusion?—Do you still stick to the wise determination of quitting my service? Are you willing to comply with the conditions?"
"No, Senor," answered Roque, with conscious importance; "I come loaded with fresh proofs of my inclination to serve you."
"Upon my honor," exclaimed Gomez Arias, "thou art marvellously complaisant, friend—thou hast seen the duenna, I suppose?"
"Yes, Sir, and I have seen some one else, besides."
"Let us hear first of the duenna."
"We must go to night—her master is engaged with a guest from Granada. I saw them leave the house myself."
Gomez Arias lost no time in preparing for the interview; and as night was now coming on, he girded on his sword, and, flinging his cloak carelessly round him, sallied out accompanied by his valet, on his nocturnal expedition.
"Art thou sure, good Roque," he demanded, "that you really saw the old gentleman leave his mansion?"
"Quite sure, Don Lope—my eyes seldom deceive me; indeed I feel perfectly satisfied with their capability. Never was there a more trusty pair, in descrying afar off a father, or brother, or any other kind of unwelcome intruder upon moonlight meetings. Argus, they say, had a hundred eyes, and yet was found at fault, whereas I have only two and——"
"They are sometimes as watchful," interrupted Don Lope.
"Seldom," replied Roque—"and when they unfortunately deceive me, I sorely feel for the deception. I am a man of very tender feelings."
"Argus," observed his master, "was punished for his negligence, and it is meet thou shouldst experience the same treatment, under similar circumstances."
"Aye," quoth Roque, "he was changed into a peacock—I wonder into what animal I shall be changed, since this sort of transformation is the retribution attendant on negligent scouts—I think the character of a jackal would suit me best, for I certainly lead the lion to his prey. But now, Sir, leaving jesting aside, I have a little piece of serious information for your ear. Do you know whom I saw in close converse with Don Manuel de Monteblanco when he left his house?"
"No, nor do I care."
"Don't you, indeed?—Well, it is very fortunate, for it happened to be no other than your rival, Don Rodrigo."
"Now, Roque," cried his master jocosely, "here's a convincing proof of the failure of thy boasted eye-sight."
"Why I really thought so at first myself, and I made the sign of the cross accordingly, but I soon perceived it was no delusion. Now it would be pleasant, should this same Don Rodrigo come upon an expedition similar to yours—it would seem as tho' the man was born on purpose to thwart you."
"Well," returned Gomez Arias, with a smile—"and it would seem also that I am born to chastise his insolence."
To this, Roque made some foolish reply; for in his capacity of gracioso, he freely availed himself of the privilege allowed him of giving utterance to every thing that came into his head, whether to the purpose or not.
They proceeded with hasty steps towards the mansion of Monteblanco;—already they reach the spot, and the moon that sheds a partial gleam over yonder reja, developes to the sight the outline of a female form. Gomez Arias approaches, and his penetrating glance discerns through the darkness the figure of his Theodora—her face is decked in placid smiles, and her frame evinces the soft flutterings of an anxious heart. The bolt of the entrance gently creeks, and the harsh sound thrills like the strain of heavenly music to the lover's throbbing breast—the door opens at length, and a comely matron far stricken in years welcomes the cavalier. Don Lope is not backward in his advances; a smile of grateful recognition plays upon his lip. He then seizes the good duenna's hand, and presses it in kind acknowledgment.
The trusty Martha showed in her dress and manner, all the outward signs of her state and condition. An imperturbable gravity sat upon those harsh features which were never known to relax into a smile, and in whose expression predominated a mixture of religious asperity and pride, vainly disguised under the cloak of humility. However, Martha was far from practising the rigid austerities her whole appearance seemed to indicate. She only assumed this outward demeanor, in the same manner that a dastard mimics courage, the better to conceal his cowardice.
Martha was dressed in an ample habit of black woollen cloth, girded her waist with the band of a monkish order, to which was suspended a rosary of huge black counters. A cap of the whitest linen adorned her head, and in all the rigour of female modesty, every part of her neck up to the chin was carefully concealed by a kerchief of the same material.
Gomez Arias rushes forwards, and the next moment finds him at the feet of his mistress. Theodora is happy in the Elysium of love; a thousand tender emotions swell that fond bosom, where an ardent flame burns under the cover of pure snow.—As she gazes on Gomez Arias her melting eye is lighted up with unusual fire, and her whole frame appears gently agitated with a delicious tremor. The smile that quivers on her lip feelingly responds to the ardent glance of her passionate admirer, and the sudden rush of crimson that overspreads her lily cheek bespeaks the thrilling transports of genuine love in the first stages of youthful innocence and delight. Don Lope takes her soft yielding hand, and tenderly presses it to his bosom, he gazes fervently on her countenance; in sweet intoxication he inhales her youthful breath. Caressingly his arm encircles her sylphic waist. She gently inclines her head towards him, and both seemed overshadowed by the long beautiful tresses which float in wild luxuriance. From Don Lope's flashing eye the innocent Theodora drinks large draughts of sweet but deadly poison; a tear of tenderness starts to overwhelm her eye and falls on the lover's hand; a deep sigh escapes her bosom, and they meet in a fervent embrace. Happy!—thrice happy moments!—dear to the genuine sensibility of humanity, dearly cherished and oft alas! but too dearly purchased! Few words the lovers spoke, for when the heart is replete with rapture, there is an eloquence in silence far above the cold trammels of language. Gomez Arias forgot the dream of future ambition in the reality of present bliss. He was loved, loved passionately by one who was the most perfect pattern of innocence and beauty; loved more than he thought it was in the nature of woman to love. Hope assured its brightest colours, and Don Lope anticipated all the transports of delight possible for man to enjoy. He was supremely happy in expectation; for the expectation of bliss is perhaps even more gratifying than the reality. Thus the rose in its opening bloom, is sweeter than when its charms are expanded to the sight, for the hour of maturity is but the signal of decay. Alas! we eagerly follow the sparkling joy, snatch it with enthusiasm, and it withers in the grasp!
Time sped; yet the lovers still remained as if entranced in a delightful reverie of love, in the mutual interchange of soft sighs and eloquent glances, when suddenly the door burst open, and Roque rushed in with visible emotion. The faithful Argus came to announce the near approach of Monteblanco and his guest, Don Rodrigo. Gomez Arias, however, could not believe the danger to be so imminent, making due allowance for the valet's timorous disposition; but the good duenna, who had been unpleasantly disturbed at her devotions, now came forward to confirm the fearful intelligence.
Though these unpleasant interruptions are far from being of novel occurrence in the annals of love, and though Gomez Arias was familiarized with their danger, yet when he looked on the duenna's countenance, that faithful thermometer of intrigue, he could not but perceive the impending storm to be more than usually alarming. Deeper wrinkles furrowed her sallow visage; her eye was haggard, and the rosary shook in her withered hand.
"Holy Virgin! I am lost," exclaimed the affrighted dame. "Ah! Don Lope, this comes of my tender-hearted, complying disposition; there's my reputation sullied with a stain that not all the holy water in Spain will be able to wash away!"
"But, surely," observed Gomez Arias, "the danger is not so imminent as to preclude my escape."
"Escape!" quoth the duenna; "it is impossible; they are at this moment on the stairs."
"Villain!" cried Don Lope, turning fiercely to Roque, "is this the way you do your duty?"
Roque very prudently kept aloof from the contact of his master's hand; and, as if anticipating an explosion, began to stammer forth his excuses. Theodora's countenance was suddenly overspread with a deadly paleness, and the timid girl wrung her hands in an attitude of despair. Her critical situation, and the duenna's alarm, at first staggered Gomez Arias, but with the start of resolution which immediate danger inspires, he assumed a mastery over his emotion, and instantly bethought himself of an expedient to ward off the threatened discovery.
"If Don Rodrigo arrives with Monteblanco," said he, "we are safe; we shall have nothing to fear."
"Nothing to fear!" echoed Roque. "Methinks the danger is doubled when a man has two enemies to encounter, instead of one."
"Silence, fool!" cried his master. "Martha, be calm; affect not to know me; make free use of the organ with which nature has so liberally endowed you, and do not spare your reproaches and abuse. Theodora, keep up your spirits. Roque, be silent, you rascal."
The door opens—Monteblanco and Don Rodrigo enter, but are fixed to the ground in mute amazement at the group that presents itself to their view. The duenna had summoned the courage of despair, and was overwhelming Gomez Arias with a torrent of abuse. Theodora had receded from the light to hide her emotion from her father's sight, which fortunately was so impaired with age, as not to afford any material impediment to her concealment. Roque assumed an air of saucy assurance, and his master appeared leaning against the wall with the most perfect coolness and self-possession. Don Manuel and his guest stared at the intruders for some time, before either attempted to speak, till at length Don Rodrigo broke silence, with an ejaculation of surprise.
"Don Lope Gomez Arias!" exclaimed the astonished cavalier.
"Don Lope Gomez Arias!" re-echoed Monteblanco. "It is your rival, then.—What is the meaning of this, Martha?"
"Your honor may ask the gentleman himself," responded the duenna; "I know nothing of him, but that he is the most daring and impertinent man"—(Martha indulged in the privilege granted her by Don Lope); "the most unceremonious, head-strong, self-sufficient cavalier I ever met with—Virgen Santa!—What a disturbance he has raised in the house. Then there's that most impudent rascal of a valet; he is the principal cause of the commotion, and I humbly crave and hope your honor will give him ample reason to repent his impudence."
"Repent my impudence!" quoth Roque, "thou accursed bruja; it would be more meritorious to chop off thy slanderous tongue!"
Here the duenna proceeded to pour forth a fresh volley of words, without any positive explanation, as is generally the practice when people are anxious to gain time, and collect their senses.
"Peace, woman!" interrupted Gomez Arias, in the middle of her harangue; "this disturbance, as you term it, is of your own doing; had you behaved with more courtesy to a stranger, you might have saved the impropriety my valet has been guilty of towards you; an impropriety for which he shall most assuredly suffer in due time."—Here he cast a terrible look on the astonished Roque, who perfectly well knew he was doomed to suffer for his master's vagaries; and that the failure of his adventures must recoil invariably on his unfortunate head. Yet he looked sorely puzzled how to find out the nature of the impropriety he had committed against the superannuated dame who dealt him such abundance of vilipendiary epithets.