Historical Tales - The Romance of Reality - Volume VII
by Charles Morris
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Historical Tales - The Romance of Reality

By Charles Morris

Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the Dramatists," etc.

in fifteen volumes

Volume VII

London George Bell and Sons


Copyright 1898, by J. B. Lippincott Company.

Copyright 1904, by J. B. Lippincott Company.

Copyright 1908, by J. B. Lippincott Company.






Long had the Goths been lords of Spain. Chief after chief had they chosen, king after king had they served; and, though it was young in time, Gothic Spain was growing old in years. It reached its golden age in the time of "Good King Wamba," a king of fancy as much as of fact, under whom Spain became a land of Arcady, everybody was happy, all things prospered, and the tide of evil events for a space ceased to flow.

In those days, when a king died and left no son, the Goths elected a new one, seeking their best and worthiest, and holding the election in the place where the old king had passed away. It was in the little village of Gerticos, some eight miles from the city of Valladolid, that King Recesuinto had sought health and found death. Hither came the electors,—the great nobles, the bishops, and the generals,—and here they debated who should be king, finally settling on a venerable Goth named Wamba, the one man of note in all the kingdom who throughout his life had declined to accept rank and station.

The story goes that their choice was aided by miracle. In those days miracles were "as plentiful as blackberries," but many of these seem to have been what we may speak of as "miracles made to order," designed by shrewd individuals to gain some personal or other advantage. St. Leo is said to have told the electors to seek a husbandman named Wamba, whose lands lay somewhere in the west, asserting that he did this under direction of the heavenly powers. However that be, scouts were sent through the land in search of Wamba, whom they found at length in his fields, driving his plough through the soil and asking for no higher lot. He was like Cincinnatus, the famous Roman, who was called from the plough to the sceptre.

"Leave your plough in the furrow," they said to him; "nobler work awaits you. You have been elected king of Spain."

"There is no nobler work," answered Wamba. "Seek elsewhere your monarch. I prefer to rule over my fields."

The astonished heralds knew not what to make of this. To them the man who would not be king must be a saint—or an idiot. They reasoned, begged, implored, until Wamba, anxious to get rid of them, said,—

"I will accept the crown when the dry rod in my hand grows green again,—and not till then."

The good old husbandman fancied that he had fairly settled the question, but miracle defeated his purpose. To his utter surprise and their deep astonishment the dry stick which he thrust into the ground at once became a green plant, fresh leaves breaking out on its upper end. What was the old man fond of his plough to do in such a case? He had appealed to Heaven, and here was Heaven's reply. He went with the heralds to the electoral congress, but there, in spite of the green branch, he again refused to be king. He knew what it meant to try and govern men like those around him, and preferred not to undertake the task. But one of the chiefs sprang up, drew his sword, and advanced to the old man.

"If you are still obstinate in refusing the position we offer you," he sternly said, "you shall lose your head as well as your crown."

His fierce eyes and brandished sword gave weight to his words, and Wamba, concluding that he would rather be a king than a corpse, accepted the trust. He was then escorted by the council and the army to Toledo, feeling more like a captive than a monarch. There he was anointed and crowned, and, from being lord of his fields, the wise old husbandman became king of Spain.

Such a king as Wamba proved to be the Goths had never known. Age had brought him wisdom, but it had not robbed him of energy. He knew what he had to expect and showed himself master of the situation. Revolts broke out, conspiracies threatened the throne, but one after another he put them down. Yet he was as merciful as he was prompt. His enemies were set free and bidden to behave themselves better in the future. One ambitious noble named Paul, who thought it would be an easy thing to take the throne from an old man who had shown so plainly that he did not want it, rose in rebellion. He soon learned his mistake. Wamba met him in battle, routed his army, and took him prisoner. Paul expected nothing less than to have his head stricken off, but Wamba simply ordered that it should be shaved.

To shave the crown of the head in those days was no trifling matter. It formed what is known as the tonsure, then the mark of the monastic orders. A man condemned to the tonsure could not serve as king or chieftain, but must spend the remainder of his days in seclusion as a monk. So Paul was disposed of without losing his life.

Wamba, however, did not spend all his time in fighting with conspirators. He was so just a king that all the historians praise him to the stars,—though none of them tell us what just deeds he did. He was one of those famous monarchs around whom legend loves to grow, as the green leaves grew around his dry rod, and who become kings of fancy in the absence of facts. About all we know is that he was "Good King Wamba," a just and merciful man under whom Spain reached its age of gold.

He made a great and beautiful city of Toledo, his capital. It had a wall, but he gave it another, stronger and loftier. And within the city he built a noble palace and other splendid buildings, all of which time has swept away. But over the great gate of Toledo the inscription still remains: Erexit fautore Deo Rex inclytus urbem Wamba. "To God and King Wamba the city owes its walls."

Alas! the end was what might be expected of such goodness in so evil an age. A traitor arose among those he most favored. There was a youth named Ervigio, in whose veins ran the blood of former kings, and whom Wamba so loved and honored as to raise him to great authority in the kingdom. Ervigio was one of those who must be king or slave. Ambition made him forget all favors, and he determined to cast his royal benefactor from the throne. But he was not base enough to murder the good old man to whom he owed his greatness. It was enough if he could make him incapable of reigning,—as Wamba had done with Paul.

To accomplish this he gave the king a sleeping potion, and while he was under its influence had him tonsured,—that is, had the crown of his head shaved. He then proclaimed that this had been done at the wish of the king, who was weary of the throne. But whether or not, the law was strict. No matter how or why it was done, no man who had received the tonsure could ever again sit upon the Gothic throne. Fortunately for Ervigio, Wamba cared no more for the crown now than he had done at first, and when he came back to his senses he made little question of the base trick of his favorite, but cheerfully enough became a monk. The remaining seven years of his life he passed happily in withdrawal from a world into which he had been forced against his will.

But the people loved him, the good old man, and were not willing to accept the scheming Ervigio as their king unless he could prove his right to the throne. So, in the year 681, he called together a council of lords and bishops at Toledo, before whom he appeared with a great show of humility, bringing testimony to prove that Wamba had become monk at his own wish, when in peril of death. To this he added a document signed by Wamba, in which he abdicated the throne, and another in which he recommended Ervigio as his successor. For eight days the council considered the question. The documents might be false, but Wamba was a monk, and Ervigio was in power; so they chose him as king. The holy oil of consecration was poured upon his unholy head.

Thus it was that Wamba the husbandman first became king and afterwards monk. In all his stations—farmer, king, and monk—he acquitted himself well and worthily, and his name has come down to us from the mists of time as one of those rare men of whom we know little, but all that little good.


History wears a double face,—one face fancy, the other fact. The worst of it is that we cannot always tell which face is turned towards us, and we mistake one for the other far oftener than we know. In truth, fancy works in among the facts of the most sober history, while in that primitive form of history known as legend or tradition fancy has much the best of it, though it may often be founded upon fact. In the present tale we have to do with legend pure and simple, with hardly a thread of fact to give substance to its web.

There was a certain Grecian king of Cadiz whose daughter was of such peerless beauty that her hand was sought in marriage by many of the other kings of Andalusia. In those days "that country was ruled by several kings, each having estates not extending over more than one or two cities." What to do with the crowd of suitors the father was puzzled to decide. Had a single one asked for his daughter's hand he might have settled it with a word, but among so many, equally brave, handsome, and distinguished, answer was not so easy; and the worthy king of Cadiz was sorely troubled and perplexed.

Luckily for him, the fair damsel was as wise as she was beautiful, and took the matter into her own hands, making an announcement that quickly cut down the number of her admirers. She said that she would have no husband but one who could prove himself "a wise king." In our days, when every king and nearly every man thinks himself wise, such a decision would not have deterred suitors, and she would have been compelled, in the end, to choose among the few unwise. But wisdom, in those times of fable and necromancy, had a wider meaning than we give it. A wise king was one who had control of the powers of earth and air, who could call the genii to his aid by incantations, and perform supernatural deeds. Hence it was that the suitors fell off from the maiden like leaves from an autumn bough, leaving but two who deemed themselves fitting aspirants to her hand.

To test the wisdom of these two she gave them the following tasks: One was bidden to construct on the mainland an aqueduct and a water-wheel to bring water from the mountains into Cadiz. The other was to produce a talisman which should save the island of Cadiz from invasion by Berbers or any other of the fierce tribes of Africa, by whom it was frequently threatened.

"The one of you," said the princess, "who first and best performs his task, shall win my hand by his work."

The two suitors were warmly in love with the beautiful maiden, and both ardently entered upon their duties. The first to get to work was the aqueduct builder, whose task called for hard labor rather than magical aid. Cadiz stands on a long, narrow peninsula, opposite which, on the mainland, the king built a hydraulic machine, to which the water was brought by pipes or canals from springs in a nearby mountain. This stream of cool, refreshing water poured upon a wheel, by which it was driven into an aqueduct crossing the bay into Cadiz.

Here comes the fact behind the legend. Such an aqueduct stood long in evidence, and as late as the eighteenth century traces of it could be seen. We have an account of it by the Arab writer, Al Makkari. "It consisted," he says, "of a long line of arches, and the way it was done was this: whenever they came to high ground or to a mountain they cut a passage through it; when the ground was lower, they built a bridge over arches; if they met with a porous soil, they laid a bed of gravel for the passage of the water; when the building reached the sea-shore, the water was made to pass underground, and in this way it reached Cadiz." So it was built, and "wise" was the king who built it, even if he did not call upon the genii for assistance.

The other king could not perform his labor so simply. He had a talisman to construct, so powerful that it would keep out of Spain those fierce African tribes whose boats swept the seas. What talisman could he produce that would be proof against ships and swords? The king thought much and deeply, and then went diligently to work. On the border of the strait that lay between Spain and Africa he built a lofty marble column, a square, white shaft based on a solid foundation. On its summit he erected a colossal statue of iron and copper, melted and cast into the human form. The figure was that of a Berber, like whom it wore a full and flowing beard, while a tuft of hair hung over its forehead in Berber fashion. The dress was that of the African tribes. The extended right arm of the figure pointed across the strait towards the opposite shores. In its hand were a padlock and keys. Though it spoke not, it seemed to say, "No one must pass this way." It bore the aspect of a Berber captive, chained to the tower's top, and warning his brethren to keep away from Spain.

Rapidly wrought the rival kings, each seeking to finish his work the first. In this the aqueduct builder succeeded. The water began to flow, the wheel to revolve, and the refreshing liquid to pour into the public fountains of Cadiz. The multitude were overjoyed as the glad torrent flowed into their streets, and hailed with loud acclamations the successful builder.

The sound of the people's shouts of joy reached the ears of the statue builder as he was putting the last touches to his great work of art and magic. Despair filled his heart. Despite his labors, his rival had won the prize. In bitterness of spirit he threw himself from the top of the column and was dashed to pieces at its foot. "By which means," says the chronicle, "the other prince, freed from his rival, became the master of the lady, of the wheel, and of the charm."

The talisman was really a watch-tower, from which the news of an African invasion could be signalled through the land. In this cold age we can give its builder credit for no higher magic than that of wisdom and vigilance.


Near the city of Toledo, the capital of Spain when that country was a kingdom of the Goths, was a great palace of the olden time, or, as some say, a vast cave, which had been deepened and widened and made into many rooms. Still others say that it was a mighty tower, built by Hercules. Whatever it was,—palace, tower, or cavern,—a spell lay upon it from far past days, which none had dared to break. There was an ancient prophecy that Spain would in time be invaded by barbarians from Africa, and to prevent this a wise king, who knew the arts of magic, had placed a secret talisman in one of the rooms. While this remained undisturbed the country was safe from invasion. If once the secret of the talisman should be divulged, swift ruin would descend upon the kingdom of the Goths. It must be guarded strongly and well, for in it lay the destinies of Spain.

A huge iron gate closed the entrance to the enchanted palace, and upon this each king of the Goths, on coming to the throne, placed a strong lock, so that in time huge padlocks covered much of its front and its secrecy seemed amply assured. When Roderic, the last king of the Goths, came to the throne, twenty-seven of such locks hung upon the gate. As for the keys, some writers tell us that they remained in the locks, others say that they had been hidden and lost; but it is certain that no one had dared to open a single one of the locks; prudence and fear guarded the secret better than gates and locks.

At length the time came when the cherished secret was to be divulged. Don Roderic, who had seized the throne by violence, and bore in his heart the fatal bane of curiosity, determined to learn what had lain for centuries behind those locks. The whole affair, he declared, was the jest of an ancient king, which did very well when superstition ruled the world, but which was far behind the age in which he lived. Two things moved the epoch-breaking king,—curiosity, that vice which has led thousands to ruin, and avarice, which has brought destruction upon thousands more. "It is a treasure-house, not a talisman," he told himself. "Gold, silver, and jewels lie hidden in its mouldy depths. My treasury is empty, and I should be a fool to let a cluster of rusty locks keep me from filling it from this ancient store."

When it became known what Roderic proposed a shudder of horror ran through the land. Nobles and bishops hastened to the audience chamber and sought to hinder the fateful purpose of the rash monarch. Their hearts were filled with dread of the perils that would follow any meddling with the magic spell, and they earnestly implored him not to bring the foretold disaster upon the land.

"The kings who reigned before you have religiously obeyed the injunction," they said. "Each of them has fixed his lock to the gate. It will be wise and prudent in you to follow their example. If it is gold and jewels you look for, tell us how much you think the cavern holds, even all your fancy hopes to find, and so much we will give you. Even if it beggars us, we will collect and bring you this sum without fail. We pray and implore you, then, do not break a custom which our old kings have all held sacred. They knew well what they did when they commanded that none after them should seek to disclose the fatal secret of the hidden chamber."

Earnest as was their appeal, it was wasted upon Roderic. Their offer of gold did not reach his deepest motive; curiosity with him was stronger than greed, and he laughed in his beard at the fears and tremblings of his lords.

"It shall not be said that Don Roderic, the king of the Goths, fears the devil or his agents," he loudly declared, and orders were given that the locks should be forced.

One by one the rusty safeguards yielded to key or sledge, and the gates shrieked disapproval when at length they reluctantly turned on their stiff hinges, that had not moved for centuries. Into the cavern strode the king, followed by his fearful but curious train. The rooms, as tradition had said, were many, and from room to room he hurried with rapid feet. He sought in vain. No gold appeared, no jewels glittered on his sight. The rooms were drear and empty, their hollow floors mocking his footsteps with long-silent echoes. One treasure only he found, the jewelled table of Solomon, a famous ancient work of art which had long remained hidden from human sight. Of this wonderful relic we shall say no more here, for it has a history of its own, to be told in a future tale.

On and on went the disappointed king, with nothing to satisfy his avarice or his curiosity. At length he entered the chamber of the spell, the magic room which had so long been locked from human vision, and looked with eyes of wonder on the secret which had been so carefully preserved.

What he saw was simple but threatening. On the wall of the room was a rude painting, which represented a group of strangely dressed horsemen, some wearing turbans, some bareheaded, with locks of coarse black hair hanging over their foreheads. The skins of animals covered their limbs; they carried scimitars and lances and bore fluttering pennons; their horses were small, but of purest breed.

Turning in doubt and dread from this enigmatical drawing, the daring intruder saw in the centre of the apartment a pedestal bearing a marble urn, in which lay a scroll of parchment. From this one of his scribes read the following words:

"Whenever this asylum is violated and the spell contained in this urn broken, the people shown in the picture shall invade the land and overturn the throne of its kings. The rule of the Goths shall end and the whole country fall into the hands of heathen strangers."

King Roderic looked again with eyes of alarm on the pictured forms. Well he knew their meaning. The turban-wearers were Arabians, their horses the famous steeds of the desert; the bare-headed barbarians were Berbers or Moors. Already they threatened the land from Africa's shores; he had broken the spell which held them back; the time for the fulfilment of the prophecy was at hand.

Filled with sudden terror, the rash invader hurried from the chamber of the talisman, his courtiers flying with wild haste to the open air. The brazen gates were closed with a clang which rang dismally through the empty rooms, and the lock of the king was fixed upon them. But it was too late. The voice of destiny had spoken and the fate of the kingdom been revealed, and all the people looked upon Don Roderic as a doomed man.

We have given this legend in its mildest form. Some Arab writers surround it with magical incidents until it becomes a tale worthy of the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments." They speak of two ancient men with snowy beards who kept the keys of the gate and opened the locks only at Roderic's stern command. When the locks were removed no one could stir the gates until the hand of the king touched them, when they sprang open of themselves. Inside stood a huge bronze giant with a club of steel, with which he dealt resounding blows on the floor to right and left. He desisted at the king's command, and the train entered unharmed. In the magic chamber they found a golden casket containing a linen cloth between tablets of brass. On this were painted figures of Arabs in armor. As they gazed these began to move, sounds of war were heard, and the vision of a battle between Arab and Christian warriors passed before the affrighted eyes of the intruders. The Christian army was defeated, and Roderic saw the image of himself in flight, and finally of his horse without a rider. As he rushed in terror from the fatal room the bronze giant was no longer to be seen and the ancient guardians of the gate lay dead upon their posts. In the end the tower was burned by magic fire, and its very ashes were scattered by the wings of an innumerable flight of birds.


The legends just given are full of the pith of facts. Dread of Africa lay deep in the Spanish heart and gave point to these and other magical and romantic tales. The story of how the great conqueror, Mohammed, had come out from the deserts of Arabia and sent his generals, sword and Koran in hand, to conquer the world, had spread far to the east and the west, and brought terror wherever it came. From Arabia the Moslem hordes had swept through Egypt and along the African coast to the extremity of Morocco. They now faced Spain and coveted that rich and populous land. Well might the degenerate sons of the Goths fear their coming and strive to keep them out with talismans and spells.

Years before, in the days of good King Wamba, a great Mohammedan fleet had ravaged the Andalusian coast. Others came, not for conquest, but for spoil. But at length all North Africa lay under the Moslem yoke, and Musa Ibn Nasseyr, the conqueror of the African tribes, cast eyes of greed upon Spain and laid plans for the subjugation to Arab rule of that far-spreading Christian land.

Africa, he was told, was rich, but Spain was richer. Its soil was as fertile as that of Syria, its climate as mild and sweet as that of Araby the Blest. The far-famed mines of distant Cathay did not equal it in wealth of minerals and gems; nowhere else were such harbors, nowhere such highlands and plains. The mountain-ranges, beautiful to see, enclosed valleys of inexhaustible fertility. It was a land "plentiful in waters, renowned for their sweetness and clearness,"—Andalusia's noble streams. Famous monuments graced its towns: the statue of Hercules at Cadiz, the idol of Galicia, the stately ruins of Merida and Tarragona. It was a realm the conquest of which would bring wealth and fame,—great glory to the sons of Allah and great treasure to the successors of the Prophet. Musa determined upon its invasion.

A traitor came to his aid. Count Julian was governor of Ceuta, a Spanish city on the African coast. His daughter Florinda was maid of honor to the queen of Don Roderic. But word from the daughter came to the father that she had suffered grievous injury at the hands of the king, and Count Julian, thirsting for revenge upon Roderic, offered to deliver Ceuta into the hands of the Arabian warrior and aid him in the conquest of Spain. To test the good faith of Julian, Musa demanded that he should first invade Andalusia himself. This he did, taking over a small force in two vessels, overrunning the coast country, killing many of its people, and returning with a large booty in slaves and plunder.

In the summer of 710 a Berber named Tarif was sent over to spy out the land, and in the spring of 711 the army of invasion was led over by Tarik Ibn Zeyad, a valiant chief, who had gained great glory in the wars with the Berber tribes. Who Tarik was cannot be told. He was of humble origin, probably of Persian birth, but possessed of a daring spirit that was to bring him the highest fame. He is described as a tall man, with red hair and a white complexion, blind of one eye, and with a mole on his hand. The Spanish historians call him Tarik el Tuerto, meaning either "one-eyed" or "squint-eyed." Such was the man whom Musa sent to begin the conquest of Spain.

The army of invasion consisted of seven thousand men,—a handful to conquer a kingdom. They were nearly all Moorish and Berber cavalry, there being only three hundred Arabians of pure blood, most of whom were officers. Landing in Spain, for a time they found no one to meet them. Roderic was busy with his army in the north and knew naught of this invasion of his kingdom, and for two months Tarik ravaged the land at his will. But at length the Gothic king, warned of his danger, began a hasty march southward, sending orders in advance to levy troops in all parts of the kingdom, the rallying place being Cordova.

It was a large army which he thus got together, but they were ill-trained, ill-disciplined, and ill-disposed to their king. Ninety thousand there were, as Arab historians tell us, while Tarik had but twelve thousand, Musa having sent him five thousand more. But the large army was a mob, half-armed, and lacking courage and discipline; the small army was a compact and valorous body, used to victory, fearless, and impetuous.

It was on Sunday, the 19th of July, 711, that the two armies came face to face on the banks of the Guadalete, a river whose waters traverse the plain of Sidonia, in which the battle was fought. It was one of the decisive battles in the world's history, for it gave the peninsula of Spain for eight centuries to Arab dominion. The story of how this battle was fought is, therefore, among the most important of the historical tales of Spain.

Roderic's army consisted of two bodies of men,—a smaller force of cavaliers, clad in mail armor and armed with swords and battle-axes, and the main body, which was a motley crew, without armor, and carrying bows, lances, axes, clubs, scythes, and slings. Of the Moslem army the greater number wore mail, some carrying lances and scimitars of Damascus steel, others being armed with light long-bows. Their horses were Arabian or Barbary steeds, such as Roderic had seen on the walls of the secret chamber.

It was in the early morning of a bright spring day that the Spanish clarions sounded defiance to the enemy, and the Moorish horns and kettle-drums rang back the challenge to battle. Nearer and nearer together came the hosts, the shouts of the Goths met by the shrill lelies of the Moslems.

"By the faith of the Messiah," Roderic is reported to have said, "these are the very men I saw painted on the walls of the chamber of the spell at Toledo." From that moment, say the chroniclers, "fear entered his heart." And yet the story goes that he fought long and well and showed no signs of fear.

On his journey to the south Roderic had travelled in a chariot of ivory, lined with cloth of gold, and drawn by three white mules harnessed abreast. On the silken awning of the chariot pearls, rubies, and other rich jewels were profusely sprinkled. He sat with a crown of gold on his head, and was dressed in a robe made of strings of pearls interwoven with silk. This splendor of display, however, was not empty ostentation, but the state and dignity which was customary with the Gothic kings.

In his chariot of ivory Roderic passed through the ranks, exhorting the men to valor, and telling them that the enemy was a low rabble of heathens, abhorred of God and men. "Remember," he said, "the valor of your ancestors and the holy Christian faith, for whose defence we are fighting." Then he sprang from his chariot, put on his horned helmet, mounted his war-horse Orelia, and took his station in the field, prepared to fight like a soldier and a king.

For two days the battle consisted of a series of skirmishes. At the end of that time the Christians had the advantage. Their numbers had told, and new courage came to their hearts. Tarik saw that defeat would be his lot if this continued, and on the morning of the third day he made a fiery appeal to his men, rousing their fanaticism and picturing the treasures and delights which victory would bring them. He ended with his war-cry of "Guala! Guala! Follow me, my warriors! I shall not stop until I reach the tyrant in the midst of his steel-clad warriors, and either kill him or he kill me!"

At the head of his men the dusky one-eyed warrior rushed with fiery energy upon the Gothic lines, cleaving his way through the ranks towards a general whose rich armor seemed to him that of the king. His impetuous charge carried him deep into their midst. The seeming king was before him. One blow and he fell dead; while the Moslems, crying that the king of the Goths was killed, followed their leader with resistless ardor into the hostile ranks. The Christians heard and believed the story, and lost heart as their enemy gained new energy.

At this critical moment, as we are told, Bishop Oppas, brother-in-law of the traitor Julian, drew off and joined the Moslem ranks. Whether this was the case or not, the charge of Tarik led the way to victory. He had pierced the Christian centre. The wings gave way before the onset of his chiefs. Resistance was at an end. In utter panic the soldiers flung away their arms and took to flight, heedless of the stores and treasures of their camp, thinking of nothing but safety, flying in all directions through the country, while the Moslems, following on their flying steeds, cut them down without mercy.

Roderic, the king, had disappeared. If slain in the battle, his body was never found. Wounded and despairing, he may have been slain in flight or been drowned in the stream. It was afterwards said that his war-horse, its golden saddle rich with rubies, was found riderless beside the stream, and that near by lay a royal crown and mantle, and a sandal embroidered with pearls and emeralds. But all we can safely say is that Roderic had vanished, his army was dispersed, and Spain was the prize of Tarik and the Moors, for resistance was quickly at an end, and they went on from victory to victory until the country was nearly all in their hands.


We have told how King Roderic, when he invaded the enchanted palace of Toledo, found in its empty chambers a single treasure,—the famous table of Solomon. But this was a treasure worth a king's ransom, a marvellous talisman, so splendid, so beautiful, so brilliant that the chroniclers can scarce find words fitly to describe its richness and value. Some say that it was made of pure gold, richly inlaid with precious stones. Others say that it was a mosaic of gold and silver, burnished yellow and gleaming white, ornamented with three rows of priceless jewels, one being of large pearls, one of costly rubies, and a third of gleaming emeralds. Other writers say that its top was made of a single emerald, a talisman revealing the fates in its lucid depths. Most writers say that it stood upon three hundred and sixty-five feet, each made of a single emerald, though still another writer declares that it had not a foot to stand upon.

Evidently none of these worthy chroniclers had seen the jewelled table except in the eye of fancy, which gave it what shape and form best fitted its far-famed splendor. They varied equally in their history of the talisman. A mildly drawn story says that it first came from Jerusalem to Rome, that it fell into the hands of the Goths when they sacked the city of the Caesars, and that some of them brought it into Spain. But there was a story more in accordance with the Arabian love of the marvellous which stated that the table was the work of the Djinn, or Genii, the mighty spirits of the air, whom the wise king Solomon had subdued and who obeyed his commands. After Solomon's time it was kept among the holy treasures of the temple, and became one of the richest spoils of the Romans when they captured and sacked Jerusalem. It afterwards became the prize of a king of Spain, perhaps in the way stated above.

Thus fancy has adorned the rich and beautiful work of art which Don Roderic is said to have found in the enchanted palace, and which he placed as the noblest of the treasures of Spain in the splendid church of Toledo, the Gothic capital. This city fell into the hands of Tarik el Tuerto in his conquering progress through the realm of Spain, and the emerald table, whose fame had reached the shores of Africa, was sought by him far and near.

It had disappeared from the church, perhaps carried off by the bishop in his flight. But fast as the fugitives fled, faster rode the Arab horsemen on their track, one swift troop riding to Medina Celi, on the high road to Saragossa. On this route they came to a city named by them Medinatu-l-Mayidah (city of the table), in which they found the famous talisman. They brought it to Tarik as one of the choicest spoils of Spain.

Its later history is as curious and much more authentic than its earlier. Tarik, as we have told in the previous tale, had been sent to Andalusia by Musa, the caliph's viceroy in Africa, simply that he might gain a footing in the land, whose conquest Musa reserved for himself. But the impetuous Tarik was not to be restrained. No sooner was Roderic slain and his army dispersed than the Arab cavaliers spread far and wide through Spain, city after city falling into their hands, until it seemed as if nothing would be left for Musa to conquer.

This state of affairs was far from agreeable to the jealous and ambitious viceroy. He sent messengers to the caliph at Damascus, in which he claimed the conquest of Spain as his own, and barely mentioned the name of the real conqueror. He severely blamed Tarik for presuming to conquer a kingdom without direct orders, and, gathering an army, he crossed to Spain, that he might rightfully claim a share in the glory of the conquest.

Tarik was not ignorant of what Musa had done. He expected to be called sharply to account by his jealous superior, and knew well that his brilliant deeds had been overlooked in the viceroy's despatches to Damascus, then the capital of the Arab empire. The daring soldier was therefore full of joy when the table of Solomon fell into his hands. He hoped to win favor from Al-Walid, the caliph, by presenting him this splendid prize. Yet how was he to accomplish this? Would not Musa, who was well aware of the existence and value of the table, claim it as his own and send it to Al-Walid with the false story that he had won it by the power of his arms?

To defeat this probable act Tarik devised a shrewd stratagem. The table, as has been stated, was abundantly provided with feet, but of these four were larger than the rest. One of the latter Tarik took off and concealed, to be used in the future if what he feared should come to pass.

As it proved, he had not misjudged his jealous lord. In due time Musa came to Toledo and rode in state through the gate-way of that city, Tarik following like a humble servitor in his train. As soon as he reached the palace he haughtily demanded a strict account of the spoils. These were at hand, and were at once delivered up. Their number and value should have satisfied his avarice, but the wonderful table of Solomon, of which he had heard such marvellous accounts, was not among them, and he demanded that this, too, should be brought forward. As Tarik had foreseen, he designed to send it to the caliph, as an acceptable present and an evidence of his victorious career.

The table was produced, and Musa gazed upon it with eyes of delight. His quick glance, however, soon discovered that one of the emerald feet was missing.

"It is imperfect," he said. "Where is the missing foot?"

"That I cannot tell you," replied Tarik; "you have the table as it was brought to me."

Musa, accepting this answer without suspicion, gave orders that the lost foot should be replaced with one of gold. Then, after thanking the other leading officers for their zeal and valor, he turned upon Tarik and accused him in severe tones of disobedience. He ended by depriving him of his command and putting him under arrest, while he sent the caliph a report in which Tarik was sharply blamed and the merit of his exploits made light of. He would have gone farther and put him to death, but this he dared not do without the caliph's orders.

As it proved, Al-Walid, the Commander of the Faithful, knew something of the truth. Far distant as Damascus was from Toledo, a report of Tarik's exploits had reached his august ears, and Musa received orders to replace him in his command, since it would not do "to render useless one of the best swords of Islam." Musa dared not disobey; and thus, for the time being, Tarik triumphed.

And now, for the end of the trouble between Musa and Tarik, we must go forward in time. They were left in Spain until they had completed the conquest of that kingdom, then both were ordered to appear before the caliph's judgment seat. This they did in different methods. Tarik, who had no thirst for spoil, made haste, with empty hands, to Damascus, where, though he had no rich presents for the commander of the faithful, he delighted him with the story of his brilliant deeds. Musa came more slowly and with more ostentation. Leaving his sons in command in Spain and Africa, he journeyed slowly to Syria, with all the display of a triumphal march. With him were one hundred of his principal officers, as many sons of the highest Berber chiefs, and the kings of the Balearic Islands in all their barbaric state. In his train rode four hundred captive nobles, each wearing a crown and girdle of gold, and thirty thousand captives of lower rank. At intervals in the train were camels and wagons, richly laden with gold, jewels, and other spoils. He brought to the East the novelties of the West, hawks, mules, and Barbary horses, and the curious fruits of Africa and Spain, "treasures," we are told, "the like of which no hearer ever heard of before, and no beholder ever saw before his eyes."

Thus the proud conqueror came, by slow marches, with frequent halts. He left Spain in August, 713. It was February, 715, when he reached the vicinity of Damascus, having spent a year and a half on the way.

Meanwhile, changes had taken place in Syria. Al-Walid, the caliph, was sick unto death, suffering from a mortal disease, Soliman, his brother and heir, wrote to Musa when at Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, asking him to halt there, as his brother could live but a few days. He, as the new caliph, would receive him. Al-Walid in turn ordered him to hasten his march. Musa was in a quandary. If Al-Walid should live, delay might be fatal. If he should die, haste might be fatal. He took what seemed to him the safest course, hastened to Damascus, and met with a brilliant reception. But a change soon came; in forty days Al-Walid died; Soliman, whom he had disobeyed, was caliph of the empire. Musa's sun was near its setting.

It was not long before the conqueror found himself treated as a criminal. He was charged with rapacity, injustice to Tarik, and the purpose of throwing all power into the hands of his sons. He was even accused of "disobedience" for making a triumphal entry into Damascus before the death of Al-Walid. These and other charges were brought, Soliman being bent on the ruin of the man who had added Africa to the Arabian empire.

When Musa was brought before the caliph for a final hearing Tarik and many other soldiers from Spain were present, and there stood before the monarch's throne the splendid table of Solomon, one of the presents which Musa had made to Al-Walid, declaring it to be the most magnificent of all the prizes of his valor.

"Tell me," said the caliph to Tarik, "if you know whence this table came."

"It was found by me," answered Tarik. "If you would have evidence of the truth of my words, O caliph, have it examined and see if it be perfect."

Soliman gave orders, the table was closely examined, and it was soon discovered that one of its emerald feet was gone and that a foot of gold occupied its place.

"Ask Musa," said Tarik, "if this was the condition of the table when he found it."

"Yes," answered Musa, "it was as you see it now."

Tarik answered by taking from under his mantle the foot of emerald which he had removed, and which just matched the others.

"You may learn now," he said to the caliph, "which of us is the truth-teller. Here is the lost leg of the table. I found the table and kept this for evidence. It is the same with most of the treasures Musa has shown you. It was I who won them and captured the cities in which they were found. Ask any of these soldiers if I speak the truth or not."

These words were ruinous to Musa. The table had revenged its finder. If Musa had lied in this case, he had lied in all. So held the angry caliph, who turned upon him with bitter abuse, calling him thief and liar, and swearing by Allah that he would crucify him. In the end he ordered the old man, fourscore years of age, corpulent and asthmatic, to be exposed to the fierce sun of Syria for a whole summer's day, and bade his brother Omar to see that the cruel sentence was executed.

Until high noon had passed the old warrior stood under the scorching solar rays, his blood at length seeming to boil in his veins, while he sank suffocated to the earth. Death would soon have ended his suffering had not Omar, declaring "that he had never passed a worse day in his life," prevailed upon the caliph to abridge his punishment.

Bent upon his utter ruin, the vindictive Soliman laid upon him the enormous fine of four million and thirty thousand dinars, equal to about ten million dollars. His sons were left in power in Spain that they might aid him in paying the fine. Great as the sum was, Musa, by giving up his own fortune, by the aid of his sons in Africa and Spain, and by assistance from his friends, succeeded in obtaining it. But even this did not satisfy the caliph, who now banished him to his birthplace, that his early friends might see and despise him in his ruin. He even determined to destroy his sons, that the whole family might be rooted out and none be left in whose veins the blood of Musa ran.

The ablest of these sons, Abdul-Aziz, had been left in chief command over Spain. Thither the caliph sent orders for his death. Much as the young ruler was esteemed, wisely as he had ruled, no one thought of questioning an order of the Commander of the Faithful, the mighty autocrat of the great Arabian empire, and the innocent Abdul was assassinated by some who had been among his chief friends. His head was then cut off, embalmed, and sent to Soliman, before whom it was laid, enclosed in a casket of precious wood.

Sending for Musa, the vindictive caliph had the casket opened in his presence, saying, as the death-like features appeared, "Do you know whose head that is?"

The answer of Musa was a pathetic one. Never was there a Moslem, he said, who less deserved such a fate; never a man of milder heart, braver soul, or more pious and obedient disposition. In the end the poor old man broke down, and he could only murmur,—

"Grant me his head, O Commander of the Faithful, that I may shut the lids of his eyes."

"Thou mayest take it," was Soliman's reply.

And so Musa left the caliph's presence, heart-broken and disconsolate. It is said that before he died he was forced to beg his bread. Of Tarik we hear no more. He had fully repaid Musa for his injustice, but the caliph, who perhaps feared to let any one become too great, failed to restore him to his command, and he disappeared from history. The cruel Soliman lived only a year after the death of the victim of his rage. He died in 717, of remorse for his injustice to Musa, say some, but the record of history is that he was defeated before Constantinople and died of grief.

Thus ends our story of the table of Solomon. It brought good to none who had to do with it, and utter disaster to him who had made it an agent of falsehood and avarice. Injustice cannot hope to hide itself behind a talisman.


When Roderic overthrew the ancient dynasty of Spain and made himself king, he had the defences of the cities thrown down that they might not give shelter to his enemies. Only the walls of the frontier cities were left, and among these was the ancient city of Denia, on the Mediterranean shores. Dread of the Moorish pirates was felt in this stronghold, and a strong castle was built on a high rock that overlooked the sea. To the old alcaide who served as governor of Denia word was brought, at the end of a day of fierce tempest, that a Moorish ship was approaching the shore. Instantly the bells were rung to rouse the people, and signal fires were kindled on the tower that they might flash from peak to peak the news of an invasion by the Moors.

But as the ship came closer it was seen that alarm had been taken too soon. The vessel was alone and had evidently been in the grip of the tempest. It was seen to be a bark rich in carving and gilding, adorned with silken banderoles, and driven through the water by banks of crimson oars; a vessel of state and ceremony, not a ship of war. As it came nearer it was perceived to have suffered severely in the ruthless grasp of the storm. Broken were its masts and shattered its oars, while there fluttered in the wind the torn remnants of its banners and sails. When at length it grounded on the sands below the castle the proud bark was little better than a shattered wreck.

It was with deep curiosity that the Spaniards saw on the deck of the stranded bark a group of high-born Moors, men and maidens dressed in robes of silk rich with jewels, and their features bearing the stamp of lofty rank. In their midst stood a young lady of striking beauty, sumptuously attired, and evidently of the highest station, for all paid her reverence, and a guard of armed Moors stood around her, scimitar in hand.

On landing, a venerable Moor approached the alcaide, who had descended to meet the strangers, and said, in such words of the Gothic language as he could command,—

"Worthy sir, we beg your protection and compassion. The princess under our care is the only daughter of the king of Algiers, on her way to the court of the king of Tunis, to whom she is betrothed. The tempest has driven us to your shores. Be not, we implore you, more cruel than the storm, which has spared us and our precious charge."

The alcaide returned a courteous answer, offering the princess and her train the shelter of the castle, but saying that he had not the power to release them. They must hold themselves the captives of Roderic, the king of the Goths, to whom his duty required him to send them. The fate of a royal captive, he said, could be decided only by the royal voice.

Some days afterwards Elyata, the Moorish princess, entered Toledo in a procession more like that of a triumphant heroine than of a captive. A band of Christian horsemen preceded the train. The Moorish guard, richly attired, followed. In the midst rode the princess, surrounded by her maidens and dressed in her bridal robes, which were resplendent with pearls, diamonds, and other gems. Roderic advanced in state from his palace to receive her, and was so struck with her beauty and dignity of aspect that at first sight warm emotions filled his heart.

Elyata was sadly downcast at her captivity, but Roderic, though not releasing her, did all he could to make her lot a pleasant one. A royal palace was set aside for her residence, in whose spacious apartments and charming groves and gardens the grief of the princess gradually softened and passed away. Roderic, moved by a growing passion, frequently visited her, and in time soft sentiments woke in her heart for the handsome and courteous king. When, in the end, he begged her to become his bride her blushes and soft looks spoke consent.

One thing was wanting. Roderic's bride should be a Christian. Taught the doctrines of the new faith by learned bishops, Elyata's consent to the change of faith was easily won, and the princess was baptized as a Christian maiden under the new name of Exilona. The marriage was celebrated with the greatest magnificence, and was followed by tourneys and banquets and all the gayeties of the time. Some of the companions of the princess accepted the new faith and remained with her. Those who clung to their old belief were sent back to Africa with rich presents from the king, an embassy going with them to inform the monarch of Algiers of his daughter's marriage, and to offer him the alliance and friendship of Roderic the Gothic king.


Queen Exilona passed a happy life as the bride of the Gothic monarch, but many were the vicissitudes which lay before her, for the Arab conquest was near at hand and its effects could not but bear heavily upon her destiny. After the defeat and death of Roderic a considerable number of noble Goths sought shelter in the city of Merida, among them the widowed queen. Thither came Musa with a large army and besieged the city. It was strongly and bravely defended, and the gallant garrison only yielded when famine came to the aid of their foes.

A deputation from the city sought the Arab camp and was conducted to the splendid pavilion of Musa, whom the deputies found to be an old man with long white beard and streaming white hair. He received them kindly, praised them for their valor, and offered them favorable terms. They returned the next day to complete the conditions. On this day the Mohammedan fast of Ramadhan ended, and the Arabs, who had worn their meanest garb, were now in their richest attire, and joy had everywhere succeeded penitent gloom. As for Musa, he seemed transformed. The meanly dressed and hoary ancient of the previous visit now appeared a man in the prime of life, his beard dark-red in hue, and his robes rich with gold and jewels. The Goths, to whom the art of dyeing the hair was unknown, looked on the transformation as a miracle.

"We have seen," they said on their return, "their king, who was an old man, become a young one. We have to do with a nation of prophets who can change their appearance at will and transform themselves into any shape they like. Our advice is that we should grant Musa his demands, for men like these we cannot resist."

The stratagem of the Arab was successful, the gates were opened, and Merida became a captive city. The people were left their private wealth and were free to come and go as they would, with the exception of some of their noblest, who were to be held as hostages. Among these was the widowed Queen Exilona.

She was still young and beautiful. By paying tribute she was allowed to live unmolested, and in this way she passed to the second phase of her romantic career. Arab fancy has surrounded her history with many surprising incidents, and Lope de Vega, the Spanish dramatist, has made her the heroine of a romantic play, but her actual history is so full of interest that we need not draw contributions from fable or invention.

When Musa went to Syria at the command of the caliph he left his son Abdul-Aziz as emir or governor of Spain. The new emir was a young, handsome, and gallant man. He had won fame in Africa, and gained new repute for wisdom and courage in Spain. The Moorish princess who had become a Gothic queen was now a hostage in his hands, and her charms moved his susceptible heart. His persuasive tongue and attractive person were not without their effect upon the fair captive, who a second time lost her heart to her captor, and agreed once more to become a bride. Her first husband had been the king of Gothic Spain. Her second was the ruler of Moorish Spain. She declined to yield her Christian creed, but she became his wife and the queen of his heart, called by him Ummi-Assam, a name of endearment common in Arab households.

Exilona was ambitious, and sought to induce her new husband to assume the style of a king. She made him a crown of gold and precious stones which her soft persuasion induced him to wear. She bowed in his presence as if to a royal potentate, and to oblige the nobles to do the same she induced him to have the door-way of his audience chamber made so low that no one could enter it without making an involuntary bow. She even tried to convert him to Christianity, and built a low door to her oratory, so that any one entering would seem to bow to the cross.

These arts of the queen proved fatal to the prince whom she desired to exalt, for this and other stories were told to the caliph, who was seeking some excuse to proceed against the sons of Musa, whose ruin he had sworn. It was told him that Abdul-Aziz was seeking to make Spain independent and was bowing before strange gods. Soliman asked no more, but sent the order for his death.

It was to friends of the emir that the fatal mandate was sent. They loved the mild Abdul, but they were true sons of Islam, and did not dare to question the order of the Commander of the Faithful. The emir was then at a villa near Seville, whither he was accustomed to withdraw from the cares of state to the society of his beloved wife. Near by he had built a mosque, and here, on the morning of his death, he entered and began to read the Koran.

A noise at the door disturbed him, and in a moment a throng burst into the building. At their head was Habib, his trusted friend, who rushed upon him and struck him with a dagger. The emir was unhurt, and sought to escape, but the others were quickly upon him, and in a moment his body was rent with dagger strokes and he had fallen dead. His head was at once cut off, embalmed, and sent to the caliph. The cruel use made of it we have told.

A wild commotion followed when the people learned of this murder, but it was soon quelled. The power of the caliph was yet too strong to be questioned, even in far-off Spain. What became of Exilona we do not know. Some say that she was slain with her husband; some that she survived him and died in privacy. However it be, her life was one of singular romance.

As for the kindly and unfortunate emir, his memory was long fondly cherished in Spain, and his name still exists in the title of a valley in the suburbs of Antequera, which was named Abdelaxis in his honor.


No sooner had Tarik defeated the Christian army on the fatal field of Sidonia than he sent out detachments of horsemen in all directions, hoping to win the leading cities of Spain before the people should recover from their terror. One of these detachments, composed of seven hundred horse, was sent against Cordova, an ancient city which was to become the capital of Moslem Spain. This force was led by a brave soldier named Magued, a Roman or Greek by birth, who had been taken prisoner when a child and reared in the Arab faith. He now ranked next to Tarik in the arts and stratagems of war, and as a horseman and warrior was the model and admiration of his followers.

Among the Christian leaders who had fled from the field of the Guadalete was an old and valiant Gothic noble, Pelistes by name, who had fought in the battle front until his son sank in death and most of his followers had fallen around him. Then, with the small band left him, he rode in all haste to Cordova, which he hoped to hold as a stronghold of the Goths. But he found himself almost alone in the town, most of whose inhabitants had fled with their valuables, so that, including the invalids and old soldiers found there, he had but four hundred men with whom to defend the city.

A river ran south of the city and formed one of its defences. To its banks came Magued,—led, say some of the chronicles, by the traitor, Count Julian,—and encamped in a forest of pines. He sent heralds to the town, demanding its surrender, and threatening its defenders with death if they resisted. But Pelistes defied him to do his worst.

What Magued might have found difficult to do by force he accomplished by stratagem. A shepherd whom he had captured told him of the weakness of the garrison, and acquainted him with a method by which the city might be entered. Forcing the rustic to act as guide, Magued crossed the river on a stormy night, swimming the stream with his horses, each cavalier having a footman mounted behind him. By the time they reached the opposite shore the rain had changed to hail, whose loud pattering drowned the noise of the horses' hoofs as the assailants rode to a weak place in the wall of which the shepherd had told them. Here the battlements were broken and part of the wall had fallen, and near by grew a fig-tree whose branches stretched towards the breach. Up this climbed a nimble soldier, and by hard effort reached the broken wall. He had taken with him Magued's turban, whose long folds of linen were unfolded and let down as a rope, by whose aid others soon climbed to the summit. The storm had caused the sentries to leave their posts, and this part of the wall was left unguarded.

In a short time a considerable number of the assailants had gained the top of the wall. Leaping from the parapet, they entered the city and ran to the nearest gate, which they flung open to Magued and his force. The city was theirs; the alarm was taken too late, and all who resisted were cut down. By day-dawn Cordova was lost to Spain with the exception of the church of St. George, a large and strong edifice, in which Pelistes had taken refuge with the remnant of his men. Here he found an ample supply of food and obtained water from some secret source, so that he was enabled to hold out against the enemy.

For three long months the brave garrison defied its foes, though Magued made every effort to take the church. How they obtained water was what most puzzled him, but he finally discovered the secret through the aid of a negro whom the Christians had captured and who escaped from their hands. The prisoner had learned during his captivity that the church communicated by an underground channel with a spring somewhere without. This was sought for with diligence and at length found, whereupon the water supply of the garrison was cut off at its source, and a new summons to surrender was made.

There are two stories of what afterwards took place. One is that the garrison refused to surrender, and that Magued, deeply exasperated, ordered the church to be set on fire, most of its defenders perishing in the flames. The other story is a far more romantic one, and perhaps as likely to be true. This tells us that Pelistes, weary of long waiting for assistance from without, determined to leave the church in search of aid, promising, in case of failure, to return and die with his friends.

Mounted on the good steed that he had kept alive in the church, and armed with lance, sword, and shield, the valiant warrior set forth before the dawn, and rode through the silent streets, unseen by sentinel or early wayfarer. The vision of a Christian knight on horseback was not likely to attract much attention, as there were many renegade Christians with the Moors, brought thither in the train of Count Julian. Therefore, when the armed warrior presented himself at a gate of the city just as a foraging party was entering, he rode forth unnoticed in the confusion and galloped briskly away towards the neighboring mountains.

Having reached there he stopped to rest, but to his alarm he noticed a horseman in hot pursuit upon his trail. Spurring his steed onward, Pelistes now made his way into the rough intricacies of the mountain paths; but, unluckily, as he was passing along the edge of a declivity, his horse stumbled and rolled down into the ravine below, so bruising and cutting him in the fall that, when he struggled to his feet, his face was covered with blood.

While he was in this condition the pursuer rode up. It proved to be Magued himself, who had seen him leave the city and had followed in haste. To his sharp summons for surrender the good knight responded by drawing his sword, and, wounded and bleeding as he was, put himself in posture for defence.

The fight that followed was as fierce as some of those told of King Arthur's knights. Long and sturdily the two champions fought, foot to foot, sword to scimitar, until their shields and armor were rent and hacked and the ground was red with their blood. Never had those hills seen so furious a fight by so well-matched champions, and during their breathing spells the two knights gazed upon each other with wonder and admiration. Magued had never met so able an antagonist before, nor Pelistes encountered so skilfully wielded a blade.

But the Gothic warrior had been hurt by his fall. This gave Magued the advantage, and he sought to take his noble adversary alive. Finally, weak from loss of blood, the gallant Goth gave a last blow and fell prostrate. In a moment Magued's point was at his throat, and he was bidden to ask for his life or die. No answer came. Unlacing the helmet of the fallen knight, Magued found him insensible. As he debated with himself how he would get the captive of his sword to the city, a group of Moorish cavaliers rode up and gazed with astonishment on the marks of the terrible fight. The Christian knight was placed by them on a spare horse and carried to Cordova's streets.

As the train passed the beleaguered church its garrison, seeing their late leader a captive in Moorish hands, sallied fiercely out to his rescue, and for some minutes the street rang sharply with the sounds of war. But numbers gathered to the defence, the assailants were driven back, and the church was entered by their foes, the clash of arms resounding within its sacred precincts. In the end most of the garrison were killed and the rest made prisoners.

The wounded knight was tenderly cared for by his captor, soon regaining his senses, and in time recovering his health. Magued, who had come to esteem him highly, celebrated his return to health by a magnificent banquet, at which every honor was done the noble knight. The Arabs knew well how to reward valor, even in a foe.

In the midst of the banquet Pelistes spoke of a noble Christian knight he once had known, his brother in arms and the cherished friend of his heart, one whom he had most admired and loved of all the Gothic host,—his old and dear comrade, Count Julian.

"He is here!" cried some of the Arabs, enthusiastically, pointing to a knight who had recently entered. "Here is your old friend and comrade, Count Julian."

"That Julian!" cried Pelistes, in tones of scorn; "that traitor and renegade my friend and comrade! No, no; this is not Julian, but a fiend from hell who has entered his body to bring him dishonor and ruin."

Turning scornfully away he strode proudly from the room, leaving the traitor knight, overwhelmed with shame and confusion, the centre of a circle of scornful looks, for the Arabs loved not the traitor, however they might have profited by his treason.

The fate of Pelistes, as given in the Arab chronicles, was a tragic one. Magued, who had never before met his equal at sword play, proposed to send him to Damascus, thinking that so brave a man would be a fitting present to the caliph and a living testimony to his own knightly prowess. But others valued the prize of valor as well as Magued, Tarik demanding that the valiant prisoner should be delivered to him, and Musa afterwards claiming possession. The controversy ended in a manner suitable to the temper of the times, Magued slaying the captive with his own hand rather than deliver to others the prize of his sword and shield.


The defeat of the Guadalete seemed for the time to have robbed the Goths of all their ancient courage. East and west, north and south, rode the Arab horsemen, and stronghold after stronghold fell almost without resistance into their hands, until nearly the whole of Spain had surrendered to the scimitar. History has but a few stories to tell of valiant defence by the Gothic warriors. One was that of Pelistes, at Cordova, which we have just told. The other was that of the wise and valorous Theodomir, which we have next to relate.

Abdul-Aziz, Musa's noble son, whose sad fate we have chronicled, had been given the control of Southern Spain, with his head-quarters in Seville. Here, after subduing the Comarca, he decided on an invasion of far-off Murcia, the garden-land of the south, a realm of tropic heat, yet richly fertile and productive. There ruled a valiant Goth named Theodomir, who had resisted Tarik on his landing, had fought in the fatal battle in which Roderic fell, and had afterwards, with a bare remnant of his followers, sought his own territory, which after him was called the land of Tadmir.

Hither marched Abdul-Aziz, eager to meet in battle a warrior of such renown, and to add to his dominions a country so famed for beauty and fertility. He was to find Theodomir an adversary worthy of his utmost powers. So small was the force of the Gothic lord that he dared not meet the formidable Arab horsemen in open contest, but he checked their advance by all the arts known in war, occupying the mountain defiles and gorges through which his country must be reached, cutting off detachments, and making the approach of the Arabs difficult and dangerous.


His defence was not confined to the hills. At times he would charge fiercely on detached parties of Arabs in the valleys or plains, and be off again to cover before the main force could come up. Long he defeated every effort of the Arab leader to bring on an open battle, but at length found himself cornered at Lorca, in a small valley at a mountain's foot. Here, though the Goths fought bravely, they found themselves too greatly outnumbered, and in the end were put to panic-flight, numbers of them being left dead on the hotly contested field.

The handful of fugitives, sharply pursued by the Moorish cavalry, rode in all haste to the fortified town of Orihuela, a place of such strength that with sufficient force they might have defied there the powerful enemy. But such had been their losses in battle and in flight that Theodomir found himself far too weak to face the Moslem host, whose advance cavalry had followed so keenly on his track as to reach the outer walls by the time he had fairly closed the gates.

Defence was impossible. He had not half enough men to guard the walls and repel assaults. It would have been folly to stand a siege, yet Theodomir did not care to surrender except on favorable terms, and therefore adopted a shrewd stratagem to deceive the enemy in regard to his strength.

To the surprise of the Arab leader the walls of the town, which he had thought half garrisoned, seemed to swarm with armed and bearded warriors, far too great a force to be overcome by a sudden dash. In the face of so warlike an array, caution awoke in the hearts of the assailants. They had looked for an easy victory, but against such numbers as these assault might lead to severe bloodshed and eventual defeat. They felt that it would be necessary to proceed by the slow and deliberate methods of a regular siege.

While Abdul-Aziz was disposing his forces and making heedful preparations for the task he saw before him, he was surprised to see the principal gate of the city thrown open and a single Gothic horseman ride forth, bearing a flag of truce and making signals for a parley. A safe-conduct was given him, and he was led to the tent of the Moslem chief.

"Theodomir has sent me to negotiate with you," he said, "and I have full power to conclude terms of surrender. We are abundantly able to hold out, as you may see by the forces on our walls, but as we wish to avoid bloodshed we are willing to submit on honorable terms. Otherwise we will defend ourselves to the bitter end."

The boldness and assurance with which he spoke deeply impressed the Arab chief. This was not a fearful foe seeking for mercy, but a daring antagonist as ready to fight as to yield.

"What terms do you demand?" asked Abdul-Aziz.

"My lord," answered the herald, "will only surrender on such conditions as a generous enemy should grant and a valiant people receive. He demands peace and security for the province and its people and such authority for himself as the strength of his walls and the numbers of his garrison justify him in demanding."

The wise and clement Arab saw the strength of the argument, and, glad to obtain so rich a province without further loss of life, he assented to the terms proposed, bidding the envoy to return and present them to his chief. The Gothic knight replied that there was no need of this, he having full power to sign the treaty. The terms were therefore drawn up and signed by the Arab general, after which the envoy took the pen and, to the astonishment of the victor, signed the name of Theodomir at the foot of the document. It was the Gothic chief himself.

Pleased alike with his confidence and his cleverness, Abdul-Aziz treated the Gothic knight with the highest honor and distinction. At the dawn of the next day the gates of the city were thrown open for surrender, and Abdul-Aziz entered at the head of a suitable force. But when the garrison was drawn up in the centre of the city for surrender, the surprise of the Moslem became deep amazement. What he saw before him was a mere handful of stalwart soldiers, eked out with feeble old men and boys. But the main body before him was composed of women, whom the astute Goth had bidden to dress like men and to tie their long hair under their chins to represent beards; when, with casques on their heads and spears in their hands, they had been ranged along the walls, looking at a distance like a line of sturdy warriors.

Theodomir waited with some anxiety, not knowing how the victor would regard this stratagem. Abdul might well have viewed with anger the capitulation of an army of women and dotards, but he had a sense of humor and a generous heart, and the smile of amusement on his face told the Gothic chief that he was fully forgiven for his shrewd stratagem. Admiration was stronger than mortification in the Moslem's heart. He praised Theodomir for his witty and successful expedient, and for the three days that he remained at Orihuela banquets and fetes marked his stay, he occupying the position of a guest rather than an enemy. No injury was done to people or town, and the Arabs soon left the province to continue their career of conquest, satisfied with the arrangements for tribute which they had made.

By a strange chance the treaty of surrender of the land of Tadmir still exists. It is drawn up in Latin and in Arabic, and is of much interest as showing the mode in which such things were managed at that remote date. It stipulates that war shall not be waged against Theodomir, son of the Goths, and his people; that he shall not be deprived of his kingdom; that the Christians shall not be separated from their wives and children, or hindered in the services of their religion; and that their temples shall not be burned. Theodomir was left lord of seven cities,—Orihuela, Valencia, Alicante, Mula, Biscaret, Aspis, and Lorca,—in which he was to harbor no enemies of the Arabs.

The tribute demanded of him and his nobles was a dinar (a gold coin) yearly from each, also four measures each of wheat, barley, must, vinegar, honey, and oil. Vassals and taxable people were to pay half this amount.

These conditions were liberal in the extreme. The tribute demanded was by no means heavy for a country so fertile, in which light culture yields abundant harvests; the delightful valley between Orihuela and Murcia, in particular, being the garden spot of Spain. The inhabitants for a long period escaped the evils of war felt in other parts of the conquered territory, their province being occupied by only small garrisons of the enemy, while its distance from the chief seat of war removed it from danger.

After the murder of Abdul-Aziz, Theodomir sent an embassy to the Caliph Soliman, begging that the treaty should be respected. The caliph in reply sent orders that its stipulations should be faithfully observed. In this the land of Tadmir almost stood alone in that day, when treaties were usually made only to be set at naught.


Tarik landed in Spain in April, 711. So rapid were the Arabs in conquest that in two years from that date nearly the whole peninsula was in their hands. Not quite all, or history might have another story to relate. In a remote province of the once proud kingdom—a rugged northwest corner—a few of its fugitive sons remained in freedom, left alone by the Arabs partly through scorn, partly on account of the rude and difficult character of their place of refuge. The conquerors despised them, yet this slender group was to form the basis of the Spain we know to-day, and to expand and spread until the conquerors would be driven from Spanish soil.

The Goths had fled in all directions from their conquerors, taking with them such of their valuables as they could carry, some crossing the Pyrenees to France, some hiding in the mountain valleys, some seeking a place of refuge in the Asturias, a rough hill country cut up in all directions by steep, scarped rocks, narrow defiles, deep ravines, and tangled thickets. Here the formidable Moslem cavalry could not pursue them; here no army could deploy; here ten men might defy a hundred. The place was far from inviting to the conquerors, but in it was sown the seed of modern Spain.

A motley crew it was that gathered in this rugged region, a medley of fugitives of all ranks and stations,—soldiers, farmers, and artisans; nobles and vassals; bishops and monks; men, women, and children,—brought together by a terror that banished all distinctions of rank and avocation. For a number of years this small band of fugitive Christians, gathered between the mountains and the sea in northwestern Spain, remained quiet, desiring only to be overlooked or disregarded by the conquerors. But in the year 717 a leader came to them, and Spain once more lifted her head in defiance of her invaders.

Pelayo, the leader named, is a hero shrouded in mist. Fable surrounds him; a circle of romantic stories have budded from his name. He is to us like his modern namesake, the one battle-ship of Spain, which, during the recent war, wandered up and down the Mediterranean with no object in view that any foreigner could discover. Of the original Pelayo, some who profess to know say that he was of the highest rank,—young, handsome, and heroic, one who had fought under Roderic at the Guadalete, had been held by the Arabs as a hostage at Cordova, and had escaped to his native hills, there to infuse new life and hope into the hearts of the fugitive group.

Ibun Hayyan, an Arabian chronicler, gives the following fanciful account of Pelayo and his feeble band. "The commencement of the rebellion happened thus: there remained no city, town, or village in Galicia but what was in the hands of the Moslems with the exception of a steep mountain, on which this Pelayo took refuge with a handful of men. There his followers went on dying through hunger until he saw their numbers reduced to about thirty men and ten women, having no other food for support than the honey which they gathered in the crevices of the rock, which they themselves inhabited like so many bees. However, Pelayo and his men fortified themselves by degrees in the passes of the mountain until the Moslems were made acquainted with their preparations; but, perceiving how few they were, they heeded not the advice given to them, but allowed them to gather strength, saying, 'What are thirty barbarians perched upon a rock? They must inevitably die.'"

Die they did not, that feeble relic of Spain on the mountain-side, though long their only care was for shelter and safety. Here Pelayo cheered them, doing his utmost to implant new courage in their fearful hearts. At length the day came when Spain could again assume a defiant attitude, and in the mountain valley of Caggas de Onis Pelayo raised the old Gothic standard and ordered the beating of the drums. Beyond the sound of the long roll went his messengers seeking warriors in valley and glen, and soon his little band had grown to a thousand stalwart men, filled with his spirit and breathing defiance to the Moslem conquerors. That was an eventful day for Spain, in which her crushed people again lifted their heads.

It was a varied throng that gathered around Pelayo's banner. Sons of the Goths and the Romans were mingled with descendants of the more ancient Celts and Iberians. Representatives of all the races that had overrun Spain were there gathered, speaking a dozen dialects, yet instinct with a single spirit. From them the modern Spaniard was to come, no longer Gothic or Roman, but a descendant of all the tribes and races that had peopled Spain. Some of them carried the swords and shields they had wielded in the battle of the Guadalete, others brought the rude weapons of the mountaineers. But among them were strong hands and stout hearts, summoned by the drums of Pelayo to the reconquest of Spain.

Word soon came to Al Horr, the new emir of Spain, that a handful of Christians were in arms in the mountains of the northwest, and he took instant steps to crush this presumptuous gathering, sending his trusty general Al Kamah with a force that seemed abundant to destroy Pelayo and his rebel band.

Warning of the approach of the Moslem foe was quickly brought to the Spanish leader, who at once left his place of assembly for the cave of Covadonga, a natural fortress in Eastern Asturia, some five miles from Caggas de Onis, which he had selected as a place strikingly adapted to a defensive stand. Here rise three mountain-peaks to a height of nearly four thousand feet, enclosing a small circular valley, across which rushes the swift Diva, a stream issuing from Mount Orandi. At the base of Mount Auseva, the western peak, rises a detached rock, one hundred and seventy feet high, projecting from the mountain in the form of an arch. At a short distance above its foot is visible the celebrated cave or grotto of Covadonga, an opening forty feet wide, twelve feet high, and extending twenty-five feet into the rock.

The river sweeps out through a narrow and rocky defile, at whose narrowest part the banks rise in precipitous walls. Down this ravine the stream rushes in rapids and cascades, at one point forming a picturesque waterfall seventy-five feet in height. Only through this straitened path can the cave be reached, and this narrow ravine and the valley within Pelayo proposed to hold with his slender and ill-armed force.

Proudly onward came the Moslem captain, full of confidence in his powerful force and despising his handful of opponents. Pelayo drew him on into the narrow river passage by a clever stratagem. He had posted a small force at the mouth of the pass, bidding them to take to flight after a discharge of arrows. His plan worked well, the seeming retreat giving assurance to the Moslems, who rushed forward in pursuit along the narrow ledge that borders the Diva, and soon emerged into the broader path that opens into the valley of Covadonga.

They had incautiously entered a cul-de-sac, in which their numbers were of no avail, and where a handful of men could hold an army at bay. A small body of the best armed of the Spaniards occupied the cave, the others being placed in ambush among the chestnut-trees that covered the heights above the Diva. All kept silent until the Moslem advance had emerged into the valley. Then the battle began, one of the most famous conflicts in the whole history of Spain, famous not for the numbers engaged, but for the issue involved. The future of Spain dwelt in the hands of that group of patriots. The fight in the valley was sharp, but one-sided. The Moslem arrows rebounded harmlessly from the rocky sides of the cave, whose entrance could be reached only by a ladder, while the Christians, hurling their missiles from their point of vantage into the crowded mass below, punished them so severely that the advance was forced back upon those that crowded the defile in the rear. Al Kamah, finding his army recoiling in dismay and confusion, and discovering too late his error, ordered a retreat; but no sooner had a reverse movement been instituted than the ambushed Christians on the heights began their deadly work, hurling huge stones and fallen trees into the defile, killing the Moslems by hundreds, and choking up the pass until flight became impossible.

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