Lane, Darling, and Co. Leadenhall-Street.
The Gothic Princess.
AUGUSTA AMELIA STUART,
LUDOVICO’S TALE; THE ENGLISH BROTHERS; EXILE
OF PORTUGAL, &c. &c.
Fierce wars, and faithful loves,
And truth severe, in fairy fiction drest.
PRINTED AT THE
FOR A. K. NEWMAN AND CO.
CAVA DE TOLEDO.
AS my readers may wish to know what became of Rodrigo after the princess had made her escape, we shall not follow her to the hermitage, till we have once more looked into the ruined castle.
When the king fell, with all that remained of the mouldering staircase, into the great hall of the palace, he must have been crushed to death on the spot, had not the ruin, in giving way under him, left him uppermost. Some loose fragments of marble rolling over him, and the violence with which he fell, stunned, and threw him into a state of insensibility, from which he awoke not till the boys who sought Cava heard his groans through the lower apartments, as they wandered over them in search of the princess.
Rodrigo was perfectly restored to animation before he had entirely recovered the use of his faculties. He attempted to rise from the ground; and finding that he could scarcely stir, that he was bruised all over, and that a heavy weight lay on some part of his body, he imagined he was chained down in a dungeon; and loudly cursed the phantom he had seen in the cavern, as the author of his misfortune. Recovering, by degrees, his senses, and having a vague recollection of what had passed, he, in a little while, extricated himself from the stones and rubbish with which he was surrounded; and sitting upon the pavement, he endeavoured to call to mind the events of the night. His ideas often wandered, and he scarcely gave credit to all he had heard and seen. The phantom, its obedience to his will, its promises, its sudden appearance, and as suddenly vanishing, was now incredible. Cava had been declared buried beneath the earth, yet the next moment she had appeared before him in a substantial form; but she had eluded his grasp, at the moment he fancied himself certain of detaining her― “It is mockery all,” cried he;
“I am the sport of fiends― this must be hell.” His eyes were cast wildly round: it was sufficiently light for him to see distinctly every object; and when he recovered the perfect use of his senses, and beheld only the walls of a decayed mansion familiar to him, and through which he had wandered a hundred times, he blushed at his own weakness, and made another effort to rise from the ground, where he still sat, much hurt, and lame from a severe bruise on one of his legs. He was not immediately able to proceed in his search of the princess; but was constrained to lean, for a time, against a mutilated statue, which had once adorned the hall. In this situation he endeavoured to recover his exhausted strength, and to fortify his mind in ill. From the time he had been carried by the waters of the Guadaleta, from the bloody fields of Xeres, and from the vengeful sword of Alonzo, till this night, his bosom had known, at intervals, deep remorse for the base conduct, that had not only brought himself, but his friends, his family, and his kingdom, to ruin. Carried by the course of the river to an immense distance from the hard-fought field, which he had lost, and then deserted, a fisherman found him on its banks at the dead hour of night.
Seeking for some nets, which he had forgotten, on the sands he beheld the body of the unknown king, stiff, cold, and livid. The humane fisherman, making a signal for his sons (who inhabited the same hut) to come down to the river, they were soon at their father’s side, and carrying the dead body, as they believed it, to their cottage, that the next day they might give it Christian burial, one of the young men, laying his hand on the king’s breast, as he assisted in carrying him, imagined that his heart beat: this was sufficient to induce these good people to interest themselves in rescuing a fellow-Christian from death; and making use of every art, so well known to watermen, for the recovery of persons apparently drowned, after some time they had the satisfaction of perceiving returning animation; and a few hours restored Rodrigo to life, though many days did not suffice to bring him back to reason. Round his neck, and on his arms, he had rare and costly jewels: the water had not forced open the clasps with which they were bound, and this source of wealth still remained to the unfortunate king; for the fishermen seeing them made so secure, never thought of removing them, believing they were something of consequence only to the stranger. They knew nothing of their value, and had they done so, they were too honest to have made any advantage of their knowledge. With these poor people, Rodrigo remained till he was perfectly recovered both in body and mind. His ideas then ran on war; and his ardent wish was, by the strength of his arm, to recover his lost throne, and to drive count Julian and the Moors, distant, far distant from the coasts of Spain. The chaos of his mind presented no settled plan; yet still he flattered himself he should again find friends, and recover his sunk fame and character; and while he was smarting under the iron rod of adversity, and far from the allurements of vice and luxury, leading only the life of a poor fisherman, his good resolutions preponderated. He felt remorse for his crimes, and flattered himself he could reform. Alas! vice had taken too deep root in his heart; and though it had to struggle with some good propensities, unfortunately for the devoted Rodrigo, it triumphed in his bosom.
One of the fisherman’s sons, more intelligent and more intrepid than the others, was chosen by the king to bring him accounts of all that it was possible to learn. Breaking up some of the jewels that remained to him, he gave them to the young man, to carry to some town where he could sell them. He ordered him to pass for a merchant, and not spare the jewels, so he could, by their means, procure authentic intelligence respecting the royal army. To prevent any suspicion falling on him, should the fisherman hear of his supposed death, he declared himself, to these unsuspecting people, to have been an attendant on Rodrigo, saying― “That when he had seen the unfortunate king plunge into the river, he had followed him, in the hope of saving his life; but had the grief of seeing his lord and master perish in the Guadaleta, while he was thrown on the banks of the river, and restored to life by their humanity.” This story was plausible, and implicitly believed.
The young fisherman set out on his journey; his father’s boat carried him far up the river; he was many days collecting news; he was sensible, and gained excellent information on all that Rodrigo wished to know. He sold the jewels to advantage in different towns, and returned to the king, laden with gold and information.
Rodrigo received the gold, wondering that he should find such honesty, humanity, and so many virtues, among men whom he had only looked on as beasts of burden. With the munificence of a king, he rewarded the old fisherman and his sons, for the services they had done him; and having heard the sad history that all was lost, and that don Palayo had withdrawn into the Asturias with the remnant of his army, and those friends, Spaniards and Goths, that were willing to follow him, his heart was near bursting; and suddenly bidding his humble host farewell, with the gold about him which he had retained, he fled beyond the Tagus, and fixed his abode in wild mountains, and savage wastes, on the western shores of Spain.
For some time he had taken up his residence in the cavern where we found him. He purchased his food, as has been told, from the shepherds; he clothed himself in the skins of the wild beasts he slew; they too were his only covering, as he nightly lay stretched on the flinty bottom of his cave. Here wild fancies often occupied his brain; here he felt remorse for his errors; here he vowed to sin no more; yet here he relapsed into all the crimes he was able to commit. He had shut his ears to the divine truths of the gospel; he had denied his Redeemer. The language of all created things, which declares aloud, from one end to the other of the vast universe, and through the bright concave of heaven, from the rising to the setting sun― “The hand that made us divine,” was unintelligible to him. He stifled every good thought as it rose in his bosom. If ever there was a mind completely wretched, and torn to pieces by the war of good and bad passions, it was Rodrigo’s. Here we leave him for awhile, to ascend with Cava to Anselmo’s hermitage.
Divested of all fear, the princess now, with pensive and slow steps, pursued the path cut out in the rock. As she ascended; the light that glimmered from the lattice served to shew her the good father at his midnight devotions before the cross, and she was unwilling to interrupt too suddenly his pious orgies. She lingered as she approached, and leaning against a tree, she contemplated the man she so truly revered, who had been unto her as a father, who had instilled all good principles into her mind, had watched the dawn of her reason, and given it a right direction. To him she owed the cultivation of her mind and taste. She loved and revered him as a being superior to the rest of mankind. To be again near him, again under his protection, gave her a sensation of delight long unknown to her; and the pure and tender affection of a daughter filled her whole heart. She contemplated the venerable figure before her. She was conscious it was Anselmo, yet his appearance was not what she remembered. His habit was that of a hermit, and a white beard descended to his girdle. A few years, and they sorrowful ones, had weakened and emaciated his frame; and she no longer beheld that noble figure so distinguished at the court of Toledo.
Tears filled the eyes of the princess as she turned them towards Anselmo, and, unable longer to curb her feelings, she sprung forward, and throwing herself on her knees at his side, and lifting her hands to heaven, she cried ― “Oh! my God, I thank thee that I am again in safety near this beloved and venerable man.”
Trees overshadowed the spot Anselmo had chosen for his devotions, and the faint light within the hermitage served not to ascertain the form that approached so suddenly, and now knelt beside him. His prayer was interrupted; he heard the well-known voice of the Gothic princess, his beloved Cava; his beads dropt from his trembling hand, and astonishment for a moment kept him mute. Turning his wondering eyes towards her, and believing what he beheld a beautiful vision, he exclaimed― “Have you, my child, descended from your native skies, once more to bless my sight? Have my prayers been heard for you? Are you come to tell me you have finished your earthly pilgrimage, and live with angels, like yourself, in regions of eternal day? For my lost child have my prayers been sent up at early dawn, and at the dead hour of night. You, Cava, have been my earliest and my latest thought.”
Here the princess, starting from her knees, with the fondest expression of filial love, threw her arms round the hermit’s neck, assuring him she was no vision, but his unfortunate Cava, come to claim the protection of her more than father; of him who had been the guide of her infancy, and whom she was now determined never to forsake while life was spared them. This was uttered with as much volubility as sobs and tears would permit.
The old Anselmo, amazed and delighted to see her he looked on as his child, yet not knowing how to account for her appearance alone in such a wilderness, and at such a time of night, had no power to answer her, or to rise from his kneeling posture; but he strained her to his heart, while a shower of tears rolled down his furrowed cheeks.
The first effusions of both grief and joy subsiding, Anselmo perceived that the princess was drenched in rain, and must have been unsheltered during the late storm. Fearful now of losing the being whom he had often wished in a peaceful grave, he rose, and taking her hand, led her into the hermitage― “You must, my child, divest yourself of these wet weeds, or you will suffer severely,” said the considerate father, shewing her a cell where lay a monk’s dress― “Array yourself in that apparel, while your own is dried.” As he spoke to Cava he gazed at her attentively, and his heart felt bursting. Where was her freshness, her gay air, her resplendent beauty? Gone, lost extinct; yet an angel’s brightness was in her form, an angel’s sanctity, an angel’s sweetness rested on her brow, and gave an inconceivable charm to every look, to every motion. The lily was not paler than her cheek, nor the bending reed more fragile than her form. She appeared a creature of no earthly mould; and Anselmo, turning from her with a tear, thought her, as he then beheld her, the most interesting object the world could produce. But these reflections were interrupted by his anxiety for her health.
She did as he desired; and having disencumbered herself of her wet hat and mantle, she wrapped herself in the monk’s cloak; and loosening the beautiful tresses that were not cut from her lovely head, she sat down near the fire which the hermit had lit, and was now blowing into a brighter flame. Cava smiled; she felt returning peace; she drew still nearer to the rising blaze. Wrapt in her sable garb, she shone like the pale moon when she looks through a dark cloud. Anselmo still fed the fire; and often turning to gaze upon her with the affection of a fond parent, he thought of her wrongs; he struggled to suppress his sighs; he cursed Rodrigo from his inmost soul; he thought of Alonzo; anxious to know his fate, he feared to mention his name; and rising to conceal what passed in his mind, he looked for a few minutes from the door of the hermitage. The night was far advanced; it was almost at odds with morning; all was calm and serene, and foretold a bright day. Anselmo returned into the hermitage, shut his narrow door, and doubly barred it; then placing his little table near the hearth, he spread it with his best store of cheese, of milk, of fruits― “You must be half-starved, my child, in these wilds. This food is homely, but it is wholesome. You will partake it with one who truly loves you, who rejoices over his recovered child; that will add a zest to what I set before you, and I see you want refreshment.”
Cava acknowledged that she did, and, with pleasure, ate heartily of the good hermit’s fare. She believed herself safe in Anselmo’s protection; and, since the hour she last saw him, she had not experienced such ease of mind.
When their little meal was at an end, she gave him a short account of her adventures since she left Toledo. When she came to the relation of what had passed the present night, how she had seen Rodrigo, and been recognized by him, whom she had believed sunk beneath the waters of the Guadaleta, Anselmo turned pale, and trembled; but endeavoured to conceal his alarm from the princess.
It was now late; she wanted repose, and he would not allow her to do more than give him the outlines of her history. He told her she should rest for some hours in the inner cell ― “A bed of rushes,” cried he, “must now satisfy you, my poor child; but I will make it as soft and warm as I am able, with some skins that are in the hermitage. In this outer cell I will be your guardian for this night; to-morrow we shall talk of some more fit asylum for you.”
Cava’s grateful heart was expressing her thanks, in the warmest manner, to her venerable friend, when, starting from his seat, in a low voice, he said― “I hear a step.” He opened a wicket, without unbarring his door; having looked through it, he instantly returned to Cava, and, with gentle force, pushing her into the innermost cell, he desired she would cover herself close with the monk’s garments, draw the cowl over her head, and kneel at the alter she saw in front of the cell, and on no account to speak, or move, let her hear what she would—“My child,” cried the hermit, “it is the cursed Rodrigo; I see him slowly ascending the hill; he is in the habit of often coming here: be not terrified; he cannot know of your finding an asylum with me. He is ignorant of who I am; and with all his impiety, has some reverence for me, as a hermit long settled here; his penetration, though great, has not pierced this disguise; his visits to me are generally to heal some wound he may have received in pursuing the beasts of the forest. I once saved his wretched life, and in a fit of remorse, he discovered himself to me, and gave me the black history of his crimes and his misfortunes. Alas! I long knew him, and all he could tell me of himself; and though I preached repentance to him, I hoped no success from my endeavours; fatal experience told me what he was, and what he would continue to be. ‘The wicked one came, and choaked in him the good seed, and let the tares come up.’ But haste, my daughter; kneel at that altar; fear nothing; your prayers, sent up from a perfect heart, will ascend to heaven.”
Strengthened in mind by the presence and consolation of the monk, Cava meekly bowed her head, and hastened to obey him: completely covering herself with the monk’s cloak and cowl, she kneeled down, and leaning her hand upon the altar, she fell into fervent prayer. Anselmo hid her hat and mantle beneath his pallet, and then softly unbarring his little door, to prevent suspicion, he took his lamp and missal, and seating himself near the dying embers, he appeared to read. He was scarcely seated when the latch was lifted, and the Gothic king, lowly bending to enable him to enter the humble dwelling, stood before the monk—“Holy father,” cried he, (rising majestic as he spoke, and his large eye taking in all objects that presented themselves in the small chamber,) “I am glad to find I do not disturb your slumbers; you devote those hours to devotion that your age should give to rest; you would receive more benefit from one than from the other.”
“Even from my king,” answered Anselmo, rising, “I will not listen to impiety. Profane not this humble hermitage, I beseech you, noble Rodrigo, by such language, or you will oblige me to fly it for ever.”
“No,” replied the fierce king, “that you shall not do, while I have the power to detain you; you are useful to me; and though you are so pious, your discourse always charms me; and sometimes I think you will restore me to days of innocence and peace.”
Having said this, the tyrant’s countenance instantly changed; a cloud came over it; discontent, horror, and despair, were visible in those eyes that had ever expressed his thoughts; throwing himself along a bench in the cell, he deeply groaned—“I believe,” cried he, “all the devils in hell are leagued to render Rodrigo wretched.”
“Rather believe,” returned the monk, “you are yourself the cause of all you suffer, all you may hereafter suffer; repent of your crimes; devote your future life to Heaven, that you may atone for the past: you have lost an earthly kingdom; it is still in your power to gain a heavenly one.”
“What!” cried Rodrigo, starting from his recumbent posture, his eye darting fire, “what folly does your old doating tongue utter? A heavenly kingdom! No, give me the one I have lost; I ask no other; and I shall regain it yet.” As he spoke, joy brightened his face, the darkness of his countenance fled; but it was only for an instant; the horrors of the night, the death of his friend, the disappointment he had suffered in his pursuit of Cava, all rushed upon his mind, and again gloom mantled on his brow. In spite of himself, he felt a reverence for the supposed hermit, and he could not venture to disclose the vile part he had acted during the night; he told him he had fallen from a rock, was severely bruised, and requested him to annoint his wounds.
Cava having given Anselmo some account of the transactions of the night, he was at no loss to penetrate the thoughts of the king. The good monk made no comment on what he had said; but produced his healing balsam, and gently rubbed the bruised parts. While he was thus occupied, a heavy groan proceeded from the inward cell—“What means that groan?” cried Rodrigo.
Anselmo almost lost his presence of mind; the box of ointment was near dropping from his trembling hand; but aware of the consequences of shewing any terror, he calmly answered—“A wretched penitent, an unfortunate monk, now under a most dreadful penance, is at his devotions in my cell; he is at times insane; in pity to him, and convinced of his deep repentance, I have allowed him for a week past to remain with me, and perform his nightly penance beneath this roof. I trust he will soon be received again into his convent. That groan you heard was nothing; he often wrings my heart.”
“Let me see him?” said the king, rising, and advancing towards the inner cell.
The hermit laid hold of his arm, saying—“It was sacrilege to disturb any person in the act of penance; save yourself at least this crime, oh king!” Dreading that Cava’s terrors might betray her, he felt nearly sinking to the earth, yet still retained his hold on Rodrigo, who, sarcastically smiling, called his piety superstition; and shaking off his weak grasp, advanced towards the cell where the princess was.
Anselmo believed his child was now lost for ever; he smote his breast in agony, and was almost tempted to kneel to the tyrant for mercy, when Rodrigo, having looked into the inner apartment, returned on his steps, saying—“Poor maniac! though I despise his folly, I almost pity him. Of what use can he think it to his soul, to stretch himself for hours on the cold flags before your altar? Does he make that his bed for the night?”
Anselmo’s heart was now raised to Heaven in thanksgiving, for the unlooked-for safety of the princess, and he answered Rodrigo—“The unhappy monk is welcome to do penance in my cell; the morning dawns; I shall join his matin prayer.”
“Then farewell,” cried Rodrigo; “I shall soon see you again, good father; my cavern is become odious to me; no human being can I converse with, in these wilds, but you: sometimes your person seems familiar to me, though I know not where I could have ever seen you. I have much to relate; I have many doubts to solve; you are wise; you, perhaps, too can look into futurity, and tell the miserable Rodrigo for what he is reserved. Oh, hermit! did you but know the transactions of tonight, what I have seen, what I have heard, you would not think it strange were I mad indeed.”
“Rodrigo,” answered the monk, “retire to rest; your body and your mind require it; try and reconcile yourself to Heaven; you have kicked against it; if not warded off by penitence, by deep contrition for your past heavy crimes, the blow will recoil, and send you to perdition. Frown not, oh king! as a minister of Heaven, I fear not to tell you truths, however they may be unpleasant to your ear, which has sucked in flattery from your birth, that has poisoned your good qualities, and corrupted your heart. The morning comes on apace; I must not neglect my usual hour of prayer; again I entreat you to leave my cell; take with you this balsam for your wounds; do not molest me for the next twenty-four hours; I have devoted them to what even touches my life; therefore, I again beseech thee, oh king! not to molest me. When these hours are past, this hermitage is open to you, and all within it at your disposal.”
Anselmo, while he spoke, appeared so dignified, so holy, that even the tyrant felt for him unusual respect; and with a softened countenance, and a gracious inclination of his head, he received the balsam, saying—“Adieu for the present, holy hermit; you shall not, till the time prescribed, see Rodrigo more; surely you will not afterwards refuse to render my savage life bearable, by giving me that converse that ever fascinates and sooths my soul.” He drew towards the door as he spoke, and was soon on the steps that led down the hill.
Anselmo, whose spirit revived as he saw him depart, watched, fearful of his return, till he entered the road that led to the forest—“Alas!” sighed the monk, “how didst thou once, Rodrigo, shine with transcendent brightness! but now how art thou fallen! how lost!” With these words he closed his wicket, and taking his lamp from the little table on which it stood, he entered the inner apartment to bring Cava from her confinement, and quiet her apprehensions both for the present and the future. He perceived that all within was still as death; the princess, stretched along the pavement at the foot of the altar, and entirely shrouded by the cloak and cowl of the monk, looked like one laid out for burial. On the entrance of Anselmo, she neither spoke nor stirred. He, thinking she still dreaded Rodrigo’s being near, said, in a joyful tone—“Rise, my child; rise from the cold stones; they have too long been your bed; all is safe; you may venture forth, and take some refreshment before you sleep. Alas!” cried he, struck with apprehension of a fatal catastrophe, as she was still prostrate before him, motionless and silent; “alas! are you gone, my beloved?” He now held the lamp over her; he uncovered her face; he lifted the cloak from her bosom; her hands were crossed over it, and firmly held a crucifix; her eyes were closed; her half-opened lips were of the violet’s hue; and her beauteous face and bosom were cold, and white as the driven snow. Anselmo started back as he beheld her, as, half-frantic at the sight, he exclaimed—“Why do I, foolish old man, talk of sleep? my child is gone; this is the sleep of death.” He stooped down, he touched her cheek—her hand—“Cold, cold! he cried; then setting down his lamp by the inanimate Cava, he sought, in the outer cell, a cordial, whose efficacy he knew was great. One trembling hand could scarcely pour it into a vessel the other held to receive it. Having at last poured it out, he staggered back to where Cava lay; he again kneeled down, and lifting her lovely head from the ground, he placed it against his bosom, and endeavoured to pour some of the medicine into her mouth; he believed she swallowed it; he thought she stirred. The good and gentle Anselmo was fearful how he alarmed her; life was fleeting; it required much caution not to extinguish the small spark that yet remained; she stirred; she half-opened her eyes; her pulse returned. At intervals a faint colour, mingled with the death- like paleness of her complexion; it came; it fled; with it returned Anselmo’s hopes of her life; with it they expired. Again he poured the cordial down her throat; she moved; he took her hand, and felt returning heat: exerting all his strength, while tears of joy fell on her face, he lifted her in his arms, and carrying her into the outer chamber, he laid her softly on his own pallet, and drew it towards the fire, which still burnt on his hearth. The fresh air, the motion, and the cordial the good monk had administered, brought the princess to herself. Her kind protector, drawing a seat close to the pallet on which she lay, watched returning life, and as she opened her eyes, they were fixed on his benevolent countenance; she then looked eagerly round the cell, but did not speak—“Fear nothing my child; we are alone, and shall continue so till I can place you in some sacred asylum.”
Cava, who never for a moment doubted the perfect truth of the speaker, smiling, stretched out her hand to him, her look all gratitude, and the first words she uttered were—“My father! my kind protector!”
“Hush! no thanks; the recovery of your strength is necessary to my plan.”
Cava raised herself on her arm, and requested the kind monk’s assistance to leave her pallet. It was now broad day. Anselmo opened the door of the hermitage; it was opposite to where they sat, and the sweet, fresh morning-air revived the languid frame of the princess. The harmony of the woods saluted her ear, and with the feathered choir, she and her holy guide sent up their morning orisons—“Accept my thanks, oh, Almighty Power!” said the princess, “that all the night had gathered to me of ill, thou hast dispelled, as now the light dispels the dark.”
Anselmo felt himself happier than he had been for years; he had saved Cava from destruction, and he flattered himself his old age would now know unexpected comfort. He entreated the princess, after they had taken some refreshment, to rest for a few hours. “I am used to watching, my daughter, and, till you awake, will sit and meditate on what I proposed to you during our repast, to quit this hermitage, and seek an asylum in the convent of St. Anastatius, till your strength is recruited, and we are able to travel northward, where, you tell me, your wishes bend, and where I have long determined on going. I wish not to bring the hated Rodrigo even for a moment to your thoughts; but here, neither you nor I are safe beyond twenty-four hours. Till this night, he had no suspicion who I am; now a vague idea is floating in his brain; he told me my person was familiar to him, but he knew not where he had seen me. This convinces me that my anxiety for you threw me off my guard; and the king is too wily, too penetrating, and too curious, not soon to discover Anselmo under this disguise; he will guess I have concealed you, and he will, if he can, sacrifice us both to his vengeance.”
“Let us fly then instantly, father,” cried Cava, interrupting Anselmo.
“Not so, my daughter; Rodrigo will not return here till the appointed time; he does not falsify his word; he has no temptation to it in these deserts: I know what he will do. When we are gone, he will take possession of this hermitage; the murder of his unfortunate friend has rendered his cavern disgusting to him*; the situation of this cell is delightful; I shall leave him my hermit’s dress, the holy scriptures, and all we do not want in our journey. You in your pilgrim’s habit, and I in my own, have nothing to fear on our way to the Asturias. Religious houses, or the cottage of the shepherd, will receive us; we shall find, with little labour, every thing necessary for us; it is only the luxurious that have many and unnatural wants.”
Cava obedient to the orders of her venerable friend, did as he wished, and taking possession of his pallet, she fell into a calm and refreshing sleep, while the monk placed his little hermitage in the order he intended to leave it; and, divesting himself of his hermit’s dress, he again appeared the monk Anselmo. Sorrow and age had bent his fine figure, had furrowed his cheek, and made it wan; the lustre of his blue eye was dimmed, but it still retained that look of mild benignity, of tender compassion, that told to every beholder he was the true disciple of his Master; for in his benevolent heart reigned only allowance, pity, and love for his fellow-creatures.
While the worthy Anselmo employs himself in his household cares, we shall follow the example of our heroine, and rest from labour, for a little, in the hope of strengthening our mental faculties, to enable us to arrive at our destined goal.
Reader, learn from the compassionate monk to pity the faults you are superior to; and should these pages neither agree with your taste, nor give amusement to a leisure hour, criticise them not too severely; turn not against them the unerring shafts of ridicule, which appals the worst, affrights the best writer; and should this romance drop from your hand while you nod over it, we shall wish you to sink into as sweet, as tranquil, as refreshing a slumber as the beauteous Cava is now enjoying.
RODRIGO, as we have seen in the last chapter, returned rather unwillingly from the hermitage, and in a gloomy state of mind; corrupted as was his heart, he shuddered to look again on the dead body in his cave; and, unable to return to it, he wandered round the forest till the cottagers arose to their daily labour; then purchasing from them, as he usually did, his sustenance for an allotted time, he returned with it to the ruined castle, where, sitting down on the fragments of the marble staircase, he made his solitary meal. The beautiful progress of increasing light, the early sunbeams that awake Nature from her soft repose, and gladden the whole earth, brought no cheerfulness to the heart of the king; his hunger satisfied, he sat in gloomy silence, contemplating the past, and much his thoughts dwelt on the horrors of the last night; yet still the phantom’s assurance, that he should resume the spear and shield, that again he should in battle meet a foe, brightened his gloomy countenance, and revived his almost extinct hope of once more possessing his kingdom. Don Palayo, he believed, would still support his cause—“He is brave,” he cried, “he is generous; he now thinks me dead, yet he deserts not the Goths.” He then revolved in his mind the expediency of seeking don Palayo, and if he found him faithful, of discovering himself, and calling on those who were once his subjects to arm in his cause. Some hours he spent in these vain plans; the delusions of the fiend had had their full effect, and had entangled him. Cava then occupied his thoughts; was it possible he had really beheld her, or had his sight deceived him with a vain shadow?—“It cannot be,” he cried: “how could she have escaped from this castle, had she ever entered it?” He then persuaded himself she might still be within its walls: he rose from where he sat, and consumed hours in a search that afforded him no satisfaction. Weary of himself, and of life, wishing for society, yet unable to enjoy it, he felt himself the most desolate of human beings. In the hermit’s conversation only had he found any consolation since he entered these wilds. He often reproved, yet he fascinated the king, who felt the charms of his wisdom and goodness, though unable to follow his precepts. Weary of his fruitless search for the princess, he anxiously wished to return to the hermitage, that he might fully open his heart and plans to the hermit; but the recollection that he had promised not to molest him, or the unfortunate penitent, till a stated time, prevented his immediately gratifying his desire; and laying himself down in an inner chamber of the building, on a bed of rubbish that covered the floor, he endeavoured to give some rest to a weary body; but conscience, that terrible inmate, suffered not his soul to know peace, even in profound sleep.
It was a fortunate circumstance for the princess, that Rodrigo felt that reverence for the hermit that prevented his intrusion, otherwise there would have been an end of flight.
From the time the king had left the hermitage, Anselmo, though willing to quiet Cava’s fears, was himself doubtful of Rodrigo’s adhering to his promise. He had marked his suspicious eye as he quitted the cell, and his curiosity to know something of the penitent he seemed to despise. Determined not unnecessarily to run the risk of his return, towards mid-day, when he had prepared every thing for their departure, he approached the humble couch, where lay, in sweet and peaceful sleep, the most perfect of her sex. Anselmo stood, for a few moments, like a fond father, in admiration of his child. He then gently touched her, saying—“My child, awake: if you are sufficiently refreshed by your long sleep, we will set out on our journey: all is in readiness for our departure.”
The princess willingly obeyed his call; her pilgrim’s hat and staff were soon resumed; and with the glad hope in her bosom of never more beholding her dire foe, placing herself, with a cheerful air, at the side of the good monk, they both left the hermitage; and descending the back part of the hill, they were soon beyond the precincts of the forest, and in the road that led to the monastery of St. Anastatius. Delighted at seeing returning health on the cheek of Cava, and also witnessing in her that firm, patient, pious mind, which placed her, if not out of the power of misfortune to overtake, yet out of its power to subdue; in her he beheld the meek and lowly Christian, who, while she feels profoundly her afflictions, murmurs not at the dispensations of Providence, but casts her eye from the clouds and darkness that rest upon this world, to penetrate that bright region where all is harmony, peace and love. The good monk exulted in his child; he had been the guide of her infant years; and he had now the heartfelt satisfaction of a rich harvest, from the fair field he had so carefully cultivated.
They now journeyed safely on, and their way was beguiled by sweet discourse. Cava had told much of her adventures to the good father; but it was in too hurried a manner to give him an exact idea of what had befallen her since they parted at Toledo, and he expressed his wish to learn more exactly her little story. She, knowing the deep interest he took in all that concerned her, was anxious to gratify his wishes; but her ardent desire to know something of count Julian, and the dread of having the fears of his death confirmed, made her hesitate either to enter on her own history at large, or inquire his fate.
Filial affection uppermost in her heart, she timidly asked the monk if he had any certain knowledge of her father’s fate? Though convinced he was no more, Anselmo was fearful of confirming the fatal tidings while on their journey, and giving her an evasive answer, he said—“that the rumours respecting the count had been various, and irreconcileable; that his having so suddenly quitted Toledo had prevented his seeing those who could give him authentic information concerning the count; but, my daughter,” said he, “we shall not be very long left in ignorance. Don Palayo must have a perfect knowledge of every thing respecting the war, and of every circumstance that has occurred to count Julian; to him we must apply for information: do not terrify yourself with rumours that may have no foundation. If your father exists, he will seek the means of letting you know he does; should he have fallen in the field of battle, you must remember a sparrow does not fall to the ground without the will of your Heavenly Father, and to his decrees you must bow submissive.”
Cava looked mournfully at the monk, sighed deeply, and pursued her way in silence. He too was sad; his child’s heart was pierced, and he had no power to extract the dart. They had some leagues to travel before they reached the convent of St. Anastatius; but the country was varied and beautiful through which they passed, and they were amply supplied, on their route, with all they could wish for by the Christian peasants, and they learned much concerning don Palayo.
Arrived at the convent, they were most hospitably received by the superior, who was an old friend of Anselmo’s. The princess was accommodated in a house belonging to religious females; and Anselmo determined to remain in this asylum some days, to recruit her health and spirits, for the tedious journey that lay before them; and, as yet, they were uncertain in what part of the north they should find the habitation of don Palayo. Rest was absolutely necessary to the poor pilgrim, and her affectionate friend had for her all the consideration of a parent; he concealed from her all that could give her pain; and many were the heart-rending stories that he learned from the fathers, of the cruelties committed on the Christians by their merciless conquerors.
Having remained ten days at the convent, Anselmo thought they might then safely pursue their journey. Cava also was impatient to do so; she looked with satisfaction to again enjoying the company and conversation of her earliest friend, the amiable and tender Favilla: she banished from her mind, Africa, and Alonzo, to the utmost of her power: limited indeed was that power; for, in spite of all her efforts, she remembered “that such things were, that were most dear.” Painful was the retrospection; and she felt this truth—
“Of all affliction taught a lover yet,
’Tis sure the hardest science to forget.”
The day arrived for their bidding adieu to the hospitable monks of St. Anastatius. The good fathers mourned the loss of such a companion as Anselmo: they had used their utmost endeavours to persuade him to become one of their society. The situation of the convent was enchanting; the building commodious; the order by no means a rigid one, though all it ought to be, and composed of the most excellent, learned, and virtuous men. Anselmo here saw a happy asylum for his old age; but willingly rejected comfort for himself, to protect, support, and watch over his young charge—“Is she not,” said he, mentally, “thrown by Providence on my care? How can I abandon so sweet a creature, when I behold her withering in the blast? If my tender cares cannot restore her to happiness in this life, I may assist to lead her to a better; I may point out to her the blessed country to which she is travelling, and help to wean her soul from all earthly objects that still cling to it, and, arraying it in robes of light, fit her for an inhabitant of that heavenly city at whose gates she almost now knocks.”
Anselmo’s mind wavered not; he gratefully thanked the fathers for their hospitality, and their kind wish of detaining him amongst them; but declared his fixed determination of attending the princess to the Asturias. He met with the applause he deserved for a conduct so disinterested; and with the prayers of the community for their welfare, the monk and pilgrim again resumed their journey towards the north.
Having travelled a few leagues, they found no farther difficulty in ascertaining their route to the abode of don Palayo; every where they heard his praises; he was extolled for his courage, for his many gallant actions with the Moors; but, most of all, for his kindness, his feeling, his humanity for the oppressed Christians; he protected them wherever he had the power to do so; when he could not defend their abodes, he collected them together, distributed his own property among them and their distressed families; and taking their youth, had them instructed in the use of arms; and while he endeavoured to render them good soldiers and patriots, fit to defend their country, and, when fortune should smile, recover what was lost, he supplied all their wants. Spain looked up to him as its guardian angel; and every rustic whom the travellers addressed for information of their way, hearing the name of don Palayo, were loud in his praise, and prayed for ten thousand blessings on such a prince.
“Happy don Palayo!” cried Cava, and her secret wish was that her Alonzo was with him, and could share his glory. Her wan cheek glowed as this wish rose in her bosom; but its pale hue returned, as her imagination pictured him a solitary being in her father’s palace on the shores of Africa, cut off from all he had ever held dear, and mourning, deeply mourning her loss.
Anselmo, whenever he perceived grief swelling in the bosom, or overshadowing the fine countenance of the hapless Cava, used his utmost endeavours to dissipate the cloud; he talked to her of those peaceful hours she spent with her amiable friends in the Fortunate Islands; of the excellent Garcia; but chiefly of the charming Zamora; and often he entreated her to repeat the story of the lovely Moor, to describe her person, her manners—“Good father,” said the princess, “I can find no language to paint the beauty of mind or person of Zamora: her figure is that of an angel; she has a soul of fire, while the softness, the tenderness, the constancy of her nature is unrivalled: this, (drawing a small picture from her bosom,) this is a poor resemblance of my friend; she gave it me while I was in Aleanzar’s castle, and I look on it as an invaluable treasure, for never more shall I behold the dear original.” As she spoke, a tear dropt on the lovely resemblance of the perfect Zamora.
Anselmo took the picture, and gazing earnestly on it for some time—“Sweet resemblance,” (muttered he, in a low voice,) “of your charming mother, why are you not a Christian like her? Why was I doomed, on the coast of Spain, for ever to bid adieu to that dear brother, when, with his lovely child, he sailed for Greece?” Here Anselmo sighed heavily, and a tear dropt also from his eyes on the miniature, on which he still gazed with tenderness.
Cava was amazed: could she believe what she had just heard? was Zamora anything to Anselmo? She was of royal blood, so was the monk: his high birth was well known at the court of Toledo, where his piety, talents, and perfect heart, distinguished him more than his royal lineage.
Anselmo saw her surprise, and, with a smile, returning the picture, said—“Do not wonder at my conduct; that charming countenance has awoke many tender emotions in my bosom—Zamora is my grand-niece; her grandfather was my only brother: in a fatal hour he left his native country, with his angelic daughter, never to return. Sad were our souls at parting—mine prognosticated every ill. As I embraced him, for the last time, my soul was torn in pieces; his lovely child clung to her fond uncle, till the mariners could no longer linger on the sand: she was forced from me; but my strained eyes followed her and my dear brother, while I could descry them on the deck. On the lone shore I wandered till thick darkness overspread the heavens. I listened to the mournful wave that broke at my feet: something told me I should see these dear objects no more.” Then turning to the princess—“Not on earth shall I behold them; but sweet is the hope that it will not be long ere I journey to that blessed kingdom they inhabit, where, with joy such as angels feel, they will receive me again into their loved society.” Here the monk grew pensive, and the princess walked in silence by his side, unwilling to interrupt those tender feelings which the worthy Anselmo was not stoic enough to be able to suppress.
Their journey was carried on with ease, as they found shelter, for the night, in hamlets, or in scattered cottages, in which the country abounded. During the day, they generally partook of what their scrips afforded, under the shade of trees, or enamelled meadows, by cool streams, which, descending from the mountains, rendered the country through which they passed verdant and fertile.
Cava, desirous to know what had passed at Toledo after the battle of Xeres, and what part Anselmo had taken in the marriage of the queen with Abdalesis, requested he would indulge her with a full account. He, willing to gratify her, and render her journey less tedious, related what we have already heard from Favilla; the queen’s distress at the supposed death of Rodrigo, and her refusal to follow don Palayo—“I could,” said the monk, “sooner have gone to torture than have left the dear unhappy Egilone at such a time; and her wish was so earnest to remain at Toledo, that she might be informed of every circumstance relative to Rodrigo, that I did not attempt to alter it. I saw that when she parted with Favilla, (which she did, fearing she might fall into the hands of the Moors,) that to part with life itself would have been less painful to her. All my weak endeavours were employed in her service; I could give her no comfort, except what religion afforded; her pious mind had nothing to learn; it was only necessary for me to join her in prayer; for her excellent understanding, her exemplary conduct, would have taught the wisest. Well as I knew Egilone, never did she appear to me so perfect as under her severest trials. We sent messengers in a thousand directions to ascertain the fate of the king—every messenger returned with the same account—he had divested himself of his robes, his crown, his breastplate, every part of his armour that remained with him when he fled; they were found scattered on the banks of the Guadaleta, and brought back to Toledo; he had been seen to plunge into its waters—to struggle with the torrent, and to sink: there was nothing more to know, no farther trace of him remained. The tale was not varied; a hundred bore witness to the truth of it, and it obtained universal credit. The unhappy queen beheld the cloak, the crown, the armour—she mourned over them, she lamented the fate of the unfortunate king. Every fault vanished; she thought of him, she spoke of him only as he was in his early life, when all admired and loved him; when pernicious counsels and bad men had not perverted one born with good propensities, willing to be virtuous, but led away by the want of firmness to act as he knew was right.”
“Proceed, good father,” interrupted the princess; “I am only anxious to hear of Egilone.”
The monk, angry with himself for having given her a moment’s pain, continued—“I long feared for the life of the queen; and had she wished to follow don Palayo and his little army, her state of health rendered it impossible; she was scarcely able to reach the garden of the palace of an evening, where she was ordered to repair for sake of the fine air, for which it is so famous. Except to repose for a few hours in the night, I never left her; and the good and kind Isabella shared all my labours; she was in constant attendance on the queen, who greatly loved her. During this severe indisposition, the town was taken. I will not affright you with a repetition of the horrors that ensued. We were kindly treated, though all were prisoners. Egilone was still looked on as a princess; she was allowed to remain in her own palace, with her friends and domestics, all unmolested, and their wants generously supplied. At this dreadful crisis, the queen, instead of sinking into despair, recovered her strength of mind, in part her health, and entirely her beauty. A languid look, a timid air, a perfect resignation to her fate, and a mild dignity in her appearance, that seemed to say she was still a queen, that, fallen from a throne, she was yet worthy of the first in the world, gave her such charms, that all who approached her declared the universe contained not such a woman; and the Moors crowded the courts of her palace, that they might catch a glimpse of her, as she entered her gardens, or passed under the colonnades of her palace. The prince Abdalesis heard of her many virtues, and of her beauty; he knew how she was beloved by the Christians; but how a Christian should be so admired by the Moors, he could not comprehend. He came to Toledo; he claimed the prisoners as his own. Tariff chose not to dispute them, and yielded them to the younger hero. You are already acquainted with the impression the first sight of Egilone made on the young and victorious Abdalesis. I was present at the affecting scene; I hoped from it a peaceful retreat for the queen; but I was far from guessing the result. In a short time, it was visible to the whole world, that the deeply-enamoured Abdalesis could not live out of the presence of the princess. She encouraged not his passion; she modestly retired, as much as she was allowed to do, within her own apartments, and saw only the friends that were still left her, and were kindly treated by the Moorish prince, on her account. I was distinguished from the rest, and received every mark of his consideration. The generous Abdalesis granted me, without hesitation, every favour I asked for the Christians; and at last he condescended to request my assistance in gaining the queen’s consent to an union with him. I started at the proposal; I knew she was his slave, and he a Moor, and a Mahometan; I trembled for her fate. Abdalesis fixed on me his penetrating eyes; he read my very heart. I stood before him, confounded and silent. With a generosity and goodness of heart that would have done honour to a Christian, he said—‘Anselmo, fear not for your beloved queen; I do not look on her as my property from this hour—she is free, so are you, so are all her friends and domestics. I love Egilone with a real affection—beauteous as she is, I am more captivated by her angelic mind than by her charms; I almost wish myself a Christian, to think as she does: if she will unite her fate with mine, she knows not what power she may obtain; and I declare, that even against the Moors, my own countrymen, will I protect the Christians; all under my government shall have the free exercise of their religion; enjoy their riches unmolested; have all the liberty I can give them; and, in return, I ask only their acquiescence to the regulations I shall make in my government, to perpetuate a friendship between the conquered and the conquerors. They will see their own queen reign over them, and in their turn feel themselves the victors. Good Anselmo, persuade your royal friend to accept for herself and her beloved Christians, what happiness it is in Abdalesis’s* power to offer her; be yourself the messenger of good to them, to her, to me.’ All this proceeded from the lips of the gallant Abdalesis; so strongly marked with sincerity, and his countenance was expressive of such sweetness, such real goodness of heart, that, considering Egilone’s situation, and that of her unfortunate people, who now looked up to her for succour, I blessed Heaven for this happy disposition of the Moor, and with gratitude promised to use all my influence with the queen to accept him for her husband. The struggle was, however, great in my own mind. Could I give the hand of Egilone to an Infidel? Impossible! Yet, how could I by refusing, give her, and all the Christians subject to Abdalesis, back to slavery, and, perhaps, to the rage of a disappointed man, who could now command, yet chose to solicit? I left the presence of Abdalesis, grateful to him, but sorrowful in my heart. I saw the queen; she was startled at the proposal of a second Hymen, and with a Moor. The unworthy Rodrigo still held a place in her heart he did not merit. Long she resisted the entreaties of all around her—of the enamoured Abdalesis: he at length prevailed; gratitude for his conduct towards her—affection for the Christians, determined her acceptance of his hand: she had also a secret hope of drawing him to the true faith. I remained with the queen some months after her marriage: her conduct was that of an angel. The Moor’s was exemplary; but generous and noble as he was, I found him as firmly attached to his faith as Egilone was to hers: but their union was unclouded by any misunderstanding. He doated on the lovely queen; and her gratitude wore so much the appearance of love, that it rendered him completely happy. I only, accustomed to Egilone from her infancy, saw all that passed in her constant and tender heart. I was convinced, that, in her retired hours, her thoughts dwelt on the days that were gone by; that she often took a sad review of the years she had spent at Toledo; and that, however she might bestow her esteem on the Moor, and admire his exalted virtues, yet her early love, which she had cherished through all the sad vicissitudes of her life, and of which the cruel Rodrigo was so unworthy, still lingered in her heart, and had fixed its root too deeply ever to be perfectly eradicated. Often have I translated her looks; often have I watched the suppressed sigh that wrung my soul. But Egilone smiled; the Christians were favoured; they loved her; the Moors admired her, and all was happiness and peace. But my mind was disturbed; I began to think my presence and my conversation brought back ideas to the queen that I wished buried in oblivion. I had done all I had in my power to do for her happiness, and that of her people; and my own was hurt by the life I led. Could I have brought over the Moors to my faith, I would willingly have done it at the expence of life; but I found it a vain expectation. I languished for retirement, and, in my latter days, more time to think of my salvation than I could find in a crowded city. I had heard from a monk of the hermitage where you found me; the beauty of the situation pleased me, as my mind was never gloomy. From my cell I should behold an enchanting landscape. The forest lay between the hermitage and a desolate country, and shut out all that was melancholy or disagreeable in the view. I got my friend to purchase the spot for me; and entrusting Egilone only with my determination, and the place of my retirement, I secretly quitted the court. Many were the tears she shed at parting; and was only reconciled to bidding me farewell, by the assurance of my being ready to attend her call, could I ever render her the smallest service. I, too, deeply suffered at parting; but my consolation was, I left an angel, who wanted no guide to keep her in the right way; and, by removing to a distance, I relieved her mind from many painful thoughts. You, my child, were ever present to my imagination; I could hear nothing of you; and, till I saw you kneeling by my side, I believed you removed from all earthly woe. Arrived at my hermitage, I was charmed with it; and, not wishing to be known for father Anselmo, of Toledo, I procured the dress and beard of a hermit. The innocent country people were my only companions; I endeavoured to be the physician both of their souls and bodies, and they readily assisted me in all my wants. For some months I led a life most agreeable to the turn of my mind; I had time to think, to pray, to contemplate the Almighty in his most beautiful works. From the hill above my dwelling, you beheld the vast expanse that presents itself. There, at early morn, I met the sun issuing from his chambers in the east, rejoicing in his diurnal course, as obeying his great Creator’s will; he diffused light and life to the vast universe. There I watched his fading glories, as, sinking in the west, he left the world to silence and to rest. As I beheld his departing beam, as darkness, with her sable wing, covered the face of things, and sat brooding over earth and sea, wrapt in thought, I meditated on life, on death, on a future state. How like that glorious luminary we set forward in our morn of life, rejoicing in our course! yet, not like him obedient, unerring in that track we are directed to pursue. Our evening comes; our glories fade; darkness surrounds us; we sink into the grave; we vanish from the earth; our place is no where to be found; yet, oh! joyful hope! oh! blessed certainty! we also shall again, like the sun, rise to a glorious day; we shall again have our appointed course, on which no darkness shall fall, no night shall come, no temptation shall assail; grief and pain shall be no more: we shall dwell with the righteous, and with Him that liveth for ever; with Him whose yoke is easy, and whose burden is light. This, my daughter, is the comfort, the consolation of a good Christian. Let him ponder on those things in the days of affliction, in his often sad pilgrimage on earth, and sorrow will lose its force: he will look beyond the dark gulph: a new Jerusalem, a heavenly city, will present itself: there may be hope to find those virtuous beings he loved on earth, and with joy he will exclaim—‘Oh! Death, where is thy sting! Oh! Grave, where is thy victory!”
The monk ceased speaking: all he had uttered penetrated the heart of Cava, and brought comfort to her sad soul: she found herself more resigned to her fate, and flattered herself, could she again enjoy the company of Favilla, her cheerfulness would return,—A long pause ensued, and then Anselmo resumed his discourse—“I had led, for some months, a quiet, contemplative, but not a gloomy, or morose life, in my hermitage, when, one evening, a shepherd, whom I knew, came to request my assistance for a wounded man, who was now at his cottage, and so much hurt by a fall from one of the rocks, that he was unable to come to the hermitage to have his wounds dressed. I willingly followed the good shepherd, who carried a little basket, with the salves and cordials, I thought, from his description of the wounds, would be necessary for the stranger. On the way, the honest rustic told me, a man had lately come into the country, who had taken up his abode in a cavern on the skirts of the forest; that he conversed very little with any one, and was continually walking about the mountains, and in pursuit of the wolves and other wild beasts; that he killed many, and was, in this respect, of use to the shepherds, who were, at first, afraid of him; but finding him harmless, and only seemingly unhappy, he had the liberty of entering their cottages to buy his food whenever he pleased—‘To-day,’ said the shepherd, ‘he fell from a very high rock, as he aimed a blow at a wild bull, who pursued, and would have killed him, had he not been rescued by a number of the country people, who were travelling together across the mountains; they lifted him from the ground, and brought him to my cot; and I am come to you, good father, as I think, if you should not be able to cure him, you may send his soul to heaven; and I fear it would not go there without you, for he is so horribly afraid to die, and rolls his eyes in so dreadful a manner, when we who are about him say his is as bad as he can be, that I really do believe he has some terrible crime on his head.’ As the shepherd said this, we reached his cottage. On a bed, made of fern, covered with skins, lay a man, seemingly in great agony: as I entered, his back was to me; when I came near, and began to examine his wounds, he raised his head. Astonished at beholding him whom I had believed carried to the ocean by the waters of the Guadaleta, I started back, and dropt from my hands the balsam I had prepared. Fortunately, I soon regained the command of my feelings, and busied myself in dressing the wounds I had been called to heal. I cannot express the horror I experienced at the presence of the king, and the misery I felt, lest he should recognise Anselmo in the hermit who stood by his side. I dreaded his interrogations; I wished not to give him any knowledge of what had passed in his dominions since his flight; I trusted he would never again appear there; and I trembled at the bare idea that the amiable Egilone might, by some fatal chance, learn that he was still in existence. Happily the king knew me not; his wounds were dangerous and painful. Pity mixed with my hatred of him, when I perceived his mind was more lacerated than his body. For some weeks he lay, between life and death, in the shepherd’s hut. With care I watched beside his humble couch. In the hour of pain and sickness, I endeavoured to turn his thoughts to Heaven; I endeavoured in vain: he knew his errors; he lamented them; but repentance was far from him. Weary, and desponding of ever turning him from the commission of evil, should he again have the power to transgress, I absented myself from the hut, and returned only at the proper moments to dress his wounds. In spite of all my resolutions to the contrary, he often drew me into conversations, which, when I reflected on them, only served to prove how useless is wisdom, genius, talents, unaccompanied by rectitude of heart, by not only a propensity to good, but a longing after it, by an abhorrence of evil; and, above all, by that heavenly grace which passeth all understanding, and which alone can lead frail and erring man though the labyrinth of life; can give internal quiet here, or bliss hereafter. Painful were the hours I spent with the king; they filled me with sorrow for his state, for gloomily he rejected my counsels. When he was sufficiently recovered to leave the cottage, he returned to dwell in his own cavern, from whence he paid me daily visits, with which I often wished to dispense; and I sometimes feared he would at last recollect me; but his thoughts were engaged on other subjects; and instead of making the discovery I dreaded, he revealed himself to the humble hermit. This distressed me beyond measure; for then I had occasion to be for ever on my guard not to betray myself, when the wildness of his grief, or of his passions, has tempted him to lay his whole heart open to my view, and to relate to me transactions I was too well acquainted with, and would willingly have buried in oblivion. Harrassed by his conduct, sensible I could never bring him to a proper sense of religion, I had determined on secretly quitting the hermitage, and retiring to the monks of St. Anastatius, when you, my daughter, appeared before me like a consoling angel, sent as my last comfort in this world; as such I receive you from the hand of Heaven; and where you dwell, there will I abide, till the last vital spark is extinguished.”
Grateful for the fatherly affection of the monk, and feeling the blessing of such a friend, and such a spiritual guide, Cava, with a look that shewed all she wished to express, pressed the good monk’s hand first to her lips, and then to her heart. Her silence was more eloquent than words, and she anxiously avoided any farther conversation concerning the king. The princess felt not the length of her journey, nor one wearisome moment in the company of Anselmo. His conversation tended to lighten all her woes, to reconcile her to the decrees of Heaven, and carry her thoughts beyond the confined limits of this world.
One day, while they sat, during the sultry noon, under the refreshing shade of spreading trees, (enjoying the sound of waters falling at some distance from a rock, sparkling in the sunbeams, and throwing round, as from a prism, a thousand bright and quick varying colours,) a young monk, of the order of St. Issidore, greeting Anselmo, entreated to be informed of the most direct road to the Tagus, which he knew he must cross before he could reach the place of his destination? With his usual politeness, the good Anselmo gave him the information he wanted; and seeing the young man appear weary, desired he would sit down by him on the grass, and partake the frugal meal he and the pilgrim his companion had prepared for themselves. The scrip had been emptied, and the contents, by Cava’s care, spread nicely on the verdent carpet where they sat; but the beauty of the scenery around them had so occupied them, that the call of hunger was for- gotten till the stranger approached, who appeared to want refreshment. He accepted, with thankfulness, the kind offer; and, during their repast, told them he was travelling to the south of Spain, on business from don Palayo. Desirous to know all he could learn, Anselmo put many questions to the young monk, who gave him a tolerably exact account of all that had happened, in the carrying off and rescue of Favilla. Cava listened, with the utmost attention, to all the young monk related; but neither she nor Anselmo could get any information who were the actors on this occasion; for the monk knew not the name of a single person, but don Palayo and Favilla. Cava sincerely rejoiced at her loved friend’s escape from prison; she praised, and blessed the brave unknown, who had had the glory of releasing the charming Favilla from the monster that detained her—“Why,” said she, mentally, “was not Alonzo there to perform an act so worthy of him, as that of rescuing, at the hazard of his own life, my dearest friend? Happy, fortunate cavalier! on his account I envy your renown, yet I feel my heart will ever be bound to you for this service.”
Having made an end of their repast, they bade adieu to the stranger, and pursued the road to Oviedo, which they hoped to reach in three or four days, when Anselmo perceived that Cava’s strength failed, that she appeared much exhausted, and was obliged to lean on him for support. Alarmed at the idea of real illness, he saw, with satisfaction, a village at a short distance; and assisting and cheering his weary companion by his kind and comfortable words, he got her to the village, where, fortunately, they found an inn, famous for the accommodation of travellers; and Anselmo determined on remaining there some days, till the princess should be able to continue her journey with more ease to herself. Having prepared a cordial for her, he committed her to the care of their attentive hostess, and insisted on her seeking repose. Cava, though she earnestly wished to reach the habitation of don Palayo, and again to embrace her earliest friend Favilla, was too much indisposed to follow her own inclinations, or to counteract any scheme the good father should propose. Her strength of body was not equal to that of her mind; she yielded to the wishes of her friend, and consented to remain at the village. Her indisposition continued for some days, and confined her to her apartment.
The village at which our travellers stopped was about ten or twelve leagues from the castle inhabited by don Palayo—a large Gothic building, near the sea-coast, well fortified, and in the neighbourhood of deep caverns, and recesses in the mountains, which served for places of safety to many families that had fled into that part of the kingdom, from the Moors. Here, also, was deposited great part of the riches of Spain, which the Christians had secured in their flight. Villages, hamlets, and single cottages, were scattered over the face of the country. The fugitives erected dwellings for themselves, wherever it was possible to procure materials; and Spaniards and Goths flocked daily to the standard of don Palayo.
At the time that Cava fell sick at the village, don Palayo was preparing, with the duke Alphonso and Favilla, to leave the castle in the mountains, and return to his more cheerful abode on the coast. A sufficient garrison was left at the old fortress, to protect that part of the country; and, at the same time, Alonzo was sent, with a detachment of troops, to the assistance of a town attacked by the Moors. Don Palayo, with his friends, and the remainder of his little army, arrived near the village, which was in his route, before Anselmo thought it safe for Cava to set forward on her journey. It was towards evening when don Palayo halted at the village to take some refreshment. All were desirous of beholding the brave prince; and not a single person in the town remained within their walls, when it was known that their protector, the man from whom they hoped so much, was near. The princess Cava had that day left her chamber, and was sitting in an inner apartment of the inn, which opened on a flower-garden, the perfume and fresh air of which was grateful to her. Anselmo, who watched her with the fondness of a parent, was charmed with the amendment in her health, and was amusing her with the history of one of the friendly monks of St. Anastatius, when, hearing joyful shouts, and trampling of horses, he went to the door of the inn to see what so much delighted the crowd. The troops were now in sight, and he immediately distinguished them for Christians. In a few minutes he saw don Palayo, with the duke Alphonso and Favilla, advancing towards the inn. The good Anselmo was nearly overcome with the sudden appearance of those he so dearly loved; when don Palayo, perceiving him, threw himself from his horse, that he might embrace and welcome him. Favilla, who had never heard of him since he led her from the queen’s apartment at Toledo, feared he had fallen in the attack on the town; and when she saw the good father she so revered, at only the distance of a few paces, her joy was so great, she could be of no assistance to herself; and the duke, seeing her agitation, and her eyes fixed with filial affection on the venerable Anselmo, lifted her from her steed, and almost carried her to where the monk stood—“My child!” “My good, kind father!” was all they could utter. Anselmo clasped the dear Favilla in his arms, weeping over her tears of joy, and blessing the hour that had restored her to him, and in which he saw her so happy.
The duke Alphonso also rejoiced to see the monk; but his lovely wife, and the amiable character she now appeared in, chiefly occupied his thoughts:—
“O’er her fair form his eyes in transport roll,
And bless a beauty with so soft a soul.”
The crowd augmenting, don Palayo, taking his sister and the monk by the hand, proposed entering the house.
Anselmo, fearful of the effect their too sudden appearance might have on his poor pilgrim, now only in a convalescent state, hesitated, saying—“Allow me first, don Palayo, to prepare one for your reception who is dear to you all, and now within this house; but in too weak a state not to have her health endangered by too sudden joy.”
“Who is it?” cried Favilla, with the most tender impatience: “it must be Egilone, or Cava.”
Without farther consideration, and before any one could prevent her, she flew into the inn, and was almost instantly in the apartment leading to where Cava sat. The princess believed the monk was returned, and expected him to enter every moment. Soon Favilla’s voice reached her; she heard it with astonishment and joy; she half-rose from her seat, but she was powerless, and again sunk into it; she panted for breath; the door opened; Favilla rushed to where she saw her beloved friend, and started at the change in her appearance; the joy that beamed on her face, as she sprung into the apartment, was changed to an expression of mournful pleasure; she still advanced, and throwing herself on Cava’s neck, she pressed her to her heart with expressions of the tenderest friendship—“Cava, we shall again live like sisters; we have met to part no more.”
The princess endeavoured to answer her; she found it impossible; the struggle in her mind was great; and, throwing her arms round Favilla, she laid her head upon her bosom, and burst into tears. Anselmo entered; he was witness to this affecting scene; he felt relieved at seeing Cava weep, assured that it would relieve her oppressed heart, and prevent her suffering from the violent agitation she had undergone. The good father returned to don Palayo and the duke, advising that the friends might be left to themselves for some time—“Let them,” said he, “unburden their hearts to each other. Under the protection of the amiable Favilla, my hapless Cava, I trust, will find repose. What pillow like the bosom of a friend?”
Desirous as was don Palayo and Alphonso to see the long-lost Cava, they acquiesced in Anselmo’s opinion, and agreed not to intrude on her till the next morning, when they hoped she would be in a state of mind sufficiently calm to receive such true friends as they were, and to accept their protection for her future life.
The good monk, having informed the princess that she should be left alone with Favilla for the rest of the night, returned to don Palayo and the duke, and spent the greatest part of it in relating to them the different events of which we have informed our readers; and in learning from them, to his great astonishment, their adventures; the dangers Favilla had escaped, and the return of Alonzo from Africa; his having joined the standard of don Palayo, and being the happy instrument of Favilla’s release from the monster Musad. The pious monk crossed himself, and raised his heart in thankfulness to Heaven, for these wonderful and fortunate events. Anselmo, in relating his own adventures, and those of the Gothic princess, had carefully avoided naming Rodrigo; he and Cava had determined to confine the knowledge of his being in existence to themselves alone; they hoped he would never forsake the savage life he had so long adopted; they prayed never to hear of him, or to see him more; they dreaded lest Egilone should have the slightest idea that he lived; they knew the misery it would entail upon her, and they determined on eternal silence respecting the unfortunate king.
“Oh, thou most injur’d, utter thy complaint!
Give words to anger, and to sorrow tears!”
THE night was far spent before don Palayo and Alphonso would suffer the good father Anselmo to retire to rest: they had too much to ask, too much to hear, to take any note of time. Don Palayo, desirous of attaching to himself such a friend, such a character as the monk, gave him the most pressing invitation to remain at his court, where he hoped the Gothic princess would also fix her residence.
Favilla had remained with her friend; and, shocked as she was at the change in her appearance, she suppressed her own feelings, to soften the pangs she was sensible the princess endured at this meeting. For some time her tears flowed in silence; but the gentle Favilla, who well knew the delicate texture of Cava’s mind, drew her into the most confidential conversation. By degrees unburdening her whole soul, she allowed Favilla to read all her thoughts; and informed her of every transaction of her life, since she bid her farewell in the court of Toledo, one secret only excepted, that Rodrigo was still in existence. She shrunk from acknowledging the sad truth even to herself; and recoiled with horror from the bare idea, as it obtruded itself on her recollection.
Having exerted all her powers to sooth the sorrows of her friend, to draw her attention to at least a peaceful future, the sweet Favilla forced her to seek repose; avowing her determination of being her companion for the night, that she might, at an early hour, enter on the recital of her own adventures since they parted. Unwilling to agitate too violently the heart of the princess, by mentioning Alonzo, and giving her to understand he was so near, she feigned weariness herself; and having ordered a couch to be prepared for her in Cava’s apartment—“I shall leave my brother and Alphonso to take care of the good Anselmo,” said she, smiling. “You, my beloved Cava, shall be my care for this night; you shall find me the best physician in the world; I bring you the cordial of true friendship; it will, I hope, prove its infallibility, by soon restoring your exhausted frame to health, and to its pristine beauty, and your dear heart to peace. To-morrow you must lay aside these pilgrim’s weeds, and accompany us to my brother’s castle; though it wants the magnificence of Toledo, it will be endeared to us by the liberty and security we shall enjoy within its walls. You, Cava, we shall look on as its most precious treasure. From this white hour I hope every good. The friend of my early days is restored to me; I estimate the blessing, Cava, as I ought to do: and, if possible, I will force you to be happy.”
“Beloved Favilla! words are a poor return for your friendship; but you, who know me from infancy, will not doubt the gratitude I feel for your undiminished friendship. You have been the meditation, Favilla, of my secret hours—Heaven has heard my prayer. We meet again: I do not wish to withdraw myself from you, Favilla; but a cloister, in your neighbourhood, must be the abode of Cava.”
Favilla, unwilling to give the princess any uneasiness, by disagreeing with her on so serious a subject, only said, that to-morrow they would converse more largely on many matters they could not touch on at the present hour; she wished her unhappy friend peaceful slumbers; and she herself appeared to rest, although her thoughts were occupied in devising some means of rendering life more tolerable to the princess, and of turning her thoughts from her own distresses, into that channel in which all who loved her wished them to flow.
The wakeful Favilla perceived with pleasure that Cava slept. Her slumbers were not only tranquil, but appeared to produce agreeable visions; and Favilla heard her own name and Alonzo’s repeated in the tenderest and most affecting manner. Here, for a little, we shall leave her—
“While sleep, that sometimes shuts up Sorrow’s eye,
Steals her awhile from her own company.”
It was but a few hours of rest that was granted to the inhabitants of the village, or of the inn. The sound of a distant trumpet roused don Palayo and Alphonso before the rising of the sun. The prince, a watchful general, was ever prepared to combat the Infidels, or receive the flying Christians, as a father would receive his children. He and Alphonso, mounting their horses, instantly rode to the skirts of the village, to ascertain the cause of this early alarm. They soon encountered a cavalier, attended by some horsemen, and bringing an account from Alonzo, that he had certain information that Alcama, a Moorish general, had orders to march against don Palayo; that he was now in great force at Cordova, and was hastening all his warlike preparations to enter the Asturias; that the number of the Moors was immense; and that many unworthy Christians, with the vile Oppas, archbishop of Seville, had joined his standard; that Oppas’s excuse for such conduct was, his wish for peace with the Moors; and as he was of the blood-royal, and related to don Palayo, he hoped, by force of argument or entreaties, to persuade the prince to lay down his arms, give up his pretensions to the kingdom, and accept the advantageous terms the Moorish chiefs were willing to offer to him, and the Christians who had fled into the north of Spain. The cavalier had alit from his horse, more respectfully to deliver his melancholy message to the prince—“Brave cavalier!” answered the undaunted don Palayo, “I see, by your harassed appearance, the haste with which you have performed your journey, and that you are distressed at the news you bring. Be not so, brave warrior, (for I recollect you well, and how gallantly you fought in the fatal battle of Xeres); I do not look on the news my friend Alonzo sends me as disastrous. Let the Moors come! They shall see that the Lord of Hosts fights for Israel. My only grief is, that there is still found in Spain worthless and degenerate Christians, who attach themselves to the cause of the Infidels, to preserve their riches, and their wretched lives; and that, at their head, they should have placed my corrupt kinsman, the archbishop of Seville. I am ashamed to give so sacred a title to a man more properly named an arch-fiend. His vile family have ruined Spain. Happy would it have been for this unfortunate country, had the family of Witiza perished in the cradle. What is the life of man without honour and without virtue? But, my brave and excellent countrymen,” continued don Palayo, turning to the multitude that now surrounded him, “let us not be dismayed. We have every thing to hope from the justice of our cause; from the union of our hearts; from the support we shall feel in that true religion we profess, which, I trust, my friends, we shall not only profess, but practise. Then, if we conquer, (as my mind tells me we shall,) we are fit to live, and to set a pattern of virtue and true patriotism to our posterity. If we die in so good a cause, we die with honour. Our names will be revered to the latest ages, wherever the Christian name shall be known; and we shall be led by angels to receive a crown of never-fading glory, in those blessed regions, the wished for home of all true and pious Christians.
“This, however, is a trying time, my friends; we must act, not talk. Every man in the north of Spain must now consider himself of the utmost importance; he must put on his buckler; he must grasp his shield, not to lay it down till the Infidels fly before us, till they leave us freedom, and our mountains; then shall we turn our warlike instruments into plough-shares and pruning hooks; the shepherd shall safely inhabit our cultivated vallies, and our barren mountains shall rejoice and sing; they are now our protection. At a future day, with what transport, with what enthusiasm shall we traverse their stupendous heights, and wander through their wild scenery! shewing, to a coming generation, every spot that our gallant deeds shall render celebrated. When we wish to form our youth for the camp, or for the council, we shall point out the spot where fell such a hero, while he stopped the progress of thousands of the enemy; or where another, more fortunate, surprised the Infidels, slaughtered numbers, and pursued their flying troops even to the gates of their walled towns: these must be the lessons we give our sons, if we are to continue a kingdom, if Spain is again to resume her place among the nations.”
“And she shall again wield her lost sceptre after a time; after a contest, dreadful, but certainly successful for the Christians, shall the Infidels return into their own land, by the way that they came,” cried a voice, mild, but impressive and enthusiastic.
Don Palayo turned round to see who spoke. Father Anselmo was close to him; his eyes and hands were stretched to Heaven; his prayers were for his country, and he appeared what he was, a saint upon earth.
Loud shouts now proceeded from the crowd; they applauded their wise and brave prince; all wished to follow him to battle, and declared he only was fit to govern Spain.
Palayo, a true patriot, desired power only as it might enable him to serve his country; to serve her, he wished to reign; to serve her, he was willing to die; the love of his native land, her honour, her liberty, sat nearest his heart. Followed, and applauded by all, he returned into the village, to regulate, with the duke Alphonso and the good Anselmo, his present plan of action. He had long expected the step the Infidels had taken. To terrify him was beyond their power; and with his band of heroes, he was prepared to conquer, or to die.
Before the prince could return to the inn, the alarm had reached the apartment where Cava and her friend Favilla reposed. They soon learned that a cavalier had arrived, with news from Alonzo, from the borders of the Asturias. This was the first moment that Cava had heard the name of Alonzo. She started, turned pale; but soon a deep blush overspread her charming face; and her eyes, swimming in tears, were fixed on her friend, tacitly soliciting an explanation of what she heard. She wished to ask—“Has Alonzo left Africa? Is it possible he should be so near, and acting under don Palayo?” In vain she essayed to speak; her agitation became great; and Favilla, judging from her appearance, the extreme distress of her mind, with the utmost tenderness, besought her to calm her fears, for she had a story to tell that could not fail to give her infinite delight, as it would place Alonzo’s conduct in a point of view the most amiable in the world. Cava breathed freer, though she was still severely agitated; her anxious eye looked wildly round, for she secretly wished, yet dreaded to seeAlonzo.
Favilla, not noticing the varying passions that shook the soul of her friend, led her gently to a seat; and, placing herself by her side, clasped her hands in hers, while she gave her an accurate account of all Alonzo had done and suffered, to rescue her from the power of the governor Musad—“That perfect, that incomparable lover!” cried Favilla, “who had sought you, Cava, through Spain, believed it was you whom the cruel governor had confined; he would have passed the gates of death to have released you: but I should be ungrateful in the extreme to the dear, worthy Alonzo, if I did not declare to you, that when he discovered his mistake, and found me, instead of her he most loved on earth, friendship reigned as powerfully in his breast as love had done. Only for Alonzo, my fate would have been the most wretched. Disappointed as he was in his expectation of rescuing you, he never forsook me; exposed his life for my sake; nay, for a time, neglected you, to serve your friend.”
“Worthy, dear, noble Alonzo!” cried Cava, (throwing herself into Favilla’s arms,) “how well he knows the heart of the unhappy Cava! he felt he could lay no stronger obligation on me, than by restoring you to happiness. My beloved friend, how do I rejoice to see you the wife of Alphonso! Yes, Favilla, this heart of mine, that is ever steeped in tears of blood for my own miserable fate, is at this moment joyful at what I hear. I glory in my Alonzo; for what can give greater gratification to a woman that has a heart, than being the chosen and sole object of affection to a man, in every respect so perfect as Alonzo? Conscious I am this object to him, secure of passing my life with you, Favilla, I feel a peace of mind I have not felt for years. Allow my wayward temper, Favilla, to have its course; permit me to live as retired as I chuse; and you will soon perceive the happy effects that a tranquil life will have both on my health and spirits. I shall hear from you every thing that befalls Alonzo; I will not see him; but he shall be the subject of our conversation; and, through you, we shall converse with each other; by so doing, we shall avoid many painful meetings. He will think of me as one far distant; I shall think only of him, and spend my solitary hours in prayers for his glory and his peace of mind.” Here Cava’s eyes were brightened with an expression of joy almost celestial; a soft smile diffused itself over her pale features, still exquisitely lovely; laying her hand on Favilla’s arm, she said, “Believe me, I am as happy as it is possible for me to be while I remain on earth.”
Favilla, inwardly grieved at seeing that what her poor friend called happiness was fixed despair, felt that it was to another world she looked for peace; and, from the delicacy of her worn-out beauteous frame, she feared she should not long have to perform for her those tender offices of friendship so dear to both.
These melancholy reflections of the amiable Favilla were interrupted by the return of don Palayo and his friends. Anselmo knocked at the door of the apartment, with a message from the prince. He was anxious to know how the fair friends had passed the night; and requested permission, for himself and the duke, to pay their compliments to the Gothic princess. Anselmo said—“Don Palayo had something to communicate, and time was precious.”
Cava had not a moment for reflection; she could not refuse to see the prince; and Favilla, saying she would return with her brother and the duke, left the apartment.
The poor pilgrim was obliged, for some time, to remain alone, and she employed it to summon all her courage to meet don Palayo. He soon entered with the duke and Favilla; and, notwithstanding the latter had represented to her brother and husband the altered appearance and the melancholy of her friend, they were ill-prepared to see her the lovely ruin she now was. She still wore her pilgrim’s dress; and as don Palayo approached, she threw herself at his feet, and besought him, with a shower of tears, to forgive her, if possible, the woes she had brought (though innocently) on their common country—“I know,” cried she, “my dear, unhappy father is no more; none of you will tell me the sad truth, although none deny it. I, alas! have been the cause of his death. Do not curse me, don Palayo, for the misfortunes I have brought on Spain; I too shall soon lie down in the dust, and gladly shall I resign a life that has been so fatal to all I love.”
Don Palayo hastened to raise her from the ground, and tenderly embracing her, he said—“Cease, dearest Cava, to accuse yourself of the crimes of others; not your own have weighed you down. Shake off this melancholy, I beseech you; you are with those that tenderly love you, and share in all your feelings. While this arm can wield a sword, it will protect you: do not dwell upon the past; console yourself for count Julian’s doubtful fate. Here is one who will be a father to you—the good Anselmo; here is the duke of Biscay and myself; we will be your brothers; and your long-tried and esteemed Favilla will place the duties of friendship in her heart next those of love. Spain shall yet have a joyful day, my princess, and then shall we see you smile.” He again tenderly embraced her; she leaned, weeping, on his shoulder; while the duke Alphonso, unable to utter a word, so greatly was he affected at seeing her, took her hand, and affectionately pressing it in his, raised it to his lips.
Don Palayo, sensible that this sort of agitation was productive of no good, and might materially injure the health of the princess, told Favilla he wished her and Cava to prepare for a journey to his castle, where he hoped they would remain in the most perfect security. “The Infidels are in force,” said he, “and threaten us in our mountains; but we fear them not. Your warlike duke, Favilla, and our brave Alonzo, will assist me to drive them from this asylum of the Christians; all will shortly be prepared for their reception, and before noon I shall be ready to attend you to the coast. In my castle, I trust you will not hear the din of arms; but that every messenger I send you shall carry the tidings you wish to receive. When I am obliged to quit the castle, I shall leave a faithful guard for your protection, and father Anselmo will watch over your safety.”
The prince now entreated they would partake with him of some refreshments before they left the village; and, before he withdrew, hinted to Favilla his wish that Cava would resume her own habit.
The princess, willing to gratify such friends to the utmost of her power, consented to throw off her pilgrim’s weeds, and was soon habited like her friend. As she entered the breakfast-room with Favilla, every eye was turned towards her. She was not the gay, animated, brilliant Cava they had known at Toledo; all that was gone; but she was a creature composed, in appearance, of such fine materials, so delicate, so fragile, so sylphlike, that you almost expected to see her dissolve into thin air. She had chosen, from Favilla’s wardrobe, the most simple dress; it was snowy white, and completely enveloped, without concealing the symmetry and grace of the elegant form it clothed. Her fine eyes had exchanged their dazzling lustre for that meek, expressive, patient, melancholy look that penetrated to the very soul; they told all her heart suffered, and how she struggled to conceal those sufferings. At intervals, the palest tints of the rose illumined her face, and gave brilliancy to her languid eye; but it soon faded from her cheek; it was transient as the meteors of the north, and only served to shew the ravages that grief had made. Her silken hair, now free from the confinement of her pilgrim’s hat, fell in abundance on her neck of snow, and on her polished forehead. From a ruby chain, thrown round that lovely neck, hung a picture of Alonzo; but it was concealed from view, and under her robe she placed it next her trembling, palpitating heart, and there did she enshrine a relic dearer to her than worlds.
Amazed at the appearance of the princess, as she entered the apartment, don Palayo and Alphonso gazed at her with wonder, and then at each other. A spirit from the realms of light could not have looked more celestial. Sighs rose in their bosoms, as they thought how soon they should lose sight of her on earth; and don Palayo’s earnest wish was, to render the short time she had to remain with them as happy as was in his power. He talked to her cheerfully; spoke of the delight he had in again beholding her; in being able to give her protection and shelter in his own castle; he recounted with enthusiasm the gallant actions of the brave Alonzo, and his weighty obligations to him on his sister’s account. Cava threw a timid and delighted glance on don Palayo, as he spoke in such high terms of Alonzo; and she could, unwearied, have listened to him, “from morn till dewy eve.”
The cavalier who had come from the army was now refreshed, and joined the group. He was to return immediately to Alonzo; and don Palayo was desirous he should see the Gothic princess, and be able to give his friend the heartfelt satisfaction that she whom he had so long and so anxiously sought, was in safety, and under his protection. The cavalier had never seen count Julian’s daughter; he detested the count for his base conduct towards Spain; and had never felt the smallest interest for Cava. On the first view, his heart was changed; he was fascinated by those powerful charms that the whole world acknowledged; he thought her as near an angel as any one on earth could be; and ceased to wonder at the unalterable love she had inspired in the breast of the prince Alonzo; he soon retired with don Palayo and the duke, and the friends prepared for their journey towards the coast.
As soon as don Palayo had dispatched his messengers, and regulated the motions of his little army, attended by some troops, he proceeded with his friends to his own castle; it was not more than a day’s journey from the village, and their route was by no means a disagreeable one, as the country was much diversified, and a thousand beautiful and romantic scenes presented themselves, which, as if by enchantment, (on emerging from a wood, or descending from a mountain,) changed to the wildest views in nature. Here stupendous rocks, with scarcely a tree to clothe their barren sides, and huge cataracts rolling over them, and even at a distance stunning the fearful traveller, gave an idea of a desolate region, unfit for the habitation of man. There a gloomy forest, spreading over a vast tract, threw its dark shadows on the valley beneath, and infected with melancholy, or filled with awe, the heart of the solitary passenger. As don Palayo and his company passed these wilds, he rejoiced in their savage appearance, in their huge caverns, in their almost impenetrable forests; and pointing to them as they journeyed on, he cried—“There is our protection, our barrier against the Infidels. As the children of Israel, when they were thrust out of Egypt, found shelter in the wilderness, so have we found it in these wilds; and here shall we conquer the Philistines that come up against us.”
All heartily joined their prayers, that don Palayo’s hopes might be fulfilled; and their hours passing in sweet discourse, they felt no fatigue.
Favilla was happy in her recovered friend. Cava, whose thoughts were continually wandering to Alonzo, looked on the dark woods without perceiving their gloom; on the barren rock, without seeing its wildness; but not even the occupied mind of Cava could remain insensible to the beauties of the country that lay before them, as they emerged from a defile between two steep mountains, that appeared to have been torn asunder by a convulsion of nature. Having cleared this pass, they beheld with wonder an extent of country beautiful beyond description, and bounded by the sea. The coast was broken into numberless romantic bays; some had their sides shaded with trees, and the white sails of ships were seen through their foliage. Part of the coast rose in steep cliffs, which hung terrific over the broad ocean, that at full tide bellowed through their dark caverns. Cultivated grounds, shady groves, silver streams that rolled their clear waters to the sea, and fertilized, in their course, this smiling country, with numerous habitations scattered over the hills, and through the vallies, gave an unspeakable cheerfulness to the scene. Favilla was as much a stranger to this part of Spain as Cava; they both enjoyed the enchanting landscape. Don Palayo saw it with pleasure, and pointing to where lay his castle at a distance, and close to the sea, he cried—“Yonder is the temple of Liberty; there I delight to think she has fixed her seat. When driven from the rest of Spain, my friends, we shall enjoy, within our mountains, her sweet society; and, feeling the blessings of freedom as we ought, resign, without a sigh, those luxuries we must now exchange for a simple and rural life. Pomp and ostentation are not compatible with our present state. I should blush to spend in folly the riches that, properly distributed, may save from misery thousands of the poor Christians, who are constantly flying into the north, and seeking the protection of don Palayo—greater will be my satisfaction in seeing them free and happy, than our proudest kings have ever felt in contemplating their wealth and power.”
All present extolled their brave and virtuous leader, and tacitly confessed the path of virtue was the most certain road to happiness.
The white turrets of the castle now rose to view; the western sun still lingered on its towers, and fully displayed the beauty of this Gothic mansion. It stood on an eminence, and covered a vast tract of ground; it was almost impregnable; could contain great numbers within its walls, and was well provided with every necessary to sustain a long siege. It fronted the sea, and behind it rose a venerable wood, the growth of ages: it gave shelter to the castle, and infinite beauty to the prospect.
Cava and Favilla, who had no idea of so charming an asylum, felt impatient to reach the castle. On a nearer approach, don Palayo’s signal was made, and answered from the battlements; and, in a short time, a hundred of his soldiers, headed by two of his bravest cavaliers, issued from the gates to meet him, and welcome his return. All knew Favilla, and all rejoiced at her safety. The Gothic princess was received with the honours due to her rank; and, conducted by don Palayo, they entered the castle. Here nothing but the magnificent castle indicated royalty; all was comfort and simplicity; no form, no state; temperance and sobriety presided at the table of don Palayo; his time and his thoughts were given to counsel and to war; he appeared more as the father of his people than their governor. No one applied to him for succour in vain; nor was there a Christian in the Asturias that would have refused to risk his life for don Palayo. On arriving at his castle, he regulated every thing for the comfort and convenience of his guests. Favilla and the princess had the most cheerful and convenient apartments: all that could gratify was appropriated to their use. The good father Anselmo was not forgotten by don Palayo. For some days the fair friends enjoyed but little of the company of either the prince or the duke Alphonso; they were busily employed in preparations for war; and Alonzo failed not to send them daily intelligence respecting the Infidels. Favilla and Cava devoted their hours to each other; they had much to hear, and much to tell. Favilla anxiously wished to see the lovely Zamora—smiling, she declared—“Had she been in Cava’s place, she should certainly have fallen in love with Aleanzar.”
But soon her gaiety forsook her; their conversation turned on Egilone, and with tears they mourned her lost to them for ever.
With tender solicitude Favilla watched her friend; and saw, with silent joy, that the fond attention of her friends, the certainty of a secure abode, with the pious conversation of father Anselmo, had restored Cava’s mind to a great degree of tranquillity, and her health to an infinitely better state than it appeared to be in when they found her at the village.
Day succeeded day; the Moors were either not prepared to enter the Asturias, or chose, for a time, to delay their operations against the Christians. Don Palayo relaxed not in his watchfulness; and the fair friends employed their hours in innocent amusements, and in acts of benevolence and charity towards all who claimed their assistance, or were worthy of it.
ALTHOUGH unwilling to leave the company of don Palayo and his amiable friends, yet we must, since time and place are in our power, return to the west, and trace the steps of the wretched Rodrigo, as, like an evil spirit, he wandered over the ruined castle, and through the tangled paths of the gloomy forest by which it was encompassed, waiting for the hour he could visit the hermit, without breaking in on his devotions, or forfeiting his own promise—“Stately was the king; but his soul was dark! dark as the troubled face of the moon when it fortells the storms!”—hoping to calm, in a degree, those terrible passions that, like so many fiends, gave him no peace by night or day. At the setting of the sun, he turned his steps towards the hermitage: constrained to pass the cavern where lay his dead friend, he felt a bitter pang, and the fear of a future judgment thrilled with horror through his frame. This feeling was but momentary; his evil genius preponderated; he cast repentance far behind him; and called all the powers of sophistry to his aid, to confirm him in the atheism he had adopted, to enable him to sin without fear; but he experienced the fate of evil-doers. Conscience, that tremendous monitor, could not be silenced; her voice thundered in his ears; she conjured up a thousand gloomy spectres to affright him even in the noonday; and in vain did Rodrigo resist her overwhelming power. Anselmo’s converse only gave a momentary respite to his inward pangs; when he talked of repentant sinners, of the mercy that would hereafter be extended even to the worst, if, with deep contrition, they sought it from an all-merciful and benificent Creator, who wished not the destruction of those who came into being by his great bidding, who desires not the death of a sinner, but only that he should return from his evil ways, and repent him of the past; when Anselmo, with his fascinating eloquence, placed these great truths before the king; when he exhorted him to consider eternity, and not to confine his views to this miserable life, and the leading of a few years in vices that sunk man beneath a brute; when Anselmo talked thus— “when truths divine came mended from his tongue,” Rodrigo listened attentively; what he heard was uncontrovertible, and his proud, vitiated mind was lost in astonishment, that a poor hermit, secluded from the world, and, in appearance, one of its meanest inhabitants, should (though out of his power to convince) yet charm the attention, and overawe the mind of a king. But whatever impression Anselmo’s words produced was only transient; the sound had scarcely died away, when no trace remained in the marble heart of Rodrigo. Pained, but not convinced, he often left the hermitage angry, and with a haughty step, while gloomy despair marked his haggard face; yet would he as often return, with a calm, unruffled countenance, and earnestly solicit the converse of the monk.
Anselmo still continuing his disguise, endeavoured, though in vain, to draw him from evil. As a frail human being, he pitied him, and bewailed his errors; as his king, he respected him; as his near relation, he felt, that although affection for such a character was impossible, yet that affinity in blood claimed its rights; and he found himself more deeply interested for him, than he could ever be for one of another kindred.
On ascending the hill that led to the hermitage, all was silent around, and Rodrigo saw not the hermit (as was usual with him at the decline of day) seated without his little habitation, under the shade of orange trees that grew close to it; from this spot he was accustomed to watch the last rays of the departing sun, as this glorious luminary, consigning half the globe to the repose that weary nature wants, sunk in the western main, and rose on other nations, diffusing light, and life, and comfort to all created beings. Here Anselmo meditated, and offered up his evening hymn. Here the king expected to find him; but his seat was vacant; the door of his little hermitage was closed; and the impatient Rodrigo felt displeased that the poor penitent he had seen in the cell should occupy the hermit’s time, which his proud heart persuaded him would be so much better employed if given to him; and he tacitly cursed the religion of the hermit, and called it ridiculous superstition; yet, awed by his virtue, he did not dare to break in on his devotions; and seating himself on the bench that was so often occupied by Anselmo, he also turned his eyes towards the glorious lamp of day, now shedding his last vivid rays over the heavens, and the broad ocean, whose placid waves reflected every beam, and whose scarcely undulating waters glittered (as the eye rested on them) with a thousand varying hues; but Rodrigo’s eye dwelt not with delight on so magnificent a scene—“On it his grieved look he fixes sad, for conscience wakes despair; awakes the bitter memory of what he was.” In stupid gaze he sat, and his bewildered mind threw a dark veil over a prospect that would have raised a pure heart from earth to heaven, full of praise and thanksgiving, for the unnumbered gratifications granted to man, by that Almighty Power, who disdained not to create so beautiful a world for his sole use and pleasure. Alas! to the sinner, to him that makes an ill use of his great Maker’s gifts, the disenchanted earth loses its lustre, and becomes a barren desert; his darkened senses feel no gratification in the loveliest works of nature; and his contracted view extends not beyond the gloomy grave, where eternal sleep is his brightest hope. Such was the state of the lost Rodrigo’s mind, and long had he sat in dreadful thought, unconscious of the coming night, deaf to the howlings of the wolves from the mountains, or to the loud hootings of the screech-owls from the forest, the sign of future woe. At length, awakened from his deathlike stupor, he started from his seat; the landscape had faded from before him, and darkness overshadowed the world; still all was silent in the hermitage. Rodrigo turned round; he approached the door; he knocked, no answer was returned—for a few moments he was patient; at length he lifted the latch. The cell was deserted; with a few steps the king traversed it; neither hermit nor suffering penitent was there; he was astonished at this desertion; he called aloud; the echo only of his voice returned; by the dim light that entered at the casement, he saw the hermitage was in perfect order; the hermit’s lamp was on a little table where it used to stand. The king struck a light, and as soon as the lamp blazed, he examined the outer and inner cells, where he found both the habit of a monk, and the hermit’s dress which Anselmo was accustomed to wear. Angry at not meeting him whose conversation gave some relaxation to his gloomy mind, and helped to render his days less wretched, it occurred to him, that the hermit was gone with his young penitent to some monastery, to make his peace with his superior. Smiling with contempt as this idea crossed his mind, he wondered how superstition could shackle the exalted understanding of the hermit—“And yet,” said he, mentally, “how peaceful seems the mind of this man, while mine is a chaos where every warring passion meets, and knows no calm!” Here, as often happened, deep groans unwillingly escaped him. For some time he stood at the entrance of the cell, as if in expectation of the hermit’s return: finding it long delayed, and a loud storm of thunder and lightning coming on, with so much violence as even to awe his hardened soul, he closed the door of the hermitage, determining to remain there during the night: stretching himself on the pallet of the hermit, he soon slept; but his was not the sleep that visited the good Anselmo’s eyes when stretched on the same spot; a future heaven opened on his pure soul. Rodrigo’s slumbers were not those of a heart at ease, or satisfied with itself. He now imagined himself at Toledo again, the lord of thousands, and rendering thousands miserable. The fatal field of Xeres, the pursuit of Alonzo, the Guadaleta, the fisher’s hut, followed in quick succession; the cavern where lay the murdered Goth, all that the phantom had displayed before him, again blasted his mental sight; and during his agitated slumbers, large drops of sweat rolled over his contracted brow. Lastly, he beheld, at an immense distance, the forms of Alonzo and Cava; they seemed to stand lightly on fleecy clouds tinged with gold; their hands were joined; laurel covered the bright forehead of Alonzo, and myrtle crowned the beauteous head of the Gothic princess; her form was not of earth; joy sparkled on her dazzling countenance, and her eyes were fixed on an opening cloud to which Alonzo pointed—“Ha!” cried the king, starting from his uneasy couch, “am I never to know peace! sleeping or waking, am I the sport of demons! Yet,” added he, “yet, fool that I am, do I give credit to the visions of the night; mere empty nothings; unreal mockeries. Yet how contradictory is all I hear and see! Did not the spirit in the cavern, if spirit he really was, tell me that Cava was no more? Fancy then presented her form; I pursued it; it vanished from my sight; she faded into air; my search for her was fruitless; had she been within the walls of the castle, she could not have escaped me; is not the vision of this night as false? Oh! cursed Alonzo, why come you to my dreams!” The perturbed spirit of the king would not allow him farther rest—“Now night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast, and brightly shone Aurora’s harbinger.”
Throwing open the door of the hermitage, Rodrigo burst from it, and till broad day appeared in the east, he paced, with unquiet step, the summit of the hill; still the expected hermit returned not, and the king determined on occupying his abode till he appeared. Nightly visited by harassing dreams, though stretched upon the pallet of a saint, he felt that to him every place became obnoxious; for though he might change his habitation, he could not fly from himself; yet still the hermitage was a less dreary abode than the ruined castle. As he was accustomed to do, he, during the day, pursued the wild beasts of the forest, or hunted the flying deer upon the hills; and at evening returned, sad and forlorn, to Anselmo’s cell. For a length of time this was the dreary life that Rodrigo led. Solitude and meditation worked no reformation in him; and the characters of his savage nature were now deeply stamped in that face, which, while the mind that gave it animation was free from the stains of guilt, all looked on with delight. One evening, as he sat before the hermitage, he perceived a monk ascending the path that led to it. Glad at the return of the hermit, (for he supposed the stranger to be him,) he rose to meet him; but soon he perceived his mistake; a much younger man saluted him. Rodrigo had not yet lost the manners of a court, and, though vexed at his disappointment, he received the stranger with civility; and asking him into the hermitage, spread some provisions before him; and seeing him weary, offered him the accommodation of the inner cell for the night. The tired traveller gladly accepted the courteous offer of the king, ignorant to whom he was obliged. The monk was about thirty; learned, of easy manners, and had lived in the great world. Miserable as was the king, the conversation of a human being, with manners and an education not inferior to his own, was, at the moment, a source of unexpected pleasure. Finding the stranger possessed a knowledge of all now transacting throughout Spain, and that his temper was communicative, the king questioned him much; and the monk, in the integrity of his heart, spoke truths that often stabbed him to the soul, though disguising his real feelings, with a greedy ear he listened to all he said. Hours had fled, shortened in their course by the conversation of the stranger, when he, first pausing and looking round, and then at the savage dress in which Rodrigo was clothed, the contrast of his manners and apparel strongly striking him, he questioned in his turn, and asked the king who he was, and how he came to inhabit Anselmo’s hermitage?
Starting at the sound of a name once so familiar to him, Rodrigo, silent as to who he was, instantly demanded what Anselmo the stranger meant?
“What Anselmo,” cried the monk, with ardour, “can be spoken of in Spain, but one? the great, the virtuous, the excellent Anselmo, cousin to the vicious and unfortunate Rodrigo—Anselmo, who, living at the court of Toledo, essayed, as much as was in his power, to stop the tide of corruption; who deeply mourned the wickedness of the king; and when angry Heaven punished his crimes, remained the friend, the support and comforter of his unhappy, innocent, abandoned queen.”
Here deep sighs rose in the breast of the king, and leaning his burning cheek on his hand, he dared not meet the stranger’s eyes, who, thinking he was thus afflicted for the woes of others, continued—“Some time since, I met this worthy Anselmo in the mountains of Asturias; I could not mistake his venerable figure, though time and grief have had their usual effect on him.”
“Met Anselmo in the mountains of Asturias?” replied Rodrigo, raising his head, and looking earnestly at the monk; “it is impossible; he is long since numbered with the dead; you must have mistaken some other for him. It was an ancient hermit that last inhabited this cell; he is away on some business to his convent, and here I wait his return. Till your youthful air shewed me my mistake, as you ascended the hill, I took you for the holy man, and went forward to meet you.”
“I am not mistaken in what I assert,” answered the stranger; “father Anselmo, the pious monk of Toledo, the cousin to the unfortunate and guilty Rodrigo, the friend of the queen, did, for months, inhabit this hermitage; he has left it to seek the hope of Spain, the great and good Palayo. I met him on his journey, and remained with him some hours, partaking of his simple fare; I passed the heat of noon under the shade of some walnut-trees, in conversation with him and a most lovely pilgrim, who accompanies him in his journey; she appeared to me too delicate for this world, and more an angel of light than a mere mortal.”
“A pilgrim did you say?” cried the fierce king, starting from his seat, and his countenance changing from red to pale; “tell me who this pilgrim is? let me hear her name? describe her to me? I am cheated, I am fooled, I am every way deceived!” cried he, gnashing his teeth, and stamping with violence on the ground.
The stranger, appalled at his conduct, and believing him insane, gently answered, that—“he knew not the name of the pilgrim, nor had he dared to ask; but this he knew, Anselmo was conducting her to the north, to place her under the protection of don Palayo and his sister, the beautiful Favilla, with whom he understood she had been educated, in the royal palace at Toledo.”
“This is too much!” exclaimed Rodrigo, striking his clenched hand on his forehead, and stamping still more violently on the ground; “the old wizard and the young hypocrite have escaped me! It was Anselmo then who counterfeited the hermit! It was Cava, in the lying habit of a monk, I saw stretched along the cell! but your deceit shall not avail you; ye shall pay me homage. I am still your king,” cried he, rushing from the hermitage; “and ample vengeance will I take on both.” With swift steps he descended the hill, and darting into the thickest gloom of the forest, he gave the day to meditate the working of ill; he burnt with rage against Anselmo, and with an anxious desire to get Cava again into his power. Many and various were his plans; a thousand were thought feasible, and then rejected. Night overtook him; still undetermined on his future actions, he again sought the hermitage; the calls of hunger were imperious, and he hoped, before morning, to mature some mischievous scheme, that might gratify his passion and revenge.
When the king returned to the hermitage, the monk was gone; he believed he had encountered a lunatic, and had no suspicion of the rank of him whom he looked on with compassion, for his mental infirmities.
Leaving Rodrigo to the company of his own bad thoughts, we shall turn to the contemplation of more amiable objects, and first seek Alonzo on the confines of Palayo’s territory, where, with indefatigable labour, he watched the motions of the Moors.
AT this time the commotion throughout Spain was at the height; the south, and the interior of the country, was overrun by the Moors; they were everywhere triumphant; yet they lived in continual alarm, lest the Christians should one day throw off their yoke; and the perseverance and acknowledged abilities and valour of the prince don Palayo, filled them with apprehension for the safety of their new empire; and they were now collecting in numbers at Cordova, to turn their arms against the defender of his country. Alonzo, with an army of a few thousand Christians, devoted to their native land, and to their religion, protected the north; continually skirmished with the enemy; always came off victorious; and moved with such celerity, that the Infidels never knew his station, or where to encounter him. With an ardent desire to obliterate from the minds of men the error love had drawn him into, (when count Julian betrayed his country, to gratify his revenge,) the brave Alonzo now sought honour in the jaws of death. Self was as nothing to him; he was prodigal of life; he dealt death around him, and always withdrew, unhurt, from the field; the arrows aimed at him fell short of their mark; the best-tempered sword was shattered on his shield. He knew that her he loved was in safety; that she was surrounded by friends dear to her heart; friends also dear to him. To signalize himself against the Infidels; to obtain the approbation and applause of Cava, was the felicity he looked to on earth. Patient and indefatigable, he harassed the Moors; was acquainted with their secret plans; often frustrated their schemes, and always gave don Palayo the truest information. Cava heard his praises every hour, and from every tongue, and her heart exulted in the fame of her hero.
Don Palayo’s castle, though a very strong fortification, had nothing gloomy in its appearance. The enchanting sea-view, the wild and romantic rocks that rose on different parts of the coast, and whose beetling cliffs seemed to hang in air over the rolling deep, gave a sublime grandeur to the scene; while the beautiful woods that here and there encircled the base of the mountains, the peaceful vallies that lay between, and the sandy beech glittering in the sunbeams, with the many-coloured pebbles that enriched the coast, pleased and charmed the taste, that preferred the beauties of nature to the decorations of art.
From the battlements of the castle, you looked, with surprise and wonder, on the magnificent and wide-extended landscape. On a closer view, wandering by the “hoarse-resounding main,” or through vallies that might rival Tempe, where, under the shade of the far-spreading beech, its distant murmurs were scarcely heard, or heard but as the zephyr’s sigh—
“Attuned to the birds, and woodland melody,”
hardened must the mind be that felt not the soft influence, calculated to fill the unsophisticated heart with delight, and with that sweet serenity, that heavenly tranquillity, so little known, so little understood, so little felt, by those for ever occupied amid the busy scenes of life. Cava and Favilla were real lovers of nature, and much of their time was spent without the castle. Here, secure from the Moors, they could wander through these romantic scenes, fearless of molestation. All within the Asturias were the subjects and friends of don Palayo, and the fair inmates of the castle would have found a defender in every rustic they met, had any danger been near. Favilla saw, with secret pleasure, that the health of the princess had improved since their meeting. Quiet, more security and peace of mind than she had long enjoyed, added to the fame of Alonzo, had brought back faint roses to her cheek, and chased languor from her countenance: for a time her alarming complaints subsided; Death, pointing his dart at some happier object, left the suffering Cava a longer date.
The amiable Favilla gratified her friend in leaving her unmolested by entreaties or advice. Cava felt the delicacy she was treated with; found herself as retired in the castle, and as much secluded from the world she wished not to join, as she could have been in a convent; and for the present her scheme of entering one was abandoned.
Don Palayo, ever attentive to religion, had one of the finest chapels in Spain within his castle; it was in the north wing, and opened to the country on the side of the sea. At a short distance from the castle were some natural caverns in the rocks, fitted up by the prince for the accommodation of many poor monks, who had fled from the Moors, and supported by the bounty of don Palayo, were allowed the constant use of the chapel for their devotions; here the Gothic princess spent many hours in the day; here, morning and evening, she was constant in her attendance on the service of the church, accompanied by the good Anselmo; here, at the lone hour of midnight, when all in the fortress, save the careful watchmen on the towers, were enjoying profound repose, would Cava softly steal from her apartments, and traversing the long Gothic galleries and halls that lay between them and the chapel, spend some of the hours of night before the altar, preparing her pure soul for that heaven towards which her every thought pointed. One of the rooms she inhabited opened on a balcony which overlooked the lower battlements of the castle, and gave an exquisite view of the distant landscape; this was a favourite spot, frequented towards evening by the princess and Favilla. From hence they could always perceive the approach of don Palayo and the duke Alphonso, while at some distance from the castle, as after the fatigues of the day, in disciplining their little army, and regulating their movements, they returned wearied in body, yet full of hope, and animated by the truest patriotism, to defend their cause to the last gasp. Often when Favilla had retired for the night, Cava—
———“Who loved and blest
The hour of silence and of rest;
On the high turret, sitting lone,
Would wake at times the lute’s soft tone;
Her golden hair stream’d free from band,
Her fair cheek rested on her hand,
Her bright eyes sought the west afar,
For lovers love the western star.”
Here her moments passed, if not happily, yet in that soft tranquillity, that depriving the mind of energy, leaves it little to hope or to fear. Months had passed; don Palayo had had, at different times, many engagements with the Moors, or rather skirmishes, for no regular battle had been fought. Now things took a more decided and serious turn. Messengers were constantly arriving from Alonzo, to prepare don Palayo for a general attack. At length it was announced that an embassy from the Moors, with the archbishop of Seville at their head, was on their way to the Asturias. Don Palayo ordered them to be stopped on the confines; he would not suffer their nearer approach; and he and the duke of Biscay, not willing to give offence to the unworthy Christians, who had, either willingly or by force, joined the Moors, declared their intention of meeting the man they despised, at a place appointed for the security of both parties, to hear what he had to offer on the part of the Moors, and the degenerate Christians, that they might publicly declare to the whole world their determination, while they could lift a spear, or draw a sword, to defend their liberty, and the true religion; and never to submit to the galling yoke of the Infidels, who would soon break through every treaty, and when they had the power, would, from the nature both of their religion and government, trample on the civil and religious laws of the Christians.
With a large body of cavalry, and a number of brave knights, don Palayo and his kinsman, with all the splendour their situation would admit of, taking leave of their friends in the castle, and recommending to Anselmo, and the brave soldiers that remained, the care of all within the walls, at the rising of the sun, sallied forth in gallant trim to meet the Moorish embassy, with their degenerate countryman at its head. Don Palayo’s hopes were sanguine of detaching Oppas from the Moors, and even of using him as an instrument against them; he could not believe that he had sold himself to work iniquity; the attachment he had formerly felt for him, and his consanguinity, blinded the brave prince, and gave his judgment a wrong bias, what seldom occurred to don Palayo. The duke Alphonso, who was better acquainted with the dark side of Oppas’s character, had no hope of any advantage in this meeting, though he saw it was not possible to avoid it; and he felt that the interview was only a prelude to perhaps a decisive battle. With the utmost anxiety in his heart, he bade farewell to his adored Favilla and her friend. How might the hours be filled till they met again! rose in his mind; and as he thought of bloody fields, and the death of heroes, he stifled the feelings of his heart, suppressed the words he was about to utter, and with a warrior’s firmness, gracefully saluting his friends, he and don Palayo mounted their impatient steeds, and were soon beyond the castle walls, where hundreds had crowded to view the departure of the princes, and to pray that their return might bring peace and liberty to their country. Cava and Favilla repaired to the turret, from whence they could trace their road to a vast distance; they leaned upon the battlements; they spoke not; their eyes, full of tears, followed the heroes; a brother and a husband filled the whole soul of the tender Favilla. Cava sent her mournful thoughts to Alonzo’s camp, and endeavoured to conceal, even from herself, the fond wish that he too might return to the castle with don Palayo and Alphonso. At the moment, she felt how ineffectual is reason to chain the affections of the human heart; a deep blush suffused her face at the conviction that love in her bosom was still unconquered; she started at the truth; but religion whispered to her pure mind, to her was the exclusive power given to hush to peace every human passion; and suddenly quitting the turret, she took the way to the chapel, where she found the good monk Anselmo at the high altar, surrounded by all the religious in the castle and its environs, to offer up prayers for the speedy and safe return of the princes. Cava was not the least ardent in her petitions, and hoped—
“Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.”
“And hush’d in grim repose expects his evening prey.”
IN this crisis of affairs, much anxiety was felt by all ranks in the north of Spain. The people sighed for peace; brave as they were, they trembled for their hapless families, when they considered the multitude of Moors in arms against them; and an honourable grave was the ultimate hope of those whose weakness of nature or constitution, rendered them unfit for public warfare, or unable to sustain the shock of the times.
Don Palayo and the duke dispatched a daily account to the princesses and Anselmo, of all they wished them to be acquainted with. In some days they had the satisfaction of knowing that the march of the warriors had been free from molestation. What small bands of straggling Moors they had met, either fled with precipitation, or fell by the hands of the Goths; and a few revolving suns must bring them to a conference with Oppas.
Don Palayo, in the highest terms, extolled the prince Alonzo, declaring that to him was owing the present security of his castle; by his wisdom and valour, he protected the Asturias, as Minerva covered with her aegis her favourites in the plains of Troy—“What may not Spain look to from such a man,” said Palayo, “in a more advanced age, when his early years are covered with glory! Fame has not laid down her trumpet; it has carried Alonzo’s name to the shores of Andalusia, and wafted it from thence to Africa, which now threatens us with more of her swarthy bands, who will receive the charge of bringing to the feet of the caliph the renowned young prince Alonzo.”
Fears for his life, transport at his success, diffused tears and smiles over the fair face of the Gothic princess, as she read don Palayo’s praises of the young hero. There was also another passage in his epistle, which shook her fame, and to which her heart vibrated. It ran thus—“My gallant friend the brave, constant Alonzo, must shortly be at no great distance from our castle; I hear of some Moors, who have secured a strong mountains, from which they must be dislodged; it is a service of danger and of glory; who so fit for this service as Alonzo? Should his success be immediate, and I think it will, when he heads the brave band now under his command, on his return to me, he must necessarily pass beneath the castle-walls; should he have a moment to devote to the friends they contain, surely his reception must be what will make him happy. You, Favilla, will throw open the gates to your protector, to him to whom you owe your present felicity. Your brother knows your grateful heart too well, not to be certain of the deep interest it takes in the future happiness of Alonzo. Use your influence, my sister, with the charming Cava, that she may not drive to absolute despair, one so worthy, so constant, so dear to us all.”
Don Palayo had time to add but little more; and Favilla receiving the letter from her friend without a comment, and perceiving her agitation at the moment, postponed for a time urging her on a subject of so much delicacy; and leaving her to those tender feelings that appeared to her to have their full force, she withdrew, to give orders, should Alonzo arrive at the castle, to throw wide its gates, and receive him with all the honours due to his rank and his fame. Restless, not knowing what to hope or fear; one moment rejoicing at the bare idea of again being blessed with the sight of Alonzo; at another, wishing to fly to the extremity of the earth to avoid him, Cava, believing that the pure air of heaven would calm her spirits, and invigorate her trembling frame, left the castle, and passing through the chapel to gain the sea-shore, she perceived Anselmo at some distance; and willing to have the company of the good monk, whose sweet converse was ever balm to her wounded mind, stepped forward to ask him to be her guide among the rocks, when, finding him deeply engaged with a poor old monk, bending under the weight of years, and almost double, unwilling to interrupt a conversation that perhaps concerned the salvation of the poor decrepid wretch she saw, the gentle Cava, turning aside, took her lonely path towards the sea, where, seating herself on a projecting rock, she endeavoured to recover that tranquillity she had so long struggled to regain, and which was now interrupted by don Palayo’s letter. Her eyes were fixed upon the waves, as they broke upon the shore; scarcely a zephyr fanned the deep; a distant galley seemed to rest on the blue wave; all around was a perfect calm; the agitation of the princess subsided; her pulse ceased to flutter; her heart to struggle, as if it wished to forsake its lovely mansion. She reflected on the virtues of Alonzo, and something like happiness filled her bosom—“In short advances thus the dying tide, beats for awhile against the shelving strand, still by degrees retiring, and at last within the bosom of the main subsides.”
Long had Cava been seated on the rock, long had her eye rested on the ocean, scarcely conscious that she looked not on vacancy, so entirely was she absorbed by the loved idea of Alonzo. When she left Africa, she believed she had taken her last look; in vain had she fled; she had traversed sea and land; his affection had pursued her; fate had now approximated them, and proved the vanity of human efforts, when opposed to its decrees. To receive Alonzo as a brother, would give her all the happiness she could enjoy. To the voice of love she was deaf; her affrighted soul shrunk from it. The princess was desirous of conversing, for some moments, with father Anselmo. He knew every thought of her heart, and had, in his nature, that delicacy of feeling that approved her conduct: from him she intended to solicit his interference with Favilla, never to name Alonzo to her but as a friend, for only in such a light would she receive him, should he arrive at the castle. She raised her eyes, and saw the father at some distance, still in company with the aged monk, who, on perceiving her, took leave of Anselmo, and retiring with slow and painful steps, was soon lost to sight, among the rocks which were filled with the caverns fitted up as so many cells, by the order of don Palayo, for the poor monks. Anselmo approached the princess; pleasure shone in his mild countenance; he too had seen the messenger, and read Palayo’s letter—“My child,” cried he, as he advanced towards Cava, “I rejoice with you; my heart finds comfort when any thing brings peace to yours.”
Cava, taking the good father’s hand, entered on the subject nearest her heart. Anselmo promised all she desired, and convinced her, that, much as Favilla owed Alonzo, she would rather appear ungrateful to him, than give her a moment’s distress—“I was ungenerous to doubt it, returned the princess; “but my friend must forgive a creature so worn out with sorrow, that she sees, perhaps, nothing as it is, and fears danger from all who approach her.”
“Give not way to such uneasy thoughts,” replied the monk; “suspicion is the bane of life; they who harbour it want no other ill. I was seeking you in the chapel, with a message from your tender friend Favilla, when the miserable man you saw in conversation arrested my steps; and till I had listened to his melancholy tale, given him some spiritual comfort, and promised to visit him in his cell, I could not leave him a complete prey to his gloomy imagination and his woe.”
“Poor old wretch! if he has been guilty of any sin that sits heavy on his soul, how I pity him!” said Cava; “how fortunate, father, to have lit on such a guide as you! He seems on the verge of the grave; may he lie down in peace!”
“May your pious wishes be answered, my child! To-morrow I shall know more of this unfortunate, mysterious being; if I mistake not, whatever his sins or sorrows may have been, he now suffers under a derangement of mind. For many days I have observed him among the monks in the chapel; I spoke to him often; but, till this evening, he turned from me, and maintained a sullen silence, drawing his cowl more over his withered visage, and which, to me, appeared pale as death; he is bent with years, yet his form is not ignoble; he will not, he says, at present divulge his name or quality; curses often escape his lips; he showers them on the Moors, by whom, he says, he is, in old age, reduced to poverty, and is deprived of every earthly blessing. My business is to preach patience to him, and point his views beyond the narrow limits of this world; would I could be of use to his soul! I have my fears,” said Anselmo, shaking his head; “his language, at this late moment of his life, is not that of a penitent; disgust, bitterness, and chagrin, mark every sentence.”
Cava and Anselmo, now walking towards the castle, passed near one of the caverns almost close to the sea; they beheld the decrepid stranger seated at the entrance; his elbows on his knees, and his head, nearly enveloped in his monk’s cowl, rested on his hands; his ear first gave intimation of their approach; with pain and difficulty he seemed to rise from his place to salute them; he spoke not; but, turning his back, slowly entered his cell—“Poor wretch!” cried the princess, “I fear we have disturbed his meditations;” then entering on topics more interesting to her, she proceeded with Anselmo to the castle, where she found the kind Favilla ready to devote her life to her peace of mind. The grateful Cava was conscious of the blessings she enjoyed in friendship, and mentally owned her life was not a blank.
Day followed day, and left the inhabitants of the castle in much uncertainty. No regular messenger came from don Palayo; the arrival of Alonzo was hourly expected; he was known not to have passed the fortress; but he sent no tidings; and rumours were abroad of many skirmishes, and of a great victory, by Alonzo’s taking a strong hold in the mountains possessed by the Moors. A stranger also brought an account to the castle, that the truce with don Palayo was at an end, Oppas having withdrawn in a rage, vowing vengeance against the prince, and, in the place of his crosier, wielding the sword: but all these were rumours only, and not to be relied on, though they served to agitate and perplex all whose country or religion were dear to them.
The weather was now delightful; the sea-breeze operated like a charm on the spirits and health of the fair friends; and the excellent Anselmo, who looked on both as his children, and watched them with the tenderness of a parent, drew them every evening from the castle, where, on the sea-shore, or wandering among the beautiful rocks on the coast, they could inhale a purer air than the fortress afforded; and where their anxious minds, busied in the contemplation of the great works of their Creator, might lose, for a time at least, that excess of hope and fear that agitated their gentle bosoms, when the dangers of those they so dearly loved, and the present precarious state of their country, only occupied their thoughts. Anselmo, ever interested in the cause of the true religion, took these moments to impress its value on the minds of his fair pupils, raising their views from earth to heaven; he pointed out the folly of fixing them solely in this lower sphere, which was no resting-place, the abode only of a moment, the country through which the happiest never passed, unmolested by grief and pain. He moderated their fears, repressed too extravagant hope, and recommended a pious acquiescence in their appointed fate—a fate depending on the will of that Power who can never err; who is slow to wrath, and merciful in all he does. The princesses listened attentively to their virtuous preceptor; his discourse was pleasant to their ears, and consoling to their hearts. Still the rumours already mentioned were brought from many parts of the country; still they remained without any certain intelligence from don Palayo—Alonzo came not—Cava looked from the battlements on the surrounding country; her eye stretched far and wide; no human figure resembling Alonzo was discerned, and, unconsciously, she repeated—“Why tarry the wheels of his chariot? why is he so long in coming?” Blushing at her own weakness, she left the tower, and sought Favilla; she met her coming towards her apartment with the good monk, to invite her to join them in a walk upon the shore; this was just what the princess wished, to fly from thought, to forget her sorrows in the conversation of such friends; and to shorten the heavy hours, by any innocent means, was her endeavour. Having first performed their evening devotions in the chapel, the good monk, with his adopted children, left the castle, and turned their steps towards the shore, attracted by the splendid scene presented to their view. The sun’s orb was now visible to the naked eye; it seemed itself on fire; and the heavens spread, like a curtain (flaming with scarlet and gold), over the vast expanse of waters, communicated to every rolling wave its light and colours—“Glorious are thy works, Father of Light and Life,” cried Cava, as she ascended a rock, from whence the prospect was most sublime. Led on by the beauty of the evening and the scenery, they wandered far from the castle, over wild and picturesque rocks, and saw beneath them, lying to the west, a beautiful little bay; one side was sheltered by a headland, the base of which was skirted by a wood; in many places the spreading foliage hung over the waves, and formed a delicious and shady walk close to the ocean. As they looked upon the bay from the rock they had ascended, they perceived a small boat, drawn close to the shore, and fastened, by a strong rope, to one of the trees; the boat was untenanted, and Favilla said, if it belonged to fishermen, she wished to find them near, as she should like extremely to row along the shore in so calm an evening.
Cava sighed; at that moment her thoughts had left Spain; they were with Zamora, in Aleanzar’s magnificent castle, and she smiled when the fishing-boat brought to her remembrance his splendid galley—“Yet here,” thought she, “on this uncultivated shore, I enjoy the first blessing of life—sweet liberty. In the delicious gardens of Aleanzar, I was a prisoner, and restraint poisoned every enjoyment.”
They had now descended the rocks, and were preparing to cross the little bay, that, under the shade of the trees, they might enjoy a cool walk, without shutting out the view of the tranquil ocean that rolled its placid waves almost at their feet, when Anselmo, perceiving a large galley at some distance, pointed it out to his companions; they stopped to ascertain its course, and were soon convinced it was making towards the shore, and designed entering the bay. At first, it was at too great a distance to discern the objects on board; the winds were hushed, and it made but little way—“From whence comes this galley?” cried Anselmo, fearful of its being filled with Moors. Cava thought of Alonzo; Favilla, of Alphonso and her brother; reason soon suggested they could not arrive by sea: that cavaliers were on board was certain, for although the galley was still far from the shore, men were seen moving to and fro, and spears and shields glittered in the rays of the setting sun.
Uncertain whether the galley contained friends or enemies, Anselmo believed it most prudent to return to the castle, and proposed doing so to his fair companions; their opinions coincided with his, and they immediately quitted the shore, intending to retrace their steps, when a loud whistle startled them. Anselmo turned round at the noise, and was surprised to see none but the poor old monk, who, emerging from his cavern among the rocks, was following them with as much haste as his bent form and tottering limbs would allow of. Anselmo stopped till he came near, and then demanded, had he heard that shrill whistle, and from whence he thought it proceeded?
“I know not, good father, from whence came the sound; I believe from among the rocks; some shepherds, perhaps, seeking, at sunset, their stray sheep; I think, if my dim eyes deceive me not, they are yonder on the hill above the bay.”
As he spoke, Anselmo saw three men running along the summit of the rocks, and making to where the boat lay moored in the bay. Supposing them country people, and their business of no consequence to him, he followed the princesses, who had continued their walk towards the castle. What was the good Anselmo’s astonishment and horror, at beholding the decrepid monk throw, with violence, to the ground, the staff on which his weak form had leaned, for support, and rising from his bending posture, stately as a mountain oak, yet active as the whirlwind of the desert, pursue and seize with his strong arm the shrieking Cava!
Anselmo was petrified with horror; Favilla ran towards him; her hands clasped in agony; speech she had none; her strained eyes were fixed on the gigantic figure, who was now endeavouring to envelop, in his dark robe, the senseless Cava, for she had fainted at the moment she was seized. Anselmo lifted his hands to Heaven; from thence only could he look for succour. Again a loud whistle; it proceeded from the monk, and horrid ideas rushed into Anselmo’s mind; he saw the villain was carrying the princess towards the boat. Favilla, now roused by the state of her friend, and the fear of losing her, lost all sense of danger for herself, and with the swiftness of an arrow, pursued, with loud and continued cries, the wretch who was carrying her away. He heeded her not; but kept on his steady pace towards that part of the bay where the boat was now getting ready for sea, by the men whom Anselmo had seen cross the mountain. But the villain had not time to reach it, before his course was interrupted by a cavalier, who, at full gallop, rode round a projecting rock, and hearing the loud shrieks of a woman, and seeing her in pursuit of a monk who was carrying off another, he called aloud to the monster to relinquish his prey, or he would nail him with his javelin to the earth. It was in vain for the monk to hesitate; the cavalier, in complete armour, was near him; and alighting from his steed to chastise him, the monk instantly laid the princess, to all appearance dead, upon the ground; and stripping himself of his long monkish habit and cowl, the stately form of Rodrigo, in complete armour, his plumed crest rising as he removed the cowl, stood before the amazed, but undaunted Alonzo—“Thanks to the waters of the Guadaleta, that has given thee to my sword, thou devil in a human shape!” exclaimed the prince. “Heaven pursues thee, thou guilty wretch; its vengeance will not sleep!”
“Talk not of Heaven, thou coward!” returned the king; “thou wouldst have attacked an unarmed man; come on, thou stripling; I defy thee; I fight for Cava!”
“I for vengeance,” answered the prince. “Death only can decide the combat.”
“Then it must be thine!” cried Rodrigo, while a ghastly smile spread over his dark face; “for I am fated again in fields of slaughter to lift the spear and shield.”
Alonzo disdained a longer parley, and the combat commenced.
Anselmo and Favilla had now got to the spot where Cava lay; amazed, they saw the transformation of the monk. Anselmo recognised Rodrigo; but neither he or the princess guessed that Alonzo was his opponent; their present anxiety was to get Cava conveyed to the castle, for only there could she be in safety; they perceived returning animation; and, in order to prevent her being acquainted with what was passing, they used their utmost endeavours to carry her between them to the fortress. The spot they were now in was at a distance from the castle, and it was in vain to expect help from thence till they should get within view of it, or meet some of the peasants, to send and alarm the guard. Terrified at the clashing of the swords, which Favilla distinctly heard, she had scarcely strength to assist the monk in carrying their precious burden. Fortunately they had not proceeded far, when they met some country people, who willingly offered their assistance to carry the still senseless Cava to the castle, and also to give the alarm of foes in the vicinity. Favilla followed her friend; Anselmo returned to the combatants, ready, if they fell, to assist in making their peace with Heaven. Bravely he beheld the field contested; dreadful was the conflict; Alonzo trusted his just cause to Heaven. Love—hatred of the base Rodrigo—just vengeance for the wrongs of Cava, nerved his youthful arm; he was brave, active, and wary; but he had to combat with one well-used to single combat. Rodrigo had once been deemed almost invincible; he had long been idle, but he had not forgot the use of arms; he stood mighty in his strength, determined on conquest, even at the price of honour. Should his hated foe equal him in valour, or in skill, he trusted to treachery to decide the day; and the hope of future empire, which had taken possession of his mind, now gave strength to his arm, and vigour to his frame.
Anselmo, at some distance, sent up his earnest prayers for the stranger’s safety, and his success against the tyrant. Had he but known it was the gallant and good Alonzo who was engaged with the fierce king, he himself would scarcely have survived the combat; as it was, every stroke of Rodrigo’s sword struck terror to his heart; and many were the loud strokes that fell on the young prince’s shield. Long and doubtful was the conflict. Rodrigo was rash, but powerful; and Alonzo found it difficult to defend himself against his desperate foe. The prince kept his keen eye upon him, wheeled as he wheeled, and for a time held the fell tyrant at bay, who, dreading the arrival of troops from the castle before he could overpower the prince, aimed a desperate blow at his helmet, hoping to have cleft his head in twain. Alonzo, perceiving his danger, sprung aside quick as thought, and the king’s sword meeting nothing to resist its weight, came with force nearly to the sand, and in spite of Rodrigo’s efforts to recover his poise, dragged him almost to the ground. This was the moment for the prince; darting forward, he impressed a deep wound on the shoulder of his enemy, who, though writhing with pain, stood erect, and covering himself with his shield, the battle became more fierce. Alonzo remained unwounded; he was more active than the king. True valour, not rage, was his. Rodrigo panted for breath; he retreated a few paces: the prince came on, and striking at his visor, it fell to the ground, and he received a large gash in his forehead. The enraged king, still retreating, applied the whistle he had before made use of to his mouth, and instantly three ruffians rushed from the boat lying in the bay; they were armed with clubs, and placing themselves at Rodrigo’s side, obliged Alonzo to draw back. The prince now waged unequal war; and had not Heaven sent him aid, it had been to him a fatal combat.
The galley which Anselmo and his fair companions had seen at some distance, had now come to land. Two warriors, in complete armour, leaped upon the beach; and seeing so unequal a contest, hastened to place themselves on the side of Alonzo, who was now pressed hard by Rodrigo’s ruffians. The cavaliers advancing towards them with their pointed spears, a different combat ensued. Again the king and Alonzo met, again they fought; and Rodrigo, pressed hard by the prince, and, to all appearance, wearied, called out for mercy. Alonzo hesitated; it was but for a moment. His noble heart recoiled at destroying a prostrate foe; and he cried to the worthless Rodrigo—“Live; and, if you can, repent of your vast crimes. Even to revenge the injuries you have done me, I cannot send your base soul to perdition, or strike the wretch that asks for mercy!”
Saying this, the gallant Alonzo dropped the point of his sword to the earth, and Rodrigo, seeing it was no longer lifted against him, sprung forward, and struck a dagger, which he drew from his side, into the bosom of the prince; his excellent breastplate broke the force of the blow; and Alonzo, quick as lightning, recovering his sword, plunged it into the side of his treacherous antagonist, who fell prostrate to the ground. The ruffians fled at the sight; but the new-arrived cavaliers pursuing them, secured one, whom they bound with ropes, in order to have him conveyed to the castle. Having secured the villain, they returned to Alonzo, who now stood with his eyes intently fixed on the fallen king; he had unloosed his helmet, and thrown it on the sand; and the prince was instantly recognised by Garcia, one of the cavaliers just landed. Surprised and delighted at this unexpected happy meeting, they affectionately embraced; and Garcia blessed the hour that brought him to the assistance of the gallant Alonzo.
Anselmo now approached the scene of action, overjoyed at the safety and glory of the prince; he still felt a pang for the fate of the miserable Rodrigo, and proposed carrying him to the castle, where his wounds might be examined. Ever noble, ever generous, Alonzo offered his assistance, willing to give his enemy a chance for life.
Anselmo kneeled by the dying king, who now writhed in agony on the sand. The pious monk besought him to think on Heaven, to repent his crimes, and join him in prayer for mercy; he raised the cross before his eyes, he called to him to look on it, and acknowledge who died to save his soul. Rodrigo cast a fierce and haggard look on the monk, and turned from him. Again the monk entreated, wept at his obstinacy, and conjured him not to die with so many unrepented crimes upon his head. The wretched king, exerting all his strength, cried—“Are you too a juggler, and leagued with that foul spirit that deluded and deceived me? Your promises of Heaven may be as false as his empire here—Begone,” said he, sternly, to the monk; “begone, you can deceive me no longer.”
“I never deceived you, Rodrigo,” mildly returned the good father; “had you followed my counsel, had you attended to my earnest prayers, you would still have been the beloved monarch of Spain, you would have fulfilled the promise of your youth. Kneeling, I beseech you to have mercy on yourself, to avow your Christian faith, and implore the mercy of Him whom the penitent never implores in vain.”
“It is too late,” returned the king, his voice growing weaker, and his agonies encreasing. “Leave me, Anselmo; suffer me to believe there is no future world, but that all is dark, and quiet for ever, in the grave: repentance would come too late.” A deep groan followed, and in trembling accents he continued—“I almost wish, Anselmo, I had not forsaken the path of virtue. The wish is now vain; vice and virtue were balanced in my bosom; my evil genius triumphed, and the lost Rodrigo cannot now repent. But, Anselmo,” cried he, turning his dying eyes on the monk, “here, at my heart,” (pressing his hand upon his bosom,) “I feel my queen, my Egilone, and the wrongs of Cava.”
Again the monk, in a supplicating attitude, raised the cross before the sinner’s eyes. Enraged at his perseverance, the king, with a strength often seen at the last close of life, raising himself on his elbow, caught hold of the sword which had still remained in the wound, and drawing it with violence from his body, he fell back, and instantly expired. The excellent Anselmo shed a pious tear over his unfortunate and guilty kinsman, and beckoning towards him the cavaliers, who, through reverence for the religious ceremonies they believed were passing, had withdrawn to a distance, he pointed to the dead monarch, unable to utter a word. Even Alonzo mourned. Garcia condemned, yet pitied; and the stranger who had landed with him, taking his helmet off, approached the corse. The stranger was Alvarez, so unjustly banished, and now returned from the Fortunate Islands to his beloved country, to join don Palayo against the Moors. He beheld his enemy laid low; he was too amiable to triumph, or insult the dead; but in all humility he offered his thanks to Heaven for his restoration in safety to his native land.
The prince Alonzo and his friends now held a consultation on what should be done with the body of the king. Alonzo, whose mind was noble, proposed carrying him to the castle, and interring him as a king. Anselmo interposed; he pointed out the danger of such a step—“You know not,” said he, “the effect this sight may have upon the people. His crimes have made him detested. Not all our influence may be able to preserve his miserable remains from insult. We will carry him to the cell he has for some time inhabited, where he cruelly watched to do mischief, that the goodness of Providence has defeated. The poor monks shall pay due honours to his remains. I will see myself that he is privately interred; but let no stone mark his grave; let not the Goths know where he rests; let them still think he lies beneath the Guadaleta; and let us ourselves cease to mention his name.”
All praised the wisdom of the monk; all agreed in his prudent determination; and Anselmo, having collected some of the poor monks, gave the body in charge to them, to convey to the cavern.
Fearful of any latent mischief, Anselmo advised putting the ruffian they had taken into the boat that belonged to him, and insist on his instant departure by sea, as admitting him into the castle might be attended with danger. It was determined, however, first to examine him respecting his connexion with the king, and finding from him what were Rodrigo’s plans. The wretch was brought forward, and ordered, on pain of death, to disclose all he knew. Falling on his knees, he begged his life, vowing he would speak nothing but the truth. He said he had, some years since, been a domestic in the royal palace at Toledo, and particularly employed about the person of the king; that after the defeat at Xeres, and Rodrigo’s flight, he, with many more of his household, were obliged to seek their bread in different parts of Spain, and often among the Moors; that, in his wanderings, he had stopped at Seville; that the charming queen seeing him by chance one day, and recollecting he had been a favourite with her former lord, (whom she believed, as did every other person in Spain, had been drowned in the Guadaleta,) she had ordered him into her presence, and kindly offered him her protection, and a situation at the court of Seville.
“Though this offer was most advantageous,” said the man, “I feared to accept it. I hated the Moors, and doubted my royal mistress being able to protect me, in case of any unfortunate dispute. I had loved the king, and was sorry to see her married to a Moor, though a good and brave one; and as I saw her colour change, and tears roll down her cheek, at the mention of Rodrigo, I did not give credit to the happiness she was said to enjoy, and I left Seville. In wandering on the western shores, I chanced to light on a hermitage, beautifully situated on the side of a hill. I was weary, and wanted food; and believing all hermits must be charitable, I ascended the path to the little dwelling, to beg a night’s lodging, and some refreshment. As I begged with humility, the hermit, who was sitting in an obscure part of the cell, nodded assent; and I entering, reposed my weary limbs on the first seat I came to. The hermit, seeing me much exhausted, rose to place some viands before me. My eyes were bent upon the ground, and I took no heed of his movements, till I heard a well-known voice exclaim—‘Gabriel, is it possible I behold you? I believed you had fallen by my side in the fatal plains of Xeres.’ I started at the voice, and raising my eyes, imagined that the spirit of my king stood before me. I was about to fly from the hermitage—‘Fear me not,’ said he; ‘I am Rodrigo; not dead, as you fancy, but alive, and rejoiced to recover a faithful servant.’ Overcome with joy, I fell at his feet, and expressed the transport I felt. His great soul was moved; he gave me his hand, and bid me rest for the night; that, in the morning, he had much to ask, much to say, and much to command. Happy at this meeting, I did as I was ordered; and when I had taken some refreshment, I laid me down to sleep in the inner cell. In vain I sought repose. Rodrigo lived, it was true; but in what a way! cut off from the whole world, deserted by every friend, lost to himself and others. His strange dress, his altered appearance struck me. He had lost all his attractions, the sweetness of his countenance was gone, his look was wild and savage, and his quick change of colour, from red to ashy pale, denoted the violent passions that governed all his actions; but to me he was still a gracious king; and from that hour I devoted myself to his service, even to the danger of my soul and body. During the night, I often heard the king rise, and pace his narrow cell with hurried step. As he slept, he groaned—spoke of Toledo—and called on Egilone to hear, and to forgive him. I judged that his heart was sorrowful. The morning came; I rose, and passed quietly to the outside of the hermitage, and sat me down. Soon the king appeared; the alteration in his countenance struck me more forcibly. He questioned me on the state of Spain: I told him all I knew. He touched upon the marriage of his queen. His eyes shot fire. I told him I had been at Seville; I told him the charming conduct of the queen; I ventured to say how she mourned his loss, and how little credit I gave to her present happiness. His face became sad, his furious passions were appeased, and he mildly answered—‘Poor Egilone, you have suffered enough from me; may you still believe I am no more! Your truth deserved a better fate; but never again shall Rodrigo mar your peace.’ After a pause, he told me he was going a long journey, that I must accompany him, and, without inquiring into his schemes, blindly follow his directions. If I consented to this, he would for ever be my friend; if not, he requested I would the next day depart in peace, and promise never to mention him to human being, but leave him to his fate, in the hermitage where I had found him. I threw myself on my knees before him; I swore to follow him to the extremity of the world, and to act with a blind obedience to his wishes. He raised me from the ground, saying, he would rely on my faith, and yet reward it. ‘Power and empire shall yet be mine,’ cried he, rising, and pacing the terrace with his former majestic gait. I started; I feared he was deranged; but I was silent. For some days he was gloomy and thoughtful: at last he gave me gold, and ordered me to go to the first town where I could procure a complete suit of armour that would fit him, as he intended undertaking an adventure in which he might have to encounter many foes. He gave me the strictest charge to chuse him a well-tempered sword and dagger, and also to bring with me a complete monk’s dress, with a cowl capacious enough to cover his helmet; that in the hermitage he had found much too small. I asked no questions; but returned, in a short time, with the armour and the monk’s habit. Joy sparkled in his eyes as I carried the coat of mail, and the weapons I had purchased, into the cell. With transport he threw aside his savage dress. Again he shone in arms; and drawing the sword from the scabbard, he examined, and felt its point, exclaiming—‘You have executed my orders well. I take it as an earnest of your future deeds. I am myself again: these base weeds shall never more conceal the king.’ Awed by his majestic port, I ventured not a single question respecting his intentions. All day he sat in armour; often he drew the sword, then smiling, and talking to himself, returned it to the scabbard. Towards evening, he directed me to bring him something to appease his hunger; I obeyed, and he invited me to partake the viands. As the sun went down, he threw over this armour the monk’s dress I had purchased, and desired I should make use of the one he had found in the cell—‘We must pass,’ said Rodrigo, smiling contemptuously, ‘for some of those saint-like hypocrites, those lazy drones, that, wandering through the world, live in idleness on the labour of others, and persuade them they shall be rewarded for their charity in an unseen and unknown region, invisible to all eyes but those of the holy canters.’
“I confess,” said the prisoner, “I started at so profane a speech; but the king was armed; he appeared so fierce, that I trembled at his look, and was silent. We soon left the hermitage, and he took the road to the Asturias. Still he kept his intentions secret; and when, after a long journey, we came near the castle, he charged me to appear only as a poor monk. On application to the good father Anselmo, one of the caverns in the rocks was appointed for our residence; and my astonishment was great, when I beheld Rodrigo counterfeit a decrepid old man, just on the verge of the grave. Had I not seen the transformation, I should have been completely deceived. Except to converse with father Anselmo on the shore, in the dusk of the evening, or to pay his devotions in the chapel, he seldom left the cavern. He was often gloomy and disturbed; and calling me to him one day, he said—‘I shall soon return into the western part of Spain; but I will not go by land. Do you procure me a boat to carry us there; moor it in yonder little harbour, and hire two stout rustics, who understand the management of it, to carry it where I please. I have discovered that a friend I love is unwillingly detained in yonder fortress; by stratagem I must release that friend. Inform me when you have secured the boat and the men; you must then conceal yourselves among the rocks. When you hear a loud whistle, appear on their summit, that I may be certain you are there; but throw aside your monkish garb. At a second whistle, loosen, and prepare the boat for my reception. Should you hear a third, you will know that I am in want of assistance; and if you continue faithful to me, and serve me as you have done, you will then fly to my succour.’
“I did all that Rodrigo commanded; these two days the boat and the men I had hired have been in waiting; but, till this evening, we had no signal from the king. You cavaliers are acquainted with every thing that has since passed. I knew nothing of my royal master’s motives for what he did. I believed I was acting the part of a good subject and servant, still to devote myself to his cause. His errors, as well as his misfortunes, grieved me, but neither could make me a traitor.”
“Loose the prisoner,” cried the gallant Alonzo; “he has committed no crime, and has a merit that few can boast—faith and duty to fallen majesty.”
All approved the merciful sentence of Alonzo, and Gabriel was instantly released. Grateful for the consideration shewn him, he threw himself at the feet of the cavaliers, and entreated to be received as a soldier into the Christian camp, which was readily granted; and he was allowed to attend the body of his royal master till interment took place.
HAVING removed the dead body of the King, Anselmo proposed proceeding to the castle; and Alonzo, miserable till he knew the situation of his beloved Cava, invited Garcia and don Alvarez to accompany him. The cavaliers declared their willingness to attend him, as soon as their families, who were in the galley, had landed. Alonzo, surprised and happy at meeting so unexpectedly with Garcia, expressed his wish of knowing how he lost sight of Cava, to whom he was attached with so true a friendship?
“I lost not sight of her willingly,” replied Garcia; “she left Seville unknown to my wife and me: but our history, since we parted with you in Africa, is long. Don Alvarez also has a share in it, and at a leisure hour, my prince, you shall know it all. Suffer me, now that you are in safety, to accompany Alvarez to the galley, that we may bring our friends on shore. We are all devoted to you, to don Palayo, and the cause of Spain. We bring with us those whose sight will cheer the heart of the Gothic princess.”
Anselmo said the castle should be thrown open to receive such valued friends, and that he would return to it, to announce their coming.
At this moment, troops from the fortress were seen moving with celerity round the rocks towards the bay, sent by Favilla to the assistance of Alonzo. Their leader rejoiced to find assistance was now unnecessary; and assured the prince that every soldier in the fortress was impatient to receive him within its walls, that they might shew him the high sense they had of his bravery and merit.
Alonzo was awake to glory; but his soul was unsatisfied till he knew that Cava was recovered from the faintings into which she was thrown, when seized upon by the cruel Rodrigo.
“I assisted,” said the soldier, “to carry the princess into the castle, and even to her apartment. She is restored to sense, is calm, and I left the lady Favilla with her; of her care and tenderness you may be well assured. Will you permit me, noble Alonzo, to return to her with the welcome account of your safety?”
The prince besought him to do so, saying, “he should soon attend the lady Favilla himself.”
The troops returned to the castle, and Alonzo proceeded to the beach, where he had the pleasure of finding, just landed, Isabella, the wife of Garcia, one whom he well knew, and loved. Garcia informed him of the time he and Cava had passed with Alvarez and his consort in the Fortunate Islands, and of their extreme kindness to the princess. Nothing more was wanting to render them dear to Alonzo; and this delighted and happy group, with their smiling infants, followed him to the castle. At Alonzo’s approach the trumpets sounded, the battlements were covered with troops, the gates were thrown open, and thronged with a multitude, all rejoicing in the sight of a prince who had, with such unparalleled bravery, defended their frontiers, and so often defeated their hated foes.
Favilla, her cheek flushed with joy, and her eyes moist with tears, received her deliverer with open arms, and sisterly affection—“Oh!” cried she, “dear Alonzo! what dangers you have encountered since we parted in the gloomy abode from whence your friendship rescued me! My heart followed you in fields of battle; willingly would I have shared your danger, as you had shared mine.”
Delighted at again beholding the sister of his affections, Alonzo pressed her to his heart. Garcia and Isabella were truly welcome to Favilla; nor were Alvarez and his Fulvia, though scarcely remembered, received with less cordiality.
The castle resounded with joy; but Alonzo’s heart was sad. He saw not Cava; she alone came not to welcome him.
Favilla perceived his disappointment, and wishing to soften it, told him, that at present the spirits of her friend were too much exhausted, and terror had given her health too severe a shock, to allow of her being able to appear—“To-morrow, Alonzo, she will see and thank you.”
“To-morrow, Favilla!” replied the prince; “to-morrow, alas! what may to-morrow bring! If Cava treats me thus, I have no wish to live!”
“Brave Alonzo! live for us all; live a blessing to your country; live for Cava!”
“Will she join in that desire, Favilla?”
“She must, she shall!” returned the kind Favilla. “Permit her to act as she wishes. For to-night, partake with me, and all Palayo’s friends who are now in the castle, of a banquet that has been prepared for you, and trust to time for the accomplishment of your wishes.”
Alonzo silently acquiesced in what he could not alter, and retired to divest himself of his armour, and take some moments of repose before he met the duchess of Biscay, and her friends, at the feast. He had brought letters from her brother and her husband, which he had delivered to her; but they were full only of comfort, and did not disclose the chief reason of Alonzo’s return to the fortress.
The kind Favilla flew to the apartments of her friend; she poured into her ear all that could give her delight; and obtained from her a promise that she would the next morning see Alonzo. This being arranged, she informed the princess of the arrival of her tried and dear friends, Garcia and don Alvarez, with their whole families. Cava had scarcely ever been sensible of such real happiness, and her impatience was great to behold them once more; but for that night, Favilla would only allow of the introduction of Isabella and Fulvia; and Cava was under the necessity, from her weak state, of submitting to be regulated by her prudent friend. True and sincere was the delight she felt at being restored to the society of two women so worthy of her friendship, and from whom she had received such unexampled kindness. At first the friends were mute with pleasure; tears only spoke their feelings. At length the power of language was restored, and their affectionate hearts over-flowed with the tenderest friendship; and Isabella and Fulvia were summoned to the hall where the feast was held, before they had been able to give any account of themselves to Cava, or to hear any of her adventures since they parted. All the cavaliers within the fortress were assembled to do honour to Alonzo, and attend Favilla’s summons to the banquet. All were gay and happy. Delicacy prevented the mention of Rodrigo’s name; they gave his memory to oblivion.
Favilla’s beauty, fascinating manners, and that goodness that discovered itself in every word and action, gained all hearts; and even Alonzo allowed, that, next to Cava, she was the most perfect creature on earth. Anselmo refused not to partake of the pleasures of the night, and endeavoured to forget the melancholy scene he had just witnessed. He blessed Heaven that Rodrigo was no more, yet was deeply grieved at his dying without atonement for his crimes; but the good father was thankful that those beings he most loved would now have nothing to fear from so dangerous an enemy.
The violent agitation of Cava’s mind had greatly subsided. Shocking as is even the death of an enemy, she felt that Rodrigo’s was a blessing to all connected with him, and that it freed herself from those dreadful terrors which must have been her lot while he existed. Ever pious, as soon as she was left to herself, her first thought was, while the crowd partook of the feast, to lift up her heart in thanksgiving at the foot of the altar, for her own security, and the safety of Alonzo. All believed her retired to rest, and she waited till she was certain that her friends were assembled in the hall, before she left her apartments to take her way to the chapel, where, for hours, it was one of her greatest gratifications to wander through its long-drawn aisles, or, seated on the base of a monument, (dedicated to greatness, or to beauty now no more,) hold converse with her own soul, and while she contemplated the vain representations that surrounded her, of those long mouldered beneath them in the dust, she received with humility the lesson it impressed—“That man is but a shadow; that here is all vanity; and that for any lasting blessing, we must look to that country where pain and grief are no more, where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary be at rest.”
The feast had been prolonged to a late hour. Favilla, with her female friends, had retired, when the loud blowing of a horn was heard without the gates; and soon a messenger from don Palayo entered the hall, and presented letters to Alonzo. The messenger was the faithful Pedro; his joy at seeing his beloved master was not to be suppressed, for he had heard, without the gates, of his combat with the unfortunate king. But Pedro was weary; he had made exertions almost beyond human strength, to arrive at the castle.
Alonzo saw, by the expression of his faithful servant’s countenance, that all was not well, and suddenly tearing open his dispatches, in haste he perused them. He was agitated, but not dismayed, and starting from his seat, he cried—“My brave companions in arms, now, I hope, is the glorious moment arrived for us, and for Spain. These letters are from don Palayo and the duke of Biscay. To-morrow, at sunset, the truce is at an end. Oppas has failed to deceive the brave Palayo: this infamous man is returned to the Moorish camp, vowing vengeance against us all. The number of our foes is scarcely to be counted; that of the faithful Christians few. We must hasten to join don Palayo, with every brave man that will follow our standard, and we must depart as speedily as possible. A moment lost may be the destruction of our friends. We must trust these walls to our old men and our women. We can best defend them on the borders of the Asturias, or on our mountains; it is from thence we can annoy the foe.”
All the heroes in the hall (and there were many) rose, and drawing their glittering swords, gathered round Alonzo, vowing to devote their lives to him, to don Palayo, and their country; entreating Alonzo to lead them instantly to where they should meet their honoured chief, their future king.
“My friends,” returned the prince, “we cannot depart too soon; the gallant Palayo already stands in need of our assistance; let us fly to his succour.”
Shouts of applause resounded through the hall; and when those generous effusions had, in a degree, subsided, Alonzo pointed out to every leader what his business must be, and dispatched them in various directions, to collect not only the force within the fortress, but every man willing to carry a spear and shield, that they could meet with in the surrounding country. He declared his own intention of setting forward with his veteran forces at the rising of the sun, as don Palayo’s letters had directed; and with the utmost quickness and judgment, he noted down the different route each leader was to take, and the different places appointed for their meeting. He praised, he encouraged all that surrounded him. His brave example stimulated every heart—“They smiled at the fair blooming face of the hero; but they knew death was in his hands.”
As this gallant assembly broke up, again reiterated shouts of applause burst from every warrior. Alonzo gave his hand to all, before they departed on their several duties. He detained with him don Alvarez and Garcia, appointing them situations near his own person, and placing them in the number of his best friends; he shewed them the letters he had received, and consulted on the surest means of strengthening don Palayo’s army. Orders were now given for their departure at the dawn. How to inform Favilla and Cava of their designs, was a matter of serious consideration to the prince; and Alvarez and Garcia had the same anxiety respecting their beloved consorts.
The kind father Anselmo interposed, and took upon him to announce their departure to those dear objects—“They will soon reconcile their minds,” said he, “to what is for your honour; your glory must be theirs; your fame will be even dearer to them than your lives; and, at such a moment as this, is any man fit to live who does not prefer the recovery of Spain, and the preservation of his religion, to all that could be granted to him beneath the sun?”
It was now agreed not to disturb the repose of any of the females within the castle; and to Anselmo the care was given of objects so inseparably dear; and the good monk only bid the warriors farewell, to meet them at the gates at the hour appointed for their departure. Till sunrise their time was precious, and fully occupied.
Alonzo remained last in the hall; every noble guest was gone, and with them his apparent cheerfulness had departed, though his undaunted courage never failed. He mused, as he traversed the saloon, on his unfortunate life; every wish of his heart was frustrated. Anxiety once more to behold her he so fondly loved had alone brought him to the castle; before he entered the gates, he had avenged her wrongs; he had freed her for ever from her worst foe; yet she avoided his sight, she denied him the smallest return for his constant love; and he must now depart from the castle, without one tender regard, one word that he could, in the midst of danger, reflect on with comfort—“Yet,” said he, mentally, “I will not quit the abode of Cava without imploring from Heaven consolation, peace, and blessing, for her who regards not either my love or sufferings.”
Leaving the hall, he passed towards the chapel. The lamps in the galleries that led to it were not yet extinguished; the doors were always open to the interior of the palace, and a lamp, day and night, burnt on the altar. With a melancholy air Alonzo entered, and slowly paced the great aisle, till, stopping before the high altar, he crossed his arms on his breast, and kneeling, with the utmost devotion, he seemed to be intent in prayer; then raising his eyes to Heaven, he cried aloud—“Father of Mercy, whatever thou ordainest for me, be it to remain longer a wretched wanderer in this world, bereft of all that could give me happiness, or gloriously to fall, fighting, for my bleeding country against the enemies of our holy religion—whatever thou ordainest must be best, and right; to it I willingly, nay joyfully submit; but hear! oh, hear me! in every moment of her life, protect the hapless Cava; spare her innocent soul future sorrow; suffer her, whatever becomes of me, to think with calmness on my fate, and to look, as I do, for the union of spirits in that blessed kingdom where no foe shall have power to molest thy servants, whose shepherd thou art, oh Lord! to lead them forth beside the waters of comfort.”
Alonzo rose; he looked around; he, who was bravest of the brave, was impressed with awe, in this holy place. He stood by the monument of a Gothic hero long laid at peace; a marble figure was stretched upon the tomb; it was in complete armour; a sword lay at his side; one hand pressed a cross to his bosom, the other was raised in prayer to Heaven. Alonzo drew nearer; he perceived that the figure was noble; the visor of his helmet was up; the face represented was beautiful, and in the bloom of youth; a crown encircled the helmet, and a sceptre was at his feet. Struck with the youth and beauty of the figure, Alonzo wished to read the inscription on the tomb; and all the lamps being extinguished, save what burned on the altar, he stepped back, and with reverence, taking one from thence, returned to the tomb.
“Tho’ fitful was its lustre, pale and wan,
As watch-light by the bed of some departing man,”
yet it was steady enough to allow of the prince’s reading, at intervals, the inscription on the monument. With pleasure he perused the character of him who lay beneath. He had been one of the first kings of the Goths; his short life was crowned with glory and honour, and he died in the field of battle; but before his death he had converted thousands to Christianity. A whole year his people mourned his loss, and his example was held out to future kings—“Thou art my ancestor,” cried Alonzo aloud, “and I am proud of thy virtues.” Then placing the lamp on the tomb, and for awhile contemplating the figure that adorned it, he added—“I can never merit a place with thee; yet, should I fall as thou didst, I should wish to lay by thy sacred dust.”
These words had scarcely passed the lips of Alonzo, when he heard a deep sigh near him. He listened; it was repeated, and seemed to issue from the tomb. He again raised the lamp; no soul was visible. Certain that some one was near him in the chapel, after a few minutes’ hesitation, during which no sound was heard, he slowly walked round the monument, and, to his inexpressible surprise, saw Cava sitting on its base. Her knees supported her elbows, her hands covered her face, and tears fell from her eyes in abundance on the pavement. In any other situation, Alonzo would have flown to her feet, and poured out the affection of his heart. Here reverence for the place, and a holy awe, checked his first emotions; and placing the lamp again on the marble, with respect he advanced towards the princess, saying—“Dearest Cava! though to see you even for a moment before I am necessitated to leave the castle, is a blessing from Heaven I little hoped, yet I dread what your health may suffer from the air of night, and the damp of the chapel. Allow me to lead you to the castle. I beseech you, if pity enters your heart for the sufferings of those who love you, be not for ever thus afflicted. Terror is over, Cava; you have nothing now to dread.”
“Every thing!” cried the princess, raising her streaming eyes to his face; “every thing for those I love most on earth. Are you not going, by sunrise, to join don Palayo? are you not doomed to encounter a foe of ten thousand times the strength of the unfortunate Christians? I heard the shouts from the hall; I heard two of the soldiers, as they passed by the chapel, and stopped without the door, consult on what was to be done before your departure. Oh, Alonzo!” she cried, her voice almost extinct from sobs, “Cava’s days and nights shall be spent in prayers for you; her affection, her gratitude can know no bounds.” She rose from where she sat, and turning her eyes from the prince, she walked down one of the aisles towards the door of the chapel that led to the hall of the castle.
A mournful pleasure struck to the soul of Alonzo; he asked himself, was he awake? and he almost believed he had seen a vision, as his eye rested on the white drapery that he now faintly beheld floating, as Cava passed through the long dim aisle. Alonzo replaced the lamp upon the altar and followed the princess, desirous to have some moments’ conversation, could her persuade her to grant it. The high painted windows gave a dim and solemn light, just sufficient to point the path Cava had taken. He joined her near the termination of the aisle, and close to the great window of the chapel. Without speaking he took her hand to conduct her to the hall; her soul was softened, and was sad; she withdrew it not. At the instant
“The moonbeam kiss’d the holy pane,
And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.”
Cava’s eyes were fixed upon the ground; she saw the sanguine hue; pale with terror, she started, and withdrawing her hand—“Alonzo!” she cried, “fate separates us. After this night I shall see you no more!”
“The gloom of the chapel oppresses your spirits, my Cava,” said the prince, again taking the hand she had withdrawn; “let me lead you from it; the hall is still lit. Allow me, Cava, for a few moments, to enjoy that converse, for which, at a distance from you, my soul has often sickened.”
The princess only answered by her tears. He led her from the chapel to the hall; it was empty, but still bright with the lights that hung from the lofty ceiling. Alonzo placed her on a seat; she trembled so, she was unable to stand. He sat near her; he had not let go her hand, it trembled in his; but it was cold, and almost lifeless. It was long since he had seen her; the gloomy light of the chapel could give him no idea of her appearance; now the blaze of the torches still burning in the hall, served to give a full and complete view of the princess to the terrified Alonzo. All hope died as he gazed; she appeared to him to have passed the bounds of mortality; so delicate, so fragile, so weak her form, he feared to stir or speak, lest the fair vision should dissolve in air.
Cava perceived the impression made on him, and summoning all her strength of mind, she said—“Alonzo, at what are you alarmed? is it at perceiving that my pilgrimage here is nearly finished? You must not grieve at what comforts me; I have lived long enough; I feel that now I can, without embarrassment or distress, thank you for your unbounded love, for your good opinion, which affords me more joy than any thing else on earth could do.”
Alonzo threw himself at her feet; he seized her hands; he pressed them to his lips—“And must I lose you?” he cried, “thou most angelic of human beings! at the moment I find you all I wish, that you give credit to my perfect love, that you tacitly avow your own—and must I lose you!” starting from the ground, and striking his hand with violence on his forehead; then turning tenderly towards her, he cried—“Will you not live, Cava? will you not live for your Alonzo, who loves as never man loved woman—who would not exchange you for an angel of Paradise—who, in your death, will die ten thousand times, who cannot, will not remain behind you?”
“Alas!” said Cava, rising from her seat, and gently laying hold on his arm, “will you imbitter the few days I have to live by this violence? is this the pious prince Alonzo? is this he whom I heard this moment in the chapel, wish to emulate his great ancestor at whose tomb I sat? has all your acquiescence in the will of an Almighty Power vanished, on your quitting the sacred abode? do you rebel, because He who has created knows the hour to call the creature to himself? Alonzo, if you wish to resemble that saint at whose tomb we met, be patient and resigned. He too was unfortunate in love; he lost an adored wife by the hand of a ruffian; he revenged her death; but his misfortunes rendered him not ungrateful for those blessings he was allowed to enjoy. His future life was spent in the cause of his country, and in the exercise of religion; and his example brought many back from error. He and his beloved now sleep together in the silent tomb; and every night, since I heard their story, have I spent an hour in prayer on the spot you found me.”
“Oh Cava! in every thing superior to every other being!” cried the prince, again kneeling at her feet, “in all I will obey you; your word shall be my law; I read your soul; I know your heart; I doubt not that Alonzo dwells within it; I will force my rebel spirit to be content with this. Cava, in an hour I depart for a field of battle; I will not conceal from you that it must be a dreadful one; I will hope the best, and that we may meet again. I ask two favours of you, Cava; grant them, and you will send Alonzo, with spirit, and renovated strength, to fight the Moors. You give me no answer Cava. I will, however, trust your love and honour. Should I return unhurt, and victorious from the camp, will you promise not to seclude yourself from my sight, not to retire to a monastery to avoid me, but give me your company and your sweet converse, as Favilla would do? I ask no more; time and your own heart shall do the rest. My second request is, that, should I fall, (start not, my love, at such a supposition,) that you will have me buried in the young prince’s tomb where I met you this night; and will you, my Cava, consent, when you are called from this earthly mansion, to repose in that monument that will contain such faithful lovers?”
“Most willingly, Alonzo, I consent to your request; to me the closing scene will be truly welcome, in the certainty of resting eternally with thee.”
Alonzo had now satisfied his fond heart, and obtained all he dared hope; still an hour was allowed him before it was necessary to meet the troops at the gate of the fortress. He spent that hour with Cava; in that short space he heard her adventures, from the time she left Africa till that moment; and he told of his own history what was unknown to Favilla, and of which she of course was ignorant. This hour was worth an age to the lovers, yet its flight was rapid. The lights in the hall grew faint; Cava first perceived it, and looking towards one of the great windows, the ruddy streaks of morn were visible in the east. Without speaking, she mournfully pointed it out to the prince. The signal for departure was now made at the gate of the castle; Cava turned pale at the sound. The spirit of a hero flushed Alonzo’s cheek, and the warlike summons animated his soul. Seizing the hand of the princess, he cried—“I am called, my love;” and taking a fond embrace, which she was unable to resist, he desired to lead her through the galleries, that he might leave her in safety near her own apartment. Her lovely face was covered with tears; the beating of her heart was visible through the foldings of the robe that covered it; her trembling hand was fondly clasped by Alonzo; and to support her almost sinking frame, he threw his arm round her waist as he led her towards the door of the hall, gazing with love, pity, and admiration, on the angelic figure he supported. As they advanced towards the foot of the staircase, they were met by the good Anselmo—“I come to seek you, Alonzo,” he cried; “all your friends attend you; the signal is given; I will conduct my child to her apartment, and follow you to the gate, that I may bless you ere you depart.”
Alonzo, without speaking, raised Cava’s hand to his lips, and then placing it in that of the monk, rushed from the spot.
Cava cast a mournful look on her departing hero; then drawing her veil over her face, she let Anselmo conduct her in silence to her chamber. He was too well acquainted with the human heart, to attempt, at such a moment, to give consolation, and only saying—“My daughter, if you find it possible, seek repose; you stand much in need of it,” He closed the door of Cava’s apartment, and followed the prince and his friends to the gates of the castle, where, having given the warriors his blessing, and taken an affectionate leave of all, he saw them depart, at the head of a most gallant body of troops, determined to contest Spain with the Moors. He watched their course while his aged eyes could follow them, and then withdrew to the chapel, there to offer up his prayers before the altar, for their success, and the restoration of Spain.
Animated by the hope of conquest, Alonzo and his friends rode with speed from the castle, and endeavoured to stifle the sorrow that oppressed their hearts for the sad necessity of leaving the dearest objects of their affections within its walls, so desolate and forlorn; but every step which carried them nearer to don Palayo, and the scene of action, lessened their regrets, and filled them with an invincible courage fatal to the Moors.
Ere the ruddy sun be set
Pikes must shiver, javelins sing,
Blade with clattering buckler meet,
Hawberk crash, and helmet ring.
(Weave the crimson web of war)
Let us go, and let us fly,
Where our friends the conflict share,
Where they triumph, where they die.
They whom once the desert beach
Pent within its bleak domain,
Soon their ample sway shall stretch
O’er the plenty of the plain.
Hail the task, and hail the hands!
Songs of joy and triumph sing!
Joy to the
Triumph to the younger king!
Horror covers all the heath,
Clouds of carnage blot the sun,
Sisters, weave the web of death;
Sisters, cease—the work is done.
ANSELMO was not the only person in the castle that anxiously watched the departure of the troops. Cava had not followed the good father’s advice by retiring to rest. Soon as the door of her chamber was closed, the princess passed on to the turret, from whence she had a full view of all those assembled in the courts below. Unwilling to be seen, she placed herself behind the battlements; there, as the beams of the rising sun illumined the spot where her hero stood, she at leisure contemplated his graceful and gallant figure, his noble and expressive countenance, that commanding mien, declaring his high birth, but so softened by the sweetness of his disposition and manners, that all were ready to devote themselves to his service, and willingly looked to him as their chief—“Who,” thought the princess, “can compare with Alonzo? how distinguished he looks among the heroes that surround him!”
Her heart exulted in the thought, and was sensible of delight, though the moment of departure approached. While the troops were collecting, she often perceived Alonzo’s eyes directed to her apartments, and she believed she could discover, even at the distance she was at, the anxiety and agitation of his countenance. Soon all was ready; the trumpet gave the signal; Cava trembled at the sound:—
“Gush’d to her eye the unbidden tear,
She gaz’d upon the leaders round,
And dark and sad each warrior frown’d”
Though grieved to forsake their consorts and their children, yet they panted to meet the Moors; and never had Spain sent braver troops, or heroes of more undaunted courage, to the field, than on that day. All but Alonzo were now past the gate; Cava’s eye rested only on him, as he lingered for a moment behind his friends; turning towards the turret which he knew belonged to her apartment, and raising the visor of his helmet, he bowed, and saluted with his sword, as if he had seen her. She had no power longer to conceal herself; she rushed to the edge of the battlement, and snatching off a white veil that concealed her beauteous face, with a gesture expressive of the fondest affection, she threw it to him from the ramparts. The enraptured prince caught the snowy prize as it fell, and kissing it several times, he rolled it round his arm; and again saluting her, galloped through the gate, and in a few minutes overtook his friends. A dark forest, through which their road lay, soon hid them from the sight of the princess, who watched with eager eyes the sudden flash of the glittering armour, as a thinner foliage sometimes gave it to her view. She listened to the last strains of martial music; and when it no longer was heard upon the wind, she was unable to suppress her tears; and flying from the turret to her chamber, she flung herself on her couch, and gave full vent to her sorrow.
Eager to do all that heroes could do to save their country, the patriot band, with the prince Alonzo at their head, made a forced march; and in every village and town through which they passed, all the males fit to carry arms followed their standard. Not only towns, but the caverns in the mountains, sent many a brave soldier to assist in the great work of preventing the north of Spain being overrun by the Moors. It was at present the only refuge for the Christians, and they trusted to Heaven and don Palayo for protection. All day the troops marched, halting only to snatch a hasty meal, or, by a few minutes’ rest, to render themselves, and their horses, better able to endure the labour of so long a march, certain to terminate in a battle with the enemy. Night came on; the moon rose not till late; and Alonzo gave orders for the troops to remain some hours at the next town, where they could be well supplied with every sort of refreshment, and take some repose. The soldiers, brave as their leader, would have continued their march without interruption, careless of their own sufferings, would he have allowed it; and under the necessity of obeying, they besought him not to spare them; that they were ready and willing to follow him, on the most desperate service. He assured them that don Palayo should be made acquainted with their merit, and would amply reward every man who should distinguish himself in the ensuing combat. Arrived at the town, the prince saw his little army safely lodged, and then joined his gallant friends. While partaking of some refreshment with them, he declared his determination of entrusting to their care the troops under his command, entreating them to conduct their future march, as it was his intention to set out, attended only by Pedro, for don Palayo’s camp, that he might before morning be able to give him an accurate account of the succour he brought him.
“I wish also,” said the prince, “to be of service to that brave man, in any way he may deem it necessary to employ me. We have much to do, my friends. The Moors, I am well informed, are in great force, and they are not to be despised as warriors.”
Don Juan, Garcia, and the noble Alvarez, did not refuse the command allotted to them by the prince; but they objected to his risking his person, in a country where straggling parties of the Moors might surprise, and either destroy, or take him captive. Garcia anxiously wished to accompany him; but he would not hear of detaching him from the troops; and saying it would require the steady care of such cavaliers as those he now confided in, to conduct his little army to the place of their destination, he mounted his steed; and having bid farewell to his gallant friends, with Pedro, he took the safest paths to where he knew don Palayo was stationed, and anxiously watched Alonzo’s return.
All night, the prince and Pedro pursued their course unwearied. Their horses were tried, and good; they often forsook the great road, and made their way over rugged mountains, through deep defiles, and almost impenetrable forests. The night had been clear and bright; and except when passing through dark woods, they had a distinct view of the country round. An universal silence reigned; every habitation was closed; and the prince passed over mountain, hill, and dale, unmolested. Morning was now at odds with night; the stars hid their bright heads, as light glimmered in the east; and Alonzo, knowing he was within a very few leagues of where don Palayo lay, had slackened his speed, in pity to a favourite horse on which he was mounted. He and Pedro were skirting the foot of a mountain, and conversing on all that had passed at the castle the few hours they had remained there, when they were surprised by some large stones rolling from the steep, and falling directly in the path they were pursuing, and just before their steeds. They heard the clattering of arms, accompanied by loud shouts; and suddenly seven or eight men rushed down upon them from the mountain, attempting to stop their course, and seize their horses by the bridles. A Christian appeared to be their leader; the rest were Moors. The undaunted Alonzo, not dismayed by their numbers, cut at them with his broad-sword when they attempted to seize his bridle. Pedro was not less courageous; and watching that the enemy did not get behind them, with their good falchions they kept the Moors and their leader at bay. One of the Infidels, who had pushed more forward than the rest, received a deadly wound from the prince, and fell beneath his horse’s feet.
Enraged, their leader approached, crying—“Alonzo, your courage will avail you nothing; yield to numbers, or I will lay you dead at my feet, as the Moor now lies at yours. I come from Oppas, to detach you, if possible, from the cause of don Palayo, to bring you to him a friend, as you are a near kinsman, or to wash out the shame of your desertion in your blood.”
“Villain!” exclaimed the prince, “I now know you well, the friend of the miserable, apostate Oppas, and the abettor of all his wicked schemes. My heart revolts at your crimes. Never again will I acknowledge my affinity to Oppas; he forsakes his God, and joins himself to Infidels. Let him repose his trust in false gods; he will call when there are none to reply. I fight under the banner of the cross, with the proud hope of vanquishing her enemies.”
Still more enraged at Alonzo’s speech, the worthless Christian sprung forward, and, assisted by the Moors, assailed both him and Pedro with the utmost violence. Pedro fought well, and with the greatest bravery. Careless of his own person, he endeavoured to prevent their surrounding Alonzo; and he succeeded in severely wounding two of the Moors. Every sword was now turned towards Alonzo. He perceived one of the Infidels had seized his bridle, and with the quickness of lightning, he severed his arm from his body. This rendered the rest more furious; and their leader encouraging them with the hope of victory, he himself, with the fury of a fiend, attacked the prince. Alonzo now fearing his horse would be killed under him, and willing to save the animal, who had carried him safely through many a bloody field, instantly leaped from him to the ground, and placing his back against a projecting rock, parried, with the utmost skill, the swords of the assassins. His arm was slightly wounded in the conflict; but, at the very moment the wretch who assailed him thought himself sure of victory, the prince laid him dead at his feet. The Moors that remained unhurt, terrified at the loss of their leader, fled with the utmost precipitation.
Alonzo saw himself master of the field of battle, and had the comfort of finding Pedro unhurt, and his steed in perfect safety.
“Let us not remain here, my noble master,” cried Pedro; “more villains may be lurking in this melancholy mountain. Allow me to bind your arm, and let us depart.”
The prince acknowledged the prudence of his servant, and prepared to follow his advice—“We must,” said he, “search this prostrate wretch. He may have papers of consequence about him.”
They soon found many letters from Oppas, respecting the war. Alonzo secured them; and taking from his head his bloody helmet, he fastened it with his sword to his saddle-bow; and vaulting into his seat, he and Pedro rode with full speed from the mountain, and before the sun had got above the horizon, were within sight of don Palayo’s camp. On a nearer approach, the sentinels knew the prince by his black plumes, and his steed, white as the mountain-snow, his mane and tail, bright chestnut, and a dark star on his forehead. He seemed proud of his rider, and the bloody trophies he carried, and pranced, and snorted loudly as he approached the camp. The rumour of Alonzo’s return spread instantly through it. He was received with shouts of applause, and all were anxious to know from whom he had taken the spoils now pending from his saddle: but Alonzo stopped not till he met don Palayo, who, being made acquainted with his return by the shouts of the soldiers, came joyfully from his tent to meet him. The prince dismounting, and pointing to the bloody helmet, gave him the satisfaction of knowing that the wretch on whom Oppas depended for the execution of his infernal schemes was no more. He also delivered the letters he had found on Ramirez, and retired with don Palayo to his tent. Much was developed of the intentions and plans of the enemy in those letters; and don Palayo acknowledged, with pleasure and gratitude, the vast consequence Alonzo was of to his cause.
When it was known in the camp that Ramirez was dead, all blessed the hand that had given the blow, and rid the Christians of so treacherous, and villainous a foe.
Alonzo was now informed that the Moors were not so near as had been believed; that, for some unknown cause, they had delayed their march, and their attack on the Christians; and that Oppas seemed still desirous of negociating. Don Palayo had, however, refused to hear any overtures from him, and had assured him, that any ambassador of his should be treated as a spy, the moment he appeared. In this state Alonzo found the camp of don Palayo, and rejoiced that the Moors had been so inactive, certain that the succours he brought would now have time, after their severe march, to recover their strength and spirits, before it would be necessary to call them into action.
Don Palayo, charmed with the success of his friend in collecting the brave soldiers and gallant warriors now on their way to his camp, made it soon known to his own troops; and spent the day with Alonzo, in arranging their plans against the Moors; and knowing, from Oppas’s letters (which they carefully perused) the secret movements of the Infidels, don Palayo, during the day, placed numbers of his men in ambush, in the defiles and caverns of the mountains through which the Moors were to pass. Finding they were not to be attacked till the next day, food and arms were distributed to the ambushed troops, with strict orders to remain perfectly quiet, with one trusty centinel only on guard, and that one relieved every hour. Don Palayo could repose the utmost confidence in every leader in his army, and felt no apprehension of infidelity or mistake; and retiring to his tent with Alonzo, and a few tried friends, he heard with wonder the death of Rodrigo, and his concealment near his castle. He rejoiced that the world was rid of such a man, while he lamented that a nature once good, should, by being raised to the height of power, and by giving the rein to his passions, be changed to that of a fiend—“Alas!” cried don Palayo, “little do princes consider what an influence their least actions have on the public mind; their virtues might save thousands from falling into vice; their vices not only sink them to a level with the worst of men, but they draw after them multitudes, who would not have ventured on a vicious course, but for the example held out by those who rule them. What an object of admiration to the world is a virtuous prince! With what an eye of pity, contempt, and disdain, does it look on one, who, forgetting his exalted station, and the example it is his duty to hold out to his people, thinks only of his own personal gratifications, and finds those gratifications degrade both mind and body!”
Thus reasoned these two virtuous princes; and Alonzo viewed with delight the brave Palayo, whom he now considered as the great protector of Spain, and of the Christian faith; and he saw with pleasure the enthusiasm of the people and the troops in his favour. The amiable Alonzo acknowledged his merit, wished him his future king, and felt no envy at the thought, though he himself stood nearer to the throne of the Gothic kings.
The duke Alphonso, anxious to hear tidings of his Favilla, hung on Alonzo’s speech, as he told of the banquet she had given to him, the nobles, and newly-arrived guests; and praised her beauty, her graceful deportment, her courage, and patriotism, joined to the most delicate and feminine mind; and both Alphonso and don Palayo rejoiced she had so agreeable an addition to her society, in the consorts of Garcia and don Alvarez.
“I know my sister’s great soul,” cried don Palayo; “she will ever act as her brother would wish her to do. Misfortune draws forth her perfections. I would trust my dearest interests to her care. Fear not, Alonzo, but she will comfort and support the lovely Cava. She has a perfect friendship for you, Alonzo, and will leave nothing neglected to make you happy.”
Here Alonzo had no time to reply; shouts of joy, and a great bustle in the camp, told that their friends were near; and don Palayo, accompanied by all his heroes, left the tent to receive and welcome their brave countrymen, who, after so long and severe a march, stood in need of rest. With transport, don Palayo met Alvarez and Garcia; they were well known to him, and well beloved. He had believed Alvarez dead, as was propagated by the cruel Rodrigo; and tears of joy now stood in his eyes, as he beheld him warm in life, and scarcely altered by the lapse of years. Cheerfulness now diffused itself over the tented field; every soldier welcomed his fellow-soldier; and all were anxious for the accommodation of Alonzo’s troops. That it was the eve of a battle, seemed to be forgotten, or, if remembered, it was only thought of as a prelude to certain victory. The veteran soldiers told their battles over; the youthful ones compared don Palayo and Alonzo with ancient heroes, and snatched laurels from the heads of the departed, to place them on theirs. The jest, the song went round, and none damped their native courage, believing the next sun was the last they might behold.
Don Palayo’s tent was not less cheerful than that of the common soldier. The guests assembled there carefully concealed their finer feelings, suppressed the fond sigh, as their thoughts glanced on their native home, and the objects of their dearest affections rose full to view. To-morrow was their fate; numbers were against them; they had also skill and courage to combat, for the Moors were wise and brave. Their good sense placed every thing in its true light; but their courage and patriotism overcame all obstacles, even sunk them to nothing; and, till night, they rendered each moment useful to the morrow. They gave, in their different tents, the dark hours to repose—
“And slept until the dawning beam
Purpled the mountain and the stream.”
While Somnus sheds his poppies over the tented field, we are inclined to bid farewell, at least for some time, to “the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war,” and see what is transacting in don Palayo’s castle, where we left the peaceful inhabitants, all but Anselmo and the Gothic princess, unconscious of the departure of Alonzo and the garrison. No balmy slumbers fell on the eyes of Cava. Soon rising from her restless couch, and perceiving the growing light, she again turned her steps towards the turret, to view the spot where stood Alonzo, when he discovered her on the battlements. She now leaned from them; the court below was silent and solitary; one centinel only was on guard, and with slow and measured step he paced the terrace, and seemed to mourn the departure of his fellow-soldiers, casting many an eager look towards the road they had taken, as if he regretted not following them to a hard-fought field, and felt indignant at the security he himself was forced to enjoy.
“Poor soldier!” said Cava, mentally, “your heart is in unison with mine. Glory carries your wishes to don Palayo’s camp; affection, the wretched Cava’s. Treacherous love, how omnipotent is thy power! How weak the resistance a heart so lost as mine can oppose to thy tyrannic sway! I yield, oh love, to thy power! I cannot banish Alonzo’s image from my heart. I will cherish it there, till the blood that now flows through it is chilled by the hand of death; that neither honour nor delicacy forbids.” A deep sigh followed, and the princess, unwilling to give way to a softness she felt would overcome her, rose, and was retiring from the turret, when she saw father Anselmo in the courts below, going the rounds of the castle, and issuing orders for the day.
He beckoned to the princess, and she descended to the court—“My child,” he cried, “I see you have not slept; your thoughts have taken a long journey. May they, like the dove from the ark of Noah, return in peace!” Then looking at her, with the pity and affection of a father—“Do not, my child, do not, I beseech you, agitate, by your fears, that tender heart, and that frail form, beyond their bearing. Alonzo may return in safety, or he and our brave troops may be defeated, and made slaves to the Moors. We are all in the hands of our heavenly Father; he created us; he can protect, and he can destroy. Submission is our part. We came into this life to suffer and to bear; and happy, blessed is the being who ends a virtuous life with honour; then is he a subject for praise, for envy; and only that human passions and human weakness suffers not our reason to act, we should rather rejoice at the death of the perfect, than wish them a longer pilgrimage. I know, my daughter, your upright mind and how little it is necessary for me to preach to one I consider as almost a saint; yet I will say, Cava, I hope to see you act a noble part, to the last hour I shall witness. Your life, though short, has been a melancholy one; but you rise superior to your fate, and I, my child, glory in it! With you, Cava, will end every worldly hope and fear, in the breast of your aged preceptor; and should he have the misfortune to lose you, a monastery shuts him for ever from every thing on earth.” The monk paused; he felt unable to proceed; he had long feared for the life of her he looked on as his child, and he also trembled for the Christian army, and the fate of his friends.
Cava was incapable of making a reply; she took the good father’s hand, and pressed it to her lips; then covering her streaming eyes with her veil, she retired into the castle. On entering it, she found that Favilla and her other friends had just been made acquainted with the transactions of the night; she hastened to relieve them from suspense, and to give them all the information in her power; and the charming Favilla, who ever forgot herself in her wish to be useful to others, now comforted all, and augured every thing fortunate and happy, from the justness of their cause, the bravery of their troops, and the skill and conduct of her noble brother. Cava’s heart revived; she smiled through her tears, and joined her friend in endeavouring to reconcile Fulvia and Isabella to the sudden departure of their consorts; and the charming duchess of Biscay, whose guests they were, devised every possible method of amusing them, and rendering the castle an agreeable asylum. Anselmo seconded Favilla’s endeavours. Their earliest and latest care was to attend the chapel in solemn procession, and offer their prayers and vows for the success of the Christians, and the safety of those they loved. The rest of the day was devoted to exercise, to the duties attendant on their situation in the castle, and to the care of every helpless individual within its walls. Favilla was a protecting angel to all within her influence; and employed the monks, to whom her brother had given an asylum, to watch over the Christians of the surrounding country, and relieve their wants.
The country, for leagues round the fortress, was beautiful, wild, and romantic. The season was fine; and with Anselmo for their guide, and a few guards from the castle to attend them for protection, the lovely females that now graced it spent most of their evenings on the sea-shore, or under the shelter of lofty trees, profusely scattered over the country, sat in sweet converse, relating to each other the different adventures they had met with in their chequered lives. Each had endured many reverses of fortune, and all had much to relate—Fulvia the least, yet her story deeply interested. A young and gentle being, landed, with her husband and two domestics only, on a savage island, lamenting the dear country and friends she had lost, and dreading the people she was among, rendered her, in the beginning of her story, an object of compassion to all who heard her; but how did they admire her, when they heard what her employments were in this unknown land! consoling her husband for his wrongs; soothing his wounded pride, and comforting him with the hope of a termination of his sorrows; watching, with unceasing care, the child Heaven had given her in this wild region; and partaking, even with her mourning domestics, the toil that, in a happier situation, would have been only theirs. Nor was this admirable woman’s cares confined to her own family; to civilize all around her, and to teach to docile minds the great truths of the gospel, was her delight; and no conqueror could find the happiness in subduing a kingdom, that she felt in leading a soul to Heaven; and Fulvia appeared almost divine, as she wept at the remembrance of those beings she had spent so many years with, and so much time in fostering their virtues, rooting out their bad habits, and instructing them in divine truths. Little Alvarez, who was always by Cava’s side, (for the intelligent child recollected her the moment he again beheld her, and it was with difficulty he could be brought to leave her for a moment,) was not an idle listener. His infantine remarks, on all that was new to him, his fond remembrance of many individuals of whom his mother spoke, or his little timid disapprobation, was interesting to our group; and time, though it passed slowly in their opinion, was neither heavy nor unoccupied
The first night, on their return from their evening excursion to the castle, they were agreeably surprised to find a messenger from Alonzo. He had sent a swift-footed rustic to inform Favilla how rapidly his troops had marched for many leagues, assuring her that all was well; that the interior of the country appeared to be unmolested. He besought her, and all within the castle, to lay aside their fears, and only to expect them to return victorious. Such a mark of attention delighted every individual; and they were loud in the praises of a prince, who, in the midst of danger, forgot not what was due to friendship. Unusual serenity found place in every bosom. Some days passed; their occupations were the same; and a messenger was certain to arrive at the close of day. Now one came more accustomed to a camp than those already sent; he came from don Palayo, and brought letters from him and the duke Alphonso. They gave an account of the arrival of Alonzo at the camp; his danger on the road from the vile emissary of Oppas; his success, and safety. Neither don Palayo nor the duke of Biscay were niggards of their praise; they spoke of Alonzo in the highest terms, and thought their eulogiums too poor. Favilla had the messenger brought before her. Anselmo questioned him on all that had passed; and the trembling Cava heard, with delight and terror, the danger, the success, and the praises of her hero. The happy account received from the camp infused spirit and hope into the breasts of the females. With prudence and discretion, the messenger replied to their various questions; and reserved for Anselmo’s private ear all the doubt and danger of the present warfare, with some instructions from Palayo for the protection of the castle, in case of any fatal event. From all but Anselmo was concealed the day on which a battle with the Moors was expected. He confined the knowledge within his own bosom; and dismissing the messenger, he returned to the camp.
Nothing now was talked of in the castle, but the valour and good fortune of the prince Alonzo. Hope reigned in every breast. Cava’s eyes brightened, and a tinge of health spread itself over her delicate features. The day following, as they issued from the fortress to take their evening ramble, she led them towards the wood through which any express sent from the camp must pass before he reached the castle; and finding a delicious spot on the skirts of the forest, that commanded the road to a great distance, they sat them down, and again, in turn, took up the thread of their extraordinary adventures. The good news they had received from those they loved exhilarated their spirits almost to the pitch of joy. Anselmo, notwithstanding his fears, was carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment, and in his turn disclosed much of his early life. He was of royal blood; and the ladies gaily asked him, how he came to seclude himself from the world, and the delights of a court, even in youth? for though he lived much in private with queen Egilone, and some friends he highly esteemed at Toledo, he seldom joined their parties of pleasure; and his chief happiness was instructing the young people, of both sexes, who were educated in the palace.
Anselmo for some moments was silent; he hung his head, and a tear trembled in his eyes; then raising it gently, he fixed it on Cava, and a faint blush passed over his pale face—“Alas!” cried he, “had we no other proof of the immortality of the soul than our own feelings, a wise man could scarcely have a doubt on the subject. The body grows old, and decays, as years pass away; with them is its strength ever on the wing; but the mind, while the faculties are unimpaired, knows no change. The feelings of a sensible heart are the same in age as in youth; the power of gratifying them is gone, but still they remain; and our greatest pleasure arises from the remembrance of our best days, when all was charming to us, and we made the happiness of others. You ask me, my children, why I quitted the world? It is true I resigned its gaieties, which had ceased to please me; but I still continued to live with some dear to my heart, which early looked only to friendship for its solace here. Love had destroyed its peace. Bred in the court of Witiza, I knew your mother, Cava, from her childhood. As her kinsman, I had a free intercourse with her. I saw her opening beauty with wonder; but, well acquainted with her mind, I often thought that the exquisite loveliness of her form was but a faint emblem of the saint within. Long I believed that admiration of such a mind, and such a face, was all I felt; but thrown often into her company, and much distinguished by her, I soon discovered the real state of my heart. Too fondly in love not to be fearful and timid, I often fled in terror at her approach, often felt that I must have almost appeared to her an idiot. Sometimes I imagined she wondered at my conduct, and was distressed by it. With softness and delicacy she entreated me to make known to her any secret sorrow that oppressed me, and I madly believed her eyes told me I was not indifferent to her; still I doubted—hesitated—was silent. At length she became more reserved, and I more unhappy. In an antichamber belonging to the state-rooms of the palace, she one day surprised me in a pensive attitude. My eyes suffused with tears, I saw her not till she was close to me. Laying her hand on my arm, she said—‘Dear Anselmo, what affects you thus? tell me, I beseech you; you have no truer friend on earth than I am.’ I lifted my eyes to hers; I was enchanted with their expression; a warm blush tinged her face and neck. I was just going to throw myself at her feet, and acknowledge that she was the cause of all I appeared to suffer, and of my altered conduct; I was going to entreat her to banish me for ever from her presence, or give me the delightful hope of having made some impression on her heart. I was prevented by the approach of the court. The doors were suddenly thrown open, and the king appeared. He soon beckoned me to him, and gave me instantly a secret commission to execute at some distance from Toledo. My absence was to continue for a length of time, and the business was of too much consequence to admit a moment’s delay. I was ordered to depart in less than an hour. This was known in the circle. I bowed to the king, received his last commands, and with a heavy heart was about to leave the room. I looked towards your mother, Cava; she smiled, bid me farewell with little embarrassment, and yet I thought her eyes followed me. I know not how I made my journey; I only remember that when I returned to Toledo, I had executed my commission so as to gratify and please the king, and to receive his public thanks. He then said—‘I am glad your return has been to-day, that to-morrow you may be present at your cousin’s marriage.’—‘What marriage?’ cried I, with quickness. The king replied—‘Your cousin, the princess’s marriage with count Julian.’—‘With count Julian! impossible!’ I answered, not knowing what I said. Here all presence of mind forsook me; I grew sick; my head turned round, and I fell into the arms of one of the nobles of the court, who stood near. My illness was attributed to the fatigue I had undergone, and I was conveyed, in a state of insensibility, to my chamber. A violent fever succeeded; long was my life despaired of; but youth, and a good constitution, restored me to health. The courtiers, employed in seeking their own aggrandizement, and enjoying the pleasures of a court, paid little attention to the sick and melancholy favourite of the king, (for such I was); they would rather have seen me laid in my grave, than again near Witiza, whom I ever endeavoured to draw from ill. I perceived, on my recovery, that he was changed, and looked on my advice as ill-timed; he was prejudiced against me by the courtiers, who had dived into my heart, and poisoned the ear of the king. They persuaded him, had he not married his sister to count Julian, I should have gained her affection, and then endeavoured to supplant him in the kingdom. I knew not this till I had long left the court. It was not disappointed ambition that caused my seclusion; it was disappointed love. Whether your mother, Cava, had felt more for me than friendship, I never knew; I wished not to know; I wished not to see her more. She had been fatal to my peace; in vain I endeavoured to banish her from my mind; she clung to my heart; I almost remembered every word I had heard her utter; her idea forsook me not in sleep; I only awoke to think of her. I had not been informed of the particulars of her marriage; I wished not to be acquainted with them; for of whom could I ask without betraying my secret? for I thought my attachment to her unsuspected. One only friend saw the struggle in my soul, and anxious to give me relief, entered on the subject of count Julian’s marriage with the princess— ‘I wish not,’ he cried, ‘to probe too deeply a wound that I fear time even will not heal; yet, as I trust unreturned love may be extinguished, I will speak of this passion that consumes you; I will venture to tell you even an unwelcome truth. If the princess ever looked upon you in a more tender light than that of a friend and kinsman, her affection evaporated in your absence. It is most certain she gave her willing hand to count Julian. You are acquainted with the graces, the eloquence, and the winning manners of the count. Under the most polished exterior, he hides an ambitious, daring, and restless soul; and, perhaps, one day, all Spain may rue the choice the princess has made.’ Pardon me, Cava,” said the monk, “I repeat the words of my friend. I make myself no comment on the count’s temper or conduct.”
Cava sighed; she knew too well how fatal he had been to Spain; and secret sorrow for the share she herself had in the dreadful catastrophe dyed her cheek with crimson, and then left it pale as the lily, that lifts its white head above the stream, and then droops upon its surface.
Anselmo continued—“Having once given ear to what my friend said, I became desirous of knowing the truth, and ventured to ask in what manner the count was received at the court, and how the princess conducted herself at my departure? He assured me the princess spoke of me without embarrassment; expressed her wish for my return before her nuptials took place; and that, from the day count Julian appeared, she seemed captivated by his manners; and never, for a moment, hesitated in giving her consent to the marriage, when proposed by the king; and that, as soon as the ceremony was over, they left Toledo for Africa.
“This was enough for me; I found I had either never been beloved, or that the heart of the princess was capable of a sudden change; and I endeavoured, to the utmost of my power, to banish her from my thoughts. I found the effort vain; and, on the plea of ill health, I retired from the court. I applied myself to study, and I lost much of my melancholy, while I turned the page of history, or conversed with the sages of antiquity. I found the world was the same, from the earliest times to the present age. I saw that virtue only gave a man peace at the last; and knowing the growing vices of the court of Witiza, and that to draw the king from his evil ways was now beyond human power, I determined on a religious life. The few friends I had entreated me to give up a scheme adopted in haste, and so little likely to make me happy, as I was so young, and of so lively a disposition—‘Early or late,’ cried I, ‘the road that leads to eternal happiness is what a wise man ought to pursue. I resign the vices and folly of the world; but not the society of those beings I respect and love.’ Not to tire you, my fair friends, with too tedious an account of myself, I will pass over much of my life. It is enough to say, I took the cowl. I lived retired, but not absolutely secluded. Rodrigo and Egilone were on the throne of the Goths, before I ever again, Cava, beheld your mother. She started when she saw me in the habit I wore; she stretched her hand to me, saying—‘My friend——’ Tears rushed to her eyes; she could utter no more.
“Count Julian approached; he accosted me with a smile, declaring the countess had made him well acquainted with me; he had long wished to assure me of his esteem; that, if I would pass into Africa, I should live in his palace, and be treated as a brother. I own, Cava, that at that moment my eye glanced towards the countess. I fancied she was distressed—confused—the lovely colours of her face varied. I withdrew my eyes, and was about to thank the count, and refuse his generous offer, when you, Cava, an infant of four years old, rushed, with the playful wildness of a child, into the apartment. You liked not my black habit, and clung to your mother—‘We are come from Africa,’ said she, (recovering her presence of mind, and smiling as an angel would smile) ‘at the command of our kind friends, Rodrigo and Egilone, to leave this our treasure under their protection. I cannot,’ continued the countess, ‘deny to my child the advantages of education she will here receive.’ Then turning towards me, ‘May I,’ she cried, while a deep blush, such as I had seen in the antichamber of Witiza’s palace, covered her face, ‘may I hope you will remember she is the child of your earliest friend? guard her as you would your own; watch over her mind; be a father to her when we are far distant, when seas roll between me and my treasure.’
“The countess, then raising you in her arms, kissed you, and giving you to count Julian, desired him to place you in mine. I stood petrified; I gazed at the countess—at you—at count Julian. With a grace all his own, he placed you in my arms. I expected you, Cava, to have shrunk from me; but reconciled to my dark habit, or not noticing it, you threw your soft arms round my neck, and pressed your cherub mouth to my cheek. I was no longer master of my own feelings; I strained you to my bosom, and the warm tears fell on your infant face. I need not tell you that from that hour you were as dear to me, as if I had a natural right to call you daughter. To my great joy, this scene was of short duration. Rodrigo and Egilone entered the saloon, and count Julian gaily told them he had lost his little girl; she would soon be fonder of a monk than of him. I cannot, my friends, give you the smallest idea of the impression made on my mind by what had passed. All my affection revived; I fought against it; and while the count and countess remained at Toledo, I sought his company, and avoided hers. I never, for one moment, conversed in private with her; and after she left Toledo, I never saw her more. Long did the thorn she had planted in my heart rankle there; but time, and a sense of duty and religion, extracted it. You, Cava and Favilla, have been the prop and comfort of my old age. One consolation I had through my melancholy life—I believed the countess happy. The count adored her, and I have heard she was no less fondly attached to him. If she ever guessed at my hapless love, I am convinced she pitied it, though she could not return it. Though disappointment and sorrow have been my lot, I repine not; it has saved me from vice and folly. I beseech you, my children, to keep in mind, that those misfortunes which mend the heart, and open the path to heaven, in the end prove the greatest blessings; and often better is it to go into the house of mourning than the house of joy.”
Here ceased the good father Anselmo. All loved, admired, and pitied him, and looked with admiration on a heart so pure, so true, and so resigned. Little was spoken; they returned almost in silence to the castle. Cava attached herself to Anselmo’s side; and placing her arm within his, in a soft and tender accent, at times, during their walk, expressed her sense of his paternal affection, and her gratitude for his unceasing care.
Cava had not yet heard from Isabella what passed at Seville after she had stolen from the house of Garcia; and the next evening, when they met, she requested Isabella to tell her in what state she had left her friends at Seville, and how the queen could be persuaded to part with her—“She herself wished my departure,” replied Isabella; “her watchful attention to the Christians is unabated. Garcia and I partook largely of her bounty, and Abdalesis was scarcely less kind. But sad rumours are abroad; it is reported that Musa and Tariff are both fallen under the displeasure of the caliph, who is made to believe they have deceived him, and secreted much of the wealth plundered from the Christians. The caliph dreads the power of the son of Musa, and wishes to withdraw him from Spain, and from his Christian wife. He fears that Abdalesis may throw off his yoke, join the Christians, and keep Spain. The queen, fearing, should a storm burst over her head, that it might be fatal to her friends, has ordered many to leave her, at least for the present. It was in vain to combat her wishes. A galley was fitted out, at her expence, to carry us to the north; she ordered every thing we had of value on board, and added most liberally to our riches. At our last interview, she said—‘I know that the dear unhappy Cava is now in safety with my loved Favilla and don Palayo. I saw her in the hall, Isabella; I was not deceived. I doubt not but affection for Egilone brought her there. Tell her I shall love her to my latest hour; tell her I send you and Garcia to comfort and support her; tell her I never shall forget her pilgrim’s weeds, her lovely, melancholy countenance.’
“Sweet Egilone,” interrupted Cava, “how perfect, how angelic is your mind!”
“I cannot,” resumed Isabella, “describe our parting—few were the words we exchanged; the queen hung upon my neck in tears, and Abdalesis alone had power to comfort her. As we approached the beach, we were met by Alvarez, just landed. Garcia rejoiced to see him, and soon informed him they had met only to part. Hearing our destination, Alvarez declared his intention of accompanying us; he had come to Spain merely to join don Palayo, and had pointed his course towards Seville, to make himself acquainted with the state of the country; he entreated us to delay our voyage one day, that he might cause every thing belonging to him to be removed on board our vessel. We gladly delayed, to have such companions on our voyage, and to bring such succour to don Palayo. I would not, however, return to the palace; I could not again encounter the grief and tenderness of the queen. That day sufficed to regulate our voyage, and the next saw us, with a fair wind, off the coast. You know how happily and fortunately we all reached this shore.”
“But you give me no account,” said the impatient Cava, “of my charming friend Zamora. Is she still at Seville?”
“No,” answered Isabella, “she and Aleanzar soon returned to Africa. Till she left Seville, I saw her every day; her greatest pleasure was talking of you; tears fell from her eyes at your name; she and her Aleanzar often wished you would inhabit with them their beautiful castle on the coast of Africa, which was formerly embellished for your reception. Aleanzar, at taking his last leave, charged me to assure you, his affection for you was now that of a brother; that he adored his Zamora; that her friendship for you, her perfect confidence in him, was a charm that bound him to her for ever—‘I shall love Zamora,’ said he, ‘with unabated affection, to the last hour of my life. Tell Cava this; I am certain she can hear nothing that can give her more real satisfaction.’
“This charming couple landed safely at their own palace. The caliph approves his son’s marriage, and has sent Zamora the most magnificent presents; and has declared his intention of making Aleanzar governor of Africa, in the room of Musa, who, I have already said, is in disgrace.”
Here Isabella ended her narrative, and left Cava’s mind more at ease than it had long been. How sweet, how consoling to a true heart is the remembrance of absent friends! Distance of time and place blot out all faults, all weaknesses, in those we love. We remember only their tenderness, and long affection for us; their agreeable or amiable qualities. Every thing that could darken the picture is lost in shade; their virtues blaze as the noon-day; and we lament that we cannot, with the force of spirit, fly to enjoy that loved society, the recollection of which, even at the remotest parts of the earth, can give our hearts to feel with such keen sensibility, the highest pleasure, and the severest pain.
Oh, Love! oh, Friendship! what mighty, what magic power is thine! when thou canst smooth the most rugged path of life, and gild our latest hour!
Brilliant was the morning of the tenth day from the departure of the troops. At an early hour, the anxious inhabitants of the castle were assembled in the chapel, to implore the God of battles to give success to the Christian host. No messenger had arrived the preceding day from don Palayo; and with palpitating hearts they listened, during their early matins, for the expected signal at the gate. None was heard, and the service ended. The morning opening with such splendour, tempted them beyond the walls of the
fortress—”Our repast,” said the monk, “will be more delicious, if we partake it under the shade of yon tall trees, fanned by the balmy breath of morn, than in the chambers of the castle. Can their richest canopies cope with the bright canopy of heaven? Can perfumes, scattered round them by the hand of man, equal what salutes our senses, as, reclined on yon flowery bank, we press the violet, the cowslip, and all the sweet and lowly children of the vale, and breathe the fragrance wafted on every breeze from the healthy mountains, and the wild shrubs scattered by the hand of Nature over the hills and valleys of this rude, but beautiful country?”
All approving the proposal of Anselmo, the duchess gave immediate orders for their early banquet in the open air; and Cava rejoiced that the spot was chosen, from whence they could, at a great distance, discover the approach of a messenger from the camp.
The sun had just risen in glory above the eastern mountains; Nature shook off her trance, vocal, like Memnon’s statue, to the rising day; sad Phylomela only slept; and those whose souls are not entirely tuned to notes of woe, might think her place was well supplied, by lark, by blackbird, and by thrush, “who now sang out their merry roundelay.” Hope animated every bosom. Even Anselmo presaged good tidings; and Cava smiled. The friends assembled knew no disguise; free and unrestrained was their converse. No bad passions, no wild desires had place in their bosoms. A free communication of thought and sentiment rendered even those days of uncertainty and anxiety not undelightful. Much had the relation of their separate adventures occupied and interested their minds; it had drawn their thoughts from their own individual misfortunes; pointed out that truth often forgotten while happiness lasts, that an exemption from sorrow is not the lot of mortals, and that the dignity of man is best supported, by yielding, with submission and humility, to those griefs imposed by Heaven. The mind, conscious of its own rectitude, is lightened of half its sorrows, and soars, on the wings of Hope, to those sublime regions where sorrow shall be wiped from every eye. The mind of the Gothic princess was in this state. She had lost much of her melancholy, and, at times, something like pleasure beamed from her eye, and diffused its glow over her lily cheek; for long had the roses, that once bloomed so fresh, forsaken it. Not instantly had they disappeared; by degrees the canker-worm of grief and love had destroyed their beauty; their glowing colours faded slowly; a paler and a paler hue succeeded, till all was vanished; and the chaste moon was not so pale or cold as her wan cheek. Ever an object of the deepest interest to the friends by whom she was surrounded, they saw with delight that their beloved Cava was animated, was almost cheerful; her eye rested not on the ground; it seemed to look with pleasure on the beautiful scenery surrounding the spot they occupied. The woodland melody, which was now ascending, in notes of early praise and thanksgiving, to the gates of heaven, appeared to wrap her soul. Her animated looks were cast around, on mountain, hill, and dale, to the broad ocean, and the winding shore. Anselmo perceived the pleasure those sublime objects gave her; he knew her feelings; he knew the exquisite taste with which Nature had endowed her; but never having heard her express delight at any thing, since he parted with her at Toledo, he felt, at seeing the animation of her countenance, as if he had received her from the tomb. He fondly hoped, even against his judgement, that the sparkling of her eye, the flash of her cheek, was the return of health. He looked earnestly at her; tears of joy stood in his eye. She perceived it; she smiled—“You wonder at me, my good father. I wonder at myself; for this morning, I feel awakened to new life; my spirits are less oppressed, and I enjoy this beauteous scene. I looked, perhaps, with unwonted earnestness upon it. In some instances, it reminded me of the castle of Aleanzar, on the shores of Africa. The scene here is ruder, wilder, yet still there is a resemblance; and any thing that brings to memory my Zamora and her Aleanzar, must give me a sensible pleasure.”
“Cava,” cried the duchess of Biscay, “I have heard you speak a thousand times of these delightful Moors; and you have told me much of Aleanzar’s castle; but I have never regularly heard all that passed there during your stay. You must now gratify me, by telling me all and every thing you can tell of the wizard, the witch, and the enchanted castle. I sincerely hope I may hear something of Zamora that I can find fault with, for I know she supplanted me in your heart; but it must have been witchcraft; and I dare say we shall yet hear of her being carried away in a whirlwind. I hope she will not come sailing in a nutshell to our shores.”
“Favilla, I never knew you unjust before,” answered Cava, smiling. “Could galley, nutshell, or what conveyance your fancy can suggest, bring the charming Zamora here, you, Favilla, would soon love her yourself, and own how much she merits to be admired by the whole world. As to your jealousy, I laugh at it. You can never doubt how dear you are to your earliest friend.”
“Never,” cried the duchess, raising the hand which had been laid on hers to her lips. “Be well, Cava, be happy; and Favilla will have nothing to sigh for.”
Cava pressed the hand she held; for a little she was silent, when, resuming her cheerfulness, she said—“Willingly, my friends, will I wander with you over this wizard’s castle (as Favilla calls Aleanzar,) and through his enchanted groves; and I think you will be astonished how I stepped over the circle.” Raising her eyes, which beamed with the tenderest affection, she added—“You all know that, to free me from the power of the Moor, Alonzo came, attended only by one friend, to the gardens of Aleanzar, surrounded as they were by innumerable guards. Grateful am I to Heaven he did not then encounter the danger he so bravely sought; but that his precious life has been spared, to fight for his country, and assist the noble don Palayo in the support of the oppressed Christians.” Here she paused, blushed; but soon recovering herself, proceeded to give Anselmo, and her fair auditors, an account of the palace, the gardens of Aleanzar, and Zamora, not forgetting the kind Zulima, and the interesting story of Zamora’s Christian mother.
“May the charming Zamora one day become a Christian!” cried the good monk, crossing himself, and sending up a prayer for Zamora. Three hours of the morning had been spent in this interesting narration. Cava had captivated all her hearers; they could, unwearied, have listened to her till Night had drawn her dark curtain round them; but as the sun had reached his highest noon, the sound of horses’ hoofs was heard at a distance. The tale was at an end. Every ear was attentive. As the ground rose or sunk, so rose or sunk the sound—“It is certainly the gallop of a horse I hear,” cried Anselmo; “but neither horse or rider are yet visible.”
“Surely it must be a soldier from the camp,” said the agitated Favilla, starting from where she sat, and clasping her hands together in a sort of agony—“My husband! my brother!” The duchess looked round; Isabella and Fulvia were pale, were motionless; tears rolled down their cheeks. Cava gasped for breath; but calmly rising from the ground on which she had been sitting, she fixed her eyes on the most distant point of view which the road to the camp presented. The sound now grew more distinct, and the clattering hoof was heard—“I see the horseman,” cried Cava; “he is fleet as the wind; he must soon be here.” She panted for breath, she leaned against a tree. Father Anselmo flew to support her; his beads were in his hands; his prayers were on his lips.
“The soldier carries a green branch on his helmet,” said Fulvia, as she sunk half-fainting on the grass.
“Then we are victorious!” exclaimed Favilla; “we are victorious, Cava!”
The horseman was now near; he was galloping, with the utmost speed, towards the castle; but seeing the duchess, he threw himself from his weary steed at her feet, and presenting her the laurels from his cap, he cried, nearly exhausted, and with a faint accent—“We are victorious! we have won the day! our king, the great Palayo, has routed the Moors! The prince Alonzo has saved don Palayo’s life. The brave Alonzo is——”
Here his words failed; he fell, fainting, on the ground. All surrounded him; all were eager to hear the conclusion of the sentence. Was the duke Alphonso, was Garcia, was Alvarez, was don Juan safe? No answer was returned—the fatigued soldier appeared to be dead.
“What of Alonzo—what of Alonzo has he left untold?” cried Cava, endeavouring to raise the soldier’s head, while Anselmo brought water from a spring. In vain were all their efforts to bring him to himself; his eyes were closed, his hands clenched, and his limbs stiff. The monk drew a horn from his belt; he blew it loud. The soldiers heard it on the battlements; they flew from the fortress, with transport received the news of victory, and carried off their fainting companion in triumph.
The duchess sent a faithful domestic to watch his returning senses, and bring her an account of what he said.
Calmness was now banished from our little circle. They knew the Christians were victorious; they congratulated each other; they looked at the laurel crown lying at Favilla’s feet; they acknowledged the mercies of Heaven. In these laurels they beheld their safety, and yet they mourned; they hung their heads. Who might have fallen! One moment they were joyful, the next was terror, uncertainty, bodings of ill; yet victory was sure, and the sunshine of hope spread itself over every bosom.
The last words of the fainting soldier sunk deep in Cava’s heart. Alonzo had saved the life of don Palayo—that was joy in the extreme—“Alonzo is——What had the soldier more to say? Would he had finished the sentence!” cried she wringing her hands, almost in an agony of despair—“Oh merciful Heaven! was the next word he would have uttered freighted with joy, or loaded with the heavy weight of grief? but my Alonzo has triumphed; his course has been glorious, and shall not Cava hold his honour dearer than his life?”
The same words, the same hopes, the same fears and lamentations, were a thousand times repeated by the fair group. Anselmo in vain made use of all his wisdom, of all his eloquence, to calm their fears, and raise their hopes. Victory was certain, and those who fell, fell nobly, and regretted by the country—“They are saints in heaven,” said the monk; but what rhetoric has influence on the truly attached and tender heart, in the hour of doubt, of terror, and suspense? Reason then loses her hold, even on the virtuous and the wise; they listen not to her calm dictates; the language of the heart is only heard.
Anselmo, while acting the part of comforter, felt an internal agitation, which his best efforts could scarcely conceal. He too was fearful that the unfinished sentence imported ill; he hastened to the castle; he visited the soldier; he was still insensible. There could be no farther intelligence gleaned from him. The good monk returned to his charge. No tidings yet. Minutes were numbered for hours. They believed that the sun stood still in the firmament. Anselmo proposed returning to the castle, and there waiting the arrival of don Palayo. He talked to the winds. Those gentle females, by whom he was so honoured, so revered, who, in any other situation, would have been obedient to the smallest wish of the holy man, were now obstinate in their own opinion; their feet were rooted to where they stood; their eyes bent in eager expectation, almost in frantic wildness, on the pathway down the distant hill from whence they could first descry the troops. Silence had long prevailed. Every sense was sharpened, and feeling amounted to agony. Cava first descried the warriors, as a mist on the distant mountain. Cava was first awake to the sound of warlike music, that floated on the breeze; it was far distant, and came but at intervals. Now every moment gave birth to stronger hopes and fears. The fair cheek was blanched with terror, or dyed with the bright flash of hope, as these passions rose alternate in the bosom. The heroes had descended the mountain; they were hid from sight, in passing a winding valley at its base. Again they emerged from a thick wood, and rose to nearer view upon a nearer hill; the noonday sun flamed bright upon their armour. Again martial sounds were heard—
“Now seems it far, and now a’near,
Now meets, and now eludes the ear;
Now seems the mountain side to sweep,
Now faintly dies in valley deep.”
At times, loud and warlike were the sounds; but often was it interrupted by notes too plaintive, too melancholy to accord with the shouts of victory that were echoed from the surrounding hills—“What are we to understand from this?” exclaimed the Gothic princess, while she clung, trembling, to the arm of the monk; “the sound of woe mixes with the triumphant shouts of the soldiers. Anselmo, solve my doubts; speak to me, Anselmo. Anselmo, tell me what do these sad sounds forebode?”
The monk was unable to answer the terrified Cava; he looked mournfully at her; he well knew the lamentations for the dying, or the dead, and a cold chill spread over his frame.
A single horseman now came thundering over the plain; he, like the soldier, was crowned with laurel; he alit; it was don Juan; grief hung on his brow, though in joyful accents he exclaimed—“Victory, victory! the Christians have defeated the Moors! Their general, and the vile Oppas also, are no more. We left them dead upon the field of battle. The people have proclaimed the brave Palayo king. The Christians have conquered ten times their number. From our caverns we issued on the Moors; they fled; they fell before us. The Lord of hosts was with us. The God of the Christians gave us strength in the hour of peril. We returned with glory from the pursuit; and our soldiers trampled to atoms the body of the vile Oppas: no trace of him now remains. Don Palayo, returning alone from the pursuit of the flying Moors, was surrounded by a large body of the enemy, who, for that purpose, had lain in ambush in a wood. The troops from a distance beheld the attack. We knew our brave leader by his plume. Don Alvarez, Garcia, and myself, calling to our friends, flew across the plain to save him, or die with him. He was already safe—the brave, the generous, the truly good and heroic prince Alonzo, seeing his danger, and caring not for his own life, could he save his friend, calling to the soldiers near to follow him, pierced through the thickest of the enemy; he felled them at every stroke, and his single arm slew many, before the Christians could in any way assist him. On coming up, they finished what his valour had begun, and left only a few Moors, who fled, to tell the story. The noble Palayo was unhurt. A stroke of a sabre had loosened his helmet; it had fallen at his side. He had thrown his spear and shield upon the ground, and was, when we reached the spot, supporting in his arms his beloved and gallant deliverer. We crowned them both with laurels.”
Cava shrieked; she leaned heavily on father Anselmo—“Don Juan, you are a messenger of woe. Alonzo is wounded—is dead—tell me that it is so—kill me at once! Let me not die a lingering death! Sufficiently long have my sufferings been! Let them end here! In pity, don Juan, conceal nothing from me; unfold the whole horrid truth; say that you are bringing Alonzo lifeless to the castle; and let this wearied, this lacerated, this overcharged heart, burst at once!”
All now gathered round the miserable Cava. Joy for the victory, for their own happier fortune, was no more; tears gushed from every eye, and the kind and compassionate don Juan assured her the prince was not dead. Looking tenderly at her, he said—“I will not deceive you, my princess; he is wounded, badly wounded; but he lives. The soldiers carry him; their movement is slow; and Palayo, though returning in triumph and a king, will not quit his friend an instant, so that the march is tedious; but a little while, lady, and you will see your hero. Lose not all hope, I beseech you; lose not your presence of mind. A skilful leech, and care, may do much. Alonzo may yet be restored to you, his friends, and the world.”
“Never,” cried Cava; “his knell is rung. I know too well the funeral dirge, amid your shouts of triumph—but I am calm, I am satisfied, I am resigned. My pilgrimage is nearly at an end; my life has run its sad course. Alonzo, we shall sink to rest together!” With these words she fainted in the arms of the monk; he believed her departing, and prayed over her. Favilla was distracted; they laid her on the verdant carpet; they fanned her wan visage, beautiful to the last. Favilla knelt by her side, assisted by Fulvia and Isabella; she made use of every restorative to call back the fleeting spirit; tears of the fondest friendship and affection were shed over her; they bedewed her face, they fell on her cold hands.
The army was now fast approaching; songs of triumph and of woe, and applauding shouts, again loaded the gale, again assailed every ear but Cava’s. She was now alike insensible to worldly joy, or worldly sorrow; and the woeful Anselmo believed it right no longer to delay the ceremony of the church for the dying, when loud shouts, proclaiming don Palayo king, were returned from the battlements of the castle, and echoed from every mountain round. So loud a peal awoke the unhappy Cava from her trance; and opening her eyes, she raised herself on her arm, and asked Favilla—“Was her brother near? I must see him,” cried she, “before Death lays his cold, but welcome hand upon me; I would tell him how I rejoice in his success, in his deserved greatness. I would tell him my last moments are comforted, by knowing that he owes his life to the valour and the friendship of my Alonzo. Favilla, Isabella, Fulvia, weep not so; remember me, talk of me when I am gone, love me still; but rejoice that the wretched mourner is at peace. Isabella, if you ever see Zamora and Egilone more, tell them they were not forgotten on the verge of the tomb—in death they were still dear. Father Anselmo, my parent, my protector, dear as a father to a fond child, it is my last request, that you waste not the remainder of your days in the gloom of a convent, because your child has gone before you. No, continue with my beloved Favilla; watch still over her happiness; give her, added to the affection you bear her, all you have ever borne for me. Give your sage advice to don Palayo; the wisest want a friend. He is now a king; his walk is dangerous: be you his staff, his prop, while Heaven spares you. Anselmo, one thing more,” and she grasped the hand of the sorrowing monk, and raised it to her lips—“Place me by the side of my hero, in the tomb of the young Gothic king, at which we kneeled last night: I told you then, that before Alonzo left the castle, he had marked the spot: there visit me, my friends; and if a spirit is permitted to watch over earthly beings, Cava’s will hover round you. Another shout! Raise me, oh raise me, Favilla! I have still strength left to meet my beloved, to tell him, I trust he will seek me in the realms of light; lead me towards him, Favilla; my weak eyes see the glittering armour, the plumed crests of our heroes; they are not far off; lead me to them, my Favilla.”
The troops were now approaching in a slow and solemn march, little according with their shouts of triumph. Fatigue and sorrow was impressed on every brow, for many of their brave comrades had fallen in the glorious field, and they beheld their favourite Alonzo on the confines of the grave. A troop preceded don Palayo, loudly proclaiming his victory, and his election as king—“Long may the brave and worthy Palayo live to govern the Christians he has protected!” was heard from every battalion, and joyfully repeated from the walls of the castle.
Don Palayo, borne on the shields of the soldiers, crowned with laurels, and surrounded by his friends and the chief leaders of the army, was now in sight. Careless of his honours, and almost forgetting his glory, his eyes were fixed on Alonzo, borne beside him on a litter that the soldiers had made with the branches of trees, and covered with their cloaks. Gently they carried the dying prince; yet might he have been mistaken for the conqueror, for his placid countenance expressed no anguish; he smiled in the arms of death, and looked with delight on the hero for whose life he willingly relinquished his own. The soldiers had crowned him also with laurels, and proclaimed his great actions in the field. A few paces only was it possible to conduct the Gothic princess towards the warriors; she was again near sinking into Anselmo’s arms. The battalion divided; she caught a glimpse of Alonzo, supported by the soldiers, as they brought him towards the castle.
Don Palayo, perceiving the friends who were coming to meet them, leaped to the ground, and flew to embrace his sister, who was already strained to the bosom of her fond husband—“We pay too dearly for our victory, Favilla,” cried the new monarch; “our loved, our lamented Alonzo will not live to rejoice in the laurels he has won.”
A thousand varying passions shook the bosoms of all assembled. The intoxication of a wonderful and recent victory, the security of freedom for themselves and families, and the triumph of their religion, raised their joy to so enthusiastic a pitch, that it effaced for a time the remembrance of their past afflictions, and their grief for their brave companions, now left cold on the glorious and sanguine field, where they had so bravely fought, so nobly fallen. But as the youthful hero, the gallant Alonzo, was brought forward in all the pride of conquest, and though wounded to death, yet struggling with the king of terrors, to take one fond, one last adieu of her he had through life adored, the song of triumph ceased; lamentation filled the air; and even the rough soldier wept. Alonzo only smiled; love gave a transient lustre to his languid eye. He entreated those friends that carried him to set down the litter, and pointed to the spot where Favilla and the monk were supporting the fainting Cava: he was obeyed.
Pedro, his heart wrung with anguish, had never, for a moment, relinquished his station at the side of his beloved master. He watched his every motion; he marked his eager eye; and assisted the soldiers to place the litter almost at Cava’s feet.
The princess, as if the sight of Alonzo had arrested her fleeting spirit in the moment of its departure, was suddenly roused from the lethargy she was falling into; and gazing, horror-struck, at the pale countenance of her lover, in a frenzy of despair, threw herself on her knees at his side—“Alonzo, is it thus we meet! is the miserable Cava doomed never to know one white hour! My poor heart, my Alonzo, would have overflowed with delight—would in transport have yielded its last sigh, had you returned from battle unhurt, as you are victorious. You are crowned with glory, my Alonzo, and my soul exults in it; yet still a woman’s weakness hangs about me; and even for a moment to endure your loss with patience, is beyond my power.” Here, suffocated by sobs and tears, she was unable to proceed; and the prince, raising himself on his arm, and clasping her hands in his feeble grasp, besought her to be calm.
“Imbitter not my last moments, my angelic Cava,” he cried, “by this extreme distress; rather be comforted that fate has given us to finish our course together. When we parted at the castle, my soul sickened at the length of days I might be doomed to inhabit this earth without you. As my eyes rested on that lovely form, whose image is engraven on my heart, I almost dreaded its instant dissolution. When from the battlements of the fortress you blessed my sight, honour could scarcely draw me to the field, so much I dreaded I should see your angel face no more:—but, my Cava,” he continued, in broken accents, “Heaven has been kind; again I behold you; we meet in an hour of joy and triumph; the Christians are victorious; don Palayo, their shield, their protector, their king, is safe; and I die a glorious death. Cava, we go together; hand in hand we enter paradise.”
Cava, who had hid her face in her robe to conceal from Alonzo the violent agitation of her mind, now raised her eyes, and saw that his wounds were bound up with the veil she had thrown him from the battlements. A strong burst of grief overcame her, and she sunk upon the ground. All now approached; they believed her dead; but Anselmo assuring them she still breathed, Alonzo consented to be carried to the castle, where they were conveying the princess. Favilla’s heart and attentions were divided between her friend and her deliverer; she mourned Alonzo as a brother; and administering all the consolation in her power, while Fulvia and Isabella followed the senseless Cava, she placed herself by Alonzo’s litter; and though oppressed by the deepest woe, she struggled with her feelings to comfort the dying prince. The melancholy procession shortly reached the castle; it entered its walls. The heroes were received with shouts of applause—with sudden bursts of grief. A triumphal arch had been erected in haste, under which the conquerors were to pass. The great hall of the castle was thrown open for their reception, adorned with the trophies of their former gallant actions. Here the sad procession rested; here Alonzo perceived that Cava, still insensible, lay on the bosom of Isabella, and that the pious monk was in the act of prayer. Favilla, starting from the side of the prince, flew to her friend; she threw herself on her knees before her, and wept aloud.
“My child,” cried Anselmo, “disturb not by your grief the departure of that pure soul, which, now taking its flight, and leaving all worldly cares behind, is about to enter the regions of the blessed.” As he spoke, Cava was numbered with the dead.
Slowly the good Anselmo approached Alonzo, to give him also his last blessing.
“Holy father,” cried the prince, “your looks speak what your tongue refuses to utter; fear not to tell me my Cava is no more. I will not linger behind her. Farewell, my friends. Anselmo, remember the tomb of my pious ancestor, and lay us by his side.” Here his voice failed; he gave his hand to don Palayo, to every weeping friend by whom he was surrounded. His dying eyes were turned on Favilla. Drowned in tears, she approached him; he beckoned to her to come still nearer; she leaned over him; he grasped her hand, and endeavoured to carry it to his lips. She received his last sigh, and, in mute sorrow, all hung over the departed hero.
For many days the castle of don Palayo was a scene of woe. The new monarch allowed no rejoicing for their victory till the last honours had been paid (with all the pomp his present state would admit) to the gallant Alonzo, and the lovely Cava.
Time softened the sorrow of their friends, and memory still renewed sincere, but gentle grief. Anselmo attended to the dying wishes of the princess, and remained, during the rest of his life, near don Palayo and Favilla. Alvarez, Garcia, don Juan, and their families, settled in the Asturias, under the protection of the prince. Pedro he retained about his person.
Garcia, in the course of time, made a voyage to Syria, where he found Aleanzar the reigning caliph. He and the charming Zamora received him as a brother; heard from him the death of Cava, and gave many tears to her memory. Favilla was repaid for all her past sufferings by the constant affection of the amiable duke of Biscay; she treated Fulvia and Isabella as sisters, and their loved Cava still lived in their hearts. Don Palayo reigned many years an honour to his country, and revered by the Spaniards; and the resistance he made to the Moors, during his whole life, in the course of years led to their final destruction.
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