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Should you chance, in crossing a certain mountain pass in southern Catalonia, to find yourself poised above a little valley against the opposite side of which lies a monastery, look to the heights above it. Should you piece out from among the rocks the jagged ruins of a castle, ask its name. Your guide will perhaps inform you that those blackened stones are called “The Teeth of the Moor,” and if he knows the story he will doubtless tell it to you, crossing himself many times during the recital. In all probability, however, he will merely shrug his shoulders and say it is a place of bad repute, nothing more.

Even the monks of the monastery, who are considered well versed in local history, have forgotten the reason for the name, although they recall the legend that once upon a time the castle harbored a haughty Moslem lord. Few of them ever heard the story of Joseph the Anchorite, and how he sought flesh within its portals; those who have will not repeat it. Time was, however, when the tale was fresh, and it runs this wise:

Away back in the reign of Abderamus the Just, First Caliph of the West, Hafiz, a certain warlike Moor, amazed at the fertility of this region, established on the edge of the plateau a stronghold of surprising security. His house he perched upon the crest of the cliff overlooking the valley below. It was backed by verdant, sun-kissed slopes which quickly yielded tribute in such quantity as to render him rich and powerful. Hafiz lived and fought and died beneath the Crescent banner, leaving in his place a son, who likewise waged war to the northward on behalf of the Prophet and all True Believers, at the same time farming his rich Catalonian acres.

Generations came and went, and, although the descendants of Hafiz waxed strong, so also did the power of the hated Christians. Living as they did upon the very fringe of the Mussulman empire, the Moors beheld with consternation the slow encroachment of the Unbelievers–more noticeable here than farther to the southward. At intervals these enemies were driven back, but invariably they reappeared, until at length, upon the plain beneath the castle, monks came and built a monastery which they called San Sebastian. Beneath the very eyes of Abul Malek, fourth descendant of Hafiz, they raised their impious walls; although he chafed to wreak a bloody vengeance for this outrage, his hands were tied by force of circumstance. Wearied with interminable wars, the Moorish nation had sought respite; peace dozed upon the land. Men rested and took from the earth new strength with which to resume the never-ending struggle between the Crescent and the Cross, wherefore Abul Malek’s rage availed him nothing. From his embrasured windows he beheld the cassocked enemies of his creed passing to and fro about their business; he heard his sacred hour of prayer desecrated by their Christian bells, and could do no more than revile them for dogs, the while he awaited the will of Allah. It was scant comfort for a man of his violent temper.

But the truce threatened never to be broken. Years passed and still peace continued to reign. Meanwhile the Moor fed upon his wrongs and, from incessant brooding over them, became possessed of a fury more fanatical, more poisonous even than had been engendered by his many battles.

Finally, when the wrong had bit too deep for him to endure, he summoned all his followers, and selecting from their number one hundred of the finest horsemen, he bade them make ready for a journey to Cordova; then in their presence he kissed the blue blade of his scimitar and vowed that the shackles which had hampered him and them would be struck off.

For many days there ensued the bustle and the confusion of a great preparation in the house of the Moor; men came and went, women sewed and cleaned and burnished; horses were groomed, their manes were combed and their hoofs were polished; and then one morning, ere the golden sun was an hour high, down the winding trail past the monastery of San Sebastian, came a brilliant cavalcade. Abul Malek led, seated upon an Arabian steed whiter than the clouds which lay piled above the westward mountains. His two sons, Hassam and Elzemah, followed astride horses as black as night–horses the distinguished pedigrees of which were cited in the books of Ibn Zaid. Back of them came one hundred swarthy warriors on other coal-black mounts, whose flashing sides flung back the morning rays. Their flowing linen robes were like the snow, and from their turbans gleamed gems of value. Each horseman bore at his girdle a purse, a kerchief, and a poinard; and in their purses lay two thousand dinars of gold. Slaves brought up the rear of the procession, riding asses laden with bales, and they led fifty blood-red bays caparisoned as for a tournament.