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The Knight Of The Exploits
by [?]

The dull monotony of sieges, of which there were many during the war with Granada, was little to the taste of the valorous Spanish cavaliers. They burned for adventure, and were ever ready for daring exploits, the more welcome the more dangerous they promised to be. One day during the siege of Baza, a strong city in El Zagal’s dominions, two of these spirited young cavaliers, Francisco de Bazan and Antonio de Cueva, were seated on the ramparts of the siege works, bewailing the dull life to which they were confined. They were overheard by a veteran scout, who was familiar with the surrounding country.

“Senors,” he said, “if you pine for peril and profit and are eager to pluck the beard of the fiery old Moorish king, I can lead you where you will have a fine opportunity to prove your valor. There are certain hamlets not far from the walls of El Zagal’s city of Guadix where rich booty awaits the daring raider. I can lead you there by a way that will enable you to take them by surprise; and if you are as cool in the head as you are hot in the spur you may bear off spoils from under the very eyes of the king of the Moors.”

He had struck the right vein. The youths were at once hot for the enterprise. To win booty from the very gates of Guadix was a stirring scheme, and they quickly found others of their age as eager as themselves for the daring adventure. In a short time they had enrolled a body of nearly three hundred horse and two hundred foot, well armed and equipped, and every man of them ready for the road.

The force obtained, the raiders left the camp early one evening, keeping their destination secret, and made their way by starlight through the mountain passes, led by the adalid, or guide. Pressing rapidly onward by day and night, they reached the hamlets one morning just before daybreak, and fell on them suddenly, making prisoners of the inhabitants, sacking the houses, and sweeping the fields of their grazing herds. Then, without taking a moment to rest, they set out with all speed for the mountains, which they hoped to reach before the country could be roused.

Several of the herdsmen had escaped and fled to Guadix, where they told El Zagal of the daring ravage. Wild with rage at the insult, the old king at once sent out six hundred of his choicest horse and foot, with orders for swift pursuit, bidding them to recover the booty and bring him as prisoners the insolent marauders. The Christians, weary with their two days and nights of hard marching, were driving the captured cattle and sheep up a mountainside, when, looking back, they saw a great cloud of dust upon their trail. Soon they discerned the turbaned host, evidently superior to them in number, and man and horse in fresh condition.

“They are too much for us,” cried some of the horsemen. “It would be madness in our worn-out state to face a fresh force of that number. We shall have to let the cattle go and seek safety in flight.”

“What!” cried Antonio and Francisco, their leaders; “abandon our prey without a blow? Desert our foot-soldiers and leave them to the enemy? Did any of you think El Zagal would let us off without a brush? You do not give good Spanish counsel, for every soldier knows that there is less danger in presenting our faces than our backs to the foe, and fewer men are killed in a brave advance than in a cowardly retreat.”

Some of the cavaliers were affected by these words, but the mass of the party were chance volunteers, who received no pay and had nothing to gain by risking their lives. Consequently, as the enemy came near, the diversity of opinions grew into a tumult, and confusion reigned. The captains ordered the standard-bearer to advance against the Moors, confident that any true soldiers would follow his banner. He hesitated to obey; the turmoil increased; in a moment more the horsemen might be in full flight.