"I renounce all ties to them, either of blood or religion," replied the Moor; "my mother was a Christian captive; her country shall henceforth be my country, and her faith my faith."
The doubts of Don Gutiere were not dispelled by this profession of mongrel Christianity. "Granting the sincerity of thy conversion," said he, "art thou under no obligations of gratitude or duty to the alcayde of the fortress thou wouldst betray?"
The eyes of the Moor flashed fire at the words; he gnashed his teeth with fury. "The alcayde," cried he, "is a dog! He has deprived my brother of his just share of booty; he has robbed me of my merchandise, treated me worse than a Jew when I murmured at his injustice, and ordered me to be thrust forth ignominiously from his walls. May the curse of God fall upon my head if I rest content until I have full revenge!" "Enough," said Don Gutiere: "I trust more to thy revenge than thy religion."
The good clavero called a council of his officers. The knights of Calatrava were unanimous for the enterprise--zealous to appease the manes of their slaughtered comrades. Don Gutiere reminded them of the state of the garrison, enfeebled by their late loss and scarcely sufficient for the defence of the walls. The cavaliers replied that there was no achievement without risk, and that there would have been no great actions recorded in history had there not been daring spirits ready to peril life to gain renown.
Don Gutiere yielded to the wishes of his knights, for to have resisted any further might have drawn on him the imputation of timidity: he ascertained by trusty spies that everything in Zalea remained in the usual state, and he made all the requisite arrangements for the attack.
When the appointed night arrived all the cavaliers were anxious to engage in the enterprise, but the individuals were decided by lot. They set out under the guidance of the Moor, and when they had arrived in the vicinity of Zalea they bound his hands behind his back, and their leader pledged his knightly word to strike him dead on the first sign of treachery. He then bade him to lead the way.
It was near midnight when they reached the walls of the fortress. They passed silently along until they found themselves below the citadel. Here their guide made a low and preconcerted signal: it was answered from above, and a cord let down from the wall. The knights attached to it a ladder, which was drawn up and fastened. Gutiere Munoz was the first that mounted, followed by Pedro de Alvarado, both brave and hardy soldiers. A handful succeeded: they were attacked by a party of guards, but held them at bay until more of their comrades ascended; with their assistance they gained possession of a tower and part of the wall. The garrison by this time was aroused, but before they could reach the scene of action most of the cavaliers were within the battlements. A bloody contest raged for about an hour--several of the Christians were slain, but many of the Moors: at length the citadel was carried and the town submitted without resistance.
Thus did the gallant knights of Calatrava gain the strong town of Zalea with scarcely any loss, and atone for the inglorious defeat of their companions by El Zagal. They found the magazines of the place well stored with provisions, and were enabled to carry a seasonable supply to their own famishing garrison.