HOW THE PEOPLE OF GRANADA REWARDED THE VALOR OF EL ZAGAL.
The daring spirit of Muley Abdallah el Zagal in sallying forth to defend his territories while he left an armed rival in his capital struck the people of Granada with admiration. They recalled his former exploits, and again anticipated some hardy achievement from his valor. Couriers from the army reported its formidable position on the height of Bentomiz. For a time there was a pause in the bloody commotions of the city; all attention was turned to the blow about to be struck at the Christian camp. The same considerations which diffused anxiety and terror through Cordova swelled every bosom with exulting confidence in Granada. The Moors expected to hear of another massacre like that in the mountains of Malaga. "El Zagal has again entrapped the enemy!" was the cry. "The power of the unbelievers is about to be struck to the heart. We shall soon see the Christian king led captive to the capital." Thus was the name of El Zagal on every tongue. He was extolled as the savior of the country, the only one worthy of wearing the Moorish crown. Boabdil was reviled as basely remaining passive while his country was invaded and so violent became the clamor of the populace that his adherents trembled for his safety.
While the people of Granada were impatiently looking out for tidings of the anticipated victory scattered horsemen came spurring across the Vega. They were fugitives from the Moorish army, and brought the first incoherent account of its defeat. Every one who attempted to tell the tale of this unaccountable panic and dispersion was as if bewildered by the broken recollection of some frightful dream. He knew not how or why it came to pass. He talked of a battle in the night, among rocks and precipices, by the glare of bale-fires; of multitudes of armed foes in every pass, seen by gleams and flashes; of the sudden horror that seized upon the army at daybreak, its headlong flight, and total dispersion. Hour after hour the arrival of other fugitives confirmed the story of ruin and disgrace.
In proportion to their recent vaunting was the humiliation that now fell upon the people of Granada. There was a universal burst, not of grief, but indignation. They confounded the leader with the army-- the deserted with those who had abandoned him, and El Zagal, from being their idol, became suddenly the object of their execration. He had sacrificed the army; he had disgraced the nation; he had betrayed the country. He was a dastard, a traitor; he was unworthy to reign.
On a sudden one among the multitude shouted, "Long live Boabdil el Chico!" The cry was echoed on all sides, and every one shouted, "Long live Boabdil el Chico! long live the legitimate king of Granada! and death to all usurpers!" In the excitement of the moment they thronged to the Albaycin, and those who had lately besieged Boabdil with arms now surrounded his palace with acclamations. The keys of the city and of all the fortresses were laid at his feet; he was borne in state to the Alhambra, and once more seated with all due ceremony on the throne of his ancestors.
Boabdil had by this time become so accustomed to be crowned and uncrowned by the multitude that he put no great faith in the duration of their loyalty. He knew that he was surrounded by hollow hearts, and that most of the courtiers of the Alhambra were secretly devoted to his uncle. He ascended the throne as the rightful sovereign who had been dispossessed of it by usurpation, and he ordered the heads of four of the principal nobles to be struck off who had been most zealous in support of theusurper. Executions of the kind were matters of course on any change in Moorish government, and Boabdil was lauded for his moderation and humanity in being content with so small a sacrifice. The factions were awed into obedience; the populace, delighted with any change, extolled Boabdil to the skies; and the name of Muley Abdallah el Zagal was for a time a by-word of scorn and opprobrium throughout the city.
Never was any commander more astonished and confounded by a sudden reverse of fortune than El Zagal. The evening had seen him with a powerful army at his command, his enemy within his grasp, and victory about to cover him with glory and to consolidate his power: the morning beheld him a fugitive among the mountains, his army, his prosperity, his power, all dispelled, he knew not how--gone like a dream of the night. In vain had he tried to stem the headlong flight of the army. He saw his squadrons breaking and dispersing among the cliffs of the mountains, until of all his host only a handful of cavaliers remained faithful. With these he made a gloomy retreat toward Granada, but with a heart full of foreboding. As he drew near to the city he paused on the banks of the Xenil and sent forth scouts to collect intelligence. They returned with dejected countenances. "The gates of Granada," said they, "are closed against you. The banner of Boabdil floats on the tower of the Alhambra."
El Zagal turned his steed and departed in silence. He retreated to the town of Almunecar, and thence to Almeria, which places still remained faithful to him. Restless and uneasy at being so distant from the capital, he again changed his abode, and repaired to the city of Guadix, within a few leagues of Granada. Here he remained, endeavoring to rally his forces and preparing to avail himself of any sudden change in the fluctuating politics of the metropolis.