HOW THE ROYAL ARMY APPEARED BEFORE THE CITY OF LOXA, AND HOW IT WAS RECEIVED; AND OF THE DOUGHTY ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE ENGLISH EARL.
The advance of the Christian army upon Loxa threw the wavering Boabdil el Chico into one of his usual dilemmas, and he was greatly perplexed between his oath of allegiance to the Spanish sovereigns and his sense of duty to his subjects. His doubts were determined by the sight of the enemy glittering upon the height of Albohacen and by the clamors of the people to be led forth to battle. "Allah," exclaimed he, "thou knowest my heart: thou knowest I have been true in my faith to this Christian monarch. I have offered to hold Loxa as his vassal, but he has preferred to approach it as an enemy: on his head be the infraction of our treaty!"
Boabdil was not wanting in courage; he only needed decision. When he had once made up his mind he acted vigorously; the misfortune was, he either did not make it up at all or he made it up too late. He who decides tardily generally acts rashly, endeavoring to make up by hurry of action for slowness of deliberation. Boabdil hastily buckled on his armor and sallied forth surrounded by his guards, and at the head of five hundred horse and four thousand foot, the flower of his army. Some he detached to skirmish with the Christians, who were scattered and perplexed in the valley, and to prevent their concentrating their forces, while with his main body he pressed forward to drive the enemy from the height of Albohacen before they had time to collect there in any number or to fortify themselves in that important position.
The worthy count de Cabra was yet entangled with his cavalry among the water-courses of the valley when he heard the war-cries of the Moors and saw their army rushing over the bridge. He recognized Boabdil himself, by his splendid armor, the magnificent caparison of his steed, and the brilliant guard which surrounded him. The royal host swept on toward the height of Albohacen: an intervening hill hid it from his sight, but loud shouts and cries, the din of drums and trumpets, and the reports of arquebuses gave note that the battle had begun.
Here was a royal prize in the field, and the count de Cabra unable to get into the action! The good cavalier was in an agony of impatience; every attempt to force his way across the valley only plunged him into new difficulties. At length, after many eager but ineffectual efforts, he was obliged to order his troops to dismount, and slowly and carefully to lead their horses back along slippery paths and amid plashes of mire and water where often there was scarce a foothold. The good count groaned in spirit and sweat with mere impatience as he went, fearing the battle might be fought and the prize won or lost before he could reach the field. Having at length toilfully unravelled the mazes of the valley and arrived at firmer ground, he ordered his troops to mount, and led them full gallop to the height. Part of the good count's wishes were satisfied, but the dearest were disappointed: he came in season to partake of the very hottest of the fight, but the royal prize was no longer in the field.
Boabdil had led on his men with impetuous valor, or rather with hurried rashness. Heedlessly exposing himself in the front of the battle, he received two wounds in the very first encounter. His guards rallied round him, defended him with matchless valor, and bore him bleeding out of the action. The count de Cabra arrived just in time to see the loyal squadron crossing the bridge and slowly conveying their disabled monarch toward the gate of the city.
The departure of Boabdil made no difference in the fury of the battle. A Moorish warrior, dark and terrible in aspect, mounted on a black charger, and followed by a band of savage Gomeres, rushed forward to take the lead. It was Hamet el Zegri, the fierce alcayde of Ronda, with the remnant of his once-redoubtable garrison. Animated by his example, the Moors renewed their assaults upon the height. It was bravely defended, on one side by the marques of Cadiz, on another by Don Alonso de Aguilar, and as fast as the Moors ascended they were driven back and dashed down the declivities. The count de Urena took his stand upon the fatal spot where his brother had fallen; his followers entered with zeal into the feelings of their commander, and heaps of the enemy sunk beneath their weapons--sacrifices to the manes of the lamented master of Calatrava.
The battle continued with incredible obstinacy. The Moors knew the importance of the height to the safety of the city; the cavaliers felt their honors staked to maintain it. Fresh supplies of troops were poured out of the city: some battled on the height, while some attacked the Christians who were still in the valley and among the orchards and gardens to prevent their uniting their forces. The troops in the valley were gradually driven back, and the whole host of the Moors swept around the height of Albohacen. The situation of the marques de Cadiz and his companions was perilous in the extreme: they were a mere handful, and, while fighting hand to hand with the Moors who assailed the height, were galled from a distance by the crossbows and arquebuses of a host that augmented each moment in number. At this critical juncture King Ferdinand emerged from the mountains with the main body of the army, and advanced to an eminence commanding a full view of the field of action. By his side was the noble English cavalier, the earl of Rivers. This was the first time he had witnessed a scene of Moorish warfare. He looked with eager interest at the chance-medley fight before him, where there was the wild career of cavalry, the irregular and tumultuous rush of infantry, and where Christian and Moor were intermingled in deadly struggle. The high blood of the English knight mounted at the sight, and his soul was stirred within him by the confused war-cries, the clangor of drums and trumpets, and the reports of arquebuses. Seeing that the king was sending a reinforcement to the field, he entreated permission to mingle in the affray and fight according to the fashion of his country. His request being granted, he alighted from his steed: he was merely armed "en blanco"--that is to say, with morion, back-piece, and breast-plate--his sword was girded by his side, and in his hand he wielded a powerful battle-axe. He was followed by a body of his yeomen armed in like manner, and by a band of archers with bows made of the tough English yew tree. The earl turned to his troops and addressed then briefly and bluntly, according to the manner of his country. "Remember, my merry men all," said he, "the eyes of strangers are upon you; you are in a foreign land, fighting for the glory of God and the honor of merry old England!" A loud shout was the reply. The earl waved his battle- axe over his head. "St. George for England!" cried he, and to the inspiring sound of this old English war-cry he and his followers rushed down to the battle with manly and courageous hearts.* They soon made their way into the midst of the enemy, but when engaged in the hottest of the fight they made no shouts nor outcries. They pressed steadily forward, dealing their blows to right and left, hewing down the Moors and cutting their way with their battle- axes like woodmen in a forest; while the archers, pressing into the opening they made, plied their bows vigorously and spread death on every side.