Boabdil was of an undecided character, but there are circumstances which bring the most wavering to a decision, and when once resolved they are apt to act with a daring impulse unknown to steadier judgments. The message of the sultana roused him from a dream. Granada, beautiful Granada, with its stately Alhambra, its delicious gardens, its gushing and limpid fountains sparkling among groves of orange, citron, and myrtle, rose before him. "What have I done," exclaimed he, "that I should be an exile from this paradise of my forefathers--a wanderer and fugitive in my own kingdom, while a murderous usurper sits proudly upon my throne? Surely Allah will befriend the righteous cause; one blow, and all may be my own."
He summoned his scanty band of cavaliers. "Who is ready to follow his monarch unto the death?" said he; and every one laid his hand upon his scimetar. "Enough!" said he; "let each man arm himself and prepare his steed in secret for an enterprise of toil and peril; if we succeed, our reward is empire."
HOW BOABDIL RETURNED SECRETLY TO GRANADA, AND HOW HE WAS RECEIVED.--SECOND EMBASSY OF DON JUAN DE VERA, AND HIS PERILS IN THE ALHAMBRA.
"In the hand of God," exclaimed an old Arabian chronicler, "is the destiny of princes; he alone giveth empire. A Moorish horseman, mounted on a fleet Arabian steed, was one day traversing the mountains which extended between Granada and the frontier of Murcia. He galloped swiftly through the valleys, but paused and looked out cautiously from the summit of every height. A squadron of cavaliers followed warily at a distance. There were fifty lances. The richness of their armor and attire showed them to be warriors of noble rank, and their leader had a lofty and prince-like demeanor.'' The squadron thus described by the Arabian chronicler was the Moorish king Boabdil and his devoted followers.
For two nights and a day they pursued their adventurous journey, avoiding all populous parts of the country and choosing the most solitary passes of the mountains. They suffered severe hardships and fatigues, but suffered without a murmur: they were accustomed to rugged campaigning, and their steeds were of generous and unyielding spirit. It was midnight, and all was dark and silent as they descended from the mountains and approached the city of Granada. They passed along quietly under the shadow of its walls, until they arrived near the gate of the Albaycin. Here Boabdil ordered his followers to halt and remain concealed. Taking but four or five with him, he advanced resolutely to the gate and knocked with the hilt of his scimetar. The guards demanded who sought to enter at that unseasonable hour. "Your king!" exclaimed Boabdil; "open the gate and admit him!"
The guards held forth a light and recognized the person of the youthful monarch. They were struck with sudden awe and threw open the gates, and Boabdil and his followers entered unmolested. They galloped to the dwellings of the principal inhabitants of the Albaycin, thundering at their portals and summoning them to arise and take arms for their rightful sovereign. The summons was instantly obeyed: trumpets resounded throughout the streets--the gleam of torches and the flash of arms showed the Moors hurrying to their gathering-places; by daybreak the whole force of the Albaycin was rallied under the standard of Boabdil, and Aben Comixa was made alcayde of the fortress. Such was the success of this sudden and desperate act of the young monarch, for we are assured by contemporary historians that there had been no previous concert or arrangement. "As the guards opened the gates of the city to admit him," observes a pious chronicler, "so God opened the hearts of the Moors to receive him as their king."*
In the morning early the tidings of this event roused El Zagal from his slumbers in the Alhambra. The fiery old warrior assembled his guard in haste and made his way, sword in hand, to the Albaycin, hoping to come upon his nephew by surprise. He was vigorously met by Boabdil and his adherents, and driven back into the quarter of the Alhambra. An encounter took place between the two kings in the square before the principal mosque; here they fought hand to hand with implacable fury, as though it had been agreed to decide their competition for the crown by single combat. In the tumult of this chance-medley affray, however, they were separated, and the party of El Zagal was ultimately driven from the square.
The battle raged for some time in the streets and places of the city, but, finding their powers of mischief cramped within such narrow limits, both parties sallied forth into the fields and fought beneath the walls until evening. Many fell on both sides, and at night each party withdrew into its quarter until the morning gave them light to renew the unnatural conflict. For several days the two grand divisions of the city remained like hostile powers arrayed against each other. The party of the Alhambra was more numerous than that of the Albaycin, and contained most of the nobility and chivalry; but the adherents of Boabdil were men hardened and strengthened by labor and habitually skilled in the exercise of arms.