Page:The Coming Race, etc - 1888.djvu/248

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234
Leila.

had joined Boabdil and the Moorish foot. On the other hand, Villena had been reinforced by detachments, that, in almost every other quarter of the field, had routed the foe. The Moors had been driven back, though inch by inch; they were now in the broad space before the very walls of the city, which were still crowded by the pale and anxious faces of the aged and the women: and, at every pause in the artillery, the voices that spoke of HOME were borne by that lurid air to the ears of the infidels. The shout that ran through the Christian force, as Ferdinand now joined it, struck like a death-knell upon the last hope of Boabdil. But the blood of his fierce ancestry burned in his veins, and the cheering voice of Almamen, whom nothing daunted, inspired him with a kind of superstitious frenzy.

"King against king—so be it! Let Allah decide between us!" cried the Moorish monarch. "Bind up this wound—'tis well! A steed for the santon! Now, my prophet and my friend, mount by the side of thy king—let us, at least, fall together. Lelilies! Lelilies!"

Throughout the brave Christian ranks went a thrill of reluctant admiration, as they beheld the Paynim king, conspicuous by his fair beard and the jewels of his harness, lead the scanty guard yet left to him once more into the thickest of their lines. Simultaneously Muza and his Zegris made their fiery charge; and the Moorish infantry, excited by the example of their leaders, followed with unslackened and dogged zeal. The Christians gave way—they were beaten back: Ferdinand spurred forward; and, ere either party were well aware of it, both kings met in the same mélée: all order and discipline, for the moment, lost, general and monarch were, as common soldiers, fighting hand to hand. It was then that Ferdinand, after bearing down before his lance Nairn Reduon, second only to Muza in the songs of Granada, beheld opposed to him a strange form, that seemed to that royal Christian rather fiend than man: his raven hair and beai'd, clotted with blood, hung like snakes about a countenance whose features, naturally formed to give expression to the darkest passions, were distorted with the madness of despairing rage. Wounded in many places, the blood dabbled his mail; while, over his head, he waved the banner wrought with mystic characters, which Ferdinand had already been taught to believe the workmanship of demons.

"Now, perjured king of the Nazarenes!" shouted this formidable champion, "we meet at last!—no longer host and guest, monarch and dervise, but man to man! I am Almamen! Die!"

He spoke; and his sword descended so fiercely on that anointed head, that Ferdinand bent to his saddle-bow. But the king quickly