The Mummy (Loudon)/Volume 2/Chapter 12
The army of Roderick advanced rapidly through a lovely country richly tinted by the rays of a southern sun. Nothing, indeed, could be more beautiful than the scene. Though spring was only just bursting from the icy chains of winter, vine-covered cottages peeped through orange groves loaded with their fragrant flowers; whilst behind, the dark foliage of the lofty palm-trees gave depth and richness to the landscape. Innumerable flowers perfumed the air, and the sky glowed with azure and gold.
Under these circumstances, the advance of Roderick's army, though rapid, resembled rather the journey of a party of pleasure than a fatiguing and toilsome march; and when, just as the sun was setting, they approached a small village, Edric paused on the summit of a hill, to survey with delighted admiration the lovely scene below. A white church peeped from between a thick cluster of trees, and romantic cottages covered with wild festoons of luxuriant plants, were scattered about at intervals; whilst sitting before the doors, were placed groups of peasant girls, singing patriotic airs to their mandolines or lutes, and others were dancing gaily beneath the shade of some widely spreading trees. Neat dresses of black serge fitted tightly to the shape of these girls, and displayed the graceful elegance of their figures to the utmost advantage. Their long dark hair was bound in a simple net; and their sparkling eyes beamed with animation and love, whilst the clear dark complexion, well proportioned forms, jet black hair, and aquiline noses of their male partners, still, notwithstanding the lapse of so many centuries, strongly marked their Moorish origin. Songs of joy and lively music swelled upon the gale; but these sounds of peace and happiness were soon changed to shrieks of terror, as the unfortunate peasants saw the army of Roderick wind slowly through the trees, and they fled screaming for mercy, whilst all their little store of wealth fell an easy prey to the foe they left behind.
Edric shuddered at the pillage that ensued, and warmly remonstrated with his friend.
"My dear Edric," said Roderick, "these things are inevitable; though what you see here can give you but a very faint idea of the dreadful havoc and devastation of war. My soldiers destroy nothing, and generally even pay for what they take: but commonly in an enemy's country, men burn what they cannot make use of, and treat the unfortunate inhabitants with the most appalling cruelty. However these are things we cannot reason about."
"I think not," returned Edric; and finding his remonstrances unavailing, he had the discretion not again to allude to the subject, till the army approached Seville. The first view of this splendid city, illumined by the glowing rays of the setting sun, struck our young philosopher most forcibly. "Oh, Roderick!" cried he, "look at that long line of sumptuous palaces, adorned with marble pillars, and the finest statues; those lovely gardens — those bowers of roses; and those crystal fountains, whose sparkling spray looks dazzling in the sunbeams."
"Well," said Roderick, "I see them all, and more, the lofty spires of the town rising beyond, their gilded vanes glittering in the sun."
"And can you look upon this fair scene?" asked Edric, "and not feel compunction? Alas! alas! that the cruel hand of man should dare to destroy so lovely a picture!"
"My dear Edric," returned Roderick, smiling, "you would never do for a conqueror. If you make war a profession. Glory must be your mistress, and to obtain her, you must sacrifice all your better feelings. But, ah! what is that? look yonder, Edric!"
"I see nothing but a volume of fleecy smoke curling up between the trees," said Edric; "which harmonizes well with the lovely scene around — that scene which the grim hand of War is destined so soon to desolate. Oh, Roderick, can it be possible, that you, whose kind and charitable nature would not crush a worm to death unnecessarily, should —" "They have fired the suburbs!" cried Roderick, interrupting him; and clapping spurs to his horse, he darted forward like an arrow discharged from a bow. His suspicions were correct. Light clouds of white vapour hung high in the clear blue heavens; whilst below, a thick yellow smoke, mingled with flames, spread wide ruin and devastation. Crackling pieces of wood, sparkling like a feu d'artifice, were thrown up with violence at intervals, and the scorching heat felt intolerable, as showers of sparks, and pieces of ignited matter, rained thick and fast upon the plain.
Edric and Roderick were on a gentle eminence when they first saw the city; and, deceived by the remarkable optical delusion often observable in similar situations, they had fancied it very near them. When they plunged into the valley, however, they soon discovered that this was of very considerable extent; and their horses, weary with their toilsome march, with difficulty made their way through the thick underwood and tangled grass that every moment threatened to impede their progress. At length, they entered into the mazes of a wood, that quite obscured the city from their sight; and when fair Seville again broke upon them through an opening in the trees, she appeared one vast mass of flame.
"Good Heavens!" cried Edric, "surely they will not burn the city! What a multitude of human beings will be sacrificed if they do!"
"I hope they will not be so foolish," said Roderick, "yet I own I fear; no—no—" cried he, after a moment's pause; "see, see! the smoke divides, and as the wind bears the rolling volumes asunder, the city's walls still stand: no fire as yet has touched the glory and the bulwark of proud yet fair Seville."
The glowing embers still crackled as they approached, and still threw up occasional showers of sparks fearfully glaring amidst the darkness of the night, which now closed in upon them with a thick gloom very unusual to that climate. The flames had caught the bridge ere the army of Roderick reached the banks of the river; and the fiery bow, glowing through the surrounding darkness, looked like the fabled arch over which the Mahometans believe the souls of the dead are destined to skait into Paradise.
At length the army of Roderick found their progress stopped by the deep and rapid waters of the Guadalquiver; the black smoking remains of the bridge which had once stretched across the river, seeming to forbid their farther progress. Magnificent palaces lay around them, crumbling into ruins, whilst their half-burnt roofs fell occasionally with a tremendous crash. Fearful indeed was the spectacle that presented itself, and the once superb suburb seemed the very temple of Desolation. Vases and statues lay overturned, and blackened by the smoke. Majestic trees, scorched by the flames, and their shrivelled leaves stripped from their withered branches, stretched forth their bare arms forlorn and desolate, like bereaved mothers mourning over their murdered children. A chill drizzling mist began to fall, and all looked dreary and uncomfortable.
Roderick stood upon the banks of the river and marked its dark rolling waters, in which the fire that still crept amongst the ruins on the other side reflected its red lurid glare. "We must pass the river," said he; "these Andalusians are too crafty to have destroyed this fine suburb, in itself a town, had not some imperious reason urged them to it. They want to gain time; but we must show them that we dare brave the combined terrors of flames and water, when Glory gives the word."
"And what is this Glory you pursue so madly?" asked Edric. "May not Prudence be admitted to its councils? And will it not be more certain if we wait till morning to seize it? The night is dark and gloomy; I think it forbodes a tempest; and at any rate it will be difficult to ford this black rolling stream in the obscurity. To-morrow with the dawn we will effect a passage; our troops will be then refreshed with rest, and we shall be ready to encounter with vigour the dangers that may oppose us."
Roderick smiled sadly. "To-morrow, Edric," said he, "it may be too late. To-morrow, the army our enemies expect may advance upon us, and either obtain possession of the town, or cut off our retreat. We have traitors amongst us; for even now, secret as our movements have been, you see the enemy has had notice of our approach."
"Why should we pause?" cried Lord Arthur O'Neil, one of the Irish lords who had followed his Sovereign to the field. "Your Majesty may confide in your soldiers.— Tired! An Irishman knows not the meaning of the word. Shall the heroes of Burgos, Valladolid, and Salamanca, complain of fatigue? Have you forgotten how they fought and conquered? Have you forgotten the proud day before Madrid, when a handful of Irish fought and defeated a whole legion of Spaniards? Can we think of these things, and yet talk of fear? Oh no, surely not! Surely if we did, every warm drop of blood in our veins, every spark of enthusiasm in our hearts, would give the lie to the assertion-Lead us on, brave Roderick! Damp not the spirit of your troops by unnecessary delays, but lead us forward to victory."
"Lead us to victory!" shouted the officers and troops; and Roderick, animated by their cries, gave orders for the instant fording of the river. The evening had now quite closed in; not a star broke the thick dull grey of the heavens, and the sky began to look dark and threatening. The lowering clouds grew gradually darker and darker; whilst a dusky veil seemed to fall over the distant turrets of the town, and to envelope them in gloom.
The fire that still raged in the suburbs, had now seized an ancient castle, and a thick yellow smoke burst from its embrasures: it seemed like a huge giant vomiting forth flames. In the mean time, heavy clouds that had gathered over their heads, seemed big with destruction, and a low moaning sound was heard at a distance as though the winds were sighing over the fate of the unhappy wretches, who were soon to fall victims to their fury! The hollow murmuring continued; it grew gradually louder and louder; and at length, burst with tremendous violence in fearful blasts over the heads of the army. It was now as dark as night, and the thunder rolled with awful grandeur; the rain descended in torrents, and the flashes of lightning showed by glimpses the pouring vengeance of the clouds, and the still smoking fragments of the ruined bridge.
It seemed madness to attempt the passage of the river at such a moment; but the determined spirit of Roderick, when once resolved, was not easily to be shaken, and crying out, "Glory and Roderick for ever!" he attempted to plunge into the boiling flood. At this instant the heavens seemed to open, and a vivid ball of bright blue fire to dart from them. The lightning had struck a tree, beneath which a group of soldiers had taken shelter, splitting it asunder and scattering the branches in all directions; whilst the groans of the unhappy wretches, crushed by its fall, mingled horribly with the howling wind and crashing thunder. Nothing, however, could intimidate the daring spirit of Roderick, and calling upon his soldiers to follow him, he struck his spurs into Champion, his faithful barb, and the noble animal plunged with him into the stream. The river, swollen by the torrents of rain, now rushed along in roaring waves like the sea. Champion, and the horses of those who had followed the example of their Sovereign, were soon obliged to try to swim, and struggled in vain to reach the opposite shore. The impetuous current, however, swept them down the river, and soon the cries of the drowning men, and the plunging of the horses, added fresh horror to the roar of the raging waters.
Fearful was the struggle, till, after a few horrible moments of almost supernatural exertions, the storm partly ceased; and though the wind still continued to howl at intervals, and the thunder to roll, its growl became fainter and fainter; and soon nothing was heard but the splashing of the waves, and the struggles of the swimming animals who tried in vain to stem the boiling current.
Champion had made most violent efforts to save his master, but he strove in vain! he only floated upon the waves. No longer could he toss his head and proudly champ his bit; his strength was fast leaving him: his long thick mane and heavy armour weighed him down. His feeble eyes, however, caught a glimpse of the opposite shore; they had almost reached it, and the noble animal, collecting all his strength for one attempt, sprang forward: but, alas! his heart broke in the effort; his strength failed; the slippery clay slided from beneath his feet, and the lifeless body of poor Champion fell back into the river, dragging his illustrious master with him. Roderick was too much exhausted to swim; and, encumbered by the dead body of the horse, he was fast sinking to rise no more, when a powerful arm caught hold of him: —
"Take this knife!" cried a voice that he knew to be Edric's: "disentangle yourself from the horse, and I can save you!"
His words recalled the fleeting spirit of Roderick; he grasped the knife and hastily cut asunder the cord that confined his cloak round his neck. It was this cloak which had become entangled in the saddle, and the moment it was released from the neck of Roderick, it floated down the stream with the body of poor Champion, whilst the fainting Monarch was dragged on shore by his friend Edric. The storm had now entirely ceased; the water began to get more tranquil, and the moon, breaking from the clouds that drifted rapidly across the skies, showed the opposite bank so plainly that the rest of the army passed with little difficulty. In the mean time, restoratives had been applied to Roderick, and he opened his eyes. A slight shudder, however, ran through his frame, as he looked around, and, heaving a deep sigh, he hastily reclosed them, as though he wished to shut out for ever the recollection of what had just passed. 'Twas but for an instant, however, that the manly mind of the Irish hero indulged in this overwhelming sorrow; the next, smiling though mournfully, he took the hand of Edric, and looking at him with affection, he said, "I owe my life to you. God only knows whether the boon be worth the meed of thanks, or whether you have not been cruel to my people in saving me. They have small reason to wish my life, if I am often to be seized with such freaks as these. Good God! I shudder when I consider that the lives of several of my fellow-creatures have been sacrificed to my misguided folly. Poor Champion too," drawing his hand across his eyes to wipe away his tears, and then again trying to smile. "You will laugh at me, Edric, but you don't know how much I feel the loss of that horse. Poor fellow! how nobly he breasted the tide, and struggled on. But he is gone, and it's of no use thinking of him."
And as he spoke, he resolutely started from the bed upon which he had been laid, and again dashed the tears from his eyes. "I have other things to think of that are of far more importance than poor Champion; and yet, poor fellow, I can't forget it was his obedience to me that destroyed him! Poor fellow! You would have been sorry for him, Edric, if you had heard how deeply he sighed when we were in the middle of the water, and I forced him to go on. But I will think no more of him. Summon my officers, and let us hold a council as to our future proceedings."
The council was called, and it was soon ascertained that the army had sustained no other loss than poor Champion, a few other horses, and about eight or ten of the King's bodyguard, who had thrown themselves into the river the moment they had seen their master do so. Roderick felt keenly the folly that had occasioned the loss of these brave men and useful animals; but as he was aware that he was now surrounded by his soldiers and the allied Spaniards, and that it is always necessary for a Monarch to seem great, whether he be so or not, if he wish to be obeyed, he had too much self-command to show any signs of weakness, and gave orders for the commencement of the siege of the town with as much coolness as though he had merely quietly marched up to its walls.
In the mean time, Dr. Entwerfen had safely floated over the stream, riding astride upon one of the ammunition waggons, which were contrived of cork, and supported by bladders, or rather balloons, filled with gas upon each side; whilst the middle part, upon which the doctor rode, being nearly in the form of a barrel, the worthy gentleman had formed no bad representation of Bacchus as he swam merrily across; for the learned doctor, having wisely considered how much the interests of science would suffer if any accident befel his precious person, had waited till the river was as smooth as glass, before he would venture to traverse it.
It was perhaps also well for Roderick, that he now found himself upon the theatre of war: that he had orders to give — decisions to make; in short, that he had sufficient to occupy his mind, and prevent its dwelling upon the unpleasant circumstances that had just passed. Occupation, indeed, is the only sure remedy for grief. The consolations of friends and hopes of religion may do much; but constant employment is the most effectual medicine for woe that the skill of man has yet been able to discover.
Roderick now enjoyed the benefit of this invaluable panacea in its fullest extent; for he had much to do. Notwithstanding all their affection for him, his army could not conceal from themselves, that he had sacrificed several valuable lives unnecessarily by his rashness, and their confidence in his prudence was proportionably diminished. Roderick saw, and was mortified by this; the more so, as he felt it was occasioned by his own folly; and he struggled to do something to retrieve the confidence he had lost. There is, perhaps, no situation more painful to a noble, high-spirited mind, than the consciousness of error; and the feelings of Roderick upon this occasion were an ample penance for his faults.
During the whole of the passage of the river, and the encampment of the army upon the opposite side, under the very walls of the city, not a single soldier of the enemy had been seen: but when that was completed, and the harassed host of Irish had stretched their weary limbs upon the earth, to seek a few minutes' repose before the attack that was ordered at daybreak, lights could be plainly seen moving to and fro in the city, and the heavy tramp of the soldiers heard as they paraded the walls. All now was still; a calm seemed to have succeeded a mighty tempest.
A tent had been erected for Roderick and his chief officers; and there the Monarch now sate gloomily musing, whilst his officers were scattered, in various attitudes of repose and thought, around him. Alexis, the Greek page, who had with difficulty passed the river, lay at his feet. At length, all slept but Edric and Roderick. After a long pause, the Irish hero looked at his friend, and seeing him gazing at him with a look of the tenderest concern — "Edric," said he; "I suffocate here; will you walk forth?" Edric willingly consented, and they sallied from the tent.
The moon now shone brightly, and the night was calm and still. They walked together towards the banks of the river. Those waters, which so lately had raged like a roaring lion seeking to devour, now rippled gently along, dancing in the sunbeams, and seeming almost to smile at the mischief they had done.
Roderick could not bear the sight; remorse for his impatience struck like a barbed arrow through his heart, and he turned hastily away. He now looked at the scene that lay before him towards the town. The moon shone brightly upon the tents of his soldiers, which contrasted strongly with the black and disfigured ruins of the suburbs, amongst which they had been hastily pitched; whilst the lights in the city, seen only from the summit of the walls, made it look almost like an eagle's nest suspended between heaven and earth. Roderick grasped Edric's hand. "How calm," cried he, "how peaceful seems the scene before us! Alas! how different from that which so lately — but ah! what's that?" exclaimed he, suddenly interrupting himself; "surely I heard a groan."
Edric listened, and distinctly heard the feeble moaning of a human voice. Neither Roderick nor himself uttered a syllable; but both darted to the spot from whence the sounds proceeded. Just at a bend in the river, surrounded by lofty trees, now scorched and half destroyed by the fire, had stood the maison de plaisance of one of the Spanish nobles. It had been built in the Italian style; hedges of myrtle and pomegranates had bloomed in the garden, and a raised terrace had surrounded the house, ornamented by statues. Now, however, this terrace was covered with fallen pillars and broken vases — ruin and desolation spread around. The trellis-work, against which, different creeping shrubs had been trained, hung in wild disorder, torn from the walls, and crushing with its weight the shrubs to which it had once served as a support.
Edric and Roderick entered the dwelling, for the cry seemed to proceed from its ruins. With hasty steps they traversed the deserted chambers, in which magnificent tapestry hung in tatters from the walls, whilst shattered remnants of valuable pictures and shivered mirrors showed the grandeur that had once been there. All now, however, was desolation! the gilded walls and ceilings looked black with the smoke, and the splendid furniture lay half-burnt and half-destroyed upon the ground. Roderick and Edric, however, did not stop long to survey the misery around them, for they hurried hastily forward to the place from which the cries had proceeded. As they approached, they found they were the accents of a female voice that had attracted them; and advancing a few steps farther, they beheld a sight that filled them with pity.
Beneath a fallen column, in the ruins of which she was so entangled that she could not move, lay, or rather stooped, a beautiful female, bending over the apparently lifeless body of an old man, whose fine features and venerable appearance were sufficient of themselves to create a deep interest in his behalf, but which interest was trebly increased by the evident anxiety painted upon the beautiful face of the female.
"Oh, Heavens!" cried she, as soon as they approached; "if you have any mercy or Christian charity in your disposition, succour this poor old man. Those cruel wretches have left him to perish miserably: though we are strangers, we are human beings, and have committed no crime."
By this time, Edric and Roderick had arrived near enough to draw her from the column, when they perceived, to their infinite horror, that her arm was broken, and that she was otherwise seriously hurt. "Oh, think not of me," cried she, finding they wished to succour her before they attended to the old man, who appeared to be dead; "save my father, I am quite well — can I help you?" and heedless of her own pain, the heroic girl assisted in dragging her father from his dangerous situation.
"I fear he is dead," whispered Roderick.
"Oh! say not so," shrieked Pauline, for that was her name; "he must, he shall recover. Give him air," continued she, endeavouring with the one trembling hand, the use of which remained to her, to unfasten his collar. Edric gazed at her with admiration, and, struck with her filial piety and generous self-forgetfulness, he felt an interest for her that he had never before experienced for woman. He assisted her pious cares, and finding the old man still insensible he bore him in his arms to the banks of the river, and sprinkled him with its waters.
Whilst he was thus engaged, the little fat Dr. Entwerfen, quite out of breath with his exertions, came puffing up, in something between a run and a trot. "Oh! Edric dear!" cried he, gasping for breath, "I've found you, have I; but, heyday! what's the matter? You haven't been killing any body, have you?"
"Doctor!" exclaimed Edric, "I am rejoiced to see you; this gentleman has been hurt by some falling ruins — will you bleed him?"
The doctor had studied surgery in his youth, and had since practised frequently for charity; and, being in all things in which his particular foibles were not concerned, a man of sense and feeling, he instantly comprehended the importance of the case, and drawing forth his lancet, after having first bared and bound up the arm of his patient, he bled him. At first the blood dropped slowly, drop by drop; but it soon began to flow more freely, and then the patient, heaving a deep sigh, opened his eyes.
Pauline had been bending over her father with an intenseness of anxiety that repressed every personal feeling; but the moment she heard him sigh, the unnatural strength that had supported her gave way; nature could bear no more, and she fell senseless to the ground.
Every one flew to her assistance, and Dr. Entwerfen, in particular, was quite in agony.
"Dear, pretty creature!" cried he, pushing his wig on one side, in his hurry to raise her up —
"Pretty dear! I do declare her arm is broken, and her shoulder dreadfully lacerated! Poor thing! I wonder how she could contrive to hold up so long."
"It is wonderful!" repeated Edric. "It is the triumph of mental energy over bodily suffering."
"See! she opens her eyes! she survives!" exclaimed Roderick. "Had I not better return to my tent for assistance?"
"There are some soldiers just there," replied the doctor, pointing to a group of men a few paces distant; "they came with me to protect me, but I outran them when I saw Edric."
The soldiers soon formed a litter, upon which M. de Mallet, for that was the name of the old man, and his daughter were conveyed to the tent of Roderick, where proper surgical aid was afforded them. And whilst they are recovering from the injuries they had received, we will take the opportunity of informing our readers of the circumstances that had placed them in so unpleasant a situation.
M. de Mallet was a Swiss noble; and upon the usurpation of the then despot of Switzerland, he had vehemently defended the liberty of his country. The tyrant had imprisoned him, and he had with difficulty made his escape, followed by his only daughter, who was devotedly attached to him, and who, in all his dangers, had never quitted his side. She had lost her mother in her earliest youth, and since that period, all her thoughts and cares had been devoted to her father.
To comfort him, had formed the sole occupation of her life; and self was quite forgotten in her anxiety for his welfare. After escaping from Switzerland, they had taken refuge in Spain, flattering themselves, that, as it was a free country, they should there be safe and happy. But, alas! they soon found the charms of freedom were more ideal than real; and M. de Mallet, though he had been an enthusiast for liberty under the despotic government of Switzerland, found the sweets of freedom not quite so great as he had imagined amongst the Republicans of Spain; the pride of the nobles, and the conceited ignorance and insubordination of the people, being, as he found by sad experience, things much more agreeable to talk about than endure. In Switzerland, he had called the one, proud independence, and the other manly daring; but he now discovered nobles and democratic chiefs can be tyrants as well as kings; and that the mob is a many-headed monster most exceedingly difficult to manage.
At first, M. de Mallet and his daughter were rapturously received in Spain. No human beings could be more interesting: applauses filled the air whenever they appeared; addresses were presented to them from all quarters; the people crowded to see them, and the Spanish nobles vied with each other in offering them an asylum. All this was very fine; but, unfortunately, it was too charming to be lasting. As M. de Mallet and his lovely daughter had been often seen, congratulated, and condoled with, there was nothing now to be done, and the enthusiasm of the Spaniards began rapidly to abate. In the first moment of triumph, M. de Mallet had blindly believed every thing the people had advanced, and had fancied himself, really as they called him, a hero and a martyr. He thus felt sensibly the change of feeling they so soon evinced; he became disgusted with a people so fickle; and, being: too candid to conceal his sentiments, he suffered the Spaniards to perceive his disgust. The total alienation of the remaining interest they felt for him, was the natural consequence.
In the heat of enthusiasm, M. de Mallet had accepted freely the offer of a Spanish nobleman to make his house his home; but, with the usual tenacity of a generous mind in a state of dependence, as soon as he fancied he saw a coldness on the part of his host, he left him instantly, and hastened to the house of another, who had been still more warm in his offers of friendship. He, too, soon became cold; and M. de Mallet, like the hare with many friends, though overloaded with professions, found himself completely desolate when he really wanted protection.
M. de Mallet had provided no funds when he left his native country, and his estates having been confiscated, he was thus thrown entirely upon the bounty of strangers. Too high-minded to endure dependence, and too proud to humble himself to labour, M. de Mallet had solicited and obtained the promise of a post in the Spanish army; and the directors of the government having promised him a place in the garrison of Seville, he had proceeded a few weeks before to the house of the Duke of Sidonia, the governor of that city, for the purpose of taking possession. The duke, however, received him coldly, amusing him with procrastinating promises, till M. de Mallet found too late he had been duped by the directors; who, to rid themselves of his importunities, had sent him to Seville, merely on account of its distance from Madrid, and the difficulty he would have in returning to torment them, instead of having any real intention of complying with his wishes.
Indignant at the treatment he had met with, M. de Mallet expostulated warmly with the duke; and the violence of his feelings produced an apoplectic seizure. The duke, though indifferent to the suit of M. de Mallet, was not destitute of the common feelings of humanity; he had him, therefore, carried to a chamber, where proper surgical assistance was afforded him. This scene took place at the duke's country-seat, upon the banks of the river; and M. de Mallet had remained there till, aided by a strong constitution and the vigilant attention of his daughter, he was fast recovering. When, however, intelligence being received of the rapid approach of the army of Roderick, the duke ordered the suburbs to be burnt, including his country-house; his unfortunate guests had entirely escaped his recollection; and the Spaniards appointed to destroy the suburbs, having performed their task with the utmost barbarity, tearing to pieces and destroying what they could not burn; the servants had flown at their approach, entirely forgetting M. de Mallet and his daughter; who, being in a distant quarter of the mansion, knew nothing of what was passing, till they were roused to a sense of their situation by the flames attacking their apartment. With piercing screams Pauline succeeded in rousing her father, and forcing him from the chamber; but they knew not where to fly. The crackling flames seemed to pursue them wherever they went, and the falling timbers threatened every instant to destroy them. At last they reached the hall, and Pauline's beautiful features beamed with joy at their approaching deliverance, when the tottering roof gave way, rocking a few moments with a fearfid cracking noise, and then falling with a tremendous crash. Pauline saw it coming; but there was not time to escape; and uttering a faint cry, she threw herself before her father, striving to shield him with her delicate body from the coming danger.
Feeble, however, would have proved this slight and fragile barrier to ward off the impending peril, had not fortunately one of the descending rafters struck against a projecting pillar, and thus formed a kind of arch, which served to protect them from farther injury; the falling of the roof having also nearly extinguished the fire. Pauline's arm had been broken with the blow, and her shoulder dreadfully lacerated; yet still the heroic girl supported herself; and, sustaining with her remaining arm the apparently lifeless body of her father, who, stunned with so many misfortunes, lay insensible at her feet, she endeavoured by her cries to draw the attention of some one to the spot; as she found her father and herself were so entangled in the ruins, that it was impossible they could be extricated without powerful assistance.
The keenest interest was excited by Pauline and her father in the breasts of Edric and Roderick; but, powerful as it was, it was destined soon to give way to yet more painful sensations; for scarcely had they been removed to the tent, when Roderick, perceiving the first feeble tints of day streak the horizon, gave orders for the assault. The city was strongly fortified, and even where the ancient bulwarks had decayed, the governor had hastily supplied their place with wood so skilfully painted to resemble stone, as quite to deceive the eyes of his opponents. Thirty towers were ranged at intervals along this formidable-looking wall; and on one side appeared a citadel strongly garrisoned, which commanded that space between the river and the city where the army of Roderick was now encamped, and which was aided by a kind of ditch which served occasionally as a covered way.
The sun now rose in all its splendour, spreading its rich tints of purple and gold over the scene, and sweeping away before it the mists of morning. Soon, however, was its brilliancy to be obscured, and the savage rage of man to deface the beauty of nature; soon did roaring cannon and flashing weapons imitate a contention of the elements; and soon did the gashed and bleeding forms of the assailants strew the ground, rendered slippery by their blood. The besieged defended themselves vigorously; three times did Roderick and his followers attempt to scale the walls, and three times were they repulsed; but at length a breach was made, and Roderick, transported with joy, threw himself into it, shouting to his soldiers to follow him. They obeyed; and the siege would have been at once terminated, had not a cloud of dust, rising in long black columns in the distance, through which the reflection of arms shone dazzling in the sun, given new spirits to the besieged, and discouraged the besiegers.
Deep masses, half hidden by this heavy cloud, and appearing only more vast from the obscurity thrown over them, advanced rapidly, seeming to come on with the mighty force of the raging sea when it rushes along with irresistible violence and sweeps before it every thing that dare oppose its fury.
The garrison of the town, animated at the sight, rallied their half-exhausted forces, and drove back the assailants with such carnage that the line of their retreat was marked by a long stream of blood and expiring bodies. Roderick, for the first time in his life, refrained from renewing the attack, for, as he feared being surrounded, he determined to draw off his forces, and give battle to the combined French and Spanish army that was now fast approaching.