When the Moorish knights beheld that all courteous challenges were unavailing, they sought various means to provoke the Christian warriors to the field. Sometimes a body of them, fleetly mounted, would gallop up to the skirts of the camp and try who should hurl his lance farthest within the barriers, having his name inscribed upon it or a label affixed containing some taunting defiance. These bravadoes caused great irritation; still, the Spanish warriors were restrained by the prohibition of the king.
Among the Moorish cavaliers was one named Tarfe, renowned for strength and daring spirit, but whose courage partook of fierce audacity rather than chivalric heroism. In one of these sallies, when skirting the Christian camp, this arrogant Moor outstripped his companions, overleaped the barriers, and, galloping close to the royal quarters, launched his lance so far within that it remained quivering in the earth close by the pavilions of the sovereigns. The royal guards rushed forth in pursuit, but the Moorish horsemen were already beyond the camp and scouring in a cloud of dust for the city. Upon wresting the lance from the earth a label was found upon it importing that it was intended for the queen.
Nothing could equal the indignation of the Christian warriors at the insolence of the bravado and the discourteous insult offered to the queen. Hernan Perez del Pulgar, surnamed "He of the exploits," was present, and resolved not to be outbraved by this daring infidel. "Who will stand by me," said he, "in an enterprise of desperate peril?" The Christian cavaliers well knew the harebrained valor of Hernan, yet not one hesitated to step forward. He chose fifteen companions, all of powerful arm and dauntless heart.
His project was to penetrate Granada in the dead of the night by a secret pass made known to him by a Moorish renegade of the city, whom he had christened Pedro Pulgar, and who was to act as guide. They were to set fire to the Alcaiceria and other principal edifices, and then effect their retreat as best they might. At the hour appointed the adventurous troops set forth provided with combustibles. The renegade led them silently to a drain or channel of the river Darro, up which they proceeded cautiously, single file, until they halted under a bridge near the royal gate. Here dismounting, Pulgar stationed six of his companions to remain silent and motionless and keep guard, while, followed by the rest and still guided by the renegade, he continued up the drain or channel of the Darro, which passes under a part of the city, and was thus enabled to make his way undiscovered into the streets. All was dark and silent. At the command of Pulgar the renegade led him to the principal mosque. Here the cavalier, pious as brave, threw himself on his knees, and, drawing forth a parchment scroll on which was inscribed in large letters "AVE MARIA," nailed it to the door of the mosque, thus converting the heathen edifice into a Christian chapel and dedicating it to the Blessed Virgin. This done, he hastened to the Alcaiceria to set it in a blaze. The combustibles were all placed, but Tristan de Montemayor, who had charge of the firebrand, had carelessly left it at the door of the mosque. It was too late to return there. Pulgar was endeavoring to strike fire with flint and steel into the ravelled end of a cord when he was startled by the approach of the Moorish guards going the rounds. His hand was on his sword in an instant. Seconded by his brave companions, he assailed the astonished Moors and put them to flight. In a little while the whole city resounded with alarms, soldiers were hurrying through the streets in every direction; but Pulgar, guided by the renegade, made good his retreat by the channel of the Darro to his companions at the bridge, and all, mounting their horses, spurred back to the camp. The Moors were at a loss to imagine the meaning of this wild and apparently fruitless assault, but great was their exasperation on the following day when the trophy of hardihood and prowess, the "AVE MARIA," was discovered thus elevated in bravado in the very centre of the city. The mosque thus boldly sanctified by Hernan del Pulgar was actually consecrated into a cathedral after the capture of Granada.*
*The account here given of the exploit of Hernan del Pulgar differs from that given in the first edition, and is conformable to the record of the fact in a manuscript called "The House of Salar," existing in the library of Salazar and cited by Alcantara in his History of Granada.
In commemoration of this daring feat of Pulgar, the emperor Charles V. in after years conferred on that cavalier and on his descendants, the marqueses of Salar, the privilege of sitting in the choir during high mass, and assigned as the place of sepulture of Pulgar himself the identical spot where he kneeled to affix the sacred scroll; and his tomb is still held in great veneration. This Hernan Perez del Pulgar was a man of letters, as well as art, and inscribed to Charles V. a summary of the achievements of Gonsalvo of Cordova, surnamed the Great Captain, who had been one of his comrades- in-arms. He is often confounded with Hernando del Pulgar, historian and secretary to Queen Isabella. (See note to Pulgar's Chron. of the Catholic Sovereigns, part 3, c. iii., edit. Valencia, 1780.)
HOW QUEEN ISABELLA TOOK A VIEW OF THE CITY OF GRANADA, AND HOW HER CURIOSITY COST THE LIVES OF MANY CHRISTIANS AND MOORS.
The royal encampment lay so distant from Granada that the general aspect of the city only could be seen as it rose gracefully from the Vega, covering the sides of the hills with palaces and towers. Queen Isabella had expressed an earnest desire to behold nearer at hand a city whose beauty was so renowned throughout the world; and the marques of Cadiz, with his accustomed courtesy, prepared a great military escort and guard to protect her and the ladies of the court while they enjoyed this perilous gratification.