EXPLOIT OF HERNANDO PEREZ DEL PULGAR AND OTHER CAVALIERS.
The siege of Baza, while it displayed the skill and science of the Christian commanders, gave but little scope for the adventurous spirit and fiery valor of the young Spanish cavaliers. They repined at the tedious monotony and dull security of their fortified camp, and longed for some soul-stirring exploit of difficulty and danger. Two of the most spirited of these youthful cavaliers were Francisco de Bazan and Antonio de Cueva, the latter of whom was son to the duke of Albuquerque. As they were one day seated on the ramparts of the camp, and venting their impatience at this life of inaction, they were overheard by a veteran adalid, one of those scouts or guides who were acquainted with all parts of the country. "Seniors," said he, "if you wish for a service of peril and profit, if you are willing to pluck the fiery old Moor by the beard, I can lead you to where you may put your mettle to the proof. Hard by the city of Guadix are certain hamlets rich in booty. I can conduct you by a way in which you may come upon them by surprise, and if you are as cool in the head as you are hot in the spur, you may bear off your spoils from under the very eyes of old El Zagal."
The idea of thus making booty at the very gates of Guadix pleased the hot-spirited youths. These predatory excursions were frequent about this time, and the Moors of Padul, Alhenden, and other towns of the Alpuxarras had recently harassed the Christian territories by expeditions of the kind. Francisco de Bazan and Antonio de Cueva soon found other young cavaliers of their age eager to join in the adventure, and in a little while they had nearly three hundred horse and two hundred foot ready equipped and eager for the foray.
Keeping their destination secret, they sallied out of the camp on the edge of an evening, and, guided by the adalid, made their way by starlight through the most secret roads of the mountains. In this way they pressed on rapidly day and night, until early one morning, before cock-crowing, they fell suddenly upon the hamlets, made prisoners of the inhabitants, sacked the houses, ravaged the fields, and, sweeping through the meadows, gathered together all the flocks and herds. Without giving themselves time to rest, they set out upon their return, making with all speed for the mountains before the alarm should be given and the country roused.
Several of the herdsmen, however, had fled to Guadix, and carried tidings of the ravage to El Zagal. The beard of old Muley trembled with rage: he immediately sent out six hundred of his choicest horse and foot, with orders to recover the booty and to bring those insolent marauders captive to Guadix.
The Christian cavaliers were urging their cavalgada of cattle and sheep up a mountain as fast as their own weariness would permit, when, looking back, they beheld a great cloud of dust, and presently descried the turbaned host hot upon their traces.
They saw that the Moors were superior in number; they were fresh also, both man and steed, whereas both they and their horses were fatigued by two days and two nights of hard marching. Several of the horsemen therefore gathered round the commanders and proposed that they should relinquish their spoil and save themselves by flight. The captains, Francisco de Bazan and Antonio de Cueva, spurned at such craven counsel. "What?" cried they, "abandon, our prey without striking a blow? Leave our foot-soldiers too in the lurch, to be overwhelmed by the enemy? If any one gives such counsel through fear, he mistakes the course of safety, for there is less danger in presenting a bold front to the foe than in turning a dastard back, and fewer men are killed in a brave advance than in a cowardly retreat."
Some of the cavaliers were touched by these words, and declared that they would stand by the foot-soldiers like true companions-in-arms: the great mass of the party, however, were volunteers, brought