While the holy Christian army (says Fray Antonio Agapida) was thus beleaguering this infidel city of Baza there rode into the camp one day two reverend friars of the order of St. Francis. One was of portly person and authoritative air: he bestrode a goodly steed, well conditioned and well caparisoned, while his companion rode beside him upon a humble hack, poorly accoutred, and, as he rode, he scarcely raised his eyes from the ground, but maintained a meek and lowly air.
The arrival of two friars in the camp was not a matter of much note, for in these holy wars the Church militant continually mingled in the affray, and helmet and cowl were always seen together; but it was soon discovered that these worthy saints-errant were from a far country and on a mission of great import.
They were, in truth, just arrived from the Holy Land, being two of the saintly men who kept vigil over the sepulchre of our Blessed Lord at Jerusalem. He of the tall and portly form and commanding presence was Fray Antonio Millan, prior of the Franciscan convent in the Holy City. He had a full and florid countenance, a sonorous voice, and was round and swelling and copious in his periods, like one accustomed to harangue and to be listened to with deference. His companion was small and spare in form, pale of visage, and soft and silken and almost whispering in speech. "He had a humble and lowly way," says Agapida, "evermore bowing the head, as became one of his calling." Yet he was one of the most active, zealous, and effective brothers of the convent, and when he raised his small black eye from the earth there was a keen glance out of the corner which showed that, though harmless as a dove, he was nevertheless as wise as a serpent.
These holy men had come on a momentous embassy from the grand soldan of Egypt, or, as Agapida terms him in the language of the day, the soldan of Babylon. The league which had been made between that potentate and his arch-foe the Grand Turk, Bajazet II., to unite in arms for the salvation of Granada, as has been mentioned in a previous chapter of this chronicle, had come to naught. The infidel princes had again taken up arms against each other, and had relapsed into their ancient hostility. Still, the grand soldan, as head of the whole Moslem religion, considered himself bound to preserve the kingdom of Granada from the grasp of unbelievers. He despatched, therefore, these two holy friars with letters to the Castilian sovereigns, as well as to the pope and to the king of Naples, remonstrating against the evils done to the Moors of the kingdom of Granada, who were of his faith and kindred whereas it was well known that great numbers of Christians were indulged and protected in the full enjoyment of their property, their liberty, and their faith in his dominions. He insisted, therefore, that this war should cease-- that the Moors of Granada should be reinstated in the territory of which they had been dispossessed: otherwise he threatened to put to death all the Christians beneath his sway, to demolish their convents and temples, and to destroy the Holy Sepulchre.
This fearful menace had spread consternation among the Christians of Palestine, and when the intrepid Fray Antonio Millan and his lowly companion departed on their mission they were accompanied far from the gates of Jerusalem by an anxious throng of brethren and disciples, who remained watching them with tearful eyes as long as they were in sight. These holy ambassadors were received with great distinction by King Ferdinand, for men of their cloth had ever high honor and consideration in his court. He had long and frequent conversations with them about the Holy Land, the state of the Christian Church in the dominions of the grand soldan, and of the policy and conduct of that arch-infidel toward it. The portly prior of the Franciscan convent was full and round and oratorical in his replies, and the king expressed himself much pleased with the eloquence of his periods; but the politic monarch was observed to lend a close and attentive ear to the whispering voice of the lowly companion, "whose discourse," adds Agapida, "though modest and low, was clear and fluent and full of subtle wisdom." These holy friars had visited Rome in their journeying, where they had delivered the letter of the soldan to the sovereign pontiff. His Holiness had written by them to the Castilian sovereigns, requesting to know what reply they had to offer to this demand of the Oriental potentate.
The king of Naples also wrote to them on the subject, but in wary terms. He inquired into the cause of this war with the Moors of Granada, and expressed great marvel at its events, as if (says Agapida) both were not notorious throughout all the Christian world. "Nay," adds the worthy friar with becoming indignation, "he uttered opinions savoring of little better than damnable heresy; for he observed that, although the Moors were of a different sect, they ought not to be maltreated without just cause; and hinted that if the Castilian sovereigns did not suffer any crying injury from the Moors, it would be improper to do anything which might draw great damage upon the Christians--as if, when once the sword of the faith was drawn, it ought ever to be sheathed until this scum of heathendom were utterly destroyed or driven from the land. But this monarch," he continues, "was more kindly disposed toward the infidels than was honest and lawful in a Christian prince, and was at that very time in league with the soldan against their common enemy the Grand Turk."
These pious sentiments of the truly Catholic Agapida are echoed by Padre Mariana in his history;* but the worthy chronicler Pedro Abarca attributes the interference of the king of Naples not to lack of orthodoxy in religion, but to an excess of worldly policy, he being apprehensive that should Ferdinand conquer the Moors of Granada he might have time and means to assert a claim of the house of Aragon to the crown of Naples.
"King Ferdinand," continues the worthy father Pedro Abarca, "was no less master of dissimulation than his cousin of Naples; so he replied to him with the utmost suavity of manner, going into a minute and patient vindication of the war, and taking great apparent pains to inform him of those things which all the world knew, but of which the other pretended to be ignorant."* At the same time he soothed his solicitude about the fate of the Christians in the empire of the grand soldan, assuring him that the great revenue extorted from them in rents and tributes would be a certain protection against the threatened violence.