It must be added, however, that these pious financial expedients received some check from the interference of Queen Isabella. Her penetrating eyes discovered that many enormities had been committed under color of religious zeal, and many innocent persons accused by false witnesses of apostasy, either through malice or a hope of obtaining their wealth: she caused strict investigation, therefore, into the proceedings which had been held, many of which were reversed, and suborners punished in proportion to their guilt.
HOW KING FERDINAND INVADED THE EASTERN SIDE OF THE KINGDOM OF GRANADA, AND HOW HE WAS RECEIVED BY EL ZAGAL.
"Muley Abdallah el Zagal," says the venerable Jesuit father Pedro Abarca, "was the most venomous Mahometan in all Morisma;" and the worthy Fray Antonio Agapida most devoutly echoes his opinion. "Certainly," adds the latter, "none ever opposed a more heathenish and diabolical obstinacy to the holy inroads of the cross and sword."
El Zagal felt that it was necessary to do something to quicken his popularity with the people, and that nothing was more effectual than a successful inroad. The Moors loved the stirring call to arms and a wild foray among the mountains, and delighted more in a hasty spoil, wrested with hard fighting from the Christians, than in all the steady and certain gains secured by peaceful traffic.
There reigned at this time a careless security along the frontier of Jaen. The alcaydes of the Christian fortresses were confident of the friendship of Boabdil el Chico, and they fancied his uncle too distant and too much engrossed by his own perplexities to think of molesting them. On a sudden El Zagal issued out of Guadix with a chosen band, passed rapidly through the mountains which extend behind Granada, and fell like a thunderbolt upon the territories in the neighborhood of Alcala la Real. Before the alarm could be spread and the frontier roused he had made a wide career of destruction through the country, sacking and burning villages, sweeping off flocks and herds, and carrying away captives. The warriors of the frontier assembled, but El Zagal was already far on his return through the mountains, and he re-entered the gates of Guadix in triumph, his army laden with Christian spoil and conducting an immense cavalgada. Such was one of El Zagal's preparatives for the expected invasion of the Christian king, exciting the warlike spirit of his people, and gaining for himself a transient popularity.
King Ferdinand assembled his army at Murcia in the spring of 1488. He left that city on the fifth of June with a flying camp of four thousand horse and fourteen thousand foot. The marques of Cadiz led the van, followed by the adelantado of Murcia. The army entered the Moorish frontier by the sea-coast, spreading terror through the land: wherever it appeared, the towns surrendered without a blow, so great was the dread of experiencing the woes which had desolated the opposite frontier. In this way Vera, Velez el Rubio, Velez el Blanco, and many towns of inferior note to the number of sixty yielded at the first summons.
It was not until it approached Almeria that the army met with resistance. This important city was commanded by the prince Zelim, a relation of El Zagal. He led forth his Moors bravely to the encounter, and skirmished fiercely with the advance guard in the gardens near the city. King Ferdinand came up with the main body of the army and called off his troops from the skirmish. He saw that to attack the place with his present force was fruitless. Having reconnoitred the city and its environs, therefore, against a future campaign, he retired with his army and marched toward Baza.
The old warrior El Zagal was himself drawn up in the city of Baza with a powerful garrison. He felt confidence in the strength of the place, and rejoiced when he heard that the Christian king was approaching. In the valley in front of Baza there extended a great tract of gardens, like a continued grove, intersected by canals and water courses. In this he stationed an ambuscade of arquebusiers and crossbowmen. The vanguard of the Christian army came marching gayly up the valley with great sound of drum and trumpet, and led on by the marques of Cadiz and the adelantado of Murcia. As they drew near El Zagal sallied forth with horse and foot and attacked them for a time with great spirit. Gradually falling back, as if pressed by their superior valor, he drew the exulting Christians among the gardens. Suddenly the Moors in ambuscade burst from their concealment, and opened such a fire in flank and rear that many of the Christians were slain and the rest thrown into confusion. King Ferdinand arrived in time to see the disastrous situation of his troops, and gave signal for the vanguard to retire.