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The Vale of Cedars eBook

Grace Aguilar
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 282 pages of information about The Vale of Cedars.

Some time had elapsed since King Ferdinand and his splendid army had quitted Saragossa.  He himself had not as yet headed any important expedition, but fixing his head-quarters at Seville, dispatched thence various detachments under experienced officers, to make sallies on the Moors, who had already enraged the Christian camp by the capture of Zahara.  Arthur Stanley was with the Marquis of Cadiz, when this insult was ably avenged by the taking of Albania, a most important post, situated within thirty miles of the capital.  The Spaniards took possession of the city, massacred many of the inhabitants, placed strong restrictions on those who surrendered, and strongly garrisoned every tower and fort.  Nor were they long inactive:  the Moors resolved to retake what they considered the very threshold of their capital; hastily assembled their forces, and regularly entered upon the siege.

While at Seville, the camp of Ferdinand had been joined by several foreign chevaliers, amongst whom was an Italian knight, who had excited the attention and curiosity of many of the younger Spaniards from the mystery environing him.  He was never seen without his armor.  His helmet always closed, keeping surlily aloof, he never mingled in the brilliant jousts and tournaments of the camp, except when Arthur Stanley chanced to be one of the combatants:  he was then sure to be found in the lists, and always selected the young Englishman as his opponent.  At first this strange pertinacity was regarded more as a curious coincidence than actual design; but it occurred so often, that at length it excited remark.  Arthur himself laughed it off, suggesting that the Italian had perhaps some grudge against England, and wished to prove the mettle of her sons.  The Italian deigned no explanation, merely saying that he supposed the Spanish jousts were governed by the same laws as others, and he was therefore at liberty to choose his own opponent.  But Arthur was convinced that some cause existed for this mysterious hostility.  Not wishing to create public confusion, he contended himself by keeping a watch upon his movements.  He found, however, that he did not watch more carefully than he was watched, and incensed at length, he resolved on calling his enemy publicly to account for his dishonorable conduct.  This, however, he found much easier in theory than practice.  The wily Italian, as if aware of his intentions, skilfully eluded them; and as weeks passed without any recurrence of their secret attacks.  Stanley, guided by his own frank and honorable feelings, believed his suspicions groundless, and dismissed them altogether.  On the tumultuary entrance of the Spaniards, however, these suspicions were re-excited.  Separated by the press of contending warriors from the main body of his men, Stanley plunged headlong into the thickest battalion of Moors, intending to cut his way through them to the Marquis of Cadiz, who was at that moment entering the town.  His unerring arm and lightness of movement bore him successfully

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