In the year 1025, when Canute the Dane was sitting on the throne of England, there was born in the ancient Spanish city of Burgos a baby, to whom was given the name of Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar. He came of noble blood on both sides of the House, and his forefathers had borne some of the highest offices of the land, and from his childhood the boy had been taught that it was his duty never to fall one whit behind them in courage and in honour. As he grew older, he burned more and more for a chance to show the metal of which he was made, and longed to join the companies of knights that were ever going forth to fight the Arabs, who for nearly four hundred years had reigned over the fairest provinces of Spain. But to all his prayers, his father, Don Diego Lainez, turned a deaf ear.
‘Wait, wait, my son!’ he would say; ‘the little shoot must first grow into a tree. Go now and practise that sword-thrust in which you failed yesterday.’
It was when he was sixteen that the longed-for opportunity came.
Don Diego Lainez, now old and weak, had gone to do his homage to King Fernando, who had managed to unite the small kingdoms of Northern Spain under his banner. Some dispute arose between him and the powerful count, Don Lozano Gomez, probably as to which had the right to pass first into the presence of their king, and in the presence of the whole court Don Lozano spoke words of deadly insult to the old man, and even gave him a buffet on the cheek. The courtiers all cried shame, and Don Diego’s hand clutched the pommel of his sword, but his rage had deprived him of the little strength that remained, and he was powerless to draw it. At this the count laughed scornfully, and, bowing mockingly to the king, who held it best that men should settle their own quarrels, rode away to his castle. Then, without another word, Don Diego turned and mounted his horse and set out homewards.
A broken man and older by ten years was he when he entered his hall, but many days passed before any could guess what had wrought this change in him. All night he lay awake staring into the darkness, and when food was brought him it was carried away untasted, and his wife whispered to her ladies, ‘If we rouse him not he will surely die! Would that I knew what has stricken him like this?’
Fifteen days went by in this manner, and none thought to see him leave his bed again, when one morning he strode into the hall with some of the fire of his former years, and called his sons to him. One by one he signed to each to draw near, and taking their soft hands in his palms, pressed so hard that the boys cried to him to loosen his grasp, or they would die of the pain. But when he came to Rodrigo, he heard no prayers of mercy from him, only threats and hot words uttered with blazing eyes and cheeks burning with anger. And the old man wept for joy, and cried:
‘Thou art indeed my true son; your rage calms me, your fury heals me. It is you who will redeem my honour, which I held lost.’ And then he told the youth the tale of what had passed at court.
‘Take my blessing,’ were his last words, ‘and take this sword also, which shall deal the count his death-blow. After that, you shall do greater deeds still.’
Young though he was, Rodrigo had heard enough of war to know Lozano Gomez would not prove an easy prey; but, easy or not, he meant to fight him. So, vowing to his sword that should he ever bring dishonour on the weapon that had done his House good service, he would sheathe it in his breast, he mounted his horse and rode to meet his foe.
‘Is it a knightly or a brave deed, think you, to smite an old man who cannot defend himself?’ asked he. ‘But when you dealt that blow you may have thought that his sons were yet in their cradles, and that there was none to avenge him. Well, traitor, you are wrong. I am his son, and his honour is mine, so look to yourself, lest I take your head home with me.’
And Gomez laughed to hear him, and bade him cease crowing like a young cock, but a furious onslaught from Rodrigo cut his words short, and hardly did he escape being unhorsed. Before he had steadied himself in the saddle Rodrigo had charged again, and this time his enemy was borne to the ground.
‘So may all dastards die!’ cried the victor, as he cut off his head.
Don Diego Lainez was sitting at the table in his great hall, the tears rolling down his cheeks as the shameful scene of his dishonour rose up before him. Suddenly a clatter of hoofs was heard in the courtyard, and the doors swung open. The men-at-arms gathered round the board rose to their feet as Rodrigo entered, carrying the head of Count Gomez by the long front lock. Taking Don Diego by the arm, he shook him roughly:
‘Open your eyes wide, my father, and raise your head, and let your heart be merry, for I have cut down the poisonous weed; I have stamped out the plague-spot; the robe of your honour is stainless as of yore.’
For a moment the old man kept silence, and then he looked up, his face shining.
‘Son of my heart,’ he said, ‘it is enough. From henceforth the seat of honour is yours, and you shall take my place as the head of my House.’
From that day the young knights vied with each other in gaining leave to ride in the train of Rodrigo Diaz, or ‘the Cid’ as he was afterwards called, and to this name was later added the proud title of ‘Campeador.’ Three hundred youths in splendid attire followed him to the court of Fernando, when he went in his turn to do the king homage, and stood by his side as he challenged anyone of the blood of Count Lozano to fight and avenge his death; but no one came. Then his father and his noble company left their horses to kiss the hand of the king, but Rodrigo remained in his saddle.
‘Get down, get down, Rodrigo!’ cried his father, fearing lest the king should resent his rudeness. ‘Swear fealty to thy lord, and kiss his hand, as a loyal subject should do.’
Now, ever since he had fought with Count Gomez, Rodrigo had felt himself to be a man, and, more than that, to be much greater than other men, and he was not pleased to be scolded by his father in the presence of so many people. Still, he was wise enough to know that it would do him no good in the eyes of the nobles gathered round, to disobey his father, and slowly he got down from his horse to do homage with the rest. But so clumsy was he that, as he knelt, his sword nearly fell out of its sheath, and the king, thinking Rodrigo meant to kill him, started back, exclaiming:
‘Away, away! you devil! If you have the form of a man, your deeds are those of a lion.’
‘It is base to kiss the hand of such a craven,’ answered Rodrigo in anger, ‘and I hold that my father has heaped disgrace on his family by humbling himself in such a fashion!’ And so saying, he rode away, with his followers behind him.
A few centuries later a man might have lost his head for such words, but in those days people were accustomed to speak their minds even to kings, and little harm came of it. Six weeks later, Rodrigo had forgotten all about it, and, what was more to the purpose, so had the king, at any rate he pretended to do so, and when Don Diego sent his son to do his business with Fernando, who was at Burgos, the young man went willingly. The morning after he reached the city he was dining in the hall of the palace with the king and his nobles, when word was brought to the royal table that Ximena, the daughter of Count Gomez, and her train stood at the gates, and demanded an audience of the king. Fernando rose from his seat, and, signing to his nobles to follow him, he went to meet Ximena.
A figure of woe was she, clothed all in black, even her face hidden by a black veil. Throwing herself on her knees, she implored that justice might be done on the murderer of her father, for not till then would the stain be wiped out which had killed her mother and was killing her. ‘He rides to and fro under my lattice,’ said she, ‘and the hawk on his wrist slays my doves, and my mantle is sprinkled with their blood. If you do not do me right, O king, you are not fit to reign, or to call yourself a knight.’
Thus spake Ximena, and the king sat silent and pondered her words. ‘I cannot punish Don Rodrigo, either by imprisonment or death,’ he said to himself, ‘for my nobles would not suffer it; I must find some other way to satisfy Ximena.’ Then turning to her, he bade her go home, and added that no damsel should have cause to complain that wrong had been done them at his hands.
Then Ximena rode away, and by-and-by Rodrigo departed also.
Six months later King Fernando was seated in the great hall of his palace of Burgos, dispensing justice to high and low, when there entered once more Ximena, followed by thirty esquires and pages.
‘I come, though I know it is in vain,’ she cried, when she had made her way to the foot of the throne. ‘Five times I have appeared to demand my rights, and no longer will I be put off with empty words. No king are you, who are swayed this way and that by every man that passes, and dare not even avenge your friends, for fear of what may come of it.’
‘Not so,’ answered the king; ‘but is there no other way by which your quarrel may be appeased? Has Rodrigo on his side suffered no insult? You have heard of the fame he has lately won, when he took captive the five Moorish kings who broke suddenly into the land and ravaged it with fire and sword. And to prove that it was fame and not gold he wanted he set them all free, with only a promise of homage from them. Ah, if there were but a few more like him, Spain would soon be rid of the Moors. Happy is the woman he shall choose for his wife; she will live all her days in safety and in honour.’
Then the king paused, and watched to see how Ximena took his words.
She was silent for some moments, but the king could not see her face, as she had pulled her veil over it. Suddenly she raised her head, and cast the veil back over her shoulders.
‘It is true, O king, what you speak, and I will forego my vengeance. Nay, I think my father himself would have it so. Give me Don Rodrigo for my husband; all my days I will be a loyal wife to him, and his honour shall be mine.’
Perhaps the king was not so surprised as some of his courtiers as they listened to Ximena’s request. If he smiled, his beard was thick enough to hide it, and he answered gravely:
‘You say well, my daughter, and I will to-day send a messenger bidding Don Rodrigo meet me at Palencia, and I will give him lands and riches, so that in wealth as in birth he may be equal to you.’
When the messengers reached Don Rodrigo, with the offer of Ximena’s hand, his heart was glad, and, calling his friends to dress themselves in their most splendid cloaks and brightest armour, he rode at their head towards the city of Palencia. Ximena with her train was already in the royal palace, and in the presence of the king the two plighted their troth. But Rodrigo swore by the cross on his sword that the marriage rite should not be fulfilled till he had beaten five foes in the field, and, leaving Ximena under the care of his mother, he bade her farewell, and set forth to accomplish his vow.
However, he was not destined to be absent very long, for in those days enemies were not far to seek, and in less than two months the wedding preparations began. His brothers took pride in arraying him themselves, and buttoning on the doublet of black satin which his father had worn in many of his battles, while over this he wore a jacket of stout leather and a loose cloak lined with plush.
At the last he girded on his sword Tizona, the Dread of the World, then, surrounded by his friends and his family, the bridegroom walked to the court, where the king, the bishop, and all the nobles were awaiting him.
Soon the noise of trumpets was heard, and there entered Ximena dressed in a robe of fine white cloth, brought from London across the seas, with a border of silver embroidered on it. On her head was a close hood of the same stuff, and high shoes of red leather were on her feet. Round her neck was a necklace made of eight round medals, with a little figure of St. Michael hanging from them.
Don Rodrigo went forward to lift Ximena from her horse, and kissed her, whispering as he did so:
‘It is true, O my lady, that I killed your father, but I did it in fair fight, as man to man. And in his stead you shall have a husband that will care for you and protect you to the end of your life.’
Now, although Don Rodrigo was married, he did not stay at home much more than he had done in other days, and his sword was ever unsheathed in the service of his king. He was the champion chosen by Fernando to meet in single combat Martino Gonzalez, the stoutest knight in Spain, and decide a quarrel between Castile and Aragon. The victory lay with Rodrigo, and no sooner was the duel over than he rode off to fight the Moors in the North of Spain. At length the patience of Ximena was worn out, and she wrote a letter to Fernando in which she told him plainly all that was in her mind.
‘What was the use,’ she asked, ‘of her marrying Rodrigo if the king kept him for ever engaged in his service, and away from her?’ She had no father, and might as well have no husband, and she implored his master to think upon her loneliness, and to let Rodrigo return to her side.
But the king would make no promises, and by-and-by Ximena had a little girl to comfort her, to whom Fernando stood godfather.
It seems strange that after these great deeds King Fernando never thought of making Don Rodrigo a knight, but so it was. Not till the long siege of the city of Coimbra was ended, and the Moorish mosque turned into a Christian church, was the order of knighthood conferred on Don Rodrigo in return for the mighty works that he had done. But Don Rodrigo knew well that his sword-thrusts would have availed him nothing had it not been for the aid of a Greek bishop who dreamed when at the shrine of St. James that the gates of the city would only fall when a successor of the Apostle should appear before them. So the bishop arose and clad himself in armour and rode into the Christian hosts, and as he drew near, the walls fell down like Jericho of old, and the army entered in triumph.
After this the Cid, as men now called him, from a Moorish word which meant a man of great valour and fame, went home for a short space to see his wife and his little daughter, who by this time was seven years old and had never beheld her father. Rest was sweet to Don Rodrigo, but before it could grow irksome to him he was summoned to court by the death of Fernando, who left all his children under the wardship of the Cid. Unluckily, the old man’s will had not been a wise one, and bitter quarrels soon raged between the new king Sancho and his brothers and sisters. In vain Don Rodrigo tried to heal the feuds, but war soon broke out, and by his oath of allegiance he was forced, sorely against his wish, to fight under the king’s banner. By his aid Sancho despoiled his two brothers and one of his sisters of the lands which were theirs by right, but when the king demanded that he should go as envoy and bid the princess Doña Urraca yield up her town of Zamora in exchange for much gold, the Cid prayed him to send someone else, for he could not take arms against the princess whom he had known when they were children together. His words, however, were useless. The king would listen to nothing, and the Cid rode forth to Zamora with a heavy heart. Silently he bore the reproaches of Doña Urraca, and returned in five days to tell Fernando that the citizens of Zamora had sworn in his presence, that the city would never be given up till they all lay dead upon her walls. This answer so infuriated Don Sancho that he falsely accused the Cid of having put the words into the mouths of his enemies, and bade him begone out of the kingdom.
But a man like the Cid could not lightly be dismissed, and very soon the king was forced to humble himself, and send messengers to beg his forgiveness. The Campeador was too generous to bear malice, and rode joyfully back, to find Sancho besieging Zamora. And an ill day it was for the king when he resolved to wrest his sister’s possessions from her; for one of her citizens, spurred by love to his lady, gained admittance into the royal camp and offered to betray the city. A councillor of the princess, the old Arias Gonzalo, cried to the king from the walls to lend no ear unto the man’s words, for he was a traitor; but Dolfos had a wily tongue, and easily persuaded Sancho to come with him to see the small door across the trench by which the army might enter. They were hardly outside the camp when Dolfos struck him between the shoulders with his spear, and the king rolled in his death agony on the ground. The sight was seen by Don Rodrigo, who had watched eagerly and anxiously the movements of Dolfos, and now sprang towards the traitor with his drawn sword. But Dolfos was too quick for him, and the postern was flung open by some of the men of Zamora, before the Cid could get across the trench.
‘Oh, fool was I not to have fastened on my spurs, and then I should have caught him!’ cried Don Rodrigo shaking with rage, as he turned sadly back to stand by the bedside of his dying master, waiting for the vengeance which the future would bring.
Now directly she heard that King Sancho was dead, Doña Urraca, his sister, the lady of Zamora, sent the tidings to her brother, Don Alfonso, in exile at Toledo.
‘We have been sent to summon you, King Alfonso,’ said the messengers when they found him, falling on their knees as they spoke. ‘Don Sancho was foully stabbed by Bellido el Dolfos, and the men of Castile and Leon call on you to take his place. Don Rodrigo only hangs back, and swears he will never take the oath of fealty till you have proved that you had no part in the murder of your brother.’
Don Alfonso felt glad at their words. He had received nothing but ill at the hands of his brother, and he hurried to place himself at the head of the army of Castile. But the Arab ruler was not willing to let him go, and many days passed before he was able to escape at night, climbing silently with a few followers down the walls of Toledo; then, turning the shoes on the feet of their horses, so that the track should point south instead of north, they made the best of their way to Zamora.
The nobles received the king with joy, and, kneeling to kiss his hand, vowed to be true to him. The Cid alone held aloof.
‘You are heir to the throne, Don Alfonso,’ said he, ‘but before I bend the knee to you I demand that you and twelve of your vassals shall swear that you are innocent, in deed or in word, of the blood of your brother.’
‘I will swear it,’ answered Alfonso, ‘when and where you please, and twelve men of Leon shall swear it likewise.’
‘You shall swear to me in the holy cathedral of Santa Gadea in Burgos,’ said the Cid; and thither they all rode silently and solemnly, while Don Rodrigo, standing at the altar, held out the crucifix to the kneeling king. But though the oath was taken freely, both by Alfonso and his vassals, deep in the heart of the Cid lay a doubt of his truth.
‘You shall swear it thrice,’ he said, and Alfonso, devoured as he was with rage, knew the Cid’s power too well to disobey, though his face grew pale with wrath.
‘You shall answer for this,’ he cried as he rose to his feet, and from that day the king never ceased to seek for an excuse to compass Don Rodrigo’s banishment. At last he found one.
The Moorish king of Toledo laid a complaint against the Cid that, in spite of his alliance with Alfonso of Castile, his lands had been ravaged and his people made captive. Well Alfonso knew that it was the Moors themselves who had broken faith with him, and had wasted the Spanish territories which lay along their borders, but he eagerly snatched at the plea, and bade the Cid go, an exile, from Castile, while his possessions were declared forfeit.
With every insult heaped on him that the king could invent, the Cid left the city and rode to his castle of Bivar, only to find that his enemies had been before him and had stripped it bare, while his wife and children had sought refuge in the convent of San Pedro de Cardeña.
It was on his way thither that the Cid in his dire distress did the one mean deed recorded of him, which he never ceased to bewail during his life, and afterwards on his deathbed. He had reckoned on finding money for his needs at Bivar, and there was none, and he knew not what to do. In this strait he invited two rich Jews to his tent under the walls of Burgos, and, pointing to two large chests which stood on the ground, he told the Jews that they were filled with silver plate, and begged that they would take them, and give him a thousand crowns in exchange. The Jews, used though they were to being cheated and despoiled by Christians, yet trusted to the honour of the Cid, and counted out the money. Then, placing the coffers on the backs of two stout mules, they returned with them into Burgos, first promising that they would not open them till a year had passed. At the time appointed they lifted the lid, and, behold, the coffers were full of sand!’
But except in this matter, for which his repentance was bitter, the Cid never ceased in his exile to be true to his knighthood, and in all the wars which he and his followers made on the Moors he always sent part of the spoils to Alfonso. At length the king found that he could not do without him. Young knights there were in plenty, but neither in battle nor in the council chamber could they vie with Don Rodrigo; so after many years, when the Cid had captured strong cities and great towns from the Moors, Alfonso sent messengers to say that he was willing to pardon him. And the Cid vowed anew to serve him, but his heart was heavy for the death of his only son in the siege of Consuegra.
From time to time the king’s jealousy broke out afresh, and more than once Don Rodrigo was banished, but in the end the Cid always returned to Castile, for in truth, as we have said, the land prospered but little in his absence. After conquering the Moors in Valencia and elsewhere, his fame and wealth grew greater than ever, and two of the proudest nobles in Castile, the counts of Carrion, prayed Alfonso to use his rights as liege lord, and to grant them the Cid’s daughters in marriage. Now, the proposal pleased Don Rodrigo but little, and his wife even less. He knew something of the two young men who wished to be his sons-in-law, and he felt that it was his wealth, and not his daughters, that was wooed. Besides, he liked not the boastfulness of the two brothers, and feared that beneath their proud and haughty ways the hearts of cowards might be hidden. But outwardly all was fair-seeming, and when the king in a meeting on the banks of the Tagus bade the Cid consider well the matter, Don Rodrigo could only reply that, in his view, his daughters were as yet too young to be wedded, but that they and all that belonged to him were in the hands of the king, to be dealt with as he thought best. To which the king answered that he knew the maidens to be wise beyond their years, and, summoning the counts of Carrion to his presence, he informed them that he had resolved to grant their desire, and bade them kneel and kiss the Cid’s hand, which they did with joy. So the next day they all rode back to Valencia, and the Cid made a feast for fifteen days, and the marriage rite was performed by the Bishop Geronymo, mighty in battle.
It was not long after the wedding that the counts showed of what metal they were made, and that the Cid had read them truly. One evening they and Don Bermudo, nephew of the Cid, were sitting laughing and jesting in the hall of the castle, when a cry arose from without, ‘Beware of the lion; he has broken from his den’; and in an instant the huge beast had sprung through the door. Don Bermudo sat still, waiting to see what the lion would do, but Don Diego, the elder count, took refuge in a closet, while Don Fernan, his brother, hid himself under the bed on which the Cid was stretched sleeping. The noise awoke Don Rodrigo, who sprang up, when the lion at once lay down on the ground and began to lick his feet. The Cid stooped and stroked its head, then calling to the beast to follow, he led it back to its den, which it entered quietly, for it knew its master well.
‘Where are my sons-in-law?’ asked he as he entered. ‘Methought I heard their voices but a moment agone.’
‘Here,’ cried one of his nephews, and ‘here’ cried another, and the counts were dragged forth, their fine clothes disordered and their faces pale with fear.
The Cid looked at them silently, till they grew red with shame and anger.
‘Are these your wedding garments?’ said he at last. ‘Truly I should scarce have guessed it’; and he passed on, leaving hate and a longing for revenge in the young men’s hearts.
The matter of the lion did not dwell long in the mind of the Cid, for news was speedily brought him that the Moorish king of Morocco was advancing with an army to besiege the fair city of Valencia. He quickly gathered together a host large enough to give battle in the plain outside the walls, but while mounting his horse Babieca he counselled his sons-in-law to remain in safety behind the walls of the town. This they would gladly have done, but dared not set at naught the mocking eyes of the knights around them, so, clad in shining armour, they rode forth with the rest. Hardly had the fight begun, when a Moor attacked the younger brother, who turned and fled. Another instant and he would have sunk to the ground, pierced by the enemy’s lance, when Don Bermudo suddenly appeared, and engaged the Moor in deadly combat. After a hard struggle the infidel was overborne and slain, and the victor turned to Don Fernan Gonzalez:
‘Take his horse and his armour,’ he said, ‘and tell the Cid it was you who killed him; I will not gainsay you.’ And, as cowards are generally liars also, Don Fernan gladly snatched at the crown of glory that belonged to another.
Don Bermudo was rewarded for his generous deed when he saw the joy of the Cid. Perhaps he had condemned them wrongly, thought Don Rodrigo, and that the souls of men were at last awaking in them. So he praised them for their valour, and if there were those present who could have told a different tale, they held their peace.
But whether they were, perforce, following the Cid in the field, or basking in the wealth and pleasures of Valencia, the counts of Carrion never forgot or forgave the scorn they had read in the eyes of the Cid on the day when they had hidden from the lion. Together they plotted to take vengeance on them, and it was a vengeance as mean as their souls.
One morning they entered the great hall of Valencia, where the Cid was sitting, and prayed him to give them their wives, and let them depart forthwith to their lands. Their words were fair, yet the Cid felt troubled; why, he knew not.
‘I gave you my daughters to wife, at my king’s bidding,’ answered he at last, ‘and I cannot withhold them from you if indeed you desire to take them unto your own lands. But see that they are treated as beseems them; if not, woe to you.’
And the counts of Carrion, with treason in their hearts, promised that all honour should await their brides.
Eight days hence, the procession passed out of the city gates, and the Cid went first, with Doña Elvira on his right hand, and Doña Sol on his left. For the space of a league he rode, and then he reined up his horse. Calling his nephew Don Ordoño to his side, he bade him follow unperceived, and bring back news of what befell his daughters.
And so they parted.
For many miles the procession went slowly on, and was received with kindness and hospitality by the great Moslem lords through whose country the road lay, a kindness repaid whenever possible by theft and cruelty by the counts of Carrion. Then, when they had reached a wood which was neither in the lordship of the Cid nor of the Moors, they felt that the time for which they had so long waited was come. Ordering the guards and attendants to ride forward to the Castle of Carrion and prepare for their reception, the counts scarcely delayed until they were out of their sight before they dragged their wives from their mules, and stripped their bodies bare. Next, seizing them by their hair, they flung them to the ground, and dug their spurs into them till their bodies were covered with blood.
‘Farewell, beautiful damsels,’ they cried mockingly, bowing low, ‘you were never fit mates for the counts of Carrion, and, besides, it was needful to avenge the affront that the Cid your father put on us in the matter of the fierce beast who would have slain us.’ And, stooping low from their horses, the base knights rode away.
From a distant hill Don Ordoño had seen and heard all that had passed, and he now came forth to help and comfort his cousins. ‘Take heart,’ he said, ‘I will bring you your lost garments, and if you have lost your husbands, who deserve nothing better than the fate of traitors, remember that you have yet a father, without a peer throughout the world.’
None can tell the wrath of the Cid when his daughters came home. Little he said, for he was ever a man of few words, but he sent forthwith messengers to the king, telling him of the base deeds of the counts of Carrion, and begging for leave to plead his cause before the Parliament at Toledo. This permission Alfonso granted gladly, and bade the counts of Carrion to be present also and answer the Cid.
Many days they waited ere Don Rodrigo, accompanied by his wife and daughters, and followed by a train of nobles, rode through the gates. The king was sitting surrounded by the Cortes or Parliament, but he desired that the Cid should be brought to him at once, and then commanded him to set forth his wrongs.
‘It is you, O king, and not I, who gave my daughters in marriage to these base men, therefore it is you, and not I, who must answer for this. I ask you that you will force them to restore my swords Colada and Tizona that I girded on them when they bore my children from Valencia.’ And the hearts of the counts were glad when they heard his words, and they hasted to place the gold-pommelled swords in the hands of the Cid.
Next, Don Rodrigo demanded that the dowries of his daughters should be given back to him, and this also the king adjudged to be his right. Last, he set forth the treatment his daughters had suffered from the counts of Carrion, and challenged them and also their uncle, who had ever given them evil counsel, to fight with three of his knights that day.
Before the combat could take place a sound as of armed men was heard in the courtyard, and in rode two youths covered with golden armour and tall plumed helmets, and one was Don Ramiro of Navarre, and the other Don Sancho of Aragon.
‘It has reached our ears,’ said they, ‘that the marriages between the counts of Carrion and the daughters of the Cid are about to be set aside, and we have come to pray that the ladies may be given to us to wife.’
And the king answered: ‘If it pleases the Cid, it pleases me also, but the Cortes here present must grant its consent.’
So the Cid kissed the hand of the king in token of the honour done him, and the Cortes cried with one voice that the man who allied himself with Don Rodrigo de Bivar was honoured above all. Therefore, the weddings were celebrated without delay, the counts of Carrion having been pronounced outlaws and their former marriages null and void.
This matter being settled, the king directed that there should be no more delay in arranging the fight between the champions of the Cid and the counts of Carrion, which at the request of the counts was to be held three weeks later in their own castle. Don Rodrigo himself did not mean to fight. His honour was, he knew, safe in the hands of Don Bermudo and his other nephews, and he rode blithely home to Valencia. But Alfonso declared that he would be present to see that the combat was fairly fought, and it was well that he went, for the counts, thinking themselves safe on their own lands, had planned treachery. However, the king, mistrusting them, made a proclamation that in case of false dealing the traitor should be slain upon the field, and his possessions be forfeit. Baulked in this direction, the counts then entreated the king to forbid their foes to use the swords Tizona and Colada which they had been forced to give up, but Alfonso answered that it was now too late to make conditions, and they must get to the fight with stout hearts. This they could not do, for they had not got them, but, finding there was no help for it, they mounted their horses and put their lances in rest.
Between such adversaries the combat lasted but a short while. Fernan Gonzalez was soon unhorsed by Don Bermudo; Don Diego and his uncle confessed themselves vanquished. Their lands were declared forfeit by the judges, though their lives were granted them; but the tale of their cowardice spread far and wide, and none would speak to them or have dealings with them.
Thus was the Cid avenged.
For five years the Cid lived on in Valencia wearied of wars, and turning his thoughts to repenting him of his sins, and chief among them the wrong he had done many years before to the two Jews of Burgos. His strength grew daily less, till at length he could rise from his bed no more, neither could he eat food. While he lay in this manner, tidings were brought him that the Moors were preparing to besiege Valencia. This news roused the dying man, and for a moment it seemed as if he might be well again. Clearly he gave his orders how best to resist the attack, and bade his followers fight under the banner of Bishop Geronymo. ‘As for me,’ he said, ‘you shall take my body and fill it with sweet spices, and shall set me once more on Babieca, and place Tizona in my hand. With cords shall you fasten me to the saddle, and so you shall lead me forth to my last fight with the Moors. Ximena my wife will care for Babieca, and when he is dead she will bury him where no Moorish dogs may root up his grave. And let no women be hired to make mourning for me. I want no tears to be shed over me but the tears of Ximena my wife. But for the Christians in this city, well know I that they are too few men to conquer the Moors, therefore let them prepare their goods, and steal forth by night, and take refuge in Castile. So farewell to you all, and pray that God may have mercy on my soul.’
Thus the Cid died, and all was done as he had said, and the king put rich garments on him, and set Tizona in his hand, and seated him in a carved chair by the altar of San Pedro de Cardeña.
[El Romanzo del Cid.]
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11