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How my Cid the Campeador1 won the Favour of his King

[1 My Lord the Champion, or Challenger.]

Don Alfonso, the second son of Don Fernando, King of Castile, Leon, Galicia, and of lands in Portugal, came to Zamora to hold counsel with his sister Urraca, who possessed that city. With him he brought twelve knights of Toledo, stalwart and brave to see; and Don Alfonso was as brave as any. And if he held himself with a proud air – well, I warrant his errand pleased him. For after years of banishment a man may be forgiven a grace or two on returning to his own.

Don Fernando at his death had broken up that Kingdom of Spain which was being welded together, and had better have remained welded. For the King loved his second son Alfonso with a greater love than he bore to Don Sancho, who was his eldest son and should have been his heir. Therefore Don Fernando so disposed matters at his death: –

To Don Sancho, the Kingdom of Castile.

To Don Alfonso, the Kingdom of Leon.

To Don Garcia, the Kingdom of Galicia and the lands in Portugal.

To his daughter Urraca, the city of Zamora.

To his daughter Elvira, the city of Toro.

And he bound them with an oath that they should not despoil one another.

But Don Sancho, aggrieved at being cheated of his full heritage, contrived to possess himself of his brothers' kingdoms, imprisoning Don Garcia, and sending Don Alfonso into exile; and, stretching rapacious hands, he would have wrested Zamora from his sister Urraca, but ere he had gained the city he was lured away by a traitor's strategy, and a spearthrust found his breast.

Then came Don Alfonso from Toledo – whose king had harboured him – with his eye afire, and his steps timing to some inner music of his brain, and with twelve brave knights to give him dignity. And when he had spoken with his sister Urraca, who bore him great love, Urraca called together a council, that Don Alfonso might declare his claims.

Whereafter, when many beards had wagged, and many wise saws had had an airing, it was made known to all persons that Don Alfonso was come from his banishment, and that he laid claim to the kingdoms of Leon, of Galicia, of Castile, and of the lands in Portugal.

And men from these kingdoms came pouring into Zamora, some grave, some gay, some wide-eyed to behold Don Alfonso, others with pursed lips ripe to pass an opinion upon him. But whereas the burghers of Leon were glad to see their king back again, and the burghers of Galicia and men from Portugal ready to receive Don Alfonso as their king without question, the men of Castile would have it that he should first swear to them that he had had no complicity in the death of Don Sancho. For there were those who hinted that Don Alfonso had prompted the assassin's spear with a gift of gold.

Now the Castilians had had Don Sancho for their lord rightfully, as he was King, in the first place, of Castile; and, having loved Don Sancho, they demanded this oath from Don Alfonso, for they would not own as their new lord one who had dipped his hands in the blood of the old.

"I will take the oath," said Don Alfonso; and to his twelve knights he said that he was well-pleased so to prove his innocence. But they, reading in the swell of his lip that which was not unfamiliar to them, whispered among themselves that Don Alfonso was not so well-pleased at the demand of the Castilians. For he was a proud man.

At the church of St. Gadea, which is in Burgos, Don Alfonso attended to take the oath of his innocence, and with him his twelve knights. And a great crowd gathered there to hear him take it.

But when the time came for the oath to be administered, it was found that no man present was willing to put the oath. For the nobles reasoned among themselves shrewdly, saying, "When Don Alfonso has sworn the oath to us, he will be King of Castile, and Leon, of Galicia, and the lands in Portugal, and one with great power in his hands. And how will he glance at that man who put the oath to him? Will he look warmly at him? I trow not; for Don Alfonso is a proud man."

And they would not put the oath to him.

Then arrived my Cid the Campeador, whose name was Ruydiez de Bivar. He was of all knights the most valorous and the wisest; and he had been high in honour with Don Fernando, for whom he had fought boldly as a youth, and with Don Sancho, whose counsellor he had been. When he heard how none would put the oath to Don Alfonso, he said:

"Fear not, O ye cautious ones, I will put the oath."

And, having gained the attention of Don Alfonso, he said, looking the King full in the eyes:

"Don Alfonso, I call upon thee to swear, and thy twelve knights with thee, before these people, that thou hast not had any concern in the death of thy brother Don Sancho, that thou hast not killed him with thine own hand, nor yet caused him to be killed."

Don Alfonso replied, and with him his twelve knights, in a bold voice:

"We swear truly that we had no concern in the death of Don Sancho."

Then said my Cid, and the glance of his keen eyes was like a spear-thrust, "Thou hast sworn the oath, Don Alfonso. If thy word be a false one, and the blood of Don Sancho indeed be upon thy soul, then will I call this curse upon thee, that thy death come to thee also by a traitor's hand."

Don Alfonso dropped his eyes upon the ground and stood dumbly. And there were those who said that his face changed colour, because the words brought before him his brother's terrible end; but there were others who knew that it was anger against the Cid that troubled his blood so that it ran to his face. For Don Alfonso was a proud man.

My Cid saw that the King changed colour, yet he put the oath a second time, and again a third. And it may be that he doubted Don Alfonso because of that change of tint; but of that I can say nothing, for the Cid was a wise man, and spake not often his thoughts.

Thereafter Don Alfonso was made King of Galicia, and Castile, and Leon – which was his own kingdom – and the people rejoiced greatly.

And my Cid the Campeador considered with a knit brow whether it were well that he should absent himself from Castile; for he doubted the King's good-will toward him. Not that he guessed the sting at the King's heart regarding the matter of the oath – for he supposed that Don Alfonso would perceive he but did his duty – but on other grounds he expected the anger of the King.

For my Cid had been counsellor to Don Sancho, and Don Sancho had rid Don Alfonso of his kingdom with but scant ceremony. True, my Cid had been opposed to Don Sancho in that matter, but what of it? His loyalty had not snapt at the thread, and he had upheld Don Sancho in the matter, as well as in all else, when he had perceived the King's purpose to be unchanged.

But as my Cid took counsel with himself over the affair, there came a messenger demanding his presence before Don Alfonso.

Now the King met my Cid with a kindness that had a twist in it; as if, while he smiled, a sour taste dwelt in his mouth. Nevertheless, he uttered sweet words, saying, "Now welcome, my Cid Campeador. To-day I claim thine allegiance; for as thou hast been counsellor to Don Fernando my father, and to my brother Don Sancho, so I would have thee to be my counsellor. For I look upon thee as a worthy vassal, a man of much renown, and one of wisdom."

Then my Cid bowed the knee and swore his allegiance; and he believed that the twist in the King's humour was from remembrance of the days of his banishment.

"He shall forget those days, for I will serve him faithfully!" vowed my Cid.

Yet the King's thoughts were not of his banishment, but of his oath; and he was torn two ways. For whereas his pride was wounded sorely, he could yet perceive the valour of my Cid Ruydiez, how there was none like to him, and how none other among his vassals was held in such high esteem.

Therefore he chose to have Ruydiez as his counsellor, and he would fain have forgotten the matter of his oath. But there were those who whispered of it, not wishing him to forget; for many were jealous of my Cid the Campeador.

But my Cid went his way blithely, having given his allegiance to the King, and with his mighty deeds he made the country ring. Alone he went forth to meet many champions, returning ever, covered with honours, bringing news of victory with him.

Then the black spot in the heart of Don Alfonso would cease to burn, and he would meet my Cid with a sparkling eye, showing him affection, and bestowing upon him towns and castles.

And as Ruydiez went from the King's presence, a noble would bend to whisper to his fellow: "Sawest thou the face of my Cid, how it was full of triumph? 'Twas such a look his face bore as he put the oath to the King."

Then Don Alfonso, hearing the whisper as, indeed, he was meant to do – felt his cheeks flame, and in his heart anger burnt anew against the Campeador.

But my Cid suspected nothing of these things, for he was broad and generous, and not prone to think ill; and he rejoiced in the affection which the King showed to him, and meditated other brave deeds.

And the King brooded, being at times full of joy in the valour of this great vassal, and on other occasions heavy with anger against him.

Now the kings of Seville and Cordova had not paid to Don Alfonso the tribute they owed to him as vassals. Wherefore the King sent for my Cid, and told him how he must go and demand the tribute.

Little loth was my Cid! Having brought together his company, he set forth, his green pennon flying, his horse prancing, and all the people shouting to see him go.

And ere a great time was gone by he arrived with his company at Seville.

Then he found how the King of Seville was sorely beset by the King of Granada, who was making war against him. And the King of Granada was aided by many lords of Castile. And between them they were crushing the King of Seville as surely as a pumpkin is crushed between closing walls.

My Cid Ruydiez was wroth, and his eyes blazed with fire. Having given his word to the King of Seville that he would help him, he sent word to the lords of Castile that they should cease their hostilities, since they were waging war against a vassal of their King. But they gave no heed to him at all, and would not desist; neither would the King of Granada cease his hostilities.

Then my Cid fell upon them with a great fury, and he cut them down as a reaper cuts ripe corn, and took many prisoners, and wounded many of the lords. And his aspect was terrible, so that many fled before him.

Then, having put the lords to rout, my Cid returned to Castile, bringing with him the tribute to Don Alfonso, and with the tribute a valuable gift from the King of Seville. And the Campeador was himself laden with gifts, and with much spoil which he had won from the King of Granada and the rebellious lords of Castile.

"Right bravely hast thou done, my Ruydiez!" cried the King; and he lavished fresh honours upon my Cid, looking upon him as if he loved him. But as the Campeador went from the King's presence the knights whispered; and again the King was torn between two emotions, and he strove to forget the matter of the oath.

King Alfonso was angry with the Moors that they remained heathen, and that they continually molested him and his vassals. Therefore he planned a great expedition against them, and when he had made his preparations he set forth.

But my Cid Campeador, because he had been all ill and was not yet recovered, could not go.

And while the King was absent, other Moors fell upon Castile, hoping to plunder; but my Cid, who was almost recovered from his sickness, called his company together, and fell upon the Moors and drove them out. And with his men he followed the Moors, despoiling them as they went; and he followed them as far as Toledo, the territory of that king who had harboured Don Alfonso in his exile.

When news of these events came to Don Alfonso's ears, he was full of admiration for the courage of my Cid Ruydiez, who, while still weak, had driven out the Moors.

But the nobles came to him, fawning, and with uplifted hands.

"Behold, my lord," cried they, "how much my Cid Ruydiez takes upon himself, and how great his craft is! During thine absence he bestirs himself to encroach on the territory of the King of Toledo, with whom he well knows thou hast a treaty of friendliness. Doubtless he remembers that thou wilt pass through Toledo on thy way homeward. And is not this his hope – that the King of Toledo will do thee an injury because of the broken treaty? Thus acts my Cid, hoping to make thee small in thine own eyes, as he did in the matter of the oath."

Don Alfonso listened to these evil words, and they moved his blood like a poison, so that he was for a time as a man demented; and with all haste he hied him back to Castile. Now the King of Toledo offered him no injury because of the Campeador's action, yet the anger of Don Alfonso remained hot; and meeting my Cid Ruydiez near Burgos, he told him how he was banished from that hour, but he said not straightly for what cause, nor would he listen to my Cid's defence.

"Get thee out of my land without delay," said he; and he turned his horse and would have ridden away.

But the Campeador replied, with anger, "I may have thirty days' grace, since that is the right of a noble."

"Nay," said the King hotly, "thou shalt have but nine days' grace."

And, fearing the force of his own anger, he left my Cid. And he gave orders that the Campeador should go alone into banishment, for any person who went with him should lose all he possessed; neither should any man give him food or drink.

All this my Cid Ruydiez believed the King did out of anger because he had inadvertently entered the territory of the King of Toledo; but Don Alfonso knew in his heart that he did it because of the oath which my Cid had put to him three times, and which he had not been able to forget.

My Cid Ruydiez rode to his castle at Bivar, and he found that it had been despoiled of everything, by order of the King. Then he journeyed to Burgos, and he found that his house there was closed against him.

Then he called together his friends, and kinsfolk, and vassals, a great company, and asked who would go into banishment with him; and they replied that they would all go. And Martin Antolinez, a good Burgalese, brought food to them, and wine to drink, and he cast in his fortunes with those of my Cid.

My Cid marched with his company to the Glera, where they encamped upon the sands.

Then was my Cid greatly troubled, for he knew not how he should provide for so great a company till he had gained spoils of war; for all his possessions had been taken from him.

And after much thought he filled two great iron-bound chests with sand, and locked each one with three locks. Thereafter he sent a messenger to the two Jews, Rachel and Vidas, to say that the Campeador had two great chests of treasure which he would fain leave with them till his return, if they would lend money upon the chests.

The Jews, having received this message, came and felt the weight of the chests; and being filled with joy at the heaviness of them, they returned to their abode and, setting a carpet upon the floor, threw into it great handfuls of gold, and silver, and precious stones, till they had made up a loan for my Cid. When this was done, they fetched away the chests; and my Cid bound them with a promise that they would not open the chests till a year was past, and then only if he had not repaid the loan with interest, for he had good hopes of being able to pay it within a year's time.

Now my Cid felt ashamed that he had to resort to this device, but he saw no other way out of the difficulty.

Being thus provided, my Cid Ruydiez set out with his company from the lands of Don Alfonso. And he began to make war upon the heathen Moors, besieging town and castle; and in all things he was successful, so that he was greatly feared. And news of his successes came often to the ears of Don Alfonso, so that he frowned sometimes, and sometimes smiled, being not ill-pleased, despite himself, to be the lord of such a vassal.

Then came my Cid Ruydiez upon the city of Alcocer, which was held by the Moors, and was said to be so strong that it could not be taken.

"As to that – we shall soon see!" quoth the Campeador, and he laid siege to the city. But when he had besieged it for fifteen weeks it was not yet taken, for the Moors would not surrender.

"Since the city will not fall to us by force, we must needs take it by strategy," said my Cid. And having conferred with Alvar Fanez, his cousin, and with Martin Antolinez, and with many others, he gathered his company together and withdrew from the city; and in great haste did my Cid go, leaving some of his tents behind him.

When the Moors beheld this retreat, they shouted in triumph. "See," cried they, "my Cid Campeador is forced to withdraw, and in such haste does he go that he leaves his tents behind him! Come, let us follow, and despoil him in his confusion, before he fall into other hands!"

And with that they sallied forth in great numbers, and followed fast after the Campeador.

But he, looking back upon them, spurred on his company, with shout and gesture, that they should move faster still; and they swept on like a whirlwind, as if in fear.

Then the Moors followed after, faster still, shouting as they went.

Now, when my Cid looked back again and saw that the Moors had left the city behind them, he wheeled round and, leading his men to the city gates, cut the Moors off from the city. And he encircled them round, and fell upon them suddenly, and with great fury, and put them utterly to rout. And he made many prisoners, and gained much spoil, gold, and silver, and pearls.

Then was my Cid's banner placed upon the highest point of the city, and he took possession of it. And such Moors as were in Alcocer he allowed to remain there, if without treachery they would serve him. From the spoil – as much of it as was his share – he sent a gift to Alfonso, as to his lord.

Now when the heathen Moors perceived this great victory of my Cid, which crowned many other victories, and that he was always successful, whether by force or by strategy, they despatched messengers to the King of Valencia, begging him that he would send an army to rid them of the Campeador, who, if he were not interfered with, would seize all their cities before he was done!

The King of Valencia sent two kings who were his vassals, and with them three thousand horsemen, and they were bidden to seize my Cid and to bring him to Valencia.

Therefore they laid siege to Alcocer, and every day there came fresh horsemen, so that my Cid and his company were hemmed in by an army greater than any they had known.

The Moors besieged my Cid with ardour for many weeks, and with such closeness that neither food nor water could be brought into the city. Thus, after a time, my Cid Ruydiez perceived that for him and his company to remain longer in the city would be but to die as rats starved in a hole, for their stores were almost come to an end.

"My brave men," said he to his followers, "since our food is almost finished, and the Moors grow greater in number every day, which seemeth to ye the better – to sally forth and meet the Moors, and so die like men or, by God's grace, win a marvellous victory; or to remain here and die a rat's death at the last?"

They replied, every one, "We will go out to meet the Moors."

Thereafter my Cid the Campeador gave orders that the Moors within the city should not be allowed to know of this decision. And on the morrow at sunrise, with their shields placed over their hearts and their lances lowered, my Cid and his men sallied out to meet the Moors.

And as they were few in number in comparison with the Moors and their action was therefore unexpected, it chanced that they killed many Moors, striking lustily with their lances, ere it was known that my Cid had left the city.

On they went, my Cid with his green pennon flying and his face aflame with the greatness of his ardour, and his men behind him in a long trail. Mighty thrusts they dealt, so that the Moors doubted if they fought with men, and the strength that they had seemed a strength not of earth.

"On, on, my brave knights!" cried the Campeador, urging his steed. "God is surely with us against the heathen. Remember the Cross! Remember Spain!" And with his company he swept through the Moors as it were a sword of fire cutting men down as it swept on.

With what vigour my Cid fought! And how those men fought who were with him! I warrant the Moors were affrighted at the sight of them. They fell like blades of mown grass, and where they fell they lay.

Now when the day was over, the victory was to my Cid the Campeador, and it was a most marvellous victory. Of the Moors there remained none of great authority, and those who were slain were as the sands of the sea.

My Cid had wounded both kings and taken them prisoner; and he had other prisoners beyond his counting, and great spoil beyond any that had been seen, gold and silver, and jewels of a great value, and horses richly caparisoned, and swords of much beauty, finely made.

From his share of the spoil, which was a fifth part, my Cid Ruydiez sent to his King fifty fine horses bearing swords. These Don Alfonso accepted with gladness, since they had been taken from the Moors, and his heart was full of joyfulness at this great victory which had fallen to my Cid, and which brought him much renown as the lord of so great a vassal. He would have pardoned my Cid straightway, had not he been ashamed to do so; but, failing this, he pardoned all who had accompanied him in his banishment, restoring his possessions to each man.

My Cid the Campeador remained at Alcocer for a time with his company; and afterwards he journeyed to Zaragoza in search of further adventure, and the Moors of Alcocer wept to see him go.

In Zaragoza my Cid Ruydiez did other valiant deeds, and he was still there when a message came from the King bidding him return to Castile.

For Don Alfonso was in a difficulty in which only my Cid Ruydiez could be of service to him, and he longed for his return.

But my Cid sent back this message to the King, remembering his banishment: – "These are the conditions which the Campeador makes ere he return to Castile: – That no noble shall be banished without having had a chance to defend himself; and that every banished noble shall have the thirty days' grace which is his right."

Don Alfonso having agreed to these conditions, my Cid returned with his company to Castile; and there was rejoicing in the streets, for the people loved him.

And Don Alfonso forgot the oath which my Cid had put to him, and the anger he had borne my Cid, and he ordered that every town, city, and castle, which was won by the Campeador, should be to him and his heirs for ever.

Now these are but a few of the valorous deeds of my Cid Ruydiez, the Campeador; for if I were to relate the whole of them, this volume would contain naught else.

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