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The Three Beautiful Princesses

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Eitrly in his reign, Mohammed, of Granada, had found among the captives in one of his forays into the territorios ot the Christians, adamsel of transcendaut beauty. The fair captive, and the old duenna who had been taken with her, were consigned to the royal harem, and in due time the former made the Moorish sovereign (called the left-handed king) the proud and happy father of three lovely daughters, all bom at one birth. Mohammed cuuld have wished thejr had been sons, but consoled nimself with the idea that three daughters at a birth were pretty well for a man somewhat stricken in years, and left-handed. As usual with all Moslern monarchs, he summoned his astrologers on this hapxy event. They cast the nativities of the princesses, and shook their heads. " Daughters, O king !" said the sages, " are always precarious property ; but these will most need your watchfulness when they arrive at a marriagble age ; at that time gather them under your wings, and trust them to no other guardianship." The three-fold birth was the last matrimonial trophy of the monarch ; his queen died soon after, bequeathing his infant daughters to his love, and to the fidelity of the discreet Kadiga- for such was the name of the duenna. Acting upon the advice of his astrologists, the cautious monarch sent his daughters under the care of of the Kadiga to be reared under the castle of Salobreña. This was a sumptuous place surrounded by strong fortincations and situ ated on the suuimit of a hül which overlooks the blue waters of the Mediterranean sea. Here the priucesses remained, surrounded by all kinds of luxuries and amusements. Years rolled on smoothly and serenely, the discreet Kadiga watching her preëious charge with unremitting care. At a corner of the garden which clothed the side of the hill on which the royal castle of Salobreña was built, was a watch-tower, fitted up as a pavülion, with latticed windows to admit the sea-breeze. Here the princesses- whose names were Zayda, Zorada, Zorahayda - used to pass the sultry hours of mid-day, taking their tiesta, or noontide slumber. Here, as the sisters were one day inhaling the healthful breezes wafted over the azure bozom of the Mediterranean, their attention was attracted by a galley coasting slong with measured etrokes of the oar. As it drew near they observed that it was filled with armed men. The galley anchored at the toot of the tower in which they sat, and a nuinber of Moorish soldiers lánded on the narrow beach, conducting several Christian prisouers. The fair occupants of the tower peeped cautiously through the close jalousies of the luttice, which screened them from sight, and perceived among the prisoners three Spanish cavaliers, richly dressed. Tbey were in the flower of their youth, and of noble presence ; and the lofty manner in which they carried themselves, though loaded with chains and surrounaed with enemies, bespoke the grandeur of their souls. The princesses breathed with intense and painful interest. Cooped up as they had been in the castle araong female attendants, seeing nothing of the male sex. but black slaves, or the rude fishermen of the sea-coast, it is not to be wondered at that the appearance of three cavaliers, in the pride of youth and manly beauty, should produce in their unsophisticated bosoms sensations closely bordering upon the agreeable. " Did ever nobler being tread the earth than that cavalier in crimsonr1" cried Zayda, the eldest of the sisters. " See how proudly he bears himself, as though all around him were slaves I" " But notice the one in green !" cried Zorada. "Whatgrace! What elegance ! what spirit !" The gentle Zorahayda said nothing ; but she seuretly gave preference to the chevalier in green. Weeks and months glided on, the fair sisters thinking only of the captive cavaliers, and becoming duily more and more under the influence of the fatal passion which the memory of thern strengthened and conñrmed. The progresa of this dangerous and subtle disease was not unperoeived by ths sharp-sighted Kadiga. The discreet old woman beoame alarmed at the mischief which she had not the power to counteract or remove, and resolved to rid hereelf of her responsible charge by intimating to Mohammed that his daughters had arrived at the marri ageble age - the critical period at which the astrologers had warningly pointed. As he sat one day on a divan in one of the cool halls of the Alhambra, a slave arrived froui the fortress of Salobreña, with a message froui the wise Kadiga, congratulating him on the anniversary of his daughter's birthday. The slaye at the same time presented him a delicate little basket, decorated with ñowers, within which, on a couch of vine and fig leaves, lay a peaoh, an apricot, and a nectarine, with their bloom and down and dewy sweetneas upon them, and all in the early stage of tempting ripeness. The monarch was versed in the oriental language of fruit and üowers, and readily divined the meaning of the emblematic offering. " The critical period has arrived, said he ; "I must gather thein under my wings and trust no other guardianship." So saying, he ordered that a tower of the Alhambra should be prepared for their reception, and departed at the head of bis guards for the fortress of Salobreña, to conduot them home in person. About three years had elapsed since Mohammed beheld h9 daughters, and he could scarcely credit bis eyes at the wonderful change which that sinall space of time had made in their appearance. During the val they had paased that wondrousboundary line in female life which separates the crude, unformed, and thoughtless girl from the blooming, blushing, meditativa woman. He prepared for his return by sending hcralds before hioj, commanding everyone to keep out of the road by which he was to pass ; and that all doors and windows should be olosed at the approach of the prinoesses. He then set out accompanied by the pieeious charge on three beautiful white palfreys, and escorted by a strong guard. The cavalcade was drawiug near to Granada, when it overtook, on the banka of Xenil, a araall body of Moorish soldiere with a convoy of prieoners. It was too, late for the aoldiers to get out of the way, so they threw themselves on their faces on the earth, ordering thoir captivea to do the same. Among the prisoners were the three identical cavaliers whom the princesses had seen from the pavilon. - They either did not understand, or were too haughty to obey the order, and remained standing, gazing upon the caval cade as it approached. The he of the monarch was kindled at this flagrant defiance of his orders. Dra,wiug his scimitar and pressing forward, he was about todeal a left-handed blow that would have been fatal to at least one of the gazers, when the princesses crowded around hiin, and implored mercy for the offenders. Mohammed paused with uplifted scimitar, when the captain of the guard threw himself at his feet and exclaimed : " Let not your majesty do deed that may cause great scandal thro'out the kingdom. These are three brave and noble Spanish knights, who have been taken in battle, while fighting like lions." "Enough," said the King, "I will spare their lives, but punish their audacity ; let thein be taken to the Vermillion towers, and put to hard labor." While Mohammed had been making this harrangue, the veils of the three princesses had been thrown back and the radiance of their beauty revealed. lts effect upon the three cavaliers was instantaneous and complete. Quick aa waa this victory, not less singular was the faot that each of the love-vanquished cavaliers was enraptured with a special beauty. The cavalcade resumed its march and reached the Alhambra : the Spanish captives were conducted to their allotted prison in the Vermillion towers in the same fortress. The memory of the noble cavaliers filled the fair charges of Kadiga with pensive and melancholy thoughts. In spite of all the luxury with which they were surrounded, they pined and faded. In vain did the anxious Mohammed ransack the Zacatín of Granada for the richest silks and the most precious jewels. He gave it up as a hopeless affair, and gave carte blanche to the discreet, Kadiga, in whom his confidence was unbounded. Thia wise duenna was akilled in diseases of the heart, and knew the best medicine for her pining charge. The day before Bhe had discovered the locale of the Christian captives, and going privately to Hussien Baba, the big-whiskered, broad-shouldered renegado, in whose charge they were, and slipping a broad piece of gold into his itching palm, thus siguified her wishes : " My mistresses have heard of the musical talents of the thrpo Snanish cavaliers, and arp desiroua of hearing a specimen ot their skill. I am sure you are too kind-hearted to refuse them so innocent a gratification." The cautious Hussien was about to suggest obstacles and dangers, but they were removed by the golden logic of Kadiga, and it was arranged that the cavaliers should be placed to work in the ravine at the bottom of the princesses' tower. The various acenes in the intereBting drama which followed need not be detailed. By the generous connivance of Hussien Baba, the lovers held converse by song and flowers. Days and weeks ñew by like so many hours, the mutual passion of the captives and their royal mistresses becoming strengthened by the very difh'culties with which it was attended. At length there waa an interruption in their telegraphic correspondence ; for several days the cavaliers ceased to make their appearance in the glen. The three beautiful princesses looked out from the tower in vain. In vain they stretched their swan-like necks from the balcony ; in vain they sang like captive nightingales in their gale ; nothing was to be seen of their Christian lovers; not a note responded from the groves. The discreet Kadiga was sent forth for intelligence, and soon returned with a face full of trouble. "Ah, my children!" cried the sorrowing duenna, " you may now hang up your lute on the willows. The Spanish cavaliers are now ransomfed by their families: they are down in Granada and are preparing to return to their native country." The three beautiful princesses were in despair at the tidings. Aa soon as the first burst of sorrow had subsided, the faithful governess ventured to finish her communication. " Yea my children, well may you grieve at the loas of auch worthy cavaliers. Granada, alas, has not their equals. Would they had embraced the faith of Islam, and taken service under your father! There might have been hope. As it is, they are in deopair, and could think of only one plan that would remedy your commoñ misfortune. " What was it, good Kadiga ? " exclairued the anxious princesses in a breath. " What was it 't That we may loose none of their parting words." i " In the excess of their affection, they 1 endeavored to pursuade me to urge you to fly with them to Cordova, and become their wives." The priuoesses turned alternately pale and red, and trerabled, and looked down, and cast a shy glance at each other ; but doubta and fears were all silencod and removed by the potent arguments of love. The folio win g night was the one appointed for their escape. Toward jnidnight, when the Alhambra was buried in sleep, the discreet Kadiga listened from the balcony of a window that looked into the garden. Hussien Baba, who was to accoinpany the cavaliers in their flight, was already below, and gave the appointed signal. The duenna fastened the end of a ladder of ropes to tho balcony, lowered it into the garden and descended. The two eldest princesses followed her with beating hearts, but when it carne to the turn of the youngtist princess, Zorahda, she hesitated and treuibled. Every moment increased the danger of discovery. A distant tramp wife heard. " The natrols are walking their rounds," cried the renegado ; if we linger we perish. Princesa descend instantly, or we leave you." Zorahayda was for a moment in foarful agitation ; then, loosening the ladder of ropes, with desperate resolution, she flung it from the balcony. " ït is decided ! " she cried ; ' flight is now out of my power. Allah guide and bless you my sisters ! Farewell." The two eldest princesses would fain have lingered, but the furious renegado hurried them away. A dark subterranean passage soon brought thum to the outside ot the fortress, where the cavaliers awaited tliem with fleet steeds. The lovers were disguised as Moorish Boldiers of the guard, commanded by the renegado. The lover of Zorayhayda was frantio when he heard that she had refused to leave the tower; but there was no time to loóse in lamentations. The two prineesses were placed behind their lovers, the Kadiga mounted behind the renegado, and all set off at a discreet round pace in the direction of the pass of Lope, which led through the mountains to Cordova. They had not proceeded far when they heard the noise of drums and trumpets from the battlements of the Alhambra. "Our flight is discovered," said the renegado." " We have fleet steeds, the night is dark, and we may diatance all pursuit," replied the cavaliers. They put spurs to their horses and scoured across the Vega. They had at tained the mountain of Elvira, and were entering a pass when a bale-fire sprang up into a blaze on the top of the watchtower. " Confusión ! " sbouted the renegado ; " that fire will put all the guards of the passes an the alert. Away ! away ! Spur for your lives, or they are lost." Away they dashed, the clatter of their horses' hoofs echoing from rock to rock, as they swept along the road that skirts the rocky mountain of Elvira. " Forward ! forward !" cried the renegado, as the watch-towers of the mountains answered the light from the Alhambra. " To the bridge ! to the bridge before the alarm has ieached there !" They doubled the promontory of the mountains and arrived in sight of the famous Puento del Pinos that crossed a rushing stream, often dyed with Moorish and Christian blood. To their confusión the tower on the bridge blazed with lights and glittered with armed men. Followed by the oavaliers, the renegado struck off from the road, skirted the river for some distance, and dashed into the waters. They were borne for some distance down ita rapid current ; the surges roared around them, but the beautiful princesses clung to their Christian knights, and never uttered a complaint. The party soon reached the opposite bank in safety, and were led by the renegado, by rude and unfrequented paths, through the heart of the mountains, so as to avoid all regular passes. They succeeded in reaching the ancient city of Cordova, where the restoration of the cavaliers to their country and friends was celebra ted with great rejoicings. The pnncesses were l'orthwith received into the bosom of the church, and, after being iu all duo form made regular Christians, they were rendered happy wives. After the flight of her sisters the unhappy Zorahayda was confined more closeiy, though she had shown no inclination to elope. It was thought, indeed, that she recretly repented having remained behind, for now and then she would be seen leáning on the battlements of the tower and looking mournfully toward the mountains of Cordova, and sometimes the notes of the lute were heard accompanying mournful ditties, in which she lamented the losa of her sisters and her lover, and bewailed her own solitary life. She died young, and accordingto popular rumor, was buried in a vault, and her untimely fate has given rise to more than one traditionary fable.


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