Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Count Julian; or, The Last Days of the Goth >> Chapter VIII >> Page 187

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Page 187

Novel (Romance) | William Taylor & Co. | 1845 - 1846

RODERICK had put forth the most astonishing efforts for bringing together his soldiers for the war; and as the numerous host defiled through the plains of Andalusia, on their way to the seat of conflict, the soul of the tyrant forgot its fears and evil forebodings, exulting in conviction of certain and complete conquest. The host was beyond computation great, no less than fifty thousand horsemen, and a count-less multitude of foot covering the plain like an agitated sea. But it was not such a host as the experienced man relies upon, and its very masses were unfriendly to its celerity of progress and the concert of its action. N€ver had there been in Spain the spectacle of such a multitude, and thus caparisoned. The luxury of the land was more conspicuous than its power. The nobles of the Goth were clad in armor better adapted to the uses of the spectacle and ceremonial than to those of battle—better calculated for the bright eyes of damsels than for the wild buffets of sturdy enemies. Art had expended all its fancies, and wealth all its materials, on this vain foppery; and curiously adorned with gold and precious stones, with drooping plumes and silken scarfs, and surcoats of brocade or velvet richly embroidered, the vain-glorious creatures of the court, prepared to undergo the toils and dangers of the camp and field. They still possessed the spirit and courage of their sires, and this, perhaps, was the redeeming aspect in their progress. They could meet the foe without shrinking, and striking boldly if feebly, could in this manner die, if they could not do, honorably. If the nobility were thus decorated with superfluous trappings, the common multitude were wanting in the absolute necessaries of war. The politic providence of Julian had stripped the kingdom, as we have seen, of the means necessary for arming the people against sudden invasion. Lances and shields, and swords and crossbows, might be seen among them, but without any uniformity of equipment upon which so much of the success of an army, acting in masses, depends in any encounter with a foe. Thousands were provided only with sling and stone, with bill and bludgeon, and the ordinary implements of husbandry. They were without a knowledge of war, and, lacking in discipline and arms, gave little promise of that good service which the sanguine and eager spirit of Roderick anticipated at their hands. They shared in some degree, however, the courage of their monarch, and when he appeared at their head, mounted on his favorite charger, Orelia—a noble form himself, clad in armor of burnished gold, and looking the emblematic hero of his kingdom—their enthusiasm declared itself in a shout which rent the firmament. Their courageous impulse encouraged their sovereign, and making them a speech full of encouragement and of hope, he concluded with commanding their instant march for the Xeres in compliance with the insidious counsel of the Archbishop Oppas. This wily traitor had already contrived to establish secret but regular communications with Count Julian, The latter was punctuhfly apprised of every movement in the camp of Roderick. Similar intelligence was conveyed to the young Prince Pelayo, who was summoned with his little baud of partisans to descend from his mountain passes to the famous quarry which the usurper was preparing for the stroke. Pelayo was not made acquainted .with all the facts in the history of Julian, which, by this time, were in possession of Oppas. They did not revolt the latter, though he well knew that their revelation would produce such an
effect on the gallant and faithful prince, his nephew. To him the story carne that Julian had revolted in behalf of Egiza, his brother, or himself, the heirs of their father, unrighteously slain by Roderick. That he should bring among his follow..