Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Count Julian; or, The Last Days of the Goth >> Chapter IX >> Page 192

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Novel (Romance) | William Taylor & Co. | 1845 - 1846
Transcription 192 COUNT JULIAN; OR,

Myriads of pennons streamed above the scattered hosts of the Gothic monarch—the tents of their nobles were almost hidden in their ornaments of silk, while their per-sons, blazing with jewels, were only so many inestimable motives to valorous exertion, on the part of an enemy roused to avarice by the exhibition of a wealth which it required nothing but valor to obtain.
There was yet another army on the field. Scarcely an army, if we regard the mighty legions of Roderick, and the inferior, but still imposing force led by Taric and Julian. This was the little band of Pelayo, the true heir of the Gothic crown. These were his mountaineers, from the Asturian passes, and they occupied a strong position on the side of a hill, in sight of both the opposing armies. They lay quiet but watchful in their camp, as if without a motive or a life ; but their prince and leader, Pelayo, was even now a victim in his tent to the bitterest pangs of disappointment and distrust. He who had come to the field under the a.s urances of the Archbishop Oppas, to find himself seconded by Julian with his forces, now found that Julian himself was but the auxiliar of the infidel invader. It was at the hour of vespers that the army of Roderick pitched its tents on the banks of the Guadalete, and that night Pelayo and the archbishop, his uncle, met midway between his own small array and the multitudes of the tyrant.
" To what feast is this you have brought me ?" demanded Pelayo sternly of the archbishop. A feast where we furnish the food and are ourselves the prey. For whom do we fight here, Lord Oppas ? for Roderick or the Moors ? for Spain or Africa ? Count Julian or yourself ? Well, I trow that mine is to be a small share in this business. Why am I here ?"
The archbishop's explanations availed nothing.
Hark ye, Lord Oppas," was the conclusion of Pelayo—" I stand here in most bitter opposition to ye all. You have humbled me to the earth, as you have brought me to a pass where I may but look on the deeds of others, doing nothing of my own. For what should I strive here ? If I put in with Count Julian and against Roderick, I but toil for the sons of Islam—the infidel Moor—the swarthy and savage invader. If I strike against him, as it is my mood to do, I strike against my brother's right and against my own—against my father's memory, against Spain, and in behalf of a foul usurper. This is a strife, most like an agony, now working in my soul. My will is feeble and knows not where to turn. My hands are tied—I west not where to strike. Verily, I must but look on, in waiting for the mood; doing little in this conflict which approaches, unless it be in saving from the scynitar the poor wretches of the land who follow only as they are driven to the fight. Look to it then, lest, in what thou doest to-morrow, thou bring the terrible curse of a foreign sway upon the land which a thousand generations may never shake from its prostrate neck."
They separated, the archbishop failing, with all his art, to disturb the first conclusions to which the honorable mind of Pelayo had attained. Pelayo returned to his heights, and the Lord Oppas proceeded with a guide to another interview in the tents of the Arabian. Here, for the first time, he met with Taric. Here was Count Julian also. Their schemes for the battle were to be adjusted, and the archbishop was to make his conditions. He was to stipulate with Julian and Taric for a certain share of that power which was to accrue from the defeat of Roderick. The ambitious priest had his designs apart from the priesthood. An appetite for power was raging in his heart, with other appetites of which nothing need be said. The Arabian warrior readily conceded to the traitor all that he required. Taric had been impressed with the numerous array of Roderick. Its splendor had dazzled his eyes, and insensibly influenced his apprehensions. He knew his veterans, and he could