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GREAT number of warriors with quivers slung on their shoulders fill the vestibule of the palace of Témora the residence of the kings of Erin, and the bards are singing to the accompaniment of their golden harps. the deeds performed in war and in the chase by the brave Morna, the sovereign of the Emerald Isles, surrounded by the blue waves. The harps of the bards are silenced; the warriors are ranged in two long files; the gates of the palace are flung open, and the aged Morna appears between his two sons, Lémor and Armin. The
people flock to gaze on their king, and welcome him with acclamations of deep affection, because Morna is the well beloved of all, as his name signifies in the harmonious language of the verdant isles. The hair and beard of the king are white, but the snow of seventy winters has been powerless to bend the limbs of the athlete king, well developed by labour and a sober life. The loving people have also a welcome for the princes who accompany the ancient, for beautiful in body and soul are Lémor and Armin. Lémor possesses a face that is fair to behold as the snow which crowns the heights of Carmora; his hair is golden as the rays of the sun, and his eyes are blue like the flower of the flax. They depart from Témora, followed by the warriors and blessed by the women. The old men and the children gaze after their retreating forms with loving eyes and hearts until they become lost in the woods of Lena. But they are not proceeding to war--no--for see, the women do not weep on beholding their departure. The wild boar, of rough skin and long tusks, is the enemy against which they are going to wrestle in the forests of Lena. See them as they become lost in the fastnesses as soon as the dogs announce the presence of the giant of the woods. The king goes one way, and Lémor and Armin go another. The bugle of the keepers also announce the appearance of the wild boar. And the boar runs, runs, runs, destroying with his formidable
tusks every dog which dares to approach him, repelling all the arrows directed against his hard rough skin. Lémor has separated himself from his brother as he had done previously from his father, and one hour had already been spent by the tired-out huntsmen in scouring the dense wood unable to vanquish the boar. The bugle announces to Lémor that the animal is running towards where he is, and the gallant huntsman prepares his bow. The tangled brushwood is seen moving at a short distance from him; the enormous head of the boar is descried, and the arrow of Lémor pierces the air. A cry of pain is heard, and Lémor hastens to despatch the animal; but the boar is not in the spot aimed at by the arrow, and the cry of pain is repeated some distance further. Lémor advances, and on separating the tangled growth of briars and brushwood behind which issued the wail, a cry of immense sorrow bursts from his breast on seeing that his father, the king of the green isles, the beloved of all, and of none more than of Lémor, is lying on the ground in a dying condition, his noble breast pierced by the dart shot from the bow of Lémor. Lémor beseeches help for his father, invoking the protection of heaven in behalf of the dying old man endeavours to return back his life--that life which is fast ebbing away--and he weeps on seeing his impotence, and his soul is filled with despair.
They are returning to the palace of Témora, the princes of the Emerald Isles, and the warriors who went with them to the woods of Lena; but the bards who went out to receive them, when they perceived them returning in the far distance, do not strike their golden harps, nor do they welcome the huntsmen with songs of praise. Silent and sorrowful do the huntsmen and the bards arrive, and on learning the cause of this silence and grief the women and the old men and the children fill the air with their laments and their wails of sorrow. Morna, the beloved of all, returns, a lifeless body, conducted by his warriors, laid on a litter of funereal cypress, and Lémor and Armin appear to be dying of grief. The ancients, the chieftains of the tribes of Erin, assemble together on the following day in Témora, and after a long conference they come and stand before Lémor, the heir to the sovereignty of the Emerald Isles.
"Prince," spoke the oldest of the chiefs, "although by our laws a parricide is condemned to death, thou must not die, because, if thine arrow did wound thy father, it was not done willingly; but the crown must not be placed on the brow of one who is stained with the blood of his father and of his king, nor can he dwell amongst us. The crown of Morna must rest on the stainless
brow of Armin. To-morrow at daybreak a ship will await thee in port provisioned and manned. Depart in her for ever from our isles, and may heaven protect thee wheresoever the wind and wave may take thee to!"
Lémor accedes to the decision of the chieftains of the tribes, and delivers himself up to the mercy of the winds and of the waves, with no better company than his own sorrow, his hope in heaven which knew his innocence, and two loyal servitors who had willed to share his misfortunes.
The ship, deficient of a skilful pilot, sailed on for days and nights and even months upon the boundless solitudes of the ocean, cast about like a toy at the mercy of swelling waves and the fury of the winds. Thirst at length begins to parch up Lémor and his servitors, who have no more water to drink or to cool their parched lips but the salt sea water. But just as the last ray of hope of discovering land had been extinguished, and they had abandoned all idea of meeting with the shore of any country whatever, they perceived in the far distance, amid the sea mists, a coast backed by green mountains, and they pushed on their ship towards that blessed land. That land was the one inhabited by the Cantabrians, 1 the race of giants which, five centuries
earlier, Rome, the mistress of the world, had been unable to vanquish despite all her power.
The ship is closely approaching the shore. Beautiful is the land before them; more beautiful even than the isles of Erin is the continent which the prince and his loyal servitors hail with joy. The exiles leap from the ship on to the land and burst out in shouts of joy, because beneath the shade of some immense leafy chestnut trees they perceive a fountain of running water, clear as the crystalline roofs of the grottoes of Drumanar. The fresh water calms the heat which devours them. Peace comes over the soul, and sleep visits their weary eyelids. They cast themselves on a green slope covered with flowers, and soon fall asleep.
Where goes the echeco-jauna 1 of Bustuna as he abandons the cultivation of his fields and descends to the deserted shores of Mundaca, followed by those who were assisting him at his work? Where goes the echeco-jauna in such haste?
From the mountain heights he has seen a little ship tossed by the waves and dashing itself against the rocks, and, as his heart is compassionate and hospitable he runs, flies to succour the wrecked ones whom he
supposes must be battling with death on the shore. He stops as he descends to the plain, and those who came with him also. Three strangers are sleeping close to the fountain under the shade of the chestnut trees, and the echeco-jauna remains there in order to watch over and guard their steep.
The sons of the green isles awake, and they ask of the echeco-jauna what land that is which the winds and the waves have brought them to in their ship. And on learning that it is the land of the invincible Cantabrians, they raise their lips to heaven and thank God for having conducted them to the country of the first heroes of the universe. Under the roof of Bustuna they find an hospitable asylum, those exiles from Erin; but very quickly does it become known throughout the Euskarian mountains that among them dwells a son of kings, and the aged Lekobide, the chieftain of the Eskaldunac, 1 and descendant of the glorious leader of the same name who humbled the pride of the Cæsars, and whom the Basque people sing praises in their songs, sends messengers to the Prince of Erin to offer him a home in the valley of Padura.
Lémor contemplates with delight the supreme happiness of the land on reaching the dwelling of the Basque chieftain. An aureole of glory encircles the venerable brow of Lekobide, and another of beauty and chastity that of the youthful Luz, the daughter of the chieftain of the Eskaldunac.
Months have passed since Lémor came to dwell in the home of Lekobide, and for months has he been striving to quit the valley of Padura, because as a good knight and a good Christian he is ashamed to live in idleness meanwhile that the sons of Agar are trampling on the holy cross beyond the Ebro. For months has he wished to offer his arm to Fernan Gonzalez, the Count de Castile, but he is always held back by the pleadings of Luz and Lekobide; and, more than all, is he detained by a mysterious power which dwells in his heart. Warlike exercises and the chase restrains his steps. When departing from Padura he wends his steps towards the lofty mountains that command the view of the valley to pursue the wild boar and the deer, Luz goes to the window with saddened looks to watch the stranger from the valley, and the stranger turns back seeking Luz at the window.
The Eskaldunac are free, free as the breeze and the birds of their mountains. They have no lord to whom
they owe vassalage, nor do they possess other laws than those written in the consciences of their chiefs, who judge the culprit and adjust contentions under the shadow of the holy tree of Guernica. Beyond the hierarchy of virtue and of intelligence and of age, there is but one hierarchy in the land of the Eskaldunac. The Eskaldunac elect a chief who is ever ready to lead them to the combat whenever the stranger invades their free land; and this glorious title they bestowed on Lekobide more than half a century before in consideration of his virtue, his intelligence, his valour, and his glorious name.
One day, when the Euskaro patricians were assembled together under the holy oak of Guernica, one of them remarked that Lekobide was aged and impotent, and therefore incapable to take the command of the armies of the Eskaldunac on the day when the stranger should invade the land. Then a patrician of a century old spoke in the name of the assembly:
"Fifteen years have passed since Leyalá, the most valiant and loyal dog of our mountains, watched day and night at the door of his master. "Leyalá is old," said one day the echeco-jauna, and on that night a new guardian was installed in the post in which Leyalá had grown old.
"The fox which had been scared away from afar by Leyalá fifteen years ago, and which he had scented
from a great distance, came that very night, unfelt by the young dog, and ate up the fowls of the echeco-jauna. And Leyalá, who, sad and broken in heart, had left the fern-bed in which he had slept for fifteen years at the door of the homestead, in order that a stranger should occupy his post, was found dead on the following morning, although the echeco-jauna had prepared a bed for him softer and more sheltered than the one in which he had lain for fifteen years."
Thus spoke the patrician of a century old, and since then no one ever remarked that Lekobide was aged. Neither Lekobide himself remembered his age, because the youthfulness of his spirit does not permit him to think on the age of his strong arm.
But hark! a low rumour is heard, and an unusual agitation unknown for years spreads across the valleys and along the range of the Basque mountains, and numerous scouts, their hearts full of indignation, hasten to the door of Lekobide, calling out--
"Quidaria! 1 a formidable army appears on the cordillera of Orduña, and alas! for the Eskaldunac, should the irrinzi 2 not be quickly heard on our mountains.
Lekobide rises up brimming over with wrath. "Blow the five bugle-horns on the five Basque mountains; for
none must reach the Tree Malato of those who would dare in warfare to trample down our free dwellings! Give me my coat of mail, and the lance which seventy years ago accompanied me to the combat!" And Lekobide quickly puts on the coat of mail, and his body bends beneath the weight of his armour. Lekobide grasps the lance, but his arm is powerless to hold it. Then does the glorious chieftain remember his age and trembles; and, humbled and despairing, he falls down at the threshold of the door.
Meanwhile the alarm flies along the Basque mountains and valleys, and in answer to the call to war many Basque warriors are coming down to the valley of Padura, imploring their revered chieftain to lead them to battle. A ray of hope suddenly illumines the venerable countenance of Lekobide which had been so full of despair.
"Prince of Erin cried the old man, addressing the son of Morna, "take my coat of mail and my lance, and fill my place of command at the head of the Euskaro legions!"
"Señor!" replies Lémor, "I will fight against the enemies of thy land in which I have received such generous hospitality, but it will be in the soldier's ranks. Seek a chieftain more worthy than I to lead thy warriors to the combat."
All the Euscarian warriors who had descended from
the mountains to the valley of Padura joined their pleadings to those of Lekobide, but the modest Prince of Erin insists on marching to war only on condition of fighting. in the ranks with the humblest wrestler.
"As long as thou livest, thou wilt be the leader and champion of the Eskaldunac, because I am powerless to be so," said Lekobide, with universal assent; but Lémor still continues to refuse to accept the glorious title offered to him.
"Thou art the son of kings, and art worthy to command vassals," exclaim the ancients of the twenty valleys gathered together in the valley of Padura; "the free land of the Euskaro confers upon thee the sovereignty if thou dost consent to take the command of our armies."
The prince of the green isles refuses the sovereignty of the Eskaldunac. And while all this contention takes place, more scouts appear on the field to announce that the army of the enemy has passed the Tree Malato, and are descending the mountain slopes, like a raging sea, carrying all that opposes its progress.
"Oh, Prince of Erin!" cries Lekobide, "if in my veins flowed the blood of kings I would then tell thee--Lead the Eskaldunac legions on to battle, cast out of our free land the stranger, and on returning from the combat thou wilt sit at my hearth, and I will bestow on thee the title of son!"
Lémor directed a glance full of love and hope towards Luz; and, as though he had read on the brow of the maiden the reply his soul yearned to hear, he cried out, as he donned the coat of mail and grasped the lance of Lekobide:
"Old man! may God permit me to be seated at thy hearth and hear from thy lips the name of son!"
Upon the five highest mountains of the free land is heard the blast of the trumpets, and that warlike sound is answered throughout the valleys and mountains by the powerful irrinzi. Every man with sufficient strength to cast an arrow, wield the sword, the lance, or battleaxe, speedily rises up, quits his house, and proceeds toward the valley of Padura, whose plains and heights can scarcely hold the thousands of Basques that are collecting together in answer to the call of their Country. This call or summons is not issued without good cause, for the enemies are many, and they are already approaching the valley of Padura as though to challenge the chieftain, who they are well aware dwells there.
The armies which invade the Basque mountains are not composed of those brave legions of Castile and Leon, who so often planted the cross of Christ over the tents of the Mussulman; nor are they led by the kings
of Leon or the Counts of Castile. These legions are composed of low adventurers, who defame the Christian name from the banks of the Ebro to the shores of the Tagus, and are commanded by Ordoño the Wicked, the vile usurper of the crown of Sancho el Craso, and who, cast forth from his Leonese throne, wishes to drown his disappointment in the noble blood of the Eskaldunac, and raise up on the Basque mountains a new throne upon which to sit.
The Basque army, led by Jaun-Zuria, as the people style the Prince of Erin, goes out to encounter the stranger, who is already appearing on the mountain heights that overlook the valley of Padura, and Sancho de Esteguiz, the lord of the Duranguesado, leaves his palace of Tarisa to lead the Duranguese, who are longing to fight by the side of their brother tribes, commanded by the prince. The combat is a fierce one, and its frightful din thunders throughout the hitherto peaceful mountains of the Euskaros. A dense cloud of arrows obscures the sunlight, enormous boulders of rocks wrenched by the herculean arms of the Eskaldunac are cast upon the armies of Ordoño, dismembering and crushing and terrifying them. The axe and the lance, the swords of the Basque warriors are fast cutting down the invading legions on the broken rocks of Padura. But the desperation of Ordoño incites him to make a supreme effort to reanimate
the courage of the adventurers, and the victory is still undecided.
"Death to the leader of the Eskaldunac!" cries Ordoño, "and then the victory will be ours!" And he runs to encounter Jaun-Zuria, who at the same time fights, and commands his army in the thickest of the fray.
The son of the kings of Erin goes out in his turn to meet the ambitious chief of the invaders, and closes with him in a fierce match. The lance of Lekobide, wielded with Titanic force by the Prince of Erin, pierces through the breast of Ordoño, who expires uttering a roar of desperation which resounds throughout the mountains of Padura like that of a wounded lion. But alas! a stone flung by the enemy wounds the noble forehead of the lord of the Duranguesado, for whose life the Prince of Erin would willingly have given his own!
Disorder reigns now in the disbanded legions of the stranger, and they flee in terror back from whence they came, marking their footprints with blood and fire. The Eskaldunac follow them to the cordillera of Ordoño, and there, wearied with so much slaughter, and beholding their country once more happy and free, they return to rest and to celebrate their glorious triumph beneath the shades of the Tree Malato.
Nearly ten centuries have passed since the Eskaldunac, led by the exile of Erin, sent a thrill of joy and triumph among the people on the fields of Padura. Should you desire to visit these fields, do not seek on the map for the name of Padura, because they have changed this name for that of Arrigorriaga, which in the rich and venerable language of the Euskaro is equivalent to reddened stones. The rocks which bristle on the tops of the mountains of the ancient Padura presented for a long time the colour of the blood which the hordes of Ordoño the Wicked poured upon them, and for this reason was the ancient name of Padura altered to that of Arrigorriaga.
Proceed to the parochial church of the valley of Arrigorriaga, and there, close to the font of holy water, you will see a sepulchre. Ask the simple villager who it is that reposes in that sepulchre, and he will tell you that there lies a prince called Ordoño, who strove to rob the Basque people of their liberties, and was killed by Jaun-Zuria, the first Lord of Biscay. After this, examine the dusty archives of the temple, and if you understand the changeless and eternal language of the Eskaldunac, you may read in some worm-eaten parchments, yellowed by age, that in this temple were joined together the daughter of Lekobide with the son of a King of Erin.
154:1 Cantabrians. A people of Hispana Tarraconeza, between the Pyrenees and the ocean, inhabiting Navarre, Biscay, Alava, and Guipuzcoa.
155:1 Echeco-jauna. The master of the house, or proprietor.
156:1 Eskaldunac. Some write it Escualdunac (from escua, hand, alde, right, dunac, those who have), a name which the Biscayans, or Basque people, give to themselves. In their dialect they call themselves Euskarians. This dialect, the wise Humboldt considered, was the most remarkable language of all he was acquainted with.
159:1 Quidaria. Chieftain.
159:2 Irrinzi. The shout or call of war.
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