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"Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon, The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide !"
ENDEAVOUR, gentle reader, to transport thyself in imagination, from the trim and well-tilled fields of thy native England, to the far-off plains of old Castile, in the midst of which our narrative must commence. No matter that near five centuries have elapsed since the events it embraces occurred, for neither time nor the hand of man hath materially changed the aspect of those sterile wastes. Then, as now, they presented to
the eye a monotonous and wearying expanse, unbroken by hill or valley, unsheltered from the hot rays of the sun by grove or solitary tree; and imparted to the mind something of that solemn and mysterious melancholy, which we feel when gazing on the unvarying surface of the ocean. Then, too, might be seen the distant herdsman, with his long and tapering pike, either standing motionless as the solitary trunk of a blasted pine, whilst his flock fed or reposed around him; or patiently guiding them in quest of the clear stream beside which they might repose till the return of the evening breezes. And occasionally the long train of an arriero appeared, slowly winding along the accustomed mule-track, like the caravan of an eastern desert; not only breaking the monotony of the scene, but awaking also in those wide solitudes (like the far-off bark dimly descried amidst the heaving waves), an emotion never known amidst the bustle of busy and stirring life.
Happy they who can so time their journey across those central plains, as to reach, ere the fervid hour of noon, some sheltering grove or shaded valley; where, beside the limpid stream to which it owes its verdure, they may open the condessa and partake of their welcome meal; or folded in ample cloaks, enjoy the calm siesta, whilst the weary mules crop the green herbage, or recline in grave thoughtfulness around them. But such had not been the good fortune of those whom we now introduce to our readers. Although a very small party, they had, contrary to the custom of the time and place, disdained, apparently, the guidance of the experienced arriero, and taking a course far more independent than secure, were pushing at a sharp pace over the very heart of the plain. The hour of the siesta was unregarded by them, and though the heat of the autumnal noon was greatly lessened by the elevation of those wide table-lands, situated as they are three hundred toises* above the sea ; even so, nought but the direst necessity could
justify the recklessness with which they braved the intense rays of an unclouded sun. The chief individual of this adventurous party
a stately knight, accoutred in complete armour, composed of plates of burnished steel. His helmet was unadorned, and its volant piece being raised revealed a countenance on which time had set his seal. But though the bleached hair and wrinkled brow betokened declining vigour, there was a fire in his deep-set eye, and a gallant bearing in his carriage, which indicated the power to make a stout resistance if his way were interrupted; and the lance in rest, the ready mace at the saddle-bow, as well as the complete defensive armour of himself and steed, hinted that his knightly prowess might perhaps be proved. Often was his eye cast anxiously around, and fixed at times with impatient wistfulness on the silvery peaks of a distant sierra, now just appearing above the horizon. His gauntleted hand governed a powerful war-horse, which was covered h dusty evidence of long