From Peter the Cruel, The Life Of The Notorious Don Pedro of Castile Together With An Account Of His Relations With The Famous Maria de Padilla, by Edward Storer; London: John Lane, The Bodley Head; New York: John Land Company, 1911; pp. 124-147.
PETER THE CRUEL was not the man to occupy a false and undignified position a moment longer than it was forced upon him. For, much as one may shudder at the many revolting barbarities and horrors which he perpetrated during his not lengthy reign, it must be recognised that, until his cruelty became a disease, he was a man of character, strength, and determination. To explain the origin and cause of that fierce and awful passion of his which brought so many innocent men and women to sudden and fearful death is by no means to excuse or palliate it.
Don Pedro, in whose heart there were now smouldering flames of suspicion, hate, and vengeance, began to employ all the craftiness within him — the craftiness of his African forebears.
When there were so many master, there were likely to be some who were in truth but servants in disguise. Dissensions were not long in coming to break up the harmony of the allies’ councils and policy. Don Pedro found a chance before long.
The very fact of the formation of a definite court-party cabal was enough to throw the folk who were, 125 so to speak, out of office, also out of temper with those that were in.
“The new administration, attending chiefly to improve their fortune, had already split into factions, so that the majority which formed the Court at Toro, soon found it difficult to support their influence.”1
It remained for an energetic spirit like Don Pedro to find the weak point in the front opposed to him. This he discovered in the persons of the Infantes of Aragon. Now that success had come to the arms of the allies, the Castilians among them affected to see in the persons of these two young princes, aliens seeking merely to enrich themselves at the expense of the first country in Christian Spain. A convenient and opportunist patriotism arose in the breasts of the native born against these young princes.
And the populace sided rather with Don Pedro. Always a favourite with them for the sentimental, melodramatic, popular attitude which he was pleased to adopt towards them, he now received in return the suffrages of their pity and sympathy.
Don Pedro was the man of the hour. His misfortunes and his youth were making a sort of hero of him among folk to whom he was no more than a symbol or fetish of authority not too unamiable and hard. He stood to them as a kind of vice-regent of the ultimate right, and to see Providence’s deputy suffer is always a bitter occupation for simple, honest hearts. Even his errors partook in the minds of the crowd of a kind of ecstatic justice, and were 126 hailed as the fruit of a superior, uncomprehended cleverness.
With here a wedge and there a wedge to help him, it could not have been long before Don Pedro came into his own again. Terms were discussed with the Infantes, and the price of their assistance or complaisance was ascertained and fixed.
The actual manner of the King’s escape from Toro is as follows: —
A little while after the commencement of his captivity there, he had been granted permission to indulge himself under due surveillance in his favourite occupation of the chase. Hunting parties were arranged for him, in which, in spite of all the precautions taken, a certain amount of freedom was afforded. During these occasions assistance was sought for and obtained by Pedro from some of the knights told off to be his guard.
Old Simuel Levi, the wise and crafty Jew, who served Don Pedro so well as treasurer and master of many a secret negotiation, had contrived by means of bribes to be allowed to accompany the King on these hawking expeditions.
As a result, a treaty was entered into by Don Pedro and the Infantes of Aragon, whereby these princes pledged themselves to afford the imprisoned King the support of their arms.
This allegiance was, of course, not promised without liberal security, but in such a straitened hour Don Pedro would have promised his kingdom for the opportunity of denying the pledge afterwards.127
One day the King left Toro with a hunting party including Levi, and a guard of about 200 men. It was very early, just after break of day. The King had his falcon on his wrist, and in his heart a very straining falcon of hope and anxiety, for it was really something more important than the pursuit of birds that sent him thus early into the country.
Luckily for the plan of escape there was a mist in the forest where the royal party were riding. Fortune seemed to be aiding the King. At a certain spot, agreed on before hand, there was a knight waiting with a fresh horse and a lance.
The King had managed to separate himself a little from the body of his retinue or guard, and jumping into the saddle of his new mount, he spurred it into a gallop and completely broke away from the escort.
It was while they were engaged in changing horses, that Pedro, unwilling to let the moment escape him, challenged his fate.
“If any one chooses to follow me,” he said to the knights around him, “he may do so; and the others may return, for I am going another way.”2
Then Jew, and King, and a few men-at-arms, set out at a gallop for Segovia, where the gold of the royal treasurer had already prepared them a welcome.
When he arrived at the Alcazar of Segovia, Pedro found a town quite as pleased to see him as he had any 128 reason to expect. Quickly a little court of temporary officials was formed, and plans were devised for the immediate future.
One of Don Pedro’s first acts was to write a letter to the Queen-mother in Toro, demanding the restoration to himself of the Great Seal of the land and the other insignia of his dignity, which circumstances had brought into her keeping.
He added significantly, that if they were not returned to him he had “silver and iron wherewith to fabricate others.”
At Toro they did not care to disobey the command of the King, and meekly did as they were ordered. There arose immediately, on the discovery of Pedro’s escape, a great tumult and excitement. Accusations of treachery flew about broadcast. Suspicion lurked in every man’s eye. No room in the castle was without its heated disputants or quaking courtiers, terribly afraid at the latest turn of things. Everybody began to blame everybody else, and the never-too-well united allies split again into further factions and parties.
Of Don Tello, in whose keeping the King had been on the day of his escape, it was said that he had calmly connived at it, but Ayala writes that neither he nor Enrique nor de Castro were in the plot with the Infantes.
Not immediately was the secret treaty between Pedro and the Infantes of Aragon made public.
But the departure of Doña Leonor from Toro with her two sons to the town of Roa was a separation and 129 breaking with the allies which hinted to Castile the ultimate features of that undertaking.
Gradually the King’s adherents rallied round him in Segovia. There many Ricos Hombres flocked to his standard. Among them were Juan de la Cerda, Alvar de Castro, brother of the Fernando who assisted in the escape itself.
But Pedro,with an instinct for the feeling of the country towards him and his cause, determined to bring matters to a definite issue by a move which practically amounted to asking the suffrage of his people. He convoked the commons at Burgos, and, to the deputies of his various cities and to his nobles then gathered in Cortes, stated the rigours and misfortunes of his case.
Popular feeling, which all along had afforded him its silent sympathy in his time of practical imprisonment, now took a more definite and helpful attitude. The Commons, while acceding in the main to his demand for authority, men, and money, naturally enough took the opportunity of obtaining from the King, who now came to them almost in the guise of a petitioner, the redress of some of their own grievances and the establishment of some privileges.
This period must be recognized as a turning-point in the life of the subject of this memoir. From the time of his escape from Toro, Peter lived, one might say, absolutely for himself and his own ends. To forward these same ends he was prepared to do almost anything. Out of the agony of wounded self-love, and from the hurt of youthful pride and bruised 130 confidence, the traditional Pedro was born, Pedro the Cruel, the desperate, remorseless murderer and libertine, who has come down to us in history’s pages. All confidence in humanity’s generosity or disinterestedness seems to have escaped the King after the betrayals and treacheries which drove him captive into Toro. His nature then apprehended the mood and essence of the Time Spirit of the fourteenth century, as we must all appreciate one day that of our own.
In a very little while, power began to flow back to him. At the end of a month or so after his escape, Don Pedro found himself at the head of an army of quite formidable proportions. When he had brought the sitting of the deputies at Burgos to a close, he began to look about for an opportunity to attack some of his old enemies.
At Medina del Campo, some of these plans of revenge, which we may be sure Pedro had been nursing during all the period of his captivity, came to fruition. It was only a beginning. Don Pedro meant to answer his country’s treachery to himself with a really royal vengeance.
In the Holy Week, he had Pedro Ruiz de Villegas and Sancho de Rojas executed without trial.
Many other nobles were thrown into prison at the same time. Why these two knights were chosen as the objects of the King’s ire is not known; probably they were persons in whom he had reposed for a while some especial confidence, folk to whom he had given some mission; folk therefore whose defection had in it some intimately irritating note.131
Their death was in some measure a tocsin for the campaign against his brothers and those members of the league who had not yet managed to qualify their late treason with some act of fortunate or fortuitous loyalty. The people in Toro, rather anxious at the signs of the returning power of the King, liberated Juan de Henestrosa on condition that he should act as a sort of ambassador for them with Don Pedro.
Henestrosa, who could give promises as well as anybody else, gave them his word in this regard, but found in freedom a ready oblivion of the needs of his jailers.
All Castile was now on tip-toe of wonder as to how matters would arrange themselves. The country at large, though it counted for little then, had an instinctive preference for peace and quiet, which it was never allowed by its masters to enjoy. And in crises, when fates hung in the balance, when the scales of polity and influence pointed neither up nor down but held an annoying and troublesome middle-way, it was particularly unfortunate for it. Try as it would to be neutral, there arose times when it had to be on one side or another. And mistakes of judgment on these occasions brought with them speedy and awful retribution.
Toledo, which as far as its merchants and citizens went, wished principally to be left alone, had to make choice between Don Pedro and Don Enrique and his brother. It desired to do nothing of the kind. It only asked to be left alone.
But marching on it in all the dreadful and murderous 132 panoply of war were severally the armies of Don Pedro and that of his brothers, Enrique and Fadrique.
Toledo could not help itself; it was impossible to decline the duty of host to two such vigorous and commanding visitors.
But which was to be the guest?
Ah, that should be as might transpire. If the truth must be told — the stronger.
Queen Blanche, whose married life had so far been spent mainly in prison, was in the Alcazar at Toledo, drawing what consolation she could for her desolation and distress from the long Latin letters which Pope Innocent VI. kept sending her,3 holding the kind and loving hands of Doña Leonor de Soldena, whose devotion to the young Queen won from the Holy Father a tribute of his respect and admiration.
The citizens of Toledo themselves had been made the objects of a letter from Avignon, wherein they were exhorted to neglect nothing which might sweeten the lot of the unfortunate Queen.
Toledo was never at any time popular with Don Pedro nor he with it. Seville was the city of his heart. However, it cared little more for the Conde de Trastamara or the Master of Santiago. The great majority of the townspeople were disgusted with them all, and were for shutting the city gates to all armed men. The two bastards were the first to arrive before the walls. They sent to the burghers a request for a conference, saying that they were come to defend the 133 town against the King. The town council expressed its pleasure at seeing their Highnesses, and offered them some refreshment, but steadfastly kept the gates closed.
The young princes were annoyed and puzzled. Here, they thought, were people who would have to be protected in spite of themselves.
Whatever would happen to Blanche, they asked the burghers, if Pedro should descend on her and the town?
“The Queen has nothing to fear whilst under our protection,” said these sturdy townsmen. “Our walls are high and we know how to defend them ourselves. Besides,” they added, “we have sent deputies to the King, and we will not treat with him without stipulating for honorable conditions for you.”
Don Enrique, who could not have been at all pleased to find his professional services so lightly valued, seems to have determined nevertheless to save the burghers in spite of themselves. Towards night, he pretended to retire, but in reality made a detour which brought him to another part of the ramparts, which was in possession of some of the few spirits in Toledo who were anxious for a fight, and who had agreed to attach themselves to the Conde’s side.
Over the bridge of Alcantara the next day, the 7th May 1355, in the peace of the city’s siesta, the men and captains of Don Enrique and his brother entered the city of Toledo.
Waving their banners and shouting, they rushed 134 through the streets causing, naturally, great excitement and commotion. Toledo was a city which contained very many Jews. Indeed, for years, it had possessed one of the largest Ghettos in Europe, and had been from most remote times a centre of Hebrew learning, commerce, medicine, and science. The soldiers of the two royal princes found their entry into the Grand Jewry barred, but with much din and disturbance they made their way into the Alcana, or quarter of the Jewish traders. Thither they were drawn, no doubt, by the commodities of all kinds exposed for sale, and by the fact that the Jews were held a peaceable folk who had much money.
A succession of brutal massacres ensued. Shops and warehouses were pillaed, and a great wave of crime and violence passed over the city. Death was meted out to all who in any way opposed the violent instincts of the soldiery, and hundreds of Jews and Jewesses of every age were butchered in the course of a few hours. The night following the irruption of the Conde’s army witnessed a scene of violence and horror.
While the mercenaries and nobles of the Pretenders were thus engaged, messengers were sent to Don Pedro, to whom the city now looked for protection. He marched all the night with his force, and by dawn was before Toledo’s walls.
The Leagueers threw themselves quickly into a position of defence, but the carousals and riotous conduct of the past night brought them with dulled spirits to meet the fresher soldiers of the King. Don 135 Pedro attacked immediately, and almost at once the defenders gave way.
The Jews who loved Don Pedro, and could now scarcely have much affection for De Trastamara, assisted the warriors of the King to make an entrance into the town.
Don Enrique and Don Fadrique sought to animate their men by word and example, but the day was for Don Pedro. Gradually the Leaguers were driven from post to post, until they flew, scattered in threes and fours, to seek refuge in churches or wherever else they could find an asylum. Soon the bugles of retreat sounded for the allies, and the Conde and his brother, with a thousand or so men, left the city by the Alcantara gate at the very moment that the troops of Don Pedro were pouring over the St. Martin’s bridge into the town.
Toledo now belonged to the King. The Alcazar opened its gates to him, and it is not difficult to imagine that Blanche heard of the success of her husband with misgiving and despair.
She was safe, however, for the King took no notice of her, beyond ordering her away to the security of another prison.
As soon as the success of the Royalist party was placed beyond question, there was a scampering of traitors and turncoats over the bridges for safety. The vengeance of the King was rapidly becoming proverbial. Proud Toledo trembled, and heard in fancy the rattle of tumbrils.
Nor was it deceived. Don Pedro was for immediate 136 pursuit of his brothers, but his own troops found occupations in the city too fascinating to allow of discipline, and like the soldiers of the Conde, gave themselves up to pillage and rapine.
Twenty-two burghers were beheaded as a solemn warning to all such folk that they should always be on the winning side in political disputes. Two or three knights suffered the same fate, and many more escaped it, only to suffer imprisonment instead. Meanwhile Don Pedro had been excommunicated by solemn decree from Avignon since the month of January, and his country laid under papal interdict. So pleased was he with himself and the turn of affairs at Toledo that he took the pains to write to Innocent VI. a letter, advising him of the success of his arms and promising to amend his marital ways and to go and live with Blanche. The Pope had written him some dozens of epistles urging the necessity of this, but up till this moment Pedro seems to have treated them with disrespectful contempt and silence. This answer of his may have been born of that sense of diablerie and irony, which was so much a part of his character, for he an never have had the slightest intention of doing any of the things whereof he wrote.
The Pope was delighted, however, and suspected no sarcasm in the ready promises. We can read his answer in Letter XXXV. of M. Daumet’s collection.
It begins: —
“Carisimo in Christo filo Petro regi Castille et Legionis illustri salutem, etc.,” and in resounding Latin periods tells the King that he is glad to hear of his good 137 resolutions. “Litteras tuas . . . benigne recipimus,” he says.
Meanwhile Don Pedro met Maria secretly, and formulated plans for revenge against the now rapidly dissolving League.
2 This conversation is not in the original chronicle. I give it on Dillon’s authority. His I cannot trace, but it is probably some old Compendio.
3 “Tuque preter eterne retributionis premium nostram et apostolice sedis benedictionem et gratiam uberius merearis,” as he wrote. Lettres du Pape Innocent VI.
PEDRO’S reign about this time was mainly distinguished for a succession of brutal murders.
Concentrated in Toro there remained the extremists and the now quickly-dissolving League. In this fortess were gathered those who could by no means shift the responsibility of their late actions on to somebody else’s shoulders by a deft act of policy. Here were the finalists, the last hopes, the compromised beyond all repair whom no deceit could patch into favour again. Awaiting the oncoming of the royal forces were, amongst others, Ruy Gonzalez de Castañeda, the head of the Lara faction; Pero Estebañez Carpentero, now master of Calatrava; Martin Telho, the Portuguese whom love of Queen Maria had brought into this land of trouble and death, and Alfonso Tellez Giron, an important knight.
Toro was strongly fortified and well provisioned. There seemed every prospect of the Leaguers offering a prolonged and vigorous defence.
Pedro came up to the walls of the place, and then fell back a little to Morales, where he established himself and ordered preparations for the reduction of the League’s Citadel. Don Enrique availed himself 139 of the careless watch put upon Toro by the King’s men to leave his allies to their fate. Promising that he would go to Galicia and join Fernando de Castro, he declared to the besieged that he would return to them with large reinforcements.
Of course he had no intention of doing anything of the kind. Meanwhile, in Biscay, Don Tello was at war with the Infante of Aragon, so that the allies were now thoroughly split up and divided amongst themselves.
Outside Toro, the preparations for the capture of the place proceeded with extreme leisureliness.
After two and a half months, the siege was really begun. The royal troops encamped upon the left bank of the river Duero, which ran along the walls of the place. There they collected many implements of attack such as catapults, ballistas, and bombards.
Things went on slowly for some time, and numerous ineffectual skirmishings were the principal evidences of the siege.
The whole country suffered from the effects of almost incessant strife between small and perpetually self-dividing factions.
Towards the beginning of December, a vigorous onslaught was made on the town by the investing force. The tower which defended the bridge over the Duero was carried after a prolonged and desperate fight.
The loss of this outpost of defence proved a great blow to the spirits of the besieged. The soldiery began to complain that the burghers sold them food only at high and exorbitant prices, and the leaders and nobles 140 were in fear and doubt. They knew that they had little hope of mercy in case of surrender, and yet in the absence of relief, protraction of their defence seemed only a prolongation of their misery. Discord and disaffection began to ferment. The only hope seemed to be in their looking for safety at each other’s expense. So messages found an unofficial way to the King’s ear from several nobles of the garrison, containing offers of surrender in return for a pardon.
The burghers, who were always an alien body to the feudal knights and Hidalgos, sought also on their own behalf some relief from the intolerable condition of things. Unknown to the military commanders of the place they approached the royalists with peaceful proposals, by which their own safety was to be secured without any question as to that of anyone else.
A certain merchant, Garci Triguero, obtained the promise of a free pardon for himself and his fellow citizens upon condition of opening the city’s gates to the royal troops.
It was the 24th January 1356, and on this day Triguero was on guard at the city’s gate. A nocturnal attack was to be made, and the gates thrown open to the besiegers by Garci.
But earlier in the day, Don Pedro, riding along the river’s bank, perceived on an island in midstream, which still belonged to the besieged, Don Fadrique accompanied by a few knights. The King recognised his brother, and was recognised by him and his party.
Juan de Henestrosa, leaving the King’s side, urged his horse right down to the water’s edge, and called 141 out to the master of Santiago. The river was narrow enough to allow conversation to be audible from bank to bank.
Fadrique came to the edge of his side of the water, and listened to what Henestrosa had to say.
“Sir Master,” said the courtier, “when the late king, Don Alfonso, your father, regulated your household when you were young, he gave you knights and esquires for your vassals. I was amongst the number, and many favours have I received from you. Thus, except in what relates to the duty I owe my Lord the King, God is my witness that there is no man to whom I consider myself more beholden than to you, and I would do anything to prove my gratitude, consistently with the loyalty due to the King your brother.
“You are in great danger.
“I adjure you in the presence of these knights, your companions, to follow my advice, so that in case you disregard it, no one may be able to say that I have contributed to your ruin. Henceforth, I stand acquitted towards you, for I have fulfilled the duty which belonged to one who has formerly been your vassal.”
These mysterious words troubled the young master, and in anxiousness and wonder he replied: —
“Juan Fernandez, I have always accounted you a good knight, and whilst with me you ever served my loyally. But what is this counsel you would give me?”
Then as though admitting the needlessness of his question, he continued: —142
“Can I abandon the Queen, who has placed herself under my protection, Doña Juana, my brother Enrique’s wife, and so many noble knights and esquires who are in this city?
“But for these, I would willingly treat, and as for you, Henestrosa, your duty is to represent to your lord how much it will aid his cause to receive the Queen and the nobles who surround her into favour, and to grant them his protection.”
“Sir Master,” replied Henestrosa, “I only do my duty. Take my word that if you do not at once implore the King’s mercy, you are in danger of death. I dare say no more, but I call all here present to hear witness to my words.”
Fadrique, now thoroughly alarmed, asked if it were certain that the King would forgive him.
Then Pedro, coming a little nearer to the water, cried in a loud voice: —
“Brother, Henestrosa is an honest man and counsels you well. Throw yourself on my mercy, and I will pardon you and all the knights on this island with you. But no delay! Come at once!”
Then Don Fadrique hesitated no longer, and crossing the river, sank on his knees before the King and kissed his hand.
From the walls of Toro, citizens and soldiers were gazing at the scene, and though they were unable to make out what was actually passing between the brothers, when they saw Fadrique kneel and kiss the King’s hand, a cry of “treason” and “betrayal” went up amongst them.143
And in all the streets, from mouth to mouth there passed the cry, “Betrayed! Betrayed! The Master deserts us!”
We may well imagine there was a quaking of limbs and fluttering of hearts among the men responsible for the custody of Toro. Treachery leapt from eye to eye. No man could trust his neighbour an instant. The siege was practically over.
Into the castle of the town ran Maria, the Condessa de Trastamara, and several timorous nobles.
All attempt at discipline was gone; orders were no longer given; the whole city trembled under the brooding vengeance of the King who was advancing on them; their King whom they had betrayed. Some sought to end their despair and wretchedness in flight, but the royal troops were drawn round the city in an inflexible and unbreakable cordon. And so night crept upon a city of despair, cast into utter torpor of irresolution and fear. Every careless shout of the King’s soldiers that came to the beleaguered from across the water seemed to them a cry of vengeance. So they waited in silence for death to come to them, waited for it to be borne to them in the pitiless eyes of Pedro, and on the swords of his soldiers.
In the darkness, the royal troops were ferried across the river in boats, and when they were landed, their officers led them silently to the Puerta de Santa Catalina, where Triguero, the merchant, stood prepared to pay the price asked for his life.
At the time appointed, Triguero was at his post, and soon the gates fell back to receive the King 144 and his men, while the people slept in restless insecurity.
There was little struggle, and the soldiers of Don Pedro took possession of the town easily enough.
Only those in the castle had occasion for a little hope behind the crumbling security of its walls. In the morning, no other thought but wonder as to when the King’s vengeance would begin animated the remnant of the Leaguers.
They would have gone to him to sue for pardon, as extravagantly, as humbly as he could have desired, but they had little hope of pardon. No one cared to face the young King. The assumption to be gathered from Ayala’s narrative is that there was nothing unusual in the fate awaiting the townspeople.
Executions were plainly expected, and executions certainly took place. To attribute them to Pedro’s vile and unnatural instincts is not fair. Such a standard of justice as they represented did not shock public opinion in any marked degree. People were full of cruelty then as now, only in those days they did not demand a veil of refinement between their thoughts and their acts.
One knight, however, was found amongst the garrison daring enough to face the King.
Martin Abarca, a gentleman of Navarre, who had gone to seek his fortune and experience among the Castilians, holding by the hand a little boy of twelve years, made his way to Don Pedro. The child was a brother of the King, and natural son of Alfonso XI. by Eleonor de Guzman. Arrived in the royal presence, 145 the knight, hoping that the sight of the child might soften the King’s heart, said: —
“Sire, I pray you to pardon me! I throw myself at your feet, and restore to you your brother, Don Juan!”
“Martin Abarca,” answered Don Pedro, “I forgive my brother Juan, but for you there is no pardon.”
Then, coming boldly to the king’s very side, and still holding Don Juan’s hand in his own, he prostrated himself with humility and dignity before him.”
“Do then with me as you will,” said he.
The King, touched by the calmness and despairing courage of the man, granted him his life, to the satisfaction of all the knights and nobles around.
But as yet Maria, Pedro’s mother, had given her son no sign, and to her word was, therefore, sent that the King sought her in audience. Fearful of her life, she demanded a safe-conduct for herself and her knights, we may think perhaps especially for one knight, her own knight, Martin Telho.
But Pedro was in no mood for argument.
“Let her come at once,” he cried, “I know what I have to do.” “They hesitated to obey,” says Mérimée. And indeed it is small wonder if they did.
But at length they came — Maria, the Condessa de Trastamara, Estebañez Carpentero, Gonzalez de Castañeda, Tellez Giron, and Martin Telho. With them they bore a letter of pardon which had been granted to Castañeda a little while before. He held it tremblingly in his fingers: although it had been a pardon for Castañeda only, it was the single hope 146 that stood between death and the little party. But it was lapsed and almost certainly useless; for it bore a date which had gone by.
Huddling together and afraid, this little procession made its way from the castle through a line of soldiers over the drawbridge to the King’s presence.
In the front were Castañeda and Carpentero, with Queen Maria between them. Telho and Giron followed closely behind.
The paper bearing the royal pardon was borne in the outstretched hand of Castañeda like a flag of truce.
When they had crossed the bridge, they saw no sign of Don Pedro, but instead, a row of fierce and jeering faces and a hedge of drawn swords confronted them.
“The King’s pardon! We have the King’s pardon!” Estebañez’s arm was rather shaky. Maria stretched out a hand behind her nervously to seek that of her lover. The crowd hooted and yelled, but still the King did not appear.
And then doubt and fear were finally put to rest when an esquire came and broke through the press of men, and, with a blow at Carpentero’s head, laid him at the queen’s feet.1 Then all around poignards were drawn from their sheaths, and, in a very fury of loyalty, all the knights closed round the four men, and stabbed them to death, pushing each other aside in their eagerness to strike a blow.
The two women, who were covered with blood, shrieked and fainted away.
When Maria recovered consciousness again, it was 147 to find facing her the nude, mutilated, and dishonoured body of her lover, lying exposed before her eyes. Here we see plainly the work of Pedro, who, since he could not directly punish his own mother, determined to punish her by outraging and dishonouring her lover. The incident fits in well with his eastern character, his love of the bizarre, the grim, the sarcastic.
Thus, blood-stained, half-frenzied, with Telho’s hacked and bleeding corpse before her eyes, she turned on her son, and cursed him with fury and madness, accusing him of having vilely and abominably dishonoured her for ever.
Pedro heard her in silence, and, when her fury somewhat exhausted her strength, ordered her to be led away with the Condessa de Trastamara.
1 Ayala, 1356, Cap. II.
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