The Queen of California
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. XIII.—MARCH, 1864.—NO. LXXVII.
I CAN see the excitement which this title arouses as it is flashed across the sierras, down the valleys, and into the various reading-rooms and parlors of the Golden City of the Golden State. As the San Francisco “Bulletin” announces some day, that in the “Atlantic Monthly,” issued in Boston the day before, one of the articles is on “The Queen of California,” what contest, in every favored circle of the most favored of lands, who the Queen may be! Is it the blond maiden who took a string of hearts with her in a leash, when she left us one sad morning ? is it the hardy, brown adventuress, who, in her barkroofed lodge, serves us out our boiled dog daily, as we come home from our water-gullies, and sews on for us weekly the few buttons which we still find indispensable in that toil? is it some Jessie of the lion-heart, heroine of a hundred days or of a thousand ? is it that witch with gray eyes, cunningly hidden,—were they puzzled last night, or were they all wisdom crowded ? — as she welcomed me, and as she bade me good-bye ? Good Heavens! how many Queens of California are regnant this day! and of any one of them this article might be written.
No, Señores ! No, Caballeros ! Throng down to the wharves to see the Golden Era or the Cornelius’s Coffin, or whatever other mail-steamer may bring these words to your longing eyes. Open to the right and left as Adams’s express-messenger carries the earliest copy of the “ Atlantic Monthly,” sealed with the reddest wax, tied with the reddest tape, from the Corner Store direct to him who was once the life and light of the Corner Store, who now studies eschscholtzias through a telescope thirty-eight miles away on Monte Diablo ! Rush upon the newsboy who then brings forth the bale of this Journal for the Multitude, to find that the Queen of California of whom we write is no modern queen, but that she reigned some five hundred and fifty-five years ago. Her precise contemporaries were Amadis of Gaul, the Emperor Esplandian, and the. Sultan Radiaro. And she flourished, as the books say, at the time when this Sultan made his unsuccessful attack on the city of Constantinople, — all of which she saw, part of which she was.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
She was not petite, nor blond, nor golden-haired. She was large and black as the ace of clubs. But the prejudice of color did not then exist even among the most brazen-faced or the most copper-headed. For, as you shall learn, she was reputed the most beautiful of women ; and it was she, O Californians, who wedded the gallant prince Talanque,— your first-known king. The supporters of the arms of the beautiful shield of the State of California should be, on the right, a knight armed cap-a-pie, and, on the left, an Amazon sable, clothed in skins, as you shall now see.
Mr. E. E. Hale, of Boston, sent to the Antiquarian Society last year a paper which shows that the name of California was known to literature before it was given to our peninsula by Cortes. Cortes discovered the peninsula in 1535, and seems to have called it California then. But Mr, Hale shows that twenty-five years before that time, in a romance called the “ Deeds of Esplandian,” the name of California was given to an island “ on the right hand of the Indies.” This romance was a sequel, or fifth book, to the celebrated romance of “ Amadis of Gaul.” Such books made the principal reading of the young blades of that day who could read at all. It seems clear enough, that Cortes and his friends, coming to the point farthest to the west then known,—which all of them, from Columbus down, supposed to be in the East Indies,—gave to their discovery the name, familiar to romantic adventurers, of California, to indicate their belief that it was on the “ right hand of the Indies.” Just so Columbus called his discoveries “the Indies,”—just so was the name “ El Dorado ” given to regions which it was hoped would prove to be golden. The romance had said, that in -the whole of the romance-island of California there was no metal but gold. Cortes, who did not find a pennyweight of dust in the real California, still had no objection to giving so golden a name to his discovery.
Mr. Hale, with that brevity which becomes antiquarians, does not go into any of the details of the life and adventures of the Queen of California as the romance describes them. We propose, in this paper, to supply from it this reticency of his essay.
The reader must understand, then, that, in this romance, printed in 1510, sixty years or less after Constantinople really fell into the hands of the Turks, the author describes a pretended assault made upon it by the Infidel powers, and the rallying for its rescue of Amadis and Perion and Lisuarte, and all the princes of chivalry with whom the novel of “ Amadis of Gaul ” has dealt. They succeed in driving away the Pagans, “ as you shall hear.” In the midst of this great crusade, every word of which, of course, is the most fictitious of fiction, appear the episodes which describe California and its Queen.
First, of California itself here is the description : —
“Now you are to hear the most extraordinary thing that ever was heard of in any chronicles or in the memory of man, by which the city would have been lost on the next day, but that where the danger came, there the safety came also. Know, then, that, on the right hand of the Indies, there is an island called California, very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise,1 and it was peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they lived in the fashion of Amazons. They were of strong and hardy bodies, of ardent courage and great force. Their island was the strongest in all the world, with its steep cliffs and rocky shores. Their arms were all of gold, and so was the harness of the wild beasts which they tamed and rode. For, in the whole island, there was no metal but gold. They lived in caves wrought out of the rock with much labor. They had many ships with which they sailed out to other countries to obtain booty.
“ In this island, called California, there were many griffins, on account of the great raggedness of the country, and its infinite host of wild beasts, such as never were seen in any other part of the world. And when these griffins were yet small, the women went out with traps to take them. They covered themselves over with very thick hides, and when they had caught the little griffins, they took them to their caves, and brought them up there. And being themselves quite a match for the griffins, they fed them with the men whom they took prisoners, and with the boys to whom they gave birth, and brought them up with such arts that they got much good from them, and no harm. Every man who landed on the island was immediately devoured by these griffins ; and although they had had enough, none the less would they seize them and carry them high up in the air, in their flight, and when they were tired of carrying them, would let them fall anywhere as soon as they died.”
These griffins are the Monitors of the story, or, if the reader pleases, the Merrimacs. After this description, the author goes on to introduce us to our Queen. Observe, O reader, that, although very black, and very large, she is very beautiful. Why did not Powers carve his statue of California out of the blackest of Egyptian marbles ? Try once more, Mr. Powers! We have found her now. Eυρnκaμεν !
“ Now at the time when those great men of the Pagans sailed with their great fleets, as the history has told you, there reigned in this island of California a Queen, very large in person, the most beautiful of all of them, of blooming years, and in her thoughts desirous of achieving great things, strong of limb and of great courage, more than any of those who had filled her throne before her. She heard tell that all the greater part of the world was moving in this onslaught against the Christians. She did not know what Christians were, for she had no knowledge of any parts of the world excepting those which were close to her. But she desired to see the world and its various people; and thinking, that, with the great strength of herself and of her women, she should have the greater part of their plunder, either from her rank or from her prowess, she began to talk with all of those who were most skilled in war, and told them that it would be well, if, sailing in their great fleets, they also entered on this expedition, in which all these great princes and lords were embarking. She animated and excited them, showing them the great profits and honors which they would gain in this enterprise, — above all, the great fame which would be theirs in all the world ; while, if they stayed in their island, doing nothing but what their grandmothers did, they were really buried alive, — they were dead while they lived, passing their days without fame and without glory, as did the very brutes.”
Now the people of California were as willing then to embark in distant expeditions of honor as they are now. And the first battalion that ever sailed from the ports of that country was thus provided : —
“ So much did this mighty Queen, Calafia, say to her people, that she not only moved them to consent to this enterprise, but they were so eager to extend their fame through other lands that they begged her to hasten to sea, so that they might earn all these honors, in alliance with such great men. The Queen, seeing the readiness of her subjects, without any delay gave order that her great fleet should be provided with food, and with arms all of gold, —more of everything than was needed. Then she commanded that her largest vessel should be prepared with gratings of the stoutest timber; and she bade place in it as many as five hundred of these griffins, of which I tell you, that, from the time they were born, they were trained to feed on men. And she ordered that the beasts on which she and her people rode should be embarked, and all the best-armed women and those most skilled in war whom she had in her island. And then, leaving such force in the island that it should be secure, with the others she went to sea. And they made such haste that they arrived at the fleets of the Pagans the night after the battle of which I have told you; so that they were received with great joy, and the fleet was visited at once by many great lords, and they were welcomed with great acceptance. She wished to know at once in what condition affairs were, asking many questions, which they answered fully. Then she said, —
“ ‘ You have fought this city with your great forces, and you cannot take it; now, if you are willing, I wish to try what my forces are worth to-morrow, if you will give orders accordingly.'
“All these great lords said that they would give such commands as she should bid them.
“ ‘ Then send word to all your other captains that they shall to-morrow on no account leave their camps, they nor their people, until I command them ; and you shall see a combat more remarkable than you have ever seen or heard of.’
“ Word was sent at once to the great Sultan of Liquia, and the Sultan of Halapa, who had command of all the men who were there ; and they gave these orders to all their people, wondering much what was the thought of this Queen.”
Up to this moment, it may be remarked, these Monitors, as we have called the griffins, had never been fairly tried in any attack on fortified towns. The Dupont of the fleet, whatever her name may have been, may well have looked with some curiosity on the issue. The experiment was not wholly successful, as will be seen.
“ When the night had passed and the morning came, the Queen Calafia sallied on shore, she and her women, armed with that armor of gold, all adorned with the most precious stones, — which are to be found in the island of California like stones of the field for their abundance. And they mounted on their fierce beasts, caparisoned as I have told you ; and then she ordered that a door should he opened in the vessel where the griffins were. They, when they saw the field, rushed forward with great haste, showing great pleasure in flying through the air, and at once caught sight of the host of men who were close at hand. As they were famished, and knew no fear, each griffin pounced upon his man, seized him in his claws, carried him high into the air, and began to devour him. They shot many arrows at them, and gave them many great blows with lances and with swords. But their feathers were so tight joined and so stout, that no one could strike through to their flesh.” (This is Armstrong versus Monitor.) “ For their own party, this was the most lovely chase and the most agreeable that they had ever seen till then ; and as the Turks saw them flying on high with their enemies, they gave such loud and clear shouts of joy as pierced the heavens. And it was the most sad and bitter thing for those in the city, when the father saw the son lifted in the air, and the son his father, and the brother his brother; so that they all wept and raved, as was sad indeed to see.
“ When the griffins had flown through the air for a while, and had dropped their prizes, some on the earth and some on the sea, they turned, as at first, and, without any fear, seized up as many more; at which their masters had so much the more joy, and the Christians so much the more misery. What shall I tell you ? The terror was so great among them all, that, while some hid themselves away under the vaults of the towers for safety, all the others disappeared from the ramparts, so that there were none left for the defence. Queen Calafia saw this, and, with a loud voice, she bade the two Sultans, who commanded the troops, send for the ladders, for the city was taken. At once they all rushed forward, placed the ladders, and mounted upon the wall. But the griffins, who had already dropped those whom they had seized before, as soon as they saw the Turks, having no knowledge of them, seized upon them just as they had seized upon the Christians, and, flying through the air, carried them up also, when, letting them fall, no one of them escaped death. Thus were exchanged the pleasure and the pain. For those on the outside now were those who mourned in great sorrow for those who were so handled ; and those who were within, who, seeing their enemies advance on every side, had thought they were beaten, now took great comfort. So, at this moment, as those on the ramparts stopped,•panic-struck, fearing that they should die as their comrades did, the Christians leaped forth from the vaults where they were hiding, and quickly slew many of the Turks who were gathered on the walls, and compelled the rest to leap down, and then sprang back to their hiding-places, as they saw the griffins return.
“ When Queen Calafia saw this, she was very sad, and she said, ‘ O ye idols in whom I believe and whom I worship, what is this which has happened as favorably to my enemies as to my friends ? I believed that with your aid and with my strong forces and great munition I should be able to destroy them. But it has not so proved.’ And she gave orders to her women that they should mount the ladders and struggle to gain the towers and put to the sword all those who took refuge in them to be secure from the griffins. They obeyed their Queen’s commands, dismounted at once, placing before their breasts such breastplates as no weapon could pierce, and, as I told you, with the armor all of gold which Covered their legs and their arms. Quickly they crossed the plain, and mounted the ladders lightly, and possessed themselves of the whole circuit of the walls, and began to fight fiercely with those who had taken refuge in the vaults of the towers. But they defended themselves bravely, being indeed in quarters well protected, with but narrow doors. And those of the city, who were in the streets below, shot at the women with arrows and darts, which pierced them through the sides, so that they received many wounds, because their golden armor was so weak.” (This is Keokuk versus Armstrong.) “ And the griffins returned, flying above them, and would not leave them.
“ When Queen Calafia saw this, she cried to the Sultans, ‘ Make your troops mount, that they may defend mine against these fowls of mine who have dared attack them.’ At once the Sultans commanded their people to ascend the ladders and gain the circle and the towers, in order that by night the whole host might join them, and they might gain the city. The soldiers rushed from their camps, and mounted on the wall where the women were fighting,—but when the griffins saw them, at once they seized on them as ravenously as if all that day they had not caught anybody. And when the women threatened them with their knives, they were only the more enraged, so that, although they took shelter for themselves, the griffins dragged them out by main strength, lifted them up into the air, and then let them fall, — so that they all died. The fear and panic of the Pagans were so great, that, much more quickly than they had mounted, did they descend and take refuge in their camp. The Queen, seeing this rout without remedy, sent at once to command those who held watch and guard on the griffins, that they should recall them and shut them up in the vessel. They, then, hearing the Queen’s command, mounted on top of the mast, and called them with loud voices in their language; and they, as if they had been human beings, all obeyed, and obediently returned into their cages.”
The first day’s attack of these flying Monitors on the beleaguered city was not, therefore, a distinguished success. The author derives a lesson from it, which we do not translate, but recommend to the students of present history. It fills a whole chapter, of which the title is, “ Exhortation addressed by the author to the Christians, setting before their eyes the great obedience which these griffins, brute animals, rendered to those who had instructed them.”
The Sultans may have well doubted whether their new ally was quite what she had claimed to be. She felt this herself, and said to them,—
“ ' Since my coming has caused you so much injury, I wish that it may cause you equal pleasure. Command your people that they shall sally out, and we will go to the city against those knights who dare to appear before us, and we will let them press on the most severe combat that they can, and I, with my people, wall take the front of the battle.'
“ The Sultans gave command at once to all of their soldiers who had armor, that they should rush forth immediately, and should join in mounting upon the rampart, now that these birds were encaged again. And they, with the horsemen, followed close upon Queen Calafia, and immediately the army rushed forth and pressed upon the wall; but not so prosperously as they had expected, because the people of the town were already there in their harness, and as the Pagans mounted upon their ladders, the Christians threw them back, whence very many of them were killed and wounded. Others pressed forward with their iron picks and other tools, and dug fiercely in the circuit of the wall. These were very much distressed and put in danger by the oil and other things which were thrown upon them, but not so much but that they succeeded in making many breaches and openings. But when this came to the ears of the Emperor, who always kept command of ten thousand horsemen, he commanded all of them to defend these places as well as they could. So that, to the grief of the Pagans, the people repaired the breaches with many timbers and stones and piles of earth.
“ When the Queen saw this repulse, she rushed with her own attendants with great speed to the gate Aquilena, which was guarded by Norandel.2 She herself went in advance of the others, wholly covered with one of those shields which we have told you they wore, and with her lance held strongly in her hand. Norandel, when he saw her coming, went forth to meet her, and they met so vehemently that their lances were broken in pieces, and yet neither of them fell. Norandel at once put hand upon his sword, and the Queen upon her great knife, of which the blade was more than a palm broad, and they gave each other great blows. At once they all joined in a melee, one against another, all so confused and with such terrible blows that it was a great marvel to see it, and if some of the women fell upon the ground, so did some of the cavaliers. And if this history does not tell in extent which of them fell, and by what blow of each, showing the great force and courage of the combatants, it is because their number was so great, and they fell so thick, one upon another, that that great master, Helisabat, who saw and described the scene, could not determine what in particular passed in these exploits, except in a few very rare affairs, like this of the Queen and Norandel, who both joined fight as you have heard.”
It is to the great master Helisabat that a grateful posterity owes all these narratives and the uncounted host of romances which grew from them. For, in the first place, he was the skilful leech who cured all the wounds of all the parties of distinction who were not intended to die ; and in the second place, his notes furnish the memoires pour servir, of which all the writers say they availed themselves. The originals, alas! are lost.
“ The tumult was so great, that at once the battle between these two was ended, those on each side coming to the aid of their chief. Then, I tell you, that the things that this Queen did in arms, like slaying knights, or throwing them wounded from their horses, as she pressed audaciously forward among her enemies, were such, that it cannot be told nor believed that any woman has ever shown such prowess.
“ And as she dealt with so many noble knights, and no one of them left her without giving her many and heavy blows, yet she received them all upon her very strong and hard shield.
“ When Talanque and Maneli 3 saw what this woman was doing, and the great loss which those of their own party were receiving from her, they rushed out upon her, and struck her with such blows as if they considered her possessed. And her sister, who was named Liota, who saw this, rushed in, like a mad lioness, to her succor, and pressed the knights so mortally, that, to the loss of their honor, she drew Calafia from their power, and placed her among her own troops again. And at this time you would have said that the people of the fleets had the advantage, so that, if it had not been for the mercy of God and the great force of the Count Frandalo and his companions, the city would have been wholly lost. Many fell dead on both sides, but many more of the Pagans, because they had the weaker armor.
“ Thus,” continues the romance, “as you have heard, went on this attack and cruel battle till nearly night. At this time there was no one of the gates open, excepting that which Norandel guarded. As to the others, the knights, having been withdrawn from them, ought, of course, to have bolted them; yet it was very different, as I will tell you. For, as the two Sultans greatly desired to see these women fight, they had bidden their own people not to enter into the lists. But when they saw how the day was going, they pressed upon the Christians so fiercely that gradually they might all enter into the city, and, as it was, more than a hundred men and women did enter. And God, who guided the Emperor, having directed him to keep the other gates shut, knowing in what way the battle fared, he pressed them so hardly with his knights, that, killing some, he drove the others out. Then the Pagans lost many of their people, as they slew them from the towers, — more than two hundred of the women being slain. And those within also were not without great loss, since ten of the cruzados were killed, which gave great grief to their companions. These were Ledaderin de Fajarque, Trion and Imosii de Borgona, and the two sons of Isanjo. All the people of" the city having returned, as I tell you, the Pagans also retired to their camps, and the Queen Calafia to her fleet, since she had not yet taken quarters on shore. And the other people entered into their ships ; so that there was no more fighting that day.”
I have translated this passage at length, because it gives the reader an idea of the romantic literature of that day,—literally its only literature, excepting books of theology or of devotion. Over acres of such reading, served out in large folios, — the yellow-covered novels of their time,—did the Pizzaros and Balboas and Corteses and other young blades while away the weary hours of their camp-life. Glad enough was Cortes out of such a tale to get the noble name of his great discovery.
The romance now proceeds to bring the different princes of chivalry from the West, as it has brought Calafia from the East. As soon as Amadis arrives at Constantinople, he sends for his son Esplandian, who was already in alliance with the Emperor of Greece. The Pagan Sultan of Liquia, and the Queen Calafia, hearing of their arrival, send them the following challenge: —
“ Radiaro, Sultan of Liquia, shield and rampart of the Pagan Law, destroyer of Christians, cruel enemy of the enemies of the Gods, and the very Mighty Queen Calafia, Lady of the great island of California, famous for its great abundance of gold and precious stones : we have to announce to you, Amadis of Gaul, King of Great Britain, and you his son, Knight of the Great Serpent, that we are come into these parts with the intention of destroying this city of Constantinople, on account of the injury and loss which the much honored King Amato of Persia, our cousin and friend, has received from this bad Emperor, giving him favor and aid, because a part of his territory has been taken away from him by fraud. And as our desire in this thing is also to gain glory and fame in it, so also has fortune treated us favorably in that regard, for we know the great news, which has gone through all the world, of your great chivalry. We have agreed, therefore, if it is agreeable to you, or if your might is sufficient for it, to attempt a battle of our persons against yours in presence of this great company of the nations, the conquered to submit to the will of the conquerors, or to go to any place where they may order. And if you refuse this, we shall be able, with much cause, to join all your past glories to our own, counting them as being gained by us, whence it will clearly be seen in the future how the victory will be on our side.”
This challenge was taken to the Christian camp by a black and beautiful damsel, richly attired, and was discussed there in council. Amadis put an end to the discussion by saying, —
“ ' My good lords, as the affairs of men, like those of nations, are in the hands and will of God, whence no one can escape but as He wills, if we should in any way withdraw from this demand, it would give great courage to our enemies, and, more than this, great injury to our honor; especially so in this country, where we are strangers, and no one has seen what our power is, which in our own land is notorious, so that, while there we may be esteemed for courage, here we should be judged the greatest of cowards, Thus, placing confidence in the mercy of the Lord, I determine that the battle shall take place without delay.'
“ ‘If this is your wish,’ said King Lisuarte and King Perion, ‘ so may it be, and may God help you with His grace ! ’
“ Then the King Amadis said to the damsel, —
“‘Friend, tell your lord and the Queen Calafia that we desire the battle with those arms that are most agreeable to them ; that the field shall be this field, divided in the middle, — I giving my word that for nothing which may happen will we be succored by our own. And let them give the same order to their own ; and if they wish the battle now, now it shall be.'
“ The damsel departed with this reply, which she repeated to those two princes. And the Queen Calafia asked her how the Christians appeared.
“ ‘ Very nobly,’ replied she, ‘ for they are all handsome and well armed. Yet I tell you, Queen, that, among them, this Knight of the Serpent [Esplandian, son of Amadis] is such as neither the past nor the present, nor, I believe, any who are to come, have ever seen one so handsome and so elegant, nor will see in the days which are to be. O Queen, what shall I say to you, but that, if he were of our faith, we might believe that our Gods had made him with their own hands, with all their power and wisdom, so that he lacks in nothing ? ’
“ The Queen, who heard her, said,—
“ ‘ Damsel, my friend, your words are too great.'
“ ' It is not so,’ said she ; ‘ for, excepting the sight of him, there is nothing else which can give account of his great excellence.’
“ ‘ Then I say to you,’ said the Queen, ‘ that I will not fight with such a man until I have first seen and talked with him ; and I make this request to the Sultan, that he will gratify me in this thing, and arrange that I may see him.’
“ The Sultan said,—
“‘I will do everything, O Queen, agreeably to your wish.’
“ ' Then,’ said the damsel, ‘ I will go and obtain that which you ask for, according to your desire.’
“ And turning her horse, she approached the camp again, so that all thought that she brought the agreement for the battle. But as she approached, she called the Kings to the door of the tent, and said,—
“ ‘ King Amadis, the Queen Calafia demands of you that you give order for her safe conduct, that she may come tomorrow morning and see your son.'
“ Amadis began to laugh, and said to the Kings, —
“ ‘ How does this demand seem to you ?'
“ ‘ I say, let her come,’ said King Lisuarte ; ' it is a very good thing to see the most distinguished woman in the world.’
“ ‘ Take this for your reply,’ said Amadis to the damsel; ‘ and say that she shall be treated with all truth and honor.’
“ The damsel, having received this message, returned with great pleasure to the Queen, and told her what it was. The Queen said to the Sultan, —
“ ‘ Wait and prosper, then, till I have seen him; and charge your people that in the mean time there may be no outbreak.’
“ ‘ Of that,’ he said, ‘ you may be secure.’
“ At once she returned to her ships; and she spent the whole night thinking whether she would go with arms or without them. But at last she determined that it would be more dignified to go in the dress of a woman. And when the morning came, she rose and directed them to bring one of her dresses, all of gold, with many precious stones, and a turban wrought with great art. It had a volume of many folds, in the manner of a toca, and she placed it upon her head as if it had been a hood [capellina] ; it was all of gold, embroidered with stones of great value. They brought out an animal which she rode, the strangest that ever was seen. It had ears as large as two shields ; a broad forehead which had but one eye, like a mirror ; the openings of its nostrils were very large, but its nose was short and blunt. From its mouth turned up two tusks, each of them two palms long. Its color was yellow, and it had many violet spots upon its skin, like an ounce. It was larger than a dromedary, had its feet cleft like those of an ox, and ran as swiftly as the wind, and skipped over the rocks as lightly, and held itself erect on any part of them, as do the mountaingoats. Its food was dates and figs and peas, and nothing else. Its flank and haunches and breast were very beautiful. On this animal, of which you have thus heard, mounted this beautiful Queen, and there rode behind her two thousand women of her train, dressed in the very richest clothes. There brought up the rear twenty damsels clothed in uniform, the trains of whose dresses extended so far, that, falling from each beast, they dragged four fathoms on the ground.
“ With this equipment and ornament the Queen proceeded to the Emperor’s camp, where she saw all the Kings, who had come out upon the plain. They had seated themselves on very rich chairs, upon cloth of gold, and they themselves were armed, because they had not much confidence in the promises of the Pagans. So they sallied out to receive her at the door of the tent, where she was dismounted into the arms of Don Quadragante ; 4 and the two Kings, Lisuarte and Perion, took her by the hands, and placed her between them in a chair. When she was seated, looking from one side to the other, she saw Esplandian next to King Lisuarte, who held him by the hand ; and from the superiority of his beauty to that of all the others, she knew at once who he was, and said to herself, ‘ Oh, my Gods ! what is this ? I declare to you, I have never seen any one who can be compared to him, nor shall I ever see any one.’ And he turning his beautiful eyes upon her beautiful face, she perceived that the rays which leaped out from his resplendent beauty, entering in at her eyes, penetrated to her heart in such a way, that, if she were not conquered yet by the great force of arms, or by the great attacks of her enemies, she was softened and broken by that sight and by her amorous passion, as if she had passed between mallets of iron. And as she saw this, she reflected, that, if she stayed longer, the great fame which she had acquired as a manly cavalier, by so many dangers and labors, would be greatly hazarded. She saw that by any delay she should expose herself to the risk of dishonor, by being turned to that native softness which women of nature consider to be an ornament; and therefore resisting, with great pain, the feelings which she had subjected to her will, she rose from her seat and said, —
“ ‘ Knight of the Great Serpent, for two excellences which distinguish you above all mortals I have made inquiry. The first, that of your great beauty, which, if one has not seen, no relation is enough to tell the greatness of; the other, the valor and force of your brave heart. The one of these I have seen, which is such as I have never seen nor could hope to see, though many years of searching should be granted me. The other shall be made manifest on the field, against this valiant Radiaro, Sultan of Liquia. Mine shall be shown against this mighty king your father; and if fortune grant that we come alive from this battle, as we hope to come from other battles, then I will talk with you, before I return to my home, of some things of my own affairs.’
“Then, turning towards the Kings, she said to them, —
“ ‘ Kings, rest in good health. I go hence to that place where you shall see me with very different dress from this which I now wear, hoping that in that field the King Amadis, who trusts in fickle fortune that he may never be conquered by any knight, however valiant, nor by any beast, however terrible, may there be conquered by a woman.’
“ Then taking the two older Kings by the hand, she permitted them to help her mount upon her strange steed,”
At this point the novel assumes a tone of high virtue (virtus, mannishness, prejudice of the more brutal sex) on the subject of woman’s rights, in especial of woman’s right to fight in the field with gold armor, lance in rest, and casque closed. We will show the reader, as she follows us, how careful she must be, if, in any island of the sea which has been slipped by unknown by the last five centuries, she ever happen to meet a cavalier of the true school of chivalry.
Esplandian himself would not in any way salute the Queen Calafia, as she left him. Nor was this a copperhead prejudice of color; for that prejudice was not yet known.
“ He made no reply to her, both because he looked at her as something strange, however beautiful she appeared to him, and because he saw her come thus in arms, so different from the style in which a woman should have come. For he considered it as very dishonorable that she should attempt anything so different from what the word of God commanded her, that the woman should be in subjection to the man, but rather should prefer to be the ruler of all men, not by her courtesy, but by force of arms, and, above all, because he hated to place himself in relations with her, because she was one of the infidels, whom he mortally despised and had taken a vow to destroy.”
The romance then goes into an account of the preparations for the contest, on both sides.
After all the preliminaries were arranged, “ they separated for a little and rode together furiously in full career. The Sultan struck Esplandian in the shield with so hard a blow that a part of the lance passed through it for as much as an ell, so that all who saw it thought that it had passed through the body. But it was not so, but the lance passed under the arm next the body, and went out on the other side without touching him. But Esplandian, who knew that his much-loved lady was looking on, [Leonorina, the daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople,] so struck the Sultan’s shield, that the iron passed through it and struck him on some of the strongest plates of his armor, upon which the spear turned. But, with the force of the encounter, it shook him so roughly from the saddle that it rolled him upon the ground, and so shook the helmet as to tear it off from his head, and thus Esplandian passed by him very handsomely, without receiving any stroke himself. The Queen rushed upon Amadis, and he upon her, and, before they met, each pointed lance at the other, and they received the blows upon their shields in such guise, that her spear flew in pieces, while that of Amadis slipped off and was thrown on one side. Then they both met, shield to shield, with such force that the Queen was thrown upon the ground, and the horse of Amadis was so wounded that he fell with his head cut in two, and held Amadis with one leg under him. When Esplandian saw this, he leaped from his horse and saved him from that peril. Meanwhile, the Queen, being put to her defence, put hand to her sword, and joined herself to the Sultan, who had raised himself with great difficulty, because his fall was very heavy, and stood there with his sword and helmet in his hand. They came on to fight very bravely, but Esplandian, standing, as I told you, in presence of the Infanta, whom he prized so much, gave the Sultan such hard pressure with such heavy blows, that, although he was one of the bravest knights of the Pagans, and by his own prowess had won many dangerous battles, and was very dexterous in that art, yet all this served him for nothing; he could neither give nor parry blows, and constantly lost ground. The Queen, who had joined fight with Amadis, began giving him many fierce blows, some of which he received upon his shield, while he let others be lost; yet he would not put his hand upon his sword, but, instead of that, took a fragment of the lance which she had driven through his shield, and struck her on the top of the helmet with it, so that in a little while he had knocked the crest away.”
We warned those of our fair readers who may have occasion to defend their rights at the point of the lance, that the days of chivalry or the cavaliers of chivalry will be very unhandsome in applying to them the rules of the tourney. Amadis, it will be observed here, does not condescend to use his sword against a woman. And this is not from tenderness, but from contempt. For when the Queen saw that he only took the broken truncheon of his lance to her, she fairly asked him why.
“ ' How is this, Amadis ? ’ she said ; ‘ do you consider my force so slight that you think to conquer me with sticks ? ’
“ And he said to her, —
“' Queen, I have always been in the habit of serving women and aiding them; and as you are a woman, if I should use any weapon against you, I should deserve to lose all the honors I have ever gained.’
“ ‘ What, then ! ’ said the Queen, ‘ do you rank me among them ? You shall see ! ’
“ And taking her sword in both her hands, she struck him with great rage. Amadis raised his shield and received the blow upon it, which was so brave and strong that the shield was cut in two. Then, seeing her joined to him so closely, he passed the stick into his left hand, seized her by the rim of her shield, and pulled her so forcibly, that, breaking the great thongs by which she held upon it, he took it from her, lifting it up in one hand, and forced her to kneel with one knee on the ground; and when she lightly sprang up, Amadis threw away his own shield, and, seizing the other, took the stick and sprang to her, saying,—
“ ' Queen, yield yourself my prisoner, now that your Sultan is conquered.’
“ She turned her head, and saw that Esplandian had the Sultan already surrendered as his prize. But she said, ' Let me try fortune yet one more turn ’; and then, raising her sword with both her hands, she struck upon the crest of his helmet, thinking she could cut it and his head in two. But Amadis warded the blow very lightly and turned it off, and struck her so heavy a stroke with that fragment of the lance upon the crest of her helmet, that he stunned her and made her sword fall from her hands. Amadis seized the sword, and, when she was thus disarmed, caught at her helmet so strongly that he dragged it from her head, and said, —
“ ‘ Now are you my prisoner ? '
“ ‘Yes,’ replied she ; ' for there is nothing left for me to do.’
“At this moment Esplandian came to them with the Sultan, who had surrendered himself, and, in sight of all the army, they repaired to the royal encampment, where they were received with great pleasure, not only on account of the great victory in battle, which, after the great deeds in arms which they had wrought before, as this history has shown, they did not regard as very remarkable, but because they took this success as a good omen for the future. The King Amadis asked the Count Gandalin to lead their prisoners to the Infanta Leonorina, in his behalf and that of his son Esplandian, and to say to her that he begged her to do honor to the Sultan, because he was so great a prince and so strong a knight, and, withal, very noble ; and to do honor to the Queen, because she was a woman ; and to say that he trusted in God that thus they should send to her all those whom they took captive alive in the battles which awaited them.
“ The Count took them in charge, and, as the city was very near, they soon arrived at the palace. Then, coming into the presence of the Infanta, he delivered to her the prisoners, and gave the message with which he was intrusted. The Infanta replied to him, —
“ ' Tell King Amadis that I thank him greatly for this present which he sends me,—that I am sure that the good fortune and great courage which appear in this adventure will appear in those which await us, — and that we are very desirous to see him here, that, when we discharge our obligation to his son, we may have him as a judge between us.’
“ The Count kissed her hand, and returned to the royal camp. Then the Infanta sent to the Empress, her mother, for a rich robe and head-dress, and, having disarmed the Queen, made her array herself in them ; and she did the same for the Sultan, having sent for other robes from the Emperor, her father, and having dressed their wounds with certain preparations made by Master Helisabat. Then the Queen, though of so great fortune, was much astonished to see the great beauty of Leonorina, and said, —
“ * I tell you, Infanta, that in the same measure in which I was astonished to see the beauty of your cavalier, Esplandian, am I now overwhelmed, beholding yours. If your deeds correspond to your appearance, I hold it no dishonor to be your prisoner.’
“ ‘ Queen,’ said the Infanta, 'I hope the God in whom I trust will so direct events that I shall be able to fulfil every obligation which conquerors acknowledge toward those who submit to them.’ ”
With this chivalrous little conversation the Queen of California disappears from the romance, and consequently from all written history, till the very denouement of the whole story, where, when the rest is “ wound up,” she is wound up also, to be set a-going again in her own land of California. And if the chroniclers of California find no records of her in any of the griffin caves of the Black Canon, it is not our fault, but theirs. Or, possibly, did she and her party suffer shipwreck on the return passage from Constantinople to the Golden Gate ? Their probable route must have been through the Ægean, over Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon to the Euphrates, (“ I will sail a fleet over the Alps,” said Cromwell,) down Chesney’s route to the Persian Gulf, and so home.
After the Sultan and the Queen are taken prisoners, there are reams of terrific fighting, in which King Lisuarte and King Perion and a great many other people are killed; but finally the “ Pagans” are all routed, and the Emperor of Greece retires into a monastery, having united Esplandian with his daughter Leonorina, and abdicated the throne in their favor. Among the first acts of their new administration is the disposal of Calafia.
“ As soon as the Queen Calafia saw these nuptials, having no more hope of him whom she so much loved, [ Esplandian,] for a moment her courage left her; and coming before the new Emperor and these great lords, she thus spoke to them : —
“ ' I am a queen of a great kingdom, in which there is the greatest abundance of all that is most valued in the world, such as gold and precious stones. My lineage is very old, —for it comes from royal blood so far back that there is no memory of the beginnings of it,—and my honor is as perfect as it was at my birth. My fortune has brought me into these countries, whence I hoped to bring away many captives, but where I am myself a captive. I do not say of this captivity in which you see me, that, after all the great experiences of my life, favorable and adverse, I had believed that I was strong enough to parry the thrusts offortune; but I have found that my heart was tried and afflicted in my imprisonment, because the great beauty of this new Emperor overwhelmed me in the moment that my eyes looked upon him. I trusted in my greatness, and that immense wealth which excites and unites so many, that, if I would turn to your religion, I might gain him for a husband ; but when I came into the presence of this lovely Empress, I regarded it as certain that they belonged to each Other by their equal rank; and that argument, which showed the vanity of my thoughts, brought me to the determination in which I now stand. And since Eternal Fortune has taken the direction of my passion, I, throwing all my own strength into oblivion, as the wise do in those affairs which have no remedy, seek, if it please you, to take for my husband some other man, who may be the son of a king, to be of such power as a good knight ought to have; and I will become a Christian. For, as I have seen the ordered order of your religion, and the great disorder of all others, I have seen that it is clear that the law which you follow must be the truth, while that which we follow is lying and falsehood.’
“ When the Emperor had heard all this, embracing her with a smile, he said, ‘ Queen Calafia, my good friend, till now you have had from me neither word nor argument; for my condition is such that I cannot permit my eyes to look, without terrible hatred, upon any but those who are in the holy law of truth, nor wish well to such as are out of it. But now that the Omnipotent Lord has had such mercy on you as to give you such knowledge that you become His servant, you excite in me at once the same love as if the King, my father, had begotten us both. And as for this you ask, I will give you, by my troth, a knight who is even more complete in valor and in lineage than you have demanded.’
“ Then, taking by the hand Talanque, his cousin, the son of the King of Sobradisa, — very large he was of person, and very handsome withal, — he said,—
“ ' Queen, here you see one of my cousins, son of the King whom you here see, — the brother of the King my father, — take him to yourself, that I may secure to you the good fortune which you will bring to him.’
“ The Queen looked at him, and finding his appearance good, said, —
“ ‘ I am content with his presence, and well satisfied with his lineage and person, since you assure me of them. Be pleased to summon for me Liota, my sister, who is with my fleet in the harbor, that I may send orders to her that there shall be no movement among my people.’
“ The Emperor sent the Admiral Tartarie for her immediately, and he, having found her, brought her with him, and placed her before the Emperor. The Queen Calafia told her all her wish, commanding her and entreating her to confirm it. Her sister, Liota, kneeling upon the ground, kissed her hands, and said that there was no reason why she should make any explanation of her will to those who were in her service. The Queen raised her and embraced her, with the tears in her eyes, and led her by the hand to Talanque, saying,—
“ ‘ Thou shalt be my lord, and the lord of my land, which is a very great kingdom ; and, for thy sake, this island shall change the custom which for a very long time it has preserved, so that the natural generations of men and women shall succeed henceforth, in place of the order in which the men have been separated so long. And if you have here any friend whom you greatly love, who is of the same rank with you, let him be betrothed to my sister here, and no long time shall pass, before, with thy help, she shall be queen of a great land.’
“ Talanque greatly loved Maneli the Prudent, both because they were brothers by birth and because they held the same faith. He led him forth, and said to her, —
“ ' My Queen, since the Emperor, my lord, loves this knight as much as he loves me, and as much as I love thee, take him, and do with him as you would do by me.’
“ ' Then, I ask,’ said she, ' that we, accepting your religion, may become your wives.'
“ Then the Emperor Esplandian and the several Kings, seeing their wishes thus confirmed, took the Queen and her sister to the chapel, turned them into Christians, and espoused them to those two so famous knights,—and thus they converted all who were in the fleet. And immediately they gave order, so that Talanque, taking the fleet of Don Galaor, his father, and Maneli that of King Cildadan, with all their people, garnished and furnished with all things necessary, set sail with their wives, plighting their faith to the Emperor, that, if he should need any help from them, they would give it as to their own brother.
“ What happened to them afterwards, I must be excused from telling; for they passed through many very strange achievements of the greatest valor, they fought many battles, and gained many kingdoms, of which if we should give the story, there would be danger that we should never have done.”
With this tantalizing statement, California and the Queen of California pass from romance and from history. But, some twenty-five years after these words were written and published by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo, Cortes and his braves happened upon the peninsula, which they thought an island, which stretches down between the Gulf of California and the sea. This romance of Esplandian was the yellow-covered novel of their day; Talanque and Maneli were their Aramis and Athos. “ Come,” said some one, “ let us name the new island California: perhaps some one will find gold here yet, and precious stones.” And so, from the romance, the peninsula, and the gulf, and afterwards the State, got their name. And they have rewarded the romance by giving to it in these later days the fame of being godmother of a great republic.
The antiquarians of California have universally, we believe, recognized this as the origin of her name, since Mr. Hale called attention to this rare romance. As, even now, there are not perhaps half a dozen copies of it in America, we have transferred to our pages every word which belongs to that primeval history of California and her Queen.
- When Columbus sailed on his fourth voyage, in which he hoped to pass through what we now know as the Isthmus of Panama, and sail northwestward, he wrote to his king and queen that thus he should come as near as men could come to “the Terrestrial Paradise.”↩
- Norandel was the half-brother of Amadis, both of them being sons of Lisuarte, King of England.↩
- Maneli was son of Cildadan, King of Ireland.↩
- Quadragante was a distinguished giant, who had been conquered by Amadis, and was now his sure friend.↩