Old Time Tales - Lawton Evans

The Cid Wins His Name

Rodrigo Diaz was born of a good family in Spain; in fact, his family was almost as good as that of King Ferando himself. Rodrigo's father was named Diego, but at the time our story begins he was an old man, weak and infirm of body, but still very sensitive about his honor.

It happened that Diego fell into a dispute with Gomez, a powerful warrior, who, in a moment of anger, struck Diego in the face. The old courtier was too feeble to resent the insult and retired to his home to brood in solitude over the offence which had been paid him.

Rodrigo was a mere boy at the time and by no means a match for Gomez, but he said to his father, "I shall resent the insult to my house, for on me alone can you depend for vengeance. Give me your sword and I shall ask nothing but a fair field and the justice of heaven."

Saying this, he took his father's sword and found Gomez, whom he challenged to mortal combat. Gomez looked at the youth and replied to his challenge, "I do not fight with boys, but since you wish to meet me I shall on the morrow break a lance with you."

When the day came for the battle so careless ways Gomez and so valiant was Rodrigo that the youth's lance passed through the warrior's body, killing him outright and wiping out the insult done to his father.

When Diego heard of the vow of his son and how his house had been avenged of the insult, he told his son to sit at the head of the table, which was a sign that he was then the head of the house. Shortly after this the old man died, and Rodrigo really did become the head of the house.

Gomez had a daughter named Ximena. She went to King Ferando and threw herself at his feet, demanding justice. Seeing Rodrigo among the courtiers she denounced him for slaying her father and bade him take her life also as she had no wish to survive her parent.

Several times this appeal was repeated, only to be refused by the king. Each time she noticed with increased favor the comeliness of Rodrigo and each time he noticed the beauty of the daughter of the man he had killed. The last time she came she threw herself before the king and with downcast eyes said, "My lord, the king, I now forego my thoughts of vengeance on Rodrigo, for he did right to avenge the insult upon his father. My heart has changed towards him and I now beg that you will give him to me in marriage."

The king had suspected for some time that Rodrigo and Ximena had fallen in love with each other. Sending for Rodrigo, he told him of the strange request of the fair young woman. Rodrigo accepted her on the spot and their marriage was celebrated with much pomp and ceremony.

Rodrigo took his wife home and gave her to his mother to care for. After this he bade her good-bye, saying, "I am going to win five battles and then I shall consider myself worthy of your love." And then he asked the king to allow him to make a pious pilgrimage to Compostella. He set out with a band of twenty knights. The king had given him land and presents at the time of his wedding, so that now he was quite rich and traveled in great state. Nevertheless, he was always mindful of the needs of others and distributed much charity on his way.

The story goes, as he traveled along the highway, he saw a leper who had fallen into a quagmire and who cried out, "Help me, my lords and knights, or I will perish in this bog. I am a poor leper and I am sore in need."

The knights halted and looked at the awful object in the mire by the road. All of them spurred their horses to ride away, but Rodrigo remained still. He alighted from his horse and helped the leper out of the quagmire and to the surprise and alarm of his knights put him on his horse and carried him to the inn. At this the knights were still more alarmed and surprised.

At the evening meal the knights, with frowns, kept away from the sick man, but Rodrigo shared his dish with him. He even did more; he ordered beds to be prepared for the company and in his own chamber ordered a bed to be made ready for himself and the leper. After bathing the leper, he shared with him his best linen and put him carefully to bed and lay down by him and was glad to notice that the sick man dropped into a comfortable sleep.

About midnight he awoke and reached out his hand to find his companion, but the bed was empty. Somewhat alarmed, he arose and called for a light and looked everywhere in the room to find the leper, but nowhere could he be found and the party again retired to their sleep. Shortly afterwards, while Rodrigo was still awake wondering at the strange occurrence, he saw standing before him an angel in white garments and it said to him, "Art thou awake or asleep, Rodrigo?"

The knight answered, "I do not sleep. But who art thou that bringest such brightness and so sweet an odor?"

The angel answered, "I am St. Lazarus. I was the leper to whom thou didst so much good, and because thou didst this for me and for His sake thou shalt gain honor in every way. Thou shalt be feared by thy enemies, thou shalt die an honorable death and thy name shall be immortal."

The angel disappeared and Rodrigo fell upon his knees and prayed for the remainder of the night. The next day he went on his pilgrimage, distributing alms and kind words on the way.

After awhile King Ferando died and Don Sancho reigned in his stead. Rodrigo was ever a faithful knight, never failing in bravery and in justice or in alms-giving to the poor and needy. By this time he had many followers, and the people of Spain looked upon him as their most valiant leader. In many battles with the Moors he took much booty and for himself accumulated great riches and power.

So just was he that he quarreled with Don Sancho, his king, over some matter of injustice, which made the king banish him from his kingdom for a while. Rodrigo withdrew with his followers, surrendered all his possessions to the king and swore that he would never trim his beard for the rest of his life. After awhile, Don Sancho realized the mistake he had made and called him back from his exile and restored him to power.

To show the influence he had over his knights the story of Martin Pelaez, the Coward, is told. When he was engaged in the siege of Valencia, Martin Pelaez came to him and joined his band. He was a big, strong fellow, with a warlike appearance, but Rodrigo knew him to be a coward and a braggart and was not much pleased at his coming. Still, he thought he could make a good knight of him and let him stay.

Every day parties were sent out to fight the Moors who came forth from Valencia. One day Pelaez, who belonged to one of these parties, seeing all the knights fighting very hard and thinking that no one would notice him, ran away and hid until Rodrigo and his men came back to dinner.

Now it was the custom at meals, that Rodrigo, being the chief, should eat alone at the high table. At the next table sat the bravest and most renowned knights, while at the third table and still lower were placed those knights who had won no fame in arms. On the day of this adventure Pelaez having washed his hands, boldly walked in and was about to take his seat among the brave knights at the second table.

Rodrigo, however, had seen him run away, and so he took him by the hand and led him to his own table, saying, "You are not fit to sit with these men, but I will have you sit with me."

Pelaez was so much astonished that he could make no reply, but not knowing that Rodrigo had detected his cowardice he held his head very high and sat at meat with his leader.

The next day there was another battle in which Rodrigo watched Pelaez to see if the lesson had had any effect. In the midst of the fight, however, the poor coward turned and ran home so as to hide himself again. This did not escape the eye of Rodrigo, though he did not show that he had noticed it.

At the afternoon meal Rodrigo took Pelaez by the hand and led him up to his own table, saying to him, "My friend, your valor is so great you deserve to eat with me out of the same dish." Then turning to the knights he spoke in praise of Pelaez, though for the life of them they could not tell wherein he had been so brave or what he had done.

Pelaez listened, but was finally much ashamed of himself. He thought he saw through the motives of his leader and said to himself in an undertone, "The next time I shall be worthy of this."

The next day a great encounter took place and, strange to say, Martin Pelaez was in the very front ranks of the knights, fighting with so much skill and bravery that his companions looked upon him with wonder and said to themselves, "Now we see why he deserves such praise from our master."

He killed many Moors with his own hands, and those who escaped reported that Rodrigo had engaged the devil to fight for him, for they never beheld such terrible features or heard so awful a voice or felt so weighty a sword as those of the one they called Pelaez.

At the evening meal Rodrigo took no notice of him, and Pelaez quietly walked in and sat down at the last table, but the valorous knights arose as one and called out, "Here is your place, Martin Pelaez; sit here with those who best defend the honor of Spain." From that time forth Martin Pelaez was one of the bravest knights in Spain and one of the best friends Rodrigo had.

After a long siege, Valencia fell into the hands of Rodrigo and his followers. Here he established himself with all his knights and soldiers and sent to the king rich gifts, which he had taken from the Moors in their many battles around the city. He was now beginning to feel his years and longed to see his family again, so he sent for his wife and his daughters, who came to live with him at Valencia.

The months passed quietly and nothing came for a while to mar his peaceful life. The next spring, however, the Moors came again and besieged the city in great numbers. Rodrigo made preparations for a long siege, laid in a great store of provisions and strengthened the walls of the city.

Early in the morning Rodrigo led his four thousand knights to fight against fifty thousand of the savage Moors. His wife and daughters watched the battle from the towers of the city, saying they had never seen him in battle and wished to know what a battle was like. When they saw the long beard of Rodrigo, which had now grown white, waving around while he sat astride his horse, Babieca, they well understood why his men rallied around and called out, "The Cid! The Cid!" which means the chief.

At the end of the day only fifteen thousand of the Moors were left alive out of the fifty thousand which were encamped before the city in the morning. So terrible was the slaughter that every knight who returned from the battle looked as if he had been washed in blood and all the horses' flanks were dripping with the red gore of the battle.

A great deal of treasure was left on the field by the Moors. Rodrigo captured the Moorish king's sword, Tizona; also a wonderful tent of the Moorish chief and many gold and silver ornaments.

The next day he sent presents to the king of Spain, which, when they arrived, excited the envy and jealousy of the other knights at the court.

"Surely," they said, "this knight Rodrigo, or the Cid, as his followers call him, must be as great as our king himself." And they looked with evil eyes upon the messengers.

But the king rebuked them sternly, saying, "If you had been as faithful in my service, and as valiant in battle against the enemies of my kingdom, as he whom his soldiers call the Cid, I should feel safer in my own household, and more secure on the throne of my ancestors."