The Palace of the Enchanted Moors
Traditionary lore may interest him, but he must be ready to listen to it with all the additions which a gross superstition can alone invent or believe.
Here, then, is it recorded that Al Rachid held a Christian maiden captive for many years. That she was as good as she was beautiful goes without further remark. Maria das Dores, for so she is named by her chroniclers, was one of those splendid women worthy to be the mothers of that succeeding generation of heroes who overthrew the Moors on the plains of Ourique.
Maria was the daughter of a very wealthy farmer who resided close to the mouth of the river Minho. It was her duty to work with the farm labourers in the field, and she would mingle her sweet voice with theirs when singing hymns to the Virgin as they plied their hoes.
Often had Al Rachid seen her at work from his hiding-place in a neighbouring forest. He loved the maiden, although he had reason to believe she was a Christian; but he knew that she had given her love to another, and could, therefore, not be his unless he took her by force.
One day, at vesper-time, she did not return to the farm with the labourers. Search was made for her everywhere, but she could not be found. Then it was imagined she might be in conversation with her lover; but, on inquiry, he had not seen her.
Mounted parties scoured the country all around, but in vain; she had not been seen, and there was no doubt entertained but that she had been lured into the forest, and become the captive of Al Rachid.
But, then, nobody had seen the Moorish chief that day. True; but the Moors were enchanters, and it was known that they could make subterranean passages which closed behind them so as to prevent their being pursued.
The wise woman of the district was therefore called into requisition, and she, having consulted the astrolabe and made a fire of pine needles, discovered the direction in which the fugitives were going. Mounting their horses, and led by the wise woman, who bestrode a splendid white mule, they galloped off, and after two days’ hard riding they distinctly heard the sound of a horse’s hoofs, but they could not see the horse.