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MOORS AND CHRISTIANS chapter 1
 The once famous but now little known town of Aldeire is situated in the Marquisate of El Cenet, or, let us say, on the eastern slope of the Alpujarra, and partly hangs over a ledge, partly hides itself in a ravine of the giant central ridge of Sierra Nevada, five or six thousand feet above the level of the sea, and seven or eight thousand below the eternal snows of the Mulhacem.
 
Aldeire, be it said with all respect to its reverend pastor, is a Moorish town. That it was formerly Moorish is clearly proved by its name, its situation, and its architecture, and that it is not yet completely Christianized, although it figures among the towns of reconquered Spain, and has its little Catholic church and its confraternities of the Virgin, of Jesus, and of several of the saints, is proved by the character and the customs of its inhabitants; by the perpetual feuds, as terrible as they are causeless, which unite or separate them; and by the gloomy black eyes, pale complexions, laconic speech, and infrequent laughter of men, women, and children.
 
But it may be well to remind our readers, in order that neither the aforesaid pastor nor any one else may question the justice of this reasoning, that the Moors of the Marquisate of El Cenet were not expelled in a body, like those of the Alpujarra, but that many of them succeeded in remaining in the country, living in concealment, thanks to the prudence— or the cowardice—which made them turn a deaf ear to the rash and the heroic appeal of their unfortunate Prince, Aben Humcya; whence I infer that Uncle Juan Gomez, nicknamed Hormiga [The Ant], in the year of grace 1821 Constitutional Alcalde of Aldeire, might very well be the descendant of some Mustapha, Mohammed, or the like.
 
It is related, then, that the aforesaid Juan Gomez—a man at the time of our story about fifty years of age, very shrewd, although he knew neither how to read nor write, and grasping and industrious to some purpose, as might be inferred not only from his sobriquet, but also from his wealth, acquired honestly or otherwise, and invested in the most fertile lands of the district—leased, at a nominal rent, by means of a present to the secretary of the corporation of some hens which had left off laying, a piece of arid town land, on which stood an old ruin, formerly a Moorish watch-tower or hermitage, and still called the Moor's Tower.
 
Needless to say that Uncle Hormiga did not stop to consider for an instant who this Moor might be, nor what might have been the original purpose of the ruined building; the one thing which he saw at once, clear as water, was, that with the stones which had already fallen from the ruin and those which he should remove from it, he might make a secure and commodious yard for his cattle; consequently, on the very day after it came into his possession, and as a suitable pastime for a man of his thrifty habits, he began to devote his leisure hours to the task of pulling down what still remained standing of the ruin.
 
"You will kill yourself," said his wife, seeing him come home in the evening, covered with dust and sweat and carrying his crowbar hidden under his cloak.
 
"On the contrary," he answered, "this exercise is good for me; it will put my blood in motion and keep me from being like our sons, the students who, according to what the storekeeper tells me, were at the theatre in Granada the other night looking so yellow that it was enough to make one sick to see them."
 
"Poor boys! From studying so much! But you ought to be ashamed to work like a laborer, when you are the richest man in the town, and Alcalde into the bargain."
 
"That is why I take no one with me. Here, hand me that salad!"
 
"It would be well to have some one to help you, however. You will spend an age in pulling down the tower by yourself, and besides, you may not be able to manage it."
 
"Don't talk nonsense, Torcuata. When I begin to build the wall of the cattle yard, I shall hire workmen, and even employ a master-builder. But any one can pull down. And it is such fun to destroy! Come, clear away the table and let us go to bed."
 
"You speak that way because you are a man. As for me, it disturbs and saddens me to see things destroyed."
 
"Old women's notions. If you only knew how many things there are in the world that ought to be destroyed!"
 
"Hold your tongue, you free-mason! It was a misfortune they ever elected you Alcalde. You will see when the Royalists come into power again that the king will have you hanged!"
 
"Yes, we shall see! Bigot! Hypocrite! Owl! Come, I am sleepy; stop blessing yourself and put out that light."
 
And thus they would argue until one or the other of the consorts fell asleep.


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