THE ENCHANTED PALACE
 NEAR the city of Toledo, the capital of Spain when that country was a kingdom of the Goths, was a great palace of the olden
time, or, as some say, a vast cave, which had been deepened and widened and made into many rooms. Still others say that
it was a mighty tower, built by Hercules. Whatever it was,—palace, tower, or cavern,—a spell lay upon it from far past
days, which none had dared to break. There was an ancient prophecy that Spain would in time be invaded by barbarians
from Africa, and to prevent this a wise king, who knew the arts of magic, had placed a secret talisman in one of the
rooms. While this remained undisturbed the country was safe from invasion. If once the secret of the talisman should be
divulged, swift ruin would descend upon the kingdom of the Goths. It must be guarded strongly and well, for in it lay
the destinies of Spain.
A huge iron gate closed the entrance to the enchanted palace, and upon this each king of the Goths, on coming to the
throne, placed a strong lock, so that in time huge padlocks covered much of its front and its secrecy seemed amply
assured. When Roderic, the last king of the Goths, came to the throne, twenty-seven of such locks hung upon the gate. As
for the keys, some writers tell us that they remained in the locks, others say that they had been
 hidden and lost; but it is certain that no one had dared to open a single one of the locks; prudence and fear guarded
the secret better than gates and locks.
At length the time came when the cherished secret was to be divulged. Don Roderic, who had seized the throne by
violence, and bore in his heart the fatal bane of curiosity, determined to learn what had lain for centuries behind
those locks. The whole affair, he declared, was the jest of an ancient king, which did very well when superstition ruled
the world, but which was far behind the age in which he lived. Two things moved the epoch-breaking king,—curiosity, that
vice which has led thousands to ruin, and avarice, which has brought destruction upon thousands more. "It is a
treasure-house, not a talisman," he told himself. "Gold, silver, and jewels lie hidden in its mouldy depths. My treasury
is empty, and I should be a fool to let a cluster of rusty locks keep me from filling it from this ancient store."
When it became known what Roderic proposed a shudder of horror ran through the land. Nobles and bishops hastened to the
audience chamber and sought to hinder the fateful purpose of the rash monarch. Their hearts were filled with dread of
the perils that would follow any meddling with the magic spell, and they earnestly implored him not to bring the
foretold disaster upon the land.
"The kings who reigned before you have religiously obeyed the injunction," they said. "Each of them has fixed his lock
to the gate. It will be wise and prudent in you to follow their example. If
 it is gold and jewels you look for, tell us how much you think the cavern holds, even all your fancy hopes to find, and
so much we will give you. Even if it beggars us, we will collect and bring you this sum without fail. We pray and
implore you, then, do not break a custom which our old kings have all held sacred. They knew well what they did when
they commanded that none after them should seek to disclose the fatal secret of the hidden chamber."
Earnest as was their appeal, it was wasted upon Roderic. Their offer of gold did not reach his deepest motive; curiosity
with him was stronger than greed, and he laughed in his beard at the fears and tremblings of his lords.
"It shall not be said that Don Roderic, the king of the Goths, fears the devil or his agents," he loudly declared, and
orders were given that the locks should be forced.
One by one the rusty safeguards yielded to key or sledge, and the gates shrieked disapproval when at length they
reluctantly turned on their stiff hinges, that had not moved for centuries. Into the cavern strode the king, followed by
his fearful but curious train. The rooms, as tradition had said, were many, and from room to room he hurried with rapid
feet. He sought in vain. No gold appeared, no jewels glittered on his sight. The rooms were drear and empty, their
hollow floors mocking his footsteps with long-silent echoes. One treasure only he found, the jewelled table of Solomon,
a famous ancient work of art which had long remained hidden from human sight. Of this wonderful relic we shall say no
 here, for it has a history of its own, to be told in a future tale.
On and on went the disappointed king, with nothing to satisfy his avarice or his curiosity. At length he entered the
chamber of the spell, the magic room which had so long been locked from human vision, and looked with eyes of wonder on
the secret which had been so carefully preserved.
What he saw was simple but threatening. On the wall of the room was a rude painting, which represented a group of
strangely dressed horsemen, some wearing turbans, some bareheaded, with locks of coarse black hair hanging over their
foreheads. The skins of animals covered their limbs; they carried scimitars and lances and bore fluttering pennons;
their horses were small, but of purest breed.
Turning in doubt and dread from this enigmatical drawing, the daring intruder saw in the centre of the apartment a
pedestal bearing a marble urn, in which lay a scroll of parchment. From this one of his scribes read the following
Whenever this asylum is violated and the spell contained in this urn broken, the people shown in the picture shall
invade the land and overturn the throne of its kings. The rule of the Goths shall end and the whole country fall into
the hands of heathen strangers."
King Roderic looked again with eyes of alarm on the pictured forms. Well he knew their meaning. The turban-wearers were
Arabians, their horses the famous steeds of the desert; the bare-headed barbarians were Berbers or Moors. Already they
 threatened the land from Africa's shores; he had broken the spell which held them back; the time for the fulfilment of
the prophecy was at hand.
Filled with sudden terror, the rash invader hurried from the chamber of the talisman, his courtiers flying with wild
haste to the open air. The brazen gates were closed with a clang which rang dismally through the empty rooms, and the
lock of the king was fixed upon them. But it was too late. The voice of destiny had spoken and the fate of the kingdom
been revealed, and all the people looked upon Don Roderic as a doomed man.
We have given this legend in its mildest form. Some Arab writers surround it with magical incidents until it becomes a
tale worthy of the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments." They speak of two ancient men with snowy beards who kept the keys
of the gate and opened the locks only at Roderic's stern command. When the locks were removed no one could stir the
gates until the hand of the king touched them, when they sprang open of themselves. Inside stood a huge bronze giant
with a club of steel, with which he dealt resounding blows on the floor to right and left. He desisted at the king's
command, and the train entered unharmed. In the magic chamber they found a golden casket containing a linen cloth
between tablets of brass. On this were painted figures of Arabs in armor. As they gazed these began to move, sounds of
war were heard, and the vision of a battle between Arab and Christian warriors passed before the affrighted eyes of the
intruders. The Christian army was defeated,
 and Roderic saw the image of himself in flight, and finally of his horse without a rider. As he rushed in terror from
the fatal room the bronze giant was no longer to be seen and the ancient guardians of the gate lay dead upon their
posts. In the end the tower was burned by magic fire, and its very ashes were scattered by the wings of an innumerable
flight of birds.
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