The Pearl of Toledo

The Pearl of Toledo


Transcribed and adapted from The Works of Prosper Mérimée. Vol. 3. Trans Emily Mary Waller and Mary Helena Dey. New York: Frank S. Holby, 1906. For educational use only.


Who can tell me when the sun is most beautiful, at rising, or at setting? Who can tell me whether of the Olive or the Almond is the most beautiful of trees? Who can tell me whether Andalusia or Valencia sends forth the bravest knight? What man can tell me who is the fairest of women? I will tell you who is the fairest of women. She is Aurora de Vargas, the Pearl of Toledo.

Swarthy Tuzani has called for his lance, he has called for his buckler; his lance he grasps in his strong right hand; his buckler hangs from his neck. He goes down to his stable, and considers well his forty good steeds; in due order he considers them all, and he says:

“Berja is the fleetest and trustiest of all. On her strong back will I carry away the Pearl of Toledo, as mine will I bear her away, or by Allah, Cordova shall see me no more.”

So he sets forth and he rides on his way, till at length he reaches Toledo, and he meets an old man hard by Zucatin.

“Old man, with the snowy beard, carry this letter to Don Guttiera, to Don Guttiera de Saldaña. If he is a man he will come and meet me in a single combat, near to the fountain of Almami. The Pearl of Toledo must belong to one of us.”

The old man has taken the letter, he has taken and carried it to the Count de Saldaña, as he sat playing chess with the Pearl of Toledo. The Count has read the letter, he has read the parchment, and with his closed fist does he smite the table so mightily that all the chessmen have fallen to the ground. Then he rises and calls for his lance and his good steed, and all trembling does the Pearl of Toledo arise, for she has perceived and understood that he is going forth to combat.

“My Lord Guttiera de Saldaña, go not hence I pray, go not hence, but play still this game with me.”

“No longer will I play at chess; I will play at the game of lances by the fountain of Almami.”

And the tears of Aurora availed not to stay him; for naught stays a knight who goes forth to combat. Then the Pearl of Toledo took her mantle, and mounting upon her mule she went her way to the fountain of Almami.

All about the fountain is the grass crimson, crimson too the waters of the fountain; but it is not the blood of a Christian that stains the green sward, that stains the waters of the fountain. The swarthy Tuzani lies there with his face to the sky. The lance of Don Guttiera is splintered in his breast: all his life blood spends itself drop by drop. His faithful steed, Berja, looks down upon him weeping, for she cannot heal the wound of her master.

The Pearl of Toledo alights from her mule. “Take heart, good sir, for you will live yet to wed some poor Moorish maiden; my hand has cunning to heal the wound made by my knight.”

“O Pearl so white, O Pearl so fair, draw forth from my breast the splinter of lance which rends it. The cold of the steel chills me and freezes my heart.”

In all confidence she approached him, but he gathered his strength, and with his sabre’s blade, gashes her beautiful face.