Castile; or, The
V1 by James Fenimore Cooper
Castile; or, The
I fill this cup, to one made up of loveliness alone,
A women, of her gentle sex the seeming paragon;
To whom the better elements and kindly stars have given
A form so fair, that, like the air,'tis less of earth than heaven.
So much has been written of late years, touching the discovery of
America, that it would not be at all surprising should there exist a
disposition in a certain class of readers to deny the accuracy of all
the statements in this work. Some may refer to history, with a view to
prove that there never were such persons as our hero and heroine, and
fancy that by establishing these facts, they completely destroy the
authenticity of the whole book. In answer to this anticipated
objection, we will state, that after carefully perusing several of the
Spanish writers, from Cervantes to the translator of the journal of
Columbus, the Alpha and Omega of peninsular literature, and after
having read both Irving and Prescott from beginning to end, we do not
find a syllable in either of them, that we understand to be conclusive
evidence, or indeed to be any evidence at all, on the portions of our
subject that are likely to be disputed. Until some solid affirmative
proof, therefore, can be produced against us, we shall hold our case
to be made out, and rest our claims to be believed on the authority
of our own statements. Nor do we think there is any thing either
unreasonable or unusual in this course, as perhaps the greater portion
of that which is daily and hourly offered to the credence of the
American public, rests on the same species of testimony,—with the
trifling difference that we state truths, with a profession of
fiction, while the great moral caterers of the age state fiction with
the profession of truth. If any advantage can be fairly obtained over
us, in consequence of this trifling discrepancy, we must submit.
There is one point, notwithstanding, concerning which it may be
well to be frank at once. The narrative of the "Voyage to Cathay," has
been written with the journal of the Admiral before us; or, rather
with all of that journal, that has been given to the world through the
agency of a very incompetent and meagre editor. Nothing is plainer
than the general fact that this person did not always understand his
author, and in one particular circumstance he has written so
obscurely, as not a little to embarrass even a novelist, whose
functions naturally include an entire familiarity with the thoughts,
emotions, characters, and, occasionally, with the unknown fates of
the subjects of his pen. The nautical day formerly commenced at
meridian, and with all our native ingenuity and high professional
prerogatives we have not been able to discover whether the editor of
the journal has adopted that mode of counting time, or whether he has
condescended to use the more vulgar and irrational practice of
landsmen. It is our opinion, however, that in the spirit of
impartiality which becomes an historian, he has adopted both. This
little peculiarity might possibly embarrass a superficial critic; but
accurate critics being so very common, we feel no concern on this
head, well knowing that they will be much more apt to wink at these
minor inconsistencies, than to pass over an error of the press, or a
comma with a broken tail. As we wish to live on good terms with this
useful class of our fellow-creatures, we have directed the printers to
mis-spell some eight or ten words for their convenience, and to save
them from head-aches, have honestly stated this principal difficulty
Should the publicity which is now given to the consequences of
commencing a day in the middle, have the effect to induce the
government to order that it shall, in future, with all American
seamen, commence at one of its ends, something will be gained in the
way of simplicity, and the writing of novels will, in-so-much, be
rendered easier and more agreeable.
As respects the minor characters of this work, very little need be
said. Every one knows that Columbus had seamen in his vessels, and
that he brought some of the natives of the islands he had discovered,
back with him to Spain. The reader is now made much more intimately
acquainted with certain of these individuals, we will venture to say,
that he can be possibly by the perusal of any work previously
written. As for the subordinate incidents connected with the more
familiar events of the age, it is hoped they will be found so
completely to fill up this branch of the subject, as to render future
"There was knocking that shook the marble floor,
And a voice at the gate, which said —
"That the Cid Ruy Diez, the Campeador,
Was there in his arms array'd.' "—
Whether we take the pictures of the inimitable Cervantes, or of
that scarcely less meritorious author from whom Le Sage has borrowed
his immortal tale, for our guides; whether we confide in the graver
legends of history, or put our trust in the accounts of modern
travellers, the time has scarcely ever existed when the inns of Spain
were good, or the roads safe. These are two of the blessings of
civilization which the people of the peninsula would really seem
destined never to attain; for, in all ages, we hear, or have heard, of
wrongs done the traveller equally by the robber and the host. If such
are the facts to-day, such also were the facts in the middle of the
fifteenth century, the period to which we desire to carry back the
reader in imagination.
At the commencement of the month of October, in the year of our
Lord 1469, John of Trastamara reigned in Aragon, holding his court at
a place called Zaragosa, a town lying on the Ebro, the name of which
is supposed to be a corruption of Cæsar Augustus, and a city that has
become celebrated in our own times, under the more Anglicised term of
Saragossa, for its deeds in arms. John of Trastamara, or, as it was
more usual to style him, agreeably to the nomenclature of kings, John
II., was one of the most sagacious monarchs of his age; but he had
become impoverished by many conflicts with the turbulent, or, as it
may be more courtly to say, the liberty-loving Catalonians; had
frequently enough to do to maintain his seat on the throne; possessed
a party-coloured empire that included within its sway, besides his
native Aragon, with its dependencies of Valencia and Catalonia, Sicily
and the Balearic Islands, with some very questionable rights in
Navarre. By the will of his elder brother and predecessor, the crown
of Naples had descended to an illegitimate son of the latter, else
would that kingdom have been added to the list. The King of Aragon had
seen a long and troubled reign, and, at this very moment, his treasury
was nearly exhausted, by his efforts to subdue the truculent Catalans,
though he was nearer a triumph than he could then foresee, his
competitor, the Duke of Lorraine, dying suddenly, only two short
months after the precise period chosen for the commencement of our
tale. But it is denied to man to look into the future, and on the 9th
of the month just mentioned, the ingenuity of the royal treasurer was
most sorely taxed, there having arisen an unexpected demand for a
considerable sum of money, at the very moment that the army was about
to disband itself for the want of pay, and the public coffers
contained only the very moderate sum of three hundred Enriques,
or Henrys; a gold coin named after a previous monarch, and which had a
value not far from that of the modern ducat, or our own quarter eagle.
The matter, however, was too pressing to be deferred, and even the
objects of the war were considered as secondary to those connected
with this suddenly conceived, and more private enterprise. Councils
were held, money-dealers were cajoled or frightened, and the
confidents of the court were very manifestly in a state of great and
earnest excitement. At length, the time of preparation appeared to be
passed, and the instant of action arrived. Curiosity was relieved,
and the citizens of Saragossa were permitted to know that their
sovereign was about to send a solemn embassy, on matters of high
moment, to his neighbour, kinsman, and ally, the monarch of Castile.
In 1469, Henry, also of Trastamara, sat upon the throne of the
adjoining kingdom, under the title of Henry IV. He was the grandson,
in the male line, of the brother of John II.'s father, and
consequently, a first-cousin, once removed, of the monarch of Aragon.
Notwithstanding this affinity, and the strong family interests that
might be supposed to unite them, it required many friendly embassies
to preserve the peace between the two monarchs; and the announcement
of that which was about to depart, produced more satisfaction than
wonder in the streets of the town.
Henry of Castile, though he reigned over broader and richer
peninsular territories, than his relative of Aragon, had his cares and
troubles, also. He had been twice married, having repudiated his first
consort, Blanche of Aragon, to wed Joanna of Portugal, a princess of a
levity of character so marked, as not only to bring great scandal on
the court generally, but to throw so much distrust on the birth of her
only child, a daughter, as to push discontent to disaffection, and
eventually to deprive the infant itself of the rights of royalty.
Henry's father, like himself, had been twice married, and the issue of
the second union was a son and a daughter, Alfonso and Isabella; the
latter becoming subsequently illustrious, under the double titles of
the Queen of Castile, and of the Catholic. The luxurious impotency of
Henry, as a monarch, had driven a portion of his subjects into open
rebellion. Three years preceding that selected for our opening, his
brother Alfonso had been proclaimed king in his stead, and a civil war
had raged throughout his provinces. This war had been recently
terminated by the death of Alfonso, when the peace of the kingdom was
temporarily restored by a treaty, in which Henry consented to the
setting aside of his own daughter—or rather of the daughter of
Joanna of Portugal— and to the recognition of his half-sister
Isabella, as the rightful heiress of the throne. The last concession
was the result of dire necessity, and, as might have been expected,
it led to many secret and violent measures, with a view to defeat its
objects. Among the other expedients adopted by the king, or it might
be better to say, by his favourites, the inaction and indolence of the
self-indulgent but kindhearted prince being proverbial, with a view to
counteract the probable consequences of the expected accession of
isabella, were various schemes to control her will, and guide her
policy, by giving her hand, first to a subject, with a view to reduce
her power, and subsequently to various foreign princes, who were
thought to be more or less suited to the furthrance of such schemes.
Just at this moment, indeed, the marriage of the princess was one of
the greatest objects of Spanish prudence. The son of the King of
Aragon was one of the suitors for the hand of Isabella, and most of
those who heard of the intended departure of the embassy, naturally
enough believed that the mission had some connection with that great
stroke of Aragonese policy.
Isabella had the reputation of learning, modesty, discretion, piety
and beauty, besides being the acknowledged heiress of so enviable a
crown; and there were many competitors for her hand. Among them were
to be ranked French, English and Portuguese princes, besides him of
Aragon to whom we have already alluded. Different favourites
supported different pretenders, struggling to effect their several
purposes by the usual intrigues of courtiers and partisans; while the
royal maiden, herself, who was the object of so much competition and
rivalry, observed a discreet and womanly decorum, even while firmly
bent on indulging her most womanly and dearest sentiments. Her
brother, the king, was in the south, pursuing his pleasures, and,
long accustomed to dwell in comparative solitude, the princess was
earnestly occupied in arranging her own affairs, in a way that she
believed would most conduce to her own happiness. After several
attempts to entrap her person, from which she had only escaped by the
prompt succour of the forces of her friends, she had taken refuge in
Leon, in the capital of which province, or kingdom as it was sometimes
called, Valladolid, she temporarily took up her abode. As Henry,
however, still remained in the vicinity of Granada, it is in that
direction we must look for the route taken by the embassy.
The cortège left Saragossa, by one of the southern gates, early in
the morning of a glorious autumnal day. There was the usual escort of
lances, for this the troubled state of the country demanded; bearded
nobles well mailed, for few, who offered an inducement to the
plunderer, ventured on the highway without this precaution; a long
train of sumpter mules, and a host of those who, by their guise, were
half menials and half soldiers. The gallant display drew crowds after
the horses' heels, and, together with some prayers for success, a vast
deal of crude and shallow conjecture, as is still the practice with
the uninstructed and gossiping, was lavished on the probable objects
and results of the journey. But curiosity has its limits, and even the
gossip occasionally grows weary; and by the time the sun was setting,
most of the multitude had already forgotten to think and speak of the
parade of the morning. As the night drew on, however, the late pageant
was still the subject of discourse between two soldiers, who belonged
to the guard of the western gate, or that which opened on the road to
the province of Burgos. These worthies were loitering away the hours,
in the listless manner common to men on watch, and the spirit of
discussion and of critical censure had survived the thoughts and
bustle of the day.
"If Don Alonso de Carbajal thinketh to ride far in that guise,"
observed the elder of the two idlers, "he would do well to look sharp
to his followers, for the army of Aragon never sent forth a more
scurvily-appointed guard than that he hath this day led through the
southern gate, notwithstanding the glitter of housings, and the
clangour of trumpets. We could have furnished lances from Valencia
more befitting a king's embassy, I tell thee, Diego; ay, and worthier
knights to lead them, than these of Aragon. But if the king is
content, it ill becomes soldiers, like thee and me, to be
"There are many who think, Roderique, that it had been better to
spare the money lavished in this courtly letter-writing, to pay the
brave men who so freely shed their blood in order to subdue the
"This is always the way, boy, between debtor and creditor. Don John
owes you a few maravedis, and you grudge him every Enriques he spends
on his necessities. I am an older soldier, and have learned the art of
paying myself, when the treasury is too poor to save me the trouble."
"That might do in a foreign war, when one is battling against the
Moor, for instance; but, after all, these Catalans are as good
Christians as we are ourselves; some of them are as good subjects; and
it is not as easy to plunder a countryman as to plunder an Infidel."
"Easier, by twenty fold; for the one expects it, and, like all in
that unhappy condition, seldom has any thing worth taking, while the
other opens his stores to you as freely as he does his heart—but who
are these, setting forth on the highway, at this late hour?"
"Fellows that pretend to wealth, by affecting to conceal it. I'll
warrant you, now, Roderique, that there is not money enough among all
those varlets to pay the laquais that shall serve them their boiled
"By St. Iago, my blessed patron!" whispered one of the leaders of a
small cavaleade, who, with a single companion, rode a little in
advance of the others, as if not particularly anxious to be too
familiar with the rest, and langhing lightly as he spoke: "Yonder
vagabond is nearer the truth than is comfortable! We may have
sufficient among us all to pay for an olla-podrida and its service,
but I much doubt whether there will be a dobla left, when the journey
shall be once ended."
A low, but grave rebuke, checked this inconsiderate mirth; and the
party, which consisted of merchants, or traders, mounted on mules, as
was evident by their appearance, for in that age the different classes
were easily recognized by their attire, halted at the gate. The
permission to quit the town was regular, and the drowsy and
consequently surly gate-keeper slowly undid his bars, in order that
the travellers might pass.
While these necessary movements were going on, the two soldiers
stood a little on one side, coolly scanning the group, though Spanish
gravity prevented them from indulging openly in an expression of the
scorn that they actually felt for two or three Jews who were among the
traders. The merchants, moreover, were of a better class, as was
evident by a follower or two, who rode in their train, in the garbs of
menials, and who kept at a respectful distance while their masters
paid the light fee that it was customary to give on passing the gates
after night-fall. One of these menials, capitally mounted on a tall,
spirited mule, happened to place himself so near Diego, during this
little ceremony, that the latter, who was talkative by nature, could
not refrain from having his say.
"Prithee, Pepe," commenced the soldier, "how many hundred doblas a
year do they pay, in that service of thine, and how often do they
renew that fine leathern doublet?"
The varlet, or follower of the merchant, who was still a youth,
though his vigorous frame and embrowned cheek denoted equally severe
exercise and rude exposure, started and reddened at this free inquiry,
which was enforced by a hand slapped familiarly on his knee, and such
a squeeze of the leg as denoted the freedom of the camp. The laugh of
Diego probably suppressed a sudden outbreak of anger, for the soldier
was one whose manner indicated too much good-humour easily to excite
"Thy gripe is friendly, but somewhat close, comrade," the young
domestic mildly observed; "and if thou wilt take a friend's counsel,
it will be, never to indulge in too great familiarity, lest some day
it lead to a broken pate."
"By holy San Pedro! — I should relish"—
It was too late, however; for his masters having proceeded, the
youth pushed a powerful rowel into the flank of his mule, and the
vigorous animal dashed ahead, nearly upsetting Diego, who was pressing
hard on the pommel of the saddle, by the movement.
"There is mettle in that boy," exclaimed the good-natured soldier,
as he recovered his feet. "I thought, for one moment, he was about to
favour me with a visitation of his hand."
"Thou art wrong—and too much accustomed to be heedless, Diego,"
answered his comrado; "and it had been no wonder had that youth struck
thee to the earth, for the indignity thou putt'st upon him."
"Ha! a hireling follower of some cringing Hebrew! — He dare to
strike a blow at a soldier of the king!"
"He may have been a soldier of the king, himself, in his day. These
are times when most of his frame and muscle are called on to go in
harness. I think I have seen that face before; ay, and that, too,
where none of craven hearts would be apt to go."
"The fellow is a mere varlet, and a younker that has just escaped
from the hands of the women."
"I'll answer for it, that he hath faced both the Catalan and the
Moor, in his time, young as he may seem. Thou knowest that the nobles
are wont to carry their sons, as children, early into the fight, that
they may learn the deeds of chivalry betimes."
"The nobles!" repeated Diego, laughing. "In the name of all the
devils, Roderique, of what art thou thinking, that thou likenest this
knave to a young noble? Dost fancy him a Guzman, or a Mendoza, in
disguise, that thou speakest thus of chivalry?"
"True—it doth, indeed, seem silly—and yet have I before met
that frown in battle, and heard that sharp, quick voice, in a rally.
By St. Iago de Compostello! I have it! Harkee, Diego!—a word in thy
The veteran now led his more youthful comrade aside, although there
was no one near to listen to what he said; and looking carefully
round, to make certain that his words would not be overheard, he
whispered, for a moment, in Diego's ear.
"Holy Mother of God!" exclaimed the latter, recoiling quite three
paces, in surprise and awe. "Thou canst not be right, Roderique!"
"I will place my soul's welfare on it," returned the other,
positively. "Have I not often seen him with his visor up, and followed
him, time and again, to the charge?"
"And he setting forth as a trader's varlet!—Nay, I know not, but
as the servitor of a Jew!"
"Our business, Diego, is to strike without looking into the
quarrel; to look without seeing, and to listen without hearing.
Although his coffers are low, Don John is a good master, and our
anointed king; and so we will prove ourselves discreet soldiers."
"But he will never forgive me that gripe of the knee, and my
foolish tongue. I shall never dare meet him again."
"Humph!—It is not probable thou ever wilt meet him at the table
of the king, and, as for the field, as he is wont to go first, there
will not be much temptation for him to turn back in order to look at
"Thou thinkest, then, he will not be apt to know me, again?"
"If it should prove so, boy, thou need'st not take it in ill part;
as such as he have more demands on their memories than they can always
"The Blessed Maria make thee a true prophet! — else would I never
dare again to appear in the ranks. Were it a favour I had conferred, I
might hope it would be forgotten; but an indignity sticks long in the
Here the two soldiers moved away, continuing the discourse from
time to time, although the elder frequently admonished his loquacious
companion of the virtue of discretion.
In the mean time, the travellers pursued their way, with a
diligence that denoted great distrust of the roads, and as great a
desire to get on. They journeyed throughout the night, nor did there
occur any relaxation in their speed, until the return of the sun
exposed them, again, to the observations of the curious, among whom
were thought to be many emissaries of Henry of Castile, whose agents
were known to be particularly on the alert, along all the roads that
communicated between the capital of Aragon, and Valladolid, the city
in which his royal sister had then, quite recently, taken refuge.
Nothing remarkable occurred, however, to distinguish this journey from
any other of the period. There was nothing about the appearance of the
travellers, who soon entered the territory of Soria, a province of
Old Castile, where armed parties of the monarch were active in
watching the passes, to attract the attention of Henry's soldiers;
and, as for the more vulgar robber, he was temporarily driven from the
highways by the presence of those who acted in the name of the prince.
As respects the youth who had given rise to the discourse between the
two soldiers, he rode diligently in the rear of his master, so long
as it pleased the latter to remain in the saddle; and during the few
and brief pauses that occurred in the travelling, he busied himself,
like the other menials, in the duties of his proper vocation. On the
evening of the second day, however, about an hour after the party had
left a hostelrie, where it had solaced itself with an olla-podrida and
some sour wine, the merry young man who has already been mentioned,
and who still kept his place by the side of his graver and more aged
companion in the van, suddenly burst into a fit of loud laughter, and,
reining in his mule, he allowed the whole train to pass him, until he
found himself by the side of the young menial already so particularly
named. The latter cast a severe and rebuking glance at his reputed
master, as he dropped in by his side, and said, with a sternness that
ill comported with their apparent relations to each other—
"How now, Master Nuñez! what hath called thee from thy position in
the van, to this unseemly familiarity with the varlets in the rear?"
"I crave ten thousand pardons, honest Juan," returned the master,
still laughing, though he evidently struggled to repress his mirth,
out of respect to the other; "but here is a calamity befallen us, that
outdoes those of the fables and legends of necromancy and
knight-errantry. The worthy Master Ferreras, yonder, who is so skilful
in handling gold, having passed his whole life in buying and selling
barley and oats, hath actually mislaid the purse, which it would seem
he hath forgotten at the inn we have quitted, in payment of some very
stale bread and rancid oil. I doubt if there are twenty reals left in
the whole party!"
"And is it a matter of jest, Master Nuñez," returned the servant,
though a slight smile struggled about his mouth, as if ready to join
in his companion's merriment; "that we are penniless? Thank Heaven!
the Burgo of Osma cannot be very distant; and we may have less
occasion for gold. And now, master of mine, let me command thee to
keep thy proper place in this cavalcade, and not to forget thyself by
such undue familiarity with thy inferiors. I have no farther need of
thee, and therefore hasten back to Master Ferreras and acquaint him
with my sympathy and grief."
The young man smiled, though the eye of the pretended servant was
averted, as if he cared to respect his own admonitions; while the
other evidently sought a look of recognition and favour. In another
minute, the usual order of the journey was resumed.
As the night advanced, and the hour arrived when man and beast
usually betray fatigue, these travellers pushed their mules the
hardest; and about midnight, by dint of hard pricking, they came under
the principal gate of a small walled town, called Osma, that stood not
far from the boundary of the province of Burgos, though still in that
of Soria. No sooner was his mule near enough to the gate to allow of
the freedom, than the young merchant in advance, dealt sundry blows on
it, with his staff, effectually apprising those within of his
presence. It required no strong pull of the reins to stop the mules of
those behind; but the pretended varlet now pushed ahead, and was about
to assume his place among the principal personages near the gate,
when a heavy stone, hurled from the battlements, passed so close to
his head, as vividly to remind him how near he might be to making a
hasty journey to another world. A cry arose in the whole party, at
this narrow escape; nor were loud imprecations on the hand that had
cast the missile spared. The youth, himself, seemed the least
disturbed of them all; and though his voice was sharp and
authoritative, as he raised it in remonstrance, it was neither angry
"How now!" he said; "is this the way you treat peaceful travellers;
merchants, who come to ask hospitality and a night's repose at your
"Merchants and travellers!" growled a voice from above— "say,
rather, spies and agents of King Henry. Who are ye? Speak promptly, or
ye may expect something sharper than stones, at the next visit."
"Tell me," answered the youth, as if disdaining to be questioned
himself—"who holds this borough? Is it not the noble Count of
"The very same, Señor," answered he above, with a mollified tone:
"but what can a set of travelling traders know of His Excellency? and
who art thou, that speakest up as sharply and as proudly as if thou
wert a grandee?"
"I am Ferdinand of Trastamara—the Prince of Aragon— the King of
Sicily. Go! bid thy master hasten to the gate."
This sudden announcement, which was made in the lofty manner of one
accustomed to implicit obedience, produced a marked change in the
state of affairs. The party at the gate so far altered their several
positions, that the two superior nobles who had ridden in front, gave
place to the youthful king; while the group of knights made such
arrangements as showed that disguise was dropped, and each man was
now expected to appear in his proper character. It might have amused a
close and philosophical observer, to note the promptitude with which
the young cavaliers, in particular, rose in their saddles, as if
casting aside the lounging mien of grovelling traders, in order to
appear what they really were, men accustomed to the tourney and the
field. On the ramparts the change was equally sudden and great. All
appearance of drowsiness vanished; the soldiers spoke to each other in
suppressed but hurried voices; and the distant tramp of feet announced
that messengers were dispatched in various directions. Some ten
minutes elapsed in this manner, during which an inferior officer
showed himself on the ramparts, and apologized for a delay that arose
altogether from the force of discipline, and on no account from any
want of respect. At length a bustle on the wall, with the light of
many lanterns, betrayed the approach of the governor of the town; and
the impatience of the young men below, that had begun to manifest
itself in half-uttered execrations, was put under a more decent
restraint for the occasion.
"Are the joyful tidings that my people bring me true?" cried one
from the battlements; while a lantern was lowered from the wall, as if
to make a closer inspection of the party at the gate: "Am I really so
honoured, as to receive a summons from Don Ferdinand of Aragon, at
this unusual hour?"
"Cause thy fellow to turn his lantern more closely on my
countenance," answered the king, "that thou may'st make thyself sure.
I will cheerfully overlook the disrespect, Count of Treviño, for the
advantage of a more speedy admission."
"'T is he!" exclaimed the noble: "I know those royal features,
which bear the lineaments of a long race of kings; and that voice have
I heard, often, rallying the squadrons of Aragon, in their onsets
against the Moors. Let the trumpets speak up, and proclaim this happy
arrival; and open wide our gates, without delay."
This order was promptly obeyed, and the youthful king entered Osma,
by sound of trumpet, encircled by a strong party of men-at-arms, and
with half of the awakened and astonished population at his heels.
It is lucky, my Lord King," said Don Andres de Cabrera, the young
noble already mentioned, as he rode familiarly at the side of Don
Ferdinand, "that we have found these good lodgings without cost; it
being a melancholy truth, that Master Ferreras hath, negligently
enough, mislaid the only purse there was among us. In such a strait,
it would not have been easy to keep up the character of thrifty
traders, much longer; for, while the knaves higgle at the price of
every thing, they are fond of letting their gold be seen."
"Now that we are in thine own Castile, Don Andres," returned the
king, smiling, "we shall throw ourselves gladly on thy hospitality,
well knowing that thou hast two most beautiful diamonds always at thy
"I, Sir King! Your Highness is pleased to be merry at my expense,
although I believe it is, just now, the only gratification I can pay
for. My attachment for the Princess Isabella hath driven me from my
lands; and even the humblest cavalier in the Aragonese army, is not,
just now, poorer than I. What diamonds, therefore, can I command?"
"Report speaketh favourably of the two brilliants that are set in
the face of the Doña Beatriz de Bobadilla; and I hear they are
altogether at thy disposal; or, as much so, as a noble maiden's
inclinations can leave them with a loyal knight."
"Ah! my Lord King! if indeed this adventure end as happily as it
commenceth, I may, indeed, look to your royal favour, for some aid in
The king smiled, in his own sedate manner; but the Count de Treviño
pressing nearer to his side, at that moment, the discourse was
changed. That night, Ferdinand of Aragon slept soundly; but with the
dawn, he and his followers were again in the saddle. The party quitted
Osma, however, in a manner very different from that in which it had
approached its gate. Ferdinand now appeared as a knight, mounted on a
noble Andalusian charger; and all his followers had still more openly
assumed their proper characters. A strong body of lancers, led by the
Count of Treviño, in person, composed the escort; and on the 9th of
the month, the whole cavalcade reached Dueñas, in Leon, a place quite
near to Valladolid. The disaffected nobles crowded about the prince to
pay their court, and he was received as became his high rank and still
Here the more luxurious Castilians had an opportunity of observing
the severe personal discipline by which Don Ferdinand, at the immature
years of eighteen, for he was scarcely older, had succeeded in
hardening his body, and in stringing his nerves, so as to be equal to
any deeds in arms. His delight was found in the rudest military
exercises; and no knight of Aragon could better direct his steed in
the tourney, or in the field. Like most, of the royal races of that
period, and indeed of this, in despite of the burning sun under which
he dwelt, his native complexion was brilliant, though it had already
become embrowned by exposure in the chase, and in the martial
occupations of his boyhood. Temperate as a Mussulman, his active and
wellproportioned frame seemed to be early indurating, as if
Providence held him in reserve, for some of its own dispensations
that called for great bodily vigour, as well as for deep forethought
and a vigilant sagacity. During the four or five days that followed,
the noble Castilians who listened to his discourse, knew not of which
most to approve, his fluent eloquence, or a wariness of thought and
expression, which, while they might have been deemed prematurely
worldly and cold-blooded, were believed to be particular merits in
one destined to control the jarring passions, deep deceptions, and
selfish devices, of men.
"Leave to the nightingale her shady wood;
A privacy of glorious light is thine;
Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood
Of harmony, with rapture more divine;
Type of the wise, who soar, but never roam;
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home."
While John of Aragon had recourse to such means to enable his son
to escape the vigilant and vindictive emissaries of the King of
Castile, there were anxious hearts in Valladolid, awaiting the result
with the impatience and doubt that ever attend the execution of
hazardous enterprises. Among others who felt this deep interest in the
movements of Ferdinand of Aragon and his companions, were a few, whom
it has now become necessary to introduce to the reader.
Although Valladolid had not then reached the magnificence it
subsequently acquired as the capital of Charles V., it was an ancient,
and, for the age, a magnificent and luxurious town, possessing its
palaces, as well as its more inferior abodes. To the principal of the
former, the residence of John de Vivero, a distinguished noble of the
kingdom, we must repair in imagination; where companions more
agreeable than those we have just quitted, await us, and who were then
themselves awaiting, with deep anxiety, the arrival of a messenger
with tidings from Dueña. The particular apartment that it will be
necessary to imagine, had much of the rude splendour of the period,
united to that air of comfort and fitness that woman seldom fails to
impart to the portion of any edifice that comes directly under her
control. In the year 1469, Spain was fast approaching the termination
of that great struggle which had already endured seven centuries, and
in which the Christian and the Mussulman contended for the mastery of
the peninsula. The latter had long held sway in the southern parts of
Leon, and had left behind him, in the palaces of this town, some of
the traces of his barbaric magnificence. The lofty and fretted
ceilings were not as glorious as those to be found further south, it
is true; still the Moor had been here, and the name of Veled Vlid,
since changed to Valladolid, denotes its Arabic connection. In the
room just mentioned, and in the principal palace of this ancient town,
that of John de Vivero, were two females, in earnest and engrossing
discourse. Both were young, and, though in very different styles, both
would have been deemed beautiful in any age or region of the earth.
One, indeed, was surpassingly lovely. She had just reached her
nineteenth year, an age when the female form has received its full
development in that generous climate; and the most imaginative poet
of Spain, a country so renowned for beauty of form in the sex, could
not have conceived of a person more symmetrical. The hands, feet,
bust, and all the outlines, were those of feminine loveliness; while
the stature, without rising to a height to suggest the idea of any
thing masculine, was sufficient to ennoble an air of quiet dignity.
The beholder, at first, was a little at a loss to know whether the
influence to which he submitted, proceeded most from the perfection of
the body itself, or from the expression that the soul within imparted
to the almost faultless exterior. The face was, in all respects,
worthy of the form. Although born beneath the sun of Spain, her
lineage carried her back, through a long line of kings, to the Gothic
sovereigns; and its frequent intermarriages with foreign princesses,
had produced in her countenance, that intermixture of the brilliancy
of the north, with the witchery of the south, that probably is nearest
to the perfection of feminine loveliness.
Her complexion was fair, and her rich locks had that tint of the
auburn which approaches as near as possible to the more marked colour
that gives it warmth, without attaining any of the latter's
distinctive hue. "Her mild blue eyes," says an eminent historian,
"beamed with intelligence and sensibility." In these indexes to the
soul, indeed, were to be found her highest claims to loveliness, for
they bespoke no less the beauty within, than the beauty without;
imparting to features of exquisite delicacy and symmetry, a serene
expression of dignity and moral excellence, that was remarkably
softened by a modesty that seemed as much allied to the sensibilities
of a woman, as to the purity of an angel. To add to all these charms,
though of royal blood, and educated in a court, an earnest but meek
sincerity presided over every look and thought, as thought was
betrayed in the countenance, adding the illumination of truth to the
lustre of youth and beauty.
The attire of this princess was simple, for happily the taste of
the age enabled those who worked for the toilet to consult the
proportions of nature; though the materials were rich, and such as
became her high rank. A single cross of diamonds sparkled on a neck of
snow, to which it was attached by a short string of pearls; and a few
rings, decked with stones of price, rather cumbered than adorned
hands that needed no ornaments to rivet the gaze. Such was Isabella
of Castile, in her days of maiden retirement and maiden pride —
while waiting the issue of those changes that were about to put their
seal on her own future fortunes, as well as on those of posterity even
to our own times.
Her companion was Beatriz de Bobadilla, the friend of her childhood
and infancy, and who continued, to the last, the friend of her prime,
and of her death-bed. This lady, a little older than the princess, was
of more decided Spanish mien, for, though of an ancient and
illustrious house, policy and necessity had not caused so many foreign
intermarriages in her race, as had been required in that of her royal
mistress. Her eyes were black and sparkling, bespeaking a generous
soul, and a resolution so high that some commentators have termed it
valour; while her hair was dark as the raven's wing. Like that of her
royal mistress, her form exhibited the grace and loveliness of young
womanhood, developed by the generous warmth of Spain; though her
stature was, in a slight degree, less noble, and the outlines of her
figure, in about an equal proportion, less perfect. In short, nature
had drawn some such distinction between the exceeding grace and high
moral charms that encircled the beauty of the princess, and those
which belonged to her noble friend, as the notions of men had
established between their respective conditions; though, considered
singly, as women, either would have been deemed pre-eminently winning
At the moment we have selected for the opening of the scene that is
to follow, Isabella, fresh from the morning toilet, was seated in a
chair, leaning lightly on one of its arms, in an attitude that
interest in the subject she was discussing, and confidence in her
companion, had naturally produced; while Beatriz de Bobadilla occupied
a low stool at her feet, bending her body in respectful affection so
far forward, as to allow the fairer hair of the princess to mingle
with her own dark curls, while the face of the latter appeared to
repose on the head of her friend. As no one else was present, the
reader will at once infer, from the entire absence of Castilian
etiquette and Spanish reserve, that the dialogue they held, was
strictly confidential, and that it was governed more by the feelings
of nature, than by the artificial rules that usually regulate the
intercourse of courts.
"I have prayed, Beatriz, that God would direct my judgment in this
weighty concern," said the princess, in continuation of some previous
observation; "and I hope I have as much kept in view the happiness of
my future subjects, in the choice I have made, as my own."
"None shall presume to question it," said Beatriz de Bobadilla;
"for had it pleased you to wed the Grand Turk, the Castilians would
not gainsay your wish, such is their love!"
"Say, rather, such is thy love for me, my good Beatriz, that thou
fanciest this," returned Isabella, smiling, and raising her face from
the other's head: "Our Castilians might overlook such a sin, but I
could not pardon myself for forgetting that I am a Christian. Beatriz,
I have been sorely tried, in this matter!"
"But the hour of trial is nearly passed. Holy Maria! what lightness
of reflection, and vanity, and misjudging of self, must exist in man,
to embolden some who have dared to aspire to become your husband! You
were yet a child when they betrothed you to Don Carlos, a prince old
enough to be your father; and, then, as if that were not sufficient
to warm Castilian blood, they chose the King of Portugal for you, and
he might well have passed for a generation still more remote! Much as
I love you, Doña Isabella, and my own soul is scarce dearer to me than
your person and mind, for nought do I respect you more, than for the
noble and princely resolution, child as you then were, with which you
denied the king, in his wicked wish to make you Queen of Portugal."
"Don Enriquez is my brother, Beatriz; and thine and my royal
"Ah! bravely did you tell them all," continued Beatriz de
Bobadilla, with sparkling eyes, and a feeling of exultation that
caused her to overlook the quiet rebuke of her mistress; "and worthy
was it of a princess of the royal house of Castile! `The Infantas of
Castile,' you said, `could not be disposed of, in marriage, without
the consent of the nobles of the realm;' and with that fit reply they
were glad to be content."
"And yet, Beatriz, am I about to dispose of an Infanta of Castile,
without even consulting its nobles."
"Say not that, my excellent mistress. There is not a loyal and
gallant cavalier between the Pyrenees and the sea, who will not, in
his heart, approve of your choice. The character, and age, and other
qualities of the suitor, make a sensible difference in these concerns.
But unfit as Don Alfonso of Portugal was, and is, to be the wedded
husband of Doña Isabella of Castile, what shall we say to the next
suitor who appeared as a pretender to your royal hand — Don Pedro
Giron, the Master of Calatrava? truly a most worthy lord for a maiden
of the royal house! Out upon him! A Pacheco might think himself full
honourably mated, could he have found a damsel of Bobadilla to
elevate his race!"
"That ill-assorted union was imposed upon my brother by unworthy
favourites; and God, in his holy providence, saw fit to defeat their
wishes, by hurrying their intended bridegroom to an unexpected grave!"
"Ay! had it not pleased his blessed will, so to dispose of Don
Pedro, other means would not have been wanting!"
"This little hand of thine, Beatriz," returned the princess,
gravely, though she smiled affectionately on her friend as she took
the hand in question, "was not made for the deed its owner menaced."
"That which its owner menaced," replied Beatriz, with eyes flashing
fire, "this hand would have executed, before Isabella of Castile
should be the doomed bride of the Grand Master of Calatrava. What! was
the purest, loveliest, virgin of Castile, and she of royal
birth—nay, the rightful heiress of the crown—to be sacrificed to a
lawless libertine, because it had pleased Don Henry to forget his
station and duties, and make a favourite of a craven miscreant!"
"Thou always forgettest, Beatriz, that Don Enriquez is our Lord the
King, and my royal brother."
"I do not forget, Señora, that you are the royal sister of our Lord
the King, and that Pedro de Giron, or Pachecho, whichever it might
suit the ancient Portuguese page to style him, was altogether unworthy
to sit in your presence, much less to become your wedded husband. Oh!
what days of anguish were those, my gracious lady, when your knees
ached with bending in prayer, that this might not be! But God would
not permit it — neither would I! That dagger should have pierced his
heart, before ear of his should have heard the vows of Isabella of
"Speak no more of this, good Beatriz, I pray thee," said the
princess, shuddering, and crossing herself: "they were, in sooth, days
of anguish; but what were they in comparison with the passion of the
Son of God, who gave himself a sacrifice for our sins! Name it not,
then; it was good for my soul to be thus tried; and thou knowest that
the evil was turned from me — more, I doubt not, by the efficacy of
our prayers, than by that of thy dagger. If thou wilt speak of my
suitors, surely there are others better worthy of the trouble."
A light gleamed about the dark eye of Beatriz, and a smile
struggled towards her pretty mouth; for well did she understand that
the royal, but bashful maiden, would gladly hear something of him on
whom her choice had finally fallen. Although ever disposed to do that
which was grateful to her mistress, with a woman's coquetry, Beatriz
determined to approach the more pleasing part of the subject coyly,
and by a regular gradation of events, in the order in which they had
"Then, there was Monsieur de Guienne, the brother of King Louis of
France," she resumed, affecting contempt in her manner; "he
would fain become the husband of the future Queen of Castile! But
even our most unworthy Castilians soon saw the unfitness of that
union. Their pride was unwilling to run the chance of becoming a fief
"That misfortune could never have befallen our beloved Castile,"
interrupted Isabella with dignity: "Had I espoused the King of France
himself, he would have learned to respect me as the Queen Proprietor
of this ancient realm, and not have looked upon me as a subject."
"Then, Señora," continued Beatriz, looking up into Isabella's face,
and laughing — "was your own royal kinsman, Don Ricardo of
Gloucester; he that they say was born with teeth, and who carries
already a burthen so heavy on his back, that he may well thank his
patron saint that he is not also to be loaded with the affairs of
"Thy tongue runneth riot, Beatriz. They tell me that Don Ricardo is
a noble and aspiring prince, and that he is, one day, likely to wed
some princess, whose merit may well console him for his failure in
Castile. But what more hast thou to offer concerning my suitors?"
"Nay, what more can I say, my beloved mistress? We have now reached
Don Fernando, literally the first, as he proveth to be the last, and,
as we know him to be, the best of them all."
"I think I have been guided by the motives that become my birth and
future hopes, in choosing Don Ferdinand," said Isabella, meekly,
though she was uneasy in spite of her royal views of
matrimony;—"since nothing can so much tend to the peace of our dear
kingdom, and to the success of the great cause of Christianity, as to
unite Castile and Aragon under one crown."
"By uniting their sovereigns in holy wedlock," returned Beatriz,
with respectful gravity, though a smile again struggled around her
pouting lips. "What if Don Fernando is the most youthful, the
handsomest, the most valiant and the most agreeable prince in
Christendom, it is no fault of yours, since you did not make him, but
have only accepted him for a husband!"
"Nay, this exceedeth discretion and respect, my good Beatriz,"
returned Isabella, affecting to frown, even while she blushed deeply
at her own emotions, and looked gratified at the praises of her
betrothed. "Thou knowest that I have never beheld my cousin, the King
"Very true, Señora; but Father Alonso de Coca hath — and a surer
eye, or truer tongue than his, do not exist in Castile."
"Beatriz, I pardon thy license, however unjust and unseemly,
because I know thou lovest me, and lookest rather at mine own
happiness, than at that of my people," said the princess, the effect
of whose gravity now was not diminished by any betrayal of natural
feminine weakness— for she felt slightly offended. "Thou knowest, or
ought'st to know, that a maiden of royal birth is bound principally
to consult the interests of the state, in bestowing her hand, and
that the idle fancies of village girls have little in common with her
duties. Nay, what virgin of noble extraction like thyself, even, would
dream of aught else than of submitting to the counsel of her family,
in taking a husband? If I have selected Don Fernando of Aragon, from
among many princes, it is doubtless because the alliance is more
suited to the interests of Castile, than any other that hath offered.
Thou seest, Beatriz, that the Castilians and the Aragonese spring from
the same source, and have the same habits and prejudices. They speak
the same language"—
"Nay, dearest lady, do not confound the pure Castilian with the
dialect of the mountains!"
"Well, have thy fling, wayward one, if thou wilt; but we can easier
teach the nobles of Aragon our purer Spanish, than we can teach it to
the Gaul. Then, Don Fernando is of my own race; the House of
Trastamara cometh of Castile and her monarchs, and we may at least
hope that the King of Sicily will be able to make himself understood."
"If he could not, he were no true knight! The man whose tongue
should fail him, when the stake was a royal maiden of a beauty
surpassing that of the dawn — of an excellence that already touches
on heaven—of a crown"—
"Girl—girl—thy tongue is getting the mastery of thee— such
discourse ill befitteth thee and me."
"And yet, Doña Ysabel, my tongue is close bound to my heart."
"I do believe thee, my good Beatriz; but we should bethink us both,
of our last shrivings, and of the ghostly counsel that we then
received. Such flattering discourse seemeth light, when we remember
our manifold transgressions, and our many occasions for forgiveness.
As for this marriage, I would have thee think that it has been
contracted on my part, with the considerations and motives of a
princess, and not through any light indulgence of my fancies. Thou
knowest that I have never beheld Don Fernando, and that he hath never
even looked upon me."
"Assuredly, dearest lady and honoured mistress, all this I know,
and see, and believe; and I also agree that it were unseemly, and
little befitting her birth, for even a noble maiden to contract the
all-important obligations of marriage, with no better motive than the
light impulses of a country wench. Nothing is more just than that we
are alike bound to consult our own dignity, and the wishes of kinsmen
and friends; and that our duty, and the habits of piety and submission
in which we have been reared, are better pledges for our connubial
affection, than any caprices of a girlish imagination. Still, my
honoured lady, it is most fortunate that your high obligations point
to one as youthful, brave, noble and chivalrous, as is the King of
Sicily, as we well know, by Father Alonso's representations, to be
the fact; and that all my friends unite in saying that Don Andres de
Cabrera, madcap and silly as he is, will make an exceedingly excellent
husband for Beatriz de Bobadilla!"
Isabella, habitually dignified and reserved as she was, had her
confidants and her moments for unbending; and Beatriz was the
principal among the former, while the present instant was one of the
latter. She smiled, therefore, at this sally; and parting, with her
own fair hand, the dark locks on the brow of her friend, she regarded
her much as the mother regards her child, when sudden passages of
tenderness come over the heart.
"If madcap should wed madcap,
thy friends, at least, have
judged rightly," answered the princess. Then, pausing an instant, as
if in deep thought, she continued, in a graver manner, though modesty
shone in her tell-tale complexion, and the sensibility that beamed in
her eyes betrayed that she now felt more as a woman than as a future
queen bent only on the happiness of her people: "As this interview
draweth near, I suffer an embarrassment I had not thought it easy to
inflict on an Infanta of Castile. To thee, my faithful Beatriz, I will
acknowledge, that were the King of Sicily as old as Don Alfonso of
Portugal, or were he as effeminate and unmanly as Monsieur of Guienne;
were he, in sooth, less engaging and young, I should feel less
embarrassment in meeting him, than I now experience."
"This is passing strange, Señora! Now, I will confess that I would
not willingly abate in Don Andres, one hour of his life, which has
been sufficiently long as it is; one grace of his person, if indeed
the honest cavalier hath any to boast of; or one single perfection of
either body or mind."
"Thy case is not mine, Beatriz. Thou knowest the Marquis of Moya;
hast listened to his discourse, and art accustomed to his praises and
"Holy St. Iago of Spain! Do not distrust any thing, Señora, on
account of unfamiliarity with such matters — for, of all learning,
it is easiest to learn to relish praise and admiration!"
"True, daughter"—(for so Isabella often termed her friend, though
her junior: in later life, and after the princess had become a queen,
this, indeed, was her usual term of endearment)—"true, daughter,
when praise and admiration are freely given and fairly merited. But I
distrust, myself, my claims to be thus viewed, and the feelings with
which Don Fernando may first behold me. I know—nay, I feel
him to be graceful, and noble, and valiant, and generous, and good;
comely to the eye, and strict of duty to our holy religion; as
illustrious in qualities, as in birth; and I tremble to think of my
own unsuitableness to be his bride and queen."
"God's Justice! — I should like to meet the impudent Aragonese
noble, that would dare to hint as much as this! If Don Fernando is
noble, are you not nobler, Señora, as coming of the senior branch of
the same house; if he is young, are you not equally so; if he is wise,
are you not wiser; if he is comely, are you not more of an angel than
a woman; if he is valiant, are you not virtuous; if he is graceful,
are you not grace itself; if he is generous, are you not good, and,
what is more, are you not the very soul of generosity; if he is strict
of duty in matters of our holy religion, are you not an angel?"
"Good sooth — good sooth — Beatriz, thou art a comforter! I
could reprove thee for this idle tongue, but know thee honest."
"This is no more than that deep modesty, honoured mistress, which
ever maketh you quicker to see the merits of others, than to perceive
your own. Let Don Fernando look to it! Though he come in all the pomp
and glory of his many crowns, I warrant you we find him a royal
maiden in Castile, who shall abash him and rebuke his vanity, even
while she appears before him in the sweet guise of her own meek
"I have said naught of Don Fernando's vanity, Beatriz— nor do I
esteem him in the least inclined to so weak a feeling; and as for
pomp, we well know that gold no more abounds at Zaragosa than at
Valladolid, albeit he hath many crowns, in possession, and in reserve.
Notwithstanding all thy foolish but friendly tongue hath uttered, I
distrust myself, and not the King of Sicily. Methinks I could meet
any other prince in Christendom with indifference — or, at least, as
becometh my rank and sex; but I confess, I tremble at the thought of
encountering the eyes and opinions of my noble cousin."
Beatriz listened with interest; and when her royal mistress ceased
speaking, she kissed her hand affectionately, and then pressed it to
"Let Don Fernando tremble, rather, Señora, at encountering yours,"
"Nay, Beatriz, we know that he hath nothing to dread, for report
speaketh but too favourably of him. But, why linger here in doubt and
apprehension, when the staff on which it is my duty to lean, is ready
to receive its burthen: Father Alonso doubtless waiteth for us, and we
will now join him."
The princess and her friend now repaired to the chapel of the
palace, where her confessor celebrated the daily mass. The
self-distrust which disturbed the feelings of the modest Isabella was
appeased by the holy rites, or rather it took refuge on that Rock
where she was accustomed to place all her troubles, with her sins. As
the little assemblage left the chapel, one, hot with haste, arrived
with the expected, but still doubted tidings, that the King of Sicily
had reached Dueñas in safety, and that, as he was now in the very
centre of his supporters, there could no longer be any reasonable
distrust of the speedy celebration of the contemplated marriage.
Isabella was much overcome with this news, and required more than
usual of the care of Beatriz de Bobadilla, to restore her to that
sweet serenity of mind and air, which ordinarily rendered her presence
as attractive as it was commanding. An hour or two spent in meditation
and prayer, however, finally produced a gentle calm in her feelings,
and these two friends were again alone, in the very apartment where
we first introduced them to the reader.
"Hast thou seen Don Andres de Cabrera?" demanded the princess,
taking a hand from a brow which had been often pressed in a sort of
Beatriz de Bobadilla blushed—and then she laughed outright, with
a freedom that the long-established affection of her mistress did not
"For a youth of thirty, and a cavalier well hacked in the wars of
the Moors, Don Andres hath a nimble foot," she answered. "He brought
hither the tidings of the arrival; and with it he brought his own
delightful person, to show it was no lie. For one so experienced, he
hath a strong propensity to talk; and so, in sooth, whilst you, my
honoured mistress, would be in your closet alone, I could but listen
to all the marvels of the journey. It seems, Senora, that they did not
reach Dueñas any too soon; for the only purse among them was mislaid,
or blown away by the wind on account of its lightness."
"I trust this accident hath been repaired. Few of the house of
Trastamara have much gold at this trying moment, and yet none are wont
to be entirely without it."
"Don Andres is neither beggar nor miser. He is now in our Castile,
where I doubt not he is familiar with the Jews and money-lenders; as
these last must know the full value of his lands, the King of Sicily
will not want. I hear, too, that the Count of Treviño hath conducted
nobly with him."
"It shall be well for the Count of Treviño that he hath had this
liberality. But, Beatriz, bring forth the writing materials; it is
meet that I, at once, acquaint Don Enriquez with this event, and with
my purpose of marriage."
"Nay, dearest mistress, this is out of all rule. When a maiden,
gentle or simple, intendeth marriage against her kinsmen's wishes, it
is the way to wed first, and to write the letter and ask the blessing
when the evil is done."
"Go to, light-of-speech! Thou hast spoken; now bring the pens and
paper. The king is not only my lord and sovereign, but he is my
nearest of kin, and should be my father."
"And Doña Joanna of Portugal, his royal consort, and our
illustrious queen, should be your mother; and a fitting guide would
she be to any modest virgin! No — no — my beloved mistress; your
royal mother was the Doña Isabella of Portugal — and a very
different princess was she from this, her wanton niece."
"Thou givest thyself too much license, Doña Beatriz, and forgettest
my request. I desire to write to my brother the king."
It was so seldom that Isabella spoke sternly, that her friend
started, and the tears rushed to her eyes at this rebuke; but she
procured the writing materials, before she presumed to look into
Isabella's face, in order to ascertain if she were really angered.
There all was beautiful serenity again; and the Lady of Bobadilla,
perceiving that her mistress's mind was altogether occupied with the
matter before her, and that she had already forgotten her displeasure,
chose to make no further allusion to the subject.
Isabella now wrote her celebrated letter, in which she appeared to
forget all her natural timidity, and to speak solely as a princess. By
the treaty of Toros de Guisando, in which, setting aside the claims of
Joanna of Portugal's daughter, she had been recognized as the heiress
of the throne, it had been stipulated that she should not marry
without the king's consent; and she now apologized for the step she
was about to take, on the substantial plea that her enemies had
disregarded the solemn compact entered into not to urge her into any
union that was unsuitable or disagreeable to herself. She then alluded
to the political advantages that would follow the union of the crowns
of Castile and Aragon, and solicited the king's approbation of the
step she was about to take. This letter, after having been submitted
to John de Vivero, and others of her council, was dispatched by a
special messenger — after which act the arrangements necessary as
preliminaries to a meeting between the betrothed were entered into.
Castilian etiquette was proverbial, even in that age; and the
discussion led to a proposal that Isabella rejected with her usual
modesty and discretion.
"It seemeth to me," said John de Vivero, "that this alliance should
not take place without some admission, on the part of Don Fernando, of
the inferiority of Aragon to our own Castile. The House of the latter
kingdom is but a junior branch of the reigning House of Castile, and
the former territory of old was admitted to have a dependency on the
This proposition was much applauded, until the beautiful and
natural sentiments of the princess, herself, interposed to expose its
weakness and its deformities.
"It is doubtless true," she said, "that Don Juan of Aragon is the
son of the younger brother of my royal grandfather; but he is none the
less a king. Nay, besides his crown of Aragon, a country, if thou
wilt, which is inferior to Castile, he hath those of Naples and
Sicily; not to speak of Navarre, over which he ruleth, although it may
not be with too much right. Don Fernando even weareth the crown of
Sicily, by the renunciation of Don Juan; and shall he, a crowned
sovereign, make concessions to one who is barely a princess, and whom
it may never please God to conduct to a throne? Moreover, Don John of
Vivero, I beseech thee to remember the errand that bringeth the King
of Sicily to Valladolid. Both he and I have two parts to perform, and
two characters to maintain—those of prince and princess, and those
of Christians wedded and bound by holy marriage ties. It would ill
become one that is about to take on herself the duties and obligations
of a wife, to begin the intercourse with exactions that should be
humiliating to the pride and self-respect of her lord. Aragon may
truly be an inferior realm to Castile — but Ferdinand of Aragon is
even now every way the equal of Isabella of Castile; and when he shall
receive my vows, and, with them, my duty and my
affections"—Isabella's colour deepened, and her mild eye lighted
with a sort of holy enthusiasm—"as befitteth a woman, though an
infidel, he would become, in some particulars, my superior. Let me,
then, hear no more of this; for it could not nearly as much pain Don
Fernando to make the concessions ye require, as it paineth me to hear
* Note.—The authorities differ as to which of the English princes
was the suitor of Isabella; Edward IV. himself, Clarence, or Richard.
Isabella was the grand-daughter of Catherine of Lancaster, who was a
daughter of John of Gaunt.
"Nice customs curt'sy to great kings. Dear Kate, you and I cannot
be confined within the weak list of a country's fashion. We are the
makers of manners; and the liberty that follows our places, stops the
mouths of all fault-finders."
Notwithstanding her high resolution, habitual firmness, and a
serenity of mind, that seemed to pervade the moral system of Isabella,
like a deep, quiet current of enthusiasm, but which it were truer to
assign to the high and fixed principles that guided all her actions,
her heart beat tumultuously, and her native reserve, which almost
amounted to shyness, troubled her sorely, as the hour arrived when
she was first to behold the prince she had accepted for a husband.
Castilian etiquette, no less than the magnitude of the political
interests involved in the intended union, had drawn out the
preliminary negotiations several days; the bridegroom being left, all
that time, to curb his impatience to behold the princess, as best he
On the evening of the 15th of October, 1469, however, every
obstacle being at length removed, Don Fernando threw himself into the
saddle, and, accompanied by only four attendants, among whom was
Andres de Cabrera, he quietly took his way, without any of the usual
accompaniments of his high rank, towards the palace of John of
Vivero, in the city of Valladolid. The Archbishop of Toledo was of
the faction of the princess, and this prelate, a warlike and active
partisan, was in readiness to receive the accepted suitor, and to
conduct him to the presence of his mistress.
Isabella, attended only by Beatriz de Bobadilla, was in waiting for
the interview, in the apartment already mentioned; and by one of those
mighty efforts that even the most retiring of the sex can make, on
great occasions, she received her future husband with quite as much of
the dignity of a princess as of the timidity of a woman. Ferdinand of
Aragon had been prepared to meet one of singular grace and beauty; but
the mixture of angelic modesty with a loveliness that almost surpassed
that of her sex, produced a picture approaching so much nearer to
heaven than to earth, that, though one of circumspect behaviour, and
much accustomed to suppress emotion, he actually started, and his feet
were momentarily riveted to the floor, when the glorious vision first
met his eye. Then, recovering himself, he advanced eagerly, and taking
the little hand which neither met nor repulsed the attempt, he pressed
it to his lips with a warmth that seldom accompanies the first
interviews of those whose passions are usually so factitious.
"This happy moment hath at length arrived, my illustrious and
beautiful cousin!" he said, with a truth of feeling that went directly
to the pure and tender heart of Isabella; for no skill in courtly
phrases can ever give to the accents of deceit, the point and emphasis
that belong to sincerity. "I have thought it would never arrive; but
this blessed moment — thanks to our own St. Iago, whom I have not
ceased to implore with intercessions—more than rewards me for all
"I thank my Lord the Prince, and bid him right welcome," modestly
returned Isabella. "The difficulties that have been overcome, in order
to effect this meeting, are but types of the difficulties we shall
have to conquer as we advance through life."
Then followed a few courteous expressions concerning the hopes of
the princess that her cousin had wanted for nothing, since his arrival
in Castile, with suitable answers; when Don Ferdinand led her to an
armed-chair, assuming himself the stool on which Beatriz de Bobadilla
was wont to be seated, in her familiar intercourse with her royal
mistress. Isabella, however, sensitively alive to the pretensions of
the Castilians, who were fond of asserting the superiority of their
own country over that of Aragon, would not quietly submit to this
arrangement, but declined to be seated, unless her suitor would take
the chair prepared for him also, saying—
"It ill befitteth one who hath little more than some royalty of
blood, and her dependence on God, to be thus placed, while the King of
Sicily is so unworthily bestowed."
"Let me entreat that it may be so," returned the king. "All
considerations of earthly rank vanish in this presence; view me as a
knight, ready and desirous of proving his fealty in any court or field
of Christendom, and treat me as such."
Isabella, who had that high tact which teaches the precise point
where breeding becomes neuter and airs commence, blushed and smiled,
but no longer declined to be seated. It was not so much the mere words
of her cousin that went to her heart, as the undisguised admiration of
his looks, the animation of his eye, and the frank sincerity of his
manner. With a woman's instinct she perceived that the impression she
had made was favourable, and, with a woman's sensibility, her heart
was ready, under the circumstances, to dissolve in tenderness at the
discovery. This mutual satisfaction soon opened the way to a freer
conversation— and, ere half an hour was passed, the archbishop, who,
though officially ignorant of the language and wishes of lovers, was
practically sufficiently familiar with both, contrived to draw the two
or three courtiers who were present, into an adjoining room, where,
though the door continued open, he placed them with so much discretion
that neither eye nor ear could be any restraint on what was passing.
As for Beatriz de Bobadilla, whom female etiquette required should
remain in the same room with her royal mistress, she was so much
engaged with Andres de Cabrera, that half a dozen thrones might have
been disposed of between the royal pair, and she none the wiser.
Although Isabella did not lose that mild reserve and feminine
modesty that threw so winning a grace around her person, even to the
day of her death, she gradually grew more calm as the discourse
proceeded; and falling back on her self-respect, womanly dignity, and,
not a little, on those stores of knowledge that she had been
diligently collecting, while others similarly situated had wasted
their time in the vanities of courts, she was quickly at her ease, if
not wholly in that tranquil state of mind to which she had been
"I trust there can now be no longer any delay to the celebration of
our union, by holy church," observed the king, in continuation of the
subject. "All that can be required of us both, as those entrusted with
the cares and interests of realms, hath been observed, and I may have
a claim to look to my own happiness. We are not strangers to each
other, Doña Isabella; for our grandfathers were brothers — and from
infancy up, have I been taught to reverence thy virtues, and to strive
to emulate thy holy duty to God."
"I have not betrothed myself lightly, Don Fernando," returned the
princess, blushing even while she assumed the majesty of a queen; "and
with the subject so fully discussed, the wisdom of the union so fully
established, and the necessity of promptness so apparent, no idle
delays shall proceed from me. I had thought that the ceremony might
be had on the fourth day from this, which will give us both time to
prepare for an occasion so solemn, by suitable attention to the
offices of the church."
"It must be as thou willest," said the king, respectfully bowing;
"and now there remaineth but a few preparations, and we shall have no
reproaches of forgetfulness. Thou knowest, Doña Isabella, how sorely
my father is beset by his enemies, and I need scarce tell thee that
his coffers are empty. In good sooth, my fair cousin, nothing but my
earnest desire to possess myself, at as early a day as possible, of
the precious boon that Providence and thy goodness"—
"Mingle not, Don Fernando, any of the acts of God and his
providence, with the wisdom and petty expedients of his creatures,"
said Isabella, earnestly.
"To seize upon the precious boon, then, that Providence appeared
willing to bestow," rejoined the king, crossing himself, while he
bowed his head, as much, perhaps, in deference to the pious feelings
of his affianced wife, as in deference to a higher Power—"would not
admit of delay, and we quitted Zaragosa better provided with hearts
loyal towards the treasures we were to find in Valladolid, than with
gold. Even that we had, by a mischance, hath gone to enrich some lucky
varlet in an inn."
"Doña Beatriz de Bobadilla hath acquainted me with the mishap,"
said Isabella, smiling; "and truly we shall commence our married lives
with but few of the goods of the world in present possession. I have
little more to offer thee, Fernando, than a true heart, and a spirit
that I think may be trusted for its fidelity."
"In obtaining thee, my excellent cousin, I obtain sufficient to
satisfy the desires of any reasonable man. Still, something is due to
our rank and future prospects, and it shall not be said that thy
nuptials passed like those of a common subject."
"Under ordinary circumstances it might not appear seemly for one of
my sex to furnish the means for her own bridal," answered the
princess, the blood stealing to her face until it crimsoned even her
brow and temples; maintaining, otherwise, that beautiful tranquillity
of mien which marked her ordinary manner—"but the well-being of two
states depending on our union, vain emotions must be suppressed. I am
not without jewels, and Valladolid hath many Hebrews: thou wilt permit
me to part with the baubles for such an object."
"So that thou preservest for me the jewel in which that pure mind
is encased," said the King of Sicily, gallantly, "I care not if I
never see another. But there will not be this need; for our friends,
who have more generous souls than well-filled coffers too, can give
such warranty to the lenders as will procure the means. I charge
myself with this duty, for henceforth, my cousin — may I not say my
"The term is even dearer than any that belongeth to blood,
Fernando," answered the princess, with a simple sincerity of manner
that set at nought the ordinary affectations and artificial feelings
of her sex, while it left the deepest reverence for her modesty—"and
we might be excused for using it. I trust God will bless our union,
not only to our own happiness, but to that of our people."
"Then, my betrothed, henceforth we have but a common fortune, and
thou wilt trust in me for the provision for thy wants."
"Nay, Fernando," answered Isabella, smiling, "imagine what we will,
we cannot imagine ourselves the children of two hidalgos about to set
forth in the world with humble dowries. Thou art a king, even now; and
by the treaty of Toros de Guisando, I am solemnly recognized as the
heiress of Castile. We must, therefore, have our separate means, as
well as our separate duties, though I trust hardly our separate
"Thou wilt never find me failing in that respect which is due to
thy rank, or in that duty which it befitteth me to render thee, as the
head of our ancient House, next to thy royal brother, the king."
"Thou hast well considered, Don Fernando, the treaty of marriage,
and accepted cheerfully, I trust, all of its several conditions?"
"As becometh the importance of the measures, and the magnitude of
the benefit I was to receive."
"I would have them acceptable to thee, as well as expedient; for,
though so soon to become thy wife, I can never cease to remember that
I shall be Queen of this country."
"Thou mayest be assured, my beautiful betrothed, that Ferdinand of
Aragon will be the last to deem thee aught else."
"I look on my duties as coming from God, and on myself as one
rigidly accountable to him for their faithful discharge. Sceptres may
not be treated as toys, Fernando, to be trifled with; for man beareth
no heavier burthen, than when he beareth a crown."
"The maxims of our House have not been forgotten in Aragon, my
betrothed — and I rejoice to find that they are the same in both
"We are not to think principally of ourselves in entering upon this
engagement," continued Isabella, earnestly— "for that would be
supplanting the duties of princes by the feelings of the lover. Thou
hast frequently perused, and sufficiently conned the marriage
articles, I trust?"
"There hath been sufficient leisure for that, my cousin, as they
have now been signed these nine months."
"If I may have seemed to thee exacting in some particulars,"
continued Isabella, with the same earnest and beautiful simplicity as
usually marked her deportment in all the relations of life—"it is
because the duties of a sovereign may not be overlooked. Thou knowest,
moreover, Fernando, the influence that the husband is wont to acquire
over the wife, and wilt feel the necessity of my protecting my
Castilians, in the fullest manner, against my own weaknesses."
"If thy Castilians do not suffer until they suffer from that cause,
Doña Isabella, their lot will indeed be blessed."
"These are words of gallantry, and I must reprove their use on an
occasion so serious, Fernando. I am a few months thy senior, and shall
assume an elder sister's rights, until they are lost in the
obligations of a wife. Thou hast seen in those articles, how anxiously
I would protect my Castilians against any supremacy of the stranger.
Thou knowest that many of the greatest of this realm are opposed to
our union, through apprehension of Aragonese sway, and wilt observe
how studiously we have striven to appease their jealousies."
"Thy motives, Doña Isabella, have been understood, and thy wishes
in this and all other particulars shall be respected."
"I would be thy faithful and submissive wife," returned the
princess, with an earnest but gentle look at her betrothed; "but I
would also that Castile should preserve her rights and her
independence. What will be thy influence, the maiden that freely
bestoweth her hand, need hardly say; but we must preserve the
appearance of separate states."
"Confide in me, my cousin. They who live fifty years hence will say
that Don Fernando knew how to respect his obligations and to discharge
"There is the stipulation, too, to war upon the Moor. I shall never
feel that the Christians of Spain have been true to the faith, while a
follower of the arch-impostor of Mecca remaineth in the Peninsula."
"Thou and thy archbishop could not have imposed a more agreeable
duty, than to place my lance in rest against the Infidels. My spurs
have been gained in those wars, already; and no sooner shall we be
crowned, than thou wilt see my perfect willingness to aid in driving
back the miscreants to their original sands."
"There remaineth but one thing more upon my mind, gentle cousin.
Thou knowest the evil influence that besets my brother, and that it
hath disaffected a large portion of his nobles as well as of his
cities. We shall both be sorely tempted to wage war upon him, and to
assume the sceptre before it pleaseth God to accord it to us, in the
course of nature. I would have thee respect Don Enriquez, not only as
the head of our royal house, but as my brother and anointed master.
Should evil counsellors press him to attempt aught against our persons
or rights, it will be lawful to resist; but I pray thee, Fernando, on
no excuse seek to raise thy hand in rebellion against my rightful
"Let Don Enriquez, then, be chary of his Beltraneja!" answered the
prince, with warmth. "By St. Peter! I have rights of mine own that
come before those of that ill-begotten mongrel! The whole House of
Trastamara hath an interest in stifling that spurious scion which hath
been so fraudulently engrafted on its princely stock!"
"Thou art warm, Don Fernando, and even the eye of Beatriz de
Bobadilla reproveth thy heat. The unfortunate Joanna never can impair
our rights to the throne, for there are few nobles in Castile so
unworthy as to wish to see the crown bestowed where it is believed the
blood of Pelayo doth not flow."
"Don Enriquez hath not kept faith with thee, Isabella, since the
treaty of Toros de Guisando!"
"My brother is surrounded by wicked counsellors—and then,
Fernando"—the princess blushed crimson as she spoke—"neither have
we been able rigidly to adhere to that convention, since one of its
conditions was that my hand should not be bestowed without the consent
of the king."
"He hath driven us into this measure, and hath only to reproach
himself with our failure on this point."
"I endeavour so to view it, though many have been my prayers for
forgiveness of this seeming breach of faith. I am not superstitious,
Fernando, else might I think God would frown on a union that is
contracted in the face of pledges like these. But, it is well to
distinguish between motives, and we have a right to believe that He
who readeth the heart, will not judge the well-intentioned severely.
Had not Don Enriquez attempted to seize my person, with the plain
purpose of forcing me to a marriage against my will, this decisive
step could not have been necessary, and would not have been taken."
"I have reason to thank my patron saint, beautiful cousin, that thy
will was less compliant than thy tyrants had believed."
"I could not plight my troth to the King of Portugal, or to
Monsieur de Guienne, or to any that they proposed to me, for my future
lord," answered Isabella, ingenuously. "It ill befitteth royal or
noble maidens to set up their own inexperienced caprices in opposition
to the wisdom of their friends, and the task is not difficult for a
virtuous wife to learn to love her husband, when nature and opinion
are not too openly violated in the choice; but I have had too much
thought for my soul to wish to expose it to so severe a trial, in
contracting the marriage duties."
"I feel that I am only too unworthy of thee, Isabella— but thou
must train me to be that thou wouldest wish: I can only promise thee a
most willing and attentive scholar."
The discourse now became more general, Isabella indulging her
natural curiosity and affectionate nature, by making many inquiries
concerning her different relatives in Aragon. After the interview had
lasted two hours or more, the King of Sicily returned to Dueñas, with
the same privacy as he had observed in entering the town. The royal
pair parted with feelings of increased esteem and respect, Isabella
indulging in those gentle anticipations of domestic happiness that
more properly belong to the tender nature of woman.
The marriage took place, with suitable pomp, on the morning of the
19th October, 1469, in the chapel of John de Vivero's palace; no less
than two thousand persons, principally of condition, witnessing the
ceremony. Just as the officiating priest was about to commence the
offices, the eye of Isabella betrayed uneasiness, and turning to the
Archbishop of Toledo, she said,—
"Your grace hath promised that there should be nothing wanting to
the consent of the church on this solemn occasion. It is known that
Don Fernando of Aragon and I stand within the prohibited degrees."
"Most true, my lady Isabella," returned the prelate, with a
composed mien and a paternal smile. "Happily, our Holy Father Pius
hath removed this impediment, and the church smileth on this blessed
union in every particular."
The archbishop then took out of his pocket a dispensation, which he
read in a clear, sonorous, steady voice; when every shade disappeared
from the serene brow of Isabella, and the ceremony proceeded. Years
elapsed before this pious and submissive Christian princess discovered
that she had been imposed on, the bull that was then read having been
an invention of the old King of Aragon and the prelate, not without
suspicions of a connivance on the part of the bridegroom. This
deception had been practised from a perfect conviction that the
sovereign pontiff was too much under the influence of the King of
Castile, to consent to bestow the boon in opposition to that monarch's
wishes. It was several years before Sixtus IV. repaired this wrong,
by granting a more genuine authority.
Nevertheless, Ferdinand and Isabella became man and wife. What
followed in the next twenty years must be rather glanced at than
related. Henry IV. resented the step, and vain attempts were made to
substitute his supposititious child, La Beltraneja, in the place of
his sister, as successor to the throne. A civil war ensued, during
which Isabella steadily refused to assume the crown, though often
entreated: limiting her efforts to the maintenance of her rights as
heiress presumptive. In 1474, or five years after her marriage, Don
Henry died, and she then became Queen of Castile, though her spurious
niece was also proclaimed by a small party among her subjects. The war
of the succession, as it was called, lasted five years longer, when
Joanna, or La Beltraneja, assumed the veil, and the rights of
Isabella were generally acknowledged. About the same time, died Don
John II., when Ferdinand mounted the throne of Aragon. These events
virtually reduced the sovereignties of the Peninsula, which had so
long been cut up into petty states, to four, viz., the possessions of
Ferdinand and Isabella, which included Castile, Leon, Aragon,
Valencia, and many other of the finest provinces of Spain; Navarre,
an insignificant kingdom in the Pyrenees; Portugal, much as it exists
to-day; and Granada, the last abiding place of the Moor, north of the
strait of Gibraltar.
Neither Ferdinand, nor his royal consort, was forgetful of that
clause in their marriage contract, which bound the former to undertake
a war for the destruction of the Moorish power. The course of events,
however, caused a delay of many years, in putting this long-projected
plan in execution; but when the time finally arrived, that Providence
which seemed disposed to conduct the pious Isabella, through a train
of important incidents, from the reduced condition in which we have
just described her to have been, to the summit of human power, did not
desert its favourite. Success succeeded success — and victory,
victory; until the Moor had lost fortress after fortress, town after
town, and was finally besieged in his very capital, his last hold in
the peninsula. As the reduction of Granada was an event that, in
Christian eyes, was to be ranked second only to the rescuing of the
holy sepulchre from the hands of the Infidels, so was it distinguished
by some features of singularity, that have probably never before
marked the course of a siege. The place submitted on the 25th
November, 1491, twenty-two years after the date of the marriage just
mentioned, and, it may not be amiss to observe, on the very day of the
year, that has become memorable in the annals of this country, as that
on which the English, four centuries later, reluctantly yielded their
last foothold on the coast of the republic.
In the course of the preceding summer, while the Spanish forces lay
before the town, and Isabella, with her children, were anxious
witnesses of the progress of events, an accident occurred that had
well-nigh proved fatal to the royal family, and brought destruction on
the Christian arms. The pavilion of the queen took fire, and was
consumed, placing the whole encampment in the utmost jeopardy. Many
of the tents of the nobles were also destroyed, and much treasure, in
the shape of jewelry and plate, was lost, though the injury went no
farther. In order to guard against the recurrence of such an accident,
and probably viewing the subjection of Granada as the great act of
their mutual reign—for, as yet, Time threw his veil around the
future, and but one human eye foresaw the greatest of all the events
of the period, which was still in reserve— the sovereigns resolved
on attempting a work that, of itself, would render this siege
memorable. The plan of a regular town was made, and labourers set
about the construction of good substantial edifices, in which to lodge
the army; thus converting the warfare into that of something like city
against city. In three months this stupendous work was completed,
with its avenues, streets and squares, and received the name of Santa
Fé, or Holy Faith, an appellation quite as well suited to the zeal
which could achieve such a work, in the heat of a campaign, as to that
general reliance on the providence of God which animated the
Christians in carrying on the war. The construction of this place
struck terror into the hearts of the Moors, for they considered it a
proof that their enemies intended to give up the conflict only with
their lives; and it is highly probable that it had a direct and
immediate influence on the submission of Boabdil, the King of Granada,
who yielded the Alhambra, a few weeks after the Spaniards had taken
possession of their new abodes.
Santa Fé still exists, and is visited by the traveller as a place
of curious origin; while it is rendered remarkable by the fact—real
or assumed—that it is the only town of any size in Spain, that has
never been under Moorish sway.
The main incidents of our tale will now transport us to this era,
and to this scene; all that has been related, as yet, being merely
introductory matter, to prepare the reader for the events that are to
What thing a right line is, the learned know;
But how availes that him, who in the right
Of life and manners doth desire to grow?
What then are all these humane arts, and lights,
But seas of errors? In whose depths who sound,
Of truth finde only shadowes, and no ground."
The morning of the 2d of January, 1492, was ushered in with a
solemnity and pomp that were unusual even in a court and camp as much
addicted to religious observances and royal magnificence, as that of
Ferdinand and Isabella. The sun had scarce appeared, when all in the
extraordinary little city of Santa Fé were afoot, and elate with
triumph. The negotiations for the surrender of Granada, which had
been going on secretly for weeks, were terminated; the army and
nation had been formally apprised of their results, and this was the
day set for the entry of the conquerors.
The court had been in mourning for Don Alonso of Portugal, the
husband of the Princess Royal of Castile, who had died a bridegroom;
but on this joyous occasion the trappings of woe were cast aside, and
all appeared in their gayest and most magnificent apparel. At an hour
that was still early, the Grand Cardinal moved forward, ascending
what is called the Hill of Martyrs, at the head of a strong body of
troops, with a view to take possession. While making the ascent, a
party of Moorish cavaliers was met; and at their head rode one in
whom, by the dignity of his mien and the anguish of his countenance,
it was easy to recognize the mental suffering of Boabdil, or Abdallah,
the deposed monarch. The cardinal pointed out the position occupied
by Ferdinand, who, with that admixture of piety and worldly policy
which were so closely interwoven in his character, had refused to
enter within the walls of the conquered city, until the symbol of
Christ had superseded the banners of Mahomet; and who had taken his
station at some distance from the gates, with a purpose and display
of humility that were suited to the particular fanaticism of the
period. As the interview that occurred has often been related, and
twice quite recently by distinguished writers of our own country, it
is unnecessary to dwell on it here. Abdallah next sought the presence
of the purerminded and gentle Isabella, where his reception, with less
affectation of the character, had more of the real charity and
compassion of the Christian; when he went his way towards that pass in
the mountains that has ever since been celebrated as the point where
he took his last view of the palaces and towers of his fathers, from
which it has obtained the poetical and touching name of El Ultimo
Suspiro Del Moro.
Although the passage of the last King of Granada, from his palace
to the hills, was in no manner delayed, as it was grave and conducted
with dignity, it consequently occupied some time. These were hours in
which the multitude covered the highways, and the adjacent fields were
garnished with a living throng, all of whom kept their eyes riveted
on the towers of the Alhambra, where the signs of possession were
anxiously looked for by every good Catholic who witnessed the triumph
of his religion.
Isabella, who had made this conquest a condition in the articles of
marriage — whose victory in truth it was — abstained, with her
native modesty, from pressing forward on this occasion. She had placed
herself at some distance in the rear of the position of Ferdinand.
Still, unless indeed we except the long-coveted towers of the
Alhambra, she was the centre of attraction. She appeared in royal
magnificence, as due to the glory of the occasion; her beauty always
rendered her an object of admiration; her mildness, inflexible
justice, and unyielding truth, had won all hearts; and she was really
the person who was most to profit by the victory, Granada being
attached to her own crown of Castile, and not to that of Aragon, a
country that possessed little or no contiguous territory.
Previously to the appearance of Abdallah, the crowd moved freely,
in all directions; multitudes of civilians having flocked to the camp
to witness the entry. Among others were many friars, priests and
monks, the war, indeed, having the character of a crusade. The throng
of the curious was densest near the person of the queen, where, in
truth, the magnificence of the court was the most imposing. Around
this spot, in particular, congregated most of the religious, for they
felt that the pious mind of Isabella created a sort of moral
atmosphere in and near her presence, that was peculiarly suited to
their habits, and favourable to their consideration. Among others, was
a friar of prepossessing mien, and, in fact, of noble birth, who had
been respectfully addressed as Father Pedro, by several grandees, as
he made his way from the immediate presence of the queen, to a spot
where the circulation was easier. He was accompanied by a youth of an
air so much superior to that of most of those who did not appear that
day in the saddle, that he attracted general attention. Although not
more than twenty, it was evident, from his muscular frame, and
embrowned but florid cheeks, that he was acquainted with exposure; and
by his bearing, many thought, notwithstanding he did not appear in
armour on an occasion so peculiarly military, that both his mien and
his frame had been improved by familiarity with war. His attire was
simple, as if he rather avoided than sought observation, but it was,
nevertheless, such as was worn by none but the noble. Several of those
who watched this youth, as he reached the less confined portions of
the crowd, had seen him received graciously by Isabella, whose hand he
had even been permitted to kiss, a favour that the formal and
fastidious court of Castile seldom bestowed except on the worthy, or,
on those, at least, who were unusually illustrious from their birth.
Some whispered that he was a Guzman, a family that was almost royal;
while others thought that he might be a Ponce, a name that had got to
be one of the first in Spain, through the deeds of the renowned
Marquis-Duke of Cadiz, in this very war; while others, again,
affected to discern in his lofty brow, firm step, and animated eye,
the port and countenance of a Mendoza.
It was evident that the subject of all these commentaries was
unconscious of the notice that was attracted by his vigorous form,
handsome face, and elastic, lofty tread; for, like one accustomed to
be observed by inferiors, his attention was confined to such objects
as amused his eye, or pleased his fancy, while he lent a willing ear
to the remarks that, from time to time, fell from the lips of his
"This is a most blessed and glorious day for Christianity!"
observed the friar, after a pause a little longer than common. "An
impious reign of seven hundred years hath expired, and the Moor is at
length lowered from his pride; while the cross is elevated above the
banners of the false prophet. Thou hast had ancestors, my son, who
might almost arise from their tombs, and walk the earth in exultation,
if the tidings of these changes were permitted to reach the souls of
Christians long since departed."
"The Blessed Maria intercede for them, father, that they may not be
disturbed, even to see the Moor unhoused; for I doubt much, agreeable
as the Infidel hath made it, if they find Granada as pleasant as
"Son Don Luis, thou has got much levity of speech, in thy late
journeyings; and I doubt if thou art as mindful of thy paters and
confessions, as when under the care of thy excellent mother, of
This was not only said reprovingly, but with a warmth that amounted
nearly to anger.
"Chide me not so warmly, father, for a lightness of speech that
cometh of youthful levity, rather than of disrespect for holy
church.—Nay, thou rebukest warmly, and then, as I come like a
penitent to lay my transgressions before thee, and to seek absolution,
thou fastenest thine eye on vacancy, and gazest as if one of the
spirits of which thou so lately spokest actually had arisen and come
to see the Moor crack his heart-strings at quitting his beloved
"Dost see that man, Luis?" demanded the friar, still gazing in a
fixed direction, though he made no gesture to indicate to which
particular individual of the many who were passing in all directions,
he especially alluded.
"By my veracity, I see a thousand, father, though not one to fasten
the eye as if he were fresh from Paradise. Would it be exceeding
discretion to ask who, or what, hath thus riveted thy gaze?"
"Dost see yonder person of high and commanding stature, and in whom
gravity and dignity are so singularly mingled with an air of poverty;
or, if not absolutely of poverty—for he is better clad, and
seemingly in more prosperity now, than I remember ever to have seen
him—still, evidently not of the rich and noble; while his bearing
and carriage would seem to bespeak him at least a monarch?"
"I think I now perceive him thou meanest, father; a man of very
grave and reverend appearance, though of simple deportment. I see
nothing extravagant, or ill placed, either in his attire, or in his
"I mean not that; — but there is a loftiness in his dignified
countenance that one is not accustomed to meet in those who are
unused to power."
"To me he hath the air and dress of a superior navigator, or pilot
— of a man accustomed to the seas — ay, he hath sundry symbols
about him that bespeak such a pursuit."
"Thou art right, Don Luis, for such is his calling. He cometh of
Genoa, and his name is Christoval Colon — or, as they term it in
"I remember to have heard of an admiral of that name, who did good
service in the wars of the south, and who formerly led a fleet into
the far east."
"This is not he, but one of humbler habits, though possibly of the
same blood, seeing that both are derived from the identical place.
This is no admiral, though he would fain become one—ay, even a king!"
"The man is then either of a weak mind, or of a light ambition."
"He is neither. In mind, he hath outdone many of our most learned
churchmen; and it is due to his piety to say that a more devout
Christian doth not exist in Spain. It is plain, son, that thou hast
been much abroad, and little at court, or thou would'st have known the
history of this extraordinary being, at the mention of his name, which
has been the source of merriment for the frivolous and gay, this many
a year, and which has thrown the thoughtful and prudent into more
doubts than many a fierce and baneful heresy."
"Thou stirrest my curiosity, father, by such language. Who and what
is the man?"
"An enigma that neither prayers to the Virgin, the learning of the
cloisters, nor a zealous wish to reach the truth, hath enabled me to
read. Come hither, Luis, to this bit of rock where we can be seated,
and I will relate to thee the opinions that render this being so
extraordinary. Thou must know, son, it is now seven years since this
man first appeared among us. He sought employment as a discoverer,
pretending that by steering out into the ocean, on a western course,
for a great and unheard-of distance, he could reach the farther
Indies, with the rich island of Cipango, and the kingdom of Cathay, of
which one Marco Polo hath left us some most extraordinary legends."
"By St. James of blessed memory! the man must be short of his
wits!" interrupted Don Luis, laughing. "In what way could this thing
be, unless the earth were round— the Indies lying east, and not west
"That hath been often objected to his notions; but the man hath
ready answers to much weightier arguments."
"What weightier than this can be found? Our own eyes tell us that
the earth is flat."
"Therein he differeth from most men — and to own the truth, son
Luis, not without some show of reason. He is a navigator, as thou wilt
understand, and he replies that, on the ocean, when a ship is seen
from afar, her upper sails are first perceived, and that as she
draweth nearer, her lower sails, and finally her hull cometh into
view. But, thou hast been over sea, and may have observed something
"Truly have I, father. While mounting the English sea, we met a
gallant cruiser of the king's, and, as thou said'st, we first
perceived her upper sail, a white speck upon the water — then
followed sail after sail, until we came nigh and saw her gigantic
hull, with a very goodly show of bombards and cannon—some twenty at
least, in all."
"Then thou agreest with this Colon, and thinkest the earth round?"
"By St. George of England! not I. I have seen too much of the
world, to traduce its fair surface in so heedless a manner. England,
France, Burgundy, Germany, and all those distant countries of the
north, are just as level and flat as our own Castile."
"Why then didst thou see the upper sails of the Englishman first?"
"Why, father — why — because they were first visible. Yes,
because they came first into view."
"Do the English put the largest of their sails uppermost on the
"They would be fools if they did. Though no great navigators—our
neighbours the Portuguese, and the people of Genoa, exceeding all
others in that craft — though no great navigators, the English are
not so surpassingly stupid. Thou wilt remember the force of the winds,
and understand that the larger the sail the lower should be its
"Then how happened it that thou sawest the smaller object before
"Truly, excellent Fray Pedro, thou hast not conversed with this
Christoforo for nothing! A question is not a reason."
"Socrates was fond of questions, son; but
"Peste! as they say at the court of King Louis. I am not
Socrates, my good father, but thy old pupil and kinsman, Luis de
Bobadilla, the truant nephew of the queen's favourite, the Marchioness
of Moya, and as well-born a cavalier as there is in Spain — though
somewhat given to roving, if my enemies are to be believed."
"Neither thy pedigree, thy character, nor thy vagaries, need be
given to me, Don Luis de Bobadilla; since I have known thee and thy
career from childhood. Thou hast one merit that none will deny thee,
and that is, a respect for truth; and never hast thou more completely
vindicated thy character, in this particular, than when thou saidst
thou wert not Socrates."
The worthy friar's good-natured smile, as he made this sally, took
off some of its edge; and the young man laughed, as if too conscious
of his own youthful follies to resent what he heard.
"But, dear Fray Pedro, lay aside thy government, for once, and
stoop to a rational discourse with me on this extraordinary subject. Thou, surely, wilt not pretend that the earth is round?"
"I do not go as far as some, on this point, Luis, for I see
difficulties with Holy Writ, by the admission. Still, this matter of
the sails much puzzleth me, and I have often felt a desire to go from
one port to another, by sea, in order to witness it. Were it not for
the exceeding nausea that I ever feel in a boat, I might attempt the
"That would be a worthy consummation of all thy wisdom!" exclaimed
the young man, laughing. "Fray Pedro de Carrascal turned rover, like
his old pupil, and that, too, astride a vagary! But set thy heart at
rest, my honoured kinsman and excellent instructor, for I can save
thee the trouble. In all my journeyings, by sea and by land — and
thou knowest that, for my years, they have been many— I have ever
found the earth flat, and the ocean the flattest portion of it, always
excepting a few turbulent and uneasy waves."
"No doubt it so seemeth to the eye; but, this Colon, who hath
voyaged far more than thou, thinketh otherwise. He contendeth that the
earth is a sphere, and that, by sailing west, he can reach points that
have been already attained by journeying east."
"By San Lorenzo! but the idea is a bold one! Doth the man really
propose to venture out into the broad Atlantic, and even to cross it
to some distant and unknown land?"
"That is his very idea; and for seven weary years hath he solicited
the court to furnish him with the means. Nay, as I hear, he hath
passed much more time — other seven years, perhaps—in urging his
suit in different lands."
"If the earth be round," continued Don Luis, with a musing air,
"what preventeth all the water from flowing to the lower parts of it?
How is it, that we have any seas at all? and if, as thou hast hinted,
he deemeth the Indies on the other side, how is it that their people
stand erect?— it cannot be done without placing the feet uppermost."
"That difficulty hath been presented to Colon, but he treateth it
lightly. Indeed, most of our churchmen are getting to believe that
there is no up, or down, except as it relateth to the surface of the
earth; so that no great obstacle existeth in that point."
"Thou would'st not have me understand, father, that a man can walk
on his head — and that, too, with the noble member in the air? By
San Francisco! thy men of Cathay must have talons like a cat, or they
would be falling, quickly!"
"Whither, Fray Pedro? — to Tophet, or the bottomless pit. It can
never be that men walk on their heads, heels uppermost, with no better
foundation than the atmosphere. The caravels, too, must sail on their
masts—and that would be rare navigation! What would prevent the sea
from tumbling out of its bed, and falling on the Devil's fires and
"Son Luis," interrupted the monk, gravely, "thy lightness of speech
is carried too far. But, if thou so much deridest the opinion of this
Colon, what are thine own notions of the formation of this earth, that
God hath so honoured with his spirit and his presence?"
"That it is as flat as the buckler of the Moor I slew in the last
sortie, which is as flat as steel can hammer iron."
"Dost thou think it hath limits?"
"That do I — and please Heaven, and Doña Mercedes de Valverde, I
will see them before I die!"
"Then thou fanciest there is an edge, or precipice, at the four
sides of the world, which men may reach, and where they can stand and
look off, as from an exceeding high platform?"
"The picture doth not lose, father, for the touch of thy pencil! I
have never bethought me of this before; and yet some such spot there
must be, one would think. By San Fernando, himself! that would be a
place to try the metal of even Don Alonso de Ojeda, who might stand on
the margin of the earth, put his foot on a cloud, and cast an orange
to the moon!"
"Thou hast bethought thee little, of any thing serious, I fear,
Luis; but to me, this opinion and this project of Colon are not
without merit. I see but two serious objections to them, one of which
is, the difficulty connected with Holy Writ — and the other, the
vast and incomprehensible, nay, useless, extent of the ocean that must
necessarily separate us from Cathay; else should we long since have
heard from that quarter of the world."
"Do the learned favour the man's notions?"
"The matter hath been seriously argued before a council held at
Salamanca, where men were much divided upon it. One serious obstacle
is the apprehension that should the world prove to be round, and could
a ship even succeed in getting to Cathay by the west, there would be
great difficulty in her ever returning, since there must be, in some
manner, an ascent and a descent. I must say that most men deride this
Colon; and I fear he will never reach his island of Cipango, as he
doth not seem in the way even to set forth on the journey. I marvel
that he should now be here, it having been said he had taken his final
departure for Portugal."
"Dost thou say, father, that the man hath long been in Spain?"
demanded Don Luis, gravely, with his eye riveted on the dignified form
of Columbus, who stood calmly regarding the gorgeous spectacle of the
triumph, at no great distance from the rock where the two had taken
"Seven weary years hath he been soliciting the rich and the great
to furnish him with the means of undertaking his favourite voyage."
"Hath he the gold to prefer so long a suit?"
"By his appearance, I should think him poor — nay, I know that he
hath toiled for bread, at the occupation of a map-maker. One hour he
hath passed in arguing with philosophers and in soliciting princes,
while the next hath been occupied in labouring for the food that he
hath taken for sustenance."
"Thy description, father, hath whetted curiosity to so keen an
edge, that I would fain speak with this Colon. I see he remaineth
yonder, in the crowd, and will go and tell him that I, too, am
somewhat of a navigator, and will extract from him a few of his
"And in what manner wilt thou open the acquaintance, son?"
"By telling him that I am Don Luis de Bobadilla, the nephew of the
Doña Beatriz of Moya, and a noble of one of the best houses of
"And this thou thinkest will suffice for thy purpose, Luis!"
returned the friar, smiling. "No — no — my son; this may do with
most map-sellers, but it will not effect thy wishes with yonder
Christoval Colon. That man is so filled with the vastness of his
purposes; is so much raised up with the magnitude of the results that
his mind intently contemplateth, day and night; seemeth so conscious
of his own powers, that even kings and princes can, in no manner,
lessen his dignity. That which thou proposest, Don Fernando, our
honoured master, might scarcely attempt, and hope to escape without
some rebuke of manner, if not of tongue."
"By all the blessed saints! Fray Pedro, thou givest an
extraordinary account of this man, and only increasest the desire to
know him. Wilt thou charge thyself with the introduction?"
"Most willingly, for I wish to inquire what hath brought him back
to court, whence, I had understood, he lately went, with the intent to
go elsewhere with his projects. Leave the mode in my hands, son Luis,
and we will see what can be accomplished."
The friar and his mercurial young companion now arose from their
seats on the rock, and threaded the throng, taking the direction
necessary to approach the man who had been the subject of their
discourse, and still remained that of their thoughts. When near enough
to speak, Fray Pedro stopped, and stood patiently waiting for a moment
when he might catch the navigator's eye. This did not occur for
several minutes, the looks of Colon being riveted on the towers of the
Alhambra, where, at each instant, the signal of possession was
expected to appear; and Luis de Bobadilla, who, truant, and errant,
and volatile, and difficult to curb, as he had proved himself to be,
never forgot his illustrious birth and the conventional distinctions
attached to personal rank, began to manifest his impatience at being
kept so long dancing attendance on a mere map-seller and a pilot. He
in vain urged his companion to advance, however; but one of his own
hurried movements at length drew aside the look of Columbus, when the
eyes of the latter and of the friar met, and being old acquaintances,
they saluted in the courteous manner of the age.
"I felicitate you, Señor Colon, on the glorious termination of this
siege, and rejoice that you are here to witness it, as I had heard
affairs of magnitude had called you to another country."
"The hand of God, father, is to be traced in all things. You
perceive in this success the victory of the cross; but to me it
conveyeth a lesson of perseverance, and sayeth, as plainly as events
can speak, that what God hath decreed, must come to pass."
"I like your application, Señor; as, indeed, I do most of your
thoughts on our holy religion. Perseverance is truly necessary to
salvation; and I doubt not that a fitting symbol to the same may be
found in the manner in which our pious sovereigns have conducted this
war, as well as in its glorious termination."
"True, father; and also doth it furnish a symbol to the fortunes of
all enterprises that have the glory of God and the welfare of the
church in view," answered Colon, or Columbus, as the name has been
Latinized; his eye kindling with that latent fire which seems so
deeply seated in the visionary and the enthusiast. "It may seem out of
reason to you, to make such applications of these great events; but
the triumph of their Highnesses this day, marvellously encourageth me
to persevere, and not to faint, in my own weary pilgrimage, both
leading to triumphs of the cross."
"Since you are pleased to speak of your own schemes, Señor Colon,"
returned the friar, ingeniously, "I am not sorry that the matter hath
come up between us; for here is a youthful kinsman of mine, who hath
been somewhat of a rover, himself, in the indulgence of a youthful
fancy, that neither friends nor yet love could restrain; and having
heard of your noble projects, he is burning with the desire to learn
more of them from your own mouth, should it suit your condescension so
to indulge him."
"I am always happy to yield to the praiseworthy wishes of the young
and adventurous, and shall cheerfully communicate to your young friend
all he may desire to know," answered Columbus, with a simplicity and
dignity that at once put to flight all the notions of superiority and
affability with which Don Luis had intended to carry on the
conversation, and which had the immediate effect to satisfy the young
man that he was to be the obliged and honoured party, in the
intercourse that was to follow. "But, Señor, you have forgotten to
give me the name of the cavalier."
"It is Don Luis de Bobadilla, a youth whose best claims to your
notice, perhaps, are, a most adventurous and roving spirit, and the
fact that he may call your honoured friend the Marchioness of Moya,
"Either would be sufficient, father. I love the spirit of adventure
in the youthful; for it is implanted, no doubt, by God, in order that
they may serve his all-wise and beneficent designs; and it is of such
as these that my own chief worldly stay and support must be found.
Then, next to Father Juan Perez de Marchena and Señor Alonzo de
Quintanilla, do I esteem Doña Beatriz, among my fastest friends; her
kinsman, therefore, will be certain of my esteem and respect."
All this sounded extraordinary to Don Luis; for though the dress
and appearance of this unknown stranger, who even spoke the Castilian
with a foreign accent, were respectable, he had been told he was
merely a pilot, or navigator, who earned his bread by toil; and it was
not usual for the noblest of Castile to be thus regarded, as it might
be, with a condescending favour, by any inferior to those who could
claim the blood and lineage of princes. At first he was disposed to
resent the words of the stranger; then to laugh in his face; but
observing that the friar treated him with great deference, and
secretly awed by the air of the reputed projector, he was not only
successful in maintaining a suitable deportment, but he made a proper
and courteous reply, such as became his name and breeding. The three
then retired together, a little aloof from the thickest of the throng,
and found seats also, on one of the rocks, of which so many were
scattered about the place.
"Don Luis hath visited foreign lands, you say, father," said
Columbus, who did not fail to lead the discourse, like one entitled to
it by rank, or personal claims, "and hath a craving for the wonders
and dangers of the ocean?"
"Such hath been either his merit, or his fault, Señor; had he
listened to the wishes of Doña Beatriz, or to my advice, he would not
have thrown aside his knightly career for one so little in unison with
his training and birth."
"Nay, father, you treat the youth with unmerited severity; he who
passeth a life on the ocean, cannot be said to pass it in either an
ignoble or a useless manner. God separated different countries by vast
bodies of water, not with any intent to render their people strangers
to each other, but doubtless that they might meet amid the wonders
with which he hath adorned the ocean, and glorify his name and power
so much the more. We all have our moments of thoughtlessness in youth,
a period when we yield to our impulses rather than to our reason; and
as I confess to mine, I am little disposed to bear too hard on Señor
Don Luis, that he hath had his."
"You have probably battled with the Infidel, by sea, Señor Colon,"
observed the young man, not a little embarrassed as to the manner in
which he should introduce the subject he most desired.
"Ay, and by land, too, son"—the familiarity startled the young
noble, though he could not take offence at it—"and by land, too. The
time hath been, when I had a pleasure in relating my perils and
escapes, which have been numerous, both from war and tempests; but
since the power of God hath awakened my spirit to mightier things,
that his will may be done, and his word spread throughout the whole
earth, my memory ceaseth to dwell on them." Fray Pedro crossed
himself, and Don Luis smiled and shrugged his shoulders, as one is apt
to do when he listens to any thing extravagant; but the navigator
proceeded in the earnest grave manner that appeared to belong to his
character. "It is now very many years, since I was engaged in that
remarkable combat between the forces of my kinsman and namesake, the
younger Colombo, as he was called, to distinguish him from his uncle,
the ancient admiral of the same name, which took place not far north
from Cape St. Vincent. On that bloody day, we contended with the foe,
Venetians richly laden, from morn till even, and yet the Lord carried
me through the hot contest unharmed. On another occasion, the galley
in which I fought was consumed by fire, and I had to find my way to
land, no trifling distance, by the aid of an oar. To me it seemeth
that the hand of God was in this, and that he would not have taken so
signal and tender a care of one of his insignificant creatures, unless
to use him largely for his own honour and glory."
Although the eye of the navigator grew brighter as he uttered this,
and his cheek flushed with a species of holy enthusiasm, it was
impossible to confound one so grave, so dignified, so measured even in
his exaggerations — if such they were — with the idle and
light-minded who mistake momentary impulses for indelible impressions,
and passing vanities for the convictions that temper character. Fray
Pedro, instead of smiling, or in any manner betraying that he
regarded the other's opinions lightly, devoutly crossed himself again,
and showed by the sympathy expressed in his countenance, how much he
entered into the profound religious faith of the speaker.
"The ways of God are often mysteries to his creatures," said the
friar; "but we are taught that they all lead to the exaltation of his
name, and to the glory of his attributes."
"It is so that I consider it, father; and with such views have I
always regarded my own humble efforts to honour him. We are but
instruments, and useless instruments, too, when we look at how little
proceedeth from our own spirits and power."
"There cometh the blessed symbol that is our salvation and guide!"
exclaimed the friar, holding out both arms eagerly, as if to embrace
some distant object in the heavens, immediately falling to his knees,
and bowing his shaven and naked head, in deep humility, to the earth.
Columbus turned his eyes in the direction indicated by his
companion's gestures, and he beheld the large silver cross that the
sovereigns had carried with them throughout the late war, as a pledge
of its objects, glittering on the principal tower of the Alhambra. At
the next instant, the banners of Castile and of St. James were
unfolded from other elevated places. Then came the song of triumph,
mingled with the chants of the church. Te Deum was sung, and the
choirs of the royal chapel chanted in the open fields the praises of
the Lord of Hosts. A scene of magnificent religious pomp, mingled with
martial array, followed, that belongs rather to general history than
to the particular and private incidents of our tale.
"Who hath not proved how feebly words essay
To fix one spark of beauty's heavenly ray?
Who doth not feel, until his failing sight
Faints into dimness with its own delight,
His changing cheek, his sinking heart confess
The might — the majesty of loveliness!"
That night the court of Castile and Aragon slept in the palace of
the Alhambra. As soon as the religious ceremony alluded to in the last
chapter had terminated, the crowd rushed into the place, and the
princes followed, with a dignity and state better suited to their high
character. The young Christian nobles, accompanied by their wives and
sisters — for the presence of Isabella, and the delay that attended
the surrender, had drawn together a vast many of the gentler sex, in
addition to those whose duty it was to accompany their royal mistress
— hurried eagerly through the celebrated courts and fretted
apartments of this remarkable residence; nor was curiosity appeased
even when night came to place a temporary stay to its indulgence. The
Court of the Lions, in particular, a place still renowned throughout
Christendom for its remains of oriental beauty, had been left by
Boabdil in the best condition; and, although it was mid-winter, by the
aid of human art it was even then gay with flowers; while the adjacent
halls, those of the Two Sisters, and of Abencerrages, were brilliant
with light, and alive with warriors and courtiers, dignified priests
and luxuriant beauty.
Although no Spanish eye could be otherwise than familiar with the
light peculiar graces of Moorish architecture, these of the Alhambra
so much surpassed those of any other palace which had been erected by
the Mussulman dynasties of that part of the world, that their glories
struck the beholders with the freshness of novelty, as well as with
the magnificence of royalty. The rich conceits in stucco, an art of
eastern origin, then little understood in Christendom; the graceful
and fanciful Arabesques — which, improved on by the fancies of some
of the greatest geniuses the world ever saw, have descended to our own
times, and got to be so familiar in Europe, though little known on
this side of the Atlantic — decorated the walls, while brilliant
fountains cast their waters into the air, and fell in glittering
spray, resembling diamonds.
Among the throng that moved through this scene of almost magical
beauty, was Beatriz de Bobadilla, who had long been the wife of Don
Andres de Cabrera, and was now generally known as the Marchioness of
Moya; the constant, near, and confidential friend of the queen, a
character she retained until her royal mistress was numbered with the
dead. On her arm leaned lightly, a youthful female, of an appearance
so remarkable, that few strangers would have passed her without
turning to take a second look at features and a countenance that were
seldom seen and forgotten. This was Doña Mercedes de Valverde, one of
the noblest and richest heiresses of Castile; the relative, ward, and
adopted daughter of the queen's friend; favourite being hardly the
term one would apply to the relation in which Doña Beatriz stood
towards Isabella. It was not the particular beauty of Doña Mercedes,
however, that rendered her appearance so remarkable and attractive;
for, though feminine, graceful, of exquisite form, and even of
pleasing features, there were many in that brilliant court who would
generally be deemed fairer. But no other maiden of Castile had a
countenance so illuminated by the soul within, or no other female face
habitually wore so deep an impression of sentiment and sensibility;
and the professed physiognomist would have delighted to trace the
evidences of a deeply-seated, earnest, but unobtrusive enthusiasm,
which even cast a shade of melancholy over a face that fortune and
the heart had equally intended should be sunny and serene. Serene it
was, notwithstanding; the shadow that rested on it seeming to soften
and render interesting its expression, rather than to disturb its
tranquillity or to cloud its loveliness.
On the other side of the noble matron walked Luis de Bobadilla,
keeping a little in advance of his aunt, in a way to permit his own
dark flashing looks to meet, whenever feeling and modesty would allow
it, the fine, expressive, blue eyes of Mercedes. The three conversed
freely, for the royal personages had retired to their private
apartments, and each group of passengers was so much entranced with
the novelty of its situation and its own conversation, as to disregard
the remarks of others.
"This is a marvel, Luis," observed Doña Beatriz, in continuation of
a subject that evidently much interested them all, "that thou, a
truant and a rover thyself, should now have heard for the first time
of this Colon! It is many years since he has been soliciting their
Highnesses for their royal aid in effecting his purposes. The matter
of his schemes was solemnly debated before a council at Salamanca;
and he hath not been without believers at the Court, itself."
"Among whom is to be classed Doña Beatriz de Cabrera," said
Mercedes, with that melancholy smile that had the effect to bring out
glimpses of all the deep but latent feeling that lay concealed beneath
the surface: "I have often heard Her Highness declare that Colon hath
no truer friend in Castile."
"Her Highness is seldom mistaken, child—and never in my heart. I
do uphold the man; for to me he seemeth one fitted for some great and
honourable undertaking; and surely none greater hath ever been
proposed or imagined by human mind, than this he urgeth. Think of our
becoming acquainted with the nations of the other side of the earth,
and of finding easy and direct means of communicating with them, and
of imparting to them the consolations of Holy Church!"
"Ay, Señora my aunt," cried Luis, laughing, "and of walking in
their delightful company with all our heels in the air, and our heads
downwards! I hope this Colon hath not neglected to practise a little
in the art, for it will need some time to gain a sure foot, in such
circumstances. He might commence on the sides of these mountains, by
way of a horn-book, throwing the head boldly off at a rightangle;
after which, the walls and towers of this Alhambra would make a very
pretty grammar, or stepping-stone to new progress."
Mercedes had unconsciously but fervently pressed the arm of her
guardian, as Doña Beatriz admitted her interest in the success of the
great project; but at this sally of Don Luis, she looked serious, and
threw a glance at him, that he himself felt to be reproachful. To win
the love of his aunt's ward was the young man's most ardent wish; and
a look of dissatisfaction could at any moment repress that exuberance
of spirits which often led him into an appearance of levity that did
injustice to the really sterling qualities of both his heart and mind.
Under the influence of that look, then, he was not slow to repair the
wrong he had done himself, by adding almost as soon as he had ceased
to speak —
"The Doña Mercedes is of the discovering party, too, I see; this
Colon appeareth to have had more success with the dames of Castile
than with her nobles"—
"Is it extraordinary, Don Luis," interrupted the pensive-looking
girl, "that women should have more confidence in merit, more generous
impulses, more zeal for God, than men?"
"It must be even so, since you and my aunt, Doña Beatriz, side with
the navigator. But I am not always to be understood in the light I
express myself;"—Mercedes now smiled, but this time it was
archly—"I have never studied with the minstrels, nor, sooth to say,
deeply with the churchmen. To be honest with you, I have been much
struck with this noble idea; and if Señor Colon doth, in reality,
sail in quest of Cathay and the Indies, I shall pray their Highnesses
to let me be of the party, for, now that the Moor is subdued, there
remaineth little for a noble to do in Spain."
"If thou should'st really go on this expedition," said Doña
Beatriz, with grave irony, "there will, at least, be one human being
topsy-turvy, in the event of thy reaching Cathay. But yonder is an
attendant of the court; I doubt if Her Highness doth not desire my
The Lady of Moya was right—the messenger coming to announce to
her that the queen required her attendance. The manners of the day and
country rendered it unseemly that Doña Mercedes should continue her
promenade accompanied only by Don Luis, and the marchioness led the
way to her own apartments, where a saloon suitable to her rank and to
her favour with the queen, had been selected for her from among the
numberless gorgeous rooms of the Moorish kings. Even here, the
marchioness paused a moment, in thought, before she would leave her
errant nephew alone with her ward.
"Though a rover, he is no troubadour, and cannot charm thy ear with
false rhymes. It were better, perhaps, that I sent him beneath thy
balcony, with his guitar; but knowing so well his dulness, I will
confide in it, and leave him with thee, for the few minutes that I
shall be absent. A cavalier who hath so strong a dislike to reversing
the order of nature, will not surely condescend to go on his knees,
even though it be to win a smile from the sweetest maiden in all
Don Luis laughed; Doña Beatriz smiled, as she kissed her ward, and
left the room; while Doña Mercedes blushed, and riveted her gaze on
the floor. Luis de Bobadilla was the declared suitor and sworn knight
of Mercedes de Valverde; but, though so much favoured by birth,
fortune, affinity, and figure, there existed some serious impediments
to his success. In all that was connected with the considerations
that usually decide such things, the union was desirable; but there
existed, nevertheless, a strong influence to overcome, in the scruples
of Doña Beatriz, herself. High-principled, accustomed to the
just-minded views of her royal mistress, and too proud to do an
unworthy act, the very advantages that a marriage with her ward
offered to her nephew, had caused the marchioness to hesitate. Don
Luis had little of the Castilian gravity of character— and, by many,
his animal spirits were mistaken for lightness of disposition and
levity of thought. His mother was a woman of a very illustrious French
family; and national pride had induced most observers to fancy that
the son inherited a constitutional disposition to frivolity, that was
to be traced to the besetting weakness of a whole people. A
consciousness of his being so viewed at home, had, indeed, driven the
youth abroad; and as, like all observant travellers, he was made
doubly sensible of the defects of his own state of society, on his
return, a species of estrangement had grown up between him and his
natural associates, that had urged the young man, again and again, to
wander into foreign lands. Nothing, indeed, but his early and
constantly increasing passion for Mercedes had induced him to return;
a step that, fortunately for himself, he had last taken in time to
assist in the reduction of Granada. Notwithstanding these traits,
which, in a country like Castile, might be properly enough termed
peculiarities, Don Luis de Bobadilla was a knight worthy of his
lineage and name. His prowess in the field and in the tourney, indeed,
was so very marked as to give him a high military character, in
despite of what were deemed his failings; and he passed rather as an
inconsiderate and unsafe young man, than as one who was either debased
or wicked. Martial qualities, in that age in particular, redeemed a
thousand faults; and Don Luis had even been known to unhorse, in the
tourney, Alonzo de Ojeda, then the most expert lance in Spain. Such a
man could not be despised, though he might be distrusted. But the
feeling which governed his aunt, referred quite as much to her own
character as to his. Deeply conscientious, while she understood her
nephew's real qualities much better than mere superficial observers,
she had her doubts about the propriety of giving the rich heiress who
was entrusted to her care, to so near a relative, when all could not
applaud the act. She feared, too, that her own partiality might
deceive her, and that Luis might in truth be the light and frivolous
being the sometimes appeared to be in Castilian eyes, and that the
happiness of her ward would prove the sacrifice of the indiscretion.
With these doubts, then, while she secretly desired the union, she had
in public looked coldly on her nephew's suit; and, though unable,
without a harshness that circumstances would not warrant, to prevent
all intercourse, she had not only taken frequent occasions to let
Mercedes understand her distrust, but she had observed the precaution
not to leave so handsome a suitor, notwithstanding he was often
domiciliated in her own house, much alone with her ward.
The state of Mercedes' feelings was known only to herself. She was
beautiful, of an honourable family, and an heiress; and, as human
infirmities were as besetting beneath the stately mien of the
fifteenth century, as they are to-day, she had often heard the
supposed faults of Don Luis's character sneered at, by those who felt
distrustful of his good looks and his opportunities. Few young females
would have had the courage to betray any marked preference under such
circumstances, until prepared to avow their choice, and to take sides
with its subject against the world; and the quiet but deep enthusiasm
that prevailed in the moral system of the fair young Castilian, was
tempered by a prudence that prevented her from running into most of
its lighter excesses. The forms and observances that usually surround
young women of rank, came in aid of this native prudence; and even Don
Luis, himself, though he had watched the countenance and emotions of
her to whom he had so long urged his suit, with a lover's jealousy and
a lover's instincts, was greatly in doubt whether he had succeeded in
the least, in touching her heart. By one of those unlooked-for
concurrences of circumstances that so often decide the fortunes of
men, whether as lovers or in more worldly-minded pursuits, these
doubts were now about to be unexpectedly and suddenly removed.
The triumph of the Christian arms, the novelty of her situation,
and the excitement of the whole scene, had aroused the feelings of
Mercedes from that coy concealment in which they usually lay smothered
beneath the covering of maiden diffidence; and throughout the evening
her smile had been more open, her eye brighter, and her cheeks more
deeply flushed, than was usual even with one whose smiles were always
sweet, whose eyes were never dull, and whose cheeks answered so
sensitively to the varying impulses within.
As his aunt quitted the room, leaving him alone with Mercedes for
the first time since his return from his last ramble, Don Luis eagerly
threw himself on a stool that stood near the feet of his adored, who
placed herself on a sumptuous couch, that, twenty-four hours before,
had held the person of a princess of Abdallah's family.
"Much as I honour and reverence Her Highness," the young man
hurriedly commenced, "my respect and veneration are now increased
ten-fold! Would that she might send for my beloved aunt thrice where
she now wants her services only once! and may her presence become so
necessary to her sovereign that the affairs of Castile cannot go on
without her counsel, if so blessed an opportunity as this, to tell you
all I feel, Doña Mercedes, is to follow her obedience!"
"It is not they who are most fluent of speech, or the most
vehement, who always feel the deepest, Don Luis de Bobadilla."
"Nor do they feel the least. Mercedes, thou canst not doubt my
love! It hath grown with my growth—increased with each increase of
my ideas—until it hath got to be so interwoven with my mind itself,
that I can scarce use a faculty that thy dear image doth not mingle
with it. In all that is beautiful, I behold thee; if I listen to the
song of a bird, it is thy carol to the lute; or if I feel the gentle
south wind from the fragrant isles fanning my cheek, I would fain
think it thy sigh."
"You have dwelt so much among the light conceits of the French
court, Don Luis, you appear to have forgotten that the heart of a
Castilian girl is too true, and too sincere, to meet such rhapsodies
Had Don Luis been older, or more experienced in the sex, he would
have been flattered by this rebuke — for he would have detected in
the speaker's manner, both feeling of a gentler nature than her words
expressed, and a tender regret.
"If thou ascribest to me rhapsodies, thou dost me great injustice.
I may not do credit to my own thoughts and feelings; but never hath my
tongue uttered aught to thee, Mercedes, that the heart hath not
honestly urged. Have I not loved thee since thou and I were children?
Did I ever fail to show my preference for thee when we were boy and
girl, in all the sports and light-hearted enjoyments of that
"Guileless, truly," answered Mercedes, her look brightening as it
might be with agreeable fancies and a flood of pleasant recollections
— doing more, in a single instant, to break down the barriers of her
reserve, than years of schooling had effected towards building them
up. "Thou wert then, at least, sincere, Luis, and I placed full faith
in thy friendship, and in thy desire to please."
"Bless thee, bless thee, for these precious words, Mercedes! for
the first time in two years, hast thou spoken to me as thou wert wont
to do, and called me Luis, without that courtly, accursed, Don."
"A noble Castilian should never regard his honours lightly, and he
oweth it to his rank to see that others respect them, too;" answered
our heroine, looking down, as if she already half repented of the
familiarity. "You are quick to remind me of my forgetfulness, Don Luis
"This unlucky tongue of mine can never follow the path that its
owner wisheth! Hast thou not seen in all my looks— all my acts —
all my motives — a desire to please thee, and thee alone, lovely
Mercedes? When Her Highness gave her royal approbation of my success,
in the last tourney, did I not seek thine eye, in order to ask if thou
noted'st it? Hast thou ever expressed a wish, that I have not proved
an eager desire to see it accomplished?"
"Nay, now, Luis, thou emboldenest me to remind thee that I
expressed a wish that thou would'st not go on thy last voyage to the
north, and yet thou didst depart! I felt that it would displease Doña
Beatriz; thy truant disposition having made her uneasy lest thou
should'st get altogether into the habits of a rover, and into
disfavour with the queen."
"It was for this that thou mad'st the request, and it wounded my
pride to think that Mercedes de Valverde should so little understand
my character, as to believe it possible a noble of my name and lineage
could so far forget his duties as to sink into the mere associate of
pilots and adventurers."
"Thou didst not know that I believed this of thee."
"Hadst thou asked of me, Mercedes, to remain for thy sake — nay,
hadst thou imposed the heaviest services on me, as thy knight, or, as
one who enjoyed the smallest degree of thy favour—I would have
parted with life sooner than I would have parted from Castile. But not
even a look of kindness could I obtain, in reward for all the pain I
had felt on thy account"—
"Is it not pain to love to the degree that one might kiss the earth
that received the foot-print of its object—and yet to meet with no
encouragement from fair words, no friendly glance of the eye, nor any
sign or symbol to betoken that the being one hath enshrined in his
heart's core, ever thinketh of her suitor except as a reckless rover
and a harebrained adventurer?"
"Luis de Bobadilla, no one that really knoweth thy character, can
ever truly think thus of thee."
"A million of thanks for these few words, beloved girl, and ten
millions for the gentle smile that hath accompanied them! Thou
might'st mould me to all thy wishes"—
"My wishes, Don Luis!"
"To all thy severe opinions of sobriety and dignity of conduct,
would'st thou but feel sufficient interest in me to let me know that
my acts can give thee either pain or pleasure."
"Can it be otherwise? Could'st thou, Luis, see with indifference
the proceedings of one thou hast known from childhood, and esteemed
as a friend?"
"Esteem! Blessed Mercedes! dost thou own even that little in my
"It is not little, Luis, to esteem—but much. They who prize
virtue never esteem the unworthy; and it is not possible to know thy
excellent heart and manly nature, without esteeming thee. Surely I
have never concealed my esteem from thee, or from any
concealed aught? Ah! Mercedes, complete this
heavenly condescension, and admit that one—as lightly as thou wilt
— but, that one soft sentiment hath, at times, mingled with this
Mercedes blushed brightly, but she would not make the
often-solicited acknowledgment. It was some little time before she
answered at all. When she did speak, it was hesitatingly, and with
frequent pauses, as if she distrusted the propriety or the discretion
of that which she was about to utter.
"Thou hast travelled much and far, Luis," she said, "and hast lost
some favour on account of thy roving propensities; why not regain the
confidence of thy aunt by the very means through which it has been
"I do not comprehend thee. This is singular counsel to come from
one like thee, who art prudence itself!"
"The prudent and discreet think well of their acts and words, and
are the more to be confided in. Thou seemest to have been struck with
these bold opinions of the Señor Colon; and while thou hast derided
them, I can see that they have great weight on thy mind."
"I shall, henceforth, regard thee with tenfold respect, Mercedes;
for thou hast penetrated deeper than my foolish affectation of
contempt, and all my light language, and discovered the real feeling
that lieth underneath. Ever since I have heard of this vast project,
it hath indeed haunted my imagination; and the image of the Genoese
hath constantly stood beside thine, dearest girl, before my eyes, if
not in my heart. I doubt if there be not some truth in his opinions;
so noble an idea can not be wholly false!"
The fine, full eye of Mercedes was fastened intently on the
countenance of Don Luis; and its brilliancy increased, as some of that
latent enthusiasm which dwelt within, kindled and began to glow at
this outlet of the feelings of the soul.
is," she answered, solemnly — "there
truth in it! The Genoese hath been inspired of Heaven, with his
sublime thoughts, and he will live, sooner or later, to prove their
truth. Imagine this earth fairly encircled by a ship; the farthest
east, the land of the heathen, brought in close communion with
ourselves, and the cross casting its shadows under the burning sun of
Cathay! These are glorious, heavenly, anticipations, Luis; and would
it not be an imperishable renown, to share in the honour of having
aided in bringing about so great a discovery?"
"By Heaven! I will see the Genoese as soon as the morrow's sun
shall appear, and offer to make one in his enterprise. He shall not
need for gold, if that be his only want."
"Thou speakest like a generous, noble-minded, fearless young
Castilian, as thou art!" said Mercedes, with an enthusiasm that set at
naught the usual guards of her discretion and her habits, "and as
becometh Luis de Bobadilla. But gold is not plenty with any of us at
this moment, and it will surpass the power of an ordinary subject to
furnish that which will be necessary. Nor is it meet that any but
sovereigns should send forth such an expedition, as there may be vast
territories to govern and dispose of, should Colon succeed. My
powerful kinsman, the Duke of Medina Celi, hath had this matter in
close deliberation, and he viewed it favourably, as is shown by his
letters to Her Highness; but even he conceived it a matter too
weighty to be attempted by aught but a crowned head, and he hath used
much influence with our mistress, to gain her over to the opinion of
the Genoese's sagacity. It is idle to think, therefore, of aiding
effectually in this noble enterprise, unless it be through their
"Thou knowest, Mercedes, that I can do nought for Colon, with the
court. The king is the enemy of all who are not as wary, cold, and as
much given to artifice as himself"—
"Luis! thou art in his palace — beneath his roof, enjoying his
hospitality and protection, at this very moment!"
"Not I," answered the young man, with warmth—"this is the abode
of my royal mistress, Doña Isabella; Granada being a conquest of
Castile, and not of Aragon. Touching the queen, Mercedes, thou shalt
never hear disrespectful word from me, for, like thyself, she is all
that is virtuous, gentle, and kind in woman; but the king hath many of
the faults of us corrupt and mercenary men. Thou canst not tell me of
a young, generous, warm-blooded cavalier, even among his own
Aragonese, who truly and confidingly loveth Don Fernando; whilst all
of Castile adore the Doña Isabella."
"This may be true, in part, Luis, but it is altogether imprudent.
Don Fernando is a king, and I fear me, from the little I have seen
while dwelling in a court, that they who manage the affairs of mortals
must make large concessions to their failings, or human depravity will
thwart the wisest measures that can be devised. Moreover, can one
truly love the wife and not esteem the husband? To me it seemeth that
the tie is so near and dear as to leave the virtues and the characters
of a common identity."
"Surely, thou dost not mean to compare the modest piety, the holy
truth, the sincere virtue, of our royal mistress, with the cautious,
wily, policy of our scheming master!"
"I desire not to make comparisons between them, Luis. We are bound
to honour and obey both; and if Doña Isabella hath more of the
confiding truth and pure-heartedness of her sex, than His Highness, is
it not ever so as between man and woman?"
"If I could really think, that thou likenest me, in any way, with
that managing and false-faced King of Aragon, much as I love thee,
Mercedes, I would withdraw, for ever, in pure shame."
"No one will liken thee, Luis, to the false-tongued or the
double-faced; for it is thy failing to speak truth when it might be
better to say nothing, as witness the present discourse, and to look
at those who displease thee, as if ever ready to point thy lance, and
spur thy charger in their very teeth."
"My looks have been most unfortunate, fair Mercedes, if they have
left such memories in thee!" answered the youth, reproachfully.
"I speak not, in any manner, touching myself, for to me, Luis, thou
hast ever been gentle and kind," interrupted the young Castilian girl,
with a haste and earnestness that hurried the blood to her cheeks a
moment afterwards; "but, solely, that thou may'st bo more guarded in
thy remarks on the king."
"Thou began'st by saying that I was a rover"—
"Nay, I have used no such term of reproach, Don Luis; thy
may have said this; but it could have been with no intent to wound. I
said that thou hadst travelled far and much."
"Well — well — I merit the title, and shall not complain of my
honours. Thou saidst that I had travelled far and much,
and thou spokest, approvingly, of the project of this Genoese. Am I
to understand, Mercedes, it is thy wish that I should make one of the
"Such was my meaning, Luis, for I have thought it an emprise
fitting thy daring mind and willing sword; and the glory of success
would atone for a thousand trifling errors committed under the heat
and inconsideration of youth."
Don Luis regarded the flushed cheek and brightened eyes of the
beautiful enthusiast nearly a minute, in silent but intense
observation; for the tooth of doubt and jealousy had fastened on him,
and, with the self-distrust of true affection, he questioned how far
he was worthy to interest so fair a being, and had misgivings
concerning the motive that induced her to wish him to depart.
"I wish I could read thy heart, Doña Mercedes," he at length
resumed; "for, while the witching modesty and coy reserve of thy sex,
serve but to bind us so much the closer in thy chains, they puzzle the
understanding of men more accustomed to rude encounters in the field
than to the mazes of their ingenuity. Dost thou desire me to embark in
an adventure that most men, the wise and prudent Don Fernando at
their head — he whom thou so much esteemest, too — look upon as
the project of a visionary, and as leading to certain destruction? Did
I think this, I would depart to-morrow, if it were only that my hated
presence should never more disturb thy happiness."
"Don Luis, you have no justification for this cruel suspicion,"
said Mercedes, endeavouring to punish her lover's distrust by an
affection of resentment, though the tears struggled through her pride,
and fell from her reproachful eyes. "You know that no one, here or
elsewhere, hateth you; you know that you are a general favourite,
though Castilian prudence and Castilian reserve may not always view
your wandering life with the same applause as they give to the more
attentive courtier and rigidly observant knight."
"Pardon me, dearest, most beloved Mercedes; thy coldness and
aversion sometime madden me."
"Coldness! aversion! Luis de Bobadilla! When hath Mercedes de
Valverde ever shown either, to thee?"
"I fear that Doña Mercedes de Valverde is, even now, putting me to
some such proof."
"Then thou little knowest her motives, and ill appreciatest her
heart. No, Luis, I am not averse, and would not appear cold, to thee. If thy wayward feelings get so much the mastery, and pain
thee thus, I will strive to be more plain. Yes! rather than thou
should'st carry away with thee the false notion, and perhaps plunge,
again, into some unthinking sea-adventure, I will subdue my maiden
pride, and forget the reserve and caution that best become my sex and
rank, to relieve thy mind. In advising thee to attach thyself to this
Colon, and to enter freely into his noble schemes, I had thine own
happiness in view, as thou hast, time and again, sworn to me, thy
happiness could only be secured"—
"Mercedes! what mean'st thou? My happiness can only be secured by a
union with thee!"
"And thy union with me can only be secured by thy ennobling that
besetting propensity to roving, by some act of worthy renown, that
shall justify Doña Beatriz in bestowing her ward on a truant nephew,
and gain the favour of Doña Isabella."
"And thou!—would this adventure win thee, too, to view me with
"Luis, if thou
wilt know all, I am won already—nay—
restrain this impetuosity, and hear all I have to say. Even while I
confess so much more than is seemly in a maiden, thou art not to
suppose I can farther forget myself. Without the cheerful consent of
my guardian, and the gracious approbation of Her Highness, I will wed
no man— no, not even thee, Luis de Bobadilla, dear as I
acknowledge thee to be to my heart"— the ungovernable emotions of
female tenderness caused the words to be nearly smothered in
tears—"would I wed, without the smiles and congratulations of all
who have a right to smile, or weep, for any of the house of Valverde.
Thou and I cannot marry like a village hind and village girl; it is
suitable that we stand before a prelate, with a large circle of
approving friends to grace our union. Ah! Luis, thou hast reproached
me with coldness and indifference to thee" — sobs nearly stifled
the generous girl — "but others have not been so blind—nay, speak
not, but suffer me, now that my heart is overflowing, to unburthen
myself to thee, entirely, for I fear that shame and regret will come
soon enough to cause repentance for what I now confess — but all
have not been blind as thou. Our gracious queen well understandeth the
female heart, and that, thou hast been so slow to discover, she hath
long seen; and her quickness of eye and thought hath alone prevented
me from saying to thee, earlier, a part at least of that which I now
"How! Is Doña Isabella, too, my enemy? Have I Her Highness's
scruples to overcome, as well as those of my cold-hearted and prudish
"Luis, thy intemperance causeth thee to be unjust. Doña Beatriz of
Moya is neither cold-hearted nor prudish, but all that is the reverse.
A more generous or truer spirit never sacrificed self to friendship,
and her very nature is frankness and simplicity. Much of that I so
love in thee, cometh of her family, and thou should'st not
reproach her for it. As for Her Highness, certes, it is not needed
that I should proclaim her qualities. Thou knowest that she is deemed
the mother of her people; that she regardeth the interests of all
equally, or so far as her knowledge will allow; and that what she doth
for any, is ever done with true affection, and a prudence that I have
heard the cardinal say, seemeth to be inspired by infinite wisdom."
"Ay, it is not difficult, Mercedes, to seem prudent, and
benevolent, and inspired, with Castile for a throne, and Leon, with
other rich provinces, for a footstool!"
"Don Luis, if you would retain my esteem," answered the
single-minded girl, with a gravity that had none of her sex's weakness
in it, though much of her sex's truth — "speak not lightly of my
royal mistress. Whatever she may have done in this matter, hath been
done with a mother's feelings and a mother's kindness — thy
injustice maketh me almost to apprehend, with a mother's wisdom."
"Forgive me, adored, beloved Mercedes! a thousand times more adored
and loved than ever, now that thou hast been so generous and
confiding. But, I cannot rest in peace until I know what the queen
hath said and done, in any thing that toucheth thee and me."
"Thou knowest how kind and gracious the queen hath ever been to me,
Luis, and how much I have reason to be grateful for her many
condescensions and favours. I know not how it is, but, while thy aunt
hath never seemed to detect my feelings, and all those related to me
by blood have appeared to be in the same darkness, the royal eye hath
penetrated a mystery that, at the moment, I do think, was even
concealed from myself. Thou rememberest the tourney that took place
just before thou left us on thy last mad expedition?"
"Do I not? Was it not thy coldness after my success in that
tourney, and when I even wore thy favours, that not only drove me out
of Spain, but almost drove me out of the world?"
"If the world could impute thy acts to such a cause, all obstacles
would at once be removed, and we might be happy without further
efforts. But," and Mercedes smiled archly, though with great
tenderness in her voice and looks, as she added, "I fear thou art much
addicted to these fits of madness, and that thou wilt never cease to
wish to be driven to the uttermost limits of the world, if not fairly
out of it."
"It is in thy power to make me as stationary as the towers of this
Alhambra. One such smile, daily, would chain me like a captive Moor at
thy feet, and take away all desire to look at other objects than thy
beauty. But Her Highness — thou hast forgotten to add what Her
Highness hath said and done."
"In that tourney thou wert conqueror, Luis! The whole chivalry of
Castile was in the saddle, that glorious day, and yet none could cope
with thee! Even Alonzo de Ojeda was unhorsed by thy lance, and all
mouths were filled with thy praises; all memories — perhaps it would
be better to say that all memories but one, forgot thy failings."
"And that one was thine, cruel Mercedes!"
"Thou knowest better, unkind Luis! That day I remembered nothing
but thy noble, generous heart, manly bearing in the tilt-yard, and
excellent qualities. The more mindful memory was the queen's, who sent
for me, to her closet, when the festivities were over, and caused me
to pass an hour with her, in gentle, affectionate, discourse, before
she touched at all, on the real object of her command. She spoke to
me, Luis, of our duties as Christians, of our duties as females, and,
most of all, of the solemn obligations that we contract in wedlock,
and of the many pains that, at best, attend that honoured condition.
When she had melted me to tears, by an affection that equalled a
mother's love, she made me promise — and I confirmed it with a
respectful vow — that I would never appear at the altar, while she
lived, without her being present to approve of my nuptials; or, if
prevented by disease or duty, at least not without a consent given
under her royal signature."
"By St. Denis of Paris! Her Highness endeavoured to influence thy
generous and pure mind against me!"
"Thy name was not even mentioned, Luis, nor would it have been in
any way concerned in the discourse, had not my unbidden thoughts
turned anxiously towards thee. What Her Highness mediated, I do not
even now know; but it was the manner in which my own sensitive
feelings brought up thy image, that hath made me, perhaps idly, fancy
the effect might be to prevent me from wedding thee, without Doña
Isabella's consent. But, knowing, as I well do, her maternal heart and
gentle affections, how can I doubt that she will yield to my wishes,
when she knoweth that my choice is not really unworthy, though it may
seem to the severely prudent in some measure indiscreet."
"But thou thinkest — thou feelest, Mercedes, that it was in fear
of me that Her Highness extorted the vow?"
"I apprehended it, as I have confessed with more readiness than
became a maiden's pride, because thou wert uppermost in my mind. Then
thy triumphs throughout the day, and the manner in which thy name was
in all men's mouths, might well tempt the thoughts to dwell on thy
"Mercedes, thou canst not deny that thou believest Her Highness
extorted that vow in dread of me!"
"I wish to deny nothing that is true, Don Luis; and you are early
teaching me to repent of the indiscreet avowal I have made. That it
was in dread of you that Her Highness spoke, I do deny; for I
cannot think she has any such feelings towards you. She was
full of maternal affection for me, and I think, for I will
conceal naught that I truly believe, that apprehension of thy powers
to please, Luis, may have induced her to apprehend that an orphan
girl, like myself, might possibly consult her fancy more than her
prudence, and wed one who seemed to love the uttermost limits of the
earth so much better than his own noble castles and his proper home."
"And thou meanest to respect this vow?"
"Luis! thou scarce reflectest on thy words, or a question so sinful
would not be put to me! What Christian maiden ever forgets her vows,
whether of pilgrimage, penitence, or performance — and why should I
be the first to incur this disgraceful guilt? Besides, had I not
vowed, the simple wish of the queen, expressed in her own royal
person, would have been enough to deter me from wedding any. She is
my sovereign, mistress, and, I might almost say, mother; Doña Beatriz
herself scarce manifesting greater interest in my welfare. Now, Luis,
thou must listen to my suit, although I see thou art ready to exclaim,
and protest, and invoke; but I have heard thee patiently some years,
and it is now my turn to speak and thine to listen. I do think the
queen had thee in her mind on the occasion of that vow, which was offered freely by me, rather than
extorted, as thou seemest
to think, by Her Higness. I do then believe that Doña Isabella
supposed there might be a danger of my yielding to thy suit, and that
she had apprehensions that one so much given to roving, might not
bring, or keep, happiness in the bosom of a family. But, Luis, if Her
Highness hath not done thy noble, generous heart, justice; if she hath
been deceived by appearances, like most of those around her; if she
hath not known thee, in short, is it not thine own fault? Hast thou
not been a frequent truant from Castile, and, even when present, hast
thou been as attentive and assiduous in thy duties at Court, as
becometh thy high birth and admitted claims? It is true, Her Highness,
and all others who were present, witnessed thy skill in the tourney,
and in these wars thy name hath had frequent and honourable mention
for prowess against the Moor; but while the female imagination yields
ready homage to this manliness, the female heart yearneth for other,
and gentler, and steadier virtues, at the fireside and in the circle
within. This, Doña Isabella hath seen, and felt, and knoweth, happy as
hath been her own marriage with the King of Aragon; and is it
surprising that she hath felt this concern for me? No, Luis; feeling
hath made thee unjust to our royal mistress, whom it is now manifestly
thy interest to propitiate, if thou art sincere in thy avowed desire
to obtain my hand."
"And how is this to be done, Mercedes? The Moor is conquered, and I
know not that any knight would meet me to do battle for thy favour."
"The queen wisheth nothing of this sort — neither do I. We both
know thee as an accomplished Christian knight, already, and, as thou
hast just said, there is no one to meet thy lance, for no one hath met
with the encouragement to justify the folly. It is through this Colon
that thou art to win the royal consent."
"I believe I have, in part, conceived thy meaning; but would fain
hear thee speak more plainly."
"Then I will tell thee in words as distinct as my tongue can utter
them," rejoined the ardent girl, the tint of tenderness gradually
deepening on her cheek to the flush of a holy enthusiasm, as she
proceeded: "Thou knowest already the general opinions of the Señor
Colon, and the mode in which he proposeth to effect his ends. I was
still a child when he first appeared in Castile, to urge the Court to
embark in this great enterprise, and I can see that Her Highness hath
often been disposed to yield her aid, when the coldness of Don
Fernando, or the narrowness of her ministers, hath diverted her mind
from the object. I think she yet regardeth the scheme with favour; for
it is quite lately that Colon, who had taken leave of us all, with
the intent to quit Spain and seek elsewhere for means, was summoned
to return, through the influence of Fray Juan Perez, the ancient
confessor of Her Highness. He is now here, as thou hast seen, waiting
impatiently for an audience, and it needeth only to quicken the
queen's memory, to obtain for him that favour. Should he get the
caravels he asketh, no doubt many of the nobles will feel a desire to
share in an enterprise that will confer lasting honour on all
concerned, if successful; and thou might'st make one."
"I know not how to regard this solicitude, Mercedes, for it seemeth
strange to wish to urge those we affect to value, to enter on an
expedition whence they may never return."
"God will protect thee!" answered the girl, her face glowing with
pious ardour: "the enterprise will be undertaken for his glory, and
his powerful hand will guide and shield the caravels."
Don Luis de Bobadilla smiled, having far less religious faith and
more knowledge of physical obstacles than his mistress. He did full
justice to her motives, notwithstanding his hastily expressed doubts;
and the adventure was of a nature to arouse his constitutional love of
roving, and his desire for encountering dangers. Both he and Mercedes
well knew that he had fairly earned no small part of that distrust of
his character, which alone thwarted their wishes; and, quick of
intellect, he well understood the means and manner by which he was to
gain Doña Isabella's consent. The few doubts that he really
entertained were revealed by the question that succeeded.
"If Her Highness is disposed to favour this Colon," he asked, "why
hath the measure been so long delayed?"
"This Moorish war, an empty treasury, and the wary coldness of the
king, have prevented it."
"Might not Her Highness look upon all the followers of the man, as
so many vain schemers, should we return without success, as will most
likely be the case — if, indeed, we ever return?"
"Such is not Doña Isabella's character. She will enter into this
project, in honour of God, if she entereth into it at all; and she
will regard all who accompany Colon voluntarily, as so many crusaders,
well entitled to her esteem. Thou wilt not return unsuccessful, Luis;
but with such credit as will cause thy wife to glory in her choice,
and to be proud of thy name."
"Thou art a most dear enthusiast, beloved girl! If I could take
thee with me, I would embark in the adventure, with no other
A fitting reply was made to this gallant, and, at the moment
certainly, sincere speech, after which the matter was discussed
between the two, with greater calmness and far more intelligibly. Don
Luis succeeded in restraining his impatience; and the generous
confidence with which Mercedes gradually got to betray her interest in
him, and the sweet, holy earnestness with which she urged the
probability of success, brought him at length to view the enterprise
as one of lofty objects, rather than as a scheme which flattered his
love of adventure.
Doña Beatriz left the lovers alone for quite two hours, the queen
requiring her presence all that time; and soon after she returned, her
reckless, roving, indiscreet, but noble-hearted and manly nephew, took
his leave. Mercedes and her guardian, however, did not retire until
midnight; the former laying open her whole heart to the marchioness,
and explaining all her hopes as they were connected with the
enterprise of Colon. Doña Beatriz was both gratified and pained by
this confession, while she smiled at the ingenuity of love, in
coupling the great designs of the Genoese with the gratification of
its own wishes. Still she was not displeased. Luis de Bobadilla was
the son of an only and much-beloved brother, and she had transferred
to her nephew most of the affection she had felt for the father. All
who knew him, indeed, were fond of the handsome and gallant young
cavalier, though the prudent felt compelled to frown on his
indiscretions; and he might have chosen a wife, at will, from among
the fair and high-born of Castile, with the few occasional exceptions
that denote the circumspection and reserve of higher principles than
common, and a forethought that extends beyond the usual considerations
of marriage. The marchioness, therefore, was not an unwilling listener
to her ward; and ere they separated for the night, the ingenuous but
modest confessions, the earnest eloquence, and the tender ingenuity,
of Mercedes, had almost made a convert of Doña Beatriz.
"Looke back, who list, unto the former ages,
And call to count, what is of them become;
Where be those learned wits and antique sages,
Which of all wisdom knew the perfect somme?
Where those great warriors which did overcome
The world with conquest of their might and maine,
And made one meare of th' earth and of their raigne."
Ruins of Time.
Two or three days had passed before the Christians began to feel at
home in the ancient seat of Mahommedan power. By that time, however,
the Alhambra and the town got to be more regulated than they were
during the hurry, delight, and grief, of taking possesion and
departing; and as the politic and far from ill-disposed Ferdinand had
issued strict orders that the Moors should not only be treated with
kindness, but with delicacy, the place gradually settled down into
tranquillity, and men began to fall into their ancient habits and to
interest themselves in their customary pursuits.
Don Fernando was much occupied with new cares, as a matter of
course; but his illustrious consort, who reserved herself for great
occasions, exercising her ordinary powers in the quiet, gentle manner
that became her sex and native disposition, her truth and piety, had
already withdrawn, as far as her high rank and substantial authority
would allow, from the pageantry and martial scenes of a warlike
court, and was seeking, with her wonted readiness, the haunts of
private affection, and that intercourse which is most congenial to the
softer affections of a woman. Her surviving children were with her,
and they occupied much of her maternal care; but she had also many
hours for friendship, and for the indulgence of an affection that
appeared to include all her subjects within the ties of family.
On the morning of the third day that succeeded the evening of the
interview related in the preceding chapter, Doña Isabella had
collected about her person a few of those privileged individuals who
might be said to have the entrée to her more private hours; for while
that of Castile was renowned among Christian courts for etiquette,
habits that it had probably derived from the stately oriental usages
of its Mahomedan neighbours, the affectionate nature of the queen had
cast a halo around her own private circle, that at once rendered it
graceful as well as delightful to all who enjoyed the high honour of
entering it. At that day, churchmen enjoyed a species of exclusive
favour, mingling with all the concerns of life, and not unfrequently
controlling them. While we are quick to detect blemishes of this sort
among foreign nations, and are particularly prone to point out the
evils that have flowed from the meddling of the Romish divines, we
verify the truth of the venerable axiom that teaches us how much
easier it is to see the faults of others than to discover our own; for
no people afford stronger evidences of the existence of this control,
than the people of the United States, more especially that portion of
them who dwell in places that were originally settled by religionists,
and which still continue under the influence of the particular sects
that first prevailed; and perhaps the strongest national trait that
exists among us at this moment, that of a disposition to extend the
control of society beyond the limits set by the institutions and the
laws, under the taking and plausible appellation of Public Opinion,
has its origin in the polity of churches of a democratic character,
that have aspired to be an imperium in imperio, confirmed and
strengthened by their modes of government and by provincial habits. Be
the fact as it may among ourselves, there is no question of the
ascendency of the Catholic priesthood throughout Christendom,
previously to the reformation; and Isabella was too sincerely devout,
too unostentatiously pious, not to allow them every indulgence that
comported with her own sense of right, and among others, that of a
free access to her presence, and an influence on all her measures.
On the occasion just named, among others who were present was
Fernando de Talavera, a prelate of high station, who had just been
named to the new dignity of Archbishop of Granada, and the Fray Pedro
de Carrascal, the former teacher of Luis de Bobadilla, an unbeneficed
divine, who owed his favour to great simplicity of character, aided
by his high birth. Isabella, herself, was seated at a little table,
where she was employed with her needle, the subject of her toil being
a task as homely as a shirt for the king, it being a part of her
womanly propensities to acquit herself of this humble duty, as
scrupulously as if she had been the wife of a common tradesman of her
own capital. This was one of the habits of the age, however, if not a
part of the policy of princes; for most travellers have seen the
celebrated saddle of the Queen of Burgundy, with a place arranged for
the distaff, that, when its owner rode forth, she might set an example
of thrift to her admiring subjects; and with our own eyes, in these
luxurious times, when few private ladies even condescend to touch any
thing as useful as the garment that occupied the needle of Isabella of
Castile, we have seen a queen, seated amid her royal daughters, as
diligently employed with the needle as if her livelihood depended on
her industry. But Doña Isabella had no affectations. In feelings,
speech, nature, and acts, she was truth itself; and matrimonial
tenderness gave her a deeply felt pleasure in thus being occupied for
a husband whom she tenderly loved as a man, while it was impossible
she could entirely conceal from herself all his faults as a monarch.
Near her sate the companion of her girlish days, the long-tried and
devoted Beatriz de Cabrera. Mercedes occupied a stool, at the feet of
the Infanta Isabella, while one or two other ladies of the household
were placed at hand, with such slight distinctions of rank as denoted
the presence of royalty, but with a domestic freedom that made these
observances graceful without rendering them fatiguing. The king
himself was writing at a table, in a distant corner of the vast
apartment; and no one, the newly-created archbishop not excepted,
presumed to approach that side of the room. The discourse was
conducted in a tone a little lower than common, even the queen, whose
voice was always melody, modulating its tones in a way not to
interfere with the train of thought into which her illustrious consort
appeared to be profoundly plunged. But, at the precise moment that we
now desire to present to the reader, Isabella had been deeply lost in
reflection for some time, and a general silence prevailed in the
female circle around the little work-tables.
"Daughter-Marchioness" — for so the queen usually addressed her
friend—"Daughter-Marchioness," said Isabella, arousing herself from
the long silence, "hath aught been seen or heard of late of the Señor
Colon, the pilot who hath so long urged us on the subject of this
The quick, hurried glance of intelligence and gratification, that
passed between Mercedes and her guardian, betrayed the interest they
felt in this question, while the latter answered, as became her duty
and her respect for her mistress—
"You remember, Señora, that he was written for, by Fray Juan Perez,
your Highness's ancient confessor, who journeyed all the way from his
convent of Santa Maria de Rabida, in Andalusia, to intercede in his
behalf, that his great designs might not be lost to Castile."
"Thou thinkest his designs, then, great, Daughter-Marchioness?"
"Can any think them otherwise, Señora? They seem reasonable and
natural, and if just, is it not a great and laudable undertaking to
extend the bounds of the church, and to confer honour and wealth on
one's own country? My enthusiastic ward, Mercedes de Valverde, is so
zealous in behalf of this navigator's great project, that next to her
duty to her God, and her duty to her sovereigns, it seemeth to make
the great concern of her life."
The queen turned a smiling face towards the blushing girl who was
the subject of this remark, and she gazed at her, for an instant, with
the expression of affection that was so wont to illumine her lovely
countenance when dwelling on the features of her own daughters.
"Dost thou acknowledge this, Doña Mercedes," she said; "hath Colon
so convinced thee, that thou art thus zealous in his behalf?"
Mercedes arose, respectfully, when addressed by the queen, and she
advanced a step or two nearer to the royal person before she made any
"It becometh me to speak modestly, in this presence," said the
beautiful girl; "but I shall not deny that I feel deep concern for the
success of the Señor Colon. The thought is so noble, Señora, that it
were a pity it should not be just!"
"This is the reasoning of the young and generousminded; and I
confess myself, Beatriz, almost as childish as any, on this matter, at
times—Colon, out of question, is still here?"
"Indeed he is, Señora," answered Mercedes, eagerly, and with a
haste she immediately repented, for the inquiry was not made directly
to herself; "I know of one who hath seen him as lately as the day the
troops took possession of the town."
"Who is that person?" asked the queen, steadily, but not severely,
her eye having turned again to the face of the girl, with an interest
that continued to increase as she gazed.
Mercedes now bitterly regretted her indiscretion, and, in spite of
a mighty effort to repress her feelings, the tell-tale blood mounted
to her temples, ere she could find resolution to reply.
"Don Luis de Bobadilla, Señora, the nephew of my guardian, Doña
Beatriz," she at length answered; for the love of truth was stronger
in this pure-hearted young creature, even, than the dread of shame.
"Thou art particular, Señorita," Isabella observed calmly, severity
seldom entering into her communications with the just-minded and good;
"Don Luis cometh of too illustrious a house to need a herald to
proclaim his alliances. It is only the obscure that the world doth not
trouble itself about. Daughter-Marchioness," relieving Mercedes from
a state scarcely less painful than the rack, by turning her eyes
towards her friend, "this nephew of thine is a confirmed rover — but
I doubt if he could be prevailed on to undertake an expedition like
this of Colon's, that hath in view the glory of God and the benefit of
"Indeed, Señora" — Mercedes repressed her zeal by a sudden and
"Thou wert about to speak, Doña Mercedes," gravely observed the
"I crave Your Highness's forgiveness. It was improperly, as your
own words were not addressed to me."
"This is not the Court of the Queen of Castile, daughter, but the
private room of Isabella de Trastamara," said the queen, willing to
lessen the effect of what had already passed. "Thou hast the blood of
the Admiral of Castile in thy veins, and art even akin to our Lord the
King. Speak freely, then."
"I know your gracious goodness to me, Señora, and had nearly
forgotten myself, under its influence. All I had to say was, that Don
Luis de Bobadilla desireth exceedingly that the Señor Colon might get
the caravels he seeketh, and that he himself might obtain the royal
permission to make one among the adventurers."
"Can this be so, Beatriz?"
"Luis is a truant, Señora, beyond a question, but it is not with
ignoble motives. I have heard him ardently express his desire to be
one of Colon's followers, should that person be sent by Your Highness
in search of the land of Cathay."
Isabella made no reply, but she laid her homely work in her lap,
and sat musing, in pensive silence, for several minutes. During this
interval, none near her presumed to speak, and Mercedes retired,
stealthily, to her stool, at the feet of the Infanta. At length the
queen arose, and crossing the room, she approached the table where Don
Fernando was still busily engaged with the pen. Here she paused a
moment, as if unwilling to disturb him; but soon laying a hand kindly
on his shoulder, she drew his attention to herself. The king, as if
conscious whence such familiarity could alone proceed, looked around
immediately, and rising from his chair, he was the first to speak.
"These Moriscoes need looking to," he said, betraying the direction
that his thoughts had so early taken towards the increase of his
power—"I find we have left Abdallah many strong-holds in the
Apulxarras, that may make him a troublesome neighbour, unless we can
push him across the Mediterranean"—
"Of this, Fernando, we will converse on some other opportunity,"
interrupted the queen, whose pure mind disliked every thing that had
even an approach to a breach of faith. "It is hard enough for those
who control the affairs of men always to obey God and their own
consciences, without seeking occasions to violate their faith. I have
come to thee, on another matter. The hurry of the times, and the
magnitude of our affairs, have caused us to overlook the promise
given to Colon, the navigator"—
"Still busied with thy needle, Isabella, and for my comfort,"
observed the king, playing with the shirt that his royal consort had
unconsciously brought in her hand; "few subjects have wives as
considerate and kind as thou!"
"Thy comfort and happiness stand next to my duty to God and the
care of my people," returned Isabella, gratified at the notice the
King of Aragon had taken of this little homage of her sex, even while
she suspected that it came from a wish to parry the subject that was
then uppermost in her thoughts. "I would do nought in this important
concern, without thy fullest approbation, if that may be had; and I
think it toucheth our royal words to delay no longer. Seven years are
a most cruel probation, and unless we are active, we shall have some
of the hot-blooded young nobles of the kingdom undertaking the matter,
as their holiday sports."
"Thou say'st true, Señora, and we will refer the subject, at once,
to Fernando de Talavera, yonder, who is of approved discretion, and
one to be relied on." As the king spoke, he beckoned to the individual
named, who immediately approached the royal pair. "Archbishop of
Granada," continued the wily king, who had as many politic arts as a
modern patriot intently bent on his own advancement— "Archbishop of
Granada, our royal consort hath a desire that this affair of Colon
should be immediately inquired into, and reported on to ourselves. It
is our joint command that you, and others, take the matter, before
the next twenty-four hours shall pass, into mature consideration and
inquiry, and that you lay the result before ourselves. The names of
your associates shall be given to you in the course of the day."
While the tongue of Ferdinand was thus instructing the prelate, the
latter read in the expression of the monarch's eye, and in the
coldness of his countenance, a meaning that his quick and practised
wits were not slow in interpreting. He signified his dutiful assent,
however; received the names of his associates in the commission, of
whom Isabella pointed out one or two, and then waited to join in the
"This project of Colon's is worthy of being more seriously inquired
into," resumed the king, when these preliminaries were settled, "and
it shall be our care to see that he hath all consideration. They tell
me the honest navigator is a good Christian."
"I think him devoutly so, Don Fernando. He hath a purpose, should
God prosper his present undertaking, to join in a new effort to regain
the holy sepulchre."
"Umph! Such designs may be meritorious, but ours is the true way to
advance the faith; this conquest of our own. We have raised the cross,
my wife, where the ensigns of infidelity were lately seen, and Granada
is so near Castile that it will not be difficult to maintain our
altars. Such, at least, are the opinions of a layman, holy prelate,
on these matters."
"And most just and wise opinions are they, Señor," returned the
archbishop. "That which can be retained it is wisest to seek, for we
lose our labours in gaining things that Providence hath placed so far
beyond our control that they do not seem designed for our purposes."
"There are those, my Lord Archbishop," observed the queen, "who
might argue against all attempts to recover the holy sepulchre,
hearing opinions like these, from so high authority!"
"Then, Señora, they would misconceive that authority," the politic
prelate hurriedly replied. "It is well for all Christendom, to drive
the Infidels from the Holy Land; but for Castile it is better to
dispossess them of Granada. The distinction is a very plain one, as
every sound casuist must admit."
"This truth is as evident to our reason," added Ferdinand, casting
a look of calm exultation out at a window, "as that yonder towers were
once Abdallah's, and that they are now our own!"
"Better for Castile!" repeated Isabella, in the tones of one who
mused. "For her wordly power better, perhaps, but not better for the
souls of those who achieve the deed— surely, not better, for the
glory of God!"
"My much-honoured wife, and beloved consort"—said the king.
"Señora"—added the prelate.
But Isabella walked slowly away, pondering on principles, while the
eyes of the two worldlings she left behind her, met, with the sort of
free-masonry that is in much request among those who are too apt to
substitute the expedient for the right. The queen did not return to
her seat, but she walked up and down that part of the room which the
archbishop had left vacant when he approached herself and her husband.
Here she remained alone for several minutes, even Ferdinand holding
her in too much reverence to presume to disturb her meditations,
uninvited. The queen several times cast glances at Mercedes, and, at
length, she commanded her to draw near.
"Daughter," said Isabella, who frequently addressed those she loved
by this endearing term, "thou hast not forgotten thy freely-offered
"Next to my duty to God, Señora, I most consider my duty to my
Mercedes spoke firmly, and in those tones that seldom deceive.
Isabella riveted her eyes on the pale features of the beautiful girl,
and when the words just quoted were uttered, a tender mother could not
have regarded a beloved child with stronger proofs of affection.
"Thy duty to God overshadoweth all other feelings, daughter, as is
just," answered the queen; "thy duty to me is secondary and inferior.
Still, thou and all others, owe a solemn duty to your sovereign, and I
should be unfit for the high trust that I have received from
Providence, did I permit any of these obligations to lessen. It is not
I that reign in Castile, but Providence, through its humble and
unworthy instrument. My people are my children, and I often pray that
I may have heart enough to hold them all. If princes are sometimes
obliged to frown on the unworthy, it is but in humble and distant
imitation of that Power which cannot smile on evil."
"I hope, Señora," said the girl, timidly, observing that the queen
paused, "I have not been so unfortunate as to displease you; a frown
from Your Highness would indeed be a calamity!"
"Thou? No, daughter; I would that all the maidens of Castile, noble
and simple, were of thy truth and modesty, and obedience. But we
cannot permit thee to become the victim of the senses. Thou art too
well taught, Doña Mercedes, not to distinguish between that which is
brilliant and that which is truly virtuous"—
"Señora!" cried Mercedes, eagerly—then checking herself,
immediately, for she felt it was a disrespect to interrupt her
"I listen to what thou would'st say, daughter," Isabella answered,
after pausing for the frightened girl to continue. "Speak freely; thou
addressest a parent."
"I was about to say, Señora, that if all that is brilliant is not
virtuous, neither is all that is unpleasant to the sight, or what
prudence might condemn, actually vicious."
"I understand thee, Señorita, and the remark hath truth in it. Now,
let us speak of other things. Thou appearest to be friendly to the
designs of this navigator, Colon?"
"The opinion of one, untaught and youthful as I, can have little
weight with the Queen of Castile, who can ask counsel of prelates and
learned churchmen, besides consulting her own wisdom;" Mercedes
"But thou thinkest well of his project; or have I mistaken thy
"No, Señora, I
do think well of Colon's scheme; for to me it
seemeth of that nobleness and grandeur that Providence would favour,
for the good of man and the advancement of the church."
"And thou believest that nobles and cavaliers can be found willing
to embark with this obscure Genoese, in his bold undertaking?"
The queen felt the hand that she affectionately held in both her
own, tremble, and when she looked at her companion she perceived that
her face was crimsoned and her eyes lowered. But the generous girl
thought the moment critical for the fortunes of her lover, and she
rallied all her energies in order to serve his interests.
"Señora, I do," she answered, with a steadiness that both surprised
and pleased the queen, who entered into and appreciated all her
feelings; "I think Don Luis de Bobadilla will embark with him; since
his aunt hath conversed freely with him on the nature and magnitude of
the enterprise, his mind dwelleth on little else. He would be willing
to furnish gold for the occasion, could his guardians be made to
"Which any guardian would be very wrong to do. We may deal freely
with our own, but it is forbidden to jeopard the goods of another. If
Don Luis de Bobadilla persevere in this intention, and act up to his
professions, I shall think more favourably of his character than
circumstances have hitherto led me to do."
"Hear me, daughter; we cannot now converse longer on this point,
the council waiting my presence, and the king having already left us.
Thy guardian and I will confer together, and thou shalt not be kept in
undue suspense; but Mercedes de Valverde"—
"My Lady the Queen"—
"Remember thy vow, daughter. It was freely given, and must not be
Isabella now kissed the pale cheek of the girl, and withdrew,
followed by all the ladies; leaving the half-pleased and yet
half-terrified Mercedes standing in the centre of the vast apartment,
resembling a beautiful statue of Doubt.
"He that of such a height hath built his mind,
And reared the dwelling of his thoughts so strong
As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame
Of his resolved powers."
The following day the Alhambra was crowded with courtiers as usual;
applicants for favours, those who sought their own, and those who
solicited the redress of imaginary wrongs. The antechambers were
thronged, and the different individuals in waiting jealously eyed each
other, as if to inquire how far their neighbours would be likely to
thwart their several views or to advance their wishes. Men bowed, in
general, coldly and with distrust; and the few that did directly pass
their greetings, met with the elaborated civility that commonly
characterizes the intercourse of palaces.
While curiosity was active in guessing at the business of the
different individuals present, and whispers, nods, shrugs of the
shoulders, and meaning glances, passed among the old stagers, as they
communicated to each other the little they knew, or thought they knew,
on different subjects, there stood in the corner of the principal
apartment, one, in particular, who might be distinguished from all
around him, by his stature, the gravity and dignity of his air, and
the peculiar sort of notice that he attracted. Few approached him, and
they that did, as they turned their backs, cast those glances of
self-sufficiency and ridicule about them, that characterize the
vulgar-minded when they fancy that they are deriding or sneering in
consonance with popular opinion. This was Columbus, who was very
generally regarded by the multitude as a visionary schemer, and who
necessarily shared in that sort of contemptuous obloquy that attaches
itself to the character. But even the wit and jokes of the crowd had
been expended upon this subject, and the patience of those who danced
attendance was getting to be exhausted, when a little stir at the door
announced the approach of some new courtier. The manner in which the
throng quickly gave way, denoted the presence of some one of high
rank, and presently Don Luis de Bobadilla stood in the centre of the
"It is the nephew of Her Highness's favourite," whispered one.
"A noble of one of the most illustrious families of Castile," said
another; "but a fitting associate of this Colon, as neither the
authority of his guardians, the wishes of the queen, nor his high
station, can keep him from the life of a vagabond."
"One of the best lances in Spain, if he had the prudence and wisdom
to turn his skill to profit," observed a third.
"That is the youthful knight who hath so well deported himself in
this last campaign," growled an inferior officer of the infantry, "and
who unhorsed Don Alonso de Ojeda in the tourney; but his lance is as
unsteady in its aim, as it is good in the rest. They tell me he is a
As if purposely to justify this character, Luis looked about him
anxiously a moment, and then made his way directly to the side of
Colon. The smiles, nods, shrugs, and half-suppressed whispers that
followed, betrayed the common feeling; but a door on the side of the
closet opening, all eyes were immediately bent in that direction, and
the little interruption just mentioned was as soon forgotten.
"I greet you, Señor," said Luis, bowing respectfully to Columbus.
"Since our discourse of last evening I have thought of little besides
its subject, and have come hither to renew it."
That Columbus was pleased by this homage, appeared in his eye, his
smile, and the manner in which he raised his body, as if full of the
grandeur of his own designs; but he was compelled to defer the
pleasure that it always gave him to dilate on his enterprise.
"I am commanded hither, noble Señor," he answered, cordially, "by
the holy Archbishop of Granada, who, it seemeth, hath it in charge
from their Highnesses, to bring my affair to a speedy issue, and who
hath named this very morning for that purpose. We touch upon the verge
of great events: the day is not distant, when this conquest of
Granada will be forgotten, in the greater importance of the mighty
things that God hath held in reserve!"
"By San Pedro, my new patron! I do believe you, Senor. Cathay must
lie at or near the spot you have named, and your own eyes shall not
see it, and its gorgeous stores of wealth, sooner than mine. Remember
Pedro de Muños, I pray you, Señor Colon."
"He shall not be forgotten, I promise you, young lord; and all the
great deeds of your ancestors will be eclipsed by the glory achieved
by their son. But I hear my name called; we will talk of this anon."
"El Señor Christoval Colon!" was called by one of the pages, in a
loud authoritative voice, and the navigator hurried forward, buoyed up
with hope and joy.
The manner in which one so generally regarded with indifference, if
not with contempt, had been selected from all that crowd of courtiers,
excited some surprise; but as the ordinary business of the antechamber
went on, and the subordinates of office soon appeared in the rooms, to
hear solicitations and answer questions, the affair was quickly
forgotten. Luis withdrew disappointed, for he had hoped to enjoy
another long discourse with Columbus, on a subject which, as it was
connected with his dearest hopes, now occupied most of his thoughts.
We shall leave him, however, and all in the antechambers, to follow
the great navigator farther into the depths of the palace.
Fernando de Talavera had not been unmindful of his orders. Instead,
however, of associating with this prelate, men known to be well
disposed to listen to the prepositions of Columbus, the king and queen
had made the mistake of choosing some six or eight of their courtiers,
persons of probity and of good general characters, but who were too
little accustomed to learned research, properly to appreciate the
magnitude of the proposed discoveries. Into the presence of these
distinguished nobles and churchmen was Columbus now ushered, and among
them is the reader to suppose him seated. We pass over the customary
ceremonies of the introduction, and proceed at once to the material
part of the narrative. The Archbishop of Granada was the principal
speaker on the part of the commissioners.
"We understand, Señor Colon," continued the prelate, "should you be
favoured by their Highnesses' power and authority, that you propose to
undertake a voyage into the unknown Atlantic, in quest of the land of
Cathay and the celebrated island of Cipango?"
"That is my design, holy and illustrious prelate. The matter hath
been so often up between the agents of the two sovereigns and myself,
that there is little occasion to enlarge on my views."
"These were fully discussed at Salamanca, of a verity, where many
learned churchmen were of your way of thinking, Señor, though more
were against it. Our Lord the King, and our Lady the Queen, however,
are disposed to view the matter favourably, and this commission hath
been commanded that we might arrange all previous principles, and
determine the rights of the respective parties. What force in vessels
and equipments do you demand, in order to achieve the great objects
you expect, under the blessing of God, to accomplish?"
"You have well spoken, Lord Archbishop; it will be by the blessing
of God, and under his especial care, that all will be done, for his
glory and worship are involved in the success. With so good an ally of
my side, little worldly means will be necessary. Two caravels of light
burthen are all I ask, with the flag of the sovereigns, and a
sufficiency of mariners."
The commissioners turned towards each other in surprise, and while
some saw in the moderate request the enthusiastic heedlessness of a
visionary, others detected the steady reliance of faith.
"That is not asking much, truly," observed the prelate, who was
among the first; "and, though these wars have left us of Castile with
an exhausted treasury, we could compass that little without the aid of
a miracle. The caravels might be found, and the mariners levied, but
there are weighty points to determine before we reach that concession.
You expect, Señor, to be intrusted with the command of the
expedition, in your own person?"
"Without that confidence I could not be answerable for success. I
ask the full and complete authority of an admiral, or a sea-commander,
of their Highnesses. The force employed will be trifling in
appearance, but the risks will be great, and the power of the two
crowns must completely sustain that of him on whose shoulders will
rest the entire weight of the responsibility."
"This is but just, and none will gainsay it. But, Señor, have you
thought maturely on the advantages that are to accrue to the
sovereigns, should they sustain you in this undertaking?"
"Lord Archbishop, for eighteen years hath this subject occupied my
thoughts, and employed my studies, both by day and by night. In the
whole of that long period have I done little that hath not had a
direct bearing on the success of this mighty enterprise. The
advantages to all concerned, that will flow from it, have, therefore,
scarce been forgotten."
"Name them, Señor."
"First, then, as is due to his all-seeing and omnipotent
protection, glory will be given to the Almighty, by the spreading of
his church and the increase of his worshippers." Fernando de Talavera
and all the churchmen present piously crossed themselves, an act in
which Columbus himself joined. "Their Highnesses, as is meet, will
reap the next advantages, in the extension of their empire and in the
increase of their subjects. Wealth will flow in upon Castile and
Aragon, in a rapid stream, His Holiness freely granting to Christian
monarchs the thrones and territories of all infidel princes whose
possessions may be discovered, or people converted to the faith,
through their means."
"This is plausible, Señor," returned the prelate, "and founded on
just principles. His Holiness certainly is intrusted with that power,
and hath been known to use it, for the glory of God. You doubtless
know, Señor Colon, that Don John of Portugal hath paid great attention
to these matters already, and that he and his predecessors have
probably pushed discovery to the verge of its final limits. His
enterprise hath also obtained from Rome certain privileges that may
not be meddled with."
"I am not ignorant of the Portuguese enterprise, holy prelate, nor
of the spirit with which Don John hath exercised his power. His
vessels voyage along the western shore of Africa, and in a direction
altogether different from that I propose to take. My purpose is to
launch forth, at once, into the broad Atlantic, and by following the
sun towards his place of evening retirement, reach the eastern bounds
of the Indies, by a road that will lessen the journey many months."
Although the archbishop, and most of his coadjutors, belonged to
the numerous class of those who regarded Columbus as a brain-heated
visionary, the earnest, but lofty dignity, with which he thus simply
touched upon his projects; the manner in which he quietly smoothed
down his white locks, when he had spoken; and the enthusiasm that
never failed to kindle in his eye, as he dwelt on his noble designs,
produced a deep impression on all present, and there was a moment when
the general feeling was to aid him to the extent of the common means.
It was a singular and peculiar proof of the existence of this
transient feeling that one of the commissioners immediately inquired
"Do you propose, Señor Colon, to seek the court of Prestor John?"
"I know not, noble Señor, that such a potentate hath even an
existence," answered Columbus, whose notions had got the fixed and
philosophical bias that is derived from science, and who entered
little into the popular fallacies of the day, though necessarily
subject to much of the ignorance of the age; "I find nothing to
establish the truth of there being such a monarch at all, or such
This admission did not help the navigator's cause; for to affirm
that the earth was a sphere, and that Prestor John was a creature of
the imagination, was abandoning the marvellous to fall back on
demonstration and probabilities; a course that the human mind, in its
uncultivated condition, is not fond of taking.
"There are men who will be willing to put faith in the truth of
Prestor John's power and territories," interrupted one of the
commissioners, who was indebted to his present situation purely to
King Ferdinand's policy, "who will flatly deny that the earth is
round; since we all know that there are kings, and territories, and
Christians, while we all see that the earth and the ocean are plains."
This opinion was received with an assenting smile by most present,
though Fernando de Talavera had doubts of its justice.
"Señor," answered Columbus, mildly, "if all, in this world, was in
truth what it seemeth, confessions would be little needed, and penance
would be much lighter."
"I esteem you a good Christian, Señor Colon," observed the
"I am such as the grace of God, and a weak nature have made me,
Lord Archbishop; though I humbly trust that when I shall have achieved
this great end, that I may be deemed more worthy of the divine
protection, as well as of the divine favour."
"It hath been said that thou deemest thyself especially set apart
by Providence for this work."
"I feel that within me, holy prelate, that encourageth such a hope;
but I build nought on mysteries that exceed my comprehension."
It would be difficult to say whether Columbus lost or gained in the
opinions of his auditors, by this answer. The religious feeling of the
age was in perfect consonance with the sentiment; but to the churchmen
present it seemed arrogant in a humble and unknown layman, even to
believe it possible that he could be the chosen vessel, when so many
who appeared to have higher claims were rejected. Still, no
expression of this feeling was permitted, for it was then as it is
now, he who seemed to rely on the power of God carrying with him a
weight and an influence that ordinarily checked rebukes.
"You propose to endeavour to reach Cathay, by means of sailing
forth into the broad Atlantic," resumed the archbishop, "and yet you
deny the existence of Prestor John!"
"Your pardon, holy prelate — I do propose to reach Cathay and
Cipango in the mode you mention, but I do not absolutely deny the
existence of the monarch you have named. For the probability of the
success of my enterprise, I have already produced my proofs and
reasons, which have satisfied many learned churchmen; but evidence is
wanting to establish the last."
"And yet Giovanni di Montecorvino, a pious bishop of our holy
church, is said to have converted such a prince to the true faith,
nearly two centuries since."
"The power of God can do any thing, Lord Archbishop, and I am not
one to question the merits of his chosen ministers. All I can answer
to this point, is, to say that I find no scientific or plausible
reasons to justify me in pursuing what may prove to be as deceptive as
the light which recedes before the hand that would touch it. As for
Cathay and its position and its wonders, we have the better
established evidence of the renowned Venetians, Marco and Nicolo
Polo, who not only travelled in those territories, but sojourned years
at the court of their monarch. But, noble gentlemen, whether there is
a Prestor John, or a Cathay, there is certainly a limit to the western
side of the Atlantic, and that limit I am ready to seek."
The archbishop betrayed his incredulity, in the upward turn of his
eyes; but having his commands from those who were accustomed to be
obeyed, and knowing that the theory of Columbus had been gravely heard
and reported on, years before, at Salamanca, he determined prudently
to keep within his proper sphere, and to proceed at once to that into
which it was his duty to inquire.
"You have set forth the advantages that you think may be derived to
the sovereigns, should your project succeed, Señor," he said, "and
truly they are not light, if all your brilliant hopes may be realized;
but it now remaineth to know what conditions you reserve for yourself,
as the reward of all your risks and many years of anxious labour."
"All that hath been duly considered, illustrious archbishop, and
you will find the substance of my wishes set forth in this paper,
though many of the smaller provisions will remain to be enumerated."
As Columbus spoke, he handed the paper in question to Ferdinand of
Talavera. The prelate ran his eyes over it hastily at first, but a
second time with more deliberation, and it would be difficult to say
whether ridicule, or indignation, was most strongly expressed in his
countenance, as he deridingly threw the document on a table. When this
act of contempt was performed, he turned towards Columbus, as if to
satisfy himself that the navigator was not mad.
"Art thou serious in demanding these terms, Señor?" he asked
sternly, and with a look that would have caused most men, in the
humble station of the applicant, to swerve from their purpose.
"Lord Archbishop," answered Columbus, with a dignity that was not
easily disturbed, "this matter hath now occupied my mind quite
eighteen years. During the whole of this long period I have thought
seriously of little else, and it may be said to have engaged my mind
sleeping and waking. I saw the truth early and intensely, but every
day seems to bring it brighter and brighter before my eyes. I feel a
reliance on success, that cometh from dependence on God. I think
myself an agent chosen for the accomplishment of great ends, and ends
that will not be decided by the success of this one enterprise. There
is more beyond, and I must retain the dignity and the means necessary
to accomplish it. I cannot abate, in the smallest degree, the nature
or the amount of these conditions."
Although the manner in which these words were uttered lent them
weight, the prelate fancied that the mind of the navigator had got to
be unsettled by his long contemplation of a single subject. The only
things that left any doubt concerning the accuracy of this opinion,
were the method and science with which he had often maintained, even
in his own presence, the reasonableness of his geographical
suppositions; arguments which, though they had failed to convince one
bent on believing the projector a visionary, had nevertheless greatly
puzzled the listener. Still, the demands he had just read, seemed so
extravagant, that, for a single instant, a sentiment of pity repressed
the burst of indignation to which he felt disposed to give vent.
"How like ye, noble lords," he cried, sarcastically, turning to two
or three of his fellow-commissioners who had eagerly seized the paper
and were endeavouring to read it, all at the same moment, "the
moderate and modest demands of the Señor Christoval Colon, the
celebrated navigator who confounded the Council of Salamanca! Are
they not such as it becometh their Highnesses to accept on bended
knees, and with many thanks?"
"Read them, Lord Archbishop," exclaimed several in a breath; "let
us first know their nature."
"There are many minor conditions that might be granted as unworthy
of discussion," resumed the prelate, taking the paper; "but here are
two that must give the sovereigns infinite satisfaction. The Señor
Colon actually satisfieth himself with the rank of Admiral and Viceroy
over all the countries he may discover; and as for gains, one-tenth—
the church's share, my reverend brethren — yea, even one-tenth, one humble tenth of the proceeds and customs will content him!"
The general murmur that passed among the commissioners, denoted a
common dissatisfaction, and at that instant Columbus had not a true
supporter in the room.
"Nor is this all, illustrious nobles, and holy priests," continued
the archbishop, following up his advantage as soon as he believed his
auditors ready to hear him — "nor is this all; lest these high
dignities should weary their Highnesses' shoulders, and those of their
royal progeny, the liberal Genoese actually consenteth to transmit
them to his own posterity, in all time to come; converting the kingdom
of Cathay into a realm for the uses of the house of Colon, to
maintain the dignity of which, the tenth of all the benefits are to be
consigned to its especial care!"
There would have been an open laugh at this sally, had not the
noble bearing of Columbus checked its indulgence; and even Ferdinand
of Talavera, under the stern rebuke of an eye and mien that carried
with them a grave authority, began to think he had gone too far.
"Your pardon, Señor Colon," he immediately and more courteously
added; "but your conditions sounded so lofty that they have quite
taken me by surprise. You cannot seriously mean to maintain them?"
"Not one jot will I abate, Lord Priest: that much will be my due,
and he that consenteth to less than he deserveth, becometh an
instrument of his own humiliation. I shall give to the sovereigns an
empire that will far exceed in value all their other possessions, and
I claim my reward. I tell you, moreover, reverend prelate, that there
is much in reserve, and that these conditions will be needed to fulfil
"These are truly modest proposals for a nameless Genoese!"
exclaimed one of the courtiers, who had been gradually swelling with
disgust and contempt. "The Señor Colon will be certain of commanding
in the service of their Highnesses, and if nothing is done he will
have that high honour without cost; whereas, should this most
improbable scheme lead to any benefits, he will become a vice-king,
humbly contenting himself with the church's revenue!"
This remark appeared to determine the wavering, and the
commissioners rose, in a body, as if the matter were thought to be
unworthy of further discussion. With the view to preserve at least the
appearance of impartiality and discretion, however, the archbishop
turned once more toward Columbus, and now, certain of obtaining his
ends, he spoke to him in milder tones.
"For the last time, Señor," he said, "I ask if you still insist on
these unheard-of terms?"
"On them and on no other," said Columbus, firmly. "I know the
magnitude of the services I shall perform, and will not degrade them,
will in no manner lessen their dignity, by accepting aught else. But,
Lord Archbishop, and you, too, noble Señor, that treateth my claims so
lightly, I am ready to add to the risk of person, life and name, that
of gold. I will furnish one-eighth of the needful sums, if ye will
increase my benefits in that proportion."
"Enough — enough," returned the prelate, preparing to quit the
room; "we will make our report to the sovereigns, this instant, and
thou shalt speedily know their pleasure."
Thus terminated the conference. The courtiers left the room,
conversing earnestly among themselves, like men who did not care to
repress their indignation; while Columbus, filled with the noble
character of his own designs, disappeared in another direction, with
the bearing of one whose self-respect was not to be lessened by
clamour, and who appreciated ignorance and narrowness of views too
justly to suffer them to change his own high purposes.
Ferdinand of Talavera was as good as his word. He was the queen's
confessor, and, in virtue of that holy office, had at all times access
to her presence. Full of the subject of the late interview, he took
his way directly to the private apartments of the queen, and, as a
matter of course, was at once admitted. Isabella heard his
representations with mortification and regret, for she had begun to
set her heart on the sailing of this extraordinary expedition. But the
influence of the archbishop was very great, for his royal penitent
knew the sincerity and devotedness of his heart.
"This carrieth presumption to insolence, Señora," continued the
irritated churchman: "have we not here a mendicant adventurer
demanding honours and authority that belong only to God and his
anointed, the princes of the earth? Who is this Colon? — a nameless
Genoese, without rank, services, or modesty, and yet doth he carry his
pretensions to a height that might cause even a Guzman to hesitate."
"He is a good Christian, holy prelate," Isabella meekly answered,
"and seemeth to delight in the service and glory of God, and to wish
to favour the extension of his visible and Catholic church."
"True, Señora, and yet may there be deceit in this"—
"Nay, Lord Archbishop, I do not think that deceit is the man's
failing, for franker speech and more manly bearing it is not usual to
see, even in the most powerful. He hath solicited us for years, and
yet no act of meanness may be fairly laid to his charge."
"I shall not judge the heart of this man harshly, Doña Isabella,
but we may judge of his actions and his pretensions, and how far they
may be suitable to the dignity of the two crowns, freely and without
censure. I confess him grave, and plausible, and light of neither
discourse nor manner, virtues certainly as the world moveth in
courts"— Isabella smiled, but she said nothing, for her ghostly
counsellor was wont to rebuke with freedom, and she to listen with
humility—"where the age is not exhibiting its purest models of
sobriety of thought and devotion, but even these may exist without the
spirit that shall be fitted for heaven. But what are gravity and
decorum, if sustained by an inflated pride, and inordinate rapacity?
ambition being a term too lofty for such a craving. Reflect, Señora,
on the full nature of these demands. This Colon requireth to be
established, for ever, in the high state of a substitute for a king,
not only for his own person, but for those of his descendants
throughout all time, with the title and authority of Admiral over all
adjacent seas, should he discover any of the lands he so much exalts,
before he will consent to enter into the command of certain of Your
Highnesses' vessels, a station of itself only too honourable for one
of so little note! Should his most extravagant pretensions be
realized — and the probabilities are that they will entirely fail
— his demands would exceed his services; whereas, in the case of
failure, the Castilian and Aragonese names would be covered with
ridicule, and a sore disrespect would befal the royal dignity for
having been thus duped by an adventurer. Much of the glory of this
late conquest would be tarnished, by a mistake so unfortunate."
"Daughter-Marchioness," observed the queen, turning towards the
faithful and long-tried friend who was occupied with her needle near
her own side — "these conditions of Colon do, truly, seem to exceed
the bounds of reason."
"The enterprise also exceedeth all the usual bounds of risks and
adventures, Señora," was the steady reply of Doña Beatriz, as she
glanced towards the countenance of Mercedes. "Noble efforts deserve
The eye of Isabella followed the glance of her friend, and it
remained fixed for some time on the pale anxious features of her
favourite's ward. The beautiful girl herself was unconscious of the
attention she excited; but one who knew her secret might easily detect
the intense feeling with which she awaited the issue. The opinions of
her confessor had seemed so reasonable, that Isabella was on the
point of assenting to the report of the commissioners, and of
abandoning altogether the secret hopes and expectations she had begun
to couple with the success of the navigator's schemes, when a gentler
feeling, one that belonged peculiarly to her own feminine heart,
interposed to give the mariner another chance. It is seldom that woman
is dead to the sympathies connected with the affections, and the
wishes that sprang from the love of Mercedes de Valverde were the
active cause of the decision that the Queen of Castile came to at that
"We must be neither harsh nor hasty with this Genoese, Lord
Archbishop," she said, turning again to the prelate. "He hath the
virtues of devoutness and fair-dealing, and these are qualities that
sovereigns learn to prize. His demands no doubt have become somewhat
exaggerated by long brooding, in his thoughts, on a favourite and
great scheme; but kind words and reason may yet lead him to more
moderation. Let him, then, be tried with propositions of our own, and
doubtless his necessities, if not a sense of justice, will cause him
to accept them. The viceroyalty doth, indeed, exceed the usual policy
of princes, and, as you say, holy prelate, the tenth is the church's
share; but the admiral's rank may be fairly claimed. Meet him, then,
with these moderated proposals, and substitute a fifteenth for a
tenth; let him be a viceroy in his own person, during the pleasure of
Don Fernando and myself, but let him relinquish the claim for his
Fernando de Talavera thought even these concessions too
considerable, but, while he exercised his sacred office with a high
authority he too well knew the character of Isabella to presume to
dispute an order she had once issued, although it was in her own mild
and feminine manner. After receiving a few more instructions,
therefore, and obtaining the counsel of the king, who was at work in
an adjoining cabinet, the prelate went to execute this new commission.
Two or three days now passed before the subject was finally
disposed of, and Isabella was again seated in the domestic circle,
when admission was once more demanded in behalf of her confessor. The
archbishop entered with a flushed face, and his whole appearance was
so disturbed that it must have been observed by the most indifferent
"How now, holy archbishop,"— demanded Isabella — "doth thy new
flock vex thy spirit, and is it so very hard to deal with an infidel?"
"'T is nought of that, Señora — 't is nought relating to my new
people. I find even the followers of the false prophet more reasonable
than some who exult in Christ's name and favour. This Colon is a
madman, and better fitted to become a saint in Mussulmans' eyes, than
even a pilot in Your Highness's service."
At this burst of indignation, the queen, the Marchioness of Moya,
and Doña Mercedes de Valverde, simultaneously dropped their
needle-work, and sate looking at the prelate, with a common concern.
They had all hoped that the difficulties which stood in the way of a
favourable termination to the negotiation would be removed, and that
the time was at hand, when the being who, in spite of the boldness and
unusual character of his projects, had succeeded in so signally
commanding their respect, and in interesting their feelings, was
about to depart, and to furnish a practical solution to problems that
had as much puzzled their reasons as they had excited their curiosity.
But here was something like a sudden and unlooked for termination to
all their expectations; and while Mercedes felt something like despair
chilling her heart, the queen and Doña Beatriz were both displeased.
"Didst thou duly explain to the Señor Colon, the nature of our
proposals, Lord Archbishop?" the former asked, with more severity of
manner than she was accustomed to betray; "and doth he still insist on
the pretensions to a vice-regal power, and on the offensive condition
in behalf of his posterity?"
"Even so, Your Highness; were it Isabella of Castile treating with
Henry of England or Louis of France, the starving Genoese could not
hold higher terms or more inflexible conditions. He abateth nothing.
The man deemeth himself chosen of God, to answer certain ends, and
his language and conditions are such as one who felt a holy impulse to
his course, could scarcely feel warranted in assuming."
"This constancy hath its merit," observed the queen; "but there is
a limit to concession. I shall urge no more in the navigator's favour,
but leave him to the fortune that naturally followeth self-exaltation
and all extravagance of demand."
This speech apparently sealed the fate of Columbus in Castile. The
archbishop was appeased, and, first holding a short private conference
with his royal penitent, he left the room. Shortly after, Christoval
Colon, as he was called by the Spaniards—Columbus, as he styled
himself in later life — received, for a definite answer, the
information that his conditions were rejected, and that the
negotiation for the projected voyage to the Indies was finally at an
"Oh! ever thus, from childhood's hour
I've seen my fondest hopes decay;
I never loved a tree or flower,
But 't was the first to fade away."
The season had now advanced to the first days of February, and, in
that low latitude, the weather was becoming genial and spring-like. On
the morning succeeding that of the interview just related, some six or
eight individuals, attracted by the loveliness of the day, and induced
morally by a higher motive, were assembled before the door of one of
those low dwellings of Santa Fé that had been erected for the
accommodation of the conquering army. Most of these persons were grave
Spaniards of a certain age, though young Luis de Bobadilla was also
there, and the tall, dignified form of Columbus was conspicuous in the
group. The latter was equipped for the road, and a stout, serviceable
Andalusian mule stood ready to receive its burthen, near at hand. A
charger was by the side of the mule, showing that the rider of the
last was about to have company. Among the Spaniards were Alonzo de
Quintanilla, the accountant-general of Castile, a firm friend of the
navigator, and Luis de St. Angel, the receiver of the ecclesiastical
revenues of Aragon, who was one of the firmest converts that Columbus
had made to the philosophical accuracy of his opinions and to the
truth of his vast conceptions.
The two last had been in earnest discourse with the navigator, but
the discussion had closed, and Señor de St. Angel, a man of generous
feelings and ardent imagination, was just expressing himself warmly,
in the following words—
"By the lustre of the two crowns!" he cried, "this ought not to
come to pass. But, adieu, Señor Colon — God have you in his holy
keeping, and send you wiser and less prejudiced judges, hereafter. The
past can only cause us shame and grief, while the future is in the
womb of time."
The whole party, with the exception of Luis de Bobadilla, then took
their leave. As soon as the place was clear, Columbus mounted, and
passed through the thronged streets, attended by the young noble on
his charger. Not a syllable was uttered by either, until they were
fairly on the plain, though Columbus often sighed, like a man
oppressed with grief. Still his mien was calm, his bearing dignified,
and his eye lighted with that unquenchable fire which finds its fuel
in the soul within.
When fairly without the gates, Columbus turned courteously to his
young companion and thanked him for his escort; but, with a
consideration for the other, that was creditable to his heart, he
"While I am so grateful for this honour, coming from one so noble
and full of hopes, I must not forget your own character. Didst thou
not remark, friend Luis, as we passed through the streets, that divers
Spaniards pointed at me, as the object of scorn?"
"I did, Señor," answered Luis, his cheek glowing with indignation,
"and had it not been that I dreaded your displeasure, I would have
trodden the vagabonds beneath my horse's feet, failing of a lance to
spit them on!"
"Thou hast acted most wisely in showing forbearance. But these are
men, and their common judgment maketh public opinion; nor do I
perceive that the birth, or the opportunities, causeth material
distinctions between them, though the manner of expression vary. There
are vulgar among the noble, and noble among the lowly. This very act
of kindness of thine, will find its deriders and contemners in the
court of the two sovereigns."
"Let him look to it, who presumeth to speak lightly of you, Señor,
to Luis de Bobadilla! We are not a patient race, and Castilian blood
is apt to be hot blood."
"I should be sorry that any man but myself should draw in my
quarrel. But, if we take offence at all who think and speak folly, we
may pass our days in harness. Let the young nobles have their jest, if
it give them pleasure— but do not let me regret my friendship for
Luis promised fairly, and then, as if his truant thoughts would
revert to the subject unbidden, he hastily resumed —
"You speak of the noble as of a class different from your own —
surely, Señor Colon, thou art noble?"
"Would it make aught different in thy opinions and feelings, young
man, were I to answer no?"
The cheek of Don Luis flushed, and, for an instant, he repented of
his remark; but falling back on his own frank and generous nature, he
answered immediately, without reservation or duplicity—
"By San Pedro, my new patron! I could wish you were noble, Señor,
if it were merely for the honour of the class. There are so many among
us who do no credit to their spurs, that we might gladly receive such
"This world is made up of changes, young Señor," returned Columbus,
smiling. "The seasons undergo their changes; night follows day; comets
come and go; monarchs become subjects, and subjects monarchs; nobles
lose the knowledge of their descent, and plebeians rise to the rank
of nobles. There is a tradition among us, that we were formerly of the
privileged class; but time and our unlucky fortune have brought us
down to humble employments. Am I to lose the honour of Don Luis de
Bobadilla's company in the great voyage, should I be more fortunate
in France than I have been in Castile, because his commander
happeneth to have lost the evidences of his nobility?"
"That would be a most unworthy motive, Señor, and I hasten to
correct your mistake. As we are now about to part for some time, I ask
permission to lay bare my whole soul to you. I confess that when first
I heard of this voyage, it struck me as a madman's scheme"—
"Ah! friend Luis," interrupted Columbus, with a melancholy shake of
the head, "this is the opinion of but too many! I fear Don Ferdinand
of Aragon, as well as that stern prelate, his namesake, who hath
lately disposed of the question, thinketh in the same manner."
"I crave your pardon, Señor Colon, if I have uttered aught to give
you pain; but if I have once done you injustice, I am ready enough to
expiate the wrong, as you will quickly see. Thinking thus, I entered
into discourse with you, with a view to amuse myself with fancied
ravings; but, though no immediate change of opinion followed as to
the truth of the theory, I soon perceived that a great philosopher
and profound reasoner had the matter in hand. Here my judgment might
have rested, and my opinion been satisfied, but for a circumstance of
deep moment to myself. You must know, Señor, though come of the oldest
blood of Spain, and not without fair possessions, that I may not
always have answered the hopes of those who have been charged with the
care of my youth"—
"This is unnecessary, noble sir"—
"Nay, by St. Luke! it shall be said. Now, I have two great and
engrossing passions, that sometimes interfere with each other. The one
is a love for rambling—a burning desire to see foreign lands, and
this, too, in a free and roving fashion — with a disposition for the
sea and the doings of havens; and the other is a love for Mercedes de
Valverde, the fairest, gentlest, most affectionate, warmesthearted,
and truest maiden of Castile!"
"Noble, withal," put in Columbus, smiling.
"Señor," answered Luis, gravely, "I jest not concerning my guardian
angel. She is not only noble, and every way fitted to honour my name,
but she hath the blood of the Guzmans, themselves, in her veins. But I
have lost favour with others, if not with my lovely mistress, in
yielding to this rambling inclination; and even my own aunt, who is
her guardian, hath not looked smilingly on my suit. Doña Isabella,
whose word is law among all the noble virgins of the court, hath also
her prejudices, and it hath become necessary to regain her good
opinion, to win the Doña Mercedes. It struck me"—Luis was too manly
to betray his mistress by confessing that the thought was hers — "it
struck me, that if my rambling tastes took the direction of some
noble enterprise, like this you urge, that what hath been a demerit
might be deemed a merit in the royal eyes, which would be certain soon
to draw all other eyes after them. With this hope, then, I first
entered into the present intercourse, until the force of your
arguments hath completed my conversion, and now no churchman hath more
faith in the head of his religion, than I have that the shortest road
to Cathay is athwart the broad Atlantic; or no Lombard is more
persuaded that his Lombardy is flat, than I feel convinced that this
good earth of ours is a sphere."
"Speak reverently of the ministers of the altar, young Señor," said
Columbus, crossing himself, "for no levity should be used in
connection with their holy office. It seemeth, then," he added,
smiling, "I owe my disciple to the two potent agents of love and
reason; the former, as most potent, overcoming the first obstacles,
and the latter getting uppermost at the close of the affair, as is
wont to happen — love, generally, triumphing in the onset, and
"I 'll not deny the potency of the power, Señor, for I feel it too
deeply to rebel against it. You now know my secret, and when I have
made you acquainted with my intentions, all will be laid bare. I here
solemnly vow"—Don Luis lifted his cap and looked to heaven, as he
spoke—"to join you in this voyage, on due notice, sail from whence
you may, in whatever bark you shall choose, and whenever you please.
In doing this, I trust, first to serve God and his church; secondly,
to visit Cathay and those distant and wonderful lands; and lastly, to
win Doña Mercedes de Valverde."
"I accept the pledge, young sir," rejoined Columbus, struck by his
earnestness, and pleased with his sincerity— "though it might have
been a more faithful representation of your thoughts, had the order of
the motives been reversed."
"In a few months I shall be master of my own means," continued the
youth, too intent on his own purposes to heed what the navigator had
said—"and then, nothing but the solemn command of Doña Isabella,
herself, shall prevent our having one caravel, at least; and the
coffers of Bobadilla must have been foully dealt by, during their
master's childhood, if they do not afford two. I am no subject of Don
Fernando's, but a servant of the elder branch of the House of
Trastamara; and the cold judgment of the king, even, shall not prevent
"This soundeth generously, and thy sentiments are such as become a
youthful and enterprising noble; but the offer cannot be accepted. It
would not become Columbus to use gold that came from so confiding a
spirit and so inexperienced a head; and there are still greater
obstacles than this. My enterprise must rest on the support of some
powerful prince. Even the Guzman hath not deemed himself of
sufficient authority to uphold a scheme so large. Did we make the
discoveries without that sanction, we should be toiling for others,
without security for ourselves, since the Portuguese or some other
monarch would wrong us of our reward. That I am destined to effect
this great work, I feel, and it must be done in a manner suited to the
majesty of the thought and to the magnitude of the subject. And,
here, Don Luis, we must part. Should my suit be successful at the
court of France, thou shalt hear from me, for I ask no better than to
be sustained by hearts and hands like thine. Still, thou must not mar
thy fortunes unheedingly, and I am now a fallen man in Castile. It may
not serve thee a good turn, to be known to frequent my company any
longer—and I again say, here we must part."
Luis de Bobadilla protested his indifference to what others might
think; but the more experienced Columbus, who rose so high above
popular clamour in matters that affected himself, felt a generous
reluctance to permit this confiding youth to sacrifice his hopes, to
any friendly impressions in his own favour. The leave-taking was warm,
and the navigator felt a glow at his heart, as he witnessed the
sincere and honest emotions that the young man could not repress at
parting. They separated, however, about half a league from the town,
and each bent his way in his own direction; Don Luis de Bobadilla's
heart swelling with indignation at the unworthy treatment that there
was, in sooth, so much reason for thinking his new friend had
Columbus journeyed on, with very different emotions. Seven weary
years had he been soliciting the monarchs and nobles of Spain to aid
him in his enterprise. In that long period, how much of poverty,
contempt, ridicule, and even odium, had he not patiently encountered,
rather than abandon the slight hold that he had obtained on a few of
the more liberal and enlightened minds of the nation! He had toiled
for bread while soliciting the great to aid themselves in becoming
still more powerful; and each ray of hope, however feeble, had been
eagerly caught at with joy, each disappointment borne with a constancy
that none but the most exalted spirit could sustain. But he was now
required to endure the most grievous of all his pains. The recal of
Isabella had awakened within him a confidence to which he had long
been a stranger; and he awaited the termination of the siege, with the
calm dignity that became his purpose, no less than his lofty
philosophy. The hour of leisure had come, and it produced a fatal
destruction to all his buoyant hopes. He had thought his motives
understood, his character appreciated, and his high objects felt; but
he now found himself still regarded as a visionary projector, his
intentions distrusted, and his promised services despised. In a word,
the bright expectations that had cheered his toil for years, had
vanished in a day, and the disappointment was all the greater for the
brief but delusive hopes produced by his recent favour.
It is not surprising, therefore, that, when left alone on the
highway, even the spirit of this extraordinary man grew faint within
him, and he had to look to the highest power for succour. His head
dropped upon his breast, and one of those bitter moments occurred, in
which the past and the future crowd the mind, painfully as to
sufferings endured, cheerlessly as to hope. The time wasted in Spain
seemed a blot in his existence, and then came the probability of
another long and exhausting probation, that, like this, might lead to
nothing. He had already reached the lustrum that would fill his
threescore years, and life seemed slipping from beneath him, while its
great object remained unachieved. Still the high resolution of the man
sustained him. Not once did he think of a compromise of what he felt
to be his rights — not once did he doubt of the practicability of
accomplishing the great enterprise that others derided. His heart was
full of courage even while his bosom was full of grief. "There is a
wise, a merciful, and omnipotent God!" he exclaimed, raising his eyes
to heaven. "He knoweth what is meet for his own glory, and in him do
I put my trust." There was a pause, and the eyes kindled while a
scarcely perceptible smile lighted the grave face, and then were
murmured the words—"Yea, he taketh his time, but the infidel shall
be enlightened, and the blessed sepulchre redeemed!"
After this burst of feeling, that grave-looking man, whose hairs
had already become whitened to the colour of snow, by cares, and
toils, and exposures, pursued his way, with the quiet dignity of one
who believed that he was not created for nought, and who trusted in
God for the fulfilment of his destiny. If quivering sighs occasionally
broke out of his breast, they did not disturb the placidity of his
venerable countenance; if grief and disappointment still lay heavy on
his heart, they rested on a base that was able to support them.
Leaving Columbus to follow the common mule-track across the Vega, we
will now return to Santa Fé, where Ferdinand and Isabella had
re-established their court, after the few first days that succeeded
the taking possession of their new conquest.
Luis de St. Angel was a man of ardent feelings and generous
impulses. He was one of those few spirits who live in advance of
their age, and who permitted his reason to be enlightened and cheered
by his imagination, though it was never dazzled by it. As he and his
friend Alonzo de Quintanilla, after quitting Columbus, as already
related, walked towards the royal pavilion, they conversed freely
together concerning the man, his vast conceptions, the treatment he
had received, and the shame that would alight on Spain in consequence,
were he suffered thus to depart, for ever. Blunt of speech, the
receiver of the ecclesiastical revenues did not measure his terms,
every syllable of which found an echo in the heart of the
accountant-general, who was an old and fast friend of the navigator.
In short, by the time they reached the pavillion, they had come to the
resolution to make one manly effort to induce the queen to yield to
Columbus's terms and to recal him to her presence.
Isabella was always easy of access to such of her servants as she
knew to be honest and zealous. The age was one of formality, and, in
many respects, of exaggeration, while the court was renowned for
ceremony; but the pure spirit of the queen threw a truth and a natural
grace around all that depended on her, which rendered mere forms,
except as they were connected with delicacy and propriety, useless,
and indeed impracticable. Both the applicants for the interview,
enjoyed her favour, and the request was granted with that simple
directness that this estimable woman loved to manifest, whenever she
thought she was about to oblige any whom she esteemed.
The queen was surrounded by the few ladies among whom she lived in
private, as Luis de St. Angel and Alonzo de Quintanilla entered. Among
them, of course, were the Marchioness of Moya and Doña Mercedes de
Valverde. The king, on this occasion, was in an adjoining closet, at
work, as usual, with his calculations and orders. Official labour was
Ferdinand's relaxation, and he seldom manifested more happiness than
when clearing off a press of affairs that most men would have found to
the last degree burthensome. He was a hero in the saddle, a warrior at
the head of armies, a sage in council, and respectable, if not great,
in all things, but motives.
"What has brought the Señor St. Angel and the Señor Quintanilla, as
suitors, so early to my presence?" asked Isabella, smiling in a way to
assure both that the boon would be asked of a partial mistress. "Ye
are not wont to be beggars, and the hour is somewhat unusual."
"All hours are suitable, gracious lady, when one cometh to
and not to seek favour," returned Luis de St. Angel, bluntly.
"We are not here to solicit for ourselves, but to show Your Highness
the manner in which the crown of Castile may be garnished with
brighter jewels than any it now possesseth."
Isabella looked surprised, both at the words of the speaker, and at
his hurried earnestness as well as his freedom of speech. Accustomed,
however, to something of the last, her own calm manner was not
disturbed, nor did she even seem displeased.
"Hath the Moor another kingdom of which to be despoiled," she
asked, "or would the receiver of the church's revenues have us war
upon the Holy See?"
"I would have Your Highness accept the boons that come from God,
with alacrity and gratitude, and not reject them unthankfully,"
returned de St. Angel, kissing the queen's offered hand with a respect
and affection that neutralized the freedom of his words. "Do you know,
my gracious mistress, that the Señor Christoval Colon, he, from whose
high projects we Spaniards have hoped so much, hath actually taken
mule and quitted Santa Fé?"
"I expected as much, Señor, though I was not apprized that it had
actually come to pass. The king and I put the matter into the hands of
the Archbishop of Granada, with other trusty counsellors, and they
have found the terms of the Genoese arrogant; so full of exceeding and
unreasonable extravagance, that it ill befitted our dignity, and our
duty to ourselves to grant them. One who hath a scheme of such
doubtful results, ought to manifest moderation in his preliminaries.
Many even believe the man a visionary."
"It is unlike an unworthy pretender, Señora, to abandon his hopes
before he will yield his dignity. This Colon feeleth that he is
treating for empires, and he negotiates like one full of the
importance of his subject."
"He that lightly valueth himself, in matters of gravity, hath need
to expect that he will not stand high in the estimation of others,"
put in Alonzo de Quintanilla.
"And, moreover, my gracious and beloved mistress," added de St.
Angel, without permitting Isabella even to answer, "the character of
the man, and the value of his intentions, may be appreciated by the
price he setteth on his own services. If he succeed, will not the
discovery eclipse all others that have been made since the creation of
the world? Is it nothing to circle the earth, to prove the wisdom of
God by actual experiment, to follow the sun in its daily track, and
imitate the motions of that glorious moving mass? And then the
benefits that will flow on Castile and Aragon—are they not
incalculable? I marvel that a princess who hath shown so high and rare
a spirit on all other occasions, should shrink from so grand an
enterprise as this!"
"Thou art earnest, my good de St. Angel," returned Isabella, with a
smile that betrayed no anger, "and when there is much earnestness
there is sometimes much forgetfulness. If there were honour and profit
in success, what would there be in failure? Should the king and myself
send out this Colon, with a commission to be our viceroy, for ever,
over undiscovered lands, and no lands be discovered, the wisdom of our
councils might be called in question, and the dignity of the two
crowns would be fruitlessly and yet deeply committed."
"The hand of the Lord Archbishop is in this! This prelate hath
never been a believer in the justice of the navigator's theories, and
it is easy to raise objections when the feelings lean against an
enterprise. No glory is obtained without risk. Look, Your Highness, at
our neighbours, the Portuguese — how much have discoveries done for
that kingdom, and how much more may it do for us! We know, my honoured
mistress, that the earth is round"—
"Are we quite certain of that important fact, Señor?" asked the
king, who, attracted by the animated and unusual tones of the speaker,
had left his closet, and approached unseen. "Is that truth
established? Our doctors at Salamanca were divided on that great
question, and, by St. James! I do not see that it is so very clear."
"If not round, my Lord the King," answered de St. Angel, turning
quickly to face this new opponent, like a welldrilled corps wheeling
into a new front, "of what form can it be? Will any doctor, come
he of Salamanca, or come he from elsewhere, pretend that the earth is
a plain, and that it hath limits, and that one may stand on these
limits and jump down upon the sun as he passeth beneath at night—
is this reasonable, honoured Señor, or is it in conformity with
"Will any one, doctor of Salamanca, or elsewhere," rejoined the
king, gravely, though it was evident his feelings were little
interested in the discussion, "allege that there are nations who for
ever walk with their heads downwards, where the rain falleth upwards,
and where the sea remaineth in its bed, though its support cometh from
above, and is not placed beneath?"
"It is to explain these great mysteries, Señor Don Fernando, my
gracious master, that I would have this Colon at once go forth. We may
see, nay, we have demonstration, that the earth is a sphere, and yet
we do not see that the waters fall from its surface anywhere. The hull
of a ship is larger than her top-masts, and yet the last are first
visible on the ocean, which proveth that the body of the vessel is
concealed by the form of the water. This being so, and all who have
voyaged on the ocean know it to be thus, why doth not the water flow
into a level, here, on our own shores? If the earth be round, there
must be means to encircle it by water, as well as by land—to
complete the entire journey, as well as to perform a part. Colon
proposeth to open the way to this exploit, and the monarch that shall
furnish the means will live in the memories of our descendants, as one
far greater than a conqueror. Remember, illustrious Señor, that all
the east is peopled with Infidels, and that the head of the church
freely bestoweth their lands on any Christian monarch that may drag
them from their benighted condition, into the light of God's favour.
Believe me, Doña Isabella, should another sovereign grant the terms
Colon requireth, and reap the advantages that are likely to flow from
such discoveries, the enemies of Spain would make the world ring with
their songs of triumph, while the whole peninsula would mourn over
this unhappy decision."
"Whither hath the Señor Colon sped?" demanded the king, quickly;
all his political jealousies being momentarily aroused by the remarks
of his receiver-general: "He hath not gone again to Dom Joao of
"No, Señor, my master, but to King Louis of France, a sovereign
whose love for Aragon amounteth to a proverb."
The king muttered a few words between his teeth, and he paced the
apartment, to and fro, with a disturbed manner; for, while no man
living cared less to hazard his means, without the prospect of a
certain return, the idea of another's reaping an advantage that had
been neglected by himself, brought him at once under the control of
those feelings that always influenced his cold and calculating
policy. With Isabella the case was different. Her pious wishes had
ever leaned towards the accomplishment of Columbus's great project,
and her generous nature had sympathized deeply with the noble
conception, vast moral results, and the glory of the enterprise.
Nothing but the manner in which her mind, as well as her religious
aspirations, had been occupied by the war in Granada, had prevented
her from entering earlier into a full examination of the navigator's
views; and she had yielded to the counsel of her confessor, in denying
the terms demanded by Columbus, with a reluctance it had not been easy
to overcome. Then the gentler feelings of her sex had their influence,
for, while she too reflected on what had just been urged, her eye
glanced around the room and rested on the beautiful face of Mercedes,
who sate silent from diffidence, but whose pale eloquent countenance
betrayed all the pleadings of the pure enthusiastic love of woman.
"Daughter-Marchioness," asked the queen, turning as usual to her
tried friend, in her doubts, "what thinkest thou of this weighty
matter? Ought we so to humble ourselves as to recal this haughty
"Say not haughty, Señora, for to me he seemeth much superior to any
such feeling; but rather regard him as one that hath a just
appreciation of that he hath in view. I agree fully with the
receiver-general, in thinking that Castile will be much discredited,
if, in sooth, a new world should be discovered, and they who favoured
the enterprise could point to this court, and remind it that the glory
of the event was in its grasp, and that it threw it away,
"And this, too, on a mere point of dignity, Señora," put in St.
Angel—"on a question of parchment and of sound."
"Nay, nay"—retorted the queen—"there are those who think the
honours claimed by Colon would far exceed the service, even should the
latter equal all the representations of the Genoese, himself."
"Then, my honoured mistress, they know not at what the Genoese
aims. Reflect, Señora, that it will not be an every-day deed to prove
that this earth is a sphere, by actual measurement, whatever we may
know in theories. Then cometh the wealth and benefits of those eastern
possessions, a quarter of the world whence all riches flow— spices,
pearls, silks, and the most precious metals. After these, again,
cometh the great glory of God, which crowneth and exceedeth all!"
Isabella crossed herself, her cheek flushed, her eye kindled, and
her matronly but fine form seemed to tower with the majesty of the
feelings that these pictures created.
"I do fear, Don Fernando," she said, "that our advisers have been
precipitate, and that the magnitude of this project may justify more
than common conditions!"
But the king entered little into the generous emotions of his royal
consort; feeling far more keenly the stings of political jealousy,
than any promptings of a liberal zeal for either the church or
science. He was generally esteemed a wise prince, a title that would
seem to infer neither a generous nor a very just one. He smiled at the
kindling enthusiasm of his wife, but continued to peruse a paper that
had just been handed to him by a secretary.
"Your Highness feels as Doña Isabella of Castile ought to feel when
the glory of God and the honour of her crown are in question," added
Beatriz de Cabrera, using that freedom of speech that her royal
mistress much encouraged in their more private intercourse. "I would
rather hear you utter the words of recal to this Colon, than again
listen to the shouts of our late triumph over the Moor."
"I know that thou lovest me, Beatriz!" exclaimed the queen: "if
there is not a true heart in that breast of thine, the fallen
condition of man does not suffer the gem to exist!"
"We all love and reverence Your Highness," continued de St. Angel,
"and we wish nought but your glory. Fancy, Señora, the page of history
open, and this great exploit of the reduction of the Moor, succeeded
by the still greater deed of a discovery of an easy and swift
communication with the Indies, the spread of the church, and the flow
of inexhaustible wealth into Spain! This Colon cannot be supported by
the colder and more selfish calculations of man, but his very
enterprise seeks the more generous support of her who can risk much
for God's glory and the good of the church."
"Nay, Señor de St. Angel, thou flatterest and offendest in the same
"It is an honest nature pouring out its disappointment, my beloved
mistress, and a tongue that hath become bold through much zeal for
Your Highnesses' fame. Alas! alas! should King Louis grant the terms
we have declined, poor Spain will never lift her head again for very
"Art certain, St. Angel, that the Genoese hath gone for France?"
suddenly demanded the king, in his sharp authoritative voice.
"I have it, Your Highness, from his own mouth. Yes, yes, he is at
this moment striving to forget our Castilian dialect, and endeavouring
to suit his tongue to the language of the Frenchman. They are bigots
and unreflecting disciples of musty prejudices, Señora, that deny the
theories of Colon. The old philosophers have reasoned in the same
manner; and though it may seem to the timid an audacious and even a
heedless adventure to sail out into the broad Atlantic, had not the
Portuguese done it he would never have found his islands. God's truth!
it maketh my blood boil, when I bethink me of what these Lusitanians
have done, while we of Aragon and Castile have been tilting with the
Infidels for a few valleys and mountains, and contending for a
"Señor, you are forgetful of the honour of the sovereigns, as well
as of the service of God," interrupted the Marchioness of Moya, who
had the tact to perceive that the receiver-general was losing sight of
his discretion, in the magnitude of his zeal. "This conquest is one of
the victories of the church, and will add lustre to the two crowns,
in all future ages. The head of the church, himself, hath so
recognized it, and all good Christians should acknowledge its
"It is not that I undervalue this success, but that I consider the
conquest that Colon is likely to achieve over so many millions, that I
have thus spoken, Doña Beatriz."
The marchioness, whose spirit was as marked as her love for the
queen, made a sharp reply, and, for a few minutes, she and Luis de St.
Angel, with Alonzo de Quintanilla, maintained the discussion, by
themselves, while Isabella conversed apart, with her husband, no one
presuming to meddle with their private conference. The queen was
earnest and evidently much excited, but Ferdinand maintained his
customary coolness and caution, though his manner was marked with that
profound respect which the character of Isabella had early inspired,
and which she succeeded in maintaining throughout her married life.
This was a picture familiar to the courtiers, one of the sovereigns
being as remarkable for his wily prudence, as was the other for her
generous and sincere ardour, whenever impelled by a good motive. This
divided discourse lasted half an hour, the queen occasionally pausing
to listen to what was passing in the other group, and then recurring
to her own arguments with her husband.
At length, Isabella left the side of Ferdinand, who coldly resumed
the perusal of a paper, and she moved slowly towards the excited
party, that was now unanimous and rather loud in the expression of its
regrets—loud, for even the indulgence of so gentle a mistress. Her
intention to repress this ardour by her own presence, however, was
momentarily diverted from its object, by a glimpse of the face of
Mercedes, who sate alone, her work lying neglected in her lap,
listening anxiously to the opinions that had drawn all her companions
to the general circle.
"Thou takest no part in this warm discussion, child," observed the
queen, stopping before the chair of our heroine, and gazing an instant
into her eloquently expressive face. "Hast thou lost all interest in
"I speak not, Señora, because it becometh youth and ignorance to be
modest; but though silent, I feel none the less."
"And what are thy feelings, daughter? Dost thou, too, think the
services of the Genoese cannot be bought at too high a price?"
"Since Your Highness doth me this honour," answered the lovely
girl, the blood gradually flushing her pale face, as she warmed with
the subject—"I will not hesitate to speak. I do believe this great
enterprise hath been offered to the sovereigns, as a reward for all
that they have done and endured for religion and the church. I do
think Colon hath been guided to this court by a divine hand, and, by a
divine hand hath he been kept here, enduring the long servitude of
seven years, rather than abandon his object; and I do think that this
late appeal in his favour cometh of a power and spirit that should
"Thou art an enthusiast, daughter, more especially in this cause,"
returned the queen, smiling kindly on the blushing Mercedes. "I am
greatly moved by thy wishes to aid in this enterprise!"
Thus spoke Isabella, at a moment when she had neither the leisure
nor the thought to analyze her own feelings, which were influenced by
a variety of motives, rather than by any single consideration. Even
this passing touch of woman's affections, however, contributed to give
her mind a new bias, and she joined the group, which respectfully
opened as she advanced, greatly disposed to yield to de St. Angel's
well-meant though somewhat intemperate entreaties. Still she
hesitated, for her wary husband had just been reminding her of the
exhausted state of the two treasuries, and the impoverished condition
in which both crowns had been left by the late war.
"Daughter-Marchioness," said Isabella, slightly answering the
reverences of the circle, "dost thou still think this Colon expressly
called of God, for the high purposes to which he pretendeth?"
"Señora, I say not exactly that, though I believe the Genoese hath
some such opinion of himself. But this much I do think — that Heaven
beareth in mind its faithful servitors, and when there is need of
important actions, suitable agents are chosen for the work. Now, we do
know that the church, at some day, is to prevail throughout the whole
world; and why may not this be the allotted time, as well as another?
God ordereth mysteriously, and the very adventure that so many of the
learned have scoffed at, may be intended to hasten the victory of the
church. We should remember, Your Highness, the humility with which
this church commenced; how few of the seemingly wise lent it their
aid; and the high pass of glory to which it hath reached. This
conquest of the Moor savoureth of a fulfilment of time, and his reign
of seven centuries terminated, may merely be an opening for a more
Isabella smiled upon her friend, for this was reasoning after her
own secret thoughts; but her greater acquirements rendered her more
discriminating in her zeal, than was the case with the warm-hearted
and ardent Marchioness.
"It is not safe to affix the seal of Providence to this or that
enterprise, Daughter-Marchioness"—she answered — "and the church
alone may say what are intended for miracles, and what is left for
human agencies. What sum doth Colon need, Señor de St. Angel, to carry
on the adventure in a manner that will content him?"
"He asketh but two light caravels, my honoured mistress, and three
thousand crowns — a sum that many a young spendthrift would waste on
his pleasures, in a few short weeks."
"It is not much, truly," observed Isabella, who had been gradually
kindling with the thoughts of the nobleness of the adventure; "but,
small as it is, my Lord the King doubteth if our joint coffers can, at
this moment, well bear the drain."
"Oh! it were a pity that such an occasion to serve God, such an
opportunity to increase the Christian sway, and to add to the glory of
Spain, should be lost for this trifle of gold!" exclaimed Doña Beatriz.
"It would be, truly," rejoined the queen, whose cheek now glowed
with an enthusiasm little less obvious than that which shone so
brightly in the countenance of the ardent Mercedes. "Señor de St.
Angel, the king cannot be prevailed on to enter into this affair, in
behalf of Aragon; but I take it on myself, as Queen of Castile, and,
so far as it may properly advance human interests, for the benefit of
my own much-beloved people. If the royal treasury be drained, my
private jewels should suffice for that small sum, and I will freely
pledge them as surety for the gold, rather than let this Colon depart
without putting the truth of his theories to the proof. The result,
truly, is of too great magnitude, to admit of further discussion."
An exclamation of admiration and delight escaped those present, for
it was not a usual thing for a princess to deprive herself of personal
ornaments in order to advance either the interests of the church or
those of her subjects. The receiver-general, however, soon removed all
difficulties on the score of money, by saying that his coffers could
advance the required sum, on the guarantee of the crown of Castile,
and that the jewels so freely offered, might remain in the keeping of
their royal owner.
"And now to recal Colon," observed the queen, as soon as these
preliminaries had been discussed. "He hath already departed, you say,
and no time should be lost in acquainting him with this new
"Your Highness hath here a willing courier, and one already
equipped for the road, in the person of Don Luis de Bobadilla," cried
Alonzo de Quintanilla, whose eye had been drawn to a window by the
trampling of a horse's foot; "and the man who will more joyfully bear
these tidings to the Genoese, cannot be found in Santa Fé."
"'Tis scarce a service suited to one of his high station," answered
Isabella, doubtingly; "and yet we should consider every moment of
delay a wrong to Colon"—
"Nay, Señora, spare not my nephew," eagerly interposed Doña
Beatriz; "he is only too happy at being employed in doing Your
"Let him, then, be summoned to our presence, without another
instant's delay. I scarce seem to have decided, while the principal
personage of the great adventure is journeying from the court."
A page was immediately dispatched in quest of the young noble, and
in a few minutes the footsteps of the latter were heard in the
antechamber. Luis entered the presence, flushed, excited, and with
feelings not a little angered, at the compelled departure of his new
friend. He did not fail to impute the blame of this occurrence to
those who had the power to prevent it; and when his dark expressive
eye met the countenance of his sovereign, had it been in her power to
read its meaning, she would have understood that he viewed her as a
person who had thwarted his hopes on more than one occasion.
Nevertheless, the influence of Doña Isabella's pure character and
gentle manners was seldom forgotten by any who were permitted to
approach her person; and his address was respectful, if not warm.
"It is Your Highness's pleasure to command my presence," said the
young man, as soon as he made his reverences to the queen.
"I thank you for this promptitude, Don Luis, having some need of
your services. Can you tell us what hath befel the Señor Christoval
Colon, the Genoese navigator, with whom, they inform me, you have some
"Forgive me, Señora, if aught unbecoming escape me; but a full
heart must be opened lest it break. The Genoese is about to shake the
dust of Spain from his shoes, and, at this moment, is on his journey
to another court, to proffer those services that this should never
"It is plain, Don Luis, that all thy leisure time hath not been
passed in courts," returned the queen, smiling; "but we have now
service for thy roving propensities. Mount thy steed, and pursue the
Señor Colon, with the tidings that his conditions will be granted, and
a request that he will forthwith return. I pledge my royal word, to
send him forth on this enterprise, with as little delay as the
necessary preparations and a suitable prudence will allow."
"Señora!—Doña Isabella!—My gracious queen!—Do I hear aright?"
"As a sign of the fidelity of thy senses, Don Luis, here is the
pledge of my hand."
This was said kindly, and the gracious manner in which the hand was
offered, brought a gleam of hope to the mind of the lover, which it
had not felt since he had been apprized that the queen's good opinion
was necessary to secure his happiness. Kneeling respectfully, he
kissed the hand of his sovereign, after which, without changing his
attitude, he desired to know if he should that instant depart on the
duty she had named.
"Rise, Don Luis, and lose not a moment to relieve the loaded heart
of the Goroese—I might almost say, to relieve ours, also; for,
Daughter-Marchioness, since this holy enterprise hath broken on my
mind with a sudden and almost miraculous light, it seemeth that a
mountain must lie on my breast until the Señor Christoval shall learn
Luis de Bobadilla did not wait a second bidding, but hurried from
the presence, as fast as etiquette would allow, and the next minute he
was in the saddle. At his appearance, Mercedes had shrunk into the
recess of a window, where she now, luckily, commanded a view of the
court. As her lover gained his seat, he caught a glimpse of her form;
and though the spurs were already in his charger's flanks, the rein
tightened, and the snorting steed was thrown suddenly on his haunches.
So elastic are the feelings of youth, so deceptive and flattering the
hopes of those who love, that the glances which were exchanged were
those of mutual delight. Neither thought of all the desperate chances
of the contemplated voyage; of the probability of its want of success;
or of the many motives which might still induce the queen to withhold
her consent. Mercedes awoke first from the short trance that
succeeded, for, taking the alarm at Luis's indiscreet delay, she
motioned him hurriedly to proceed. Again the rowels were buried in the
flanks of the noble animal; fire flashed beneath his armed heels,
and, at the next minute, Don Luis de Bobadilla had disappeared.
In the mean time, Columbus had pursued his melancholy journey
across the Vega. He travelled slowly, and several times, even after
his companion had left him, did he check his mule, and sit, with his
head dropped upon his breast, lost in thought, the very picture of
woe. The noble resignation that he manifested in public, nearly gave
way in private, and he felt, indeed, how hard his disappointments
were to be borne. In this desultory manner of travelling he had
reached the celebrated pass of the bridge of Piños, the scene of many
a sanguinary combat, when the sound of a horse's hoofs first overtook
his ear. Turning his head, he recognized Luis de Bobadilla in hot
pursuit, with the flanks of his horse dyed in blood, and his breast
white with foam.
"Joy! joy! a thousand times, joy, Señor Colon!" shouted the eager
youth, even before he was near enough to be distinctly heard. "Blessed
Maria be praised! Joy! Señor, joy! and nought but joy!"
"This is unexpected, Don Luis," exclaimed the navigator. "What
meaneth thy return?"
Luis now attempted to explain his errand, but eagerness and the
want of breath rendered his ideas confused and his utterance broken
"And why should I return to a hesitating, cold, and undecided
court?" demanded Columbus. "Have I not wasted years in striving to
urge it to its own good? Look at these hairs, young Señor, and
remember that I have lost a time that nearly equals all thy days, in
striving uselessly to convince the rulers of this peninsula that my
project is founded on truth."
"At length you have succeeded. Isabella, the true-hearted and
never-deceiving Queen of Castile, herself, hath awoke to the
importance of thy scheme, and pledges her royal word to favour it."
"Is this true?
Can this be true, Don Luis?"
"I am sent to you express, Señor, to urge your immediate return."
"By whom, young Lord?"
"By Doña Isabella, my gracious mistress, through her own personal
"I cannot forego a single condition already offered."
"It is not expected, Señor. Our excellent and generous mistress
granteth all you ask, and hath nobly offered, as I learn, to pledge
her private jewels, rather than that the enterprise fail."
Columbus was deeply touched with this information, and removing his
cap, he concealed his face with it, for a moment, as if ashamed to
betray the weakness that came over him. When he uncovered his face it
was radiant with happiness, and every doubt appeared to have vanished.
Years of suffering were forgotten in that moment of joy, and he
immediately signified his readiness to accompany the youth back to
"How beautiful is genius when combined
With holiness! Oh! how divinely sweet
The tones of earthly harp, whose chords are touch'd
By the soft hand of Piety, and hung
Upon Religion's shrine, there vibrating
With solemn music in the ear of God!"
Columbus was received by his friends Luis de St. Angel and Alonzo
de Quintanilla, with a gratification they found it difficult to
express. They were loud in their eulogiums on Isabella, and added to
the assurances of Don Luis, such proofs of the seriousness of the
queen's intentions, as to remove all doubts from the mind of the
navigator. He was then, without further delay, conducted to the
"Señor Colon," said Isabella, as the Genoese advanced and knelt at
her feet, "you are welcome back, again. All our misunderstandings are
finally removed, and henceforth, I trust that we shall act cheerfully
and unitedly to produce the same great end. Rise, Señor, and receive
this as a gage of my support and friendship."
Columbus saluted the offered hand, and arose from his knees. At
that instant, there was probably no one present whose feelings were
not raised to the buoyancy of hope; for it was a peculiarity connected
with the origin and execution of this great enterprise, that after
having been urged for so long a period, amid sneers, and doubts, and
ridicule, it was at first adopted with something very like enthusiasm.
"Señora," returned Columbus, whose grave aspect and noble mien
contributed not a little to the advancement of his views—"Señora, my
heart thanks you for this kindness— so welcome because so little
hoped for, this morning— and God will reward it. We have great
things in reserve, and I devoutly wish we may be all found equal to
our several duties. I hope my Lord the King will not withhold from my
undertaking the light of his gracious countenance."
"You are a servitor of Castile, Señor Colon, though little is
attempted for even this kingdom, without the approbation and consent
of the King of Aragon. Don Fernando hath been gained over to our side,
though his greater caution and superior wisdom have not as easily
fallen into the measure, as woman's faith and woman's hopes."
"I ask no higher wisdom, no truer faith, than those of Isabella's,"
said the navigator, with a grave dignity that rendered the compliment
so much the more acceptable, by giving it every appearance of
sincerity. "Her known prudence shall turn from me the derision of the
light-minded and idle, and on her royal word I place all my hopes.
Henceforth, and I trust for ever, I am Your Highness's subject and
The queen was deeply impressed with the air of lofty truth that
elevated the thoughts and manners of the speaker. Hitherto, she had
seen but little of the navigator, and never, before, under
circumstances that enabled her so thoroughly to feel the influence of
his air and deportment. Columbus had not the finish of manner that it
is fancied courts only can bestow, and which it would be more just to
refer to lives devoted to habits of pleasing; but the character of the
man shone through the exterior, and, in his case, all that artificial
training could supply fell short of the noble aspect of nature,
sustained by high aspirations. To a commanding person, and a gravity
that was heightened by the loftiness of his purposes, Columbus added
the sober earnestness of a deeply seated and an all-pervading
enthusiasm, which threw the grace of truth and probity on what he said
and did. No quality of his mind was more apparent than its sense of
right, as right was then considered in connection with the opinions of
the age; and it is a singular circumstance that the greatest adventure
of modern times was thus confided by Providence, as it might be with
especial objects, to the care of a sovereign and to the hands of an
executive leader, who were equally distinguished by the possession of
so rare a characteristic.
"I thank you, Señor, for this proof of confidence," returned the
queen, both surprised and gratified; "and so long as God giveth me
power to direct, and knowledge to decide, your interests, as well as
those of this long-cherished scheme, shall be looked to. But we are
not to exclude the king from our confederacy, since he hath been
finally gained to our opinions, and no doubt now as anxiously looketh
forward to success as we do ourselves."
Columbus bowed his acquiescence, and the conjugal affection of
Isabella was satisfied with this concession to her husband's character
and motives; for, while it was impossible that one so pure and ardent
in the cause of virtue, and as disinterested as the queen, should not
detect some of the selfishness of Ferdinand's cautious policy, the
feelings of a wife so far prevailed in her breast, over the sagacity
of the sovereign, as to leave her blind to faults that the enemies of
Aragon were fond of dwelling on. All admitted the truth of Isabella,
but Ferdinand had far less credit with his contemporaries, either on
the score of faith or on that of motives. Still he might have been
ranked among the most upright of the reigning princes of Europe, his
faults being rendered the more conspicuous, perhaps, from being
necessarily placed in such close connection with, and in such vivid
contrast to, the truer virtues of the queen. In short, these two
sovereigns, so intimately united by personal and political interests,
merely exhibited on their thrones a picture that may be seen, at any
moment, in all the inferior gradations of the social scale, in which
the worldly views and meretricious motives of man, serve as foils to
the truer heart, sincerer character, and more chastened conduct of
Don Fernando now appeared, and he joined in the discourse in a
manner to show that he considered himself fully committed to redeem
the pledges given by his wife. The historians have told us that he had
been won over by the intercessions of a favourite, though the better
opinion would seem to be that deference for Isabella, whose pure
earnestness in the cause of virtue often led him from his more
selfish policy, lay at the bottom of his compliance. Whatever may
have been the motive, however, it is certain that the king never
entered into the undertaking with the ardent, zealous, endeavours to
insure success, which, from that moment, distinguished the conduct of
his royal consort.
"We have recovered our truant," said Isabella, as her husband
approached, her eyes lighting and her cheeks flushed with a pious
enthusiasm, like those of Mercedes de Valverde, who was an entranced
witness of all that was passing. "We have recovered our truant, and
there is not a moment of unnecessary delay to be permitted, until he
shall be sent forth on this great voyage. Should he truly attain
Cathay and the Indies, it will be a triumph to the church even
exceeding this conquest of the territories of the Moor."
"I am pleased to see Señor Colon at Santa Fé, again," courteously
returned the king, "and if he but do the half of that thou seemest to
expect, we shall have reason to rejoice that our countenance hath not
been withheld. He may not render the crown of Castile still more
powerful, but he may so far enrich himself that, as a subject, he will
have difficulty in finding the proper uses for his gold."
"There will always be a use for the gold of a Christian," answered
the navigator, "while the Infidel remaineth the master of the Holy
"How is this!" exclaimed Ferdinand, in his quick, sharp voice:
"dost thou think, Señor, of a crusade, as well as of discovering new
"Such, Your Highness, it hath long been my hope, would be the first
appropriation of the wealth that will, out of question, flow from the
discovery of a new and near route to the Indies. Is it not a blot on
Christendom that the Mussulman should be permitted to raise his
profane altars on the spot that Christ visited on earth; where,
indeed, he was born, and where his holy remains lay until his glorious
resurrection? This foul disgrace, there are hearts and swords enough
ready to wipe out; all that is wanted is gold. If the first desire of
my heart be, to become the instrument of leading the way to the East,
by a western and direct passage, the second is, to see the riches that
will certainly follow such a discovery, devoted to the service of
God, by rearing anew his altars, and reviving his worship, in the
land where he endured his agony and gave up the ghost for the sins of
Isabella smiled at the navigator's enthusiasm, though, sooth to
say, the sentiment found something of an echo in her pious bosom;
albeit the age of crusades appeared to have gone by. Not so exactly
with Ferdinand. He smiled also, but no answering sentiment of holy
zeal was awakened within him. He felt, on the contrary, a strong
distrust of the wisdom of committing the care of even two
insignificant caravels, and the fate of a sum as small as three
thousand crowns, to a visionary, who had scarcely made a commencement
in one extremely equivocal enterprise, before his thoughts were
running on the execution of another, that had baffled the united
efforts and pious constancy of all Europe. To him, the discovery of a
western passage to the Indies, and the repossession of the holy
sepulchre, were results that were equally problematical, and it would
have been quite sufficient to incur his distrust, to believe in the
practicability of either. Here, however, was a man who was about to
embark in an attempt to execute the first, holding in reserve the
last, as a consequence of success in the undertaking in which he was
There were a few minutes, during which Ferdinand seriously
contemplated the defeat of the Genoese's schemes, and had the
discourse terminated here, it is uncertain how far his cool and
calculating policy might have prevailed over the good faith, sincere
integrity, and newly awakened enthusiasm of his wife. Fortunately, the
conversation had gone on while he was meditating on this subject, and
when he rejoined the circle he found the queen and the navigator
pursuing the subject with an earnestness that had entirely overlooked
his momentary absence.
"I shall show Your Highness all that she demandeth," continued
Columbus, in answer to a question of the queen's. "It is my
expectation to reach the territories of the Great Khan, the descendant
of the monarch who was visited by the Polos, a century since; at which
time a strong desire to embrace the religion of Christ was manifested
by many in that gorgeous court, the sovereign included. We are told
in the sacred books of prophecy, that the day is to arrive when the
whole earth will worship the true and living God; and that time, it
would seem, from many signs and tokens that are visible to those who
seek them, draweth near, and is full of hope to such as honour God and
seek his glory. To bring all those vast regions in subjection to the
church, needeth but a constant faith, sustained by the delegated
agencies of the priesthood, and the protecting hands of princes."
"This hath a seeming probability," observed the queen, "and
Providence so guide us in this mighty undertaking, that it may come to
pass! Were those Polos pious missionaries, Señor?"
"They were but travellers; men who sought their own advantage,
while they were not altogether unmindful of the duties of religion. It
may be well, Señora, first to plant the cross in the islands, and
thence to spread the truth over the main land. Cipango, in particular,
is a promising region for the commencement of the glorious work,
which, no doubt, will proceed with all the swiftness of a miracle."
"Is this Cipango known to produce spices, or aught that may serve
to uphold a sinking treasury, and repay us for so much cost and risk?"
asked the king, a little inopportunely for the zeal of the two other
Isabella looked pained, the prevailing trait in Ferdinand's
character often causing her to feel as affectionate wives are wont to
feel when their husbands forget to think, act, or speak up to the
level of their own warm-hearted and virtuous propensities; but she
suffered no other sign of the passing emotion to escape her.
"According to the accounts of Marco Polo, Your Highness," answered
Columbus, "earth hath no richer island. It aboundeth especially in
gold; nor are pearls and precious stones at all rare. But all that
region is a quarter of infinite wealth and benighted infidelity.
Providence seemeth to have united the first with the last, as a reward
to the Christian monarch who shall use his power to extend the sway
of the church. The sea, thereabouts, is covered with smaller islands,
Marco telling us that no less than seven thousand four hundred and
forty have been enumerated, not one of all which doth not produce some
odoriferous tree, or plant of delicious perfume. It is then, thither,
gracious Lord and Lady, my honoured sovereigns, that I propose to
proceed at once, leaving all meaner objects, to exalt the two kingdoms
and to serve the church. Should we reach Cipango in safety, as, by the
blessing of God, acting on a zeal and faith that are not easily
shaken, I trust we shall be able to do, in the course of two months'
diligent navigation, it will be my next purpose to pass over to the
continent, and seek the Khan himself, in his kingdom of Cathay. The
day that my foot touches the land of Asia will be a glorious day for
Spain, and for all who have had a part in the accomplishment of so
great an enterprise!"
Ferdinand's keen eyes were riveted on the navigator, as he thus
betrayed his hopes with the quiet but earnest manner of deep
enthusiasm, and he might have been at a loss, himself, just at that
moment, to have analyzed his own feelings. The picture of wealth that
Columbus had conjured to his imagination, was as enticing, as his cold
and calculating habits of distrust and caution rendered it
questionable. Isabella heard only, or thought only of the pious
longings of her pure spirit for the conversion and salvation of the
Infidels, and thus each of the two sovereigns had a favourite impulse
to bind him, or her, to the prosecution of the voyage.
After this, the conversation entered more into details, and the
heads of the terms demanded by Columbus were gone over again, and
approved of by those who were most interested in the matter. All
thought of the archbishop and his objections was momentarily lost, and
had the Genoese been a monarch, treating with monarchs, he could not
have had more reason to be satisfied with the respectful manner in
which his terms were heard. Even his proposal to receive one-eighth of
the profits of this, and all future expeditions to the places he might
discover, on condition of his advancing an equal proportion of the
outfits, was cheerfully acceded to; making him, at once, a partner
with the crown, in the risks and benefits of the many undertakings
that it was hoped would follow from the success of this.
Luis de St. Angel and Alonzo de Quintanilla quitted the royal
presence, in company with Columbus. They saw him to his lodgings, and
left him with a respect and cordiality of manner, that cheered a heart
which had lately been so bruised and disappointed. As they walked
away, in company, the former, who, notwithstanding the liberality of
his views and his strong support of the navigator, was not apt to
suppress his thoughts, opened a dialogue in the following manner.
"By all the saints! friend Alonzo," he exclaimed, "but this Colon
carrieth it with a high hand among us, and in a way, sometimes, to
make me doubt the prudence of our interference. He hath treated with
the two sovereigns like a monarch, and like a monarch hath he carried
"Who hath aided him more than thyself, friend Luis?" returned
Alonzo de Quintanilla; "for, without thy bold assault on Doña
Isabella's patience, the matter had been decided against this voyage,
and the Genoese would still be on his way to the court of King Louis."
"I regret it not; the chance of keeping the Frenchman within modest
bounds being worth a harder effort. Her Highness—Heaven and all the
saints unite to bless her for her upright intentions and generous
thoughts—will never regret the trifling cost, even though bootless,
with so great an aim in view. But now the thing is done, I marvel,
myself, that a Queen of Castile and a King of Aragon should grant
such conditions to an unknown and nameless seafarer; one that hath
neither services, family, nor gold, to recommend him!"
"Hath he not had Luis de St. Angel of his side?"
"That hath he," returned the receiver-general, "and that right
stoutly, too; and for good and sufficient cause. I only marvel at our
success, and at the manner in which this Colon hath borne himself in
the affair. I much feared that the high price he set upon his services
might ruin all our hopes."
"And yet thou didst reason with the queen, as if thou thought'st it
insignificant, compared with the good that would come of the voyage."
"Is there aught wonderful in this, my worthy friend? We consume our
means in efforts to obtain our ends, and, while suffering under the
exhaustion, begin first to see the other side of the question. I am
chiefly surprised at mine own success! As for this Genoese, he is,
truly, a most wonderful man, and, in my heart, I think him right in
demanding such high conditions. If he succeed, who so great as he?
and, if he fail, the conditions will do him no good, and Castile
"I have remarked, Señor de St. Angel, that when grave men set a
light value on themselves, the world is apt to take them at their
word, though willing enough to laugh at the pretensions of triflers.
After all, the high demands of Colon may have done him much service,
since their Highnesses could not but feel that they were negotiating
with one who had faith in his own projects."
"It is much as thou sayest, Alonzo; men often prizing us as we seem
to prize ourselves, so long as we act at all up to the level of our
pretensions. But there is sterling merit in this Colon, to sustain him
in all that he sayeth and doth; wisdom of speech, dignity and gravity
of mien, and nobleness of feeling and sentiment. Truly, I have
listened to the man when he hath seemed inspired!"
"Well, he hath now good occasion to manifest whether this
inspiration be of the true quality or not," returned the other. "Of a
verity, I often distrust the wisdom of our own conclusions."
In this manner, did even these two zealous friends of Columbus
discuss his character and chances of success; for, while they were
among the most decided of his supporters, and had discovered the
utmost readiness to uphold him, when his cause seemed hopeless, now
that the means were likely to be afforded to allow him to demonstrate
the justice of his opinions, doubts and misgivings beset their minds.
Such is human nature. Opposition awakens our zeal, quickens our
apprehension, stimulates our reason and emboldens our opinions; while,
thrown back upon ourselves for the proofs of what we have been long
stoutly maintaining under the pressure of resistance, we begin to
distrust the truth of our own theories and to dread the demonstrations
of a failure. Even the first disciples of the Son of God faltered
most in their faith as his predictions were being realized; and most
reformers are never so dogmatical and certain as when battling for
their principles, or so timid and wavering as when they are about to
put their own long-cherished plans in execution. In all this, we might
see a wise provision of Providence, which gives us zeal to overcome
difficulties, and prudence when caution and moderation become virtues
rather than faults.
Although Luis de St. Angel and his friend conversed thus freely
together, however, they did not the less continue true to their
original feelings. Their doubts were transient and of little account;
and it was remarked of them, whenever they were in the presence of
Columbus, himself, that the calm, steady, but deeply seated enthusiasm
of that extraordinary man, did not fail to carry with him, the
opinions not only of these steady supporters, but those of most other
—"Song is on thy hills:
Oh, sweet and mournful melodies of Spain,
That lull'd my boyhood, how your memory thrills
The exile's heart with sudden-wakening pain."
The Forest Sanctuary.
From the moment that Isabella pledged her royal word to support
Columbus in his great design, all reasonable doubts of the sailing of
the expedition ceased, though few anticipated any results of
importance. Of so much greater magnitude, indeed, did the conquest of
the kingdom of Granada appear, at that instant, than any probable
consequences which could follow from this novel enterprise, that the
latter was almost overlooked in the all-absorbing interest that was
connected with the former.
There was one youthful and generous heart, however, all of whose
hopes were concentrated in the success of the great voyage. It is
scarcely necessary to add, we mean that of Mercedes de Valverde. She
had watched the recent events as they occurred, with an intensity of
expectation that perhaps none but the youthful, fervent,
inexperienced, and uncorrupted, can feel; and now that all her hopes
were about to be realized, a tender and generous joy diffused itself
over her whole moral system, in a way to render her happiness, for the
time, even blissful. Although she loved so truly and with so much
feminine devotedness, nature had endowed this warm-hearted young
creature with a sagacity and readiness of apprehension, which, when
quickened by the sentiments that are so apt to concentrate all the
energies of her sex, showed her the propriety of the distrust of the
queen and her guardian, and fully justified their hesitation in her
eyes, which were rather charmed than blinded by the ascendency of her
passion. She knew too well what was due to her virgin fame, her high
expectations, her great name, and her elevated position near the
person, and in the immediate confidence, of Isabella, even to wish her
hand unworthily bestowed; and while she deferred, with the dignity and
discretion of birth and female decorum, to all that opinion and
prudence could have a right to ask of a noble maiden, she confided in
her lover's power to justify her choice, with the boundless confidence
of a woman. Her aunt had taught her to believe that this voyage of
the Genoese was likely to lead to great events, and her religious
enthusiasm, like that of the queen's, led her to expect most of that
which she so fervently wished.
During the time it was known to those near the person of Isabella,
that the conditions between the sovereigns and the navigator were
being reduced to writing and were receiving the necessary forms, Luis
neither sought an interview with his mistress, nor was accidentally
favoured in that way; but, no sooner was it understood Columbus had
effected all that he deemed necessary in this particular, and had
quitted the court for the coast, than the young man threw himself, at
once, on the generosity of his aunt, beseeching her to favour his
views now that he was about to leave Spain on an adventure that most
regarded as desperate. All he asked was a pledge of being well
received by his mistress and her friends, on his return successful.
"I see that thou hast taken a lesson from this new master of
thine," answered the high-souled but kind-hearted Beatriz,
smiling—"and would fain have thy terms also. But thou knowest, Luis,
that Mercedes de Valverde is no peasant's child to be lightly cared
for, but that she cometh of the noblest blood of Spain, having had a
Guzman for a mother, and Mendozas out of number among her kinsmen.
She is, moreover, one of the richest heiresses of Castile; and it
would ill become her guardian to forget her watchfulness, under such
circumstances, in behalf of one of the idle wanderers of Christendom,
simply because he happeneth to be her own beloved brother's son."
"And if the Doña Mercedes be all thou sayest, Señora— and thou
hast not even touched upon her highest claims to merit, her heart, her
beauty, her truth and her thousand virtues — but if she be all that
thou sayest, Doña Beatriz, is a Bobadilla unworthy of her?"
"How! if she be, moreover, all
thou sayest too, Don Luis!
The heart, the truth, and the thousand virtues! Methinks a shorter
catalogue might content one who is himself so great a rover, lest some
of these qualities be lost, in his many journeys!"
Luis laughed, in spite of himself, at the affected seriousness of
his aunt; and then successfully endeavouring to repress a little
resentment that her language awakened, he answered in a way to do no
discredit to a well-established reputation for good-nature.
"I cannot call thee `Daughter-Marchioness,' in imitation of Her
Highness," he answered, with a coaxing smile, so like that her
deceased brother was wont to use when disposed to wheedle her out of
some concession, that it fairly caused Doña Beatriz to start—"but I
can say with more truth, `Aunt-Marchioness,' — and a very dear aunt,
too — wilt thou visit a little youthful indiscretion so severely? I
had hoped, now Colon was about to set forth, that all was forgotten in
the noble and common end we have in view."
"Luis," returned the aunt, regarding her nephew with the severe
resolution that was so often exhibited in her acts, as well as in her
words, "dost think that a mere display of courage will prove
sufficient to win Mercedes from me? to put to sleep the vigilance of
her friends? to gain the approbation of her guardian? Learn, too
confident boy, that Mercedes de Guzman was the companion of my
childhood; my warmest, dearest friend, next to Her Highness; and that
she put all faith in my disposition to do full justice by her child.
She died by slow degrees, and the fate of the orphan was often
discussed between us. That she could ever become the wife of any but a
Christian noble, neither of us imagined possible; but there are so
many different characters under the same outward professions, that
names deceived us not. I do believe that poor woman bethought her more
of her child's future worldly fortunes, than of her own sins, and that
she prayed oftener for the happy conclusion of the first, than for the
pardon of the last! Thou knowest little of the strength of a mother's
love, Luis, and canst not understand all the doubts that beset the
heart, when the parent is compelled to leave a tender plant, like
Mercedes, to the cold nursing of a selfish and unfeeling world."
"I can readily fancy the mother of my love fitted for heaven
without the usual interpositions of masses and paters, Doña Beatriz;
but have aunts no consideration for nephews, as well as mothers for
"The tie is close and strong, my child, and yet is it not parental;
nor art thou a sensitive, true-hearted, enthusiastic girl, filled with
the confidence of thy purity, and overflowing with the affections
that, in the end, make mothers what they are."
"By San Iago! and am I not the very youth to render such a creature
happy? I, too, am sensitive — too much so, in sooth, for my own
peace: I, too, am true-hearted, as is seen by my having had but this
one love, when I might have had fifty; and if I am not exactly
overflowing with the confidence of purity, I have the confidence of
youth, health, strength and courage, which is quite as useful for a
cavalier; and I have abundance of the affection that makes good
fathers, which is all that can reasonably be asked of a man."
"Thou, then, thinkest thyself, truant, every way worthy to be the
husband of Mercedes de Valverde?"
"Nay, aunt of mine, thou hast a searching way with thy questions!
Who is, or can be, exactly worthy of so much excellence! I may not be
altogether deserving of her, but, then again, I am not
altogether undeserving of her. I am quite as noble, nearly as
well endowed with estates, of suitable years, of fitting address as a
knight, and love her better than I love my own soul. Methinks the
last should count for something, since he that loveth devotedly, will
surely strive to render its object happy."
"Thou art a silly, inexperienced boy, with a most excellent heart,
a happy careless disposition, and a head that was made to hold better
thoughts than commonly reside there!" exclaimed the aunt, giving way
to an impulse of natural feeling, even while she frowned on her
nephew's folly. "But, hear me, and for once think gravely, and
reflect on what I say. I have told thee of the mother of Mercedes, of
her dying doubts, her anxiety, and of her confidence in me. Her
Highness and I were alone with her, the morning of the day that her
spirit took its flight to heaven; and then she poured out all her
feelings, in a way that has left on us both, an impression that can
never cease while aught can be done by either for the security of the
daughter's happiness. Thou hast thought the queen unkind. I know not
but, in thy intemperate speech, thou hast dared to charge Her Highness
with carrying her care for her subjects' well-being beyond a
"Nay, Doña Beatriz," hastily interrupted Luis, "herein thou dost me
great injustice. I may have felt—no doubt I have keenly,
bitterly, felt the consequences of Doña Isabella's distrust of my
constancy; but never has rebel thought of mine even presumed to doubt
her right to command all our services, as well as all our lives. This
is due to her sacred authority from all; but we, who so well know the
heart and motives of the queen, also know that she doth nought from
caprice or a desire to rule; while she doth so much from affection to
As Don Luis uttered this with an earnest look, and features flushed
with sincerity, it was impossible not to see that he meant as much as
he said. If men considered the consequences that often attend their
lightest words, less levity of speech would be used, and the office of
talebearer, the meanest station in the whole catalogue of social
rank, would become extinct for want of occupation. Few cared less, or
thought less, about the consequences of what they uttered, than Luis
de Bobadilla; and yet this hasty but sincere reply did him good
service with more than one of those who exercised a material influence
over his fortunes. The honest praise of the queen went directly to
the heart of the Marchioness, who rather idolized than loved her royal
mistress, the long and close intimacy that had existed between them
having made her thoroughly acquainted with the pure and almost holy
character of Isabella; and when she repeated the words of her nephew
to the latter, her own well-established reputation for truth caused
them to be implicitly believed. Whatever may be the correctness of our
views in general, one of the most certain ways to the feelings is the
assurance of being respected and esteemed; while, of all the divine
mandates, the most difficult to find obedience is that which tells us
to "love those who hate" us. Isabella, notwithstanding her high
destiny and lofty qualities, was thoroughly a woman; and when she
discovered that in spite of her own coldness to the youth, he really
entertained so much profound deference for her character, and
appreciated her feelings and motives in a way that conscience told her
she merited, she was much better disposed to look at his peculiar
faults with indulgence, and to ascribe that to mere animal spirits,
which, under less favourable auspices, might possibly have been
mistaken for ignoble propensities.
But this is a little anticipating events. The first consequence of
Luis's speech was a milder expression in the countenance of his aunt,
and a disposition to consider his entreaties to be admitted to a
private interview with Mercedes, with more indulgence.
"I may have done thee injustice in this, Luis," resumed Doña
Beatriz, betraying in her manner the sudden change of feeling
mentioned; "for I do think thee conscious of thy duty to Her Highness,
and of the almost heavenly sense of justice that reigneth in her
heart, and through that heart, in Castile. Thou hast not lost in my
esteem by thus exhibiting thy respect and love for the queen, for it
is impossible to have any regard for female virtue, and not to
manifest it to its best representative."
"Do I not, also, dear aunt, in my attachment to thy ward? Is not my
very choice, in some sort, a pledge of the truth and justice of my
feelings in these particulars?"
"Ah! Luis de Bobadilla, it is not difficult to teach the heart to
lean towards the richest and the noblest, when she happeneth also to
be the fairest, maiden of Spain!"
"And am I a hypocrite, Marchioness? Dost thou accuse the son of thy
brother of being a feigner of that which he doth not feel?—one
influenced by so mean a passion as the love of gold and of lands?"
"Foreign lands, heedless boy," returned the aunt, smiling, "but not
of others' lands. No, Luis, none that know thee will accuse thee of
hypocrisy. We believe in the truth and ardour of thy attachment, and
it is for that very cause that we most distrust thy passion."
"How! Are feigned feelings of more repute with the queen and
thyself, than real feelings? A spurious and fancied love, than the
honest, downright, manly passion?"
"It is this genuine feeling, this honest, downright, manly passion,
as thou termest it, which is most apt to awaken sympathy in the tender
bosom of a young girl. There is no truer touch-stone, by which to try
the faithfulness of feelings, than the heart, when the head is not
turned by vanity; and the more unquestionable the passion, the easier
is it for its subject to make the discovery. Two drops of water do
not glide together more naturally than two hearts, nephew, when there
is a strong affinity between them. Didst thou not really love
Mercedes, as my near and dear relative, thou might'st laugh and sing
in her company at all times that should be suitable for the dignity of
a maiden, and it would not cause me an uneasy moment."
"I am thy near and dear relative, aunt of mine, with a miracle! and
yet it is more difficult for me to get a sight of thy ward"—
"Who is the especial care of the Queen of Castile."
"Well, be it so; and why should a Bobadilla be proscribed by even a
Queen of Castile?"
Luis then had recourse to his most persuasive powers, and,
improving the little advantage he had gained, by dint of coaxing and
teasing he so far prevailed on Doña Beatriz as to obtain a promise
that she would apply to the queen for permission to grant him one
private interview with Mercedes. We say the queen, since Isabella,
distrusting the influence of blood, had cautioned the Marchioness on
this subject; and the prudence of letting the young people see each
other as little as possible, had been fully settled between them. It
was in redeeming this promise, that the aunt related the substance of
the conversation that has just been given, and mentioned to her royal
mistress the state of her nephew's feelings as respected herself. The
effect of such information was necessarily favourable to the young
man's views, and one of its first fruits was the desired permission to
have the interview he sought.
"They are not sovereigns," remarked the queen, with a smile that
the favourite could see was melancholy, though it surpassed her means
of penetration to say whether it proceeded from a really saddened
feeling, or whether it were merely the manner in which the mind is apt
to glance backward at emotions that it is known can never be again
awakened in our bosoms; — "they are not sovereigns,
Daughter-Marchioness, to woo by proxy, and wed as strangers. It may
not be wise to suffer the intercourse to become too common, but it
were cruel to deny the youth, as he is about to depart on an
enterprise of so doubtful issue, one opportunity to declare his
passion and to make his protestations of constancy. If thy ward hath,
in truth, any tenderness for him, the recollection of this interview
will soothe many a weary hour while Don Luis is away."
"And add fuel to the flame," returned Doña Beatriz, pointedly.
"We know not that, my good Beatriz, since, the heart being softened
by the power of God to a sense of its religious duties, may not the
same kind hand direct it and shield it in the indulgence of its more
worldly feelings? Mercedes will never forget her duty, and, the
imagination feeding itself, it may not be the wisest course to leave
that of an enthusiast like our young charge, so entirely to its own
pictures. Realities are often less hazardous than the creatures of the
fancy. Then, thy nephew will not be a loser by the occasion, for, by
keeping constantly in view the object he now seemeth to pursue so
earnestly, he will the more endeavour to deserve success."
"I much fear, Señora, that the best conclusions are not to be
depended on in an affair that touches the waywardness of the feelings."
"Perhaps not, Beatriz; and yet I do not see that we can well deny
this interview, now that Don Luis is so near departure. Tell him I
accord him that which he so desireth, and let him bear in mind that a
grandee should never quit Castile without presenting himself before
"I fear, Your Highness," returned the marchioness, laughing, "that
Don Luis will feel this last command, however gracious and kind in
fact, as a strong rebuke, since he hath more than once done this
already, without even presenting himself before his own aunt!"
"On those occasions he went idly, and without consideration; but he
is now engaged in an honourable and noble enterprise, and we will make
it apparent to him that all feel the difference."
The conversation now changed, it being understood that the request
of the young man was to be granted. Isabella had, in this instance,
departed from a law she had laid down for her own government, under
the influence of her womanly feelings, which often caused her to
forget that she was a queen, when no very grave duties existed to keep
alive the recollection; for it would have been difficult to decide in
which light this pure-minded and excellent female most merited the
esteem of mankind — in her high character as a just and
conscientious sovereign, or when she acted more directly under the
gentler impulses of her sex. As for her friend, she was perhaps more
tenacious of doing what she conceived to be her duty, by her ward,
than the queen herself; since, with a greater responsibility, she was
exposed to the suspicion of acting with a design to increase the
wealth and to strengthen the connections of her own family. Still, the
wishes of Isabella were laws to the Marchioness of Moya, and she
sought an early opportunity to acquaint her ward with her intention to
allow Don Luis, for once, to plead his own cause with his mistress,
before he departed on his perilous and mysterious enterprise.
Our heroine received this intelligence with the mingled sensations
of apprehension, delight, misgivings, and joy, that are so apt to
beset the female heart, in the freshness of its affections, when once
brought in subjection to the master-passion. She had never thought it
possible Luis would sail on an expedition like that in which he was
engaged, without endeavouring to see her alone; but, now she was
assured that both the queen and her guardian acquiesced in his being
admitted, she almost regretted their compliance. These contradictory
emotions, however, soon subsided in the tender melancholy that
gradually drew around her manner, as the hour for the departure
approached. Nor were her feelings on the subject of Luis's ready
enlistment in the expedition, more consistent. At times she exulted in
her lover's resolution, and in his manly devotion to glory and the
good of the church; remembering with pride that, of all the high
nobility of Castile, he alone ventured life and credit with the
Genoese; and then, again, tormenting doubts came over her, as she
feared that the love of roving, and of adventure, was quite as active
in his heart, as love of herself. But, in all this there was nothing
new. The more pure and ingenuous the feelings of those who truly
submit to the influence of this passion, the more keenly alive are
their distrusts apt to be, and the more tormenting their misgivings of
Her mind made up, Doña Beatriz acted fairly by the young people. As
soon as Luis was admitted to her own presence, on the appointed
morning, she told him that he was expected by Mercedes, who was
waiting his appearance in the usual reception-room. Scarce giving
himself time to kiss the hand of his aunt, and to make those other
demonstrations of respect that the customs of the age required from
the young to their seniors — more especially when there existed
between them a tie of blood as close as that which united the
Marchioness of Moya with the Conde de Llera — the young man bounded
away, and was soon in the presence of his mistress. As Mercedes was
prepared for the interview, she betrayed the feeling of the moment
merely by a heightened colour, and the greater lustre of eyes that
were always bright, though often so soft and melancholy.
"Luis!" escaped from her, and then, as if ashamed of the emotion
betrayed in the very tones of her voice, she withdrew the foot that
had involuntarily advanced to meet him, even while she kept a hand
extended in friendly confidence.
"Mercedes!" and the hand was withdrawn to put a stop to the kisses
with which it was covered. "Thou art harder to be seen, of late, than
it will be to discover this Cathay of the Genoese; for, between the
Doña Isabella and Doña Beatriz, never was paradise watched more
closely by guardian angels, than thy person is watched by thy
"And can it be necessary, Luis, when thou art the danger
"Do they think I shall carry thee off, like some Moorish girl borne
away on the crupper of a Christian knight's saddle, and place thee in
the caravel of Colon, that we may go in search of Prestor John and the
Great Khan, in company?"
"They may think
thee capable of this act of madness, dear
Luis, but they will hardly suspect me."
"No, thou art truly a model of prudence in all matters that require
feeling for thy lover."
"Luis!" exclaimed the girl, again; and this time unbidden tears
started to her eyes.
"Forgive me, Mercedes—dearest, dearest Mercedes; but this delay
and all these coldly cruel precautions make me forget myself. Am I a
needy and unknown adventurer, that they treat me thus, instead of
being a noble Castilian knight!"
"Thou forgettest, Luis, that noble Castilian maidens are not wont
to see even noble Castilian cavaliers alone, and, but for the gracious
condescension of Her Highness, and the indulgence of my guardian, who
happeneth to be thy aunt, this interview could not take place."
"Alone!—And dost thou call this being alone, or any excessive
favour on the part of Her Highness, when thou seest that we are
watched by the eye, if not by the ear? I fear to speak above my
breath, lest the sounds should disturb that venerable lady's
As Luis de Bobadilla uttered this, he glanced his eye at the figure
of the dueña of his mistress, whose person was visible through an open
door, in an adjoining room, where the good woman sate, intently
occupied in reading certain homilies.
"Dost mean my poor Pepita," answered Mercedes, laughing; for the
presence of her attendant, to whom she had been accustomed from
infancy, was no more restraint on her own innocent thoughts and words,
than would have proved a reduplication of herself, had such a thing
been possible. "Many have been her protestations against this
meeting, which she insists is contrary to all rule among noble
ladies, and which, she says, would never have been accorded by my
poor, sainted, mother, were she still living."
"Ay, she hath a look that is sufficient of itself to set every
generous mind a-tilting with her. One can see envy of thy beauty and
youth, in every wrinkle of her unamiable face."
"Then little dost thou know my excellent Pepita, who envieth
nothing, and who hath but one marked weakness, and that is, too much
affection, and too much indulgence, for myself."
"I detest a dueña; ay, as I detest an Infidel!"
"Señor," said Pepita, whose vigilant ears, notwithstanding her book
and the homilies, heard all that passed, "this is a common feeling
among youthful cavaliers, I fear; but they tell me that the very dueña
who is so displeasing to the lover, getteth to be a grateful object,
in time, with the husband. As my features and wrinkles, however, are
so disagreeable to you, and no doubt cause you pain, by closing this
door the sight will be shut out, as, indeed, will be the sound of my
unpleasant cough, and of your own protestations of love, Señor Knight."
This was said in much better language than was commonly used by
women of the dueña's class, and with a good-nature that seemed
indomitable, it being completely undisturbed by Luis's petulant
"Thou shalt not close the door, Pepita," cried Mercedes, blushing
rosy red, and springing forward to interpose her own hand against the
act. "What is there that the Conde de Llera can have to say to one
like me, that thou mayest not hear?"
"Nay, dear child, the noble cavalier is about to talk of love!"
"And is it thou, with whom the language of affection is so
uncommon, that it frighteneth thee! Hath thy discourse been of aught
but love, since thou hast known and cared for me?"
"It augureth badly for thy suit, Señor," said Pepita, smiling,
while she suspended the movement of the hand that was about to close
the door, "if Doña Mercedes thinketh of your love as she thinketh of
mine. Surely, child, thou dost not fancy me a gay, gallant young
noble, come to pour out his soul at thy feet, and mistakest my simple
words of affection for such as will be likely to flow from the honeyed
tongue of a Bobadilla, bent on gaining his suit with the fairest
maiden of Castile?"
Mercedes shrunk back, for, though innocent as purity itself, her
heart taught her the difference between the language of her lover and
the language of her nurse, even when each most expressed affection.
Her hand released its hold of the wood, and unconsciously was laid,
with its pretty fellow, on her crimsoned face. Pepita profited by her
advantage, and closed the door. A smile of triumph gleamed on the
handsome features of Luis, and, after he had forced his mistress, by a
gentle compulsion, to resume the seat from which she had risen to meet
him, he threw himself on a stool at her feet, and stretching out his
well-turned limbs in an easy attitude, so as to allow himself to gaze
into the beautiful face that he had set up, like an idol, before him,
he renewed the discourse.
"This is a paragon of dueñas," he cried, "and I might have known
that none of the ill-tempered, unreasonable school of such beings,
would be tolerated near thy person. This Pepita is a jewel, and she
may consider herself established in her office for life, if, by the
cunning of this Genoese, mine own resolution, the queen's repentance,
and thy gentle favour, I ever prove so lucky as to become thy
"Thou forgettest, Luis," answered Mercedes, trembling even while
she laughed at her own conceit, "that if the husband esteemeth the
dueña the lover could not endure, that the lover may esteem the dueña
that the husband may be unwilling to abide."
"Peste! these are crooked matters, and ill-suited to the
straight-forward philosophy of Luis de Bobadilla. There is one thing
only, which I can, or do, pretend to know, out of any controversy, and
that I am ready to maintain in the face of all the doctors of
Salamanca, or all the chivalry of Christendom, that of the Infidel
included; which is, that thou art the fairest, sweetest, best, most
virtuous, and in all things the most winning maiden of Spain, and that
no other living knight so loveth and honoureth his mistress as I love
and honour thee!"
The language of admiration is ever soothing to female ears, and
Mercedes, giving to the words of the youth an impression of sincerity
that his manner fully warranted, forgot the dueña and her little
interruption, in the delight of listening to declarations that were so
grateful to her affections. Still, the coyness of her sex, and the
recent date of their mutual confidence, rendered her answer less open
than it might otherwise have been.
"I am told," she said, "that you young cavaliers, who pant for
occasions to show your skill and courage with the lance, and in the
tourney, are ever making some such protestations in favour of this or
that noble maiden, in order to provoke others like themselves to make
counter assertions, that they may show their prowess as knights, and
gain high names for gallantry."
"This cometh of being so much shut up in Doña Beatriz's private
rooms, lest some bold Spanish eyes should look profanely on thy
beauty, Mercedes. We are not in the age of the errants and the
troubadours, when men committed a thousand follies that they might be
thought weaker even than nature had made them. In that age, your
knights discoursed largely of love, but in our own they feel
it. In sooth, I think this savoureth of some of the profound morality
"Say nought against Pepita, Luis, who hath much befriended thee
to-day, else would thy tongue, and thine eyes too, be under the
restraint of her presence. But that which thou termest the morality of
the good dueña, is, in truth, the morality of the excellent and most
noble Doña Beatriz de Cabrera, Marchioness of Moya, who was born a
lady of the House of Bobadilla, I believe."
"Well, well, I dare to say there is no great difference between the
lessons of a duchess and the lessons of a due ña, in the privacy of
the closet, when there is one like thee, beautiful, and rich, and
virtuous, to guard. They say you young maidens are told that we
cavaliers are so many ogres, and that the only way to reach paradise
is to think nought of us but evil, and then, when some suitable
marriage hath been decided on, the poor young creature is suddenly
alarmed by an order to come forth and be wedded to one of these very
"And, in this mode, hast thou been treated! It would seem that much
pains are taken to make the young of the two sexes think ill of each
other. But, Luis, this is pure idleness, and we waste in it most
precious moments; moments that may never return. How go matters with
Colon— and when is he like to quit the court?"
"He hath already departed; for having obtained all he hath sought
of the queen, he quitted Santa Fé, with the royal authority to sustain
him in the fullest manner. If thou hearest aught of one Pedro de
Muños, or Pero Gutierrez, at the court of Cathay, thou wilt know on
whose shoulders to lay his follies."
"I would rather that thou should'st undertake this voyage in thine
own name, Luis, than under a feigned appellation. Concealments of this
nature are seldom wise, and surely thou dost not undertake the
enterprise"—the tell-tale blood stole to the cheeks of Mercedes as
she proceeded — "with a motive that need bring shame."
"'T is the wish of my aunt; as for myself, I would put thy favour
in my casque, thy emblem on my shield, and let it be known, far and
near, that Luis of Llera sought the court of Cathay with the intent to
defy its chivalry to produce as fair or as virtuous a maiden as
"We are not in the age of errants, sir knight, but in one of reason
and truth," returned Mercedes, laughing, though every syllable that
proved the earnest and entire devotion of the young man went directly
to her heart, strengthening his hold on it, and increasing the flame
that burnt within, by adding the fuel that was most adapted to that
purpose—"we are not in the age of knights-errant, Don Luis de
Bobadilla, as thou thyself hast just affirmed; but one in which even
the lover is reflecting, and as apt to discover the faults of his
lady-love, as to dwell upon her perfections. I look for better things
from thee, than to hear that thou hast ridden through the highways of
Cathay, defying to combat, and seeking giants, in order to exalt my
beauty, and tempting others to decry it, if it were only out of pure
opposition to thy idle boastings. Ah! Luis, thou art now engaged in a
most truly noble enterprise, one that will join thy name to those of
the applauded of men, and which will form thy pride and exultation in
after-life, when the eyes of us both shall be dimmed by age, and we
shall look back with longings to discover aught of which to be proud."
It was thrice pleasant to the youth to hear his mistress, in the
innocence of her heart, and in the fulness of her feelings, thus
uniting his fate with her own; and when she ceased speaking, all
unconscious how much might be indirectly implied from her words, he
still listened intently, as if he would fain hear the sounds after
they had died on his ear.
"What enterprise can be nobler, more worthy to awaken all my
resolution, than to win thy hand!" he exclaimed, after a short pause.
"I follow Colon with no other object; share his chances, to remove the
objections of Doña Isabella; and will accompany him to the earth's
end, rather than that thy choice should be dishonoured. Thou
art my Great Khan, beloved Mercedes, and thy smiles and
affection are the only Cathay I seek."
"Say not so, dear Luis, for thou knowest not the nobility of thine
own soul, nor the generosity of thine own intentions. This is a
stupendous project of Colon's, and much as I rejoice that he hath had
the imagination to conceive it, and the heart to undertake it in his
own person, on account of the good it must produce to the heathen, and
the manner in which it will necessarily redound to the glory of God,
still I fear that I am equally gladdened with the recollection that
thy name will be for ever associated with the great achievement, and
thy detractors put to shame with the resolution and spirit with which
so noble an end will have been attained."
"This is nothing but truth, Mercedes, should we reach the Indies;
but, should the saints desert us, and our project fail, I fear that
even thou would'st be ashamed to confess an interest in an unfortunate
adventurer who hath returned without success, and thereby made himself
the subject of sneers and derision, instead of wearing the honourable
distinction that thou seemest so confidently to expect."
"Then, Luis de Bobadilla, thou knowest me not," answered Mercedes,
hastily, and speaking with a tender earnestness that brought the blood
into her cheeks, gradually brightening the brilliancy of her eyes,
until they shone with a lustre that seemed almost
supernatural—"then, Luis de Bobadilla, thou knowest me not. I wish
thee to share in the glory of this enterprise, because calumny and
censure have not been altogether idle with thy youth, and because I
feel that Her Highness's favour is most easily obtained by it; but, if
thou believest that the spirit to engage with Colon was necessary to
incline me to think kindly of my guardian's nephew, thou neither
understandest the sentiments that draw me towards thee, nor hast a
just appreciation of the hours of sorrow I have suffered on thy
"Dearest, most generous, noble-hearted girl, I am unworthy of thy
truth, of thy pure sincerity, and of all thy devoted feelings! Drive
me from thee, at once, that I may ne'er again cause thee a moment's
"Nay, Luis, thy remedy, I fear me, would prove worse than the
disease that thou would'st cure," returned the beautiful girl, smiling
and blushing as she spoke, and turning her eloquent eyes on the youth
in a way to avow volumes of tenderness. "With thee must I be happy, or
unhappy, as Providence may will it; or miserable without thee."
The conversation now took that unconnected, and yet comprehensive
cast, which is apt to characterize the discourse of those who feel as
much as they reason, and it covered more interests, sentiments, and
events, than our limits will allow us to record. As usual, Luis was
inconsistent, jealous, repentant, full of passion and protestations,
fancying a thousand evils at one instant, and figuring in his
imagination a terrestrial paradise at the next; while Mercedes was
enthusiastic, generous, devoted, and yet high-principled,
self-denying, and womanly; meeting her ardent suitor's vows with a
tenderness that seemed to lose all other considerations in her love,
and repelling with maiden coyness, and with the dignity of her sex,
his rhapsodies, whenever they touched upon the exaggerated and
The interview lasted an hour, and it is scarce necessary to say
that vows of constancy, and pledges never to marry another, were
given, again and again. As the time for separating approached,
Mercedes opened a small casket that contained her jewels, and drew
forth one which she offered to her lover as a gage of her truth.
"I will not give thee a glove to wear in thy casque at tourneys,
Luis," she said, "but I offer this holy symbol, which may remind thee,
at the same moment, of the great pursuit thou hast before thee, and of
her who will wait its issue with doubts and fears little less active
than those of Colon himself. Thou need'st no other crucifix to say thy
paters before, and these stones are sapphires, which thou knowest are
the tokens of fidelity — a feeling that thou may'st encourage as
respects thy lasting welfare, and which it would not grieve me to know
thou kept'st ever active in thy bosom when thinking of the unworthy
giver of the trifle."
This was said half in melancholy, and half in lightness of heart,
for Mercedes felt at parting, both a weight of sorrow that was hard to
be borne, and a buoyancy of the very feeling to which she had just
alluded, that much disposed her to smile; and it was said with those
winning accents with which the youthful and tender avow their
emotions, when the heart is subdued by the thoughts of absence and
dangers. The gift was a small cross, formed of the stones she had
named, and of great intrinsic value, as well as precious from the
motives and character of her who offered it.
"Thou hast had a care of my soul, in this, Mercedes," said Luis,
smiling, when he had kissed the jewelled cross again and again—"and
art resolved if the sovereign of Cathay should refuse to be converted
to our faith, that we shall not be converted to his. I fear that my
offering will appear tame and valueless in thine eyes, after so
precious a boon."
"One lock of thy hair, Luis, is all I desire. Thou knowest that I
have no need of jewels."
"If I thought the sight of my bushy head would give thee pleasure,
every hair should quit it, and I would sail from Spain with a poll as
naked as a priest's, or even an Infidel's; but the Bobadillas have
their jewels, and a Bobadilla's bride shall wear them: this necklace
was my mother's, Mercedes; it is said to have once been the property
of a queen, though none have ever worn it who will so honour it as
"I take it, Luis, for it is thy offering and may not be refused;
and yet I take it tremblingly, for I see signs of our different
natures in these gifts. Thou hast chosen the gorgeous and the
brilliant, which pall in time, and seldom lead to contentment; while
my woman's heart hath led me to constancy. I fear some brilliant
beauty of the East would better gain thy lasting admiration than a
poor Castilian maid who hath little but her faith and love to
Protestations on the part of the young man followed, and Mercedes
permitted one fond and long embrace ere they separated. She wept on
the bosom of Don Luis, and at the final moment of parting, as ever
happens with woman, feeling got the better of form, and her whole soul
confessed its weakness. At length Luis tore himself away from her
presence, and that night he was on his way to the coast, under an
assumed name, and in simple guise; whither Columbus had already
"But where is Harold? Shall I then forget
To urge the gloomy wanderer o'er the wave?
Little reck'd he of all that men regret;
No loved-one now in feign'd lament could rave;
No friend the parting hand extended gave
Ere the cold stranger pass'd to other climes."
The reader is not to suppose that the eyes of Europe were on our
adventurers. Truth and falsehood, inseparable companions, it would
seem, throughout all time, were not then diffused over the land by
means of newspapers, with mercenary diligence; and it was only the
favoured few who got early intelligence of enterprises like that in
which Columbus was engaged. Luis de Bobadilla had, therefore, stolen
from court unnoticed, and they who came in time to miss his presence,
either supposed him to be on a visit to one of his castles, or to have
gone forth on another of those wandering tours which were supposed to
be blemishes on his chivalry and unworthy of his birth. As for the
Genoese himself, his absence was scarcely heeded, though it was
understood among the courtiers generally, that Isabella had entered
into some arrangement with him, which gave the adventurer higher rank
and greater advantages than his future services would probably ever
justify. The other principal adventurers were too insignificant to
attract much attention, and they had severally departed for the coast
without the knowledge of their movements extending far beyond the
narrow circles of their own acquaintances. Neither was this
expedition, so bold in its conception and so momentous in its
consequences, destined to sail from one of the more important ports of
Spain; but orders to furnish the necessary means had been sent to a
haven of altogether inferior rank, and which would seem to have
possessed no other recommendations for this particular service, than
hardy mariners, and a position without the pass of Gibraltar, which
was sometimes rendered hazardous by the rovers of Africa. The order,
however, is said to have been issued to the place selected, in
consequence of its having incurred some legal penalty, by which it
had been condemned to serve the crown for a twelvemonth with two armed
caravels. Such punishments, it would seem, were part of the policy of
an age in which navies were little more than levies on sea-ports, and
when fleets were usually manned by soldiers from the land.
Palos de Moguer, the place ordered to pay this tribute for its
transgression, was a town of little importance, even at the close of
the fifteenth century, and it has since dwindled to an insignificant
fishing village. Like most places that are little favoured by nature,
its population was hardy and adventurous, as adventure was then
limited by ignorance. It possessed no stately caracks, its business
and want of opulence confining all its efforts to the lighter caravel
and the still more diminutive felucca. All the succour, indeed, that
Columbus had been able to procure from the two crowns, by his
protracted solicitations, was the order for the equipment of the two
caravels mentioned, with the additional officers and men that always
accompanied a royal expedition. The reader, however, is not to infer
from this fact any niggardliness of spirit, or any want of faith, on
the part of Isabella. It was partly owing to the exhausted condition
of her treasury, a consequence of the late war with the Moor, and
more, perhaps, to the experience and discretion of the great navigator
himself, who well understood that, for the purposes of discovery,
vessels of this size would be more useful and secure than those that
On a rocky promontory, at a distance of less than a league from the
village of Palos, stood the convent of La Rabida, since rendered so
celebrated by its hospitality to Columbus. At the gate of this
building, seven years before, the navigator, leading his youthful son
by the hand, had presented himself, a solicitor for food in behalf of
the wearied boy. The story is too well known to need repetition here,
and we will merely add that his long residence in this convent, and
the firm friends he had made of the holy Franciscans who occupied it,
as well as among others in their vicinity, were also probably motives
that influenced him in directing the choice of the crown to this
particular place. Columbus had not only circulated his opinions with
the monks, but with the more intelligent of the neighbourhood, and the
first converts he made in Spain were at this place.
Notwithstanding all the circumstances named, the order of the crown
to prepare the caravels in question, spread consternation among the
mariners of Palos. In that age, it was thought a wonderful achievement
to follow the land, along the coast of Africa, and to approach the
equator. The vaguest notions existed in the popular mind, concerning
those unknown regions, and many even believed that by journeying
south it was possible to reach a portion of the earth where animal and
vegetable life must cease on account of the intense heat of the sun.
The revolutions of the planets, the diurnal motion of the earth, and
the causes of the changes in the seasons, were then profound mysteries
even to the learned; or, if glimmerings of the truth did exist, they
existed as the first rays of the dawn dimly and hesitatingly announce
the approach of day. It is not surprising, therefore, that the
simple-minded and unlettered mariners of Palos viewed the order of the
crown as a sentence of destruction on all who might be fated to obey
it. The ocean, when certain limits were passed, was thought to be,
like the firmament, a sort of chaotic void; and the imaginations of
the ignorant had conjured up currents and whirlpools that were
believed to lead to fiery climates and frightful scenes of natural
destruction. Some even fancied it possible to reach the uttermost
boundaries of the earth, and to slide off into vacuum, by means of
swift but imperceptible currents.
Such was the state of things, in the middle of the month of July.
Columbus was still in the convent of Rabida, in the company of his
constant friend and adherent, Fray Juan Perez, when a lay brother came
to announce that a stranger had arrived at the gate, asking earnestly
for the Señor Christoval Colon.
"Hath he the aspect of a messenger from the court?" demanded the
navigator; "for, since the failure of the mission of Juan de Peñalosa,
there is need of further orders from their Highnesses to enforce their
"I think not, Señor," answered the lay brother; "these hard-riding
couriers of the queen generally appearing with their steeds in a foam,
and with hurried air and blustering voices; whereas this young
cavalier behaveth modestly, and rideth a stout Andalusian mule."
"Did he give thee his name, good Sancho?"
"He gave me two, Señor, styling himself Pedro de Munos, or Pero
Gutierrez, without the Don."
"This is well," exclaimed Columbus, turning a little quickly
towards the door, but otherwise maintaining a perfect self-command; "I
expect the youth, and he is right welcome. Let him come in at once,
good Sancho, and that without any useless ceremony."
"An acquaintance of the court, Señor?" observed the prior, in the
way one indirectly asks a question.
"A youth that hath the spirit, father, to adventure life and
character for the glory of God, through the advancement of his church,
by embarking in our enterprise. He cometh of a reputable lineage, and
is not without the gifts of fortune. But for the care of guardians,
and his own youth, gold would not have been wanting in our need. As
it is, he ventureth his own person, if one can be said to risk aught
in an expedition that seemeth truly to set even the orders of their
Highnesses at defiance."
As Columbus ceased speaking, the door opened and Luis de Bobadilla
entered. The young grandee had laid aside all the outward evidences of
his high rank, and now appeared in the modest guise of a traveller
belonging to a class more likely to furnish a recruit for the voyage,
than one of the rank he really was. Saluting Columbus with cordial
and sincere respect, and the Franciscan with humble deference, the
first at once perceived that this gallant and reckless spirit had
truly engaged in the enterprise with a determination to use all the
means that would enable him to go through with it.
"Thou art welcome, Pedro," Columbus observed, as soon as Luis had
made his salutations; "thou hast reached the coast at a moment when
thy presence and support may be exceedingly useful. The first order of
Her Highness, by which I should have received the services of the two
caravels to which the state is entitled, hath been utterly
disregarded; and a second mandate, empowering me to seize upon any
vessel that may suit our necessities, hath fared but little better,
notwithstanding the Señor de Penalosa was sent directly from court to
enforce its conditions, under a penalty, to the port, of paying a
daily tax of two hundred maravedis, until the order should be
fulfilled. The idiots have conjured all sorts of ills with which to
terrify themselves and their neighbours, and I seem to be as far from
the completion of my hopes as I was before I procured the friendship
of this holy friar and the royal protection of Doña Isabella. It is a
weary thing, my good Pedro, to waste a life in hopes defeated, with
such an object in view as the spread of knowledge and the extension
of the church!"
"I am the bearer of good tidings, Señor," answered the young noble.
"In coming hither from the town of Moguer, I journeyed with one Martin
Alonzo Pinzon, a mariner with whom I have formerly voyaged, and we
have had much discourse concerning your commission and difficulties.
He tells me that he is known to you, Señor Colon, and I should judge
from his discourse that he thinketh favourably of the chances."
"He doth—he doth, indeed, good Pedro, and hath often listened to
my reasoning like a discreet and skilful navigator, as, I make no
question, he really is. But didst thou say that thou wast known
"Señor, I did. We have voyaged together as far as Cyprus, on one
occasion, and, again, to the island of the English. In such long
voyages, men get to some knowledge of each other's temperament and
disposition, and, of a sooth, I think well of both, in this Señor
"Thou art young to pass an opinion on a mariner of Martin Alonzo's
years and experience, son," put in the friar; "a man of much repute in
this vicinity, and of no little wealth. Nevertheless, I am rejoiced to
hear that he continueth of the same mind as formerly, in relation to
the great voyage; for, of late, I did think even he had begun to
Don Luis had expressed himself of the great man of the vicinity,
more like a Bobadilla than became his assumed name of Muños, and a
glance from the eye of Columbus told him to forget his rank and to
remember the disguise he had assumed.
"This is truly encouraging," observed the navigator, "and openeth a
brighter view of Cathay. Thou wast journeying between Moguer and
Palos, I think thou saidst, when this discourse was had with our
acquaintance, the good Martin Alonzo?"
"I was, Señor, and it was he who sent me hither in quest of the
admiral. He gave you the title that the queen's favour hath bestowed,
and I consider that no small sign of friendship, as most others with
whom I have conversed in this vicinity seem disposed to call you by
any other name."
"None need embark in this enterprise," returned the navigator,
gravely, as if he would admonish the youth that this was an occasion
on which he might withdraw from the adventure, if he saw fit, "who
feel disposed to act differently, or who distrust my knowledge."
"By San Pedro, my patron! they tell another tale at Palos, and at
Moguer, Señor Amirale," returned Luis, laughing; "at which places, I
hear, that no man whose skin hath been a little warmed by the sun of
the ocean, dare show himself in the highways, lest he be sent to
Cathay by a road that no one ever yet travelled, except in fancy!
There is, notwithstanding, one free and willing volunteer, Señor
Colon, who is disposed to follow you to the edge of the earth, if it
be flat, and to follow you quite round it, should it prove to be a
sphere; and that is one Pedro de Muños, who engageth with you from no
sordid love of gold, or love of aught else that men usually prize;
but from the pure love of adventure, somewhat excited and magnified,
perhaps, by love of the purest and fairest maid of Castile."
Fray Juan Perez gazed at the speaker, whose free manner and open
speech a good deal surprised him; for Columbus had succeeded in
awakening so much respect that few presumed to use any levity in his
presence, even before he was dignified by the high rank so recently
conferred by the commission of Isabella. Little did the good monk
suspect that one of a still higher personal rank, though entirely
without official station, stood before him, in the guise of Pedro de
Muños; and he could not refrain from again expressing the little
relish he felt for such freedom of speech and deportment towards those
whom he himself habitually regarded with so much respect.
"It would seem, Señor Pedro de Muños," he said, "if that be thy
name — though Duke, or Marquis, or Count, would be a title better
becoming thy bearing — that thou treatest His Excellency the Admiral
with quite as much freedom of thought, at least, as thou treatest the
worthy Martin Alonzo of our own neighbourhood: a follower should be
more humble, and not pass his jokes on the opinions of his leader, in
this loose style of expression."
"I crave your pardon, holy father, and that of the admiral, too,
who better understandeth me I trust, if there be any just grounds of
offence. All I wish to express is, that I know this Martin Alonzo of
your neighbourhood, as an old fellow-voyager; that we have ridden some
leagues in company this very day, and that, after close discourse, he
hath manifested a friendly desire to put his shoulder to the wheel,
in order to lift the expedition, if not from a slough of mud, at least
from the sands of the river; and that he hath promised to come also to
this good convent of La Rabida, for that same purpose and no other. As
for myself, I can only add, that here I am, ready to follow
wheresoever the honourable Señor Colon may see fit to lead."
"'T is well, good Pedro—'t is well," rejoined the admiral. "I
give thee full credit for sincerity and spirit, and that must content
thee until an opportunity offereth to convince others. I like these
tidings concerning Martin Alonzo, father, since he might truly do us
much service, and his zeal had assuredly begun to flag."
"That might he, and that will he, if he engageth seriously in the
affair. Martin is the greatest navigator on all this coast, for,
though I did not know that he had ever been even to Cyprus, as would
appear by the account of this youth, I was well aware that he had
frequently sailed as far north as France and as far south as the
Canaries. Dost think Cathay much more remote than Cyprus, Señor
Columbus smiled at this question, and shook his head in the manner
of one who would prepare a friend for some sore disappointment.
"Although Cyprus be not distant from the Holy Land, and the seat of
the Infidel's power," he answered, "Cathay must lie much more remote.
I flatter not myself, nor those who are disposed to follow me, with
the hope of reaching the Indies short of a voyage that shall extend to
some eight hundred or a thousand leagues."
"'T is a fearful and a weary distance!" exclaimed the Franciscan;
while Luis stood in smiling unconcern, equally indifferent whether he
had to traverse one thousand or ten thousand leagues of ocean, so that
the journey led to Mercedes and was productive of adventure. "A
fearful and weary distance, and yet I doubt not, Señor Almirante, that
you are the very man designed by Providence to overcome it, and to
open the way for those who will succeed you, bearing on high the cross
of Christ and the promises of his redemption!"
"Let us hope this," returned Columbus, reverently making the usual
sign of the sacred emblem to which his friend alluded; "as a proof
that we have some worldly foundation for the expectation, here cometh
the Señor Pinzon himself, apparently hot with haste to see us."
Martin Alonzo Pinzon, whose name is so familiar to the reader, as
one who greatly aided the Genoese in his vast undertaking, now entered
the room, seemingly earnest and bent on some fixed purpose, as
Columbus's observant eye had instantly detected. Fray Juan Perez was
not a little surprised to see that the first salutation of Martin
Alonzo, the great man of the neighbourhood, was directed to Pedro,
the second to the admiral, and the third to himself. There was not
time, however, for the worthy Franciscan, who was a little apt to
rebuke any dereliction of decency on the spot, to express what he felt
on this occasion, ere Martin Alonzo opened his errand with an
eagerness that showed he had not come on a mere visit of friendship,
or of ceremony.
"I am sorely vexed, Señor Almirante," he commenced, "at learning
the obstinacy, and the disobedience to the orders of the queen, that
have been shown among our mariners of Palos. Although a dweller of the
port itself, and one who hath always viewed your opinions of this
western voyage with respect, if not with absolute faith, I did not
know the full extent of this insubordination until I met, by accident,
an old acquaintance on the high-way, in the person of Don Pedro—I
ought to say the Señor Pedro de Muños, here, who, coming from a
distance, as he doth, hath discovered more of our backslidings than I
had learned myself, on the spot. But, Señor, you are not now to hear,
for the first time, of what sort of stuff men are made. They are
reasoning beings, we are told; notwithstanding which undeniable truth,
as there is not one in a hundred who is at the trouble to do his own
thinking, means may be found to change the opinions of a sufficient
number for all your wants, without their even suspecting it."
"This is very true, neighbour Martin Alonzo," put in the
friar—"so true, that it might go into a homily and do no disservice
to religion. Man is a rational animal, and an accountable
animal, but it is not meet that he should be a thinking animal.
In matters of the church, now, its interests being entrusted to a
ministry, what have the unlearned and ignorant to say of its affairs?
In matters of navigation, it doth, indeed, seem as if one steersman
were better than a hundred! Although man be a reasoning animal, there
are quite as many occasions when he is bound to obey without
reasoning, and few when he should be permitted to reason without
"All true, holy friar and most excellent neighbour; so true that
you will find no one in Palos to deny that, at least. And now we are
on the subject, I may as well add that it is the church that hath
thrown more obstacles in the way of the Señor Almirante's success,
than any other cause. All the old women of the port declare that the
notion of the earth's being round is a heresy, and contrary to the
Bible; and, if the truth must be said, there are not a few underlings
of this very convent, who uphold them in the opinion. It doth appear
unnatural to tell one who hath never quitted the land, and who seeth
himself much oftener in a valley than on an eminence, that the globe
is round, and, though I have had many occasions to see the ocean, it
would not easily find credit with me, were it not for the fact that we
see the upper and smaller sails of a ship first, when approaching
her, as well as the vanes and crosses of towns, albeit they are the
smaller objects about vessels and churches. We mariners have one way
to inspirit our followers, and you churchmen have another; and, now
that I intend to use my means to put wiser thoughts into the heads of
the seamen of Palos, reverend friar, I look to you to set the church's
engines at work, so as to silence the women, and to quell the doubts
of the most zealous among your own brotherhood."
"Am I to understand by this, Señor Pinzon," demanded Columbus,
"that you intend to take a direct and more earnest interest than
before in the success of my enterprise?"
"Señor, you may. That is my intention, if we can come to as
favourable an understanding about the terms, as your worship would
seem to have entered into with our most honoured mistress Doña
Isabella de Trastamara. I have had some discourse with Señor Don—I
would say with the Señor Pedro de Muños, here,—odd's folly, an
excess of courtesy is getting to be a vice with me of late—but as
he is a youth of prudence, and manifests a desire to embark with you,
it hath stirred my fancy so far, that I would gladly be of the party.
Señor de Muños and I have voyaged so much together, that I would fain
see his worthy countenance once more upon the ocean."
"These are cheerful tidings, Martin Alonzo"—eagerly put in the
friar, "and thy soul, and the souls of all who belong to you, will
reap the benefits of this manly and pious resolution. It is one thing,
Señor Almirante, to have their Highnesses of your side, in a place
like Palos, and another to have our worthy neighbour Pinzon, here;
for, if they are sovereigns in law, he is an emperor in opinion. I
doubt not that the caravels will now be speedily forthcoming."
"Since thou seemest to have truly resolved to enter into our
enterprise, Señor Martin Alonzo," added Columbus, with his dignified
gravity, "out of doubt, thou hast well bethought thee of the
conditions, and art come prepared to let them be known. Do they savour
of the terms that have already been in discussion between us?"
"Señor Admiral, they do; though gold is not, just now, as abundant
in our purses, as when we last discoursed on this subject. On that
head, some obstacles may exist, but on all others, I doubt not, a
brief explanation between us, will leave the matter free from doubt."
"As to the eighth, for which I stand committed with their
Highnesses, Señor Pinzon, there will be less reason, now, to raise
that point between us, than when we last met, as other means may offer
to redeem that pledge"—as Columbus spoke, his eyes involuntarily
turned towards the pretended Pero, whither those of Martin Alonzo
Pinzon significantly followed; "but there will be many difficulties to
overcome with these terrified and silly mariners, which may yield to
thy influence. If thou wilt come with me into this chamber, we will at
once discuss the heads of our treaty, leaving this youth, the while,
to the hospitality of our reverend friend."
The prior raising no objection to this proposition, it was
immediately put in execution, Columbus and Pinzon withdrawing to a
more private apartment, leaving Fray Juan Perez alone with our hero.
"Then thou thinkest seriously, son, of making one in this great
enterprise of the admiral's," said the Franciscan, as soon as the door
was closed on those who had just left them, eyeing Luis, for the first
time, with a more strict scrutiny than hitherto he had leisure to
exercise. "Thou carriest thyself much like the young lords of the
court, and wilt have occasion to acquire a less towering air in the
narrow limits of one of our Palos caravels."
"I am no stranger to Nao, Carraca, Fusta, Pinaza, Carabelon, or
Felucca, holy prior, and shall carry myself with the admiral, as I
should carry myself before Don Fernando of Aragon, were he my
fellow-voyager, or in the presence of Boabdil of Grenada, were that
unhappy monarch again seated on the throne from which he hath been so
lately hurled, urging his chivalry to charge the knights of Christian
"These are fine words, son, ay, and uttered with a tilting air, if
truth must be said; but they will avail thee nothing with this
Genoese, who hath that in him, that would leave him unabashed even in
the presence of our gracious lady, Doña Isabella, herself."
"Thou knowest the queen, holy monk?" inquired Luis, forgetting his
assumed character, in the freedom of his address.
"I ought to know her inmost heart, son, for often have I listened
to her pure and meek spirit, in the secrets of the confessional. Much
as she is beloved by us Castilians, no one can know the true,
spiritual elevation of that pious princess, and most excellent woman,
but they who have had occasion to shrive her."
Don Luis hemmed, played with the handle of his rapier, and then
gave utterance to the uppermost thought, as usual.
"Didst thou, by any chance of thy priestly office, father, ever
find it necessary to confess a maiden of the court, who is much
esteemed by the queen?" he inquired, "and whose spirit, I'll answer
for it, is as pure as that of Doña Isabella's itself."
"Son, thy question denoteth greater necessity for repairing to
Salamanca, in order to be instructed in the history, and practices,
and faith of the church, than to be entering into an enterprise, even
as commendable as this of Colon's! Dost thou not know that we
churchmen are not permitted to betray the secrets of the confessional,
or to draw comparisons between penitents? and, moreover, that we do
not take even Doña Isabella, the blessed Maria keep her ever in mind,
as the standard of holiness to which all Christians are expected to
aim? The maiden of whom thou speakest may be virtuous, according to
worldly notions, and yet a grievous sinner in the eyes of mother
"I should like, before I quit Spain, to hear a Mendoza, or a
Guzman, who hath not a shaven crown, venture to hint as much, most
"Thou art hot and restive, and talkest idly, son; what would one
like thee find to say to a Guzman, or a Mendoza, or a Bobadilla, even,
did he affirm what thou wishest. But, who is the maid, in whom thy
feelings seem to take so deep, although I question if it be not an
"Nay, I did but speak in idleness. Our stations have made such a
chasm between us, that it is little likely we should ever come to
speech; nor is my merit such as would be apt to cause her to forget
her high advantages."
"Still, she hath a name?"
"She hath, truly, prior, and a right noble one it is. I had the
Doña Maria de las Mercedes de Valverde in my thoughts, when the light
remark found utterance. Haply, thou mayest know that illustrious
Fray Juan Perez, a truly guileless priest, started at the name;
then he gazed intently, and with a sort of pity, at the youth; after
which he bent his head towards the tiles beneath his feet, smiled, and
shook his head like one whose thoughts were very active.
"I do, indeed, know the lady," he said, "and even when last at
court, on this errand of Colon's, their own confessor being ill, I
shrived her, as well as my royal mistress. That she is worthy of Doña
Isabella's esteem is true; but thy admiration for this noble maiden,
which must be something like the distant reverence we feel for the
clouds that sail above our heads, can scarce be founded on any
"Thou canst not know that, father. If this expedition end as we
trust, all who engage in it will be honoured and advanced; and why not
I, as well as another?"
"In this, thou may'st utter truth, but as for the Doña—" The
Franciscan checked himself, for he was about to betray the secret of
the confessional. He had, in truth, listened to the contrition of
Mercedes, of which her passion for Luis was the principal cause; and
it was he, who, with a species of pious fraud of which he was himself
unconscious, had first pointed out the means by which the truant
noble might be made to turn his propensity to rove to the profit of
his love; and his mind was full of her beautiful exhibition of purity
and natural feeling, nearly even to overflowing. But habit and duty
interfered in time, and he did not utter the name that had been
trembling on his lips. Still, his thoughts continued in this current,
and his tongue gave utterance to that portion of them which he
believed to be harmless. "Thou hast been much about the world, it
would seem, by Master Alonzo's greeting," he continued, after a short
pause; "didst ever meet, son, with a certain cavalier of Castile,
named Don Luis de Bobadilla— a grandee, who also bears the title of
Conde de Llera?"
"I know little of his hopes, and care less for his titles,"
returned Luis, calmly, who thought he would manifest a magnanimous
indifference to the Franciscan's opinions,— "but I have seen the
cavalier, and a roving, mad-brained, graceless youth it is, of whom no
good can be expected."
"I fear this is but too true", rejoined Fray Juan Perez, shaking
his head in a melancholy manner—"and yet they say he is a gallant
knight, and the very best lance in all Spain."
"Ay, he may be that," answered Luis, hemming a little louder than
was decorous, for his throat began to grow husky—"Ay, he may be
that; but of what avail is a good lance without a good character. I
hear little commendable of this young Conde de Llera."
"I trust he is not the man he generally passeth for,"— answered
the simple-hearted monk, without in the least suspecting his
companion's disguise; "and I do know that there are some who think
well of him—nay, whose existence, I might say whose very souls, are
wrapped up in him!"
"Holy Franciscan! — why wilt thou not mention the names of one or
two of these?" demanded Luis, with an impetuosity that caused the
prior to start.
"And why should I give this information to thee, young man, more
than to another?"
"Why, father—why, for several most excellent and unanswerable
reasons. In the first place, I am a youth myself, as thou seest; and
example, they say, is better than precept. Then, too, I am
somewhat given to roving, and it may profit me to know how others of
the same propensity have sped. Moreover, it would gladden my inmost
heart to hear that — but two sufficient reasons are better than
three, and thou hast the first number already."
Fray Juan Perez, a devout Christian, a learned churchman, and a
liberal scholar, was as simple as a child in matters that related to
the world and its passions. Nevertheless, he was not so dull as to
overlook the strange deportment and stranger language of his
companion. A direction had been given to his thoughts by the mention
of the name of our heroine; and, as he himself had devised the very
course taken by our hero, the truth began to dawn on his imagination.
"Young cavalier," he exclaimed, "thou art Don Luis de Bobadilla!"
"I shall never deny the prophetic knowledge of a churchman, worthy
father, after this detection! I am he thou sayest, entered on
this expedition to win the love of Mercedes de Valverde."
"'Tis as I thought — and yet, Señor, you might have taken our
poor convent less at an advantage. Suffer that I command the lay
brothers to place refreshments before you!"
"Thy pardon, excellent prior—Pedro de Muños, or even Pero
Gutierrez, hath no need of food; — but, now that thou knowest me,
there can be less reason for not conversing of the Doña Mercedes?"
"Now, that I know thee, Señor Conde, there is greater reason for
silence on that head," returned Fray Juan Perez, smiling. "Thine aunt,
the most esteemed and virtuous lady of Moya, can give thee all
occasion to urge thy suit with this charming maiden, and it would ill
become a churchman to temper her prudence by any indiscreet
This explanation was the commencement of a long and confidential
dialogue, in which the worthy prior, now that he was on his guard,
succeeded in preserving his main secret, though he much encouraged the
young man in the leading hope of his existence, as well as in his
project to adhere to the fortunes of Columbus. In the mean while, the
great navigator himself continued closeted with his new counsellor;
and when the two re-appeared, it was announced to those without, that
the latter had engaged in the enterprise with so much zeal, that he
actually entertained the intention of embarking on board of one of the
caravels in person.
"Yet he to whom each danger hath become
A dark delight, and every wild a home,
Still urges onward — undismayed to tread
Where life's fond lovers would recoil with dread."
The intelligence that Martin Alonzo Pinzon was to make one of the
followers of Colon, spread through the village of Palos like
wild-fire. Volunteers were no longer wanting; the example of one known
and respected in the vicinity, operating far more efficiently on the
minds of the mariners, than the orders of the queen, or the philosophy
of Columbus. Martin Alonzo they knew; they were accustomed to submit
to his influence; they could follow in his footsteps, and had
confidence in his judgment; whereas the naked orders of an unseen
sovereign, however much beloved, had more of the character of a severe
judgment than of a generous enterprise; and, as for Columbus, though
most men were awed by his dignified appearance and grave manner, when
out of sight, he was as much regarded as an adventurer at Palos, as he
had been at Santa Fé.
The Pinzons set about their share of the expedition after the
manner of those who were more accustomed to execute, than to plan.
Several of the family entered cordially into the work; and a brother
of Martin Alonzo's, whose name was Vicente Yañez, also a mariner by
profession, joined the adventurers as commander of one of the vessels,
while another took service as a pilot. In short, the month that
succeeded the incidents just mentioned, was actively employed, and
more was done, in that short space of time, towards bringing about a
solution of the great problem of Columbus, than had been accomplished,
in a practical way, during the seventeen long years that the subject
had occupied his time, and engrossed his thoughts.
Notwithstanding the local influence of the Pinzons, a vigorous
opposition to the project, still existed in the heart of the little
community that had been chosen for the place of equipment of the
different vessels required. This family had its enemies, as well as
its friends, and, as is usual with most human undertakings, two
parties sprang up, one of which was quite as busily occupied in
thwarting the plans of the navigator, as the other was engaged in
promoting them. One vessel had been seized for the service, under the
order of the court, and her owners became leaders of the dissatisfied
faction. Many seamen, according to the usage of that day, had been
impressed for duty on this extraordinary and mysterious voyage; and,
as a matter of course, they and their friends were not slow to join
the ranks of the disaffected. Much of the necessary work was found to
be imperfectly done; and when the mechanics were called on to repair
these omissions, they absconded in a body. As the time for sailing
approached, the contention grew more and more violent, and even the
Pinzons had the mortification of discovering that many of those who
had volunteered to follow their fortunes, began to waver, and that
some had unequivocally deserted.
Such was the state of things, towards the close of the month of
July, when Martin Alonzo Pinzon again repaired to the convent of Santa
Maria de Rabida, where Columbus continued to pass most of the time
that was not given to a direct personal superintendence of the
preparations, and where Luis de Bobadilla, who was altogether useless
in the actual condition of affairs, also passed many a weary hour,
chafing for active duty, and musing on the loveliness, truth and
virtues of Mercedes de Valverde. Fray Juan Perez was earnest in his
endeavours to facilitate the execution of the objects of his friends,
and he had actually succeeded, if not in absolutely suppressing the
expression of all injurious opinions on the part of the less
enlightened of the brotherhood, at least in rendering the promulgation
of them more cautious and private.
When Columbus and the prior were told that the Señor Pinzon sought
an interview, neither was slow in granting the favour. As the hour of
departure drew nigh, the importance of this man's exertions became
more and more apparent, and both well knew that the royal protection
of Isabella herself, just at that moment and in that place, was of
less account than that of this active mariner. The Señor Pinzon,
therefore, had not long to wait for his audience, having been ushered
into the room that was commonly occupied by the zealous Franciscan,
almost as soon as his request was preferred.
"Thou art right welcome, worthy Martin Alonzo!" exclaimed the
prior, the moment he caught a glimpse of the features of his old
acquaintance—"How get on matters at Palos, and when shall we have
this holy undertaking in a fair direction for success?"
"By San Francisco, reverend prior, that is more than it will be
safe for any man to answer. I have thought we were in a fair way to
make sail, a score of times, when some unforeseen difficulty hath
arisen. The Santa Maria, on board which the admiral and the Señor
Gutierrez, or de Muños, if he will have it so, will embark, is already
fitted. She may be set down as a tight craft, and somewhat exceedeth
a hundred tons in burthen, so that I trust his excellency, and all
the gallant cavaliers who may accompany him, will be as comfortable as
the holy monks of Rabida,— more especially as the good caravel hath
"These are, truly, glad tidings," returned the prior, rubbing his
hands with delight—"and the excellent craft hath really a deck!
Señor Almirante, thou may'st not be in a vessel that is altogether
worthy of thy high aim, but, on the whole, thou wilt be both safe and
comfortable, keeping in view, in particular, this convenient and
"Neither my safety nor my convenience is a consideration to be
mentioned, friend Juan Perez, when there is question of so much graver
matters. I rejoice that thou hast come to the convent this morning,
Señor Martin Alonzo, as being about to address letters to the court,
by means of an especial courier, I desire to know the actual
condition of things. Thou thinkest the Santa Maria will be in a state
for service by the end of the month?"
"Señor, I do. The ship hath been prepared with due diligence, and
will conveniently hold some three score, should the panic that hath
seized on so many of the besotted fools of Palos, leave us that
number, who may still be disposed to embark. I trust that the saints
look upon our many efforts, and will remember our zeal when we shall
come to a joint division of the benefits of this undertaking, which
hath had no equal in the history of navigation!"
"The benefits, honest Martin Alonzo, will be found in the spread of
the church's dominion, and the increased glory of God!" put in the
"Out of all question, holy Fray Juan Perez—this is the common
aim; though I trust it is permitted to a painstaking mariner to
bethink him of his wife and children, in discreet subordination to
those greater ends. I have much mistaken the Señor Colon, if he do not
look for some little advantage, in the way of gold, from this visit to
"Thou hast not mistaken me, honest Martin Alonzo," returned
Columbus, gravely. "I do, indeed, expect to see the wealth of the
Indies pouring into the coffers of Castile, in consequence of this
voyage. In sooth, excellent prior, in my view, the recovery of the
holy sepulchre is dependent mainly on the success of our present
undertaking, in the way of a substantial worldly success."
"This is well, Señor Admiral," put in Martin Alonzo, a little
hastily, "and ought to gain us great favour in the eyes of all good
christians—more especially with the monks of la Rabida. But it is
hard enough to persuade the mariners of the port to obey the queen, in
this matter, and to fulfil their engagements with ourselves, without
preaching a crusade, as the best means of throwing away the few
maravedis they may happen to gain by their hardships and courage. The
worthy pilots, Francisco Martin Pinzon, mine own brother, Sancho Ruiz,
Pedro Alonzo Niño, and Bartolemeo Roldan, are all now firmly tied to
us by the ropes of the law; but should they happen to find a crusade
at their end, all the saints in the calendar would scarce have
influence to make them hesitate about loosening themselves from the
"I hold no one but myself bound to this object," returned Columbus,
calmly. "Each man, friend Martin Alonzo, will be judged by his own
deeds, and called on to fulfil his own vows. Of those who pledge
nought, nought will be exacted, and nought given at the great final
account of the human race. But what are the tidings of the Pinta,
thine own vessel? Hath she been finally put into a condition to
buffet the Atlantic?"
"As ever happeneth with a vessel pressed into the royal service,
Señor, work hath gone on heavily, and things in general have not borne
that merry activity which accompanieth the labour of those who toil of
a free will, and for their own benefit."
"The silly mariners have toiled in their own behalf, without
knowing it," observed Columbus. "It is the duty of the ignorant to
submit to be led by the more enlightened, and to be grateful for the
advantages they derive from a borrowed knowledge, albeit it is
obtained contrary to their own wishes."
"That is it, truly," added the prior; "else would the office of us
churchmen be reduced to very narrow limits. Faith—faith in the
church—is the Christian's earliest and latest duty."
"This seemeth reasonable, excellent sirs," returned Master Alonzo,
"though the ignorant find it difficult to comprehend matters that they
do not understand. When a man fancieth himself condemned to an
unheard-of death, he is little apt to see the benefit that lieth
beyond the grave. Nevertheless, the Pinta is more nearly ready for the
voyage, than any other of our craft, and hath her crew engaged to a
man, and that under contracts that will not permit much dispute before
"There remaineth only the Niña, then," added Columbus; "with her
prepared, and our religious duties observed, we may hope finally to
commence the enterprise!"
"Señor, you may. My brother, Vicente Yañez, hath finally consented
to take charge of this little craft; and that which a Pinzon
promiseth, a Pinzon performeth. She will be ready to depart with the
Santa Maria and the Pinta, and Cathay must be distant, indeed, if we
do not reach it with one or the other of our vessels."
"This is right encouraging, neighbour Martin Alonzo," returned the
friar, rubbing his hands with delight, "and I make no question all
will come round in the end. What say the crones and loose talkers of
Moguer, and of the other ports, touching the shape of the earth, and
the chances of the admiral's reaching the Indies, now-a-days?"
"They discourse much as they did, Fray Juan Perez, idly and without
knowledge. Although there is not a mariner in any of the havens who
doth not admit that the upper sails, though so much the smallest, are
the first seen on the ocean, yet do they deny that this cometh of the
shape of the earth, but, as they affirm, of the movements of the
"Have none of them ever observed the shadows cast by the earth, in
the eclipses of the moon?" asked Columbus, in his calm manner, though
he smiled, even in putting the question, as one smiles who, having
dipped deeply into a natural problem himself, carelessly lays one of
its more popular proofs before those who are less disposed to go
beneath the surface. "Do they not see that these shadows are round,
and do they not know that a shadow which is round can only be cast by
a body that is round?"
"This is conclusive, good Martin Alonzo," put in the prior, "and it
ought to remove the doubts of the silliest gossip on the coast. Tell
them to encircle their dwellings, beginning to the right, and see if,
by following the walls, they do not return to the spot from which they
started, coming in from the left."
"Ay, reverend prior, if we could bring our distant voyage down to
these familiar examples, there is not a crone in Moguer, or a courtier
at Seville, that might not be made to comprehend the mystery. But it
is one thing to state a problem fairly, and another to find those who
can understand it. Now, I did give some such reasoning to the
Alguiazil, in Palos here, and the worthy Señor asked me if I expected
to return from this voyage by the way of the lately captured town of
Granada. I fancy that the easiest method of persuading these good
people to believe that Cathay can be reached by the western voyage,
will be by going there and returning."
"Which we will shortly do, Master Martin Alonzo," observed
Columbus, cheerfully —"But the time of our departure draweth near,
and it is meet that none of us neglect the duties of religion. I
commend thee to thy confessor, Señor Pinzon, and expect that all who
sail with me, in this great enterprise, will receive the holy
communion in my company, before we quit the haven. This excellent
prior will shrive Pedro de Muños and myself, and let each man seek
such other holy counsellor and monitor as hath been his practice."
With this intimation of his intention to pay a due regard to the
rites of the church before he departed—rites that were seldom
neglected in that day—the conversation turned, for the moment, on
the details of the preparations. After this the parties separated, and
a few more days passed away in active exertions.
On the morning of Thursday, August the second, 1492, Columbus
entered the private apartment of Fray Juan Perez, habited like a
penitent, and with an air so devout, and yet so calm, that it was
evident his thoughts were altogether bent on his own transgressions
and on the goodness of God. The zealous priest was in waiting, and the
great navigator knelt at the feet of him, before whom Isabella had
often knelt, in the fulfilment of the same solemnity. The religion of
this extraordinary man was coloured by the habits and opinions of his
age, as indeed, in a greater or less degree, must be the religion of
every man; his confession, consequently, had that admixture of deep
piety with inconsistent error, that so often meets the moralist in his
investigations into the philosophy of the human mind. The truth of
this peculiarity will be seen, by adverting to one or two of the
admissions of the great navigator, as he laid before his ghostly
counsellor the catalogue of his sins.
"Then, I fear, holy father," Columbus continued, after having made
most of the usual confessions touching the more familiar weaknesses of
the human race, "that my mind hath become too much exalted in this
matter of the voyage, and that I may have thought myself more directly
set apart by God, for some good end, than it might please his
infinite knowledge and wisdom to grant."
"That would be a dangerous error, my son, and I carefully admonish
thee against the evils of self-righteousness. That God selecteth his
agents, is beyond dispute; but it is a fearful error to mistake the
impulses of self-love, for the movements of his Divine Spirit! It is
hardly safe for any who have not received the church's ordination, to
deem themselves chosen vessels."
"I endeavour so to consider it, holy friar," answered Columbus,
meekly; "and, yet, there is that within, which constantly urgeth to
this belief, be it a delusion, or come it directly from heaven. I
strive, father, to keep the feeling in subjection, and most of all do
I endeavour to see that it taketh a direction that may glorify the
name of God and serve the interests of his visible church."
"This is well, and yet do I feel it a duty to admonish thee against
too much credence in these inward impulses. So long as they tend,
solely, to increase thy love for the Supreme Father of all, to magnify
his holiness and glorify his nature, thou mayest be certain it is the
offspring of good; but when self-exaltation seemeth to be its aim,
beware the impulse, as thou would eschew the dictation of the great
father of evil."
"I so consider it; and now having truly and sincerely disburthened
my conscience, father, so far as in me lieth, may I hope for the
church's consolation, with its absolution?"
"Canst thou think of nought else, son, that should not lie hid from
before the keeper of all consciences?"
"My sins are many, holy prior, and cannot be too often or too
keenly rebuked; but I do think that they may be fairly included in the
general heads that I have endeavoured to recal."
"Hast thou nothing to charge thyself with, in connection with that
sex that the devil as often useth as his tempters to evil, as the
angels would fain employ them as the ministers of grace?"
"I have erred as a man, father; but do not my confessions already
meet those sins?"
"Hast thou bethought thee of Doña Beatriz Enriquez? of thy son
Fernando, who tarrieth, at this moment, in our convent of La Rabida?"
Columbus bowed his head in submission, and the heavy sigh,
amounting almost to a groan, that broke out of his bosom, betrayed the
weight of his momentary contrition.
"Thou sayest true, father; that is an offence which should never be
forgotten, though so often shrived since its commission. Heap on me
the penance that I feel is due, and thou shalt see how a Christian can
bend and kiss the rod that he is conscious of having merited."
"The spirit thus to do, is all that the church requireth; and thou
art now bent on a service too important to her interests, to be drawn
aside from thy great intentions, for any minor considerations. Still
may not a minister of th altar overlook the offence. Thou wilt say a
pater, daily, on account of this great sin, for the next twenty days,
all of which will be for the good of thy soul; after which the church
releaseth thee from this especial duty, as thou wilt, then, be drawing
near to the land of Cathay, and may have occasion for all thy thoughts
and efforts to effect thy object."
The worthy prior then proceeded to prescribe several light
penances, most of which were confined to moderate increases of the
daily duties of religion; after which he shrived the navigator. The
turn of Luis came next, and more than once the prior smiled
involuntarily, as he listened to this hot-blooded and impetuous youth,
whose language irresistibly carried back his thoughts to the more
meek, natural, and the more gentle admissions of the pure-minded
Mercedes. The penance prescribed to Luis was not entirely free from
severity, though, on the whole, the young man, who was not much
addicted to the duties of the confessional, fancied himself well quit
of the affair, considering the length of the account he was obliged to
render, and the weight of the balance against him.
These duties performed in the persons of the two principal
adventurers, Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and the ruder mariners of the
expedition, appeared before different priests and gave in the usual
reckoning of their sins. After this, came a scene that was strictly
characteristic of the age, and which would be impressive and proper,
in all times and seasons, for men about to embark in an undertaking of
a result so questionable.
High mass was said in the chapel of the convent, and Columbus
received the consecrated bread from the hands of Fray Juan Perez, in
humble reliance on the all-seeing providence of God, and with a devout
dependence on his fostering protection. All who were about to embark
with the admiral imitated his example, communing in his company; for
that was a period when the wire-drawn conclusions of man had not yet
begun so far to supplant the faith and practices of the earlier church
as to consider its rites as the end of religion, but he was still
content to regard them as its means. Many a rude sailor, whose
ordinary life might not have been either saintly or even free from
severe censure, knelt that day at the altar, in devout dependence on
God, with feelings, for the moment, that at least placed him on the
high-way to grace; and it would be presumptuous to suppose that the
omniscient Being to whom his offerings were made, did not regard his
ignorance with commiseration and even look upon his superstition with
pity. We scoff at the prayers of those who are in danger, without
reflecting that they are a homage to the power of God, and are apt to
fancy that these passages in devotion are mere mockery, because the
daily mind and the ordinary life are not always elevated to the same
standard of godliness and purity. It would be more humble to remember
the general infirmities of the race; to recollect, that as none are
perfect, the question is reduced to one of degree; and to bear in
mind, that the Being who reads the heart, may accept of any devout
petitions, even though they come from those who are not disposed
habitually to walk in his laws. These passing but pious emotions are
the workings of the Spirit, since good can come from no other source;
and it is as unreasonable as it is irreverent to imagine that the
Deity will disregard, altogether, the effects of his own grace,
Whatever may have been the general disposition of most of the
communicants on this occasion, there is little doubt that there knelt
at the altar of La Rabida, that day, one in the person of the great
navigator himself, who, as far as the eye could perceive, lived
habitually in profound deference to the dogmas of religion, and who
paid an undeviating respect to all its rites. Columbus was not
strictly a devotee; but a quiet, deeply seated enthusiasm, which had
taken the direction of Christianity, pervaded his moral system, and
at all times disposed him to look up to the protecting hand of the
Deity and to expect its aid. The high aims that he entertained for the
future have already been mentioned, and there is little doubt of his
having persuaded himself that he had been set apart by Providence as
the instrument it designed to employ in making the great discovery on
which his mind was so intently engaged, as well as in accomplishing
other and ulterior purposes. If, indeed, an overruling Power directs
all the events of this world, who will presume to say that this
conviction of Columbus was erroneous, now that it has been justified
by the result? That he felt this sentiment, sustaining his courage and
constantly urging him onward, is so much additional evidence in
favour of his impression, since, under such circumstances, nothing is
more probable than that an earnest belief in his destiny would be one
of the means most likely to be employed by a supernatural power in
inducing its human agent to accomplish the work for which he had
actually been selected.
Let this be as it might, there is no doubt that Colon observed the
rites of the church, on the occasion named, with a most devout
reliance on the truth of his mission, and with the brightest hopes as
to its successful termination. Not so, however, with all of his
intended followers. Their minds had wavered, from time to time, as the
preparations advanced; and the last month had seen them eager to
depart, and dejected with misgivings and doubts. Although there were
days of hope and brightness, despondency perhaps prevailed, and this
so much the more because the apprehensions of mothers, wives, and of
those who felt an equally tender interest in the mariners, though less
inclined to avow it openly, were thrown into the scale by the side of
their own distrust. Gold, unquestionably, was the great aim of their
wishes, and there were moments when visions of inexhaustible mines and
of oriental treasures floated before their imaginations; at which
times none could be more eager to engage in the mysterious
undertaking, or more ready to risk their lives and hopes on its
success. But these were fleeting impressions, and, as has just been
said, despondency was the prevalent feeling among those who were
about to embark. It heightened the devotion of the communicants, and
threw a gloom over the chastened sobriety of the altar, that weighed
heavily on the hearts of most assembled there.
"Our people seem none of the most cheerful, Señor Almirante," said
Luis, as they left the convent-chapel in company, "and, if truth must
be spoken, one could wish to set forth on an expedition of this
magnitude, better sustained by merry hearts and smiling countenances."
"Dost thou imagine, young count, that he hath the firmest mind, who
weareth the most smiling visage, or that the heart is weak because the
countenance is sobered? These honest mariners bethink them of their
sins, and no doubt are desirous that so holy an enterprise be not
tainted by the corruption of their own hearts, but rather purified and
rendered fitting, by their longings to obey the will of God. I trust
Luis"—intercourse had given Columbus a sort of paternal interest in
the welfare of the young grandee, that lessened the distance made by
rank between them — "I trust, Luis, thou art not, altogether,
without these pious longings in thine own person."
"By San Pedro, my new patron! Señor Almirante, I think more of
Mercedes de Valverde, than of aught else, in this great affair. She is
my polar star, my religion, my Cathay. Go on, in Heaven's name, and
discover what thou wilt, whether it be Cipango or the farthest Indies;
beard the great Khan on his throne, and I will follow in thy train,
with a poor lance and an indifferent sword, swearing that the maid of
Castile hath no equal, and ransacking the east, merely to prove in the
face of the universe, that she is peerless, let her rivals come from
what part of the earth they may."
Although Columbus permitted his grave countenance slightly to relax
at this rhapsody, he did not the less deem it prudent to rebuke the
spirit in which it was uttered.
"I grieve, my young friend," he said, "to find that thou hast not
the feelings proper for one who is engaged, as it might be, in a work
of Heaven's own ordering. Canst thou not foresee the long train of
mighty and wonderful events that are likely to follow from this
voyage—the spread of religion, through the holy church; the conquest
of distant empires, with their submission to the sway of Castile; the
settling of disputed points in science and philosophy, and the
attainment of inexhaustible wealth; with the last and most honourable
consequence of all, the recovery of the sepulchre of the Son of God,
from the hands of the Infidels!"
"No doubt, Señor Colon — no doubt, I see them all, but I see the
Doñas Mercedes at their end. What care I for gold, who already
possess—or shall so soon possess—more than I need;—what is the
extension of the sway of Castile to me, who can never be its king; and
as for the Holy Sepulchre, give me but Mercedes, and, like my
ancestors that are gone, I am ready to break a lance with the stoutest
Infidel who ever wore a turban, be it in that, or in any other
quarrel. In short, Señor Almirante, lead on; and though we go forth
with different objects and different hopes, doubt not that they will
lead us to the same goal. I feel that you ought to be supported in
this great and noble design, and it matters not what may bring me in
"Thou art a mad-brained youth, Luis, and must be humoured, if it
were only for the sake of the sweet and pious young maiden who seemeth
to engross all thy thoughts."
"You have seen her, Señor, and can say whether she be not worthy to
occupy the minds of all the youth of Spain?"
"She is fair, and virtuous, and noble, and a zealous friend of the
voyage. These are all rare merits, and thou may'st be pardoned for thy
enthusiasm in her behalf. But, forget not, that, to win her, thou must
first win a sight of Cathay."
"In the reality, you must mean, Señor Almirante; for, with the
mind's eye, I see it keenly, constantly, and see little else, with
Mercedes standing on its shores, smiling a welcome, and, by St. Paul!
sometimes backoning me on, with that smile that fires the soul with
its witchery, even while it subdues the temper with its modesty. The
blessed Maria send us a wind, right speedily, that we may quit this
irksome river, and wearying convent!"
Columbus made no answer; for, while he had all consideration for a
lover's impatience, his thoughts turned to subjects too grave, to be
long amused even by a lover's follies.
"Nor Zayda weeps him only,
But all that dwell between
The great Alhambra's palace walls
And springs of Albaicin."
The instant of departure at length arrived. The moment so long
desired by the Genoese was at hand, and years of poverty, neglect, and
of procrastination, were all forgotten at that blessed hour; or, if
they returned in any manner to the constant memory, it was no longer
with the bitterness of hope deferred. The navigator, at last, saw
himself in the possession of the means of achieving the first great
object for which he had lived the last fifteen years, with the hope,
in perspective, of making the success of his present adventure the
stepping-stone towards effecting the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre.
While those around him were looking with astonishment at the limited
means with which ends so great were to be attained, or were struck
aghast at the apparent temerity of an undertaking that seemed to defy
the laws of nature, and to set at nought the rules of Providence, he
had grown more tranquil as the time for sailing drew nearer, and his
mind was oppressed merely by a feeling of intense, but of sobered,
delight. Fray Juan Perez whispered to Luis, that he could best liken
the joy of the admiral to the chastened rapture of a Christian who was
about to quit a world of woe, to enter on the untasted, but certain,
fruition of blessed immortality.
This, however, was far from being the state of mind of all in
Palos. The embarkation took place in the course of the afternoon of
the 2d of August, it being the intention of the pilots to carry the
vessels that day to a point, off the town of Huelvas, where the
position was more favourable to making sail, than when anchored in
front of Palos. The distance was trifling, but it was the commencement
of the voyage, and, to many, it was like snapping the cords of life,
to make even this brief movement. Columbus, himself, was one of the
last to embark, having a letter to send to the court, and other
important duties to discharge. At length he quitted the convent, and,
accompanied by Luis and the prior, he, too, took his way to the beach.
The short journey was silent, for each of the party was deeply
plunged in meditation. Never before this hour, did the enterprise
seem so perilous and uncertain to the excellent Franciscan. Columbus
was carefully recalling the details of his preparations, while Luis
was thinking of the maid of Castile, as he was wont to term Mercedes,
and of the many weary days that must elapse before he could hope to
see her again.
The party stopped on the shore, in waiting for a boat to arrive, at
a place where they were removed from any houses. There Fray Juan Perez
took his leave of the two adventurers. The long silence that all three
had maintained, was more impressive than any ordinary discourse could
have been; but it was now necessary to break it. The prior was deeply
affected, and it was some little time before he could even trust his
voice to speak.
"Señor Christoval," he at length commenced, "it is now many years
since thou first appeared at the gate of Santa Maria de Rabida—years
of friendship and pleasure have they proved to me."
"It is full seven, Fray Juan Perez," returned Columbus,— "seven
weary years have they proved to me, as a solicitor for
employment;—years of satisfaction, father, in all that concerneth
thee. Think not that I can ever forget the hour, when leading Diego,
houseless, impoverished, wanderers, journeying on foot, I stopped to
tax the convent's charity for refreshment! The future is in the hands
of God, but the past is imprinted here,"—laying his hand on his
heart—"and can never be forgotten. Thou hast been my constant
friend, holy prior, and that, too, when it was no credit to favour the
nameless Genoese. Should my estimation ever change in men's
"Nay, Señor Almirante, it hath changed already,"— eagerly
interrupted the prior. "Hast thou not the commission of the
queen—the support of Don Fernando—the presence of this young
noble, though still as an incognito— the wishes of all the learned?
Dost thou not go forth, on this great voyage, carrying with thee more
of our hopes than of our fears?"
"So far as thou art concerned, dear Juan Perez, this may be so. I
feel that I have all thy best wishes for success; I know that I shall
have thy prayers. Few in Spain, notwithstanding, will think of Colon,
with respect, or hope, while we are wandering on the great desert of
the ocean, beyond a very narrow circle. I fear me, that, even at this
moment, when the means of learning the truth of our theories is in
actual possession, when we stand, as it might be, on the very
threshold of the great portal which opens upon the Indies, that few
believe in our chances of success."
"Thou hast Doña Isabella of thy side, Señor!"
"And Doña Mercedes!" put in Luis, "not to speak of my decided and
"I ask but a few brief months, Señores," returned Columbus, his
face turned to heaven with uncovered head, his grey hair floating in
the wind, and his eye kindling with the light of enthusiasm,—"a few
short months, that will pass away untold with the happy—that even
the miserable may find supportable, but which to us will seem ages,
must now dispose of this question. Prior, I have often quitted the
shore feeling that I carried my life in my hand, conscious of all the
dangers of the ocean, and as much expecting death as a happy return;
but, at this glorious moment no doubts beset me; as for life, I know
it is in the keeping of God's care; as for success, I feel it is in
"These are comfortable sentiments, at so serious a moment, Señor,
and I devoutly hope the end will justify them. But, yonder is thy
boat, and we must now part. Señor, my son, thou knowest that my spirit
will be with thee in this mighty undertaking."
"Holy prior, remember me in thy prayers. I am weak, and have need
of this support. I trust much to the efficacy of thy intercessions,
aided by those of thy pious brotherhood. Thou wilt bestow on us a few
"Doubt us not, my friend; all that La Rabida can do with the
blessed Virgin, or the saints, shall be exercised, without ceasing, in
thy behalf. It is not given to man to foresee the events that are
controlled by Providence; and, though we deem this enterprise of thine
so certain, and so reasonable, it may nevertheless fail."
not fail, father; God hath thus far directed it, and
he will not permit it to fail."
"We know not, Señor Colon; our wisdom is but as a grain of mustard
seed, among the sands of this shore, as compared with his inscrutable
designs. I was about to say, as it is possible thou may'st return a
disappointed, a defeated man, that thou wilt still find the gate of
Santa Maria open to thee; since, in our eyes, it is as meritorious to
attempt nobly, as it is often, in the eyes of others, to achieve
"I understand thee, holy prior; and the cup and the morsel bestowed
on the young Diego, were not more grateful than this proof of thy
friendship! I would not depart without thy blessing."
"Kneel, then, Señor; for, in this act it will not be Juan Perez de
Marchena that will speak, and pronounce, but the minister of God and
the church. Even these sands will be no unworthy spot to receive such
The eyes of both Columbus and the prior were suffused with tears,
for at that moment the heart of each was touched with the emotions
natural to a moment so solemn. The first loved the last, because he
had proved himself a friend, when friends were few and timid; and the
worthy monk had some such attachment for the great navigator as men
are apt to feel for those they have cherished. Each, also, respected
and appreciated the other's motives, and there was a bond of union in
their common reverence for the Christian religion. Columbus kneeled on
the sands, and received the benediction of his friend, with the meek
submission of faith, and with some such feelings of reverence as
those with which a pious son would have listened to a blessing
pronounced by a natural father.
"And thou, young lord," resumed Fray Juan Perez, with a husky
voice—"Thou, too, wilt be none the worse for the prayers of an aged
Like most of that age, Luis, in the midst of his impetuous
feelings, and youthful propensities, had enshrined in his heart an
image of the Son of God, and entertained an habitual respect for holy
things. He knelt without hesitation, and listened to the trembling
words of the priest with thankfulness and respect.
"Adieu, holy prior," said Columbus, squeezing his friend's hand.
"Thou hast befriended me when others held aloof; but I trust in God
that the day is not now distant, when those who have ever shown
confidence in my predictions, will cease to feel uneasiness at the
mention of my name. Forget us in all things but thy prayers, for a few
short months, and then expect tidings that, of a verity, shall exalt
Castile to a point of renown which will render this Conquest of
Granada but an incident of passing interest amid the glory of the
reign of Ferdinand and Isabella!"
This was not said boastfully, but with the quiet earnestness of one
who saw a truth, that was concealed from most eyes, and this with an
intensity so great, that the effect on his moral vision produced a
confidence equalling that which is the fruit of the evidence of the
senses in ordinary men. The prior understood him, and the assurance
thus given cheered the mind of the worthy Franciscan long after the
departure of his friend. They embraced and separated.
By this time, the boat of Columbus had reached the shore. As the
navigator moved slowly towards it, a youthful female rushed wildly
past him and Luis, and regardless of their presence, she threw her
arms around a young mariner who had quitted the boat to meet her, and
sobbed for a minute on his bosom, in uncontrollable agony, or as
women weep in the first outbreak of their emotions.
"Come, then, Pepe," the young wife at length said, hurriedly, and
with low earnestness, as one speaks who would fain persuade herself
that denial was impossible—"come, Pepe; thy boy hath wept for thee,
and thou hast pushed this matter, already, much too far."
"Nay, Monica," returned the husband, glancing his eye at Columbus,
who was already near enough to hear his words—"thou knowest it is by
no wish of mine that I am to sail on this unknown voyage. Gladly would
I abandon it, but the orders of the queen are too strong for a poor
mariner like me, and they must be obeyed."
"This is foolish, Pepe," returned the woman, pulling at her
husband's doublet to drag him from the water-side—"I have had enough
of this; sufficient to break my heart. Come, then, and look again upon
"Thou dost not see that the admiral is near, Monica, and we are
showing him disrespect."
The habitual deference that was paid by the low to the high,
induced the woman, for a moment, to pause. She looked imploringly at
Columbus, her fine dark eyes became eloquent with the feelings of a
wife and mother, and then she addressed the great navigator, himself.
"Señor," she said, eagerly, "you can have no further need of Pepe.
He hath helped to carry your vessels to Huelva, and now his wife and
boy call for him at home."
Columbus was touched with the manner of the woman, which was not
entirely without a show of that wavering of reason which is apt to
accompany excessive grief, and he answered her less strongly, than, at
a moment so critical, he might otherwise have been disposed to do to
one who was inciting to disobedience.
"Thy husband is honoured in being chosen to be my companion in the
great voyage," he said. "Instead of bewailing his fate, thou would'st
act more like a brave mariner's wife, in exulting in his good fortune."
"Believe him not, Pepe. He speaketh under the Evil One's advice to
tempt thee to destruction. He hath talked blasphemy, and belied the
word of God, by saying that the world is round, and that one may sail
east by steering west, that he might ruin thee and others, by tempting
ye all to follow him!"
"And why should I do this, good woman?" demanded the admiral. "What
have I to gain, by the destruction of thy husband, or by the
destruction of any of his comrades?"
"I know not—I care not—Pepe is all to me, and he shall not go
with you, on this mad and wicked voyage. No good can come of a journey
that is begun by belying the truths of God!"
"And what particular evil dost thou dread, in this, more than in
another voyage, that thou thus hang'st upon thy husband, and usest
such discourse to one who beareth their Highnesses' authority for that
he doeth. Thou knewest he was a mariner when thou wert wedded, and yet
thou would'st fain prevent him from serving the queen, as becometh
his station and duty."
"He may go against the Moor, or the Portuguese, or the people of
Inghleterra, but I would not that he voyage in the service of the
Prince of Darkness. Why tell us that the earth is round, Señor, when
our eyes show that it is flat? And if round, how can a vessel that
hath descended the side of the earth for days, ever return? The sea
doth not flow upward, neither can a caravel mount the waterfall. And
when thou hast wandered about for months in the vacant ocean, in what
manner wilt thou, and those with thee, ever discover the direction
that must be taken, to return whence ye all sailed? Oh! Señor, Palos
is but a little town, and once lost sight of, in such a confusion of
ideas, it will never be regained."
"Idle and childish, as this may seem," observed Columbus, turning
quietly to Luis, "it is as reasonable as much that I have been doomed
to hear from the learned, during the last sixteen years. When the
night of ignorance obscures the mind, the thoughts conjure arguments a
thousand times more vain and frivolous than the phenomena of nature
that it fancies so unreasonable. I will try the effect of religion on
this woman, converting her present feelings on that head, from an
enemy into an ally.—Monica," calling her kindly and familiarly by
name, "art thou a Christian?"
"Blessed Maria! Señor Almirante, what else should I be? Dost think
Pepe would have married a Moorish girl?"
"Listen, then, to me, and learn how unlike a believer thou
conductest. The Moor is not the only infidel, but this earth groaneth
with the burthen of their numbers, and of their sins. The sands on
this shore are not as numerous as the unbelievers in the single
kingdom of Cathay; for, as yet, God hath allotted but a small portion
of the earth to those who have faith in the mediation of his Son. Even
the sepulchre of Christ is yet retained by infidel hands."
"This have I heard, Señor; and 'tis a thousand pities the faith is
so weak in those who have vowed to obey the law, that so crying an
evil hath never been cured!"
"Hast thou not been told that such is to be the fate of the world,
for a time, but that light will dawn when the word shall pass, like
the sound of trumpets, into the ears of infidels, and when the earth,
itself, shall be but one vast temple, filled with the praises of God,
the love of his name, and obedience to his will?"
"Señor, the good fathers of La Rabida, and our own parish priests,
often comfort us with these hopes."
"And hast thou seen nought of late to encourage that hope—to
cause thee to think that God is mindful of his people, and that new
light is beginning to burst on the darkness of Spain?"
"Pepe, his excellency must mean the late miracle at the convent,
where they say that real tears were seen to fall from the eyes of the
image of the holy Maria, as she gazed at the child that lay on her
"I mean not that," interrupted Columbus, a little sternly, though
he crossed himself, even while he betrayed dissatisfaction at the
allusion to a miracle that was much too vulgar for his manly
understanding—"I mean no such questionable wonder, which it is
permitted us to believe, or not, as it may be supported by the
church's authority. Can thy faith and zeal point to no success of the
two sovereigns, in which the power of God, as exercised to the
advancement of the faith, hath been made signally apparent to
"He meaneth the expulsion of the Moor, Pepe!" the woman exclaimed,
glancing quickly towards her husband, with a look of pleasure, "that
hath happened of late, they say, by conquering the city of Granada;
into which place, they tell me, Doña Isabella hath marched in triumph."
"In that conquest, thou seest the commencement of the great acts of
our time. Granada hath now its churches; and the distant land of
Cathay will shortly follow her example. These are the doings of the
Lord, foolish woman; and in holding back thy husband from this great
undertaking, thou hinderest him from purchasing a signal reward in
heaven, and may unwittingly be the instrument of casting a curse,
instead of a blessing, on that very boy, whose image now filleth thy
thoughts more than that of his Maker and Redeemer."
The woman appeared bewildered, first looking at the admiral, and
then at her husband, after which she bowed her head low, and devoutly
crossed herself. Recovering from this self-abasement, she again turned
towards Columbus, demanding earnestly—
"And you, Señor—do you sail with the wish and hope of serving
"Such is my principal aim, good woman. I call on Heaven itself, to
witness the truth of what I say. May my voyage prosper, only, as I
tell thee nought but truth!"
"And you, too, Señor?" turning quickly to Luis de Bobadilla; "is it
to serve God that you also go on this unusual voyage?"
"If not at the orders of God, himself, my good woman, it is, at
least, at the bidding of an angel!"
"Dost thou think it is so, Pepe? Have we been thus deceived, and
has so much evil been said of the admiral and his motives, wrongfully?"
"What hath been said?" quietly demanded Columbus. "Speak freely;
thou hast nought to dread from my displeasure."
"Señor, you have your enemies, as well as another, and the wives,
and mothers, and the betrothed of Palos, have not been slow to give
vent to their feelings. In the first place, they say that you are
"That is so true and manifest, good woman, it would be idle to deny
it. Is poverty a crime at Palos?"
"The poor are little respected, Señor, in all this region. I know
not why, for to me we seem to be as the rest, but few respect us. Then
they say, Señor, that you are not a Castilian, but a Genoese."
"This is also true; is that, too, a crime among the mariners of
Moguer, who ought to prize a people as much renowned for their deeds
on the sea, as those of the superb republic?"
"I know not, Señor; but many hold it to be a disadvantage not to
belong to Spain, and particularly to Castile, which is the country of
Doña Isabella, herself; and how can it be as honourable to be a
Genoese as to be a Spaniard? I should like it better were Pepe to sail
with one who is a Spaniard, and that, too, of Palos or Moguer."
"Thy argument is ingenious, if not conclusive," returned Columbus,
smiling, the only outward exhibition of feeling he betrayed — "but
cannot one who is both poor and a Genoese serve God?"
"No doubt, Señor; and I think better of this voyage since I know
your motive, and since I have seen you and spoken with you. Still, it
is a great sacrifice for a young wife to let her husband sail on an
expedition so distrusted, and he the father of her only boy!"
"Here is a young noble, an only son, a lover, and that too of
impetuous feelings, an only child withal, rich, honoured, and able to
go whither he will, who not only embarketh with me, but embarketh by
the consent—nay, I had better say, by the orders of his mistress!"
"Is this so, Señor?" the wife asked, eagerly.
"So true, my good woman, that my greatest hopes depend on this
voyage. Did I not tell thee that I went at the bidding of an angel?"
"Ah! these young lords have seductive tongues! But, Señor
Almirante, since such is your quality, they say, moreover, that to you
this voyage can only bring honours and good, while it may bring misery
and death on your followers. Poor and unknown, it maketh you a high
officer of the queen; and some think that the Venetian galleys will
be none the more heavily freighted, should you meet them on the high
"And in what can all this harm thy husband? I go whithersoever he
goeth, share his dangers, and expose life for life with him. If there
is gold gained by the adventure, he will not be forgotten; and if
heaven is made any nearer to us, by our dangers and hardships, Pepe
will not be a loser. At the last great reckoning, woman, we shall not
be asked who is poor, or who is a Genoese."
"This is true, Señor; and yet it is hard for a young wife to part
from her husband. Dost thou wish, in truth, to sail with the admiral,
"It matters little with me, Monica: I am commanded to serve the
queen, and we mariners have no right to question her authority. Now I
have heard his excellency's discourse, I think less of the affair than
"If God is really to be served in this voyage," continued the
woman, with dignity, "thou should'st not be backward, more than
another, my husband. Señor, will you suffer Pepe to pass the night
with his family, on condition that he goeth on board the Santa Maria
in the morning?"
"What certainty have I that this condition will be respected?"
"Señor, we are both Christians, and serve the same God— have been
redeemed by the same Saviour."
"This is true, and I will confide in it. Pepe, thou canst remain
until the morning, when I shall expect thee at thy station. There will
be oarsmen enough, without thee."
The woman looked her thanks, and Columbus thought he read an
assurance of good faith in her noble Spanish manner, and lofty look.
As some trifling preparations were to be made before the boat could
quit the shore, the admiral and Luis paced the sands the while,
engaged in deep discourse.
"This hath been a specimen of what I have had to overcome and
endure, in order to obtain even yonder humble means for effecting the
good designs of Providence," observed Columbus, mournfully, though he
spoke without acrimony. "It is a crime to be poor—to be a
Genoese—to be aught else than the very thing that one's judges and
masters fancy themselves to be! The day will come, Conde de Llera,
when Genoa shall think herself in no manner disgraced, in having
given birth to Christofero Colombo, and when your proud Castile will
be willing to share with her in the dishonour! Thou little know'st,
young lord, how far thou art on the road to renown, and towards high
deeds, in having been born noble, and the master of large possessions.
Thou seest me, here, a man already stricken in years, with a head
whitened by time and sufferings, and yet am I only on the threshold of
the undertaking that is to give my name a place amongst those of the
men who have served God, and advanced the welfare of their
"Is not this the course of things, Señor, throughout the
earth?—Do not those who find themselves placed beneath the level of
their merits, struggle to rise to the condition to which nature
intended them to belong, while those whom fortune hath favoured
through their ancestors, are too often content to live on honours that
they have not themselves won? I see nought in this but the nature of
man, and the course of the world."
"Thou art right, Luis, but philosophy and fact are different
matters. We may reason calmly on principles, when their application
in practice causeth much pain. Thou hast a frank and manly nature,
young man; one that dreadeth neither the gibe of the Christian, nor
the lance of the Moor, and wilt answer to any, in fearlessness and
truth. A Castilian thyself, dost thou, too, really think one
of thy kingdom better than one of Genoa?"
"Not when he of Genoa is Christoval Colon, Señor, and he of Castile
is only Luis de Bobadilla," answered the young man, laughing.
"Nay, I will not be denied—hast thou any such notion as this,
which the wife of Pepe hath so plainly avowed?"
"What will you, Señor Christoval?—Man is the same in Spain, that
he is among the Italians, or the English. Is it not his besetting sin
to think good of himself, and evil of his neighbour?"
"A plain question, that is loyally put, may not be answered with a
"Nor a civil, honest reply confounded with one that is evasive. We
of Castile are humble and most devout Christians, by the same reason
that we think ourselves faultless, and the rest of mankind notable
sinners. By San Iago, of blessed faith and holy memory! it is enough
to make a people vain, to have produced such a queen as Doña Isabella,
and such a maiden as Mercedes de Valverde!"
"This is double loyalty, for it is being true to the queen and to
thy mistress. With this must I satisfy myself, even though it be no
answer. But, Castilian though I am not, even the Guzmans have not
ventured on the voyage to Cathay, and the House of Trastamara may yet
be glad to acknowledge its indebtedness to a Genoese. God hath no
respect to worldly condition, or worldly boundaries, in choosing his
agents, for most of the saints were despised Hebrews, while Jesus,
himself, came of Nazareth. We shall see, we shall see, young lord,
what three months will reveal to the admiration of mankind."
"Señor Almirante, I hope and pray it may be the island of Cipango,
and the realms of the Great Khan; should it not be so, we are men who
can not only bear our toils, but who can bear our disappointments."
"Of disappointments in this matter, Don Luis, I look for none, —
now that I have the royal faith of Isabella, and these good caravels
to back me; the drudge who saileth from Madeira to Lisbon is not more
certain of gaining his port, than I am certain of gaining Cathay."
"No doubt, Señor Colon, that what any navigator can do, you can do
and will perform; nevertheless, disappointment would seem to be the
lot of man, and it might be well for all of us to be prepared to meet
"The sun that is just sinking beyond yon hill, Luis, is not plainer
before my eyes than this route to the Indies.— I have seen it, these
seventeen years, distinct as the vessels in the river, bright as the
polar star, and, I make little doubt, as faithfully. It is well to
talk of disappointments, since they are the lot of man; and who can
know this better than one that hath been led on by false hopes during
all the better years of his life; now encouraged by princes,
statesmen, and churchmen; and now derided and scoffed at, as a vain
projector, that hath neither reason nor fact to sustain him!"
"By my new patron, San Pedro! Señor Almirante, but you have led a
most grievous life, for this last age, or so. The next three months
will, indeed, be months of moment to you."
"Thou little knowest the calmness of conviction and confidence,
Luis," returned Columbus, "if thou fanciest any doubts beset me as
the hour of trial approacheth. This day is the happiest I have known,
for many a weary year; for, though the preparations are not great, and
our barks are but slight and of trifling bulk, yonder lie the means
through which a light, that hath long been hid, is about to break
upon the world, and to raise Castile to an elevation surpassing that
of any other Christian nation."
"Thou must regret, Señor Colon, that it hath not been Genoa, thy
native land, that is now about to receive this great boon, after
having merited it by generous and free gifts, in behalf of this great
"This hath not been the least of my sorrows, Luis. It is hard to
desert one's own country, and to seek new connections, as life draweth
to a close, though we mariners, perhaps, feel the tie less than those
who never quit the land. But Genoa would have none of me; and if the
child is bound to love and honour the parent, so is the parent
equally bound to protect and foster the child. When the last forgets
its duty, the first is not to be blamed if it seek support wherever it
may be found. There are limits to every human duty; those we owe to
God alone, never ceasing to require their fulfilment, and our
unceasing attention. Genoa hath proved but a stern mother to me; and
though nought could induce me to raise a hand against her, she hath
no longer any claims on my service. Besides, when the object in view
is the service of God, it mattereth little with which of his creatures
we league as instruments. One cannot easily hate the land of his
birth, but injustice may lead him to cease to love it. The tie is
mutual, and when the country ceaseth to protect person, character,
property, or rights, the subject is liberated from all his duties. If
allegiance goeth with protection, so should protection go with
allegiance. Doña Isabella is now my mistress, and, next to God, her
will I serve, and serve only. Castile is henceforth my country."
At this moment it was announced that the pinnace waited, and the
two adventurers immediately embarked.
It must have required all the deep and fixed convictions of an
ardent temperament, to induce Columbus to rejoice that he had, at
length, obtained the means of satisfying his longings for discovery,
when he came coolly to consider what those means were. The names of
his vessels, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Niña, have already
been mentioned, and some allusions have been made to their size and
construction. Still, it may aid the reader in forming his opinions of
the character of this great enterprise, if we give a short sketch of
the vessels, more especially that in which Columbus and Luis de
Bobadilla were now received. She was, of course, the Santa Maria, a
ship of nearly twice the burthen of the craft next her in size. This
vessel had been prepared with more care than the others, and some
attention had been paid to the dignity and comfort of the Admiral she
was destined to carry. Not only was she decked in, but a poop, or
round-house, was constructed on her quarter-deck, in which he had his
berth. No proper notion can be obtained of the appearance of the Santa
Maria, from the taunt-rigged, symmetrical, and low-sterned ships of
the present time; for, though the Santa Maria had both a poop and
top-gallant-forecastle, as they would be termed to-day, neither was
constructed in the snug and unobtrusive manner that is now used. The
poop, or round-house, was called a castle, to which it had some
fancied resemblance, while the top-gallant-forecastle, in which most
of the people lived, was out of proportion large, rose like a
separate structure on the bows of the vessel, and occupied about a
third of the deck, from forward aft. To those who never saw the
shipping that was used throughout Europe, a century since, it will not
be very obvious how vessels so small could rise so far above the
water, in safety; but this difficulty may be explained; many very old
ships, that had some of the peculiarities of this construction,
existing within the memory of man, and a few having fallen under our
own immediate inspection. The bearings of these vessels were at the
loaded water-lines, or very little above them, and they tumbled-home,
in a way to reduce their beams on their poop decks nearly if not quite
a fourth. By these precautions, their great height out of the water
was less dangerous than might otherwise have been the case; and as
they were uniformly short ships, possessing the advantages of lifting
easily forward, and were, moreover, low-waisted, they might be
considered safe in a sea, rather than the reverse. Being so short,
too, they had great beam for their tonnage, which, if not an element
of speed, was at least one of security. Although termed ships, these
vessels were not rigged in the manner of the ships of the present day,
their standing spars being relatively longer than those now in use,
while their upper, or shifting spars, were much less numerous, and
much less important than those which now point upwards, like needles,
towards the clouds. Neither had a ship necessarily the same number of
spars, in the fifteenth century, as belong to a ship in the
nineteenth. The term itself, as it was used in all the southern
countries of Europe, being directly derived from the Latin word navis, was applied rather as a generic than as a distinctive term,
and by no means inferred any particular construction, or particular
rig. The caravel was a ship, in this sense, though not strictly so,
perhaps, when we descend to the more minute classification of seamen.
Much stress has been justly laid on the fact, that two of the
vessels in this extraordinary enterprise were undecked. In that day,
when most sea voyages were made in a direction parallel to the main
coasts, and when even those that extended to the islands occupied but
a very few days, vessels were seldom far from the land; and it was the
custom of the mariners, a practice that has extended to our own
times, in the southern seas of Europe, to seek a port at the approach
of bad weather. Under such circumstances, decks were by no means as
essential, either for the security of the craft, the protection of the
cargo, or the comfort of the people, as in those cases in which the
full fury of the elements must be encountered. Nevertheless, the
reader is not to suppose a vessel entirely without any upper covering,
because she was not classed among those that were decked; even such
caravels, when used on the high seas, usually possessing quarter-decks
and forecastles, with connecting gangways; depending on tarpaulings,
and other similar preventives, to exclude the wash of the sea from
injuring their cargoes.
After all these explanations, however, it must be conceded, that
the preparations for the great undertaking of Columbus, while the
imaginations of landsmen probably aggravate their incompleteness,
strike the experienced seaman as altogether inadequate to its
magnitude and risks. That the mariners of the day deemed them
positively insufficient is improbable, for men as accustomed to the
ocean as the Pinzons, would not have volunteered to risk their
vessel, their money, and their persons, in an expedition that did not
possess the ordinary means of security.
"O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home."
As Columbus sought his apartment, soon after he reached the deck of
the Holy Maria, Luis had no farther opportunity to converse with him
that night. He occupied a part of the same room, it is true, under the
assumed appellation of the admiral's secretary; but the great
navigator was so much engaged with duties necessary to be discharged
previously to sailing, that he could not be interrupted, and the
young man paced the narrow limits of the deck until near midnight,
thinking, as usual, of Mercedes, and of his return, when, seeking his
mattress, he found Columbus already buried in a deep sleep.
The following day was Friday; and it is worthy of remark, that the
greatest and most successful voyage that has ever occurred on this
globe, was commenced on a day of the week that seamen have long deemed
to be so inauspicious to nautical enterprises, that they have often
deferred sailing, in order to avoid the unknown, but dreaded
consequences. Luis was among the first who appeared again on deck,
and casting his eyes upward, he perceived that the admiral was already
afoot, and in possession of the summit of the high poop, or castle,
whose narrow limits, indeed, were deemed sacred to the uses of the
privileged, answering, in this particular, to the more extended
promenade of the modern quarter-deck. Here it was that he, who
directed the movements of a squadron, overlooked its evolutions, threw
out his signals, made his astronomical observations, and sought his
recreation in the open air. The whole space on board the Santa Maria
might have been some fifteen feet in one direction, and not quite as
much in the other, making a convenient look-out, more from its
exclusion and retirement, than from its dimensions.
As soon as the admiral—or Don Christoval, as he was now termed by
the Spaniards, since his appointment to his present high rank, which
gave him the rights and condition of a noble—as soon as Don
Christoval caught a glance of Luis's eye, he made a sign for the young
man to ascend, and take a position at his side. Although the
expedition was so insignificant in numbers and force, not equalling,
in the latter particular, the power of a single modern sloop of war,
the authority of the queen, the gravity and mien of Columbus himself,
and, most of all, its own mysterious and unwonted object, had, from
the first, thrown around it a dignity that was disproportioned to its
visible means. Accustomed to control the passions of turbulent men,
and aware of the great importance of impressing his followers with a
sense of his high station and influence with the court, Columbus had
kept much aloof from familiar intercourse with his subordinates,
acting principally through the Pinzons and the other commanders, lest
he might lose some portion of that respect which he foresaw would be
necessary to his objects. It needed not his long experience to warn
him that men crowded together in so small a space, could only be kept
in their social or professional stations, by the most rigid observance
of forms and decorum, and he had observed a due attention to these
great requisites, in prescribing the manner in which his own personal
service should be attended to, and his personal dignity supported.
This is one of the great secrets of the discipline of a ship, for
they who are incapable of reasoning, can be made to feel, and no man
is apt to despise him who is well entrenched behind the usages of
deference and reserve. We see, daily, the influence of an appellation,
or a commission, even the turbulent submitting to its authority, when
they might resist the same lawful commands, issuing from an
apparently less elevated source.
"Thou wilt keep much near my person, Señor Gutierrez," said the
admiral, using the feigned name, which Luis affected to conceal under
that of Pedro de Muños, as he knew a ship was never safe from
eaves-droppers, and was willing that the young noble should pass as
the gentleman of the king's bedchamber; "this is our station, and here
we must remain, much of our time, until God, in his holy and wise
providence, shall have opened the way for us to Cathay, and brought us
near the throne of the Great Khan. Here is our course, and along this
track of pathless ocean it is my intention to steer."
As Columbus spoke, he pointed to a chart that lay spread before him
on an arm-chest, passing a finger calmly along the line he intended to
pursue. The coast of Europe, in its general outlines, was laid down on
this chart, with as much accuracy as the geographical knowledge of the
day would furnish, and a range of land extended southward as far as
Guinea, all beyond which region was terra incognita to the
learned world at that time. The Canaries and the Azores, which had
been discovered some generations earlier, occupied their proper
places, while the western side of the Atlantic was bounded by a
fancied delineation of the eastern coast of India, or of Cathay,
buttressed by the island of Cipango, or Japan, and an Archipelago,
that had been represented principally after the accounts of Marco Polo
and his relatives. By a fortunate misconception, Cipango had been
placed in a longitude that corresponded very nearly with that of
Washington, or some two thousand leagues east of the position in which
it is actually to be found. This error of Columbus, in relation to the
extent of the circumference of the globe, in the end, most probably
saved his hardy enterprise from becoming a failure.
Luis, for the first time since he had been engaged in the
expedition, cast his eyes over this chart, with some curiosity, and
he felt a noble desire to solve the great problem rising within him,
as he thus saw, at a glance, all the vast results, as well as the
interesting natural phenomena, that were dependent on the issue.
"By San Gennaro of Napoli!" he exclaimed—The only affectation the
young noble had, was a habit of invoking the saints of the different
countries he had visited, and of using the little oaths and
exclamations of distant lands, a summary mode of both letting the
world know how far he had journeyed, as well as a portion of the
improvement he had derived from his travels—"By San Gennaro, Señor
Don Christoval, but this voyage will be one of exceeding merit, if we
ever find our way across this great belt of water; and greater still,
should we ever manage to return!"
"The last difficulty is the one, at this moment, uppermost in the
minds of most in this vessel," answered Columbus. "Dost thou not
perceive, Don Luis, the grave and dejected countenances of the
mariners, and hearest thou the wailings that are rising from the
This remark caused the young man to raise his eyes from the chart,
and to take a survey of the scene around him. The Niña, a light
felucca in fact, was already under way, and brushing past them under a
latine foresail, her sides thronged with boats filled with people, no
small portion of whom were females and children, and most of whom
were wringing their hands and raising piteous cries of despair. The
Pinta was in the act of being cast; and, although the authority of
Martin Alonzo Pinzon had the effect to render their grief less
clamorous, her sides were surrounded by a similar crowd, while
numberless boats plied around the Santa Marin herself; the authority
and dignity of the admiral alone keeping them at a distance. It was
evident that most of those who remained, fancied that they now saw
their departing relations for the last time, while no small portion of
those who were on the eve of sailing, believed they were on the point
of quitting Spain for ever.
"Hast looked for Pepe, this morning, among our people?" demanded
Columbus, the incident of the young sailor recurring to his thoughts,
for the first time that morning; "if he prove false to his word, we
may regard it as an evil omen, and have an eye on all our followers,
while there is a chance of escape."
"If his absence would be an omen of evil, Señor Almirante, his
presence ought to be received as an omen of good. The noble fellow is
on this yard, above our heads, loosening the sail."
Columbus turned his eyes upwards, and there, indeed, was the young
mariner in question, poised on the extreme and attenuated end of the
latine yard, that ships even then carried on their after-masts,
swinging in the wind, while he loosened the gasket that kept the
canvass in its folds. Occasionally he looked beneath him, anxious to
discover if his return had been noted; and, once or twice, his hands,
usually so nimble, lingered in their employment, as he cast glances
over the stern of the vessel, as if one also drew his attention in
that quarter. Columbus made a sign of recognition to the gratified
young mariner, who instantly permitted the canvass to fall; and then
he walked to the taffrail, accompanied by Luis, in order to ascertain
if any boat was near the ship. There, indeed, close to the vessel,
lay a skiff, rowed by Monica alone, and which had been permitted to
approach so near on account of the sex of its occupant. The moment the
wife of Pepe observed the form of the admiral, she arose from her
seat, and clasped her hands towards him, desirous, but afraid, to
speak. Perceiving that the woman was awed by the bustle, the crowd of
persons, and the appearance of the ship, which she was almost near
enough to touch with her hand, Columbus addressed her. He spoke
mildly, and his looks, usually so grave, and sometimes even stern,
were softened to an expression of gentleness that Luis had never
"I see that thy husband hath been true to his promise, good woman,"
he said, "and I doubt not that thou hast told him it is wiser and
better manfully to serve the queen, than to live under the disgrace of
"Señor, I have. I give Doña Isabella my husband, without a murmur,
if not cheerfully, now I know that you go forth to serve God. I see
the wickedness of my repinings, and shall pray that he may be
foremost, on all occasions, until the ears of the Infidel shall be
opened to the words of the true faith."
"This is said like a Spanish wife, and a Christian woman! Our lives
are in the care of Providence, and doubt not of seeing Pepe, in health
and safety, after he hath visited Cathay, and done his share in its
"Ah! Señor—when?" exclaimed the wife, unable, in spite of her
assumed fortitude, and the strong feelings of religious duty, to
suppress the impulses of a woman.
"In God's time, my good — how art thou named?"
"Monica, Señor Almirante, and my husband is called Pepe; and the
boy, the poor fatherless child, hath been christened Juan. We have no
Moorish blood, but are pure Spaniards, and I pray your Excellency to
remember it, on such occasions as may call for more dangerous duty
"Thou may'st depend on my care of the father of Juan," returned the
Admiral, smiling, though a tear glistened in his eye. "I, too, leave
behind those that are dear to me as my own soul, and among others a
motherless son. Should aught serious befal our vessel, Diego would be
an orphan; whereas thy Juan would at least enjoy the care and
affection of her who brought him into the world."
"Señor, a thousand pardons!" said the woman, much touched by the
feeling that was betrayed by the Admiral in his voice. "We are
selfish, and forget that others have sorrows, when we feel our own too
keenly. Go forth, in God's name, and do his holy will — take my
husband with you; I only wish that little Juan was old enough to be
Monica could utter no more, but dashing the tears from her eyes,
she resumed the oars, and pulled the little skiff slowly, as if the
inanimate machine felt the reluctance of the hands that propelled it,
towards the land. The short dialogue just related, had been carried on
in voices so loud as to be heard by all near the speakers; and when
Columbus turned from the boat, he saw that many of his crew had been
hanging suspended in the rigging, or on the yards, eagerly listening
to what had been said. At this precise instant the anchor of the Santa
Maria was raised from the bottom, and the ship's head began to incline
from the direction of the wind. At the next moment, the flap of the
large square foresail that crafts of her rig then carried, was heard,
and in the course of the next five minutes, the three vessels were
standing slowly but steadily down the current of the Odiel, in one of
the arms of which river they had been anchored, holding their course
towards a bar near its mouth. The sun had not yet risen, or rather it
rose over the hills of Spain, a fiery ball, just as the sails were
set, gilding with a melancholy glory, a coast that not a few in the
different vessels apprehended they were looking upon for the last
time. Many of the boats clung to the two smaller craft until they
reached the bar of Saltes, an hour or two later, and some still
persevered until they began to toss in the long waves of the breathing
ocean, when, the wind being fresh at the west, they reluctantly cast
off, one by one, amid sighs and groans. The liberated ships, in the
mean while, moved steadily into the blue waters of the shoreless
Atlantic, like human beings silently impelled by their destinies
towards fates that they can neither foresee, control, nor avoid.
The day was fine, and the wind both brisk and fair. Thus far the
omens were propitious; but the unknown future threw a cloud over the
feelings of a large portion of those who were thus quitting, in gloomy
uncertainty, all that was most dear to them. It was known that the
admiral intended making the best of his way towards the Canaries,
thence to enter on the unknown and hitherto untrodden paths of the
desert ocean that lay beyond. Those who doubted, therefore, fixed upon
those islands as the points where their real dangers were to commence,
and already looked forward to their appearance in the horizon, with
feelings akin to those with which the guilty regard the day of trial,
the condemned the morning of execution, or the sinner the bed of
death. Many, however, were superior to this weakness, having steeled
their nerves and prepared their minds for any hazards, though the
feelings of nearly all fluctuated; there being hours when hope, and
anticipations of success, seemed to cheer the entire crews; and then,
moments would occur, in which the disposition was to common doubts,
and a despondency that was nearly general.
A voyage to the Canaries, or the Azores, in that age, was most
probably to be classed among the hardiest exploits of seamen. The
distance was not as great, certainly, as many of their more ordinary
excursions, for vessels frequently went, even in the same direction,
as far as the Cape de Verdes; but all the other European passages lay
along the land, and in the Mediterranean the seaman felt that he was
navigating within known limits, and was apt to consider himself as
embayed within the boundaries of human knowledge. On the contrary,
while sailing on the broad Atlantic, he was, in some respects, placed
in a situation resembling that of the aeronaut, who, while floating
in the higher currents of the atmosphere, sees beneath him the earth
as his only alighting place, the blue void of untravelled space
stretching in all other directions about him.
The Canary Isles were known to the ancients. Juba, the king of
Mauritania, who was a contemporary of Caesar, is said to have
described them with tolerable accuracy, under the general name of the
Fortunate Isles. The work itself has been lost, but the fact is known
through the evidence of other writers; and by the same means it is
known that they possessed, even in that remote age, a population that
had made some respectable advances towards civilization. But in the
process of time, and during the dark period that succeeded the
brightness of the Roman sway, even the position of these islands was
lost to the Europeans; nor was it again ascertained until the first
half of the fourteenth century, when they were discovered by certain
fugitive Spaniards who were hard pressed by the Moors. After this,
the Portuguese, then the most hardy navigators of the known world, got
possession of one or two of them, and made them the starting points
for their voyages of discovery along the coast of Guinea. As the
Spaniards reduced the power of the Mussulmans, and regained their
ancient sway in the peninsula, they once more turned their attention
in this direction, conquering the natives of several of the other
islands, the group belonging equally to those two Christian nations,
at the time of our narrative.
Luis de Bobadilla, who had navigated extensively in the more
northern seas, and who had passed and repassed the Mediterranean, in
various directions, knew nothing of these islands except by report;
and as they stood on the poop, Columbus pointed out to him their
position, and explained their different characters; relating his
intentions in connection with them, dwelling on the supplies they
afforded, and on their facilities as a point of departure.
"The Portuguese have profited much by their use of these islands,"
said Columbus, "as a place for victualling, and wooding, and watering,
and I see no reason why Castile may not, now, imitate their example,
and receive her share of the benefits. Thou seest how far south our
neighbours have penetrated, and what a trade, and how much riches,
are flowing into Lisbon, through these noble enterprises, which,
notwithstanding, are but as a bucket of water in the ocean, when
compared with the wealth of Cathay and all the mighty consequences
that are to follow from this western voyage of ours."
"Dost thou expect to reach the territories of the Great Khan, Don
Christoval," demanded Luis, "within a distance as small as that to
which the Portuguese hath gone southwardly?"
The navigator looked warily around, to ascertain who might hear his
words, and finding that no one was within reach of the sound of his
voice while he used a proper caution, he lowered its tones, and
answered in a manner which greatly flattered his young companion, as
it proved that the admiral was disposed to treat him with the
frankness and confidence of a friend.
"Thou know'st, Don Luis"—the navigator resumed — "the nature of
the spirits with whom we have to deal. I shall not even be certain of
their services, so long as we continue near the coast of Europe; for
nought is easier than for one of yonder craft to abandon me in the
night, and to seek a haven on some known coast, seeking his
justification in some fancied necessity."
"Martin Alonzo is not a man to do that ignoble and unworthy act!"
"He is not, my young friend, for a motive as base as fear,"
returned Columbus, with a sort of thoughtful smile, which showed how
truly and early he had dived into the real characters of those with
whom he was associated. "Martin Alonzo is a bold and intelligent
navigator, and we may look for good service at his hands, in all that
toucheth resolution and perseverance. But the eyes of the Pinzons
cannot be always open, and the knowledge of all the philosophers of
the earth could make no resistance against the headlong impetuosity of
a crew of alarmed mutineers. I do not feel certain of our own people,
while there is a hope of easy return; much less of men who are not
directly under my own eye and command. The question thou hast asked,
Luis, may not, therefore, be publicly answered, since the distance
that we are about to sail over would frighten our easily alarmed
mariners. Thou art a cavalier; a knight of known courage, and may be
depended on; and I may tell thee, without fear of arousing any
unworthy feelings, that the voyage on which we are now fairly embarked
hath never had a precedent on this earth, for its length, or for the
loneliness of its way."
"And yet, Señor, thou enterest on it with the confidence of a man
certain of reaching his haven?"
"Luis, thou hast well judged my feelings. As to all those common
dreads of descents, and ascents, of the difficulties of a return, and
of reaching the margin of the world, whence we may glide off into
space, neither thou, nor I, shall be much subjected."
"By San Iago! Señor Don Christoval, I have no very settled notions
about these things. I have never known of any one who hath slidden off
the earth into the air, it is true, nor do I much think that such a
slide is likely to befal us and our good ships; but, on the other
hand, we have as yet only doctrine to prove that the earth is round,
and that it is possible to journey east, by sailing west. On these
subjects, then, I hold myself neuter; while, at the same time, thou
may'st steer direct for the moon, and Luis de Bobadilla will be found
at thy side."
"Thou makest thyself less expert in science, mad-brained young
noble, than is either true or necessary; but we will say no more of
this, at present. There will be sufficient leisure to make thee
familiar with all my intricate reasons and familiar motives. And is
not this, Don Luis, a most heavenly sight? Here am I in the open
ocean, honoured by the two sovereigns with the dignity of their
viceroy and admiral; with a fleet that is commissioned by their
Highnesses to carry the knowledge of their power and authority to the
uttermost parts of the earth; and, most of all, to raise the cross of
our blessed Redeemer before the eyes of Infidels, who have never yet
even heard his name, or, if they have, reverence it as little as a
Christian would reverence the idols of the heathens!"
This was said with the calm but deep enthusiasm that coloured the
entire character of the great navigator, rendering him, at times,
equally the subject of distrust and of profound respect. On Luis, as
indeed on most others who lived in sufficient familiarity with the man
to enable them to appreciate his motives, and to judge correctly of
the uprightness of his views, the effect, however, was always
favourable, and probably would have been so, had Mercedes never
existed. The young man himself, was not entirely without a tinge of
enthusiasm, and, as is ever the case with the single-minded and
generous, he best knew how to regard the impulses of those who were
influenced by similar qualities. This answer was consequently in
accordance with the feelings of the admiral, and they remained on the
poop several hours, discoursing of the future, with the ardour of
those who hoped for every thing, but in a manner too discursive and
general to render a record of the dialogue easy or necessary.
It was eight o'clock in the morning when the vessels passed the bar
of Saltes, and the day had far advanced before the navigators had lost
sight of the familiar eminences that lay around Palos, and the other
well-known land-marks of the coast. The course was due south, and, as
the vessels of that day were lightly sparred, and spread comparatively
very little canvass, when considered in connection with the more
dashing navigation of our own times, the rate of sailing was slow, and
far from promising a speedy termination to a voyage that all knew must
be long without a precedent, and which so many feared could never
have an end. Two marine leagues, of three English miles, an hour, was
good progress for a vessel at that day, even with a fresh and
favourable wind; though there are a few memorable days' works set down
by Columbus himself, which approach to a hundred and sixty miles in
the twenty-four hours, and which are evidently noted as a speed of
which a mariner might well be proud. In these days of locomotion and
travelling, it is scarcely necessary to tell the intelligent reader
this is but a little more than half the distance that is sailed over
by a fast ship, under similar circumstances, and in our own time.
Thus the sun set upon the adventurers, in this celebrated voyage,
when they had sailed with a strong breeze, to use the words of
Columbus's own record, some eleven hours, after quitting the bar. By
this time, they had made good less than fifty miles, in a due south
course from the place of their departure. The land in the
neighbourhood of Palos had entirely sunk behind the watery margin of
the ocean, in that direction, and the coast trending eastward, it was
only here and there that the misty summits of a few of the mountains
of Seville could just be discovered by the experienced eyes of the
older mariners, as the glowing ball of the sun sunk into the watery
bed of the western horizon, and disappeared from view. At this precise
moment, Columbus and Luis were again on the poop, watching, with
melancholy interest, the last shadows cast by Spanish land, while two
seamen were at work near them, splicing a rope that had been chafed
asunder. The latter were seated on the deck, and as, out of respect to
the admiral, they had taken their places a little on one side, their
presence was not at first noted.
"There setteth the sun beneath the waves of the wide Atlantic,
Señor Gutierrez," observed the admiral, who was ever cautious to use
one or the other of Luis's feigned appellations, whenever any person
was near. "There the sun quitteth us, Pero, and in his daily course I
see a proof of the globular form of the earth; and of the truth of a
theory which teacheth us that Cathay may be reached by the western
"I am ever ready to admit the wisdom of all your plans,
expectations, and thoughts, Señor Don Christoval," returned the young
man, punctiliously observant of respect, both in speech and manner;
"but I confess I cannot see what the daily course of the sun has to do
with the position of Cathay, or with the road that leads to it. We
know that the great luminary travelleth the heavens without ceasing,
that it cometh up out of the sea in the morning, and goeth down to its
watery bed at night; but this it doth on the coast of Castile, as well
as on that of Cathay; and, therefore, to me it doth appear, that no
particular inference, for or against our success, is to be drawn from
As this was said, the two sailors ceased working, looking curiously
up into the face of the admiral, anxious to hear his reply. By this
movement Luis perceived that one was Pepe, to whom he gave a nod of
recognition, while the other was a stranger. The last had every
appearance of a thorough-bred seaman of that period, or of being, what
would have been termed in English, and the more northern languages of
Europe, a regular "sea-dog;" a term that expresses the idea of a man
so completely identified with the ocean by habit, as to have had his
exterior, his thoughts, his language, and even his morality, coloured
by the association. This sailor was approaching fifty, was short,
square, athletic, and still active, but there was a mixture of the
animal with the intellectual creature about his coarse, heavy
features, that is very usual in the countenances of men of native
humour and strong sense, whose habits have been coarse and sensual.
That he was a prime seaman, Columbus knew at a glance, not only from
his general appearance, but from his occupation, which was such as
only fell to the lot of the most skilful men of every crew.
"I reason after this fashion, Señor," answered the admiral, as soon
as his eye turned from the glance that he, too, had thrown upon the
men; "the sun is not made to journey thus around the earth without a
sufficient motive, the providence of God being ruled by infinite
wisdom. It is not probable that a luminary so generous and useful
should be intended to waste any of its benefits; and we are certain
already that day and night journey westward over this earth as far as
it is known to us, whence I infer that the system is harmonious, and
the benefits of the great orb are unceasingly bestowed on man,
reaching one spot on the earth as it quits another. The sun that hath
just left us is still visible in the Azores, and will be seen again at
Smyrna, and among the Grecian Islands, an hour, or more, before it
again meets our eyes. Nature hath designed nought for uselessness; and
I believe that Cathay will be enlightened by that ball which hath just
left us, while we shall be in the deepest hour of the night, to return
by its eastern path, across the great continent of Asia, and to greet
us again in the morning. In a word, friend Pedro, that which Sol is
now doing with such nimble speed in the heavens, we are more humbly
imitating in our own caravels: give us sufficient time, and we, too,
might traverse the earth, coming in from our journey by the land of
the Tantars and the Persians."
"From all which you infer that the world is round, wherein we are
to find the certainty of our success?"
"This is so true, Señor de Muños, that I should be sorry to think
any man who now saileth under my command did not admit it. Here are
two seamen who have been listening to our discourse, and we will
question them, that we may know the opinions of men accustomed to the
ocean.— Thou art the husband with whom I held discourse on the
sands, the past evening, and thy name is Pepe?"
"Señor Almirante, your excellency's memory doth me too much honour,
in not forgetting a face that is altogether unworthy of being noticed
"It is an honest face, friend, and no doubt speaketh for a true
heart. I shall count on thee as a sure support, let things go as they
"His excellency hath not only a right to command me, as her
Highness's admiral, but he hath now the good-will of Monica, and that
is much the same as having gained her husband."
"I thank thee, honest Pepe, and shall count on thee, with
certainty, in future," answered Columbus, turning towards the other
seaman—"And thou, shipmate,—thou hast the air of one that the
sight of troubled water will not alarm— thou hast a name?"
"That I have, noble admiral," returned the fellow, looking up with
a freedom that denoted one used to have his say; "though it hath
neither a Don, nor a Señor, to take it in tow. My intimates commonly
call out Sancho, when pressed for time, and when civility gets the
better of haste, they add Mundo, making Sancho Mundo for the whole
name of a very poor man."
"Mundo is a large name for so small a person," said the admiral,
smiling, for he foresaw the expediency of having friends among his
crew, and knew men sufficiently to understand that, while undue
familiarity undermined respect, a little unbending had a tendency to
win hearts. "I wonder that thou shouldst venture to wear a sound so
"I tell my fellows, your excellency, that Mundo is my title, and
not my name; and that I am greater than kings, even, who are content
to take their titles from a part of that, of which I bear all."
"And were thy father and thy mother called Mundo, also? Or, is this
name taken in order to give thee an occasion to show thy smartness,
when questioned by thy officers?"
"As for the good people you deign to mention, Señor Don Almirante,
I shall leave them to answer for themselves, and that for the simple
reason that I do not know how they were called, or whether they had
any names at all. They tell me I was found, when a few hours old,
under a wornout basket at the ship-yard gate of old—"
"Never mind the precise spot, friend Sancho,—thou wert found with
a basket for a cradle, and that maketh a volume in thy history, at
"Nay, Excellency, I would not leave the spot a place of dispute
hereafter—but it shall be as you please. They say no one here
knoweth exactly where we are going, and it will be more suitable that
the like ignorance should rest over the places whence we came. But
having the world before me, they that christened me gave me as much of
it as was to be got by a name."
"Thou hast been long a mariner, Sancho Mundo,—if Mundo thou wilt
"So long, Señor, that it sickeneth me, and taketh away the appetite
to walk on solid ground. Being so near the gate, it was no great
matter to put me into the ship-yard, and I was launched one day in a
caravel, and got to sea in her, no one knows how. From that time I
have submitted to fate, and go out again, as soon as possible, after I
come into port."
"And by what lucky chance have I obtained thy services, good
Sancho, in this great expedition?"
"The authorities of Moguer took me under the queen's order, your
Excellency, thinking that this voyage would be more to my mind than
another, as it was likely never to have an end."
"Art thou a compelled adventurer, on this service?"
"Not I, Señor Don Almirante, although they who sent me here fancy
as much. It is natural for a man to wish to see his estates, once in
his life, and I am told that we are bound on a voyage to the other
side of the world. God forbid that I should hold aloof, on such an
"Thou art a Christian, Sancho, and hast a desire to aid in carrying
the cross among the heathen?"
"Señor, your Excellency, Don Almirante, it matters little to Sancho
with what the barque is laden, so that she do not need much pumping,
and that the garlic is good. If I am not a very devout Christian, it
is the fault of them that found me near the ship-yard gate, since the
church and the font are both within call from that very spot. I know
that Pepe, here, is a Christian, Señor, for I saw him in the arms of
the priest, and I doubt not that there are old men at Moguer who can
testify to as much in my behalf. At all hazards, noble Admiral, I will
take on myself to say that I am neither Jew, nor Mussulman."
"Sancho, thou hast that about thee, that bespeakest a skilful and
"For both of these qualities, Señor Don Colon, let others speak.
When the gale cometh, your own eyes may judge of the first; and when
the caravel shall reach the edge of the earth, whither some think it
is bound, there will be a good occasion to see who can, and who
cannot, look off without trembling."
"It is enough: I count both thee and Pepe as among my truest
followers,"—as Columbus said this, he walked away, resuming the
dignified gravity that usually was seated in his countenance, and
which so much aided his authority, by impressing the minds of others
with respect. In a few minutes he and Luis descended to their cabin.
"I marvel, Sancho," said Pepe, as soon as he and his messmate were
left alone on the poop, "that thou wilt venture to use thy tongue so
freely, even in the presence of one that beareth about with him the
queen's authority! Dost thou not fear to offend the admiral?"
"So much for having a wife and a child! Canst thou not make any
difference between them that have had ancestors and who have
descendants, and one that hath no other tie in the world than his
name? The Señor Don Almirante is either an exceeding great man, and
chosen by Providence to open the way into the unknown seas of which
he speaketh, or he is but a hungry Genoese that is leading us he
knoweth not whither, that he may eat and drink and sleep, in honour,
while we are toiling at his heels, like patient mules dragging the
load that the horse despiseth. In the one case, he is too great and
exalted to heed idle words; and in the other, what is there too bad
for a Castilian to tell him?"
"Ay, thou art fond of calling thyself a Castilian, in spite of the
ship-yard and the basket, and notwithstanding Moguer is in Seville."
"Harkee, Pepe; is not the queen of Castile our mistress? And are
not subjects—true and lawful subjects, I mean, like thee and
me,—are not such subjects worthy of being their queen's countrymen?
Never disparage thyself, good Pepe, for thou wilt ever find the world
ready enough to do that favour for thee. As to this Genoese, he shall
be either friend or enemy to Sancho; if the first, I expect much
consolation from it; if the last, let him hunt for his Cathay till
doomsday, he shall be never the wiser."
"Well, Sancho, if words can mar a voyage, or make a voyage, thou
art a ready mariner; none know how to discourse better than thou."
Here the men both rose, having completed their work, and they left
the poop, descending among the rest of the crew. Columbus had not
miscalculated his aim, his words and condescension having produced a
most favourable effect on the mind of Sancho Mundo, for so the man was
actually called; and in gaining one of as ready a wit and loose a
tongue for a friend, he obtained an ally who was not to be despised.
Of such materials, and with the support of such instruments as this,
is success too often composed, it being possible for the discovery of
a world, even, to depend on the good word of one less qualified to
influence opinions than Sancho Mundo.
"While you here do snoring lie,
His time doth take:
If of life you keep a care,
Shake off slumber, and beware:
The wind continuing fair, the three vessels made good progress in
the direction of the Canaries; Sunday, in particular, proving a
propitious day, the expedition making more than one hundred and twenty
miles in the course of the twenty-four hours. The wind still continued
favourable, and on the morning of Monday the 6th of August, Columbus
was cheerfully conversing with Luis, and one or two other companions,
who were standing near him on the poop, when the Pinta was seen
suddenly to take in her forward sails, and to come up briskly, not to
say awkwardly, to the wind. This manoeuvre denoted some accident, and
the Santa Maria, fortunately having the advantage of the wind,
immediately edged away to speak her consort.
"How now, Señor Martin Alonzo," hailed the Admiral, as the two
caravels came near enough together to speak each other. "For what
reason hast thou so suddenly paused in thy course?"
"Fortune would have it so, Señor Don Christoval, seeing that the
rudder of the good caravel hath broken loose, and we must fain secure
it, ere we may again trust ourselves to the breeze."
A severe frown came over the grave countenance of the great
navigator, and after bidding Martin Alonzo do his best to repair the
damage, he paced the deck, greatly disturbed, for several minutes.
Observing how much the Admiral took this accident to heart, the rest
descended to the deck below, leaving Columbus alone with the pretended
groom of the king's chamber.
"I trust, Señor, this is no serious injury, or one in any way
likely to retard our advance," said Luis, after manifesting that
respect which all near him felt for the admiral, by a pause. "I know
honest Martin Alonzo to be a ready seaman, and should think his
expedients might easily serve to get us as far as the Canaries, where
greater damages can meet with their remedies."
"Thou say'st true, Luis, and we will hope for the best. I feel
regret the sea is so high that we can offer no assistance to the
Pinta, but Martin Alonzo is, indeed, an expert mariner, and on his
ingenuity we must rely. My concern, however, hath another and a deeper
source than the unloosing of this rudder, serious as such an injury
ever is to a vessel at sea. Thou know'st that the Pinta hath been
furnished to the service of the queen, under the order claiming the
forfeited duty from the delinquents of Palos, and sorely against the
will of the caravel's owners hath the vessel been taken. Now these
persons, Gomez Rascon and Christoval Quintero, are on board her, and I
question not have designed this accident. Their artifices were
practised long, to our delay, before quitting the haven, and if would
seem are to be continued to our prejudice here on the open ocean."
"By the allegiance I owe the Doña Isabella! Señor Don Christoval,
but I would find a speedy cure for such a treason, if the office of
punishment rested with me. Let me jump into the skiff and repair to
the Pinta, where I will tell these Masters Rascon and Quintero, that
should their rudder ever dare to break loose again, or should any
other similar and untoward accident chance to arrive, the first shall
be hanged at the yard of his own caravel, and the last be cast into
the sea to examine into the state of her bottom, the rudder included."
"We may not practise such high authority without great occasion,
and perfect certainty of guilt. I hold it to be wiser to seek another
caravel at the Canaries, for, by this accident, I well see we shall
not be rid of the artifices of the two owners, until we are rid of
their vessel. It will be hazardous to launch the skiff in this sea, or
I would proceed to the Pinta myself; but, as it is, let us have
confidence in Martin Alonzo and his skill."
Columbus thus encouraged the people of the Pinta to exert
themselves, and in about an hour or two, the three vessels were again
making the best of their way towards the Canaries. Notwithstanding the
delay, nearly ninety miles were made good in the course of the day and
night. But, the following morning, the rudder again broke loose, and,
as the damage was more serious than in the former instance, it was
still more difficult to repair. These repeated accidents gave the
admiral great concern, for he took them to be so many indications of
the disaffection of his followers. He fully determined, in
consequence, to get rid of the Pinta, if it were possible to find
another suitable vessel among the islands. As the progress of the
vessels was much retarded by the accident, although the wind continued
favourable, the expedition only got some sixty miles, this day,
nearer to its place of destination.
On the following morning, the three vessels came within hail of
each other; and a comparison of the nautical skill of the different
navigators, or pilots, as it was then the custom to style them, took
place, each offering his opinion as to the position of the vessels.
It was not the least of the merits of Columbus, that he succeeded
in his great experiment with the imperfect aid of the instruments then
in use. The mariner's compass, it is true, had been in common service
quite a century, if not longer, though its variations, a knowledge of
which is scarcely less important in long voyages than a knowledge of
the instrument itself, were then unknown to seamen, who seldom
ventured far enough from the land to note these mysteries of nature,
and who, as a class, still relied almost as much on the ordinary
position of the heavenly bodies to ascertain their routes, as on the
nicer results of calculation. Columbus, however, was a striking
exception to this little-instructed class, having made himself
thoroughly acquainted with all the learning of the period that could
be applied in his profession, or which might aid him in effecting the
great purpose for which alone he now seemed to live.
As might be expected, the comparison resulted altogether in the
admiral's favour, the pilots in general being soon convinced that he
alone knew the true position of the vessels, a fact that was soon
unanswerably determined by the appearance of the summits of the
Canaries, which hove up out of the ocean, in a south-easterly
direction, resembling well-defined dark clouds clustering in the
horizon. As objects like these are seen at a great distance at sea,
more especially in a transparent atmosphere, and the wind became
light and variable, the vessels, notwithstanding, were unable to
reach Grand Canary, until Thursday, the 8th of August, or nearly a
week after they had left Palos. There they all ran in, and anchored in
the usual haven. Columbus immediately set about making an inquiry for
another caravel, but proving unsuccessful, he sailed for Gomera, where
he believed it might be easier to obtain the craft he wanted. While
the admiral was thus employed with the Santa Maria and the Niña,
Martin Alonzo remained in port, being unable to keep company in the
crippled condition of the Pinta. But no suitable vessel being found,
Columbus reluctantly returned to Grand Canary, and after repairing the
Pinta, which vessel was badly caulked, among the other devices that
had been adopted to get her freed from the service, he sailed again
for Gomera, from which island he was to take his final departure.
During these several changes, a brooding discontent began to
increase among most of the common mariners, while some even of a
higher class, were not altogether free from the most melancholy
apprehensions for the future. While passing from Grand Canary to
Gomera, with all his vessels, Columbus was again at his post, with
Luis and his usual companions near him, when the admiral's attention
was drawn to a conversation that took place between a group of the
men, who had collected near the main-mast. It was night, and there
being little wind, the voices of the excited disputants reached
farther than they themselves were aware.
"I tell thee, Pepe," said the most vociferous and most earnest of
the speakers, "that the night is not darker than the future of this
crew. Look to the west, and what dost see there? Who hath ever heard
of land, after he hath quitted the Azores, and who is so ignorant as
not to know that Providence hath placed water around all the
continents, with a few islands as stopping-places for mariners, and
spread the broad ocean beyond, with an intention to rebuke an
over-eager curiosity to pry into matters that savour more of miracles
than of common worldly things?"
"This is well, Pero," answered Pepe, "but I know that Monica thinks
the admiral is sent of God, and that we may look forward to great
discoveries, through his means; and most especially to the spreading
of religion among the heathen."
"Ay, thy Monica should have been in Doña Isabella's seat, so
learned and positive is she in all matters, whether touching her own
woman's duties, or thine own. She is thy quean, Pepe, as all in
Moguer will swear; and there are some who say she would gladly govern
the port, as she governeth thee."
"Say nought against the mother of my child, Pero," interrupted
Pepe, angrily. "I can bear thy idle words against myself, but he that
speaketh ill of Monica will have a dangerous enemy."
"Thou art bold of speech, Pero, when away a hundred leagues from
thine own better nine-tenths," put in a voice that Columbus and Luis
both knew, on the instant, to belong to Sancho Mundo, "and art bold
enough to jeer Pepe touching Monica, when we all well know who
commandeth in a certain cabin, where thou art as meek as a hooked
dolphin, whatever thou may'st be here. But, enough of thy folly about
women; let us reason upon our knowledge as mariners, if thou wilt;
instead of asking questions of one like Pepe, who is too young to have
had much experience, I offer myself as thy catechist."
thou, then, to say about this unknown land that
lieth beyond the great ocean, where man hath never been, or is at all
likely to go, with followers such as these?"
"I have this to say, silly and idle-tongued Pero,—that the time
was when even the Canaries were unknown; when mariners did not dare to
pass the straits, and when the Portuguese knew nothing of their mines
and Guinea, lands that I myself have visited, and where the noble Don
Christoval hath also been, as I know on the testimony of mine own
"And what hath Guinea, or what have the mines of the Portuguese to
do with this western voyage? All know that there is a country called
Africa; and what is there surprising that mariners should reach a land
that is known to exist: but who knoweth that the ocean hath other
continents, any more than that the heavens have other earths?"
"This is well, Pero," observed an attentive by-stander; "and Sancho
will have to drain his wits to answer it."
"It is well for those who wag their tongues, like women, without
thought of what they say," coolly returned Sancho, "but will have
little weight with Doña Isabella, or Don Almirante. Harkee, Pero, thou
art like one that hath trodden the path between Palos and Moguer so
often, that thou fanciest there is no road to Seville or Granada.
There must be a beginning to all things; and this voyage is, out of
doubt, the beginning of voyages to Cathay. We go west, instead of
east, because it is the shorter way; and because, moreover, it is the only way for a caravel. Now, answer me, messmates; is it possible
for a craft, let her size or rig be what it may, to pass over the
hills and valleys of a continent— I mean under her canvass, and by
Sancho waited for a reply, and received a common and complete
admission of the impossibility of the thing.
"Then cast your eyes at the admiral's chart, in the morning, as he
keepeth it spread before him on the poop, yonder, and you will see
that there is land from one pole to the other, on each side of the
Atlantic, thereby rendering navigation impossible, in any other
direction than this we are now taking. The notion of Pero, therefore,
runs in the teeth of nature."
"This is so true, Pero," exclaimed another, the rest assenting,
"that thy mouth ought to be shut."
But Pero had a mouth that was not very easily closed; and it is
probable that his answer would have been to the full as acute and
irrefutable as that of Sancho, had not a common exclamation of alarm
and horror burst from all around him. The night was sufficiently clear
to permit the gloomy outlines of the Peak of Teneriffe to be
distinctly visible, even at some distance; and, just at that moment,
flashes of flame shot upwards from its pointed summit, illuminating,
at instants, the huge pile, and then leaving it in shadowy darkness,
an object of mystery and terror. Many of the seamen dropped on their
knees and began to tell their beads, while all, as it might be
instinctively, crossed themselves. Next arose a general murmur; and in
a few minutes, the men who slept were awoke, and appeared among their
fellows, awe-struck and astounded spectators of the phenomenon. It was
soon settled that the attention of the admiral should be drawn to this
strange event, and Pero was selected for the spokesman.
All this time, Columbus and his companions remained on the poop,
and, as might have been expected, this unlooked-for change in the
appearance of the Peak had not escaped their attention. Too
enlightened to be alarmed by it, they were watching the workings of
the mountain, when Pero, accompanied by nearly every sailor in the
vessel, appeared on the quarter-deck. Silence having been obtained,
Pero opened the subject of his mission with a zeal that was not a
little stimulated by his fears.
"Señor Almirante," he commenced, "we have come to pray your
Excellency to look at the summit of the Island of Teneriffe, where we
all think we see a solemn warning against persevering in sailing into
the unknown Atlantic. It is truly time for men to remember their
weakness, and how much they owe to the goodness of God, when even the
mountains vomit flames and smoke!"
"Have any here ever navigated the Mediterranean, or visited the
island of which Don Ferdinand, the honoured consort of our lady the
queen, is master?" demanded Columbus, calmly.
"Señor Don Almirante," hastily answered Sancho, "I have done so,
unworthy as I may seem to have enjoyed that advantage. And I have seen
Cyprus, and Alexandria, and even Stamboul, the residence of the Great
"Well, then, thou may'st have also seen ætna, another mountain
which continueth to throw up those flames, in the midst of a nature
and a scene on which Providence would seem to have smiled with unusual
benignity, instead of angrily frowning, as ye seem to imagine."
Columbus then proceeded to give his people an explanation of the
causes of volcanoes, referring to the gentlemen around him to
corroborate the fidelity of his statements. He told them that he
looked upon this little eruption as merely a natural occurrence; or,
if he saw any omen at all in the event, it was propitious rather than
otherwise; Providence seeming disposed to light them on their way.
Luis and the rest next descended among the crew, where they used
their reasoning powers in quieting an alarm that, at first, had
threatened to be serious. For the moment they were successful, or
perhaps it would be better to say that they succeeded completely, so
far as the phenomenon of the volcano was concerned, and this less by
the arguments of the more intelligent of the officers, than by means
of the testimony of Sancho, and one or two others of the common men,
who had seen similar scenes elsewhere. With difficulties like these,
had the great navigator to contend, even after he had passed years in
solicitations to obtain the limited means which had been finally
granted, in order to effect one of the sublimest achievements that had
yet crowned the enterprise of man!
The vessels reached Gomera on the 2d of September, where they
remained several days, in order to complete their repairs, and to
finish taking in their supplies, ere they finally left the civilized
abodes of man, and what might then be deemed the limits of the known
earth. The arrival of such an expedition, in an age when the means of
communication were so few that events were generally their own
announcers, had produced a strong sensation among the inhabitants of
the different islands visited by the adventurers. Columbus was held in
high honour among them, not only on account of the commission he had
received from the two sovereigns, but on account of the magnitude and
the romantic character of his undertaking.
There existed a common belief among all the adjacent islands,
including Madeira, the Azores and the Canaries, that land lay to the
westward; their inhabitants living under a singular delusion in this
particular, which the admiral had an occasion to detect, during his
second visit to Gomera. Among the most distinguished persons who were
then on the island, was Doña Inez Peraza, the mother of the Count of
Gomera. She was attended by a crowd of persons, not only belonging to
her own, but who had come from other islands to do her honour. She
entertained the admiral in a manner suited to his high rank, admitting
to her society such of the adventurers as Columbus saw fit to point
out as worthy of the honour. Of course the pretended Pedro de Muños,
or Pero Gutierrez, as he was now indifferently termed, was of the
number; as, indeed, were most of those who might be deemed any way
suited to so high and polished a society.
"I rejoice, Don Christopher," said Doña Inez Peraza, on this
occasion, "that their Highnesses have at length yielded to your desire
to solve this great problem, not only on account of our Holy Church,
which, as you say, hath so deep an interest in your success, and the
honour of the two sovereigns, and the welfare of Spain, and all the
other great considerations that we have so freely touched upon in our
discourse already, but on account of the worthy inhabitants of the
Fortunate Islands, who have not only many traditions touching land in
the west, but most of whom believe that they have more than once seen
it, in that quarter, in the course of their lives."
"I have heard of this, noble lady, and would be grateful to have
the account from the mouths of eye-witnesses, now we are here,
together, conversing freely concerning that which is of so much
interest to us all."
"Then, Señor, I will entreat this worthy cavalier, who is every way
capable of doing the subject justice, to be spokesman for us, and to
let you know what we all believe in these islands, and what so many of
us fancy we have seen. Acquaint the admiral, Señor Dama, I pray thee,
of the singular yearly view that we get of unknown land, lying afar
off, in the Atlantic."
"Most readily, Doña Inez, and all the more so at your gracious
bidding," returned the person addressed, who disposed himself to tell
the story, with a readiness that the lovers of the wonderful are apt
to betray when a fitting opportunity offers to indulge a favourite
propensity. "The illustrious admiral hath probably heard of the island
of St. Brandan, that lieth some eighty or a hundred leagues to the
westward of Ferro, and which hath been so often seen, but which no
navigator hath yet been able to reach, in our days at least?"
"I have often heard of this fabled spot, Señor," the admiral
gravely replied; "but, pardon me if I say that the land never yet
existed which a mariner hath seen and yet a mariner hath not reached."
"Nay, noble admiral," interrupted a dozen eager voices, among which
that of the lady, herself, was very distinctly audible, "that it hath
been seen, most here know; and that it hath never been reached, is a
fact to which more than one disappointed pilot can testify."
"That which we have seen, we know; and that which we know, we can
describe," returned Columbus, steadily. "Let any man tell me in what
meridian, or on what parallel this St. Brandan, or St. Barandon,
lieth, and a week shall make me also certain of its existence."
"I know little of meridians or parallels, Don Christopher," said
the Señor Dama, "but I have some ideas of visible things. This island
have I often seen, more or less plainly at different times; and that,
too, under the serenest skies, and at occasions when it was not
possible greatly to mistake either its form or its dimensions. Once I
remember to have seen the sun set behind one of its heights."
"This is plain evidence, and such as a navigator should respect;
and yet do I take what you imagine yourself to have seen, Señor, to be
some illusion of the atmosphere."
"Impossible! — impossible!" was said, or echoed, by a dozen
voices. "Hundreds yearly witness the appearance of St. Brandan, and
its equally sudden and mysterious disappearance."
"Therein, noble lady and generous cavalier, lieth the error into
which ye have fallen. Ye see the Peak the year round; and he who will
cruise a hundred miles, north or south, east or west, of it, will
continue to see it, the year round, except on such days as the state
of the atmosphere may forbid. The land which God hath created
stationary, will be certain to remain stationary, until disturbed by
some great convulsion that cometh equally of his providence and his
"All this may be true, Señor; doubtless it
is true; but
every rule hath its exceptions. You will not deny that God ruleth the
world mysteriously, and that his ends are not always visible to human
eyes. Else, why hath the Moor so long been permitted to rule in Spain?
why hath the Infidel, at this moment, possession of the Holy
Sepulchre? why have the sovereigns been so long deaf to your own
well-grounded wishes and entreaties to be permitted to carry their
banners, in company with the cross, to the Cathay, whither you are now
bound? Who knoweth that these appearances of St. Brandan may not be
given as signs to encourage one like yourself, bent on still greater
ends than even reaching its shores?"
Columbus was an enthusiast; but his was an enthusiasm that was
seated in his reverence for the acknowledged mysteries of religion,
which sought no other support from things incomprehensible, than might
reasonably be thought to belong to the exercise of infallible wisdom,
and which manifested a proper reverence for a Divine Power. Like most
of that period, he believed in modern miracles; and his dependence on
the direct worldly efficacy of votive offerings, penances and prayers,
was such as marked the age in general, and his calling in particular.
Still, his masculine understanding rejected the belief of vulgar
prodigies; and while he implicitly thought himself set apart and
selected for the great work before him, he was not disposed to credit
that an airy exhibition of an island was placed in the west to tempt
mariners to follow its shadowy outline to the more distant regions of
"That I feel the assurance of the Providence of God having selected
me as the humble instrument of connecting Europe with Asia, by means
of a direct voyage by sea, is certain," returned the navigator,
gravely, though his eye lighted with its latent enthusiasm; "but I am
far from indulging in the weakness of thinking, that direct,
miraculous, agencies are to be used to guide me on my way. It is more
in conformity to the practice of divine wisdom, and certainly more
grateful to my own self-love, that the means employed are such as a
discreet pilot, and the most experienced philosophers, might feel
proud in finding themselves selected to display. My thoughts have
first been turned to the contemplation of this subject; then hath my
reason been enlightened by a due course of study and reflection, and
science hath aided in producing the conviction necessary to impel
myself to proceed, and to enable me to induce others, to join in this
"And do all your followers, noble admiral, act under the same
guidance?" demanded the Doña Inez, glancing at Luis, whose manly
graces, and martial aspect, had found favour in the eyes of most of
the ladies of the island. "Is the Señor Gutierrez equally enlightened
in this manner? and hath he, too, devoted his nights to study, in
order that the cross may be carried to the heathen, and Castile and
Cathay may be more closely united?"
"The Señor Gutierrez is a willing adventurer, Señora; but he must
be the expounder of his own motives."
"Then will we call on the cavalier himself, for an answer. These
ladies feel a desire to know what may have impelled one who would be
certain to succeed at the court of Doña Isabella, and in the Moorish
wars, to join in such an expedition."
"The Moorish wars are ended, Señora," replied Luis, smiling; "and
Doña Isabella, and all the ladies of her court, most favour the youths
who show a manly disposition to serve the interests, and to advance
the honour of Castile. I know very little of philosophy, and have
still smaller pretensions to the learning of churchmen; but I think I
see Cathay before me, shining like a brilliant star in the heavens,
and am willing to adventure body and soul in its search."
Many pretty exclamations of admiration broke from the circle of
fair listeners; it being most easy for spirit to gain applause, when
it is recommended by high personal advantages, and comes from the
young and favoured. That Columbus, a weather-worn veteran of the
ocean, should see fit to risk a life that was already drawing near its
close, in a rash attempt to pry into the mysteries of the Atlantic,
seemed neither so commendable, nor so daring, but many discover high
qualities in the character of one who was just entering on his career,
and that under auspices apparently so flattering, and who threw all
his hopes on the uncertain chances of success in a scheme so unusual.
Luis was human, and he was in the full enjoyment of the admiration
his enterprise had evidently awakened among so many sensitive young
creatures, when Doña Inez most inopportunely interposed to interrupt
his happiness, and to wound his selfesteem.
"This is having more honourable views than my letters from Seville
attribute to one youth, who belongeth to the proudest of our Castilian
houses, and whose titles alone should invite him to add new lustre to
a name that hath so long been the Spanish boast," resumed the Señora
Peraza. "The reports speak of his desire to rove, but in a manner
unworthy of his rank; and that, too, in a way to serve neither the
sovereigns, his country, nor himself."
"And who may this misguided youth be, Señora?" eagerly inquired
Luis, too much elated by the admiration he had just excited to
anticipate the answer. "A cavalier thus spoken of, needeth to be
warned of his reputation, that he may be stimulated to attempt better
"His name is no secret, since the court speaketh openly of his
singular and ill-judged career; and it is said that even his love hath
been thwarted in consequence. I mean a cavalier of no less lineage and
name than Don Luis de Bobadilla, the count of Llera."
It is said that listeners seldom hear good of themselves, and Luis
was now fated to verify the truth of the axiom. He felt the blood
rushing to his face, and it required a strong effort at self-command
to prevent him from breaking out in exclamations, that would probably
have contained invocations of half the patron saints he had ever heard
of, had he not happily succeeded in controlling the sudden impulse.
Gulping the words he had been on the point of uttering, he looked
round, with an air of defiance, as if seeking the countenance of some
man who might dare even to smile at what had been said. Luckily, at
that moment, Columbus had drawn all of the males present around
himself, in warm discussion of the probable existence of the island
of St. Brandan; and Luis nowhere met a smile, with which he could
conveniently quarrel, that had a setting of beard to render it
hostile. Fortunately, the gentle impulses that are apt to influence a
youthful female, induced one of Doña Inez's fair companions to speak,
and that in a way greatly to relieve the feelings of our hero.
"True, Señora," rejoined the pretty young advocate, the first tones
of whose voice had an effect to calm the tempest that was rising in
the bosom of the young man; "true, Señora, it is said that Don Luis is
a wanderer, and one of unsettled tastes and habits, but it is also
said he hath a most excellent heart, is generous as the dews of
heaven themselves, and carrieth the very best lance of Castile, as he
is also like to carry off the fairest maiden."
"It is vain, Señor de Muños, for churchmen to preach, and parents
to frown," said Doña Inez, smiling, "while the beautiful and young
will prize courage, and deeds in arms, and an open hand, before the
more homely virtues commended by our holy religion, and so zealously
inculcated by its servants. The unhorsing of a knight or two in the
tourneys, and the rallying a broken squadron under a charge of the
Infidel, counteth far more than years of sobriety, and weeks of
penance and prayer."
"How know we that the cavalier you mention, Señora, may not have
his weeks of penance and his hours of prayer?" answered Luis, who had
now found his voice. "Should he be so fortunate as to enjoy a
conscientious religious adviser, he can scarce escape both, prayer
being so often ordered in the way of penance. He seemeth, indeed, to
be a miserable dog, and I wonder not that his mistress holdeth him
cheap. Is the name of the lady, also, given in your letter?"
"It is. She is the Doña Maria de las Mercedes de Valverde, nearly
allied to the Guzmans and the other great houses, and one of the
fairest maidens of Spain."
"That is she!" exclaimed Luis, "and one of the most virtuous, as
well as fair, and wise as virtuous!"
"How now, Señor, is it possible that you can have sufficient
knowledge of one so situated, as to speak thus positively of her
qualities, as well as of her appearance?"
"Her beauty I have seen, and of her excellencies one may speak by
report. But doth your correspondent, Senora, say aught of what hath
become of the graceless lover?"
"It is rumoured that he hath again quitted Spain, and, as is
supposed, under the grave displeasure of the sovereigns; since it hath
been remarked that the queen now never nameth him. None know the road
he hath taken, but there is little doubt that he is again roaming the
seas, as usual, in quest of low adventures among the ports of the
The conversation now changed, and soon after the admiral and his
attendants repaired to their different vessels.
"Of a verity, Señor Don Christoval," said Luis, as he walked alone
with the great navigator towards the shore, "one little knoweth when
he is acquiring fame, and when not. Though but an indifferent mariner,
and no pilot, I find my exploits on the ocean are well bruited abroad!
If your Excellency but gain half the reputation I already enjoy, by
this present expedition, you will have reason to believe that your
name will not be forgotten by posterity."
"It is a tribute the great pay for their elevation, Luis," returned
the admiral, "that all their acts are commented on, and that they can
do little that may be concealed from observation, or escape remarks."
"It would be as well, Señor Almirante, to throw into the scales, at
once, calumnies, and lies, and uncharitableness, for all these are to
be added to the list. Is it not wonderful, that a young man cannot
visit a few foreign lands, in order to increase his knowledge and
improve his parts, but all the gossips of Castile should fill their
letters to the gossips of the Canaries, with passages touching his
movements and demerits! By the Martyrs of the East! if I were Queen
of Castile, there should be a law against writing of others'
movements, and I do not know, but a law against women's writing
letters at all!"
"In which case, Señor de Muños, thou wouldst never possess the
satisfaction of receiving a missive from the fairest hand in Castile."
"I mean a woman's writing to a woman, Don Christopher. As to
letters from noble maidens intended to cheer the hearts and animate
the deeds of cavaliers who adore them, they are useful, out of doubt,
and the saints be deaf to the miscreant who would forbid, or intercept
them! No, Señor, I trust that travelling hath at least made me
liberal, by raising me above the narrow prejudices of provinces and
cities, and I am far from wishing to put an end to letters from
mistresses to their knights, or from parents to their children, or
even from wives to their husbands; but, as for the letters of a gossip
to a gossip, by your leave, Señor Almirante, I detest them just as
much as the Father of Sin detests this expedition of ours!"
"An expedition, certainly, that he hath no great reason to love,"
answered Columbus, smiling, "since it will be followed by the light of
revelation and the triumph of the cross. But what is thy will, friend,
that thou seemest in waiting for me, to disburthen thyself of
something? Thy name is Sancho Mundo, if I remember thy countenance?"
"Señor Don Almirante, your memory hath not mistaken," returned the
person addressed—"I am Sancho Mundo, as your Excellency saith,
sometimes called Sancho of the Ship-Yard Gate. I desire to say a few
words, concerning the fate of our voyage, whenever it shall suit you,
noble Señor, to hear me where there are no ears present that you
"Thou may'st speak freely, now; this cavalier being my confidant
"It is not necessary that I should tell a great pilot, like your
Excellency, who is King of Portugal, or what the mariners of Lisbon
have been about these many years, since you know all that better than
myself. Therefore I will just add, that they are discovering all the
unknown lands they can, for themselves, and preventing others, as
much as in them lies, from doing the same thing."
"Don John of Portugal is an enlightened prince, fellow, and thou
would'st do well to respect his character and rank. His Highness is a
liberal sovereign, and hath sent many noble expeditions forth from his
"That he hath, Señor, and this last is not the least in its designs
and intentions," answered Sancho, turning a look of irony towards the
admiral, that showed the fellow had more in reserve than he cared to
divulge without some wheedling. "No one doubts Don John's willingness
to send forth expeditions."
"Thou hast heard some intelligence, Sancho, that it is proper I
should know! Speak freely, and rely on my repaying any service of this
sort, to the full extent of its deservings."
"If your Excellency will have patience to hear me, I will give the
whole story, with all minuteness and particularity, and that in a way
to leave no part untold, and all parts to be as easily understood as
heart can wish, or a priest in the confessional could desire."
"Speak; no one will interrupt thee. As thou art frank, so will be
"Well, then, Señor Don Almirante, you must know that about eleven
years since, I made a voyage from Palos to Sicily, in a caravel
belonging to the Pinzons, here; not to Martin Alonzo, who commandeth
the Pinta, under your Excellency's orders, but to a kinsman of his
late father's, who caused better craft to be constructed than we are
apt to get in these days of hurry, and rotten cordage, and careless
caulking, to say nothing of the manner in which the canvass is—"
"Nay, good Sancho," interrupted the impatient Luis, who was yet
smarting under the remarks of Doña Inez's correspondent—"thou
forgettest night is near, and that the boat is waiting for the
"How should I forget that, Señor, when I can see the sun just
dipping into the water, and I belong to the boat myself, having left
it in order to tell the noble admiral what I have to say?"
"Permit the man to relate his story in his own manner, Señor Pedro,
I pray thee," put in Columbus. "Nought is gained by putting a seaman
out in his reckoning."
"No, your Excellency, or in kicking with a mule. And so, as I was
saying, I went that voyage to Sicily, and had for a messmate one José
Gordo, a Portuguese by birth, but a man who liked the wines of Spain
better than the puckering liquors of his own country, and so sailed
much in Spanish craft. I never well knew, notwithstanding, whether
José was, in heart, most of a Portuguese, or a Spaniard, though he
was certainly but an indifferent Christian."
"It is to be hoped that his character hath improved," said
Columbus, calmly. "As I foresee that something is to follow on the
testimony of this José, you will let me say, that an indifferent
Christian is but an indifferent witness. Tell me, at once, therefore,
what he hath communicated, that I may judge for myself of the value of
"Now, he that doubteth your Excellency will not discover Cathay is
a heretic, seeing that you have discovered my secret without having
heard it! José has just arrived, in the felucca that is riding near
the Santa Maria, and hearing that we were an expedition that had one
Sancho Mundo engaged in it, he came speedily on board of us to see
his old shipmate."
"All that is so plain, that I wonder thou thinkest it worthy of
relating, Sancho; but, now we have him safe on board the good ship, we
can come at once to the subject of his communication."
"That may we, Señor; and so, without any unnecessary delay, I will
state, that the subject was touching Don John of Portugal, Don
Ferdinand of Aragon, Doña Isabella of Castile, your Excellency, Señor
Don Almirante, the Señor de Muños here, and myself."
"This is a strange company!" exclaimed Luis, laughing, while he
slipped a piece of eight into the hand of the sailor; "perhaps that
may aid thee in shortening the story of the singular conjunction."
"Another, Señor, would bring the tale to an end at once. To own the
truth, José is behind that wall, and as he told me he thought his news
worth a dobla, he will be greatly displeased at finding I have
received my half of it, while his half still remaineth unpaid."
"This, then, will set his mind at rest," said Columbus, placing an
entire dobla in the hand of the cunning fellow, for the admiral
perceived by his manner that Sancho had really something of importance
to communicate. "Thou canst summon José to thy aid, and deliver
thyself, at once, of thy burthen."
Sancho did as directed, and in a minute José had appeared, had
received the dobla, weighed it deliberately on his finger, pocketed
it, and commenced his tale. Unlike the artful Sancho, he told his
story at once, beginning at the right end, and ceasing to speak as
soon as he had no more to communicate. The substance of the tale is
soon related. José had come from Ferro, and had seen three armed
caravels, wearing the flag of Portugal, cruising among the islands,
under circumstances that left little doubt their object was to
intercept the Castilian expedition. As the man referred to a passenger
or two, who had landed within the hour, to corroborate his statement,
Columbus and Luis immediately sought the lodgings of these persons, in
order to hear their report of the matter. The result proved that the
sailor had stated nothing but what was true.
"Of all our difficulties and embarrassments, Luis," resumed the
admiral, as the two finally proceeded to the shore, "this is much the
most serious! We may be detained altogether by these treacherous
Portuguese, or we may be followed in our voyage, and have our fair
laurels seized upon by others, and all the benefits so justly due for
our toil and risk usurped, or at least disputed, by men who had not
the enterprise and knowledge to accept the boon, when fairly offered
"Don John of Portugal must have sent far better knights than the
Moors of Granada to do the feat," answered Luis, who had a Spaniard's
distaste for his peninsular neighbours; "he is a bold and learned
prince, they say, but the commission and ensigns of the sovereign of
Castile are not to be disregarded, and that, too, in the midst of her
own islands, here."
"We have no force fit to contend with that which hath most probably
been sent against us. The number and size of our vessels are known,
and the Portuguese, questionless, have resorted to the means necessary
to effect their purposes, whatever those purposes may be. Alas! Luis,
my lot hath been hard, though I humbly trust that the end will repay
me for all! Years did I sue the Portuguese to enter fairly into this
voyage, and to endeavour to do that, in all honour, which our gracious
mistress, Doña Isabella, hath now so creditably commenced; he listened
to my reasons and entreaties with cold ears—nay, repelled them,
with ridicule and disdain; and, yet, here am I scarce fairly embarked
in the execution of schemes that they have so often derided, than they
endeavour to defeat me by violence and treachery."
"Noble Don Christoval, we will die to a Castilian, ere this shall
come to pass!"
"Our only hope is in speedy departure. Thanks to the industry and
zeal of Martin Alonzo, the Pinta is ready, and we may quit Gomera with
the morning's sun. I doubt if they will have the hardihood to follow
us into the trackless and unknown Atlantic, without any other guides
than their own feeble knowledge; and we will depart with the return
of the sun. All now dependeth on quitting the Canaries unseen."
As this was said, they reached the boat, and were quickly pulled on
board the Santa Maria. By this time the peaks of the islands were
towering like gloomy shadows in the atmosphere, and, soon after, the
caravels resembled dark, shapeless specks, on the unquiet element that
washed their hulls.
"They little thought how pure a light,
With years, should gather round that day;
How love should keep their memories bright—
How wide a realm their sons should sway."
The night that succeeded, was one of very varied feelings among the
adventurers. As soon as Sancho secured the reward, he had no further
scruples about communicating all he knew, to any who were disposed to
listen; and long ere Columbus returned on board the vessel, the
intelligence had spread from mouth to mouth, until all in the little
squadron were apprised of the intentions of the Portuguese. Many
hoped that it was true, and that their pursuers might be successful;
any fate being preferable, in their eyes, to that which the voyage
promised; but, such is the effect of strife, much the larger portion
of the crew were impatient to lift the anchors and to make sail, if it
were only to get the mastery in the race. Columbus, himself,
experienced the deepest concern, for it really seemed as if a hard
fortune was about to snatch the cup from his lips, just as it had
been raised there, after all his cruel sufferings and delays. He
consequently passed a night of deep anxiety, and was the first to rise
in the morning.
Every one was on the alert with the dawn; and as the preparations
had been completed the previous night, by the time the sun had risen,
the three vessels were under way, the Pinta leading, as usual. The
wind was light, and the squadron could barely gather steerage way; but
as every moment was deemed precious, the vessels' heads were kept to
the westward. When a short time out, a caravel came flapping past
them, after having been several hours in sight, and the admiral spoke
her. She proved to be from Ferro, the most southern and western island
of the group, and had come nearly on the route the expedition intended
to steer, until they quitted the known seas.
"Dost thou bring any tidings from Ferro?" inquired Columbus, as the
strange ship drifted slowly past the Santa Maria; the progress of each
vessel being little more than a mile in the hour. "Is there aught of
interest in that quarter?"
"Did I know whether, or not, I am speaking to Don Christopher
Columbus, the Genoese that their Highnesses have honoured with so
important a commission, I should feel more warranty to answer what I
have both heard and seen, Señor," was the reply.
"I am Don Christopher himself, their Highnesses' admiral and
viceroy, for all seas and lands that we may discover, and, as thou
hast said, a Genoese in birth, though a Castilian by duty, and in love
to the queen."
"Then, noble Admiral, I may tell you that the Portuguese are
active, three of their caravels being off Ferro, at this moment, with
the hope of intercepting your expedition."
"How is this known, friend, and what reasons have I for supposing
that the Portuguese will dare to send forth caravels, with orders to
molest those who sail as the officers of Isabella the Catholic? They
must know that the Holy Father hath lately conferred this title on the
two sovereigns, in acknowledgment of their great services in expelling
the Moor from Christendom."
"Señor, there hath been a rumour of that among the islands, but
little will the Portuguese care for aught of that nature, when he
deemeth his gold in danger. As I quitted Ferro, I spoke the caravels,
and have good reason to think that rumour doth them no injustice."
"Did they seem warlike, and made they any pretensions to a right to
interrupt our voyage?"
"To us they said nought of this sort, except to inquire,
tauntingly, if the illustrious Don Christoval Colon, the great
viceroy of the east, sailed on board us. As for preparations, Señor,
they had many lombardas, and a multitude of men in breast-plates and
casques. I doubt if soldiers are as numerous at the Azores, as when
"Keep they close in with the island, or stretch they off to
"Mostly the latter, Señor, standing far towards the west in the
morning, and beating up towards the land, as the day closeth. Take the
word of an old pilot, Don Christopher, the mongrels are there for no
This was barely audible, for, by this time, the caravels had
drifted past each other, and were soon altogether beyond the reach of
"Do you believe that the Castilian name standeth so low, Don
Christopher," demanded Luis, "that these dogs of Portuguese dare do
this wrong to the flag of the queen!"
"I dread nought from force, beyond detention and frauds, certainly;
but these, to me, at this moment, would be little less painful than
death. Most do I apprehend that these caravels, under the pretence of
protecting the rights of Don John, are directed to follow us to
Cathay, in which case we should have a disputed discovery, and divided
honours. We must avoid the Portuguese, if possible; to effect which
purpose I intend to pass to the westward, without nearing the island
of Ferro, any closer than may be rendered absolutely indispensable."
Notwithstanding a burning impatience now beset the admiral, and
most with him, the elements seemed opposed to his passage from among
the Canaries, into the open ocean. The wind gradually failed, until it
became so calm that the sails were hauled up, and the three vessels
lay, now laving their sides with the brine, and now rising to the
summit of the ground-swell, resembling huge animals that were lazily
reposing, under the heats of summer, in drowsy indolence.
Many was the secret
ave, that was mumbled by
the mariners, and not a few vows of future prayers were made, in the
hope of obtaining a breeze. Occasionally it seemed as if Providence
listened to these petitions, for the air would fan the cheek, and the
sails would fall, in the vain expectation of getting ahead; but
disappointment as often followed, until all on board felt that they
were fated to linger under the visitations of a calm. Just at
nightfall, however, a light air arose, and, for a few hours, the wash
of the parted waters was audible under the bows of the vessels, though
their way was barely sufficient to keep them under the command of
their helms. About midnight, however, even this scarcely perceptible
motion was lost, and the craft were again lazily wallowing in the
groundswells that the gales had sent in from the vast expanse of the
When the light reappeared, the admiral found himself between Gomera
and Teneriffe, the lofty peak of the latter casting its pointed
shadow, like that thrown by a planet, far upon the water, until its
sharp apex was renewed, in faint mimicry, along the glassy surface of
the ocean. Columbus was now fearful that the Portuguese might employ
their boats, or impel some light felucca by her sweeps, in order to
find out his position; and he wisely directed the sails to be furled,
in order to conceal his vessels, as far as possible, from any prying
eyes. The season had advanced to the 7th of September, and such was
the situation of this renowned expedition, exactly five weeks after it
had left Spain; for this inauspicious calm occurred on a Friday, or
on that day of the week on which it had originally sailed.
All practice shows that there is no refuge from a calm at sea,
except in patience. Columbus was much too experienced a navigator, not
to feel this truth, and, after using the precaution mentioned, he, and
the pilots under him, turned their attention to the arrangements
required to render the future voyage safe and certain. The few
mathematical instruments known to the age, were got up, corrected,
and exhibited, with the double intention of ascertaining their state,
and of making a display before the common men, that would heighten
their respect for their leaders, by adding to their confidence in
their skill. The admiral, himself, had already obtained a high
reputation as a navigator, among his followers, in consequence of his
reckonings having proved so much more accurate than those of the
pilots, in approaching the Canaries; and as he now exhibited the
instruments then used as a quadrant, and examined his compasses, every
movement he made was watched by the seamen, with either secret
admiration, or jealous vigilance; some openly expressing their
confidence in his ability to proceed wherever he wished to go, and
others covertly betraying just that degree of critical knowledge
which ordinarily accompanies prejudice, ignorance, and malice.
Luis had never been able to comprehend the mysteries of navigation,
his noble head appearing to repudiate learning, as a species of
accomplishment but little in accordance with its wants or its tastes.
Still, he was intelligent; and within the range of knowledge that it
was usual for laymen of his rank to attain, few of his age did
themselves more credit in the circles of the court. Fortunately, he
had the most perfect reliance on the means of the admiral; and being
almost totally without personal apprehensions, Columbus had not a more
submissive or blind follower, than the young grandee, under his
Man, with all his boasted philosophy, intelligence, and reason,
exists the dupe of his own imagination and blindness, as much as of
the artifices and designs of others. Even while he fancies himself the
most vigilant and cautious, he is as often misled by appearances as
governed by facts and judgment; and perhaps half of those who were
spectators of this calculated care in Columbus, believed that they
felt, in their renewed confidence, the assurances of science and
logical deductions, when in truth their senses were impressed,
without, in the slightest degree, enlightening their understandings.
Thus passed the day of the 7th September, the night arriving and
still finding the little squadron, or fleet, as it was termed in the
lofty language of the day, floating helplessly between Teneriffe and
Gomera. Nor did the ensuing morning bring a change, for a burning sun
beat, unrelieved by a breath of air, on the surface of a sea that was
glittering like molten silver. When the admiral was certain, however,
by having sent men aloft to examine the horizon, that the Portuguese
were not in sight, he felt infinitely relieved, little doubting that
his pursuers still lay, as inactive as himself, to the westward of
"By the seamen's hopes! Señor Don Christopher," said Luis, as he
reached the poop, where Columbus had kept an untiring watch for hours,
he himself having just risen from a siesta, "the fiends seem to be
leagued against us! Here are we in the third day of our calm, with the
Peak of Teneriffe as stationary as if it were a mile-stone, set to
tell the porpoises and dolphins the rate at which they swim. If one
believed in omens, he might fancy that the saints were unwilling to
see us depart, even though it be on their own errand."
"We may not believe in omens, when they are no more than the
fruits of natural laws," gravely returned the admiral. "There will
shortly be an end of this calm, for a haze is gathering in the
atmosphere that promises air from the east, and the motion of the ship
will tell thee, that the winds have been busy far to the westward.
Master Pilot," addressing the officer of that title, who had charge of
the deck at the moment, "thou wilt do well to unfurl thy canvass, and
prepare for a favouring breeze, as we shall soon be overtaken by wind
from the north-east."
This prediction was verified about an hour later, when all three of
the vessels began, again, to part the waters with their stems. But the
breeze, if any thing, proved more tantalizing to the impatient
mariners, than the calm itself had been; for a strong head sea had got
up, and the air proving light, the different craft struggled with
difficulty towards the west.
All this time, a most anxious look-out was kept for the Portuguese
caravels, the appearance of which, however, was less dreaded than it
had been, as they were now supposed to be a considerable distance to
leeward. Columbus, and his skilful assistants, Martin Alonzo and
Vicente Yañez, or the brothers Pinzon, who commanded the Pinta and the
Niña, practised all the means that their experience could suggest to
get ahead. Their progress, however, was not only slow but painful, as
every fresh impulse given by the breeze, served to plunge the bows of
the vessels into the sea with a violence that threatened injuries to
the spars and rigging. So trifling, indeed, was their rate of sailing,
that it required all the judgment of Columbus to note the nearly
imperceptible manner in which the tall, cone-like summit of the Peak
of Teneriffe lowered, as it might be, inch by inch. The superstitious
feelings of the common men being more active than usual even, some
among them began to whisper that the elements were admonishing them
against proceeding, and that tardy as it might seem, the admiral
would do well to attend to omens and signs that nature seldom gave
without sufficient reason. These opinions, however, were cautiously
uttered, the grave earnest manner of Columbus having created so much
respect, as to suppress them in his presence; and the mariners of the
other vessels still followed the movements of their admiral with that
species of blind dependence which marks the submission of the inferior
to the superior, under such circumstances.
When Columbus retired to his cabin for the night, Luis observed
that his countenance was unusually grave, as he ended his calculations
of the day's work.
"I trust all goes to your wishes, Don Christopher," the young man
gaily observed. "We are now fairly on our journey, and, to my eyes,
Cathay is already in sight."
"Thou hast that within thee, Don Luis," returned the admiral,
"which rendereth what thou wishest to see distinct, and maketh all
colours gay. With me it is a duty to see things as they are,
and, although Cathay lieth plainly before the vision of my
mind—thou, Lord, who hast implanted, for thine own great ends, the
desire to reach that distant land, only knowest how
plainly!—although Cathay is thus plain to my moral view, I am bound
to heed the physical obstacles that may exist to our reaching it."
"And are these obstacles getting to be more serious than we could
"My trust is still in God—look here, young lord," laying his
finger on the chart; "at this point were we in the morning, and to
this point have we advanced by means of all the toil of the day, down
to this portion of the night. Thou seest that a line of paper marketh
the whole of our progress; and, here again, thou seest that we have to
cross this vast desert of ocean, ere we may even hope to draw near
the end of our journey. By my calculation, with all our exertions, and
at this critical moment—critical not only as regardeth the
Portuguese, but critical as regardeth our own people—we have made
but nine leagues, which are a small portion of the thousand that lie
before us. At this rate we may dread a failure of our provisions and
"I have all confidence in your resources, Don Christopher, and in
your knowledge and experience."
"And I have all confidence in the protection of God; trusting that
he will not desert his servant in the moment that he most needeth his
Here Columbus prepared himself to catch a few hours' sleep, though
it was in his clothes, the interest he felt in the position of his
vessels forbidding him to undress. This celebrated man lived in an age
when a spurious philosophy, and a pretending but insufficient exercise
of reason, placed few, even in appearance, above the frank admission
of their constant reliance on a divine power. We say in appearance,
as no man, whatever may be the extent of his delusions on this
subject, really believes that he is altogether sufficient for his own
protection. This absolute self-reliance is forbidden by a law of
nature, each carrying in his own breast a monitor to teach him his
real insignificance, demonstrating daily, hourly, at each minute even,
that he is but a diminutive agent used by a superior power in carrying
out its own great and mysterious ends, for the sublime and beneficent
purposes for which the world and all it contains has been created. In
compliance with the usage of the times, Columbus knelt, and prayed
fervently, ere he slept; nor did Luis de Bobadilla hesitate about
imitating an example that few, in that day, thought beneath their
intelligence or their manhood. If religion had the taint of
superstition in the fifteenth century, and men confided too much in
the efficacy of momentary and transient impulses, it is certain that
it also possessed an exterior of graceful meekness and submission to
God, in losing which, it may be well questioned, if the world has been
The first appearance of light brought the admiral and Luis to the
deck. They both knelt again on the poop, and repeated their paters;
and then, yielding to the feelings natural to their situation, they
arose, eager to watch for what might be revealed by the lifting of the
curtain of day. The approach of dawn, and the rising of the sun at
sea, have been so often described, that the repetition here might be
superfluous; but we shall state that Luis watched the play of colours
that adorned the eastern sky, with a lover's refinement of feeling,
fancying that he traced a resemblance to the passage of emotions
across the tell-tale countenance of Mercedes, in the soft and
transient hues that are known to precede a fine morning in September,
more especially in a low latitude. As for the admiral, his more
practical gaze was turned in the direction in which the island of
Ferro lay, awaiting the increase of the light in order to ascertain
what changes had been wrought during the hours he had slept. Several
minutes passed in profound attention, when the navigator beckoned Luis
to his side.
"Seest thou that dark, gloomy pile, which is heaving up out of the
darkness, here at the south and west of us?" he said,—"it gaineth
form and distinctness at each instant, though distant some eight or
ten leagues; that is Ferro, and the Portuguese are there, without
question, anxiously expecting our appearance. In this calm, neither
can approach the other, and thus far we are safe. It is now necessary
to ascertain if the pursuing caravels are between us and the land, or
not; after which, should it prove otherwise, we shall be reasonably
safe, if we approach no nearer to the island, and we can maintain, as
yesterday, the advantage of the wind. Seest thou any sail, Luis, in
that quarter of the ocean?"
"None, Señor; and the light is already of sufficient strength to
expose the white canvass of a vessel, were any there."
Columbus made an ejaculation of thankfulness, and immediately
ordered the look-outs aloft to examine the entire horizon. The report
was favourable; the dreaded Portuguese caravels being nowhere visible.
As the sun arose, however, a breeze sprung up at the southward and
westward, bringing Ferro, and consequently any vessels that might be
cruising in that quarter, directly to windward of the fleet. Sail was
made without the loss of a moment; and the admiral stood to the
northward and westward, trusting that his pursuers were looking out
for him on the south side of the island, which was the ground where
those who did not thoroughly understand his aim, would be most likely
to expect him. By this time the westerly swell had, in a great
measure, gone down; and though the progress of the vessels was far
from rapid, it was steady, and seemed likely to last. The hours went
slowly by, and as the day advanced, objects became less and less
distinct on the sides of Ferro. Its entire surface next took the hazy
appearance of a dim and ill-defined cloud; and then it began slowly to
sink into the water. Its summit was still visible, as the admiral,
with the more privileged of his companions, assembled on the poop, to
take a survey of the ocean and of the weather. The most indifferent
observer might now have noted the marked difference in the state of
feeling which existed among the adventurers on board the Santa Maria.
On the poop, all was cheerfulness and hope, the present escape having
induced even the distrustful, momentarily, to forget the uncertain
future; the pilots, as usual, were occupied and sustained by a species
of marine stoicism, while a melancholy had settled on the crew that
was as apparent as if they were crowding around the dead. Nearly every
man in the ship was in some one of the groups that had assembled on
deck; and every eye seemed riveted, as it might be by enchantment, on
the fading and falling heights of Ferro. While things were in this
state, Columbus approached Luis, and aroused him from a sort of
trance, by laying a finger lightly on his shoulder.
"It can not be that the Señor de Muños is affected by the feelings
of the common men," observed the admiral, with a slight mixture of
surprise and reproach; "this, too, at a moment that all of an
intelligence sufficient to foresee the glorious consequences, are
rejoicing that a heaven-sent breeze is carrying us to a safe distance
from the pursuing and envious caravels! Why dost thou thus regard the
people beneath thee, with a steady eye and unwavering look? Is it
that thou repentest embarking, or dost thou merely muse on the charms
of thy mistress?"
"By San Iago! Don Christopher, this time your sagacity is at fault.
I neither repent, nor muse as you would imply; but I gaze at yonder
poor fellows with pity for their apprehensions."
"Ignorance is a hard master, Señor Pedro, and one that is now
exercising his power over the imaginations of the seamen, with the
ruthlessness of a tyrant. They dread the worst, merely because they
have not the knowledge to foresee the best. Fear is a stronger passion
than hope, and is ever the near ally of ignorance. In vulgar eyes,
that which hath not yet been,—nay, which hath not, in some measure,
become familiar by use,—is deemed impossible; men reasoning in a
circle that is abridged by their information. Those fellows are gazing
at the island, as it disappears, like men taking a last look at the
things of life. Indeed, this concern exceedeth even what I could have
"It lieth deep, Señor, and yet it riseth to the eyes; for I have
seen tears on cheeks that I could never have supposed wetted in any
manner but by the spray of the ocean!"
"There are our two acquaintances, Sancho and Pepe, neither of whom
seemeth particularly distressed, though the last hath a cast of
melancholy in his face. As for the first, the knave showeth the
indifference of a true mariner; one who is never so happy as when
farthest from the dangers of rocks and shoals: to such a man, the
disappearance of one island, and the appearance of another, are alike
matters of indifference. He seeth but the visible horizon around him,
and considereth the rest of the world, temporarily, as a blank. I look
for loyal service, in that Sancho, in despite of his knavery, and
count upon him as one of the truest of my followers."
Here the admiral was interrupted by a cry from the deck beneath
him, and looking round, his practised and quick eye was not slow in
discovering that the horizon to the southward presented the usual
watery blank of the open ocean. Ferro had, in fact, altogether
disappeared, some of the most sanguine of the seamen having fancied
that they beheld it, even after it had finally sunk behind the
barrier of waves. As the circumstance became more and more certain,
the lamentations among the people grew less and less equivocal and
louder, tears flowed without shame or concealment, hands were wrung in
a sort of senseless despair, and a scene of such clamour ensued, as
threatened some serious danger to the expedition from this new
quarter. Under such circumstances, Columbus had all the people
collected beneath the break of the poop, and standing on the latter,
where he could examine every countenance for himself, he addressed
them on the subject of their grief. On this occasion the manner of the
great navigator was earnest and sincere, leaving no doubt that he
fully believed in the truth of his own arguments, and that he uttered
nothing with the hope to delude or to mislead.
"When Don Ferdinand and Doña Isabella, our respected and beloved
sovereigns, honoured me with the commission of admiral and viceroy, in
those secret seas towards which we are now steering," he said, "I
considered it as the most glorious and joyful event of my life, as I
now consider this moment, that seemeth to some among you so painful,
as second to it in hope and cause for felicitation. In the
disappearance of Ferro, I see also the disappearance of the
Portuguese; for, now that we are in the open ocean, without the limits
of any known land, I trust that Providence hath placed us beyond the
reach and machinations of all our enemies. While we prove true to
ourselves, and to the great objects that are before us, there is no
longer cause for fear. If any person among you hath a mind to
disburthen himself, in this matter, let him speak freely; we being
much too strong in argument to wish to silence doubts by authority."
"Then, Señor Don Almirante," put in Sancho, whose tongue was ever
ready to wag, as occasions offered, "it is just that which maketh your
Excellency so joyful that maketh these honest people so sad. Could
they always keep the island of Ferro in sight, or any other known
land, they would follow you to Cathay with as gentle a pull as the
launch followeth the caravel in a light breeze and smooth water; but
it is this leaving all behind, as it might be, earth as well as wives
and children, that saddens their hearts, and uncorks their tears."
"And thou, Sancho, an old mariner that wast born at sea—"
"Nay, your Excellency, illustrious Señor Don Almirante,"
interrupted Sancho, looking up with pretended simplicity, "not
exactly at sea, though within the scent of its odour; since, having
been found at the shipwright's gate, it is not probable they would
have made a haven just to land so small a part of the freight."
near the sea, if thou wilt — but from thee I
expect better things than unmanly lamentations because an island hath
sunk below the horizon."
"Excellency, you may; it mattereth little to Sancho, if half the
islands in the sea were sunk a good deal lower. There are the Cape de
Verdes, now, which I never wish to look upon again, and Lampidosa,
besides Stromboli and others in that quarter, would be better out of
the way, than where they are, as for any good they do us seamen. But,
if your Excellency will condescend to tell these honest people
whither it is that we are bound, and what you expect to find in port,
and, more especially, when we are to come back, it would comfort them
in an unspeakable degree."
"As I hold it to be the proper office of men in authority to let
their motives be known, when no evil followeth the disclosure, this
will I most cheerfully do, requiring the attention of all near me, and
chiefly of those who are most uneasy concerning our present position
and future movements. The end of our voyage is Cathay, a country that
is known to lie in the uttermost eastern extremity of Asia, whither
it hath been more than once reached by Christian travellers; and its
difference from all other voyages, or journeys, that may have been
attempted in order to reach the same country, is in the circumstance
that we go west, while former travellers have proceeded east. But this
is effecting our purposes by means that belong only to stouthearted
mariners, since none but those who are familiar with the ocean,
skilful pilots and obedient and ready seamen, can traverse the waters,
without better guides than the knowledge of the stars, currents,
winds, and other phenomena of the Atlantic, and such aids as may be
gleaned from science. The reason on which I act, is a conviction that
the earth is round, whence it followeth that the Atlantic, which we
know to possess an eastern boundary of land, must also have a western;
and from certain calculations that leave it almost certain, that this
continent, which I hold will prove to be India, cannot lie more than
some twentyfive or thirty days' sailing, if as many, from our own
Europe. Having thus told when and where I expect to find the country
we seek, I will now touch a little on the advantages that we may all
expect to derive from the discovery. According to the accounts of a
certain Marco Polo, and his relatives, gentlemen of Venice, and men of
fair credit and good reputations, the kingdom of Cathay is not only
one of the most extensive known, but one that most aboundeth in gold
and silver, together with the other metals of value, and precious
stones. Of the advantages of the discovery of such a land to
yourselves, ye may judge by its advantages to me. Their Highnesses
have dignified me with the rank of admiral and viceroy, in
anticipation of our success, and, persevering to a successful
termination of your efforts, the humblest man among ye may look with
confidence to some signal mark of their favour. Rewards will doubtless
be rendered in proportion to your merits; he that deserveth much,
receiving more than he who hath deserved less. Still will there be
sufficient for all. Marco Polo and his relatives dwelt seventeen years
in the court of the Great Khan, and were every way qualified to give a
true account of the riches and resources of those regions; and well
were they, simple Venetian gentlemen, without any other means than
could be transported on the backs of beasts of burthen, rewarded for
their toils and courage. The jewels alone, with which they returned,
served long to enrich their race, renovating a decayed but honourable
family, while they did their enterprise and veracity credit in the
eyes of men.
"As the ocean, for a long distance this side of the continent of
Asia and the kingdom of Cathay, is known to abound with islands, we
may expect first to meet with them, where, it would be doing nature
herself injustice, did we not anticipate fragrant freights of balmy
spices, and other valuable commodities with which that favoured
quarter of the earth, it is certain, is enriched. Indeed, it is scarce
possible for the imagination to conceive of the magnitude of the
results that await our success, while nought but ridicule and contempt
could attend a hasty and inconsiderate return. Going not as invaders,
but as Christians and friends, we have no reason to expect other than
the most friendly reception; and, no doubt, the presents and gifts,
alone, that will naturally be offered to strangers who have come so
far, and by a road that hath hitherto been untravelled, will
forty-fold repay you for all your toils and troubles.
"I say nothing of the honour of being among those who have first
carried the cross to the heathen world," continued the admiral,
uncovering himself, and looking around him with solemn gravity;
"though our fathers believed it to be no little distinction to have
been one in the armies that contended for the possession of the
sepulchre. But, neither the church, nor its great master, forgetteth
the servitor that advanceth its interests, and we may all look for
blessings, both here and hereafter."
As he concluded, Columbus devoutly crossed himself, and withdrew
from the sight of his people among those who were on the poop. The
effect of this address was, for the moment, very salutary, and the men
saw the clouds that hung over the land disappear, like the land
itself, with less feeling than they had previously manifested.
Nevertheless, they remained distrustful and sad, some dreaming that
night of the pictures that Columbus had drawn of the glories of the
East, and others fancying in their sleep, that demons were luring them
into unknown seas, where they were doomed to wander for ever, as a
punishment for their sins; conscience asserting its power, in all
situations, and most vividly in those of distrust and uncertainty.
Shortly before sunset, the admiral caused the three vessels to
heave-to, and the two Pinzons to repair on board his own ship. Here he
laid before these persons his orders and plans for their government,
in the event of a separation.
"Thus you will understand me, Señores," he concluded, after having
explained at length his views: "Your first and gravest duty will be to
keep near the admiral, in all weather, and under every circumstance,
so long as it may be possible; but, failing of the possibility, you
will make your way due westward, on this parallel of latitude, until
you have gone seven hundred leagues from the Canaries; after which,
you are to lie-to at night, as, by that time, it is probable you will
be among the islands of Asia; and it will be both prudent and
necessary to our objects, to be more on the alert for discoveries,
from that moment. Still, you will proceed westward, relying on seeing
me at the court of the Great Khan, should Providence deny us an
"This is well, Señor Almirante," returned Martin Alonzo raising his
eyes, which had long been riveted on the chart; "but it will be far
better for all to keep together, and chiefly so to us, who are little
used to the habits of princes, if we await your excellency's
protection before we rush unheedingly into the presence of a sovereign
as potent as the Grand Khan."
"Thou showest thy usual prudence, good Martin Alonzo, and I much
commend thee for it. It were, indeed, better that thou shouldst wait
my arrival, since that eastern potentate may conceive himself better
treated by receiving the first visit from the viceroy of the
sovereigns, who is the bearer of letters directly from his own royal
master and mistress, than by receiving it from one of inferior rank.
Look thou well to the islands and their products, Señor Pinzon,
shouldst thou first gain those seas, and await my appearance, before
thou proceedest to aught else. How stand thy people affected on taking
leave of the land?"
"Ill enough, Señor; so much so, indeed, as to put me in fear of a
mutiny. There are those in the Pinta who need to stand in wholesome
dread of the anger of their Highnesses, to prevent their making a
sudden and violent return to Palos."
"Thou would'st do well to look sharply to this spirit, that it may
be kept under. Deal kindly and gently with these disaffected spirits
as long as may be, encouraging them by all fair and reasonable
promises; but beware that the distemper get not the mastery of thy
authority. And now, Señores, as the night approacheth, take boat and
return to your vessels, that we may profit by the breeze."
When Columbus was again alone with Luis, he sate in his little
cabin, with a hand supporting his head, musing like one lost in
"Thou hast long known this Martin Alonzo, Don Luis de Bobadilla?"
he at length asked, betraying the current of his thoughts, by the
nature of the question.
"Long, Señor, as youths count time; though it would seem but a day
in the calculations of aged men."
"Much dependeth on him; I hope he may prove honest; as yet he hath
shown himself liberal, enterprising, and manly."
"He is human, Don Christopher, and therefore liable to err. Yet as
men go, I esteem Martin Alonzo far from being among the worst of his
race. He hath not embarked in this enterprise under knightly vows, nor
with any churchman's zeal; but give him the chance of a fair return
for his risks, and you will find him as true as interest ever leaveth
a man, when there is any occasion to try his selfishness."
"Then thou, only, will I trust with my secret. Look at this paper,
Luis. Here thou seest that I have been calculating our progress since
morning, and I find that we have come full nineteen leagues, though it
be not in a direct westerly line. Should I let the people know how far
we may have truly come, at the end of some great distance, there
being no land visible, fear will get the mastery over them, and no man
can foresee the consequences. I shall write down publicly, therefore,
but fifteen leagues, keeping the true reckoning sacred for thine eye
and mine. God will forgive me this deception, in consideration that it
is practised in the interest of his own church. By making these small
deductions daily, it will enable us to advance a thousand leagues,
without awakening alarm sufficient for more than seven or eight
"This is reducing courage to a scale I little dreamt of, Señor,"
returned Luis, laughing. "By San Luis, my true patron! we should think
ill of the knight who found it necessary to uphold his heart by a
measurement of leagues."
"All unknown evils are dreaded evils. Distance hath its terrors for
the ignorant, and it may justly have its terrors for the wise, young
noble, when it is measured on a trackless ocean; and there ariseth
another question touching those great staples of life, food and water."
With this slight reproof of the levity of his young friend, the
admiral prepared himself for his hammock by Kneeling and repeating the
prayers of the hour.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.