Castile; or, The
V2 by James Fenimore Cooper
Castile; or, The
I fill this cup, to one made up of loveliness alone
A woman, 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
"Whither, 'midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?"
The slumbers of Columbus were of short duration. While his sleep
lasted it was profound, like that of a man who has so much control
over his will as to have reduced the animal functions to its
domination, for he awoke regularly at short intervals, in order that
his watchful eye might take a survey of the state of the weather, and
of the condition of his vessels. On this occasion, the admiral was on
deck again, a little after one, where he found all things seemingly
in that quiet and inspiring calm that ordinarily marks, in fine
weather, a middle watch at sea. The men on deck mostly slumbered, the
drowsy pilot, and the steersman, with a look-out or two, alone
remaining erect and awake. The wind had freshened, and the caravel was
ploughing her way ahead, with an untiring industry, leaving Ferro and
its dangers, at each instant, more and more remote. The only noises
that were audible, were the gentle sighing of the wind among the
cordage, the wash of the water, and the occasional creaking of a yard,
as the breeze forced it, with a firmer pressure, to distend its tackle
and to strain its fittings.
The night was dark, and it required a moment to accustom the eye to
objects by a light so feeble: when this was done, however, the admiral
discovered that the ship was not close by the wind, as he had ordered
that she should be kept. Walking to the helm, he perceived that it was
so far borne up, as to cause her head to fall off towards the
northeast, which was, in fact, in the direction to Spain.
"Art thou a seaman, and disregardest thy course, in this heedless
manner?" sternly demanded the admiral; "or art thou only a muleteer,
who fancieth he is merely winding his way along a path of the
mountains. Thy heart is in Spain, and thou thinkest that a vain wish
to return may meet with some relief in this idle artifice!"
"Alas, Señor Almirante! your Excellency hath judged rightly in
believing that my heart is in Spain, where it ought to be, moreover,
as I have left behind me at Moguer seven motherless children."
"Dost thou not know, fellow, that I too am a father, and that the
dearest objects of a father's hopes are left behind me, also? In what,
then, dost thou differ from me, my son being also without a mother's
"Excellency, he hath an admiral for a father, whilst my boys have
only a helmsman!"
"And what will it matter to Don Diego," — Columbus was fond of
dwelling on the honours he had received from the sovereigns, even
though it were a little irregularly— "what will it matter to Don
Diego, my son, that his parent perished an admiral, if he perish at
all; and in what will he profit more than your children, when he
findeth himself altogether without a parent?"
"Señor, it will profit him to be cherished by the king and queen,
to be honoured as your child, and to be fostered and fed as the
offspring of a viceroy, instead of being cast aside as the issue of a
"Friend, thou hast some reason in this, and insomuch I respect thy
feelings" — answered Columbus, who, like our own Washington, appears
to have always submitted to a lofty and pure sense of justice—"but
thou would'st do well to remember the influence that thy manly and
successful perseverance in this voyage may produce on the welfare of
thy children, instead of thus dwelling on weak forebodings of ills
that are little likely to come to pass. Neither of us hath much to
expect, should we fail of our discoveries, while both may hope every
thing should we succeed. Can I trust thee now, to keep the ship on her
course, or must I send for another mariner to relieve the helm?"
"It may be better, noble admiral, to do the last. I will bethink me
of thy counsel, and strive with my longings for home; but it would be
safer to seek another for this duty, while we are so near to Spain."
"Dost thou know one Sancho Mundo, a common seaman of this crew?"
"Señor, we all know him; he hath the name of the most skilful of
our craft, of all in Moguer."
"Is he of thy watch, or sleepeth he with his fellows of the relief
"Señor, he is of our watch; and sleepeth not with his fellows
below, for the reason that he sleepeth on deck. No care, or danger,
can unsettle the confidence of Sancho! To him the sight of land is so
far an evil, that I doubt if he rejoice should we ever reach those
distant countries that your Excellency seemeth to expect we may."
"Go find this Sancho, and bid him come hither: I will discharge thy
office the while."
Columbus now took the helm with his own hands, and with a light
play of the tiller brought the ship immediately up as near the wind as
she would lie. The effect was felt in more quick and sudden plunges
into the sea, a deeper heel to leeward, and a fresh creaking aloft,
that denoted a renewed and increased strain on all the spars and their
tackle. In the course of a few minutes, however, Sancho appeared
rubbing his eyes, and yawning.
"Take thou this duty," said the admiral, as soon as the man was
near him, "and discharge it faithfully. Those who have been here
already, have proved unfaithful, suffering the vessel to fall off, in
the direction of Spain; I expect better things of thee. I think,
friend Sancho, I may count on thee as a true and faithful follower,
even in extremity?"
"Señor Don Almirante," said Sancho, who took the helm, giving it a
little play to feel his command of it, as a skilful coachman brings
his team in subjection on first assuming the reins, "I am a servant of
the crown's, and your inferior and subordinate; such duty as becometh
me, I am ready to discharge."
"Thou hast no fear of this voyage—no childish forebodings of
becoming an endless wanderer in an unknown sea, without hope of ever
seeing wife or child again?"
"Señor, you seem to know our hearts as well as if your Excellency
had made them with your own hands, and then put them into our
"Thou hast, then, none of these unsuitable and unseamanlike
"Not as much, Excellency, as would raise an ave in a parish priest,
or a sigh in an old woman. I may have my misgivings, for we all have
weaknesses, but none of them incline to any dread of sailing about the
ocean, since that is my happiness; nor to any concern about wife and
children, not having the first, and wishing not to think I have the
"If thou hast misgivings, name them. — I could wish to make one
firm as thou, wholly my friend."
"I doubt not, Señor, that we shall reach Cathay, or whatever
country your Excellency may choose to seek; I make no question of your
ability to beard the Great Khan, and, at need, to strip the very
jewels from his turban; as turban he must have, being an Infidel; nor
do I feel any misgivings about the magnitude and richness of our
discoveries and freights, since I believe, Señor Don Almirante, you
are skilful enough to take the caravels in at one end of the earth
and out at the other; or, even to load them with carbuncles, should
diamonds be wanting."
"If thou hast this faith in thy leader, what other distrust can
give thee concern?"
"I distrust the value of the share, whether of honour or of jewels,
that will fall to the lot of one Sancho Mundo, a poor unknown, almost
shirtless mariner, that hath more need of both than hath ever crossed
the mind of our gracious lady, Doña Isabella, or of her royal consort."
"Sancho, thou art a proof that no man is without his failings, and
I fear thou art mercenary. They say all men have their prices; thou
seemest clearly to have thine."
"Your Excellency hath not been sailing about the world for nothing,
or you could not tell every man his inclinations so easily. I have
ever suspected I was mercenary, and so have accepted all sorts of
presents, to keep the feeling down. Nothing appeases a mercenary
longing like gifts and rewards; and as for price, I strive hard to
keep mine as high as possible, lest it should bring me into discredit
for a mean and grovelling spirit. Give me a high price, and plenty of
gifts, and I can be as disinterested as a mendicant friar."
"I understand thee, Sancho; thou art to be bought, but not to be
frightened. In thy opinion a single dobla is too little to be divided
between thee and thy friend, the Portuguese. I will make a league with
thee on thine own terms; here is another piece of gold; see that thou
remainest true to me throughout the voyage."
"Count on me, without scruple, Señor Don Almirante, and with
scruples, too, should they interfere. Your Excellency hath not a more
disinterested friend in the fleet. I only hope that when the
share-list shall be written out, the name of Sancho Mundo may have an
honourable place, as will become his fidelity. And now, your
Excellency, go sleep in peace; the Santa Maria shall lie as near to
the route to Cathay, as this south-westerly breeze will suffer."
Columbus complied, though he rose once or twice more, during the
night, to ascertain the state of the weather, and that the men did
their duties. So long as Sancho remained at the helm, he continued
faithful to his compact; but, as he went below with his watch, at the
usual hour, successors were put in his place, who betrayed the
original treachery of the other helmsman. When Luis left his hammock,
Columbus was already at work, ascertaining the distance that had been
run in the course of the night. Catching the inquiring glance of the
young man, the admiral observed, gravely, and not altogether without
melancholy in his manner—
"We have had a good run, though it hath been more northerly than I
could have desired. I find that the vessels are thirty leagues farther
from Ferro than when the sun set, and thou seest, here, that I have
written four-and-twenty in the reckoning, that is intended for the
eyes of the people. But there hath been great weakness at work this
night among the steersmen, if not treachery: they have kept the ship
away in a manner to cause her to run a part of the time in a direction
nearly parallel to the coast of Europe, so that they have been
endeavouring to deceive me, on the deck, whilst I have thought it
necessary to attempt deceiving them in the cabin. It is painful, Don
Luis, to find such deceptions resorted to, or such deceptions
necessary, when one is engaged in an enterprise that surpasseth all
others ever yet attempted by man, and that, too, with a view to the
glory of God, the advantage of the human race, and the especial
interests of Spain."
"The holy churchmen, themselves, Don Christopher, are obliged to
submit to this evil," answered the careless Luis; "and it does not
become us laymen to repine at what they endure. I am told that half
the miracles they perform are, in truth, miracles of but a very
indifferent quality, the doubts and want of faith of us hardened
sinners rendering such little inventions necessary for the good of
"That there are false-minded and treacherous churchmen, as well as
false-minded and treacherous laymen, Luis, I little doubt," answered
the admiral; "but this cometh of the fall of man, and of his evil
nature. There are also righteous and true miracles, that come of the
power of God, and which are intended to uphold the faith, and to
encourage those who love and honour his holy name. I do not esteem
any thing that hath yet befallen us to belong very distinctly to this
class; nor do I venture to hope that we are to be favoured in this
manner by an especial intervention in our behalf; but it exceedeth all
the machinations of the devils to persuade me that we shall be
deserted while bent on so glorious a design, or that we are not,
indirectly and secretly, led, in our voyage, by a spirit and knowledge
that both come of Divine grace and infinite wisdom."
"This may be so, Don Christopher, so far as you are concerned;
though, for myself, I claim no higher a guide than an angel. An
angel's purity, and I hope I may add, an angel's love, lead me, in my
blind path across the ocean!"
"So it seemeth to thee, Luis; but thou canst not know that a higher
power doth not use the Doña Mercedes, as an instrument in this matter.
Although no miracle rendereth it apparent to the vulgar, a spirit is
placed in my breast, in conducting this enterprise, that I should deem
it blasphemy to resist. God be praised, my boy, we are at last quit of
the Portuguese, and are fairly on our road! At present all our
obstacles must arise from the elements, or from our own fears. It
gladdeneth my heart to find that the two Pinzons remain true, and that
they keep their caravels close to the Santa Maria, like men bent on
maintaining their faith, and seeing an end of the adventure."
As Luis was now ready, he and the admiral left the cabin together.
The sun had risen, and the broad expanse of the ocean was glittering
with his rays. The wind had freshened, and was gradually getting
farther to the south, so that the vessels headed up nearly to their
course; and, there being but little sea, the progress of the fleet
was, in proportion, considerable. Every thing appeared propitious;
and the first burst of grief, on losing sight of known land, having
subsided, the crews were more tranquil, though dread of the future was
smothered, like the latent fires of a volcano, rather than
extinguished. The aspect of the sea was favourable, offering nothing
to view that was unusual to mariners; and, as there is always
something grateful in a lively breeze, when unaccompanied with danger,
the men were probably encouraged by a state of things to which they
were accustomed, and which brought with it cheerfulness and hope. In
the course of the day and night, the vessels ran a hundred and eighty
miles, still farther into the trackless waste of the ocean, without
awakening half the apprehensions in the bosoms of the mariners that
they had experienced on losing sight of land. Columbus, however,
acting on the cautious principle he had adopted, when he laid before
his people the result of the twenty-four hours' work, reduced the
distance to about one hundred and fifty.
Tuesday, the 1st of September, brought a still more favourable
change of wind. This day, for the first time since quitting the
Canaries, the heads of the vessels were laid fairly to the west; and,
with the old world directly behind them, and the unknown ocean in
their front, the adventurers proceeded onward with a breeze at
south-east. The rate of sailing was about five miles in the hour;
compensating for the want of speed, by the steadiness of their
progress, and by the directness of their course.
The observations that are usually made at sea, when the sun is in
the zenith, were over, and Columbus had just announced to his anxious
companions that the vessels were gradually setting south, owing to the
drift of some invisible current, when a cry from the mast-head,
announced the proximity of a whale. As the appearance of one of these
monsters of the deep breaks the monotony of a sea-life, every one was
instantly on the look-out, some leaping into the rigging, and others
upon the rails, in order to catch a glimpse of his gambols.
"Dost thou see him, Sancho?" demanded the admiral of Mundo, the
latter being near him at the moment. "To me the water hath no
appearance of any such animals being at hand."
"Your Excellency's eye, Señor Don Almirante, is far truer than that
of the babbler's aloft. Such as this is the Atlantic, and yonder is
the foam of the crests of the waves, there is no whale."
"The flukes! — the flukes!" shouted a dozen voices at once,
pointing to a spot where a dark object arose above the froth of the
sea, showing a pointed summit, with short arms extended on each side.
"He playeth with his head beneath the water, and the tail uppermost!"
"Alas! — Alas!" exclaimed the practised Sancho, with the
melancholy of a true seaman, "what these inexperienced and hasty
brawlers call the fluke of a whale, is nought but the mast of some
unhappy ship, that hath left her bones, with her freight and her
people, in the depths of the ocean!"
"Thou art right, Sancho," returned the admiral. "I now see that
thou meanest: it is truly a spar, and doubtless betokeneth a
This fact passed swiftly from mouth to mouth, and the sadness that
ever accompanies the evidences of such a disaster, settled on the
faces of all the beholders. The pilots alone showed indifference, and
they consulted on the expediency of endeavouring to secure the spar,
as a resource in time of need; but they abandoned the attempt on
account of the agitation of the water, and of the fairness of the
wind, the latter being an advantage a true mariner seldom likes to
"There is a warning to us!" exclaimed one of the disaffected, as
the Santa Maria sailed past the waving summit of the spar; "God hath
sent this sign, to warn us not to venture where he never intended
navigators to go!"
"Say, rather," put in Sancho, who, having taken the fee, had ever
since proved a willing advocate, "it is an omen of encouragement sent
from heaven. Dost thou not see that the part of the mast that is
visible resembleth a cross, which holy sign is intended to lead us on,
filled with hopes of success?"
"This is true, Sancho," interrupted Columbus. "A cross hath been
reared for our edification, as it might be, in the midst of the ocean,
and we are to regard it as a proof that Providence is with us, in our
attempt to carry its blessings to the aid and consolation of the
heathen of Asia."
As the resemblance to the holy symbol was far from fanciful, this
happy hit of Sancho's was not without its effect. The reader will
understand the likeness all the better, when he is told that the upper
end of a mast has much of the appearance of a cross, by means of the
trusseltrees; and, as often happens, this particular spar was floating
nearly perpendicular, owing to some heavy object being fast to its
heel, leaving the summit raised some fifteen or twenty feet above the
surface of the sea. In a quarter of an hour this last relict of Europe
and of civilization disappeared in the wake of the vessels, gradually
diminishing in size and settling towards the water, until its faint
outlines vanished in threads, still wearing the well-known shape of
the revered symbol of Christianity.
After this little incident, the progress of the vessels was
uninterrupted by any event worthy of notice for two days and nights.
All this time the wind was favourable, and the adventurers proceeded
due west, by compass, which was in fact, however, going a little north
of the real point— a truth that the knowledge of the period had not
yet mastered. Between the morning of the 10th September, and the
evening of the 13th, the fleet had passed over near ninety leagues of
ocean, holding its way in a line but a little deviating from a direct
one athwart the great waste of water, and having consequently reached
a point as far, if not farther west than the position of the Azores,
then the most westerly land known to European navigators. On the
13th, the currents proved to be adverse, and having a south-easterly
set, they had a tendency to cause the ships to sheer southwardly,
bringing them, each hour, nearer to the northern margin of the trades.
The admiral and Luis were at their customary post, on the evening
of the 13th, the day last mentioned, as Sancho left the helm, his tour
of duty having just ended. Instead of going forward, as usual, among
the people, the fellow hesitated, surveyed the poop with a longing
eye, and finding it occupied only by the admiral and his constant
companion, he ascended the ladder, as if desirous of making some
"Would'st thou aught with me, Sancho?" demanded the admiral,
waiting for the man to make certain that no one else was on the narrow
deck. "Speak freely: thou hast my confidence."
"Señor Don Almirante, your Excellency well knoweth that I am no
fresh-water fish, to be frightened at the sight of a shark or a whale,
or one that is terrified because a ship headeth west, instead of east;
and yet do I come to say that this voyage is not altogether without
certain signs and marvels, that it may be well for a mariner to
respect, as unusual, if not ominous."
"As thou sayest, Sancho, thou art no driveller to be terrified by
the flight of a bird, or at the presage of a drifting spar, and thou
awakenest my curiosity to know more. The Señor de Muños is my
confidential secretary, and nothing need be hid from him. Speak
freely, then, and without further delay. If gold is thy aim, be
certain thou shalt have it."
"No, Señor, my news is not worth a maravedi, or it is far beyond
the price of gold; such as it is, your Excellency can take it, and
think no more of my reward. You know, Señor, that we old mariners will
have our thoughts as we stand at the helm, sometimes fancying the
smiles and good looks of some hussy ashore, sometimes remembering the
flavour of rich fruits and well-savoured mutton; and then, again, for
a wonder, bethinking us of our sins."
"Fellow, all this I well know; but it is not matter for an
"I know not that, Señor; I have known admirals who have relished
mutton after a long cruise; ay, and who have bethought them, too, of
smiling faces and bright eyes, and who, if they did not, at times,
bethink them of their sins, have done what was much worse, help to add
to the great account that was heaping up against them. Now, there
"Let me toss this vagabond into the sea, at once, Don Christopher,"
interrupted the impatient Luis, making a forward movement as if to
execute the threat, an act which the hand of Columbus arrested; "we
shall never hear a tale the right end first, as long as he remaineth
in the ship."
"I thank you, my young Lord of Llera," answered Sancho, with an
ironical smile, "if you are as ready at drowning seamen, as you are at
unhorsing Christian knights in the tourney, and Infidels in the fray,
I would rather that another should be master of my baths."
"Thou know'st me, knave? — Thou hast seen me on some earlier
"A cat may look at a king, Señor Conde; and why not a mariner on
his passenger? But spare your threats, and your secret is in safe
hands. If we reach Cathay, no one will be ashamed of having made the
voyage; and if we miss it, it is little likely that any will go back
to relate the precise manner in which your excellency was drowned, or
starved to death, or in what other manner you became a saint in
"Enough of this!" said Columbus, sternly; "relate what thou hast to
say, and see that thou art discreet touching this young noble."
"Señor, your word is law. Well, Don Christopher, it is one of the
tricks of us mariners, at night, to be watching an old and constant
friend, the north star; and while thus occupied, an hour since, I
noted that this faithful guide and the compass by which I was
steering, told different tales."
"Art certain of this?" demanded the admiral, with a quickness and
emphasis that betrayed the interest he felt in the communication.
"As certain, Señor, as fifty years' looking at the star, and forty
years' watching of the compass can make a man. But there is no
occasion, your Excellency, to depend on my ignorance, since the star
is still where God placed it; and there is your private compass at
your elbow—one may be compared with the other."
Columbus had already bethought him of making this comparison; and
by the time Sancho ceased speaking, he and Luis were examining the
instrument with eager curiosity. The first, and the most natural,
impression, was a belief that the needle of the instrument below was
defective, or, at least, influenced by some foreign cause; but an
attentive observation soon convinced the navigator, that the remark
of Sancho was true. He was both astonished and concerned to find that
the habitual care, and professional eye of the fellow had been active,
and quick to note a change as unusual as this. It was indeed so common
with mariners to compare their compasses with the north star, a
luminary that was supposed never to vary its position in the heavens,
as that position related to man, that no experienced seaman, who
happened to be at the helm at nightfall, could well overlook the
After repeated observations with his own compasses, of which he
kept two—one on the poop, and another in the cabin; and having
recourse also to the two instruments in the binnacle, Columbus was
compelled to admit to himself that all four varied, alike, from their
usual direction, nearly six degrees. Instead of pointing due north,
or, at least, in a direct line towards a point on the horizon
immediately beneath the star, they pointed some five or six degrees to
the westward of it. This was both a novel and an astounding departure
from the laws of nature, as they were then understood, and threatened
to render the desired results of the voyage so much the more difficult
of attainment, as it at once deprived the adventurers of a sure
reliance on the mariner's principal guide, and would render it
difficult to sail, with any feeling of certainty as to the course, in
cloudy weather, or dark nights. The first thought of the admiral, on
this occasion, however, was to prevent the effect which such a
discovery would be likely to produce on men already disposed to
anticipate the worst.
"Thou wilt say nothing of this, Sancho?" he observed to the man.
"Here is another dobla to add to thy store."
"Excellency, pardon a humble seaman's disobedience, if my hand
refuse to open to your gift. This matter toucheth of supernatural
means; and, as the devil may have an agency in the miracle, in order
to prevent our converting them heathen, of whom you so often speak, I
prefer to keep my soul as pure as may be, in the matter, since no one
knoweth what weapons we may be driven to use, should we come to real
blows with the Father of Sin."
"Thou wilt, at least, prove discreet?"
"Trust me for that, Señor Don Almirante; not a word shall pass my
lips about this matter, until I have your Excellency's permission to
Columbus dismissed the man, and then he turned towards Luis, who
had been a silent but attentive listener to what had passed.
"You seem disturbed at this departure from the usual laws of the
compass, Don Christopher," observed the young man, gaily. "To me it
would seem better to rely altogether on Providence, which would
scarcely lead us out here, into the wide Atlantic, on its own errand,
and desert us when we most need its aid."
"God implants in the bosom of his servants a desire to advance his
ends, but human agents are compelled to employ natural means; and, in
order to use such means advantageously, it is necessary to understand
them. I look upon this phenomenon as a proof that our voyage is to
result in discoveries of unknown magnitude, among which, perhaps, are
to be numbered some clue to the mysteries of the needle. The mineral
riches of Spain differ, in certain particulars, from the mineral
riches of France; for, though some things are common to all lands,
others are peculiar to particular countries. We may find regions where
the loadstone abounds, or may, even now, be in the neighbourhood of
some island that hath an influence on our compasses that we cannot
"Is it known that islands have ever produced this effect on the
"It is not — nor do I deem such a circumstance very probable,
though all things are possible. We will wait patiently for further
proofs that this phenomenon is real and permanent, ere we reason
further on a matter that is so difficult to be understood."
The subject was now dropped, though the unusual incident gave the
great navigator an uneasy and thoughtful night. He slept little, and
often was his eye fastened on the compass that was suspended in his
cabin as a "telltale," for so seamen term the instrument by which the
officer overlooks the course that is steered by the helmsman, even
when the latter least suspects his supervision. Columbus arose
sufficiently early to get a view of the star before its brightness was
dimmed by the return of light, and made another deliberate comparison
of the position of this familiar heavenly body with the direction of
the needles. The examination proved a slight increase of the
variation, and tended to corroborate the observations of the previous
night. The result of the reckoning showed that the vessels had run
nearly a hundred miles in the course of the last twenty-four hours,
and Columbus now believed himself to be about six times that distance
west of Ferro, though even the pilots fancied themselves by no means
As Sancho kept his secret, and no other eye among the helmsmen was
as vigilant, the important circumstance, as yet, escaped general
attention. It was only at night, indeed, that the variation could be
observed by means of the polar star, and it was yet so slight that no
one but a very experienced and quick-eyed mariner would be apt to note
it. The whole of the day and night of the 14th consequently passed
without the crew's taking the alarm, and this so much the more as the
wind had fallen, and the vessels were only some sixty miles farther
west than when they commenced. Still Columbus noted the difference,
slight as was the change, ascertaining, with the precision of an
experienced and able navigator, that the needle was gradually varying
more and more to the westward, though it was by steps that were nearly
On thy unaltering blaze
The half-wrecked mariner, his compass lost,
Fixes his steady gaze,
And steers, undoubting, to the friendly coast;
And they who stray in perilous wastes, by night,
Are glad when thou dost shine to guide their footsteps right."
Hymn to the North Star.
The following day was Saturday, the 15th, when the title fleet was
ten days from Gomera, or it was the sixth morning since the
adventurers had lost sight of the land. The last week had been one of
melancholy forebodings, though habit was beginning to assert its
influence, and the men manifested openly less uneasiness than they had
done in the three or four previous days. Their apprehensions were
getting to be dormant for want of any exciting and apparent stimulus,
though they existed as latent impulses, in readiness to be roused at
the occurrence of any untoward event. The wind continued fair, though
light—the whole twenty-four hours' work showing considerably less
than a hundred miles, as the true progress west. All this time
Columbus kept his attention fastened on the needles, and he perceived
that as the vessels slowly made their westing, the magnets pointed
more and more, though by scarcely palpable changes, in the same
The admiral and Luis, by this time, had fallen into such habits of
close communication, that they usually rose and slept at the same
time. Though far too ignorant of the hazards he ran to feel
uneasiness, and constitutionally, as well as morally, superior to idle
alarms, the young man had got to feel a sort of sportsman's excitement
in the result; and, by this time, had not Mercedes existed, he would
have been as reluctant to return without seeing Cathay, as Columbus
himself. They conversed together of their progress and their hopes,
without ceasing, and Luis took so much interest in his situation as to
begin to learn how to discriminate in matters that might be supposed
to affect its duration and ends.
On the night of the Saturday just mentioned, Columbus and his
reputed secretary were alone on the poop, conversing, as usual, on the
signs of the times, and of the events of the day.
"The Niña had something to say to you, last evening, Don
Christopher," observed the young man; "I was occupied in the cabin,
with my journal, and had no opportunity of knowing what passed."
"Her people had seen a bird or two, that are thought never to go
far from the land. It is possible that islands are at no great
distance, for man hath nowhere passed over any very great extent of
sea without meeting with them. We cannot, however, waste the time
necessary for a search, since the glory and profit of ascertaining the
situation of a group of islands would be but a poor compensation for
the loss of a continent."
"Do you still remark those unaccountable changes in the needles,
"In this respect there is no change, except that which goeth to
corroborate the phenomenon. My chief apprehension is of the effect on
the people, when the circumstance shall be known."
"Are there no means to persuade them that the needle pointeth thus
west, as a sign Providence willeth they should pursue that course, by
persevering in the voyage."
"This might do, Luis," answered the admiral, smiling, "had not fear
so sharpened their wits, that their first question would be an inquiry
why Providence should deprive us of the means of knowing
whither we are travelling, when it so much wisheth us to go in any
A cry from the watch on deck arrested the discourse, while a sudden
brightness broke on the night, illuminating the vessels and the ocean,
as if a thousand lamps were shedding their brilliancy upon the
surrounding portion of the sphere. A ball of fire was glancing athwart
the heavens, and seemed to fall into the sea, at the distance of a
few leagues, or at the limits of the visible horizon. Its
disappearance was followed by a gloom as profound as the
extraordinary and fleeting light had been brilliant. This was only
the passage of a meteor; but it was such a meteor as men do not see
more than once in their lives—if it is seen as often; and the
superstitious mariners did not fail to note the incident among the
extraordinary omens that accompanied the voyage; some auguring good,
and others evil, from the event.
"By St. Iago!" exclaimed Luis, as soon as the light had vanished,
"Señor Don Christopher, this voyage of ours doth not seem fated to
pass away unheeded by the elements and other notable powers! Whether
these portents speak in our favour, or not, they speak us any thing
but men engaged in an every-day occupation."
"Thus it is with the human mind!" returned Columbus. "Let but its
owner pass beyond the limits of his ordinary habits and duties, and he
sees marvels in the most simple changes of the weather—in a flash of
lightning—a blast of air—or the passage of a meteor; little
heeding that these miracles exist in his own consciousness, and have
no connexion with the every-day laws of nature. These sights are by
no means uncommon, especially in low latitudes; and they augur neither
for nor against our enterprise."
"Except, Señor Almirante, as they may beset the spirits and haunt
the imaginations of the men. Sancho telleth me, that a brooding
discontent is growing among them; and, that while they seem so
tranquil, their disrelish of the voyage is hourly getting to be more
and more decided."
Notwithstanding this opinion of the admiral, and some pains that he
afterwards took to explain the phenomenon to the people on deck, the
passage of the meteor had, indeed, not only produced a deep impression
on them, but its history went from watch to watch, and was the subject
of earnest discourse throughout the night. But the incident produced
no open manifestation of discontent; a few deeming it a propitious
omen, though most secretly considered it an admonition from heaven
against any impious attempts to pry into those mysteries of nature
that, according to their notions, God, in his providence, had not seen
fit to reveal to man.
All this time the vessels were making a steady progress towards the
west. The wind had often varied, both in force and direction, but
never in a manner to compel the ships to shorten sail, or to deviate
from what the admiral believed to be the proper course. They supposed
themselves to be steering due west, but, owing to the variation, were
in fact now holding a west-and-by-south course, and were gradually
getting nearer to the trades; a movement in which they had also been
materially aided by the force of the currents. In the course of the
15th and 16th of the month, the fleet had got about two hundred miles
farther from Europe, Columbus taking the usual precaution to lessen
the distance in the public reckoning. The latter day was a Sunday; and
the religious offices, which were then seldom neglected in a Christian
ship, produced a deep and sublime effect on the feelings of the
adventurers. Hitherto the weather had partaken of the usual character
of the season, and a few clouds, with a slight drizzling rain, had
relieved the heat; but these soon passed away, and were succeeded by
a soft south-east wind, that seemed to come charged with the fragrance
of the land. The men united in the evening chants, under these
propitious circumstances; the vessels drawing near each other, as if
it might be to form one temple in honour of God, amid the vast
solitudes of an ocean that had seldom, if ever, been whitened by a
sail. Cheerfulness and hope succeeded to this act of devotion, and
both were speedily heightened by a cry from the look-out aloft, who
pointed ahead and to leeward, as if he beheld some object of peculiar
interest in that quarter. The helms were varied a little; and in a few
minutes the vessels entered into a field of sea-weed, that covered the
ocean for miles. This sign of the vicinity of land was received by
the mariners with a shout; and the very beings who had so shortly
before been balancing on the verge of despair, now became elate with
These weeds were indeed of a character to awaken hope in the bosom
of the most experienced mariner. Although some had lost their
freshness, a great proportion of them were still green, and had the
appearance of having been quite recently separated from their parent
rocks, or the earth that had nourished them. No doubt was now
entertained even by the pilots, of the vicinity of land. Tunny-fish
were also seen in numbers, and the people of the Niña were
sufficiently fortunate to strike one. The seamen embraced each other,
with tears in their eyes, and many a hand was squeezed in friendly
congratulation, that the previous day would have been withheld in
"And do you partake of all this hope, Don Christopher?" demanded
Luis; "are we really to expect the Indies as a consequence of these
marine plants, or is the expectation idle?"
"The people deceive themselves in supposing our voyage near an end.
Cathay must yet be very distant from us. We have come but three
hundred and sixty leagues since losing sight of Ferro, which,
according to my computations, cannot be much more than a third of our
journey. Aristotle mentioneth that certain vessels of Cadiz were
forced westward by heavy gales, until they reached a sea covered with
weeds, a spot where the tunny-fish abounded. This is the fish, thou
must know, Luis, that the ancients fancied could see better with the
right eye than with the left, because it hath been noted that, in
passing the Bosphorus, they ever take the right shore in proceeding
towards the Euxine, and the left in returning—"
"By St. Francis! there can be no wonder if creatures so one-sided
in their vision, should have strayed thus far from home," interrupted
the light-hearted Luis, laughing. "Doth Aristotle, or the other
ancients, tell us how they regarded beauty; or whether their notions
of justice were like those of the magistrate who hath been fed by both
"Aristotle speaketh only of the presence of the fish in the weedy
ocean, as we see them before us. The mariners of Cadiz fancied
themselves in the neighbourhood of sunken islands, and, the wind
permitting, made the best of their way back to their own shores. This
place, in my judgment, we have now reached; but I expect to meet with
no land, unless, indeed, we may happen to fall in with some island
that lieth off here in the ocean, as a sort of beacon between the
shore of Europe and that of Asia. Doubtless land is not distant,
whence these weeds have drifted, but I attach little importance to its
sight, or discovery. Cathay is my aim, Don Luis, and I am a searcher
for continents, not islands."
It is now known that while Columbus was right in his expectations
of not finding a continent so early, he was mistaken in supposing land
to lie anywhere in that vicinity. Whether these weeds are collected by
the course of the currents, or whether they rise from the bottom, torn
from their beds by the action of the water, is not yet absolutely
ascertained, though the latter is the most common opinion, extensive
shoals existing in this quarter of the ocean. Under the latter
supposition, the mariners of Cadiz were nearer the truth than is first
apparent, a sunken island having all the characteristics of a shoal,
but those which may be supposed to be connected with the mode of
No land was seen. The vessels continued their progress at a rate
but little varying from five miles the hour, shoving aside the weeds,
which at times accumulated in masses under their bows, but which could
offer no serious obstacle to their progress. As for the admiral, so
lofty were his views, so steady his opinions concerning the great
geographical problem he was about to solve, and so determined his
resolution to persevere to the end, that he rather hoped to miss than
to fall in with the islands, that he fancied could be at no great
distance. The day and night carried the vessels rather more than one
hundred miles to the westward, placing the fleet not far from midway
between the meridians that bounded the extreme western and eastern
margins of the two continents, though still much nearer to Africa than
to America, following the parallel of latitude on which it was
sailing. As the wind continued steady, and the sea was as smooth as a
river, the three vessels kept close together, the Pinta, the swiftest
craft, reducing her canvass for that purpose. During the afternoon's
watch of the day that succeeded that of the meeting with the weeds,
which was Monday, the 17th September, or the eighth day after losing
sight of Ferro, Martin Alonzo Pinzon hailed the Santa Maria, and
acquainted the pilot on deck of his intention to get the amplitude of
the sun, as soon as the luminary should be low enough, with a view to
ascertain how far his needles retained their virtue. This observation,
one of no unusual occurrence among mariners, it was thought had
better be made in all the caravels simultaneously, that any error of
one might be corrected by the greater accuracy of the rest.
Columbus and Luis were in a profound sleep, in their cots, taking
their siestas, when the former was awakened by such a shake of the
shoulder as seamen are wont to give, and are content to receive. It
never required more than a minute to arouse the great navigator from
his deepest slumbers to the fullest possession of his faculties, and
he was awake in an instant.
"Señor Don Almirante," said Sancho, who was the intruder, "it is
time to be stirring: all the pilots are on deck in readiness to
measure the amplitude of the sun, as soon as the heavenly bodies are
in their right places. The west is already beginning to look like a
dying dolphin, and ere many minutes it will be gilded like the helmet
of a Moorish Sultan."
"An amplitude measured!" exclaimed Columbus, quitting his cot on
the instant. "This is news, indeed! Now we may look for such a stir
among the people, as hath not been witnessed since we left Cadiz!"
"So it hath appeared to me, your Excellency, for the mariner hath
some such faith in the needle as the churchman bestoweth on the
goodness of the Son of God. The people are in a happy humour at this
moment, but the saints only know what is to come!"
The admiral awoke Luis, and in five minutes both were at their
customary station on the poop. Columbus had gained so high a
reputation for skill in navigation, his judgment invariably proving
right, even when opposed to those of all the pilots in the fleet, that
the latter were not sorry to perceive he had no intention to take an
instrument in hand, but seemed disposed to leave the issue to their
own skill and practice. The sun slowly settled, the proper time was
watched, and then these rude mariners set about their task, in the
mode that was practised in their time. Martin Alonzo Pinzon, the most
ready and best-taught of them all, was soonest through with his task.
From his lofty stand, the admiral could overlook the deck of the
Pinta, which vessel was sailing but a hundred yards from the Santa
Maria, and it was not long before he observed her commander moving
from one compass to another, in the manner of a man who was disturbed.
Another minute or two elapsed, when the skiff of the caravel was
launched; a sign was made for the admiral's vessel to shorten sail,
and Martin Alonzo was soon forcing his way through the weeds that
still covered the surface of the ocean towards the Santa Maria. As he
gained the deck of the latter ship, on one of her sides, his kinsman,
Vicente Yañez, the commander of the Niña, did the same thing on the
other. In the next instant both were at the side of the great
navigator, on the poop, whither they had been followed by Sancho Ruiz
and Bartolemeo Roldan, the two pilots of the admiral.
"What meaneth this haste, good Martin Alonzo?" calmly asked
Columbus: "thou and thy brother, Vicente Yañez, and these honest
pilots, hurry towards me as if ye had cheering tidings from Cathay."
"God only knoweth, Señor Almirante, if any of us are ever to be
permitted to see that distant land, or any shore that is only to be
reached by mariners through the aid of a needle," answered the elder
Pinzon, with a haste that almost rendered him breathless. "Here have
we all been at the comparison of the instruments, and we find them,
without a single exception, varying from the true north, by, at least,
a full point!"
"That would be a marvel, truly! Ye have made some oversight in your
observations, or have been heedless in the estimates."
"Not so, noble admiral," put in Vicente Yañez, to sustain his
brother. "Even the magnets are becoming false to us; and as I
mentioned the circumstance to the oldest steersman of my craft, he
assures me that the North Star did not tally with his instrument
throughout the night!"
"Others say the same, here," added Ruiz—"Nay, some are ready to
swear that the wonder hath been noted ever since we entered the sea of
"This may be so, Señores," answered Columbus, with an undisturbed
mien, "and yet no evil follow. We all know that the heavenly bodies
have their revolutions, some of which no doubt are irregular, while
others are more in conformity with certain settled rules. Thus it is
with the sun himself, which passeth once round the earth in the short
space of twenty-four hours, while no doubt he hath other, and more
subtle movements, that are unknown to us, on account of the exceeding
distance at which he is placed in the heavens. Many astronomers have
thought that they have been able to detect these variations, spots
having been seen on the disk of the orb at times, which have
disappeared, as if hid behind the body of the luminary. I think it
will be found that the North Star hath made some slight deviation in
its position, and that it will continue thus to move for some short
period, after which, no doubt, it will be found returning to its
customary position, when it will be seen that its temporary
eccentricity hath in no manner disturbed its usual harmony with the
needles. Note the star well throughout the night, and in the morning
let the amplitude be again taken, when I think the truth of my
conjecture will be proved by the regularity of the movement of the
heavenly body. So far from being discouraged by this sign, we ought
rather to rejoice that we have made a discovery, which, of itself,
will entitle the expedition to the credit of having added materially
to the stores of science!"
The pilots were fain to be satisfied with this solution of their
doubts, in the absence of any other means of accounting for them. They
remained long on the poop discoursing of the strange occurrence, and,
as men even in their blindest moods, usually reason themselves into
either tranquillity or apprehension, they fortunately succeeded in
doing the first on this occasion. With the men there was more
difficulty, for when it became known to the crews of the three
vessels that the needles had begun to deviate from their usual
direction, a feeling akin to despair seized on them, almost without
exception. Here Sancho was of material service. When the panic was at
its height, and the people were on the point of presenting themselves
to the admiral, with a demand that the heads of the caravels should be
immediately turned towards the north-east, he interposed with his
knowledge and influence to calm the tumult. The first means this
trusty follower had recourse to, in order to bring his shipmates back
to reason, was to swear, without reservation, that he had frequently
known the needle and the North Star to vary, having witnessed the fact
with his own eyes on twenty previous occasions, and no harm to come
of it. He invited the elder and more experienced seamen to make an
accurate observation of the difference which already existed, which
was quite a point of the compass, and then to see, in the morning, if
this difference had not increased in the same direction.
"This," he continued, "will be a certain sign, my friends, that the
star is in motion, since we can all see that the compasses are just
where they have been ever since we left Palos de Moguer. When one of
two things is in motion, and it is certain which stands still, there
can be no great difficulty in saying which is the uneasy one. Now,
look thou here, Martin Martinez,"—who was one of the most factious
of the disaffected—"words are of little use when men can prove their
meaning by experiments like this. Thou seest two balls of spun-yarn on
this windlass; well, it is wanted to be known which of them remains
there, and which is taken away. I remove the smallest ball, thou
perceivest, and the largest remains; from which it followeth, as only
one can remain, and that one is the larger ball, why the smaller must
be taken away. I hold no man fit to steer a caravel, by needle or by
star, who will deny a thing that is proven as plainly and as simply
Martin Martinez, though a singularly disaffected man, was no
logician; and, Sancho's oaths backing his demonstrations to the
letter, his party soon became the most numerous. As there is nothing
so encouraging to the dullminded and discontented mutineer, as to
perceive that he is of the strongest side, so is there nothing so
discouraging as to find himself in the minority; and Sancho so far
prevailed as to bring most of his fellows round to a belief in the
expediency of waiting to ascertain the state of things in the morning,
before they committed themselves by any act of rashness.
"Thou hast done well, Sancho," said Columbus, an hour later, when
the mariner came secretly to make his nightly report of the state of
feeling among the people. "Thou hast done well in all but these oaths,
taken to prove that thou hast witnessed this phenomenon before. Much
as I have navigated the earth, and careful as have been my
observations, and ample as have been my means, never before have I
known the needle to vary from its direction towards the North Star:
and I think that which hath escaped my notice would not be apt to
"You do me injustice, Señor Don Almirante, and have inflicted a
wound touching my honesty, that a dobla only can cure—"
"Thou knowest, Sancho, that no one felt more alarm when the
deviation of the needle was first noted, than thyself. So great, in
sooth, was thy apprehension, that thou even refused to receive gold, a
weakness of which thou art usually exceedingly innocent."
"When the deviation was first noted, your Excellency, this was true
enough; for, not to attempt to mislead one who hath more penetration
than befalleth ordinary men, I did fancy that our hopes of ever seeing
Spain or St. Clara de Moguer, again, were so trifling as to make it of
no great consequence who was admiral, and who a simple helmsman."
"And yet thou would'st now brazen it out, and deny thy terror!
Didst thou not swear to thy fellows, that thou hadst often seen this
deviation before; ay, even on as many as twenty occasions?"
"Well, Excellency, this is a proof that a cavalier may make a very
capital viceroy and admiral, and know all about Cathay, without having
the clearest notions of history! I told my shipmates, Don Christopher,
that I had noted these changes before this night, and if tied to the
stake to be burnt as a martyr, as I sometimes think will one day be
the fate of all of us superfluously honest men, I would call on
yourself, Señor Almirante, as the witness of the truth of what I had
"Thou would'st, then, summon a most unfortunate witness, Sancho,
since I neither practise false oaths myself, nor encourage their use
"Don Luis de Bobadilla y Pedro de Muños, here, would then be my
reliance," said the imperturbable Sancho; "for proof a man hath a
right to, when wrongfully accused, and proof I will have. Your
Excellency will please to remember that it was on the night of
Saturday the 15th, that I first notified your worship of this very
change, and that we are now at the night of Monday the 17th. I swore
to twenty times noting this phenomenon, as it is called, in those
eight-and-forty hours, when it would have been nearer the truth had I
said two hundred times. Santa Maria! I did nothing but note it for the
first few hours!"
"Go to, Sancho, thy conscience hath its latitude as well as its
longitude; but thou hast thy uses. Now, that thou understandest the
reason of the variation, however, thou wilt encourage thy fellows, as
well as keep up thy spirits."
"I make no question that it is all as your Excellency sayeth about
the star's travelling," returned Sancho, "and it hath crossed my mind
that it is possible we are nearer Cathay than we have thought; this
movement being made by some evil-disposed spirits on purpose to make
us lose the way."
"Go to thy hammock, knave, and bethink thee of thy sins; leaving
the reasons of these mysteries to those who are better taught. There
is thy dobla, and see that thou art discreet."
In the morning every being in the three caravels waited impatiently
for the results of the new observations. As the wind continued
favourable, though far from fresh, and a current was found setting to
the westward, the vessels had made, in the course of twenty-four
hours, more than a hundred and fifty miles, which rendered the
increase in the variation perceptible, thus corroborating a propheey
of Columbus, that had been ventured on previous observation. So
easily are the ignorant the dupes of the plausible, that this
solution temporarily satisfied all doubts, and it was generally
believed that the star had moved, while the needle remained true.
How far Columbus was misled by his own logic in this affair, is
still a matter of doubt. That he resorted to deceptions which might be
considered innocent, in order to keep up the courage of his
companions, is seen in the fact of the false, or public reckoning; but
there is no proof that this was one of the instances in which he had
recourse to such means. No person of any science believed, even when
the variation of the compass was unknown, that the needle pointed
necessarily to the Polar Star; the coincidence in the direction of the
magnetic needle and the position of the heavenly body, being thought
accidental; and there is nothing extravagant in supposing that the
admiral, who had the instrument in his possession, and was able to
ascertain that none of its virtue was visibly lost, while he could
only reason from supposed analogy concerning the evolutions of the
star, should imagine that a friend he had ever found so faithful, had
now deserted him, leaving him disposed to throw the whole mystery of
the phenomenon on the more distant dwellers in space. Two opinions
have been ventured concerning the belief of the celebrated navigator,
in the theory he advanced on this occasion; the one affirming, and
the other denying his good faith in urging the doctrine he had laid
down. Those who assert the latter, however, would seem to reason a
little loosely themselves, their argument mainly resting on the
improbability of a man like Columbus uttering so gross a scientific
error, at a time when science itself knew no more of the existence of
the phenomenon, than is known to-day of its cause. Still it is
possible that the admiral may not have had any settled notions on the
subject, even while he was half inclined to hope his explanation was
correct; for it is certain, that, in the midst of the astronomical and
geographical ignorance of his age, this extraordinary man had many
accurate and sublime glimpses of truths that were still in embryo as
respected their development and demonstration by the lights of
precise and inductive reasoning.
Fortunately, if the light brought with it the means of ascertaining
with certainty the variation of the needle, it also brought the means
of perceiving that the sea was still covered with weeds, and other
signs that were thought to be encouraging as connected with the
vicinity of land. The current being now in the same direction as the
wind, the surface of the ocean was literally as smooth as that of an
inland sheet of water, and the vessels were enabled to sail, without
danger, within a few fathoms of each other.
"This weed, Señor Almirante," called out the elder Pinzon, "hath
the appearance of that which groweth on the banks of streams, and I
doubt, that we are near to the mouth of some exceeding great river!"
"This may be so," returned Columbus, "than which there can be no
more certain sign than may be found in the taste of the water. Let a
bucket be drawn, that we may know."
While Pepe was busied in executing this order, waiting until the
vessel had passed through a large body of weeds for that purpose, the
quick eye of the admiral detected a crab struggling on the surface of
the fresh-looking plants, and he called to the helmsman in sufficient
season, to enable him so far to vary his course, as to allow the
animal to be taken.
"Here is a most precious prize, good Martin Alonzo," said Columbus,
holding the crab between a finger and thumb, that the other might see
it. "These animals are never known to go farther than some eighty
leagues from the land; and see, Señor, yonder is one of the white
tropic birds, which, it is said, never sleep on the water! Truly, God
favoureth us; and what rendereth all these tokens more grateful, is
the circumstance of their coming from the west, the hidden, unknown,
A common shout burst from the crews at the appearance of these
signs, and again the beings who lately had been on the verge of
despair, were buoyed up with hope and ready to see propitious omens in
even the most common occurrences of the ocean. All the vessels had
hauled up buckets of water, and fifty mouths were immediately wet
with the brine; and so general was the infatuation, that every man
declared the sea far less salt than usual. So complete, indeed, was
the delusion created by these cheerful expectations, and so thoroughly
had all concern in connextion with the moving star been removed by the
sophism of Sancho, that even Columbus, habitually so wary, so
reasoning, so calm, amid his loftiest views, yielded to his native
enthusiasm, and fancied that he was about to discover some vast
island placed midway between Asia and Europe; an honour not to be
despised, though it fell so far short of his higher expectations.
"Truly, friend Martin Alonzo," he said, "this water seemeth to have
less of the savour of the sea, than is customary at a distance from
the outlet of large rivers!"
"My palate telleth the same tale, Señor Almirante. As a further
sign, the Niña hath struck another tunny, and her people are at this
moment hoisting it in."
Shout succeeded shout, as each new encouraging proof appeared; and
the admiral, yielding to the ardour of the crews, ordered sail to be
pressed on all the vessels, that each might endeavour to outstrip the
others, in the hope of being the first to discover the expected
island. This strife soon separated the caravels, the Pinta easily
outsailing the other two, while the Santa Maria and the Niña came on
more slowly, in her rear. All was gaiety and mirth, the livelong day,
on board those isolated vessels, that, unknown to those they held,
were navigating the middle of the Atlantic, with horizon extending
beyond horizon, without change in the watery boundary, as circle would
form without circle, on the same element, were a vast mass of solid
matter suddenly dropped into the sea.
"The sails were fill'd, and fair the light winds blew,
As glad to waft him from his native home;
And fast the white rocks faded from his view,
And soon were lost in circumambient foam:
And then, it may be, of his wish to roam
Repented he, but in his bosom slept
The silent thought, nor from his lips did come
One word of wail, whilst others sate and wept,
And to the reckless gales unmanly moaning kept."
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
As night drew near, the Pinta shortened sail, permitting her
consorts to close. All eyes now turned anxiously to the west, where it
was hoped that land might at any moment appear. The last tint,
however, vanished from the horizon, and darkness enveloped the ocean
without bringing any material change. The wind still blew a pleasant
breeze from the south-east, and the surface of the ocean offered
little more inequality than is usually met on the bosoms of large
rivers. The compasses showed a slightly increasing deviation from
their old coincidence with the polar star, and no one doubted, any
longer, that the fault was in the heavenly body. All this time the
vessels were getting to the southward, steering in fact west and by
south, when they thought they were steering west,—a circumstance
that alone prevented Columbus from first reaching the coast of
Georgia, or that of the Carolinas, since, had he missed the Bermudas,
the current of the Gulf Stream, meeting him on his weather bow, he
would have infallibly been set well to the northward, as he neared the
The night passed as usual, and at noon of the 17th, or at the
termination of the nautical day, the fleet had left another long track
of ocean between it and the old world. The weeds were disappearing,
and with them the tunny-fish, which were in truth feeding on the
products of shoals that mounted several thousands of feet nearer to
the surface of the water, than was the case with the general bed of
the Atlantic. The vessels usually kept near each other at noon, in
order to compare their observations; but the Pinta, which, like a
swift steed, was with difficulty restrained, shot ahead, until the
middle of the afternoon, when, as usual, she lay-by for the admiral to
close. As the Santa Maria came sweeping on, the elder Pinzon stood,
cap in hand, ready to speak her, waiting only for her to come within
sound of his voice.
"God increaseth the signs of land, and the motives of
encouragement, Señor Don Christopher;" he called out, cheerfully,
while the Pinta filled her sails in order to keep way with the
admiral. "We have seen large flights of birds ahead, and the clouds at
the north look heavy and dense, as if hovering over some island, or
continent, in that quarter."
"Thou art a welcome messenger, worthy Martin Alonzo, though I wish
thee to remember, that the most I expect to meet with in this
longitude is some cluster of pleasant islands, Asia being yet several
days' sail more distant. As the night approacheth, thou wilt see thy
clouds take still more of the form of the land, and I doubt that
groups may be found on each side of us; but our high destination is
Cathay, and men with such an object before them, may not turn aside
for any lesser errand."
"Have I your leave, noble admiral, to push ahead in the Pinta, that
our eyes may first be greeted with the grateful sight of Asia? I
nothing doubt of seeing it ere morning."
"Go, of God's sake, good pilot, if thou thinkest this; though I
warn thee, that no continent can yet meet thine eyes. Nevertheless, as
any land in these distant and unknown seas must be a discovery, and
bring credit on Castile, as well as on ourselves, he who first
perceiveth it will merit the reward. Thou, or any one else, hath my
full permission to discover islands, or continents, in thousands."
The people laughed at this sally, for the light-hearted are easily
excited to mirth; and then the Pinta shot ahead. As the sun set, she
was seen again lying-to for her companions— a dark speck on the
rainbow colours of the glorious sky. The horizon at the north
presented masses of clouds, in which it was not difficult to fancy the
summits of ragged mountains, receding valleys, with headlands, and
promontories, foreshortened by distance.
The following day the wind baffled, for the first time since
encountering the trades; and the clouds collected over-head,
dispersing drizzling showers on the navigators. The vessels now lay
near each other, and conversation flew from one to the other—boats
passing and repassing, constantly.
"I have come, Señor Almirante," said the elder Pinzon, as he
reached the deck of the Santa Maria, "at the united request of my
people, to beg that we may steer to the north, in quest of land,
islands and continent, that no doubt lie there, and thus crown this
great enterprise with the glory that is due to our illustrious
sovereigns, and your own forethought."
"The wish is just, good Martin Alonzo, and fairly expressed, but it
may not be granted. That we should make creditable discoveries, by
thus steering, is highly probable, but in so doing we should fall far
short of our aim. Cathay and the Great Khan still lie west; and we are
here, not to add another group, like the Canaries, or the Azores, to
the knowledge of man, but to complete the circle of the earth, and to
open the way for the setting up of the cross in the regions that have
so long been the property of infidels."
"Hast thou nothing to say, Señor de Muños, in support of our
petition? Thou hast favour with his Excellency, and may prevail on him
to grant us this small behest?"
"To tell thee the truth, good Martin Alonzo," answered Luis, with
more of the indifference of manner that might have been expected from
the grandee to the pilot, than the respect that would become the
secretary to the second person of the expedition—"to tell thee
truth, good Martin Alonzo, my heart is so set on the conversion of the
Great Khan, that I wish not to turn either to the right or left, until
that glorious achievement be sufficiently secure. I have observed
that Satan effecteth little against those who keep in the direct
path, while his success with those who turn aside is so material, as
to people his dominions with errants."
"Is there no hope, noble admiral? and must we quit all these
cheering signs, without endeavouring to trace them to some
"I see no better course, worthy friend. This rain indicateth land;
also this calm; and here is a visiter that denoteth more than either
— yonder, in the direction of thy Pinta, where it seemeth disposed
to rest its wings."
Pinzon, and all near him, turned, and to their common delight and
astonishment they saw a pelican, with extended wings that spread for
ten feet, sailing a few fathoms above the sea, and apparently aiming
at the vessel named. The adventurous bird, however, as if disdaining
to visit one of inferior rank, passed the Pinta, and, sweeping up
grandly towards the admiral, alighted on a yard of the Santa Maria.
"If this be not a certain sign of the vicinity of land," said
Columbus, gravely, "it is what is far better, a sure omen that God is
with us. He is sending these encouraging calls to confirm us in our
intention to serve him, and to persevere to the end. Never before,
Martin Alonzo, have I seen a bird of this species a day's sail from
"Such is my experience too, noble admiral; and, with you, I look
upon this visit as a most propitious omen. May it not be a hint to
turn aside, and to look farther in this quarter?"
"I accept it not as such, but rather as a motive to proceed. At our
return from the Indies we may examine this part of the ocean with
greater scrutiny, though I shall think nought accomplished until India
be fairly reached, and India is still hundreds of leagues distant. As
the time is favourable, however, we will call together our pilots, and
see how each man placeth his vessel on the chart."
At this suggestion, all the navigators assembled on board the Santa
Maria, and each man made his calculations, sticking a pin in the rude
chart—rude as to accuracy, but beautiful as to execution—that the
admiral, with the lights he then possessed, had made of the Atlantic
ocean. Vicente Yañez, and his companions of the Niña, placed their
pin most in advance, after measuring off four hundred and forty
marine leagues from Gomera. Martin Alonzo varied a little from this,
setting his pin some twenty leagues farther east. When it was the turn
of Columbus, he stuck a pin twenty leagues still short of that of
Martin Alonzo, his companions having, to all appearance, like less
skilful calculators, thus much advanced ahead of their true distance.
It was then determined what was to be stated to the crews, and the
pilots returned to their respective vessels.
It would seem that Columbus really believed he was then passing
between islands, and his historian, Las Casas, affirms that he was
actually right in his conjecture; but if islands ever existed in that
part of the ocean, they have long since disappeared; a phenomenon
which, while it is not impossible, can scarcely be deemed probable. It
is said that breakers have been seen, even within the present century,
in this vicinity, and it is not unlikely that extensive banks do
exist, though Columbus found no bottom with two hundred fathoms of
line. The great collection of weeds, is a fact authenticated by some
of the oldest records of human investigations, and is most probably
owing to some effect of the currents which has a tendency to bring
about such an end; while the birds must be considered as stragglers
lured from their usual haunts by the food that would be apt to be
collected by the union of weeds and fish. Aquatic birds can always
rest on the water, and the animal that can wing its way through the
air at the rate of thirty or even fifty miles the hour, needs only
sufficient strength, to cross the entire Atlantic in four days and
Notwithstanding all these cheering signs, the different crews soon
began to feel again the weight of a renewed despondency. Sancho, who
was in constant but secret communication with the admiral, kept the
latter properly advised of the state of the people, and reported that
more murmurs than usual prevailed, the men having passed again, by
the suddenness of the reaction, from the most elastic hope, nearly to
the verge of despair. This fact was told Columbus just at sunset on
the evening of the 20th, or on that of the eleventh day after the
fleet lost sight of land, and while the seaman was affecting to be
busy on the poop, where he made most of his communications.
"They complain, your Excellency," continued Sancho, "of the
smoothness of the water; and they say that when the winds blow at all,
in these seas, they come only from the eastward, having no power to
blow from any other quarter. The calms, they think, prove that we are
getting into a part of the ocean where there is no wind; and the east
winds, they fancy, are sent by Providence to drive those there who
have displeased Heaven by a curiosity that it was never intended that
any who wear beards should possess."
"Do thou encourage them, Sancho, by reminding the poor fellows that
calms prevail, at times, in all seas; and, as for the east winds, is
it not well known that they blow from off the African shores, in low
latitudes, at all seasons of the year, following the sun in his daily
track around the earth? I trust thou hast none of this silly
"I endeavour to keep a stout heart, Señor Don Almirante, having no
one before me to disgrace, and leaving no one behind me to mourn over
my loss. Still, I should like to hear a little about the riches of
those distant lands, as I find the thoughts of their gold and precious
stones have a sort of religious charm over my weakness, when I begin
to muse upon Moguer and its good cheer."
"Go to, knave, thy appetite for money is insatiable; take yet
another dobla, and as thou gazest on it thou may'st fancy what thou
wilt of the coin of the Great Khan; resting certain that so great a
monarch is not without gold, any more than he is probably without the
disposition to part with it, when there is occasion."
Sancho received his fee, and left the poop to Columbus and our hero.
"These ups and downs among the knaves," said Luis, impatiently,
"were best quelled, Señor, by an application of the flat of the sword,
or, at need, of its edge."
"This may not be, my young friend, without at least far more
occasion than yet existeth for the severity. Think not that I have
passed so many years of my life in soliciting the means to effect so
great a purpose, and have got this far on my way, in unknown seas,
with a disposition to be easily turned aside from my purpose. But God
hath not created all alike; neither hath he afforded equal chances
for knowledge to the peasant and the noble. I have vexed my spirit
too often, with arguments on this very subject, with the great and
learned, not to bear a little with the ignorance of the vulgar. Fancy
how much fear would have quickened the wits of the sages of Salamanca,
had our discussion been held in the middle of the Atlantic, where man
never had been, and whence no eyes but those of logic and science,
could discover a safe passage."
"This is most true, Señor Almirante; and yet, methinks the knights
that were of your antagonists should not have been wholly unmanned by
fear. What danger have we here? this is the wide ocean, it is true,
and we are no doubt distant some hundreds of leagues from the known
islands, but we are not the less safe. By San Pedro! I have seen more
lives lost in a single onset of the Moors, than these caravels could
hold in bodies, and blood enough spilt to float them!"
"The dangers our people dread may be less turbulent than those of a
Moorish fray, Don Luis, but they are not the less terrible. Where is
the spring that is to furnish water to the parched lip, when our
stores shall fail, and where the field to give us its bread and
nourishment? It is a fearful thing to be brought down to the dregs of
life, by the failure of food and water, on the surface of the wide
ocean, dying by inches, often without the consolations of the church,
and ever without Christian sepulture. These are the fancies of the
seaman, and he is only to be driven from them violently when duty
demands extreme remedies for his disease."
"To me it seemeth, Don Christopher, that it will be time to reason
thus, when our casks are drained, and the last biscuit is broken.
Until then, I ask leave of your Excellency to apply the necessary
logic to the outside of the heads of these varlets, instead of
their insides, of which I much question the capacity to hold any good."
Columbus too well understood the hot nature of the young noble to
make a serious reply; and they both stood sometime leaning against the
mizen-mast, watching the scene before them, and musing on the chances
of their situation. It was night, and the figures of the watch, on the
deck beneath, were visible only by a light that rendered it difficult
to distinguish countenances. The men were grouped; and it was evident
by the low but eager tones in which they conversed, that they
discussed matters connected with the calm, and the risks they ran. The
outlines of the Pinta and Niña were visible, beneath a firmament that
was studded with brilliants, their lazy sails hanging in festoons,
like the drapery of curtains, and their black hulls were as
stationary, as if they both lay moored in one of the rivers of Spain.
It was a bland and gentle night, but the immensity of the solitude,
the deep calm of the slumbering ocean, and even the occasional
creaking of a spar, by recalling to the mind the actual presence of
vessels so situated, rendered the scene solemn, almost to sublimity.
"Dost thou detect aught fluttering in the rigging, Luis?" the
admiral cautiously inquired. "My ear deceiveth me, or I hear something
on the wing. The sounds, moreover, are quick and slight, like those
produced by birds of indifferent size."
"Don Christopher, you are right. There are little creatures perched
on the upper yards, and that of a size like the smaller songsters of
"Hark!" interrupted the admiral. "That is a joyous note, and of
such a melody as might be met in one of the orange groves of Seville,
itself! God be praised for this sign of the extent and unity of his
kingdom, since land cannot well be distant, when creatures, gentle and
frail as these, have so lately taken their flight from it!"
The presence of these birds soon became known to all on deck, and
their songs brought more comfort than the most able mathematical
demonstration, even though founded on modern learning, could have
produced on the sensitive feelings of the common men.
"I told thee, land was near," cried Sancho, turning with exultation
to Martin Martinez, his constant disputant;— "here thou hast the
proof of it, in a manner that none but the traitor will deny. Thou
hearest the songs of orchard birds—notes that would never come from
the throats of the tired; and which sound as gaily as if the dear
little feathered rogues were pecking at a fig or a grape in a field of
"Sancho is right!" exclaimed the seamen. "The air savours of land,
too—and the sea hath a look of the land; and God is with
us—blessed be his Holy name—and honour to our lord the king, and
to our gracious mistress, Doña Isabella!"
From this moment concern seemed to leave the vessel, again. It was
thought, even by the admiral himself, that the presence of birds so
small, and which were judged to be so feeble of wing, was an unerring
evidence that land was nigh; and land, too, of generous productions,
and a mild, gentle climate; for these warblers, like the softer sex
of the human family, best love scenes that most favour their gentle
propensities and delicate habits.
Investigation has since proved, that, in this particular, however
plausible the grounds of error, Columbus was deceived. Men often
mistake the powers of the inferior animals of creation, and at other
times they overrate the extent of their instinct. In point of fact, a
bird of light weight would be less liable to perish on the ocean, and
in that low latitude, than a bird of more size, neither being aquatic.
The sea-weed itself would furnish resting-places out of number for
the smaller animals, and in some instances it would probably furnish
food. That birds, purely of the land, should take long flights at sea,
is certainly improbable; but, apart from the consequence of gales,
which often force even that heavy-winged animal the owl, hundreds of
miles from the land, instinct is not infallible; whales being
frequently found embayed in shallow waters, and birds sailing beyond
the just limits of their habits. Whatever may have been the cause of
the opportune appearance of these little inhabitants of the orchard,
on the spars of the Santa Maria, the effect was of the most auspicious
kind on the spirits of the men. As long as they sang, no amateurs ever
listened to the most brilliant passages from the orchestra, with
greater delight than those rude seamen listened to their warbling,
and while they slept it was with a security that had its existence in
veneration and gratitude. The songs were renewed with the dawn,
shortly after which the whole went off in a body, taking their flight
towards the south-west. The next day brought a calm, and then an air
so light, that the vessels could with difficulty make their way
through the dense masses of weeds that actually gave the ocean the
appearance of vast inundated meadows. The current was now found to be
from the west, and shortly after day-light a new source of alarm was
reported by Sancho.
"The people have got a notion in their heads, Señor Almirante,
which partaketh so much of the marvellous, that it findeth exceeding
favour with such as love miracles more than they love God. Martin
Martinez, who is a philosopher in the way of terror, maintaineth that
this sea into which we seem to be entering deeper and deeper, lieth
over sunken islands, and that the weeds, which it would be idle to
deny grow more abundant as we proceed, will shortly get to be so
plentiful on the surface of the water, that the caravels will become
unable to advance, or to retreat."
"Doth Martin find any to believe this silly notion?"
"Señor Don Almirante, he doth; and for the plain reason that it is
easier to find those who are ready to believe an absurdity, than to
find those who will only believe truth. But the man is backed by some
unlucky chances, that must come of the Powers of Darkness, more
particularly as they can have no great wish to see your Excellency
reach Cathay, with the intention of making a Christian of the Great
Khan, and of planting the tree of the cross in his dominions. This
calm sorely troubleth many, moreover, and the birds are beginning to
be looked upon as creatures sent by Satan himself, to lead us whither
we can never return. Some even believe we shall tread on shoals, and
lie for ever stranded wrecks in the midst of the wide ocean!"
"Go bid the men prepare to sound; I will show them the folly of
this idea, at least; and see that all are summoned to witness the
Columbus now repeated this order to the pilots, and the deep-sea
was let go, in the usual manner. Fathom after fathom of the line
glided over the rail, the lead taking its unerring way towards the
bottom, until so little was left as to compel the downward course to
"Ye see, my friends, that we are yet full two hundred fathoms from
the shoals ye so much dread, and as much more as the sea is deeper
than our measurement. Lo! yonder, too, is a whale, spouting the water
before him, a creature never seen, except on the coasts of large
islands, or continents."
This appeal of Columbus, which was in conformity with the notions
of the day, had its weight—his crew being naturally most under the
influence of notions that were popular. It is now known, however, that
whales frequent those parts of the ocean where their food is most
abundant; and one of the best grounds for taking them, of late years,
has been what is called the the False Brazil Banks, which lie near
the centre of the ocean. In a word, all those signs, that were
connected with the movements of birds and fishes, and which appear to
have had so much effect, not only on the common men of this great
enterprise, but on Columbus himself, were of far less real importance
than was then believed; navigators being so little accustomed to
venture far from the land themselves, that they were not duly
acquainted with the mysteries of the open ocean.
Notwithstanding the moments of cheerfulness and hope that
intervened, distrust and apprehension were fast getting to be again
the prevailing feelings among the mariners. Those who had been most
disaffected from the first, seized every occasion to increase these
apprehensions; and when the sun arose, Saturday, September 22d, on a
calm sea, there were not a few in the vessels who were disposed to
unite in making another demand on the admiral to turn the heads of
the caravels towards the east.
"We have come some hundreds of leagues before a fair wind, into a
sea that is entirely unknown to man, until we have reached a part of
the ocean where the winds seem altogether to fail us, and where there
is danger of our being bound up in immovable weeds, or stranded on
sunken islands, without the means of procuring food or water!"
Arguments like these, were suited to an age in which even the most
learned were obliged to grope their way to accurate knowledge, through
the mists of superstition and ignorance, and in which it was a
prevailing weakness to put faith, on the one hand, in visible proofs
of the miraculous power of God, and, on the other, in substantial
evidences of the ascendency of evil spirits, as they were permitted
to affect the temporal affairs of those they persecuted.
It was, therefore, most fortunate for the success of the
expedition, that a light breeze sprang up from the southward and
westward, in the early part of the day just mentioned, enabling the
vessels to gather way, and to move beyond the vast fields of weeds,
that equally obstructed the progress of the caravels, and awakened the
fears of their people. As it was an object to get clear of the
floating obstacles that surrounded the vessels, the first large
opening that offered was entered, and then the fleet was brought
close upon a wind, heading as near as possible to the desired course.
Columbus now believed himself to be steering west-north-west, when, in
fact, he was sailing in a direction far nearer to his true course,
than when his ships headed west, by compass; the departure from the
desired line of sailing, being owing to the variation in the needle.
This circumstance alone, would seem to establish the fact, that
Columbus believed in his own theory of the moving star, since he
would hardly have steered west-and-by-south-half-south, with a fair
wind, for many days in succession, as he is known to have done, when
it was his strongest wish to proceed directly west. He was now heading
up, within half a point of the latter course, though he and all with
him, fancied they were running off nearly two points to leeward of
the so much desired direction.
But these little variations were trifles as compared with the
advantage that the admiral obtained over the fears of his followers by
the shift of the wind, and the liberation from the weeds. By the
first, the men saw a proof that the breezes did not always blow from
the same quarter; and by the last, they ascertained that they had not
actually reached a point where the ocean had become impassable.
Although the wind was now favourable to return to the Canaries, no
one any longer demanded that such a course should be adopted, so apt
are we all to desire that which appears to be denied to us, and so
ready to despise that which lies perfectly at our disposal.
This, indeed, was a moment when the feelings of the people appeared
to be as variable as the light and baffling winds themselves. The
Saturday passed away, in the manner just mentioned, the vessels once
more entering into large fields of weeds, just as the sun set. When
the light returned, the airs headed them off to north-west and
north-west-by-north, by compass, which was, in truth, steering
north-west-by-west-half-west, and north-west-half-west. Birds
abounded again, among which were a turtle-dove, and many living crabs
were seen crawling among the weeds. All these signs would have
encouraged the common men, had they not already so often proved
"Señor," said Martin Martinez, to the admiral, when Columbus went
among the crew to raise their drooping spirits, "we know not what to
think! For days, did the wind blow in the same direction, leading us
on, as it might be, to our ruin; and then it hath deserted us in such
a sea, as mariners in the Santa Maria never before saw. A sea,
looking like meadows on a river side, and which wanteth only kine and
cow-herds, to be mistaken for fields a little overflowed by a rise of
the water, is a fearful thing!"
"Thy meadows are the weeds of the ocean, and prove the richness of
the nature that hath produced them; while thy breezes from the east,
are what all who have ever made the Guinea voyage, well know to exist
in latitudes so low. I see nought in either to alarm a bold seaman;
and as for the bottom, ye all know it hath not yet been found by many
a long and weary fathom of line. Pepe, thou hast none of these
weaknesses; but hast set thy heart on Cathay, and a sight of the Great
"Señor Almirante, as I swore to Monica, so do I swear to your
Excellency; and that is to be true and obedient. If the cross is to be
raised among the infidels, my hand shall not be backward in doing its
share towards the holy act. Still, Señor, none of us like this long
unnatural calm. Here is an ocean that hath no waves, but a surface so
smooth that we much distrust whether the waters obey the same laws, as
they are known to do near Spain; for never before have I beheld a sea
that hath so much the air of the dead! May it not be, Señor, that God
hath placed a belt of this calm and stagnant water around the outer
edges of the earth, in order to prevent the unheedy from looking into
some of his sacred secrets?"
"Thy reasoning hath, at least, a savour of religion; and, though
faulty, can scarce be condemned. God hath placed man on this earth,
Pepe, to be its master, and to serve him by extending the dominion of
his church, as well as by turning to the best account all the
numberless blessings that accompany the great gift. As to the limits,
of which thou speakest, they exist only in idea, the earth being a
sphere, or a ball, to which there are no other edges than those thou
seest everywhere on its surface."
"And as for what Martin saith," put in Sancho, who was never at
fault for a fact, or for a reason, "concerning the winds, and the
weeds, and the calms, I can only wonder where a seaman of his years
hath been navigating so long, that these things should be novelties.
To me, all this is as common as dish-water at Moguer, and so much a
matter of course, that I should not have remarked it, but for the
whinings of Martin and his fellows. When the Santa Catalina made the
voyage to that far-off region, Ireland, we landed on the sea-weed, a
distance of half a league or so from the coast; and as for the wind,
it blew regularly four weeks from one quarter, and four weeks from the
other; after which the people of the country said it would blow four
weeks each way, transversely; but we did not remain long enough in
those seas to enable me to swear to the two last facts."
"Hast thou not heard of shoals so wide that a caravel could never
find its way out of them, if it once entered?" demanded Martinez,
fiercely, for much addicted to gross exaggerations himself, he little
liked to be outdone; "and do not these weeds bespeak our near approach
to such a danger, when the weeds themselves often are so closely
packed as to come near to stop the ship?"
"Enough of this," said the admiral; "at times we have weeds, and
then we are altogether free from them; these changes are owing to the
currents; no doubt as soon as we have passed this meridian, we shall
come to clear water again."
"But the calm, Señor Almirante," exclaimed a dozen voices. "This
unnatural smoothness of the ocean frighteneth us! — never before did
we see water so stagnant and immoveable!"
"Call ye this stagnant and immoveable?" exclaimed the admiral.
"Nature herself arises to reproach your senseless fears, and to
contradict your mistaken reasoning, by her own signs and portents!"
This was said as the Santa Maria's bows rose on a long low swell,
every spar creaking at the motion, and the whole hull heaving and
setting as the billow passed beneath it, washing the sides of the ship
from the water-line to its channels. At this moment there was not even
a breath of air, and the seamen gazed about them with an astonishment
that was increased and rendered extreme by dread. The ship had
scarcely settled heavily into the long trough, when a second wave
lifted her again forward, and billow succeeded billow, each successive
wave increasing in height, until the entire ocean was undulating,
though only marked at distant intervals, and that slightly, by the
foam of crests or combing seas. It took half an hour to bring this
phenomenon up to its height, when all three vessels were wallowing in
the seas, as mariners term it, their hulls falling off helplessly into
the troughs, until the water fairly spouted from their low scuppers,
as each rose by her buoyancy from some roll deeper than common.
Fancying that this occurrence promised to be either a source of new
alarm, or a means of appeasing the old one, Columbus took early
measures to turn it to account, in the latter mode. Causing all the
crew to assemble at the break of the poop, he addressed them, briefly,
in the following words:
"Ye see, men, that your late fears about the stagnant ocean are
rebuked, in this sudden manner, as it might be, by the hand of God
himself, proving, beyond dispute, that no danger is to be apprehended
from that source. I might impose on your ignorance, and insist that
this sudden rising of the sea is a miracle wrought to sustain me
against your rebellious repinings and unthinking alarms; but the cause
in which I am engaged needs no support of this nature, that doth not
truly come from heaven. The calms, and the smoothness of the water,
and even the weeds of which ye complain, come from the vicinity of
some great body of land; I think not a continent, as that must lie
still farther west, but of islands, either so large or so numerous, as
to make a far-extended lee; while these swells are probably the
evidence of wind at a distance, which hath driven up the ocean into
mountainous waves, such as we often see them, and which send out their
dying efforts, even beyond the limits of the gale. I do not say that
this intervention, to appease your fears, doth not come of God, in
whose hands I am; for this last do I fully believe, and for it am I
fully grateful; but it cometh through the agencies of nature, and can
in no sense be deemed providential, except as it demonstrateth the
continuance of the divine care, as well as its surpassing goodness. Go
then, and be tranquil. Remember if Spain be far behind ye, that Cathay
now lieth at no great distance before ye; that each hour shorteneth
that distance, as well as the time necessary to reach our goal. He
that remaineth true and faithful, shall not repent his confidence;
while he who unnecessarily disturbeth either himself or others, with
silly doubts, may look forward to an exercise of authority that shall
maintain the rights of their Highnesses to the duty of all their
We record this speech of the great navigator with so much the more
pleasure, as it goes fully to establish the fact that he did not
believe the sudden rising of the seas, on this occasion, was owing to
a direct miracle, as some of the historians and biographers seem
inclined to believe; but rather to a providential interference of
Divine Power, through natural means, in order to protect him against
the consequences of the blind apprehensions of his followers. It is
not easy, indeed, to suppose, that a seaman as experienced as
Columbus, could be ignorant of the natural cause of a circumstance so
very common on the ocean, that those who dwell on its coasts have
frequent occasion to witness its occurrence.
" `Ora pro nobis, Mater!'—what a spell
Was in those notes, with day's last glory dying
On the flush'd waters—seem'd they not to swell
From the far dust, wherein my sires were lying
With crucifix and sword?—Oh! yet how clear
Comes their reproachful sweetness to my ear!
`Ora'—with all the purple waves replying,
All my youth's visions rising in the strain—
And I had thought it much to bear the rack and chain!"
The Forest Sanctuary.
It may now be well to recapitulate, and to let the reader
distinctly know how far the adventurers had actually advanced into
the unknown waters of the Atlantic; what was their real, and what
their supposed position. As has been seen, from the time of quitting
Gomera, the admiral kept two reckonings, one intended for his own
government, which came as near the truth as the imperfect means of
the science of navigation that were then in use would allow, and
another that was freely exhibited to the crew, and was purposely
miscalculated in order to prevent alarm, on account of the distance
that had been passed. As Columbus believed himself to be employed in
the service of God, this act of deception would be thought a species
of pious fraud, in that devout age; and it is by no means probable,
that it gave the conscience of the navigator any trouble, since
churchmen, even, did not hesitate always about buttressing the walls
of faith by means still less justifiable.
The long calms and light head-winds had prevented the vessels from
making much progress for the few last days; and, by estimating the
distance that was subsequently run in a course but a little south of
west, it appears, notwithstanding all the encouraging signs of birds,
fishes, calms, and smooth water, that on the morning of Monday,
September 24th, or that of the fifteenth day after losing sight of
Ferro, the expedition was about half-way across the Atlantic, counting
from continent to continent, on the parallel of about 31 or 32 degrees
of north latitude. The circumstance of the vessels being so far north
of the Canaries, when it is known that they had been running most of
the time west, a little southerly, must be imputed to the course
steered in the scant winds, and perhaps to the general set of the
currents. With this brief explanation, we return to the daily progress
of the ships.
The influence of the trades was once more felt, though in a very
slight degree, in the course of the twenty-four hours that succeeded
the day of the "miraculous seas," and the vessels again headed west by
compass Birds were seen as usual, among which was a pelican. The
whole progress of the vessels was less than fifty miles, a distance
that was lessened, as usual, in the public reckoning.
The morning of the 25th was calm, but the wind returned, a steady
gentle breeze from the south-east, when the day was far advanced, the
caravels passing most of the hours of light floating near each other,
in a lazy indolence, or barely stirring the water with their stems, at
a rate little, if any, exceeding that of a mile an hour.
The Pinta kept near the Santa Maria, and the officers and crews of
the two vessels conversed freely with each other, concerning their
hopes and situation. Columbus listened to these dialogues for a long
time, endeavouring to collect the predominant feeling from the more
guarded expressions that were thus publicly delivered, and watching
each turn of the expressions with jealous vigilance. At length it
struck him that the occasion was favourable to producing a good effect
on the spirits of his followers.
"What hast thou thought of the chart I sent thee three days since,
good Martin Alonzo," called out the admiral: "Dost thou see in it
aught to satisfy thee that we are approaching the Indies, and that our
time of trial draweth rapidly to an end?"
At the first sound of the admiral's voice, every syllable was
hushed among the people; for, in spite of their discontent, and their
disposition even to rise against him, in their extremity, Columbus had
succeeded in creating a profound respect for his judgment and his
person among all his followers.
"'T is a rare and well-designed chart, Señor Don Christopher,"
answered the master of the Pinta, "and doth a fair credit to him who
hath copied and enlarged, as well as to him who first projected it. I
doubt that it is the work of some learned scholar, that hath united
the opinions of all the greater navigators in his map."
"The original came from one Paul Toscanelli, a learned Tuscan, who
dwelleth at Firenze in that country; a man of exceeding knowledge, and
of an industry in investigation that putteth idleness to shame.
Accompanying the chart he sent a missive that hath much profound and
learned matter on the subject of the Indies, and touching those
islands that thou seest laid down with so much particularity. In that
letter he speaketh of divers places, as being so many wonderful
exemplars of the power of man; more especially of the port of Zaiton,
which sendeth forth no less than a hundred ships yearly, loaded with
the single product of the pepper-tree. He saith, moreover, that an
ambassador came to the Holy Father, in the time of Eugenius IV., of
blessed memory, to express the desire of the Great Khan, which meaneth
King of Kings, in the dialect of those regions, to be on friendly
terms with the Christians of the west, as we were then termed; but of
the east, as will shortly be our designation in that part of the
"This is surprising, Señor!" exclaimed Pinzon: "how is it known, or
is it known at all, of a certainty?"
"Beyond a question; since Paul stateth, in his missive, that he saw
much of this same ambassador, living greatly in his society, Eugenius
deceasing as lately as 1477. From the ambassador, no doubt a wise and
grave personage, since no other would have been sent so far on a
mission to the Head of the Church;—from this discreet person, then,
did Toscanelli gain much pleasant information concerning the
populousness and vast extent of those distant countries, the
gorgeousness of the palaces, and the glorious beauty of the cities. He
spoke of one town, in particular, that surpasseth all others of the
known world; and of a single river that hath two hundred noble cities
on its own banks, with marble bridges spanning the stream. The chart
before thee, Martin Alonzo, showeth that the exact distance from
Lisbon to the city of Quisay is just three thousand nine hundred miles
of Italy, or about a thousand leagues, steering always in a due-west
"And doth the learned Tuscan say aught of the riches of those
countries?" demanded Master Alonzo—a question that caused all within
hearing to prick up their ears, afresh.
"That doth he, and in these precise and impressive words—`This is
a noble country,' observed the learned Paul, in his missive, `and
ought to be explored by us, on account of its great riches, and the
quantity of gold, silver, and precious stones, which might be obtained
there.' He moreover describeth Quisay as being five-and-thirty leagues
in circuit, and addeth that its name in the Castilian, is `the City
of Heaven.' "
"In which case," muttered Sancho, though in a tone so low that no
one but Pepe heard him, "there is little need of our bearing thither
the cross, which was intended for the benefit of man, and not of
"I see here two large islands, Señor Almirante," continued Pinzon,
keeping his eyes on the chart, "one of which is called Antilla, and
the other is the Cipango of which your Excellency so often speaketh."
"Even so, good Martin Alonzo, and thou also seest that they are
laid down with a precision that must prevent any experienced navigator
from missing his way, when in pursuit of them. These islands lie just
two hundred and twenty-five leagues asunder."
"According to our reckoning, here, in the Pinta, noble Admiral, we
cannot, then, be far from Cipango at this very moment."
"It would so seem by the reckonings, though I somewhat doubt their
justness. It is a common error of pilots to run ahead of their
reckonings, but in this instance, apprehension hath brought ye behind
them. Cipango lieth many days' sail from the continent of Asia, and
cannot, therefore, be far from this spot; still the currents have been
adverse, and I doubt that it will be found that we are as near this
island, good Martin Alonzo, as thou and thy companions imagine. Let
the chart be returned, and I will trace our actual position on it,
that all may see what reason there is to despond, and what reason to
Pinzon now took the chart, rolled it together carefully, attached a
light weight, and securing the whole with the end of a log-line, he
hove it on board the Santa Maria, as a seaman makes a cast with the
lead. So near were the vessels at the moment, that this communication
was made without any difficulty; after which, the Pinta, letting fall
an additional sail or two, flapped slowly ahead, her superiority,
particularly in light winds, being at all times apparent.
Columbus now caused the chart to be spread over a table on the
poop, and invited all who chose to draw near, in order that they
might, with their own eyes, see the precise spot on the ocean where
the admiral supposed the vessels to be. As each day's work was
accurately laid down, and measured on the chart, by one as expert as
the great navigator himself, there is little question that he
succeeded in showing his people, as near as might be, and subject to
the deduction in distance that was intentionally made, the longitude
and latitude to which the expedition had then reached; and as this
brought them quite near those islands which were believed to lie east
of the continent of Asia, this tangible proof of their progress had
far more effect than any demonstration that depended on abstract
reasoning, even when grounded on premises that were true; most men
submitting sooner to the authority of the senses, than to the
influence of the mere mind. The seamen did not stop to inquire how it
was settled that Cipango lay in the precise place where it had been
projected on this famous chart, but seeing it there, in black and
white, they were disposed to believe it was really in the spot it
appeared to be; and, as Columbus's reputation for keeping a ship's
reckoning far surpassed that of any other navigator in the fleet, the
facts were held to be established. Great was the joy, in consequence;
and the minds of the people again passed from the verge of despair to
an excess and illusion of hope, that was raised only to be
That Columbus was sincere in all that related to this new delusion,
with the exception of the calculated reduction of the true distance,
is beyond a doubt. In common with the cosmographers of the age, he
believed the circumference of the earth much less than actual
measurement has since shown it to be; striking out of the
calculations, at once, nearly the whole breadth of the Pacific Ocean.
That this conclusion was very natural, will be seen by glancing at
the geographical facts that the learned then possessed, as data for
It was known that the continent of Asia was bounded on the east by
a vast ocean, and that a similar body of water bounded Europe on the
west, leaving the plausible inference, on the supposition that the
earth was a sphere, that nothing but islands existed between these two
great boundaries of land. Less than half of the real circumference of
the globe is to be found between the western and eastern verges of
the old continent, as they were then known; but it was too bold an
effort of the mind, to conceive that startling fact, in the condition
of human knowledge at the close of the fifteenth century. The theories
were consequently content with drawing the limits of the east and the
west into a much narrower circle, finding no data for any freer
speculation; and believing it a sufficient act of boldness to maintain
the spherical formation of the earth at all. It is true, that the
latter theory was as old as Ptolemy, and quite probably much older;
but even the antiquity of a system begins to be an argument against
it, in the minds of the vulgar, when centuries elapse, and it receives
no confirmation from actual experiment. Columbus supposed his island
of Cipango, or Japan, to lie about a hundred and forty degrees of
longitude east of its actual position; and, as a degree of longitude
in the latitude of Japan, or 35° north, supposing the surface of the
earth to be perfectly spherical, is about fifty-six statute miles, it
follows that Columbus had advanced this island, on his chart, more
than seven thousand English miles towards the eastward, or a distance
materially exceeding two thousand marine leagues.
All this, however, was not only hidden in mystery as regards the
common men of the expedition, but it far outstripped the boldest
conceptions of the great navigator himself. Facts of this nature,
notwithstanding, are far from detracting from the glory of the vast
discoveries that were subsequently made, since they prove under what
moral disadvantages the expedition was conceived, and under what a
limited degree of knowledge it finally triumphed.
While Columbus was thus employed with the chart, it was a curious
thing to witness the manner in which the seamen watched his smallest
movement, studied the expression of his grave and composed
countenance, and sought to read their fate in the contraction, or
dilation, of his eyes. The gentlemen of the Santa Maria, and the
pilots, stood at his elbow, and here and there some old mariner
ventured to take his post at hand, where he could follow the slow
progress of the pen, or note the explanation of a figure. Among these
was Sancho, who was generally admitted to be one of the most expert
seamen in the little fleet, in all things, at least, that did not
require the knowledge of the schools. Columbus even turned to these
men, and spoke them kindly, endeavouring to make them comprehend a
part of their calling, which they saw practised daily, without ever
succeeding in acquiring a practical acquaintance with it, pointing out
particularly the distance come, and that which yet remained before
them. Others, again, the less experienced, but not the less interested
among the crew, hung about the rigging, whence they could overlook
the scene, and fancy they beheld demonstrations that came of theories
which it as much exceeded their reasoning powers to understand, as it
exceeded their physical vision to behold the desired Indies
themselves. As men become intellectual, they entertain abstractions,
leaving the dominion of the senses to take refuge in that of thought.
Until this change arrives, however, we are all singularly influenced
by a parade of positive things. Words spoken, seldom produce the
effect of words written; and the praise or censure that would enter
lightly and unheeded into the ear, might even change our estimates of
character, when received into the mind through the medium of the eye.
Thus, the very seamen, who could not comprehend the reasoning of
Columbus, fancied they understood his chart, and willingly enough
believed that islands and continents must exist in the precise places
where they saw them so plainly delineated.
After this exhibition, cheerfulness resumed its sway over the crew
of the Santa Maria; and Sancho, who was generally considered as of the
party of the admiral, was eagerly appealed to by his fellows, for many
of the little circumstances that were thought to explain the features
of the chart.
"Dost think, Sancho, that Cipango is as large as the admiral hath
got the island on the chart?" asked one who had passed from the verge
of despair to the other extreme; "that it lieth fairly, any eye may
see, since its look is as natural as that of Ferro or Madeira."
"That hath he," answered Sancho, positively, "as one may see by its
shape. Didst not notice the capes, and bays, and head-lands, all laid
down as plainly as on any other well-known coast? Ah! these Genoese
are skilful navigators; and Señor Colon, our noble admiral, hath not
come all this distance without having some notion in what roadstead
he is to anchor."
In such conclusive arguments, the dullest minds of the crew found
exceeding consolation; whilst among all the common people of the ship,
there was not one who did not feel more confidence in the happy
termination of the voyage, since he had this seeming ocular proof of
the existence of land in the part of the ocean they were in.
When the discourse between the admiral and Pinzon ceased, the
latter made sail on the Pinta, which vessel had slowly passed the
Santa Maria, and was now a hundred yards, or more, ahead of her;
neither going through the water at a rate exceeding a knot an hour. At
the moment just mentioned, or while the men were conversing of their
newly awakened hopes, a shout drew all eyes towards their consort,
where Pinzon was seen on the poop, waving his cap in exultation, and
giving the usual proofs of extravagant delight.
"Land!—Land! Señor!" he shouted. "I claim my reward! Land! Land!"
"In what direction, good Martin Alonzo?" asked Columbus, so eagerly
that his voice fairly trembled. "In which quarter dost thou perceive
this welcome neighbour?"
"Here, to the south-west," pointing in that direction — "a range
of dim but noble mountains, and such as promise to satisfy the pious
longings of the Holy Father himself!"
Every eye turned towards the south-west, and there, indeed, they
fancied they beheld the long-sought proofs of their success. A faint,
hazy mass, was visible in the horizon, broken in outline, more
distinctly marked than clouds usually are, and yet so obscure as to
require a practised eye to draw it out of the obscurity of the void.
This is the manner in which land often appears to seamen, in peculiar
conditions of the atmosphere; others, under such circumstances, being
seldom able to distinguish it at all. Columbus was so practised in all
the phenomena of the ocean, that the face of every man in the Santa
Maria was turned towards his, in breathless expectation of the result,
as soon as the first glance had been given towards the point of the
compass mentioned. It was impossible to mistake the expression of the
admiral's countenance, which immediately became radiant with delight
and pious exultation. Uncovering himself, he cast a look upward in
unbounded gratitude, and then fell on his knees, to return open
thanks to God. This was the signal of triumph, and yet, in their
desolate situation, exultation was not the prevalent feeling of the
moment. Like Columbus, the men felt their absolute dependence on God;
and a sense of humble and rebuked gratitude came over every spirit,
as it might be simultaneously. Kneeling, the entire crews of the
three vessels simultaneously commenced the chant of "Gloria in
excelsis Deo!" lifting the voice of praise, for the first time since
the foundations of the earth were laid, in that deep solitude of the
ocean. Matins and vespers, it is true, were then habitually repeated
in most Christian ships; but this sublime chant was now uttered to
waves that had been praising their Maker, in their might and in their
calm, for so many thousand years, for the first time in the voice of
"Glory be to God on high!" sang these rude mariners, with
hearts softened by their escapes, dangers, and success, speaking as
one man, though modulating their tones to the solemn harmony of a
religious rite—"and on earth peace, good will towards men. We
praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give
thanks to thee for thy great glory! O Lord God! Heavenly King! God
the Father Almighty!" &c. &c.
In this noble chant, which would seem to approach as near to the
praises of angels as human powers can ever hope to rise, the voice of
the admiral was distinct, and deep, but trembling with emotion.
When this act of pious gratitude was performed, the men ascended
the rigging to make more certain of their success. All agreed in
pronouncing the faintly delineated mass to be land, and the first
sudden transport of unexpected joy was succeeded by the more regulated
feelings of confirmed security. The sun set a little north of the dim
mountains, and night closed around the scene, shadowing the ocean
with as much of gloom as is ever to be found beneath a tropical and
cloudless sky. As the first watch was set, Columbus, who, whenever the
winds would allow, had persevered in steering what he fancied to be a
due-west course, to satisfy the longings of his people, ordered the
vessels to haul up to south-west by compass, which was in fact heading
south-west by south, southerly. The wind increased, and, as the
admiral had supposed the land to be distant about twenty-five leagues,
when last seen, all in the little fleet confidently relied on
obtaining a full and complete view of it in the morning. Columbus
himself entertained this hope, though he varied his course
reluctantly, feeling certain that the continent would be met by
sailing west, or what he thought to be west, though he could have no
similar confidence as to making any island.
Few slept soundly that night, visions of oriental riches, and of
the wonders of the East, crowding on the minds of even the least
imaginative, converting their slumbers into dreams rendered uneasy by
longings for gold, and anticipations of the wonders of the unknown
East. The men left their hammocks, from hour to hour, to stand in the
rigging, watching for some new proofs of their proximity to the
much-desired islands, and straining their eyes in vain, in the hope of
looking deeper into the obscurity in quest of objects that fancy had
already begun to invest with forms. In the course of the night, the
vessels ran in a direct line towards the south-west, seventeen of the
twenty-five leagues that Columbus had supposed alone separated him
from this new discovery; and just before the light dawned, every soul
in the three vessels was stirring, in the eager hope of having the
panorama of day open on such a sight, as they felt it to be but a
slight grievance to have come so far, and to have risked so much, to
"Yonder is a streak of light, glimmering in the east," cried Luis,
in a cheerful voice; "and now, Señor Almirante, we may unite in
terming you the honoured of the earth!"
"All rests with God, my young friend," returned Columbus; "whether
land is near us or not, it boundeth the western ocean, and to that
boundary we must proceed. Thou art right, truly, friend Gutierrez; the
light is beginning to shed itself along the eastern margin of the sea,
and even to rise in an arch into the vault above it."
"Would that the sun rose, for this one day, in the west, that we
might catch the first glimpse of our new possessions in that radiant
field of heaven, which his coming rays are so gloriously illuminating
above the track we have just passed!"
"That will not happen, Master Pedro, since Sol hath journeyed daily
round this planet of ours, from east to west, since time began, and
will so continue to journey until time shall cease. This is a
fact on which our senses may be trusted, though they mislead us in so
many other things."
So reasoned Columbus, a man whose mind had outstripped the age, in
his favourite study, and who was usually so calm and philosophical;
simply because he reasoned in the fetters of habit and prejudice. The
celebrated system of Ptolemy, that strange compound of truth and
error, was the favourite astronomical law of the day. Copernicus, who
was then but a mere youth, did not reduce the just conception of
Pythagoras — just in outline, though fanciful in its connextion with
both cause and effect — to the precision of science for many years
after the discovery of America; and it is a strong proof of the
dangers which attended the advancement of thought, that he was
rewarded for this vast effort of human reason, by excommunication from
the church, the maledictions of which actually rested on his soul, if
not on his body, until within a few years of the present moment! This
single circumstance will show the reader how much our navigator had to
overcome in achieving the great office he had assumed.
But all this time, the day is dawning, and the light is beginning
to diffuse itself over the entire panorama of ocean and sky. As means
were afforded, each look eagerly took in the whole range of the
western horizon, and a chill of disappointment settled on every heart,
as suspicion gradually became confirmation, that no land was visible.
The vessels had passed, in the night, those bounds of the visible
horizon, where masses of clouds had settled; and no one could any
longer doubt that his senses had been deceived by some accidental
peculiarity in the atmosphere. All eyes now turned again to the
admiral, who, while he felt the disappointment in his inmost heart,
maintained a dignified calm that it was not easy to disturb.
"These signs are not infrequent at sea, Señors," he said to those
near him, speaking loud enough, nevertheless, to be heard by most of
the crew, "though seldom as treacherous as they have now proved to be.
All accustomed to the ocean have doubtless seen them often; and as
physical facts, they must be taken as counting neither for nor
against us. As omens, each person will consider them as he putteth
his trust in God, whose grace and mercy to us all, is yet, by a
million of times, unrequited, and still would be, were we to sing Gloria in excelsis, from morn till night, as long as breath lasted
for the sacred office."
"Still, our hope was so very strong, Don Christopher," observed one
of the gentlemen, "that we find the disappointment hard to be borne.
You speak of omens, Señor; are there any physical signs of our being
near the land of Cathay?"
"Omens come of God, if they come at all. They are a species of
miracles preceding natural events, as real miracles surpass them. I
think this expedition cometh of God; and I see no irreverence in
supposing that this late appearance of land may have been heaped along
the horizon for an encouraging sign to persevere, and as a proof that
our labours will be rewarded in the end. I cannot say, nevertheless,
that any but natural means were used, for these deceptions are
familiar to us mariners."
"I shall endeavour so to consider it, Señor Almirante," gravely
returned the other, and the conversation dropped.
The non-appearance of the land, which had been so confidently hoped
for, produced a deep gloom in the vessels, notwithstanding; again
changing the joy of their people into despondency. Columbus continued
to steer due-west, by compass, or west by south, southerly, in
reality, until meridian, when, yielding to the burning wishes of
those around him, he again altered his course to the south-west. This
course was followed until the ships had gone far enough in that
direction to leave no doubt that the people had been misled by clouds,
the preceding evening. At night, when not the faintest hope remained,
the vessels kept away due west again, running, in the course of the
twenty-four hours, quite thirty-one leagues, which were recorded
before the crew as twenty-four.
For several succeeding days no material changes occurred. The wind
continued favourable, though frequently so light as to urge the
vessels very slowly ahead, reducing the day's progress sometimes to
little more than fifty of our English miles. The sea was calm, and
weeds were again met, though in much smaller quantities than before.
September 29th, or the fourth day after Pinzon had called out "land,"
another frigate-bird was seen; and as it was the prevalent notion
among seamen that this bird never flew far from the shore, some faint
hopes were momentarily revived by his passage. Two pelicans also
appeared, and the air was so soft and balmy that Columbus declared
nothing but nightingales were wanting to render the nights as
delicious as those of Andalusia.
In this manner did birds come and go, exciting hopes that were
doomed to be disappointed; sometimes flying in numbers that would seem
to forbid the idea that they could be straying on the waste of waters,
without the certainty of their position. Again, too, the attention of
the admiral, and of the people, was drawn to the variation of the
needle, all uniting in the opinion that the phenomenon was only to be
explained by the movements of the star. At length the first day of
October arrived, and the pilots of the admiral's vessel seriously set
to work to ascertain the distance they had come. They had been misled
as well as the rest, by the management of Columbus, and they now
approached the latter, as he stood at his usual post on the poop, in
order to give the result of their calculations, with countenances that
were faithful indexes of the concern they felt.
"We are not less than five hundred and seventy-eight leagues west
of Ferro, Señor Almirante," commenced one of the two; "a fearful
distance to venture into the bosom of an unknown ocean!"
"Thou say'st true, honest Bartolemeo," returned Columbus, calmly;
"though the farther we venture, the greater will be the honour. Thy
reckoning is even short of the truth, since this of mine, which is no
secret from our people, giveth even five hundred and eighty-four
leagues, fully six more than thine. But, after all, this scarce
equalleth a voyage from Lisbon to Guinea, and we are not men to be
outdone by the seamen of Don John!"
"Ah! Señor Almirante, the Portuguese have their islands by the way,
and the old world at their elbows; while we, should this earth prove
not to be really a sphere, are hourly sailing towards its verge, and
are running into untried dangers!"
"Go to, Bartolemeo! thou talkest like a river-man who hath been
blown outside his bar by a strong breeze from the land, and who
fancieth his risks greater than man ever yet endured, because the
water that wetteth his tongue is salt. Let the men see this reckoning,
fearlessly; and strive to be of cheer, lest we remember thy
misgivings, beneath the groves of Cathay."
"The man is sore beset with dread," coolly observed Luis, as the
pilots descended from the poop with a lingering step and a heavy
heart. "Even your six short leagues added to the weight on his spirit.
Five hundred and seventy-eight were frightful, but five hundred and
eighty-four became burthensome to his soul!"
"What would he then have thought had he known the truth, of which,
young count, even thou art ignorant?"
"I hope you do not distrust my nerves, Don Christopher, that this
matter is kept a secret from me?"
"I ought not, I do believe, Señor de Llera; and yet one gets to be
distrustful even of himself, when weighty concerns hang by a thread.
Hast thou any real idea of the length of the road we have come?"
"Not I, by St. Iago! Señor. It is enough for me that we are far
from the Doña Mercedes, and a league more or less counts but little.
Should your theory be true, and the earth prove to be round, I have
the consolation of knowing that we shall get back to Spain, in time,
even by chasing the sun."
"Still thou hast some general notion of our true distance from
Ferro, knowing that each day it is lessened before the people."
"To tell you the truth, Don Christopher, arithmetic and I have
little feeling for each other. For the life of me, I never could tell
the exact amount of my own revenues, in figures, though it might not
be so difficult to come at their results, in another sense. If truth
were said, however, I should think your five hundred and eighty
leagues might fairly be set down at some six hundred and ten or
"Add yet another hundred and thou wilt not be far from the fact. We
are, at this moment, seven hundred and seven leagues from Ferro, and
fast drawing near to the meridian of Cipango. In another glorious
week, or ten days at most, I shall begin seriously to expect to see
the continent of Asia!"
"This is travelling faster than I had thought, Señor," answered
Luis, carelessly; "but journey on; one of your followers will not
complain, though we circle earth itself."
* Note. — It is worthy of remark that the city of Philadelphia
stands, as near as may be, in the position that the honest Paul
Toscanelli supposed to have been occupied by "the famous city of
"Pronounce what sea, what shore is this?
The gulf, the rock of Salamis?"
The adventurers had now been twenty-three days out of sight of
land, all of which time, with the exception of a few very immaterial
changes in the wind, and a day or two of calms, they had been steadily
advancing towards the west, with a southern variation that ranged
between a fourth of a point and a point and a quarter, though the
latter fact was unknown to them. Their hopes had been so often raised
to be disappointed, that a sort of settled gloom now began to prevail
among the common men, which was only relieved by irregular and
uncertain cries of `land,' as the clouds produced their usual
deceptions in the horizon. Still their feelings were in that feverish
state which admits of any sudden change; and as the sea continued
smooth as a river, the air balmy, and the skies most genial, they
were prevented from falling into despair. Sancho reasoned, as usual,
among his fellows, resisting ignorance and folly, with impudence and
dogmatism; while Luis unconsciously produced an effect on the spirits
of his associates by his cheerfulness and confidence. Columbus,
himself, remained calm, dignified, and reserved, relying on the
justice of his theories, and continuing resolute to attain his object.
The wind remained fair, as before, and in the course of the night and
day of the 2d of October, the vessels sailed more than a hundred miles
still further into that unknown and mysterious sea. The weeds now
drifted westerly, which was a material change, the currents previously
setting, in the main, in an opposite direction. The 3d proved even a
still more favourable day, the distance made reaching to forty-seven
leagues. The admiral now began to think seriously that he had passed
the islands laid down in his chart, and, with the high resolution of
one sustained by grand conceptions, he decided to stand on west, with
the intention of reaching the shores of the Indies, at once. The 4th
was a better day than either, the little fleet passing steadily ahead,
without deviating from its course, until it had fairly made one
hundred and eighty-nine miles, much the greatest day's work it had yet
achieved. This distance, so formidable to men who began to count each
hour and each league with uneasiness, was reckoned to all on board,
but Luis, as only one hundred and thirty-eight miles.
Friday, October 5th, commenced even more favourably, Columbus
finding his ship gliding through the water — there being no sea to
cause her to reel and stagger — at the rate of about eight miles the
hour, which was almost as fast as she had ever been known to go, and
which would have caused this day's work to exceed the last, had not
the wind failed in the night. As it was, however, fifty-seven more
leagues were placed between Ferro and the position of the vessels; a
distance that was reduced to forty-five, with the crew. The following
day brought no material change, Providence appearing to urge them on
at a speed that must soon solve the great problem which the admiral
had been so long discussing with the learned. It was already dark,
when the Pinta came sheering down upon the quarter of the Santa Maria,
until she had got so near that her commander hailed without the aid of
"Is Señor Don Christopher at his post, as usual?" hurriedly
demanded Pinzon, speaking like one who felt he had matter of weight
upon his mind: "I see persons on the poop, but know not if his
Excellency be among them."
"What would'st thou, good Martin Alonzo?" answered the admiral: "I
am here, watching for the shores of Cipango, or Cathay, whichever God,
in his goodness, may be pleased first to give us."
"I see so many reasons, noble admiral, for changing our course more
to the south, that I could not resist the desire to come down and say
as much. Most of the late discoveries have been made in the southern
latitudes, and we might do well to get more southing."
"Have we gained aught by changing our course in this direction? Thy
heart seemeth bent on more southern climes, worthy friend; while to my
feelings we are now in the very paradise of sweets, land only
excepted. Islands may lie south, or even north of us; but a
continent must lie west. Why abandon a certainty for an
uncertainty? the greater for the less? Cipango or Cathay, for some
pleasant spot, fragrant with spices no doubt, but without a name, and
which can never equal the glories of Asia, either as a discovery or as
"I would, Señor, I might prevail on you to steer more to the south!"
"Go to, Martin Alonzo, and forget thy cravings. My heart is in the
west, and thither reason teacheth me to follow it. First hear my
orders, and then go seek the Niña, that thy brother, the worthy
Vicente Yañez, may obey them also. Should aught separate us in the
night, it shall be the duty of all to stand manfully towards the west,
striving to find our company; for it would be a sad, as well as a
useless thing, to be wandering alone in this unknown ocean."
Pinzon, though evidently much displeased, was fain to obey, and,
after a short but a sharp and loud altercation with the admiral, the
commander of the Pinta caused her to sheer towards the felucca to
execute the order.
"Martin Alonzo beginneth to waver," Columbus observed to Luis. "He
is a bold and exceeding skilful mariner, but steadiness of object is
not his greatest quality. He must be restrained from following the
impulses of his weakness, by the higher hand of authority. Cathay! —
Cathay is my aim!"
After midnight the wind increased, and for two hours the caravels
glanced through the smooth ocean at their greatest speed, which
equalled nine English miles the hour. Few now undressed, except to
change their clothes; and Columbus slumbered on the poop that night,
using an old sail for his couch. Luis was his companion, and both were
up and on the deck with the first appearance of dawn. A common
feeling seemed to exist among all, that land was near, and that a
great discovery was about to be made. An annuity of ten thousand
maravedis had been promised by the sovereigns to him who should first
descry land, and every eye was on the gaze, whenever opportunity
permitted, to gain the prize.
As the light diffused itself downward towards the margin of the
ocean, in the western horizon, all thought there was the appearance of
land, and sail was eagerly crowded on the different vessels, in order
to press forward as fast as possible, that their respective crews
might enjoy the earliest and the best chances of obtaining the first
view. In this respect, circumstances singularly balanced the
advantages and disadvantages between the competitors. The Niña was
the fastest vessel in light airs and smooth water, but she was also
the smallest. The Pinta came next in general speed, holding a middle
place in size, and beating her consorts with a fresh breeze; while the
Santa Maria, the last in point of sailing, had the highest masts, and
consequently swept the widest range of horizon.
"There is a good feeling uppermost to-day, Señor Don Christopher,"
said Luis, as he stood at the admiral's side, watching the advance of
the light; "and if eyes can do it, we may hope for the discovery of
land. The late run hath awakened all our hopes, and land we must have,
even if we raise it from the bottom of the ocean."
"Yonder is Pepe, the dutiful husband of Monica, perched on our
highest yard, straining his eyes towards the west, in the hope of
gaining the reward!" said Columbus, smiling. "Ten thousand maravedis,
yearly, would, in sooth, be some atonement to carry back to the
grieved mother and the deserted boy!"
"Martin Alonzo is in earnest, also, Señor. See how he presseth
forward in the Pinta; but Vicente Yañez hath the heels of him, and is
determined to make his salutations first to the Great Khan, neglectful
of the elder brother's rights.
"Señor! — Señores!" shouted Sancho from the spar on which he was
seated as composedly as a modern lady would recline on her ottoman —
"the felucca is speaking in signals."
"This is true" — cried Columbus — "Vicente Yañez showeth the
colours of the queen, and there goeth a lombarda to announce some
As these were the signals directed in the event that either vessel
should discover land before her consorts, little doubt was entertained
that the leading caravel had, at last, really announced the final
success of the expedition. Still, the recent and grave disappointment
was remembered, and though all devoutly poured out their gratitude in
mental offerings, their lips were sealed until the result should show
the truth. Every rag of canvass was set, however, and the vessels
seemed to hasten their speed towards the west, like birds tired with
an unusual flight, which make new efforts with their wearied wings as
the prospect of alighting suddenly breaks on their keen vision and
Hour passed after hour, however, and brought no confirmation of the
blessed tidings. The western horizon looked heavy and clouded
throughout the morning, it is true, often deceiving even the most
practised eyes; but as the day advanced, and the vessels had passed
more than fifty miles further towards the west, it became impossible
not to ascribe the hopes of the morning to another optical illusion.
The depression of spirits that succeeded this new disappointment was
greater than any that had before existed, and the murmurs that arose
were neither equivocal nor suppressed. It was urged that some malign
influence was leading the adventurers on, finally to abandon them to
despair and destruction, in a wilderness of waters. This is the moment
when, it has been said, Columbus was compelled to make conditions with
his followers, stipulating to abandon the enterprise altogether,
should it fail of success in a given number of days. But this weakness
has been falsely ascribed to the great navigator, who never lost the
fullest exercise of his authority, even in the darkest moments of
doubt; maintaining his purpose, and asserting his power, with the same
steadiness and calmness, in what some thought this distant verge of
the earth, as he had done in the rivers of Spain. Prudence and policy
at last dictated a change of course, however, which he was neither
too obstinate nor too proud to submit to, and he accordingly adopted
it of his own accord.
"We are now quite a thousand leagues from Ferro, by my private
reckoning, friend Luis," said Columbus to his young companion, in one
of their private conferences, which took place after nightfall, "and
it is really time to expect the continent of Asia. Hitherto I have
looked for nought but island, and not with much expectation of seeing
even them, though Martin Alonzo and the pilots have been so sanguine
in their hopes. The large flocks of birds, however, that have appeared
to-day, would seem to invite us to follow their flights,—land, out
of doubt, being their aim. I shall accordingly change our course more
to the south, though not as far as Pinzon desireth, Cathay being
still my goal."
Columbus gave the necessary orders, and the two other caravels were
brought within hail of the Santa Maria, when their commanders were
directed to steer west-south-west. The reason for this change was the
fact that so many birds had been seen flying in that direction. The
intention of the admiral was to pursue this course for two days.
Notwithstanding this alteration, no land was visible in the morning;
but, as the wind was light, and the vessels had only made five leagues
since the course was changed, the disappointment produced less
despondency than usual. In spite of their uncertainty, all in the
vessels now rioted in the balmy softness of the atmosphere, which was
found so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it. The weeds, too,
became more plenty, and many of them were as fresh as if torn from
their native rocks only a day or two previously. Birds, that
unequivocally belonged to the land, were also seen, in considerable
numbers, one of which was actually taken; whilst ducks abounded, and
another pelican was met. Thus passed the 8th of October, the
adventurers filled with hope, though the vessels only increased their
distance from Europe some forty miles in the course of the twenty-four
hours. The succeeding day brought no other material change than a
shift of wind, which compelled the admiral to alter his course to west
by north, for a few hours. This caused him some uneasiness, for it was
his wish to proceed due west, or west-southerly; though it afforded
considerable relief to many among his people, who had been terrified
by the prevalence of the winds in one direction. Had the variation
still existed, this would have been, in fact, steering the very course
the admiral desired to go; but by this time, the vessels were in a
latitude and longitude where the needle resumed its powers and became
faithful to its direction. In the course of the night, the trades
also resumed their influence; and early on the morning of the 10th the
vessels again headed towards the west-south-west, by compass, which
was, in truth, the real course, or as near to it as might be.
Such was the state of things when the sun rose on the morning of
the 10th October, 1492. The wind had freshened, and all three of the
vessels were running free the whole day, at a rate varying from five
knots to nine. The signs of the proximity of land had been so very
numerous of late, that, at every league of ocean they passed over,
the adventurers had the strongest expectations of discovering it, and
nearly every eye in all three of the ships was kept constantly bent on
the western horizon, in the hope of its owner's being the first to
make the joyful announcement of its appearance. The cry of "land" had
been so frequent of late, however, that Columbus caused it to be made
known that he who again uttered it causelessly, should lose the reward
promised by the sovereigns, even should he happen to be successful in
the end. This information induced more caution, and not a tongue
betrayed its master's eagerness on this all-engrossing subject,
throughout the anxious and exciting days of the 8th, 9th, and 10th
October. But, their progress in the course of the 10th, exceeding that
made in the course of both the other days, the evening sky was watched
with a vigilance even surpassing that which had attended any previous
sunset. This was the moment most favourable for examining the western
horizon, the receding light illuminating the whole watery expanse in
that direction, in a way to give up all its secrets to the eye.
"Is that a hummock of land?" asked Pepe of Sancho, in a low voice,
as they lay together on a yard, watching the upper limb of the sun, as
it settled, like a glimmering star, beneath the margin of the
ocean—"or is it some of this misguiding vapour that hath so often
misled us of late?"
"'T is neither, Pepe," returned the more cool and experienced
Sancho; "but a rise of the sea, which is ever thus tossing itself
upward on the margin of the ocean. Didst ever see a calm so profound,
that the water left a straight circle on the horizon? No — no —
there is no land to be seen in the west to-night; the ocean, in that
quarter, looking as blank as if we stood on the western shore of
Ferro, and gazed outward, into the broad fields of the Atlantic. Our
noble admiral may have truth of his side, Pepe; but as yet he hath no
other evidence of it than is to be found in his reasons."
"And dost thou, too, take sides against him, Sancho, and say that
he is a madman who is willing to lead others to destruction, as well
as himself, so that he die an admiral in fact, and a viceroy in fancy?"
"I take sides against no man whose doblas take sides with me, Pepe;
for that would be quarrelling with the best friend that both the rich
and poor can make, which is gold. Don Christopher is doubtless very
learned, and one thing hath he settled to my satisfaction, even though
neither he nor any of us ever see a single jewel of Cathay, or pluck
a hair from the beard of the Great Khan, and that is, that this world
is round; had it been a plain, all this water would not be placed at
the outer side, since it would clearly run off, unless dammed up by
land. Thou canst conceive that, Pepe?"
"That do I; it is reasonable and according to every man's
experience. Monica thinketh the Genoese a saint!"
"Harkee, Pepe; thy Monica is no doubt an uncommonly sensible woman,
else would she never have taken thee for a husband, when she might
have chosen among a dozen of thy fellows. I once thought of the girl
myself, and might have told her so, had she seen fit to call me a
saint, too, which she did not, seeing that she used a very different
epithet. But, admitting the Señor Colon to be a saint, he would be
none the better admiral for it, inasmuch as I never yet met with a
saint, or even with a virgin, that could understand the bearings and
distances of a run as short as that from Cadiz to Barcelona."
"Thou speakest irreverently, Sancho, of virgins and saints, seeing
that they know every thing"—
"Ay, every thing but that. Our Lady of Rabida does not know
north-west-and-by-noathe-half-noathe. I have tried her, in this
matter, and I tell thee she is as ignorant of it as thy Monica is
ignorant of the manner in which the Duchess of Medina Sidonia saluteth
the noble duke her husband, when he returneth from hawking."
"I dare say the duchess would not know, either, what to say, were
she in Monica's place, and were she called on to receive me, as Monica
will be, when we return from this great expedition. If I have never
hawked, neither hath the duke ever sailed for two-and-thirty days, in
a west course from Ferro, and this, too, without once seeing land!"
"Thou say'st true, Pepe; nor hast thou ever yet done this and
returned to Palos. But what meaneth all this movement on deck? Our
people seem to be much moved by some feeling, while I can swear it is
not from having discovered Cathay, or from having seen the Great Khan,
shining like a carbuncle, on his throne of diamonds."
"It is rather that they do not see him thus, that the men are
moved. Dost not hear angry and threatening words from the mouths of
the troublesome ones?"
"By San Iago! were I Don Christopher, but I would deduct a dobla
from the wages of each of the rascals, and give the gold to such
peaceable men as you and me, Pepe, who are willing to starve to death,
ere we will go back without a sight of Asia."
"'T is something of this sort, of a truth, Sancho. Let us descend,
that his Excellency may see that he hath some friends among the crew."
As Sancho assented to this proposition, he and Pepe stood on the
deck in the next minute. Here, indeed, the people were found in a more
mutinous state than they had been since the fleet left Spain. The long
continuation of fair winds, and pleasant weather, had given them so
much reason to expect a speedy termination of their voyage, that
nearly the whole crew were now of opinion it was due to themselves to
insist on the abandonment of an expedition that seemed destined to
lead to nothing but destruction. The discussion was loud and angry,
even one or two of the pilots inclining to think, with their
inferiors, that further perseverance would certainly be useless, and
might be fatal. When Sancho and Pepe joined the crowd, it had just
been determined to go in a body to Columbus, and to demand, in terms
that could not be misconceived, the immediate return of the ships to
Spain. In order that this might be done with method, Pedro Alonzo
Niño, one of the pilots, and an aged seaman called Juan Martin, were
selected as spokesmen. At this critical moment, too, the admiral and
Luis were seen descending from the poop, with an intent to retire to
their cabin, when a rush was made aft, by all on deck, and twenty
voices were heard simultaneously crying—
"Señor — Don Christopher — Your Excellency — Señor Almirante!"
Columbus stopped, and faced the people with a calmness and dignity
that caused the heart of Niño to leap towards his mouth, and which
materially checked the ardour of most of his followers.
"What would ye?" demanded the admiral, sternly. "Speak! Ye address
"We come to ask our precious lives, Señor," answered Juan Martin,
who thought his insignificance might prove a shield—"nay, what is
more, the means of putting bread into the mouths of our wives and
children. All here are weary of this profitless voyage, and most think
if it last any longer than shall be necessary to return, it will be
the means of our perishing of want."
"Know ye the distance that lieth between us and Ferro, that ye come
to me with this blind and foolish request? Speak, Niño; I see that
thou art also of their number, notwithstanding thy hesitation."
"Señor," returned the pilot, "we are all of a mind. To go farther
into this blank and unknown ocean, is tempting God to destroy us, for
our wilfulness. It is vain to suppose that this broad belt of water
hath been placed by Providence around the habitable earth for any
other purpose than to rebuke those who audaciously seek to be admitted
to mysteries beyond their understanding. Do not all the churchmen,
Señor—the pious prior of Santa Maria de Rabida, your own particular
friend, included — tell us constantly of the necessity of submitting
to a knowledge we can never equal, and to believe without striving to
lift a veil that covers incomprehensible things?"
"I might retort on thee, honest Niño, with thine own words,"
answered Columbus, "and bid thee confide in those whose knowledge thou
canst never equal, and to follow submissively where thou art totally
unfitted to lead. Go to; withdraw with thy fellows, and let me hear no
more of this."
"Nay, Señor," cried two or three in a breath, "we cannot perish
without making our complaints heard. We have followed too far already,
and, even now, may have gone beyond the means of a safe return. Let us
then turn the heads of the caravels towards Spain, this night, lest we
never live to see that blessed country again."
"This toucheth on revolt! Who among ye dare use language so bold,
to your admiral?"
"All of us, Señor," answered twenty voices together. "Men need be
bold, when their lives would be forfeited by silence."
"Sancho, art thou, too, of the party of these mutineers? Dost thou
confess thy heart to be Spain-sick, and thy unmanly fears to be
stronger than thy hopes of imperishable glory and thy longings for the
riches and pleasures of Cathay?"
"If I do, Señor Don Almirante, set me to greasing masts, and take
me from the helm, for ever, as one unfit to watch the whirlings of the
north star. Sail with the caravels, into the hall of the Great Khan,
and make fast to his throne, and you will find Sancho at his post,
whether it be at the helm or at the lead. He was born in a ship-yard,
and hath a natural desire to know what a ship can do."
"And thou, Pepe? Hast thou so forgotten thy duty as to come with
this language to thy commander? to the admiral and viceroy of thy
sovereign, the Doña Isabella?"
"Viceroy over what?" exclaimed a voice from the crowd, without
permitting Pepe to answer. "A viceroy over sea-weed, and one that hath
tunny-fish, and whales, and pelicans, for subjects! We tell you, Señor
Colon, that this is no treatment for Castilians, who require more
substantial discoveries than fields of weeds, and islands of clouds!"
"Home! — Home!—Spain!—Spain!—Palos!—Palos!" cried nearly
all together, Sancho and Pepe having quitted the throng and ranged
themselves at the side of Columbus. "We will no further west, which is
tempting God; but demand to be carried back whence we came, if,
indeed, it be not already too late for so happy a deliverance."
"To whom speak ye in this shameless manner, graceless knaves?"
exclaimed Luis, unconsciously laying a hand where it had been his
practice to carry a rapier. "Get ye gone, or"—
"Be tranquil, friend Pedro, and leave this matter with me,"
interrupted the admiral, whose composure had scarce been deranged by
the violent conduct of his subordinates. "Listen to what I have to
say, ye rude and rebellious men, and let it be received as my final
answer to any and all such demands as ye have just dared to make. This
expedition hath been sent forth by the two sovereigns, your royal
master and mistress, with the express design of crossing the entire
breadth of the vast Atlantic, until it might reach the shores of
India. Now, let what will happen, these high expectations shall not be
disappointed; but westward we sail, until stopped by the land. For
this determination, my life shall answer. Look to it, that none of
yours be endangered by resistance to the royal orders, or by
disrespect and disobedience to their appointed substitute; for,
another murmur, and I mark the man that uttereth it, for signal
punishment. In this ye have my full determination, and beware of
encountering the anger of those whose displeasure may prove more fatal
than these fancied dangers of the ocean.
"Look at what ye have before ye, in the way of fear, and then at
what ye have before ye, in the way of hope. In the first case, ye have
every thing to dread from the sovereigns' anger, should ye proceed to
a violent resistance of their authority, or, what is as bad, something
like a certainty of your being unable to reach Spain, for want of
food and water, should ye revolt against your lawful leaders and
endeavour to return. For this, it is now too late. The voyage east
must, as regards time, be double that we have just made, and the
caravels are beginning to be lightened in their casks. Land, and land
in this region, hath become necessary to us. Now look at the other
side of the picture. Before ye, lieth Cathay, with all its riches,
its novelties and its glories! A region more wonderful than any that
hath yet been inhabited by man, and occupied by a race as gentle as
they are hospitable and just. To this must be added the approbation of
the sovereigns, and the credit that will belong to even the meanest
mariner that hath manfully stood by his commander in achieving so
great an end."
"If we will obey three days longer, Señor, will you then turn
towards Spain, should no land be seen?" cried a voice from the crowd.
"Never"— returned Columbus, firmly. "To India am I bound, and for
India will I steer, though another month be needed to complete the
journey. Go then to your posts or your hammocks, and let me hear no
more of this."
There was so much natural dignity in the manner of Columbus, and
when he spoke in anger, his voice carried so much of rebuke with it,
that it exceeded the daring of ordinary men to presume to answer when
he commanded silence. The people sullenly dispersed, therefore, though
the disaffection was by no means appeased. Had there been only a
single vessel in the expedition, it is quite probable that they would
have proceeded to some act of violence; but, uncertain of the state of
feeling in the Pinta and the Niña, and holding Martin Alonzo Pinzon in
as much habitual respect as they stood in awe of Columbus, the
boldest among them were, for the present, fain to give vent to their
dissatisfaction in murmurs, though they secretly meditated decided
measures, as soon as an opportunity for consultation and concert, with
the crews of the other vessels, might offer.
"This looketh serious, Señor," said Luis, as soon as he and the
admiral were alone again in their little cabin, "and, by St. Luke! it
might cool the ardour of these knaves, did your Excellency suffer me
to cast two or three of the most insolent of the vagabonds into the
"Which is a favour that some among them have actually contemplated
conferring upon thee and me," answered Columbus. "Sancho keepeth me
well informed of the feeling among the people, and it is now many days
since he hath let me know this fact. We will proceed peaceably, if
possible, Señor Gutierrez, or de Muños, whichever name thou most
affectest, as long as we can; but should there truly arise an occasion
to resort to force, thou wilt find that Christofero Colombo knoweth
how to wield a sword as well as he knoweth how to use his instruments
"How far do you really think us from land, Señor Almirante? I ask
from curiosity and not from dread; for though the ship floated on the
very verge of the earth, ready to fall off into vacuum, you should
hear no murmur from me."
"I am well assured of this, young noble," returned Columbus,
affectionately squeezing the hand of Luis, "else would'st thou not be
here. I make our distance from Ferro exceed a thousand marine leagues:
this is about the same as that at which I have supposed Cathay to lie
from Europe, and it is, out of question, sufficiently far to meet with
many of the islands that are known to abound in the seas of Asia. The
public reckoning maketh the distance a little more than eight hundred
leagues; but, in consequence of the favourable currents of which we
have lately had so much, I doubt if we are not fully eleven hundred
from the Canaries, at this moment, if not even farther. We are
doubtless a trifle nearer to the Azores, which are situated farther
west, though in a higher latitude."
"Then you think, Señor, that we may really expect land, ere many
"So certain do I feel of this, Luis, that I should have little
apprehension of complying with the terms of these audacious men, but
for the humiliation. Ptolemy divided the earth into twenty-four hours,
of fifteen degrees each, and I place but some five or six of these
hours in the Atlantic. Thirteen hundred leagues, I feel persuaded,
will bring us to the shores of Asia, and eleven of these thirteen
hundred leagues do I believe we have come."
"To-morrow may then prove an eventful day, Señor Almirante; and now
to our cots, where I shall dream of a fairer land than Christian eye
ever yet looked upon, with the fairest maiden of Spain — nay, by San
Pedro! of Europe— beckoning me on!"
Columbus and Luis now sought their rest. In the morning, it was
evident by the surly looks of the people, that feelings like a
suppressed volcano were burning in their bosoms, and that any untoward
accident might produce an eruption. Fortunately, however, signs, of a
nature so novel, soon appeared, as to draw off the attention of the
most disaffected from their melancholy broodings. The wind was fresh,
as usual fair, and, what was really a novelty since quitting Ferro,
the sea had got up, and the vessels were riding over waves which
removed that appearance of an unnatural calm that had hitherto alarmed
the men with its long continuance. Columbus had not been on deck five
minutes, when a joyful cry from Pepe drew all eyes towards the yard on
which he was at work. The seaman was pointing eagerly at some object
in the water, and rushing to the side of the vessel, all saw the
welcome sign that had caught his gaze. As the ship lifted on a sea,
and shot ahead, a rush, of a bright fresh green, was passed, and the
men gave a loud shout, for all well knew that this plant certainly
came from some shore, and that it could not have been long torn from
the spot of its growth.
"This is truly a blessed omen!" said Columbus: "rushes cannot grow
without the light of heaven, whatever may be the case with weeds."
This little occurrence changed, or at least checked, the feelings
of the disaffected. Hope once more resumed its sway, and all who
could, ascended the rigging to watch the western horizon. The rapid
motion of the vessels, too, added to this buoyancy of feeling, the
Pinta and Niña passing and repassing the admiral, as it might be in
pure wantonness. A few hours later, fresh weeds were met, and about
noon Sancho announced confidently that he had seen a fish which is
known to live in the vicinity of rocks. An hour later, the Niña came
sheering up towards the admiral, with her commander in the rigging,
evidently desirous of communicating some tidings of moment.
"What now, good Vicente Yañez?" called out Columbus: "thou seemest
the messenger of welcome news!"
"I think myself such, Don Christopher," answered the other. "We
have just passed a bush bearing roseberries, quite newly torn from the
tree! This is a sign that cannot deceive us."
"Thou say'st true, my friend. To the west! — to the west! Happy
will he be whose eyes first behold the wonders of the Indies!"
It would not be easy to describe the degree of hope and exultation
that now began to show itself among the people. Good-natured jests
flew about the decks, and the laugh was easily raised where so lately
all had been despondency and gloom. The minutes flew swiftly by, and
every man had ceased to think of Spain, bending his thoughts again on
the as yet unseen west.
A little later, a cry of exultation was heard from the Pinta, which
was a short distance to windward and ahead of the admiral. As this
vessel shortened sail and hove-to, lowering a boat, and then
immediately kept away, the Santa Maria soon came foaming up under her
quarter, and spoke her.
"What now, Martin Alonzo?" asked Columbus, suppressing his anxiety
in an appearance of calmness and dignity. "Thou and thy people seem in
"Well may we be so! About an hour since, we passed a piece of the
cane-plant, of the sort of which sugar is made in the East, as
travellers say, and such as we often see in our own ports. But this is
a trifling symptom of land compared to the trunk of a tree that we
have also passed. As if Providence had not yet dealt with us with
sufficient kindness, all these articles were met floating near each
other; and we have thought them of sufficient value to lower a boat,
that we might possess them."
"Lay thy sails to the mast, good Martin Alonzo, and send thy prizes
hither, that I may judge of their value."
Pinzon complied, and the Santa Maria being hove-to, at the same
time, the boat soon touched her side. Martin Alonzo made but one bound
from the thwart to the gunwale of the ship, and was soon on the deck
of the admiral. Here he eagerly displayed the different articles that
his men tossed after him, all of which had been taken out of the sea,
not an hour before.
"See, noble Señores," said Martin Alonzo, almost breathless with
haste to display his treasures—"this is a sort of board, though of
unknown wood, and fashioned with exceeding care: here is also another
piece of cane: this is a plant that surely cometh from the land; and
most of all, this is a walking-stick, fashioned by the hand of man,
and that, too, with exceeding care!"
"All this is true," said Columbus, examining the different
articles, one by one; "God, in his might and power, be praised for
these comfortable evidences of our near approach to a new world! None
but a malignant infidel can now doubt of our final success."
"These things have questionless come from some boat that hath been
upset, which will account for their being so near each other in the
water," said Martin Alonzo, willing to sustain his physical proofs by
a plausible theory. "It would not be wonderful were drowned bodies
"Let us hope not, Martin Alonzo," answered the admiral; "let us
fancy nought so melancholy. A thousand accidents may have thrown these
articles together, into the sea; and once there, they would float in
company for a twelvemonth, unless violently separated. But, come they
whence they may, to us, they are infallible proofs that not only land
is near, but land which is the abiding place of men."
It is not easy to describe the enthusiasm that now prevailed in all
the vessels. Hitherto they had met with only birds, and fishes, and
weeds, signs that are often precarious; but here was such proof of
their being in the neighbourhood of their fellow-creatures, as it was
not easy to withstand. It was true, articles of this nature might
drift, in time, even across the vast distance they had come; but it
was not probable that they would drift so far in company. Then, the
berries were fresh, the board was of an unknown wood, and the
walking-stick, in particular, if such indeed was its use, was carved
in a manner that was never practised in Europe. The different articles
passed from hand to hand, until all in the ship had examined them;
and every thing like doubt vanished before this unlooked-for
confirmation of the admiral's predictions. Pinzon returned to his
vessel, sail was again made, and the fleet continued to steer to the
west-south-west, until the hour of sunset.
Something like a chill of disappointment again came over the more
faint-hearted of the people, however, as they once more, or for the
thirty-fourth time since quitting Gomera, saw the sun sink behind a
watery horizon. More than a hundred vigilant eyes watched the glowing
margin of the ocean, at this interesting moment, and though the
heavens were cloudless, nought was visible but the gloriously tinted
vault, and the outline of water, broken into the usual ragged forms of
the unquiet element.
The wind freshened as evening closed, and Columbus having called
his vessels together, as was usual with him at that hour, he issued
new orders concerning the course. For the last two or three days they
had been steering materially to the southward of west, and Columbus,
who felt persuaded that his most certain and his nearest direction,
from land to land, was to traverse the ocean, if possible, on a
single parallel of latitude, was anxious to resume his favourite
course, which was what he fancied to be due west. Just as night drew
around the mariners, accordingly, the ships edged away to the required
course, and ran off at the rate of nine miles the hour, following the
orb of day, as if resolute to penetrate into the mysteries of his
nightly retreat, until some great discovery should reward the effort.
Immediately after this change in the course, the people sang the
vesper hymn, as usual, which, in that mild sea, they often deferred
until the hour when the watch below sought their hammocks. That night,
however, none felt disposed to sleep; and it was late when the chant
of the seamen commenced, with the words of "Salve fac Regina."
It was a solemn thing to hear the songs of religious praise, mingling
with the sighings of the breeze and the wash of the waters, in that
ocean solitude; and the solemnity was increased by the expectations of
the adventurers and the mysteries that lay behind the curtain they
believed themselves about to raise. Never before had this hymn
sounded so sweetly in the ears of Columbus, and Luis found his eyes
suffusing with tears as he recalled the soft thrilling notes of
Mercedes's voice, in her holy breathings of praise at this hour. When
the office ended, the admiral called the crew to the quarter-deck, and
addressed them earnestly from his station on the poop.
"I rejoice, my friends," he said, "that you have had the grace to
chant the vesper hymn in so devout a spirit, at a moment when there is
so much reason to be grateful to God for his goodness to us throughout
this voyage. Look back at the past, and see if one of you, the oldest
sailor of your number, can recal any passage at sea, I will not say
of equal length, for that no one here hath ever before made, but any
equal number of days at sea, in which the winds have been as fair, the
weather as propitious, or the ocean as calm, as on this occasion. Then
what cheering signs have encouraged us to persevere! God is in the
midst of the ocean, my friends, as well as in his sanctuaries of the
land. Step by step, as it were, hath he led us on, now filling the air
with birds, now causing the sea to abound with unusual fishes, and
then spreading before us fields of plants, such as are seldom met far
from the rocks where they grew. The last and best of his signs hath he
given us this day. My own calculations are in unison with these
proofs, and I deem it probable that we reach the land this very night.
In a few hours, or when we shall have run the distance commanded by
the eye, as the light left us, I shall deem it prudent to shorten
sail; and I call on all of you to be watchful, lest we unwittingly
throw ourselves on the strange shores. Ye know that the sovereigns
have graciously promised ten thousand maravedis, yearly, and for
life, to him who shall first discover land: to this rich reward, I
will add a doublet of velvet, such as it would befit a grandee to
wear. Sleep not, then; but, at the turn of the night, be all vigilance
and watchfulness. I am now most serious with ye, and look for land
this very blessed night."
These encouraging words produced their full effect, the men
scattering themselves in the ship, each taking the best position he
could, to earn the coveted prizes. Deep expectation is always a quiet
feeling, the jealous senses seeming to require silence and intensity
of concentration, in order to give them their full exercise. Columbus
remained on the poop, while Luis, less interested, threw himself on a
sail, and passed the time in musing on Mercedes, and in picturing to
himself the joyful moment when he might meet her again, a triumphant
and successful adventurer.
The death-like silence that prevailed in the ship, added to the
absorbing interest of that important night. At the distance of a mile
was the little Niña, gliding on her course with a full sail; while
half a league still farther in advance was to be seen the shadowy
outline of the Pinta, which preceded her consorts, as the swiftest
sailer with a fresh breeze. Sancho had been round to every sheet and
brace, in person, and never before had the admiral's ship held as
good way with her consorts as on that night, all three of the vessels
appearing to have caught the eager spirit of those they contained, and
to be anxious to outdo themselves. At moments the men started, while
the wind murmured through the cordage, as if they heard unknown and
strange voices from a mysterious world; and fifty times, when the
waves combed upon the sides of the ship, did they turn their heads,
expecting to see a crowd of unknown beings, fresh from the eastern
world, pouring in upon their decks.
As for Columbus, he sighed often; for minutes at a time would he
stand looking intently towards the west, like one who strove to
penetrate the gloom of night, with organs exceeding human powers. At
length he bent his body forward, gazed intently over the weather
railing of the ship, and then lifting his cap, he seemed to be
offering up his spirit in thanksgiving or prayer. All this Luis
witnessed, where he lay: at the next instant he heard himself called.
"Pero Gutierrez — Pedro de Muños — Luis — whatever thou art
termed," said Columbus, his fine masculine voice trembling with
eagerness,—"come hither, son; tell me if thine eyes accord with
mine. Look in this direction — here, more on the vessel's beam;
seest thou aught uncommon?"
"I saw a light, Señor; one that resembled a candle, being neither
larger nor more brilliant; and to me it appeared to move, as if
carried in the hand, or tossed by waves."
"Thy eyes did not deceive thee; thou seest it doth not come of
either of our consorts, both of which are here on the bow."
"What do you, then, take this light to signify, Don Christopher?"
"Land! It is either on the land itself, rendered small by distance,
or it cometh of some vessel that is a stranger to us, and which
belongeth to the Indies. There is Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, the
comptroller of the fleet, beneath us; descend and bid him come hither."
Luis did as required, and presently the comptroller was also at the
admiral's side. Half an hour passed, and the light was not seen again;
then it gleamed upward once or twice, like a torch, and finally
disappeared. This circumstance was soon known to all in the ship,
though few attached the same importance to it as Columbus himself.
"This is land," quietly observed the admiral, to those near his
person: "ere many hours we may except to behold it. Now ye may pour
out your souls in gratitude and confidence, for in such a sign there
can be no deception. No phenomenon of the ocean resembleth that light;
and my reckoning placeth us in a quarter of the world where land must exist, else is the earth no sphere."
Notwithstanding this great confidence on the part of the admiral,
most of those in the ship did not yet feel the same certainty in the
result, although all felt the strongest hopes of falling in with land
next day. Columbus saying no more on the subject, the former silence
was soon resumed, and, in a few minutes, every eye was again turned to
the west, in anxious watchfulness. In this manner the time passed
away, the ships driving ahead with a speed much exceeding that of
their ordinary rate of sailing, until the night had turned, when its
darkness was suddenly illuminated by a blaze of light, and the report
of a gun from the Pinta came struggling up against the fresh breeze of
"There speaketh Martin Alonzo!" exclaimed the admiral; "and we may
be certain that he hath not given the signal idly. Who sitteth on the
top-gallant yard, there, on watch for wonders ahead?"
"Señor Don Almirante, it is I," answered Sancho. "I have been here
since we sang the vesper hymn."
"Seest thou aught unusual, westward? Look vigilantly, for we touch
on mighty things!"
"Nought, Señor, unless it be that the Pinta is lessening her
canvass, and the Niña is already closing with our fleet consort —
nay, I now see the latter shortening sail, also!"
"For these great tidings, all honour and praise be to God! These
are proofs that no false cry hath this time misled their judgments. We
will join our consorts, good Bartolemeo, ere we take in a single inch
Everything was now in motion on board the Santa Maria, which went
dashing ahead for another half hour, when she came up with the two
other caravels, both of which had hauled by the wind, under short
canvass, and were forging slowly through the water, on different
tacks, like coursers cooling themselves after having terminated a
severe struggle by reaching the goal.
"Come hither, Luis," said Columbus, "and feast thine eyes with a
sight that doth not often meet the gaze of the best of Christians."
The night was far from dark, a tropical sky glittering with a
thousand stars, and even the ocean itself appearing to emit a sombre
melancholy light. By the aid of such assistants it was possible to see
several miles, and more especially to note objects on the margin of
the ocean. When the young man cast his eyes to leeward, as directed
by Columbus, he very plainly perceived a point where the blue of the
sky ceased, and a dark mound rose from the water, stretching for a few
leagues southward, and then terminated, as it had commenced, by a
union between the watery margin of the ocean and the void of heaven.
The intermediate space had the defined outline, the density, and the
hue of land, as seen at midnight.
"Behold the Indies!" said Columbus; "the mighty problem is solved!
This is doubtless an island, but a continent is near. Laud be to God!"
"There is a Power, whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast —
The desert and illimitable air —
Lone wandering, but not lost."
The two or three hours that succeeded, were hours of an
extraordinary and intense interest. The three vessels stood hovering
off the dusky shore, barely keeping at a safe distance, stripped of
most of their canvass, resembling craft that cruised leisurely at a
given point, indifferent to haste or speed. As they occasionally and
slowly passed each other, words of heart-felt congratulation were
exchanged; but no noisy or intemperate exultation was heard on that
all-important night. The sensations excited in the adventurers, by
their success, were too deep and solemn for any such vulgar exhibition
of joy; and perhaps there was not one among them all who did not, at
that moment, inwardly confess his profound submission to, and absolute
dependence on, a Divine Providence.
Columbus was silent. Emotions like his, seldom find vent in words;
but his heart was overflowing with gratitude and love. He believed
himself to be in the farther east, and to have reached that part of
the world by sailing west; and it is natural to suppose that he
expected the curtain of day would rise on some of those scenes of
oriental magnificence which had been so eloquently described by the
Polos and other travellers in those remote and little-known regions.
That this or other islands were inhabited, the little he had seen
sufficiently proved; but, as yet, all the rest was conjecture of the
wildest and most uncertain character. The fragrance of the land,
however, was very perceptible in the vessels, thus affording an
opportunity to two of the senses to unite in establishing their
At length the long wished-for day approached, and the eastern sky
began to assume the tints that precede the appearance of the sun. As
the light diffused itself athwart the dark blue ocean, and reached the
island, the outlines of the latter became more and more distinct: then
objects became visible on its surface, trees, glades, rocks, and
irregularities, starting out of the gloom, until the whole picture
was drawn in the grey solemn colours of morning. Presently the direct
rays of the sun touched it, gilding its prominent points, and throwing
others into shadow. It then became apparent that the discovery was
that of an island of no great extent, well wooded, and of a verdant
and pleasant aspect. The land was low, but possessed an outline
sufficiently graceful to cause it to seem a paradise in the eyes of
men who had seriously doubted whether they were ever to look on solid
ground again. The view of his mother earth is always pleasant to the
mariner who has long gazed on nothing but water and sky; but thrice
beautiful did it now seem to men who not only saw in it their despair
cured, but their most brilliant hopes revived. From the position of
the land near him, Columbus did not doubt that he had passed another
island, on which the light had been seen, and, from his known course,
this conjecture has since been rendered almost certain.
The sun had scarcely risen, when living beings were seen rushing
out of the woods, to gaze in astonishment at the sudden appearance of
machines, that were at first mistaken by the untutored islanders, for
messengers from heaven. Shortly after, Columbus anchored his little
fleet, and landed to take possession in the name of the two
As much state was observed on this occasion as the limited means of
the adventurers would allow. Each vessel sent a boat, with her
commander. The admiral, attired in scarlet, and carrying the royal
standard, proceeded in advance, while Martin Alonzo, and Vicente Yañez
Pinzon, followed, holding banners bearing crosses, the symbol of the
expedition, with letters representing the initials of the two
sovereigns, or F and Y, for Fernando and Ysabel.
The forms usual to such occasions were observed on reaching the
shore. Columbus took possession, rendered thanks to God for the
success of the expedition, and then began to look about him in order
to form some estimate of the value of his discovery.
No sooner were the ceremonies observed, than the people crowded
round the admiral, and began to pour out their congratulations for his
success, with their contrition for their own distrust and
disaffection. The scene has often been described as a proof of the
waywardness and inconstancy of human judgments; the being who had so
lately been scowled on as a reckless and selfish adventurer, being
now regarded as little less than a god. The admiral was no more
elated by this adulation, than he had been intimidated by the previous
dissatisfaction, maintaining his calmness of exterior and gravity of
demeanour, with those who pressed around him, though a close observer
might have detected the gleaming of triumph in his eye, and the glow
of inward rapture on his cheek.
"These honest people are as inconstant in their apprehensions, as
they are extreme in their rejoicings," said Columbus to Luis, when
liberated a little from the throng; "yesterday they would have cast me
into the sea, and to-day they are much disposed to forget God,
himself, in his unworthy creature. Dost not see, that the men who gave
us most concern, on account of their discontent, are now the loudest
in their applause?"
"This is but nature, Señor; fear flying from panic to exultation.
These knaves fancy they are praising you, when they are in truth
rejoicing in their own escape from some unknown but dreaded evil. Our
friends Sancho and Pepe seem not to be thus overwhelmed, for while the
last is gathering flowers from this shore of India, the first seems
to be looking about him with commendable coolness, as if he might be
calculating the latitude and longitude of the Great Khan's doblas."
Columbus smiled, and, accompanied by Luis, he drew nearer to the
two men mentioned, who were a little apart from the rest of the group.
Sancho was standing with his hands thrust into the bosom of his
doublet, regarding the scene with the coolness of a philosopher, and
towards him the admiral first directed his steps.
"How is this, Sancho of the Shipyard-Gate!" said the great
navigator, "thou lookest on this glorious scene as coolly as thou
wouldst regard a street in Moguer, or a field in Andalusia?"
"Señor Don Almirante, the same hand made both. This is not the
first island on which I have landed; nor are yonder naked savages the
first men I have seen who were not dressed in scarlet doublets."
"But hast thou no feeling for success—no gratitude to God for
this vast discovery? Reflect, my friend, we are on the confines of
Asia, and yet have we come here by holding a western course."
"That the last is true, Señor, I will swear myself, having held the
tiller in mine own hands no small part of the way. Do you think, Señor
Don Almirante, that we have come far enough in this direction to have
got to the back side of the earth, or to stand, as it might be, under
the very feet of Spain?"
"By no means. The realms of the Great Khan will scarcely occupy the
position you mean."
"Then, Señor, what will there be to prevent the doblas of that
country from falling off into the air, leaving us our journey for our
"The same power that will prevent our caravels from dropping out of
the sea, and the water itself from following. These things depend on
natural laws, my friend, and nature is a legislator that will be
"It is all Moorish to me," returned Sancho, rubbing his eye-brows.
"Here we are, of a verity, if not actually beneath the feet of Spain,
standing, as it might be, on the side of the house; and yet I find no
more difficulty in keeping on an even keel, than I did in Moguer—by
Santa Clara! less, in some particulars, good solid Xeres wine being
far less plenty here than there."
"Thou art no Moor, Sancho, although thy father's name be a secret.
And thou, Pepe, what dost thou find in those flowers to draw thy
attention so early from all these wonders?"
"Señor, I gather them for Monica. A female hath a more delicate
feeling than a man, and she will be glad to see with what sort of
ornaments God hath adorned the Indies."
"Dost thou fancy, Pepe, that thy love can keep those flowers in
bloom, until the good caravel shall recross the Atlantic?" demanded
"Who knoweth, Señor Gutierrez? A warm heart maketh a thriving
nursery. You would do well, too, if you prefer any Castilian lady to
all others, to bethink you of her beauty, and gather some of these
rare plants to deck her hair."
Columbus now turned away, the natives seeming disposed to approach
the strangers, while Luis remained near the young sailor, who still
continued to collect the plants of the tropics. In a minute our hero
was similarly employed; and long ere the admiral and the wondering
islanders had commenced their first parly, he had arranged a gorgeous bouquet, which he already fancied in the glossy dark hair of
The events of a public nature that followed, are too familiar to
every intelligent reader to need repetition here. After passing a
short time at San Salvador, Columbus proceeded to other islands, led
on by curiosity, and guided by real or fancied reports of the natives,
until the 28th, when he reached that of Cuba. Here he imagined, for a
time, that he had found the continent, and he continued coasting it,
first in a north-westerly, and then in a south-easterly direction, for
near a month. Familiarity with the novel scenes that offered soon
lessened their influence, and the inbred feelings of avarice and
ambition began to resume their sway in the bosoms of several of those
who had been foremost in manifesting their submission to the admiral,
when the discovery of land so triumphantly proved the justice of his
theories, and the weakness of their own misgivings. Among others who
thus came under the influence of their nature, was Martin Alonzo
Pinzon, who finding himself almost entirely excluded from the society
of the young Count of Llera, in whose eyes he perceived he filled but
a very subordinate place, fell back on his own local importance, and
began to envy Columbus a glory that he now fancied he might have
secured for himself. Hot words had passed between the admiral and
himself, on more than one occasion, before the land was made, and
every day something new occurred to increase the coldness between
It forms no part of this work to dwell on the events that followed,
as the adventurers proceeded from island to island, port to port, and
river to river. It was soon apparent that very important discoveries
had been made; and the adventurers were led on day by day, pursuing
their investigations, and following directions that were ill
comprehended, but which, it was fancied, pointed to mines of gold.
Everywhere they met with a gorgeous and bountiful nature, scenery
that fascinated the eye, and a climate that soothed the senses; but,
as yet, man was found living in the simplest condition of the savage
state. The delusion of being in the Indies was general, and every
intimation that fell from those untutored beings, whether by word or
sign, was supposed to have some reference to the riches of the east.
All believed that, if not absolutely within the kingdom of the Great
Khan, they were at least on its confines. Under such circumstances,
when each day actually produced new scenes, promising still greater
novelties, few bethought them of Spain, unless it were in connexion
with the glory of returning to her, successful and triumphant. Even
Luis dwelt less intently in his thoughts on Mercedes, suffering her
image, beautiful as it was, to be momentarily supplanted by the
unusual spectacles that arose before his physical sight in such
constant and unwearied succession. Little substantial, beyond the
fertile soil and genial climate, offered, it is true, in the way of
realizing all the bright expectations of the adventurers in connexion
with pecuniary advantages; but each moment was fraught with hope, and
no one knew what a day would bring forth.
Two agents were at length sent into the interior to make
discoveries, and Columbus profited by the occasion to careen his
vessels. About the time when this mission was expected to return, Luis
sallied forth with a party of armed men to meet it, Sancho making one
of his escort. The ambassadors were met on their way back at a short
day's march from the vessels, accompanied by a few of the natives,
who were following with intense curiosity, expecting at each moment
to see their unknown visiters take their flight towards heaven. A
short halt was made for the purpose of refreshing themselves, after
the two parties had joined; and Sancho, as reckless of danger on the
land as on the ocean, stalked into a village that lay near the halting
place. Here he endeavoured to make himself as agreeable to the
inhabitants, as one of his appearance very well could, by means of
signs. Sancho figured in this little hamlet under some such advantages
as those that are enjoyed in the country by a great man from town; the
spectators not being, as yet, sufficiently sophisticated to
distinguish between the cut of a doublet and the manner of wearing
it, as between a clown and a noble. He had not been many minutes
playing the grandee among these simple beings, when they seemed
desirous of offering to him some mark of particular distinction.
Presently, a man appeared, holding certain dark-looking and dried
leaves, which he held out to the hero of the moment in a deferential
manner, as a Turk would offer his dried sweet-meats, or an American
his cake. Sancho was about to accept the present, though he would
greatly have preferred a dobla, of which he had not seen any since the
last received from the admiral, when a forward movement was made by
most of the Cubans, who humbly, and with emphasis, uttered the word
"tobacco"— "tobacco." On this hint, the person who held forth the
offering drew back, repeated the same word in an apologizing manner,
and set about making what, it was now plain, was termed a "tobacco,"
in the language of that country. This was soon effected, by rolling up
the leaves in the form of a rude segar, when a "tobacco," duly
manufactured, was offered to the seaman. Sancho took the present,
nodded his head condescendingly, repeated the words himself, in the
best manner he could, and thrust the "tobacco" into his pocket. This
movement evidently excited some surprise among the spectators, but,
after a little consultation, one of them lighted an end of a roll,
applied the other to his mouth, and began to puff forth volumes of a
fragrant light smoke, not only to his own infinite satisfaction, but
seemingly to that of all around him. Sancho attempted an imitation,
which resulted, as is common with the tyro in this accomplishment, in
his reeling back to his party with the pallid countenance of an
opium-chewer, and a nausea that he had not experienced since the day
he first ventured beyond the bar of Saltes, to issue on the troubled
surface of the Atlantic.
This little scene might be termed the introduction of the
well-known American weed into civilized society, the misapprehension
of the Spaniards, touching the appellation, transferring the name of
the roll to the plant itself. Thus did Sancho, of the ship-yard gate,
become the first Christian tobacco smoker, an accomplishment in which
he was so soon afterwards rivalled by some of the greatest men of his
age, and which has extended down to our own times.
On the return of his agents, Columbus again sailed, pushing his way
along the north shore of Cuba. While struggling against the trades,
with a view to get to the eastward, he found the wind too fresh, and
determined to bear up for a favourite haven in the island of Cuba,
that he had named Puerto del Principe. With this view a signal was
made to call the Pinta down, that vessel being far to windward; and,
as night was near, lights were carried in order to enable Martin
Alonzo to close with his commander. The next morning, at the dawn of
day, when Columbus came on deck, he cast a glance around him, and
beheld the Niña, hove-to under his lee, but no signs of the other
"Have none seen the Pinta?" demanded the admiral, hastily, of
Sancho, who stood at the helm.
I did, as long as eyes could see a vessel that was
striving to get out of view. Master Martin Alonzo hath disappeared in
the eastern board, while we have been lying-to, here, in waiting for
him to come down."
Columbus now perceived that he was deserted by the very man who had
once shown so much zeal in his behalf, and who had given, in the act,
new proof of the manner in which friendship vanishes before
self-interest and cupidity. There had been among the adventurers many
reports of the existence of gold mines, obtained from the descriptions
of the natives; and the admiral made no doubt that his insubordinate
follower had profited by the superior sailing of his caravel, to keep
the wind, in the expectation to be the first to reach the Eldorado of
their wishes. As the weather still continued unfavourable, however,
the Santa Maria and the Niña returned to port, where they waited for
a change. This separation occurred on the 21st of November, at which
moment the expedition had not advanced beyond the north coast of Cuba.
From this time until the sixth of the following month, Columbus
continued his examination of this noble island, when he crossed what
has since been termed the "windward passage," and first touched on the
shores of Hayti. All this time, there had been as much communication
as circumstances would allow, with the aborigines, the Spaniards
making friends wherever they went, as a consequence of the humane and
prudent measures of the admiral. It is true that violence had been
done, in a few instances, by seizing half a dozen individuals in order
to carry them to Spain, as offerings to Doña Isabella; but this act
was easily reconcilable to usage in that age, equally on account of
the deference that was paid to the kingly authority, and on the
ground that the seizures were for the good of the captives' souls.
The adventurers were more delighted with the bold, and yet winning,
aspect of Hayti, than they had been with even the adjacent island of
Cuba. The inhabitants were found to be handsomer and more civilized
than any they had yet seen, while they retained the gentleness and
docility that had proved so pleasing to the admiral. Gold, also, was
seen among them in considerable quantities; and the Spaniards set on
foot a trade of some extent, in which the usual incentive of civilized
man was the great aim of one side, and hawk's-bells appear to have
been the principal desideratum with the other.
In this manner, and in making hazardous advances along the coast,
the admiral was occupied until the 20th of the month, when he reached
a point that was said to be in the vicinity of the residence of the
Great Cacique of all that portion of the island. This prince, whose
name, as spelt by the Spaniards, was Guacanagari, had many tributary
caciques, and was understood, from the half-intelligible descriptions
of his subjects, to be a monarch that was much beloved. On the 22d,
while still lying in the Bay of Acúl, where the vessels had anchored
two days previously, a large canoe was seen entering the haven. It was
shortly after announced to the admiral that this boat contained an
ambassador from the Great Cacique, who brought presents from his
master, with a request that the vessels would move a league or two
farther east, and anchor off the town inhabited by the prince himself.
The wind preventing an immediate compliance, a messenger was
dispatched with a suitable answer, and the ambassador returned.
Fatigued with idleness, anxious to see more of the interior, and
impelled by a constitutional love of adventure, Luis, who had struck
up a hasty friendship with a young man called Mattinao, who attended
the ambassador, asked permission to accompany him, taking his passage
in the canoe. Columbus gave his consent to this proposal with a good
deal of reluctance, the rank and importance of our hero inducing him
to avoid the consequences of any treachery or accident. The
importunity of Luis finally prevailed, however, and he departed with
many injunctions to be discreet, being frequently admonished of the
censure that would await the admiral in the event of anything serious
occurring. As a precaution, too, Sancho Mundo was directed to
accompany the young man, in this chivalrous adventure, in the
capacity of an esquire.
No weapon more formidable than a blunt arrow having yet been seen
in the hands of the natives, the young Count de Llera declined taking
his mail, going armed only with a trusty sword, the temper of which
had been tried on many a Moorish corslet and helm, in his foot
encounters, and protected by a light buckler. An arquebuse had been
put into his hand, but he refused it, as a weapon unsuited to
knightly hands, and as betraying a distrust that was not merited by
the previous conduct of the natives. Sancho, however, was less
scrupulous, and accepted the weapon. In order, moreover, to divert the
attention of his followers from a concession that the admiral felt to
be a departure from his own rigid laws, Luis and his companions landed
and entered the canoe at a point concealed from the vessels, in order
that their absence might not be known. It is owing to these
circumstances, as well as to the general mystery that was thrown about
the connexion of the young grandee with the expedition, that the
occurrences we are about to relate were never entered by the admiral
in his journal, and have, consequently, escaped the prying eyes of the
various historians who have subsequently collected so much from that
* It is a singular fact that the position and name of the precise
island that was first fallen in with, on this celebrated voyage,
remain to this day, if not a matter of doubt, at least a matter of
discussion. By most persons, some of the best authorities included, it
is believed that the adventurers made Cat Island, as the place is now
called, though the admiral gave it the appellation of San Salvador;
while others contend for what is now termed Turk's Island. The reason
given for the latter opinion is the position of the island, and the
course subsequently steered in order to reach Cuba. Muñoz is of
opinion that it was Watling's Island, which lies due east of Cat
Island, at the distance of a degree of longitude, or a few hours' run.
As respects Turk's Island, the facts do not sustain the theory. The
course steered, after quitting the island, was not west, but
south-west; and we find Columbus anxious to get south to reach the
island of Cuba, which was described to him by the natives, and which
he believed to be Cipango. No reason is given by Muñoz for his
opinion; but Watling's Island does not answer the description of the
great navigator, while it is so placed as to have lain quite near his
course, and was doubtless passed unseen in the darkness. It is thought
the light so often observed by Columbus was on this island.
"Thou seemest to fancy's eye
An animated blossom born in air;
Which breathes and bourgeons in the golden sky,
And sheds its odours there."
Notwithstanding his native resolution, and an indifference to
danger that amounted to recklessness, Luis did not find himself alone
with the Haytians without, at least, a lively consciousness of the
novelty of his situation. Still, nothing occurred to excite
uneasiness, and he continued his imperfect communications with his new
friends, occasionally throwing in a remark to Sancho in Spanish, who
merely wanted encouragement to discourse by the hour. Instead of
following the boat of the Santa Maria, on board which the ambassador
had embarked, the canoe pushed on several leagues farther east, it
being understood that Luis was not to present himself in the town of
Guacanagari, until after the arrival of the ships, when he was to
rejoin his comrades stealthily, or in a way not to attract attention.
Our hero would not have been a true lover, had he remained
indifferent to the glories of the natural scenery that lay spread
before his eyes, as he thus coasted the shores of Española. The
boldness of the landscape, as in the Mediterranean, was relieved by
the softness of a low latitude, which throws some such witchery around
rocks and promontories, as a sunny smile lends to female beauty. More
than once did he burst out into exclamations of delight, and as often
did Sancho respond in the same temper, if not exactly in the same
language, the latter conceiving it to be a sort of duty to echo all
that the young noble said, in the way of poetry.
"I take it, Señor Conde," observed the seaman, when they had
reached a spot several leagues beyond that where the launch of the
ship had put to shore; "I take it for granted, Señor Conde, that your
excellency knoweth whither these naked gentry are paddling, all this
time. They seem in a hurry, and have a port in their minds, if it be
not in view."
"Art thou uneasy, friend Sancho, that thou puttest thy question
"If I am, Don Luis, it is altogether on account of the family of
Bobadilla, which would lose its head, did any mishap befall your
excellency. What is it to Sancho, of the ship-yard gate, whether he is
married to some princess in Cipango, and gets to be adopted by the
Great Khan, or whether he is an indifferent mariner out of Moguer? It
is very much as if one should offer him the choice between wearing a
doublet and eating garlic, and going naked on sweet fruits and a full
stomach. I take it, Señor, your excellency would not willingly
exchange the castle of Llera for the palace of this Great Cacique?"
"Thou art right, Sancho; even rank must depend on the state of
society in which we live. A Castilian noble cannot envy a Haytian
"More especially, since my lord, the Señor Don Almirante, hath
publicly proclaimed, that our gracious lady, the Doña Isabella, is
henceforth and for ever to be queen over him," returned Sancho, with a
knowing glance of the eye. "Little do these worthy people understand
the honour that is in store for them, and least of all, his Highness,
"Hush, Sancho, and keep thy unpleasant intimations in thine own
breast. Our friends turn the head of the canoe towards yonder river's
mouth, and seem bent on landing."
By this time, indeed, the natives had coasted as far as they
intended, and were turning in towards the entrance of a small stream,
which, taking its rise among the noble mountains that were grouped
inland, found its way through a smiling valley to the ocean. This
stream was neither broad nor deep, but it contained far more than
water sufficient for any craft used by the natives. Its banks were
fringed with bushes; and as they glided up it, Luis saw fifty sites
where he thought he could be content to pass his life, provided,
always, that it might possess the advantage of Mercedes's presence. It
is scarcely necessary to add, too, that in all these scenes he fancied
his mistress attired in the velvets and laces that were then so much
used by high-born dames, and that he saw her natural grace,
embellished by the courtly ease and polished accessaries of one who
lived daily, if not hourly, in the presence of her royal mistress.
As the canoe shut in the coast, by entering between the two points
that formed the river's mouth, Sancho pointed out to the young noble a
small fleet of canoes, that was coming down before the wind from the
eastward, apparently bound, like so many more they had seen that day,
to the bay of Acúl, on a visit to the wonderful strangers. The
natives in the canoe also beheld this little flotilla, which was
driving before the wind under cotton sails, and by their smiles and
signs showed that they gave it the same destination. About this time,
too, or just as they entered the mouth of the stream, Mattinao drew
from under a light cotton robe, that he occasionally wore, a thin
circlet of pure gold, which he placed upon his head, in the manner of
a coronet. This Luis knew was a token that he was a cacique, one of
those who were tributary to Guacanagari, and he arose to salute him at
this evidence of his rank, an act that was imitated by all of the
Haytians also. From this assumption of state, Luis rightly imagined
that Mattinao had now entered within the limits of a territory that
acknowledged his will. From the moment that the young cacique threw
aside his incognito, he ceased to paddle, but assuming an air of
authority and dignity, he attempted to converse with his guest in the
best manner their imperfect means of communication would allow. He
often pronounced the word, Ozema, and Luis inferred from the manner
in which he used it, that it was the name of a favourite wife, it
having been already ascertained by the Spaniards, or at least it was
thought to be ascertained, that the caciques indulged in polygamy,
while they rigidly restricted their subjects to one wife.
The canoe ascended the river several miles, until it reached one of
those tropical valleys in which nature seems to expend her means of
rendering this earth inviting. While the scenery had much of the
freedom of a wilderness, the presence of man for centuries had
deprived it of all its ruder and more savage features. Like those who
tenanted it, the spot possessed the perfection of native grace,
unfettered and uninvaded by any of the more elaborate devices of
human expedients. The dwellings were not without beauty, though simple
as the wants of their owners; the flowers bloomed in mid-winter, and
the generous branches still groaned with the weight of their
nutritious and palatable fruits.
Mattinao was received by his people with an eager curiosity,
blended with profound respect. His mild subjects crowded around Luis
and Sancho, with some such wonder as a civilized man would gaze at one
of the prophets, were he to return to earth in the flesh. They had
heard of the arrival of the ships, but they did not the less regard
their inmates as visiters from heaven. This, probably, was not the
opinion of the more elevated in rank, for, even in the savage state,
the vulgar mind is far from being that of the favoured few. Whether it
was owing to his greater facility of character, and to habits that
more easily adapted themselves to the untutored notions of the
Indians, or to their sense of propriety, Sancho soon became the
favourite with the multitude; leaving the Count of Llera more
especially to the care of Mattinao, and the principal men of his
tribe. Owing to this circumstance, the two Spaniards were soon
separated, Sancho being led away by the oi polloi to a sort of
square in the centre of the village, leaving Don Luis in the
habitation of the Cacique.
No sooner did Mattinao find himself in the company of our hero, and
that of two of his confidential chiefs, than the name of Ozema was
repeated eagerly among the Indians. A rapid conversation followed, a
messenger was dispatched, Luis knew not whither, and then the chiefs
took their departure, leaving the young Castilian alone with the
Cacique. Laying aside his golden band, and placing a cotton robe
about his person, which had hitherto been nearly naked, Mattinao made
a sign for his companion to follow him, and left the building.
Throwing the buckler over his shoulder, and adjusting the belt of his
sword in a way that the weapon should not incommode him in walking,
Luis obeyed with as much confidence as he would have followed a friend
along the streets of Seville.
Mattinao led the way through a wilderness of sweets, where tropical
plants luxuriated beneath the branches of trees loaded with luscious
fruits, holding his course by a footpath which lay on the banks of a
torrent that flowed from a ravine, and poured its waters into the
river below. The distance he went might have been half a mile. Here he
reached a cluster of rustic dwellings that occupied a lovely terrace
on a hill-side, where they overlooked the larger town below the river,
and commanded a view of the distant ocean. Luis saw at a glance that
this sweet retreat was devoted to the uses of the gentler sex, and he
doubted not that it formed a species of seraglio, set apart for the
wives of the young cacique. He was led into one of the principal
dwellings, where the simple but grateful refreshments used by the
natives, were again offered to him.
The intercourse of a month had not sufficed to render either party
very familiar with the language of the other. A few of the commoner
words of the Indians had been caught by the Spaniards, and perhaps
Luis was one of the most ready in their use; still, it is highly
probable, he was oftener wrong than right, even when he felt the most
confident of his success. But the language of friendship is not
easily mistaken, and our hero had not entertained a feeling of
distrust from the time he left the ships, down to the present moment.
Mattinao had dispatched a messenger to an adjacent dwelling when he
entered that in which Luis was now entertained, and when sufficient
time had been given for the last to refresh himself, the cacique
arose, and by a courteous gesture, such as might have become a master
of ceremonies in the court of Isabella, he again invited the young
grandee to follow. They took their way along the terrace, to a house
larger than common, and which evidently contained several
subdivisions, as they entered into a sort of anteroom. Here they
remained but a minute; the cacique, after a short parley with a
female, removing a curtain ingeniously made of sea-weed, and leading
the way to an inner apartment. It had but a single occupant, whose
character Luis fancied to be announced in the use of the single word
"Ozema," that the cacique uttered in a low affectionate tone, as they
entered. Luis bowed to this Indian beauty, as profoundly as he could
have made his reverence to a high-born damsel of Spain; then,
recovering himself, he fastened one long steady look of admiration on
the face of the curious but half-frightened young creature who stood
before him, and exclaimed, in such tones as only indicate rapture,
admiration and astonishment mingled—
The young cacique repeated this name in the best manner he could,
evidently mistaking it for a Spanish term to express admiration, or
satisfaction; while the trembling young thing, who was the subject of
all this wonder, shrunk back a step, blushed, laughed, and muttered in
her soft low musical voice, "Mercedes," as the innocent take up and
renew any source of their harmless pleasures. She then stood, with
her arms folded meekly on her bosom, resembling a statue of wonder.
But it may be necessary to explain why, at a moment so peculiar, the
thoughts and tongue of Luis had so suddenly resorted to his mistress.
In order to do this, we shall first attempt a short description of the
person and appearance of Ozema, as was, in fact, the name of the
All the accounts agree in describing the aborigines of the West
Indies, as being singularly well formed, and of a natural grace in
their movements, that extorted a common admiration among the
Spaniards. Their colour was not unpleasant, and the inhabitants of
Hayti, in particular, were said to be but very little darker than the
people of Spain. Those who were but little exposed to the bright sun
of that climate, and who dwelt habitually beneath the shades of
groves, or in the retirement of their dwellings, like persons of
similar habits in Europe, might, by comparison, have even been termed
fair. Such was the fact with Ozema, who, instead of being the wife of
the young cacique, was his only sister. According to the laws of
Hayti, the authority of a cacique was transmitted through females, and
a son of Ozema was looked forward to, as the heir of his uncle. Owing
to this fact, and to the circumstances that the true royal line, if a
term so dignified can be applied to a state of society so simple, was
reduced to these two individuals, Ozema had been more than usually
fostered by the tribe, leaving her free from care, and as little
exposed to hardships, as at all comported with the condition of her
people. She had reached her eighteenth year, without having
experienced any of those troubles and exposures which are more or
less the inevitable companions of savage life; though it was remarked
by the Spaniards, that all the Indians they had yet seen seemed more
than usually free from evils of this character. They owed this
exemption to the generous quality of the soil, the genial warmth of
the climate, and the salubrity of the air. In a word, Ozema, in her
person, possessed just those advantages that freedom from restraint,
native graces, and wild luxuriance, might be supposed to lend the
female form, under the advantages of a mild climate, a healthful and
simple diet, and perfect exemption from exposure, care, or toil. It
would not have been difficult to fancy Eve such a creature, when she
first appeared to Adam, fresh from the hands of her divine creator,
modest, artless, timid, and perfect.
The Haytians used a scanty dress, though it shocked none of their
opinions to go forth in the garb of nature. Still, few of rank were
seen without some pretensions to attire, which was worn rather as an
ornament, or a mark of distinction, than as necessary either to usage
or to comfort. Ozema herself, formed no exception to the general
rule. A cincture of Indian cloth, woven in gay colours, circled her
slender waist, and fell nearly as low as her knees; a robe of spotless
cotton, inartificially made, but white as the driven snow, and of a
texture so fine that it might have shamed many of the manufactures of
our own days, fell like a scarf across a shoulder, and was loosely
united at the opposite side, dropping in folds nearly to the ground.
Sandals, of great ingenuity and beauty, protected the soles of feet
that a queen might have envied; and a large plate of pure gold, rudely
wrought, was suspended from her neck by a string of small but gorgeous
shells. Bracelets of the latter were on her pretty wrists, and two
light bands of gold encircled ankles that were as faultless as those
of the Venus of Naples. In that region, the fineness of the hair was
thought the test of birth, with better reason than many imagine the
feet and hands to be, in civilized life. As power and rank had passed
from female to female in her family, for several centuries, the hair
of Ozema was silken, soft, waving, exuberant, and black as jet. It
covered her shoulders, like a glorious mantle, and fell as low as her
simple cincture. So light and silken was this natural veil, that its
ends waved in the gentle current of air that was rather breathing than
blowing through the apartment.
Although this extraordinary creature was much the loveliest
specimen of young womanhood that Luis had seen among the wild
beauties of the islands, it was not so much her graceful and
well-rounded form, or even the charms of face and expression, that
surprised him, as a decided and accidental resemblance to the being he
had left in Spain, and who had so long been the idol of his heart.
This resemblance alone had caused him to utter the name of his
mistress, in the manner related. Could the two have been placed
together, it would have been easy to detect marked points of
difference between them, without being reduced to compare the
intellectual and thoughtful expression of our heroine's countenance,
with the wondering, doubting, half-startled look of Ozema; but still
the general likeness was so strong, that no person who was familiar
with the face of one, could fail to note it on meeting with the other.
Side by side, it would have been discovered that the face of Mercedes
had the advantage in finesse and delicacy; that her features and brow
were nobler; her eye more illuminated by the intelligence within; her
smile more radiant with thought and the feelings of a cultivated
woman; her blush more sensitive, betraying most of the consciousness
of conventional habits; and that the expression generally was much
more highly cultivated, than that which sprung from the artless
impulses and limited ideas of the young Haytian. Nevertheless, in mere
beauty, in youth, and tint, and outline, the disparity was scarcely
perceptible, while the resemblance was striking; and, on the score of
animation, native frankness, ingenuousness, and all that witchery
which ardent and undisguised feeling lends to woman, many might have
preferred the confiding abandon of the beautiful young Indian,
to the more trained and dignified reserve of the Castilian heiress.
What in the latter was earnest, high-souled, native, but religious
enthusiasm, in the other was merely the outpourings of unguided
impulses, which, however feminine in their origin, were but little
regulated in their indulgence.
"Mercedes!" exclaimed our hero, when this vision of Indian
loveliness unexpectedly broke on his sight. "Mercedes!" repeated
Mattinao; "Mercedes!" murmured Ozema, recoiling a step, blushing,
laughing, and then resuming her innocent confidence, as she several
times uttered the same word, which she also mistook for an expression
of admiration, in her own low, melodious voice.
Conversation being out of the question, there remained nothing for
the parties but to express their feelings by signs and acts of amity.
Luis had not come on his little expedition unprovided with presents.
Anticipating an interview with the wife of the cacique, he had brought
up from the village below, several articles that he supposed might
suit her untutored fancy. But the moment he beheld the vision that
actually stood before him, they all seemed unworthy of such a being.
In one of his onsets against the Moors, he had brought off a turban of
rich but light cloth, and he had kept it as a trophy, occasionally
wearing it, in his visits to the shore, out of pure caprice, and as a
sort of ornament that might well impose on the simple-minded natives.
These vagaries excited no remarks, as mariners are apt to indulge
their whims in this manner, when far from the observations of those to
whom they habitually defer. This turban was on his head at the moment
he entered the apartment of Ozema, and, overcome with the delight of
finding so unexpected a resemblance, and, possibly, excited by so
unlooked-for an exhibition of feminine loveliness, he gallantly
unrolled it, threw out the folds of rich cloth, and cast it over the
shoulders of the beautiful Ozema as a mantle.
The expressions of gratitude and delight that escaped this
unsophisticated young creature, were warm, sincere, and undisguised.
She cast the ample robe on the ground before her, repeated the word
"Mercedes," again and again, and manifested her pleasure with all the
warmth of a generous and ingenuous nature. If we were to say that
this display of Ozema was altogether free from the childlike rapture
that was, perhaps, inseparable from her ignorance, it would be
attributing to her benighted condition the experience and regulated
feelings of advanced civilization; but, notwithstanding the guileless
simplicity with which she betrayed her emotions, her delight was not
without much of the dignity and tone that usually mark the conduct of
the superior classes all over the world. Luis fancied it as graceful
as it was naïve and charming. He endeavoured to imagine the
manner in which the Lady of Valverde might receive an offering of
precious stones from the gracious hands of Doña Isabella, and he even
thought it very possible that the artless grace of Ozema was not far
behind what he knew would be the meek self-respect, mingled with
grateful pleasure, that Mercedes could not fail to exhibit.
While thoughts like these were passing through his mind, the Indian
girl laid aside her own less enticing robe, without a thought of
shame, and then she folded her faultless form in the cloth of the
turban. This was no sooner done, with a grace and freedom peculiar to
her unfettered mind, than she drew the necklace of shells from her
person, and advancing a step or two towards our hero, extended the
offering with a half-averted face, though the laughing and willing
eyes more than supplied the place of language. Luis accepted the gift
with suitable eagerness, nor did he refrain from using the Castilian
gallantry of kissing the pretty hand from which he took the bauble.
The cacique, who had been a pleased spectator of all that passed,
now signed for the count to follow him, leading the way towards
another dwelling. Here Don Luis was introduced to other young females,
and to two or three children, the former of whom, he soon discovered,
were the wives of Mattinao, and the latter his offspring. By dint of
gestures, a few words, and such other means of explanation as were
resorted to between the Spaniards and the natives, he now succeeded in
ascertaining the real affinity which existed between the cacique and
Ozema. Our hero felt a sensation like pleasure when he discovered that
the Indian beauty was not married; and he was fain to refer the
feeling—perhaps justly—to a sort of jealous sensitiveness that
grew out of her resemblance to Mercedes.
The remainder of that, and the whole of the three following days,
were passed by Luis with his friend, the cacique, in this, the
favourite and sacred residence of the latter. Of course our hero was,
if anything, a subject of greater interest to all his hosts, than they
could possibly be to him. They took a thousand innocent liberties with
his person; examining his dress, and the ornaments he wore, not
failing to compare the whiteness of his skin with the redder tint of
that of Mattinao. On these occasions Ozema was the most reserved and
shy, though her look followed every movement, and her pleased
countenance denoted the interest she felt in all that concerned the
stranger. Hours at a time, did Luis lie stretched on fragrant mats
near this artless and lovely creature, studying the wayward expression
of her features, in the fond hope of seeing stronger and stronger
resemblances to Mercedes, and sometimes losing himself in that which
was peculiarly her own. In the course of the time passed in these
dwellings, efforts were made by the count to obtain some useful
information of the island; and whether it was owing to her superior
rank, or to a native superiority of mind, or to a charm of manner, he
soon fancied that the cacique's beautiful sister succeeded better in
making him understand her meaning, than either of the wives of
Mattinao, or the cacique himself. To Ozema, then, Luis put most of his
questions; and ere the day had passed, this quick-witted and attentive
girl had made greater progress in opening an intelligible
understanding between the adventurers and her countrymen, than had
been accomplished by the communications of the two previous months.
She caught the Spanish words with a readiness that seemed instinctive,
pronouncing them with an accent that only rendered them prettier and
softer to the ear.
Luis de Bobadilla was just as good a Catholic as a rigid education,
a wandering life, and the habits of the camp, would be apt to make one
of his rank, years, and temperament. Still, that was an age in which
most laymen had a deep reverence for religion, whether they actually
submitted to its purifying influence, or not. If there were any
freethinkers, at all, they existed principally among those who passed
their lives in their closets, or were to be found among the churchmen,
themselves; who often used the cowl as a hood to conceal their
infidelity. His close association with Columbus, too, had contributed
to strengthen our hero's tendency to believe in the constant
supervision of Providence; and he now felt a strong inclination to
fancy that this extraordinary facility of Ozema's in acquiring
languages, was one of its semi-miraculous provisions, made with a
view to further the introduction of the religion of the cross among
her people. Often did he flatter himself, as he sat gazing into the
sparkling, and yet mild, eyes of the girl, listening to her earnest
efforts to make him comprehend her meaning, that he was to be the
instrument of bringing about this great good, through so young and
charming an agent. The admiral had also enjoined on him the importance
of ascertaining, if possible, the position of the mines, and he had
actually succeeded in making Ozema comprehend his questions on a
subject that was all-engrossing with most of the Spaniards. Her
answers were less intelligible, but Luis thought they never could be
sufficiently full; flattering himself, the whole time, that he was
only labouring to comply with the wishes of Columbus.
The day after his arrival, our hero was treated to an exhibition of
some of the Indian games. These sports have been too often described
to need repetition here; but, in all their movements and exercises,
which were altogether pacific, the young princess was conspicuous for
grace and skill. Luis, too, was required to show his powers, and
being exceedingly athletic and active, he easily bore away the palm
from his friend Mattinao. The young cacique manifested neither
jealousy nor disappointment at this result, while his sister laughed
and clapped her hands with delight, when he was outdone, even at his
own sports, by the greater strength or greater efforts of his guest.
More than once, the wives of Mattinao seemed to utter gentle
reproaches at this exuberance of feeling, but Ozema answered with
smiling taunts, and Luis thought her, at such moments, more beautiful
than even imagination could draw, and perhaps with justice; for her
cheeks were flushed, her eyes became as brilliant as ornaments of jet,
and the teeth that were visible between lips like cherries, resembled
rows of ivory. We have said that the eyes of Ozema were black,
differing in this particular, from the deep-blue melancholy orbs of
the enthusiastic Mercedes; but still they were alike, so often
uttering the same feelings, more especially touching matters in which
Luis was concerned. More than once, during the trial of strength, did
the young man fancy that the expression of the rapture which fairly
danced in the eyes of Ozema, was the very counterpart of that of the
deep-seated delight which had so often beamed on him, from the glances
of Mercedes in the tourney; and, at such times, it struck him that the
resemblance between the two was so strong as, after some allowance had
been made for dress and other sufficiently striking circumstances, to
render them almost identical.
The reader is not to suppose from this, that our hero was actually
inconstant to his ancient love. Far from it. Mercedes was too deeply
enshrined in his heart—and Luis, with all his faults, was as
warm-hearted and true-hearted a cavalier as breathed—to be so easily
dispossessed. But he was young, distant from her he had so long
adored, and was, withal, not altogether insensible to admiration so
artlessly and winningly betrayed by the Indian girl. Had there been
the least immodest glance, any proof that art or design lay at the
bottom of Ozema's conduct, he would at once have taken the alarm, and
been completely disenthralled from his temporary delusion; but, on the
contrary, all was so frank and natural with this artless girl; when
she most betrayed the hold he had taken of her imagination, it was
done with a simplicity so obvious, a naïveté so irrepressible,
and an ingenuousness so clearly the fruit of innocence, that it was
impossible to suspect artifice. In a word, our hero merely showed that
he was human, by yielding in a certain degree to a fascination that,
under the circumstances, might well have made deeper inroads on the
faith even of men who enjoyed much better reputations for stability
In situations of so much novelty, time flies swiftly, and Luis
himself was astonished when, on looking back, he remembered that he
had now been several days with Mattinao, most of which period had
actually been passed in what might not inaptly be termed the seraglio
of the cacique. Sancho of the ship-yard gate had not been in the
least neglected all this time. He had been a hero, in his own circle,
as well as the young noble, nor had he been at all forgetful of his
duty on the subject of searching for gold. Though he had neither
acquired a single word of the Haytian language, nor taught a syllable
of Spanish to even one of the laughing nymphs who surrounded him, he
had decorated the persons of many of them with hawk's-bells, and had
contrived to abstract from them, in return, every ornament that
resembled the precious metal, which they possessed. This transfer, no
doubt, was honestly effected, however, having been made on that
favourite principle of the free trade theorists, which maintains that
trade is merely an exchange of equivalents; overlooking all the
adverse circumstances which may happen, just at the moment, to
determine the standard of value. Sancho had his notions of commerce as
well as the modern philosophers, and, as he and Luis occasionally met
during their sojourn with Mattinao, he revealed a few of his opinions
on this interesting subject, in one of their interviews.
"I perceive thou hast not forgotten thy passion for doblas, friend
Sancho," said Luis, laughing, as the old seaman exhibited the store of
dust and golden plates he had collected; "there is sufficient of the
metal in thy sack to coin a score of them, each having the royal
countenances of our lord the King, and our lady the Queen!"
"Double that, Señor Conde; just double that, and all for the price
of some seventeen hawk's-bells, that cost but a handful of maravedis.
By the mass! this is a most just and holy trade, and such as it
becomes us Christians to carry on. Here are these savages, they think
no more of gold than your excellency thinks of a dead Moor, and to be
revenged on them, I hold a hawk's-bell just as cheap. Let them think
as poorly as they please of their ornaments and yellow dust, they will
find me just as willing to part with the twenty hawk's-bells that
remain. Let them barter away, they will find me as ready as they
possibly can be, to give nothing for nothing."
"Is this quite honest, Sancho, to rob an Indian of his gold, in
exchange for a bauble that copper so easily purchaseth? Remember thou
art a Castilian, and henceforth give two hawk's-bells, where
thou hast hitherto given but one."
"I never forget my birth, Señor, for happily the ship-yard of
Moguer is in old Spain. Is not the value of a thing to be settled by
what it will bring in the market? ask any of our traders and they will
tell you this, which is clear as the sun in the heavens. When the
Venetians lay before Candia, grapes and figs, and Greek wine, could be
had for the asking in that island, while western articles commanded
any price. Oh, nothing is plainer than the fact that every thing hath
its price, and it is real trade to give one worthless commodity for
"If it be honest to profit by the ignorance of another," answered
Luis, who had a nobleman's contempt for commerce, "then it is just to
deceive the child and the idiot."
"God forbid, and especially St. Andrew, my patron, that I should do
anything so wicked. Hawk's-bells are of more account than gold, in
Hayti, Señor, and happening to know it, I am willing to part with the
precious things for the dross. You see I am generous instead of being
avaricious, for all parties are in Hayti, where the value of the
articles must be settled. It is true, that after running great risks
at sea, and undergoing great pains and chances, by carrying this gold
to Spain, I may be requited for my trouble, and get enough benefit to
make an honest livelihood. I hope Doña Isabella will have so much
feeling for these, her new subjects, as to prevent their ever going
into the shipping business,—a most laborious and dangerous calling,
as we both well know."
"And why art thou so particular in desiring this favour in behalf
of these poor islanders, and that too, Sancho, at the expense of thine
"Simply, Señor," answered the knave, with a cunning loer, "lest it
unsettle trade, which ought to be as free and unencumbered as
possible. Here now, if we Spaniards come to Hayti, we sell one
hawk's-bell for a dobla in gold; whereas, were we to give these
savages the trouble to come to Spain, a dobla of their gold would buy
a hundred hawk's-bells! No — no — it is right as it is; and may a
double allowance of Purgatory be the lot of him who wishes to throw
any difficulties in the way of a good, honest, free and civilizing
trade, say I."
Sancho was thus occupied in explaining his notions of free trade,
the great mystification of modern philanthropists, when there arose
such a cry in the village of Mattinao, as is only heard in moments of
extreme jeopardy and sudden terror. The conversation took place in the
grove, about midway between the town and the private dwellings of the
cacique; and so implicit had become the confidence the two Spaniards
reposed in their friends, that neither had any other arms about his
person, than those furnished by nature. Luis had left both sword and
buckler, half an hour earlier, at the feet of Ozema, who had been
enacting a mimic hero, with his weapons, for their mutual diversion;
while Sancho had found the arquebuse much too heavy to be carried
about for a plaything. The last was deposited in the room where he
had taken up his comfortable quarters.
"Can this mean treachery, Señor?" exclaimed Sancho. "Have these
blackguards found out the true value of hawk's-bells, after all, and
do they mean to demand the balance due them?"
"My life on it, Mattinao and all his people are true, Sancho. This
uproar hath a different meaning—hark! is not that the cry of
"The very same, Señor! That is the name of the Carib cacique, who
is the terror of all these tribes."
"Thy arquebuse, Sancho, if possible; then join me at the dwellings
above. Ozema and the wives of our good friend must be defended, at
Luis had no sooner given these orders, than he and Sancho
separated, the latter running towards the town, which by this time
was a scene of wild tumult, while our hero, slowly and sullenly,
retired towards the private dwellings of the cacique, occasionally
looking back, as if he longed to plunge into the thickest of the fray.
Twenty times did he wish for his favourite charger and a stout lance,
when, indeed, it would not have been an extraordinary feat for a
knight of his prowess to put to flight a thousand enemies like those
who now menaced him. Often had he singly broken whole ranks of
Christian foot-soldiers, and it is well known that solitary
individuals, when mounted, subsequently drove hundreds of the natives
The alarm reached the dwellings of Mattinao before our hero. When
he entered the house of Ozema, he found its mistress surrounded by
fifty females, some of whom had already ascended from the town below,
each of whom was eagerly uttering the terrible name of "Caonabo."
Ozema herself was the most collected of them all, though it was
apparent that, from some cause, she was an object of particular
solicitude with those around her. As Luis entered the apartment, the
wives of Mattinao were pressing around the princess; and he soon
gathered from their words and entreaties, that they urged her to fly,
lest she should fall into the hands of the Carib chief. He even
fancied, and he fancied it justly, that the rest of the females
supposed the seizure of the cacique's beautiful sister to be the real
object of the sudden attack. This conjecture in no manner lessened
Luis's ardour in the defence. The moment Ozema caught sight of him,
she flew to his side, clasping her hands, and uttering the name of
"Caonabo," in a tone that would have melted a heart of stone. At the
same time, her eyes spoke a language of hope, confidence and petition
that was not necessary to enlist our hero's resolution on her side.
In a moment the sword of the young cavalier was in his hand, and the
buckler on his arm. He then assured the princess of his zeal, in the
best manner he could, by placing the buckler before her throbbing
breast, and waving the sword, as in defiance of her enemies: no
sooner was this pledge given, than every other female disappeared,
some flying to the rescue of their children, and all endeavouring to
find places of concealment. By this singular and unexpected desertion,
Luis found himself, for the first time since they had met, alone with
To remain in the house would be to suffer the enemy to approach
unseen, and the shrieks and cries sufficiently announced that, each
moment, the danger drew nearer. Luis accordingly made a sign for the
girl to follow him, first rolling the turban into a bundle and placing
it on her arm, that it might serve her, at need, as a species of
shield against the hostile arrows. While he was thus employed, Ozema's
head fell upon his breast, and the excited girl burst into tears.
This display of weakness, however, lasted but a moment, when she
aroused herself, smiled through her tears, pressed the arm of Luis
convulsively and became the Indian heroine again. They then left the
Luis soon perceived that his retreat from the house had not been
made a moment too soon. The family of Mattinao had already
disappeared, and a strong party of the invaders was in full view,
rushing madly up the grove, silent, but evidently bent on seizing
their prey. He felt Ozema, who clung to his arm, tremble violently,
and then he heard her murmuring,—
The young Indian princess had caught the Spanish monosyllable of
dissent, and Luis understood this exclamation to express her strong
disinclination to become a wife of the Carib chief. His resolution to
protect her, or to die, was in no manner lessened by this involuntary
betrayal of her feelings, which he could not but think might have some
connexion with himself; for, while our hero was both honourable and
generous, he was human, and, consequently, well disposed to take a
favourable view of his own powers of pleasing. It was only in
connexion with Mercedes, that Luis de Bobadilla was humble.
A soldier almost from childhood, the young count looked hastily
around him for a position that would favour his means of defence, and
which would render his arms the most available. Luckily, one offered
so near him, that it required but a minute to occupy it. The terrace
lay against a precipice of rocks, and, a hundred feet from the house,
was a spot where the face of this precipice was angular, throwing
forward a wall on each side to some distance, while the cliff above
overhung the base sufficiently to remove all danger from falling
stones. In the angle were several large fragments of rock that would
afford shelter against arrows, and, there being a sufficient space of
greensward before them, on which a knight might well display his
prowess when in possession of this position, our hero felt himself
strong, if not impregnable, since he could be assailed only in front.
Ozema was stationed behind one of the fragments of the fallen rocks,
her person only half concealed, however, concern for Luis, and
curiosity as related to her enemies, equally inducing her to expose
her head and beautiful bust.
Luis was scarcely in possession of this post, ere a dozen Indians
were drawn up in a line at the distance of fifty yards in his front.
They were armed with bows, war-clubs, and spears. Being without other
defensive armour than his buckler, the young man would have thought
his situation sufficiently critical, did he not know that the archery
of the natives was anything but formidable. Their arrows would kill,
certainly, when shot at short distances, and against the naked skin,
but it might be questioned if they would penetrate the stout velvet in
which Luis was encased, and fifty yards was not near enough to excite
undue alarm. The young man did not dare to retreat to the rocks, as a
clear space was indispensable for the free use of his good sword, and
to that weapon alone he looked for his eventual triumph.
It was, perhaps, fortunate for our hero that Caonabo himself was
not with the party which beleagured him. That redoubtable chieftain,
who had been led to a distance in pursuit of the flying females, under
a belief that she he sought was among them, would doubtless have
brought the matter to an immediate issue by a desperate charge, when
numbers might have prevailed against courage and skill. The actual
assailants chose a different course, and began to poise their bows.
One of the most skilful among them drew an arrow to the head, and let
it fly. The missile glanced from the buckler of the knight, and struck
the hill behind him, as lightly as if the parties had been at their
idle sports. Another followed, and Luis turned it aside with his
sword, disdaining to raise his shield against such a trifle. This cool
manner of receiving their assaults caused the Indians to raise a
shout, whether in admiration or rage, Luis could not tell.
The next attack was more judicious, being made on a principle that
Napoleon is said to have adopted in directing discharges of his
artillery. All those who had bows, some six or eight, drew their
arrows together, and the weapons came rattling on the buckler of the
assailed in a single flight. It was not easy to escape altogether from
such a combined assault, and our hero received one or two bruises
from glancing arrows, though no blood followed the blows. A second
attempt of the same nature was about to be made, when the alarmed girl
rushed from her place of concealment, and, like the Pocahontas of our
own history, threw herself before Luis, with her arms meekly placed on
her bosom. As soon as she appeared, there was a cry of "Ozema" —
"Ozema," among the assailants, who were not Caribs, as all will
understand who are familiar with the island history, but milder
Haytians, governed by a Carib chief.
In vain Luis endeavoured to persuade the devoted girl to withdraw.
She thought his life in danger, and no language, had he been able to
exert his eloquence on the occasion, could have induced her to leave
him exposed to such a danger. As the Indians were endeavouring to
obtain chances at the person of Luis without killing the princess, he
saw there remained no alternative but a retreat behind the fragments
of rock. Just as he obtained this temporary security, a fierce-looking
warrior joined the assailants, who immediately commenced a vociferous
explanation of the actual state of the attack.
"Caonabo?" demanded Luis, of Ozema, pointing towards the new-comer.
The girl shook her head, after taking an anxious look at the
stranger's face, at the same time clinging to our hero's arm, with
"No—no—no—" she said, eagerly. "No Caonabo— no—no—no."
Luis understood the first part of this answer to mean that the
stranger was not the Carib chief; and the last to signify Ozema's
strong and settled aversion to becoming his wife.
The consultation among the assailants was soon ended. Six of them
then poised their war-clubs and spears, and made a rush for the
citadel of the besieged. When they were within twenty feet of his
cover, our hero sprang lightly forward on the sward to meet his foes.
Two of the spears he received on his buckler, severing both shafts
with a single blow of his keen and highly-tempered sword. As he
recovered from the effort, with an upward cut he met the raised arm of
the club-man most in advance. Hand and club fell at his feet with the
skilful touch. Making a sweep with the weapon in his front, its point
seamed the breasts of the two astonished spearsmen, whose distance
alone saved them from more serious injuries.
This rapid and unlooked-for execution struck the assailants with
awe and dread. Never before had they witnessed the power of metal as
used in war; and the sudden amputation of the arm struck them as
something miraculous. Even the ferocious Carib fell back in dismay,
and Luis felt hopes of victory. This was the first occasion on which
the Spaniards had come to blows with the mild inhabitants of the
islands they had discovered, though it is usual with the historians to
refer to an incident of still later occurrence, as the commencement of
strife, the severe privacy which has ever been thrown over the
connexion of Don Luis with the expedition, having completely baffled
their slight and superficial researches. Of course, the efficiency of
a weapon like that used by our hero, was as novel to the Haytians as
it was terrific.
At this instant a shout among the assailants, and the appearance of
a fresh body of the invaders, with a tall and commanding chief at
their head, announced the arrival of Caonabo in person. This warlike
cacique was soon made acquainted with the state of affairs, and it was
evident that the prowess of our hero struck him as much with
admiration as with wonder. After a few minutes, he directed his
followers to fall back to a greater distance, and, laying aside his
club, he advanced fearlessly towards Luis, making signs of amity.
When the two adversaries met, it was with mutual respect and
confidence. The Carib made a short and vehement speech, in which the
only word that was intelligible to our hero, was the name of the
beautiful young Indian. By this time Ozema had also advanced, as if
eager to speak, and her rude suitor turned to her, with an appeal that
was passionate, if not eloquent. He laid his hand frequently on his
heart, and his voice became soft and persuasive. Ozema replied
earnestly, and in the quick manner of one whose resolution was
settled. At the close of her speech, the colour mounted to the temples
of the ardent girl, and, as if purposely to make her meaning
understood by our hero, she ended by saying, in Spanish,
"Caonabo — no — no — no! — Luis — Luis!"
The aspect of the hurricane of the tropics is not darker, or more
menacing, than the scowl with which the Carib chief heard this
unequivocal rejection of his suit, accompanied, as it was, by so plain
a demonstration in favour of the stranger. Waving his hand in
defiance, he strode back to his people, and issued orders for a fresh
This time, a tempest of arrows preceded the rush, and Luis was fain
to seek his former cover behind the rocks. Indeed, this was the only
manner in which he could save the life of Ozema; the devoted girl
resolutely persevering in standing before his body, in the hope it
would shield him from his enemies. There had been some words of
reproach from Caonabo to the Carib chief, who had retreated from the
first attack, and the air was yet filled with arrows, as this man
rushed forward, singly, to redeem his name. Luis met him, firm as the
rock behind him. The shock was violent, and the blow that fell on the
buckler would have crushed an arm less enured to such rude encounters;
but it glanced obliquely from the shield, and the club struck the
earth with the weight of a beetle. Our hero saw that all now depended
on a deep impression. His sword flashed in the bright sun, and the
head of the Carib tumbled by the side of his club, actually leaving
the body erect for an instant, so keen was the weapon, and so
dexterous had been the blow.
Twenty savages were on the spring, but they stopped, like men
transfixed, at this unexpected sight. Caonabo, however, undaunted even
when most surprised, roared out his orders like a maddened bull, and
the wavering crowd was again about to advance, when the loud report of
an arquebuse was heard, followed by the whistling of its deadly
missives. A second Haytian fell dead in his tracks. It exceeded the
powers of savage endurance to resist this assault, which, to their
uninstructed minds, appeared to come from heaven. In two minutes,
neither Caonabo nor any of his followers were visible. As they rushed
down the hill, Sancho appeared from a cover, carrying the arquebuse,
which he had taken the precaution to reload.
The circumstances did not admit of delay. Not a being of Mattinao's
tribe was to be seen in any direction; and Luis made no doubt they had
all fled. Determined to save Ozema at every hazard, he now took his
way to the river, in order to escape in one of the canoes. In passing
through the town, it was seen that not a house had been plundered;
and the circumstance was commented on by the Spaniards, Luis pointing
it out to his companion.
"Caonabo—no—no—no—Ozema!—Ozema!" was the answer of the
girl, who well knew the real object of the inroad.
A dozen canoes lay at the landing, and five minutes sufficed for
the fugitives to enter one, and to commence their retreat. The current
flowed towards the sea, and in a couple of hours they were on the
ocean. As the wind blew constantly from the eastward, Sancho soon
rigged an apology for a sail, and, an hour before the sun set, the
party landed on a point that concealed them from the bay; Luis being
mindful of the admiral's injunction, to conceal his excursion, lest
others might claim a similar favour.
"Three-score and ten I can remember well,
Within the volume of which time I have seen
Hours dreadful, and things strange, but this sore sight
Hath trifled former knowings."
A sight that struck our hero with a terror and awe, almost as great
as those experienced by the ignorant Haytians at the report and effect
of the arquebuse, awaited him, as he came in view of the anchorage.
The Santa Maria, that vessel of the admiral, which he had left only
four days before in her gallant array and pride, lay a stranded wreck
on the sands, with fallen masts, broken sides, and all the other
signs of nautical destruction. The Niña was anchored in safety, it is
true, at no great distance, but a sense of loneliness and desertion
came over the young man, as he gazed at this small craft, which was
little more than a felucca, raised to the rank of a ship for the
purposes of the voyage. The beach was covered with stores, and it was
evident that the Spaniards and the people of Guacanagari toiled in
company, at the construction of a sort of fortress; an omen that some
great change had come over the expedition. Ozema was immediately left
in the house of a native, and the two adventurers hurried forward to
join their friends, and to ask an explanation of what they had seen.
Columbus received his young friend kindly, but in deep affliction.
The manner in which the ship was lost has been often told, and Luis
learned that, the Niña being too small to carry all away, a colony was
to be left in the fortress, while the remainder of the adventurers
hastened back to Spain. Guacanagari had shown himself full of
sympathy, and was kindness itself, while every one had been too much
occupied with the shipwreck to miss our hero, or to hearken to rumours
of an event as common as an inroad from a Carib chief, to carry off an
Indian beauty. Perhaps the latter event was still too recent to have
reached the shore.
The week that succeeded the return of Luis, was one of active
exertion. The Santa Maria was wrecked on the morning of Christmas day,
1492, and on that of the 4th of January following, the Niña was ready
to depart on her return voyage. During this interval, Luis had seen
Ozema but once, and then he had found her sorrowing, mute, and
resembling a withered flower, that retained its beauty even while it
drooped. On the evening of the third, however, while lingering near
the new-finished fortress, he was summoned by Sancho to another
interview. To the surprise of our hero, he found the young cacique
with his sister.
Although language was wanting, on this occasion, the parties easily
understood each other. Ozema was no longer sorrowful, and borne down
with grief: the smile and the laugh came easily from her young and
buoyant spirits, and Luis thought he had never seen her so winning
and lovely. She had arranged her scanty toilet with Indian coquetry,
and the bright warm colour of her cheeks added new lustre to her
brilliant eyes. Her light, agile form, a model of artless grace,
seemed so ethereal as scarce to touch the earth. The secret of this
sudden change was not long hid from Luis. The brother and sister,
after discussing all their dangers and escapes, and passing in review
the character and known determination of Caonabo, had come to the
conclusion that there was no refuge for Ozema but in flight. What most
determined the brother to consent that his sister should accompany the
strangers to their distant home, it would be useless to inquire; but
the motive of Ozema herself, can be no secret to the reader. It was
known that the admiral was desirous of carrying to Spain a party of
natives; and three females, one of whom was of Ozema's rank, had
already consented to go. This chieftain's wife was not only known to
Ozema, but she was a kinswoman. Every thing seemed propitious to the
undertaking; and as a voyage to Spain was still a mystery to the
natives, who regarded it as something like an extended passage from
one of their islands to another, no formidable difficulties presented
themselves to the imagination of either the cacique or his sister.
This proposition took our hero by surprise. He was both flattered
and pleased at the self-devotion of Ozema, even while it troubled him.
Perhaps there were moments when he a little distrusted himself. Still
Mercedes reigned in his heart, and he shook off the feeling as a
suspicion that a true knight could not entertain without offering an
insult to his own honour. On second thoughts, there were fewer
objections to the scheme than he had at first fancied; and, after an
hour's discussion, he left the place to go and consult the admiral.
Columbus was still at the fortress, and he heard our hero gravely
and with interest. Once or twice Luis's eyes dropped under the
searching glance of his superior; but, on the whole, he acquitted
himself of the task he had undertaken, with credit.
"The sister of a cacique, thou say'st, Don Luis," returned the
admiral, thoughtfully. "The virgin sister of a cacique?"
"Even so, Don Christopher; and of a grace, birth, and beauty, that
will give our Lady, the Queen, a most exalted idea of the merits of
"Thou wilt remember, Señor Conde, that nought but purity may be
offered to purity. Doña Isabella is a model for all queens, and
mothers, and wives; and I trust nothing to offend her angelic mind can
ever come from her favoured servants. There has been no deception
practised on this wild girl, to lead her into sin and misery?"
"Don Christopher, you can scarce think this of me. Doña Mercedes
herself is not more innocent than the girl I mean, nor could her
brother feel more solicitude in her fortunes, than I feel. When the
king and queen have satisfied their curiosity, and dismissed her, I
propose to place her under the care of the Lady of Valverde."
"The rarer the specimens that we take, the better, Luis. This will
gratify the sovereigns, and cause them to think favourably of our
discoveries, as thou sayest. It might be done without inconvenience.
The Niña is small, of a verity, but we gain much in leaving this large
party behind us. I have given up the principal cabin to the other
females, since thou and I can fare rudely for a few weeks. Let the
girl come, and see thou to her comfort and convenience."
This settled the matter. Early next morning Ozema embarked,
carrying with her the simple wealth of an Indian princess, among which
the turban was carefully preserved. Her relative had an attendant, who
sufficed for both. Luis paid great attention to the accommodations, in
which both comfort and privacy were duly respected. The parting with
Mattinao was touchingly tender, for the domestic affections appear to
have been much cultivated among these simple-minded and gentle people;
but the separation, it was supposed, would be short, and Ozema had,
again and again, assured her brother that her repugnance to Caonabo,
powerful cacique as he might be, was unconquerable. Each hour
increased it, strengthening her resolution never to become his wife.
The alternative was to secrete herself in the island, or to make this
voyage to Spain; and there was glory as well as security in the
latter. With this consolation the brother and sister parted.
Columbus had intended to push his discoveries much farther, before
he returned to Europe; but the loss of the Santa Maria, and the
desertion of the Pinta, reduced him to the necessity of bringing the
expedition to a close, lest, by some untoward accident, all that had
actually been achieved should be for ever lost to the world.
Accordingly, in the course of the 4th of January, 1493, he made sail
to the eastward, holding his course along the shores of Hayti. His
great object now was to get back to Spain before his remaining little
bark should fail him, when his own name would perish with the
knowledge of his discoveries. Fortunately, however, on the 6th, the
Pinta was seen coming down before the wind, Martin Alonzo Pinzon
having effected one of the purposes for which he had parted company,
that of securing a quantity of gold, but failed in discovering any
mines, which is believed to have been his principal motive.
It is not important to the narrative to relate the details of the
meeting that followed. Columbus received the offending Pinzon with
prudent reserve, and, hearing his explanations, he directed him to
prepare the Pinta for the return passage. After wooding and watering
accordingly, in a bay favourable to such objects, the two vessels
proceeded to the eastward in company; still following the north shore
of Hayti, Española, or Little Spain, as the island had been named by
It was the 16th of the month, ere the adventurers finally took
their leave of this beautiful spot. They had scarcely got clear of the
land, steering a north-easterly course, when the favourable winds
deserted them, and they were again met by the trades. The weather was
moderate, however, and by keeping the two vessels on the best tack, by
the 10th of February, the admiral, making sundry deviations from a
straight course, however, had stretched across the track of ocean in
which these constant breezes prevailed, and reached a parallel of
latitude as high as Palos, his port. In making this long slant, the
Niña, contrary to former experience, was much detained by the dull
sailing of the Pinta, which vessel, having sprung her after-mast, was
unable to bear a press of sail. The light breezes also favoured the
first, which had ever been deemed a fast craft, in smooth water and
Most of the phenomena of the outward passage were observed on the
homeward; but the tunny-fish no longer excited hopes, nor did the
sea-weed awaken fears. These familiar objects were successfully, but
slowly passed, and the variable winds were happily struck again in the
first fortnight. Here the traverses necessarily became more and more
complicated, until the pilots, unused to so long and difficult a
navigation, in which they received no aids from either land or water,
got confused in their reckonings, disputing hotly among themselves
concerning their true position.
"Thou hast heard to-day, Luis," said the admiral smiling, in one of
his renewed conferences with our hero, "the contentions of Vicente
Yañez, with his brother, Martin Alonzo, and the other pilots, touching
our distance from Spain. These constant shifts of wind have perplexed
the honest mariners, and they fancy themselves in any part of the
Atlantic, but that in which they really are!"
"Much depends on you, Señor; not only our safety, but the knowledge
of our great discoveries."
"Thou sayest true, Don Luis. Vicente Yañez, Sancho Ruiz, Pedro
Alonzo Niño, and Bartolemeo Roldan, to say nothing of the profound
calculators in the Pinta, place the vessels in the neighbourhood of
Madeira, which is nearer to Spain, by a hundred and fifty leagues,
than the truth would show. These honest people have followed their
wishes, rather than their knowledge of the ocean and the heavens."
"And you, Don Christopher, where do you place the caravels, since
there is no motive to conceal the truth?"
"We are south of Flores, young count, fully twelve degrees west of
the Canaries, and in the latitude of Nafé, in Africa. But I would that
they should be bewildered, until the right of possession to our
discoveries be made a matter of certainty. Not one of these men now
doubts his ability to do all I have done, and yet neither is able to
grope his way back again, after crossing this track of water to Asia!"
Luis understood the admiral, and the size of the vessels rendering
the communication of secrets hazardous, the conversation changed.
Up to this time, though the winds were often variable, the weather
had been good. A few squalls had occurred, as commonly happens at sea,
but they had proved to be neither long nor severe. All this was
extremely grateful to Columbus, who, now he had effected the great
purpose for which he might have been said to live, felt some such
concern lest the important secret should be lost to the rest of
mankind, as one who carries a precious object through scenes of
danger experiences for the safety of his charge. A change, however,
was at hand, and at the very moment when the great navigator began to
hope the best, he was fated to experience the severest of all his
As the vessels advanced north, the weather became cooler, as a
matter of course, and the winds stronger. During the night of the 11th
of February, the caravels made a great run on their course, gaining
more than a hundred miles between sunset and sunrise. The next morning
many birds were in sight, from which fact Columbus believed himself
quite near the Azores, while the pilots fancied they were in the
immediate vicinity of Madeira. The following day the wind was less
favourable, though strong, and a heavy sea had got up. The properties
of the little Niña now showed themselves to advantage, for, ere the
turn of the day, she had to contend with such a struggle of the
elements, as few in her had ever before witnessed. Fortunately, all
that consummate seamanship could devise to render her safe and
comfortable had been done, and she was in as perfect a state of
preparation for a tempest, as circumstances would allow. The only
essential defect was her unusual lightness, since, most of her stores
as well as her water being nearly exhausted, her draught of water was
materially less than it should have been. The caravel was so small,
that this circumstance, which is of little consequence to the safety
of large vessels, got to be one of consideration in a craft whose
means of endurance did not place her above the perils of squalls. The
reader will understand the distinction better when he is told that
ships of size can only lose their spars by sudden gusts of wind,
seldom being thrown on their beam-ends, as it is termed, unless by the
power of the waves; whereas, smaller craft incur the risk of being
capsized, when the spread of their canvass is disproportioned to their
stability. Although the seamen of the Niña perceived this defect in
their caravel, which, in a great measure, proceeded from the
consumption of the fresh water, they hoped so soon to gain a haven,
that no means had been taken to remedy the evil.
Such was the state of things, as the sun set on the night of the
12th of February, 1493. As usual, Columbus was on the poop, vessels of
all sizes then carrying these clumsy excrescences, though this of the
Niña was so small as scarce to deserve the name. Luis was at his side,
and both watched the aspect of the heavens and the ocean in grave
silence. Never before had our hero seen the elements in so great
commotion, and the admiral had just remarked, that even he had not
viewed many nights as threatening. There is a solemnity about a sunset
at sea, when the clouds appear threatening, and the omens of a storm
are brooding, that is never to be met with on the land. The loneliness
of a ship, struggling through a waste of dreary-looking water,
contributes to the influence of the feelings that are awakened, as
there appears to be but one object on which the wild efforts of the
storm can expend themselves. All else seem to be in unison to aid the
general strife; ocean, heavens, and the air, being alike accessaries
in the murky picture. When the wintry frowns of February are thrown
around all, the gloomy hues of the scene are deepened to their
"This is a brooding night-fall, Don Luis," Columbus remarked, just
as the last rays that the sun cast upwards on the stormy-looking
clouds disappeared from their ragged outlines—"I have rarely seen
another as menacing."
"One has a double confidence in the care of God, while sailing
under your guidance, Señor; first in his goodness, and next in the
knowledge of his agent's skilfulness."
"The power of the Almighty is sufficient to endue the feeblest
mortal with all fitting skill, when it is his divine will to spare; or
to rob the most experienced of their knowledge, when his anger can
only be appeased by the worldly destruction of his creatures."
"You look upon the night as portentous, Don Christopher!"
"I have seen omens as ill, though very seldom. Had not the
caravel this burthensome freight, I might view our situation less
"You surprise me, sir admiral! the pilots have regretted that our
barque is so light."
"True, as to material substance; but it beareth a cargo of
knowledge, Luis, that it would be grievous to see wasted on these
vacant waters. Dost thou not perceive how fast and gloomily the
curtain of night gathereth about us, and the manner in which the Niña
is rapidly getting to be our whole world? Even the Pinta is barely
distinguishable, like a shapeless shadow on the foaming billows,
serving rather as a beacon to warn us of our own desolation, than as
a consort to cheer us with her presence and companionship."
"I have never known you thus moody, excellent Señor, on account of
the aspect of the weather!"
"'Tis not usual with me, young lord; but my heart is loaded with
its glorious secret. Behold!—dost thou remark that further sign of
the warring of the elements?"
The admiral, as he spoke, was standing with his face towards Spain,
while his companion's gaze was fastened on the portentous-looking
horizon of the west, around which still lingered sufficient light to
render its frowns as chilling as they were visible. He had not seen
the change that drew the remark from Columbus, but, turning quickly,
he asked an explanation. Notwithstanding the season, the horizon at
the north-east had been suddenly illuminated by a flash of lightning,
and even while the admiral was relating the fact, and pointing out the
quarter of the heavens in which the phenomenon had appeared, two more
flashes followed each other in quick succession.
"Señor Vicente"—called out Columbus, leaning forward in a way to
overlook a group of dusky figures that was collected on the half-deck
beneath him—"Is Señor Vicente Yañez of your number?"
"I am here, Don Christopher, and note the omen. It is the sign of
even more wind."
"We shall be visited with a tempest, worthy Vicente, and it will
come from that quarter of the heavens, or its opposite. Have we made
all sure in the caravel?"
"I know not what else is to be done, Señor Almirante. Our canvass
is at the lowest, everything is well lashed, and we carry as little
aloft as can be spared. Sancho Ruiz, look you to the tarpaulins, lest
we ship more water than will be safe."
"Look well to our light, too, that our consort may not part from us
in the darkness. This is no time for sleep, Vicente—place your most
trusty men at the tiller."
"Señor, they are selected with care. Sancho Mundo, and young Pepe
of Moguer, do that duty, at present; others as skilled await to
relieve them, when their watch ends."
"'T is well, good Pinzon—neither you nor I can close an eye
The precautions of Columbus were not uncalled for. About an hour
after the unnatural flashes of lightning had been seen, the wind rose
from the south-west, favourably as to direction, but fearfully as to
force. Notwithstanding his strong desire to reach port, the admiral
found it prudent to order the solitary sail that was set, to be taken
in; and most of the night the two caravels drove before the gale,
under bare poles, heading to the north-east. We say both, for Martin
Alonzo, practised as he was in stormy seas, and disposed as he was to
act only for himself, now the great problem was solved, kept the Pinta
so near the Niña, that few minutes passed without her being seen
careering on the summit of a foaming sea, or settling bodily into the
troughs, as she drove headlong before the tempest; keeping side by
side with her consort, however, as man clings to man in moments of
dependency and peril.
Thus passed the night of the 13th, the day bringing with it a more
vivid picture of the whole scene, though it was thought that the wind
somewhat abated in its force as the sun arose. Perhaps this change
existed only in the imaginations of the mariners, the light usually
lessening the appearance of danger, by enabling men to face it. Each
caravel, however, set a little canvass, and both went foaming ahead,
hurrying towards Spain with their unlooked-for tidings. As the day
advanced, the fury of the gale sensibly lessened; but as night drew on
again, it returned with renewed force, more adverse, and compelling
the adventurers to take in every rag of sail they had ventured to
spread. Nor was this the worst. The caravels, by this time, had driven
up into a tract of ocean where a heavy cross-sea was raging, the
effects of some other gale that had recently blown from a different
quarter. Both vessels struggled manfully to lay up to their course,
under these adverse circumstances; but they began to labour in a way
to excite uneasiness in those who comprehended the fullest powers of
the machines, and who knew whence the real sources of danger were
derived. As night approached, Columbus perceived that the Pinta could
not maintain her ground, the strain on her after-mast proving too
severe to be borne, even without an inch of canvass spread.
Reluctantly did he order the Niña to edge away towards her consort,
separation, at such a moment, being the evil next to positive
In this manner the night of the 14th drew around our lone and
sea-girt adventurers. What had been merely menace and omens the
previous night, were now a dread reality. Columbus, himself, declared
he had never known a barque to buffet a more furious tempest, nor did
he affect to conceal from Luis the extent of his apprehensions. With
the pilots, and before the crew, he was serene and even cheerful; but
when alone with our hero, he became frank and humble. Still was the
celebrated navigator always calm and firm. No unmanly complaint
escaped him, though his very soul was saddened at the danger his great
discoveries ran of being for ever lost.
Such was the state of feeling that prevailed with the admiral, as
he sat in his narrow cabin, in the first hours of that appalling
night, watching for any change, relieving or disastrous, that might
occur. The howling of the winds, which fairly scooped up from the
surface of the raging Atlantic, the brine in sheets, was barely
audible amid the roar and rush of the waters. At times, indeed, when
the caravel sunk helplessly between two huge waves, the fragment of
sail she still carried, would flap, and the air seemed hushed and
still; and then, again, as the buoyant machine struggled upward, like
a drowning man who gains the surface by frantic efforts, it would seem
as if the columns of air were about to bear her off before them, as
lightly as the driving spray. Even Luis, albeit little apt to take
alarm, felt that their situation was critical, and his constitutional
buoyancy of spirits had settled down in a thoughtful gravity, that was
unusual with him. Had a column of a thousand hostile Moors stood
before our hero, he would have thought rather of the means of
overturning it than of escape; but this warring of the elements
admitted of no such relief. It appeared actually like contending with
the Almighty. In such scenes, indeed, the bravest find no means of
falling back on their resolution and intrepidity; for the efforts of
man seem insignificant and bootless as opposed to the will and power
"'T is a wild night, Señor," our hero observed calmly, preserving
an exterior of more unconcern than he really felt. "To me this
surpasseth all I have yet witnessed of the fury of a tempest."
Columbus sighed heavily; then he removed his hands from his face,
and glanced about him, as if in search of the implements he wanted.
"Count of Llera," he answered, with dignity, "there remaineth a
solemn duty to perform. There is parchment in the draw on your side of
this table, and here are the instruments for writing. Let us acquit
ourselves of this important trust while time is yet mercifully given
us, God alone knowing how long we have to live."
Luis did not blanch at these portentous words, but he looked
earnest and grave. Opening the draw, he took out the parchment and
laid it upon the table. The admiral now seized a pen, beckoning to his
companion to take another, and both commenced writing as well as the
incessant motion of the light caravel would allow. The task was
arduous, but it was clearly executed. As Columbus wrote a sentence,
he repeated it to Luis, who copied it word for word, on his own piece
of parchment. The substance of this record was the fact of the
discoveries made, the latitude and longitude of Española, with the
relative positions of the other islands, and a brief account of what
he had seen. The letter was directed to Ferdinand and Isabella. As
soon as each had completed his account, the admiral carefully
enveloped his missive in a covering of waxed cloth, Luis imitating him
in all things. Each then took a large cake of wax, and scooping a hole
in it, the packet was carefully secured in the interior, when it was
covered with the substance that had been removed. Columbus now sent
for the cooper of the vessel, who was directed to inclose each cake in
a separate barrel. These vessels abound in ships; and ere many
minutes, the two letters were securely inclosed in the empty casks.
Each taking a barrel, the admiral and our hero now appeared again on
the half-deck. So terrific was the night, that no one slept, and most
of the people of the Niña, men as well as officers, were crowded
together on the gratings near the main-mast, where alone, with the
exception of the still more privileged places, they considered
themselves safe from being swept overboard. Indeed, even here they
were constantly covered with the wash of the sea, the poop itself not
being protected from rude visits of this nature.
As soon as the admiral was seen again, his followers crowded round
him, solicitous to hear his opinion, and anxious to learn his present
object. To have told the truth, would have been to introduce despair
where hope had already nearly ceased; and, merely intimating that he
performed a religious vow, Columbus, with his own hands, cast his
barrel into the hissing ocean. That of Luis was placed upon the poop,
in the expectation that it would float, should the caravel sink.
Three centuries and a half have rolled by, since Columbus took this
wise precaution, and no tidings have ever been obtained of that cask.
Its buoyancy was such that it might continue to float for ages.
Covered with barnacles, it may still be drifting about the waste of
waters, pregnant with its mighty revelations. It is possible, it may
have been repeatedly rolled upon some sandy beach, and as frequently
swept off again; and it may have been passed unheeded, on a thousand
occasions, by different vessels, confounded with its vulgar fellows
that are so often seen drifting about the ocean. Had it been found, it
would have been opened; and had it been opened by any civilized man,
it is next to impossible that an occurrence of so much interest
should have been totally lost.
This duty discharged, the admiral had leisure to look about him.
The darkness was now so great, that, but for the little light that was
disengaged from the troubled water, it would have been difficult to
distinguish objects at the length of the caravel. No one, who has
merely been at sea in a tall ship, can form any just idea of the
situation of the Niña. This vessel, little more than a large felucca,
had actually sailed from Spain with the latine rig, that is so common
to the light coasters of southern Europe; a rig that had only been
altered in the Canaries. As she floated in a bay, or a river, her
height above the water could not have exceeded four or five feet, and
now that she was struggling with a tempest, in a cross sea, and
precisely in that part of the Atlantic where the rake of the winds is
the widest, and the tumult of the water the greatest, it seemed as if
she were merely some aquatic animal, that occasionally rose to the
surface to breathe. There were moments when the caravel appeared to be
irretrievably sinking into the abyss of the ocean; huge black mounds
of water rising around her in all directions, the confusion in the
waves having destroyed all the ordinary symmetry of the rolling
billows. Although so much figurative language has been used, in
speaking of mountainous waves, it would not be exceeding the literal
truth to add, that the Niña's yards were often below the summits of
the adjacent seas, which were tossed upward in so precipitous a
manner, as to create a constant apprehension of their falling in
cataracts on her gratings; for, midship-deck, strictly speaking, she
had none. This, indeed, formed the great source of danger; since one
falling wave might have filled the little vessel, and carried her,
with all in her, hopelessly to the bottom. As it was, the crests of
seas were constantly tumbling inboard, or shooting athwart the hull of
the caravel, in sheets of glittering foam, though happily never with
sufficient power to overwhelm the buoyant fabric. At such perilous
instants, the safety of the craft depended on the frail tarpawlings.
Had these light coverings given way, two or three successive waves
would infallibly have so far filled the hold, as to render the hull
water-logged; when the loss of the vessel would have followed as an
The admiral had ordered Vicente Yañez to carry the foresail close
reefed, in the hope of dragging the caravel through this chaos of
waters, to a part of the ocean where the waves ran more regularly. The
general direction of the seas too, so far as they could be said to
have a general direction at all, had been respected, and the Niña had
struggled onward — it might be better to say waded onward — some
five or six leagues, since the disappearance of the day, and found no
change. It was getting to be near midnight, and still the surface of
the ocean presented the same wild aspect of chaotic confusion. Vicente
Yañez approached the admiral, and declared that the barque could no
longer bear the rag of sail she carried.
"The jerk, as we rise on the sea, goes near to pull the stern out
of the craft," he said, "and the backward flap, as we settle into the
troughs, is almost as menacing. The Niña will bear the canvass no
longer, with safety."
"Who has seen aught of Martin Alonzo within the hour?" demanded
Columbus, looking anxiously in the direction in which the Pinta ought
to be visible. "Thou hast lowered the lantern, Vicente Yañez."
"It would stand the hurricane no longer. From time to time it hath
been shown, and each signal hath been answered by my brother."
"Let it be shown once more. This is a moment when the presence of a
friend gladdens the soul, even though he be helpless as ourselves."
The lantern was hoisted, and, after a steady gaze, a faint and
distant light was seen glimmering in the rack of the tempest. The
experiment was repeated, at short intervals, and as often was the
signal answered, at increasing distances, until the light of their
consort was finally lost altogether.
"The Pinta's mast is too feeble to bear even its gear, in such a
gale," observed Vicente Yañez; "and my brother hath found it
impossible to keep as near the wind as we have done. He goes off more
"Let the foresail be secured," answered Columbus, "as thou sayest.
Our feeble craft can no longer bear these violent surges."
Vicente Yañez now mustered a few of his ablest men, and went
forward himself to see this order executed. At the same moment the
helm was righted, and the caravel slowly fell off, until she got dead
before the gale. The task of gathering in the canvass was
comparatively easy, the yard being but a few feet above the deck, and
little besides the clews being exposed. Still it required men of the
firmest nerve and the readiest hands to venture aloft at such an
instant. Sancho took one side of the mast and Pepe the other, both
manifesting such qualities as mark the perfect seaman, only.
The caravel was now drifting at the mercy of the winds and waves,
the term scudding being scarcely applicable to the motion of a vessel
so low, and which was so perfectly sheltered from the action of the
wind by the height of the billows. Had the latter possessed their
ordinary regularity, the low vessel must have been pooped; but, in a
measure, her exemption from this calamity was owing to an irregularity
that was only the source of a new danger. Still, the Niña drove
ahead, and that swiftly, though not with the velocity necessary to
outstrip the chasing water, had the waves followed with their
customary order and rapidity. The cross seas defeated this; wave
meeting wave, actually sending those crests which otherwise would have
rolled over in combing foam, upward in terrific jets d'eau.
This was the crisis of the danger. There was an hour when the
caravel careered amid the chaotic darkness with a sort of headlong
fury, not unfrequently dashing forward with her broadside to the sea,
as if the impatient stern was bent on overtaking the stem, and
exposing all to the extreme jeopardy of receiving a flood of water on
the beam. This imminent risk was only averted by the activity of the
man at the helm, where Sancho toiled with all his skill and energy,
until the sweat rolled from his brow, as if exposed again to the sun
of the tropics. At length the alarm became so great and general, that
a common demand was made to the admiral to promise the customary
religious oblations. For this purpose, all but the men at the helm
assembled aft, and preparations were made to cast lots for the
"Ye are in the hands of God, my friends," said Columbus, "and it is
meet that ye all confess your dependence on his goodness, placing your
security on his blessings and favour alone. In this cap which ye see
in the hands of the Señor de Muños, are the same number of peas that
we are of persons. One of these peas bears the mark of the Holy
Cross, and he who shall draw forth this blessed emblem, stands pledged
to make a pilgrimage to Santa Maria de Guadalupe, bearing a waxen
taper of five pounds weight. As the chiefest sinner amongst you, no
less than as your admiral, the first trial shall be mine."
Here Columbus put his hand into the cap, and on drawing forth a
pea, and holding it to the lantern, it was found to bear on its
surface the mark he had mentioned.
"This is well, Señor," said one of the pilots; "but replace the
pea, and let the chance be renewed for a still heavier penance, and
that at a shrine which is most in request with all good Christians; I
mean that of our Lady of Loretto. One pilgrimage to that shrine is
worth two to any other."
In moments of emergency the religious sentiment is apt to be
strong; and this proposition was seconded with warmth. The admiral
cheerfully consented; and when all had drawn, the marked pea was found
in the hands of a common seaman, of the name of Pedro de Villa; one
who bore no very good name for either piety or knowledge.
"'T is a weary and costly journey," grumbled the chosen penitent,
"and cannot cheaply be made."
"Heed it not, friend Pedro," answered Columbus: "the bodily pains
shall limit thy sufferings, for the cost of the journey shall be mine.
This night groweth more and more terrifice, good Bartolemeo Roldan."
"That doth it, Señor Admiral, and I am little content with such a
pilgrim as Pedro here, although it may seem as if heaven itself
directed the choice. A mass in Santa Clara de Moguer, with a watcher
all night in that chapel, will be of more account than your distant
journeys made by such an one as he."
This opinion wanted not for supporters among the seamen of Moguer,
and a third trial was made to determine the person. Again the pea was
withdrawn from the cap by the admiral. Still the danger did not
diminish, the caravel actually threatening to roll over amid the
turbulence of the waves.
"We are too light, Vicente Yañez," said Columbus, "and desperate as
the undertaking seemeth, we must make an effort to fill our empty
casks with sea-water. Let hose be carefully introduced beneath the
tarpawlings, and send careful hands below to make sure that the water
do not get into the hold instead of the casks."
This order was obeyed, and several hours passed in efforts to
execute this duty. The great difficulty was in protecting the men who
raised the water from the sea, for while the whole element was raging
in such confusion around them, it was no easy matter to secure a
single drop in a useful manner. Patience and perseverance, however,
prevailed in the end, and, ere the light returned, so many empty
casks had been filled, as evidently to aid the steadiness of the
vessel. Towards morning it rained in torrents, and the wind shifted
from south to west, losing but little of its force, however. At this
juncture the foresail was again got on the barque, and she was dragged
by it, through a tremendous sea, a few miles to the eastward.
When the day dawned, the scene was changed for the better. The
Pinta was nowhere to be seen, and most in the Niña believed she had
gone to the bottom. But the clouds had opened a little, and a sort of
mystical brightness rested on the ocean, which was white with foam,
and still hissing with fury. The waves, however, were gradually
getting to be more regular, and the seamen no longer found it
necessary to lash themselves to the vessel, in order to prevent being
washed overboard. Additional sail was got on the caravel, and as her
motion ahead increased, she became steadier, and more certain in all
* The fortunes of this beautiful island furnish a remarkable proof
of the manner in which abuses are made, by the providence of God, to
produce their own punishments. This island, which is about two-thirds
the size of the state of New York, was the seat of Spanish authority,
in the New World, for many years. The mild aborigines, who were
numerous and happy when discovered, were literally exterminated by the
cruelties of their new masters; and it was found necessary to import
negroes from Africa, to toil in the cane-fields. Towards the middle of
the sixteenth century, it is said that two hundred of the aborigines
were not to be found in the island, although Ovando had decoyed no
less than forty thousand from the Bahamas, to supply the places of the
dead, as early as 1513! At a later day, Española passed into the hands
of the French, and all know the terrible events by which it has gone
into the exclusive possession of the descendants of the children of
Africa. All that has been said of the influence of the white population
of this country, as connected with our own Indians, sinks into
insignificance, as compared with these astounding facts.
"For now, from sight of land diverted clear,
They drove uncertain o'er the pathless deep;
Nor gave the adverse gale due course to steer,
Nor durst they the design'd direction keep:
The gathering tempest quickly raged so high,
The wave-encompass'd boat but faintly reach'd my eye."
Vision of Patience.
Such was the state of things on the morning of the 15th, and
shortly after the sun arose, the joyful cry of land was heard from
aloft. It is worthy of being mentioned that this land was made
directly ahead, so accurate were all the admiral's calculations, and
so certain did he feel of his position on the chart. A dozen opinions,
however, prevailed among the pilots and people concerning this welcome
sight; some fancying it the continent of Europe, while others believed
it to be Madeira. Columbus, himself, publicly announced it to be one
of the Azores.
Each hour was lessening the distance between this welcome spot of
earth and the adventurers, when the gale chopped directly round,
bringing the island dead to windward. Throughout a long and weary day
the little barque kept turning up against the storm, in order to reach
this much desired haven, but the heaviness of the swell and the foul
wind made their progress both slow and painful. The sun set in wintry
gloom again, and the land still lay in the wrong quarter, and
apparently at a distance that was unattainable. Hour after hour
passed, and still in the darkness the Niña was struggling to get
nearer to the spot where the land had been seen. Columbus never left
his post throughout all these anxious scenes, for to him it seemed as
if the fortunes of his discoveries were now suspended, as it might be,
by a hair. Our hero was less watchful, but even he began to feel more
anxiety in the result, as the moment approached when the fate of the
expedition was to be decided.
As the sun arose every eye turned inquiringly around the watery
view, and, to the common disappointment, no land was visible. Some
fancied all had been illusion, but the admiral believed they had
passed the island in the darkness, and he hove about, with a view to
stand farther south. This change in the course had not been made more
than an hour or two, when land was again dimly seen astern, and in a
quarter where it could not have been previously perceived. For this
island the caravel tacked, and until dark she was beating up for it,
against a strong gale and a heavy sea. Night again drew around her,
and the land once more vanished in the gloom.
At the usual hour of the previous night, the people of the Niña had
assembled to chant the salve fac, regina, or the evening hymn
to the Virgin, for it is one of the touching incidents of this
extraordinary voyage, that these rude sailors first carried with them
into the unknown wastes of the Atlantic the songs of their religion,
and the Christian's prayers. While thus employed, a light had been
made to leeward, which was supposed to be on the island first seen,
thus encouraging the admiral in his belief that he was in the centre
of a group, and that by keeping well to windward, he would certainly
find himself in a situation to reach a port in the morning. That
morning, however, had produced no other change than the one noted, and
he was now preparing to pass another night, or that of the 17th, in
uncertainty, when the cry of land ahead suddenly cheered the spirits
of all in the vessel.
The Niña stood boldly in, and before midnight she was near enough
to the shore to let go an anchor; so heavy were both wind and sea,
however, that the cable parted, thus rejecting them, as it were, from
the regions to which they properly belonged. Sail was made, and the
effort to get to windward renewed, and by daylight the caravel was
enabled to run in and get an anchorage on the north side of the
island. Here the wearied and almost exhausted mariners learned that
Columbus was right, as usual, and that they had reached the island of
St. Mary, one of the Azores.
It does not belong to this tale to record all the incidents that
occurred while the Niña lay at this port. They embraced an attempt to
seize the caravel, on the part of the Portuguese, who, as they had
been the last to harass the admiral on his departure from the old
world, were the first to beset him on his return. All their
machinations failed, however, and after having the best portion of his
crew in their power, and actually having once sailed from the island
without the men, the admiral finally arranged the matter, and took
his departure for Spain, with all his people on board, on the 24th of
Providence seemed to favour the passage of the adventurers, for the
first few days; the wind being favourable and the sea smooth. Between
the morning of the 24th and the evening of the 26th, the caravel had
made nearly a hundred leagues directly on her course to Palos, when
she was met by a foul wind and another heavy sea. The gale now became
violent again, though sufficiently favourable to allow them to steer
east, a little northerly, occasionally hauling more ahead. The weather
was rough, but as the admiral knew he was drawing in with the
continent of Europe, he did not complain, cheering his people with the
hopes of a speedy arrival. In this manner the time passed until the
turn of the day, Saturday, March 2d, when Columbus believed himself to
be within a hundred miles of the coast of Portugal, the long
continuance of the scant southerly winds having set him thus far north.
The night commenced favourably, the caravel struggling ahead
through a tremendous sea that was sweeping down from the south, having
the wind abeam, blowing so fresh, as to cause the sails to be reduced
within manageable size. The Niña was an excellent craft, as had been
thoroughly proved, and she was now steadier than when first assailed
by the tempests, her pilots having filled still more of the casks,
than they had been able to do during the late storm.
"Thou hast lived at the helm, Sancho Mundo, since the late gales
commenced," said the admiral cheerfully, as, about the last hour of
the first watch, he passed near the post of the old mariner. "It is no
small honour to hold that station in the cruel gales we have been
fated to endure."
"I so consider it, Señor Don Almirante; and I hope their
illustrious and most excellent Highnesses, the two Sovereigns, will
look upon it with the same eyes, so far as the weight of the duty is
"And why not as respects the honour, friend Sancho?" put in Luis,
who had become a sworn friend of the seaman, since the rescue of the
"Honour, Señor Master Pedro, is cold food and sits ill on a poor
man's stomach. One dobla is worth two dukedoms to such a man as I am,
since the dobla would help to gain me respect, whereas the dukedoms
would only draw down ridicule upon my head. No, no—Master Pedro,
your worship, give me a pocket full of gold, and leave honours to such
as have a fancy for them. If a man must be raised in the world, begin
at the beginning, or lay a solid foundation; after which he may be
made a knight of St. James, if the sovereigns have need of his name to
make out their list."
"Thou art too garrulous for a helmsman, Sancho, though so excellent
otherwise," observed the admiral, gravely. "Look to thy course; doblas
will not be wanting, when the voyage is ended."
"Many thanks, Señor Almirante; and, as a proof that my eyes are not
shut, even though the tongue wags, I will just desire your excellency,
and the pilots, to study that rag of a cloud that is gathering up
here, at the south-west, and ask yourselves if it means evil, or good."
"By the mass! the man is right, Don Christopher!" exclaimed
Bartolemeo Roldan, who was standing near; "that is a most
sinister-looking cloud, and is not unlike those that give birth to the
white squalls of Africa."
"See to it—see to it—good Bartolemeo," returned Columbus,
hastily. "We have, indeed, counted too much on our good fortune, and
have culpably overlooked the aspect of the heavens. Let Vicente Yañez
and all our people be called; we may have need of them."
Columbus now ascended to the poop, where he got a wider and a
better view of the ocean and the skies. The signs were, indeed, as
portentous as they had been sudden in their appearance. The atmosphere
was filled with a white mist, that resembled a light smoke, and the
admiral had barely time to look about him, when a roar that resembled
the trampling of a thousand horse passing a bridge at full speed,
came rushing down with the wind. The ocean was heard hissing, as is
usual at such moments, and the tempest burst upon the little bark, as
if envious demons were determined she should never reach Spain, with
the glorious tidings she bore.
A report like that of a heavy discharge of musketry, was the first
signal that the squall had struck the Niña. It came from the rent
canvass, every sail having given way at the same instant. The caravel
heeled until the water reached her masts, and there was a breathless
instant, when the oldest seaman feared that she would be forced over
entirely upon her side. Had not the sails split, this calamity might
truly have occurred. Sancho, too, had borne the tiller up in season,
and when the Niña recovered from the shock, she almost flew out of the
water, as she drove before the blast.
This was the commencement of a new gale, which even surpassed in
violence that from which they had so recently escaped. For the first
hour, awe and disappointment almost paralyzed the crew, as nothing was
or could be done to relieve them from the peril they were in. The
vessel was already scudding — the last resource of seamen — and
even the rags of the canvass were torn, piece by piece, from the
spars, sparing the men the efforts that would have been necessary to
secure them. In this crisis, again the penitent people resorted to
their religious rites; and again it fell to the lot of the admiral to
make a visit to some favourite shrine. In addition, the whole crew
made a vow to fast on bread and water, the first Saturday after they
"It is remarkable, Don Christopher," said Luis, when the two were
again alone on the poop, "it is remarkable that these lots should fall
so often on you. Thrice have you been selected by Providence to be an
instrument of thankfulness and penitence. — This cometh of your
"Say, rather, Luis, that it cometh of my exceeding sins. My pride,
alone, should draw down upon me stronger rebukes than these. I fear
me, I had forgotten that I was merely an agent chosen by God, to work
his own great ends, and was falling into the snares of Satan, by
fancying that I, of my own wisdom and philosophy, had done this great
exploit, which cometh so truly of God."
"Do you believe us in danger, Señor?"
"Greater hazard besets us now, Don Luis, than hath befallen us
since we left Palos. We are driving towards the continent, which
cannot be thirty leagues distant; and, as thou seest, the ocean is
becoming more troubled every hour. Happily, the night is far advanced,
and with the light we may find the means of safety."
The day did re-appear as usual; for whatever disturbances occur on
its surface, the earth continues its daily revolutions in the
sublimity of its vastness, affording at each change to the mites on
its surface, the indubitable proofs that an omnipotent power reigns
over all its movements. The light, however, brought no change in the
aspects of the ocean and sky. The wind blew furiously, and the Niña
struggled along amid the chaos of waters, driving nearer and nearer
to the continent that lay before her.
About the middle of the afternoon, signs of land became quite
apparent, and no one doubted the vicinity of the vessel to the shores
of Europe. Nevertheless, nought was visible but the raging ocean, the
murky sky, and the sort of supernatural light with which the
atmosphere is so often charged in a tempest. The spot where the sun
set, though known by means of the compass, could not be traced by the
eye; and again night closed on the wild, wintry scene, as if the
little caravel was abandoned by hope as well as by the day. To add to
the apprehensions of the people, a high cross sea was running; and, as
ever happens with vessels so small, in such circumstances, tons'
weight of water were constantly falling inboard, threatening
destruction to the grantings and their frail coverings of tarred
"This is the most terrible night of all, son Luis," said Columbus,
about an hour after the darkness had drawn around them. "If we escape
this night, well may we deem ourselves favoured of God!"
"And yet you speak calmly, Señor; as calmly as if your heart was
filled with hope."
"The seaman that cannot command his nerves and voice, even in the
utmost peril, hath mistaken his calling. But I feel calm, Luis,
as well as seem calm. God hath us in his keeping, and will do
that which most advanceth his own holy will. My boys—my two poor
boys trouble me sorely; but even the fatherless are not forgotten!"
"If we perish, Señor, the Portuguese will remain masters of our
secret: to them only is it now known, ourselves excepted, since, for
Martin Alonzo, I should think, there is little hope."
"This is another source of grief; yet have I taken such steps as
will probably put their highnesses on the maintenance of their rights.
The rest must be trusted to heaven."
At that moment was heard the startling cry of "land." This word,
which so lately would have been the cause of sudden bursts of joy, was
now the source of new uneasiness. Although the night was dark, there
were moments when the gloom opened, as it might be, for a mile or two
around the vessel, and when objects as prominent as a coast could be
seen with sufficient distinctness. Both Columbus and our hero hastened
to the forward part of the caravel, at this cry, though even this
common movement was perilous, in order to obtain the best possible
view of the shore. It was, indeed, so near, that all on board heard,
or fancied they heard, the roar of the surf against the rocks. That it
was Portugal, none doubted, and, to stand on in the present
uncertainty of their precise position, or without a haven to enter,
would be inevitable destruction. There remained only the alternative
to ware with the caravel's head off shore, and endeavour to keep an
offing until morning. Columbus had no sooner mentioned this necessity,
than Vicente Yañez set about its execution in the best manner
circumstances would allow.
Hitherto the wind had been kept a little on the starboard quarter,
the caravel steering east, a point or two north, and it was now the
aim to lay her head so far round as to permit her to steer north, a
point or two west. By the manner in which the coast appeared to trend,
it was thought that this variation in the direction might keep them,
for a few hours, at a sufficient distance from the shore. But this
manoeuvre could not be effected without the aid of canvass, and an
order was issued to set the foresail. The first flap of the canvass,
as it was loosened to the gale, was tremendous, the jerk threatening
to tear the foremast from its step, and then all was still as death
forward, the hull sinking so low behind a barrier of water, as
actually to becalm the sail. Sancho and his associate seized the
favourable moment to secure the clews, and, as the little barque
struggled upward again, the canvass filled with some such shock as is
felt at the sudden checking of a cable. From this moment the Niña
drew slowly off to sea again, though her path lay through such a scene
of turbulent water, as threatened, at each instant, to overwhelm her.
"Luis!" said a soft voice, at our hero's elbow, as the latter stood
clinging to the side of the door of the cabin appropriated to the
females—"Luis—Hayti better—Mattinao better—much bad, Luis!"
It was Ozema, who had risen from her pallet to look out upon the
appalling view of the ocean. During the mild weather of the first part
of the passage, the intercourse between Luis and the natives on board,
had been constant and cheerful. Though slightly incommoded by her
situation, Ozema had always received his visits with guileless
delight, and her progress in Spanish had been such as to astonish
even her teacher. Nor were the means of communication confined
altogether to the advance of Ozema, since Luis, in his endeavours to
instruct her, had acquired nearly as many words of her native tongue,
as he had taught her of his own. In this manner they conversed,
resorting to both dialects for terms, as necessity dictated. We shall
give a free translation of what was said, endeavouring, at the same
time, to render the dialogue characteristic and graphic.
"Poor Ozema!" returned our hero, drawing her gently to a position
where he could support her against the effects of the violent motion
of the caravel — "thou must regret Hayti, indeed, and the peaceful
security of thy groves!"
"Caonabo there, Luis."
"True, innocent girl; but even Caonabo is not as terrible as this
anger of the elements."
"No — no — no — Caonabo much bad. Break Ozema's heart. No
"Thy dread of the Carib chief, dear Ozema, hath upset thy reason,
in part. Thou hast a God, as well as we Christians, and, like us, must
put thy trust in him; he alone can now protect thee."
"Care for thee, Ozema. See that thou dost not come to harm. Look to
thy safety and welfare."
"Luis protect Ozema. So promise Mattinao—so promise Ozema—so
"Dear girl, so will I, to the extent of my means. But what can I do
against this tempest?"
"What Luis do against Caonabo?—kill him—cut Indians— make him
"This was easy to a Christian knight, who carried a good sword and
buckler, but it is impossible against a tempest. We have only one
hope, and that is to trust in the Spaniard's God."
"Spaniards great—have great God."
"There is but one God, Ozema, and he ruleth all, whether in Hayti
or in Spain. Thou rememberest what I have told thee of his love, and
of the manner of his death, that we might all be saved, and thou didst
then promise to worship him, and to be baptised when we should reach
"God! — Ozema do, what Ozema say. Love Luis's God already."
"Thou hast seen the holy cross, Ozema, and hast promised me to kiss
it, and bless it."
"Where cross? See no cross — up in heaven? — or where? Show
Ozema cross, now — Luis's cross — cross Luis love."
The young man wore the parting gift of Mercedes near his heart, and
raising a hand he withdrew the small jewel, pressed it to his own lips
with pious fervour, and then offered it to the Indian girl.
"See"—he said—"this is a cross; we Spaniards revere and bless
it. It is our pledge of happiness."
"That Luis's God?" inquired Ozema, in a little surprise.
"Not so, my poor benighted girl"—
"What benighted?" interrupted the quick-witted Haytian, eagerly,
for no term that the young man could or did apply to her, fell
unheeded on her vigilant and attentive ear.
"Benighted means those who have never heard of the cross, or of its
"Ozema no benighted now," exclaimed the other, pressing the bauble
to her bosom. "Got cross—keep cross— no benighted again, never.
Cross, Mercedes"—for, by one of those mistakes that are not
unfrequent in the commencement of all communications between those who
speak different tongues, the young Indian had caught the notion, from
many of Luis's involuntary exclamations, that "Mercedes" meant all
that was excellent.
"I would, indeed, that she of whom thou speakest had thee in her
gentle care, that she might lead thy pure soul to a just knowledge of
thy Creator! That cross cometh of Mercedes, if it be not Mercedes
herself, and thou dost well in loving it, and in blessing it. Place
the chain around thy neck, Ozema, for the precious emblem may help in
preserving thee, should the gale throw us on the coast, ere morning. That cross is a sign of undying love."
The girl understood enough of this, especially as the direction was
seconded by a little gentle aid, on the part of our hero, to comply,
and the chain was soon thrown around her neck, with the holy emblem
resting on her bosom. The change in the temperature, as well as a
sense of propriety, had induced the admiral to cause ample robes of
cotton to be furnished all the females, and Ozema's beautiful form
was now closely enveloped in one, and beneath its folds she had hidden
the jewel, which she fondly hugged to her heart, as a gift of Luis.
Not so did the young man, himself, view the matter. He had merely
meant to lend, in a moment of extreme peril, that which the
superstitious feeling of the age seriously induced him to fancy might
prove a substantial safeguard. As Ozema was by no means expert in
managing the encumbrance of a dress to which she was unaccustomed,
even while native taste had taught her to throw it around her person
gracefully, the young man had half unconsciously assisted in placing
the cross in its new position, when a violent roll of the vessel
compelled him to sustain the girl by encircling her waist with an
arm. Partly yielding to the motion of the caravel, which was
constantly jerking even the mariners from their feet, and probably as
much seduced by the tenderness of her own heart, Ozema did not rebuke
this liberty, the first our hero had ever offered, but stood, in
confiding innocence, upheld by the arm that, of all others, it was
most grateful to her feelings to believe destined to perform that
office for life. In another moment, her head rested on his bosom, and
her face was turned upward, with the eyes fastened on the countenance
of the young noble.
"Thou art less alarmed at this terrific storm, Ozema, than I could
have hoped. Apprehension for thee has made me more miserable than I
could have thought possible, and yet thou seemest not to be disturbed."
"Ozema no unhappy—no want Hayti—no want Mattinao— no want any
thing—Ozema happy now. Got cross."
"Sweet, guileless innocent, may'st thou never know any other
feelings!—confide in thy cross."
"Cross, Mercedes — Luis, Mercedes. Luis and Ozema keep cross for
It was perhaps fortunate for this high-prized happiness of the
girl, that the Niña now took a plunge that unavoidably compelled our
hero to release his hold of her person, or to drag her with him
headlong towards the place where Columbus stood, sheltering his
weatherbeaten form from a portion of the violence of the tempest. When
he recovered his feet, he perceived that the door of the cabin was
closed, and that Ozema was no longer to be seen.
"Dost thou find our female friends terrified by this appalling
scene, son Luis?" Columbus quietly demanded, for, though his own
thoughts had been much occupied by the situation of the caravel, he
had noted all that had just passed so near him. "They are stout of
heart, but even an amazon might quail at this tempest."
"They heed it not, Señor, for I think they understand it not. The
civilized man is so much their superior that both men and women appear
to have every confidence in our means of safety. I have just given
Ozema a cross, and bade her place her greatest reliance on that."
"Thou hast done well; it is now the surest protector of us all.
Keep the head of the caravel as near to the wind as may be, Sancho,
when it lulls, every inch off shore being so much gained in the way of
The usual reply was made, and then the conversation ceased; the
raging of the elements, and the fearful manner in which the Niña was
compelled to struggle literally to keep on the surface of the ocean,
affording ample matter for the reflections of all who witnessed the
In this manner passed the night. When the day broke, it opened on a
scene of wintry violence. The sun was not visible that day, the dark
vapour driving so low before the tempest, as to lessen the apparent
altitude of the vault of heaven one-half, but the ocean was an
undulating sheet of foam. High land soon became visible nearly abeam
of the caravel, and all the elder mariners immediately pronounced it
to be the rock of Lisbon. As soon as this important fact was
ascertained, the admiral wore with the head of the caravel in-shore,
and laid his course for the mouth of the Tagus. The distance was not
great, some twenty miles perhaps; but the necessity of facing the
tempest, and of making sail, on a wind, in such a storm, rendered the
situation of the caravel more critical than it had been in all her
previous trials. At that moment, the policy of the Portuguese was
forgotten, or held to be entirely a secondary consideration, a port or
shipwreck appearing to be the alternative. Every inch of their
weatherly position became of importance to the navigators, and Vicente
Yañez placed himself near the helm to watch its play with the
vigilance of experience and authority. No sail but the lowest could
be carried, and these were reefed as closely as their construction
In this manner the tempest-tossed little barque struggled forward,
now sinking so low in the troughs, that land, ocean, and all but the
frowning billows, with the clouds above their heads, were lost to
view; and now rising, as it might be, from the calm of a sombre
cavern, into the roaring, hissing, and turbulence of a tempest. These
latter moments were the most critical. When the light hull reached
the summit of a wave, falling over to windward by the yielding of the
element beneath her, it seemed as if the next billow must inevitably
overwhelm her; and yet, so vigilant was the eye of Vicente Yañez, and
so ready the hand of Sancho, that she ever escaped the calamity. To
keep the wash of the sea entirely out, was, however, impossible; and
it often swept athwart the deck, forward, like the sheets of a
cataract, that part of the vessel being completely abandoned by the
"All now depends on our canvass," said the admiral, with a sigh;
"if that stand, we are safer than when scudding, and I think God is
with us. To me it seemeth as if the wind was a little less violent
than in the night."
"Perhaps it is, Señor. I believe we gain on the place you pointed
out to me."
"It is you rocky point.
That weathered, and we are safe.
That not weathered, and we see our common grave."
"The caravel behaveth nobly, and I will still hope."
An hour later, and the land was so near that human beings were seen
moving on it. There are moments when life and death may be said to be
equally presented to the seaman's sight. On one side is destruction;
on the other security. As the vessel drew slowly in towards the shore,
not only was the thunder of the surf upon the rocks audible, but the
frightful manner in which the water was tossed upward in spray, gave
additional horrors to the view. On such occasions, it is no uncommon
thing to see jets d'eau hundreds of feet in height, and the
driving spray is often carried to a great distance inland, before the
wind. Lisbon has the whole rake of the Atlantic before it, unbroken by
island or headland; and the entire coast of Portugal is one of the
most exposed of Europe. The south-west gales, in particular, drive
across twelve hundred leagues of ocean, and the billows they send in
upon its shores, are truly appalling. Nor was the storm we are
endeavouring to describe, one of common occurrence. The season had
been tempestuous, seldom leaving the Atlantic any peace; and the
surges produced by one gale had not time to subside, ere another drove
up the water in a new direction, giving rise to that irregularity of
motion which most distresses a vessel, and which is particularly
hazardous to small ones.
"She looks up better, Don Christopher!" exclaimed Luis, as they got
within musket-shot of the desired point,—"another ten minutes, of as
favourable a slant, and we do it!"
"Thou art right, son," answered the admiral calmly. "Were any
calamity to throw us ashore on yonder rocks, two planks of the Niña
would not hold together five minutes. Ease her — good Vicente Yañez
— ease her, quite a point, and let her go through the water. All
depends on the canvass, and we can spare that point. She moves,
Luis!—Regard the land, and thou wilt now see our motion."
"True, Señor, but the caravel is drawing frightfully near the
"Fear not; a bold course is often the safest. It is a deep shore,
and we need but little water."
No one now spoke. The caravel was dashing in towards the point with
appalling speed, and every minute brought her perceptibly nearer to
the cauldron of water that was foaming around it. Without absolutely
entering within this vortex, the Niña flew along its edge, and, in
five minutes more, she had a direct course up the Tagus open before
her. The mainsail was now taken in, and the mariners stood fearlessly
on, certain of a haven, and security.
Thus, virtually, ended the greatest marine exploit the world has
ever witnessed. It is true that a run round to Palos was subsequently
made, but it was insignificant in distance, and not fruitful in
incidents. Columbus had effected his vast purpose, and his success was
no longer a secret. His reception in Portugal is known, as well as all
the leading occurrences that took place at Lisbon. He anchored in the
Tagus on the 4th of March, and left it again on the 13th. On the
morning of the 14th, the Niña was off Cape St. Vincent, when she
hauled in to the eastward, with a light air from the north. At sunrise
on the 15th she was again off the bar of Saltes, after an absence of
only two hundred and twenty-four days.
"One evening-tide, as with her crones she sate,
Making sweet solace of some scandall new,
A boisterous noise came thondring at the gate,
And soon a sturdie boy approach'd in view;
With gold far glitteraund were his vestments blue,
And pye-shaped hat, and of the silver sheen
An huge broad buckle glaunst in either shoe,
And round his necke an Indian kerchiefe clean,
And in his hand a switch;—a jolly wight I ween."
Notwithstanding the noble conceptions that lay at the bottom of the
voyage we have just related, the perserverance and self-devotion that
were necessary to its accomplishment, and the magnificence of the
consequences that were dependent on its success, it attracted very
little attention, amid the stirring incidents and active selfishness
of the age, until the result was known. Only a month before the
arrangement was made with Columbus, the memorable edict of the two
sovereigns, for the expulsion of the Jews, had been signed; and this
uprooting of so large a portion of the Spanish nation was, of itself,
an event likely to draw off the eyes of the people from an enterprise
deemed as doubtful, and which was sustained by means so insignificant,
as that of the great navigator. The close of the month of July had
been set as the latest period for the departure of these persecuted
religionists; and thus, at the very time, almost on the very day, when
Columbus sailed from Palos, was the attention of the nation directed
towards what might be termed a great national calamity. The departure
was like the setting forth from Egypt, the highways being thronged
with the moving masses, many of which were wandering they knew not
The king and queen had left Granada in May, and after remaining two
months in Castile, they passed into Aragon, about the commencement of
August, in which kingdom they happened to be when the expedition
sailed. Here they remained throughout the rest of the season, settling
affairs of importance, and, quite probably, disposed to avoid the
spectacle of the misery their Jewish edict had inflicted, Castile
having contained much the greater portion of that class of their
subjects. In October, a visit was paid to the turbulent Catalans; the
court passing the entire winter in Barcelona. Nor did momentous events
cease to occupy them while in this part of their territories. On the
7th of December an attempt was made on the life of Ferdinand; the
assassin inflicting a severe, though not a fatal, wound, by a blow on
the neck. During the critical weeks in which the life of the king was
deemed to be in danger, Isabella watched at his bed-side, with the
untiring affection of a devoted wife; and her thoughts dwelt more on
her affections than on any worldly aggrandisement. Then followed the
investigations into the motives of the criminal; conspiracies ever
being distrusted in such cases, although history would probably show
that much the greater part of these wicked attempts on the lives of
sovereigns, are more the results of individual fanaticism, than of any
combined plans to destroy.
Isabella, whose gentle spirit grieved over the misery her religious
submission had induced her to inflict on the Jews, was spared the
additional sorrow of mourning for a husband, taken away by means so
violent. Ferdinand gradually recovered. All these occurrences,
together with the general cares of the state, had served to divide the
thoughts of even the queen from the voyage; while the politic
Ferdinand, in his mind, had long since set down the gold expended in
the outfit as so much money lost.
The balmy spring of the south opened as usual, and the fertile
province of Catalonia had already become delightful with the fresh
verdure of the close of March. The king had, for some weeks, resumed
his usual occupations, and Isabella, relieved from her conjugal fears,
had again fallen into the quiet current of her duties and her usual
acts of beneficence. Indisposed to the gorgeousness of her station by
the recent events, and ever pining for the indulgence of the domestic
affections, this estimable woman, notwithstanding the strong natural
disposition she had always felt for that sort of life, had lived more
among her children and confidants, of late, than had been even her
wont. Her earliest friend, the Marchioness of Moya, as a matter of
course, was ever near her person, and Mercedes passed most of her
time either in the immediate presence of her royal mistress, or in
that of her children.
There had been a small reception one evening, near the close of the
month; and Isabella, glad to escape from such scenes, had withdrawn to
her private apartments, to indulge in conversation in the circle she
so much loved. It was near the hour of midnight, the king being at
work, as usual, in an adjoining closet. There were present, besides
the members of the royal family and Doña Beatriz with her lovely
niece, the Archbishop of Granada, Luis de St. Angel, and Alonzo de
Quintanilla, the two last of whom had been summoned by the prelate, to
discuss some question of clerical finance before their illustrious
mistress. All business, however, was over, and Isabella was rendering
the circle agreeable with the condescension of a princess, and the
gentle grace of a woman.
"Are there fresh tidings from the unfortunate and deluded Hebrews,
Lord Archbishop?" demanded Isabella, whose kind feelings ever led her
to regret the severity which religious dependence on her confessors
had induced her to sanction. "Our prayers should surely attend them,
notwithstanding our policy and duty have demanded their expulsion."
"Señora," answered Fernando de Talavera, "they are doubtless
serving Mammon among the Moors and Turks, as they served him in Spain.
Let not your Highness' gracious mind be disturbed on account of these
descendants of the enemies and crucifiers of Christ, who, if they
suffer at all, do but suffer justly, for the unutterable sin of their
forefathers. Let us rather inquire, my gracious mistress, of the
Señores St. Angel and Quintanilla here, what hath become of their
favourite Colon, the Genoese; and when they look for his return,
dragging the Great Khan, a captive, by the beard!"
"We know nought of him, holy prelate," put in de St. Angel briskly,
"since his departure from the Canaries."
"The Canaries!" interrupted the queen, in a little surprise. "Hath
aught been received, that cometh from that quarter?"
"By report only, Señora. Letters have not reached any in Spain,
that I can learn; but there is a rumour from Portugal, that the
admiral touched at Gomera and the Grand Canary, where it would seem he
had his difficulties, and whence he shortly after departed, holding a
western course; since which time no tidings have been received from
either of the caravels."
"By which fact, Lord Archbishop," added Quintanilla, "we can
perceive that trifles are not likely to turn the adventurers back."
"I 'll warrant ye, Señores, that a Genoese adventurer who holdeth
their Highnesses' commission as an admiral, will be in no unseemly
haste to get rid of the dignity!" rejoined the prelate, laughing
without much deference to his mistress's concessions in Columbus's
favour. "One does not see rank, authority, and emolument, carelessly
thrown aside, when they may be retained by keeping aloof from the
power whence they spring."
"Thou art unjust to the Genoese, holy sir, and judgest him
harshly," observed the queen. "Truly, I did not know of these tidings
from the Canaries, and rejoice to hear that Colon hath got thus far in
safety. Hath not the past been esteemed a most boisterous winter among
mariners, Señor de St. Angel?"
"So much so, your Highness, that I have heard the seamen here, in
Barcelona, swear that, within the memory of man, there hath not been
another like it. Should ill luck wait upon Colon, I trust this
circumstance may be remembered as his excuse; though I doubt if he be
very near any of our tempests and storms."
"Not he!" exclaimed the bishop, triumphantly. "It will be seen that
he hath been safely harboured in some river of Africa; and we shall
have some question yet to settle about him with Dom Joao of Portugal."
"Here is the king to give us his opinion," interposed Isabella. "It
is long since I have heard him mention the name of Colon. Have you
entirely forgotten our Genoese admiral, Don Fernando?"
"Before I am questioned on subjects so remote," returned the king,
smiling, "let me inquire into matters nearer home. How long is it that
your Highness holdeth court, and giveth receptions, past the hour of
"Call you this a court, Señor? Here are but our own dear children,
Beatriz and her niece, with the good archbishop, and those two
faithful servants of your own."
"True; but you overlook the ante-chambers, and those who await your
"None can await without at this unusual hour; surely you jest, my
"Then your own page, Diego de Ballesteros, hath reported falsely.
Unwilling to disturb your privacy, at this unreasonable hour, he hath
come to me, saying that one of strange conduct and guise is in the
palace, insisting on an interview with the queen, let it be late or
early. The accounts of this man's deportment are so singular, that I
have ordered him to be admitted, and have come myself to witness the
interview. The page telleth me that he swears all hours are alike, and
that night and day are equally made for our uses."
"Dearest Don Fernando, there may be treason in this!"
"Fear not, Isabella; assassins are not so bold, and the trusty
rapiers of these gentlemen will prove sufficient for our
protection—Hist! there are footsteps, and we must appear calm, even
though we apprehend a tumult."
The door opened, and Sancho Mundo stood in the royal presence. The
air and appearance of so singular a being excited both astonishment
and amusement, and every eye was fastened on him in wonder; and this
so much the more, because he had decked his person with sundry
ornaments from the imaginary Indies, among which were one or two
bands of gold. Mercedes alone detected his profession by his air and
attire, and she rose involuntarily, clasping her hands with energy,
and suffering a slight exclamation to escape her. The queen perceived
this little pantomime, and it at once gave a right direction to her
"I am Isabella, the queen," she said, rising, without any further
suspicion of danger; "and thou art a messenger from Colon, the
Sancho, who had found great difficulty in gaining admittance, now
that his end was obtained, took matters with his native coolness. His
first act was to fall on his knees, as he had been particularly
enjoined by Columbus to do. He had caught the habit of using the weed
of Hayti and Cuba, from the natives, and was, in fact, the first
seaman who ever chewed tobacco. The practice had already got to be
confirmed with him, and before he answered, or as soon as he had
taken this, for him, novel position, he saw fit to fill a corner of
his mouth with the attractive plant. Then, giving his wardrobe a
shake, for all the decent clothes he owned were on his person, he
disposed himself to make a suitable reply.
"Señora—Doña—your Highness," he answered, "any one might have
seen that at a glance. I am Sancho Mundo, of the Ship-Yard Gate; one
of your Highness' Excellency's most faithful subjects and mariners,
being a native and resident of Moguer."
"Thou comest from Colon, I say?"
"Señora, I do; many thanks to your Royal Grace for the information.
Don Christopher hath sent me across the country from Lisbon, seeing
that the wily Portuguese would be less likely to distrust a simple
mariner, like myself, than one of your every-day, booted couriers. 'T
is a weary road, and there is not a mule between the stables of Lisbon
and the palace of Barcelona, fit for a Christian to bestride."
"Then, hast thou letters? One like thee can scarcely bear aught
"Therein, your Grace's Highness, Doña Reyña, is mistaken; though I
am far from bearing half the number of doblas I had at starting. Mass!
the innkeepers took me for a grandee, by the manner in which they
"Give the man gold, good Alonzo—he is one that liketh his reward
ere he will speak."
Sancho coolly counted the pieces that were put into his hand, and,
finding them greatly to exceed his hopes, he had no longer any motive
"Speak fellow!" cried the king. "Thou triflest, where thou owest
thy duty and obedience."
The sharp, quick voice of Ferdinand had much more effect on the ear
of Sancho, than the gentler tones of Isabella, notwithstanding even
his rude nature had been impressed with the matronly beauty and grace
of the latter.
"If your Highness would condescend to let me know what you wish to
hear, I will speak in all gladness."
"Where is Colon?" demanded the queen.
"At Lisbon, lately, Señora, though I think now at Palos de Moguer,
or in that neighbourhood."
"Whither hath he been?"
"To Cipango, and the territories of the Great Khan; forty days'
sail from Gomera, and a country of marvellous beauty and excellence!"
"Thou canst not—darest not trifle with me! Can we put credit in
"If your Highness only knew Sancho Mundo, you would not feel this
doubt. I tell you, Señora, and all these noble cavaliers and dames,
that Don Christopher Colon hath discovered the other side of the
earth, which we now know to be round, by having circled it; and that
he hath found out that the north star journeyeth about in the
heavens, like a gossip spreading her news; and that he hath taken
possession of islands as large as Spain, in which gold groweth, and
where the holy church may employ itself in making christians to the
end of time."
"The letter—Sancho—give me the letter. Colon would scarce send
thee as a verbal expositor."
The fellow now undid sundry coverings of cloth and paper, until he
reached the missive of Columbus, when, without rising from his knees,
he held it out towards the queen, giving her the trouble to move
forward several paces to receive it. So unexpected and astounding were
the tidings, and so novel the whole scene, that no one interfered,
leaving Isabella to be the sole actor, as she was, virtually, the
sole speaker. Sancho having thus successfully acquitted himself of a
task that had been expressly confided to him on account of his
character and appearance, which, it was thought, would prove his
security from arrest and plunder, settled down quietly on his heels,
for he had been directed not to rise until ordered; and drawing forth
the gold he had received, he began coolly to count it anew. So
absorbing was the attention all gave to the queen, that no one heeded
the mariner or his movements. Isabella opened the letter, which her
looks devoured, as they followed line after line. As was usual with
Columbus, the missive was long, and it required many minutes to read
it. All this time not an individual moved, every eye being fastened on
the speaking countenance of the queen. There, were seen the
heightening flush of pleasure and surprise, the glow of delight and
wonder, and the look of holy rapture. When the letter was ended,
Isabella turned her eyes upward to heaven, clasped her hands with
energy, and exclaimed—
"Not unto us, O Lord, but to Thee, be all the honour of this
wonderful discovery, all the benefits of this great proof of thy
goodness and power!"
Thus saying, she sunk into a seat and dissolved in tears. Ferdinand
uttered a slight ejaculation at the words of his royal consort; and
then he gently took the letter from her unresisting hand, and read it
with great deliberation and care. It was not often that the wary King
of Aragon was as much affected, in appearance at least, as on this
occasion. The expression of his face, at first, was that of wonder;
eagerness, not to say avidity, followed; and when he had finished
reading, his grave countenance was unequivocally illuminated by
exultation and joy.
"Good Luis de St. Angel!" he cried, "and thou, honest Alonzo de
Quintanilla, these must be grateful tidings to you both. Even thou,
holy prelate, wilt rejoice that the church is like to have
acquisitions so glorious—albeit, no favourer of the Genoese of old.
Far more than all our expectations are realized, for Colon hath truly
discovered the Indies; increasing our dominions, and otherwise
advancing our authority in a most unheard-of manner."
It was unusual to see Don Ferdinand so excited, and he seemed
conscious himself, that he was making an extraordinary exhibition, for
he immediately advanced to the queen, and taking her hand, he led her
towards his own cabinet. In passing out of the saloon, he indicated to
the three nobles that they might follow to the council. The king made
this sudden movement more from habitual wariness, than any settled
object, his mind being disturbed in a way to which he was
unaccustomed, while caution formed a part of his religion, as well as
of his policy. It is not surprising, therefore, that when he and the
party he invited to follow him had left the room, there remained only
the princesses, the Marchioness of Moya, and Mercedes. No sooner had
the king and queen disappeared, than the royal children retired to
their own apartments, leaving our heroine, her guardian, and Sancho,
the sole occupants of the saloon. The latter still remained on his
knees, scarce heeding what had passed, so intensely was he occupied
with his own situation, and his own particular sources of satisfaction.
"Thou canst rise, friend," observed Doña Beatriz— "their
Highnesses are no longer present."
At this intelligence Sancho quitted his humble posture, brushed his
knees with some care, and looked about him with the composure that he
was wont to exhibit in studying the heavens at sea.
"Thou wert of Colon's company, friend, by the manner in which thou
hast spoken, and the circumstance that the admiral hath employed thee
as his courier?"
"You may well believe that, Señora, your Excellency, for most of my
time was passed at the helm, which was within three fathoms of the
very spot that Don Christopher and the Señor de Muños loved so well,
that they never quitted it, except to sleep, and not always then."
"Hadst thou a Señor de Muños of thy party?" resumed the
Marchioness, making a sign to her ward to control her feelings.
"That had we Señora, and a Señor Gutierrez, and a certain Don
Somebody Else, and they all three did not occupy more room than one
common man. Prithee, honourable and agreeable Señora, is there one
Doña Beatriz de Cabrera, the Marchioness of Moya, a lady of the
illustrious house of Bobadilla, anywhere about the court of our
"I am she, and thou hast a message for me, from this very Señor de
Muños, of whom thou hast spoken."
"I no longer wonder that there are great lords with their beautiful
ladies, and poor sailors with wives, that no one envies! Scarce can I
open my mouth, but it is known what I wish to say, which is knowledge
to make one party great, and the other party little! Mass!—Don
Christopher, himself, will need all his wit, if he journeyeth as far
"Tell us of this Pedro de Muños; for thy message is to me."
"Then, Señora, I will tell you of your own brave nephew, the Conde
de Llera, who goeth by two other names in the caravel, one of which is
supposed to be a sham, while the other is still the greatest deception
of the two."
"Is it then known who my nephew really is? Are many persons
acquainted with his secret?"
"Certainly, Señora; it is known, firstly, to himself; secondly, to
Don Christopher; thirdly, to me; fourthly, to Master Alonzo Pinzon, if
he be still in the flesh, as most probably he is not. Then it is known
to your ladyship; and this beautiful Señorita must have some
suspicions of the matter."
"Enough—I see the secret is not public; though, how one of thy
class came to be of it, I cannot explain. Tell me of my nephew:—did
he, too, write? if so, let me, at once, peruse his letter."
"Señora, my departure took Don Luis by surprise, and he had no time
to write. The admiral had given the princes and princesses, that we
brought from Española, in charge to the Conde, and he had too much to
do to be scribbling letters, else would he have written sheets to an
aunt as respectable as yourself."
"Princes and princesses!—What mean you, friend, by such
"Only that we have brought several of these great personages to
Spain, to pay their respects to their Highnesses. We deal with none of
the common fry, Señora, but with the loftiest princes, and the most
beautiful princesses of the east."
"And dost thou really mean that persons of this high rank have
returned with the admiral?"
"Out of all question, lady, and one of a beauty so rare, that the
fairest dames of Castile need look to it, if they wish not to be
outdone. She, in particular, is Don Luis's friend and favourite."
"Of whom speakest thou?" demanded Doña Beatriz, in the lofty manner
in which she was wont to insist on being answered directly. "What is
the name of this princess, and whence doth she come?"
"Her name, your excellency, is Doña Ozema de Hayti, of a part of
which country her brother, Don Mattinao, is cacique or king, Señora
Ozema being the heiress, or next of kin. Don Luis and your humble
servant paid that court a visit—"
"Thy tale is most improbable, fellow — art thou one whom Don Luis
would be likely to select as a companion on such an occasion?"
"Look at it as you will, Señora, it is as true as that this is the
court of Don Ferdinand and Doña Isabella. You must know, illustrious
Marchioness, that the young count is a little given to roving about
among us sailors, and on one occasion, a certain Sancho Mundo, of
Moguer, happened to be of the same voyage; and thus we became known
to each other. I kept the noble's secret, and he got to be Sancho's
friend. When Don Luis went to pay a visit to Don Mattinao, the
cacique, which word meaneth `your Highness,' in the eastern tongue,
Sancho must go with him, and Sancho went. When King Caonabo came down
from the mountains to carry off the princess Doña Ozema, for a wife,
and the princess was unwilling to go, why there remained nothing to be
done, but for the Conde de Llera and his friend Sancho of the
Ship-Yard Gate, to fight the whole army in her defence, which we did,
gaining as great a victory as Don Fernando, our sovereign master, ever
gained over the Moors."
"Carrying off the princess yourselves, as would seem! Friend
Sancho, of the Ship-Yard Gate, if that be thy appellation, this tale
of thine is ingenious, but it lacketh probability. Were I to deal
justly by thee, honest Sancho, it would be to order thee the stripes
thou meritest so well, as a reward for this trifling."
"The man speaketh as he hath been taught," observed Mercedes, in a
low, unsteady voice; "I fear, Señora, there is too much truth in his
"You need fear nothing, beautiful Señorita," put in Sancho,
altogether unmoved at the menace implied by the words of the
Marchioness, "since the battle hath been fought, the victory hath been
gained, and both the heroes escaped uninjured. This illustrious
Señora, to whom I can forgive any thing, as the aunt of the best
friend I have on earth— any thing spoken I mean—will
remember that the Haytians known nothing of arquebuses, by means of
which we defeated Caonabo, and also, that many is the column of Moors
that Don Luis hath broken singly, and by means of his own good lance."
"Ay, fellow," answered Doña Beatriz, "but that hath been in the
saddle, behind plaits of steel, and with a weapon that hath overturned
even Alonzo de Ojedo!"
"Hast thou truly brought away with thee the princess thou hast
named?" asked Mercedes earnestly.
"I swear to it, Señora and Señorita, illustrious ladies both, by
the holy mass, and all the saints in the calendar! A princess,
moreover, surpassing in beauty the daughters of our own blessed queen,
if the fair ladies who passed out of this room, even now, are they, as
"Out upon thee, knave!" cried the indignant Beatriz— "I will no
more of this, and marvel that my nephew should have employed one of so
loose a tongue, on any of his errands. Go to, and learn discretion ere
the morning, or the favour of even thy admiral will not save thy
bones. Mercedes, we will seek our rest—the hour is late."
Sancho was immediately left alone, and in a minute a page appeared
to show him to the place where he was to pass the night. The old
mariner had grumbled a little to himself, concerning the spirit of Don
Luis's aunt, counted anew his gold, and was about to take possession
of his pallet, when the same page re-appeared to summon him to
another interview. Sancho, who knew little distinction between night
and day, made no objections, especially when he was told that his
presence was required by the lovely Señorita, whose gentle, tremulous
voice had so much interested him, in the late interview. Mercedes
received her rude guest, in a small saloon of her own, after having
parted from her guardian for the night. As he entered, her face was
flushed, her eye bright, and her whole demeanour, to one more expert
in detecting female emotions, would have betrayed intense anxiety.
"Thou hast had a long and weary journey, Sancho," said our heroine,
when alone with the seaman, "and, I pray thee accept this gold, as a
small proof of the interest with which I have heard the great tidings
of which thou hast been the bearer."
"Señorita!" exclaimed Sancho, affecting indifference to the doblas
that fell into his hand—"I hope you do not think me mercenary? the
honour of being the messenger, and of being admitted to converse with
such illustrious ladies, more than pays me for any thing I could do."
"Still, thou may'st need money for thy wants, and wilt not refuse
that which a lady offereth."
"On that ground, I would accept it, Doña Señorita, even were it
twice as much."
So saying, Sancho placed the money, with a suitable resignation, by
the side of that which he had previously received by order of the
queen. Mercedes now found herself in the situation that they who task
their powers too much, are often fated to endure; in other words, now
she had at command the means of satisfying her own doubts, she
hesitated about using them.
"Sancho," Mercedes at length commenced, "thou hast been with the
Señor Colon, throughout this great and extraordinary voyage, and must
know much that it will be curious for us, who have lived quietly in
Spain, to hear. Is all thou hast said about the princes and princesses
"As true, Señorita, as such things need be for a history.
Mass!—Any one who hath been in a battle, or seen any other great
adventure, and then cometh to hear it read of, afterwards, will soon
learn to understand the difference between the thing itself, and the
history that may be given of it. Now, I was—"
"Never mind thy other adventures, good Sancho; tell me only of
this. Are there really a Prince Mattinao, and a Princess Ozema his
sister, and have both accompanied the admiral to Spain?"
"I said not that, beautiful Señorita, for Don Mattinao remained
behind to rule his people. It is only his handsome sister, who hath
followed Don Christopher and Don Luis to Palos."
"Followed!—Do the admiral and the Conde de Llera possess such
influence over royal ladies, as to induce them to abandon their native
country and to follow them to a foreign land!"
"Ay, Señorita, that might seem out of rule in Castile, or Portugal,
or even in France. But Hayti is not yet a Christian country, and a
princess there may not be more than a noble lady in Castile, and, in
the way of wardrobe, perhaps not even as much. Still, a princess is a
princess, and a handsome princess is a handsome princess. Doña Ozema,
here, is a wonderful creature, and beginneth already to prattle your
pure Castilian, an' she had been brought up at Toledo, or Burgos. But
Don Luis is a most encouraging master, and no doubt made great
head-way, during the time he was living in her palace, as it might be
alone with her, before that incarnate devil Don Caonabo came down
with his followers to seize the lady."
"Is this lady a Christian princess, Sancho?"
"Heaven bless your own pure soul, Doña Señorita, she can boast of
but little in that way; still, she hath made something of a beginning,
as I see she now weareth a cross— one small in size, it is true, but
precious in material as, indeed, it ought to be, seeing that it is a
present from one as noble and rich as the Count of Llera."
"A cross, say'st thou, Sancho!" interrupted Mercedes, almost
gasping for breath, yet so far subduing her feelings as to prevent the
old seaman from detecting them; "hath Don Luis succeeded in inducing
her to accept of a cross?"
"That hath he, Señorita—one of precious stones, that he once wore
at his own neck."
"Know'st thou the stones? — was it of turquoise, embellished with
the finest gold?"
"For the gold I can answer, lady, though my learning hath never
reached as high as the precious stones. The heavens of Hayti, however,
are not bluer than the stones of that cross. Doña Ozema calls it
`Mercedes,' by which I understand that she looketh for the mercies of
the crucifixion to help her benighted soul."
"Is this cross, then, held so common, that it hath gotten to be the
subject of discourse even for men of thy class?"
"Hearkee, Señorita; a man like me is more valued, on board a
caravel, in a tossing sea, than he is like to be here, in Barcelona,
on solid ground. We went to Cipango to set up crosses, and to make
Christians; so that all hath been in character. As for the lady Ozema,
she taketh more notice of me than of another, as I was in the battle
that rescued her from Caonabo, and so she showed me the cross the day
we anchored in the Tagus, or just before the admiral ordered me to
bring his letter to her Highness. Then it was that she kissed the
cross, and held it to her heart, and said it was `Mercedes.' "
"This is most strange, Sancho! Hath this princess attendants,
befitting her rank and dignity?"
"You forget, Señorita, that the Niña is but a small craft, as her
name signifieth, and there would be no room for a large train of lords
and ladies. Don Christopher and Don Luis are honourable enough to
attend on any princess; and for the rest, the Doña Ozema must wait
until our gracious queen can command her a retinue befitting her
birth. Besides, my lady, these Haytian dames are simpler than our
Spanish nobles, half of them thinking clothes of no great use, in
that mild climate."
Mercedes looked offended, and incredulous; but her curiosity and
interest were too active, to permit her to send the man away without
"And Don Luis de Bobadilla was ever with the admiral?" she said,
"ever ready to support him, and foremost in all hazards?"
"Señorita, you describe the count as faithfully as if you had been
present from first to last. Had you but seen him dealing out his blows
upon Caonabo's followers, and the manner in which he kept them all at
bay, with the Doña Ozema near him, behind the rocks, it would have
drawn tears of admiration from your own lovely eyes."
"The Doña Ozema near him — behind rocks — and assailants held
"Si, Señora; you repeat it all like a book. It was much as you say,
though the Lady Ozema did not content herself with being behind the
rocks, for, when the arrows came thickest, she rushed before the
count, compelling the enemy to withhold, lest they should slay the
very prize they were battling for; thereby saving the life of her
"Saving his life! — the life of Luis — of Don Luis de Bobadilla
— an Indian princess!"
"It is just as you say, and a most noble girl she is, asking pardon
for speaking so light of one of her high rank. Time and again, since
that day, hath the young count told me, that the arrows came in such
clouds, that his honour might have been tarnished by a retreat, or his
life been lost, but for the timely resolution of the Doña Ozema. She
is a rare creature, Señorita, and you will love her as a sister, when
you come to see and know her."
"Sancho," said our heroine, blushing like the dawn, "thou said'st
that the Conde de Llera bade thee speak of him to his aunt; did he
mention no one else?"
"No one, Señorita."
"Art certain, Sancho? Bethink thee well—did he mention no other
name to thee?"
"Not that I can swear. It is true, that either he, or old Diego,
the helmsman, spoke of one Clara that keepeth an hosteria, here
in Barcelona, as a place famous for its wine; but I think it more
likely to have been Diego than the count, as one thinketh much of
these matters, and the other would not be apt to know aught of Clara."
"Thou canst retire, Sancho," said Mercedes, in a faint voice. "We
will say more to thee in the morning."
Sancho was not sorry to be dismissed, and he gladly returned to his
pallet, little dreaming of the mischief he had done by the mixture of
truth and exaggeration that he had been recounting.
"Mac-Homer, too, in prose or song,
By the state-papers of Buffon,
To deep researches led;
A Gallo-Celtic scheme may botch,
To prove the Ourang race were Scotch,
Who from the Highlands fled."
Lord John Townshend.
The intelligence of the return of Columbus, and of the important
discoveries he had made, spread through Europe like wild-fire. It soon
got to be, in the general estimation, the great event of the age. For
several years afterwards, or until the discovery of the Pacific by
Balboa, it was believed that the Indies had been reached by the
western passage; and of course the problem of the earth's spherical
shape was held to be solved by actual experiment. The transactions of
the voyage, the wonders seen, the fertility of the soil of the east,
the softness of its climate, its treasures in gold, spices, and
pearls, and the curious things that the admiral had brought as proofs
of his success, were all the themes of the hour. Men never wearied in
discussing the subjects. For many centuries had the Spaniards been
endeavouring to expel the Moors from the Peninsula; but, as that
much-desired event had been the result of time and a protracted
struggle, even its complete success seemed tame and insignificant
compared with the sudden brilliancy that shone around the western
discoveries. In a word, the pious rejoiced in the hope of spreading
the gospel; the avaricious feasted their imaginations on untold hoards
of gold; the politic calculated the increase of the power of Spain;
the scientific exulted in the triumph of mind over prejudice and
ignorance, while they hoped for still greater accessions of knowledge;
and the enemies of Spain wondered, and deferred, even while they
The first few days that succeeded the arrival of Columbus's
courier, were days of delight and curiosity. Answers were sent
soliciting his early presence, high honours were proffered to him, and
his name filled all mouths, as his glory was in the heart of every
true Spaniard. Orders were issued to make the necessary outfits for a
new voyage, and little was talked of but the discovery and its
consequences. In this manner passed a month, when the admiral arrived
at Barcelona, attended by most of the Indians he had brought with him
from the islands. His honours were of the noblest kind, the sovereigns
receiving him on a throne placed in a public hall, rising at his
approach, and insisting on his being seated himself, a distinction of
the highest nature, and usually granted only to princes of royal
blood. Here the admiral related the history of his voyage, exhibited
the curiosities he had brought with him, and dwelt on his hopes of
future benefits. When the tale was told, all present knelt, and Te
Deum was chanted by the usual choir of the court; even Ferdinand's
stern nature dissolving into tears of grateful joy, at this
unlooked-for and magnificent behest of heaven.
For a long time, Columbus was the mark of every eye; nor did his
honours and consideration cease, until he left Spain, in command of
the second expedition to the east, as the voyage was then termed.
A few days previously to the arrival of the admiral at court, Don
Luis de Bobadilla suddenly appeared in Barcelona. On ordinary
occasions, the movements of one of the rank and peculiarities of the
young grandee would have afforded a topic for the courtiers, that
would not soon have been exhausted, but the all-engrossing theme of
the great voyage afforded him a screen. His presence, however, could
not escape notice; and it was whispered, with the usual smiles and
shrugs, that he had entered the port in a caravel, coming from the
Levant; and it was one of the received pleasantries of the hour to
say, in an under tone, that the young Conde de Llera had also made the eastern voyage. All this gave our hero little concern, and he was
soon pursuing his ordinary life, when near the persons of the
sovereigns. The day that Columbus was received in state, he was
present in the hall, attired in the richest vestments, and no noble of
Spain did more credit to his lineage, or his condition, than Don Luis,
by his mien and carriage. It was remarked that Isabella smiled on him,
during the pageant; but the head of more than one wary observer was
shaken, as its owner remarked how grave the queen's favourite
appeared, for an occasion so joyous; a fact that was attributed to the
unworthy pursuits of her truant nephew. No one, that day, gazed at
Luis with more delight than Sancho, who lingered at Barcelona, to
share in the honours of his chief, and who, in virtue of his services,
was permitted to take his place among the courtiers themselves. Not a
little admiration was excited by the manner in which he used the novel
weed, called tobacco; and some fifteen or twenty of his neighbours
were nauseated by their efforts to emulate his indulgence and
satisfaction. One of his exploits was of a character so unusual, and
so well illustrates the feeling of the hour, that it may be well to
record if in detail.
The reception was over, and Sancho was quitting the hall with the
rest of the crowd, when he was accosted by a man apparently of forty,
well attired, and of agreeable manner, who desired the honour of his
presence at a slight entertainment, of which several had been prepared
for the admiral and his friends. Sancho, nothing loth, the delights
of distinction being yet so novel, cheerfully complied, and he was
quickly led to a room of the palace, where he found a party of some
twenty young nobles assembled to do him honour; for happy was he that
day in Barcelona who could get even one of the meanest of Columbus's
followers to accept of his homage. No sooner did the two enter the
room, than the young Castilian lords crowded around them, covering
Sancho with protestations of admiration, and addressing eager
questions, a dozen at a time, to his companion, whom they styled
"Señor Pedro" — "Señor Martir," and occasionally "Señor Pedro
Martir." It is scarcely necessary to add, that this person was the
historian who has become known to us of these latter days as "Peter
Martyr," an Italian, to whose care and instruction Isabella had
entrusted most of the young nobles of the court. The present interview
had been got up to indulge the natural curiosity of the youthful
lords, and Sancho had been chosen for the occasion, on the principle
that when the best is denied us, we must be content to accept
information of an inferior quality.
"Congratulate me, Señores," cried Peter Martyr, as soon as he could
find an opportunity to speak, "since my success surpasseth our own
hopes. As for the Liguirian, himself, and all of high condition about
him, they are in the hands of the most illustrious of Spain, for this
day; but here is a most worthy pilot, no doubt the second in authority
on board one of the caravels, who consenteth to do us honour, and to
partake of our homely cheer. I drew him from a crowd of applicants,
and have not yet had an opportunity to enquire his name, which he is
about to give us of his own accord."
Sancho never wanted for self-possession, and had far too much
mother-wit to be either clownish or offensively vulgar, though the
reader is not now to be told that he was neither qualified to be an
academician, nor had the most profound notions of natural philosophy.
He assumed an air of suitable dignity, therefore, and, somewhat
practised in his new vocation by the thousand interrogatories he had
answered in the last month, he disposed himself to do credit to the
information of a man who had visited the Indies.
"I am called Sancho Mundo, Señores, at your service,— sometimes
Sancho of the Ship-Yard-Gate, though I would prefer now to be called
Sancho of the Indies, unless, indeed, it should suit his Excellency
Don Christopher to take that appellation—his claim being somewhat
better than mine."
Here several protested that his claims were of the highest order;
and then followed sundry introductions to Sancho of the
Ship-Yard-Gate, of several young men of the first families in Castile;
for, though the Spaniards have not the same mania for this species of
politeness as the Americans, the occasion was one in which native
feeling got the ascendency of conventional reserve. After this
ceremony, and the Mendozas, Guzmans, Cerdas, and Toledos, present,
felt honoured in knowing this humble seaman, the whole party repaired
to the banqueting-room, where a table was spread that did credit to
the cooks of Barcelona. During the repast, although the curiosity of
the young men made some inroads on their breeding in this particular,
no question could induce Sancho to break in upon the duty of the
moment, for which he entertained a sort of religious veneration.
Once, when pushed a little more closely than common, he laid down his
knife and fork, and made the following solemn reply:
"Señores," he said, "I look upon food as a gift from God to man,
and hold it to be irreverent to converse much, when the bounties of
the table invite us to do homage to this great dispenser. Don
Christopher is of this way of thinking, I know, and all his followers
imitate their beloved and venerated chief. As soon as I am ready to
converse, Señores Don Hidalgos, you shall be told of it, and then God
help the ignorant and silly!"
After this admonition, there remained nothing to be said until
Sancho's appetite was satisfied, when he drew a little back from the
table, and announced his readiness to proceed.
"I profess to very little learning, Señor Pedro Martir," he said;
"but what I have seen I have seen, and that which is known, is as well
known by a mariner, as by a doctor of Salamanca. Ask your questions,
then, o' heaven's sake, and expect such answers as a poor but honest
man can give."
The learned Peter Martyr was fain to make the best of his subject;
for at that moment, any information that came from what might be
termed first hands, was greedily received; he proceeded, therefore, to
his inquiries as simply and as directly as he had been invited to do
"Well, Señor," commenced the man of learning, "we are willing to
obtain knowledge on any terms. Prithee, tell us, at once, which of all
the wonderful things that you witnessed on this voyage, hath made the
deepest impression on your mind, and striketh you as the most
"I know nothing to compare with the whiffling of the north star,"
said Sancho, promptly. "That star hath always been esteemed among us
seamen, as being immovable as the cathedral of Seville; but, in this
voyage, it hath been seen to change its place, with the inconstancy of
"That is indeed miraculous!" exclaimed Peter Martyr, who scarcely
knew how to take the intelligence; "perhaps there is some mistake,
Master Sancho, and you are not accustomed to sidereal investigations."
"Ask Don Christopher; when the phernomerthon, as the admiral called
it, was first observed, we talked the matter over together, and came
to the conclusion, that nothing in this world was as permanent as it
seemed to be. Depend on it, Señor Don Pedro, the north star flits
about like a weathercock."
"I shall inquire into this of the illustrious admiral; but, next to
this star, Master Sancho, what deem you most worthy of observation? I
speak now of ordinary things, leaving science to future discussion."
This was too grave a question to be lightly answered, and while
Sancho was cogitating the matter, the door opened and Luis de
Bobadilla entered the room, in a blaze of manly grace and rich attire.
A dozen voices uttered his name, and Peter Martyr rose to receive him,
with a manner in which kindness of feeling was blended with reproof.
"I asked this honour, Señor Conde," he said, "though you have now
been beyond my counsel and control some time, for it appeared to me
that one fond of voyages as yourself, might find a useful lesson, as
well as enjoy a high satisfaction, in listening to the wonders of an
expedition as glorious as this of Colon's. This worthy seaman, a pilot
no doubt much confided in by the admiral, hath consented to share in
our poor hospitalities on this memorable day, and is about to give us
many interesting facts and incidents of the great adventure. Master
Sancho Mundo, this is Don Luis de Bobadilla, Conde de Llera, a grandee
of high lineage, and one that is not unknown to the seas, having often
traversed them in his own person."
"It is quite unnecessary to tell me that, Señor Pedro," answered
Sancho, returning Luis' gay and graceful salutation, with profound but
awkward respect, "since I see it at a glance. His excellency hath been
in the east as well as Don Christopher and myself, though we went
different ways, and neither party went quite as far as Cathay. I am
honoured in your acquaintance, Don Luis, and shall just say that the
noble admiral will bring navigation more in fashion than it hath been
of late years. If you travel in the neighbourhood of Moguer, I beg you
will not pass the door of Sancho Mundo without stopping to inquire if
he be within."
"That I most cheerfully promise, worthy master," said Luis
laughing, and taking a seat, "even though it lead me to the Ship-Yard
Gate. And now, Señor Pedro, let me not interrupt the discourse, which
I discovered was most interesting as I entered."
"I have been thinking of this matter, Señores," resumed Sancho,
gravely, "and the fact that appears most curious to me, next to the
whiffling of the North Star, is the circumstance that there are no
doblas in Cipango. Gold is not wanting, and it seemeth to me passing
singular that a people should possess gold, and not bethink them of
the convenience of striking doblas, or some similar coin."
Peter Martyr and his young pupils laughed at this sally, and then
the subject was pushed in another form.
"Passing by this question, which belongeth rather to the policy of
States, than to natural phenomena," continued Peter Martyr, "what most
struck you as remarkable, in the way of human nature."
"In that particular, Señor, I think the island of the women may be
set down as the most extraordinary of all the phernomerthons we fell
in with. I have known women shut themselves up in convents; and men
too; but never did I hear, before this voyage, of either shutting
themselves up in islands!"
"And is this true?" inquired a dozen voices—"did you really meet
with such an island, Señor?"
"I believe we saw it at a distance, Señores, and I hold it to be
lucky that we went no nearer, for I find the gossips of Moguer
troublesome enough, without meeting a whole island of them. Then there
is the bread that grows like a root—what think you of that,
Señor Don Luis?—Is it not a most curious dish to taste of?"
"Nay, Master Sancho, that is a question of your own putting, and it
must be one of your own answering. What know I of the wonders of
Cipango, since Candia lieth in an opposite course. Answer these
matters for thyself, friend."
"True, illustrious Conde, and I humbly crave your pardon. It is,
indeed, the duty of him that seeth to relate, as it is the duty of him
that seeth not to believe. I hope all here will perform their several
"Do these Indians eat flesh as remarkable as their bread?" inquired
"That do they, noble sir, seeing that they eat each other. Neither
I nor Don Christopher, was invited to any of their feasts of this
sort; for, I suppose, they were well convinced we would not go; but we
had much information touching them, and by the nearest calculation I
could make, the consumption of men in the island of Bohio, must be
about equal to that of beeves in Spain."
The speaker was interrupted by twenty exclamations of disgust, and
Peter Martyr shook his head like one who distrusted the truth of the
account. Still, as he had not expected any very profound philosophy,
or deep learning in one of Sancho's character, he pursued the
"Know you any thing of the rare birds the admiral exhibited to
their Highnesses to-day?" he asked.
"Señor, I am well acquainted with several, more particularly with
the parrots. They are sensible birds, and I doubt not might answer
some of the questions that are put to me by many here, in Barcelona,
to their perfect satisfaction."
"Thou art a wag, I see, Señor Sancho, and lovest thy joke,"
answered the man of learning, with a smile. "Give way to thy fancy,
and if thou canst not improve us with thy science, at least amuse us
with thy conceits."
"San Pedro knows that I would do any thing to oblige you, Señores;
but I was born with such a love of truth in my heart, that I know not
how to embellish. What I see I believe, and having been in the Indies,
I cannot shut my eyes to their wonders. There was the sea of weeds,
which was no every-day miracle, since I make no doubt that the devils
piled all these plants on the water to prevent us from carrying the
cross to the poor heathens who dwell on the other side of them. We got
through that sea more by our prayers, than by means of the winds."
The young men looked at Peter Martyr, to ascertain how he received
this theory, and Peter Martyr, if tinctured with the superstition of
the age, was not disposed to swallow all that it pleased Sancho to
assert, even though the latter had made a voyage to the Indies.
"Since you manifest so much curiosity, Señores, on the subject of
Colon, now admiral of the Ocean Sea, by their Highnesses' honourable
appointment, I will, in a measure, relieve your minds on the subject,
by recounting what I know," said Luis, speaking calmly, but with
dignity. "Ye know that I was much with Don Christopher before he
sailed, and that I had some little connexion with bringing him back
to Santa Fé, even when he had left the place, as was supposed for the
last time. This intimacy hath been renewed since the arrival of the
Great Genoese at Barcelona, and hours have we passed together in
private, discoursing on the events of the last few months. What I
have thus learned I am ready to impart, if ye will do me the grace to
The whole company giving an eager assent, Luis now commenced a
general narrative of the voyage, detailing all the leading
circumstances of interest, and giving the reasons that were most in
favour at the time, concerning the different phenomena that had
perplexed the adventurers. He spoke more than an hour; proceeding
consecutively from island to island, and dilating on their
productions, imaginary and real. Much that he related, proceeded from
the misconceptions of the admiral, and misinterpretations of the
signs and language of the Indians, as a matter of course; but it was
all told clearly, in elegant if not in eloquent language, and with a
singular air of truth. In short, our hero palmed upon his audience the
results of his own observation, as the narrative of the admiral, and
more than once was he interrupted by bursts of admiration at the
vividness and graphic beauties of his descriptions. Even Sancho
listened with delight, and when the young man concluded, he rose from
his chair, and exclaimed heartily;—
"Señores, you may take all this, as so much gospel! Had the noble
Señor witnessed himself, that which he hath so well described, it
could not have been truer, and I look on myself to be particularly
fortunate to have heard this history of the voyage, which henceforth
shall be my history, word for word; for as my patron saint shall
remember me, nought else will I tell to the gossips of Moguer, when I
get back to that blessed town of my childhood."
Sancho's influence was much impaired by the effects of Luis's
narrative, which Peter Martyr pronounced to be one that would have
done credit to a scholar who had accompanied the expedition. A few
appeals were made to the old seaman, to see if he would corroborate
the statements he had just heard, but his protestations became so much
the louder in behalf of the accuracy of the account.
It was wonderful how much reputation the Conde de Llera obtained by
this little deception. To be able to repeat, with accuracy and effect,
language that was supposed to have fallen from the lips of Columbus,
was a sort of illustration; and Peter Martyr, who justly enjoyed a
high reputation for intelligence, was heard sounding the praises of
our hero in all places, his young pupils echoing his words with the
ardour and imitation of youth! Such, indeed, was the vast reputation
obtained by the Genoese, that one gained a species of reflected renown
by being thought to live in his confidence, and a thousand follies of
the Count of Llera, real or imaginary, were forgotten in the fact that
the admiral had deemed him worthy of being the repository of facts
and feelings such as he had related. As Luis, moreover, was seen to be
much in the company of Don Christopher, the world was very willing to
give the young man credit for qualities that, by some unexplained
circumstance, had hitherto escaped its notice. In this manner did Luis
de Bobadilla reap some advantages, of a public character, from his
resolution and enterprise, although vastly less than would have
attended an open admission of all that occurred. How far, and in what
manner, these qualities availed him in his suit with Mercedes, will
appear in our subsequent pages.
"Each look, each motion, waked a new-born grace,
That o'er her form its transient glory cast:
Some lovelier wonder soon usurp'd the place,
Chased by a charm still lovelier than the last."
The day of the reception of Columbus at Barcelona, had been one of
tumultuous feelings, and of sincere delight, with the ingenuous and
pure-minded Queen of Castile. She had been the moving spirit of the
enterprise, as it was connected with authority and means, and never
was a sovereign more amply rewarded, by a consciousness of the
magnitude of the results that followed her well-meant and zealous
When the excitement and bustle of the day were over, Isabella
retired to her closet, and there, as was usual with her on all great
occasions, she poured out her thankfulness on her knees, entreating
the Divine Providence to sustain her under the new responsibilities
she felt, and to direct her steps aright, equally as a sovereign, and
as a Christian woman. She had left the attitude of prayer but a few
minutes, and was seated with her head leaning on her hand, in deep
meditation, when a slight knock at the door called her attention.
There was but one person in Spain who would be likely to take even
this liberty, guarded and modest as was the tap; rising, she turned
the key, and admitted the king.
Isabella was still beautiful. Her form, always of admirable
perfection, still retained its grace. Her eyes had lost but little of
their lustre, and her smile, ever sweet and beneficent, failed not to
reflect the pure and womanly impulses of her heart. In a word, her
youthful beauty had been but little impaired by the usual transition
to the matronly attractions of a wife and a mother; but this night,
all her youthful charms seemed to be suddenly renewed. Her cheek was
flushed with holy enthusiasm; her figure dilated with the sublimity of
the thoughts in which she had been indulging; and her eyes beamed with
the ennobling hopes of religious enthusiasm. Ferdinand was struck with
this little change, and he stood admiring her, for a minute, in
silence, after he had closed the door.
"Is not this a most wonderful reward, for efforts so small, my
husband and love?" exclaimed the queen, who fancied the king's
thoughts similar to her own; "a new empire thus cheaply purchased,
with riches that the imagination cannot tell, and millions of souls to
be redeemed from eternal woe, by means of a grace that must be as
unexpected to themselves, as the knowledge of their existence hath
been to us!"
"Ever thinking, Isabella, of the welfare of souls! But thou art
right; for what are the pomps and glories of the world to the hopes of
salvation, and the delights of heaven! I confess Colon hath much
exceeded all my hopes, and raised such a future for Spain, that the
mind scarce knoweth where to place limits to its pictures."
"Think of the millions of poor Indians that may live to bless our
sway, and to feel the influence and consolations of holy church!"
"I trust that our kinsman and neighbour, Dom Joao, will not give us
trouble in this matter. Your Portuguese have so keen an appetite for
discoveries, that they little relish the success of other powers; and
it is said many dangerous and wicked proposals were made to the king,
even while our caravels lay in the Tagus."
"Colon assureth me, Fernando, that he doubteth if these Indians
have now any religious creed, so that our ministers will have no
prejudices to encounter, in presenting to their simple minds the
sublime truths of the gospel!"
"No doubt the admiral hath fully weighed these matters. It is his
opinion, that the island he hath called Española wanteth but little of
being of the full dimensions of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Granada, and
indeed of all our possessions within the peninsula!"
"Didst thou attend to what he said, touching the gentleness and
mildness of the inhabitants? And wert thou not struck with the simple,
confiding aspects of those he hath brought with him? Such a people may
readily be brought, first, as is due, to worship the one true and
living God, and next, to regard their sovereigns as kind and benignant
"Authority can ever make itself respected; and Don Christopher hath
assured me, in a private conference, that a thousand tried lances
would overrun all that eastern region. We must make early application
to the Holy Father to settle such limits between us and Don John, as
may prevent disputes, hereafter, touching our several interests. I
have already spoken to the cardinal on this subject, and he
flattereth me with the hope of having the ear of Alexander."
"I trust that the means of disseminating the faith of the cross
will not be overlooked in the negotiation; for it paineth me to find
churchmen treating of worldly things, to the utter neglect of those of
their Great Master."
Don Ferdinand regarded his wife intently for an instant, without
making any reply. He perceived, as often happened in questions of
policy, that their feelings were not exactly attuned, and he had
recourse to an allusion that seldom failed to draw the thoughts of
Isabella from their loftier aspirations to considerations more
worldly, when rightly applied.
"Thy children, Doña Isabella, will reap a goodly heritage by the
success of this, our latest and greatest stroke of policy! Thy
dominions and mine will henceforth descend in common to the same heir;
then this marriage in Portugal may open the way to new accessions of
territory, Granada is already secured to thine, by our united arms;
and here hath Providence opened the way to an empire in the east,
that promiseth to outdo all that hath yet been performed in Europe."
"Are not my children thine, Fernando? Can good happen to one,
without its equally befalling the other? I trust they will learn to
understand why so many new subjects, and such wide territories are
added to their possessions, and will ever remain true to their highest
and first duty, that of spreading the gospel, that the sway of the one
Catholic church may the more speedily be accomplished."
"Still it may be necessary to secure advantages that are offered in
a worldly shape, by worldly means."
"Thou sayest true, my lord; and it is the proper care of loving
parents to look well to the interest of their offspring in this, as in
all other particulars."
Isabella now lent a more willing car to the politic suggestions of
her consort, and they passed an hour in discussing some of the
important measures that it was thought their joint interests required
should be immediately attended to. After this Ferdinand saluted his
wife affectionately, and withdrew to his own cabinet, to labour, as
usual, until his frame demanded rest.
Isabella sate musing for a few minutes after the king had retired,
and then she took a light and proceeded through certain private
passages, with which she was familiar, to the apartment of her
daughters. Here she spent an hour, indulging in the affections and
discharging the duties of a careful mother, when embracing each in
turn, she gave her blessings, and left the place in the same simple
manner as she had entered. Instead, however, of returning to her own
part of the palace, she pursued her way in an opposite direction,
until, reaching a private door, she gently tapped. A voice within bade
her enter, and complying, the Queen of Castile found herself alone
with her old and tried friend the Marchioness of Moya. A quiet gesture
forbade all the usual testimonials of respect, and knowing her
mistress's wishes in this particular, the hostess received her
illustrious guest, much as she would have received an intimate of her
own rank in life.
"We have had so busy and joyful a day, daughter-marchioness," the
queen commenced, quietly setting down the little silver lamp she
carried, "that I had near forgotten a duty which ought not to be
overlooked. Thy nephew, the Count de Llera, hath returned to court,
bearing himself as modestly and as prudently, as if he had no share in
the glory of this great success of Colon's!"
"Señora, Luis is here, but whether prudent or modest, I leave for
others, who may be less partial, to say."
"To me such seemeth to be his deportment, and a young mind might be
pardoned some exultation at such a result. But I have come to speak of
Don Luis and thy ward. Now that thy nephew hath given this high proof
of his perseverance and courage, there can remain no longer any reason
for forbidding their union. Thou knowest that I hold the pledged word
of Doña Mercedes, not to marry without my consent, and this night will
I make her happy as I feel myself, by leaving her mistress of her own
wishes; nay, by letting her know that I desire to see her Countess of
Llera, and that right speedily."
"Your Highness is all goodness to me and mine," returned the
Marchioness, coldly. "Mercedes ought to feel deeply grateful that her
royal mistress hath a thought for her welfare, when her mind hath so
many greater concerns to occupy it."
"It is that, my friend, that hath brought me hither at this late
hour. My soul is truly burthened with gratitude, and ere I sleep, were
it possible, I would fain make all as blessed as I feel myself. Where
is thy ward?"
"She left me for the night, but as your Highness entered. I will
summon her to hear your pleasure."
"We will go to her, Beatriz; tidings such as I bring should not
linger on weary feet."
"It is her duty, and it would be her pleasure to pay all respect,
"I know that well, Marchioness, but it is my pleasure to bear this
news myself," interrupted the queen, leading the way to the door.
"Show thou the way, which is better known to thee than to another. We
go with little state and ceremony, as thou seest, like Colon going
forth to explore his unknown seas, and we go bearers of tidings as
grateful to thy ward, as those the Genoese bore to the benighted
natives of Cipango. These corridors are our trackless seas, and all
these intricate passages the hidden ways we are to explore."
"Heaven grant your Highness make not some discovery as astounding
as that which the Genoese hath just divulged! For myself, I scarce
know whether to believe all things, or to grant faith to none."
"I wonder not at thy surprise; it is a feeling that hath overcome
all others, through the late extraordinary events," answered the
queen, evidently misconceiving the meaning of her friend's words. "But
we have still another pleasure in store; that of witnessing the joy of
a pure female heart which hath had its trials, and which hath borne
them as became a Christian maiden."
Doña Beatriz sighed heavily, but she made no answer. By this time
they were crossing the little saloon in which Mercedes was permitted
to receive her female acquaintances, and were near the door of her
chamber. Here they met a maid, who hastened onward to inform her
mistress of the visit she was about to receive. Isabella was
accustomed to use a mother's liberties with those she loved, and
opening the door, without ceremony, she stood before our heroine, ere
the latter could advance to meet her.
"Daughter," commenced the queen, seating herself, and smiling
benignantly on the startled girl, "I have come to discharge a solemn
duty. Kneel thou here, at my feet, and listen to thy sovereign as thou
wouldst listen to a mother."
Mercedes gladly obeyed, for, at that moment, anything was
preferable to being required to speak. When she had knelt, the queen
passed an arm affectionately round her neck, and drew her closer to
her person, until, by a little gentle violence, the face of Mercedes
was hid in the folds of Isabella's robe.
"I have all reason to extol thy faith and duty, child," said the
queen, as soon as this little arrangement, to favour the feelings of
Mercedes, had been considerately made; "thou hast not forgotten thy
promise, in aught; and my object, now, is to leave thee mistress of
thine own inclinations, and to remove all impediments to their
exercise. Thou hast no longer any pledge with thy sovereign; for,
damage who hath manifested so much discretion and delicacy, may be
surely trusted with her own happiness."
Mercedes continued silent, though Isabella fancied that she felt a
slight shudder passing convulsively through her delicate frame.
"No answer, daughter?—Is it more preferable to leave another
arbitress of thy fate, than to exercise that office for thyself? Well,
then, as thy sovereign and parent, I will substitute command for
consent, and tell thee it is my wish and desire that thou becomest, as
speedily as shall comport with propriety and thy high station, the
wedded wife of Don Luis de Bobadilla, Conde de Llera."
"No—no—no—Señora—never—never—" murmured Mercedes, her
voice equally stifled by her emotions, and by the manner in which she
had buried her face in the dress of the queen.
Isabella looked at the Marchioness of Moya in wonder. Her
countenance did not express either displeasure or resentment, for she
too well knew the character of our heroine to suspect caprice, or any
weak prevarication in a matter that so deeply touched the feelings;
and the concern she felt was merely overshadowed at the suddenness of
the intelligence, by a feeling of ungovernable surprise.
"Canst thou explain this, Beatriz?" the queen at length inquired.
"Have I done harm, where I most intended good? I am truly unfortunate,
for I appear to have deeply wounded the heart of this child, at the
very moment I fancied I was conferring supreme happiness!"
"No — no — no — Señora," again murmured Mercedes, clinging
convulsively to the queen's knees. "Your Highness hath wounded no one
— would wound no one — can wound no one—you are all
gracious goodness and thoughtfulness."
"Beatriz, I look to thee for the explanation! Hath ought
justifiable occurred to warrant this change of feeling?"
"I fear, dearest Señora, that the feelings continue too much as
formerly, and that the change is not in this young and unpractised
heart, but in the fickle inclinations of man."
A flash of womanly indignation darted from the usually serene eyes
of the queen, and her form assumed all of its native majesty.
"Can this be true?" she exclaimed. "Would a subject of Castile
dare thus to trifle with his sovereign — thus to trifle with
one, sweet and pure as this girl — thus to trifle with his faith
with God! If the reckless Conde thinketh to do these acts of
wrongfulness with impunity, let him look to it! Shall I punish him
that merely depriveth his neighbour of some paltry piece of silver,
and let him escape who woundeth the soul? I wonder at thy calmness,
daughter-marchioness; thou, who art so wont to let an honest
indignation speak out in the just language of a fearless and honest
"Alas! Señora, my beloved mistress, my feelings have had vent
already, and nature will no more. The boy, moreover, is my brother's
son, and when I would fain arouse a resentment against him, such as
befitteth his offence, the image of that dear brother, whose very
picture he is, hath arisen to my mind in a way to weaken all its
"This is most unusual! A creature so far—so young— so
noble—so rich—every way so excellent, to be so soon forgotten!
Canst thou account for it by any wandering inclination, Lady of Moya?"
Isabella spoke musingly, and, as one of her high rank is apt to
overlook minor considerations, when the feelings are strongly excited,
she did not remember that Mercedes was a listener. The convulsive
shudder that again shook the frame of our heroine, however, did not
fail to remind her of this fact, and the queen could not have pressed
the princess Juana more fondly to her heart, than she now drew the
yielding form of our heroine.
"What would you, Señora?" returned the Marchioness, bitterly.
"Luis, thoughtless and unprincipled boy as he is, hath induced a
youthful Indian princess to abandon home and friends, under the
pretence of swelling the triumph of the admiral, but really, in
obedience to a wandering fancy, and in submission to those evil
caprices, that make men what, in sooth, they are, and which so often
render unhappy women their dupes and their victims."
"An Indian princess, say'st thou?—The admiral made one of that
rank known to us, but she was already a wife, and far from being one
to rival Doña Mercedes of Valverde."
"Ah! dearest Señora, she of whom you speak will not compare with
her I mean—Ozema—for so is the Indian lady called—Ozema is a
different being, and is not without high claims to personal beauty.
Could mere personal appearances justify the conduct of the boy, he
would not be altogether without excuse."
"How knowest thou this, Beatriz?"
"Because, your Highness, Luis hath brought her to the palace, and
she is, at this moment, in these very apartments. Mercedes hath
received her like a sister, even while the stranger hath unconsciously
crushed her heart."
"Here, say'st thou, marchioness! Then can there be no
vicious upon between the thoughtless young man and the stranger. Thy
nephew would not thus presume to offer virtue and innocence."
"Of that we complain not, Señora. 'Tis the boyish inconstancy, and
thoughtless cruelty of the count, that hath awakened my feelings
against him. Never have I endeavoured to influence my ward to favour
his suit, for I would not that they should have it in their power to
say I sought a union so honourable and advantageous to our house; but
now do I most earnestly desire her to steel her noble heart to his
"Ah! Señora — my guardian," murmured Mercedes, "Luis is not so
very culpable. Ozema's beauty, and my own want of the means to
keep him true, are alone to blame."
"Ozema's beauty!" slowly repeated the queen. "Is this young Indian,
then, so very perfect, Beatriz, that thy ward need fear, or envy her?
I did not think that such a being lived!"
"Your Highness knoweth how it is with men. They love novelties, and
are most captivated with the freshest faces. San Iago!—Andres de
Cabrera hath caused me to know this, though it were a crime to suppose
any could teach this hard lesson to Isabella of Trastamara."
"Restrain thy strong and impetuous feelings, daughter-marchioness,"
returned the queen, glancing her eye at the bowed form of Mercedes,
whose head was now buried in her lap; "truth seldom asserts its
fullest power when the heart is overflowing with feeling. Don Andres
hath been a loyal subject, and doth justice to thy merit; and, as to
my Lord the King, he is the father of my children, as well as thy
sovereign.—But, touching this Ozema — can I see her, Beatriz?"
"You have only to command, Señora, to see whom you please. But
Ozema is, no doubt, at hand, and can be brought into your presence as
soon as it may please your Highness to order it done."
"Nay, Beatriz, if she be a princess, and a stranger in the kingdom,
there is a consideration due to her rank and to her position. Let Doña
Mercedes go and prepare her to receive us; I will visit her in her own
apartment. The hour is late, but she will overlook the want of
ceremony in the desire to do her service."
Mercedes did not wait a second bidding, but, rising from her knees,
she hastened to do as the queen had suggested Isabella and the
Marchioness were silent some little time, when left to themselves;
then the former, as became her rank, opened the discourse.
"It is remarkable, Beatriz, that Colon should not have spoken to me
of this princess!" she said. "One of her condition ought not to have
entered Spain with so little ceremony."
"The admiral hath deemed her the chosen subject of Luis's care, and
hath left her to be presented to your Highness by my recreant nephew.
Ah, Señora! is it not wonderful, that one like Mercedes could be so
soon supplanted by a half-naked, unbaptized, benighted being, on whom
the church hath never yet smiled, and whose very soul may be said to
be in jeopardy of instantaneous condemnation?"
"That soul must be cared for, Beatriz, and that right quickly. Is
the princess really of sufficient beauty to supplant a creature as
lovely as the Doña Mercedes?"
"It is not that, Señora, — it is not that. But men are
fickle,—and they so love novelties! Then is the modest restraint of
cultivated manners, less winning to them, than the freedom of those
who deem even clothes superfluous. I mean not to question the modesty
of Ozema; for, according to her habits, she seemeth irreproachable in
this respect; but the ill-regulated fancy of a thoughtless boy may
find a momentary attraction in her unfettered conduct and halfattired
person, that is wanting to the air and manners of a high-born Spanish
damsel, who hath been taught rigidly to respect herself and her sex."
"This may be true, as toucheth the vulgar, Beatriz, but such
unworthy motives can never influence the Conde de Llera. If thy nephew
hath really proved the recreant thou supposest, this Indian princess
must be of more excellence than we have thought."
"Of that, Señora, you can soon judge for yourself; here is the
maiden of Mercedes to inform us that the Indian is ready to receive
the honour that your Highness intendeth."
Our heroine had prepared Ozema to meet the queen. By this time, the
young Haytian had caught so many Spanish words, that verbal
communication with her was far from difficult, though she still spoke
in the disconnected and abrupt manner of one to whom the language was
new. She understood perfectly that she was to meet that beloved
sovereign, of whom Luis and Mercedes had so often spoken with
reverence; and, accustomed herself, to look up to caciques greater
than her brother, there was no difficulty in making her understand
that the person she was now about to receive was the first of her sex
in Spain. The only misconception which existed, arose from the
circumstance that Ozema believed Isabella to be the queen of all the
Christian world, instead of being the queen of a particular country;
for, in her imagination, both Luis and Mercedes were persons of royal
Although Isabella was prepared to see a being of surprising
perfection of form, she started with surprise, as her eye first fell
on Ozema. It was not so much the beauty of the young Indian, that
astonished her, as the native grace of her movements, the bright and
happy expression of her countenance, and the perfect self-possession
of her mien and deportment. Ozema had got accustomed to a degree of
dress that she would have found oppressive at Hayti; the sensitiveness
of Mercedes, on the subject of female propriety, having induced her to
lavish on her new friend many rich articles of attire, that
singularly, though wildly, contributed to aid her charms. Still the
gift of Luis was thrown over one shoulder, as the highest-prized part
of her wardrobe, and the cross of Mercedes rested on her bosom, the
most precious of all her ornaments.
"This is wonderful, Beatriz!" exclaimed the queen, as she stood at
one side of the room, while Ozema bowed her body in graceful reverence
on the other; "can this rare being really have a soul that knoweth
nought of its God and Redeemer!—But let her spirit be benighted as
it may, there is no vice in that simple mind, or deceit in that pure
"Señora, all this is true. Spite of our causes of dissatisfaction,
my ward and I both love her already, and could take her to our hearts
for ever; one as a friend, and the other as a parent."
"Princess," said the queen, advancing with quiet dignity to the
spot where Ozema stood, with downcast eyes and bended body, waiting
her pleasure, "thou art welcome to our dominions. The admiral hath
done well in not classing one of thy evident claims and station among
those whom he hath exhibited to vulgar eyes. In this he hath shown
his customary judgment, no less than his deep respect for the sacred
office of sovereigns."
"Almirante!" exclaimed Ozema, her looks brightening with
intelligence, for she had long known how to pronounce the well-earned
title of Columbus; "Almirante, Mercedes;— Isabella, Mercedes—Luis,
Mercedes, Señora Reyña."
"Beatriz, what meaneth this? Why doth the princess couple the name
of thy ward with that of Colon, with mine, and even with that of the
young Count of Llera?"
"Señora, by some strange delusion, she hath got to think that
Mercedes is the Spanish term for every thing that is excellent or
perfect, and thus doth she couple it with all that she most desireth
to praise. Your Highness must observe that she even united Luis and
Mercedes, a union that we once fondly hoped might happen, but which
now would seem to be impossible; and which she herself must be the
last really to wish."
"Strange delusion!" repeated the queen; "the idea hath had its
birth in some particular cause, for things like this come not of
accidents; who but thy nephew, Beatriz, would know aught of thy ward,
or who but he would have taught the princess to deem her very name a
sign of excellence?"
"Señora!" exclaimed Mercedes, the colour mounting to her pale
cheek, and joy momentarily flashing in her eyes, "can this be so?"
"Why not, daughter? We may have been too hasty in this matter, and
mistaken what are truly signs of devotion to thee, for proofs of
fickleness and inconstancy."
"Ah! Señora! but this can never be, else would not Ozema so love
"How knowest thou, child, that the princess hath any other feeling
for the count than that which properly belongeth to one who is
grateful for his care, and for the inexpressible service of being made
acquainted with the virtues of the cross? Here is some rash error,
"I fear not, your Highness. Touching the nature of Ozema's
feelings, there can be no misconception, since the innocent and
unpractised creature hath not art sufficient to conceal them. That her
heart is all Luis's, we discovered in the first few hours of our
intercourse; and it is too pure, unsought, to be won. The feeling of
the Indian is not merely admiration, but it is such a passionate
devotion, as partaketh of the warmth of that sun, which, we are told,
glows with a heat so genial in her native clime."
"Could one see so much of Don Luis, Señora," added Mercedes,
"under circumstances to try his martial virtues, and so long daily be
in communion with his excellent heart, and not come to view him as far
above all others?"
"Martial virtues—excellent heart!"—slowly repeated the queen,
"and yet so regardless of the wrong he doeth! He is neither knight nor
cavalier worthy of the sex, if what thou thinkest be true, child."
"Nay, Señora," earnestly resumed the girl, whose diffidence was
yielding to the wish to vindicate our hero, "the princess hath told us
of the manner in which he rescued her from her greatest enemy and
persecutor, Caonabo, a headstrong and tyrannical sovereign of her
island, and of his generous self-devotion in her behalf."
"Daughter, do thou withdraw, and, first calling on Holy Maria to
intercede for thee, seek the calm of religious peace and submission,
on thy pillow. Beatriz, I will question the princess alone."
The Marchioness and Mercedes immediately withdrew, leaving Isabella
with Ozema, in possession of the room. The interview that followed
lasted more than an hour, that time being necessary to enable the
queen to form an opinion of the stranger's explanations, with the
imperfect means of communication she possessed. That Ozema's whole
heart was Luis's, Isabella could not doubt. Unaccustomed to conceal
her preferences, the Indian girl was too unpractised to succeed in
such a design, had she even felt the desire to attempt it; but, in
addition to her native ingenuousness, Ozema believed that duty
required her to have no concealments from the sovereign of Luis, and
she laid bare her whole soul in the simplest and least disguised
"Princess," said the queen, after the conversation had lasted some
time, and Isabella believed herself to be in possession of the means
of comprehending her companion, "I now understand your tale. Caonabo
is the chief, or if thou wilt, the king of a country adjoining thine
own; he sought thee for a wife, but being already married to more than
one princess, thou didst very properly reject his unholy proposals.
He then attempted to seize thee by violence. The Conde de Llera was
on a visit to thy brother at the time—"
"Luis—Luis"—the girl impatiently interrupted in her sweet soft
"True, princess, but the Conde de Llera and Luis de Bobadilla are
one and the same person. Luis, then, if thou wilt, was present in thy
palace, and he beat back the presumptuous cacique, who, not satisfied
with fulfilling the law of God by the possession of one wife,
impiously sought, in thy person, a second, or a third, and brought
thee off in triumph. Thy brother, next, requested thee to take
shelter, for a time, in Spain, and Don Luis, becoming thy guardian
and protector, hath brought thee hither to the care of his aunt?"
Ozema bowed her head in acknowledgment of the truth of this
statement, most of which she had no difficulty in understanding, the
subject having, of late, occupied so much of her thoughts.
"And, now, princess," continued Isabella, "I must speak to thee
with maternal frankness, for I deem all of thy birth my children while
they dwell in my realms, and have a right to look to me for advice and
protection. Hast thou any such love for Don Luis as would induce thee
to forget thine own country, and to adopt his in its stead?"
"Ozema don't know what `adopt his,' means," observed the puzzled
"I wish to inquire if thou would'st consent to become the wife of
Don Luis de Bobadilla?"
"Wife" and "husband" were words of which the Indian girl had early
learned the signification, and she smiled guilelessly, even while she
blushed, and nodded her assent.
"I am, then, to understand that thou expect'st to marry the Count,
for no modest young female, like thee, would so cheerfully avow her
preference, without having that hope ripened in her heart, to
something like certainty."
"Sì, Señora—Ozema, Luis' wife."
"Thou meanest, princess, that Ozema expecteth shortly to wed the
Count—shortly to become his wife?"
now Luis' wife. Luis marry Ozema,
"Can this be so?" exclaimed the queen, looking steadily into the
face of the beautiful Indian to ascertain if the whole were not an
artful deception. But the open and innocent face betrayed no guilt,
and Isabella felt compelled to believe what she had heard. In order,
however, to make certain of the fact, she questioned and
cross-questioned Ozema, for near half an hour longer, and always with
the same result.
When the queen arose to withdraw, she kissed the princess, for so
she deemed this wild creature of an unknown and novel state of
society, and whispered a devout prayer for the enlightenment of her
mind, and for her future peace. On reaching her own apartment, she
found the Marchioness of Moya in attendance, that tried friend being
unable to sleep until she had learned the impressions of her royal
"'T is even worse than we had imagined, Beatriz," said Isabella, as
the other closed the door behind her. "Thine heartless, inconstant,
nephew hath already wedded the Indian, and she is, at this moment, his
"Señora, there must be some mistake in this! The rash boy would
hardly dare to practise this imposition on me, and that in the very
presence of Mercedes."
"He would sooner place his wife in thy care, daughter-marchioness,
than make the same disposition of one who had fewer claims on him.
But there can be no mistake. I have questioned the princess closely,
and no doubt remaineth in my mind, that the nupitals have been
solemnized by religious rites. It is not easy to understand all she
would wish to say, but that much she often and distinctly hath
"Your Highness —
can a Christian contract marriage with
one that is yet unbaptised?"
"Certainly not, in the eye of the church, which is the eye of God.
But I rather think Ozema hath received this holy rite, for she often
pointed to the cross she weareth, when speaking of the union with thy
nephew. Indeed, from her allusions, I understood her to say that she
became a Christian, ere she became a wife."
"And that blessed cross, Señora, was a gift of Mercedes to the
reckless, fickle-minded boy; a parting gift, in which the holy symbol
was intended to remind him of constancy and faith!"
"The world maketh so many inroads into the hearts of men, Beatriz,
that they know not woman's reliance and woman's fidelity. But to thy
knees, and bethink thee of asking for grace to sustain thy ward, in
this cruel, but unavoidable, extremity."
Isabella now turned to her friend, who advanced and raised the hand
of her royal mistress to her lips. The queen, however, was not content
with this salutation, warm as it was; passing an arm around the neck
of Doña Beatriz, she drew her to her person, and imprinted a kiss on
"Adieu, Beatriz—true friend as thou art!" she said. "If constancy
hath deserted all others, it hath still an abode in thy faithful
With these words the queen and the marchioness separated each to
find her pillow, if not her repose.
"Now, Gondarino, what can you put on now
That may deceive us?
Have ye more strange illusions, yet more mists,
Through which the weak eye may be led to error?
What can ye say that may do satisfaction
Both for her wronged honour and your ill?
Beaumont and Fletcher.
The day which succeeded the interview related in the preceding
chapter, was that which Cardinal Mendoza had selected for the
celebrated banquet given to Columbus. On this occasion, most of the
high nobility of the court were assembled in honour of the admiral,
who was received with a distinction which fell little short of that
usually devoted to crowned heads. The Genoese bore himself modestly,
though nobly, in all these ceremonies; and, for the hour, all
appeared to delight in doing justice to his great exploits, and to
sympathise in a success so much surpassing the general expectation.
Every eye seemed riveted on his person, every ear listened eagerly to
the syllables as they fell from his lips, every voice was loud and
willing in his his praise.
As a matter of course, on such an occasion, Columbus was expected
to give some account of his voyage and adventures. This was not an
easy task, since it was virtually asserting how much his own
perseverance and spirit, his sagacity and skill, were superior to the
knowledge and enterprise of the age. Still, the admiral acquitted
himself with dexterity and credit, touching principally on those
heads which most redounded to the glory of Spain, and the lustre of
the two crowns.
Among the guests, was Luis de Bobadilla. The young man had been
invited on account of his high rank, and in consideration of the
confidence and familiarity with which he was evidently treated by the
admiral. The friendship of Columbus was more than sufficient to erase
the slightly unfavourable impressions that had been produced by Luis's
early levities, and men quietly submitted to the influence of the
great man's example, without stopping to question the motive, or the
end. The consciousness of having done that which few of his station
and hopes would ever dream of attempting, gave to the proud mien and
handsome countenance of Luis, a seriousness and elevation that had
not always been seated there, and helped to sustain him in the good
opinion that he had otherwise so cheaply purchased. The manner in
which he had related to Peter Martyr and his companions the events of
the expedition was also remembered, and, without understanding exactly
why, the world was beginning to associate him, in some mysterious
manner, with the great western voyage. Owing to these accidental
circumstances, our hero was actually reaping some few of the
advantages of his spirit, though in a way he had never anticipated; a
result by no means extraordinary, men as often receiving applause, or
reprobation, for acts that were never meditated, as for those for
which reason and justice would hold them rigidly responsible.
"Here is a health to my lord, their Highnesses' admiral of the
Ocean Sea," cried Luis de St. Angel, raising his cup, so that all at
the board might witness the act. "Spain oweth him her gratitude for
the boldest and most beneficial enterprise of the age, and no good
subject of the two Sovereigns will hesitate to do him honour for his
The bumper was drunk, and the meek acknowledgments of Columbus were
listened to in respectful silence.
"Lord Cardinal," resumed the free-speaking accountant of the
church's revenues, "I look upon the church's cure as doubled by these
discoveries, and esteem the number of souls that will be rescued from
perdition by the means that will now be employed to save them, as
forming no small part of the lustre of the exploit, and a thing not
likely to be forgotten at Rome."
"Thou say'st well, good de St. Angel," returned the Cardinal, "and
the Holy Father will not overlook God's agent, or his assistants.
Knowledge came from the east, and we have long looked forward to the
time, when, purified by revelation and the high commission that we
hold direct from the source of all power, it would be rolled backward
to its place of beginning; but we now see that its course is still to
be westward, reaching Asia by a path that, until this great discovery,
was hid from human eyes."
Although so much apparent sympathy ruled at the festival, the human
heart was at work, and envy, the basest and perhaps the most common of
our passions, was fast swelling in more than one breath. The remark of
the Cardinal produced an exhibition of the influence of this unworthy
feeling that might otherwise have been smothered. Among the guests was
a noble of the name of Juan de Orbitello, and he could listen no
longer, in silence, to the praises of those whose breath he had been
accustomed to consider fame.
"Is it so certain, holy sir," he said, addressing his host, "that
God would not have directed other means to be employed, to effect this
end, had these of Don Christopher failed? Or, are we to look upon this
voyage as the only known way in which all these heathen could be
rescued from perdition?"
"No one may presume, Señor, to limit the agencies of heaven,"
returned the cardinal, gravely; "nor is it the damage of man to
question the means employed, or to doubt the power to create others,
as wisdom may dictate. Least of all, should laymen call in question
aught that the church sanctioneth.
"This I admit Lord Cardinal," answered the Señor de Orbitello, a
little embarrassed, and somewhat vexed at the implied rebuke of the
churchmen's remarks, "and it was the least of my intentions to do so.
But, you, Señor Don Christopher, did you deem yourself an agent of
heaven in this expedition?"
"I have always considered myself a most unworthy instrument, set
apart for this great end, Señor," returned the admiral, with a grave
solemnity that was well suited to impose on the spectators. "From the
first, I have felt this impulse, as being of divine origin, and I
humbly trust heaven is not displeased with the creature it hath
"Do you then imagine, Señor Almirante, that Spain could not produce
another, fitted equally with yourself, to execute this great
enterprise, had any accident prevented either your sailing or your
The boldness, as well as the singularity of this question, produced
a general pause in the conversation, and every head was bent a little
forward in expectation of the reply. Columbus sate silent for more
than a minute; then, reaching forward, he took an egg, and holding it
up to view, he spoke mildly, but with great gravity and earnestness of
"Señores," he said, "is there one here of sufficient expertness to
cause this egg to stand on its end? If such a man be present, I
challenge him to give us an exhibition of his skill."
The request produced a good deal of surprise; but a dozen
immediately attempted the exploit, amid much laughter and many words.
More than once, some young noble thought he had succeeded, but the
instant his fingers quitted the egg, it rolled upon the table, as if
in mockery of his awkwardness.
"By Saint Luke, Señor Almirante, but this notable achievement
surpasseth our skill," cried Juan de Orbitello. "Here is the Conde de
Llera, who hath slain so many Moors, and who hath even unhorsed Alonzo
de Ojeda, in a tourney, can make nothing of his egg, in the way you
"And yet it will no longer be difficult to him or even to you,
Señor, when the art shall be exposed."
Saying thus, Columbus tapped the smaller end of his egg lightly on
the table, when, the shell being forced in, it possessed a base on
which it stood firmly and without tremour. A murmur of applause
followed this rebuke, and the Lord of Orbitello was forced to shrink
back into an insignificance, from which it would have been better for
him never to have emerged. At this precise instant a royal page spoke
to the admiral, and then passed on to the seat of Don Luis de
"I am summoned hastily to the presence of the queen, Lord
Cardinal," observed the admiral, "and look to your Grace for an
apology for my withdrawing. The business is of weight, by the manner
of the message, and you will pardon my now quitting the board, though
it seem early."
The usual reply was made; and, bowed to the door by his host and
all present, Columbus quitted the room. Almost at the same instant, he
was followed by the Conde de Llera.
"Whither goest thou, in this hurry, Don Luis?" demanded the
admiral, as the other joined him. "Art thou in so great haste to quit
a banquet such as Spain hath not often seen, except in the palaces of
"By San Iago! nor there, neither, Señor," answered the young man,
gaily, "if King Ferdinand's board be taken as the sample. But I quit
this goodly company in obedience to an order of Doña Isabella, who
hath suddenly summoned me to her royal presence."
"Then, Señor Conde, we go together, and are like to meet on the
same errand. I, too, am hastening to the apartments of the queen."
"It gladdens my heart to hear this, Señor, as I know of but one
subject on which a common summons should be sent to us. This affair
toucheth on my suit, and, doubtless, you will be required to speak of
my bearing in the voyage."
"My mind and my time have been so much occupied, of late, with
public cares, Luis, that I have not had an occasion to question you of
this. How fareth the Lady of Valverde, and when will she deign to
reward thy constancy and love."
"Señor, I would I could answer the last of these questions with
greater certainty, and the first with a lighter heart. Since my return
I have seen Doña Mercedes but thrice; and though she was all
gentleness and truth, my suit for the consummation of my happiness
hath been coldly and evasively answered by my aunt. Her Highness is
to be consulted, it would seem; and the tumult produced by the success
of the voyage hath so much occupied her, that there hath been no
leisure to wait on trifles such as those that lead to the felicity of
a wanderer like myself."
"Then is it like, Luis, that we are indeed summoned on this very
affair; else, why should thou and I be brought together in a manner so
unusual and so sudden."
Our hero was not displeased to fancy this, and he entered the
apartments of the queen with a step as elastic, and a mien as bright,
as if he had come to wed his love. The Admiral of the Ocean Sea, as
Columbus was now publicly called, had not long to wait in
ante-chambers, and, ere many minutes, he and his companions were
ushered into the presence.
Isabella received her guests in private, there being no one in
attendance but the Marchioness of Moya, Mercedes, and Ozema. The first
glances of their eyes told Columbus and Luis that all was not right.
Every countenance denoted that its owner was endeavouring to maintain
a calmness that was assumed. The queen herself was serene and
dignified, it is true, but her brow was thoughtful, her eye
melancholy, and her cheek slightly flushed. As for Doña Beatriz,
sorrow and indignation struggled in her expressive face, and Luis saw,
with concern, that her look was averted from him in a way she always
adopted when he had seriously incurred her displeasure. Mercedes's
lips were pale as death, though a bright spot, like vermilion, was
stationary on each cheek; her eyes were downcast, and all her mien
was humbled and timid. Ozema alone seemed perfectly natural: still,
her glances were quick and anxious, though a gleam of joy danced in
her eyes, and even a slight exclamation of delight escaped her, as she
beheld Luis, whom she had seen but once since her arrival in
Barcelona, already near a month.
Isabella advanced a step or two, to meet the admiral, and when the
last would have kneeled, she hurriedly prevented the act by giving him
her hand to kiss.
"Not so—not so—Lord Admiral," exclaimed the queen; "this is
homage unsuited to thy high rank and eminent services. If we are thy
sovereigns, so are we also thy friends. I fear my lord cardinal will
scarce pardon the orders I sent him, seeing that it hath deprived him
of thy society somewhat sooner than he may have expected."
"His Eminence, and all his goodly company, have that to muse on,
Señora, that may yet occupy them some time," returned Columbus,
smiling in his grave manner; "doubtless, they will less miss me than
at an ordinary time. Were it otherwise, both I, and this young count,
would not scruple to quit even a richer banquet, to obey the summons
of your Highness."
"I doubt it not, Señor, but I have desired to see thee, this night,
on a matter of private, rather than of public concernment. Doña
Beatriz, here, hath made known to me the presence at court, as well as
the history of this fair being, who giveth one an idea so much more
exalted of thy vast discoveries, that I marvel she should ever have
been concealed. Know'st thou her rank, Don Christopher, and the
circumstances that have brought her to Spain?"
"Señora, I do; in part through my own observation, and in part from
the statements of Don Luis de Bobadilla. I consider the rank of the
lady Ozema to be less than royal, and more than noble, if our opinions
will allow us to imagine a condition between the two; though it must
always be remembered that Hayti is not Castile; the one being
benighted under the cloud of heathenism, and the other existing in
the sunshine of the church and civilization."
"Nevertheless, Don Christopher, station is station, and the rights
of birth are not impaired by the condition of a country. Although it
hath pleased him already, and will still further please the head of
the church, to give us rights, in our characters of Christian princes,
over these caciques of India, there is nothing unusual or novel in the
fact. The relation between the suzerain and the lieges is ancient and
well established; and instances are not wanting, in which powerful
monarchs have held certain of their States by this tenure, while
others have come direct from God. In this view, I feel disposed to
consider the Indian lady as more than noble, and have directed her to
be treated accordingly. There remaineth only to relate the
circumstances that have brought her to Spain."
"These can better come from Don Luis than from me, Señora; he being
most familiar with the events."
"Nay, Señor, I would hear them from thine own lips. I am already
possessed of the substance of the Conde de Llera's story."
Columbus looked both surprised and pained, but he did not hesitate
about complying with the queen's request.
"Hayti hath its greater and its lesser princes, or caciques, your
Highness," he added, "the last paying a species of homage, and owing a
certain allegiance to the first, as hath been said—"
"Thou see'st, daughter-marchioness, this is but a natural order of
government, prevailing equally in the East and in the West!"
"Of the first of these was Guacanagari, of whom I have already
related so much to your Highness," continued Columbus, "and of the
last, Mattinao, the brother of this lady. Don Luis visited the cacique
Mattinao, and was present at an inroad of Caonabo, a celebrated Carib
chief, who would fain have made a wife of her who now stands in this
illustrious presence. The Conde conducted himself like a gallant
Castilian cavalier, routed the foe, saved the lady, and brought her in
triumph to the ships. Here it was determined she should visit Spain,
both as a means of throwing more lustre on the triumph of the two
crowns, and of removing her, for a season, from the attempts of the
Carib, who is too powerful and warlike to be withstood by a race as
gentle as that of Mattinao's."
"This is well, Señor, and what I have already heard; but how
happeneth it, that Ozema did not appear with the rest of thy train, in
the public reception of the town?"
"It was the wish of Don Luis it should be otherwise, and I
consented that he and his charge should sail privately from Palos,
with the expectation of meeting me in Barcelona. We both thought the
lady Ozema too superior to her companions, to be exhibited to rude
eyes as a spectacle."
"There was delicacy, if there were not prudence in the
arrangement," the queen observed a little drily. "Then the lady Ozema
hath been some weeks solely in the care of the Conde de Llera?"
"I so esteem it, your Highness, except as she hath been placed
under the guardianship of the Marchioness of Moya."
"Was this altogether discreet, Don Christopher, or as one prudent
as thou should'st have consented to?"
"Señora!" exclaimed Luis, unable to restrain his feelings longer.
"Forbear, young sir," commanded the queen. "I shall have occasion
to question thee presently, when thou may'st have a need for all thy
readiness, to give the fitting answers. Doth not thy discretion rebuke
thy indiscretion in this matter, Lord Admiral?"
"Señora, the question, like its motive, is altogether new to me; I
have the utmost reliance on the honour of the Count, and then did I
know that his heart hath long been given to the fairest and worthiest
damsel of Spain; besides, my mind hath been so much occupied with the
grave subjects of your Highness' interests, that it hath had but
little opportunity to dwell on minor things."
"I believe thee, Señor, and thy pardon is secure. Still, for one so
experienced, it was a sore indiscretion to trust to the constancy of a
fickle heart, when placed in the body of a light-minded and truant
boy. And, now, Conde de Llera, I have that to say to thee, which thou
may'st find it difficult to answer. Thou assentest to all that hath
hitherto been said?"
"Certainly, Señora. Don Christopher can have no motive to misstate,
even were he capable of the meanness. I trust our house hath not been
remarkable in Spain, for recreant and false cavaliers."
"In that I fully agree. If thy house hath had the misfortune to
produce one untrue and recreant heart, it hath the glory"—glancing
at her friend—"of producing others that might equal the constancy of
the most heroic minds of antiquity. The lustre of the name of
Bobadilla doth not altogether depend on the fidelity and truth of its
head— nay, hear me, sir, and speak only when thou art ready to
answer my questions. Thy thoughts, of late, have been bent on
"Señora, I confess it. Is it an offence to dream of the honourable
termination of a suit that hath been long urged, and which I had dared
to hope was finally about to receive your own royal approbation?"
"It is then as I feared, Beatriz!" exclaimed the queen; "and this
benighted but lovely being hath been deceived by the mockery of a
marriage; for no subject of Castile would dare thus to speak of
wedlock, in my presence, with the consciousness that his vows had
actually and lawfully been given to another. Both the church and the
prince would not be thus braved, by even the greatest profligate of
"Señora, your Highness speaketh most cruelly, even while you speak
in riddles!" cried Luis. "May I presume to ask if I am meant in these
"Of whom else should we be speaking, or to whom else allude? Thou
must have the inward consciousness, unprincipled boy, of all thy
unworthiness; and yet thou darest thus to brave thy sovereign—nay,
to brave that suffering and angelic girl, with a mien as bold as if
sustained by the purest innocence!"
"Señora, I am no angel, myself, however willing to admit Doña
Mercedes to be one; neither am I a saint of perfect purity, perhaps
— in a word, I am Luis de Bobadilla— but as far from deserving
these reproaches, as from deserving the crown of martyrdom. Let me
humbly demand my offence?"
"Simply that thou hast either cruelly deceived, by a feigned
marriage, this uninstructed and confiding Indian princess, or hast
insolently braved thy sovereign with the professions of a desire to
wed another, with thy faith actually plighted at the altar, to
another. Of which of these crimes thou art guilty, thou knowest best,
"And thou, my aunt — thou, Mercedes — dost thou, too, believe
me capable of this?"
"I fear it is but too true," returned the marchioness, coldly; "the
proof is such that none but an Infidel could deny belief."
"No, Luis," answered the generous girl, with a warmth and feeling
that broke down the barriers of all conventional restraint—"I do not
think thee base as this—I do not think thee base at all; merely
unable to restrain thy wandering inclinations. I know thy heart too
well, and thine honour too well, to suppose aught more than a weakness
that thou would'st fain subdue, but canst not."
"God and the Holy Virgin be blessed for this!" cried the count, who
had scarcely breathed while his mistress was speaking. "Anything but
thy entertaining so low an opinion of me, may be borne!"
"There must be an end of this, Beatriz; and I see no surer means,
than by proceeding at once to the facts," said the queen. "Come
hither, Ozema, and let thy testimony set this matter at rest, for
The young Indian, who comprehended Spanish much better than she
expressed herself in the language, although far from having even a
correct understanding of all that was said, immediately complied, her
whole soul being engrossed with what was passing, while her
intelligence was baffled in its attempts thoroughly to comprehend it.
Mercedes alone had noted the workings of her countenance, as Isabella
reproved, or Luis made his protestations, and they were such as
completely denoted the interest she felt in our hero.
"Ozema," resumed the queen, speaking slowly, and with deliberate
distinctness, in order that the other might get the meaning of her
words as she proceeded. "Speak— art thou wedded to Luis de
Bobadilla, or not?"
"Ozema Luis's wife," answered the girl, laughing and blushing.
"Luis Ozema's husband."
"This is plain as words can make it, Don Christopher, and is no
more than she hath already often affirmed, on my anxious and repeated
inquiries. How and when did Luis wed thee, Ozema?"
"Luis wed Ozema with religion — with Spaniard's religion. Ozema
wed Luis with love and duty — with Hayti manner."
"This is extraordinary, Señora," observed the admiral, "and I would
gladly look into it. Have I your Highness's permission to inquire into
the affair, myself?"
"Do as thou wilt, Señor," returned the queen, coldly. "My own mind
is satisfied, and it behoveth my justice to act speedily."
"Conde de Llera, dost thou admit, or dost thou deny, that thou art
the husband of the lady Ozema?" demanded Columbus, gravely.
"Lord Admiral, I deny it altogether. Neither have I wedded her, nor
hath the thought of so doing, with any but Mercedes, ever crossed my
This was said firmly, and with the open frankness that formed a
principal charm in the young man's manner.
"Hast thou, then, wronged her, and given her a right to think that
thou didst mean wedlock?"
"I have not. Mine own sister would not have been more respected
than hath Ozema been respected by me, as is shown by the fact that I
have hastened to place her in the care of my dear aunt, and in the
company of Doña Mercedes."
"This seemeth reasonable, Señora; for man hath ever that much
respect for virtue in your sex, that he hesitateth to offend it even
in his levities."
"In opposition to all these protestations, and to so much fine
virtue, Señor Colon, we have the simple declaration of one untutored
in deception—a mind too simple to deceive; and of a rank and hopes
that would render such a fraud as unnecessary as it would be unworthy.
Beatriz, thou dost agree with me, and cannot find an apology for this
recreant knight, even though he were once the pride of thy house?"
"Señora, I know not. Whatever may have been the failings and
weaknesses of the boy — and heaven it knows that they have been many
— deception and untruth have never made a part. I have even ascribed
the manner in which he hath placed the princess in my immediate care,
to the impulses of a heart that did not wish to conceal the errors of
the head, and to the expectation that her presence in my family might
sooner bring me to a knowledge of the truth. I could wish that the
lady Ozema might be questioned more closely, in order that we make
certain of not being under the delusion of some strange error."
"This is right," observed Isabella, whose sense of justice ever
inclined her to make the closest examination into the merits of every
case that required her decision. "The fortune of a grandee depends on
the result, and it is meet he enjoy all fair means of vindicating
himself from so heinous an offence. Sir Count, thou canst therefore,
question her, in our presence, touching all proper grounds of
"Señora, it would ill become a knight to put himself in array
against a lady, and she, too, of the character and habits of this
stranger," answered Luis, proudly; colouring as he spoke, with the
consciousness that Ozema was utterly unable to conceal her
predilection in his favour. "If such an office is, indeed, necessary,
its functions would better become another."
"As the stern duty of punishing must fall on me," the queen calmly
observed, "I will then assume this unpleasant office. Señor Almirante,
we may not shrink from any obligation that brings us nearer to the
greatest attribute of God, his justice. Princess, thou hast said that
Don Luis hath wedded thee, and that thou considerest thyself his
wife. When and where didst thou meet him before a priest?"
So many attempts had been made to convert Ozema to Christianity,
that she was more familiar with the terms connected with religion than
with any other part of the language, though her mind was a confused
picture of imaginary obligations, and of mystical qualities. Like all
who are not addicted to abstractions, her piety was more connected
with forms than with principles, and she was better disposed to admit
the virtue of the ceremonies of the church than the importance of its
faith. The question of the queen was understood, and, therefore, it
was answered without guile, or a desire to deceive.
"Luis wed Ozema with Christian's cross," she said, pressing to her
heart the holy emblem that the young man had given to her in a moment
of great peril, and in a manner the reader already knows. "Luis think
he about to die — Ozema think she about to die — both wish to die
man and wife, and Luis wed with the cross, like good Spanish
Christian. Ozema wed Luis in her heart, like Hayti lady, in her own
"Here is some mistake—some sad mistake, growing out of the
difference of language and customs," observed the admiral. "Don Luis
hath not been guilty of this deception. I witnessed the offering of
that cross, which was made at sea, during a tempest, and in a way to
impress me favourably with the count's zeal in behalf of a benighted
soul. There was no wedlock there; nor could any, but one who hath
confounded our usages, through ignorance, imagine more than the
bestowal of a simple emblem, that it was hoped might be useful, in
extremity, to one that had not enjoyed the advantages of baptism and
the church's offices."
"Don Luis, dost thou confirm this statement, and also assert that
thy gift was made solely with this object?" asked the queen.
"Señora, it is most true. Death was staring us in the face, and I
felt that this poor wanderer, who had trusted herself to our care,
with the simple confidence of a child, needed some consolation; none
seemed so meet, at the moment, as that memorial of our blessed
Redeemer, and of our own redemption. To me it seemed to be the
preservative next to baptism."
"Hast thou never stood before a priest with her, nor in any manner
abused her guileless simplicity?"
"Señora, it is not my nature to deceive, and every weakness of
which I have been guilty in connexion with Ozema shall be revealed.
Her beauty and her winning manners speak for themselves, as doth her
resemblance to Doña Mercedes. The last, greatly inclined me to her,
and, had not my heart been altogether another's, it would have been my
pride to make the princess my wife. But we met too late for that; and
even the resemblance led to comparisons, in which one, educated in
infidelity and ignorance, must necessarily suffer. That I have had
moments of tenderness for Ozema, I will own; but that they ever
supplanted, or came near supplanting, my love for Mercedes, I do deny.
If I have any fault to answer for, to the lady Ozema, it is because I
have not always been able to suppress the feelings that her likeness
to the Doña Mercedes, and her own ingenuous simplicity — chiefly the
former — have induced. Never otherwise, in speech or act, have I
offended against her."
"This soundeth upright and true, Beatriz. Thou knowest the count
better than I, and can easier say how far we ought to confide in these
"My life on their truth, my beloved mistress! Luis is no hypocrite,
and I rejoice — oh! how exultingly do I rejoice!— at finding him
able to give this fair vindication of his conduct. Ozema, who hath
heard of our form of wedlock, and hath seen our devotion to the cross,
hath mistaken her position, as she hath my nephew's feelings, and
supposed herself a wife, when a Christian girl would not have been so
"This really hath a seeming probability, Señores," continued the
queen, with her sex's sensitiveness to her sex's delicacy of
sentiment, not to say to her sex's rights — "This toucheth of a
lady's — nay, of a princess' feelings, and must not be treated of
openly. It is proper that any further explanations should be made only
among females; and I trust to your honour, as cavaliers and nobles,
that what hath this night been said never be spoken of, amid the
reveals of men. The lady Ozema shall be my care; and, Count of Llera,
thou shalt know my final decision to-morrow, concerning Doña Mercedes
As this was said with a royal, as well as with a womanly, dignity,
no one presumed to demur, but, making the customary reverences,
Columbus and our hero left the presence. It was late before the queen
quitted Ozema, but what passed in this interview will better appear in
the scenes that are still to be given.
"When sinking low the sufferer wan
Beholds no arm outstretch'd to save,
Fair, as the bosom of the swan
That rises graceful o'er the wave,
I've seen your breast with pity heave,
And therefore love you, sweet Genevieve!"
When Isabella found herself alone with Ozema and Mercedes (for she
chose that the last should be present), she entered on the subject of
the marriage with the tenderness of a sensitive and delicate mind, but
with a sincerity that rendered further error impossible. The result
showed how naturally and cruelly the young Indian beauty had deceived
herself. Ardent, confiding, and accustomed to be considered the
object of general admiration among her own people, Ozema had fancied
that her own inclinations had been fully answered by the young man.
From the first moment they met, with the instinctive quickness of a
woman, she perceived that she was admired, and, as she gave way to
the excess of her own feelings, it was almost a necessary consequence
of the communications she held with Luis, that she should think they
were reciprocated. The very want of language in words, by compelling a
substitution of one in looks and acts, contributed to the mistake;
and, it will be remembered, that, if Luis's constancy did not actually
waver, it had been sorely tried. The false signification she attached
to the word "Mercedes," largely aided in the delusion, and it was
completed by the manly tenderness and care with which our hero treated
her on all occasions. Even the rigid decorum that Luis invariably
observed, and the severe personal respect which he maintained towards
his charge, had their effect on her feelings; for, wild and
unsophisticated as had been her training, the deep and unerring
instinct of the feeble, told her the nature of the power she was
wielding over the strong.
Then came the efforts to give her some ideas of religion, and the
deep and lamentable mistakes which, imperfectly explained, and worse
understood subtleties, left on her plastic mind. Ozema believed that
the Spaniards worshipped the cross. She saw it put foremost in all
public ceremonies, knelt to, and apparently appealed to, on every
occasion that called for an engagement more solemn than usual.
Whenever a knight made a vow, he kissed the cross of his sword-hilt.
The mariners regarded it with reverence, and even the admiral had
caused one to be erected as a sign of his right to the territory that
had been ceded to him by Guacanagari. In a word, to her uninstructed
imagination, it seemed as if the cross were used as a pledge for the
fidelity of all engagements. Often had she beheld and admired the
beautiful emblem worn by our hero; and, as the habits of her own
people required the exchange of pledges of value, as a proof of
wedlock, she fancied, when she received this much-valued jewel, that
she received the sign that our hero took her for a wife, at a moment
when death was about to part them for ever. Further than this, her
simplicity and affections did not induce her to reason, or to believe.
It was an hour before Isabella elicited all these facts and
feelings from Ozema, though the latter clearly wished to conceal
nothing; in truth, had nothing to conceal. The painful part of the
duty remained to be discharged. It was to undeceive the confiding
girl, and to teach her the hard lesson of bitterness that followed.
This was done, however, and the queen, believing it best to remove all
delusion on the subject, finally succeeded in causing her to
understand that, before the count had ever seen herself, his
affections were given to Mercedes, who was, in truth, his betrothed
wife. Nothing could have been gentler, or more femininely tender,
than the manner in which the queen made her communication; but the
blow struck home, and Isabella, herself, trembled at the consequences
of her own act. Never before had she witnessed the outbreaking of
feeling in a mind so entirely unsophisticated, and the images of what
she then saw, haunted her troubled slumbers for many succeeding nights.
As for Columbus and our hero, they were left mainly in the dark, as
to what had occurred, for the following week. It is true, Luis
received a kind and encouraging note from his aunt, the succeeding
day, and a page of Mercedes's silently placed in his hand the cross
that he had so long worn; but, beyond this, he was left to his own
conjectures. The moment for explanation, however, arrived, and the
young man received a summons to the apartment of the marchioness.
Luis did not, as he expected, meet his aunt on reaching the saloon,
which he found empty. Questioning the page who had been his usher, he
was desired to wait for the appearance of some one to receive him.
Patience was not a conspicuous virtue in our hero's character, and he
excited himself by pacing the room, for near half an hour, ere he
discovered a single sign that his visit was remembered. Just as he
was about to summon an attendant, however, again to announce his
presence, a door was slowly opened, and Mercedes stood before him.
The first glance that the young man cast upon his betrothed, told
him that she was suffering under deep mental anxiety. The hand which
he eagerly raised to his lips trembled, and the colour came and went
on her cheeks, in a way to show that she was nearly overcome. Still
she rejected the glass of water that he offered, putting it aside
with a faint smile, and motioning her lover to take a chair, while
she calmly placed herself on a tabouret—one of the humble
seats she was accustomed to occupy in the presence of the queen.
"I have asked for this interview, Don Luis," Mercedes commenced, as
soon as she had given herself time to command her feelings, "in order
that there may no longer be any reasons for mistaking our feelings and
wishes. You have been suspected of having married the Lady Ozema; and
there was a moment when you stood on the verge of destruction, through
the displeasure of Doña Isabella."
"But, blessed Mercedes,
you never imputed to me this act of
deception and unfaithfulness?"
"I told you truth, Señor—for that I knew you too well. I felt
certain that, whenever Luis de Bobadilla had made up his mind to the
commission of such a step, he would also have the manliness and
courage to avow it. I never, for an instant, believed that you
had wedded the princess."
"Why, then, those cold and averted looks?—eyes that sought the
floor, rather than the meeting of glances that love delights in; and a
manner which, if it hath not absolutely displayed aversion, hath at
least manifested a reserve and distance that I had never expected to
witness from thee to me?"
Mercedes's colour changed, and she made no answer for a minute,
during which little interval she had doubts of her ability to carry
out her own purpose. Rallying her courage, however, the discourse was
continued in the same manner as before.
"Hear me, Don Luis," she resumed, "for my history will not be long.
When you left Spain, at my suggestion, to enter on this great voyage,
you loved me—of that grateful recollection no earthly power
can deprive me! Yes, you then loved me, and me only. We
parted, with our troth plighted to each other; and not a day went by,
during your absence, that I did not pass hours on my knees, beseeching
heaven in behalf of the admiral and his followers."
"Beloved Mercedes! it is not surprising that success crowned our
efforts; such an intercessor could not fail to be heard!"
"I entreat you, sir, to hear me. Until the eventful day which
brought the tidings of your return, no Spanish wife could have felt
more concern for him on whom she had placed all her hopes, than I felt
for you. To me, the future was bright and filled with hope, if the
present was loaded with fear and doubt. The messenger who reached the
court, first opened my eyes to the sad realities of the world, and
taught me the hard lesson the young are ever slow to learn—that of
disappointment. It was then I first heard of Ozema—of your
admiration of her beauty—your readiness to sacrifice your life in
"Holy Luke! Did that vagabond, Sancho, dare to wound thy ear,
Mercedes, with any insinuations that touched the strength or the
constancy of my love for thee!"
"He related nought but the truth, Luis, and blame him not. I was
prepared for some calamity by his report, and I bless God that it came
on me by such slow degrees, and with the means of preparation to bear
it. When I beheld Ozema, I no longer wondered at thy change of
feeling,— scarce blamed it. Her beauty, I do think, thou might'st
have withstood; but her unfeigned devotion to thyself, her innocence,
her winning simplicity, and her modest joyousness and nature, are
sufficient to win a lover from any Spanish maiden—"
"Nay, Luis, I have told thee, that I blame thee not. It is better
that the blow come now, than later, when I should not be able to bear
it. There is something which tells me that, as a wife, I should sink
beneath the weight of blighted affections; but, now, there are open to
me the convent and the espousals of the Son of God. Do not interrupt
me, Luis," she added, smiling sweetly, but with an effort that
denoted how difficult it was to seem easy. "I have to struggle
severely to speak at all, and to an argument I am altogether unequal.
Thou hast not been able to control thy affections; and to the strange
novelties that have surrounded Ozema, as well as to her winning
ingenuousness, I owe my loss, and she oweth her gain. It is the will
of Heaven, and I strive to think it is to my everlasting advantage.
Had I really wedded thee, the tenderness that is even now swelling in
my heart—I wish not to conceal it—might have grown to such a
strength as to supplant the love I owe to God; it is, therefore,
doubtless, better as it is. If happiness on earth is not to be my lot,
I shall secure happiness hereafter. Nay, all happiness here will not
be lost; I can still pray for thee, as well as for myself—and thou
and Ozema, of all earthly beings, will ever be uppermost in my
"This is so wonderful, Mercedes — so cruel—so unreasonable and
so unjust, that I cannot credit my ears!"
"I have said that I blame thee not. The beauty and frankness of
Ozema are more than sufficient to justify thee, for men yield to the
senses, rather than to the heart, in bestowing their love. Then—"
Mercedes blushed crimson as she continued—"a Haytian maid may
innocently use a power, that it would ill become a Christian damsel to
employ. And, now, we will come to facts that press for a decision.
Ozema hath been ill—is still ill—dangerously so as her Highness
and my guardian believe—even as the physicians say,—but it is in
thy power, Luis, to raise her, as it might be, from the grave. See
her—say but the word that will confer happiness—tell her, if thou
hast not yet wedded her after the manner of Spain, that thou
wilt—nay, let one of the Holy Priests, who are in constant
attendance on her, to prepare the way for baptism, perform the
ceremony this very morning, and we shall presently see the princess,
again, the smiling, radiant, joyous creature she was, when thou first
placed her in our care."
"And this thou say'st to me, Mercedes, calmly and deliberately, as
if thy words express thy very wishes and feelings!"
"Calmly I may
seem to say it, Luis," answered our heroine in
a smothered tone, "and deliberately I do say it. Marry me,
loving another better, thou canst not; and why not then follow whither
thy heart leadeth. The dowry of the princess shall not be small, for
the convent recluse hath little need of gold, and none of lands."
Luis gazed earnestly at the enthusiastic girl, who in his eyes
never appeared more lovely; then rising he paced the room for three or
four minutes like one who wished to keep down mental agony by physical
action. When he had obtained a proper command of himself, he returned
to his seat, and taking the unresisting hand of Mercedes, he replied
to her extraordinary proposal.
"Watching over the sick couch of thy friend, and too much brooding
on this subject, love, hath impaired thy judgment. Ozema hath no hold
on my heart, in the way thou fanciest — never had, beyond a passing
and truant inclination"—
"Ah! Luis, those `passing and truant inclinations.'— None such,"
pressing both her hands on her own heart— "have ever found a place
"Thy education and mine, Mercedes—thy habits and mine—nay, thy
nature and the ruder elements of mine, are not, cannot be the
same. Were they so, I should not worship thee as I now do. But didst
thou not exist, the certainty that I should wed Ozema, would not give
me happiness— but thou existing, and beloved as thou art, it would
entail on me a misery that even my buoyant nature could not endure.
In no case can I ever be the husband of the Indian."
Although a gleam of happiness illumined the face of Mercedes for a
moment, her high principles and pure intentions soon suppressed the
momentary and unbidden triumph, and, even with a reproving manner, she
made her answer.
"Is this just to Ozema?—Hath not her simplicity been deluded by
those `passing and truant inclinations,' and doth not honour require
that thy acts now redeem the pledges that have been given by, at
least, thy manner?"
"Mercedes—beloved girl—hearken to me. Thou must know, that,
with all my levities and backslidings, I am no coxcomb. Never hath my
manner said aught that the heart did not confirm, and never hath the
heart been drawn towards any but thee. In this, is the great
distinction that I make between thee and all others of thy sex.
Ozema's is not the only form, her's are not the only charms that may
have caught a truant glance from my eyes, or extorted some unmeaning
and bootless admiration, but thou, love, art enshrined here, and
seemest already a part of myself. Didst thou know how often thy image
hath proved a monitor stronger than conscience; on how many occasions
the remembrance of thy virtues and thy affections hath prevailed,
when even duty, and religion, and early lessons would have been
forgotten, thou would'st understand the difference between the love I
bear thee, and what thou hast so tauntingly repeated as truant
and passing inclinations."
"Luis, I ought not to listen to these alluring words, which come
from a goodness of heart that would spare me present pain, only to
make my misery in the end the deeper. If thou hast never felt
otherwise, why was the cross that I gave thee at parting, bestowed on
"Mercedes, thou know'st not the fearful circumstances under which I
parted with that cross. Death was staring us in the face, and I gave
it as a symbol that might aid a heathen soul in its extremity. That
the gift, or rather that the thing I lent, was mistaken for a pledge
of matrimony, is an unhappy misconception, that your own knowledge of
Christian usages will tell you I could not foresee; otherwise I might
now claim thee for my wife, in consequence of having first bestowed it
"Ah! Luis; when I gave thee that cross, I did wish to be understood
as plighting my faith to thee for ever!"
"And when thou didst send it back to me, now within the week, how
was it thy wish to be understood?"
"I sent it to thee, Luis, in a moment of reviving hope, and by the
order of the queen. Her Highness is now firmly thy friend, and would
fain see us united, but for the melancholy condition of Ozema, to whom
all has been explained— all, as I fear, except the real state of thy
feelings towards us both."
"Cruel girl!—Am I then never to be believed—never again to be
happy? I swear to thee, dearest Mercedes, that thou alone hast my
whole heart — that with thee, I could be contented in a hovel, and
that without thee, I should be miserable on a throne. Thou wilt
believe this, when thou see'st me a wretch, wandering the earth,
reckless alike of hopes and objects, perhaps of character, because
thou alone canst make me, and keep me the man I ought to be. Bethink
thee, Mercedes, of the influence thou canst have—must have—wilt
have on one of my temperament and passions. I have long looked upon
thee as my guardian angel, one that can mould me to thy will, and rule
me when all others fail. With thee—the impatience produced by thy
doubts excepted—am I not ever tractable and gentle? Hath Doña
Beatriz ever exercised a tithe of thy power over me, and hast thou
ever failed to tame even my wildest and rashest humours?"
"Luis—Luis—no one that knew it, ever doubted of thy heart!"
Mercedes paused, and the working of her countenance proved that the
earnest sincerity of her lover had already shaken her doubts of his
constancy. Still her mind reverted to the scenes of the voyage, and
her imagination pourtrayed the couch of the stricken Ozema. After a
minute's delay, she proceeded in a low, humbled tone— "I will not
deny that it is soothing to my heart to hear this language, to which I
fear I listen too readily," she said. "Still I find it difficult to
believe that thou canst ever forget one who hath even braved the
chances of death, in order to shelter thy body from the arrows of thy
"Believe not this, beloved girl; thou would'st have done that
thyself, in Ozema's place, and so I shall ever consider it."
"I should have the wish, Luis," Mercedes continued, her eyes
suffused with tears, "but I might not have the power!"
"Thou would'st—thou would'st—I know thee too well to doubt it."
"I could envy Ozema the occasion, were it not sinful! I fear thou
wilt think of this, when thy mind shall have tired with attractions
that have lost their novelty."
"Thou would'st not only have done it, but thou would'st have done
it far better. Ozema, moreover, was exposed in her own quarrel, whilst
thou would'st have exposed thyself in mine."
Mercedes again paused, and appeared to muse deeply. Her eyes had
brightened under the soothing asseverations of her lover, and, spite
of the generous self-devotion with which she had determined to
sacrifice all her own hopes to what she had imagined would make her
lover happy, the seductive influence of requited affection was fast
resuming its power.
"Come with me, then, Luis, and behold Ozema," she at length
continued. "When thou see'st her, in her present state, thou wilt
better understand thine own intentions. I ought not to have suffered
thee thus to revive thy ancient feelings in a private interview, Ozema
not being present; it is like forming a judgment on the hearing of
only one side. And, Luis,"—her heightened colour, the effect of
feeling, not of shame, rendered the girl surpassingly beautiful—
"and, Luis, if thou should'st find reason to change thy language
after visiting the princess, however hard I may find it to be borne,
thou wilt be certain of my forgiveness for all that hath passed, and
of my prayers—"
Sobs interrupted Mercedes, and she stopped an instant to wipe away
her tears, rejecting Luis's attempt to fold her in his arms, in order
to console her, with a sensitive jealousy of the result; a feeling,
however, in which delicacy had more weight than resentment. When she
had dried her eyes, and otherwise removed the traces of her agitation,
she led the way to the apartment of Ozema, where the presence of the
young man was expected.
Luis started on entering the room; a little on perceiving that the
queen and the admiral were present, and more at observing the inroads
that disappointment had made on the appearance of Ozema. The colour of
the latter was gone, leaving a deadly paleness in its place; her eyes
possessed a brightness that seemed supernatural, and yet her weakness
was so evident as to render it necessary to support her, in a
half-recumbent posture, on pillows. An exclamation of unfeigned
delight escaped her when she beheld our hero, and then she covered her
face with both her hands, in childish confusion, as if ashamed at
betraying the pleasure she felt. Luis behaved with manly propriety,
for, though his conscience did not altogether escape a few twinges, at
the recollection of the hours he had wasted in Ozema's society, and
at the manner in which he had momentarily submitted to the influence
of her beauty and seductive simplicity, on the whole he stood
self-acquitted of any thing that might fairly be urged as a fault, and
most of all, of any thought of being unfaithful to his first love, or
of any design to deceive. He took the hand of the young Indian
respectfully, and he kissed it with an openness and warmth that
denoted brotherly tenderness and regard, rather than passion, or the
emotion of a lover. Mercedes did not dare to watch his movements, but
she observed the approving glance that the queen threw at her
guardian, when he had approached the couch on which Ozema lay. This
glance she interpreted into a sign that the count had acquitted
himself in a manner favourable to her own interests.
"Thou findest the lady Ozema weak and changed," observed the queen,
who alone would presume to break a silence that was already awkward.
"We have been endeavouring to enlighten her simple mind on the subject
of religion, and she hath, at length, consented to receive the holy
sacrament of baptism. The Lord Archbishop is even now preparing for
the ceremony in my oratory, and we have the blessed prospect of
rescuing this one precious soul from perdition."
"Your Highness hath ever the good of all your people at heart,"
said Luis, bowing low to conceal the tears that the condition of Ozema
had drawn from his eyes. "I fear this climate of ours ill agrees with
the poor Haytians, generally, for I hear that the sick among them, at
Seville and Palos, offer but little hope of recovery."
"Is this so, Don Christopher?"
"Señora, I believe it is only too true. Care hath been had,
however, to their souls, as well as to their bodies, and Ozema is the
last of her people, now in Spain, to receive the holy rite of
"Señora," said the Marchioness, coming from the couch with surprise
and concern in her countenance, "I fear our hopes are to be defeated
after all! The lady Ozema hath just whispered me, that Luis and
Mercedes must first be married in her presence, ere she will consent
to be admitted within the pale of the church herself."
"This doth not denote the right spirit, Beatriz—and, yet, what
can be done with a mind so little illuminated with the light from
above. 'T is merely a passing caprice, and will be forgotten when the
archbishop shall be ready."
"I think not, Señora. Never have I seen her so decided and clear.
In common, we find her gentle and tractable, but this hath she thrice
said, in a way to cause the belief of her perfect seriousness."
Isabella now advanced to the couch, and spoke long and soothingly
to the invalid. In the meantime, the admiral conversed with the
Marchioness, and Luis again approached our heroine. The evidences of
emotion were plain in both, and Mercedes scarce breathed, not knowing
what to expect. But a few low words soon brought an assurance that
could not fail to bring happiness, spite of her generous efforts to
feel for Ozema—that the heart of our hero was all her own. From
this moment Mercedes dismissed every doubt, and she regarded Luis as
had so long been her wont.
As is usual in the presence of royalty, the conversation was
carried on in a low tone; and a quarter of an hour elapsed before a
page announced that the oratory, or little chapel, was ready, opening
a door that communicated directly with it, as he entered.
"This wilful girl persisteth, daughter-marchioness," said the
queen, advancing from the side of the couch, "and I know not what to
answer. It is cruel to deny her the offered means of grace, and yet it
is a sudden and unseemly request to make of thy nephew and thy ward!"
"As for the first, dearest Señora, never distrust his forgiveness;
though I much doubt the possibility of prevailing on Mercedes. Her
very nature is made up of religion and female decorum."
"It is, indeed, scarce right to think of it. A Christian maiden
should have time to prepare her spirit for the holy sacrament of
marriage, by prayer."
"And yet, Señora, many wed without it! The time hath been when Don
Ferdinand of Aragon and Doña Isabella might not have hesitated for
such a purpose."
"That time never was, Beatriz. Thou hast a habit of making me look
back to our days of trial and youth, whenever thou would'st urge on me
some favourite but ill-considered wish of thine own. Dost really think
thy ward would overlook the want of preparation and time?"
"I know not what she might feel disposed to overlook, Señora; but I
do know that if there be one woman in Spain who is at all times ready
in spirit, for the most sacred rites of the church, it is your
Highness; and, if there be another, it is my ward."
"Go to—go to—good Beatriz; flattery sitteth ill on thee. None
are always ready, and all have an unceasing need for watchfulness. Bid
Doña Mercedes follow to my closet; I will converse with her on this
subject. At least, there shall be no unfeminine and unseemly surprise."
So saying, the queen withdrew. She had hardly reached her closet,
before our heroine entered, with a doubtful and timid step. As soon as
her eyes met those of her sovereign, Mercedes burst into tears, and
falling on her knees she again buried her face in the robe of Doña
Isabella. This outbreak of feeling was soon subdued, however, and
then the girl stood erect, waiting her sovereign's pleasure.
"Daughter," commenced the queen, "I trust there is no longer any
misapprehension between thee and the Conde de Llera. Thou knowest the
views of thy guardian and myself, and mayest, in a matter like this,
with safety defer to our cooler heads and greater experience. Don Luis
loveth thee, and hath never loved the princess, though it would not
be out of character, did an impetuous young man, who hath been much
exposed to the temptation, betray some transient and passing feeling
towards one of so much nature and beauty."
"Luis hath admitted all, Señora: inconstant he hath never been,
though he may have had his weaknesses."
"'T is a hard lesson to learn, child, even in this stage of thy
life," said the queen, gravely; "but it would have been harder were it
deferred until the nearer tenderness of a wife had superseded the
impulses of the girl. Thou hast heard the opinions of the learned;
there is little hope that the princess Ozema can long survive."
"Ah! Señora, 't is a cruel fate! To die among strangers, in the
flower of her beauty, and with a heart crushed by the weight of
"And yet, Mercedes, if Heaven open on her awaking eyes, when the
last earthly scene is over, the transition will be most blessed; and
they who mourn her loss, would do wiser to rejoice. One so youthful,
and so innocent; whose pure mind hath been laid bare to us, as it
might be, and which we have found wanting in nothing beside the fruits
of a pious instruction, can have little to apprehend on the score of
personal errors. All that is required for such a being, is to place
her within the covenant of God's grace, by obtaining the rite of
baptism, and there is not a bishop of the church that could depart
with brighter hopes for the future."
"That holy office is my lord archbishop about to administer, as I
"That somewhat dependeth on thee, daughter. Listen, and be
not hasty in thy decision, which may touch on the security of a human
The queen now related to Mercedes the romantic request of Ozema,
placing it before her listener in terms so winning and gentle, that it
produced less surprise and alarm than she herself had anticipated.
"Doña Beatriz hath a proposal that may, at first, appear plausible,
but which reflection will not sanction. Her design was to cause the
count actually to wed Ozema"—Mercedes started, and turned pale —
"in order that the last hours of the young stranger might be soothed
by the consciousness of being the wife of the man she idolized; but I
have found serious objections to the scheme. What is thy opinion,
"Señora, could I believe — as lately I did, but now do not —
that Luis had such a preference for the princess, as might lead him,
in the end, to the happiness of that mutual affection without which
wedlock must be a curse instead of a blessing, I would be the last to
object; nay, I think I could even beg the boon of your Highness on my
knees, for she who truly loveth can only seek the felicity of its
object. But, I am assured the count hath not the affection for the
lady Ozema that is necessary to this end; and would it not be profane,
Señora, to receive the church's sacraments under vows that the heart
not only does not answer to, but against which it is actually
"Excellent girl! These are precisely my own views, and in this
manner have I answered the marchioness. The rites of the church may
not be trifled with, and we are bound to submit to sorrows that may be
inflicted, after all, for our eternal good; though it be harder to
bear those of others than to bear our own. It remaineth only to decide
on this whim of Ozema's, and to say if thou wilt now be married, in
order that she may be baptized."
Notwithstanding the devotedness of feeling with which our heroine
loved Luis, it required a strong struggle with her habits and her
sense of propriety to take this great step so suddenly, and with so
little preparation. The wishes of the queen, however, prevailed; for
Isabella felt a deep responsibility on her own soul, in letting the
stranger depart without being brought within the pale of the church.
When Mercedes consented, she dispatched a messenger to the
marchioness, and then she and her companion both knelt, and passed
near an hour together, in the spiritual exercises that were usual to
the occasion. In this mood, did these two pure-minded females, without
a thought to the vanities of the toilet, but with every attention to
the mental preparations of which the case admitted, present
themselves at the door of the royal chapel, through which Ozema had
just been carried, still stretched on her couch. The marchioness had
caused a white veil to be thrown over the head of Mercedes, and a few
proper but slight alterations had been made in her attire, out of
habitual deference to the altar and its ministers.
About a dozen persons, deemed worthy of confidence, were present,
already; and just as the bride and bride-groom were about to take
their places, Don Ferdinand hastily entered, carrying in his hand some
papers which he had been obliged to cease examining, in order to
comply with the wishes of his royal consort. The king was a dignified
prince; and when it suited him, no sovereign enacted his part more
gracefully or in better taste. Motioning the archbishop to pause, he
directed Luis to kneel. Throwing over the shoulder of the young man
the collar of one of his own orders, he said —
"Now, arise, noble sir, and ever do thy duty to thy Heavenly
Master, as thou hast of late discharged it towards us."
Isabella rewarded her husband, for this act of grace, by an
approving smile, and the ceremony immediately proceeded. In the usual
time, our hero and heroine were pronounced man and wife, and the
solemn rites were ended. Mercedes felt, in the warm pressure with
which Luis held her to his heart, that she now understood him; and,
for a blissful instant, Ozema was forgotten, in the fulness of her
own happiness. Columbus had given away the bride, an office that the
king assigned to him, though he stood at the bridegroom's side
himself, with a view to do him honour, and even so far condescended as
to touch the canopy that was held above the heads of the new-married
couple. But, Isabella kept aloof, placing herself near the couch of
Ozema, whose features she watched throughout the ceremony. She had
felt no occasion for public manifestations of interest in the bride,
their feelings having so lately been poured out together in dear and
private communion. The congratulations were soon over, and, then, Don
Ferdinand, and all but those who were in the secret of Ozema's
The queen had not desired her husband, and the other attendants, to
remain and witness the baptism of Ozema, out of a delicate feeling for
the condition of a female stranger, whom her habits and opinions had
invested with a portion of the sacred rights of royalty. She had noted
the intensity of feeling with which the half-enlightened girl watched
the movements of the archbishop and the parties, and the tears had
forced themselves from her own eyes, at witnessing the struggle
between love and friendship, that was pourtrayed in every lineament of
her pale, but still lovely, countenance.
"Where cross?" Ozema eagerly demanded, as Mercedes stooped to fold
the wasted form of the young Indian in her arms, and to kiss her
cheek. "Give cross — Luis no marry with cross—give Ozema cross."
Mercedes, herself, took the cross from the bosom of her husband,
where it had lain near his heart, since it had been returned to him,
and put it in the hands of the princess.
"No marry with cross, then," murmured the girl, the tears suffusing
her eyes, so as nearly to prevent her gazing at the much-prized
bauble. "Now, quick, Señora, and make Ozema Christian."
The scene was getting to be too solemn and touching for many words,
and the archbishop, at a sign from the queen, commenced the ceremony.
It was of short duration; and Isabella's kind nature was soon quieted
with the assurance that the stranger, whom she deemed the subject of
her especial care, was put within the covenant for salvation that had
been made with the visible church.
"Is Ozema Christian now?" demanded the girl, with a suddenness and
simplicity, that caused all present to look at each other, with pain
"Thou hast, now, the assurance that God's grace will be offered to
thy prayers, daughter," answered the prelate. "Seek it with thy heart,
and thy end, which is at hand, will be more blessed."
"Christian no marry heathen?—Christian marry Christian?"
"This hast thou been often told, my poor Ozema," returned the
queen—"the rite could not be duly solemnized between Christian and
"Christian marry first lady he love best?"
"Certainly. To do otherwise would be a violation of his vow, and a
mockery of God."
"So Ozema think—but he can marry second wife—inferior wife —
lady he love next. Luis marry Mercedes, first wife, because he love
best—then he marry Ozema, second wife—lower wife—because he love
next best—Ozema Christian, now, and no harm. Come, archbishop; make
Ozema Luis second wife."
Isabella groaned aloud, and walked to a distant part of the chapel,
while Mercedes burst into tears, and sinking on her knees, she buried
her face in the cloth of the couch, and prayed fervently for the
enlightening of the soul of the princess. The churchman did not
receive this proof of ignorance in his penitent, and of her unfitness
for the rite he had just administered, with the same pity and
"The holy baptism thou hast just received, benighted woman," he
said, sternly, "is healthful, or not, as it is improved. Thou hast
just made such a demand, as already loadeth thy soul with a fresh
weight of sin, and the time for repentance is short. No Christian can
have two wives at the same time, and God knoweth no higher or lower,
no first or last, between those whom his church hath united. Thou
canst not be a second wife, the first still living."
"No would be to Caonabo — to Luis, yes. Fifty, hundred wife to
dear Luis! No possible?"
"Self-deluded and miserable girl, I tell thee no. No—
no—no—never—never—never. There is such a taint of sin in the
very question, as profaneth this holy chapel, and the symbols of
religion by which it is filled. Ay, kiss and embrace thy cross, and
bow down thy very soul in despair, for—"
"Lord Archbishop," interrupted the Marchioness of Moya, with a
sharpness of manner that denoted how much her ancient spirit was
aroused, "there is enough of this. The ear thou would'st wound, at
such a moment, is already deaf, and the pure spirit hath gone to the
tribunal of another, and, as I trust, a milder judge. Ozema is dead!"
It was, indeed, true. Startled by the manner of the prelate —
bewildered with the confusion of ideas that had grown up between the
dogmas that had been crowded on her mind, of late, and those in which
she had been early taught; and physically paralyzed by the certainty
that her last hope of a union with Luis was gone, the spirit of the
Indian girl had deserted its beautiful tenement, leaving on the
countenance of the corpse a lovely impression of the emotions that had
prevailed during the last moments of its earthly residence.
Thus fled the first of those souls, that the great discovery was to
rescue from the perdition of the heathen. Casuists may refine, the
learned dilate, and the pious ponder, on its probable fate in the
unknown existence that awaited it; but the meek and submissive will
hope all from the beneficence of a merciful God. As for Isabella, she
received a shock from the blow, that temporarily checked her triumph
at the success of her zeal and efforts. Little, however, did she
foresee, that the event was but a type of the manner in which the
religion of the cross was to be abused and misunderstood; a sort of
practical prognostic of the defeat of most of her own pious and gentle
hopes and wishes.
"A perfect woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a spirit still, and bright
With something of an angel light."
The lustre that was thrown around the voyage of Columbus, brought
the seas into favour. It was no longer deemed an inferior occupation,
or unsuited to nobles, to engage in enterprises on its bosom; and that
very propensity of our hero, which had so often been mentioned to his
prejudice, in former years, was now frequently named to his credit.
Though his real connexion with Columbus is published, for the first
time, in these pages, the circumstance having escaped the superficial
investigations of the historians, it was an advantage to him to be
known as having manifested what might be termed a maritime
disposition, in an age when most of his rank and expectations were
satisfied with the adventures of the land. A sort of fashion was got
up on behalf of the ocean; and the cavalier who had gazed upon its
vast and unbroken expanse, beyond the view of his mother earth,
regarded him who had not, much as he who had won his spurs looked down
upon him who had suffered the proper period of life to pass without
making the effort. Many of the nobles whose estates touched the
Mediterranean or the Atlantic, fitted out small coasters — the
yachts of the fifteenth century — and were met following the
sinuosities of the glorious coasts of that part of the world,
endeavouring to derive a satisfaction from a pursuit that it seemed
meritorious to emulate. That all succeeded, who attempted thus to
transfer the habits of courts and castles to the narrow limits of
xebecs and felucca it would be hazarding too much to assert; but
there is little doubt that the spirit of the period was sustained by
the experiments, and that men were ashamed to condemn that, which it
was equally the policy and the affectation of the day to extol. The
rivalry between Spain and Portugal, too, contributed to the feeling
of the times; and there was soon greater danger of the youth who had
never quitted his native shores, being pointed out for his want of
spirit, than that the adventurer should be marked for his eccentric
and vagrant instability.
In the meanwhile, the seasons advanced, and events followed, in
their usual course, from cause to effect. About the close of the month
of September, the ocean, just without that narrow and romantic pass
that separates Europe from Africa, while it connects the transcendent
Mediterranean with the broader wastes of the Atlantic, was glittering
with the rays of the rising sun, which, at the same time, was gilding
the objects that rose above the surface of the blue waters. The latter
were not numerous, though a dozen different sails were moving slowly
on their several courses, impelled by the soft breezes of the season.
Of these, our business is with one alone, which it may be well to
describe in a few general terms.
The rig of the vessel in question, was latine, perhaps the most
picturesque of all that the ingenuity of man has invented as the
accessory of a view, whether given to the eye by means of the canvass,
or in its real dimensions and substance. Its position, too, was
precisely that which a painter would have chosen as the most
favourable to his pencil, the little felucca running before the wind,
with one of its high pointed sails extended on each side, resembling
the pinions of some enormous bird that was contracting its wings as
it settled towards its nest. Unusual symmetry was apparent in the
spars and rigging; while the hull, which was distinguished by lines of
the fairest proportions, had a neatness and finish that denoted the
yacht of a noble.
The name of this vessel was the "Ozema," and she carried the Count
of Llera with his youthful bride. Luis, who had acquired much of the
mariner's skill, in his many voyages, directed the movements in
person, though Sancho Mundo strutted around her decks with an air of
authority, being the titular, if not the real patron of the craft.
"Ay — ay — good Bartolemeo, lash that anchor well," said the
last, as he inspected the forecastle, in his hourly rounds; "for fair
as may be the breezes, and mild as is the season, no one can know what
humour the Atlantic may be in, when it fairly waketh up. In the great
voyage to Cathay, nothing could have been more propitious than our
outward passage, and nothing savour more of devils incarnate, than the
homeward. Doña Mercedes maketh an excellent sailor, as ye all may see;
and no one can tell which way, or how far, the humour of the Conde may
carry him, when he hath once taken his departure. I tell ye, fellows,
that glory and gold may alight upon ye all, any minute, in the service
of such a noble; and I hope none of ye have forgotten to come provided
with hawk'sbells, which are as remarkable for assembling doblas, as
the bells of the Seville cathedral are for assembling Christians."
"Master Mundo—" called out our hero from the quarter-deck, "let
there be a man sent to the extremity of the foreyard, and bid him look
along the sea to the north and east of us."
This command interrupted one of Sancho's self-glorifying
discourses, and compelled him to see the order executed. When the
seaman who was sent aloft, had "shinned" his way to the airy and
seemingly perilous position he had been told to occupy, an inquiry
went up from the deck, to demand what he beheld.
"Señor Conde," answered the fellow, "the ocean is studded with
sails, in the quarter your Excellency hath named, looking like the
mouth of the Tagus, at the first of a westerly wind."
"Canst thou tell them, and let me know their numbers?" called out
"By the mass, Señor," returned the man, after taking time to make
his count—"I see no less than sixteen—nay, now I see another, a
smaller just opening from behind a carrack of size—seventeen, I make
them in all."
"Then are we in season, love!" exclaimed Luis, turning towards
Mercedes with delight—"once more shall I grasp the hand of the
admiral, ere he quitteth us again for Cathay. Thou seemest glad as
myself, that our effort hath not failed."
"That which gladdeneth thee, Luis, is sure to gladden me," returned
the bride; "where there is but one interest, there ought to be but one
"Beloved—beloved Mercedes—thou wilt make me every thing thou
canst desire. This heavenly disposition of thine, and this ready
consenting to voyage with me, will be sure to mould me in such a way
that I shall be less myself than thee."
"As yet, Luis," returned the young wife, smiling, "the change
promiseth to be the other way, since thou art much likelier to make me
a rover, than I to make thee a fixture of the castle of Llera."
"Thou comest not out upon the sea, Mercedes, contrary to thine own
wishes?" demanded Luis, with the earnest quickness of one who was
fearful he might unconsciously have done an act of indiscretion.
"No, dearest Luis; so far from it, that I have come with
satisfaction, apart from the pleasure I have had in obliging thee.
Fortunately, I feel no indisposition from the motion of the felucca,
and the novelty is of the most agreeable and exciting kind."
To say that Louis rejoiced to hear this on more accounts than one,
is but to add that he still found a pleasure in the scenes of the
In half an hour the vessel of the admiral was visible from the
Ozema's deck, and ere the sun had reached the meridian, the little
felucca was gliding into the centre of the fleet, holding her course
towards the carrack of Columbus. The usual hailing passed, when,
apprised of the presence of Mercedes, the admiral gallantly repaired
on board the Ozema, to pay his respects in person. The scenes through
which they had passed together, had created in Columbus a species of
paternal regard for Luis, in which Mercedes shared, through the
influence of her noble conduct during the events that occurred at
Barcelona. He met the happy pair, therefore, with dignified affection,
and his reception partook of the feelings that the Count and Countess
so fully reciprocated.
Nothing could be more striking to one who had an opportunity of
witnessing both, than the contrast between the means with which the
Genoese sailed on this, and on his former voyage. Then he had set
forth neglected, almost forgotten, in three vessels, ill-found, and
worsemanned, whilst now, the ocean was whitened with his canvass, and
he was surrounded by no inconsiderable portion of the chivalry of
Spain. As soon as it was known that the Countess of Llera was in the
felucca that had stopped the fleet, boats put off from most of the
vessels, and Mercedes held a sort of court on the broad Atlantic; her
own female attendants, among whom were two or three of the rank of
ladies, assisting her in doing proper honour to the cavaliers who
thronged the deck. The balmy influence of the pure air of the ocean,
contributed to the happiness of the moment; and, for an hour, the
Ozema presented a scene of gaiety and splendour, such as had never
before been witnessed by any person present.
"Beautiful countess," cried one, who had been a rejected suitor of
our heroine, "you see to what acts of desperation your cruelty hath
driven me, who am going forth on an adventure to the farthest east. It
is well for Don Luis that I did not make this venture before he won
your favour; as no damsel in Spain is expected, henceforth, to
withstand the suit of one of the admiral's followers."
"It may be as you say, Señor," returned Mercedes, her heart
swelling with the consciousness that he whom she had chosen had made
this same boasted adventure, whilst others shrunk from its hazard, and
when its result was still a mystery in the unknown future — "It may
be as you say; but one of moderate wishes, like myself, must be
content with these unambitious voyages along the coast, in which,
happily, a wife may be her husband's companion."
"Lady," cried the gallant and reckless Alonzo de Ojeda, in his
turn, "Don Luis caused me to roll upon the earth, in the tourney, by a
fair and manly effort, that hath left no rancour behind it; but I
shall outdo him now, since he is content to keep the shores of Spain
in view, leaving to us the glory of seeking the Indies, and of
reducing the Infidels to the sway of the two sovereigns!"
"It is a sufficient honour to my husband, Señor, that he can boast
of the success you name, and he must rest satisfied with the
reputation acquired in that one deed."
"Countess, a year hence, you would love him better, did he come
forth with us, and show his spirit among the people of the Grand Khan!"
"Thou seest, Don Alonzo, that the illustrious admiral doth not
altogether despise him as it is. They seek a private interview in my
cabin together; an attention Don Christopher would not be apt to pay a
recreant, or a laggard."
"'T is surprising!" resumed the rejected suitor; "the favour of the
Conde with our noble admiral hath surprised us all, at Barcelona. Can
it be, de Ojeda, that they have met in some of their earlier nautical
"By the mass! Señor," cried Alonzo, laughing, "if Don Luis ever met
the admiral, as he met me in the lists, I should think one interview
would answer for the rest of their days!"
In this manner did the discourse proceed, some speaking in levity,
some in more sober mood, and all in amity. Whilst this was passing on
deck, Columbus had, indeed, retired to a cabin with our hero.
"Don Luis," said the admiral, when they were seated near each
other, and alone, "thou knowest the regard I bear thee, and I feel
certain that thou returnest it with an equal degree of esteem. I now
go forth from Spain, on a far more perilous adventure than that in
which thou wert my companion. Then I sailed concealed in contempt, and
veiled from human eyes by ignorance and pity; now, have I left the
old world, followed by malignancy and envy. These facts am I too old
not to have seen, and foreseen. In my absence, many will be busy with
my name. Even they who now shout at my heels, will become my
calumniators, revenging themselves for past adulation by present
detraction. The sovereigns will be beset with lies, and any
disappointment in the degree of success will be distorted into
crimes. I leave friends behind me, too—friends, such as Juan Perez,
de St. Angel, Quintanilla, and thyself. On ye, then, do I greatly
rely, not for favours, but for the interest of truth and justice."
"Señor, you may count upon my small influence under all
circumstances. I have seen you in the day of trial, and it exceedeth
ordinary misrepresentations to weaken my faith in you."
"This did I believe, Luis, even before it was so warmly and
sincerely said," returned the admiral, squeezing the young man's hand
with fervour. "I doubt if Fonseca, who hath now so much power in the
affairs of India, is truly my friend. Then, there is one of thy blood
and name, who hath already regarded me with unfavourable eyes, and
whom I distrust exceedingly, should an occasion offer in which he
might do me injury."
"I know him well, Don Christopher, and account him as doing no
credit to the house of Bobadilla."
"He hath credit, nevertheless, with the king, which is of more
importance, just now!"
"Ah! Señor, to that wily and double-faced monarch, you must look
for nothing generous. So long as Doña Isabella's ear can be kept open
to the truth, there is nothing to fear, but Don Ferdinand groweth each
day more worldly and temporizing. Mass!—that one who, in youth, was
so bold and manly a knight, should in his age betray so many of the
meannesses that would disgrace a Moor! My noble aunt, however, is a
host in herself, and will ever remain true to you, as she commenced."
"God overruleth all, and it were sinful to distrust either his
wisdom or justice. And now, Luis, one word touching thyself.
Providence hath made thee the guardian of the happiness of such a
being as is seldom found this side the gates of heaven. The man who is
blessed with a virtuous and amiable wife, like her thou hast wedded,
should erect an altar in his heart, on which he ought to make daily,
nay, hourly, sacrifices of gratitude to God for the boon; since, of
all earthly blessings, he enjoyeth the richest, the purest, and the
most lasting, should he not be unmindful of his own riches. But a
woman like Doña Mercedes is a creature as delicate as she is rare. Let
her equanimity check thy impetuosity; her purity rebuke the
less-refined elements of thy composition; her virtue stimulate thine
own; her love keep thine in an unceasing flame, and her tenderness be
a constant appeal to thy manly indulgence and protection. Fulfil all
thy duties as a Spanish grandee, son, and seek felicity in the partner
of thy bosom, and in love to God."
The admiral now gave Luis his blessing, and taking leave of
Mercedes in the same solemn manner, he hastened to his carrack. Boat
after boat quitted the felucca, many calling out their leave-takings
even after they were at a distance. In a few minutes, the heavy yards
swung round, and the fleet was again sweeping off towards the
south-west, holding its way, as was then fancied, towards the distant
shore of India. For an hour the Ozema lay where she had been left by
Columbus, as if gazing at her retiring friends; then her canvass
filled, and she hauled up towards that bight of the coast, at the
bottom of which lay the port of Palos de Moguer.
The afternoon was deliciously balmy, and when the felucca drew in
with the land, the surface of the sea was as smooth as that of an
inland lake. There was just wind enough to cool the air, and to propel
the little vessel three or four knots through the water. The day
apartment, occupied by our hero and heroine, was on the quarter-deck.
It was formed, on the exterior, by a tarpawlin, bent like the tilt of
a wagon, while the interior was embellished with a lining of precious
stuffs that converted it into a beautiful little saloon. In front, a
canvass bulkhead protected it from the gaze of the crew; and, towards
the stern, a rich curtain fell, when it became necessary to shut out
the view. The latter was now carelessly festooned, permitting the eye
to range over a broad expanse of the ocean, and to watch the glories
of the setting sun.
Mercedes reclined on a luxurious couch, gazing on the ocean, and
Luis touched a guitar, seated on a stool at her feet. He had just
played a favourite national air, which he had accompanied with his
voice, and had laid aside the instrument, when he perceived that his
young wife did not listen, with her usual fondness and admiration, to
"Thou art thoughtful, Mercedes," he said, leaning forward to read
the melancholy expression of those eyes that were so often glowing
"The sun is setting in the direction of the land of poor Ozema,
Luis," Mercedes answered, a slight tremour pervading her voice; "the
circumstance, in connexion with the sight of this boundless ocean,
that so much resembleth eternity, hath led me to think of her end.
Surely—surely— a creature so innocent can never be consigned to
eternal misery, because her unenlightened mind and impassioned
feelings were unable to comprehend all the church's mysteries!"
"I would that thou thought'st less on this subject, love; thy
prayers, and the masses that have been said for her soul, should
content thee; or, if thou wilt, the last can be repeated, again and
"We will offer still more," returned the young wife, scarce
speaking above her breath, while the tears fell down her cheeks. "The
best of us will need masses, and we owe this to poor Ozema.
Didst thou bethink thee, to intercede again with the admiral, to do
all service to Mattinao, on reaching Española?"
"That hath been attended to, and so dismiss the subject from thy
mind. The monument is already erected at Llera, and, we may feel
regret for the loss of the sweet girl, but can scarce mourn for her.
Were I not Luis de Bobadilla, thy husband, dearest, I could think her
the subject of envy, rather than of pity."
"Ah! Luis, thy flattery is too pleasing to bring reproof, but it is
scarce seemly. Even the happiness I feel, in being assured of thy
love—that our fortunes, fate, name, interests are one — is, in
truth, but misery, compared with the seraphic joys of the blessed; and
to such joys I could wish Ozema's spirit might be elevated."
"Doubt it not, Mercedes; she hath all that her goodness and
innocence can claim. Mass! If she even have half that I feel, in
holding thee thus to my heart, she is no subject for grief, and thou
say'st she hath, or wilt have, tenfold more."
"Luis—Luis—speak not thus! We will have other masses said at
Seville, as well as at Burgos and Salamanca."
"As thou wilt, love. Let them be said yearly, monthly, weekly, for
ever, or as long as the churchmen think they may have virtue."
Mercedes smiled her gratitude, and the conversation became less
painful, though it continued to be melancholy. An hour passed in this
manner, during which, the communion was of the sweet character that
pervades the intercourse of those who love tenderly. Mercedes had
already acquired a powerful command over the headlong propensities
and impetuous feelings of her husband, and was gradually moulding
him, unknown to herself, to be the man that was necessary to her own
feelings. In this change, which was the result of influence, and not
of calculation or design, she was aided by the manly qualities of our
hero, which were secretly persuading him that he had now the happiness
of another in his keeping, as well as his own. This is an appeal that
a really generous mind seldom withstands, and far oftener produces the
correction of minor faults, than any direct management, or open
rebukes. Perhaps Mercedes's strongest arm, however, was her own
implicit confidence in her husband's excellence, Luis feeling a desire
to be that which she so evidently thought him; an opinion that his
own conscience did not, in the fullest extent, corroborate.
Just as the sun had set, Sancho came to announce that he had let go
"Here we are, Señor Conde, — here we are, at last, Senora Doña
Mercedes, lying off the town of Palos, and within a hundred yards of
the very spot where Don Christopher and his gallant companions
departed for the discovery of the Indies—God bless him a
hundred-fold, and all who went with him. The boat is ready to take you
to the shore, Señora; and there, if you do not find Seville, or
Barcelona, cathedrals and palaces, you will find Palos, and Santa
Clara, and the Ship-Yard Gate—three places that are, henceforth, to
be more renowned than either: Palos, as having sent forth the
expedition; Santa Clara, as having saved it from destruction, by vows
fulfilled at its altars; and the Gate, for having had the ship of the
admiral built within it."
"And other great events, good Sancho!" put in the count.
"Just so, your Excellency; and for other great events. Am I to land
Mercedes assented, and in ten minutes she and her husband were
walking on the beach, within ten yards of the very spot where Columbus
and Luis had embarked the previous year. The firm sands were now
covered with people, walking in the cool of the evening. Most of them
were of the humbler classes, this being the only land, we believe, in
which the population of countries that possess a favourable climate,
do not thus mingle in their public promenades, at that witching hour.
Luis and his beautiful wife had landed merely for exercise and
relaxation, well knowing that the felucca possessed better
accommodations than any hosteria of Palos; and they fell into the
current of the walkers. Before them was a group of young matrons, who
were conversing eagerly, and sufficiently loud to be overheard. Our
hero and heroine instantly ceased their own discourse, when they
found that the subject was the voyage to Cathay.
"This day," said one of the party, in a tone of authority, "did Don
Christopher sail from Cadiz; the sovereigns deeming Palos too small a
port for the equipment of so great an enterprise. You may depend on
what I tell ye, good neighbours; my husband, as you all well know,
holding an appointment in the admiral's own ship."
"You are to be envied, neighbour, that he is in so good repute with
so great a man!"
"How could he be otherwise, seeing that he was with him before,
when few had courage to be his companions, and was ever faithful to
his orders. `Monica'—nay, it was `good Monica' — said the
admiral to me, with his own mouth, `thy Pepe is a true-hearted
mariner, and hath conducted to my entire satisfaction. He shall be
made the boatswain of my own carrack, and thou, and thy posterity, to
the latest antiquity, may boast that you belong to so good a man.'
These were his words; and what he said, he did,—Pepe being now a
boatswain. But the paters and aves that I said to reach
this good fortune, would pave this beach!"
Luis now stepped forward and saluted the party, making curiosity to
know the particulars of the first departure, his excuse. As he
expected, Monica did not recognize him in his present rich attire, and
she willingly related all she knew, and not a little more. The
interview showed how completely this woman had passed from despair to
exultation, reducing the general and more public change of sentiment,
down to the individual example of a particular case.
"I have heard much of one Pinzon," added Luis, "who went forth as
pilot of a caravel in the voyage; what hath become of him?"
"Señor, he is dead!" answered a dozen voices, Monica's, however, so
far getting the ascendency, as to tell the story. "He was once a great
man in this quarter; but now his name is lost, like his life. He was
untrue, and died of grief, it is said, when he found the Niña lying in
the river, when he expected to have had all the glory to himself."
Luis had been too much engrossed with his own feelings to have
heard this news before, and he continued his walk, musing and sad.
"So much for unlawful hopes, and designs that God doth not favour!"
he exclaimed, when they had walked a considerable distance.
"Providence hath, I think, been of the admiral's side; and certainly,
my love, it hath been of mine."
"This is Santa Clara," observed Mercedes. "Luis, I would enter, and
return a thanksgiving at its altars for thy safety and return, and
offer a prayer for the future success of Don Christopher."
They both entered the church, and they knelt together at the
principal altar; for, in that age, the bravest warriors were not as
much ashamed, as in our own times, of publicly acknowledging their
gratitude to, and their dependence on, God. This duty performed, the
happy pair returned silently to the beach, and went off to the felucca.
Early in the morning, the Ozema sailed for Malaga, again, Luis
being fearful he might be recognized if he continued at Palos. Their
port was reached in safety; and shortly after the party arrived at
Valverde, the principal estate of Mercedes, where we shall leave our
hero and heroine in the enjoyment of a felicity that was as great as
could be produced by the connexion between manly tenderness on one
side, and purity of feeling and disinterested womanly love on the
At a late day, there were other Luis de Bobadillas in Spain, among
her gallant and noble, and other Mercedes', to cause the hearts of the
gay and aspiring to ache; but there was only one Ozema. She appeared
at court, in the succeeding reign, and, for a time, blazed like a star
that had just risen in a pure atmosphere. Her career, however, was
short, dying young and lamented; since which time, the name itself has
perished. It is, in part, owing to these circumstances, that we have
been obliged to drag so much of our legend from the lost records of
that eventful period.