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Title: Mercedes of Castile - The Voyage to Cathay
Author: Cooper, J. Fenimore
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mercedes of Castile - The Voyage to Cathay" ***

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                          MERCEDES OF CASTILE;


                          THE VOYAGE TO CATHAY.

                          BY J. FENIMORE COOPER.


    "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 heaven."

    PINKNEY.


    ILLUSTRATED FROM DRAWINGS BY
    F.O.C. Darley.

    NEW YORK:
    W. A. TOWNSEND AND COMPANY.
    1861.

    Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1861, by
    W. A. TOWNSEND AND COMPANY,
    In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern
    District of New York.

    G. A. ALVORD, STEREOTYPER & PRINTER, NEW YORK.



List of Illustrations


"Columbus kneeled on the sands, and received the benediction."

"In vain Luis endeavored to persuade the devoted girl to withdraw."


[Illustration]



PREFACE.


So much has been written of late years, touching the discovery of
America, that it would not be at all surprising should there exist a
disposition in a certain class of readers to deny the accuracy of all
the statements in this work. Some may refer to history, with a view to
prove that there never were such persons as our hero and heroine, and
fancy that by establishing these facts, they completely destroy the
authenticity of the whole book. In answer to this anticipated objection,
we will state, that after carefully perusing several of the Spanish
writers--from Cervantes to the translator of the journal of Columbus,
the Alpha and Omega of peninsular literature--and after having read both
Irving and Prescott from beginning to end, we do not find a syllable in
either of them, that we understand to be conclusive evidence, or indeed
to be any evidence at all, on the portions of our subject that are
likely to be disputed. Until some solid affirmative proof, therefore,
can be produced against us, we shall hold our case to be made out, and
rest our claims to be believed on the authority of our own statements.
Nor do we think there is any thing either unreasonable or unusual in
this course, as perhaps the greater portion of that which is daily and
hourly offered to the credence of the American public, rests on the same
species of testimony--with the trifling difference that we state truths,
with a profession of fiction, while the great moral caterers of the age
state fiction with the profession of truth. If any advantage can be
fairly obtained over us, in consequence of this trifling discrepancy, we
must submit.

There is one point, notwithstanding, concerning which it may be well to
be frank at once. The narrative of the "Voyage to Cathay," has been
written with the journal of the Admiral before us; or, rather, with all
of that journal that has been given to the world through the agency of a
very incompetent and meagre editor. Nothing is plainer than the general
fact that this person did not always understand his author, and in one
particular circumstance he has written so obscurely, as not a little to
embarrass even a novelist, whose functions naturally include an entire
familiarity with the thoughts, emotions, characters, and, occasionally,
with the unknown fates of the subjects of his pen. The nautical day
formerly commenced at meridian, and, with all our native ingenuity and
high professional prerogatives, we have not been able to discover
whether the editor of the journal has adopted that mode of counting
time, or whether he has condescended to use the more vulgar and
irrational practice of landsmen. It is our opinion, however, that in the
spirit of impartiality which becomes an historian, he has adopted both.
This little peculiarity might possibly embarrass a superficial critic;
but accurate critics being so very common, we feel no concern on this
head, well knowing that they will be much more apt to wink at these
minor inconsistencies, than to pass over an error of the press, or a
comma with a broken tail. As we wish to live on good terms with this
useful class of our fellow-creatures, we have directed the printers to
mis-spell some eight or ten words for their convenience, and to save
them from headaches, have honestly stated this principal difficulty
ourselves.

Should the publicity which is now given to the consequences of
commencing a day in the middle have the effect to induce the government
to order that it shall, in future, with all American seamen, commence at
one of its ends, something will be gained in the way of simplicity, and
the writing of novels will, in-so-much, be rendered easier and more
agreeable.

As respects the minor characters of this work, very little need be said.
Every one knows that Columbus had seamen in his vessels, and that he
brought some of the natives of the islands he had discovered, back with
him to Spain. The reader is now made much more intimately acquainted
with certain of these individuals, we will venture to say, than he can
be possibly by the perusal of any work previously written. As for the
subordinate incidents connected with the more familiar events of the
age, it is hoped they will be found so completely to fill up this branch
of the subject, as to render future investigations unnecessary.

[Illustration]



MERCEDES OF CASTILE.


[Illustration: "In vain Luis endeavored to persuade the devoted girl to
withdraw."]



CHAPTER I.

    "There was knocking that shook the marble floor,
      And a voice at the gate, which said--
    'That the Cid Ruy Diez, the Campeador,
      Was there in his arms array'd.'"----

    Mrs. Hemans.


Whether we take the pictures of the inimitable Cervantes, or of that
scarcely less meritorious author from whom Le Sage has borrowed his
immortal tale, for our guides; whether we confide in the graver legends
of history, or put our trust in the accounts of modern travellers, the
time has scarcely ever existed when the inns of Spain were good, or the
roads safe. These are two of the blessings of civilization which the
people of the peninsula would really seem destined never to attain; for,
in all ages, we hear, or have heard, of wrongs done the traveller
equally by the robber and the host. If such are the facts to-day, such
also were the facts in the middle of the fifteenth century, the period
to which we desire to carry back the reader in imagination.

At the commencement of the month of October, in the year of our Lord
1469, John of Trastamara reigned in Aragon, holding his court at a place
called Zaragosa, a town lying on the Ebro, the name of which is supposed
to be a corruption of Cæsar Augustus, and a city that has become
celebrated in our own times, under the more Anglicised term of
Saragossa, for its deeds in arms. John of Trastamara, or, as it was more
usual to style him, agreeably to the nomenclature of kings, John II.,
was one of the most sagacious monarchs of his age; but he had become
impoverished by many conflicts with the turbulent, or, as it may be more
courtly to say, the liberty-loving Catalonians; had frequently enough to
do to maintain his seat on the throne; possessed a party-colored empire
that included within its sway, besides his native Aragon with its
dependencies of Valencia and Catalonia, Sicily and the Balearic Islands,
with some very questionable rights in Navarre. By the will of his elder
brother and predecessor, the crown of Naples had descended to an
illegitimate son of the latter, else would that kingdom have been added
to the list. The King of Aragon had seen a long and troubled reign, and,
at this very moment, his treasury was nearly exhausted by his efforts to
subdue the truculent Catalans, though he was nearer a triumph than he
could then foresee, his competitor, the Duke of Lorraine, dying
suddenly, only two short months after the precise period chosen for the
commencement of our tale. But it is denied to man to look into the
future, and on the 9th of the month just mentioned, the ingenuity of the
royal treasurer was most sorely taxed, there having arisen an unexpected
demand for a considerable sum of money, at the very moment that the army
was about to disband itself for the want of pay, and the public coffers
contained only the very moderate sum of three hundred _Enriques_, or
Henrys--a gold coin named after a previous monarch, and which had a
value not far from that of the modern ducat, or our own quarter eagle.
The matter, however, was too pressing to be deferred, and even the
objects of the war were considered as secondary to those connected with
this suddenly-conceived, and more private enterprise. Councils were
held, money-dealers were cajoled or frightened, and the confidants of
the court were very manifestly in a state of great and earnest
excitement. At length, the time of preparation appeared to be passed and
the instant of action arrived. Curiosity was relieved, and the citizens
of Saragossa were permitted to know that their sovereign was about to
send a solemn embassy, on matters of high moment, to his neighbor,
kinsman, and ally, the monarch of Castile. In 1469, Henry, also of
Trastamara, sat upon the throne of the adjoining kingdom, under the
title of Henry IV. He was the grandson, in the male line, of the brother
of John II.'s father, and, consequently, a first-cousin once removed, of
the monarch of Aragon. Notwithstanding this affinity, and the strong
family interests that might be supposed to unite them, it required many
friendly embassies to preserve the peace between the two monarchs; and
the announcement of that which was about to depart, produced more
satisfaction than wonder in the streets of the town.

Henry of Castile, though he reigned over broader and richer peninsular
territories than his relative of Aragon, had his cares and troubles,
also. He had been twice married, having repudiated his first consort,
Blanche of Aragon, to wed Joanna of Portugal, a princess of a levity of
character so marked, as not only to bring great scandal on the court
generally, but to throw so much distrust on the birth of her only child,
a daughter, as to push discontent to disaffection, and eventually to
deprive the infant itself of the rights of royalty. Henry's father, like
himself, had been twice married, and the issue of the second union was a
son and a daughter, Alfonso and Isabella; the latter becoming
subsequently illustrious, under the double titles of the Queen of
Castile, and of the Catholic. The luxurious impotency of Henry, as a
monarch, had driven a portion of his subjects into open rebellion. Three
years preceding that selected for our opening, his brother Alfonso had
been proclaimed king in his stead, and a civil war had raged throughout
his provinces. This war had been recently terminated by the death of
Alfonso, when the peace of the kingdom was temporarily restored by a
treaty, in which Henry consented to the setting aside of his own
daughter--or rather of the daughter of Joanna of Portugal--and to the
recognition of his half-sister Isabella, as the rightful heiress of the
throne. The last concession was the result of dire necessity, and, as
might have been expected, it led to many secret and violent measures,
with a view to defeat its objects. Among the other expedients adopted by
the king--or, it might be better to say, by his favorites, the inaction
and indolence of the self-indulgent but kind-hearted prince being
proverbial--with a view to counteract the probable consequences of the
expected accession of Isabella, were various schemes to control her
will, and guide her policy, by giving her hand, first to a subject, with
a view to reduce her power, and subsequently to various foreign princes,
who were thought to be more or less suited to the furtherance of such
schemes. Just at this moment, indeed, the marriage of the princess was
one of the greatest objects of Spanish prudence. The son of the King of
Aragon was one of the suitors for the hand of Isabella, and most of
those who heard of the intended departure of the embassy, naturally
enough believed that the mission had some connection with that great
stroke of Aragonese policy.

Isabella had the reputation of learning, modesty, discretion, piety, and
beauty, besides being the acknowledged heiress of so enviable a crown;
and there were many competitors for her hand. Among them were to be
ranked French, English, and Portuguese princes, besides him of Aragon to
whom we have already alluded. Different favorites supported different
pretenders, struggling to effect their several purposes by the usual
intrigues of courtiers and partisans; while the royal maiden, herself,
who was the object of so much competition and rivalry, observed a
discreet and womanly decorum, even while firmly bent on indulging her
most womanly and dearest sentiments. Her brother, the king, was in the
south, pursuing his pleasures, and, long accustomed to dwell in
comparative solitude, the princess was earnestly occupied in arranging
her own affairs, in a way that she believed would most conduce to her
own happiness. After several attempts to entrap her person, from which
she had only escaped by the prompt succor of the forces of her friends,
she had taken refuge in Leon, in the capital of which province, or
kingdom as it was sometimes called, Valladolid, she temporarily took up
her abode. As Henry, however, still remained in the vicinity of Granada,
it is in that direction we must look for the route taken by the embassy.

The cortège left Saragossa, by one of the southern gates, early in the
morning of a glorious autumnal day. There was the usual escort of
lances, for this the troubled state of the country demanded; bearded
nobles well mailed--for few, who offered an inducement to the plunderer,
ventured on the highway without this precaution; a long train of sumpter
mules, and a host of those who, by their guise, were half menials and
half soldiers. The gallant display drew crowds after the horses' heels,
and, together with some prayers for success, a vast deal of crude and
shallow conjecture, as is still the practice with the uninstructed and
gossiping, was lavished on the probable objects and results of the
journey. But curiosity has its limits, and even the gossip occasionally
grows weary; and by the time the sun was setting, most of the multitude
had already forgotten to think and speak of the parade of the morning.
As the night drew on, however, the late pageant was still the subject of
discourse between two soldiers, who belonged to the guard of the western
gate, or that which opened on the road to the province of Burgos. These
worthies were loitering away the hours, in the listless manner common to
men on watch, and the spirit of discussion and of critical censure had
survived the thoughts and bustle of the day.

"If Don Alonso de Carbajal thinketh to ride far in that guise," observed
the elder of the two idlers, "he would do well to look sharp to his
followers, for the army of Aragon never sent forth a more
scurvily-appointed guard than that he hath this day led through the
southern gate, notwithstanding the glitter of housings, and the clangor
of trumpets. We could have furnished lances from Valencia more befitting
a king's embassy, I tell thee, Diego; ay, and worthier knights to lead
them, than these of Aragon. But if the king is content, it ill becomes
soldiers, like thee and me, to be dissatisfied."

"There are many who think, Roderique, that it had been better to spare
the money lavished in this courtly letter-writing, to pay the brave men
who so freely shed their blood in order to subdue the rebellious
Barcelans."

"This is always the way, boy, between debtor and creditor. Don John owes
you a few maravedis, and you grudge him every Enrique he spends on his
necessities. I am an older soldier, and have learned the art of paying
myself, when the treasury is too poor to save me the trouble."

"That might do in a foreign war, when one is battling against the Moor,
for instance; but, after all, these Catalans are as good Christians as
we are ourselves; some of them are as good subjects; and it is not as
easy to plunder a countryman as to plunder an Infidel."

"Easier by twenty fold; for the one expects it, and, like all in that
unhappy condition, seldom has any thing worth taking, while the other
opens his stores to you as freely as he does his heart--but who are
these, setting forth on the highway, at this late hour?"

"Fellows that pretend to wealth, by affecting to conceal it. I'll
warrant you, now, Roderique, that there is not money enough among all
those varlets to pay the laquais that shall serve them their boiled
eggs, to-night."

"By St. Iago, my blessed patron!" whispered one of the leaders of a
small cavalcade, who, with a single companion, rode a little in advance
of the others, as if not particularly anxious to be too familiar with
the rest, and laughing, lightly, as he spoke: "Yonder vagabond is nearer
the truth than is comfortable! We may have sufficient among us all to
pay for an olla-podrida and its service, but I much doubt whether there
will be a dobla left, when the journey shall be once ended."

A low, but grave rebuke, checked this inconsiderate mirth; and the
party, which consisted of merchants, or traders, mounted on mules, as
was evident by their appearance, for in that age the different classes
were easily recognized by their attire, halted at the gate. The
permission to quit the town was regular, and the drowsy and consequently
surly gate-keeper slowly undid his bars, in order that the travellers
might pass.

While these necessary movements were going on, the two soldiers stood a
little on one side, coolly scanning the group, though Spanish gravity
prevented them from indulging openly in an expression of the scorn that
they actually felt for two or three Jews who were among the traders. The
merchants, moreover, were of a better class, as was evident by a
follower or two, who rode in their train, in the garbs of menials, and
who kept at a respectful distance while their masters paid the light fee
that it was customary to give on passing the gates after nightfall. One
of these menials, capitally mounted on a tall, spirited mule, happened
to place himself so near Diego, during this little ceremony, that the
latter, who was talkative by nature, could not refrain from having his
say.

"Prithee, Pepe," commenced the soldier, "how many hundred doblas a year
do they pay, in that service of thine, and how often do they renew that
fine leathern doublet?"

The varlet, or follower of the merchant, who was still a youth, though
his vigorous frame and embrowned cheek denoted equally severe exercise
and rude exposure, started and reddened at this free inquiry, which was
enforced by a hand slapped familiarly on his knee, and such a squeeze of
the leg as denoted the freedom of the camp. The laugh of Diego probably
suppressed a sudden outbreak of anger, for the soldier was one whose
manner indicated too much good-humor easily to excite resentment.

"Thy gripe is friendly, but somewhat close, comrade," the young domestic
mildly observed; "and if thou wilt take a friend's counsel, it will be,
never to indulge in too great familiarity, lest some day it lead to a
broken pate."

"By holy San Pedro!--I should relish--"

It was too late, however; for his master having proceeded, the youth
pushed a powerful rowel into the flank of his mule, and the vigorous
animal dashed ahead, nearly upsetting Diego, who was pressing hard on
the pommel of the saddle, by the movement.

"There is mettle in that boy," exclaimed the good-natured soldier, as he
recovered his feet. "I thought, for one moment, he was about to favor me
with a visitation of his hand."

"Thou art wrong--and too much accustomed to be heedless, Diego,"
answered his comrade; "and it had been no wonder had that youth struck
thee to the earth, for the indignity thou putt'st upon him."

"Ha! a hireling follower of some cringing Hebrew! He dare to strike a
blow at a soldier of the king!"

"He may have been a soldier of the king himself, in his day. These are
times when most of his frame and muscle are called on to go in harness.
I think I have seen that face before; ay, and that, too, where none of
craven hearts would be apt to go."

"The fellow is a mere varlet, and a younker that has just escaped from
the hands of the women."

"I'll answer for it, that he hath faced both the Catalan and the Moor in
his time, young as he may seem. Thou knowest that the nobles are wont to
carry their sons, as children, early into the fight, that they may learn
the deeds of chivalry betimes."

"The nobles!" repeated Diego, laughing. "In the name of all the devils,
Roderique, of what art thou thinking, that thou likenest this knave to a
young noble? Dost fancy him a Guzman, or a Mendoza, in disguise, that
thou speakest thus of chivalry?"

"True--it doth, indeed, seem silly--and yet have I before met that frown
in battle, and heard that sharp, quick voice, in a rally. By St. Iago de
Compostello! I have it! Harkee, Diego!--a word in thy ear."

The veteran now led his more youthful comrade aside, although there was
no one near to listen to what he said; and looking carefully round, to
make certain that his words would not be overheard, he whispered, for a
moment, in Diego's ear.

"Holy Mother of God!" exclaimed the latter, recoiling quite three paces,
in surprise and awe. "Thou canst not be right, Roderique!"

"I will place my soul's welfare on it," returned the other, positively.
"Have I not often seen him with his visor up, and followed him, time and
again, to the charge?"

"And he setting forth as a trader's varlet! Nay, I know not, but as the
servitor of a Jew!"

"Our business, Diego, is to strike without looking into the quarrel; to
look without seeing, and to listen without hearing. Although his coffers
are low, Don John is a good master, and our anointed king; and so we
will prove ourselves discreet soldiers."

"But he will never forgive me that gripe of the knee, and my foolish
tongue. I shall never dare meet him again."

"Humph!--It is not probable thou ever wilt meet him at the table of the
king, and, as for the field, as he is wont to go first, there will not
be much temptation for him to turn back in order to look at thee."

"Thou thinkest, then, he will not be apt to know me again?"

"If it should prove so, boy, thou need'st not take it in ill part; as
such as he have more demands on their memories than they can always
meet."

"The Blessed Maria make thee a true prophet!--else would I never dare
again to appear in the ranks. Were it a favor I conferred, I might hope
it would be forgotten; but an indignity sticks long in the memory."

Here the two soldiers moved away, continuing the discourse from time to
time, although the elder frequently admonished his loquacious companion
of the virtue of discretion.

In the mean time, the travellers pursued their way, with a diligence
that denoted great distrust of the roads, and as great a desire to get
on. They journeyed throughout the night, nor did there occur any
relaxation in their speed, until the return of the sun exposed them
again to the observations of the curious, among whom were thought to be
many emissaries of Henry of Castile, whose agents were known to be
particularly on the alert, along all the roads that communicated between
the capital of Aragon and Valladolid, the city in which his royal sister
had then, quite recently, taken refuge. Nothing remarkable occurred,
however, to distinguish this journey from any other of the period. There
was nothing about the appearance of the travellers--who soon entered the
territory of Soria, a province of Old Castile, where armed parties of
the monarch were active in watching the passes--to attract the attention
of Henry's soldiers; and as for the more vulgar robber, he was
temporarily driven from the highways by the presence of those who acted
in the name of the prince. As respects the youth who had given rise to
the discourse between the two soldiers, he rode diligently in the rear
of his master, so long as it pleased the latter to remain in the saddle;
and during the few and brief pauses that occurred in the travelling, he
busied himself, like the other menials, in the duties of his proper
vocation. On the evening of the second day, however, about an hour after
the party had left a hostelry, where it had solaced itself with an
olla-podrida and some sour wine, the merry young man who has already
been mentioned, and who still kept his place by the side of his graver
and more aged companion in the van, suddenly burst into a fit of loud
laughter, and, reining in his mule he allowed the whole train to pass
him, until he found himself by the side of the young menial already so
particularly named. The latter cast a severe and rebuking glance at his
reputed master, as he dropped in by his side, and said, with a sternness
that ill comported with their apparent relations to each other--

"How now, Master Nuñez! what hath called thee from thy position in the
van, to this unseemly familiarity with the varlets in the rear?"

"I crave ten thousand pardons, honest Juan," returned the master, still
laughing, though he evidently struggled to repress his mirth, out of
respect to the other; "but here is a calamity befallen us, that outdoes
those of the fables and legends of necromancy and knight-errantry. The
worthy Master Ferreras, yonder, who is so skilful in handling gold,
having passed his whole life in buying and selling barley and oats, hath
actually mislaid the purse, which it would seem he hath forgotten at the
inn we have quitted, in payment of some very stale bread and rancid oil.
I doubt if there are twenty reals left in the whole party!"

"And is it a matter of jest, Master Nuñez," returned the servant, though
a slight smile struggled about his mouth, as if ready to join in his
companion's merriment; "that we are penniless? Thank Heaven! the Burgo
of Osma cannot be very distant; and we may have less occasion for gold.
And now, master of mine, let me command thee to keep thy proper place in
this cavalcade, and not to forget thyself by such undue familiarity with
thy inferiors. I have no farther need of thee, and therefore hasten back
to Master Ferreras and acquaint him with my sympathy and grief."

The young man smiled, though the eye of the pretended servant was
averted, as if he cared to respect his own admonitions; while the other
evidently sought a look of recognition and favor. In another minute, the
usual order of the journey was resumed.

As the night advanced, and the hour arrived when man and beast usually
betray fatigue, these travellers pushed their mules the hardest; and
about midnight, by dint of hard pricking, they came under the principal
gate of a small walled town, called Osma, that stood not far from the
boundary of the province of Burgos, though still in that of Soria. No
sooner was his mule near enough to the gate to allow of the freedom,
than the young merchant in advance dealt sundry blows on it with his
staff, effectually apprising those within of his presence. It required
no strong pull of the reins to stop the mules of those behind; but the
pretended varlet now pushed ahead, and was about to assume his place
among the principal personages near the gate, when a heavy stone, hurled
from the battlements, passed so close to his head, as vividly to remind
him how near he might be to making a hasty journey to another world. A
cry arose in the whole party, at this narrow escape; nor were loud
imprecations on the hand that had cast the missile spared. The youth,
himself, seemed the least disturbed of them all; and though his voice
was sharp and authoritative, as he raised it in remonstrance, it was
neither angry nor alarmed.

"How now!" he said; "is this the way you treat peaceful travellers;
merchants, who come to ask hospitality and a night's repose at your
hands?"

"Merchants and travellers!" growled a voice from above--"say, rather,
spies and agents of King Henry. Who are ye? Speak promptly, or ye may
expect something sharper than stones, at the next visit."

"Tell me," answered the youth, as if disdaining to be questioned
himself--"who holds this borough? Is it not the noble Count of Treviño?"

"The very same, Señor," answered he above, with a mollified tone: "but
what can a set of travelling traders know of His Excellency? and who art
thou, that speakest up as sharply and as proudly as if thou wert a
grandee?"

"I am Ferdinand of Trastamara--the Prince of Aragon--the King of Sicily.
Go! bid thy master hasten to the gate."

This sudden announcement, which was made in the lofty manner of one
accustomed to implicit obedience, produced a marked change in the state
of affairs. The party at the gate so far altered their several
positions, that the two superior nobles who had ridden in front, gave
place to the youthful king; while the group of knights made such
arrangements as showed that disguise was dropped, and each man was now
expected to appear in his proper character. It might have amused a close
and philosophical observer to note the promptitude with which the young
cavaliers, in particular, rose in their saddles, as if casting aside the
lounging mien of grovelling traders, in order to appear what they really
were, men accustomed to the tourney and the field. On the ramparts the
change was equally sudden and great. All appearance of drowsiness
vanished; the soldiers spoke to each other in suppressed but hurried
voices; and the distant tramp of feet announced that messengers were
dispatched in various directions. Some ten minutes elapsed in this
manner, during which an inferior officer showed himself on the ramparts,
and apologized for a delay that arose altogether from the force of
discipline, and on no account from any want of respect. At length a
bustle on the wall, with the light of many lanterns, betrayed the
approach of the governor of the town; and the impatience of the young
men below, that had begun to manifest itself in half-uttered
execrations, was put under a more decent restraint for the occasion.

"Are the joyful tidings that my people bring me true?" cried one from
the battlements; while a lantern was lowered from the wall, as if to
make a closer inspection of the party at the gate: "Am I really so
honored, as to receive a summons from Don Ferdinand of Aragon, at this
unusual hour?"

"Cause thy fellow to turn his lantern more closely on my countenance,"
answered the king, "that thou may'st make thyself sure. I will
cheerfully overlook the disrespect, Count of Treviño, for the advantage
of a more speedy admission."

"'Tis he!" exclaimed the noble: "I know those royal features, which bear
the lineaments of a long race of kings, and that voice have I heard,
often, rallying the squadrons of Aragon, in their onsets against the
Moor. Let the trumpets speak up, and proclaim this happy arrival; and
open wide our gates, without delay."

This order was promptly obeyed, and the youthful king entered Osma, by
sound of trumpet, encircled by a strong party of men-at-arms, and with
half of the awakened and astonished population at his heels.

"It is lucky, my Lord King," said Don Andres de Cabrera, the young noble
already mentioned, as he rode familiarly at the side of Don Ferdinand,
"that we have found these good lodgings without cost; it being a
melancholy truth, that Master Ferreras hath, negligently enough, mislaid
the only purse there was among us. In such a strait, it would not have
been easy to keep up the character of thrifty traders much longer; for,
while the knaves higgle at the price of every thing, they are fond of
letting their gold be seen."

"Now that we are in thine own Castile, Don Andres," returned the king,
smiling, "we shall throw ourselves gladly on thy hospitality, well
knowing that thou hast two most beautiful diamonds always at thy
command."

"I, Sir King! Your Highness is pleased to be merry at my expense,
although I believe it is, just now, the only gratification I can pay
for. My attachment for the Princess Isabella hath driven me from my
lands; and even the humblest cavalier in the Aragonese army is not, just
now, poorer than I. What diamonds, therefore, can I command?"

"Report speaketh favorably of the two brilliants that are set in the
face of the Doña Beatriz de Bobadilla; and I hear they are altogether at
thy disposal, or as much so as a noble maiden's inclinations can leave
them with a loyal knight."

"Ah! my Lord King! if indeed this adventure end as happily as it
commenceth, I may, indeed, look to your royal favor, for some aid in
that matter."

The king smiled, in his own sedate manner; but the Count de Treviño
pressing nearer to his side at that moment, the discourse was changed.
That night Ferdinand of Aragon slept soundly; but with the dawn, he and
his followers were again in the saddle. The party quitted Osma, however,
in a manner very different from that in which it had approached its
gate. Ferdinand now appeared as a knight, mounted on a noble Andalusian
charger; and all his followers had still more openly assumed their
proper characters. A strong body of lancers, led by the Count of Treviño
in person, composed the escort; and on the 9th of the month, the whole
cavalcade reached Dueñas, in Leon, a place quite near to Valladolid. The
disaffected nobles crowded about the prince to pay their court, and he
was received as became his high rank and still higher destinies.

Here the more luxurious Castilians had an opportunity of observing the
severe personal discipline by which Don Ferdinand, at the immature years
of eighteen, for he was scarcely older, had succeeded in hardening his
body and in stringing his nerves, so as to be equal to any deeds in
arms. His delight was found in the rudest military exercises; and no
knight of Aragon could better direct his steed in the tourney or in the
field. Like most of the royal races of that period, and indeed of this,
in despite of the burning sun under which he dwelt, his native
complexion was brilliant, though it had already become embrowned by
exposure in the chase, and in the martial occupations of his boyhood.
Temperate as a Mussulman, his active and well-proportioned frame seemed
to be early indurating, as if Providence held him in reserve for some of
its own dispensations, that called for great bodily vigor as well as for
deep forethought and a vigilant sagacity. During the four or five days
that followed, the noble Castilians who listened to his discourse, knew
not of which most to approve, his fluent eloquence, or a wariness of
thought and expression, which, while they might have been deemed
prematurely worldly and cold-blooded, were believed to be particular
merits in one destined to control the jarring passions, deep deceptions,
and selfish devices of men.



CHAPTER II.

    "Leave to the nightingale her shady wood:
      A privacy of glorious light is thine;
    Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood
      Of harmony, with rapture more divine;
    Type of the wise, who soar, but never roam;
    True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home."

    Wordsworth.


While John of Aragon had recourse to such means to enable his son to
escape the vigilant and vindictive emissaries of the King of Castile,
there were anxious hearts in Valladolid, awaiting the result with the
impatience and doubt that ever attend the execution of hazardous
enterprises. Among others who felt this deep interest in the movements
of Ferdinand of Aragon and his companions, were a few whom it has now
become necessary to introduce to the reader.

Although Valladolid had not then reached the magnificence it
subsequently acquired as the capital of Charles V., it was an ancient,
and, for the age, a magnificent and luxurious town, possessing its
palaces, as well as its more inferior abodes. To the principal of the
former, the residence of John de Vivero--a distinguished noble of the
kingdom--we must repair in imagination; where companions more agreeable
than those we have just quitted, await us, and who were then themselves
awaiting, with deep anxiety, the arrival of a messenger with tidings
from Dueñas. The particular apartment that it will be necessary to
imagine, had much of the rude splendor of the period, united to that air
of comfort and fitness that woman seldom fails to impart to the portion
of any edifice that comes directly under her control. In the year 1469,
Spain was fast approaching the termination of that great struggle which
had already endured seven centuries, and in which the Christian and the
Mussulman contended for the mastery of the peninsula. The latter had
long held sway in the southern parts of Leon, and had left behind him,
in the palaces of this town, some of the traces of his barbaric
magnificence. The lofty and fretted ceilings were not as glorious as
those to be found further south, it is true; still, the Moor had been
here, and the name of Veled Vlid--since changed to Valladolid--denotes
its Arabic connection. In the room just mentioned, and in the principal
palace of this ancient town--that of John de Vivero--were two females,
in earnest and engrossing discourse. Both were young, and, though in
very different styles, both would have been deemed beautiful in any age
or region of the earth. One, indeed, was surpassingly lovely. She had
just reached her nineteenth year--an age when the female form has
received its full development in that generous climate; and the most
imaginative poet of Spain--a country so renowned for beauty of form in
the sex--could not have conceived of a person more symmetrical. The
hands, feet, bust, and all the outlines, were those of feminine
loveliness; while the stature, without rising to a height to suggest the
idea of any thing masculine, was sufficient to ennoble an air of quiet
dignity. The beholder, at first, was a little at a loss to know whether
the influence to which he submitted, proceeded most from the perfection
of the body itself, or from the expression that the soul within imparted
to the almost faultless exterior. The face was, in all respects, worthy
of the form. Although born beneath the sun of Spain, her lineage carried
her back, through a long line of kings, to the Gothic sovereigns; and
its frequent intermarriages with foreign princesses, had produced in her
countenance that intermixture of the brilliancy of the north with the
witchery of the south, that probably is nearest to the perfection of
feminine loveliness.

Her complexion was fair, and her rich locks had that tint of the auburn
which approaches as near as possible to the more marked color that gives
it warmth, without attaining any of the latter's distinctive hue. "Her
mild blue eyes," says an eminent historian, "beamed with intelligence
and sensibility." In these indexes to the soul, indeed, were to be found
her highest claims to loveliness, for they bespoke no less the beauty
within, than the beauty without; imparting to features of exquisite
delicacy and symmetry, a serene expression of dignity and moral
excellence, that was remarkably softened by a modesty that seemed as
much allied to the sensibilities of a woman, as to the purity of an
angel. To add to all these charms, though of royal blood, and educated
in a court, an earnest, but meek sincerity presided over every look and
thought--as thought was betrayed in the countenance--adding the
illumination of truth to the lustre of youth and beauty.

The attire of this princess was simple, for, happily, the taste of the
age enabled those who worked for the toilet to consult the proportions
of nature; though the materials were rich, and such as became her high
rank. A single cross of diamonds sparkled on a neck of snow, to which it
was attached by a short string of pearls; and a few rings, decked with
stones of price, rather cumbered than adorned hands that needed no
ornaments to rivet the gaze. Such was Isabella of Castile, in her days
of maiden retirement and maiden pride--while waiting the issues of those
changes that were about to put their seal on her own future fortunes, as
well as on those of posterity even to our own times.

Her companion was Beatriz de Bobadilla, the friend of her childhood and
infancy, and who continued, to the last, the friend of her prime, and of
her death-bed. This lady, a little older than the princess, was of more
decided Spanish mien, for, though of an ancient and illustrious house,
policy and necessity had not caused so many foreign intermarriages in
her race, as had been required in that of her royal mistress. Her eyes
were black and sparkling, bespeaking a generous soul, and a resolution
so high that some commentators have termed it valor; while her hair was
dark as the raven's wing. Like that of her royal mistress, her form
exhibited the grace and loveliness of young womanhood, developed by the
generous warmth of Spain; though her stature was, in a slight degree,
less noble, and the outlines of her figure, in about an equal
proportion, less perfect. In short, nature had drawn some such
distinction between the exceeding grace and high moral charms that
encircled the beauty of the princess, and those which belonged to her
noble friend, as the notions of men had established between their
respective conditions; though, considered singly, as women, either would
have been deemed pre-eminently winning and attractive.

At the moment we have selected for the opening of the scene that is to
follow, Isabella, fresh from the morning toilet, was seated in a chair,
leaning lightly on one of its arms, in an attitude that interest in the
subject she was discussing, and confidence in her companion, had
naturally produced; while Beatriz de Bobadilla occupied a low stool at
her feet, bending her body in respectful affection so far forward, as to
allow the fairer hair of the princess to mingle with her own dark curls,
while the face of the latter appeared to repose on the head of her
friend. As no one else was present, the reader will at once infer, from
the entire absence of Castilian etiquette and Spanish reserve, that the
dialogue they held was strictly confidential, and that it was governed
more by the feelings of nature, than by the artificial rules that
usually regulate the intercourse of courts.

"I have prayed, Beatriz, that God would direct my judgment in this
weighty concern," said the princess, in continuation of some previous
observation; "and I hope I have as much kept in view the happiness of my
future subjects, in the choice I have made, as my own."

"None shall presume to question it," said Beatriz de Bobadilla; "for had
it pleased you to wed the Grand Turk, the Castilians would not gainsay
your wish, such is their love!"

"Say, rather, such is thy love for me, my good Beatriz, that thou
fanciest this," returned Isabella, smiling, and raising her face from
the other's head. "Our Castilians might overlook such a sin, but I could
not pardon myself for forgetting that I am a Christian. Beatriz, I have
been sorely tried, in this matter!"

"But the hour of trial is nearly passed. Holy Maria! what lightness of
reflection, and vanity, and misjudging of self, must exist in man, to
embolden some who have dared to aspire to become your husband! You were
yet a child when they betrothed you to Don Carlos, a prince old enough
to be your father; and then, as if that were not sufficient to warm
Castilian blood, they chose the King of Portugal for you, and he might
well have passed for a generation still more remote! Much as I love you,
Doña Isabella, and my own soul is scarce dearer to me than your person
and mind, for nought do I respect you more, than for the noble and
princely resolution, child as you then were, with which you denied the
king, in his wicked wish to make you Queen of Portugal."

"Don Enriquez is my brother, Beatriz; and thine and my royal master."

"Ah! bravely did you tell them all," continued Beatriz de Bobadilla,
with sparkling eyes, and a feeling of exultation that caused her to
overlook the quiet rebuke of her mistress; "and worthy was it of a
princess of the royal house of Castile! 'The Infantas of Castile,' you
said, 'could not be disposed of, in marriage, without the consent of the
nobles of the realm;' and with that fit reply they were glad to be
content."

"And yet, Beatriz, am I about to dispose of an Infanta of Castile,
without even consulting its nobles."

"Say not that, my excellent mistress. There is not a loyal and gallant
cavalier between the Pyrenees and the sea, who will not, in his heart,
approve of your choice. The character, and age, and other qualities of
the suitor, make a sensible difference in these concerns. But unfit as
Don Alfonso of Portugal was, and is, to be the wedded husband of Doña
Isabella of Castile, what shall we say to the next suitor who appeared
as a pretender to your royal hand--Don Pedro Giron, the Master of
Calatrava! truly a most worthy lord for a maiden of the royal house! Out
upon him! A Pachecho might think himself full honorably mated, could he
have found a damsel of Bobadilla to elevate his race!"

"That ill-assorted union was imposed upon my brother by unworthy
favorites; and God, in his holy providence, saw fit to defeat their
wishes, by hurrying their intended bridegroom to an unexpected grave!"

"Ay! had it not pleased his blessed will so to dispose of Don Pedro,
other means would not have been wanting!"

"This little hand of thine, Beatriz," returned the princess, gravely,
though she smiled affectionately on her friend as she took the hand in
question, "was not made for the deed its owner menaced."

"That which its owner menaced," replied Beatriz, with eyes flashing
fire, "this hand would have executed, before Isabella of Castile should
be the doomed bride of the Grand Master of Calatrava. What! was the
purest, loveliest virgin of Castile, and she of royal birth--nay, the
rightful heiress of the crown--to be sacrificed to a lawless libertine,
because it had pleased Don Henry to forget his station and duties, and
make a favorite of a craven miscreant!"

"Thou always forgettest, Beatriz, that Don Enriquez is our lord the
king, and my royal brother."

"I do not forget, Señora, that you are the royal sister of our lord the
king, and that Pedro de Giron, or Pachecho, whichever it might suit the
ancient Portuguese page to style him, was altogether unworthy to sit in
your presence, much less to become your wedded husband. Oh! what days of
anguish were those, my gracious lady, when your knees ached with bending
in prayer, that this might not be! But God would not permit it--neither
would I! That dagger should have pierced his heart, before ear of his
should have heard the vows of Isabella of Castile!"

"Speak no more of this, good Beatriz, I pray thee," said the princess,
shuddering, and crossing herself; "they were, in sooth, days of anguish;
but what were they in comparison with the passion of the Son of God, who
gave himself a sacrifice for our sins! Name it not, then; it was good
for my soul to be thus tried; and thou knowest that the evil was turned
from me--more, I doubt not, by the efficacy of our prayers, than by that
of thy dagger. If thou wilt speak of my suitors, surely there are others
better worthy of the trouble."

A light gleamed about the dark eye of Beatriz, and a smile struggled
toward her pretty mouth; for well did she understand that the royal, but
bashful maiden, would gladly hear something of him on whom her choice
had finally fallen. Although ever disposed to do that which was grateful
to her mistress, with a woman's coquetry, Beatriz determined to approach
the more pleasing part of the subject coyly, and by a regular gradation
of events, in the order in which they had actually occurred.

"Then, there was Monsieur de Guienne, the brother of King Louis of
France," she resumed, affecting contempt in her manner; "_he_ would fain
become the husband of the future Queen of Castile! But even our most
unworthy Castilians soon saw the unfitness of that union. Their pride
was unwilling to run the chance of becoming a fief of France."

"That misfortune could never have befallen our beloved Castile,"
interrupted Isabella with dignity; "had I espoused the King of France
himself, he would have learned to respect me as the Queen Proprietor of
this ancient realm, and not have looked upon me as a subject."

"Then, Señora," continued Beatriz, looking up into Isabella's face, and
laughing--"was your own royal kinsman, Don Ricardo of Gloucester; he
that they say was born with teeth, and who carries already a burthen so
heavy on his back, that he may well thank his patron saint that he is
not also to be loaded with the affairs of Castile."[1]

[Footnote 1: NOTE--The authorities differ as to which of the English
princes was the suitor of Isabella; Edward IV. himself, Clarence, or
Richard. Isabella was the grand-daughter of Catherine of Lancaster, who
was a daughter of John of Gaunt.]

"Thy tongue runneth riot, Beatriz. They tell me that Don Ricardo is a
noble and aspiring prince; that he is, one day, likely to wed some
princess, whose merit may well console him for his failure in Castile.
But what more hast thou to offer concerning my suitors?"

"Nay, what more can I say, my beloved mistress? We have now reached Don
Fernando, literally the first, as he proveth to be the last, and as we
know him to be, the best of them all."

"I think I have been guided by the motives that become my birth and
future hopes, in choosing Don Ferdinand," said Isabella, meekly, though
she was uneasy in spite of her royal views of matrimony; "since nothing
can so much tend to the peace of our dear kingdom, and to the success of
the great cause of Christianity, as to unite Castile and Aragon under
one crown."

"By uniting their sovereigns in holy wedlock," returned Beatriz, with
respectful gravity, though a smile again struggled around her pouting
lips. "What if Don Fernando is the most youthful, the handsomest, the
most valiant, and the most agreeable prince in Christendom, it is no
fault of yours, since you did not make him, but have only accepted him
for a husband!"

"Nay, this exceedeth discretion and respect, my good Beatriz," returned
Isabella, affecting to frown, even while she blushed deeply at her own
emotions, and looked gratified at the praises of her betrothed. "Thou
knowest that I have never beheld my cousin, the King of Sicily."

"Very true, Señora; but Father Alonso de Coca hath--and a surer eye, or
truer tongue than his, do not exist in Castile."

"Beatriz, I pardon thy license, however unjust and unseemly, because I
know thou lovest me, and lookest rather at mine own happiness, than at
that of my people," said the princess, the effect of whose gravity now
was not diminished by any betrayal of natural feminine weakness--for she
felt slightly offended. "Thou knowest, or ought'st to know, that a
maiden of royal birth is bound principally to consult the interests of
the state, in bestowing her hand, and that the idle fancies of village
girls have little in common with her duties. Nay, what virgin of noble
extraction, like thyself, even, would dream of aught else than of
submitting to the counsel of her family, in taking a husband? If I have
selected Don Fernando of Aragon, from among many princes, it is,
doubtless, because the alliance is more suited to the interests of
Castile, than any other that hath offered. Thou seest, Beatriz, that the
Castilians and the Aragonese spring from the same source, and have the
same habits and prejudices. They speak the same language"--

"Nay, dearest lady, do not confound the pure Castilian with the dialect
of the mountains!"

"Well, have thy fling, wayward one, if thou wilt; but we can easier
teach the nobles of Aragon our purer Spanish, than we can teach it to
the Gaul. Then, Don Fernando is of my own race; the House of Trastamara
cometh of Castile and her monarchs, and we may at least hope that the
King of Sicily will be able to make himself understood."

"If he could not, he were no true knight! The man whose tongue should
fail him, when the stake was a royal maiden of a beauty surpassing that
of the dawn--of an excellence that already touches on heaven--of a
crown"--

"Girl, girl, thy tongue is getting the mastery of thee--such discourse
ill befitteth thee and me."

"And yet, Doña Ysabel, my tongue is close bound to my heart."

"I do believe thee, my good Beatriz; but we should bethink us both of
our last shrivings, and of the ghostly counsel that we then received.
Such nattering discourse seemeth light, when we remember our manifold
transgressions, and our many occasions for forgiveness. As for this
marriage, I would have thee think that it has been contracted on my
part, with the considerations and motives of a princess, and not through
any light indulgence of my fancies. Thou knowest that I have never
beheld Don Fernando, and that he hath never even looked upon me."

"Assuredly, dearest lady and honored mistress, all this I know, and see,
and believe; and I also agree that it were unseemly and little befitting
her birth, for even a noble maiden to contract the all-important
obligations of marriage, with no better motive than the light impulses
of a country wench. Nothing is more just than that we are alike bound to
consult our own dignity, and the wishes of kinsmen and friends; and that
our duty, and the habits of piety and submission in which we have been
reared, are better pledges for our connubial affection than any caprices
of a girlish imagination. Still, my honored lady, it is most fortunate
that your high obligations point to one as youthful, brave, noble, and
chivalrous, as is the King of Sicily, as we well know, by Father
Alonso's representations, to be the fact; and that all my friends unite
in saying that Don Andres de Cabrera, madcap and silly as he is, will
make an exceedingly excellent husband for Beatriz de Bobadilla!"

Isabella, habitually dignified and reserved as she was, had her
confidants and her moments for unbending; and Beatriz was the principal
among the former, while the present instant was one of the latter. She
smiled, therefore, at this sally; and parting, with her own fair hand,
the dark locks on the brow of her friend, she regarded her much as the
mother regards her child, when sudden passages of tenderness come over
the heart.

"If madcap should wed madcap, _thy_ friends, at least, have judged
rightly," answered the princess. Then, pausing an instant, as if in deep
thought, she continued in a graver manner, though modesty shone in her
tell-tale complexion, and the sensibility that beamed in her eyes
betrayed that she now felt more as a woman than as a future queen bent
only on the happiness of her people: "As this interview draweth near, I
suffer an embarrassment I had not thought it easy to inflict on an
Infanta of Castile. To thee, my faithful Beatriz, I will acknowledge,
that were the King of Sicily as old as Don Alfonso of Portugal, or were
he as effeminate and unmanly as Monsieur of Guienne; were he, in sooth,
less engaging and young, I should feel less embarrassment in meeting
him, than I now experience."

"This is passing strange, Señora! Now, I will confess that I would not
willingly abate in Don Andres, one hour of his life, which has been
sufficiently long as it is; one grace of his person, if indeed the
honest cavalier hath any to boast of; or one single perfection of either
body or mind."

"Thy case is not mine, Beatriz. Thou knowest the Marquis of Moya; hast
listened to his discourse, and art accustomed to his praises and his
admiration."

"Holy St. Iago of Spain! Do not distrust any thing, Señora, on account
of unfamiliarity with such matters--for, of all learning, it is easiest
to learn to relish praise and admiration!"

"True, daughter"--(for so Isabella often termed her friend, though her
junior: in later life, and after the princess had become a queen, this,
indeed, was her usual term of endearment)--"true, daughter, when praise
and admiration are freely given and fairly merited. But I distrust,
myself, my claims to be thus viewed, and the feelings with which Don
Fernando may first behold me. I know--nay, I _feel_ him to be graceful,
and noble, and valiant, and generous, and good; comely to the eye, and
strict of duty to our holy religion; as illustrious in qualities as in
birth; and I tremble to think of my own unsuitableness to be his bride
and queen."

"God's Justice!--I should like to meet the impudent Aragonese noble that
would dare to hint as much as this! If Don Fernando is noble, are you
not nobler, Señora, as coming of the senior branch of the same house; if
he is young, are you not equally so; if he is wise, are you not wiser;
if he is comely, are you not more of an angel than a woman; if he is
valiant, are you not virtuous; if he is graceful, are you not grace
itself; if he is generous, are you not good, and what is more, are you
not the very soul of generosity; if he is strict of duty in matters of
our holy religion, are you not an angel?"

"Good sooth--good sooth--Beatriz, thou art a comforter! I could reprove
thee for this idle tongue, but I know thee honest."

"This is no more than that deep modesty, honored mistress, which ever
maketh you quicker to see the merits of others, than to perceive your
own. Let Don Fernando look to it! Though he come in all the pomp and
glory of his many crowns, I warrant you we find him a royal maiden in
Castile, who shall abash him and rebuke his vanity, even while she
appears before him in the sweet guise of her own meek nature!"

"I have said naught of Don Fernando's vanity, Beatriz--nor do I esteem
him in the least inclined to so weak a feeling; and as for pomp, we well
know that gold no more abounds at Zaragosa than at Valladolid, albeit he
hath many crowns, in possession, and in reserve. Notwithstanding all thy
foolish but friendly tongue hath uttered, I distrust myself, and not the
King of Sicily. Methinks I could meet any other prince in Christendom
with indifference--or, at least, as becometh my rank and sex; but I
confess, I tremble at the thought of encountering the eyes and opinions
of my noble cousin."

Beatriz listened with interest; and when her royal mistress ceased
speaking, she kissed her hand affectionately, and then pressed it to her
heart.

"Let Don Fernando tremble, rather, Señora, at encountering yours," she
answered.

"Nay, Beatriz, we know that he hath nothing to dread, for report
speaketh but too favorably of him. But, why linger here in doubt and
apprehension, when the staff on which it is my duty to lean, is ready to
receive its burthen: Father Alonso doubtless waiteth for us, and we will
now join him."

The princess and her friend now repaired to the chapel of the palace,
where her confessor celebrated the daily mass. The self-distrust which
disturbed the feelings of the modest Isabella was appeased by the holy
rites, or, rather, it took refuge on that rock where she was accustomed
to place all her troubles, with her sins. As the little assemblage left
the chapel, one, hot with haste, arrived with the expected, but still
doubted tidings, that the King of Sicily had reached Dueñas in safety,
and that, as he was now in the very centre of his supporters, there
could no longer be any reasonable distrust of the speedy celebration of
the contemplated marriage.

Isabella was much overcome with this news, and required more than usual
of the care of Beatriz de Bobadilla, to restore her to that sweet
serenity of mind and air, which ordinarily rendered her presence as
attractive as it was commanding. An hour or two spent in meditation and
prayer, however, finally produced a gentle calm in her feelings, and
these two friends were again alone, in the very apartment where we first
introduced them to the reader.

"Hast thou seen Don Andres de Cabrera?" demanded the princess, taking a
hand from a brow which had been often pressed in a sort of bewildered
recollection.

Beatriz de Bobadilla blushed--and then she laughed outright, with a
freedom that the long-established affection of her mistress did not
rebuke.

"For a youth of thirty, and a cavalier well hacked in the wars of the
Moors, Don Andres hath a nimble foot," she answered. "He brought hither
the tidings of the arrival; and with it he brought his own delightful
person, to show it was no lie. For one so experienced, he hath a strong
propensity to talk; and so, in sooth, while you, my honored mistress,
would be in your closet alone, I could but listen to all the marvels of
the journey. It seems, Señora, that they did not reach Dueñas any too
soon; for the only purse among them was mislaid, or blown away by the
wind on account of its lightness."

"I trust this accident hath been repaired. Few of the house of
Trastamara have much gold at this trying moment, and yet none are wont
to be entirely without it."

"Don Andres is neither beggar nor miser. He is now in our Castile, where
I doubt not he is familiar with the Jews and money-lenders; as these
last must know the full value of his lands, the King of Sicily will not
want. I hear, too, that the Count of Treviño hath conducted nobly with
him."

"It shall be well for the Count of Treviño that he hath had this
liberality. But, Beatriz, bring forth the writing materials; it is meet
that I, at once, acquaint Don Enriquez with this event, and with my
purpose of marriage."

"Nay, dearest mistress, this is out of all rule. When a maiden, gentle
or simple, intendeth marriage against her kinsmen's wishes, it is the
way to wed first, and to write the letter and ask the blessing when the
evil is done."

"Go to, light-of-speech! Thou hast spoken; now bring the pens and paper.
The king is not only my lord and sovereign, but he is my nearest of kin,
and should be my father."

"And Doña Joanna of Portugal, his royal consort, and our illustrious
queen, should be your mother; and a fitting guide would she be to any
modest virgin! No--no--my beloved mistress; your royal mother was the
Doña Isabella of Portugal--and a very different princess was she from
this, her wanton niece."

"Thou givest thyself too much license, Doña Beatriz, and forgettest my
request. I desire to write to my brother the king."

It was so seldom that Isabella spoke sternly, that her friend started,
and the tears rushed to her eyes at this rebuke; but she procured the
writing materials, before she presumed to look into Isabella's face, in
order to ascertain if she were really angered. There all was beautiful
serenity again; and the Lady of Bobadilla, perceiving that her
mistress's mind was altogether occupied with the matter before her, and
that she had already forgotten her displeasure, chose to make no further
allusion to the subject.

Isabella now wrote her celebrated letter, in which she appeared to
forget all her natural timidity, and to speak solely as a princess. By
the treaty of Toros de Guisando, in which, setting aside the claims of
Joanna of Portugal's daughter, she had been recognized as the heiress of
the throne, it had been stipulated that she should not marry without the
king's consent; and she now apologized for the step she was about to
take, on the substantial plea that her enemies had disregarded the
solemn compact entered into not to urge her into any union that was
unsuitable or disagreeable to herself. She then alluded to the political
advantages that would follow the union of the crowns of Castile and
Aragon, and solicited the king's approbation of the step she was about
to take. This letter, after having been submitted to John de Vivero, and
others of her council, was dispatched by a special messenger--after
which act the arrangements necessary as preliminaries to a meeting
between the betrothed were entered into. Castilian etiquette was
proverbial, even in that age; and the discussion led to a proposal that
Isabella rejected with her usual modesty and discretion.

"It seemeth to me," said John de Vivero, "that this alliance should not
take place without some admission, on the part of Don Fernando, of the
inferiority of Aragon to our own Castile. The house of the latter
kingdom is but a junior branch of the reigning House of Castile, and the
former territory of old was admitted to have a dependency on the
latter."

This proposition was much applauded, until the beautiful and natural
sentiments of the princess, herself, interposed to expose its weakness
and its deformities.

"It is doubtless true," she said, "that Don Juan of Aragon is the son of
the younger brother of my royal grandfather; but he is none the less a
king. Nay, besides his crown of Aragon--a country, if thou wilt, which
is inferior to Castile--he hath those of Naples and Sicily; not to speak
of Navarre, over which he ruleth, although it may not be with too much
right. Don Fernando even weareth the crown of Sicily, by the
renunciation of Don Juan; and shall he, a crowned sovereign, make
concessions to one who is barely a princess, and whom it may never
please God to conduct to a throne? Moreover, Don John of Vivero, I
beseech thee to remember the errand that bringeth the King of Sicily to
Valladolid. Both he and I have two parts to perform, and two characters
to maintain--those of prince and princess, and those of Christians
wedded and bound by holy marriage ties. It would ill become one that is
about to take on herself the duties and obligations of a wife, to begin
the intercourse with exactions that should be humiliating to the pride
and self-respect of her lord. Aragon may truly be an inferior realm to
Castile--but Ferdinand of Aragon is even now every way the equal of
Isabella of Castile; and when he shall receive my vows, and, with them,
my duty and my affections"--Isabella's color deepened, and her mild eye
lighted with a sort of holy enthusiasm--"as befitteth a woman, though an
infidel, he would become, in some particulars, my superior. Let me,
then, hear no more of this; for it could not nearly as much pain Don
Fernando to make the concessions ye require, as it paineth me to hear of
them."



CHAPTER III.

     "Nice customs curt'sy to great kings. Dear Kate, you and I
     cannot be confined within the weak list of a country's fashion.
     We are the makers of manners; and the liberty that follows our
     places, stops the mouths of all fault-finders."--Henry V.


Notwithstanding her high resolution, habitual firmness, and a serenity
of mind, that seemed to pervade the moral system of Isabella, like a
deep, quiet current of enthusiasm, but which it were truer to assign to
the high and fixed principles that guided all her actions, her heart
beat tumultuously, and her native reserve, which almost amounted to
shyness, troubled her sorely, as the hour arrived when she was first to
behold the prince she had accepted for a husband. Castilian etiquette,
no less than the magnitude of the political interests involved in the
intended union, had drawn out the preliminary negotiations several days;
the bridegroom being left, all that time, to curb his impatience to
behold the princess, as best he might.

On the evening of the 15th of October, 1469, however, every obstacle
being at length removed, Don Fernando threw himself into the saddle,
and, accompanied by only four attendants, among whom was Andres de
Cabrera, he quietly took his way, without any of the usual
accompaniments of his high rank, toward the palace of John of Vivero, in
the city of Valladolid. The Archbishop of Toledo was of the faction of
the princess, and this prelate, a warlike and active partisan, was in
readiness to receive the accepted suitor, and to conduct him to the
presence of his mistress.

Isabella, attended only by Beatriz de Bobadilla, was in waiting for the
interview, in the apartment already mentioned; and by one of those
mighty efforts that even the most retiring of the sex can make, on great
occasions, she received her future husband with quite as much of the
dignity of a princess as of the timidity of a woman. Ferdinand of Aragon
had been prepared to meet one of singular grace and beauty; but the
mixture of angelic modesty with a loveliness that almost surpassed that
of her sex, produced a picture approaching so much nearer to heaven than
to earth, that, though one of circumspect behavior, and much accustomed
to suppress emotion, he actually started, and his feet were momentarily
riveted to the floor, when the glorious vision first met his eye. Then,
recovering himself, he advanced eagerly, and taking the little hand
which neither met nor repulsed the attempt, he pressed it to his lips
with a warmth that seldom accompanies the first interviews of those
whose passions are usually so factitious.

"This happy moment hath at length arrived, my illustrious and beautiful
cousin!" he said, with a truth of feeling that went directly to the pure
and tender heart of Isabella; for no skill in courtly phrases can ever
give to the accents of deceit, the point and emphasis that belong to
sincerity. "I have thought it would never arrive; but this blessed
moment--thanks to our own St. Iago, whom I have not ceased to implore
with intercessions--more than rewards me for all anxieties."

"I thank my Lord the Prince, and bid him right welcome," modestly
returned Isabella. "The difficulties that have been overcome, in order
to effect this meeting, are but types of the difficulties we shall have
to conquer as we advance through life."

Then followed a few courteous expressions concerning the hopes of the
princess that her cousin had wanted for nothing, since his arrival in
Castile, with suitable answers; when Don Ferdinand led her to an
armed-chair, assuming himself the stool on which Beatriz de Bobadilla
was wont to be seated, in her familiar intercourse with her royal
mistress. Isabella, however, sensitively alive to the pretensions of the
Castilians, who were fond of asserting the superiority of their own
country over that of Aragon, would not quietly submit to this
arrangement, but declined to be seated, unless her suitor would take the
chair prepared for him also, saying--

"It ill befitteth one who hath little more than some royalty of blood,
and her dependence on God, to be thus placed, while the King of Sicily
is so unworthily bestowed."

"Let me entreat that it may be so," returned the king. "All
considerations of earthly rank vanish in this presence; view me as a
knight, ready and desirous of proving his fealty in any court or field
of Christendom, and treat me as such."

Isabella, who had that high tact which teaches the precise point where
breeding becomes neuter and airs commence, blushed and smiled, but no
longer declined to be seated. It was not so much the mere words of her
cousin that went to her heart, as the undisguised admiration of his
looks, the animation of his eye, and the frank sincerity of his manner.
With a woman's instinct she perceived that the impression she had made
was favorable, and, with a woman's sensibility, her heart was ready,
under the circumstances, to dissolve in tenderness at the discovery.
This mutual satisfaction soon opened the way to a freer conversation;
and, ere half an hour was passed, the archbishop--who, though officially
ignorant of the language and wishes of lovers, was practically
sufficiently familiar with both--contrived to draw the two or three
courtiers who were present, into an adjoining room, where, though the
door continued open, he placed them with so much discretion that neither
eye nor ear could be any restraint on what was passing. As for Beatriz
de Bobadilla, whom female etiquette required should remain in the same
room with her royal mistress, she was so much engaged with Andres de
Cabrera, that half a dozen thrones might have been disposed of between
the royal pair, and she none the wiser.

Although Isabella did not lose that mild reserve and feminine modesty
that threw so winning a grace around her person, even to the day of her
death, she gradually grew more calm as the discourse proceeded; and,
falling back on her self-respect, womanly dignity, and, not a little, on
those stores of knowledge that she had been diligently collecting, while
others similarly situated had wasted their time in the vanities of
courts, she was quickly at her ease, if not wholly in that tranquil
state of mind to which she had been accustomed.

"I trust there can now be no longer any delay to the celebration of our
union by holy church," observed the king, in continuation of the
subject. "All that can be required of us both, as those entrusted with
the cares and interests of realms, hath been observed, and I may have a
claim to look to my own happiness. We are not strangers to each other,
Doña Isabella; for our grandfathers were brothers, and from infancy up,
have I been taught to reverence thy virtues, and to strive to emulate
thy holy duty to God."

"I have not betrothed myself lightly, Don Fernando," returned the
princess, blushing, even while she assumed the majesty of a queen; "and
with the subject so fully discussed, the wisdom of the union so fully
established, and the necessity of promptness so apparent, no idle delays
shall proceed from me. I had thought that the ceremony might be had on
the fourth day from this, which will give us both time to prepare for an
occasion so solemn, by suitable attention to the offices of the church."

"It must be as thou wiliest," said the king, respectfully bowing; "and
now there remaineth but a few preparations, and we shall have no
reproaches of forgetfulness. Thou knowest, Doña Isabella, how sorely my
father is beset by his enemies, and I need scarce tell thee that his
coffers are empty. In good sooth, my fair cousin, nothing but my earnest
desire to possess myself, at as early a day as possible, of the precious
boon that Providence and thy goodness"--

"Mingle not, Don Fernando, any of the acts of God and his providence,
with the wisdom and petty expedients of his creatures," said Isabella,
earnestly.

"To seize upon the precious boon, then, that Providence appeared willing
to bestow," rejoined the king, crossing himself, while he bowed his
head, as much, perhaps, in deference to the pious feelings of his
affianced wife, as in deference to a higher Power--"would not admit of
delay, and we quitted Zaragosa better provided with hearts loyal toward
the treasures we were to find in Valladolid, than with gold. Even that
we had, by a mischance, hath gone to enrich some lucky varlet in an
inn."

"Doña Beatriz de Bobadilla hath acquainted me with the mishap," said
Isabella, smiling; "and truly we shall commence our married lives with
but few of the goods of the world in present possession. I have little
more to offer thee, Fernando, than a true heart, and a spirit that I
think may be trusted for its fidelity."

"In obtaining thee, my excellent cousin, I obtain sufficient to satisfy
the desires of any reasonable man. Still, something is due to our rank
and future prospects, and it shall not be said that thy nuptials passed
like those of a common subject."

"Under ordinary circumstances it might not appear seemly for one of my
sex to furnish the means for her own bridal," answered the princess, the
blood stealing to her face until it crimsoned even her brow and temples;
maintaining, otherwise, that beautiful tranquillity of mien which marked
her ordinary manner--"but the well-being of two states depending on our
union, vain emotions must be suppressed. I am not without jewels, and
Valladolid hath many Hebrews: thou wilt permit me to part with the
baubles for such an object."

"So that thou preservest for me the jewel in which that pure mind is
encased," said the King of Sicily, gallantly, "I care not if I never see
another. But there will not be this need; for our friends, who have more
generous souls than well-filled coffers too, can give such warranty to
the lenders as will procure the means. I charge myself with this duty,
for henceforth, my cousin--may I not say my betrothed!"--

"The term is even dearer than any that belongeth to blood, Fernando,"
answered the princess, with a simple sincerity of manner that set at
nought the ordinary affectations and artificial feelings of her sex,
while it left the deepest reverence for her modesty--"and we might be
excused for using it. I trust God will bless our union, not only to our
own happiness, but to that of our people."

"Then, my betrothed, henceforth we have but a common fortune, and thou
wilt trust in me for the provision for thy wants."

"Nay, Fernando," answered Isabella, smiling, "imagine what we will, we
cannot imagine ourselves the children of two hidalgos about to set forth
in the world with humble dowries. Thou art a king, even now; and by the
treaty of Toros de Guisando, I am solemnly recognized as the heiress of
Castile. We must, therefore, have our separate means, as well as our
separate duties, though I trust hardly our separate interests."

"Thou wilt never find me failing in that respect which is due to thy
rank, or in that duty which it befitteth me to render thee, as the head
of our ancient House, next to thy royal brother, the king."

"Thou hast well considered, Don Fernando, the treaty of marriage, and
accepted cheerfully, I trust, all of its several conditions?"

"As becometh the importance of the measures, and the magnitude of the
benefit I was to receive."

"I would have them acceptable to thee, as well as expedient; for, though
so soon to become thy wife, I can never cease to remember that I shall
be Queen of this country."

"Thou mayest be assured, my beautiful betrothed, that Ferdinand of
Aragon will be the last to deem thee aught else."

"I look on my duties as coming from God, and on myself as one rigidly
accountable to him for their faithful discharge. Sceptres may not be
treated as toys, Fernando, to be trifled with; for man beareth no
heavier burden, than when he beareth a crown."

"The maxims of our House have not been forgotten in Aragon, my
betrothed--and I rejoice to find that they are the same in both
kingdoms."

"We are not to think principally of ourselves in entering upon this
engagement," continued Isabella, earnestly--"for that would be
supplanting the duties of princes by the feelings of the lover. Thou
hast frequently perused, and sufficiently conned the marriage articles,
I trust?"

"There hath been sufficient leisure for that, my cousin, as they have
now been signed these nine months."

"If I may have seemed to thee exacting in some particulars," continued
Isabella, with the same earnest and beautiful simplicity as usually
marked her deportment in all the relations of life--"it is because the
duties of a sovereign may not be overlooked. Thou knowest, moreover,
Fernando, the influence that the husband is wont to acquire over the
wife, and wilt feel the necessity of my protecting my Castilians, in the
fullest manner, against my own weaknesses."

"If thy Castilians do not suffer until they suffer from that cause, Doña
Isabella, their lot will indeed be blessed."

"These are words of gallantry, and I must reprove their use on an
occasion so serious, Fernando. I am a few months thy senior, and shall
assume an elder sister's rights, until they are lost in the obligations
of a wife. Thou hast seen in those articles, how anxiously I would
protect my Castilians against any supremacy of the stranger. Thou
knowest that many of the greatest of this realm are opposed to our
union, through apprehension of Aragonese sway, and wilt observe how
studiously we have striven to appease their jealousies."

"Thy motives, Doña Isabella, have been understood, and thy wishes in
this and all other particulars shall be respected."

"I would be thy faithful and submissive wife," returned the princess,
with an earnest but gentle look at her betrothed; "but I would also that
Castile should preserve her rights and her independence. What will be
thy influence, the maiden that freely bestoweth her hand, need hardly
say; but we must preserve the appearance of separate states."

"Confide in me, my cousin. They who live fifty years hence will say that
Don Fernando knew how to respect his obligations and to discharge his
duty."

"There is the stipulation, too, to war upon the Moor. I shall never feel
that the Christians of Spain have been true to the faith, while the
follower of the arch-imposter of Mecca remaineth in the peninsula."

"Thou and thy archbishop could not have imposed a more agreeable duty,
than to place my lance in rest against the infidels. My spurs have been
gained in those wars, already; and no sooner shall we be crowned, than
thou wilt see my perfect willingness to aid in driving back the
miscreants to their original sands."

"There remaineth but one thing more upon my mind, gentle cousin. Thou
knowest the evil influence that besets my brother, and that it hath
disaffected a large portion of his nobles as well as of his cities. We
shall both be sorely tempted to wage war upon him, and to assume the
sceptre before it pleaseth God to accord it to us, in the course of
nature. I would have thee respect Don Enriquez, not only as the head of
our royal house, but as my brother and anointed master. Should evil
counsellors press him to attempt aught against our persons or rights, it
will be lawful to resist; but I pray thee, Fernando, on no excuse seek
to raise thy hand in rebellion against my rightful sovereign."

"Let Don Enriquez, then, be chary of his Beltraneja!" answered the
prince with warmth. "By St. Peter! I have rights of mine own that come
before those of that ill-gotten mongrel! The whole House of Trastamara
hath an interest in stifling that spurious scion which hath been so
fraudulently engrafted on its princely stock!"

"Thou art warm, Don Fernando, and even the eye of Beatriz de Bobadilla
reproveth thy heat. The unfortunate Joanna never can impair our rights
to the throne, for there are few nobles in Castile so unworthy as to
wish to see the crown bestowed where it is believed the blood of Pelayo
doth not flow."

"Don Enriquez hath not kept faith with thee, Isabella, since the treaty
of Toros de Guisando!"

"My brother is surrounded by wicked counsellors--and then,
Fernando,"--the princess blushed crimson as she spoke--"neither have we
been able rigidly to adhere to that convention, since one of its
conditions was that my hand should not be bestowed without the consent
of the king."

"He hath driven us into this measure, and hath only to reproach himself
with our failure on this point."

"I endeavor so to view it, though many have been my prayers for
forgiveness of this seeming breach of faith. I am not superstitious,
Fernando, else might I think God would frown on a union that is
contracted in the face of pledges like these. But, it is well to
distinguish between motives, and we have a right to believe that He who
readeth the heart, will not judge the well-intentioned severely. Had not
Don Enriquez attempted to seize my person, with the plain purpose of
forcing me to a marriage against my will, this decisive step could not
have been necessary, and would not have been taken."

"I have reason to thank my patron saint, beautiful cousin, that thy will
was less compliant than thy tyrants had believed."

"I could not plight my troth to the King of Portugal, or to Monsieur de
Guienne, or to any that they proposed to me, for my future lord,"
answered Isabella, ingenuously. "It ill befitted royal or noble maidens
to set up their own inexperienced caprices in opposition to the wisdom
of their friends, and the task is not difficult for a virtuous wife to
learn to love her husband, when nature and opinion are not too openly
violated in the choice; but I have had too much thought for my soul to
wish to expose it to so severe a trial, in contracting the marriage
duties."

"I feel that I am only too unworthy of thee, Isabella--but thou must
train me to be that thou wouldst wish; I can only promise thee a most
willing and attentive scholar."

The discourse now became more general, Isabella indulging her natural
curiosity and affectionate nature, by making many inquiries concerning
her different relatives in Aragon. After the interview had lasted two
hours or more, the King of Sicily returned to Dueñas, with the same
privacy as he had observed in entering the town. The royal pair parted
with feelings of increased esteem and respect, Isabella indulging in
those gentle anticipations of domestic happiness that more properly
belong to the tender nature of woman.

The marriage took place, with suitable pomp, on the morning of the 19th
October, 1469, in the chapel of John de Vivero's palace; no less than
two thousand persons, principally of condition, witnessing the ceremony.
Just as the officiating priest was about to commence the offices, the
eye of Isabella betrayed uneasiness, and turning to the Archbishop of
Toledo, she said--

"Your grace hath promised that there should be nothing wanting to the
consent of the church on this solemn occasion. It is known that Don
Fernando of Aragon and I stand within the prohibited degrees."

"Most true, my Lady Isabella," returned the prelate, with a composed
mien and a paternal smile. "Happily, our Holy Father Pius hath removed
this impediment, and the church smileth on this blessed union in every
particular."

The archbishop then took out of his pocket a dispensation, which he
read, in a clear, sonorous, steady voice; when every shade disappeared
from the serene brow of Isabella, and the ceremony proceeded. Years
elapsed before this pious and submissive Christian princess discovered
that she had been imposed on, the bull that was then read having been an
invention of the old King of Aragon and the prelate, not without
suspicions of a connivance on the part of the bridegroom. This deception
had been practised from a perfect conviction that the sovereign pontiff
was too much under the influence of the King of Castile, to consent to
bestow the boon in opposition to that monarch's wishes. It was several
years before Sixtus IV. repaired this wrong, by granting a more genuine
authority.

Nevertheless, Ferdinand and Isabella became man and wife. What followed
in the next twenty years must be rather glanced at than related. Henry
IV. resented the step, and vain attempts were made to substitute his
supposititious child, La Beltraneja, in the place of his sister, as
successor to the throne. A civil war ensued, during which Isabella
steadily refused to assume the crown, though often entreated; limiting
her efforts to the maintenance of her rights as heiress presumptive. In
1474, or five years after her marriage, Don Henry died, and she then
became Queen of Castile, though her spurious niece was also proclaimed
by a small party among her subjects. The war of the succession, as it
was called, lasted five years longer, when Joanna, or La Beltraneja,
assumed the veil, and the rights of Isabella were generally
acknowledged. About the same time, died Don John II., when Ferdinand
mounted the throne of Aragon. These events virtually reduced the
sovereignties of the peninsula, which had so long been cut up into petty
states, to four, viz., the possessions of Ferdinand and Isabella, which
included Castile, Leon, Aragon, Valencia, and many other of the finest
provinces of Spain; Navarre, an insignificant kingdom in the Pyrenees;
Portugal, much as it exists to-day; and Granada, the last abiding-place
of the Moor, north of the strait of Gibraltar.

Neither Ferdinand, nor his royal consort, was forgetful of that clause
in their marriage contract, which bound the former to undertake a war
for the destruction of the Moorish power. The course of events, however,
caused a delay of many years, in putting this long-projected plan in
execution; but when the time finally arrived, that Providence which
seemed disposed to conduct the pious Isabella, through a train of
important incidents, from the reduced condition in which we have just
described her to have been, to the summit of human power, did not desert
its favorite. Success succeeded success--and victory, victory; until the
Moor had lost fortress after fortress, town after town, and was finally
besieged in his very capital--his last hold in the peninsula. As the
reduction of Granada was an event that, in Christian eyes, was to be
ranked second only to the rescuing of the holy sepulchre from the hands
of the Infidels, so was it distinguished by some features of
singularity, that have probably never before marked the course of a
siege. The place submitted on the 25th November, 1491--twenty-two years
after the date of the marriage just mentioned, and, it may not be amiss
to observe, on the very day of the year that has become memorable in the
annals of this country, as that on which the English, three centuries
later, reluctantly yielded their last foothold on the coast of the
republic.

In the course of the preceding summer, while the Spanish forces lay
before the town, and Isabella, with her children, were anxious witnesses
of the progress of events, an accident occurred that had well nigh
proved fatal to the royal family, and brought destruction on the
Christian arms. The pavillion of the queen took fire, and was consumed,
placing the whole encampment in the utmost jeopardy. Many of the tents
of the nobles were also destroyed, and much treasure, in the shape of
jewelry and plate, was lost, though the injury went no further. In order
to guard against the recurrence of such an accident, and probably
viewing the subjection of Granada as the great act of their mutual
reign--for, as yet, Time threw his veil around the future, and but one
human eye foresaw the greatest of all the events of the period, which
was still in reserve--the sovereigns resolved on attempting a work that,
of itself, would render this siege memorable. The plan of a regular town
was made, and laborers set about the construction of good substantial
edifices, in which to lodge the army; thus converting the warfare into
that of something like city against city. In three months this
stupendous work was completed, with its avenues, streets, and squares,
and received the name of Santa Fé, or Holy Faith--an appellation quite
as well suited to the zeal which could achieve such a work, in the heat
of a campaign, as to that general reliance on the providence of God
which animated the Christians in carrying on the war. The construction
of this place struck terror into the hearts of the Moors, for they
considered it a proof that their enemies intended to give up the
conflict only with their lives; and it is highly probable that it had a
direct and immediate influence on the submission of Boabdil, the King of
Granada, who yielded the Alhambra a few weeks after the Spaniards had
taken possession of their new abodes.

Santa Fé still exists, and is visited by the traveller as a place of
curious origin; while it is rendered remarkable by the fact--real or
assumed--that it is the only town of any size in Spain, that has never
been under Moorish sway.

The main incidents of our tale will now transport us to this era, and to
this scene; all that has been related as yet, being merely introductory
matter, to prepare the reader for the events that are to follow.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IV.

    "What thing a right line is,--the learned know;
      But how availes that him, who in the right
    Of life and manners doth desire to grow?
      What then are all these humane arts, and lights,
    But seas of errors? In whose depths who sound,
    Of truth finde only shadowes, and no ground."

    Human Learning.


The morning of the 2d of January, 1492, was ushered in with a solemnity
and pomp that were unusual even in a court and camp as much addicted to
religious observances and royal magnificence, as that of Ferdinand and
Isabella. The sun had scarce appeared, when all in the extraordinary
little city of Santa Fé were afoot, and elate with triumph. The
negotiations for the surrender of Granada, which had been going on
secretly for weeks, were terminated; the army and nation had been
formally apprised of their results, and this was the day set for the
entry of the conquerors.

The court had been in mourning for Don Alonso of Portugal, the husband
of the Princess Royal of Castile, who had died a bridegroom; but on this
joyous occasion the trappings of woe were cast aside, and all appeared
in their gayest and most magnificent apparel. At an hour that was still
early, the Grand Cardinal moved forward, ascending what is called the
Hill of Martyrs, at the head of a strong body of troops, with a view to
take possession. While making the ascent, a party of Moorish cavaliers
was met; and at their head rode one in whom, by the dignity of his mien
and the anguish of his countenance, it was easy to recognize the mental
suffering of Boabdil, or Abdallah, the deposed monarch. The cardinal
pointed out the position occupied by Ferdinand, who, with that admixture
of piety and worldly policy which were so closely interwoven in his
character, had refused to enter within the walls of the conquered city,
until the symbol of Christ had superseded the banners of Mahomet; and
who had taken his station at some distance from the gates, with a
purpose and display of humility that were suited to the particular
fanaticism of the period. As the interview that occurred has often been
related, and twice quite recently by distinguished writers of our own
country, it is unnecessary to dwell on it here. Abdallah next sought the
presence of the purer-minded and gentle Isabella, where his reception,
with less affection of the character, had more of the real charity and
compassion of the Christian; when he went his way toward that pass in
the mountains that has ever since been celebrated as the point where he
took his last view of the palaces and towers of his fathers, from which
it has obtained the poetical and touching name of El Ultimo Suspiro Del
Moro.

Although the passage of the last King of Granada, from his palace to the
hills, was in no manner delayed, as it was grave and conducted with
dignity, it consequently occupied some time. These were hours in which
the multitude covered the highways, and the adjacent fields were
garnished with a living throng, all of whom kept their eyes riveted on
the towers of the Alhambra, where the signs of possession were anxiously
looked for by every good Catholic who witnessed the triumph of his
religion.

Isabella, who had made this conquest a condition in the articles of
marriage--whose victory in truth it was--abstained, with her native
modesty, from pressing forward on this occasion. She had placed herself
at some distance in the rear of the position of Ferdinand.
Still--unless, indeed, we except the long-coveted towers of the
Alhambra--she was the centre of attraction. She appeared in royal
magnificence, as due to the glory of the occasion; her beauty always
rendered her an object of admiration; her mildness, inflexible justice,
and unyielding truth, had won all hearts; and she was really the person
who was most to profit by the victory, Granada being attached to her own
crown of Castile, and not to that of Aragon, a country that possessed
little or no contiguous territory.

Previously to the appearance of Abdallah, the crowd moved freely, in all
directions; multitudes of civilians having flocked to the camp to
witness the entry. Among others were many friars, priests, and
monks--the war, indeed, having the character of a crusade. The throng of
the curious was densest near the person of the queen, where, in truth,
the magnificence of the court was the most imposing. Around this spot,
in particular, congregated most of the religious, for they felt that the
pious mind of Isabella created a sort of moral atmosphere in and near
her presence, that was peculiarly suited to their habits, and favorable
to their consideration. Among others, was a friar of prepossessing mien,
and, in fact, of noble birth, who had been respectfully addressed as
Father Pedro, by several grandees, as he made his way from the immediate
presence of the queen, to a spot where the circulation was easier. He
was accompanied by a youth of an air so much superior to that of most of
those who did not appear that day in the saddle, that he attracted
general attention. Although not more than twenty, it was evident, from
his muscular frame, and embrowned but florid cheeks, that he was
acquainted with exposure; and by his bearing, many thought,
notwithstanding he did not appear in armor on an occasion so peculiarly
military, that both his mien and his frame had been improved by
familiarity with war. His attire was simple, as if he rather avoided
than sought observation, but it was, nevertheless, such as was worn by
none but the noble. Several of those who watched this youth, as he
reached the less confined portions of the crowd, had seen him received
graciously by Isabella, whose hand he had even been permitted to kiss, a
favor that the formal and fastidious court of Castile seldom bestowed
except on the worthy, or on those, at least, who were unusually
illustrious from their birth. Some whispered that he was a Guzman, a
family that was almost royal; while others thought that he might be a
Ponce, a name that had got to be one of the first in Spain, through the
deeds of the renowned Marquis-Duke of Cadiz, in this very war; while
others, again, affected to discern in his lofty brow, firm step, and
animated eye, the port and countenance of a Mendoza.

It was evident that the subject of all these commentaries was
unconscious of the notice that was attracted by his vigorous form,
handsome face, and elastic, lofty tread; for, like one accustomed to be
observed by inferiors, his attention was confined to such objects as
amused his eye, or pleased his fancy, while he lent a willing ear to the
remarks that, from time to time, fell from the lips of his reverend
companion.

"This is a most blessed and glorious day for Christianity!" observed the
friar, after a pause a little longer than common. "An impious reign of
seven hundred years hath expired, and the Moor is at length lowered from
his pride; while the cross is elevated above the banners of the false
prophet. Thou hast had ancestors, my son, who might almost arise from
their tombs, and walk the earth in exultation, if the tidings of these
changes were permitted to reach the souls of Christians long since
departed."

"The Blessed Maria intercede for them, father, that they may not be
disturbed, even to see the Moor unhoused; for I doubt much, agreeable as
the Infidel hath made it, if they find Granada as pleasant as Paradise."

"Son Don Luis, thou hast got much levity of speech, in thy late
journeyings; and I doubt if thou art as mindful of thy paters and
confessions, as when under the care of thy excellent mother, of sainted
memory!"

This was not only said reprovingly, but with a warmth that amounted
nearly to anger.

"Chide me not so warmly, father, for a lightness of speech that cometh
of youthful levity, rather than of disrespect for holy church. Nay, thou
rebukest warmly, and then, as I come like a penitent to lay my
transgressions before thee, and to seek absolution, thou fastenest thine
eye on vacancy, and gazest as if one of the spirits of which thou so
lately spokest actually had arisen and come to see the Moor crack his
heart strings at quitting his beloved Alhambra!"

"Dost see that man, Luis!" demanded the friar, still gazing in a fixed
direction, though he made no gesture to indicate to which particular
individual of the many who were passing in all directions, he especially
alluded.

"By my veracity, I see a thousand, father, though not one to fasten the
eye as if he were fresh from Paradise. Would it be exceeding discretion
to ask who or what hath thus riveted thy gaze?"

"Dost see yonder person of high and commanding stature, and in whom
gravity and dignity are so singularly mingled with an air of poverty;
or, if not absolutely of poverty--for he is better clad, and, seemingly,
in more prosperity now, than I remember ever to have seen him--still,
evidently not of the rich and noble; while his bearing and carriage
would seem to bespeak him at least a monarch?"

"I think I now perceive him thou meanest, father; a man of very grave
and reverend appearance, though of simple deportment. I see nothing
extravagant, or ill-placed, either in his attire, or in his bearing."

"I mean not that; but there is a loftiness in his dignified countenance
that one is not accustomed to meet in those who are unused to power."

"To me, he hath the air and dress of a superior navigator, or pilot--of
a man accustomed to the seas--ay, he hath sundry symbols about him that
bespeak such a pursuit."

"Thou art right, Don Luis, for such is his calling. He cometh of Genoa,
and his name is Christoval Colon; or, as they term it in Italy,
Christoforo Colombo."

"I remember to have heard of an admiral of that name, who did good
service in the wars of the south, and who formerly led a fleet into the
far east."

"This is not he, but one of humbler habits, though possibly of the same
blood, seeing that both are derived from the identical place. This is no
admiral, though he would fain become one--ay, even a king!"

"The man is, then, either of a weak mind, or of a light ambition."

"He is neither. In mind, he hath outdone many of our most learned
churchmen; and it is due to his piety to say that a more devout
Christian doth not exist in Spain. It is plain, son, that thou hast been
much abroad, and little at court, or thou wouldst have known the history
of this extraordinary being, at the mention of his name, which has been
the source of merriment for the frivolous and gay this many a year, and
which has thrown the thoughtful and prudent into more doubts than many a
fierce and baneful heresy."

"Thou stirrest my curiosity, father, by such language. Who and what is
the man?"

"An enigma, that neither prayers to the Virgin, the learning of the
cloisters, nor a zealous wish to reach the truth, hath enabled me to
read. Come hither, Luis, to this bit of rock, where we can be seated,
and I will relate to thee the opinions that render this being so
extraordinary. Thou must know, son, it is now seven years since this man
first appeared among us. He sought employment as a discoverer,
pretending that, by steering out into the ocean, on a western course,
for a great and unheard-of distance, he could reach the farther Indies,
with the rich island of Cipango, and the kingdom of Cathay, of which one
Marco Polo hath left us some most extraordinary legends!"

"By St. James of blessed memory! the man must be short of his wits!"
interrupted Don Luis, laughing. "In what way could this thing be, unless
the earth were round--the Indies lying east, and not west of us?"

"That hath been often objected to his notions; but the man hath ready
answers to much weightier arguments."

"What weightier than this can be found? Our own eyes tell us that the
earth is flat."

"Therein he differeth from most men--and to own the truth, son Luis, not
without some show of reason. He is a navigator, as thou wilt understand,
and he replies that, on the ocean, when a ship is seen from afar, her
upper sails are first perceived, and that as she draweth nearer, her
lower sails, and finally her hull cometh into view. But thou hast been
over sea, and may have observed something of this?"

"Truly have I, father. While mounting the English sea, we met a gallant
cruiser of the king's, and, as thou said'st, we first perceived her
upper sail, a white speck upon the water; then followed sail after sail,
until we came nigh and saw her gigantic hull, with a very goodly show of
bombards and cannon--some twenty at least, in all."

"Then thou agreest with this Colon, and thinkest the earth round?"

"By St. George of England! not I. I have seen too much of the world, to
traduce its fair surface in so heedless a manner. England, France,
Burgundy, Germany, and all those distant countries of the north, are
just as level and flat as our own Castile."

"Why, then, didst thou see the upper sails of the Englishman first?"

"Why, father--why--because they were first visible. Yes, because they
came first into view."

"Do the English put the largest of their sails uppermost on the masts?"

"They would be fools if they did. Though no great navigators--our
neighbors the Portuguese, and the people of Genoa, exceeding all others
in that craft--though no great navigators, the English are not so
surpassingly stupid. Thou wilt remember the force of the winds, and
understand that the larger the sail the lower should be its position."

"Then how happened it that thou sawest the smaller object before the
larger?"

"Truly, excellent Fray Pedro, thou hast not conversed with this
Christoforo for nothing! A question is not a reason."

"Socrates was fond of questions, son; but _he_ expected answers."

"_Peste!_ as they say at the court of King Louis. I am not Socrates, my
good father, but thy old pupil and kinsman, Luis de Bobadilla, the
truant nephew of the queen's favorite, the Marchioness of Moya, and as
well-born a cavalier as there is in Spain--though somewhat given to
roving, if my enemies are to be believed."

"Neither thy pedigree, thy character, nor thy vagaries, need be given to
me, Don Luis de Bobadilla, since I have known thee and thy career from
childhood. Thou hast one merit that none will deny thee, and that is, a
respect for truth; and never hast thou more completely vindicated thy
character, in this particular, than when thou saidst thou were not
Socrates."

The worthy friar's good-natured smile, as he made this sally, took off
some of its edge; and the young man laughed, as if too conscious of his
own youthful follies to resent what he heard.

"But, dear Fray Pedro, lay aside thy government, for once, and stoop to
a rational discourse with me on this extraordinary subject. _Thou_,
surely, wilt not pretend that the earth is round?"

"I do not go as far as some, on this point, Luis, for I see difficulties
with Holy Writ, by the admission. Still, this matter of the sails much
puzzleth me, and I have often felt a desire to go from one port to
another, by sea, in order to witness it. Were it not for the exceeding
nausea that I ever feel in a boat, I might attempt the experiment."

"That would be a worthy consummation of all thy wisdom!" exclaimed the
young man, laughing. "Fray Pedro de Carrascal turned rover, like his old
pupil, and that, too, astride a vagary! But set thy heart at rest, my
honored kinsman and excellent instructor, for I can save thee the
trouble. In all my journeyings, by sea and by land--and thou knowest
that, for my years, they have been many--I have ever found the earth
flat, and the ocean the flattest portion of it, always excepting a few
turbulent and uneasy waves."

"No doubt it so seemeth to the eye; but this Colon, who hath voyaged far
more than thou, thinketh otherwise. He contendeth that the earth is a
sphere, and that, by sailing west, he can reach points that have been
already attained by journeying east."

"By San Lorenzo! but the idea is a bold one! Doth the man really propose
to venture out into the broad Atlantic, and even to cross it to some
distant and unknown land?"

"That is his very idea; and for seven weary years hath he solicited the
court to furnish him with the means. Nay, as I hear, he hath passed much
more time--other seven years, perhaps--in urging his suit in different
lands."

"If the earth be round," continued Don Luis, with a musing air, "what
preventeth all the water from flowing to the lower parts of it? How is
it, that we have any seas at all? and if, as thou hast hinted, he
deemeth the Indies on the other side, how is it that their people stand
erect?--it cannot be done without placing the feet uppermost."

"That difficulty hath been presented to Colon, but he treateth it
lightly. Indeed, most of our churchmen are getting to believe that there
is no up, or down, except as it relateth to the surface of the earth; so
that no great obstacle existeth in that point."

"Thou would'st not have me understand, father, that a man can walk on
his head--and that, too, with the noble member in the air? By San
Francisco! thy men of Cathay must have talons like a cat, or they would
be falling, quickly!"

"Whither, Luis?"

"Whither, Fray Pedro?--to Tophet, or the bottomless pit. It can never be
that men walk on their heads, heels uppermost, with no better foundation
than the atmosphere. The caravels, too, must sail on their masts--and
that would be rare navigation! What would prevent the sea from tumbling
out of its bed, and falling on the Devil's fires and extinguishing
them?"

"Son Luis," interrupted the monk, gravely, "thy lightness of speech is
carried too far. But, if thou so much deridest the opinion of this
Colon, what are thine own notions of the formation of this earth, that
God hath so honored with his spirit and his presence?"

"That it is as flat as the buckler of the Moor I slew in the last
sortie, which is as flat as steel can hammer iron."

"Dost thou think it hath limits?"

"That do I--and please heaven, and Doña Mercedes de Valverde, I will see
them before I die!"

"Then thou fanciest there is an edge, or precipice, at the four sides of
the world, which men may reach, and where they can stand and look off,
as from an exceeding high platform?"

"The picture doth not lose, father, for the touch of thy pencil! I have
never bethought me of this before; and yet some such spot there must be,
one would think. By San Fernando, himself! that would be a place to try
the metal of even Don Alonso de Ojeda, who might stand on the margin of
the earth, put his foot on a cloud, and cast an orange to the moon!"

"Thou hast bethought thee little of any thing serious, I fear, Luis; but
to me, this opinion and this project of Colon are not without merit. I
see but two serious objections to them, one of which is, the difficulty
connected with Holy Writ; and the other, the vast and incomprehensible,
nay, useless, extent of the ocean that must necessarily separate us from
Cathay; else should we long since have heard from that quarter of the
world."

"Do the learned favor the man's notions?"

"The matter hath been seriously argued before a council held at
Salamanca, where men were much divided upon it. One serious obstacle is
the apprehension that should the world prove to be round, and could a
ship even succeed in getting to Cathay by the west, there would be great
difficulty in her ever returning, since there must be, in some manner,
an ascent and a descent. I must say that most men deride this Colon; and
I fear he will never reach his island of Cipango, as he doth not seem in
the way even to set forth on the journey. I marvel that he should now be
here, it having been said he had taken his final departure for
Portugal."

"Dost thou say, father, that the man hath long been in Spain?" demanded
Don Luis, gravely, with his eye riveted on the dignified form of
Columbus, who stood calmly regarding the gorgeous spectacle of the
triumph, at no great distance from the rock where the two had taken
their seats.

"Seven weary years hath he been soliciting the rich and the great to
furnish him with the means of undertaking his favorite voyage."

"Hath he the gold to prefer so long a suit?"

"By his appearance, I should think him poor--nay, I know that he hath
toiled for bread, at the occupation of a map-maker. One hour he hath
passed in arguing with philosophers and in soliciting princes, while the
next hath been occupied in laboring for the food that he hath taken for
sustenance."

"Thy description, father, hath whetted curiosity to so keen an edge,
that I would fain speak with this Colon. I see he remaineth yonder, in
the crowd, and will go and tell him that I, too, am somewhat of a
navigator, and will extract from him a few of his peculiar ideas."

"And in what manner wilt thou open the acquaintance, son?"

"By telling him that I am Don Luis de Bobadilla, the nephew of the Doña
Beatriz of Moya, and a noble of one of the best houses of Castile."

"And this, thou thinkest, will suffice for thy purpose, Luis!" returned
the friar, smiling. "No--no--my son; this may do with most map-sellers,
but it will not effect thy wishes with yonder Christoval Colon. That man
is so filled with the vastness of his purposes; is so much raised up
with the magnitude of the results that his mind intently contemplateth,
day and night; seemeth so conscious of his own powers, that even kings
and princes can, in no manner, lessen his dignity. That which thou
proposest, Don Fernando, our honored master, might scarcely attempt, and
hope to escape without some rebuke of manner, if not of tongue."

"By all the blessed saints! Fray Pedro, thou givest an extraordinary
account of this man, and only increasest the desire to know him. Wilt
thou charge thyself with the introduction?"

"Most willingly, for I wish to inquire what hath brought him back to
court, whence, I had understood, he lately went, with the intent to go
elsewhere with his projects. Leave the mode in my hands, son Luis, and
we will see what can be accomplished."

The friar and his mercurial young companion now arose from their seats
on the rock, and threaded the throng, taking the direction necessary to
approach the man who had been the subject of their discourse, and still
remained that of their thoughts. When near enough to speak, Fray Pedro
stopped, and stood patiently waiting for a moment when he might catch
the navigator's eye. This did not occur for several minutes, the looks
of Colon being riveted on the towers of the Alhambra, where, at each
instant, the signal of possession was expected to appear; and Luis de
Bobadilla, who, truant, and errant, and volatile, and difficult to curb,
as he had proved himself to be, never forgot his illustrious birth and
the conventional distinctions attached to personal rank, began to
manifest his impatience at being kept so long dancing attendance on a
mere map-seller and a pilot. He in vain urged his companion to advance,
however; but one of his own hurried movements at length drew aside the
look of Columbus, when the eyes of the latter and of the friar met, and
being old acquaintances, they saluted in the courteous manner of the
age.

"I felicitate you, Señor Colon, on the glorious termination of this
siege, and rejoice that you are here to witness it, as I had heard
affairs of magnitude had called you to another country."

"The hand of God, father, is to be traced in all things. You perceive in
this success the victory of the cross; but to me it conveyeth a lesson
of perseverance, and sayeth as plainly as events can speak, that what
God hath decreed, must come to pass."

"I like your application, Señor; as, indeed, I do most of your thoughts
on our holy religion. Perseverance is truly necessary to salvation; and
I doubt not that a fitting symbol to the same may be found in the manner
in which our pious sovereigns have conducted this war, as well as in its
glorious termination."

"True, father; and also doth it furnish a symbol to the fortunes of all
enterprises that have the glory of God and the welfare of the church in
view," answered Colon, or Columbus, as the name has been Latinized; his
eye kindling with that latent fire which seems so deeply seated in the
visionary and the enthusiast. "It may seem out of reason to you, to make
such applications of these great events; but the triumph of their
Highnesses this day, marvellously encourageth me to persevere, and not
to faint, in my own weary pilgrimage, both leading to triumphs of the
cross."

"Since you are pleased to speak of your own schemes, Señor Colon,"
returned the friar, ingenuously, "I am not sorry that the matter hath
come up between us; for here is a youthful kinsman of mine, who hath
been somewhat of a rover, himself, in the indulgence of a youthful
fancy, that neither friends nor yet love could restrain; and having
heard of your noble projects, he is burning with a desire to learn more
of them from your own mouth, should it suit your condescension so to
indulge him."

"I am always happy to yield to the praiseworthy wishes of the young and
adventurous, and shall cheerfully communicate to your young friend all
he may desire to know," answered Columbus, with a simplicity and dignity
that at once put to flight all the notions of superiority and affability
with which Don Luis had intended to carry on the conversation, and which
had the immediate effect to satisfy the young man that he was to be the
obliged and honored party, in the intercourse that was to follow. "But,
Señor, you have forgotten to give me the name of the cavalier."

"It is Don Luis de Bobadilla, a youth whose best claims to your notice,
perhaps, are, a most adventurous and roving spirit, and the fact that he
may call your honored friend, the Marchioness of Moya, his aunt."

"Either would be sufficient, father. I love the spirit of adventure in
the youthful; for it is implanted, no doubt, by God, in order that they
may serve his all-wise and beneficent designs; and it is of such as
these that my own chief worldly stay and support must be found. Then,
next to Father Juan Perez de Marchena and Señor Alonzo de Quintanilla,
do I esteem Doña Beatriz, among my fastest friends; her kinsman,
therefore, will be certain of my esteem and respect."

All this sounded extraordinary to Don Luis; for, though the dress and
appearance of this unknown stranger, who even spoke the Castilian with a
foreign accent, were respectable, he had been told he was merely a
pilot, or navigator, who earned his bread by toil; and it was not usual
for the noblest of Castile to be thus regarded, as it might be, with a
condescending favor, by any inferior to those who could claim the blood
and lineage of princes. At first he was disposed to resent the words of
the stranger; then to laugh in his face; but, observing that the friar
treated him with great deference, and secretly awed by the air of the
reputed projector, he was not only successful in maintaining a suitable
deportment, but he made a proper and courteous reply, such as became his
name and breeding. The three then retired together, a little aloof from
the thickest of the throng, and found seats, also, on one of the rocks,
of which so many were scattered about the place.

"Don Luis hath visited foreign lands, you say, father," said Columbus,
who did not fail to lead the discourse, like one entitled to it by rank,
or personal claims, "and hath a craving for the wonders and dangers of
the ocean?"

"Such hath been either his merit or his fault, Señor; had he listened to
the wishes of Doña Beatriz, or to my advice, he would not have thrown
aside his knightly career for one so little in unison with his training
and birth."

"Nay, father, you treat the youth with unmerited severity; he who
passeth a life on the ocean, cannot be said to pass it in either an
ignoble or a useless manner. God separated different countries by vast
bodies of water, not with any intent to render their people strangers to
each other, but, doubtless, that they might meet amid the wonders with
which he hath adorned the ocean, and glorify his name and power so much
the more. We all have our moments of thoughtlessness in youth--a period
when we yield to our impulses rather than to our reason; and as I
confess to mine, I am little disposed to bear too hard on Señor Don
Luis, that he hath had his."

"You have probably battled with the Infidel, by sea, Señor Colon,"
observed the young man, not a little embarrassed as to the manner in
which he should introduce the subject he most desired.

"Ay, and by land, too, son"--the familiarity startled the young noble,
though he could not take offence at it--"and by land, too. The time hath
been, when I had a pleasure in relating my perils and escapes, which
have been numerous, both from war and tempests; but, since the power of
God hath awakened my spirit to mightier things, that his will may be
done, and his word spread throughout the whole earth, my memory ceaseth
to dwell on them." Fray Pedro crossed himself, and Don Luis smiled and
shrugged his shoulders, as one is apt to do when he listens to any thing
extravagant; but the navigator proceeded in the earnest, grave manner
that appeared to belong to his character. "It is now very many years
since I was engaged in that remarkable combat between the forces of my
kinsman and namesake, the younger Colombo, as he was called, to
distinguish him from his uncle, the ancient admiral of the same name,
which took place not far north from Cape St. Vincent. On that bloody
day, we contended with the foe--Venetians, richly laden--from morn till
even, and yet the Lord carried me through the hot contest unharmed. On
another occasion, the galley in which I fought was consumed by fire, and
I had to find my way to land--no trifling distance--by the aid of an
oar. To me, it seemeth that the hand of God was in this, and that he
would not have taken so signal and tender a care of one of his
insignificant creatures, unless to use him largely for his own honor and
glory."

Although the eye of the navigator grew brighter as he uttered this, and
his cheek flushed with a species of holy enthusiasm, it was impossible
to confound one so grave, so dignified, so measured even in his
exaggerations (if such they were), with the idle and light-minded, who
mistake momentary impulses for indelible impressions, and passing
vanities for the convictions that temper character. Fray Pedro, instead
of smiling, or in any manner betraying that he regarded the other's
opinions lightly, devoutly crossed himself again, and showed by the
sympathy expressed in his countenance, how much he entered into the
profound religious faith of the speaker.

"The ways of God are often mysterious to his creatures," said the friar;
"but we are taught that they all lead to the exaltation of his name and
to the glory of his attributes."

"It is so that I consider it, father; and with such views have I always
regarded my own humble efforts to honor him. We are but instruments, and
useless instruments, too, when we look at how little proceedeth from our
own spirits and power."

"There cometh the blessed symbol that is our salvation and guide!"
exclaimed the friar, holding out both arms eagerly, as if to embrace
some distant object in the heavens, immediately falling to his knees,
and bowing his shaven and naked head, in deep humility, to the earth.

Columbus turned his eyes in the direction indicated by his companion's
gestures, and he beheld the large silver cross that the sovereigns had
carried with them throughout the late war, as a pledge of its objects,
glittering on the principal tower of the Alhambra. At the next instant,
the banners of Castile and of St. James were unfolded from other
elevated places. Then came the song of triumph, mingled with the chants
of the church. Te Deum was sung, and the choirs of the royal chapel
chanted in the open fields the praises of the Lord of Hosts. A scene of
magnificent religious pomp, mingled with martial array, followed, that
belongs rather to general history than to the particular and private
incidents of our tale.



CHAPTER V.

    "Who hath not proved how feebly words essay
    To fix one spark of beauty's heavenly ray?
    Who doth not feel, until his failing sight
    Faints into dimness with its own delight,
    His changing cheek, his sinking heart confess
    The might--the majesty of loveliness!"

    Byron.


That night the court of Castile and Aragon slept in the palace of the
Alhambra. As soon as the religious ceremony alluded to in the last
chapter had terminated, the crowd rushed into the place, and the princes
followed, with a dignity and state better suited to their high
character. The young Christian nobles, accompanied by their wives and
sisters--for the presence of Isabella, and the delay that attended the
surrender, had drawn together a vast many of the gentler sex, in
addition to those whose duty it was to accompany their royal
mistress--hurried eagerly through the celebrated courts and fretted
apartments of this remarkable residence; nor was curiosity appeased even
when night came to place a temporary stay to its indulgence. The Court
of the Lions in particular, a place still renowned throughout
Christendom for its remains of oriental beauty, had been left by Boabdil
in the best condition; and, although it was midwinter, by the aid of
human art it was even then gay with flowers; while the adjacent halls,
those of the Two Sisters and of Abencerrages, were brilliant with light,
and alive with warriors and courtiers, dignified priests and luxuriant
beauty.

Although no Spanish eye could be otherwise than familiar with the light
peculiar graces of Moorish architecture, these of the Alhambra so much
surpassed those of any other palace which had been erected by the
Mussulman dynasties of that part of the world, that their glories struck
the beholders with the freshness of novelty, as well as with the
magnificence of royalty. The rich conceits in stucco, an art of eastern
origin then little understood in Christendom; the graceful and fanciful
arabesques--which, improved on by the fancies of some of the greatest
geniuses the world ever saw, have descended to our own times, and got to
be so familiar in Europe, though little known on this side of the
Atlantic--decorated the walls, while brilliant fountains cast their
waters into the air, and fell in glittering spray, resembling diamonds.

Among the throng that moved through this scene of almost magical beauty,
was Beatriz de Bobadilla, who had long been the wife of Don Andres de
Cabrera, and was now generally known as the Marchioness of Moya; the
constant, near, and confidential friend of the queen, a character she
retained until her royal mistress was numbered with the dead. On her arm
leaned lightly a youthful female, of an appearance so remarkable, that
few strangers would have passed her without turning to take a second
look at features and a countenance that were seldom seen and forgotten.
This was Doña Mercedes de Valverde, one of the noblest and richest
heiresses of Castile; the relative, ward, and adopted daughter of the
queen's friend--favorite being hardly the term one would apply to the
relation in which Doña Beatriz stood toward Isabella. It was not the
particular beauty of Doña Mercedes, however, that rendered her
appearance so remarkable and attractive; for, though feminine, graceful,
of exquisite form, and even of pleasing features, there were many in
that brilliant court who would generally be deemed fairer. But no other
maiden of Castile had a countenance so illuminated by the soul within,
or no other female face habitually wore so deep an impression of
sentiment and sensibility; and the professed physiognomist would have
delighted to trace the evidences of a deeply-seated, earnest, but
unobtrusive enthusiasm, which even cast a shade of melancholy over a
face that fortune and the heart had equally intended should be sunny and
serene. Serene it was, notwithstanding; the shadow that rested on it
seeming to soften and render interesting its expression, rather than to
disturb its tranquillity or to cloud its loveliness.

On the other side of the noble matron walked Luis de Bobadilla, keeping
a little in advance of his aunt, in a way to permit his own dark,
flashing looks to meet, whenever feeling and modesty would allow it, the
fine, expressive blue eyes of Mercedes. The three conversed freely, for
the royal personages had retired to their private apartments, and each
group of passengers was so much entranced with the novelty of its
situation and its own conversation, as to disregard the remarks of
others.

"This is a marvel, Luis," observed Doña Beatriz, in continuation of a
subject that evidently much interested them all, "that thou, a truant
and a rover thyself, should now have heard for the first time of this
Colon! It is many years since he has been soliciting their Highnesses
for their royal aid in effecting his purposes. The matter of his schemes
was solemnly debated before a council at Salamanca; and he hath not been
without believers at the Court itself."

"Among whom is to be classed Doña Beatriz de Cabrera," said Mercedes,
with that melancholy smile that had the effect to bring out glimpses of
all the deep but latent feeling that lay concealed beneath the surface:
"I have often heard Her Highness declare that Colon hath no truer friend
in Castile."

"Her Highness is seldom mistaken, child--and never in my heart. I do
uphold the man; for to me he seemeth one fitted for some great and
honorable undertaking; and surely none greater hath ever been proposed
or imagined by human mind, than this he urgeth. Think of our becoming
acquainted with the nations of the other side of the earth, and of
finding easy and direct means of communicating with them, and of
imparting to them the consolations of Holy Church!"

"Ay, Señora my aunt," cried Luis, laughing, "and of walking in their
delightful company with all our heels in the air, and our heads
downward! I hope this Colon hath not neglected to practice a little in
the art, for it will need some time to gain a sure foot, in such
circumstances. He might commence on the sides of these mountains, by way
of a horn-book, throwing the head boldly off at a right-angle; after
which, the walls and towers of this Alhambra would make a very pretty
grammar, or stepping-stone to new progress."

Mercedes had unconsciously but fervently pressed the arm of her
guardian, as Doña Beatriz admitted her interest in the success of the
great project; but at this sally of Don Luis, she looked serious, and
threw a glance at him, that he himself felt to be reproachful. To win
the love of his aunt's ward was the young man's most ardent wish; and a
look of dissatisfaction could at any moment repress that exuberance of
spirits which often led him into an appearance of levity that did
injustice to the really sterling qualities of both his heart and mind.
Under the influence of that look, then, he was not slow to repair the
wrong he had done himself, by adding almost as soon as he had ceased to
speak--

"The Doña Mercedes is of the discovering party, too, I see; this Colon
appeareth to have had more success with the dames of Castile than with
her nobles"--

"Is it extraordinary, Don Luis," interrupted the pensive-looking girl,
"that women should have more confidence in merit, more generous
impulses, more zeal for God, than men?"

"It must be even so, since you and my aunt, Doña Beatriz, side with the
navigator. But I am not always to be understood in the light I express
myself;" Mercedes now smiled, but this time it was archly--"I have never
studied with the minstrels, nor, sooth to say, deeply with the
churchmen. To be honest with you, I have been much struck with this
noble idea; and if Señor Colon doth, in reality, sail in quest of Cathay
and the Indies, I shall pray their Highnesses to let me be one of the
party, for, now that the Moor is subdued, there remaineth little for a
noble to do in Spain."

"If thou should'st really go on this expedition," said Doña Beatriz,
with grave irony, "there will, at least, be one human being topsy-turvy,
in the event of thy reaching Cathay. But yonder is an attendant of the
court; I doubt if Her Highness doth not desire my presence."

The Lady of Moya was right--the messenger coming to announce to her that
the queen required her attendance. The manners of the day and country
rendered it unseemly that Doña Mercedes should continue her promenade
accompanied only by Don Luis, and the marchioness led the way to her own
apartments, where a saloon suitable to her rank and to her favor with
the queen, had been selected for her from among the numberless gorgeous
rooms of the Moorish kings. Even here, the marchioness paused a moment,
in thought, before she would leave her errant nephew alone with her
ward.

"Though a rover, he is no troubadour, and cannot charm thy ear with
false rhymes. It were better, perhaps, that I sent him beneath thy
balcony, with his guitar; but knowing so well his dulness, I will
confide in it, and leave him with thee, for the few minutes that I shall
be absent. A cavalier who hath so strong a dislike to reversing the
order of nature, will not surely condescend to go on his knees, even
though it be to win a smile from the sweetest maiden in all Castile."

Don Luis laughed; Doña Beatriz smiled, as she kissed her ward, and left
the room; while Doña Mercedes blushed, and riveted her gaze on the
floor. Luis de Bobadilla was the declared suitor and sworn knight of
Mercedes de Valverde; but, though so much favored by birth, fortune,
affinity, and figure, there existed some serious impediments to his
success. In all that was connected with the considerations that usually
decide such things, the union was desirable; but there existed,
nevertheless, a strong influence to overcome, in the scruples of Doña
Beatriz, herself. High-principled, accustomed to the just-minded views
of her royal mistress, and too proud to do an unworthy act, the very
advantages that a marriage with her ward offered to her nephew, had
caused the marchioness to hesitate. Don Luis had little of the Castilian
gravity of character--and, by many, his animal spirits were mistaken for
lightness of disposition and levity of thought. His mother was a woman
of a very illustrious French family; and national pride had induced most
observers to fancy that the son inherited a constitutional disposition
to frivolity, that was to be traced to the besetting weakness of a whole
people. A consciousness of his being so viewed at home, had, indeed,
driven the youth abroad; and as, like all observant travellers, he was
made doubly sensible of the defects of his own state of society on his
return, a species of estrangement had grown up between him and his
natural associates that had urged the young man, again and again, to
wander into foreign lands. Nothing, indeed, but his early and constantly
increasing passion for Mercedes had induced him to return; a step that,
fortunately for himself, he had last taken in time to assist in the
reduction of Granada. Notwithstanding these traits, which, in a country
like Castile, might be properly enough termed peculiarities, Don Luis de
Bobadilla was a knight worthy of his lineage and name. His prowess in
the field and in the tourney, indeed, was so very marked as to give him
a high military character, in despite of what were deemed his failings;
and he passed rather as an inconsiderate and unsafe young man, than as
one who was either debased or wicked. Martial qualities, in that age in
particular, redeemed a thousand faults; and Don Luis had even been known
to unhorse, in the tourney, Alonzo de Ojeda, then the most expert lance
in Spain. Such a man could not be despised, though he might be
distrusted. But the feeling which governed his aunt, referred quite as
much to her own character as to his. Deeply conscientious, while she
understood her nephew's real qualities much better than mere superficial
observers, she had her doubts about the propriety of giving the rich
heiress who was entrusted to her care, to so near a relative, when all
could not applaud the act. She feared, too, that her own partiality
might deceive her, and that Luis might in truth be the light and
frivolous being he sometimes appeared to be in Castilian eyes, and that
the happiness of her ward would prove the sacrifice of the indiscretion.
With these doubts, then, while she secretly desired the union, she had
in public looked coldly on her nephew's suit; and, though unable,
without a harshness that circumstances would not warrant, to prevent all
intercourse, she had not only taken frequent occasions to let Mercedes
understand her distrust, but she had observed the precaution not to
leave so handsome a suitor, notwithstanding he was often domiciliated in
her own house, much alone with her ward.

The state of Mercedes' feelings was known only to herself. She was
beautiful, of an honorable family, and an heiress; and as human
infirmities were as besetting beneath the stately mien of the fifteenth
century as they are to-day, she had often heard the supposed faults of
Don Luis' character sneered at, by those who felt distrustful of his
good looks and his opportunities. Few young females would have had the
courage to betray any marked preference under such circumstances, until
prepared to avow their choice, and to take sides with its subject
against the world; and the quiet but deep enthusiasm that prevailed in
the moral system of the fair young Castilian, was tempered by a prudence
that prevented her from running into most of its lighter excesses. The
forms and observances that usually surround young women of rank, came in
aid of this native prudence; and even Don Luis himself, though he had
watched the countenance and emotions of her to whom he had so long urged
his suit, with a lover's jealousy and a lover's instincts, was greatly
in doubt whether he had succeeded in the least in touching her heart. By
one of those unlooked-for concurrences of circumstances that so often
decide the fortunes of men, whether as lovers or in more worldly-minded
pursuits, these doubts were now about to be unexpectedly and suddenly
removed.

The triumph of the Christian arms, the novelty of her situation, and the
excitement of the whole scene, had aroused the feelings of Mercedes from
that coy concealment in which they usually lay smothered beneath the
covering of maiden diffidence; and throughout the evening her smile had
been more open, her eye brighter, and her cheeks more deeply flushed,
than was usual even with one whose smiles were always sweet, whose eyes
were never dull, and whose cheeks answered so sensitively to the varying
impulses within.

As his aunt quitted the room, leaving him alone with Mercedes for the
first time since his return from his last ramble, Don Luis eagerly threw
himself on a stool that stood near the feet of his adored, who placed
herself on a sumptuous couch, that, twenty-four hours before, had held
the person of a princess of Abdallah's family.

"Much as I honor and reverence Her Highness," the young man hurriedly
commenced, "my respect and veneration are now increased ten-fold! Would
that she might send for my beloved aunt thrice where she now wants her
services only once! and may her presence become so necessary to her
sovereign that the affairs of Castile cannot go on without her counsel,
if so blessed an opportunity as this, to tell you all I feel, Doña
Mercedes, is to follow her obedience!"

"It is not they who are most fluent of speech, or the most vehement, who
always feel the deepest, Don Luis de Bobadilla."

"Nor do they feel the least. Mercedes, thou canst not doubt my love! It
hath grown with my growth--increased with each increase of my
ideas--until it hath got to be so interwoven with my mind itself, that I
can scarce use a faculty that thy dear image doth not mingle with it. In
all that is beautiful, I behold thee; if I listen to the song of a bird,
it is thy carol to the lute; or if I feel the gentle south wind from the
fragrant isles fanning my cheek, I would fain think it thy sigh."

"You have dwelt so much among the light conceits of the French court,
Don Luis, you appear to have forgotten that the heart of a Castilian
girl is too true, and too sincere, to meet such rhapsodies with favor."

Had Don Luis been older, or more experienced in the sex, he would have
been flattered by this rebuke--for he would have detected in the
speaker's manner, both feeling of a gentler nature than her words
expressed, and a tender regret.

"If thou ascribest to me rhapsodies, thou dost me great injustice. I may
not do credit to my own thoughts and feelings; but never hath my tongue
uttered aught to thee, Mercedes, that the heart hath not honestly urged.
Have I not loved thee since thou and I were children? Did I ever fail to
show my preference for thee when we were boy and girl, in all the sports
and light-hearted enjoyments of that guileless period?"

"Guileless, truly," answered Mercedes, her look brightening as it might
be with agreeable fancies and a flood of pleasant recollections--doing
more, in a single instant, to break down the barriers of her reserve,
than years of schooling had effected toward building them up. "Thou wert
then, at least, sincere, Luis, and I placed full faith in thy
friendship, and in thy desire to please."

"Bless thee, bless thee, for these precious words, Mercedes! for the
first time in two years, hast thou spoken to me as thou wert wont to do,
and called me Luis without that courtly, accursed, Don."

"A noble Castilian should never regard his honors lightly, and he oweth
it to his rank to see that others respect them, too;" answered our
heroine, looking down, as if she already half repented of the
familiarity. "You are quick to remind me of my forgetfulness, Don Luis
de Bobadilla."

"This unlucky tongue of mine can never follow the path that its owner
wisheth! Hast thou not seen in all my looks--all my acts--all my
motives--a desire to please thee, and thee alone, lovely Mercedes? When
Her Highness gave her royal approbation of my success, in the last
tourney, did I not seek thine eye, in order to ask if thou notedst it?
Hast thou ever expressed a wish, that I have not proved an eager desire
to see it accomplished?"

"Nay, now, Luis, thou emboldenest me to remind thee that I expressed a
wish that thou wouldst not go on thy last voyage to the north, and yet
thou didst depart! I felt that it would displease Doña Beatriz; thy
truant disposition having made her uneasy lest thou shouldst get
altogether into the habits of a rover, and into disfavor with the
queen."

"It was for this that thou madst the request, and it wounded my pride to
think that Mercedes de Valverde should so little understand my
character, as to believe it possible a noble of my name and lineage
could so far forget his duties as to sink into the mere associate of
pilots and adventurers."

"Thou didst not know that I believed this of thee."

"Hadst thou asked of me, Mercedes, to remain for thy sake--nay, hadst
thou imposed the heaviest services on me, as thy knight, or as one who
enjoyed the smallest degree of thy favor--I would have parted with life
sooner than I would have parted from Castile. But not even a look of
kindness could I obtain, in reward for all the pain I had felt on thy
account"--

"Pain, Luis!"

"Is it not pain to love to the degree that one might kiss the earth that
received the foot-print of its object--and yet to meet with no
encouragement from fair words, no friendly glance of the eye, nor any
sign or symbol to betoken that the being one hath enshrined in his
heart's core, ever thinketh of her suitor except as a reckless rover and
a hair-brained adventurer?"

"Luis de Bobadilla, no one that really knoweth thy character, can ever
truly think thus of thee."

"A million of thanks for these few words, beloved girl, and ten millions
for the gentle smile that hath accompanied them! Thou mightst mould me
to all thy wishes"--

"My wishes, Don Luis?"

"To all thy severe opinions of sobriety and dignity of conduct, wouldst
thou but feel sufficient interest in me to let me know that my acts can
give thee either pain or pleasure."

"Can it be otherwise? Could'st thou, Luis, see with indifference the
proceedings of one thou hast known from childhood, and esteemed as a
friend?"

"Esteem! Blessed Mercedes! dost thou own even that little in my favor?"

"It is not little, Luis, to esteem--but much. They who prize virtue
never esteem the unworthy; and it is not possible to know thy excellent
heart and manly nature, without esteeming thee. Surely I have never
_concealed_ my _esteem_ from thee or from any one else."

"Hast thou _concealed_ aught? Ah! Mercedes, complete this heavenly
condescension, and admit that one--as lightly as thou wilt--but that one
soft sentiment hath, at times, mingled with this esteem."

Mercedes blushed brightly, but she would not make the often-solicited
acknowledgment. It was some little time before she answered at all. When
she did speak, it was hesitatingly, and with frequent pauses, as if she
distrusted the propriety or the discretion of that which she was about
to utter.

"Thou hast travelled much and far, Luis," she said; "and hast lost some
favor on account of thy roving propensities; why not regain the
confidence of thy aunt by the very means through which it has been
lost?"

"I do not comprehend thee. This is singular counsel to come from one
like thee, who art prudence itself!"

"The prudent and discreet think well of their acts and words, and are
the more to be confided in. Thou seemest to have been struck with these
bold opinions of the Señor Colon; and while thou hast derided them, I
can see that they have great weight on thy mind."

"I shall, henceforth, regard thee with ten-fold respect, Mercedes; for
thou hast penetrated deeper than my foolish affectation of contempt, and
all my light language, and discovered the real feeling that lieth
underneath. Ever since I have heard of this vast project, it hath,
indeed, haunted my imagination; and the image of the Genoese hath
constantly stood beside thine, dearest girl, before my eyes, if not in
my heart. I doubt if there be not some truth in his opinions; so noble
an idea cannot be wholly false!"

The fine, full eye of Mercedes was fastened intently on the countenance
of Don Luis; and its brilliancy increased as some of that latent
enthusiasm which dwelt within, kindled and began to glow at this outlet
of the feelings of the soul.

"There _is_," she answered, solemnly--"there _must_ be truth in it! The
Genoese hath been inspired of Heaven, with his sublime thoughts, and he
will live, sooner or later, to prove their truth. Imagine this earth
fairly encircled by a ship; the farthest east, the land of the heathen,
brought in close communion with ourselves, and the cross casting its
shadows under the burning sun of Cathay! These are glorious, heavenly
anticipations, Luis, and would it not be an imperishable renown, to
share in the honor of having aided in bringing about so great a
discovery?"

"By Heaven! I will see the Genoese as soon as the morrow's sun shall
appear, and offer to make one in his enterprise. He shall not need for
gold, if that be his only want."

"Thou speakest like a generous, noble-minded, fearless young Castilian,
as thou art!" said Mercedes, with an enthusiasm that set at naught the
usual guards of her discretion and her habits, "and as becometh Luis de
Bobadilla. But gold is not plenty with any of us at this moment, and it
will surpass the power of an ordinary subject to furnish that which will
be necessary. Nor is it meet than any but sovereigns should send forth
such an expedition, as there may be vast territories to govern and
dispose of, should Colon succeed. My powerful kinsman--the Duke of
Medina Celi--hath had this matter in close deliberation, and he viewed
it favorably, as is shown by his letters to Her Highness; but even he
conceived it a matter too weighty to be attempted by aught but a crowned
head, and he hath used much influence with our mistress, to gain her
over to the opinion of the Genoese's sagacity. It is idle to think,
therefore, of aiding effectually in this noble enterprise, unless it be
through their Highnesses."

"Thou knowest, Mercedes, that I can do naught for Colon, with the court.
The king is the enemy of all who are not as wary, cold, and as much
given to artifice as himself"--

"Luis! thou art in his palace--beneath his roof, enjoying his
hospitality and protection, at this very moment!"

"Not I," answered the young man, with warmth--"this is the abode of my
royal mistress, Doña Isabella; Granada being a conquest of Castile, and
not of Aragon. Touching the queen, Mercedes, thou shalt never hear
disrespectful word from me, for, like thyself, she is all that is
virtuous, gentle, and kind in woman; but the king hath many of the
faults of us corrupt and mercenary men. Thou canst not tell me of a
young, generous, warm-blooded cavalier, even among his own Aragonese,
who truly and confidingly loveth Don Fernando; whilst all of Castile
adore the Doña Isabella."

"This may be true in part, Luis, but it is altogether imprudent. Don
Fernando is a king, and I fear me, from the little I have seen while
dwelling in a court, that they who manage the affairs of mortals must
make large concessions to their failings, or human depravity will thwart
the wisest measures that can be devised. Moreover, can one truly love
the wife and not esteem the husband? To me it seemeth that the tie is so
near and dear as to leave the virtues and the characters of a common
identity."

"Surely, thou dost not mean to compare the modest piety, the holy truth,
the sincere virtue, of our royal mistress, with the cautious, wily
policy of our scheming master!"

"I desire not to make comparisons between them, Luis. We are bound to
honor and obey both; and if Doña Isabella hath more of the confiding
truth and pure-heartedness of her sex, than His Highness, is it not ever
so as between man and woman?"

"If I could really think that thou likenest me, in any way, with that
managing and false-faced King of Aragon, much as I love thee, Mercedes,
I would withdraw, forever, in pure shame."

"No one will liken thee, Luis, to the false-tongued or the double-faced;
for it is thy failing to speak truth when it might be better to say
nothing, as witness the present discourse, and to look at those who
displease thee, as if ever ready to point thy lance and spur thy charger
in their very teeth."

"My looks have been most unfortunate, fair Mercedes, if they have left
such memories in thee!" answered the youth, reproachfully.

"I speak not in any manner touching myself, for to me, Luis, thou hast
ever been gentle and kind," interrupted the young Castilian girl, with a
haste and earnestness that hurried the blood to her cheeks a moment
afterward; "but solely that thou mayst be more guarded in thy remarks on
the king."

"Thou beganst by saying that I was a rover"--

"Nay, I have used no such term of reproach, Don Luis; thy aunt may have
said this, but it could have been with no intent to wound. I said that
thou hadst travelled _far_ and _much_."

"Well--well--I merit the title, and shall not complain of my honors.
Thou saidst that I had travelled _far_ and _much_, and thou spokest
approvingly of the project of this Genoese. Am I to understand,
Mercedes, it is thy wish that I should make one of the adventurers?"

"Such was my meaning, Luis, for I have thought it an emprise fitting thy
daring mind and willing sword; and the glory of success would atone for
a thousand trifling errors, committed under the heat and inconsideration
of youth."

Don Luis regarded the flushed cheek and brightened eyes of the beautiful
enthusiast nearly a minute, in silent but intense observation; for the
tooth of doubt and jealousy had fastened on him, and, with the
self-distrust of true affection, he questioned how far he was worthy to
interest so fair a being, and had misgivings concerning the motive that
induced her to wish him to depart.

"I wish I could read thy heart, Doña Mercedes," he at length resumed;
"for, while the witching modesty and coy reserve of thy sex, serve but
to bind us so much the closer in thy chains, they puzzle the
understanding of men more accustomed to rude encounters in the field
than to the mazes of their ingenuity. Dost thou desire me to embark in
an adventure that most men, the wise and prudent Don Fernando at their
head--he whom thou so much esteemest, too--look upon as the project of a
visionary, and as leading to certain destruction? Did I think this, I
would depart to-morrow, if it were only that my hated presence should
never more disturb thy happiness."

"Don Luis, you have no justification for this cruel suspicion," said
Mercedes, endeavoring to punish her lover's distrust by an affectation
of resentment, though the tears struggled through her pride, and fell
from her reproachful eyes. "You know that no one, here or elsewhere,
hateth you; you know that you are a general favorite, though Castilian
prudence and Castilian reserve may not always view your wandering life
with the same applause as they give to the more attentive courtier and
rigidly observant knight."

"Pardon me, dearest, most beloved Mercedes; thy coldness and aversion
sometime madden me."

"Coldness! aversion! Luis de Bobadilla! When hath Mercedes de Valverde
ever shown either, to _thee_?"

"I fear that Doña Mercedes de Valverde is, even now, putting me to some
such proof."

"Then thou little knowest her motives, and ill appreciatest her heart.
No, Luis, I am not averse, and would not appear cold, to _thee_. If thy
wayward feelings get so much the mastery, and pain thee thus, I will
strive to be more plain. Yes! rather than thou shouldst carry away with
thee the false notion, and perhaps plunge, again, into some unthinking
sea-adventure, I will subdue my maiden pride, and forget the reserve and
caution that best become my sex and rank, to relieve thy mind. In
advising thee to attach thyself to this Colon, and to enter freely into
his noble schemes, I had thine own happiness in view, as thou hast, time
and again, sworn to me, thy happiness _could_ only be secured"--

"Mercedes! what meanest thou? My happiness can only be secured by a
union with thee!"

"And thy union with me can only be secured by thy ennobling that
besetting propensity to roving, by some act of worthy renown, that shall
justify Doña Beatriz in bestowing her ward on a truant nephew, and gain
the favor of Doña Isabella."

"And thou!--would this adventure win thee, too, to view me with
kindness?"

"Luis, if thou _wilt_ know all, I am won already--nay--restrain this
impetuosity, and hear all I have to say. Even while I confess so much
more than is seemly in a maiden, thou art not to suppose I can further
forget myself. Without the cheerful consent of my guardian, and the
gracious approbation of Her Highness, I will wed no man--no, not even
_thee_, Luis de Bobadilla, dear as I acknowledge thee to be to my
heart"--the ungovernable emotions of female tenderness caused the words
to be nearly smothered in tears--"would I wed, without the smiles and
congratulations of all who have a right to smile, or weep, for any of
the house of Valverde. Thou and I cannot marry like a village hind and
village girl; it is suitable that we stand before a prelate, with a
large circle of approving friends to grace our union. Ah! Luis, thou
hast reproached me with coldness and indifference to thee"--sobs nearly
stifled the generous girl--"but others have not been so blind--nay,
speak not, but suffer me, now that my heart is overflowing, to unburden
myself to thee, entirely, for I fear that shame and regret will come
soon enough to cause repentance for what I now confess--but all have not
been blind as thou. Our gracious queen well understandeth the female
heart, and that thou hast been so slow to discover, she hath long seen;
and her quickness of eye and thought hath alone prevented me from saying
to thee, earlier, a part at least of that which I now reluctantly
confess"--

"How! Is Doña Isabella, too, my enemy? Have I Her Highness' scruples to
overcome, as well as those of my cold-hearted and prudish aunt?"

"Luis, thy intemperance causeth thee to be unjust. Doña Beatriz of Moya
is neither cold-hearted nor prudish, but all that is the reverse. A more
generous or truer spirit never sacrificed self to friendship, and her
very nature is frankness and simplicity. Much of that I so love in thee,
cometh of her family, and _thou_ shouldst not reproach her for it. As
for Her Highness, certes, it is not needed that I should proclaim her
qualities. Thou knowest that she is deemed the mother of her people;
that she regardeth the interests of all equally, or so far as her
knowledge will allow; and that what she doth for any, is ever done with
true affection, and a prudence that I have heard the cardinal say,
seemeth to be inspired by infinite wisdom."

"Ay, it is not difficult, Mercedes, to seem prudent, and benevolent, and
inspired, with Castile for a throne, and Leon, with other rich
provinces, for a footstool!"

"Don Luis, if you would retain my esteem," answered the single-minded
girl, with a gravity that had none of her sex's weakness in it, though
much of her sex's truth--"speak not lightly of my royal mistress.
Whatever she may have done in this matter, hath been done with a
mother's feelings and a mother's kindness--thy injustice maketh me
almost to apprehend, with a mother's wisdom."

"Forgive me, adored, beloved Mercedes! a thousand times more adored and
loved than ever, now that thou hast been so generous and confiding. But
I cannot rest in peace until I know what the queen hath said and done,
in any thing that toucheth thee and me."

"Thou knowest how kind and gracious the queen hath ever been to me,
Luis, and how much I have reason to be grateful for her many
condescensions and favors. I know not how it is, but, while thy aunt
hath never seemed to detect my feelings, and all those related to me by
blood have appeared to be in the same darkness, the royal eye hath
penetrated a mystery that, at the moment, I do think, was even concealed
from myself. Thou rememberest the tourney that took place just before
thou left us on thy last mad expedition?"

"Do I not? Was it not thy coldness after my success in that tourney, and
when I even wore thy favors, that not only drove me out of Spain, but
almost drove me out of the world?"

"If the world could impute thy acts to such a cause, all obstacles would
at once be removed, and we might be happy without further efforts. But,"
and Mercedes smiled, archly, though with great tenderness in her voice
and looks, as she added, "I fear thou art much addicted to these fits of
madness, and that thou wilt never cease to wish to be driven to the
uttermost limits of the world, if not fairly out of it."

"It is in thy power to make me as stationary as the towers of this
Alhambra. One such smile, daily, would chain me like a captive Moor at
thy feet, and take away all desire to look at other objects than thy
beauty. But Her Highness--thou hast forgotten to add what Her Highness
hath said and done."

"In that tourney thou wert conqueror, Luis! The whole chivalry of
Castile was in the saddle, that glorious day, and yet none could cope
with thee! Even Alonzo de Ojeda was unhorsed by thy lance, and all
mouths were filled with thy praises; all memories--perhaps, it would be
better to say that all memories but one--forgot thy failings."

"And that one was thine, cruel Mercedes."

"Thou knowest better, unkind Luis! That day I remembered nothing but thy
noble, generous heart, manly bearing in the tilt-yard, and excellent
qualities. The more mindful memory was the queen's, who sent for me, to
her closet, when the festivities were over, and caused me to pass an
hour with her, in gentle, affectionate discourse, before she touched at
all on the real object of her command. She spoke to me, Luis, of our
duties as Christians, of our duties as females, and, most of all, of the
solemn obligations that we contract in wedlock, and of the many pains
that, at best, attend that honored condition. When she had melted me to
tears, by an affection that equalled a mother's love, she made me
promise--and I confirmed it with a respectful vow--that I would never
appear at the altar, while she lived, without her being present to
approve of my nuptials; or, if prevented by disease or duty, at least
not without a consent given under her royal signature."

"By St. Denis of Paris! Her Highness endeavored to influence thy
generous and pure mind against me!"

"Thy name was not even mentioned, Luis, nor would it have been in any
way concerned in the discourse, had not my unbidden thoughts turned
anxiously toward thee. What Her Highness meditated, I do not even now
know, but it was the manner in which my own sensitive feelings brought
up thy image, that hath made me, perhaps idly, fancy the effect might be
to prevent me from wedding thee, without Doña Isabella's consent. But,
knowing, as I well do, her maternal heart and gentle affections, how can
I doubt that she will yield to my wishes, when she knoweth that my
choice is not really unworthy, though it may seem to the severely
prudent in some measure indiscreet."

"But thou thinkest--thou feelest, Mercedes, that it was in fear of me
that Her Highness extorted the vow?"

"I apprehended it, as I have confessed, with more readiness than became
a maiden's pride, because thou wert uppermost in my mind. Then thy
triumphs throughout the day, and the manner in which thy name was in all
men's mouths, might well tempt the thoughts to dwell on thy person."

"Mercedes, thou canst not deny that thou believest Her Highness extorted
that vow in dread of me?"

"I wish to deny nothing that is true, Don Luis; and you are early
teaching me to repent of the indiscreet avowal I have made. That it was
in _dread_ of you that Her Highness spoke, I do deny; for I cannot think
she has any such feelings toward _you_. She was full of maternal
affection for _me_, and I think, for I will conceal naught that I truly
believe, that apprehension of thy powers to please, Luis, may have
induced her to apprehend that an orphan girl, like myself, might
possibly consult her fancy more than her prudence, and wed one who
seemed to love the uttermost limits of the earth so much better than his
own noble castles and his proper home."

"And thou meanest to respect this vow!"

"Luis! thou scarce reflectest on thy words, or a question so sinful
would not be put to me! What Christian maiden ever forgets her vows,
whether of pilgrimage, penitence, or performance--and why should I be
the first to incur this disgraceful guilt? Besides, had I not vowed, the
simple wish of the queen, expressed in her own royal person, would have
been enough to deter me from wedding any. She is my sovereign, mistress,
and, I might almost say, mother; Doña Beatriz herself scarce manifesting
greater interest in my welfare. Now, Luis, thou must listen to my suit,
although I see thou art ready to exclaim, and protest, and invoke; but I
have heard thee patiently some years, and it is now my turn to speak and
thine to listen. I do not think the queen had thee in her mind on the
occasion of that vow, which was _offered_ freely by me, rather than
_extorted_, as thou seemest to think, by Her Highness. I _do_, then,
believe that Doña Isabella supposed there might be a danger of my
yielding to thy suit, and that she had apprehensions that one so much
given to roving, might not bring, or keep, happiness in the bosom of a
family. But, Luis, if Her Highness hath not done thy noble, generous
heart, justice; if she hath been deceived by appearances, like most of
those around her; if she hath not known thee, in short, is it not thine
own fault? Hast thou not been a frequent truant from Castile; and, even
when present, hast thou been as attentive and assiduous in thy duties at
court, as becometh thy high birth and admitted claims? It is true, Her
Highness, and all others who were present, witnessed thy skill in the
tourney, and in these wars thy name hath had frequent and honorable
mention for prowess against the Moor; but while the female imagination
yields ready homage to this manliness, the female heart yearneth for
other, and gentler, and steadier virtues, at the fireside and in the
circle within. This, Doña Isabella hath seen, and felt, and knoweth,
happy as hath been her own marriage with the King of Aragon; and is it
surprising that she hath felt this concern for me? No, Luis; feeling
hath made thee unjust to our royal mistress, whom it is now manifestly
thy interest to propitiate, if thou art sincere in thy avowed desire to
obtain my hand."

"And how is this to be done, Mercedes? The Moor is conquered, and I know
not that any knight would meet me to do battle for thy favor."

"The queen wisheth nothing of this sort--neither do I. We both know thee
as an accomplished Christian knight already, and, as thou hast just
said, there is no one to meet thy lance, for no one hath met with the
encouragement to justify the folly. It is through this Colon that thou
art to win the royal consent."

"I believe I have, in part, conceived thy meaning; but would fain hear
thee speak more plainly."

"Then I will tell thee in words as distinct as my tongue can utter
them," rejoined the ardent girl, the tint of tenderness gradually
deepening on her cheek to the flush of a holy enthusiasm, as she
proceeded: "Thou knowest already the general opinions of the Señor
Colon, and the mode in which he proposeth to effect his ends. I was
still a child when he first appeared in Castile, to urge the court to
embark in this great enterprise, and I can see that Her Highness hath
often been disposed to yield her aid, when the coldness of Don Fernando,
or the narrowness of her ministers, hath diverted her mind from the
object. I think she yet regardeth the scheme with favor; for it is quite
lately that Colon, who had taken leave of us all, with the intent to
quit Spain and seek elsewhere for means, was summoned to return, through
the influence of Fray Juan Perez, the ancient confessor of Her Highness.
He is now here, as thou hast seen, waiting impatiently for an audience,
and it needeth only to quicken the queen's memory, to obtain for him
that favor. Should he get the caravels he asketh, no doubt many of the
nobles will feel a desire to share in an enterprise that will confer
lasting honor on all concerned, if successful; and thou mightst make
one."

"I know not how to regard this solicitude, Mercedes, for it seemeth
strange to wish to urge those we affect to value, to enter on an
expedition whence they may never return."

"God will protect thee!" answered the girl, her face glowing with pious
ardour: "the enterprise will be undertaken for his glory, and his
powerful hand will guide and shield the caravels."

Don Luis de Bobadilla smiled, having far less religious faith and more
knowledge of physical obstacles than his mistress. He did full justice
to her motives, notwithstanding his hastily expressed doubts; and the
adventure was of a nature to arouse his constitutional love of roving,
and his desire for encountering dangers. Both he and Mercedes well knew
that he had fairly earned no small part of that distrust of his
character, which alone thwarted their wishes; and, quick of intellect,
he well understood the means and manner by which he was to gain Doña
Isabella's consent. The few doubts that he really entertained were
revealed by the question that succeeded.

"If Her Highness is disposed to favor this Colon," he asked, "why hath
the measure been so long delayed?"

"This Moorish war, an empty treasury, and the wary coldness of the king,
have prevented it."

"Might not Her Highness look upon all the followers of the man, as so
many vain schemers, should we return without success, as will most
likely be the case--if, indeed, we ever return?"

"Such is not Doña Isabella's character. She will enter into this
project, in honor of God, if she entereth into it at all; and she will
regard all who accompany Colon voluntarily, as so many crusaders, well
entitled to her esteem. Thou wilt not return unsuccessful, Luis; but
with such credit as will cause thy wife to glory in her choice, and to
be proud of thy name."

"Thou art a most dear enthusiast, beloved girl! If I could take thee
with me, I would embark in the adventure, with no other companion."

A fitting reply was made to this gallant, and, at the moment, certainly
sincere speech, after which the matter was discussed between the two,
with greater calmness and far more intelligibly. Don Luis succeeded in
restraining his impatience; and the generous confidence with which
Mercedes gradually got to betray her interest in him, and the sweet,
holy earnestness with which she urged the probability of success,
brought him at length to view the enterprise as one of lofty objects,
rather than as a scheme which flattered his love of adventure.

Doña Beatriz left the lovers alone for quite two hours, the queen
requiring her presence all that time; and soon after she returned, her
reckless, roving, indiscreet, but noble-hearted and manly nephew, took
his leave. Mercedes and her guardian, however, did not retire until
midnight; the former laying open her whole heart to the marchioness, and
explaining all her hopes as they were connected with the enterprise of
Colon. Doña Beatriz was both gratified and pained by this confession,
while she smiled at the ingenuity of love, in coupling the great designs
of the Genoese with the gratification of its own wishes. Still she was
not displeased. Luis de Bobadilla was the son of an only and
much-beloved brother, and she had transferred to her nephew most of the
affection she had felt for the father. All who knew him, indeed, were
fond of the handsome and gallant young cavalier, though the prudent felt
compelled to frown on his indiscretions; and he might have chosen a
wife, at will, from among the fair and high-born of Castile, with the
few occasional exceptions that denote the circumspection and reserve of
higher principles than common, and a forethought that extends beyond the
usual considerations of marriage. The marchioness, therefore, was not an
unwilling listener to her ward; and ere they separated for the night,
the ingenuous but modest confessions, the earnest eloquence, and the
tender ingenuity, of Mercedes, had almost made a convert of Doña
Beatriz.



CHAPTER VI.

    "Looke back, who list, unto the former ages,
      And call to count, what is of them become,
    Where be those learned wits and antique sages,
      Which of all wisdom knew the perfect somme?
      Where those great warriors which did overcome
    The world with conquest of their might and maine,
    And made one meare of th'earth and of their raigne."

    Ruins of Time.


Two or three days had passed before the Christians began to feel at home
in the ancient seat of Mahommedan power. By that time, however, the
Alhambra and the town got to be more regulated than they were during the
hurry, delight, and grief, of taking possession and departing; and as
the politic and far from ill-disposed Ferdinand had issued strict orders
that the Moors should not only be treated with kindness, but with
delicacy, the place gradually settled down into tranquillity, and men
began to fall into their ancient habits and to interest themselves in
their customary pursuits.

Don Fernando was much occupied with new cares, as a matter of course;
but his illustrious consort, who reserved herself for great occasions,
exercising her ordinary powers in the quiet, gentle manner that became
her sex and native disposition, her truth and piety, had already
withdrawn, as far as her high rank and substantial authority would
allow, from the pageantry and martial scenes of a warlike court, and was
seeking, with her wonted readiness, the haunts of private affection, and
that intercourse which is most congenial to the softer affections of a
woman. Her surviving children were with her, and they occupied much of
her maternal care; but she had also many hours for friendship, and for
the indulgence of an affection that appeared to include all her subjects
within the ties of family.

On the morning of the third day that succeeded the evening of the
interview related in the preceding chapter, Doña Isabella had collected
about her person a few of those privileged individuals who might be said
to have the entrée to her more private hours; for while that of Castile
was renowned among Christian courts for etiquette, habits that it had
probably derived from the stately oriental usages of its Mahommedan
neighbors, the affectionate nature of the queen had cast a halo around
her own private circle, that at once rendered it graceful as well as
delightful to all who enjoyed the high honor of entering it. At that
day, churchmen enjoyed a species of exclusive favor, mingling with all
the concerns of life, and not unfrequently controlling them. While we
are quick to detect blemishes of this sort among foreign nations, and
are particularly prone to point out the evils that have flowed from the
meddling of the Romish divines, we verify the truth of the venerable
axiom that teaches us how much easier it is to see the faults of others
than to discover our own; for no people afford stronger evidences of the
existence of this control, than the people of the United States, more
especially that portion of them who dwell in places that were originally
settled by religionists, and which still continue under the influence of
the particular sects that first prevailed; and perhaps the strongest
national trait that exists among us at this moment--that of a
disposition to extend the control of society beyond the limits set by
the institutions and the laws, under the taking and plausible
appellation of Public Opinion--has its origin in the polity of churches
of a democratic character, that have aspired to be an _imperium in
imperio_, confirmed and strengthened by their modes of government and by
provincial habits. Be the fact as it may among ourselves, there is no
question of the ascendency of the Catholic priesthood throughout
Christendom, previously to the reformation; and Isabella was too
sincerely devout, too unostentatiously pious, not to allow them every
indulgence that comported with her own sense of right, and among others,
that of a free access to her presence, and an influence on all her
measures.

On the occasion just named, among others who were present was Fernando
de Talavera, a prelate of high station, who had just been named to the
new dignity of Archbishop of Granada, and the Fray Pedro de Carrascal,
the former teacher of Luis de Bobadilla, an unbeneficed divine, who owed
his favor to great simplicity of character, aided by his high birth.
Isabella, herself, was seated at a little table, where she was employed
with her needle, the subject of her toil being a task as homely as a
shirt for the king, it being a part of her womanly propensities to
acquit herself of this humble duty, as scrupulously as if she had been
the wife of a common tradesman of her own capital. This was one of the
habits of the age, however, if not a part of the policy of princes; for
most travellers have seen the celebrated saddle of the Queen of
Burgundy, with a place arranged for the distaff, that, when its owner
rode forth, she might set an example of thrift to her admiring subjects;
and with our own eyes, in these luxurious times, when few private ladies
even condescend to touch any thing as useful as the garment that
occupied the needle of Isabella of Castile, we have seen a queen, seated
amid her royal daughters, as diligently employed with the needle as if
her livelihood depended on her industry. But Doña Isabella had no
affectations. In feelings, speech, nature, and acts, she was truth
itself; and matrimonial tenderness gave her a deeply felt pleasure in
thus being occupied for a husband whom she tenderly loved as a man,
while it was impossible she could entirely conceal from herself all his
faults as a monarch. Near her sat the companion of her girlish days, the
long-tried and devoted Beatriz de Cabrera. Mercedes occupied a stool, at
the feet of the Infanta Isabella, while one or two other ladies of the
household were placed at hand, with such slight distinctions of rank as
denoted the presence of royalty, but with a domestic freedom that made
these observances graceful without rendering them fatiguing. The king
himself was writing at a table, in a distant corner of the vast
apartment; and no one, the newly-created archbishop not excepted,
presumed to approach that side of the room. The discourse was conducted
in a tone a little lower than common; even the queen, whose voice was
always melody, modulating its tones in a way not to interfere with the
train of thought into which her illustrious consort appeared to be
profoundly plunged. But, at the precise moment that we now desire to
present to the reader, Isabella had been deeply lost in reflection for
some time, and a general silence prevailed in the female circle around
the little work-tables.

"Daughter-Marchioness"--for so the queen usually addressed her
friend--"Daughter-Marchioness," said Isabella, arousing herself from the
long silence, "hath aught been seen or heard of late of the Señor Colon,
the pilot who hath so long urged us on the subject of this western
voyage?"

The quick, hurried glance of intelligence and gratification, that passed
between Mercedes and her guardian, betrayed the interest they felt in
this question, while the latter answered, as became her duty and her
respect for her mistress--

"You remember, Señora, that he was written for, by Fray Juan Perez, Your
Highness' ancient confessor, who journeyed all the way from his convent
of Santa Maria de Rabida, in Andalusia, to intercede in his behalf, that
his great designs might not be lost to Castile."

"Thou thinkest his designs, then, great, Daughter-Marchioness?"

"Can any think them otherwise, Señora? They seem reasonable and natural,
and if just, is it not a great and laudable undertaking to extend the
bounds of the church, and to confer honor and wealth on one's own
country? My enthusiastic ward, Mercedes de Valverde, is so zealous in
behalf of this navigator's great project, that, next to her duty to her
God, and her duty to her sovereigns, it seemeth to make the great
concern of her life."

The queen turned a smiling face toward the blushing girl who was the
subject of this remark, and she gazed at her, for an instant, with the
expression of affection that was so wont to illuminate her lovely
countenance when dwelling on the features of her own daughters.

"Dost thou acknowledge this, Doña Mercedes?" she said; "hath Colon so
convinced thee, that thou art thus zealous in his behalf?"

Mercedes arose, respectfully, when addressed by the queen, and she
advanced a step or two nearer to the royal person before she made any
reply.

"It becometh me to speak modestly, in this presence," said the beautiful
girl; "but I shall not deny that I feel deep concern for the success of
the Señor Colon. The thought is so noble, Señora, that it were a pity it
should not be just."

"This is the reasoning of the young and generous-minded; and I confess
myself, Beatrice, almost as childish as any, on this matter, at
times--Colon, out of question, is still here?"

"Indeed he is, Señora," answered Mercedes, eagerly, and with a haste she
immediately repented, for the inquiry was not made directly to herself;
"I know of one who hath seen him as lately as the day the troops took
possession of the town."

"Who is that person?" asked the queen, steadily, but not severely, her
eye having turned again to the face of the girl, with an interest that
continued to increase as she gazed.

Mercedes now bitterly regretted her indiscretion, and, in spite of a
mighty effort to repress her feelings, the tell-tale blood mounted to
her temples, ere she could find resolution to reply.

"Don Luis de Bobadilla, Señora, the nephew of my guardian, Doña
Beatriz," she at length answered; for the love of truth was stronger in
this pure-hearted young creature, even, than the dread of shame.

"Thou art particular, Señorita," Isabella observed calmly, severity
seldom entering into her communication with the just-minded and good;
"Don Luis cometh of too illustrious a house to need a herald to proclaim
his alliances. It is only the obscure that the world doth not trouble
itself about. Daughter-Marchioness," relieving Mercedes from a state
scarcely less painful than the rack, by turning her eyes toward her
friend, "this nephew of thine is a confirmed rover--but I doubt if he
could be prevailed on to undertake an expedition like this of Colon's,
that hath in view the glory of God and the benefit of the realm."

"Indeed, Señora"--Mercedes repressed her zeal by a sudden and triumphant
effort.

"Thou wert about to speak, Doña Mercedes," gravely observed the queen.

"I crave Your Highness' forgiveness. It was improperly, as your own
words were not addressed to me."

"This is not the court of the Queen of Castile, daughter, but the
private room of Isabella de Trastamara," said the queen, willing to
lessen the effect of what had already passed. "Thou hast the blood of
the Admiral of Castile in thy veins, and art even akin to our Lord the
King. Speak freely, then."

"I know your gracious goodness to me, Señora, and had nearly forgotten
myself, under its influence. All I had to say was, that Don Luis de
Bobadilla desireth exceedingly that the Señor Colon might get the
caravels he seeketh, and that he himself might obtain the royal
permission to make one among the adventurers."

"Can this be so, Beatriz?"

"Luis is a truant, Señora, beyond a question, but it is not with ignoble
motives. I have heard him ardently express his desire to be one of
Colon's followers, should that person be sent by Your Highness in search
of the land of Cathay."

Isabella made no reply, but she laid her homely work in her lap, and sat
musing, in pensive silence, for several minutes. During this interval,
none near her presumed to speak, and Mercedes retired, stealthily, to
her stool, at the feet of the Infanta. At length the queen arose, and,
crossing the room, she approached the table where Don Fernando was still
busily engaged with the pen. Here she paused a moment, as if unwilling
to disturb him; but soon, laying a hand kindly on his shoulder, she drew
his attention to herself. The king, as if conscious whence such
familiarity could alone proceed, looked around immediately, and, rising
from his chair, he was the first to speak.

"These Moriscoes need looking to," he said, betraying the direction that
his thoughts had so early taken toward the increase of his power--"I
find we have left Abdallah many strongholds in the Apulxarras, that may
make him a troublesome neighbor, unless we can push him across the
Mediterranean"--

"Of this, Fernando, we will converse on some other opportunity,"
interrupted the queen, whose pure mind disliked every thing that even
had an approach to a breach of faith. "It is hard enough for those who
control the affairs of men, always to obey God and their own
consciences, without seeking occasions to violate their faith. I have
come to thee, on another matter. The hurry of the times, and the
magnitude of our affairs, have caused us to overlook the promise given
to Colon, the navigator"--

"Still busied with thy needle, Isabella, and for my comfort," observed
the king, playing with the shirt that his royal consort had
unconsciously brought in her hand; "few subjects have wives as
considerate and kind as thou!"

"Thy comfort and happiness stand next to my duty to God and the care of
my people," returned Isabella, gratified at the notice the King of
Aragon had taken of this little homage of her sex, even while she
suspected that it came from a wish to parry the subject that was then
uppermost in her thoughts. "I would do naught in this important concern,
without thy fullest approbation, if that may be had; and I think it
toucheth our royal words to delay no longer. Seven years are a most
cruel probation, and, unless we are active, we shall have some of the
hot-blooded young nobles of the kingdom undertaking the matter, as their
holiday sports."

"Thou say'st true, Señora, and we will refer the subject, at once, to
Fernando de Talavera, yonder, who is of approved discretion, and one to
be relied on." As the king spoke, he beckoned to the individual named,
who immediately approached the royal pair. "Archbishop of Granada,"
continued the wily king, who had as many politic arts as a modern
patriot intently bent on his own advancement--"Archbishop of Granada,
our royal consort hath a desire that this affair of Colon should be
immediately inquired into, and reported on to ourselves. It is our joint
command that you, and others, take the matter, before the next
twenty-four hours shall pass, into mature consideration and inquiry, and
that you lay the result before ourselves. The names of your associates
shall be given to you in the course of the day."

While the tongue of Ferdinand was thus instructing the prelate, the
latter read in the expression of the monarch's eye, and in the coldness
of his countenance, a meaning that his quick and practiced wits were not
slow in interpreting. He signified his dutiful assent, however; received
the names of his associates in the commission, of whom Isabella pointed
out one or two, and then waited to join in the discourse.

"This project of Colon's is worthy of being more seriously inquired
into," resumed the king, when these preliminaries were settled, "and it
shall be our care to see that he hath all consideration. They tell me
the honest navigator is a good Christian."

"I think him devotedly so, Don Fernando. He hath a purpose, should God
prosper his present undertaking, to join in a new effort to regain the
holy sepulchre."

"Umph! Such designs may be meritorious, but ours is the true way to
advance the faith--this conquest of our own. We have raised the cross,
my wife, where the ensigns of infidelity were lately seen, and Granada
is so near Castile that it will not be difficult to maintain our altars.
Such, at least, are the opinions of a layman--holy prelate--on these
matters."

"And most just and wise opinions are they, Señor," returned the
archbishop. "That which can be retained, it is wisest to seek, for we
lose our labors in gaining things that Providence hath placed so far
beyond our control, that they do not seem designed for our purposes."

"There are those, my Lord Archbishop," observed the queen, "who might
argue against all attempts to recover the holy sepulchre, hearing
opinions like these, from so high authority!"

"Then, Señora, they would misconceive that authority," the politic
prelate hurriedly replied. "It is well for all Christendom, to drive the
Infidels from the Holy Land; but for Castile it is better to dispossess
them of Granada. The distinction is a very plain one, as every sound
casuist must admit."

"This truth is as evident to our reason," added Ferdinand, casting a
look of calm exultation out at a window, "as that yonder towers were
once Abdallah's, and that they are now our own!"

"Better for Castile!" repeated Isabella, in the tones of one who mused.
"For her worldly power better, perhaps, but not better for the souls of
those who achieve the deed--surely, not better for the glory of God!"

"My much-honored wife, and beloved consort"--said the king.

"Señora"--added the prelate.

But Isabella walked slowly away, pondering on principles, while the eyes
of the two worldings she left behind her, met, with the sort of
free-masonry that is in much request among those who are too apt to
substitute the expedient for the right. The queen did not return to her
seat, but she walked up and down that part of the room which the
archbishop had left vacant when he approached herself and her husband.
Here she remained alone for several minutes, even Ferdinand holding her
in too much reverence to presume to disturb her meditations, uninvited.
The queen several times cast glances at Mercedes, and, at length, she
commanded her to draw near.

"Daughter," said Isabella, who frequently addressed those she loved by
this endearing term, "thou hast not forgotten thy freely-offered vow?"

"Next to my duty to God, Señora, I most consider my duty to my
sovereign."

Mercedes spoke firmly, and in those tones that seldom deceive. Isabella
riveted her eyes on the pale features of the beautiful girl, and when
the words just quoted were uttered, a tender mother could not have
regarded a beloved child with stronger proofs of affection.

"Thy duty to God overshadoweth all other feelings, daughter, as is
just," answered the queen; "thy duty to me is secondary and inferior.
Still, thou and all others, owe a solemn duty to your sovereign, and I
should be unfit for the high trust that I have received from Providence,
did I permit any of these obligations to lessen. It is not I that reign
in Castile, but Providence, through its humble and unworthy instrument.
My people are my children, and I often pray that I may have heart enough
to hold them all. If princes are sometimes obliged to frown on the
unworthy, it is but in humble and distant imitation of that Power which
cannot smile on evil."

"I hope, Señora," said the girl, timidly, observing that the queen
paused, "I have not been so unfortunate as to displease you; a frown
from Your Highness would indeed be a calamity!"

"Thou? No, daughter; I would that all the maidens of Castile, noble and
simple, were of thy truth, and modesty, and obedience. But we cannot
permit thee to become the victim of the senses. Thou art too well
taught, Doña Mercedes, not to distinguish between that which is
brilliant and that which is truly virtuous"--

"Señora!" cried Mercedes, eagerly--then checking herself, immediately,
for she felt it was a disrespect to interrupt her sovereign.

"I listen to what thou wouldst say, daughter," Isabella answered, after
pausing for the frightened girl to continue. "Speak freely; thou
addressest a parent."

"I was about to say, Señora, that if all that is brilliant is not
virtuous, neither is all that is unpleasant to the sight, or what
prudence might condemn, actually vicious."

"I understand thee, Señorita, and the remark hath truth in it. Now, let
us speak of other things. Thou appearest to be friendly to the designs
of this navigator, Colon?"

"The opinion of one untaught and youthful as I, can have little weight
with the Queen of Castile, who can ask counsel of prelates and learned
churchmen, besides consulting her own wisdom;" Mercedes modestly
answered.

"But thou thinkest well of his project; or have I mistaken thy meaning?"

"No, Señora, I _do_ think well of Colon's scheme; for to me it seemeth
of that nobleness and grandeur that Providence would favor, for the good
of man and the advancement of the church."

"And thou believest that nobles and cavaliers can be found willing to
embark with this obscure Genoese, in his bold undertaking?"

The queen felt the hand that she affectionately held in both her own,
tremble, and when she looked at her companion she perceived that her
face was crimsoned and her eyes lowered. But the generous girl thought
the moment critical for the fortunes of her lover, and she rallied all
her energies in order to serve his interests.

"Señora, I do," she answered, with a steadiness that both surprised and
pleased the queen, who entered into and appreciated all her feelings; "I
think Don Luis de Bobadilla will embark with him; since his aunt hath
conversed freely with him on the nature and magnitude of the enterprise,
his mind dwelleth on little else. He would be willing to furnish gold
for the occasion, could his guardians be made to consent."

"Which any guardian would be very wrong to do. We may deal freely with
our own, but it is forbidden to jeopard the goods of another. If Don
Luis de Bobadilla persevere in this intention, and act up to his
professions, I shall think more favorably of his character than
circumstances have hitherto led me to do."

"Señora!"

"Hear me, daughter; we cannot now converse longer on this point, the
council waiting my presence, and the king having already left us. Thy
guardian and I will confer together, and thou shalt not be kept in undue
suspense; but Mercedes de Valverde"--

"My Lady the Queen"--

"Remember thy vow, daughter. It was freely given, and must not be
hastily forgotten."

Isabella now kissed the pale cheek of the girl and withdrew, followed by
all the ladies; leaving the half-pleased and yet half-terrified Mercedes
standing in the centre of the vast apartment, resembling a beautiful
statue of Doubt.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VII.

    "He that of such a height hath built his mind,
    And reared the dwelling of his thoughts so strong
    As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame
    Of his resolved powers."

    Daniel.


The following day the Alhambra was crowded with courtiers as usual;
applicants for favors, those who sought their own, and those who
solicited the redress of imaginary wrongs. The ante-chambers were
thronged, and the different individuals in waiting jealously eyed each
other, as if to inquire how far their neighbors would be likely to
thwart their several views or to advance their wishes. Men bowed, in
general, coldly and with distrust; and the few that did directly pass
their greetings, met with the elaborated civility that commonly
characterizes the intercourse of palaces.

While curiosity was active in guessing at the business of the different
individuals present, and whispers, nods, shrugs of the shoulders, and
meaning glances, passed among the old stagers, as they communicated to
each other the little they knew, or thought they knew, on different
subjects, there stood in the corner of the principal apartment, one in
particular, who might be distinguished from all around him, by his
stature, the gravity and dignity of his air, and the peculiar sort of
notice that he attracted. Few approached him, and they that did, as they
turned their backs, cast those glances of self-sufficiency and ridicule
about them, that characterize the vulgar-minded when they fancy that
they are deriding or sneering in consonance with popular opinion. This
was Columbus, who was very generally regarded by the multitude as a
visionary schemer, and who necessarily shared in that sort of
contemptuous obloquy that attaches itself to the character. But even the
wit and jokes of the crowd had been expended upon this subject, and the
patience of those who danced attendance was getting to be exhausted,
when a little stir at the door announced the approach of some new
courtier. The manner in which the throng quickly gave way, denoted the
presence of some one of high rank, and presently Don Luis de Bobadilla
stood in the centre of the room.

"It is the nephew of Her Highness' favorite," whispered one.

"A noble of one of the most illustrious families of Castile," said
another; "but a fitting associate of this Colon, as neither the
authority of his guardians, the wishes of the queen, nor his high
station, can keep him from the life of a vagabond."

"One of the best lances in Spain, if he had the prudence and wisdom to
turn his skill to profit," observed a third.

"That is the youthful knight who hath so well deported himself in this
last campaign," growled an inferior officer of the infantry, "and who
unhorsed Don Alonso de Ojeda in the tourney; but his lance is as
unsteady in its aim, as it is good in the rest. They tell me he is a
rover."

As if purposely to justify this character, Luis looked about him
anxiously a moment, and then made his way directly to the side of Colon.
The smiles, nods, shrugs, and half-suppressed whispers that followed,
betrayed the common feeling; but a door on the side of the closet
opening, all eyes were immediately bent in that direction, and the
little interruption just mentioned was as soon forgotten.

"I greet you, Señor," said Luis, bowing respectfully to Columbus. "Since
our discourse of last evening I have thought of little besides its
subject, and have come hither to renew it."

That Columbus was pleased by this homage, appeared in his eye, his
smile, and the manner in which he raised his body, as if full of the
grandeur of his own designs; but he was compelled to defer the pleasure
that it always gave him to dilate on his enterprise.

"I am commanded hither, noble Señor," he answered, cordially, "by the
holy Archbishop of Granada, who, it seemeth, hath it in charge from
their Highnesses, to bring my affair to a speedy issue, and who hath
named this very morning for that purpose. We touch upon the verge of
great events: the day is not distant, when this conquest of Granada will
be forgotten, in the greater importance of the mighty things that God
hath held in reserve!"

"By San Pedro, my new patron! I do believe you, Señor. Cathay must lie
at or near the spot you have named, and your own eyes shall not see it,
and its gorgeous stories of wealth, sooner than mine. Remember Pedro de
Muños, I pray you, Señor Colon."

"He shall not be forgotten, I promise you, young lord; and all the great
deeds of your ancestors will be eclipsed by the glory achieved by their
son. But I hear my name called; we will talk of this anon."

"El Señor Christoval Colon!" was called by one of the pages, in a loud
authoritative voice, and the navigator hurried forward, buoyed up with
hope and joy.

The manner in which one so generally regarded with indifference, if not
with contempt, had been selected from all that crowd of courtiers,
excited some surprise; but as the ordinary business of the antechamber
went on, and the subordinates of office soon appeared in the rooms, to
hear solicitations and answer questions, the affair was quickly
forgotten. Luis withdrew disappointed, for he had hoped to enjoy another
long discourse with Columbus, on a subject which, as it was connected
with his dearest hopes, now occupied most of his thoughts. We shall
leave him, however, and all in the ante-chambers, to follow the great
navigator further into the depths of the palace.

Fernando de Talavera had not been unmindful of his orders. Instead,
however, of associating with this prelate, men known to be well disposed
to listen to the propositions of Columbus, the king and queen had made
the mistake of choosing some six or eight of their courtiers, persons of
probity and of good general characters, but who were too little
accustomed to learned research, properly to appreciate the magnitude of
the proposed discoveries. Into the presence of these distinguished
nobles and churchmen was Columbus now ushered, and among them is the
reader to suppose him seated. We pass over the customary ceremonies of
the introduction, and proceed at once to the material part of the
narrative. The Archbishop of Granada was the principal speaker on the
part of the commissioners.

"We understand, Señor Colon," continued the prelate, "should you be
favored by their Highnesses' power and authority, that you propose to
undertake a voyage into the unknown Atlantic, in quest of the land of
Cathay and the celebrated island of Cipango?"

"That is my design, holy and illustrious prelate. The matter hath been
so often up between the agents of the two sovereigns and myself, that
there is little occasion to enlarge on my views."

"These were fully discussed at Salamanca, of a verity, where many
learned churchmen were of your way of thinking, Señor, though more were
against it. Our Lord the King, and our Lady the Queen, however, are
disposed to view the matter favorably, and this commission hath been
commanded that we might arrange all previous principles, and determine
the rights of the respective parties. What force in vessels and
equipments do you demand, in order to achieve the great objects you
expect, under the blessing of God, to accomplish?"

"You have well spoken, Lord Archbishop; it will be by the blessing of
God, and under his especial care, that all will be done, for his glory
and worship are involved in the success. With so good an ally on my
side, little worldly means will be necessary. Two caravels of light
burden are all I ask, with the flag of the sovereigns, and a sufficiency
of mariners."

The commissioners turned toward each other in surprise, and while some
saw in the moderate request the enthusiastic heedlessness of a
visionary, others detected the steady reliance of faith.

"That is not asking much, truly," observed the prelate, who was among
the first; "and, though these wars have left us of Castile with an
exhausted treasury, we could compass that little without the aid of a
miracle. The caravels might be found, and the mariners levied, but there
are weighty points to determine before we reach that concession. You
expect, Señor, to be intrusted with the command of the expedition, in
your own person?"

"Without that confidence I could not be answerable for success. I ask
the full and complete authority of an admiral, or a sea-commander, of
their Highnesses. The force employed will be trifling in appearance, but
the risks will be great, and the power of the two crowns must completely
sustain that of him on whose shoulders will rest the entire weight of
the responsibility."

"This is but just, and none will gainsay it. But, Señor, have you
thought maturely on the advantages that are to accrue to the sovereigns,
should they sustain you in this undertaking?"

"Lord Archbishop, for eighteen years hath this subject occupied my
thoughts, and employed my studies, both by day and by night. In the
whole of that long period have I done little that hath not had a direct
bearing on the success of this mighty enterprise. The advantages to all
concerned, that will flow from it, have, therefore, scarce been
forgotten."

"Name them, Señor."

"First, then, as is due to his all-seeing and omnipotent protection,
glory will be given to the Almighty, by the spreading of his church and
the increase of his worshippers." Fernando de Talavera and all the
churchmen present piously crossed themselves, an act in which Columbus
himself joined. "Their Highnesses, as is meet, will reap the next
advantages, in the extension of their empire and in the increase of
their subjects. Wealth will flow in upon Castile and Aragon, in a rapid
stream, His Holiness freely granting to Christian monarchs the thrones
and territories of all infidel princes whose possessions may be
discovered, or people converted to the faith, through their means."

"This is plausible, Señor," returned the prelate, "and founded on just
principles. His Holiness certainly is entrusted with that power, and
hath been known to use it, for the glory of God. You doubtless know,
Señor Colon, that Don John of Portugal hath paid great attention to
these matters already, and that he and his predecessors have probably
pushed discovery to the verge of its final limits. His enterprise hath
also obtained from Rome certain privileges that may not be meddled
with."

"I am not ignorant of the Portuguese enterprise, holy prelate, nor of
the spirit with which Don John hath exercised his power. His vessels
voyage along the western shore of Africa, and in a direction altogether
different from that I propose to take. My purpose is to launch forth, at
once, into the broad Atlantic, and by following the sun toward his place
of evening retirement, reach the eastern bounds of the Indies, by a road
that will lessen the journey many months."

Although the archbishop and most of his coadjutors belonged to the
numerous class of those who regarded Columbus as a brain-heated
visionary, the earnest, but lofty dignity, with which he thus simply
touched upon his projects; the manner in which he quietly smoothed down
his white locks, when he had spoken; and the enthusiasm that never
failed to kindle in his eye, as he dwelt on his noble designs, produced
a deep impression on all present, and there was a moment when the
general feeling was to aid him to the extent of the common means. It was
a singular and peculiar proof of the existence of this transient feeling
that one of the commissioners immediately inquired--

"Do you propose, Señor Colon, to seek the court of Prestor John?"

"I know not, noble Señor, that such a potentate hath even an existence,"
answered Columbus, whose notions had got the fixed and philosophical
bias that is derived from science, and who entered little into the
popular fallacies of the day, though necessarily subject to much of the
ignorance of the age; "I find nothing to establish the truth of there
being such a monarch at all, or such territories."

This admission did not help the navigator's cause; for to affirm that
the earth was a sphere, and that Prestor John was a creature of the
imagination, was abandoning the marvellous to fall back on demonstration
and probabilities--a course that the human mind, in its uncultivated
condition, is not fond of taking.

"There are men who will be willing to put faith in the truth of Prestor
John's power and territories," interrupted one of the commissioners, who
was indebted to his present situation purely to King Ferdinand's policy,
"who will flatly deny that the earth is round; since we all know that
there are kings, and territories, and Christians, while we see that the
earth and the ocean are plains."

This opinion was received with an assenting smile by most present,
though Fernando de Talavera had doubts of its justice.

"Señor," answered Columbus, mildly, "if all in this world was in truth
what it seemeth, confessions would be little needed, and penance would
be much lighter."

"I esteem you a good Christian, Señor Colon," observed the archbishop,
sharply.

"I am such as the grace of God and a weak nature have made me, Lord
Archbishop; though I humbly trust that when I shall have achieved this
great end, that I may be deemed more worthy of the divine protection, as
well as of the divine favor."

"It hath been said that thou deemest thyself especially set apart by
Providence for this work."

"I feel that within me, holy prelate, that encourageth such a hope; but
I build naught on mysteries that exceed my comprehension."

It would be difficult to say whether Columbus lost or gained in the
opinions of his auditors, by this answer. The religious feeling of the
age was in perfect consonance with the sentiment; but, to the churchmen
present, it seemed arrogant in a humble and unknown layman, even to
believe it possible that he could be the chosen vessel, when so many who
appeared to have higher claims were rejected. Still no expression of
this feeling was permitted, for it was then, as it is now--he who seemed
to rely on the power of God, carrying with him a weight and an influence
that ordinarily checked rebukes.

"You propose to endeavor to reach Cathay by means of sailing forth into
the broad Atlantic," resumed the archbishop, "and yet you deny the
existence of Prestor John."

"Your pardon, holy prelate--I do propose to reach Cathay and Cipango in
the mode you mention, but I do not absolutely deny the existence of the
monarch you have named. For the probability of the success of my
enterprise, I have already produced my proofs and reasons, which have
satisfied many learned churchmen; but evidence is wanting to establish
the last."

"And yet Giovanni di Montecorvino, a pious bishop of our holy church, is
said to have converted such a prince to the true faith, nearly two
centuries since."

"The power of God can do any thing, Lord Archbishop, and I am not one to
question the merits of his chosen ministers. All I can answer on this
point is, to say that I find no scientific or plausible reasons to
justify me in pursuing what may prove to be as deceptive as the light
which recedes before the hand that would touch it. As for Cathay and its
position and its wonders, we have the better established evidence of the
renowned Venetians, Marco and Nicolo Polo, who not only travelled in
those territories, but sojourned years at the court of their monarch.
But, noble gentlemen, whether there is a Prestor John, or a Cathay,
there is certainly a limit to the western side of the Atlantic, and that
limit I am ready to seek."

The archbishop betrayed his incredulity in the upward turn of his eyes;
but having his commands from those who were accustomed to be obeyed, and
knowing that the theory of Columbus had been gravely heard and reported
on, years before, at Salamanca, he determined prudently to keep within
his proper sphere, and to proceed at once to that into which it was his
duty to inquire.

"You have set forth the advantages that you think may be derived to the
sovereigns, should your project succeed, Señor," he said, "and truly
they are not light, if all your brilliant hopes may be realized; but it
now remaineth to know what conditions you reserve for yourself, as the
reward of all your risks and many years of anxious labor."

"All that hath been duly considered, illustrious archbishop, and you
will find the substance of my wishes set forth in this paper, though
many of the smaller provisions will remain to be enumerated."

As Columbus spoke he handed the paper in question to Ferdinand of
Talavera. The prelate ran his eyes over it hastily at first, but a
second time with more deliberation, and it would be difficult to say
whether ridicule or indignation was most strongly expressed in his
countenance, as he deridingly threw the document on a table. When this
act of contempt was performed, he turned toward Columbus, as if to
satisfy himself that the navigator was not mad.

"Art thou serious in demanding these terms, Señor?" he asked sternly,
and with a look that would have caused most men, in the humble station
of the applicant, to swerve from their purpose.

"Lord Archbishop," answered Columbus, with a dignity that was not easily
disturbed, "this matter hath now occupied my mind quite eighteen years.
During the whole of this long period I have thought seriously of little
else, and it may be said to have engaged my mind sleeping and waking. I
saw the truth early and intensely, but every day seems to bring it
brighter and brighter before my eyes. I feel a reliance on success, that
cometh from dependence on God. I think myself an agent, chosen for the
accomplishment of great ends, and ends that will not be decided by the
success of this one enterprise. There is more beyond, and I must retain
the dignity and the means necessary to accomplish it. I cannot abate, in
the smallest degree, the nature or the amount of these conditions."

Although the manner in which these words were uttered lent them weight,
the prelate fancied that the mind of the navigator had got to be
unsettled by his long contemplation of a single subject. The only things
that left any doubt concerning the accuracy of this opinion, were the
method and science with which he had often maintained, even in his own
presence, the reasonableness of his geographical suppositions; arguments
which, though they had failed to convince one bent on believing the
projector a visionary, had, nevertheless, greatly puzzled the listener.
Still, the demands he had just read seemed so extravagant, that, for a
single instant, a sentiment of pity repressed the burst of indignation
to which he felt disposed to give vent.

"How like ye, noble lords," he cried, sarcastically, turning to two or
three of his fellow-commissioners, who had eagerly seized the paper and
were endeavoring to read it, and all at the same moment, "the moderate
and modest demands of the Señor Christoval Colon, the celebrated
navigator who confounded the Council of Salamanca! Are they not such as
becometh their Highnesses to accept on bended knees, and with many
thanks?"

"Read them, Lord Archbishop," exclaimed several in a breath. "Let us
first know their nature."

"There are many minor conditions that might be granted, as unworthy of
discussion," resumed the prelate, taking the paper; "but here are two
that must give the sovereigns infinite satisfaction. The Señor Colon
actually satisfieth himself with the rank of Admiral and Viceroy over
all the countries he may discover; and as for gains, one-tenth--the
church's share, my brethren--yea, even one-tenth, one _humble_ tenth of
the proceeds and customs, will content him!"

The general murmur that passed among the commissioners, denoted a common
dissatisfaction, and at that instant Columbus had not a true supporter
in the room.

"Nor is this all, illustrious nobles, and holy priests," continued the
archbishop, following up his advantage as soon as he believed his
auditors ready to hear him--"nor is this all; lest these high dignities
should weary their Highnesses' shoulders, and those of their royal
progeny, the liberal Genoese actually consenteth to transmit them to his
own posterity, in all time to come; converting the kingdom of Cathay
into a realm for the uses of the house of Colon, to maintain the dignity
of which, the tenth of all the benefits are to be consigned to its
especial care!"

There would have been an open laugh at this sally, had not the noble
bearing of Columbus checked its indulgence; and even Ferdinand of
Talavera, under the stern rebuke of an eye and mien that carried with
them a grave authority, began to think he had gone too far.

"Your pardon, Señor Colon," he immediately and more courteously added;
"but your conditions sounded so lofty that they have quite taken me by
surprise. You cannot seriously mean to maintain them?"

"Not one jot will I abate, Lord Priest: that much will be my due; and he
that consenteth to less than he deserveth, becometh an instrument of his
own humiliation. I shall give to the sovereigns an empire that will far
exceed in value all their other possessions, and I claim my reward. I
tell you, moreover, reverend prelate, that there is much in reserve, and
that these conditions will be needed to fulfil the future."

"These are truly modest proposals for a nameless Genoese!" exclaimed one
of the courtiers, who had been gradually swelling with disgust and
contempt. "The Señor Colon will be certain of commanding in the service
of their Highnesses, and if nothing is done he will have that high honor
without cost; whereas, should this most improbable scheme lead to any
benefits, he will become a vice-king, humbly contenting himself with the
church's revenue!"

This remark appeared to determine the wavering, and the commissioners
rose, in a body, as if the matter were thought to be unworthy of further
discussion. With the view to preserve at least the appearance of
impartiality and discretion, however, the archbishop turned once more
toward Columbus, and now, certain of obtaining his ends, he spoke to him
in milder tones.

"For the last time, Señor," he said, "I ask if you still insist on these
unheard-of terms?"

"On them, and on no other," said Columbus, firmly. "I know the magnitude
of the services I shall perform, and will not degrade them--will in no
manner lessen their dignity, by accepting aught else. But, Lord
Archbishop, and you, too, noble Señor, that treateth my claims so
lightly, I am ready to add to the risk of person, life, and name, that
of gold. I will furnish one-eighth of the needful sums, if ye will
increase my benefits in that proportion."

"Enough, enough," returned the prelate, preparing to quit the room; "we
will make our report to the sovereigns, this instant, and thou shalt
speedily know their pleasure."

Thus terminated the conference. The courtiers left the room, conversing
earnestly among themselves, like men who did not care to repress their
indignation; while Columbus, filled with the noble character of his own
designs, disappeared in another direction, with the bearing of one whose
self-respect was not to be lessened by clamor, and who appreciated
ignorance and narrowness of views too justly to suffer them to change
his own high purposes.

Ferdinand of Talavera was as good as his word. He was the queen's
confessor, and, in virtue of that holy office, had at all times access
to her presence. Full of the subject of the late interview, he took his
way directly to the private apartments of the queen, and, as a matter of
course, was at once admitted. Isabella heard his representations with
mortification and regret, for she had begun to set her heart on the
sailing of this extraordinary expedition. But the influence of the
archbishop was very great, for his royal penitent knew the sincerity and
devotedness of his heart.

"This carrieth presumption to insolence, Señora," continued the
irritated churchman; "have we not here a mendicant adventurer demanding
honors and authority that belong only to God and his anointed, the
princes of the earth? Who is this Colon?--a nameless Genoese, without
rank, services, or modesty, and yet doth he carry his pretensions to a
height that might cause even a Guzman to hesitate."

"He is a good Christian, holy prelate," Isabella meekly answered, "and
seemeth to delight in the service and glory of God, and to wish to favor
the extension of his visible and Catholic church."

"True, Señora, and yet may there be deceit in this"--

"Nay, Lord Archbishop, I do not think that deceit is the man's failing,
for franker speech and more manly bearing it is not usual to see, even
in the most powerful. He hath solicited us for years, and yet no act of
meanness may be fairly laid to his charge."

"I shall not judge the heart of this man harshly, Doña Isabella, but we
may judge of his actions and his pretensions, and how far they may be
suitable to the dignity of the two crowns, freely and without censure. I
confess him grave, and plausible, and light of neither discourse nor
manner, virtues certainly, as the world moveth in courts"--Isabella
smiled, but she said nothing, for her ghostly counsellor was wont to
rebuke with freedom, and she to listen with humility--"where the age is
not exhibiting its purest models of sobriety of thought and devotion,
but even these may exist without the spirit that shall be fitted for
heaven. But what are gravity and decorum, if sustained by an inflated
pride and inordinate rapacity? ambition being a term too lofty for such
a craving. Reflect, Señora, on the full nature of these demands. This
Colon requireth to be established, forever, in the high state of a
substitute for a king, not only for his own person, but for those of his
descendants throughout all time, with the title and authority of Admiral
over all adjacent seas, should he discover any of the lands he so much
exalts, before he will consent to enter into the command of certain of
Your Highnesses' vessels, a station of itself only too honorable for one
of so little note! Should his most extravagant pretensions be
realized--and the probabilities are that they will entirely fail--his
demands would exceed his services; whereas, in the case of failure, the
Castilian and Aragonese names would be covered with ridicule, and a sore
disrespect would befal the royal dignity for having been thus duped by
an adventurer. Much of the glory of this late conquest would be
tarnished, by a mistake so unfortunate."

"Daughter-Marchioness," observed the queen, turning toward the faithful,
and long-tried friend who was occupied with her needle near her own
side--"these conditions of Colon do, truly, seem to exceed the bounds of
reason."

"The enterprise also exceedeth all the usual bounds of risks and
adventures, Señora," was the steady reply of Doña Beatriz, as she
glanced toward the countenance of Mercedes. "Noble efforts deserve noble
rewards."

The eye of Isabella followed the glance of her friend, and it remained
fixed for some time on the pale, anxious features of her favorite's
ward. The beautiful girl herself was unconscious of the attention she
excited; but one who knew her secret might easily detect the intense
feeling with which she awaited the issue. The opinions of her confessor
had seemed so reasonable, that Isabella was on the point of assenting to
the report of the commissioners, and of abandoning altogether the secret
hopes and expectations she had begun to couple with the success of the
navigator's schemes, when a gentler feeling, one that belonged
peculiarly to her own feminine heart, interposed to give the mariner
another chance. It is seldom that woman is dead to the sympathies
connected with the affections, and the wishes that sprang from the love
of Mercedes de Valverde were the active cause of the decision that the
Queen of Castile came to at that critical moment.

"We must be neither harsh nor hasty with this Genoese, Lord Archbishop,"
she said, turning again to the prelate. "He hath the virtues of
devoutness and fair-dealing, and these are qualities that sovereigns
learn to prize. His demands no doubt have become somewhat exaggerated by
long brooding, in his thoughts, on a favorite and great scheme; but kind
words and reason may yet lead him to more moderation. Let him, then, be
tried with propositions of our own, and doubtless, his necessities, if
not a sense of justice, will cause him to accept them. The viceroyalty
doth, indeed, exceed the usual policy of princes, and, as you say, holy
prelate, the tenth is the church's share; but the admiral's rank may be
fairly claimed. Meet him, then, with these moderated proposals, and
substitute a fifteenth for a tenth; let him be a viceroy in his own
person, during the pleasure of Don Fernando and myself, but let him
relinquish the claim for his posterity."

Fernando de Talavera thought even these concessions too considerable,
but, while he exercised his sacred office with a high authority, he too
well knew the character of Isabella to presume to dispute an order she
had once issued, although it was in her own mild and feminine manner.
After receiving a few more instructions, therefore, and obtaining the
counsel of the king, who was at work in an adjoining cabinet, the
prelate went to execute this new commission.

Two or three days now passed before the subject was finally disposed of,
and Isabella was again seated in the domestic circle, when admission was
once more demanded in behalf of her confessor. The archbishop entered
with a flushed face, and his whole appearance was so disturbed that it
must have been observed by the most indifferent person.

"How now, holy archbishop,"--demanded Isabella--"doth thy new flock vex
thy spirit, and is it so very hard to deal with an infidel?"

"'Tis naught of that, Señora--'tis naught relating to my new people. I
find even the followers of the false prophet more reasonable than some
who exult in Christ's name and favor. This Colon is a madman, and better
fitted to become a saint in Mussulmans' eyes, than even a pilot in Your
Highness' service."

At this burst of indignation, the queen, the Marchioness of Moya, and
Doña Mercedes de Valverde, simultaneously dropped their needle-work, and
sat looking at the prelate, with a common concern. They had all hoped
that the difficulties which stood in the way of a favorable termination
to the negotiation would be removed, and that the time was at hand, when
the being who, in spite of the boldness and unusual character of his
projects, had succeeded in so signally commanding their respect, and in
interesting their feelings, was about to depart, and to furnish a
practical solution to problems that had as much puzzled their reasons as
they had excited their curiosity. But here was something like a sudden
and unlooked-for termination to all their expectations; and while
Mercedes felt something like despair chilling her heart, the queen and
Doña Beatriz were both displeased.

"Didst thou duly explain to Señor Colon, the nature of our proposals,
Lord Archbishop?" the former asked, with more severity of manner than
she was accustomed to betray; "and doth he still insist on the
pretensions to a vice-regal power, and on the offensive condition in
behalf of his posterity?"

"Even so, Your Highness; were it Isabella of Castile treating with Henry
of England or Louis of France, the starving Genoese could not hold
higher terms or more inflexible conditions. He abateth nothing. The man
deemeth himself chosen of God, to answer certain ends, and his language
and conditions are such as one who felt a holy impulse to his course,
could scarcely feel warranted in assuming."

"This constancy hath its merit," observed the queen; "but there is a
limit to concession. I shall urge no more in the navigator's favor, but
leave him to the fortune that naturally followeth self-exaltation and
all extravagance of demand."

This speech apparently sealed the fate of Columbus in Castile. The
archbishop was appeased, and, first holding a short private conference
with his royal penitent, he left the room. Shortly after, Christoval
Colon, as he was called by the Spaniards--Columbus, as he styled himself
in later life--received, for a definite answer, the information that his
conditions were rejected, and that the negotiation for the projected
voyage to the Indies was finally at an end.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VIII.

    "Oh! ever thus, from childhood's hour,
      I've seen my fondest hopes decay;
    I never loved a tree or flower,
      But 'twas the first to fade away."

    Lalla Rookh.


The season had now advanced to the first days of February, and, in that
low latitude, the weather was becoming genial and spring-like. On the
morning succeeding that of the interview just related, some six or eight
individuals, attracted by the loveliness of the day, and induced morally
by a higher motive, were assembled before the door of one of those low
dwellings of Santa Fé that had been erected for the accommodation of the
conquering army. Most of these persons were grave Spaniards of a certain
age, though young Luis de Bobadilla was also there, and the tall,
dignified form of Columbus was in the group. The latter was equipped for
the road, and a stout, serviceable Andalusian mule stood ready to
receive its burden, near at hand. A charger was by the side of the mule,
showing that the rider of the last was about to have company. Among the
Spaniards were Alonzo de Quintanilla, the accountant-general of Castile,
a firm friend of the navigator, and Luis de St. Angel, the receiver of
the ecclesiastical revenues of Aragon, who was one of the firmest
converts that Columbus had made to the philosophical accuracy of his
opinions and to the truth of his vast conceptions.

The two last had been in earnest discourse with the navigator, but the
discussion had closed, and Señor de St. Angel, a man of generous
feelings and ardent imagination, was just expressing himself warmly, in
the following words--

"By the lustre of the two crowns!" he cried, "this ought not to come to
pass. But, adieu, Señor Colon--God have you in his holy keeping, and
send you wiser and less prejudiced judges, hereafter. The past can only
cause us shame and grief, while the future is in the womb of time."

The whole party, with the exception of Luis de Bobadilla, then took
their leave. As soon as the place was clear, Columbus mounted, and
passed through the thronged streets, attended by the young noble on his
charger. Not a syllable was uttered by either, until they were fairly on
the plain, though Columbus often sighed like a man oppressed with grief.
Still, his mien was calm, his bearing dignified, and his eye lighted
with that unquenchable fire which finds its fuel in the soul within.

When fairly without the gates, Columbus turned courteously to his young
companion and thanked him for his escort; but, with a consideration for
the other that was creditable to his heart, he added--

"While I am so grateful for this honor, coming from one so noble and
full of hopes, I must not forget your own character. Didst thou not
remark, friend Luis, as we passed through the streets, that divers
Spaniards pointed at me, as the object of scorn?"

"I did, Señor," answered Luis, his cheek glowing with indignation, "and
had it not been that I dreaded your displeasure, I would have trodden
the vagabonds beneath my horse's feet, failing of a lance to spit them
on!"

"Thou hast acted most wisely in showing forbearance. But these are men,
and their common judgment maketh public opinion; nor do I perceive that
the birth, or the opportunities, causeth material distinctions between
them, though the manner of expression vary. There are vulgar among the
noble, and noble among the lowly. This very act of kindness of thine,
will find its deriders and contemners in the court of the two
sovereigns."

"Let him look to it, who presumeth to speak lightly of you, Señor, to
Luis de Bobadilla! We are not a patient race, and Castilian blood is apt
to be hot blood."

"I should be sorry that any man but myself should draw in my quarrel.
But, if we take offence at all who think and speak folly, we may pass
our days in harness. Let the young nobles have their jest, if it give
them pleasure--but do not let me regret my friendship for thee."

Luis promised fairly, and then, as if his truant thoughts would revert
to the subject unbidden, he hastily resumed--

"You speak of the noble as of a class different from your own--surely,
Señor Colon, thou art noble?"

"Would it make aught different in thy opinions and feelings, young man,
were I to answer no?"

The cheek of Don Luis flushed, and, for an instant, he repented of his
remark; but falling back on his own frank and generous nature, he
answered immediately, without reservation or duplicity--

"By San Pedro, my new patron! I could wish you were noble, Señor, if it
were merely for the honor of the class. There are so many among us who
do no credit to their spurs, that we might gladly receive such an
acquisition."

"This world is made up of changes, young Señor," returned Columbus,
smiling. "The seasons undergo their changes; night follows day; comets
come and go; monarchs become subjects, and subjects monarchs; nobles
lose the knowledge of their descent, and plebeians rise to the rank of
nobles. There is a tradition among us, that we were formerly of the
privileged class; but time and our unlucky fortune have brought us down
to humble employments. Am I to lose the honor of Don Luis de Bobadilla's
company in the great voyage, should I be more fortunate in France than I
have been in Castile, because his commander happeneth to have lost the
evidences of his nobility?"

"That would be a most unworthy motive, Señor, and I hasten to correct
your mistake. As we are now about to part for some time, I ask
permission to lay bare my whole soul to you. I confess that when first I
heard of this voyage, it struck me as a madman's scheme"--

"Ah! friend Luis," interrupted Columbus, with a melancholy shake of the
head, "this is the opinion of but too many! I fear Don Ferdinand of
Aragon, as well as that stern prelate, his namesake, who hath lately
disposed of the question, thinketh in the same manner."

"I crave your pardon, Señor Colon, if I have uttered aught to give you
pain; but if I have once done you injustice, I am ready enough to
expiate the wrong, as you will quickly see. Thinking thus, I entered
into discourse with you, with a view to amuse myself with fancied
ravings; but, though no immediate change of opinion followed as to the
truth of the theory, I soon perceived that a great philosopher and
profound reasoner had the matter in hand. Here my judgment might have
rested, and my opinion been satisfied, but for a circumstance of deep
moment to myself. You must know, Señor, though come of the oldest blood
of Spain, and not without fair possessions, that I may not always have
answered the hopes of those who have been charged with the care of my
youth"--

"This is unnecessary, noble sir"--

"Nay, by St. Luke! it shall be said. Now, I have two great and
engrossing passions, that sometimes interfere with each other. The one
is a love for rambling--a burning desire to see foreign lands, and this,
too, in a free and roving fashion--with a disposition for the sea and
the doings of havens; and the other is a love for Mercedes de Valverde,
the fairest, gentlest, most affectionate, warmest-hearted, and truest
maiden of Castile!"

"Noble, withal," put in Columbus, smiling.

"Señor," answered Luis, gravely, "I jest not concerning my guardian
angel. She is not only noble, and every way fitted to honor my name, but
she hath the blood of the Guzmans, themselves, in her veins. But I have
lost favor with others, if not with my lovely mistress, in yielding to
this rambling inclination; and even my own aunt, who is her guardian,
hath not looked smilingly on my suit. Doña Isabella, whose word is law
among all the noble virgins of the court, hath also her prejudices, and
it hath become necessary to regain her good opinion, to win the Doña
Mercedes. It struck me"--Luis was too manly to betray his mistress by
confessing that the thought was hers--"it struck me, that if my rambling
tastes took the direction of some noble enterprise, like this you urge,
that what hath been a demerit might be deemed a merit in the royal eyes,
which would be certain soon to draw all other eyes after them. With this
hope, then, I first entered into the present intercourse, until the
force of your arguments hath completed my conversion, and now no
churchman hath more faith in the head of his religion, than I have that
the shortest road to Cathay is athwart the broad Atlantic; or no Lombard
is more persuaded that his Lombardy is flat, than I feel convinced that
this good earth of ours is a sphere."

"Speak reverently of the ministers of the altar, young Señor," said
Columbus, crossing himself, "for no levity should be used in connection
with their holy office. It seemeth, then," he added, smiling, "I owe my
disciple to the two potent agents of love and reason; the former, as
most potent, overcoming the first obstacles, and the latter getting
uppermost at the close of the affair, as is wont to happen--love,
generally, triumphing in the onset, and reason, last."

"I'll not deny the potency of the power, Señor, for I feel it too deeply
to rebel against it. You now know my secret, and when I have made you
acquainted with my intentions, all will be laid bare. I here solemnly
vow"--Don Luis lifted his cap and looked to heaven, as he spoke--"to
join you in this voyage, on due notice, sail from whence you may, in
whatever bark you shall choose, and whenever you please. In doing this,
I trust, first to serve God and his church; secondly, to visit Cathay
and those distant and wonderful lands; and lastly, to win Doña Mercedes
de Valverde."

"I accept the pledge, young sir," rejoined Columbus, struck by his
earnestness, and pleased with his sincerity--"though it might have been
a more faithful representation of your thoughts had the order of the
motives been reversed."

"In a few months I shall be master of my own means," continued the
youth, too intent on his own purposes to heed what the navigator had
said--"and then, nothing but the solemn command of Doña Isabella,
herself, shall prevent our having one caravel, at least; and the coffers
of Bobadilla must have been foully dealt by, during their master's
childhood, if they do not afford two. I am no subject of Don Fernando's,
but a servant of the elder branch of the House of Trastamara; and the
cold judgment of the king, even, shall not prevent it."

"This soundeth generously, and thy sentiments are such as become a
youthful and enterprising noble; but the offer cannot be accepted. It
would not become Columbus to use gold that came from so confiding a
spirit and so inexperienced a head; and there are still greater
obstacles than this. My enterprise must rest on the support of some
powerful prince. Even the Guzman hath not deemed himself of sufficient
authority to uphold a scheme so large. Did we make the discoveries
without that sanction, we should be toiling for others, without security
for ourselves, since the Portuguese or some other monarch would wrong us
of our reward. That I am destined to effect this great work, I feel, and
it must be done in a manner suited to the majesty of the thought and to
the magnitude of the subject. And, here, Don Luis, we must part. Should
my suit be successful at the court of France, thou shalt hear from me,
for I ask no better than to be sustained by hearts and hands like thine.
Still, thou must not mar thy fortunes unheedingly, and I am now a fallen
man in Castile. It may not serve thee a good turn, to be known to
frequent my company any longer--and I again say, here we must part."

Luis de Bobadilla protested his indifference to what others might think;
but the more experienced Columbus, who rose so high above popular clamor
in matters that affected himself, felt a generous reluctance to permit
this confiding youth to sacrifice his hopes, to any friendly impressions
in his own favor. The leave-taking was warm, and the navigator felt a
glow at his heart, as he witnessed the sincere and honest emotions that
the young man could not repress at parting. They separated, however,
about half a league from the town, and each bent his way in his own
direction; Don Luis de Bobadilla's heart swelling with indignation at
the unworthy treatment that there was, in sooth, so much reason for
thinking his new friend had received.

Columbus journeyed on, with very different emotions. Seven weary years
had he been soliciting the monarchs and nobles of Spain to aid him in
his enterprise. In that long period, how much of poverty, contempt,
ridicule, and even odium, had he not patiently encountered, rather than
abandon the slight hold that he had obtained on a few of the more
liberal and enlightened minds of the nation! He had toiled for bread
while soliciting the great to aid themselves in becoming still more
powerful; and each ray of hope, however feeble, had been eagerly caught
at with joy, each disappointment borne with a constancy that none but
the most exalted spirit could sustain. But he was now required to endure
the most grievous of all his pains. The recall of Isabella had awakened
within him a confidence to which he had long been a stranger; and he
awaited the termination of the siege with the calm dignity that became
his purpose, no less than his lofty philosophy. The hour of leisure had
come, and it produced a fatal destruction to all his buoyant hopes. He
had thought his motives understood, his character appreciated, and his
high objects felt; but he now found himself still regarded as a
visionary projector, his intentions distrusted, and his promised
services despised. In a word, the bright expectations that had cheered
his toil for years, had vanished in a day, and the disappointment was
all the greater for the brief, but delusive hopes produced by his recent
favor.

It is not surprising, therefore, that, when left alone on the highway,
even the spirit of this extraordinary man grew faint within him, and he
had to look to the highest power for succor. His head dropped upon his
breast, and one of those bitter moments occurred, in which the past and
the future, crowd the mind, painfully as to sufferings endured,
cheerlessly as to hope. The time wasted in Spain seemed a blot in his
existence, and then came the probability of another long and exhausting
probation, that, like this, might lead to nothing. He had already
reached the lustrum that would fill his threescore years, and life
seemed slipping from beneath him, while its great object remained
unachieved. Still the high resolution of the man sustained him. Not once
did he think of a compromise of what he felt to be his rights--not once
did he doubt of the practicability of accomplishing the great enterprise
that others derided. His heart was full of courage, even while his bosom
was full of grief. "There is a wise, a merciful, and omnipotent God!" he
exclaimed, raising his eyes to heaven. "He knoweth what is meet for his
own glory, and in him do I put my trust." There was a pause, and the
eyes kindled, while a scarcely perceptible smile lighted the grave face,
and then were murmured the words--"Yea, he taketh his time, but the
Infidel shall be enlightened, and the blessed sepulchre redeemed!"

After this burst of feeling, the grave-looking man, whose hairs had
already become whitened to the color of snow, by cares, and toils, and
exposures, pursued his way, with the quiet dignity of one who believed
that he was not created for naught, and who trusted in God for the
fulfilment of his destiny. If quivering sighs occasionally broke out of
his breast, they did not disturb the placidity of his venerable
countenance; if grief and disappointment still lay heavy on his heart,
they rested on a base that was able to support them. Leaving Columbus to
follow the common mule-track across the Vega, we will now return to
Santa Fé, where Ferdinand and Isabella had re-established their court,
after the few first days that succeeded the possession of their new
conquest.

Luis de St. Angel was a man of ardent feelings and generous impulses. He
was one of those few spirits who live in advance of their age, and who
permitted his reason to be enlightened and cheered by his imagination,
though it was never dazzled by it. As he and his friend Alonzo de
Quintanilla, after quitting Columbus as already related, walked toward
the royal pavillion, they conversed freely together concerning the man,
his vast conceptions, the treatment he had received, and the shame that
would alight on Spain in consequence, were he suffered thus to depart
forever. Blunt of speech, the receiver of the ecclesiastical revenues
did not measure his terms, every syllable of which found an echo in the
heart of the accountant-general, who was an old and fast friend of the
navigator. In short, by the time they reached the pavilion, they had
come to the resolution to make one manly effort to induce the queen to
yield to Columbus' terms and to recall him to her presence.

Isabella was always easy of access to such of her servants as she knew
to be honest and zealous. The age was one of formality, and, in many
respects, of exaggeration, while the court was renowned for ceremony;
but the pure spirit of the queen threw a truth and a natural grace
around all that depended on her, which rendered mere forms, except as
they were connected with delicacy and propriety, useless, and indeed
impracticable. Both the applicants for the interview enjoyed her favor,
and the request was granted with that simple directness that this
estimable woman loved to manifest, whenever she thought she was about to
oblige any whom she esteemed.

The queen was surrounded by the few ladies among whom she lived in
private, as Luis de St. Angel and Alonzo de Quintanilla entered. Among
them, of course, were the Marchioness of Moya and Doña Mercedes de
Valverde. The king, on this occasion, was in an adjoining closet, at
work, as usual, with his calculations and orders. Official labor was
Ferdinand's relaxation, and he seldom manifested more happiness than
when clearing off a press of affairs that most men would have found to
the last degree burdensome. He was a hero in the saddle, a warrior at
the head of armies, a sage in council, and respectable, if not great, in
all things but motives.

"What has brought the Señor St. Angel and the Señor Quintanilla, as
suitors, so early to my presence?" asked Isabella, smiling in a way to
assure both that the boon would be asked of a partial mistress. "Ye are
not wont to be beggars, and the hour is somewhat unusual."

"All hours are suitable, gracious lady, when one cometh to _confer_ and
not to _seek_ favor," returned Luis de St. Angel, bluntly. "We are not
here to solicit for ourselves, but to show Your Highness the manner in
which the crown of Castile may be garnished with brighter jewels than
any it now possesseth."

Isabella looked surprised, both at the words of the speaker, and at his
hurried earnestness, as well as his freedom of speech. Accustomed,
however, to something of the last, her own calm manner was not
disturbed, nor did she even seem displeased.

"Hath the Moor another kingdom of which to be despoiled," she asked; "or
would the receiver of the church's revenues have us war upon the Holy
See?"

"I would have Your Highness accept the boons that come from God, with
alacrity and gratitude, and not reject them unthankfully," returned de
St. Angel, kissing the queen's offered hand with a respect and affection
that neutralized the freedom of his words. "Do you know, my gracious
mistress, that the Señor Christoval Colon, he from whose high projects
we Spaniards have hoped so much, hath actually taken mule and quitted
Santa Fé?"

"I expected as much, Señor, though I was not apprized that it had
actually come to pass. The king and I put the matter into the hands of
the Archbishop of Granada, with other trusty counsellors, and they have
found the terms of the Genoese arrogant; so full of exceeding and
unreasonable extravagance, that it ill befitted our dignity, and our
duty to ourselves, to grant them. One who hath a scheme of such doubtful
results, ought to manifest moderation in his preliminaries. Many even
believe the man a visionary."

"It is unlike an unworthy pretender, Señora, to abandon his hopes before
he will yield his dignity. This Colon feeleth that he is treating for
empires, and he negotiates like one full of the importance of his
subject."

"He that lightly valueth himself, in matters of gravity, hath need to
expect that he will not stand high in the estimation of others," put in
Alonzo de Quintanilla.

"And, moreover, my gracious and beloved mistress," added de St. Angel,
without permitting Isabella even to answer, "the character of the man,
and the value of his intentions, may be appreciated by the price he
setteth on his own services. If he succeed, will not the discovery
eclipse all others that have been made since the creation of the world?
Is it nothing to circle the earth, to prove the wisdom of God by actual
experiment, to follow the sun in its daily track, and imitate the
motions of that glorious moving mass? And then the benefits that will
flow on Castile and Aragon--are they not incalculable? I marvel that a
princess who hath shown so high and rare a spirit on all other
occasions, should shrink from so grand an enterprise as this!"

"Thou art earnest, my good de St. Angel," returned Isabella, with a
smile that betrayed no anger; "and when there is much earnestness there
is sometimes much forgetfulness. If there were honor and profit in
success, what would there be in failure? Should the king and myself send
out this Colon, with a commission to be our viceroy, forever, over
undiscovered lands, and no lands be discovered, the wisdom of our
councils might be called in question, and the dignity of the two crowns
would be fruitlessly and yet deeply committed."

"The hand of the Lord Archbishop is in this! This prelate hath never
been a believer in the justice of the navigator's theories, and it is
easy to raise objections when the feelings lean against an enterprise.
No glory is obtained without risk. Look, Your Highness, at our
neighbors, the Portuguese--how much have discoveries done for that
kingdom, and how much more may it do for us! We know, my honored
mistress, that the earth is round"--

"Are we quite certain of that important fact, Señor," asked the king,
who, attracted by the animated and unusual tones of the speaker, had
left his closet, and approached unseen. "Is that truth established? Our
doctors at Salamanca were divided on that great question, and, by St.
James! I do not see that it is so very clear."

"If not round, my Lord the King," answered de St. Angel, turning quickly
to face this new opponent, like a well-drilled corps wheeling into a new
front, "of what form _can_ it be? Will any doctor, come he of Salamanca,
or come he from elsewhere, pretend that the earth is a plain, and that
it hath limits, and that one may stand on these limits and jump down
upon the sun as he passeth beneath at night--is this reasonable, honored
Señor, or is it in conformity with scripture?"

"Will any one, doctor of Salamanca, or elsewhere," rejoined the king,
gravely, though it was evident his feelings were little interested in
the discussion, "allege that there are nations who forever walk with
their heads downward, where the rain falleth upward, and where the sea
remaineth in its bed, though its support cometh from above, and is not
placed beneath?"

"It is to explain these great mysteries, Señor Don Fernando, my gracious
master, that I would have this Colon at once go forth. We may see, nay,
we have demonstration, that the earth is a sphere, and yet we do not see
that the waters fall from its surface any where. The hull of a ship is
larger than her top-masts, and yet the last are first visible on the
ocean, which proveth that the body of the vessel is concealed by the
form of the water. This being so, and all who have voyaged on the ocean
know it to be thus, why doth not the water flow into a level, here, on
our own shores? If the earth be round, there must be means to encircle
it by water, as well as by land--to complete the entire journey, as well
as to perform a part. Colon proposeth to open the way to this exploit,
and the monarch that shall furnish the means will live in the memories
of our descendants, as one far greater than a conqueror. Remember,
illustrious Señor, that all the east is peopled with Infidels, and that
the head of the church freely bestoweth their lands on any Christian
monarch that may drag them from their benighted condition, into the
light of God's favor. Believe me, Doña Isabella, should another
sovereign grant the terms Colon requireth, and reap the advantages that
are likely to flow from such discoveries, the enemies of Spain would
make the world ring with their songs of triumph, while the whole
peninsula would mourn over this unhappy decision."

"Whither hath the Señor Colon sped?" demanded the king, quickly; all his
political jealousies being momentarily aroused by the remarks of his
receiver-general: "He hath not gone again to Don John of Portugal?"

"No, Señor, my master, but to King Louis of France, a sovereign whose
love for Aragon amounteth to a proverb."

The king muttered a few words between his teeth, and he paced the
apartment, to and fro, with a disturbed manner; for, while no man living
cared less to hazard his means, without the prospect of a certain
return, the idea of another's reaping an advantage that had been
neglected by himself, brought him at once under the control of those
feelings that always influenced his cold and calculating policy. With
Isabella the case was different. Her pious wishes had ever leaned toward
the accomplishment of Columbus' great project, and her generous nature
had sympathized deeply with the noble conception, vast moral results,
and the glory of the enterprise. Nothing but the manner in which her
mind, as well as her religious aspirations, had been occupied by the war
in Granada, had prevented her from entering earlier into a full
examination of the navigator's views; and she had yielded to the counsel
of her confessor, in denying the terms demanded by Columbus, with a
reluctance it had not been easy to overcome. Then the gentler feelings
of her sex had their influence, for, while she too reflected on what had
just been urged, her eye glanced around the room and rested on the
beautiful face of Mercedes, who sat silent from diffidence, but whose
pale, eloquent countenance betrayed all the pleadings of the pure,
enthusiastic love of woman.

"Daughter-Marchioness," asked the queen, turning as usual to her tried
friend, in her doubts, "what thinkest thou of this weighty matter? Ought
we so to humble ourselves as to recal this haughty Genoese?"

"Say not haughty, Señora, for to me he seemeth much superior to any such
feeling; but rather regard him as one that hath a just appreciation of
that he hath in view. I agree fully with the receiver-general in
thinking that Castile will be much discredited, if, in sooth, a new
world should be discovered, and they who favored the enterprise could
point to this court and remind it that the glory of the event was in its
grasp, and that it threw it away, heedlessly"--

"And this, too, on a mere point of dignity, Señora," put in St.
Angel--"on a question of parchment and of sound."

"Nay, nay"--retorted the queen--"there are those who think the honors
claimed by Colon would far exceed the service, even should the latter
equal all the representations of the Genoese himself."

"Then, my honored mistress, they know not at what the Genoese aims.
Reflect, Señora, that it will not be an every-day deed to prove that
this earth is a sphere, by actual measurement, whatever we may know in
theories. Then cometh the wealth and benefits of those eastern
possessions, a quarter of the world whence all riches flow--spices,
pearls, silks, and the most precious metals. After these, again, cometh
the great glory of God, which crowneth and exceedeth all."

Isabella crossed herself, her cheek flushed, her eye kindled, and her
matronly but fine form seemed to tower with the majesty of the feelings
that these pictures created.

"I do fear, Don Fernando," she said, "that our advisers have been
precipitate, and that the magnitude of this project may justify more
than common conditions!"

But the king entered little into the generous emotions of his royal
consort; feeling far more keenly the stings of political jealousy, than
any promptings of a liberal zeal for either the church or science. He
was generally esteemed a wise prince, a title that would seem to infer
neither a generous nor a very just one. He smiled at the kindling
enthusiasm of his wife, but continued to peruse a paper that had just
been handed to him by a secretary.

"Your Highness feels as Doña Isabella of Castile ought to feel when the
glory of God and the honor of her crown are in question," added Beatriz
de Cabrera, using that freedom of speech that her royal mistress much
encouraged in their more private intercourse. "I would rather hear you
utter the words of recall to this Colon, than again listen to the shouts
of our late triumph over the Moor."

"I know that thou lovest me, Beatriz!" exclaimed the queen: "if there is
not a true heart in that breast of thine, the fallen condition of man
does not suffer the gem to exist!"

"We all love and reverence Your Highness," continued de St. Angel, "and
we wish naught but your glory. Fancy, Señora, the page of history open,
and this great exploit of the reduction of the Moor succeeded by the
still greater deed of a discovery of an easy and swift communication
with the Indies, the spread of the church, and the flow of inexhaustible
wealth into Spain! This Colon cannot be supported by the colder and more
selfish calculations of man, but his very enterprise seeks the more
generous support of her who can risk much for God's glory and the good
of the church."

"Nay, Señor de St. Angel, thou flatterest and offendest in the same
breath."

"It is an honest nature pouring out its disappointment, my beloved
mistress, and a tongue that hath become bold through much zeal for Your
Highnesses' fame. Alas! alas! should King Louis grant the terms we have
declined, poor Spain will never lift her head again for very shame!"

"Art certain, St. Angel, that the Genoese hath gone for France?"
suddenly demanded the king, in his sharp, authoritative voice.

"I have it, Your Highness, from his own mouth. Yes, yes, he is at this
moment striving to forget our Castilian dialect, and endeavoring to suit
his tongue to the language of the Frenchman. They are bigots and
unreflecting disciples of musty prejudices, Señora, that deny the
theories of Colon. The old philosophers have reasoned in the same
manner; and though it may seem to the timid an audacious and even a
heedless adventure to sail out into the broad Atlantic, had not the
Portuguese done it he would never have found his islands. God's truth!
it maketh my blood boil, when I bethink me of what these Lusitanians
have done, while we of Aragon and Castile have been tilting with the
Infidels for a few valleys and mountains, and contending for a capital!"

"Señor, you are forgetful of the honor of the sovereigns, as well as of
the service of God," interrupted the Marchioness of Moya, who had the
tact to perceive that the receiver-general was losing sight of his
discretion, in the magnitude of his zeal. "This conquest is one of the
victories of the church, and will add lustre to the two crowns in all
future ages. The head of the church, himself, hath so recognized it, and
all good Christians should acknowledge its character."

"It is not that I undervalue this success, but that I consider the
conquest that Colon is likely to achieve over so many millions, that I
have thus spoken, Doña Beatriz."

The marchioness, whose spirit was as marked as her love for the queen,
made a sharp reply, and, for a few minutes, she and Luis de St. Angel,
with Alonzo de Quintanilla, maintained the discussion by themselves,
while Isabella conversed apart, with her husband, no one presuming to
meddle with their private conference. The queen was earnest, and
evidently much excited, but Ferdinand maintained his customary coolness
and caution, though his manner was marked with that profound respect
which the character of Isabella had early inspired, and which she
succeeded in maintaining throughout her married life. This was a picture
familiar to the courtiers, one of the sovereigns being as remarkable for
his wily prudence, as was the other for her generous and sincere ardor,
whenever impelled by a good motive. This divided discourse lasted half
an hour, the queen occasionally pausing to listen to what was passing in
the other group, and then recurring to her own arguments with her
husband.

At length Isabella left the side of Ferdinand, who coldly resumed the
perusal of a paper, and she moved slowly toward the excited party, that
was now unanimous and rather loud in the expression of its regrets--loud
for even the indulgence of so gentle a mistress. Her intention to
repress this ardor by her own presence, however, was momentarily
diverted from its object by a glimpse of the face of Mercedes, who sat
alone, her work lying neglected in her lap, listening anxiously to the
opinions that had drawn all her companions to the general circle.

"Thou takest no part in this warm discussion, child," observed the
queen, stopping before the chair of our heroine, and gazing an instant
into her eloquently expressive face. "Hast thou lost all interest in
Colon?"

"I speak not, Señora, because it becometh youth and ignorance to be
modest; but though silent, I _feel_ none the less."

"And what are thy feelings, daughter? Dost thou, too, think the services
of the Genoese cannot be bought at too high a price?"

"Since Your Highness doth me this honor," answered the lovely girl, the
blood gradually flushing her pale face, as she warmed with the
subject--"I will not hesitate to speak. I do believe this great
enterprise hath been offered to the sovereigns, as a reward for all that
they have done and endured for religion and the church. I do think that
Colon hath been guided to this court by a divine hand, and by a divine
hand hath he been kept here, enduring the long servitude of seven years,
rather than abandon his object; and I do think that this late appeal in
his favor cometh of a power and spirit that should prevail."

"Thou art an enthusiast, daughter, more especially in this cause,"
returned the queen, smiling kindly on the blushing Mercedes. "I am
greatly moved by thy wishes to aid in this enterprise!"

Thus spoke Isabella, at a moment when she had neither the leisure nor
the thought to analyze her own feelings, which were influenced by a
variety of motives, rather than by any single consideration. Even this
passing touch of woman's affections, however, contributed to give her
mind a new bias, and she joined the group, which respectfully opened as
she advanced, greatly disposed to yield to de St. Angel's well-meant
though somewhat intemperate entreaties. Still she hesitated, for her
wary husband had just been reminding her of the exhausted state of the
two treasuries, and the impoverished condition in which both crowns had
been left by the late war.

"Daughter-Marchioness," said Isabella, slightly answering the reverences
of the circle, "dost thou still think this Colon expressly called of
God, for the high purposes to which he pretendeth?"

"Señora, I say not exactly that, though I believe the Genoese hath some
such opinion of himself. But this much I do think--that Heaven beareth
in mind its faithful servitors, and when there is need of important
actions, suitable agents are chosen for the work. Now, we do know that
the church, at some day, is to prevail throughout the whole world; and
why may not this be the allotted time, as well as another? God ordereth
mysteriously, and the very adventure that so many of the learned have
scoffed at, may be intended to hasten the victory of the church. We
should remember, Your Highness, the humility with which this church
commenced; how few of the seemingly wise lent it their aid; and the high
pass of glory to which it hath reached. This conquest of the Moor
savoreth of a fulfilment of time, and his reign of seven centuries
terminated, may merely be an opening for a more glorious future."

Isabella smiled upon her friend, for this was reasoning after her own
secret thoughts; but her greater acquirements rendered her more
discriminating in her zeal, than was the case with the warm-hearted and
ardent Marchioness.

"It is not safe to affix the seal of Providence to this or that
enterprise, Daughter-Marchioness"--she answered--"and the church alone
may say what are intended for miracles, and what is left for human
agencies. What sum doth Colon need, Señor de St. Angel, to carry on the
adventure in a manner that will content him?"

"He asketh but two light caravels, my honored mistress, and three
thousand crowns--a sum that many a young spendthrift would waste on his
pleasures, in a few short weeks."

"It is not much, truly," observed Isabella, who had been gradually
kindling with the thoughts of the nobleness of the adventure; "but,
small as it is, my Lord the King doubteth if our joint coffers can, at
this moment, well bear the drain."

"Oh! it were a pity that such an occasion to serve God, such an
opportunity to increase the Christian sway, and to add to the glory of
Spain, should be lost for this trifle of gold!" exclaimed Doña Beatriz.

"It would be, truly," rejoined the queen, whose cheek now glowed with an
enthusiasm little less obvious than that which shone so brightly in the
countenance of the ardent Mercedes. "Señor de St. Angel, the king cannot
be prevailed on to enter into this affair, in behalf of Aragon; but I
take it on myself, as Queen of Castile, and, so far as it may properly
advance human interests, for the benefit of my own much-beloved people.
If the royal treasury be drained, my private jewels should suffice for
that small sum, and I will freely pledge them as surety for the gold,
rather than let this Colon depart without putting the truth of his
theories to the proof. The result, truly, is of too great magnitude, to
admit of further discussion."

An exclamation of admiration and delight escaped those present, for it
was not a usual thing for a princess to deprive herself of personal
ornaments in order to advance either the interests of the church or
those of her subjects. The receiver-general, however, soon removed all
difficulties on the score of money, by saying that his coffers could
advance the required sum, on the guarantee of the crown of Castile, and
that the jewels so freely offered, might remain in the keeping of their
royal owner.

"And now to recall Colon," observed the queen, as soon as these
preliminaries had been discussed. "He hath already departed, you say,
and no time should be lost in acquainting him with this new resolution."

"Your Highness hath here a willing courier, and one already equipped for
the road, in the person of Don Luis de Bobadilla," cried Alonzo de
Quintanilla, whose eye had been drawn to a window by the trampling of a
horse's foot; "and the man who will more joyfully bear these tidings to
the Genoese cannot be found in Santa Fé."

"'Tis scarce a service suited to one of his high station," answered
Isabella, doubtingly; "and yet we should consider every moment of delay
a wrong to Colon"--

"Nay, Señora, spare not my nephew," eagerly interposed Doña Beatriz; "he
is only too happy at being employed in doing Your Highness' pleasure."

"Let him, then, be summoned to our presence without another instant's
delay. I scarce seem to have decided, while the principal personage of
the great adventure is journeying from the court."

A page was immediately despatched in quest of the young noble, and in a
few minutes the footsteps of the latter were heard in the antechamber.
Luis entered the presence, flushed, excited, and with feelings not a
little angered, at the compelled departure of his new friend. He did not
fail to impute the blame of this occurrence to those who had the power
to prevent it; and when his dark, expressive eye met the countenance of
his sovereign, had it been in her power to read its meaning, she would
have understood that he viewed her as a person who had thwarted his
hopes on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, the influence of Doña
Isabella's pure character and gentle manners was seldom forgotten by any
who were permitted to approach her person; and his address was
respectful, if not warm.

"It is Your Highness' pleasure to command my presence," said the young
man, as soon as he made his reverences to the queen.

"I thank you for this promptitude, Don Luis, having some need of your
services. Can you tell us what hath befel the Señor Christoval Colon,
the Genoese navigator, with whom, they inform me, you have some
intimacy?"

"Forgive me, Señora, if aught unbecoming escape me; but a full heart
must be opened lest it break. The Genoese is about to shake the dust of
Spain from his shoes, and, at this moment, is on his journey to another
court, to proffer those services that this should never have rejected."

"It is plain, Don Luis, that all thy leisure time hath not been passed
in courts," returned the queen, smiling; "but we have now service for
thy roving propensities. Mount thy steed, and pursue the Señor Colon,
with the tidings that his conditions will be granted, and a request that
he will forthwith return. I pledge my royal word, to send him forth on
this enterprise, with as little delay as the necessary preparations and
a suitable prudence will allow."

"Señora! Doña Isabella! My gracious queen! Do I hear aright?"

"As a sign of the fidelity of thy senses, Don Luis, here is the pledge
of my hand."

This was said kindly, and the gracious manner in which the hand was
offered, brought a gleam of hope to the mind of the lover, which it had
not felt since he had been apprized that the queen's good opinion was
necessary to secure his happiness. Kneeling respectfully, he kissed the
hand of his sovereign, after which, without changing his attitude, he
desired to know if he should that instant depart on the duty she had
named.

"Rise, Don Luis, and lose not a moment to relieve the loaded heart of
the Genoese--I might almost say, to relieve ours, also; for,
Daughter-Marchioness, since this holy enterprise hath broken on my mind
with a sudden and almost miraculous light, it seemeth that a mountain
must lie on my breast until the Señor Christoval shall learn the truth!"

Luis de Bobadilla did not wait a second bidding, but hurried from the
presence, as fast as etiquette would allow, and the next minute he was
in the saddle. At his appearance, Mercedes had shrunk into the recess of
a window, where she now, luckily, commanded a view of the court. As her
lover gained his seat, he caught a glimpse of her form; and though the
spurs were already in his charger's flanks, the rein tightened, and the
snorting steed was thrown suddenly on his haunches. So elastic are the
feelings of youth, so deceptive and flattering the hopes of those who
love, that the glances which were exchanged were those of mutual
delight. Neither thought of all the desperate chances of the
contemplated voyage; of the probability of its want of success; or of
the many motives which might still induce the queen to withhold her
consent. Mercedes awoke first from the short trance that succeeded, for,
taking the alarm at Luis' indiscreet delay, she motioned him hurriedly
to proceed. Again the rowels were buried in the flanks of the noble
animal; fire flashed beneath his armed heels, and, at the next minute,
Don Luis de Bobadilla had disappeared.

In the mean time Columbus had pursued his melancholy journey across the
Vega. He travelled slowly, and several times, even after his companion
had left him, did he check his mule, and sit, with his head dropped upon
his breast, lost in thought, the very picture of woe. The noble
resignation that he manifested in public, nearly gave way in private,
and he felt, indeed, how hard his disappointments were to be borne. In
this desultory manner of travelling he had reached the celebrated pass
of the Bridge of Piños, the scene of many a sanguinary combat, when the
sound of a horse's hoofs first overtook his ear. Turning his head, he
recognized Luis de Bobadilla in hot pursuit, with the flanks of his
horse dyed in blood, and his breast white with foam.

"Joy! joy! a thousand times, joy, Señor Colon," shouted the eager youth,
even before he was near enough to be distinctly heard. "Blessed Maria be
praised! Joy! Señor, joy! and naught but joy!"

"This is unexpected, Don Luis," exclaimed the navigator, "What meaneth
thy return!"

Luis now attempted to explain his errand, but eagerness and the want of
breath rendered his ideas confused and his utterance broken and
imperfect.

"And why should I return to a hesitating, cold, and undecided court?"
demanded Columbus. "Have I not wasted years in striving to urge it to
its own good? Look at these hairs, young Señor, and remember that I have
lost a time that nearly equals all thy days, in striving uselessly to
convince the rulers of this peninsula that my project is founded on
truth."

"At length you have succeeded. Isabella, the true-hearted and
never-deceiving Queen of Castile, herself hath awoke to the importance
of thy scheme, and pledges her royal word to favor it."

"Is this true? _Can_ this be true, Don Luis?"

"I am sent to you express, Señor, to urge your immediate return."

"By whom, young Lord?"

"By Doña Isabella, my gracious mistress, through her own personal
commands."

"I cannot forego a single condition already offered."

"It is not expected, Señor. Our excellent and generous mistress granteth
all you ask, and hath nobly offered, as I learn, to pledge her private
jewels, rather than that the enterprise fail."

Columbus was deeply touched with this information, and, removing his
cap, he concealed his face with it for a moment, as if ashamed to betray
the weakness that came over him. When he uncovered his face it was
radiant with happiness, and every doubt appeared to have vanished. Years
of suffering were forgotten in that moment of joy, and he immediately
signified his readiness to accompany the youth back to Santa Fé.



CHAPTER IX.

    "How beautiful is genius when combined
    With holiness! Oh! how divinely sweet
    The tones of earthly harp, whose cords are touch'd
    By the soft hand of Piety, and hung
    Upon Religion's shrine, there vibrating
    With solemn music in the air of God!"

    John Wilson.


Columbus was received by his friends, Luis de St. Angel and Alonzo de
Quintanilla, with a gratification they found it difficult to express.
They were loud in their eulogiums on Isabella, and added to the
assurances of Don Luis, such proofs of the seriousness of the queen's
intentions, as to remove all doubts from the mind of the navigator. He
was then, without further delay, conducted to the presence.

"Señor Colon," said Isabella, as the Genoese advanced and knelt at her
feet, "you are welcome back again. All our misunderstandings are finally
removed, and henceforth, I trust that we shall act cheerfully and
unitedly to produce the same great end. Rise, Señor, and receive this as
a gage of my support and friendship."

Columbus saluted the offered hand, and arose from his knees. At that
instant, there was probably no one present whose feelings were not
raised to the buoyancy of hope; for it was a peculiarity connected with
the origin and execution of this great enterprise, that, after having
been urged for so long a period, amid sneers, and doubts, and ridicule,
it was at first adopted with something very like enthusiasm.

"Señora," returned Columbus, whose grave aspect and noble mien
contributed not a little to the advancement of his views--"Señora, my
heart thanks you for this kindness--so welcome because so little hoped
for this morning--and God will reward it. We have great things in
reserve, and I devoutly wish we may all be found equal to our several
duties. I hope my Lord the King will not withhold from my undertaking
the light of his gracious countenance."

"You are a servitor of Castile, Señor Colon, though little is attempted
for even this kingdom, without the approbation and consent of the King
of Aragon. Don Fernando hath been gained over to our side, though his
greater caution and superior wisdom have not as easily fallen into the
measure, as woman's faith and woman's hopes."

"I ask no higher wisdom, no truer faith than those of Isabella's," said
the navigator, with a grave dignity that rendered the compliment so much
the more acceptable, by giving it every appearance of sincerity. "Her
known prudence shall turn from me the derision of the light-minded and
idle, and on her royal word I place all my hopes. Henceforth, and I
trust forever, I am Your Highness' subject and servant."

The queen was deeply impressed with the air of lofty truth that elevated
the thoughts and manners of the speaker. Hitherto she had seen but
little of the navigator, and never before under circumstances that
enabled her so thoroughly to feel the influence of his air and
deportment. Columbus had not the finish of manner that it is fancied
courts only can bestow, and which it would be more just to refer to
lives devoted to habits of pleasing; but the character of the man shone
through the exterior, and, in his case, all that artificial training
could supply fell short of the noble aspect of nature, sustained by high
aspirations. To a commanding person, and a gravity that was heightened
by the loftiness of his purposes, Columbus added the sober earnestness
of a deeply-seated and an all-pervading enthusiasm, which threw the
grace of truth and probity on what he said and did. No quality of his
mind was more apparent than its sense of right, as right was then
considered in connection with the opinions of the age; and it is a
singular circumstance that the greatest adventure of modern times was
thus confided by Providence, as it might be with especial objects, to
the care of a sovereign and to the hands of an executive leader, who
were equally distinguished by the possession of so rare a
characteristic.

"I thank you, Señor, for this proof of confidence," returned the queen,
both surprised and gratified; "and so long as God giveth me power to
direct, and knowledge to decide, your interests as well as those of this
long-cherished scheme, shall be looked to. But we are not to exclude the
king from our confederacy, since he hath been finally gained to our
opinions, and no doubt now as anxiously looketh forward to success as we
do ourselves."

Columbus bowed his acquiescence, and the conjugal affection of Isabella
was satisfied with this concession to her husband's character and
motives; for, while it was impossible that one so pure and ardent in the
cause of virtue, and as disinterested as the queen, should not detect
some of the selfishness of Ferdinand's cautious policy, the feelings of
a wife so far prevailed in her breast over the sagacity of the
sovereign, as to leave her blind to faults that the enemies of Aragon
were fond of dwelling on. All admitted the truth of Isabella, but
Ferdinand had far less credit with his contemporaries, either on the
score of faith or on that of motives. Still he might have been ranked
among the most upright of the reigning princes of Europe, his faults
being rendered more conspicuous, perhaps, from being necessarily placed
in such close connection with, and in such vivid contrast to, the truer
virtues of the queen. In short, these two sovereigns, so intimately
united by personal and political interests, merely exhibited on their
thrones a picture that may be seen, at any moment, in all the inferior
gradations of the social scale, in which the worldly views and
meretricious motives of man serve as foils to the truer heart, sincerer
character, and more chastened conduct of woman.

Don Fernando now appeared, and he joined in the discourse in a manner to
show that he considered himself fully committed to redeem the pledges
given by his wife. The historians have told us that he had been won over
by the intercessions of a favorite, though the better opinion would seem
to be that deference for Isabella, whose pure earnestness in the cause
of virtue often led him from his more selfish policy, lay at the bottom
of his compliance. Whatever may have been the motive, however, it is
certain that the king never entered into the undertaking with the
ardent, zealous endeavors to insure success, which from that moment
distinguished the conduct of his royal consort.

"We have recovered our truant," said Isabella, as her husband
approached, her eyes lighting and her cheeks flushed with a pious
enthusiasm, like those of Mercedes de Valverde, who was an entranced
witness of all that was passing. "We have recovered our truant, and
there is not a moment of unnecessary delay to be permitted, until he
shall be sent forth on this great voyage. Should he truly attain Cathay
and the Indies, it will be a triumph to the church even exceeding this
conquest of the territories of the Moor."

"I am pleased to see the Señor Colon at Santa Fé, again," courteously
returned the king, "and if he but do the half of that thou seemest to
expect, we shall have reason to rejoice that our countenance hath not
been withheld. He may not render the crown of Castile still more
powerful, but he may so far enrich himself that, as a subject, he will
have difficulty in finding the proper uses for his gold."

"There will always be a use for the gold of a Christian," answered the
navigator, "while the Infidel remaineth the master of the Holy
Sepulchre."

"How is this!" exclaimed Ferdinand, in his quick, sharp voice: "dost
thou think, Señor, of a crusade, as well as of discovering new regions?"

"Such, Your Highness, it hath long been my hope, would be the first
appropriation of the wealth that will, out of question, flow from the
discovery of a new and near route to the Indies. Is it not a blot on
Christendom that the Mussulman should be permitted to raise his profane
altars on the spot that Christ visited on earth; where, indeed he was
born, and where his holy remains lay until his glorious resurrection?
This foul disgrace there are hearts and swords enough ready to wipe out;
all that is wanted is gold. If the first desire of my heart be to become
the instrument of leading the way to the East, by a western and direct
passage, the second is, to see the riches that will certainly follow
such a discovery, devoted to the service of God, by rearing anew his
altars and reviving his worship, in the land where he endured his agony
and gave up the ghost for the sins of men."

Isabella smiled at the navigator's enthusiasm, though, sooth to say, the
sentiment found something of an echo in her pious bosom; albeit the age
of crusades appeared to have gone by. Not so exactly with Ferdinand. He
smiled also, but no answering sentiment of holy zeal was awakened within
him. He felt, on the contrary, a strong distrust of the wisdom of
committing the care of even two insignificant caravels, and the fate of
a sum as small as three thousand crowns, to a visionary, who had
scarcely made a commencement in one extremely equivocal enterprise,
before his thoughts were running on the execution of another, that had
baffled the united efforts and pious constancy of all Europe. To him,
the discovery of a western passage to the Indies, and the repossession
of the holy sepulchre, were results that were equally problematical, and
it would have been quite sufficient to incur his distrust, to believe in
the practicability of either. Here, however, was a man who was about to
embark in an attempt to execute the first, holding in reserve the last,
as a consequence of success in the undertaking in which he was already
engaged.

There were a few minutes, during which Ferdinand seriously contemplated
the defeat of the Genoese's schemes, and had the discourse terminated
here, it is uncertain how far his cool and calculating policy might have
prevailed over the good faith, sincere integrity, and newly awakened
enthusiasm of his wife. Fortunately, the conversation had gone on while
he was meditating on this subject, and when he rejoined the circle he
found the queen and the navigator pursuing the subject with an
earnestness that had entirely overlooked his momentary absence.

"I shall show Your Highness all that she demandeth," continued Columbus,
in answer to a question of the queen's. "It is my expectation to reach
the territories of the Great Khan, the descendant of the monarch who was
visited by the Polos, a century since; at which time a strong desire to
embrace the religion of Christ was manifested by many in that gorgeous
court, the sovereign included. We are told in the sacred books of
prophecy, that the day is to arrive when the whole earth will worship
the true and living God; and that time, it would seem, from many signs
and tokens that are visible to those who seek them, draweth near, and is
full of hope to such as honor God and seek his glory. To bring all those
vast regions in subjection to the church, needeth but a constant faith,
sustained by the delegated agencies of the priesthood, and the
protecting hands of princes."

"This hath a seeming probability," observed the queen, "and Providence
so guide us in this mighty undertaking, that it may come to pass! Were
those Polos pious missionaries, Señor?"

"They were but travellers; men who sought their own advantage, while
they were not altogether unmindful of the duties of religion. It may be
well, Señora, first to plant the cross in the islands, and thence to
spread the truth over the main land. Cipango, in particular, is a
promising region for the commencement of the glorious work, which, no
doubt, will proceed with all the swiftness of a miracle."

"Is this Cipango known to produce spices, or aught that may serve to
uphold a sinking treasury, and repay us for so much cost and risk?"
asked the king, a little inopportunely for the zeal of the two other
interlocutors.

Isabella looked pained, the prevailing trait in Ferdinand's character
often causing her to feel as affectionate wives are wont to feel when
their husbands forget to think, act, or speak up to the level of their
own warm-hearted and virtuous propensities; but she suffered no other
sign of the passing emotions to escape her.

"According to the accounts of Marco Polo, Your Highness," answered
Columbus, "earth hath no richer island. It aboundeth especially in gold;
nor are pearls and precious stones at all rare. But all that region is a
quarter of infinite wealth and benighted infidelity. Providence seemeth
to have united the first with the last, as a reward to the Christian
monarch who shall use his power to extend the sway of the church. The
sea, thereabouts, is covered with smaller islands, Marco telling us that
no less than seven thousand four hundred and forty have been enumerated,
not one of all which doth not produce some odoriferous tree, or plant of
delicious perfume. It is then, thither, gracious Lord and Lady, my
honored sovereigns, that I propose to proceed at once, leaving all
meaner objects, to exalt the two kingdoms and to serve the church.
Should we reach Cipango in safety, as, by the blessing of God, acting on
a zeal and faith that are not easily shaken, I trust we shall be able to
do, in the course of two months' diligent navigation, it will be my next
purpose to pass over to the continent, and seek the Khan himself, in his
kingdom of Cathay. The day that my foot touches the land of Asia will be
a glorious day for Spain, and for all who have had a part in the
accomplishment of so great an enterprise!"

Ferdinand's keen eyes were riveted on the navigator, as he thus betrayed
his hopes with the quiet but earnest manner of deep enthusiasm, and he
might have been at a loss, himself, just at that moment, to have
analyzed his own feelings. The picture of wealth that Columbus had
conjured to his imagination, was as enticing, as his cold and
calculating habits of distrust and caution rendered it questionable.
Isabella heard only, or thought only, of the pious longings of her pure
spirit for the conversion and salvation of the Infidels, and thus each
of the two sovereigns had a favorite impulse to bind him, or her, to the
prosecution of the voyage.

After this, the conversation entered more into details, and the heads of
the terms demanded by Columbus were gone over again, and approved of by
those who were most interested in the matter. All thought of the
archbishop and his objections was momentarily lost, and had the Genoese
been a monarch, treating with monarchs, he could not have had more
reason to be satisfied with the respectful manner in which his terms
were heard. Even his proposal to receive one-eighth of the profits of
this, and all future expeditions to the places he might discover, on
condition of his advancing an equal proportion of the outfits, was
cheerfully acceded to; making him, at once, a partner with the crown, in
the risks and benefits of the many undertakings that it was hoped would
follow from the success of this.

Luis de St. Angel and Alonzo de Quintanilla quitted the royal presence,
in company with Columbus. They saw him to his lodgings, and left him
with a respect and cordiality of manner, that cheered a heart which had
lately been so bruised and disappointed. As they walked away in company,
the former, who, notwithstanding the liberality of his views and his
strong support of the navigator, was not apt to suppress his thoughts,
opened a dialogue in the following manner.

"By all the saints! friend Alonzo," he exclaimed, "but this Colon
carrieth it with a high hand among us, and in a way, sometimes, to make
me doubt the prudence of our interference. He hath treated with the two
sovereigns like a monarch, and like a monarch hath he carried his
point!"

"Who hath aided him more than thyself, friend Luis?" returned

Alonzo de Quintanilla; "for, without thy bold assault on Doña Isabella's
patience, the matter had been decided against this voyage, and the
Genoese would still be on his way to the court of King Louis."

"I regret it not; the chance of keeping the Frenchman within modest
bounds being worth a harder effort. Her Highness--Heaven and all the
saints unite to bless her for her upright intentions and generous
thoughts--will never regret the trifling cost, even though bootless,
with so great an aim in view. But now the thing is done, I marvel,
myself, that a Queen of Castile and a King of Aragon should grant such
conditions to an unknown and nameless sea-farer; one that hath neither
services, family, nor gold, to recommend him!"

"Hath he not had Luis de St. Angel of his side?"

"That hath he," returned the receiver-general, "and that right stoutly,
too; and for good and sufficient cause. I only marvel at our success,
and at the manner in which this Colon hath borne himself in the affair.
I much feared that the high price he set upon his services might ruin
all our hopes."

"And yet thou didst reason with the queen, as if thou thoughtst it
insignificant, compared with the good that would come of the voyage."

"Is there aught wonderful in this, my worthy friend? We consume our
means in efforts to obtain our ends, and, while suffering under the
exhaustion, begin first to see the other side of the question. I am
chiefly surprised at mine own success! As for this Genoese, he is,
truly, a most wonderful man, and, in my heart, I think him right in
demanding such high conditions. If he succeed, who so great as he? and,
if he fail, the conditions will do him no good, and Castile little
harm."

"I have remarked, Señor de St Angel, that when grave men set a light
value on themselves, the world is apt to take them at their word, though
willing enough to laugh at the pretensions of triflers. After all, the
high demands of Colon may have done him much service, since their
Highnesses could not but feel that they were negotiating with one who
had faith in his own projects."

"It is much as thou sayest, Alonzo; men often prizing us as we seem to
prize ourselves, so long as we act at all up to the level of our
pretensions. But there is sterling merit in this Colon to sustain him in
all that he sayeth and doth; wisdom of speech, dignity and gravity of
mien, and nobleness of feeling and sentiment. Truly, I have listened to
the man when he hath seemed inspired!"

"Well, he hath now good occasion to manifest whether this inspiration be
of the true quality or not," returned the other. "Of a verity, I often
distrust the wisdom of our own conclusions."

In this manner did even these two zealous friends of Columbus discuss
his character and chances of success; for, while they were among the
most decided of his supporters, and had discovered the utmost readiness
to uphold him when his cause seemed hopeless, now that the means were
likely to be afforded to allow him to demonstrate the justice of his
opinions, doubts and misgivings beset their minds. Such is human nature.
Opposition awakens our zeal, quickens our apprehension, stimulates our
reason, and emboldens our opinions; while, thrown back upon ourselves
for the proofs of what we have been long stoutly maintaining under the
pressure of resistance, we begin to distrust the truth of our own
theories and to dread the demonstrations of a failure. Even the first
disciples of the Son of God faltered most in their faith as his
predictions were being realized; and most reformers are never so
dogmatical and certain as when battling for their principles, or so
timid and wavering as when they are about to put their own
long-cherished plans in execution. In all this we might see a wise
provision of Providence, which gives us zeal to overcome difficulties,
and prudence when caution and moderation become virtues rather than
faults.

Although Luis de St. Angel and his friend conversed thus freely
together, however, they did not the less continue true to their original
feelings. Their doubts were transient and of little account; and it was
remarked of them, whenever they were in the presence of Columbus
himself, that the calm, steady, but deeply seated enthusiasm of that
extraordinary man, did not fail to carry with him the opinions, not only
of these steady supporters, but those of most other listeners.



CHAPTER X.

                  --"Song is on thy hills:
    Oh, sweet and mournful melodies of Spain,
    That lull'd my boyhood, how your memory thrills
    The exile's heart with sudden-wakening pain."

    The Forest Sanctuary.


From the moment that Isabella pledged her royal word to support Columbus
in his great design, all reasonable doubts of the sailing of the
expedition ceased, though few anticipated any results of importance. Of
so much greater magnitude, indeed, did the conquest of the kingdom of
Granada appear, at that instant, than any probable consequences which
could follow from this novel enterprise, that the latter was almost
overlooked in the all-absorbing interest that was connected with the
former.

There was one youthful and generous heart, however, all of whose hopes
were concentrated in the success of the great voyage. It is scarcely
necessary to add, we mean that of Mercedes de Valverde. She had watched
the recent events as they occurred, with an intensity of expectation
that perhaps none but the youthful, fervent, inexperienced, and
uncorrupted, can feel: and now that all her hopes were about to be
realized, a tender and generous joy diffused itself over her whole moral
system, in a way to render her happiness, for the time, even blissful.
Although she loved so truly and with so much feminine devotedness,
nature had endowed this warm-hearted young creature with a sagacity and
readiness of apprehension, which, when quickened by the sentiments that
are so apt to concentrate all the energies of her sex, showed her the
propriety of the distrust of the queen and her guardian, and fully
justified their hesitation in her eyes, which were rather charmed than
blinded by the ascendency of her passion. She knew too well what was due
to her virgin fame, her high expectations, her great name, and her
elevated position near the person, and in the immediate confidence of
Isabella, even to wish her hand unworthily bestowed; and while she
deferred, with the dignity and discretion of birth and female decorum,
to all that opinion and prudence could have a right to ask of a noble
maiden, she confided in her lover's power to justify her choice, with
the boundless confidence of a woman. Her aunt had taught her to believe
that this voyage of the Genoese was likely to lead to great events, and
her religious enthusiasm, like that of the queen's, led her to expect
most of that which she so fervently wished.

During the time it was known to those near the person of Isabella, that
the conditions between the sovereigns and the navigators were being
reduced to writing and were receiving the necessary forms, Luis neither
sought an interview with his mistress, nor was accidentally favored in
that way; but, no sooner was it understood Columbus had effected all
that he deemed necessary in this particular, and had quitted the court
for the coast, than the young man threw himself, at once, on the
generosity of his aunt, beseeching her to favor his views now that he
was about to leave Spain on an adventure that most regarded as
desperate. All he asked was a pledge of being well received by his
mistress and her friends, on his return successful.

"I see that thou hast taken a lesson from this new master of thine,"
answered the high-souled but kind-hearted Beatriz, smiling--"and would
fain have thy terms also. But thou knowest, Luis, that Mercedes de
Valverde is no peasant's child to be lightly cared for, but that she
cometh of the noblest blood of Spain, having had a Guzman for a mother,
and Mendozas out of number among her kinsmen. She is, moreover, one of
the richest heiresses of Castile; and it would ill become her guardian
to forget her watchfulness, under such circumstances, in behalf of one
of the idle wanderers of Christendom, simply because he happeneth to be
her own beloved brother's son."

"And if the Doña Mercedes be all thou sayest, Señora--and thou hast not
even touched upon her highest claims to merit, her heart, her beauty,
her truth, and her thousand virtues--but if she be all that thou sayest,
Doña Beatriz, is a Bobadilla unworthy of her?"

"How! if she be, moreover, all _thou_ sayest too, Don Luis! The heart,
the truth, and the thousand virtues! Methinks a shorter catalogue might
content one who is himself so great a rover, lest some of these
qualities be lost in his many journeys!"

Luis laughed, in spite of himself, at the affected seriousness of his
aunt; and then successfully endeavoring to repress a little resentment
that her language awakened, he answered in a way to do no discredit to a
well-established reputation for good-nature.

"I cannot call thee 'Daughter-Marchioness,' in imitation of Her
Highness," he answered, with a coaxing smile, so like that her deceased
brother was wont to use when disposed to wheedle her out of some
concession, that it fairly caused Doña Beatriz to start--"but I can say
with more truth, 'Aunt-Marchioness,'--and a very dear aunt, too--wilt
thou visit a little youthful indiscretion so severely? I had hoped, now
Colon was about to set forth, that all was forgotten in the noble and
common end we have in view."

"Luis," returned the aunt, regarding her nephew with the severe
resolution that was so often exhibited in her acts as well as in her
words, "dost think that a mere display of courage will prove sufficient
to win Mercedes from me? to put to sleep the vigilance of her friends?
to gain the approbation of her guardian? Learn, too confident boy, that
Mercedes de Guzman was the companion of my childhood; my warmest,
dearest friend, next to Her Highness; and that she put all faith in my
disposition to do full justice by her child. She died by slow degrees,
and the fate of the orphan was often discussed between us. That she
could ever become the wife of any but a Christian noble, neither of us
imagined possible; but there are so many different characters under the
same outward professions, that names deceived us not. I do believe that
poor woman bethought her more of her child's future worldly fortunes
than of her own sins, and that she prayed oftener for the happy
conclusion of the first than for the pardon of the last! Thou knowest
little of the strength of a mother's love, Luis, and canst not
understand all the doubts that beset the heart, when the parent is
compelled to leave a tender plant, like Mercedes, to the cold nursing of
a selfish and unfeeling world."

"I can readily fancy the mother of my love fitted for heaven without the
usual interpositions of masses and paters, Doña Beatriz; but have aunts
no consideration for nephews, as well as mothers for children?"

"The tie is close and strong, my child, and yet is it not parental; nor
art thou a sensitive, true-hearted, enthusiastic girl, filled with the
confidence of thy purity, and overflowing with the affections that, in
the end, make mothers what they are."

"By San Iago! and am I not the very youth to render such a creature
happy? I, too, am sensitive--too much so, in sooth, for my own peace; I,
too, am true-hearted, as is seen by my having had but this one love,
when I might have had fifty; and if I am not exactly overflowing with
the confidence of purity, I have the confidence of youth, health,
strength, and courage, which is quite as useful for a cavalier; and I
have abundance of the affection that makes good fathers, which is all
that can reasonably be asked of a man."

"Thou, then, thinkest thyself, truant, every way worthy to be the
husband of Mercedes de Valverde?"

"Nay, aunt of mine, thou hast a searching way with thy questions! Who
is, or can be, exactly worthy of so much excellence? I may not be
altogether _deserving_ of her, but then again, I am not altogether
_undeserving_ of her. I am quite as noble, nearly as well endowed with
estates, of suitable years, of fitting address as a knight, and love her
better than I love my own soul. Methinks the last should count for
something, since he that loveth devotedly, will surely strive to render
its object happy."

"Thou art a silly, inexperienced boy, with a most excellent heart, a
happy, careless disposition, and a head that was made to hold better
thoughts than commonly reside there!" exclaimed the aunt, giving way to
an impulse of natural feeling, even while she frowned on her nephew's
folly. "But, hear me, and for once think gravely, and reflect on what I
say. I have told thee of the mother of Mercedes, of her dying doubts,
her anxiety, and of her confidence in me. Her Highness and I were alone
with her, the morning of the day that her spirit took its flight to
heaven; and then she poured out all her feelings, in a way that has left
on us both an impression that can never cease, while aught can be done
by either for the security of the daughter's happiness. Thou hast
thought the queen unkind. I know not but, in thy intemperate speech,
thou hast dared to charge Her Highness with carrying her care for her
subjects' well-being beyond a sovereign's rights"--

"Nay, Doña Beatriz," hastily interrupted Luis, "herein thou dost me
great injustice. I may have felt--no doubt I have keenly, bitterly, felt
the consequences of Doña Isabella's distrust of my constancy; but never
has rebel thought of mine even presumed to doubt her right to command
all our services, as well as all our lives. This is due to her sacred
authority from all; but we, who so well know the heart and motives of
the queen, also know that she doth naught from caprice or a desire to
rule; while she doth so much from affection to her people."

As Don Luis uttered this with an earnest look, and features flushed with
sincerity, it was impossible not to see that he meant as much as he
said. If men considered the consequences that often attend their
lightest words, less levity of speech would be used, and the office of
tale-bearer, the meanest station in the whole catalogue of social rank,
would become extinct for want of occupation. Few cared less, or thought
less, about the consequences of what they uttered, than Luis de
Bobadilla; and yet this hasty but sincere reply did him good service
with more than one of those who exercised a material influence over his
fortunes. The honest praise of the queen went directly to the heart of
the Marchioness, who rather idolized than loved her royal mistress, the
long and close intimacy that had existed between them having made her
thoroughly acquainted with the pure and almost holy character of
Isabella; and when she repeated the words of her nephew to the latter,
her own well-established reputation for truth caused them to be
implicitly believed. Whatever may be the correctness of our views in
general, one of the most certain ways to the feelings is the assurance
of being respected and esteemed; while, of all the divine mandates, the
most difficult to find obedience is that which tells us to "love those
who hate" us. Isabella, notwithstanding her high destiny and lofty
qualities, was thoroughly a woman; and when she discovered that, in
spite of her own coldness to the youth, he really entertained so much
profound deference for her character, and appreciated her feelings and
motives in a way that conscience told her she merited, she was much
better disposed to look at his peculiar faults with indulgence, and to
ascribe that to mere animal spirits, which, under less favorable
auspices, might possibly have been mistaken for ignoble propensities.

But this is a little anticipating events. The first consequence of Luis'
speech was a milder expression in the countenance of his aunt, and a
disposition to consider his entreaties to be admitted to a private
interview with Mercedes, with more indulgence.

"I may have done thee injustice in this, Luis," resumed Doña Beatriz,
betraying in her manner the sudden change of feeling mentioned; "for I
do think thee conscious of thy duty to Her Highness, and of the almost
heavenly sense of justice that reigneth in her heart, and through that
heart, in Castile. Thou hast not lost in my esteem by thus exhibiting
thy respect and love for the queen, for it is impossible to have any
regard for female virtue, and not to manifest it to its best
representative."

"Do I not, also, dear aunt, in my attachment to thy ward? Is not my very
choice, in some sort, a pledge of the truth and justice of my feelings
in these particulars?"

"Ah! Luis de Bobadilla, it is not difficult to teach the heart to lean
toward the richest and the noblest, when she happeneth also to be the
fairest, maiden of Spain!"

"And am I a hypocrite, Marchioness? Dost thou accuse the son of thy
brother of being a feigner of that which he doth not feel?--one
influenced by so mean a passion as the love of gold and of lands?"

"Foreign lands, heedless boy," returned the aunt, smiling, "but not of
others' lands. No, Luis, none that know thee will accuse thee of
hypocrisy. We believe in the truth and ardor of thy attachment, and it
is for that very cause that we most distrust thy passion."

"How! Are feigned feelings of more repute with the queen and thyself,
than real feelings? A spurious and fancied love, than the honest,
downright, manly passion."

"It is this genuine feeling, this honest, downright, manly passion, as
thou termest it, which is most apt to awaken sympathy in the tender
bosom of a young girl. There is no truer touch-stone, by which to try
the faithfulness of feelings, than the heart, when the head is not
turned by vanity; and the more unquestionable the passion, the easier is
it for its subject to make the discovery. Two drops of water do not
glide together more naturally than two hearts, nephew, when there is a
strong affinity between them. Didst thou not really love Mercedes, as my
near and dear relative, thou mightst laugh and sing in her company at
all times that should be suitable for the dignity of a maiden, and it
would not cause me an uneasy moment."

"I am thy near and dear relative, aunt of mine, with a miracle! and yet
it is more difficult for me to get a sight of thy ward"--

"Who is the especial care of the Queen of Castile."

"Well, be it so; and why should a Bobadilla be proscribed by even a
Queen of Castile?"

Luis then had recourse to his most persuasive powers, and, improving the
little advantage he had gained, by dint of coaxing and teasing he so far
prevailed on Doña Beatriz as to obtain a promise that she would apply to
the queen for permission to grant him one private interview with
Mercedes. We say the queen, since Isabella, distrusting the influence of
blood, had cautioned the Marchioness on this subject; and the prudence
of letting the young people see each other as little as possible, had
been fully settled between them. It was in redeeming this promise, that
the aunt related the substance of the conversation that has just been
given, and mentioned to her royal mistress the state of her nephew's
feelings as respected herself. The effect of such information was
necessarily favorable to the young man's views, and one of its first
fruits was the desired permission to have the interview he sought.

"They are not sovereigns," remarked the queen, with a smile that the
favorite could see was melancholy, though it surpassed her means of
penetration to say whether it proceeded from a really saddened feeling,
or whether it were merely the manner in which the mind is apt to glance
backward at emotions that it is known can never be again awakened in our
bosoms;--"they are not sovereigns, Daughter-Marchioness, to woo by
proxy, and wed as strangers. It may not be wise to suffer the
intercourse to become too common, but it were cruel to deny the youth,
as he is about to depart on an enterprise of so doubtful issue, one
opportunity to declare his passion and to make his protestations of
constancy. If thy ward hath, in truth, any tenderness for him, the
recollection of this interview will soothe many a weary hour while Don
Luis is away."

"And add fuel to the flame," returned Doña Beatriz, pointedly.

"We know not that, my good Beatriz, since, the heart being softened by
the power of God to a sense of its religious duties, may not the same
kind hand direct it and shield it in the indulgence of its more worldly
feelings? Mercedes will never forget her duty, and, the imagination
feeding itself, it may not be the wisest course to leave that of an
enthusiast like our young charge, so entirely to its own pictures.
Realities are often less hazardous than the creatures of the fancy.
Then, thy nephew will not be a loser by the occasion, for, by keeping
constantly in view the object he now seemeth to pursue so earnestly, he
will the more endeavor to deserve success."

"I much fear, Señora, that the best conclusions are not to be depended
on in an affair that touches the waywardness of the feelings."

"Perhaps not, Beatriz; and yet I do not see that we can well deny this
interview, now that Don Luis is so near departure. Tell him I accord him
that which he so desireth, and let him bear in mind that a grandee
should never quit Castile without presenting himself before his
sovereign."

"I fear, Your Highness," returned the Marchioness, laughing, "that Don
Luis will feel this last command, however gracious and kind in fact, as
a strong rebuke, since he hath more than once done this already, without
even presenting himself before his own aunt!"

"On those occasions he went idly, and without consideration; but he is
now engaged in an honorable and noble enterprise, and we will make it
apparent to him that all feel the difference."

The conversation now changed, it being understood that the request of
the young man was to be granted. Isabella had, in this instance,
departed from a law she had laid down for her own government, under the
influence of her womanly feelings, which often caused her to forget that
she was a queen, when no very grave duties existed to keep alive the
recollection; for it would have been difficult to decide in which light
this pure-minded and excellent female most merited the esteem of
mankind--in her high character as a just and conscientious sovereign, or
when she acted more directly under the gentler impulses of her sex. As
for her friend, she was perhaps more tenacious of doing what she
conceived to be her duty, by her ward, than the queen herself; since,
with a greater responsibility, she was exposed to the suspicion of
acting with a design to increase the wealth and to strengthen the
connections of her own family. Still, the wishes of Isabella were laws
to the Marchioness of Moya, and she sought an early opportunity to
acquaint her ward with her intention to allow Don Luis, for once, to
plead his own cause with his mistress, before he departed on his
perilous and mysterious enterprise.

Our heroine received this intelligence with the mingled sensations of
apprehension, delight, misgivings, and joy, that are so apt to beset the
female heart, in the freshness of its affections, when once brought in
subjection to the master-passion. She had never thought it possible Luis
would sail on an expedition like that in which he was engaged, without
endeavoring to see her alone; but, now she was assured that both the
queen and her guardian acquiesced in his being admitted, she almost
regretted their compliance. These contradictory emotions, however, soon
subsided in the tender melancholy that gradually drew around her manner,
as the hour for the departure approached. Nor were her feelings on the
subject of Luis' ready enlistment in the expedition, more consistent. At
times she exulted in her lover's resolution, and in his manly devotion
to glory and the good of the church; remembering with pride that, of all
the high nobility of Castile, he alone ventured life and credit with the
Genoese; and then, again, tormenting doubts came over her, as she feared
that the love of roving, and of adventure, was quite as active in his
heart, as love of herself. But in all this there was nothing new. The
more pure and ingenuous the feelings of those who truly submit to the
influence of this passion, the more keenly alive are their distrusts apt
to be, and the more tormenting their misgivings of themselves.

Her mind made up, Doña Beatriz acted fairly by the young people. As soon
as Luis was admitted to her own presence, on the appointed morning, she
told him that he was expected by Mercedes, who was waiting his
appearance in the usual reception-room. Scarce giving himself time to
kiss the hand of his aunt, and to make those other demonstrations of
respect that the customs of the age required from the young to their
seniors--more especially when there existed between them a tie of blood
as close as that which united the Marchioness of Moya with the Conde de
Llera--the young man bounded away, and was soon in the presence of his
mistress. As Mercedes was prepared for the interview, she betrayed the
feeling of the moment merely by a heightened color, and the greater
lustre of eyes that were always bright, though often so soft and
melancholy.

"Luis!" escaped from her, and then, as if ashamed of the emotion
betrayed in the very tones of her voice, she withdrew the foot that had
involuntarily advanced to meet him, even while she kept a hand extended
in friendly confidence.

"Mercedes!" and the hand was withdrawn to put a stop to the kisses with
which it was covered. "Thou art harder to be seen, of late, than it will
be to discover this Cathay of the Genoese; for, between the Doña
Isabella and Doña Beatriz, never was paradise watched more closely by
guardian angels, than thy person is watched by thy protectors."

"And can it be necessary, Luis, when thou art the danger apprehended?"

"Do they think I shall carry thee off, like some Moorish girl borne away
on the crupper of a Christian knight's saddle, and place thee in the
caravel of Colon, that we may go in search of Prestor John and the Great
Khan, in company?"

"They may think _thee_ capable of this act of madness, dear Luis, but
they will hardly suspect _me_."

"No, thou art truly a model of prudence in all matters that require
feeling for thy lover."

"Luis!" exclaimed the girl, again; and this time unbidden tears started
to her eyes.

"Forgive me, Mercedes--dearest, dearest Mercedes; but this delay and all
these coldly cruel precautions make me forget myself. Am I a needy and
unknown adventurer, that they treat me thus, instead of being a noble
Castilian knight!"

"Thou forgettest, Luis, that noble Castilian maidens are not wont to see
even noble Castilian cavaliers alone, and, but for the gracious
condescension of Her Highness, and the indulgence of my guardian, who
happeneth to be thy aunt, this interview could not take place."

"Alone! And dost thou call this being alone, or any excessive favor, on
the part of Her Highness, when thou seest that we are watched by the
eye, if not by the ear! I fear to speak above my breath, lest the sounds
should disturb that venerable lady's meditations!"

As Luis de Bobadilla uttered this, he glanced his eye at the figure of
the dueña of his mistress, whose person was visible through an open
door, in an adjoining room, where the good woman sat, intently occupied
in reading certain homilies.

"Dost mean my poor Pepita," answered Mercedes, laughing; for the
presence of her attendant, to whom she had been accustomed from infancy,
was no more restraint on her own innocent thoughts and words, than would
have proved a reduplication of herself, had such a thing been possible.
"Many have been her protestations against this meeting, which she
insists is contrary to all rule among noble ladies, and which, she says,
would never have been accorded by my poor, sainted mother, were she
still living."

"Ay, she hath a look that is sufficient of itself to set every generous
mind a-tilting with her. One can see envy of thy beauty and youth, in
every wrinkle of her unamiable face."

"Then little dost thou know my excellent Pepita, who envieth nothing,
and who hath but one marked weakness, and that is, too much affection,
and too much indulgence, for myself."

"I detest a dueña; ay, as I detest an Infidel!"

"Señor," said Pepita, whose vigilant ears, notwithstanding her book and
the homilies, heard all that passed, "this is a common feeling among
youthful cavaliers, I fear; but they tell me that the very dueña who is
so displeasing to the lover, getteth to be a grateful object, in time,
with the husband. As my features and wrinkles, however, are so
disagreeable to you, and no doubt cause you pain, by closing this door
the sight will be shut out, as, indeed, will be the sound of my
unpleasant cough, and of your own protestations of love, Señor Knight."

This was said in much better language than was commonly used by women of
the dueña's class, and with a good-nature that seemed indomitable, it
being completely undisturbed by Luis' petulant remarks.

"Thou shalt not close the door, Pepita," cried Mercedes, blushing rosy
red, and springing forward to interpose her own hand against the act.
"What is there that the Conde de Llera can have to say to one like me,
that _thou_ mayest not hear?"

"Nay, dear child, the noble cavalier is about to talk of love!"

"And is it thou, with whom the language of affection is so uncommon,
that it frighteneth thee! Hath thy discourse been of aught but love,
since thou hast known and cared for me?"

"It augureth badly for thy suit, Señor," said Pepita, smiling, while she
suspended the movement of the hand that was about to close the door, "if
Doña Mercedes thinketh of your love as she thinketh of mine. Surely,
child, thou dost not fancy me a gay, gallant young noble, come to pour
out his soul at thy feet, and mistakest my simple words of affection for
such as will be likely to flow from the honeyed tongue of a Bobadilla,
bent on gaining his suit with the fairest maiden of Castile?"

Mercedes shrunk back, for, though innocent as purity itself, her heart
taught her the difference between the language of her lover and the
language of her nurse, even when each most expressed affection. Her hand
released its hold of the wood, and unconsciously was laid, with its
pretty fellow, on her crimsoned face. Pepita profited by her advantage,
and closed the door. A smile of triumph gleamed on the handsome features
of Luis, and, after he had forced his mistress, by a gentle compulsion,
to resume the seat from which she had risen to meet him, he threw
himself on a stool at her feet, and stretching out his well-turned limbs
in an easy attitude, so as to allow himself to gaze into the beautiful
face that he had set up, like an idol, before him, he renewed the
discourse.

"This is a paragon of dueñas," he cried, "and I might have known that
none of the ill-tempered, unreasonable school of such beings, would be
tolerated near thy person. This Pepita is a jewel, and she may consider
herself established in her office for life, if, by the cunning of this
Genoese, mine own resolution, the queen's repentance, and thy gentle
favor, I ever prove so lucky as to become thy husband."

"Thou forgettest, Luis," answered Mercedes, trembling even while she
laughed at her own conceit, "that if the husband esteemeth the dueña the
lover could not endure, that the lover may esteem the dueña that the
husband may be unwilling to abide."

"_Peste!_ these are crooked matters, and ill-suited to the
straight-forward philosophy of Luis de Bobadilla. There is one thing
only, which I can, or do, pretend to know, out of any controversy, and
that I am ready to maintain in the face of all the doctors of Salamanca,
or all the chivalry of Christendom, that of the Infidel included; which
is, that thou art the fairest, sweetest, best, most virtuous, and in all
things the most winning maiden of Spain, and that no other living knight
so loveth and honoreth his mistress as I love and honor thee!"

The language of admiration is ever soothing to female ears, and
Mercedes, giving to the words of the youth an impression of sincerity
that his manner fully warranted, forgot the dueña and her little
interruption, in the delight of listening to declarations that were so
grateful to her affections. Still, the coyness of her sex, and the
recent date of their mutual confidence, rendered her answer less open
than it might otherwise have been.

"I am told,", she said, "that you young cavaliers, who pant for
occasions to show your skill and courage with the lance and in the
tourney, are ever making some such protestations in favor of this or
that noble maiden, in order to provoke others like themselves to make
counter assertions, that they may show their prowess as knights, and
gain high names for gallantry."

"This cometh of being so much shut up in Doña Beatriz's private rooms,
lest some bold Spanish eyes should look profanely on thy beauty,
Mercedes. We are not in the age of the errants and the troubadours, when
men committed a thousand follies that they might be thought weaker even
than nature had made them. In that age, your knights _discoursed_
largely of love, but in our own they _feel_ it. In sooth, I think this
savoreth of some of the profound morality of Pepita!"

"Say naught against Pepita, Luis, who hath much befriended thee to-day,
else would thy tongue, and thine eyes too, be under the restraint of her
presence. But that which thou termest the morality of the good dueña,
is, in truth, the morality of the excellent and most noble Doña Beatriz
de Cabrera, Marchioness of Moya, who was born a lady of the House of
Bobadilla, I believe."

"Well, well, I dare to say there is no great difference between the
lessons of a duchess and the lessons of a dueña in the privacy of the
closet, when there is one like thee, beautiful, and rich, and virtuous,
to guard. They say you young maidens are told that we cavaliers are so
many ogres, and that the only way to reach paradise is to think naught
of us but evil, and then, when some suitable marriage hath been decided
on, the poor young creature is suddenly alarmed by an order to come
forth and be wedded to one of these very monsters."

"And, in this mode, hast thou been treated! It would seem that much
pains are taken to make the young of the two sexes think ill of each
other. But, Luis, this is pure idleness, and we waste in it most
precious moments; moments that may never return. How go matters with
Colon--and when is he like to quit the court?"

"He hath already departed; for, having obtained all he hath sought of
the queen, he quitted Santa Fé, with the royal authority to sustain him
in the fullest manner. If thou hearest aught of one Pedro de Muños, or
Pero Gutierrez, at the court of Cathay, thou wilt know on whose
shoulders to lay his follies."

"I would rather that thou shouldst undertake this voyage in thine own
name, Luis, than under a feigned appellation. Concealments of this
nature are seldom wise, and surely thou dost not undertake the
enterprise"--the tell-tale blood stole to the cheeks of Mercedes as she
proceeded--"with a motive that need bring shame."

"'Tis the wish of my aunt; as for myself, I would put thy favor in my
casque, thy emblem on my shield, and let it be known, far and near, that
Luis of Llera sought the court of Cathay, with the intent to defy its
chivalry to produce as fair or as virtuous a maiden as thyself."

"We are not in the age of errants, sir knight, but in one of reason and
truth," returned Mercedes, laughing, though every syllable that proved
the earnest and entire devotion of the young man went directly to her
heart, strengthening his hold on it, and increasing the flame that burnt
within, by adding the fuel that was most adapted to that purpose--"we
are not in the age of knights-errant, Don Luis de Bobadilla, as thou
thyself hast just affirmed; but one in which even the lover is
reflecting, and as apt to discover the faults of his lady-love as to
dwell upon her perfections. I look for better things from thee, than to
hear that thou hast ridden through the highways of Cathay, defying to
combat and seeking giants, in order to exalt my beauty, and tempting
others to decry it, if it were only out of pure opposition to thy idle
boastings. Ah! Luis, thou art now engaged in a most truly noble
enterprise, one that will join thy name to those of the applauded of
men, and which will form thy pride and exultation in after-life, when
the eyes of us both shall be dimmed by age, and we shall look back with
longings to discover aught of which to be proud."

It was thrice, pleasant to the youth to hear his mistress, in the
innocence of her heart, and in the fulness of her feelings, thus uniting
his fate with her own; and when she ceased speaking, all unconscious how
much might be indirectly implied from her words, he still listened
intently, as if he would fain hear the sounds after they had died on his
ear.

"What enterprise can be nobler, more worthy to awaken all my resolution,
than to win thy hand!" he exclaimed, after a short pause. "I follow
Colon with no other object; share his chances, to remove the objections
of Doña Isabella; and will accompany him to the earth's end, rather than
that thy choice should be dishonored. _Thou_ art _my_ Great Khan,
beloved Mercedes, and thy smiles and affection are the only Cathay I
seek."

"Say not so, dear Luis, for thou knowest not the nobility of thine own
soul, nor the generosity of thine own intentions. This is a stupendous
project of Colon's, and much as I rejoice that he hath had the
imagination to conceive it, and the heart to undertake it in his own
person, on account of the good it must produce to the heathen, and the
manner in which it will necessarily redound to the glory of God, still I
fear that I am equally gladdened with the recollection that thy name
will be forever associated with the great achievement, and thy
detractors put to shame with the resolution and spirit with which so
noble an end will have been attained."

"This is nothing but truth, Mercedes, should we reach the Indies; but,
should the saints desert us, and our project fail, I fear that even thou
wouldst be ashamed to confess an interest in an unfortunate adventurer
who hath returned without success, and thereby made himself the subject
of sneers and derision, instead of wearing the honorable distinction
that thou seemest so confidently to expect."

"Then, Luis de Bobadilla, thou knowest me not," answered Mercedes,
hastily, and speaking with a tender earnestness that brought the blood
into her cheeks, gradually brightening the brilliancy of her eyes, until
they shone with a lustre that seemed almost supernatural--"then, Luis de
Bobadilla, thou knowest me not. I wish thee to share in the glory of
this enterprise, because calumny and censure have not been altogether
idle with thy youth, and because I feel that Her Highness' favor is most
easily obtained by it; but, if thou believest that the spirit to engage
with Colon was necessary to incline me to think kindly of my guardian's
nephew, thou neither understandest the sentiments that draw me toward
thee, nor hast a just appreciation of the hours of sorrow I have
suffered on thy account."

"Dearest, most generous, noble-hearted girl, I am unworthy of thy truth,
of thy pure sincerity, and of all thy devoted feelings! Drive me from
thee at once, that I may ne'er again cause thee a moment's grief."

"Nay, Luis, thy remedy, I fear me, would prove worse than the disease
that thou wouldst cure," returned the beautiful girl, smiling and
blushing as she spoke, and turning her eloquent eyes on the youth in a
way to avow volumes of tenderness. "With thee must I be happy, or
unhappy, as Providence may will it; or miserable without thee."

The conversation now took that unconnected, and yet comprehensive cast,
which is apt to characterize the discourse of those who feel as much as
they reason, and it covered more interests, sentiments, and events, than
our limits will allow us to record. As usual, Luis was inconsistent,
jealous, repentant, full of passion and protestations, fancying a
thousand evils at one instant, and figuring in his imagination a
terrestrial paradise at the next; while Mercedes was enthusiastic,
generous, devoted, and yet high-principled, self-denying, and womanly;
meeting her ardent suitor's vows with a tenderness that seemed to lose
all other considerations in her love, and repelling with maiden coyness,
and with the dignity of her sex, his rhapsodies, whenever they touched
upon the exaggerated and indiscreet.

The interview lasted an hour, and it is scarce necessary to say that
vows of constancy, and pledges never to marry another, were given, again
and again. As the time for separating approached, Mercedes opened a
small casket that contained her jewels, and drew forth one which she
offered to her lover as a gage of her truth.

"I will not give thee a glove to wear in thy casque at tourneys, Luis,"
she said, "but I offer this holy symbol, which may remind thee, at the
same moment, of the great pursuit thou hast before thee, and of her who
will wait its issue with doubts and fears little less active than those
of Colon himself. Thou needst no other crucifix to say thy paters
before, and these stones are sapphires, which thou knowest are the
tokens of fidelity--a feeling that thou mayst encourage as respects thy
lasting welfare, and which it would not grieve me to know thou kept'st
ever active in thy bosom when thinking of the unworthy giver of the
trifle."

This was said half in melancholy, and half in lightness of heart, for
Mercedes felt, at parting, both a weight of sorrow that was hard to be
borne, and a buoyancy of the very feeling to which she had just alluded,
that much disposed her to smile; and it was said with those winning
accents with which the youthful and tender avow their emotions, when the
heart is subdued by the thoughts of absence and dangers. The gift was a
small cross, formed of the stones she had named, and of great intrinsic
value, as well as precious from the motives and character of her who
offered it.

"Thou hast had a care of my soul, in this, Mercedes," said Luis,
smiling, when he had kissed the jewelled cross again and again--"and art
resolved if the sovereign of Cathay should refuse to be converted to our
faith, that we shall not be converted to his. I fear that my offering
will appear tame and valueless in thine eyes, after so precious a boon."

"One lock of thy hair, Luis, is all I desire. Thou knowest that I have
no need of jewels."

"If I thought the sight of my bushy head would give thee pleasure, every
hair should quit it, and I would sail from Spain with a poll as naked as
a priest's, or even an Infidel's; but the Bobadillas have their jewels,
and a Bobadilla's bride shall wear them: this necklace was my mother's,
Mercedes; it is said to have once been the property of a queen, though
none have ever worn it who will so honor it as thou."

"I take it, Luis, for it is thy offering and may not be refused; and yet
I take it tremblingly, for I see signs of our different natures in these
gifts. Thou hast chosen the gorgeous and the brilliant, which pall in
time, and seldom lead to contentment; while my woman's heart hath led me
to constancy. I fear some brilliant beauty of the East would better gain
thy lasting admiration than a poor Castilian maid who hath little but
her faith and love to recommend her!"

Protestations on the part of the young man followed, and Mercedes
permitted one fond and long embrace ere they separated. She wept on the
bosom of Don Luis, and at the final moment of parting, as ever happens
with woman, feeling got the better of form, and her whole soul confessed
its weakness. At length Luis tore himself away from her presence, and
that night he was on his way to the coast, under an assumed name, and in
simple guise; whither Columbus had already preceded.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XI.

    "But where is Harold? Shall I then forget
    To urge the gloomy wanderer o'er the wave?
    Little reck'd he of all that men regret;
    No loved one now in feign'd lament could rave;
    No friend the parting hand extended gave
    Ere the cold stranger pass'd to other climes."

    Byron.


The reader is not to suppose that the eyes of Europe were on our
adventurers. Truth and falsehood, inseparable companions, it would seem,
throughout all time, were not then diffused over the land by means of
newspapers, with mercenary diligence; and it was only the favored few
who got early intelligence of enterprises like that in which Columbus
was engaged. Luis de Bobadilla had, therefore, stolen from court
unnoticed, and they who came in time to miss his presence, either
supposed him to be on a visit to one of his castles, or to have gone
forth on another of those wandering tours which were supposed to be
blemishes on his chivalry and unworthy of his birth. As for the Genoese
himself, his absence was scarcely heeded, though it was understood among
the courtiers generally that Isabella had entered into some arrangement
with him, which gave the adventurer higher rank and greater advantages
than his future services would probably ever justify. The other
principal adventurers were too insignificant to attract much attention,
and they had severally departed for the coast without the knowledge of
their movements extending far beyond the narrow circles of their own
acquaintances. Neither was this expedition, so bold in its conception
and so momentous in its consequences, destined to sail from one of the
more important ports of Spain; but orders to furnish the necessary means
had been sent to a haven of altogether inferior rank, and which would
seem to have possessed no other recommendations for this particular
service, than hardy mariners, and a position without the pass of
Gibraltar, which was sometimes rendered hazardous by the rovers of
Africa. The order, however, is said to have been issued to the place
selected, in consequence of its having incurred some legal penalty, by
which it had been condemned to serve the crown for a twelvemonth with
two armed caravels. Such punishments, it would seem, were part of the
policy of an age in which navies were little more than levies on
sea-ports, and when fleets were usually manned by soldiers from the
land.

Palos de Moguer, the place ordered to pay this tribute for its
transgression, was a town of little importance, even at the close of the
fifteenth century, and it has since dwindled to an insignificant fishing
village. Like most places that are little favored by nature, its
population was hardy and adventurous, as adventure was then limited by
ignorance. It possessed no stately caracks, its business and want of
opulence confining all its efforts to the lighter caravel and the still
more diminutive felucca. All the succor, indeed, that Columbus had been
able to procure from the two crowns, by his protracted solicitations,
was the order for the equipment of the two caravels mentioned, with the
additional officers and men that always accompanied a royal expedition.
The reader, however, is not to infer from this fact any niggardliness of
spirit, or any want of faith, on the part of Isabella. It was partly
owing to the exhausted condition of her treasury, a consequence of the
late war with the Moor, and more, perhaps, to the experience and
discretion of the great navigator himself, who well understood that, for
the purposes of discovery, vessels of this size would be more useful and
secure than those that were larger.

On a rocky promontory, at a distance of less than a league from the
village of Palos, stood the convent of La Rabida, since rendered so
celebrated by its hospitality to Columbus. At the gate of this building,
seven years before, the navigator, leading his youthful son by the hand,
had presented himself, a solicitor for food in behalf of the wearied
boy. The story is too well known to need repetition here, and we will
merely add that his long residence in this convent, and the firm friends
he had made of the holy Franciscans who occupied it, as well as among
others in their vicinity, were also probably motives that influenced him
in directing the choice of the crown to this particular place. Columbus
had not only circulated his opinions with the monks, but with the more
intelligent of the neighborhood, and the first converts he made in Spain
were at this place.

Notwithstanding all the circumstances named, the order of the crown to
prepare the caravels in question, spread consternation among the
mariners of Palos. In that age, it was thought a wonderful achievement
to follow the land, along the coast of Africa, and to approach the
equator. The vaguest notions existed in the popular mind, concerning
those unknown regions, and many even believed that by journeying south
it was possible to reach a portion of the earth where animal and
vegetable life must cease on account of the intense heat of the sun. The
revolution of the planets, the diurnal motion of the earth, and the
causes of the changes in the seasons, were then profound mysteries even
to the learned; or, if glimmerings of the truth did exist, they existed
as the first rays of the dawn dimly and hesitatingly announce the
approach of day. It is not surprising, therefore, that the simple-minded
and unlettered mariners of Palos viewed the order of the crown as a
sentence of destruction on all who might be fated to obey it. The ocean,
when certain limits were passed, was thought to be, like the firmament,
a sort of chaotic void; and the imaginations of the ignorant had
conjured up currents and whirlpools that were believed to lead to fiery
climates and frightful scenes of natural destruction. Some even fancied
it possible to reach the uttermost boundaries of the earth, and to slide
off into vacuum, by means of swift but imperceptible currents.

Such was the state of things, in the middle of the month of July.
Columbus was still in the convent of Rabida, in the company of his
constant friend and adherent, Fray Juan Perez, when a lay brother came
to announce that a stranger had arrived at the gate, asking earnestly
for the Señor Christoval Colon.

"Hath he the aspect of a messenger from the court?" demanded the
navigator; "for, since the failure of the mission of Juan de Peñalosa,
there is need of further orders from their Highnesses to enforce their
gracious intentions."

"I think not, Señor," answered the lay brother; "these hard-riding
couriers of the queen generally appearing with their steeds in a foam,
and with hurried air and blustering voices; whereas this young cavalier
behaveth modestly, and rideth a stout Andalusian mule."

"Did he give thee his name, good Sancho?"

"He gave me two, Señor, styling himself Pedro de Muños, or Pedro
Gutierrez, without the Don."

"This is well," exclaimed Columbus, turning a little quickly toward the
door, but otherwise maintaining a perfect self-command; "I expect the
youth, and he is right welcome. Let him come in at once, good Sancho,
and that without any useless ceremony."

"An acquaintance of the court, Señor?" observed the prior, in the way
one indirectly asks a question.

"A youth that hath the spirit, father, to adventure life and character
for the glory of God, through the advancement of his church, by
embarking in our enterprise. He cometh of a reputable lineage, and is
not without the gifts of fortune. But for the care of guardians, and his
own youth, gold would not have been wanting in our need. As it is, he
ventureth his own person, if one can be said to risk aught in an
expedition that seemeth truly to set even the orders of their Highnesses
at defiance."

As Columbus ceased speaking, the door opened and Luis de Bobadilla
entered. The young grandee had laid aside all the outward evidences of
his high rank, and now appeared in the modest guise of a traveller
belonging to a class more likely to furnish a recruit for the voyage,
than one of the rank he really was. Saluting Columbus with cordial and
sincere respect, and the Franciscan with humble deference, the first at
once perceived that this gallant and reckless spirit had truly engaged
in the enterprise with a determination to use all the means that would
enable him to go through with it.

"Thou art welcome, Pedro," Columbus observed, as soon as Luis had made
his salutations; "thou hast reached the coast at a moment when thy
presence and support may be exceedingly useful. The first order of Her
Highness, by which I should have received the services of the two
caravels to which the state is entitled, hath been utterly disregarded;
and a second mandate, empowering me to seize upon any vessel that may
suit our necessities, hath fared but little better, notwithstanding the
Señor de Peñalosa was sent directly from court to enforce its
conditions, under a penalty, to the port, of paying a daily tax of two
hundred maravedis, until the order should be fulfilled. The idiots have
conjured all sorts of ills with which to terrify themselves and their
neighbors, and I seem to be as far from the completion of my hopes as I
was before I procured the friendship of this holy friar and the royal
protection of Doña Isabella. It is a weary thing, my good Pedro, to
waste a life in hopes defeated, with such an object in view as the
spread of knowledge and the extension of the church!"

"I am the bearer of good tidings, Señor," answered the young noble. "In
coming hither from the town of Moguer, I journeyed with one Martin
Alonzo Pinzon, a mariner with whom I have formerly voyaged, and we have
had much discourse concerning your commission and difficulties. He tells
me that he is known to you, Señor Colon, and I should judge from his
discourse that he thinketh favorably of the chances."

"He doth--he doth, indeed, good Pedro, and hath often listened to my
reasoning like a discreet and skilful navigator, as I make no question
he really is. But didst thou say that thou wast _known_ to him?"

"Señor, I did. We have voyaged together as far as Cyprus, on one
occasion, and, again, to the island of the English. In such long
voyages, men get to some knowledge of each other's temperament and
disposition, and, of a sooth, I think well of both, in this Señor
Pinzon."

"Thou art young to pass an opinion on a mariner of Martin Alonzo's years
and experience, son," put in the friar; "a man of much repute in this
vicinity, and of no little wealth. Nevertheless, I am rejoiced to hear
that he continueth of the same mind as formerly, in relation to the
great voyage; for, of late, I did think even he had begun to waver."

Don Luis had expressed himself of the great man of the vicinity, more
like a Bobadilla than became his assumed name of Muños, and a glance
from the eye of Columbus told him to forget his rank and to remember the
disguise he had assumed.

"This is truly encouraging," observed the navigator, "and openeth a
brighter view of Cathay. Thou wast journeying between Moguer and Palos,
I think thou saidst, when this discourse was had with our acquaintance,
the good Martin Alonzo?"

"I was, Señor, and it was he who sent me hither in quest of the admiral.
He gave you the title that the queen's favor hath bestowed, and I
consider that no small sign of friendship, as most others with whom I
have conversed in this vicinity seem disposed to call you by any other
name."

"None need embark in this enterprise," returned the navigator, gravely,
as if he would admonish the youth that this was an occasion on which he
might withdraw from the adventure, if he saw fit, "who feel disposed to
act differently, or who distrust my knowledge."

"By San Pedro, my patron! they tell another tale at Palos, and at
Moguer, Señor Amirale," returned Luis, laughing; "at which places, I
hear, that no man whose skin hath been a little warmed by the sun of the
ocean, dare show himself in the highways, lest he be sent to Cathay by a
road that no one ever yet travelled, except in fancy! There is,
notwithstanding, one free and willing volunteer, Señor Colon, who is
disposed to follow you to the edge of the earth, if it be flat, and to
follow you quite around it, should it prove to be a sphere; and that is
one Pedro de Muños, who engageth with you from no sordid love of gold,
or love of aught else that men usually prize; but from the pure love of
adventure, somewhat excited and magnified, perhaps, by love of the
purest and fairest maid of Castile."

Fray Juan Perez gazed at the speaker, whose free manner and open speech
a good deal surprised him; for Columbus had succeeded in awakening so
much respect that few presumed to use any levity in his presence, even
before he was dignified by the high rank so recently conferred by the
commission of Isabella. Little did the good monk suspect that one of a
still higher personal rank, though entirely without official station,
stood before him, in the guise of Pedro de Muños; and he could not
refrain from again expressing the little relish he felt for such freedom
of speech and deportment toward those whom he himself habitually
regarded with so much respect.

"It would seem, Señor Pedro de Muños," he said, "if that be thy
name--though duke, or marquis, or count, would be a title better
becoming thy bearing--that thou treatest His Excellency the Admiral with
quite as much freedom of thought, at least, as thou treatest the worthy
Martin Alonzo of our own neighborhood; a follower should be more humble,
and not pass his jokes on the opinions of his leader, in this loose
style of expression."

"I crave your pardon, holy father, and that of the admiral, too, who
better understandeth me I trust, if there be any just grounds of
offence. All I wish to express is, that I know this Martin Alonzo of
your neighborhood, as an old fellow-voyager; that we have ridden some
leagues in company this very day, and that, after close discourse, he
hath manifested a friendly desire to put his shoulder to the wheel, in
order to lift the expedition, if not from a slough of mud, at least from
the sands of the river; and that he hath promised to come also to this
good convent of La Rabida, for that same purpose and no other. As for
myself, I can only add, that here I am, ready to follow wheresoever the
honorable Señor Colon may see fit to lead."

"Tis well, good Pedro--'tis well," rejoined the admiral. "I give thee
full credit for sincerity and spirit, and that must content thee until
an opportunity offereth to convince others. I like these tidings
concerning Martin Alonzo, father, since he might truly do us much good
service, and his zeal had assuredly begun to flag."

"That might he, and that will he, if he engageth seriously in the
affair. Martin is the greatest navigator on all this coast, for, though
I did not know that he had ever been even to Cyprus, as would appear by
the account of this youth, I was well aware that he had frequently
sailed as far north as France, and as far south as the Canaries. Dost
think Cathay much more remote than Cyprus, Señor Almirante?"

Columbus smiled at this question, and shook his head in the manner of
one who would prepare a friend for some sore disappointment.

"Although Cyprus be not distant from the Holy Land and the seat of the
Infidel's power," he answered, "Cathay must lie much more remote. I
flatter not myself, nor those who are disposed to follow me, with the
hope of reaching the Indies short of a voyage that shall extend to some
eight hundred or a thousand leagues."

"'Tis a fearful and a weary distance!" exclaimed the Franciscan; while
Luis stood in smiling unconcern, equally indifferent whether he had to
traverse one-thousand or ten thousand leagues of ocean, so that the
journey led to Mercedes and was productive of adventure. "A fearful and
weary distance, and yet I doubt not, Señor Almirante, that you are the
very man designed by Providence to overcome it, and to open the way for
those who will succeed you, bearing on high the cross of Christ and the
promises of his redemption!"

"Let us hope this," returned Columbus, reverently making the usual sign
of the sacred emblem to which his friend alluded; "as a proof that we
have some worldly foundation for the expectation, here cometh the Señor
Pinzon himself, apparently hot with haste to see us."

Martin Alonzo Pinzon, whose name is so familiar to the reader, as one
who greatly aided the Genoese in his vast undertaking, now entered the
room, seemingly earnest and bent on some fixed purpose, as Columbus'
observant eye had instantly detected. Fray Juan Perez was not a little
surprised to see that the first salutation of Martin Alonzo, the great
man of the neighborhood, was directed to Pedro, the second to the
admiral, and the third to himself. There was not time, however, for the
worthy Franciscan, who was a little apt to rebuke any dereliction of
decency on the spot, to express what he felt on this occasion, ere
Martin Alonzo opened his errand with an eagerness that showed he had not
come on a mere visit of friendship, or of ceremony.

"I am sorely vexed, Señor Almirante," he commenced, "at learning the
obstinacy, and the disobedience to the orders of the queen, that have
been shown among our mariners of Palos. Although a dweller of the port
itself, and one who hath always viewed your opinions of this western
voyage with respect, if not with absolute faith, I did not know the full
extent of this insubordination until I met, by accident, an old
acquaintance on the highway, in the person of Don Pedro--I ought to say
the _Señor_ Pedro de Muños, here, who, coming from a distance as he
doth, hath discovered more of our backslidings than I had learned
myself, on the spot. But, Señor, you are not now to hear for the first
time, of what sort of stuff men are made. They are reasoning beings, we
are told; notwithstanding which undeniable truth, as there is not one in
a hundred who is at the trouble to do his own thinking, means may be
found to change the opinions of a sufficient number for all your wants,
without their even suspecting it."

"This is very true, neighbor Martin Alonzo," put in the friar--"so true,
that it might go into a homily and do no disservice to religion. Man
_is_ a rational animal, and an accountable animal, but it is not meet
that he should be a _thinking_ animal. In matters of the church, now,
its interests being entrusted to a ministry, what have the unlearned and
ignorant to say of its affairs? In matters of navigation, it doth,
indeed, seem as if one steersman were better than a hundred! Although
man be a reasoning animal, there are quite as many occasions when he is
bound to obey without reasoning, and few when he should be permitted to
reason without obeying."

"All true, holy friar and most excellent neighbor; so true that you will
find no one in Palos to deny that, at least. And now we are on the
subject, I may as well add that it is the church that hath thrown more
obstacles in the way of the Señor Almirante's success, than any other
cause. All the old women of the port declare that the notion of the
earth's being round is a heresy, and contrary to the Bible; and, if the
truth must be said, there are not a few underlings of this very convent,
who uphold them in the opinion. It doth appear unnatural to tell one who
hath never quitted the land, and who seeth himself much oftener in a
valley than on an eminence, that the globe is round, and, though I have
had many occasions to see the ocean, it would not easily find credit
with me, were it not for the fact that we see the upper and smaller
sails of a ship first, when approaching her, as well as the vanes and
crosses of towns, albeit they are the smaller objects about vessels and
churches. We mariners have one way to inspirit our followers, and you
churchmen have another; and, now that I intend to use my means to put
wiser thoughts into the heads of the seamen of Palos, reverend friar, I
look to you to set the church's engines at work, so as to silence the
women, and to quell the doubts of the most zealous among your own
brotherhood."

"Am I to understand by this, Señor Pinzon," demanded Columbus, "that you
intend to take a direct and more earnest interest than before in the
success of my enterprise?"

"Señor, you may. That is my intention, if we can come to as favorable an
understanding about the terms, as your worship would seem to have
entered into with our most honored mistress, Doña Isabella de
Trastamara. I have had some discourse with Señor Don--I would say with
the Señor Pedro de Muños, here--odd's folly, an excess of courtesy is
getting to be a vice with me of late--but as he is a youth of prudence,
and manifests a desire to embark with you, it hath stirred my fancy so
far, that I would gladly be of the party. Señor de Muños and I have
voyaged so much together, that I would fain see his worthy countenance
once more upon the ocean."

"These are cheerful tidings, Martin Alonzo"--eagerly put in the friar,
"and thy soul, and the souls of all who belong to you, will reap the
benefits of this manly and pious resolution. It is one thing, Señor
Almirante, to have their Highnesses of your side, in a place like Palos,
and another to have our worthy neighbor Pinzon, here; for, if they are
sovereigns in law, he is an emperor in opinion. I doubt not that the
caravels will now be speedily forthcoming."

"Since thou seemest to have truly resolved to enter into our enterprise,
Señor Martin Alonzo," added Columbus, with his dignified gravity, "out
of doubt, thou hast well bethought thee of the conditions, and art come
prepared to let them be known. Do they savor of the terms that have
already been in discussion between us?"

"Señor Admiral, they do; though gold is not, just now, as abundant in
our purses, as when we last discoursed on this subject. On that head,
some obstacles may exist, but on all others, I doubt not, a brief
explanation between us will leave the matter free from doubt."

"As to the eighth, for which I stand committed with their Highnesses,
Señor Pinzon, there will be less reason, now, to raise that point
between us, than when we last met, as other means may offer to redeem
that pledge"--as Columbus spoke, his eyes involuntarily turned toward
the pretended Pedro, whither those of Martin Alonzo Pinzon significantly
followed; "but there will be many difficulties to overcome with these
terrified and silly mariners, which may yield to thy influence. If thou
wilt come with me into this chamber, we will at once discuss the heads
of our treaty, leaving this youth, the while, to the hospitality of our
reverend friend."

The prior raising no objection to this proposition, it was immediately
put in execution, Columbus and Pinzon withdrawing to a more private
apartment, leaving Fray Juan Perez alone with our hero.

"Then thou thinkest seriously, son, of making one in this great
enterprise of the admiral's," said the Franciscan, as soon as the door
was closed on those who had just left them, eyeing Luis, for the first
time, with a more strict scrutiny than hitherto he had leisure to
exercise. "Thou carriest thyself much like the young lords of the court,
and wilt have occasion to acquire a less towering air in the narrow
limits of one of our Palos caravels."

"I am no stranger to Nao, Carraca, Fusta, Pinaza, Carabelon, or Felucca,
holy prior, and shall carry myself with the admiral, as I should carry
myself before Don Fernando of Aragon, were he my fellow-voyager, or in
the presence of Boabdil of Grenada, were that unhappy monarch again
seated on the throne from which he hath been so lately hurled, urging
his chivalry to charge the knights of Christian Spain."

"These are fine words, son, ay, and uttered with a tilting air, if truth
must be said; but they will avail thee nothing with this Genoese, who
hath that in him, that would leave him unabashed even in the presence of
our gracious lady, Doña Isabella, herself."

"Thou knowest the queen, holy monk?" inquired Luis, forgetting his
assumed character, in the freedom of his address.

"I ought to know her inmost heart, son, for often have I listened to her
pure and meek spirit, in the secrets of the confessional. Much as she is
beloved by us Castilians, no one can know the true, spiritual elevation
of that pious princess, and most excellent woman, but they who have had
occasion to shrive her."

Don Luis hemmed, played with the handle of his rapier, and then gave
utterance to the uppermost thought, as usual.

"Didst thou, by any chance of thy priestly office, father, ever find it
necessary to confess a maiden of the court, who is much esteemed by the
queen?" he inquired, "and whose spirit, I'll answer for it, is as pure
as that of Doña Isabella's itself."

"Son, thy question denoteth greater necessity for repairing to
Salamanca, in order to be instructed in the history, and practices, and
faith of the church, than to be entering into an enterprise, even as
commendable as this of Colon's! Dost thou not know that we churchmen are
not permitted to betray the secrets of the confessional, or to draw
comparisons between penitents? and, moreover, that we do not take even
Doña Isabella, the blessed Maria keep her ever in mind, as the standard
of holiness to which all Christians are expected to aim? The maiden of
whom thou speakest may be virtuous, according to worldly notions, and
yet a grievous sinner in the eyes of mother church."

"I should like, before I quit Spain, to hear a Mendoza, or a Guzman, who
hath not a shaven crown, venture to hint as much, most reverend prior!"

"Thou art hot and restive, and talkest idly, son; what would one like
thee find to say to a Guzman, or a Mendoza, or a Bobadilla, even, did he
affirm what thou wishest? But, who is the maid, in whom thy feelings
seem to take so deep, although I question if it be not an unrequited,
interest?"

"Nay, I did but speak in idleness. Our stations have made such a chasm
between us, that it is little likely we should ever come to speech; nor
is my merit such as would be apt to cause her to forget her high
advantages."

"Still, she hath a name?"

"She hath, truly, prior, and a right noble one it is. I had the Doña
Maria de las Mercedes de Valverde in my thoughts, when the light remark
found utterance. Haply, thou may'st know that illustrious heiress?"

Fray Juan Perez, a truly guileless priest, started at the name; then he
gazed intently, and with a sort of pity, at the youth; after which he
bent his head toward the tiles beneath his feet, smiled, and shook his
head like one whose thoughts were very active.

"I do, indeed, know the lady," he said, "and even when last at court, on
this errand of Colon's, their own confessor being ill, I shrived her, as
well as my royal mistress. That she is worthy of Doña Isabella's esteem
is true; but thy admiration for this noble maiden, which must be
something like the distant reverence we feel for the clouds that sail
above our heads, can scarce be founded on any rational hopes."

"Thou canst not know that, father. If this expedition end as we trust,
all who engage in it will be honored and advanced; and why not I, as
well as another?"

"In this, thou may'st utter truth, but as for the Doña--" The Franciscan
checked himself, for he was about to betray the secret of the
confessional. He had, in truth, listened to the contrition of Mercedes,
of which her passion for Luis was the principal cause; and it was he
who, with a species of pious fraud of which he was himself unconscious,
had first pointed out the means by which the truant noble might be made
to turn his propensity to rove to the profit of his love; and his mind
was full of her beautiful exhibition of purity and natural feeling,
nearly even to overflowing. But habit and duty interfered in time, and
he did not utter the name that had been trembling on his lips. Still,
his thoughts continued in this current, and his tongue gave utterance to
that portion of them which he believed to be harmless. "Thou hast been
much about the world, it would seem, by Master Alonzo's greeting," he
continued, after a short pause; "didst ever meet, son, with a certain
cavalier of Castile, named Don Luis de Bobadilla--a grandee, who also
bears the title of Conde de Llera?"

"I know little of his hopes, and care less for his titles," returned
Luis, calmly, who thought he would manifest a magnanimous indifference
to the Franciscan's opinions--"but I have seen the cavalier, and a
roving, mad-brained, graceless youth it is, of whom no good can be
expected."

"I fear this is but too true," rejoined Fray Juan Perez, shaking his
head in a melancholy manner--"and yet they say he is a gallant knight,
and the very best lance in all Spain."

"Ay, he may be that," answered Luis, hemming a little louder than was
decorous, for his throat began to grow husky--"Ay, he may be that; but
of what avail is a good lance without a good character. I hear little
commendable of this young Conde de Llera."

"I trust he is not the man he generally passeth for,"--answered the
simple-hearted monk, without in the least suspecting his companion's
disguise; "and I do know that there are some who think well of him--nay,
whose existence, I might say whose very souls, are wrapped up in him!"

"Holy Franciscan!--why wilt thou not mention the names of one or two of
these?" demanded Luis, with an impetuosity that caused the prior to
start.

"And why should I give this information to thee, young man, more than to
another?"

"Why, father--why, for several most excellent and unanswerable reasons.
In the first place, I am a youth myself, as thou seest; and example,
they say, is better than precept. Then, too, _I_ am somewhat given to
roving, and it may profit me to know how others of the same propensity
have sped. Moreover, it would gladden my inmost heart to hear that--but
two sufficient reasons are better than three, and thou hast the first
number already."

Fray Juan Perez, a devout Christian, a learned churchman, and a liberal
scholar, was as simple as a child in matters that related to the world
and its passions. Nevertheless, he was not so dull as to overlook the
strange deportment and stranger language of his companion. A direction
had been given to his thoughts by the mention of the name of our
heroine; and, as he himself had devised the very course taken by our
hero, the truth began to dawn on his imagination.

"Young cavalier," he exclaimed, "thou art Don Luis de Bobadilla!"

"I shall never deny the prophetic knowledge of a churchman, worthy
father, after this detection! I _am_ he thou sayest, entered on this
expedition to win the love of Mercedes de Valverde."

"'Tis as I thought--and yet, Señor, you might have taken our poor
convent less at an advantage. Suffer that I command the lay brothers to
place refreshments before you!"

"Thy pardon, excellent prior--Pedro de Muños, or even Pero Gutierrez,
hath no need of food; but, now that thou knowest me, there can be less
reason for not conversing of the Doña Mercedes?"

"Now that I know thee, Señor Conde, there is greater reason for silence
on that head," returned Fray Juan Perez, smiling. "Thine aunt, the most
esteemed and virtuous lady of Moya, can give thee all occasion to urge
thy suit with this charming maiden, and it would ill become a churchman
to temper her prudence by any indiscreet interference."

This explanation was the commencement of a long and confidential
dialogue, in which the worthy prior, now that he was on his guard,
succeeded in preserving his main secret, though he much encouraged the
young man in the leading hope of his existence, as well as in his
project to adhere to the fortunes of Columbus. In the mean while, the
great navigator himself continued closeted with his new counsellor; and
when the two reappeared, it was announced to those without that the
latter had engaged in the enterprise with so much zeal, that he actually
entertained the intention of embarking on board of one of the caravels
in person.



CHAPTER XII.

    "Yet he to whom each danger hath become
    A dark delight, and every wild a home,
    Still urges onward--undismayed to tread
    Where life's fond lovers would recoil with dread."

    The Abencerrage.


The intelligence that Martin Alonzo Pinzon was to make one of the
followers of Colon, spread through the village of Palos like wild-fire.
Volunteers were no longer wanting; the example of one known and
respected in the vicinity, operating far more efficiently on the minds
of the mariners, than the orders of the queen or the philosophy of
Columbus. Martin Alonzo they knew; they were accustomed to submit to his
influence; they could follow in his footsteps, and had confidence in his
judgment; whereas, the naked orders of an unseen sovereign, however much
beloved, had more of the character of a severe judgment than of a
generous enterprise; and as for Columbus, though most men were awed by
his dignified appearance and grave manner, when out of sight he was as
much regarded as an adventurer at Palos, as he had been at Santa Fé.

The Pinzons set about their share of the expedition after the manner of
those who were more accustomed to execute than to plan. Several of the
family entered cordially into the work; and a brother of Martin
Alonzo's, whose name was Vincente Yañez, also a mariner by profession,
joined the adventurers as commander of one of the vessels, while another
took service as a pilot. In short, the month that succeeded the
incidents just mentioned, was actively employed, and more was done in
that short space of time toward bringing about a solution of the great
problem of Columbus, than had been accomplished, in a practical way,
during the seventeen long years that the subject had occupied his time
and engrossed his thoughts.

Notwithstanding the local influence of the Pinzons, a vigorous
opposition to the project still existed in the heart of the little
community that had been chosen for the place of equipment of the
different vessels required. This family had its enemies as well as its
friends, and, as is usual with most human undertakings, two parties
sprang up, one of which was quite as busily occupied in thwarting the
plans of the navigator, as the other was engaged in promoting them. One
vessel had been seized for the service, under the order of the court,
and her owners became leaders of the dissatisfied faction. Many seamen,
according to the usage of that day, had been impressed for duty on this
extraordinary and mysterious voyage; and, as a matter of course, they
and their friends were not slow to join the ranks of the disaffected.
Much of the necessary work was found to be imperfectly done; and when
the mechanics were called on to repair these omissions, they absconded
in a body. As the time for sailing approached, the contention grew more
and more violent, and even the Pinzons had the mortification of
discovering that many of those who had volunteered to follow their
fortunes, began to waver, and that some had unequivocally deserted.

Such was the state of things, toward the close of the month of July,
when Martin Alonzo Pinzon again repaired to the convent of Santa Maria
de Rabida, where Columbus continued to pass most of the time that was
not given to a direct personal superintendence of the preparations, and
where Luis de Bobadilla, who was altogether useless in the actual
condition of affairs, also passed many a weary hour, chafing for active
duty, and musing on the loveliness, truth, and virtues of Mercedes de
Valverde. Fray Juan Perez was earnest in his endeavors to facilitate the
execution of the objects of his friends, and he had actually succeeded,
if not in absolutely suppressing the expression of all injurious opinion
on the part of the less enlightened of the brotherhood, at least in
rendering the promulgation of them more cautious and private.

When Columbus and the prior were told that the Señor Pinzon sought an
interview, neither was slow in granting the favor. As the hour of
departure drew nigh, the importance of this man's exertions became more
and more apparent, and both well knew that the royal protection of
Isabella herself, just at that moment and in that place, was of less
account than that of this active mariner. The Señor Pinzon, therefore,
had not long to wait for his audience, having been ushered into the room
that was commonly occupied by the zealous Franciscan, almost as soon as
his request was preferred.

"Thou art right welcome, worthy Martin Alonzo!" exclaimed the prior, the
moment he caught a glimpse of the features of his old acquaintance--"How
get on matters at Palos, and when shall we have this holy undertaking in
a fair direction for success?"

"By San Francisco, reverend prior, that is more than it will be safe for
any man to answer. I have thought we were in a fair way to make sail, a
score of times, when some unforeseen difficulty hath arisen. The Santa
Maria, on board which the admiral and the Señor Gutierrez, or de Muños,
if he will have it so, will embark, is already fitted. She may be set
down as a tight craft, and somewhat exceedeth a hundred tons in burthen,
so that I trust his excellency, and all the gallant cavaliers who may
accompany him, will be as comfortable as the holy monks of Rabida--more
especially as the good caravel hath a deck."

"These are, truly, glad tidings," returned the prior, rubbing his hands
with delight--"and the excellent craft hath really a deck! Señor
Almirante, thou mayst not be in a vessel that is altogether worthy of
thy high aim, but, on the whole, thou wilt be both safe and comfortable,
keeping in view, in particular, this convenient and sheltering deck."

"Neither my safety nor my convenience is a consideration to be
mentioned, friend Juan Perez, when there is question of so much graver
matters. I rejoice that thou hast come to the convent this morning,
Señor Martin Alonzo, as, being about to address letters to the court, by
means of an especial courier, I desire to know the actual condition of
things. Thou thinkest the Santa Maria will be in a state for service by
the end of the month?"

"Señor, I do. The ship hath been prepared with due diligence, and will
conveniently hold some three score, should the panic that hath seized on
so many of the besotted fools of Palos, leave us that number, who may
still be disposed to embark. I trust that the saints look upon our many
efforts, and will remember our zeal when we shall come to a joint
division of the benefits of this undertaking, which hath had no equal in
the history of navigation!"

"The benefits, honest Martin Alonzo, will be found in the spread of the
church's dominion, and the increased glory of God!" put in the prior,
significantly.

"Out of all question, holy Fray Juan Perez--this is the common aim;
though I trust it is permitted to a pains-taking mariner to bethink him
of his wife and children, in discreet subordination to those greater
ends. I have much mistaken the Señor Colon, if he do not look for some
little advantage, in the way of gold, from this visit to Cathay."

"Thou hast not mistaken me, honest Martin Alonzo," returned Columbus,
gravely. "I do, indeed, expect to see the wealth of the Indies pouring
into the coffers of Castile, in consequence of this voyage. In sooth,
excellent prior, in my view, the recovery of the holy sepulchre is
dependent mainly on the success of our present undertaking, in the way
of a substantial worldly success."

"This is well, Señor Admiral," put in Martin Alonzo, a little hastily,
"and ought to gain us great favor in the eyes of all good
Christians--more especially with the monks of la Rabida. But it is hard
enough to persuade the mariners of the port to obey the queen, in this
matter, and to fulfil their engagements with ourselves, without
preaching a crusade, as the best means of throwing away the few
maravedis they may happen to gain by their hardships and courage. The
worthy pilots, Francisco Martin Pinzon, mine own brother, Sancho Ruiz,
Pedro Alonzo Niño, and Bartolemeo Roldan, are all now firmly tied to us
by the ropes of the law; but should they happen to find a crusade at
their end, all the saints in the calendar would scarce have influence to
make them hesitate about loosening themselves from the agreement."

"I hold no one but myself bound to this object," returned Columbus,
calmly. "Each man, friend Martin Alonzo, will be judged by his own
deeds, and called on to fulfil his own vows. Of those who pledge naught,
naught will be exacted, and naught given at the great final account of
the human race. But what are the tidings of the Pinta, thine own vessel?
Hath she been finally put into a condition to buffet the Atlantic?"

"As ever happeneth with a vessel pressed into the royal service, Señor,
work hath gone on heavily, and things in general have not borne that
merry activity which accompanieth the labor of those who toil of a free
will, and for their own benefit."

"The silly mariners have toiled in their own behalf, without knowing
it," observed Columbus. "It is the duty of the ignorant to submit to be
led by the more enlightened, and to be grateful for the advantages they
derive from a borrowed knowledge, albeit it is obtained contrary to
their own wishes."

"That is it, truly," added the prior; "else would the office of us
churchmen be reduced to very narrow limits. Faith--faith in the
church--is the Christian's earliest and latest duty."

"This seemeth reasonable, excellent sirs," returned Master Alonzo,
"though the ignorant find it difficult to comprehend matters that they
do not understand. When a man fancieth himself condemned to an
unheard-of death, he is little apt to see the benefit that lieth beyond
the grave. Nevertheless, the Pinta is more nearly ready for the voyage,
than any other of our craft, and hath her crew engaged to a man, and
that under contracts that will not permit much dispute before a notary."

"There remaineth only the Niña, then," added Columbus; "with her
prepared, and our religious duties observed, we may hope finally to
commence the enterprise!"

"Señor, you may. My brother, Vicente Yañez, hath finally consented to
take charge of this little craft; and that which a Pinzon promiseth, a
Pinzon performeth. She will be ready to depart with the Santa Maria and
the Pinta, and Cathay must be distant, indeed, if we do not reach it
with one or the other of our vessels."

"This is right encouraging, neighbor Martin Alonzo," returned the friar,
rubbing his hands with delight; "and I make no question all will come
round in the end. What say the crones and loose talkers of Moguer, and
of the other ports, touching the shape of the earth, and the chances of
the admiral's reaching the Indies, now-a-days?"

"They discourse much as they did, Fray Juan Perez, idly and without
knowledge. Although there is not a mariner in any of the havens who doth
not admit that the upper sails, though so much the smallest, are the
first seen on the ocean, yet do they deny that this cometh of the shape
of the earth, but, as they affirm, of the movements of the waters."

"Have none of them ever observed the shadows cast by the earth, in the
eclipses of the moon?" asked Columbus, in his calm manner, though he
smiled, even in putting the question, as one smiles who, having dipped
deeply into a natural problem himself, carelessly lays one of its more
popular proofs before those who are less disposed to go beneath the
surface. "Do they not see that these shadows are round, and do they not
know that a shadow which is round can only be cast by a body that is
round?"

"This is conclusive, good Martin Alonzo," put in the prior, "and it
ought to remove the doubts of the silliest gossip on the coast. Tell
them to encircle their dwellings, beginning to the right, and see if, by
following the walls, they do not return to the spot from which they
started, coming in from the left."

"Ay, reverend prior, if we could bring our distant voyage down to these
familiar examples, there is not a crone in Moguer, or a courtier at
Seville, that might not be made to comprehend the mystery. But it is one
thing to state a problem fairly, and another to find those who can
understand it. Now, I did give some such reasoning to the Alguiazil, in
Palos here, and the worthy Señor asked me if I expected to return from
this voyage by the way of the lately captured town of Granada. I fancy
that the easiest method of persuading these good people to believe that
Cathay can be reached by the western voyage, will be by going there and
returning."

"Which we will shortly do, Master Martin Alonzo," observed Columbus,
cheerfully--"But the time of our departure draweth near, and it is meet
that none of us neglect the duties of religion. I commend thee to thy
confessor, Señor Pinzon, and expect that all who sail with me, in this
great enterprise, will receive the holy communion in my company, before
we quit the haven. This excellent prior will shrive Pedro de Muños and
myself, and let each man seek such other holy counsellor and monitor as
hath been his practice."

With this intimation of his intention to pay a due regard to the rites
of the church before he departed--rites that were seldom neglected in
that day--the conversation turned, for the moment, on the details of the
preparations. After this the parties separated, and a few more days
passed away in active exertions.

On the morning of Thursday, August the second, 1492, Columbus entered
the private apartment of Fray Juan Perez, habited like a penitent, and
with an air so devout, and yet so calm, that it was evident his thoughts
were altogether bent on his own transgressions and on the goodness of
God. The zealous priest was in waiting, and the great navigator knelt at
the feet of him, before whom Isabella had often knelt, in the fulfilment
of the same solemnity. The religion of this extraordinary man was
colored by the habits and opinions of his age, as, indeed, in a greater
or less degree, must be the religion of every man; his confession,
consequently, had that admixture of deep piety with inconsistent error,
that so often meets the moralist in his investigations into the
philosophy of the human mind. The truth of this peculiarity will be
seen, by adverting to one or two of the admissions of the great
navigator, as he laid before his ghostly counsellor the catalogue of his
sins.

"Then, I fear, holy father," Columbus continued, after having made most
of the usual confessions touching the more familiar weaknesses of the
human race, "that my mind hath become too much exalted in this matter of
the voyage, and that I may have thought myself more directly set apart
by God, for some good end, than it might please his infinite knowledge
and wisdom to grant."

"That would be a dangerous error, my son, and I carefully admonish thee
against the evils of self-righteousness. That God selecteth his agents,
is beyond dispute; but it is a fearful error to mistake the impulses of
self-love, for the movements of his Divine Spirit! It is hardly safe for
any who have not received the church's ordination, to deem themselves
chosen vessels."

"I endeavor so to consider it, holy friar," answered Columbus, meekly;
"and, yet, there is that within, which constantly urgeth to this belief,
be it a delusion, or come it directly from heaven. I strive, father, to
keep the feeling in subjection, and most of all do I endeavor to see
that it taketh a direction that may glorify the name of God and serve
the interests of his visible church."

"This is well, and yet do I feel it a duty to admonish thee against too
much credence in these inward impulses. So long as they tend, solely, to
increase thy love for the Supreme Father of all, to magnify his
holiness, and glorify his nature, thou may'st be certain it is the
offspring of good; but when self-exaltation seemeth to be its aim,
beware the impulse, as thou wouldst eschew the dictation of the great
father of evil!"

"I so consider it; and now having truly and sincerely disburdened my
conscience, father, so far as in me lieth, may I hope for the church's
consolation, with its absolution?"

"Canst thou think of naught else, son, that should not lie hid from
before the keeper of all consciences?"

"My sins are many, holy prior, and cannot be too often or too keenly
rebuked; but I do think that they may be fairly included in the general
heads that I have endeavored to recall."

"Hast thou nothing to charge thyself with, in connection with that sex
that the devil as often useth as his tempters to evil, as the angels
would fain employ them as the ministers of grace?"

"I have erred as a man, father; but do not my confessions already meet
those sins?"

"Hast thou bethought thee of Doña Beatriz Enriquez? of thy son Fernando,
who tarrieth, at this moment, in our convent of la Rabida?"

Columbus bowed his head in submission, and the heavy sigh, amounting
almost to a groan, that broke out of his bosom, betrayed the weight of
his momentary contrition.

"Thou say'st true, father; that is an offence which should never be
forgotten, though so often shrived since its commission. Heap on me the
penance that I feel is due, and thou shalt see how a Christian can bend
and kiss the rod that he is conscious of having merited."

"The spirit thus to do is all that the church requireth; and thou art
now bent on a service too important to her interests to be drawn aside
from thy great intentions, for any minor considerations. Still may not a
minister of the altar overlook the offence. Thou wilt say a pater,
daily, on account of this great sin, for the next twenty days, all of
which will be for the good of thy soul; after which the church releaseth
thee from this especial duty, as thou wilt, then, be drawing near to the
land of Cathay, and may have occasion for all thy thoughts and efforts
to effect thy object."

The worthy prior then proceeded to prescribe several light penances,
most of which were confined to moderate increases of the daily duties of
religion; after which he shrived the navigator. The turn of Luis came
next, and more than once the prior smiled involuntarily, as he listened
to this hot-blooded and impetuous youth, whose language irresistibly
carried back his thoughts to the more meek, natural, and the more gentle
admissions of the pure-minded Mercedes. The penance prescribed to Luis
was not entirely free from severity, though, on the whole, the young
man, who was not much addicted to the duties of the confessional,
fancied himself well quit of the affair, considering the length of the
account he was obliged to render, and the weight of the balance against
him.

These duties performed in the persons of the two principal adventurers,
Martin Alonzo Pinzon and the ruder mariners of the expedition appeared
before different priests and gave in the usual reckoning of their sins.
After this came a scene that was strictly characteristic of the age, and
which would be impressive and proper, in all times and seasons, for men
about to embark in an undertaking of a result so questionable.

High mass was said in the chapel of the convent, and Columbus received
the consecrated bread from the hands of Fray Juan Perez, in humble
reliance on the all-seeing providence of God, and with a devout
dependence on his fostering protection. All who were about to embark
with the admiral imitated his example, communing in his company; for
that was a period when the wire-drawn conclusions of man had not yet
begun so far to supplant the faith and practices of the earlier church
as to consider its rites as the end of religion, but he was still
content to regard them as its means. Many a rude sailor, whose ordinary
life might not have been either saintly or even free from severe
censure, knelt that day at the altar, in devout dependence on God, with
feelings, for the moment, that at least placed him on the highway to
grace; and it would be presumptuous to suppose that the omniscient Being
to whom his offerings were made, did not regard his ignorance with
commiseration, and even look upon his superstition with pity. We scoff
at the prayers of those who are in danger, without reflecting that they
are a homage to the power of God, and are apt to fancy that these
passages in devotion are mere mockery, because the daily mind and the
ordinary life are not always elevated to the same standard of godliness
and purity. It would be more humble to remember the general infirmities
of the race; to recollect, that as none are perfect, the question is
reduced to one of degree; and to bear in mind, that the Being who reads
the heart, may accept of any devout petitions, even though they come
from those who are not disposed habitually to walk in his laws. These
passing but pious emotions are the workings of the Spirit, since good
can come from no other source; and it is as unreasonable as it is
irreverent to imagine that the Deity will disregard, altogether, the
effects of his own grace, however humble.

Whatever may have been the general disposition of most of the
communicants on this occasion, there is little doubt that there knelt at
the altar of la Rabida, that day, one in the person of the great
navigator himself, who, as far as the eye could perceive, lived
habitually in profound deference to the dogmas of religion, and who paid
an undeviating respect to all its rites. Columbus was not strictly a
devotee; but a quiet, deeply seated enthusiasm, which had taken the
direction of Christianity, pervaded his moral system, and at all times
disposed him to look up to the protecting hand of the Deity and to
expect its aid. The high aims that he entertained for the future have
already been mentioned, and there is little doubt of his having
persuaded himself that he had been set apart by Providence as the
instrument it designed to employ in making the great discovery on which
his mind was so intently engaged, as well as in accomplishing other and
ulterior purposes. If, indeed, an overruling Power directs all the
events of this world, who will presume to say that this conviction of
Columbus was erroneous, now that it has been justified by the result?
That he felt this sentiment sustaining his courage and constantly urging
him onward, is so much additional evidence in favor of his impression,
since, under such circumstances, nothing is more probable than that an
earnest belief in his destiny would be one of the means most likely to
be employed by a supernatural power in inducing its human agent to
accomplish the work for which he had actually been selected.

Let this be as it might, there is no doubt that Colon observed the rites
of the church, on the occasion named, with a most devout reliance on the
truth of his mission, and with the brightest hopes as to its successful
termination. Not so, however, with all of his intended followers. Their
minds had wavered, from time to time, as the preparations advanced; and
the last month had seen them eager to depart, and dejected with
misgivings and doubts. Although there were days of hope and brightness,
despondency perhaps prevailed, and this so much the more because the
apprehensions of mothers, wives, and of those who felt an equally tender
interest in the mariners, though less inclined to avow it openly, were
thrown into the scale by the side of their own distrust. Gold,
unquestionably, was the great aim of their wishes, and there were
moments when visions of inexhaustible mines and of oriental treasures
floated before their imaginations; at which times none could be more
eager to engage in the mysterious undertaking, or more ready to risk
their lives and hopes on its success. But these were fleeting
impressions, and, as has just been said, despondency was the prevalent
feeling among those who were about to embark. It heightened the devotion
of the communicants, and threw a gloom over the chastened sobriety of
the altar, that weighed heavily on the hearts of most assembled there.

"Our people seem none of the most cheerful, Señor Almirante," said Luis,
as they left the convent-chapel in company; "and, if truth must be
spoken, one could wish to set forth on an expedition of this magnitude,
better sustained by merry hearts and smiling countenances."

"Dost thou imagine, young count, that he hath the firmest mind who
weareth the most smiling visage, or that the heart is weak because the
countenance is sobered? These honest mariners bethink them of their
sins, and no doubt are desirous that so holy an enterprise be not
tainted by the corruption of their own hearts, but rather purified and
rendered fitting, by their longings to obey the will of God. I trust,
Luis"--intercourse had given Columbus a sort of paternal interest in the
welfare of the young grandee, that lessened the distance made by rank
between them--"I trust, Luis, thou art not, altogether, without these
pious longings in thine own person."

"By San Pedro, my new patron! Señor Almirante, I think more of Mercedes
de Valverde, than of aught else, in this great affair. She is my polar
star, my religion, my Cathay. Go on, in Heaven's name, and discover what
thou wilt, whether it be Cipango or the furthest Indies; beard the great
Khan on his throne, and I will follow in thy train, with a poor lance
and an indifferent sword, swearing that the maid of Castile hath no
equal, and ransacking the east, merely to prove in the face of the
universe that she is peerless, let her rivals come from what part of the
earth they may."

Although Columbus permitted his grave countenance slightly to relax at
this rhapsody, he did not the less deem it prudent to rebuke the spirit
in which it was uttered.

"I grieve, my young friend," he said, "to find that thou hast not the
feelings proper for one who is engaged, as it might be, in a work of
Heaven's own ordering. Canst thou not foresee the long train of mighty
and wonderful events that are likely to follow from this voyage--the
spread of religion, through the holy church; the conquest of distant
empires, with their submission to the sway of Castile; the settling of
disputed points in science and philosophy, and the attainment of
inexhaustible wealth; with the last and most honorable consequence of
all, the recovery of the sepulchre of the Son of God, from the hands of
the Infidels!"

"No doubt, Señor Colon--no doubt, I see them all, but I see the Doña
Mercedes at their end. What care I for gold, who already possess--or
shall so soon possess--more than I need? what is the extension of the
sway of Castile to me, who can never be its king? and as for the Holy
Sepulchre, give me but Mercedes, and, like my ancestors that are gone, I
am ready to break a lance with the stoutest Infidel who ever wore a
turban, be it in that, or in any other quarrel. In short, Señor
Almirante, lead on; and though we go forth with different objects and
different hopes, doubt not that they will lead us to the same goal. I
feel that you ought to be supported in this great and noble design, and
it matters not what may bring me in your train."

"Thou art a mad-brained youth, Luis, and must be humored, if it were
only for the sake of the sweet and pious young maiden who seemeth to
engross all thy thoughts."

"You have seen her, Señor, and can say whether she be not worthy to
occupy the minds of all the youth of Spain?"

"She is fair, and virtuous, and noble, and a zealous friend of the
voyage. These are all rare merits, and thou may'st be pardoned for thy
enthusiasm in her behalf. But forget not, that, to win her, thou must
first win a sight of Cathay."

"In the reality, you must mean, Señor Almirante; for, with the mind's
eye, I see it keenly, constantly, and see little else, with Mercedes
standing on its shores, smiling a welcome, and, by St. Paul! sometimes
beckoning me on, with that smile that fires the soul with its witchery,
even while it subdues the temper with its modesty. The blessed Maria
send us a wind, right speedily, that we may quit this irksome river and
wearying convent!"

Columbus made no answer; for, while he had all consideration for a
lover's impatience, his thoughts turned to subjects too grave, to be
long amused even by a lover's follies.



CHAPTER XIII.

    "Nor Zayda weeps him only,
    But all that dwell between
    The great Alhambra's palace walls
    And springs of Albalein."

    Bryant's Translations.


The instant of departure at length arrived. The moment so long desired
by the Genoese was at hand, and years of poverty, neglect, and of
procrastination, were all forgotten at that blessed hour; or, if they
returned in any manner to the constant memory, it was no longer with the
bitterness of hope deferred. The navigator, at last, saw himself in the
possession of the means of achieving the first great object for which he
had lived the last fifteen years, with the hope, in perspective, of
making the success of his present adventure the stepping-stone toward
effecting the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre. While those around him
were looking with astonishment at the limited means with which ends so
great were to be attained, or were struck aghast at the apparent
temerity of an undertaking that seemed to defy the laws of nature, and
to set at naught the rules of Providence, he had grown more tranquil as
the time for sailing drew nearer, and his mind was oppressed merely by a
feeling of intense, but of sobered, delight. Fray Juan Perez whispered
to Luis, that he could best liken the joy of the admiral to the
chastened rapture of a Christian who was about to quit a world of woe,
to enter on the untasted, but certain, fruition of blessed immortality.

This, however, was far from being the state of mind of all in Palos. The
embarkation took place in the course of the afternoon of the 2d of
August, it being the intention of the pilots to carry the vessels that
day to a point off the town of Huelvas, where the position was more
favorable to making sail than when anchored in front of Palos. The
distance was trifling, but it was the commencement of the voyage, and,
to many, it was like snapping the cords of life, to make even this brief
movement. Columbus, himself, was one of the last to embark, having a
letter to send to the court, and other important duties to discharge. At
length he quitted the convent, and, accompanied by Luis and the prior,
he, too, took his way to the beach. The short journey was silent, for
each of the party was deeply plunged in meditation. Never before this
hour, did the enterprise seem so perilous and uncertain to the excellent
Franciscan. Columbus was carefully recalling the details of his
preparations, while Luis was thinking of the maid of Castile, as he was
wont to term Mercedes, and of the many weary days that must elapse
before he could hope to see her again.

The party stopped on the shore, in waiting for a boat to arrive, at a
place where they were removed from any houses. There Fray Juan Perez
took his leave of the two adventurers. The long silence that all three
had maintained, was more impressive than any ordinary discourse could
have been; but it was now necessary to break it. The prior was deeply
affected, and it was some little time before he could even trust his
voice to speak.

"Señor Christoval," he at length commenced, "it is now many years since
thou first appeared at the gate of Santa Maria de Rabida--years of
friendship and pleasure have they proved to me."

"It is full seven, Fray Juan Perez," returned Columbus--"seven weary
years have they proved to me, as a solicitor for employment--years of
satisfaction, father, in all that concerneth thee. Think not that I can
ever forget the hour, when, leading Diego, houseless, impoverished,
wanderers, journeying on foot, I stopped to tax the convent's charity
for refreshment! The future is in the hands of God, but the past is
imprinted here"--laying his hand on his heart--"and can never be
forgotten. Thou hast been my constant friend, holy prior, and that, too,
when it was no credit to favor the nameless Genoese. Should my
estimation ever change in men's opinions"--

"Nay, Señor Almirante, it hath changed already," eagerly interrupted the
prior. "Hast thou not the commission of the queen--the support of Don
Fernando--the presence of this young noble, though still as an
incognito--the wishes of all the learned? Dost thou not go forth, on
this great voyage, carrying with thee more of our hopes than of our
fears?"

"So far as thou art concerned, dear Juan Perez, this may be so. I feel
that I have all thy best wishes for success; I know that I shall have
thy prayers. Few in Spain, notwithstanding, will think of Colon with
respect, or hope, while we are wandering on the great desert of the
ocean, beyond a very narrow circle. I fear me, that, even at this
moment, when the means of learning the truth of our theories is in
actual possession--when we stand, as it might be, on the very threshold
of the great portal which opens upon the Indies--that few believe in our
chances of success."

"Thou hast Doña Isabella of thy side, Señor!"

"And Doña Mercedes!" put in Luis; "not to speak of my decided and
true-hearted aunt!"

"I ask but a few brief months, Señores," returned Columbus, his face
turned to heaven with uncovered head, his gray hair floating in the
wind, and his eye kindling with the light of enthusiasm--"a few short
months, that will pass away untold with the happy--that even the
miserable may find supportable, but which to us will seem ages, must now
dispose of this question. Prior, I have often quitted the shore feeling
that I carried my life in my hand, conscious of all the dangers of the
ocean, and as much expecting death as a happy return; but at this
glorious moment no doubts beset me; as for life, I know it is in the
keeping of God's care; as for success, I feel it is in God's wisdom!"

"These are comfortable sentiments, at so serious a moment, Señor, and I
devoutly hope the end will justify them. But, yonder is thy boat, and we
must now part. Señor, my son, thou knowest that my spirit will be with
thee in this mighty undertaking."

"Holy prior, remember me in thy prayers. I am weak, and have need of
this support. I trust much to the efficacy of thy intercessions, aided
by those of thy pious brotherhood. Thou wilt bestow on us a few masses?"

"Doubt us not, my friend; all that la Rabida can do with the blessed
Virgin, or the saints, shall be exercised, without ceasing, in thy
behalf. It is not given to man to foresee the events that are controlled
by Providence; and, though we deem this enterprise of thine so certain,
and so reasonable, it may nevertheless fail."

"It may _not_ fail, father; God hath thus far directed it, and he will
not permit it to fail."

"We know not, Señor Colon; our wisdom is but as a grain of mustard seed
among the sands of this shore, as compared with his inscrutable designs.
I was about to say, as it is possible thou may'st return a disappointed,
a defeated man, that thou wilt still find the gate of Santa Maria open
to thee; since, in our eyes, it is as meritorious to attempt nobly, as
it is often, in the eyes of others, to achieve successfully."

"I understand thee, holy prior; and the cup and the morsel bestowed on
the young Diego, were not more grateful than this proof of thy
friendship! I would not depart without thy blessing."

"Kneel, then, Señor; for, in this act it will not be Juan Perez de
Marchena that will speak, and pronounce, but the minister of God and the
church. Even these sands will be no unworthy spot to receive such an
advantage."

The eyes of both Columbus and the prior were suffused with tears, for at
that moment the heart of each was touched with the emotions natural to a
moment so solemn. The first loved the last, because he had proved
himself a friend when friends were few and timid; and the worthy monk
had some such attachment for the great navigator as men are apt to feel
for those they have cherished. Each, also, respected and appreciated the
other's motives, and there was a bond of union in their common reverence
for the Christian religion. Columbus kneeled on the sands, and received
the benediction of his friend, with the meek submission of faith, and
with some such feelings of reverence as those with which a pious son
would have listened to a blessing pronounced by a natural father.

[Illustration: "Columbus kneeled on the sands, and received the
benediction."]

"And thou, young lord," resumed Fray Juan Perez, with a husky
voice--"thou, too, wilt be none the worse for the prayers of an aged
churchman."

Like most of that age, Luis, in the midst of his impetuous feelings, and
youthful propensities, had enshrined in his heart an image of the Son of
God, and entertained an habitual respect for holy things. He knelt
without hesitation, and listened to the trembling words of the priest
with thankfulness and respect.

"Adieu, holy prior," said Columbus, squeezing his friend's hand. "Thou
hast befriended me when others held aloof; but I trust in God that the
day is not now distant, when those who have ever shown confidence in my
predictions will cease to feel uneasiness at the mention of my name.
Forget us in all things but thy prayers, for a few short months, and
then expect tidings that, of a verity, shall exalt Castile to a point of
renown which will render this Conquest of Granada but an incident of
passing interest amid the glory of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella!"

This was not said boastfully, but with the quiet earnestness of one who
saw a truth that was concealed from most eyes, and this with an
intensity so great, that the effect on his moral vision produced a
confidence equalling that which is the fruit of the evidence of the
senses in ordinary men. The prior understood him, and the assurance thus
given cheered the mind of the worthy Franciscan long after the departure
of his friend. They embraced and separated.

By this time the boat of Columbus had reached the shore. As the
navigator moved slowly toward it, a youthful female rushed wildly past
him and Luis, and, regardless of their presence, she threw her arms
around a young mariner who had quitted the boat to meet her, and sobbed
for a minute on his bosom, in uncontrollable agony, or as women weep in
the first outbreak of their emotions.

"Come, then, Pepe," the young wife at length said, hurriedly, and with
low earnestness, as one speaks who would fain persuade herself that
denial was impossible--"come, Pepe; thy boy hath wept for thee, and thou
hast pushed this matter, already, much too far."

"Nay, Monica," returned the husband, glancing his eye at Columbus, who
was already near enough to hear his words--"thou knowest it is by no
wish of mine that I am to sail on this unknown voyage. Gladly would I
abandon it, but the orders of the queen are too strong for a poor
mariner like me, and they must be obeyed."

"This is foolish, Pepe," returned the woman, pulling at her husband's
doublet to drag him from the water-side--"I have had enough of this;
sufficient to break my heart. Come, then, and look again upon thy boy."

"Thou dost not see that the admiral is near, Monica, and we are showing
him disrespect."

The habitual deference that was paid by the low to the high, induced the
woman, for a moment, to pause. She looked imploringly at Columbus, her
fine dark eyes became eloquent with the feelings of a wife and mother,
and then she addressed the great navigator, himself.

"Señor," she said, eagerly, "you can have no further need of Pepe. He
hath helped to carry your vessels to Huelva, and now his wife and boy
call for him at home."

Columbus was touched with the manner of the woman, which was not
entirely without a show of that wavering of reason which is apt to
accompany excessive grief, and he answered her less strongly than, at a
moment so critical, he might otherwise have been disposed to do to one
who was inciting to disobedience.

"Thy husband is honored in being chosen to be my companion in the great
voyage," he said. "Instead of bewailing his fate, thou wouldst act more
like a brave mariner's wife, in exulting in his good fortune."

"Believe him not, Pepe. He speaketh under the Evil One's advice to tempt
thee to destruction. He hath talked blasphemy, and belied the word of
God, by saying that the world is round, and that one may sail east by
steering west, that he might ruin thee and others, by tempting ye all to
follow him!"

"And why should I do this, good woman?" demanded the admiral. "What have
I to gain by the destruction of thy husband, or by the destruction of
any of his comrades?"

"I know not--I care not--Pepe is all to me, and he shall not go with you
on this mad and wicked voyage. No good can come of a journey that is
begun by belying the truths of God!"

"And what particular evil dost thou dread, in this, more than in another
voyage, that thou thus hang'st upon thy husband, and usest such
discourse to one who beareth their Highnesses' authority for that he
doeth? Thou knewest he was a mariner when thou wert wedded, and yet thou
wouldst fain prevent him from serving the queen, as becometh his station
and duty."

"He may go against the Moor, or the Portuguese, or the people of
Inghleterra, but I would not that he voyage in the service of the Prince
of Darkness. Why tell us that the earth is round, Señor, when our eyes
show that it is flat? And if round, how can a vessel that hath descended
the side of the earth for days, ever return? The sea doth not flow
upward, neither can a caravel mount the waterfall. And when thou hast
wandered about for months in the vacant ocean, in what manner wilt thou,
and those with thee, ever discover the direction that must be taken to
return whence ye all sailed? Oh! Señor, Palos is but a little town, and
once lost sight of in such a confusion of ideas, it will never be
regained."

"Idle and childish as this may seem," observed Columbus, turning quietly
to Luis, "it is as reasonable as much that I have been doomed to hear
from the learned, during the last sixteen years. When the night of
ignorance obscures the mind, the thoughts conjure arguments a thousand
times more vain and frivolous than the phenomena of nature that it
fancies so unreasonable. I will try the effect of religion on this
woman, converting her present feelings on that head, from an enemy into
an ally. Monica," calling her kindly and familiarly by name, "art thou a
Christian?"

"Blessed Maria! Señor Almirante, what else should I be? Dost think Pepe
would have married a Moorish girl?"

"Listen, then, to me, and learn how unlike a believer thou conductest.
The Moor is not the only infidel, but this earth groaneth with the
burden of their numbers, and of their sins. The sands on this shore are
not as numerous as the unbelievers in the single kingdom of Cathay; for,
as yet, God hath allotted but a small portion of the earth to those who
have faith in the mediation of his Son. Even the sepulchre of Christ is
yet retained by infidel hands."

"This have I heard, Señor; and 'tis a thousand pities the faith is so
weak in those who have vowed to obey the law, that so crying an evil
hath never been cured!"

"Hast thou not been told that such is to be the fate of the world, for a
time, but that light will dawn when the word shall pass, like the sound
of trumpets, into the ears of infidels, and when the earth, itself,
shall be but one vast temple, filled with the praises of God, the love
of his name, and obedience to his will?"

"Señor, the good fathers of la Rabida, and our own parish priests, often
comfort us with these hopes."

"And hast thou seen naught of late to encourage that hope--to cause thee
to think that God is mindful of his people, and that new light is
beginning to burst on the darkness of Spain?"

"Pepe, his excellency must mean the late miracle at the convent, where
they say that real tears were seen to fall from the eyes of the image of
the holy Maria, as she gazed at the child that lay on her bosom."

"I mean not that," interrupted Columbus, a little sternly, though he
crossed himself, even while he betrayed dissatisfaction at the allusion
to a miracle that was much too vulgar for his manly understanding--"I
mean no such questionable wonder, which it is permitted us to believe,
or not, as it may be supported by the church's authority. Can thy faith
and zeal point to no success of the two sovereigns, in which the power
of God, as exercised to the advancement of the faith, hath been made
signally apparent to believers?"

"He meaneth the expulsion of the Moor, Pepe!" the woman exclaimed,
glancing quickly toward her husband, with a look of pleasure, "that hath
happened of late, they say, by conquering the city of Granada; into
which place, they tell me, Doña Isabella hath marched in triumph."

"In that conquest, thou seest the commencement of the great acts of our
time. Granada hath now its churches; and the distant land of Cathay will
shortly follow her example. These are the doings of the Lord, foolish
woman; and in holding back thy husband from this great undertaking, thou
hinderest him from purchasing a signal reward in heaven, and may
unwittingly be the instrument of casting a curse, instead of a blessing,
on that very boy, whose image now filleth thy thoughts more than that of
his Maker and Redeemer."

The woman appeared bewildered, first looking at the admiral, and then at
her husband, after which she bowed her head low, and devoutly crossed
herself. Recovering from this self-abasement, she again turned toward
Columbus, demanding earnestly--

"And you, Señor--do you sail with the wish and hope of serving God?"

"Such is my principal aim, good woman. I call on Heaven itself, to
witness the truth of what I say. May my voyage prosper, only, as I tell
thee naught but truth!"

"And you, too, Señor?" turning quickly to Luis de Bobadilla; "is it to
serve God that you also go on this unusual voyage?"

"If not at the orders of God, himself, my good woman, it is, at least,
at the bidding of an angel!"

"Dost thou think it is so, Pepe? Have we been thus deceived, and has so
much evil been said of the admiral and his motives, wrongfully?"

"What hath been said?" quietly demanded Columbus. "Speak freely; thou
hast naught to dread from my displeasure."

"Señor, you have your enemies, as well as another, and the wives, and
mothers, and the betrothed of Palos, have not been slow to give vent to
their feelings. In the first place, they say that you are poor."

"That is so true and manifest, good woman, it would be idle to deny it.
Is poverty a crime at Palos?"

"The poor are little respected, Señor, in all this region. I know not
why, for to me we seem to be as the rest, but few respect us. Then they
say, Señor, that you are not a Castilian, but a Genoese."

"This is also true; is that, too, a crime among the mariners of Moguer,
who ought to prize a people as much renowned for their deeds on the sea,
as those of the superb republic?"

"I know not, Señor; but many hold it to be a disadvantage not to belong
to Spain, and particularly to Castile, which is the country of Doña
Isabella, herself; and how can it be as honorable to be a Genoese as to
be a Spaniard? I should like it better were Pepe to sail with one who is
a Spaniard, and that, too, of Palos or Moguer."

"Thy argument is ingenious, if not conclusive," returned Columbus,
smiling, the only outward exhibition of feeling he betrayed--"but cannot
one who is both poor and a Genoese serve God?"

"No doubt, Señor; and I think better of this voyage since I know your
motive, and since I have seen you and spoken with you. Still, it is a
great sacrifice for a young wife to let her husband sail on an
expedition so distrusted, and he the father of her only boy!"

"Here is a young noble, an only son, a lover, and that, too, of
impetuous feelings, an only child withal, rich, honored, and able to go
whither he will, who not only embarketh with me, but embarketh by the
consent--nay, I had better say, by the orders of his mistress!"

"Is this so, Señor?" the wife asked, eagerly.

"So true, my good woman, that my greatest hopes depend on this voyage.
Did I not tell thee that I went at the bidding of an angel?"

"Ah! these young lords have seductive tongues! But, Señor Almirante,
since such is your quality, they say, moreover, that to you this voyage
can only bring honors and good, while it may bring misery and death on
your followers. Poor and unknown, it maketh you a high officer of the
queen; and some think that the Venetian galleys will be none the more
heavily freighted, should you need them on the high seas."

"And in what can all this harm thy husband? I go whithersoever he goeth,
share his dangers, and expose life for life with him. If there is gold
gained by the adventure, he will not be forgotten; and if heaven is made
any nearer to us, by our dangers and hardships, Pepe will not be a
loser. At the last great reckoning, woman, we shall not be asked who is
poor, or who is a Genoese."

"This is true, Señor; and yet it is hard for a young wife to part from
her husband. Dost thou wish, in truth, to sail with the admiral, Pepe?"

"It matters little with me, Monica; I am commanded to serve the queen,
and we mariners have no right to question her authority. Now I have
heard his excellency's discourse, I think less of the affair than
before."

"If God is really to be served in this voyage," continued the woman,
with dignity, "thou shouldst not be backward, more than another, my
husband. Señor, will you suffer Pepe to pass the night with his family,
on condition that he goeth on board the Santa Maria in the morning?"

"What certainty have I that this condition will be respected?"

"Señor, we are both Christians, and serve the same God--have been
redeemed by the same Saviour."

"This is true, and I will confide in it. Pepe, thou canst remain until
the morning, when I shall expect thee at thy station. There will be
oarsmen enough, without thee."

The woman looked her thanks, and Columbus thought he read an assurance
of good faith in her noble Spanish manner, and lofty look. As some
trifling preparations were to be made before the boat could quit the
shore, the admiral and Luis paced the sands the while, engaged in deep
discourse.

"This hath been a specimen of what I have had to overcome and endure, in
order to obtain even yonder humble means for effecting the good designs
of Providence," observed Columbus, mournfully, though he spoke without
acrimony. "It is a crime to be poor--to be a Genoese--to be aught else
than the very thing that one's judges and masters fancy themselves to
be! The day will come, Conde de Llera, when Genoa shall think herself in
no manner disgraced, in having given birth to Christofero Colombo, and
when your proud Castile will be willing to share with her in the
dishonor! Thou little know'st, young lord, how far thou art on the road
to renown, and toward high deeds, in having been born noble, and the
master of large possessions. Thou seest me, here, a man already stricken
in years, with a head whitened by time and sufferings, and yet am I only
on the threshold of the undertaking that is to give my name a place
among those of the men who have served God, and advanced the welfare of
their fellow-creatures."

"Is not this the course of things, Señor, throughout the earth? Do not
those who find themselves placed beneath the level of their merits,
struggle to rise to the condition to which nature intended them to
belong, while those whom fortune hath favored through their ancestors,
are too often content to live on honors that they have not themselves
won? I see naught in this but the nature of man, and the course of the
world."

"Thou art right, Luis, but philosophy and fact are different matters. We
may reason calmly on principles, when their application in practice
causeth much pain. Thou hast a frank and manly nature, young man; one
that dreadeth neither the gibe of the Christian, nor the lance of the
Moor, and wilt answer to any, in fearlessness and truth. A Castilian
thyself, dost _thou_, too, really think one of thy kingdom better than
one of Genoa?"

"Not when he of Genoa is Christoval Colon, Señor, and he of Castile is
only Luis de Bobadilla," answered the young man, laughing.

"Nay, I will not be denied--hast thou any such notion as this, which the
wife of Pepe hath so plainly avowed?"

"What will you, Señor Christoval? Man is the same in Spain, that he is
among the Italians, or the English. Is it not his besetting sin to think
good of himself, and evil of his neighbor?"

"A plain question that is loyally put, may not be answered with a
truism, Luis."

"Nor a civil, honest reply confounded with one that is evasive. We of
Castile are humble and most devout Christians, by the same reason that
we think ourselves faultless, and the rest of mankind notable sinners.
By San Iago, of blessed faith and holy memory! it is enough to make a
people vain, to have produced such a queen as Doña Isabella, and such a
maiden as Mercedes de Valverde!"

"This is double loyalty, for it is being true to the queen and to thy
mistress. With this must I satisfy myself, even though it be no answer.
But, Castilian though I am not, even the Guzmans have not ventured on
the voyage to Cathay, and the House of Trastamara may yet be glad to
acknowledge its indebtedness to a Genoese. God hath no respect to
worldly condition, or worldly boundaries, in choosing his agents, for
most of the saints were despised Hebrews, while Jesus, himself, came of
Nazareth. We shall see, we shall see, young lord, what three months will
reveal to the admiration of mankind."

"Señor Almirante, I hope and pray it may be the island of Cipango and
the realms of the great Khan; should it not be so, we are men who can
not only bear our toils, but who can bear our disappointments."

"Of disappointments in this matter, Don Luis, I look for none--now that
I have the royal faith of Isabella, and these good caravels to back me;
the drudge who saileth from Madeira to Lisbon, is not more certain of
gaining his port than I am certain of gaining Cathay."

"No doubt, Señor Colon, that what any navigator can do, you can do and
will perform; nevertheless, disappointment would seem to be the lot of
man, and it might be well for all of us to be prepared to meet it."

"The sun that is just sinking beyond yon hill, Luis, is not plainer
before my eyes than this route to the Indies. I have seen it, these
seventeen years, distinct as the vessels in the river, bright as the
polar star, and, I make little doubt, as faithfully. It is well to talk
of disappointments, since they are the lot of man; and who can know this
better than one that hath been led on by false hopes during all the
better years of his life; now encouraged by princes, statesmen, and
churchmen; and now derided and scoffed at as a vain projector, that hath
neither reason nor fact to sustain him!"

"By my new patron, San Pedro! Señor Almirante, but you have led a most
grievous life, for this last age, or so. The next three months will,
indeed, be months of moment to you."

"Thou little know'st the calmness of conviction and confidence, Luis,"
returned Columbus, "if thou fanciest any doubts beset me as the hour of
trial approacheth. This day is the happiest I have known, for many a
weary year; for, though the preparations are not great, and our barks
are but slight and of trifling bulk, yonder lie the means through which
a light, that hath long been hid, is about to break upon the world, and
to raise Castile to an elevation surpassing that of any other Christian
nation."

"Thou must regret, Señor Colon, that it hath not been Genoa, thy native
land, that is now about to receive this great boon, after having merited
it by generous and free gifts, in behalf of this great voyage."

"This hath not been the least of my sorrows, Luis. It is hard to desert
one's own country, and to seek new connections, as life draweth to a
close, though we mariners, perhaps, feel the tie less than those who
never quit the land. But Genoa would have none of me; and if the child
is bound to love and honor the parent, so is the parent equally bound to
protect and foster the child. When the last forgets its duty, the first
is not to be blamed if it seek support wherever it may be found. There
are limits to every human duty; those we owe to God alone, never ceasing
to require their fulfilment, and our unceasing attention. Genoa hath
proved but a stern mother to me; and though naught could induce me to
raise a hand against her, she hath no longer any claims on my service.
Besides, when the object in view is the service of God, it mattereth
little with which of his creatures we league as instruments. One cannot
easily hate the land of his birth, but injustice may lead him to cease
to love it. The tie is mutual, and when the country ceaseth to protect
person, character, property, or rights, the subject is liberated from
all his duties. If allegiance goeth with protection, so should
protection go with allegiance. Doña Isabella is now my mistress, and,
next to God, her will I serve, and serve only. Castile is henceforth my
country."

At this moment it was announced that the pinnace waited, and the two
adventurers immediately embarked.

It must have required all the deep and fixed convictions of an ardent
temperament, to induce Columbus to rejoice that he had, at length,
obtained the means of satisfying his longings for discovery, when he
came coolly to consider what those means were. The names of his vessels,
the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Niña, have already been mentioned,
and some allusions have been made to their size and construction. Still,
it may aid the reader in forming his opinions of the character of this
great enterprise, if we give a short sketch of the vessels, more
especially that in which Columbus and Luis de Bobadilla were now
received. She was, of course, the Santa Maria, a ship of nearly twice
the burden of the craft next her in size. This vessel had been prepared
with more care than the others, and some attention had been paid to the
dignity and comfort of the Admiral she was destined to carry. Not only
was she decked in, but a poop, or round-house, was constructed on her
quarter-deck, in which he had his berth. No proper notion can be
obtained of the appearance of the Santa Maria, from the taunt-rigged,
symmetrical, and low-sterned ships of the present time; for, though the
Santa Maria had both a poop and top-gallant-forecastle, as they would be
termed to-day, neither was constructed in the snug and unobtrusive
manner that is now used. The poop, or round-house, was called
a castle, to which it had some fancied resemblance, while the
top-gallant-forecastle, in which most of the people lived, was out of
proportion large, rose like a separate structure on the bows of the
vessel, and occupied about a third of the deck, from forward aft. To
those who never saw the shipping that was used throughout Europe, a
century since, it will not be very obvious how vessels so small could
rise so far above the water, in safety; but this difficulty may be
explained; many very old ships, that had some of the peculiarities of
this construction, existing within the memory of man, and a few having
fallen under our own immediate inspection. The bearings of these vessels
were at the loaded water-lines, or very little above them, and they
tumbled home, in a way to reduce their beams on their poop decks nearly,
if not quite, a fourth. By these precautions, their great height out of
the water was less dangerous than might otherwise have been the case;
and as they were uniformly short ships, possessing the advantages of
lifting easily forward, and were, moreover, low-waisted, they might be
considered safe in a sea, rather than the reverse. Being so short, too,
they had great beam for their tonnage, which, if not an element of
speed, was at least one of security. Although termed ships, these
vessels were not rigged in the manner of the ships of the present day,
their standing spars being relatively longer than those now in use,
while their upper, or shifting spars, were much less numerous, and much
less important than those which now point upward, like needles, toward
the clouds. Neither had a ship necessarily the same number of spars, in
the fifteenth century, as belong to a ship in the nineteenth. The term
itself, as it was used in all the southern countries of Europe, being
directly derived from the Latin word _navis_, was applied rather as a
generic than as a distinctive term, and by no means inferred any
particular construction, or particular rig. The caravel was a ship, in
this sense, though not strictly so, perhaps, when we descend to the more
minute classification of seamen.

Much stress has been justly laid on the fact, that two of the vessels in
this extraordinary enterprise were undecked. In that day, when most sea
voyages were made in a direction parallel to the main coasts, and when
even those that extended to the islands occupied but a very few days,
vessels were seldom far from the land; and it was the custom of the
mariners, a practice that has extended to our own times, in the southern
seas of Europe, to seek a port at the approach of bad weather. Under
such circumstances, decks were by no means as essential, either for the
security of the craft, the protection of the cargo, or the comfort of
the people, as in those cases in which the full fury of the elements
must be encountered. Nevertheless, the reader is not to suppose a vessel
entirely without any upper covering, because she was not classed among
those that were decked; even such caravels, when used on the high seas,
usually possessing quarter-decks and forecastles, with connecting
gangways; depending on tarpaulings, and other similar preventives, to
exclude the wash of the sea from injuring their cargoes.

After all these explanations, however, it must be conceded, that the
preparations for the great undertaking of Columbus, while the
imaginations of landsmen probably aggravate their incompleteness, strike
the experienced seaman as altogether inadequate to its magnitude and
risks. That the mariners of the day deemed them positively insufficient
is improbable, for men as accustomed to the ocean as the Pinzons, would
not have volunteered to risk their vessel, their money, and their
persons, in an expedition that did not possess the ordinary means of
security.



CHAPTER XIV.

    "O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
    Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
    Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
    Survey our empire, and behold our home."

    Byron.


As Columbus sought his apartment, soon after he reached the deck of the
Holy Maria, Luis had no farther opportunity to converse with him that
night. He occupied a part of the same room, it is true, under the
assumed appellation of the admiral's secretary; but the great navigator
was so much engaged with duties necessary to be discharged previously to
sailing, that he could not be interrupted, and the young man paced the
narrow limits of the deck until near midnight, thinking, as usual, of
Mercedes, and of his return, when, seeking his mattress, he found
Columbus already buried in a deep sleep.

The following day was Friday; and it is worthy of remark, that the
greatest and most successful voyage that has ever occurred on this
globe, was commenced on a day of the week that seamen have long deemed
to be so inauspicious to nautical enterprises, that they have often
deferred sailing, in order to avoid the unknown, but dreaded
consequences. Luis was among the first who appeared again on deck, and
casting his eyes upward, he perceived that the admiral was already
afoot, and in possession of the summit of the high poop, or castle,
whose narrow limits, indeed, were deemed sacred to the uses of the
privileged, answering, in this particular, to the more extended
promenade of the modern quarter-deck. Here it was that he who directed
the movements of a squadron, overlooked its evolutions, threw out his
signals, made his astronomical observations, and sought his recreation
in the open air. The whole space on board the Santa Maria might have
been some fifteen feet in one direction, and not quite as much in the
other, making a convenient look-out, more from its exclusion and
retirement, than from its dimensions.

As soon as the admiral--or Don Christoval, as he was now termed by the
Spaniards, since his appointment to his present high rank, which gave
him the rights and condition of a noble--as soon as Don Christoval
caught a glance of Luis' eye, he made a sign for the young man to ascend
and take a position at his side. Although the expedition was so
insignificant in numbers and force, not equalling, in the latter
particular, the power of a single modern sloop of war, the authority of
the queen, the gravity and mien of Columbus himself, and, most of all,
its own mysterious and unwonted object, had, from the first, thrown
around it a dignity that was disproportioned to its visible means.
Accustomed to control the passions of turbulent men, and aware of the
great importance of impressing his followers with a sense of his high
station and influence with the court, Columbus had kept much aloof from
familiar intercourse with his subordinates, acting principally through
the Pinzons and the other commanders, lest he might lose some portion of
that respect which he foresaw would be necessary to his objects. It
needed not his long experience to warn him that men, crowded together in
so small a space, could only be kept in their social and professional
stations, by the most rigid observance of forms and decorum, and he had
observed a due attention to these great requisites, in prescribing the
manner in which his own personal service should be attended to, and his
personal dignity supported. This is one of the great secrets of the
discipline of a ship, for they who are incapable of reasoning, can be
made to feel, and no man is apt to despise him who is well entrenched
behind the usages of deference and reserve. We see, daily, the influence
of an appellation, or a commission, even the turbulent submitting to its
authority, when they might resist the same lawful commands issuing from
an apparently less elevated source.

"Thou wilt keep much near my person, Señor Gutierrez," said the admiral,
using the feigned name which Luis affected to conceal under that of
Pedro de Muños, as he knew a ship was never safe from eaves-droppers,
and was willing that the young noble should pass as the gentleman of the
king's bedchamber, "this is our station, and here we must remain much of
our time, until God, in his holy and wise providence, shall have opened
the way for us to Cathay, and brought us near the throne of the Great
Khan. Here is our course, and along this track of pathless ocean it is
my intention to steer."

As Columbus spoke, he pointed to a chart that lay spread before him on
an arm-chest, passing a finger calmly along the line he intended to
pursue. The coast of Europe, in its general outlines, was laid down on
this chart, with as much accuracy as the geographical knowledge of the
day would furnish, and a range of land extended southward as far as
Guinea, all beyond which region was _terra incognita_ to the learned
world at that time. The Canaries and the Azores, which had been
discovered some generations earlier, occupied their proper places, while
the western side of the Atlantic was bounded by a fancied delineation of
the eastern coast of India, or of Cathay, buttressed by the island of
Cipango, or Japan, and an Archipelago, that had been represented
principally after the accounts of Marco Polo and his relatives. By a
fortunate misconception, Cipango had been placed in a longitude that
corresponded very nearly with that of Washington, or some two thousand
leagues east of the position in which it is actually to be found. This
error of Columbus, in relation to the extent of the circumference of the
globe, in the end, most probably saved his hardy enterprise from
becoming a failure.

Luis, for the first time since he had been engaged in the expedition,
cast his eyes over this chart, with some curiosity, and he felt a noble
desire to solve the great problem rising within him, as he thus saw, at
a glance, all the vast results, as well as the interesting natural
phenomena, that were dependent on the issue.

"By San Gennaro of Napoli!" he exclaimed--The only affectation the young
noble had, was a habit of invoking the saints of the different countries
he had visited, and of using the little oaths and exclamations of
distant lands, a summary mode of both letting the world know how far he
had journeyed, as well as a portion of the improvement he had derived
from his travels--"By San Gennaro, Señor Don Christoval, but this voyage
will be one of exceeding merit, if we ever find our way across this
great belt of water; and greater still, should we ever manage to
return!"

"The last difficulty is the one, at this moment, uppermost in the minds
of most in this vessel," answered Columbus. "Dost thou not perceive, Don
Luis, the grave and dejected countenances of the mariners, and hearest
thou the wailings that are rising from the shore?"

This remark caused the young man to raise his eyes from the chart, and
to take a survey of the scene around him. The Niña, a light felucca, in
fact, was already under way, and brushing past them under a latine
foresail, her sides thronged with boats filled with people, no small
portion of whom were females and children, and most of whom were
wringing their hands and raising piteous cries of despair. The Pinta was
in the act of being cast; and, although the authority of Martin Alonzo
Pinzon had the effect to render their grief less clamorous, her sides
were surrounded by a similar crowd, while numberless boats plied around
the Santa Maria herself; the authority and dignity of the admiral alone
keeping them at a distance. It was evident that most of those who
remained, fancied that they now saw their departing relations for the
last time, while no small portion of those who were on the eve of
sailing, believed they were on the point of quitting Spain forever.

"Hast looked for Pepe, this morning, among our people?" demanded
Columbus, the incident of the young sailor recurring to his thoughts,
for the first time that morning; "if he prove false to his word, we may
regard it as an evil omen, and have an eye on all our followers, while
there is a chance of escape."

"If his absence would be an omen of evil, Señor Almirante, his presence
ought to be received as an omen of good. The noble fellow is on this
yard, above our heads, loosening the sail."

Columbus turned his eyes upward, and there, indeed, was the young
mariner in question, poised on the extreme and attenuated end of the
latine yard, that ships even then carried on their after-masts, swinging
in the wind while he loosened the gasket that kept the canvas in its
folds. Occasionally he looked beneath him, anxious to discover if his
return had been noted; and, once or twice, his hands, usually so nimble,
lingered in their employment, as he cast glances over the stern of the
vessel, as if one also drew his attention in that quarter. Columbus made
a sign of recognition to the gratified young mariner, who instantly
permitted the canvas to fall; and then he walked to the taffrail,
accompanied by Luis, in order to ascertain if any boat was near the
ship. There, indeed, close to the vessel, lay a skiff, rowed by Monica
alone, and which had been permitted to approach so near on account of
the sex of its occupant. The moment the wife of Pepe observed the form
of the admiral, she arose from her seat, and clasped her hands toward
him, desirous, but afraid, to speak. Perceiving that the woman was awed
by the bustle, the crowd of persons, and the appearance of the ship,
which she was almost near enough to touch with her hand, Columbus
addressed her. He spoke mildly, and his looks, usually so grave, and
sometimes even stern, were softened to an expression of gentleness that
Luis had never before witnessed.

"I see that thy husband hath been true to his promise, good woman," he
said; "and I doubt not that thou hast told him it is wiser and better
manfully to serve the queen, than to live under the disgrace of a
runaway."

"Señor, I have. I give Doña Isabella my husband, without a murmur, if
not cheerfully, now I know that you go forth to serve God. I see the
wickedness of my repinings, and shall pray that he may be foremost, on
all occasions, until the ears of the Infidel shall be opened to the
words of the true faith."

"This is said like a Spanish wife, and a Christian woman! Our lives are
in the care of Providence, and doubt not of seeing Pepe, in health and
safety, after he hath visited Cathay, and done his share in its
discovery."

"Ah! Señor--when?" exclaimed the wife, unable, in spite of her assumed
fortitude, and the strong feelings of religious duty, to suppress the
impulses of a woman.

"In God's time, my good--how art thou named?"

"Monica, Señor Almirante, and my husband is called Pepe; and the boy,
the poor, fatherless child, hath been christened Juan. We have no
Moorish blood, but are pure Spaniards, and I pray your Excellency to
remember it, on such occasions as may call for more dangerous duty than
common."

"Thou may'st depend on my care of the father of Juan," returned the
admiral, smiling, though a tear glistened in his eye. "I, too, leave
behind those that are dear to me as my own soul, and among others a
motherless son. Should aught serious befall our vessel, Diego would be
an orphan; whereas thy Juan would at least enjoy the care and affection
of her who brought him into the world."

"Señor, a thousand pardons!" said the woman, much touched by the feeling
that was betrayed by the admiral in his voice. "We are selfish, and
forget that others have sorrows, when we feel our own too keenly. Go
forth, in God's name, and do his holy will--take my husband with you; I
only wish that little Juan was old enough to be his companion."

Monica could utter no more, but dashing the tears from her eyes, she
resumed the oars, and pulled the little skiff slowly, as if the
inanimate machine felt the reluctance of the hands that propelled it,
toward the land. The short dialogue just related, had been carried on in
voices so loud as to be heard by all near the speakers; and when
Columbus turned from the boat, he saw that many of his crew had been
hanging suspended in the rigging, or on the yards, eagerly listening to
what had been said. At this precise instant the anchor of the Santa
Maria was raised from the bottom, and the ship's head began to incline
from the direction of the wind. At the next moment, the flap of the
large square foresail that crafts of her rig then carried, was heard,
and in the course of the next five minutes, the three vessels were
standing slowly but steadily down the current of the Odiel, in one of
the arms of which river they had been anchored, holding their course
toward a bar near its mouth. The sun had not yet risen, or rather it
rose over the hills of Spain, a fiery ball, just as the sails were set,
gilding with a melancholy glory, a coast that not a few in the different
vessels apprehended they were looking upon for the last time. Many of
the boats clung to the two smaller craft until they reached the bar of
Saltes, an hour or two later, and some still persevered until they began
to toss in the long waves of the breathing ocean, when, the wind being
fresh at the west, they reluctantly cast off, one by one, amid sighs and
groans. The liberated ships, in the meanwhile, moved steadily into the
blue waters of the shoreless Atlantic, like human beings silently
impelled by their destinies toward fates that they can neither foresee,
control, nor avoid.

The day was fine, and the wind both brisk and fair. Thus far the omens
were propitious; but the unknown future threw a cloud over the feelings
of a large portion of those who were thus quitting, in gloomy
uncertainty, all that was most dear to them. It was known that the
admiral intended making the best of his way toward the Canaries, thence
to enter on the unknown and hitherto untrodden paths of the desert ocean
that lay beyond. Those who doubted, therefore, fixed upon those islands
as the points where their real dangers were to commence, and already
looked forward to their appearance in the horizon, with feelings akin to
those with which the guilty regard the day of trial, the condemned the
morning of execution, or the sinner the bed of death. Many, however,
were superior to this weakness, having steeled their nerves and prepared
their minds for any hazards, though the feelings of nearly all
fluctuated; there being hours when hope, and anticipations of success,
seemed to cheer the entire crews; and then, moments would occur, in
which the disposition was to common doubts, and a despondency that was
nearly general.

A voyage to the Canaries or the Azores, in that age, was most probably
to be classed among the hardiest exploits of seamen. The distance was
not as great, certainly, as many of their more ordinary excursions, for
vessels frequently went, even in the same direction, as far as the Cape
de Verdes; but all the other European passages lay along the land, and
in the Mediterranean the seaman felt that he was navigating within known
limits, and was apt to consider himself as embayed within the boundaries
of human knowledge. On the contrary, while sailing on the broad
Atlantic, he was, in some respects, placed in a situation resembling
that of the æronaut, who, while floating in the higher currents of the
atmosphere, sees beneath him the earth as his only alighting place, the
blue void of untravelled space stretching in all other directions about
him.

The Canary Isles were known to the ancients. Juba, the king of
Mauritania, who was a contemporary of Cæsar, is said to have described
them with tolerable accuracy, under the general name of the Fortunate
Isles. The work itself has been lost, but the fact is known through the
evidence of other writers; and by the same means it is known that they
possessed, even in that remote age, a population that had made some
respectable advances toward civilization. But in the process of time,
and during the dark period that succeeded the brightness of the Roman
sway, even the position of these islands was lost to the Europeans; nor
was it again ascertained until the first half of the fourteenth century,
when they were discovered by certain fugitive Spaniards who were hard
pressed by the Moors. After this, the Portuguese, then the most hardy
navigators of the known world, got possession of one or two of them, and
made them the starting points for their voyages of discovery along the
coast of Guinea. As the Spaniards reduced the power of the Mussulmans,
and regained their ancient sway in the peninsula, they once more turned
their attention in this direction, conquering the natives of several of
the other islands, the group belonging equally to those two Christian
nations, at the time of our narrative.

Luis de Bobadilla, who had navigated extensively in the more northern
seas, and who had passed and repassed the Mediterranean in various
directions, knew nothing of these islands except by report; and as they
stood on the poop, Columbus pointed out to him their position, and
explained their different characters; relating his intentions in
connection with them, dwelling on the supplies they afforded, and on
their facilities as a point of departure.

"The Portuguese have profited much by their use of these islands," said
Columbus, "as a place for victualling, and wooding, and watering, and I
see no reason why Castile may not, now, imitate their example, and
receive her share of the benefits. Thou seest how far south our
neighbors have penetrated, and what a trade and how much riches are
flowing into Lisbon through these noble enterprises, which,
notwithstanding, are but as a bucket of water in the ocean, when
compared with the wealth of Cathay and all the mighty consequences that
are to follow from this western voyage of ours."

"Dost thou expect to reach the territories of the Great Khan, Don
Christoval," demanded Luis, "within a distance as small as that to which
the Portuguese hath gone southwardly?"

The navigator looked warily around, to ascertain who might hear his
words, and finding that no one was within reach of the sound of his
voice while he used a proper caution, he lowered its tones, and answered
in a manner which greatly flattered his young companion, as it proved
that the admiral was disposed to treat him with the frankness and
confidence of a friend.

"Thou know'st, Don Luis," the navigator resumed, "the nature of the
spirits with whom we have to deal. I shall not even be certain of their
services, so long as we continue near the coast of Europe; for naught is
easier than for one of yonder craft to abandon me in the night, and to
seek a haven on some known coast, seeking his justification in some
fancied necessity."

"Martin Alonzo is not a man to do that ignoble and unworthy act!"
interrupted Luis.

"He is not, my young friend, for a motive as base as fear," returned
Columbus, with a sort of thoughtful smile, which showed how truly and
early he had dived into the real characters of those with whom he was
associated. "Martin Alonzo is a bold and intelligent navigator, and we
may look for good service at his hands, in all that toucheth resolution
and perseverance. But the eyes of the Pinzons cannot be always open, and
the knowledge of all the philosophers of the earth could make no
resistance against the headlong impetuosity of a crew of alarmed
mutineers. I do not feel certain of our own people while there is a hope
of easy return; much less of men who are not directly under my own eye
and command. The question thou hast asked, Luis, may not, therefore, be
publicly answered, since the distance we are about to sail over would
frighten our easily alarmed mariners. Thou art a cavalier; a knight of
known courage, and may be depended on; and I may tell thee, without fear
of arousing any unworthy feeling, that the voyage on which we are now
fairly embarked, hath never had a precedent on this earth, for its
length, or for the loneliness of its way."

"And yet, Señor, thou enterest on it with the confidence of a man
certain of reaching his haven?"

"Luis, thou hast well judged my feelings. As to all those common dreads
of descents, and ascents, of the difficulties of a return, and of
reaching the margin of the world, whence we may glide off into space,
neither thou, nor I, shall be much subjected."

"By San Iago! Señor Don Christoval, I have no very settled notions about
these things. I have never known of any one who hath slidden off the
earth into the air, it is true, nor do I much think that such a slide is
likely to befall us and our good ships; but, on the other hand, we have
as yet only doctrine to prove that the earth is round, and that it is
possible to journey east, by sailing west. On these subjects, then, I
hold myself neuter; while, at the same time, thou may'st steer direct
for the moon, and Luis de Bobadilla will be found at thy side."

"Thou makest thyself less expert in science, mad-brained young noble,
than is either true or necessary; but we will say no more of this, at
present. There will be sufficient leisure to make thee familiar with all
my intricate reasons and familiar motives. And is not this, Don Luis, a
most heavenly sight? Here am I in the open ocean, honored by the two
sovereigns with the dignity of their viceroy and admiral; with a fleet
that is commissioned by their Highnesses to carry the knowledge of their
power and authority to the uttermost parts of the earth; and, most of
all, to raise the cross of our blessed Redeemer before the eyes of
Infidels, who have never yet even heard his name, or, if they have,
reverence it as little as a Christian would reverence the idols of the
heathens!"

This was said with the calm but deep enthusiasm that colored the entire
character of the great navigator, rendering him, at times, equally the
subject of distrust and of profound respect. On Luis, as, indeed, on
most others who lived in sufficient familiarity with the man to enable
them to appreciate his motives, and to judge correctly of the
uprightness of his views, the effect, however, was always favorable, and
probably would have been so had Mercedes never existed. The young man,
himself, was not entirely without a tinge of enthusiasm, and, as is ever
the case with the single-minded and generous, he best knew how to regard
the impulses of those who were influenced by similar qualities. This
answer was consequently in accordance with the feelings of the admiral,
and they remained on the poop several hours, discoursing of the future,
with the ardor of those who hoped for every thing, but in a manner too
discursive and general to render a record of the dialogue easy or
necessary.

It was eight o'clock in the morning when the vessels passed the bar of
Saltes, and the day had far advanced before the navigators had lost
sight of the familiar eminences that lay around Palos, and the other
well-known land-marks of the coast. The course was due south, and, as
the vessels of that day were lightly sparred, and spread comparatively
very little canvas, when considered in connection with the more dashing
navigation of our own times, the rate of sailing was slow, and far from
promising a speedy termination to a voyage that all knew must be long
without a precedent, and which so many feared could never have an end.
Two marine leagues, of three English miles, an hour, was good progress
for a vessel at that day, even with a fresh and favorable wind; though
there are a few memorable days' works set down by Columbus himself,
which approach to a hundred and sixty miles in the twenty-four hours,
and which are evidently noted as a speed of which a mariner might well
be proud. In these days of locomotion and travelling, it is scarcely
necessary to tell the intelligent reader this is but a little more than
half the distance that is sailed over by a fast ship, under similar
circumstances, and in our own time.

Thus the sun set upon the adventurers, in this celebrated voyage, when
they had sailed with a strong breeze, to use the words of Columbus' own
record, some eleven hours, after quitting the bar. By this time, they
had made good less than fifty miles, in a due south course from the
place of their departure. The land in the neighborhood of Palos had
entirely sunk behind the watery margin of the ocean, in that direction,
and the coast trending eastward, it was only here and there that the
misty summits of a few of the mountains of Seville could just be
discovered by the experienced eyes of the older mariners, as the glowing
ball of the sun sunk into the watery bed of the western horizon, and
disappeared from view. At this precise moment, Columbus and Luis were
again on the poop, watching, with melancholy interest, the last shadows
cast by Spanish land, while two seamen were at work near them, splicing
a rope that had been chafed asunder. The latter were seated on the deck,
and as, out of respect to the admiral, they had taken their places a
little on one side, their presence was not at first noted.

"There setteth the sun beneath the waves of the wide Atlantic, Señor
Gutierrez," observed the admiral, who was ever cautious to use one or
the other of Luis' feigned appellations, whenever any person was near.
"There the sun quitteth us, Pero, and in his daily course I see a proof
of the globular form of the earth; and of the truth of a theory which
teacheth us that Cathay may be reached by the western voyage."

"I am ever ready to admit the wisdom of all your plans, expectations,
and thoughts, Señor Don Christoval," returned the young man,
punctiliously observant of respect, both in speech and manner; "but I
confess I cannot see what the daily course of the sun has to do with the
position of Cathay, or with the road that leads to it. We know that the
great luminary travelleth the heavens without ceasing, that it cometh up
out of the sea in the morning, and goeth down to its watery bed at
night; but this it doth on the coast of Castile, as well as on that of
Cathay; and, therefore, to me it doth appear, that no particular
inference, for or against our success, is to be drawn from the
circumstance."

As this was said, the two sailors ceased working, looking curiously up
into the face of the admiral, anxious to hear his reply. By this
movement Luis perceived that one was Pepe, to whom he gave a nod of
recognition, while the other was a stranger. The last had every
appearance of a thorough-bred seaman of that period, or of being, what
would have been termed in English, and the more northern languages of
Europe, a regular "sea-dog;" a term that expresses the idea of a man so
completely identified with the ocean by habit, as to have had his
exterior, his thoughts, his language, and even his morality, colored by
the association. This sailor was approaching fifty, was short, square,
athletic, and still active, but there was a mixture of the animal with
the intellectual creature about his coarse, heavy features, that is very
usual in the countenances of men of native humor and strong sense, whose
habits have been coarse and sensual. That he was a prime seaman,
Columbus knew at a glance, not only from his general appearance, but
from his occupation, which was such as only fell to the lot of the most
skilful men of every crew.

"I reason after this fashion, Señor," answered the admiral, as soon as
his eye turned from the glance that he, too, had thrown upon the men;
"the sun is not made to journey thus around the earth without a
sufficient motive, the providence of God being ruled by infinite wisdom.
It is not probable that a luminary so generous and useful should be
intended to waste any of its benefits; and we are certain already that
day and night journey westward over this earth as far as it is known to
us, whence I infer that the system is harmonious, and the benefits of
the great orb are unceasingly bestowed on man, reaching one spot on the
earth as it quits another. The sun that hath just left us is still
visible in the Azores, and will be seen again at Smyrna, and among the
Grecian Islands, an hour, or more, before it again meets our eyes.
Nature hath designed naught for uselessness; and I believe that Cathay
will be enlightened by that ball which hath just left us, while we shall
be in the deepest hour of the night, to return by its eastern path,
across the great continent of Asia, and to greet us again in the
morning. In a word, friend Pedro, that which Sol is now doing with such
nimble speed in the heavens, we are more humbly imitating in our own
caravels; give us sufficient time, and we, too, might traverse the
earth, coming in from our journey by the land of the Tartars and the
Persians."

"From all of which you infer that the world is round, wherein we are to
find the certainty of our success?"

"This is so true, Señor de Muños, that I should be sorry to think any
man who now saileth under my command did not admit it. Here are two
seamen who have been listening to our discourse, and we will question
them, that we may know the opinions of men accustomed to the ocean. Thou
art the husband with whom I held discourse on the sands, the past
evening, and thy name is Pepe?"

"Señor Almirante, your Excellency's memory doth me too much honor, in
not forgetting a face that is altogether unworthy of being noticed and
remembered."

"It is an honest face, friend, and no doubt speaketh for a true heart. I
shall count on thee as a sure support, let things go as they may."

"His Excellency hath not only a right to command me, as her Highness'
admiral, but he hath now the good-will of Monica, and that is much the
same as having gained her husband."

"I thank thee, honest Pepe, and shall count on thee, with certainty, in
future," answered Columbus, turning toward the other seaman--"And thou,
shipmate--thou hast the air of one that the sight of troubled water will
not alarm--thou hast a name?"

"That I have, noble admiral," returned the fellow, looking up with a
freedom that denoted one used to have his say; "though it hath neither a
Don, nor a Señor, to take it in tow. My intimates commonly call out
Sancho, when pressed for time, and when civility gets the better of
haste, they add Mundo, making Sancho Mundo for the whole name of a very
poor man."

"Mundo is a large name for so small a person," said the admiral,
smiling, for he foresaw the expediency of having friends among his crew,
and knew men sufficiently to understand that, while undue familiarity
undermined respect, a little unbending had a tendency to win hearts. "I
wonder that thou shouldst venture to wear a sound so lofty!"

"I tell my fellows, your Excellency, that Mundo is my title, and not my
name; but that I am greater than kings, even, who are content to take
their titles from a part of that, of which I bear all."

"And were thy father and thy mother called Mundo, also? Or, is this name
taken in order to give thee an occasion to show thy smartness, when
questioned by thy officers?"

"As for the good people you deign to mention, Señor Don Almirante, I
shall leave them to answer for themselves, and that for the simple
reason that I do not know how they were called, or whether they had any
names at all. They tell me I was found, when a few hours old, under a
worn-out basket at the ship-yard gate of old"--

"Never mind the precise spot, friend Sancho--thou wert found with a
basket for a cradle, and that maketh a volume in thy history, at once."

"Nay, Excellency, I would not leave the spot a place of dispute
hereafter--but it shall be as you please. They say no one here knoweth
exactly where we are going, and it will be more suitable that the like
ignorance should rest over the places whence we came. But having the
world before me, they that christened me gave me as much of it as was to
be got by a name."

"Thou hast been long a mariner, Sancho Mundo--if Mundo thou wilt be."

"So long, Señor, that it sickeneth me, and taketh away the appetite to
walk on solid ground. Being so near the gate, it was no great matter to
put me into the ship-yard, and I was launched one day in a caravel, and
got to sea in her, no one knows how. From that time I have submitted to
fate, and go out again, as soon as possible, after I come into port."

"And by what lucky chance have I obtained thy services, good Sancho, in
this great expedition?"

"The authorities of Moguer took me under the queen's order, your
Excellency, thinking that this Voyage would be more to my mind than
another, as it was likely never to have an end."

"Art thou a compelled adventurer, on this service?"

"Not I, Señor Don Almirante, although they who sent me here fancy as
much. It is natural for a man to wish to see his estates, once in his
life, and I am told that we are bound on a voyage to the other side of
the world. God forbid that I should hold aloof, on such an occasion."

"Thou art a Christian, Sancho, and hast a desire to aid in carrying the
cross among the heathen?"

"Señor, your Excellency, Don Almirante, it matters little to Sancho with
what the barque is laden, so that she do not need much pumping, and that
the garlic is good. If I am not a very devout Christian, it is the fault
of them that found me near the ship-yard gate, since the church and the
font are both within call from that very spot. I know that Pepe, here,
is a Christian, Señor, for I saw him in the arms of the priest, and I
doubt not that there are old men at Moguer who can testify to as much in
my behalf. At all hazards, noble Admiral, I will take on myself to say
that I am neither Jew, nor Mussulman."

"Sancho, thou hast that about thee, that bespeakest a skilful and bold
mariner."

"For both of these qualities, Señor Don Colon, let others speak. When
the gale cometh, your own eyes may judge of the first; and when the
caravel shall reach the edge of the earth, whither some think it is
bound, there will be a good occasion to see who can, and who cannot,
look off without trembling."

"It is enough: I count both thee and Pepe as among my truest followers."
As Columbus said this, he walked away, resuming the dignified gravity
that usually was seated in his countenance, and which so much aided his
authority, by impressing the minds of others with respect. In a few
minutes he and Luis descended to their cabin.

"I marvel, Sancho," said Pepe, as soon as he and his messmate were left
alone on the poop, "that thou wilt venture to use thy tongue so freely,
even in the presence of one that beareth about with him the queen's
authority! Dost thou not fear to offend the admiral?"

"So much for having a wife and a child! Canst thou not make any
difference between them that have had ancestors and who have
descendants, and one that hath no other tie in the world than his name?
The Señor Don Almirante is either an exceeding great man, and chosen by
Providence to open the way into the unknown seas of which he speaketh;
or he is but a hungry Genoese, that is leading us he knoweth not
whither, that he may eat, and drink, and sleep, in honor, while we are
toiling at his heels, like patient mules dragging the load that the
horse despiseth. In the one case, he is too great and exalted to heed
idle words; and in the other, what is there too bad for a Castilian to
tell him?"

"Ay, thou art fond of calling thyself a Castilian, in spite of the
ship-yard and the basket, and notwithstanding Moguer is in Seville."

"Harkee, Pepe; is not the queen of Castile our mistress? And are not
subjects--true and lawful subjects, I mean, like thee and me--are not
such subjects worthy of being the queen's countrymen? Never disparage
thyself, good Pepe, for thou wilt ever find the world ready enough to do
that favor for thee. As to this Genoese, he shall be either friend or
enemy to Sancho; if the first, I expect much consolation from it; if the
last, let him hunt for his Cathay till doomsday, he shall be never the
wiser."

"Well, Sancho, if words can mar a voyage, or make a voyage, thou art a
ready mariner; none know how to discourse better than thou."

Here the men both rose, having completed their work, and they left the
poop, descending among the rest of the crew. Columbus had not
miscalculated his aim, his words and condescension having produced a
most favorable effect on the mind of Sancho Mundo, for so the man was
actually called; and in gaining one of as ready a wit and loose a tongue
for a friend, he obtained an ally who was not to be despised. Of such
materials, and with the support of such instruments as this, is success
too often composed; it being possible for the discovery of a world,
even, to depend on the good word of one less qualified to influence
opinions than Sancho Mundo.



CHAPTER XV.

    "While you here do snoring lie,
    Open-ey'd conspiracy
      His time doth take:
    If of life you keep a care,
    Shake off slumber, and beware;
      Awake! Awake!"

    Ariel.


The wind continuing fair, the three vessels made good progress in the
direction of the Canaries; Sunday, in particular, proving a propitious
day, the expedition making more than one hundred and twenty miles in the
course of the twenty-four hours. The wind still continued favorable, and
on the morning of Monday, the 6th of August, Columbus was cheerfully
conversing with Luis, and one or two other companions who were standing
near him on the poop, when the Pinta was seen suddenly to take in her
forward sails, and to come up briskly, not to say awkwardly, to the
wind. This manoeuvre denoted some accident, and the Santa Maria
fortunately having the advantage of the wind, immediately edged away to
speak her consort.

"How now, Señor Martin Alonzo," hailed the admiral, as the two caravels
came near enough together to speak each other. "For what reason hast
thou so suddenly paused in thy course?"

"Fortune would have it so, Señor Don Christoval, seeing that the rudder
of the good caravel hath broken loose, and we must fain secure it ere we
may again trust ourselves to the breeze."

A severe frown came over the grave countenance of the great navigator,
and after bidding Martin Alonzo do his best to repair the damage, he
paced the deck, greatly disturbed, for several minutes. Observing how
much the admiral took this accident to heart, the rest descended to the
deck below, leaving Columbus alone with the pretended groom of the
king's chamber.

"I trust, Señor, this is no serious injury, or one in any way likely to
retard our advance," said Luis, after manifesting that respect which all
near him felt for the admiral, by a pause. "I know honest Martin Alonzo
to be a ready seaman, and should think his expedients might easily serve
to get us as far as the Canaries, where greater damages can meet with
their remedies."

"Thou say'st true, Luis, and we will hope for the best. I feel regret
the sea is so high that we can offer no assistance to the Pinta, but
Martin Alonzo is, indeed, an expert mariner, and on his ingenuity we
must rely. My concern, however, hath another and a deeper source than
the unloosing of this rudder, serious as such an injury ever is to a
vessel at sea. Thou know'st that the Pinta hath been furnished to the
service of the queen, under the order claiming the forfeited duty from
the delinquents of Palos, and sorely against the will of the caravel's
owners hath the vessel been taken. Now these persons, Gomez Rascon and
Christoval Quintero, are on board her, and, I question not, have
designed this accident. Their artifices were practised long, to our
delay, before quitting the haven, and, it would seem, are to be
continued to our prejudice here on the open ocean."

"By the allegiance I owe the Doña Isabella! Señor Don Christoval, but I
would find a speedy cure for such a treason, if the office of punishment
rested with me. Let me jump into the skiff and repair to the Pinta,
where I will tell these Masters Rascon and Quintero, that should their
rudder ever dare to break loose again, or should any other similar and
untoward accident chance to arrive, the first shall be hanged at the
yard of his own caravel, and the last be cast into the sea to examine
into the state of her bottom, the rudder included."

"We may not practice such high authority without great occasion and
perfect certainty of guilt. I hold it to be wiser to seek another
caravel at the Canaries, for, by this accident, I well see we shall not
be rid of the artifices of the two owners, until we are rid of their
vessel. It will be hazardous to launch the skiff in this sea, or I would
proceed to the Pinta myself; but as it is, let us have confidence in
Martin Alonzo and his skill."

Columbus thus encouraged the people of the Pinta to exert themselves,
and in about an hour or two, the three vessels were again making the
best of their way toward the Canaries. Notwithstanding the delay, nearly
ninety miles were made good in the course of the day and night. But the
following morning the rudder again broke loose, and, as the damage was
more serious than in the former instance, it was still more difficult to
repair. These repeated accidents gave the admiral great concern, for he
took them to be so many indications of the disaffection of his
followers. He fully determined, in consequence, to get rid of the Pinta,
if it were possible to find another suitable vessel among the islands.
As the progress of the vessels was much retarded by the accident,
although the wind continued favorable, the expedition only got some
sixty miles, this day, nearer to its place of destination.

On the following morning, the three vessels came within hail of each
other; and a comparison of the nautical skill of the different
navigators, or pilots, as it was then the custom to style them, took
place, each offering his opinion as to the position of the vessels.

It was not the least of the merits of Columbus, that he succeeded in his
great experiment with the imperfect aid of the instruments then in use.
The mariner's compass, it is true, had been in common service quite a
century, if not longer, though its variations--a knowledge of which is
scarcely less important in long voyages than a knowledge of the
instrument itself--were then unknown to seamen, who seldom ventured far
enough from the land to note these mysteries of nature, and who, as a
class, still relied almost as much on the ordinary position of the
heavenly bodies to ascertain their routes, as on the nicer results of
calculation. Columbus, however, was a striking exception to this
little-instructed class, having made himself thoroughly acquainted with
all the learning of the period that could be applied in his profession,
or which might aid him in effecting the great purpose for which alone he
now seemed to live.

As might be expected, the comparison resulted altogether in the
admiral's favor, the pilots in general being soon convinced that he
alone knew the true position of the vessels, a fact that was soon
unanswerably determined by the appearance of the summits of the
Canaries, which hove up out of the ocean, in a south-easterly direction,
resembling well-defined dark clouds clustering in the horizon. As
objects like these are seen at a great distance at sea, more especially
in a transparent atmosphere, and the wind became light and variable, the
vessels, notwithstanding, were unable to reach Grand Canary until
Thursday, the 8th of August, or nearly a week after they had left Palos.
There they all ran in, and anchored in the usual haven. Columbus
immediately set about making an inquiry for another caravel, but,
proving unsuccessful, he sailed for Gomera, where he believed it might
be easier to obtain the craft he wanted. While the admiral was thus
employed with the Santa Maria and the Niña, Martin Alonzo remained in
port, being unable to keep company in the crippled condition of the
Pinta. But no suitable vessel being found, Columbus reluctantly returned
to Grand Canary, and, after repairing the Pinta, which vessel was badly
caulked, among the other devices that had been adopted to get her freed
from the service, he sailed again for Gomera, from which island he was
to take his final departure.

During these several changes, a brooding discontent began to increase
among most of the common mariners, while some even of a higher class,
were not altogether free from the most melancholy apprehensions for the
future. While passing from Grand Canary to Gomera, with all his vessels,
Columbus was again at his post, with Luis and his usual companions near
him, when the admiral's attention was drawn to a conversation that took
place between a group of the men, who had collected near the main-mast.
It was night, and there being little wind, the voices of the excited
disputants reached further than they themselves were aware.

"I tell thee, Pepe," said the most vociferous and most earnest of the
speakers, "that the night is not darker than the future of this crew.
Look to the west, and what dost see there? Who hath ever heard of land,
after he hath quitted the Azores; and who is so ignorant as not to know
that Providence hath placed water around all the continents, with a few
islands as stopping-places for mariners, and spread the broad ocean
beyond, with an intention to rebuke an over-eager curiosity to pry into
matters that savor more of miracles than of common worldly things?"

"This is well, Pero," answered Pepe; "but I know that Monica thinks the
admiral is sent of God, and that we may look forward to great
discoveries, through his means; and most especially to the spreading of
religion among the heathens."

"Ay, thy Monica should have been in Doña Isabella's seat, so learned and
positive is she in all matters, whether touching her own woman's duties,
or thine own. She is _thy_ queen, Pepe, as all in Moguer will swear; and
there are some who say she would gladly govern the port, as she
governeth thee."

"Say naught against the mother of my child, Pero," interrupted Pepe,
angrily. "I can bear thy idle words against myself, but he that speaketh
ill of Monica will have a dangerous enemy."

"Thou art bold of speech, Pero, when away a hundred leagues from thine
own better nine-tenths," put in a voice that Columbus and Luis both
knew, on the instant, to belong to Sancho Mundo, "and art bold enough to
jeer Pepe touching Monica, when we all well know who commandeth in a
certain cabin, where thou art as meek as a hooked dolphin, whatever thou
may'st be here. But, enough of thy folly about women; let us reason upon
our knowledge as mariners, if thou wilt; instead of asking questions of
one like Pepe, who is too young to have had much experience, I offer
myself as thy catechist."

"What hast _thou_, then, to say about this unknown land that lieth
beyond the great ocean, where man hath never been, or is at all likely
to go, with followers such as these?"

"I have this to say, silly and idle-tongued Pero--that the time was when
even the Canaries were unknown; when mariners did not dare to pass the
straits, and when the Portuguese knew nothing of their mines and Guinea,
lands that I myself have visited, and where the noble Don Christoval
hath also been, as I know on the testimony of mine own eyes."

"And what hath Guinea, or what have the mines of the Portuguese to do
with this western voyage? All know that there is a country called
Africa; and what is there surprising that mariners should reach a land
that is known to exist; but who knoweth that the ocean hath other
continents, any more than that the heavens have other earths?"

"This is well, Pero," observed an attentive by-stander; "and Sancho will
have to drain his wits to answer it."

"It is well for those who wag their tongues, like women, without thought
of what they say," coolly returned Sancho, "but will have little weight
with Doña Isabella, or Don Almirante. Harkee, Pero, thou art like one
that hath trodden the path between Palos and Moguer so often, that thou
fanciest there is no road to Seville or Granada. There must be a
beginning to all things; and this voyage is, out of doubt, the beginning
of voyages to Cathay. We go west, instead of east, because it is the
shorter way; and because, moreover, it is the _only_ way for a caravel.
Now, answer me, messmate; is it possible for a craft, let her size or
rig be what it may, to pass over the hills and valleys of a continent--I
mean under her canvas, and by fair sailing?"

Sancho waited for a reply, and received a common and complete admission
of the impossibility of the thing.

"Then cast your eyes at the admiral's chart, in the morning, as he
keepeth it spread before him on the poop, yonder, and you will see that
there is land from one pole to the other, on each side of the Atlantic,
thereby rendering navigation impossible, in any other direction than
this we are now taking. The notion of Pero, therefore, runs in the teeth
of nature."

"This is so true, Pero," exclaimed another, the rest assenting, "that
thy mouth ought to be shut."

But Pero had a mouth that was not very easily closed; and it is probable
that his answer would have been to the full as acute and irrefutable as
that of Sancho, had not a common exclamation of alarm and horror burst
from all around him. The night was sufficiently clear to permit the
gloomy outlines of the Peak of Teneriffe to be distinctly visible, even
at some distance; and, just at that moment, flashes of flame shot upward
from its pointed summit, illuminating, at instants, the huge pile, and
then leaving it in shadowy darkness, an object of mystery and terror.
Many of the seamen dropped on their knees and began to tell their beads,
while all, as it might be instinctively, crossed themselves. Next arose
a general murmur; and in a few minutes, the men who slept were awoke,
and appeared among their fellows, awe-struck and astounded spectators of
the phenomenon. It was soon settled that the attention of the admiral
should be drawn to this strange event, and Pero was selected for the
spokesman.

All this time, Columbus and his companions remained on the poop, and, as
might have been expected, this unlooked-for change in the appearance of
the Peak had not escaped their attention. Too enlightened to be alarmed
by it, they were watching the workings of the mountain, when Pero,
accompanied by nearly every sailor in the vessel, appeared on the
quarter-deck. Silence having been obtained, Pero opened the subject of
his mission with a zeal that was not a little stimulated by his fears.

"Señor Almirante," he commenced, "we have come to pray your Excellency
to look at the summit of the Island of Teneriffe, where we all think we
see a solemn warning against persevering in sailing into the unknown
Atlantic. It is truly time for men to remember their weakness, and how
much they owe to the goodness of God, when even the mountains vomit
flames and smoke!"

"Have any here ever navigated the Mediterranean, or visited the island
of which Don Ferdinand, the honored consort of our lady the queen, is
master?" demanded Columbus, calmly.

"Señor Don Almirante," hastily answered Sancho, "I have done so,
unworthy as I may seem to have enjoyed that advantage. And I have seen
Cyprus, and Alexandria, and even Stamboul, the residence of the Great
Turk."

"Well, then, thou may'st have also seen Ætna, another mountain which
continueth to throw up those flames, in the midst of a nature and a
scene on which Providence would seem to have smiled with unusual
benignity, instead of angrily frowning, as ye seem to imagine."

Columbus then proceeded to give his people an explanation of the causes
of volcanoes, referring to the gentlemen around him to corroborate the
fidelity of his statements. He told them that he looked upon this little
eruption as merely a natural occurrence; or, if he saw any omen at all
in the event, it was propitious rather than otherwise; Providence
seeming disposed to light them on their way. Luis and the rest next
descended among the crew, where they used their reasoning powers in
quieting an alarm that, at first, had threatened to be serious. For the
moment they were successful, or perhaps it would be better to say that
they succeeded completely, so far as the phenomenon of the volcano was
concerned, and this less by the arguments of the more intelligent of the
officers, than by means of the testimony of Sancho, and one or two
others of the common men, who had seen similar scenes elsewhere. With
difficulties like these had the great navigator to contend, even after
he had passed years in solicitations to obtain the limited means which
had been finally granted, in order to effect one of the sublimest
achievements that had yet crowned the enterprise of man!

The vessels reached Gomera on the 2d of September, where they remained
several days, in order to complete their repairs, and to finish taking
in their supplies, ere they finally left the civilized abodes of man,
and what might then be deemed the limits of the known earth. The arrival
of such an expedition, in an age when the means of communication were so
few that events were generally their own announcers, had produced a
strong sensation among the inhabitants of the different islands visited
by the adventurers. Columbus was held in high honor among them, not only
on account of the commission he had received from the two sovereigns,
but on account of the magnitude and the romantic character of his
undertaking.

There existed a common belief among all the adjacent islands, including
Madeira, the Azores, and the Canaries, that land lay to the westward;
their inhabitants living under a singular delusion in this particular,
which the admiral had an occasion to detect, during his second visit to
Gomera. Among the most distinguished persons who were then on the
island, was Doña Inez Peraza, the mother of the Count of Gomera. She was
attended by a crowd of persons, not only belonging to her own, but who
had come from other islands to do her honor. She entertained the admiral
in a manner suited to his high rank, admitting to her society such of
the adventurers as Columbus saw fit to point out as worthy of the honor.
Of course the pretended Pedro de Muños, or Pero Gutierrez, as he was now
indifferently termed, was of the number; as, indeed, were most of those
who might be deemed any way suited to so high and polished a society.

"I rejoice, Don Christopher," said Doña Inez Peraza, on this occasion,
"that their Highnesses have at length yielded to your desire to solve
this great problem, not only on account of our Holy Church, which, as
you say, hath so deep an interest in your success, and the honor of the
two sovereigns, and the welfare of Spain, and all the other great
considerations that we have so freely touched upon in our discourse
already, but on account of the worthy inhabitants of the Fortunate
Islands, who have not only many traditions touching land in the west,
but most of whom believe that they have more than once seen it, in that
quarter, in the course of their lives."

"I have heard of this, noble lady, and would be grateful to have the
account from the mouths of eye-witnesses, now we are here, together,
conversing freely concerning that which is of so much interest to us
all."

"Then, Señor, I will entreat this worthy cavalier, who is every way
capable of doing the subject justice, to be spokesman for us, and to let
you know what we all believe in these islands, and what so many of us
fancy we have seen. Acquaint the admiral, Señor Dama, I pray thee, of
the singular yearly view that we get of unknown land lying afar off, in
the Atlantic."

"Most readily, Doña Inez, and all the more so at your gracious bidding,"
returned the person addressed, who disposed himself to tell the story,
with a readiness that the lovers of the wonderful are apt to betray when
a fitting opportunity offers to indulge a favorite propensity. "The
illustrious admiral hath probably heard of the island of St. Brandan,
that lieth some eighty or a hundred leagues to the westward of Ferro,
and which hath been so often seen, but which no navigator hath yet been
able to reach, in our days at least?"

"I have often heard of this fabled spot, Señor," the admiral gravely
replied; "but pardon me if I say that the land never yet existed, which
a mariner hath seen and yet a mariner hath not reached."

"Nay, noble admiral," interrupted a dozen eager voices, among which that
of the lady, herself, was very distinctly audible, "that it hath been
seen most here know; and that it hath never been reached, is a fact to
which more than one disappointed pilot can testify."

"That which we have seen, we know; and that which we know, we can
describe," returned Columbus, steadily. "Let any man tell me in what
meridian, or on what parallel this St. Brandan, or St. Barandon, lieth,
and a week shall make _me_ also certain of its existence."

"I know little of meridians or parallels, Don Christopher," said the
Señor Dama, "but I have some ideas of visible things. This island have I
often seen, more or less plainly at different times; and that, too,
under the serenest skies, and at occasions when it was not possible
greatly to mistake either its form or its dimensions. Once I remember to
have seen the sun set behind one of its heights."

"This is plain evidence, and such as a navigator should respect; and yet
do I take what you imagine yourself to have seen, Señor, to be some
illusion of the atmosphere."

"Impossible!--impossible!" was said, or echoed, by a dozen voices.
"Hundreds yearly witness the appearance of St. Brandan, and its equally
sudden and mysterious disappearance."

"Therein, noble lady and generous cavalier, lieth the error into which
ye have fallen. Ye see the Peak the year round; and he who will cruise a
hundred miles, north or south, east or west, of it, will continue to see
it, the year round, except on such days as the state of the atmosphere
may forbid. The land which God hath created stationary, will be certain
to remain stationary, until disturbed by some great convulsion that
cometh equally of his providence and his laws."

"All this may be true, Señor; doubtless it _is_ true; but every rule
hath its exceptions. You will not deny that God ruleth the world
mysteriously, and that his ends are not always visible to human eyes.
Else, why hath the Moor so long been permitted to rule in Spain? why
hath the Infidel, at this moment, possession of the Holy Sepulchre? why
have the sovereigns been so long deaf to your own well-grounded wishes
and entreaties to be permitted to carry their banners, in company with
the cross, to Cathay, whither you are now bound? Who knoweth that these
appearances of St. Brandan may not be given as signs to encourage one
like yourself, bent on still greater ends than even reaching its
shores?"

Columbus was an enthusiast; but his was an enthusiasm that was seated in
his reverence for the acknowledged mysteries of religion, which sought
no other support from things incomprehensible, than might reasonably be
thought to belong to the exercise of infallible wisdom, and which
manifested a proper reverence for a Divine Power. Like most of that
period, he believed in modern miracles; and his dependence on the direct
worldly efficacy of votive offerings, penances, and prayers, was such as
marked the age in general, and his calling in particular. Still, his
masculine understanding rejected the belief of vulgar prodigies; and
while he implicitly thought himself set apart and selected for the great
work before him, he was not disposed to credit that an airy exhibition
of an island was placed in the west to tempt mariners to follow its
shadowy outline to the more distant regions of Cathay.

"That I feel the assurance of the Providence of God having selected me
as the humble instrument of connecting Europe with Asia, by means of a
direct voyage by sea, is certain," returned the navigator, gravely,
though his eye lighted with its latent enthusiasm; "but I am far from
indulging in the weakness of thinking that direct miraculous agencies
are to be used to guide me on my way. It is more in conformity to the
practice of divine wisdom, and certainly more grateful to my own
self-love, that the means employed are such as a discreet pilot, and the
most experienced philosophers, might feel proud in finding themselves
selected to display. My thoughts have first been turned to the
contemplation of this subject; then hath my reason been enlightened by a
due course of study and reflection, and science hath aided in producing
the conviction necessary to impel myself to proceed, and to enable me to
induce others to join in this enterprise."

"And do all your followers, noble admiral, act under the same guidance?"
demanded the Doña Inez, glancing at Luis, whose manly graces, and
martial aspect, had found favor in the eyes of most of the ladies of the
island. "Is the Señor Gutierrez equally enlightened in this manner? and
hath he, too, devoted his nights to study, in order that the cross may
be carried to the heathen, and Castile and Cathay may be more closely
united?"

"The Señor Gutierrez is a willing adventurer, Señora, but he must be the
expounder of his own motives."

"Then we will call on the cavalier, himself, for an answer. These ladies
feel a desire to know what may have impelled one who would be certain to
succeed at the court of Doña Isabella, and in the Moorish wars, to join
in such an expedition."

"The Moorish wars are ended, Señora," replied Luis, smiling; "and Doña
Isabella, and all the ladies of her court, most favor the youths who
show a manly disposition to serve the interests, and to advance the
honor of Castile. I know very little of philosophy, and have still
smaller pretensions to the learning of churchmen; but I think I see
Cathay before me, shining like a brilliant star in the heavens, and am
willing to adventure body and soul in its search."

Many pretty exclamations of admiration broke from the circle of fair
listeners; it being most easy for spirit to gain applause, when it is
recommended by high personal advantages, and comes from the young and
favored. That Columbus, a weather-worn veteran of the ocean, should see
fit to risk a life that was already drawing near its close, in a rash
attempt to pry into the mysteries of the Atlantic, seemed neither so
commendable, nor so daring, but many discovered high qualities in the
character of one who was just entering on his career, and that under
auspices apparently so flattering, and who threw all his hopes on the
uncertain chances of success in a scheme so unusual. Luis was human, and
he was in the full enjoyment of the admiration his enterprise had
evidently awakened among so many sensitive young creatures, when Doña
Inez most inopportunely interposed to interrupt his happiness, and to
wound his self-esteem.

"This is having more honorable views than my letters from Seville
attribute to one youth, who belongeth to the proudest of our Castilian
houses, and whose titles alone should invite him to add new lustre to a
name that hath so long been the Spanish boast," resumed the Señora
Peraza. "The reports speak of his desire to rove, but in a manner
unworthy of his rank; and that, too, in a way to serve neither the
sovereigns, his country, nor himself."

"And who may this misguided youth be, Señora?" eagerly inquired Luis,
too much elated by the admiration he had just excited to anticipate the
answer. "A cavalier thus spoken of, needeth to be warned of his
reputation, that he may be stimulated to attempt better things."

"His name is no secret, since the court speaketh openly of his singular
and ill-judged career; and it is said that even his love hath been
thwarted in consequence. I mean a cavalier of no less lineage and name
than Don Luis de Bobadilla, the Count of Llera."

It is said that listeners seldom hear good of themselves, and Luis was
now fated to verify the truth of the axiom. He felt the blood rushing to
his face, and it required a strong effort at self-command to prevent him
from breaking out in exclamations, that would probably have contained
invocations of half the patron saints he had ever heard of, had he not
happily succeeded in controlling the sudden impulse. Gulping the words
he had been on the point of uttering, he looked round, with an air of
defiance, as if seeking the countenance of some man who might dare even
to smile at what had been said. Luckily, at that moment, Columbus had
drawn all of the males present around himself, in warm discussion of the
probable existence of the island of St. Brandan; and Luis nowhere met a
smile, with which he could conveniently quarrel, that had a setting of
beard to render it hostile. Fortunately, the gentle impulses that are
apt to influence a youthful female, induced one of Doña Inez's fair
companions to speak, and that in a way greatly to relieve the feelings
of our hero.

"True, Señora," rejoined the pretty young advocate, the first tones of
whose voice had an effect to calm the tempest that was rising in the
bosom of the young man; "true Señora, it is said that Don Luis is a
wanderer, and one of unsettled tastes and habits, but it is also said he
hath a most excellent heart, is generous as the dews of heaven
themselves, and carrieth the very best lance of Castile, as he is also
like to carry off the fairest maiden."

"It is vain, Señor de Muños, for churchmen to preach, and parents to
frown," said Doña Inez, smiling, "while the beautiful and young will
prize courage, and deeds in arms, and an open hand, before the more
homely virtues commended by our holy religion, and so zealously
inculcated by its servants. The unhorsing of a knight or two in the
tourneys, and the rallying a broken squadron under a charge of the
Infidel, counteth far more than years of sobriety, and weeks of penance
and prayer."

"How know we that the cavalier you mention, Señora, may not have his
weeks of penance and his hours of prayer?" answered Luis, who had now
found his voice. "Should he be so fortunate as to enjoy a conscientious
religious adviser, he can scarce escape both, prayer being so often
ordered in the way of penance. He seemeth, indeed, to be a miserable
dog, and I wonder not that his mistress holdeth him cheap. Is the name
of the lady, also, given in your letter?"

"It is. She is the Doña Maria de las Mercedes de Valverde, nearly allied
to the Guzmans and the other great houses, and one of the fairest
maidens of Spain."

"That is she!" exclaimed Luis; "and one of the most virtuous, as well as
fair, and wise as virtuous!"

"How now, Señor, is it possible that you can have sufficient knowledge
of one so situated, as to speak thus positively of her qualities, as
well as of her appearance?"

"Her beauty I have seen, and of her excellence one may speak by report.
But doth your correspondent, Señora, say aught of what hath become of
the graceless lover?"

"It is rumored that he hath again quitted Spain, and, as is supposed,
under the grave displeasure of the sovereigns, since it hath been
remarked that the queen now never nameth him. None know the road he hath
taken, but there is little doubt that he is again roaming the seas, as
usual, in quest of low adventures among the ports of the east."

The conversation now changed, and soon after the admiral and his
attendants repaired to their different vessels.

"Of a verity, Señor Don Christoval," said Luis, as he walked alone with
the great navigator toward the shore, "one little knoweth when he is
acquiring fame, and when not. Though but an indifferent mariner, and no
pilot, I find my exploits on the ocean are well bruited abroad! If your
Excellency but gain half the reputation I already enjoy, by this present
expedition, you will have reason to believe that your name will not be
forgotten by posterity."

"It is a tribute the great pay for their elevation, Luis," returned the
admiral, "that all their acts are commented on, and that they can do
little that may be concealed from observation, or escape remarks."

"It would be as well, Señor Almirante, to throw into the scales, at
once, calumnies, and lies, and uncharitableness, for all these are to be
added to the list. Is it not wonderful, that a young man cannot visit a
few foreign lands, in order to increase his knowledge and improve his
parts, but all the gossips of Castile should fill their letters to the
gossips of the Canaries, with passages touching his movements and
demerits? By the Martyrs of the East! if I were Queen of Castile, there
should be a law against writing of others' movements, and I do not know,
but a law against women's writing letters at all!"

"In which case, Señor de Muños, thou wouldst never possess the
satisfaction of receiving a missive from the fairest hand in Castile."

"I mean a woman's writing to a woman, Don Christopher. As to letters
from noble maidens intended to cheer the hearts and animate the deeds of
cavaliers who adore them, they are useful, out of doubt, and the saints
be deaf to the miscreant who would forbid or intercept them! No, Señor,
I trust that travelling hath at least made me liberal, by raising me
above the narrow prejudices of provinces and cities, and I am far from
wishing to put an end to letters from mistresses to their knights, or
from parents to their children, or even from wives to their husbands;
but, as for the letters of a gossip to a gossip, by your leave, Señor
Almirante, I detest them just as much as the Father of Sin detests this
expedition of ours!"

"An expedition, certainly, that he hath no great reason to love,"
answered Columbus, smiling; "since it will be followed by the light of
revelation and the triumph of the cross. But what is thy will, friend,
that thou seemest in waiting for me, to disburden thyself of something?
Thy name is Sancho Mundo, if I remember thy countenance?"

"Señor Don Almirante, your memory hath not mistaken," returned the
person addressed; "I am Sancho Mundo, as your Excellency saith,
sometimes called Sancho of the Ship-Yard Gate. I desire to say a few
words concerning the fate of our voyage, whenever it shall suit you,
noble Señor, to hear me where there are no ears present that you
distrust."

"Thou may'st speak freely now; this cavalier being my confidant and
secretary."

"It is not necessary that I should tell a great pilot, like your
Excellency, who is King of Portugal, or what the mariners of Lisbon have
been about these many years, since you know all better than myself.
Therefore I will just add, that they are discovering all the unknown
lands they can, for themselves, and preventing others, as much as in
them lies, from doing the same thing."

"Don John of Portugal is an enlightened prince, fellow, and thou wouldst
do well to respect his character and rank. His Highness is a liberal
sovereign, and hath sent many noble expeditions forth from his harbor."

"That he hath, Señor, and this last is not the least in its designs and
intentions," answered Sancho, turning a look of irony toward the
admiral, that showed the fellow had more in reserve than he cared to
divulge without some wheedling. "No one doubts Don John's willingness to
send forth expeditions."

"Thou hast heard some intelligence, Sancho, that it is proper I should
know! Speak freely, and rely on my repaying any service of this sort to
the full extent of its deservings."

"If your Excellency will have patience to hear me, I will give the whole
story, with all minuteness and particularity, and that in a way to leave
no part untold, and all parts to be as easily understood as heart can
wish, or a priest in the confessional could desire."

"Speak; no one will interrupt thee. As thou art frank, so will be thy
reward."

"Well, then, Señor Don Almirante, you must know that about eleven years
since, I made a voyage from Palos to Sicily, in a caravel belonging to
the Pinzons, here; not to Martin Alonzo, who commandeth the Pinta, under
your Excellency's order, but to a kinsman of his late father's, who
caused better craft to be constructed than we are apt to get in these
days of hurry, and rotten cordage, and careless caulking, to say nothing
of the manner in which the canvas is"--

"Nay, good Sancho," interrupted the impatient Luis, who was yet smarting
under the remarks of Doña Inez's correspondent--"thou forgettest night
is near, and that the boat is waiting for the admiral."

"How should I forget that, Señor, when I can see the sun just dipping
into the water, and I belong to the boat myself, having left it in order
to tell the noble admiral what I have to say?"

"Permit the man to relate his story in his own manner, Señor Pedro, I
pray thee," put in Columbus. "Naught is gained by putting a seamen out
in his reckoning."

"No, your Excellency, or in kicking with a mule. And so, as I was
saying, I went that voyage to Sicily, and had for a messmate one José
Gordo, a Portuguese by birth, but a man who liked the wines of Spain
better than the puckering liquors of his own country, and so sailed much
in Spanish craft. I never well knew, notwithstanding, whether José was,
in heart, most of a Portuguese, or a Spaniard, though he was certainly
but an indifferent Christian."

"It is to be hoped that his character hath improved," said Columbus,
calmly. "As I foresee that something is to follow on the testimony of
this José, you will let me say, that an indifferent Christian is but an
indifferent witness. Tell me, at once, therefore, what he hath
communicated, that I may judge for myself of the value of his words."

"Now, he that doubteth your Excellency will not discover Cathay is a
heretic, seeing that you have discovered my secret without having heard
it! José has just arrived, in the felucca that is riding near the Santa
Maria, and hearing that we were an expedition that had one Sancho Mundo
engaged in it, he came speedily on board of us to see his old shipmate."

"All that is so plain, that I wonder thou thinkest it worthy of
relating, Sancho; but, now we have him safe on board the good ship, we
can come at once to the subject of his communication."

"That may we, Señor; and so, without any unnecessary delay, I will
state, that the subject was touching Don Juan of Portugal, Don Ferdinand
of Aragon, Doña Isabella of Castile, your Excellency, Señor Don
Almirante, the Señor de Muños here, and myself."

"This is a strange company!" exclaimed Luis, laughing, while he slipped
a piece of eight into the hand of the sailor; "perhaps that may aid thee
in shortening the story of the singular conjunction."

"Another, Señor, would bring the tale to an end at once. To own the
truth, José is behind that wall, and as he told me he thought his news
worth a dobla, he will be greatly displeased at finding I have received
my half of it, while his half still remaineth unpaid."

"This, then, will set his mind at rest," said Columbus, placing an
entire dobla in the hand of the cunning fellow, for the admiral
perceived by his manner that Sancho had really something of importance
to communicate. "Thou canst summon José to thy aid, and deliver thyself,
at once, of thy burden."

Sancho did as directed, and in a minute José had appeared, had received
the dobla, weighed it deliberately on his finger, pocketed it, and
commenced his tale. Unlike the artful Sancho, he told his story at once,
beginning at the right end, and ceasing to speak as soon as he had no
more to communicate. The substance of the tale is soon related. José had
come from Ferro, and had seen three armed caravels, wearing the flag of
Portugal, cruising among the islands, under circumstances that left
little doubt their object was to intercept the Castilian expedition. As
the man referred to a passenger or two, who had landed within the hour,
to corroborate his statement, Columbus and Luis immediately sought the
lodgings of these persons, in order to hear their report of the matter.
The result proved the sailor had stated nothing but what was true.

"Of all our difficulties and embarrassments, Luis," resumed the admiral,
as the two finally proceeded to the shore, "this is much the most
serious! We may be detained altogether by these treacherous Portuguese,
or we may be followed in our voyage, and have our fair laurels seized
upon by others, and all the benefits so justly due for our toil and risk
usurped, or at least disputed, by men who had not the enterprise and
knowledge to accept the boon, when fairly offered to them."

"Don John of Portugal must have sent far better knights than the Moors
of Granada to do the feat," answered Luis, who had a Spaniard's distaste
for his peninsular neighbors; "he is a bold and learned prince, they
say, but the commission and ensigns of the sovereign of Castile are not
to be disregarded, and that, too, in the midst of her own islands,
here."

"We have no force fit to contend with that which hath most probably been
sent against us. The number and size of our vessels are known, and the
Portuguese, questionless, have resorted to the means necessary to effect
their purposes, whatever those purposes may be. Alas! Luis, my lot hath
been hard, though I humbly trust that the end will repay me for all!
Years did I sue the Portuguese to enter fairly into this voyage, and to
endeavor to do that, in all honor, which our gracious mistress, Doña
Isabella, hath now so creditably commenced; he listened to my reasons
and entreaties with cold ears--nay, repelled them, with ridicule and
disdain; and yet, here am I scarce fairly embarked in the execution of
schemes that they have so often derided, than they endeavor to defeat me
by violence and treachery."

"Noble Don Christoval, we will die to a Castilian, ere this shall come
to pass!"

"Our only hope is in speedy departure. Thanks to the industry and zeal
of Martin Alonzo, the Pinta is ready, and we may quit Gomera with the
morning's sun. I doubt if they will have the hardihood to follow us into
the trackless and unknown Atlantic, without any other guides than their
own feeble knowledge; and we will depart with the return of the sun. All
now dependeth on quitting the Canaries unseen."

As this was said they reached the boat, and were quickly pulled on board
the Santa Maria. By this time the peaks of the islands were towering
like gloomy shadows in the atmosphere, and, soon after, the caravels
resembled dark, shapeless specks, on the unquiet element that washed
their hulls.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XVI.

    "They little thought how pure a light,
    With years, should gather round that day;
    How love should keep their memories bright--
    How wide a realm their sons should sway."

    Bryant.


The night that succeeded was one of very varied feelings among the
adventurers. As soon as Sancho secured the reward, he had no further
scruples about communicating all he knew, to any who were disposed to
listen; and long ere Columbus returned on board the vessel, the
intelligence had spread from mouth to mouth, until all in the little
squadron were apprised of the intentions of the Portuguese. Many hoped
that it was true, and that their pursuers might be successful; any fate
being preferable, in their eyes, to that which the voyage promised; but,
such is the effect of strife, much the larger portion of the crew were
impatient to lift the anchors and to make sail, if it were only to get
the mastery in the race. Columbus, himself, experienced the deepest
concern, for it really seemed as if a hard fortune was about to snatch
the cup from his lips, just as it had been raised there, after all his
cruel sufferings and delays. He consequently passed a night of deep
anxiety, and was the first to rise in the morning.

Every one was on the alert with the dawn; and as the preparations had
been completed the previous night, by the time the sun had risen, the
three vessels were under way, the Pinta leading, as usual. The wind was
light, and the squadron could barely gather steerage way; but as every
moment was deemed precious, the vessels' heads were kept to the
westward. When a short time out, a caravel came flapping past them,
after having been several hours in sight, and the admiral spoke her. She
proved to be from Ferro, the most southern and western island of the
group, and had come nearly on the route the expedition intended to
steer, until they quitted the known seas.

"Dost thou bring any tidings from Ferro?" inquired Columbus, as the
strange ship drifted slowly past the Santa Maria; the progress of each
vessel being little more than a mile in the hour. "Is there aught of
interest in that quarter?"

"Did I know whether, or not, I am speaking to Don Christopher Columbus,
the Genoese that their Highnesses have honored with so important a
commission, I should feel more warranty to answer what I have both heard
and seen, Señor," was the reply.

"I am Don Christopher himself, their Highnesses' admiral and viceroy,
for all seas and lands that we may discover, and, as thou hast said, a
Genoese in birth, though a Castilian by duty, and in love to the queen."

"Then, noble admiral, I may tell you that the Portuguese are active,
three of their caravels being off Ferro, at this moment, with the hope
of intercepting your expedition."

"How is this known, friend, and what reason have I for supposing that
the Portuguese will dare to send forth caravels, with orders to molest
those who sail as the officers of Isabella the Catholic? They must know
that the Holy Father hath lately conferred this title on the two
sovereigns, in acknowledgment of their great services in expelling the
Moor from Christendom."

"Señor, there hath been a rumor of that among the islands, but little
will the Portuguese care for aught of that nature, when he deemeth his
gold in danger. As I quitted Ferro, I spoke the caravels, and have good
reason to think that rumor doth them no injustice."

"Did they seem warlike, and made they any pretensions to a right to
interrupt our voyage?"

"To us they said naught of this sort, except to inquire, tauntingly, if
the illustrious Don Christoval Colon, the great viceroy of the east,
sailed on board us. As for preparation, Señor, they had many lombardas,
and a multitude of men in breast-plates and casques. I doubt if soldiers
are as numerous at the Azores, as when they sailed."

"Keep they close in with the island, or stretch they off to seaward?"

"Mostly the latter, Señor, standing far toward the west in the morning,
and beating up toward the land as the day closeth. Take the word of an
old pilot, Don Christopher, the mongrels are there for no good."

This was barely audible, for, by this time, the caravels had drifted
past each other, and were soon altogether beyond the reach of the voice.

"Do you believe that the Castilian name standeth so low, Don
Christopher," demanded Luis, "that these dogs of Portuguese dare do this
wrong to the flag of the queen?"

"I dread naught from force, beyond detention and frauds, certainly; but
these, to me, at this moment, would be little less painful than death.
Most do I apprehend that these caravels, under the pretence of
protecting the rights of Don John, are directed to follow us to Cathay,
in which case we should have a disputed discovery, and divided honors.
We must avoid the Portuguese, if possible; to effect which purpose, I
intend to pass to the westward, without nearing the island of Ferro, any
closer than may be rendered absolutely indispensable."

Notwithstanding a burning impatience now beset the admiral, and most
with him, the elements seemed opposed to his passage from among the
Canaries, into the open ocean. The wind gradually failed, until it
became so calm that the sails were hauled up, and the three vessels lay,
now laying their sides with the brine, and now rising to the summit of
the ground-swell, resembling huge animals that were lazily reposing,
under the heats of summer, in drowsy indolence.

Many was the secret _pater_, or _ave_, that was mumbled by the mariners,
and not a few vows of future prayers were made, in the hope of obtaining
a breeze. Occasionally it seemed as if Providence listened to these
petitions, for the air would fan the cheek, and the sails would fall, in
the vain expectation of getting ahead; but disappointment as often
followed, until all on board felt that they were fated to linger under
the visitations of a calm. Just at nightfall, however, a light air
arose, and, for a few hours, the wash of the parted waters was audible
under the bows of the vessels, though their way was barely sufficient to
keep them under the command of their helms. About midnight, however,
even this scarcely perceptible motion was lost, and the craft were again
lazily wallowing in the ground-swells that the gales had sent in from
the vast expanse of the Western Ocean.

When the light reappeared, the admiral found himself between Gomera and
Teneriffe, the lofty peak of the latter casting its pointed shadow, like
that thrown by a planet, far upon the water, until its sharp apex was
renewed, in faint mimicry, along the glassy surface of the ocean.
Columbus was now fearful that the Portuguese might employ their boats,
or impel some light felucca by her sweeps, in order to find out his
position; and he wisely directed the sails to be furled, in order to
conceal his vessels, as far as possible, from any prying eyes. The
season had advanced to the 7th of September, and such was the situation
of this renowned expedition, exactly five weeks after it had left Spain;
for this inauspicious calm occurred on a Friday, or on that day of the
week on which it had originally sailed.

All practice shows that there is no refuge from a calm at sea, except in
patience. Columbus was much too experienced a navigator, not to feel
this truth, and, after using the precaution mentioned, he, and the
pilots under him, turned their attention to the arrangements required to
render the future voyage safe and certain. The few mathematical
instruments known to the age, were got up, corrected, and exhibited,
with the double intention of ascertaining their state, and of making a
display before the common men, that would heighten their respect for
their leaders, by adding to their confidence in their skill. The
admiral, himself, had already obtained a high reputation as a navigator,
among his followers, in consequence of his reckonings having proved so
much more accurate than those of the pilots, in approaching the
Canaries; and as he now exhibited the instruments then used as a
quadrant, and examined his compasses, every movement he made was watched
by the seamen, with either secret admiration, or jealous vigilance; some
openly expressing their confidence in his ability to proceed wherever he
wished to go, and others covertly betraying just that degree of critical
knowledge which ordinarily accompanies prejudice, ignorance, and malice.

Luis had never been able to comprehend the mysteries of navigation, his
noble head appearing to repudiate learning, as a species of
accomplishment but little in accordance with its wants or its tastes.
Still, he was intelligent; and within the range of knowledge that it was
usual for laymen of his rank to attain, few of his age did themselves
more credit in the circles of the court. Fortunately, he had the most
perfect reliance on the means of the admiral; and being almost totally
without personal apprehensions, Columbus had not a more submissive or
blind follower, than the young grandee, under his command.

Man, with all his boasted philosophy, intelligence, and reason, exists
the dupe of his own imagination and blindness, as much as of the
artifices and designs of others. Even while he fancies himself the most
vigilant and cautious, he is as often misled by appearances as governed
by facts and judgment; and perhaps half of those who were spectators of
this calculated care in Columbus, believed that they felt, in their
renewed confidence, the assurances of science and logical deductions,
when in truth their senses were impressed, without, in the slightest
degree, enlightening their understandings.

Thus passed the day of the 7th September, the night arriving and still
finding the little squadron, or fleet, as it was termed in the lofty
language of the day, floating helplessly between Teneriffe and Gomera.
Nor did the ensuing morning bring a change, for a burning sun beat,
unrelieved by a breath of air, on the surface of a sea that was
glittering like molten silver. When the admiral was certain, however, by
having sent men aloft to examine the horizon, that the Portuguese were
not in sight, he felt infinitely relieved, little doubting that his
pursuers still lay, as inactive as himself, to the westward of Ferro.

"By the seamen's hopes! Señor Don Christopher," said Luis, as he reached
the poop, where Columbus had kept an untiring watch for hours, he
himself having just risen from a siesta, "the fiends seem to be leagued
against us! Here are we in the third day of our calm, with the Peak of
Teneriffe as stationary as if it were a mile-stone, set to tell the
porpoises and dolphins the rate at which they swim. If one believed in
omens, he might fancy that the saints were unwilling to see us depart,
even though it be on their own errand."

"We _may not_ believe in omens, when they are no more than the fruits of
natural laws," gravely returned the admiral. "There will shortly be an
end of this calm, for a haze is gathering in the atmosphere that
promises air from the east, and the motion of the ship will tell thee,
that the winds have been busy far to the westward. Master Pilot,"
addressing the officer of that title, who had charge of the deck at the
moment, "thou wilt do well to unfurl thy canvas, and prepare for a
favoring breeze, as we shall soon be overtaken by wind from the
north-east."

This prediction was verified about an hour later, when all three of the
vessels began, again, to part the waters with their sterns. But the
breeze, if any thing, proved more tantalizing to the impatient mariners
than the calm itself had been; for a strong head sea had got up, and the
air proving light, the different craft struggled with difficulty toward
the west.

All this time, a most anxious look-out was kept for the Portuguese
caravels, the appearance of which, however, was less dreaded than it had
been, as they were now supposed to be a considerable distance to
leeward. Columbus, and his skilful assistants, Martin Alonzo and Vicente
Yañez, or the brothers Pinzon, who commanded the Pinta and the Niña,
practised all the means that their experience could suggest to get
ahead. Their progress, however, was not only slow but painful, as every
fresh impulse given by the breeze, served to plunge the bows of the
vessels into the sea with a violence that threatened injuries to the
spars and rigging. So trifling, indeed, was their rate of sailing, that
it required all the judgment of Columbus to note the nearly
imperceptible manner in which the tall, cone-like summit of the Peak of
Teneriffe lowered, as it might be, inch by inch. The superstitious
feelings of the common men being more active than usual, even, some
among them began to whisper that the elements were admonishing them
against proceeding, and that tardy as it might seem, the admiral would
do well to attend to omens and signs that nature seldom gave without
sufficient reason. These opinions, however, were cautiously uttered--the
grave, earnest manner of Columbus having created so much respect, as to
suppress them in his presence; and the mariners of the other vessels
still followed the movements of their admiral with that species of blind
dependence which marks the submission of the inferior to the superior,
under such circumstances.

When Columbus retired to his cabin for the night, Luis observed that his
countenance was unusually grave, as he ended his calculations of the
days' work.

"I trust all goes to your wishes, Don Christopher," the young man gaily
observed. "We are now fairly on our journey, and, to my eyes, Cathay is
already in sight."

"Thou hast that within thee, Don Luis," returned the admiral, "which
rendereth what thou wishest to see distinct, and maketh all colors gay.
With me it is a duty to see things as they _are_, and, although Cathay
lieth plainly before the vision of my mind--thou, Lord, who hast
implanted, for thine own great ends, the desire to reach that distant
land, only know'st how plainly!--although Cathay is thus plain to my
moral view, I am bound to heed the physical obstacles that may exist to
our reaching it."

"And are these obstacles getting to be more serious than we could hope,
Señor?"

"My trust is still in God--look here, young lord," laying his finger on
the chart; "at this point were we in the morning, and to this point have
we advanced by means of all the toil of the day, down to this portion of
the night. Thou seest that a line of paper marketh the whole of our
progress; and, here again, thou seest that we have to cross this vast
desert of ocean, ere we may even hope to draw near the end of our
journey. By my calculation, with all our exertions, and at this critical
moment--critical not only as regardeth the Portuguese, but critical as
regardeth our own people--we have made but nine leagues, which are a
small portion of the thousand that lie before us. At this rate we may
dread a failure of our provisions and water."

"I have all confidence in your resources, Don Christopher, and in your
knowledge and experience."

"And I have all confidence in the protection of God; trusting that he
will not desert his servant in the moment that he most needeth his
support."

Here Columbus prepared himself to catch a few hours' sleep, though it
was in his clothes, the interest he felt in the position of his vessels
forbidding him to undress. This celebrated man lived in an age when a
spurious philosophy, and a pretending but insufficient exercise of
reason, placed few, even in appearance, above the frank admission of
their constant reliance on a divine power. We say in appearance, as no
man, whatever may be the extent of his delusions on this subject, really
believes that he is altogether sufficient for his own protection. This
absolute self-reliance is forbidden by a law of nature, each carrying in
his own breast a monitor to teach him his real insignificance,
demonstrating daily, hourly, at each minute even, that he is but a
diminutive agent used by a superior power in carrying out its own great
and mysterious ends, for the sublime and beneficent purposes for which
the world and all it contains has been created. In compliance with the
usage of the times, Columbus knelt, and prayed fervently, ere he slept;
nor did Luis de Bobadilla hesitate about imitating an example that few,
in that day, thought beneath their intelligence or their manhood. If
religion had the taint of superstition in the fifteenth century, and men
confided too much in the efficacy of momentary and transient impulses,
it is certain that it also possessed an exterior of graceful meekness
and submission to God, in losing which, it may be well questioned if the
world has been the gainer.

The first appearance of light brought the admiral and Luis to the deck.
They both knelt again on the poop, and repeated their paters; and then,
yielding to the feelings natural to their situation, they arose, eager
to watch for what might be revealed by the lifting of the curtain of
day. The approach of dawn, and the rising of the sun at sea, have been
so often described, that the repetition here might be superfluous; but
we shall state that Luis watched the play of colors that adorned the
eastern sky, with a lover's refinement of feeling, fancying that he
traced a resemblance to the passage of emotions across the tell-tale
countenance of Mercedes, in the soft and transient hues that are known
to precede a fine morning in September, more especially in a low
latitude. As for the admiral, his more practical gaze was turned in the
direction in which the island of Ferro lay, awaiting the increase of the
light in order to ascertain what changes had been wrought during the
hours he had slept. Several minutes passed in profound attention, when
the navigator beckoned Luis to his side.

"Seest thou that dark, gloomy pile, which is heaving up out of the
darkness, here at the south and west of us?" he said--"it gaineth form
and distinctness at each instant, though distant some eight or ten
leagues; that is Ferro, and the Portuguese are there, without question,
anxiously expecting our appearance. In this calm, neither can approach
the other, and thus far we are safe. It is now necessary to ascertain if
the pursuing caravels are between us and the land, or not; after which,
should it prove otherwise, we shall be reasonably safe, if we approach
no nearer to the island, and we can maintain, as yesterday, the
advantage of the wind. Seest thou any sail, Luis, in that quarter of the
ocean?"

"None, Señor; and the light is already of sufficient strength to expose
the white canvas of a vessel, were any there."

Columbus made an ejaculation of thankfulness, and immediately ordered
the look-out aloft to examine the entire horizon. The report was
favorable; the dreaded Portuguese caravels being nowhere visible. As the
sun arose, however, a breeze sprung up at the southward and westward,
bringing Ferro, and consequently any vessels that might be cruising in
that quarter, directly to windward of the fleet. Sail was made without
the loss of a moment; and the admiral stood to the northward and
westward, trusting that his pursuers were looking out for him on the
south side of the island, which was the ground where those who did not
thoroughly understand his aim, would be most likely to expect him. By
this time the westerly swell had, in a great measure, gone down; and
though the progress of the vessels was far from rapid, it was steady,
and seemed likely to last. The hours went slowly by, and as the day
advanced, objects became less and less distinct on the sides of Ferro.
Its entire surface next took the hazy appearance of a dim and
ill-defined cloud; and then it began slowly to sink into the water. Its
summit was still visible, as the admiral, with the more privileged of
his companions, assembled on the poop, to take a survey of the ocean and
of the weather. The most indifferent observer might now have noted the
marked difference in the state of feeling which existed among the
adventurers on board the Santa Maria. On the poop, all was cheerfulness
and hope, the present escape having induced even the distrustful,
momentarily, to forget the uncertain future; the pilots, as usual, were
occupied and sustained by a species of marine stoicism; while a
melancholy had settled on the crew that was as apparent as if they were
crowding around the dead. Nearly every man in the ship was in some one
of the groups that had assembled on deck; and every eye seemed riveted,
as it might be by enchantment, on the fading and falling heights of
Ferro. While things were in this state, Columbus approached Luis, and
aroused him from a sort of trance, by laying a finger lightly on his
shoulder.

"It cannot be that the Señor de Muños is affected by the feelings of the
common men," observed the admiral, with a slight mixture of surprise and
reproach; "this, too, at a moment that all of an intelligence sufficient
to foresee the glorious consequences, are rejoicing that a heaven-sent
breeze is carrying us to a safe distance from the pursuing and envious
caravels! Why dost thou thus regard the people beneath, with a steady
eye and unwavering look? Is it that thou repentest embarking, or dost
thou merely muse on the charms of thy mistress?"

"By San Iago! Don Christopher, this time your sagacity is at fault. I
neither repent, nor muse as you would imply; but I gaze at yonder poor
fellows with pity for their apprehensions."

"Ignorance is a hard master, Señor Pedro, and one that is now exercising
his power over the imaginations of the seamen, with the ruthlessness of
a tyrant. They dread the worst merely because they have not the
knowledge to foresee the best. Fear is a stronger passion than hope, and
is ever the near ally of ignorance. In vulgar eyes that which hath not
yet been--nay, which hath not, in some measure, become familiar by
use--is deemed impossible; men reasoning in a circle that is abridged by
their information. Those fellows are gazing at the island, as it
disappears, like men taking a last look at the things of life. Indeed,
this concern exceedeth even what I could have anticipated."

"It lieth deep, Señor, and yet it riseth to the eyes; for I have seen
tears on cheeks that I could never have supposed wetted in any manner
but by the spray of the ocean!"

"There are our two acquaintances, Sancho and Pepe, neither of whom
seemeth particularly distressed, though the last hath a cast of
melancholy in his face. As for the first, the knave showeth the
indifference of a true mariner--one who is never so happy as when
furthest from the dangers of rocks and shoals: to such a man, the
disappearance of one island, and the appearance of another, are alike
matters of indifference. He seeth but the visible horizon around him,
and considereth the rest of the world, temporarily, as a blank. I look
for loyal service in that Sancho, in despite of his knavery, and count
upon him as one of the truest of my followers."

Here the admiral was interrupted by a cry from the deck beneath him,
and, looking round, his practised and quick eye was not slow in
discovering that the horizon to the southward presented the usual watery
blank of the open ocean. Ferro had, in fact, altogether disappeared,
some of the most sanguine of the seamen having fancied that they beheld
it, even after it had finally sunk behind the barrier of waves. As the
circumstance became more and more certain, the lamentations among the
people grew less and less equivocal and louder, tears flowed without
shame or concealment, hands were wrung in a sort of a senseless despair,
and a scene of such clamor ensued, as threatened some serious danger to
the expedition from this new quarter. Under such circumstances, Columbus
had all the people collected beneath the break of the poop, and standing
on the latter, where he could examine every countenance for himself, he
addressed them on the subject of their grief. On this occasion the
manner of the great navigator was earnest and sincere, leaving no doubt
that he fully believed in the truth of his own arguments, and that he
uttered nothing with the hope to delude or to mislead.

"When Don Ferdinand and Doña Isabella, our respected and beloved
sovereigns, honored me with the commission of admiral and viceroy, in
those secret seas toward which we are now steering," he said, "I
considered it as the most glorious and joyful event of my life, as I now
consider this moment, that seemeth to some among you so painful, as
second to it in hope and cause for felicitation. In the disappearance of
Ferro, I see also the disappearance of the Portuguese; for, now that we
are in the open ocean, without the limits of any known land, I trust
that Providence hath placed us beyond the reach and machinations of all
our enemies. While we prove true to ourselves, and to the great objects
that are before us, there is no longer cause for fear. If any person
among you hath a mind to disburden himself, in this matter, let him
speak freely; we being much too strong in argument to wish to silence
doubts by authority."

"Then, Señor Don Almirante," put in Sancho, whose tongue was ever ready
to wag, as occasion offered, "it is just that which maketh your
Excellency so joyful that maketh these honest people so sad. Could they
always keep the island of Ferro in sight, or any other known land, they
would follow you to Cathay with as gentle a pull as the launch followeth
the caravel in a light breeze and smooth water; but it is this leaving
all behind, as it might be, earth as well as wives and children, that
saddens their hearts, and uncorks their tears."

"And thou, Sancho, an old mariner that wast born at sea"--

"Nay, your Excellency, illustrious Señor Don Almirante," interrupted
Sancho, looking up with pretended simplicity, "not exactly at sea,
though within the scent of its odor; since, having been found at the
shipwright's gate, it is not probable they would have made a haven just
to land so small a part of the freight."

"Well, born _near_ the sea, if thou wilt--but from thee I expect better
things than unmanly lamentations because an island hath sunk below the
horizon."

"Excellency, you may; it mattereth little to Sancho, if half the islands
in the sea were sunk a good deal lower. There are the Cape de Verdes,
now, which I never wish to look upon again, and Lampidosa, besides
Stromboli and others in that quarter, would be better out of the way,
than where they are, as for any good they do us seamen. But, if your
Excellency will condescend to tell these honest people whither it is
that we are bound, and what you expect to find in port, and, more
especially, when we are to come back, it would comfort them in an
unspeakable degree."

"As I hold it to be the proper office of men in authority to let their
motives be known, when no evil followeth the disclosure, this will I
most cheerfully do, requiring the attention of all near me, and chiefly
of those who are most uneasy concerning our present position and future
movements. The end of our voyage is Cathay, a country that is known to
lie in the uttermost eastern extremity of Asia, whither it hath been
more than once reached by Christian travellers; and its difference from
all other voyages, or journeys, that may have been attempted in order to
reach the same country, is in the circumstance that we go west, while
former travellers have proceeded east. But this is effecting our
purposes by means that belong only to stout-hearted mariners, since none
but those who are familiar with the ocean, skilful pilots, and obedient
and ready seamen, can traverse the waters, without better guides than
the knowledge of the stars, currents, winds, and other phenomena of the
Atlantic, and such aids as may be gleaned from science. The reason on
which I act, is a conviction that the earth is round, whence it
followeth that the Atlantic, which we know to possess an eastern
boundary of land, must also have a western; and from certain
calculations that leave it almost certain, that this continent, which I
hold will prove to be India, cannot lie more than some twenty-five or
thirty days' sailing, if as many, from our own Europe. Having thus told
when and where I expect to find the country we seek, I will now touch a
little on the advantages that we may all expect to derive from the
discovery. According to the accounts of a certain Marco Polo, and his
relatives, gentlemen of Venice, and men of fair credit and good
reputations, the kingdom of Cathay is not only one of the most extensive
known, but one that most aboundeth in gold and silver, together with the
other metals of value, and precious stones. Of the advantages of the
discovery of such a land to yourselves, ye may judge by its advantages
to me. Their Highnesses have dignified me with the rank of admiral and
viceroy, in anticipation of our success, and, persevering to a
successful termination of your efforts, the humblest man among ye may
look with confidence to some signal mark of their favor. Rewards will
doubtless be rendered in proportion to your merits; he that deserveth
much, receiving more than he who hath deserved less. Still will there be
sufficient for all. Marco Polo and his relatives dwelt seventeen years
in the court of the Great Khan, and were every way qualified to give a
true account of the riches and resources of those regions; and well were
they--simple Venetian gentlemen, without any other means than could be
transported on the backs of beasts of burden--rewarded for their toils
and courage. The jewels alone, with which they returned, served long to
enrich their race, renovating a decayed but honorable family, while they
did their enterprise and veracity credit in the eyes of men.

"As the ocean, for a long distance this side of the continent of Asia
and the kingdom of Cathay, is known to abound with islands, we may
expect first to meet with them, where, it would be doing nature herself
injustice, did we not anticipate fragrant freights of balmy spices, and
other valuable commodities with which that favored quarter of the earth,
it is certain, is enriched. Indeed, it is scarce possible for the
imagination to conceive of the magnitude of the results that await our
success, while naught but ridicule and contempt could attend a hasty and
inconsiderate return. Going not as invaders, but as Christians and
friends, we have no reason to expect other than the most friendly
reception; and, no doubt, the presents and gifts, alone, that will
naturally be offered to strangers who have come so far, and by a road
that hath hitherto been untravelled, will forty-fold repay you for all
your toils and troubles.

"I say nothing of the honor of being among those who have first carried
the cross to the heathen world," continued the admiral, uncovering
himself, and looking around him with solemn gravity; "though our fathers
believed it to be no little distinction to have been one in the armies
that contended for the possession of the sepulchre. But neither the
church, nor its great master, forgetteth the servitor that advanceth its
interests, and we may all look for blessings, both here and hereafter."

As he concluded, Columbus devoutly crossed himself, and withdrew from
the sight of his people among those who were on the poop. The effect of
this address was, for the moment, very salutary, and the men saw the
clouds that hung over the land disappear, like the land itself, with
less feeling than they had previously manifested. Nevertheless, they
remained distrustful and sad, some dreaming that night of the pictures
that Columbus had drawn of the glories of the East, and others fancying,
in their sleep, that demons were luring them into unknown seas, where
they were doomed to wander forever, as a punishment for their sins;
conscience asserting its power in all situations, and most vividly in
those of distrust and uncertainty.

Shortly before sunset, the admiral caused the three vessels to heave-to,
and the two Pinzons to repair on board his own ship. Here he laid before
these persons his orders and plans for their government, in the event of
a separation.

"Thus you will understand me, Señores," he concluded, after having
explained at length his views: "Your first and gravest duty will be to
keep near the admiral, in all weather, and under every circumstance, so
long as it may be possible; but, failing of the possibility, you will
make your way due westward, on this parallel of latitude, until you have
gone seven hundred leagues from the Canaries; after which, you are to
lie-to at night, as, by that time, it is probable you will be among the
islands of Asia; and it will be both prudent, and necessary to our
objects, to be more on the alert for discoveries, from that moment.
Still, you will proceed westward, relying on seeing me at the court of
the Great Khan, should Providence deny us an earlier meeting."

"This is well, Señor Almirante," returned Martin Alonzo, raising his
eyes, which had long been riveted on the chart, "but it will be far
better for all to keep together, and chiefly so to us, who are little
used to the habits of princes, if we wait for your Excellency's
protection before we rush unheedingly into the presence of a sovereign
as potent as the Grand Khan."

"Thou showest thy usual prudence, good Martin Alonzo, and I much commend
thee for it. It were, indeed, better that thou shouldst wait my arrival,
since that eastern potentate may conceive himself better treated by
receiving the first visit from the viceroy of the sovereigns, who is the
bearer of letters directly from his own royal master and mistress, than
by receiving it from one of inferior rank. Look thou well to the islands
and their products, Señor Pinzon, shouldst thou first gain those seas,
and await my appearance, before thou proceedest to aught else. How stand
thy people affected on taking leave of the land?"

"Ill enough, Señor; so much so, indeed, as to put me in fear of a
mutiny. There are those in the Pinta who need to stand in wholesome
dread of the anger of their Highnesses, to prevent their making a sudden
and violent return to Palos."

"Thou wouldst do well to look sharply to this spirit, that it may be
kept under. Deal kindly and gently with these disaffected spirits as
long as may be, encouraging them by all fair and reasonable promises;
but beware that the distemper get not the mastery of thy authority. And
now, Señores, as the night approacheth, take boat and return to your
vessels, that we may profit by the breeze."

When Columbus was again alone with Luis, he sat in his little cabin,
with a hand supporting his head, musing like one lost in reflection.

"Thou hast long known this Martin Alonzo, Don Luis de Bobadilla?" he at
length asked, betraying the current of his thoughts, by the nature of
the question.

"Long, Señor, as youths count time; though it would seem but a day in
the calculations of aged men."

"Much dependeth on him; I hope he may prove honest; as yet he hath shown
himself liberal, enterprising, and manly."

"He is human, Don Christopher, and therefore liable to err. Yet as men
go, I esteem Martin Alonzo far from being among the worst of his race.
He hath not embarked in this enterprise under knightly vows, nor with
any churchman's zeal; but give him the chance of a fair return for his
risks, and you will find him as true as interest ever leaveth a man,
when there is any occasion to try his selfishness."

"Then thou, only, will I trust with my secret. Look at this paper, Luis.
Here thou seest that I have been calculating our progress since morning,
and I find that we have come full nineteen leagues, though it be not in
a direct westerly line. Should I let the people know how far we may have
truly come, at the end of some great distance, there being no land
visible, fear will get the mastery over them, and no man can foresee the
consequences. I shall write down publicly, therefore, but fifteen
leagues, keeping the true reckoning sacred for thine eye and mine. God
will forgive me this deception, in consideration that it is practised in
the interest of his own church. By making these small deductions daily,
it will enable us to advance a thousand leagues, without awakening alarm
sufficient for more than seven or eight hundred."

"This is reducing courage to a scale I little dreamt of, Señor,"
returned Luis, laughing. "By San Luis, my true patron! we should think
ill of the knight who found it necessary to uphold his heart by a
measurement of leagues."

"All unknown evils are dreaded evils. Distance hath its terrors for the
ignorant, and it may justly have its terrors for the wise, young noble,
when it is measured on a trackless ocean; and there ariseth another
question touching those great staples of life, food and water."

With this slight reproof of the levity of his young friend, the admiral
prepared himself for his hammock by kneeling and repeating the prayers
of the hour.



CHAPTER XVII.

    "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?"

    Bryant.


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 toward the north-east,
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
care?"

"Excellency, he hath an admiral for a father, while my boys have only a
helmsman!"

"And what will it matter to Don Diego"--Columbus was fond of dwelling on
the honors 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
honored 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 nameless
mariner."

"Friend, thou hast some reason in this, and in-so-much 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
wouldst 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 day, 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
below?"

"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 miserable
bodies!"

"Thou hast, then, none of these unsuitable and unseamanlike
apprehensions?"

"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
last."

"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 honor 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 honorable
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 further 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 endeavoring to deceive me,
on the deck, while 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 our souls."

"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 honor 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 favored 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 further 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 favorable, 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 further 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 10th of September, brought a still more favorable 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. Sure 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 naught 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 shipwreck."

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 endeavoring to secure the spar, as a
resource in time of need; but they abandoned the attempt on acccount of
the agitation of the water, and of the fairness of the wind, the latter
being an advantage a true mariner seldom likes to lose.

"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 the appearance of a cross, by means of the trussel-trees;
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 relic of Europe and of
civilization disappeared in the wake of the vessels, gradually
diminishing in size and settling toward 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 favorable, 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 further 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 communication.

"Wouldst 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 I do 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 flavor of rich
fruits and well-savored 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 admiral's
ear."

"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 was"--

"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 voyage."

"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 Abraham's bosom."

"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 phenomenon.

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 toward 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 speak."

Columbus dismissed the man, and then he turned toward 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 neighborhood of some island that hath an
influence on our compasses that we cannot explain."

"Is it known that islands have ever produced this effect on the needle?"

"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
"tell-tale," 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 far.

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 further 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 imperceptible.



CHAPTER XVIII.

        "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 little 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 direction.

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, Señor?"

"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 particular
direction."

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 favor, 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
connection 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
afterward 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 toward 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 further 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 honor
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 joy.

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 surly misanthropy.

"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
mentioned 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 toward 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 parties?"

"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 neighborhood of sunken islands, and, the wind permitting, made the
best of their way back to their own shores. Thia 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
any where 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 formation.

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
canvas 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 humor 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 few
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, toward
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
toward 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 weeds!"

"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 around the earth in the short space of
twenty-four hours, while no doubt he hath other, and more subtile
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 disc 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 toward 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 as this!"

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
dull-minded 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 toward the north star: and I think that which hath escaped
my notice would not be apt to attract thine."

"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 wouldst 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 sworn to."

"Thou wouldst, then, summon a most unfortunate witness, Sancho, since I
neither practise false oaths myself, nor encourage their use in others."

"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 favorable,
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 prophecy 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 further 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 favoreth
us; and what rendereth all these tokens more grateful, is the
circumstance of their coming from the west--the hidden, unknown,
mysterious west!"

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 connection
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
honor 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 savor 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 ardor of the crews, ordered sail to be pressed
on all the vessels, that each might endeavor 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.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIX.

      "The sails were filled, 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 continent.

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
colors 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 favor 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 the 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 endeavoring to trace them to some advantageous
conclusion?"

"I see no better course, worthy friend. This rain indicateth land; also
this calm; and here is a visitor 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
toward 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 the shore!"

"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 further 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 security, though I shall think naught accomplished until India
be fairly reached, and India is still hundreds of leagues distant. As
the time is favorable, 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 nights.

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
apprehension?"

"I endeavor 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 mayst 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 thus 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 some time 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 the
land."

"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 Spain."

"Sancho is right!" exclaimed the seamen. "The air savors of land, too;
and the sea hath a look of the land; and God is with us--blessed be his
Holy name--and honor 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 favor 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 without 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 toward 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 daylight 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 favor
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 forever 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
experiment."

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 toward the bottom, until so
little was left as to compel the downward course to be arrested.

"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 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 rose, 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 toward 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 wind seems 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 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
favorable 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 was 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 deceptive.

"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 naught in either to alarm a bold seaman; and as
for the bottom, we 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 Khan?"

"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 toward 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 savor 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 immovable!"

"Call ye this stagnant and immovable?" 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 further 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 servants."

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 coast have frequent occasion to witness its
occurrence.



CHAPTER XX.

    "'_Ora pro nobis, Mater!_'--what a spell
    Was in those notes, with day's last glory dying
    On the flush'd waters--seemed 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,
endeavoring 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 favorable 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.

"'Tis 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 world."

"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 direction."[2]

[Footnote 2: 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
Quisay."]

"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 described 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 paradise."

"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 rejoice."

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' 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 disappointed.

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 calculation, 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 their theories.

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 one 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 toward
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 out-stripped 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 to them kindly, endeavoring 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 headlands, 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; while 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 toward 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 neighbor?"

"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 toward 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
toward his, in breathless expectation of the result, as soon as the
first glance had been given toward 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 man.

"_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 toward 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
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 toward 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 behold.

"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 honored 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 out-stripped the age, in his
favorite 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 favorite 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 connection 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, Señor," 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 _Glory 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 labors 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 endeavor 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 favorable, 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 further we venture, the greater will be the honor. 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 toward 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 sorely 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 burdensome 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 twenty."

"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 the earth itself."



CHAPTER XXI.

    "Pronounce what sea, what shore is this?
    The gulf, the rock of Salamis?"

    Byron.


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
toward 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 favorable 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 favorably, Columbus finding his
ship gliding though 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 vessel; 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 a trumpet.

"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 wouldst 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 a conquest?"

"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 toward 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 toward 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 toward 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 toward 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 colors of the
queen, and there goeth a lombarda to announce some great event!"

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 canvas was set, however, and the vessels seemed
to hasten their speed toward 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 active instincts.

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 toward the west, it became impossible 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
naught but islands, 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; while 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 toward 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
favorable 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 vapor that hath so often misled us of late?"

"'Tis 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 the 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
admired 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 south-east-and-by-southe-half-southe, from
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."

"'Tis 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 toward his mouth, and which materially
checked the ardor of most of his followers.

"What would ye?" demanded the admiral, sternly. "Speak! Ye address a
friend."

"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 further 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 toward 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, forever, 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 you, 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 endeavor 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 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 toward
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 ardor of these knaves, did your Excellency suffer me to cast two or
three of the most insolent of the vagabonds into the sea."

"Which is a favor 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 of science."

"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 wouldst 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 favorable 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 further. We are doubtless a trifle
nearer to the Azores, which are situated further west, though in a
higher latitude."

"Then you think, Señor, that we may really expect land, ere many days?"

"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 toward 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 toward 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 an
ecstasy!"

"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 near."

"Let us hope not, Martin Alonzo," answered the admiral; "let us fancy
naught 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 neighborhood 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, naught 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 favorite 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' 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 recall 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 further 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 toward 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 expect 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 toward 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 the trades.

"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!"

"Naught, Señor, unless it be that the Pinta is lessening her canvas, and
the Niña is already closing with our fleet consort--nay, I now see the
latter shortening sail also!"

"For these great tidings, all honor 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 of
canvas."

Every thing 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 canvas, 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!"



CHAPTER XXII.

    "There is a Power, whose care
      Teaches thy way along that pathless coast--
    The desert and illimitable air--
      Lone wandering, but not lost."

    Bryant.


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
canvas, 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 further 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 success.

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
gray, solemn colors 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 sovereigns.

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.[3]

[Footnote 3: 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.]

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 demeanor, 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 toward him
the admiral first directed his steps.

"How is this, Sancho of the ship-yard-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 pains?"

"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 respected."

"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 Luis,
laughing.

"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 parley, he had arranged a gorgeous _bouquet_,
which he already fancied in the glossy dark hair of Mercedes.

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 them.

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 connection 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
connection 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 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
visitors take their flight toward 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 endeavored 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 afterward 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 favorite 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 caravel.

"Have none seen the Pinta?" demanded the admiral, hastily, of Sancho,
who stood at the helm.

"Señor, _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 unfavorable, 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 further east, and
anchor off the town inhabited by the prince himself. The wind preventing
an immediate compliance, a messenger was despatched 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 any thing 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 connection 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 pregnant document.



CHAPTER XXIII.

    "Thou seemest to fancy's eye
      An animated blossom born in air;
    Which breathes and bourgeons in the golden sky,
      And sheds its odors there."

    Sutermeister.


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 further 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 thus
earnestly?"

"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 sovereign."

"More especially, since my lord, the Señor Don Almirante, hath publicly
proclaimed that our gracious lady, the Doña Isabella, is henceforth and
forever to be queen over him," returned Sancho, with a knowing glance of
the eye. "Little do these worthy people understand the honor that is in
store for them, and least of all, his Highness, King Guacanagari!"

"Hush, Sancho, and keep thy unpleasant intimations in thine own breast.
Our friends turn the head of the canoe toward 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 toward 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' 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 accessories
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 favorite 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 midwinter, 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
visitors 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 favored few. Whether it was owing to this 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 favorite 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 despatched, 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 foot-path 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 despatched 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--

"Mercedes!"

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 Indian beauty.

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
color was not unpleasant, and the inhabitants of Hayti, in particular,
were said to be 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 circumstance
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 exception 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
comfort. Ozema, herself, formed no exception to the general rule. A
cincture of Indian cloth, woven in gay colors, 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 child-like 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
_naive_ and charming. He endeavored 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 toward 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 toward 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 favorite and
sacred residence of the latter. Of course our hero was, if any thing, 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
free-thinkers, 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 laboring 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 big 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 of purpose.

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 favorite 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 another."

"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 any
thing 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 favor in behalf of
these poor islanders, and that, too, Sancho, at the expense of thine own
bones?"

"Simply, Señor," answered the knave, with a cunning leer, "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 Ozetna, 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
'Caonabo!'"

"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 every
hazard!"

Luis had no sooner given these orders, than he and Sancho separated, the
latter running toward the town, which, by this time, was a scene of wild
tumult, while our hero, slowly and sullenly, retired toward 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
favorite 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 before them.

The alarm reached the dwelling 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 from 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' ardor 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 endeavoring to find
places of concealment. By this singular and unexpected desertion, Luis
found himself, for the first time since they had met, alone with Ozema.

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 grew 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 building together.

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--

"Caonabo--no--no--no!"

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
connection with himself; for, while our hero was both honorable and
generous, he was human, and, consequently, well disposed to take a
favorable view of his own powers of pleasing. It was only in connection
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 favor 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 armor than his buckler, the young man would have thought his
situation sufficiently critical, did he not know that the archery of the
natives was any thing 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 beleaguered 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 endeavored 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 endeavoring to obtain
chances at the person of Luis without killing the princess, he saw there
remained no alternative but a retreat behind the fragment 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 toward 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 seductive
dependence.

"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 spears-men, 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 latter occurrence, as the commencement of strife, the
severe privacy which has ever been thrown over the connection 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
toward 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 color 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 favor of the stranger. Waving his hand in defiance, he
strode back to his people, and issued orders for a fresh assault.

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 inured 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 that 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
toward 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
favor.



CHAPTER XXIV.

    "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."

    Macbeth.


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 rumors 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 shores.

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 color 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 honor. On second thoughts, there were fewer objections
to the scheme than he 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' 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 our
discovery."

"Thou wilt remember, Señor Conde, that naught 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 favored 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 favorably of our
discoveries, as thou say'st. 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 further, 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 forever 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 favorable 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
Columbus.[4]

[Footnote 4: The fortunes of this beautiful island furnish a remarkable
proof of the manner in which abusse 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. Toward 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
1518! 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.]

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 favorable 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 breeze also favored the first, which had ever been
deemed a fast craft in smooth water and gentle gales.

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 say'st 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 neighborhood 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 trials.

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 favorable,
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 canvas 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 scarcely 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 accessories in the murky picture. When the wintry frowns of
February are thrown around all, the gloomy hues of the scene are
deepened to their darkest tints.

"This is a brooding nightfall, Don Luis," Columbus remarked, just as the
last rays that the sun cast upward 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 burdensome freight, I might view our situation less anxiously."

"You surprise me, sir Admiral! the pilots have regretted that our bark
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 toward 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 canvas is at
the lowest, every thing is well lashed, and we carry as little aloft as
can be spared. Sancho Ruiz, look you to the tarpaulings, 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."

"'Tis well, good Pinzon--neither you nor I can close an eye to-night."

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, favorably 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 canvas, and both went foaming ahead, hurrying toward 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 labor 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 canvas spread.
Reluctantly did he order the Niña to edge away toward her consort,
separation, at such a moment, being the evil next to positive
destruction.

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 bark 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
forever 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 of God.

"'Tis 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 waters 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 mid-ship-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 tarpaulings. 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
inevitable consequence.

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 bark 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 canvas 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 to leeward."

"Let the foresail be secured," answered Columbus, "as thou say'st. 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 canvas 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 regularity.
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 penance.

"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 favor 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 among 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.

"'Tis 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 terrific, 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 tarpaulings, and
send careful hands below to make sure that the water does 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. Toward 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 bark, 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 her movements.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXV.

    "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 bark
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 further 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 the month.

Providence seemed to favor the passage of the adventurers, for the first
few days; the wind being favorable 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 favorable 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 favorably, 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
honor 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 concerned."

"And why not as respects the honor, friend Sancho?" put in Luis, who had
become a sworn friend of the seaman, since the rescue of the rocks.

"Honor, 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 honors 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 horses 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
canvas, 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 canvas 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 favorite
shrine. In addition, the whole crew made a vow to fast on bread and
water, the first Saturday after they should arrive.

"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 exceeding
faith!"

"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 toward 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 reappear 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, naught 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 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 gratings and their frail
coverings of tarred cloth.

"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 favored 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 endeavor 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 canvas, and an order was issued
to set the foresail. The first flap of the canvas, as it was loosened to
the gale, was tremendous, the jerk threatening to tear the fore-mast
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 favorable moment to secure the clews, and,
as the little bark struggled upward again, the canvas 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 endeavors 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, endeavoring, 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 Caonabo--no
Hayti."

"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."

"What protect?"

"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 promise
heart."

"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 run
away!"

"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 baptized when we should reach my
country."

"God!--Ozema do, what Ozema say. Love Luis' 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' 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 fervor, 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' God?" enquired 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
endless mercies."

"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'
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 forever."

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 toward
the place where Columbus stood, sheltering his weather-beaten 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
security."

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 scene.

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
vapor 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 would allow.

In this manner the tempest-tossed little bark 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 crew.

"All now depends on our canvas," 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 yon 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 toward 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 endeavoring 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
favorable 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
canvas, 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 point!"

"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 toward 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.



CHAPTER XXVI.

    "One evening-tide, as with her crones she sate,
    Making sweet solace of some scandal new,
    A boisterous noise came thund'ring at the gate,
    And soon a sturdie boy approached in view;
    With gold far glitter and 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."

    Mickle.


Notwithstanding the noble conceptions that lay at the bottom of the
voyage we have just related, the perseverance 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 toward 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 whither.

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 investigation 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 favorite
Colon, the Genoese; and when they look for his return, dragging the
Great Khan, a captive, by the beard!"

"We know naught 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 rumor 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' concessions in Columbus' favor. "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 I 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 harbored in some river of Africa; and we shall have
some question yet to settle about him with Don John 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
midnight?"

"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
pleasure without."

"None can await without at this unusual hour; surely you jest, my lord."

"Then your own page, Diego de Ballesteros, hath reported falsely.
Unwilling to disturb your privacy, at this unseasonable 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 own thoughts.

"I am Isabella, the queen," she said, prising, without any further
suspicion of danger; "and thou art a messenger from Colon, the Genoese?"

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. 'Tis 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 else."

"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 charged!"

"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
for prevarication.

"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 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 neighborhood."

"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 thy
words?"

"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 toward 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 honor 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 favorer 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
toward 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 intently 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, honorable 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 gracious queen?"

"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 as Barcelona!"

"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 high-sounding
terms?"

"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' friend and favorite."

"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 merietst 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 tale!"

"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 know 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 Ojeda!"

"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 I suspect."

"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 favor 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'
aunt, counted anew his gold, and was about to take possession of his
pallet, when the same page reappeared 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 demeanor, 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 honor 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 true?"

"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, afterward, 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, and 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."

"Knowest 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 likely 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 honorable 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 further
question.

"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 at bay!"

"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 knight."

"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 honor 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 saidst 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.



CHAPTER XXVII.

    "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 afterward, 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 endeavoring 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 envied.

The first few days that succeeded the arrival of Columbus' courier, were
days of delight and curiosity. Answers were sent soliciting his early
presence, high honors 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 honors 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 honors
and consideration cease untill 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 undertone, 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 favorite 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 honors 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 neighbors 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 it 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 honor 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 honor; for happy was he that day in Barcelona
who could get even one of the meanest of Columbus' 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 Matir," and
occasionally "Señor Pedro Matir." 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 honor, and to partake of
our homely cheer. I drew him from a crowd of applicants, and have not
yet had an opportunity to inquire 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 honored 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
remarkable!"

"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 the winds."

"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 honor, 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 as far as Cathay. I am honored 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 neighborhood 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 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
duties."

"Do these Indians eat flesh as remarkable as their bread?" inquired a
Cerda.

"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 conversation.

"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' honorable
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 connection 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 listen."

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 favor 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, naught
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' 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 ardor 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.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXVIII.

    "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."

    Mason.


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 efforts.

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 the 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 neighbor, 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 parents."

"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 say'st 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 ear 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 labor, as usual,
until his frame demanded rest.

Isabella sat 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' 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 me this high proof
of his perseverance and courage, there can remain no longer any reason
for forbidding their union. Thou know'st 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 burdened 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,
Señora."

"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, any thing 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 favor 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 one 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 aught 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
neighbor 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 spirit!"

"Alas! Señora, my beloved mistress, my feelings have had vent already,
and nature will no more. This 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 energy."

"This is most unusual! A creature so fair--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 know'st 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 crashed her
heart."

"_Here_, say'st thou, Marchioness? Then can there be no vicious union
between the thoughtless young man and the stranger. Thy nephew would not
thus presume to offend 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 endeavored to influence my ward to favor his suit, for
I would not that they should have it in their power to say I sought a
union so honorable and advantageous to our house; but now do I most
earnestly desire her to steel her noble heart to his unworthiness."

"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' 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 half-attired 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 honor 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 station.

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 naught
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 heart."

"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
forever; 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 color 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 him."

"How know'st 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, Beatriz."

"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', 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',
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 manner.

"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
voice--"Luis no Conde--Luis."

"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 girl.

"I wish to inquire if thou wouldst 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 expectest 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 a certainty."

"Si, Señora--Ozema, Luis' wife."

"Thou meanest, princess, that Ozema expecteth shortly to wed the
count--shortly to become his wife!"

"No--no--no--Ozema _now_ Luis' wife. Luis marry Ozema, already."

"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 mistress.

"'Tis 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 lawful
wife."

"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 nuptials 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 affirmed."

"Your Highness--can a Christian contract marriage with one that is yet
unbaptized?"

"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 her
forehead.

"Adieu, Beatriz--true friend as thou art!" she said. "If constancy hath
deserted all others, it hath still an abode in thy faithful heart."

With these words the queen and the marchioness separated, each to find
her pillow, if not her repose.



CHAPTER XXIX.

    "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 honor 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 honor 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 sympathize 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 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
unfavorable impressions that had been produced by Luis' 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 honor for his services."

The bumper was drunk, and the meek acknowledgments of Columbus 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 office 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 churchman'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 employed."

"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 success?"

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 sat 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 manner.

"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 mention."

"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 tremor. A murmur of applause followed this
rebuke, and the Lord of Orbitello was fain 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 Bobadilla.

"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 her kings?"

"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 companion 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 endeavoring 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' 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 seest, 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 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 shouldst 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 honor 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 matrimony?"

"Señora, I confess it. Is it an offence to dream of the honorable
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 Spain!"

"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
severe remarks?"

"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 know'st best, thyself."

"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."

"Mercedes?"

"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 honor too well, to suppose aught more than a weakness that thou
wouldst 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. "Any thing 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, forever."

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' 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' 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 mind."

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 it 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 inquiry."

"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; coloring as he spoke, with the consciousness
that Ozema was utterly unable to conceal her predilection in his favor.
"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 country."

"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 favorably
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 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 know'st the count better
than I, and can easier say how far we ought to confide in these
explanations."

"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 cruelly deceived."

"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 honor, as cavaliers and nobles, that what hath this night been
said, will never be spoken of amid the revels of men. The Lady Ozema
shall be my care; and, Count of Llera, thou shalt know my final decision
to-morrow, concerning Doña Mercedes and thyself."

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.



CHAPTER XXX.

    "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!"

    Coleridge.


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' 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 toward 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 forever. 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' 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 color 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' color 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 her behalf!"

"Holy Luke! Did that vagabond, Sancho, dare to wound thy ear, Mercedes,
with an insinuation that touched the strength or the constancy of my
love for thee?"

"He related naught 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"--

"Mercedes!"

"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 thoughts."

"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 here!"

"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 honor 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 toward 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 wouldst 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 another?"

"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
on me."

"Ah! Luis; when I gave thee that cross, I did wish to be understood as
plighting my faith to thee forever!"

"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
toward 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 humors?"

"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 portrayed 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 foes."

"Believe not this, beloved girl; thou wouldst 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 wouldst--thou wouldst--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 wouldst not only have done it, but thou wouldst have done it far
better. Ozema, moreover, was exposed in her own quarrel, whilst thou
wouldst 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 color, the effect of feeling, not of shame,
rendered the girl surpassingly beautiful--"and, Luis, if thou shouldst
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' 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 color 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 favorable 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 endeavoring 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 Christian baptism."

"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. 'Tis
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 wouldst urge on me some
favorite 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 know'st the
views of thy guardian and myself, and may'st, 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 temptation, betray some transient and passing feeling toward one of
so much nature and beauty."

"Luis hath admitted all, Señora; inconstant he hath never been, though
he may have had his weaknesses."

"'Tis 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, 'tis a cruel fate! To die among strangers, in the flower of
her beauty, and with a heart crushed by the weight of unrequited love!"

"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 hear,
Señora."

"_That_ somewhat dependeth on thee, daughter. Listen, and be not hasty
in thy decision, which may touch on the security of a human soul."

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, daughter?"

"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 so
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 struggling?"

"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 despatched 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 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 bridegroom 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 toward 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 had assigned to him,
though he stood at the bridegroom's side himself, with a view to do him
honor, 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 history, withdrew.

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 portrayed 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 and
surprise.

"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 heathen."

"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 indulgence.

"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 load 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 wouldst 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.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XXXI.

    "A perfect woman, nobly planned
    To warn, to comfort, and command;
    And yet a spirit still, and bright,
    With something of an angel light."

    Wordsworth.


The lustre that was thrown around the voyage of Columbus, brought the
seas into favor. 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 connection 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, endeavoring 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 feluccas, 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 canvas, or
in its real dimensions and substance. Its position, too, was precisely
that which a painter would have chosen as the most favorable 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 toward 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 humor 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 savor 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 humor 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's-bells, 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 fore-yard, 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 Luis.

"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 toward 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
wish."

"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 c