fi-jshed, excited, and with feelings not a little angered, at
the compelled departure of his new friend. He did not fail
4 >o impute the blame of this occurrence to those who had
the power to prevent it; and when his dark expressive eye
met vhe countenance of his sovereign, had it been in her
power to read its meaning, she would have understood that
he viewed Yvr as a person who had thwarted his hopes on
more than one occasion. Nevertheless, the influence of Doiia
Isabella's pure character and gentle manners was seldom
forgotten by any who were permitted to approach her per
son ; and his address wa respectful, if not warm.
" It is Your Highness's pleasure to command my pre
sence," said the young man, as soon as he made his reve
rences to the queen.
" I thank you for this promptitude, Don Luis, having
VOL. I. 12
134 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
some need of your services. Can you tell us what hath
befel the Senor Christoval Colon, the Genoese navigator,
with whom, they inform me, you have some intimacy ?"
" Forgive me, Senora, 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 Senor 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."
" Senora ! Dona 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 riot a moment to relieve the
loaded heart of the Gevoese I might almost say, to relieve
ours, also ; for, Daughter-Marchioness, since this holyxin-
terprise hath broken on my mind with a sudden anct/*fmost
miraculous light, it seemeth that a mountain must -He on^rny
breast until the Senor Christoval shall Jearn tl*5 truth !"
Luis de Bobadilla did not wait a second Jxdding, but hur
ried from the presence, as fast as etiqueX would allow, and
the next minute he was in the saddK At his appearance,
Mercedes had shrunk into the r^ess of a window, where
she now, luckily, commanded view of the court. As her
lover gained his seat, he caught a glimpse of her lorm ;
and though the spurs were already in his charger's flanks,
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 135
the rein tightened, and the snorting steed was thrown sud
denly on liis 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 prohability of
its want of success : or of the many motives which might
still induce the queen to withhold her consent. Mercedes
awoke first from the short trance that succeeded, for, taking
the alarm at Luis's indiscreet delay, she motioned him hur
riedly 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
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 nobie re
signation 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 Piiios,
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
" Joy ! joy ! a thousand times, joy, Senor Colon !"
shouted the eager youth, even before he was near enough
to be distinctly heard. " Blessed Maria be praised ! Joy !
Senor, joy ! and nought but joy !"
" This is unexpected, Don Luis," exclaimed the navi
gator. " What meancth 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 un
decided court?" demanded Columbus. "Have I not wasted
years in striving to urge it to its own good ? Look at these
hairs, young Senor, and remember that I have lost a time
136 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
that nearly equals all thy days, in striving uselessly to con
vince the rulers of this peninsula that my project is founded
"At length you have succeeded. Isabella, the true-
hearted and never-deceiving Queen of Castile, herself, hath
awoke to the importance of thy scheme, and pledges her
royal word to favour it."
" Is this true ? Can this be true, Don Luis?"
" I am sent to you express, Senor, to urge your imme
" By whom, young Lord ?"
" By Dona Isabella, my gracious mistress, through her
own personal commands."
" I cannot forego a single condition already offered."
" It is not expected, Senor. 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 en
Columbus was deeply touched with this information, and
removing his cap, he concealed his face with it, for a mo
ment, 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 Fe.
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 137
"How beautiful is genius when combined
With holiness ! Oh ! how divinely sweet
The tones of earthly harp, whose chords are touch'd
By the soft hand of Piety, and hung
Upon Religion's shrine, there vibrating
With solemn music in the ear of God!"
COLUMBUS was received by his friends Luis de St. Angel
and Alonzo de Quintanilla, with a gratification they found
it difficult to express. They were loud in their eulogiums
,on Isabella, and added to the assurances of Don Luis, such
proofs of the seriousness of the queen's intentions, as to
remove all doubts from the mind of the navigator. He was
then, without further delay, conducted to the presence.
" Senor 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, Senor, and receive this as a
gage of my support and friendship."
Columbus saluted the offered hand, arid 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 exe
cution 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.
"Senora," returned. Columbus, whose grave aspect and
noble mien contributed not a little to the advancement of
his views " Senora, my heart thanks you for this kind
ness so welcome because so little hoped for, this morning
and God will reward it. We have great things in re
serve, and I devoutly wish we may be all found equal to
138 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
our several duties. I hope my Lord the King will not with
hold from my undertaking the light of his gracious
" You are a servitor of Castile. Seiior Colon, though
little is attempted for even this kingdom, without the appro
bation 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 mea
sure, 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 ren
dered, the compliment so much the more acceptable, by
giving it every appearance of sincerity. " Her known pru
dence shall turn from me the derision of the light-minded
and idle, and on her royal word I place all my hopes.
Henceforth, and I trust for ever, I am Your Highness's
subject and 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 na
ture, 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 con
fided 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, Senor, for this proof of confidence," re-
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 139
turned 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-cher
ished 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
fooketh 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 im
possible 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 feel
ings of a wife so far prevailed in her breast, over the saga
city of the sovereign, as to leave her blind to faults that the
enemies of Aragon were fond of dwelling on. All admitted
the truth of Isabella, but Ferdinand had far less credit with
his contemporaries, either on the score of faith or on that
of motives. Still he might have been ranked among the
most upright of the reigning princes of Europe, his faults
being rendered the more conspicuous, perhaps, from being
necessarily placed in such close connection with, and in
such vivid contrast to, the truer virtues of the queen. In
short, these two sovereigns,^ so intimately united by per
sonal 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 .is
foils to the truer heart, sincerer character, and more chas
tened conduct of woman.
Don Fernando now appeared, and he joined in the dis
course in a manner to show that he considered himself fully
committed to redeem the pledges given by his wife. The
historians have told us that he had been won over by the
intercessions of a favourite, though the better opinion would
seem to be that deference for Isabella, whose pure earnest
ness in the cause of virtue often led him from his more
selfish policy, lay at the bottom of his compliance. What
ever may have been the motive, however, it is certain that
the king never entered into tho undertaking with the ardent,
140 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
zealous, endeavours to insure success, which, from that
moment, distinguished the conduct of his royal consort.
" We have recovered our truant," said Isabella, as her
husband approached, her eyes lighting and her cheeks
flushed with a pious enthusiasm, like those of Mercedes de
Valverde, who was an entranced witness of all -that was
passing. " We have recovered our truant, and there is not
a moment of unnecessary delay to be permitted, until he
shall be sent forth on this great voyage. Should he truly
attain Cathay and the Indies, it will be a triumph to the
church even exceeding this conquest of the territories of
" I am pleased to see Seilor Colon at Santa Fe, 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 diffi
culty in finding the proper uses for his gold."
" There will always be a use for the gold of a Chris
tian," answered the navigator, " while the Infidel rcmaineth
the master of the Holy Sepulchre."
" How is this !" exclaimed Ferdinand, in his quick, sharp
voice : " dost thou think, Senor, 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 glo
rious 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."
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 141
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 com
mencement 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 se
riously 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
142 MEKCEDES OF CASTILE.
near, and is full of hope to such as honour God and seek
his glory. To bring all those vast regions in subjection to
the church, needeth but a constant faith, sustained by the
delegated agencies of the priesthood, and the protecting
hands of princes."
"This hath a seeming probability," observed the queen,
" and Providence so guide us in this mighty undertaking,
that it may come to pass ! Were those Polos pious mis
" 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, Senora, first to plant
the cross in the islands, and thence to spread the truth over
the main land. Cipango, in particular, is a promising re
gion 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 inoppor
tunely for the zeal of the two other interlocutors.
Isabella looked pained, the prevailing trait in Ferdi
nand's character often causing her to feel as affectionate
wives are wont to feel when their husbands forget to think,
act, or speak up to the level of their own warm-hearted
and virtuous propensities ; but she suffered no other sign
of the passing emotion to escape her.
"According to the accounts of Marco Polo, Your High
ness," answered Columbus, " earth hath no richer island.
It aboundeth especially in gold ; nor are pearls and pre
cious 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 enume
rated, not one of all which doth not produce some odorife
rous tree, or plant of delicious perfume. It is then, thither,
gracious Lord and Lady, my honoured sovereigns, that I
propose to proceed at once, leaving all meaner objects, to
exalt the two kingdoms and to serve the church. Should
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 143
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 Jctnd 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 man-
ner 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 con-
jured to his imagination, was as enticing, as his cold and
calculating habits of distrust and caution rendered it ques
tionable. Isabella heard only, or thought only of the pious
lono-ing-5 of her pure spirit for the conversion and salvation
of the Infidels, and thus each of the two sovereigns had a
favourite impulse to bind him, or her, to the prosecution of
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 in
terested 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 ex
peditions to the places he might discover, on condition of
his advancing an equal proportion of the outfits, was cheer
fully 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 cor
diality 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
144 MKllCEDES OF CASTILE.
not apt to suppress his thoughts, opened a dialogue in the
" 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 in
terference. He hath treated with the two sovereigns like a
monarch, arid 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 Doiia 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 cr re at
an aim in view. But now the thing is done, I marvel, iny.
self, 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
"And yet thou didst reason with the queen, as if thou
thought's! 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 de
manding 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."
MKRCEDES OF CASTILE. 145
" I have remarked, Seiior de St. Angel, that when grave
men set a light value on themselves, the world is apt to