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 im
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
Senor 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 Penalosa, there is need of further or
ders from their Highnesses to enforce their gracious inten
" I think not, Senor," answered the lay brother ; " these
hard-riding couriers of the queen generally appearing with
their steeds in a foam, and with hurried air and blus
tering voices ; whereas this young cavalier behaveth mo
destly, and rideth a stout Andalusian mule."
" Did he give thee his name, good Sancho ?"
" He gave me two, Senor, styling himself Pedro de Mu-
nos, or Pero Gutierrez, without the Don."
"This is well," exclaimed Columbus, turning a little
quickly towards the door, but otherwise maintaining a per
fect 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."
168 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
" An acquaintance of the court, Sefior ?" 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 advance
ment 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 ap
peared 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 hum
ble 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 Sefior de Pena-
losa was sent directly from court to enforce its conditions,
under a penalty, to the port, of paying a daily tax of two
hundred maravedis, until the order should be fulfilled. The
idiots have conjured all sorts of ills with which to terrify
themselves and their neighbours, and I seem to be as far
from the completion of my hopes as I was before I pro-
cured the friendship of this holy friar and the royal pro.
tection of Dona Isabella. It is a weary thing, my good
Pedro, to waste a life in hopes defeated, with such an
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 169
object in view as the spread of knowledge and the exten
sion of the church !"
" I am the bearer of good tidings, Sefior," 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 difficul
ties. He tells me that he is known to you, Senor Colon,
and I should judge from his discourse that he thinketh
favourably of the chances."
" He doth he doth, indeed, good Pedro, and hath often
listened to my reasoning like a discreet and skilful navi
gator, as, I make no question, he really is. But didst thou
say that thou wast known to him ?"
" Senor, 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 know
ledge of each other's temperament and disposition, and, of
a sooth, I think well of both, in this Senor 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
Don Luis had expressed himself of the great man of the
vicinity, more like a Bobadilla than became his assumed
name of Munoa, and a glance from the eye of Columbus
told him to forget nk ran k and to remember the disguise he
"This is truly encour^ing," observed the navigator,
" and openeth a brighter vieV^f Cathay. Thou wast jour
neying between Moguer and K^os, I think thou saidst,
when this discourse was had with our acquaintance, the
good Martin Alonzo?"
" I was, Senor, and it was he who sent me hither in quest
of the admiral. He gave you the title that the queen's
favour hath bestowed, and I consider that no small sign of
friendship, as most others with whom I have conversed in
this vicinity seem disposed to call you by any other name."
VOL. I. 15
170 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
" 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 differ
ently, or who distrust my knowledge."
" By San Pedro, my patron ! they tell another tale at
Palos, and at Moguer, Senor 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 Ca
thay by a road that no one ever yet travelled, except in
fancy ! There is, notwithstanding, one free and willing
volunteer, Senor Colon, who is disposed to follow you to
the edge of the earth, if it.be flat, and to follow you quite
round it, should it prove to be a sphere ; and that is one
Pedro de Munos, 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
Fray Juan Perez gazed at the speaker, whose free man
ner and open speech a good deal surprised him ; for Co
lumbus 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 sus
pect that one of a still higher personal rank, chough en
tirely without official station, stood before him. "i the guise
of Pedro de Munos ; and he could not refrain from again
expressing the little relish he felt for such freedom of speech
and deportment towards those whopi he himself habitually
regarded with so much respect.
" It would seem, Senor Pxfno de Munos," he said, " if
that be thy name though Duke, or Marquis, or Count,
would be a title better becoming thy bearing that thou
treatest His Excellency the Admiral with quite as much
freedom of thought, at least, as thou treatest the worthy
Martin Alonzo of our own neighbourhood : a follower
should be more humble, and not pass his jokes on the
opinions of his leader, in this loose style of expression."
" 1 crave your pardon, holy father, and that of the ad-
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 171
rniral, too, who better understandeth me I trust, if there be
any just grounds of offence. All I wish to express is, that
I know this Martin Alonzo of your neighbourhood, as an
old fellow-voyager ; that we have ridden some leagues in
company this very day, and that, after close discourse, he
hath manifested a friendly desire to put his shoulder to the
wheel, in order to lift the expedition, if not from a slough
of mud, at least from the sands of the river ; and that he
hath promised to come also to this good convent of La Ra-
bida, for that same purpose and no other. As for myself,
I can only add, that here I am, ready to follow wheresoever
the honourable Senor Colon may see fit to lead."
" 'T is well, good Pedro 't is well," rejoined the admiral.
" I give thee full credit for sincerity and spirit, and that
must content thee until an opportunity offereth to convince
others. I like these tidings concerning Martin Alonzo,
father, since he might truly do us much service, and his
zeal had assuredly begun to flag."
" That might he, and that will he, if he engageth se
riously 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, Senor
Columbus smiled at this question, and shook his head in
the manner of cne who would prepare a friend for some
"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 Mer
cedes and was productive of adventure. " A fearful and
weary distance, and yet I doubt not, Senor Almirante, that
172 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
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 Senor Pin-
zon 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 Columbue'e obocrvant eye
had instantly detected. Fray Juan Perez was not a little
surprised to see that the first salutation of Martin Alonzo,
the great man of the neighbourhood, was directed to Pedro,
the second to the admiral, and the third to himself. There
was not time, however, for the worthy Franciscan, who
was a little apt to rebuke any dereliction of decency on
the spot, to express what he felt on this occasion, ere Mar
tin Alonzo opened his errand with an eagerness that showed
he had not come on a mere visit of friendship, or of cere
" I am sorely vexed, Seiior Almirante," he commenced,
" at learning the obstinacy, and the disobedience to the
orders of the queen, that have been shown among our
mariners of Palos. Although a dweller of the port itself,
and one who hath always viewed your opinions of this
western voyage with respect, if not with absolute faith, I
did not know the full extent of this insubordination until I
met, by accident, an old acquaintance on the high-way, in
the person of Don Pedro I ought to say the Senor Pedro
de Munos, here, who, coming from a distance, as he doth,
hath discovered more of our backslidings than I had
learned myself, on the spot. But, Senor, 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 ; notwith
standing 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
* MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 173
number for all your wants, without their even suspect
" This is very true, neighbour Martin Alonzo," put in
the friar " so true, that it might go into a homily and do
no disservice to religion. Man is a rational animal, and an
accountable animal, but it is not meet that he should be a
thinking animal. In matters of the church, now, its inte
rests being entrusted to a ministry, what have the unlearned
and ignorant to say of its affairs ? In matters of naviga
tion, 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 per
mitted to reason without obeying."
"All true, holy friar and most excellent neighbour; so
true that you will find no one in Palos to deny that, at least.
And now we are on the subject, I may as well add that it
is the church that hath thrown more obstacles in the,way
of the Senor 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 under
lings 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 ap
proaching her, as well as the vanes and crosses of towns,
nlbeii they are the smaller objects about vessels and
chorchos. We mariners have one way to inspirit our fol-
lowei-a, and you churchmen have another ; and, now that T
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 ongWs at work, so as to silence the women,
and to quell the douU^ o f the most zealous among your
"Am I to understand by this, Senor Pinzon," demanded
Columbus, "that you intend to take a direct and more
174 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
earnest interest than before in the success of my enter
" Sefior, you may* That is my intention, if we can
come to as favourable an understanding about the terms,
as your worship would seem to have entered into with our
most honoured mistress Dona Isabella de Trastamara. I have
had some discourse with Senor Don-^ I would say with
the Senor Pedro de Munos, 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 em
bark with you, it hath stirred my fancy so far, that I would
gladly be of the party. Senor de Munos and I have voyaged
so much together, that I would fain see his worthy counte
nance 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, Senor Almirante, to have their
Highnesses of your side, in a place like Palos, and another
to have our worthy neighbour Pinzon, here ; for, if they are
sovereigns in law, he is an emperor in opinion* I doubt
not that the caravels will now be speedily forthcoming."
" Since thou seemest to have truly resolved to enter into
our enterprise, Senor Martin Alonzo," added Columbus,
with his dignified gravity, " out of doubt, thou hast well
bethought thce of the conditions, and art come prepared to
let them be known. Do they savour of the terms that have
already been in discussion between us ?"
" Senor 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 cxisK hut
on all others, I doubt not, a brief explanation between s,
will leave the matter free from doubt."
"As to the eighth, for which I stand committed w*lh their
Highnesses, Senor Pinzon, there will be le-ss reason, now,
to raise that point between us, than wien we last met, as
other means may offer to redeem thst pledge" as Colum-
bus spoke, his eyes involuntarilj turned towards the pre
tended Pero, whither those of Martin Alonzo Pinzon signifi
cantly followed ; " but there will be many difficulties to
overcome with these terrified and silly mariners, which
MEilCEDES OF CASTILE. 175
y 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
earnest 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 ot' Palos caravels."
" I am no stranger to Nao, Carraca, Fusta, Pinaza, Ca-
rabelon, or Felucca, holy prior, and shall carry myself
with the admirp-S as I should carry myself before Don
Fernando of iragon, wore he my fellow-voyager, or in the
presence oi Boabdil of Grenada, were that unhappy mon
arch a^ain seated on the throne from which he hath been
so lately hurk*I urging his chivalry to charge the knights
ot* Christian Spain."
"These are fine words, son, ay, and uttered witlra tilt-
ins: air, if truth must be said ; but they will avail thee no
thing with this Genoese, who hath that in him, that would
leave him unabashed even in the presence of our gracious
lady. Doiia Isabella, herself."
"Thou knowcst the queen, holy monk?" inquired Luis,
forgetting his assumed character, in the freedom of his ad
" 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,
176 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
ever find it necessary to confess a maiden of the court, who
is much esteemed by the queen?" he inquired, "and whose
spirit, I '11 answer for it, is as pure as that of Dona Isabella's
" Son, thy question denoteth greater necessity for repair
ing 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 com
parisons between penitents ? and, moreover, that we do not
take even Dona 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 Sp J ' nj 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 idi^, SO n ; what
would one like thee find to say to a Gunman, oraMendoza,
or a Bobadilla, even, did he affirm what thou wishesi. But'
who is the maid, in whom thy feelings seem to take so de^
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 Dona Maria de las Mercedes de Valverde in my
thoughts, when the light remark found utterance. Haply,
thou mayest 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 towards the tiles
beneath his feet, smiled, and shook his head like one whose
thoughts were very active.
" I do, indeed, know the lady," he said, " and even
when last at court, on this errand of Colon's, their own
confessor being ill, I shrived her, as well as my royal mis-
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 177
tress. That she is worthy of Dona 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 honoured and
advanced ; and why not I, as well as another?"
" In this, thou may'st utter truth, but as for the Doiia "
The Franciscan checked himself, for he was about to be
tray the secret of the confessional. He had, in truth, lis
tened 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 uncon
scious, 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 beau
tiful 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 be
lieved 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 Bo-
badilla a grandee, who also bears the title of Conde
" 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
" 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
178 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
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 sus
pecting his companion's disguise ; " and I do know that
there are some who think well of him nay, whose exist
ence, I might say whose very souls, are wrapped up in
" 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 un
answerable reasons. In the first place, I am a youth my
self, as thou seest ; and example, they say, is better than
precept. Then, too, / am somewhat given to roving, and
it may profit me to know how others of the same propen