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, Senor, 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
"And by what lucky chance have I obtained thy ser
vices, good Sancho, in this great expedition ?"
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 223
" 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, Senor Don Almirante, although they who sent
me here fancy as much. It is natural Tor 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 ?"
*' Senor, your Excellency, Don Almirante, it matters lit
tle 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, Senor, 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 nei
ther Jew, nor Mussulman."
" Sancho, thou hast that about thee, that bespeakest a
skilful and bold mariner."
" For both of these qualities, Sailor Don Colon, let others
speak. When the gale cometh, )*our own eyes may judge
of the first ; and when the caravc4 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
" It is enough : I count both thee and Pepe as among
my truest followers," as Columbus said this, he walk
ed 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 ven
ture to use thy tongue so freely, even in the presence of
224 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
one that beai'eth 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 an
cestors and who have descendants, and one that hath no
other tie in the world than his name ? The Senor Don
Almirante is either an exceeding great man, and chosen by
Providence to open the way into the unknown seas of which
he speaketh, or he is but a hungry Genoese that is leading
us he knoweth not whither, that he may eat and drink and
sleep, in honour, while we are toiling at his heus, like pa-
tient 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
"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 mis
tress ? And are not subjects true and lawful subjects,
I mean, like thee and me, are not such subjects worthy
of being their queen's countrymen? Never disparage thy
self, good Pepe, for thou wilt ever find the world ready
enough to do that favour for thee. As to this Genoese, he
shall be either friend or enemy to Sancho ; if the first, I
expect much consolation from it ; if the last, let him hunt
for his Cathay till doomsday, he shall be never the wiser."
" Well, Sancho, if words can mar a voyage, or make a
voyage, thou art a ready mariner; none know how to dis
course better than thou."
Here the men both rose, having completed their work,
and they left the poop, descending among the rest of the
crew. Columbus had not miscalculated his aim, his words
and condescension having produced a most favourable effect
on the_mind of Sancho Mundo, for so the man was actually
called ; and in gaining one of as ready a wit and loose a
tongue for a frierxi, 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
food word of one less qualified to influence opinions than
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 225
" While you here do snoring lie,
His time doth take :
If of life you keep a care,
Shake off slumber, and beware :
THE wind continuing fair, the three vessels made good
progress in the direction of the Canaries ; Sunday, in par
ticular, 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 favoura
ble, and on the morning of Monday the 6th of August, Co
lumbus was cheerfully conversing with Luis, and one or two
other companions, who were standing near him on the
poop, when the Pin fa was seen suddenly to take in her for
ward 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, Senor Martin Alonzo," hailed the Admiral,
as the two caravels carne near enough together to speak
each other. "For what reason hast thou so suddenly
paused in thy course?"
" Fortune would have it so, Senor 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
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 dis
turbed, for several minutes. Observing how much the Ad
miral 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, Senior, this is no serious injury, or one in any
226 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
way likely to retard our advance," said Luis, after mani
festing 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
" By the allegiance I owe the Dona Isabella ! Senor Don
Christoval, but I would find a speedy cure for such a trea
son, 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
" We may not practise such high authority without great
occasion, and perfect certainty of guilt. I hold it to be
wiser to seek another caravel at the Canaries, for, by this
accident, I well see we shall not be rid of the artifices of
the two owners, until we are rid of their vessel. It will be
hazardous to launch the skiff in this sea, or I would pro
ceed to the Pinta myself; but, as it is, let us have confi
dence in Martin Alonzo and his skill."
Columbus thus encouraged the people of the Pinta to
MEIICEDES OF CASTILE. 227
exert themselves, and in about an hour or two, the
three vessels were again making the best of their way
towards the Canaries. Notwithstanding the delay, nearly
ninety miles were made good in the course of the day and
night. But, the following morning, the rudder again broke
loose, and, as the damage was more serious than in the
former instance, it was still more difficult to repair. These
repeated accidents gave the admiral great concern, for he
took them to be so many indications of the disaffection of
his followers. He fully determined, in consequence, to get
rid of the Pinta, if it were possible to find another suitable
vessel among the islands. As the progress of the vessels
was much retarded by the accident, although the wind con
tinued favourable, the expedition only got some sixty miles,
this day, nearer to its place of destination.
On the following morning, the three vessels came within
hail of each other ; and a comparison of the nautical skill
of the different navigators, or pilots, as it was then the cus
tom 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 effect
ing the great purpose for which alone he now seemed to
As might be expected, the comparison resulted altogether
in the admiral's favour, the pilots in general being soon
convinced that he alone knew the true position of the ves
sels, a fact that was soon unanswerably determined by the
228 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
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 ob
jects 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 im
mediately 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 Nina, 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 be
gan 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 neai; him, when the admiral's attention
was drawn to a conversation that took place between a
group of the men, who had collected near the main-mast.
It was night, and there being little wind, the voices of the
excited disputants reached farther than they themselves
lt 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
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 229
an over-eager curiosity to pry into matters that savour
more of miracles than of common worldly things?"
" This is well, Pero," answered Pepe, " but I know that
Monica thinks the admiral is sent of (jod, and that .we may
look forward to great discoveries, through his means ; and
most especially to the spreading of religion among the
" Ay, thy Monica should have been in Dona Isabella's
seat, so learned and positive is she in all matters, whether
touching her own woman's duties, or thine own. She is
thy quean, Pepe, as all in Moguer will swear ; and there
are some who say she would gladly govern the port, as she
" Say nought against the mother of my child, Pero,"
interrupted Pepe, angrily. " I can bear thy idle words
against myself, but he that speaketh ill of Monica will have
a dangerous enemy."
" Thou art bold of speech, Pero, when away a hundred
leagues from thine own better nine-tenths," put in a voice
that Columbus and Luis both knew, on the instant, to be
long to Sancho Mundo, " and art bold enough to jeer Pepe
touching Monica, when we all well know who comrnandeth
in a certain cabin, where thou art as meek as a hooked dol
phin, 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
" 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 Chris-
toval hath also been, as I know on the testimony of mine
" And what hath Guinea, or what have the mines of the
Portuguese to do with this western voyage? All know
VOL. I. 30
230 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
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 con
tinents, 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 Dona Isabella, or Don Al-
mirante. Harkee, Pero~, thou art like one that hath trodden
the path between Palos and Moguer so often, that thou fan
ciest 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
rne, messmates ; is it possible for a craft, let her size or rig
be what it may, to pass over the hills and valleys of a con
tinent I mean under her canvass, 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 render
ing 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 as
senting, " that thy mouth ought to be shut."
But Pero had a mouth that was not very easily closed ;
and it is probable that his answer would have been to the
full as acute and irrefutable as that of Sancho, had not
a common exclamation of alarm and horror burst from all
around him. The night was sufficiently clear to permit
the gloomy outlines of the Peak of Teneriffe to be distinctly
visible, even at some distance ; and, just at that moment,
flashes of flame shot upwards from its pointed summit, illu
minating, 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
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 231
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, ac
companied 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.
" Senor Almirante," he commenced, " we have come to
pray your Excellency to look at the summit of the Island
of Teneriffe, where we all think we see a solemn warning
against persevering in sailing into the unknown Atlantic.
It is truly time for men to remember their weakness, and
how much they owe to the goodness of God, when even the
mountains vomit flames and smoke !"
" Have any here ever navigated the Mediterranean, or
visited the island of which Don Ferdinand, the honoured
consort of our lady the queen, is master ?" demanded Co
" Senor 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 ^Etna, 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 an
grily frowning, as ye seem to imagine."
Columbus then proceeded to give his people an explana
tion 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
232 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
in the event, it was propitious rather than otherwise ; Provi
dence 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 diffi
culties 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 commu
nication 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 adventur
ers. Columbus was held in high honour among them, not
only on account of the commission he had received from
the two sovereigns, hut 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 ad
miral had an occasion to detect, during his second visit to
Gomera. Among the most distinguished persons who were
then on the island, was Dona Inez Peraza, the mother of
the Count of Gomera. She was attended by a crowd of
persons, not only belonging to her own, but who had come
from other islands to do her honour. She entertained the
admiral in a manner suited to his high rank, admitting to
her society such of the adventurers as Columbus saw fit to
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 233
point out as worthy of the honour. Of course the pretended
Pedro de Munos, or Pero Gutierrez, as he was now indif
ferently 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 Dona Inez Peraza, on
this occasion, " that their Highnesses have at length yielded
to your desire to solve this great problem, not only on ac
count of our Holy Church, which, as you say, hath so deep
an interest in your success, and the honour of the two sove
reigns, 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, Senor, 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, Senor Dama, I pray thee, of
the singular yearly view that we get of unknown land,
lying afar off, in the Atlantic."
" Most readily, Dona Inez, and all the more so at your
gracious bidding," returned the person addressed, who dis