noble-hearted and manly nephew, took his leave. Mer
cedes and her guardian, however, did not retire until mid
night ; the former laying open her whole heart to the mar-
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 89
chioness, and explaining all her hopes as they were con
nected with the enterprise of Colon. Dona Beatriz was
both gratified and pained by this confession, while she
smiled at the ingenuity of love, in coupling the great de
signs 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 excep
tions that denote the circumspection and reserve of higher
principles than common, and a forethought that extends
beyond the usual considerations of marriage. The mar
chioness, 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 ten
der ingenuity, of Mercedes, had almost made a convert of
"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 be
gan 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
90 MERCEDES OP CASTILE.
hurry, delight, and grief, of taking possession and depart-
ing ; 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 gradu
ally settled down into tranquillity, and men began to fall
into their ancient habits and to interest themselves in their
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 war
like 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 ap
peared to include all her subjects within the ties of family.
On the morning of the third day that succeeded the even
ing of the interview related in the preceding chapter, Dona
Isabella had collected about her person a few of those privi
leged individuals who might be said to have the entree to her
more private hours ; for while that of Castile was renowned
among Christian courts for etiquette, habits that it had pro
bably derived from the stately oriental usages of its Ma-
homedan neighbours, 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 honour of entering it. At that day, church
men enjoyed a species of exclusive favour, 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
MERCEDES Of CASTILE. 91
the people of the United States, more especially that por
tion of them who dwell in places that were originally set
tled by religionists, and which still continue under the in
fluence 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 demo
cratic 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 ascend
ency of the Catholic priesthood throughout Christendom,
previously to the reformation ; and Isabella was too sin-
cere4y 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 pre
sence, 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 sta
tion, who had just been named to the new dignity of Arch
bishop of Granada, and the Fray Pedro de Carrascal, the
former teacher of Luis de Bobadilla, an unbeneficed divine,
who owed his favour 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 her
self 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
r>f 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 Cas
tile, we have seen a queen, seated amid her royal daughters,
as diligently employed with the needle as if her livelihood
92 MERCEOES OF CASTILE.
depended on her industry. But Dona 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 mon
arch. Near her sate the companion of her girlish days,
the long-tried and devoted Beatrix de Cabrera. Mercedes oc
cupied 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 pre
sence 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 arch
bishop 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, Isa
bella had been deeply lost in reflection for some time, and a
general silence prevailed in the female circle around the
" Daughter-Marchioness" for so the queen usually ad
dressed her friend " Daughter-Marchioness," said Isabella,
arousing herself from "the long silence, " hath aught been
seen or heard of late of the Senor Colon, the pilot who
hath so long urged us on the subject of this western
The quick, hurried glance of intelligence and gratifica
tion, -tfiat passed between Mercedes and her guardian, be
trayed the interest they felt in this question, while the latter
answered, as became her duty and her respect for her mis
" You remember, Sefiora, that he was written for, by
Fray Juan Perez, your Highness's 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."
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 93
" Thou thinkest his designs, then, great, Daughter-Mar
" Can any think them otherwise, Senora ? They seem rea
sonable and natural, and if just, is it not a great and lauda
ble undertaking to extend the bounds of the church, and to
confer honour and wealth on one's own country 1 My en
thusiastic 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 towards 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 illumine her lovely countenance when
dwelling on the features of her own daughters.
"Dost thou acknowledge this, Dona 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 Senor Colon. The
thought is so noble, Senora, that it were a pity it should
not be just !"
"This is the reasoning of the young and generous-
minded ; and I confess myself, Beatriz, almost as childish
as any, on this matter, at times Colon, out of question, is
" Indeed he is, Senora," 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 posses
sion 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
Mercedes now bitterly regretted her indiscretion, and, in
spite of a mighty effort to repress her feelings, the tell-tale
94 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
blood mounted to her temples, ere she could find resolution
"Don Luis de Bobadilla, Senora, the nephew of my
guardian, Dona Beatriz," she at length answered ; for the
love of truth was stronger in this pure-hearted young crea
ture, even, than the dread of shame.
" Thou art particular, Senorita," Isabella observed calmly,
severity seldom entering into her communications with
the just-minded and good ; " Don Luis cometh of too illus
trious 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 towards her friend, " this nephew of thine is a con
firmed 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, Senora" Mercedes repressed her zeal by a
sudden and triumphant effort.
" Thou wert about to speak, Dona Mercedes," gravely
observed the queen.
" I crave Your Highness's forgiveness. It was impro
perly, as your own words were not addressed to me."
" This is not the Court of the Queen of Castile, daugh
ter, 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, Senora, and had
nearly forgotten myself, under its influence. All I had to
say was, that Don Luis de Bobadilla desireth exceedingly
that the Senor 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, Senora, beyond a question, but it is
not with ignoble motives. I have heard him ardently ex
press his desire to be one of Colon's followers, should that
person be sent by Your Highness in search of the land of
MERCEDES OP CASTILE. 95
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 cross
ing the room, she approached the table where Don Fer
nando 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 atten
tion 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 towards
the increase of his power * I find we have left Abdal-
lah many strong-holds in the Apulxarras, that may make
him a troublesome neighbour, unless we can push him
across the Mediterranean"
" Of this, Fernando, we will converse on some other op
portunity," interrupted the queen, whose pure mind disliked
every thing that had even 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 com
fort," 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 KingofAragon 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 nought 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
96 MERCEDES OF CA8TILK.
nobles of the kingdom undertaking the matter, as their
" Thou say'st true, Sefiora, and we will refer the subject,
at once, to Fernando de Talavera, yonder, who is of ap
proved discretion, and one to be relied on." As the king
spoke, he beckoned to the individual named, who immedi
ately approached the royal pair. "Archbishop of Gra
nada," continued the wily king, who had as many politic
arts as a modern patriot intently bent on his own ad
vancement " Archbishop of Granada, our royal consort
hath a desire that this affair of Colon should be immedi
ately 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 consi
deration 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 practised wits were not slow in interpret
ing. He signified his dutiful assent, however ; received the
names of his associates in the commission, of whom Isa
bella pointed out one or two, and then waited to join in the
" This project of Colon's is worthy of being more seri
ously inquired into," resumed the king, when these prelimi
naries 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 devoutly 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 en
signs 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, Senor,"
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 97
returned the archbishop. " That which can be retained it
is wisest to seek, for we lose our labours 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, Senora, 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
" This truth is as evident to our reason," added Fer
dinand, 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-honoured wife, and beloved consort" said
" Senora" added the prelate.
But Isabella walked slowly away, pondering on princi
ples, while the eyes of the two worldlings she left behind
her, met, with the sort of free-masonry that is in much re
quest among those who are too apt to substitute the expe
dient 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 for
gotten thy freely-offered vow ?"
VOL. I. 9
98 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
" Next to my duly to God, Senora, 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 rny 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, Senora," 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 mo
desty, and obedience. But we cannot permit thee to be
come the victim of the senses. Thou art too well taught,
Doiia Mercedes, not to distinguish between that which is
brilliant and that which is truly virtuous"
" Senora!" cried Mercedes, eagerly then checking her
self, immediately, for she felt it was a disrespect to inter
rupt her sovereign.
"I listen to what thou would'st say, daughter," Isabella
answered, after pausing for the frightened girl to continue.
" Speak freely ; thou addressest a parent."
" I was about to say, Senora, 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, Senorita, 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 ?"
MERCEDES OF CASTILE. 99
" 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 con
sulting her own wisdom ;" Mercedes modestly answered.
" But thou thinkest well of his project ; or have I mis
taken thy meaning?"
" No, Seilora, I do think well of Colon's scheme ; for to
me it seemeth of that nobleness and grandeur that Provi
dence would favour, for the good of man and the advance
ment of the church."
"And thou believest that nobles and cavaliers can be
found willing to embark with this obscure Genoese, in his
The queen felt the hand that she affectionately held in
both her own, tremble, and when she looked at her com
panion 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.
" Senora, 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 Boba-
dilla will embark with him ; since his aunt hath con
versed freely with him on the nature and magnitude of the
enterprise, his min:l dwelleth on little else. Fie 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 favourably of his character than circumstances have
hitherto led me to do."
" Sefiora !"
" 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"
100 MERCEDES OF CASTILE.
" Remember thy vow, daughter. It was freely given, and
must not be hastily forgotten."
Isabella now kissed the pale cheek of the girl, and with
drew, 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.
** 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. 1 '
THE following day the Alhambra was crowded with
courtiers as usual ; applicants for favours, those who sought