Mercedes of Castile; or, The Voyage to Cathay (1840)

Warren S. Walker (Texas Tech University)

Originally published in Warren S. Walker, Plots and Characters in the Fiction of James Fenimore Cooper (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1978), pp. 100-111.

Copyright © 1978 by Warren S. Walker.  Placed online with the kind permission of Warren S. Walker, and of Shoe String Press, Inc.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

Chapter numbers [in square brackets] have been inserted by the webmaster at approximately the point where each chapter begins, to facilitate locating particular plot incidents in the text.

— Hugh C. MacDougall

[1] The air of mystery with which this sea adventure of late fifteenth-century Spain begins is soon dispelled: the fortunes of two of the four leading kingdoms within Spain — Aragon, ruled by John II, and Castile, ruled by Henry IV — are to be united in 1469 by the marriage of cousins six months secretly engaged, brave young Ferdinand, heir to Aragon’s throne, and beautiful and reverent Isabella, heir to the more powerful throne of Castile. The prospective bridegroom, disguised as a servant in what appears to be a merchant caravan including his merry friend Don Andres de Cabrera, arrives safely at Valladolid, where Isabella has taken refuge during this period of severe political unrest. [2] Accompanying Isabella in her elegant quarters is her childhood friend, Beatriz de Bobadilla, lovely, loyal, and more lighthearted than her mistress. Beatriz, too, is to be wed, to Don Andres de Cabrera; so both await the arrival of the young men with anxiety and eagerness. To pass the time, they discuss both current conditions in the two kingdoms and nineteen-year-old Isabella’s previous suitors, chosen by her half brother Henry IV and roundly rejected by the queen-to-be.

[3] The political expediency of Ferdinand and Isabella’s marriage is fortunately accompanied by strong affection between the two heirs, evidenced in their first actual meeting, and the serious matters of property and of protection of the individual rights of the two kingdoms are thus amicably settled prior to the marriage. A papal bull sanctioning the consanguineous union is secured by the Archbishop of Toledo, and the two are wed. During the first twenty years after this strategic alliance, Ferdinand and Isabella both deal successfully with various civil disruptions, and Ferdinand makes good progress toward fulfilling a significant clause in their marriage contract: that he assume leadership in expelling the Moors from Spain. The conquest of Granada marks the achievement of that important purpose, a welcome conclusion to a campaign that had drained the treasuries of Aragon and Castile. On January 2, 1492, Christian symbols replace the Moslem ones in that sumptuous capital, and the royal couple await possession of the city formerly belonging to the last Moorish king, Boabdil.

[4] Among the throng of spectators at the formal occupation of Granada are two men whose subsequent actions provide the heart of the novel: Christoval Colon [Christopher Columbus], a middle-aged, devout Christian, and twenty-year-old Don Luis de Bobadilla, Beatriz de Bobadilla’s handsome and adventurous nephew, reputed a scapegrace and a rover. Young Luis’s attention is drawn to Columbus by the venerable Father Pedro de Carrascal, deeply committed — as is Queen Isabella’s companion Beatriz de Bobadilla — to Columbus’s bold proposal of sailing west across the unexplored Atlantic to reach the Orient. Further details about the grave, dedicated mariner prompt Luis to secure through Fray Pedro an introduction to the upright Genoese dreamer-scholar-mapmaker himself. This first encounter wins Luis to Columbus the man; a subsequent interview with his beloved Mercedes de Valverde, orphaned niece and ward of Beatriz de Bobadilla, wins Luis to Columbus’s cause. [5] To prove his worthiness as the suitor for Mercedes’s hand, Luis will accompany the intrepid Columbus on his proposed voyage of discovery, a journey that Columbus, Beatriz, Mercedes, and Queen Isabella view as a means of carrying the Christian faith to the heathen. Mercedes, who has promised Queen Isabella that she will not marry without the sovereign’s consent and presence, reveals to Luis both this vow and her own wholehearted love for the impetuous young cavalier, who has countless times professed his devotion to the deeply religious, beautiful, and wealthy Mercedes. Beatriz herself, determined that Luis must demonstrate stability and dedication as well as daring, is satisfied that Luis’s service in Columbus’s holy cause will win the queen’s approval of Luis as Mercedes’s husband.

Isabella, learning that Luis proposes to accompany Columbus, asks her wary, mercenary consort, Ferdinand, to investigate the feasibility of supporting Columbus’s venture through the combined houses of Aragon and Castile; a royal commission is felt necessary for this significant undertaking. [6] Ferdinand, not at all inclined to favor Columbus’s project, immediately summons Fernando de Talavera, the new Archbishop of Granada, and commissions him and selected nobles to investigate Columbus’s proposals and report to him. [7] The Archbishop, detecting Ferdinand’s coldness toward the proposal, receives Columbus at a hearing attended by the chosen noblemen; after questioning the mariner closely and then reading his written demands for his own rewards for this arduous and dangerous venture, he ridicules Columbus’s lofty conditions. Assured that Columbus will not reduce his demands — to be named Admiral as well as Viceroy over all lands discovered, to receive one-tenth of all proceeds, and to make his title and fees hereditary — the Archbishop promises to report to the king and queen, and Columbus is dismissed. Queen Isabella’s recommendation, conveyed through the Archbishop, that Columbus temper his demands is rejected by the Genoese navigator, and Columbus is therefore refused the support he seeks.

[8] Having failed to win aid in Spain, Columbus determines to appeal to the ruler of France. Those who strongly support Columbus’s cause — among them, Alonzo de Quintanilla, Luis de St. Angel, and Luis de Bobadilla — thus meet with Columbus in February, 1492, to express their regret for the shortsightedness of the Spanish monarchs in rejecting his proposal and to bid him farewell. Young Luis accompanies the dejected navigator as long as he is permitted to do so, vowing that he will be among Columbus’s crew when the daring Genoese has secured the support he seeks, no matter what country may choose to send him west to the Orient. While Columbus journeys toward France to seek support from Louis XII, Luis returns to the Spanish court to discover that Quintanilla and St. Angel have succeeded by their bold speaking in assuring both Ferdinand and Isabella of the folly of allowing France or any other nation to gain the undoubted benefits of Columbus’s voyage; appeals made to Ferdinand’s political jealousy and to Isabella’s piety effect the object Columbus had sought in vain. Though Ferdinand refuses to provide sums from Aragon, Isabella pledges the full support of the Castilian kingdom, so the loyal Luis de Bobadilla is dispatched to bring Columbus back to the Castilian court. [9] By the time Luis and Columbus appear before Isabella, Ferdinand has given his consent to Isabella’s supporting the bold venture.

[10] By special concession, Luis is permitted to speak alone with Mercedes, a conference monitored only by Mercedes’s duenna, Pepita, who graciously allows the door to be closed between her and the enamored pair. The two talk eagerly of their love and of the projected voyage; the hour’s conversation closes with Mercedes’s presenting Luis with a jeweled crucifix to wear, and with Luis’s giving Mercedes a brilliant necklace, once the property of a queen, as a pledge of his love. After an affectionate farewell, Luis leaves, assuming at his aunt’s request a common citizen’s name, Pedro de Muños, or Pero [Pedro] Gutierrez.

[11] The ships, or caravels, needed for the voyage are promptly commandeered by royal order from the small harbor town of Palos de Moguer, a short distance from the convent of La Rabida, long hospitable to Columbus and his sons, Diego and Fernando. Luis, en route secretly to Palos to join Columbus, travels thence with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, his former shipmate and admirer; and Luis wins the support of Pinzon for Columbus’s cause. [12] Strong reluctance on the part of Palos residents to commit either property or their lives to this mad venture has delayed preparations until July, despite sharp royal reprimands; but the decision of the highly respected Palos resident Pinzon to furnish a third caravel himself and to assume personal command of a vessel heartens prospective crew members, and work on preparation and staffing of the three caravels is undertaken with much greater speed and enthusiasm than before. [13] By August 2, the full complement — officers and crew — make their final confessions, celebrate Holy Mass, and embark at Palos for the transfer to a more suitable sailing point off Huelvas, with Columbus confident that God has appointed him to this mission. [14] The following day, a Friday, the Pinta, the Niña, and the flagship Santa Maria set off for the Canary Islands, from which they will sail due west for Japan and fabled Cathay.

Even before the Santa Maria — the slowest of the three — goes a full day’s journey, Columbus is assured of the sturdy support of two Palos mariners: Pepe, a young married seaman, and Sancho Mundo, a mercenary bachelor sea-dog nearing fifty. [15] The latter, an expert and widely traveled mariner, proves useful to Columbus even during the passage to the Canaries; among other services, he confirms Columbus’s statement that the sight of Teneriffe spouting fire is not a sign of God’s disapproval of the voyage but merely a volcano, thus allaying the fears of the crew. The Pinta’s rudder comes loose twice during the run to the Canaries, and its repairs and slowed pace greatly increase the time required to reach the last known land on the Atlantic en route to Cathay. The vessels wait for the Pinta to be thoroughly repaired at Grand Canary, and all vessels take on additional supplies at Gomera. At the latter stop, Columbus and his highest-ranking officers, including Luis, are entertained by the mother of the Count of Gomera, Doña Inez Peraza, from whom Luis learns that gossips have reported his absence on another roving adventure, no one knows whither, but surely one that displeases the queen. No one penetrates Luis’s disguise, but he is resolved to earn a respite from such scurrilous talk by his heroism on the voyage to the Orient. Before Columbus boards the Santa Maria for departure, Sancho Mundo’s old Portuguese friend José Gordo reports, for a suitable tip, that three armed Portuguese caravels have been sent to intercept Columbus’s fleet.

[16] Columbus, determined not to be undone by the Portuguese, directs his fleet out of the Canaries unseen by the Portuguese warships, despite an inauspicious calm that hampers the Spaniards’ efforts. As Ferro, the last of the Canaries, disappears from sight on September 9, the sailors show deep fear of the uncharted voyage ahead of them. At Sancho Mundo’s request, Columbus identifies Cathay as their destination, their probable westward sailing time as thirty days, and their rewards — both material and spiritual — as ample for the risk undertaken. After conferring with the other two commanders (Martin Alonzo Pinzon, of the Pinta, and Vincente Yañez Pinzon, of the Niña) on the need for the fleet to remain together during the voyage, Columbus dismisses them to their ships and reveals privately to Luis that he plans to understate to the men each day the distance the ships have traveled, to reduce their occasion for fear as much as possible. [17-19] The efforts of the helmsman to turn toward Spain are readily detected and corrected by Columbus, as are other attempts to jeopardize the success of the voyage. Even the unsettling discovery that the compasses deviate from true north as indicated by the position of the North Star, the dramatic passage and sinking of a meteor, and the appearance of birds normally found near land are explained to his men by Columbus in such a way that their concern is substantially reduced. The hope of land nearby, aroused by floating weeds and the presence of tuna fish, is dispelled by Columbus, who is prepared for these peculiar manifestations by his reading of Aristotle. Columbus’s serene confidence in the midst of whatever unusual signs alarm the men, coupled with Sancho Mundo’s firm backing (gained by occasional gold coins) of Columbus’s interpreting these signs as evidences of the support of a divine Providence, carries the men of all three crews through the uncertainties of many days at sea. [20] Martin Alonzo Pinzon’s cry of “Land! — Land! Señor!” on September 25 arouses all hands to thankfulness and songs of praise to God, songs in which Columbus joins though he is far from confident that the mass seen is land; the next day, the “land” proves to have been a cloud bank, a matter of grave disappointment met by Columbus with the explanation that such optical illusions are not uncommon at sea. For several days afterwards, the sight of pelicans and more weeds and the softening of the air tantalize the crews, but land still is not seen. The variations in the compass are still apparent, but Columbus’s explanation that the North Star itself moves is cited by the seamen as a counter to their anxiety on this score.

[21] On October 5, despite favorable winds and good progress, Martin Alonzo Pinzon comes aboard the Santa Maria to urge a change in course to the south, since most of the recent discoveries have been made in the southern latitudes. Columbus rejects this plea, and orders a continued westward course; but from this point on he detects increasing signs of disaffection in this influential commander.

Since an annuity of ten thousand maravedis [a maravedi was equivalent to one-thirtieth of a silver real at that time] will be paid by Ferdinand and Isabella to the man who first discerns land, all are alert to signs suggesting the nearness of land; another signal of land sighted proves to mark only another optical illusion. Columbus, noting large flocks of birds flying southward, orders a change of direction for the three vessels to a west-south-west course. As the fleet follows this changed course, more encouraging signs of land are detected; Columbus, distressed by the frequent mistaken cries of “Land!” declares that any man who calls it carelessly will be ineligible for the reward.

On October 10, distraught that land has still not been reached, more than twenty men aboard the Santa Maria, with Juan Martin as spokesman, threaten mutiny, demanding that Columbus return with his ships at once to Spain. Sancho Mundo, Pepe, and Luis range themselves on the side of the Admiral, who — not one whit swayed by the crew’s mutinous words and looks — warns them that food and water aboard will not suffice now for a return to Spain and that the fleet must complete the task set by the sovereigns: to sail west to Cathay. His calm manner spreads to the would-be mutineers, and they desist. Fortunately, the next day brings renewed signs of nearness to Land — green rushes, a floating roseberry bush, a piece of cane-plant, a large tree trunk, a walking-stick fashioned by the hand of man. Columbus, certain that the soundest course lies due west, orders the fleet on October 11 to head westward, and the ships move with a favorable wind at the satisfying speed of nine miles an hour. That night Columbus sees a light and calls Luis to confirm his sighting; Luis sees it also, and the Admiral quietly asserts that the light marks land. Few are inclined to be certain of the fact, though all are hopeful. That night at midnight, Martin Alonzo Pinzon fires a gun from the Pinta as a signal that land is sighted, and soon all men can see the unmistakable outline of land on the horizon — an island, Columbus says, but the Indies, nonetheless.

[22] The following morning — October 12 — confirms the midnight conclusion, and the commanders of the three ships, with Columbus leading, carry ashore the flags bearing crosses and the initials of the king and queen, an act observed by hundreds of awed, naked red-skinned men certain that the strangers have come from Heaven. Columbus takes possession of the land, gives thanks to God, and then prepares to examine the island he names San Salvador. The crew members offer both congratulations and apologies as they crowd around Columbus, as calm in the face of adulation as he had been in the face of near-mutiny.

After well over a month of exploring and claiming various islands, including Cuba, for the sovereigns, and of observing that everywhere the natives are living in the simplest of conditions, a number of the men tire of sight-seeing and determine to search for the reputed riches of the Indies. On November 21 — the same day on which Sancho Mundo is introduced by the natives to the smoking of tobacco — Columbus discovers that Martin Alonzo Pinzon, the Pinta, and that caravel’s crew have defected to seek gold by themselves, a defection that has been brewing for some time because of friction between Columbus and Pinzon.

About two weeks after the Pinta’s departure, Columbus and his remaining men leave Cuba for Haiti (Española, or Little Spain), where they find the inhabitants even more docile and more hospitable than those in the earlier islands. Gold appears to be abundant; and the island houses Guacanagari, the Great Cacique, or king of kings, of a number of tributary peoples. [23] When an ambassador is sent by Guacanagari to Columbus, Luis and Sancho Mundo with Columbus’s permission accompany Mattinao, the ambassador’s attendant, by canoe to his own area of the island, where he himself proves to be a tributary cacique. While Sancho Mundo is entertained by the intrigued village Indians, Luis is led to meet Ozema, Mattinao’s beautiful eighteen-year-old sister, a virgin so like Mercedes that Luis’s first exclamation is “Mercedes!” Sheltered and thus fairer than her compatriots, Ozema is destined to mother the next cacique, and Mattinao and Ozema envision a match between Ozema and Luis. Luis remains faithful to Mercedes but is charmed by the lovely girl, who obviously adores him. During the several days spent with the cacique and his family, Luis endeavors to win the girl and her relatives to Christianity. Sancho, meanwhile, is inquiring about the source of the gold he daily acquires in trade for hawks’ bells brought as items for gift or barter, as well as thoroughly enjoying himself. An attack by the dreaded cannibalistic Carib cacique Caonabo, intent on capturing the beautiful Ozema as one of his wives, leads Luis to defend the girl — who at one point interposes herself between Luis and enemy arrows — and Sancho Mundo appears with his arquebuse to complete the rout of the invaders. [24] At her urging, Luis takes Ozema with him and Sancho Mundo in a hasty retreat by canoe to a landing near the Santa Maria, which Luis finds shipwrecked and being converted into a fort to house the bulk of Columbus’s men as colonists while he and the rest return to Spain with the good news of the mission’s accomplishment. Ozema, determined never to become the wife of Caonabo, agrees — with Mattinao’s consent — to accompany Columbus to Spain (with several other high-born natives) as examples of the inhabitants of the Indies. Having ensured fortification of the stranded Santa Maria, Columbus and his party board the Niña on January 4, 1493, for the voyage back to Spain.

On January 6, the Pinta reappears, and the two commanders are prudently reconciled, to travel in company across the broad Atlantic. Pinzon has secured many gold objects but has not succeeded in locating the mines. Taking on supplies for both ships, the two crews set sail for home, leaving Haiti on January 16. The Niña proves a dine ship, less sluggish than the Pinta, the latter having a sprung after-mast that cannot carry full sail. The voyage, begun with favorable winds, offers little difficulty until February 12, when the weather becomes increasingly stormy. The Pinta’s commander, unable to find his own way home, stays close to the Niña; none but Columbus knows the true location of the vessels, and Columbus intends not to share his information with Pinzon, whom he suspects of intending to claim discovery of the Indies himself. The storm worsens to such a degree that Columbus and Luis prepare two identical copies of the record of the discovery, wrap each record in waxed cloth, and secure each packet in a separate barrel. Columbus’s barrel is solemnly cast into the hissing ocean; Luis’s barrel is placed on the poop of the Niña, to survive the ship if it should sink. None but Columbus and Luis know the contents of either barrel; all the others assume that a religious vow is being kept. Even in this tempest, the Pinta travels in company with the Niña, but neither ship can bear canvas before the screaming wind. The danger to all aboard is so great that divine assistance is sought by the drawing of a single cross-marked pea from a capful of peas; the man who draws the marked pea is to make a given holy pilgrimage. Columbus draws the pea. A second drawing, prompted by the increased severity of the storm, falls on Pedro de Villa, of whose piety none feels confident. A third drawing falls again on Columbus. Since the storm still does not abate, Columbus directs all water casks to be filled with seawater, to add ballast; the ship becomes more stable following the completion of this undertaking, and sail is added. During the tempest, the Pinta disappears, and most believe she has been lost.

[25] The following day, February 15, land is sighted, precisely where Columbus had anticipated it. Conjectures concerning its identity vary, but Columbus’s declaration that it is an island of the Azores proves accurate. Unfavorable winds prevent a landing, however, and the Niña makes its way the following day to a Portuguese-owned port on another island. Attempts by the Portuguese to seize the Niña fail, and she proceeds toward Spain. Ill winds and an evil storm — the worst yet encountered — drive the ship instead toward Portugal.

In the midst of the terror, Ozema appears at the door of the women’s cabin and appeals to Luis to protect her. Tenderly holding her, he kisses the cross which Mercedes had given him and which he has worn close to his heart ever since. Saying that the cross will protect her, he places the chain around her neck, saying, “That cross is a sign of undying love” (p. 433). His intention is to reassure her religious faith; unfortunately, she misinterprets his feeling for that of love for her. (Luis’s reassurance of Ozema is quietly observed by Columbus.) Murmuring “Mercedes” — the word she understands as meaning all that is good and beautiful because Luis shows such emotion when he says it — she goes inside the cabin again. Despite the fierceness of the storm, skillful work at the helm by Sancho Mundo and Vincente Yañez Pinzon under Columbus’s direction enables them to enter the safety of the Tagus River, in Portugal. The ship anchors on March 4, and leaves the harbor for Spain on March 14, following a gala reception by the generous but envious Portuguese.

[26] The scene shifts now to the sovereigns’ court in Barcelona. After an authorial summary of events that have meanwhile occurred in Spain — chiefly, expulsion of the Jews and an assassination attempt on Ferdinand — attention turns to the expedition led by Columbus, and the queen learns Columbus has been reported back following the most boisterous marine winter that any can recall. At that moment, Sancho Mundo awaits, with a letter he has carried overland from the harbor in Portugal to be certain it would not fall into the wrong hands. The letter, read first by Isabella and then by Ferdinand, astounds and delights them. Columbus has indeed returned from the Indies! The wary king retires with the queen, Luis de St. Angel, Alonzo de Quintanilla, and the Archbishop of Granada to his own cabinet for a conference, leaving Sancho Mundo, the Marchioness of Moya (Beatriz de Bobadilla) and Mercedes alone. Sancho Mundo’s comments about the beauty of Ozema and of Luis’s defense of her against Caonabo lead both Beatriz and Mercedes to conclude that Luis has transferred his affections to the Indian maiden. In a private conversation with Sancho afterwards, Mercedes is distressed to learn that Luis has not mentioned anyone but the sovereigns and his aunt to be greeted on his arrival with the letter.

[27] The news of the successful voyage brings Columbus much honor, and on his arrival at court a month later he is graciously received by the king and queen. Luis’s arrival at Barcelona is overshadowed by the preparations being made for the reception of Columbus, though some observers comment that the marchioness seems strongly displeased with her nephew; none know that he has accompanied Columbus on the famous voyage to the Indies except Isabella, the marchioness, and Mercedes. Sancho relishes his own popularity, and is regaling Peter Martyr and a number of young nobles with an account of the voyage when Luis enters. Sancho and Luis are introduced to one another by Peter Martyr, and each shows pleasure at the introduction. Luis, still concealing his part in the voyage, listens as Sancho tells a lively tale of the wonders seen. Then Luis, saying Columbus himself has given him full details of the journey, talks for over an hour, detailing the voyage as if he has actually heard the story from the admiral rather than experienced it himself; Sancho Mundo solemnly confirms Count Llera’s narrative. In fact, Luis’s remarkable ability in recounting the narrative and Columbus’s obvious respect for him improve the young courtier’s public image decidedly.

[28] The scene changes to Isabella’s quarters, where, after prayer, she is joined by Ferdinand; the two discuss the awesome change in their fortunes as a result of Columbus’s successful venture. Following this lengthy conversation, the queen visits her daughters and then the Marchioness of Moya. Not sensing the coldness of Beatriz on the matter, Isabella declares that Luis has exonerated himself in the westward voyage and will now be allowed to marry Mercedes. At Isabella’s request, Beatriz leads the queen to Mercedes’s quarters, where Isabella tells the startled and distraught girl that she is now to marry Luis. Mercedes, tearfully refusing such a marriage, leaves Beatriz to explain that Luis has lost his heart to a beautiful Indian princess. Not having seen a beautiful maiden among the Indians displayed, Isabella is perplexed until Mercedes, after preparing Ozema to receive the queen, leads Isabella to Ozema’s quarters. The queen, astounded by Ozema’s beauty and by her aristocratic bearing, suspects that Mercedes is mistaken about Luis’s infidelity; she questions Ozema alone for over an hour. Ozema confesses not only to her love for Luis but to their actually being wed, information that Isabella immediately shares with Beatriz.

[29] The scene changes again to reveal the banquet given by Cardinal Mendoza for Columbus. Following Columbus’s recounting of his voyage to the respectful listeners, as well as a toast to him by Luis de St. Angel, a jealous noble, Juan de Orbitello, questions whether Columbus is the only man who could have performed such a feat. In answer, Columbus, after others fail, causes an egg to stand on end, a demonstration effectively silencing the envious courtier.

Both Columbus and Luis are suddenly summoned from the banquet by the queen; as Luis hopes, the summons concerns his marriage to Mercedes. But that matter is far from secure, for Luis finds the queen and the marchioness both convinced of his marriage to Ozema. Ozema herself reveals the cause of error when she describes Luis’s presentation of the cross, an incident witnessed by Columbus and declared by him a pious act rather than a marriage. Further testimony from Luis confirms that he has never envisioned any spouse but Mercedes. Satisfied on this score, Beatriz rejoices at her nephew’s innocence. [30] Isabella remains to talk alone with Ozema. In her earnest conversation with the Indian princess, the queen explains the error into which Ozema has fallen by her misinterpretation of Luis’s concern and protection, his use of the name “Mercedes,” and his presentation of the crucifix. Ozema is entirely unstrung by the discovery that Luis has not in fact wed her but has long been pledged to Mercedes. Immediately, Ozema falls into deep illness and is felt to be close to death.

Luis, summoned to an interview with Mercedes, learns that Mercedes will relinquish Luis to marry Ozema and will herself become a nun, a suggestion that stuns the young count. By degrees, he restores Mercedes’s confidence in his love for her alone. Fearful that Luis will feel differently when she sees the dying Ozema, she leads him to the Indian princess’s apartment, where Columbus, Isabella, and Beatriz await his arrival. He is shocked at the maiden’s evident decline but reports that others of the Indians from Haiti, at Seville and at Palos, are also sick unto death; all except Ozema are by now, however, baptized. Ozema agrees to accept baptism on the condition that Luis and Mercedes first be married in her presence. Although the suggestion of an immediate marriage seems highly inappropriate, all present feel that Ozema’s soul must be secured to the Lord through the rite of baptism. After an hour of prayer and preparation, Mercedes, adorned in a white veil, is brought to be married to Luis, whose love she now knows she fully possesses. Ferdinand drapes Luis with the collar of one of his own orders, and then the ceremony is held, with Columbus giving away the bride.

Ozema, requesting and receiving the crucifix hanging at Luis’s breast, holds it and submits to baptism by the archbishop. Then, assured she is a Christian, she asks the archbishop to wed her to Luis as his second wife! The archbishop’s sharp reprimand is interrupted by the marchioness, who observes that Ozema, aware from the archbishop’s words that she can never marry Luis, has died, a somber beginning for Isabella’s pious mission of taking the Cross to the Indies.

[31] Seagoing suddenly becomes not only proper but socially mandatory for young gentlemen following Columbus’s successful first voyage to the Orient. Columbus’ second westward voyage, shortly undertaken, includes seventeen vessels with crews drawn from among the finest families in Spain; many young nobles twit Luis for his lack of courage in not being one of the company. Luis and Mercedes, in the little felucca they have named Ozema, sail out to bid the Admiral bon voyage; Columbus takes this occasion to urge Luis to guard Columbus’s interests against the jealous and malicious intents of Fonseca, of one of the house of Bobadilla, and even of Ferdinand himself. After Columbus’s fleet has left Cadiz, Luis and Mercedes sail to Palos, where they learn from Pepe’s wife, Monica, that Martin Alonzo Pinzon has died of grief at Columbus having arrived before him to report success in the Indies. After visiting the church to pray for the success of Columbus’s second voyage, the bride and groom return to the Ozema and thence home to Valverde, where they live happily, secure in their love for one another. [Presumably, among their children is one named Ozema, who dies young.)

Diego de Ballesteros, Boabdil, Doña Beatriz de Bobadilla, Don Luis de Bobadilla [Luis], Don Andres de Cabrera, Caonabo, Father Pedro de Carrascal, Admiral Christoval Colon [Christopher Columbus], Father Alonso de Coca, Dama, Diego, King Ferdinand, Fonseca, José Gordo, Guacanagari, Queen Isabella, King John II, Father Juan Perez de Marchena, Juan Martin, Martin Martinez, Duke of Medina Celi, Cardinal Mendoza, Monica, Sancho Mundo, Pedro Alonzo Niño, Alonzo de Ojeda, Ozema, Juan de Orbitello, Pepe, Pepita, Doña Inez Peraza, Pero, Francisco Martin Pinzon, Martin Alonzo Pinzon, Vincente Yañez Pinzon, Alonzo de Quintanilla, Christoval Quintero, Gomez Rascon, Roderique, Bartolomeo Roldan, Sancho Ruiz, Luis de St. Angel, Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, Sancho, Archbishop Fernando de Talavera, Doña Maria de las Mercedes de Valverde [Mercedes], Pedro de Villa, John de Vivero.