Voyages and Adventures of Magellan - George Towle

Magellan in Spain

Magellan approached the capital of his native land with much misgiving. He knew but too well that King Manuel no longer looked upon him with the favor he once had done, in spite of his heroic service in India and Africa. His resistance to Albuquerque's plans had been reported to the court, and had deeply offended the king. Moreover, when Magellan, finding his stipend too little to support him, had petitioned the king to increase it, the request had been curtly refused.

Yet he was resolved not to waste his years in fighting against the Moors. He had heard, from one of his most intimate friends, an energetic voyager named Francisco Serrano, of the delights and riches of the famous Molucca Islands, in the Eastern seas; and, after deep study of the rude maps which then existed, Magellan came to the conclusion that those islands might be reached by sailing, not southward and eastward, by the Cape of Good Hope and around India, but westward, across the Atlantic.

If this were only possible to be done, he who should succeed in doing it would win renown rivaling that of Vasco da Gama himself; and Magellan made up his mind that, at all hazards, he would attempt it.

On reaching Lisbon, he lost no time in seeking an audience of King Manuel. But the king, having now imbibed a violent prejudice against his brave officer, at first refused to see him at all and Magellan's heart sank within him.

One day, however, he received a summons to appear in the royal presence. Determined to make the best of circumstances, Magellan donned a rich suit of velvet, put on a handsome cap adorned with plumes, and taking his handsomest sword from the wall, buckled it about his waist. Then, with haughty carriage, for even before majesty itself he would bear himself proudly, he entered the audience chamber, and advanced with a slight limp in his gait, to where the king sat upon his throne, surrounded by his courtiers. King Manuel glanced at him coldly, and a frown gathered on his face.

"Well, sir," said he, sternly, "why have you left your post in Africa, to come hither? What petition do you desire to make?"

"I have come, your Majesty," replied Magellan, bowing, "to ask for an employment higher and more perilous, and of greater benefit to your throne, than that in which I have been engaged. I pray you to reflect, sir, that I have been of some service to the state. My wounds, that I bear on every part of my body, attest it. I seek a wider field of service to your Majesty."

"Magellan," was the royal retort, "you caused sore trouble in India, when you obstinately opposed the projects of my good general, Albuquerque, and incited the captains to refuse to go with him; you have demanded of me a larger stipend than you deserve; and you have left your post to come hither on some fool's errand. What do you wish?"

"The king is not just to me!" boldly declared the cavalier. "But I will not dare reproach him. Sire, my wish is to command an expedition of discovery. I would seek a new and shorter way, by sailing westward, to the islands of the eastern seas."

"It is folly!" said the king, I will not permit you to attempt it. Retire, Magellan. You have provoked my displeasure by leaving your post. Return to it, sir, and be thankful that you are not punished for your conduct."

With bowed head, and countenance deadly pale with indignation and disappointment, Magellan slowly passed out of the hall into the corridor of the palace. Overcome with sad emotion, he leaned against one of the pillars, and almost sobbed in his intense grief. Thus were all his bright hopes dashed; thus all his bright dreams of adventures and fame rudely dispelled.

As he lingered in the corridor, a tall, stalwart man, with black beard that swept down to his girdle, his body enveloped in a long black gown, and his head covered with a black velvet skull-cap, approached, and gently laid his hand upon the cavalier's shoulder.

"Be of good cheer, Magellan!" said he, in a low, sympathetic voice. "There are other kings in Christendom besides King Manuel, and other stout and goodly caravels than those of Portugal, All is not lost because your petition is rejected. You have been severely treated; but if King Manuel blindly refuses to perceive your genius, there are those who will!"

"What mean you, my friend?" asked Magellan, looking up with a bright glance in his eyes, for the other's words gave him a world of encouragement, and comfort; "what career is open to me, besides that which King Manuel refuses?"

"Why, that which his rival, King Charles, will open to you! Know you not that the Spanish king is ambitious, and is jealous of the triumphs of Portugal on the sea, and her conquests in distant lands?"

"What, Faleiro," exclaimed Magellan, "would you have me desert my native land, and my sovereign, to seek a foreign service?"

"Nothing is more common," replied the other. "Here, your service is disdainfully rejected. To stay is to spend your life in stupid skirmishes with Moors and Arabs, to live on a miserable pittance. If King Manuel will have none of you, in what are you bound to him?"

Faleiro's words sank deep into Magellan's heart. They revived his faltering hopes, and opened before him a new prospect, just as that which had so much allured him seemed closed forever. His soul smarted under the sharp reproofs and abrupt refusal of King Manuel; his pride was wounded to the quick; his nature revolted from humble submission to the disgrace of being thus publicly and scornfully repelled.

Taking Faleiro's arm, he walked with him slowly out of the palace, towards his friend's lodgings.

This Faleiro was an astrologer, and professed to read the future in the stars and signs of the heavens. Astrologers in those days were held in great honor and reverence in Spain and Portugal; and even the wisest men lent an eager ear to their prophecies. So it was that Faleiro was highly esteemed at King Manuel's court. It was there that he had learned to love the impetuous and warm-hearted Magellan; and as he himself had a taste for travel and adventures, they soon became very intimate.

The astrologer had heard with both sorrow and anger the king's harsh words to Magellan; and he now devoted himself to reviving the down-cast spirits of his friend.

They soon reached Faleiro's abode. It was a plain, somewhat gloomy building; and this impression was increased when one entered the dark apartment where the astrologer pursued his mysterious studies.

The unpainted walls were hung with astronomical charts, and strange pictures representing various aspects of the firmament; while on the long tables that lined the room were globes, telescopes, and other instruments used by Faleiro in his nightly tasks. A plain table occupied the center, and to this two high-backed chairs were drawn.

It being now dusk, Faleiro lighted a taper, which spread a dim light through the apartment; and motioning to Magellan to sit in one chair, himself took possession of the other.

"The present is dark to you, dear Fernan," he said; "it seems to you, does it not, as if no bright future were in store for you?"

"Do you bid me hope," was Magellan's reply, "for better fortune?"

"I do. You know that I have cast your horoscope, and have predicted for you a great and glorious career. In your own land you have nothing to hope for. Go, therefore, to Spain; the king will recognize your merits, and, no doubt, will give you a fleet. If you will go, Fernan, I will go with you. I, too, long to brave the ocean's perils, to search out new countries. We will seek our fortune on the deep together."

His friend's declaration that he would go with him decided Magellan. He no longer hesitated, but said that he would lose no time in preparing to change his allegiance from Don Manuel to King Charles. It was late at night when the friends parted with warm embraces. Magellan hastened to his lodgings, and tossed all night on his bed, agitated by the new project that filled his mind. The more he thought of it, the more firmly fixed became his resolve to leave the service of his ungrateful sovereign, and to become a subject of the king of Spain. As Faleiro had said, it was no uncommon thing then (nor is it now) for a man to thus transfer his citizenship and adopt another country than that in which he had been born; and Magellan certainly had the strongest reason to abandon his allegiance to King Manuel.

There was another reason, of which he had said nothing to Faleiro, why the project of going to Spain pleased him.

At Seville lived a cousin of his, named Don Diego Barbosa. This Barbosa was a man of much wealth and importance, and although a Portuguese, had risen to be mayor of the ancient Spanish city. He lived in a grand house there, and gave splendid entertainments, and lived in sumptuous luxury.

Before Barbosa had moved from Lisbon to Seville, young Magellan had been in the habit of visiting familiarly at his house. He had been received, being a relation, as one of the family; and many of the pleasantest hours of his early sojourn at court, were spent at his cousin Barbosa's.

Of one member of the family, Magellan became especially fond. This was Barbosa's lovely young daughter, Beatrix. She was tall and slight, with long, rich, raven ringlets, melting brown eyes, and gentle and graceful bearing. No wonder that the young courtier was dazzled by her beauty, or that she, in return, was pleased with the fine cavalier who cast upon her so many soft, appealing glances.

When Barbosa, carrying away the fair Beatrix, repaired to Seville to live, Magellan was very much cast down. But soon after, he had sailed for India, and his grief at losing sight of his lovely cousin, was softened amid the stirring scenes which absorbed his mind in the East.

Now, he was himself going to Spain, and would not fail to visit Seville. Then, if Beatrix were still free, he would revive his courtship, and win her if he could.

In no long time, the two friends had made their preparations for departure. Magellan resigned his commission as an officer in King Manuel's army; and without taking the trouble to make his appearance again at a court where he had been so rudely and publicly disgraced, set out on horseback, with Faleiro, for Seville.

The journey was a long one, but the travellers were not pressed for time, and made merry on their bright prospects, as they went. Fortunately, they had a good supply of money, and were attended by two faithful servants, who went fully armed, lest the party should be attacked by the brigands.

It was mid-Autumn, and nature was brilliant with the fast-changing foliage of the dense forests of Southern Portugal and Spain. Everywhere, in the vineyards, the grape-pickers, of all ages and both sexes, were busily at work, gathering the full-ripe harvest; while ever and anon the travellers came upon the yards where, in rude stone troughs, the peasants were busy treading and pressing the grapes, the juice of which ran out, in gushing streams, into the big tubs set below. Magellan and Faleiro often stopped to pass a merry word with the toilers, and to drink the new-made wine, as they sat at the tables in front of the cozy wayside inns.

They reached Seville without mishap, and repaired at once to a large hostelry, which stood on one of the public squares. Magellan's heart beat high as he thought that, not far off, lived Beatrix, all unconscious that he was so near. A hundred doubts and misgivings passed through his excited mind. Perhaps she was already married; perhaps she had entirely forgotten him; perhaps, true to her love, but despairing of his, she had retired to a convent, and become a nun. Many years had passed since he had seen her and, instead of the slim, shy girl of fourteen that he so tenderly remembered, she must now be a stately and mature woman of twenty-five.

Eager as he was, however, to see her and learn his fate, his thoughts were not entirely absorbed by the gentle Beatrix. He reflected with a thrill that he was now in the territory of the war-like and ambitious king of Spain; that he was within a step of those famous quays of Seville, whence so many gallant expeditions had sailed in search of discovery, and where, even now, fleets of caravels lay at anchor, ready to make their ventures upon the ocean. Magellan longed to stroll along the quays, and to talk with the rough captains about their expected voyages.

Arrayed in his gayest attire, Magellan set out the next day to make known his presence in Seville, to his cousin, Diego Barbosa. He approached the spacious mansion with fluttering heart, and his hand trembled as he knocked upon its lofty portal.

Don Diego received him with the warmest welcome. He had heard, with pride, of Magellan's exploits in India and Africa, and was delighted to learn that he now proposed to enter King Charles's service. He bade Magellan make his house his home, and ordered the best that his well-stocked larder afforded to be set before the new-comer.

To Magellan's anxious inquiries for Beatrix, Don Diego replied that she was at home, and well, and that he should presently judge how she was for himself.

He had, indeed, scarcely finished the bounteous meal which his cousin had caused to be set before him, when Beatrix entered. She had grown, as he supposed, to be a charming and graceful woman; and to his joy, he perceived that she welcomed him with the same blushing warmth that she used to do. It was a moment of rare delight to the lovers when they found that, after so long a separation, each retained the old affection for the other.

Magellan at once took up his quarters at Don Diego's; and made up for the lost time in his eager courtship of Beatrix. Her father, far from being averse to this state of things, encouraged it; and ere long Magellan had pleaded for and won the hand of his fair cousin, with the Don's full consent and blessing.

While his friend was thus reveling in the delights of happy love, Faleiro busied himself with the errand on which he had come to Spain. He made the acquaintance of many captains, and sought for some time in vain, for an opportunity to lay their projects before the king. Meanwhile, he petitioned to the Council of India, a body of grandees who had charge of the Spanish possessions and discoveries in the East, to accept their services, and send them on an expedition to find the way, by a westward route, to the Molucca Islands.

Four months after their arrival at Seville, Magellan and Faleiro set out for Valladolid, where the royal court was sojourning. They were attended by a large retinue of servants, provided for them by the good Don Diego; and as they passed along the highway between Seville and Valladolid, they met many cavalcades passing to and from the court. The Spanish knights who met Magellan greeted him with respect and honor, for his fame had reached King Charles's dominions, and it had gradually been whispered abroad that he was about to enter the Spanish service.

On reaching Valladolid, they found, to their disappointment, that the king was away in the north, on a hunting expedition; but they were reassured by the favorable reception with which Fonseca, the president of the Council of India, welcomed them at court.

They lost no time in laying their plans before this great man. He listened incredulously, and when Magellan, with earnest voice and excited gestures, tried to show him, by a chart, how it was as possible to pass around the South American Continent, as it had been for Vasco da Gama to double the Cape of Good Hope, he smilingly shook his head. Fonseca, however, promised that as soon as the king returned, he would secure an audience for the two Portuguese; and they waited impatiently until Charles should be surfeited with his hunting, and should reappear in the midst of his court.