The Adelantado of the Seven Cities



In the early part of the fifteenth century, when Prince Henry of Portugal, of worthy memory, was pushing the career of discovery along the western coast of Africa, and the world was resounding with reports of golden regions on the main land, and new-found islands in the ocean, there arrived at Lisbon an old bewildered pilot of the seas, who had been driven by tempests, he knew not whither, and who raved about an island far in the deep, on which he had landed, and which he had found peopled with Christians, and adorned with noble cities.

The inhabitants, he said, gathered round, and regarded him with surprise, having never before been visited by a ship. They told him they were descendants of a band of Christians, who fled from Spain when that country was conquered by the Moslems. They were curious about the state of their fatherland, and grieved to hear that the Moslems still held possession of the kingdom of Granada. They would have taken the old navigator to church, to convince him of their orthodoxy; but, either through lack of devotion, or lack of faith in their words, he declined their invitation, and preferred to return on board of his ship. He was properly punished. A furious storm arose, drove him from his anchorage, hurried him out to sea, and he saw no more of the unknown island.

This strange story caused great marvel in Lisbon and elsewhere. Those versed in history, remembered to have read, in an ancient chronicle, that, at the time of the conquest of Spain, in the eighth century, when the blessed cross was cast down, and the crescent erected in its place, and when Christian churches were turned into Moslem mosques, seven bishops, at the head of seven bands of pious exiles, had fled from the peninsula, and embarked in quest of some ocean island, or distant land, where they might found seven Christian cities, and enjoy their faith unmolested.

The fate of these pious saints errant had hitherto remained a mystery, and their story had faded from memory; the report of the old tempest-tossed pilot, however, revived this long-forgotten theme; and it was determined by the pious and enthusiastic, that the island thus accidentally discovered, was the identical place of refuge, whither the wandering bishops had been guided by a protecting Providence, and where they had folded their flocks.

This most excitable of worlds has always some darling object of chimerical enterprise: the "Island of the Seven Cities" now awakened as much interest and longing among zealous Christians, as has the renowned city of Timbuctoo among adventurous travellers, or the North-east Passage among hardy navigators; and it was a frequent prayer of the devout, that these scattered and lost portions of the Christian family might be discovered, and reunited to the great body of Christendom.

No one, however, entered into the matter with half the zeal of Don Fernando de Ulmo, a young cavalier of high standing in the Portuguese court, and of most sanguine and romantic temperament. He had recently come to his estate, and had run the round of all kinds of pleasures and excitements, when this new theme of popular talk and wonder presented itself. The Island of the Seven Cities became now the constant subject of his thoughts by day and his dreams by night; it even rivalled his passion for a beautiful girl, one of the greatest belles of Lisbon, to whom he was betrothed. At length his imagination became so inflamed on the subject, that he determined to fit out an expedition, at his own expense, and set sail in quest of this sainted island. It could not be a cruise of any great extent; for according to the calculations of the tempest-tossed pilot, it must be somewhere in the latitude of the Canaries; which at that time, when the new world was as yet undiscovered, formed the frontier of ocean enterprise. Don Fernando applied to the crown for countenance and protection. As he was a favorite at court, the usual patronage was readily extended to him; that is to say, he received a commission from the king, Don Ioam II., constituting him Adelantado, or military governor, of any country he might discover, with the single proviso, that he should bear all the expenses of the discovery and pay a tenth of the profits to the crown.

Don Fernando now set to work in the true spirit of a projector. He sold acre after acre of solid land, and invested the proceeds in ships, guns, ammunition, and sea-stores. Even his old family mansion in Lisbon was mortgaged without scruple, for "he looked forward to a palace in one of the Seven Cities of which he was to be Adelantado." This was the age of nautical romance, when the thoughts of all speculative dreamers were turned to the ocean. The scheme of Don Fernando, therefore, drew adventurers of every kind. The merchant promised himself new marts of opulent traffic; the soldier hoped to sack and plunder some one or other of those Seven Cities; even the fat monk shook off the sleep and sloth of the cloister, to join in a crusade which promised such increase to the possessions of the church.

One person alone regarded the whole project with sovereign contempt and growling hostility. This was Don Ramiro Alvarez, the father of the beautiful Serafina, to whom Don Fernando was betrothed. He was one of those perverse, matter-of-fact old men who are prone to oppose every thing speculative and romantic. He had no faith in the Island of the Seven Cities; regarded the projected cruise as a crack-brained freak; looked with angry eye and internal heart-burning on the conduct of his intended son-in-law, chaffering away solid lands for lands in the moon, and scoffingly dubbed him Adelantado of Lubberland. In fact, he had never really relished the intended match, to which his consent had been slowly extorted by the tears and entreaties of his daughter. It is true he could have no reasonable objections to the youth, for Don Fernando was the very flower of Portuguese chivalry. No one could excel him at the tilting match, or the riding at the ring; none was more bold and dexterous in the bull-fight; none composed more gallant madrigals in praise of his lady's charms, or sang them with sweeter tones to the accompaniment of her guitar; nor could any one handle the castanets and dance the bolero with more captivating grace. All these admirable qualities and endowments, however, though they had been sufficient to win the heart of Serafina, were nothing in the eyes of her unreasonable father. O Cupid, god of Love! why will fathers always be so unreasonable!

The engagement to Serafina had threatened at first to throw an obstacle in the way of the expedition of Don Fernando, and for a time perplexed him in the extreme. He was passionately attached to the young lady; but he was also passionately bent on this romantic enterprise. How should he reconcile the two passionate inclinations? A simple and obvious arrangement at length presented itself: marry Serafina, enjoy a portion of the honeymoon at once, and defer the rest until his return from the discovery of the Seven Cities!

He hastened to make known this most excellent arrangement to Don Ramiro, when the long-smothered wrath of the old cavalier burst forth in a storm about his ears. He reproached him with being the dupe of wandering vagabonds and wild schemers, and of squandering all his real possessions in pursuit of empty bubbles. Don Fernando was too sanguine a projector, and too young a man, to listen tamely to such language. He acted with what is technically called "becoming spirit." A high quarrel ensued; Don Ramiro pronounced him a mad man, and forbade all farther intercourse with his daughter, until he should give proof of returning sanity by abandoning this mad-cap enterprise; while Don Fernando flung out of the house, more bent than ever on the expedition, from the idea of triumphing over the incredulity of the gray-beard when he should return successful.

Don Ramiro repaired to his daughter's chamber the moment the youth had departed. He represented to her the sanguine, unsteady character of her lover and the chimerical nature of his schemes; showed her the propriety of suspending all intercourse with him until he should recover from his present hallucination; folded her to his bosom with parental fondness, kissed the tear that stole down her cheek, and, as he left the chamber, gently locked the door; for although he was a fond father, and had a high opinion of the submissive temper of his child, he had a still higher opinion of the conservative virtues of lock and key. Whether the damsel had been in any wise shaken in her faith as to the schemes of her lover, and the existence of the Island of the Seven Cities, by the sage representations of her father, tradition does not say; but it is certain that she became a firm believer the moment she heard him turn the key in the lock.

Notwithstanding the interdict of Don Ramiro, therefore, and his shrewd precautions, the intercourse of the lovers continued, although clandestinely. Don Fernando toiled all day, hurrying forward his nautical enterprise, while at night he would repair, beneath the grated balcony of his mistress, to carry on at equal pace the no less interesting enterprise of the heart. At length the preparations for the expedition were completed. Two gallant caravels lay anchored in the Tagus, ready to sail with the morning dawn; while late at night, by the pale light of a waning moon, Don Fernando sought the stately mansion of Alvarez to take a last farewell of Serafina. The customary signal of a few low touches of a guitar brought her to the balcony. She was sad at heart and full of gloomy forebodings; but her lover strove to impart to her his own buoyant hope and youthful confidence. "A few short months," said he, "and I shall return in triumph. Thy father will then blush at his incredulity, and will once more welcome me to his house, when I cross its threshold a wealthy suitor and Adelantado of the Seven Cities."

The beautiful Serafina shook her head mournfully. It was not on those points that she felt doubt or dismay. She believed most implicitly in the Island of the Seven Cities, and trusted devoutly in the success of the enterprise; but she had heard of the inconstancy of the seas, and the inconstancy of those who roam them. Now, let the truth be spoken, Don Fernando, if he had any fault in the world, it was that he was a little too inflammable; that is to say, a little too subject to take fire from the sparkle of every bright eye: he had been somewhat of a rover among the sex on shore, what might he not be on sea? Might he not meet with other loves in foreign ports? Might he not behold some peerless beauty in one or other of those seven cities, who might efface the image of Serafina from his thoughts?

At length she ventured to hint her doubts; but Don Fernando spurned at the very idea. Never could his heart be false to Serafina! Never could another be captivating in his eyes!--never--never! Repeatedly did he bend his knee, and smite his breast, and call upon the silver moon to witness the sincerity of his vows. But might not Serafina, herself, be forgetful of her plighted faith? Might not some wealthier rival present, while he was tossing on the sea, and, backed by the authority of her father, win the treasure of her hand? Alas, how little did he know Serafina's heart! The more her father should oppose, the more would she be fixed in her faith. Though years should pass before his return, he would find her true to her vows. Even should the salt seas swallow him up, (and her eyes streamed with salt tears at the very thought,) never would she be the wife of another--never--never! She raised her beautiful white arms between the iron bars of the balcony, and invoked the moon as a testimonial of her faith.

Thus, according to immemorial usage, the lovers parted, with many a vow of eternal constancy. But will they keep those vows? Perish the doubt! Have they not called the constant moon to witness?

With the morning dawn the caravels dropped down the Tagus and put to sea. They steered for the Canaries, in those days the regions of nautical romance. Scarcely had they reached those latitudes, when a violent tempest arose. Don Fernando soon lost sight of the accompanying caravel, and was driven out of all reckoning by the fury of the storm. For several weary days and nights he was tossed to and fro, at the mercy of the elements, expecting each moment to be swallowed up. At length, one day toward evening, the storm subsided; the clouds cleared up, as though a veil had suddenly been withdrawn from the face of heaven, and the setting sun shone gloriously upon a fair and mountainous island, that seemed close at hand. The tempest-tossed mariners rubbed their eyes, and gazed almost incredulously upon this land, that had emerged so suddenly from the murky gloom; yet there it lay, spread out in lovely landscapes; enlivened by villages, and towers, and spires, while the late stormy sea rolled in peaceful billows to its shores. About a league from the sea, on the banks of a river, stood a noble city, with lofty walls and towers, and a protecting castle. Don Fernando anchored off the mouth of the river, which appeared to form a spacious harbor. In a little while a barge was seen issuing from the river. It was evidently a barge of ceremony, for it was richly though quaintly carved and gilt, and decorated with a silken awning and fluttering streamers, while a banner, bearing the sacred emblem of the cross, floated to the breeze. The barge advanced slowly, impelled by sixteen oars, painted of a bright crimson. The oarsmen were uncouth, or rather antique, in their garb, and kept stroke to the regular cadence of an old Spanish ditty. Beneath the awning sat a cavalier, in a rich though old-fashioned doublet, with an enormous sombrero and feather. When the barge reached the caravel, the cavalier stepped on board. He was tall and gaunt, with a long, Spanish visage, and lack-lustre eyes, and an air of lofty and somewhat pompous gravity. His mustaches were curled up to his ears, his beard was forked and precise; he wore gauntlets that reached to his elbows, and a Toledo blade that strutted out behind, while, in front, its huge basket-hilt might have served for a porringer.

Thrusting out a long spindle leg, and taking off his sombrero with a grave and stately sweep, he saluted Don Fernando by name, and welcomed him, in old Castilian language, and in the style of old Castilian courtesy.

Don Fernando was startled at hearing himself accosted by name, by an utter stranger, in a strange land. As soon as he could recover from his surprise, he inquired what land it was at which he had arrived.

"The Island of the Seven Cities!"

Could this be true? Had he indeed been thus tempest-driven upon the very land of which he was in quest? It was even so. The other caravel, from which he had been separated in the storm, had made a neighboring port of the island, and announced the tidings of this expedition, which came to restore the country to the great community of Christendom. The whole island, he was told, was given up to rejoicings on the happy event; and they only awaited his arrival to acknowledge allegiance to the crown of Portugal, and hail him as Adelantado of the Seven Cities. A grand fte was to be solemnized that very night in the palace of the Alcayde or governor of the city; who, on beholding the most opportune arrival of the caravel, had despatched his grand chamberlain, in his barge of state, to conduct the future Adelantado to the ceremony.

Don Fernando could scarcely believe but that this was all a dream. He fixed a scrutinizing gaze upon the grand chamberlain, who, having delivered his message, stood in buckram dignity, drawn up to his full stature, curling his whiskers, stroking his beard, and looking down upon him with inexpressible loftiness through his lack-lustre eyes. There was no doubting the word of so grave and ceremonious a hidalgo.

Don Fernando now arrayed himself in gala attire. He would have launched his boat, and gone on shore with his own men, but he was informed the barge of state was expressly provided for his accommodation, and, after the fte, would bring him back to his ship; in which, on the following day, he might enter the harbor in befitting style. He accordingly stepped into the barge, and took his seat beneath the awning. The grand chamberlain seated himself on the cushion opposite. The rowers bent to their oars, and renewed their mournful old ditty, and the gorgeous, but unwieldy barge moved slowly and solemnly through the water.

The night closed in, before they entered the river. They swept along, past rock and promontory, each guarded by its tower. The sentinels at every post challenged them as they passed by.

"Who goes there?"

"The Adelantado of the Seven Cities."

"He is welcome. Pass on."

On entering the harbor, they rowed close along an armed galley, of the most ancient form. Soldiers with cross-bows were stationed on the deck.

"Who goes there?" was again demanded.

"The Adelantado of the Seven Cities."

"He is welcome. Pass on."

They landed at a broad flight of stone steps, leading up, between two massive towers, to the water-gate of the city, at which they knocked for admission. A sentinel, in an ancient steel casque, looked over the wall. "Who is there?"

"The Adelantado of the Seven Cities."

The gate swung slowly open, grating upon its rusty hinges. They entered between two rows of iron-clad warriors, in battered armor, with cross-bows, battle-axes, and ancient maces, and with faces as old-fashioned and rusty as their armor. They saluted Don Fernando in military style, but with perfect silence, as he passed between their ranks. The city was illuminated, but in such manner as to give a more shadowy and solemn effect to its old-time architecture. There were bonfires in the principal streets, with groups about them in such old-fashioned garbs, that they looked like the fantastic figures that roam the streets in carnival time. Even the stately dames who gazed from the balconies, which they had hung with antique tapestry, looked more like effigies dressed up for a quaint mummery, than like ladies in their fashionable attire. Every thing, in short, bore the stamp of former ages, as if the world had suddenly rolled back a few centuries. Nor was this to be wondered at. Had not the Island of the Seven Cities been for several hundred years cut off from all communication with the rest of the world, and was it not natural that the inhabitants should retain many of the modes and customs brought here by their ancestors?

One thing certainly they had conserved; the old-fashioned Spanish gravity and stateliness. Though this was a time of public rejoicing, and though Don Fernando was the object of their gratulations, every thing was conducted with the most solemn ceremony, and wherever he appeared, instead of acclamations, he was received with profound silence, and the most formal reverences and swayings of their sombreros.

Arrived at the palace of the Alcayde, the usual ceremonial was repeated. The chamberlain knocked for admission.

"Who is there?" demanded the porter.

"The Adelantado of the Seven Cities."

"He is welcome. Pass on."

The grand portal was thrown open. The chamberlain led the way up a vast but heavily moulded marble stair-case, and so through one of those interminable suites of apartments, that are the pride of Spanish palaces. All were furnished in a style of obsolete magnificence. As they passed through the chambers, the title of Don Fernando was forwarded on by servants stationed at every door; and every where produced the most profound reverences and courtesies. At length they reached a magnificent saloon, blazing with tapers, in which the Alcayde, and the principal dignitaries of the city, were waiting to receive their illustrious guest. The grand chamberlain presented Don Fernando in due form, and falling back among the other officers of the household, stood as usual curling his whiskers and stroking his forked beard.

Don Fernando was received by the Alcayde and the other dignitaries with the same stately and formal courtesy that he had every where remarked. In fact, there was so much form and ceremonial, that it seemed difficult to get at any thing social or substantial. Nothing but bows, and compliments, and old-fashioned courtesies. The Alcayde and his courtiers resembled, in face and form, those quaint worthies to be seen in the pictures of old illuminated manuscripts; while the cavaliers and dames who thronged the saloon, might have beep taken for the antique figures of gobelin tapestry suddenly vivified and put in motion.

The banquet, which had been kept back until the arrival of Don Fernando, was now announced; and such a feast! such unknown dishes and obsolete dainties; with the peacock, that bird of state and ceremony, served up in full plumage, in a golden dish, at the head of the table. And then, as Don Fernando cast his eyes over the glittering board, what a vista of odd heads and head-dresses, of formal bearded dignitaries, and stately dames, with castellated locks and towering plumes!

As fate would have it, on the other side of Don Fernando, was seated the daughter of the Alcayde. She was arrayed, it is true, in a dress that might have been worn before the flood; but then, she had a melting black Andalusian eye, that was perfectly irresistible. Her voice, too, her manner, her movements, all smacked of Andalusia, and showed how female fascination may be transmitted from age to age, and clime to clime, without ever losing its power, or going out of fashion. Those who know the witchery of the sex, in that most amorous region of old Spain, may judge what must have been the fascination to which Don Fernando was exposed, when seated beside one of the most captivating of its descendants. He was, as has already been hinted, of an inflammable temperament; with a heart ready to get in a light blaze at every instant. And then he had been so wearied by pompous, tedious old cavaliers, with their formal bows and speeches; is it to be wondered at that he turned with delight to the Alcayde's daughter, all smiles, and dimples, and melting looks, and melting accents? Beside, for I wish to give him every excuse in my power, he was in a particularly excitable mood, from the novelty of the scene before him, and his head was almost turned with this sudden and complete realization of all his hopes and fancies; and then, in the flurry of the moment, he had taken frequent draughts at the wine-cup, presented him at every instant by officious pages, and all the world knows the effect of such draughts in giving potency to female charms. In a word, there is no concealing the matter, the banquet was not half over, before Don Fernando was making love, outright, to the Alcayde's daughter. It was his cold habitude, contracted long before his matrimonial engagement. The young lady hung her head coyly; her eye rested upon a ruby heart, sparkling in a ring on the hand of Don Fernando, a parting gage of love from Serafina. A blush crimsoned her very temples. She darted a glance of doubt at the ring, and then at Don Fernando. He read her doubt, and in the giddy intoxication of the moment, drew off the pledge of his affianced bride, and slipped it on the finger of the Alcayde's daughter.

At this moment the banquet broke up. The chamberlain with his lofty demeanor, and his lack-lustre eyes, stood before him, and announced that the barge was waiting to conduct him back to the caravel. Don Fernando took a formal leave of the Alcayde and his dignitaries, and a tender farewell of the Alcayde's daughter, with a promise to throw himself at her feet on the following day. He was rowed back to his vessel in the same slow and stately manner, to the cadence of the same mournful old ditty. He retired to his cabin, his brain whirling with all that he had seen, and his heart now and then giving him a twinge as he recollected his temporary infidelity to the beautiful Serafina. He flung himself on his bed, and soon fell into a feverish sleep. His dreams were wild and incoherent. How long he slept he knew not, but when he awoke he found himself in a strange cabin, with persons around him of whom he had no knowledge. He rubbed his eyes to ascertain whether he were really awake. In reply to his inquiries, he was informed that he was on board of a Portuguese ship, bound to Lisbon; having been taken senseless from a wreck drifting about the ocean.

Don Fernando was confounded and perplexed. He retraced every thing distinctly that had happened to him in the Island of the Seven Cities, and until he had retired to rest on board of the caravel. Had his vessel been driven from her anchors, and wrecked during his sleep? The people about him could give him no information on the subject. He talked to them of the Island of the Seven Cities, and of all that had befallen him there. They regarded his words as the ravings of delirium, and in their honest solicitude, administered such rough remedies, that he was fain to drop the subject, and observe a cautious taciturnity.

At length they arrived in the Tagus, and anchored before the famous city of Lisbon. Don Fernando sprang joyfully on shore, and hastened to his ancestral mansion. To his surprise, it was inhabited by strangers; and when he asked about his family, no one could give him any information concerning them.

He now sought the mansion of Don Ramiro, for the temporary flame kindled by the bright eyes of the Alcayde's daughter had long since burnt itself out, and his genuine passion for Serafina had revived with all its fervor. He approached the balcony, beneath which he had so often serenaded her. Did his eyes deceive him? No! There was Serafina herself at the balcony. An exclamation of rapture burst from him, as he raised his arms toward her. She cast upon him a look of indignation, and hastily retiring, closed the casement. Could she have heard of his flirtation with the Alcayde's daughter? He would soon dispel every doubt of his constancy. The door was open. He rushed up-stairs, and entering the room, threw himself at her feet. She shrank back with affright, and took refuge in the arms of a youthful cavalier.

"What mean you, Sir," cried the latter, "by this intrusion?"

"What right have you," replied Don Fernando, "to ask the question?"

"The right of an affianced suitor!"

Don Fernando started, and turned pale. "Oh, Serafina! Serafina!" cried he in a tone of agony, "is this thy plighted constancy?"

"Serafina?--what mean you by Serafina? If it be this young lady you intend, her name is Maria."

"Is not this Serafina Alvarez, and is not that her portrait?" cried Don Fernando, pointing to a picture of his mistress.

"Holy Virgin!" cried the young lady; "he is talking of my great-grandmother!"

An explanation ensued, if that could be called an explanation, which plunged the unfortunate Fernando into tenfold perplexity. If he might believe his eyes, he saw before him his beloved Serafina; if he might believe his ears, it was merely her hereditary form and features, perpetuated in the person of her great-granddaughter.

His brain began to spin. He sought tho office of the Minister of Marine, and made a report of his expedition, and of the Island of the Seven Cities, which he had so fortunately discovered. No body knew any thing of such an expedition, or such an island. He declared that he had undertaken the enterprise under a formal contract with the crown, and had received a regular commission, constituting him Adelantado. This must be matter of record, and he insisted loudly, that the books of the department should be consulted. The wordy strife at length attracted the attention of an old, gray-headed clerk, who sat perched on a high stool, at a high desk, with iron-rimmed spectacles on the top of a thin, pinched nose, copying records into an enormous folio. He had wintered and summered in the department for a great part of a century, until he had almost grown to be a piece of the desk at which he sat; his memory was a mere index of official facts and documents, and his brain was little better than red tape and parchment. After peering down for a time from his lofty perch, and ascertaining the matter in controversy, he put his pen behind his ear, and descended. He remembered to have heard something from his predecessor about an expedition of the kind in question, but then it had sailed during the reign of Don Ioam II., and he had been dead at least a hundred years. To put the matter beyond dispute, however, the archives of the Torve do Tombo, that sepulchre of old Portuguese documents, were diligently searched, and a record was found of a contract between the crown and one Fernando de Ulmo, for the discovery of the Island of the Seven Cities, and of a commission secured to him as Adelantado of the country he might discover.

"There!" cried Don Fernando, triumphantly, "there you have proof, before your own eyes, of what I have said. I am the Fernando de Ulmo specified in that record. I have discovered the Island of the Seven Cities, and am entitled to be Adelantado, according to contract."

The story of Don Fernando had certainly, what is pronounced the best of historical foundation, documentary evidence; but when a man, in the bloom of youth, talked of events that had taken place above a century previously, as having happened to himself, it is no wonder that he was set down for a mad man.

The old clerk looked at him from above and below his spectacles, shrugged his shoulders, stroked his chin, reascended his lofty stool, took the pen from behind his ears, and resumed his daily and eternal task, copying records into the fiftieth volume of a series of gigantic folios. The other clerks winked at each other shrewdly, and dispersed to their several places, and poor Don Fernando, thus left to himself, flung out of the office, almost driven wild by these repeated perplexities.

In the confusion of his mind, he instinctively repaired to the mansion of Alvarez, but it was barred against him. To break the delusion under which the youth apparently labored, and to convince him that the Serafina about whom he raved was really dead, he was conducted to her tomb. There she lay, a stately matron, cut out in alabaster; and there lay her husband beside her; a portly cavalier, in armor; and there knelt, on each side, the effigies of a numerous progeny, proving that she had been a fruitful vine. Even the very monument gave proof of the lapse of time, for the hands of her husband, which were folded as if in prayer, had lost their fingers, and the face of the once lovely Serafina was noseless.

Don Fernando felt a transient glow of indignation at beholding this monumental proof of the inconstancy of his mistress; but who could expect a mistress to remain constant during a whole century of absence? And what right had he to rail about constancy, after what had passed between him and the Alcayde's daughter? The unfortunate cavalier performed one pious act of tender devotion; he had the alabaster nose of Serafina restored by a skilful statuary, and then tore himself from the tomb.

He could now no longer doubt the fact that, somehow or other, he had skipped over a whole century, during the night he had spent at the Island of the Seven Cities; and he was now as complete a stranger in his native city, as if he had never been there. A thousand times did he wish himself back to that wonderful island, with its antiquated banquet halls, where he had been so courteously received; and now that the once young and beautiful Serafina was nothing but a great-grandmother in marble, with generations of descendants, a thousand times would he recall the melting black eyes of the Alcayde's daughter, who doubtless, like himself, was still flourishing in fresh juvenility, and breathe a secret wish that he were seated by her side.

He would at once have set on foot another expedition, at his own expense, to cruise in search of the sainted island, but his means were exhausted. He endeavored to rouse others to the enterprise, setting forth the certainty of profitable results, of which his own experience furnished such unquestionable proof. Alas! no one would give faith to his tale; but looked upon it as the feverish dream of a shipwrecked man. He persisted in his efforts; holding forth in all places and all companies, until he became an object of jest and jeer to the light-minded, who mistook his earnest enthusiasm for a proof of insanity; and the very children in the streets bantered him with the title of "The Adelantado of the Seven Cities."

Finding all his efforts in vain, in his native city of Lisbon, he took shipping for the Canaries, as being nearer the latitude of his former cruise, and inhabited by people given to nautical adventure. Here he found ready listeners to his story; for the old pilots and mariners of those parts were notorious island-hunters and devout believers in all the wonders of the seas. Indeed, one and all treated his adventure as a common occurrence, and turning to each other, with a sagacious nod of the head, observed, "He has been at the Island of St. Brandan."

They then went on to inform him of that great marvel and enigma of the ocean; of its repeated appearance to the inhabitants of their islands; and of the many but ineffectual expeditions that had been made in search of it. They took him to a promontory of the island of Palma, from whence the shadowy St. Brandan had oftenest been descried, and they pointed out the very tract in the west where its mountains had been seen.

Don Fernando listened with rapt attention. He had no longer a doubt that this mysterious and fugacious island must be the same with that of the Seven Cities; and that there must be some supernatural influence connected with it, that had operated upon himself, and made the events of a night occupy the space of a century.

He endeavored, but in vain, to rouse the islanders to another attempt at discovery; they had given up the phantom island as indeed inaccessible. Fernando, however, was not to be discouraged. The idea wore itself deeper and deeper in his mind, until it became the engrossing subject of his thoughts and object of his being. Every morning he would repair to the promontory of Palma, and sit there throughout the live-long day, in hopes of seeing the fairy mountains of St. Brandan peering above the horizon; every evening he returned to his home, a disappointed man, but ready to resume his post on the following morning.

His assiduity was all in vain. He grew gray in his ineffectual attempt; and was at length found dead at his post. His grave is still shown in the island of Palma, and a cross is erected on the spot where he used to sit and look out upon the sea, in hopes of the reappearance of the enchanted island.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


facebook share button twitter share button reddit share button share on pinterest pinterest

Add The Adelantado of the Seven Cities to your library.

Return to the Washington Irving library , or . . . Read the next short story; The Bermudas

© 2022