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- Christopher Columbus - 1/25 -
TRUE STORIES OF GREAT AMERICANS
Whatever can be known of earth we know, Sneered Europe's wise men, in their snail shells curled; No! said one man in Genoa, and that No Out of the dark created the New World.
--JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
CHAPTER I COLUMBUS BEFRIENDED BY ROYALTY
CHAPTER II THE YOUTH OF COLUMBUS
CHAPTER III "LANDS IN THE WEST"
CHAPTER IV THE SOJOURN IN MADEIRA
CHAPTER V A SEASON OF WAITING
CHAPTER VI A RAY OF HOPE
CHAPTER VII ISABELLA DECIDES
CHAPTER VIII OFF AT LAST!
CHAPTER IX "LAND! LAND!"
CHAPTER X NATIVES OF THE NEW LAND
CHAPTER XI THE RETURN IN THE _NINA_
CHAPTER XII DAYS OF TRIUMPH
CHAPTER XIII PREPARING FOR A SECOND VOYAGE
CHAPTER XIV FINDING NEW ISLANDS
CHAPTER XV ON A SEA OF TROUBLES
CHAPTER XVI THE THIRD VOYAGE
CHAPTER XVII A RETURN IN DISGRACE
CHAPTER XVIII PUBLIC SYMPATHY
CHAPTER XIX THE LAST VOYAGE
CHAPTER XX THE COURAGE OF DIEGO MENDEZ
CHAPTER XXI "INTO PORT"
COLUMBUS BEFRIENDED BY ROYALTY
Spain, as every one knows, was the country behind the discovery of America. Few people know, however, what an important part the beautiful city of Granada played in that famous event. It was in October, 1492, that Columbus first set foot on the New World and claimed it for Spain. In January of that same year another territory had been added to that same crown; for the brave soldier-sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, had conquered the Moorish kingdom of Granada in the south and made it part of their own country.
Nearly eight hundred years before, the dark-skinned Moors had come over from Africa and invaded the European peninsula which lies closest to the Straits of Gibraltar, and the people of that peninsula had been battling fiercely ever since to drive them back to where they came from. True, the Moor had brought Arabian art and learning with him, but he had brought also the Mohammedan religion, and _that_ was intolerable not only to the Spaniards but to all Europeans. No Christian country could brook the thought of this Asiatic creed flourishing on her soil, so Spain soon set to work to get rid of it.
This war between the two religions began in the north near the Bay of Biscay whither the Christians were finally pushed by the invaders. Each century saw the Moors driven a little farther south toward the Mediterranean, until Granada, where the lovely Sierra Nevadas rise, was the last stronghold left them. Small wonder, then, that when Granada was finally taken the Spanish nation was supremely happy. Small wonder that they held a magnificent fete in their newly-won city in the "Snowy Mountains." The vanquished Moorish king rode down from his mountain citadel and handed its keys to Ferdinand and Isabella. Bells pealed, banners waved, and the people cheered wildly as their victorious sovereigns rode by.
And yet, so we are told by a writer who was present, in the midst of all this rejoicing one man stood aside, sad and solitary. While all the others felt that their uttermost desire had been granted in acquiring the Moorish kingdom, _he_ knew that he could present them with a far greater territory than Granada if only they would give him the chance. What were these olive and orange groves beside the tropic fertility of the shores he longed to reach, and which he would have reached long ere this, he told himself regretfully, if only they had helped him! What was the Christianizing of the few Moors who remained in Spain compared with the Christianizing of all the undiscovered heathen across the Atlantic!
And so on that eventful January 2, 1492, when a whole city was delirious with joy,
"There was crying in Granada when the sun was going down, Some calling on the Trinity-- some calling on Mahoun. Here passed away the Koran--there in the Cross was borne-- And here was heard the Christian bell-- and there the Moorish horn."
On that great day of jubilee one man, a stranger, but as devout a Christian as any of the conquerors, stood apart downcast, melancholy, saddened by years of fruitless waiting for a few ships. That man was Christopher Columbus.
When you know that Columbus was present by special invitation, that a friend of the queen's had secured him the promise of an interview with full consideration of his plans just as soon as the city surrendered, you may think he should have looked happy and hopeful with the rest; but the fact was, that for nearly seven years the monarchs had been holding out promises, only to put him off, until his faith in princes had dwindled to almost nothing.
But, as it happened, they really meant it this time. Moreover, it is only fair to Ferdinand and Isabella to believe that they had always meant it, but they had been so preoccupied with the enormous task of welding poor Spain, long harassed by misrule and war, into a prosperous nation, that they had neither time nor money for outside ventures. Certain it is that when Granada was really conquered and they had their first respite from worry, the man who was known at court as the "mad Genoese" was summoned to expound his plan of sailing far out into the west where he was certain of finding new lands.
Where this meeting took place is not known positively, but probably it was in the palace called the Alhambra, a marvelous monument of Arabian art which may be visited to-day. Columbus stood long in the exquisite audience chamber, pleading and arguing fervently; then he came out dejected, mounted his mule, and rode wearily away from Spain's new city; for Spain, after listening attentively to his proposals, had most emphatically refused to aid him. It was surely a sorry reward, you will say, for his six years' waiting. And yet the man's courage was not crushed; he started off for France, to try his luck with the French king.
This is what had happened at the Spanish court. The great navigator talked clearly and convincingly about the earth being round instead of flat as most people still supposed; and how, since Europe, Asia, and Africa covered about six sevenths of the globe's surface, and the Atlantic Ocean the remaining seventh (here he quoted the prophet Esdras), [Footnote: "Upon the third day thou didst command that the waters should be gathered in the seventh part of the earth. Six parts hast thou dried up and kept them to the intent that of these some being planted of God and tilled might serve thee.... Upon the fifth day thou saidst unto the seventh part where the waters were gathered that it should bring forth living creatures, fowls and fishes, and so it came to pass." Apocrypha, 2 Esdras vi. 42, 47.] any one by sailing due west must surely come to land. So clear was his own vision of this land that he almost saw it as he spoke; and his eloquence made his hearers almost see it too. One after another they nodded their approval, and approval had never before been won when he addressed a Spanish audience. But when Archbishop Talavera, who was spokesman for King Ferdinand, asked the would-be discoverer what reward he expected in case his voyage was successful, the answer was so unexpected that nearly every man in the room was indignant.
This answer is worth looking into carefully if one is to understand why the Spanish nobility thought that Columbus drove a hard bargain. He demanded of their Highnesses,
_First_: That he should be made Admiral over all seas and territories he might discover, the office to continue for life and to descend to his heirs forever, with all its dignities and salaries.
_Second_: That he should be made Viceroy and Governor-General of
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