Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations


Category: Christopher Columbus



“What? Leave Spain? Impossible!” Fray Juan Perez walked angrily about his study at La Rabida. “It’s unthinkable that this great project should go to France. This is Spain’s chance for everlasting glory. You must stay. Wait until Granada has been won.”

Columbus shrugged and sighed. “I have no more patience,” he said. “I’m not a young man any more. I can’t wait all my life.”

“Listen,” the friar said, “a long time ago I knew the queen well. I was her confessor. She will listen to me, I know. Let me write to her.”

“All right,” Columbus said at last.

It was two weeks before they received the queen’s reply. She asked Columbus to wait for a short time, for the fall of Granada would be very soon. And she wanted to see Fray Juan immediately.

Fray Juan was happy. “What did I tell you?” he shouted. The next morning he left for the war camp at Santa Fe on a mule.

Not long after, another letter came from the queen, this time to Columbus himself. It was an invitation to court. Enclosed were twenty thousand maravedis so that Columbus could buy himself a new suit and a mule for the journey.

Success was near, he felt. His heart was light.

He arrived at Santa Fe in time to join the triumphal march into the fallen city of Granada. Thousands of voices cheered as the beaten Moors rode away to leave Spain for ever.

Fray Juan warned him: “Don’t ask for too much.”

But Columbus ignored him. “I cannot ask for too much,” he told the friar. “I am offering them great gifts, asking only a little!”

When he came before the king and queen at last, he walked proudly, holding his head high.

Columbus told them what he wanted. His terms were the same as those he had once proposed to the king of Portugal. He wanted to be made a Don. He was to be called “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” in and over all islands and mainlands he would discover. He wanted to be appointed viceroy and governor of all mainlands and islands in the Ocean Sea. He demanded to

take a tenth part of all precious metals and profits coming from those lands.

The queen’s face grew pale as Columbus spoke.

When Columbus finished, the king pointed to the door. “Get out,” he said, “and don’t come back!”

Columbus turned and walked out. He saddled his mule and rode away. So this was the final result of six wasted years in Spain! A beaten man, he rode out of the gates of Granada on his mule.

The court was excited. Fray Juan Perez stood silent.

The king and queen sent away everyone from their room. They wanted a moment to calm themselves.

But the door opened and a tall man, elegantly dressed, stood there looking at them sadly. It was Luis de Santangel, the king’s treasurer.

“Get out of here!” cried Ferdinand.

But Santangel did not move. He said grimly, “I am astonished to see that Your Highness is lacking self-control today.”

“You too?” said Ferdinand. “Haven’t we had enough today? Did you hear that upstart dictate his terms to me?”

Santangel nodded. “I heard him. He is a proud man. He has suffered much.”

King Ferdinand looked closely at his financial adviser. “Do you want me to make that Genoese peasant a Don of Spain, Admiral of the Ocean Sea? Do you, my treasurer, say we should give him a tenth of all profits?”

“Why not?” he said. “Columbus is asking only for what he feels he deserves. Do you realize what it will mean to Spain if he succeeds? Perhaps he will take one-tenth of the profits, but we will take nine-tenth, will we not? A western route to the Indies will provide more wealth and power for Spain than any of us ever dreamed of. For that power we must give him a nobleman’s title.”

“Go on,” said Isabella.

Santangel continued: “What is the risk? Columbus does not ask for these titles and privileges just now. He asked for them only if he finds what he is looking for. Fair enough, I say. Refuse him and you get nothing. Accept him and you may get nine-tenths of the greatest wealth the world has ever seen. And, after all, we have clever lawyers who are well skilled at writing contracts. Who knows — perhaps some time later that nine-tenths will be ten-tenths!”

“Perhaps you are right,” said Ferdinand. “But how will we finance such an enterprise? We have used all our money in the war with the Moors.”

“I’ll pawn my jewels,” offered the queen. “We mustn’t let another nation undertake this.”

Santangel smiled. “It will not be necessary to pawn your jewels, Your Highness,” he said. “We have a little more in the treasure than is known to the world. We will find the money. I have much money myself which I would like to invest in the project — at a reasonable interest, of course.” The king and queen looked at each other.

“All right,” said Ferdinand, “let’s do it.”

The queen clapped her hands. “Quick!” she said. “Send a messenger after Columbus. Tell him to return to us immediately. It is a command!”

Ten miles away from Granada Columbus rode on his mule. “Must I really go to France?” he thought. “What is the use! The French is not more intelligent than the kings of Portugal and Spain.”

There was a clatter of hoofs behind him. “Christopher Columbus?” a rider on a lathered horse asked.

Columbus looked up and said, “I am he.”

The messenger took off his hat. “Return to the court, Captain Columbus,” he said. “The king and queen want you back immediately. The queen commands!”

For a moment Christopher Columbus could not say a word. His eyes were wet. At last, at last, after so long!

He turned the mule about, and the two men rode back to Granada.

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