CHAPTER II. WHAT PEOPLE THOUGHT OF THE IDEA. Continued…
And when, in this way, Columbus found out that King John had tried to use his ideas without letting him know anything about it, he was very angry. His wife had died in the midst of this mean trick of the Portuguese king, and so, taking with him his little five-year-old son, Diego, he left Portugal secretly and went over into Spain.
Near the little town of Palos, in western Spain, is a green hill looking out toward the Atlantic. Upon this hill stands an old building that, four hundred years ago, was used as a a convent or home for priests. It was called the Convent of Rabida, and the priest at the head of it was named the Friar Juan Perez. One autumn day, in the year 1484, Friar Juan Perez saw a dusty traveler with a little boy talking with the gate-keeper of the convent. The stranger was so tall and fine-looking, and seemed such an interesting man, that Friar Juan went out and began to talk with him. This man was Columbus.
As they talked, the priest grew more and more interested in what Columbus said. He invited him into the convent to stay for a few days, and he asked some other people—the doctor of Palos and some of the sea captains and sailors of the town—to come and talk with this stranger who had such a singular idea about sailing across the Atlantic.
It ended in Columbus’s staying some months in Palos, waiting for a chance to go and see the king and queen. At last, in 1485, he set out for the Spanish court with a letter to a priest who was a friend of Friar Juan’s, and who could help him to see the king and queen.
At that time the king and queen of Spain were fighting to drive out of Spain the people called the Moors. These people came from Africa, but they had lived in Spain for many years and had once been a very rich and powerful nation. They were not Spaniards; they were not Christians. So all Spaniards and all Christians hated them and tried to drive them out of Europe.
The king and queen of Spain who were fighting the Moors were named Ferdinand and Isabella. They were pretty good people as kings and queens went in those days, but they did a great many very cruel and very mean things, just as the kings and queens of those days were apt to do. I am afraid we should not think they were very nice people nowadays. We certainly should not wish our American boys and girls to look up to them as good and true and noble.
When Columbus first came to them, they were with the army in the camp near the city of Cordova. The king and queen had no time to listen to what they thought were crazy plans, and poor Columbus could get no one to talk with him who could be of any help. So he was obliged to go back to drawing maps and selling books to make enough money to support himself and his little Diego.
But at last, through the friend of good Friar Juan Perez of Rabida, who was a priest at the court, and named Talavera, and to whom he had a letter of introduction, Columbus found a chance to talk over his plans with a number of priests and scholars in the city of Salamanca where there was a famous college and many learned men.
Columbus told his story. He said what he wished to do, and asked these learned men to say a good word for him to, Ferdinand and Isabella so that he could have the ships and sailors to sail to Cathay. But it was of no use.
What! sail away around the world? those wise men cried in horror. Why, you are crazy. The world is not round; it is flat. Your ships would tumble off the edge of the world and all the king’s money and all the king’s men would be lost. No, no; go away; you must not trouble the queen or even mention such a ridiculous thing again.
So the most of them said. But one or two thought it might be worth trying. Cathay was a very rich country, and if this foolish fellow were willing to run the risk and did succeed, it would be a good thing for Spain, as the king and queen would need a great deal of money after the war with the Moors was over. At any rate, it was a chance worth thinking about.
And so, although Columbus was dreadfully disappointed, he thought that if he had only a few friends at Court who were ready to say a good word for him he must not give up, but must try, try again. And so he stayed in Spain.