CHAPTER III. HOW COLUMBUS GAINED A QUEEN FOR HIS FRIEND.
When you wish very much to do a certain thing it is dreadfully hard to be patient; it is harder still to have to wait. Columbus had to do both. The wars against the Moors were of much greater interest to the king and queen of Spain than was the finding of a new and very uncertain way to get to Cathay. If it had not been for the patience and what we call the persistence of Columbus, America would never have been discovered—at least not in his time.
He stayed in Spain. He grew poorer and poorer. He was almost friendless. It seemed as if his great enterprise must be given up. But he never lost hope. He never stopped trying. Even when he failed he kept on hoping and kept on trying. He felt certain that sometime he should succeed.
As we have seen, he tried to interest the rulers of different countries, but with no success. He tried to get help from his old home-town of Genoa and failed; he tried Portugal and failed; he tried the Republic of Venice and failed; he tried the king and queen of Spain and failed; he tried some of the richest and most powerful of the nobles of Spain and failed; he tried the king of England (whom he got his brother, Bartholomew Columbus, to go and see) and failed. There was still left the king of France. He would make one last attempt to win the king and queen of Spain to his side and if he failed with them he would try the last of the rulers of Western Europe, the king of France.
He followed the king and queen of Spain as they went from place to place fighting the Moors. He hoped that some day, when they wished to think of something besides fighting, they might think of him and the gold and jewels and spices of Cathay.
The days grew into months, the months to years, and still the war against the Moors kept on; and still Columbus waited for the chance that did not come. People grew to know him as “the crazy explorer” as they met him in the streets or on the church steps of Seville or Cordova, and even ragged little boys of the town, sharp-eyed and shrill-voiced, would run after this big man with the streaming white hair and the tattered cloak, calling him names or tapping their little foreheads with their dirty fingers to show that even they knew that he was “as crazy as a loon.”
At last he decided to make one more attempt before giving it up in Spain. His money was
gone; his friends were few; but he remembered his acquaintances at Palos and so he journeyed back to see once more his good friend Friar Juan Perez at the Convent of Rabida on the hill that looked out upon the Atlantic he was so anxious to cross.
It was in the month of November, 1491, that he went back to the Convent of Rabida. If he could not get any encouragement there, he was determined to stay in Spain no longer but to go away and try the king of France.
Once more he talked over the finding of Cathay with the priests and the sailors of Palos. They saw how patient he was; how persistent he was; how he would never give up his ideas until he had tried them. They were moved by his determination. They began to believe in him more and more. They resolved to help him. One of the principal sea captains of Palos was named Martin Alonso Pinzon. He became so interested that he offered to lend Columbus money enough to make one last appeal to the king and queen of Spain, and if Columbus should succeed with them, this Captain Pinzon said that he would go into partnership with Columbus and help him out when it came to getting ready to sail to Cathay.
This was a move in the right direction. At once a messenger was sent to the splendid Spanish camp before the city of Granada, the last unconquered city of the Moors of Spain. The king and queen of Spain had been so long trying to capture Granada that this camp was really a city, with gates and walls and houses. It was called Santa Fe. Queen Isabella, who was in Santa Fe, after some delay, agreed to hear more about the crazy scheme of this persistent Genoese sailor, and the Friar Juan Perez was sent for. He talked so well in behalf of his friend Columbus that the queen became still more interested. She ordered Columbus to come and see her, and sent him sixty-five dollars to pay for a mule, a new suit of clothes and the journey to court.
About Christmas time, in the year 1491, Columbus, mounted upon his mule, rode into the Spanish camp before the city of Granada. But even now, when he had been told to come, he had to wait. Granada was almost captured; the Moors were almost conquered. At last the end came. On the second of January, 1492, the Moorish king gave up the keys of his beloved city, and the great Spanish banner was hoisted on the highest tower of the Alhambra—the handsomest building in Granada and one of the most beautiful in the world. The Moors were driven out of Spain and Columbus’s chance had come.