If men would examine how many are killed with weapons and how many eat and drink themselves to death, there would be found more dead from the cup and the kitchen than from the thrust of a sword. — Thomas More

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Columbus and the Queen

Genoa having refused to help him, Columbus, some time later, explained his wishes to John II., the new king of Portugal, for Henry the Navigator was dead. This ruler also took great interest in such matters, but as he was not very wise himself, he called together a council of his most learned men to listen to all that Columbus had to say. These men declared the plan absurd; but the king did not feel quite sure that they were right.

John did not wish any other country to have the glory of finding the new road to India; still, he did not want to trust a ship to Columbus. Advised by one of his bishops, he secretly sent out a light ship, with orders to sail directly westward. The captain and crew did not believe one could sail across the Atlantic, and were sorely afraid of the monsters which they fancied swarmed in the Sea of Darkness. They therefore took advantage of the very first storm to come back, reporting that it was impossible to go any farther.

When Columbus heard that the king had been so dishonest as to try to steal his ideas, he was justly indignant. He left Lisbon in anger, vowing he would have nothing more to do with such a ruler. Still, as he was fully determined not to give up his cherished plan to try himself, he sent his brother Bartholomew to England to ask if Henry VII. would give him a ship.

Columbus, Isabella and Ferdinand

In the meanwhile Columbus staid in Spain, earning a scanty living for himself and his little son Diego; for by this time his wife had died, leaving him alone with this child. But although so poor that he often had to beg food, Columbus thought night and day of the time when he would sail westward to Asia. As he went from place to place, he tried to interest various people in his plans, and for a while believed that some Spanish noblemen would help him.

But they finally told him they could not undertake such an important expedition, and advised him to apply for aid to the king and queen at Cordova. Hoping still, Columbus journeyed thither, and found that the royal couple were too busy trying to drive the Moors out of Spain to pay much attention to him. Time went on thus, and while Columbus was anxiously waiting, Portuguese seamen crept down the coast of Africa until they reached its southern point. There a tempest raged so fiercely that the captain called it the Cape of Storms, and, not daring to venture around it, sailed home. When he told John II. of his discovery, the king declared that the cape should henceforth be called the Cape of Good Hope, for there were now good prospects of reaching India by coasting all around Africa.

In 1487, the very year that the Portuguese thus finished exploring the western coast of Africa, Columbus was called before the learned men of the Spanish court at Salamanca, to explain what it was he wanted to do.

But after talking about his plan for three years, these men also declared it was impossible, because one of the fathers of the church had said that the earth could not be round. Columbus was in despair, for he had spent years in trying to convince them, and in following the court from one city to another.

Greatly discouraged, yet determined not to give up, Columbus decided to leave Spain and go to France to seek help of the French king. He therefore set out on foot for the nearest seaport, but on the way thither stopped at the monastery of La Rabida to ask for a drink of water and a bit of bread for his hungry boy.

While the child was eagerly eating the food given him, the prior, or chief of the monastery, passed by. Struck by the noble appearance of Columbus, he began to question him. Columbus then told Prior Perez how much he longed to carry out the plan upon which he had set his heart.

[Illustration] from Story of the Thirteen Colonies by Helene Guerber

The prior, who was a learned man, listened with great interest to the tale Columbus told. He also invited the travelers to tarry with him a few days, and sending for his friends, bade them hear what the stranger had to say. Among the listeners were the brothers Pinzon, experienced seamen from the neighboring port of Palos.

The prior and the Pinzons were so impressed by all Columbus said that the latter offered to furnish a ship and go with him, provided he could secure enough help to carry out his plan. As for the prior, he offered to go to court and persuade Queen Isabella—whose confessor he had once been—to supply the necessary funds.

True to his resolve, the prior rode off on his mule, and laid the whole subject so simply and plainly before Isabella that she promised to give all the help needful. This answer so pleased Perez that he wrote to Columbus, "I came, I saw, God conquered," and sent him money, bidding him come to court without further delay.

It seemed at first as if Columbus's troubles were now over; but in spite of all Isabella's good will, some time passed by before she and King Ferdinand could hear him. Then, more delays having occurred, Columbus set out, in disgust, to try his luck elsewhere. But Isabella, fearing that the chance of great wealth and honor would escape her, sent a messenger after him, saying she would even pledge her own jewels to raise the necessary sum. Hearing this, Columbus came back, and only with great difficulty secured a royal promise that he should have the title of admiral, that he and his descendants should govern any lands he discovered for Spain, and that he and they should receive one tenth of all the pearls, gold, and spices brought to Spain from these new countries.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell