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the keys of that favourite seat of Moslem power; while the king and queen, with all the chivalry and magnificence of Spain, moved forward in proud and solemn procession, to receive this token of submission. It was one of the most brilliant triumphs in Spanish history. The air resounded with shouts of joy, with songs of triumph and hymns of thanksgiving. On every side were beheld military rejoicings and religious oblations. The court was thronged by the most illustrious of that warlike country, and stirring era; by the flower of its nobility, the most dignified of its prelacy, by bards and minstrels, and all the retinue of a romantic and picturesque age.
During this brilliant and triumphant scene, says an elegant Spanish writer, "A man, obscure and but little known, followed the court. Confounded in the crowd of importunate applicants, and feeding his imagination, in the corners of antechambers, with the pompous project of discovering a world, he was melancholy and dejected in the midst of the general rejoicing, and beheld with indifference, almost with contempt, the conclusion of a conquest which swelled all bosoms with jubilee, and seemed to have reached the utmost bounds of desire. That man was Christopher Columbus."
The moment had now arrived, however, when the monarchs stood pledged to attend to his proposals. They kept their word, and persons of confidence were appointed to negotiate with him, among whom was Fernando de Talavera, who, by the recent conquest, had risen to be archbishop of Granada. At the very outset of their negotiation, however, unexpected difficulties arose. The prin
cipal stipulation of Columbus was, that he should be invested with the titles and privileges of admiral and viceroy, over the countries he should discover, with one tenth of all gains, either by trade or conquest. The courtiers who treated with him were indignant at such a demand from one whom they had considered a needy adventurer. One observed, with a sneer, that it was a shrewd arrangement which he proposed, whereby he was certain of the profits and honours of a command, and had nothing to lose in case of failure. To this Columbus promptly replied, by offering to furnish one eighth of the cost, on condition of enjoying an eighth of the profits. His terms, however, were pronounced inadmissible, and others were offered, of more moderate nature, but he refused to cede one point of his demands, and the negotiation was broken off.
It is impossible not to admire the great constancy of purpose and loftiness of spirit here displayed by Columbus. Though so large a portion of life had worn away in fruitless solicitings, during which he had experienced the bitterness of poverty, neglect, ridicule, and disappointment; though there was no certainty that he would not have to enter upon the same career at any other court; yet nothing could shake his perseverance, or make him descend to terms which he considered beneath the dignity of his enterprise. Indignant at the repeated disappointments he had experienced in Spain, he now determined to abandon it for ever, and, mounting his mule, sallied forth from Santa Fé, on his way to Cordova, with the intention of immediately proceeding from thence to France.
When the few friends, who were zealous believers in the theory of Columbus, saw him on the point of abandoning the country, they were filled with distress. Among the number was Luis de St. Angel, receiver of the ecclesiastical revenues of Arragon, and Alonzo de Quintanilla, who determined to make one bold effort to avert the evil. They hastened to the queen, and St. Angel addressed her with a courage and eloquence inspired by the exigency of the moment. He did not confine himself to entreaties, but almost mingled reproaches. He expressed his astonishment that a queen who had evinced the spirit to undertake so many great and perilous enterprises should hesitate at one where the loss could be but trifling, while the gain might be incalculable; for all that was required for this great expedition was but two vessels, and about thirty thousand crowns, and Columbus himself had offered to bear an eighth of the expense. He reminded her how much might be done for the glory of God, the promotion of the christian faith, and the extension of her own power and dominion, should this enterprise be adopted; but what cause of regret it would be to herself, of sorrow to her friends, and triumph to her enemies, should it be rejected by her, and accomplished by some other power. He vindicated the judgment of Columbus, and the soundness and practicability of his plans; and observed, that even a failure would reflect no disgrace upon the crown. It was worth the trouble and expense to clear up even a doubt, upon a matter of such importance; for it belonged to enlightened and magnanimous princes to investi
gate questions of the kind, and to explore the wonders and secrets of the universe.
These, and many more arguments were urged, with that persuasive power which honest zeal imparts. The generous spirit of Isabella was enkindled, and it seemed as if the subject, for the first time, broke upon her mind in its real grandeur. She declared her resolution to undertake the enterprise, but paused for a moment, remembering that King Ferdinand looked coldly on the affair, and that the royal treasury was absolutely drained by the war. Her suspense was but momentary. With an enthusiasm worthy of herself and of the cause, she exclaimed, "I undertake the enterprise for my own crown of Castile, and will pledge my jewels to raise the necessary funds." This was the proudest moment in the life of Isabella; it stamped her renown for ever as the patroness of the discovery of the New World.
St. Angel, eager to secure this favourable resolution, assured her majesty that there would be no need of pledging her jewels, as he was ready to advance the necessary funds, as a loan from the treasury of Arragon: his offer was gladly accepted.
Columbus had proceeded on his solitary journey across the vega of Granada, and had reached the bridge of Pinos, about two leagues from that city, a pass famous for bloody encounters during the Moorish wars. Here he was overtaken by a courier sent after him in all speed by the queen, requesting him to return to Santa Fé. He hesitated for a moment, to subject himself again to
the delays and equivocations of the court; but when he was informed that Isabella had positively undertaken the enterprise, and pledged her royal word, every doubt was dispelled; he turned the reins of his mule, and hastened back joyfully to Santa Fé, confiding implicitly in the noble probity of that princess.