In a vast hall open to public view and access, two thrones had been erected under a rich canopy of brocade, and near them waved thirty Moorish banners captured at Granada and Malaga, trophies of the recent conquest. Seated upon these thrones, Ferdinand and Isabella waited the arrival of the discoverer. He entered among a crowd of brilliant Spanish knights, his tall and erect figure, his flowing gray hair and beard, his lofty bearing, his benignant aspect and his great deeds making him appear, as he really was, the noblest champion of them all. The sovereigns arose to receive him, when a murmur of applause burst from the lips of the haughty grandees present. The admiral knelt before the monarchs, when the queen bade him rise. He then asked permission to kiss the hands of Ferdinand and Isabella, who, after God, had most favored him. The boon was granted, when the admiral took his seat among the nobles, and with a clear and steady voice he recounted the chief incidents of his voyage, exhibited gold and spices, and other productions of the country he had discovered, and then declared that all this was but the foreshadowing of greater marvels to be revealed. His words were listened to with the most profound interest and emotion. When they had ceased, the monarchs cast themselves upon their knees, and with tears coursing down their cheeks they fervently thanked God for so great a blessing. The whole multitude followed their devout example. As they arose to their feet, the choir of the royal chapel chanted the Te Deum. Every voice in the great hall took up the words of that glorious hymn of praise, "and it seemed," says Las Casas, "as if, in that hour, they communicated with celestial delights." The company were dismissed with the apostolic benediction by the Grand Cardinal of Spain, and the streets of Barcelona echoed and re-echoed with shouts of joy.
That Grand Cardinal of Spain, Gonzales de Mendoza, Archbishop of Toledo, who had hinted to a council that the theory of Columbus was irreligious, was now among the first, after the monarchs, to honor him. He invited the admiral to a feast, at which were gathered some of the highest prelates and nobles of Catalonia. To the navigator he gave the seat of honor at the table, and other marks of superior distinction. These attentions to one who was so lately a poor italian mariner excited the envy of some of the guests. A courtier present, moved by a narrow feeling of personal and national jealousy, asked the admiral whether he thought that in case he had not discovered the Indies (which it was believed he had found), there were not men in Spain who would have been equal to the enterprise? Columbus immediately took an egg that was before him, and invited the courtier to make it stand on one of its ends. He could not. All the company tried in vain to do it. Then the admiral struck the egg upon the table so as to flatten the end by a fracture and left it standing. "Any one could do that," cried the courtier. "After I have shown the way," replied the admiral. "Gentlemen," continued Columbus, "after I have shown a new way to India, nothing is easier than to follow." The courtier was answered.
After giving an account of his voyage and discoveries in a letter to Sanchez, the treasurer of Spain (which was printed), Columbus, at the request of the monarchs, immediately fitted out another expedition to continue his researches in the western seas. The harbor of Cadiz was very soon the scene of busy preparation, and late in September, 1493, the admiral left the bay with three large ships of heavy burthen, and fourteen caravels, with fifteen hundred men. We will not follow him in his subsequent voyages in detail, for they have no special bearing on the history of our country. It is sufficient to say that he made three others from Spain, and that during the last but one, he discovered the continent of America. When he left Cadiz on his second voyage in the autumn of 1493, his good fortune seemed to forsake him. His followers were largely selfish adventurers who went out in search of gold and other treasures. Quarrels and mutinies followed disappointed expectations. The chief blame was laid upon the shoulders of the admiral, and he finally became a victim to the intrigues of vicious men, who, envious of his fame and dignities, sought continually to build up their own fortunes out of the ruins of his character.
Columbus sailed on his third voyage, at the close of May, 1498, with six ships, from the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, near the mouth of the Guadalquiver. Passing the Cape de Verde Islands, he proceeded toward the equator in a southwesterly direction, and then sailed due west with the trade winds, in search of a continent. Supposing Cuba to be a great cape of Asia, he believed that under the equator he would find not only the main land, but every production of nature in greater profusion, perfection, and preciousness, than elsewhere. He was not disappointed, for on the 1st of August he saw the continent, not of Asia, but of South America, near the mouth of the Orinoco River. That was not many days after Sebastian Cabot, an English navigator, discovered North America.
Columbus coasted for awhile near the shores of South America, and then, broken in health by his labors, anxieties and exposures, he sailed for his colony on Hispaniola. There he found everything in disorder; and in his efforts to bring order out of confusion, he so interfered with the selfish projects of leading adventurers there, that they determined to ruin him. Preferring malicious and false charges against him, at the court of Spain, they induced the sovereigns to send out a commissioner to inquire into the causes of the difficulties. Francisco de Bobadilla was sent. He was as ambitious and as unscrupulous as any of the adventurers, and after deposing Columbus from the vice-royalty, he sent him in chains to Spain. Valleja, who was sent with the admiral as a sort of guard, and also the master of the caravel in which Columbus was conveyed, were grieved by this cruel treatment of the man whom they revered. They would have removed his irons, but Columbus would not allow them to do so. "No," he said proudly; "their majesties commanded me by letter to submit to whatever Bobadilla should order in their name; by their authority he has put upon me these chains; I will wear them until they shall order them to be taken off, and I will preserve them afterwards as relics and memorials of the reward of my services." It was done. "I saw them always hanging in his cabinet," said his son and biographer, Fernando, "and he requested that when he died, they might be buried with him."
When, after the arrival of the caravel at Cadiz, Isabella heard of the cruel treatment of Columbus, she was very indignant, and sent an order for his immediate restoration to liberty. The sovereigns wrote a letter to him couched in terms of affection and gratitude, expressing their grief because of his sufferings, and inviting him to the court. The people, too, were very indignant, and were loud in their denunciations of the treatment of such a benefactor of their country. When he arrived at Granada, in December, 1498, he was cordially received by the monarchs, who, disavowing the doings of Bobadilla as contrary to their instructions, promised that he should be dismissed from office. But the Spanish, nobles, jealous of Columbus because he was evidently a royal favorite, persuaded the king, who was dissatisfied with the apparent unproductiveness of the admiral's discoveries, not to reinstate him in the vice-royalty. Another was appointed in the place of Bobadilla. After experiencing neglect, and alternate hope and disappointment, for almost four years, whilst others were reaping the harvest of his seed-time, the admiral was entrusted with the command of a small expedition to find a passage through "the sea" now known as the Gulf of Mexico, into the Indian Ocean. He sailed with four caravels and one hundred and fifty men, early in May, 1502, and after much suffering, returned to Cadiz in November, 1504, sick and dejected. Nineteen days after his arrival, the good Queen Isabella died. "She was one of the purest spirits that ever ruled over the destinies of a nation," says Mr. Irving. With her died the hopes of the admiral, for he knew how cold and calculating was the disposition of the king. That ungrateful monarch, after torturing the discoverer with the cold politeness and evasive promises for which he was noted, rejected the legal and equitable claims of Columbus to the dignities and emoluments of vice-royalty which had been secured to him by royal contract; and this great and good man, then about seventy years of age, who had given more real honor and glory to Spain than had the whole line of her kings or the families of her nobles, was allowed to pass the remnant of his days in comparative poverty and obscurity. "I have," Columbus once wrote, "no place to repair to excepting an inn, and often with nothing to pay for my sustenance." At length, when he was utterly prostrated, and hopeless of justice, death came to his relief at Valladolid on the 20th day of May, 1506, as he was uttering the words, "Lord, into thy hands I commit my spirit." His remains were put into the convent of San Francisco, where, for seven years, no stone or inscription marked the place of his burial. Then the ashamed king, when the navigator's bones were removed to a monastery in Seville, ordered a marble tomb to be placed over them with the inscription:
A CASTILLA Y A LEON NUEVO MUNDO DIO COLON.
"To Castile and Leon, Columbus gave a New World." He "asked for bread" and he gave him "a stone." More indelibly than on brass or marble, is the truth of that inscription engraved on the memory of mankind.
Columbus died with full faith that although princes might neglect him and wicked men might defraud him, God and eternal justice would vindicate his honor and his fame, and that the world would pay to him the just homage due for his services. He also died in the belief that he had discovered Farther India, and not an unknown continent; and such was the belief of all navigators and scientific men at that time.
In the year 1536, the remains of Columbus and of his son Diego, were taken to Hispaniola, and interred in the Cathedral at San Domingo. There they remained two hundred and sixty years, when, in 1796, they were conveyed with great pomp to Havana, in Cuba, where they now repose. A few years ago, a magnificent monument to the memory of Columbus, was erected in his native city of Genoa, in the centre of one of its public squares, where it is surrounded by flowers and shrubbery. It is composed of Carrara marble, and is about forty feet in height. On four panels between four pedestals are represented, in relief sculpture, four great events in his life, namely, his Conference with the Council at Salamanca; the Landing in America; Presenting the Indians to Queen Isabella, and the Admiral in Chains. Upon each pedestal is a figure personifying respectively Navigation, History, Astronomy and Wisdom. On a round shaft which rises between these figures are sculptured in high relief the prows of ancient vessels. This shaft is surmounted by a slightly colossal statue of Columbus, resting his left hand on an anchor, whilst with his right hand he presents a naked Indian maiden, sitting modestly at his feet, holding in her hand a small cross upon which she is gazing intently, her head adorned with the plumage of birds. This figure represents America; and the faith of Columbus that the New World would receive the religion of Jesus Christ is indicated by the symbol of the Atonement.
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