Chronicles of America 

Columbus Chances Voyages

While awaiting action by the council, Columbus was retained at Court and encouraged by occasional donations of money — donations appearing on record as made to "a stranger occupied with certain affairs relative to the service of their Highnesses." The sums, in all, came to $510 (170,000 maravedis); but, small as they were, they had altogether ceased by 1488. In that year it was, or at the end of 1487, the preceding year, that Columbus for a second time fell victim to feminine attractions. The maiden, like his first bride Felipa, was young — eighteen or twenty years old — possessed a beautiful name, Beatrix Enríquez, and doubtless a beautiful person, but, unlike Felipa, she was humble of birth and very poor. So lowly, indeed, was she that Columbus did not stoop to take her in marriage, but formed with her a liaison, the result of which was the birth, about August 15, 1488, of his second son and future biographer, Ferdinand.

Between the date just given and the spring of 1489, Columbus would seem to have gone back to Portugal under a safe-conduct from John II, but why he went, if he did go, is unknown, and by May 12, 1489, he was again in Spain and in attendance upon Ferdinand and Isabella at the siege of Baza. Thenceforth, however, until the final rejection of his project by the sovereigns in 1490, he drops from view, excepting as we are accorded glimpses of him gaining bread for himself and Beatrix in Cordova by limning marine charts, wherein he evidently had been instructed by his brother Bartholomew, and by selling printed books. This vending of printed books may have meant much in that intellectual advance which has been spoken of as characterizing for the discoverer-to-be the days, somber or hectic, through which he was now passing.

Some years before his brother had fallen on hard times, Bartholomew Columbus had betaken himself from Portugal (where he had witnessed the return of the great Portuguese captain, Bartholomeu Días, from his discovery of the Cape of Good Hope) to enlist the aid of King Henry VII of England in his brother Christopher's project. Then, abandoning England, he had recourse in turn to France, and now was making himself agreeable at the Court of Charles VIII.

Thither Columbus determined to follow him, but his departure was prevented by a visit which he paid to Palos and to the monastery of La Rábida, to make further arrangements for the care of his son Diego. This visit, unlike the first, does not seem to have been inspired by a specific wish for light upon voyages, with strange landfalls, under strange pilots. Columbus was poverty-stricken and, for once, discouraged. With what cheer he might, he met his friend, the former guardian, Antonio de Marchena, and also (perhaps for the first time) the officiating guardian, Juan Perez, once confessor to Queen Isabella.

By these three, under the stimulating zeal of the monks, a plan was contrived. Columbus should thoroughly canvass the maritime section having Palos for a center, for all possible information regarding pioneer voyages into the Sea of Darkness. The first seaman to be sought out and catechized was Pedro de Velasco, a pilot of Palos itself. Next, after Velasco, an unnamed pilot of the port of Santa María, near Cadiz, was visited. He had sailed west from Ireland, and had, he thought, sighted the coasts of Tartary — not improbably Labrador. Finally a second pilot domiciled in Palos, Pedro Vasquez de la Frontera, was waited upon, and what was gathered from him was suggestive indeed. Between 1460 and 1475 he had made a voyage into the West, with "a Prince of Portugal," to discover "new lands." Their purpose was to sail "straight West," but, encountering that vast field of marine herbage known as the Sargasso Sea, he had turned back.

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