She frowned and rose, her luxurious skirts rustling as she stepped down the stairs that led up to her throne. She began to walk down the long thick rug which led out of the room but paused. For a moment she stood and gazed up at the tall and magnificent ceiling; poised like a flower looking toward the sun; erect and with her beautiful auburn hair flowing in waves down the back of her pale green dress. Her courtiers waited in mute and expectant silence as she turned, and with a thoughtful and slightly sympathetic look upon her pretty face, swept a paper off of a small carven table and read it, though she herself had cast it there in disdain only a few minutes before. Suddenly she turned to a young man who stood with his weather worn hat in his hands and his eyes fixed on her in readiness.
"Ivan," her clear voice rang out with resolve, "Go and fetch that man whom I turned away only a bit ago. But be swift! I need to speak with him again this afternoon and I do believe he rode a horse."
The young messenger looked at her in wonder for a brief second while the rest of the court gasped, and then dropped on one knee to kiss the hand of the Queen.
"It shall be as you wish, your Majesty," he murmured, and then springing up, he left the room in haste.
His clothes were torn and dirty. His shoes worn, but still fit well around his feet. His hair hung grimy and unkempt, and his shoulders drooped as though from a heavy burden; but his eyes were still bright and full of always vibrant dreams and hopes. Christopher was his name, Christopher Columbus. At his side staggered a tired form, twelve but small for his age, whose shoulders and head were bent forwards in a valiant attempt to bear his burden like a man. It was impossible for him to ignore the dry and parched feeling in his throat and the aching of his head which had been steadily growing over the course of the last few hours. So long had it been since they took a break from their never ending walking! So long since they had tasted fresh, pure water! He sighed and marched on in silence.
It was nearly dusk when they turned around a corner of the road and saw before them the monastery of La Rabida. The young boy immediately turned to his Father, clutching his hand.
"Oh Father," He cried hoarsely, "Don't you think we could stop here and get a drink of water?"
Columbus turned to look at the boy whose face was upturned in piteous pleading. He smiled, and the effect which it had on his face was astonishing. All the lines of care and worry were smoothed away in an expression of love and sympathy.
"Of course we may, Diego, my lad," he said,
"Perhaps they will even allow us to refill our flasks." He added hopefully.
So they turned in and knocked on the gate. It was soon answered by a kind looking man dressed in a long black robe.
"Hello," he greeted, with a gentle smile, "May I help you in any way?"
"Yes, thank you," replied Columbus, "My son is thirsty and our water has run out. Could you perhaps spare us a drink?"
"Spare you a drink," he cried, "By all means! Please, come inside!"
Thanking him heartily, they stepped inside.
"Ruben," the man called, "Make haste to get some food and drink for two weary travelers!"
Another man in a long black robe appeared, looked at the travelers curiously, and then with a nod, disappeared into a back room. In a matter of minutes they found themselves sitting down to a basin of water to wash themselves, a good meal and cool, clear, water to quench their thirst.
After satisfying themselves and again thanking their host, Diego promptly fell asleep curled before the fire, and Columbus sat talking with the their host, Juan Perez. As always, Columbus's eyes lighted with a sudden eagerness and fire when he spoke of the intent of his journey.
" I am going to find a shorter way to India," he explained when questioned, "Shorter than going around the tip of Africa, that is."
"Ah! Do you plan to go by land or by sea?" Inquired Juan.
"By sea," he answered, "and I need ships and supplies to make the voyage."
"Venturing out into the great unknown?!"
"Yes, I am not afraid! I am of the belief that it is not so bad as it is made out to be." Replied Columbus firmly. "No one has ever even gone out there to see if any of the legends about fire and monsters are true! I for one, am not afraid to see if they are true; for I believe that they are merely wives' tales! And as to finding a shorter way to get to India, if there is a way, and I'm sure that there is, I Christopher Columbus, will be the one to find it!" He rose and began to pace back and forth. "Then there will be riches in great amounts that I am sure to find, and who knows what all they may be! Those I will give to whomever chooses to bless me with their help and encouragement for my voyage. Also, and most importantly, I am Christopher, which means Christ-Bearer, and all those heathen natives need to hear about the true faith. I will be the one to take it to them! I Christopher Columbus-the Christ-Bearer to these heathens. This is a large portion of my goal, Juan Perez, to take them the news of Christ."
Juan sat in silence for a while, then looked up and queried, "Whom have you asked for help?"
Columbus's shoulders sagged suddenly from his erect posture, and he sat down again wearily, "I have asked King John the II of Portugal, Queen Isabella of Spain, and since both refused, am now on my way to ask the King of France," he waved his hands in despair and continued, "And if the King of France refuses me I will have no where else to turn, since my brother has already asked and been refused by the King of England!"
He slumped down and dropped his head into his hands.
Juan gazed at him for a moment.
"You have interested me greatly Christopher," he mused, "and I do not think that you will have much success with the King of France, but," he continued holding up his hand as Columbus started to interject, "I am acquainted with Queen Isabella and might just be able to interest her more in your great plan."
"Do you really think you might?!" Columbus cried eagerly, then sighed. "Really, I do not think you will have much success unless you know her very, very well." He said ruefully. "I have already used every method I have to interest her, and even then it took her some time to decide. Seven years! And alas! Her answer was no! Perhaps I shall not ever be able to get help to prove that there is indeed a short way to India!" He sighed again and sat with his head bowed and lips set, quite the picture of sorrow and disappointment.
"Come, come!" Cried Juan, aggrieved to see his new friend so depressed. "I know her at least well enough to have a good chance of convincing her to think hard about your plan!"
"That's just it though," moaned Columbus despondently. "She has already thought about it--thought hard. Seven long years of thinking hard, while I grew old with waiting! And for all those years of thinking hard, her answer was still 'No'."
"Nonetheless," persisted Juan, "there surely would be no harm trying again; especially if I tried! Come now my friend, do not be rid of all hope. You are certainly tired, you must sleep."
Finally Columbus allowed himself to be convinced of Juan's judgment and went to bed. For the first time in many nights he slept well and restfully, perhaps because he knew that there was one more chance of help from Queen Isabella, or perhaps because he had not slept in a good bed for a while. Whatever the reason may have been, when Juan left the next morning to go see the Queen concerning him, Columbus waited hopefully, determined not to be depressed if she again said no. Therefore, he was pleasantly surprised and thrilled when Juan came back in the evening with the report that the Queen would see Columbus again the very next day.
... to be continued!