Felipa brushed the dark hair back from Diago’s forehead. The four-year-old didn’t stir. She carefully pulled the wooden ship from his small hands, fearful that the masts would jab him in his sleep, and set it on the floor next to the straw stuffed mattress. Diago loved his ship, hand carved by his father, and would not be parted from it while awake. He was so much like his father in his passion for the sea. Felipa’s loving hands pulled the rough blanket higher, covering the sleeping form of her only son. She kissed his warm cheek once more before closing the curtain that separated the sleeping quarters from the rest of the little house.
A chill evaded the far corners of the room. Felipa rubbed her arms through her thin gown, and walked toward the fire. Christoffa looked up from his charts.
“Diago?” Fatherly concern etched his voice.
“He Slumbers.” Felipa carefully made her way around the long legs that stretched before hearth. Christoffa’s younger brother, slumped in the chair. His snores, louder than the breakers at high tide, echoed in the small room.
“As does Bartolomeo.” It was hard to miss the glimmer of humor in Christoffa’s eyes. Bartolomeo had a way of falling asleep right after supper, and missing all of the evening chores. He claimed he needed to rest his eyes after a long day drawing charts and maps. Christoffa did not scold Bartolomeo for his evening naps, for it was Bartolomeo whose excellent drawing brought in twice as many coins as Christoffa’s in their cartographer’s trade.
Felipa looked over the charts on the table. Many of them, she knew, had once belonged to her father.
“On the morrow, I stand before King John II, Felipa. I will offer to find Cipangu and India for him. I have all the figures here.” He pointed to his notes on the table. “I will request that the king name me ‘Great Admiral of the Ocean.’ Oh, Felipa, I have been choosing my words carefully. I will say to him: ‘I should not go eastward as is customary, but by a westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidences that anyone has gone.’ What think you?”
“May I speak plainly?”
“Know you any other way to speak?” Merriment sparkled in his eyes.
“Christoffa,” Felipa’s anxiety would not be put off by his charm, “you have poured over these charts and letters, but how can you be certain that the Orient can be reached by sailing west?”
He pulled out Palo dal Pozzo Toscanelli’s letter. “He knew what he was saying. Toscanelli is a well educated man. His charts and figures make sense. India is there, just beyond the setting sun. I am certain of it. We just haven’t sailed far enough yet.”
“Ever since you discovered that letter, you have been obsessed with this idea. But what if you are wrong?”
“What if I am right? Do you not understand that I will be the Marco Polo of the sea? This letter,” he held up the ten-year-old parchment, “is just the first of my great discoveries. Men will follow after me, but I will go down in history as the man who discovered the route to India across the Atlantic.”
“But how will you return to us, once you are out on the vast sea? You know not what storms, doldrums or dangers you may face.”
“You trouble yourself needlessly. I know the secret to an Atlantic round trip. I will simply swing down and ride the trade winds over to India. Coming back will be a small matter of sailing to a higher latitude and taking the westerlies home.”
Christoffa held up his hand to stop her words. “All of this worry is not good for your health. Trust God to take care of the details. You look pale and weak, why don’t you go rest.”
As he bent back over his charts, Felipa knew there would be no more talking to him that evening. His mind was made up. He had an audience with the king in the morning. All that was left for Felipa was to bathe the matter in prayer. Only God could calm her anxious thoughts.
Felipa died in 1485, seven years before her husband made his famous trip across the Atlantic under the colors of the Spanish flag.
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