11 - How the Admiral Came and Went Again
I suppose you think Bobadilla was a
very cruel man. He was. But
in his time people were apt to be cruel to one another
they had the power in their own hands. The days in which
lived were not like these in which we are living. You can
be too thankful for that, boys and girls. Bobadilla had
to go over the water and set the Columbus matters straight.
had been brought up to believe that to set matters straight
must be harsh and cruel; and so he did as he was used to
other people in power do. Even Queen Isabella did not hesitate
do some dreadful things to certain people she did not like
she got them in her power. Cruelty was common in those
was what we call the "spirit of the age." So
you must not blame
Bobadilla too much, although we will all agree that it
hard on Columbus.
So Columbus, as I have told you, sailed back to Spain.
the officer who had charge of him and whose name was Villijo,
got out to sea and out of Bobadilla's sight, he wanted
the chains off. For he loved Columbus and it made him feel
sad to see the old Admiral treated like a convict or a
Let me have these cruel chains struck off, Your Excellency,
said. No, no, Villijo, Columbus replied. Let these fetters
upon me. My king and queen ordered me to submit and Bobadilla
put me in chains. I will wear these irons until my king
shall order them removed, and I shall keep them always
and memorials of my services.
It always makes us sad to see any one in great trouble.
of a great man who has fallen low or of a rich man who
poor, always makes us say: Is not that too bad? Columbus
enemies in Spain. The nobles of the court, the men who
money in voyages to the Indies, the people whose fathers
and brothers had sailed away never to return, could not
anything bad enough about "this upstart Italian," as
But to the most of the people Columbus was still the great
Admiral. He was the man who had stuck to his one idea until
had made a friend of the queen; who had sailed away into
and proved the Sea of Darkness and the Jumping-off place
only fairy tales after all; who had found Cathay and the
for Spain. He was still a great man to the multitude.
So when on a certain October day, in the year 1500, it
abroad that a ship had just come into the harbor of Cadiz,
bringing home the great Admiral, Christopher Columbus,
and in chains, folks began to talk at once. Why, who has
this? they cried. Is this the way to treat the man who
Cathay for Spain, the man whom the king and the queen delighted
to honor, the man who made a procession for us with all
birds and animals and pagan Indians? It cannot be. Why,
remember how he sailed into Palos Harbor eight years ago
received like a prince with banners and proclamations and
salutes. And now to bring him home in chains! It is a shame;
is cruel; it is wicked. And when people began to talk in
way, the very ones who had said the worst things against
began to change their tone.
As soon as the ship got into Cadiz, Columbus sent off
a letter to
a friend of his at the court in the beautiful city of Granada.
This letter was, of course, shown to the queen. And it
about what Columbus had suffered, and was, so full of sorrow
humbleness and yet of pride in what he had been able to
though he had been disgraced, that Queen Isabella (who
a friend to Columbus in spite of her dissatisfaction with
things he sometimes did) became very angry at the way he
She took the letter to King Ferdinand, and at once both
and the queen hastened to send a messenger to Columbus
him how angry and sorry they were that Bobadilla should
dared to treat their good friend the Admiral so. They ordered
immediate release from imprisonment; they sent him a present
five thousand dollars and asked him to come to court at
On the seventeenth of December, 1500, Columbus came to
at Granada in the beautiful palace of the Alhambra. He
rode on a
mule. At that time, in Spain, people were not allowed to
mules, because if they did the Spanish horses would not
and sold, as mules were so much cheaper and were easier
But Columbus was sick and it hurt him to ride horseback,
could be fairly comfortable on an easy-going mule. So the
and queen gave him special permission to come on mule-back.
When Columbus appeared before the queen, looking so sick
troubled, Isabella was greatly affected. She thought of
had done and all he had gone through and all he had suffered,
as he came to the steps of the throne the queen burst into
That made Columbus cry too, for he thought a great deal
queen, and he fell at her feet and told her how much he
her, and how much he was ready to do for her, if he could
have the chance.
Then the king and queen told him how sorry they were that
should have so misunderstood their desires and have treated
brave and loyal Admiral so shamefully. They promised to
everything all right for him again, and to show him that
were his good friends now as they always had been since
he first sailed away to find the Indies for them and for
Of course this made Columbus feel much better. He had
in fear and trembling. He had come home expecting something
dreadful was going to happen; he would not have been surprised
a long imprisonment; he would not even have been surprised
had been put to death--for the kings and queens and high
his day were very apt to order people put to death if they
not like what had been done. The harsh way in which Bobadilla
treated him made him think the king and queen had really
it. Perhaps they had; and perhaps the way in which the
cried out in indignation when they saw the great Admiral
ashore in chains had its influence on Queen Isabella. King
Ferdinand really cared nothing about it. He would gladly
seen Columbus put in prison for life; but the queen had
to say about things in her kingdom, and so King Ferdinand
believe he was sorry and talked quite as pleasantly to
as did the queen.
Now Columbus, as you must have found out by this time,
quick to feel glad as he was to feel sad. And when he found
the king and queen were his friends once more, he became
hope again and began to say where he would go and what
do when he went back again as Viceroy of the Indies and
of the Ocean Seas. He begged the queen to let him go back
at once, with ships and sailors and the power to do as
in the islands he had found and in the lands he hoped to
They promised him everything, for promising is easy. But
had once more to learn the truth of the old Bible warning
had called to mind years before on the Bridge of Pinos:
your trust in princes.
The king and queen talked very nicely and promised much,
one thing King Ferdinand had made up his mind--Columbus
never go back again to the Indies as viceroy or governor.
King Ferdinand was as stubborn as Columbus was persistent.
Not very much gold had yet been brought back from the
the king and queen knew from the reports of those who had
over the seas and kept their eyes open that, in time, a
deal of gold and treasure would come from there. So they
that if they kept their promises to Columbus he would take
too large a slice of their profits, and if they let him
everything to say there it would not be possible to let
people, who were ready to share the profits with them,
discovering on their own hook.
So they talked and delayed and sent out other expeditions
kept Columbus in Spain, unsatisfied. Another governor was
over to take the place of Bobadilla, for they soon learned
that ungentlemanly knight was not even so good or so strict
governor as Columbus had been.
Almost two years passed in this way
and still Columbus stayed in
Spain. At last the king and queen said he might go if he
not go near Hayti and would be sure to find other and better
Columbus did not relish being told where to go and where
go like this; but he promised. And on the ninth of May,
with four small caravels and one hundred and fifty men,
Christopher Columbus sailed from Cadiz on his fourth and
voyage to the western world.
He was now fifty-six years old. That is not an age at
would call any one an old man. But Columbus had grown old
before his time. Care, excitement, exposure, peril, trouble
worry had made him white-haired and wrinkled. He was sick,
nearly blind, he was weak, he was feeble--but his determination
was just as firm, his hope just as high, his desire just
strong as ever. He was bound, this time, to find Cathay.
And he had one other wish. He had enemies in Hayti; they
laughed and hooted at him when he had been dragged off
and sent in chains on board the ship. He did wish to get
with them. He could not forgive them. He wanted to sail
harbor of Isabella and Santo Domingo with his four ships
say: See, all of you! Here I am again, as proud and powerful
ever. The king and queen have sent me over here once more
ships and sailors at my command. I am still the Admiral
Ocean Seas and all you tried to do against me has amounted
This is not the right sort of a spirit to have, either
for men or
boys; it is not wise or well to have it gratified. Forgiveness
better than vengeance; kindliness is better than pride.
At any rate, it was not to be gratified with Columbus.
ships arrived off the coast of Hayti, although his orders
the king and queen were not to stop at the island going
temptation to show himself was too strong. He could not
it. So he sent word to the new governor, whose name was
that he had arrived with his fleet for the discovery of
in the Indies, and that he wished to come into Santo Domingo
Harbor as one of his ships needed repairs; he would take
opportunity, he said, of mending his vessel and visiting
governor at the same time.
Now it so happened that Governor Ovando was just about
Spain a large fleet. And in these ships were to go some
men who had treated Columbus so badly. Bobadilla, the
ex-governor, was one of them; so was the rebel Roldan who
done so much mischief; and there were others among the
and prisoners whom Columbus disliked or who hated Columbus.
was also to go in the fleet a wonderful cargo of gold--the
largest amount yet sent across to Spain. There were twenty-six
ships in all, in the great gold fleet, and the little city
Santo Domingo was filled with excitement and confusion.
We cannot altogether make out whether Governor Ovando
friend to Columbus or not. At any rate, he felt that it
unwise and unsafe for Columbus to come into the harbor
himself in the town when so many of his bitter enemies
there. So he sent back word to Columbus that he was sorry,
that really he could not let him come in.
How bad that must have made the old Admiral feel! To be
admission to the place he had found and built up for Spain!
was unkind, he said; he must and would go in.
Just then Columbus, who was a skillful sailor and knew
signs of the sky, and all about the weather, happened to
the singular appearance of the sky, and saw that there
sign that a big storm was coming on. So he sent word to
Ovando again, telling him of this, and asking permission
into the harbor of Santo Domingo with his ships to escape
coming storm. But the governor could not see that any storm
coming on. He said: Oh! that is only another way for the
to try to get around me and get me to let him in. I can't
So, he sent back word a second time that he really could
Columbus come in. I know you are a very clever sailor,
but, really, I think you must be mistaken about this storm.
any rate, you will have time to go somewhere else before
on, and I shall be much obliged if you will.
Now, among the twenty-six vessels of the gold fleet was
which was stored some of the gold that belonged to Columbus
his share, according to his arrangement with the king and
If a storm came on, this vessel would be in danger, to
nothing of all the rest of the fleet. So Columbus sent
Governor Ovando a third time. He told him he was certain
storm was coming. And he begged the governor, even if he
allowed to come up to Santo Domingo, by all means to keep
fleet in the harbor until the storm was over. If you don't,
will surely be trouble, he said. And then he sailed with
ships along shore looking for a safe harbor.
But the people in Santo Domingo put no faith in the Admiral's
"probabilities." There will be no storm, the captains
officers said. If there should be our ships are strong
stand it. The Admiral Columbus is getting to be timid as
older. And in spite of the old sailor's warning, the big
fleet sailed out of the harbor of Santo Domingo and headed
But almost before they had reached the eastern end of
of Hayti, the storm that Columbus had prophesied burst
It was a terrible tempest. Twenty of the ships went to
bottom. The great gold fleet was destroyed. The enemies
Columbus--Bobadilla, Roldan and the rest were drowned.
Only a few
of the ships managed to get back into Santo Domingo Harbor,
broken and shattered. And the only ship of all the great
that got safely through the storm and reached Spain all
the one that carried on board the gold that belonged to
Was not that singular?
Then all the friends of Columbus cried: How wonderful!
Lord is on the side of the great Admiral!
But his enemies said: This Genoese is a wizard. He was
because the governor would not let him come into the harbor,
he raised this storm in revenge. It is a dangerous thing
interfere with the Admiral's wishes.
For you see in those days people believed in witches and
and all kinds of fairy-book things like those, when. they
not explain why things happened. And when they could not
good reason for some great disaster or for some stroke
luck, they just said: It is witchcraft; and left it so.