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Printable Columbus Day Story for kids - The True Story of Christopher ColumbusColumbus Day Stories

The True Story of Christopher Columbus
- A Chapter Book

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14


Christopher Columbus True Stories for Teachers
Printable Children's Literature


Home > Holidays > Columbus Day > The True Story of Christopher Columbus > Chapter 11

Chapter 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 whenever they had the power in their own hands. The days in which Columbus lived were not like these in which we are living. You can never be too thankful for that, boys and girls. Bobadilla had been told to go over the water and set the Columbus matters straight. He had been brought up to believe that to set matters straight you must be harsh and cruel; and so he did as he was used to seeing other people in power do. Even Queen Isabella did not hesitate to do some dreadful things to certain people she did not like when she got them in her power. Cruelty was common in those days. It was what we call the "spirit of the age." So you must not blame Bobadilla too much, although we will all agree that it was very hard on Columbus.

So Columbus, as I have told you, sailed back to Spain. But when the officer who had charge of him and whose name was Villijo, had got out to sea and out of Bobadilla's sight, he wanted to take the chains off. For he loved Columbus and it made him feel very sad to see the old Admiral treated like a convict or a murderer. Let me have these cruel chains struck off, Your Excellency, he said. No, no, Villijo, Columbus replied. Let these fetters remain upon me. My king and queen ordered me to submit and Bobadilla has put me in chains. I will wear these irons until my king and queen shall order them removed, and I shall keep them always as relics and memorials of my services.

It always makes us sad to see any one in great trouble. To hear of a great man who has fallen low or of a rich man who has become poor, always makes us say: Is not that too bad? Columbus had many enemies in Spain. The nobles of the court, the men who had lost money in voyages to the Indies, the people whose fathers and sons and brothers had sailed away never to return, could not say anything bad enough about "this upstart Italian," as they called Columbus.

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 he had made a friend of the queen; who had sailed away into the West and proved the Sea of Darkness and the Jumping-off place to be only fairy tales after all; who had found Cathay and the Indies for Spain. He was still a great man to the multitude.

So when on a certain October day, in the year 1500, it was spread abroad that a ship had just come into the harbor of Cadiz, bringing home the great Admiral, Christopher Columbus, a prisoner and in chains, folks began to talk at once. Why, who has done this? they cried. Is this the way to treat the man who found Cathay for Spain, the man whom the king and the queen delighted to honor, the man who made a procession for us with all sorts of birds and animals and pagan Indians? It cannot be. Why, we all remember how he sailed into Palos Harbor eight years ago and was received like a prince with banners and proclamations and salutes. And now to bring him home in chains! It is a shame; it is cruel; it is wicked. And when people began to talk in this way, the very ones who had said the worst things against him 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 told all about what Columbus had suffered, and was, so full of sorrow and humbleness and yet of pride in what he had been able to do, even though he had been disgraced, that Queen Isabella (who was really a friend to Columbus in spite of her dissatisfaction with the things he sometimes did) became very angry at the way he had been treated.

She took the letter to King Ferdinand, and at once both the king and the queen hastened to send a messenger to Columbus telling him how angry and sorry they were that Bobadilla should have dared to treat their good friend the Admiral so. They ordered his immediate release from imprisonment; they sent him a present of five thousand dollars and asked him to come to court at once.

On the seventeenth of December, 1500, Columbus came to the court at Granada in the beautiful palace of the Alhambra. He rode on a mule. At that time, in Spain, people were not allowed to ride on mules, because if they did the Spanish horses would not be bought and sold, as mules were so much cheaper and were easier to ride. But Columbus was sick and it hurt him to ride horseback, while he could be fairly comfortable on an easy-going mule. So the king and queen gave him special permission to come on mule-back.

When Columbus appeared before the queen, looking so sick and troubled, Isabella was greatly affected. She thought of all he had done and all he had gone through and all he had suffered, and as he came to the steps of the throne the queen burst into tears. That made Columbus cry too, for he thought a great deal of the queen, and he fell at her feet and told her how much he honored her, and how much he was ready to do for her, if he could but have the chance.

Then the king and queen told him how sorry they were that any one should have so misunderstood their desires and have treated their brave and loyal Admiral so shamefully. They promised to make everything all right for him again, and to show him that they were his good friends now as they always had been since the day he first sailed away to find the Indies for them and for Spain.

Of course this made Columbus feel much better. He had left Hayti in fear and trembling. He had come home expecting something dreadful was going to happen; he would not have been surprised at a long imprisonment; he would not even have been surprised if he had been put to death--for the kings and queens and high lords of his day were very apt to order people put to death if they did not like what had been done. The harsh way in which Bobadilla had treated him made him think the king and queen had really ordered it. Perhaps they had; and perhaps the way in which the people cried out in indignation when they saw the great Admiral brought ashore in chains had its influence on Queen Isabella. King Ferdinand really cared nothing about it. He would gladly have seen Columbus put in prison for life; but the queen had very much to say about things in her kingdom, and so King Ferdinand made believe he was sorry and talked quite as pleasantly to Columbus as did the queen.

Now Columbus, as you must have found out by this time, was as quick to feel glad as he was to feel sad. And when he found that the king and queen were his friends once more, he became full of hope again and began to say where he would go and what he would do when he went back again as Viceroy of the Indies and Admiral of the Ocean Seas. He begged the queen to let him go back again at once, with ships and sailors and the power to do as he pleased in the islands he had found and in the lands he hoped to find.

They promised him everything, for promising is easy. But Columbus had once more to learn the truth of the old Bible warning that he had called to mind years before on the Bridge of Pinos: Put not your trust in princes.

The king and queen talked very nicely and promised much, but to one thing King Ferdinand had made up his mind--Columbus should never go back again to the Indies as viceroy or governor. And King Ferdinand was as stubborn as Columbus was persistent.

Not very much gold had yet been brought back from the Indies, but the king and queen knew from the reports of those who had been over the seas and kept their eyes open that, in time, a great deal of gold and treasure would come from there. So they felt that if they kept their promises to Columbus he would take away too large a slice of their profits, and if they let him have everything to say there it would not be possible to let other people, who were ready to share the profits with them, go off discovering on their own hook.

So they talked and delayed and sent out other expeditions and kept Columbus in Spain, unsatisfied. Another governor was sent over to take the place of Bobadilla, for they soon learned that that ungentlemanly knight was not even so good or so strict a 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 would not go near Hayti and would be sure to find other and better gold lands.

Columbus did not relish being told where to go and where not to go like this; but he promised. And on the ninth of May, 1502, with four small caravels and one hundred and fifty men, Christopher Columbus sailed from Cadiz on his fourth and last voyage to the western world.

He was now fifty-six years old. That is not an age at which we would call any one an old man. But Columbus had grown old long before his time. Care, excitement, exposure, peril, trouble and worry had made him white-haired and wrinkled. He was sick, he was nearly blind, he was weak, he was feeble--but his determination was just as firm, his hope just as high, his desire just as strong as ever. He was bound, this time, to find Cathay.

And he had one other wish. He had enemies in Hayti; they had laughed and hooted at him when he had been dragged off to prison and sent in chains on board the ship. He did wish to get even with them. He could not forgive them. He wanted to sail into the harbor of Isabella and Santo Domingo with his four ships and to say: See, all of you! Here I am again, as proud and powerful as ever. The king and queen have sent me over here once more with ships and sailors at my command. I am still the Admiral of the Ocean Seas and all you tried to do against me has amounted to nothing,

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 is better than vengeance; kindliness is better than pride.

At any rate, it was not to be gratified with Columbus. When his ships arrived off the coast of Hayti, although his orders from the king and queen were not to stop at the island going over, the temptation to show himself was too strong. He could not resist it. So he sent word to the new governor, whose name was Ovando, that he had arrived with his fleet for the discovery of new lands in the Indies, and that he wished to come into Santo Domingo Harbor as one of his ships needed repairs; he would take the opportunity, he said, of mending his vessel and visiting the governor at the same time.

Now it so happened that Governor Ovando was just about sending to Spain a large fleet. And in these ships were to go some of the men who had treated Columbus so badly. Bobadilla, the ex-governor, was one of them; so was the rebel Roldan who had done so much mischief; and there were others among the passengers and prisoners whom Columbus disliked or who hated Columbus. There 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 of Santo Domingo was filled with excitement and confusion.

We cannot altogether make out whether Governor Ovando was a friend to Columbus or not. At any rate, he felt that it would be unwise and unsafe for Columbus to come into the harbor or show himself in the town when so many of his bitter enemies were there. So he sent back word to Columbus that he was sorry, but that really he could not let him come in.

How bad that must have made the old Admiral feel! To be refused admission to the place he had found and built up for Spain! It was unkind, he said; he must and would go in.

Just then Columbus, who was a skillful sailor and knew all the signs of the sky, and all about the weather, happened to notice the singular appearance of the sky, and saw that there was every sign that a big storm was coming on. So he sent word to Governor Ovando again, telling him of this, and asking permission to run into the harbor of Santo Domingo with his ships to escape the coming storm. But the governor could not see that any storm was coming on. He said: Oh! that is only another way for the Admiral to try to get around me and get me to let him in. I can't do it. So, he sent back word a second time that he really could not, let Columbus come in. I know you are a very clever sailor, he said, but, really, I think you must be mistaken about this storm. At any rate, you will have time to go somewhere else before it comes on, and I shall be much obliged if you will.

Now, among the twenty-six vessels of the gold fleet was one in which was stored some of the gold that belonged to Columbus as his share, according to his arrangement with the king and queen. If a storm came on, this vessel would be in danger, to say nothing of all the rest of the fleet. So Columbus sent in to Governor Ovando a third time. He told him he was certain a great storm was coming. And he begged the governor, even if he was not allowed to come up to Santo Domingo, by all means to keep the fleet in the harbor until the storm was over. If you don't, there will surely be trouble, he said. And then he sailed with his 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 and the officers said. If there should be our ships are strong enough to stand it. The Admiral Columbus is getting to be timid as he grows older. And in spite of the old sailor's warning, the big gold fleet sailed out of the harbor of Santo Domingo and headed for Spain.

But almost before they had reached the eastern end of the island of Hayti, the storm that Columbus had prophesied burst upon them.

It was a terrible tempest. Twenty of the ships went to the bottom. The great gold fleet was destroyed. The enemies of 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 fleet that got safely through the storm and reached Spain all right was the one that carried on board the gold that belonged to Columbus. Was not that singular?

Then all the friends of Columbus cried: How wonderful! Truly the Lord is on the side of the great Admiral!

But his enemies said: This Genoese is a wizard. He was mad because the governor would not let him come into the harbor, and he raised this storm in revenge. It is a dangerous thing to interfere with the Admiral's wishes.

For you see in those days people believed in witches and spells and all kinds of fairy-book things like those, when. they could not explain why things happened. And when they could not give a good reason for some great disaster or for some stroke of bad luck, they just said: It is witchcraft; and left it so.


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