7 - How a Boy Brought the Admiral to Grief
Columbus kept sailing on from one island
to another. Each new
island he found would, he hoped, bring him nearer to Cathay
to the marble temples and golden palaces and splendid cities
was looking for. But the temples and palaces and cities
appear. When the Admiral came to the coast of Cuba he said:
I know, is the mainland of Asia. So he sent off Louis,
interpreter, with a letter to the "great Emperor of
Louis was gone several days; but he found no emperor, no
no city, no gold, no jewels, no spices, no Cathay--only
houses of bark and reeds, fields of corn and grain, with
people who could tell him nothing about Cathay or Cipango
So day after day Columbus kept on his search, sailing
to island, getting a little gold here and there, or some
and silver and a lot of beautiful bird skins, feathers
Then Captain Alonso Pinzon, who was sailing in the Pinta,
believed he could do better than follow the Admiral's lead.
know, he said, if I could go off on my own hook I could
plenty of gold and pearls, and perhaps I could find Cathay.
one day he sailed away and Columbus did not know what had
At last Columbus, sailing on and troubled at the way Captain
Alonso Pinzon had acted, came one day to the island of
Cuba was Cathay (or China), Hayti, he felt sure, must be
(or Japan). So he decided to sail into one of its harbors
spend Christmas Day. But just before Christmas morning
the helmsman of the Santa Maria, thinking that everything
safe, gave the tiller into the hands of a boy--perhaps
little Pedro the cabin boy--and went to sleep. The rest
crew also were asleep. And the boy who, I suppose, felt
to think that he was really steering the Admiral's flagship,
a little too smart; for, before he knew it, he had driven
Santa Maria plump upon a hidden reef. And there she was
They worked hard to get her off but it was no use. She
over on her side, her seams opened, the water leaked in,
waves broke over her, the masts fell out and the Santa
made her last voyage.
Then Columbus was in distress. The Pinta had deserted
Santa Maria was a wreck, the Nina was not nearly large
carry all his men back to Spain. And to Spain he must return
once. What should he do?
Columbus was quick at getting out of a fix. So in this
speedily decided what to do. He set his men at work tearing
wreck of the Santa Maria to pieces. Out of her timbers
woodwork, helped out with trees from the woods and a few
from the shore, he made quite a fort. It had a ditch and
watch-tower and a drawbridge. It proudly floated the flag
Spain. It was the first European fort in the new world.
ramparts Columbus mounted the cannons he had saved from
and named the fort La Navidad--that is, Fort Nativity,
was made out of the ship that was wrecked on Christmas
day of Christ's nativity, his birthday.
He selected forty of his men to stay in the fort until
return from Spain. The most of them were quite willing
to do this
as they thought the place was a beautiful one and they
kept very busy filling the fort with gold. Columbus told
they must have at least a ton of gold before he came back.
left them provisions and powder for a year, he told them
careful and watchful, to be kind to the Indians and to
year such a good one that the king and queen of Spain would
glad to reward them. And then he said good-by and sailed
It was on the fourth of January, 1493, that Columbus turned
little Nina homeward. He had not sailed very far when what
he come across but the lost Pinta. Captain Alonso Pinzon
very much ashamed when he saw the Admiral, and tried to
his absence. Columbus knew well enough that Captain Pinzon
gone off gold hunting and had not found any gold. But he
scold him, and both the vessels sailed toward Spain.
The homeward voyage was a stormy and seasick one. Once
it was so
rough that Columbus thought surely the Nina would be wrecked.
he copied off the story of what he had seen and done, addressed
it to the king and queen of Spain, put it into a barrel
the barrel overboard.
But the Nina was not shipwrecked, and on the eighteenth
February Columbus reached the Azores. The Portuguese governor
so surprised when he heard this crazy Italian really had
returned, and was so angry to think it was Spain and not
that was to profit by his voyage that he tried to make
prisoner. But the Admiral gave this inhospitable welcomer
slip and was soon off the coast of Portugal.
Here he was obliged to land and meet the king of Portugal
same King John who had once acted so meanly toward him.
would have done so again had he dared. But things were
different now. Columbus was a great man. He had made a
voyage, and the king and queen of Spain would have made
hard with the king of Portugal if he dared trouble their
So King John had to give a royal reception to Columbus,
permit him to send a messenger to the king and queen of
with the news of his return from Cathay.
Then Columbus went on board the Nina again and sailed
But his old friend Captain Alonso Pinzon had again acted
For he had left the Admiral in one of the storms at sea
hurried homeward. Then he sailed into one of the northern
of Spain, and hoping to get all the credit for his voyage,
messenger post-haste to the king and queen with the word
had returned from Cathay and had much to tell them. And
too, sailed for Palos.
On the fifteenth of March, 1493, just seven months after
sailed away to the West, Columbus in the Nina sailed into
Harbor. The people knew the little vessel at once. And
a time they made! Columbus has come back, they cried. He
found Cathay. Hurrah! hurrah! And the bells rang and the
boomed and the streets were full of people. The sailors
welcomed with shouts of joy, and the big stories they told
listened to with open mouths and many exclamations of surprise.
So Columbus came back to Palos. And everybody pointed him
cheered him and he was no longer spoken of as "that
who dragged away the men of Palos to the Jumping-off place."
And in the midst of all this rejoicing what should sail
harbor of Palos but the Pinta, just a few hours late! And
Captain Alonso Pinzon heard the sounds of rejoicing, and
that his plans to take away from Columbus all the glory
had been done had all gone wrong, he did not even go to
old friend and ask his pardon. He went away to his own
without seeing any one. And there he found a stern letter
the king and queen of Spain scolding him for trying to
best of Columbus, and refusing to hear or see him. The
had turned out made Captain Alonso Pinzon feel so badly
fell sick; and in a few days he died.
But Columbus, after he had seen his good friend Juan Perez,
friar at Rabida, and told him all his adventures, went
Barcelona where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were
for him. They had already sent him letters telling him
pleased they were that he had found Cathay, and ordering
get ready for a second expedition at once. Columbus gave
directions for this, and then, in a grand procession that
everybody to the street or window or housetop, he set off
Barcelona. He reached the court on a fine April day and
once received with much pleasure by the king and queen
Columbus told them where he had been and what he had seen;
showed them the gold and the pearls and the birds and curiosities
he had brought to Spain as specimens, of what was to be
Cathay; he showed them the ten painted and "fixed-up" Indians
had stolen and brought back with him.
And the king and queen of Spain said he had done well.
him sit beside them while he told his story, and treated
poor Italian wool-weaver as they would one of their great
or mighty lords. They told him he could put the royal arms
alongside his own on his shield or crest, and they bade
together at once ships and sailors for a second expedition
Cathay--ships and sailors enough, they said, to get away
the great cities of Cathay, where the marble temples and
golden palaces must be. It was their wish, they said, to
friendship of the great Emperor of Cathay, to trade with
get a good share of his gold and jewels and spices. For,
no one as yet imagined that Columbus had discovered America.
did not even know that there was such a continent. They
he had sailed to Asia and found the rich countries that
Polo had told such big stories about.
Columbus, you may be sure, was "all the rage" now.
went the people followed him, cheering and shouting, and
him to take them with him on his next voyage to Cathay.
He was as anxious as any one to get back to those beautiful
islands and hunt for gold and jewels. He set to work at
on the twenty-fifth of September, 1493, with a fleet of
ships and a company of fifteen hundred men, Columbus the
set sail from Cadiz on his second voyage to Cathay and
and the Indies. And this time he was certain he should
these wonderful places, and bring back from the splendid
unbounded wealth for the king and queen of Spain.