9 - How the Troubles of the Admiral Began
Both the farmers and the gold hunters
had a hard time of it in
the land they had come to so hopefully. The farmers did
to farm when they thought they could do so much better
hunting; the gold hunters found that it was the hardest
work to get from the water or pick from the rocks the yellow
metal they were so anxious to obtain.
Columbus himself was not satisfied with the small amount
he got from the streams and mines of Hayti; he was tired
wrangling and grumbling of his men. So, one day, he hoisted
on his five ships and started away on a hunt for richer
mines, or, perhaps, for those wonderful cities of Cathay
still determined to find.
He sailed to the south and discovered the island of Jamaica.
he coasted along the shores of Cuba. The great island stretched
away so many miles that Columbus was certain it was the
of Asia. There was some excuse for this mistake. The great
of small islands he had sailed by all seemed to lie just
books about Cathay that he had read said they did; the
fruits that he found in these islands seemed to be just
that travelers said grew in Cathay.
To be sure the marble temples, the golden-roofed palaces,
gorgeous cities had not yet appeared; but Columbus was
that he had found Asia that he made all his men sign a
which they declared that the land they had found (which
you know, the island of Cuba) was really and truly the
This did not make it so, of course; but it made the people
Spain, and the king and queen, think it was so. And this
important. So, to keep the sailors from going back on their
and the statement they had signed, Columbus ordered that
officer should afterward say he had been mistaken, he should
fined one hundred dollars; and if any sailor should say
should receive one hundred lashes with a whip and have
pulled out. That was a curious way to discover Cathay,
Then Columbus, fearing another shipwreck or another mutiny,
sailed back again to the city of Isabella. His men were
discontented, his ships were battered and leaky, his hunt
gold and palaces had again proved a failure. He sailed
Jamaica; he got as far as the eastern end of Hayti, and
just as he was about to run into the harbor of Isabella,
strength gave out. The strain and the disappointment were
much for him; he fell very, very sick, and on the twenty-ninth
September, 1494, after just about five months of sailing
wandering and hunting, the Nina ran into Isabella Harbor
Columbus so sick from fever that he could not raise his
his head to give an order to his men.
For five long months Columbus lay in his stone house on
or square of Isabella a very sick man. His brother Bartholomew
had come across from Spain with three supply ships, bringing
provisions for the colony. So Bartholomew took charge of
for a while.
And while Columbus lay so sick, some of the leading men
colony seized the ships in which Bartholomew Columbus had
his brother's aid, and sailing back to Spain they told
and queen all sorts of bad stories about Columbus. They
Spaniards. Columbus was an Italian. They were jealous of
because he was higher placed and had more to say than they
They were angry to think that when he had promised to bring
to the gorgeous cities and the glittering gold mines of
had only landed them on islands which were the homes of
savages, and made them work dreadfully hard for what little
they could find. He had promised them power; they went
poorer than when they came away. So they were "mad" at
Columbus--just as boys and girls are sometimes "mad" at
another; and they told the worst stories they could think
about him, and called him all sorts of hard names, and
king and queen of Spain ought to look out for "their
Admiral," or he would get the best of them and keep
the most of whatever he could find in the new lands.
At last Columbus began to grow better. And when he knew
enemies had done he was very much troubled for fear they
get the king and queen to refuse him any further aid. So,
soon as he was able, on the tenth of March, 1496, he sailed
How different was this from his splendid setting out from
two years before. Then everything looked bright and promising;
now everything seemed dark and disappointing. The second
to the Indies had been a failure.
So, tired of his hard work in trying to keep his dissatisfied
in order, in trying to check the Indians who were no longer
friends, in trying to find the gold and pearls that were
got at only by hard work, in trying to make out just where
and just where Cathay might be, Columbus started for home.
troubled, disappointed, threatened by enemies in the Indies
by more bitter enemies at home, sad, sorry and full of
yet as determined and as brave as ever, on the tenth of
1496, he went on board his caravels with two hundred and
homesick and feversick men, and on the eleventh of June
vessels sailed into the harbor of Cadiz.
The voyage had been a tedious one. Short of food, storm-tossed
and full of aches and pains the starving company "crawled
ashore," glad to be in their home land once more,
and most of
them full of complaints and grumblings at their commander,
And Columbus felt as downcast as any. He came ashore dressed,
in the gleaming armor and crimson robes of a conqueror,
as on his
first return, but in the garb of what was known as a
penitent--the long, coarse gown, the knotted girdle and
hood of a priest. For, you see, he did not know just what
terrible stories had been told by his enemies; he did not
how the king and queen would receive him. He had promised
much; he had brought them so little. He had sailed away
hopefully; he had come back humbled and hated. The greatest
in the world, he had been in 1492; and in 1496 he was
unsuccessful, almost friendless and very unpopular. So
boys and girls, that success is a most uncertain thing,
man who is a hero to-day may be a beggar to-morrow.
But, as is often the case, Columbus was too full of fear.
not really in such disgrace as he thought he was. Though
enemies had said all sorts of hard things against him,
king--and especially the queen--could not forget that he
after all, the man who, had found the new land for Spain;
knew that even though he had not brought home the great
that were to have been gathered in the Indies, he had still
for Spain a land that would surely, in time, give to it
possessions and power.
So they sent knightly messengers to Columbus telling him
and see them at once, and greeting him with many pleasant
friendly words. Columbus was, as you must have seen, quick
feel glad again the moment things seemed to turn in his
he laid aside his penitent's gown, and hurried off to court.
almost the first thing he did was to ask the king and queen
fit out another fleet for him. Six ships, he said he should
this time; and with these he was certain he could sail
yet undiscovered waters that lay beyond Hayti and upon
knew he should find Cathay.
I am afraid the king and queen of Spain were beginning
to feel a
little doubtful as to this still undiscovered Cathay. At
rate, they had other matters to think of and they did not
very anxious to spend more money on ships and sailors.
talked very nicely to Columbus; they gave him a new title
time it was duke or marquis); they made him a present of
tract of land in Hayti, but it was months and months before
would help him with the ships and money he kept asking
At last, however, the queen, Isabella, who had always
interest in Columbus and his plans than had the king, her
husband, said a good word for him. The six ships were given
men and supplies were put on board and on the twentieth
1498, the Admiral set out on his third voyage to what every
now called the Indies.
There was not nearly so much excitement among the people
this voyage. Cathay and its riches had almost become an
story; at any rate it was a story that was not altogether
believed in. Great crowds did not now follow the Admiral
place to place begging him to take them with him to the
The hundreds of sick, disappointed and angry men who had
home poor when they expected to be rich, and sick when
expected to be strong, had gone through the land, and folks
to think that Cathay was after all only a dream, and that
stories of great gold and of untold riches which they had
were but "sailors' yarns" which no one could
So it was hard to get together a crew large enough to
man the six
vessels that made up the fleet. At last, however, all was
and with a company of two hundred men, besides his sailors,
Columbus hoisted anchor in the little port of San Lucar
north of Cadiz, near the mouth of the Guadalquivir river,
sailed away into the West.
This time he was determined to find the continent of Asia.
though, as you remember, he made his men sign a paper saying
the coast of Cuba was Asia, he really seems to have doubted
himself. He felt that he had only found islands. If so,
Cathay must be the other side of those islands; and Cathay
what I must find.
So, with this plan in mind, he sent three of his ships
little settlement of Isabella, and with the other three
more to the southwest. On the first of August the ships
sight of the three mountain peaks of the large island he
Trindad, or Trinity.
Look on your map of South America and you will see that
lies almost in the mouth of the Orinoco, a mighty river
northern part of South America.
Columbus coasted about this island, and as he did so,
across to the west, he saw what he supposed to be still
island. It was not. It was the coast of South America.
first time, but without knowing it, Columbus saw the great
continent he had so long been hunting for, though he had
seeking it under another name.
So you see, the story of Columbus shows how his life was
mistakes. In his first voyage he found an island and thought
was the mainland of the Eastern Hemisphere; in his third
he discovered the mainland of the New World and thought
an island off the coast of the Old World. His life was
mistakes, but those mistakes have turned out to be, for