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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 9

Chapter 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 not like to farm when they thought they could do so much better at gold hunting; the gold hunters found that it was the hardest kind of 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 of gold he got from the streams and mines of Hayti; he was tired of the wrangling and grumbling of his men. So, one day, he hoisted sail on his five ships and started away on a hunt for richer gold mines, or, perhaps, for those wonderful cities of Cathay he was still determined to find.

He sailed to the south and discovered the island of Jamaica. Then he coasted along the shores of Cuba. The great island stretched away so many miles that Columbus was certain it was the mainland of Asia. There was some excuse for this mistake. The great number of small islands he had sailed by all seemed to lie just as the books about Cathay that he had read said they did; the trees and fruits that he found in these islands seemed to be just the same that travelers said grew in Cathay.

To be sure the marble temples, the golden-roofed palaces, the gorgeous cities had not yet appeared; but Columbus was so certain that he had found Asia that he made all his men sign a paper in which they declared that the land they had found (which was, as you know, the island of Cuba) was really and truly the coast of Asia.

This did not make it so, of course; but it made the people of Spain, and the king and queen, think it was so. And this was most important. So, to keep the sailors from going back on their word and the statement they had signed, Columbus ordered that if any officer should afterward say he had been mistaken, he should be fined one hundred dollars; and if any sailor should say so, he should receive one hundred lashes with a whip and have his tongue pulled out. That was a curious way to discover Cathay, was it not?

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 for gold and palaces had again proved a failure. He sailed around Jamaica; he got as far as the eastern end of Hayti, and then, just as he was about to run into the harbor of Isabella, all his strength gave out. The strain and the disappointment were too much for him; he fell very, very sick, and on the twenty-ninth of September, 1494, after just about five months of sailing and wandering and hunting, the Nina ran into Isabella Harbor with Columbus so sick from fever that he could not raise his hand or his head to give an order to his men.

For five long months Columbus lay in his stone house on the plaza 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 affairs for a while.

And while Columbus lay so sick, some of the leading men in the colony seized the ships in which Bartholomew Columbus had come to his brother's aid, and sailing back to Spain they told the king and queen all sorts of bad stories about Columbus. They were Spaniards. Columbus was an Italian. They were jealous of him because he was higher placed and had more to say than they had. They were angry to think that when he had promised to bring them to the gorgeous cities and the glittering gold mines of Cathay he had only landed them on islands which were the homes of naked savages, and made them work dreadfully hard for what little gold they could find. He had promised them power; they went home poorer than when they came away. So they were "mad" at Columbus--just as boys and girls are sometimes "mad" at one another; and they told the worst stories they could think of about him, and called him all sorts of hard names, and said the king and queen of Spain ought to look out for "their great Admiral," or he would get the best of them and keep for himself the most of whatever he could find in the new lands.

At last Columbus began to grow better. And when he knew what his enemies had done he was very much troubled for fear they should get the king and queen to refuse him any further aid. So, just as soon as he was able, on the tenth of March, 1496, he sailed home to Spain.

How different was this from his splendid setting out from Cadiz two years before. Then everything looked bright and promising; now everything seemed dark and disappointing. The second voyage to the Indies had been a failure.

So, tired of his hard work in trying to keep his dissatisfied men in order, in trying to check the Indians who were no longer his friends, in trying to find the gold and pearls that were to be got at only by hard work, in trying to make out just where he was and just where Cathay might be, Columbus started for home. Sick, troubled, disappointed, threatened by enemies in the Indies and by more bitter enemies at home, sad, sorry and full of fear, but yet as determined and as brave as ever, on the tenth of March, 1496, he went on board his caravels with two hundred and fifty homesick and feversick men, and on the eleventh of June his two 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, the Admiral.

And Columbus felt as downcast as any. He came ashore dressed, not 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 peaked hood of a priest. For, you see, he did not know just what terrible stories had been told by his enemies; he did not know how the king and queen would receive him. He had promised them so much; he had brought them so little. He had sailed away so hopefully; he had come back humbled and hated. The greatest man in the world, he had been in 1492; and in 1496 he was unsuccessful, almost friendless and very unpopular. So you see, boys and girls, that success is a most uncertain thing, and the 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. He was not really in such disgrace as he thought he was. Though his enemies had said all sorts of hard things against him, the king--and especially the queen--could not forget that he was, after all, the man who, had found the new land for Spain; they knew that even though he had not brought home the great riches that were to have been gathered in the Indies, he had still found for Spain a land that would surely, in time, give to it riches, possessions and power.

So they sent knightly messengers to Columbus telling him to come and see them at once, and greeting him with many pleasant and friendly words. Columbus was, as you must have seen, quick to feel glad again the moment things seemed to turn in his favor; so he laid aside his penitent's gown, and hurried off to court. And almost the first thing he did was to ask the king and queen to fit out another fleet for him. Six ships, he said he should want this time; and with these he was certain he could sail into the yet undiscovered waters that lay beyond Hayti and upon which he 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 any rate, they had other matters to think of and they did not seem so very anxious to spend more money on ships and sailors. But they talked very nicely to Columbus; they gave him a new title (this time it was duke or marquis); they made him a present of a great tract of land in Hayti, but it was months and months before they would help him with the ships and money he kept asking for.

At last, however, the queen, Isabella, who had always had more interest in Columbus and his plans than had the king, her husband, said a good word for him. The six ships were given him, men and supplies were put on board and on the twentieth of May, 1498, the Admiral set out on his third voyage to what every one now called the Indies.

There was not nearly so much excitement among the people about this voyage. Cathay and its riches had almost become an old story; at any rate it was a story that was not altogether believed in. Great crowds did not now follow the Admiral from place to place begging him to take them with him to the Indies. The hundreds of sick, disappointed and angry men who had come home poor when they expected to be rich, and sick when they expected to be strong, had gone through the land, and folks began to think that Cathay was after all only a dream, and that the stories of great gold and of untold riches which they had heard were but "sailors' yarns" which no one could believe.

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 ready, and with a company of two hundred men, besides his sailors, Columbus hoisted anchor in the little port of San Lucar just north of Cadiz, near the mouth of the Guadalquivir river, and sailed away into the West.

This time he was determined to find the continent of Asia. Even though, as you remember, he made his men sign a paper saying that the coast of Cuba was Asia, he really seems to have doubted this himself. He felt that he had only found islands. If so, he said, Cathay must be the other side of those islands; and Cathay is what I must find.

So, with this plan in mind, he sent three of his ships to the little settlement of Isabella, and with the other three he sailed more to the southwest. On the first of August the ships came in sight of the three mountain peaks of the large island he called Trindad, or Trinity.

Look on your map of South America and you will see that Trinidad lies almost in the mouth of the Orinoco, a mighty river in the northern part of South America.

Columbus coasted about this island, and as he did so, looking across to the west, he saw what he supposed to be still another island. It was not. It was the coast of South America. For the first time, but without knowing it, Columbus saw the great continent he had so long been hunting for, though he had been seeking it under another name.

So you see, the story of Columbus shows how his life was full of mistakes. In his first voyage he found an island and thought it was the mainland of the Eastern Hemisphere; in his third voyage he discovered the mainland of the New World and thought it only an island off the coast of the Old World. His life was full of mistakes, but those mistakes have turned out to be, for us, glorious successes.


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