True Story of Christopher Columbus, Admiral; Told for Youngest Readers

Author: Elbridge Streeter Brooks

Chapter X. From Paradise to Prison.

If you know a boy or a girl whose mind is set on any one thing, you will find that they are always talking about that thing. Is not this so? They have what people call a "hobby" (which is a kind of a horse, you know), and they are apt, as we say, to "ride their hobby to death."

If this is true of certain boys and girls, it is even more true of men and women. They get to be what we call people of one idea, and whatever they see or whatever they do always turns on that one idea.

It was so with Columbus. All his life his one idea had been the finding of Asia—the Indies, or Cathay, as he called it—by sailing to the west. He did sail to the west. He did find land. And, because of this, as we have seen, all his voyaging and all his exploring were done in the firm belief that he was discovering new parts of the eastern coast of Asia. The idea that he had found a new world never entered his head.

So, when he looked toward the west, as he sailed around the island of Trinidad and saw the distant shore, he said it was a new part of Asia. He was as certain of this as he had before been certain that Cuba was a part of the Asiatic mainland.

But when he sailed into the mouth of the great Orinoco River he was puzzled. For the water was no longer salt; it grew fresher and fresher as he sailed on. And it rushed out so furiously through the two straits at the northern and southern ends of Trinidad (which because of the terrible rush of their currents he called the Lion’s Mouth and the Dragon’s Mouth) that he was at first unable to explain it all.

Then he had a curious idea. Columbus was a great reader of the Bible; some of the Bible scholars of his day said that the Garden of Eden was in a far Eastern land where a mighty river came down through it from the hills of Paradise; as Columbus saw the beautiful land he had reached, and saw the great river sending down its waters to the sea, he fitted all that he saw to the Bible stories he knew so well, and felt sure that he had really discovered the entrance to the Garden of Eden.

He would gladly have sailed across the broad bay and up the great river to explore this heavenly land; but he was ill with gout, he was nearly blind from his sore eyes, his ships were shaky and leaky, and he felt that he ought to hurry away to the city of Isabella where his brothers, Bartholomew and Diego, were in charge of affairs and were, he knew, anxiously waiting for him to come back.

So at last he turned away from the lovely land that he thought must be Paradise and steered toward Hayti. On the nineteenth of August he arrived off the coast of Hayti. He sent a messenger with news of his arrival, and soon greeted his brother Bartholomew, who, when he heard of the Admiral’s arrival, sailed at once to meet him.

Bartholomew Columbus had a sad story to tell his brother Christopher. Things had been going badly in Hayti, and the poor Admiral grew sicker and sicker as he listened to what Bartholomew had to tell.

You have heard it said that there are black sheep in every flock. There were black sheep in this colony of Columbus. There were lazy men and discontented men and jealous men, and they made great trouble, both in the city of Isabella and in the new town which Bartholomew bad built in another part of the island and called Santo Domingo.

Such men are sure to make mischief, and these men in Hayti had made a lot of it. Columbus had staid so long in Spain that these men began to say that they knew he was certainly in trouble or disgrace there, that the king and queen were angry with him, and that his offices of viceroy and admiral were to be taken away from him. If this were so, they were going to look out for themselves, they said. They would no longer obey the commands of the Admiral’s brothers, Bartholomew and Diego, whom he had left in charge.

So they rose in rebellion, and made things so uncomfortable for the two brothers that the colony was soon full of strife and quarreling.

The leader of this revolt was one of the chief men in the colony. His name was Roldan. When Columbus and Bartholomew sailed into the harbor of Santo Domingo, on the thirtieth of August, they found that Roldan and his followers had set up a camp for themselves in another part of the island, and given out that they were determined never to have anything more to do with the three Columbus brothers.

This rebellion weakened the colony dreadfully. Things looked desperate; so desperate indeed that Columbus, after thinking it all over, thought that the only way to do was to seem to give in to Roldan and patch up some sort of an agreement by which they could all live together in peace. But all the same, he said, I will complain to the king and have this rebel Roldan punished.

So the Admiral wrote Roldan a letter in which he offered to forgive and forget all that he had done if he would come back and help make the colony strong and united again. Roldan agreed to do this, if he could have the same position he held before, and if Columbus would see that his followers had all the land they wanted. Columbus agreed to this and also gave the rebels permission to use the poor natives as slaves on their lands. So the trouble seemed to be over for a while, and Columbus sent two of his ships to Spain with letters to the king and queen. But in these letters he accused Roldan of rebellion and tried to explain why it was that things were going so badly in Hayti.

But when these ships arrived in Spain the tidings they brought and the other letters sent by them only made matters worse. People in Spain had heard so many queer things from across the sea that they were beginning to lose faith in Columbus. The men who had lost health and money in the unlucky second voyage of the Admiral were now lazy loafers about the docks, or they hung about the court and told how Columbus had made beggars of them, while they hooted after and insulted the two sons of Columbus who were pages in the queen’s train. They called the boys the sons of "the Admiral of Mosquitoland."

Then came the ships with news of Roldan’s rebellion, but with little or no gold. And people said this was a fine viceroy who couldn’t keep order among his own men because, no doubt, he was too busy hiding away for his own use the gold and pearls they knew he must have found in the river of Paradise he said he had discovered.

Then came five shiploads of Indian slaves, sent to Spain by Columbus, and along with them came the story that Columbus had forgiven Roldan for his rebellion and given him lands and office in Hayti.

King Ferdinand had never really liked Columbus and had always been sorry that he had given him so much power and so large a share in the profits. The queen, too, began to think that while Columbus was a good sailor, he was a very poor governor. But when she heard of the shiploads of slaves he had sent, and found out that among the poor creatures were the daughters of some of the chiefs, or caciques, of the Indians, she was very angry, and asked how "her viceroy" dared to use "her vassals" so without letting her know about it. "Things were indeed beginning to look bad for Columbus. The king and queen had promised that only members of the Admiral’s family should be sent to govern the island; they had promised that no one but himself should have the right to trade in the new lands. But now they began to go back on their promises. If Columbus cannot find us gold and spices, they said, other men can. So they gave permission to other captains to explore and trade in the western lands. And as the complaints against the Admiral kept coming they began to talk of sending over some one else to govern the islands.

More letters came from Columbus asking the king and queen to let him keep up his slave-trade, and to send out some one to act as a judge of his quarrel with Roldan. Then the king and queen decided that something must be done at once. The queen ordered the return of the slaves Columbus had sent over, and the king told one of his officers named Bobadilla to go over to Hayti and set things straight. And he sent a letter by him commanding Columbus to talk with him, to give up all the forts and arms in the colony and to obey Bobadilla in all things.

Bobadilla sailed at once. But before he got across the sea matters, as we know, had been straightened out by the Admiral; and when Bobadilla reached Hayti he found everything quiet there. Columbus had made friends with Roldan (or made believe that he had), and had got things into good running order again.

This was not what Bobadilla had reckoned upon. He had expected to find things in such a bad way that he would have to take matters into his own hand at once, and become a greater man than the Admiral. If everything was all right he would have his journey for nothing and everybody would laugh at him. So he determined to go ahead, even though there was no necessity for his taking charge of affairs. He had been sent to do certain things, and he did them at once. Without asking Columbus for his advice or his assistance, he took possession of the forts and told every one that he was governor now. He said that he had come to set things straight, and he listened to the complaints of all the black sheep of the colony—and how they did crowd around him and say the worst things they could think of against the Admiral they had once been so anxious to follow.

Bobadilla listened to all their stories. He proceeded to use the power the king and queen had given him to punish and disgrace Columbus—which was not what they meant him to do. He moved into the palace of the Admiral; he ordered the Admiral and his brothers to come to him, and when they came expecting to talk things over, Bobadilla ordered that they be seized as prisoners and traitors, that they be chained hand and foot and put in prison.

Columbus’s saddest day had come. The man who had found a new world for his king and queen, who had worked so hard in their service and who had meant to do right, although he had made many mistakes, was thrust into prison as if he were a thief or a murderer. The Admiral of the Ocean Seas, the Viceroy of the Indies, the grand man whom all Spain had honored and all the world had envied, was held as a prisoner in the land he had found, and all his powers were taken by a stranger. He was sick, he was disappointed, he was defeated in all his plans. And now he was in chains. His third voyage had ended the worst of all. He had sailed away to find Cathay; he had, so he believed, found the Garden of Eden and the river of Paradise. And here, as an end to it all, he was arrested by order of the king and queen he had tried to serve, his power and position were taken from him by an insolent and unpitying messenger from Spain; he was thrown into prison and after a few days he was hurried with his brothers on board a ship and sent to Spain for trial and punishment. How would it all turn out? Was it not a sad and sorry ending to his bright dreams of success?


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Chicago: Elbridge Streeter Brooks, "Chapter X. From Paradise to Prison.," True Story of Christopher Columbus, Admiral; Told for Youngest Readers in True Story of Christopher Columbus, Admiral; Told for Youngest Readers Original Sources, accessed February 25, 2024,

MLA: Brooks, Elbridge Streeter. "Chapter X. From Paradise to Prison." True Story of Christopher Columbus, Admiral; Told for Youngest Readers, in True Story of Christopher Columbus, Admiral; Told for Youngest Readers, Original Sources. 25 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: Brooks, ES, 'Chapter X. From Paradise to Prison.' in True Story of Christopher Columbus, Admiral; Told for Youngest Readers. cited in , True Story of Christopher Columbus, Admiral; Told for Youngest Readers. Original Sources, retrieved 25 February 2024, from