The True Story of Christopher Columbus
Trying It Again
Do you not think Columbus must have felt very fine as he sailed out of Cadiz Harbor on
his second voyage to the West? It was just about a year before, you know, that his feeble
fleet of three little ships sailed from Palos port. His hundred sailors hated to go; his
friends were few; everybody else said he was crazy; his success was very doubtful. Now,
as he stood on the high quarter-deck of his big flag-ship, the Maria Galante, he was a
great man. By appointment of his king and queen he was "Admiral of the Ocean Seas"
and "Viceroy of the Indies." He had servants, to do as he directed; he had supreme
command over the seventeen ships of his fleet, large and small; fifteen hundred men
joyfully crowded his decks, while thousands left at home wished that they might go with
him, too. He had soldiers and sailors, horsemen and footmen; his ships were filled with
all the things necessary for trading with the Indians and the great merchants of Cathay,
and for building the homes of those who wished to live in the lands beyond the sea.
Everything looked so well and everybody was so full of hope and expectation that the
Admiral felt that now his fondest dreams were coming to pass and that he was a great
This was to be a hunt for gold. And so sure of success was Columbus that he promised
the king and queen of Spain, out of the money he should make on this voyage, to, himself
pay for the fitting out of a great army of fifty thousand foot soldiers and four thousand
horsemen to drive away the pagan Turks who had captured and held possession of the
city of Jerusalem and the sepulcher of Christ. For this had been the chief desire, for years
and years, of the Christian people of Europe. To accomplish it many brave knights and
warriors had fought and failed. But now Columbus was certain he could do it.
So, out into the western ocean sailed the great expedition of the Admiral. He sailed first
to the Canary Isles, where he took aboard wood and water and many cattle, sheep and
swine. Then, on the seventeenth of October, he steered straight out into the broad
Atlantic, and on Sunday, the third of November, he saw the hill-tops of one of the West
India Islands that he named Dominica. You can find it on your map of the West Indies.
For days he sailed on, passing island after island, landing on some and giving them
names. Some of them were inhabited, some of them were not; some were very large,
some were very small. But none of them helped him in any way to find Cathay, so at last
he steered toward Hayti (or Hispaniola, as he called it) and the little ship-built fortress of
La Navidad, where his forty comrades had been left.
On the twenty-seventh of November, the fleet of the Admiral cast anchor off the solitary
fort. It was night. No light was to be seen on the shore; through the darkness nothing
could be made out that looked like the walls of the fort. Columbus fired a cannon; then he
fired another. The echoes were the only answer. They must be sound sleepers in our
fortress there, said the Admiral. At last, over the water he heard the sound of oars—or
was it the dip of a paddle? A voice called for the Admiral; but it was not a Spanish voice.