The True Story of Christopher Columbus
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
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.