We rode to San Domingo, but not many rode. He would not have many. “No show of force, no gaud of office!”
He rode unarmored, on his gray horse. The banner that was always borne with him—“Yea, carry it still, until he demands it!”
We were a bare dozen, but when we entered San Domingo one might think that Don Francisco de Bobadilla feared an army, for he had all his soldiers drawn up to greet us! The rest of the population were in coigns, gazing. We saw friends—Juan Ponce de Leon and others—but they were helpless. For all the people in it, the place seemed to me dead quiet, hot, sunny, dead quiet.
The Admiral rode to the square. Here was his house, and the royal banner over it. He dismounted and spoke to men before the door. “Tell Don Francisco de Bobadilla that Don Cristoval Colon is here.”
There came an officer with a sword, behind him a dozen men. “Senor, in the name of the Sovereigns, I arrest you!”
Christopherus Columbus gazed upon him. “For what, senor?”
The other, an arrogant, ill-tempered man, answered loudly so that all around could hear, “For ill-service to our lord the King and Queen, and to their subjects here in the Indies, and to God!”
“God knows, you hurt the truth!” said the Admiral. “Where is my brother, Don Diego?”
“Laid by the heels in the Santa Catarina,” answered the graceless man; then to one of the soldiers, “Take the banner from behind him and rest it against the wall.”
The Admiral said, “I would see Don Francisco de Bobadilla.”
“That is as he desires and when he desires,” the other replied. “Close around him, men!”
The fortress of San Domingo is a gloomy place. They prisoned him here, and they put irons upon him. I saw that done. One or two of his immediate following, and I his physician might enter with him.
He stood in the dismal place where one ray of light came down from a high, small, grated window, and he looked at the chains which they brought. He asked, “Who will put them on?”
He looked at the chains and at the soldier who brought them. “Put them on, man!” he said. “What! Once thou didst nail God’s foot to a cross! As for me, I will remember that One who saved all, and be patient.”
They chained him and left him there in the dark.
I saw him the next day, entering with his gaoler. Had he slept? “Yes.”
“How did he find himself?”
“How does my body find itself? Why, no worse than usual, nowadays that I am getting old! My body has been unhappier a thousand times in storm and fight, and thirst and famine.”
“Then mind and soul?” I asked.
“They are well. There is nothing left for them but to feel well. I am in the hand of God.”
I did what service for him I could. He thanked me. “You’ve been ever as tender as a woman. A brave man besides! I hope you’ll be by me, Juan Lepe, when I die.”