Part 2 out of 7
they've cast a net and here we are, good fish, beating against
the meshes and finding none big enough to slip through!
Haven't you been pressed too, scooped in without a `By
your leave, Palos fish!' A hundred fish and more in this
net and one by one the giant will take us out and broil us!"
The second man spoke with a whine. "I had rather a
Barbary pirate were coming aboard! I had rather be took
slave and row a galley!"
The third, a young man, had a whimsical, dark, fearless
face. "But we be going to see strange things and serve
the Queen! That's something!"
"The Queen is just a lady. She don't know anything
about deep and fearful seas!"
"Where are you going," I asked, "and with whom?"
The angry man answered, "The last of that is the easiest,
mate! With an Italian sorcerer who has bewitched the
great! He ought to be burned, say I, with the Jews and
heretics! We are going with him, and we are going
with Captain Martin Pinzon, whom he hath bewitched with
the rest! And we are going with three ships, the _Santa
Maria_, the Pinta and the Nina."
The third said, "The Santa Maria's a good boat."
"There isn't any boat, good or bad," the first answered
him, "that can hold together when you come to heat that'll
melt pitch and set wood afire! There isn't any boat, good
or bad, that can stand it when a lodestone as big as Gibraltar
begins to draw iron!"
The second, whose element was melancholy, sighed, "I've
been north of Ireland, Pedro, and that was bad enough!
The lookout saw a siren and the _Infanta Isabella_ was dashed
on the rocks and something laughed at us all night!"
"Ireland's nothing at all to it!" answered the angry man,
whose name was Pedro. "I've heard men that know talk!
The Portuguese going down Africa coast got to Cape Bojador,
but they've never truly gotten any further, though I
hear them say they have! They sent a little carrack further
down, and it had to come back because the water fell to
boiling! There wasn't any land and there wasn't any true
sea, but it was all melted up together in fervent heat! Like
hot mud, so to speak. It's hell, that's what I say; it's hell
down there! Moreover, there ain't any heaven stretched
"What does it mean by that?" asked the second.
"It means, Fernando, that there wouldn't be any sky,
blue nor gray nor black, nor clouds, nor air to breathe!
There wouldn't be any thunder and lightning nor rain nor
wind, and at night there wouldn't be stars, no north star,
nor any! It would just be--I don't know what! Fray
Ignatio told me, and he said the name was `chaos'."
"That was south. That wasn't west."
"West is just as bad!"
Fernando also addressed the young man, the third, calling
him Sancho. "If there were anything west for Christian
men, wouldn't the Holy Father at Rome have sent long
ago? We are all going to die!"
"But they didn't know it was round," said Sancho. "Now
we do, and that's the difference! If you started a little
manikin just here on an orange and told him to go straight
ahead, he'd come around home, wouldn't he?"
"You weary me, Sancho!" cried the first. "And what
if you did that and it took so long that you come back to
Fishertown old and bald and driveling, and your wife is
dead and all the neighbors! Much good you'd have from
knowing it was round!"
"When you got right underfoot wouldn't you fall; that's
what I want to know?"
"Fall! Fall where?"
"Into the sky! My God, it's deep! And there wouldn't
be any boat to pick you up nor any floating oar to catch
The vision seemed to appall them. Fernando drew back
of hand across eyes.
I came in. "You wouldn't do that any more than the
ant falls off the orange! Men have come back who have been
almost underfoot, so far to the east had they traveled. They
found there men and kingdoms and ways not so mightily
"They went that way," answered Pedro, jerking his hand
eastward, "over good land! And maybe, whatever they
said, they were lying to us! I'm thinking most of the learned
do that all the time!"
"Well," said Sancho, "if we do come back, we'll have
some rare good tales to tell!"
There fell a pause at that, a pause of dissent and exasperation,
but also one of caught fancy. It would undoubtedly
be a glory to tell those tales to a listening, fascinated Fishertown!
Juan Lepe said, "For months I've been with a trader
running from San Lucar to Marseilles. I've had no news
this long while! What's doing at Palos?"
They were ready for an audience, any audience, and
forthwith I had the story of the Admiral fairly straight--
or I could make it straight--from that day when we parted
on the Cordova road. These men did not know what had
happened in March or in April, but they knew something
of May. In May he came to Palos and settled down with
Fray Juan Perez in La Rabida, and to see him went Captain
Martin Pinzon who knew him already, and the physician
Garcia Fernandez and others, and they all talked together
for a day and a night. After that the alcalde of Palos and
others in authority had letters and warrants from the Queen
and the King, and they overbore everything, calling him
Don and _El Almirante_ and saying that he must be furnished
forth. Then came a day when everybody was gathered in
the square before the church of Saint George, and the alcalde
that had a great voice read the letters.
"I was there!" said Fernando. "I brought in fish that
"I, too!" quoth Sancho. "I had to buy sailcloth."
It was Pedro chiefly who talked. "They were from the
King and Queen, and the moral was that Palos must furnish
Don Cristoval Colon, Admiral of the Ocean-Sea--
and we thought that was a curious thing to be admiral of!
--two ships and all seamen needed and all supplies. A third
ship could be enterprised, and any in and around Palos
was to be encouraged to put in fortune and help. Ships
and those who went in them were to obey the said Don
Cristoval Colon or Columbus as though he were the Queen
and the King, the Bishop of Seville and the Marquis of
Cadiz! It didn't say it just that way but that was what it
meant. We were to follow him and do as he told us, or it
would be much the worse for us! We weren't to put in at
St. George la Mina on the coast of Africa, nor touch at the
King of Portugal's islands, and that was the whole of it!"
"All seamen were to be given good pay," said Sancho.
"And if anybody going was in debt, or even if he had done
a crime--so that it wasn't treason or anything the Holy
Office handles--he couldn't be troubled or held back, seeing
it was royal errand. That is very convenient for some."
Pedro lost patience. "You'd make the best of Hell itself!"
"He'd deny," put in Fernando, "Holy Writ that says
there shall be sorrows!"
They embarked upon loud blame of Sancho, instance after
instance. At last I cut them across. "What further happened
They put back to that port. "Oh, it didn't seem so bad
that day! One and another thought, `Perhaps I'll go!'
Him they call The Admiral is a big figure of a man, and of
course we that use the sea get to know how a good captain
looks. We knew that he had sailed and sailed, and had had
his own ship, maybe two or three of them! Then too the
Pinzons and the Prior of La Rabida answered for him. A
lot of us almost belong to the Pinzons, having signed to
fish and voyage for them, and the Prior is a well-liked man.
The alcalde folds up the letter as though he were in church,
and they all come down the steps and go away to the alcalde's
house which is around the corner. It wasn't until
they were gone that Palos began to ask, `Where were three
ships and maybe a hundred and fifty men _going_?' "
"We found out next day," said Fernando. "The tide
went out, but it came back bearing the sound of where we
"Then what happened in Palos?"
"What happened was that they couldn't get the ships and
they couldn't get the men! Palos wouldn't listen. It was
too wild, what they wanted to do! It wouldn't listen to
the Prior and it wouldn't listen to Doctor Garcia Fernandez,
and it wouldn't even listen to Captain Martin Alonso Pinzon.
And when that happens--! So for a long time there
was a kind of angry calm. And then, lo you! we find that
they have written to the Queen and the King. There come
letters to Palos, and they are harsh ones!"
"I never heard harsher from any King and Queen!" said
"There weren't only the letters, but they'd sent also a great
man, Senor Juan de Penelosa, to see that they got obedience.
Upshot is we've got to go, ships and men, or else be laid by
the heels! As for Palos, her old sea privileges would be
taken from her, and she couldn't face that. Get those ships
ready and stock them and pipe sailors aboard, or there'd
be our kind Queen and King to deal with!"
"Wherever it is, we're going. Great folk are too tall
and broad for us!"
"So there comes another crowd in the square, before the
church. Out steps Captain Martin Pinzon, and he cries,
`Men of Palos, for all you doubt it, 'tis a glorious thing
that's doing! Here is the _Nina_ that my brothers and I own.
She's going with Don Cristoval the Admiral, and the men
who are bound to me for fishing and voyaging are going, and
more than that, there is going Martin Alonso Pinzon, for
I'll ask no man to go where I will not go!'
"Then up beside him starts his brothers Vicente and
Francisco, and they say they are going too. Fray Ignatio
stands on the church steps and cries that there are idolaters
there, and he will go to tell them about our Lord Jesus
Christ! Then the alcalde gets up and says that the Sovereigns
must be obeyed, and that the _Santa Maria_ and the
Pinta shall be made ready. Then the pilots Sancho Ruiz
and Pedro Nino and Bartolomeo Roldan push out together
and say they'll go, and others follow, seeing they'll have to
anyhow! So it went that day and the next and the next,
until now they've pressed all they need. So I say, we are
here, brother, flopping in the net!"
"When does he sail?"
"Day after to-morrow, 'tis said. But we who don't live
in Palos have our orders to be there to-night. Aren't you
going too, mate?"
I answered that I hadn't thought of it, and immediately,
out of the whole, there rose and faced me, "You have
thought of it all the time!"
Sancho spoke. "If you'll go with us to Captain Martin
Pinzon, he'll enter you. He'd like to get another strong
I said, "I don't know. I'll have to think of it. Here is
Palos, and yonder the headland with La Rabida."
We entered the town. They would have had me go with
them wherever they must report themselves. But I said
that I could not then, and at the mouth of their street managed
to leave them. I passed through Palos and beyond its
western limit came again to that house of the poorest where
I had lodged six months before and waking all night had
heard the Tinto flowing by like the life of a man. Long ago
I had had some training in medicine, and in mind's medicine,
and three years past I had brought a young working man
living then in Marchena out of illness and melancholy. His
parents dwelled here in this house by the Tinto and they
gave me shelter.
RISING at dawn, I walked to the sea and along it until
I came at last to those dunes beneath which I had
stretched myself that day of grayness. Now it was
deep summer, blue and gold, and the air all balm and caressing.
The evening before I had seen the three ships where
they rode in river mouth. They were caravels, and only the
_Santa Maria_, the largest, was fully decked. Small craft
with which to find India, over a road of a thousand leagues
--or no road, for road means that men have toiled there
and traveled there--no road, but a wilderness plain, a
water desert! The Arabians say that Jinn and Afrits live
in the desert away from the caravans. If you go that way
you meet fearful things and never come forth again. The
Santa Maria, the _Pinta_ and the Nina. The Santa Maria
could be Master Christopherus's ship. Bright point that
was his banner could be made out at the fore.
Palos waterside, in a red-filtered dusk, had been a noisy
place, but the noise did not ring genially. I gathered that
this small port was more largely in the mood of Pedro and
Fernando than in that of Sancho. It looked frightened and
it looked sullen and it looked angry.
The old woman by the Tinto talked garrulously. Thankful
was she that her son Miguel dwelled ten leagues away!
Else surely they would have taken him, as they were taking
this one's son and that one's son! To hear her you would
think of an ogre--of Polyphemus in the cave--reaching
out fatal hand for this or that fattened body. Nothing then,
she said, to do but to pinch and save so that one might
pay the priest for masses! She told me with great eyes
that a hundred leagues west of Canaries one came to a sea
forest where all the trees were made of water growing up
high and spreading out like branches and leaves, and that
this forest was filled with sea wolves and serpents and
strange beasts all made of sea water, but they could sting
and rend a man very ghastly. After that you came to
sirens that you could not help leaping to meet, but they
put lips to men's breasts and sucked out the life. Then if
the wind drove you south, you smelled smoke and at night
saw flames, and if you could not get the ship about--
In mid-afternoon I left the sands and took the road to
La Rabida. By the walled vineyard that climbs the hill
I was met by three mounted men coming from the monastery.
The first was Don Juan de Penelosa, the second was the
Prior of La Rabida, the third was the Admiral of the Ocean-
Fray Juan Perez first saw me clearly, drawn up by wall.
He had been quoting Latin and he broke at _Dominus et
magister_. The Admiral turned gray eyes upon me. I saw
his mind working. He said, "The road to Cordova--Welcome,
I gave him the name, seeing him for a moment somewhat
whimsically as Viceroy of conquered great India of the
elephants and the temples filled with bells. His face lighted.
He looked at me, and I knew again that he liked me. I
My kinsman the Prior had started to speak to me, but
then had shot a look at Juan de Penelosa and refrained.
The Queen's officer spoke, "Why, here's another strong
fellow, not so tall as some but powerfully knit! Are you
used to the sea?"
I answered that I had been upon a Marseilles bark that
was wrecked off Almeria, and that I had walked from San
Lucar. He asked my name and I gave it. "Juan Lepe."
I attach you then, Juan Lepe, for the service of the
Queen! Behold your admiral, Don Cristoval Colon! His
ships are the _Santa Maria_, the Pinta and the Nina, his destination
the glorious finding of the Indies and Cipango where
the poorest man drinks from a golden cup! Princes, I fancy,
drink from hollowed emeralds! You will sail to-morrow at
dawn. In which ship shall we put him, Senor?"
"In the Santa Maria," answered the Admiral.
So short as that was it done! And yet--and yet--it
had been doing for a long time, for how long a time I have
no way of measuring!
Juan de Penelosa continued to speak: "Follow us into
Palos where Sebastian Jaurez will give you wine and a piece
of money. Thence you will go to church where indeed we
are bound, all who sail being gathered there for general
confession and absolution. This voyage begins Christianly!"
Said Fray Juan Perez, "Not to do that, Juan Lepe, were
to cry aloud for another shipwreck!"
He used the tone of priest, thrusting in speech as priests
often do, where there is no especial need of speech. But I
understood that that was a mask, and could read kinsmanly
anxiety in a good man's heart. I said, "I will find Sebastian
Jaurez, and I will go to church, Senors. A ship is a ship,
and a voyage a voyage!"
"This, Juan Lepe," said the Admiral in that peculiarly
warm and thrilling voice of his, "is such a voyage as you
have never been!"
I made reply, "So be it! I would have every voyage
greater than the last." And as they put their steeds into
motion, walked behind them downhill and over sandy ways
into Palos. There I found Sebastian Jaurez who signed me
in. I put into my pocket the coin he gave me and drank
with him a stoup of wine, and then I went to church.
It was a great shadowy church and I found it full. Jaurez
piloted me to where just under pulpit were ranged my fellow
mariners, a hundred plain sailormen, no great number with
which to widen the world! A score or so of better station
were grouped at the head of these, and in front of all stood
Christopherus Columbus. I saw again Martin Alonso Pinzon
who had entered the Prior's room at La Rabida, and
with him his two brothers Francisco and Vicente. Martin
Pinzon would be captain of the _Pinta_ and Vicente of the
Nina. And there were Roderigo Sanchez of Segovia,
Inspector-General of Armament, and Diego de Arana, chief
alguazil of the expedition, and Roderigo de Escobedo, royal
notary, and with these three or four young men of birth,
adventuring for India now that the war with the Moor was
done. And there were two physicians, Garcia Fernandez
and Berardino Nunez. And there was the Franciscan, Fray
Ignatio, who would convert the heathen and preach before
the Great Khan.
The Admiral of Ocean-Sea stood a taller man than any
there, tall, muscular, a great figure. He was richly dressed,
for as soon as he could he dressed richly. A shaft of light
struck his brow and made his hair all glowing silver. His
face was lifted. The air about him to my eyes swam and
quivered and was faintly colored.
Fray Juan Perez preached the sermon and he used great
earnestness and now and again his voice broke. He talked
of God's gain that we went forth upon, reaping in a field
set us. One thing came forth here that I had not before
"And the unthinkable wealth that surely shall be found
and gained, for these countries to which you sail have eight-tenths of the world's riches, shall put Castile
and Leon where
of old stood Pagan Rome, and shall make, God willing, of
this very Palos a new Genoa or Venice! And this man,
your Admiral, how hath he proposed to the Sovereigns to
use first fruits? Why, friends, by taking finally and forever
from Mahound, and for Holy Church and her servant
the Spains, the Holy Sepulchre!"
In the end, we the going forth, kneeling, made general
confession and the priest's hands in the dusk above absolved
us. There was solemnity and there was tenderness. A
hundred and twenty, we came forth from church, and around
us flowed the hundreds of Palos, men and women and
children. All was red under a red sunset, the boats waiting
to take us out to the _Santa Maria_, the Pinta and the
We marched to waterside. Priests and friars moved
with us, singing loudly the hymn to the Virgin, Lady of
all seamen. Great tears ran down Fray Juan Perez's checks.
It was a red sunset and the west into which we were going
looked indeed blood-flecked. Don Juan de Penelosa, harking
us on, had an inspiration. "You see the rubies of
It is not alone "great" men who bring about things in
this world. All of us are in a measure great, as all are on
the way to greater greatness. Sailors are brave and hardy
men; that is said when it is said that they are sailors. In
many hearts hung dread of this voyage and rebellion against
being forced to it. But they had not to be lashed to the
boats; they went with sailors' careless air and dignity. By
far the most went thus. Even Fernando ceased his wailing
and embarked. The red light, or for danger or for rubies in
which still might be danger, washed us all, washed the town,
the folk and the sandy shore, and the boats that would take
us out to the ships, small in themselves, and small by distance,
riding there in the river-mouth like toys that have been
made for children.
The hundred and twenty entered the boats. It was like a
little fishing fleet going out together. The rowers bent to
the oars, a strip of water widened between us and Spain.
Loud chanted the friars, but over their voices rose the crying
of farewell, now deep, now shrill. "_Adios!_" The
sailors cried back, "Adios! Adios!" From the land it
must have had a thin sound like ghosts wailing from the
edge of the world. That, the sailors held and Palos held,
was where the ships were going, over the edge of the world.
It was the third day of August, in the year fourteen hundred
PALOS vanished, we lost the headland of La Rabida, a
haze hid Spain. By nightfall all was behind us. We
were set forth from native land, set forth from Europe,
set forth from Christendom, set forth from sea company
and sailors' cheer of other ships. That last would not be
wholly true until we were gone from the Canaries, toward
which islands, running south, we now were headed. We
might hail some Spanish ship going to, coming from, Grand
Canary. We might indeed, before we reached these islands,
see other sails, for a rumor ran that the King of Portugal
was sending ships to intercept us, sink us and none ever be
the wiser, it not being to his interest that Spain should
make discoveries! Pedro it was who put this into my ear
as we hauled at the same rope. I laughed. "Here beginneth
the marvelous tale of this voyage! If all happens that all
say may happen, not the Pope's library can hold the books!"
The _Santa Maria_ was a good enough ship, though fifty
men crowded it. It was new and clean, a fair sailer, though
not so swift as the Pinta. We mariners settled ourselves
in waist and forecastle. The Admiral, Juan de la Cosa, the
master, Roderigo Sanchez, Diego de Arana and Roderigo
de Escobedo, Pedro Gutierrez, a private adventurer, the physician
Bernardo Nunez and Fray Ignatio had great cabin
and certain small sleeping cabins and poop deck. In the
forecastle almost all knew one another; all ran into kinships
near or remote. But the turn of character made the
real grouping. Pedro had his cluster and Sancho had his, and
between swayed now to the one and now to the other a
large group. Fernando, I feel gladness in saying, had with
him but two or three. And aside stood variations, individuals.
Beltran the cook was such an one, a bold, mirthful,
likable man. We had several dry thinkers, and a braggart
and two or three who proved miserably villainous. We
had weathercocks and men who faced forward, no matter
what the wind that blew.
The Admiral knew well that he must have, if he could, a
ship patient, contented and hopeful. I bear him witness
that he spared no pains.
We had aboard trumpet and drum and viol, and he
would have frequent music. Each day toward evening each
man was given a cup of wine. And before sunset all were
gathered for vesper service, and we sang _Salve Regina_. At
night the great familiar stars shone out above us.
Second day passed much like first,--light fickle wind,
flapping sails, smooth sea, cloudless sky. To-day beheld
sea life after shore grown habitual. We might have sailed
from Marseilles or Genoa and been sailing for a month. If
this were all, then no more terror from the Sea of Darkness
than from our own so well-known sea! But Fernando
said, "It is after the Canaries! We know well enough it
is not so bad this side of them. Why do they call them Dog
"Perhaps they found dogs there."
"No, but that they give warning like watchdogs! `If
you go any further it shall be to your woe!' "
"Aye, aye! Have you heard tell of the spouting mountain?"
This night the wind came up and by morning was blowing
stiffly, urging us landward as though back to Spain.
The sky became leaden, with a great stormy aspect. The
waves mounted, the lookout cried that the _Pinta_ was showing
signals of distress. By now all had shortened sail, but
the Pinta was taking in everything and presently lay under
bare poles. The Santa Maria worked toward her until we
were close by. They shouted and we back to them. It was
her rudder that was unshipped and injured. Captain Martin
Pinzon shouted that he would overcome it, binding it
somehow in place, and would overtake us, the _Pinta_ being
faster sailer than the Santa Maria or the Nina. But the
Admiral would not agree, and we took in all sail and lay
tossed by a rough sea until afternoon when the Pinta
signaled that the rudder was hung. But by now the sky
stretched straight lead, and the water ran white-capped.
We made no way till morning, when without a drop of rain
all the cloud roof was driven landward and there sprang
out a sky so blue that the heart laughed for joy. The
violent wind sank, then veered and blowing moderately
carried us again southward. All the white sails, white and
new, were flung out, and we raced over a rich, green plain.
That lasted through most of the day, but an hour before
sunset the _Pinta_ again signaled trouble. The rudder was
once more worse than useless.
Again it was mended. But when the next morning it
happened the third time and a kind of wailing grumble
went through the Santa Maria, there came pronouncement
from the Admiral. "The Canaries lie straight ahead. In
two days we shall sight them. Very good! we shall rest
there and make a new rudder for the _Pinta_. The Nina will
do better with square sails and we can change these.
Fresh meat and water and some rambling ashore!"
Beltran the cook had been to the Canaries, driven there
by a perverse wind twenty years ago when he was boatswain
upon a big carrack. He said it was no great way and one
or two agreed with him, but others declined to believe the
Admiral when he said that in two days we should behold
the volcano. Some were found to clamor that the wind had
driven us out of all reckoning! We might never find the
Canaries and then what would the _Pinta_ do? Whereas, if
we all turned back to Palos--
"If--if!" answered Beltran the cook, who at first
seemed strangely and humorously there as cook until one
found that he had an injured leg and could not climb mast
nor manage sail. " `If' is a seaman without a ship!--
He's a famous navigator."
"Him too. But I meant our Admiral."
"He hasn't had a ship for years!"
"He was of the best when he had one! I've heard old
Captain Ruy tell--"
"Maybe he wasn't crazy in those days, but he's crazy
That was Fernando. I think it was from him that certain
of the crew took the word "crazy." They used it
until one would think that for pure variety's sake they
would find another!
The sixth day from Palos there lifted from sea the peak
This day, passing on some errand the open door of the
great cabin, I saw the Admiral seated at the table. Looking
up, he saw me, gazed an instant, then lifted his voice.
Come in here!"
He sat with a great chart spread upon the table before
him. Beside it the log lay open, and he had under his hand
a book in which he was writing. Door framed blue sky
and sea, a pleasant wind was singing in a pleasant warmth,
the great cabin which, with the rest of the ship, he made
to be kept very clean, was awash with light and fineness of
air. "Would you like to look at the chart?" he asked, and I
came and looked over his shoulder.
"I made it," he said. "There is nothing in the world
more useful than knowing how to make maps and charts!
While I waited for Kings to make up their minds I earned
my living so." I glanced at the log and he pushed it to me
so that I might see. "Every day from Palos out." His
strong fingers touched the other book. "My journal that
I keep for myself and the Queen and King Ferdinand and
indeed for the world." He turned the leaves. The bulk of
them were blank, but in the front showed closely covered
pages, the writing not large but clear and strong. "This
voyage, you see, changeth our world! Once in Venice I heard
a scholar learned in the Greek tell of an old voyage of a
ship called _Argo_, whence its captain and crew were named
Argonauts, and he said that it was of all voyages most
famous with the ancients. This is like that, but probably
greater." He turned the pages. "I shall do it in the manner
of Caesar his Commentaries."
He knew himself, I thought, for as great a man as Caesar.
All said, his book might be as prized in some unentered
future. He did not move where time is as a film, but where
time is deep, a thousand years as a day. He could not see
there in detail any more than we could see tree and house
in those Canaries upon which we were bearing down.
I said, "Now that printing is general, it may go into far
lands and into multitude of hands and heads. Many a voyager
to come may study it."
He drew deep breath. "It is the very truth! Prince
Henry the Navigator. Christopherus Columbus the Navigator,
and greater than the first--"
Sun shone, wind sang, blue sea danced beyond the door.
Came from deck Roderigo Sanchez and Diego de Arana.
The Admiral made me a gesture of dismissal.
The Canaries and we drew together. Great bands of
cloud hid much of the higher land, but the volcano top came
clear above cloud, standing bare and solemn against blue
heaven. Leaving upon our right Grand Canary we stood for
the island of Gomera. Here we found deep, clear water
close to shore, a narrow strand, a small Spanish fort and
beginnings of a village, and inland, up ravines clad with a
strange, leafless bush, plentiful huts of the conquered
Guanches. Our three ships came to anchor, and the Admiral
went ashore, the captains of the _Pinta_ and the Nina following.
Juan Lepe was among the rowers.
The Spanish commandant came down to beach with an
armed escort. The Admiral, walking alone, met him between
sea and bright green trees, and here stood the two
and conversed while we watched. The Admiral showed him
letters of credence. The commandant took and read, handed
them back with a bow, and coming to water edge had presented
to him the two captains, Martin and Vicente Pinzon.
He proved a cheery old veteran of old wars, relieved that
we were not Portuguese nor pirates and happy to have late
news from Spain. It seemed that he had learned from a
supply ship in June that the expedition was afoot.
The _Santa Maria_ and the Nina rode close in shore. Captain
Martin Pinzon beached the Pinta and unshipped the
hurt and useless rudder. Work upon a new one began at
once. The Admiral, the two captains and those of rank upon
the ships supped with the commandant at his quite goodly
house, and the next day he and his officers dined aboard the
Santa Maria. The Admiral liked him much for he was more
than respectful toward this voyage. A year before, bathing
one day in the surf, there had come floating to his hand a
great gourd. None such grew anywhere in these islands,
and the wind for days had come steadily from the west. The
gourd had a kind of pattern cut around it. He showed it to
the Admiral and afterwards gave it to him. The latter
caused it to pass from hand to hand among the seamen. I
had it in my hands and truly saw no reason why it might
not have been cut by some native of the West, and, carried
away by the tide or dropped perchance from a boat, have at
last, after long time, come into hands not Indian. Asia tossing
unthinkingly a ball which Europe caught.
The _Pinta_ proved in worse plight than was at first thought.
The Nina also found this or that to do besides squaring her
Levant sails. We stayed in Gomera almost three weeks.
The place was novel, the day's task not hard, the Admiral
and his captains complaisant. We had leisure and island
company. To many it was happiness enough. While we
stopped at Gornera we were at least not drifting upon lodestone,
equator fire and chaos!
Here on Gomera might be studied the three Pinzon brothers.
Vicente was a good, courageous captain, Francisco a
good pilot, and a courageous, seldom-speaking man. But
Martin Alonso, the eldest, was the prime mover in all their
affairs. He was skillful navigator like his brothers and
courageous like them, but not silent like Francisco, and
ambitious far above either. He would have said perhaps that
had he not been so, been both ambitious and shrewd, the
Pinzons would never have become principal ship-owning,
trading and maritime family of Palos and three leagues
around. He, too, had family fortunes and aggrandizement
at heart, though hardly on the grand, imperial scale of the
Admiral. He had much manly beauty, daring and strength.
His two brothers worshipped him, and in most places and
moments his crew would follow him with a cheer. The
Admiral was bound to him, not only in that he had volunteered
and made others to go willingly, but that he had
put in his ship, the _Nina_, and had furnished Master Christopherus
with monies. That eighth of the cost of the expedition,
whence else could it come? If it tied Martin Pinzon to
the Admiral, seeing that only through success could those
monies be repaid, it likewise made him feel that he, too, had
authority, was at liberty to advise, and at need to become
But the Admiral had the great man's mark. He could acknowledge
service and be quite simply and deeply grateful
for it. He was grateful to Martin Pinzon who had aided him
from his first coming to Palos, and also I think he loved
the younger man's great blond strength and beauty. He
had all of Italy's quickness to beauty, be it of land or sea,
forest, flower, animal or man. But now and again, even
so early as this, he must put out hand to check Pinzon's
impetuous advice. His brows drew together above gray eyes
and eagle nose. But for the most part, on Gomera, they
were very friendly, and it was a sight to see Admiral and
captains and all the privileged of the expedition sit at wine
with the commandant.
Juan Lepe had no quarrel with any of them. Jayme de
Marchena swept this voyage into the Great Voyage.
The _Pinta_ was nearly ready when there arrived
a small ship from Ferro bringing news that three
large Portuguese ships had sailed by that island. Said
the commandant, "Spain and Portugal are at peace. They
would not dare to try to oust us!" He came to waterside
to talk to the Admiral. "Not to fight you," said the Admiral,
"but me! King John wishes to keep India, Cipango
and Cathay still veiled. So he will get time in which to have
from the Holy Father another bull that will place the Portuguese
line west and west until he hath the whole!" He
raised his hand and let it fall. "I cannot sail to-morrow,
but I will sail the day after!"
We were put to hard labor for the rest of that day, and
through much of the moonlit night. By early morning again
we labored. At mid-afternoon all was done. The _Pinta_,
right from stem to stern, rode the blue water; the Nina had
her great square sails. The Guanches stored for us fresh
provisions and rolled down and into ship our water casks.
There was a great moon, and we would stand off in the night.
Nothing more had been seen of the Portuguese ships, but
we were ready to go and go we should. All being done,
and the sun two hours high, we mariners had leave to rest
ashore under trees who might not for very long again see
land or trees.
There was a grove that led to a stream and the waterfall
where we had filled the casks. I walked through this alone.
The place lay utterly still save for the murmuring of the
water and the singing of a small yellowish bird that abounds
in these islands. At the end of an aisle of trees shone the
sea, blue and calm as a sapphire of heaven. I lay down
upon the earth by the water.
Finding of India and rounding the earth! We seemed
poor, weak men, but the thing was great, and I suppose the
doers of a great thing are great. East--west! Going west
and yet east.--The Jew in me had come from Palestine,
and to Palestine perhaps from Arabia, and to Arabia--who
knew?--perhaps from that India! And much of the Spaniard
had come from Carthage and from Phoenicia, old Tyre
and Sidon, and Tyre and Sidon again from the east. From
the east and to the east again. All our Age that with all
lacks was yet a stirring one with a sense of dawn and sunrise
and distant trumpets, now was going east, was going
Home, going east by the west road. West is home and East
is home, and North and South. Knowledge extendeth and
the world above is fed.
The sun made a lane of scarlet and gold across Ocean-
Sea. I wondered what temples, what towns, what spice ships
at strange wharfs might lie under it afar. I wondered if
there did dwell Prester John and if he would step down to
give us welcome. The torrent of event strikes us day and
night, all the hours, all the moments. Who can tell with
distinctness color and shape in that descending stream?
AN hour after moonrise we were gone from Gomera.
At first a light wind filled the sails, but when the
round moon went down in the west and the sun rose,
there was Teneriffe still at hand, and the sea glassy. It
rested like a mirror all that day, and the sails hung empty
and the banner at maintop but a moveless wisp of cloth.
In the night arose a contrary wind, and another red dawn
showed us Teneriffe still. The wind dropping like a shot,
we hung off Ferro, fixed in blue glass. Watch was kept
for the Portuguese, but they also would be rooted to sea
bottom. The third morning up whistled the wind, blowing
from Africa and filling every sail.
Palos to the Canaries, we had sailed south. Now for long,
long days the sun rose right aft, and when it set dyed with
red brow and eyes and cheek and breast of the carved
woman at our prow. She wore a great crown, and she
looked ever with wide eyes upon the west that we chased.
Straight west over Ocean-Sea, the first men, the first ships!
If ever there had been others, our world knew it not. The
Canaries sank into the east. Turn on heel around one's self,
and mark never a start of land to break the rim of the vast
sea bowl! Never a sail save those above us of the _Santa
Maria_, or starboard or larboard, the Pinta and the Nina.
The loneliness was vast and utter. We might fail here, sink
here, die here, and indeed fail and sink and die alone!
Two seamen lay sick in their beds, and the third day
from Gomera the Santa Maria's physician, Bernardo Nunez,
was seized with the same malady. At first Fray Ignatio
tried to take his place, but here the monk lacked knowledge.
One of the sailors died, a ship boy sickened, and the
physician's fever increased upon him. Diego de Arana began
to fail. The ship's master came at supper time and looked
us over. "Is there any here who has any leechcraft?"
Beltran the cook said, "I can set a bone and wash a
wound; but it ends there!"
Cried Fernando from his corner. "Is the plague among
us!" The master turned on him. "Here and now, I say
five lashes for the man who says that word again! Has any
man here sense about a plain fever?"
None else speaking, I said that long ago I had studied
for a time with a leech, and that I was somewhat used to
care of the sick. "Then you are my man!" quoth the
master, and forthwith took me to the Admiral. I became
Juan Lepe, the physician.
It was, I held, a fever received while wandering through
the ravines and woods of Gomera. Master Bernardo had
in his cabin drugs and tinctures, and we breathed now all
the salt of Ocean-Sea, and the ship was clean. I talked
to Beltran the cook about diet, and I chose Sancho and a
man that I liked, one Luis Torres, for nurses. Two others
sickened this night, and one the next day, but none afterward.
None died; in ten days all were recovered. Other
ailments aboard I doctored also. Don Diego de Arana was
subject to fits of melancholy with twitchings of the body. I
had watched Isaac the Physician cure such things as this,
and now I followed instruction. I put my hands upon the
patient and I strengthened his will with mine, sending into
him desire for health and perception of health. His inner
man caught tune. The melancholy left him and did not
return. Master Bernardo threw off the fever, sat up and
moved about. But he was still weak, and still I tended the
others for him.
The _Pinta_ had signaled four men ill. But Garcia Fernandez,
the Palos physician, was there with Martin Pinzon,
and the sick recovered. The Nina had no doctor and now
she came near to the Santa Maria and sent a boat. She had
five sick men and would borrow Bernardo Nunez.
The Admiral spoke with Nunez, now nearly well. Then
the physician made a bundle of drugs and medicaments, said
farewell to all and kindly enough to me, and rowed away to
the _Nina_. He was a friend of the Pinzons, and above the
vanity of the greater ship. The sick upon the Nina prospered
But Juan Lepe was taken from the forecastle, and slept
where Nunez had slept, and had his place at the table in the
great cabin. He turned from the sailor Juan Lepe to the
physician Juan Lepe, becoming "Doctor" and "Senor."
The wheel turns and a man's past makes his present.
A few days from Gomera, an hour after sunset, the night
was torn by the hugest, flaming, falling star that any of us
had ever seen. The mass drove down the lower skirt of the
sky, leaving behind it a wake of fire. It plunged into the
sea. There is no sailor but knows shooting stars. But this
was a hugely great one, and Ocean-Sea very lonely, and to
most there our errand a spectral and frightening one. It
needed both the Admiral and Fray Ignatio to quell the panic.
The next day a great bird like a crane passed over the
_Santa Maria_. It came from Africa, behind us. But it spoke
of land, and the sailors gazed wistfully.
This day I entered the great cabin when none was there
but the Admiral, and again he sat at table with his charts
and his books. He asked of the sick and I answered.
Again he sat looking through open door and window at blue
water, a great figure of a man with a great head and face
and early-silvered hair. "Do you know aught," he asked,
I answered that I knew a little of the surface of it.
"I have a sense," he said, "that our stars are akin, yours
and mine. I felt it the day Granada fell, and I felt it on
Cordova road, and again that day below La Rabida when
we turned the corner and the bells rang and you stood beside
the vineyard wall. Should I not have learned in more
than fifty years to know a man? The stars are akin that
will endure for vision's sake."
I said, "I believe that, my Admiral."
He sat in silence for a moment, then drew the log between
us and turned several pages so that I might see
the reckoning. "We have come well," I said. "Yet with
so fair a wind, I should have thought--"
He turned the leaves till he rested at one covered with
other figures. "Here it is as it truly is, and where we
truly are! We have oversailed all that the first show, and
so many leagues besides."
"Two records, true and untrue! Why do you do it so?"
"I have told them that after seven hundred leagues we
should find land. Add fifty more for our general imperfection.
But it may be wider than I think. We may not
come even to some fringing island in eight hundred leagues,
no, nor in more than that! If it be a thousand, if it be two
thousand, on I go! But after the seven hundred is passed,
it will be hard to keep them in hand. So, though we are
covering more, I let them think we are covering only this."
I could but laugh. Two reckonings! After all, he was
not Italian for nothing!
"The master knows," he said, "and also Diego de Arana.
But at least one other should know. Two might drown or
perish from sickness. I myself might fall sick and die,
though I will not believe it!" He paused a moment, then
said, looking directly at me, "I need one in whom I can
utterly confide. I should have had with me my brother
Bartholomew. But he is in England. A man going to seek
a Crown jewel for all men should have with him son or
brother. Diego de Arana is a kinsman of one whom I
love, and he partly believes. But Roderigo Sanchez and the
others believe hardly at all. There is Fray Ignatio. He
believes, and I confess my sins to him. But he thinks only
of penitents, and this matter needs mind, not heart alone.
Because of that sense of the stars, I tell you these things."
The next day it came to me that in that Journal which
he meant to make like Caesar's Commentaries, he might put
down the change in the _Santa Maria's_ physicians and set my
name there too often. I watched my chance and finding it,
asked that he name me not in that book. His gray eyes
rested upon me; he demanded the reason for that. I said that
in Spain I was in danger, and that Juan Lepe was not my
name. More than that I did not wish to say, and perchance
it were wiser for him not to know. But I would not that the
powerful should mark me in his Journal or elsewhere!
Usually his eyes were wide and filled with light as
though it were sent into them from the vast lands that he
continuously saw. But he could be immediate captain and
commander of things and of men, and when that was so,
the light drew into a point, and he became eagle that sees
through the wave the fish. Had he been the seer alone,
truly he might have been the seer of what was to be discovered
and might have set others upon the path. But he
would not have sailed on the _Santa Maria_!
In his many years at sea he must many times have met
men who had put to sea out of fear of land. He would
have sailed with many whose names, he knew, were not
those given them at birth. He must have learned to take reasons
for granted and to go on--where he wished to go on.
So we gazed at each other.
"I had written down," he said, "that you greatly helped
the sick, and upon Bernardo Nunez's going to the _Nina_, became
our physician. But I will write no more of you, and
that written will pass in the flood of things to come." After
a moment, he ended with deliberation, "I know my star to
be a great star, burning long and now with a mounting
flame. If yours is in any wise its kin, then there needs must
IT was a strange thing how utterly favoring now was the
wind! It blew with a great steady push always from
the east, and always we ran before it into the west.
Day after day we experienced this warm and steadfast driving;
day after day we never shifted sail. The rigging sang
a steady song, day and night. The crowned woman, our
figurehead, ran, light-footed, over a green and blue plain,
and where the plain ended no man might know! "Perhaps
it does not end!" said the mariners.
Of the hidalgos aboard I like best Diego de Arana who
had cast off his melancholy. He was a man of sense, candid
and brave. Roderigo Sanchez sat and moved a dull, good
man. Roderigo de Escobedo had courage, but he was factious,
would take sides against his shadow if none other
were there. Pedro Gutierrez had been a courtier, and had
the vices of that life, together with a daredevil recklessness
and a kind of wild wit. I had liking and admiration for
Fray Ignatio, but careful indeed was I when I spoke with
The wind blew unchanging, the stark blue shield of sea, a
water-world, must be taken in the whole, for there was no
contrasting point in it to catch the eye. Sancho, forward,
in a high sweet voice like a jongleur's voice, was singing to
the men an endless ballad. Upon the poop deck Escobedo
and Gutierrez, having diced themselves to an even wealth
or poverty, turned to further examination of the Admiral's
ways. Endlessly they made him and his views subject of
talk. Roderigo Sanchez listened with a face like an owl,
Diego de Arana with some irony about his lips. I came and
stood beside the latter.
They were upon the beggary of Christopherus Columbus.
"How did the Prior of La Rabida--?"
"I'll tell you, for I heard it. One evening at vesper
bell comes our Admiral--no less a man!--to Priory gate
with a young boy in his hand. Not Fernando his love-child,
but Diego the elder, who was born in Lisbon. All dusty
with the road, like any beggar you see, and not much better
clad, foot-sore and begging bread for himself and the boy.
And because of his white hair, and because he carried himself
in that absurd way that makes the undiscerning cry,
`Ah, my lord king in disguise!' the porter must have him
in, and by and by comes the prior and stands to talk with
him, `From where?' `From Cordova.' `Whither?' `To
Portugal.' `For why?' `To speak again with King John!'
`Are you in the habit of speaking with kings?' `Aye, I
am!' `About what, may I ask?' `About the finding of
India by way of Ocean-Sea, the possession of idolatrous
countries and the great wealth thereof, and the taking of
Christ to the heathen who else are lost!' "
"Ha, ha! Ha, ha!" This was Escobedo.
"The prior thinks, `This is an interesting madman.' And
being a charitable good man and lacking entertainment that
evening, he brings the beggar in to supper and sits by him."
Roderigo Sanchez opened his mouth. "All Andalusia
knows Fray Juan Perez is a kind of visionary!"
"Aye, like to like! `Have you been to our Queen and
the King? ' `Aye, I have!' saith the beggar, `but they are
warring with the Moors and will pull Granada down and
do not see the greater glory!' "
All laughed at that, and indeed Gutierrez could mimic to
perfection. We got, full measure, the beggar's loftiness.
"So the siren sings and the prior leaps to meet her, or
tarantula stings him and be dances! `I am growing mad
too,' thinks Fray Juan Perez, and begins presently to tell
that last week he dreamed of Prester John. The end is
that he and the beggar talk till midnight and the next morning
they talk again, and the prior sends for his friends
Captain Martin Alonzo Pinzon and the physician Garcia
Fernandez. The beggar gains them all!"
"Do you think a beggar can do that?" I said. "Only a
giver can do that."
Pedro Gutierrez turned black eyes upon Juan Lepe, whom
he resented there on the poop deck. "How could you have
learned so much, Doctor, while you were making sail and
washing ship?" He was my younger in every way, and I
answered equably, "I learned in the same way that the Admiral
learned while he begged."
"Touched!" said Diego de Arana. "So that is the way
the prior came into the business?"
"He enters with such vigor," said Gutierrez, "that what
does he do but write an impassioned letter to the Queen,
having long ago, for a time, been her confessor? What he
tells her, God knows, but it seems that it changes the world!
She answers that for herself she hath grieved for Master
Columbus's departure from the court and the realm, and
that if he will turn and come to Santa Fe, his propositions
shall at last be thoroughly weighed. Letter finds the beggar
with his boy honored guest of La Rabida, touching heads
with Martin Pinzon over maps and charts and the `Book
of Travels' of Messer Marco Polo. There is great joy!
The beggar hath the prior's own mule and his son a jennet,
and here we go to Santa Fe! That was last year. Now the
boy that whimpered for bread at convent gate is Don Diego
Colon, page to Prince Juan, and the Viceroy sails on the
_Santa Maria_ for the countries he will administer!"
Gutierrez shook the dice in the box. "Oh, Queen Luck,
that I have served for so long! Why do you not make me
Said Escobedo, "Viceroy of the continent of water and
Admiral of seaweed and fishes!"
Diego de Arana took that up. "We are obliged to find
something! No sensible man can think like some of those
forward that this goes on forever and we shall sail till the
wood rots and sails grow ragged and wind carries away their
shreds or they fall into dust!"
"Who knows anything of River-Ocean? We may not
find the western shore, if there be such a thing, for a year!
By that time storm will sink us ten times over, or plague
will take us--"
"There's not needed plague nor storm. Just say, food
won't last, and water is already half gone!"
"That's the undeniable truth," quoth Roderigo Sanchez,
and looked with a perturbed face at the too-smooth sea.
Smooth blue sea continued, wind continued, pushing like
a great, warm hand, east to west. The Admiral spent hours
alone in his sleeping cabin. There were men who said that
he studied there a great book of magic. He had often a
book in his hand, it is true, but Juan Lepe the physician
knew what he strove to keep from others, that the gout that
at times threatened crippling was upon him and was easier
to bear lying down.
Sunset, vesper prayer and _Salve Regina_. As the strains
died, there became evident a lingering on the part of the
seamen. The master spoke to the Admiral. "They've found
out about the needle, sir! Perhaps you'd better hear them
and answer them."
Almost every day he heard them and answered them.
To make his seamen, however they groaned and grumbled
and plotted, yet abide him and his purpose was a day-after-day arising task! Now he said equably, in the
of a father, "What is it to-day, men?"
The throng worked and put forward a spokesman, who
looked from the Admiral to the clear north. "It is the star,
sir! The needle no longer points to it! We thought you
might explain to us unlearned--What we think is that distance
is going to widen and widen! What's to keep needle
from swinging right south? Then will we never get home
to Palos and our wives and children--never and never and
Said the Admiral, "It will not change further, or if it
does a very little further!" In his most decisive, most convincing
voice he explained why the needle no longer pointed
precisely to the star. The deviation marked and allowed
for, it was near enough for practical purposes, and the
reasons for the wandering--
I do not know if the wisdom of our descendants will confirm
his explanation. It is so often to explain the explanation!
But one as well as another might do here. What
the _Santa Maria_ wanted was reassurance, general and large,
stretching from the Canaries to India and Cathay and back
again. He knew that, and after no great time spent with
compass needle and circularly traveling polar star, he began
to talk gold and estate, and the pearls and silk and spices
they would surely take for gifts to their family and neighbors,
Palos or Huelva or Fishertown!
It was truly the hope that upheld many on a voyage that
they chose to think a witches' one. He talked now out of
Marco Polo and he clad what that traveler had said in more
gorgeous attire. He meant nothing false; his exalted imagination
saw it so. He was painter of great pageants, heightening
and remodeling, deepening and purifying colors, making
humdrum and workaday over to his heart's desire. The
Venetian in his book, and other travelers in their books, had
related wonders enough. These grew with him, it might be
said--and indeed in his lifetime was often said--into
wonders without a foot upon earth. But if one took as
figures and symbols his gold roofs and platters, temples and
gardens, every man a merchant in silks and spices, strange
fruit-dropping trees and pearls in carcanets, the Grand Khan
and Prester John--who could say that in the long, patient
life of Time the Admiral was over-esteeming? The pity
of it was that most here could not live in great lengths of
time. They wanted riches now, now! And they wanted
only one kind of riches; here and now, or at the most in
another month, in the hands and laps of Pedro and Fernando
THERE grew at times an excited feeling that he was a
prophet, and that there were fabulously great things
before us. As I doctored some small ill one day in
the forecastle, a great fellow named Francisco from Huelva
would tell me his dream of the night before. He had already
told it, it seemed, to all who would listen, and now again he
had considerable audience, crowding at the door. He said
that he dreamed he was in Cipango. At first he thought it
was heaven, but when he saw golden roofs he knew it must
be Cipango, for in heaven where it never rained and there
were no nights, we shouldn't need roofs. One interrupted,
"We'd need them to keep the flying angels from looking
"It was Cipango," persisted Francisco, "for the Emperor
himself came and gave me a rope of pearls. There were
five thousand of them, and each would buy a house or a
fine horse or a suit of velvet. And the Emperor took me by
the hand, and he said, `Dear Brother--' You might have
thought I was a king--and by the mass, I was a king!
I felt it right away! And then he took me into a garden,
and there were three beautiful women, and one of them
would push me to the other, and that one to the third, and
that to the first again, as though they were playing ball,
and they all laughed, and I laughed. Then there came a
great person with five crowns on his head, and all the light
blazed up gold and blue, and somebody said, `It's Prester
His dream kept a two-days' serenity upon the ship. It
came to the ear of the Admiral, who said, " `In dreams will
I instruct thee.'--I have had dreams far statelier than
Pedro Gutierrez too began to dream,--fantastic things
which he told with an idle gusto. They were of wine and gold
and women, though often these were to be guessed through
strange, jumbled masks and phantasies. "Those are ill
dreams," said the Admiral. "Dream straight and high!"
Fray Ignatio, too, said wisely, "It is not always God who
cometh in dreams!"
But the images of Gutierrez's dreams seemed to him to
be seated in Cathay and India. They bred in him belief
that he was coming to happiness by that sea road that
glistered before us. He and Roderigo de Escobedo began
to talk with assurance of what they should find. Having
small knowledge of travelers' tales they made application
to the Admiral who, nothing loth, answered them out of
Marco Polo, Mandeville and Pedro de Aliaco.
But the ardor of his mind was such that he outwent his
authors. Where the Venetian said "gold" the Genoese
said "Much gold." Where the one saw powerful peoples
with their own customs, courts, armies, temples, ships and
trade, the other gave to these an unearthly tinge of splendor.
Often as he sat in cabin or on deck, or rising paced to and
fro, we who listened to his account, listened to poet and
enthusiast speaking of earths to come. Besides books like
those of Marco Polo and John Mandeville and the Bishop
of Cambrai he had studied philosophers and the ancients and
Scripture and the Fathers. He spoke unwaveringly of
prophecies, explicit and many, of his voyage, and the rounding
out of earth by him, Christopherus Columbus. More
than once or twice, in the great cabin, beneath the swinging
lantern, he repeated to us such passages, his voice making
great poetry of old words. "Averroes saith--Albertus
Magnus saith--Aristotle saith--Seneca saith--Saint Augustine
saith--Esdras in his fourth book saith--" Salt air
sweeping through seemed to fall into a deep, musical beat
and rhythm. "After the council at Salamanca when great
churchmen cried Irreligion and even Heresy upon me, I
searched all Scripture and drew testimony together. In
fifty, yea, in a hundred places it is plain! King David saith
--job saith--Moses saith--Thus it reads in Genesis--"
Diego de Arana smote the table with his hand. "I am
yours, senor, to find for the Lord!" Fray Ignatio lifted
dark eyes. "I well believe that nothing happens but what is
chosen! I will tell you that in my cell at La Rabida I heard
a cry, `Come over, Ignatio the Franciscan!' "
And I, listening, thought, "Not perhaps that ancient
spiritual singing of spiritual things! But in truth, yes, it
is chosen. Did not the Whole of Me that I can so dimly
feel set my foot upon this ship?" And going out on deck
before I slept, I looked at the stars and thought that we
were like the infant in the womb that knows not how nor
where it is carried.
We might be four hundred leagues from Spain. Still
the wind drove us, still we hardly shifted canvas, still the
sky spread clear, of a vast blue depth, and the blue glass
plain of the sea lay beneath. It was too smooth, the wind
in our rigging too changeless of tune. At last, all would
have had variety spring. There began a veritable hunger
for some change, and it was possible to feel a faint horror.
_What if this is the horror--to go on forever and ever like
Then one morning when the sun rose, it lit a novel thing.
Seaweed or grass or herbage of some sort was afloat about
us. Far as the eye might reach it was like a drowned
meadow, vari-colored, awash. All that day we watched it.
It came toward us from the west; we ran through it from
the east. Now it thinned away; now it thickened until it
seemed that the sea was strewn with rushes like a castle
floor. With oars we caught and brought into ship wreaths
of it. All night we sailed in this strange plain. A yellow
dawn showed it still on either side the _Santa Maria_, and
thicker, with fewer blue sea straits and passes than on yesterday.
The Pinta and the Nina stood out with a strange,
enchanted look, as ships crossing a plain more vast than the
plain of Andalusia. Still that floating weed thickened. The
crowned woman at our prow pushed swathes of it to either
side. Our mariners hung over rail, talking, talking. "What
is it--and where will it end? Mayhap presently we can
not plough it!"
I was again and again to admire how for forty years
he had stored sea-knowledge. It was not only what those
gray eyes had seen, or those rather large, well molded ears
had heard, or that powerful and nervous hand had touched.
But he knew how to take, right and left, knowledge that
others gathered, as he knew that others took and would
take what he gathered. He knew that knowledge flows.
Now he stood and told that no less a man than Aristotle
had recorded such a happening as this. Certain ships of
Gades--that is our Cadiz--driven by a great wind far
into River-Ocean, met these weeds or others like them,
distant parents of these. They were like floating islands
forever changing shape, and those old ships sailed among
them for a while. They thought they must have broken
from sea floor and risen to surface, and currents brought
other masses from land. Tunny fish were caught among
And that very moment, as the endless possibilities of
things would have it, one, leaning on the rail, cried out
that there were tunnies. We all looked and saw them in a
clear canal between two floating masses. It brought the
Admiral credence. "Look you all!" he said, "how most
things have been seen before!"
"But Father Aristotle's ship--Was he `Saint' or
"He was a heathen--he believed in Mahound."
"No, he lived before Mahound. He was a wise man--"
"But his ships turned back to Cadiz. They were afraid
of this stuff--that's the point!"
"They turned back," said the Admiral. "And the splendor
and the gold were kept for us."
A thicker carpet of the stuff brushed ship side. One of
the boys cried, "Ho, there is a crab!" It sat indeed on a
criss-cross of broken reeds, and it seemed to stare at us
solemnly. "Do not all see that it came from land, and land
to the west?"
"But it is caught here! What if we are caught here too?
These weeds may stem us--turn great crab pincers and
hold us till we rot!"
"If--and if--and if" cried the Admiral. "For
Christ, His sake, laugh at yourselves!"
On, on, we went before that warm and potent wind, so
steadfast that there must be controlling it some natural law.
Ocean-Sea spread around, with that weed like a marsh at
springtide. Then, suddenly, just as the murmuring faction
was murmuring again, we cleared all that. Open sea, blue
running ocean, endlessly endless!
The too-steady sunshine vanished. There broke a cloudy
dawn followed by light rain. It ceased and the sky cleared.
But in the north held a mist and a kind of semblance of far-
off mountains. Startled, a man cried "Land!" but the next
moment showed that it was cloud. Yet all day the mist hung
in this quarter. The _Pinta_ approached and signaled, and
presently over to us put her boat, in it Martin Pinzon. The
Admiral met him as he came up over side and would have
taken him into great cabin. But, no! Martin Pinzon always
spoke out, before everybody! "Senor, there is land yonder,
under the north! Should not we change course and see
what is there?"
"It is cloud," answered the Admiral. "Though I do not
deny that such a haze may be crying, `Land behind!' "
"Let us sail then north, and see!"
But the Admiral shook his head. "No, Captain! West
Pinzon appeared about to say, "You are very wrong,
and we should see what's behind that arras!" But he
checked himself, standing before Admiral and Don and Viceroy,
and all those listening faces around. "I still think," he
The other took him up, but kept considerate, almost deferring
manner. "Yes, if we had time or ships to spare!
But now it is, do not stray from the path. Sail straight
"We are five hundred leagues from Palos."
"Less than that, by our reckoning. The further from
Palos, the nearer India!"
"We may be passing by our salvation!"
"Our salvation lies in going as we set forth to go." He
made his gesture of dismissal of that, and asked after the
health of the _Pinta_. The health held, but the stores were
growing low. Biscuit enough, but bacon almost out, and
not so many measures of beans left. Oil, too, approached
bottom of jars. The Nina was in the same case.
"Food and water will last," said the Admiral. "We have
not come so far without safely going farther."
Martin Alonso Pinzon was the younger man and but
captain of the Pinta_, while the other stood Don and Admiral,
appointed by Majesty, responsible only to the Crown.
But he had been Master Christopherus the dreamer, who
was shabbily dressed, owed money, almost begged. He
owed large money now to Martin Pinzon. But for the Pinzons,
he could hardly have sailed. He should listen now,
take good advice, that was clearly what the captain of the
_Pinta thought! Undoubtedly Master Christopherus dreamed
true to a certain point, but after that was not so followable!
As for Cristoforo Colombo, Italian shipmaster, he had, it
was true, old sea wisdom. But Martin Pinzon thought
Martin Pinzon was as good there!--Captain Martin Alonso
said good-by with some haughtiness and went stiffly back
over blue sea to the Pinta.
The sun descended, the sea grew violet, all we on the
_Santa Maria_ gathered for vesper prayer and song. Fray
Ignatio's robe and back-thrown cowl burned brown against
the sea and the sail. One last broad gold shaft lighted the
tall Admiral, his thick white hair, his eagle nose, his strong
mouth. Diego de Arana was big, alert and soldierly; Roderigo
Sanchez had the look of alcalde through half a lifetime.
I had seen Roderigo de Escobedo's like in dark streets
in France and Italy and Castile, and Pedro Gutierrez wherever
was a court. Juan de la Cosa, the master, stood a
keen man, thin as a string. Out of the crowd of mariners
I pick Sancho and Beltran the cook, Ruiz the pilot, William
the Irishman and Arthur the Englishman, and two or three
others. And Luis Torres. The latter was a thinker, and
a Jew in blood. He carried it in his face, considerably
more markedly than I carried my grandmother Judith. But
his family had been Christian for a hundred years. Before
I left forecastle for poop I had discovered that he was
learned. Why he had turned sailor I did not then know,
but afterwards found that it was for disappointed love. He
knew Arabic and Hebrew, Aristotle and Averroes, and he
had a dry curiosity and zest for life that made for him the
wonder of this voyage far outweigh the danger.
There was a hymn that Fray Ignatio taught us and that
we sang at times, beside the Latin chant. He said that a
brother of his convent had written it and set it to music.
Thou that art above us,
Around us, beneath us,
Thou who art within us,
Save us on this sea!
Out of danger,
Teach us how we may
Serve thee acceptably!
Teach us how we may
Crown ourselves, crowning Thee!
Beltran the cook's voice was the best, and after him
Sancho, and then a sailor with a great bass, William the
Irishman. Fray Ignatio sang like a good monk, and Pedro
Gutierrez like a troubadour of no great weight. The Admiral
sang with a powerful and what had once been a sweet
voice. Currents and eddies of sweetness marked it still.
All sang and it made together a great and pleasurable
sound, rolling over the sea to the _Pinta_ and the Nina, and
so their singing, somewhat less in volume, came to us. All
grew dusk, the ships were bat wings sailing low; out sprang
the star to which the needle no longer pointed. The great
star Venus hung in the west like the lantern of some ghostly
air ship, very vast.
Thou that art above us,
Around us, beneath us,
Thou that art within us,
Save us on this sea!
WE were a long, long way from Spain. A flight of
birds went over us. They were flying too high for
distinguishing, but we did not hold them to be sea
birds. We sounded, but the lead touched no bottom. West
and west and west, pushed by that wind! Late September,
and we had left Palos the third of August.
The wind shifted and became contrary. The sea that
for so long had been glassy smooth took on a roughness.
A bird that was surely a forest bird beaten to us perched
upon a stretched rope and uttered three quick cries. A
boy climbed and softly took it from behind. It fluttered in
the Admiral's two hands. All came to look. Its plumage
was blue, its breast reddish. We wondered, but before we
could make it a cage, it strongly strove and was gone. One
flash and all the azure took it to itself.
In the night the waves flattened. Rose-dawn showed
smooth sea and every sail filled again with that westward
journeying wind. Yesterday's roughness and the bird tossed
aboard were as a dream.
A day and a day and a day. As much Ocean-Sea as ever,
and Asia a lie, and alike at this end and that of the
vessel a dull despondency, and Pedro Gutierrez's wit grown
ugly. So naked, so lonely, so indifferent spread the Sea
Another day and another and another. When half the
ship was at the point of mutiny signs reappeared and thickened.
Birds flew over the ships; one perched beside the
Admiral's banner and sang. More than that, a wood dove
came upon the deck and ate corn that was strewed for it.
"Colombo--Colombo!" quoth the Admiral. "I, too, am
`dove.' " And he opened a window and sent forth a "dove"
to find if there were land!' "
Almost the whole ship from Jason down took these two
birds for portents. Fray Ignatio lifted hands. "The
Blessed Francis who knew that birds have souls to save
hath sent them!" We passed the drifting branch of a
tree. It had green leaves. The sea ran extremely blue and
clear, and half the ship thought they smelled frankincense,
brought on the winds which now were changeable. At evening
rose a great cry of "Land!" and indeed to one side the
sinking sun seemed veritable cliffs with a single mountain
peak. The Admiral, who knew more of sea and air than
any two men upon those ships, cried "Cloud--cloud!"
but for a time none believed him. There sprang great commotion,
the _Pinta_ too signaling. Then before our eyes
came a rift in the mountain and the cliffs slipped into the sea.
But now all believed in land ahead. It was as though
some one had with laughter tossed them that assurance over
the horizon straight before us. Every mariner now was
emulous to be the lookout, every man kept eyes on the west.
Now sprang clear and real to them the royal promise of
ten thousand maravedies pension to him who first sighted
Cipango, Cathay or India. The Admiral added a prize of a
green velvet doublet.
We had come nigh eight hundred leagues.
In the cabin, upon the table he spread Toscanelli's map,
and beside it a great one like it, of his own making, signed
in the corner _Columbus de Terra Rubra_. The depiction was
of a circle, and in the right or eastern side showed the coasts
of Ireland and England, France, Spain and Portugal, and
of Africa that portion of which anything was known. Out
in Ocean appeared the islands gained in and since Prince
Henry's day. Their names were written,--Madeira, Canaria,
Cape de Verde and Azores. West of these and filling
the middle map came Ocean-Sea, an open parchment field
save for here a picture of a great fish, and here a siren and
here Triton, and here the Island of the Seven Cities and here
Saint Brandon's Isle, and these none knew if they be real
or magical! Wide middle map and River-Ocean! The eye
quitting that great void approached the left or western side
of the circle. And now again began islands great and small
with legends written across and around them. The great
island was Cipango, and across the extent of it ran in fine
lettering. "Marco Polo was here. It is the richest of the
eastern lands. The houses are roofed with gold. The people
are idolaters. There are spices and pearls, nutmegs, pepper
and precious stones. Very much gold so that the common
people use it as they wish."
We read, the Admiral seated, we, the great cabin group,
standing, bending over the table. After the islands came
mainland. "Cathay" ran the writing. "Mangi. Here
is the seat of the Great Khan. His city is Cambalu." South
of all this ran other drawings and other legends. "Here,
opposite Africa, near the equator, are islands called Manillas.
They have lodestone, so that no ship with iron can sail to
them. Here is Java of all the spices. Here is great India
that the ancients knew."
"We are bearing toward Cipango," said the Admiral. "I
look first for small outward islands, where perhaps the folk
are uncouth and simple, and there is little gold."
And again days passed. When many times upon the
_Santa Maria_ and as often on the _Pinta_ and the _Nina_ some
one had cried "Land!" and the ships been put in commotion
and the land melted into air before our eyes, and another
as plausible island or coast formed before us only to
vanish, despair seized us again. Witchcraft and sorcery and
monstrous ignorance, and fooled to our deaths! "West--
west--west!" till the west was hated. The Pinzons thought
we should change course. If there were lands we were
leaving them in the north where hung the haze. But the
Madman or the Black Magician, our Italian Admiral, would
not hear good advice! It was Gutierrez's word, under his
breath when the Admiral was in earshot, and aloud when
he was not. "Our Italian--our Italian! Why did not
Italy keep him? And Portugal neither would have him!
Castile, the jade, takes him up!"
Then after absence began again the signs. Flocks of birds
went by us. I saw him watching, and truly these flights
did seem to come from south of west. On the seventh of
October he altered course. We sailed southwest. This day
there floated by a branch with purple berries, and we saw
flying fish. Dolphins played about the ship. The very sea
felt warm to the hand, and yet was no oppression, but light
and easily breathed air, fragrant and lifting the spirits.
And now we saw floating something like a narrow board
or a wide staff. The master ordered the boat lowered; we
brought it in and it was given dripping into the Admiral's
hand. "It is carved by man," he said. "Look!" Truly
it was so, rudely done with bone or flint, but carved by man
with something meant for a picture of a beast and a tree.
We sailed west by south this day and the next. No more
man-wrought driftage came our way, but other signs multiplied.
We saw many birds, the water was strangely warm
and clear, when the wind blew toward us it had a scent,
a tone, that cried land breeze! Then came by a branch
with yellow flowers, and upon one a butterfly. After this
none doubted, not Fernando nor any. "Gold flowers--
gold flowers--gold, gold!"
This night we lay by so that we should not slip past land
in the darkness. When day came there showed haze south
and west. A gentle wind sang in our rigging. On board
the _Santa Maria_, the Pinta and the Nina all watched for
land. Excitement and restlessness took us all. The Admiral's
eyes burned like deep gray seas. I could read in
them the images behind. _Prester John and the Release of
the Sepulchre. The Grand Khan a tributary Prince. Argosies
of gold, silk and spices, sailing steady, sailing fast over
a waterway unblocked by Mahound and his soldans. All Europe
burning bright, rising a rich Queen. Holy Church with_
_another cubit to her stature. Christopherus Columbus, the
Discoverer, the Enricher, the Deliverer! Queen Isabella, and
on her cheeks a flush of gratitude; all the Spanish court bowing
low. All the friends, the kindred, all so blessed! Sons,
brothers; Genoa, and Domenico Colombo clad in velvet, dining
with the Doge_.
Dolphins were all about us; once there rose a cry from
the mariners that they heard singing over the waves. We
held breath and listened, but if they were sirens they ceased
their song. But at eve, the sky pale gold, the water a
sapphire field, we ourselves sang mightily our "_Salve Regina_."
The Admiral would speak to us. Now all loved him,
with golden India rising to-morrow from the sea, with his
wisdom proving itself! He had this eve a thrilling voice.
God had been good to us; who could say other? This very
eve, at Palos, they thought of us. At Santa Maria de la
Rabida, chanting vesper hymn, they prayed for us also.
In Cordova the Queen prayed. In Rome, the Holy Father
had us in mind. Would we lessen ourselves, disappointing
so many, and very God, grieving very Christ? "No! But
out of this ship we shall step on this land to come, good
men, true men, servants and sons of Christ in His kingdom.
This night, in India before us, men sigh, `We weary of our
idols! Why tarrieth true God?' There the learned think,
bending over their maps, `Why doth not some one put forth,
bringing all the lands into one garland?' They look to
their east whence we come, and they may see in dream tonight these three ships!" His voice rang. "I tell
these Three Ships shall be known forever! Your grandchildren's
grandchildren shall say, `The _Santa Maria_, the
Pinta and the Nina--and one that was our ancestor sailed
in this one or in that one, to the glory and gain of the
world, wherefore we still make festival of his birthday!' "
At this they stirred, whether from Palos or Huelva or
Fishertown. They looked at him now as though indeed he
were great mage, or even apostle.
That evening I heard Roderigo de Escobedo at an enumeration.
He seemed to have committed to memory some
Venice list. "Mastic, aloes, pepper, cloves, mace and cinnamon
and nutmeg. Ivory and silk and most fine cloth, diamonds,
balasses, rubies, pearls, sapphires, jacinth and emeralds.
Silver in bulk and gold common as iron with us.
Pedro Gutierrez was speaking. "Gold to carry to Spain
and pay my debts, with enough left to go again to court--"
Said Escobedo, "The Admiral saith, `No fraud nor
violence, quarreling nor oppression'!"
Gutierrez answered: "The Admiral also thinks to pay
his debts! He may think he will be strict as the Saints, but
he will not!"
The Admiral was walking the deck. He stopped beside
Juan Lepe who leaned upon the rail and watched a strange,
glistering sea. It was that shining stuff we see at times
at night in certain weather. But to-night Luis Torres, passing,
had said, "Strewn ducats!"
The Admiral and Juan Lepe watched. "Never a sail!"
said I. "How strange a thing is that! Great populous
countries that trade among themselves, and never a sail on
this sea rim!"
He drummed upon the rail. "Do not think I have not
thought of that! I looked to meet first a ship or ships.
But now I think that truly there may be many outlying
islands without ships. Or there may be a war between
princes, and all ships drawn in a fleet to north or south.
One beats one's brains--and time brings the solution, and
we say, `How simple!' "
Turning his great figure, he mounted to our castle built
up from deck, whence he could see great distances. The
wind had freshened; we were standing to the west; it was
behind us again and it pushed us like a shuttle in a giant's
hand. The night was violet dark and warm; then at ten
the moon rose. Men would not sleep while the ship sailed.
A great event was marching, marching toward us. We
thought we caught the music of it; any moment heralds,
banners, might flame at end of road. We were watching
for the Marriage Procession; we were watching for Kings,
for the Pope, for I know not what! But there was certain
to be largesse.
I went among the mariners. Sancho met me, a young
man whom then and afterwards I greatly liked. "Well,
we've had luck, senor! Saint Noah himself, say I, wasn't
"Yes, we've done well!"
Beltran the cook's great easy voice rolled in. "Fear's
your only barnacle, say I!"
Luis Torres said, "When I studied Arabic and the Hebrew,
I thought it was for the pleasure of it. They said
around me, `How you waste your time!' But now some
about the Grand Khan should know Arabic. I will be of
Pedro said, "Well, it has turned out better than any reasonable
man could have expected!" and Fernando, "Yes,
it has! Of course there may be witches. I've heard it said
there are great necromancers in India!"
"Necromancers! That's them that show you a thing
and then blow it away--"
I said, "Do you not know that all of us are the only
"Did you see," asked Sancho, "the glistering in the
water? Are we going to lie to after midnight? Saint
George! I would like to plunge in and swim!"
On poop deck, Diego de Arana called me to him. "Well,
Doctor, how goes it?" He and I rested good friends. I
said, "Why, it goes well."
"I was thinking, watching the moon, how little I ever
dreamed, being no sea-going man, of such a thing as this.
Who knows his fate? A man's a strange matter!"
"He is a ballad," I answered., "One stave leads to another
and the story mounts."
"I cannot think what to-morrow may show us!"
"Nor can I! But it will be important. We enter by a
narrow strait great widths of the future."
"There will be great changes, doubtless. Our world is
growing little. Everybody feels that we must push out!
It isn't only Spain, but all kingdoms."
Pedro Gutierrez joined us. "You are a learned man,
Doctor! What like are the women of Cipango?"
The moon, past the full yet strong enough to silver
this vast shield, rose higher. The sails of the _Pinta_ and the
Nina were curves of pearl, our sails above us pale mountains.
The light dimmed our lanterns. Crowned woman
at our prow would be bathed in it as she ran across Ocean-
Sea. It washed our decks, pricked out our moving men.
They cast shadows. The master had served out an extra
draught of wine. It was hardly needed. We were all lifted,
with visions drumming in our heads. Fray Ignatio stood
against the mast, and I knew that he felt a pulpit and was
making his sermon. After a time, Diego de Arana and
Pedro Gutierrez moving away, I was alone. Mind and
heart tranquilized, and into them stepped Isabel, and she
and I, hand in hand, walked fields of the west.
The moon shone. The Admiral's voice came from above
us where he watched from the castle. "Come up here, one
or two of you!" Gutierrez was nearest the ladder. He
mounted and I after him, and we stood one on either hand
the Admiral. He pointed south of west. "A light!" His
voice was an ocean. "It is as it should be. I, Christopherus
Columbus, have first seen the Shore of Asia!"
We followed his extended hand. Clear under sail we saw
it, dimmed by the moon, but evident, a light as it were of
a fire on a beach. Diego de Arana came up also and
saw it. It was, we thought, more than a league away, a
light that must be on land and made by man. It dwindled,
out it went into night and there ran only plain silver. We
waited while a man might have swam from us to the _Pinta_,
then forth it started again, red star that was no star. Some
one below us cried, "Ho, look!" The Admiral raised his
voice, it rang over ship. "Aye! I saw it a time ago, have
seen it thrice! I, the Admiral, saw first." Men were
crowding to the side to look, then it went out as though
a wave had crept up and drenched it. We gazed and gazed,
but it did not come again.
It might have been not land, but a small boat afire. But
that is not probable, and we upon the _Santa Maria_ held
that to see burning wood on shore, though naught showed
of that shore itself, was truly first to view, first of all of
us, that land we sought. He did not care for the ten
thousand maravedies, but he cared that it should be said
that God showed it first to him.
The wind pushed us on with the flat of a great hand.
Midnight and after midnight. At the sight of that flame
we should have fired our cannon, but for some reason this
was not done. Now the silver silence beyond the ship was
torn across by the _Pinta's_ gun. She fired, then came near
us. "Land! Land!" Now we saw it under the moon,
just lifting above the sea,--lonely, peaceful, dark.
It was middle night. The Santa Maria, the Pinta and the
Nina went another league, then took in sail and came to
THE Admiral set a watch and commanded all beside
to sleep. To-morrow might be work and wakefulness
enough! The ship grew silent. With the _Pinta_
and the Nina it lay under the moon, and all around was
He did not sleep this night, I am sure. At all times he
was a provident and wakeful sea king who knew his ship
through and through. His habit was light sleep and not
many hours of that. He studied his books at night while
others slept. Lying in his bed, with eyes open or eyes shut,
he watched form in the darkness lands across sea.
This night so far from Europe passed. The sense of day
at hand wrapped us. In the east arose a cool, a stern and
indifferent pallor. It changed, it flushed. We carried in
the _Santa Maria_ a cock and hens. Cock crew.
Christopherus Columbus had Italian love for fit, harmonious
noting of vast events. This morning the trumpeter
also of the Santa Maria waked those who slept. The
clear and joyful notes were heard by the Pinta and the
Pinta, too, answered with music. The Nina took it from
her. Beltran the cook and his helpers gave us a stately
breakfast. The Admiral came forth from his cabin in a
dress that a prince might have worn, crimson and tawny,
and around his throat a golden chain. Far and near rushed
into light, for in these lands and seas the dawn makes no
tarrying. It is almost night, then with a great clap of
light it is day.
We had voyaged, all thought, to Asia over an untrodden
way. Every eye turned to land. Not haze, not dissolving
cloud, not a magic nothing in the thought, but land, land,
solid, palpable, like Palos strand! Had we seen a great port
city, had we seen ships crowding harbor, had we seen a
citadel on some height, armed and frowning, had we marked
temples and palaces and banners afloat in this divine cool
wind of morning, many aboard us would have had now no
surprise, would have cried, "Of course, I really knew it,
though for the fun of it I pretended otherwise!"
But others among us could not expect such as this after
the quiet night; no light before us save that one so soon
quenched, no stir of boat at all or large or small; an unearthly
quiet, a low land still as a sleeping marsh under
The light brightened. The water about us turned a blue
that none there had ever seen, so turquoise, so cerulean, so
penetrable by the eye! Before us gentle surf broke on a
beach bone-white. The beach with little rise met woodland;
thick it seemed and of a vivid greenness and fairly covering
the island. It was island, masthead told us, who saw
blue ribbon going around. Moreover, there were two others,
no greater, upon the horizon. Nor, though the woodland
seemed thick as pile of velvet, was it desolate isle. We
made out in three places light plumes of smoke. Now some
one uttered a cry, "Men!"
They were running out of the wood, down upon the white
beach. There might be a hundred.
"Naked men! They are dark--They are negroes!"--
The Admiral lifted his great voice. "Mariners all! India
and Cathay are fringed with islands, as are many parts
of Europe. A dozen of you have sailed among the Greek
islands. There may be as many here as those. This is a
small island and its folk simple. They are not Negroes,
but the skin of the Indian is darker than ours, and that
of Cipango and Cathay is yellow. As for clothing, in all
warm lands the simpler folk wear little. But as for ma-
gicians, there may be magicians among them as there are
among all peoples, but it is falseness and absurdity to speak
of all as magicians! Nonsense and cowardice! The man
who cried that goes not ashore to-day!"
Not Great India before us nor Golden Cipango! But
it was land--land--it was solid, there were folk! How
long had flowed the sea around us, for this was the twelfth
of October, five weeks since Gomera and above two months
since Palos had sunk away and we had heard the last faint
bell of La Rabida! And there had been strong doubt if
ever we should see again a white beach, or a tree, or a
kindly fire ashore, or any men but those of our three ships,
or ever another woman or a child. But land--land! Here
was land and green woods and crowds of strange folk.
The mariners laughed, and the tears stood in their eyes
and friends embraced. And they grew mightily respectful
to the Admiral.
So many were to go ashore in the first boat, and so many
in the second. The _Pinta_ and the Nina were lowering their
boats. Our hidalgos aboard, Diego de Arana, Roderigo
Sanchez and the rest, had also fine apparel with them--
seeing that the Grand Khan would have a court and our
Sovereigns must be rightly represented--and this morning
they suited themselves only less splendidly than did the
Admiral. The great banner of Castile and Leon was ready
for carrying. Trumpet, drum and fife should land. Fray
Ignatio was ready--oh, ready! His liquid dark eyes had
an unearthly look. Gifts were being sorted out. There
were aboard rich things, valued in any land of ours, for
gifts to the Grand Khan and his ministers, or the Emperor
of Cipango and his. For Queens and Empresses and Ladies
also. And there was a wondrous missal for Prester John
did we find him! But this was evidently a little island afar,
and these were naked, savage men. The expedition was
provident. It had for all. The Portuguese, our great navigators,
had taught what the naked African liked. A basket
stood at hand filled with pieces of colored cloth, beads, caps,