This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1922
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

Again I felt that this was cordial to him. I had spoken out of my conviction, and he knew it. “No,” he said. “I do not believe it. I will never believe it of the Queen! Look you! I have thought it out in the night. The night is good for thinking out. You would not believe how many enemies I have in Spain. Margarite and Father Buil are but two of a crowd. Fonseca, who should give me all aid, gives me all hindrance. I have throngs of foes; men who envy me; men who thought I might give them the golden sun, and I could not; hidalgos who hold that God made them to enjoy, standing on other men’s shoulders, eating the grapes and throwing down the empty skins, and I made them to labor like the others; and not in Heaven or Hell will they forgive me! And others–and others. They have turned the King a little their way. I knew that, ere I went to find that great new land where are pearls, that slopes upward by littles to the Height of the World and the Earthly Paradise. Turned the King, but not the Queen. But now I make it they have worked upon her. I make it that she does not know the character of Don Francisco de Bobadilla. I make it that, holding him to be far wiser than he
is, she with the King gave him great power as commissioner. I make it that they gave him letters of authority, and a last letter, superseding the Viceroy, naming him Governor whom all must obey. I make it that he was only to use this if after long examination it was found by a wise, just man that I had done after my enemies’ hopes. I make it that here across Ocean-Sea, far, far from Spain, he chose not to wait. He clucked to him all the disaffected and flew with a strong beak at the eyes of my friends.” He moved his arms and his chains clanked. “I make it that this severity is Don Francisco de Bobadilla’s, not King Ferdinand’s, not –oh, more than not–the good Queen’s!”

Juan Lepe thought that he had made out the probabilities, probably the certainties.

“If I may win to Spain!” he ended. “It all hinges on that! If I may see the Sovereigns–if I may see the good Queen! I hope to God he will soon chain me in a ship and send me!”

Had he seen Don Francisco de Bobadilla?

No, he had not seen Don Francisco de Bobadilla. He thought that on the whole that Hidalgo and Commander of Calatrava was afraid.

Outside of the fortress that afternoon Juan Lepe kept company with one who had come with the fire-new Governor, a grim, quiet fellow named Pedro Lopez. He and Luis Torres had been neighbors in Spain; it was Luis who brought us together. I gave him some wine in Doctor Juan Lepe’s small room and he told readily the charges against the Viceroy that Bobadilla, seizing, made into a sheaf.

Already I knew what they were. I had heard them. One or two had, I thought, faint justification, but the mass, no! Personal avarice, personal greed, paynim luxury, arrogance, cruelty, deceit–it made one sorrowfully laugh who knew the man! Here again clamored the old charge of upstartness. A low-born Italian, son of a wool-comber, vindictive toward the hidalgo, of Spain! But there were new charges. Three men deposed that he neglected Indian salvation. And I heard for the first time that so soon as he found the Grand Khan he meant to give over to that Oriental all the islands and the main, and so betray the Sovereigns and Christ and every Spaniard in these parts!

The Adelantado arrived in San Domingo. He came with only a score or two of men, who could have raised many more. Don Francisco de Bobadilla saw to it that he had word from his great brother, and that word was “Obedience.” The Adelantado gave his sword to Don Francisco. The latter loaded the first with chains and put him aboard a caravel in the harbor. He asked to be prisoned with his brother; but why ask any magnanimity from an unmagnanimous soul?

Out in the open now were all the old insurgents. Guevara and Requelme bowed to the earth when the Governor passed, and Roldan sat with him at wine.


THE caravel tossed in a heavy storm. Some of her mariners were old in these waters, but others, coming out with Bobadilla, had little knowledge of our breadths of Ocean-Sea. They had met naught like this rain, this shaken air, these thunders and lightnings. There rose a cry that the ship would split. All was because they had chained the Admiral!

Don Alonso de Villejo, the Captain taking Christopherus Columbus to Spain, called to him Juan Lepe. “Witness you, Doctor, I would have taken away the irons so soon as we were out of harbor! I would have done it on my own responsibility. But he would not have it!”

“Yes, I witness. In chains in Hispaniola, he will come to Spain in chains.”

“If the ship goes down every man must save himself. He must be free. I have sent for the smith. Come you with me!”

We went to that dusky cabin in the ship where he was prisoned. “It is a great storm, and we are in danger, senor!” said Villejo. “I will take away these irons so that if–“

The Admiral’s silver hair gleamed in the dusk. He moved and his gyves struck together. “Villejo!” he said, “if I lie to-night on the floor of Ocean-Sea, I will lie there in these chains! When the sea gives up its dead, I will rise in them!”

“I could force you, senor,” said Villejo.

The other answered, “Try it, and God will make your hands like a babe’s!”

Villejo and the smith did not try it. There was something around him like an invisible guard. I knew the feel of it, and that it was his will emerged at height.

“Remember then, senor, that I would have done it for you!” Villejo touched the door. The Admiral’s voice came after. “My brother, Don Bartholomew, he who was responsible to me and only through me to the Sovereigns, free him, Villejo, and you have all my thanks!”

We went to take the gyves from Don Bartholomew. It would have been comfort to these brothers to be together in prison–but that the Governor of Hispaniola straitly forbade. When Villejo had explained what he would do, the Adelantado asked, “What of the Admiral?”

“I wish to take them from him also. But he is obstinate in his pride and will not!”

“He will go as he is to the Queen and Spain and the world,” said Juan Lepe.

“That is enough for me,” answered the Adelantado. “I do not go down to-night a freed body while he goes down a chained.–Farewell, senor! I think I hear your sailors calling.”

Villejo hesitated. “Let them have their will, senor,” said Juan Lepe. “Their will is as good as ours.”

Don Bartholomew turned to me. “How fares my brother, Doctor? Is he ill?”

“He is better. Because he was ill I was let to come with him. But now he is better.”

“Give him my enduring love and constancy,” said the Adelantado. “Good night, Villejo!” and turned upon his side with a rattling of his chain.

Returning to the Admiral, Juan Lepe sat beside him through the night. The tempest continuing, there were moments when we thought, It may be the end of this life! We thought to hear the cry “She sinks!” and the rush of feet.

At times when there fell lulls we talked. He was calmly cheerful.

“It seems to me that the storm lessens. I have been penning in my mind, lying here, a letter to one who will show it to the Queen. Writing so, I can say with greater freedom that which should be said.”

“What do you say?”

He told me with energy. His letter related past events in Hispaniola and the arrival of Bobadilla and all that took place thereupon. He had an eloquence of the pen as of speech, and what he said to Dona Juana de la Torre moved. A high simplicity was his in such moment, an opening of the heart, such as only children and the very great attain. He told his wrongs, and he prayed for just judgment, “not as a ruler of an ordered land where obtain old, known, long-followed laws, and where indeed disorder might cry `Weakness and Ill-doing!’ But I should be judged rather as a general sent to bring under government an enemy people, numerous, heathen, living in a most difficult, unknown and pathless country. And to do this I had many good men, it is true, but also a host that was not good, but was factious, turbulent, sensual and idle. Yet have I brought these strange lands and naked peoples under the Sovereigns, giving them the lordship of a new world. What say my accusers? They say that I have taken great honors and wealth and nobility for myself and my house. Even they say, O my friend! that from the vast old-and-new and fairest land that I have lately found, I took and kept the pearls that those natives brought me, not rendering them to the Sovereigns. God judge me, it is not so! Spain becometh vastly rich, and the head of the world, and her Sovereigns, lest they should scant their own nobility, give nobility, place and wage to him who brought them Lordship here. It is all! And out of my gain am I not pledged to gather an army and set it forth to gain the Sepulchre? Have I fallen, now and again, in all these years in my Government, into some error? How should I not do so, being human? But never hath an error been meant, never have I wished but to deal honestly and mercifully with all, with Spaniards and with Indians, to serve well the Sovereigns and to advance the Cross. I call the saints to witness! All the way has been difficult, thorns of nature’s and my enemies’ planting, but God knoweth, I have trodden it steadily. I have given much to the Sovereigns, how much it is future days brighter than these will show! I have been true servant to them. If now, writing in chains, upon the caravel _Santa, Marta_, I cry to them for justice, it is because I do not fear justice!”

He ceased to speak, then presently, “I would that all might see the light that I see over the future!–Thou seest it, Juan Lepe.”

“Aye, I see light over the future.”

By littles the storm fell. Ere dawn we could say, “We shall outlive it!” He slept for an hour then waked. “I was dreaming of the Holy Land–but do you know, Juan Lepe, it was seated here in the lands we found!”

“Seated here and everywhere,” I said. “As soon as we see it so and make it so.”

“Aye, I know that the sea is holy, and so should be all the land! The prophet sees it so–“

The dawn came faintly in upon us. All was quieter, the footing overhead steady, not hasting, frightened. Light strengthened. A boy brought him breakfast. He ate with appetite. “You are better,” I said, “and younger.”

“It is a strange thing,” he answered, “but so it had been from my boyhood. Is the danger close and drear, is the ship upon the reef, then some one pours for me wine! Some one, do I say? I know Whom!”

I began to speak of the Adelantado. “Aye, there he is the same! `Peril–darkness? Well, let’s meet it!’ We are alike, we three brothers, alike and different. Diego serves God best in a monastery, and I serve best in a ship with a book and a map to be followed and bettered. Bartholomew serves best where he has been, Adelantado and Alcayde. He is powerful there, with judgment and action. But he is a sea master too, and he makes a good map.–I thank God who gave us good parents, and to us all three mind and a firm will! The inheritance passes to my sons. You have not seen them? They are youths of great promise! A family that is able and at one, loving and aiding each the other, honoring its past and providing for its future, becomes, I tell you, an Oak that cannot be felled–an Ark that rides the waters!”

As he moved, his chains made again their dull noise. “Do they greatly gall you?”

“Yes, they gall! Flesh and spirit. But I shall wear them until the Queen saith, `Away with them!’ But ever after I shall keep them by me! They shall hang in my house where forever men shall see them! In my son’s house after me, and in his son’s!”

Alonso de Villejo visited him. “The tempest is over, senor. I take it for good augury in your affair!”

Juan Lepe upon the deck found beside him a man whom he knew. “What d’ye think? At the worst, in the middle night, there came to Don Alonso and the master the old seamen and would have him freed so that he might save us! They said that they had seen his double upon the poop, looking at the sea and waving his arm. Then it vanished! They wanted the whole man, they wanted the Admiral! The master roared at them and sent them back, but if it had come to the worst–I don’t know!”

Cadiz–the _Santa Marta_ came to Cadiz. Before us had arrived Bobadilla’s ships, one, two and three. What he found to say through his messengers of the Admiral and Viceroy was in the hands and eyes and ears of all. He said at the height of his voice, across the ocean from Hispaniola, violent and villainous things.

Cadiz–Spain. We crowded to look.. Down plunged anchor, down rattled sails, around us came the boats. The Admiral and the Adelantado rested in chains. The corregidor of Cadiz took them both thus ashore and to a house where they were kept, until the Sovereigns should say, “Bring them before us!”

Juan Lepe the physician was let to go in the boat with him. Juan Lepe–Jayme de Marchena. It was eight years since I had quitted Spain. I was older by that, grizzled, bearded and so bronzed by the Indies that I needed no Moorish stain. I trusted God that Don Pedro and the Holy Office had no longer claws for me.

Cadiz, and all the people out, pointing and staring. I remembered what I had been told of the return from his first voyage, and the second voyage. Then had been bells and trumpets, flowers, banners, grandees drawing him among them, shouts and shouts of welcome!

He walked in gyves, he and the Adelantado, to the house of his detention. Once only a single voice was raised in a shout, “El Almirante!” We came to the house, not a prison, though a prison for him. In a good enough room the corregidor sought to have the chains removed. The Admiral would not, keeping back with voice and eye the men who wished to part them from him. When the Sovereigns knew, and when the Sovereigns sent–then, but not before!

Seven days in this house. Then word from the Sovereigns, and it was here indignant, and here comforting. The best was the Queen’s word; I do not know if it was so wholly King Ferdinand’s. There were letters to the alcalde and corregidor. Release the Admiral of the Ocean-Sea! Don Francisco de Bobadilla had grossly misunderstood! Soothe the Admiral’s hurt. Show him trust and gratitude in Cadiz that was become through him a greater city! Fulfill his needs and further him upon the way to Granada. Put in his purse two thousand ducats. But the letter that counted most to Christopherus Columbus was one to himself from the Queen.

Juan Lepe found him with it in his hand. From the wrist yet hung the chain. Tears were running down his cheeks. “You see–you see!” he said. “I thank thee, Christ, who taketh care of us all!”

They came and took away his chains. But he claimed them from the corregidor and kept them to his death. Came hidalgos of Cadiz and entreated him away from this house to a better one. Outside the street was thronged. “The Admiral! The Admiral! Who gave to Spain the Indies!”

Don Bartholomew was by him, freed like him. And there too moved a slender young man who had come from Granada with the Queen’s letter, Don Fernando, his eldest son. A light seemed around them. Juan Lepe thought, “Surely they who serve large purposes are cared for. Even though they should die in prison, yet are they cared for!”


JUAN LEPE lay upon the sand beyond Palos. The Admiral was with the court in Granada, but his physician, craving holiday, had borne a letter to Juan Perez, the Prior of _Santa Maria_ de la Rabida.

I thought the Admiral would go again seafaring, and that I would go with him. Up at La Rabida, Fray Juan Perez was kind. I had a cell, I could come and go; he did not tell Palos that here was the Admiral’s physician, who knew the Indies from the first taking and could relate wonders. I lived obscure, but in Prior’s room, by a light fire, for it was November, he himself endlessly questioned and listened.

Ocean before me, ocean, ocean! Lying here, those years ago, I had seen ocean only. Now, far, far, I saw land, saw San Salvador, Cuba that might be the main, Hayti, Jamaica, San Juan, Guadaloupe, Trinidad, Paria that again seemed main. Vast islands and a world of small islands, vast mainlands. Then no sail was seen on far Ocean-Sea; now out there might be ships going from Cadiz, coming, returning from San Domingo. Eight years, and so the world was changed!

I thought, “In fifty years–in a hundred years–in two hundred? What is coming up the long road?”

Ocean murmured, the tide was coming in. Juan Lepe waited till the sands had narrowed, till the gray wave foamed under his hand. Then he rose and walked slowly to La Rabida.

After compline, talk; Fray Juan Perez, the good man, comfortable in his great chair before the fire. He had hungered always, I thought, for adventure and marvel. Here it happened–? And here it happened–?

To-night we fell to talk of the Pinzons–Martin who was dead, and Vicente who now was on Ocean-Sea, on a voyage of his own–and of others who had sailed, and what they found and where they were. We were at ease about the Admiral. We had had letters.

He was in Granada, dressed again in crimson and gold, towering again with his silver head, honored and praised. When first he came into the Queen’s presence she had trembled a little and turned pale, and there was water in her eyes. “Master Christopherus, forgive us! Whereupon,” said the letter, “I wept with her.”

Apparently all honors were back; he moved Admiral and Viceroy. His brothers, his sons, all his house walked in a spring sun. He had been shown the letters from Bobadilla, and he who was not lengthy in speech had spoken an hour upon them. His word rang gold; Christ gave it, he said, that his truth was believed. Don Francisco de Bobadilla would quit Hispaniola–though not in chains.

Fray Juan Perez stirred the fire. Upon the table stood a flask of wine and a dish of figs. We were comfortable in La Rabida.

Days passed, weeks passed, time passed. Word from the Admiral, word of the Admiral, came not infrequently to white La Rabida. He himself, in his own person, stood in bright favor, the Queen treasuring him, loving to talk with him, the Court following her, the King at worst only a cool friend. But his affairs of office, Fray Juan Perez and I gathered, sitting solicitous at La Rabida, were not in so fair a posture. He and his household did not lack. Monies were paid him, though not in full his tithe of all gains from his finding. What never shook was his title of The Admiral. But they seemed, the Sovereigns, or at least King Ferdinand, to look through “Viceroy” as though it were a shade. And in Hispaniola, though charged, reproved, threatened, still stayed Bobadilla in the guise of Governor!

“They cannot leave him there,” I said. “If the Colombos are not men for the place, what then is Bobadilla?”

Fray Juan Perez stirred the fire. “King Ferdinand, I say it only to you and in a whisper, has not a little of the King of the Foxes! Not, till he has made up his mind, doth he wish there a perfect man. When he has made it up, he will cast about–“

“I do not think he has any better than the Adelantado!”

” `Those brothers are one. Leave him out!’ saith the King. I will read you his mind! `Master Christopherus Columbus hath had too much from the beginning. Nor is he necessary as he was. When the breach is made, any may take the fortress! I will leave him and give him what I must but no more!’ He will send at last another than Bobadilla, but not again, if he can help it, the old Viceroy! Of course there is the Queen, but she has many sorrows these days, and fails, they say, in health.”

“It may be,” said Juan Lepe. “I myself were content for him to rest The Admiral only. But his mind is yet a hawk towering over land and sea and claiming both for prize. He mingles the earthly and the heavenly.”

“It is true,” said Fray Juan Perez, “that age comes upon him. And true, too, that King Ferdinand may say, `Whatever it was at first, this world in the West becomes far too vast a matter for one man and the old, first, simple ways!’ “

“You have it there,” I answered, and we covered the embers and went to bed in La Rabida.

Winter passed. It was seen that the Admiral could not sail this week nor the next.

Juan Lepe, bearded, brown as a Moor, older than in the year Granada fell, crossed with quietness much of Castile and came on a spring evening to the castle of Don Enrique de Cerda. Again “_Juan Lepe from the hermitage in the oak wood_.”

Seven days. I would not stay longer, but in that time the ancient trees waved green again.

Don Enrique had been recently to Granada. “King Ferdinand will change all matters in the West! Your islands shall have Governors, as many as necessary. They shall refer themselves to a High Governor at San Domingo, who in his turn shall closely listen to a Council here.”

“Will the High Governor be Don Cristoval Colon?”

“No. I hear that he himself agrees to a suspension of his viceroyalty for two years, seeing well that in Hispaniola is naught but faction, everything torn into `Friends of the Genoese’ and `Not friends!’. Perhaps he sees that he cannot help himself and that he less parts with dignity by acceding. I do not know. There is talk of Don Nicholas de Ovanda, Commander of Lares. Your man will not, I think, be sent before a steady wind for Viceroy again–never again. If he presses too persistently, there can always be found one or more who will stand and cry, `He did intend, O King– he doth intend–to make himself King of the Indies!’ And King Ferdinand will say he does not believe, but it is manifest that that thought must first die from men’s minds. The Queen fails fast. She has not the voice and the hand in all matters that once was so.”

“He is one who dies for loyalties,” I said. “He reverences all simply the crowns of Castile and Leon. For his own sake I am not truly so anxious to have him Viceroy again! They will give him ships and let him discover until he dies?”

“Ah, I don’t think there is any doubt about that!” he answered.

We talked somewhat of that great modern world, evident now over the horizon, bearing upon us like a tall, full-rigged ship. All things were changing, changing fast. We talked of commerce and inventions, of letters and of arts, of religion and the soul of man. Out of the soil were pushing everywhere plants that the old called heretical.

Seven days. We were, as we shall be forever, friends.

But Juan Lepe would go back to La Rabida. He was, for this turn of life, man of the Admiral of the Ocean-Sea. So we said farewell, Enrique de Cerda and Jayme de Marchena.

Three leagues Seville side of Cordova I came at eve to a good inn known to me of old. Riding into its court I found two travelers entering just before me, one a well-formed hidalgo still at prime, and the other a young man
evidently his son. The elder who had just dismounted turned and I recognized Don Francisco de Las Casas. At the same instant he saw me. “Ha, Friend! Ha, Doctor!”

We took our supper together in a wide, low room, looking out upon the road. Don Francisco and Juan Lepe talked and the young man listened. Juan Lepe talked but his eyes truly were for this young man. It was not that he was of a striking aspect and better than handsome, though he was all that–but I do not know–it was the future in his countenance! His father addressed him as Bartolome. Once he said, “When my son was at the University at Salamanca,” and again, “My son will go out with Don Nicholas de Ovando.” Juan Lepe, sitting in a brown study, roused at that. “If you go, senor, you will find good memories around the name of Las Casas.”

The young man said, “I will strive in no way to darken them, senor.”

He might be a year or two the younger side of thirty. The father, it was evident, had great pride in him, and presently having sent him on some errand–sending him, I thought, in order to be able to speak of him–told me that he was very learned, a licentiate, having mastered law, theology and philosophy. He himself would not return to Hispaniola, but Bartolome wished to go. He sighed, “I do not know. Something makes me consent,” and went on to enlist Doctor Juan Lepe’s care if in the island ever arose any chance to aid–

The son returned. There was something–Juan Lepe knew it–something in the future.

Later, Don Francisco having gone to bed, the young man and I talked. I liked him extraordinarily. I was not far from twice his age, as little man counts age. But he had soul and mind, and while these count age it is not in the short, earthly way. He asked me about the Indians, and again and again we came back to that, pacing up and down in the moonlight before the Spanish inn.

The next morning parting. They were going to Cordova, I to the sea.

The doves flew over the cloister of La Rabida. The bells rang; in the small white church sang the brothers, then paced to their cells or away to their work among the vines. Prior had a garden, small, with a tree in each corner, with a stone bench in the sun and a stone bench in the shade, and the doves walked here all day long. And here I found the Adelantado with Fray Juan Perez.

The Admiral was well?

Aye, well, and next month would come to Seville. A new Voyage.

We sat under the grape arbor and he told me much, the Prior listening for the second time. The doves cooed and whirred and walked in the sun and shadow. According to Don Bartholomew, half in his pack was dark and half was light.

Ovando? We heard again of all that. He was going out, Don Nicholas de Ovando, with a great fleet.

The Adelantado possessed a deal of plain, strong sense. “I do not think that Cristoforo will ever rule again in Hispaniola! King Ferdinand has his own measure and goes about to apply it. The Queen flinches now from decisions. –Well, what of it? After all, we were bred to the sea, I have a notion that his son Diego–an able youth–may yet be Viceroy. He has established his family, if so be he does not bring down the structure by obstinating overmuch! He sees that, the Admiral, and nods his head and steps aside. As for native pride and its hurt he salves that with great enterprises. It is his way. Drouth? Frost? Out of both he rises, green and hopeful as grass in May!”

“What of the Voyage?” asked Juan Lepe.

“That’s the enterprise that will go through. Now that Portugal and Vasco da Gama are actually in at the door, it behooves us–more and more it behooves us,” said Bartolomeo Colombo, “to find India of All the Wealth! Spain no less than Portugal wants the gold and diamonds, the drugs and spices, the fine, thin, painted cloths, the carved ivory and silver and amber. `Land, land, so much land!’ says King Ferdinand. `But _wealth_? It is all out-go! Even your Crusade were a beggarly Crusade!’ “

“Ha! That hurt him!” quoth Fray Juan Perez.

“Says the King. `Pedro Alonso Nino has made for us the most profitable voyage of any who have sailed from Cadiz.’ `From Cadiz, but not from Palos,’ answers the Admiral.”

“Ha! Easy ’tis when he has shown the way!” said Fray Juan Perez.

Don Bartholomew drew with the Prior’s stick in the sand at our feet. “He conceives it thus. Here to the north is Cuba, stretching westward how far no man knoweth. Here to the south is Paria that he found–no matter what Ojeda and Nino and Cabral have done since!–stretching westward how far no man knoweth, and between is a great sea holding Jamaica and we do not know what other islands. Cuba and Paria curving south and north and between them where they shall come closest surely a strait into the sea of Rich India!” He drew Cuba and Paria approaching each the other until there was space between like the space from the horn of Spain to the horn of Africa. “Rich India–now, now, now–gold on the wharves, canoes of pearls, not cotton and cassava, is what we want in Spain! So the King says, `Very good, you shall have the ships,’ and the Queen, `Christ have you in his keeping, Master Christopherus!’ So we go. All his future hangs, he knows, on finding Rich India.”

“How soon do we go?”

“As soon as he can get the ships and the men and the supplies. He wants only three or four and not great ones. Great ships for warships and storeships, but little ships for discovery!”

“Aye, I hear him!” said Fray Juan Perez. “September –October.”

But it was not until March that we sailed on his last voyage.


THE ships were the _Consolacion_, the _Margarita_, the _Juana_ and the _San Sebastian_, all caravels and small ones, the _Consolacion_ the largest and the flagship. The _Margarita_, that was the Adelantado’s ship, sailed badly. There was something as wrong with her as had been with the _Pinta_ when we started from Palos in ’92.

The men all told, crews and officers and adventurers, were less than two hundred.

Pedro de Terreros, Bartholomew Fiesco, Diego Tristan, Francisco de Porras were the captains of the caravels Juan Sanchez and Pedro Ledesma the chief pilots. Bartholomew Fiesco of the _Consolacion_ was a Genoese and wholly devoted to the greater Genoese. We had for notary Diego Mendez. There were good men upon this voyage, and very bold men.

The youth Fernando Colon sailed with his father. He was now fourteen, Don Fernando, slim, intelligent, obedient and loving always to the Admiral.

Days of bright weather, days and days of that marvelous favorable wind that blows over Ocean-Sea. The twenty- fifth of May the Canaries sank behind us. On and on, all the sails steady.

We were not first for Hispaniola. All must be strange, this voyage! Jamaica, not San Domingo, was our star. Rest there a moment, take food and water, then forth and away. West again, west by south. He was straitly forbidden to drop anchor in any water of Hispaniola. “For why?” said they. “Because the very sight of his ships will tear asunder again that which Don Nicholas de Ovando is healing!”

The _Margarita_, that was next to the _Consolacion_ in greatness, sailed so infirmly that mercy ’twas the seas were smooth. It was true accident. She had been known at Palos, Cadiz and San Lucar for good ship. But at Ercilla where we must stop on the Sovereigns’ business, a storm had beaten her upon the shore where she got a great wound in her side. That was staunched, but all her frame was wrenched and she never did well thereafter. In mid-June we came to an island of the Caribs which they called Mantineo. Here we rested the better part of a week, keeping good guard against the Caribs, then sailed, and now north by west, along a vast curve, within a world of islands. They are great, they are small, they are of the extremest beauty! San Martin, Dominica, Guadaloupe, San Juan– the Boriquen whence had come, long ago, that Catalina whom Guacanagari aided–and untouched at, or under the horizon, many another that the Admiral had named; _Santa Maria_ la Antigua, Santa Cruz, Santa Ursula, Montserrat, Eleven Thousand Virgins, Marigalante and all beside. What a world! Plato his Atlantis. How truly old we are God only knows!

The _Margarita_ sailed most badly. At San Juan that is the neighbor great island to Hispaniola, council, two councils, one following the other. Then said the Admiral, “We are to find the Strait that shall at last carry us to clothed Asia of all the echoes, and to find we have but four small ships and one of them evidently doomed. And in that one sails my brother. What is the Sovereigns’ command? `Touch not on your outward way at Hispaniola!’ What is in their mind here? `Hale and faring well, you have no need.’– But if we are not hale and faring well by a fourth of our enterprise? They never meant it to a drowning man, or one whose water cask was empty! Being Christian, no! We will put into San Domingo and ask of Don Nicholas de Ovando a ship in place of the _Margarita_.”

Whereat all cheered. We were gathered under palms, upon a fair point of land in San Juan le Bautista. Next day we weighed anchor, and in picture San Domingo rose before us.

He felt no doubt of decent welcome, of getting his ship. Fifteen sail had gone out with Ovando. Turn the cases around, and he would have given Ovando welcome, he would give him a good ship. How much more then Christopherus Columbus! The enterprise was common in that all stood to profit. It was royal errand, world service! So he thought and sailed in some tranquillity of mind for San Domingo.

But the Adelantado said in my ear. “There will be a vast to-do! Maybe I’ll sail the _Margarita_ to the end.” He was the prophet!

It was late June. Hispaniola rose, faint, faint, upon the horizon. All crowded to look. There, there before us dwelled countrymen, fellow mariners, fellow adventurers forth from the Old into the New! It was haven; it was Spain in the West; it was Our Colony.

The Admiral gazed, and I saw the salt tears blind his eyes. His son was beside him. He put his hand upon the youth’s shoulder. “Fernando, there it is–I found and named it Hispaniola!”

The weather hung perilously still, the sea glass. It was so clear above, below, around, that we seemed to see by added light, and yet there was no more sunlight. All the air had thinned, it seemed, away. Every sail fell slack. Colors were slightly altered. The Admiral said, “There is coming a great storm.”

The boy Fernando laughed. “Why, father!”

“Stillness before the leap,” said the Admiral. “Quiet at home because the legions have gone to muster.”

It was hard to think it, but too often had it been proved that he was in the secret of water and air. Now Bartholomew Fiesco the Genoese said. “Aye, aye! They say on the ships at Genoa that when it came to weather, even when you were a youngster, you were fair necromancer!”

The sky rested blue, but the sea became green oil. That night there were all around us fields of phosphorescence. About midnight these vanished; it was very black for all the stars, and we seemed to hear a sighing as from a giant leagues away. This passed, and the morning broke, silent and tranquil, azure sky and azure sea, and not so sharply clear as yesterday. The great calm wind again pushed us.

Hispaniola! Hispaniola! Her mountains and her palms before us.

We coasted to the river Hayna and the Spanish city of San Domingo. Three hours from sunset down in harbor plunged our anchors, down rattled our sails.

The _Consolacion’s_ long boat danced by her side. The Admiral would send to land but one boat, and in it for envoy Pedro de Terreros, a well-speaking man and known to Don Nicholas de Ovando. Terreros was envoy, but with him the Admiral sent Juan Lepe, who through the years in Hispaniola had tried to heal the sick, no matter what their faction. The Admiral stayed upon the _Consolacion_, the Adelantado upon the _Margarita_.

The harbor was filled with ships. We counted eighteen. We guessed that they were preparing for sailing, the little boats so came and went between. And our entry had caused excitement. Ship and small boat hailed us, but to them we did not answer. Then came toward us from the shore a long boat with the flag of Spain and in it an official.

Our wharf! Juan Lepe had left it something more than a year and a half ago. San Domingo was grown, many Spaniards having sailed for the west in that time. I saw strangers and strangers, though of Spanish blood. Walking with the officer and his people to the Governor’s house gave time for observation and swift thought. Throng was forming. One had early cried from out it, “That’s the doctor, Juan Lepe! ‘Tis the Admiral out there!” That it was the Admiral seemed to spread. San Domingo buzzed like the air about a hive the first spring day. Farther on, out pushed a known voice. “Welcome, welcome, Doctor!” I looked, and that was Sancho. Luis Torres was in Spain. I had seen him in Cadiz. The crowd was thickening– men came running–there was cry and query. Suddenly rose a cheer. “The Admiral and the Adelantado in their little ships!” At once came a counter-shout. “The Genoese! The Traitors!”

I saw–I saw–I saw that there was some wisdom in King Ferdinand!

The Governor’s house that used to be the Viceroy’s house. State–state! They had cried out upon the Genoese’s keeping it–but Don Nicholas de Ovando kept more. While we waited in the antechamber I saw, out of window and the tail of my eye, files of soldiery go by. Ovando would not have riot and disturbance if twenty Admirals hung in the offing! He kept us waiting. He would be cool and distant and impregnable behind the royal word. Juan Lepe saw plainly that that lavish and magnanimous person aboard the _Consolacion_ would not meet here his twin. The Adelantado must still, I thought, sail the _Margarita_. And yet, looking at all things, that exchange of ships should have been made. A Spaniard, wheresoever found, should have cried “Aye!” to it.

The Governor’s officer who still kept by us was not averse to talk. All those preparing ships in the harbor? Why, they were the returning fleet that brought Don Nicholas in. Sailing to-morrow–hence the hubbub on land and water. They had a lading now! He gazed a moment at us, and as we seemed sober folk, saw no reason why we should not have the public news. Forth it came like water out of bottle. Bobadilla was returning. “A prisoner?” “Why, hardly that! Roldan, too.” “A prisoner?” “Why, not precisely so.” Many of the old regime–Bobadilla’s regime –were returning and Roldan men likewise. Invited to go, in fact, though with no other harsh treatment. One of the ships would be packed with Indian rebels, Gwarionex among them. Chained, all these. The notable thing about the fleet, after all that, was the gold that was going! A treasure fleet! Bobadilla _had_ gathered gold for the crown. He was taking, they said, a sultan’s ransom. He had one piece that weighed, they said, five thousand castellanos. Roldan too had gold. And the Governor was sending no man knew how much. More than that–” He looked at us, then, being a kindly soul, quoth, “Why shouldn’t the Admiral know? Alonso de Carvajal has put on board the _Santa Clara_ for the Admiral’s agent in Cadiz five thousand pieces–fully due, as the Governor had allowed.”

Door was opened. “His Excellency the Governor will see you now.”

Why tarry over a short story? Don Nicholas de Ovando pleaded smoothly the Sovereign’s most strict command which _in any_ to disobey were plain malfeasance! As he spoke he looked dreamily toward blue harbor and the _Consolacion_. And as to a ship! Every ship, except two or three, old and crippled and in the hands of the menders, no whit better it was certain than the _Margarita_, was laded and on the point of sailing. Literally he had none, absolutely not one! He understood that Jamaica was expressly named to the Admiral for resting and overhauling. Careen the _Margarita_ there and rectify the wrong–which he trusted was not great. If ships had been idle and plentiful–but he could not splinter any from the fleet that was sailing to-morrow. He was sorry–and trusted that the Admiral was in health?

Terreros said, “His ship is worse off than you think, Excellency. He has great things to do, confided into his hands by the Sovereigns who treasure him who found all. Here is emergency. May we carry to him invitation to enter San Domingo for an hour and himself present his case?”

But no–but no–but no! Thrice that!

The Governor rose. Audience was over.

For the rest he was courteous–asked of the voyage– and of the Admiral’s notion of the Strait. “A great man!” he said. “A Thinker, a Seer.” He sent him messages of courtesy three-piled. And so we parted.

This was the Governor of whom one said long afterwards,

“He was a good governor for white men, but not for Indians.”

As life and destiny would have it, in the place without the Governor’s house I met him who was to say it. Terreros and I with the same escort were for the water side, the _Consolacion’s_ long boat. The crowd kept with us, but His Excellency’s soldiers held it orderly. Yet there were shouts and messages for the Admiral, and for this one and that one aboard our ships. Then came a young man, said a word to the officer with us, and put out his hand to mine. It was that Bartolome de Las Casas with whom I had walked the white road, under moon, before the inn between Seville and Cordova.


THE Admiral took it with some Italian words under breath. Then he wheeled and left the cabin. A minute later I heard the master from the _Consolacion_ hail the _Margarita_ that lay close by. “_Margarita_, ahoy! Orders! Clap on sail and follow!” The trumpet cried to the Juana and the _San Sebastian_, “Make ready and follow!”

Our mariners ran to make sail. But the long boat waited for some final word that they said was going ashore. Terreros would take it. We were so close that we saw the yet watching crowd, wharf and water side, and the sun glinting upon Ovando’s order-keeping soldiery. The Admiral called me to him. I read the letter to the Governor, Terreros would deliver to our old officer, probably waiting on the wharf to see us quite away. The letter–there was naught in it but the sincerest, gravest warning that a hurricane was at hand. A great one; he knew the signs. It might strike this shore late to-morrow or the next day or the next. Wherefore he begged his Excellency the Governor to tarry the fleet’s sailing. Let it wait at least three days and see if his words came not true! Else there would be scattering of ships and destruction–and he rested his Excellency’s servant. _El Almirante_.

Terreros went, delivered that letter, and returned to the _Juana_. And our sails were made and our anchors lifted, and it was sunset and clear and smooth, and every palm frond of San Domingo showed. Eighteen ships in harbor, and fifteen, they said, going to Spain, and around and upon them all bustle of preparation. One saw in fancy Bobadilla and Roldan and Gwarionex and the much gold, including that piece of virgin ore weighing five thousand castellanos. Fifteen ships preparing for Spain, and San Domingo, of which the Adelantado had laid first stone, and a strange, green, sunset sky. And the _Consolacion_, the _Margarita_, the Juana and the _San Sebastian_ away to the west, to the sound of music, for the Admiral cried to our musicians, “Play, play in God’s name!”

Night passed. Morning broke. So light was the wind that the shore went by slowly. There gathered an impatience. “If we must to Jamaica, what use in following every curve of Hispaniola that is forbid us?” At noon the wind almost wholly failed, then after three hours of this rose with a pouncing suddenness to a good breeze. We rounded a point thronged with palms. Before us a similar point, and between the two that bent gently each to the other, slept a deep and narrow bight. “Enter here,” said the Admiral.

We anchored. There was again a strange sunset, green and gold in the lower west, but above an arc of clouds dressed in saffron and red. And now we could hear, though from very far off, a deep and low murmur, and whether it was the forest or the sea or both we did not know. But now all the old mariners said there would be storm, and we were glad of the little bay between the protecting horns. The Admiral named it Bay of Comfort. The _Consolacion_ _Margarita_, _Juana_, _San Sebastian_, lay under bare masts, deep within the bight.

The next day, an hour before noon, arrived that king hurricane.

They are known now, these storms of Europe’s west and Asia’s east. Take all our Mediterranean storms and heap them into one!

Through the day our anchors held in our Bay of Comfort, and we blessed our Admiral. But at eve the _Margarita_, the _Juana_ and the _San Sebastian_ lost bottom, feared breaking against the rocky shore and stood out for sea room. The _Consolacion_ stayed fast, and at dawn was woe to see nothing at all of the three. In the howling tempest and the
quarter light we knew not if they were sunk or saved.

With the second evening the hurricane sank; at dawn the seas, though running high, no longer pushed against us like white-maned horses of Death. We waited till noon, then the sea being less mountainous, quitted the Bay of Comfort and went to look for the three ships.

The _Juana_ and the _San Sebastian_ we presently sighted and rejoiced thereat. But the _Margarita_! We saw her nowhere, and the Admiral’s face grew gray. His son Fernando pressed close to him. “My uncle is a bold man, and they say the second seaman in the world! Let’s hope and hope–and hope!”

“Why, aye!” said the Admiral. “I’m a good scholar in hope. I told them in San Domingo the ship was not seaworthy. What cared they for that? They were willing that all of my name should drown! God judge between us!”

The _Juana_ came close and shouted that at eve they had seen the Adelantado in great trouble, close to shore. Then came down the night and once or twice they thought they made out a light but they were not sure.

In this West the weather after a hurricane is weather of heaven. We coasted in a high sea, but with safety under a sky one sapphire, and with a right wind,–and suddenly, rounding a palmy headland, we saw the _Margarita_ riding safe in a little bay like the Bay of Comfort. The Admiral fell upon his knees.

The _Margarita_ was safe indeed but was so crazed a ship! The _San Sebastian_, too, was in bad case. Hispaniola truly, but some leagues from San Domingo, and a small, desert, lonely bay! We rested here because rest we must, and mended our ships. Days–three days–a week. The Admiral and the Adelantado kept our people close to the ships. There was no Indian village, but a party sent to gather fruit found two Indians biding, watching from a thicket. These, brought to the Admiral, proved to be from a village between us and San Domingo. They had been in that town after the hurricane. It had uprooted the great tree before the Governor’s house and thrown down a part of the church.

“Had the fleet sailed?”

Yes, it seemed. The day before the storm. But these men knew nothing of its fortunes. He kept the Indians with us until we sailed, so as not to spread news of where we were, then gave them presents and let them go.

But on the day we set to sail we did not sail, for along the coast and into our bay came a small caravel, going with men to our fort in Xaragua. The captain–Ruy Lopez it was–met us as a wonder, San Domingo having held that the hurricane must have sunk us, the sea swallowed us up. He anchored, took his boat and came to the Admiral upon the _Consolacion_.

“senor, I am glad to see you living!”

“Yes, I live, senor. Are you well in San Domingo?”

“Well in body, but sick at heart because of the fleet.”

“Because of the fleet?”

“The fleet, senor, was a day away when the hurricane burst. Half the ships were split, lost, sunken! The others, broken, returned to us. One only went on to Spain. The gold ships are lost. Only, they say, the gold that pertains to you, goes on safely on that one to Cadiz. Gwarionex the Indian is drowned, and Bobadilla and Roldan are drowned.”


THE Indians called it Guanaja, but the Admiral, the Isle of Pines. It was far, far, from Hispaniola, far, far, from Jamaica, over a wide and stormy sea, reached after many days of horrible weather. Guanaja, small, lofty, covered with rich trees among which stood in numbers the pines we loved because they talked of home. To the south, far off, across leagues of water, we made out land. Mainland it seemed to us, stretching across the south, losing itself in the eastern haze. The weather suddenly became blissful. We had sweet rest in Guanaja.

A few Indians lived upon this small island, like, yet in some ways unlike all those we knew. But they were rude and simple and they talked always of gods _to the west_. We had rested a week when there came a true wonder to us _from the west_.

That was a canoe, of the mightiest length we had yet seen, long as a tall tree, eight feet wide, no less, with twenty- five rowing Indians–tall, light bronze men–with cotton cloth about their loins. Middle of this giant canoe was built a hut or arbor, thatched with palm. Under this sat a splendid barbarian, tall and strong, with a crown of feathers and a short skirt and mantle of cotton. Beside him sat two women wrapped in cotton mantles, and at their feet two boys and a young maid. All these people wore golden ornaments about their necks.

It was in a kind of amaze that we watched this dragon among canoes draw near to and pass the ships and to the shore where we had built a hut for the Admiral and the Adelantado and the youth Fernando, and to shelter the rest of us a manner of long booth. It seemed that it was upon a considerable voyage, and wanting water, put in here. The Guanaja Indians cried, “Yucatan! Yucatan!”

The Admiral stepped down to meet these strangers. His face glowed. Here at last was difference beyond the difference of the Paria folk!

We found that they were armed,–the newcomers. Strangely made swords of wood and flint, lances, light bucklers and _hatchets of true copper_. They were strong and fearless, and they seemed to say, “Here before us is great wonder, but wonder does not subdue our minds!”

Their language had, it is true, the flow and clink of Indian tongues, yet was greatly different. We had work to understand. But they were past masters of gesture.

The Admiral sent for presents. Again, these did not ravish, though the cacique and his family and the rowers regarded with interest such strange matters. But they seemed to say, “You yourselves and your fantastic high canoes made, it is evident, of many trees, are the wonder!”

But we, the Spaniards, searching now through ten years –long as the War of Troy–for Asia in which that Troy and all wealth beside had been placed, thought that at last we had come upon traces. In that canoe were many articles of copper, well enough wrought; a great copper bell, a mortar and pestle, hatchets and knives. Moreover in Yucatan were potters! In place of the eternal calabash here were jars and bowls of baked clay, well-made, well-shaped, marked with strange painted figures. They had pieces of cotton cloth, well-woven and great as a sail. Surely, with this stuff, before long the notion of a sail would arise in these minds! We saw cotton mantles and other articles of dress, both white and gayly dyed or figured. Clothing was not to them the brute amaze we had found it with our eastern Indians. Matters enough, strange to our experience, were being carried in that great canoe. We found they had a bread, not cassava, but made from maize, and a drink much like English ale, and also a food called cacao.

Gold! All of them wore gold, disks of it, hanging upon their breasts. The cacique had a thin band of gold across his forehead; together with a fillet of cotton it held the bright feathers of his head dress.

They traded the gold–all except the coronal and a sunlike plate upon the breast of the cacique–willingly enough.

Whence? Whence?

It seemed from Yucatan, on some embassy to another coast or island. Yucatan. West–west! And beyond Yucatan richer still; oh, great riches, gold and clothing and –we thought it from their contemptuous signs toward our booths and their fingers drawn in the air–true houses and temples.

Farther on–farther on–farther west! Forever that haunting, deluding cry–the cry that had deluded since Guanahani that we called San Salvador. Now many of our adventurers and mariners caught fire from that cacique’s wide gestures. The Adelantado no less. “Cristoforo, it looks satisfaction at last!” And the young Fernando,– “Father, let us sail west!”

The Admiral was trying to come at that Strait. Earnestly, through Juan Lepe and through a Jamaican that we had with us, he strove to give and take light. Yucatan? Was there sea beyond Yucatan? Did sea like a river cut Yucatan? Might a canoe–might canoes like ours–go by it from this sea to that sea?

But nothing did we get save that Yucatan was a great country with sea here and sea there. “A point of the main like Cuba!” said the Admiral. Behind it, to the north of it, it seemed to us, the greater country where were the gold, the rich clothing, the temples. But we made out that Yucatan from sea to sea was many days’ march. And as for the country beyond it, that went on, they thought, forever. They called this country Anahuac and they meant the same that years afterward Hernando Cortes found. But we did not know this. We did not know that strange people and their great treasure.

The Admiral looked out to sea. “I have cried, `West– west–west!’ through a-many years! Yucatan! But I make out no sea-passage thence into Vasco da Gama’s India! And I am sworn to the Queen and King Ferdinand this time to find it. So it’s south, it’s south, brother and son!”

So, our casks being full, our fruit gathered, the sky clear and the wind fair, we left the west to others and sailed to find the strait in the south. When we raised our sails that dragon canoe cried out and marveled. But the cacique with the coronal asked intelligent questions. The Admiral showed him the way of it, mast and spar and sail cloth, and how we made the wind our rower. He listened, and at the last he gave Christopherus Columbus for that instruction the gold disk from his breast. I do not know–Yucatan might have gone on from that and itself developed true ship. If it had long enough time! But Europe was at its doors.

The canoe kept with us for a little, then shouted to see the fair breeze fill our sails and carry us from them.

It was mid-August. We came to a low-lying land with hills behind. Here we touched and found Indians, though none such as Yucatan seemed to breed. It was Sunday and under great trees we had mass, having with us the Franciscan Pedro of Valencia. From this place we coasted three days, when again we landed. Here the Indians were of a savage aspect, painted with black and white and yellow and uttering loud cries. We thought that they were eaters of men’s flesh. Likewise they had a custom of wearing earrings of great weight, some of copper, some of that mixed gold we called guanin. So heavy were these ornaments that they pulled the ear down to mid-throat. The Admiral named this place the Coast of the Ear.

On we sailed, and on, never out of sight of land to starboard. Day by day, along a coast that now as a whole bent eastward. And yet no strait–no way through into the sea into which poured the Ganges.


THE weather plagued us. The rains were cataracts, the lightning blinding, the thunder loud enough to wake the dead. Day after day, until this weather grew to seem a veritable Will, a Demon with a grudge against us.

The _Margarita_ sailed no better; she sailed worse. The Admiral considered abandoning her, taking the Adelantado upon the _Consolacion_ and dividing his crew among the three ships. But the Adelantado’s pride and obstinacy and seamanship were against that. “I’ll sail her, because San Domingo thinks I can!”

Stormy days and nights, and the Admiral watching. “The _Margarita_! Ho, look out! Do you see the _Margarita_?”

In the midst of foul weather came foully back the gout that crippled him. I would have had him stay in his bed. “I cannot! How do you think I can?” In the end he had us build him some kind of shelter upon deck, fastening there a bench and laying a pallet upon this. Here, propped against the wood, covered with cloaks, he still watched the sea and how went our ship and the other ships.

Day after day and day after day! Creeping eastward along a bad shore, in the teeth of the demon. The seas, the winds, the enormous rain wore us out. Men grew large-eyed. If we slept came a shriek and wakened us. We would
put to land, but the wind turned and thrust us out again, or we found no harbor. We seemed to be fixed in one place while time rushed by us.

Forecastle began to say, “It is enchantment!” Presently poop echoed it. The boy Fernando brought it to his father. “Alonso de Zamorra and Bernardo the Apothecary say that demons and witches are against us.”

“The Prince of the Power of the Air!” said the Admiral. “It may be, child! Paynimry against Christianity. We had a touch of the same quality once off Cuba. But is it, or is it not, Christian men shall win! And send me Bartholomew Fiesco. Such talk is injury. It bores men’s courage worse than the _teredo_ a ship’s bottom!”

We thought the foul weather would never cease, and our toil would never cease–then lo! at the point of despair the sky cleared with a great clap of light, the coast turned sharply, sheerly south–he named the great cape, Cape Gracias a Dios–and we ran freely, West again.

Coming in three days to a wide river mouth, in we turned. The shore was grown with reeds that would do for giants’ staffs. On mud banks we saw the crocodile, “cayman” they call it. Again the sky hung a low, gray roof; a thin wind whistled, but for all that it was deathly hot. Seeing no men, we sent two boats with Diego Mendez up the stream. They were not gone a half league, when, watching from the _Consolacion_ we marked a strange and horrid thing. There came without wind a swelling of the sea. Our ships tossed as in tempest, and there entered the river a wall of sea water. Meeting the outward passing current, there ensued a fury with whirlpools. It caught the boats. Diego Mendez saved his, but the other was seized, tossed and engulfed. Eight men drowned.

The thing sank as it had come. The River of Disaster, we named it, and left this strip of coast that seemed to us gloomy and portentous. “_Wizardry! It’s not to be lucky, this voyage_.” It was now late September.

Next day, we anchored, it being most clear and beautiful. We lay beside a verdurous islet, between it and a green shore. Here were all our fruits, and we thought we smelled cinnamon and clove. Across, upon the main, stood a small village. _Cariari_ the Indians there called themselves. They had some gold, but not to touch that canoe from Yucatan. Likewise they owned a few cotton mantles, with jars of baked clay, and we saw a copper hatchet. But they did not themselves make these things. They had drifted to them, we thought, from a people far more skilled.

The Admiral cried, “When and when and when shall we come to this people?”

I answered, “I tell you what is in my mind, and I have got it, I think, from your inmost mind, out of which you will not let it come forth because you have had a great theory and think you must stand to it. But what if this that you have underneath is a greater one? What if the world truly is larger than Alfraganus or the ancients thought? What if all this that we have found since the first island and that means only beginnings of what is to be found; what if it is not Asia at all? What if it is a land mass, great as Europe or greater, that no one knew anything of? What if over by the sunset there is Ocean-Sea again, true ocean and as many leagues to Asia as to Spain? What if they cannot lead us to Quinsai, Cambaluc or Zaiton, or to the Ganges’ mouth, or Aurea Chersonesus, because they never heard of them, and they have no ships to pass again an Ocean-Sea? What if it is all New, and all the maps have to be redrawn?”

He looked at me as I spoke, steadily and earnestly. What Juan Lepe said was not the first entry into his mind of something like that. But he was held by that great mass of him that was bound by the thinking of the Venerable. He was free far and far beyond most, but to certain things he clung like a limpet. “The Earthly Paradise!” he said, and he looked toward that Paria that we thought ran across our south. “When our first parents left the Earthly Paradise, they and their sons and daughters and all the peoples to come wandered by foot into Chaldea and Arabia. So it could not be!” His blue-gray eyes under that great brow and shock of white hair regarded the south.

This faery island–the Garden he called it–and the Cariari who came to us from the main. One day they saw one of us take out pen and inkhorn and write down their answers to our many questions. Behind us lay the blue sea, before us the deep groves of the islet; between us and the rich shade stood gathered a score of these Indians. They looked at the one seated on the sand, industriously making black marks upon a white sheet. The Indian speaking stopped short and put up an arm in an attitude of defense; another minute and they had all backed from us into the wood. We saw only excited, huddled eyes. Then one started forth, advancing over the sand, and he had a small gourd filled with some powder which he threw before him. He scattered it ceremonially between us and himself and his fellows, a slow, measured rite with muttered words and now and then a sharp, rising note.

Cried Juan Sanchez the pilot, “What’s he doing?”

Juan Lepe answered before he thought, “He thinks the notary yonder is a magician and the pen his wand. Something is being done to them! Counter-magic.”

“Then they are enchanters!” cried Alonso de Zamorro.

Our great cluster gave back. “Fix an arrow and shoot him down!” That was Diego de Porras.

The Adelantado turned sharply. “Do no such thing! There may be spells, but the worst spell here would be a battle!” We let fly no arrow, but the belief persisted that here was seen veritably at work the necromancy that all along they had guessed.

A party crossed to the main with the Adelantado and pushed a league into as tall and thick and shadowy a forest as ever we met in all our wanderings. Here we found no village, but came suddenly, right in the wood, upon a very great thatched hut, and in it, upon a stone, lay in state a dead cacique. He seemed long dead, but the body had not corrupted; it was saved by some knowledge such as had the Egyptians. A crown of feathers rested upon the head and gold was about the neck. Around the place stood posts and slabs of a dark wood and these were cut and painted with I do not know what of beast and bird and monstrous idol forms. We stared. The place was shadowy and very silent. At last with an oath said Francisco de Porras, “Take the gold!” But the Adelantado cried, “No!” and going out of the hut that was almost a house we left the dead cacique and his crown and mantle and golden breastplate. Two wooden figures at the door grinned upon us. We saw now what seemed a light brown powder strewed around and across the threshold. One of our men, stooping, took up a pinch then dropped it hastily. “It is the same they threw against us!”

“Wizardry! We’ll find harm from them yet!” That song crept in now at every turn.

We sailed from the Garden south by east along the endless coast that no strait broke. At first fair weather ran with us. But the _Margarita_ was so lame! And all our other ships wrenched and worm-pierced. And the Admiral was growing old before our eyes. Not his mind or his soul but his frame.

He bettered, left his bed and walked the deck. And then we came to the coast we called the Golden Coast, and his hope spread great wings again, and if our mariners talked of magic it was for a time glistening white.

Gold, gold! A deep bay, thronged at the mouth with islets so green and fair, they were marvel to us who were sated with islands great and small. We entered under overhanging trees, and out at once to us shot twenty canoes. The Indians within wore gold in amount and purity far beyond anything in ten years. Oh, our ships could scarce contain their triumph! The Admiral looked a dreamer who comes to the bliss center in his dream. Gold was ever to him symbol and mystery. He did not look upon it as a buyer of strife and envy, idleness and soft luxury; but as a buyer of crusades, ships and ships, discoveries and discoveries, and Christ to enter heathendom.

Gold! Discs of great size, half-moons, crescent moons, pierced for a cotton string. Small golden beasts and birds, poorly carved but golden. They traded freely; we gathered gold. And there was more and more, they said, at Veragua, wherever that might be, and south and east it seemed to be.

Veragua! We would go there. Again we hoisted sail and in our ships, now all unseaworthy, crept again in a bad wind along the coast of gold,–Costa Rico. At last we saw many smokes from the land. That would be a large Indian village. We beat toward it, found a river mouth and entered. But Veragua must have heard of us from a swift land traveler. When a boat from each ship would approach the land–it was in the afternoon, the sun westering fast –a sudden burst of a most melancholy and awful din came from the forest growing close to water side.

One of our men cried “Wizards!” The Admiral spoke from the stern of the long boat. “And what if they be wizards? We may answer, `We are Christians!’ “

The furious din continued but now we were nearer. “Besides,” he said, “those are great shells and drums.”

Our rowers held off. Out of the forest on to the narrow beach started several hundred shell-blowing, drum-beating barbarians, marvelously feathered and painted and with bows and arrows and wooden swords.

An arrow stuck in the side of our boat, others fell short. The Admiral rose, tall, broad-shouldered, though lean as winter where there is winter, with hair as white as milk. He held in his hand a string of green beads and another of hawk bells which he made to ring, but he did not depend more upon them than upon what he held within him of powerful and pacific. He sent his voice, which he could make deep as a drum and reaching as one of those great shells. “Friends–friends! Bringing Christ!”

An arrow sang past him. His son would have drawn him down, but, “No–no!” and “Friends–friends! Bringing Christ!”

And whether they thought that “Christ” was the beads and the bell, or whether the bowman in him did send over good will and make it to enter their hearts, or whether it was somewhat of both, they did suddenly grow friendly. Whereupon we landed.

Gold! We took much gold from this place. One of our men, touched by the sun, sat and babbled. “Oh, the faithful golden coast! Oh, the gold that is to come! Great golden ships sailing across blue sea! A hundred–no, a thousand–what do I say? A million Indians with baskets long and wide on their backs and the baskets filled with gold! The baskets are so great and the gold so heavy that the Indians are bowed down till they go on all fours. Gold, –a mountain of pure gold and every Spaniard in Spain and a few Italians–golden kings–” When we had all we could get, up sail and on!

Sail on and on along the golden coast of Veragua! Come to a river and land, for all that again we heard drums and those great shells strongly blown. Make peace and trade. And here again was gold, gold, gold. We were now assured that the main was far richer than any island. Turbulent hope,–that was the chief lading now of the four ships. Gold! Gold! Golden moon disks and golden rude figures. We found a lump of gold wrought like a maize ear.

What was beyond that, by itself under trees, we found an ancient, broken, true wall, stone and lime. The stones were great ones, set truly, with care. The wall was old; the remainder of house, if house or temple there had been, broken from it. Now the forest overran all. We did not know when or by whom it was built, and we found no more like it. But here was true masonry. All of us said that the world of the main was not the world of the islands.

Ciguarre. These Indians declared it was Ciguarre we should seek. Now that we were in Veragua–seek Ciguarre.

So we sailed beyond Veragua hunting the strait which we must pass through to Ganges and Ind of old history.


PUERTO BELLO! Beautiful truly, and a harbor where might ride a navy. But no gold; and now came back very evilly the evil weather. Seven days a blast rocked us. We strained eyes to see if the _Margarita_ yet lived. The _San Sebastian_ likewise was in trouble. No break for seven days. It was those enchanters of Cariari– magic asleep for a while but now awake!

Storm. And two ships nigh to foundering. When wind sank and blue came back, we left Puerto Bello and turned again south by east, but now with crazy, crazy ships, weather-wrenched and worm-eaten, _teredo_ pierced. They looked old,
so old, with their whipped and darkened sails. And when we dropped anchor in some bight there was no gold, but all night we heard that harsh blowing of shells and beating of drums.

Francisco and Diego de Porras, Alonso de Zamorra, Pedro de Villetoro, Bernardo the Apothecary and others, the most upon the _Consolacion_, others on the _Margarita_ and the _Juana_, now began to brew mutiny.

We sailed on, and upon this forlorn coast we met no more gold. Our ships grew so worn that now at any threat in the sky we must look and look quickly for harborage, be it good or indifferent bad. To many of us the coast now took a wicked look. It was deep in November.

No gold. These Indians–how vast anyhow was India?– were hostile, not friendly. Our ships were dying, manifestly. If they sank under us and we drowned, the King and Queen–if the Queen still lived–never would come to know that Christopherus Columbus had found Veragua thrice more golden even than Paria! Found Veragua, met men of Yucatan; and heard of Ciguarre.

At last not only the mutinous but steadfast men cried, “If there is a strait it is too far with these ships!”

For a time he was obstinate. _It must be found,–it must be found!_ But one night there fell all but loss of the Margarita. When next he slept he had a dream. “The good Queen came to me and she had in her hand a picture of five stout ships. Out of her lips came a singing voice. `Master Christopherus, Master Christopherus, these wait for you, riding in Cadiz harbor! But now will you slay your son and your brother and all your men?’ Then she said, `The strait is hidden for a while,’ and went.”

That day we turned. “We will go back to Veragua and lade with gold, and then we’ll sail to Jamaica and to Hispaniola where this time we shall be welcome! Then to Spain where the Queen will give me a stronger fleet.”

Our ships hailed the turning. Even the Adelantado, even Diego Mendez and Juan Sanchez and Bartholomew Fiesco who were of the boldest drew long breath as of men respited from death.

Not so many have known and lived to tell of such weather as now we met and in it rolled from wave to wave through a long month.

Would we put to land we were beaten back. We had never seen such waves, and at times they glowed with cold fire. The sea with the wind twisted, danced and shouted. We were deaf with thunder and blind with lightning. When the rain descended, it was as though an upper ocean were coming down. A little surcease, then return of the tempest, like return of Polyphemus. Men died from drowning, and, I think, from pure fright. One day the clouds drove down, the sea whirled up. There was made a huge water column, a moving column that fast grew larger. Crying out, our sailors flung themselves upon their knees. It passed us with a mighty sound, and we were not engulfed.

The Admiral said, “God tries us, but he will not destroy us utterly!”

The boy Fernando, in a moment’s wild terror who was ordinarily courageous as any, clung to him. “O my son! I would that you were in La Rabida, safe beside Fray Juan Perez! My son and my brother Bartholomew!”

Now came to us all scarcity of food and a misery of sickness. Now two thirds would have mutinied had we not been going back–but we were going back–creeping, crawling back as the tempest would allow us.

Christmas! We remembered our first Christmas in this world, by Guarico in Hispaniola, when the _Santa Maria_ sank. Again we found a harbor, and we lay there between dead and alive, until early January. We sailed and on Epiphany Day entered a river that we knew to be in golden Veragua. The Admiral called it the Bethlehem.

Gold again, gold! Not on the Bethlehem, but on the river of Veragua, not far away, to which the Admiral sent the Adelantado and two long boats filled with our stoutest men. They brought back gold, gold, gold!

The cacique of these parts was Quibian, a barbarian whom at the last, not the first, we concluded to be true brother of Caonabo.

With threescore of our strongest, the Adelantado pushed again up the river of Veragua, too rough and shallow for our ships. He visited Quibian; he traded for gold; he was taken far inland and from a hill observed a country of the noblest, vale and mountain and Indian smokes. The mountains, the Indians said, were packed with gold. He brought back much gold, Indians bearing it for him in deep baskets that they made.

Quibian paid us a visit, looked sullenly around, and left us. Not in the least was he Guacanagari! But neither, quite yet, did he turn into Caonabo.

The Admiral sat pondering, his hands before him between his knees, his gray-blue eyes looking further than the far mountains. Later, on the shore, he and the Adelantado walked up and down under palm trees. The crews watched them, knowing they were planning.

What they planned came forth the next day, and it was nothing short of a colony, a settlement upon the banks of the river Bethlehem.

Christopherus Columbus spoke,–tall, powerful, gaunt, white-headed, gray-eyed, trusted because he himself so trusted, suasive, filled with the power of his vision. His frame was growing old, but he himself stayed young. His voice never grew old, nor the gray-blue light from his eyes. Here was gold at last, and Veragua manifestly richer than all Hispaniola; aye, richer than Paria! Behind Veragua ran Ciguarre that was fabulously rich, that was indeed India sloping to Ganges. The Indians were friendly enough for all their drum-beating and shell-blowing. Quibian’s first frowning aspect had been but aspect. A scarlet cloak and a sack full of toys had made all right. There was rest on land, with fruit and maize as we saw. Build a fort–leave a ship–divide our force. A half would rest here, first settlers of a golden country with all first settlers’ advantage. Half sail with Christopherus Columbus back to Spain– straight to Spain–for supplies and men. He would return, he swore it, with all speed. A ship should be left, and beyond the ship, the Adelantado.–It was for volunteers for the fortress and city of Veragua!

In the end eighty men said “We will stay.” We began to build. How long since we had built La Navidad!

The River Bethlehem, that had been full when we entered, now was half empty of its waters. The _Consolacion_, the _Juana_, and the _San Sebastian_ that were to depart for Spain could not pass. The Admiral hung, fitted to go, but waiting perforce for rains that should lift the ships so they might pass the bar.

Again Juan Lepe was to stay–so surely would the staying need a physician.

“It is March,” said the Admiral. “God aiding, I and Fernando shall be back in October at latest.”

These Indians seemed to us to have Carib markings. Yet they all professed amity and continuously brought in gold. We began to build by the fort a storehouse for much gold.

Suddenly we found–Diego Mendez, bold enough and a great wanderer, doing the finding–that Quibian’s village up the river of Veragua contained many too, many young men and men in their prime, and that by day and night these continued to pour in. It had–Diego Mendez thought –much the aspect of a camp whose general steadily received reenforcement.

Next day came to the Admiral an Indian who betrayed his people. Quibian never meant to have in Veragua a swarm of white caciques! When he had about him every young man, he was coming, coming, coming through the woods!

The Admiral sent the Adelantado. That strong man chose fourscore Spaniards, armed them and departed. By boat and through thick forest he reached Quibian’s village, descended upon it like a hurricane and seized Quibian, much as long ago–long, long ago it seemed to us–Alonso de Ojeda had seized Caonabo.

Juan Sanchez the pilot held Quibian in the long boat while the Adelantado still wrought upon the land. Juan Sanchez was strong and wary, and watchful; so they swore were all the Spaniards in the boat. Yet when night was fallen that Indian, bound as he was, broke with a shout from them all and leaped from boat into black river.

They thought he perished, seeing him no more for all their moving about and bringing the boat to the land. Juan Sanchez was certain he sank, bound as he was. With other captives and with a great mass of golden ornaments, came back to the ships the Adelantado. The Indian camp was broken, dispersed.

The rains began to fall. The river swelled; the fort and store place and other houses were builded.

The eighty who were to stay and the something under that number who were to go prepared to say farewell. We went to mass under three palm trees, before our fort on the river Bethlehem. That over, those who were to go went aboard the three ships, and the sails were made, and they began to sing as they passed down the Bethlehem. The _Margarita_ and we watched their going.

They went a league, and then another–we thought they were wholly gone. But out of the river, though the skies were clear, again rushed against them an enemy wind. They lay at anchor in river mouth, waiting on propitiousness. But we, up the river, thought they were gone. That night, before dawn, Quibian attacked us.

We had several killed, and the Adelantado was hurt in the breast, and many others had their wounds. But we thundered with our cannon and we loosed two bloodhounds and we charged. For a time the brown, naked foe fought desperately, but at last he broke. Far streamed five hundred fleeing particles into the gloomy, the deep, the matted forest. Up the river came a long boat, and we found it to hold Diego Tristan and eight men sent by the Admiral with a forgotten word for the Adelantado. Much we rejoiced that the ships were not clean gone!

Diego Tristan took our news. The Adelantado–his hurt was slight–wrote again to the Admiral. Again we said farewell to Diego Tristan. The long boat passed a turn in the Bethlehem; out of our sight. Once we thought we heard a faint and distant shouting, but there was no telling. But in five hours there staggered into fort Juan de Noya who alone lived of that boatful, set upon by Quibian. Diego Tristan dead, and seven men.

All that night we heard in the wood those throbbing Indian drums and wild-blowing shells.

They were Caribs, now we were sure, and Quibian lived and preached a holy war. Though we had driven them off, we heard them mustering again. If we could not get food –perhaps not water?

Sixty of ours came to the Adelantado. In truth, all might have come, for massacre, slow or swift, was certain if we stayed in Veragua. I read that the Adelantado, who was never accused of cowardice or fickleness, was himself determined. The settlement below the golden mines of golden Veragua must wait a little.

We took our wounded and with the Adelantado, turned Mars in these three days, came down to the Bethlehem, to a pebbly shore from which the water had shrunken. Here at least was our ship with us, and the river that bore to the sea. Here, for the weather was ferocious and Quibian howling around us, we built what shelter we might. Here in much misery we waited days for the long and wild storm to cease. We hoped the Admiral was yet at the mouth of the Bethlehem, but could not do more than hope.

Then came through every peril that might be Pedro Ledesma, from the ships. They waited! Break through– come down!

The _Margarita_ could never pass the bar that now the falling water left exposed. We made rafts, we dismantled her and took what we could; we left her in Veragua for Quibian to walk her deck and sail her if he might. Through danger in multitude, with our rafts and two boats, with the loss of six men, we went down the Bethlehem. Some of ours wept when they saw the ships, and the Admiral wept when he and the Adelantado met.

Away from Veragua!

Is it only the Spaniards who suffer, and for what at the last, not at the first, did Quibian fight? In that strong raid when we thought Quibian perished had been taken captive brothers and kinsmen of that cacique. These were prisoned upon the _Juana_, to be taken to Spain, shown, made Christian, perhaps sold, perhaps–who knows?–returned to their land, but never to freedom.

While the _Juana_ tossed where Bethlehem met the sea, these Indians broke in the night time up through hatchway and made for the side to throw themselves over. But the watch gave a great cry and sprang upon them, and other Spaniards came instantly. All but two were retaken. These two, wrenching themselves free, sprang away into rough water and dark night, and it is most likely that they drowned, being a mile from shore. But the others were thrust back and down under hatch which then was chained so that they might not again lift it. But in the morning when the captain of the _Juana_ went to look, all, all were dead, having hanged themselves.


WE left one of our ships in the Bethlehem and we lost another upon this disastrous coast ere we got clear for Jamaica.

We were sea specters. We had saved our men from the _San Sebastian_ as from the _Margarita_. Now all were upon the _Consolacion_ and the _Juana_. Fifty fewer were we than when we had sailed from Cadiz, yet the two ships crept over-full. And they were like creatures overcome with eld. Beaten, crazed, falling apart.

On the Eve of Saint John we came to Jamaica.

The ships were riddled by the _teredo_. We could not keep afloat to go to Hispaniola. At Santa Gloria we ran them in quiet water side by side upon the sand. They partly filled, they settled down, only forecastle and poop above the blue mirror. We built shelters upon them and bridged the space between. The ocean wanderers were turned into a fort.

Jamaica, we thanked all the saints, was a friendly land. They brought us cassava and fruit, these Indians; they swarmed about us in their canoes. The gods in trouble, yet still the gods!

We were forty leagues from Hispaniola, and we had no ship!

Again there volunteered Diego Mendez. We ourselves had now but one Christian boat. But there existed canoes a-plenty. Chose one, with six Indians to row! Leave Diego Mendez with one other Spaniard of his choice to cross the sea between us and Hispaniola, get to San Domingo, rouse all Christian men, even Don Nicholas de Ovanda, procure a large ship or two smaller ones, return with rescue!

We sent off Diego Mendez with strong farewells and blessings. The vast blue sea and air withdrew and covered from sight the canoe.

A week–two weeks. Grew out of the azure a single canoe, and approached. “Diego Mendez–Diego Mendez!”

It was he alone, with a tale to tell of storm and putting ashore and capture after battle by Jamaicans no longer friendly, and of escape alone. But he would go again if so be he might have with him Bartholomew Fiesco. They went, with heavily paid Indians to row the staunchest canoe we could find. This time the Adelantado with twenty kept them company along the shore to end of the island, where the canoe shot forth into clear sea, and the blue curtain came down between the stranded and the going for help. The Adelantado returned to us, and we waited. The weeks crept by.

Great heat and sickness, and the Indians no longer prompt to bring us supplies. Sooner or later, each of these dark peoples found a Quibian or Caonabo.

The most of us determined that Diego Mendez and Fiesco and their canoe were lost. Hispaniola knew nothing of us –nothing, nothing! Suddenly the two Porras brothers led a mad mutiny. “Leave these rotting ships–seize the canoes we need–all of us row or swim to Hispaniola!”

There were fifty who thought thus. The Admiral withstood them with strong words, with the reasoning of a master seaman, and the counsel now–his white and long hair, and eld upon him–of Jacob or Isaac or Abraham. But they would not, and they would not, and at last they departed from us, taking–but the Admiral gave them freely –the dozen canoes that we had purchased, crowding into these, rowing away with cries from that sea fortress, melancholy indeed, in the blinding light.

They vanished. The next day fair, the next a mad storm. Two weeks, and news came of them. They were not nigh to Hispaniola; wrecked, they lost five men, but got, the rest of them, to land, where they now roved from village to village. Another week, and the Indians who came to us and whom we kept friendly, related with passionate and eloquent word and gesture evils that that band was working. Pedro Margarite–Roldan–over and over again!

After much of up and down those mutineers came back to us. They could not do without us; they could not get to Hispaniola in Indian canoes. The Admiral received them fatherly.

No sail–no sail. Long months and no sail. Surely Diego Mendez and Bartholomew Fiesco were drowned! Hispaniola, if it thought of us at all, might think us now by Ganges. Or as lost at sea.

Christopherus Columbus dreamed again, or had a vision again. “I was hopeless. I wept alone on a desert shore. My name had faded, and all that I had done was broken into sand and swept away. I repined, and cried, `Why is it thus?’ Then came a ship not like ours, and One stepped from it in light and thunder. `O man of little faith, I will cover thy eyes of to-day!’ He covered them, and I _saw_.– And now, Juan Lepe, I care not! We will all come Home, whether or no the wave covers us here.”

To mariners and adventurers he said at no time any word of despair. He said, “A ship will come! For if–which the saints forfend–Bartholomew Fiesco and Diego Mendez have not reached San Domingo, yet come at last will some craft to Jamaica! From our island or from Spain. How many times since ’92 has there been touching here? Of need now it will be oftener and oftener!”

But still many pined with hope deferred.–And then, out of the blue, arose first Diego de Escobar’s small ship, and later the two good ships sent by Don Nicholas de Ovando.

The Admiral of the Ocean-Sea lodged in the Governor’s house in San Domingo. Who so courteous as Don Nicholas, saving only Don Cristoval?

Juan Lepe found certain ones and his own eyes to tell him of island fortunes. Here was Sancho, a bearded man, and yet looked out the youth who had walked from Fishertown to Palos strand. “Oh, aye! San Domingo’s growing! It’s to be as great as Seville, with cathedral and fortress and palace. White men build fast, though not so fast as the Lord!”

“The Governor?”

“Oh, he makes things spin! He’s hard on the Indians– but then they’ve surely given us trouble!”

He told of new forts and projected towns and an increasing stream of ships, from Spain to Spain again. “We’re here to stay–as long as there’s a rock of gold or anything that can be turned into gold! The old bad times are over–and that old, first simple joy, too, Doctor!– Maybe we’ll all ship for Ciguarre.”

But no. The colony now was firm, with thousands of Spaniards where once had stood fivescore. Luis Torres sat with me and he told me of Indian war,–of Anacaona hanged and Cotubanama hanged, of eighty caciques burned or hanged, of _peace_ at last. Now the Indians worked the mines, and scraped the sands of every stream, and likewise planted cotton and maize for the conquerors. They were gathered in _repartimentios, encomiendas_, parceled out, so many to every Spaniard with power. The old word “gods” had gone out of use. “Master” was now the plain and accurate term.