Christopherus Columbus beckoned me and I went the round of the ship with him and others and his guest, this far-away son of Great India. So, presently, he was taken to view the horses and the cattle. Whoever hath seen lions brought to a court for show hath seen some shrinking from too-close and heard timorous asking if the bars be really strong. And the old, wild beasts at Rome for the games. If one came by chance upon them in a narrow quarter there might be terror. And the bull that we goad to madness for a game in Spain—were barriers down would come a-scrambling! This cacique had never seen an animal larger than a fox or a dog, Yet he stood with steadiness, though his glance shot here and there. The stallion was restless and fiery-eyed; the bull sent forth a bellow. “Why do they come? What will they do here? Will you put them in the forest? The people will be afraid to wander!”
He looked away to sky and sea and shore. “It grows toward night,” he said. “I will go back to my town.”
The Admiral said, “I would first show you the Caribs,” and took him there where they were bound. The Haytien regarded them, but the Caribs were as contemptuously silent as might have been Alonso de Ojeda in like circumstances. Only as Guacanagari turned away, one spoke in a fierce, monotonous voice. “You also, Haytien, one moon!”
“You lie! Only Caribs!” Guacanagari said back.
The cacique stood before the woman whom they called Catalina. She broke into speech. It was cacique to cacique. She was from Boriquen—she would return in a canoe if she were free! Better drown than live with the utterly un-understandable—only that they ate and drank and laid hold of women whether these would or would not, and were understandable that far! Gods! At first she thought them gods; now she doubted. They were magicians. If she were free—if she were free—if she were free! Home—Boriquen! If not that, at least her own color and the understandable!”
Guacanagari stood and listened. She spoke so fast—the Admiral never became quite perfect in Indian tongues, and few upon the Marigalante were so at this time. Juan Lepe understood. But just as he was thinking that in duty bound he must say to the Admiral, “She is undermining reputation. Best move away!” Guacanagari made a violent gesture as though he would break a spell. “Where could they come from with all that they have except from heaven? Who can plan against gods? It is sin to think of it! El Almirante will make you happy, Boriquen woman!”
We left the women. But Guacanagari himself was not happy, as he had been that Christmas-tide when first the gods came, when the Santa Maria was wrecked and he gave us hospitality.
The Admiral did not see that he was unhappy. The Admiral saw always a vast main good, and he thought it pearl and gold in every fiber. As yet, he saw no rotted string, no snarl to be untangled. It was his weakness, and maybe, too, his strength.