The sunset hung over this roadstead and the shore. The mountains glowed in it, the nearer wood fell dark, the beach showed milky white, a knot of palms upon a horn of land caught full gold and shone as though they were in heaven. Over upon the Cordera they were singing. The long cacique-canoe shot out from the shadow of the Marigalante.
Sun dipped, night cupped hands over the world. The long day of excitement was over. Mariners slept, adventurers gentle and simple, the twelve friars and Father Buil. Seventeen ships, nigh fifteen hundred men of Europe, swinging with the tide before the land we were to make Spanish.
The watch raised a cry. Springing from his bed Juan Lepe came on deck to find there confusion, and under the moon in the clear water, swimming forms, swimming from us in a kind of desperate haste and strength. There was shouting to man the boat. One jostling against me cried that they were the captive Indians. They had broken bonds, lifted hatch, knocked down the watch, leaped over side. Another shouted. No, the Caribs were safe. These were the women—
The women—seven forms might be made out—were not far from land. I felt tingling across to me their hope and fear. Out of ship shadow shot after them our boat. Strongly rowed, it seemed to gain, but they made speed strongly, strongly. The boat got into trouble with the shallows. The swimmers now stood and ran, now were racers; in a moment they would touch the dry, the shining beach. Out of boat sprang men running after them, running across low white lines of foam. The women, that strong woman cacique ahead, left water, raced across sand toward forest. Two men were gaining, they caught at the least swift woman. The dark, naked form broke from them, leaped like a hurt deer and running at speed passed with all into the ebony band that was forest.
Alonso de Ojeda burst into a great laugh. “Well
The Admiral’s place could ever be told by his head over all. Moreover his warm, lifted, powerfully pulsing nature was capable of making around him a sphere that tingled and drew. One not so much saw him as felt him, here, there. Now I stood beside him where he leaned over rail. “Gone,” he said. “They are gone!” He drew a deep breath. I can swear that he, too, felt an inner joy that they had escaped clutching.
But in the morning he sent ashore a large party under his brother, Don Diego. We received another surprise. No Indians on the beach, none in the forest, and when they came to the village, only houses, a few parrots and the gardens, dewy fresh under the sun’s first streaming. No Indians there, nor man nor woman nor child, not Guacanagari, not Guarin, not Catalina and her crew—none! They were gone, and we knew not where, Quisquaya being a huge country, and the paths yet hidden from us or of doubtful treading. But the heaped mountains rose before us, and Juan Lepe at least could feel assured that they were gone there. They vanished and for long we heard nothing of them, not of Guacanagari, nor of Guarin who had saved Juan Lepe, not of Catalina, nor any.