Out sprang the noise of a brawl.—There was that in the Admiral that would have when it could outward no less than inward magnificence. He could go like a Spartan or Diogenes the Cynic, but when the chance came—magnificence! With him from Spain traveled a Viceroy’s household. He had no less than thirty personal servants and retainers. Hidalgos here at Isabella had also servants, but no one more than two or three. It was among these folk that first arose our amazing jealousies and envies. Now and again the masters must take part. Not the Viceroy who in such matters went very stately, but certain of our gentlemen. Loud and angry voices rose under the palms, under a sky of pale gold.
Sent for, I found the Admiral lying on his bed, not yet in his stone house but in a rich and large pavilion brought out especially for the Viceroy and now pitched upon the river bank, under palms. I came to him past numbers out of that thirty. Idle here; they certainly were idle here! With him I found a secretary, but when he could he preferred always to write his own letters, in his small, clear, strong hand, and now he was doing this, propped in bed, in his brow a knot of pain. He wrote many letters. Long afterwards I heard that it had become a saying in Spain, “Write of your matters as often as Christopherus Columbus!”
I sat waiting for him to finish and he saw my eyes upon yet unfolded pages strewing the table taken from the Marigalante and set here beside him. “Read if you like,” he said. “The ships set sail day after to-morrow.”
I took and read in part his letter to a learned man with whom, once or twice, Jayme de Marchena had talked. It was a long letter in which the Admiral, thinker to thinker, set forth his second voyage and now his city building, and at last certain things for the mind not only of Spain but of France and Italy and England and Germany. “All lands and all men whom so far we have come to,” wrote the Admiral, “are heathen and idolaters. In the providence of God all such are given unto Christendom. Christendom must take possession through the acts of Christian princes, under the sanction of Holy Church, allowed by the Pope who is Christ our King’s Viceroy. Seeming hardship bringeth great gain! Millions of souls converted, are baptized. Every infant feeleth the saving water. Souls that were lost now are found. Christ beameth on them! To that, what is it that the earthly King of a country be changed?”
His quill traveled on over paper. Another sheet came into my hand. I read it, then sat pondering. He sighed with pain, pushed all aside and presently bade the secretary forth. When the man was gone he told me of an agony behind his eyes that now stabbed and now laid him in a drowsiness. I did what I could for him then waited until the access was over. It passed, and he took again his pen.
I said, “You advise that there be made a market for Carib slaves, balancing thus the negroes the Portuguese are bringing in, and providing a fund for our needs—”