He said, “They are eaters of men’s flesh, intractable and abominable, not like the gentler people we find hereabouts! It is certain that before long, fleet after fleet coming, our two thousand here growing into many thousands, more cities than Isabella arising, commerce and life as in Europe beginning—Well, these fiercer, Caribal islands will be overrun, taken for Spain! What better to do with their people? I do not wish to slay them and eat them!”
“How many Moors in Castile and Arragon, slaves and none the worse for it, being baptized, being kindly enough entreated! And now the Portuguese bring Negroes, and are they the worse off, being taken from a deep damnation? Long ago, I have read, the English were taken to Rome and sold in the market place, and the blessed Gregory, seeing them, cried, `Christ shall be preached in their nation!’ Whereupon he sent Augustine and all England was saved.— Look you, this world is rude and worketh rudely! But it climbs in the teeth of its imperfections!”
“I do not doubt that,” I said. “When it wills to climb.”
“I do but lay it before the Sovereigns,” he answered. “I do not know what they will think of it there. But truly I know not what else to do with these Asiatics when they withstand us! And even in slavery they must gain from Christians! What matters masters when they find the True Master?”
Juan Lepe brooded still while the pen scratched and scratched across the page. The noise ceased. I looked up to see if he were in pain again, and met gray-blue eyes as longing as a child’s. “What I would,” he said, “is that the Lord would give to me forever to sail a great ship, and to find, forever to find! The sea is wider than the land, and it sends its waves upon all lands. Not Viceroy, but the Navigator, the Finder—”
Juan Lepe also thought that there streamed his Genius. Here he was able, but there played the Fire. But he, like many another, had bound himself. Don Cristoval Colon— Viceroy—and eighths and tenths!
TWELVE of our ships went home to Spain.
February wheeled by. March was here, and every day the sun sent us more heat.
The Indians around us still were friendly—women and all. From the first there was straying in the woods with Indian women. Doubtless now, in the San Salvador islands, in Cuba and in Hispaniola, among those Guaricos fled from us to the mountains, would be infants born of Spanish fathers. Juan Lepe contemplated that filling in the sea between Asia and Europe with the very blood.
Sickness broke out. It was not such as that first sickness at La Navidad, but here were many more to lie ill. Besides Juan Lepe, we now possessed three physicians. They were skillful, they labored hard, we all labored. Men died of the malady, but no great number. But now among the idle of mind and soul and the factious arose the eternal murmur. Not heaven but hell, these new lands! Not wealth and happy ease, but poverty and miserable toil! Not forever new spectacle and greedy wonder, but tiresome river, forest and sea, tiresome blue heaven, tiresome delving and building, tiresome rules, restrictions, commandments, yeas and nays! Parties arose, two main parties, and within each lesser differings.