Wherever we tarried we found peaceable if vastly excited Indians. But still naked, but still unwise as to gold and spices, traders and markets. Cambalu, Quinsai and Zaiton of the marble bridges!
" `Somewhere,’ saith Messer Marco, `in part the country is savage, filled with mountains, and here come few strangers, for the king will not have them, in order that his treasures and certain matters of his kingdom come not into the world’s knowledge.’ And again he saith, `The folk here are naked.’—What wonder then,” said the Admiral, “that we find these things! Yea, I feel surprised at the incessancy, but I check myself and think, how vast is Asia, and what variousness must needs be!”
But we moved in a cloud of differences, and while on the one hand this world was growing familiar, on the other the sense increased. “How vast indeed must be Asia, if all this and yet we come not—and now it is going on two years—to any clear hint of other than this!”
He himself, the Admiral, began to feel this strangeness. Or rather, he had long felt it and fought the feeling, but now strongly it came creeping over.
We were among the hugest number of small islands. Starboard loomed, until it was lost in the farness, that coast that we were following, but the three ships were in a half-land, half-water world. We wandered in this labyrinth, keeping with difficulty our way, so crooked and narrow the channels, so many the sandbars. From deck it minded me of that sea of weed we met in the first passage.
Waves of fragrance struck us. “Ha!” cried the Admiral. “Can you not smell cinnamon, spikenard, nutmeg, cloves and galingal?” His faith was so strong that we did smell. From one of these islands, the Cordera lying at anchor and a boat going ashore, we took a number of pigeons. So unafraid were these birds that our men approached them easily and beat them down with a pike. We had them for supper, and when their crops were opened, the cook found and brought to the Admiral a number of brown seeds. The Admiral dropped them into clear water, then smelled and tasted. “Cloves? Are they not cloves?” He gave to Juan de la Cosa and to me who also tasted and thought they might be cloves. But we did not find their tree, and we saw no signs of ever a merchant of Cathay or Mangi or Ind.
Christopherus Columbus leaned upon the rail of the Cordera. In this islet world we lay at anchor for the night. “Do you know what it is,” he asked, “to have a word color the whole day long?” He glanced around, but none was very near. “My Word to-day is magic. I’d not give it to any but you, and I drop my voice in saying it. I’ll sail on through magic and against magic, for I have Help from Above! But I’ll not lay a fearsome word among those who are not so accorded! All say India hath high magic, and the Grand Khan takes from that country his astrologers and sorcerers. I have read that at Shandu, if there be long raining, they will mount