The Admiral was not discouraged. “If he truly saw then, and I believe he did, then are they somewhere—”
We beat all the neighborhood. Solitary, solitary! He divided the most determined of us—so many from each ship—into two bands and sent in two directions. We were to search, if necessary, through ten leagues. We went, but returned empty of news of clothed men. We found desolate forest, and behind that a vast, matted, low growth, impenetrable and extending far away. At last we determined that Felipe Garcia had seen white cranes. Unless it were magic—
We sailed on and we sailed on. The Cordera, the Santa Clara and the San Juan were in bad case, hurt in that storm between Jamaica and Cuba, and wayworn since in those sandy seas, among those myriad islets. Our seamen and our shipmasters now loudly wished return to Isabella. He pushed us farther on and farther on, and still we did not come to anything beyond those things we had already reached, nor did we come either to any end of Cuba. And what was going on in Hispaniola—in Isabella? We had sailed in April and now it was July.
It became evident to him at last that he must turn. The Viceroy and the Admiral warred in him, had long warred and would war. Better for him had he never insisted upon viceroyship! Then, single-minded, he might have discovered to the end of his days.
We turned, the Cordera, the Santa Clara and the San Juan, and still he believed that the long, long coast of Cuba was the coast of the Asia main. He saw it as a monster cape or prolongation, sprouting into Ocean-Sea as sprouts Italy into Mediterranean. Back—back—the way we had come, entering again that white sea, entangled again among a thousand islets!
At last we came again to that Cape of the Cross to which we had escaped in the Jamaica tempest. One thing he would yet do in this voyage and that was to go roundabout homeward by Jamaica and find out further things of that great and fair island. We left Cuba that still we thought was the main. Santiago or Jamaica rose before us, dark blue mountains out of the dark blue sea. For one month we coasted this island, for always the weather beat us back when we would quit it, setting our sails for Hispaniola.
We came to Hayti upon the southern side, and because of some misreckoning failed of knowing that it was Hayti, until an Indian in a canoe below us, called loudly “El Almirante!” And yet Isabella was the thickness of the island from us, and the weather becoming foul, we beat about for long days, struggling eastward and pushed back, and again parting upon a stormy night one ship from the others. The Cordera anchored by a tall, rocky islet and rode out the storm. Here, when it was calm, we went ashore, but found no man, only an unreckonable number of pigeons. The Admiral lay on clean, warm sand and rested with his eyes shut. I was glad we were nigh to Isabella and his house there, for I did not think him well. He sat up, embracing his great knees and looking at the sea and the Cordera. “I have been thinking, Doctor.”