In a great red dawn, Roderigo, the Admiral’s
roused Juan Lepe. “Come—come—come, Doctor!”
I sprang from my bed and followed him. Christopherus Columbus lay in a deep swoon. Round he came from that and said, “Roderigo, tell them that I am perfectly well, but wish to see no one!” From that, he came to recognize me. “Doctor, I am tired. God and Our Lady only know how tired I am!”
His eyes shut, his head sank deep into the bed. He said not another word, that day nor the next nor the next. Roderigo and I forced him to swallow a little food and wine, and once he rose and made as if to go on deck. But we laid him down again and he sank into movelessness and a sleep of all the faculties. Juan de la Cosa took care of the Cordera. So we sighted Isabella and in the harbor four caravels that had not been there when we had sailed in April.
TWO men came into the cabin, Don Diego Colon, left in charge of Hispaniola, and with him a tall, powerful, high-featured man, gray of eye and black and silver of hair and short beard. As he stood beside the bed, one saw that he must be kinsman to the man who lay upon it. “O Bartholomew! And is this the end?” cried Don Diego, and I knew that the stranger was that brother, Bartholomew, for whom the Admiral longed.
These three brothers! One lay like a figure upon a tomb save for the breathing that stirred his silver hair. One, Don Diego, tall, too, and strong, but all of a gentle, quiet mien sank on his knees and seemed to pray. One, Don Bartholomew, stood like rock or pine, but he slowly made the sign of the cross, and I saw his gray eyes fill. It seemed to me that the Admiral’s eyelids flickered. “Speak to him again,” I said. “Take his hand.”
Bartholomew Columbus, kneeling in the Cordera’s cabin, put his arm about his great brother. That is what he called him,—“Christopher, my great brother, it is Bartholomew! Don’t you know me? Don’t you remember? I must go to England, you said, to see King Henry. To tell him what you could do—what you have done, my great brother! Don’t you remember? I went, but I was poor like you who are now Viceroy of the Indies—and I was shipwrecked besides and lost the little that we had scraped—do you remember?—and must live like you by making maps and charts, and it was long before I saw King Henry!— Christopher, my great brother! He lies like death!”
I said, “He is returning, but he is yet a long way off. Keep speaking.”
“But King Henry said at last, `Go bring us that brother of yours, and we think it may be done!’ And he gave me gold. So I would come back to Spain for you, and I reached Paris, and it was the summer of 1493. Christopher, my great brother, don’t you hear me? For it was at Paris that I heard, and it came like a flood of glory, fallen in one moment from Heaven! I heard, `Christopherus Columbus! He has found the Indies for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella!’—Don’t you hear, Christopher? All the world admiring—all the world saying, `Nothing will ever go just the same way again!’ You have done the greatest thing, my great brother! Doctor, is he dying?”