Time passed. Hispaniola heard again from him and again. When ships put forth from Cadiz -and now ships passed with sufficient regularity between Spain in Europe and Spanish Land across Ocean-Sea-he wrote by them. He believed in the letter. God only knows how many he wrote in his lifetime! It was ease to him to tell out, to dream visibly, to argue his case on fair paper. And those who came in the ships had stories about him-El Almirante!
Were his fortunes at ebb, or were they still in flood? There might be more views here than one. Some put in that he was done for, others clamored that he was yet mounting.
But he wrote to the Adelantado and also to Juan Lepe that he sat between good and bad at court. The Queen was ever the great head of the good. We knew from him that Pedro Margarite and Father Buil and Juan Aguado altered nothing there. But elsewhere now there were warm winds, and now biting cold. And warm and cold, he could not get the winds that should fill his sails. He begged for ships—eight he named—that he might now find for the sovereigns main Asia—not touch here and there upon Cuba shore, but find the Deep All. But forever promised, he was forever kept from the ships! True it was that the sovereigns and the world beside were busy folk! There were Royal Marriages and Naples to be reconquered for its king.
We heard of confirmations of all his dignities and his tithes of wealth. He was offered to be made Marquess, but that he would not have. “The Admiral” was better title. But he sued for and obtained entail upon his sons and their sons forever of his nobility and his great Estate in the West. “Thus,” he wrote, “have I made your fortunes, sons and brothers! But truly not without you and your love and strengthening could I have made aught! A brother indeed for my left hand and my right hand, and to beckon me on, two dear sons!”
TWO years! It was March, 1496, when he sailed in the Nina. It was the summer of 1498 when Juan Lepe was sent as physician with two ships put forth from San Domingo by the Adelantado upon a rumor that the Portuguese had trespassed, landing from a great carrack upon Guadaloupe. Five days from Hispaniola we met a hurricane that carried us out of all reckoning. When stillness came again we were far south. No islands were in sight; there was only the sea vast and blue. There seemed to breathe from it a strangeness. We were away and away, said our pilots, from the curve, like a bent bow, of the Indian islands. A day and a night we hung in a dead calm. Dawn broke. “Sail, ho! Sail, ho!”
We thought that it might be the Portuguese and made preparation. Three ships lifted over the blue rim. There was now a light wind; it brought them nearer, they being better sailers than the Santa Cruz and the Santa Clara. We saw the banner. “Castile!” and a lesser one. “El Almirante!”