Now we were close together. The masters hailed, “What ships?”—“From Hispaniola!”—“From Cadiz. The Admiral with us! Come aboard, your commander!”
That was Luis Mendez, and in the boat with him went Juan Lepe. The ships were the Esperanza, the San Sebastian and the San Martin, the first fairly large and well decked, the others small. They who looked overside and shouted welcome seemed a medley of gentle and simple, mariners, husbandmen, fighting men and hidalgos.
The Admiral! His hair was milk-white, his tall, broad frame gaunt as a January wolf. Two years had written in his face two years’ experience—fully written, for he was sensitive to every wind of experience. “Excellency!”— “Juan Lepe, I am as glad of you as of a brother!—And what do you do, senors, here?”
Luis Mendez related. “I think it false news about the Portuguese,” said the Admiral and gave reasons why. “Then shall we keep with you, sir?”
“No, since you are sent out by my brother and must give him account. Have you water to spare? We will take that from you. I am bound still south. I will find out what is there!”
Further talk disclosed that he had left Spain with six ships, but at the Canaries had parted his fleet in two, sending three under Alonzo de Caravajal upon the straight course to Hispaniola, and himself with three sailing first to the Green Cape islands, and thence southwest into an unknown sea.
So desolate, wide and blue it looked when the next day we parted,—two ships northward, three southward! But Juan Lepe stayed with the Esperanza and the Admiral. As long since, between the Santa Maria and the Pinta, there had been exchange of physicians, so now again was exchange between the Santa Cruz and the Esperanza.
Days of blue sea. The Esperanza carried a somewhat frank and friendly crew of mariners and adventurers. Now he would sail south, he said, until he was under the Equator.
Days of stark blue ocean. Then out of the sea to the south rose a point of land, becoming presently three points, as it were three peaks. The Admiral stared. I saw the enthusiasm rise in his face. “Did I not write and say to the Sovereigns and to Rome that in the Name of the Holy Trinity, I would now again seek out and find? There! Look you! It is a sign! Trinidad—we will name it Trinidad.”
The next morning we came to Trinidad, and the palms trooped to the water edge, and we saw sparkling streams, and from the heights above the sea curls of smoke from hidden huts. We coasted, seeking anchorage, and at last came into a clear, small harbor, and landing, filled our water casks. We knew the country was inhabited for we saw the smokes, but no canoes came about us, and though we met with footprints upon the sand the men who made them never returned. We weighed anchor and sailed on along the southern coast, and now to the south of us, across not many leagues of blue water, we made out a low shore. Its ends were lost in haze, but we esteemed it an island, and he named it Holy Island. It was not island, as now we know; but we did not know it then. How dreamlike is all our finding, and how halfway only to great truths! Cuba we thought was the continent, and the shore that was continent, we called “island.”