Seven days in this house. Then word from the Sovereigns, and it was here indignant, and here comforting. The best was the Queen’s word; I do not know if it was so wholly King Ferdinand’s. There were letters to the alcalde and corregidor. Release the Admiral of the Ocean-Sea! Don Francisco de Bobadilla had grossly misunderstood! Soothe the Admiral’s hurt. Show him trust and gratitude in Cadiz that was become through him a greater city! Fulfill his needs and further him upon the way to Granada. Put in his purse two thousand ducats. But the letter that counted most to Christopherus Columbus was one to himself from the Queen.
Juan Lepe found him with it in his hand. From the wrist yet hung the chain. Tears were running down his cheeks. “You see—you see!” he said. “I thank thee, Christ, who taketh care of us all!”
They came and took away his chains. But he claimed them from the corregidor and kept them to his death. Came hidalgos of Cadiz and entreated him away from this house to a better one. Outside the street was thronged. “The Admiral! The Admiral! Who gave to Spain the Indies!”
Don Bartholomew was by him, freed like him. And there too moved a slender young man who had come from Granada with the Queen’s letter, Don Fernando, his eldest son. A light seemed around them. Juan Lepe thought, “Surely they who serve large purposes are cared for. Even though they should die in prison, yet are they cared for!”
JUAN LEPE lay upon the sand beyond Palos. The Admiral was with the court in Granada, but his physician, craving holiday, had borne a letter to Juan Perez, the Prior of Santa Maria de la Rabida.
I thought the Admiral would go again seafaring, and that I would go with him. Up at La Rabida, Fray Juan Perez was kind. I had a cell, I could come and go; he did not tell Palos that here was the Admiral’s physician, who knew the Indies from the first taking and could relate wonders. I lived obscure, but in Prior’s room, by a light fire, for it was November, he himself endlessly questioned and listened.
Ocean before me, ocean, ocean! Lying here, those years ago, I had seen ocean only. Now, far, far, I saw land, saw San Salvador, Cuba that might be the main, Hayti, Jamaica, San Juan, Guadaloupe, Trinidad, Paria that again seemed main. Vast islands and a world of small islands, vast mainlands. Then no sail was seen on far Ocean-Sea; now out there might be ships going from Cadiz, coming, returning from San Domingo. Eight years, and so the world was changed!
I thought, “In fifty years—in a hundred years—in two hundred? What is coming up the long road?”
Ocean murmured, the tide was coming in. Juan Lepe waited till the sands had narrowed, till the gray wave foamed under his hand. Then he rose and walked slowly to La Rabida.
After compline, talk; Fray Juan Perez, the good man, comfortable in his great chair before the fire. He had hungered always, I thought, for adventure and marvel. Here it happened—? And here it happened—?