“It is true,” said Fray Juan Perez, “that age comes upon him. And true, too, that King Ferdinand may say, `Whatever it was at first, this world in the West becomes far too vast a matter for one man and the old, first, simple ways!’ "
“You have it there,” I answered, and we covered the embers and went to bed in La Rabida.
Winter passed. It was seen that the Admiral could not sail this week nor the next.
Juan Lepe, bearded, brown as a Moor, older than in the year Granada fell, crossed with quietness much of Castile and came on a spring evening to the castle of Don Enrique de Cerda. Again “Juan Lepe from the hermitage in the oak wood.”
Seven days. I would not stay longer, but in that time the ancient trees waved green again.
Don Enrique had been recently to Granada. “King Ferdinand will change all matters in the West! Your islands shall have Governors, as many as necessary. They shall refer themselves to a High Governor at San Domingo, who in his turn shall closely listen to a Council here.”
“Will the High Governor be Don Cristoval Colon?”
“No. I hear that he himself agrees to a suspension of his viceroyalty for two years, seeing well that in Hispaniola is naught but faction, everything torn into `Friends of the Genoese’ and `Not friends!’. Perhaps he sees that he cannot help himself and that he less parts with dignity by acceding. I do not know. There is talk of Don Nicholas de Ovanda, Commander of Lares. Your man will not, I think, be sent before a steady wind for Viceroy again—never again. If he presses too persistently, there can always be found one or more who will stand and cry, `He did intend, O King— he doth intend—to make himself King of the Indies!’ And King Ferdinand will say he does not believe, but it is manifest that that thought must first die from men’s minds. The Queen fails fast. She has not the voice and the hand in all matters that once was so.”
“He is one who dies for loyalties,” I said. “He reverences all simply the crowns of Castile and Leon. For his own sake I am not truly so anxious to have him Viceroy again! They will give him ships and let him discover until he dies?”
“Ah, I don’t think there is any doubt about that!” he answered.
We talked somewhat of that great modern world, evident now over the horizon, bearing upon us like a tall, full-rigged ship. All things were changing, changing fast. We talked of commerce and inventions, of letters and of arts, of religion and the soul of man. Out of the soil were pushing everywhere plants that the old called heretical.
Seven days. We were, as we shall be forever, friends.
But Juan Lepe would go back to La Rabida. He was, for this turn of life, man of the Admiral of the Ocean-Sea. So we said farewell, Enrique de Cerda and Jayme de Marchena.
Three leagues Seville side of Cordova I came at eve to a good inn known to me of old. Riding into its court I found two travelers entering just before me, one a well-formed hidalgo still at prime, and the other a young man evidently his son. The elder who had just dismounted turned and I recognized Don Francisco de Las Casas. At the same instant he saw me. “Ha, Friend! Ha, Doctor!”