The youth Fernando Colon sailed with his father. He was now fourteen, Don Fernando, slim, intelligent, obedient and loving always to the Admiral.
Days of bright weather, days and days of that marvelous favorable wind that blows over Ocean-Sea. The twenty-fifth of May the Canaries sank behind us. On and on, all the sails steady.
We were not first for Hispaniola. All must be strange, this voyage! Jamaica, not San Domingo, was our star. Rest there a moment, take food and water, then forth and away. West again, west by south. He was straitly forbidden to drop anchor in any water of Hispaniola. “For why?” said they. “Because the very sight of his ships will tear asunder again that which Don Nicholas de Ovando is healing!”
The Margarita, that was next to the Consolacion in greatness, sailed so infirmly that mercy ’twas the seas were smooth. It was true accident. She had been known at Palos, Cadiz and San Lucar for good ship. But at Ercilla where we must stop on the Sovereigns’ business, a storm had beaten her upon the shore where she got a great wound in her side. That was staunched, but all her frame was wrenched and she never did well thereafter. In mid-June we came to an island of the Caribs which they called Mantineo. Here we rested the better part of a week, keeping good guard against the Caribs, then sailed, and now north by west, along a vast curve, within a world of islands. They are great, they are small, they are of the extremest beauty! San Martin, Dominica, Guadaloupe, San Juan— the Boriquen whence had come, long ago, that Catalina whom Guacanagari aided—and untouched at, or under the horizon, many another that the Admiral had named; Santa Maria la Antigua, Santa Cruz, Santa Ursula, Montserrat, Eleven Thousand Virgins, Marigalante and all beside. What a world! Plato his Atlantis. How truly old we are God only knows!
The Margarita sailed most badly. At San Juan that is the neighbor great island to Hispaniola, council, two councils, one following the other. Then said the Admiral, “We are to find the Strait that shall at last carry us to clothed Asia of all the echoes, and to find we have but four small ships and one of them evidently doomed. And in that one sails my brother. What is the Sovereigns’ command? `Touch not on your outward way at Hispaniola!’ What is in their mind here? `Hale and faring well, you have no need.’— But if we are not hale and faring well by a fourth of our enterprise? They never meant it to a drowning man, or one whose water cask was empty! Being Christian, no! We will put into San Domingo and ask of Don Nicholas de Ovando a ship in place of the Margarita.”
Whereat all cheered. We were gathered under palms, upon a fair point of land in San Juan le Bautista. Next day we weighed anchor, and in picture San Domingo rose before us.
He felt no doubt of decent welcome, of getting his ship. Fifteen sail had gone out with Ovando. Turn the cases around, and he would have given Ovando welcome, he would give him a good ship. How much more then Christopherus Columbus! The enterprise was common in that all stood to profit. It was royal errand, world service! So he thought and sailed in some tranquillity of mind for San Domingo.