“senor, I am glad to see you living!”
“Yes, I live, senor. Are you well in San Domingo?”
“Well in body, but sick at heart because of the fleet.”
“Because of the fleet?”
“The fleet, senor, was a day away when the hurricane burst. Half the ships were split, lost, sunken! The others, broken, returned to us. One only went on to Spain. The gold ships are lost. Only, they say, the gold that pertains to you, goes on safely on that one to Cadiz. Gwarionex the Indian is drowned, and Bobadilla and Roldan are drowned.”
THE Indians called it Guanaja, but the Admiral, the Isle of Pines. It was far, far, from Hispaniola, far, far, from Jamaica, over a wide and stormy sea, reached after many days of horrible weather. Guanaja, small, lofty, covered with rich trees among which stood in numbers the pines we loved because they talked of home. To the south, far off, across leagues of water, we made out land. Mainland it seemed to us, stretching across the south, losing itself in the eastern haze. The weather suddenly became blissful. We had sweet rest in Guanaja.
A few Indians lived upon this small island, like, yet in some ways unlike all those we knew. But they were rude and simple and they talked always of gods to the west. We had rested a week when there came a true wonder to us from the west.
That was a canoe, of the mightiest length we had yet seen, long as a tall tree, eight feet wide, no less, with twenty-five rowing Indians—tall, light bronze men—with cotton cloth about their loins. Middle of this giant canoe was built a hut or arbor, thatched with palm. Under this sat a splendid barbarian, tall and strong, with a crown of feathers and a short skirt and mantle of cotton. Beside him sat two women wrapped in cotton mantles, and at their feet two boys and a young maid. All these people wore golden ornaments about their necks.
It was in a kind of amaze that we watched this dragon among canoes draw near to and pass the ships and to the shore where we had built a hut for the Admiral and the Adelantado and the youth Fernando, and to shelter the rest of us a manner of long booth. It seemed that it was upon a considerable voyage, and wanting water, put in here. The Guanaja Indians cried, “Yucatan! Yucatan!”
The Admiral stepped down to meet these strangers. His face glowed. Here at last was difference beyond the difference of the Paria folk!
We found that they were armed,—the newcomers. Strangely made swords of wood and flint, lances, light bucklers and hatchets of true copper. They were strong and fearless, and they seemed to say, “Here before us is great wonder, but wonder does not subdue our minds!”
Their language had, it is true, the flow and clink of Indian tongues, yet was greatly different. We had work to understand. But they were past masters of gesture.