The Admiral sent for presents. Again, these did not ravish, though the cacique and his family and the rowers regarded with interest such strange matters. But they seemed to say, “You yourselves and your fantastic high canoes made, it is evident, of many trees, are the wonder!”
But we, the Spaniards, searching now through ten years —long as the War of Troy—for Asia in which that Troy and all wealth beside had been placed, thought that at last we had come upon traces. In that canoe were many articles of copper, well enough wrought; a great copper bell, a mortar and pestle, hatchets and knives. Moreover in Yucatan were potters! In place of the eternal calabash here were jars and bowls of baked clay, well-made, well-shaped, marked with strange painted figures. They had pieces of cotton cloth, well-woven and great as a sail. Surely, with this stuff, before long the notion of a sail would arise in these minds! We saw cotton mantles and other articles of dress, both white and gayly dyed or figured. Clothing was not to them the brute amaze we had found it with our eastern Indians. Matters enough, strange to our experience, were being carried in that great canoe. We found they had a bread, not cassava, but made from maize, and a drink much like English ale, and also a food called cacao.
Gold! All of them wore gold, disks of it, hanging upon their breasts. The cacique had a thin band of gold across his forehead; together with a fillet of cotton it held the bright feathers of his head dress.
They traded the gold—all except the coronal and a sunlike plate upon the breast of the cacique—willingly enough.
It seemed from Yucatan, on some embassy to another coast or island. Yucatan. West—west! And beyond Yucatan richer still; oh, great riches, gold and clothing and —we thought it from their contemptuous signs toward our booths and their fingers drawn in the air—true houses and temples.
Farther on—farther on—farther west! Forever that haunting, deluding cry—the cry that had deluded since Guanahani that we called San Salvador. Now many of our adventurers and mariners caught fire from that cacique’s wide gestures. The Adelantado no less. “Cristoforo, it looks satisfaction at last!” And the young Fernando,— “Father, let us sail west!”
The Admiral was trying to come at that Strait. Earnestly, through Juan Lepe and through a Jamaican that we had with us, he strove to give and take light. Yucatan? Was there sea beyond Yucatan? Did sea like a river cut Yucatan? Might a canoe—might canoes like ours—go by it from this sea to that sea?
But nothing did we get save that Yucatan was a great country with sea here and sea there. “A point of the main like Cuba!” said the Admiral. Behind it, to the north of it, it seemed to us, the greater country where were the gold, the rich clothing, the temples. But we made out that Yucatan from sea to sea was many days’ march. And as for the country beyond it, that went on, they thought, forever. They called this country Anahuac and they meant the same that years afterward Hernando Cortes found. But we did not know this. We did not know that strange people and their great treasure.