The Admiral looked out to sea. “I have cried, `West— west—west!’ through a-many years! Yucatan! But I make out no sea-passage thence into Vasco da Gama’s India! And I am sworn to the Queen and King Ferdinand this time to find it. So it’s south, it’s south, brother and son!”
So, our casks being full, our fruit gathered, the sky clear and the wind fair, we left the west to others and sailed to find the strait in the south. When we raised our sails that dragon canoe cried out and marveled. But the cacique with the coronal asked intelligent questions. The Admiral showed him the way of it, mast and spar and sail cloth, and how we made the wind our rower. He listened, and at the last he gave Christopherus Columbus for that instruction the gold disk from his breast. I do not know—Yucatan might have gone on from that and itself developed true ship. If it had long enough time! But Europe was at its doors.
The canoe kept with us for a little, then shouted to see the fair breeze fill our sails and carry us from them.
It was mid-August. We came to a low-lying land with hills behind. Here we touched and found Indians, though none such as Yucatan seemed to breed. It was Sunday and under great trees we had mass, having with us the Franciscan Pedro of Valencia. From this place we coasted three days, when again we landed. Here the Indians were of a savage aspect, painted with black and white and yellow and uttering loud cries. We thought that they were eaters of men’s flesh. Likewise they had a custom of wearing earrings of great weight, some of copper, some of that mixed gold we called guanin. So heavy were these ornaments that they pulled the ear down to mid-throat. The Admiral named this place the Coast of the Ear.
On we sailed, and on, never out of sight of land to starboard. Day by day, along a coast that now as a whole bent eastward. And yet no strait—no way through into the sea into which poured the Ganges.
THE weather plagued us. The rains were cataracts, the lightning blinding, the thunder loud enough to wake the dead. Day after day, until this weather grew to seem a veritable Will, a Demon with a grudge against us.
The Margarita sailed no better; she sailed worse. The Admiral considered abandoning her, taking the Adelantado upon the Consolacion and dividing his crew among the three ships. But the Adelantado’s pride and obstinacy and seamanship were against that. “I’ll sail her, because San Domingo thinks I can!”
Stormy days and nights, and the Admiral watching. “The Margarita! Ho, look out! Do you see the Margarita?”
In the midst of foul weather came foully back the gout that crippled him. I would have had him stay in his bed. “I cannot! How do you think I can?” In the end he had us build him some kind of shelter upon deck, fastening there a bench and laying a pallet upon this. Here, propped against the wood, covered with cloaks, he still watched the sea and how went our ship and the other ships.