Dusk was drawing down as I stole with little trouble out of the house into the street and thence into the maze of Santa Fe. That night I slept with minstrels and jugglers, and at sunrise slipped out of Cordova gate with muleteers. They were for Cordova and I meant to go to Malaga. I meant to find there a ship, maybe for Africa, maybe for Italy, though in Italy, too, sits the Inquisition. But who knows what it is that turns a man, unless we call it his Genius, unless we call it God? I let the muleteers pass me on the road to Cordova, let them dwindle in the distance. And still I walked and did not turn back and find the Malaga road. It was as though I were on the sea, and my bark was hanging in a calm, waiting for a wind to blow. A man mounted on a horse was coming toward me from Santa Fe. Watching the small figure grow larger, I said, “When he is even with me and has passed and is a little figure again in the distance, I will turn south.”
He came nearer. Suddenly I knew him to be that Master Christopherus who had entered the wedge of shadow yesterday in the palace court. He was out of it now, in the broad light, on the white road—on the way to France. He approached. The ocean before Palos came and stood again before me, salt and powerful. The keen, far, sky line of it awoke and drew!
Christopherus Columbus came up with me. I said,
Palos sailor gives you good morning!”
Checking the horse, he sat looking at me out of blue-gray eyes. I saw him recollecting. “Dress is different and poorer, but you are the squire in the crowd! `Sailor Palos sailor’—There’s some meaning there too!”
He seemed to ponder it, then asked if I was for Cordova.
“No. I am going to Malaga where I take ship.”
“This is not the Malaga road.”
“No. But I am in no hurry! I should like to walk a mile with you.”
“Then do it,” he answered. “Something tells me that we shall not be ill travelers together.”
I felt that also and no more than he could explain it. But the reason, I know, stands in the forest behind the seedling.
He walked his horse, and I strode beside. He asked my name and I gave it. Juan Lepe. We traveled Cordova road together. Presently he said, “I leave Spain for France, and do you know why?”
Said Juan Lepe, “I have been told something, and I have gathered something with my own eyes and ears. You would reach Asia by going west.”
He spoke in the measured tone of a recital often made alike to himself and to others. “I hold that the voyage from Palos, say, first south to the Canaries and then due west would not exceed three months. Yet I began to go west to India full eighteen years ago! I have voyaged eighteen years, with dead calms and head winds, with storms and back-puttings, with pirates and mutinies, with food and water lacking,