The master was a dour, quiet Catalan; his three sons favored him and their six sailors more or less took the note. The sea ran quiet and blue under a quiet blue heaven. At night all the stars shone, or only light clouds went overhead. It was a restful boat and Jayme de Marchena rested. Even while his body labored he rested. The sense of Danger in every room, walking on every road, took leave. Yet was there throughout that insistent sight of Palos beach and the gray and wild Atlantic. All the birds cried from the west; the salt, stinging wind flung itself upon me from the west. Once a voice, faint and silvery, made itself heard. “Were it not well to know those other, those mightier waters, and find the strange lands, the new lands?” I answered myself, “They are the old lands taken a new way.” But still the voice said, “The new lands!”
We made Marseilles and unladed, and were held there a fortnight. I might have left the bark and found work and maybe safety in France, or I might have taken another ship for Italy. I did neither. I clung to this bark and my Cata-lans. We took our lading and quitted Marseilles, and came after a tranquil voyage to San Lucar. Again we unladed and laded, and again voyaged to Marseilles. Spring became summer; young summer, summer in prime. We left Marseilles and voyaged once more San Lucar-ward. There rushed up a fearful storm and we were wrecked off Almeria. One lad drowned. The rest of us somehow made shore. A boat took us to Algeciras, and thence we trudged it to San Lucar.
My Catalans were not wholly depressed. Behind their wrecked ship stood merchants who would furnish another bark. The master would have had me wait at San Lucar until he went forth again. But I was bound for the strand by Palos and the gray, piling Atlantic.
August was the month and the day warm. The first of August in the year 1492. Two leagues east of Palos I overtook three men trudging that way, and talking now loudly and angrily and now in a sullen, dragging fashion. I had seen between this road and ocean a fishing hamlet and I made out that they were from this place. They were men of small boats, men who fished, but who now and again were gathered in by some shipmaster, when they became sailors.
In me they saw only a poorly clad, sea-going person. When I gave greeting they greeted me in return. “For Palos?” I asked, and the one who talked the most and the loudest gave groaning assent. “Aye, for Palos. You too, brother, are flopping in the net?”
I did not understand and said as much. He gave an angry laugh and explained his figure. “Why, the Queen and the King and the law and Martin Pinzon, to whom we, are bound for a year, are pressing us! Which is to say they’ve cast a net and here we are, good fish, beating against the meshes and finding none big enough to slip through! Haven’t you been pressed too, scooped in without a `By your leave, Palos fish!’ A hundred fish and more in this net and one by one the giant will take us out and broil us!”