The sun made a lane of scarlet and gold across Ocean-Sea. I wondered what temples, what towns, what spice ships at strange wharfs might lie under it afar. I wondered if there did dwell Prester John and if he would step down to give us welcome. The torrent of event strikes us day and night, all the hours, all the moments. Who can tell with distinctness color and shape in that descending stream?
AN hour after moonrise we were gone from Gomera. At first a light wind filled the sails, but when the round moon went down in the west and the sun rose, there was Teneriffe still at hand, and the sea glassy. It rested like a mirror all that day, and the sails hung empty and the banner at maintop but a moveless wisp of cloth. In the night arose a contrary wind, and another red dawn showed us Teneriffe still. The wind dropping like a shot, we hung off Ferro, fixed in blue glass. Watch was kept for the Portuguese, but they also would be rooted to sea bottom. The third morning up whistled the wind, blowing from Africa and filling every sail.
Palos to the Canaries, we had sailed south. Now for long, long days the sun rose right aft, and when it set dyed with red brow and eyes and cheek and breast of the carved woman at our prow. She wore a great crown, and she looked ever with wide eyes upon the west that we chased. Straight west over Ocean-Sea, the first men, the first ships! If ever there had been others, our world knew it not. The Canaries sank into the east. Turn on heel around one’s self, and mark never a start of land to break the rim of the vast sea bowl! Never a sail save those above us of the Santa Maria, or starboard or larboard, the Pinta and the Nina. The loneliness was vast and utter. We might fail here, sink here, die here, and indeed fail and sink and die alone!
Two seamen lay sick in their beds, and the third day from Gomera the Santa Maria’s physician, Bernardo Nunez, was seized with the same malady. At first Fray Ignatio tried to take his place, but here the monk lacked knowledge. One of the sailors died, a ship boy sickened, and the physician’s fever increased upon him. Diego de Arana began to fail. The ship’s master came at supper time and looked us over. “Is there any here who has any leechcraft?”
Beltran the cook said, “I can set a bone and wash a wound; but it ends there!”
Cried Fernando from his corner. “Is the plague among us!” The master turned on him. “Here and now, I say five lashes for the man who says that word again! Has any man here sense about a plain fever?”
None else speaking, I said that long ago I had studied for a time with a leech, and that I was somewhat used to care of the sick. “Then you are my man!” quoth the master, and forthwith took me to the Admiral. I became Juan Lepe, the physician.