The wind shifted and became contrary. The sea that for so long had been glassy smooth took on a roughness. A bird that was surely a forest bird beaten to us perched upon a stretched rope and uttered three quick cries. A boy climbed and softly took it from behind. It fluttered in the Admiral’s two hands. All came to look. Its plumage was blue, its breast reddish. We wondered, but before we could make it a cage, it strongly strove and was gone. One flash and all the azure took it to itself.
In the night the waves flattened. Rose-dawn showed smooth sea and every sail filled again with that westward journeying wind. Yesterday’s roughness and the bird tossed aboard were as a dream.
A day and a day and a day. As much Ocean-Sea as ever, and Asia a lie, and alike at this end and that of the vessel a dull despondency, and Pedro Gutierrez’s wit grown ugly. So naked, so lonely, so indifferent spread the Sea of Darkness!
Another day and another and another. When half the ship was at the point of mutiny signs reappeared and thickened. Birds flew over the ships; one perched beside the Admiral’s banner and sang. More than that, a wood dove came upon the deck and ate corn that was strewed for it. “Colombo—Colombo!” quoth the Admiral. “I, too, am `dove.’ " And he opened a window and sent forth a “dove” to find if there were land!’ "
Almost the whole ship from Jason down took these two birds for portents. Fray Ignatio lifted hands. “The Blessed Francis who knew that birds have souls to save hath sent them!” We passed the drifting branch of a tree. It had green leaves. The sea ran extremely blue and clear, and half the ship thought they smelled frankincense, brought on the winds which now were changeable. At evening rose a great cry of “Land!” and indeed to one side the sinking sun seemed veritable cliffs with a single mountain peak. The Admiral, who knew more of sea and air than any two men upon those ships, cried “Cloud—cloud!” but for a time none believed him. There sprang great commotion, the Pinta too signaling. Then before our eyes came a rift in the mountain and the cliffs slipped into the sea.
But now all believed in land ahead. It was as though some one had with laughter tossed them that assurance over the horizon straight before us. Every mariner now was emulous to be the lookout, every man kept eyes on the west. Now sprang clear and real to them the royal promise of ten thousand maravedies pension to him who first sighted Cipango, Cathay or India. The Admiral added a prize of a green velvet doublet.
We had come nigh eight hundred leagues.