In the cabin, upon the table he spread Toscanelli’s map, and beside it a great one like it, of his own making, signed in the corner Columbus de Terra Rubra. The depiction was of a circle, and in the right or eastern side showed the coasts of Ireland and England, France, Spain and Portugal, and of Africa that portion of which anything was known. Out in Ocean appeared the islands gained in and since Prince Henry’s day. Their names were written,—Madeira, Canaria, Cape de Verde and Azores. West of these and filling the middle map came Ocean-Sea, an open parchment field save for here a picture of a great fish, and here a siren and here Triton, and here the Island of the Seven Cities and here Saint Brandon’s Isle, and these none knew if they be real or magical! Wide middle map and River-Ocean! The eye quitting that great void approached the left or western side of the circle. And now again began islands great and small with legends written across and around them. The great island was Cipango, and across the extent of it ran in fine lettering. “Marco Polo was here. It is the richest of the eastern lands. The houses are roofed with gold. The people are idolaters. There are spices and pearls, nutmegs, pepper and precious stones. Very much gold so that the common people use it as they wish.”
We read, the Admiral seated, we, the great cabin group, standing, bending over the table. After the islands came mainland. “Cathay” ran the writing. “Mangi. Here is the seat of the Great Khan. His city is Cambalu.” South of all this ran other drawings and other legends. “Here, opposite Africa, near the equator, are islands called Manillas. They have lodestone, so that no ship with iron can sail to them. Here is Java of all the spices. Here is great India that the ancients knew.”
“We are bearing toward Cipango,” said the Admiral. “I look first for small outward islands, where perhaps the folk are uncouth and simple, and there is little gold.”
And again days passed. When many times upon the Santa Maria and as often on the Pinta and the Nina some one had cried “Land!” and the ships been put in commotion and the land melted into air before our eyes, and another as plausible island or coast formed before us only to vanish, despair seized us again. Witchcraft and sorcery and monstrous ignorance, and fooled to our deaths! “West— west—west!” till the west was hated. The Pinzons thought we should change course. If there were lands we were leaving them in the north where hung the haze. But the Madman or the Black Magician, our Italian Admiral, would not hear good advice! It was Gutierrez’s word, under his breath when the Admiral was in earshot, and aloud when he was not. “Our Italian—our Italian! Why did not Italy keep him? And Portugal neither would have him! Castile, the jade, takes him up!”
Then after absence began again the signs. Flocks of birds went by us. I saw him watching, and truly these flights did seem to come from south of west. On the seventh of October he altered course. We sailed southwest. This day there floated by a branch with purple berries, and we saw flying fish. Dolphins played about the ship. The very sea felt warm to the hand, and yet was no oppression, but light and easily breathed air, fragrant and lifting the spirits.