At this they stirred, whether from Palos or Huelva or Fishertown. They looked at him now as though indeed he were great mage, or even apostle.
That evening I heard Roderigo de Escobedo at an enumeration. He seemed to have committed to memory some Venice list. “Mastic, aloes, pepper, cloves, mace and cinnamon and nutmeg. Ivory and silk and most fine cloth, diamonds, balasses, rubies, pearls, sapphires, jacinth and emeralds. Silver in bulk and gold common as iron with us. Gold—gold!”
Pedro Gutierrez was speaking. “Gold to carry to Spain and pay my debts, with enough left to go again to court—”
Said Escobedo, “The Admiral saith, `No fraud nor violence, quarreling nor oppression’!”
Gutierrez answered: “The Admiral also thinks to pay his debts! He may think he will be strict as the Saints, but he will not!”
The Admiral was walking the deck. He stopped beside Juan Lepe who leaned upon the rail and watched a strange, glistering sea. It was that shining stuff we see at times at night in certain weather. But to-night Luis Torres, passing, had said, “Strewn ducats!”
The Admiral and Juan Lepe watched. “Never a sail!” said I. “How strange a thing is that! Great populous countries that trade among themselves, and never a sail on this sea rim!”
He drummed upon the rail. “Do not think I have not thought of that! I looked to meet first a ship or ships. But now I think that truly there may be many outlying islands without ships. Or there may be a war between princes, and all ships drawn in a fleet to north or south. One beats one’s brains—and time brings the solution, and we say, `How simple!’ "
Turning his great figure, he mounted to our castle built up from deck, whence he could see great distances. The wind had freshened; we were standing to the west; it was behind us again and it pushed us like a shuttle in a giant’s hand. The night was violet dark and warm; then at ten the moon rose. Men would not sleep while the ship sailed. A great event was marching, marching toward us. We thought we caught the music of it; any moment heralds, banners, might flame at end of road. We were watching for the Marriage Procession; we were watching for Kings, for the Pope, for I know not what! But there was certain to be largesse.
I went among the mariners. Sancho met me, a young man whom then and afterwards I greatly liked. “Well, we’ve had luck, senor! Saint Noah himself, say I, wasn’t any luckier!”
“Yes, we’ve done well!”
Beltran the cook’s great easy voice rolled in. “Fear’s your only barnacle, say I!”
Luis Torres said, “When I studied Arabic and the Hebrew, I thought it was for the pleasure of it. They said around me, `How you waste your time!’ But now some about the Grand Khan should know Arabic. I will be of use.”
Pedro said, “Well, it has turned out better than any reasonable man could have expected!” and Fernando, “Yes, it has! Of course there may be witches. I’ve heard it said there are great necromancers in India!”