Halting beside the red cloth he stooped and turned over the trinkets. When he straightened himself he had in hand a string of great beads, rose and blue and green. He fingered these, seemed about to put the necklet on, then refrained as too daring. Laying it gently back upon the scarlet he next took up a hawk bell. These bells, as is known, ring very clear and sweet. I was afterwards told that the Portuguese had noted their welcome among the African people. There was no nail’s breadth of information that this man Columbus could not use! He had used this, and in a list for just possibly found savage Indians had put down, “good number of hawk bells.”
The red man painted black, took up the hawk bell. It chimed as he moved it. He dropped it on the sand and gave back a step, then picked it up and set it tinkling. His face, the way in which he moved, said “Music from heaven!”
The Admiral motioned to Fray Ignatio to move toward him. That good man went gently forward. The youth gave back, but then braced himself, under the eyes of his nation. He stood. The Franciscan put out a gowned arm and a long, lean kindly hand. The youth, naked as the bronze of a god, hesitated, raised his own arm, let it drop upon the other’s. Fray Ignatio, speaking mild words, brought him across and to the Admiral. The latter, tallest of us all and greatly framed, lofty of port, dressed with magnificence, silver-haired, standing forth from his officers and men, the banner over him, would be taken by any for Great Captain, chief god of these gods, and certes, at the first they thought that we were gods! The Indian put his hands to his face, shrank like a girl and came slowly to his knees and lower yet until his forehead rested upon the earth. The Admiral lifted him, calling him “son.”
Those of his kind watching from the wood now sent forth a considerable deputation. There came to us a dozen naked men, fairly tall, well-shaped, skin of red copper, smeared often with paint in bars and disks and crescents. Their hair was not like the Negro’s, the only other naked man our time knew, but was straight, black, somewhat coarse, not bushy but abundant, cut short with the men below the ear. They are a beardless people. Our beards are an amazement to them, as are our clothes. A fiercely quarrelsome folk, a peace-keeping, gentle folk will sound their note very soon. These belonged to the latter kind. Their lances were not our huge knightly ones, nor the light, hard ones of the Moors. They were hardly more than stout canes, the head not iron —they had no iron—but flint or bone shaped by a flint knife. Where the paint was not splashed or patterned over them, their faces could be liked very well. Lips were not over full, the nose slightly beaked, the forehead fairly high, the eyes good. They did not jabber nor move idly but kept measure and a pleasant dignity. They seemed gentle and happy. So were they when we found them.