Time lacks to say all that we did and heard and guessed this day upon this island! It was first love after long weeks at sea, and our cramped ships and all our great uncertainty! If it was not what we had expected, still here it was, tangible land that never had been known, wonderful to us, giving us already rich narrative for Palos and Huelva and Fishertown, for Cordova and the Queen and King. We were sure now that other land was to be met, so soon as we sailed a reasonable distance to meet it. Under the horizon would be land surely, and surely of an import that this small island lacked, like Paradise though it seemed to us this day! Any who looked at the Admiral saw that he would make no long tarrying here. He named this island San Salvador, but we would not wait in San Salvador.
This day in shifts, all our men were brought ashore, each division having three hours of blessed land. So good was earth under foot, so good were trees, so delectable the fruit, so lovely to move and run and watch every moving, running, walking thing! And these good, red-brown folk, naked it was true, but mannerly after their own fashion, who thought every seaman a god, and the ship boys sons of gods! And we also were good and mannerly, the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina. I look back and I see a strange, a boyish and a happy day.
The sun was westering. We felt the exhaustion of a long holiday with novelties so many that at last the senses did not answer. Perhaps the Indians felt it too. Often and often have I seen great wisdom guide the Admiral. An hour before approaching night might have said “Go!” he took us one and all back to the ships. “Salve Regina” was a sound that evening to hear, and afterwards it was to sleep, sleep,—tired as from the Fair at Seville!
AT first, the day before, we had not made out that the Indians had boats. Later, straying here and there, we had seen them drawn upon the shore and covered with boughs of trees. They called them “canoes”, made them, large and small, out of trunks of trees, hollowed by fire, and with their stone knives. We had seen one copper knife. Asked about that, they pointed to the south and seemed to say that yonder dwelled men who had all they wished of most things.
From dark the east grew pale, from pallor put on roses. This day no mariner grumbled at the call to awake. Here still lay our Fortunate Isle, our San Salvador; here our ivory beach, our green wood. Up went the little curls of smoke.
We had breakfast. So great was now the deference to him who three days ago had been “madman” and “black magician”, “dreaming fool” and “spinner without thread!” Now it was “Admiral”, “Excellency”, and “What shall we do next?” and “What is your opinion, sir?”