The Indian seemed to say they had not, but would like to have. He looked about for something with which to trade, a parrot, or heap of cakes, or ball of cotton. I thought that it was the box of boxes that he extremely wished, but the Admiral thought it was the spicery, and that he must have known them wherever he got the gold. “Were they found yonder?”
The Admiral stretched arm out over blue sea and the
Indian followed his gesture. He shot out his own arm,
“South—southwest—west,” nodded the Admiral. “Many
islands, or the mainland. Gates open before us!”
“Had the Indian been to these lands?” No, it seemed, but one had come in a boat, wearing this knob of gold, and he had told them. Was he living? No, he was not living. What kind of a person was he? Such as us? Emphatically no. Not such as us! Much, we gathered, as was the Indian himself. “Pearls have come from Queen’s neck to Queen’s neck,” quoth the Admiral, “by a thousand rude hands and twisting ways!”
There was one woman among the visitors to the Santa Maria, a young woman, naked, freely moving and smiling. Eyes dwelled on her, eyes followed her. She was with an Indian who might be brother or husband. The Admiral gave her a worked, Moorish scarf. She tied it about her head, and the bright ends fell down beside her long, black, braided hair. None touched her, but they were woman-starved, and they looked at her hungrily. She had beauty in her way, and a kind of innocence both frank and shy. She was like a doe in the green forest, come silently upon at dawn.
Fed full of marvel at last, these Indians left us. But no sooner had they reached land and told of great kindness on the part of the inhabitants of heaven than other canoes and other swimmers put forth. This might go on all day, so we checked it by ourselves going ashore.
This day we filled our water casks and took aboard much fruit and all the cakes that they brought us. Moreover we explored the island, finding two villages of a piece with the first, and in the middle land a fair pool of water. This day like yesterday was blissful wine.
All blessed Christopherus Columbus. No man now but, for a while, did his bidding with an open heart.
In the morning we sailed away, not without plentiful promises of return. When we put up our white sails they cried out and pointed to the cloud sierra. No! We would not go back to heaven—or if we did so we would come again, loving so our gentle friends upon earth! We sailed, and in all our after wanderings we never came back to this island. And never again, I think, while Columbus voyaged, did there come to us just the bright, exquisite thrill of that first land after long doubt and no land. San Salvador— Holy Saviour Island!
WE were in a throng of islands. We might drop all for a little while, then from masthead “Land ho!” None were great islands, many far smaller than San Salvador. At night we lay to, not knowing currents and shoals; then broke the day and we flung out sail.