We had with us upon the Santa Maria three San Salvador men. They had come willingly, two young, fearless men, and one old man with a wrinkled, wise, interested face. Assiduous to gain their tongue and impart our own, the Admiral, beside his own effort, told off for especial teachers and scholars Luis Torres and Juan Lepe. We did gain knowledge, but as yet everything was imperfect, without fine shading, and subject to all miscomprehension. But like the rest of us, the Admiral guessed in accordance with his wishes and his previous belief.
All these islands lay flat or almost flat upon the sea. All showed ivory beach, vivid wood, surrounding water, transparent and heavenly blue, inhabited by magically colored fish. When we dropped anchor, took boat and landed, it was to find the same astonished folk, naked, harmless, holding us for gods, bringing all they had, eager for our toys which were to them king’s treasures and holy relics. Every island the Admiral named; he gave them goodly names! Over and over the Indians pointed south and west. We understood great lands, clothed men, much gold. But when we next came to anchor, like small island, like men, women and children. We traded for a few more knobs of gold, but they were few.
Toscanelli’s map and the Admiral’s map lay on cabin table. “Islands in the Sea of Chin—Polo and Mandeville alike say thousands—all grades then of advance. Beyond any manner of doubt, persevering west or west by south, we shall come to main Asia.” So long as he ruled, there would be perseverance!
At Santa Maria de la Concepcion a solitary large canoe crowded with Indians was rowing toward us. One of the San Salvador young men aboard us fancied some slight, experienced some fear, or may even,—who knows?—have wearied of the gods. Springing upon the rail he threw himself into sea and made off with great strokes toward the canoe. Pedro behind him shouted “Escape!” There was a rush to the side to observe. Fernando bawled, “Come back! or we’ll let fly an arrow.”
He swam, the dark, naked fellow, like a fish. Reaching the canoe, the Indians there took him in; he seemed to have a tale to tell, they all broke into talk, the canoe went round, they rowed fast back to land. The Nina, lying near us, had her boat filling to go ashore. Her men had seen the leap overboard and the swimmer. Now they put after, rowing hard for the canoe, that having the start came first to beach. The Indians sprang out, the San Salvador man with them. Leaving canoe, they ran across sand into wood. The Nina’s men took the canoe and brought it to the Santa Maria. In it were balls of cotton and calabashes filled with fruit and a chattering parrot. It was the first thing of this kind that had happened, and the Admiral’s face was wrathful. He had a simple, kindly heart, and though he could be vexed or irritated, he rarely broke into furious anger. But first and last