We went back to our ships, and leaving river, sailed on in a bright blue sea. The next day we doubled a cape and found a great haven, but silent and sailless, with no maritime city thronging the shore. What was this world, so huge, so sparely, rudely peopled?
We came to anchor close under shore in this haven. Again the marvelous water, but now it laved a bold and great country! We landed. Canoes fastened in a row, another village, most of the folk decamped, but a few brave men and women tarrying to find out something about heaven and its inmates. With toys again and pacific gestures we wiled them to us.
There was upon the Santa Maria a young Indian who had chosen to come with us from Fernandina. He had courage and intelligence, was willing to receive instruction and baptism from Fray Ignatio, and first and last followed the Admiral with devotion. The latter had him christened Diego Colon. We taught him Spanish as fast and soundly as we might, and used him as interpreter. The tongue of his island was not just the tongue of Cuba, but near enough to serve. All these Indians have a gift of oratory and dote to speak at length, with firm voice and great gestures. Now we set Diego Colon to his narration. We of Castile had so much of the tongue by now that we could in some wise follow.
Forth it poured! We were gods come from heaven. Yonder stood the chief god that the others obeyed. He was very great, strong, good, wise, kind, giving beautiful gifts! We were all kind—no one was going to be hurt. We made magic with harac—which we called “gold.” In heaven was not enough harac. So important is it to the best magic that a chief god has come to earth to seek it. We also liked cotton and things to eat, especially cassava cakes, and we liked a very few parrots. But it was gold that in chief we wanted. The man who brought the gods gold might go home with gifts so beautiful that there was never anything seen like them! Especially is there something that the gods call “bells” that ring and sound in your hand when you dance! Gold—do you know where to find it? Another thing! They desire to find a god who dropped out of the sky a long time ago, and has now a people and a great, marvelous village. Thinking he might be here, they have dived down to our land, for they dive in the sky as we dive in water! The name of the god they hunt is Grand Khan or Cublai Khan, and his village is Quinsai. Have you heard of him? They are very anxious to find him. The chief god with white hair and wonderful clothes—It is what they call clothes; under it they are as you and me, only the color is different—the chief god will give many bells to any folk who can show him the way to Quinsai. Gold and Quinsai where lives the god Grand Khan.”
As might have been expected, this brought tidings. “Cubanacan! Cubanacan!” Whatever that might mean, they said it with assurance, pointing inland. Diego Colon interrupted their further speech. “There is a river. Go up it three days and come to great village. Cacique there wearing clothes. All men there have gold!”