After this day for days we sailed along Cuba strand, seeing many a fair haven and entering two or three. There were villages, and those dusk, naked folk to whom by now we were well used, running to beach or cliff brow, making signs, seeming to cry, “Heaven come down, heaven, heaven and the gods!” The notion of a sail had never come to them, though with their cotton they might have made them. They were slow to learn that the wind pushed us, acting like a thousand tireless rowers. We were thrillingly new to them and altogether magical. To any seeing eye a ship under full sail is a beautiful, stately, thrilling thing! To these red men there was a perilous joy in the vision. If to us in the ships there hung in this voyage something mystic, hidden, full of possibility, inch by inch to unroll, throbbing all with the future which is the supernatural, be sure these, too, who were found and discovered, moved in a cloud of mystery torn by strange lightnings!
Sometimes we came into haven, dropped anchor and lowered sails, whereupon those on the shore again cried out. When we took our boats and went to land we met always the same reception, found much the same village, carried on much the same conversations. Little by little we collected gold. By now, within the Admiral’s chest, in canvas bags, rested not a little treasure for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. And though it was forbidden, I knew that many of our seamen hid gold. All told we found enough to whet appetite. But still the Indians said south, and Babeque and Bohio!
At last we had sailed to the very eastern end of Cuba and turned it as we might turn the heel of Italy. A great spur that ran into the ocean the Admiral dubbed Alpha and Omega, and we planted a cross.
It fell to me here to save the Admiral’s life.
We had upon the Santa Maria a man named Felipe who seemed a simple, God-fearing soul, very attentive to Fray Ignatio and all the offices of religion. He was rather a silent fellow and a slow, poor worker, often in trouble with boatswain and master. He said odd things and sometimes wept for his soul, and the forecastle laughed at him. This man became in a night mad.