It was middle night. The Santa Maria swung at anchor and the whole world seemed a just-breathing stillness. There was the watch, but all else slept. The watch, looking at Cuba and the moon on the water, did not observe Felipe when he crept from forecastle with a long, sharp two-edged knife such as they sell in Toledo.
Juan Lepe woke from first sleep and could not recover it. He found Bernardo Nunez’s small, small cabin stifling, and at last he got up, put on garments, and slipped forth and through great cabin to outer air. He might have found the Admiral there before him, for he slept little and was about the ship at all hours, but to-night he did sleep.
I spoke to the watch, then set myself down at break of poop to breathe the splendor of the night. The moon bathed Alpha and Omega, and the two ships, the Nina and the Santa Maria. It washed the Pinta but we saw it not, not knowing where rode the Pinta and Martin Alonzo Pinzon. So bright, so pleasureable, was the night!
An hour passed. My body was cooled and refreshed, my spirit quiet. Rising, I entered great cabin on my way to bed and sleep. I felt that the cabin was not empty, and then, there being moonlight enough, I saw the figure by the Admiral’s door. “Who is it?” I demanded, but the unbolted door gave to the man’s push, and he disappeared. I knew it was not the Admiral and I followed at a bound. The cabin had a window and the moonbeams came in. They showed Felipe and his knife and the great Genoese asleep. The madman laughed and crooned, then lifted that Toledo dagger and lunged downward with a sinewy arm. But I was upon him. The blow fell, but a foot wide of mark. There was a struggle, a shout. The Admiral, opening eyes, sprang from bed.
He was a powerful man, and I, too, had strength, but Felipe fought and struggled like a desert lion. He kept crying, “I am the King! I will send him to discover Heaven! I will send him to join the prophets!” At last we had him down and bound him. By now the noise had brought the watch and others. A dozen men came crowding in, in the moonlight. We took the madman away and kept him fast, and Juan Lepe tried to cure him but could not. In three days he died and we buried him at sea. And Fernando, creeping to me, asked, “senor, don’t you feel at times that there is madness over all this ship and this voyage and him —the Admiral, I mean?”
I answered him that it was a pity there were so few madmen, and that Felipe must have been quite sane.
“Then what do you think was the matter with Felipe, Senor?”
I said, “Did it ever occur to you, Fernando, that you had too much courage and saw too far?” At which he looked frightened, and said that at times he had felt those symptoms.
MARTIN PINZON did not return to us. That tall, blond sea captain was gone we knew not where. The Santa Maria and the Nina sailed south along the foot of Cuba. But now rose out of ocean on our southeast quarter a great island with fair mountain shapes. We asked our Indians—we had five aboard beside Diego Colon— what it was. “Bohio! Bohio!” But when we came there, its own inhabitants called it Hayti and Quisquaya.