The Admiral paced our deck, small as a turret chamber, his hands behind him, his mind upon some great chart drawn within, not without. At last, having decided, he called Juan de la Cosa. “We will go to Bohio.”
So it was done whereby much was done, the Woman with the distaff spinning fast, fast!
As this island lifted out of ocean, we who had said of Cuba, “It is the fairest!” now said, “No, this is the fairest!” It was most beautiful, with mountains and forests and vales and plains and rivers.
The twelfth day of December we came to anchor in a harbor which the Admiral named Concepcion.
On this shore the Indians fled from us. We found a village, but quite deserted. Not a woman, not a man, not a child! Only three or four of those silent dogs, and a great red and green parrot that screamed but said nothing. There was something in this day, I know not what, but it made itself felt. The Admiral, kneeling, kissed the soil, and he named the island Hispaniola, and we planted a cross.
For long we had been beaten about, and all aboard the ships were well willing to leave them for a little. We had a dozen sick and they craved the shore and the fruit trees. Our Indians, too, longed. So we anchored, and mariners and all adventurers rested from the sea. A few at a time, the villagers returned, and fearfully enough at first. But we had harmed nothing, and what greatness and gentleness was in us we showed it here. Presently all thought they were at home with us, and that heaven bred the finest folk!
Our people of Hispaniola, subjects now, since the planting of the flag, were taller, handsomer, we thought, than the Cubans, and more advanced in the arts. Their houses were neat and good, and their gardens weeded and well-stocked. The men wore loin cloths, the women a wide cotton girdle or little skirt. We found three or four copper knives, but again they said that they came from the south. As in Spain “west—west” had been his word, so now the Admiral brooded upon south.
These folk had a very little gold, but they seemed to say that theirs was a simple and poor village, and that we should find more of all things farther on. So we left Concepcion, the cross upon the rock showing a long way through the pure air.
For two days we coasted, and at the end of this time we came to a harbor of great beauty and back from it ran a vale like Paradise, so richly sweet it was! Christopherus Columbus was quick to find beauty and loved it when found. Often and often have I seen his face turn that of a child or a youth, filled with wonder. I have seen him kiss a flower, lay a caress upon stem of tree, yearn toward palm tops against the blue. He was well read in the old poets, and he himself was a poet though he wrote no line of verse.