We entered here and came to anchor and the sails rattled down. “Hispaniola—Hispaniola, and we will call this harbor St. Thomas! He was the Apostle to India. And now we are his younger brothers come after long folding away. Were we more—did we have a fleet—we might set a city here and, it being Christmas, call it La Navidad!” Out came the canoes to us, out the swimmers, dark and graceful figures cleaving the utter blue. Some one passing that way overland, hurrying with news, had told these villages how peaceful, noble, benevolent, beneficent we were.
The canoes were heaped with fruit and cassava bread, and they had cotton, not in balls, but woven in pieces. And these Indians had about neck or in ear some bits of gold. These they changed cheerfully, taking and valuing what trifle was given. “Gold. Where do you get your gold? Do you know of Cipango or Cathay or India? Have ever you heard of Zaiton, or of Quinsai and Cublai Khan?” They gave us answers which we could not fully understand, and gestured inland and a little to the east. “Cibao! Cibao!” They seemed to say that there was all the gold there that a reasonable mortal might desire. “Cibao?— Cipango?” said the Admiral. “They might be the same.”
“Like Cuba and Cublai Khan,” thought Juan Lepe.
Around a point of shore darted a long canoe with many rowers. Other canoes gave way for it, and the Indians already upon the Santa Maria exclaimed that it was the boat of the cacique, though not the cacique but his brother sat in it. Guacanagari was the cacique. His town was yonder! They pointed to a misty headland beyond St. Thomas’s bay.
The Indian from the great canoe came aboard, a handsome fellow, and he brought presents not like any we had seen. There was a width of cotton embroidered thick with bits of gleaming shell and bone, but what was most welcome was a huge wooden mask with eyes and tongue of gold. Fray Ignatio crossed himself. “The devil they worship,— poor lost sheep!” The third gift was a considerable piece of that mixed and imperfect gold which afterwards we called guanin. And would we go to visit the cacique whose town was not so far yonder?
It was Christmas Eve. We sailed with a small, small wind for the cacique’s village, out from harbor of St. Thomas, around a headland and along a low, bright green shore. So low and fitful was the wind that we moved like two great snails. Better to have left the ships and gone, so many of us, in our boats with oars, canoes convoying us! The distance was not great, but distance is as the power of going. “I remember,” quoth the Admiral, “a calm, going from the Levant to Crete, and our water cask broken and not a mouthful for a soul aboard! That was a long, long two days while the one shore went no further and the other came no nearer. And going once to Porto Santo with my wife she fell ill and moaned for the land, and we were held as by the sea bottom, and I thought she would die who might be saved if she could have the land. And I remember going down the African coast with Santanem—”