“You don’t see the rod, that is all,” said Juan Lepe.
But there had eventually to be colonies, and I knew that the Admiral was revolving in his head the leaving in this new world certain of our men, seed corn as it were, organs also to gather knowledge against his speedy return with power of ships and men. For surely Spain would be grateful,—surely, surely! But he was not ready yet to set sail for Spain. He meant to discover more, discover further, come if by any means he could to the actual wealth of great, main India; come perhaps to Zaiton, where are more merchants than in all the rest of the world, and a hundred master ships laden with pepper enter every year; or to Quinsai of the marble bridges. No, he was not ready to turn prow to Spain, and he was not likely to bleed himself of men, now or for many days to come. All these who would lie in hammocks ashore must wait awhile, and even when they made their colony, that is not the way that colonies live and grow.
Beltran said, “Some of you would like to do a little good, and some are for a sow’s life!”
It was Christmas Eve, and we had our vespers, and we thought of the day at home in Castile and in Italy. Dusk drew down. Behind us was the deep, secure water of St. Thomas, his harbor. The Admiral had us sound and the lead showed no great depth, whereupon we stood a little out to avoid shoal or bar.
For some nights the Admiral had been wakeful, suffering, as Juan Lepe knew, with that gout which at times troubled him like a very demon. But this night he slept. Juan de la Cosa set the watch. The helmsman was Sancho Ruiz than whom none was better, save only that he would take a risk when he pleased. All others slept. The day had been long, so warm, still and idle, with the wooded shore stealing so slowly by.
Early in the night Sancho Ruiz was taken with a great cramp and a swimming of the head. He called to one of the watch to come take the helm for a little, but none answered; called again and a ship boy sleeping near, uncurled himself, stretched, and came to hand. “It’s all safe, and the Admiral sleeping and the master sleeping and the watch also!” said the boy. Pedro Acevedo it was, a well-enough meaning young wretch.
Sancho Ruiz put helm in his hand. “Keep her so, while I lie down here for a little. My head is moving faster than the Santa Maria!”
He lay down, and the swimming made him close his eyes, and closed eyes and the disappearance of his pain, and pleasant resting on deck caused him to sleep. Pedro Acevedo held the wheel and looked at the moon. Then the wind chose to change, blowing still very lightly but bearing us now toward shore, and Pedro never noticing this grow larger. He was looking at the moon, he afterwards said with tears, and thinking of Christ born in Bethlehem.
The shore came nearer and nearer. Sancho Ruiz slept. Pedro now heard a sound that he knew well enough. Coming back to here and now, he looked and saw breakers upon a long sand bar. The making tide was at half, and that and the changed wind carried us toward the lines of foam. The boy cried, “Steersman! Steersman!” Ruiz sat up, holding his head in his hands. “Such a roaring in my ears!” But “Breakers! Breakers!” cried the boy. “Take the helm!”