Ruiz sprang to it, but as he touched it the Santa Maria grounded. The shock woke most on board, the immediate outcry and running feet the rest.
The harm was done, and no good now in recriminations!
It was never, I bear witness, habit of Christopherus Columbus.
The Santa Maria listed heavily, the sea pounding against her, driving her more and more upon the sand. But order arrived with the Admiral. The master grew his lieutenant, the mariners his obedient ones. Back he was at thirty, with a shipwreck who had seen many and knew how to toil with hands and with head. Moreover, the great genius of the man shone in darkness. He could encourage; he could bring coolness.
We tried to warp her off, but it was not to be done. We cut away mast to lighten her, but more and more she grew fast to the bank, the waves striking all her side, pushing her over. Seams had opened, water was coming in. The Nina a mile away took our signal and came nearer, lay to, and sent her boat.
The Santa Maria, it was seen, was dying. Nothing more was to be done. Her mariners could only cling to her like bees to comb. We got the two boats clear and there was the boat of the Nina. Missioned by the Admiral, Juan Lepe got somehow into cabin, together with Sancho and Luis Torres, and we collected maps and charts, log, journal, box with royal letters and the small bags of gold, and the Admiral’s personal belongings, putting all into a great sack and caring for it, until upon the Nina we gave it into his hand. Above us rang the cry, “All off!”
From Christopherus Columbus to Pedro Acevedo all left the Santa Maria and were received by the Nina. Crowded, crowded was the Nina! Down voyaged the moon, up came with freshness the rose-chapleted dawn. A wreck lay the Santa Maria, painted against the east, about her a low thunder of breakers. Where was the Pinta no man knew! Perhaps halfway back to Spain or perhaps wrecked and drowned like the flagship. The Nina, a small, small ship and none too seaworthy, carried all of Europe and Discovery.
IN the small, small cabin of the Nina Christopherus Columbus sat for a time with his head bowed in his arms, then rose and made up a mission to go to the cacique Guacanagari and, relating our misfortune, request aid and shelter until we had determined upon our course. There went Diego de Arana and Pedro Gutierrez with Luis Torres and one or two more, and they took Diego Colon and the two St. Thomas Indians. It was now full light, the shore and mountains green as emerald, the water its old unearthly blue.
The Nina swung at anchor just under the land and the now receding tide uncovered more and more those sands where the Santa Maria lay huddled and dying. The Admiral gazed, and the tears ran down his face. He was so great that he never thought to hide just emotion. He spoke as though to himself. “Many sins have I, many, many! But thou wilt not, O God, cast me utterly away because of them! I will not doubt Thee, nor my calling!”