The Viceroy spoke with energy. “Tell them
Son and Holy Ghost!”
Fray Ignatio stood and spoke, gentle and plain. Diego Colon made what headway he could. Guacanagari listened, attentive. The Franciscan had a certainty that presently he might begin to baptize. His face glowed. I heard him say to the Admiral, “If it be possible, senor, leave me here when you return to Spain! I will convert this chief and all his people—by the time you come again there shall be a church!”
“Let me ponder it yet a while,” answered the other.
He was thoughtful when he went back to the Nina. Vicente Pinzon, too, was anxious for light. “This ship is crowded to sinking! If we meet wretched weather, or if sickness break out, returning, we shall be in bad case!” Roderigo Sanchez also had his word. “Is it not very important, senor, that we should get the tidings to the Sovereigns? And we have now just this one small ship, and so far to go, and all manner of dangers!”
“Aye, it is important!” said the Admiral. “Let me think it out, senor.”
He had not slept at all, thought Juan Lepe, when next morning he came among us. But be looked resolved, hardy to accomplish. He had his plan, and he gave it to us in his deep voice that always thrilled with much beside the momentary utterance. We would build a fort here on shore, hard by this village, felling wood for it and using also the timbers of the Santa Maria. We would mount there her two guns and provide an arsenal with powder, shot, harquebuses and bows. Build a fort and call it La Navidad, because of Christmas day when was the wreck. It should have a garrison of certainly thirty men, a man for each year of Our Lord’s life when He began his mission. So many placed in Hispaniola would much lighten the Nina, which indeed must be lightened in order with safety to recross Ocean-Sea. For yes, we would go back to Palos! Go, and come again with many and better ships, with hidalgos and missionary priests, and very many men! In the meantime so many should stay at La Navidad.
“In less than a year—much less, I promise it—I the Admiral will be here again at La Navidad, when will come happy greeting between brothers in the greatest service of our own or many ages! Sea and land, God will keep us so long as we are His!”
All loved Christopherus Columbus that day. None was to be forced to stay at La Navidad. It was easy to gain thirty; in the end there tarried thirty-eight.
The building of the fort became a pleasurable enterprise. We broke up with singing the Santa Maria, and with her bones built the walls. Guacanagari and his people helped. All was hurried. The Admiral and Viceroy, now that his mind was made up, would depart as soon as might be.