By Mary Johnson
THE morning was gray and I sat by the sea near Palos in a gray mood. I was Jayme de Marchena, and that was a good, old Christian name. But my grandmother was Jewess, and in corners they said that she never truly recanted, and I had been much with her as a child. She was dead, but still they talked of her. Jayme de Marchena, looking back from the hillside of forty-six, saw some service done for the Queen and the folk. This thing and that thing. Not demanding trumpets, but serviceable. It would be neither counted nor weighed beside and against that which Don Pedro and the Dominican found to say. What they found to say they made, not found. They took clay of misrepresentation, and in the field of falsehood sat them down, and consulting the parchment of malice, proceeded to create. But false as was all they set up, the time would cry it true.
It was reasonable that I should find the day gray.
Study and study and study, year on year, and at last image a great thing, just under the rim of the mind's ocean, sending up for those who will look streamers above horizon, streamers of colored and wonderful light! Study and reason and with awe and delight take light from above. Dream of good news for one and all, of life given depth and brought into music, dream of giving the given, never holding it back, which would be avarice and betraying! Write, and give men and women to read what you have written, and believe—poor Deluded!—that they also feel inner warmth and light and rejoice.
Oh, gray the sea and gray the shore!
But some did feel it.
The Dominican, when it fell into his hands, called it perdition. A Jewess for grandmother, and Don Pedro for enemy. And now the Dominican—the Dominicans!
The Queen and the King made edict against the Jews, and there sat the Inquisition.
I was—I am—Christian. It is a wide and deep and high word. When you ask, "What is it—Christian?" then must each of us answer as it is given to him to answer. I and thou—and the True, the Universal Christ give us light!
To-day all Andalusia, all Castile and all Spain to me seemed gray, and gray the utter Ocean that stretched no man knew where. The gray was the gray of fetters and of ashes.
The tide made, and as the waves came nearer, eating the sand before me, they uttered a low crying. In danger—danger—in danger, Jayme de Marchena!
I had been in danger before. Who is not often and always in danger, in life? But this was a danger to daunt.
Mine were no powerful friends. I had only that which was within me. I was only son of only son, and my parents and grandparents were dead, and my distant kindred cold, seeing naught of good in so much study and thinking of that old, dark, beautiful, questionable one, my grandmother. I had indeed a remote kinsman, head of a convent in this neighborhood, and he was a wise man and a kindly. But not he either could do aught here!
All the Jews to be banished, and Don Pedro with a steady forefinger, "That man—take him, too! Who does not know that his grandmother was Jewess, and that he lived with her and drank poison?" But the Dominican, "No! The Holy Office will take him. You have but to read—only you must not read—what he has written to see why!"
Gray Ocean, stretching endlessly and now coming close, were it not well if I drowned myself this gray morning while I can choose the death I shall die? Now the great murmur sang Well, and now it sang Not well.
Low cliff and heaped sand and a solitary bird wide-winging toward the mountains of Portugal, and the Ocean gray-blue and salt! The salt savor entered me, and an inner zest came forward and said No, to being craven. In banishment certainly, in the House of the Inquisition more doubtfully, the immortal man might yet find market from which to buy! If the mind could surmount, the eternal quest need not be interrupted—even there!
Blue Ocean sang to me.
A vision—it came to me at times, vision—set itself in air. I saw A People who persecuted neither Jew nor thinker. It rose one Figure, formed of an infinite number of small figures, but all their edges met in one glow. The figure stood upon the sea and held apart the clouds, and was free and fair and mighty, and was man and woman melted together, and it took all colors and made of them a sun for its brow. I did not know when it would live, but I knew that it should live. Perhaps it was the whole world.
It vanished, leaving sky and ocean and Andalusia. But great visions leave great peace. After it, for this day, it seemed not worth while to grieve and miserably to forebode. Through the hours that I lay there by the sea, airs from that land or that earth blew about me and faint songs visited my ears, and the gray day was only gray like a dove's breast.
Jayme de Marchena stayed by the lonely sea because that seemed the safest place to stay. At hand was the small port of Palos that might not know what was breeding in Seville, and going thither at nightfall I found lodging and supper in a still corner where all night I heard the Tinto flowing by.
I had wandered to Palos because of the Franciscan convent of Santa Maria de la Rabida and my very distant kins-man, Fray Juan Perez. The day after the gray day by the shore I walked half a league of sandy road and came to convent gate. The porter let me in, and I waited in a little court with doves about me and a swinging bell above until the brother whom he had called returned and took me to Prior's room. At first Fray Juan Perez was stiff and cold, but by littles this changed and he became a good man, large-minded and with a sense for kindred. Clearly he thought that I should not have had a Jewish grandmother, nor have lived with her from my third to my tenth birthday, and most clearly that I should not have written that which I had written. But his God was an energetic, enterprising, kindly Prince, rather bold himself and tolerant of heathen. Fray Juan Perez even intimated a doubt if God wanted the Inquisition. "But that's going rather far!" he said hastily and sat drumming the table and pursing his lips. Presently he brought out, "But you know I can't do anything!"
I did know it. What could he do? I suppose I had had a half-hope of something. I knew not what. Without a hope I would not have come to La Rabida. But it was maimed from the first, and now it died. I made a gesture of relinquishment. "No, I suppose you cannot—"
He said after a moment that he was glad to see that I had let my beard grow and was very plainly dressed, though I had never been elaborate there, and especially was he glad that I was come to Palos not as Jayme de Marchena, but under a plain and simple name, Juan Lepe, to wit. His advice was to flee from the wrath to come. He would not say flee from the Holy Office—that would be heinous!—but he would say absent myself, abscond, be banished, Jayme de Marchena by Jayme de Marchena. There were barques in Palos and rude seamen who asked no question when gold just enough, and never more than enough, was shown. He hesitated a moment and then asked if I had funds. If not—
I thanked him and said that I had made provision.
"Then," said he, "go to Barbary, Don Jayme! An intelligent and prudent man may prosper at Ercilla or at Fez. If you must study, study there."
"You also study," I said.
"In fair trodden highways—never in thick forest and mere fog!" he answered. "Now if you were like one who has been here and is now before Granada, at Santa Fe, sent for thither by the Queen! That one hath indeed studied to benefit Spain—Spain, Christendom, and the world!"
I asked who was that great one, but before he could tell me came interruption. A visitor entered, a strong-lipped, bold-eyed man named Martin Pinzon. I was to meet him again and often, but at this time I did not know that. Fray Juan Perez evidently desiring that I should go, I thought it right to oblige him who would have done me kindness had he known how. I went without intimate word of parting and after only a casual stare from Martin Pinzon.
But without, my kinsman came after me. "I want to say, Don Jayme, that if I am asked for testimony I shall hold to it that you are as good Christian as any—"
It was kinsman's part and all that truly I could have hoped for, and I told him so. About us was quiet, vacant cloister, and we parted more warmly than we had done within.
The white convent of La Rabida is set on a headland among vineyards and pine trees. It regards the ocean and, afar, the mountains of Portugal, and below it runs a small river, going out to sea through sands with the Tinto and the Odiel. Again the day was gray and the pine trees sighing. The porter let me out at gate.
I walked back toward Palos through the sandy ways. I did not wish to go to Africa.
It is my belief that that larger Self whom they will call protecting Saint or heavenly Guardian takes hand in affairs oftener than we think! Leaving the Palos road, I went to the sea as I had done yesterday and again sat under heaped sand with about me a sere grass through which the wind whined. At first it whined and then it sang in a thin, outlandish voice. Sitting thus, I might have looked toward Africa, but I knew now that I was not going to Africa. Often, perhaps, in the unremembered past I had been in Africa; often, doubtless, in ages to come its soil would be under my foot, but now I was not going there! To-day I looked westward over River-Ocean, unknown to our fathers and unknown to ourselves. It was unknown as the future of the world.
Ocean piled before me. From where I lay it seemed to run uphill to one pale line, nor blue nor white, set beneath the solid gray. Over that hilltop, what? Only other hills and plains, water, endlessly water, until the waves, so much mightier than waves of that blue sea we knew best, should beat at last against Asia shore! So high, so deep, so vast, so real, yet so empty-seeming save for strange dangers! No sails over the hilltop; no sails in all that Vast save close at hand where mariners held to the skirts of Mother. Europe. Ocean vast, Ocean black, Ocean unknown. Yet there, too, life and the knowing of life ran somehow continuous.
It wiled me from my smaller self. How had we all suffered, we the whole earth! But we were moving, we the world with none left out, moving toward That which held worlds, which was conscious above worlds. Long the journey, long the adventure, but it was not worth while fearing, it was not worth while whining! I was not alone Jayme de Marchena, nor Juan Lepe, nor this name nor that nor the other.
There was now a great space of quiet in my mind. Suddenly formed there the face and figure of Don Enrique de Cerda whose life I had had the good hap to save. He was far away with the Queen and King who beleaguered Granada. I had not seen him for ten years. A moment before he had rested among the host of figures in the unevenly lighted land of memory. Now he stood forth plainly and seemed to smile.
I took the leading. With the inner eye I have seen lines of light like subtle shining cords running between persons. Such a thread stretched now between me and Enrique de Cerda. I determined to make my way, as Juan Lepe, through the mountains and over the plain of Granada to Santa Fe.
SET will to an end and promptly eyes open to means! I did not start for Granada from Palos but from Huelva, and I quitted Andalusia as a porter in a small merchant train carrying goods of sorts to Zarafa that was a mountain town taken from the Moors five years back. I was to these folk Juan Lepe, a strong, middle-aged man used to ships but now for some reason tired of them. My merchants had only eyes for the safety of their persons and their bales, plunged the third day into mountainous wild country echoing and ghastly with long-lasting war. Their servants and muleteers walked and rode, lamented or were gay, raised faction, swore, laughed, traveled grimly or in a dull melancholy or mirthfully; quarreled and made peace, turn by turn, day by day, much alike. One who was a bully fixed a quarrel upon me and another took my part. All leaped to sides. I was forgotten in the midst of them; they could hardly have told now what was the cause of battle. A young merchant rode back to chide and settle matters. At last some one remembered that Diego had struck Juan Lepe who had flung him off. Then Tomaso had sprung in and struck Diego. Then Miguel—"Let Juan Lepe alone!" said my merchant. "Fie! a poor Palos seafaring child, and you great Huelva men!" They laughed at that, and the storm vanished as it had come.
I liked the young man.
How wild and without law, save "Hold if you can!" were these mountains! "Hold if you can to life—hold if you can to knowledge—hold if you can to joy!" Black cliff overhung black glen and we knew there were dens of robbers. Far and near violence falls like black snow. This merchant band gathered to sleep under oaks with a great rock at our back. We had journeyers' supper and fire, for it was cold, cold in these heights. A little wine was given and men fell to sleep by the heaped bales; horses, asses and mules being fastened close under the crag. Three men watched, to be relieved in middle night by other three who now slept. A muleteer named Rodrigo and Juan Lepe and the young merchant took the first turn. The first two sat on one side of the fire and the young merchant on the other.
The muleteer remained sunken in a great cloak, his chin on his arms folded upon his knees, and what he saw in the land within I cannot tell. But the young merchant was of a quick disposition and presently must talk. For some distance around us spread bare earth set only with shrubs and stones. Also the rising moon gave light, and with that and our own strength we did not truly look for any attack. We sat and talked at ease, though with lowered voices, Rodrigo somewhere away and the rest of the picture sleeping. The merchant asked what had been my last voyage.
I answered, after a moment, to England.
"You do not seem to me," he said, "a seaman. But I suppose there are all kinds of seamen."
I said yes, the sea was wide.
"England now, at the present moment?" he said, and questioned me as to Bristol, of which port he had trader's knowledge. I answered out of a book I had read. It was true that, living once by the sea, I knew how to handle a boat. I could find in memory sailors' terms. But still he said, "You are not a seaman such as we see at Palos and San Lucar."
It is often best not to halt denial. Let it pass by and wander among the wild grasses!
"I myself," he said presently, "have gone by sea to Vigo and to Bordeaux." He warmed his hands at the fire, then clasped them about his knees and gazed into the night. "What, Juan Lepe, is that Ocean we look upon when we look west? I mean, where does it go? What does it strike?"
"India, belike. And Cathay. To-day all men believe the earth to be round."
"A long way!" he said. "O Sancta Maria! All that water!"
"We do not have to drink it."
He laughed. "No! Nor sail it. But after I had been on that voyage I could see us always like mice running close to a wall, forever and forever! Juan Lepe, we are little and timid!"
I liked his spirit. "One day we shall be lions and eagles and bold prophets! Then our tongue shall taste much beside India and Cathay!"
"Well, I hope it," he said. "Mice running under the headlands."
He fell silent, cherishing his knees and staring into the fire. It was not Juan Lepe's place to talk when master merchant talked not. I, too, regarded the fire, and the herded mountains robed in night, and the half-moon like a sail rising from an invisible boat.
The night went peacefully by. It was followed by a hard day's travel and the incident of the road. At evening we saw the walls of Zarafa in a sunset glory. The merchants and their train passed through the gate and found their customary inn. With others, Juan Lepe worked hard, unlading and storing. All done, he and the bully slept almost in each other's arms, under the arches of the court, dreamlessly.
The next day and the next were still days of labor. It was not until the third that Juan Lepe considered that he might now absent himself and there be raised no hue and cry after strong shoulders. He had earned his quittance, and in the nighttime, upon his hands and knees, he crept from the sleepers in the court. Just before dawn the inn gate swung open. He had been waiting close to it, and he passed out noiselessly.
In the two days, carrying goods through streets to market square and up to citadel and pausing at varying levels for breath and the prospect, I had learned this town well enough. I knew where went the ascending and descending ways. Now almost all lay asleep, antique, shaded, Moorish, still, under the stars. The soldiery and the hidalgos, their officers, slept; only the sentinels waked before the citadel entry and on the town walls and by the three gates. The town folk slept, all but the sick and the sorrowful and the careful and those who had work at dawn. Listen, and you might hear sound like the first moving of birds, or breath of dawn wind coming up at sea. The greater part now of the town folk were Christian, brought in since the five-year-gone siege that still resounded. Moors were here, but they had turned Christian, or were slaves, or both slave and Christian. I had seen monks of all habits and heard ring above the inn the bells of a nunnery. Now again they rang. The mosque was now a church. It rose at hand,—white, square, domed. I went by a ladder-like lane down toward Zarafa wall and the Gate of the Lion. At sunrise in would pour peasants from the vale below, bringing vegetables and poultry, and mountaineers with quails and conies, and others with divers affairs. Outgoing would be those who tilled a few steep gardens beyond the wall, messengers and errand folk, soldiers and traders for the army before Granada.
It was full early when I came to the wall. I could make out the heavy and tall archway of the gate, but as yet was no throng before it. I waited; the folk began to gather, the sun came up. Zarafa grew rosy. Now was clatter enough, voices of men and brutes, both sides the gate. The gate opened. Juan Lepe won out with a knot of brawny folk going to the mountain pastures. Well forth, he looked back and saw Zarafa gleaming rose and pearl in the blink of the sun, and sent young merchantward a wish for good. Then he took the eastward way down the mountain, toward lower mountains and at last the Vega of Granada.
THE day passed. I had adventures of the road, but none of consequence. I slept well among the rocks, waked, ate the bit of bread I had with me, and fell again to walking.
Mountains were now withdrawing to the distant horizon where they stood around, a mighty and beautiful wall. I was coming down into the plain of Granada, that once had been a garden. Now, north, south, east, west, it lay war-trampled. Old owners were dead, men and women, or were mudexares, vassals, or were fled, men and women, all who could flee, to their kindred in Africa. Or they yet cowered, men and women, in the broken garden, awaiting individual disaster. The Kingdom of Granada had sins, and the Kingdom of Castile, and the Kingdom of Leon. The Moor was stained, and the Spaniard, the Moslem and the Christian and the Jew. Who had stains the least or the most God knew—and it was a poor inquiry. Seek the virtues and bind them with love, each in each!
If the mountain road had been largely solitary, it was not so of this road. There were folk enough in the wide Vega of Granada. Clearly, as though the one party had been dressed in black and the other in red, they divided into vanquished and victor. Bit by bit, now through years, all these towns and villages, all these fertile fields and bosky places, rich and singing, had left the hand of the Moor for the hand of the Spaniard.
In all this part of his old kingdom the Moor lay low in defeat. In had swarmed the Christian and with the Christian the Jew, though now the Jew must leave. The city of Granada was not yet surrendered, and the Queen and King held all soldiery that they might at Santa Fe, built as it were in a night before Granada walls. Yet there seemed at large bands enough, licentious and loud, the scum of soldiery. Ere I reached the village that I now saw before me I had met two such bands, I wondered, and then wondered at my own wonder.
The chief house of the village was become an inn. Two long tables stood in the patio where no fountain now flowed nor orange trees grew nor birds sang in corners nor fine awning kept away the glare. Twenty of these wild and base fighting men crowded one table, eating and drinking, clamorous and spouting oaths. At the other table sat together at an end three men whom by a number of tokens might be robbers of the mountains. They sat quiet, indifferent to the noise, talking low among themselves in a tongue of their own, kin enough to the soldiery not to fear them. The opposite end of the long table was given to a group to which I now joined myself. Here sat two Franciscan friars, and a man who seemed a lawyer; and one who had the air of the sea and turned out to be master of a Levantine; and a brisk, talkative, important person, a Catalan, and as it presently appeared alcalde once of a so-so village; and a young, unhealthy-looking man in black with an open book beside him; and a strange fellow whose Spanish was imperfect.
I sat down near the friars, crossed myself, and cut a piece of bread from the loaf before me. The innkeeper and his wife, a gaunt, extraordinarily tall woman, served, running from table to table. The place was all heat and noise. Presently the soldiers, ending their meal, got up with clamor and surged from the court to their waiting horses. After them ran the innkeeper, appealing for pay. Denials, expostulation, anger and beseeching reached the ears of the patio, then the sound of horses going down stony ways. "O God of the poor!" cried the gaunt woman. "How are we robbed!"
"Why are they not before Granada?" demanded the lawyer and alertly provided the answer to his own question. "Take locusts and give them leave to eat, being careful to say, 'This fellow's fields only!' But the locusts have wings and their nature is to eat!"
The mountain robbers, if robbers they were, dined quietly, the gaunt woman promptly and painstakingly serving them. They were going to pay, I was sure, though it might not be this noon.
The two friars seemed, quiet, simple men, dining as dumbly as if they sat in Saint Francis's refectory. The sometime alcalde and the shipmaster were the talkers, the student sitting as though he were in the desert, eating bread and cheese and onions and looking on his book. The lawyer watched all, talked to make them talk, then came in and settled matters. The alcalde was the politician, knowing the affairs of the world and speaking familiarly of the King and the Queen and the Marquis of Cadiz.
The shipmaster said, "This time last year I was in London, and I saw their King. His name is Henry. King Henry the Seventh, and a good carrier of his kingship!"
"That for him!" said the alcalde. "Let him stay in his foggy island! But Spain is too small for King Ferdinand." "All kings find their lands too small," said the lawyer.
The shipmaster spoke again. "The King of Portugal's ship sails ahead of ours in that matter. He's stuck his banner in the new islands, Maderia and the Hawk Islands and where not! I was talking in Cadiz with one who was with Bartholomew Diaz when he turned Africa and named it Good Hope. Which is to say, King John has Good Hope of seeing Portugal swell. Portugal! Well, I say, 'Why not Spain'?"
The student looked up from his book. "It is a great Age!" he said and returned to his reading.
When we had finished dinner, we paid the tall, gaunt woman and leaving the robbers, if robbers they were, still at table, went out into the street. Here the friars, the alcalde and the lawyer moved in the direction of the small, staring white and ruined mosque that was to be transformed into the church of San Jago the Deliverer. That was the one thing of which the friars had spoken. A long bench ran by inn wall and here the shipmaster took his seat and began to discourse with those already there. Book under arm, the student moved dreamily down the opposite lane. Juan Lepe walked away alone.
Through the remainder of this day he had now company and adventure without, now solitude and adventure within. That night he spent in a ruined tower where young trees grew and an owl was his comrade and he read the face of a glorious moon. Dawn. He bathed in a stream that ran by the mound of the tower and ate a piece of bread from his wallet and took the road.
The sun mounted above the trees. A man upon a mule came up behind me and was passing. "There is a stone wedged in his shoe," I said. The rider drew rein and I lifted the creature's foreleg and took out the pebble. The rider made search for a bit of money. I said that the deed was short and easy and needed no payment, whereupon he put up the coin and regarded me out of his fine blue eyes. He was quite fair, a young man still, and dressed after a manner of his own in garments not at all new but with a beauty of fashioning and putting on. He and his mule looked a corner out of a great painting. And I had no sooner thought that than he said, "I see in you, friend, a face and figure for my 'Draught of Fishes.' And by Saint Christopher, there is water over yonder and just the landscape!" He leaned from the saddle and spoke persuasively, "Come from the road a bit down to the water and let me draw you! You are not dressed like the kin of Midas! I will give you the price of dinner." As he talked he drew out of a richly worked bag a book of paper and pencils. I thought, "This beard and the clothes of Juan Lepe. He can hardly make it so that any may recognize." It was resting time and the man attracted. I agreed, if he would take no more than an hour.
"The drawing, no!—Bent far over, gathering the net strongly—Andrew or Mark perhaps, since, traditionally, John must have youth."
He had continued to study me all this time, and now we left the road and moved over the plain to the stream that here widened into a pool fringed with rushes and a few twisted trees. An ancient, half-sunken boat drowsing under the bank he hailed again in the name of Saint Christopher. Dismounting, he fastened his mule to a willow and proceeded to place me, then himself found a root of a tree, and taking out his knife fell to sharpening pencil. This done, he rested book against knee and began to draw.
Having made his figure in one posture he rose and showed me another and drew his fisherman so. Then he demonstrated a third way and drew again. Now he was silent, working hard, and now he dropped his hand, threw back his head and talked. He himself made a picture, paly gold of locks, subtle and quick of face, plastered against a blue shield with a willow wreath going around.
I stood so or so, drawing hard upon the net with the fishes. Then at his command I approached more nearly, and he drew full face and three-quarter and profile. It was between these accomplishings that he talked more intimately.
"Seamen go to Italy," he said. "Were you ever in Milan? But that is inland."
I answered that I had been from Genoa to Milan.
"It is not likely that you saw a great painter there Messer Leonardo?"
It happened that I had done this, and moreover had seen him at work and heard him put right thought into most right words. I was so tired of lying that after a moment I said that I had seen and heard Messer Leonardo.
"Did you see the statue?"
"The first time I saw him he was at work upon it. The next time he was painting in the church of Santa Maria. The third time he sat in a garden, sipped wine and talked."
"I hold you," he said, "to be a fortunate fisherman! Just as this fisher I am painting, and whether it is Andrew or Mark, I do not yet know, was a most fortunate fisherman!" He ended meditatively, "Though whoever it is, probably he was crucified or beheaded or burned."
I felt a certain shiver of premonition. The day that had been warm and bright turned in a flash ashy and chill. Then it swung back to its first fair seeming, or not to its first, but to a deeper, brighter yet. The Fisherman by Galilee was fortunate. Whoever perceived truth and beauty was fortunate, fortunate now and forever!
We came back to Messer Leonardo. "I spent six months at the court in Milan," said the fair man. "I painted the Duke and the Duchess and two great courtiers. Messer Leonardo was away. He returned, and I visited him and found a master. Since that time I study light and shadow and small things and seek out inner action."
He worked in silence, then again began to speak of painters, Italian and Spanish. He asked me if I had seen such and such pictures in Seville.
"Yes. They are good."
"Do you know Monsalvat?"
I said that I had climbed there one day. "I dream a painting!" he said, "The Quest of the Grail. Now I see it running over the four walls of a church, and now I see it all packed into one man who rides. Then again it has seemed to me truer to have it in a man and woman who walk, or perhaps even are seated. What do you think?"
I was thinking of Isabel who died in my arms twenty years ago. "I would have it man and woman," I said. "Unless, like Messer Leonardo, you can put both in one."
He sat still, his mind working, while in a fair inner land Isabel and I moved together; then in a meditative quiet he finished his drawing. He himself was admirable, fine gold and bronze, sapphire-eyed, with a face where streams of visions moved the muscles, and all against the blue and the willow tree.
At last he put away pencil, and at his gesture I came from the boat and the reeds. I looked at what he had drawn, and then he shut book and, the mule following us, we moved back to the road.
"My dear fisherman," he said, "you are trudging afoot and your dress exhibits poverty. Painters may paint Jove descending in showers of golden pesos and yet have few pesos in purse. I have at present ten. I should like to share them with you who have done me various good turns to-day."
I said that he was generous but that he had done me good turns. Moreover I was not utterly without coin, and certainly the hour had paid for itself. So he mounted his mule and wished me good fortune, and I wished him good fortune.
"Are you going to Santa Fe?"
"Yes. I have a friend in the camp."
"I go there to paint her Highness the Queen for his Highness the King. Perhaps we shall meet again. I am Manuel Rodriguez."
"I guessed that," I answered, "an hour ago! Be so good, great painter, as not to remember me. It will serve me better."
The light played again over his face. "The Disguised Hidalgo. Excellent pictures come to me like that, in a great warm light, and excellent names for pictures.—Very good. In a way, so to speak, I shall completely forget you!"
Two on horseback, a churchman and a knight, with servants following, came around a bend of the dusty road and recognizing Manuel Rodriguez, called to him by name. Away he rode upon his mule, keeping company with them. The dozen in their train followed, raising as they went by such a dust cloud that presently all became like figures upon worn arras. They rode toward Santa Fe, and I followed on foot.
SANTA Fe rose before me, a camp in wood, plaster and stone, a camp with a palace, a camp with churches. Built of a piece where no town had stood, built that Majesty and its Court and its Army might have roofs and walls, not tents, for so long a siege, it covered the plain, a city raised in a night. The siege had been long as the war had been long. Hidalgo Spain and simple Spain were gathered here in great squares and ribbons of valor, ambition, emulation, desire of excitement and of livelihood, and likewise, I say it, in pieces not small, herded and brought here without any "I say yes" of their own, and to their misery. There held full flavor of crusade, as all along the war had been preached as a crusade. Holy Church had here her own grandees, cavaliers and footmen. They wore cope and they wore cowl, and on occasion many endued themselves with armor and hacked and hewed with an earthly sword. At times there seemed as many friars and priests as soldiers. Out and in went a great Queen and King. Their court was here. The churchmen pressed around the Queen. Famous leaders put on or took off armor in Santa Fe,—the Marquis of Cadiz and many others only less than he in estimation, and one Don Gonsalvo de Cordova, whose greater fame was yet to come. Military and shining youth came to train and fight under these. Old captains-at-arms, gaunt and scarred, made their way thither from afar. All were not Spaniard; many a soldier out at fortune or wishful of fame came from France and Italy, even from England and Germany. Women were in Santa Fe. The Queen had her ladies. Wives, sisters and daughters of hidalgos came to visit, and the common soldiery had their mates. Nor did there lack courtesans.
Petty merchants thronged the place. All manner of rich goods were bought by the flushed soldiers, the high and the low. And there dwelled here a host of those who sold entertainment,—mummers and jugglers and singers, dwarfs and giants. Dice rattled, now there were castanets and dancing, and now church bells seemed to rock the place. Wine flowed.
Out of the plain a league and more away sprang the two hills of Granada, and pricked against the sky, her walls and thousand towers and noble gates. Between them and Santa Fe stretched open and ruined ground, and here for many a day had shocked together the Spaniard and the Moor. But now there was no longer battle. Granada had asked and been granted seventy days in which to envisage and accept her fate. These were nearing the end. Lost and beaten, haggard with woe and hunger and pestilence, the city stood over against us, above the naked plain, all her outer gardens stripped away, bare light striking the red Alhambra and the Citadel. When the wind swept over her and on to Santa Fe it seemed to bring a sound of wailing and the faint and terrible odor of a long besieged place.
I came at eve into Santa Fe, found at last an inn of the poorer sort, ate scant supper and went to bed. Dawn came with a great ringing of church bells.
Out of the inn, in the throbbing street, I began my search for Don Enrique de Cerda. One told me one thing and one another, but at last I got true direction. At noon I found him in a goodly room where he made recovery from wounds. Now he walked and now he sat, his arm in a sling and a bandage like a turban around his head. A page took him the word I gave. "Juan Lepe. From the hermitage in the oak wood." It sufficed. When I entered he gazed, then coming to me, put his unbound hand over mine. "Why," he asked, "'Juan Lepe'?"
I glanced toward the page and he dismissed him, whereupon I explained the circumstances.
We sat by the window, and again rose for us the hermitage in the oak wood at foot of a mountain, and the small tower that slew in ugly fashion. Again we were young men, together in strange dangers, learning there each other's mettle. He had not at all forgotten.
He offered to go to Seville, as soon as Granada should fall, and find and fight Don Pedro. I shook my head. I could have done that had I seen it as the way.
He agreed that Don Pedro was now the minor peril. It is evil to chain thought! In our day we think boldly of a number of things. But touch King or touch Church—the cord is around your neck!
I said that I supposed I had been rash.
He nodded. "Yes. You were rash that day in the oak wood. Less rash, and my bones would be lying there, under tree." He rose and walked the room, then came to me and put his unhurt arm about my shoulders. "Don Jayme, we swore that day comrade love and service—and that day is now; twilight has never come to it, the leaves of the oak wood have never fallen! The Holy Office shall not have thee!"
We sat down and drank each a little wine, and fell to ways and means.
I rested Juan Lepe in the household of Don Enrique de Cerda, one figure among many, involved in the swarm of fighting and serving men. There was a squire who had served him long. To this man, Diego Lopez, I was committed, with enough told to enlist his intelligence. He managed for me in the intricate life of the place with a skill to make god Mercury applaud. Don Enrique and I were rarely together, rarely were seen by men to speak one to the other. But in the inner world we were together.
Days passed. We found nothing yet to do while all listening and doing at Santa Fe were bound up in the crumbling of Granada into Spanish hands. It seemed best to wait, watching chances.
Meantime the show glittered, and man's strong stomach cried "Life! More life!" It glittered at Santa Fe before Granada, and it was a dying ember in Granada before Santa Fe. The one glittered and triumphed because the other glittered and triumphed not. And who above held the balances even and neither sorrowed nor was feverishly elated but went his own way could only be seen from the Vega like a dream or a line from a poet.
For the most part the nobles and cavaliers in Santa Fe spent as though hard gold were spiritual gold to be gathered endlessly. One might say, "They go into a garden and shake tree each morning, which tree puts forth again in the night." None seemed to see as on a map laid down Spain and the broken peasant and the digger of the gold. None seemed to feel that toil which or soon or late they must recognize for their own toil. Toil in Spain, toil in other and far lands whence came their rich things, toil in Europe, Arabia and India! Apparel at Santa Fe was a thing to marvel at. The steed no less than his rider went gorgeous. The King and Queen, it was said, did not like this peacocking, but might not help it.
They themselves were pouring gold into the lap of the Church. It was a capacious lap.
Wars were general enough, God knew! But not every year could one find a camp where the friar was as common as the archer or the pikeman, and the prelate as the plumed chieftain.
Santa Fe was court no less than camp, court almost as though it were Cordova. This Queen and King at least did not live at ease in palaces while others fought their wars. North, south, east and west, through the ten years, they had been the moving springs. It was an able King and Queen, a politic King and a sincere and godly Queen, even a loving Queen. If only—if only—
I had been a week and more in Santa Fe when King Boabdil surrendered Granada. He left forever the Alhambra. Granada gates opened; he rode out with a few of his emirs and servants to meet King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The day shone bright. Spain towered, a figure dressed in gold and red.
Santa Fe poured out to view the spectacle, and with the rest went Diego Lopez and Juan Lepe. So great festival, so vivid the color, so echoing the sound, so stately and various the movement! Looking at the great strength massing there on the plain I said aloud, as I thought, to Diego Lopez, "Now they might do some worthy great thing!"
The squire not answering, I became aware that a swirl in the throng had pushed him from me. Still there came an answer in a deep and peculiarly thrilling voice. "That is a true saying and a good augury!"
I learn much by voices and before I turned I knew that this was an enthusiast's voice, but not an enthusiast without knowledge. Whoever spoke was strong enough, real enough. I liked the voice and felt a certain inner movement of friendship. Some shift among the great actors, some parting of banners, kept us suspended and staring for a moment, then the view closed against us who could only behold by snatches. Freed, I turned to see who had spoken and found a tall, strongly made, white-haired man. The silver hair was too soon; he could hardly have been ten years my elder. He had a long, fair face that might once have been tanned and hardened by great exposure. His skin had that look, but now the bronze was faded, and you could see that he had been born very fair in tint. Across the high nose and cheek bones went a powdering of freckles. His eyes were bluish-gray and I saw at once that he habitually looked at things afar off.
He was rather poorly dressed and pushed about as I was. When the surge again gave him footing, he spoke beside me. "'Now that this is over, they might do some great, worthy thing!' Very true, friend, they might! I take your words for good omen." The throng shot out an arm and we were parted. The same action brought back to me Diego Lopez. Speaking to him later of the tall man, he said that he had noticed him, and that it was the Italian who would go to India by way of Ocean-Sea.
King Boabdil gave up his city to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Over Granada, high against the bright sky, rose and floated the banners. Cannon, the big lombards, roared. Mars' music crashed out, then the trumpets ceased their crying and instead spread a mighty chanting. Te Deum Laudamus!
At last the massed brightness out in the plain quivered and parted. The pageantry broke, wide curving and returning with some freedom but with order too, into Santa Fe. I saw the Queen and the King with their children, and the Grand Cardinal, and prelates and prelates, and the Marquis of Cadiz, and many a grandee and famous knight. Don Enrique de Cerda and his troop came by.
Diego Lopez and I returned to the town. I saw again the man who would find India by a way unpassed, as far as one knew, since the world began! He was entering a house with a friar beside him. Something came into my mind of the convent of La Rabida.
SOME days went by. The King and the Queen with the court and a great train of prelates and grandees and knights rode in state through Granada. Don Enrique, returning, told me of it in his room at night, of the Christian service in the mosque and the throning in the Alhambra.
"Now," he said, "after great affairs, our affairs! I have had speech with the Marchioness of Moya."
"That is the Queen's friend?"
"Yes. Dona Beatrix de Boabdilla. We stood together by a fountain, and when she said, 'What can I do for you?' I answered, 'There is something.' Then while all went in pageantry before us, I told her of the hermitage in the oak wood and of the unhappy small tower, and of you and me and those others, and what was done that day. Don Jayme, I told it like a minstrel who believes what he sings! And then I spoke of to-day. She is no puny soul, nor is she in priest's grip. She acts from her own vision, not from that of another. The Queen is no weak soul either! She also has vision, but too often she lets the churchmen take her vision from her. But Dona Beatrix is stronger there. Well, she promises help if we can show her how to help."
I said, "I have been thinking. It seems to me that it was wrong to come here and put my weight upon you."
"No!" he answered. "Did we not swear then, when we were young men? And we needed no oaths neither. Let such thoughts be.—I am going to the palace to-morrow, and you with me. The King and the Queen ride with a great train into Granada. But Dona Beatrix will excuse herself from going. The palace will be almost empty, and we shall find her in the little gallery above the Queen's garden."
The next morning we went there, Don Enrique de Cerda and his squire, Juan Lepe. The palace rose great and goodly enough, with the church at hand. All had been built as by magic, silken pavilions flying away and stout houses settling themselves down. Sunk among the walls had been managed a small garden for the Queen and her ladies. A narrow, latticed and roofed gallery built without the Queen's rooms looked down upon orange and myrtle trees and a fountain. Here we found the Marchioness de Moya, with her two waiting damsels whom she set by the gallery door. Don Enrique kissed her hand and then motioned to me. Don Jayme de Marchena made his reverence.
She was a strong woman who would go directly to the heart of things. Always she would learn from the man himself. She asked me this and I answered; that and the other and I answered. "Don Pedro—?" I told the enmity there and the reason for it. "The Jewish rabbi, my great-grand father?" I avowed it, but by three Castilian and Christian great-grandfathers could not be counted as Jew! Practise Judaism? No. My grandmother Judith had been Christian.
She drove to the heart of it. "You yourself are Christian. What do you mean by that? What the Queen means? What the Grand Cardinal and the Archbishop of Granada means? What the Holy Office means?"
I kept silence for a moment, then I told her as well as I might, without fever and without melancholy, what I had written and of the Dominican.
"You have been," she said, "an imprudent cavalier."
The fountain flashed below us, a gray dove flew over garden. I said, "There is a text, 'With all thy getting, get understanding.' There is another, 'For God so loved the world'—that He wished to impart understanding."
She sat quiet, seeming to listen to the fountain. Then she said, "Are you ready to avow when they ask you that in every particular to which the Grand Inquisitor may point you are wrong, and that all that Holy Church through mouth of Holy Office says is right?"
I said, "No, Madam! Present Church is not as large as Truth, nor as fair as Beauty."
"You may think that, but will you say the other?"
"Say that church or kingdom exactly matches Truth and Beauty?"
"That is what I am sure you will have to say."
"I do not see," she said, "that I can do anything for you."
There was a chair beside her. She sat down, her chin on her hand and her eyes lowered. Silence held save for the fountain plashing. Don Enrique stood by the railing, and Jayme de Marchena felt his concern. But he himself walked just then—Don Jayme or Juan Lepe—into long patience, into greater steadfastness. Into the inner fields came translucence, gold light; came and faded, but left strength.
Dona Beatrix raised her eyes and let them dwell upon me. "Spain breeds bold knights," she said, "but not so many after all who are bold within! Not so many, I think, as are found in Italy or in France." She paused a moment, looking at the sky above the roofs, then came back to me. "It is hopeless, and you must see it, to talk in those terms to the only powers that can lead the Holy Office to forget that you live! It is hopeless to talk to the Queen, telling her that. She would hold that she had entertained heresy, and her imagination would not let her alone. I see naught in this world for you to do but to go out of it into another! There are other lands—"
A damsel hurried to her from the door. "There's a stir below, Madam! Something has brought the Queen home earlier than we thought—"
The Marchioness de Moya rose. Don Enrique kissed her hand, and Jayme de Marchena kissed it and thanked her. "I would help if I could!" she said. "But in Spain to-day it is deadly dangerous to talk or write as though there were freedom!"
She passed from the gallery, Don Enrique and I following. We came upon a landing with a great stair before us. Quick as had been her maidens, they were not quick enough. Many folk were coming up the broad steps. Dona Beatrix glanced, then opened a door giving into a great room, apparently empty. She pointed to an opposite door. "The little stair! Go that way!" Don Enrique nodded comprehension. We were in the room; the door closed.
At first it seemed an empty great chamber. Then from behind a square of stretched cloth came a man's head, followed by the figure pertaining to it. The full man was clad after a rich fancy and he held in his hand a brush and looked at us at first dreamily and then with keenness.
He knew me, differently arrayed though I was, and looked from me to Don Enrique. "Master Manuel Rodriguez," said the latter, "I would stop for good talk and to admire the Queen's likeness, but duty calls me out of palace! Adios!" He made toward the door across from that by which we had entered. The painter spoke after us. "That door is bolted, Don Enrique, on the other side. I do not know why! It is not usually so."
Don Enrique, turning, hurried to the first door and very slightly opened it. A humming entered the large, quiet room. He closed the door. "The Queen is coming up the great stair. The Archbishop of Granada is with her and a whole train beside!" He spoke to the painter. "I have no audience, and for reasons would not choose this moment as one in which to encounter the least disfavor! I will stay here before your picture and admire until landing and stairways are bare."
"If to be invisible is your desire," answered Manuel Rodriguez, "you have walked into trouble! The Queen is coming here."
Don Enrique exclaimed. Juan Lepe turned eyes to the painter. The blue eyes met mine—there rose the rushy pool, there dozed the broken boat. Manuel Rodriguez spoke in his voice that was at once cool and fine and dry and warm. "It is best to dare thoroughly! Perhaps I may help you—as thus! Wishing to speak with Don Enrique of an altar painting for the Church of Saint Dominic, I asked him here and he came. We talked, and he will give the picture. Then, hearing the Queen's approach, he would instantly have been gone, but alack, the small door is barred!—As for fisherman yonder, few look at squire when knight is in presence!"
No time to debate his offer, which indeed was both wise and kind! Chamberlains flung open the door. In came the Queen, with her the Princess Juana and several of her ladies. Beside her walked Fernando de Talavera, Her Highness's confessor, yesterday Bishop of Avila but now Archbishop of Granada. Behind him moved two lesser ecclesiastics, and with these Don Alonzo de Quintanella, Comptroller-General of Castile. Others followed, nobles and cavaliers, two soberly clad men who looked like secretaries, a Franciscan friar, three or four pages. The room was large and had a table covered with a rich cloth, two great chairs and a few lesser ones.
The painter and Don Enrique bent low to the Majesty of Castile. In the background Juan Lepe made squire's obeisance. I was bearded and my face stained with a Moorish stain, and I was in shadow; it was idle to fear recognition that might never come. The Queen seated herself, and her daughter beside her, and with her good smile motioned the Archbishop to a chair. The two ecclesiastics, both venerable men, were given seats. The rest of the company stood. The Queen's blue eyes rested on Don Enrique. She spoke in a clear, mild voice, threaded with dignity. "Were you summoned thither, Don Enrique de Cerda?"
He answered, "No, Highness! I came to the palace to seek Master Manuel Rodriguez who is to paint for me an altarpiece for the Church of Saint Dominic. You and the King, Madam, I thought were in Granada. Not finding him in his own lodging, I made bold to come here. Then at once, before I could hasten away, you returned!"
The true nature of this Queen was to think no evil. Her countenance remained mild. He had done valiant service, and she was sisterly-minded toward the greater part of the world. Now she said with serenity, "There is no fault, Don Enrique. Stay with us now that you are here."
Bowing deeply, he joined a brother-in-arms, Don Miguel de Silva. His squire stood in the shadow behind him, but found a chance-left lane of vision down which much might be seen.
The Queen composed herself, in her chair. "This is the position, Master Manuel?" The fair man, so fine and quick that I loved to look at him, bowed and stepped back to his canvas, where he took up his brush and fell to work. The Queen and the Archbishop began to speak earnestly together. Words and sentences floated to Juan Lepe standing by the arras. The Queen made thoughtful pauses, looking before her with steady blue eyes and a somewhat lifted face. I noted that when she did this Manuel Rodriguez painted fast.
There fell a pause in their talk. Something differing from the subject of discourse, whatever in its fullness that might be, seemed to come into her mind. She sent her glance across the room.
"Don Enrique de Cerda—"
The tone summoned. When he was before her, "It was in my mind," said the Queen, "to send for you within a day or two. But now you are here, and this moment while we await the King is as good as another. We have had letters from the Bishop of Seville whom we reverence, and from Don Pedro Enriquez to whom we owe much. They have to do with Jayme de Marchena who has long been suspect by the Holy Office. He has fled Seville, gone none know where! Don Pedro informs us, Don Enrique, that years ago this man stood among your friends. He does not think it probable that this is yet so—nor do I, Don Enrique, knowing that you must hold in abhorrence the heretic!" She looked mildly upon him. "In youth we make chance friendships thick as May, but manhood weeds the garden! And yet we think it possible that this man may in his heart trade on old things and make his way to you or send you appeal." She paused, then said in a quiet voice, "Should that happen, Don Enrique, on your allegiance, and as a good Christian, you will do all that you can to put him in the hands of the Holy Office."
She waited with her blue eyes upon him. He said, and said quietly, "It was long ago, Madam, when I was a young man and careless. I will do all that lies in me to do. But Spain is wide and there are ships to Africa and other shores."
She said, "Yes, I do not see such an one daring to come to Santa Fe! But they say that ten demons possess a heretic, and that he crosses streams upon a hair or walks edges of high walls."
With her ringed hand she made gesture of dismissal. He bowed low and stepped back to his former place.
The sun flooded in at window. Manuel Rodriguez painted steadily. The Queen sat still, with lifted face and eyes strained into distance. She sighed and came back from wastes where she would be Christian, oh, where she would be Christian! and began with a tender, maternal look to talk with her daughter.
THE door giving upon the great corridor opened. One said, "The King, Madam!" King Ferdinand entered quietly, in the sober fashion of a sober and able man. He was cool and balanced, true always to his own conception of his own dues. The Queen rose and stepped to meet him. They spoke, standing together, after which he handed her to her chair and took beside her the other great chair which the pages had swiftly placed. After greeting his daughter and the Archbishop he looked across to the painter. "Master Manuel Rodriguez, good day!"
There fell a moment of sun-drenched quiet in which they all sat for their picture. Then said the King, "Madam, we are together, and here are those who have been our chief advisers in this affair of discoveries. Master Christopherus is below. We noted him in the court. Let us have him here and see this too-long-dragging matter finished! Once for all abate his demands, or once for all let him go!"
They sent a page. Again there was sunny silence, then in at the door came the tall, muscular, gray-eyed, silver-haired man whom I had met the day King Boabdil surrendered Granada.
He made reverence to the Queen and the King and to the Archbishop. It was the Queen who spoke to him and that gently.
"Master Christopherus, we have had a thousand businesses, and so our matter here has waited and waited. Today comes unaware this quiet hour and we will give it to you. Here with us are the Archbishop and others who have been our counsellors, and here is Don Alonzo de Quintantella who hath always stood your friend. In all the hurly-burly we yet took time, two days ago, to sit in council and come to conclusion. And now we give you our determination. In all reason it should give you joy!" She smiled upon him. "How many years since first you laid your plan before us?"
He answered her in a deep voice, thrilling and crowded with feeling. "Seven years, Madam your Highness! Like an infant laid at your feet. And winter has blown upon it, and sunshine carrying hope has walked around it, and then again the cold wind rises—"
The King spoke. "Master Christopherus, in war much else has to cease! In much we have had to find patience, and you have to find it."
"My lord King, yes!" replied the tall man. "It is eighteen years since in Lisbon, looking upon the sea one day, I said to myself, 'Is there a question that is not to be answered? This ocean is to be crossed. Then why do not I cross it? There is Cipango, Cathay and India! Gold and spices are there, and here lie ships, and between, when all is said, is only sea! God made the sea to be sailed! Yonder they worship idols, here we worship Christ. There are idols, here is Christ. Once a Christopherus carried Christ across water!' Eighteen years ago. I said, 'I can do it!' I say it to-day, my lord and my lady. I can do it!"
Of the seated great ones only the Queen's spirit appeared to answer his. He seemed to enchant her, to take her with him. But the King's cool face regarded him with something like dislike. He spoke in an edged voice. "Saint Christopher asked no great wage. That is the point, Master Christopherus, so let us to it! At last the Queen and I say 'We agree' to this enterprise, which may bring forth fruit or may not, or may mean mere empty loss of ships and men and of our monies! Yet we say 'yea.' But we do not say 'yea ', Master Christopherus, to the too great ferry fee which you ask! I say 'ask', but verily the tone is of command!"
The man whom they called Master Christopherus made a slow, wide gesture of deprecation. The Archbishop took the word. "Too much! You ask a hundred times too much! I must say to you that it is unchristianly arrogance. You talk like a soldan!" An assenting murmur came from the other ecclesiastics.
The Queen spoke. "Master Christopherus, if it be a great thing to do, is not the doing it and thereby blessing yourself no less than others—is not that reward? Not that Castile shall deny you reward, no! Trust me that if you bring us the key of India you shall not find us niggardly! But we and they who advise us stumble at your prescribing wealth, honors and gifts that they say truly are better fitting a great prince! Trust us for enrichment and for honor do you come back with the great thing done! Leave it all now to Time that brings to pass. So you will be clearer to go forth to the blessed carrying of Christ!"
She spoke earnestly, a Queen, but with much about her of womanly, motherly sweetness. I saw that she greatly liked the man and somewhere met his spirit. But the King was gathering hardness. He spoke to a secretary standing behind him. "Have you it there written down, the Italian's demand?"
The man produced a paper. "Read!" But before it could be unfolded, Master Christopherus spoke.
"'Italian!' Seven years in Spain and ten in Portugal, and a good while in Porto Santo that belongs to Portugal, a little in England and in Ultima Thule or Iceland, and long, long years upon ships decked and undecked in all the seas that are known—fourteen years, childhood and boyhood, in Genoa and at Pavia where I went to school, and all my years of hope in Christ's Kingdom, and in the uplands of great doers-and your Highness says to me for a slighting word, 'Italian!' I was born in Italy, but to-day, for this turn, King Ferdinand, you should call me 'Spaniard'! As, if King John sends me forth be will call me Portuguese! Or King Henry will say, 'Christopher the Englishman' or King Charles, to whom verily I see that I may go, shall say, 'Frenchman, to whom all owe the marriage of East and West, but France owes Empire!"'
The King said, "It may be so, or it may not be so, Master Christopherus.—Read!"
The secretary read: The Genoese, Cristoforo Colombo, called in Spain Cristobal Colon, and in the Latin Christopherus Columbus, states and demands in substance as follows: Sailing westward he will discover for the King and Queen of the Spains the Indies and Cathay and Cipango, to the great glory and enrichment of these Sovereigns and the passing thereby of Spain ahead of Portugal, and likewise and above all to the great glory of Christ and of Holy Church. He will do this, having seen it clear for many years that it is to be done, and he the instrument. And for the finding by going westward of the said India and all the gain of the world and the Kingdom of God and of our Sovereigns the King Don Ferdinand and the Queen Dona Isabella, he bargaineth thus:
"He shall be named Admiral of the Ocean-Sea, whereby he means the whole water west of the line drawn by the Holy Father for the King of Portugal. He shall be made Viceroy and Governor of all continents and islands that he may discover, claim and occupy for the Sovereigns. And the said Christopherus Columbus's eldest son shall hold these offices after him, and the heir of his son, and his heir, down time. He shall be granted one tenth of all gold, pearls, precious stones, spices, or other merchandise found or bought or exchanged within his admiralty and viceroyship, and this tithe is likewise to be taken by his heirs from generation to generation. He or one that he shall name shall be judge in all disputes that arise in these continents and islands, so be it that the honor of the Sovereigns of Spain is not touched. He shall have the salary that hath the High Admiral of Castile. He and his family shall be ennobled and henceforth be called Don and Dona. And for the immediate sailing of ships he may, if he so desire, be at an eighth of the expense of outfitting, for which he shall be returned an eighth of all the profit of this the first voyage."
The secretary did not make the terms less sounding by his reading. Wind in leaves, went a stir through the room. I heard a page near me whispering, "O Sancta Maria! The hanger-on, the needy one! Since the beginning of time I've seen him at doors, sunny and cloudy days, the big, droning bee!" Manuel Rodriguez painted on. I felt his thought. "I should like to paint you, Admiral of the Ocean-Sea!"
The room recomposed itself. Out of silence came the King's voice, chill and dry. "We abate so vast a claim for so vast reward! But we would be naught else but just, and in our ability lavish. Read now what we will do!"
The secretary read. It had a certain largeness and goodliness, as go rewards for adventure, even for great adventure, what the sovereigns would do. The room thought it should answer. The King spoke, "We can promise no more nor other than this. It contents you, Master Christopherus?"
The long-faced, high-nosed, gray-eyed man answered, "No, my lord King."
"Your own terms or none?"
"Mine or none, your Highness."
The King's voice grew a cutting wind. "To that the Queen and I answer, 'Ours or none!'" Pushing back his chair, he glanced at sun out of window. "It is over. I incline to think that it was at best but an empty vision. You are dismissed, Master Christopherus!"
The Genoese, bowing, stepped backward from the table. In his face and carriage was nothing broken. He kept color. The Queen's glance went after him, "What will you do now, Master Christopherus?"
He answered, "My lady, your Highness, I shall take horse to-morrow for France."
The King said, "France?—King Charles buys ever low, not high!"
The Sovereigns and the great churchmen and the less great went away together. After them flowed the high attendance. All went, Don Enrique among the last. Following him, I turned head, for I wished to observe again two persons, the painter Manuel Rodriguez and the Admiral of the Ocean-Sea. The former painted on. The latter walked forth quite alone, coming behind the grinning pages.
In the court below I saw him again. The archway to street sent toward us a deep wedge of shadow. He had a cloak which he wrapped around him and a large round hat which he drew low over his gray-blue eyes. With a firm step he crossed to the archway where the purple shadow took him.
Juan Lepe must turn to his own part which now must be decided. I walked behind Don Enrique de Cerda through Santa Fe. With him kept Don Miguel de Silva, who loved Don Enrique's sister and would still talk of devoir and of plans, now that the war was ended. When the house was reached he would enter with us and still adhere to Don Enrique. But at the stair foot the latter spoke to the squire. "Find me in an hour, Juan Lepe. I have something to say to thee!" His tone carried, "Do you think the place there makes any difference? No, by the god of friends!"
I let him go thinking that I would come to him presently. But I, too, had to act under the god of friends. In Diego Lopez's room I found quill and ink and paper, and there I wrote a letter to Don Enrique, and finding Diego gave it to him to be given in two hours into Don Enrique's hand. Then Juan Lepe the squire changed in his own room, narrow and bare as a cell, to the clothing of Juan Lepe the sailor.
DUSK was drawing down as I stole with little trouble out of the house into the street and thence into the maze of Santa Fe. That night I slept with minstrels and jugglers, and at sunrise slipped out of Cordova gate with muleteers. They were for Cordova and I meant to go to Malaga. I meant to find there a ship, maybe for Africa, maybe for Italy, though in Italy, too, sits the Inquisition. But who knows what it is that turns a man, unless we call it his Genius, unless we call it God? I let the muleteers pass me on the road to Cordova, let them dwindle in the distance. And still I walked and did not turn back and find the Malaga road. It was as though I were on the sea, and my bark was hanging in a calm, waiting for a wind to blow. A man mounted on a horse was coming toward me from Santa Fe. Watching the small figure grow larger, I said, "When he is even with me and has passed and is a little figure again in the distance, I will turn south."
He came nearer. Suddenly I knew him to be that Master Christopherus who had entered the wedge of shadow yesterday in the palace court. He was out of it now, in the broad light, on the white road—on the way to France. He approached. The ocean before Palos came and stood again before me, salt and powerful. The keen, far, sky line of it awoke and drew!
Christopherus Columbus came up with me. I said, "A Palos sailor gives you good morning!"
Checking the horse, he sat looking at me out of blue-gray eyes. I saw him recollecting. "Dress is different and poorer, but you are the squire in the crowd! 'Sailor Palos sailor'—There's some meaning there too!"
He seemed to ponder it, then asked if I was for Cordova.
"No. I am going to Malaga where I take ship."
"This is not the Malaga road."
"No. But I am in no hurry! I should like to walk a mile with you."
"Then do it," he answered. "Something tells me that we shall not be ill travelers together."
I felt that also and no more than he could explain it. But the reason, I know, stands in the forest behind the seedling.
He walked his horse, and I strode beside. He asked my name and I gave it. Juan Lepe. We traveled Cordova road together. Presently he said, "I leave Spain for France, and do you know why?"
Said Juan Lepe, "I have been told something, and I have gathered something with my own eyes and ears. You would reach Asia by going west."
He spoke in the measured tone of a recital often made alike to himself and to others. "I hold that the voyage from Palos, say, first south to the Canaries and then due west would not exceed three months. Yet I began to go west to India full eighteen years ago! I have voyaged eighteen years, with dead calms and head winds, with storms and back-puttings, with pirates and mutinies, with food and water lacking, with only God and my purpose for friend! I have touched at the court of Portugal and at the court of Spain, and, roundabout way, at the court of England, and at the houses of the Doges of Venice and of Genoa. They all kept me swinging long at anchor, but they have never given me a furthering wind. Eighteen years going to India! But why do I say eighteen? The Lord put me forth from landside the day I was born. Before I was fourteen, at the school in Pavia, He said, 'Go to sea. Sail under thy cousin Colombo and learn through long years all the inches of salt water.' Later He said, one day when we were swinging off Alexandria, 'Study! Teach thyself! Buy books, not wine nor fine clothes nor favor of women. Study on land and study at sea. Look at every map that comes before you. Learn to make maps. When a world map comes before you, look at the western side of it and think how to fill it out knowingly. Listen to seamen's tales. Learn to view the invisible and to feel under foot the roundness of my earth!'
"And He said that same year off Aleppo, 'Learn to command ships. Learn in King Reinier's war and in what other war Genoa makes. Learn to direct men and patiently to hear them, winding in and out of their counsels, keeping thyself always wiser than they.' Well, I studied, and learned, and can command a ship or ships, and know navigation, and can make maps and charts with the best, and can rule seamen, loving them the while. Long ago, I went to that school which He set, and came forth magister! Long after His first speaking, I was at Porto Santo, well named, and there He said, 'Seek India, going westward.'" He turned his face to the sun. "I have been going to India fifty-six years."
Juan Lepe asked, "Why, on yesterday, were you not content with the King and Queen's terms? They granted honor and competence. It was the estate of a prince that you asked."
Some moments passed before he answered. The sun was shining, the road white and dusty, the mountains of Elvira purple to the tops and there splashed with silver. When he spoke, his voice was changed. Neither now nor hereafter did he discourse of money-gold and nobility flowing from earthly kings with that impersonal exaltation with which he talked of his errand from God to link together east and west. But he drew them somehow in train from the last, hiding here I thought, an earthly weakness from himself, and the weakness so intertwined with strength that it was hard to divide parasite from oak.
"Did you see," he asked, "a boy with me? That was my son Diego whom I have left with a friend in Santa Fe. Fernando, his half-brother, is but a child. I shall see him in Cordova. I have two brothers, dear to me both of them, Diego and Bartholomew. My old father, Dominico Colombo, still lives in Genoa. He lives in poverty, as I have lived in poverty these many years. And there is Pedro Correo, to whom I owe much, husband of my wife's sister. My wife is dead. The mother of Fernando is not my wife, but I love her, and she is poor though beautiful and good. I would have her less poor; I would give her beautiful things. I have love for my kindred,—love and yearning and care and desire to do them good, alike those who trust me and those who think that I had failed them. I do not fail them!"
We padded on upon the dusty road. I felt his inner warmth, divined his life. But at last I said, "What the Queen and King promise would give rich care—"
"I have friends too, for all that I ride out of Spain and seem so poor and desolate! I would repay—ay, ten times over—their faith and their help."
"There are moreover the poor, and those who study and need books and maps that they cannot purchase. There are convents—one convent especially—that befriended me when I was alone and nigh hopeless and furthered my cause. I would give that convent great gifts." Turning in the saddle he looked southwest. "Fray Juan Perez—"
Palos shore spread about me, and rose La Rabida, white among vineyards and pines. Doves flew over cloister. But I did not say all I knew.
"There are other things that I would do. I do not speak of them to many! They would say that I was mad. But great things that in this age none else seems inclined to do!"
"As what?" I asked. "I have been called mad myself. I am not apt to think you so."
He began to speak of a mighty crusade to recover the Holy Sepulchre.
The road to Cordova stretched sunny and dusty. Above the mountains of Elvira the sky stood keen blue. Juan Lepe said slowly, "Admiral of the Ocean-Sea and Viceroy and Governor of continents and islands in perpetuity, sons and sons' sons after you, and gilded deep with a tenth of all the wealth that flows forever from Asia over Ocean-Sea to Spain, and you and all after you made nobles, grandees and wealthy from generation to generation! Kings almost of the west, and donors to the east, arousers of crusades and freers of the Sepulchre! You build a high tower!"
Carters and carts going by pushed us to the edge of road and covered all with dust. He waited until the cloud sank, then he said, "Do you know—but you cannot know what it is to be sent from pillar to post and wait in antechambers where the air stifles, and doff cap—who have been captain of ships!—to chamberlain, page and lackey? To be called dreamer, adventurer, dicer! To hear the laugh and catch the sneer! To be the persuader, the beggar of good and bad, high and low—to beg year in and year out, cold and warmth, summer and winter, sunrise, noon and sunset, calm and storm, beg of galleon and beg of carrack, yea, beg of cockboat! To see your family go needy, to be doubted by wife and child and brethren and friends and acquaintance! To have them say, 'While you dream we go hungry!' and 'What good will it do us if there is India, while we famish in Spain?' and 'You love us not, or you would become a prosperous sea captain!'—Not one year but eighteen, eighteen, since I saw in vision the sun set not behind water but behind vale and hill and mountain and cities rich beyond counting, and smelled the spice draught from the land!"
I saw that he must count upon huge indemnity. We all dream indemnity. But still I thought and think that there was here a weakness in him. Far inward he may have known it himself, the outer self was so busy finding grounds! After a moment he spoke again, "Little things bring little reward. But to keep proportion and harmony, great thing must bring great things! You do not know what it is to cross where no man hath crossed and to find what no man hath found!"
"Yes, it is a great thing!"
"Then," said he, "what is it, that which I ask, to the grandeur of time!"
He spoke with a lifted face, eyes upon the mountain crests and the blue they touched. They were nearer us than they had been; the Pass of Elvira was at hand. Yet on I walked, and before me still hung the far ocean west of Palos. I said, "I know something of the guesses, the chances and the dangers, but I have not spent there years of study—"
He kindled, having an auditor whom he chose to think intelligent. He checked his horse, that fell to grazing the bit of green by the way. "As though," he said, "I stood in Cipango beneath a golden roof, I know that it can be done! Twelve hundred leagues at the most. Look!" he said. "You are not an ignoramus like some I have met; nor if I read you right are you like others who not knowing that True Religion is True Wonder up with hands and cry, 'Blasphemy, Sacrilege and Contradiction!' Earth and water make an orb. Place ant on apple and see that orbs may be gone around! Travel far enough and east and west change names! Straight through, beneath us, are other men."
"Feet against feet. Antipodes," I said. "All the life of man is taking Wonder in and making Her at home!"
"So!" he answered. "Now look! The largeness of our globe is at the equator. The great Ptolemy worked out our reckoning. Twenty-four hours, fifteen degrees to each, in all three hundred and sixty degrees. It is held that the Greeks and the Romans knew fifteen of these hours. They stretched their hand from Gibraltar and Tangier, calling them Pillars of Hercules, to mid-India. Now in our time we have the Canaries and the King of Portugal's new islands—another hour, mark you! Sixteen from twenty-four leaves eight hours empty. How much of that is water and how much is earth? Where ends Ocean-Sea and where begins India and Cathay, of which the ancients knew only a part? The Arabian Alfraganus thinks that Ptolemy's degrees should be less in size. If that be right, then the earth is smaller than is thought, and India nearer! I myself incline to hold with Alfraganus. It may be that less than two months' sailing, calm and wind, would bring us to Cipango. Give me the ships and I will do it!"
"You might have had them yesterday."
To a marked extent he could bring out and make visible his inner exaltation. Now, tall, strong, white-haired, he looked a figure of an older world. "The spheres and all are set to harmony!" he said. "I would have fitness. Great things throughout! Diamonds and rubies without flaw in the crown.—We will talk no more about abating just demand!"
I agreed with a nod, and indeed there was never any shaking him here. Beneath his wide and lofty vision of a world filled out to the eternal benefit of all rested always this picture which I knew he savored like wine and warmth. His family, his sons, his brothers and kindred, the aged father in Genoa, all friends and backers—and he a warm sun in the midst of them, all their doubts of him dispelled, shining out upon them, making every field rich, repaying a thousand, thousandfold every trust shown him.
The day sang cool and high and bright, the mountains of Elvira had light snow atop. Master Christopherus began again to speak.
"There came ashore at Porto Santo some years ago a piece of wood long as a spar but thicker. Pedro Correo, who is my brother-in-law, saw it. It was graved all over, cut by something duller than our knives with beasts and leaves and a figure that Pedro thought was meant for an idol. He and another saw it and agree in their description. They left it on the beach at twilight, well out of water reach. But in the night came up a great storm that swept it away. It came from the west, the wind having blown for days from that quarter. I ask you will empty billows fell a tree and trim it and carve it? It is said that a Portuguese pilot picked up one like it off Cape Bojador when the wind was southwest. I have heard a man of the Azores tell of giant reeds pitched upon his shore from the west. There is a story of the finding on the beach of Flores the bodies of two men not like any that we know either in color or in feature. For days a west wind had driven in the seas. And I know of other findings. Whence do these things come?
"May there not be unknown islands west of Azores? They might come from there, and still to the west of them stream all Ocean-Sea, violent and unknown! The learned think the earth of such a size. Your Arabian holds it smaller. What if it is larger than the largest calculation?"
He said with disdain, "All the wise men at Salamanca before whom the King set me six years ago thought it had no end! Large or small, they called it blasphemy for me, a poor, plain seaman, son of a wool-comber and not even a Spanish wool-comber, to try to stretch mind over it! Ocean-Sea had never been overpassed, and by that token could not be overpassed! None had met its dangers, so dangers there must be of a most strange and fearful nature! But if you were put to sea at fourteen and have lived there long, water becomes water! A speck on the horizon will turn out ship or land. Wave carries you on to wave, day to night and night to day. At last there is port!"
All this time his horse had been cropping the scanty herbage. Now he raised his head. In a moment we too heard the horsemen and looking back toward Santa Fe saw four approaching. As they came nearer we made out two cavaliers talking together, followed by serving men. When they were almost at hand one of the leaders said something, whereat his fellow laughed. It floated up Cordova road, a wide, deep, rich laugh. Master Christopherus started. "That is the laugh of Don Luis de St. Angel!"
Don Luis de St. Angel was, I knew, Receiver of the Ecclesiastical Revenues for Aragon, a man who stood well with the King. The horsemen were close upon us. Suddenly the laugher cried, "Saint Jago! Here he is!"
We were now five mounted men and a trudger afoot. The cavalier who had laughed, a portly, genial person with a bold and merry eye, laughed again. "Well met, Don Cristoval. Well met, Admiral! I looked to find you presently! You sailed out of port at sunrise and I two hours later with a swifter ship and more canvas—"
"'Don' and 'Admiral'!" answered Master Christopherus, and he spoke with anger. "You jest in Spain! But in France it shall be said soberly—"
"No, no! Don and Admiral here! Viceroy and Governor here—as soon as you find the lands! Wealthy here—as soon as you put hand on the gold!" Don Luis de St. Angel's laughter ceased. He became with portentous swiftness a downright, plain man of business. He talked, all of us clustered together on the Cordova road.
"The Archbishop kept me from that audience yesterday, leaving Don Alonso de Quintanella your only friend there! The Queen was tired, the King fretted. They thought they had come a long way, and there you stood, Master Christopherus, shaking your head! Don Alonso told me about it, and how hopeless it seemed! But I said, 'If you conquer a land don't you put in a viceroy? I don't see that Don Cristoval isn't as good as Don This One, or Don That One! I've a notion that the first might not oppress and flay the new subjects as might the last two! That is a point to be made to the Queen! As for perpetuity of office and privileges down the ages, most things get to be hereditary. If it grows to be a swollen serpent something in the future will fall across and cut it in two. Let time take care of it! As for wealth, in any land a man who will bear an eighth of the cost may fairly expect an eighth of the gain. This setting out is to cost little, after all. He says he can do it with three small ships and less than a hundred and fifty men. If the ships bring back no treasure, he will not be wealthy. If there is a little gain, the Spains need not grudge him his handful of doubloons. If there is huge gain, the King and Queen but for him would not have their seven eighths. The same reasoning applies to his tenth of all future gain from continents and islands. You will say that some one else will arise to do it for us on easier terms. Perhaps—and perhaps not for a century, and another Crown may thrust in to-morrow! France, probably. It is not impossible that England might do it. As for what is named overweening pride and presumption, at least it shows at once and for altogether. We are not left painfully to find it out. It goes with his character. Take it or leave it together with his patience, courage and long head. Leave it, and presently we may see France or England swallow him whole. He will find India and Cathay and Cipango, and France or England will be building ships, ships, ships! Blessed Virgin above us!' said I, 'If I could talk alone to the Sovereigns, I think I could clench it!'"
"'Then let us go now to the palace,' says Don Alonso, 'and beg audience!'
"That did we, Don Cristoval, and so I hail you 'Don' and 'Admiral', and beg you to turn that mule and reenter Santa Fe! In a few days you and the King and Queen may sign capitulations."
"Was it the Queen?"
"Just. The King said the treasury was drained. She answered, 'I will pawn my jewels but he shall sail!' Luis de St. Angel says, 'It does not need. There is some gold left in the coffers of Aragon. After all, the man asks but three little ships and a few score seamen and offers himself to furnish one of the ships.'"
"With Martin Alonso Pinzon's help, I will!"
"'Never,' said I to their majesties, 'was so huge a possible gain matched against so small a sending forth! And as for this Genoese who truly hath given and gives and will give his life for his vision, saith not Scripture that a laborer is worthy of his hire?' At which the Queen said with decision, 'We will do it, Don Luis! And now go and find Master Christopherus and comfort him, whose heart must be heavy, and indeed mine,' she saith, 'was heavy when he went forth to-day, and a voice seemed to say within me, "What have you done, Isabella? How may you have hindered!"'"
The Gatherer of Ecclesiastical Revenues laughed again with that compelling laughter. "So forth we go, and Don Alonso sends for you to his house. But you could not be found. Early this morning came one and informed us that the ship had put out of harbor, whereupon my nephew and I set sail after!"
The Admiral of the Ocean-Sea turned his face to the west. Not knowing, I think, what he did, he raised his arm, outstretched it, and the hand seemed to close in greeting. His face was the face of a man who sees the Beloved after long and sorrowful absence. So did thought and passion and vision charge his frame and his countenance, that for a moment truly there was effulgence. It startled. Don Luis held his speech suspended, in his eyes wonder. Master Christopherus let fall his arm. He sighed. The out-pushing light faltered, vanished. One might say, if one chose, "A Genoese sea captain, willing to do an adventurous thing and make a purse thereby!"
JUAN LEPE, quitting the Vega of Granada, recrossed the mountains. I was at wander. I did not go to Malaga. I did not then go to Palos. I went to San Lucar. I had adventures, but I will not draw them here. The ocean by Palos continued with me in sight and sound and movement. But I did not go to Palos. I went to the strand of San Lucar, and there I found a small bark trading not to Genoa but to Marseilles. Seamen lacked, and the master took me gladly. I freshened knowledge upon this voyage.
The master was a dour, quiet Catalan; his three sons favored him and their six sailors more or less took the note. The sea ran quiet and blue under a quiet blue heaven. At night all the stars shone, or only light clouds went overhead. It was a restful boat and Jayme de Marchena rested. Even while his body labored he rested. The sense of Danger in every room, walking on every road, took leave. Yet was there throughout that insistent sight of Palos beach and the gray and wild Atlantic. All the birds cried from the west; the salt, stinging wind flung itself upon me from the west. Once a voice, faint and silvery, made itself heard. "Were it not well to know those other, those mightier waters, and find the strange lands, the new lands?" I answered myself, "They are the old lands taken a new way." But still the voice said, "The new lands!"
We made Marseilles and unladed, and were held there a fortnight. I might have left the bark and found work and maybe safety in France, or I might have taken another ship for Italy. I did neither. I clung to this bark and my Cata-lans. We took our lading and quitted Marseilles, and came after a tranquil voyage to San Lucar. Again we unladed and laded, and again voyaged to Marseilles. Spring became summer; young summer, summer in prime. We left Marseilles and voyaged once more San Lucar-ward. There rushed up a fearful storm and we were wrecked off Almeria. One lad drowned. The rest of us somehow made shore. A boat took us to Algeciras, and thence we trudged it to San Lucar.