To the Indies



TO THE Indies



Author of “Captain Horatio Hornblower”

NARCISO RICH, a clever lawyer of Barcelona, has been sent on the third voyage of Columbus as the personal representative of King Ferdinand, to make sure that the Admiral and his brother Bartholomew do not overstep their authority in the new lands which have been discovered for the Crown. Not himself of noble birth, Rich has a personal problem which involves his authority over the hidalgos. Guiding a shore party back from water and a native village, he realizes that García, a firebrand, disobeyed him and abused the natives.

The ships pass the northwestern corner of Trinidad. Coming on a chain of islands, Columbus asks Rich to take charge of another shore party to find a passage south toward the earthly Paradise. Reluctantly Rich assents, fearing recurrence of evil to the natives. They discover oysters, forests apparently immense, and at last burst upon an enormous fresh-water lake.

Having tasted the tender meat of iguana on the previous trip ashore, some of the gentlemen attack a huge one asleep on the sands — García’s sportive idea. In the struggle of hidalgos with noose and crossbow, it is Rich who gives the creature its deathblow, so for the first time his sword wins him respect. A friendly party of Indians confirm the Spaniards’ suspicion that the stinking beast is not edible, nor iguana, but caiman — a crocodile. In the Indian village the chief Malalé is much taken with Rich, whom he calls ‘Lish,’ and Rich, with his new prestige, is able to curb the hidalgos’ easy ways with native women.

They return in four days to the flagship, reporting the mighty Orinoco, which seems to signify continent, not island, and other matters. Columbus is disbelieving and suspicious, but determines to push on to Española, leaving further discoveries for the future.

As they sail, Malalé, the native, comes by canoe to give the lawyer a parrot which calls‘Lish, Lish.’ Rich is inexpressibly moved. . . .




THEY had left behind them the Pearl Islands and the coast of Paria, and had turned boldly to the northwest towards Española. The wind was blowing steadily from the east — sometimes backing towards the north so that the ships could hardly hold their course, sometimes veering southerly so that, with the wind over her quarter, the Holy Name put on her best speed, the spray flying from her bluff bows in gorgeous rainbows. Dolphins accompanied them, leaping in the waves of the wake like children playing a game. At the mastheads the lookouts kept keen watch over these seas which no ship had ever sailed before, but they saw no shoals, no land, only the blue clear water with the white wave crests in dazzling contrast. At noon the sun passed over their heads, so that a man’s shadow lay round his feet; at evening it sank into the sea, leaving the eastward sky already dark with night even while the glows of sunset still colored the west.

Every hour they measured the speed of the ship through the water, chalking the figure on the board; at noontime the Admiral, balanced stiffly on the heaving deck, took the altitude of the sun as best he could with his astrolabe, and at night that of the Pole Star as it peeped over the horizon, while the ship, hove-to, pitched steadily over the regular swell. In his great cabin the Admiral had a grubby parchment, cracked along its folds, on which some German philosopher had inscribed, with colored pigments, the signs of the zodiac and the corresponding heights of the sun — the sun was in Leo now, and it should have been easy to calculate their distance from the equator. But Rich, observing the pendulum of the astrolabe, swinging uncontrollably with the heave of the ship, was not so sure; and even in those clear, vivid nights the vagueness of the horizon — as he discovered when he timidly handled the quadrant — made the altitude of the Pole Star an equally vague figure.

The hidalgos were grouped near him now, all talking together, the fresh wind ruffling their beards, for the squadron was now close-hauled, trying to claw up to windward towards San Domingo. They drew him into their conversation, and he stood among them a little awkwardly, for he never felt at ease among these men of war, with their hundred and twenty-eight quarterings of nobility apiece.

‘What is the delay?’ fumed Bernardo de Tarpia. ‘We are coming no nearer to the land.’

‘Look, by God!’ said Avila. ‘We are turning away from the land now!’

‘We are going on the other tack,’ explained Rich. ‘San Domingo lies to windward.’

They looked at him without understanding. Despite the length of the voyage none of them had acquired any knowledge of how a ship is worked. Horses and hawks and hounds they understood, because they had been taught about them from boyhood; but none of them was possessed with the lively curiosity that urged Rich to learn about everything that came under his notice.

’How far is this San Domingo?’ asked Garcia.

’Five leagues.'

‘And we shall not reach there tonight?’

‘Perhaps not. But after dark there may be a wind off the land which would help us. There usually is.'

‘Did the Admiral say so?'


Rich could not explain that he had learned about land and sea breezes by night and day from simple observations while fishing in the Barcelona roadstead.

‘But how will a wind off the land help us to reach the land?’ asked Avila; his contorted features showed how hard he was trying to think.

‘We shall have it on our beam and can get well to windward of San Domingo tonight, so that in the morning we can go straight in with the first of the sea breeze,’ said Rich.

‘You’re as good a pilot as the Admiral, Don Narciso,’ said García, looking at him curiously.

‘Not a bit of it,’ said Rich.

‘At least it is not your fault that we have arrived the wrong side of San Domingo,’put in Acevedo. Rich rounded on him.

‘You don’t appreciate what a marvelous navigator the Admiral is,’ he said. ‘There is no other sailor living who could have brought the squadron so directly here. That is true, believe me. With ordinary piloting we might have been a hundred leagues away instead of five.’

‘You must never say a word against the Admiral in Don Narciso’s presence,’ said García, half bantering and half serious; perhaps he was remembering the occasions when Rich had conscientiously reported the acquisition of treasure.

‘Hullo, we’re chasing our tails again,’ said Tarpia.

The ship was going about again and standing in to the shore, and Rich was for a moment puzzled as to the motive for this manœuvre. But he guessed it when he saw the Admiral looking keenly shorewards and followed his gaze.

‘There’s a canoe coming out to us,’ he said.

There it was, a dark spot bobbing on the waves; the sinking sun lit up a white speck in motion on it — somebody was waving to the ships from it.

‘We’ll get news of our friends now!' exclaimed Tarpia, eagerly.

Everybody rushed to the side of the ship and watched the canoe as it danced over the glittering water towards them. It was an Indian who paddled it, but not a naked one. He wore a shirt of coarse towcloth, as everyone could see when he scrambled up the side, but it was not that which specially caught Rich’s notice — and the Admiral’s notice, too. In his hand he carried a crossbow; it was rusted, and the cord was frayed, and the winding handle was bent lopsided, but it was a crossbow for all that, and in the Indian’s belt of creeper was a single bolt. Before the Indian, blinking round at the ring of Spaniards, had time to collect himself, the Admiral was demanding where he had obtained the weapon. The seriousness of the island natives’ possessing such weapons of precision was apparent to all.

‘Loldan gave it me,’ said the Indian; he could speak Spanish after a fashion.

‘Roldan!’ exclaimed the Admiral. ‘The Alcalde Mayor?’

‘Yes. We friends,’ said the Indian proudly. ‘I shoot bad Indians. Christian, I am.’

He bent his head and made the sign of the cross, and intoned something in a weird singsong which was just recognizable as the Pater Noster. Some of the group round him laughed, as they might at the antics of a performing ape.

‘Where is my brother, His Excellency the Adelantado?’ asked the Admiral.

‘In the town,’ said the Indian, pointing down the coast with an appearance of indifference. ‘He not Loldan’s friend.’

‘Not Roldan’s friend?’ repeated the Admiral, blankly.

‘No. He fight. Loldan fight. Indian fight.’

The Indian grinned a simpleton’s grin. A gesture more eloquent than his bad Spanish called up a picture of bloody confusion throughout the island. Someone in the background whistled in amazement at his words.

‘But why? Why?’ groaned the Admiral. The Indian grinned again, and tried to explain. There was no sense in his words. Spanish quarrels meant nothing to him. Rich suspected him of being mentally subnormal, even when allowance was made for the difficulties of language.

At least the Admiral was prepared to waste no more time on him.

‘Take that crossbow away from him,’ he ordered, curtly. ‘Put him over the side. Captain, lay the ship on the other tack.’

This was decision, activity. Only a few seconds were necessary to bundle the protesting Indian back into his canoe and to begin to claw seaward again away from the lee shore. Rich admired the Admiral as he stood on the high poop rapping out his orders. Firmness and decision of this sort would soon stamp out any disloyalty when they reached San Domingo.

The wind blew briskly past them as the Holy Name ploughed along, lying as close to the wind as she could; it set Rich’s clothes flapping and blew the Admiral’s white hair out in horizontal streamers as he stood staring forward.

If intensity of desire could carry the Holy Name along, the clumsy ship would fly, thought Rich, watching the Admiral’s face. The Admiral did not take his eyes from the ship’s course as he began to speak.

‘It was bad news that Indian bore, Don Narciso,’ he said.

‘We know nothing of the truth of the matter yet, Your Excellency.’

’No. I find it hard to believe that Roldan would oppose himself to my brother, the Adelantado whom I myself appointed.'

‘Who is this Roldan, Your Excellency?’

‘The Alcalde Mayor — the Chief Magistrate. He owes that position to me.’

‘Naturally,’ said Rich. There was no appointment in the Indies which was not in the Admiral’s direct gift. ‘But who is he, Your Excellency? I do not know the name. Is he a gentleman? What rank did he hold before this appointment?’

‘He was my servant,’ said the Admiral. ‘But I thought he was honest. I thought he was loyal. I thought—’

The Admiral checked himself with a sigh.

‘Perhaps he is,’ said Rich, with cheerful optimism. ‘We cannot condemn him without knowing the facts.’

‘If he has been fighting my brother he must be disloyal,’ said the Admiral, conclusively. Rich was not so sure; it may have been mere professional sympathy, but he felt that a Chief Justice might easily find himself at odds with a Columbus and still have right on his side.

‘Is he learned in the law, Your Excellency?’ he asked. ‘As I said, I am not acquainted with his name.’

‘Of course he is not,’ said the Admiral, petulantly. ‘Did I not say he was my servant? He was my body servant, my valet.’

After that, Rich felt there was nothing more to be said. A Chief Justice who had been a valet would certainly be as great a source of trouble as any Columbus. Rich could only gaze forward as anxiously as the Admiral himself, wondering what would be the situation he would find awaiting him when at last he reached San Domingo.


They entered the river mouth in the late afternoon, after two weary days of beating against head winds. The Spaniards on board were pleased and excited at the thought that at last their voyaging was really at an end, and at the prospect of seeing new white faces. The details grew clearer under their eager gaze as the sea breeze pushed them briskly into the inlet; there was the wooden church with its square tower, and beside it the fort — only the simplest arrangement of ditch, palisade, and parapet, but quite impregnable to the simple unarmed folk who were its only possible assailants. At the Admiral’s order the Holy Name swung round the point of the shoal and headed across to the anchorage where there was deep water up to the foot of the church. Close on their left hand they opened up a clearing in the wild tangle of trees that came down to the water’s edge, and there, starkly visible to all the interior, stood a gallows, from which dangled two corpses.

‘Holy Mary!’ said Moret, with genuine sincerity. ‘ It is good to be in a Christian country again!’

He pointed to the gallows.

‘Are they Indians or Spaniards?’ asked García, shading his eyes with his hands, but no one could answer that question. Rich read a moral lesson in the fact that death and putrefaction made the European indistinguishable from the Indian.

Cannon thundered with wreaths of white smoke from the citadel in salute to the Admiral’s flag; the Admiral was standing proudly on the poop looking across at his town; armor winked and glittered in the setting sun over the citadel walls. A small crowd of people were already launching boats and canoes to come out and welcome them.

The leading boat was distinguished by a flag held up in the bows, displaying the Admiral’s arms within a white bordure to indicate the presence of the Admiral’s deputy, the Adelantado. Bartholomew Columbus, when he came on board, looked round him with piercing blue eyes which at first glance gave him a striking resemblance to his brother, but he was more heavily built — a stoopshouldered, burly man whose dense beard did not disguise the heavy jaw and the thick lips. An Indian woman mounted next after him; there were pearls in her ears, round her neck, and in her long loose hair. She was cloaked in blue velvet, but she made no effort to keep the cloak about her to conceal the slender naked body beneath. She was smiling and chattering excitedly, white teeth flashing, with her hand laid on the Adelantado’s arm. Not even the harsh contrast between the blue velvet and her nudity could mar her beauty.

They were at the summit of the beach now, with the town before them — a hundred or so of brown huts built of timber and leaves.

‘Where are all the people?’ asked the Admiral.

‘They are awaiting Your Excellency.'

Someone in the Adelantado’s following had run on ahead, up one of the straight narrow lanes between the houses. They could see him wave his arm as he reached the farther corner, and they followed him. Pigs and fowls were rooting among the filth underfoot, but no human creature was to be seen. Now they emerged from the lane into a wide open space. The houses were on three sides, on the fourth was the forest. Two trumpets brayed in the heated air; there was a long roll of drums.

It took the sun-dazzled eye some time to note all the details. The three sides of the square, other than the one in the middle of which they stood, were lined with naked Indians, packed in dense masses; there must have been five or six thousand of them. At intervals before and behind the crowd stood Spaniards, conspicuous in their armor, all at the salute while the trumpets blew and the Admiral returned the compliment.

‘There is a pavilion for Your Excellency,’ said the Adelantado — close beside where they had emerged was a flatroofed open-fronted shed of leaves, in which stood a row of chairs, and beside which the colors of Spain and of the Admiral drooped in the heat. But that was not all which the eye slowly took in. Standing in the square were a whole series of lofty stakes, on which hung chains. And round the foot of every stake was a pile of wood. Rich counted them; there were sixteen stakes, each with its chains and faggots. He felt a little chill, for he had an irrational dislike of burnings — he had witnessed very few. The Indian woman was trembling, he could see. There was appeal in her eyes as they met his.

‘The ceremony will begin now,’ said the Adelantado, ushering his brother to the central chair with the utmost formality. ‘Have I Your Excellency’s permission to sit?’

‘I don’t like this business, Bartholomew,’ said the Admiral. ‘I used to think them very harmless people. Must it go on?’

‘They are relapsed heretics,’ said the Dominican. ‘It is God’s law that they

should burn.’

‘I’ve kept five thousand Indians herded here all day,’ said the Adelantado, ‘expressly to see this. What would be the effect if I let them go?’

‘But if it were I who pardoned them?’ said the Admiral. ‘What have they done? Is their guilt certain?’

‘They are blasphemers as well as relapsed heretics,’ explained the Dominican. ‘After they had accepted baptism they not merely relapsed into idolatry — they burned down a chapel, and they broke the holy vessels and images to pieces.’

‘Did they know what they were doing?’

‘Having listened once to our teaching, they must have known. But even if they did not, it makes no difference to their guilt.’

‘But why?’ asked the Admiral. ‘Why did they do it?’

‘The devil prompted them,’ said the Dominican.

‘They were in rebellion over the gold quota,’ said Bartholomew behind his hand.

‘They are like children,’ said the Admiral. ‘Trying to do the wickedest thing they can think of.’

‘And they succeeded,’ said the Dominican. ‘Children can be guilty of heresy and relapse.’

That was perfectly true, as Rich knew well. With his training in Roman law he found it hard to hear of condemnation for a crime committed without guilty intent, — this was one of the points over which Roman law and Church law disagreed, — but at the same time it was heresy to question the principles of the Church, and he had no intention of being guilty of heresy himself. He simply could not argue on this point, and he resolutely kept his eyes from meeting the pleading glance of the Indian woman.

‘It is a golden opportunity,’said the Adelantado, ‘of teaching these people a real lesson. I have given instructions that the heretics arc not to be strangled at the stake. Perhaps then those that see them die will learn what it means to incur our wrath.’

‘You misunderstand the intentions of the Church, Don Bartholomew,’ said the Dominican, sternly. ‘This is not intended as a punishment; it is to save these poor people’s souls that they must pass through the fire.’

‘It coincides all the same with the needs of government,’ said the Adelantado, complacently.

‘We are saving sixteen souls today,’ returned the Dominican. ‘We are not trying to make the collection of the gold quota easier.’

The procession was filing into the square. A friar bore a crucifix at the head of it, and following him a dozen Spaniards herded the victims along,

pricking them with their swords’ points to force them to walk. The resources of the island had been sufficient to provide yellow fools’ coats, gaudily daubed with red symbols, for the victims, whose hands were tied behind them. One of them screamed at the sight of the stakes; two of them collapsed into the dust of the square, writhing there until the escort kicked them to their feet again. The Indian woman beside Rich screamed too. She ran round between the Admiral and his deputy and flung herself on the earth before them, one hand on the knee of each of them, frantically jabbering the while.

‘What does she say?’ asked the Admiral.

‘She wants us to spare these people,’ explained his brother. ‘Anacaona, don’t be a fool.’

Anacaona lifted a face slobbered with tears, her beautiful mouth all distorted. She was trying to talk Spanish, but Indian words tumbled from her lips as well.

‘She says some of these men are her brothers,’ went on Bartholomew. ‘She means cousins by that — it is the same word to them. But every Indian is everyone else’s cousin, thanks to their mothers’ habits.’

Anacaona bowed her head in the dust before them, her shoulders shaking under the blue velvet, before she lifted face and hands again to beg for mercy. There was a low moaning from all round the square, through which could be heard the rattle of chains as one man after another was fastened to the stakes.


Next morning Rich was desperately weary. There had been long debate the night before in the Adelantado’s house within the citadel walls, — and even here they were not quite free from whiffs of stinking smoke from the square, — while through the town the newly landed Spaniards rioted as if they had taken it by storm. One of Bernardo de Tarpia’s handgunmen had allowed his spirits to rise so high that he had twice let off his weapon to the peril of passersby, sadly interrupting the anxious argument regarding the treason of Francisco Roldan.

Nothing had been settled then; this morning the debate was to continue, and yet in the meanwhile he had not slept a moment, what with the strangeness of his new surroundings, the hideous events of the evening, and the plague of mosquitoes which had hung round him in a cloud all through the night — and Antonio Spallanzani, who had shared a leaf hut with him, had snored fantastically. Rich’s head ached and he felt numb and stupid as he made his way past the sentry at the citadel gate up to the Governor’s house again.

The debate began afresh, with all the Columbus clan present — the Admiral in his best, clothes, and Bartholomew the Adclantado, and James, rather weak and foolish, and John Antony, more weak and foolish still. But hardly had the session opened when something happened to terminate it. The man who entered wore spurs that jingled as he strode in over the earthen floor; his face was yellow with fever, — like most of the new faces Rich had seen lately, — but he wore an expression of unruffled gravity. The Adelantado checked himself to hear what he had to say.

‘The Indians are in rebellion again, Your Excellency,’ he announced. ‘Seriously, this time.’


‘In the Llanos. By tonight there’ll be twenty thousand of them at Soco.’

‘How do you know this?’

‘One of my Indian girls told me. I was the only Spaniard with a horse, so I left the others gathering at the fort and rode here through the night. At dawn five hundred or so tried to stop me at the ford, but they were too frightened of my horse and I broke through. Were those Indians burned yesterday, Your Excellency?’


‘That explains it, then. The rising depended on that, and the news has spread already.’

‘You are not speaking with proper deference. Don’t you recognize the Admiral here?’

‘Your pardon, Admiral,’ said the newcomer. ‘ But I was trying to tell my news in the shortest way possible.’

‘What is your name?’ asked the Admiral.

‘Juan Ruiz, Excellency.’

‘I remember you now. Go on with what you have to say.’

‘I have said all that is necessary, Excellency. The Indians all have their sticks and stones. Some of those at the ford this morning were painted. They seem more bent on fighting than I have ever known them this last four years.’

‘Is this Roldan’s doing?’ asked James Columbus; the words were no sooner out of his mouth than he received an angry look from Bartholomew.

‘No,’ replied Ruiz.

‘Thank you. You may leave us now,’ said Bartholomew, and the moment Ruiz was out of the room he turned on James. ‘Will you never learn sense? Do you want the whole island to know we are afraid of Roldan? Over in the Vega Real how can he influence the Indians of the Llanos? You open your mouth only to utter idiocies.’

James shrank abashed before his brother’s anger.

‘ We must send at once,’ said the Admiral, ‘and pacify these poor wretches. I know they have grievances. I wish I could go myself — they would listen to me.’

‘Pacify them?’ asked Bartholomew.

‘That is what I said.’

‘ Brother, leave the pacification to me. I will pacify them as they ought to be pacified. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. A sharp lesson is what they need.’

’I know your sharp lessons, Bartholomew,’ said the Admiral, sadly.

‘By God,’ said Bartholomew, ‘I’m glad I have your two hundred men. Without them I should have hardly two hundred to take out against them. If only the ships with the horses had come! I’ve barely fifty horses, and in those plains it’s horses we need.’

‘Bartholomew,’ said the Admiral, ‘I forbid you to be cruel. You must show them all the mercy possible.’

‘That is what I will do,’ said Bartholomew, grimly. ‘ Brother, you are too good for this world. And supposing I did what you think you want? Supposing I encouraged them to think they can rebel against our authority with impunity? What would happen to the gold quota? How much cotton do you think they’d grow for us? What would you say then, brother? Who was it who was complaining at the shortage of gold only five minutes ago? Kind words won’t make these people work, as you know. Only the fear of death’ll do that — and even then half of ‘em prefer to die.’

‘I suppose you’ve been promising them in Spain gold by the ton, as usual,’ put in James, taking the side of his younger brother against the elder, who sat shaken and helpless before the double attack.

‘I never expected my own brothers to turn against me,’ he said pitifully.

‘We haven’t turned against you,’ snapped Bartholomew. ‘We’re doing your work for you. And there’s no time to lose unless we want the whole island in a blaze. We’ll march this afternoon. James, set the drums beating and the church bells ringing.’

The room was in an immediate bustle. Bartholomew flung open the door and began to shout orders through it to the guard at the gate. The three Dominican friars — Brother Bernard who had supervised yesterday’s act of faith, and the two who had just arrived — were whispering together in one corner.

‘Don Narciso!’ called the Admiral, and Rich went across to him. ‘You must go with my brother. With this

cursed gout I can neither walk nor sit a horse. And there are so few I can trust.’

Rich contemplated with some distaste the prospect of marching out with four hundred men to fight ten thousand painted savages.

‘I doubt if Don Bartholomew will welcome my presence,’ he said.

‘You must go. You must. Bartholomew told me last night he had a horse of mine in his stables. Bartholomew, I am giving Don Narciso my horse so that he can ride with you.’

‘Come if you like,’ said the Adelantado after a momentary grimace. ‘I’d rather put a man-at-arms on that horse. Have you armor as well as that long robe?’

‘I have,’ said Rich.

Bartholomew was a man of action. It took him no more than two hours to assemble every European near, to select his expeditionary force, and to detail the fifty men he was leaving behind to their duties as garrison. The few stores which had been brought up out of the ships he divided among his army.

‘ There’ll be food to be got in the villages,’ he explained; ‘but, with savages to fight, the whole secret lies in being able to march without a halt and give them no time to rally.’

Four hundred men marched out of San Domingo in the blazing heat of the day. Juan Ruiz rode ahead with six horsemen as an advanced guard in case of an ambush. Then came the long column of leather coats and dull armor, Bernardo de Tarpia with his handgunmen, and Moret’s crossbowmen, the spearmen and handgunmen led by John Antony Columbus, — four years in Española had made these last familiar with the island, even to the extent of calling it by its native name of ‘Hayti,’ — and forty sailors from the ships under Carvajal’s command, armed with pikes and swords. Bartholomew Columbus rode with forty horsemen, Cristobal García and Rodrigo and Gonzalo Acevedo among them. Rich had his place with these, a little uneasy even astride the gray horse with which he had been provided, spiritless nag though it was.

The sun roasted him in his half armor, but he was determined to utter no complaint until his companions should, and they were full of high spirits at being mounted again and faced with the imminent prospect of action. On their right was the blue, blue sea, and on their left the high mountains, vivid green from base to summit, towering to the sky. Ahead of them lay a wide rolling plain, stretching from the mountains to the sea, green and luxuriant, broken only here and there by thickets and woodland. There were herds of cattle to be seen here, — in four years the few beasts brought by the second expedition had multiplied beyond all count, — and scattered patches of cultivated land where the Indians grew their roots and their corn. This was the famous plain of the Llanos, which the Admiral had compared, in extent and fertility, to the valley of Guadalquivir.

They were filing over a ford now, and everybody eagerly slipped out of the saddle to drink from the dark water; Rich found himself, after two hours’ riding, already so stiff that he could hardly swing his leg over, but fortunately no one noticed. The column halted to rest in the shade along the banks, the sweating infantry lying stretched out flat with their weapons beside them until the Adelantado set the trumpet blowing to call them to their feet again. Rich scrambled somehow back into the saddle — he was already sore, and his body shrank from contact with the harsh leather. By the end of the day he was in misery. The chatter went on unnoticed round him, blended with the squeaking of leather and the occasional ringing of hoofs or accoutrements. The final order to halt found him quite stupid with fatigue. He tried vainly to make some pretense of attending to the sorry gray horse, and experienced unfathomable relief and gratitude when Rodrigo Acevedo relieved him of the task unobtrusively.

‘I can’t thank you,’ was all Rich was able to say, white-faced.

That had been a day of sunshine; the next was a day of rain, perpetual rain falling in torrents from a gray sky. It soaked everyone to the skin, finding its way remorselessly down inside the necks of leather coats and from there into the leather breeches so that the horsemen had wet squelching bags of water round their thighs. The men on foot sank to their ankles in the mud, the horses to their fetlocks. The little streams from the mountains became broad rivers bordered by knee-deep marsh; armor and weapons rusted almost perceptibly under their very eyes, and every man was daubed and streaked with mud. In those conditions, not nearly so prolonged a march could be made as the Adelantado had wished — it had been his plan to camp that night so near to Soco as to make it possible to surprise the besiegers at dawn. With ten miles of slippery ground and three watercourses still between his army and the fort, he was forced to give up the project.

‘But, marching at dawn, we shall be at Soco by noon,’ he said to the disgruntled group of hidalgos round him. ‘Time enough then for the lesson I want to teach them.’


It rained until dawn, men and horses suffering miserably under the continued drenching, but with morning came a fiery sun which put new life into them — into all save a score or so of the earlier colonists, who lay shuddering and with chattering teeth despite the heat. They were in the grip of malaria — everyone who lived long in the island went down with it in course of time, apparently, and exposure to wet and to night air was certain to bring on an attack. One of the shivering victims begged with blue lips to be left with his companions where they lay.

So that when we have gone the Indians can beat you to death with their clubs, I suppose,’ commented the Adelantado. ‘You could not raise a finger to stop them if they did. No. You must come with us. There are horses enough until we reach Soco.’

And then they came over a gentle rise to open up a fresh vista of the plain. Two miles ahead stood a low gray building with a black speck fluttering over it — the fortress of Soco with its flag; evidently the dozen colonists there had made good their defense.

‘Here they come!’ said the Adelantado. ‘Form your square, men.’

Rich had no time to see more during the bustle of forming up.

‘Invalids here in the centre!’ called the Adelantado. ‘Gentlemen, mount your horses. Pikemen! Crossbowmen!’

Rich helped his invalid to the ground. There were a dozen helpless men lying there already, but his own invalid was convalescent by now and with one more curse lurched away to join the ranks of his fellows. Ruiz and the advanced guard came clattering up as Rich climbed on the gray horse. Other horses cannoned into him, and he lost a stirrup and nearly lost his helmet before he found himself in the mass of cavalry grouped round the invalids. The foot soldiers had formed a square round the cavalry, facing outwards, the handgunmen with their matches alight, the crossbowmen with their bows wound up.

Pouring up towards them was an enormous crowd of naked Indians. It was like a brown sea rolling upon them, thousands and thousands of Indians — not merely men, Rich saw as they approached, but women and children as well, all shrieking and yelling, as they waved their arms over their heads, with a noise like surf on the beach.

‘Please God they charge,’ said the Adelantado, and then, raising his voice: ‘Remember, no man is to fire a shot until I give the word. Don Bernardo, see to it.’

Rich, fidgeting with his reins and his sword, marveled at the Adelantado’s sentiments. It seemed to him the most necessary thing in the world that the guns should start firing at once. Through his muddled brain coursed a sudden desire to wheel his horse round and break through the ranks and gallop away; panic was making his heart beat painfully fast and clouding his intellect, and it was only with difficulty that he restrained himself from acting on the impulse.

‘If we shoot one now the whole lot’ll run away,’ explained the Adelantado to the hidalgos round him. ‘I want to close with them.’

The huge crowd poured up towards the square. Then it halted a hundred yards from the nearest face, came on again, halted again in the centre, while at the sides it still poured forward until in the end the whole square was surrounded at a discreet distance. A few more daring Indians ran closer still, and with frantic gestures flung stones which fell to earth far in front of the waiting Spaniards.

‘No shooting!’ said the Adelantado loudly again.

The crowd eddied round the square like mist, forward here and back there. The din was tremendous. Then at last came the rush, as some indetectable impulse carried the whole mob inwards towards the square.

‘Fire!’ yelled the Adelantado.

The crash of the handguns drowned the noise of the discharge of the crossbows. Rich saw one Indian fall, and next moment the two nations were at grips. The Indians carried heavy sticks for the most part, with which they struck at the helmets in front of them, clumsily, like clowns in a comedy. Perched up on his horse, Rich caught vivid glimpses of brown faces, some of them striped with red paint, distorted with passion. He saw the expression on one turn to mild dismay as a Spaniard drove his sword home. Rich’s horse was chafing at the bit as the smell of blood reached his nostrils; close in front of him a crossbowman was winding frantically at his moulinet.

There came a loud bang as one of the recharged handguns went off, and then another and another. The brown masses began to hesitate, and ceased to crowd up against the sword-points.

‘They’re going to break!' said the Adelantado. ‘ Gentlemen, are you ready? ‘

The crossbowman thrust his loaded weapon forward between the two swordsmen who were protecting him, and released the bolt with a whizz and a clatter.

‘Open out when you charge, gentlemen. Ride them down and show no mercy,’ said the Adelantado. ‘There! They’re breaking! Sailors, make way! Open your ranks, sailors! Come on, gentlemen! ‘

This was madly exciting to Rich, this wild pursuit on a horse galloping at top speed, with Indians scurrying in all directions. Behind him the handguns were still banging, and faint shouts indicated that the infantry were in pursuit as well. Rich struck again and again. He found himself leaning far out of the saddle, like an accomplished cavalier, to get a fairer sweep, and the discovery delighted him. He was carried away by the violence of his reaction from his previous panic; there were enemies all about him, running like rabbits. He yelled with excitement and slashed again. An Indian, crazed with panic, ran blindly across his course, and fell with a scream under the forelegs of the gray horse. The gray horse came down with a crash, and Rich found himself sailing through the air.

The earth which received him was soft, and he was not stunned by the fall, but the breath was driven from his body as if he were a burst bladder. Dazed and winded, sword and helmet gone, he groveled about on the ground trying to recover himself. An Indian woman saw his plight; she still had her club in her hand, and apparently she was not as affected by panic as most of her companions. She ran up and struck at Rich, screaming the while for assistance. Two more women arrived, one with a pointed cane which she stuck painfully into Rich’s left arm, overbalancing him just as he was on the point of regaining his feet. The club clanged on his breastplate, the sharpened cane scraped over it. But the screams of the women changed from excitement to fright. A horse’s head loomed hugely over them; one woman fell across Rich, deluging him with blood from her half-severed neck; the others disappeared. Garcia was there, riding a maddened chestnut stallion with graceful dexterity; the blood slowly dripped from his reddened sword and his white teeth flashed in a smile.

‘Wounded? Hurt?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said Rich, sliding disgustedly from under the woman’s corpse.

‘I’ll catch your horse,’ said García, wheeling the chestnut towards where the gray was standing, his reins over his head and his sides heaving.

Rich picked up his sword and helmet and received the reins which García handed him.

‘All well?’ asked García. ‘Right!’

García uttered some inarticulate yell and urged his horse into a gallop again, wheeling his sword in circles; Rich stood with the reins in his hand and watched him catch an Indian and strike him down.

He rode slowly up towards the fort of Soco, where the horsemen were rallying, breathing their horses and tightening their girths. A dozen men on foot — the garrison of Soco, presumably — were standing with them, everyone talking and laughing excitedly. Dead Indians lay in swathes all about them, marking the area wherein their retreat had been cut off by the garrison’s sally.

‘Mount again, gentlemen,’ said the Adelantado as Rich came within earshot. ‘We can beat back over the ground. Plenty of game broke away, and the foot are there to head them off for us.’

The Spaniards who had dismounted got back into their saddles. They were like men who had been drinking — some were giggling like schoolboys with the excitement of slaughter.

‘One long line,’ said the Adelantado. ‘Fifty yards apart. My standard in the centre. Spread yourselves out, gentlemen.’

The Adelantado ran an interested eye over Rich as he trotted up — Rich was conscious of the blood and mud with which he was smeared. He bore clear enough proof that he had played his part in the battle.

‘Don Cristobal said you had a fall,’ said the Adelantado.

‘I had,’ said Rich, ‘but nothing serious.’

‘Are you wounded?’

‘Nothing serious again,’ answered Rich.

‘You can have your revenge now.’

‘Do you really mean what you say, Don Bartholomew? Are you going on with this killing?’

‘Why, of course. There are four hours more of daylight.’

‘Haven’t enough been killed?’

‘No, by God. I mean this to be a lesson that they will never forget.’

‘But they are your brother’s subjects — your subjects, Your Excellency. Don’t you want them to earn revenue for you?’

‘They’ll breed again. And we’ve had no chance of sport like this for months. Don’t be mealy-mouthed, Doctor. . . . Trumpeter!’

The trumpet set the long line in motion again in its sweep back across the plain. It was sport for the infantry too; crossbows and handguns found plenty of targets as the frantic Indians were driven within range. The spearmen and swordsmen, even, hampered though they were with clothes and equipment, were often able to run down on foot the naked Indians who were already exhausted. Some of them showed a pretty wit in their choice of the place in which to plant their weapons when they caught their victims — the same idea had occurred to the horsemen, and shouts of laughter and approval ran along the line as each man vied with the others in displaying his dexterity or strength of arm. Rich followed, fascinated.


In San Domingo, when the Adelantado returned from his chastising of the Llanos, there was nothing new. The fifty men of the garrison who had remained there with the Admiral had done nothing, heard nothing. Most of them were fever-ridden and asked nothing more than to stay tranquil. Apparently the Admiral had made some attempt to persuade them to heave up the three ships which lay in the harbor and make them ready for sea again, but they had vehemently refused to do such heavy work, and the Admiral had abandoned his attempt. Those sailors who had not deserted to Roldan took more kindly to the suggestion when it was put to them on their return with the conquering army. The ships would sail for Spain when they were ready, with messages and treasure, and the sailors were sure of a passage home.

‘There are two hundredweights of gold,’ said Diego Alamo, the assayer. Rich had had hardly a word with him since they had left Trinidad, and it was delightful to encounter him again and hear the results of his observations.

‘That sounds enormous to me,’said Rich.

‘Large enough,’ said Alamo with a shrug. ‘Their Highnesses do not receive that amount of gold in a year’s revenue. And there are pearls besides, of more value still, I should fancy, if the market is not too hurriedly flooded with them.’

‘This one island, then, is worth more than all Spain?’ said Rich, eagerly. Solid facts of this sort were reassuring, especially when retailed by someone as hard-headed and learned as Alamo. But Alamo shrugged again in dampening fashion.

‘Perhaps,’ he said. ‘But part of that gold is what the Indians have saved for generations. And nowhere does the earth breed gold rapidly. A speck here, a grain there, in the sand. One gathers them, and it is years before another speck is formed. During the last few years most of the grains available have been gathered, and in my opinion the annual amount of gold found in the island will diminish rapidly.’

‘Oh,’ said Rich, disappointed. ‘Does everyone think that?’

‘No. They know nothing about the subject. Nor have they read the ancients. You, Doctor, you have read your Livy, your Polybius? Don’t you remember how our own Spain was conquered by the Romans and Carthaginians? They found gold there, quantities of gold. Spain was to Carthage what these islands are to Spain. But what gold is there now to be found in Spain? A vein or two in the Asturias. A vein or two in the South. No more.’

Rich found all this a little frightening. If the gold returns were to diminish, as Alamo predicted, and the spice trade were to prove valueless, as Rich had long ago suspected, the colony of Española could not be worth having discovered. The three thousand Spanish lives which had already been expended were quite wasted. But Alamo was ready to reassure him.

‘The island has treasures beside gold and spices,’ he said. ‘It has a soil fifty times more fruitful than Andalusia. The rain and the sun give it a fertility which it is hard to estimate. One man’s labor will grow food for ten — see how these wretched Indians have always contrived to live in abundance. Cattle multiply here amazingly. My calculations go to prove that by breeding cattle hero a handsome profit would be shown merely by selling the hides in Spain — and I know well enough the cost of sailing a ship from here to there.’

‘Cattle? Hides?’ said Rich. There was a queer sense of disappointment . A prosaic trade in hides was not nearly as interesting as a deal in hundredweights of gold.

‘Oh, there are other possibilities,’said Alamo, hastily. ‘Have you ever tasted sugar?’

‘Yes. It is a brown powder beneficent in cases of chills and colds. There is a white variety, too, in crystals. I have had packets sent me as presents occasionally. It has a sweet taste, like honey, or even sweeter. Why, is there sugar to be found in this island?’

‘ Not as yet. But it could grow here — it is expressed from a cane exactly like the canes we see growing everywhere in this country. The sugar cane is grown in Malaga a little, and in Sicily. My friend Patino retails it at five hundred maravedis an ounce. Once start the cultivation here and in a few years we might be exporting sugar, not by the ounce, but by the ton.’

That was a more alluring prospect than chaffering in hides. A spark of enthusiasm lit in Rich’s breast, and then died away to nothing again as he began to consider details.

‘It means husbandry,’ he said, despondently.

‘ It means hard work,’ agreed Alamo, a smile flickering over his lips.

‘There is another possibility,’ said Alamo.


‘It was João de Setubal who put it in my mind,’ said Alamo.

It was a queer world in which a cultured man like Alamo could be indebted for ideas to a clumsy barbarian like the Portuguese knight; Rich must have looked his surprise, because Alamo hastened to explain.

‘ He was complaining of the uselessness of the Indians, just as everyone else does,’ said Alamo. ‘And then he went on to say how in Lisbon they have Negro slaves nowadays. Stout dependable laborers, brought from the African coast. I had heard about that before, but it had slipped my memory until Don João reminded me of it. They breed freely, do the Negroes. If Their Highnesses could arrange with the King of Portugal for a supply of Negroes to be sent here . . .’

‘You are right, by God!’ said Rich.

‘This hot climate would be native to them,’ said Alamo. ‘They could do the heavy work and our Spanish gentlemen fresh out of the jails would not think it beneath them to supervise.’

‘And the Indians could be spared,’ said Rich, with kindly enthusiasm. ‘Perhaps part of the island could be set aside for them to live in without interference — save for Christian teaching, of course.’

This last was a hurried addition.

‘The Church would give her blessing,’ went on Alamo. ‘The Negroes would be brought out of heathen darkness in Africa to lead a Christian life here.’

They eyed each other, a little flushed and excited.

‘Sir,’ said Rich, solemnly, ‘I think that today you have made a suggestion which may change the history of Spain. In my report to His Highness — ‘

‘I would rather, if possible, that His Highness were not reminded of my existence,’ said Alamo. ‘Torquemada . . .’

‘I understand,’ said Rich, sadly.

Rich thought how lucky Alamo was. There had been a time when he himself had been delighted at the thought of taking part in the administration of a new empire, but there was no pleasure in it now for him. Those endless conferences in the citadel of San Domingo only left him with an exasperated sense of frustration. It was hard for any decision to be reached — at least, it was hard for the Admiral to reach a decision. There was the pitiful difficulty that Roldan, thanks to his appointment as Alcalde Mayor, could claim a legal justification for his actions.

That was the trouble. Once let the Court, of Spain know that there was rebellion in her new colony, that the Admiral could not control his subordinates, and Their Highnesses would have every justification for removing their Viceroy from office. There was suspicion in the old man’s eyes as he looked round the room. Who would be his successor in that case? Bartholomew, the hero of the Indian rebellion? Rich, who had been sent out for no obvious good purpose? Rich could see the struggle in the Admiral’s face. His position, his power, — even such as it was, — were very dear to him. After a lifetime of unimportance, he now found himself Admiral and Viceroy, and he did not want to lose the splendid position his genius had won for him, even though his genius was not of the kind to make his position supportable. He was bound to regard with suspicion any advice which came from those who might hope to succeed him. He felt alone and friendless, and his first instinct was to temporize.

That meeting, like those preceding it, broke up without any decision. The next seemed to call for a plan even more urgently because now there was a new and disastrous development. The sentinel on the citadel ramparts announced a ship — she was the caravel Rosa, one of the three which had parted from the main expedition to sail direct to Española and which should have arrived three months back. Anxiously they watched her, running gayly down before the eternal east wind, the Admiral and the Adelantado and the rest of the Columbus clan, Rich and Alamo and the Acevedo brothers.

‘She’s the Rosa!’ said Perez with satisfaction.

‘She carried most of the horses,’ said the Admiral.

‘Did she, by God!’ said Bartholomew. ‘Then that will end our friend Roldan’s career, if enough have survived this infernal long voyage they have made.’

‘A big “ if,” ‘ whispered Alamo to Rich. ‘Why?’

‘I know more about those horses than the Admiral does. The horses that came on board are not the same ones as Their Highnesses paid for. The contractors showed the Admiral two hundred horses on land for his approval, and shipped two hundred quite different horses when they had received it. Four months at sea? Half of them would not survive four days!’

They watched the Rosa catch the sea breeze and head for the river mouth.

‘No sign of the other two,’ said Bartholomew, anxiously. He scanned the horizon unavailingly. ‘Lost at sea? Parted company? We shall know soon.’

They knew soon enough; there were three captains on board the Rosa with reports to make. It was a rambling story, of losing their way, of finding themselves among the unexplored cannibal islands to the southeastward, and of finally anchoring at Isabella in the north of the island — Roldan’s headquarters.

‘Holy Mary!’ exclaimed Bartholomew. ‘What next?’

Ballester, the captain of the Rosa, spread helpless hands.

‘Half the men in our crews left us,’ he said. ‘ Sixty men — there had been much sickness, as I said. They took the other two caravels. They took the stores out of the Rosa. Those of us who would not join them they allowed to sail round to here. That man with no ears — Martinez — would have made us walk across the mountains, sick though we all were. But Roldan let us take the Rosa. He said —'

Ballester checked himself.

‘What did he say?’

Ballester had no desire to repeat what Roldan had said.

‘Really, sir, it was not important. I could not — ‘

‘What did he say?’

‘Well, he said we should soon come sailing back to him after a little experience of San Domingo.’

There was an awkward pause, until Bartholomew changed the subject.

‘How many men did you leave at Isabella ? ‘

‘Sixty-two. Twenty of them were sick.’

‘How many horses?’

‘ Five.’

‘Five? Where are the other hundred?'

’Dead, sir. We were short of water for a long time. And on the voyage —'

‘That’s all right, man. If Roldan has them, I would rather they were all dead. How many men have you brought in the Rosa?’

‘Forty-seven, sir. That includes five sick who are likely to die, and two friars.’

The council looked at each other.

‘The balance is hardly altered, then,’was Bartholomew’s comment. ‘We can still light him.’

Despite the heat and the drumming of the rain outside, Rich found his brain working fast. The newly landed Spaniards at Isabella would be a source of dissension there, very likely. They would not — jailbirds t hough they might be — take kindly to fighting Spaniards the moment they had landed. They might have slipped easily into mutiny after the hardships of the voyage, but they might hesitate at treason. An immediate move on Isabella would cause them to hesitate, and hesitation is infectious. Roldan’s men would hesitate as well. The passive rebellion might be borne down by a bold stroke.

‘The sooner the better,’ he said, without time to wonder at himself for such advocacy of energetic action.

Everyone looked at the Admiral now, and the Admiral shifted in his seat and eyed them uneasily. With the arrival of the squadron there could be no question of further postponement of the decision. And Rich, watching, noticed how he gazed first at him and then at the Adelantado; he guessed what wild conclusions the Admiral was drawing from the unwonted circumstance of the two of them being of one mind. Rich was paralleling the Admiral’s thoughts quite closely, yet even he was surprised at what the Admiral decided eventually to do. The decision was not reached easily. There was argument, — of course there was argument, — and a little spurt of old man’s rage, but it was agreed to in the end. The Admiral was to sail round in the Rosa to Isabella, and there he was to make one last effort to recall Roldan and his supporters to their allegiance, and, in the event, of their refusal, he was to denounce them as traitors.

‘One more wasted month,’ sneered the Adelantado, reluctantly agreeing.

Rich thought the same, but in the face of the old man’s unreasoning obstinacy there was only one alternative to agreement, and that was to raise a fresh mutiny in San Domingo.


The Admiral had sailed, and Rich had leisure now for his other duties, to make plans for the future government of the colony, to try to estimate its future worth, to put the final touches on the report to Their Highnesses which had already grown to such inordinate length. It called for a good deal of consideration to discover the right wording of the suggestion that in place of shiploads of gold and pearls Their Highnesses would be better advised to expect sugar and hides, and of the advice that negotiations should be opened with the half-hostile Court of Lisbon for the supply of Negroes.

Food was scarce. The fifty men who constituted the garrison should have been amply fed from the surrounding country, where thousands of Indians cultivated the soil under the direction of the Spaniards. But naturally these supplies for the government had to be paid for with government fundswith the gold that came from the fifths and tenths and thirds that were levied on the treasures of the island as collected by the Spaniards outside the town. And, when the Spaniards paid it in again, being gold it was subject once more to those fifths and tenths and thirds, until it was a most unprofitable business even to sell roots to the garrison, certainly not worth the enormous trouble of bringing them in. In San Domingo the healthy sickened and the sick died and discontent seethed, and the Adelantado dared not use strong measures for fear of further defections to Roldan, and Rich scratched his head unavailingly to try to make some sense out of the tangle of laws and privileges which had already grown up in that part of the island, which still remained lukewarm in the government’s cause.

There were times when Rich wondered whether he was really awake, or whether he was not deep in some prolonged and fantastic nightmare, from which he would presently awake to find himself safe in bed in Barcelona. All this might well be a dream; in clairvoyant moments he realized how quite unlikely it was that it should be reality—that he should have crossed the ocean, and explored new lands, and ridden in a cavalry charge striking down living men with his sword, and should have taken part in high political debate seriously discussing the hanging of hidalgos. It was a marvelous moment to be invited to the Adelantado’s table, there to eat gluttonously of turtle when a fortunate catch had provided several of the creatures. Rich remembered his shuddering disgust at turtles in the Cape Verdes, where lepers congregated to seek a cure by daubing themselves with turtles’ blood. Now he was hungry enough to eat them with appetite— that was a nightmare in itself.

The parrot that Malalé had given him in Paria had died long since, while under Diego Alamo’s care during his absence at Soco. It had been a disappointing piece of news to receive on his return; in the brief time that he had owned the lovely thing of red and blue he had grown fond of it, with its comic habits and its crowbar of a beak which prized open any buckle which bound it.

Rich had an uneasy feeling that this island was fated, that everything Spanish that lived in it was doomed to an early end, whether parrots or codes of law. He was aware of a growing disgust for the place.

And then the Rosa came sailing back into the harbor, the Admiral’s flag flying at the masthead, and Alonso Perez blowing fanfares on his trumpet, startling the sea birds into flight all round the river mouth. The Adelantado put off hastily from the shore to welcome his brother; all the others congregated on the beach in anxious expectancy, wondering what had been the outcome of the negotiations with Roldan. They watched for some time before they saw the Admiral descend slowly and painfully into the boat — apparently the brothers had plunged immediately into a long discussion without waiting to return to land.

Apparently, too, the discussion had not been very friendly, to judge by the Adelantado’s black brow as he splashed through the shallows to the shore; he stood digging his toes irritably into the sand and meeting no one’s eyes while the Admiral was being helped ashore, feeble and almost tottering, by Alonso Perez and a couple of Indians. But the Admiral was no sooner within earshot again than Bartholomew turned upon him to renew the discussion.

‘Have you a copy of this precious treaty, brother?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ said the Admiral. He halted in his slow course up the beach and fumbled in his pocket.

‘Oh, it can wait until we reach the citadel,’ said Bartholomew. ‘Gentlemen, come with us and hear what His Excellency the Admiral has agreed upon.’

The Admiral fluttered a thin hand in protest, only to call forth another bitter comment from his brother.

‘Why should they not know?’ demanded Bartholomew. ‘You say the news is to be proclaimed publicly. That is one of the terms.’

It was only the least of the terms. Bartholomew read the document aloud in the council room, while Rich and the others looked at each other in unbelieving astonishment. It seemed quite incredible that such a treaty could have been made. Item by item Bartholomew read it out, with its unlettered travesty of legal terminology, its ‘whereases’ and ‘aforesaids’ which a group of ignorant people had put in in an attempt to imitate lawyers’ expressions.

By the first clause Roldan and all who followed him were given a pardon for anything they might have done during their stay in the Indies. By the second clause they were, each and severally, to receive from the Admiral a certificate of good conduct.. By the third clause a proclamation was to be made throughout, the island, to the effect that everything Roldan and his followers had done had met with the Admiral’s entire approval. By the fourth clause Roldan was to select who should be allowed to go back to Spain, and those that he should nominate should be allowed to transport whatever property they might desire, either of valuables or of slaves. By the fifth clause the Admiral guaranteed that whoever should remain in Española should receive, free of obligation, as much land as a horse could encircle in a day, with the inhabitants thereof, the recipients to select both the land and the horse. The sixth clause merely confirmed that Roldan was invested with the office and powers of Alcalde Mayor, but added that these powers — as the original document had merely implied without express statement — were of course given in perpetuity to Roldan and his heirs forever, as long as the Admiral’s viceregal authority and that of his heirs should endure.

The Adelantado interrupted his reading and tapped the document with a gnarled forefinger.

‘You did not toll me about this last one, brother,’ he said, and then, turning to the rest of the meeting: ‘That appears to be all of importance, gentlemen. The rest is merely a résumé of the titles of His Excellency the Admiral of the Ocean and of the Right Honorable the Alcalde Mayor of the Indies; I think I can spare myself the trouble of reading them.’

There was only a murmur in reply, and a shuffling of feel. Rich’s mind was already deeply engaged upon a legal analysis of the treaty he had just heard read, and the others were too stunned to speak.

‘Would any of you gentlemen care to comment?’ asked the Adelantado, but the Admiral spoke before anyone else could open his mouth.

’I will not have the matter discussed,’ he said. ‘This treaty is your Viceroy’s decision, and it would be treason to question it.’

The Admiral sat in his chair, with his hands on his thin knees. He had spoken with an old man’s querulousness, and yet — and yet— there was a suspicion of triumph in his glance, a self-satisfied gleam in the blue eyes. It was as if he thought, he had done something clever, hard though that was to believe. Rich remembered earlier discussions. Perhaps the Admiral had decided that to retain his power he needed to create some new party for himself which he could play off against the Adelantado’s brutal bullying, or against Rich’s vague powers. Or possibly he wanted to send a dispatch to Spain saying that he had arrived to find the island in disorder, and had dissipated the disorder immediately by a few judicious concessions. Or perhaps he knew he had been weak and would not admit it. Or — anything was possible—he might by now have deluded himself into thinking that he had brought off a really creditable coup, just as he believed he had discovered the mines of Ophir and the Earthly Paradise. Meanwhile, Rich saw various loopholes of escape from this treaty.

‘Your Excellency signed of your own free will?’ he asked. ‘You were net coerced into it?’

‘Of course not,’ said the Admiral indignantly.

‘A promise entered into under compulsion is not binding, Your Excellency,’ persisted Rich.

’I know that.'

‘And these gifts of land, Your Excellency. . . . Land is a tricky thing to deed away. It is Crown property. I doubt — please pardon me, Your Excellency, but of course we are all anxious to have everything as legal as possible if Your Excellency’s viceregal authority entitles you to dispose of the property of the Crown. The recipients would be well advised to have their title confirmed by Their Highnesses, and until Their Highnesses have given that confirmation I myself, for one, would be chary of entering into any dealings regarding those properties.’

‘My agreement, with Their Highnesses gives me full powers.’

‘Powers can only be expressly given, Your Excellency. Any powers not named are by every rule of law retained by Their Highnesses.’

‘Oh, why split these hairs?’ broke in the Adelantado. ‘Their Highnesses are two thousand leagues from here, the treaty is signed, and there’s an end of it for a year or so. Roldan and his men will have the land if anything my brother can do can ensure it. There is no profit in continuing this debate, I fancy, gentlemen.’

Rich was of the same opinion. He escaped from the room as soon as he could, and went to sit in the tiny apartment which he shared with Antonio Spallanzani. The Holy Name and the Santa Ana would be sailing soon, and his report must go in one ship while he sailed in the other. He thought longingly of Spain, of his cool stone house and the fountain in the courtyard, the while he sat sweating and lighting the flies.

It would be a long voyage home, reaching far to the northward to avoid the path of the eternal easterly breezes, but in three months at most he would be in Spain. The King would be at Valla-, dolid or Toledo, and he might be kept cooling his heels round the court for weeks. But six months at most, and he would be home again, in his own house, leading a decent and orderly life. He could sit in his big leather chair reading through the pleadings of law-abiding merchants, or, with a hushed band of students behind him. he could issue his judgments, in stately Latin, to the expectant litigants assembled in his hall.

That was the world he knew and loved, not this mad new world of rain and mosquitoes, of slaughter and mutiny, of mad theories and madder politics. And yet, mad though it all was, he was conscious of a queer regret that he was leaving it. He would have liked to stay a while longer, even though he knew that he would be bitterly disappointed if some unforeseen circumstance compelled him to stay. He told himself that he was as mad as everyone else in Española.

Meanwhile the report had to be written, and he had to make up his mind what to write. As he repointed his pen he began to form phrases in his mind. He did not want to word them too strongly — the contents of the report would need no emphasis of phrasing.

(To be concluded)

With each twelve months of the Atlantic