“So, then,” he said, after several of those convincing proofs. “We have now crossed the thickest strata, and the danger of the breakers and the shoals has passed, even if there ever was. See then how the wind is constantly favorable.
-Yes, well you say, sir, constantly! -Received for all the pilot Perez Matheo Hernèa.-Always blows from the east, this blessed wind!
“Not always,” said the almirante. “Sometimes he fell; and we had a bit of a breeze from the west. Rare, if we want; but it is enough to show us that here too the law of variety rules.
-With this particular, for other, -replicated the pilot, -when the wind blows from the east you make a long way, and when it blows from the west does not even have the strength to flap the sails against the trees.
-Orbene, what do you want to say with this, Perez Hernèa?
-What to go to the uncertain, the wind helps; but that, if we were to give time, to return home, the wind would not help us anymore. Here, sir, with your license, and with due respect, what I want to say. ”
The almirante frowned at the words of Hernèa. But he held himself back, and, in order not to have it back before time, he even tried to joke.
-Well my pilot! -She said.-Man of courage as he is, would he come back? right now, that we are so close to the goal?
-Eh, neighbors! … neighbors! …- the pilot grumbled. “Nothing can be understood here. But your experience, sir, what can you tell me, around this wind of the west that does not have the strength to move a sail?
-What can I tell you, Perez Hernèa? Does the sailor know why the wind spills so many days on one side, and then suddenly turns around? It will come day, I hope, that this and other secrets of the natural order will be known. For now let us govern ourselves with our practice. There are winds of sea and land, gulfs and canals, and ups and downs, and strong and weak. To anticipate the progress it would be necessary to know the surroundings. You know very well every particularity of the winds that blow in the canal of the Rio Tinto, and in that of the Oddiel; it’s not true?
-Of course. Poor to us, if we did not practice the rumblings of our house.
“Well, here are other rumblings;” the almirante replied. “And we are in the house of others, and we do not know them yet. But it will not always be this way. When we have done our hand, we will know how to govern with them. For now, let’s observe and study. In the meantime, I understand one thing: that here, as elsewhere, certain winds are typical of certain seasons. Here, now, is the season in which the east reigns; approfittiamone. The season will come when his opposite will blow, and a little stronger than he has done so far. Even weak, we heard it; we therefore know its existence. And maybe he gave us this clue of himself, to raise any doubt to you, suspicious man. He still tells me that a land is down there, from where he comes to battle, but so far with little resistance. And it’s better this way, for our navigation; does not it seem to you too? –
Perez Hernèa acquires himself by then. The almirante had reasons for all doubts, for all the arguments to the contrary. But he was not at all, and could not equally win all the prejudices of ignorant and stubborn people. That long navigation where the favorable indications led to nothing, that green that never ended, that wind above all, that wind that was constantly blowing on one side, as if to bring them ferociously to misfit from the other, all appalled; and the nerves were inflicted with the inflexibility of the admirer, of the stranger who wanted to lead so many poor children of Andalusia to death, for his punishment, for his extravagance.
Many had been uncertain until then if he were an impostor or a madman. They were beginning to believe everyone had given him the brain. These fixations, which show so unperturbed serenity, are really peculiar to madmen.
And he did not ask anything to him. He obeyed his orders, physically, mechanically, without giving us the point of that ardor, of that good will which makes obedience intelligent cooperation.
On the other hand, the crisps, the capannelli, those mutterings, those murmurings, which are not yet the principle of revolt, began to emerge from the fore, but hint at their intention. The poor battered caravels; the scarce food; the soaking water; the winds contrary to the return; of coastline on the horizon, not even the shadow; sea, always sea, nothing but sea; that was the perspective. And how long would it last?
Clues of land had come …. Yes, even too many, and it was appropriate to recall, as of his famous grace to St. Anthony of Lisbon. Those pelicans, those cingallegre, all those birds of step that had passed in teams, in swarms, in clouds, on the head of sailors, now coming from the bow, now from the stern, did not point out, in the capricious direction of the flight, that some Did the evil spirit play with them? And here some noticed that those black fliers, passing on the caravels, had made a sharp screech. Yes, certainly, it was a mockery of invisible powers; which infused the hopes in their hearts with vain images, and still mocked the too credulous sailors. And those birds, those tuna, those low mists on the horizon, were nothing but diabolical apparitions. The monsters did not yet rise from the waters, from where they had been waiting; instead they showed themselves on the horizon, swarming in the air.
This explanation of the deceptive signs appeared so clear, that it was soon believed by everyone. No, no further, to satisfy the whim of the adventurer, the madman. That man wanted to find land in the west, or die; desperate about it! But he could do it, he who had no family; they could not leave them, to Palos, to Huelva, to Moguer, to leave their eyes to weep for them. It was therefore necessary to refuse him obedience, to force him to go back. Who would blame them? who would have accused them of cowardice? Four hundred and more leagues had been pushed over the Ocean, over the dark sea, the scare of all the sailors of the world. What did you want more? that they all die of hunger, wandering unnecessarily on a sea without shores? or that in the gorges of that sea they found the sepulcher?
The most fearful consciences thought of what the sovereigns would say, seeing the caravels return to Europe. But what could the sovereigns say? They themselves had not resolved to grant the men and ships to the Genoese sailor, if not to get around that harassing supplicant, and in spite of themselves, as too often had been demonstrated. Seeing the return of men and ships, the queen, perhaps, would have grieved, for the Genovese had been able to charm her with her tales of Cataio and Ofir; but then he would have understood that looking for the east to the west was an extravagance, a madness; and as good as he was he would end up rejoicing to see so many lives of good Spaniards. As for King Ferdinand, he had said yes to please his wife; but that it was contrary in the depths of the soul to the enterprise of Christopher Columbus had never been a mystery to anyone. The return of the expedition, without having found anything of the promised land, not even a rock out of water, would have been a real triumph for him.
Yes, then, go back, rejecting the admirer’s obedience, forcing him to accept the law from them. But if he had not wanted to persuade himself with the good, was he convenient to go to the bad? Would not the fact of disobedience and consequent offenses to his person have always remained with them? As a matter of fact, or a joke, it was almirante, it was viceroy, it was governor; and all this by royal decree.
The way to overcome that small difficulty some of the most audacious had found it, and they had already talked about it for a long time. But they did not yet open freely in the most numerous crocs; they were silent, or spoke in monosyllables, in interjections, when there were sailors from other nations; especially when there were two Genoese. And the two Genoese understood; and they had consulted each other for a long time, to come to a resolution that became more urgent every day. Finally one of those capiscarichi that when they have been entrusted with a secret, believe they have caught it on the fly, no longer in the skin if they do not give it to others, let slip a few words with the two.
-Oh yes? Does not your Genovese want to go back? -he had said. -Well, he is there, to be shipwrecked for all. A wave that sweeps the blanket, and take that stubborn fool, it is not so difficult to find.
-To find …. synonymous with inventing, is not it? – Damiano had answered.
-Eh, definitely! You will understand well, you others, that when patience escapes …. And your Genovese would make it lose to the saints.-
Damiano did not want to hear more. That night he slept badly. At midnight he had to go and guard the sail, and Cosma kept him company. It was the use, among them, of never separating; so much so that the pilots had ended up sending them always together to take the four-hour guard.
“Listen,” Damiano said to his companion, when they were alone on the bridge, “I do not have peace for myself, until I have said everything to the admirer. And you, what do you think?
“I think,” Cosma said, “we would have done well to talk even earlier. Finally, it is not a matter of referring people’s speeches; it is a matter of preventing a crime. The almirante must be placed in a position to guard against a stroke.
-Giustissimo! -Disted Damiano.-Here he is, for example, coming out of the stern lock, as he does every night, to watch the guard. In fact, he does not sleep in one eye. But for his person he has no vigilance. Two determined men could throw themselves on him, grab him for life, lift him up, and one, two, three, throw him into the sea like a sack of rags.
-What infamy! and they would be able to do it.
– So, do you say everything?
While the two were mutually comfortable talking, the almirante came slowly from the stern, to watch the guards, who did not allow themselves to be taken by sleep.
“Good night, Mr. Almirante,” Cosma said, as soon as the other one was near him. “God looks at you.
“And you guys too,” Christopher Columbus answered quietly. “Good guard.
-And worthy St. George grant you victory over your enemies, -said Damiano, speaking in the vernacular of his hometown.
-Ah! -Excited the almirante, stopping.-My Genoese?
“Yes, sir, and willing to talk to you. If this was not the case, we would have asked tomorrow morning to be admitted to your presence.
– So serious, then? and not to be able to trust the pilot?
“Very wild, and we wish you did not even know the air. Look at you, sir! There is some turbid on board.
– I know, guys, I know. I’ve had to know it for several days. Ignorant and ungrateful people! what can you do? One day the slightest signs of the sea and the sky, signs that do not persuade me, offer them a marvelous certainty of imminent landfall. Another day is nothing, even the constancy of good weather, as the children astonishes me as a tale of the nurse, when they no longer dare to stand out from his knees to go to the back of the room. Verily, my children, I would never have believed the human fiber so weak. And you, how can you not follow the example of others?
-We? we …. it’s another thing! “Damiano answered.” We have faith in our Genoese.
“Beat it in God;” answered the almirante. “Great ideas come to mind from him; from him the strong intentions to the heart of man.
“And from the devil the bad guys, Mr. almirante,” said Cosma. “Look, Your Excellency. From certain words that we have caught in the air, some sad ones would have …
-Really ….- Cosma stammered.-It’s so black, the design! …
– To kill me, is not it?
-No, my lord …. or rather, yes, because in fact, killing and making disappear is one.
-Yes! -Said Damiano, coming to the help of his companion.-We begin to talk about a wave of furious, which conveniently sweeps the deck, dragging with him out of the band leader the supreme commander.-
The almirante remained somewhat overthrown.
“Think about this?” He said. “Fortunately, there’s no chance. The sea is so constantly quiet!
– Certain, and that’s what bores them. These sailors have come to wish for the storms, and they remind me of what is said of our villagers of Bisagno and Polcevera, who flay their calves with their silk stockings. But Your Excellency will understand that there is no need for a storm, to make a coup. The essential thing is to invent the news, for when you will be back in Spain, and you will have to account for your disappearance to the government.
“It’s a hellish design!” The almirante exclaimed, more horrified than frightened by the announcement. “And are you sure they thought they’d come to that?
“Oh, for this, do not doubt Your Excellency; we heard the speech with our ears.
“Patience!” The almirante replied. “Although I should not expect this, I’ll see to keep watch.
“And we will do it too,” Cosma said. “So we would know the good ones, the ones you trust most, to get along, and watch over your precious person!
“My friends,” replied Christopher Columbus, drawing a sigh, “I know you … from a few moments. As for the others, I know nothing about them. You were in Palos; you can remember how our crew was formed.
– Unfortunately, my lord! Half by force, the other half by chance; all people gathered up. The good ones will be there for sure, and they will see themselves to the test. Meanwhile ….
“In the meantime, it’s pitch dark,” Damiano said. “But your Excellency can confide in these things with his officers.
“Yes, yes, children, I will do it,” said the almirante. “But that’s not it, what matters. My hope is elsewhere. Are you sailors?
-We? yes, as your Excellency sees.
-In fact, your condition is such, for now. But from the first moment I had to look at your face, it seemed to me …. that you did not look like it.
-Our hands, sir ….
-Yes, I understand, your hands will be dyed with pitch. But it is not the pitch that the sailor does, as it is not the habit that the monk does. The hands of the sailor can also be clean, but they are equally recognizable; species in the palm, which par-lined with shark skin. Now, your hands, which I am happy to tighten ….
“They will get rough as much as necessary,” Cosma said, proud of that demonstration of benevolence, but also a little troubled.
“It’s fine,” the almirante said, smiling. “However, I do not ask for this as a necessary quality … at the hands of knights.
-Well ….- murmured that other, more troubled than ever.
“Oh, do not worry, I do not want to go any further,” the almirante answered. “Your names, if I remember correctly, are ….
“Cosmos and Damian,” Cosma hastened to answer.
“And Cosma is him, and Damian is me,” Damiano said.
-Very well. Two names of brothers!
“We are not only friends; but as brothers we love each other.
“And therefore you took the name from two holy brothers, who were also professional colleagues,” the almirante replied. “They were two doctors, and of the first of them I think I read in a certain book, that you still keep a prescription.
“They are also the patron saints of pilgrims,” said Cosma, who seemed unwilling to be on the subject of medicine.
“They are pilgrims or doctors, they are always two benefactors,” the almirante concluded. “And you have certainly assumed their names for the fulfillment of a vote.
“Your Excellency reads in hearts as in books,” said Damiano. “We are in fact bound by a vote.
– For which, probably, you will have left the comforts of life, being involved in the labors, the dangers of this journey: is not it? –
The two sailors did not say a word. But for them the wisdom of the peoples answered, drowned in proverbs: those who keep silent consent.
“I do not want to ask you what you can not tell me,” Cristoforo Colombo stands. “You are Genoese, and that is enough, because I take you into account of brothers. Just remember that you have to love it, love it a lot, the land where you were born; love her more, how much she is more unfortunate. You know how sorrowful our poor country has suffered, the cursed discords of its children! …
“You say well, sir,” said Cosma. “And we have already remembered it many times, thinking of you.
-Of course. Here is a distinguished man, we said among ourselves, a man who made a sublime design, and could and would like to give him glory and profit to his country; but because the country is not in a position to understand it, he must turn to other nations, giving others the profit and glory of his works.
“Ah!” The almirante cried. “Do you also understand that this is the pain? and how deep? I do not tell anyone, because no one would understand it. Patience, my young friends! And we leave this topic very sad. Meanwhile, your words have told me far more than they said your hands. I would like to do something for you; call you at least among my officers. But how many envies would awaken! Not for now, therefore. The day we have touched the promised land, I will indeed be viceroy and governor; and that day, we’ll see.
– Look in the meantime, sir. We have nothing but a thing: to see you unharmed, triumphant over all your enemies. Over there you had to fight with envy; here you have to struggle with ignorance.
“And always with wickedness,” concluded Christopher Columbus. “But your words remind me of what I wanted to say earlier. I was wondering if you were sailors, to tell you about the first captain with whom I learned the art of sailing. We were in the waters of ancient Carthage, landed, with a wind that you could not imagine worse. You could not stand at the sea, you had to moor and keep still at all costs. But the áncore aravano, for the strength of the current, and was afraid to go at any moment to beat in the rocks.
-A trouble; big guys, “Damiano exclaimed.
“Certainly,” said Christopher Columbus, “and there was no time to waste. The commander ordered to put his hand to the anchor of hope. “Do you believe-I said-that he will give us good service?” I asked too much, more than he could know. But anyway, he found it to me, the answer: “Cast anchor and hope in God!” And so, as I was advised in my first navigation, I did in all the others that followed.
“We swear by his high will,” Cosma said, bowing.
“But we still think,” Damiano said, “whoever helps God helps her.
“Oh, certainly!” Said Christopher Columbus, unable to refrain from laughing, to the admonition practice. “I have already told you that I will keep a good watch over my life, if necessary; I will not wait for them to assail me; I will go against their drawings. He does not like to challenge the low dangers, who has the heart to face the greatest. But if it is necessary to enter into contention with the rebels, this too I will do. You, meanwhile, have one thing for sure: that soon, with the help of God, we will greet the earth.
“With this faith we came,” Cosma said.
-And there is also enough to sail, we will not complain, we others, -said Damiano.-You say, sir, who uses God, with this journey.
– It’s my opinion.
– And we must therefore serve him cheerfully. Even the Psalmist recommends it.
The almirante smiled and patted his right shoulder on Damiano’s shoulder.
“Very well, young man!” He exclaimed. “And God looks at you both. But let us ask him again for a favor, -soggiunse.-To persuade these people who have the fury of fear, a good strong wind, and from the west, would do better than all our speeches.-