"I need a drink," Columbus whispered. "I can't go through with it."
"Father," Nina said. "We're with you. I'm here. Martin is here."
"I can't go-"
"You've got to go through with it! For yourself and for the world. Now, stand straight, father. They're looking at you. They're all looking at you."
Columbus, thought Danny. The intrepid voyager who had discovered a new world! He smiled grimly. Columbus, the history books should have said, the drunken sot who didn't even have the courage to face his own convictions.
They walked ahead through the ridiculing crowd. Danny's throat was still sore. He was not frightened, though. He possibly was the only man in the crew who was not frightened. The others didn't care what their destination was, true: but they wanted to reach it alive. Danny knew the journey would end in success. The end of the journey meant nothing to him. It was written in history. It was ...
Unless, he suddenly found himself thinking, I came back here to write it. He grinned at his own bravado. What would they have said in freshman psych-that was practically paranoid thinking. As if Danny Jones, Whitney College, Virginia, U.S.A., could have anything to do with the success or failure of Columbus' journey.
They reached the small skiff that would take them out to the tiny fleet of caravels. The crowd hooted and jeered.
"... going to drop off the edge of the world, Columbus."
"If the monsters don't get you first."
"Or the storms and whirlpools."
Columbus gripped Nina's hand. Martin-Danny took his other arm firmly and steered him toward the prow of the skiff. "Easy now, skipper," Danny said.
"There's wine on the Santa Maria," Danny whispered. "Much wine-to make you forget. Come on!"
"And I'm going, father," Nina said. "Whether you go or not."
"You!" Columbus gasped. "A girl. You, going-"
"With Martin Pinzon. If-if my own father can't look after me, then Martin can."
"But you-" Danny began.
"Be quiet, please," she whispered as Columbus climbed stiffly into the skiff. "It may be the only way, Martin. He-he loves me. I guess I'm the only thing he cares about. If he knows I'm going."
"To the Santa Maria!" Columbus told the rowers as Danny and Nina got into the skiff.
"To the New World!" cried Danny melodramatically.
"What did you say?" Nina asked him.
His face colored. "I mean, to the Indies! To the Indies!"
The skiff bobbed out across the harbor toward the three waiting caravels. Departure time had arrived.
Two hours later, they were underway.
The sea was calm as glass, green as emerald. The three caravels, after a journey of several days, had reached the Canary Islands where additional provisions and fresh water were to be had.
"This," said Columbus, waving his arms to take in the chain of islands. "This is as far as a mere man has a right to go. There is nothing further, can't you see? Can't you?"
He was sober. Danny had come over in a skiff from the Nina to see that he remained sober at least for the loading and the departure. It was as if he, Danny, was going to preserve Columbus' name for history-single-handed if necessary.
"We will not go on," Columbus said. "We're going back. The only way to the Indies is around the Cape of Storms, around Africa. I tell you-"
"That's enough, father," Nina said. "We ..."
"I'm in command here," Columbus told them. It surprised Danny. Usually, the drunken sailor was not so self-assertive. Then it occurred to Danny that it wasn't merely self-assertiveness: it was fear.
Danny called over the mate, a one-legged man named Juan, who walked with a jaunty stride despite his peg leg. "You take orders from Columbus?" Danny said. "Would you take orders from me?"
Juan shook his head, smiling. "You command aboard the Nina only, Martin Pinzon. I heard what the Captain said. If he wants to go back and give up this fool scheme, it's all right with me. And you know the rest of the crew will say the same."
Nina looked at Danny hopelessly. She said, "Then, then it's no use?"
Danny whispered fiercely, "Your father loves you very much?"
"And doesn't want to see anything happen to you?"
"And believes the world is flat and if you sail far enough west you'll fall off?"
"Then you're coming with me aboard the Nina!"
Columbus gasped, "What did you say?"
"She's coming with me, on the Nina. If you don't want to find the western route to the Indies, we will. Right, Nina?" he said, taking her hand and moving to where the rope-ladder dangled over the side of the Santa Maria to the skiff below.
"Don't take her from this deck," Columbus ordered.
Danny ignored him. "Don Juan!" cried Columbus, and the peg-leg came toward Danny.
"I'm sorry, Don Martin," he said, "but-"
Still holding Nina's hand, Martin stiff-armed him out of the way and ran for the side. Someone jerked the rope-ladder out of reach and someone else leaped on Martin. For, he was Martin now, Martin Pinzon. His own identity seemed submerged far below the surface, as if somehow he could look on all this without risking anything. He knew that he was merely a defense mechanism, to ward off fear: for, it wasn't true. If Martin Pinzon were hurt, he would be hurt.
He hurled the man from his back. Nina screamed as a cutlass flashed in the sun. Martin-Danny ducked, felt the blade whizz by overhead.
"Jump!" Martin-Danny cried.
"But I can't swim!"
"I can. I'll save you." It was Danny again, completely Danny. He felt himself arise to the surface, submerging Martin Pinzon. Because the Spaniard probably couldn't swim at all, and if Danny made promises, it was Danny who must fulfill them.
He squeezed Nina's hand. He went up on the side-and over. The water seemed a very long way down. They hit it finally with a great splash.
Down they went and down, into the warm murky green depths. Down-and finally up. Danny's head broke surface. He was only yards from the skiff. He had never let go of Nina's hand, but now he did, getting a lifeguard's hold on her. He struck out for the skiff.
Fifteen minutes later, they were aboard the Nina. "I command here," Danny told the crew. "Is that correct?"
"Aye, sir," said Don Hernan, the mate.
"Even if Columbus tells you different?"
"Columbus?" spat Don Hernan. "That drunkard is in command of the Santa Maria, not the Nina. We follow Martin Pinzon here."
"Even if I give one set of orders and Columbus another?"
"Even then, my commander. Yes."
"Then we're sailing west," Danny cried. "Up anchor! Hurry."
"But I-" Nina began.
"Don't you see? He thinks I'm abducting you. Or he thinks I'm sailing west with you to certain death. He will follow with the Santa Maria and the Pinta, trying to rescue you. And we'll reach the Indies. Columbus will sail across the Western Sea to save his daughter, but what's the difference why he'll sail. The important thing is, Queen Isabella gave him the charter and the caravels and with them he's making history. You see?"
"I ... I think so," Nina said doubtfully.
A heady wind sprang up. The square-rigged sails billowed. The Nina began to surge forward-into the unknown West.
Tackle creaked aboard the nearby Santa Maria and Pinta. The two other caravels came in pursuit. But they won't catch us, Martin knew. They won't catch us until we reach-Hispaniola. And then, pursuit will be no more. Then, it will no longer matter and we'll all be heroes....
Which is the way it turned out-almost.
The Santa Maria and Pinta pursued all through August and September and into October, but the Nina kept its slim lead. The ships were never out of sight of one another and once or twice Columbus even hailed them, imploring them to return to Spain with him. When they ignored him, his deep voice boomed to his own crew and the crew of the Pinta: "Then sail on, sail on!" It was these words, Danny knew, that history would record. Not the others.
One morning in October, he awoke with a start. Something had disturbed his sleep-something ...
"Good morning, captain," a voice said.
He looked up. It was a giant of a man, with a hard face and brutal-looking eyes. He knew that face. Pietro! The giant of the tavern.
"I was aboard all the time, my captain," Pietro said. "An auxiliary rower. You never knew." He said nothing else. He lunged at Martin's bunk-for I'm Martin again, Danny thought-a knife gleaming in his big hand.
Martin-Danny sat up, bringing the covers with him, hurling them like a cloak at Pietro. The giant's knife-hand caught in the covers and Danny swung to his feet, shoving the big man. Pietro stumbled into the bunk, then lashed around quickly, unexpectedly, the knife loose again. Danny felt it grating across his ribs hotly, searingly. He staggered and almost fell, but somehow made it to the door and on deck. He needed room. Facing that knife in the close confines of the cabin, he was a dead man and knew it.
He hit the stairs and headed for the deck. He reached the door-tugged. It held fast. He heard Pietro's laughter, then threw himself to one side. The knife thudded into the wood alongside Danny's shoulder.
Then the door came open, throwing him back. He stumbled, regained his balance, plunged outside. With a roar, Pietro followed him, knife again in hand.
Danny backed away slowly. Only a few crew members were on deck now, and a watch high up in the crow's nest. The watch was crying in an almost-delirious voice: "Land, land! Land ho-oo!" But Martin-Danny hardly heard the words. Pietro came at him- Suddenly Don Hernan was in front of him. Don Hernan's hand nipped up and then down and a knife arced toward Danny. He caught it by the haft, swung to face the giant. But, he thought, I don't know how to use a knife. I'm Danny Jones, I ...
Pietro leaped, the knife down, held loosely at his side, underhanded, ready to slash and rip. Danny sidestepped and Pietro went by in a rush. Danny waited.
Pietro came back carefully this time, crouching, balanced easily on the balls of his feet. For all his size, he fought with the grace of a dancer.
Danny felt warm wetness where the blood was seeping from his ribs. Feet pounded as more of the crew came on deck in response to the watch's delirious words. Instead of crowding at the prow, though, they formed a circle around Danny and Pietro. Danny thought: But I'm the captain. The captain. They ought to help me ... they ... He knew though that they would not. They were a fierce, proud people and the law of single combat would apply even to the captain who had piloted them across an unknown ocean.
Pietro came by, attempting to slash with his knife from outside. Danny moved quickly-not quick enough. The knife point caught his arm this time. He felt his hand go numb. His own knife clattered to the deck as blood oozed from his biceps.
Once more Pietro charged him. Weaponless, Danny waited. Pietro was laughing, sure of himself- Careless.
Danny slipped aside as Pietro brought the knife around in a wicked swipe. He spun with it and when he came around Danny was waiting for him. He drove his left fist into the great belly and his right to the big, bearded jaw. Pietro slumped, disbelief in his eyes. He swung the knife again but only succeeded in wrapping his giant arm around Danny. He bent his head, shook it to clear it of the sting of Danny's blows. And Danny rabbit-punched him.
Pietro went down heavily and someone shouted. "The face! Kick him in the face!"
Wearily, Danny shook his head. He went with Nina to the rail and saw the green palm-fringed island of the New World. Nina smiled at him, then ripped something from what she was wearing and began to bandage his ribs, his arm.
They heard a splash. Danny looked around, saw Don Hernan and a member of the crew gazing serenely down. Pietro was down there, where they had tossed him. For a while the body floated, then the limbs splashed wildly as Pietro regained consciousness. He drifted back away from the ship. He went under, and came up. He went under again, and stayed under....
"The Indies," Nina said.
"The Indies," Danny said. He did not make the distinction between east and west. They must learn for themselves.
The Pinta and the Santa Maria came up alongside. All thoughts of pursuit were gone. Columbus waved. He was very close now on the deck of the Santa Maria. There was something in his face, something changed. Columbus was a new man now. He had been shamed. He had followed his daughter and Martin Pinzon across an unknown ocean and he was changed now. Somehow, Danny knew he could now make voyages on his own.
"Martin," Nina whispered. "They may say it was father. But it was you. I'll know in my heart, it was you."
Danny nodded. She put her arm around his shoulder, and kissed him. He liked this slim girl-he liked her immensely, and it wasn't right. She wasn't his, not really. She was Martin Pinzon's. He let the Spaniard come to the surface, willed his own mind back and down and away. She's all yours, Pinzon, he told the other mind in his body. She-and this world. I'm a-stranger here.
But once more he kissed Nina, fiercely, with passion and longing.
"Goodbye, my darling," he said.
He let Martin Pinzon take it from there. "Hello," said Martin Pinzon. "I mean, hello forever, darling."
She laughed. "Goodbye to your bachelorhood, you mean."
"Yes," he said. "Yes."
But it was Martin Pinzon talking now. Completely Martin Pinzon.
He was back in his grand-uncle's basement. He was in the trunk and he felt stiff. Mostly, his right arm and the right ribs felt stiff. He felt his shirt. It was caked with blood.
Proof, he thought. If I needed proof. What happened to Pinzon happened to me.
He stood up. He felt weak, but knew he would be all right. He knew about Columbus now. At first, a weak drunkard. But after the first voyage, thanks to Martin Pinzon and Nina, an intrepid voyager. For history said Columbus would make four voyages to the New World-and four he would make.