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failed them he offered the _Marigold_. 'But let them go homeward; for
if I find them in my way, I will surely sink them.' Not a man stepped
forward. Then, turning to the officers, he discharged every one of them
for re-appointment at his pleasure. Next, he made the worst offenders,
the 'craftie lawyer' included, step to the front for reprimand. Finally,
producing the Queen's commission, he ended by a ringing appeal to their
united patriotism. 'We have set by the ears three mighty Princes [the
sovereigns of England, Spain, and Portugal]; and if this voyage should
not have success we should not only be a scorning unto our enemies but a
blot on our country for ever. What triumph would it not be for Spain and
Portugal! The like of this would never more be tried.' Then he gave back
every man his rank again, explaining that he and they were all servants
of Her Majesty together. With this the men marched off, loyal and
obedient, to their tents.

Next week Drake sailed for the much dreaded Straits, before entering
which he changed the _Pelican's_ name to the _Golden Hind_, which was
the crest of Sir Christopher Hatton, one of the chief promoters of the
enterprise and also one of Doughty's patrons. Then every vessel struck
her topsail to the bunt in honor of the Queen as well as to show that
all discoveries and captures were to be made in her sole name. Seventeen
days of appalling dangers saw them through the Straits, where icy
squalls came rushing down from every quarter of the baffling channels.
But the Pacific was still worse. For no less than fifty-two consecutive
days a furious gale kept driving them about like so many bits of
driftwood. 'The like of it no traveller hath felt, neither hath there
ever been such a tempest since Noah's flood.' The little English vessels
fought for their very lives in that devouring hell of waters, the
loneliest and most stupendous in the world. The _Marigold_ went down
with all hands, and Parson Fletcher, who heard their dying call, thought
it was a judgment. At last the gale abated near Cape Horn, where Drake
landed with a compass, while Parson Fletcher set up a stone engraved
with the Queen's name and the date of the discovery.

Deceived by the false trend of the coast shown on the Spanish charts
Drake went a long way northwest from Cape Horn. Then he struck in
northeast and picked up the Chilean Islands. It was December, 1578; but
not a word of warning had reached the Spanish Pacific when Drake stood
in to Valparaiso. Seeing a sail, the crew of the _Grand Captain of the
South_ got up a cask of wine and beat a welcome on their drums. In the
twinkling of an eye gigantic Tom Moone was over the side at the head of
a party of boarders who laid about them with a will and soon drove the
Spaniards below. Half a million dollars' worth of gold and jewels was
taken with this prize.

Drake then found a place in Salado Bay where he could clean the _Golden
Hind_ while the pinnace ranged south to look for the other ships that
had parted company during the two months' storm. These were never found,
the _Elizabeth_ and the _Swan_ having gone home after parting company in
the storm that sank the _Marigold_. After a prolonged search the _Golden
Hind_ stood north again. Meanwhile the astounding news of her arrival
was spreading dismay all over the coast, where the old Spanish
governor's plans were totally upset. The Indians had just been defeated
when this strange ship came sailing in from nowhere, to the utter
confusion of their enemies. The governor died of vexation, and all the
Spanish authorities were nearly worried to death. They had never dreamt
of such an invasion. Their crews were small, their lumbering vessels
very lightly armed, their towns unfortified.

But Drake went faster by sea than their news by land. Every vessel was
overhauled, taken, searched, emptied of its treasure, and then sent back
with its crew and passengers at liberty. One day a watering party
chanced upon a Spaniard from Potosi fast asleep with thirteen bars of
silver by him. The bars were lifted quietly and the Spaniard left
sleeping peacefully. Another Spaniard suddenly came round a corner with
half a ton of silver on eight llamas. The Indians came off to trade; and
Drake, as usual, made friends with them at once. He had already been
attacked by other Indians on both coasts. But this was because the
unknown English had been mistaken for the hated Spaniards.

As he neared Lima, Drake quickened his pace lest the great annual
treasure ship of 1579 should get wind of what was wrong. A minor
treasure ship was found to have been cleared of all her silver just in
time to balk him. So he set every stitch of canvas she possessed and
left her driving out to sea with two other empty prizes. Then he stole
into Lima after dark and came to anchor surrounded by Spanish vessels
not one of which had set a watch. They were found nearly empty. But a
ship from Panama looked promising; so the pinnace started after her, but
was fired on and an Englishman was killed. Drake then followed her,
after cutting every cable in the harbor, which soon became a pandemonium
of vessels gone adrift. The Panama ship had nothing of great value
except her news, which was that the great treasure ship _Nuestra Señora
de la Concepcion_, 'the chiefest glory of the whole South Sea,' was on
her way to Panama.

She had a very long start; and, as ill luck would have it, Drake got
becalmed outside Callao, where the bells rang out in wild alarm. The
news had spread inland and the Viceroy of Peru came hurrying down with
all the troops that he could muster. Finding from some arrows that the
strangers were Englishmen, he put four hundred soldiers into the only
two vessels that had escaped the general wreck produced by Drake's
cutting of the cables. When Drake saw the two pursuing craft, he took
back his prize crew from the Panama vessel, into which he put his
prisoners. Meanwhile a breeze sprang up and he soon drew far ahead. The
Spanish soldiers overhauled the Panama prize and gladly gave up the
pursuit. They had no guns of any size with which to; fight the _Golden
Hind_, and most of them were so sea-sick from the heaving ground-swell
that they couldn't have boarded her in any case.

Three more prizes were then taken by the swift _Golden Hind_. Each one
had news which showed that Drake was closing on the chase. Another week
passed with every stitch of canvas set. A fourth prize, taken off Cape
San Francisco, said that the treasure ship was only one day ahead. But
she was getting near to Panama; so every nerve was strained anew.
Presently Jack Drake, the Captain's page, yelled out _Sail-ho!_ and
scrambled down the mainmast to get the golden chain that Drake had
promised to the first lookout who saw the chase. It was ticklish work,
so near to Panama; and local winds might ruin all. So Drake, in order
not to frighten her, trailed a dozen big empty wine jars over the stern
to moderate his pace. At eight o'clock the jars were cut adrift and the
_Golden Hind_ sprang forward with the evening breeze, her crew at battle
quarters and her decks all cleared for action The chase was called the
'Spitfire' by the Spaniards because she was much better armed than any
other vessel there. But, all the same, her armament was nothing for her
tonnage. The Spaniards trusted to their remoteness for protection; and
that was their undoing.

To every Englishman's amazement the chase was seen to go about and
calmly come to hail the _Golden Hind_, which she mistook for a despatch
vessel sent after her with some message from the Viceroy! Drake, asking
nothing better, ran up alongside as Anton her captain hailed him with a
_Who are you? A ship of Chili!_ answered Drake. Anton looked down on the
stranger's deck to see it full of armed men from whom a roar of triumph
came. _English! strike sail!_ Then Drake's whistle blew sharply and
instant silence followed; on which he hailed Don Anton: - _Strike sail!
Señor Juan de Anton, or I must send you to the bottom! - Come aboard and
do it yourself!_ bravely answered Anton. Drake's whistle blew one shrill
long blast, which loosed a withering volley at less than point-blank
range. Anton tried to bear away and shake off his assailant. But in
vain. The English guns now opened on his masts and rigging. Down came
the mizzen, while a hail of English shot and arrows prevented every
attempt to clear away the wreckage. The dumbfounded Spanish crew ran
below, Don Anton looked overside to port; and there was the English
pinnace, from which forty English boarders were nimbly climbing up his
own ship's side. Resistance was hopeless; so Anton struck and was taken
aboard the _Golden Hind_. There he met Drake, who was already taking off
his armor. 'Accept with patience the usage of war,' said Drake, laying
his hand on Anton's shoulder.

For all that night, next day, and the next night following Drake sailed
west with his fabulous prize so as to get well clear of the trade route
along the coast. What the whole treasure was has never been revealed.
But it certainly amounted to the equivalent of many millions at the
present day. Among the official items were: 13 chests of pieces of
eight, 80 lbs. of pure gold, jewels and plate, 26 ton weight of silver,
and sundries unspecified. As the Spanish pilot's son looked over the
rail at this astounding sight, the Englishmen called out to say that his
father was no longer the pilot of the old Spit-_fire_ but of the new

The prisoners were no less gratified than surprised by Drake's kind
treatment. He entertained Don Anton at a banquet, took him all over the
_Golden Hind_, and entrusted him with a message to Don Martin, the
traitor of San Juan de Ulua. This was to say that if Don Martin hanged
any more Englishmen, as he had just hanged Oxenham, he should soon be
given a present of two thousand Spanish heads. Then Drake gave every
Spanish officer and man a personal gift proportioned to his rank, put
all his accumulated prisoners aboard the emptied treasure ship, wished
them a prosperous voyage and better luck next time, furnished the brave
Don Anton with a letter of protection in case he should fall in with an
English vessel, and, after many expressions of goodwill on both sides,
sailed north, the voyage 'made'; while the poor 'spit-silver' treasure
ship turned sadly east and steered for Panama.

Lima, Panama, and Nombre de Dios were in wild commotion at the news; and
every sailor and soldier that the Spaniards had was going to and fro,
uncertain whether to attack or to defend, and still more distracted as
to the most elusive English whereabouts. One good Spanish captain, Don
Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, was all for going north, his instinct telling
him that Drake would not come back among the angry bees after stealing
all the honey. But, by the time the Captain-General of New Spain had
made up his mind to take one of the many wrong directions he had been
thinking of, Drake was already far on his way north to found New Albion.

Drake's triumph over all difficulties had won the hearts of his men more
than ever before, while the capture of the treasure ship had done
nothing to loosen the bonds of discipline. Don Francisco de Zarate wrote
a very intimate account of his experience as a prisoner on board the
_Golden Hind._ 'The English captain is one of the greatest mariners at
sea, alike from his skill and his powers of command. His ship is a very
fast sailer and her men are all skilled hands of warlike age and so well
trained that they might be old soldiers of the Italian tertias,' the
crack corps of the age in Spanish eyes. 'He is served with much plate
and has all possible kinds of delicacies and scents, many of which he
says the Queen of England gave him. None of the gentlemen sit or cover
in his presence without first being ordered to do so. They dine and sup
to the music of violins. His galleon carries about thirty guns and a
great deal of ammunition.' This was in marked contrast to the common
Spanish practice, even on the Atlantic side. The greedy exploiters of
New Spain grudged every ton of armament and every well-trained fighting
sailor, both on account of the expense and because this form of
protection took up room they wished to fill with merchandise. The result
was, of course, that they lost more by capture than they gained by
evading the regulation about the proper armament. 'His ship is not only
of the very latest type but sheathed.' Before copper sheathing was
invented some generations later, the Teredo worm used to honeycomb
unprotected hulls in the most dangerous way. John Hawkins invented the
sheathing used by Drake: a good thick tar-and-hair sheeting clamped on
with elm.

Northwest to Coronado, then to Aguatulco, then fifteen hundred miles due
west, brought Drake about that distance west-by-south of the modern San
Francisco. Here he turned east-north-east and, giving the land a wide
berth, went on to perhaps the latitude of Vancouver Island, always
looking for the reverse way through America by the fabled Northwest
Passage. Either there was the most extraordinary June ever known in
California and Oregon, or else the narratives of those on board have all
been hopelessly confused, for freezing rain is said to have fallen on
the night of June the 3d in the latitude of 42°. In 48° 'there followed
most vile, thick, and stinking fogs' with still more numbing cold. The
meat froze when taken off the fire. The wet rigging turned to icicles.
Six men could hardly do the work of three. Fresh from the tropics, the
crews were unfit for going any farther. A tremendous nor'wester settled
the question, anyway; and Drake ran south to 38° 30', where, in what is
now Drake's Bay, he came to anchor just north of San Francisco.

Not more than once, if ever at all, and that a generation earlier, had
Europeans been in northern California. The Indians took the Englishmen
for gods whom they knew not whether to love or fear. Drake with the
essential kindliness of most, and the magnetic power of all, great born
commanders, soon won the natives' confidence. But their admiration 'as
men ravished in their minds' was rather overpowering; for, after 'a kind
of most lamentable weeping and crying out,' they came forward with
various offerings for the new-found gods, prostrating themselves in
humble adoration and tearing their breasts and faces in a wild desire to
show the spirit of self-sacrifice. Drake and his men, all Protestants,
were horrified at being made what they considered idols. So kneeling
down, they prayed aloud, raising hands and eyes to Heaven, hoping
thereby to show the heathen where the true God lived. Drake then read
the Bible and all the Englishmen sang Psalms, the Indians, 'observing
the end of every pause, with one voice still cried _Oh!_ greatly
rejoicing in our exercises.' As this impromptu service ended the Indians
gave back all the presents Drake had given them and retired in attitudes
of adoration.

In three days more they returned, headed by a Medicine-man, whom the
English called the 'mace-bearer.' With the slow and stately measure of a
mystic dance this great high priest of heathen rites advanced chanting a
sort of litany. Both litany and dance were gradually taken up by tens,
by hundreds, and finally by all the thousands of the devotees, who
addressed Drake with shouts of _Hyoh!_ and invested him with a headdress
of rare plumage and a necklace of quaint beads. It was, in fact, a
native coronation without a soul to doubt the divine right of their new
king. Drake's Protestant scruples were quieted by thinking 'to what good
end God had brought this to pass, and what honour and profit it might
bring to our country in time to come. So, in the name and to the use of
her most excellent Majesty, he took the sceptre, crown, and dignity' and
proclaimed an English protectorate over the land he called New Albion.
He then set up a brass plate commemorating this proclamation, and put an
English coin in the middle so that the Indians might see Elizabeth's
portrait and armorial device.

The exaltation of the ecstatic devotees continued till the day he left.
They crowded in to be cured by the touch of his hand - those were the
times in which the sovereign was expected to cure the King's Evil by a
touch. They also expected to be cured by inhaling the divine breath of
any one among the English gods. The chief narrator adds that the gods
who pleased the Indians most, braves and squaws included, 'were commonly
the youngest of us,' which shows that the human was not quite forgotten
in the all-divine. When the time for sailing came, the devotees were
inconsolable. 'They not only in a sudden did lose all mirth, joy, glad
countenance, pleasant speeches, agility of body, and all pleasure, but,
with sighs and sorrowings, they poured out woefull complayntes and moans
with bitter tears, and wringing of their hands, and tormenting of
themselves.' The last the English saw of them was the whole devoted
tribe assembled on the hill around a sacrificial fire, whence they
implored their gods to bring their heaven back to earth.

From California Drake sailed to the Philippines; and then to the
Moluccas, where the Portuguese had, if such a thing were possible,
outdone even the Spaniards in their fiendish dealings with the natives.
Lopez de Mosquito - viler than his pestilential name - had murdered the
Sultan, who was then his guest, chopped up the body, and thrown it into
the sea. Baber, the Sultan's son, had driven out the Portuguese from the
island of Ternate and was preparing to do likewise from the island of
Tidore, when Drake arrived. Baber then offered Drake, for Queen
Elizabeth, the complete monopoly of the trade in spices if only Drake
would use the _Golden Hind_ as the flagship against the Portuguese.
Drake's reception was full of Oriental state; and Sultan Baber was so
entranced by Drake's musicians that he sat all afternoon among them in a
boat towed by the _Golden Hind_. But it was too great a risk to take a
hand in this new war with only fifty-six men left. So Drake traded for
all the spices he could stow away and concluded a sort of understanding
which formed the sheet anchor of English diplomacy in Eastern seas for
another century to come. Elizabeth was so delighted with this result
that she gave Drake a cup (still at the family seat of Nutwell Court in
Devonshire) engraved with a picture of his reception by the Sultan Baber
of Ternate.

Leaving Ternate, the _Golden Hind_ beat to and fro among the tortuous
and only half-known channels of the Archipelago till the 9th of January,
1580, when she bore away before a roaring trade wind with all sail set
and, so far as Drake could tell, a good clear course for home. But
suddenly, without a moment's warning, there was a most terrific shock.
The gallant ship reared like a stricken charger, plunged forward,
grinding her trembling hull against the rocks, and then lay pounding out
her life upon a reef. Drake and his men at once took in half the
straining sails; then knelt in prayer; then rose to see what could be
done by earthly means. To their dismay there was no holding ground on
which to get an anchor fast and warp the vessel off. The lead could find
no bottom anywhere aft. All night long the _Golden Hind_ remained fast
caught in this insidious death-trap. At dawn Parson Fletcher preached a
sermon and administered the Blessed Sacrament. Then Drake ordered ten
tons overboard - cannon, cloves, and provisions. The tide was now low and
she sewed seven feet, her draught being thirteen and the depth of water
only six. Still she kept an even keel as the reef was to leeward and she
had just sail enough to hold her up. But at high tide in the afternoon
there was a lull and she began to heel over towards the unfathomable
depths. Just then, however, a quiver ran through her from stem to stern;
an extra sail that Drake had ordered up caught what little wind there
was; and, with the last throb of the rising tide, she shook herself free
and took the water as quietly as if her hull was being launched. There
were perils enough to follow: dangers of navigation, the arrival of a
Portuguese fleet that was only just eluded, and all the ordinary risks
of travel in times when what might be called the official guide to
voyagers opened with the ominous advice, _First make thy Will_. But the
greatest had now been safely passed.

Meanwhile all sorts of rumors were rife in Spain, New Spain, and
England. Drake had been hanged. That rumor came from the hanging of John
Oxenham at Lima. The _Golden Hind_ had foundered. That tale was what
Winter, captain of the _Elizabeth_, was not altogether unwilling should
be thought after his own failure to face another great antarctic storm.
He had returned in 1578. News from Peru and Mexico came home in 1579;
but no Drake. So, as 1580 wore on, his friends began to despair, the
Spaniards and Portuguese rejoiced, while Burleigh, with all who found
Drake an inconvenience in their diplomatic way, began to hope that
perhaps the sea had smoothed things over. In August the London merchants
were thrown into consternation by the report of Drake's incredible
captures; for their own merchant fleet was just then off for Spain. They
waited on the Council, who soothed them with the assurance that Drake's
voyage was a purely private venture so far as prizes were concerned.
With this diplomatic quibble they were forced to be content.

But worse was soon to follow. The king of Portugal died. Philip's army
marched on Lisbon immediately, and all the Portuguese possessions were
added to the already overgrown empire of Spain. Worse still, this
annexation gave Philip what he wanted in the way of ships; for Portugal
had more than Spain. The Great Armada was now expected to be formed
against England, unless Elizabeth's miraculous diplomacy could once more
get her clear of the fast-entangling coils. To add to the general
confusion, this was also the year in which the Pope sent his picked
Jesuits to England, and in which Elizabeth was carrying on her last
great international flirtation with ugly, dissipated Francis of Anjou,
brother to the king of France.

Into this imbroglio sailed the _Golden Hind_ with ballast of silver and
cargo of gold. 'Is Her Majesty alive and well?' said Drake to the first
sail outside of Plymouth Sound. 'Ay, ay, she is, my Master,' answered
the skipper of a fishing smack, 'but there's a deal o' sickness here in
Plymouth'; on which Drake, ready for any excuse to stay afloat, came to
anchor in the harbor. His wife, pretty Mary Newman from the banks of
Tavy, took boat to see him, as did the Mayor, whose business was to warn
him to keep quiet till his course was clear. So Drake wrote off to the
Queen and all the Councillors who were on his side. The answer from the
Councillors was not encouraging; so he warped out quietly and anchored
again behind Drake's Island in the Sound. But presently the Queen's own
message came, commanding him to an audience at which, she said, she
would be pleased to view some of the curiosities he had brought from
foreign parts. Straight on that hint he started up to town with spices,
diamonds, pearls, and gold enough to win any woman's pardon and consent.

The audience lasted six hours. Meanwhile the Council sat without any of
Drake's supporters and ordered all the treasure to be impounded in the
Tower. But Leicester, Walsingham, and Hatton, all members of Drake's
syndicate, refused to sign; while Elizabeth herself, the managing
director, suspended the order till her further pleasure should be known.
The Spanish ambassador 'did burn with passion against Drake.' The
Council was distractingly divided. The London merchants trembled for
their fleet. But Elizabeth was determined that the blow to Philip should
hurt him as much as it could without producing an immediate war; while
down among Drake's own West-Countrymen 'the case was clear in sea
divinitie,' as similar cases had often been before. Tremayne, a
Devonshire magistrate and friend of the syndicate, could hardly find
words to express his contentment with Drake, whom he called 'a man of
great government, and that by the rules of God and His Book.'

Elizabeth decided to stand by Drake. She claimed, what was true, that he
had injured no actual place or person of the King of Spain's, nothing
but property afloat, appropriate for reprisals. All England knew the
story of Ulua and approved of reprisals in accordance with the spirit of
the age. And the Queen had a special grievance about Ireland, where the
Spaniards were entrenched in Smerwick, thus adding to the confusion of a

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Online LibraryWilliam WoodElizabethan Sea Dogs → online text (page 7 of 13)