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Francis Drake, the Scourge of Spain. page 2

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For already, when Drake came to them, and in a few cheery words heartened them, they smiled the smile of hope, and were ready to do his bidding.

"Now, boys, cheer up! See ye not how God hath sent a heavy storm to help us? What are those things drifting down with the current? are they not big trees sent to help us home, boys? Come, let us make a raft; we will reach our ships long before the lazy Spaniards have made up their minds how to catch us. This is no time to fear, but rather to haste, and prevent that which is feared. The raft, boys, the raft! quick! to stay the tree-trunks."

In a very short time they had caught and harnessed the drifting trunks - one Englishman and two Frenchmen joined Drake upon the raft. They had a biscuit-bag for a sail arid a slender tree for a rudder, and as they pushed off into the stream, Drake waved his hat and shouted cheerily:

"If it please God that I shall ever set foot aboard my frigate in safety, I will by one means or another get you all aboard, in despite of all the Spaniards in the Indies."

As they reached the bar, every wave came surging up to their arm-pits as they sat and held on like grim death. Then when they lost the current and tried to row with extemporised oars, the hot sun and the salt sea parched them, and the toil for six long hours wearied them, till hope sank very low.

Then all of a sudden Drake stopped rowing and shaded his eyes with his hand: "See, lads! there be our pinnaces bearing straight for us - all fear is over now; we are saved by the mercy of God."

But the pinnaces had not seen the raft, and soon disappeared behind a headland, making for their night's quarters.

There was a great surf raging along the shore, but Drake steered the raft straight through it; so, soused and bruised and tumbled, they came merrily ashore.

The crews stood up to receive four shipwrecked, ragged strangers - heathen perhaps! But when one of them hailed them in the tones they knew so well, they were horrified! Their great captain reduced to this scant following!

Then came explanations, and when they pleaded the storm which had swept the pinnaces away, Drake forgave them, and pulling a quoit of gold from his bosom he said, "Give thanks to God, our voyage is made!"

So it was; for they soon picked up the others and all the booty, and Drake made sail for home, running in close at Cartagena with the flag of St. George waving a mad defiance at his mast-head, and all his silken pennants and floating ensigns bidding the Spaniards a farewell in pure devilry of mocking fun.

But before they left the coast they had to set ashore their Maroon friends. Pedro, their chief, had taken a fancy to Drake's sword, and Drake gave it to him gladly; then Pedro desired him to accept four wedges of gold, which he did with all courtesy, and the allies parted in great good-humour.

The voyage home was so prosperous that in twenty-three days they sailed from Cape Florida to the Scilly Isles. It was Sunday, August 9, 1573, when they sailed into Plymouth harbour, making the echoes speak to the thunder of their salute. Folk were in church at the time, and to the dismay of the preacher the congregation jumped up and ran out to see what was toward, so that "there remained few or no people with the preacher."

"'Tis Master Francis Drake come home at last!" All Plymouth went down to the water's edge to greet their special hero - Drake of Devon!

But Francis Drake had not arrived at a happy moment for himself. Alva had been offering good terms, and the Queen was surrounded just then by friends of Spain. Drake's position was one of danger; he might possibly be given up to Philip as a mere pirate who had not the Queen's sanction. So he took his ship round to Queenstown and hid in "Drake's Pool."

Time went on, and still politics made his life dangerous; so Drake with a letter of introduction from Hawkins joined Essex in Ireland. It was a very cruel and heartless war, even against women and children; and from what we have seen of Drake's chivalry to women, it must have been most loathsome to his great soul. However, when he returned to London things had changed; this time the Queen was very angry with Philip, and she sent Walsingham to seek out Drake. The Queen was very gracious, and said she wanted Drake to help her against the King of Spain. How his heart must have leapt up with a new hope; but the wind of policy veered again, and nothing came of the interview at first. Still, it was something to have been introduced to the Queen by Sir Christopher Hatton; and when that lady gave Drake a sword and said, "We do account that he which striketh at thee, Drake, striketh at us," he must have felt a proud man.

A man so frank and open as Francis Drake was, must have found it difficult to follow the shifts and turns of policy. The Queen would not openly give her sanction to a new expedition, but she secretly aided the enterprise; and Sir John Hawkins and many others subscribed.

Drake was to sail in the Pelican, 100 tons; Captain Winter in the Elizabeth, of 80. There were also the Marygold, the Loan, and the Christopher, a pinnace, of 15 tons. The crews, officers and gentlemen, amounted to some two hundred.

They sailed from Plymouth on the 15th of November 1577, but a terrible storm off Falmouth obliged them to put back. They started afresh on the 13th of December, and were to meet at Mogadore, on the coast of Barbary. It seems that Burghley did not approve of Drake's bold venture, and had sent Thomas Doughtie, with secret orders to do what he could to limit the risks and scope of the expedition. Doughtie was a personal friend of Drake, and it was some time before Sir Francis found out what Doughtie was doing - such as tampering with the men and trying to lessen Drake's influence. When they were near the equator, Drake, being very careful of his men's health, let every man's blood with his own hands.

In February they made the coast of Brazil, without losing touch of one another. Here they landed and saw "great store of large and mighty deer." They also found places for drying the flesh of the nandu, or American ostrich, whose thighs were as large as "reasonable legs of mutton." Further south they stored seal-flesh, having slain over two hundred in the space of an hour! The natives whom they saw were naked, saving only that they wore the skin of some beast about their waist., They carried bows an ell long, and two arrows, and were painted white on one side and black on the other.

They were a tall, merry race; delighted in the sound of the trumpet, and danced with the sailors. One of them, seeing the men take their morning draught, took a glass of strong Canary wine and tossed it off; but it immediately went to his head, and he fell on his back. However, the savage took such a liking to the draught that he used to come down from the hills every morning, bellowing "Wine! wine!"

A few days later there was a scuffle at Port Julian with the natives, and Robert Winter was killed. But a greater tragedy was impending.

Sixty years before, Magellan had crushed a mutiny on this spot, and the old fir-posts that formed the gallows still stood out on the windy headland.

For some months now Drake had been harassed by mutinous conduct, and all the evidence pointed to his old friend Doughtie being at the bottom of it. One day Drake, in a sudden burst of wrath, had ordered Doughtie to be chained to the mast. Yet, as the ships rode south into the cold winds, the crews murmured more savagely. Doughtie and his friends were demoralising Captain John Winter's ship. Something must be done, and done quickly, if the expedition was not to fail.

On the last day of June the crews were ordered ashore. There, hard by Magellan's gallows, an English jury or court-martial, with Winter as president, was set to try Doughtie for treason and mutiny. The court, after much wrangling, found the prisoner " Not guilty." But Doughtie in the midst of the trial had boasted that he had betrayed the Queen's secret to Burghley. Thereat Drake took his men down to the shore and told them all how the Queen's consent had been privately given, and how Doughtie had done his best to overthrow their enterprise.

"They that think this man worthy of death," he shouted, "let them with me hold up their hands." As he spoke almost every man's hand went up.

"Thomas Doughtie, seeing no remedy but patience for himself, desired before his death to receive the communion, which he did at the hands of Master Fletcher, our minister, and our general himself accompanied him in that holy action." Then in quiet sort, after taking leave of all the company, Doughtie laid his head on the block and ended his life. Then Drake addressed his men. He forgave John Doughtie, but said all discords must cease, and the gentleman must haul and draw with the mariner. From that moment discipline was established, and there were no more quarrels.

The Pelican, the Elizabeth, and the Marygold, the only ships that remained, now set sail, and on August 20,1578, hove to before the Straits of Magellan. It was here that Drake changed the name of his ship to the Golden Hind, perhaps in compliment to his friend Sir Christopher Hatton, who bore it in his arms.

So rapid was the passage through the Straits that in a fortnight they had reached the Pacific. Drake's intention was to steer north and get out of the nipping cold, but a gale from the north-east came on and lasted three weeks, when the Marygold went down, and Winter, after waiting a month for Drake within the Straits, went home. Drake in the Golden Hind was swept south of Cape Horn, "where the Atlantic Ocean and the South Sea meet in a large and free scope."

Drake went ashore, and leaning over a promontory, amused himself by thinking that he had been further south than any man living.

After anchoring for some time in southern islands, Drake sailed north, and finding an Indian pilot, steered for Valparaiso.

In the harbour lay a Spanish ship waiting for a wind to carry them to Panama with their cargo of gold and wine of Chili. When the lazy crew saw a sail appearing, they made ready to welcome the newcomers with a pipe of wine, and beat a drum as a merry salute.

No foreign ship had ever been seen on those western coasts; they had no thought of danger, when a boat drew alongside, and Thomas Moon clambered up and shouted, "Abaxo perro!" ("Down! you dog!"), and began to lay about him lustily.

The eight Spaniards and three negroes on board were soon safely secured under hatches; then they rifled the little town, and took the prize out to sea for more leisurely search: 1770 jars of Chili wine and 60,000 pieces of gold and some pearls rewarded their efforts. Drake now wished to sack Lima and find Winter. Meanwhile he tarried in a hidden bay for a month, and refreshed his men in a delightful climate.

Then they proceeded slowly along the coast. One day while looking for water they came upon a Spaniard lying asleep with thirteen bars of silver by his side. "Excuse us, sir, but we could not really allow you to burden yourself with all this." Several merry raids of this sort kept the men jolly and in good temper. Leisurely though the Golden Hind was sailing northwards, no news had come to Lima of the English rover being on the sea.

A Portuguese piloted Drake into the harbour of Callao after nightfall, "sailing in between all the ships that lay there, seventeen in number." These they rifled, and heard that a ship, the Cacafuego, laden with silver, had just sailed. As they were getting ready to follow, a ship from Panama entered the harbour and anchored close by the Golden Hind. A customhouse boat put off and hailed them, and a Spaniard was in the act of mounting the steps when he saw a big gun mouthing at him. He was over the side in a moment and in his boat crying the alarm! The Panama vessel cut her cable and put to sea, but the Golden Hind followed in pursuit and soon caught her.

In the next few days, as they were following the Cacafuego, they made a few prizes, which pleased the men vastly; and after crossing the line on 24th February, saw the Cacafuego about four leagues ahead of them.

The Spanish captain slowed down for a chat, as he supposed; but when Drake hailed them to strike, they refused. " So with a great piece he shot her mast overboard, and having wounded the master with an arrow, the ship yielded."

Four days they lay beside her transferring the cargo - gold, silver, and precious stones - so that the Golden Hindwas now ballasted with silver.

The whole value was estimated at 360,000 pieces of gold. Drake gave the captain a letter of safe conduct in case he should meet his other ships.

"Master Wynter, if it pleaseth God that you should chance to meet with this ship of Senor Juan de Anton, I pray you use him well, according to my word and promise given unto them; and if you want anything that is in this ship, I pray you pay them double the value of it, which I will satisfy again; command your men not to do her any hurt.... I desire you, for the passion of Christ, if you fall into any danger, that you will not despair of God's mercy, for He will defend you and preserve you from all danger, and bring us to our desired haven: to whom be all honour, glory, and praise, for ever and ever. Amen. - Your sorrowful captain, whose heart is heavy for you, Francis Drake."

We are told that Robin Hood liked to attend mass every morning, but even he does not astonish us by his piety so much as this "great dragon" of the seas. No doubt it was all genuine, and he believed he was only doing his duty when he robbed King Philip's ships, and thereby weakened his power for persecuting those who did not agree with him in his religious views.

"They that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

Francis Drake felt himself commissioned by a greater than Queen Elizabeth. "I am the man I have promised to be, beseeching God, the Saviour of all the world, to have us in His keeping" - so he writes in his letter to Winter.

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