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The Story of Sir Francis Drake by  Mrs. Oliver Elton


 

 

NOMBRE DE DIOS

[15] IT was in January 1569 that the "troublesome voyage "ended for Drake, and in the summer of that year he married a Devonshire girl, named Mary Newman. The stories of his most famous voyages are found in an old book, called "Sir Francis Drake Revived." This was first printed by his descendant, another Sir Francis Drake, in the reign of Charles the First. It was written by some of the voyagers, and it is thought that Drake himself wrote part of it and corrected it. It is supposed that Drake presented the manuscript to Queen Elizabeth, for he dedicates it to her as the "first fruits" of, his pen. He also says that his labours by land and sea were not more troublesome than the writing of it.

After his losses and misfortunes in the Indies, it seems that Drake could get no [16] amends from Spain, though he had lost both kinsmen, friends, and goods of some value. Queen Elizabeth could not think of making war with Philip. Her country was poor, her father's navy was ruined. She had no proper army, and she had trouble enough on her hands in France and Scotland.

Therefore Drake decided to help himself in what he was pleased to call his quarrel with the King of Spain. The old writer says that the story of his life shows how "so mean a person righted himself upon so mighty a prince. The one was in his own conceit the mightiest monarch in the world, the other only an English captain."

Drake now made two voyages that really prepared the way for his great and famous one to Nombre de Dios. He probably paid his expenses by plundering ships or selling slaves. On the 24th day of May 1572, Drake started with his ship, the Pascha  of Plymouth, and the Swan  of Plymouth, in which his brother, John Drake, was captain. They had on board seventy-three men and boys. All of these came willingly, and had not been pressed, or compelled to serve, as the custom then was.

[17] Drake's ships had a very good passage, and never stopped till they reached one of the West Indian Islands, in twenty-five days. Here they stayed three days to refresh the men, and to water the ships. The third day they set sail for the continent. They steered for a bay named formerly by them Port Pheasant. It was a fine, safe harbour. As they rowed ashore in one boat, smoke was seen in the woods. Drake manned and armed the other boats.

When they landed, it was found that a certain Englishman, called John Garret, of Plymouth, had lately been there. Some mariners who had been with Drake in his other voyages had shown him the place.

Garret had left a plate of lead, nailed fast to a mighty, great tree, on which these words were engraved:—

"CAPTAIN DRAKE.

"If you happen to come to this port, make haste away! for the Spaniards which you had with you here, the last year, have betrayed this place, and taken away all you left here. I depart from hence this present day of July, 1572.—Your very loving friend,
JOHN GARRETS

[18] The smoke came from a fire which Garret and his company had made before they went. It had been burning for at least five days before Drake's arrival. Drake had brought with him "three dainty pinnaces," made in Plymouth, and stored on board ship in pieces. He intended to put them together in this place. So the ships were anchored, and the place simply but strongly fortified with great logs.

Next day an English boat appeared. The captain was James Rance, and he had thirty men, some of whom had been with Drake the year before. They brought with them a Spanish caravel, or merchant ship, which they had taken the day before, and a pinnace. They joined Drake's expedition. In seven days the pinnaces' were set up and furnished out of the ships. Some negroes on a neighbouring island told them that the townsfolk of Nombre de Dios were in great fear of the Cimaroons, or "Maroons," as our sailors called them. They had attacked the town of Nombre de Dios, and the Governor of Panama was to send soldiers to defend it. These were negroes who had fled some eighty years before from the cruelty of the Spaniards. [19] They had married Indian women, and had grown into a strong fighting tribe, who had two kings of their own, and lived one on the east, and one on the west, of the road from Nombre de Dios to Panama. This was the road by which all the gold and silver from the mines of Peru was sent to the port of Nombre de Dios, to be shipped for Spain. It was carried by trains of mules.

Drake hastened his plans. Three ships and the caravel  were left with Captain Rance. He chose seventy-three men, for the three pinnaces (the fourth was that taken by Captain Rance), took plenty of arms, and two drums and a trumpet. The men were drilled and given their weapons and arms, which had been kept up till then "very fair and safe in good casks." Drake encouraged them to the attack. In the afternoon they set sail for Nombre de Dios, and were very near before sunset. They lay there under the shore, out of sight of the watch, till dark. Then they rowed near shore as quietly as possible, and waited for the dawn.

But Drake found the men were getting nervous, so when the moon rose "he thought it best to persuade them it was [20] day dawning," and the men had not time to get afraid, for they got there at three in the morning. They landed with no difficulty. But the noise of bells and drums and shouting soon told them that the town was awake and alarmed. Twelve men were left to keep the pinnaces and ensure a safe retreat. Drake's brother, with John Oxenham and sixteen other men, went round behind the King's Treasure-house, and entered the eastern end of the market-place. Drake, with the rest, passed up the broad street into the market-place, with sound of drum and trumpets. They used fire-pikes, or long poles with metal points, to which torches of blazing tow were fastened, and served both to frighten the enemy and to light Drake's men, who could see quite well by them. The terrified townsfolk imagined an army was marching upon them.

After a sharp fight in the market-place the Spaniards fled. Two or three of them were captured, and commanded to show Drake the Governor's house. But he found that only silver was kept there; gold, pearls, and jewels being carried to the King's Treasure-house, not far off.

[21] "This house was very strongly built of lime and stone for safe keeping of the treasure. At the Governor's house we found the great door open where the mules are generally unladen. A candle stood lighted on the top of the stairs, and a fair horse was saddled ready for the Governor himself, or for one of his household. By this light we saw a huge heap of silver in the lower room. It was a pile of bars of silver.

"At this sight our Captain commanded straightly that none of us should touch a bar of silver. We must stand to our weapons, because the town was full of people. There was in the King's Treasure-house, near the waterside, more gold and jewels than all our pinnaces could carry. This we could presently try to break open, though they thought it so strong.

"But now a report was brought by some of our men that our pinnaces were in danger to be taken, and that we had better get aboard before day. This report was learnt through a negro named Diego, who had begged to be taken on board our ships when we first came. Our Captain sent his brother and John Oxenham to [22] learn the truth. They found the men much frightened, for they saw great troops of armed townsfolk and soldiers running up and down. Presently, too, a mighty shower of rain fell, with a terrible storm of thunder and lightning. It came down violently, as it does in these countries. Before we could reach the shelter at the western end of the King's Treasure-house, some of our bowstrings were wet, and some of our match and powder hurt.

"Our men began to mutter about the forces of the town. But our Captain, hearing, told them: 'He had brought them to the mouth of the treasure of the world; if they went without it, they might blame nobody but themselves afterwards.'

"So soon as the fury of the storm was spent, he gave his men no time to consider their doubts, nor the enemy no time to gather themselves together. He stepped forward and commanded his brother and John Oxenham to break the King's Treasure-house. The rest, with him, were to hold the market-place till the business was done.


[Illustration]

DRAKE WOUNDED AT NOMBRE DE DIOS.

"But as he stepped forward his strength and sight and speech failed him, and he [23] began to faint for loss of blood. And we saw it had flowed in great quantities upon the sand out of a wound in his leg. He had got it in the first encounter, but though he felt some pain he would not make it known till he fainted, and so be. frayed it against his will. He saw that some of the men, having already got many good things, would seize any chance to escape further danger. But the blood that filled our very footprints greatly dismayed our company, who could not believe that one man could lose so much blood, and live.

"Even those who were willing to risk more for so good a booty would in no case risk their Captain's life. So they gave him something to drink to recover him, and bound his scarf about his leg to stop the blood. They also entreated him to be content to go aboard with them, there to have his wound searched and dressed, and then to return on shore again if he thought good.

"This they could by no means persuade him to, so they joined force with fair entreaty, and bore him aboard his pinnace. Thus they gave up a rich spoil only to save [24] their Captain's life, being sure that, while they enjoyed his presence and had him to command them, they might recover enough of wealth. But if once they lost him they should hardly be able to get home again. No, nor keep that they had got already. Thus we embarked by break of day, having besides our Captain, many of our men wounded, though none slain but one trumpeter. And though our surgeons were kept busy in providing remedies and salves for their wounds, yet the main care of the Captain was respected by all the rest.

"Before we left the harbour, we took with little trouble the ship of wine for the greater comfort of our company. And though they shot at us from the town we carried our prize to the Isle of Victuals. Here we cured our wounded men, and refreshed ourselves in the goodly gardens which we found there abounding with great store of dainty roots and fruit. There was also great plenty of poultry and other fowls, no less strange than delicate."


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