Story of Sir Francis Drake - Mrs. O. Elton

Round the World (Continued)

On the 20th of August the three ships entered the Straits of Magellan. Before the "high and steep grey cliffs, fun of black stars," of Cape Virgins, at the entrance against which the beating seas looked like whales spouting, the fleet did homage to the Queen. The name of the Pelican  also was changed to the Golden Hind  in remembrance of Drake's "friend and favourer, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden hind. In sixteen days they reached the "South Sea," Drake himself having rowed on ahead of the fleet with some of his gentlemen to find out the passage. He had meant to land, and leave "a monument of her Majesty graven in metal," which he had brought with him for that purpose, but there was no anchoring, as the wind did not let them stay; for a fearful storm arose and separated the ships, and threatened to send them all to the bottom of the sea. The Marigold, indeed, went down with all hands and the Elizabeth, "partly by the negligence of those that had charge of her, partly through a kind of desire that some in her had to be out of all those troubles and to be at home again, returned back the same way by which they came forward, and so coasting Brazil, they arrived in England on June 2nd the year following." So that now, as the story quaintly says, the other ship, if she had been still called the Pelican, would indeed have been a pelican alone in the wilderness. Never did they think there had been such a storm "since Noah's Flood," for it lasted fifty-two days. The ship was driven south of the continent of America. At this time it was generally believed that another great continent stretched to the south of the Straits, which was called the unknown land, "wherein many strange monsters lived." And now, when Drake had discovered this idea to be false, their troubles ended for the time, the storm ceased, but they were in great grief for the loss of their friends, and still hoped to meet the missing ships again.

They sailed northwards of America till they landed on an island to get water. Here they were treacherously attacked by Indians, who took them to be the hated Spaniards. The nine persons who were in the boat were all wounded, and Drake's faithful servant, Diego the negro, died of his wounds, and one other. Drake himself was shot the face under the right eye, and badly wounded in the head. They were in the worst case, because the chief doctor was dead, and the other in the Elizabeth. There was none left them but a boy, "whose goodwill was more than any skill he had." But owing to Drake's advice, and "the putting to of every man's help," all were cured in the end.

They sailed on, and having picked up a friendly Indian who served as a pilot, they reached the harbour of Valparaiso. A ship which was lying in the harbor was seized, and then the town and the Spaniards discovered that Drake had reached the shores of the Pacific. On the coast the ship was trimmed and the pinnace put together, in which Drake himself set out to search the creeks and inlets where the ship could not sail. Grief for the absence of their friends still remained with them. Still searching for the lost ships, they sailed northwards on to Lima, where they got the news that a great Spanish ship had sailed from there a fortnight before, laden with treasure. Drake at once gave chase, hoping to take her before she reached Panama. The first man who sighted her was promised a chain of gold. The ship was overtaken and captured off Cape San Francisco. She was "the great glory of the South Sea," and laden with gold, silver, plate, and jewels, all of which the English took. After six days the Spanish ship was dismissed, "somewhat lighter than before," to Panama. To the master of the ship, Saint Juan de Anton, he gave a letter to protect him if he fell in with the missing English ships.

"Master Winter," it says, "if it pleaseth God that you should chance to meet with this ship of Saint 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 of Saint Juan de Anton, I pray you pay them double the value for it, which I will satisfy again, and command your men not to do any hurt; desiring 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 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

The next prizes captured yielded treasure of a different kind, though equally precious. These were some charts with sailing directions, taken from two China pilots. The owner of the next large Spanish ship captured by Drake has left an interesting account of him.

He says that "the English General is the same who took Nombre de Dios five years ago. He is a cousin of John Hawkins, and his name is Francis Drake. He is about thirty-five years of age, of small size, with a reddish beard, and is one of the greatest sailors that exist, both from this skill and his power of commanding. His ship is of near four hundred tons, sails well, and has a hundred men all in the prime of life, and as well trained for war as if they had been old soldiers of Italy. Each one is specially careful to keep his arms clean. He treats them with affection and they him with respect. He has with him nine or ten gentlemen, younger sons of the leading men in England, who form his council. He calls them together on every occasion and hears what they have to say, but he is not bound by their advice, though he may be guided by it. He has no privacy; those of whom I speak all dine at his table, as well as a Portuguese pilot whom he has brought from England, but who never spoke a word while I was on board. The service is of silver, richly gilt, and engraved with his arms. He has, too, all possible luxuries, even to perfumes, many of which he told me were given him by the Queen. None of these gentlemen sits down or puts on his hat in his presence without repeated permission. He dines and sups to the music of violins. His ship carries thirty large guns and a great quantity of ammunition, as well as craftsmen who can do necessary repairs. He has two artists who portray the coast in his own colours, a thing which troubled me much to see, because everything is put so naturally that any one following him will have no difficulty."

Drake wished to find his way home by the north of America into the Atlantic. Out in this he was not successful, for the weather was very severe, and tried the men too much; meanwhile, they found a convenient haven in a little bay above the harbour of San Francisco, and now known as "Drake's Bay." Here they stayed a month, repairing a leak in the ship and refreshing the men. They then set sail, and saw nothing but air and sea for sixty-eight days, till they reached some islands. These they named the "Islands of Thieves," on account of the behaviour of the natives. In November they came to the islands of the Moluccas, where Drake had a splendid reception.

They then sailed on till they arrived at a little island, which they called the "Island of Crabs." Here they pitched their tents, and set up forges to repair the ironwork of the ship and the iron-hooped casks. Those that were sickly soon grew well and strong in this happy island.

On the 9th of January the ship ran aground on a dangerous shoal, and struck twice on it; "knocking twice at the door of death, which no doubt had opened the third time."

Nothing but instant death was expected, and the whole ship's company fell to praying. As soon as the prayers were said, Drake spoke to the men, telling them how they must think of their souls, and speaking of the Joys of heaven "with comfortable speeches." But he also encouraged them to bestir themselves, and he himself set the example, and got the pumps to work, and freed the ship of water. The ship was fast upon "hard and pinching rocks, and did tell us plain she expected continually her speedy despatch as soon as the sea and winds should come . . . so that if we stay with her we must perish with her." The other plan, of leaving her for the pinnace, seemed to them "worse than a thousand deaths."

After taking the Communion and listening to a sermon, they eased the ship by casting goods into the sea—"three ton of cloves, eight big guns, and certain meal and beans"; making, as an old writer says, a kind of gruel of the sea round about. After they had been in this state from eight o'clock at night till four o'clock next afternoon, all in a moment the wind changed, and "the happy gale drove them off the rocks again, and made of them glad men."

The rest of the homeward voyage was less adventurous, and on the 18th of June they passed the Cape of Good Hope, "a most stately thing, and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth."

On the 26th of September they "safely, and with joyful minds and thankful hearts, arrived at Plymouth, having been away three years."