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Days of the Discoverers Part 23

Why?"

"'Cause the pilot o' the _Spit-silver_ he knowed un. He say the plague broke out in the Low Countries, and the old Don took and tended that Gallego servant o' his and then he died--not o' the pestilence--just wore out like. I reckon maybe he told Mus' Drake. I didn't."

Silence fell. Then Will said thoughtfully, "He won't be Mus' Drake much longer--by rights--but you never know what a woman'll do. She keep her presents and her favors for them that ha'n't earned 'em--as a rule."

Moone presently hummed half aloud,

"When I served my master I got my Sunday pudden, When I served the Company I got my bread and cheese.

When I served the Queen I got hanged for a pirate, All along o'sailin' on the Carib Seas!"

It was a reckless jest, for every one knew that if Elizabeth were dead or married to a Catholic or at peace with Spain when they saw England again, it was extremely likely that the gallows would be their reward.

But here, at any rate, was one spot not yet haunted by the Spanish spectre.

The Indians, persuaded at last that the white chief was not a god, insisted on making him their King. They crowned him with a headdress of brilliant feathers, in all due ceremony, hung a chain of beads about his neck, and looked on with the utmost reverence while Drake fixed to a large upright post a tablet claiming the land for the Queen of England, and a silver sixpence with the portrait of Elizabeth and the Tudor rose.

Securely hidden under the tablet in a hollow of the wood were memoranda concerning the direction in which, according to the Indians, gold was to be found in the streams,--plenty of gold. When she was ready to the last rope's end the little ship spread her wings and sailed straight across the Pacific, round the Cape of Good Hope, home to England.

Battered and scarred but still seaworthy the _Golden Hynde_ crept into Plymouth Sound, where Drake heard that the plague was in the seaport.

Using this for excuse not to land until he knew his footing, he anchored behind Saint Nicholas Island and sent letters to Court.

The sea-dogs who patrolled the Narrow Seas in Elizabeth's time understood her better than her courtiers did. To Drake she was still the keen-minded woman who, like the jeweled silent birds he had seen in tropical jungles, sat in her palace, with enemies all about her alert and observant, and ready to seize her if she came within their grasp. He knew her waywardness to be half assumed, since to let an enemy know what he can count on is fatal. He had not much doubt of her action, but he must wait for her to give him his cue.

Within a week came her answer. She demurely suggested that she should be pleased to see any curiosities which her good Captain had brought home.

Drake went up to London, and with him a pack train laden with the cream of his spoil. The Spanish Ambassador Mendoza came with furious letters from Philip demanding the pirate's head. A Spanish force landed that very week in Ireland. Burleigh and the peace party were desperate. All that Mendoza could get out of Elizabeth was an order to Edmund Tremayne at Plymouth to register the cargo of the _Golden Hynde_ and send it up to London that she might see how much the pirate had really taken. At the same time Drake himself went down with her private letter to Tremayne telling him to look another way while her captain got his share of the bullion. Meanwhile she suggested that Philip call his Spaniards out of Ireland. Philip snarled that they were private volunteers.

Elizabeth replied, so was Drake. An inquiry was held, and not a single act of cruelty or destruction of property could be proved against any of Drake's crews. The men were richly rewarded by their Admiral; the _Golden Hynde_ came up to Deptford; a list of the plunder was returned to Mendoza; and London waited, excited and curious.

Out of this diplomatic tangle Elizabeth took her own way, as she usually did. On April 4, 1581, she suggested to Drake that she would be his guest at a banquet on board the little, worm-eaten ship. All the court was there, and a multitude of on-lookers besides, for those were the days when royalty sometimes dined in public. After the banquet, the like of which, as Mendoza wrote his master, had not been seen in England since the time of her father, Elizabeth requested Drake to hand her the sword she had given him before he left England. "The King of Spain demands the head of Captain Drake," she said with a little laugh, "and here am I to strike it off." As Drake knelt at her command she handed the sword to Marchaumont, the envoy of her French suitor, asking that since she was a woman and not trained to the use of weapons, he should give the accolade. This open defiance of Philip thus involved in her action the second Catholic power of Europe before all the world. Then, as Marchaumont gave the three strokes appointed the Queen spoke out clearly, while men thrilled with sudden presage of great days to come,--

"Rise up,--Sir Francis Drake!"

A WATCH-DOG OF ENGLAND

Where the Russian Bear stirs blindly in the leash of a mailed hand, Bright in the frozen sunshine, the domes of Moscow stand,

Scarlet and blue and crimson, blazing across the snow As they did in the Days of Terror, three hundred years ago.

Courtiers bending before him, envoys from near and far, Sat in his Hall of Audience Ivan the Terrible Tsar,

(He of the knout and torture, poison and sword and flame) Yet unafraid before him the English envoy came.

And he was Sir Jeremy Bowes, born of that golden time When in the soil of Conquest blossomed the flower of Rhyme.

Dauntless he fronted the Presence,--and the courtiers whispered low, "Doth Elizabeth send us madmen, to tempt the torture so?"

"Have you heard of that foolhardy Frenchman?" Ivan the Terrible said,-- "He came before me covered,--I nailed his hat to his head."

Then spoke Sir Jeremy Bowes, "I serve the Virgin Queen,-- Little is she accustomed to vail her face, I ween.

"She is Elizabeth Tudor, mighty to bless or to ban, Nor doth her envoy give over at the bidding of any man!

"Call to your Cossacks and hangmen,--do with me what ye please, But ye shall answer to England when the news flies over seas."

Ivan smiled on the envoy,--the courtiers saw that smile, Glancing one at the other, holding their breath the while.

Then spoke the terrible Ivan, "His Queen sits over sea, Yet he hath bid me defiance,--would ye do as much for me?"

XVI

LORDS OF ROANOKE

Primrose garlands in Coombe Wood shone with the pale gold of winter sunshine. Violets among dry leaves peered sedately at the pageant of spring. In the royal hunting forest of Richmond, venerable trees unfolded from their tiny buds canopies like the fairy pavilion of Paribanou.

Philip Armadas and Arthur Barlowe, coming up from Kingston, beheld all this April beauty with the wistful pleasure of those who bid farewell to a dearly beloved land. Within a fortnight Sir Walter Ralegh's two ships, which they commanded, would be out upon the gray Atlantic. The Queen would lie at Richmond this night, and the two young captains had been bidden to court that she might see what manner of men they were.[1]

Armadas, though born in Hull, was the son of a Huguenot refugee. Barlowe was English to the back-bone. Both knew more of the ways of ships than the ways of courts. Yet for all her magnificence and her tempers Elizabeth had a way with her in dealing with practical men. She welcomed merchants, builders, captains and soldiers as frankly as she did Italian scholars or French gallants. Her attention was as keen when she was framing a letter to the Grand Turk securing trade privileges to London or Bristol, as when she listened to the graceful flatteries of Spenser or Lyly. In this year 1584 she had granted a patent to Ralegh for further explorations of the lands north of Florida discovered half a century since by Sebastian Cabot. She heaped upon it rights and privileges which made Hatton and her other court gallants grind their teeth. Ralegh knew well that this was no time for him to be wandering about strange coasts. He was therefore fitting out an expedition to make a preliminary voyage and report to him what was found.

"'T is like this," Armadas was saying with the buoyant confidence which endeared him alike to his patron and his comrade. "North you get the scurvy and south the fever, but midway is the climate for a new empire.

There Englishmen may have timber for their shipyards, and pasture for their sheep and cattle, and meadows for their corn. There Flemings and Huguenots may live and work in peace. Our sons may be lords and princes of a new world, Arthur lad."

"Aye; but there's the Inquisition in the Indies to reckon with,"

answered Barlowe with his grim half-smile. "And if what we hear of the barbarians be true, the men who make the first plantation may be forced to plant and build with their left hand and keep their right for fighting."

"Oh, the barbarians,--" Armadas began, and paused, for the chatter of young voices broke forth in a copse.

"I tell thee salvages be hairy men with tails like monkeys. My uncle he has seen them on the Guinea coast."

"Dick, if thou keep not off my heels in the passamezzo--"

"Be not so cholerical, Tom Poope, or the Master'll give thee a tuning.

Thou'rt not Lord of the Indies yet."

"Faith," chuckled Barlowe, "here be some little eyasses practising a fantasy for the Queen's pleasure. Hey, lads, what's all the pother about?"[2]

The company emerged half-shamefacedly from the shrubbery, a group of youngsters between ten and fourteen, in fanciful costumes of silk and brocade, or mimic armor and puffed doublets. The central figure of the group was a handsome little lad in a sort of tunic of hairy undressed goatskin, a feather head-dress and gilded ornaments. His dark face had a sullen look, and he grasped his lance as if about to use it. Another urchin, whose great arched eyebrows, rolling eyes and impish mouth marked him as the clown of the company, made answer boldly,

"'T is Tom Poope, your lordships, who mislikes the dress he must wear, and says if we have but a king and queen of the monkeys to welcome the discoverers, the Queen will only laugh at us, and 'a will not stay to be laughed at. 'T is a masque of the ventures of Captain Cabot, look you, and Tom's the King of the salvages and makes all the long speeches."

"Upon my word, coz," laughed Armadas, "I think we have stumbled upon a pretty conceit intended to do honor to our master. Methinks His Royal Highness here has the right on't--the man who made that costume never saw true Indians."

"Have you seen them, then, sir? Are you a voyager?" asked Tom Poope eagerly, his face brightening. "And will you look on and tell us if we do it right?"

Barlowe grinned good-humoredly, and Armadas waved a laughing assent.

Chapter end

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