Then he brought them nearer. See yonder roof?—plates of beaten gold! Yonder mule hath harness of exquisitely chased silver! Here comes a noble chief and his favourite wife, with a retinue of slaves. The soles of his sandals are of gold, the straps are studded with gems; pearls are sewn in hundreds in his bright-hued robes! Yet is he completely eclipsed by the splendour of his spouse. She is sprinkled, hair and clothing, with the precious yellow dust. The breeze blows it from her hair; she shakes it with a careless laugh from her silken garments; the slaves walk behind on a gold-strewn pathway. They value it no more than the beggar values the dust that blows along the Chepe in London on a July day. Ah! a gloriously generous headpiece hath Paignton Rob. Why stint the tale of glittering grains? In the land of "El Dorado" the sands of the rivers can be coined into minted money. Would mine hostess—who has so lavishly fed three poor sailor-men—like to go to a banquet in the palace of "El Dorado"? Nothing simpler!—'tis done with a wave of Rob's brown hand. See! the table is gold; the platters are the same. The pillars of sweet cedar that support the lofty roof are richer by far than those of Solomon's temple. And the "gilded one" smiles at his queen, and lifts a cup of rosy wine to his lips. Do the company notice that miracle of dazzling light he holds in his delicate brown hand? 'Tis cut from one precious stone. It is like a living fire, and the red wine glows warmly through it.
Such the land of "El Dorado"—the golden realm!—the home of an everlasting summer! Rob pauses dramatically; he comes to a full stop. How mean is the parlour of the comfortable Wood Street tavern! How paltry its pewter pots and clumsy flagons! How dull its smoky beams and walls!
"Ah! Ah!"—longing sighs echo and re-echo. Then come questions, timidly put at first, for no man would dare to throw suspicion on the seaman's stories. But—but who has seen any of these things?
Who? Why, Rob knows men, who know other men, who have heard from other men, who actually listened to dying Spaniards or faithful natives recounting how they themselves had seen these sights. Rob himself had gazed upon a sack of gold dust brought by a Jesuit missionary from "El Dorado's" kingdom. The monk had shovelled it with his own bare hands from the bed of a shallow lake. Nick Johnson, with a nervous and apologetic cough, announced that he had seen a bag of pearls brought from that same favoured land; and brother Ned, whose memory also got some stimulus from Rob's stories, related how lie met a Spanish prisoner in a Dutch town, who told him that the pebbles in "El Dorado's" land were all pearls or jewels, sometimes one, sometimes the other—just according to the haphazard luck of the thing. Then honest Rob took some more sack, and found that he distinctly remembered meeting a Bideford man on Plymouth Hoe who had sailed with a Bristol captain whose twin brother had shot a no-headed, breast-eyed monster, and had immediately afterwards been stunned by the stone club of a two-headed gentleman of those same parts. 'Twas an exciting adventure altogether, and Rob proceeded to remember the details and relate them. As for the forests, the swamps, the lurking reptiles and ravenous beasts, the huge crabs, venomous snakes, and the fevered ghosts and ghouls that wreathed up after sunset from the pools and rivers—why! Rob had seen all those things for himself. He had also handled bars of gold and lumps of silver, and let pearls run through his fingers like beads. Captain Dawe, Master Morgan, and the ladies might be assured that they had heard but a tithe of the wonders and horrors that might be told them. Ah! that wonderful New World! Brave Rob shook the head that was bereft of an ear. He had talked to them for three hours, but he had no gift of speech, and had been unable to give them any real idea of the glamour and mystery that lay beneath the setting sun.
Nevertheless, he had set each heart and brain pulsing and throbbing with wild dreams. The world was changing for Johnnie Morgan. The admiral and Raleigh had opened his eyes in the glades of the forest, and taught him to look beyond its treetops. Master Jeffreys had extended his view, and all men and all things in London Town seemed to probe deeper into his mind, and find new emotions and desires, and stir them into active life. The grim old Forest of Dean was dwarfing to a mere coppice; the rushing Severn was becoming an insignificant brook. The forester's heart was expanding; his eyes were opening; his arms were stretching forth to grasp that which was finite, yet infinite. He dreamed strange dreams; his eyes started open to behold wondrous visions. The fever of the time was getting into his blood. Vague, half-understood impulses moved him hither and thither. He groped, and touched nothing. He cried out, "What do I want?"
A woman answered the question the very next day.
MORGAN GOES TO WHITEHALL.
In the early forenoon of the next day a man in the livery of Sir Walter came to "Ye Swanne" and asked for Master Morgan. He brought a command that the forester was to repair instantly to Whitehall, as the Queen had intimated that she would see him in the afternoon. The summons threw Johnnie into a small fever of nervous apprehension, and he wished heartily that he had never left his snug homestead at Blakeney. His fingers turned into thumbs, and Dorothy busied herself in fastening points and laces, adjusting his ruff, and setting his cap at the proper angle. Captain Dawe found that sword and belt required his critical attention, and Master Jeffreys started a most elaborate dissertation on court etiquette in "the most polite court in Europe." Johnnie's head buzzed, his mind wandered in a maze; and when at last he stepped out into the sunshine of the streets, he confessed to Mistress Stowe that he felt "like a thief going to be hanged." Captain Dawe had a desire to see the royal palace and its precincts, Jeffreys was wanted at Raleigh's lodgings, so all four gentlemen went westwards.
Along Chepe, through St. Paul's Churchyard, down the hill to the Lud Gate lay their way. Then they crossed the Fleet River and stepped out into Fleet Street. On their left was the palace of Bridewell, stretching down to the green margin of the Thames; on their right the fields went northwards to the villages of Bloomsbury, Clerkenwell, and Islington. The street was thick with dust and crowded with pedestrians and horsemen. Staid burghers walked soberly along, fops strutted, bullies swaggered, gentlefolks went in fitting dignity, and beggars whined for alms at the corners of the narrow lanes that, between the houses, led down to the river. Law students from the Temple were to be met with, chaffering with the market wenches for nuts and apples and bunches of flowers.
Master Jeffreys took charge of Morgan, and fed him full with information. "A wonderful thoroughfare, good sir!" he cried; "its dust hath been pressed by the feet of notable folk for many centuries, and will take the footprints of the great ones for many centuries to come. 'Tis the highway between our two ancient cities of London and Westminster. We will keep to the south side, for it is the more famous, and contains the houses of many of our nobles. The north side is left for the shopkeepers and smaller gentry. We have just passed the royal palace of Bridewell, and from here every foot of our way will have something to interest the curious and inquiring mind."
Johnnie stared down at the gray old palace, and looked questioningly at the ruins that lay next to it on the east.
"All that's left of the monastery of the Whitefriars," said Jeffreys. "The remains of monkish buildings cumber the ground outside of London walls as well as within. Some say 'twas a wicked thing to pull down so many fair edifices; others declare they were no better than plague-spots and heretical hovels on the fair face of a Protestant country, and that we are well rid of them."
"I have noticed," said Morgan, "that royal favourites from King Harry's time onwards have done most of the pulling down. The common folk appear to have had little voice in the matter, and not a finger in the lifting of the plunder."
"Quite so! quite so! Now let us step into the roadway. 'Tis dusty enough, and not innocent of some ugly holes, but 'tis safer for a little while. See those hangdog-looking fellows slouching before us? Ah! I need not tell thee what they are. Step out; let's see the sport."
There was a wild melee about a hundred yards ahead. A fellow had made a cut with his dagger at a lady's purse, and had been promptly knocked down by her cavalier. At the sound of the would-be robber's cry a dozen other rascals had rushed to his aid, and from the narrow lanes and alleys a horde of ruffians—male and female—had been vomited. They set upon the lady and her companion with cudgels and knives, and the gentleman was already lying in the dust. Peace-loving pedestrians had rushed to their aid, and a group of law students bore down into the fray in gallant style. Master Jeffreys whipped out his blade and ran, and Morgan went with him stride for stride. But the mob of ruffians disappeared as quickly as it had come forth; the cutpurse had been rescued, and the plunder he desired snatched by a slatternly wench.
Morgan uttered a hunting cry, and was dashing down a dim passage between two houses when Jeffreys jerked him back. "Not a foot farther if thou dost value thy life!"
Johnnie stopped, and saw in astonishment that no man was attempting pursuit.
"Are they to escape red-handed?" he cried.
His companion shrugged his shoulders. "He'd be an over-bold man who'd venture into the alleys and courts of Alsatia with less than fifty good swords at his back. The hangman would be busy for a month if all who merited his rope were dragged out of yonder dens. But we must be going; the captain is almost out of sight, and thou hast matters on hand that are of greater moment than the catching of a thief."
Walking on, the two came abreast of the Temple, and lawyers, scriveners, clerks, and students dotted the roadway.
"A sweetly built place is the Temple," commented Jeffreys: "cool alleys shaded with trees, spacious courts, goodly halls and chapels; fair gardens sloping sunnily and warmly to the south and the river. Ah! there is no fairer site on earth for a fine dwelling than on this bank of Father Thames. Thou wilt see by the great houses that we shall pass how many men are of my opinion."
Morgan came to Temple Bar, and saw, with a shudder, a row of mouldering heads atop of it. He passed beneath the archway and put foot in the famous Strand. Immediately before him the Maypole stretched skyward, its top still ornamented with a few fluttering rags of weather-bleached ribbon, mementoes of the festivities that had ushered in the fast-fading summer. On his left, with its front to the river, was a great house with its courts and gardens, and Master Jeffreys whispered,—
"The town house of my Lord Essex, the Queen's favourite and the great rival of the gallant knight we both love."
Morgan stood and gazed at the somewhat ugly pile with the greatest interest.
As he moved on a cleanly lad came across the road, with a shining pannikin in either hand, and asked politely whether "their worships" would care to quench their thirst in water drawn from the well of St. Clement or from Holy Well that was hard by.
"Which is the more precious liquid?" asked Morgan.
The lad quickly replied that he had no opinion, and that learned men and excellent divines could come to no agreement over the matter. His worship might drink of both and judge for himself; the charge was but a farthing.
"Cheaper than Mistress Stowe's sack, at any rate, if not so palatable," said Johnnie. He gave the lad a farthing and took the Holy Well pannikin, whilst his companion drained that which owned its virtues to the sanctity of St. Clement, whose church fronted them across the way. As neither tasted of both, they had, like the water-seller, no opinion as to the merits of the rival wells.
They walked on past Somerset House.
"A stately pile," said Morgan.
"Fairer even than Whitehall," replied Jeffreys. "'Twas built by an arch-robber, but the Queen favours it and dwells in it at times. 'Tis the goodliest palace along the Strand."
The Savoy, already centuries old and crumbling to decay, was passed; and then, by other noble edifices, the wayfarers went to the village of Charing.
They turned down by Queen Eleanor's Cross into the street leading to Whitehall itself. They passed through the Holbein Gate, down King's Street; and close under the shadow of the hoary abbey of St. Peter they halted at Raleigh's lodgings. Captain Dawe and his guide were resting in the cool porch and awaiting them.
John Morgan, yeoman and forester, rose from his knee, and stood, with bowed head and fumbling fingers, abashed in a most august presence. He plucked nervously at his cap, and dared not raise his face to confront the calm countenance of his sovereign. Elizabeth, for her part, scanned him most critically from top to toe. She noted the cut of his clothes, the stiffness of his ruff, the size of the buckles on his shoon; from these to the colour of his hair and the healthy tan of his skin, nothing escaped her. She was rapidly measuring him, height and girth, with the proportions of her handsome Devon knight who had led the shy young stalwart in.
"So this is the gallant young fellow who bled in thy service?" she said to Raleigh.
"And in the service of your Majesty," added the knight. "He saved the life of your humblest servant, but he also fought and bled in defence of your Majesty's honour and the integrity of your dominions."
Elizabeth looked again at the bent head. "Dost know the colour of mine eyes, Master Morgan?" she asked sharply.
"The colour of heaven, your Majesty," gasped Johnnie.
The Queen laughed. "I thought thou hadst not looked at them. 'Tis easy to see that thou hast kept company with a certain Walter Raleigh; thou canst assume modesty and yet flatter as glibly as he."
"Your Majesty!" cried Raleigh.
"Hath excellent eyesight, thank God!" added Elizabeth. "I wish I had found Master Morgan a simpler gentleman. I am sick of pretty speeches, and thought to find a plain, unspoiled Englishman who would speak naught but truth. Wilt let me see what colour thine eyes are, Master Morgan? I have noted every hair on the top of thy head."
Johnnie raised a flushed face to the pale, cool countenance of his sovereign.
"Dost not find mine eyes green?" she asked, and leaned a little forward in her chair.
"There is a glint of the verdure of England in them, your Majesty, and the sheen of the blue of her skies and her seas."
"And thou dost consider them, therefore, to be perfect for England's Queen?"
"God made your Majesty, and we daily thank Him for His abounding goodness and wisdom."
A faint blush stole into Elizabeth's cheeks, and the blue-green eyes danced. "Thou dost see merrie England mirrored in these pale orbs?"
"The country lives in your Majesty's heart, and the heart looks out through the eyes."
Elizabeth sat back. She turned to Raleigh.
"They breed poets in the shadow of Dean's oaks," she said.
"When first I met Master Morgan he was writing verses in the woodlands."
"And to whom?"
"A pretty maiden."
"Ah! What colour are her eyes, bold forester?"
"Blue, an't please your Majesty."
"It doth not please me at all. I thought thy conceit about the 'green and blue' of England very pretty and spontaneous for me. Now I perceive 'tis but an old compliment thou hast paid a thousand times before to some woodland wench."
"Your Majesty mistakes. The thought never came to my mind before I uttered it just now. I know not what made me think it then, unless 'twas your Majesty's presence inspired me. I am a dull fellow, and no poet, as Mistress Dawe often tells me."
"Hast never told her that her eyes are blue?"
"I have, your Majesty."
"And that she is the fairest maid on earth?"
"I have said that also, and 'tis God's truth that I think her to be so."
The exclamation was a little unroyal. Raleigh, who had stood in almost mute astonishment at Morgan's strange readiness of tongue and aptness of expression, now began to fear that the blunt yeoman was going to undo all his previous good work. Elizabeth Tudor was not accustomed to hear that some other "maid" was the fairest on earth.
"When dost thou hope to wed this dainty nymph?"
"When the maid wills it, your Majesty."
"Hath she no father, then, to command her?"
"She hath; but he would not lay an order upon her, neither would I have him do so. Maidens will have their whims. I care not, so mine be constant."
"Thou dost find her wayward then?"
"All pretty things are fashioned so."
"Am I wayward, thinkest thou?"
"Your Majesty would be very woman but that you are also Queen."
"But I am a woman when my crown is off."
Johnnie shook his head. "God hath given your Majesty special graces, and such strength that the woman in you must obey the sovereign."
Elizabeth sighed. "Thou art right," she said. "Daily have I to beat the woman in me down, down. 'Tis hard to do it, for the woman will cry out for what is hers by nature. Canst thou not perceive, Master Morgan, that the struggle is bitter at times? Yet the woman in me must succumb; for, did she have her way, England, my England, would suffer."
"Therefore did God give the Queen strength," murmured Johnnie.
Elizabeth arose. "I will see thee again," she said. "Thou hast some homely mother wisdom, and a truthful tongue. It cheers a Queen's heart to learn that, far from courts and crowds, she hath valiant and loyal subjects like to thee. But I must ask thee to consider whether thou canst not serve us to more advantage than offers on a simple farm. Thou hast given a little brave blood for England. The world is wide, and our foes are many. Doth not thy spirit cry out for wings at times?"
"It hath in these last few days, your Majesty."
"I have been talking with some sailor-men from the Spanish Main, and the sea sings in mine ears, sleeping and waking."
"Then obey the call."
"God prosper you!"
"And bring your Majesty happiness and length of days."
JOHNNIE SEES MANY SIGHTS.
The Queen left the audience chamber in company with her maids-of-honour, and Raleigh held the curtains over the doorway aside for them to pass through. He came back to where Morgan was standing, and looked him quizzingly up and down.
"Upon my faith as a knight! thou, John Morgan, art the biggest packet of surprises I have yet brought within the gray walls of Whitehall Palace. They do say that the air of this place is peculiarly suitable for the breathing of west-country men. We thrive in it amazingly, to the chagrin of better men born elsewhere. But thou hast developed from close bud to full-blown flower in a single afternoon. Who cut the strings of thy tongue, and took the bands from thy wits? Thou didst speak like a ten years courtier at the least. I will confess that I hearkened to thee dumb with sheer amazement."
Johnnie rubbed his chin ruefully.
"I am sore afraid that my tongue hath undone me; yet, for the life of me, I could put no bridle upon it when once her Majesty had me by the eyes. She willed the words out of me. Bones o' me! I pray I may never have to face her with a secret locked in my bosom, and she suspicious that I kept something hidden. 'Twould out, like murder. But her spirit compelled mine as that of a strong man compelling a weaker."
"There hast thou solved the royal riddle of England's governance. We are swayed by the brain of a man behind the mask of woman's face. To the woman that we behold we pay that chivalrous deference and loving devotion that her sex and her station claim from true men; but when we would treat her like a woman, with womanly weaknesses, then peeps the man from behind the mask, and we kneel to one stronger than ourselves. The 'woman' that appeals to us, and cries for our love, is at times capricious as an April day. But the 'man' is ever firm and dominating, and with 'him' no one of us dares to trifle. Thy fortunate star shone o'er thee to-day. Few men have made so excellent a first impression on England's maiden Queen. But be not froward because of a first success, nor hope too much from a royal smile. The east wind can blow bitingly, even on a sunny day. Come with me now to the royal buffet; 'tis treason to quit this roof after a first visit without drinking a bumper to the sovereign's health. Her Majesty is a very country housewife in the matter of cakes and ale and clean sheets in the guest chamber."
Morgan quitted the audience chamber on Raleigh's arm, threaded numerous corridors, sumptuously curtained and carpeted, and came at last to a spacious room where, on a huge sideboard of carven oak, constant provision was maintained for bodily refreshment. Servants in royal livery stood about, and several gentlemen of the household, who had just been relieved from duty, or come in from running some royal errand, stood sipping a cup of wine. All saluted Raleigh courteously, and bowed ceremoniously to his companion. Johnnie returned the bow, feeling considerably less at ease than he had done in his sovereign's presence. The critical stare of so many resplendent gallants unnerved him, and he was heartily glad to quit the chamber and get out into the air of the courtyard. Raleigh escorted him to the palace gate, where Jeffreys awaited him. Captain Dawe had gone to look in at the bowling green, where some of the royal officers were playing bowls. Him they found; then, not caring for the walk back down Strand and Fleet Street, they went to Whitehall Stairs within the palace precincts, hailed a wherry, and went down on the tide to the stairs at Blackfriars. The sun was setting when they landed, and columns of smoke rising from a score of points showed that the city watchmen were lighting the evening purifying fires at street corners and in the open spaces. The air on the river had been cool and pleasant enough, but it was stifling in the narrow lanes leading up from the stream to the hill of St. Paul's. The pungent smoke from the newly-kindled wood piles came quite refreshingly to the nostrils.
"We have had a most fortunate year in London," said Master Jeffreys. "No case of plague, and very few of fever. The aldermen of the wards were for stopping these fires a week ago, but the bishop resolved to keep them going within his boundaries until October set in. 'Tis wonderful how the smoke and flames do take the noisome vapour from the air. If we could but get some good rains now to wash out the gutters and conduits, the city would be cleansed and sweetened for the winter."
"For my part," answered the forester, "I should always breathe but chokingly in these streets."
"Oh, the air is wholesome enough," said Jeffreys "and stout fellows thrive on it. Just give an eye to yonder band of 'prentice lads. I would not wish to see better limbs, and I'll warrant that no forest-bred lad can give harder thwacks with oaken cudgel than can these retailers of ribbons and fal-lals."
"The rogues are hearty enough," assented Johnnie, "and their lungs are like bellows of leather. London is a fine place, and the air, doubtless, sweet enough to those who have not the lingering fragrance of the bracken in their nostrils. The scent of the woods or the salt of the sea for me."
"And the salt of the sea is the sweeter. Ah!" Master Jeffreys sniffed longingly.
Chepe was pretty full of leisurely pedestrians; the doorways of the taverns were crowded; jugglers balanced themselves in the dusty gutter, and merry maidens tripped it neatly in the inn courtyards to the sound of pipe and tabor. The merchants' parlours over their shops were often the scene of a friendly or family gathering, and more than one sweetly-sung madrigal floated harmoniously out on the evening air. Elizabethan London was a musical city, and part-singing was cultivated beneath the rooftree of every well-to-do burgher. The fresh voices of the young girls and the mellower notes of journeyman or apprentice mingled tunefully together. The great city was resting from the labours of the day, and soothing its spirit to enjoy the deeper rest and tranquillity of the night. There was a little horseplay amongst the lads gathered round the tumblers and tavern doors, but it hardly disturbed the calm peacefulness of the scene. The side streets were practically deserted, Chepe and St. Paul's Churchyard being the fashionable promenades. Not a solitary figure blotted the narrow vista of Wood Street when the three friends turned their wearied legs into it. They found "Ye Swanne" in charge of the tapster and the serving-wench, and with Paignton Rob for its solitary guest. He hailed his hosts of the previous day with delight, and hastened to inform them that Dame Fortune was "smiling upon him with both eyes." Whilst lounging in the aisles of St. Paul's he had been recognized by a Dartmouth skipper under whom he had once crossed the Atlantic on a piratical expedition against Spain. The venture had failed, and the golden visions dangled before Rob's eyes had vanished. But the Dartmouth captain had tried again, and had been eminently successful, bringing home a shipload of rich booty. Hearing Rob's story of Oxenham's expedition, and seeing for himself the marks of Spanish cruelty on the seaman's body, the generous skipper had made Rob a present of ten crowns, and had also given the Johnsons—whom he had never seen before—a couple of crowns apiece, and offered all three a berth aboard his ship, which was leaving for Dartmouth on the next morning's tide. The Johnsons had accepted, but Rob had declined, being resolved to see Raleigh and some other gentlemen adventurers concerning his plans for a recovery of Oxenham's buried treasure.
"And now," added the sailor, "I owe ye a debt of hospitality, and am come hither to pay it. The tapster hath my orders, and ye will not refuse to take bite and sup with me this night."
Not one of the company said "Nay," for Rob was evidently bent upon playing the host. But Captain Dawe asked where his daughter and Mistress Stowe had hidden themselves, and got for answer the tidings that they had gone out into the Moorfields to take the air and see an archery contest, the heat in the city having been well-nigh intolerable that afternoon.
The twilight was growing faint, the narrow street was in semi-darkness. Johnnie inquired which way the ladies would return, and getting the direction started out to meet them and give them escort. He had not gone far before he saw two ladies hurrying along, huddled rather closely together, and a couple of city gallants bowing and smirking beside them in the roadway. The young fellow's face flushed; for, even in the growing darkness, he recognized one slight, graceful figure as that of Dorothy. He hastened forward, and soon got near enough to distinguish the faces of the four, and to perceive that the ladies were being annoyed by the unwelcome attentions of the two fops, who, attracted doubtless by Dolly's beauty and apparent rusticity, were endeavouring to force acquaintance upon the buxom hostess of the "Swanne." Johnnie seized both the situation and the offenders in a moment. Grasping the youths by the nape of the neck, he cracked their curled heads together until they yelled with pain. Then he forced their noses down to their knees.
"Bow low, ye rascals," he cried. "Lower still; ye are not doing sufficient homage to beauty and innocence yet."
The two collapsed, toppled forward, and lay prone on their stomachs in the thick, foul dust.
"Kiss the ground they walk on," pursued the relentless Johnnie; "'tis what ye mouthing apes profess to do. Kiss it—let me hear ye," and he held them in his grip until two resounding smacks rewarded his efforts. "Now," he said, "maybe ye will not annoy womenfolk again for an evening or two. I'll lout the heads of both of you together if I see your smirking faces in this street any more."
The forester straightened himself, offered an arm to each of the ladies, and led them home.
Lights shone from the parlour window of "Ye Swanne" that night long after they were douted in the other houses of Wood Street. Johnnie had to recount all the incidents of his visit to the court; and Dorothy and the hostess asked him a hundred questions about the Queen, many of them concerning her dress and her jewels, and quite beyond his powers of answering. He said nothing about the promise given to his sovereign in a moment of loyal enthusiasm, a promise that pledged him to voyage and adventure on the Spanish Main.
"Time enough for that," he said to himself. "I'll talk at greater length to Bob to-morrow; and as no ships will be sailing westward ho! until the spring comes again, I may as well leave talking for a later day, and make my plans now in silence."
The party from the forest spent another week in London, and during that time Johnnie went twice to Whitehall, on the second occasion taking Dorothy with him. The Queen was very gracious to her pretty subject from the west, and praised her beauty openly. Yet, in spite of the royal condescension, Dolly felt terribly afraid, and owned to Raleigh that she was very glad to get outside the palace doors again.
On another day the knight took them to the play on the other side of the river, where they saw a comedy of Ben Jonson's. After the play the captain went to see the bear-baiting in the bear-pit hard by, but the two young people preferred a trip on the river as far as Chelsea. This was a very busy and momentous day, for in the evening Master Jeffreys took Morgan down to the "Mermaid Tavern" between Wood Street and Milk Street, where Raleigh was presiding over a gathering of the "Mermaid Club," and there the young countryman found himself in a very nest of poets—Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe, Sidney, and Raleigh himself. In after years he hardly knew which to call the most notable moment in his life—the one when he kissed his Queen's hand, or the one when he drank a cup of sack with the greatest wits and geniuses of his age.
When the Severn-side folks went westwards again, Paignton Rob accompanied them; for Johnnie had invited the mariner to make his home with him during the winter, purposing in the spring to go with him on a first voyage to the New World.
TWO CHANCE WAYFARERS.
It was the feast of St. Thomas, the sky gray blue, with a pale, cold-looking sun, the Queen's highway frozen into an iron hardness, and the pools and ditches frost-bound. The wind had shaken the hoar from the trees and hedges, and the holly-berries stood out in brilliant bunches against the dark green of the encircling leaves. Along the road between Bristol and Gloucester, and, but for the wintry haze that narrowed the horizon, within sight of the latter city, trudged a burly fellow, staff in hand and a sea song on his lips. His thick shoon awoke echoes from hedge to hedge, and his iron-shod staff rang in unison. Hosen of warm, gray homespun covered his legs, and he had a doublet of the same goodly stuff; a cap, trimmed with otter-skin, was pulled down tightly over his ears, and an ample cloak of somewhat gaudy blue flapped in the keen wind; rime, and tiny beads of frozen vapour, hung like pearls in his black beard. He rolled in his walk as a sailor should, and sometimes he whistled the air of his song by way of change from the singing of the words.
"Then ho! for the Spanish Main, And ha! for the Spanish gold; King Philip's ships are riding deep With the weight of wealth untold. They're prey for the saucy lads Who dance on the Plymouth Hoe; They'll all sail home thro' the fleecy foam, With a rich galleon in tow-tow-tow, With a rich galleon in tow!"
The mariner swung his staff in rhythm with the swing of his chorus, and his hearty voice pealed out like a trumpet on the sharp air.
"A spirited song well sung!" cried a voice in the sailor's rear.
He turned sharply around, and found a thin, wiry fellow close at his heels. "Madre de Dios!" he cried, with a Spanish oath. "Where didst thou spring from? I heard no steps behind me."
"Hardly possible, friend, that thou shouldst hear a little fellow like me against thy song, staff, and heavier footfalls. I fell in thy wake out of the lane at Quedgely, and have been trying to come up with thee for the sake of thy jolly company."
"Is yonder parcel of huts Quedgely?"
"Ay. Thou art a stranger; Devon, if thy speech is to be trusted."
"Devon is my bonny country, lad—Devon every inch of me. Dost know Devon?"
"But little. 'Tis a brave shire, and breeds brave sons. Could I be born again, I'd pray to see the sun first from a Devon cradle."
"Thy hand, brother. If thou wert less yellow in the gills I'd kiss thee. Art for Gloucester?"
"So am I, for to-day; to-morrow I go farther on. Dost know these parts well?"
"There are parts that I know worse; but I am not native to the place."
"Maybe thou hast never been in Dean Forest?"
The stranger looked at the sailor sharply and queerly. "Dean Forest," he repeated. "Yes, I have travelled some parts of that wild region. Thou art surely not thinking of going thither at this time o' the year!"
"By bad fortune, I am. And from what I hear, 'tis a dangerous place, full of fierce beasts and uncouth people. But go thither I must, for I seek a man I shall not find elsewhere. If thou wouldst find a hawk, needs must that thou find a hawk's nest; no other bird's will serve thy purpose—that is my position. Is there any chance that I shall light upon some forest fellow during Yule-tide business in Gloucester?"
"That I cannot say; but I may be able to help thee. Whom dost thou seek?"
"A Devon man, Rob of Paignton."
"Thou art hunting a bundle of hay to find a needle. The forest is a wild place, as full of holes as of hills, and its people are not much given to travelling or to gossip with any but their nearest neighbours. Hast no more precise knowledge?"
"None, except that Rob dwells with a tall fellow named Morgan."
Again the sallow stranger eyed his companion keenly. He shook his head. "Tall fellows are not scarce amongst the foresters, and Morgans are as plentiful as oak trees."
"Then am I like to be long a-searching. However, tired eyes ne'er found a treasure; I must find Rob and the fellow with whom he dwells. How far is it to Gloucester now?"
"A matter of less than three miles to the Cross."
"Dost know of a good inn, one where beef and ale is not stinted, and where the hay in the beds is sweet?"
"There's the 'New Inn' in the Northgate Street, as snug a place as a man can wish to put head into on a cold day. I shall rest there until to-morrow."
"Then I'll cast anchor there also. I can afford to pay for good lodgings." The sailor jingled some coins in his pouch, and sang again,
"Then ho! for the Spanish Main, And ha! for the Spanish gold."
His companion interrupted him. "When I startled thee just now, did I not hear thy lips utter a Spanish oath?"
"Likely enough; I have a goodly stock of them, and one jumps out at times if it happens to be near the top. How didst thou recognize it for Spanish?"
"Because I have some knowledge of that tongue."
The sailor turned sharp on the speaker, halted, and scrutinized him closely. "Thy face is yellow enough for a subject of King Philip," he said slowly; "but the general cut of thee is English."
"I am English."
"Hast sailed the Spanish Main?"
"No; I am a scholar, not a sailor. I am as well acquainted with French, Latin, and Greek as with Spanish and English."
"What a gift!" exclaimed the sailor admiringly. "There is not much body about thee; but now I look into thy face and mark thine eyes, forehead, and jowl, can well credit thee with brains. I wish I had met thee in Plymouth."
"Because I have some papers writ in Spanish that I'd give much to decipher. Confidence for confidence, let me tell thee that I am no scholar, but just a simple sailor—"
"Who knows the Spanish Main, eh?"
"As a farmer knows his own duck pond."
"Ah! these are fine times for the brave lads who sail the seas."
"My own opinion, brother. I thank God I became a man whilst Queen Bess was a woman! The west wind blows fortunes into Devon ports nowadays. Mayhap thou hast no love for the sea?"
"'Tis the sea that hath no love for me. I am fixed ashore, and yet I love travel and adventure, and have seen sights in more lands than England."
"So! now. I'm glad thou hast not lived a worm 'twixt book covers. Thou art a fellow of some parts, I'll warrant me. There's plenty of spring in thy walk for one who hath pored much over books. How art thou now with, say, the sword?"
"I have held my own with fellows of more inches than myself."
The sailor pinched his companion's biceps, and took a grip of his wrist. "Supple enough, brother, or I'm no judge."
"Oh! I should second thee well in a tussle, never fear," laughed the little man.
"And give me a merry time should we draw on one another."
"Oh! we are not going to fight. I am a peaceable wayfarer, glad of a cheery companion on a dull day. But I would offer thee a scrap of advice. Jingle not thy money so easily to the first man that offers thee a friendly greeting. I have known the chink of gold turn a good friend into an ill foe."
"True, true. But I'll swear to thy honesty."
"A thousand thanks for the compliment."
Thus the two chance companions trudged on side by side to the south gate of Gloucester. There the pressure of a crowd brought them to a halt for a few minutes. There was a noise of yelling and booing, and some exclamations that caused the sailor's companion to wince.
The pressure at the gate slackening, the two pushed through and hurried after the noisy throng. "Some fellow being whipped at the cart-tail," exclaimed the man of Devon, stretching his tall form to look over the heads of the swaying mob.
"Two of 'em, friend; Papishers both," remarked a delighted citizen.
"Oh!" exclaimed the younger wayfarer.
The citizen pointed first to the right and then to the left. "Ruins of Greyfriars Monastery; ruins of Blackfriars. One rascal caught in either place praying that the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah might fall on our town, because he and his fellow vermin were driven out years ago. I must push ahead and beg the hangman to let me have a cut or two at them. They cursed me by bell, book, and candle—but not by name, thank the Lord: they didn't know that!"
"Why?" asked the little man.
"Because I—and many others, for the matter of that—have built a snug house out of the stone of the monasteries. I'll have a cut at 'em if it costs me a crown."
"Is this sort of thing to thy liking?" the sailor asked of his companion.
"No," was the sharp response.
"Neither is it to mine; although, mind you, I have seen these same Papishers play some devil's tricks on good Protestants. Paignton Rob, whom I seek, hath a head ill-balanced by the loss of an ear and its ear-ring, because the priests chose to set a mark upon him. But thou and I are of more generous blood; we have seen the world, and found honest men in all religions—ay, and rogues in them all too. Let us get to thine inn and drink a flagon of Gloster ale to all tolerant souls, whether they call the Pope 'Father' or 'Devil.'"
The sallow-faced man made no answer, but pushed on beside his burly companion.
Dan Pengelly, the sailor with the Cornish patronymic and Devonian birthplace, found an excellent boon companion in the little sallow-faced fellow who had overtaken him a few miles south of Gloucester. And he found the "New Inn," boastful of having given a night's lodging to the Queen and the Earl of Leicester, an expensive but comfortable tavern. Its dimensions were goodly, its position a sheltered one, its kitchens ample and well-managed, and its October ale beyond reproach. At first the little man in black doublet and hosen was inclined to be moody and taciturn; the public whipping, apparently, had seared his kindly and humane temperament. But jolly Dan poured oil—not to say ale—on the wounds and eased them. As it was neither dinner-time nor supper-time, the sailor ordered a repast ample enough for both, and fell to his trencher with hearty good will. His companion did his best to emulate him, and for a spare man did excellently. Dan paid the reckoning.
They spent a merry evening. As far as the sailor was concerned, when ale went in, wit went out; he poured out confidences, and was artfully led into babbling secrets he had never intended to disclose. To all appearances the little man was just as communicative; he talked glibly enough about places in France, Holland, and Spain, and answered a score of eager questions about Antwerp, Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon, Cadiz, and other places. But when Pengelly reeled off to his mattress of fragrant hay he knew nothing definite about his comrade—neither name, station, occupation, nor religious or political opinions. On the other hand, the sallow man knew Dan's lineage for four generations back, at least; knew his hopes, fears, recent deeds—good and bad; could have told to a penny what money he had in his pocket; knew the reason why he sought Rob of Paignton, and a great deal of the latter worthy's past career. Perhaps most important of all, he knew where Dan had hidden certain Spanish papers in Plymouth, and guessed at the secret hidden in them. He had been merry with the bluff sailor to good purpose, and he lay awake and quietly smiling at a star that peeped in at the lattice, long after the bibulous Dan had started snoring like a drenched hog on the pallet beside him. Before he closed his eyes and settled himself to sleep, he had resolved to be the sailor's companion for a day longer. This meant an alteration of his previous plans, but the change would be worth the making.
The next morning the two travellers were astir with the first robin, and over breakfast Dan learned that his companion had suddenly remembered that he ought to pay a visit to Westbury before he quitted the neighbourhood. The Devonian knew nothing of Westbury, but was speedily informed that it lay about ten miles along his own route, and was, in fact, almost at the eastern verge of the forest itself. The sailor expressed his joy at this news in a practical manner; he insisted on paying the reckoning for bed and breakfast. The little man made a show of protest, but submitted amicably enough. The generous Dan slapped him on the back, and declared that he was growing to love him.
"I did not like thee over well at first," he said; "there are none of the roses of innocence in thy face, thy jaws are too lean and hungry looking, and thine eyes have an odd sort of stare in them. But 'handsome is that handsome does' is my motto, and I find thee a downright pretty fellow."
The "pretty fellow" laughed good-humouredly. "Thou hast queer ways of paying compliments, Dan Pengelly, and folk who did not understand thee might take offence. But it's 'peace and good fellowship' betwixt us twain; so let us take to the road and hope for a pleasant journey."
The sun shone frostily but cheerily. Down the Westgate Street and out at the West Gate that abutted on the turbid Severn went the two strangely assorted comrades. The sailor had a remark or two—not altogether complimentary—to make about the river. Then they strode along the causeway that spanned the marshy isle of Olney and led to the western arm of the river. From thence a broad, tree-bordered highway ran—at a little distance from the Severn bank—right away to the hamlet of Westbury. Here they parted company, the sailor going on to Newnham, where he was to make inquiries after Rob, his companion striking off across the fields on pretence of visiting a certain farmer.
Dan was right on the track of his friend, although he anticipated a dangerous and exciting search through the dense, dark forest that rose on the swelling hills before him. He was agreeably disappointed. A grizzled old fisherman stood on the river quay idly watching his boat as it bobbed up and down on the rushing tide. Dan gave him a brotherly greeting, then halted for a few minutes' rest and conversation. At first the traveller talked of "tides" as though they were his chief interest in life. The fisherman had an opportunity of learning that the tides of the Plym, Fal, and Dart were beyond computation better than those of the Severn; in fact, he was asked to believe that the last-named river was no better than a mud heap that got flooded with brackish water twice a day. The fisherman stoutly combated this slander, and a pretty quarrel seemed imminent, when Dan went off at a tangent, and "wondered" whether any one in Newnham had espied a tall, lean, one-eared man looking at boat or stream at any time. "He's not a native of these parts," added he, by way of rounding off his description.
But the fisherman was not prepared for this sudden change of subject, and he took a minute or two for quiet meditation ere he volunteered the information that "all Newnham" knew the person in question.
"He was up to Captain Dawe's but yesterday," he said.
"Ought to be dwelling with a tall fellow named Morgan," said Dan.
"Lives with Johnnie Morgan of Blakeney," replied the other. "Everybody knows Johnnie Morgan. He's kissed the Queen's hand in her house in London, and 'tis whispered that her Majesty kissed him. At any rate, Johnnie's sweetheart quarrelled with him directly they got home again, and the gossips put it down to jealousy."
Dan expressed his sorrow, and promised to advise Johnnie to hope for a happy ending. "The course of true love never did run smooth, ye know."
"Never!" assented the fisherman.
"Now, how far is it to Blakeney, and must I go through the forest?"
"'Tis an afternoon's tramp, and a lonesome one; ye might run down on the tide when it ebbs. There's my boat, and I'll take ye for twopence."
"Done! Shall we spill a flagon of ale, and say it is a bargain?"
The fisherman put his tongue to his lips and tested the salty flavour of the tide, then led the way without comment to the "Bear." The bargain was so deluged with "best October" that it was almost drowned in forgetfulness. But, more by luck than judgment, Dan and Rob kissed one another just after nightfall.
And after supper Dan told the story of his tramp from Bristol. He had got to the "whipping" incident in Gloucester, and was describing its effect upon the little, sallow-faced fellow that tramped with him, when one of Morgan's men burst into the room, his face blanched with terror. "The man in black! the man in black!" he cried.
Johnnie was on his feet in an instant. "What dost thou mean?" he asked.
"The man in black! the one who did not die!"
Johnnie understood. He took down a sword. "Where is he?"
"He was looking in at the window as I came up the lane."
"Follow me. Stay you there, gentlemen; I'm afeard my man has seen a ghost."
Blakeney was aroused, but no man had seen anything suspicious, and a close search revealed nothing. Morgan questioned his man, but he stuck to his story. An idea flashed across Johnnie's mind, and when he got home again he questioned Pengelly closely about his companion. The answers convinced him.
"Thou hast tramped with the devil in disguise," he said.
Dan's ruddy face paled, and he asked for an explanation. His host told him of the events of the past summer. The sailor's face lengthened with the story. "And I told him all my plans!" he groaned.
That night Morgan's barns were fired and burned to the ground. The next night the thatch of Captain Dawe's cottage was discovered to be smouldering. Two nights later, Dean Tower, which had been confiscated by the Crown because of Windybank's treason, was reduced to a heap of ashes.
Brother Basil stole out of Westbury tower the next morning. He had a bloodstained chip of oak in his hand. It was cut from a beam Windybank had struck in his fall. "The blood of a martyr!" he muttered.
ALL ON A BRIGHT MARCH MORNING.
The March winds were blowing, and the daffydowndillies were nodding merry heads in the sunshine. The hawthorn hedges were dotted with the bright green of bursting buds; and behind this promise of cover from the prying eyes of predatory urchins, the small birds were busy house-building. The tall elms were still bare of leaves, but the rooks had framed their crazy nests, and were now busy following the ploughman, and waxing fat on succulent worms. The sedgy pools and ditches in the forest were noisy with the hoarse croaking of colonies of frogs. Lambs skipped in the farmers' meadows, and cropped the grass that had already lost the brown tinge of winter.
Spring was come, vouched for by the calendar, the place of King Sol in the blue heavens, and the changing aspect of reawakening nature.
By every token of a healthy youth and a glorious March morning, Johnnie's thoughts should have been light, fanciful, and centred round the fair image of Mistress Dorothy Dawe. Alas! they were dark as a midwinter night, and as gloomy as a funeral oration.
"'She only drove me to despair, When—she—un-kind—did—prove.'"
Johnnie hummed the last few bars of a popular madrigal in slow and dirge-like tones. "She" was still wayward and unkind, and "He" was setting out on the morrow in search of treasure to lay at a maiden's feet. The young fellow's visions of the Indies were no longer rosy, but drab as November skies. He was pledged to set his face westward ho! but the zest was gone out of the enterprise. He leaned over a gate, and watched the gulls fishing in the river.
Johnnie did not hear a light step coming down the meadow towards him; no sound disturbed his melancholy reflections. "Jack!" murmured a soft voice.
The young man started as though an arrow had struck him. His face flushed hotly, and a gleam of pleasure lighted up its gloom.
"Good morrow, Mistress Dorothy," he said. "I suppose thy father waits at the house? I will go to him at once."
He turned from the stile; but on his arm there was the flutter of a hand like to the flutter of a bird's wing, and he stopped. He turned to look at the river again, and the maiden's eyes followed his. There was silence whilst a man might have told ten score.
"The wings of the gulls flash like silver in the sunshine," ventured Dorothy.
"So I have thought."
"Thou art leaving us to-morrow."
"That is why I have been watching the gulls for near an hour."
"I don't understand."
"Paignton Rob says that these white gulls are found all the world over. I shall see them a thousand leagues away—screaming round the ship; massing in white armies on the New World cliffs; fishing in the rivers. My last vision of home must have white gulls in it. Away yonder they will be fairy birds to me, calling up pictures of my ancestral homestead along Severn side. The forests there will not recall the forest here. How shall their stifling heat and towering palms, their gaudy birds and flowers, their roaring beasts and loathly reptiles, remind one of the cool, sweet glades, the scented bracken, the gnarled oaks, the leaping deer, and sweet-throated songsters of home? 'Tis the vision of the river, the tide, and the wheeling gulls that I shall see again in the land of 'El Dorado.'"
There was a sadness and pathos in the forester's voice that went straight to the heart of the forest maiden. The hand was on his arm again, fluttering, trembling. "I have been very wicked!" The fluty notes of a sweet voice were broken.
"Who says so?" demanded Johnnie harshly and loudly.
"I do; you do."
"I do not!"
"But I have hurt you."
"Why shouldn't you do so, if it pleases you? Women must aye be meddling with pins and barbs. If they be not pricking velvets or home-spun, they must be thrusting sharp points into those that love them best. Why shouldst thou differ from others of thy sex?"
The young man's voice was bitter; the barbs still rankled. They had been long in the wounds they had made, and there was fiery inflammation. How often had he told the maid that she was like none other of her sex; that she was peerless—stood alone! The memory of former passionate declarations flashed across the minds of them both, and both sighed down into silence.
"Wilt thou not forgive me?"
"Why didst thou flout me, Dolly?"
"Just a maid's foolish temper. Think how full of whimsies we women be. Men be not so; they have strength denied to us, the weaker vessel." (Johnnie's face was visibly softening. Dolly sighed with renewed hope, and went on.) "I was hurt because thou didst plan and resolve to go to the Indies without ever a word to me. I was not thought on. The Queen moves a finger, and straightway thou art fashioning wings to take thee to the ends of the earth. 'Twas thy duty so to do, but why treat me as a chit or child of no account? Thy head was ever bobbing against that of Master Jeffreys, or pouring plans into the one ear of Paignton Rob. 'Mum' was the word if ye did but catch the rustle of my gown. Thou hadst vowed to share thy life with me; yet there did ye sit, like conspirators, planning momentous issues in life, with never a chance for me to utter 'Yea' or 'Nay.' Was that just?"
"I told thee of my resolve as soon as I had made it firm."
"That was a day too late for my pride. The Dawes have some pride, Jack Morgan."
"They have reason for it, Mistress Dawe."
"Their friends should respect it."
"I was hoping to increase it. Why, thinkest thou, did I resolve to risk life and limb in the Indies, unless to gather wealth, that I might lay it at thy feet?"
"Nay; thou wert bitten by the flea of adventure, and must needs rush about the world to deaden the itching. Suppose that I had rather have thee remain at home, being but a plain maid, who would find contentment as a farmer's wife?"
The idea had not occurred to Johnnie, and he gasped in astonishment. Dolly saw his confusion, and wisely did not press her point. On the contrary, woman-like, she dropped the whole thread of the argument, and simply exclaimed a little plaintively,—
"I am sore wearied!"
"Wearied!" cried Johnnie, facing round. "Wearied of what?"
"I have walked from Newnham, and 'tis a trying journey with the wind buffeting one so rudely."
"I thought thou hadst ridden with thy father."
"I walked alone; I wanted to see thee alone. Why should we part ill friends, that have loved one another?"
The next moment a tearful maid was in a strong man's arms. All the wrongs on both sides, real and imaginary, were forgiven and forgotten. Two happy, laughing lovers sat and watched the gulls wheeling, dipping, rising in the spring sunshine.
"Thou hast rare roses in thy cheeks, sweetheart," said Johnnie.
"'Tis the wind," replied Dolly.
"'March wind!'" murmured the youth.
"'April showers!'" sobbed the maiden; for she thought of the morrow, and the tears came into the brave blue eyes.
The arrow sang its curving flight through the air and stuck, with a quick quiver, in the very centre of the target. "Four times out of six have I found his heart, and a pennypiece would cover the four," exclaimed Nick Johnson. "'Twill do!" He put his bow-point to his toe, loosened the string, and laid the weapon aside. Brother Ned slipped his own bow from his shoulder, strung it, tested its tautness and rigidity, and took six arrows from the boy who waited upon the patrons of archery ground. He shot; the arrow went wide. He sighed, rubbed his eyes as though to clear them from mist, and shot again. The shaft lodged on the outer edge of the target, almost splintering the wood. "Better," said Nick encouragingly. Ned shot a third time; the string twanged unevenly, and the arrow fell short. With a groan of despair the sailor threw the bow aside, and called to the boy to fetch the arrows. "'Tis no use," he cried; "I shall ne'er master the trick on't again; left hand and eye will not go together as did right hand and eye in the old days. Time was when I could outshoot thee three matches in four; now should I miss the side of a house at a hundred paces. Thy left arm serves thee better than thy right ever did. I know no better marksman."
Nick pulled musingly at his sandy beard. "In truth," he admitted, "it seemeth as though nature intended me for a left-handed man; 'tis wonderful what skill I have acquired with it in a few months of practice. Wilt thou not try again?"
"Not to-day. I'll to the witch-woman under the cliffs, and get her to say some charms that have power over the left side of a man." Ned strode moodily off, and Nick followed him. At the stile that led into the highway they met Dan Pengelly coming in search of them. Yards away his excited countenance heralded news. "They've turned up at last!" he cried.
"Master Morgan and Rob?"
"No; the Papishers."
"Get ye to the 'Blue Dolphin,' and Dame Gregory will tell ye all. I'll be in hiding on the opposite side of the way, and a whistle will bring me across. Give your legs full play. I'll not be seen with ye. Needs must that we deal craftily when the devil's in person amongst the foe."
"Rest easy, Dan. Come on, Ned," cried Nick. And the two brothers swung off for the harbour side of the town and the back parlour of the "Blue Dolphin." Whilst they clatter along the cobbled highway, we will explain their errand.
When Dan Pengelly babbled secrets into the ears of Brother Basil, he unwittingly gave that worthy a new scheme of revenge. For some months after the failure of the plot to burn the forest, the ex-monk had remained in hiding amidst the mountains of South Wales. He stayed near Newnham long enough to learn from the farmer at Arlingham the precise fate of Father Jerome, his co-conspirator John, and Andrew Windybank. Being assured of their deaths, and the absolute failure of the Spanish plot, he disappeared. The foresters hoped, and at length believed, that he was dead; they had learned that he was the fiercest and most unscrupulous of the fanatics, and rumour had quickly clothed him with all sorts of unholy attributes. That he was not dead, but plotting further mischief, was known only to one man, and the knowledge helped to darken that man's life. The farmer at Arlingham had never been suspected of complicity in the plot; all, save Basil, who could have blabbed his secret were amongst the slain on the night of the fight with the Luath. He himself lost heart at the critical moment and stayed at home, and his only share in the affair was to provide for some of the wounded and receive the thanks of the admiral for his ready generosity. Yet, whilst the wounded groaned and tossed on his beds, Basil lay curled up, wolf fashion, in one of the barns. He lodged there again for two days after the burning of Dean Tower, and whilst the forest was being scoured with horse and hound for him. From thence he had journeyed to Plymouth, hoping to secure the Spanish papers hidden by the garrulous seaman. He succeeded in his object only a few hours before Dan came hastening back from Blakeney, fearful for the safety of his precious packet. The trick had been neatly played. Dame Gregory had entertained, for one night, a very pleasant and gentlemanly guest, who had speedily found his way into her good graces, and also into the back parlour of the "Blue Dolphin," which was sacred to the intimate cronies of her sailor spouse. It was there, behind a panel in the wall, that the hostess kept treasures belonging to several homeless mariners and adventurers who made her their banker and confidential agent. The foolish Dan, tipsily anxious to let his little comrade know how cunning he was, had explained the working of the panel and the difficulty of any one, save those in the secret, getting access to the precious hoard behind it. An evening's survey matured Basil's plans. Early the next morning two strange sailor-men entered the inn, and kept the landlady answering questions for the best part of half an hour. Not long after she was rid of them, her pleasant guest also bade her good day and departed.
No suspicions were aroused until Dan's return and discovery of his loss. Then Basil's handiwork was apparent enough. His connection with the two sailors was revealed in an early stage of Dan's search for the thief. The three had been seen together in a neighbouring hostel the previous day. No trace of them was discovered after the robbery. But now, on the very eve of Morgan's arrival in Plymouth, Dame Gregory's son, an urchin of about fourteen summers, had penetrated the rough disguise of two mariners who had dropped into the kitchen of the "Blue Dolphin." Guided by the child's eyes, the mother also had assured herself of the identity of the two. Dan had been apprised, had given the alarm to the Johnsons, and they were already lifting the latch of the parlour door. The two spies were on the ale-bench in the kitchen.
There was a whispered consultation with the hostess. Was she sure of her men? Quite. What was Dan going to do in the affair? Watch, in the hope that the sallow priest-man would pass along by the inn.
Nick and Ned entered the kitchen. They were taciturn fellows, but they gave the strangers a nod and a good-morrow! Conversation began, the Johnsons leaving the lead, after the first words, to the strangers. In those stirring times it was impossible for four mariners to meet in Plymouth town and refrain from talking about the wonderful New World across the Atlantic. All four had sailed its seas and navigated its rivers. Nick Johnson said many hard things of the Spaniards, and he expected the strangers to champion them a little. They did not; on the other hand, they heaped curses on the heads of the arrogant Dons. The talk turned on "El Dorado" and the fabulous treasures he had heaped up. The Johnsons were eager with inquiries, but had no information to offer. The strangers pretended to know a great deal about the mysterious Indian potentate and his golden land, but they winked at one another and kept their counsel. Ned Johnson made a plunge. Did the strangers know that a ship was actually fitting in Plymouth harbour for an unnamed port on the Orinoco? They did, and thought of trying for a berth in her, having information that would be valuable to her captain. By a casual remark, Ned hinted that he had personal knowledge of some of the co-owners of the Golden Boar. Instantly a flood of questions poured forth, but no answers were returned. The brothers professed a bond of secrecy. For a full hour a cunning game was played, two against two, but neither side secured an advantage. The strangers departed, having promised the Johnsons to meet the next morning at an inn lower down the harbour.
The spies were followed to their lodging-place, and a watch set upon them. But Basil was wary and made no sign. For two or three days the four sailors fraternized together, and Dan Pengelly and the landlady's son hung about in their neighbourhood, hoping to catch sight of a familiar and cunning face. Meanwhile the last touches were being given to the Golden Boar; her captain, John Drake, younger brother of the famous admiral, was daily aboard, and her three principal owners—Raleigh, Johnnie Morgan, and Captain Dawe—had arrived in Plymouth. They had given up all hope of seeing Dan's mysterious Spanish papers. But hope was not dead in the volatile Dan.
THE PARLOUR OF THE "BLUE DOLPHIN."
On the Cornish side of the Sound, and directly facing the harbour of Plymouth, lay a snug fisher village. In the gray, weather-beaten church were plentiful records of the births, marriages, and deaths of the Pengellys. The homeless and wandering Dan might have claimed relationship with half the inhabitants of the place had he chosen to do so. Yet, being Plymouth born and at sea four-fifths of his time, he had never visited the place since his boyhood. He thought less of a voyage to the Indies than of a trip across the estuary of the Tamar. And in this place, that echoed with his family name, and where he himself might walk as a stranger, lodged the man he sought in every street, byway, and tavern in Plymouth.
Dan had been down to the Golden Boar, and had talked with Captain Drake and Master Morgan. They wanted news of his papers; he could give them none.
"Then," said John Drake, "we can wait here no longer. Maybe thy papers would give us the very route to 'El Dorado's' land, and save us a world of danger and trouble; maybe they are about some other matter entirely. In any case, I must sail in three days' time. We are thoroughly armed, manned, and victualled; winter is gone, and the winds will serve. 'Tis westward ho! and take the risks that other bold fellows have taken before us. Yet I had rather the little priest had not gotten the manuscript from thee. The cunning thief may be garnering gold whilst we but reap wounds and fever. The New World is a big place, the Orinoco a mighty stream; no man can say what lands lie along its margin, and what mighty nations dwell on those lands. I have no fear of the night, but 'tis a good thing to have a lantern in hand when one walks in dark places."
Master Morgan agreed, and Dan resolved upon a desperate attempt to recover his lost treasure. He left the harbour, sought and found the Johnsons, and formulated a plan of action.
An hour or so later, Nick and Ned and the two stranger mariners entered the "Blue Dolphin," and begged the landlady to grant them the use of her parlour, as they wished to talk over a private matter of great importance. The good woman assented with pleasure, and promised them freedom from interruption. They went in, and upon their very heels came Dan. He said something to the hostess in a low voice. She protested volubly and angrily. He wheedled and coaxed, and at length, very reluctantly, she relented. Dan tapped at the door thrice separately and significantly. "This is our friend," said Nick Johnson, and he opened the door to admit him who knocked. The strangers stared at Dan; but, never having seen him before, had no suspicion of his identity.
All five sat down at the table, the two strangers with their backs to the fireplace, the three friends facing them, with their backs to the door. Dan did the talking, addressing himself to Basil's henchmen.
"These two good fellows," he said, "old shipmates of mine, have arranged this pleasant meeting at my request. I have heard somewhat of you, and learn that we are all greatly interested in a certain matter. If I just mention 'Indies,' 'Dons,' 'gold,' you will guess the run of my thoughts."
The strangers nodded, and settled themselves into an attitude of closer attention.
"There's a vessel in harbour almost ready to weigh anchor for the land of the setting sun. Her aim is treasure. I sail in her, and I am in the secret councils of her captain. Do you follow my thoughts?"
"Perfectly. You've some bold business on hand for dipping your hands deep into the spoil of the voyage, and you want a few bold blades at your back. Say no more. Get us aboard, and when you give the signal we're with you. To tell you the truth, we were planning some such scheme ourselves, but could see no chance of a berth on the vessel."
"I'm glad you're the stout fellows I took you to be. Now, don't be surprised at what I say next. I have more than one man's secrets locked in my bosom." Dan turned to Nick Johnson. "Just make sure there are no eavesdroppers," he said.
Nick looked out into the passage. "Not a mouse stirring."
"Then, whilst thou art on thy legs, fetch in some ale. Our new comrades would like to toast our enterprise."
Dan leaned back in silence whilst Nick did his errand. Healths were drunk without words—just a nod, as much as to say, "To you, my hearty!"
Dan leaned across the table. "A thin, wiry, sallow-faced man; black-haired, black-eyed, supple as an eel, cunning as a cat; a scholar and travelled gentleman, who might easily be a cut-throat; one who professes the old faith, and swears by the Pope—ye know him?"
The elder of the two spies licked his lips uneasily, looked hurriedly from his companion to Dan, and from Dan back to his companion. The latter stared and blinked his eyes in embarrassment.
"Ye helped him in a little job in this very house about three months ago," pursued Dan. "D'ye know what he got out of it?"
"The very thing we want to get out of him. A sailor hid some papers in this very house—papers that point the way to untold wealth, the way to 'El Dorado's' land. I was with him when he learned the secret, and hurried back here to lay hands upon the precious packet. I was a little behind time. Now, if we are going in the Golden Boar, we must carry those papers with us. Ye both unwittingly played stalking-horse whilst another man got the treasure."
"And he paid us scurvily, the yellow-faced rascal!" cried the spies.
"And he will pay ye scurvily for spying upon the Golden Boar and Master Morgan, whom he hates. D'ye see how well I know the fellow and all his secrets? I could hang him an I could but lay hands on him. Are we to go on a blind expedition to the Indies, he laughing at us from the quayside, and straightway fitting a vessel at his leisure to garner in the wealth we may search for in vain?"
"By the saints, no! But we took him for an honester man."
"Ye did not know him; I do. Now, where is he to be found? There is no time to lose. I know he's not far off, but I had rather not waste precious hours in searching for him."
The two rascals, astonished at Dan's knowledge of their doings, fell into the trap he set for them. They jumped up. "We'll take ye to him at once!"
"Softly, friends! I know my man and his ways. Did he but catch sight of five of us approaching his hiding-place, we should never get a glimpse of him. Did he but see me with ye, our quest were in vain. Have I not said I know enough of him to hang him? Leave the business to me, and wait here with my friends. Would ye send five dogs barking and tearing through a wood to trap one fox? One silent hound, with a good nose, sharp teeth, silent tongue, and a knowledge of the fox's ways, would serve the purpose better. Let me know the lie of his den, and trust me for the rest."
The fellows fell in with Dan's plan. Truth to tell, they had seen a little of the sinister side of Basil's character, and had a pretty wholesome dread of him. Their new friend, who knew his man so well, was best fitted for the dangerous enterprise. They wished him joy of it, and would be content to share its fruits. To Dan's astonishment, they told him that Basil was hiding across the Sound in his own ancestral village.
"Heart o' me!" he exclaimed, "he is mine! Yon place is filled with my own kith and kin. The fox is in a very ring of dogs."
"Get not too many helpers, friend," said Nick cunningly, "else will the spoil be split into too many portions."
"Well argued!" exclaimed Basil's dupes. "Too many hands in the meal-tub means small share apiece."
"Never fear, comrades. A buss on the cheek or a handshake will be payment enough. I shall not tell them that they are helping me to lay fingers on the wealth of the Indies. Will ye take another flagon to wish me success? I must be going. The afternoon wears on, and night must be my time for work. Where shall we meet to-morrow?"
"Here, at noon," suggested Ned Johnson.
"Here, at noon," agreed Dan. He got up and went to the street door, and Nick went with him.
"Cunningly managed, Dan," he murmured. "'Tis better than putting sword to their throats and pricking out the information. Art going alone?"
"No; meet me at Ian Davey's boathouse at sunset. Let Ned keep an eye on yon two."
THE WIDOW'S HOUSE.
The springtide sun set ruddily and frostily across the Sound; and as the fiery ball hung for a moment on the western shore, a broad pathway like a pathway of rippling blood, or deep-tinged, running gold, went in a line from Ian Davey's boatyard to the Cornish coast.
"An omen!" cried Dan, seeing with the eye of the superstitious sailor. "We sail to wealth over a golden sea."
Nick shook his head. "The colour is not yellow enough for my liking. Is the boat ready?"
"Then let us be going whilst the breeze holds easterly."
Ian Davey's lad came out of the boathouse with a pair of oars on his shoulders. He went down to a little fisher boat that rocked gently against the end of the wooden jetty. The two sailor-men followed him. The mast was stepped, and they pushed out from the shore, the two men rowing and the lad steering. As soon as they were far enough out to catch the breeze the sail was set, and the little craft went bowling along over the fast-darkening sea. The oars were shipped, and Dan fell to musing. He tried to recollect the occasion of his last visit to the Cornish village from which his family had sprung, and was astonished to find that, in the sum of ten thousand leagues of travel since manhood, the little journey he was now taking did not once enter. He stroked his red beard, perplexed at the oddity of the whole thing. He pictured the steep, cobbled street leading up from the shore, and peeped into every remembered window in the row of rude thatched cottages. Slowly he recalled the names of old boy and girl companions who had played with him around the doorstep of his grandfather's house. For half the voyage the object which had prompted it was forgotten. The journey was as silent as a secret journey should be. It began in twilight and ended in darkness. The keel of the boat grated on the soft sand. Dan and Nick Johnson stepped out.
"How long will ye be?" asked Davey's lad.
Dan pondered. "Ye cannot get back without us; 'twill be a matter of hard rowing against the wind. I have been thinking. This place is hallowed soil to me, and my feet have not trodden it for thirty years. Bide thou here to-night; I will find thee supper and a pallet. There are many folk with whom I would fain speak now that I am here. Keep a still tongue concerning us: we will speak for ourselves. Tie up thy boat, and ask for John Pengelly. If he be dead, ask for any of his children; they will entertain thee for my sake."
Dan took his companion's arm, and climbed the tide-washed bank. He stood for a moment listening and peering into the darkness, then he made for the nearest cottage. The shutter was not closed, and the faint glow of leaping firelight shone through the oiled paper stretched across the bars of the lattice. The sailor turned to the door, and pulled the latch string.
"Peace be to you all, friends," he said. "'Tis the voice of a Pengelly that speaks."
"Come into the light, Pengelly. Your tongue doth not ring familiarly," came the answer.
Dan stepped forward, leaving Nick on the threshold.
A young fisherman and his wife sat in the narrow arc of the firelight, and beside them, on a deerskin, their little son basked in the genial warmth. The breeze through the open door fanned the glowing wood into flame.
"Close the door, friend," said the fisherman.
"I have a comrade on the threshold."
"Then bring him in."
Nick entered, apologizing for his intrusion, and giving his name, town, and profession as a guarantee of his honesty of purpose.
"Ye are welcome both," replied the fisherman. "We have supped, but the wife shall set meat and drink before you."
"We are fresh from eating and drinking," said Dan, "and have but looked in for a little chat, seeing that ye were not abed."
"Say your say, friends."
Dan did so, in his own roundabout fashion. He casually mentioned his voyages to the West, a theme of unfailing interest to any man dwelling on the shores of Plymouth Sound. Then he came to the real reason for his visit. He described the two sailors he had met in Plymouth. The fisherman had never seen them. Dan had guessed as much, but he wanted to be sure. Then he sketched Basil. The fisherman sat upright in a moment.
"I know him," he cried. "He has been amongst us, off and on, for more than a month. I'll take you to him."
But Dan would not trouble any one to do that.
"He knows me well enough," he replied, "and I would rather take him by surprise. We had a jolly time together last Christmas."
So the fisherman pointed out where Basil was staying, and his two callers took their leave, promising to look in upon him again in the morning.
Apart from the row of cottages stood the house in which Brother Basil was staying. At one time the place had made some pretensions to smartness. It was stone-built throughout and tiled. In the rear was an orchard of apple-trees; and a herb garden, now choked with weeds, separated the front of the house from the roadway. The place was in the occupation of a widow woman, whose late husband had once been a man of some means.
The night was sufficiently starlit for a sailor to pick his way with certainty, and the two men went rapidly forward. The gate in the fence stood ajar, and Dan went first to spy out the land. The front window was heavily shuttered, an unusual precaution to take on a fine night. Putting his eye to a chink, the sailor could just discern the shadowy outline of a man seated at a table. A rushlight stood beside him, and apparently he was reading. Passing on to the door, he found that the latch-string was pulled in through the latch-hole; the door was secure. Steadily, Dan pressed against it; it was firm as the wall, no play to and fro on latch and hinge. "Bolted," he muttered, and stole back to the fence, in whose shadow Nick was still standing. He whispered his report, and the two consulted together for a moment. Then both went round to the orchard, stole through a gap in the straggling hedge, and came over the grass to the rear of the house. A light shone through the unshuttered window.
"Ah!" exclaimed Dan, "this looks more like the home of honest people. Yon thief in front is bolted and barred. I warrant me the widow hath not pulled in her latch-string. We must open and enter. To knock would be to give warning to our man, who hath ears that gather sound quicker than doth a rabbit's."
"How will the widow take our incoming?" asked Nick. "We be two strangers, and night hath fallen. Should she cry out, we are undone; for the fishers would come upon us, and maybe lay us low without a chance to explain our errand. Thy monk-man, too, is a guest of the village. Should he sound an alarm, 'twould go hard with us if the neighbours took us for thieves and him for an honest man."
Dan paused. "Shrewdly spoken, comrade. But there is no time to go round the place and prove that we be honest Protestants and good sailors, whilst the little man is a thieving Papist and murderous traitor. We should cause clamour enough to give him warning and time for escape. We will get within. Thou wilt stay with the widow, and keep her from doing us a mischief. I will see to my man alone."
"If thou shouldst want help?"
"I will cry out for it quickly enough."
As Dan predicted, the latch-string still hung out. A gentle pull, and the well-used door swung open. The widow was in her kitchen, raking together the red embers on the hearth preparatory to going to bed. The noise of her scraping was sufficient to cover up the sounds at the door, and Dan was at her side, his fingers on her lips, ere she was aware of his presence.
"Sh!" he whispered in warning; "not a sound, good mother. We are friends, but thou art in danger; thy life depends on thy silence."
The poor woman paled, and shook in every limb. Dan whispered reassuringly, and removed his hand from her mouth.
"God 'a mercy!" she gasped.
Nick brought forward a stool and gently placed her upon it.
"Have no fear," he said; "I will stay with thee."
"Who are ye?"
"Friends and protectors, mother; honest sons of Devon, who have discovered a deadly plot. Lean thou on my shoulder."
Nick's whispers were soothing, his face was honest; the widow's brain was bewildered. She believed him, and clung to him in white terror. Dan saw that she was safe from any hysterical screaming, enjoined silence on both, and passed on towards the parlour where Basil was sitting. He paused for a moment to draw his sword, then tip-toed to the door. Leaning against the oaken post, he heard the rustling of paper. He set his teeth; there was a flash of light; the door had been opened and shut again, and the sailor and the Spanish agent stood face to face.
Basil's first emotion was one of the most absolute and complete astonishment. So surprised was he that he actually sat and rubbed his eyes as though to clear them from deluding visions. And in just that moment of stupefaction Dan acted. The papers were on the table: doubtless they were his papers. He lunged forward, spitted them on the point of his sword, and crammed them into his doublet by the time Basil was on his feet, and a dagger in his hand. The sailor expected a vicious spring from his adversary, but Basil made no move forward. His quondam roadside companion had the advantage of him in height, reach, and length of weapon, and he had related sufficient of his exploits during their Yuletide tramp to prove himself an apt swordsman. The ex-monk had been trained in a school that set guile above force. He saw at once that his tongue would be his better weapon, so put his dagger back into his belt, sat down and snuffed his candle.
"Thou art not going to fight?"
"Why should we do so? Sit down, Dan Pengelly, and explain thyself."
It was the sailor's turn to be astonished. He got a stool and seated himself, his back to the door, and his weapon across his knee. Basil laughed with assumed good-humour.
"Thou art careful, comrade."
"Thou hast tricked me once."
"And thou hast neatly tricked me. We cry 'quits.'"
"Why not? I have thy papers—I make no secret of that—and thou hast mine."
"Are not these the same?"
"No. But let us exchange, and give over all talk of robbery." Basil got up and went to a little press in the wall. Before opening the door he turned again to Dan. "Thou wilt observe that I am not afraid of turning my back to thee. I have more faith in thine honour than thou hast in mine."
The sailor flushed and fidgeted. "Thou didst deceive me under the guise of friendship," he muttered.
"Pshaw, man! thou wert undone by thine own foolishness. Why didst chatter to a stranger about thy papers? Is not all England agog to find the land of 'El Dorado'? Dost think that any man breathing could resist the temptation to gain a knowledge of the way thither? I suffer from no gold hunger, but I would like the honour of discovering that notable country. So wouldst thou; so would Admiral Drake. I shall have done thee no harm, but rather given thee a lesson in caution if I restore thy papers."
"Wilt do so?"
Basil opened the press, and tossed a packet on the table. "There they are."
Dan snatched it up, and turned it round and round in his fingers. "Why dost thou give them back?"
"They are thine, and thou hast come for them."
"Hast read them?"
"What is in them?"
"Maybe truth, maybe idle tales; their value remains to be proven. Come, thou hast thy packet; give me mine."
A cunning gleam came into the sailor's eyes. "I have not read thine. Can we fairly cry quits until I have done so?"
Basil bit his lip. "Canst read?"
"Then let me read them to thee. They are part of a treatise on philosophy which I am writing. The opinion of a plain man upon it would be valuable. I should like to have thine."
But Dan was no philosopher, and his present adversary had given him an excellent lesson in caution. He thrust his own packet into his doublet, to lie side by side with the other papers.
"Master Priest, Papist, and spy of Spain—for so I learn thou art—thy work is more likely to be the hatching of plots than the writing of learned books. Thou didst keep my papers for a time quite against my will, and without my consent; therefore shall I hold thine until I learn their contents. Tit for tat is reasonable justice 'twixt man and man."
Basil laughed. "Read me thy riddle," he said. "The world is narrow; thou art surely confounding me with some other man."
"That is possible. A few hours will decide the point. A certain Master Morgan of Gloucestershire and a well-known knight, Sir Walter Raleigh of Sherborne, are yonder in Plymouth town, and will be able to testify for or against thee. Thou shalt be haled before them to-morrow."
"That's work for a strong man, Dan Pengelly."
"There are many of my family in this village, and I did not come alone from Plymouth. The widow hath bonny company in the kitchen."
Basil's face blazed. "'Tis she hath betrayed me."
"Not so. We scared her worse than we scared thee."
Basil sat silent for a while, and Dan drummed on his sword-hilt with his fingers. At length the spy spoke again.
"I suppose it is useless to argue with thee?"
"I never had any head for disputations."
"Very well then, ye must be my guests for the night. Call thy friends from the kitchen, ask the widow for some ale, and let her be getting to bed. Thou and I may get to blows if we sit alone."
Dan stared. His prisoner was actually asking for an increased guard, and would be glad of more company. Not suspecting any trick, but determined not to be caught napping, he got up, opened the door, and stood with his hand on the latch calling for Nick. He bellowed twice before he got an answer. With Nick's answering shout he caught sound of a sudden crash in the room behind. He bounded back. Basil was gone; the window was opened. He dashed to the opening, and the trick was disclosed. The prisoner had silently unfastened the shutters, smashed the lattice, and escaped. Nick came running along. The alarm was given, and the whole village awakened to chase the Papist spy. They did not catch him.
Dan returned to Plymouth next morning and handed his papers to Sir Walter. The first packet proved to be a description of "El Dorado's" land, and a guide to the fabled region. It was the work of a Spanish missionary, and was written to King Philip himself. Basil's treatise on philosophy was none other than a letter from a Spanish agent in London, giving particulars of a plot against Elizabeth and in favour of the Queen of Scots. Raleigh declared the latter paper to be of immeasurably greater value than the Orinoco packet. The knight had had experience of such papers before, and knew, only too well, that they contained more fable than fact. He handed them to Captain John Drake, and left it to him and the gentlemen adventurers who were to sail with him to decide what faith they should put in the missionary's disclosures.
HO! FOR THE SPANISH MAIN.
With a brisk nor'easterly breeze behind her, the Golden Boar slipped through the sunlit waters of Plymouth Sound as gracefully as a fair swan might cleave the bosom of a lake. Somewhat narrow in build, moderately low in the waist, with bow and poop not too high-pitched, masts tall and sails ample, she was built with an eye to speed. And with carved posts and rails for her bulwarks, many-windowed cabins in the after part, tapering, artistic prow with the gilded boar rampant, her designer had had an eye to beauty also. Hull and decks were of seasoned English oak, and masts of straight Scots pine. The Knight of Sherborne had found her building in Plymouth dockyard, and had tempted her would-be owner to part with her for a price he could not resist. Captain John Drake had tested her in the Channel from the Goodwins round to Lundy in fair weather and in foul, and had found no fault in her. The critical crowd that stood on the Hoe and watched her as she dipped below the horizon were of opinion that no better-found ship had left the harbour to brave the perils of the Spanish Main. She was of a hundred and fifty tons burthen—a goodly tonnage in those venturesome days—and she carried a captain and crew of twenty men, an equal number of skilled archers, six gunners, and some dozen and a half of gentlemen adventurers, who for the most part could handle rope, sail, sword, bow, pike, or gun as well as any captain might wish. As far as the voyage was concerned, the expedition was under the absolute command of the admiral's brother; on land he was bound to take council with the gentlemen adventurers, all of whom had put some money into the undertaking. Raleigh himself risked the greatest stake, and in order after him came Morgan, Captain Dawe (who did not participate in the voyage itself), the admiral, his brother the skipper, a certain Sir John Trelawny, and Master Timothy Jeffreys, who had secretly speculated his own savings and some of those of Mistress Stowe of Wood Street off Chepe. There was no lack of money in the venture, and the ship was well-found, well-manned, well-armed, and generously provisioned. Dan Pengelly's papers were in the cabin; Dan himself was taking first spell at the helm. Hope was high in every heart, and many a lusty voice joined in the chorus of the helmsman's song:—
"Then ho! for the Spanish Main, And ha! for the Spanish gold; King Philip's ships are riding deep With the weight of wealth untold. They're prey for the saucy lads Who dance on the Plymouth Hoe; They'll all sail home thro' the fleecy foam, With a rich galleon in tow-tow-tow, With a rich galleon in tow!"
Johnnie Morgan was leaning against the stern bulwarks, watching the heave and fall of the vessel and listening to the sailor's song. "Hardly to the text, Dan, is it? We are to capture a city and spoil its treasure houses, and have no idea of hitching a line of galleons behind us."
"Sir," replied Dan, "as chief helmsman I know we shall go south to the Azores and follow the Spanish track across the ocean. Ships of King Philip's we must meet, and maybe, at first, we shall bid them a good-morrow and kiss our hands to them. But Dons are Dons, and we are what our forefathers have made us. Ale and beef must fight salt fish and thin Canary. I have cut ox meat, drunk October, and ploughed the deep. I know the effect of all on a man's heart and head. I can drink with a Dutchman and dance with a Frenchman, but, St. George, his sword! steel springs from scabbard at the sight of a Spanish face. 'Tis the breed of us, and nature will out."
"And I am the last man to quarrel with my breeding. Well, we are set forth, and no man can say what may hap ere we see yonder line of cliffs again."
"True," mused Dan; "but if we break not faith with God and our captain, nought will happen for which a true man may grieve."
"Amen to that!" said Johnnie, and he fell to watching the sea once more.
Nothing could have been more propitious than the first part of the voyage. The course was south-west, and for days the wind blew steadily from the east or north-east. A low, misty line to larboard—the line of the French coast—was the last sight of Europe the adventurers had. For fifteen days after this the heaving sea met the whole circle of the gray-blue horizon. The days grew warmer and the winds softer as they voyaged south; the good ship was bearing them into the arms of summer. For some few days there was plenty of bustle aboard. Captain and crew overhauled the stores and stowed them more securely and handily; they critically studied the behaviour of their trim little craft as good seamen should; and the gentlemen adventurers became better acquainted with one another, and got their sea-legs and sea-stomachs. When the time came that heads and eyes were no longer turned backwards for a glimpse of familiar landmarks, but were strained forward towards the land of their hopes, then those aboard the Golden Boar had settled down, each in his own place, to form a happy brotherly community, linked by common hopes, aims, and interests. Sailors, soldiers, and men of gentle breeding fraternized freely together, each prepared to stand by the other in the last extremity of danger, or to share loyally in the fruits of good fortune. Harmony was complete, yet discipline was perfect; for the skipper was worthy of his name, and that name was the glorious one of "Drake."
It was an easy matter in those brave old times to get together an excellent ship's company. Men of all ranks and stations were wild for adventure, and bold sailors literally trod upon one another in their eagerness to be berthed aboard a ship chartered for a voyage to the magic New World. Captain Drake had picked and chosen at his leisure, and a man needed to be many-sided in his accomplishments to get his name inscribed on the ship's books. Take Dan Pengelly. He was an excellent sailor, as bold as a lion, and had sailed the western ocean before. But a hundred men in Plymouth could claim so much as that. Dan's precious packet and his skill as a singer were the deciding points in his favour. A capable band of musicians could be mustered from amongst the crew and the archers. Life aboard the Golden Boar was jolly enough, and no man in the whole company wished to be otherwhere. Glorious days! heroic hearts! and happy, happy, land that bred them!
The Azores were readied without accident, almost without incident, and Captain Drake sailed boldly into the harbour of Flores and sent ashore for fresh fruits and water. There were two Spanish vessels in the harbour, one a heavily-armed galleon of about six hundred tons. Like the English ship, she was going westwards, her destination being Vera Cruz, from which port she was to escort a treasure-ship filled with the produce of the Mexican mines. When the English captain heard this he resolved, other things failing him, to bear King Philip's treasure to Europe himself. His company was eager to be away, so a night and a day completed his stay at Flores.
And now for a full month, with varying winds and under changing skies, through storm and shine, the Golden Boar ploughed her ocean furrow in the path of the sun; and on the twenty-fourth of May she cast anchor in the bay of San Joseph, Trinidad. West and north of her lay the multitudinous islands of the fertile Indies. Southwards stretched the continuation of the great American continent, the land of so many dreams and hopes and desires. Johnnie Morgan stood with Master Jeffreys and gazed at the long-sought land—at its waving palms, its gleaming sands, the native huts, and the white houses of the Spaniards. A native boat shot out from the shore. Two dusky, pleasant-faced fellows stepped aboard. Johnnie went forward. He put out his hand and touched them with trembling fingers. Wonderful, new creatures!
IN THE BAY OF SAN JOSEPH.
The appearance of an English vessel in any harbour of Spanish America was the reverse of pleasing to the Spanish authorities. The Spaniards who commanded in the smaller stations were not of the best type of Castilian chivalry. Soldados of fortune, needy and unscrupulous adventurers, or intriguing favourites of some colonial governor, they had all the greed and arrogance of the noble Dons without their proud reserve and sense of chivalry and honour. In a hurry to get rich, they ground down the hapless natives into the dust. They robbed and ill-treated their timid dependants without fear or remorse, and exacted a cringing obedience that hid smouldering fires of hate and revenge. The Spanish troops were as lawless as their leaders, and black ink would turn red were one to attempt to tell the true tale of Spanish misrule and terrorism in the rich islands of the West. The Don looked upon the poor Indian as a chattel given over to him to do with according to his lordly will, and he usually acted in harmony with the extremest measure of his belief. And therein he differed wholly from those freebooting, audacious, devil-may-care sons of Devon and the west who followed in the Spanish wake across the Western Main. To the English mariner the gentle, heathen Indian was an object of compassion. God had given him a glorious land in which to dwell, and had heaped upon him riches that he could neither appreciate nor value; but in the higher characteristics of manhood, and in the blessings of religious revelation, He had denied him much, and so we find Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh, Gilbert, Oxenham, Whiddon, and a score of other bold captains on all occasions treating the natives with civility and even kindness. The poor, brown-skinned fellows soon learned to know friend from foe, and everywhere they came forth to welcome the blue-eyed sons of Albion, whilst they ran and hid themselves from the darker-hued children of Spain.
The commandant of San Joseph quickly learned that an English vessel had anchored in the bay, and he resolved to extend no courtesies whatsoever to the unwelcome visitors. On finding that the ship was a small one and without consorts, his resolution to treat her captain with disdain was strengthened. John Drake fired a gun to announce his arrival; the echoes boomed round the bay, but brought no answer from the fort. Another signal was fired, with a similar lack of result. The gunner, a grizzled old veteran, who had been buccaneering with the great admiral, turned to his captain. "Thy brother—God preserve him!—would send an iron messenger with his third salute."