Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
Chapter XXIX. How the Virginia Fleet was Stopped by the Queen's Command
"The daughter of debate, That discord still doth sow, Shall reap no gain where former rule Hath taught still peace to grow. No foreign banish'd wight Shall anker in this port Our realm it brooks no stranger's force; Let them elsewhere resort." QU. ELIZABETH. 1569.
And now Amyas is settled quietly at home again; and for the next twelve months little passes worthy of record in these pages. Yeo has installed himself as major domo, with no very definite functions, save those of walking about everywhere at Amyas's heels like a lank gray wolf-hound, and spending his evenings at the fireside, as a true old sailor does, with his Bible on his knee, and his hands busy in manufacturing numberless nicknacks, useful and useless, for every member of the family, and above all for Ayacanora, whom he insults every week by humbly offering some toy only fit for a child; at which she pouts, and is reproved by Mrs. Leigh, and then takes the gift, and puts it away never to look at it again. For her whole soul is set upon being an English maid; and she runs about all day long after Mrs. Leigh, insisting upon learning the mysteries of the kitchen and the still-room, and, above all, the art of making clothes for herself, and at last for everybody in Northam. For first, she will be a good housewife, like Mrs. Leigh; and next a new idea has dawned on her: that of helping others. To the boundless hospitality of the savage she has been of course accustomed: but to give to those who can give nothing in return, is a new thought. She sees Mrs. Leigh spending every spare hour in working for the poor, and visiting them in their cottages. She sees Amyas, after public thanks in church for his safe return, giving away money, food, what not, in Northam, Appledore, and Bideford; buying cottages and making them almshouses for worn-out mariners; and she is told that this is his thank- offering to God. She is puzzled; her notion of a thank-offering was rather that of the Indians, and indeed of the Spaniards,-- sacrifices of human victims, and the bedizenment of the Great Spirit's sanctuary with their skulls and bones. Not that Amyas, as a plain old-fashioned churchman, was unmindful of the good old instinctive rule, that something should be given to the Church itself; for the vicar of Northam was soon resplendent with a new surplice, and what was more, the altar with a splendid flagon and salver of plate (lost, I suppose, in the civil wars) which had been taken in the great galleon. Ayacanora could understand that: but the almsgiving she could not, till Mrs. Leigh told her, in her simple way, that whosoever gave to the poor, gave to the Great Spirit; for the Great Spirit was in them, and in Ayacanora too, if she would be quiet and listen to him, instead of pouting, and stamping, and doing nothing but what she liked. And the poor child took in that new thought like a child, and worked her fingers to the bone for all the old dames in Northam, and went about with Mrs. Leigh, lovely and beloved, and looked now and then out from under her long black eyelashes to see if she was winning a smile from Amyas. And on the day on which she won one, she was good all day; and on the day on which she did not, she was thoroughly naughty, and would have worn out the patience of any soul less chastened than Mrs. Leigh's. But as for the pomp and glory of her dress, there was no keeping it within bounds; and she swept into church each Sunday bedizened in Spanish finery, with such a blaze and rustle, that the good vicar had to remonstrate humbly with Mrs. Leigh on the disturbance which she caused to the eyes and thoughts of all his congregation. To which Ayacanora answered, that she was not thinking about them, and they need not think about her; and that if the Piache (in plain English, the conjuror), as she supposed, wanted a present, he might have all her Mexican feather- dresses; she would not wear them--they were wild Indian things, and she was an English maid--but they would just do for a Piache; and so darted upstairs, brought them down, and insisted so stoutly on arraying the vicar therein, that the good man beat a swift retreat. But he carried off with him, nevertheless, one of the handsomest mantles, which, instead of selling it, he converted cleverly enough into an altar-cloth; and for several years afterwards, the communion at Northam was celebrated upon a blaze of emerald, azure, and crimson, which had once adorned the sinful body of some Aztec prince.
So Ayacanora flaunted on; while Amyas watched her, half amused, half in simple pride of her beauty; and looked around at all gazers, as much as to say, "See what a fine bird I have brought home!"
Another great trouble which she gave Mrs. Leigh was her conduct to the ladies of the neighborhood. They came, of course, one and all, not only to congratulate Mrs. Leigh, but to get a peep at the fair savage; but the fair savage snubbed them all round, from the vicar's wife to Lady Grenville herself, so effectually, that few attempted a second visit.
Mrs. Leigh remonstrated, and was answered by floods of tears. "They only come to stare at a poor wild Indian girl, and she would not be made a show of. She was like a queen once, and every one obeyed her; but here every one looked down upon her." But when Mrs. Leigh asked her, whether she would sooner go back to the forests, the poor girl clung to her like a baby, and entreated not to be sent away, "She would sooner be a slave in the kitchen here, than go back to the bad people."
And so on, month after month of foolish storm and foolish sunshine; but she was under the shadow of one in whom was neither storm nor sunshine, but a perpetual genial calm of soft gray weather, which tempered down to its own peacefulness all who entered its charmed influence; and the outbursts grew more and more rare, and Ayacanora more and more rational, though no more happy, day by day.
And one by one small hints came out which made her identity certain, at least in the eyes of Mrs. Leigh and Yeo. After she had become familiar with the sight of houses, she gave them to understand that she had seen such things before. The red cattle, too, seemed not unknown to her; the sheep puzzled her for some time, and at last she gave Mrs. Leigh to understand that they were too small.
"Ah, madam," quoth Yeo, who caught at every straw, "it is because she has been accustomed to those great camel sheep (llamas they call them) in Peru."
But Ayacanora's delight was a horse. The use of tame animals at all was a daily wonder to her; but that a horse could be ridden was the crowning miracle of all; and a horse she would ride, and after plaguing Amyas for one in vain (for he did not want to break her pretty neck), she proposed confidentially to Yeo to steal one, and foiled in that, went to the vicar and offered to barter all her finery for his broken-kneed pony. But the vicar was too honest to drive so good a bargain, and the matter ended, in Amyas buying her a jennet, which she learned in a fortnight to ride like a very Gaucho.
And now awoke another curious slumbering reminiscence. For one day, at Lady Grenville's invitation, the whole family went over to Stow; Mrs. Leigh soberly on a pillion behind the groom, Ayacanora cantering round and round upon the moors like a hound let loose, and trying to make Amyas ride races with her. But that night, sleeping in the same room with Mrs. Leigh, she awoke shrieking, and sobbed out a long story how the "Old ape of Panama," her especial abomination, had come to her bedside and dragged her forth into the courtyard, and how she had mounted a horse and ridden with an Indian over great moors and high mountains down into a dark wood, and there the Indian and the horses vanished, and she found herself suddenly changed once more into a little savage child. So strong was the impression, that she could not be persuaded that the thing had not happened, if not that night, at least some night or other. So Mrs. Leigh at last believed the same, and told the company next morning in her pious way how the Lord had revealed in a vision to the poor child who she was, and how she had been exposed in the forests by her jealous step-father, and neither Sir Richard nor his wife could doubt but that hers was the true solution. It was probable that Don Xararte, though his home was Panama, had been often at Quito, for Yeo had seen him come on board the Lima ship at Guayaquil, one of the nearest ports. This would explain her having been found by the Indians beyond Cotopaxi, the nearest peak of the Eastern Andes, if, as was but too likely, the old man, believing her to be Oxenham's child, had conceived the fearful vengeance of exposing her in the forests.
Other little facts came to light one by one. They were all connected (as was natural in a savage) with some animal or other natural object. Whatever impressions her morals or affections had received, had been erased by the long spiritual death of that forest sojourn; and Mrs. Leigh could not elicit from her a trace of feeling about her mother, or recollection of any early religious teaching. This link, however, was supplied at last, and in this way.
Sir Richard had brought home an Indian with him from Virginia. Of his original name I am not sure, but he was probably the "Wanchese" whose name occurs with that of "Manteo."
This man was to be baptized in the church at Bideford by the name of Raleigh, his sponsors being most probably Raleigh himself, who may have been there on Virginian business, and Sir Richard Grenville. All the notabilities of Bideford came, of course, to see the baptism of the first "Red man" whose foot had ever trodden British soil, and the mayor and corporation-men appeared in full robes, with maces and tipstaffs, to do honor to that first-fruits of the Gospel in the West.
Mrs. Leigh went, as a matter of course, and Ayacanora would needs go too. She was very anxious to know what they were going to do with the "Carib."
"To make him a Christian."
"Why did they not make her one?"
Because she was one already. They were sure that she had been christened as soon as she was born. But she was not sure, and pouted a good deal at the chance of an "ugly red Carib" being better off than she was. However, all assembled duly; the stately son of the forest, now transformed into a footman of Sir Richard's, was standing at the font; the service was half performed when a heavy sigh, or rather groan, made all eyes turn, and Ayacanora sank fainting upon Mrs. Leigh's bosom.
She was carried out, and to a neighboring house; and when she came to herself, told a strange story. How, as she was standing there trying to recollect whether she too had ever been baptized, the church seemed to grow larger, the priest's dress richer; the walls were covered with pictures, and above the altar, in jewelled robes, stood a lady, and in her arms a babe. Soft music sounded in her ears; the air was full (on that she insisted much) of fragrant odor which filled the church like mist; and through it she saw not one, but many Indians, standing by the font; and a lady held her by the hand, and she was a little girl again.
And after, many questionings, so accurate was her recollection, not only of the scene, but of the building, that Yeo pronounced:
"A christened woman she is, madam, if Popish christening is worth calling such, and has seen Indians christened too in the Cathedral Church at Quito, the inside whereof I know well enough, and too well, for I sat there three mortal hours in a San Benito, to hear a friar preach his false doctrines, not knowing whether I was to be burnt or not next day."
So Ayacanora went home to Burrough, and Raleigh the Indian to Sir Richard's house. The entry of his baptism still stands, crooked- lettered, in the old parchment register of the Bideford baptisms for 1587-3:
"Raleigh, a Winganditoian: March 26."
His name occurs once more, a year and a month after:
"Rawly, a Winganditoian, April 1589."
But it is not this time among the baptisms. The free forest wanderer has pined in vain for his old deer-hunts amid the fragrant cedar woods, and lazy paddlings through the still lagoons, where water-lilies sleep beneath the shade of great magnolias, wreathed with clustered vines; and now he is away to "happier hunting- grounds," and all that is left of him below sleeps in the narrow town churchyard, blocked in with dingy houses, whose tenants will never waste a sigh upon the Indian's grave. There the two entries stand, unto this day; and most pathetic they have seemed to me; a sort of emblem and first-fruits of the sad fate of that worn-out Red race, to whom civilization came too late to save, but not too late to hasten their decay.
But though Amyas lay idle, England did not. That spring saw another and a larger colony sent out by Raleigh to Virginia, under the charge of one John White. Raleigh had written more than once, entreating Amyas to take the command, which if he had done, perhaps the United States had begun to exist twenty years sooner than they actually did. But his mother had bound him by a solemn promise (and who can wonder at her for asking, or at him for giving it?) to wait at home with her twelve months at least. So, instead of himself, he sent five hundred pounds, which I suppose are in Virginia (virtually at least) until this day; for they never came back again to him.
But soon came a sharper trial of Amyas's promise to his mother; and one which made him, for the first time in his life, moody, peevish, and restless, at the thought that others were fighting Spaniards, while he was sitting idle at home. For his whole soul was filling fast with sullen malice against Don Guzman. He was losing the "single eye," and his whole body was no longer full of light. He had entered into the darkness in which every man walks who hates his brother; and it lay upon him like a black shadow day and night. No company, too, could be more fit to darken that shadow than Salvation Yeo's. The old man grew more stern in his fanaticism day by day, and found a too willing listener in his master; and Mrs. Leigh was (perhaps for the first and last time in her life) seriously angry, when she heard the two coolly debating whether they had not committed a grievous sin in not killing the Spanish prisoners on board the galleon.
It must be said, however (as the plain facts set down in this book testify), that if such was the temper of Englishmen at that day, the Spaniards had done a good deal to provoke it; and were just then attempting to do still more.
For now we are approaching the year 1588, "which an astronomer of Konigsberg, above a hundred years before, foretold would be an admirable year, and the German chronologers presaged would be the climacterical year of the world."
The prophecies may stand for what they are worth; but they were at least fulfilled. That year was, indeed, the climacterical year of the world; and decided once and for all the fortunes of the European nations, and of the whole continent of America.
No wonder, then, if (as has happened in each great crisis of the human race) some awful instinct that The Day of the Lord was at hand, some dim feeling that there was war in heaven, and that the fiends of darkness and the angels of light were arrayed against each other in some mighty struggle for the possession of the souls of men, should have tried to express itself in astrologic dreams, and, as was the fashion then, attributed to the "rulers of the planetary houses" some sympathy with the coming world-tragedy.
But, for the wise, there needed no conjunction of planets to tell them that the day was near at hand, when the long desultory duel between Spain and England would end, once and for all, in some great death-grapple. The war, as yet, had been confined to the Netherlands, to the West Indies, and the coasts and isles of Africa; to the quarters, in fact, where Spain was held either to have no rights, or to have forfeited them by tyranny. But Spain itself had been respected by England, as England had by Spain; and trade to Spanish ports went on as usual, till, in the year 1585, the Spaniard, without warning, laid an embargo on all English ships coming to his European shores. They were to be seized, it seemed, to form part of an enormous armament, which was to attack and crush, once and for all--whom? The rebellious Netherlanders, said the Spaniards: but the queen, the ministry, and, when it was just not too late, the people of England, thought otherwise. England was the destined victim; so, instead of negotiating, in order to avoid fighting, they fought in order to produce negotiation. Drake, Frobisher, and Carlisle, as we have seen, swept the Spanish Main with fire and sword, stopping the Indian supplies; while Walsingham (craftiest, and yet most honest of mortals) prevented, by some mysterious financial operation, the Venetian merchants from repairing the Spaniards' loss by a loan; and no Armada came that year.
In the meanwhile, the Jesuits, here and abroad, made no secret, among their own dupes, of the real objects of the Spanish armament. The impious heretics,--the Drakes and Raleighs, Grenvilles and Cavendishes, Hawkinses and Frobishers, who had dared to violate that hidden sanctuary of just half the globe, which the pope had bestowed on the defender of the true faith,--a shameful ruin, a terrible death awaited them, when their sacrilegious barks should sink beneath the thunder of Spanish cannon, blessed by the pope, and sanctified with holy water and prayer to the service of "God and his Mother." Yes, they would fall, and England with them. The proud islanders, who had dared to rebel against St. Peter, and to cast off the worship of "Mary," should bow their necks once more under the yoke of the Gospel. Their so-called queen, illegitimate, excommunicate, contumacious, the abettor of free-trade, the defender of the Netherlands, the pillar of false doctrine throughout Europe, should be sent in chains across the Alps, to sue for her life at the feet of the injured and long-suffering father of mankind, while his nominee took her place upon the throne which she had long since forfeited by her heresy.
"What nobler work? How could the Church of God be more gloriously propagated? How could higher merit be obtained by faithful Catholics? It must succeed. Spain was invincible in valor, inexhaustible in wealth. Heaven itself offered them an opportunity. They had nothing now to fear from the Turk, for they had concluded a truce with him; nothing from the French, for they were embroiled in civil war. The heavens themselves had called upon Spain to fulfil her heavenly mission, and restore to the Church's crown this brightest and richest of her lost jewels. The heavens themselves called to a new crusade. The saints, whose altars the English had rifled and profaned, called them to a new crusade. The Virgin Queen of Heaven, whose boundless stores of grace the English spurned, called them to a new crusade. Justly incensed at her own wrongs and indignities, that 'ever-gracious Virgin, refuge of sinners, and mother of fair love, and holy hope,' adjured by their knightly honor all valiant cavaliers to do battle in her cause against the impious harlot who assumed her titles, received from her idolatrous flatterers the homage due to Mary alone, and even (for Father Parsons had asserted it, therefore it must be true) had caused her name to be substituted for that of Mary in the Litanies of the Church. Let all who wore within a manly heart, without a manly sword, look on the woes of 'Mary,'-- her shame, her tears, her blushes, her heart pierced through with daily wounds, from heretic tongues, and choose between her and Elizabeth!"
So said Parsons, Allen, and dozens more; and said more than this, too, and much which one had rather not repeat; and were somewhat surprised and mortified to find that their hearers, though they granted the premises, were too dull or carnal to arrive at the same conclusion. The English lay Romanists, almost to a man, had hearts sounder than their heads, and, howsoever illogically, could not help holding to the strange superstition that, being Englishmen, they were bound to fight for England. So the hapless Jesuits, who had been boasting for years past that the persecuted faithful throughout the island would rise as one man to fight under the blessed banner of the pope and Spain, found that the faithful, like Demas of old, forsook them and "went after this present world;" having no objection, of course, to the restoration of Popery: but preferring some more comfortable method than an invasion which would inevitably rob them of their ancestral lands and would seat needy and greedy Castilians in their old country houses, to treat their tenants as they had treated the Indians of Hispaniola, and them as they had treated the caciques.
But though the hearts of men in that ungodly age were too hard to melt at the supposed woes of the Mary who reigned above, and too dull to turn rebels and traitors for the sake of those thrones and principalities in supra-lunar spheres which might be in her gift: yet there was a Mary who reigned (or ought to reign) below, whose woes (like her gifts) were somewhat more palpable to the carnal sense. A Mary who, having every comfort and luxury (including hounds and horses) found for her by the English Government, at an expense which would be now equal to some twenty thousand a year, could afford to employ the whole of her jointure as Queen Dowager of France (probably equal to fifty thousand a year more), in plotting the destruction of the said government, and the murder of its queen; a Mary who, if she prospered as she ought, might have dukedoms, and earldoms, fair lands and castles to bestow on her faithful servants; a Mary, finally, who contrived by means of an angel face, a serpent tongue, and a heart (as she said herself) as hard as a diamond, to make every weak man fall in love with her, and, what was worse, fancy more or less that she was in love with him.
Of her the Jesuits were not unmindful; and found it convenient, indeed, to forget awhile the sorrows of the Queen of Heaven in those of the Queen of Scots. Not that they cared much for those sorrows; but they were an excellent stock-in-trade. She was a Romanist; she was "beautiful and unfortunate," a virtue which, like charity, hides the multitude of sins; and therefore she was a convenient card to play in the great game of Rome against the Queen and people of England; and played the poor card was, till it got torn up by over-using. Into her merits or demerits I do not enter deeply here. Let her rest in peace.
To all which the people of England made a most practical and terrible answer. From the highest noble to the lowest peasant, arose one simultaneous plebiscitum: "We are tired of these seventeen years of chicanery and terror. This woman must die: or the commonweal of England perish!" We all know which of the two alternatives was chosen.
All Europe stood aghast: but rather with astonishment at English audacity, than with horror at English wickedness. Mary's own French kinsfolk had openly given her up as too bad to be excused, much less assisted. Her own son blustered a little to the English ambassador; for the majesty of kings was invaded: whereon Walsingham said in open council, that "the queen should send him a couple of hounds, and that would set all right." Which sage advice (being acted on, and some deer sent over and above) was so successful that the pious mourner, having run off (Randolph says, like a baby to see the deer in their cart), returned for answer that he would "thereafter depend wholly upon her majesty, and serve her fortune against all the world; and that he only wanted now two of her majesty's yeoman prickers, and a couple of her grooms of the deer." The Spaniard was not sorry on the whole for the catastrophe; for all that had kept him from conquering England long ago was the fear lest, after it was done, he might have had to put the crown thereof on Mary's head, instead of his own. But Mary's death was as convenient a stalking-horse to him as to the pope; and now the Armada was coming in earnest.
Elizabeth began negotiating; but fancy not that she does nothing more, as the following letter testifies, written about midsummer, 1587.
"F. Drake to Captain Amyas Leigh. This with haste.
"As I said to her most glorious majesty, I say to you now. There are two ways of facing an enemy. The one to stand off, and cry, 'Try that again, and I'll strike thee'; the other to strike him first, and then, 'Try that at all, and I'll strike thee again.' Of which latter counsel her majesty so far approves, that I go forthwith (tell it not in Gath) down the coast, to singe the king of Spain's beard (so I termed it to her majesty, she laughing), in which if I leave so much as a fishing-boat afloat from the Groyne unto Cadiz, it will not be with my good will, who intend that if he come this year, he shall come by swimming and not by sailing. So if you are still the man I have known you, bring a good ship round to Plymouth within the month, and away with me for hard blows and hard money, the feel of both of which you know pretty well by now.
Amyas clutched his locks over this letter, and smoked more tobacco the day he got it than had ever before been consumed at once in England. But he kept true to his promise; and this was his reply:--
"Amyas Leigh to the Worshipful Sir F. Drake, Admiral of her Majesty's Fleet in Plymouth.
"MOST HONORED SIR,
"A magician keeps me here, in bilboes for which you have no picklock; namely, a mother who forbids. The loss is mine: but Antichrist I can fight any year (for he will not die this bout, nor the next), while my mother--but I will not trouble your patience more than to ask from you to get me news, if you can, from any prisoners of one Don Guzman Maria Magdalena Sotomayor de Soto; whether he is in Spain or in the Indies; and what the villain does, and where he is to be found. This only I entreat of you, and so remain behind with a heavy heart.
"Yours to command in all else, and I would to Heaven, in this also,
I am sorry to have to say, that after having thus obeyed his mother, Master Amyas, as men are too apt to do, revenged himself on her by being more and more cross and disagreeable. But his temper amended much, when, a few months after, Drake returned triumphant, having destroyed a hundred sail in Cadiz alone, taken three great galleons with immense wealth on board, burnt the small craft all along the shore, and offered battle to Santa Cruz at the mouth of the Tagus. After which it is unnecessary to say, that the Armada was put off for yet another year.
This news, indeed, gave Amyas little comfort; for he merely observed, grumbling, that Drake had gone and spoiled everybody else's sport: but what cheered him was news from Drake that Don Guzman had been heard of from the captain of one of the galleons; that he was high in favor in Spain, and commandant of soldiers on board one of the largest of the marquis's ships.
And when Amyas heard that, a terrible joy took possession of him. When the Armada came, as come it would, he should meet his enemy at last! He could wait now patiently: if--and he shuddered at himself, as he found himself in the very act of breathing a prayer that Don Guzman might not die before that meeting.
In the meanwhile, rumor flew thousand-tongued through the length and breadth of the land; of vast preparations going on in Spain and Italy; of timber felled long before for some such purpose, brought down to the sea, and sawn out for shipbuilding; of casting of cannon, and drilling of soldiers; of ships in hundreds collecting at Lisbon; of a crusade preached by Pope Sixtus the Fifth, who had bestowed the kingdom of England on the Spaniard, to be enjoyed by him as vassal tributary to Rome; of a million of gold to be paid by the pope, one-half down at once, the other half when London was taken; of Cardinal Allen writing and printing busily in the Netherlands, calling on all good Englishmen to carry out, by rebelling against Elizabeth, the bull of Sixtus the Fifth, said (I blush to repeat it) to have been dictated by the Holy Ghost; of Inquisitors getting ready fetters and devil's engines of all sorts; of princes and noblemen, flocking from all quarters, gentlemen selling their private estates to fit out ships; how the Prince of Melito, the Marquess of Burgrave, Vespasian Gonzaga, John Medicis, Amadas of Savoy, in short, the illegitimate sons of all the southern princes, having no lands of their own, were coming to find that necessary of life in this pleasant little wheat-garden. Nay, the Duke of Medina Sidonia had already engaged Mount-Edgecombe for himself, as the fairest jewel of the south; which when good old Sir Richard Edgecombe heard, he observed quietly, that in 1555 he had the pleasure of receiving at his table at one time the admirals of England, Spain, and the Netherlands, and therefore had experience in entertaining Dons; and made preparations for the visit by filling his cellars with gunpowder, with a view to a house-warming and feu-de-joie on the occasion. But as old Fuller says, "The bear was not yet killed, and Medina Sidonia might have catched a great cold, had he no other clothes to wear than the skin thereof."
So flew rumor, false and true, till poor John Bull's wits were well-nigh turned: but to the very last, after his lazy fashion, he persuaded himself that it would all come right somehow; that it was too great news to be true; that if it was true, the expedition was only meant for the Netherlands; and, in short, sat quietly over his beef and beer for many a day after the French king had sent him fair warning, and the queen, the ministry, and the admirals had been assuring him again and again that he, and not the Dutchman, was the destined prey of this great flight of ravenous birds.
At last the Spaniard, in order that there should be no mistake about the matter, kindly printed a complete bill of the play, to be seen still in Van Meteran, for the comfort of all true Catholics, and confusion of all pestilent heretics; which document, of course, the seminary priests used to enforce the duty of helping the invaders, and the certainty of their success; and from their hands it soon passed into those of the devout ladies, who were not very likely to keep it to themselves; till John Bull himself found his daughters buzzing over it with very pale faces (as young ladies well might who had no wish to follow the fate of the damsels of Antwerp), and condescending to run his eye through it, discovered, what all the rest of Europe had known for months past, that he was in a very great scrape.
Well it was for England, then, that her Tudor sovereigns had compelled every man (though they kept up no standing army) to be a trained soldier. Well it was that Elizabeth, even in those dangerous days of intrigue and rebellion, had trusted her people enough, not only to leave them their weapons, but (what we, forsooth, in these more "free" and "liberal" days dare not do) to teach them how to use them. Well it was, that by careful legislation for the comfort and employment of "the masses" (term then, thank God, unknown), she had both won their hearts, and kept their bodies in fighting order. Well it was that, acting as fully as Napoleon did on "la carriere ouverte aux talens," she had raised to the highest posts in her councils, her army, and her navy, men of business, who had not been ashamed to buy and sell as merchants and adventurers. Well for England, in a word, that Elizabeth had pursued for thirty years a very different course from that which we have been pursuing for the last thirty, with one exception, namely, the leaving as much as possible to private enterprise.
There we have copied her: would to Heaven that we had in some other matters! It is the fashion now to call her a despot: but unless every monarch is to be branded with that epithet whose power is not as circumscribed as Queen Victoria's is now, we ought rather to call her the most popular sovereign, obeyed of their own free will by the freest subjects which England has ever seen; confess the Armada fight to have been as great a moral triumph as it was a political one; and (now that our late boasting is a little silenced by Crimean disasters) inquire whether we have not something to learn from those old Tudor times, as to how to choose officials, how to train a people, and how to defend a country.
To return to the thread of my story.
January, 1587-8, had well-nigh run through, before Sir Richard Grenville made his appearance on the streets of Bideford. He had been appointed in November one of the council of war for providing for the safety of the nation, and the West Country had seen nothing of him since. But one morning, just before Christmas, his stately figure darkened the old bay-window at Burrough, and Amyas rushed out to meet him, and bring him in, and ask what news from Court.
"All good news, dear lad, and dearer madam. The queen shows the spirit of a very Boadicea or Semiramis; ay, a very Scythian Tomyris, and if she had the Spaniard before her now, would verily, for aught I know, feast him as the Scythian queen did Cyrus, with 'Satia te sanguine, quod sitisti.'"
"I trust her most merciful spirit is not so changed already," said Mrs. Leigh.
"Well, if she would not do it, I would, and ask pardon afterwards, as Raleigh did about the rascals at Smerwick, whom Amyas knows of. Mrs. Leigh, these are times in which mercy is cruelty. Not England alone, but the world, the Bible, the Gospel itself, is at stake; and we must do terrible things, lest we suffer more terrible ones."
"God will take care of world and Bible better than any cruelty of ours, dear Sir Richard."
"Nay, but, Mrs. Leigh, we must help Him to take care of them! If those Smerwick Spaniards had not been--"
"The Spaniard would not have been exasperated into invading us."
"And we should not have had this chance of crushing him once and for all; but the quarrel is of older standing, madam, eh, Amyas? Amyas, has Raleigh written to you of late?"
"Not a word, and I wonder why."
"Well; no wonder at that, if you knew how he has been laboring. The wonder is, whence he got the knowledge wherewith to labor; for he never saw sea-work to my remembrance."
"Never saw a shot fired by sea, except ours at Smerwick, and that brush with the Spaniards in 1579, when he sailed for Virginia with Sir Humphrey; and he was a mere crack then."
"So you consider him as your pupil, eh? But he learnt enough in the Netherland wars, and in Ireland too, if not of the strength of ships, yet still of the weakness of land forces; and would you believe it, the man has twisted the whole council round his finger, and made them give up the land defences to the naval ones."
"Quite right he, and wooden walls against stone ones for ever! But as for twisting, he would persuade Satan, if he got him alone for half an hour."
"I wish he would sail for Spain then, just now, and try the powers of his tongue," said Mrs. Leigh.
"But are we to have the honor, really?"
"We are, lad. There were many in the council who were for disputing the landing on shore, and said--which I do not deny--that the 'prentice boys of London could face the bluest blood in Spain. But Raleigh argued (following my Lord Burleigh in that) that we differed from the Low Countries, and all other lands, in that we had not a castle or town throughout, which would stand a ten days' siege, and that our ramparts, as he well said, were, after all, only a body of men. So, he argued, as long as the enemy has power to land where he will, prevention, rather than cure, is our only hope; and that belongs to the office, not of an army, but of a fleet. So the fleet was agreed on, and a fleet we shall have."
"Then here is his health, the health of a true friend to all bold mariners, and myself in particular! But where is he now?"
"Coming here to-morrow, as I hope--for he left London with me, and so down by us into Cornwall, to drill the train-bands, as he is bound to do, being Seneschal of the Duchies and Lieutenant-General of the county."
"Besides Lord Warden of the Stanneries! How the man thrives!" said Mrs. Leigh.
"How the man deserves to thrive!" said Amyas; "but what are we to do?"
"That is the rub. I would fain stay and fight the Spaniards."
"So would I; and will."
"But he has other plans in his head for us."
"We can make our own plans without his help."
"Heyday, Amyas! How long? When did he ask you to do a thing yet and you refuse him?"
"Not often, certainly; but Spaniards I must fight."
"Well, so must I, boy: but I have given a sort of promise to him, nevertheless."
"Not for me too, I hope?"
"No: he will extract that himself when he comes; you must come and sup to-morrow, and talk it over."
"Be talked over, rather. What chestnut does the cat want us monkeys to pull out of the fire for him now, I wonder?"
"Sir Richard Grenville is hardly accustomed to be called a monkey," said Mrs. Leigh.
"I meant no harm; and his worship knows it, none better: but where is Raleigh going to send us, with a murrain?"
"To Virginia. The settlers must have help: and, as I trust in God, we shall be back again long before this armament can bestir itself."
So Raleigh came, saw, and conquered. Mrs. Leigh consented to Amyas's going (for his twelve-month would be over ere the fleet could start) upon so peaceful and useful an errand; and the next five months were spent in continual labor on the part of Amyas and Grenville, till seven ships were all but ready in Bideford river, the admiral whereof was Amyas Leigh.
But that fleet was not destined ever to see the shores of the New World: it had nobler work to do (if Americans will forgive the speech) than even settling the United States.
It was in the long June evenings, in the year 1588; Mrs. Leigh sat in the open window, busy at her needle-work; Ayacanora sat opposite to her, on the seat of the bay, trying diligently to read "The History of the Nine Worthies," and stealing a glance every now and then towards the garden, where Amyas stalked up and down as he had used to do in happier days gone by. But his brow was contracted now, his eyes fixed on the ground, as he plodded backwards and forwards, his hands behind his back, and a huge cigar in his mouth, the wonder of the little boys of Northam, who peeped in stealthily as they passed the iron-work gates, to see the back of the famous fire-breathing captain who had sailed round the world and been in the country of headless men and flying dragons, and then popped back their heads suddenly, as he turned toward them in his walk. And Ayacanora looked, and looked, with no less admiration than the urchins at the gate: but she got no more of an answering look from Amyas than they did; for his head was full of calculations of tonnage and stowage, of salt pork and ale-barrels, and the packing of tools and seeds; for he had promised Raleigh to do his best for the new colony, and he was doing it with all his might; so Ayacanora looked back again to her book, and heaved a deep sigh. It was answered by one from Mrs. Leigh.
"We are a melancholy pair, sweet chuck," said the fair widow. "What is my maid sighing about, there?"
"Because I cannot make out the long words," said Ayacanora, telling a very white fib.
"Is that all? Come to me, and I will tell you."
Ayacanora moved over to her, and sat down at her feet.
"H--e, he, r--o, ro, i--c--a--l, heroical," said Mrs. Leigh.
"But what does that mean?"
"Grand, good, and brave, like--"
Mrs. Leigh was about to have said the name of one who was lost to her on earth. His fair angelic face hung opposite upon the wall. She paused unable to pronounce his name; and lifted up her eyes, and gazed on the portrait, and breathed a prayer between closed lips, and drooped her head again.
Her pupil caught at the pause, and filled it up for herself--
"Like him?" and she turned her head quickly toward the window.
"Yes, like him, too," said Mrs. Leigh, with a half-smile at the gesture. "Now, mind your book. Maidens must not look out of the window in school hours."
"Shall I ever be an English girl?" asked Ayacanora.
"You are one now, sweet; your father was an English gentleman."
Amyas looked in, and saw the two sitting together.
"You seem quite merry there," said he.
"Come in, then, and be merry with us."
He entered, and sat down; while Ayacanora fixed her eyes most steadfastly on her book.
"Well, how goes on the reading?" said he; and then, without waiting for an answer--"We shall be ready to clear out this day week, mother, I do believe; that is, if the hatchets are made in time to pack them."
"I hope they will be better than the last," said Mrs. Leigh. "It seems to me a shameful sin to palm off on poor ignorant savages goods which we should consider worthless for ourselves."
"Well, it's not over fair: but still, they are a sight better than they ever had before. An old hoop is better than a deer's bone, as Ayacanora knows,--eh?"
"I don't know anything about it," said she, who was always nettled at the least allusion to her past wild life. "I am an English girl now, and all that is gone--I forget it."
"Forget it?" said he, teasing her for want of something better to do. "Should not you like to sail with us, now, and see the Indians in the forests once again?"
"Sail with you?" and she looked up eagerly.
"There! I knew it! She would not be four-and-twenty hours ashore, but she would be off into the woods again, bow in hand, like any runaway nymph, and we should never see her more."
"It is false, bad man!" and she burst into violent tears, and hid her face in Mrs. Leigh's lap.
"Amyas, Amyas, why do you tease the poor fatherless thing?"
"I was only jesting, I'm sure," said Amyas, like a repentant schoolboy. "Don't cry now, don't cry, my child, see here," and he began fumbling in his pockets; "see what I bought of a chapman in town to-day, for you, my maid, indeed, I did."
And out he pulled some smart kerchief or other, which had taken his sailor's fancy.
"Look at it now, blue, and crimson, and green, like any parrot!" and he held it out.
She looked round sharply, snatched it out of his hand, and tore it to shreds.
"I hate it, and I hate you!" and she sprang up and darted out of the room.
"Oh, boy, boy!" said Mrs. Leigh, "will you kill that poor child? It matters little for an old heart like mine, which has but one or two chords left whole, how soon it be broken altogether; but a young heart is one of God's precious treasures, Amyas, and suffers many a long pang in the breaking; and woe to them who despise Christ's little ones!"
"Break your heart, mother?"
"Never mind my heart, dear son; yet how can you break it more surely than by tormenting one whom I love, because she loves you?"
"Tut! play, mother, and maids' tempers. But how can I break your heart? What have I done? Have I not given up going again to the West Indies for your sake? Have I not given up going to Virginia, and now again settled to go after all, just because you commanded? Was it not your will? Have I not obeyed you, mother, mother? I will stay at home now, if you will. I would rather rust here on land, I vow I would, than grieve you--" and he threw himself at his mother's knees.
"Have I asked you not to go to Virginia? No, dear boy, though every thought of a fresh parting seems to crack some new fibre within me, you must go! It is your calling. Yes; you were not sent into the world to amuse me, but to work. I have had pleasure enough of you, my darling, for many a year, and too much, perhaps; till I shrank from lending you to the Lord. But He must have you. . . . It is enough for the poor old widow to know that her boy is what he is, and to forget all her anguish day by day, for joy that a man is born into the world. But, Amyas, Amyas, are you so blind as not to see that Ayacanora--"
"Don't talk about her, poor child. Talk about yourself."
"How long have I been worth talking about? No, Amyas, you must see it; and if you will not see it now, you will see it one day in some sad and fearful prodigy; for she is not one to die tamely. She loves you, Amyas, as a woman only can love."
"Loves me? Well, of course. I found her, and brought her home; and I don't deny she may think that she owes me somewhat--though it was no more than a Christian man's duty. But as for her caring much for me, mother, you measure every one else's tenderness by your own."
"Think that she owes you somewhat? Silly boy, this is not gratitude, but a deeper affection, which may be more heavenly than gratitude, as it may, too, become a horrible cause of ruin. It rests with you, Amyas, which of the two it will be."
"You are in earnest?"
"Have I the heart or the time to jest?"
"No, no, of course not; but, mother, I thought it was not comely for women to fall in love with men?"
"Not comely, at least, to confess their love to men. But she has never done that, Amyas; not even by a look or a tone of voice, though I have watched her for months."
"To be sure, she is as demure as any cat when I am in the way. I only wonder how you found it out."
"Ah," said she, smiling sadly, "even in the saddest woman's soul there linger snatches of old music, odors of flowers long dead and turned to dust--pleasant ghosts, which still keep her mind attuned to that which may be in others, though in her never more; till she can hear her own wedding-hymn re-echoed in the tones of every girl who loves, and sees her own wedding-torch re-lighted in the eyes of every bride."
"You would not have me marry her?" asked blunt, practical Amyas.
"God knows what I would have--I know not; I see neither your path nor my own--no, not after weeks and months of prayer. All things beyond are wrapped in mist; and what will be, I know not, save that whatever else is wrong, mercy at least is right."
"I'd sail to-morrow, if I could. As for marrying her, mother--her birth, mind me--"
"Ah, boy, boy! Are you God, to visit the sins of the parents upon the children?"
"Not that. I don't mean that; but I mean this, that she is half a Spaniard, mother; and I cannot!--Her blood may be as blue as King Philip's own, but it is Spanish still! I cannot bear the thought that my children should have in their veins one drop of that poison."
"Amyas! Amyas!" interrupted she, "is this not, too, visiting the parents' sins on the children?"
"Not a whit; it is common sense,--she must have the taint of their bloodthirsty humor. She has it--I have seen it in her again and again. I have told you, have I not? Can I forget the look of her eyes as she stood over that galleon's captain, with the smoking knife in her hand.--Ugh! And she is not tamed yet, as you can see, and never will be:--not that I care, except for her own sake, poor thing!"
"Cruel boy! to impute as a blame to the poor child, not only the errors of her training, but the very madness of her love!"
"Of her love?"
"Of what else, blind buzzard? From the moment that you told me the story of that captain's death, I knew what was in her heart--and thus it is that you requite her for having saved your life!"
"Umph! that is one word too much, mother. If you don't want to send me crazy, don't put the thing on the score of gratitude or duty. As it is, I can hardly speak civilly to her (God forgive me!) when I recollect that she belongs to the crew who murdered him"--and he pointed to the picture, and Mrs. Leigh shuddered as he did so.
"You feel it! You know you feel it, tender-hearted, forgiving angel as you are; and what do you think I must feel?"
"Oh, my son, my son!" cried she, wringing her hands, "if I be wretch enough to give place to the devil for a moment, does that give you a right to entertain and cherish him thus day by day?"
"I should cherish him with a vengeance, if I brought up a crew of children who could boast of a pedigree of idolaters and tyrants, hunters of Indians, and torturers of women! How pleasant to hear her telling Master Jack, 'Your illustrious grand-uncle the pope's legate, was the man who burned Rose Salterne at Cartagena;' or Miss Grace, 'Your great-grandfather of sixteen quarterings, the Marquis of this, son of the Grand-equerry that, and husband of the Princess t'other, used to feed his bloodhounds, when beef was scarce, with Indians' babies!' Eh, mother? These things are true, and if you can forget them, I cannot. Is it not enough to have made me forego for awhile my purpose, my business, the one thing I live for, and that is, hunting down the Spaniards as I would adders or foxes, but you must ask me over and above to take one to my bosom?"
"Oh, my son, my son! I have not asked you to do that; I have only commanded you, in God's name, to be merciful, if you wish to obtain mercy. Oh, if you will not pity this poor maiden, pity yourself; for God knows you stand in more need of it than she does!"
Amyas was silent for a minute or two; and then,--
"If it were not for you, mother, would God that the Armada would come!"
"What, and ruin England?"
"No! Curse them! Not a foot will they ever set on English soil, such a welcome would we give them. If I were but in the midst of that fleet, fighting like a man--to forget it all, with a galleon on board of me to larboard, and another to starboard--and then to put a linstock in the magazine, and go aloft in good company--I don't care how soon it comes, mother, if it were not for you."
"If I am in your way, Amyas, do not fear that I shall trouble you long."
"Oh, mother, mother, do not talk in that way! I am half-mad, I think, already, and don't know what I say. Yes, I am mad; mad at heart, though not at head. There's a fire burning me up, night and day, and nothing but Spanish blood will put it out."
"Or the grace of God, my poor wilful child! Who comes to the door?--so quickly, too?"
There was a loud hurried knocking, and in another minute a serving- man hurried in with a letter.
"This to Captain Amyas Leigh with haste, haste!"
It was Sir Richard's hand. Amyas tore it open; and "a loud laugh laughed he."
"The Armada is coming! My wish has come true, mother!"
"God help us, it has! Show me the letter."
It was a hurried scrawl.
"DR. GODSON,--Walsingham sends word that the Ada. sailed from Lisbon to the Groyne the 18. of May. We know no more, but have commandment to stay the ships. Come down, dear lad, and give us counsel; and may the Lord help His Church in this great strait.
"Your loving godfather,
"Forgive me, mother, mother, once for all!" cried Amyas, throwing his arms round her neck.
"I have nothing to forgive, my son, my son! And shall I lose thee, also?"
"If I be killed, you will have two martyrs of your blood, mother!--"
Mrs. Leigh bowed her head, and was silent. Amyas caught up his hat and sword, and darted forth toward Bideford.
Amyas literally danced into Sir Richard's hall, where he stood talking earnestly with various merchants and captains.
"Gloria, gloria! gentles all! The devil is broke loose at last; and now we know where to have him on the hip!"
"Why so merry, Captain Leigh, when all else are sad?" said a gentle voice by his side.
"Because I have been sad a long time, while all else were merry, dear lady. Is the hawk doleful when his hood is pulled off, and he sees the heron flapping right ahead of him?"
"You seem to forget the danger and the woe of us weak women, sir?"
"I don't forget the danger and the woe of one weak woman, madam, and she the daughter of a man who once stood in this room," said Amyas, suddenly collecting himself, in a low stern voice. "And I don't forget the danger and the woe of one who was worth a thousand even of her. I don't forget anything, madam."
"Nor forgive either, it seems."
"It will be time to talk of forgiveness after the offender has repented and amended; and does the sailing of the Armada look like that?"
"Alas, no! God help us!"
"He will help us, madam," said Amyas.
"Admiral Leigh," said Sir Richard, "we need you now, if ever. Here are the queen's orders to furnish as many ships as we can; though from these gentlemen's spirit, I should say the orders were well- nigh needless."
"Not a doubt, sir; for my part, I will fit my ship at my own charges, and fight her too, as long as I have a leg or an arm left."
"Or a tongue to say, never surrender, I'll warrant!" said an old merchant. "You put life into us old fellows, Admiral Leigh: but it will be a heavy matter for those poor fellows in Virginia, and for my daughter too, Madam Dare, with her young babe, as I hear, just born."
"And a very heavy matter," said some one else, "for those who have ventured their money in these cargoes, which must lie idle, you see, now for a year maybe--and then all the cost of unlading again-- "
"My good sir," said Grenville, "what have private interests to do with this day? Let us thank God if He only please to leave us the bare fee-simple of this English soil, the honor of our wives and daughters, and bodies safe from rack and fagot, to wield the swords of freemen in defence of a free land, even though every town and homestead in England were wasted with fire, and we left to rebuild over again all which our ancestors have wrought for us in now six hundred years."
"Right, sir!" said Amyas. "For my part, let my Virginian goods rot on the quay, if the worst comes to the worst. I begin unloading the Vengeance to-morrow; and to sea as soon as I can fill up my crew to a good fighting number."
And so the talk ran on; and ere two days were past, most of the neighboring gentlemen, summoned by Sir Richard, had come in, and great was the bidding against each other as to who should do most. Cary and Brimblecombe, with thirty tall Clovelly men, came across the bay, and without even asking leave of Amyas, took up their berths as a matter of course on board the Vengeance. In the meanwhile, the matter was taken up by families. The Fortescues (a numberless clan) offered to furnish a ship; the Chichesters another, the Stukelys a third; while the merchantmen were not backward. The Bucks, the Stranges, the Heards, joyfully unloaded their Virginian goods, and replaced them with powder and shot; and in a week's time the whole seven were ready once more for sea, and dropped down into Appledore pool, with Amyas as their admiral for the time being (for Sir Richard had gone by land to Plymouth to join the deliberations there), and waited for the first favorable wind to start for the rendezvous in the Sound.
At last, upon the twenty-first of June, the clank of the capstans rang merrily across the flats, and amid prayers and blessings, forth sailed that gallant squadron over the bar, to play their part in Britain's Salamis; while Mrs. Leigh stood watching as she stood once before, beside the churchyard wall: but not alone this time; for Ayacanora stood by her side, and gazed and gazed, till her eyes seemed ready to burst from their sockets. At last she turned away with a sob,--
"And he never bade me good-bye, mother!"
"God forgive him! Come home and pray, my child; there is no other rest on earth than prayer for woman's heart!"
They were calling each other mother and daughter then? Yes. The sacred fire of sorrow was fast burning out all Ayacanora's fallen savageness; and, like a Phoenix, the true woman was rising from those ashes, fair, noble, and all-enduring, as God had made her.