« ElőzőTovább »
with his usual presence of mind, animated their courage, and directed their motions, ordering them, by perpetually changing their places, to elude, as much as they could, the aim of their enemies, and to defend their bodies with their targets; and instructing them, by his own example, to pick up, and break the arrows as they fell; which they did with so much diligence, that the Indians were soon in danger of being disarmed. Then Drake himself taking the gun, which Oliver had so unsuccessfully attempted to make use of, discharged it at the Indian that first began the fray and had killed the gunner, aiming it so happily, that the hail shot, with which it was loaded, tore open his belly, and forced him to such terrible outcries, that the Indians, though their numbers increased, and many of their countrymen showed them selves from different parts of the adjoining wood, were too much terrified to renew the assault, and suffered Drake, without molestation, to withdraw his wounded friend, who, being hurt in his lungs, languished two days, and then dying, was interred with his companion, with the usual ceremony of a military funeral. They stayed here two months afterwards, without receiving any other injuries from the natives, who, finding the danger to which they exposed themselves by open hostilities, and not being able any more to surprize the vigilance of Drake, preferred their safety to revenge. But Drake had other enemies to conquer or escape, far more formidable than these Barbarians, and insidious practices to obviate, more artful and dangerous than the ambushes of the Indians; for in this place was laid open a design formed by one of the gentlemen of the fleet, not only to defeat the voyage, but to murder the general. This transaction is related in so obscure and confused a manner, that it is difficult to form any judgment upon it. The writer, who gives the largest account of it, has suppressed the name of the criminal, which we learn, from a more succinct narrative, published in a collection of travels near that time, to have been Thomas Doughtie. What were his inducements to attempt the destruction of his leader, and the ruin of the expedition, or what were his views if his design had succeeded, what measures he had hitherto taken, whom he had endeavoured to corrupt, with what arts, or what success, we are no where told. The plot, as the narrative assures us, was laid before their departure from England, and discovered, in its whole extent, to Drake himself in his garden at Plymouth, who, nevertheless, not only entertained the person so accused as one of his company, but, this writer very particularly relates, treated him with remarkable kindness and regard, setting him always at his own table, and lodging him in the same cabin with himself. Nor did he ever discover the least suspicion of his intentions, till they arrived at this place, but appeared, by the authority with which he invested him, to consider him, as one to whom, in his absence, he could most securely entrust the direction of his affairs. At length, in this remote corner of the world, he found out a design formed against his life, called together all his officers, laid before them the evidence on which he grounded the accusation, and summoned the criminal, who, full of all the horrors of guilt, and confounded at so clear a detection of his whole scheme, immediately confessed his crimes, and acknowledged himself unworthy of longer life: upon which the whole assembly, consisting of thirty persons, after having considered the affair with the attention which it required, and heard all that could be urged in extenuation of his offence, unanimously signed the sentence by which he was condemned to suffer death. Drake, however, unwilling, as it seemed, to proceed to extreme severities, offered him his choice, either of being executed on the island, or set ashore on the main land, or being sent to England to be tried before the council; of which, after a day's consideration, he chose the first, alleging the improbability of persuading any to leave the expedition for the sake of transporting a criminal to England, and the danger of his future state among savages and infidels. His choice, I believe, few will approve: to be set ashore on the main land, was indeed only to be executed in a different manner; for what mercy could be expected from the natives so incensed, but the most cruel and lingering death 2 But why he should not rather have requested to be sent to England, it is not easy to conceive. In so long a voyage he might have found a thousand opportunities of escaping, perhaps with the connivance of his keepers, whose resentment must probably in time have given way to compassion, or at least by their negligence, as it is easy to believe they would in times of ease and refreshment have remitted their vigilance: at least he would have gained longer life; and to make death desirable seems not one of the effects of guilt. However, he was, as it is related, obstinately deaf to all persuasions, and adhering to his first choice, after having received the communion, and dined cheerfully with the general, was executed in the afternoon with many proofs of remorse, but none of fear. How far it is probable that Drake, after having been acquainted with this man's designs, should admit him into his fleet, and afterwards caress, respect, and trust him; or that Doughtie, who is represented as a man of eminent abilities, should engage in so long and hazardous a voyage with no other view than that of defeating it; is left to the determination of the reader. What designs he could have formed with any hope of success, or to what actions worthy of death he could have proceeded without accomplices, for none are mentioned, is equally difficult to imagine. Nor, on the other hand, though the obscurity of the account, and the remote place chosen for the discovery of this wicked project, seem to give some reason for suspicion, does there appear any temptation, from either hope, fear, or interest, that might induce Drake, or any commander in his state, to put to death an innocent man upon false pretences. After the execution of this man, the whole company, either convinced of the justice of the proceeding, or awed by the severity, applied themselves, without any murmurs, or appearance of discontent, to the prosecution of the voyage; and, having broken up another vessel, and reduced the number of their ships to three, they left the port, and on August the 20th entered the Straits of Magellan, in which they struggled with contrary winds, and the various dangers to which the intricacy of that winding passage exposed them, till night, and then entered a more open sea, in which they discovered an island with a burning mountain. On the 24th they fell in with three more islands, to which Drake gave names, and, landing to take possession of them in the name of his Sovereign, found in the largest so prodigious a number of birds, that they killed three thousand of them in one day. This bird, of which they knew not the name, was somewhat less than a wild goose, without feathers, and covered with a kind of down, unable to fly or rise from the ground, but capable of running and swimming with amazing celerity; they feed on the sea, and come to land only to rest at night or lay their eggs, which they deposit in holes like those of coneys. From these islands to the South-sea, the strait becomes very crooked and narrow, so that sometimes, by the interposition of headlands, the passage seems shut up, and the voyage entirely stopped. To double these capes is very difficult, on account of the frequent alterations to be made in the course. There, are, indeed, as Magellan observes, many harbours, but in most of them no bottom is to be found. The land on both sides rises into innumerable mountains: the tops of them are encircled with clouds and vapours, which being congealed fall down in snow, and increase their height by hardening into ice, which is never dissolved; but the vallies are, nevertheless, green, fruitful, and pleasant.