« ElőzőTovább »
and that they should then, without any means of safety, be left to stand alone against the whole power of that country. Drake, not indeed easily terrified, but sufficiently cautious, sent to the coast to enquire the truth, and see if the same terror had taken possession of the men whom he had left to guard his boats; but finding no foundation for these dreadful apprehensions, he persisted in his first design, and led the troop forward to the treasure-house. In their way there fell a violent shower of rain, which wet some of their bow-strings, and extinguished many of their matches; a misfortune which might soon have been repaired, and which perhaps the enemy might suffer in common with them, but which, however, on this occasion, very much embarrassed them, as the delay produced by it repressed that ardour which sometimes is only to be kept up by continued action, and gave time to the timorous and slothful to spread their insinuations, and propagate their cowardice. Some, whose fear was their predominant passion, were continually magnifying the numbers and courage of their enemies, and represented whole nations as ready to rush upon them; others, whose avarice mingled with their concern for their own safety, were more solicitous to preserve what they had already gained, than to acquire more ; and others, brave in themselves, and resolute, began to doubt of success in an undertaking in which they were associated with such cowardly companions. So that scarcely any man appeared to proceed in their enterprise with that spirit and alacrity which could give Drake a prospect of success.
This he perceived, and with some emotion told them, that if, after having had the chief treasure of the world within their reach, they should go home and languish in poverty, they could blame nothing but their own cowardice; that he had performed his part, and was still desirous to lead them on to riches and to honour. Then finding that either shame or conviction made them willing to follow him, he ordered the treasurehouse to be forced, and commanding his brother, and Oxenham of Plymouth, a man known afterwards for his bold adventures in the same parts, to take charge of the treasure, he commanded the other-body to follow him to the market-place, that he might be ready to oppose any scattered troops of the Spaniards, and hinder them from uniting into one body. But as he stepped forward, his strength failed him on a sudden, and he fell down speechless. Then it was that his companions perceived a wound in his leg, which he had received in the first encounter, but hitherto concealed, lest his men, easily discouraged, should make their concern for his life a pretence for returning to their boats. Such had been his loss of blood, as was discovered upon nearer observation, that it had filled the prints of his footsteps, and it appeared scarce credible that after such effusion of blood life should remain. The bravest were now willing to retire: neither the desire of honour nor of riches was thought enough to prevail in any man over his regard for his leader. Drake, whom cordials had now restored to his speech, was the only man who could not be prevailed on to
leave the enterprize unfinished. It was to no purpose that they advised him to submit to go on board to have his wound dressed, and promised to return with him and complete their design; he well knew how impracticable it was to regain the opportunity when it was once lost; and could easily foresee that a respite, but of a few hours, would enable the Spaniards to recover from their consternation, to assemble their forces, refit their batteries, and remove their treasure. What he had undergone so much danger to obtain was now in his hands, and the thought of leaving it untouched was too mortifying to be patiently borne. However, as there was little time for consultation, and the same danger attended their stay in that perplexity and confusion, as their return, they bound up his wound with his scarf, and partly by force, partly by entreaty, carried him to the boats, in which they all embarked by break of day. Then taking with them, out of the harbour, a ship loaded with wines, they went to the Bastimentes, an island about a league from the town, where they stayed two days to repose the wounded men, and to regale themselves with the fruits which grew in great plenty in the gardens of that island. During their stay here, there came over from the main land a Spanish gentleman, sent by the governor, with instructions to enquire whether the captain was that Drake who had been before on their coast, whether the arrows with which many of their men were wounded were not poisoned, and whether they wanted provisions or other necessaries. The messenger likewise extolled their courage with the highest encomiums, and expressed his admiration of their daring undertaking. Drake, though he knew the civilities of an enemy are always to be suspected, and that the messenger, amidst all his professions of regard, was no other than a spy, yet knowing that he had nothing to apprehend, treated him with the highest honours that his condition admitted of. In answer to his enquiries, he assured him that he was the same Drake with whose character they were before acquainted, that he was a rigid observer of the laws of war, and never permitted his arrows to be poisoned: he then dismissed him with considerable presents, and told him that, though he had unfortunately failed in this attempt, he would never desist from his design, till he had shared with Spain the treasures of America. They then resolved to return to the isle of Pines, where they had left their ships, and consult about the measures they were now to take: and having arrived August 1, at their former station, they dismissed Captain Rause, who judging it unsafe to stay any longer on the coast, desired to be no longer engaged in their designs. But Drake, not to be discouraged from his purpose by a single disappointment, after having enquired of a negro, whom he took on board at Nombre de Dios, the most wealthy settlements, and weakest parts of the coast, resolved to attack Carthagena; and setting sail without loss of time, came to anchor, August 13, between Charesha and St. Barnards, two islands at a little distance from the harbour of Carthagena; then passing with his boats round the island he entered the harbour, and in the mouth of it found a frigate with only an old man in it, who voluntarily informed them, that about an hour before a pinnace had passed by with sails and oars, and all the appearance of expedition and importance; that, as she passed, the crew on board her bid them take care of themselves; and that, as soon as she touched the shore, they heard the noise of cannon fired as a warning, and saw the shipping in the port drawn up under the guns of the castle. The captain, who had himself heard the discharge of the artillery, was soon convinced that he was discovered, and that therefore nothing could be attempted with any probability of success. He therefore contented himself with taking a ship of Seville of two hundred and forty tons, which the relater of this voyage mentions as a very large ship, and two small frigates, in which he found letters of advice from Nombre de Dios, intended to alarm that part of the coast. Drake, now finding his pinnaces of great use, and not having a sufficient number of sailors for all his vessels, was desirous of destroying one of his ships, that his pinnaces might be better manned: this, necessary as it was, could not easily be done without disgusting his company, who having made several prosperous voyages in that vessel, would be unwilling to have it destroyed. Drake well knew that nothing but the love of their leaders could animate his followers to encounter such hardships as he was about to expose them to, and therefore rather chose to bring his designs to pass by artifice than authority. He sent for the carpenter of the Swan, took him into his cabin, and, having first engaged him to secrecy,