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Having received this information, they immediately marched towards Venta Cruz, the first town on the way to Nombre de Dios, sending for security, two Symerons before, who, as they went, perceived, by the scent of a match, that some Spaniard was before them, and going silently forwards, surprised a soldier asleep upon the ground. They immediately bound him, and brought him to Drake, who, upon enquiry, found that their spy had not deceived them in his intelligence. The soldier, having informed himself of the captain's name, conceived such a confidence in his well known clemency, that, after having made an ample discovery of the treasure that was now at hand, he petitioned not only that he would command the Symerons to spare his life, but that, when the treasure should fall into his hands, he would allow him as much as might maintain him and his mistress, since they were about to gain more than their whole company could carry away.
Drake then ordered his men to lie down in the long grass, about fifty paces from the road, half on one side, with himself, and half on the other, with Oxenham and the captain of the Symerons, so much behind, that one company might seize the foremost recoe, and the other the hindermost: for the mules of these recoes, or drivers, being tied together, travel on a line, and are all guided by leading the first.
When they had lain about an hour in this place, they began to hear the bells of the mules on each hand; upon which orders were given, that the droves
which came from Venta Cruz should pass unmolested, because they carried nothing of great value, and those only be intercepted which were travelling thither, and that none of them should rise up
till the signal should be given. But one Robert Pike, heated with strong liquor, left his company, and prevailed upon one of the Symerons to creep with him to the way-side, that they might signalize themselves by seizing the first mule, and hearing the trampling of a horse, as he lay, could not be restrained by the Symeron from rising up to observe who was passing by. This he did so imprudently, that he was discovered by the passenger, for by Drake's order the English had put their shirts on over their coats, that the night and tumult might not hinder them from knowing one another.
The gentleman was immediately observed by Drake to change his trot into a gallop; but the reason of it not appearing, it was imputed to his fear of the robbers that usually infest that road, and the English still continued to expect the treasure.
In a short time one of the recoes, that were passing towards Venta Cruz, came up, and was eagerly 'seized by the English, who expected nothing less than half the revenue of the Indies ; nor is it easy to imagine their mortification and perplexity when they found only two mules laden with silver, the rest having no other burthen than provisions.
The driver was brought immediately to the captain, and informed him that the horseman, whom he had observed pass by with so much precipitation,
had informed the treasurer of what he had observed, and advised him to send back the mules that carried his gold and jewels, and suffer only the rest to proceed, that he might by that cheap experiment discover whether there was any ambush on
That Drake was not less disgusted than his followers at the disappointment, cannot be doubted; but there was now no time to be spent in complaints. The whole country was alarmed, and all the force of the Spaniards was summoned to overwhelm him. He had no fortress to retire to, every man was his enemy, and every retreat better known to the Spaniards than to himself.
This was an occasion that demanded all the qualities of an hero, an intrepidity never to be shaken, and a judgment never to be perplexed. He immediately considered all the circumstances of his present situation, and found that it afforded him only the choice of marching back by the same way through which he came, or of forcing his passage to Venta Cruz.
To march back, was to confess the superiority of his enemies, and to animate them to the pursuit ; the woods would afford opportunities of ambush, and his followers must often disperse themselves in search of provisions, who would become an easy prey, dispirited by their disappointment, and fatigued by their march. On the way to Venta Cruz he should have nothing to fear but from open attacks, and expected enemies.
Determining therefore to pass forward to Venta Cruz, he asked Pedro, the leader of the Symerons,
whether he was resolved to follow him ; and having received from him the strongest assurances that nothing should separate them, commanded his men to refresh themselves, and prepare to set forward.
When they came within a mile of the town, they dismissed the mules which they had made use of for their more easy and speedy passage, and continued their march along a road cut through thick woods, in which a company of soldiers, who were quartered in the place to defend it against the Symerons, had posted themselves, together with a
a convent of friars headed by one of their brethren, whose zeal against the northern heresy had incited him to hazard his person, and assume the province of a general.
Drake, who was advertised by two Symerons, whom he sent before, of the approach of the Spaniards, commanded his followers to receive the first volley without firing.
In a short time he heard himself summoned by the Spanish captain to yield, with a promise of protection and kind treatment; to which he answered with defiance, contempt, and the discharge of his pistol.
Immediately, the Spaniards poured in their shot, by which only one man was killed, and Drake, with some others, slightly wounded ; upon which the signal was given by Drake's whistle to fall upon them. . The English, after discharging their arrows and shot, pressed furiously forward, and drove the Spaniards before them, which the Symerons, whom the terror of the shot had driven to some distance, observed, and recalling their courage, animated each
songs in their own language, and rushed forward with such impetuosity, that they overtook them near the town, and, supported by the English, dispersed them with the loss of only one man, who, after he had received his wound, had strength and resolution left to kill his assailant.
They pursued the enemy into the town, in which they met with some plunder, which was given to the Symerons, and treated the inhabitants with great clemency, Drake himself going to the Spanish ladies to assure them that no injuries should be offered them; so inseparable is humanity from true courage.
Having thus broken the spirits, and scattered the forces of the Spaniards, he pursued his march to his ship, without any apprehension of danger, yet with great speed, being very solicitous about the state of the crew; so that he allowed his men, harassed as they were, but little time for sleep or refreshment, but by kind exhortations, gentle authority, and a cheerful participation of all their hardships, prevailed upon them to bear, without murmurs, not only the toil of travelling, but on some days the pain of hunger.
In this march he owed much of his expedition to the assistance of the Symerons, who being accustomed to the climate, and naturally robust, not only brought him intelligence, and shewed the way, but carried necessaries, provided victuals, and built lodgings, and, when any of the English fainted in the way, two of them would carry him between them for two miles together; nor was their valour less than their industry, after they had learned,