Westward Ho! Or, The Voyages and Adventures of Sir Amyas Leigh, Knight, of Burrough, in the County of Devon, in the Reign of Her Most Glorious Majesty Queen Elizabeth,
Produced by Donald Lainson
by Charles Kingsley
THE RAJAH SIR JAMES BROOKE, K.C.B.
GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, D.D.
BISHOP OF NEW ZEALAND
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
By one who (unknown to them) has no other method of expressing hisadmiration and reverence for their characters.
That type of English virtue, at once manful and godly, practical andenthusiastic, prudent and self-sacrificing, which he has tried to depictin these pages, they have exhibited in a form even purer and moreheroic than that in which he has drest it, and than that in which it wasexhibited by the worthies whom Elizabeth, without distinction of rank orage, gathered round her in the ever glorious wars of her great reign.
I. HOW MR. OXENHAM SAW THE WHITE BIRD
II. HOW AMYAS CAME HOME THE FIRST TIME
III. OF TWO GENTLEMEN OF WALES, AND HOW THEY HUNTED WITH THE HOUNDS, AND YET RAN WITH THE DEER
IV. THE TWO WAYS OF BEING CROST IN LOVE
V. CLOVELLY COURT IN THE OLDEN TIME
VI. THE COMBES OF THE FAR WEST
VII. THE TRUE AND TRAGICAL HISTORY OF MR. JOHN OXENHAM OF PLYMOUTH
VIII. HOW THE NOBLE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE WAS FOUNDED
IX. HOW AMYAS KEPT HIS CHRISTMAS DAY
X. HOW THE MAYOR OF BIDEFORD BAITED HIS HOOK WITH HIS OWN FLESH
XI. HOW EUSTACE LEIGH MET THE POPE'S LEGATE
XII. HOW BIDEFORD BRIDGE DINED AT ANNERY HOUSE
XIII. HOW THE GOLDEN HIND CAME HOME AGAIN
XIV. HOW SALVATION YEO SLEW THE KING OF THE GUBBINGS
XV. HOW MR. JOHN BRIMBLECOMBE UNDERSTOOD THE NATURE OF AN OATH
XVI. THE MOST CHIVALROUS ADVENTURE OF THE GOOD SHIP ROSE
XVII. HOW THEY CAME TO BARBADOS, AND FOUND NO MEN THEREIN
XVIII. HOW THEY TOOK THE PEARLS AT MARGARITA
XIX. WHAT BEFELL AT LA GUAYRA
XX. SPANISH BLOODHOUNDS AND ENGLISH MASTIFFS
XXI. HOW THEY TOOK THE COMMUNION UNDER THE TREE AT HIGUEROTE
XXII. THE INQUISITION IN THE INDIES
XXIII. THE BANKS OF THE META
XXIV. HOW AMYAS WAS TEMPTED OF THE DEVIL
XXV. HOW THEY TOOK THE GOLD-TRAIN
XXVI. HOW THEY TOOK THE GREAT GALLEON
XXVII. HOW SALVATION YEO FOUND HIS LITTLE MAID AGAIN
XXVIII.HOW AMYAS CAME HOME THE THIRD TIME
XXIX. HOW THE VIRGINIA FLEET WAS STOPPED BY THE QUEEN'S COMMAND
XXX. HOW THE ADMIRAL JOHN HAWKINS TESTIFIED AGAINST CROAKERS
XXXI. THE GREAT ARMADA
XXXII. HOW AMYAS THREW HIS SWORD INTO THE SEA
XXXIII. HOW AMYAS LET THE APPLE FALL
HOW MR. OXENHAM SAW THE WHITE BIRD
"The hollow oak our palace is, Our heritage the sea."
All who have travelled through the delicious scenery of North Devon mustneeds know the little white town of Bideford, which slopes upwards fromits broad tide-river paved with yellow sands, and many-arched old bridgewhere salmon wait for autumn floods, toward the pleasant upland on thewest. Above the town the hills close in, cushioned with deep oak woods,through which juts here and there a crag of fern-fringed slate; belowthey lower, and open more and more in softly rounded knolls, and fertilesquares of red and green, till they sink into the wide expanse of hazyflats, rich salt-marshes, and rolling sand-hills, where Torridge joinsher sister Taw, and both together flow quietly toward the broad surgesof the bar, and the everlasting thunder of the long Atlantic swell.Pleasantly the old town stands there, beneath its soft Italian sky,fanned day and night by the fresh ocean breeze, which forbids alike thekeen winter frosts, and the fierce thunder heats of the midland; andpleasantly it has stood there for now, perhaps, eight hundred yearssince the first Grenville, cousin of the Conqueror, returning from theconquest of South Wales, drew round him trusty Saxon serfs, and freeNorse rovers with their golden curls, and dark Silurian Britons fromthe Swansea shore, and all the mingled blood which still gives to theseaward folk of the next county their strength and intellect, and, evenin these levelling days, their peculiar beauty of face and form.
But at the time whereof I write, Bideford was not merely a pleasantcountry town, whose quay was haunted by a few coasting craft. It wasone of the chief ports of England; it furnished seven ships to fight theArmada: even more than a century afterwards, say the chroniclers, "itsent more vessels to the northern trade than any port in England, saving(strange juxtaposition!) London and Topsham," and was the centre of alocal civilization and enterprise, small perhaps compared with thevast efforts of the present day: but who dare despise the day of smallthings, if it has proved to be the dawn of mighty ones? And it is to thesea-life and labor of Bideford, and Dartmouth, and Topsham, and Plymouth(then a petty place), and many another little western town, that Englandowes the foundation of her naval and commercial glory. It was the menof Devon, the Drakes and Hawkins', Gilberts and Raleighs, Grenvilles andOxenhams, and a host more of "forgotten worthies," whom we shall learnone day to honor as they deserve, to whom she owes her commerce, hercolonies, her very existence. For had they not first crippled, by theirWest Indian raids, the ill-gotten resources of the Spaniard, and thencrushed his last huge effort in Britain's Salamis, the glorious fight of1588, what had we been by now but a popish appanage of a world-tyrannyas cruel as heathen Rome itself, and far more devilish?
It is in memory of these men, their voyages and their battles, theirfaith and their valor, their heroic lives and no less heroic deaths,that I write this book; and if now and then I shall seem to warm intoa style somewhat too stilted and pompous, let me be excused for mysubject's sake, fit rather to have been sung than said, and to haveproclaimed to all true English hearts, not as a novel but as an epic(which some man may yet gird himself to write), the same great messagewhich the songs of Troy, and the Persian wars, and the trophies ofMarathon and Salamis, spoke to the hearts of all true Greeks of old.
One bright summer's afternoon, in the year of grace 1575, a tall andfair boy came lingering along Bideford quay, in his scholar's gown,with satchel and slate in hand, watching wistfully the shipping and thesailors, till, just after he had passed the bottom of the High Street,he came opposite to one of the many taverns which looked out upon theriver. In the open bay window sat merchants and gentlemen, discoursingover their afternoon's draught of sack; and outside the door wasgathered a group of sailors, listening earnestly to some one who stoodin the midst. The boy, all alive for any sea-news, must needs go upto them, and take his place among the sailor-lads who were peeping andwhispering under the elbows of the men; and so came in for the followingspeech, delivered in a loud bold voice, with a strong Devonshire accent,and a fair sprinkling of oaths.
"If you don't believe me, go and see, or stay here and grow all overblue mould. I tell you, as I am a gentleman, I saw it with these eyes,and so did Salvation Yeo there, through a window in the lower room; andwe measured the heap, a
"Why didn't you bring some of they home, then, Mr. Oxenham?"
"Why weren't you there to help to carry them? We would have brought'em away, safe enough, and young Drake and I had broke the door abroadalready, but Captain Drake goes off in a dead faint; and when we cameto look, he had a wound in his leg you might have laid three fingers in,and his boots were full of blood, and had been for an hour or more; butthe heart of him was that, that he never knew it till he dropped,and then his brother and I got him away to the boats, he kicking andstruggling, and bidding us let him go on with the fight, though everystep he took in the sand was in a pool of blood; and so we got off. Andtell me, ye sons of shotten herrings, wasn't it worth more to save himthan the dirty silver? for silver we can get again, brave boys: there'smore fish in the sea than ever came out of it, and more silver in Nombrede Dios than would pave all the streets in the west country: but of suchcaptains as Franky Drake, Heaven never makes but one at a time; and ifwe lose him, good-bye to England's luck, say I, and who don't agree, lethim choose his weapons, and I'm his man."
He who delivered this harangue was a tall and sturdy personage, with aflorid black-bearded face, and bold restless dark eyes, who leaned, withcrossed legs and arms akimbo, against the wall of the house; and seemedin the eyes of the schoolboy a very magnifico, some prince or duke atleast. He was dressed (contrary to all sumptuary laws of the time) ina suit of crimson velvet, a little the worse, perhaps, for wear; by hisside were a long Spanish rapier and a brace of daggers, gaudy enoughabout the hilts; his fingers sparkled with rings; he had two or threegold chains about his neck, and large earrings in his ears, behind oneof which a red rose was stuck jauntily enough among the glossy blackcurls; on his head was a broad velvet Spanish hat, in which instead of afeather was fastened with a great gold clasp a whole Quezal bird, whosegorgeous plumage of fretted golden green shone like one entire preciousstone. As he finished his speech, he took off the said hat, and lookingat the bird in it--
"Look ye, my lads, did you ever see such a fowl as that before? That'sthe bird which the old Indian kings of Mexico let no one wear but theirown selves; and therefore I wear it,--I, John Oxenham of South Tawton,for a sign to all brave lads of Devon, that as the Spaniards are themasters of the Indians, we're the masters of the Spaniards:" and hereplaced his hat.
A murmur of applause followed: but one hinted that he "doubted theSpaniards were too many for them."
"Too many? How many men did we take Nombre de Dios with? Seventy-threewere we, and no more when we sailed out of Plymouth Sound; and before wesaw the Spanish Main, half were gastados, used up, as the Dons say, withthe scurvy; and in Port Pheasant Captain Rawse of Cowes fell in with us,and that gave us some thirty hands more; and with that handful, my lads,only fifty-three in all, we picked the lock of the new world! And whomdid we lose but our trumpeter, who stood braying like an ass inthe middle of the square, instead of taking care of his neck like aChristian? I tell you, those Spaniards are rank cowards, as all bulliesare. They pray to a woman, the idolatrous rascals! and no wonder theyfight like women."
"You'm right, captain," sang out a tall gaunt fellow who stood close tohim; "one westcountry-man can fight two easterlings, and an easterlingcan beat three Dons any day. Eh! my lads of Devon?
"For O! it's the herrings and the good brown beef, And the cider and the cream so white; O! they are the making of the jolly Devon lads, For to play, and eke to fight."
"Come," said Oxenham, "come along! Who lists? who lists? who'll make hisfortune?
"Oh, who will join, jolly mariners all? And who will join, says he, O! To fill his pockets with the good red goold, By sailing on the sea, O!"
"Who'll list?" cried the gaunt man again; "now's your time! We've gotforty men to Plymouth now, ready to sail the minute we get back, and wewant a dozen out of you Bideford men, and just a boy or two, and thenwe'm off and away, and make our fortunes, or go to heaven.
"Our bodies in the sea so deep, Our souls in heaven to rest! Where valiant seamen, one and all, Hereafter shall be blest!"
"Now," said Oxenham, "you won't let the Plymouth men say that theBideford men daren't follow them? North Devon against South, it is.Who'll join? who'll join? It is but a step of a way, after all, andsailing as smooth as a duck-pond as soon as you're past Cape Finisterre.I'll run a Clovelly herring-boat there and back for a wager of twentypound, and never ship a bucketful all the way. Who'll join? Don't thinkyou're buying a pig in a poke. I know the road, and Salvation Yeo, here,too, who was the gunner's mate, as well as I do the narrow seas, andbetter. You ask him to show you the chart of it, now, and see if hedon't tell you over the ruttier as well as Drake himself."
On which the gaunt man pulled from under his arm a great white buffalohorn covered with rough etchings of land and sea, and held it up to theadmiring ring.
"See here, boys all, and behold the pictur of the place, dra'ed outso natural as ever was life. I got mun from a Portingal, down to theAzores; and he'd pricked mun out, and pricked mun out, wheresoever he'dsailed, and whatsoever he'd seen. Take mun in your hands now, SimonEvans, take mun in your hands; look mun over, and I'll warrant you'llknow the way in five minutes so well as ever a shark in the seas."
And the horn was passed from hand to hand; while Oxenham, who saw thathis hearers were becoming moved, called through the open window fora great tankard of sack, and passed that from hand to hand, after thehorn.
The school-boy, who had been devouring with eyes and ears all whichpassed, and had contrived by this time to edge himself into the innerring, now stood face to face with the hero of the emerald crest, and gotas many peeps as he could at the wonder. But when he saw the sailors,one after another, having turned it over a while, come forward and offerto join Mr. Oxenham, his soul burned within him for a nearer view ofthat wondrous horn, as magical in its effects as that of Tristrem, orthe enchanter's in Ariosto; and when the group had somewhat broken up,and Oxenham was going into the tavern with his recruits, he asked boldlyfor a nearer sight of the marvel, which was granted at once.
And now to his astonished gaze displayed themselves cities and harbors,dragons and elephants, whales which fought with sharks, plate shipsof Spain, islands with apes and palm-trees, each with its nameover-written, and here and there, "Here is gold;" and again, "Much goldand silver;" inserted most probably, as the words were in English, bythe hands of Mr. Oxenham himself. Lingeringly and longingly the boyturned it round and round, and thought the owner of it more fortunatethan Khan or Kaiser. Oh, if he could but possess that horn, what neededhe on earth beside to make him blest!
"I say, will you sell this?"
"Yea, marry, or my own soul, if I can get the worth of it."
"I want the horn,--I don't want your soul; it's somewhat of a stalesole, for aught I know; and there are plenty of fresh ones in the bay."
And therewith, after much fumbling, he pulled out a tester (the only onehe had), and asked if that would buy it?
"That! no, nor twenty of them."
The boy thought over what a good knight-errant would do in such case,and then answered, "Tell you what: I'll fight you for it."
"Thank 'ee, sir!
"Break the jackanapes's head for him, Yeo," said Oxenham.
"Call me jackanapes again, and I break yours, sir." And the boy liftedhis fist fiercely.
Oxenham looked at him a minute smilingly. "Tut! tut! my man, hit one ofyour own size, if you will, and spare little folk like me!"
"If I have a boy's age, sir, I have a man's fist. I shall be fifteenyears old this month, and know how to answer any one who insults me."
"Fifteen, my young cockerel? you look liker twent
"He'll do," said Yeo; "he will make a brave gamecock in a year ortwo, if he dares ruffle up so early at a tough old hen-master like thecaptain."
At which there was a general laugh, in which Oxenham joined as loudly asany, and then bade the lad tell him why he was so keen after the horn.
"Because," said he, looking up boldly, "I want to go to sea. I want tosee the Indies. I want to fight the Spaniards. Though I am a gentleman'sson, I'd a deal liever be a cabin-boy on board your ship." And the lad,having hurried out his say fiercely enough, dropped his head again.
"And you shall," cried Oxenham, with a great oath; "and take a galloon,and dine off carbonadoed Dons. Whose son are you, my gallant fellow?"
"Mr. Leigh's, of Burrough Court."
"Bless his soul! I know him as well as I do the Eddystone, and hiskitchen too. Who sups with him to-night?"
"Sir Richard Grenville."
"Dick Grenville? I did not know he was in town. Go home and tell yourfather John Oxenham will come and keep him company. There, off with you!I'll make all straight with the good gentleman, and you shall have yourventure with me; and as for the horn, let him have the horn, Yeo, andI'll give you a noble for it."
"Not a penny, noble captain. If young master will take a poor mariner'sgift, there it is, for the sake of his love to the calling, andHeaven send him luck therein." And the good fellow, with the impulsivegenerosity of a true sailor, thrust the horn into the boy's hands, andwalked away to escape thanks.
"And now," quoth Oxenham, "my merry men all, make up your minds whatmannered men you be minded to be before you take your bounties. I wantnone of your rascally lurching longshore vermin, who get five poundsout of this captain, and ten out of that, and let him sail without themafter all, while they are stowed away under women's mufflers, andin tavern cellars. If any man is of that humor, he had better to cuthimself up, and salt himself down in a barrel for pork, before he meetsme again; for by this light, let me catch him, be it seven years hence,and if I do not cut his throat upon the streets, it's a pity! But if anyman will be true brother to me, true brother to him I'll be, come wreckor prize, storm or calm, salt water or fresh, victuals or none, shareand fare alike; and here's my hand upon it, for every man and all! andso--
"Westward ho! with a rumbelow, And hurra for the Spanish Main, O!"
After which oration Mr. Oxenham swaggered into the tavern, followed byhis new men; and the boy took his way homewards, nursing his precioushorn, trembling between hope and fear, and blushing with maidenlyshame, and a half-sense of wrong-doing at having revealed suddenly to astranger the darling wish which he had hidden from his father and motherever since he was ten years old.
Now this young gentleman, Amyas Leigh, though come of as good blood asany in Devon, and having lived all his life in what we should evennow call the very best society, and being (on account of the valor,courtesy, and truly noble qualities which he showed forth in his mosteventful life) chosen by me as the hero and centre of this story,was not, saving for his good looks, by any means what would be callednow-a-days an "interesting" youth, still less a "highly educated" one;for, with the exception of a little Latin, which had been driven intohim by repeated blows, as if it had been a nail, he knew no bookswhatsoever, save his Bible, his Prayer-book, the old "Mort d'Arthur" ofCaxton's edition, which lay in the great bay window in the hall, and thetranslation of "Las Casas' History of the West Indies," which lay besideit, lately done into English under the title of "The Cruelties of theSpaniards." He devoutly believed in fairies, whom he called pixies; andheld that they changed babies, and made the mushroom rings on the downsto dance in. When he had warts or burns, he went to the white witchat Northam to charm them away; he thought that the sun moved round theearth, and that the moon had some kindred with a Cheshire cheese.He held that the swallows slept all the winter at the bottom of thehorse-pond; talked, like Raleigh, Grenville, and other low persons,with a broad Devonshire accent; and was in many other respects so veryignorant a youth, that any pert monitor in a national school might havehad a hearty laugh at him. Nevertheless, this ignorant young savage,vacant of the glorious gains of the nineteenth century, children'sliterature and science made easy, and, worst of all, of those improvedviews of English history now current among our railway essayists, whichconsist in believing all persons, male and female, before the year 1688,and nearly all after it, to have been either hypocrites or fools, hadlearnt certain things which he would hardly have been taught just nowin any school in England; for his training had been that of the oldPersians, "to speak the truth and to draw the bow," both of which savagevirtues he had acquired to perfection, as well as the equally savageones of enduring pain cheerfully, and of believing it to be the finestthing in the world to be a gentleman; by which word he had been taughtto understand the careful habit of causing needless pain to no humanbeing, poor or rich, and of taking pride in giving up his own pleasurefor the sake of those who were weaker than himself. Moreover, havingbeen entrusted for the last year with the breaking of a colt, and thecare of a cast of young hawks which his father had received from LundyIsle, he had been profiting much, by the means of those coarse andfrivolous amusements, in perseverance, thoughtfulness, and the habitof keeping his temper; and though he had never had a single "objectlesson," or been taught to "use his intellectual powers," he knew thenames and ways of every bird, and fish, and fly, and could read, ascunningly as the oldest sailor, the meaning of every drift of cloudwhich crossed the heavens. Lastly, he had been for some time past, onaccount of his extraordinary size and strength, undisputed cock of theschool, and the most terrible fighter among all Bideford boys; in whichbrutal habit he took much delight, and contrived, strange as it mayseem, to extract from it good, not only for himself but for others,doing justice among his school-fellows with a heavy hand, and succoringthe oppressed and afflicted; so that he was the terror of all thesailor-lads, and the pride and stay of all the town's boys and girls,and hardly considered that he had done his duty in his calling if hewent home without beating a big lad for bullying a little one. For therest, he never thought about thinking, or felt about feeling; and hadno ambition whatsoever beyond pleasing his father and mother, getting byhonest means the maximum of "red quarrenders" and mazard cherries,and going to sea when he was big enough. Neither was he what would benow-a-days called by many a pious child; for though he said his Creedand Lord's Prayer night and morning, and went to the service at thechurch every forenoon, and read the day's Psalms with his mother everyevening, and had learnt from her and from his father (as he proved wellin after life) that it was infinitely noble to do right and infinitelybase to do wrong, yet (the age of children's religious books not havingyet dawned on the world) he knew nothing more of theology, or of hisown soul, than is contained in the Church Catechism. It is a question,however, on the whole, whether, though grossly ignorant (according toour modern notions) in science and religion, he was altogether untrainedin manhood, virtue, and godliness; and whether the barbaric narrownessof his information was not somewhat counterbalanced both in him and inthe rest of his generation by the depth, and breadth, and healthiness ofhis education.
So let us watch him up the hill as he goes hugging his horn, to tell allthat has passed to his mother, from whom he had never hidden anythingin his life, save only that sea-fever; and that only because he foreknewthat it would give her pain; and because, moreover, being a prudent andsensible lad, he knew that he was not yet old enough to go, and that, ashe expressed it to her that afternoon, "there was no use hollaing tillhe was out of the wood."
So he goes up between the rich lane-banks, heavy with drooping ferns andhoneysuckle; out upon the windy down toward the old Court, nestledamid its ring of wind-clipt oaks; through the gray gateway into thehomeclose; and then he pauses a moment to look around; fi
Mr. Oxenham came that evening to supper as he had promised: but aspeople supped in those days in much the same manner as they do now, wemay drop the thread of the story for a few hours, and take it up againafter supper is over.
"Come now, Dick Grenville, do thou talk the good man round, and I'llwarrant myself to talk round the good wife."
The personage whom Oxenham addressed thus familiarly answered by asomewhat sarcastic smile, and, "Mr. Oxenham gives Dick Grenville" (withjust enough emphasis on the "Mr." and the "Dick," to hint that a libertyhad been taken with him) "overmuch credit with the men. Mr. Oxenham'scredit with fair ladies, none can doubt. Friend Leigh, is Heard's greatship home yet from the Straits?"
The speaker, known well in those days as Sir Richard Grenville,Granville, Greenvil, Greenfield, with two or three other variations, wasone of those truly heroical personages whom Providence, fitting alwaysthe men to their age and their work, had sent upon the earth whereof ittakes right good care, not in England only, but in Spain and Italy, inGermany and the Netherlands, and wherever, in short, great men and greatdeeds were needed to lift the mediaeval world into the modern.
And, among all the heroic faces which the painters of that age havepreserved, none, perhaps, hardly excepting Shakespeare's or Spenser's,Alva's or Farina's, is more heroic than that of Richard Grenville, as itstands in Prince's "Worthies of Devon;" of a Spanish type, perhaps(or more truly speaking, a Cornish), rather than an English, with justenough of the British element in it to give delicacy to its massiveness.The forehead and whole brain are of extraordinary loftiness, andperfectly upright; the nose long, aquiline, and delicately pointed;the mouth fringed with a short silky beard, small and ripe, yet firmas granite, with just pout enough of the lower lip to give hint of thatcapacity of noble indignation which lay hid under its usual courtly calmand sweetness; if there be a defect in the face, it is that the eyes aresomewhat small, and close together, and the eyebrows, though delicatelyarched, and, without a trace of peevishness, too closely presseddown upon them, the complexion is dark, the figure tall and graceful;altogether the likeness of a wise and gallant gentleman, lovely to allgood men, awful to all bad men; in whose presence none dare say or do amean or a ribald thing; whom brave men left, feeling themselves nervedto do their duty better, while cowards slipped away, as bats andowls before the sun. So he lived and moved, whether in the Court ofElizabeth, giving his counsel among the wisest; or in the streets ofBideford, capped alike by squire and merchant, shopkeeper and sailor; orriding along the moorland roads between his houses of Stow and Bideford,while every woman ran out to her door to look at the great Sir Richard,the pride of North Devon; or, sitting there in the low mullioned windowat Burrough, with his cup of malmsey before him, and the lute to whichhe had just been singing laid across his knees, while the red westernsun streamed in upon his high, bland forehead, and soft curling locks;ever the same steadfast, God-fearing, chivalrous man, conscious (as faras a soul so healthy could be conscious) of the pride of beauty, andstrength, and valor, and wisdom, and a race and name which claimeddirect descent from the grandfather of the Conqueror, and was trackeddown the centuries by valiant deeds and noble benefits to his nativeshire, himself the noblest of his race. Men said that he was proud; buthe could not look round him without having something to be proud of;that he was stern and harsh to his sailors: but it was only when he sawin them any taint of cowardice or falsehood; that he was subject, atmoments, to such fearful fits of rage, that he had been seen to snatchthe glasses from the table, grind them to pieces in his teeth, andswallow them: but that was only when his indignation had been aroused bysome tale of cruelty or oppression, and, above all, by those West Indiandevilries of the Spaniards, whom he regarded (and in those days rightlyenough) as the enemies of God and man. Of this last fact Oxenham waswell aware, and therefore felt somewhat puzzled and nettled, when, afterhaving asked Mr. Leigh's leave to take young Amyas with him and setforth in glowing colors the purpose of his voyage, he found Sir Richardutterly unwilling to help him with his suit.
"Heyday, Sir Richard! You are not surely gone over to the side of thosecanting fellows (Spanish Jesuits in disguise, every one of them, theyare), who pretended to turn up their noses at Franky Drake, as a pirate,and be hanged to them?"
"My friend Oxenham," answered he, in the sententious and measured styleof the day, "I have always held, as you should know by this, that Mr.Drake's booty, as well as my good friend Captain Hawkins's, is lawfulprize, as being taken from the Spaniard, who is not only hostis humanigeneris, but has no right to the same, having robbed it violently, bytorture and extreme iniquity, from the poor Indian, whom God avenge, asHe surely will."
"Amen," said Mrs. Leigh.
"I say Amen, too," quoth Oxenham, "especially if it please Him to avengethem by English hands."
"And I also," went on Sir Richard; "for the rightful owners of the saidgoods being either miserably dead, or incapable, by reason of theirservitude, of ever recovering any share thereof, the treasure, falselycalled Spanish, cannot be better bestowed than in building up the stateof England against them, our natural enemies; and thereby, in buildingup the weal of the Reformed Churches throughout the world, and theliberties of all nations, against a tyranny more foul and rapacious thanthat of Nero or Caligula; which, if it be not the cause of God, I, forone, know not what God's cause is!" And, as he warmed in his speech, hiseyes flashed very fire.
"Hark now!" said Oxenham, "who can speak more boldly than he? and yet hewill not help this lad to so noble an adventure."
"You have asked his father and mother; what is their answer?"
"Mine is this," said Mr. Leigh; "if it be God's will that my boy shouldbecome, hereafter, such a mariner as Sir Richard Grenville, let him go,and God be with him; but let him first bide here at home and betrained, if God give me grace, to become such a gentleman as Sir RichardGrenville."
Sir Richard bowed low, and Mrs. Leigh catching up the last word--
"There, Mr. Oxenham, you cannot gainsay that, unless you will bediscourteous to his worship. And for me--though it be a weak woman'sreason, yet it is a mother's: he is my only child. His elder brother isfar away. G
"And how do you know that, my sweet madam!" said the adventurer, turningfirst deadly pale, and then glowing red. Her last words had touched himto the quick in some unexpected place; and rising, he courteously laidher hand to his lips, and said--"I say no more. Farewell, sweet madam,and God send all men such wives as you."
"And all wives," said she, smiling, "such husbands as mine."
"Nay, I will not say that," answered he, with a half sneer--and then,"Farewell, friend Leigh--farewell, gallant Dick Grenville. God send Isee thee Lord High Admiral when I come home. And yet, why should I comehome? Will you pray for poor Jack, gentles?"
"Tut, tut, man! good words," said Leigh; "let us drink to our merrymeeting before you go." And rising, and putting the tankard of malmseyto his lips, he passed it to Sir Richard, who rose, and saying, "To thefortune of a bold mariner and a gallant gentleman," drank, and put thecup into Oxenham's hand.
The adventurer's face was flushed, and his eye wild. Whether from theliquor he had drunk during the day, or whether from Mrs. Leigh's lastspeech, he had not been himself for a few minutes. He lifted the cup,and was in act to pledge them, when he suddenly dropped it on the table,and pointed, staring and trembling, up and down, and round the room, asif following some fluttering object.
"There! Do you see it? The bird!--the bird with the white breast!"
Each looked at the other; but Leigh, who was a quick-witted man and anold courtier, forced a laugh instantly, and cried--"Nonsense, brave JackOxenham! Leave white birds for men who will show the white feather. Mrs.Leigh waits to pledge you."
Oxenham recovered himself in a moment, pledged them all round, drinkingdeep and fiercely; and after hearty farewells, departed, never hintingagain at his strange exclamation.
After he was gone, and while Leigh was attending him to the door, Mrs.Leigh and Grenville kept a few minutes' dead silence. At last--"God helphim!" said she.
"Amen!" said Grenville, "for he never needed it more. But, indeed,madam, I put no faith in such omens."
"But, Sir Richard, that bird has been seen for generations before thedeath of any of his family. I know those who were at South Tawton whenhis mother died, and his brother also; and they both saw it. God helphim! for, after all, he is a proper man."
"So many a lady has thought before now, Mrs. Leigh, and well for him ifthey had not. But, indeed, I make no account of omens. When God is readyfor each man, then he must go; and when can he go better?"
"But," said Mr. Leigh, who entered, "I have seen, and especially whenI was in Italy, omens and prophecies before now beget their ownfulfilment, by driving men into recklessness, and making them runheadlong upon that very ruin which, as they fancied, was running uponthem."
"And which," said Sir Richard, "they might have avoided, if, instead oftrusting in I know not what dumb and dark destiny, they had trusted inthe living God, by faith in whom men may remove mountains, and quenchthe fire, and put to flight the armies of the alien. I too know, andknow not how I know, that I shall never die in my bed."
"God forfend!" cried Mrs. Leigh.
"And why, fair madam, if I die doing my duty to my God and my queen? Thethought never moves me: nay, to tell the truth, I pray often enough thatI may be spared the miseries of imbecile old age, and that end whichthe old Northmen rightly called 'a cow's death' rather than a man's. Butenough of this. Mr. Leigh, you have done wisely to-night. Poor Oxenhamdoes not go on his voyage with a single eye. I have talked about himwith Drake and Hawkins; and I guess why Mrs. Leigh touched him so homewhen she told him that he had no child."
"Has he one, then, in the West Indies?" cried the good lady.
"God knows; and God grant we may not hear of shame and sorrow fallenupon an ancient and honorable house of Devon. My brother Stukely is woeenough to North Devon for this generation."
"Poor braggadocio!" said Mr. Leigh; "and yet not altogether that too,for he can fight at least."
"So can every mastiff and boar, much more an Englishman. And now comehither to me, my adventurous godson, and don't look in such dolefuldumps. I hear you have broken all the sailor-boys' heads already."
"Nearly all," said young Amyas, with due modesty.. "But am I not to goto sea?"
"All things in their time, my boy, and God forbid that either I or yourworthy parents should keep you from that noble calling which is thesafeguard of this England and her queen. But you do not wish to live anddie the master of a trawler?"
"I should like to be a brave adventurer, like Mr. Oxenham."
"God grant you become a braver man than he! for, as I think, to be boldagainst the enemy is common to the brutes; but the prerogative of a manis to be bold against himself."
"To conquer our own fancies, Amyas, and our own lusts, and our ambition,in the sacred name of duty; this it is to be truly brave, and trulystrong; for he who cannot rule himself, how can he rule his crew or hisfortunes? Come, now, I will make you a promise. If you will bide quietlyat home, and learn from your father and mother all which befits agentleman and a Christian, as well as a seaman, the day shall come whenyou shall sail with Richard Grenville himself, or with better men thanhe, on a nobler errand than gold-hunting on the Spanish Main."
"O my boy, my boy!" said Mrs. Leigh, "hear what the good Sir Richardpromises you. Many an earl's son would be glad to be in your place."
"And many an earl's son will be glad to be in his place a score yearshence, if he will but learn what I know you two can teach him. And now,Amyas, my lad, I will tell you for a warning the history of that SirThomas Stukely of whom I spoke just now, and who was, as all men know,a gallant and courtly knight, of an ancient and worshipful family inIlfracombe, well practised in the wars, and well beloved at first by ourincomparable queen, the friend of all true virtue, as I trust she willbe of yours some day; who wanted but one step to greatness, and thatwas this, that in his hurry to rule all the world, he forgot to rulehimself. At first, he wasted his estate in show and luxury, alwaysintending to be famous, and destroying his own fame all the while byhis vainglory and haste. Then, to retrieve his losses, he hit upon thepeopling of Florida, which thou and I will see done some day, by God'sblessing; for I and some good friends of mine have an errand there aswell as he. But he did not go about it as a loyal man, to advance thehonor of his queen, but his own honor only, dreaming that he too shouldbe a king; and was not ashamed to tell her majesty that he had rather besovereign of a molehill than the highest subject of an emperor."
"They say," said Mr. Leigh, "that he told her plainly he should be aprince before he died, and that she gave him one of her pretty quips inreturn."
"I don't know that her majesty had the best of it. A fool is many timestoo strong for a wise man, by virtue of his thick hide. For when shesaid that she hoped she should hear from him in his new principality,'Yes, sooth,' says he, graciously enough. 'And in what style?' asks she.'To our dear sister,' says Stukely: to which her clemency had nothing toreply, but turned away, as Mr. Burleigh told me, laughing."
"Alas for him!" said gentle Mrs. Leigh. "Such self-conceit--and Heavenknows we have the root of it in ourselves also--is the very daughter ofself-will, and of that loud crying out about I, and me, and mine, whichis the very bird-call for all devils, and the broad road which leads todeath."
"It will lead him to his," said Sir Richard; "God grant it be not uponTower-hill! for since that Florida plot, and after that his hopes ofIrish preferment came to naught, he who could not help himself by fairmeans has taken to foul ones, and gone over to Italy to the Pope, whoseinfallibility has not been proof against Stukely's wit; for he was soonhis Holiness's closet counsellor, and, they say, his bosom friend; andmad
"Ay, but," said Mr. Leigh, "I suppose the Italians have the same fetchnow as they had when I was there, to explain such ugly cases; namely,that the Pope is infallible only in doctrine, and quoad Pope; whilequoad hominem, he is even as others, or indeed, in general, a dealworse, so that the office, and not the man, may be glorified thereby.But where is Stukely now?"
"At Rome when last I heard of him, ruffling it up and down the Vaticanas Baron Ross, Viscount Murrough, Earl Wexford, Marquis Leinster, anda title or two more, which have cost the Pope little, seeing thatthey never were his to give; and plotting, they say, some hare-brainedexpedition against Ireland by the help of the Spanish king, which mustend in nothing but his shame and ruin. And now, my sweet hosts, I mustcall for serving-boy and lantern, and home to my bed in Bideford."
And so Amyas Leigh went back to school, and Mr. Oxenham went his way toPlymouth again, and sailed for the Spanish Main.