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With Drake on the Spanish Main Part 31

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Now all thoughts turned longingly homewards. The value of the treasure taken from the Spaniards was near 50,000, and it was not to be supposed that so great a loss would be accepted by them with equanimity. Before long s.h.i.+ps of war would doubtless be fitted out to punish this audacious sea-rover who had made himself a terror throughout the Main, and Drake thought it but prudent to get away with his booty before his little band was overwhelmed. He still needed a vessel to serve as victualler to the frigate in which he purposed to sail for England. With his usual daring he set off for the mouth of the Grande river, running right under the guns of Cartagena. In the middle of the night he chased and boarded a frigate that endeavoured to slip past him to the west, and, returning to his secret haven with his prize, he unloaded her cargo of maize, hens, hogs, and wild honey, and prepared for the voyage home.

All hands were set to break up the pinnaces, which had been brought in sections from England and were now, after a year's sailing, past further service. Their timbers were burned on the beach; their ironwork was given to the maroons. The two Spanish frigates were overhauled, their keels cleared of barnacles, their spars and rigging put in good repair, their holds filled with a plentiful store of food.

Then, when all was ready, Drake invited Pedro, the maroon chief, and three of his best men to choose some reward for their good and loyal services. Pedro took a great fancy to a splendid scimitar which had been given to Drake by Captain Le Testu and had once belonged to the King of France. Drake would rather he had chosen something else, but he handed over the weapon with a good grace, and accompanied it with a present of silk and fine cloth for the maroons' wives. Pedro was so much delighted that he begged Drake to accept four wedges of gold in return, which the Captain threw into the common stock, saying it was only just that those who had shared with him the dangers and hards.h.i.+ps of the adventures should share also in the full profits.

Dennis did not part from Juan without giving him a token of his thanks and a memento of their common adventures. He had lost almost all that he had saved from the _Maid Marian_; with the _Mirandola_ it had fallen into the hands of the Spaniards; and the division of the spoils of the mule-train would not be made until they reached Plymouth. But he had always kept the sword of Sir Martin Blunt, and this he gave to Juan, who received it with great satisfaction.

On the 17th of July the company went aboard the two frigates; the anchors were heaved, all sail was set, and the little craft stood out to sea. The flag of St. George flew at their maintops; silk streamers and ensigns dipped down to the water; a parting salute was fired; the trumpeters blew a blast; and the English mariners shouted a farewell cheer to the maroons gathered on the beach. Down in the hold lay Jan Biddle, repenting in darkness, it is to be hoped, his treacherous conduct. He alone of the company had no treasure to rejoice in; Drake had sternly decreed that he should go home empty-handed, a prisoner throughout the long voyage.



High up in the rigging sat a monkey, blinking and chattering, wondering perhaps into what further perils his adventurous master would lead him.

"There is our Maiden Isle," said Dennis to Turnpenny, as they sailed merrily northward. "My vice-royalty was but brief; and methinks 'tis but a poor jewel in the crown of Queen Bess. Yet will it be a precious jewel in my memory, for there I found a true friend in thee, Amos, and we two have been enabled by G.o.d's providence to do somewhat for our countrymen in distress."

"Good-now, Master Hazelrig," said Drake, coming up to them; "art wis.h.i.+ng to return and set up a monarchy on yonder small isle?"

"Nay, sir, it is already bespoke for our gracious queen, though meseems the sovereignty belongs rightly to Mirandola, who now sits aloft, with a most forlorn and wistful look."

"Well, my lad, maybe you and I shall live to see Her Majesty's sway extend over all these islands, and far beyond. Meantime, what think 'ee is my dearest wish at this moment?"

"I know not, sir."

"Why," said Drake, with a smile, "'tis to bowl at the jack once more on Plymouth Hoe."

Conclusion

Little more than three weeks later, on Sunday, August 9, 1573, about noon, the congregation in St. Andrew's church at Plymouth was startled into wakefulness by the booming of guns. The vicar was in the midst of his sermon, and the good people were torn between their desire not to offend the worthy parson and their longing to see what was happening at the harbour. A few minutes pa.s.sed; then a whisper began to run through the church: "Master Drake is home again!" One looked at another; anxious eyes were cast at the high pews where the gentry sat; then, careless what squire or parson might think, by ones and twos and threes the people stole from the church, and, when once outside, set off running with all their might to the harbour. And before they got there a merry peal of bells rang out behind them. The ringers in the belfry, knowing, we must suppose, that their vicar was an easy man, a patriot, and a Devonian to boot, were handling the ropes most l.u.s.tily.

The two little frigates had just dropped anchor, and the men were putting off in boats. On sh.o.r.e men shouted, women wept and waved handkerchiefs, boys yelled and dodged among their elders; but n.o.body minded hustling and knocks, for was not Master Drake home again?

Deafening cheers rent the air as he landed; hundreds thronged around him to clasp his hand.

"Good-now, dear friends," he said with a laugh as he pa.s.sed through: "ye'll do me more hurt than the Spaniards ever did."

"Huzzay! huzzay! Spaniards be jowned! What have 'ee got in thikky s.h.i.+ps, Master Drake?"

"Where be Bobby Pike?" cried a buxom dame with half a dozen children clinging to her skirts.

"Here I be, Mally," cried the seaman, catching her in his arms, "and i'f.e.c.ks, I'll be sober for ever more, my la.s.s."

"On my soul and body there be Ned Whiddon, and Tom Copstone, and Hugh Curder, and Billy Hawk!" cried several voices in the crowd. "Huzzay!

huzzay! we never thought to see 'ee more."

"And Haymoss Turnpenny! Od's my life, what a day for Margery Tutt!"

And when Dennis, with Mirandola on his shoulder, returning glance for glance with interest, got clear of the press, he saw Amos marching along with a girl on each arm, his ruddy face beaming like the rising sun.

"Why, Amos," said Dennis, "are there two Margerys?"

"My heart, I know a score!" cried Amos. "But this be Margery Tutt, sir, thikky wench on my left. Loose my arm, la.s.s, and drop a curtsey to Master Hazelrig, for 'ithout him I'd never have been here this day.

She've waited for me, sir, bided single for my sake, and there's no landlubber to whop after all. T'other wench be Tom Copstone's Joan; his mother's most terrible jealous, and she've got a hold of Tom now; so 'You and me, Haymoss!' he sings out, and I've got his Joan under convoy till the old 'ooman 's done a-kissing of him. Margery, la.s.s, if 'ee be willing, I'll go up along and see pa'son this very day and ax en to call us next Sunday, for I've gold and silver and pearls, la.s.s, and won't they become your little plum neck! Master Hazelrig, I do pity 'ee, I do so. Bean't there a la.s.s to welcome 'ee? Good-now, bear up, for 'ee be but a stripling yet."

And then he was borne away by the crowd, and Dennis saw him no more that day.

Dennis found himself, when the treasure was divided, the possessor of 2,000 in money in addition to the pearls he had got at Fort Aguila.

He devoted a goodly sum to the erection of a monument in his parish church to the memory of Sir Martin Blunt and the other adventurers who had sailed in the _Maid Marian_ eighteen months before. A smaller amount sufficed for a stone over the grave of Mirandola, who died in the following winter. The greater part of the money Dennis gave into the hands of John Holles, his steward, who received it with all due gravity, expressing the hope that his young master had had his fill of adventuring and would now remain at home.

For a time Dennis was content to live in his rambling old house at Shaston. But four years later, learning that Drake was fitting out five s.h.i.+ps for a voyage round the world, he asked to be allowed to join the expedition at his own charge. His offer was accepted, and he shared in the joys and sorrows, the failures and successes, of that three years' voyage. With closer intercourse he admired the great Captain more and more; and Drake on his part came to regard him with peculiar affection. During the five years spent on sh.o.r.e after his return, Sir Francis, as he now was, paid many visits to the house at Shaston, and often played bowls with Dennis on the lawn behind.

In 1585, when Drake went out to the West Indies with a direct commission from the Queen, Dennis was of his company. He was one of the first to enter the town of St. Domingo when it was a.s.saulted; and in the subsequent attack on Cartagena he was seriously wounded. To his great disappointment, he had not fully recovered in time to take part in the famous expedition to Cadiz, when Drake "singed the King of Spain's beard." But next year, when all England was stirred at the news that the long-expected Armada was at last approaching, Dennis joined Drake on the _Revenge_, and had his part in the work of fighting in the Channel and the North Sea.

At the conclusion of this year Dennis, now in his thirty-fourth year, married the daughter of a neighbouring squire. Her name happened to be Margery. Soon after the marriage Dennis took her to Plymouth on a visit to his old comrade Amos Turnpenny, who was now blest with a family of five boys and five girls.

"Do 'ee mind, sir," said Amos with a twinkling eye--"do 'ee mind the day when we landed, and you axed me whether there were two Margerys?

Seems as if there be, sir; ay, and more; your madam be one, and my 'ooman be two, and my darter yonder be three, and Tom Copstone's darter be four, and I shouldn't be mazed if there was five some day. 'A good name,' says the Book, 'is rayther to be chosen than great riches.'

Margery be a good name, to be sure--a better name than Mirandola, poor fond beast! Next to Margery comes _Anne Gallant_, and that be my second darter yonder."

Dennis Hazelrig became a man of weight in his county. His wife and little daughter--the fifth Margery--dissuaded him from joining Drake and Hawkins in their fatal expedition to the Main in 1594, and he found an outlet for his energies in organizing the yeomanry of Devon.

When James the First came to the throne Dennis received the honour of knighthood. None of his old friends was more delighted than Amos Turnpenny, who was by this time nearly eighty, and a hale old grandfather.

"Ay, I says to Tom Copstone when I heard the news, 'Tom,' says I, 'we've a king again now, my lad, though by all I hear tell he bean't so proper a man as King Hal. But he do have his good points too. What be fust thing 'ee done, think 'ee?' 'Be jowned if I know,' says Tom. (He do have common ways o' speech, poor soul!) 'Why, 'f.e.c.ks,' says I, 'he bin and made Master Hazelrig a n.o.ble knight, and we must call en Sir Dennis to's face for ever more.' 'Well,' says Tom, 'we won't mind that,--night or day,' says he--'you and me, Haymoss?' And be jowned if they were not the very words of my dream!"

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