Part 3 out of 7
"Well worth it, Lionel. I could only hear a little of what was said,
but that was quite enough to show that a plot is on foot to attack and
kill the queen the next time she journeys to Windsor. The conspirators
are to hide in a wood near Datchet."
"You don't say so, Geoffrey. That is important news indeed. What are we
to do next?"
"I have not thought yet," Geoffrey replied. "I should say, though, our
best plan would be to make our way back as quickly as we can by Burnham
and Maldon round to Hedingham. The earl was going up to London one day
this week, we may catch him before he starts; if not, we must, of
course, follow him. But at any rate it is best to go home, for they
will be in a terrible fright, especially if Joe Chambers or one of the
men take the news to Bricklesey of the loss of the _Susan_, for it
would be quickly carried up to Hedingham by John Lirriper or one or
other of the boatmen. No day seems to be fixed, and the queen may not
be going to Windsor for some little time, so the loss of a day will not
make any difference. As we have money in our pockets we can hire horses
at Burnham to take us to Maldon, and get others there to carry us
An hour's walking took them to the ferry. It was now getting dusk, and
they had come to the conclusion as they walked that it would be too
late to attempt to get on that night beyond Burnham. The storm was as
wild as ever, and although the passage was a narrow one it was as much
as the ferryman could do to row the boat across.
"How far is it from here to Burnham?"
"About four miles; but you won't get to Burnham to-night."
"How is that?" Geoffrey asked.
"You may get as far as the ferry, but you won't get taken over. There
will be a big sea in the Crouch, for the wind is pretty nigh straight
up it; but you will be able to sleep at the inn this side. In the
morning, if the wind has gone down, you can cross; if not, you will
have to go round by the bridge, nigh ten miles higher up."
This was unpleasant news. Not that it made any difference to them
whether they slept on one side of the river or the other, but if the
wind was too strong to admit of a passage in the morning, the necessity
for making a detour would cost them many hours of valuable time. There
was, however, no help for it, and they walked to Criksey Ferry. The
little inn was crowded, for the ferry had been stopped all day, and
many like themselves had been compelled to stop for a lull in the wind.
Scarcely had they entered when their names were joyously shouted out.
"Ah, Masters Vickars, right glad am I to see you. We feared that surf
had put an end to you. We asked at the ferry, but the man declared that
no strange lads had crossed that day, and we were fearing we should
have a sad tale to send to Hedingham by John Lirriper."
"We are truly glad to see you, Joe," Geoffrey said, as they warmly
shook Joe Chambers and the two sailors by the hand. "How did you get
"On the mainmast, and pretty nigh drowned we were before we got there.
I suppose the tide must have taken us a bit further up than it did you.
We got here well nigh two hours ago, though we got a good meal and
dried our clothes at a farmhouse."
"We got a meal, too, soon after we landed," Geoffrey said; "but we did
not dry our clothes till we got to a little village. I did not ask its
name. I am awfully sorry, Joe, about the _Susan_"
"It is a bad job, but it cannot be helped, Master Geoffrey. I owned a
third of her, and two traders at Bricklesey own the other shares. Still
I have no cause to grumble. I have laid by more than enough in the last
four years to buy a share in another boat as good as she was. You see,
a trader ain't like a smack. A trader's got only hull and sails, while
a smack has got her nets beside, and they cost well nigh as much as the
boat. Thankful enough we are that we have all escaped with our lives;
and now I find you are safe my mind feels at rest over it."
"Do you think it will be calm enough to cross in the morning, Joe?"
"Like enough," the sailor replied; "a gale like this is like to blow
itself out in twenty-four hours. It has been the worst I ever saw. It
is not blowing now quite so hard as it did, and by the morning I
reckon, though there may be a fresh wind, the gale will be over."
The number of travellers were far too great for the accommodation of
the inn; and with the exception of two or three of the first arrivals
all slept on some hay in one of the barns.
The next morning, although the wind was still strong, the fury of the
gale had abated. The ferryman, however, said the water was so rough he
must wait for a time before they crossed. But when Geoffrey offered him
a reward to put their party on shore at once, he consented to do so,
Joe Chambers and the two sailors assisting with the oars; and as the
ferry-boat was large and strongly built, they crossed without further
inconvenience than the wetting of their jackets.
Joe Chambers, who knew the town perfectly, at once took them to a place
where they were able to hire a couple of horses, and on these rode to
Maldon, some nine miles away. Here they procured other horses, and it
was not long after midday when they arrived at Hedingham.
Mrs. Vickars held up her hands in astonishment at their shrunken
garments; but her relief from the anxiety she had felt concerning what
had befallen them during the gale was so great that she was unable to
"We will tell you all about it, mother, afterwards," Geoffrey said, as
he released himself from her embrace. "We have had a great adventure,
and the _Susan_ has been wrecked. But this is not the most
important matter. Father, has the earl started yet?"
"He was to have gone this morning, Geoffrey, but the floods are likely
to be out, and the roads will be in such a state that I have no doubt
he has put off his journey."
"It is important that we should see him at once, father. We have
overheard some people plotting against the queen's life, and measures
must be taken at once for her safety. We will run up and change our
things if you will go with us to see him. If you are there he will see
you whatever he is doing, while if we go alone there might be delay."
Without waiting for an answer the boys ran upstairs and quickly
returned in fresh clothes. Mr. Vickars was waiting for them with his
"You are quite sure of what you are saying, Geoffrey?" he observed as
they walked towards the castle. "Remember, that if it should turn out
an error, you are likely to come to sore disgrace instead of receiving
commendation for your interference. Every one has been talking of plots
against the queen for some time, and you may well have mistaken the
purport of what you have heard."
"There is no mistake, father, it is a real conspiracy, though who are
those concerned in it I know not. Lionel and I are not likely to raise
a false alarm about nothing, as you will say yourself when you hear the
story I have to tell the earl."
They had by this time entered the gates of the castle. "The earl has
just finished dinner," one of the attendants replied in answer to the
question of Mr. Vickars.
"Will you tell him that I wish to see him on urgent business?"
In two or three minutes the servant returned and asked the clergyman to
follow him. The earl received him in his private chamber, for the
castle was full with guests.
"Well, dominie, what is it?" he asked. "You want some help, I will be
bound, for somebody ill or in distress. I know pretty well by this time
the meaning of your urgent business."
"It is nothing of that kind to-day," the clergyman replied; "it is, in
fact, my sons who wish to see your lordship. I do not myself know the
full purport of their story, save that it is something which touches
the safety of the queen."
The earl's expression at once changed.
"Is that so, young sirs? This is a serious matter, you know; it is a
grave thing to bring an accusation against anyone in matters touching
"I am aware that it is, my lord, and assuredly my brother and I would
not lightly meddle with such matters; but I think that you will say
this is a business that should be attended to. It happened thus, sir."
He then briefly told how, that being out in a ketch that traded from
Bricklesey, they were caught in the gale; that the vessel was driven on
the sands, and they were cast ashore on a mast.
He then related the inhospitable reception they had met with. "It
seemed strange to us, sir, and contrary to nature, that anyone should
refuse to allow two shipwrecked lads to enter the house for shelter on
such a day; and it seemed well-nigh impossible that his tale of the
place being too full to hold us could be true. However, we started to
walk. On our way we met four horsemen going towards the house, closely
muffled up in cloaks."
"There was nothing very strange in that," the earl observed, "in such
weather as we had yesterday."
"Nothing at all, sir; we should not have given the matter one thought
had it not been that the four men were very well mounted, and,
apparently, gentlemen; and it was strange that such should have
business in an out-of-the-way house in Foulness Island. A little
further we met three men on foot. They were also wrapped up in cloaks;
but they wore high riding-boots, and had probably left their horses on
the other side of the ferry so as not to attract attention. A short
time afterwards we met two more horsemen, one of whom asked us if he
was going right for the house we had been at. As he was speaking a gust
of wind blew off his hat. I fetched it and gave it to him, and as he
stooped to put it on I saw that a tonsure was shaven on the top of his
head. The matter had already seemed strange to us; but the fact that
one of this number of men, all going to a lonely house, was a priest in
disguise, seemed so suspicious that my brother and myself determined to
try and get to the bottom of it."
Geoffrey then related how they had gone back to the house and effected
an entrance into the loft extending over it; how he had through the
cracks in the boards seen a party of men gathered in one of the lower
rooms, and then repeated word for word the scraps of conversation that
he had overheard.
The earl had listened with an expression of amused doubt to the early
portion of the narrative; but when Geoffrey came to the part where
accident had shown to him that one of these men proceeding towards this
house was a disguised priest, his face became serious, and he listened
with deep attention to the rest of the narrative.
"Faith," he said, "this is a serious matter, and you have done right
well in following up your suspicions, and in risking your lives, for
they would assuredly have killed you had they discovered you. Mr.
Vickars, your sons must ride with me to London at once. The matter is
too grave for a moment's delay. I must lay it before Burleigh at once.
A day's delay might be fatal."
He rang a bell standing on the table. As soon as an attendant answered
it he said, "Order three horses to be saddled at once; I must ride to
London with these young gentlemen without delay. Order Parsons and
Nichols to be ready in half an hour to set out with us. Have you had
food, young sirs? for it seems you came hither directly you arrived."
Finding that the boys had eaten nothing since they had left Maldon, he
ordered food to be brought them, and begged them eat it while he
explained to the countess and guests that sudden business that could
not be delayed called him away to London. Half an hour later he started
with the boys, the two servants following behind. Late that evening
they arrived in London. It was too late to call on Lord Burleigh that
night; but early the next morning the earl took the boys with him to
the house of the great statesman. Leaving them in the ante-chamber he
went in to the inner apartment, where the minister was at breakfast.
Ten minutes later he came out, and called the boys in.
"The Earl of Oxford has told me your story," Lord Burleigh said. "Tell
it me again, and omit nothing; for things that seem small are often of
consequence in a matter like this."
Geoffrey again repeated his story, giving full details of all that had
taken place from the time of their first reaching the house.
Lord Burleigh then questioned him closely as to whether they had seen
any of the faces of the men, and would recognise them again.
"I saw none from my spying-place above, my lord," Geoffrey said. "I
could see only the tops of their heads, and most of them still kept
their hats on; nor did we see them as they passed, with the exception
only of the man I supposed to be a priest. His face I saw plainly. It
was smooth shaven; his complexion was dark, his eyebrows were thin and
straight, his face narrow. I should take him for a foreigner--either a
Spaniard or Italian."
Lord Burleigh made a note of this description.
"Thanks, young sirs," he said. "I shall, of course, take measures to
prevent this plot being carried out, and shall inform her majesty how
bravely you both risked your lives to discover this conspiracy against
her person. The Earl of Oxford informs me that you are pages of his
cousin, Captain Francis Vere, a very brave and valiant gentleman; and
that you bore your part bravely in the siege of Sluys, but are at
present at home to rest after your labours there, and have permission
of Captain Vere to take part in any trouble that may arise here owing
to the action of the Spaniards. I have now no further occasion for your
services, and you can return with the earl to Hedingham, but your
attendance in London will be needed when we lay hands upon these
The same day they rode back to Hedingham, but ten days later were again
summoned to London. The queen had the day before journeyed to Windsor.
Half an hour before she arrived at the wood near Datchet a strong party
of her guard had suddenly surrounded it, and had found twelve armed men
lurking there. These had been arrested and lodged in the Tower. Three
of them were foreigners, the rest members of Catholic families known to
be favourable to the Spanish cause. Their trial was conducted
privately, as it was deemed advisable that as little should be made as
possible of this and other similar plots against the queen's life that
were discovered about this time.
Geoffrey and Lionel gave their evidence before the council. As the only
man they could have identified was not of the party captured, their
evidence only went to show the motive of this gathering in the wood
near Datchet. The prisoners stoutly maintained that Geoffrey had
misunderstood the conversation he had partly overheard, and that their
design was simply to make the queen a prisoner and force her to
abdicate. Three of the prisoners, who had before been banished from the
country and who had secretly returned, were sentenced to death; two of
the others to imprisonment for a long term of years, the rest to
banishment from England.
After the trial was over Lord Burleigh sent for the boys, and gave them
a very gracious message in the queen's name, together with two rings in
token of her majesty's gratitude. Highly delighted with these honours
they returned to Hedingham, and devoted themselves even more
assiduously than before to exercises in arms, in order that they might
some day prove themselves valiant soldiers of the queen.
THE SPANISH ARMADA.
The struggle that was at hand between Spain and England had long been
foreseen as inevitable. The one power was the champion of Roman
Catholicism, the other of Protestantism; and yet, although so much hung
upon the result of the encounter, and all Europe looked on with the
most intense interest, both parties entered upon the struggle without
allies, and this entirely from the personal fault of the sovereigns of
the two nations.
Queen Elizabeth, by her constant intrigues, her underhand dealings with
France and Spain, her grasping policy in the Netherlands, her meanness
and parsimony, and the fact that she was ready at any moment to
sacrifice the Netherlands to her own policy, had wholly alienated the
people of the Low Country; for while their own efforts for defence were
paralysed by the constant interference of Elizabeth, no benefit was
obtained from the English army, whose orders were to stand always on
the defensive--the queen's only anxiety appearing to be to keep her
grasp upon the towns that had been handed over to her as the price of
Her own counsellors were driven to their wits' end by her constant
changes of purpose. Her troops were starving and in rags from her
parsimony, the fleet lay dismantled and useless from want of funds, and
except such arming and drilling as took place at the expense of the
nobles, counties, and cities, no preparation whatever was made to meet
the coming storm. Upon the other hand, Philip of Spain, who might have
been at the head of a great Catholic league against England, had
isolated himself by his personal ambitions, Had he declared himself
ready, in the event of his conquest of England, to place James of
Scotland upon the throne, he would have had Scotland with him, together
with the Catholics of England, still a powerful and important body.
France, too, would have joined him, and the combination against
Elizabeth and the Protestants of England would have been well-nigh
irresistible. But this he could not bring himself to do. His dream was
the annexation of England to Spain; and smarting as the English
Catholics were under the execution of Mary of Scotland, their English
spirit revolted against the idea of the rule of Spain, and the great
Catholic nobles hastened, when the moment of danger arrived, to join in
the defence of their country, while Scotland, seeing no advantage to be
gained in the struggle, stood sullenly aloof, and France gave no aid to
a project which was to result, if successful, in the aggrandizement of
her already dangerously formidable neighbour.
Thus England and Spain stood alone--Philip slowly but steadily
preparing for the great expedition for the conquest of England,
Elizabeth hesitating, doubtful; at one moment gathering seamen and
arming her fleet, a month or two later discharging the sailors and
laying up the ships.
In the spring of 1587 Drake, with six vessels belonging to the crown
and twenty-four equipped by merchants of London and other places, had
seized a moment when Elizabeth's fickle mind had inclined to warlike
measures, and knowing that the mood might last but a day, had slipped
out of Plymouth and sailed for Spain a few hours before a messenger
arrived with a peremptory order from Elizabeth against entering any
Spanish port or offering violence to any Spanish town or ships.
Although caught in a gale in the Channel, Drake held on, and, reaching
Gibraltar on the 16th April, ascertained that Cadiz was crowded with
transports and store-ships.
Vice-admiral Burroughs, controller of the navy, who had been specially
appointed to thwart Drake's plans, opposed any action being taken; but
Drake insisted upon attack, and on the 19th the fleet stood in to Cadiz
harbour. Passing through the fire of the batteries, they sank the only
great ship of war in the roads, drove off the Spanish galleys, and
seized the vast fleet of store-ships loaded with wine, corn, and
provisions of all sorts for the use of the Armada. Everything of value
that could be conveniently moved was transferred to the English ships,
then the Spanish vessels were set on fire, their cables cut, and they
were left to drift an entangled mass of flame. Drake took a number of
prisoners, and sent a messenger on shore proposing to exchange them for
such English seamen as were prisoners in Spain. The reply was there
were no English prisoners in Spain; and as this was notoriously untrue,
it was agreed in the fleet that all the Spaniards they might take in
the future should be sold to the Moors, and the money reserved for the
redeeming of such Englishmen as might be in captivity there or
The English fleet then sailed for Cape St. Vincent, picking up on their
way large convoys of store-ships all bound for the Tagus, where the
Armada was collecting. These were all burned, and Drake brought up at
Cape St. Vincent, hoping to meet there a portion of the Armada expected
from the Mediterranean. As a harbour was necessary, he landed, stormed
the fort at Faro, and took possession of the harbour there. The
expected enemy did not appear, and Drake sailed up to the mouth of the
Tagus, intending to go into Lisbon and attack the great Spanish fleet
lying there under its admiral, Santa Cruz.
That the force gathered there was enormous Drake well knew, but relying
as much on the goodness of his cause as on the valour of his sailors,
and upon the fact that the enemy would be too crowded together to fight
with advantage, he would have carried out his plan had not a ship
arrived from England with orders forbidding him to enter the Tagus.
However, he lay for some time at the mouth of the river, destroying
every ship that entered its mouth, and sending in a challenge to Santa
Cruz to come out and fight. The Spanish admiral did not accept it, and
Drake then sailed to Corunna, and there, as at Cadiz, destroyed all the
ships collected in the harbour and then returned to England, having in
the course of a few months inflicted an enormous amount of damage upon
Spain, and having taken the first step to prove that England was the
mistress of the sea.
But while the little band of English had been defending Sluys against
the army of the Duke of Parma, Philip had been continuing his
preparations, filling up the void made by the destruction wrought by
Drake, and preparing an Armada which he might well have considered to
be invincible. Elizabeth was still continuing her negotiations. She was
quite ready to abandon the Netherlands to Spain if she could but keep
the towns she held there, but she could not bring herself to hand these
over either to the Netherlands or to Spain. She urged the States to
make peace, to which they replied that they did not wish for peace on
such terms as Spain would alone grant; they could defend themselves for
ten years longer if left alone; they did not ask for further help, and
only wanted their towns restored to them.
Had the Armada started as Philip intended in September, it would have
found England entirely unprepared, for Elizabeth still obstinately
refused to believe in danger, and the few ships that had been held in
commission after Drake's return had been so long neglected that they
could hardly keep the sea without repair; the rest lay unrigged in the
Medway. But the delay gave England fresh time for preparation. Parma's
army was lying in readiness for the invasion under canvas at Dunkirk,
and their commander had received no information from Spain that the
sailing of the Armada was delayed.
The cold, wet, and exposure told terribly upon them, and of the 30,000
who were ready to embark in September not 18,000 were fit for service
at the commencement of the year. The expenses of this army and of the
Armada were so great that Philip was at last driven to give orders to
the Armada to start. But fortune again favoured England. Had the fleet
sailed as ordered on the 30th of January they would again have found
the Channel undefended, for Elizabeth, in one of her fits of economy,
had again dismantled half the fleet that had been got ready for sea,
and sent the sailors to their homes.
But the execution of Philip's orders was prevented by the sudden death
of Santa Cruz. The Duke of Medina-Sidonia was appointed his successor,
but as he knew nothing of the state of the Armada fresh delays became
necessary, and the time was occupied by Elizabeth, not in preparing for
the defence of the country, but in fresh negotiations for peace. She
was ready to make any concessions to Spain, but Philip was now only
amusing himself by deceiving her. Everything was now prepared for the
expedition, and just as the fleet was ready to start, the negotiations
were broken off. But though Elizabeth's government had made no
preparations for the defence of the country, England herself had not
been idle. Throughout the whole country men had been mustered,
officered, and armed, and 100,000 were ready to move as soon as the
danger became imminent.
The musters of the Midland counties, 30,000 strong, were to form a
separate army, and were to march at once to a spot between Windsor and
Harrow. The rest were to gather at the point of danger. The coast
companies were to fall back wherever the enemy landed, burning the corn
and driving off the cattle, and avoiding a battle until the force of
the neighbouring counties joined them. Should the landing take place as
was expected in Suffolk, Kent, or Sussex, it was calculated that
between 30,000 and 40,000 men would bar the way to the invaders before
they reached London, while 20,000 men of the western counties would
remain to encounter the Duke of Guise, who had engaged to bring across
an army of Frenchmen to aid the Spaniards.
Spain, although well aware of the strength of England on the sea,
believed that she would have no difficulty with the raw English levies;
but Parma, who had met the English at Sluys, had learnt to respect
their fighting qualities, and in a letter to Philip gave the opinion
that even if the Armada brought him a reinforcement of 6000 men he
would still have an insufficient force for the conquest of England. He
said, "When I shall have landed I must fight battle after battle. I
shall lose men by wounds and disease, I must leave detachments behind
me to keep open my communications, and in a short time the body of my
army will become so weak that not only I may be unable to advance in
the face of the enemy, and time may be given to the heretics and your
majesty's other enemies to interfere, but there may fall out some
notable inconvenience, with the loss of everything, and I be unable to
Unfortunately, the English fleet was far less prepared than the land
forces. The militia had been easily and cheaply extemporized, but a
fleet can only be prepared by long and painful sacrifices. The entire
English navy contained but thirteen ships of over four hundred tons,
and including small cutters and pinnaces there were but thirty-eight
vessels of all sorts and sizes carrying the queen's flag. Fortunately,
Sir John Hawkins was at the head of the naval administration, and in
spite of the parsimony of Elizabeth had kept the fleet in a good state
of repair and equipment. The merchant navy, although numerous, was
equally deficient in vessels of any size.
Philip had encouraged ship-building in Spain by grants from the crown,
allowing four ducats a ton for every ship built of above three hundred
tons burden, and six ducats a ton for every one above five hundred
tons. Thus he had a large supply of great ships to draw upon in
addition to those of the royal navy, while in England the largest
vessels belonging to private owners did not exceed four hundred tons,
and there were not more than two or three vessels of that size sailing
from any port of the country. The total allowance by the queen for the
repair of the whole of the royal navy, wages of shipwrights, clerks,
carpenters, watchmen, cost of timber, and all other necessary dockyard
expenses, was but L4000 a-year.
In December the fleet was ready for sea, together with the contingent
furnished by the liberality and patriotism of the merchants and
citizens of the great ports. But as soon as it was got together half
the crews collected and engaged at so great an expense were dismissed,
the merchant ships released, and England open to invasion, and had
Parma started in the vessels he had prepared, Lord Howard, who
commanded the English navy, could not have fired a shot to have
prevented his crossing.
Well might Sir John Hawkins in his despair at Elizabeth's caprices
exclaim: "We are wasting money, wasting strength, dishonouring and
discrediting ourselves by our uncertain dallying." But though daily
reports came from Spain of the readiness of the Armada to set sail,
Elizabeth, even when she again permitted the navy to be manned,
fettered it by allowing it to be provided with rations for only a month
at a time, and permitting no reserves to be provided in the victualling
stores; while the largest vessels were supplied with ammunition for
only a day and a half's service, and the rest of the fleet with but
enough for one day's service. The council could do nothing, and Lord
Howard's letters prove that the queen, and she only, was responsible
for the miserable state of things that prevailed.
At last, in May, Lord Howard sailed with the fleet down Channel,
leaving Lord Henry Seymour with three men-of-war and a squadron of
privateers to watch Dunkirk. At Plymouth the admiral found Drake with
forty ships, all except one raised and sent to sea at the expense of
himself and the gentry and merchants of the west counties. The weather
was wild, as it had been all the winter. Howard with the great ships
lay at anchor in the Sound, rolling heavily, while the smaller craft
went for shelter into the mouth of the river. There were but eighteen
days' provisions on board; fresh supplies promised did not arrive, and
the crews were put on half rations, and eked these out by catching
fish. At last, when the supplies were just exhausted, the victualling
ships arrived with one month's fresh rations, and a message that no
more would be sent. So villainous was the quality of the stores that
fever broke out in the fleet.
It was not until the end of the month that Elizabeth would even permit
any further preparations to be made, and the supplies took some time
collecting. The crews would have been starved had not the officers so
divided the rations as to make them last six weeks. The men died in
scores from dysentery brought on by the sour and poisonous beer issued
to them, and Howard and Drake ordered wine and arrow-root from the town
for the use of the sick, and had to pay for it from their own pockets.
But at last the Armada was ready for starting. Contingents of Spanish,
Italians, and Portuguese were gathered together with the faithful from
all countries--Jesuits from France; exiled priests, Irish and English;
and many Catholic Scotch, English, and Irish noblemen and gentlemen.
The six squadrons into which the fleet was divided contained sixty-five
large war ships, the smallest of which was seven hundred tons. Seven
were over one thousand, and the largest, an Italian ship, _La
Regazona_, was thirteen hundred. All were built high like castles,
their upper works musket-proof, their main timbers four or five feet
thick, and of a strength it was supposed no English cannon could
Next to the big ships, or galleons as they were called, were four
galleasses, each carrying fifty guns and 450 soldiers and sailors, and
rowed by 300 slaves. Besides these were four galleys, fifty-six great
armed merchant ships, the finest Spain possessed, and twenty caravels
or small vessels. Thus the fighting fleet amounted to 129 vessels,
carrying in all 2430 cannon. On board was stored an enormous quantity
of provisions for the use of the army after it landed in England, there
being sufficient to feed 40,000 men for six months.
There were on board 8000 sailors, 19,000 soldiers, 1000 gentlemen
volunteers, 600 priests, servants, and miscellaneous officers, and 2000
galley slaves. This was indeed a tremendous array to meet the fleet
lying off Plymouth, consisting of 29 queen's ships of all sizes, 10
small vessels belonging to Lord Howard and members of his family, and
43 privateers between 40 and 400 tons under Drake, the united crews
amounting to something over 9000 men.
The winter had passed pleasantly to Geoffrey and Lionel Vickars; the
earl had taken a great fancy to them, and they had stayed for some time
in London as members of his suite. When the spring came they had spoken
about rejoining Francis Vere in Holland, but the earl had said that
there was little doing there. The enmity excited by the conduct of
Elizabeth prevented any co-operation between the Dutch and English; and
indeed the English force was reduced to such straits by the refusal of
the queen to furnish money for their pay, or to provide funds for even
absolute necessaries, that it was wholly incapable of taking the field,
and large numbers of the men returned to England.
Had this treatment of her soldiers and sailors at the time when such
peril threatened their country been occasioned by want of funds, some
excuse would have been possible for the conduct of Elizabeth; but at
the time there were large sums lying in the treasury, and it was
parsimony and not incapacity to pay that actuated Elizabeth in the
course she pursued.
As the boys were still uneasy as to the opinion Francis Vere might form
of their continued stay in England, they wrote to him, their letter
being inclosed in one from the earl; but the reply set their minds at
rest--"By all means stay in England," Captain Vere wrote, "since there
is nothing doing here of any note or consequence, nor likely to be. We
are simply idling out time in Bergen-op-Zoom, and not one of us but is
longing to be at home to bear his part in the events pending there. It
is hard, indeed, to be confined in this miserable Dutch town while
England is in danger. Unfortunately we are soldiers and must obey
orders; but as you are as yet only volunteers, free to act as you
choose, it would be foolish in the extreme for you to come over to this
dull place while there is so much going on in England. I have written
to my cousin, asking him to introduce you to some of the country
gentlemen who have fitted out a ship for service against the Spaniards,
so that you may have a hand in what is going on."
This the earl had done, and early in May they had journeyed down to
Plymouth on horseback with a, party of other gentlemen who were going
on board the _Active_, a vessel of two hundred and fifty tons
belonging to a gentleman of Devonshire, one Master Audrey Drake, a
relation of Sir Francis Drake. The earl himself was with the party. He
did not intend to go on board, for he was a bad sailor; and though
ready, as he said, to do his share of fighting upon land, would be only
an encumbrance on board a ship.
He went down principally at the request of Cecil and other members of
the council, who, knowing that he was a favourite of the queen, thought
that his representations as to the state of the fleet might do more
than they could do to influence her to send supplies to the distressed
sailors. The earl visited the ships lying in the mouth of the Tamar,
and three times started in a boat to go out to those in the Sound; but
the sea was so rough, and he was so completely prostrated by sickness,
that he had each time to put back. What he saw, however, on board the
ships he visited, and heard from Lord Howard as to the state of those
at sea, was quite sufficient. He at once expended a considerable amount
of money in buying wine and fresh meat for the sick, and then hurried
away to London to lay before the queen the result of his personal
observations, and to implore her to order provisions to be immediately
despatched to the fleet.
But even the description given by one of her favourites of the
sufferings of the seamen was insufficient to induce the queen to open
her purse-strings, and the earl left her in great dudgeon; and although
his private finances had been much straitened by his extravagance and
love of display, he at once chartered a ship, filled her with
provisions, and despatched her to Plymouth.
Mr. Drake and the gentlemen with him took up their abode in the town
until there should be need for them to go on board the _Active_,
where the accommodation was much cramped, and life by no means
agreeable; and the Vickars therefore escaped sharing the sufferings of
those on board ship.
At the end of May came the news that the Armada had sailed on the 19th,
and high hopes were entertained that the period of waiting had
terminated. A storm, however, scattered the great fleet, and it was not
until the 12th of July that they sailed from the Bay of Ferrol, where
they had collected after the storm.
Never was there known a season so boisterous as the summer of 1588, and
when off Ushant, in a south-west gale, four galleys were wrecked on the
French coast, and the _Santa Anna_, a galleon of 800 tons, went
down, carrying with her ninety seamen, three hundred soldiers, and
50,000 ducats in gold.
After two days the storm abated, and the fleet again proceeded. At
daybreak on the 20th the Lizard was in sight, and an English fishing-
boat was seen running along their line. Chase was given, but she soon
out-sailed her pursuers, and carried the news to Plymouth. The Armada
had already been made out from the coast the night before, and beacon
lights had flashed the news all over England. In every village and town
men were arming and saddling and marching away to the rendezvous of the
In Plymouth the news was received with the greatest rejoicing. Thanks
to the care with which the provisions had been husbanded, and to the
manner in which the officers and volunteers had from their private
means supplemented the scanty stores, there was still a week's
provisions on board, and this, it was hoped, would suffice for their
needs. The scanty supply of ammunition was a greater source of anxiety;
but they hoped that fresh supplies would be forthcoming, now that even
the queen could no longer close her eyes to the urgent necessity of the
As soon as the news arrived all the gentlemen in the town flocked on
board the ships, and on the night of the 19th the queen's ships and
some of the privateers went to moorings behind Ram Head, so that they
could make clear to sea; and on the morning when the Spaniards sighted
the Lizard, forty sail were lying ready for action under the headland.
At three o'clock in the afternoon the look-out men on the hill reported
a line of sails on the western horizon. Two wings were at first
visible, which were gradually united as the topsails of those in the
centre rose above the line of sea. As they arose it could be seen that
the great fleet was sailing, in the form of a huge crescent, before a
gentle wind. A hundred and fifty ships, large and small, were counted,
as a few store-ships bound for Flanders had joined the Armada for
The _Active_ was one of the privateers that had late the evening
before gone out to Earn Head, and just as it was growing dusk the
anchors were got up, and the little fleet sailed out from the shelter
of the land as the Armada swept along.
The Spanish admiral at once ordered the fleet to lie-to for the night,
and to prepare for a general action at daybreak, as he knew from a
fisherman he had captured that the English fleet were at Plymouth. The
wind was on shore, but all through the night Howard's and Drake's ships
beat out from the Sound until they took their places behind the Spanish
fleet, whose position they could perfectly make out by the light of the
half-moon that rose at two in the morning.
On board the English fleet all was confidence and hilarity. The
sufferings of the last three months were forgotten. The numbers and
magnitude of the Spanish ships counted as nothing. The sailors of the
west country had met the Spaniards on the Indian seas and proved their
masters, and doubted not for a moment that they should do so again.
There was scarce a breath of air when day broke, but at eight o'clock a
breeze sprang up from the west, and the Armada made sail and attempted
to close with the English; but the low, sharp English ships sailed two
feet to the one of the floating castles of Spain, and could sail close
to the wind, while the Spanish ships, if they attempted to close-haul
their sails, drifted bodily to leeward. Howard's flagship, the _Ark-
Raleigh_, with three other English ships, opened the engagement by
running down along their rear-line, firing into each galleon as they
passed, then wearing round and repeating the manoeuvre. The great
_San Matteo_ luffed out from the rest of the fleet and challenged
them to board, but they simply poured their second broadside into her
and passed on.
The excellence of the manoeuvring of the English ships, and the
rapidity and accuracy of their fire, astonished the Spaniards.
Throughout the whole forenoon the action continued; the Spaniards
making efforts to close, but in vain, the English ships keeping the
weather-gage and sailing continually backwards and forwards, pouring in
their broadsides. The height and size of the Spanish ships were against
them; and being to leeward they heeled over directly they came up to
the wind to fire a broadside, and their shots for the most part went
far over their assailants, while they themselves suffered severely from
the English fire. Miquel de Oquendo, who commanded one of the six
Spanish squadrons, distinguished himself by his attempts to close with
the English, and by maintaining his position in the rear of the fleet
engaged in constant conflict with them.
He was a young nobleman of great promise, distinguished alike for his
bravery and chivalrous disposition; but he could do little while the
wind remained in the west and the English held the weather-gage. So far
only the ships that had been anchored out under Earn Head had taken
part in the fight, those lying higher up in the Sound being unable to
make their way out. At noon the exertions of their crews, who had from
the preceding evening worked incessantly, prevailed, and they were now
seen coming out from behind the headland to take part in the struggle.
Medina-Sidonia signalled to his fleet to make sail up Channel, Martinez
de Ricaldo covering the rear with the squadron of Biscay. He was vice-
admiral of the fleet, and considered to be the best seaman Spain
possessed now that Santa Cruz was dead.
The wind was now rising. Lord Howard sent off a fast boat with letters
to Lord Henry Seymour, telling him how things had gone so far, and
bidding him be prepared for the arrival of the Spanish fleet in the
Downs. As the afternoon went on the wind rose, and a rolling sea came
in from the west. Howard still hung upon the Spanish rear, firing but
seldom in order to save his powder. As evening fell, the Spanish
vessels, huddled closely together, frequently came into collision with
one another, and in one of these the _Capitana_, the flagship of
the Andalusian division, commanded by Admiral Pedro de Valdez, had her
bowsprit carried away, the foremast fell overboard, and the ship
dropped out of her place.
Two of the galleasses came to her assistance and tried to take her in
tow, but the waves were running so high that the cable broke. Pedro de
Valdez had been commander of the Spanish fleet on the coast of Holland,
and knew the English Channel and the northern shores of France and
Holland well. The duke therefore despatched boats to bring him off with
his crew, but he refused to leave his charge. Howard, as with his ships
he passed her, believed her to be deserted and went on after the fleet;
but a London vessel kept close to her and exchanged shots with her all
night, until Drake, who had turned aside to chase what he believed to
be a portion of the Spanish fleet that had separated itself from the
rest, but which turned out to be the merchant ships that had joined it
for protection, came up, and the _Capitana_ struck her flag. Drake
took her into Torbay, and there left her in the care of the Brixham
fishermen, and taking with him Valdez and the other officers sailed
away to join Lord Howard. The fishermen, on searching the ship, found
some tons of gunpowder on board her. Knowing the scarcity of ammunition
in the fleet they placed this on board the _Roebuck_, the fastest
trawler in the harbour, and she started at once in pursuit of the
The misfortune to the _Capitana_, was not the only one that befell
the Spaniards. While Oquendo was absent from his galleon a quarrel
arose among the officers, who were furious at the ill result of the
day's fighting. The captain struck the master-gunner with a stick; the
latter, a German, rushed below in a rage, thrust a burning fuse into a
powder barrel, and sprang through a port-hole into the sea. The whole
of the deck was blown up, with two hundred sailors and soldiers; but
the ship was so strongly built that she survived the shock, and her
mast still stood.
The duke sent boats to learn what had happened. These carried off the
few who remained unhurt, but there was no means of taking off the
wounded. These, however, were treated kindly and sent on shore when the
ship was picked up at daylight by the English, who, on rifling her,
found to their delight that there were still many powder barrels on
board that had escaped the explosion.
The morning broke calm, and the wind, when it came, was from the east,
which gave the Spaniards the advantage of position. The two fleets lay
idle all day three or four miles apart, and the next morning, as the
wind was still from the east, the Spaniards bore down upon Howard to
The English, however, headed out to sea. Encouraged by seeing their
assailants avoid a pitched battle the Spaniards gave chase. The _San
Marcos_, the fastest sailer in the fleet, left the rest behind, and
when the breeze headed round at noon she was several miles to windward
of her consorts, and the English at once set upon her. She fought with
extreme courage, and defended herself single-handed for an hour and a
half, when Oquendo came up to the rescue, and as the action off
Plymouth had almost exhausted his stock of powder, and the Brixham
sloop had not yet come up, Howard was obliged to draw off.
The action of this day was fought off Portland. During the three days
the British fleet had been to sea they had received almost hourly
reinforcements. From every harbour and fishing port along the coast
from Plymouth to the Isle of Wight vessels of all sizes, smacks, and
boats put off, crowded with noblemen and gentlemen anxious to take part
in the action, and their enthusiasm added to that of the weary and ill-
fed sailors. At the end of the third day the English fleet had
increased to a hundred sail, many of which, however, were of very small
THE ROUT OF THE ARMADA.
The fight between the fleets had begun on Sunday morning, and at the
end of the third day the strength of the Armada remained unbroken. The
moral effect had no doubt been great, but the loss of two or three
ships was a trifle to so large a force, and the spirit of the Spaniards
had been raised by the gallant and successful defence the _San
Marcos_ had made on the Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday was again calm.
The magazines of the English ships were empty. Though express after
express had been sent off praying that ammunition might be sent, none
had arrived, and the two fleets lay six miles apart without action,
save that the galleasses came out and skirmished for a while with the
That evening, however, a supply of ammunition sufficient for another
day's fighting arrived, and soon after daybreak the English fleet moved
down towards the Armada, and for the first time engaged them at close
quarters. The _Ark-Raleigh_, the _Bear_, the _Elizabeth
Jones_, the _Lion_, and the _Victory_ bore on straight
into the centre of the Spanish galleons, exchanging broadsides with
each as they passed. Oquendo with his vessel was right in the course of
the English flagship, and a collision took place, in which the _Ark-
Raleigh's_ rudder was unshipped, and she became unmanageable.
The enemy's vessels closed round her, but she lowered her boats, and
these, in spite of the fire of the enemy, brought her head round before
the wind, and she made her way through her antagonists and got clear.
For several hours the battle continued. The Spanish fire was so slow,
and their ships so unwieldy, that it was rarely they succeeded in
firing a shot into their active foes, while the English shot tore their
way through the massive timbers of the Spanish vessels, scattering the
splinters thickly among the soldiers, who had been sent below to be out
of harm's way; but beyond this, and inflicting much damage upon masts
and spars, the day's fighting had no actual results. No captures were
made by the English.
The Spaniards suffered, but made no sign; nevertheless their confidence
in their powers was shaken. Their ammunition was also running short,
and they had no hope of refilling their magazines until they effected a
junction with Parma. Their admiral that night wrote to him asking that
two shiploads of shot and powder might be sent to him immediately. "The
enemy pursue me," he said; "they fire upon me most days from morning
till nightfall, but they will not close and grapple. I have given them
every opportunity. I have purposely left ships exposed to tempt them to
board, but they decline to do it; and there is no remedy, for they are
swift and we are slow. They have men and ammunition in abundance." The
Spanish admiral was unaware that the English magazines were even more
empty than his own.
On Friday morning Howard sailed for Dover to take in the supplies that
were so sorely needed. The Earl of Sussex, who was in command of the
castle, gave him all that he had, and the stores taken from the prizes
came up in light vessels and were divided among the fleet, and in the
evening the English fleet again sailed out and took up its place in the
rear of the Armada.
On Saturday morning the weather changed. After six days of calm and
sunshine it began to blow hard from the west, with driving showers. The
Spaniards, having no pilots who knew the coasts, anchored off Calais.
The English fleet, closely watching their movements, brought up two
The Spanish admiral sent off another urgent letter to Parma at Dunkirk,
begging him to send immediately thirty or forty fast gunboats to keep
the English at bay. Parma had received the admiral's letters, and was
perfectly ready to embark his troops, but could not do this as the
admiral expected he would, until the fleet came up to protect him. The
lighters and barges he had constructed for the passage were only fit to
keep the sea in calm weather, and would have been wholly at the mercy
of even a single English ship of war. He could not, therefore, embark
his troops until the duke arrived. As to the gunboats asked for, he had
none with him.
But while the Spanish admiral had grave cause for uneasiness in the
situation in which he found himself, Lord Howard had no greater reason
for satisfaction. In spite of his efforts the enemy's fleet had arrived
at their destination with their strength still unimpaired, and were in
communication with the Duke of Parma's army. Lord Seymour had come up
with a squadron from the mouth of the Thames, but his ships had but one
day's provisions on board, while Drake and Howard's divisions had all
but exhausted their supplies. The previous day's fighting had used up
the ammunition obtained at Dover. Starvation would drive every English
ship from the sea in another week at latest. The Channel would then be
open for the passage of Parma's army.
At five o'clock on Sunday evening a council of war was held in Lord
Howard's cabin, and it was determined, that as it was impossible to
attack the Spanish fleet where they lay at the edge of shallow water,
an attempt must be made to drive them out into the Channel with fire-
ships. Eight of the private vessels were accordingly taken, and such
combustibles as could be found--pitch, tar, old sails, empty casks, and
other materials--were piled into them. At midnight the tide set
directly from the English fleet towards the Spaniards, and the fire-
ships, manned by their respective crews, hoisted sail and drove down
When near the Armada the crews set fire to the combustibles, and taking
to their boats rowed back to the fleet. At the sight of the flames
bursting up from the eight ships bearing down upon them, the Spaniards
were seized with a panic. The admiral fired a gun as a signal, and all
cut their cables and hoisted sail, and succeeded in getting out to sea
before the fire-ships arrived. They lay-to six miles from shore,
intending to return in the morning and recover their anchors; but Drake
with his division of the fleet, and Seymour with the squadron from the
Thames, weighed their anchors and stood off after them, while Howard
with his division remained off Calais, where, in the morning, the
largest of the four galleasses was seen aground on Calais Bar. Lord
Howard wasted many precious hours in capturing her before he set off to
join Drake and Seymour, who were thundering against the Spanish fleet.
The wind had got up during the night, and the Spaniards had drifted
farther than they expected, and when morning dawned were scattered over
the sea off Gravelines. Signals were made for them to collect, but
before they could do so Drake and Seymour came up and opened fire
within pistol-shot. The English admiral saw at once that, with the wind
rising from the south, if he could drive the unwieldy galleons north
they would be cut off from Dunkirk, and would not be able to beat back
again until there was a change of wind.
All through the morning the English ships poured a continuous shower of
shot into the Spanish vessels, which, huddled together in a confused
mass, were unable to make any return whatever. The duke and Oquendo,
with some of the best sailors among the fleet, tried to bear out from
the crowd and get room to manoeuvre, but Drake's ships were too
weatherly and too well handled to permit of this, and they were driven
back again into the confused mass, which was being slowly forced
towards the shoals and banks of the coasts.
Howard came up at noon with his division, and until sunset the fire was
maintained, by which time almost the last cartridge was spent, and the
crews worn out by their incessant labour. They took no prizes, for they
never attempted to board. They saw three great galleons go down, and
three more drift away towards the sands of Ostend, where they were
captured either by the English garrisoned there or by three vessels
sent by Lord Willoughby from Flushing, under the command of Francis
Vere. Had the English ammunition lasted but a few more hours the whole
of the Armada would have been either driven ashore or sunk; but when
the last cartridge had been burned the assailants drew off to take on
board the stores which had, while the fighting was going on, been
brought up by some provision ships from the Thames.
But the Spaniards were in no condition to benefit by the cessation of
the attack. In spite of the terrible disadvantages under which they
laboured, they had fought with splendid courage. The sides of the
galleons had been riddled with shot, and the splinters caused by the
rending of the massive timbers had done even greater execution than the
iron hail. Being always to leeward, and heeling over with the wind, the
ships had been struck again and again below the water-line, and many
were only kept from sinking by nailing sheets of lead over the shot-
Their guns were, for the most part, dismounted or knocked to pieces.
Several had lost masts, the carnage among the crews was frightful, and
yet not a single ship hauled down her colours. The _San Matteo_,
which was one of those that grounded between Ostend and Sluys, fought
to the last, and kept Francis Vere's three ships at bay for two hours,
until she was at last carried by boarding.
Left to themselves at the end of the day, the Spaniards gathered in
what order they could, and made sail for the north. On counting the
losses they found that four thousand men had been killed or drowned,
and the number of wounded must have been far greater. The crews were
utterly worn-out and exhausted. They had the day before been kept at
work cleaning and refitting, and the fire-ships had disturbed them
early in the night. During the engagement there had been no time to
serve out food, and the labours of the long struggle had completely
exhausted them. Worst of all, they were utterly disheartened by the
day's fighting. They had been pounded by their active foes, who fired
five shots to their one, and whose vessels sailed round and round them,
while they themselves had inflicted no damage that they could perceive
upon their assailants.
The English admirals had no idea of the extent of the victory they had
won. Howard, who had only come up in the middle of the fight, believed
that they "were still wonderful great and strong," while even Drake,
who saw more clearly how much they had suffered, only ventured to hope
that some days at least would elapse before they could join hands with
Parma. In spite of the small store of ammunition that had arrived the
night before, the English magazines were almost empty; but they
determined to show a good front, and "give chase as though they wanted
When the morning dawned the English fleet were still to windward of the
Armada, while to leeward were lines of white foam, where the sea was
breaking on the shoals of Holland. It seemed that the Armada was lost.
At this critical moment the wind suddenly shifted to the east. This
threw the English fleet to leeward, and enabled the Spaniards to head
out from the coast and make for the North Sea. The Spanish admiral held
a council. The sea had gone down, and they had now a fair wind for
Calais; and the question was put to the sailing-masters and captains
whether they should return into the Channel or sail north round
Scotland and Ireland, and so return to Spain. The former was the
courageous course, but the spirit of the Spaniards was broken, and the
vote was in favour of what appeared a way of escape. Therefore, the
shattered fleet bore on its way north. On board the English fleet a
similar council was being held, and it was determined that Lord
Seymour's squadron should return to guard the Channel, lest Parma
should take advantage of the absence of the fleet to cross from Dunkirk
to England, and that Howard and Drake with their ninety ships should
pursue the Spaniards; for it was not for a moment supposed that the
latter had entirely abandoned their enterprise, and intended to return
to Spain without making another effort to rejoin Parma.
During the week's fighting Geoffrey and Lionel Vickars had taken such
part as they could in the contest; but as there had been no hand-to-
hand fighting, the position of the volunteers on board the fleet had
been little more than that of spectators. The crews worked the guns and
manoeuvred the sails, and the most the lads could do was to relieve the
ship-boys in carrying up powder and shot, and to take round drink to
men serving the guns. When not otherwise engaged they had watched with
intense excitement the manoeuvres of their own ship and of those near
them, as they swept down towards the great hulls, delivered their
broadsides, and then shot off again before the Spaniards had had time
to discharge more than a gun or two. The sails had been pierced in
several places, but not a single shot had struck the hull of the
vessel. In the last day's fighting, however, the _Active_ became
entangled among several of the Spanish galleons, and being almost
becalmed by their lofty hulls, one of them ran full at her, and rolling
heavily in the sea, seemed as if she would overwhelm her puny
[Illustration: GEOFFREY CARRIED OVERBOARD BY THE FALLING MAST]
Geoffrey was standing at the end of the poop when the mizzen rigging
became entangled in the stern gallery of the Spaniard, and a moment
later the mast snapped off, and as it fell carried him overboard. For a
moment he was half-stunned, but caught hold of a piece of timber shot
away from one of the enemy's ships, and clung to it mechanically. When
he recovered and looked round, the _Active_ had drawn out from
between the Spaniards, and the great galleon which had so nearly sunk
her was close beside him.
The sea was in a turmoil; the waves as they set in from the west being
broken up by the rolling of the great ships, and torn by the hail of
shot. The noise was prodigious, from the incessant cannonade kept up by
the English ships and the return of the artillery on board the Armada,
the rending of timber, the heavy crashes as the great galleons rolled
against one another, the shouting on board the Spanish ships, the
creaking of the masts and yards, and the flapping of the sails.
On trying to strike out, Geoffrey found that as he had been knocked
overboard he had struck his right knee severely against the rail of the
vessel, and was at present unable to use that leg. Fearful of being run
down by one of the great ships, and still more of being caught between
two of them as they rolled, he looked round to try to get sight of an
English ship in the throng. Then, seeing that he was entirely
surrounded by Spaniards, he left the spar and swam as well as he could
to the bow of a great ship close beside him, and grasping a rope
trailing from the bowsprit, managed by its aid to climb up until he
reached the bobstay, across which he seated himself with his back to
the stem. The position was a precarious one, and after a time he gained
the wooden carved work above, and obtained a seat there just below the
bowsprit, and hidden from the sight of those on deck a few feet above
him. As he knew the vessels were drifting to leeward towards the
shoals, he hoped to remain hidden until the vessel struck, and then to
gain the shore.
Presently the shifting of the positions of the ships brought the vessel
on which he was into the outside line. The shots now flew thickly
about, and he could from time to time feel a jar as the vessel was
So an hour went on. At the end of that time he heard a great shouting
on deck, and the sound of men running to and fro. Happening to look
down he saw that the sea was but a few feet below him, and knew that
the great galleon was sinking. Another quarter of an hour she was so
much lower that he was sure she could not swim many minutes longer; and
to avoid being drawn down with her he dropped into the water and swam
off. He was but a short distance away when he heard a loud cry, and
glancing over his shoulder saw the ship disappearing. He swam
desperately, but was caught in the suck and carried under; but there
was no great depth of water, and he soon came to the surface again. The
sea was dotted with struggling men and pieces of wreckage. He swam to
one of the latter, and held on until he saw some boats, which the next
Spanish ship had lowered when she saw her consort disappearing, rowing
towards them, and was soon afterwards hauled into one of them. He had
closed his eyes as it came up, and assumed the appearance of
insensibility, and he lay in the bottom of the boat immovable, until
after a time he heard voices above, and then felt himself being carried
up the ladder and laid down on the deck.
He remained quiet for some time, thinking over what he had best do. He
was certain that were it known he was English he would at once be
stabbed and thrown overboard, for there was no hope of quarter; but he
was for some time unable to devise any plan by which, even for a short
time, to conceal his nationality. He only knew a few words of Spanish,
and would be detected the moment he opened his lips. He thought of
leaping up suddenly and jumping overboard; but his chance of reaching
the English ships to windward would be slight indeed. At last an idea
struck him, and sitting up he opened his eyes and looked round. Several
other Spaniards who had been picked up lay exhausted on the deck near
him. A party of soldiers and sailors close by were working a cannon.
The bulwarks were shot away in many places, dead and dying men lay
scattered about, the decks were everywhere stained with blood, and no
one paid any attention to him until presently the fire began to
slacken. Shortly afterwards a Spanish officer came up and spoke to him.
Geoffrey rose to his feet, rubbed his eyes, yawned, and burst into an
idiotic laugh. The officer spoke again but he paid no attention, and
the Spaniard turned away, believing that the lad had lost his senses
from fear and the horrors of the day.
As night came on he was several times addressed, but always with the
same result. When after dark food and wine were served out, he seized
the portion offered to him, and hurrying away crouched under the
shelter of a gun, and devoured it as if fearing it would be taken from
When he saw that the sailors were beginning to repair some of the most
necessary ropes and stays that had been shot away, he pushed his way
through them and took his share of the work, laughing idiotically from
time to time. He had, when he saw that the galleon was sinking, taken
off his doublet, the better to be able to swim, and in his shirt and
trunks there was nothing to distinguish him from a Spaniard, and none
suspected that he was other than he seemed to be--a ship's boy, who had
lost his senses from fear. When the work was done, he threw himself on
the deck with the weary sailors. His hopes were that the battle would
be renewed in the morning, and that either the ship might be captured,
or that an English vessel might pass so close alongside that he might
leap over and swim to her.
Great was his disappointment next day when the sudden change of wind
gave the Spanish fleet the weather-gage, and enabled them to steer away
for the north. He joined in the work of the crew, paying no attention
whatever to what was passing around him, or heeding in the slightest
the remarks made to him. Once or twice when an officer spoke to him
sternly he gave a little cry, ran to the side, and crouched down as if
in abject fear. In a very short time no attention was paid to him, and
he was suffered to go about as he chose, being regarded as a harmless
imbecile. He was in hopes that the next day the Spaniards would change
their course and endeavour to beat back to the Channel, and was at once
disappointed and surprised as they sped on before the south-westerly
wind, which was hourly increasing in force. Some miles behind he could
see the English squadron in pursuit; but these made no attempt to close
up, being well contented to see the Armada sailing away, and being too
straitened in ammunition to wish to bring on an engagement so long as
the Spaniards were following their present course.
The wind blew with ever-increasing force; the lightly ballasted ships
made bad weather, rolling deep in the seas, straining heavily, and
leaking badly through the opening seams and the hastily-stopped shot-
holes. Water was extremely scarce, and at a signal from the admiral all
the horses and mules were thrown overboard in order to husband the
supply. Several of the masts, badly injured by the English shot, went
by the board, and the vessels dropped behind crippled, to be picked up
by the pursuing fleet.
Lord Howard followed as far as the mouth of the Forth; and seeing that
the Spaniards made no effort to enter the estuary, and his provisions
being now well-nigh exhausted, he hove the fleet about and made back
for the Channel, leaving two small vessels only to follow the Armada
and watch its course, believing that it would make for Denmark, refit
there, and then return to rejoin Parma.
It was a grievous disappointment to the English to be thus forced by
want of provisions to relinquish the pursuit. Had they been properly
supplied with provisions and ammunition they could have made an end of
the Armada; whereas, they believed that by allowing them now to escape
the whole work would have to be done over again. They had sore trouble
to get back again off the Norfolk coast. The wind became so furious
that the fleet was scattered. A few of the largest ships reached
Margate; others were driven into Harwich, others with difficulty kept
the sea until the storm broke.
It might have been thought that after such service as the fleet had
rendered even Elizabeth might have been generous; but now that the
danger was over, she became more niggardly than ever. No fresh
provisions were supplied for the sick men, and though in the fight off
the Dutch coast only some fifty or sixty had been killed, in the course
of a very short time the crews were so weakened by deaths and disease
that scarce a ship could have put to sea, however urgent the necessity.
Drake and Howard spent every penny they could raise in buying fresh
meat and vegetables, and in procuring some sort of shelter on shore for
the sick. Had the men received the wages due to them they could have
made a shift to have purchased what they so urgently required; but
though the Treasury was full of money, not a penny was forthcoming
until every item of the accounts had been investigated and squabbled
over. Howard was compelled to pay from his private purse for everything
that had been purchased at Plymouth, Sir John Hawkins was absolutely
ruined by the demands made on him to pay for necessaries supplied to
the fleet, and had the admirals and sailors of the fleet that saved
England behaved like ignominious cowards, their treatment could not
have been worse than that which they received at the hands of their
But while the English seamen were dying like sheep from disease and
neglect, their conquered foes were faring no better. They had breathed
freely for the first time when they saw the English fleet bear up; an
examination was made of the provisions that were left, and the crews
were placed on rations of eight ounces of bread, half a pint of wine,
and a pint of water a day. The fleet was still a great one, for of the
hundred and fifty ships which had sailed from Corunna, a hundred and
twenty still held together. The weather now turned bitterly cold, with
fog and mist, squalls and driving showers; and the vessels, when they
reached the north coast of Scotland, lost sight of each other, and each
struggled for herself in the tempestuous sea.
A week later the weather cleared, and on the 9th of August Geoffrey
looking round at daybreak saw fifteen other ships in sight. Among these
were the galleons of Calderon and Ricaldo, the _Rita, San Marcos_,
and eleven other vessels. Signals were flying from all of them, but the
sea was so high that it was scarce possible to lower a boat. That night
it again blew hard and the fog closed in, and in the morning Geoffrey
found that the ship he was on, and all the others, with the exception
of that of Calderon, were steering north; the intention of Ricaldo and
De Leyva being to make for the Orkneys and refit there. Calderon had
stood south, and had come upon Sidonia with fifty ships; and these,
bearing well away to the west of Ireland, finally succeeded for the
most part in reaching Spain, their crews reduced by sickness and want
to a mere shadow of their original strength.
The cold became bitter as De Leyva's ships made their way towards the
Orkneys. The storm was furious, and the sailors, unaccustomed to the
cold and weakened by disease and famine, could no longer work their
ships, and De Leyva was obliged at last to abandon his intention and
make south. One galleon was driven on the Faroe Islands, a second on
the Orkneys, and a third on the Isle of Mull, where it was attacked by
the natives and burned with almost every one on board. The rest managed
to make the west coast of Ireland, and the hope that they would find
shelter in Galway Bay, or the mouth of the Shannon, began to spring up
in the breasts of the exhausted crews.
The Irish were their co-religionists and allies, and had only been
waiting for news of the success of the Armada to rise in arms against
the English, who had but few troops there. Rumours of disaster had
arrived, and a small frigate had been driven into Tralee Bay. The fears
of the garrison at Tralee Castle overcame their feelings of humanity,
and all on board were put to death. Two galleons put into Dingle, and
landing begged for water; but the natives, deciding that the Spanish
cause was a lost one, refused to give them a drop, seized the men who
had landed in the boats, and the galleons had to put to sea again.
Another ship of a thousand tons, _Our Lady of the Rosary_, was
driven into the furious straits between the Blasket Islands and the
coast of Kerry. Of her crew of seven hundred, five hundred had died.
Before she got half-way through she struck among the breakers, and all
the survivors perished save the son of the pilot, who was washed ashore
lashed to a plank. Six others who had reached the mouth of the Shannon
sent their boats ashore for water; but although there were no English
there the Irish feared to supply them, even though the Spaniards
offered any sum of money for a few casks. One of the ships was
abandoned and the others put to sea, only to be dashed ashore in the
same gale that wrecked _Our Lady of the Rosary_, and of all their
crews only one hundred and fifty men were cast ashore alive. Along the
coast of Connemara, Mayo, and Sligo many other ships were wrecked. In
almost every case the crews who reached the shore were at once murdered
by the native savages for the sake of their clothes and jewellery.
Geoffrey had suffered as much as the rest of the crew on board the
galleon in which he sailed. All were so absorbed by their own suffering
and misery that none paid any attention to the idiot boy in their
midst. He worked at such work as there was to do: assisted to haul on
the ropes, to throw the dead overboard, and to do what could be done
for the sick and wounded. Like all on board he was reduced almost to a
skeleton, and was scarce able to stand.
As the surviving ships passed Galway Bay, one of them, which was
leaking so badly that she could only have been kept afloat a few hours
in any case, entered it, and brought up opposite the town. Don Lewis of
Cordova, who commanded, sent a party on shore, believing that in
Galway, between which town and Spain there had always been close
connections, they would be well received. They were, however, at once
taken prisoners. An attempt was made to get up the anchors again, but
the crew were too feeble to be able to do so, and the natives coming
out in their boats, all were taken prisoners and sent on shore. Sir
Richard Bingham, the governor of Connaught, arrived in a few hours, and
at once despatched search parties through Clare and Connemara to bring
all Spaniards cast ashore alive to the town, and sent his son to Mayo
to fetch down all who landed there. But young Bingham's mission proved
useless; every Spaniard who had landed had been murdered by the
natives, well-nigh three thousand having been slain by the axes and
knives of the savages who professed to be their co-religionists.
Sir Richard Bingham was regarded as a humane man, but he feared the
consequences should the eleven hundred prisoners collected at Galway be
restored to health and strength. He had but a handful of troops under
him, and had had the greatest difficulty in keeping down the Irish
alone. With eleven hundred Spanish soldiers to aid them the task would
be impossible, and accordingly he gave orders that all, with the
exception of Don Lewis himself, and three or four other nobles, should
be executed. The order was carried out; Don Lewis, with those spared,
was sent under an escort to Dublin, but the others being too feeble to
walk were killed or died on the way, and Don Lewis himself was the sole
survivor out of the crews of a dozen ships.
De Leyva, the most popular officer in the Armada, had with him in his
ship two hundred and fifty young nobles of the oldest families in
Spain. He was twice wrecked. The first time all reached the shore in
safety, and were protected by O'Niel, who was virtually the sovereign
of the north of Ulster. He treated them kindly for a time. They then
took to sea again, but were finally wrecked off Dunluce, and all on
board save five perished miserably. Over eight thousand Spaniards died
on the Irish coast. Eleven hundred were put to death by Bingham, three
thousand murdered by the Irish, the rest drowned; and of the whole
Armada but fifty-four vessels, carrying between nine and ten thousand
worn-out men, reached Spain, and of the survivors a large proportion
afterwards died from the effects of the sufferings they had endured.
THE WAR IN HOLLAND.
In the confusion caused by the collision of the _Active_ with the
Spanish galleon no one had noticed the accident which had befallen
Geoffrey Vickars, and his brother's distress was great when, on the
ship getting free from among the Spaniards, he discovered that Geoffrey
was missing. He had been by his side on the poop but a minute before
the mast fell, and had no doubt that he had been carried overboard by
its wreck. That he had survived he had not the least hope, and when a
week later the _Active_ on her way back towards the Thames was
driven into Harwich, he at once landed and carried the sad news to his
parents. England was wild with joy at its deliverance, but the
household at Hedingham was plunged into deep sorrow.
Weeks passed and then Lionel received a letter from Francis Vere saying
that Parma's army was advancing into Holland, and that as active work
was at hand he had best, if his intentions remained unchanged, join him
He started two days later for Harwich, and thence took ship for Bergen-
op-Zoom. Anchoring at Flushing, he learned that the Duke of Parma had
already sat down in front of Bergen-op-Zoom, and had on the 7th
attempted to capture Tholen on the opposite side of the channel, but
had been repulsed by the regiment of Count Solms, with a loss of 400
men. He had then thrown up works against the water forts, and hot
fighting had gone on, the garrison making frequent sallies upon the
besiegers. The water forts still held out, and the captain therefore
determined to continue his voyage into the town. The ship was fired at
by the Spanish batteries, but passed safely between the water forts and
dropped anchor in the port on the last day of September, Lionel having
been absent from Holland just a year. He landed at once and made his
way to the lodgings of Francis Vere, by whom he was received with great
"I was greatly grieved," he said after the first greetings, "to hear of
your brother's death. I felt it as if he had been a near relative of my
own. I had hoped to see you both; and that affair concerning which my
cousin wrote to me, telling me how cleverly you had discovered a plot
against the queen's life, showed me that you would both be sure to make
your way. Your father and mother must have felt the blow terribly?"
"They have indeed," Lionel said. "I do not think, however, that they
altogether give up hope. They cling to the idea that he may have been
picked up by some Spanish ship and may now be a prisoner in Spain."
Francis Vere shook his head.
"Of course, I know," Lionel went on, "their hope is altogether without
foundation; for even had Geoffrey gained one of their ships, he would
at once have been thrown overboard. Still I rather encouraged the idea,
for it is better that hope should die out gradually than be
extinguished at a blow; and slight though it was it enabled my father
and mother to bear up better than they otherwise would have done. Had
it not been for that I believe that my mother would have well nigh sunk
beneath it. I was very glad when I got your letter, for active service
will be a distraction to my sorrow. We have ever been together,
Geoffrey and I, and I feel like one lost without him. You have not had
much fighting here, I think, since I have been away?"
"No, indeed; you have been far more lucky than I have," Francis Vere
said. "With the exception of the fight with the _San Matteo_ I
have been idle ever since I saw you, for not a shot has been fired
here, while you have been taking part in the great fight for the very
existence of our country. It is well that Parma has been wasting nine
months at Dunkirk, for it would have gone hard with us had he marched
hither instead of waiting there for the arrival of the Armada. Our
force here has fallen away to well-nigh nothing. The soldiers could get
no pay, and were almost starved; their clothes were so ragged that it
was pitiful to see them. Great numbers have died, and more gone back to
England. As to the Dutch, they are more occupied in quarrelling with us
than in preparing for defence, and they would right willingly see us go
so that we did but deliver Flushing and Brill and this town back again
to them. I was truly glad when I heard that Parma had broken up his
camp at Dunkirk when the Armada sailed away, and was marching hither.
Now that he has come, it may be that these wretched disputes will come
to an end, and that something like peace and harmony will prevail in
our councils. He could not have done better, as far as we are
concerned, than in coming to knock his head against these walls; for
Bergen is far too strong for him to take, and he will assuredly meet
with no success here such as would counterbalance in any way the blow
that Spanish pride has suffered in the defeat of the Armada. I think,
Lionel, that you have outgrown your pageship, and since you have been
fighting as a gentleman volunteer in Drake's fleet you had best take
the same rank here."
The siege went on but slowly. Vigorous sorties were made, and the
cavalry sometimes sallied out from the gates and made excursions as far
as Wouw, a village three miles away, and took many prisoners. Among
these were two commissaries of ordnance, who were intrusted to the safe
keeping of the Deputy-Provost Redhead. They were not strictly kept, and
were allowed to converse with the provost's friends. One of these,
William Grimeston, suspected that one of the commissaries, who
pretended to be an Italian, was really an English deserter who had gone
over with the traitor Stanley; and in order to see if his suspicions
were correct, pretended that he was dissatisfied with his position and
would far rather be fighting on the other side. The man at once fell
into the trap, acknowledged that he was an Englishman, and said that if
Grimeston and Redhead would but follow his advice they would soon
become rich men, for that if they could arrange to give up one of the
forts to Parma they would be magnificently rewarded.
Redhead and Grimeston pretended to agree, but at once informed Lord
Willoughby, who was in command, of the offer that had been made to
them. They were ordered to continue their negotiations with the
traitor. The latter furnished them with letters to Stanley and Parma,
and with these they made their way out of the town at night to the
Spanish camp. They had an interview with the duke, and promised to
deliver the north water fort over to him, for which service Redhead was
to receive 1200 crowns and Grimeston 700 crowns, and a commission in
Stanley's regiment of traitors.
Stanley himself entertained them in his tent, and Parma presented them
with two gold chains. They then returned to Bergen and related all that
had taken place to Lord Willoughby. The matter was kept a profound
secret in the town, Francis Vere, who was in command of the north fort,
and a few others only being made acquainted with what was going on.
On the appointed night, 22d of October, Grimeston went out alone,
Redhead's supposed share of the business being to open the gates of the
fort. When Grimeston arrived at Parma's camp he found that the
Spaniards had become suspicious. He was bound and placed in charge of a
Spanish captain, who was ordered to stab him at once if there was any
sign of treachery. It was a dark night; the tide was out, for the land
over which the Spaniards had to advance was flooded at other times. The
attacking column consisted of three thousand men, including Stanley's
regiment; and a number of knights and nobles accompanied it as
As they approached the forts--Grimeston in front closely guarded by the
Spanish captain--it was seen by the assailants that Redhead had kept
his word: the drawbridge across the moat was down and the portcullis
was up. Within the fort Lord Willoughby, Vere, and two thousand men
were waiting them. When about fifty had crossed the drawbridge the
portcullis was suddenly let fall and the drawbridge hauled up. As the
portcullis thundered down Grimeston tripped up the surprised Spaniard,
and, leaping into the water, managed to make his way to the foot of the
walls. A discharge of musketry and artillery from the fort killed a
hundred and fifty of the attacking party, while those who had crossed
the drawbridge were all either killed or taken prisoners. But the water
in the moat was low. The Spaniards gallantly waded across and attacked
the palisades, but were repulsed in their endeavour to climb them.
While the fight was going on the water in the moat was rising, and
scores were washed away and drowned as they attempted to return.
Parma continued the siege for some little time, but made no real
attempt to take the place after having been repulsed at the north fort;
and on the 12th of November broke up his camp and returned to Brussels.
After the siege was over Lord Willoughby knighted twelve of his
principal officers, foremost among whom was Francis Vere, who was now
sent home with despatches by his general, and remained in England until
the end of January, when he was appointed sergeant-major-general of the
forces, a post of great responsibility and much honour, by Lord
Willoughby, with the full approval of the queen's government. He was
accompanied on his return by his brother Robert.
A month after Sir Francis Vere's return Lord Willoughby left for
England, and the whole burden of operations in the field fell upon
Vere. His first trouble arose from the mutinous conduct of the garrison
of Gertruydenberg. This was an important town on the banks of the old
Maas, and was strongly fortified, one side being protected by the Maas
while the river Douge swept round two other sides of its walls. Its
governor, Count Hohenlohe, had been unpopular, the troops had received
no pay, and there had been a partial mutiny before the siege of Bergen-
op-Zoom began. This was appeased by the appointment of Sir John
Wingfield, Lord Willoughby's brother-in-law, as its governor.
In the winter the discontent broke out again. The soldiers had been
most unjustly treated by the States, and there were long arrears of
pay, and at first Sir John Wingfield espoused the cause of the men. Sir
Francis Vere tried in vain to arrange matters. The Dutch authorities
would not pay up the arrears, the men would not return to their duty
until they did so, and at last became so exasperated that they ceased
to obey their governor and opened communications with the enemy. Prince
Maurice, who was now three and twenty years old, and devoted to martial
pursuits and the cause of his countrymen, after consultation with Sir
Francis Vere, laid siege to the town and made a furious assault upon it
on the water side. But the Dutch troops, although led by Count Solms
and Count Philip of Nassau, were repulsed with great loss. The prince
then promised not only a pardon, but that the demands of the garrison
should be complied with; but it was too late, and four days later
Gertruydenberg was delivered up by the mutineers to the Duke of Parma,
the soldiers being received into the Spanish service, while Wingfield
and the officers were permitted to retire.
The States were furious, as this was the third city commanded by
Englishmen that had been handed over to the enemy. The bad feeling
excited by the treachery of Sir William Stanley and Roland Yorke at
Deventer and Zutphen had died out after the gallant defence of the
English at Sluys, but now broke out again afresh, and charges of
treachery were brought not only against Wingfield but against many
other English officers, including Sir Francis Vere. The queen, however,
wrote so indignantly to the States that they had to withdraw their
charges against most of the English officers.
In May Lord Willoughby, who was still in London, resigned his command.
A number of old officers of distinction who might have laid claims to
succeed him, among them Sir John Norris, Sir Roger Williams, Sir Thomas
Wilford, Sir William Drury, Sir Thomas Baskerville, and Sir John
Burrough, were withdrawn from the Netherlands to serve in France or
Ireland, and no general-in-chief or lieutenant-general was appointed,
Sir Francis Vere as sergeant-major receiving authority to command all
soldiers already in the field or to be sent out during the absence of
the general and lieutenant-general. His official title was Her
Majesty's Sergeant-major in the Field. The garrisons in the towns were
under the command of their own governors, and those could supply troops
for service in the field according to their discretion.
The appointment of so young a man as Sir Francis Vere to a post
demanding not only military ability but great tact and diplomatic
power, was abundant proof of the high estimate formed of him by the
queen and her counsellors. The position was one of extreme difficulty.
He had to keep on good terms with the queen and her government, with
the government of the States, the English agent at the Hague, Prince
Maurice in command of the army of the Netherlands, the English
governors of the towns, and the officers or men of the force under his
own command. Fortunately Barneveldt, who at that time was the most
prominent man in the States, had a high opinion of Vere. Sir Thomas
Bodley, the queen's agent, had much confidence in him, and acted with
him most cordially, and Prince Maurice entertained a great respect for
him, consulted him habitually in all military matters, and placed him
in the position of marshal of the camp of the army of the Netherlands,
in addition to his own command of the English portion of that army.
Vere's first undertaking was to lead a force of 12,000 men, of whom
half were English, to prevent Count Mansfeldt from crossing the Maas
with an army of equal strength. Prince Maurice was present in person as
general-in-chief. Intrenchments were thrown up and artillery planted;
but just as Mansfeldt was preparing to cross his troops mutinied, and
he was obliged to fall back.
In October, with 900 of his own troops and twelve companies of Dutch
horse, Sir Francis Vere succeeded in throwing a convoy of provisions
into the town of Rheinberg, which was besieged by a large force of the
enemy. As soon as he returned the States requested him to endeavour to
throw in another convoy, as Count Mansfeldt was marching to swell the
force of the besiegers, and after his arrival it would be well-nigh
impossible to send further aid into the town. Vere took with him 900
English and 900 Dutch infantry, and 800 Dutch cavalry. The enemy had
possession of a fortified country house called Loo, close to which lay
a thick wood traversed only by a narrow path, with close undergrowth
and swampy ground on either side. The enemy were in great force around
Loo, and came out to attack the expedition as it passed through the
wood. Sending the Dutch troops on first, Vere attacked the enemy
vigorously with his infantry and drove them back to the inclosure of
Loo. As soon as his whole force had crossed the wood, he halted them
and ordered them to form in line of battle facing the wood through
which they had just passed, and from which the enemy were now pouring
out in great force.
In order to give time to his troops to prepare for the action Vere took
half his English infantry and advanced against them. They moved
forward, and a stubborn fight took place between the pikemen. Vere's
horse was killed, and fell on him so that he could not rise; but the
English closed round him, and he was rescued with no other harm than a
bruised leg and several pike-thrusts through his clothes. While the
conflict between the pikemen was going on the English arquebusiers
opened fire on the flank of the enemy, and they began to fall back.
Four times they rallied and charged the English, but were at last
broken and scattered through the wood. The cavalry stationed there left
their horses and fled through the undergrowth. Pressing forward the
little English force next fell upon twenty-four companies of Neapolitan
infantry, who were defeated without difficulty. The four hundred and
fifty Englishmen then joined the main force, which marched triumphantly
with their convoy of provisions into Rheinberg, and the next morning
fortunately turning thick and foggy the force made its way back without
interruption by the enemy.
Alone among the survivors of the great Spanish Armada, Geoffrey Vickars
saw the coast of Ireland fade away from sight without a feeling of
satisfaction or relief. His hope had been that the ship would be
wrecked on her progress down the coast. He knew not that the wild Irish
were slaying all whom the sea spared, and that ignorant as they were of
the English tongue, he would undoubtedly have shared the fate of his
Spanish companions. He thought only of the risk of being drowned, and
would have preferred taking this to the certainty of a captivity
perhaps for life in the Spanish prisons. The part that he had played
since he had been picked up off Gravelines could not be sustained
indefinitely. He might as well spend his life in prison, where at least
there would be some faint hope of being exchanged, as wander about
Spain all his life as an imbecile beggar.
As soon, therefore, as he saw that the perils of the coast of Ireland
were passed, and that the vessel was likely to reach Spain in safety,
he determined that he would on reaching a port disclose his real
identity. There were on board several Scotch and Irish volunteers, and
he decided to throw himself upon the pity of one of these rather than
on that of the Spaniards. He did not think that in any case his life
was in danger. Had he been detected when first picked up, or during the
early part of the voyage, he would doubtless have been thrown overboard
without mercy; but now that the passions of the combatants had
subsided, and that he had been so long among them, and had, as he
believed, won the good-will of many by the assistance he had rendered
to the sick and wounded, he thought that there was little fear of his
life being taken in cold blood.
One of the Irish volunteers, Gerald Burke by name, had for a long time
been seriously ill, and Geoffrey had in many small ways shown him
kindness as he lay helpless on the deck, and he determined finally to
confide in him. Although still very weak, Burke was now convalescent,
and was sitting alone by the poop-rail gazing upon the coast of Spain
with eager eyes, when Geoffrey, under the pretext of coiling down a
rope, approached him. The young man nodded kindly to him.
"Our voyage is nearly over, my poor lad," he said in Spanish, "and your
troubles now will be worse than mine. You have given me many a drink of
water from your scanty supply, and I wish that I could do something for
you in return; but I know that you do not even understand what I say to
"Would you give me an opportunity of speaking to you after nightfall,
Mr. Burke," Geoffrey said in English, "when no one will notice us
The Irishman gave a start of astonishment at hearing himself addressed
"My life is in your hands, sir; pray, do not betray me," Geoffrey said
rapidly as he went on coiling down the rope.
"I will be at this place an hour after nightfall," the young Irishman
replied when he recovered from his surprise. "Your secret will be safe
At the appointed time Geoffrey returned to the spot. The decks were now
deserted, for a drizzling rain was falling, and all save those on duty
had retired below, happy in the thought that on the following morning
they would be in port.
"Now, tell me who you are," the young Irishman began. "I thought you
were a Spanish sailor, one of those we picked up when the Spanish
galleon next to us foundered."
Geoffrey then told him how he had been knocked off an English ship by
the fall of a mast, had swum to the galleon and taken refuge beneath
her bowsprit until she sank, and how, when picked up and carried on to
the Spanish ship, he feigned to have lost his senses in order to
conceal his ignorance of Spanish.
"I knew," he said, "that were I recognized as English at the time I
should at once be killed, but I thought that if I could conceal who I
was for a time I should simply be sent to the galleys, where I have
heard that there are many English prisoners working."
"I think death would have been preferable to that lot," Mr. Burke said.
"Yes, sir; but there is always the hope of escape or of exchange. When
you spoke kindly to me this afternoon I partly understood what you
said, for in this long time I have been on board I have come to
understand a little Spanish, and I thought that maybe you would assist
me in some way."
"I would gladly do so, though I regard Englishmen as the enemies of my
country; but in what way can I help you? I could furnish you with a
disguise, but your ignorance of Spanish would lead to your detection
"I have been thinking it over, sir, and it seemed to me that as there
will be no objection to my landing to-morrow, thinking as they do that
I have lost my senses, I might join you after you once got out of the
town. I have some money in my waistbelt, and if you would purchase some
clothes for me I might then join you as your servant as you ride along.
At the next town you come to none would know but that I had been in
your service during the voyage, and there would be nothing strange in
you, an Irish gentleman, being accompanied by an Irish servant who
spoke but little Spanish. I would serve you faithfully, sir, until
perhaps some opportunity might occur for my making my escape to
"Yes, I think that might be managed," the young Irishman said. "When I
land to-morrow I will buy some clothes suitable for a serving-man. I do
not know the names of the hotels on shore, so you must watch me when I
land and see where I put up. Come there in the evening at nine o'clock.
I will issue out and give you the bundle of clothes, and tell you at
what hour in the morning I have arranged to start. I will hire two
horses; when they come round to the door, join me in front of the hotel
and busy yourself in packing my trunks on the baggage mules. When you
have done that, mount the second horse and ride after me; the people
who will go with us with the horses will naturally suppose that you
have landed with me. Should any of our shipmates here see us start, it
is not likely that they will recognize you. If they do so, I need
simply say that as you had shown me such kindness on board ship I had
resolved to take you with me to Madrid in order to see if anything
could be done to restore you to reason. However, it is better that you
should keep in the background as much as possible. I will arrange to
start at so early an hour in the morning that none of those who may
land with me from the ship, and may put up at the same inn, are likely
to be about."
The next morning the vessel entered port. They were soon surrounded by
boats full of people inquiring anxiously for news of other ships, and
for friends and acquaintances on board. Presently large boats were sent
off by the authorities, and the disembarkation of the sick and the
This indeed included the greater portion of the survivors, for there
were but two or three score on board who were capable of dragging
themselves about, the rest being completely prostrate by disease,
exhaustion, hunger, and thirst. Geoffrey was about to descend into one
of the boats, when the officer in command said roughly: "Remain on
board and do your work, there is no need for your going into the
hospital." One of the ship's officers, however, explained that the lad
had altogether lost his senses, and was unable either to understand
when spoken to or to reply to questions. Consequently he was permitted
to take his place in the boat.
As soon as he stepped ashore he wandered away among the crowd of
spectators. A woman, observing his wan face and feeble walk, called him
into her house, and set food and wine before him. He made a hearty
meal, but only shook his head when she addressed him, and laughed
childishly and muttered his thanks in Spanish when she bestowed a
dollar upon him as he left. He watched at the port while boat-load
after boat-load of sick came ashore, until at last one containing the
surviving officers and gentlemen with their baggage reached the land.
Then he kept Gerald Burke in sight until he entered an inn, followed by
two men carrying his baggage. Several times during the day food and
money were offered him, the inhabitants being full of horror and pity
at the sight of the famishing survivors of the crew of the galleon.
At nine o'clock in the evening Geoffrey took up his station near the
door of the inn. A few minutes later Gerald Burke came out with a
bundle. "Here are the clothes," he said. "I have hired horses for our
journey to Madrid. They will be at the door at six o'clock in the
morning. I have arranged to travel by very short stages, for at first
neither you nor I could sit very long upon a horse; however, I hope we
shall soon gain strength as we go."
Taking the bundle, Geoffrey walked a short distance from the town and
lay down upon the ground under some trees. The night was a warm one,
and after the bitter cold they had suffered during the greater part of
the voyage, it felt almost sultry to him. At daybreak in the morning he
rose, put on the suit of clothes Gerald Burke had provided, washed his
face in a little stream, and proceeded to the inn. He arrived there
just as the clocks were striking six. A few minutes later two men with
two horses and four mules came up to the door, and shortly afterwards
Gerald Burke came out. Geoffrey at once joined him; the servants of the
inn brought out the baggage, which was fastened by the muleteers on to
two of the animals. Gerald Burke mounted one of the horses and Geoffrey
the other, and at once rode on, the muleteers mounting the other two
mules and following with those carrying the baggage.
"That was well managed," Gerald Burke said as they rode out of the
town. "The muleteers can have no idea that you have but just joined me,
and there is little chance of any of my comrades on board ship
overtaking us, as all intend to stop for a few days to recruit
themselves before going on. If they did they would not be likely to
recognize you in your present attire, or to suspect that my Irish
servant is the crazy boy of the ship."
After riding at an easy pace for two hours, they halted under the shade
of some trees. Fruit, bread, and wine were produced from a wallet on
one of the mules, and they sat down and breakfasted. After a halt of an
hour they rode on until noon, when they again halted until four in the
afternoon, for the sun was extremely hot, and both Gerald Burke and
Geoffrey were so weak they scarce could sit their horses. Two hours
further riding took them to a large village, where they put up at the
inn. Geoffrey now fell into his place as Mr. Burke's servant--saw to
the baggage being taken inside, and began for the first time to try his
tongue at Spanish. He got on better than he had expected; and as Mr.
Burke spoke with a good deal of foreign accent, it did not seem in any
way singular to the people of the inn that his servant should speak but
little of the language.
Quietly they journeyed on, doing but short distances for the first
three or four days, but as they gained strength pushing on faster, and
by the time they reached Madrid both were completely recovered from the
effects of their voyage. Madrid was in mourning, for there was scarce a
family but had lost relations in the Armada. Mr. Burke at once took
lodgings and installed Geoffrey as his servant. He had many friends and
acquaintances in the city, where he had been residing for upwards of a
year previous to the sailing of the Armada.
For some weeks Geoffrey went out but little, spending his time in
reading Spanish books and mastering the language as much as possible.
He always conversed in that language with Mr. Burke, and at the end of
six weeks was able to talk Spanish with some fluency. He now generally
accompanied Mr. Burke if he went out, following him in the streets and
standing behind his chair when he dined abroad. He was much amused at
all he saw, making many acquaintances among the lackeys of Mr. Burke's
friends, dining with them downstairs after the banquets were over, and
often meeting them of an evening when he had nothing to do, and going
with them to places of entertainment.
In this way his knowledge of Spanish improved rapidly, and although he
still spoke with an accent he could pass well as one who had been for
some years in the country. He was now perfectly at ease with the
Spanish gentlemen of Mr. Burke's acquaintance. It was only when Irish
and Scotch friends called upon his master that he feared awkward
questions, and upon these occasions he showed himself as little as
When alone with Gerald Burke the latter always addressed Geoffrey as a
friend rather than as a servant, and made no secret with him as to his
position and means. He had been concerned in a rising in Ireland, and
had fled the country, bringing with him a fair amount of resources.
Believing that the Armada was certain to be crowned with success, and
that he should ere long be restored to his estates in Ireland, he had,
upon his first coming to Spain, spent his money freely. His outfit for
the expedition had made a large inroad upon his store, and his
resources were now nearly at an end.
"What is one to do, Geoffrey? I don't want to take a commission in
Philip's army, though my friends could obtain one for me at once; but I
have no desire to spend the rest of my life in the Netherlands storming
the towns of the Dutch burghers."
"Or rather trying to storm them," Geoffrey said, smiling; "there have
not been many towns taken of late years."
"Nor should I greatly prefer to be campaigning in France," Gerald went
on, paying no attention to the interruption. "I have no love either for
Dutch Calvinists or French Huguenots; but I have no desire either to be
cutting their throats or for them to be cutting mine. I should like a
snug berth under the crown here or at Cadiz, or at Seville; but I see
no chance whatever of my obtaining one. I cannot take up the trade of a
footpad, though disbanded soldiers turned robbers are common enough in
Spain. What is to be done?"
"If I am not mistaken," Geoffrey said with a smile, "your mind is
already made up. It is not quite by accident that you are in the
gardens of the Retiro every evening, and that a few words are always
exchanged with a certain young lady as she passes with her duenna."
"Oh! you have observed that," Gerald Burke replied with a laugh. "Your
eyes are sharper than I gave you credit for, Master Geoffrey. Yes, that
would set me on my legs without doubt, for Donna Inez is the only
daughter and heiress of the Marquis of Ribaldo; but you see there is a
father in the case, and if that father had the slightest idea that
plain Gerald Burke was lifting his eyes to his daughter it would not be
many hours before Gerald Burke had several inches of steel in his
"That I can imagine," Geoffrey said, "since it is, as I learn from my
acquaintances among the lackeys, a matter of common talk that the
marquis intends to marry her to the son of the Duke of Sottomayor."
"Inez hates him," Gerald Burke said. "It is just like my ill-luck, that
instead of being drowned as most of the others were, he has had the
luck to get safely back again. However, he is still ill, and likely to
be so for some time. He was not so accustomed to starving as some of
us, and he suffered accordingly. He is down at his estates near
"But what do you think of doing?" Geoffrey asked.
"That is just what I am asking you."
"It seems to me, certainly," Geoffrey went on, "that unless you really
mean to run off with the young lady--for I suppose there is no chance
in the world of your marrying her in any other way--it will be better
both for you and her that you should avoid for the future these
meetings in the gardens or elsewhere, and cast your thoughts in some
other direction for the bettering of your fortunes."
"That is most sage advice, Geoffrey," the young Irishman laughed, "and
worthy of my father-confessor; but it is not so easy to follow. In the
first place, I must tell you that I do not regard Inez as in any way a
step to fortune, but rather as a step towards a dungeon. It would be
vastly better for us both if she were the daughter of some poor hidalgo
like myself. I could settle down then with her, and plant vines and
make wine, and sell what I don't drink myself. As it is, I have the
chance of being put out of the way if it is discovered that Inez and I
are fond of each other; and in the next place, if we do marry I shall
have to get her safely out of the kingdom, or else she will have to
pass the rest of her life in a convent, and I the rest of mine in a
prison or in the galleys; that is if I am not killed as soon as caught,
which is by far the most likely result. Obnoxious sons-in-law do not
live long in Spain. So you see, Geoffrey, the prospect is a bad one
altogether; and if it were not that I dearly love Inez, and that I am
sure she will be unhappy with Philip of Sottomayor, I would give the
whole thing up, and make love to the daughter of some comfortable
citizen who would give me a corner of his house and a seat at his table
for the rest of my days."
"But, seriously--" Geoffrey began.
"Well, seriously, Geoffrey, my intention is to run away with Inez if it
can be managed; but how it is to be managed at present I have not the
faintest idea. To begin with, the daughter of a Spanish grandee is
always kept in a very strong cage closely guarded, and it needs a very
large golden key to open it. Now, as you are aware, gold is a very
scarce commodity with me. Then, after getting her out, a lavish
expenditure would be needed for our flight. We should have to make our
way to the sea-coast, to do all sorts of things to throw dust into the
eyes of our pursuers, and to get a passage to some place beyond the
domains of Philip, which means either to France, England, or the
Netherlands. Beyond all this will be the question of future subsistence
until, if ever, the marquis makes up his mind to forgive his daughter
and take her to his heart again, a contingency, in my opinion, likely
to be extremely remote."
"And what does the Lady Inez say to it all?" Geoffrey asked.
"The Lady Inez has had small opportunity of saying anything on the
subject, Geoffrey. Here in Spain there are mighty few opportunities for
courtship. With us at home these matters are easy enough, and there is
no lack of opportunity for pleading your suit and winning a girl's
heart if it is to be won; but here in Spain matters are altogether
different, and an unmarried girl is looked after as sharply as if she
was certain to get into some mischief or other the instant she had an
opportunity. She is never suffered to be for a moment alone with a man;
out of doors or in she has always a duenna by her side; and as to a
private chat, the thing is simply impossible."
"Then how do you manage to make love?" Geoffrey asked.
"Well, a very little goes a long way in Spain. The manner of a bow, the
wave of a fan, the dropping of a glove or flower, the touch of a hand
in a crowded room-each of these things go as far as a month's open
love-making in Ireland."
"Then how did you manage with the duenna so as to be able to speak to
her in the gardens'!"
"Well, in the first place, I made myself very attentive to the duenna;
in the second place, the old lady is devout, and you know Ireland is
the land of saints, and I presented her with an amulet containing a
paring of the nail of St. Patrick."
Geoffrey burst into a laugh, in which the Irishman joined.
"Well, if it was not really St. Patrick's," the latter went on, "it
came from Ireland anyhow, which is the next best thing. Then in the
third place, the old lady is very fond of Inez; and although she is as
strict as a dragon, Inez coaxed her into the belief that there could
not be any harm in our exchanging a few words when she was close by all
the time to hear what was said. Now, I think you know as much as I do
about the matter, Geoffrey. You will understand that a few notes have
been exchanged, and that Inez loves me. Beyond that everything is vague
and uncertain, and I have not the slightest idea what will come of it."
Some weeks passed and nothing was done. The meetings between Gerald
Burke and Inez in the Gardens of the Retiro had ceased a day or two
afterwards, the duenna having positively refused to allow them to
continue, threatening Inez to inform her father of them unless she gave
Gerald Burke's funds dwindled rapidly, although he and Geoffrey lived
in the very closest way.
"What in the world is to be done, Geoffrey? I have only got twenty
dollars left, which at the outside will pay for our lodgings and food
for another month. For the life of me I cannot see what is to be done
when that is gone, unless we take to the road."
Geoffrey shook his head. "As far as I am concerned," he said, "as we
are at war with Spain, it would be fair if I met a Spanish ship at sea
to capture and plunder it, but I am afraid the laws of war do not
justify private plunder. I should be perfectly ready to go out and take
service in a vineyard, or to earn my living in any way if it could be
"I would rob a cardinal if I had the chance," Gerald Burke said, "and
if I ever got rich would restore his money four-fold and so obtain
absolution; only, unfortunately, I do not see my way to robbing a
cardinal. As to digging in the fields, Geoffrey, I would rather hang
myself at once. I am constitutionally averse to labour, and if one once
took to that sort of thing there would be an end to everything."