Part 10 out of 15
for proselytizing, but simply for not believing in
transubstantiation; racked again and again, and at last adjudged to
receive publicly, on Good Friday, 1575, some three hundred, some
one hundred stripes, and to serve in the galleys for six or ten
years each; while, as the crowning atrocity of the Moloch
sacrifice, three of them were burnt alive in the market-place of
Mexico; a story no less hideous than true, the details whereof
whoso list may read in Hakluyt's third volume, as told by Philip
Miles, one of that hapless crew; as well as the adventures of Job
Hortop, a messmate of his, who, after being sent to Spain, and
seeing two more of his companions burnt alive at Seville, was
sentenced to row in the galleys ten years, and after that to go to
the "everlasting prison remediless;" from which doom, after twenty-
three years of slavery, he was delivered by the galleon Dudley, and
came safely home to Redriff.
The fate of Hortop and his comrades was, of course, still unknown
to the rescued men; but the history even of their party was not
likely to improve the good feeling of the crew toward the Spanish
ship which was two miles to leeward of them, and which must be
fought with, or fled from, before a quarter of an hour was past.
So, kneeling down upon the deck, as many a brave crew in those days
did in like case, they "gave God thanks devoutly for the favor they
had found;" and then with one accord, at Jack's leading, sang one
and all the Ninety-fourth Psalm:*
"Oh, Lord, thou dost revenge all wrong;
Vengeance belongs to thee," etc.
* The crew of the Tobie, cast away on the Barbary coast a few years
after, "began with heavy hearts to sing the twelfth Psalm, 'Help,
Lord, for good and godly men,' etc. Howbeit, ere we had finished
four verses, the waves of the sea had stopped the breaths of most."
And then again to quarters; for half the day's work, or more than
half, still remained to be done; and hardly were the decks cleared
afresh, and the damage repaired as best it could be, when she came
ranging up to leeward, as closehauled as she could.
She was, as I said, a long flush-decked ship of full five hundred
tons, more than double the size, in fact, of the Rose, though not
so lofty in proportion; and many a bold heart beat loud, and no
shame to them, as she began firing away merrily, determined, as all
well knew, to wipe out in English blood the disgrace of her late
"Never mind, my merry masters," said Amyas, "she has quantity and
"That's true," said one, "for one honest man is worth two rogues."
"And one culverin three of their footy little ordnance," said
another. "So when you will, captain, and have at her."
"Let her come abreast of us, and don't burn powder. We have the
wind, and can do what we like with her. Serve the men out a horn
of ale all round, steward, and all take your time."
So they waited for five minutes more, and then set to work quietly,
after the fashion of English mastiffs, though, like those mastiffs,
they waxed right mad before three rounds were fired, and the white
splinters (sight beloved) began to crackle and fly.
Amyas, having, as he had said, the wind, and being able to go
nearer it than the Spaniard, kept his place at easy point-blank
range for his two eighteen-pounder culverins, which Yeo and his
mate worked with terrible effect.
"We are lacking her through and through every shot," said he.
"Leave the small ordnance alone yet awhile, and we shall sink her
"Whing, whing," went the Spaniard's shot, like so many humming-
tops, through the rigging far above their heads; for the ill-
constructed ports of those days prevented the guns from hulling an
enemy who was to windward, unless close alongside.
"Blow, jolly breeze," cried one, "and lay the Don over all thou
canst.--What the murrain is gone, aloft there?"
Alas! a crack, a flap, a rattle; and blank dismay! An unlucky shot
had cut the foremast (already wounded) in two, and all forward was
a mass of dangling wreck.
"Forward, and cut away the wreck!" said Amyas, unmoved. "Small arm
men, be ready. He will be aboard of us in five minutes!"
It was too true. The Rose, unmanageable from the loss of her head-
sail, lay at the mercy of the Spaniard; and the archers and
musqueteers had hardly time to range themselves to leeward, when
the Madre Dolorosa's chains were grinding against the Rose's, and
grapples tossed on board from stem to stern.
"Don't cut them loose!" roared Amyas. "Let them stay and see the
fun! Now, dogs of Devon, show your teeth, and hurrah for God and
And then began a fight most fierce and fell: the Spaniards,
according to their fashion, attempting to board, the English, amid
fierce shouts of "God and the queen!" "God and St. George for
England!" sweeping them back by showers of arrows and musquet
balls, thrusting them down with pikes, hurling grenades and stink-
pots from the tops; while the swivels on both sides poured their
grape, and bar, and chain, and the great main-deck guns, thundering
muzzle to muzzle, made both ships quiver and recoil, as they
smashed the round shot through and through each other.
So they roared and flashed, fast clenched to each other in that
devil's wedlock, under a cloud of smoke beneath the cloudless
tropic sky; while all around, the dolphins gambolled, and the
flying-fish shot on from swell to swell, and the rainbow-hued
jellies opened and shut their cups of living crystal to the sun, as
merrily as if man had never fallen, and hell had never broken loose
So it raged for an hour or more, till all arms were weary, and all
tongues clove to the mouth. And sick men, rotting with scurvy,
scrambled up on deck, and fought with the strength of madness; and
tiny powder-boys, handing up cartridges from the hold, laughed and
cheered as the shots ran past their ears; and old Salvation Yeo, a
text upon his lips, and a fury in his heart as of Joshua or Elijah
in old time, worked on, calm and grim, but with the energy of a boy
at play. And now and then an opening in the smoke showed the
Spanish captain, in his suit of black steel armor, standing cool
and proud, guiding and pointing, careless of the iron hail, but too
lofty a gentleman to soil his glove with aught but a knightly
sword-hilt: while Amyas and Will, after the fashion of the English
gentlemen, had stripped themselves nearly as bare as their own
sailors, and were cheering, thrusting, hewing, and hauling, here,
there, and everywhere, like any common mariner, and filling them
with a spirit of self-respect, fellow-feeling, and personal daring,
which the discipline of the Spaniards, more perfect mechanically,
but cold and tyrannous, and crushing spiritually, never could
bestow. The black-plumed senor was obeyed; but the golden-locked
Amyas was followed, and would have been followed through the jaws
The Spaniards, ere five minutes had passed, poured en masse into
the Rose's waist, but only to their destruction. Between the poop
and forecastle (as was then the fashion) the upper-deck beams were
left open and unplanked, with the exception of a narrow gangway on
either side; and off that fatal ledge the boarders, thrust on by
those behind, fell headlong between the beams to the main-deck
below, to be slaughtered helpless in that pit of destruction, by
the double fire from the bulkheads fore and aft; while the few who
kept their footing on the gangway, after vain attempts to force the
stockades on poop and forecastle, leaped overboard again amid a
shower of shot and arrows. The fire of the English was as steady
as it was quick; and though three-fourths of the crew had never
smelt powder before, they proved well the truth of the old
chronicler's saying (since proved again more gloriously than ever,
at Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman), that "the English never fight
better than in their first battle."
Thrice the Spaniards clambered on board, and thrice surged back
before that deadly hail. The decks on both sides were very
shambles; and Jack Brimblecombe, who had fought as long as his
conscience would allow him, found, when he turned to a more
clerical occupation, enough to do in carrying poor wretches to the
surgeon, without giving that spiritual consolation which he longed
to give, and they to receive. At last there was a lull in that
wild storm. No shot was heard from the Spaniard's upper-deck.
Amyas leaped into the mizzen rigging, and looked through the smoke.
Dead men he could descry through the blinding veil, rolled in
heaps, laid flat; dead men and dying: but no man upon his feet.
The last volley had swept the deck clear; one by one had dropped
below to escape that fiery shower: and alone at the helm, grinding
his teeth with rage, his mustachios curling up to his very eyes,
stood the Spanish captain.
Now was the moment for a counter-stroke. Amyas shouted for the
boarders, and in two minutes more he was over the side, and
clutching at the Spaniard's mizzen rigging.
What was this? The distance between him and the enemy's side was
widening. Was she sheering off? Yes--and rising too, growing
bodily higher every moment, as if by magic. Amyas looked up in
astonishment and saw what it was. The Spaniard was heeling fast
over to leeward away from him. Her masts were all sloping forward,
swifter and swifter--the end was come, then!
"Back! in God's name back, men! She is sinking by the head!" And
with much ado some were dragged back, some leaped back--all but old
With hair and beard floating in the wind, the bronzed naked figure,
like some weird old Indian fakir, still climbed on steadfastly up
the mizzen-chains of the Spaniard, hatchet in hand.
"Come back, Michael! Leap while you may!" shouted a dozen voices.
"And what should I come back for, then, to go home where no one
knoweth me? I'll die like an Englishman this day, or I'll know the
rason why!" and turning, he sprang in over the bulwarks, as the
huge ship rolled up more and more, like a dying whale, exposing all
her long black hulk almost down to the keel, and one of her lower-
deck guns, as if in defiance, exploded upright into the air,
hurling the ball to the very heavens.
In an instant it was answered from the Rose by a column of smoke,
and the eighteen-pound ball crashed through the bottom of the
"Who fired? Shame to fire on a sinking ship!"
"Gunner Yeo, sir," shouted a voice up from the main-deck. "He's
like a madman down here."
"Tell him if he fires again, I'll put him in irons, if he were my
own brother. Cut away the grapples aloft, men. Don't you see how
she drags us over? Cut away, or we shall sink with her."
They cut away, and the Rose, released from the strain, shook her
feathers on the wave-crest like a freed sea-gull, while all men
held their breaths.
Suddenly the glorious creature righted herself, and rose again, as
if in noble shame, for one last struggle with her doom. Her bows
were deep in the water, but her after-deck still dry. Righted: but
only for a moment, long enough to let her crew come pouring wildly
up on deck, with cries and prayers, and rush aft to the poop,
where, under the flag of Spain, stood the tall captain, his left
hand on the standard-staff, his sword pointed in his right.
"Back, men!" they heard him cry, "and die like valiant mariners."
Some of them ran to the bulwarks, and shouted "Mercy! We
surrender!" and the English broke into a cheer and called to them
to run her alongside.
"Silence!" shouted Amyas. "I take no surrender from mutineers.
Senor," cried he to the captain, springing into the rigging and
taking off his hat, "for the love of God and these men, strike! and
surrender a buena querra."
The Spaniard lifted his hat and bowed courteously, and answered,
"Impossible, senor. No querra is good which stains my honor."
"God have mercy on you, then!"
"Amen!" said the Spaniard, crossing himself.
She gave one awful lounge forward, and dived under the coming
swell, hurling her crew into the eddies. Nothing but the point of
her poop remained, and there stood the stern and steadfast Don,
cap-a-pie in his glistening black armor, immovable as a man of
iron, while over him the flag, which claimed the empire of both
worlds, flaunted its gold aloft and upwards in the glare of the
"He shall not carry that flag to the devil with him; I will have it
yet, if I die for it!" said Will Cary, and rushed to the side to
leap overboard, but Amyas stopped him.
"Let him die as he has lived, with honor."
A wild figure sprang out of the mass of sailors who struggled and
shrieked amid the foam, and rushed upward at the Spaniard. It was
Michael Heard. The Don, who stood above him, plunged his sword
into the old man's body: but the hatchet gleamed, nevertheless:
down went the blade through headpiece and through head; and as
Heard sprang onward, bleeding, but alive, the steel-clad corpse
rattled down the deck into the surge. Two more strokes, struck
with the fury of a dying man, and the standard-staff was hewn
through. Old Michael collected all his strength, hurled the flag
far from the sinking ship, and then stood erect one moment and
shouted, "God save Queen Bess!" and the English answered with a
"Hurrah!" which rent the welkin.
Another moment and the gulf had swallowed his victim, and the poop,
and him; and nothing remained of the Madre Dolorosa but a few
floating spars and struggling wretches, while a great awe fell upon
all men, and a solemn silence, broken only by the cry
"Of some strong swimmer in his agony."
And then, suddenly collecting themselves, as men awakened from a
dream, half-a-dozen desperate gallants, reckless of sharks and
eddies, leaped overboard, swam towards the flag, and towed it
alongside in triumph.
"Ah!" said Salvation Yeo, as he helped the trophy up over the side;
"ah! it was not for nothing that we found poor Michael! He was
always a good comrade--nigh as good a one as William Penberthy of
Marazion, whom the Lord grant I meet in bliss! And now, then, my
masters, shall we inshore again and burn La Guayra?"
"Art thou never glutted with Spanish blood, thou old wolf?" asked
"Never, sir," answered Yeo.
"To St. Jago be it," said Amyas, "if we can get there; but--God
And he looked round sadly enough; while no one needed that he
should finish his sentence, or explain his "but."
The foremast was gone, the main-yard sprung, the rigging hanging in
elf-locks, the hull shot through and through in twenty places, the
deck strewn with the bodies of nine good men, beside sixteen
wounded down below; while the pitiless sun, right above their
heads, poured down a flood of fire upon a sea of glass.
And it would have been well if faintness and weariness had been all
that was the matter; but now that the excitement was over, the
collapse came; and the men sat down listlessly and sulkily by twos
and threes upon the deck, starting and wincing when they heard some
poor fellow below cry out under the surgeon's knife; or murmuring
to each other that all was lost. Drew tried in vain to rouse them,
telling them that all depended on rigging a jury-mast forward as
soon as possible. They answered only by growls; and at last broke
into open reproaches. Even Will Cary's volatile nature, which had
kept him up during the fight, gave way, when Yeo and the carpenter
came aft, and told Amyas in a low voice--
"We are hit somewhere forward, below the water-line, sir. She
leaks a terrible deal, and the Lord will not vouchsafe to us to lay
our hands on the place, for all our searching."
"What are we to do now, Amyas, in the devil's name?" asked Cary,
"What are we to do, in God's name, rather," answered Amyas, in a
low voice. "Will, Will, what did God make you a gentleman for, but
to know better than those poor fickle fellows forward, who blow hot
and cold at every change of weather!"
"I wish you'd come forward and speak to them, sir," said Yeo, who
had overheard the last words, "or we shall get naught done."
Amyas went forward instantly.
"Now then, my brave lads, what's the matter here, that you are all
sitting on your tails like monkeys?"
"Ugh!" grunts one. "Don't you think our day's work has been long
enough yet, captain?"
"You don't want us to go in to La Guayra again, sir? There are
enough of us thrown away already, I reckon, about that wench
"Best sit here, and sink quietly. There's no getting home again,
"Why were we brought out here to be killed?"
"For shame, men!" cries Yeo; "you're no better than a set of stiff-
necked Hebrew Jews, murmuring against Moses the very minute after
the Lord has delivered you from the Egyptians."
Now I do not wish to set Amyas up as a perfect man; for he had his
faults, like every one else; nor as better, thank God, than many
and many a brave and virtuous captain in her majesty's service at
this very day: but certainly he behaved admirably under that trial.
Drake had trained him, as he trained many another excellent
officer, to be as stout in discipline, and as dogged of purpose, as
he himself was: but he had trained him also to feel with and for
his men, to make allowances for them, and to keep his temper with
them, as he did this day. True, he had seen Drake in a rage; he
had seen him hang one man for a mutiny (and that man his dearest
friend), and threaten to hang thirty more; but Amyas remembered
well that that explosion took place when having, as Drake said
publicly himself, "taken in hand that I know not in the world how
to go through with; it passeth my capacity; it hath even bereaved
me of my wits to think of it," . . . and having "now set together
by the ears three mighty princes, her majesty and the kings of
Spain and Portugal," he found his whole voyage ready to come to
naught, "by mutinies and discords, controversy between the sailors
and gentlemen, and stomaching between the gentlemen and sailors."
"But, my masters" (quoth the self-trained hero, and Amyas never
forgot his words), "I must have it left; for I must have the
gentlemen to haul and draw with the mariner, and the mariner with
the gentlemen. I would like to know him that would refuse to set
his hand to a rope!"
And now Amyas's conscience smote him (and his simple and pious soul
took the loss of his brother as God's verdict on his conduct),
because he had set his own private affection, even his own private
revenge, before the safety of his ship's company, and the good of
"Ah," said he to himself, as he listened to his men's reproaches,
"if I had been thinking, like a loyal soldier, of serving my queen,
and crippling the Spaniard, I should have taken that great bark
three days ago, and in it the very man I sought!"
So "choking down his old man," as Yeo used to say, he made answer
"Pooh! pooh! brave lads! For shame, for shame! You were lions
half-an-hour ago; you are not surely turned sheep already! Why,
but yesterday evening you were grumbling because I would not run in
and fight those three ships under the batteries of La Guayra, and
now you think it too much to have fought them fairly out at sea?
What has happened but the chances of war, which might have happened
anywhere? Nothing venture, nothing win; and nobody goes bird-
nesting without a fall at times. If any one wants to be safe in
this life, he'd best stay at home and keep his bed; though even
there, who knows but the roof might fall through on him?"
"Ah, it's all very well for you, captain," said some grumbling
younker, with a vague notion that Amyas must be better off than he,
because he was a gentleman. Amyas's blood rose.
"Yes, sirrah! it is very well for me, as long as God is with me:
but He is with every man in this ship, I would have you to know, as
much as He is with me. Do you fancy that I have nothing to lose?
I who have adventured in this voyage all I am worth, and more; who,
if I fail, must return to beggary and scorn? And if I have
ventured rashly, sinfully, if you will, the lives of any of you in
my own private quarrel, am I not punished? Have I not lost--?"
His voice trembled and stopped there, but he recovered himself in a
"Pish! I can't stand here chattering. Carpenter! an axe! and help
me to cast these spars loose. Get out of my way, there! lumbering
the scuppers up like so many moulting fowls! Here, all old
friends, lend a hand! Pelican's men, stand by your captain! Did
we sail round the world for nothing?"
This last appeal struck home, and up leaped half-a-dozen of the old
Pelicans, and set to work at his side manfully to rig the jury-mast.
"Come along!" cried Cary to the malcontents; "we're raw longshore
fellows, but we won't be outdone by any old sea-dog of them all."
And setting to work himself, he was soon followed by one and
another, till order and work went on well enough.
"And where are we going, when the mast's up?" shouted some saucy
hand from behind.
"Where you daren't follow us alone by yourself, so you had better
keep us company," replied Yeo.
"I'll tell you where we are going, lads," said Amyas, rising from
his work. "Like it or leave it as you will, I have no secrets from
my crew. We are going inshore there to find a harbor, and careen
There was a start and a murmur.
"Inshore? Into the Spaniards' mouths?"
"All in the Inquisition in a week's time."
"Better stay here, and be drowned."
"You're right in that last," shouts Cary. "That's the right death
for blind puppies. Look you! I don't know in the least where we
are, and I hardly know stem from stern aboard ship; and the captain
may be right or wrong--that's nothing to me; but this I know, that
I am a soldier, and will obey orders; and where he goes, I go; and
whosoever hinders me must walk up my sword to do it."
Amyas pressed Cary's hand, and then--
"And here's my broadside next, men. I'll go nowhere, and do
nothing without the advice of Salvation Yeo and Robert Drew; and if
any man in the ship knows better than these two, let him up, and
we'll give him a hearing. Eh, Pelicans?"
There was a grunt of approbation from the Pelicans; and Amyas
returned to the charge.
"We have five shot between wind and water, and one somewhere below.
Can we face a gale of wind in that state, or can we not?"
"Can we get home with a leak in our bottom?"
"Then what can we do but run inshore, and take our chance? Speak!
It's a coward's trick to do nothing because what we must do is not
pleasant. Will you be like children, that would sooner die than
take nasty physic, or will you not?"
"Come along now! Here's the wind again round with the sun, and up
to the north-west. In with her!"
Sulkily enough, but unable to deny the necessity, the men set to
work, and the vessel's head was put toward the land; but when she
began to slip through the water, the leak increased so fast, that
they were kept hard at work at the pumps for the rest of the
The current had by this time brought them abreast of the bay of
Higuerote; and, luckily for them, safe out of the short heavy swell
which it causes round Cape Codera. Looking inland, they had now to
the south-west that noble headland, backed by the Caracas
Mountains, range on range, up to the Silla and the Neguater; while,
right ahead of them to the south, the shore sank suddenly into a
low line of mangrove-wood, backed by primaeval forest. As they ran
inward, all eyes were strained greedily to find some opening in the
mangrove belt; but none was to be seen for some time. The lead was
kept going; and every fresh heave announced shallower water.
"We shall have very shoal work off those mangroves, Yeo," said
Amyas; "I doubt whether we shall do aught now, unless we find a
"If the Lord thinks a river good for us, sir, He'll show us one."
So on they went, keeping a south-east course, and at last an
opening in the mangrove belt was hailed with a cheer from the older
hands, though the majority shrugged their shoulders, as men going
open-eyed to destruction.
Off the mouth they sent in Drew and Cary with a boat, and watched
anxiously for an hour. The boat returned with a good report of two
fathoms of water over the bar, impenetrable forests for two miles
up, the river sixty yards broad, and no sign of man. The river's
banks were soft and sloping mud, fit for careening.
"Safe quarters, sir," said Yeo, privately, "as far as Spaniards go.
I hope in God it may be as safe from calentures and fevers."
"Beggars must not be choosers," said Amyas. So in they went.
They towed the ship up about half-a-mile to a point where she could
not be seen from the seaward; and there moored her to the mangrove-
stems. Amyas ordered a boat out, and went up the river himself to
reconnoitre. He rowed some three miles, till the river narrowed
suddenly, and was all but covered in by the interlacing boughs of
mighty trees. There was no sign that man had been there since the
making of the world.
He dropped down the stream again, thoughtfully and sadly. How many
years ago was it that he passed this river's mouth? Three days.
And yet how much had passed in them! Don Guzman found and lost--
Rose found and lost--a great victory gained, and yet lost--perhaps
his ship lost--above all, his brother lost.
Lost! O God, how should he find his brother?
Some strange bird out of the woods made mournful answer--"Never,
How should he face his mother?
"Never, never, never!" wailed the bird again; and Amyas smiled
bitterly, and said "Never!" likewise.
The night mist began to steam and wreathe upon the foul beer-
colored stream. The loathy floor of liquid mud lay bare beneath
the mangrove forest. Upon the endless web of interarching roots
great purple crabs were crawling up and down. They would have
supped with pleasure upon Amyas's corpse; perhaps they might sup on
him after all; for a heavy sickening graveyard smell made his heart
sink within him, and his stomach heave; and his weary body, and
more weary soul, gave themselves up helplessly to the depressing
influence of that doleful place. The black bank of dingy leathern
leaves above his head, the endless labyrinth of stems and withes
(for every bough had lowered its own living cord, to take fresh
hold of the foul soil below); the web of roots, which stretched
away inland till it was lost in the shades of evening--all seemed
one horrid complicated trap for him and his; and even where, here
and there, he passed the mouth of a lagoon, there was no opening,
no relief--nothing but the dark ring of mangroves, and here and
there an isolated group of large and small, parents and children,
breeding and spreading, as if in hideous haste to choke out air and
sky. Wailing sadly, sad-colored mangrove-hens ran off across the
mud into the dreary dark. The hoarse night-raven, hid among the
roots, startled the voyagers with a sudden shout, and then all was
again silent as a grave. The loathly alligators, lounging in the
slime, lifted their horny eyelids lazily, and leered upon him as he
passed with stupid savageness. Lines of tall herons stood dimly in
the growing gloom, like white fantastic ghosts, watching the
passage of the doomed boat. All was foul, sullen, weird as
witches' dream. If Amyas had seen a crew of skeletons glide down
the stream behind him, with Satan standing at the helm, he would
have scarcely been surprised. What fitter craft could haunt that
That night every man of the boat's crew, save Amyas, was down with
raging fever; before ten the next morning, five more men were
taken, and others sickening fast.
HOW THEY TOOK THE COMMUNION UNDER THE TREE AT HIGUEROTE
"Follow thee? Follow thee? Wha wad na follow thee? Lang hast
thou looed and trusted us fairly."
Amyas would have certainly taken the yellow fever, but for one
reason, which he himself gave to Cary. He had no time to be sick
while his men were sick; a valid and sufficient reason (as many a
noble soul in the Crimea has known too well), as long as the
excitement of work is present, but too apt to fail the hero, and to
let him sink into the pit which he has so often over-leapt, the
moment that his work is done.
He called a council of war, or rather a sanitary commission, the
next morning; for he was fairly at his wits' end. The men were
panic-stricken, ready to mutiny: Amyas told them that he could not
see any possible good which could accrue to them by killing him,
or--(for there were two sides to every question)--being killed by
him; and then went below to consult. The doctor talked mere
science, or nonscience, about humors, complexions, and animal
spirits. Jack Brimblecombe, mere pulpit, about its being the
visitation of God. Cary, mere despair, though he jested over it
with a smile. Yeo, mere stoic fatalism, though he quoted Scripture
to back the same. Drew, the master, had nothing to say. His
"business was to sail the ship, and not to cure calentures."
Whereon Amyas clutched his locks, according to custom; and at last
broke forth--"Doctor! a fig for your humors and complexions! Can
you cure a man's humors, or change his complexion? Can an
Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots? Don't shove off
your ignorance on God, sir. I ask you what's the reason of this
sickness, and you don't know. Jack Brimblecombe, don't talk to me
about God's visitation; this looks much more like the devil's
visitation, to my mind. We are doing God's work, Sir John, and He
is not likely to hinder us. So down with the devil, say I. Cary,
laughing killed the cat, but it won't cure a Christian. Yeo, when
an angel tells me that it's God's will that we should all die like
dogs in a ditch, I'll call this God's will; but not before. Drew,
you say your business is to sail the ship; then sail her out of
this infernal poison-trap this very morning, if you can, which you
can't. The mischief's in the air, and nowhere else. I felt it run
through me coming down last night, and smelt it like any sewer: and
if it was not in the air, why was my boat's crew taken first, tell
There was no answer.
"Then I'll tell you why they were taken first: because the mist,
when we came through it, only rose five or six feet above the
stream, and we were in it, while you on board were above it. And
those that were taken on board this morning, every one of them,
slept on the main-deck, and every one of them, too, was in fear of
the fever, whereby I judge two things,--Keep as high as you can,
and fear nothing but God, and we're all safe yet."
"But the fog was up to our round-tops at sunrise this morning,"
"I know it: but we who were on the half-deck were not in it so long
as those below, and that may have made the difference, let alone
our having free air. Beside, I suspect the heat in the evening
draws the poison out more, and that when it gets cold toward
morning, the venom of it goes off somehow."
How it went off Amyas could not tell (right in his facts as he
was), for nobody on earth knew I suppose, at that day; and it was
not till nearly two centuries of fatal experience that the settlers
in America discovered the simple laws of these epidemics which now
every child knows, or ought to know. But common sense was on his
side; and Yeo rose and spoke--
"As I have said before, many a time, the Lord has sent us a very
young Daniel for judge. I remember now to have heard the Spaniards
say, how these calentures lay always in the low ground, and never
came more than a few hundred feet above the sea."
"Let us go up those few hundred feet, then."
Every man looked at Amyas, and then at his neighbor.
"Gentlemen, 'Look the devil straight in the face, if you would hit
him in the right place.' We cannot get the ship to sea as she is;
and if we could, we cannot go home empty-handed; and we surely
cannot stay here to die of fever.--We must leave the ship and go
"Inland?" answered every voice but Yeo's.
"Up those hundred feet which Yeo talks of. Up to the mountains;
stockade a camp, and get our sick and provisions thither."
"And what next?"
"And when we are recruited, march over the mountains, and surprise
St. Jago de Leon."
Cary swore a great oath. "Amyas! you are a daring fellow!"
"Not a bit. It's the plain path of prudence."
"So it is, sir," said old Yeo, "and I follow you in it."
"And so do I," squeaked Jack Brimblecombe.
"Nay, then, Jack, thou shalt not outrun me. So I say yes too,"
"At your service, sir, to live or die. I know naught about
stockading; but Sir Francis would have given the same counsel, I
verily believe, if he had been in your place."
"Then tell the men that we start in an hour's time. Win over the
Pelicans, Yeo and Drew; and the rest must follow, like sheep over a
The Pelicans, and the liberated galley-slaves, joined the project
at once; but the rest gave Amyas a stormy hour. The great question
was, where were the hills? In that dense mangrove thicket they
could not see fifty yards before them.
"The hills are not three miles to the south-west of you at this
moment," said Amyas. "I marked every shoulder of them as we ran
"I suppose you meant to take us there?"
The question set a light to a train--and angry suspicions were
blazing up one after another, but Amyas silenced them with a
"Fools! if I had not wit enow to look ahead a little farther than
you do, where would you be? Are you mad as well as reckless, to
rise against your own captain because he has two strings to his
bow? Go my way, I say, or, as I live, I'll blow up the ship and
every soul on board, and save you the pain of rotting here by
The men knew that Amyas never said what he did not intend to do;
not that Amyas intended to do this, because he knew that the threat
would be enough. So they, agreed to go; and were reassured by
seeing that the old Pelican's men turned to the work heartily and
There is no use keeping the reader for five or six weary hours,
under a broiling (or rather stewing) sun, stumbling over mangrove
roots, hewing his way through thorny thickets, dragging sick men
and provisions up mountain steeps, amid disappointment, fatigue,
murmurs, curses, snakes, mosquitoes, false alarms of Spaniards, and
every misery, save cold, which flesh is heir to. Suffice it that
by sunset that evening they had gained a level spot, a full
thousand feet above the sea, backed by an inaccessible cliff which
formed the upper shoulder of a mighty mountain, defended below by
steep wooded slopes, and needing but the felling of a few trees to
make it impregnable.
Amyas settled the sick under the arched roots of an enormous
cottonwood tree, and made a second journey to the ship, to bring up
hammocks and blankets for them; while Yeo's wisdom and courage were
of inestimable value. He, as pioneer, had found the little brook
up which they forced their way; he had encouraged them to climb the
cliffs over which it fell, arguing rightly that on its course they
were sure to find some ground fit for encampment within the reach
of water; he had supported Amyas, when again and again the weary
crew entreated to be dragged no farther, and had gone back again a
dozen times to cheer them upward; while Cary, who brought up the
rear, bullied and cheered on the stragglers who sat down and
refused to move, drove back at the sword's point more than one who
was beating a retreat, carried their burdens for them, sang them
songs on the halt; in all things approving himself the gallant and
hopeful soul which he had always been: till Amyas, beside himself
with joy at finding that the two men on whom he had counted most
were utterly worthy of his trust, went so far as to whisper to them
both, in confidence, that very night--
"Cortez burnt his ships when he landed. Why should not we?"
Yeo leapt upright; and then sat down again, and whispered--
"Do you say that, captain? 'Tis from above, then, that's certain;
for it's been hanging on my mind too all day."
"There's no hurry," quoth Amyas; "we must clear her out first, you
know," while Cary sat silent and musing. Amyas had evidently more
schemes in his head than he chose to tell.
The men were too tired that evening to do much, but ere the sun
rose next morning Amyas had them hard at work fortifying their
position. It was, as I said, strong enough by nature; for though
it was commanded by high cliffs on three sides, yet there was no
chance of an enemy coming over the enormous mountain-range behind
them, and still less chance that, if he came, he would discover
them through the dense mass of trees which crowned the cliff, and
clothed the hills for a thousand feet above. The attack, if it
took place, would come from below; and against that Amyas guarded
by felling the smaller trees, and laying them with their boughs
outward over the crest of the slope, thus forming an abatis (as
every one who has shot in thick cover knows to his cost) warranted
to bring up in two steps, horse, dog, or man. The trunks were sawn
into logs, laid lengthwise, and steadied by stakes and mould; and
three or four hours' hard work finished a stockade which would defy
anything but artillery. The work done, Amyas scrambled up into the
boughs of the enormous ceiba-tree, and there sat inspecting his own
handiwork, looking out far and wide over the forest-covered plains
and the blue sea beyond, and thinking, in his simple
straightforward way, of what was to be done next.
To stay there long was impossible; to avenge himself upon La Guayra
was impossible; to go until he had found out whether Frank was
alive or dead seemed at first equally impossible. But were
Brimblecombe, Cary, and those eighty men to be sacrificed a second
time to his private interest? Amyas wept with rage, and then wept
again with earnest, honest prayer, before he could make up his
mind. But he made it up. There were a hundred chances to one that
Frank was dead; and if not, he was equally past their help; for he
was--Amyas knew that too well--by this time in the hands of the
Inquisition. Who could lift him from that pit? Not Amyas, at
least! And crying aloud in his agony, "God help him! for I
cannot!" Amyas made up his mind to move. But whither? Many an
hour he thought and thought alone, there in his airy nest; and at
last he went down, calm and cheerful, and drew Cary and Yeo aside.
They could not, he said, refit the ship without dying of fever
during the process; an assertion which neither of his hearers was
bold enough to deny. Even if they refitted her, they would be
pretty certain to have to fight the Spaniards again; for it was
impossible to doubt the Indian's story, that they had been
forewarned of the Rose's coming, or to doubt, either, that Eustace
had been the traitor.
"Let us try St. Jago, then; sack it, come down on La Guayra in the
rear, take a ship there, and so get home."
"Nay, Will. If they have strengthened themselves against us at La
Guayra, where they had little to lose, surely they have done so at
St. Jago, where they have much. I hear the town is large, though
new; and besides, how can we get over these mountains without a
"Or with one?" said Cary, with a sigh, looking up at the vast walls
of wood and rock which rose range on range for miles. "But it is
strange to find you, at least, throwing cold water on a daring
"What if I had a still more daring one? Did you ever hear of the
golden city of Manoa?"
Yeo laughed a grim but joyful laugh. "I have, sir; and so have the
old hands from the Pelican and the Jesus of Lubec, I doubt not."
"So much the better;" and Amyas began to tell Cary all which he had
learned from the Spaniard, while Yeo capped every word thereof with
rumors and traditions of his own gathering. Cary sat half aghast
as the huge phantasmagoria unfolded itself before his dazzled eyes;
and at last--
"So that was why you wanted to burn the ship! Well, after all,
nobody needs me at home, and one less at table won't be missed. So
you want to play Cortez, eh?"
"We shall never need to play Cortez (who was not such a bad fellow
after all, Will), because we shall have no such cannibal fiends'
tyranny to rid the earth of, as he had. And I trust we shall fear
God enough not to play Pizarro."
So the conversation dropped for the time, but none of them forgot
In that mountain-nook the party spent some ten days and more.
Several of the sick men died, some from the fever superadded to
their wounds; some, probably, from having been bled by the surgeon;
the others mended steadily, by the help of certain herbs which Yeo
administered, much to the disgust of the doctor, who, of course,
wanted to bleed the poor fellows all round, and was all but
mutinous when Amyas stayed his hand. In the meanwhile, by dint of
daily trips to the ship, provisions were plentiful enough,--beside
the raccoons, monkeys, and other small animals, which Yeo and the
veterans of Hawkins's crew knew how to catch, and the fruit and
vegetables; above all, the delicious mountain cabbage of the Areca
palm, and the fresh milk of the cow-tree, which they brought in
daily, paying well thereby for the hospitality they received.
All day long a careful watch was kept among the branches of the
mighty ceiba-tree. And what a tree that was! The hugest English
oak would have seemed a stunted bush beside it. Borne up on roots,
or rather walls, of twisted board, some twelve feet high, between
which the whole crew, their ammunitions, and provisions, were
housed roomily, rose the enormous trunk full forty feet in girth,
towering like some tall lighthouse, smooth for a hundred feet, then
crowned with boughs, each of which was a stately tree, whose
topmost twigs were full two hundred and fifty feet from the ground.
And yet it was easy for the sailors to ascend; so many natural
ropes had kind Nature lowered for their use, in the smooth lianes
which hung to the very earth, often without a knot or leaf. Once
in the tree, you were within a new world, suspended between heaven
and earth, and as Cary said, no wonder if, like Jack when he
climbed the magic bean-stalk, you had found a castle, a giant, and
a few acres of well-stocked park, packed away somewhere amid that
labyrinth of timber. Flower-gardens at least were there in plenty;
for every limb was covered with pendent cactuses, gorgeous
orchises, and wild pines; and while one-half the tree was clothed
in rich foliage, the other half, utterly leafless, bore on every
twig brilliant yellow flowers, around which humming-birds whirred
all day long. Parrots peeped in and out of every cranny, while,
within the airy woodland, brilliant lizards basked like living gems
upon the bark, gaudy finches flitted and chirruped, butterflies of
every size and color hovered over the topmost twigs, innumerable
insects hummed from morn till eve; and when the sun went down,
tree-toads came out to snore and croak till dawn. There was more
life round that one tree than in a whole square mile of English
And Amyas, as he lounged among the branches, felt at moments as if
he would be content to stay there forever, and feed his eyes and
ears with all its wonders--and then started sighing from his dream,
as he recollected that a few days must bring the foe upon them, and
force him to decide upon some scheme at which the bravest heart
might falter without shame. So there he sat (for he often took the
scout's place himself), looking out over the fantastic tropic
forest at his feet, and the flat mangrove-swamps below, and the
white sheet of foam-flecked blue; and yet no sail appeared; and the
men, as their fear of fever subsided, began to ask when they would
go down and refit the ship, and Amyas put them off as best he
could, till one noon he saw slipping along the shore from the
westward, a large ship under easy sail, and recognized in her, or
thought he did so, the ship which they had passed upon their way.
If it was she, she must have run past them to La Guayra in the
night, and have now returned, perhaps, to search for them along the
She crept along slowly. He was in hopes that she might pass the
river's mouth: but no. She lay-to close to the shore; and, after a
while, Amyas saw two boats pull in from her, and vanish behind the
Sliding down a liane, he told what he had seen. The men, tired of
inactivity, received the news with a shout of joy, and set to work
to make all ready for their guests. Four brass swivels, which they
had brought up, were mounted, fixed in logs, so as to command the
path; the musketeers and archers clustered round them with their
tackle ready, and half-a-dozen good marksmen volunteered into the
cotton-tree with their arquebuses, as a post whence "a man might
have very pretty shooting." Prayers followed as a matter of
course, and dinner as a matter of course also; but two weary hours
passed before there was any sign of the Spaniards.
Presently a wreath of white smoke curled up from the swamp, and
then the report of a caliver. Then, amid the growls of the
English, the Spanish flag ran up above the trees, and floated--
horrible to behold--at the mast-head of the Rose. They were
signalling the ship for more hands; and, in effect, a third boat
soon pushed off and vanished into the forest.
Another hour, during which the men had thoroughly lost their
temper, but not their hearts, by waiting; and talked so loud, and
strode up and down so wildly, that Amyas had to warn them that
there was no need to betray themselves; that the Spaniards might
not find them after all; that they might pass the stockade close
without seeing it; that, unless they hit off the track at once,
they would probably return to their ship for the present; and
exacted a promise from them that they would be perfectly silent
till he gave the word to fire.
Which wise commands had scarcely passed his lips, when, in the path
below, glanced the headpiece of a Spanish soldier, and then another
"Fools!" whispered Amyas to Cary; "they are coming up in single
file, rushing on their own death. Lie close, men!"
The path was so narrow that two could seldom come up abreast, and
so steep that the enemy had much ado to struggle and stumble
upwards. The men seemed half unwilling to proceed, and hung back
more than once; but Amyas could hear an authoritative voice behind,
and presently there emerged to the front, sword in hand, a figure
at which Amyas and Cary both started.
"Is it he?"
"Surely I know those legs among a thousand, though they are in
"It is my turn for him, now, Cary, remember! Silence, silence,
The Spaniards seemed to feel that they were leading a forlorn hope.
Don Guzman (for there was little doubt that it was he) had much ado
to get them on at all.
"The fellows have heard how gently we handled the Guayra squadron,"
whispers Cary, "and have no wish to become fellow-martyrs with the
captain of the Madre Dolorosa."
At last the Spaniards get up the steep slope to within forty yards
of the stockade, and pause, suspecting a trap, and puzzled by the
complete silence. Amyas leaps on the top of it, a white flag in
his hand; but his heart beats so fiercely at the sight of that
hated figure, that he can hardly get out the words--
"Don Guzman, the quarrel is between you and me, not between your
men and mine. I would have sent in a challenge to you at La
Guayra, but you were away; I challenge you now to single combat."
"Lutheran dog, I have a halter for you, but no sword! As you
served us at Smerwick, we will serve you now. Pirate and ravisher,
you and yours shall share Oxenham's fate, as you have copied his
crimes, and learn what it is to set foot unbidden on the dominions
of the king of Spain."
"The devil take you and the king of Spain together!" shouts Amyas,
laughing loudly. "This ground belongs to him no more than it does
to me, but to the Queen Elizabeth, in whose name I have taken as
lawful possession of it as you ever did of Caracas. Fire, men! and
God defend the right!"
Both parties obeyed the order; Amyas dropped down behind the
stockade in time to let a caliver bullet whistle over his head; and
the Spaniards recoiled as the narrow face of the stockade burst
into one blaze of musketry and swivels, raking their long array
from front to rear.
The front ranks fell over each other in heaps; the rear ones turned
and ran; overtaken, nevertheless, by the English bullets and
arrows, which tumbled them headlong down the steep path.
"Out, men, and charge them. See! the Don is running like the
rest!" And scrambling over the abattis, Amyas and about thirty
followed them fast; for he had hope of learning from some prisoner
his brother's fate.
Amyas was unjust in his last words. Don Guzman, as if by miracle,
had been only slightly wounded; and seeing his men run, had rushed
back and tried to rally them, but was borne away by the fugitives.
However, the Spaniards were out of sight among the thick bushes
before the English could overtake them; and Amyas, afraid lest they
should rally and surround his small party, withdrew sorely against
his will, and found in the pathway fourteen Spaniards, but all
dead. For one of the wounded, with more courage than wisdom, had
fired on the English as he lay; and Amyas's men, whose blood was
maddened both by their desperate situation, and the frightful
stories of the rescued galley-slaves, had killed them all before
their captain could stop them.
"Are you mad?" cries Amyas, as he strikes up one fellow's sword.
"Will you kill an Indian?"
And he drags out of the bushes an Indian lad of sixteen, who,
slightly wounded, is crawling away like a copper snake along the
"The black vermin has sent an arrow through my leg; and poisoned
too, most like."
"God grant not: but an Indian is worth his weight in gold to us
now," said Amyas, tucking his prize under his arm like a bundle.
The lad, as soon as he saw there was no escape, resigned himself to
his fate with true Indian stoicism, was brought in, and treated
kindly enough, but refused to eat. For which, after much
questioning, he gave as a reason, that he would make them kill him
at once; for fat him they should not; and gradually gave them to
understand that the English always (so at least the Spaniards said)
fatted and ate their prisoners like the Caribs; and till he saw
them go out and bury the bodies of the Spaniards, nothing would
persuade him that the corpses were not to be cooked for supper.
However, kind words, kind looks, and the present of that
inestimable treasure--a knife, brought him to reason; and he told
Amyas that he belonged to a Spaniard who had an "encomienda" of
Indians some fifteen miles to the south-west; that he had fled from
his master, and lived by hunting for some months past; and having
seen the ship where she lay moored, and boarded her in hope of
plunder, had been surprised therein by the Spaniards, and forced by
threats to go with them as a guide in their search for the English.
But now came a part of his story which filled the soul of Amyas
with delight. He was an Indian of the Llanos, or great savannahs
which lay to the southward beyond the mountains, and had actually
been upon the Orinoco. He had been stolen as a boy by some
Spaniards, who had gone down (as was the fashion of the Jesuits
even as late as 1790) for the pious purpose of converting the
savages by the simple process of catching, baptizing, and making
servants of those whom they could carry off, and murdering those
who resisted their gentle method of salvation. Did he know the way
back again? Who could ask such a question of an Indian? And the
lad's black eyes flashed fire, as Amyas offered him liberty and
iron enough for a dozen Indians, if he would lead them through the
passes of the mountains, and southward to the mighty river, where
lay their golden hopes. Hernando de Serpa, Amyas knew, had tried
the same course, which was supposed to be about one hundred and
twenty leagues, and failed, being overthrown utterly by the Wikiri
Indians; but Amyas knew enough of the Spaniards' brutal method of
treating those Indians, to be pretty sure that they had brought
that catastrophe upon themselves, and that he might avoid it well
enough by that common justice and mercy toward the savages which he
had learned from his incomparable tutor, Francis Drake.
Now was the time to speak; and, assembling his men around him,
Amyas opened his whole heart, simply and manfully. This was their
only hope of safety. Some of them had murmured that they should
perish like John Oxenham's crew. This plan was rather the only way
to avoid perishing like them. Don Guzman would certainly return to
seek them; and not only he, but land-forces from St. Jago. Even if
the stockade was not forced, they would be soon starved out; why
not move at once, ere the Spaniards could return, and begin a
blockade? As for taking St. Jago, it was impossible. The treasure
would all be safely hidden, and the town well prepared to meet
them. If they wanted gold and glory, they must seek it elsewhere.
Neither was there any use in marching along the coast, and trying
the ports: ships could outstrip them, and the country was already
warned. There was but this one chance; and on it Amyas, the first
and last time in his life, waxed eloquent, and set forth the glory
of the enterprise, the service to the queen, the salvation of
heathens, and the certainty that, if successful, they should win
honor and wealth and everlasting fame, beyond that of Cortez or
Pizarro, till the men, sulky at first, warmed every moment; and one
old Pelican broke out with--
"Yes, sir! we didn't go round the world with you for naught; and
watched your works and ways, which was always those of a gentleman,
as you are--who spoke a word for a poor fellow when he was in a
scrape, and saw all you ought to see, and naught that you ought
not. And we'll follow you, sir, all alone to ourselves; and let
those that know you worse follow after when they're come to their
Man after man capped this brave speech; the minority, who, if they
liked little to go, liked still less to be left behind, gave in
their consent perforce; and, to make a long story short, Amyas
conquered, and the plan was accepted.
"This," said Amyas, "is indeed the proudest day of my life! I have
lost one brother, but I have gained fourscore. God do so to me and
more also, if I do not deal with you according to the trust which
you have put in me this day!"
We, I suppose, are to believe that we have a right to laugh at
Amyas's scheme as frantic and chimerical. It is easy to amuse
ourselves with the premises, after the conclusion has been found
for us. We know, now, that he was mistaken: but we have not
discovered his mistake for ourselves, and have no right to plume
ourselves on other men's discoveries. Had we lived in Amyas's
days, we should have belonged either to the many wise men who
believed as he did, or to the many foolish men, who not only
sneered at the story of Manoa, but at a hundred other stories,
which we now know to be true. Columbus was laughed at: but he
found a new world, nevertheless. Cortez was laughed at: but he
found Mexico. Pizarro: but he found Peru. I ask any fair reader
of those two charming books, Mr. Prescott's Conquest of Mexico and
his Conquest of Peru, whether the true wonders in them described do
not outdo all the false wonders of Manoa.
But what reason was there to think them false? One quarter,
perhaps, of America had been explored, and yet in that quarter two
empires had been already found, in a state of mechanical, military,
and agricultural civilization superior, in many things, to any
nation of Europe. Was it not most rational to suppose that in the
remaining three-quarters similar empires existed? If a second
Mexico had been discovered in the mountains of Parima, and a second
Peru in those of Brazil, what right would any man have had to
wonder? As for the gold legends, nothing was told of Manoa which
had not been seen in Peru and Mexico by the bodily eyes of men then
living. Why should not the rocks of Guiana have been as full of
the precious metals (we do not know yet that they are not) as the
rocks of Peru and Mexico were known to be? Even the details of the
story, its standing on a lake, for instance, bore a probability
with them. Mexico actually stood in the centre of a lake--why
should not Manoa? The Peruvian worship centred round a sacred
lake--why not that of Manoa? Pizarro and Cortez, again, were led
on to their desperate enterprises by the sight of small quantities
of gold among savages, who told them of a civilized gold-country
near at hand; and they found that those savages spoke truth. Why
was the unanimous report of the Carib tribes of the Orinoco to be
disbelieved, when they told a similar tale? Sir Richard
Schomburgk's admirable preface to Raleigh's Guiana proves, surely,
that the Indians themselves were deceived, as well as deceivers.
It was known, again, that vast quantities of the Peruvian treasure
had been concealed by the priests, and that members of the Inca
family had fled across the Andes, and held out against the
Spaniards. Barely fifty years had elapsed since then;--what more
probable than that this remnant of the Peruvian dynasty and
treasure still existed? Even the story of the Amazons, though it
may serve Hume as a point for his ungenerous and untruthful attempt
to make Raleigh out either fool or villain, has come from
Spaniards, who had with their own eyes seen the Indian women
fighting by their husbands' sides, and from Indians, who asserted
the existence of an Amazonian tribe. What right had Amyas, or any
man, to disbelieve the story? The existence of the Amazons in
ancient Asia, and of their intercourse with Alexander the Great,
was then an accredited part of history, which it would have been
gratuitous impertinence to deny. And what if some stories
connected these warlike women with the Emperor of Manoa, and the
capital itself? This generation ought surely to be the last to
laugh at such a story, at least as long as the Amazonian guards of
the King of Dahomey continue to outvie the men in that relentless
ferocity, with which they have subdued every neighboring tribe,
save the Christians of Abbeokuta. In this case, as in a hundred
more, fact not only outdoes, but justifies imagination; and Amyas
spoke common sense when he said to his men that day--
"Let fools laugh and stay at home. Wise men dare and win. Saul
went to look for his father's asses, and found a kingdom; and
Columbus, my men, was called a madman for only going to seek China,
and never knew, they say, until his dying day, that he had found a
whole new world instead of it. Find Manoa? God only, who made all
things, knows what we may find beside!"
So underneath that giant ceiba-tree, those valiant men, reduced by
battle and sickness to some eighty, swore a great oath, and kept
that oath like men. To search for the golden city for two full
years to come, whatever might befall; to stand to each other for
weal or woe; to obey their officers to the death; to murmur
privately against no man, but bring all complaints to a council of
war; to use no profane oaths, but serve God daily with prayer; to
take by violence from no man, save from their natural enemies the
Spaniards; to be civil and merciful to all savages, and chaste and
courteous to all women; to bring all booty and all food into the
common stock, and observe to the utmost their faith with the
adventurers who had fitted out the ship; and finally, to march at
sunrise the next morning toward the south, trusting in God to be
"It is a great oath, and a hard one," said Brimblecombe; "but God
will give us strength to keep it." And they knelt all together and
received the Holy Communion, and then rose to pack provisions and
ammunition, and lay down again to sleep and to dream that they were
sailing home up Torridge stream--as Cavendish, returning from round
the world, did actually sail home up Thames but five years
afterwards--"with mariners and soldiers clothed in silk, with sails
of damask, and topsails of cloth of gold, and the richest prize
which ever was brought at one time unto English shores."
. . . . . . .
The Cross stands upright in the southern sky. It is the middle of
the night. Cary and Yeo glide silently up the hill and into the
camp, and whisper to Amyas that they have done the deed. The
sleepers are awakened, and the train sets forth.
Upward and southward ever: but whither, who can tell? They hardly
think of the whither; but go like sleep-walkers, shaken out of one
land of dreams, only to find themselves in another and stranger
one. All around is fantastic and unearthly; now each man starts as
he sees the figures of his fellows, clothed from head to foot in
golden filigree; looks up, and sees the yellow moonlight through
the fronds of the huge tree-ferns overhead, as through a cloud of
glittering lace. Now they are hewing their way through a thicket
of enormous flags; now through bamboos forty feet high; now they
are stumbling over boulders, waist-deep in cushions of club-moss;
now they are struggling through shrubberies of heaths and
rhododendrons, and woolly incense-trees, where every leaf, as they
brush past, dashes some fresh scent into their faces, and
"The winds, with musky wing,
About the cedarn alleys fling
Nard and cassia's balmy smells."
Now they open upon some craggy brow, from whence they can see far
below an ocean of soft cloud, whose silver billows, girdled by the
mountain sides, hide the lowland from their sight.
And from beneath the cloud strange voices rise; the screams of
thousand night-birds, and wild howls, which they used at first to
fancy were the cries of ravenous beasts, till they found them to
proceed from nothing fiercer than an ape. But what is that deeper
note, like a series of muffled explosions,--arquebuses fired within
some subterranean cavern,--the heavy pulse of which rolls up
through the depths of the unseen forest? They hear it now for the
first time, but they will hear it many a time again; and the Indian
lad is hushed, and cowers close to them, and then takes heart, as
he looks upon their swords and arquebuses; for that is the roar of
the jaguar, "seeking his meat from God."
But what is that glare away to the northward? The yellow moon is
ringed with gay rainbows; but that light is far too red to be the
reflection of any beams of hers. Now through the cloud rises a
column of black and lurid smoke; the fog clears away right and left
around it, and shows beneath, a mighty fire.
The men look at each other with questioning eyes, each half
suspecting, and yet not daring to confess their own suspicions; and
Amyas whispers to Yeo--
"You took care to flood the powder?"
"Ay, ay, sir, and to unload the ordnance too. No use in making a
noise to tell the Spaniards our whereabouts."
Yes; that glare rises from the good ship Rose. Amyas, like Cortez
of old, has burnt his ship, and retreat is now impossible. Forward
into the unknown abyss of the New World, and God be with them as
The Indian knows a cunning path: it winds along the highest ridges
of the mountains; but the travelling is far more open and easy.
They have passed the head of a valley which leads down to St. Jago.
Beneath that long shining river of mist, which ends at the foot of
the great Silla, lies (so says the Indian lad) the rich capital of
Venezuela; and beyond, the gold-mines of Los Teques and Baruta,
which first attracted the founder Diego de Losada; and many a
longing eye is turned towards it as they pass the saddle at the
valley head; but the attempt is hopeless, they turn again to the
left, and so down towards the rancho, taking care (so the prudent
Amyas had commanded) to break down, after crossing, the frail rope
bridge which spans each torrent and ravine.
They are at the rancho long before daybreak, and have secured
there, not only fourteen mules, but eight or nine Indians stolen
from off the Llanos, like their guide, who are glad enough to
escape from their tyrants by taking service with them. And now
southward and away, with lightened shoulders and hearts; for they
are all but safe from pursuit. The broken bridges prevent the news
of their raid reaching St. Jago until nightfall; and in the
meanwhile, Don Guzman returns to the river mouth the next day to
find the ship a blackened wreck, and the camp empty; follows their
trail over the hills till he is stopped by a broken bridge;
surmounts that difficulty, and meets a second; his men are worn out
with heat, and a little afraid of stumbling on the heretic
desperadoes, and he returns by land to St. Jago; and when he
arrives there, has news from home which gives him other things to
think of than following those mad Englishmen, who have vanished
into the wilderness. "What need, after all, to follow them?" asked
the Spaniards of each other. "Blinded by the devil, whom they
serve, they rush on in search of certain death, as many a larger
company has before them, and they will find it, and will trouble La
Guayra no more forever." "Lutheran dogs and enemies of God," said
Don Guzman to his soldiers, "they will leave their bones to whiten
on the Llanos, as may every heretic who sets foot on Spanish soil!"
Will they do so, Don Guzman? Or wilt thou and Amyas meet again
upon a mightier battlefield, to learn a lesson which neither of you
yet has learned?
THE INQUISITION IN THE INDIES
My next chapter is perhaps too sad; it shall be at least as short
as I can make it; but it was needful to be written, that readers
may judge fairly for themselves what sort of enemies the English
nation had to face in those stern days.
Three weeks have passed, and the scene is shifted to a long, low
range of cells in a dark corridor in the city of Cartagena. The
door of one is open; and within stand two cloaked figures, one of
whom we know. It is Eustace Leigh. The other is a familiar of the
He holds in his hand a lamp, from which the light falls on a bed of
straw, and on the sleeping figure of a man. The high white brow,
the pale and delicate features--them too we know, for they are
those of Frank. Saved half-dead from the fury of the savage
negroes, he has been reserved for the more delicate cruelty of
civilized and Christian men. He underwent the question but this
afternoon; and now Eustace, his betrayer, is come to persuade him--
or to entrap him? Eustace himself hardly knows whether of the two.
And yet he would give his life to save his cousin.
His life? He has long since ceased to care for that. He has done
what he has done, because it is his duty; and now he is to do his
duty once more, and wake the sleeper, and argue, coax, threaten him
into recantation while "his heart is still tender from the
torture," so Eustace's employers phrase it.
And yet how calmly he is sleeping! Is it but a freak of the
lamplight, or is there a smile upon his lips? Eustace takes the
lamp and bends over him to see; and as he bends he hears Frank
whispering in his dreams his mother's name, and a name higher and
Eustace cannot find the heart to wake him.
"Let him rest," whispers he to his companion. "After all, I fear
my words will be of little use."
"I fear so too, sir. Never did I behold a more obdurate heretic.
He did not scruple to scoff openly at their holinesses."
"Ah!" said Eustace; "great is the pravity of the human heart, and
the power of Satan! Let us go for the present."
"Where is she?"
"The elder sorceress, or the younger?"
"The Senora de Soto? Ah, poor thing! One could be sorry for her,
were she not a heretic." And the man eyed Eustace keenly, and then
quietly added, "She is at present with the notary; to the benefit
of her soul, I trust--"
Eustace half stopped, shuddering. He could hardly collect himself
enough to gasp out an "Amen!"
"Within there," said the man, pointing carelessly to a door as they
went down the corridor. "We can listen a moment, if you like; but
don't betray me, senor."
Eustace knows well enough that the fellow is probably on the watch
to betray him, if he shows any signs of compunction; at least to
report faithfully to his superiors the slightest expression of
sympathy with a heretic; but a horrible curiosity prevails over
fear, and he pauses close to the fatal door. His face is all of a
flame, his knees knock together, his ears are ringing, his heart
bursting through his ribs, as he supports himself against the wall,
hiding his convulsed face as well as he can from his companion.
A man's voice is plainly audible within; low, but distinct. The
notary is trying that old charge of witchcraft, which the
Inquisitors, whether to justify themselves to their own
consciences, or to whiten their villainy somewhat in the eyes of
the mob, so often brought against their victims. And then
Eustace's heart sinks within him as he hears a woman's voice reply,
sharpened by indignation and agony--
"Witchcraft against Don Guzman? What need of that, oh God! what
"You deny it then, senora? we are sorry for you; but--"
A confused choking murmur from the victim, mingled with words which
might mean anything or nothing.
"She has confessed!" whispered Eustace; "saints, I thank you!--she--"
A wail which rings through Eustace's ears, and brain, and heart!
He would have torn at the door to open it; but his companion forces
him away. Another, and another wail, while the wretched man
hurries off, stopping his ears in vain against those piercing
cries, which follow him, like avenging angels, through the dreadful
He escaped into the fragrant open air, and the golden tropic
moonlight, and a garden which might have served as a model for
Eden; but man's hell followed into God's heaven, and still those
wails seemed to ring through his ears.
"Oh, misery, misery, misery!" murmured he to himself through
grinding teeth; "and I have brought her to this! I have had to
bring her to it! What else could I? Who dare blame me? And yet
what devilish sin can I have committed, that requires to be
punished thus? Was there no one to be found but me? No one? And
yet it may save her soul. It may bring her to repentance!"
"It may, indeed; for she is delicate, and cannot endure much. You
ought to know as well as I, senor, the merciful disposition of the
"I know it, I know it," interrupted poor Eustace, trembling now for
himself. "All in love--all in love.--A paternal chastisement--"
"And the proofs of heresy are patent, beside the strong suspicion
of enchantment, and the known character of the elder sorceress.
You yourself, you must remember, senor, told us that she had been a
notorious witch in England, before the senora brought her hither as
"Of course she was; of course. Yes; there was no other course
open. And though the flesh may be weak, sir, in my case, yet none
can have proved better to the Holy Office how willing is the
And so Eustace departed; and ere another sun had set, he had gone
to the principal of the Jesuits; told him his whole heart, or as
much of it, poor wretch, as he dare tell to himself; and entreated
to be allowed to finish his novitiate, and enter the order, on the
understanding that he was to be sent at once back to Europe, or
anywhere else; "Otherwise," as he said frankly, "he should go mad,
even if he were not mad already." The Jesuit, who was a kindly man
enough, went to the Holy Office, and settled all with the
Inquisitors, recounting to them, to set him above all suspicion,
Eustace's past valiant services to the Church. His testimony was
no longer needed; he left Cartagena for Nombre that very night, and
sailed the next week I know not whither.
I say, I know not whither. Eustace Leigh vanishes henceforth from
these pages. He may have ended as General of his Order. He may
have worn out his years in some tropic forest, "conquering the
souls" (including, of course, the bodies) of Indians; he may have
gone back to his old work in England, and been the very Ballard who
was hanged and quartered three years afterwards for his share in
Babington's villainous conspiracy: I know not. This book is a
history of men,--of men's virtues and sins, victories and defeats;
and Eustace is a man no longer: he is become a thing, a tool, a
Jesuit; which goes only where it is sent, and does good or evil
indifferently as it is bid; which, by an act of moral suicide, has
lost its soul, in the hope of saving it; without a will, a
conscience, a responsibility (as it fancies), to God or man, but
only to "The Society." In a word, Eustace, as he says himself, is
"dead." Twice dead, I fear. Let the dead bury their dead. We
have no more concern with Eustace Leigh.
THE BANKS OF THE META
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me--
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods!"
Nearly three years are past and gone since that little band had
knelt at evensong beneath the giant tree of Guayra--years of
seeming blank, through which they are to be tracked only by
scattered notes and mis-spelt names. Through untrodden hills and
forests, over a space of some eight hundred miles in length by four
hundred in breadth, they had been seeking for the Golden City, and
they had sought in vain. They had sought it along the wooded banks
of the Orinoco, and beyond the roaring foam-world of Maypures, and
on the upper waters of the mighty Amazon. They had gone up the
streams even into Peru itself, and had trodden the cinchona groves
of Loxa, ignorant, as all the world was then, of their healing
virtues. They had seen the virgin snows of Chimborazo towering
white above the thundercloud, and the giant cone of Cotopaxi
blackening in its sullen wrath, before the fiery streams rolled
down its sides. Foiled in their search at the back of the Andes,
they had turned eastward once more, and plunged from the alpine
cliffs into "the green and misty ocean of the Montana." Slowly and
painfully they had worked their way northward again, along the
eastern foot of the inland Cordillera, and now they were
bivouacking, as it seems, upon one of the many feeders of the Meta,
which flow down from the Suma Paz into the forest-covered plains.
There they sat, their watch-fires glittering on the stream, beneath
the shadow of enormous trees, Amyas and Cary, Brimblecombe, Yeo,
and the Indian lad, who has followed them in all their wanderings,
alive and well: but as far as ever from Manoa, and its fairy lake,
and golden palaces, and all the wonders of the Indian's tale.
Again and again in their wanderings they had heard faint rumors of
its existence, and started off in some fresh direction, to meet
only a fresh disappointment, and hope deferred, which maketh sick
There they sit at last--four-and-forty men out of the eighty-four
who left the tree of Guayra:--where are the rest?
"Their bones are scatter'd far and wide,
By mount, by stream, and sea."
Drew, the master, lies on the banks of the Rio Negro, and five
brave fellows by him, slain in fight by the poisoned arrows of the
Indians, in a vain attempt to penetrate the mountain-gorges of the
Parima. Two more lie amid the valleys of the Andes, frozen to
death by the fierce slaty hail which sweeps down from the condor's
eyrie; four more were drowned at one of the rapids of the Orinoco;
five or six more wounded men are left behind at another rapid among
friendly Indians, to be recovered when they can be: perhaps never.
Fever, snakes, jaguars, alligators, cannibal fish, electric eels,
have thinned their ranks month by month, and of their march through
the primeval wilderness no track remains, except those lonely
And there the survivors sit, beside the silent stream, beneath the
tropic moon; sun-dried and lean, but strong and bold as ever, with
the quiet fire of English courage burning undimmed in every eye,
and the genial smile of English mirth fresh on every lip; making a
jest of danger and a sport of toil, as cheerily as when they sailed
over the bar of Bideford, in days which seem to belong to some
antenatal life. Their beards have grown down upon their breasts;
their long hair is knotted on their heads, like women's, to keep
off the burning sunshine; their leggings are of the skin of the
delicate Guazu-puti deer; their shirts are patched with Indian
cotton web; the spoils of jaguar, puma, and ape hang from their
shoulders. Their ammunition is long since spent, their muskets,
spoilt by the perpetual vapor-bath of the steaming woods, are left
behind as useless in a cave by some cataract of the Orinoco: but
their swords are bright and terrible as ever; and they carry bows
of a strength which no Indian arm can bend, and arrows pointed with
the remnants of their armor; many of them, too, are armed with the
pocuna or blowgun of the Indians--more deadly, because more silent,
than the firearms which they have left behind them. So they have
wandered, and so they will wander still, the lords of the forest
and its beasts; terrible to all hostile Indians, but kindly, just,
and generous to all who will deal faithfully with them; and many a
smooth-chinned Carib and Ature, Solimo and Guahiba, recounts with
wonder and admiration the righteousness of the bearded heroes, who
proclaimed themselves the deadly foes of the faithless and
murderous Spaniard, and spoke to them of the great and good queen
beyond the seas, who would send her warriors to deliver and avenge
the oppressed Indian.
The men are sleeping among the trees, some on the ground, and some
in grass-hammocks slung between the stems. All is silent, save the
heavy plunge of the tapir in the river, as he tears up the water-
weeds for his night's repast. Sometimes, indeed, the jaguar, as he
climbs from one tree-top to another after his prey, wakens the
monkeys clustered on the boughs, and they again arouse the birds,
and ten minutes of unearthly roars, howls, shrieks, and cacklings
make the forest ring as if all pandemonium had broke loose; but
that soon dies away again; and, even while it lasts, it is too
common a matter to awaken the sleepers, much less to interrupt the
council of war which is going on beside the watch-fire, between the
three adventurers and the faithful Yeo. A hundred times have they
held such a council, and in vain; and, for aught they know, this
one will be as fruitless as those which have gone before it.
Nevertheless, it is a more solemn one than usual; for the two years
during which they had agreed to search for Manoa are long past, and
some new place must be determined on, unless they intend to spend
the rest of their lives in that green wilderness.
"Well," says Will Cary, taking his cigar out of his mouth, "at
least we have got something out of those last Indians. It is a
comfort to have a puff at tobacco once more, after three weeks'
"For me," said Jack Brimblecombe, "Heaven forgive me! but when I
get the magical leaf between my teeth again, I feel tempted to sit
as still as a chimney, and smoke till my dying day, without
stirring hand or foot."
"Then I shall forbid you tobacco, Master Parson," said Amyas; "for
we must be up and away again to-morrow. We have been idling here
three mortal days, and nothing done."
"Shall we ever do anything? I think the gold of Manoa is like the
gold which lies where the rainbow touches the ground, always a
field beyond you."
Amyas was silent awhile, and so were the rest. There was no
denying that their hopes were all but gone. In the immense circuit
which they had made, they had met with nothing but disappointment.
"There is but one more chance," said he at length, "and that is,
the mountains to the east of the Orinoco, where we failed the first
time. The Incas may have moved on to them when they escaped."
"Why not?" said Cary; "they would so put all the forests, beside
the Llanos and half-a-dozen great rivers, between them and those
dogs of Spaniards."
"Shall we try it once more?" said Amyas. "This river ought to run
into the Orinoco; and once there, we are again at the very foot of
the mountains. What say you, Yeo?"
"I cannot but mind, your worship, that when we came up the Orinoco,
the Indians told us terrible stories of those mountains, how far
they stretched, and how difficult they were to cross, by reason of
the cliffs aloft, and the thick forests in the valleys. And have
we not lost five good men there already?"
"What care we? No forests can be thicker than those we have bored
through already; why, if one had had but a tail, like a monkey, for
an extra warp, one might have gone a hundred miles on end along the
tree-tops, and found it far pleasanter walking than tripping in
withes, and being eaten up with creeping things, from morn till
"But remember, too," said Jack, "how they told us to beware of the
"What, Jack, afraid of a parcel of women?"
"Why not?" said Jack, "I wouldn't run from a man, as you know; but
a woman--it's not natural, like. They must be witches or devils.
See how the Caribs feared them. And there were men there without
necks, and with their eyes in their breasts, they said. Now how
could a Christian tackle such customers as them?"
"He couldn't cut off their heads, that's certain; but, I suppose, a
poke in the ribs will do as much for them as for their neighbors."
"Well," said Jack, "if I fight, let me fight honest flesh and
blood, that's all, and none of these outlandish monsters. How do
you know but that they are invulnerable by art-magic?"
"How do you know that they are? And as for the Amazons," said
Cary, "woman's woman, all the world over. I'll bet that you may
wheedle them round with a compliment or two, just as if they were
so many burghers' wives. Pity I have not a court-suit and a
Spanish hat. I would have taken an orange in one hand and a
handkerchief in the other, gone all alone to them as ambassador,
and been in a week as great with Queen Blackfacealinda as ever
Raleigh is at Whitehall."
"Gentlemen!" said Yeo, "where you go, I go; and not only I, but
every man of us, I doubt not; but we have lost now half our
company, and spent our ammunition, so we are no better men, were it
not for our swords, than these naked heathens round us. Now it
was, as you all know, by the wonder and noise of their ordnance
(let alone their horses, which is a break-neck beast I put no faith
in) that both Cortez and Pizarro, those imps of Satan, made their
golden conquests, with which if we could have astounded the people
"Having first found the said people," laughed Amyas. "It is like
the old fable. Every craftsman thinks his own trade the one pillar
of the commonweal."
"Well! your worship," quoth Yeo, "it may be that being a gunner I
overprize guns. But it don't need slate and pencil to do this sum--
Are forty men without shot as good as eighty with?"
"Thou art right, old fellow, right enough, and I was only jesting
for very sorrow, and must needs laugh about it lest I weep about
it. Our chance is over, I believe, though I dare not confess as
much to the men."
"Sir," said Yeo, "I have a feeling on me that the Lord's hand is
against us in this matter. Whether He means to keep this wealth
for worthier men than us, or whether it is His will to hide this
great city in the secret place of His presence from the strife of
tongues, and so to spare them from sinful man's covetousness, and
England from that sin and luxury which I have seen gold beget among
the Spaniards, I know not, sir; for who knoweth the counsels of the
Lord? But I have long had a voice within which saith, 'Salvation
Yeo, thou shalt never behold the Golden City which is on earth,
where heathens worship sun and moon and the hosts of heaven; be
content, therefore, to see that Golden City which is above, where
is neither sun nor moon, but the Lord God and the Lamb are the
There was a simple majesty about old Yeo when he broke forth in
utterances like these, which made his comrades, and even Amyas and
Cary, look on him as Mussulmans look on madmen, as possessed of
mysterious knowledge and flashes of inspiration; and Brimblecombe,
whose pious soul looked up to the old hero with a reverence which
had overcome all his Churchman's prejudices against Anabaptists,
"Amen! amen! my masters all: and it has been on my mind, too, this
long time, that there is a providence against our going east; for
see how this two years past, whenever we have pushed eastward, we
have fallen into trouble, and lost good men; and whenever we went
Westward-ho, we have prospered; and do prosper to this day."
"And what is more, gentlemen," said Yeo, if, as Scripture says,
dreams are from the Lord, I verily believe mine last night came
from Him; for as I lay by the fire, sirs, I heard my little maid's
voice calling of me, as plain as ever I heard in my life; and the
very same words, sirs, which she learned from me and my good
comrade William Penberthy to say, 'Westward-ho! jolly mariners
all!' a bit of an ungodly song, my masters, which we sang in our
wild days; but she stood and called it as plain as ever mortal ears
heard, and called again till I answered, 'Coming! my maid, coming!'
and after that the dear chuck called no more--God grant I find her
yet!--and so I woke."
Cary had long since given up laughing at Yeo about the "little
maid;" and Amyas answered,--
"So let it be, Yeo, if the rest agree: but what shall we do to the
"Do?" said Cary; "there's plenty to do; for there's plenty of gold,
and plenty of Spaniards, too, they say, on the other side of these
mountains: so that our swords will not rust for lack of adventures,
my gay knights-errant all."
So they chatted on; and before night was half through a plan was
matured, desperate enough--but what cared those brave hearts for
that? They would cross the Cordillera to Santa Fe de Bogota, of
the wealth whereof both Yeo and Amyas had often heard in the
Pacific: try to seize either the town or some convoy of gold going
from it; make for the nearest river (there was said to be a large
one which ran northward thence), build canoes, and try to reach the
Northern Sea once more; and then, if Heaven prospered them, they
might seize a Spanish ship, and make their way home to England,
not, indeed, with the wealth of Manoa, but with a fair booty of
Spanish gold. This was their new dream. It was a wild one: but
hardly more wild than the one which Drake had fulfilled, and not as
wild as the one which Oxenham might have fulfilled, but for his own
Amyas sat watching late that night, sad of heart. To give up the
cherished dream of years was hard; to face his mother, harder
still: but it must be done, for the men's sake. So the new plan
was proposed next day, and accepted joyfully. They would go up to
the mountains and rest awhile; if possible, bring up the wounded
whom they had left behind; and then, try a new venture, with new
hopes, perhaps new dangers; they were inured to the latter.
They started next morning cheerfully enough, and for three hours or
more paddled easily up the glassy and windless reaches, between two
green flower-bespangled walls of forest, gay with innumerable birds
and insects; while down from the branches which overhung the stream
long trailers hung to the water's edge, and seemed admiring in the
clear mirror the images of their own gorgeous flowers. River,
trees, flowers, birds, insects,--it was all a fairy-land: but it
was a colossal one; and yet the voyagers took little note of it.
It was now to them an everyday occurrence, to see trees full two
hundred feet high one mass of yellow or purple blossom to the
highest twigs, and every branch and stem one hanging garden of
crimson and orange orchids or vanillas. Common to them were all
the fantastic and enormous shapes with which Nature bedecks her
robes beneath the fierce suns and fattening rains of the tropic
forest. Common were forms and colors of bird, and fish, and
butterfly, more strange and bright than ever opium-eater dreamed.
The long processions of monkeys, who kept pace with them along the
tree-tops, and proclaimed their wonder in every imaginable whistle,
and grunt, and howl, had ceased to move their laughter, as much as
the roar of the jaguar and the rustle of the boa had ceased to move
their fear; and when a brilliant green and rose-colored fish, flat-
bodied like a bream, flab-finned like a salmon, and saw-toothed
like a shark, leapt clean on board of the canoe to escape the rush
of the huge alligator (whose loathsome snout, ere he could stop,
actually rattled against the canoe within a foot of Jack
Brimblecombe's hand), Jack, instead of turning pale, as he had done
at the sharks upon a certain memorable occasion, coolly picked up
the fish, and said, "He's four pound weight! If you can catch
'pirai' for us like that, old fellow, just keep in our wake, and
we'll give you the cleanings for wages."
Yes. The mind of man is not so "infinite," in the vulgar sense of
that word, as people fancy; and however greedy the appetite for
wonder may be, while it remains unsatisfied in everyday European
life, it is as easily satiated as any other appetite, and then
leaves the senses of its possessor as dull as those of a city
gourmand after a lord mayor's feast. Only the highest minds--our
Humboldts, and Bonplands, and Schomburgks (and they only when
quickened to an almost unhealthy activity by civilization)--can go
on long appreciating where Nature is insatiable, imperious,
maddening, in her demands on our admiration. The very power of
observing wears out under the rush of ever new objects; and the
dizzy spectator is fain at last to shut the eyes of his soul, and
take refuge (as West Indian Spaniards do) in tobacco and stupidity.
The man, too, who has not only eyes but utterance,--what shall he
do where all words fail him? Superlatives are but inarticulate,
after all, and give no pictures even of size any more than do
numbers of feet and yards: and yet what else can we do, but heap
superlative on superlative, and cry, "Wonderful, wonderful!" and
after that, "wonderful, past all whooping"? What Humboldt's self
cannot paint, we will not try to daub. The voyagers were in a
South American forest, readers. Fill up the meaning of those
words, each as your knowledge enables you, for I cannot do it for
Certainly those adventurers could not. The absence of any attempt
at word-painting, even of admiration at the glorious things which
they saw, is most remarkable in all early voyagers, both Spanish
and English. The only two exceptions which I recollect are
Columbus--(but then all was new, and he was bound to tell what he
had seen)--and Raleigh; the two most gifted men, perhaps, with the
exception of Humboldt, who ever set foot in tropical America; but
even they dare nothing but a few feeble hints in passing. Their
souls had been dazzled and stunned by a great glory. Coming out of
our European Nature into that tropic one, they had felt like
Plato's men, bred in the twilight cavern, and then suddenly turned
round to the broad blaze of day; they had seen things awful and
unspeakable: why talk of them, except to say with the Turks, "God
So it was with these men. Among the higher-hearted of them, the
grandeur and the glory around had attuned their spirits to itself,
and kept up in them a lofty, heroical, reverent frame of mind; but
they knew as little about the trees and animals in an "artistic" or
"critical" point of view, as in a scientific one. This tree the
Indians called one unpronounceable name, and it made good bows;
that, some other name, and it made good canoes; of that, you could
eat the fruit; that produced the caoutchouc gum, useful for a
hundred matters; that was what the Indians (and they likewise) used
to poison their arrows with; from the ashes of those palm-nuts you
could make good salt; that tree, again, was full of good milk if
you bored the stem: they drank it, and gave God thanks, and were
not astonished. God was great: but that they had discovered long
before they came into the tropics. Noble old child-hearted heroes,
with just romance and superstition enough about them to keep them
from that prurient hysterical wonder and enthusiasm, which is
simply, one often fears, a product of our scepticism! We do not
trust enough in God, we do not really believe His power enough, to
be ready, as they were, as every one ought to be on a God-made
earth, for anything and everything being possible; and then, when a
wonder is discovered, we go into ecstasies and shrieks over it, and
take to ourselves credit for being susceptible of so lofty a
feeling, true index, forsooth, of a refined and cultivated mind.
They paddled onward hour after hour, sheltering themselves as best
they could under the shadow of the southern bank, while on their
right hand the full sun-glare lay upon the enormous wall of
mimosas, figs, and laurels, which formed the northern forest,
broken by the slender shafts of bamboo tufts, and decked with a
thousand gaudy parasites; bank upon bank of gorgeous bloom piled
upward to the sky, till where its outline cut the blue, flowers and
leaves, too lofty to be distinguished by the eye, formed a broken
rainbow of all hues quivering in the ascending streams of azure
mist, until they seemed to melt and mingle with the very heavens.
And as the sun rose higher and higher, a great stillness fell upon
the forest. The jaguars and the monkeys had hidden themselves in
the darkest depths of the woods. The birds' notes died out one by
one; the very butterflies ceased their flitting over the tree-tops,
and slept with outspread wings upon the glossy leaves,
undistinguishable from the flowers around them. Now and then a
colibri whirred downward toward the water, hummed for a moment
around some pendent flower, and then the living gem was lost in the
deep blackness of the inner wood, among tree-trunks as huge and
dark as the pillars of some Hindoo shrine; or a parrot swung and
screamed at them from an overhanging bough; or a thirsty monkey
slid lazily down a liana to the surface of the stream, dipped up
the water in his tiny hand, and started chattering back, as his
eyes met those of some foul alligator peering upward through the
clear depths below. In shaded nooks beneath the boughs, the
capybaras, rabbits as large as sheep, went paddling sleepily round
and round, thrusting up their unwieldy heads among the blooms of
the blue water-lilies; while black and purple water-hens ran up and
down upon the rafts of floating leaves. The shining snout of a
freshwater dolphin rose slowly to the surface; a jet of spray
whirred up; a rainbow hung upon it for a moment; and the black
snout sank lazily again. Here and there, too, upon some shallow
pebbly shore, scarlet flamingoes stood dreaming knee-deep, on one
leg; crested cranes pranced up and down, admiring their own finery;
and ibises and egrets dipped their bills under water in search of
prey: but before noon even those had slipped away, and there
reigned a stillness which might be heard--such a stillness (to
compare small things with great) as broods beneath the rich shadows
of Amyas's own Devon woods, or among the lonely sweeps of Exmoor,
when the heather is in flower--a stillness in which, as Humboldt
says, "If beyond the silence we listen for the faintest undertones,
we detect a stifled, continuous hum of insects, which crowd the air
close to the earth; a confused swarming murmur which hangs round
every bush, in the cracked bark of trees, in the soil undermined by
lizards, millepedes, and bees; a voice proclaiming to us that all
Nature breathes, that under a thousand different forms life swarms
in the gaping and dusty earth, as much as in the bosom of the
waters, and the air which breathes around."
At last a soft and distant murmur, increasing gradually to a heavy
roar, announced that they were nearing some cataract; till turning
a point, where the deep alluvial soil rose into a low cliff fringed
with delicate ferns, they came full in sight of a scene at which
all paused: not with astonishment, but with something very like
"Rapids again!" grumbled one. "I thought we had had enough of them
on the Orinoco."
"We shall have to get out, and draw the canoes overland, I suppose.
Three hours will be lost, and in the very hottest of the day, too."
"There's worse behind; don't you see the spray behind the palms?"
"Stop grumbling, my masters, and don't cry out before you are hurt.
Paddle right up to the largest of those islands, and let us look
In front of them was a snow-white bar of raging foam, some ten feet
high, along which were ranged three or four islands of black rock.
Each was crested with a knot of lofty palms, whose green tops stood
out clear against the bright sky, while the lower half of their
stems loomed hazy through a luminous veil of rainbowed mist. The
banks right and left of the fall were so densely fringed with a low
hedge of shrubs, that landing seemed all but impossible; and their
Indian guide, suddenly looking round him and whispering, bade them
beware of savages; and pointed to a canoe which lay swinging in the
eddies under the largest island, moored apparently to the root of
"Silence all!" cried Amyas, "and paddle up thither and seize the
canoe. If there be an Indian on the island, we will have speech of
him: but mind and treat him friendly; and on your lives, neither
strike nor shoot, even if he offers to fight."
So, choosing a line of smooth backwater just in the wake of the
island, they drove their canoes up by main force, and fastened them
safely by the side of the Indian's, while Amyas, always the
foremost, sprang boldly on shore, whispering to the Indian boy to
Once on the island, Amyas felt sure enough, that if its wild tenant
had not seen them approach, he certainly had not heard them, so
deafening was the noise which filled his brain, and seemed to make
the very leaves upon the bushes quiver, and the solid stone beneath
his feet to reel and ring. For two hundred yards and more above
the fall nothing met his eye but one white waste of raging foam,
with here and there a transverse dyke of rock, which hurled columns
of spray and surges of beaded water high into the air,--strangely
contrasting with the still and silent cliffs of green leaves which
walled the river right and left, and more strangely still with the
knots of enormous palms upon the islets, which reared their
polished shafts a hundred feet into the air, straight and upright
as masts, while their broad plumes and golden-clustered fruit slept
in the sunshine far aloft, the image of the stateliest repose amid
the wildest wrath of Nature.
He looked round anxiously for the expected Indian; but he was
nowhere to be seen; and, in the meanwhile, as he stept cautiously
along the island, which was some fifty yards in length and breadth,
his senses, accustomed as they were to such sights, could not help
dwelling on the exquisite beauty of the scene; on the garden of gay
flowers, of every imaginable form and hue, which fringed every
boulder at his feet, peeping out amid delicate fern-fans and
luxuriant cushions of moss; on the chequered shade of the palms,
and the cool air, which wafted down from the cataracts above the
scents of a thousand flowers. Gradually his ear became accustomed
to the roar, and, above its mighty undertone, he could hear the
whisper of the wind among the shrubs, and the hum of myriad
insects; while the rock manakin, with its saffron plumage, flitted
before him from stone to stone, calling cheerily, and seeming to
lead him on. Suddenly, scrambling over the rocky flower-beds to