"By Salsifer!" he said, later on, "I'll have to swear that fighting jack in as a deputy sheriff, and set him to watchin' road agents confined in the jail. Well, goodnight, all. Pete's locked up safe and sound."
An hour later a sober band of grim spectres returned to the jail, overpowered the guard, and, for the second time that night, took out grisly fruit to hang on the lynching tree. There were no pine knots and no attempts at conversation till the leader asked: "Buckeye Pete, have you anything to say before you join your Maker?"
"Ain't no use prayin' for yourself," spoke up another voice. "Better pray for the soul of the man you sent to Purgatory, and for the well-bein' of the other innocent man you tried to destroy."
"It's that fightin' jack, prowlin' 'round."
"Let 'im prowl! Now, then, boys, are you ready? Then pull!" and, as the old judge always told in conclusion, "they say, as the men gave a mighty heave on the rope the donkey ran forward and kicked the barrel from under the doomed man's feet!"
Nearly five years elapsed between Drake's return from his Famous Voyage and the despatch of the formidable armament commemorated in the following pages. During the last of these years the march of events had been remarkably rapid. Gilbert, who had been empowered by Elizabeth, in the year of Frobisher's last expedition, to found colonies in America, had sailed for that purpose to Newfoundland (1583), and had perished at sea on his way homeward. Raleigh, who had succeeded to his half-brother's enterprises, had despatched his exploring expedition to 'Virginia,' under Amadas and Barlow, in 1584, and had followed it up in the next year (1585) by an actual colony. In April Sir Richard Greenville sailed from Plymouth, and at Raleigh's expense established above a hundred colonists on the island of Roanoak. Drake's Great Armada left Plymouth in September of the same year. It marked a turning-point in the relations between the English and Spanish monarchs. Elizabeth, knowing that the suppression of the insurrection in the Netherlands would be followed by an attack upon England, was treating with the insurgents. Philip deemed it prudent to lay an embargo on all her subjects, together with their ships and goods, that might be found in his dominions. Elizabeth at once authorized general reprisals on the ships and goods of Spaniards. A company of adventurers was quickly formed for taking advantage of this permission on a scale commensurate with the national resources. They equipped an armada of twenty-five vessels, manned by 2,300 men, and despatched it under the command of Drake to plunder Spanish America. Frobisher was second in command. Two-thirds of the booty were to belong to the adventurers; the remaining third was to be divided among the men employed in the expedition.
Drake's armament of 1585 was the greatest that had ever crossed the Atlantic. After plundering some vessels at the Vigo river, he sailed for the West Indies by way of the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands, hoisted the English flag over Santiago and burnt the town, crossed the Atlantic in eighteen days, and arrived at Dominica. At daybreak, on New Year's Day, 1586, Drake's soldiers landed in Espanola, a few miles to the west of the capital, and before evening Carlile and Powell had entered the city, which the colonists only saved from destruction by the payment of a heavy ransom. Drake's plan was to do exactly the same at Carthagena and Nombre de Dios, and thence to strike across the isthmus and secure the treasure that lay waiting for transport at Panama. Drake held St. Domingo for a month, and Carthagena for six weeks. He was compelled to forego the further prosecution of his enterprise. A deadly fever, which had attacked the men during the sojourn at Santiago, still continued its ravages. In existing circumstances, even had Nombre de Dios been successfully attacked, the march to Panama was out of the question; and after consultation with the military commanders, Drake resolved on sailing home at once by way of Florida. He brought back with him all the colonists who had been left by Sir Richard Greenville in 'Virginia.' Drake had offered either to furnish them with stores, and to leave them a ship, or to take them home. The former was accepted: but a furious storm which ensued caused them to change their minds. They recognized in it the hand of God, whose will it evidently was that they should no longer be sojourners in the American wilderness; and the first English settlement of 'Virginia' was abandoned accordingly.
Ten years afterwards (1595) Drake was again at the head of a similar expedition. The second command was given to his old associate Hawkins, Frobisher, his Vice-Admiral in 1585, having recently died of the wound received at Crozon. This time Nombre de Dios was taken and burnt, and 750 soldiers set out under Sir Thomas Baskerville to march to Panama: but at the first of the three forts which the Spaniards had by this time constructed, the march had to be abandoned. Drake did not long survive this second failure of his favourite scheme. He was attacked by dysentery a fortnight afterwards, and in a month he died. When he felt the hand of death upon him, he rose, dressed himself, and endeavoured to make a farewell speech to those around him. Exhausted by the effort, he was lifted to his berth, and within an hour breathed his last. Hawkins had died off Puerto Rico six weeks previously.