What Befell at La Guayra

   “Great was the crying, the running and riding,
Which at that season was made in the place;
   The beacons were fired, as need then required,
To save their great treasure they had little space.”
   —Winning of Cales.

The men would gladly have hawked awhile round Margarita and Cubagua for another pearl prize. But Amyas having, as he phrased it, “fleshed his dogs,” was loth to hang about the islands after the alarm had been given. They ran, therefore, south-west across the mouth of that great bay which stretches from the Peninsula of Paria to Cape Codera, leaving on their right hand Tortuga, and on their left the meadow-islands of the Piritoos, two long green lines but a few inches above the tideless sea. Yeo and Drew knew every foot of the way, and had good reason to know it; for they, the first of all English mariners, had tried to trade along this coast with Hawkins. And now, right ahead, sheer out of the sea from base to peak, arose higher and higher the mighty range of the Caracas mountains; beside which all hills which most of the crew had ever seen seemed petty mounds. Frank, of course, knew the Alps; and Amyas the Andes; but Cary’s notions of height were bounded by M’Gillicuddy’s Reeks, and Brimblecombe’s by Exmoor; and the latter, to Cary’s infinite amusement, spent a whole day holding on by the rigging, and staring upwards with his chin higher than his nose, till he got a stiff neck. Soon the sea became rough and chopping, though the breeze was fair and gentle; and ere they were abreast of the Cape, they became aware of that strong eastward current which, during the winter months, so often baffles the mariner who wishes to go to the westward. All night long they struggled through the billows, with the huge wall of Cape Codera a thousand feet above their heads to the left, and beyond it again, bank upon bank of mountain, bathed in the yellow moonlight.

Morning showed them a large ship, which had passed them during the night upon the opposite course, and was now a good ten miles to the eastward. Yeo was for going back and taking her. Of the latter he made a matter of course; and the former was easy enough, for the breeze blowing dead off the land, was a “soldier’s wind, there and back again,” for either ship; but Amyas and Frank were both unwilling.

“Why, Yeo, you said that one day more would bring us to La Guayra.”

“All the more reason, sir, for doing the Lord’s work thoroughly, when He has brought us safely so far on our journey.”

“She can pass well enough, and no loss.”

“Ah, sirs, sirs, she is delivered into your hands, and you will have to give an account of her.”

“My good Yeo,” said Frank, “I trust we shall give good account enough of many a tall Spaniard before we return: but you know surely that La Guayra, and the salvation of one whom we believe dwells there, was our first object in this adventure.”

Yeo shook his head sadly. “Ah, sirs, a lady brought Captain Oxenham to ruin.”

“You do not dare to compare her with this one?” said Frank and Cary, both in a breath.

“God forbid, gentlemen: but no adventure will prosper, unless there is a single eye to the Lord’s work; and that is, as I take it, to cripple the Spaniard, and exalt her majesty the queen. And I had thought that nothing was more dear than that to Captain Leigh’s heart.”

Amyas stood somewhat irresolute. His duty to the queen bade him follow the Spanish vessel: his duty to his vow, to go on to La Guayra. It may seem a far-fetched dilemma. He found it a practical one enough.

However, the counsel of Frank prevailed, and on to La Guayra he went. He half hoped that the Spaniard would see and attack them. However, he went on his way to the eastward; which if he had not done, my story had had a very different ending.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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