Amyas stood still steering. His face was grown seven years older in the last night. A terrible set calm was on him. Woe to the man who came across him that day!

“There are three of them, you see, my masters,” said he, as the crew came on deck again. “A big ship forward, and two galleys astern of her. The big ship may keep; she is a race ship, and if we can but recover the wind of her, we will see whether our height is not a match for her length. We must give her the slip, and take the galleys first.”

“I thank the Lord,” said Yeo, “who has given so wise a heart to so young a general; a very David and Daniel, saving his presence, lads; and if any dare not follow him, let him be as the men of Meroz and of Succoth. Amen! Silas Staveley, smite me that boy over the head, the young monkey; why is he not down at the powder-room door?”

And Yeo went about his gunnery, as one who knew how to do it, and had the most terrible mind to do it thoroughly, and the most terrible faith that it was God’s work.

So all fell to; and though there was comparatively little to be done, the ship having been kept as far as could be in fighting order all night, yet there was “clearing of decks, lacing of nettings, making of bulwarks, fitting of waist-cloths, arming of tops, tallowing of pikes, slinging of yards, doubling of sheets and tacks,” enough to satisfy even the pedantical soul of Richard Hawkins himself. Amyas took charge of the poop, Cary of the forecastle, and Yeo, as gunner, of the main-deck, while Drew, as master, settled himself in the waist; and all was ready, and more than ready, before the great ship was within two miles of them.

And now while the mastiffs of England and the bloodhounds of Spain are nearing and nearing over the rolling surges, thirsting for each other’s blood, let us spend a few minutes at least in looking at them both, and considering the causes which in those days enabled the English to face and conquer armaments immensely superior in size and number of ships, and to boast that in the whole Spanish war but one queen’s ship, the Revenge, and (if I recollect right) but one private man-of-war, Sir Richard Hawkins’s Dainty, had ever struck their colors to the enemy.

What was it which enabled Sir Richard Grenville’s Revenge, in his last fearful fight off the Azores, to endure, for twelve hours before she struck, the attack of eight Spanish armadas, of which two (three times her own burden) sank at her side; and after all her masts were gone, and she had been boarded three times without success, to defy to the last the whole fleet of fifty-four sail, which lay around her, waiting for her to sink, “like dogs around the dying forest king”?

What enabled young Richard Hawkins’s Dainty, though half her guns were useless through the carelessness or treachery of the gunner, to maintain for three days a running fight with two Spaniards of equal size with her, double the weight of metal, and ten times the number of men?

What enabled Sir George Cary’s illustrious ship, the Content, to fight, single-handed, from seven in the morning till eleven at night, with four great armadas and two galleys, though her heaviest gun was but one nine-pounder, and for many hours she had but thirteen men fit for service?

What enabled, in the very year of which I write, those two “valiant Turkey Merchantmen of London, the Merchant Royal and the Tobie,” with their three small consorts, to cripple, off Pantellaria in the Mediterranean, the whole fleet of Spanish galleys sent to intercept them, and return triumphant through the Straits of Gibraltar?

And lastly, what in the fight of 1588, whereof more hereafter, enabled the English fleet to capture, destroy, and scatter that Great Armada, with the loss (but not the capture) of one pinnace, and one gentleman of note?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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