How They Took the Great Galleon

“When captains courageous, whom death could not daunt,
Did march to the siege of the city of Gaunt,
They muster’d their soldiers by two and by three,
But the foremost in battle was Mary Ambree.
When brave Sir John Major was slain in her sight,
Who was her true lover, her joy and delight,
Because he was murther’d most treacherouslie,
Then vow’d to avenge him fair Mary Ambree.”
   —Old Ballad, A.D. 1584.

One more glance at the golden tropic sea, and the golden tropic evenings, by the shore of New Granada, in the golden Spanish Main.

The bay of Santa Marta is rippling before the land-breeze one sheet of living flame. The mighty forests are sparkling with myriad fireflies. The lazy mist which lounges round the inner hills shines golden in the sunset rays; and, nineteen thousand feet aloft, the mighty peak of Horqueta cleaves the abyss of air, rose-red against the dark-blue vault of heaven. The rosy cone fades to a dull leaden hue; but only for awhile. The stars flash out one by one, and Venus, like another moon, tinges the eastern snows with gold, and sheds across the bay a long yellow line of rippling light. Everywhere is glory and richness. What wonder if the earth in that enchanted land be as rich to her inmost depths as she is upon the surface? The heaven, the hills, the sea, are one sparkling garland of jewels—what wonder if the soil be jewelled also? if every watercourse and bank of earth be spangled with emeralds and rubies, with grains of gold and feathered wreaths of native silver?

So thought, in a poetic mood, the Bishop of Cartagena, as he sat in the state cabin of that great galleon, The City of the True Cross, and looked pensively out of the window towards the shore. The good man was in a state of holy calm. His stout figure rested on one easy-chair, his stout ankles on another, beside a table spread with oranges and limes, guavas and pine-apples, and all the fruits of Ind.

An Indian girl, bedizened with scarfs and gold chains, kept off the flies with a fan of feathers; and by him, in a pail of ice from the Horqueta (the gift of some pious Spanish lady, who had “spent” an Indian or two in bringing down the precious offering), stood more than one flask of virtuous wine of Alicant. But he was not so selfish, good man, as to enjoy either ice or wine alone; Don Pedro, colonel of the soldiers on board, Don Alverez, intendant of his Catholic majesty’s customs at Santa Marta, and Don Paul, captain of mariners in The City of the True Cross, had, by his especial request, come to his assistance that evening, and with two friars, who sat at the lower end of the table, were doing their best to prevent the good man from taking too bitterly to heart the present unsatisfactory state of his cathedral town, which had just been sacked and burnt by an old friend of ours, Sir Francis Drake.

“We have been great sufferers, señors,—ah, great sufferers,” snuffled the bishop, quoting Scripture, after the fashion of the day, glibly enough, but often much too irreverently for me to repeat, so boldly were his texts travestied, and so freely interlarded by grumblings at Tita and the mosquitoes. “Great sufferers, truly; but there shall be a remnant,—ah, a remnant like the shaking of the olive tree and the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.—Ah! Gold? Yes, I trust Our Lady’s mercies are not shut up, nor her arms shortened.—Look, señors!”—and he pointed majestically out of the window. “It looks gold! it smells of gold, as I may say, by a poetical license. Yea, the very waves, as they ripple past us, sing of gold, gold, gold!”

“It is a great privilege,” said the intendant, “to have comfort so gracefully administered at once by a churchman and a scholar.”

“A poet, too,” said Don Pedro. “You have no notion what sweet sonnets—”

“Hush, Don Pedro—hush! If I, a mateless bird, have spent an idle hour in teaching lovers how to sing, why, what of that? I am a churchman, señors; but I am a man and I can feel, señors; I can sympathize; I can palliate; I can excuse. Who knows better than I how much human nature lurks in us fallen sons of Adam? Tita!”

“Um?” said the trembling girl, with a true Indian grunt.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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