How the Admiral John Hawkins Testified Against Croakers

“Oh, where be these gay Spaniards,
   Which make so great a boast O?
Oh, they shall eat the gray-goose feather,
   And we shall eat the roast O!”
   —Cornish Song.

What if the spectators who last summer gazed with just pride upon the noble port of Plymouth, its vast breakwater spanning the Sound, its arsenals and docks, its two estuaries filled with gallant ships, and watched the great screw-liners turning within their own length by force invisible, or threading the crowded fleets with the ease of the tiniest boat,—what if, by some magic turn, the nineteenth century, and all the magnificence of its wealth and science, had vanished—as it may vanish hereafter—and they had found themselves thrown back three hundred years into the pleasant summer days of 1588?

Mount Edgecombe is still there, beautiful as ever: but where are the docks, and where is Devonport? No vast dry-dock roofs rise at the water’s edge. Drake’s island carries but a paltry battery, just raised by the man whose name it bears; Mount Wise is a lone gentleman’s house among fields; the citadel is a pop- gun fort, which a third-class steamer would shell into rubble for an afternoon’s amusement. And the shipping, where are they? The floating castles of the Hamoaze have dwindled to a few crawling lime- hoys; and the Catwater is packed, not as now, with merchant craft, but with the ships who will to-morrow begin the greatest sea-fight which the world has ever seen.

There they lie, a paltry squadron enough in modern eyes; the largest of them not equal in size to a six- and-thirty-gun frigate, carrying less weight of metal than one of our new gun-boats, and able to employ even that at not more than a quarter of our modern range. Would our modern spectators, just come down by rail for a few hours, to see the cavalry embark, and return tomorrow in time for dinner, have looked down upon that petty port, and petty fleet, with a contemptuous smile, and begun some flippant speech about the progress of intellect, and the triumphs of science, and our benighted ancestors? They would have done so, doubt it not, if they belonged to the many who gaze on those very triumphs as on a raree-show to feed their silly wonder, or use and enjoy them without thankfulness or understanding, as the ox eats the clover thrust into his rack, without knowing or caring how it grew. But if any of them were of the class by whom those very triumphs have been achieved; the thinkers and the workers, who, instead of entering lazily into other men’s labors, as the mob does, labor themselves; who know by hard experience the struggles, the self-restraints, the disappointments, the slow and staggering steps, by which the discoverer reaches to his prize; then the smile of those men would not have been one of pity, but rather of filial love. For they would have seen in those outwardly paltry armaments the potential germ of that mightier one which now loads the Black Sea waves; they would have been aware, that to produce it, with such materials and knowledge as then existed, demanded an intellect, an energy, a spirit of progress and invention, equal, if not superior, to those of which we now so loudly boast.

But if, again, he had been a student of men rather than of machinery, he would have found few nobler companies on whom to exercise his discernment, than he might have seen in the little terrace bowling- green behind the Pelican Inn, on the afternoon of the nineteenth of July. Chatting in groups, or lounging over the low wall which commanded a view of the Sound and the shipping far below, were gathered almost every notable man of the Plymouth fleet, the whole posse comitatus of “England’s forgotten worthies.” The Armada has been scattered by a storm. Lord Howard has been out to look for it, as far as the Spanish coast; but the wind has shifted to the south, and fearing lest the Dons should pass him, he has returned to Plymouth, uncertain whether the Armada will come after all or not. Slip on for a while, like Prince Hal, the drawer’s apron; come in through the rose-clad door which opens from the tavern, with a tray of long- necked Dutch glasses, and a silver tankard of wine, and look round you at the gallant captains, who are waiting for the Spanish Armada, as lions in their lair might wait for the passing herd of deer.

See those five talking earnestly, in the centre of a ring, which longs to overhear, and yet is too respectful to approach close. Those soft long eyes and pointed chin you recognize already; they are Walter Raleigh’s. The fair young man in the flame-colored doublet, whose arm is round Raleigh’s neck, is Lord Sheffield; opposite them stands, by the side of Sir Richard Grenville, a man as stately even as he, Lord Sheffield’s uncle, the Lord Charles Howard of Effingham, lord high admiral of England; next to him is his son-in-law, Sir Robert Southwell, captain of the Elizabeth Jonas: but who is that short, sturdy, plainly dressed man,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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