The next morning finds them off Torbay; and Amyas is hailed by a pinnace, bringing a letter from Drake, which (saving the spelling, which was somewhat arbitrary, like most men’s in those days) ran somewhat thus:—

“DEAR LAD,—I have been wool-gathering all night after five great hulks, which the Pixies transfigured overnight into galleons, and this morning again into German merchantmen. I let them go with my blessing; and coming back, fell in (God be thanked!) with Valdez’ great galleon; and in it good booty, which the Dons his fellows had left behind, like faithful and valiant comrades, and the Lord Howard had let slip past him, thinking her deserted by her crew. I have sent to Dartmouth a sight of noblemen and gentlemen, maybe a half-hundred; and Valdez himself, who when I sent my pinnace aboard must needs stand on his punctilios, and propound conditions. I answered him, I had no time to tell with him; if he would needs die, then I was the very man for him; if he would live, then, buena querra. He sends again, boasting that he was Don Pedro Valdez, and that it stood not with his honor, and that of the Dons in his company. I replied, that for my part, I was Francis Drake, and my matches burning. Whereon he finds in my name salve for the wounds of his own, and comes aboard, kissing my fist, with Spanish lies of holding himself fortunate that he had fallen into the hands of fortunate Drake, and much more, which he might have kept to cool his porridge. But I have much news from him (for he is a leaky tub); and among others, this, that your Don Guzman is aboard of the Sta. Catharina, commandant of her soldiery, and has his arms flying at her sprit, beside Sta. Catharina at the poop, which is a maiden with a wheel, and is a lofty built ship of 3 tier of ordnance, from which God preserve you, and send you like luck with.

“Your deare Friend and Admirall,
F. Drake”.

“She sails in this squadron of Recalde. The Armada was minded to smoke us out of Plymouth; and God’s grace it was they tried not: but their orders from home are too strait, and so the slaves fight like a bull in a tether, no farther than their rope, finding thus the devil a hard master, as do most in the end. They cannot compass our quick handling and tacking, and take us for very witches. So far so good, and better to come. You and I know the length of their foot of old. Time and light will kill any hare, and they will find it a long way from Start to Dunkirk.”

“The admiral is in a gracious humor, Leigh, to have vouchsafed you so long a letter.”

St. Catherine! why, that was the galleon we hammered all yesterday!” said Amyas, stamping on the deck.

“Of course it was. Well, we shall find her again, doubt not. That cunning old Drake! how he has contrived to line his own pockets, even though he had to keep the whole fleet waiting for him.”

“He has given the lord high admiral the dor, at all events.”

“Lord Howard is too high-hearted to stop and plunder, Papist though he is, Amyas.”

Amyas answered by a growl, for he worshipped Drake, and was not too just to Papists.

The fleet did not find Lord Howard till nightfall; he and Lord Sheffield had been holding on steadfastly the whole night after the Spanish lanterns, with two ships only. At least there was no doubt now of the loyalty of English Roman Catholics, and indeed, throughout the fight, the Howards showed (as if to wipe out the slurs which had been cast on their loyalty by fanatics) a desperate courage, which might have thrust less prudent men into destruction, but led them only to victory. Soon a large Spaniard drifts by, deserted and partly burnt. Some of the men are for leaving their place to board her; but Amyas stoutly refuses. He has “come out to fight, and not to plunder; so let the nearest ship to her have her luck without grudging.” They pass on, and the men pull long faces when they see the galleon snapped up by their next neighbor, and towed off to Weymouth, where she proves to be the ship of Miguel d’Oquenda, the vice-admiral, which they saw last night, all but blown up by some desperate Netherland gunner, who, being “misused,” was minded to pay off old scores on his tyrants.

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