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ence in the present state of the Indies and what it was when he first knew it, grew melancholy upon this disappointment, and suddenly, and, I do hope, naturally, died at Puerto Bello.”*
There is an answer to this unjustifiable, not to call it malignant, insinuation. Captain Henry Saville, who was his shipmate and friend, and was present at his death, says, “ Sir Francis Drake died of the fluxe, which had grown upon him eight days before his death, and yielded up his spirit like a Christian to his Creator quietly in his cabin.”+
Sir Francis Drake was a thorough seaman, and possessed the love and confidence of his officers and men; of a sober turn of mind, but lively, quick, and resolute; affable and easy of access to all. On service he was generally strict, and sometimes, when necessity required it, severe. He had a true sense of religion, and was a staunch friend to the reformed Church.
Elizabeth had a high regard for him, and had full confidence in his loyalty, integrity, and valour.
In his person he was low of stature, but well set; had a broad open chest, a round head, his hair of a clear brown, his beard full and comely, his eyes large and clear, of a fair complexion, with a fresh, cheerful, and very engaging countenance. There is an excellent full-length portrait of him in Buckland Abbey. I
* Monson. † Hakluyt. # Stow-Fuller.
If Drake had achieved nothing more than his enterprising voyage round the world, never before attempted by any English navigator, this bold exploit would remain in the annals of his country to the latest posterity that Great Britain and her navy shall be destined to survive an incontestable proof of the courage, capacity, patience, quick-sightedness, and public spirit of this extraordinary man. Yet this naval worthy, the first of the age in which he flourished, has no monument, not even a simple stone, inscribed to his memory.
Drake made two wills; one on leaving Plymouth this last voyage, the other at sea, the day before his death. By the last, his brother Thomas was appointed sole executor; and by both residuary devisee and legatee of real and personal estate. Dame Elizabeth, Drake's relict, brought a suit against the executor in the Prerogative Court, which gave sentence in favour of the latter, and pronounced for the validity of both wills.* His widow, daughter and sole heiress of Sir George Sydenham, married William Courtenay, Esq., of Powderham Castle.
* Doctors' Commons.
This adventurous person was one of the most confidential men on Drake's voyage to the Spanish main in 1572–3, and was employed by him on a variety of services. Among others, the brother of Drake and he were the two persons selected by the Commander to proceed, under his instructions, to break open the King's treasure-house of Nombre de Dios, which was known to contain an immense quantity of gold, silver, and pearls. He had served Drake in the former voyage as a soldier, sailor, and cook, and was so much attached to his master, that when, on this voyage, Drake first saw the South Sea from the Isthmus of Panama, and made a solemn vow that, if it pleased God, he would one day sail upon it, Oxenham was so delighted, that he there and then protested he would be the first on such an occasion to offer him his services ; and so attached was he to Drake that he declared his readiness to go with him on any future voyage, and to any part of the world. Having waited patiently two years, and gaining no intelligence of Drake's intended proceed
ings, he being absent for some time in Ireland, Oxenham's patience was at length exhausted; he talked of nothing but the South Sea, and its vast stores of wealth, and so inflamed the minds of his old companions on the last voyage, that they were ready to a man to volunteer their services. His family was respectable, and a few of his Devonshire friends readily came forward to his assistance, and enabled him to fit out a ship of 140 tons burden, which he manned immediately with seventy seamen, and set sail in the year 1575 for the eastern shore of the Isthmus of Darien, thus anticipating, but not forestalling, nor does it appear injuring, as it might have done, the most splendid and important of all Drake's voyages, which was undertaken two years afterwards.
On his arrival at Porto Bello, Oxenham learned from some Indians that a convoy of muleteers with treasure was expected to come thither across the isthmus from Panama. He accordingly at once made up his mind to march with a company to meet this convoy, leaving the rest to take care of his ship. He took with him only two small guns and some muskets, with six Indians as guides, and proceeded about twelve leagues over the rugged isthmus to a small river that falls into the South Sea near Panama. Here he built a pinnace, and in her dropped down to the Bay of Panama, from whence he crossed over to
the Pearl Islands, about five and twenty leagues from that place, to wait the arrival of the Peru ships, which generally passed close to these islands. Here he lay about ten days without seeing a single person, when a small bark from Quito came in, of which he took possession, and found in her sixty thousand pezzoes, or pieces of gold, or, according to Camden, sixty pounds weight of gold, and a large supply of provisions. Not content with this booty, he staid there in expectation of more, withont sending away his prize, or any of the men; and at the end of six days he took another bark from Lima, in which he found a hundred thousand pezzoes of silver; and now he intended to depart with his prizes, and take them up the river across the isthmus. Unfortunately, however, not satisfied with gold and silver, his avarice prompted him to go to the island where pearls are mostly found; and having collected a small quantity, he set off with his pinnace and his prizes to the mouth of the river, and there, having dismissed the two captured vessels, began the ascent of the river with the pinnace alone.
The delay of fifteen days on the Pearl Island was the cause of all his misfortunes. The negroes of that island, where he got the pearls, set off the very same night that he left them in their canoes for Panama, to give intelligence of what had happened. The governor immediately sent four barks,