Lima, Panama, and Nombre de Dios were in wild commotion at the news; and every sailor and soldier that the Spaniards had was going to and fro, uncertain whether to attack or to defend, and still more distracted as to the most elusive English whereabouts. One good Spanish captain, Don Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, was all for going north, his instinct telling him that Drake would not come back among the angry bees after stealing all the honey. But, by the time the Captain-General of New Spain had made up his mind to take one of the many wrong directions he had been thinking of, Drake was already far on his way north to found New Albion.
Drake's triumph over all difficulties had won the hearts of his men more than ever before, while the capture of the treasure ship had done nothing to loosen the bonds of discipline. Don Francisco de Zarate wrote a very intimate account of his experience as a prisoner on board the Golden Hind. 'The English captain is one of the greatest mariners at sea, alike from his skill and his powers of command. His ship is a very fast sailer and her men are all skilled hands of warlike age and so well trained that they might be old soldiers of the Italian tertias,' the crack corps of the age in Spanish eyes. 'He is served with much plate and has all possible kinds of delicacies and scents, many of which he says the Queen of England gave him. None of the gentlemen sit or cover in his presence without first being ordered to do so. They dine and sup to the music of violins. His galleon carries about thirty guns and a great deal of ammunition.' This was in marked contrast to the common Spanish practice, even on the Atlantic side. The greedy exploiters of New Spain grudged every ton of armament and every well-trained fighting sailor, both on account of the expense and because this form of protection took up room they wished to fill with merchandise- The result was, of course, that they lost more by capture than they gained by evading the regulation about the proper armament. 'His ship is not only of the very latest type but sheathed.' Before copper sheathing was invented some generations later, the Teredo worm used to honeycomb unprotected hulls in the most dangerous way. John Hawkins invented the sheathing used by Drake: a good thick tar-and-hair sheeting clamped on with elm.
Northwest to Coronado, then to Aguatulco, then fifteen hundred miles due west, brought Drake about that distance west-by-south of the modern San Francisco. Here he turned east-north-east and, giving the land a wide berth, went on to perhaps the latitude of Vancouver Island, always looking for the reverse way through America by the fabled Northwest Passage. Either there was the most extraordinary June ever known in California and Oregon, or else the narratives of those on board have all been hopelessly confused, for freezing rain is said to have fallen on the night of June the 3d in the latitude of 42°.
In 48° 'there followed most vile, thick, and stinking fogs' with still more numbing cold. The meat froze when taken off the fire. The wet rigging turned to icicles. Six men could hardly do the work of three. Fresh from the tropics, the crews were unfit for going any farther. A tremendous nor'wester settled the question, anyway; and Drake ran south to 38° 30', where, in what is now Drake's Bay, he came to anchor just north of San Francisco.
Not more than once, if ever at all, and that a generation earlier, had Europeans been in northern California. The Indians took the Englishmen for gods whom they knew not whether to love or fear. Drake with the essential kindliness of most, and the magnetic power of all, great born commanders, soon won the natives' confidence. But their admiration 'as men ravished in their minds' was rather overpowering; for, after 'a kind of most lamentable weeping and crying out,' they came forward with various offerings for the newfound gods, prostrating themselves in humble adoration and tearing their breasts and faces in a wild desire to show the spirit of self-sacrifice. Drake and his men, all Protestants, were horrified at being made what they considered idols. So, kneeling down, they prayed aloud, raising hands and eyes to Heaven, hoping thereby to show the heathen where the true God lived. Drake then read the Bible and all the Englishmen sang Psalms, the Indians, 'observing the end of every pause, with one voice still cried Oh! greatly rejoicing in our exercises.' As this impromptu service ended the Indians gave back all the presents Drake had given them and retired in attitudes of adoration.
In three days more they returned, headed by a Medicine-man, whom the English called the ' mace-bearer.' With the slow and stately measure of a mystic dance this great high priest of heathen rites advanced chanting a sort of litany. Both litany and dance were gradually taken up by tens, by hundreds, and finally by all the thousands of the devotees, who addressed Drake with shouts of Hyoh! and invested him with a headdress of rare plumage and a necklace of quaint beads. It was, in fact, a native coronation without a soul to doubt the divine right of their new-king. Drake's Protestant scruples were quieted by thinking 'to what good end God had brought this to pass, and what honour and profit it might bring to our country in time to come. So, in the name and to the use of her most excellent Majesty, he took the sceptre, crown, and dignity' and proclaimed an English protectorate over the land he called New Albion. He then set up a brass plate commemorating this proclamation, and put an English coin in the middle so that the Indians might see Elizabeth's portrait and armorial device.
The exaltation of the ecstatic devotees continued till the day he left. They crowded in to be cured by the touch of his hand — those were the times in which the sovereign was expected to cure the King's Evil by a touch. They also expected to be cured by inhaling the divine breath of any one among the English gods. The chief narrator adds that the gods who pleased the Indians most, braves and squaws included, 'were commonly the youngest of us,' which shows that the human was not quite forgotten in the all-divine. When the time for sailing came, the devotees were inconsolable. 'They not only in a sudden did lose all mirth, joy, glad countenance, pleasant speeches, agility of body, and all pleasure, but, with sighs and sorrowings, they poured out woefull complayntes and moans with bitter tears, and wringing of their hands, and tormenting of themselves.' The last the English saw of them was the whole devoted tribe assembled on the hill around a sacrificial fire, whence they implored their gods to bring their heaven back to earth.