But this time things went wrong from the first. A tremendous autumnal storm scattered the ships. Then the first negroes that Hawkins tried to 'snare' proved to be like that other kind of prey of which the sarcastic Frenchman wrote: 'This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.' The 'envenomed arrows' of the negroes worked the mischief. 'There hardly escaped any that had blood drawn of them, but died in strange sort, with their mouths shut some ten days before they died.' Hawkins himself was wounded, but, 'thanks be to God,' escaped the lockjaw. After this the English took sides in a native war and captured '250 persons, men, women, and children,' while their friend the Bang captured '600 prisoners, whereof we hoped to have had our choice. But the negro, in which nation is seldom or never found truth, that night removed his camp and prisoners, so that we were fain to content ourselves with those few we had gotten ourselves.'
However, with 'between 400 and 500 negroes,' Hawkins crossed over from Africa to the West Indies and 'coasted from place to place, making our traffic with the Spaniards as we might, somewhat hardly, because the King had straitly commanded all his governors by no means to suffer any trade to be made with us. Notwithstanding, we had reasonable trade, and courteous entertainment' for a good part of the way. In Rio de la Hacha the Spaniards received the English with a volley that killed a couple of men, whereupon the English smashed in the gates, while the Spaniards retired. But, after this little bit of punctilio, trade went on under cover of night so briskly that two hundred negroes were sold at good prices. From there to Cartagena 'the inhabitants were glad of us and traded willingly,' supply being short and demand extra high.
Then came a real rebuff from the governor of Cartagena;, followed by a terrific storm 'which so beat the Jesus that we cut down all her higher buildings' (deck superstructures). Then the course was shaped for Florida. But a new storm drove the battered flotilla back to 'the port which serveth the city of Mexico, called St. John de Ulua,' the modern Vera Cruz. The historic Vera Cruz was fifteen miles north of this harbor. Here 'thinking us to be the fleet of Spain, the chief officers of the country came aboard us. Which, being deceived of their expectation, were greatly dismayed; but . . . when they saw our demand was nothing but victuals, were recom-forted. I [for it is Hawkins's own story] found in the same port 12 ships which had in them by report £200,000 in gold and silver, all which, being in my possession [i. e., at my mercy] with the King's Island ... I set at liberty.'
What was to be done? Hawkins had a hundred negroes still to sell. But it was four hundred miles to Mexico City and back again; and a new Spanish viceroy was aboard the big Spanish fleet that was daily expected to arrive in this very port. If a permit to sell came back from the capital in time, well and good. If no more than time to replenish stores was allowed, good enough, despite the loss of sales. But what if the Spanish fleet arrived? The 'King's Island' was a low little reef right in the mouth of the harbor, which it all but barred. Moreover, no vessel could live through a northerly gale inside the harbor — the only one on that coast — unless securely moored to the island itself. Consequently whoever held the island commanded the situation altogether.
There was not much time for consultation; for the very next morning 'we saw open of the haven 13 great ships, the fleet of Spain.' It was a terrible predicament. 'Now, said I, I am in two dangers, and forced to receive the one of them. . . . Either I must have kept out the fleet, which, with God's help, I was very well able to do, or else suffer them to enter with their accustomed treason. ... If I had kept them out, then there had been present shipwreck of all that fleet, which amounted in value to six millions, which was in value of our money £1,800,000, which I considered I was not able to answer, fearing the Queen's Majesty's indignation. . . . Thus with myself revolving the doubts, I thought better to abide the jut of the uncertainty than of the certainty.' So, after conditions had been agreed upon and hostages exchanged, the thirteen Spanish ships sailed in. The little island remained in English hands; and the Spaniards were profuse in promises.
But, having secretly made their preparations, the Spaniards, who were in overwhelming numbers, suddenly set upon the English by land and sea. Every Englishman ashore was killed, except a few who got off in a boat to the Jesus. The Jesus and the Minion cut their headfasts, hauled clear by their sternfasts, drove back the boarding parties, and engaged the Spanish fleet at about a hundred yards. Within an hour the Spanish flagship and another were sunk, a third vessel was burning furiously, fore and aft, while every English deck was clear of enemies. But the Spaniards had swarmed on to the island from all sides and were firing into the English hulls at only a few feet from the cannon's mouth. Hawkins was cool as ever. Calling for a tankard of beer he drank to the health of the gunners, who accounted for most of the five hundred and forty men killed on the Spanish side. 'Stand by your ordnance lustily,' he cried, as lie put the tankard down and a round shot sent it flying. 'God hath delivered me,' he added, 'and so will He deliver you from these traitors and villains.'
The masts of the Jesus went by the board and her old, strained timbers'splintered, loosened up, and were stove in under the storm of cannon balls. Hawkins then gave the order to abandon ship after taking out what stores they could and changing her berth so that she would shield the little Minion. But while this desperate manoeuvre was being executed down came two fire-ships. Some of the Minion's crew then lost their heads and made sail so quickly that Hawkins himself was nearly left behind.
The only two English vessels that escaped were the Minion and the Judith. When nothing else was left to do, Hawkins shouted to Drake to lay the Judith aboard the Minion, take in all the men and stores he could, and put to sea. Drake, then only twenty-three, did this with consummate skill. Hawkins followed some time after and anchored just out of range. But Drake had already gained an offing that caused the two little vessels to part company in the night, during which a whole gale from the north sprang up, threatening to put the Judith on a lee shore. Drake therefore fought his way to windward; and, seeing no one when the gale abated, and having barely enough stores to make a friendly land, sailed straight home. Hawkins reported the Judith, without mentioning Drake's name, as 'forsaking' the Minion. But no other witness thought Drake to blame.
Hawkins himself rode out the gale under the lee of a little island, then beat about for two weeks of increasing misery, when 'hides were thought very good meat, and rats, cats, mice, and dogs, parrots and monkeys that were got at great price, none escaped.' The Minion was of three hundred tons; and so was insufferably overcrowded with three hundred men, two hundred English and one hundred negroes. Drake's little Judith, of only fifty tons, could have given no relief, as she was herself overfull. Hawkins asked all the men who preferred to take their chance on land to get round the foremast and all those who wanted to remain afloat to get round the mizzen. About a hundred chose one course and a hundred the other. The landing took place about a hundred and fifty miles south of the Rio Grande. The shore party nearly all died. But three lived to write of their adventures. David Ingram, following Indian trails all round the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic seaboard, came out where St. John, New Brunswick, stands now, was picked up by a passing Frenchman, and so got safely home. Job Hortop and Miles Philips were caught by the Spaniards and sent back to Mexico. Philips escaped to England fourteen years later. But Hortop was sent to Spain, where he served twelve years as a galley-slave and ten as a servant before he contrived to get aboard an English vessel.
The ten Spanish hostages were found safe and sound aboard the Jesus; though, by all the rules of war, Hawkins would have been amply justified in killing them. The English hostages were kept fast prisoners. 'If all the miseries of this sorrowful voyage,' says Hawkins's report, 'should be perfectly written, there should need a painful man with his pen, and as great a time as he had that wrote the lives and deaths of martyrs.'
Thus, in complete disaster, ended that third voyage to New Spain on which so many hopes were set. And with this disastrous end began those twenty years of sea-dog rage which found their satisfaction against the Great Armada.