From California Drake sailed to the Philippines; and then to the Moluccas, where the Portuguese had, if such a thing were possible, outdone even the Spaniards in their fiendish dealings with the natives. Lopez de Mosquito—viler than his pestilential name — had murdered the Sultan, who was then his guest, chopped up the body, and thrown it into the sea. Baber, the Sultan's son, had driven out the Portuguese from the island of Ternate and was preparing to do likewise from the island of Tidore, when Drake arrived. Baber then offered Drake, for Queen Elizabeth, the complete monopoly of the trade in spices if only Drake would use the Golden Hind as the flagship against the Portuguese. Drake's reception was full of Oriental state; and Sultan Baber was so entranced by Drake's musicians that he sat all afternoon among them in a boat towed by the Golden Hind. But it was too great a risk to take a hand in this new war with only fifty-six men left. So Drake traded for all the spices he could stow away and concluded a sort of understanding which formed the sheet anchor of English diplomacy in Eastern seas for another century to come. Elizabeth was so delighted with this result that she gave Drake a cup (still at the family seat of Nutwell Court in Devonshire) engraved with a picture of his reception by the Sultan Baber of Ternate.
Leaving Ternate the Golden Hind beat to and fro among the tortuous and only half-known channels of the Archipelago till the 9th of January, 1580, when she bore away before a roaring trade wind with all sail set and, so far as Drake could tell, a good clear course for home. But suddenly, without a moment's warning, there was a most terrific shock. The gallant ship reared like a stricken charger, plunged forward, grinding her trembling hull against the rocks, and then lay pounding out her life upon a reef. Drake and his men at once took in half the straining sails; then knelt in prayer; then rose to see what could be done by earthly means. To their dismay there was no holding ground on which to get an anchor fast and warp the vessel off. The lead could find no bottom anywhere aft. All night long the Golden Hind remained fast caught in this insidious death-trap. At dawn Parson Fletcher preached a sermon and administered the Blessed Sacrament. Then Drake ordered ten tons overboard — cannon, cloves, and provisions. The tide was now low and she sewed seven feet, her draught being thirteen and the depth of water only six. Still she kept an even keel as the reef was to leeward and she had just sail enough to hold her up. But at high tide in the afternoon there was a lull and she began to heel over towards the unfathomable depths. Just then, however, a quiver ran through her from stem to stern; an extra sail that Drake had ordered up caught what little wind there was; and, with the last throb of the rising tide, she shook herself free and took the water as quietly as if her hull was being launched. There were perils enough to follow: dangers of navigation, the arrival of a Portuguese fleet that was only just eluded, and all the ordinary risks of travel in times when what might be called the official guide to voyagers opened with the ominous advice, First make thy Will. But the greatest had now been safely passed.
Meanwhile all sorts of rumors were rife in Spain, New Spain, and England. Drake had been hanged. That rumor came from the hanging of John Oxenham at Lima. The Golden Hind had foundered. That tale was what Winter, captain of the Elizabeth, was not altogether unwilling should be thought after his own failure to face another great antarctic storm. He had returned in 1578. News from Peru and Mexico came home in 1579; but no Drake. So, as 1580 wore on, his friends began to despair, the Spaniards and Portuguese rejoiced, while Burleigh, with all who found Drake an inconvenience in their diplomatic way, began to hope that perhaps the sea had smoothed things over. In August the London merchants were thrown into consternation by the report of Drake's incredible captures; for their own merchant fleet was just then off for Spain. They waited on the Council, who soothed them with the assurance that Drake's voyage was a purely private venture so far as prizes were concerned. With this diplomatic quibble they were forced to be content.
But worse was soon to follow. The king of Portugal died. Philip's army marched on Lisbon immediately, and all the Portuguese possessions were added to the already overgrown empire of Spain. Worse still, this annexation gave Philip what he wanted in the way of ships; for Portugal had more than Spain. The Great Armada was now expected to be formed against England, unless Elizabeth's miraculous diplomacy could once more get her clear of the fast-entangling coils. To add to the general confusion, this was also the year in which the Pope sent his picked Jesuits to England, and in which Eliza-beth was carrying on her last great international flirtation with ugly, dissipated Francis of Anjou, brother to the king of France.
Into this imbroglio sailed the Golden Hind with ballast of silver and cargo of gold. 'Is Her Majesty alive and well?' said Drake to the first sail outside of Plymouth Sound. 'Ay, ay, she is, my Master,' answered the skipper of a fishing smack, 'but there's a deal o' sickness here in Plymouth'; on which Drake, ready for any excuse to stay afloat, came to anchor in the harbor. His wife, pretty Mary Newman from the banks of Tavy, took boat to see him, as did the Mayor, whose business was to warn him to keep quiet till his course was clear. So Drake wrote off to the Queen and all the Councillors who were on his side. The answer from the Councillors was not encouraging; so he warped out quietly and anchored again behind Drake's Island in the Sound. But presently the Queen's own message came, commanding him to an audience at which, she said, she would be pleased to view some of the curiosities he had brought from foreign parts. Straight on that hint he started up to town with spices, diamonds, pearls, and gold enough to win any woman's pardon and consent.
The audience lasted six hours. Meanwhile the Council sat without any of Drake's supporters and ordered all the treasure to be impounded in the Tower. But Leicester, Walsingham, and Hat-ton, all members of Drake's syndicate, refused to sign; while Elizabeth herself, the managing director, suspended the order till her further pleasure should be known. The Spanish ambassador 'did burn with passion against Drake.' The Council was distractingly divided. The London merchants trembled for their fleet. But Elizabeth was determined that the blow to Philip should hurt him as much as it could without producing an immediate war; while down among Drake's own West-Countrymen 'the case was clear in sea divinitie,' as similar cases had often been before. Tremayne, a Devonshire magistrate and friend of the syndicate, could hardly find words to express his contentment with Drake, whom he called 'a man of great government, and that by the rules of God and His Book.'
Elizabeth decided to stand by Drake. She claimed, what was true, that he had injured no actual place or person of the King of Spain's, nothing but property afloat, appropriate for reprisals. All England knew the story of Ulua and approved of reprisals in accordance with the spirit of the age. And the Queen had a special grievance about Ireland, where the Spaniards were entrenched in Smerwick, thus adding to the confusion of a rebellion that never quite died down a.t any time. Philip explained that the Smerwick Spaniards were there as private volunteers. Elizabeth answered that Drake was just the same. The English tide, at all events, was turning in his favor. The indefatigable Stowe, chronicler of London, records that 'the people generally applauded his wonderful long adventures and rich prizes. His name and fame became admirable in all places, the people swarming daily in the streets to behold him, vowing hatred to all that misliked him.'
The Golden Hind had been brought round to London, where she was the greatest attraction of the day. Finally, on the 4th of April, 1581, Elizabeth went on board in state, to a banquet 'finer than has ever been seen in England since King Henry VIII,' said the furious Spanish ambassador in his report to Philip. But this was not her chief offence in Spanish eyes. For here, surrounded by her court, and in the presence of an enormous multitude of her enthusiastic subjects, she openly defied the King of Spain. 'He hath demanded Drake's head of me, ' she laughed aloud, 'and here I have a gilded sword to strike it off.' With that she bade Drake kneel. Then, handing the sword to Marchaumont, the special envoy of her French suitor, Francis of Anjou. she ordered him to give the accolade. This done, she pronounced the formula of immemorial fame: I bid thee rise, Sir Francis Drake!