'At departing, in cutting the foresail lashings a marvellous misfortune happened to one of the officers in the ship, who by the pulley of the sheet was slain out of hand.' Hawkins "appointed all the masters of his ships an Order for the keeping of good company in this manner: — The small ships to be always ahead and aweather of the Jems, and to speak twice a-day with the Jesus at least. ... If the weather be extreme, that the small ships cannot keep company with the Jesus, then all to keep company with the Solomon. ... If any happen to any misfortune, then to show two lights, and to shoot off a piece of ordnance. If any lose company and come in sight again, to make three yaws [zigzags in their course] and strike the mizzen three times. serve god daily. love one another. preserve your victuals. beware op fire, and keep good company.'
John Sparke, the chronicler of this second voyage, was full of curiosity over every strange sight he met with. He was also blessed with the pen of a ready writer. So we get a story that is more vivacious than Hakluyt's retelling of the first voyage or Hawkins's own account of the third. Sparke saw for the first time in his life negroes, Caribs, Indians, alligators, flying-fish, flamingoes, pelicans, and many other strange sights. Having been told that Florida was full of unicorns he at once concluded that it must also be full of lions; for how could the one kind exist without the other kind to balance it? Sparke was a soldier who never found his sea legs. But his diary, besides its other merits, is particularly interesting as being the first account of America ever written by an English eye-witness.
Hawkins made for Teneriffe in the Canaries, off the west of Africa. There, to everybody's great 'amaze,' the Spaniards 'appeared levelling of bases [small portable cannon] and arquebuses, with divers others, to the number of fourscore, with halberds, pikes, swords, and targets.' But when it was found that Hawkins had been taken for a privateer, and when it is remembered that four hundred privateering vessels — English and Huguenot — had captured seven hundred Spanish prizes during the previous summer of 1563, there was and is less cause for 'amaze.' Once explanations had been made, 'Peter de Ponte gave Master Hawkins as gentle entertainment as if he had been his own brother.' Peter was a trader with a great eye for the main chance.
Sparke was lost in wonder over the famous Arbol Santo tree of Ferro, 'by the dropping whereof the inhabitants and cattle are satisfied with water, for other water they have none on the island.' This is not quite the traveller's tale it appears to be. There are three springs on the island of Teneriffe. But water is scarce, and the Arbol Santo, a sort of gigantic laurel standing alone on a rocky ledge, did actually supply two cisterns, one for men and the other for cattle. The morning mist condensing on the innumerable smooth leaves ran off and was caught in suitable conduits.
In Africa Hawkins took many 'Sapies which do inhabit about Rio Grande [now the Jeba River] which do jag their flesh, both legs, arms, and bodies as workmanlike as a jerkin-maker with us pinketh a jerkin.' It is a nice question whether these Sapies gained or lost by becoming slaves to white men; for they were already slaves to black conquerors who used them as meat with the vegetables they forced them to raise. The Sapies were sleek pacifists who found too late that the warlike Samboses, who inhabited the neighboring desert, were not to be denied.
'In the island of Sambula we found almadies or canoas, which are made of one piece of wood, digged out like a trough, but of a good proportion, being about eight yards long and one in breadth, having a beak-head and a stern very proportion-ably made, and on the outside artificially carved, and painted red and blue.' Neither almadie nor canoa is, of course, an African word. One is Arabic for a cradle (el-mahd); the other, from which we get canoe, is what the natives told Columbus they called their dugouts; and dugout canoes are very like primitive cradles. Thus Sparke was the first man to record in English, from actual experience, the aboriginal craft whose name, both East and West, was suggested to primeval man by the idea of his being literally 'rocked in the cradle of the deep.'
Hawkins did not have it all his own way with the negroes, by whom he once lost seven of his own men killed and twenty-seven wounded. 'But the captain in a singular wise manner carried himself with countenance very cheerful outwardly, although inwardly his heart was broken in pieces for it; done to this end, that the Portugals, being with him, should not presume to resist against him.' After losing five more men, who were eaten by sharks, Hawkins shaped his course westward with a good cargo of negroes and 'other merchandises.' 'Contrary winds and some tornados happened to us very ill. But the Almighty God, who never suffereth His elect to perish, sent us the ordinary Breeze, which never left us till we came to an island of the Cannibals' (Caribs of Dominica), who, by the by, had just eaten a shipload of Spaniards.
Hawkins found the Spanish officials determined to make a show of resisting unauthorized trade. But when 'he prepared 100 men well armed with bows, arrows, arquebuses, and pikes, with which he marched townwards,' the officials let the sale of blacks go on. Hawkins was particularly anxious to get rid of his 'lean negroes,' who might die in his hands and become a dead loss; so he used the 'gunboat argument' to good effect. Sparke kept his eyes open for side-shows and was delighted with the alligators, which he called crocodiles, perhaps for the sake of the crocodile tears. 'His nature is to cry and sob like a Christian to provoke his prey to come to him; and thereupon came this proverb, that is applied unto women when they weep, lackrymce crocodili.' From the West Indies Hawkins made for Florida, which was then an object of exceptional desire among adventurous Englishmen. De Soto, one of Pizarro's lieutenants, had annexed it to Spain and, in 1539, had started off inland to discover the supposed Peru of North America. Three years later he had died while descending the valley of the Mississippi. Six years later again, the first Spanish missionary in Florida 'taking upon him to persuade the people to subjection, was by them taken, and his skin cruelly pulled over his ears, and his flesh eaten.' Hawkins's men had fair warning on the way; for 'they, being ashore, found a dead man, dried in a manner whole, with other heads and bodies of men,' apparently smoked like hams. 'But to return to our purpose,' adds the indefatigable Sparke, 'the captain in the ship's pinnace sailed along the shore and went into every creek, speaking with divers of the Floridians, because he would understand where the Frenchmen inhabited.' Finally he found them 'in the river of May [now St. John's River] and standing in SO degrees and better.' There was 'great store of maize and mill, and grapes of great bigness. Also deer great plenty, which came upon the sands before them.'