Next year Sir Richard Grenville, who was Raleigh's cousin, convoyed out to Roanoke the little colony which Ralph Lane governed and which, as we have seen in an earlier chapter, Drake took home discomfited in 1586. There might have been a story to tell of successful colonization, instead of failure, if Drake had kept away from Roanoke that year or if he had tarried a few days longer. For no sooner had the colony departed in Drake's vessels than a ship sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, 'freighted with all maner of things in most plentiful maner,' arrived at Roanoke; and 'after some time spent in seeking our Colony up in the countrey, and not finding them, returned with all the aforesayd provision into England.' About a fortnight later Sir Richard Grenville himself arrived with three ships. Not wishing to lose possession of the country where he had planted a colony the year before, he 'landed fifteene men in the Isle of Roanoak, furnished plentifully with all maner of provision for two yeeres, and so departed for England.' Grenville unfortunately had burnt an Indian town and all its standing corn because the Indians had stolen a silver cup. Lane, too, had been severe in dealing with the natives and they had turned from friends to foes. These and other facts were carefully recorded on the spot by the official chronicler, Thomas Harriot, better known as a mathematician.
Among the captains who had come out under Grenville in 1585 was Thomas Cavendish, a young and daring gentleman-adventurer, greatly distinguished as such even in that adventurous age, and the second English leader to circumnavigate the globe. When Drake was taking Lane's men home in June, 1586, Cavendish was making the final preparations for a two-year voyage. He sailed mostly along the route marked out by Drake, and many of his adventures were of much the same kind. His prime object was to make the voyage pay a handsome dividend. But he did notable service in clipping the wings of Spain. He raided the shipping off Chile and Peru, took the Spanish flagship, the famous Santa Anna, off the coast of California, and on his return home in 1588 had the satisfaction of reporting: 'I burned and sank nineteen sail of ships, both small and great; and all the villages and towns that ever I landed at I burned and spoiled.'
While Cavendish was preying on Spanish treasure in America, and Drake was 'singeing the King of Spain's beard' in Europe, Raleigh still pursued his colonizing plans. In 1587 John White and twelve associates received incorporation as the 'Governor and Assistants of the City of Ralegh in Virginia.' The fortunes of this ambitious city were not unlike those of many another 'boomed' and 'busted' city of much more recent date. No time was lost in beginning. Three ships arrived at Roanoke on the 22nd of July, 1587. Every effort was made to find the fifteen men left behind the year before by Grenville to hold possession for the Queen. Mounds of earth, which may even now be traced, so piously have their last remains been cared for, marked the site of the fort. From natives of Croatoan Island the newcomers learned that Grenville' s men had been murdered by hostile Indians.
One native friend was found in Manteo, a chief whom Barlow had taken to England and Grenville had brought back. Manteo was now living with his own tribe of sea-coast Indians on Croatoan Island. But the mischief between red and white had been begun; and though Manteo had been baptized and was recognized as 'The Lord of Roanoke' the races were becoming fatally estranged.
After a month Governor White went home for more men and supplies, leaving most of the colonists at Roanoke. He found Elizabeth, Raleigh, and the rest all working to meet the Great Armada. Yet, even during the following year, the momentous year of 1588, Raleigh managed to spare two pinnaces, with fifteen colonists aboard, well provided with all that was most needed. A Spanish squadron, however, forced both pinnaces to run back for their lives. After this frustrated attempt two more years passed before White could again sail for Virginia. In August, 1590, his trumpeter sounded all the old familiar English calls as he approached the little fort. No answer came. The colony was lost for ever. White had arranged that if the colonists should be obliged to move away they should carve the name of the new settlement on the fort or surrounding trees, and that if there was either danger or distress they should cut a cross above. The one word croatoan was all White ever found. There was no cross. White's beloved colony, White's favorite daughter and her little girl, were perhaps in hiding. But supplies were running short. White was a mere passenger on board the ship that brought him; and the crew were getting impatient, so impatient for 'refreshment' and a Spanish prize that they sailed past Croatoan, refusing to stop a single hour.
Perhaps White learnt more than is recorded and was satisfied that all the colonists were dead. Perhaps not. Nobody knows. Only a wandering tradition comes out of that impenetrable mystery and circles round the not impossible romance of young Virginia Dare. Her father was one of White's twelve 'Assistants.' Her mother, Eleanor, was White's daughter. Virginia herself, the first of all true 'native-born' Americans, was born on the 18th of August, 1587. Perhaps Manteo, 'Lord of Roanoke,' saved the whole family whose name has been commemorated by that of the North Carolina county of Dare. Perhaps Virginia Dare alone survived to be an 'Indian Queen' about the time the first permanent Anglo-American colony was founded in 1607, twenty years after her birth. Who knows?
These twenty sundering years, from the end of this abortive colony in 1587 to the beginning of the first permanent colony in 1607, constitute a period that saw the close of one age and the opening of another in every relation of Anglo-American affairs.
Nor was it only in Anglo-American affairs that change was rife. 'The Honourable East India Company' entered upon its wonderful career. Shakespeare began to write his immortal plays. The chosen translators began their work on the Authorized Version of the English Bible. The Puritans were becoming a force within the body politic as well as in religion. Ulster was 'planted' with Englishmen and Lowland Scots. In the midst of all these changes the great Queen, grown old and very lonely, died in 1603; and with her ended the glorious Tudor dynasty of England. James, pusillanimous and pedantic son of Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots, ascended the throne as the first of the sinister Stuarts, and, truckling to vindictive Spain, threw Raleigh into prison under suspended sentence of death.