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When Don Pedro is shipwrecked and captured by the formidable Lady Margaret Trevanion, he doesn’t expect is to fall in love and run away with her. And he certainly hadn’t expected that the officers of the Spanish Inquisition would be so ruthless that the lovers are forced to enlist the help of the Queen of England herself.
357 pages, with a reading time of ~5.5 hours (89,369 words), and first published in 1928. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Mr. Crosby’s bearing was marked upon his departure from Arwenack by none of that exultation proper to the setting out of a young man who regards the world as his oyster. Too much that he valued was being left behind unsecured; and the Earl, he could not help admitting to himself, had not been encouraging. But what youth desires, it believes that it will ultimately possess. His confidence in himself and in his star was restored and his natural buoyancy reëstablished long before the journey was accomplished.
Travelling by roads which were obstacles to, rather than means of progress, Sir John Killigrew and his young cousin reached London exactly a week after setting out. There no time was lost. Sir John was a person of considerable consequence, wielding great influence in the West and therefore to be well received at Court. Moreover, some personal friendship existed between himself and the Lord Admiral Howard of Effingham. To the Admiral he took his young cousin. The Admiral was disposed to be friendly. Recruits for the navy at such a time, especially if they happened to be gentlemen of family, were more than welcome. The difficulty was to find immediate employment for Mr. Crosby. The Admiral took the young man to Deptford and presented him to the manager of Her Majesty’s dockyards, that old-time slaver and hardy seaman Sir John Hawkins. Sir John talked to the lad, liked him, admired his clean length of limb and read promise in his resolute young countenance and frank, steady blue eyes. If he was in haste for adventure, Sir John thought he could put him in the way of it. He gave him a letter to his young kinsman, Sir Francis Drake, who was about to put to sea from Plymouth, though on the object of that seagoing Sir John seemed singularly–perhaps wilfully–ignorant.
Back to the West went Gervase, once more in the charge of Killigrew. At Plymouth they sought and duly found Sir Francis. He paid heed to the strong recommendation of Hawkins’s letter, still greater heed to the personality of the tall lad who stood before him, some heed also, no doubt, to the fact that the lad was a kinsman of Sir John Killigrew, who was a considerable power in Cornwall. Young Crosby was obviously eager and intelligent, knew already at least enough of the sea to be able to sail a fore-and-aft rig, and was fired by a proper righteous indignation at the evil deeds of Spain.
Drake offered him employment, the scope of which he could not disclose. A fleet of twenty-five privateers was about to sail. They had no royal warrant, and in what they went to do they might afterwards be disowned. It was dangerous work, but it was righteous. Gervase accepted the offer without seeking to know more, took leave of his kinsman, and went on board Drake’s own ship. That was on the 10th September. Four mornings later, Drake’s maintop was flying the signal ‘up anchor and away.’
If none knew, perhaps not even Drake himself, exactly what he went to do, at the least all England, simmering just then with indignation, knew why he went to do it, whatever it might prove to be. There was a bitter wrong to be avenged, and private hands must do the work, since the hands of authority were bound by too many political considerations.
In the North of Spain that year the harvest had failed and there was famine. Despite the hostile undercurrent between Spain and England, which at any moment might blaze into open war, despite Spanish intrigues in which Philip II was spurred on by the Pope to exert the secular arm against the excommunicate bastard heretic who occupied the English throne, yet officially at least, on the surface, there was peace between the two nations. England had more corn than she required for her own consumption and was willing to trade it to the famine-stricken Galician districts. But because of certain recent barbarous activities of the Holy Office upon English seamen seized in Spanish ports, no merchant ships would venture into Spanish waters without guarantees. These guarantees had ultimately been forthcoming in the shape of a special undertaking from King Philip that the crews of the grain ships should suffer no molestation.
Into the northern harbours of Corunna, Bilbao, and Santander sailed the ships of the English corn-fleet, there to be seized, in despite of the royal safe-conduct, their cargoes confiscated, their crews imprisoned. The pretext was that England was lending aid to the Netherlands, then in rebellion against Spain.
Diplomatic representations were of no avail. King Philip disclaimed responsibility. The English seamen, he said, were no longer in his hands. As heretics they had been claimed by the Holy Office. To purge them of their heresy, some were left to languish in prison, some sent as slaves to the galleys, and some were burnt in fools’ coats at the autos-da-fé.