Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time online

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 11 of 27)
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bringing it nearer to us. Five years is a long time out of

" That is what youth thinks. Five years service for
fifty years of happiness. You gave your teachers far more
time to prepare you for life. Now go to school five years,
for love. I waited six years for my wife ; Jacob waited
fourteen for Rachel."

" Sir, we live not by centuries, as Jacob did if it would
please you to say two years."

" I have said five, and verily it shall be five ; unless these
strange times bring us some greater stress or hurry than is
now evident. Cannot you wait and serve for five years ?


If not, your love is but a summer fruit, and Jane SwafFham
is worthy of something better."

j O

" Sir, I entreat. I am no coward, but I cannot bear to
think of five years."

" I have said my say. There is nothing to add or to
take from it save, to remind you, Lord Neville, that there
is more heroism in self-denial than in battle."

Then Cluny perceived that entreaty would only weaken
his cause, and he advanced and offered his hand, saying, " 1
am much in your debt, sir. Tis more than I deserve, but
Love must always beg more than his desert." And General
Swaft ham stood up and held the slim brown hand a moment.
He was moved beyond his own knowledge, for his voice
trembled perceptibly as he answered

" You have time and opportunity to win your way to my
heart, then I will give you a son s place. Go and ask
Jane; she will tell you I have done kindly and wisely."
And Cluny bowed and went silently to seek his betrothed.

There was a sense of disappointment in his heart. Per
haps also an unavoidable fe^lr .g of offense. The Lord
General had looked in :o his fcce rind trusted him ; yea,
about great affairs, public and private. He had asked no
five years trial of his honour and honesty ; and such
thought gave an air of dissatisfaction and haughtiness to
the young man that struck Jane unhappily as he entered
the room in which she was sitting.

"Your father says we are to wait five years, sweet Jane ;
and tis a hard condition. I know not how I am to endure

And Jane smiled and began to talk over with her lover
the hard condition, and somehow it became an easy and
reasonable one. They soon saw it through Love and
Hope and Wisdom, and so at the beginning of their pro-


bation, they rejoiced in the end of it. Cluny was hopeful
of getting some military appointment in Edinburgh, and
then the estate that was " no great matter " would be a
home, at no inconvenient distance. And he described the
old place with its ivy-covered walls and ancient rooms, and
its garden, dark with foliage, until Jane knew all its beauties
and possibilities. They were so happy and so full of happy
plans, that they were laughing cheerfully together when the
General came in with his wife and household for evening
prayers. And it touched and pleased Cluny that he was
mentioned by name in the family petition, and so, as it
were, taken publicly and affectionately into it. He felt this
all the more when the servants, in leaving the room, in
cluded him in their respectful obeisance to their master and
mistress. It restored to him the sense of home, and he
carried that strength and joy with him to his duty, and
day by day grew to more perfect manhood in it.

Life soon settled itself to the new conditions of the
SwafFhams. The General, in spite of his wife s and
daughter s disapproval, bought the Sandys House near
Russel Square, and some of the most precious heirlooms
of old SwafFham were brought up to London to adorn it.
For it was now certain that the Lord General would not
agree to part with his faithful friend and ally ; and, indeed,
Swaffham s influence in the army could not well be spared,
for it was evident enough that there was such ill-will be
tween the army and the Parliament as might easily become
a very dangerous national condition.

" So we may be here the rest of our lives, Jane, and we
may as well get our comforts round us," said Mrs. SwafF-
ham, and there was a tone of fret in her voice she did not
try to hide. " William won t marry as a good man should
at his age," she continued, " and Tonbert thinks himself


too young to wive; and Cymlin is for Lady Matilda de
Wick or no other woman, and so the dear old place will
run to waste and mischief. And there are the fine milch
cows and the turkeys. Who will attend to them when
I am not there to see they get attention ? Nobody."

" Will and Tonbert know how to manage, mother."

" Yes, if it comes to meadow and corn land, or horses,
or dogs. I am thinking of the house and the dairy and the
poultry yard. Men don t bother themselves about such
things ; and my boys won t marry, and my girls won t let
marrying alone. I am sure I don t know what to make of
it all."

In spite of her complaining, however, she was well
content in London. Social by nature, fond of the stir and
news of life, enjoying even the shadow of her old friends
power and splendour, and taking the greatest interest in all
public events of the time, she was pleased rather than
otherwise at the Lord General s determination to keep her
husband near him.

Neither was Jane at all averse to London. Cluny was
in London, and Matilda was there, and most of the Lrirls

> > o

whom she ruid known all her life long. And it was not
difficult to adapt herself to the new home, with its long gal
leries and large rooms full of beautiful paintings and hand
some furniture. The little figure in its sober-tinted raiment
took on a prouder poise, richer clothing seemed necessary
and fitting; and insensibly, but continually, the fashion
of the Swaffhams life shook off its rusticitv and became
after the manner of the great Puritan town in which their
lot had been cast.

And if Jane accepted willingly this change in life,
Matilda took her phase of it still more enthusiastically.
She was not long in discovering that it was in her power to


be virtual mistress of the Jevery mansion. Her youth, her
beauty and her many sorrows inclined Sir Thomas Jevery s
heart to sympathy, and this prepossession grew rapidly to de
voted affection. What the Lady Matilda de Wick desired
became a law in Jevery House, and Matilda s desires were
not remarkable for their moderation. She had her own
apartments, her own servants, and her own company at her
own hours, and Sir Thomas settled on her an income
which he pretended had been an agreement between Earl de
Wick and himself a statement Matilda neither inquired
about nor disputed.

No stipulations were made concerning her friends, and
indeed Sir Thomas was not averse to a distinct royalist party
in his house, if it was reasonably prudent. He himself
entertained all parties, affecting to be inclined to men
through higher motives than political prejudices. " Izaak
Walton and John Milton, Mr. Evelyn and Sir Harry Vane,
are all equally welcome at my table," he would say ; " we
have a common ground to meet on, which is beyond the
reach of politics."

So Matilda quickly outgrew those griefs for which there
was no remedy ; she regained her health and much of her
radiant beauty, and she spent many hours every day in
adorning herself. For the first time in her life she had
money enough to indulge this passion, and Sir Thomas
declared she was in the right to do so. " A lovely woman
in a shabby gown," he said, " is a sin against nature ; she
is like a queen without her crown and robes."

With such encouragement to fine attire, Matilda was not
sparing in her orders for silks and brocades, furs and laces,
and India goods of all descriptions. She had inherited her
mother s jewels, and she was considering one morning
a string of Orient pearls, wondering if they could be


wosn with her new damasse gown, when Jane entered her


"Jane Swaffham," she cried with delight, " I ll swear I
was just wishing for you. But what is the matter ? Are
you for a funeral ? Or is there another plot against
Cromwell s life discovered ? If so, I am not in it. I do be
lieve there are tears in your eyes."

" Indeed, all England weeps to-day. Have you not heard
that General Ireton is dead ? "

" A just retribution. Indeed, I will rejoice at it. More
than any one else, more than Cromwell himself, he drove
his late Majesty to the scaffold. He had no pity for the
poor Queen, he was glad to make her a widow. I have
no pity for the widow of Ireton. Let her drink of the cup
her husband tilled for a better woman. Let her drink it to
the dregs."

" She lacks not any sympathy that can comfort so great a
loss ; a loss public, as well as personal, for my father says
Ireton was nearer to Cromwell than any other man the
v/isest, bravest soldier, the truest patriot "

u fane, do be more sparing of your praises, or you will
have none left for your prime idol."

" I must tell you that I have new praises for Cromwell.
1 have seen him this morning in a strange light hold
ing his weeping daughter to his heart ; weeping with
her, praying with her; tis said, like as a father pitieth
his children, but indeed Cromwell was more like a
mother. When I entered the room Mrs. Cromwell told
Mrs. Ireton I was present, and she cried out, Oh, Jane,
he is dead ! tic is dead ! and then Cromwell with stream
ing eyes answered her in a tone of triumph Nay, but
he has PRKVAII.FD, Bridget. He has prevailed against
the kingdom of death ! Be comforted, dear child. I can-

D *


not tell you how good it was to be there in the house of

" I never found it good, and I was there for years. But
with such a brother as Stephen, I may be there again, and
that soon enough. Stephen keeps me on cracking ice
night and day."

" But he is in safety now, Matilda ? "

" He is never safe and partly your fault, Jane."

u I will not credit that, and tis a piece of great unkind-
ness to make me accountable."

" He is always pining to see you, and always fearing that
some one is your servant in his absence ; and so he is will
ing to take all risks if he may but come to England." Then
looking steadily at Jane, she added, " He is here no-w .
Will you see him ? "

"I will not," answered Jane positively. "I will not
come to question about him if he is discovered. Do not
ask me to put myself in such a strait, Matilda. It is far
better I should be able to say, c I have not seen him. "

"You are a very proper, prudent young woman. I think
you must have set your heart on that young sprig of a Puri
tan noble I saw at Swaffham. What was his name ? "

" I am sure you have not forgotten it, but if so, it is little
worth my repeating."

" As you like it. I have heard this and that of him from
Mr. Hartlib who is a friend of that quarrelsome John Mil
ton. Mr. Hartlib comes here frequent. He is full of
inventions ; only last night he brought Uncle Jevery one
for taking a dozen copies of any writing at once, and this
by means of moist paper and an ink he has made. I heard
of Lord Cluny Neville, and of a hymn he has written
which Mr. Milton has set to music. He talked as if it
was fit for the heavenly choir. Something also was said


about his marrying Alary Cromwell. Fancy these things !
Marvels never cease."

" The Lady Mary Cromwell may look much higher,"
answered Jane. " Lord Neville told us that his sword was
his fortune."

" The Lady Mary may see, if she looks at home, that a
sword is a very good fortune. In these unholy wars, the
faithful saints have given themselves the earth that is the
English earth not to speak of Scotland and Ireland, and
such trifles. Look at it, Jane, if you have any fancies the
Neville way."

" If I had, the Lady Mary would not trouble me. I
have seen them together : and indeed I know that she has


other dreams."

" Perhaps she dreams of marrying the King, though he
is a wicked malignant. Tis said she is the proudest minx
of them all."

" She would not say tush ! to a queen."

" The great Oliver may lay his ten commandments on

" How you wrong him ! His children have all been al
lowed to marry where their love led them. And I am sure
if the Lady Mary and Lord Neville wished to marry, it
would sjive his kind heart the greatest pleasure to make

o O i

them happy. Do you think he loves riches or rank or
honours or power ? I declare to you that he cares not a fig
for any of them."

" Pray, then, what does he love ? "

" First and foremost, he loves England. He loves Eng
land with every breath he draws. England is the word
graven on the palms of his hands ; it was the word that
made his sword invincible. He loves the Protestant faith,
which he holds one with all religious and civil freedom.


These two things run with his life blood. He loves his
wife and children better than himself; he loves all mankind
even Jews and Quakers so well that he would make
them share alike in all that Freedom means."

"And he hates

" Every soul that hates England ; every dealer in priest
craft or tyranny ; every false heart, whether it beat in
prince or ploughman."

" I thank my Maker he loves not me."

" But he does love you."

" Let him keep his regard until I ask for it."

" That you may do at some time. Tis not wise to
throw dirt into the well from which you may have to

"Thank you for good advices, Jane. Oh, tis ten
thousand pities you are not a preacher. If you could hold
forth at St. Paul s Cross you might work miracles with the
ungodly. But all this is beyond our bargain to let men in
high places alone ; and I was going to tell you of Stephen,
who is here and so well disguised I had like to have given
him the insult of calling a lackey to kick him of? the prem
ises. Indeed, he was strangely like to Lord Neville. It
was this strange likeness set me thinking of Neville."

" Strange indeed," answered Jane, a little scornfully.

" You do not ask why Stephen is here ? "

" It concerns me not."

" Jane, I will tell you a piteous tale. Tis of our late
Queen. She is so wretchedly poor, and since her son re
turned to their miserable little court in the Louvre, so
broken-hearted twould make you weep to hear of her.
Stephen came with Sir Hugh Belward to get some money
on Belward, for though the French government have
settled an income on the poor Queen, they pay it only


when it seems good in their own eyes. She is often in
great need ; she is in need now, in sore need of every

" How does Sir Hugh Bel ward hope to get money on
Belward ? He is proscribed."

" His younger brother joined the Parliament, and he
left the estate in his care. And his brother has turned
traitor to him, and would give him nothing but per
mission to ride away as secretly as he came. He has re
turned here in a passion of grief and anger. Thus I carry
so many troubles that are not really mine. But oh, Jane !
the poor, poor Queen ! : and then Matilda went into some
details of the piteous straits and dependencies and insults
the widowed woman had been obliged to bear.

Jane listened silently, but there were tears in her eyes ;
and when Matilda said, " I have given her the jewel the
gracious King sent me by my beloved Prince Rupert, and
also, what moneys I could get from my Uncle Jevery,"
Jane added

" I have ten pieces of gold that are altogether my own,
I will give them to her ; not because she was once Queen
of England, but because she is a sorrowful woman, poor,
oppressed, and a widow."

" Oh, Jane Swaffham ! Who taught your charity to
reach this height, and then to limit and clip it with excep
tions ? Why not say boldly, I am sorry for the poor
Queen, and she is welcome to my gold.

" I have said so. Now I must go. I will send the gold
by a sure messenger to-day."

Matilda did not urge her to remain, and Jane was eager
to get away. She had had some intention if circum
stances favoured the confidence of telling Matilda of her
betrothal, but the conversation had drifted into a tone


which had made this communication impossible. And she
was glad of her enforced reticence, and resolved to maintain
it. She knew, now, that to make Cluny a topic of conver
sation was to subject him to Matilda s worst words and to
all the disagreeable things she could say in those moods,
and she was sure that it would be almost impossible to
keep the peace if Cluny came between them. It was diffi
cult enough to endure her railing at Cromwell, but if Cluny
became the target of her satire, her annoyances and anx
ieties, Jane knew that a rupture must certainly follow.

When she reached home, her father was walking about
the parlour and talking in an excited manner to his wife.
He showed much discontent, and as he walked and talked
he rattled his sword ominously to his words.

" Cromwell wants only that Parliament should know its
own mind, and declare itself dissolved. God knows it is
high time, but Vane, and more with him, would sit while
life lasts. He said to-day that the members must have
their time, and their rights or and the Lord General took
him up at the word, and answered, the army can say "<?r"
as loud as you, Sir Harry, it may be louder, and there was
a murmur and a noise as of moving steel. Later, I joined
a party in the lobby, and I heard Colonel Streater say
boldly, that in his opinion, Cromwell designed to set up for
himself; and Major General Harrison said, You are far
astray, sir; Cromwell s only aim is to prepare the way for
the kingdom of Christ, and the reign of the Saints ; and
Streater laughed, and answered with some rudeness, Unless
Christ come suddenly, He will come too late. Martha,
my heart is troubled within me. Have we got rid of one
tyrant calling himself King, to give obedience to a hun
dred tyrants calling themselves Parliament ? It shall not
be so. As the Lord liveth, verily, it shall not ! "


Israel Swaffham s temper on this matter was but a re
flex of the sterner dissatisfaction which Cromwell voiced
for the people. The Parliament then sitting was the one
summoned by King Charles the First, eleven years pre
viously, and it had long outlived its usefulness. Pym was
dead, Hampden was dead, and it was so shrunken from
honour, that in popular speech it was known as " the Rump "
of that great assembly which had moulded the Common
wealth. It was now attacked by all parties ; it was urged
to dissolve itself ; yet its most serious occupation seemed to
be a determination to maintain and continue its power.

The leader of these despised legislators was Sir Harry
Vane, the only man living who in Parliamentary ability could
claim to be a rival of Cromwell. But Vane s great object
was to diminish the army, and to increase the fleet ; and as
chief Minister of Naval affairs he had succeeded in passing
the Navigation Act, which, by restricting the importation of
foreign goods to English ships, struck a fatal blow at Dutch
Commerce, hitherto controlling the carrying trade. This
act was felt to be a virtual declaration of war. and though


negotiations for peace were going on, English and Dutch
sailors were flying red flags, and fighting each other in the

Everything relating to the conduct of affairs both in
Church and State was provisional and chaotic ; and the
condition of religion, law, and all social matters, filled
Cromwell with pity and anger. He wanted the Amnesty
Act, to relieve the conquered royalists, passed at once.
Intensely conservative by nature, he was impatient for the
settlement of the nation, and of some stable form of govern
ment. And he had behind him an army which was the
flower of the people, men who knew themselves to be
the natural leaders of their countrymen, trained politicians,


unconquered soldiers ; the passion, the courage, and the
conscience of England in arms. Their demands were few,
but definite, and held with an intense tenacity. They
wanted, first of all, the widest religious freedom for them
selves and others ; secondly, an orderly government and
the abolition of all the abuses for which Laud and Charles
had died. And though devoted to their great chief, they
longed to return to their homes and to civil life, therefore
they echoed strenuously Cromwell s cry fora " speedy settle
ment," a consummation which the sitting Parliament way in
no hurry to take in hand. On this state of affairs Crom
well looked with a hot heart. Untiring in patience when
things had to be waited for, he was sudden and impatient
when work ought to be done, and his constant word then
was "without delay."

There was a meeting of the Council at the Speaker s
house the night after Israel SwafFham s indignant protest
against the Parliament, and Cromwell, sitting among those
self-seeking men, was scornfully angry at their delibera
tions. His passion for public and social justice burned,
and in a thunderous speech, lit by flashes of blinding wrath,
he spoke out of a full and determined heart. Then he
mounted his horse and rode homeward. It was late, and
the city s ways were dark and still ; and as he mused, he
was uplifted by a mystical ecstasy, flowing from an intense
realisation of his personal communion with God.

Cluny Neville was in attendance, and as he silently fol
lowed that dauntless, massive figure, he thought of Theseus
and Hercules doing wonders, because, being sons of Jove,
they must of necessity relieve the oppressed, and help the
needy, and comfort the sorrowful ; and then he added to
this force the sublime piety of a Hebrew prophet, and in
his heart called Cromwell the Maccabeus of the English


Commonwealth. And in those moments of inspiration,
amid the shadows of the starlit night, he again saw Crom
well grow vague and vast and mythical, and knew that his

DO J *

gigantic soul would carry England on waves of triumph
until she could look over the great seas and find no rival
left upon them.

Thought is transferable, and unconsciously Cluny s
enthusiasm affected the silent, prayerful man he loved and
followed. And so hope came into Cromwell s reveries,
and many earthly plans and desires ; and when he alighted
at Whitehall, he thought instantly of his wife, and longed
for her sympathy. For though he seldom took her counsel,
he constantly looked to her for that fellow-feeling which is
as necessary as food. Man lives not by bread alone, and
there is untold strength for him in womanly love which
thinks as he thinks, feels as he feels, and which, when he
is weary and discouraged, restores him to confidence and to

He walked rapidly through the silent, darkened rooms,
and opening the door of his own chamber very softly, saw
his wife sitting by the fire. There was no light but its
fitful bla/,e, and the room was large and sombre with dark
furniture and draperies, the only white spots in it being the
linen of the huge bedstead, and the lace coverings of A lrs.
Cromwell s head and bosom. Yet apart from these objects
there was light, living light, in the woman s calm, uplifted
face, and even in her hands which were lying stilly upon
her black velvet gown. She stood up as her husband
advanced, and waited until he drew her to his heart and
kissed her face. " You arc late, Oliver," she said with
quiet assertion, " and I have been a little anxious your
life is so precious, and there are many that seek it."

" Why do you fret yourself so unwisely ? Of a surety


you know that I have a work to do, and I shall not see
death until it be finished. Yet I am greatly troubled for
England ; I tell you plainly, Elizabeth, that we are, for all
good purposes, without a government."

" There is the Parliament, Oliver."

" I look for no good from it a noisy, self-opiniated old
Parliament. We want a new one. Vane, and others,
think wisdom was born with them ; yea, and that it will die
with them. They fritter time away about trifles, when an
Act of Amnesty ought to be passed without delay. It is
the first necessity ; they must pass it ; they must turn to
or turn out."

" Therein you are right, as you always are."

" Truly, the whole country is like the prophets roll,
written within and without with mourning and wrong and
woe. As for the Royalists, they are harried to death ; they
hold everything on sufferance. The time for this strict
ness has gone by. England now wants peace, justice for
all, Amnesty, and above all, a new Parliament. If these
things don t come to pass, worse things will I say this to
you ; it is the plain truth ; I profess it is ! "

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 11 of 27)