Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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came back, would be an important neighbour ; one whose
good offices might be of some importance to SwafFham.
Besides which, though he habitually snubbed Jane, he loved
her, and did not like to think of her living in Scotland. It
was a pleasanter thing to imagine her at de Wick; and it


may be noticed that the return of the Stuarts was almost
assured by this constant thought and predication of it in
the staunchest Puritan minds. The fear was the uncon
scious prophecy.

When Jane entered, Cymlin and Stephen both rose to
meet her. Cymlin was kind with the condescension of a
brother. He spoke to her as he spoke to creatures weaker
than himself, and kissed her with the air of a king kissing
a subject he loved to honour. Then he made an excuse to
the stables and gave Stephen his opportunity. The young
man had kept his eyes fixed on the beautiful face and slen
der form of the girl he loved, but had uttered no word ex
cept the exclamation that sprung from his lips involuntarily
when she entered :

" Jane ! "

Even when they were alone, he first put the logs to
gether with the great tongs and replaced them in their
stand ere he went to her and clasped her hands and
said with a passionate eagerness, " Jane, dearest ! I have
come again to ask you to marry me. Say one good, kind
word. When you were not as high as my heart, you did
promise to be my wife. I vow you did ! You know you
did ! Keep your promise ; oh, I look for you to keep your
promise ! "

" Stephen, I knew not then what marriage meant. You
were as a brother to me. I love you yet as I loved you
then. I am your friend, your sister if you will."

" I will not. You must be my wife."

" I cannot be your wife. I am already plighted."

" To Lord Neville. What the devil "


" I beg your pardon. I am no saint, and what you say
stirs me to use words not found in books. As for Neville,


you shall never marry him. I forbid it. I will hunt him
to the gates of death."

u It is sinful to say such things."

" Let my sins alone. I am not in the humour to be
sorry for them. I say again, you shall not marry that
scoundrelly Scot."

" He is not what you call him far from it."

" I call things by their right names. I call a Scot, a
Scot ; and a scoundrel, a scoundrel." He threw her hands
far from him, and strode up and down the room, desperate
and full of wrath. "You shall marry no man but myself.
Before earth and heaven you shall ! "

"If God wills, I shall marry Lord Neville."

" I say no ! " he shouted. " Jane, when the King comes
back, and I have my estate and title, will you marry me ? "

" You are asking me to marry your estate and title. I
do not value either that " and she snapped her thumb
against her ringer, with no doubtful expression.

" Oh, J ane I sna ^ g to tota l rum if 7 OU do not marry

"Shall I marry a man who is not lord of himself? I
will not."

" You have made me your enemy. What follows is
vour own fault."

" Tis a poor love that turns to hatred ; and you can do
no more than you are let do."

" You will see. By my soul, tis truth ! "

" There is God between me and you. I have no fear."

" I am beyond reason. What am I saying ? All my
quarrels with you are kind ones, Jane. Oh, tis ten thou
sand pities you will not love me ! :

" It is nowise possible, Stephen."

He flung himself into a chair, laid his arms upon the


table, and buried his face in them. " Go away, then," he
sobbed ; " I wish to see your face no more. For your
sake, I will hate all women forever."

There was no use in prolonging a conversation so hope
less. She went away, and in the hall met her brother
Cymlin. He looked at her angrily. " You have been be
having badly to Stephen ; I see that much. What for did
God make women ? They are His wrath, I think. You
and your friend are both as wicked and cruel and beautiful
as tigers ; and you have no more heart or conscience than
cats have."

" If you are speaking of Lady Matilda, it is a shame. She
told me to-day she thought you as handsome a man in face
and figure as was in England. She praised your courage
and self-respect, and said if you had kissed her last night
she would have forgiven you."

As Jane spoke, wonder and delight chased each other
across Cymlin s face. " What else did she say ? " he
eagerly asked.

" Indeed, I have told you too much."

" Tell me all, Jane, I must know."

" Why should you care for her words ? She is cruel as a
tiger, and has no more heart or conscience than a cat."

" I did not fully mean such things of Matilda nor of
you, in the main. You are sure she said I was hand
some ? "

" Sure."

" And brave ? "

" Sure."

" And self-respecting ? "

" She said every word, and more than I have told you."

" The rest, then ? "

"No. I am true to my friend in the main."


" You are ill-tempered. Stephen ought to be thankful
for your No. He will be, some day. I shall go and see
Matilda to-morrow."

u She may leave for France to-night."

" You are a provoking creature."

" Go and abuse me to Stephen. I think little of him.
He is neither handsome nor brave nor self-respecting, and
he threatens me ! What do you think of a lover who
threatens his mistress ? He is out of the Court of Love.
He is an alien, an outlaw."

" How you rant ! "

She did not wait to hear more. She was both angry and
scornful ; and she sought out her mother, and found her
resting in her own room.

" I get tired soon in the day, Jane," she said ; " I think
it is the London air, and the strange life, and the constant
fear of some change. No one seems to know what a day
will bring forth. Did you see Stephen ? "


" It can t be, I suppose ? "

" You know it can t be, mother." She was hurt at the
question. It was a wrong to Cluny ; and she said with
some temper, " It could not be under any circumstances.
The man is mean ; he has just threatened me. If I had
not been a woman I would have given him his threat back
in his teeth. I would rather be Cluny s wife, if Cluny had
not a crown."

" Cluny is not troubled with crowns, or half-crowns.
Stephen is an old neighbour, but I am not one to com
plain. If you are pleased, father and I can make shift to
look so. As for your brothers, I m not so sure of them."

Then Jane felt a sudden anger at the de Wick family.
All her life, in some way or other, it had been the de


Wicks. Matilda s exactions and provoking words and
ways came to her memory and brought with them a sense
of too much endured. Stephen s love had ever been a
selfishly disturbing element. Many an unpleasant day it
had caused her, and at this moment she told herself that,
say what they would, the Earldom had an unacknowledged
power over the imagination of all the Swaffhams but her
self. She was just going to voice this opinion, when her
mother s weary face arrested her words ; she went away
without justifying herself or her lover, and when the act of
self-denial had been accomplished, she was glad of it. In
the stillness of her room she retired with Him who is a sure
hiding-place, and there found that peace which " soft upon
the spirit lies, as tired eyelids upon tired eyes." Her soul
sat light and joyful on its temporal perch, for she had been
with God, and all the shadows were gone. Men and
women who have this supernatural element in them, will
understand ; to those who are without it, there are no
words, there are no miracles which could authenticate this
intimate^ spiritual communion to them.

The next day Cymlin went to Jevery House and re
ported, on his return, its forlorn emptiness. There were
only two or three servants there, and they had no idea when
the family would return. To Jane he admitted that London
seemed desolate, and Jane was herself conscious of a want
or a loss. Much of her London life had been blended with
Jevery House, and there was now a necessity for a fresh
ordering of her time and duties.

About a week after Matilda s departure Cluny called
early one evening and asked Jane to go with him to Mr.
Milton s house in Petty France. They sauntered through
St. James Park, not then open to the public in general,
though an exception was made in favour of certain houses


on the Westminster side. In one of these, " a pretty
garden house," Mr. Milton lived, and they found him
walking with his daughters under the shady elms. Cluny
delivered to him some papers, but did not accept his invita
tion to enter the house and sing with him an anthem which


he had just composed; for the evening promised to be
exceedingly lovely, and Jane s company in the sweet, shady
walks was a far <ireater attraction.


They soon lost sight of all humanity, and were con
scious only of each other s presence, for indeed a general
air of complete solitude pervaded the twilight shades. Jane
was telling Cluny about her interview with Stephen, and
they were walking slowly, hand in hand, quite absorbed in
their own affairs. So much so, that they never noticed a
figure which emerged from behind a clump of shrubs, and
stood looking at them. It was the Lord General. He had
been pacing a little alley of hazel trees near by, for some
time, and was about to alter his course in order to take the
nearest road to his apartments in Whitehall. His face was
grave, but not unhappy, and when he saw Cluny and Jane
he stood still a moment, and then quietly withdrew into the
shadow he had left. A smile was round his mouth, and his
lips moved in words of blessing, as he took another path to
the gate he wished. Amid thoughts of the most momentous
interest, a little vision of love and youth and beauty had
been vouchsafed him, and there was a feeling of pleasure
yet in his heart when he entered the sombre apartment
where Israel SwafFham with a guard of soldiers, was in at
tendance. He saluted his General, and Cromwell called
him aside and had some private speech with him.

He then entered a lofty, royally furnished room, where
the Council were awaiting his arrival officers of the
army, and members of Parliament, St. John, Harrison,


Fleetwood, Desborough and others instantly gathered
round Cromwell ; Marten, Whitelock, Hazelrig, Scott,
Sidney, and about seventeen others, supported Sir Harry
Vane, who was leading the Parliamentary cause.

Cromwell opened the discussion by reminding the mem
bers that he had already held more than a dozen meetings,
in order to induce Parliament to issue an Act for the elec
tion of a new Parliament, and then discharge itself. " Thi?
is what the people want, in every corner of the nation," he
said ; " and they are laying at our doors the non-perform
ance of this duty and of their wishes."

Hazelrig reminded him that Parliament had determined
to dissolve on the 3d of the ensuing November, after call
ing for a new election.

" It is now only the iQth of April," answered Cromwell,
sharply. " Give me leave to tell you that the 3d of No
vember will not do. I am tired talking to you. There
must be a healing and a settling, and that without delay.
As for your resolution, the people will not have it. I say,
the people will not have it. A Parliament made up of all
the old members without reelection and of such new
ones, as a committee of the old approve and choose ! Such
a patched, cobbled, made-over, old Parliament will not sat
isfy the people. I know it ! I know it better than any
man in England. It will not satisfy me. It will not sat
isfy the army "

" Oh, the army ! " ejaculated Sir Harry Vane.

" The army, Sir Harry Vane, has been so owned of God,
so approved of men, so witnessed for, that, give me leave to
say, no man will be well advised who speaks lightly of the
army. The question is not the army, the question is the
sitting Parliament, which, without either moral or legal right,
wants to make itself perpetual."


"This Parliament, General Cromwell, has been the nurs
ing mother of the Commonwealth," said Sir Harry Marten.

" If that be so, yet it is full time that the Commonwealth
be weaned. Milk for babes truly, but England wants
no more nursing; she wants strong meat, good gov
ernment, just laws and the settlement of the Gospel
Ministry. There is nothing but jarrings and animosities,
and we are like to destroy ourselves when our enemies
could not do it."

" The army is full of factions and designs, and tis well
the Lord General is aware of them," said Hazelrig. " Their
insolency to members of Parliament is beyond reason."

" Sir, I cannot be of your judgment," answered Crom
well ; " but I do admit that the army begins to have a
strange distaste against certain members of Parliament,
and I wish there was not too much cause for it."

" Cause ! What cause ? " asked Whitelock.

" Their self-seeking, their delays in business, their re
solve to keep all power perpetually in their own hands ;
their meddling in private matters, their injustice when they
do so meddle, and the scandalous lives of some of the chief
of them. These things do give grounds for good people
whether in the army or not in the army to open their
mouths against them."

" There is the Law to punish all evil-doers," said Vane.
" While the Law lasts the army need not make inquisi

" This Parliament has been, and is, a law unto themselves.
They are not within the bounds of the law there being no
authority so full and so high as to keep them in better order,"
answered Cromwell with some anger. Then the discussion
assumed a very acrimonious character. Undoubtedly Vane
was sincerely afraid for the liberties of England, with


Cromwell and his victorious army at the very doors of the
House of Commons. He was also intensely interested in
the creation of a British Navy, which should not only bal
ance the glory and power of the army, but also make Eng
land lord of the seas, and of their commerce. Besides, his
genius had just perfected a plan for raising ;i 20,000 a
month to continue the war with Holland ; and a project
setting quite as near to his heart was publicly to sell all the
royal palaces, and so remove from the sight of any am
bitious man a palpable temptation to seize the crown. To
surrender all he had done in these directions, to leave his
cherished projects for others to carry out, or to bring to
naught, to forego all the glory and profit Blake was even
then winning for the Parliament, was not only hard for him
self, but he feared it would be disastrous to England and to
her liberties.

He spoke of these things, and especially of the great
naval victories of Blake over the Dutch, with eloquence.
Cromwell admitted all. He was far too great to wish
Blake s honour less, for Blake s honour was England s
honour, and England s honour was Cromwell s master pas
sion. " Blake is a good man, and a great commander," he
said heartily ; " I have seen him on the battle-field, again
and again ; he took his men there through fire to victory; I
do think he will now take them through water the same
sure road."

When it drew towards midnight the long, bitter argument
was at its height ; no decision had been reached, no course
of conduct decided on ; and it was evident to Cromwell
that passion and self-interest were gaining the mastery. He
stood up, and pointing to the smoky, flickering lights of
the nearly burned out candles, said,

" The plain truth is, we must have a new Parliament,


though we do carry it by force through the teeth of the
greatest in the land. I say we must have it. I wish that
we had such due forwardness as to set about it to-mor

"The 3d of November," cried Whitelock.

u Such a far-off promise is but words for children. I
will better it. I will say to-morrow."

" I am with Mr. Whitelock," said one of the members ;
" at least with present showing."

" And I am of the same mind," added Hazelrig.

u Hazelrig, you are ever egging people of two minds to
be of the worser."

" My Lord General, you put us all down. It were well,
my lord, if you could believe there are some others of ac
count beside yourself."

Cromwell looked keenly at the speaker but did not an
swer him.

Turning to Sir Harry Vane he said, " It is now near to
midnight, and we have done no good, and I think we shall
do none. Let us go to rest. To-morrow, we will talk
the matter down to the bottom, and do what God wills."

" Or what the Lord General wills," said Harry Marten
with a light laugh, rising as he spoke.

" I want not my own will," answered Cromwell with a
sudden great emotion. "I have sought the Lord s will,
night and day, on this question. I have indeed! But
I do think we have fadged long enough with so great a
subject, and the people want a settlement of it they will
have a settlement of it and I tell you the plain truth, to
morrow there must be some decision. It cannot longer be
delayed. There are those who will not suffer it. Truly, I
believe this is the greatest occasion that has come to us.
As the business stands I like it not, and somewhat must be


done to mend it. I must say this tc you impute it to
what you please."

This speech beginning with a pious submission to God s
will and ending with a dauntless assertion of his own de
termination, had a marked effect. The Parliamentary
members agreed to let the bill for perpetuating themselves
lie over until after another conference to be held the fol
lowing day, and with this understanding, the members of
the Council separated. Cromwell took the promise in good
faith ; and he said to Israel Swaffham as they went towards
Whitehall, " I have at last brought Vane to terms. I do
think we may draw up the Act for a new Parliament."

" Then I know not Vane," answered Israel. " He has
more shifts than you dream of, and the other members
cluster round him like twigs in a broom."

" Everything must bide its time ; I mean His time.
Truly, I hoped for a settlement to-night ; it seems we must
wait for to-morrow."

Cromwell spoke wearily, and after a moment s pause
added, " Tis striking twelve. Hark to the clocks, how
strangely solemn they sound ! Well, then, to-day has
come, but we have not got rid of the inheritance of yester
day ; and what to-day will bring forth, God only knows.
We are in the dark, but He dwelleth in light eternal."



" His port was fierce,
Erect his countenance ; manly majesty
Sate in his front and darted from his eyes,
Commanding all he viewed."

DAYLIGHT came with that soft radiance of sunshine over
fresh green things which makes spring so delightful.
Israel, who had slept his usual six hours, was in the garden
to enjoy it, and his heart was full of praise. He watched
the little brown song sparrows building their nests, and
twittering secrets among the hawthorns. He saw the
white lilies of the valley lifting their moonlight bells above
the black earth, and he took into his heart the sweet sermon
they preached to him. Then suddenly, and quite una
wares, a waft of enthralling perfume led him to stoop to
where at the foot of a huge oak tree a cluster of violets
was flinging incense into the air. He smiled at his big
hands among them, he was going to gather a few for Jane,
and then he could not break their fragile stems. " Praise
the Lord where He set you growing," he said softly ; " my
hands are not worthy to touch such heavenly things, they
have been washed in blood too often." And his heart was
silent, and could find no prayer to utter, but the conscience-
stricken cry of the man of war centuries before him,
" Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy
holy spirit from me."

Softened by such exquisite matins, he went in to break-



fast. He was seldom inclined to talk on public affairs, and
this morning he said not a word about the Council of the
previous night, nor of the self-humiliation which he felt cer
tain would be demanded of the Parliament that day. He eat
his portion cheerfully, listening to Jane, who was more
talkative and light-hearted than usual. She told her father
she was going with Alice Heneage and a number of young
people to Hampton Court. They were to picnic in the
park and come home in the gloaming by the river ; and as
she dwelt on what was to be done and seen that happy day,
Israel looked at her with a tender scrutiny. He said to
himself, " She is more beautiful than she used to be ; " and
he watched with pleasure her soul-lit eyes and speaking
face, not oblivious, either, of the neatness of her shining
hair and the exquisite purity of her light gown of India
calico, with its crimped rufflings and spotless stomacher of
embroidery. " She might have worn the violets on her
breast," he thought ; and then he rose hastily and called in
the household, and read a psalm, and made a short, fervid
prayer with them.

And this morning he looked at the men and maids after
wards, and was not pleased at what he saw. " Tabitha,"
he said sternly, " you come to worship with too little care.
Both you and the other wenches may well wash your faces,
and put on clean brats when you are going to sit down and
listen to the Word of the Lord ; " then observing a grin on
one of the men s faces, he turned on them with still more
anger, and rated them for their want of respect to God and
man for their uncombed hair and soiled garments and un-


blacked shoes, and so sent all of them away with shame in
their red faces and not a little wrath in their hearts. And
he had no idea that Jane s delicious freshness and purity
had really been the text prompting his household homily.


Soon after General Swaffham s departure for Whitehall,
Jane s friends called for her, and they went away together
full of youth s enthusiasm and anticipation. They took
the road to the river, and to the sound of music and the
falling and dipping of the oars they reached Richmond
and soon spread the contents of their hampers upon the
grass under some great oaks in the secluded park. Jane
was disappointed at Cluny s absence ; he had certainly been
expected, and no word explaining his failure to keep his
engagement had been received. But the general tone of
the company was so full of innocent gayety, that she could
not, and did not, wish to resist it.

After a happy, leisurely meal, they spent the rest of
their holiday in wandering through the palace, until its
melancholy, monastic grandeur subdued them almost to
silence. Captain Desborough, a young officer who waited
on Alice Heneage, was familiar with the building, and as
he led them through the rooms he told them stories, good
and ill, connected with the various apartments. Finally
they came to one on the ground floor, that had been the
private parlour of King Charles a gloomy room furnished
with a sombre magnificence and here the young man
drew the company closer to him, and said

" I can tell you something true and strange about this
room. There were two prophecies made in it, and one of
them has come to pass. King Charles stood at this window
one day, just where we are now standing, and his three
eldest children were with him. And a woman, swart as an
Indian savage, with eyes full of a strange, glazing light,
came suddenly before them. And she said to the King,
Let me read the future of your children. It may comfort
you when you will need comfort. But the King, being
in one of his melancholy tempers, answered her haughtily,


1 No mortal man or woman can foresee the future ; and
she looked scornfully at him, and putting a small steel
mirror before his face said, Look ! and the King cast
down his eyes and saw his own head lying on a bloody
sheet ; and he shuddered and reeled as if he would have
fallen. Then a look of pity came into the woman s face,
and she put aside the mirror, and said in a strange, far-off
voice as if she was already a long way distant 4 When
a dog dies in this room, your son will come to the throne
again. And the King called loudly for his attendant, but
when the officer came, the woman had disappeared, nor
could any trace or tidings of her be found or heard tell

And every one was strangely silent ; they walked away
separately and examined the fine tapestry hangings, but
they said not a word to each other about the uncanny
incident. It seemed only a fit sequence that their next
visit should be through the low, narrow portals to the
gloomy subterranean apartments, which had been the guard
rooms, and which were still decorated with dusty battle

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 13 of 27)