Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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flags and old arms and armour. A singular sensation of
having been in these vault-like rooms before, a sense of
far-backness, of existence stretching behind everlastingly,
of sorrows great and unavailing, permeated the atmosphere.
Jane felt that here, if anywhere, men of war might under
stand the barrenness of their lives, and anticipate the small,
and gloomy harvest of their tremendous pilgrimage.

It was like passing from death unto life to come out
of these caverns of the sword into the light and glory
of the westering sun, to feel its warmth, and see its brave
colours, and hear the cuckoo, like a wandering voice,
among the trees. Jane was the first to speak. " How
beautiful is life and light ! " she cried. " Let us get far


away from this woeful palace. I felt such sorrowful
Presence in every room ; I thought I heard sighs following
me, and soft steps. Who would live in such a home ? To
do so, it is to say to Misfortune, Come and live with me.

The spirits ot the little party, so gay in the morning,
had sunk to the level of their surroundings : the damp river
with its twinkling lights, the gray gloaming, the laboured
dip of the traveling oars. They were near the city when
Mary Former said a few words about the evil-omened
parlour and the two prophecies ; then she wondered, " If it
was really in the power of any one to reveal the future."
And Philip Calamy, a very devout young man, who was in
attendance upon Jane, answered,

" The Book of the Future, in whatever language it may
be written, is a perilous one to read. We should go mad
with too much learning there."

" Yet," said Jane, " it is most sure that certain signs
precede certain events ; and I see not why the good man,
being related to heavenly beings a little lower than the
angels may not foresee and foretell ; and by the same
token, the evil being, related to evil angels, might have a
like intelligence."


The discussion was not continued, for they were at the
river stairs, and as they passed through the city they were
instantly aware of great excitement. The rabble were
gathered round the men of news, and were listening with
open mouths ; the tradesmen were talking in groups at
their shop doors ; they heard the name of Cromwell re
peatedly, sometimes in pride, sometimes in anger; and
small bodies of the army were very much in evidence. It
was impossible not to feel that something of great moment
had happened, or was going to happen ; and when Jane
entered the hall at Sandys and saw Doctor Verity s hat and


cloak there, she expected that he had come with informa
tion. The next moment Mrs. SwafTham came hurriedly
forward, and when she saw Jane, she raised her eyes and
threw up her hands with the palms outward, to express her
huge astonishment and dismay.

" Mother," cried Jane, " what is the matter ? What
has happened ? " and Mrs. Swaffham answered

" The strangest thing that ever happened in England,"

Even while she spoke they heard General Swaffham
coming up the steps, the clatter of his arms emphasising
his perturbed feelings. He was very little inclined to
parade his military importance, so that the rattle of swords
and spurs meant something more than usual to those who
understood him. He had scarcely entered the door ere
Doctor Verity came into the hall crying

" Is it true, Israel ? Is it true ? "

" Quite true."

" And well done ? "

" Well done. I am sure of it."

Men and women went into the parlour together, and a
servant began to remove the General s cavalry boots and
spurs. " I told you, Doctor, this morning, that a settle
ment of some kind must come to-day. When I reached
Whitehall I found the Lord General waiting for Sir Harry
Vane and the members who had promised to come and
continue the conference relating to the bill early in the
day. The General was occupying himself with a book, but
as the hours went by he grew restless and laid it down.
Then he turned to me and said, c Truly these men are long
in coming ; are you ready, General ? apd before I could
answer he asked again ready and willing ? I told him a
word would move my troop as one man, if that word came
from himself; and he waited silently a little longer. Then


Lord Cluny Neville came in very hastily, and said a few
words, I know not what they were ; and he had scarce gone
when Colonel Ingoldsby entered, and there was no secrecy

" My lord ! he cried, Parliament is sitting at this
moment ; and Sir Harry Vane, Sidney, and Henry Marten
are urging the immediate passage of the bill so hateful to
the whole nation.

" Then Cromwell roused himself like an angry lion.
His passion at this perfidious conduct leaped into flame ; he
shouted to Lambert and his own troop of Ironsides. He
gave me the signal I understood, and we went quickly to
the Parliament House. In the lobby St. John was stand
ing, and he said to Cromwell, Are you come down to the
House, my lord, this morning ? It was thought you were
safe at the Cockpit ? and Cromwell answered, I have
somewhat to do at the House. I am grieved to my soul to
do it. I have sought the Lord with tears to lay the work
on some other man. I would to God I could innocently
escape it but there is a necessity ! and he spoke with
force and anger, and so went into the House."

" But what then ? " asked Doctor Verity, his face burn
ing with the eager soul behind it.

" I stood at the door watching him, my men being in the
lobby. He went to his usual seat, but in a very great and
majestic manner, and for a little while he listened to the de
bate. Then he beckoned Major General Harrison and
told him he judged it was high time to dissolve this Par
liament. And Harrison told me this afternoon, that he ad
vised Cromwell to consider what he would do, for it was a
work great and dangerous ; and who, he asked, is sufficient
for it ? And Cromwell answered, l The Servant of the
Lord, he is sufficient ; yet he sat down again, looking at


me as he did so, and I looked back straight into his eyes
that I and mine could be depended on.

" In a few minutes the question for passing the bill was
put, and the man could be restrained no longer. He stood
up, took off his hat, and looked round the House, and it
quailed under his eyes ; every man in it shifted on his seat
and was uneasy. He began to speak, and it was with a
tongue of flame. He reproached them for their self-seek
ing and their hypocrisy and oppression ; and as he went on,
there was the roar of a lion in his voice, and the members,
being condemned of their own consciences, cowered before

" Did no one open their mouth against him ? "

u No one but Sir Peter Wentworth. He said, My
Lord General, this Parliament has done great things for
England ; and Cromwell answered, The spoke in the
wheel that creaks most does not bear the burden in the
cart ! Then Sir Peter told Cromwell his abuse of the Par
liament was the more horrid because it came from the serv
ant of the Parliament, the man they had trusted and

At these words Dr. Verity laughed loudly " Cromwell,
the servant of such a Parliament ! " he cried. " Not he ;
what then, Israel ? "

" He told Wentworth to be quiet. He said he had
heard enough of such talk, and putting on his hat, he took
the floor of the House. I watched him as he did so. He
breathed inward, like one who has a business of life and
death in hand. I could see on his face that he was going
to do the deed that had been the secret of his breast for
many days ; and his walk was that quick stride with which
he ever went to meet an enemy. He stood in the middle
of the House, and began to accuse the members personally.


His words were swords. He flung them at the men as if
they were javelins ; shot them in their faces as if from a
pistol ; and while rivers run to the sea, I can never think
of Oliver Cromwell as I saw him this day but as one of
the Immortals. He did not look as you and I look. He
filled the House, though a less man in bulk and stature
than either of us. He told the members to empty them
selves of Self, and then they would find room for Christ,
and for England. He told them the Lord had done with
them. He said they were no Parliament, and that he had
been sent to put an end to their sitting and their prating.

" And at these words, Cluny Neville spoke to the Ser
jeant, and he opened the doors, and some musketeers en
tered the House. Then Sir Harry Vane cried out, This
is not honest ; and Cromwell reminded him of his own
broken promise. And so, to one and all, he brought Judg
ment Day ; for their private lives were well known to him,
and he could glance at Tom Challoner and say, Some of
you are drunkards ; and at Henry Marten, and give the
text about lewd livers ; and at the bribe-takers he had only
to point his finger, and say in a voice of thunder Depart^
and they began to go out, at first slowly, and then in a
hurry, treading on the heels of each other."

" What of Lenthall? He has a stubborn will."

" He sat still in the Speaker s chair, until Cromwell
ordered him to come down. For a moment he hesitated,
but General Harrison said, I will lend you my hand, sir;
and so he also went out."

" But was there no attempt to stay such dismissals ? I
am amazed, dumbfounded ! " said Doctor Verity.

" Alderman Allen, the Treasurer of the Army, as he
went out said something to Cromwell which angered him
very much ; and he then and there charged Allen with


a shortage of one hundred thousand pounds, and committed
him to the care of a musketeer for examination. And as Sir
Harry Vane passed him, he told him reproachfully that his
own treacherous conduct had brought affairs to their present
necessity ; for, he added, if Sir Harry Vane had been at the
Cockpit according to his words, Oliver Cromwell had not
been in the Parliament House. But I tell you, there was
no gainsaying the Cromwell of this hour. He was more
than mortal man ; and Vane and the others knew, if they
had not known before, why he was never defeated in

" After the Speaker had left, what then ? "

" His eye fell upon the Mace, and he said scornfully to
some of the Ironsides, Take that bauble away ! Then
he ordered the musketeers to clear the House, he himself
walking up to its Clerk and taking from under his arm the
bill which had caused the trouble, and which was ready
to pass. He ordered the man to go home, and he slipped
away without a question. Cromwell was the last soul
to leave the Chamber, and as he went out of it he locked
the door and put the key in his pocket. He then walked
quietly back to his rooms in the Cockpit, and I dare say he
was more troubled to meet Mistress Cromwell than he was
to meet Sir Harry Vane and his company."

" Oh, no ! " said Jane. " Mistress Cromwell is in all her
husband s counsels. He would go to her for comfort, for
whatever he may have said and done. I know he is this
hour sorrowful and disturbed, and that he will neither eat
nor drink till he has justified himself in the sight of God."

" He will need God on his right hand and on his left," said
Doctor Verity. " More than we can tell will come of this
implacable hostility, rancorous jealousy, everlasting envy
and spite. The members "


"The members," interrupted General Swaffham, "have
tied themselves, hands and feet, with cords of their own
spinning, and Oliver Cromwell holds the ends of them.
They will not dare to open their mouths. Sir Harry Vane
said something about the business being unconstitutional,
and Cromwell answered him roughly enough, after this
fashion : Unconstitutional ? A very accommodating word,
Sir Harry Vane. Give me leave to say you have played
fast and loose with it long enough. I will not have it any
longer ! England will not have it ! You are no friend of
England. I do say, sir, you are no friend of England!
And his passion gathered and blazed till he spurned the
floor with his feet, just as I have seen my big red bull
at Swaffham paw the ground on which he stood."

"This is all very fine indeed," said Mrs. Swaffham, al
most weeping in her anger; "but you need not praise this
man to me. He has slain the King of England, and turned
out the English Parliament, and pray what next ? He will
make himself King, and Elizabeth Cromwell Queen.
Shall we indeed bow clown to them ? Not I, for one."

" He wants no such homage, Martha," said the Doctor,
"and if I judge Madame Cromwell rightly, she is quite as
far from any such desire."

"You know nothing of the Cromwell women, Doctor
I know. Yes, I know them ! "

" Dear mother "

" Jane, there is no use dear mothering me. I know
the Cromwells. Many a receipt for puddings and comfits I
have given Elizabeth Cromwell, and shown her how to dye
silk and stuffs; yes, and loaned her my silver sconces when
Elizabeth married Mr. Claypole ; and now to think of her
in the King s palace, and people bowing down to her, and
hand-kissing, and what not ! And as for Oliver Croiri-


well s passions, we know all about them down in Cambridge
shire," she continued. " He stamped in that way when
some one preached in St. Mary s what he thought rank
popery ; and about the draining of the Fens, he kicked
enough, God knows ! Oh, yes, I can see him in steel and
buff, sword in hand, and musketeers behind him, getting his
way for his way he will have if he turn England hurly-
burly for it."

u Martha, he wore neither steel nor buff, and his sword
was far from him. He went down to the House in a black
cloth suit and gray worsted stockings, which, no doubt, were
of his wife s knitting; and his shoes were those made by
Benjamin Cudlip, country fashion, low-cut, with steel
latchets. He had not even a falling collar on, just a band
of stitched linen round his neck."

" I wonder, oh, I hope ! " said Jane, " that it was one of
the bands I stitched when I was last staying at Whitehall."

" Find it out, Jane ; settle your mind that it was one of
them," answered Doctor Verity ; " and then, Jane, you may
tell it to your children, and grandchildren, God willing."

u At any rate," continued General Swaffham, " Crom
well at this hour owed nothing to his dress. I have seen
him in the fields by St. Ives, and in Ely Market, in the
same kind of clothing. What would you ? And what
did it matter? His spirit clothed his flesh, and the power
of the spirit was on him, so that the men in velvet and
fine lace wilted away in his presence."

" No one minds the Lord General s having power, no one
minds giving him honour for what he has done for England,
but the Cromwell women ! What have they done more
than others ? " asked Mrs. Swaffham.

" Be at peace, Martha," said General Swaffham ; "here
are things to consider of far greater import than the Crom-


well women. How the nation will take this affair, remains
to be seen. Tis true the Lord General was cheered all
through the citv, hut he knows and no man better
what a fickle heart the populace have. As like as not, it
will be, as he said to me, Overturn, overturn, and great
tasks on all sides.

" I look for measureless wrath and vain babble, and
threats heard far ami wide," said Doctor Verity. " The
people have been given what they wanted, and twenty to
one they will now nay-say all they have roared for. That
would be like the rest of their ways."

For once Doctor Verity was wrong. This master-stroke
of Cromwell s went straight to the heart of London. " Not
a doy; barked against it," said Cromwell to his friends, and


he was to all intents and purposes right. Those who
called it " usurpation " confessed that it was an usurpation
of capability, in place of one of incapability. Even the
lampoons of the day were not adverse to Cromwell, while
some of them gave him a grim kind of pleasure.

Thus, one morning, Cluny Neville passing the Parlia
ment House noticed placards on its walls, and going close
enough to read them, found they advertised u This bouse to
let; unfurnished." And when he told this to Cromwell,
that faculty in the man which sometimes made for a rude
kind of mirth, was aroused, and he burst into an uproarious
enjoyment of the joke. "I wish," he cried, U I wish I
knew the \va > who did it. I would ewe him a crown or

^ D

two, I would indeed, and gladly."

There had he-en a little uncertainty about the navv, for
Sir Harry Vane had shown it great favour. But Admiral
Robert Blake was as great and as unselfish a man in his
office as was Oliver Cromwell. He accepted the change
without dissent, telling his fleet simply


u It is not the business of seamen to mind state affairs.
Our business is to keep foreigners from fooling us, and to
find the Dutch ships, fight them, and sink them."

And yet the feeling which led to Mrs. Swaffham s little
burst of temper was not particular to herself. Many women
felt precisely as Martha S waff ham did, and Cromwell did
not take this element into his consideration. Yet it was
one that worked steadily towards its reckoning, for men
do not finally withstand the ceaseless dropping fire of their
own hearthstones. A4rs. Fleetwood s and Mrs. Lambert s
ill-feeling about precedence was indefinitely multiplied, and
Mrs. Swaffham s more intimate rejection of the Cromwell
women was a stone thrown into water and circling near
and far. The Lord General Cromwell, men and women
alike, could accept ; he had fought his way to honour, and
they could give him what he had won. But the Cromwell
women had done nothing, and suffered nothing beyond the
ordinary lot ; it was a much harder thing to render homage
unto them. In these days, Mrs. Swaffham, though ignoring
the late King, was distinctly royal and loyal where Queen
Henrietta Maria was concerned.

But it was, after all, a grand time in old England. Ad
ventures and victories were the news of every day. Noth
ing was too strange to happen ; people expected romances
and impossibilities ; and because they expected them, they
came. The big city was always astir with news; it flew
from lip to lip, like wild fire, was rung out from every
steeple, and flashed in bonfires from one high place to an
other. This formidable man in black and gray was at the
helm of affairs, and England felt that she might now trade
and sow and marry and be happy to her heart s desire. The
shutting of the Parliament House affected nothing; the ma
chinery of Government went on without let or hindrance.


A new Parliament was quickly summoned, one hundred
and forty Puritan notables " fearing God and of approved
fidelity and honesty," and it was to begin its sittings on the
ensuing fourth of July. Meantime, Robert Blake was wip
ing out of existence the Dutch navy and the Dutch com
merce. In the month of June, he took eleven Dutch men-
of-war and one thousand three hundred and fifty prisoners;
the church bells rang joyously from one end of England to
the other, and London gathered at St. Paul s to sing Te
Deums for the victory.

Thus to the echoes of trumpets and cannon the business
of living and loving went on. The great national events
were only chorus to the dramas and tragedies of the highest
and the humblest homes. While Cromwell was issuing
writs for a new Parliament and holding the reins of Gov
ernment tightly in his strong hands, his wife and daughters
were happily busy about the marriage of young Harry
Cromwell to Elizabeth Russel ; and Sir Peter Lely was
painting their portraits, and Lady Mary Cromwell had her
first lover; and Mrs. SwafFham was making the cowslip
wine; and the Eermor and Heneage girls off to Bath for
trifling and bathing and idle diversions ; and Tane sewing

O O tJ o

the sweetest and tenderest thoughts into the fine linen and
cambric which she was fashioning into garments for her
own marriage. In every family circle it was the same
thing : the little comedies of life went on, whether Parlia
ment sat or not, whether Blake brought in prizes, or lay
watching in the Channel ; for, after all, what the people
really wanted was peace and leisure to attend to their own

One lovely morning in this jubilant English spring, Jane
sat at the open window writing to Matilda de Wick. All
the sweet fresh things of the earth and the air were around


her, but she was the sweetest and freshest of all. There
was a pleasant smile on her lips as her ringers moved across
the white paper. She was telling her friend about Harry
Cromwell s marriage in the old church at Kensington ;
about the dresses and the wedding feast, and the delightful
way in which the Lord General had taken his new daughter
to his heart. " And what now will Mistress Dorothy Os-
borne do?" she asked. "To be sure, she is said to be
greatly taken with Sir William Temple, who is of her own
way of thinking- which Harry Cromwell is not, though
Mrs. Hutchinson has spoken of him everywhere as a de
bauched, ungodly cavalier; but Mrs. Hutchinson has a
Presbyterian hatred of the Cromwells. And I must also
tell you that the Lords Chandos and Arundel have been
tried before the Upper Bench for the killing of Mr. Comp-
ton in a duel. The crime was found manslaughter, and
they were sentenced to be burned in the hand which was
done to them both, but very favourably. And the Earl of
Leicester said he was glad of it, for it argued a good stiff
government to punish men of such high birth ; but my
father thinks Leicester to be the greatest of levelers, he
would abolish all rank and titles but his own. And I must
also tell you that General Monk has discovered his mar
riage to Ann Clarges a market-woman of low birth, no
beauty whatever, and a very ill tongue. My mother is
sure the General must have been bewitched ; however,
Mistress Monk has gone to live in Greenwich palace, which
has been given to the General for a residence. And the
rest of my news is in a nutshell, Matilda. I heard from
Tonbert that your brother had been seen at de Wick, but
this I discredit. Did he not PO with you to France ?


Cymlin is in Ireland, and sulking at his banishment to so
barbarous a country ; and so I make an end of this long


letter, saying in a word I am your friend entirely and sin
cerely, Jane Swaffham."

When Matilda received this letter she was in Paris.
Her first resting-place had been at The Hague, where she
had speedily been made known to the Princess Eliza
beth Stuart, the widowed ex-Queen of Bohemia, and the
mother of Prince Rupert. In her poverty-stricken Court
Matilda found kindred spirits, and she became intimate
with the light-hearted Queen and her clever daughters.
For in spite of the constant want of money, it was a Court
abounding in wit and fun, in running about The Hague in
disguise ; in private theatricals, singing and dancing, and
other " very hilarious amusements," deeply disgusting to the
English Puritans.


So, then, while Sir Thomas Jevery was busy about his
ships and his merchandise, Lady Jevery and Matilda spent
much time with the ex-Queen, her dogs and her monkeys,
her sons and her daughters, and the crowd of Cavalier gen
tlemen who made the house at The Hague a gathering
place. Rupert, however, had never been his mother s
favourite, yet she was proud of his valour and achieve
ments, and not generally indisposed to talk to Matilda about
her " big hero." It pleased her most to describe with
melodramatic thrills his baptism in the great old palace of
Prague, his ivory cradle embossed with gold and gems, and
his wardrobe " the richest he ever had in his life, poor in
fant ;" and then she continued, " He was not a lucky
child. Misfortune came with him. He was not a year
old when the Austrians overran Bohemia, and we were
without a Kingdom a king and a queen without a crown.
Well, I have my dogs and my monkeys."

" Which your Majesty greatly prefers to your sons and
daughters," said the witty young Princess Sophie.


" They give me fewer heartaches, Sophie," was the
answer. " Look, for instance, at your brother Rupert.
What an incorrigible he is ! What anxieties have I not
suffered for him. And Maurice, who must get himself
drowned all because of his adoration of Rupert ! Oh, the
poor Prince Rupert ! he is, as I say, most unlucky. I told
my august brother Charles the same thing, and he listened
not, until everything was lost, and it was too late. The
great God only knows what calamities there are in this

" But Prince Rupert has been the hope and support of

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 14 of 27)