Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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" It is enough," answered Lady Jevery. " Matilda can
not wish to put in danger your liberty or life."

" My happiness is of less consequence, aunt."

" Certainly it is ; " and there was such an air of finality
in Lady Jevery s voice that Matilda rose and went to her own
apartments to continue her complaints. This she did with
passionate feeling in a letter to Prince Rupert, in which
she expressed without stint her hatred of Lord Neville and
her desire for his punishment. Rupert was well inclined to
humour her wish. He had seen the young Commonwealth
messenger, and his handsome person and patrician manner
had given him a moment s envious look back to the days
when he also had been young and hopeful, and full of faith
in his own great future. The slight hauteur of Neville, his
punctilious care for Cromwell s instructions, his whole
bearing of victory, as against his own listless attitude of
" failure," set his mind in a mood either to ignore the young
man, or else by the simplest word or incident to change
from indifference to dislike.

Matilda s letter furnished the impetus to dislike. He
said to himself, " Neville showed more insolence and self-
approval in the presence of his Eminence than I, after all
my wars and adventures, would have presumed on, under
any circumstances. He wants a lesson, and it will please
Matilda if I give him it ; and God knows there is so little
I can do to pleasure her ! At this point in his reflections,
he called his equerry and bid him " find out the lodgings of
Lord Neville, and watch him by day and night;" adding,
" Have my Barbary horse saddled, and when this English-


man leaves his lodging, bring me instant word of the course
he takes."

The next morning he spent with Matilda. She was in
tears and despair, and Rupert could do nothing but weep
and despair with her. He indeed renewed with passionate
affection his promise to marry her as soon as this was pos
sible, but the possibility did not appear at hand to either of
them. Rupert certainly could have defied every family and
caste tradition, and made the girl so long faithful to him at
once his wife ; but how were they to live as became his
rank ? For in spite of popular suppositions to the con
trary, he was in reality a poor man, and he could not be
come a pensioner on Sir Thomas Jevery, even if Sir
Thomas had been able to give him an income at all in
unison with Rupert s ideas of the splendid life due to his
position and achievements.

But he had not long to wait for an opportunity to meet
Neville. While he was playing billiards the following after
noon with the Duke of Yorke, his equerry arrived at the
Palais Royale with his horse. Neville had taken the
northern road out of the city, and it was presumably the
homeward road. Rupert followed quickly, but Neville was
a swift, steady rider, and he was not overtaken till twenty
miles had been covered, and the daylight was nearly lost in
the radiance of the full moon. Rupert put spurs to his
horse, passed Neville at a swift gallop, then suddenly
wheeling, came at a rush towards him, catching his bridle
as they met.

" Alight," he said peremptorily.

Neville shook his bridle free, and asked,

" By whose orders ? "

" Mine."

" I will not obey them."


" You will alight. I have a quarrel to settle with you."
" On what ground ? "


" Say it is on the ground of your mistress. I am Earl
de Wick s friend."

" I will not fight on such pretense. My mistress would
deny me if I did."

" Fight for your honour, then."

Neville laughed. " I know better. And before what


you call Honour, I put Duty."

" Then fight for the papers and money in your posses
sion. I want them."

" Ha ! I thought so. You are a robber, it seems. The

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papers and gold are not mine, and I will fight rather than
lose them. But I warn you that I am a good swords

" Heaven and hell ! What do I care ? Alight, and

prove your boast."

" If you are in such a hurry to die, go and hang yourself.
On second thoughts, I will not fight a thief. I am a
noble, and an honourable man."

" If you do not alight at once, I will slay your horse.
You shall fight me, here and now, with or without pre

Then Neville flung himself from his horse and tied the
animal to a tree. Rupert did likewise, and the two men
rapidly removed such of their garments as would interfere
with their bloody play. They were in a lonely road, par
tially shaded with great trees ; not a human habitation was
visible, and there were no seconds to see justice done in
the fight, or secure help after it, if help was needed. But
at this time the lack of recognised formalities was no im
pediment to the duel. Rupert quickly found that he had
met his match. Neville left him not a moment s breathing


space, but never followed up his attacks ; until at last
Rupert called out insolently, " When are you going to kill

The angry impatience of the inquiry probably induced a
moment s carelessness, and Rupert did not notice that in
the struggle their ground had insensibly been changed, and
Neville now stood directly in front of a large tree. Not
heeding the impediment, Rupert made a fierce thrust with
the point of his sword, which Neville evaded by a vault to
one side, so that Rupert s sword striking the tree, sprang
from his hand at the impact. As it fell to the ground,
Neville reached it first, and placed his foot upon it. Rupert
stood still and bowed gravely. He was at Neville s mercy,
and he indicated his knowledge of this fact by the proud
stillness of his attitude.

" It was an accident," said Neville; " and an accident is
God s part in any affair. Take your life from my hand.
I have no will to wish your death." He offered his hand
as he spoke, and Rupert took it frankly, answering,

" Tis no disgrace to take life from one so gallant and
generous, and I am glad that I can repay the favour of
your clemency ; " then he almost whispered in Cluny s ear
three words, and the young man started visibly, and with
great haste untied his horse.

"We would better change horses," said Rupert; "mine
is a Barb, swift as the wind."

But Cluny could not make the change proposed without
some delay, his papers and jewels being bestowed in his
saddle linings. So with a good wish the two men parted,
and there was no anger between them ; admiration and
good will had taken its place. Neville hastened forward,
as he had been advised, and Rupert returned to Paris. He
knew Matilda was expecting him, and he pictured to him-


self her disappointment and anxiety at his non-appearance ;
it was also her last evening in Paris, and it grieved him to
miss precious hours of love, that might never be given him
again. Yet he was physically exhausted, and as soon as he
threw himself upon a couch he forgot all his weariness and
all his anxieties in a deep sleep.

Matilda was not so happy as to find this oblivion. She
knew over what social pitfalls every man of prominence in
Paris walked in the Kind s favour one dav, in the Bastile

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the next day and that this very insecurity of all good things
made men reckless. Rupert might have offended King
Louis or the great Cardinal. She imagined a hundred causes
for flight or fight or imprisonment ; she recalled one story
after another of nobles and gentlemen seen flourishing in
the presence of Louis one day and then never seen again.
She knew that plots and counterplots, party fueds and fam
ily hatreds, were everywhere rife ; and that Rupert was rash
and outspoken, and had many enemies among the cour
tiers of Louis and the exiled nobles of England, not to


speak of the Commonwealth spies, to whom he was an ob
ject of superstitious hatred, who regarded his blackamoors
as familiar spirits, and believed firmly that " he had a devil,"
and worked evil charms by the devil s help and advice. And
above all, and through these sad forebodings, there was the
ever present likelihood of a duel. Every man had sword in
hand, ready to settle some terrible or trivial quarrel thong})
it did not require a quarrel to provoke the duel ; men fought
for a word, for a sign, for the colour of a ribbon, for noth
ing at all, for the pleasure of killing themselves to kill

A latilda was keenly alive to all these possible tragedies,
and when her lover failed to keep what was likc .v to be
their last tryst, she was more frightened than angry ; yet


when Rupert came at an exceptionally early hour in the
morning, and she saw him safe and well, her anxiety became
flavoured with displeasure.

" How could you so cruelly disappoint me ? " she cried,
"You see now that our time is nearly gone j in a few hours
we must part, perhaps forever."

" My dearest, loveliest Mata, I was about your pleasure.
I was following Lord Neville, and he took me further than
I expected. When my business was done with him, I had
twenty miles to ride back to Paris ; and I confess to you, I
was so weary that I could only sleep. In your love, remem
ber how lately I have been sick to death."

"Lord Neville again ! The man is an incubus. Why
did you follow him ? "

" You wished me to give him a lesson. He was going
homeward. I had to ride last night, or let him escape. By
my troth, I had only your pleasure in mind."

" Oh, but the price paid was too great ! I had to give up
your society for hours. That is a loss I shall mourn to the
end of my life. I hope, then, that you killed him. Noth
ing less will suffice for it."

" I was out of fortune, as I always am. I had an acci
dent, and was at his mercy. He gave me my life."

" Now, indeed, you pierce my heart. You at his mercy !
It is an intolerable shame ! It will make me cry out, even
when I sleep ! I shall die of it. You ! You ! to be at his
mercy at the mercy of that Puritan braggart. Oh, I can
not endure it ! "

"You see that I endure it very complacently, Mata.
The man behaved as a gentleman and a soldier. I have
even taken a liking to him. I have also paid back his kind
ness ; we are quits, and as soldiers, friends. It was an
accident, and as Neville very piously said, Accidents are


God s part in an affair ; and therefore we would not be
found fighting against God. You know, Mata, that I have
been very religiously brought up. And I can assure you no
one s honour suffered, mine least of all."

But Matilda was hard to comfort. Her last interview
with her lover was saddened and troubled by this disagree
ment; and though both were broken-hearted in the mo
ments of farewell, Matilda, watching Rupert across the
Place Royale, discovered in the listless impatience of his
attitude and movements, that inward revolt against outward
strife, which, if it had found a voice, would have ejaculated,
" I am glad it is over."

This, then, was the end of the visit from which she had
expected so much ; and one sad gray morning in November
they reached London. Sir Thomas was like a man re
leased from a spell, and he went about his house and garden
in a mood so happy that it was like a psalm of gratitude to
be with him. Lady Jevery was equally pleased, though less
ready to show her pleasure ; but to Matilda, life appeared
without hope a state of simple endurance, for she had no
vital expectation that the morrow, or any other morrow,
would bring her happiness.

The apparently fateful interference of Neville in her
affairs made her miserable. She thought him her evil gen
ius, the bearer of bad news, the bringer of sorrow. She
felt Rupert s " accident " as part of the bad fate. She had
been taught fencing, and Cymlin Swarf ham had often de
clared her a match for any swordsman, so that she knew,
as well as Rupert knew, no honour had been lost between
him and Neville. But the "accident " touched her deeper
than this : she regarded it as a proof that the stars were
still against her good fortune, separating her from her lover,
influencing Neville and his party for victory, and dooming


the King and his party to defeat in all their relationships,
private and national.

She said to herself in the first hours of her return that
she would not see Jane, but as the day wore on she
changed her mind. She wished to write Rupert every par
ticular about national events, and she could best feel the
Puritan pulse through Jane ; while from no one else could
she obtain a knowledge of the household doings of Crom
well and his family. Then, also, she wished Jane to see
her new dresses, and to hear of the great and famous peo
ple she had been living among. What was the use of be
ing familiar with princesses, if there was no one to talk to
about them ? And Matilda had so much to say concerning
the ex-Queen of Bohemia and her clever daughters, that
she could not deny herself the society of Jane as a listener.

So she wrote and asked her to come, and Jane answered
the request in person, at once. This hurry of welcome
was a little malapropos. Matilda had not assumed the
dress and style she had intended, and the litter of fine cloth
ing about her rooms, and the partially unpacked boxes, gave
to her surroundings an undignified and unimpressive char
acter. But friendship gives up its forms tardily ; people
kiss each other and say fond words long after the love that
ought to vitalise such symbols is dead and buried ; and for
awhile the two girls did believe themselves glad to meet
again. There were a score of things delightful to women
over which they could agree, and Jane s admiration for her
friend s beautiful gowns and laces and jewels, and her in
terest in Matilda s descriptions of the circumstances in
which they were worn, was so genuine, that Matilda had
forgotten her relation to Lord Neville, when the irritating
name was mentioned.

u Did you see Lord Neville in Paris ? " Jane asked ; and


there was a wistful anxiety in her voice to which Matilda
ought to have responded. But the question came when
she was tired even of her own splendours and successes ;
she had talked herself out, and was not inclined to continue
conversation if the subject of it was to be one so disagree
able. " No," she answered sharply. " I did not see him.
He called one day, and had a long talk with Sir Thomas,
but aunt had a headache, and I had more delightful com

" I thought for my sake you would see him. Did you
hear anything of his affairs ? "

" Indeed, I heard he gave great offense to Cardinal Maza-
rin by his authoritative manner."

" bb ! "

" You know, Jane, that he has a most presuming,
haughty way ? He has ! "

" I am sure he has not, Matilda."

" Every one wondered at Cromwell sending a mere boy
on such delicate and important business. It was consid
ered almost an insult to Mazarin."

" How can you say such things, Matilda ? The business
was neither delicate nor important. It was merely to de
liver a parcel to Mazarin. Cluny was not charged with
any explanations, and I am sure he took nothing on him

" I only repeat what I heard that he carried himself as
if he were a young Atlas, and had England s fate and honour
on his shoulders."

" You can surely also repeat something pleasant. Did
you hear of him at the minister s, or elsewhere ? He is not
one to pass through a room and nobody see him."

" I heard nothing about him but what I have told you.
He prevented my seeing the Queen of Bohemia on my re-


turn, because he offered to attend to my uncle s business at
The Hague for him ; and for this interference I do not
thank Lord Neville."

" Nor I," answered Jane. " Had he not gone to The
Hague he might have been in London by this time."
Then wishing to avoid all unpleasantness, she said, " To be
sure it is no wonder you forgot me and my affairs. You
have been living a fairy tale, Matilda ; and the fairy prince
has been living it with you. How charming ! "

Matilda was instantly pleased, her voice became melodi
ous, her face smiling and tender. " Yes," she answered,
u a fairy tale, and my prince was so splendid, so famous, so
adored, kings, cardinals, great men of all kinds, and the
loveliest women in France sought him, but he left all to sit
at my side;" and then the girls sat down, hand in hand,
and Matilda told again her tale of love, till they were both
near to weeping. This sympathy made Matilda remember
more kindly Jane s dreams and hopes concerning her own
love affair, and though she hated Neville, she put aside the
ill feeling and asked, " Pray now, Jane, what about your
marriage ? Does it stand, like mine, under unwilling
stars ? "

" No. I am almost sure my father has changed his
mind ; perhaps the Lord General has helped him to do so,
for no man, or woman either, takes such sweet interest in a
true love affair. He is always for making lovers happy,
whether they be his own sons and daughters or those of his
friends; and he likes Cluny so much that when he returns he
is to have a command at Edinburgh. And I can see father
and mother have been talking about our marriage. One
morning, lately, mother showed me the fine damask and
house linen she is going to give me, and another morning
she looked at my sewing and said, I might as well hurry


a little; things might happen sooner than I thought for;
and then she kissed me, and that is what mother doesn t
often do, out of time and season."

jane had risen as she said these words, and was tyinjj; on

*J j O

her bonnet, and Matilda watched her with a curious inter
est. " I was wondering," she said slowly, " if you will be
glad to marry Cluny Neville and go away to Scotland with

" Oh, yes," Jane answered, her eyes shining, her mouth
wreathed in smiles, her whole being expressing her delight
in such an anticipation. Matilda made no further remark,
but when Jane had closed the door behind her, she sat down
thoughtfully by the tire, and stirring together the red em
bers, sighed rather than said

u Whv do people marry and bring up sons and daugh
ters ? This girl has been loved to the uttermost by her
father and mother and brothers, and she will gladly leave
them all to go off with this young Scot. She will call it
1 Sacrifice for Love s sake ; I call it pure selfishness. Yet
I am not a whit whiter than she. I would have stayed in
Paris with Rupert, though my good uncle was in danger.
How dreadful it is to look into one s own soul, and make
one s self tell it the honest truth. I think I will go to my
evening service; " and as she rose for her Common Prayer,
she was saying under her breath, "We have left undone
those things which we ought to have done, and we have
done those things which we ought not to have done. And
there is no health in us."

Lady Jevery had a dinner party that night, and Matilda
went down to it in considerable splendour. Doctor Hewitt
was present, and Mr. Waller, the poet, and Den/,il Hollis,
and the witty, delightful Henry Marten, and Matilda s great
favourite, the little royalist linen draper, Izaak Walton,


whose Complete Angler had just been published. He had
brought Sir Thomas a copy of it, and Matilda found out at
once the song, u Come live with me and be my love." Her
praises were very pleasant to the old man, who had hid
Donne and Hooker and Herbert in his Inner Chamber
during the days of the Long Parliament; who had been the
friend of bishops Ken and Sanderson, and of archbishops
Usher and Sheldon ; and who, born in Elizabeth s reign,
had lived to see " Sceptre and Crown tumbled down."

u But you are not the only author of Great Oliver s
reign," she said with a whimsical smile. " This day Mis
tress Dorothy Osborne sent me a copy of the poems of my
Lady Newcastle. She has been making herself still more
absurd than she is by writing a book and in verse. Sure,
said Mistress Dorothy to me, if I did not sleep for a
month, I should never come to that point. Why does her
husband let her run loose ? I vow there are soberer people
in Bedlam."

41 Her husband adores her; he believes her to be a
prodigy of learning."

" They are a couple of fools well met. I am sorry for
them. She dashes at everything, and he goes about trum
peting her praises. Come, sir, I hear the company tossing
Cromwell s name about. Let us join the combatants ; I
wish to be in the fray."

The fact was Sir Thomas had asked after political affairs
since he left England in April, and there was plenty of ma
terial for discussion. Denzil Hollis was describing the
opening of the Parliament summoned by Cromwell, and
which met on the fourth of July. " He made to this Par
liament," he said, " a wonderful speech. He declared that
he did not want supreme power, no, not for a day, but to
put it into the hands of proper persons elected by the peo-


pic. And he bid them be humble and not consider
themselves too much of a Parliament. And then he burst
into such a strain as none ever heard, taking texts from
psalms, and prophets and epistles, mingled with homely
counsels, and entreaties to them to do their duty speaking
till the words fell red hot from his lips, so that when he
ended with the psalm on Dunbar field we were all ready to
sing it with him ; for as he told us, with a shining face, the
triumph of the psalm is exceeding high and great, and God
is now accomplishing it.

" No English Parliament was ever opened like that," said
Sir Thomas. u Has it done anything yet? "

" It has done too much. It has committees at work
looking into the affairs of Scotland and Ireland, the navy,
the armv and the law. They have been through the jails,
and set three hundred poor debtors free in London alone.
They have abolished titles and the Court of Chancery ; and
the last two acts have made the nation very uneasy. Upon
my honour, the people are more unhappy at getting rid of
their wrongs than you would credit."

" Englishmen like something to grumble about," said
Mr. Walton. " If the Commonwealth leaves them with
out a grievance, it will doom itself."

" That is not it, Mr. Walton," said Henry Marten ;
" Englishmen don t like the foundations destroyed in order
to repair the house. Going over precipices is not maki no-
progress. You may take it for an axiom that as a people,
we prefer abuses to novelties."

"The reign of the saints is now begun," said Doctor
Hewitt scornfully ; " and Sir Harry Vane is afraid of what
he has prayed for. He has gone into retirement, and sent
Cromwell word he would wait for his place until he got to


" Sir Harry is not one of Zebedee s sons."

" This Parliament is going too fast."

"They have no precedents to hamper them."

" Everything old is in danger of being abolished."

" They talk of reducing all taxation to one assessment
on land and property. Absurd ! "

" Some say they will burn the records in the Tower; and
the law of Moses is to take the place of the law of England."

" And the Jews are to have civil rights."

" And after that we may have a Jewish Sanhedrim in
place of a Puritan Parliament."

" The good people of England will never bear such in
novations," said Sir Thomas with great indignation.

" None of us know how much the good people of Eng
land will bear," answered Hollis.

" And pray what part does Cromwell take in these
changes ? Surely he is the leader of them ? " asked Lady

" He takes no part in them, madame," answered Walton ;
"gives no advice, uses no authority."

" Oh, indeed he is just waiting till his Assembly of Saints
have made themselves beyond further bearing," said Ma
tilda. " Then he will arise to the rescue, and serve them
as he did the last Parliament."

" And then, Lady Matilda, what then ? " asked Doctor

" He will make himself Emperor of these Isles."

" I do not think he has any such intent ; no, not for an
hour," said Sir Thomas.

There was a cynical laugh at this opinion, and Matilda s
opinion was, in the main, not only endorsed, but firmly be
lieved. Many could not understand why he had waited so
long. " When he sheathed his sword at Worcester he


could have lifted the sceptre, and the whole nation would
have shouted gratefully, God save King Oliver, " said Sir
Thomas. " Why did he not do so, I wonder r "

But if the spiritual eyes of these men had been suddenly
opened, as were those of Elisha, they might have seen
that hour the man Cromwell, as God saw him, and
acknowledged with shame and blame their ready injustice.
For even while they were condemning him, accusing him of
unbounded ambition and unbounded hypocrisy, he was

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 16 of 27)