Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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kneeling by the side of a very old woman, praying. One
of her small, shriveled hands was clasped between his large
brown palms, and his voice, low, but intensely deep and
earnest, filled the room with that unmistakable pathetic
monotone, which is the natural voice of a soul pleading
with its God. It rose and fell, it was full of tears and of
triumph, it was sorrowful and imploring, it was the very sob
of a soul wounded and loving, but crying out, " Though
He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." When he rose, his
face was wet with tears, but the aged woman had the light
of heaven on her calm brow. She rose with him, and
leaning on the top of her ivory staff, said,

" Oliver, my son Oliver, have no fear. Man nor woman
shall have power to hurt thee. Until thy work is done,
thou shalt not see death; and when it is done, the finger of
God will beckon thee. Though an host should rise up
against thee, thou wilt live thy day and do thy work."

" My mother ! My good mother ! God s best gift to
me and mine."

" The Lord bless thee, Oliver, and keep thee.
The Lord make His face to shine upon thee,
And be gracious unto thee.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee,
And give thee peace."


Then Oliver kissed his mother tenderly, and went out
from her presence with the joy of one whom " his mother
comforteth." And his face was bright and lifted up, and
his footsteps firm; and he carried himself like a man whose
soul had been "ministered unto." And if the envious
doubters at Sir Thomas Jevery s had seen him at that
moment, they must have instantly taken knowledge of him
that he had been with God. All his fears were gone, all
his troubles lighter than a grasshopper ; in some blessed
way there had come to him the knowledge that even

" Envy s harsh berries, and the chocking pool,
Of the world s scorn and hatred, are the right mother milk
To the true, tough hearts that pioneer their kind."


Oliver The Conqueror



" O heart heroic, England s noblest son !
At what a height thy shining spirit burns
Starlike, and floods our souls with quickening fire."

" Fearful commenting is
The leaden servitor to dull delay."

THE popular discontent with the rapid and radical re
forms of the saints Parliament was not confined to the
Royalists ; the nation, without regard to party, was bitterly
incensed and alarmed. Cromwell was no exception ; the
most conservative of men, he also grew angry and restless
when he saw the reign of the saints beginning in earnest.

" These godly men are going straight to the confusion of
all things," he said to Israel SwafFham ; " they forget they
are assembled here by the people, and are assuming a direct
power from the Lord. If we let them, they will bring us
under the horridest arbitrariness in the world."

There was reason enough for this fear. Not content
with the changes in government, religion and law, Feake
and Powell were urging social changes that would level
all ranks and classes to an equality, and Cromwell abomi
nated such ideas. Of equality, as we understand the word,
he had no conception. He told the members plainly that
England had known for hundreds of years, ranks and
orders of men nobles, gentlemen, yoemen and that such



ranks were a good interest to the nation, and a great one.
"What is the purport," he asked, " to make the tenant as
liberal a fortune as the landlord ? If obtained, it would not
last ; the men of that principle, after they had served their
own turns, would have cried up property fast enough."

To the Fifth Monarchy men who held that the saints
alone should rule the earth, he gave the sternest rebuke,
telling them plainly that the carnal divisions among them
were not symptoms of Christ s Kingdom. " Truly," he
added, "you will need to give clearer manifestations of
God s presence among you before wise men will submit to
your conclusions."

In the meantime the anger outside the Parliament House
rose to fury. Doubtless Cromwell had foreseen this crisis.
Certainly a large number of the members were of his way
of thinking, and on the twelfth of December, Colonel
Sydenham rose, and accusing the members of wishing to
put a Mosaic code in place of the Common Law of
England of depreciating a regular ministry (for what
need of one, if all men could prophesy ?) and of opposing
learning and education, he declared the salvation of the
nation lay in resigning the trust committed to them into
the hands of the Lord General Cromwell. The motion
was seconded by Sir Charles Wolseley. The Speaker left
the chair, and followed by a majority of the members, went
to Whitehall, and there and then they wrote out their res
ignation. It was said that " Cromwell looked astonished,
and only received the paper upon great importunity." And
if ever Cromwell drolled in his life, he drolled then, for it
is not likely this movement was unforeseen ; all its details
had been too ably arranged to be the result of unanticipated

No serious opposition was made. Some thirty of the


members remained in the House " to protest," but Colonel
Goff entering with a hie of musketeers, the argument was
quickly closed. "What are you doing here ?" asked the
Colonel, and some one answered, " We are seeking the
Lord," then said he, " You may go elsewhere, for to my
certain knowledge the Lord has not been here these many
years." Three days after this event a new Council of
State resolved that his Excellency be chosen LORD PRO
TECTOR of the three nations, and on the sixteenth of De
cember be so installed in Westminster Hall.

" And you would think that he had been publicly
scorned instead of publicly chosen," said Israel to his wife.
u He looks miserable; he is silent and downcast, and talks
much to himself. Yet he is in his right place, and the
only man in England who can save us from anarchy."

u God knows. It is a place of great honour for Mr.
Oliver Cromwell of Slepe House."

" Xo, no. Tis a place of great danger, a place of
terror and forlorn hope. God knows, I would not have it
for all the honour and gold in England. Martha, his
Excellency and her Highness desire your company, and
that of Jane, to the ceremony. You will go ? "

u I had better stay at home, Israel. I cannot Your
Highness Elizabeth Cromwell. Jane will go."

" And you, too, Alartha. I wish it."

"I never go against your wishes, Israel at least not

So it happened that on the sixteenth of December, Mrs.
Swaffham and Jane were dressing for Whitehall. Mrs.
SwafFham was nervous and irritable ; nervous, because she
feared her gown was not as handsome as it ought to be ;
irritable, because she felt that circumstances were going to
control her behaviour, whether she approved or not. Jane


was unable to encourage or cheer her mother; she was her
self the most unhappy maiden in London that day. She
was white as the satin robe that clothed her, and her eyes
held in their depths the shadow of that fear and grief which
filled her heart. And though her mother was sorry for her
distress, she was vexed that her girl could not better hide
her trouble. u I hate to be pitied, Jane," she said, " and
above all by her Highness. And those Cromwell girls,
they too will be crying Oh dear me ! and Poor Jane !
and you will be a sweet sadness to spice their own glory
and happiness. Keep a brave heart, my girl. Something
may happen any hour."

Jane did not answer. She could not talk ; she needed
all her strength to live. For eighteen days she had been
forced to accept the fact that Cluny was at least eighteen
days behind all probable and improbable delays. She had
not received a line from him since he left Paris ; no one
had. He had apparently vanished as completely as a stone
dropped into mid-ocean. She had been often at Jevery
House, and during two of her visits had managed to see
Sir Thomas and ask " if he had any intelligence from Lord
Neville ? " On her first inquiry he answered her anx
iously ; on his second his reply showed some anger.

" He offered voluntarily to take charge of Lady Jevery s
jewels and to collect my money at The Hague ; and unless
he was certain of his ability to do these things safely, he
ought not to have sought the charge."

And with these words there entered into Jane s heart a
suspicion that hurt her like a sword-thrust. She found
herself saying continually, " It is impossible ! impossible !
Oh, my God, where is he ? "

All this time London was angry, anxious, almost tu
multuous. Jane would have gone to Cromwell for help


indeed she did go once to Whitehall with this object in
view but she was told that he was in his own apartments
silent and sad, and carrying a weight of responsibility that
might have appalled the stoutest heart. Indeed, the whole
family were quiet and preoccupied, and she came away
without finding any fit opportunity to say a word about
Cluny and his unaccountable delay. There was no one
else to go to. Doctor Verity was visiting the Rev. Mr.
Baxter at Kidderminster, and Matilda hated Cluny. Jane
could not bear to suggest to Matilda a doubt as to Cluny s
return. Certainly Mrs. SwafFham listened to her daugh
ter s fears and anxieties, but Jane felt that the Parliament
and its doings and misdoings, and the speculations con-
cernino- Cromwell, were the great and vital interest filling
every heart. No one seemed to care about Lord Neville
as she thought they ought to. So far, then, she had borne
her sorrow alone, and it had never left her a moment for
eighteen days and nights. Even in her sleep she wandered
wretchedly looking for him ; her pillows were full of evil
forebodings, and the atmosphere of her room was heavy
with the misery of her thoughts.

Fortunately the Cromwells had no idea that Jane was in
trouble ; they were, as was right and natural, very much
excited over the ceremony of the day and the order in
which it was to be carried out. His Excellency was with
a number of his officers in a separate apartment, but ma-
dame, the General s mother, was in the large parlour of the
Cockpit, and when the Swaffhams entered, she rose with
delight to meet her old neighbours and friends. In spite
of her great age she looked almost handsome in a robe of
black velvet and silver trimmings, with a shawl-like drapery
of rich white lace. In a short time her daughter-in-law
and her grandchildren entered, and A lrs. SwafFham looked


curiously at her old friend. Was this indeed the Elizabeth
Cromwell she had gossiped with and sometimes quarreled
with ? this stately woman in purple velvet, with large
pearls round her throat and falling in priceless beauty
below her waist ? There could be no doubt of her
identity, for as soon as Mrs. Swaffham began to approach
her, she came forward, saying in a tone of real pleasure,

" Martha ! Martha ! How glad I am to see you ! " and
the two women broke into smiles and exclamations, and
then kissed each other.

There was no time to spare. The Lord General, dressed
in a rich suit of black velvet, appeared, and the procession
was formed. The Commissioners of the Great Seal, the
Judges and Barons of the Exchequer in all the splendour of
their insignia, preceded it. Then came the Council of
State and the Lord Mayor and Aldermen in their scarlet
robes. Cromwell followed. He was alone in a magnifi
cent coach with outriders, but he was attended by the chief
officers of the army, and by an imposing military escort.
His family and friends in conveyances of equal splendour
were behind, and were also attended by a military guard of

" Is it a dream, Jane ? " said Mrs. Swaffham to her
daughter. " Am I asleep or awake ? Are these the very
Cromwells we used to know ? Did you see that little chit,
Frank, whom I have birched and stood in the corner, and
scolded more times than I can remember ? did you see her ?
Did you see her curtsying to her mother and calling her,
Your Highness ? and Mary Cromwell giving orders like
a very Queen ? and even Elizabeth Claypole looking as if
England belonged to them ? After this, Jane, nothing can
astonish me."

Jane was as silent as her mother was garrulous; the


crowds, the excitement, the poignant crash and lare of
martial music, the shining and clashing of steel, the waving
of flap-s, the shouts and huzzas of the multitudes, the rino;-


ing of innumerable bells, the overpowering sense of the
brotherhood of humanity in a mass animated by the same
feeling, these things thrilled and filled souls until they were
without words, or else foolishly eloquent.

A place of honour had been reserved for the Cromwell
party, and the great General s mother found a throne-like
chair placed for her in such a position that she could see
every movement and hear every word of that august cere
mony which was to acknowledge her son " the greatest man
in England." And as she sat there, watching him stand
uncovered beside the Chair of State, and listened to him
taking the solemn oath to rule England, Scotland and Ire
land justly, she thought of this battle-scarred man as a baby
at her breast, fifty-four years before, pressing her bosom
with his tiny fingers, and smiling up in her face, happily
unconscious of the travail of body and soul he was to un
dergo for the sake of England, and of all future free peo
ples. And she thought also of one cold winter day, when,
a lad of twelve, he had come in from his lessons and his
rough play at football and thrown himself upon his bed,
weary with the buffeting; and as he lay there, wide-awake
in the broad daylight, how he had seen his angel stand at
his feet, and heard him say, Thou sbalt be the greatest man
in England." And there in her sight and hearing, the
prophecy was fulfilled that day, for she had never doubted
it. The boy had been scolded and flogged for persisting in
this story, but she had comforted him and always known
that it was a vision to. be realised.

Her faith had its reward. She watched this boy of hers
put on his hat, after taking the oath, and with a kingly air


ascend to what was virtually the throne of England. She
saw him unbuckle his sword and put it off, to signify that
military rule was ended ; and then she heard, amid the blare
of trumpets, the Heralds proclaim him Lord Protector of
England^ Scotland and Ireland. Her lips moved not, but she
heard her soul singing psalms of glory and thanksgiving ;
yes, she heard the music within rising and swelling to
great anthems of rejoicing. Her body was impotent to ex
press this wonderful joy ; it was her soul that made her
boast in the Lord, that magnified the God of her salvation.
And she really heard its glad music with her natural body,
and the melody of that everlasting chime was in her heart
to the last moment of her life. And her children looked at
her and were amazed, for her face was changed ; and when
the people shouted, " God save the Lord Protector of the Com
monwealth ! " she stood up without her staff, and was the
first to render him obeisance.

Jane watched her with wonder and delight ; she forgot
her own grief in this aged mother s surpassing happiness,
and she partly understood that hour the new doctrine of the
men called Quakers. For she had watched this Inner sight
of Life transfuse the frail frame, and seen it illuminate the
withered face and strengthen the trembling limbs, and, above
all, fill the Inner woman with a joy unspeakable and beyond
speech or understanding.

The ride back to Whitehall was an intoxicating one.
Londoners had at last a ruler who was a supremely able man.
They could go to their shops, and buy and sell in security.
Oliver Protector would see to their rights and their wel
fare. His very appearance was satisfying ; he was not a
young man headstrong and reckless, but a Protector who
had been tried on the battle-field and in the Council Cham
ber and never found wanting. His personality also was the


visible presentment of the qualities they admired and de
sired. They looked at his sturdy British growth, and were
satisfied. His head and face, muscular and massive, were
of lion-like aspect ; his stature nearly six feet, and so highly
vitalised as to look much higher. Dark brown hair, min
gled with gray, fell below his collar-band, and from under
large brows his deep, loving eyes looked as if in lifelong
sorrow ; and yet not thinking life sorrow, thinking it only
labour and endeavour. Valour, devout intelligence, great
simplicity, and a singular air of mysticism invested his rug
ged, broad-hatted majesty with a character or impress trans-
cendentally mysterious. Even his enemies felt this vague
shadow of the supernatural over and around him, for Sir
Richard Huddleston, in watching him on Naseby s field, had
cried out passionately, "Who will find King Charles a
leader like him ? He is not a man ; he is one of the ancient
heroes come out of Valhalla."

But be the day glad or sad, time runs through it, and the
shadows of evening found the whole city worn out with
their own emotions. Mrs. Swaffham and Jane were glad
to return to the quiet of their home " Not but what we
have had a great day, Jane," said the elder woman ; " but,
dear me, child, what a waste of life it is ! I feel ten years
older. It would not do to spend one s self this way very

" I am tired to death, mother. May I stay in my room
this evening ? I do not want to hear any more about the
Cromwells, and I dare say Doctor Verity will come home
with father, and they will talk of nothing else."

" You are fretting, Jane, and fretting is bad for you every
way. Why will you do it ? "

" How can I help it, mother ? "

Then Mrs. Swafi ham looked at her daughter s white


face, and said, " You know, dear, where and how to find
the comfort you need. God help you, child."

And oh, how good it was to the heart-sick girl, to be at
last alone, to be able to weep unwatched and unchecked
to shut the door of her soul on the world and open it to
God, to tell Him all her doubt and fear and lonely grief.
This was her consolation, even though no sensible comfort
came from it though the heavens seemed far off, and there
was no ray of light, no whisper from beyond to encourage
her. Hoping against despair, she rose up saying, "Though
He slay me, yet will I trust in Him ; " and these words she
repeated over and over with increasing fervour, as she neatly
folded away her clothing and put her room in that exquisite
order which was necessary to her sleep, or even rest. For
she kept still her childish belief that her angel would not
visit her, if her room was untidy. And who will dare to
say she was wrong ? These primitive faiths hold truths hid
from the wise and prudent, but revealed to the simple and
pure of heart.

At nine o clock her mother brought her a possett and
toast, and she took them gratefully. " Is father home r "
she asked.

"Yes, Jane. He came in an hour ago with Doctor

" Have they any word of "

" I fear not. They would have told me at once. I
haven t seen much of them. There were lots of things un
done, and badly done, to look after. The wenches and the
men have been on the streets all day, and the kitchen is up
side down. You never saw the like. I am tired of this
Cromwell business, I am that. Phoebe was abusing him
roundly as she jugged the hare for supper, and I felt kindly
to her for it. You are a pack of time-serving turncoats,


she was saying as I went into the kitchen; you would
drink as much ale to-morrow to King Charles as you have
drunk to-day to old Noll Cromwell. And as she was stir
ring the pot, she did not know I was there, until I an
swered, You speak God s truth, Phoebe ! Then she
turned and said, I do, ma am. And for that matter, they
would drink to the devil, an he asked them with old Octo
ber ! Then I stopped her saucy tongue. But I don t won
der at her temper not a clean saucepan in the closets, and
men and maids off their heads with ale and Cromwell to

" If Doctor Verity gives you any opportunity will you
speak about Cluny, mother ? "

" You know I will. He and others will, maybe, have
time for a word of kindness now. I m sure the last few
weeks have been past bearing a nice mess the saints made
of everything London out of its seven senses, and the
whole country screaming behind it ; and the men who had


a little sense, not knowing which road to turn. Now
Cromwell has got his way, there will be only Cromwell to
please, and surely a whole city full can manage that."

" I don t suppose he has ever thought of Cluny being so
long over time."

" Not he ! He has had things far closer to him to look



" But now ? "

" Now he will inquire after the lad. Doctor Verity
must speak to h:m. Dear Jane, do you suppose I don t see
how you are suffering ? I do, my girl, and I suffer with
you. But even your father thinks we are worrying our
selves for nothing. He says Cluny will walk in some day
and tell his own story nothing worse than a tit of ague or
fever, or even a wound from some street pad ; perhaps a


heavy snowstorm, or the swampy Netherlands under water.
Men can t fight the elements, or even outwit them, dear.
Mother is with you, Jane, don t you doubt that," and she
stepped forward and clasped the girl to her breast, and
kissed the tears off her cheeks. " Now drink your possett
and go to sleep ; something may happen while you are
dreaming of it ; the net of the sleeping fisherman takes just
as well better maybe than if he kept awake to watch

So Jane laid herself down and slept, and if her angel
came with a comforting thought or a happy vision, she
found herself in a spotless room, white as a bride chamber,
holding the scent of rosemary and roses from the pots on
the window-sills, and prophesying strength and comfort in
the Bible lying open at the forty-second and forty-third
Psalms "Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? And
why art thou disquieted in me ? Hope thou in God ; for I
shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance."

Jane s supposition that Doctor Verity would be with her
father and that their talk would be only of Cromwell, was
correct. Mrs. Swaffham found the two men smoking at
the fireside, and their conversation was of the Man and the
Hour. She sat down weary and sleepy, so much so, that
she did not take the trouble to contradict Doctor Verity,
though he was making, in her opinion, a very foolish state

" If you only assert a thing strong enough and long
enough, Israel, you will convince the multitude. To-day,
as I was passing Northumberland House, a party of mus
keteers stopped there, and cried, God save the Lord Protec
tor ! and the crowd asserted in the most positive manner
that the big lion on the house wagged its tail at the shout.
Every one believed it, and looked at the beast admir-


ingly -, and I found it hard to keep my senses in the face
of such strong assertion. Vain babble, but it took and

" I am sorry for Oliver Cromwell. Such a load as he
has shouldered ! Can he bear it ? " said Israel.

"Through God s help, yes ; and ten times over, yes !
He is a great man," answered the Doctor.

" I think more of measures than of men," continued

"Very good. But something depends on the men, just
as in a fire something depends on the grate," said the

" Who would have thought the man we knew at Hunt
ingdon and St. Ives had this man in him ? And what a
strange place for God to bring England s Deliverer out of.
No captain from the battle-field, no doctor out of the col
leges, but a gentleman farmer out of the corn market and
the sheep meadows of Sedgy Ouse. Tis wonderful
enough, Doctor."

" Great men, Israel, have always come from the most
unlikely places. The desert and the wilderness, the sheep-
folds and threshing floors bred the judges and prophets of
Israel. From the despised village of Nazareth came the
Christ. From the hot, barren deserts of Arabia, came
Mahomet. From the arid plains of Picardy, came Calvin.
From the misty, bare mountains of Scotland, came John
Knox, and from the fogs and swamps of the Fen country,
comes Oliver Cromwell. So it is, and should be. God
chooses for great men, not only the time, but the place of
their birth. The strength of Cromwell s character is in
its mysticism, and this quality has been fed from its youth
up by the monotony of his rural life, by the sombre skies

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 17 of 27)