Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

. (page 19 of 27)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 19 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


u Well, then, Jane, we will trust to the miraculous. We
do not do that enough, and so when our poor help is not
sufficient, we tremble. Where is the hope and trust you
sent to me when I lay between life and death in Scotland ?
Oh, what poor creatures we are, when we trust in our
selves ! nothing then but tears and fears and the grave to
end all. But I confess I never expected Jane Swaffham
to be down in the mire. Jane knows she is the daughter
of the everlasting, powerful, infinite, inscrutable God Al
mighty ; she knows this God is also one of goodness and
mercy and truth without end, to those who love Him.
You love Him, you do love Him ? "

" I have loved Him ever since I could speak His Holy
Name. But He never now answers me ; when I pray to



HOLD THOU MY HANDS 7.67

Him the heavens seem to let my prayers fall back to me.
Has He forgotten me ? "

" Jane, Jane, oh, Jane ! What a question for you to
ask ! I could chide you for it. Have you forgotten the
teaching of your Bible, and your catechism, of your good
pastor, John Verity, and your father and mother ? Do you
believe for one moment that God has any abortive chil
dren ? He has not. He is the father of such souls as, ac
cording to His appointment, come to perfection. If you
have ever, for one moment, felt the love of the Ineffable
Nameless One, I do assure you it is a love for all eternity !
It is, Jane, it is, surely. He does not love and withdraw ;
no, no ; we may deserve to be denied, we may deserve to
be abandoned, but just because it is so, He seeks and He
saves the children lost, or in danger." And then he
stooped and dried her eyes with his kerchief, and seating
her on a sofa, he brought a glass of wine, and said,

" Drink, my dear; and as you drink, ask for strength no
juice of earthly fruit can give. Do not pray for this thing,
or that thing ; if you will say only, Thy will be done,
you will find mercy at need ; you will indeed. I do know
it."

" All is so dark, sir."

"And will be, till He says, Let there be light. I
scruple not to say this."

" Oh, sir, what shall I do? What shall I do? "

"Put a blank into God s hand, and tell Him to fill it as
He chooses - Cluny or no Cluny, love, or death of love, joy
or sorrow, just what He wills. In my judgment this is the
way of Peace. Do von think, Jane, that I have chosen the
path I now walk in ? I have not, God knows it. God
knows I would be a far happier man with my flocks in the
Ouse meadows; I would, I say what is in my heart. Is



268 THE LION S WHELP

this greatness laid on me for my glory and honour ? Truly,
it is only labour and sorrow. If I did not find mercy and
strength at need, I should faint and utterly fail under the
burden, for indeed I am the burden-bearer of all England
this day. I need pity, I do need it ; I need God s pity,
yes, and human pity also."

There was the shadow of unshed tears in his sad, gray
eyes, and an almost childlike pathos in his dropped head.
Jane could not bear it. She stroked and kissed his big
hand, and her tears fell down upon it. " I will go home,"
she said softly, " and pray for you. I will not pray for
myself, but for you. I will ask God to stand at your right
hand and your left hand, to beset you behind and before,
and to lay His comforting, helping hand upon you. And
you must not lose heart, sir, under your burden, because
many that were with you have gone against you, or because
there are constant plots to take your life. There is the
ninetieth Psalm. It is yours, sir."

And Cromwell s face shone, and he spoke in an ecstasy,
" Truly, truly, he that dwelleth in the secret place of the
Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
How did David reach that height, Jane ? "

" He was taught of God, sir."

" I am sure of that. I will say of the Lord, He is my
refuge and my fortress ; my God, in Him will I trust
thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the
arrow that flieth by day He shall give His angels charge
over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."

" My dear lord, is not that sufficient ? " and Jane s face
was now full of light, and she forgot her fears, and her
sorrow was lifted from her. She found a strange courage,
and the words were put into her mouth, so that she must
needs say them :



HOLD THOU MY HANDS 269

" It is most true, our Protector, that you have a great
burden, but are you not glad of heart that God looked down
from heaven, and seeing poor England bound and suffering,
chose you you, from out of tens of thousands of Eng
lishmen and called you from your sheep and oxen and
wheat-fields, and said unto you, Oliver Cromwell, free My
people^ and then so filled your heart with the love of free
dom that you could not help but answer, Here am /,
Lord. The other night I listened to some heavenly
discourse from Doctor Verity, and he said that from
henceforth, every flying fold of our English flag would
have but one spoken word for all nations, and that word
Freedom. Some may be ungrateful, but your faith and
valour and labour for England will never be forgotten.
Never ! "

Her face gathered colour and light beyond the colour and
light of mere flesh and blood as she spoke, and Cromwell s
reflected it. He was " in the spirit," as this childlike
woman with prescient vision prophesied for him, and look
ing far, far oft into the future, as one seeing things invisi
ble, he answered confidently

" I know, and I am sure, Jane, that time will be the seal
to my faithfulness. I know, and I am sure, that my name
shall mix with every thought and deed of Freedom, even in
lands now unknown, and in ages yet to come. Then,
brave freemen shall say in my ears, Well done my son.
And shall not the dead ears hear ? They shall. Indeed
they shall ! T know, and am sure, Jane, that English
speaking men will take in trust, not only my name, but the
names of all who, with me, held their lives less than Free
dom, and gave them a burnt-offering and blood sacrifice
without price or grudging. These men dying, mixed their
breath and names with Freedom s, and they shall live for-



270 THE LION S WHELP

ever. For this is the truth, Jane : thrones shall fall and
nations pass away, but death has no part in Freedom."

And as he spoke, his words rang and sounded like music,
and stirred the blood like a trumpet ; and Jane s face was
lifted to the rough, glorified visage of the warrior and the
seer, who saw yet afar off his justification, saw it in the
Red Cross of St. George flying over land and sea, and car-
rving in all its blowing folds only one glorious word
" FREEDOM."

In such moments Cromwell s spirit walked abreast of
angels ; he looked majestic, he spoke without pause or am
biguity, and with an heroic dictation that carried conviction
rather than offense, for it had nothing personal in it, and
it suited him just as hardness suits fine steel.

In this enthusiasm of national feeling, Jane forgot her
personal grief, and as she went homeward, she kept re
peating to herself Cromwell s parting words, " Don t doubt,
Jane. God nor man nor nature can do anything for doubt
ers. They cannot." She understood what was included
in this advice, and she tried to realise it. The moment
Mrs. Swaffham saw her daughter, she took notice of the
change in her countenance and speech and manner, and she
said to herself, " Jane has been with Oliver Cromwell. No
one else could have so influenced her." And very soon
Jane told her all that had been done and said, and both
women tried to assure themselves that a few more weeks
of patience would bring them that certainty which is so
much easier to bear than suspense. For the very hope of
suspense is cruel, but in the face of a sorrow, sure and
known, the soul erects herself and finds out ways and
means to mitigate or to bear it.

States of enthusiasm, however, do not last; and they are
not often to be desired. The disciples after the glory of



HOLD THOU MY HANDS 271

Mount Tabor were not able to go with Christ up Calvary.
Jane felt the very next day that she had mentally prom
ised herself to do more than she was able to perform.
She could not forget Cluny, or put in his place any less
selfish object ; and though the days came laden with
strange things, she did not take the fervid interest in pub
lic events her father and mother did. For there are in na
ture points of view where a cot can blot out a mountain,
and on our moral horizons a personal event can put a
national revolution in the background. In the main, she
carried a loving, steadfast heart, that waited in patience,
sometimes even in hope ; but there were many days when
her life seemed to be tied in a knot, and when fear and
sorrow crept like a mist over it. For there was nothing
for her to do; she could only wait for the efforts of others,
and she longed rather for the pang of personal conflict.
Hut human beings without these tidal fluctuations are not
interesting ; people who always pursue the "even tenor of
their way " leave us chilled and dissatisfied ; we prefer that
charm of uncertain expectation, which, with all its provo
cations, made Matilda dear and delightful to Jane, and
Jane perennially interesting, even to those who did not
think as she thought or do as she did.

At length April came, and the bare brown garden was
glorious with the gold and purple of the crocus flowers and
the moonlight beauty of the lilies. Birds were building in
the hedges, and the sun shone brightly overhead. The
spirit of spring was everywhere ; men and boys went
whistling along the streets, the watermen were singing in
their banres, and a feeling of busy content and security

o o ./ J

pervaded London, and, indeed, all England.

Suddenly, this atmosphere of cheerful labour and abound
ing hope was filled with terror and with a cry of murder,



272 THE LION S WHELP

of possible war and another struggle for liberty. A gigantic
plot for the assassination of the Protector was discovered
that is, it was discovered to the people ; Cromwell himself
had been aware of its first inception, and had watched it
grow to its shameful maturity. He had seen the wavering
give it aid, and those who were his professed friends, strike
hands with those pledged to strike him to the heart. Two
months previously he had retired a number of foolish
Royalist officers, broken to pieces their silly plans, and
given them their lives ; but this drama of assassination
came from Charles Stuart and Prince Rupert, and from the
headquarters of royalty in the French capital. Its pro
gramme in Charles name giving " liberty to any man what
soever, in any way, to destroy the life of the base mechanic
fellow, Oliver Cromwell," had been in Cromwell s pos
session from the time of its printing, and he knew not only
every soul connected with the plot, but also the day and
the hour and the very spot in which, and on which, his life
was to be taken. But to the city of London the arrest of
forty conspirators in their midst, was a shock that sus
pended for a time all their business.

Israel Swaffham was the first person called into the Pro
tector s presence. He found him in great sorrow, sorrow
mingled with a just indignation. Standing by the long
table in the Council Chamber, he struck it violently with
his clenched hand as he pointed out to Israel the person
alities of the conspirators. At one name he paused, and
with his finger upon it, looked into Israel s face. And as
iron struck by iron answers the blow, so Israel answered
that sorrowful, inquiring gaze.

" It is a burning shame," he said angrily. " You have
pardoned and warned and protected him for years."

" I must even now do what I can ; I must, Israel, for



HOLD THOU MY HANDS 273

his father s sake. A warrant will he issued to-night, and I
cannot stay that ; and personally* I cannot warn him of it.
Israel, you remember his father ? "

" Yes, a noble, upright man as ever England bred."

" You and he and I fought some quarrels out for our
country together."

" We did."

" And this son is the last of the name. He played with
mv boys."

" And with mine."

" They went fishing and skating together."

" Yes ; I know."

u One day I saved this man s life. He was a little lad,
twelve years or about it, and he went through the ice. At
some risk I saved him, and he rode home behind me ; I can
feel, as I speak, his long childish arms around my waist ;
I can indeed, Israel. These are the thorns of power and
office. On these tenter-hooks I hang my very heart every
day. What am I to do ? "

" My dear lord, do nothing. I can do all you wish.
There needs no more words between us. In two hours
Abel Dewey you know Abel will be on the road.
Nothing stops Dewey. Give him a good horse and he
will so manage himself and the beast as to reach his jour
ney s end in twenty-four hours."

" But charge him about the good horse, Israel. These
poor animals they have almost human troubles and sick
nesses."

Israel then went quickly home. He called Jane and ex
plained to her in a few words what she was to do ; and by
the time her letter to Matilda was ready, Abel Dewey was
at the door waiting for it. Its beginning and ending was
in the ordinary strain of girls letters, but in the centre



274 THE LION S WHELP

there were some ominous words, rendered remarkable by the
large script used, and by the line beneath them " I must
tell you there has been a great plot against the Protector
discovered. Charles Stuart and Prince Rupert are the head
and front of the same, but there is a report that Stephen de
Wick is not behindhand, and my father did hear that a
warrant was out for Stephen, and hoped he would reach
French soil, ere it reached him. And I said I thought
Stephen was in France ; and father answered, Pray God
so ; if not, he cannot be there too soon if he would not
have his head off on Tower Hill. Then the letter went
on to speak of the removal of the Protector s family to
Hampton Court palace, and of the signing of the Dutch
peace, and the banquet given to the Dutch Ministers. " I
was at the table of the Lady Protectoress," she said, " and
many great people were present, but the Protector seemed
to enjoy most the company of the Rev. Mr. Wheelwright,
who was the only one who could beat the Protector at foot
ball when they were at college together. Some New
England Puritans also were there, and I heard with much
pleasure about their cities in the wilderness ; and Mr.
Thurloe smoked and said nothing ; and Mr. John Milton
played some heavenly music, and lastly we all sung in parts
Mr. Milton s fine piece, The Lord has been our dwelling-
placed Ladies Mary and Frances Cromwell were beauti
fully dressed, but the Lady Elizabeth Claypole is the light
of Whitehall."

At these words Jane stopped. " Do I not know," she
asked herself, " how Matilda will have flung away my letter
before this ? And if not, with what scorn she will treat
the light of Whitehall ?" And these reflections so
chilled her memories, that she hasted to sign her name
and close the letter. Abel Dewey was ready for it ; and



HOLD THOU MY HANDS 275

as she watched him ride away, her thoughts turned to dc
Wick, and she wondered in what mood Matilda might be,
and how she would receive the information sent her. Would
it be a surprise ?

" Not it," answered Mrs. Swaffham. " Matilda knows
all about the plot ; that is most certain ; but its discovery
may be news to her, and if so, she will not thank you for
it, Jane. Why will she burn herself with lire not on her
hearthstone ? "

" Prince Rupert is her lover. She will do anything he
desires her to do."

" If he truly loved her, he would not permit her to be put
in danger."

" We do not know all, mother."

" That is the truth, Jane. We know very little about
ourselves, let alone our friends. Doctor Verity would say
to us, Judge not ; every man s shoes must be made on his
own last.

Then Jane smiled, and the smile filled the silence like
a spell. Mrs. Swaffham went out of the room, and soon
afterwards Doctor Verity came in, asking cheerily as he en
tered, " How is it with you to-day, Jane ? "

u I live as best I can, Doctor. I watch from the morn
ing to the midnight for a footstep that does not come."

" There is a desire that fulfils itself by its own energy,
but this desire is born of unfailing Hope, and of that un
faltering Faith that can move mountains. Have you got it,
Jane r "

" I am so weak, Doctor John. Pray for me."

u Pray for yourself. Why should any one pray for you ?
Pray for yourself, though it be only to say, with the old
Acadians, J-LAd Thou my bands ! When you were a
baby, and were fretful and restless, then your mother held



276 THE LION S WHELP

your hands. That steadied you. You were not used to
the whirling earth, or you had that sense of falling into the
void all babies have, and you trembled and cried out in
your fear, and then your mother instinctively held your lit
tle hands in hers, and you felt their clasp strong as the
everlasting hills, and went peacefully to sleep. Go to God
in the same way, Jane ; you are only a little babe in His
sight j a little babe crying in the vast void and darkness, and
trying to catch hold of something to which you may cling.
Say to the Father of your spirit, Hold my hands !

And she rose and kissed him for his sweet counsel, and
that night, and many a night afterwards, she fell asleep
whispering, " Hold Thou my hands"



CHAPTER XIII

CHANCES AT DE WICK

"Friendship, of itself a holy tie,
Is made more sacred by adversity."

"A form of senseless clay the leavings of a soul."

WHEN Matilda received Anthony Lynn s letter, she was
immediately certain that the old man s conscience troubled
him in the presence of death, and that he wished to return
de Wick to its rightful owners. Sir Thomas and Lady
Jevery were of the same opinion. " He can leave the es
tate to you, Matilda," said Sir Thomas; "you have never
been out for either Stuart, and the Commonwealth takes
no action on private opinions, only on overt acts. Stephen
is barred, but Lynn can leave de Wick to you, and having
neither kith nor kin, I think he ought to do so. He owes
everything to your father s help and favour."

This idea took entire possession of Matilda ; she thought
it a duty to her family to answer the request of Anthony
Lynn favourably. It had been a surprise to her, and there
were more surprises to follow it. As soon as Lady Jevery
and her niece arrived at the gates of de Wick, they were
confronted with a remarkable change in the appearance of
the place. The great iron gates had been painted and re-
hung ; the stone griffins that ornamented the posts had felt
the stone-cutter s chisel in all their parts, and been restored
to their proper shape and position. The wide walks were



?.;8 THE LION S WHELP

free of weeds, freshly graveled and raked, and the grass of
the chase was in perfect order. There were plenty of deer,
also, though Matilda knew well all the deer had disappeared
long before her father s death.

As they came close to the house, they saw the flower
garden aglow with spring flowers and in such fine order as
would have satisfied even Sir Thomas Jevery. Anthony
Lynn stood at the door to meet them. He looked ill and
frail, but hardly like death, and when he witnessed the de
light of the ladies at the changes made in de Wick, his face
grew almost young in its pleasure. Every room in the
house was a fres-h surprise ; for though all that was vener
able through age or family association, and all that was
valuable and beautiful had been preserved, yet so much of
modern splendour and worth had been mingled with the old
that the rooms were apparently newly furnished. Magnifi
cent draperies of velvet, chairs covered with Spanish leather
stamped in gold, carpets of richest quality, pictures by rare
masters, Venetian mirrors and glassware, all that a luxurious
and lavish taste could imagine and desire, were gathered
with fitting and generous profusion in the ancient rooms of
de Wick. Anthony Lynn accompanied the ladies through
the house, finding a fresh and continual joy in their excla
mations of delight ; and Matilda, filled with astonishment
at the exquisite daintiness of the suite called the " Lady
Matilda s Rooms," said enthusiastically,

" Mr. Lynn, no man could better deserve to be lord of
de Wick than you. And seeing that the de Wicks had to
leave their ancient home, I am glad it has fallen to you
and I am sure my father is glad, also."

Then the old man burst into that thin, cold passion of
weeping so significant of age, and so pitiful in its helpless
ness. " It is your father s doing, Lady Matilda," he sobbed.



CHANGES AT DE WICK 279

" It is my dear lord s wisdom. Pardon me now. This even
ing I will tell you all." He went away with these words,
and the two women looked at each other in amazement.

In the evening he came to them. They were sitting by
the fire in the now magnificently furnished great salon, and
he asked permission to place his chair between them. Ma
tilda made room for him, and when he had sat down and
placed his terribly thin hand on its arm, she laid her lovely
young hand upon his ; and he looked into her face with
that adoring affection which is often seen in the eyes of a
favourite mastiff.

u When these dreadful wars first began," he said, " Earl
de Wick foresaw their ending ; and after Marston Moor he
said to me, I know this man, Oliver Cromwell, and there
is none that will stand against him. It is my duty to save
de Wick ; will you help me ? And I said to him, My
dear lord, I owe you all I am, and all I have. Then we
had many long talks, and it was agreed that I should join
the Puritan party, that I should pretend a disapproval of
the Earl and his ways but a disapproval tempered with
regret so that men might not suspect my opposition. The
King was even then sending to de Wick for money, and I
was supposed to supply it on the de Wick filver and valu
ables. In reality, the Earl sent these things to my care,
and he himself gave the gold. For in those years he had
much specie, the result of his trading partnership with Sir
Thomas Jevery. The silver, the old pictures, the hue
tapestries, and Eastern pottery all came to my home in St.
Ives. People said unkind things of me, but my dear lord
loved me. Then there came a time when de Wick was
bare, and the King still wanted money. And the Earl
promised to borrow from me one thousand pounds, in con
sideration of letters royal making the Lady Matilda Coun-



2 8o THE LION S WHELP

tess de Wick in her own right, if her brother Stephen
had no heirs of his body. His Majesty being in great
straits, readily granted the request, and the proper papers
were made. And I looked well to it that no necessary for
mality was lacking, and the thousand pounds were paid, not
by me, but by Earl de Wick. His store was then gone,
but he had secured the succession of de Wick in his own
blood and name ; for you will see, my dear lady, if ever
you have to assume this title, when you marry, your hus
band must take the name of de Wick."

" But if I never marry any one ? "

" Oh, that is an impossible contingency ! You would
owe that debt to all the de Wicks that ever lived and died ;
and you would pay it, whether you liked to, or not."

"Yes, I should," she answered promptly.

" Here are the papers relating to your succession," he
continued ; " and here are those relating to my trust in the
matter of the de Wick silver and valuables. They are all
now in their proper places, and when I go to my old friend,
I can tell him so. When he was dying, he said to me,
c Anthony, the next move will be the sale of de Wick house
and lands. Stephen is already outcast, but I have given
you the money to buy it. Let no one outbid you. Keep
it in your own care until my King comes back to his throne,
and my children to their home. I bought de Wick for
seven hundred pounds less than the money entrusted to me
for its purchase. The balance is here at your hand. The
only contingency not provided for, was my death, and as I
know that is speedily certain, I wish your promise that
these papers be placed in Sir Thomas Jevery s charge. I
know it is what my lord would advise."

Matilda took the papers silently. Her father s loving
thoughtfulness and Anthony s loving fidelity, affected her



CHANGES AT DE WICK 28 r

deeply. Lady Jevery was weeping, and the old man him
self raised a face wet with tears to Matilda. She stooped
and kissed him. She promised all he asked. " But," she
added, "you have made no mention of the refurnishing of
the house, nor yet of the money that must have been spent
on the garden and chase."


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 19 of 27)