Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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of the matter in him. Madame Flitton was of the same
opinion, though she did not feel at liberty to approve en
tirely. Others considered him full of temper and very for
ward, and the argument was hot, and quite Christian-like.
I heard that he was to preach again at Deeping Den.
Now I must make what haste I can ; my father will be


angry at my delay. Good-bye ! faithful till we meet

" She says faithful, yet knows not how to be faithful."

Mrs. Swaffham did not answer Jane s remark. She was
thinking of the Quaker sermon at Oliver Leder s, and won
dering why they had not been asked to hear it. " We
ought to have been asked," she said to Jane as they turned
into the house. "Leaving out Swafthamwas bad treat
ment, and when I say bad, I mean bad. Did Matilda take
the electuary for her father ? "

u She was very little in earnest, and had forgotten it but
for my reminding."

" She is much changed."

u It would be strange indeed if she was not changed.
Before these troubles she was a girl living at her mother s
knee, petted by her father, and the idol of her brothers.
Two of her brothers fell fighting; by the side of Prince

*_; O J

Rupert, her mother wept herself into the grave for
them, her father is still nursing the wound he got at Naseby,
and her only brother, Stephen, is with Charles Stuart, wher
ever he may be. If such troubles did not change a girl, she
would be hewn from the very rock of selfishness. Matilda
is far from that. She loves with a whole heart, and will go
all lengths to prove it. We do not know the new Matilda

Jane would have made this remark still more positively,
if she could have seen her friend as soon as Swaffham was
left behind. She sat erect, lost in thought, and her eyes
had a look in them full of anxiety and sorrow. The sad
ness of an immense disillusion was over her. But she be
longed to that imperial race who never lose heart in any
trouble. To the very last she must hope ; to the very last
believe even against hope and against reason. Her life had


gone to ruin, but she trusted that some miracle would re
store it. Not for long could any mood of despair subdue
her; infallibly she must shake it away. For there was
no egotism in her grief, she could suffer cheerfully with
others; it was her isolation that hurt her. All her old
friends had departed. The grave had some ; others had
taken different ways, or battle and exile had scattered them.
By the side of her sick father she stood alone, feeling that
even Jane her familiar friend doubted her, no longer
took her at her word, called in question what she said, and
held herself so far aloof that she could not reach her heart.
Oppressed by such considerations, she felt like a child that
suddenly realises it has lost its way and is left alone in a

Nothing in her surroundings offered her any help. The
road was flat and dreary ; a wide level intersected with deep
drains and " droves " a poor, rough, moist land, whose hori
zon was only broken by the towers of Ely, vast and gray
in the distance. Large iron gates admitted her to de Wick
park, and she entered an avenue bordered with ash trees,
veiled in mist, and spreading out on either hand into a green
chase full of tame deer. The House pieced on to the
broad walls of an Augustine monastery was overshadowed
by ash trees. It was a quadrangular building of various
dates, the gray walls rising from trim gardens with box-
edged flower plots and clipped yew hedges. There was a
large fish pond teeming with perch, and pike, and eels ; and
black colonies of rooks filled the surrounding trees, and
perched on the roof of the mansion. An old-world sleepy
air, lonely and apart and full of melancholy, pervaded the

But all these things were part and parcel of the word
Home. Matilda regarded them not in particular, they only


affected her unconsciously as the damp air or the gathering
shadows of the evening did. The door stood open, and she
passed without delay into the wide entrance hall. It was
chill with the drifting fog, and dark with the coming night
shadows ; hut there was a good fire of ash logs at the upper
end, and she stood a few minutes before it, feeling a cer
tain exhilaration in its pleasant warmth and leaping flame.
Then she went leisurely up the broad stairway. It was of
old oak with curiously carved balusters, surmounted by gro
tesque animal forms ; but she did not notice these ugly
creations as she climbed with graceful lassitude the dark
steps, letting her silk robe trail and rustle behind her. Her
hat, with its moist drooping feathers, was in her hand ; her
hair hung limply about her brow and face ; she was the very
picture of a beauty that had suffered the touch of adverse
nature, and the depression of unsympathetic humanity.

But the moment she entered her own room she had the
sense of covert and refreshment. Its dark splendour of oak
and damask was brought out by the glow and flame of fire
light and candle-light ; and her maid came forward with that
air of affectionate service, which in Matilda s present mood
seemed of all things most grateful and pleasant. She put
off her sense of alienation and unhappiness with her damp
clothing, and as the comfort of renewal came to her out
wardly, the inner woman also regained her authority; and
the girl conscious of this potent personality, erected herself
in its strength and individuality. She surveyed her freshly
clad form in its gown of blue lutestring ; she turned right
and left to admire a fresh arrangement of her hair; she put
around her neck, without pretense of secrecy or apology,
the rosary of coral and gold ; and admired the tint and
shimmer of its beauty on her white throat. Then she


" Was any stranger with the Earl at dinner, Delia ? "

" My lady, he dined with Father Sacy alone."

" And pray what did they eat for dinner ? "

"There was a sucking pig roasted with juniper wood and
rosemary branches, and a jugged hare, and a pullet, and
some clotted cream and a raspberry tart. All very good,
my lady ; will you please to eat something ? "

" Yes. I will have some jugged hare, and some clotted
cream, and a raspberry tart and a glass of Spanish wine,
Delia, and a pitcher of new milk. Have them served as
soon as possible."

" In what room, my lady ? "

" In what room is the Earl, my father, now sitting ? "

" In the morning room."

" Then serve it in the morning room."

She took one comfortable glance at herself, and in the
pleasure of its assurance went down-stairs. Her step was
now firm and rapid, yet she paused a moment at the door
of the room she wished to enter, and called up smiles to
her face and a sort of cheerful bravado to her manner ere
she lifted the steel hasp that admitted her. In a moment
her quick eyes took a survey of its occupants. They were
only two men Earl de Wick, and his chaplain, Father
Sacy. Both were reading ; the Earl, Sir Philip Sidney s
Arcadia ; the Chaplain, the Evening Service in the Book of
Common Prayer. Neither of them noticed her entrance,
and she went straight to her father s side, and covering the
open page with her hand, said in a merry tone

" Here is a noble knight dwelling in Arcadia, while the
great Captain-General Cromwell

"The devil!"

" Is going up and down and to and fro in the land, seeking
whom he may devour. I have been at Ely and at SwafF-


ham, gathering what news I can, and I assure you, sir,
there is none to our comfort."

" What have you heard ? Anything about the Scots ? "

" Cromwell is in Scotland. What do you expect from
that news ? "

u That Leslie will be his match."

" Then you will be disappointed. There is a tide in the
affairs of men, and this tide of Cromwell and the Com
monwealth is going to sweep all royalty and all nobility
into the deep sea."

" Well, then, I may as well return to my Arcadia and
learn how to be rustical. We nobles may play at Canute
if we like but but "

" It is useless, while this man s star flames in the firma
ment. I hear that the Parliament rose bareheaded to re
ceive him when he last entered the House. If he were
king, they could have done no more. They have also
given to him and his family a royal lodging in the Cockpit,
and already the women are removed thither. If he con
quers the Scotch army, what more can they offer him but
the crown ? "

"Those unlucky Stuarts! They will swallow up all
England s chivalry. Oh, for one campaign with Queen
Elizabeth at its head ! She would send old Oliver with his
Commonwealth to the bottomless pit, and order him to tell
the devil that Elizabeth Tudor sent him there."

" The Stuarts are of God s anointing ; and there are bad
kings, and unlucky kings in all royal houses. I stood to
day where King John lay cursing and biting the rushes on
the floor, because his barons had made themselves his over-

"John s barons had some light," said the Earl. "They
hated John for the reason England now hates the Stuarts.


He perjured himself neck deep; he brought in foreign
troops to subjugate Englishmen; he sinned in all things as
Charles Stuart has sinned."

" Sir, are you not going too far ? " asked the Chaplain,
lifting his eyes from his book.

" I thought you were at your prayers, father. No, by
all that is truthful, I am right ! In the Great Charter, the
barons specially denounce King John as re gem perjurum
ac baronibus rebellem? The same thing might fairly be
said of Charles Stuart. Yet while a Stuart is King of
England, it is the de Wicks duty to stand by him. But I
would to God I had lived when Elizabeth held the sceptre !
No Cromwell had smitten it out of her hand, as Cromwell
smote it from the hand of Charles on Naseby s field."

" That is supposition, my Lord."

" It is something more, father. Elizabeth had to deal
with a fiercer race than Charles had, but she knew how to
manage it. Look at the pictures of the de Wicks in her
time. They are the pictures of men who would stand for
their rights against prerogative of any kind, yet the great
Queen made them obey her lightest word. How did she
do it ? I will tell you she scorned to lie to them ; and
she was brave as a lion. If she had wanted the Five
Members in the Tower of London, they would have gone
to the Tower of London ; her crown for it ! It was my
great-grandfather who held her bridal reins when she re
viewed her troops going to meet the Spaniards of the
Armada. No hesitating, no tampering, no doubts, no fears
moved her. She spoke one clear word to them, and she
threw herself unreservedly upon their love and loyalty.
4 Let tyrants fear ! she cried. I have placed my chief
strength in the loyal hearts of my subjects, and I am come
amongst you resolved to live or die amongst you all to


lay down for God, and my kingdom, and my people, my
honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the
body of a weak woman, but I have the heart and stomach
of a king, and of a King of England, too ; and I think foul
scorn that Spain, or any prince of Europe should dare to
invade the borders of my realm ! This was Elizabeth s
honest temper, and if Charles Stuart in throwing himself
upon his nobles and his country had been true to them, he
would never have gone to the scaffold. This I say boldly,
and I mean what I say."

" Sir, many would mistake your words, and think you less
than loyal."

" Father, I have proved my loyalty with my children and
my blood ; but among my own people and at my own hearth,
I may say that I would I had better reason for my loyalty.
I am true to my king, but above all else, I love my coun
try. I love her beyond all words, though I am grateful to
one great Englishman for finding me words that I have
dipped in my heart s blood ; words that I uttered on the
battle-field joyfully, when I thought they were my last

" this blessed spot, this earth, this realm, this England,

This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land ! :

" If to this degree you love England, father, how would
you like to see this beggarly Cromwell upon her throne ?
How would you teach your head to bow to this upstart
majesty ? "

" Matilda, to the devil we may give his due, and there is
naught of beggary in Cromwell or in his family. They
have entertained kings, and sat with nobles as equals, and as
for the man himself, he is a gentleman by birth and breed
ing. I say it, for I have known him his life long, and if


you add every crime to his name, I will still maintain that
he has sinned with a clear conscience. He stood by Charles
Stuart, and strove to save him until he found that Charles
Stuart stood by no man, and could be trusted by no man."

" My lord, you are very just to the man Cromwell. Some
would not thank you for it."

" If we cannot be just, father, we may doubt the fair
ness of our cause, perhaps also of our motives. Tis im
possible to consider this man s life since he walked to the
front of the Parliamentary army and not wonder at it."

" He is but the man of the hour, events have made him."

" Not so ! His success is in him, tis the breed of his own
heart and brain. Well, then, this Scotch campaign is the
now or never of our effort. If it fail, we may have a
Cromwell dynasty."

" Tis an impossible event. The man has slain the king
of England and throttled the Church of Christ. Even this
holy Book in my hand has his condemnation these gracious
prayers and collects, whose music is ready made for every
joy and sorrow this noble Creed which we ought to sing
upon our knees, for nothing made of English words was
ever put together like it yet you know how Cromwell s
Root and Branch men have slandered it."

" Alas, father ! one kind of Christian generally slanders all
other kinds. The worshipers of the heathen gods were at
least tolerant. A pagan gentleman who had faith in his
own image of Bona Dea could still be friendly to an ac
quaintance who believed in Jupiter. But we are not even
civil to our neighbours unless they think about our God just
as we do."

" What say you if, for once, we part without Cromwell
between our good-wills and our good-nights ? Father, I
have seen to-day a fan of ostrich feathers ; tis with Gaius


the packman, who will be here in the morning. Also, 1
want some housewifery stores, and some embroidery silks,
and ballads, and a book of poems written by one Mr. John
Milton, who keeps a school in London."

" I know the man. We will have none of his poems."

" But, father, I may have the other things ? "

" You will take no nay-say."

" Then a good-night, sir ! "

" Not yet. I will have my pay for the other things.
You shall sing to me. Your lute lies there. Come It is
early in the morning. She was singing the first line as she
went for her lute, and de Wick closed his eyes and lay
smiling while the old, old ditty filled the room with its

" It is early in the morning,

At the very break of" day,
My Love and ] go roaming,

All in the woods so gay.
The dew like pearl drops bathes our feet,

The sweet dewdrops of May

" In the sweetest place of any,

Mid the grasses thick and high

Caring nothing for the dewdrops,
That around us thickly lie.

Bathed in glittering May-dew,
Sit we there, my Love and I !

" As we pluck the whitethorn blossom,

As we whisper words of love,
Prattling close beside the brooklet,

Sings the lark, and coos the dove.
Our feet arc bathed in May-dew,

And our hearts are bathed in love."


Happily, tenderly, fell the musical syllables to the tin
kling lute, and as she drew to a close, still singing, she passed
smiling out of the room ; leaving the door open however,
so that they heard her voice growing sweetly softer and
softer, and further and further away, until it left nothing
but the delightsome echo in their hearts

" Our feet are bathed in May-dew

And our hearts are bathed in love."



" Some trust in chariots and some in horses ; but we will re
member the name of the Lord our God."

" The Lord strong and mighty ; the Lord mighty in battle."

As Matilda went singing up the darksome stairway, the
moon rose in the clear skies and flooded the place with a
pallid, fugitive light. In that unearthly glow she looked
like some spiritual being. It gave to her pale silk robe a
heavenly radiance. It fell upon her white hands touching
the lute, and upon her slightly raised face, revealing the
rapt expression of one who is singing with the heart as
well as with the lips. The clock struck nine as she reached
the topmost step, and she raised her voice to drown the
chiming bell ; and so, in a sweet crescendo of melody,
passed out of si-ht and out of hearing.

i O O

About the same time, Mrs. Swaffham and Jane stood
together on the eastern terrace of the Manor House, silently
admiring the moonlight over the level land. But in a few
moments Jane began in a low voice to recite the first verse
of the one huivired and third Psalm ; her mother took the
second verse, they clasped hands, and as they slowly paced
the grassy walk they went with antiphonal gladness through
the noble thanksgiving together. The ninety-first Psalm
followed it, and then Mrs. Swaffham said

" Now, Jane, let us go to bed and try to sleep. I haven t
been worth a rush to-day for want of my last night s sleep.
There s a deal to do to-morrow, and it won t be done un-


less I am at the bottom of everything. My soul, too, is
wondrous heavy to-night. I keep asking it c Why art thou
cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within
me ? and I get no answer from it."

" You must add counsel to inquiry, mother. Finish the
verse Trust thou in God, and thou shalt yet praise Him,
who is the health of thy countenance, and thy God. You
see, you are to answer yourself."

" I didn t think of that, Jane. A sad heart is poor com
pany, isn t it ? "

" There is an old saying, mother, i A merry heart goes
all the day. "

" But who knows how much the merry heart may have
to carry ? There is another saying still older, Jane, that is
a good deal better than that. It is God s grand charter of
help, and you ll find it, dear, in Romans eighth and twenty-
eighth. I can tell you, my heart would have failed me
many and many a time, it would indeed, but for that verse."

"Are you troubled about my father and brothers ?"

" Oh, Jane, that is the sword point at my heart. Any
hour it may pierce me. Cromwell went to Scotland, and
what for but to fight ? and my men-folk have not charmed

" But their lives are hid with Christ in God ; nothing can
hurt them, that is not of His sending."

" Yes ! Yes ! But I am a wife and a mother, and you
know not yet what that means, Jane. All day I have been
saying no matter what my hands were doing let this cup
pass me, Lord. If your father fell ! if John, or Cymlin,
or Tonbert were left on the battle-field ! Oh, Jane ! Jane ! "
and the terror that had haunted her all day and shown it
self in an irrepressible fretfulness, now sought relief in tears
and sobbing. Jane kissed and comforted the sorrowful

2 7

woman. She led her up-stairs, and helped her into the sanc
tuary of sleep by many brave and hopeful words ; and it so
happened that she finally uttered a promise that had once
been given to the anxious wife and mother, as a sacred se
cret token of help and deliverance. And when she heard
the gracious words dropping from Jane s lips she said
" That is sufficient. Once, when I was in great fear for
your father, the Lord gave me that assurance ; now He
sends it by you. I am satisfied. I will lay me down and
sleep ; the words will sing in my heart all night long," and
she said them softly as Jane kissed her " From the begin
ning of our journey, the Lord delivered us from every

Then Jane went to her own room. It was a large, low
room on the morning side of the house, and it was an illus
tration of the girl a place of wide, free spaces, and no fur
niture in it that was for mere ornament a small tent bed
draped with white dimity, a dressing-table equally plain and
spotless, a stand on which lay her Bible, a large oak chair of
unknown age, and two or three chairs of the simplest form
made of plaited rushes and willow wands. Some pots of
sweet basil and geranium were in the casements, and the
place was permeated with a peace and perfume that is inde

To this sweet retreat Jane went with eager steps. She
closed the door, slipped the iron bolt into its place, and then
lit a rush candle. The light was dim, but sufficient. In it
she disrobed herself, and loosened the long braids of pale
brown hair ; then she put out the candle and let the moon
light flood the room, make whiter the white draperies, and
add the last ravishing touch of something heavenly, and
something apart from the sphere of our unrest and sorrow.

For some time she sat voiceless, motionless. Was she


dreaming of happiness, or learning to suffer ? Neither, con
sciously ; she was " waiting " on the Eternal, waiting for
that desire God Himself fdrms in the soul that secret
voice that draws down mercies and spiritual favours which
no one knoweth but they who receive them. And Jane
was well aware that it was only in the serene depth of a
quiescent will she could rise above the meanness of fear
and the selfishness of hope, and present that acceptable
prayer which would be omnipotent with God : omnipo
tent, because so wonderfully aided by all those strange
things and secret decrees and unrevealed transactions
which are beyond the stars ; but which all combine in min
istry with the praying soul.

That night, however, she could not escape the tremor and
tumult of her own heart, and the sorrowful apprehension
of her mother. Peace was far from her. She sat almost
breathless, she rose and walked softly to and fro, she stood
with uplifted thoughts in the moonlit window nothing
brought her clarity and peace of mind. And when at
length she fell into the sleep of pure weariness, it was
haunted by dreams full of turmoil and foreshadowings of
calamity. She awoke weary and unrefreshed, and with a
sigh opened a casement and looked at the outer world
again. How good it seemed ! In what gray, wild place of
sorrow and suffering had she been wandering ? She did
not know its moors and bogs, and the noise of its black,
rolling waters. How different were the green terraces of
Swaffham ! the sweet beds of late lilies and autumn flow
ers ! the rows of tall hollyhocks dripping in the morning
mist ! A penetrating scent of marjoram and lavender was
in the air, a sense, too, of ended summer, in spite of the
lilies and the stately hollyhocks. She came down with a
smile, but her mother s face was wan and tired.


" 1 hoped I should have had a good dream last night,
Jane," she said sadly, " but I dreamt nothing to the pur
pose. I wonder when we shall have a letter. I do not
feel able to do anything to-day. I m not all here. My
mind runs on things far away from SwafFham. I am going
to let some of the work take its own way for a week. In
all conscience, we should have news by that time."

So the anxious days went by for a week, and there was
still no word. Then Jane went over to de Wick, hoping
that the Earl might have news from his son, which would
at least break the voiceless tension of their fears. But the
Earl was in the same state restless, perplexed, wistfully
eager concerning the situation of the opposing armies. In
their mutual sorrowful conjectures they forgot their polit
ical antipathies, and a loving apprehension drew them to
gether ; they could not say unkind things, and Jane was
even regretful for her cool attitude towards Matilda on her
last visit to SwafFham. They drew close to each other,
they talked in low voices of the absent, they clasped hands
as they walked together through the lonely park in the
autumn afternoon. They also agreed that whoever had
news first should send a swift messenger to the other, no
matter what the tidings should be. When they parted, Jane
kissed her friend, a token of love she had not given her for
a long time, and Matilda was so affected by this return of
sympathy that she covered her face with her hands and
wept. " Oh, Jane ! " she said, " I have been so lonely ! ".

And as Jane answered her with affectionate assurances,
there came into her heart a sudden anticipation of intelli
gence. Without consideration, v/ith no purpose of mere

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 2 of 27)