Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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u That outlay was my own little pleasure," he answered.
" It has made the long, lonely months here full of hope. I
always thought I knew how to make a great house look like
a great house should look ; " and with pardonable pride he
added, " I think you both liked it."

He found in their hearty admiration all the recompense
he wished. " You v/ill let me die here ? " he asked,
" here, where my old friend died ? you will let rne sit in his
chair, and die in his bed ? It is all I ask, unless you will
stav awhile and brighten my last days."

The favours asked were affectionately granted, and Ma
tilda virtually became mistress of her old home. Anthony
was seldom seen, but Stephen de Wick came and went,
and brought with him men whose names were not spoken,
and whose business meant much more than the packs of
cards which appeared to be all they cared for. In fact,
Matilda was soon neck deep in Prince Rupert s plot, and
there was no doubt in her mind that the month of May
would end the life of Oliver Cromwell, and brino; the Kino-


to his throne and the de Wicks to their earldom.

She was sitting, one afternoon, talking to Stephen about
advices he had just received from his confederates in Lon
don, when a servant entered. " My lady," he said, "here
has come a man with a letter, which he will deliver to none
but you." Matilda s first thought was, " It is some pri
vate word from Rupert ; " and she ordered the messenger
to her presence at once. When she saw it was jane s


writing, she was much annoyed. " I will wager it is some
bad news, or it had not come through this gate," she said ;
and she opened the letter with angry reluctance. Hastily
she glanced over the lines, until she came to the discovery
of the plot.

" Oh, indeed, here is the burden of Jane Swaffham ! "
she cried in a passion. " We are discovered. All is
known all has been known from the very first. Stephen,
you are in instant danger. You must away at once."

" I do not believe it."

" Fool ! How else could Jane have sent this word ?
She says Cromwell has known it from its beginning. The
man has a devil ; who can circumvent him ? You must
fly at once. The warrant for your arrest will doubtless
come by to-night s mail. My God, are our troubles never
to cease ? Is everything not countersigned by Cromwell to
be a failure ? It is unendurable ! "

" Everything with which Prince Rupert meddles is un
fortunate," answered Stephen. " He assigns all he touches
with failure. I said so from the beginning. He is, and
was, the King s evil genius."

" You lie ! You lie downright, Stephen ! But this is
no time for quarreling. You must away, and that at

" And, pray, how ? or where ? I will not run. I will
stand or fall with the rest."

" What drivel, what nonsensical bombast are you talk
ing ? It is I, I and still I with you. Have you no
consideration for others for uncle and aunt, and for poor,
dying Anthony ? Think of all he has done, and at least let
him go in the belief that he has saved de Wick."

" It is better to stand together."

" It is already I ll wager that much every man for


himself. You must take the North Road to Hull ; you are
sure of a ship there."

" And how the devil, sister, am I to reach Hull ? "

" Take the sorrel horse ; if any one sees you, you are
for Squire Mason s ; " then hastily unlocking a drawer, she
brought a little bag of gold and put it in his hand. " There
is enough and to spare for your road to Paris." He flung
the gold from him, and Matilda clasping her hands frantic
ally, cried " My God, Stephen, are you not going ? "

" Storm your utmost, A/Iatilda. I care not a rap ; I will
not budge from this spot."

" But you must go ! Stephen, Stephen, for my sake,"
and she burst into passionate tears and sobs.

" Be quiet, Matilda. Women s counsel is always un
lucky, but I will run, if you say so. I feel like an ever
lasting scoundrel to do it."

" They will all run if they can. There is a little time
yet in your favour. The mail-rider does not pass here till
eight o clock, or after. You have four or five hours

He rose as she spoke, and she kissed him with passion
ate tenderness. When he left the room, she ran to the
roof of the house to watch which road he took. If he went
northward, he was for Hull, and bent on saving his life ;
but if he went south, he was for London, and would doubt
less have the fate on Tower Hill he had been warned
against. In about a quarter of an hour she saw him riding
at great speed northward, and after watching him until he
became a speck on the horizon, she went back to her
room, and she was weeping bitterly though quite uncon
scious of it.

Her first act was to tear Jane s letter into minute pieces.
She did it with an inconceivable passion. Every shred of


the paper fluttered into the fire as if in conscious suffering,
and when the last particle was consumed, she stood with
her folded hand on her mouth, looking at the white ashy
films, and considering what next to do. Her face was set
and frowning; she was summoning to her aid, by the very
intensity of her feeling, whatever power she possessed to
counsel her perplexity.

Suddenly her face lightened ; she smiled, nodded her
handsome head with satisfaction, and then in a leisurely
manner put on her garden hat and walked to the stables.
She was a daily visitor there, and her appearance caused no
surprise. She went at once to a young man known to be
Stephen de Wick s constant attendant whenever he was in
the neighbourhood. She knew he could be relied on, and
as they stood together by Matilda s Barbary mare, she said
with the critical air of one talking about a favourite animal,
" Yupon, can you help in a matter for Earl Stephen ?
It is life or death, Yupon, and I know of no one but you
to come to also, there will be a few gold pieces."

41 With or without gold, my lady, I am your servant.
What is to be done ? "

"You know the three large oak trees, just beyond the
boundary of de Wick ? "

" I know them well, my lady."

" Be under the oaks to-night, at eight o clock. Have
with you a lanthorn and a coil of strong rope. You will
see Earl de Wick there, and when he speaks, join him on
the instant. Can he rely on you ? "

" By my soul, he can ; even to blood-letting."

" Be this our bargain then. Eight o clock no later.
And on my honour, I promise, there shall no guilt of blood
letting stick to your hands."

" Let me perish, if I am not there."


All the man s words had the savour of a strong, faithful
spirit, and Matilda went back to her room satisfied. The
principal part of her plan for Stephen s safety was accom
plished ; she had no doubts now as to its prosperous carry
ing out. So she lay down and tried to compose herself;
and as the day darkened and the time for action came, she
found a strength and calmness that was sufficient. With
out a sign of anxiety in her heart, she eat her evening meal
with her aunt, and then said,

" I am going to dismiss Delia, go to bed early, and sleep
a headache away." Lady Jevery said she was " in the
same mind " ; and this circumstance, being much in Ma
tilda s favour, gave her that satisfactory feeling of u having
the signs favourable," which we all appreciate when we
intend important work.

About seven o clock she went to her brother s room, and
brought away a suit of his clothing; and when she had
dressed herself in it, and put a pistol and hunting-knife in
her belt, and a large plumed hat on her head, she looked in
the mirror with the utmost satisfaction. She was her
brother s double ; quite his height, and singularly like him
in carriage, face and manner. Of this resemblance she
had soon a very convincing proof, for as she passed through
the hall, her own maid Delia curtsied to her, and said,
" My lady is sick to-night, sir, and will not be disturbed."
And Matilda bowed and passed on. As for the other serv
ants, in and out of the house, they knew they were to have
eyes and see not ; and ears, and hear not. Therefore,
though several met, as they supposed, the young Earl leav
ing the house, there was no further recognition of the fact
among themselves, than a lifting of the eyebrows, or some
enigmatical remark, only to be understood by those en rap
port with the circumstances.


Matilda walked quickly through the garden, and still more
quickly through the lonely chase. She was not afraid of
the thing she was going to do, but she was afraid of the
toads and snails, and the unknown deer and dogs that
thought the wooded space their own. But without molesta
tion she arrived at the three oaks. Yupon Slade was al
ready there. He showed her the light of the lanthorn for
a moment, and then his black-cloaked figure and masked
face blended indeterminately with the darkness around him.
Eor nearly an hour Matilda walked up and down the road,
keeping well within call of her companion. But about
nine o clock the sound of a horse coming at an easy gallop
was heard, and Yupon was softly called. He was at Ma
tilda s side as the rider came near them. She advanced to
meet him, calling pleasantly, " Miles Watson, a word, if it
please you."

The voice was familiar and kind, and Miles drew rein
and asked, " Who calls me ? I am on the Common
wealth s business, and cannot be delayed."

Then Matilda, pointing the pistol in his face said, " You
must light from your horse, Miles Watson." Miles tried
then to proceed, but Yupon had whispered to the animal
he rode, and the creature took no notice of his rider s per
suasions. The pistol was dangerously near; Yupon s
rough order " to tumble " was not unaccorripanied by
threats, and Watson thought it best to obey qutody, where
he could not resist. When Yupon had bound him se
curely, Matilda took the lanthorn, and drawing from her
girdle the sharp hunting-knife, she cut open the leathern
mail-bag, and turned the light upon its contents. The
small private letters she hardly noticed, but there were
three ominous-looking papers closed with large red seals,
and these she instantly seized. They were all directed to



the Sheriff of Ely ; and she felt sure they were the author
ity for Stephen s arrest. She took possession of the whole
three, bade Yupon set loose the horse, and leaving the other
contents of the rifled mail-bag on the grass by the side of
the bound carrier, she put into her companion s hand the
promised gold pieces, and then slipped away into the shad
ows and darkness of de Wick chase.

Once within its boundaries she ran like a deer till she
reached the house. All was shut and silent, but she was
prepared for this emergency. She had a key to her private
rooms, and she reached them without sight or sound that
could betray her. Indeed, she felt reasonably certain that
neither Yupon nor the mail-rider had suspected her dis
guise. When she put the gold in Yupon s hand he had
said quite naturally, "Thanks to you, Earl Stephen;" and
twice over Miles Watson vowed, " I shall be equal to you
yet, Earl de Wick. I know who you be, Earl de Wick."

There was still fire on her hearth, and she pushed the
dying logs together, and lit a candle by their blaze. Then
she opened one of the letters. It was a warrant for the ar
rest of Squire Mason. The next opened was a warrant for
the arrest of Lord Frederick Blythe ; but the third was,
truly enough, the warrant for the arrest of Stephen de Wick,
for treason against the Commonwealth and conspiracy
against the life of the Protector. She drew her mouth
tightly, and tore the whole three warrants across, and threw
them into the flames. When they were ashes, she turned
quickly, divested herself of her brother s clothing, and put
on her own garments. Then she carried Stephen s suit to
his room, and afterwards put out the candle and went to

But it was dawn before she could sleep. She lay calcu
lating the time that it would take to get fresh warrants, and


her conclusion was, " If Stephen have the least bit of good
fortune, he will be out of danger, before they know in Lon
don that their lying warrants are beyond looking after.
And I am glad I have done Mason and Blythe a good
turn. At dawn I will send them a message they will under
stand. Oh, indeed, Mr. Cromwell, if you can spy, others
can spy also ! " She was a little troubled when she thought
of her aunt and Anthony Lynn. "But, Lord ! " she said
audibly, " it is not time yet to face the question ; I shall be
ready for it when it comes."

She did not anticipate this trial for some days. u They
will begin to wonder in two days what the sheriff has done
in the matter; in three days they may write to ask; about
the fifth day he may let them know he never got the war
rants ; then there will be new warrants to make out, and to
send, and all this net spread in the sight of the birds, and
the birds flown. In all conscience, I may take my ease for
one clear week then perhaps I may be in London. I
will consider of it."

Her plan had, however, been too hastily formed and car
ried out to admit of a thorough consideration, and in her
hurry of rifling the mail, it had not occurred to her that one
of those small, unimportant-looking letters might also be for
the sheriff. This in fact was the case. When daylight
brought rescue to the bound carrier, the rejected letters
were gathered up, and one of them was a letter of instruc
tions regarding the three warrants to be served. It directed
the sheriff to take Mason and Blythe to Ely for trial, but
to bring Stephen de Wick to the Tower of London.

Now the overtopping desire and ambition of Sheriff
Brownley s heart was to visit London officially ; and this
shameful theft had at least put a stay on the golden oppor
tunity of going there with a prisoner of such high rank and


high crimes as Stephen cle Wick. He was in a passion of
disappointment, and hastily securing a warrant to arrest
Stephen de Wick for mail robbery, he went to de Wick to
serve it.

For no one had a doubt as to the culprit. The mail-
rider swore positively that it was Stephen de Wick. " He
minced and mouthed his words," he said, " but I knew his
face and figure, and also the scarlet beaver with the white
plumes with which he joys to affront the decent men and
women of Ely ; yes, and his doublet, I saw its white slashings
and white cords and tassels. Till I die, I will swear it was
Stephen de Wick } he, and no other, except Yupon Slade,
or I am not knowing Slade s way with horses. He whis
pered a word to my beast, and the creature planted his fore
feet like a rock ; no one but Yupon or his gypsy kin can
do that. And Slade has been seen often with de Wick ;
moreover, he has work in Anthony Lynn s stables and as
for Anthony Lynn God only knows the colour of his

It was Delia who, about the noon hour, came flying into
her lady s presence with the news that the sheriff was in
the stables talking to Yupon Slade, and that he had two
constables with him.

" What do they want, Delia ? I suppose I must say
whom do they want ? Is it Mr. Lynn, or Lady Jevery, or
myself ? "

" I think it will be Earl de Wick they are after, my

" Tis most likely. Bid them to come in and find Earl
de Wick. Give me my blue velvet gown, Delia, the one
with the silver trimmings." Silently she assumed this
splendid garment, and then descended to the main salon of
the house. Her great beauty, her majestic presence, her


royal clothing produced an instant impression. The
sheriff hatted before Anthony Lynn bared his head as
she approached. He explained to her his visit, the robbery
committed, the certainty that Stephen de Wick was the
criminal, and the necessity he was under to make a search
of the house for him. She listened with disdainful apathy.

" Mr. Lynn," she said, tenderly placing her hand on his
shoulder ; " let the men search your house. Let them
search even my private rooms. They will find nothing
worse than themselves anywhere. As for Earl de Wick,
he is not in England at all."

The old man gave a gasp of relief and remained silent.
It was evident that he was suffering;, and Matilda felt a


great resentment towards the intruders. " Why do you
not go about your business?" she asked scornfully.
u Under the King, an Englishman s house was his castle;
but now now, no one is safe whom you choose to accuse.
Go ! " she said with an imperious movement, " but Mr.
Lynn s steward must go with you. You may be officers
of the law who knows ? and you may be thieves."

" Anthony Lynn knows who we be," answered the
sheriff angrily. " We be here on our duty honest men
all of us ; say so, Anthony."

" You say it," replied Lynn feebly.

" And the lady must say it."

" Go about your business," interrupted Matilda loftily.
"It is not your business to browbeat Mr. Lynn and

" Thieves, indeed ! Stephen de Wick is the thief. He
robbed the mail at nine o clock, last night."

" You lie ! You lie damnably ! " answered Aiatilda.
" Earl de Wick was miles and miles away from de Wick
at nine o clock last night." Then she bent over Anthony


Lynn, and with an intolerable scorn was deaf and dumb
and blind to the sheriff and his companions. Only when
the steward entered, did she appear to be aware of their
presence. u Benson," she said, " you will permit these
men to search every room and closet, and pantry and mouse
hole for the Earl. And you will see that they touch
neither gold nor silver, pottery nor picture, or anything
whatever but Earl de Wick. They may take the Earl
if they can find him."

The men were about an hour making; their search, and


during this interval Lady Jevery had been summoned, and
Anthony had received the stimulating drug on which he
relied. But he was very ill ; and Lady Jevery, who adored
her nephew, was weeping and full of anxious terror. Ma
tilda vainly assured her Stephen was safe. She insisted
on doubting this statement.

" You thought he went north at four o clock, but I feel
sure he only went as far as Blythe. No one but Stephen
would have dared to commit such a crime as was com
mitted at nine o clock. But tis most like him and Fred
erick Blythe ; and they will be caught, I feel sure they

" They will not be caught, aunt. And if it were Stephen
and Blythe, they did right. Who would not steal a war
rant for his own beheading, if he could ? I sent a mes
sage to Blythe and Mason at dawn this morning, and they
are far away by this time."

At this point the sheriff reentered the room. He was in
a vile temper, and did not scruple to exercise it. " The
man has gone," he said to Anthony Lynn ; " and I believe
you know all about the affair."

"About what affair? The mail robbery ?"

"Just that. What are you doing with profane and


wicked malignants in your house ? I would like to know
that, Anthony Lynn."

" To the bottomless pit with your liking," answered
Anthony shaking from head to feet with passion. " What
have you to do with me and my friends ? This is my
house, not yours."

" You are none of Cromwell s friend. Many people
beside me say that of you."

" I am glad they do me so much honour. Cromwell !
Who is Cromwell ? A man to joy the devil. No, I am
not his friend ! " and with a radiant smile " I thank my
Maker for it."

He spoke with increasing difficulty, scarcely above a
whisper, though he had risen to his feet, and believed him
self to have the strong, resounding voice of his healthy
manhood. The sheriff turned to his attendants

"You hear the traitor!" he cried. "You heard
Anthony Lynn turn his back on himself! I knew him
always for a black heart and a double tongue. We must
have a warrant for him, and that at once."

"Fool!" said the trembling, tottering old man, with a
superhuman scorn, as his clay-like face suddenly flamed
into its last colour. " Warrant ! warrant ! Oliver Crom
well has no warrant to fit my name. I go now on the
warrant of the King of kings. Put me in the deepest dun
geon, His habeas corpus sets me free of you. Matilda !
Stephen ! I am going to my dear lord to my dear King
to my dear God ! " and as a strong man shakes off a use
less garment, so Anthony Lynn dropped his body, and in
that moment his spirit flew away further than thought could
follow it.

" What a villain ! " cried the sheriff.

" Villain, in your face," answered Matilda passionately.


" Out of the presence of holy death ! You are not fit to
stand by his dead body ! Go, on this instant ! Sure, if you
do not, there are those who will make you ! "

With these words she cried out for her servants in a voice
full of horror and grief, and the first person to answer her
cry was Cymlin Swafrham. He came in like some angry
young god, his ruddy face and blazing eyes breathing venge
ful inquiry. Matilda went to his side, clung to his arm,
pointed to the dead man on the hearth and the domineering
figure of the sheriff above it, and cried, " Cymlin, Cymlin,
send him away ! Oh, twas most unmercifully done ! "

"Sir," said Cymlin, "you exceed your warrant. Have
you arrested Stephen de Wick ? "

"The man has run, Mr. SwafFham, and madame there
knows it."

" You have nothing to do with Lady Matilda. If the
house has been searched, your business here is finished.
You can go."

" Mr. SwafFham, if you don t know, you ought to be told,
that Anthony Lynn just dead and gone was a double-
dyed Royalist scoundrel ; and I and my men here will swear
to it. He confessed it, joyed himself in the death struggle
against the Lord Protector; we all heard the man s own
words; " and the sheriff touched with the point of his boot,
the lifeless body of Anthony Lynn.

" Touch oft ! " cried Matilda. " How dare you boot the
dead ? You infinite scoundrel ! "

" Sheriff, your duty is done. It were well you left here,
and permitted the dead to have his rights."

" He is a traitor ! A King s man ! A lying Puritan ! "

" He is nothing at all to us, or to the world, now. To
his Master above he will stand or fall ; not to you or me, or
even to the law of England."


Then he turned to Matilda and led her to a sofa, and
comforted her; and the men-servants came and took away
the dead body and laid it, as Anthony wished, on his old
master s bed. Lady Jevery went weeping to her room, and
the sound of lamentation and of sorrow passed up and down
the fine stairway, and filled the handsome rooms. But the
dead man lay at peace, a smile of gratified honour on his
placid face, as if he yet remembered that he had, at the last
moment, justified himself to his conscience and his King.

And in the great salon, now cleared of its offending vis
itors, Cymlin sat comforting Matilda. He could not let
this favourable hour slip ; he held her hand and soothed her
sorrow, and finally questioned her in a way that compelled
her to rely, in some measure, upon him.

" Stephen was here yesterday ? " he asked.

" Part of the day. He left here at four in the after

"Yet the mail-rider, under oath, swore this morning that
it was Stephen who robbed the mail."

She laughed queerly, and asked, " What did Yupon
Slade say ? "

" Yupon proved that he was in the tinker s camp at
Brentwick from sunset to cock-crowing. Half-a-dozen
men swore to it. People now say it was Stephen and Fred
erick Blythe. But if it was not Stephen, who was it ? "
and he looked with such a steady, confident gaze into Ma
tilda s face, that she crimsoned to her finger-tips. She
could not meet his eyes, and she could not speak.

" I wonder who played at being Stephen de Wick," he
said gently. And the silence between them was so sensi
tive, that neither accusation nor confession was necessary.

" I wish that you had trusted me. You might have done


so and you know it."


Then they began to talk of what must be clone about
the funeral. Cymlin promised to send a quick messenger
for Sir Thomas, and in many ways made himself so inti
mately necessary to the lonely women that they would not
hear of his leaving de Wick. For JVlatikla was charmed by
his thoughtfulness, and by the masterful way in which he
handled people and events. He enforced every tittle of re
spect due the dead man, and in obedience to Matilda s de
sire had his grave dug in the private burying-place of the
de Wicks, close to the grave of the lord he had served so
faithfully. As for the accusations the sheriff spread abroad,

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 20 of 27)