Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

. (page 24 of 27)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 24 of 27)
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ask such a foolish question ? Lady Frances is broken
hearted. I am going now to Whitehall. The Cromwells
are in the greatest distress."

" On my word, they have kept others in the greatest
distress for many years ! I am not sorry for them."

" I only called to tell you there is another plot."

" I have nothing to do with it."

" Some one you know may be in danger."

" Stephen is at Cologne. If you are thinking of Stephen,
thank you. I will write and tell him to keep good hope in
his heart, that Jane Swaffham remembers him."

" Dear Matilda, do not make a mock of my kindness.
The Protector s patience is worn out with this foolish ani
mosity. He is generous and merciful to no purpose. I
myself think it is high time he ceased to warn, and begin
to punish. And poor Lady Rich ! It would grieve you to
the heart to see her despair. She has only been three
months married, and it was such a true love match."

"Indeed it was a very good match, love match or not.


Frances Cromwell to be Countess of Warwick. Faith,
tis most easy to fall in love with that state ! "

"She might have chosen far greater state; you know it,
Matilda. She was sought by Charles Stuart, and by the
Duke Enghien, and the Duke of Buckingham, and by
the Protector s ward, William Dutton, the richest young
man in England ; but for love of Mr. Rich, and in spite
of her father s long opposition, she would marry no one

" Mr. Rich was good enough for her, surely ! "

" Her father did not think so. There were reports of
his drinking and gaming."

" And the Puritan Dove must not, of course, marry a
man who threw dice or drained a glass. Those are the
works of the profane and wicked malignants. However
was the marriage made at all ? "


"You know all about it, Matilda. What is the use of
pretending ignorance ? "

" My dear sweet Jane, do you think I keep the Crom
well girls and their affairs in my memory ? They are in
their kingdom now ; I do not pretend to keep foot with
them and I have troubles of my own ; pray God they be
not too many for me ! "

It was evident Matilda was not in an amiable mood, and
Jane having said the few words that brought her to Jevery
House that morning, left her friend. She went away with
a troubled look, and Matilda watched the change and
smiled to herself at it. " I am quite content to have her
made a little unhappy," she thought; "her constant air of
satisfaction is insufferable. And if my Lady Rich loses her
husband, Jane can assure her that such griefs do not kill.
On my honour ! Jane looks younger and prctti- r than
when Neville was alive and worrying her. Lovers die and


husbands die, and tis a common calamity ; and better peo
ple than either Jane or Frances have endured it. I will go
now to my aunt s parlour; I dare say she will have some
visitor chock full of the new plot and I may hear some
thing worth while."

These thoughts filled her mind as she went to Lady
Jevery s parlour. She found there an acquaintance whom
they had known in Paris, the Countess Gervais.

"I have but now sent a messenger for you, Matilda,"
said Lady Jevery ; " the Countess desired greatly to see
you." Then the conversation became reminiscent, and
the new plot was not named, and Matilda began to be
bored. Suddenly, however, her interest was roused to the
highest pitch, for the Countess, touching a bracelet which
Lady Jevery wore, said,

" I must tell you a strange thing. I was lately at a din
ner where the niece of his Eminence, Cardinal Mazarin, sat
at my side. And she wore a necklace and brooch and one
bracelet precisely like the bracelet you are now wearing. I
cannot help noticing the circumstance, because the jewelry
is so exceedingly singular and beautiful."

" Yes," replied Lady Jevery. " And what you say is
also very curious, for I once possessed a necklace, brooch
and two bracelets like the one I am now wearing. All the
pieces were lost excepting this bracelet."

" But how ? let me inquire ; where were they lost ? "

" Somewhere near Paris. I had intrusted them to a
friend who has never since been heard of."

" But the bracelet you are wearing ? this is so singular
you will please pardon "

"This bracelet," said Laid Jevery, " was more fortunate.
Some of the gems were loose, and I sent it to my jeweler
for repair, just before we left for Paris. He was to for-


ward it to me if he found a safe messenger; luckily he
kept it until I returned to London."

"But this is most strange most strange "


" Most strange and most suspicious," said Matilda in
dignantly. " I should say it was evidence that Lord Neville
was murdered, and that his Eminence bought jewelry for
Hortense Mancini in some irregular way. If I were Lady
Jevery, I would insist on knowing from whom."

" Oh, you do make one great mistake, I do assure you !
Mademoiselle Mancini is impeccable. You must rest con
tent that the jewels came into her possession in the most
correct manner."

Barely listening to these words, Matilda curtsied and
abruptly left the room. She was in the greatest distress,
and forced to conclusions it drove her distracted to enter
tain. All now seemed plain to her intelligence. Rupert
had lied to her. He had slain and robbed Neville, and the
jewels had been sold to Mazarin. The Cardinal s passion
for rare jewels was well known, and these opals and rubies
in their settings of fretted gold work were unique and pre
cious enough, even for the extravagant taste of Hortense

A sudden passion of pity for the handsome young lord
came over her. " It was too mean, too savagely cruel for
anything ! " she almost sobbed. " Men who can do such
things are not fit to be loved by women. They are brutes.
I will write to Rupert at once. I must know the truth of
this matter. If such a crime has been committed, there is
no king or prince or priest on earth to absolve it, and I will
wash my hands forever of the Stuarts."

She did not wait for any second or more prudent thoughts.
She wrote Rupert that hour a letter, every word of which
was flame and tears. When it was finished, she sent a man


with it on the instant to catch the Dover mail packet ; and
all this was accomplished before she had any opportunity to
talk over the affair with her uncle. When she did so, he
regretted her precipitancy, and refused to move in the mat
ter at all. " It would be the height of imprudence," he
said. " The young man is dead and gone, and we cannot
bring him back, though England went to war with France
on that quarrel. The Protector is ill, worn out with sor
row and anxiety, and if one of his old attacks should
seize him at this time, it would have the mastery. I count
not his life worth a year s purchase. Last week I talked a
few minutes with him, and there is the shadow of death on
his face. He said to me, I am weary. Oh, that I had
wings like a dove, then would I flee away and be at rest !
And when Cromwell dies, there is no question of what will
happen. The nation will give Charles the Second a trial.
Then Matilda, when Charles comes back, Prince Rupert
comes with him. They have been one in adversity, they
will be one in the hour of triumph. We may need the
friendship of Prince Rupert to save ourselves. No one can
tell how this reputedly good-natured Charles will act, when
his hands are able to serve his will. I will not then make
an enemy of so powerful a man as Prince Rupert is like to
be. If he slew Neville, he must answer to God for the
deed. As for the jewels, I will not be inquisitive after
them. And I pray you keep your influence over Prince
Rupert. I am not used to forecast evil, but I do think
within one year we shall see the world turn round again.
It may also be suggested that Neville himself returned to
Paris and sold the jewels. Who can prove different ? You
see how the case lies."

It was rarely Sir Thomas spoke with such decision, and
Matilda was much impressed by his words. They made


her hesitate still more about her marriage with Cymlin.
She did not believe Rupert could now induce her to break
with Cymlin ; and she doubted very much whether Rupert
would be permitted to marry her, even though her title to
de Wick was confirmed. But Rupert s ill-will would be
dangerous ; and the result of thought in every direction was
the wisdom of delay.

During the first hours of her discovery, Matilda had
wondered if she ought to tell Jane what proof of Cluny s
death had come to them ; for in her heart she scoffed at the
idea of Cluny returning to Paris to sell the jewels. But
Jane did not visit her for some time, and she was daily
expecting an answer from Prince Rupert. This letter
might be of great importance, one way or another, and she
resolved to wait for it. It came more rapidly than she had
anticipated, and its contents temporarily fanned to a feeble
flame her dying illusions concerning her first lover. In
this letter Rupert "on his honour" reiterated his first state
ment. He declared that he left Neville in health and
safety, having at the last moment urged upon him his own
swift Barb, which offer Neville refused. He said he should
seek mademoiselle s presence until he saw her wearing the
jewels, and then make question concerning them ; and if
not satisfied, go at once to her Uncle Mazarin. He was
sure it was now only a few weeks ere the truth would be
discovered. These promises were blended with his usual
protestations of undying devotion, and Matilda was pleased,
though she was not satisfied. For to Rupert s letter there
was a postscript, and in this postscript one word, which
sent the blood to her heart, cold with terror -

" P. S. It may be the Bastiln, and not the grave, which
holds the Neville secret."

The Bastile ! She had heard enough in Paris of that



stone hell to make her tremble at the word. And now it
kept upon her heart a persistent iteration that was like blow
upon blow. All night she endured it, but in the morning
she was resolved to throw the intolerable burden on some
one more able to bear it. But on whom ? Sir Thomas
would not have the subject named in his presence. Cymlin
did not like Neville, and would probably " talk down " all
her fears and efforts. It would be cruel to tell Jane, but
there was Cromwell. There was the Protector. It was
his business to look after Englishmen, else what was the
use of a Protector ? And if any man had power to ques
tion the Bastile, Cromwell had it. Mazarin was just at this
time seeking his aid against the Spaniards, who were on
French soil, and Cromwell was about to send his own
famous troop of Ironsides to help the French. Besides
which, Cromwell loved Neville. Taking all these things
together, Matilda easily satisfied herself that interference
was Cromwell s bounden duty, and that all which could be
asked of her was to make Cromwell aware of this duty.

She could not tell how much or how little Cromwell
knew of her meddling in a variety of plots against his life
and government, but she expected her father s name would
secure her an audience, and she had such confidence in her
self as to believe that an " opportunity " to influence the
Protector was all she needed. Her first request, however,
was met with a prompt refusal. She was not to be daunted.
If her own name was not sufficient, she had others more
potent. So she wrote on a card these words : " Lady Ma
tilda de Wick has important information regarding Lord
Cluny Neville; and for Mistress Jane Swaffham s sake, she
asks an interview."

This message was instantly effective. While iVIatilda
was telling herself that " she would not do the least hom-


age to the Usurper," the door opened hastily, and he en
tered her presence. In the twinkling of an eye all her
resolves vanished. His grave, sorrowful face, his majestic
manner, and the sad, reproachful tenderness of the gaze
that questioned her were omnipotent against all her preju
dices. She fell at his feet, and taking his hand kissed it,
whether in homage or in entreaty, she knew not.

" My lord," she said, and then she began to sob. " My
lord, I crave of you so many pardons so much forbear
ance-! will never offend again."

He raised her with an imperious movement, and leading
her to a chair, remained standing at her side. " We will
forget the past is to be forgot for your dear father s
sake. Quickly tell me what you know, I am in a great

Without one unnecessary word she related all, and then
put into his hands Prince Rupert s letter, with her finger
directing his attention to the terrifying postscript. And she
saw with fear the rising passion in his countenance, and for
a moment trembled when he looked into her eyes with such
piercing inquiry that she could not resist nor misunderstand
their question.

"Sir," she cried, with a childlike abandon, "in this
matter I am single-hearted as I can be. I wish only to put
a great wrong right."

" You tell me the truth, I believe you," he answered ;
" and I will take upon me to s<;e that it is done. Say not a
word to Jane Swaffham until there be a surety in the

Then she rose, and looking with eyes full of tears into
his face, said, " Sir, I remember the day you pulled down
the haxelnuts for me in de Wick park. My father walked
with you, arm in arm, and I had your hand until you


lifted me at the gates and kissed me. Sir, I entreat you,
forget all that has come and gone since that hour, and dis
miss me now, as then," and she lifted her lovely face, wet
with the tears of contrition, and Cromwell took it between
his broad, strong hands, and kissed it, even as he had
kissed it in her childhood.

" Go home, my dear," he said softly. " All that can be
done I will do, and without delay. You believe in the
God of your fathers, and you pray to Him ? "

"Yes, sir."

"Then pray for Cluny Neville. I may speak, but it is
God that setteth the prisoner free. His blessing be on you.
I am glad to have seen your face, I am truly. A good-day
to you! "

Matilda curtsied and went out. Her cheeks burned,
her heart was flooded with a thousand feelings. She
marveled most at herself; all her scorn had turned into
respect, all her hatred into something very like affection.
Yet mingling with these new-born emotions was an intense
contempt for herself. " A nice Royalist you are, Matilda
de Wick ! " she muttered angrily. " You went on your
knees to the Regicide ! You gave him your cheek to kiss !
You shed tears ! You asked his pardon ! You contempti
ble woman, I am ashamed of you ! The man is a wizard
he has a charm from the devil why did I go into his
presence ? I hope I may be able to keep the secret of my
own fall. I vow it is as deep as Eve s ! I am morti
fied beyond words, and if Cymlin knew, what volumes
there would be in his eyes and his mouth, and his si
lence !"

And yet there was in her heart a strong belief that
this time Cromwell s inquiries would be as effective as
they were sure to be prompt. Indeed the first thing the


Protector did, was to dictate the following letter to Ma-
/arin :


" Sir : In a manner most providential it has been
made known to me that Lord Neville is at this present
moment in the Bastile prison. I know not why my friends
should be treated as enemies, seeing that I have been faith
ful to you in all difficulties. Truly my business is now to
speak things that I will have understood. The danger is
great, if you will be sensible of it, unless Lord Neville be
put at once in charge of those by whom I send this message.
For if any harm come to him, I will make inquisition for
his life for every hair of his head that falls wrongfully to
the ground. And in regard to sending more troops to
Boulogne against the Spaniards, look not for them, unless,
by the grace of God and your orders, Lord Neville is
presently, and without hinderance, in England. Then, I
will stand with you, and I do hope that neither the cruelty,
nor malice of any man will be able to make void our
agreement concerning the Spaniard ; for as to the young
man s return, it is the first count in it, and I shall I must
see that he is restored to that freedom of which he has
been unjustly deprived. It cannot be believed that your
Eminency has had anything to do with this deed of sheer
wickedness, yet I must make mention of the jewels which
disappeared with Lord Neville, and the money, and the
papers. As for the two last items I make no demand, see
ing that particular persons may have spent the one and de
stroyed the other; but I have certain knowledge that the
jewels are in the possession of mademoiselle your Emi-
nency s niece. I have some reluctance to write further
about them, believing that you will look more particularly


than I can direct, into this matter. By the hand of my
personal friend, General Svvaffham, I send this ; and in all
requisites he will stand for
" Sir,

"Your Eminency s

"Most Humble Servant,


When this letter was sealed, he sent for Israel, and tell
ing him all that he had heard, bade him take twelve of their
own troop, go to Paris, and bring back Cluny with them.
Israel was very willing. He had always believed Mazarin
had, at least, guilty knowledge of Cluny s murder ; and all
he asked was, that his daughter might be kept in ignorance
until hope became a certainty, either of life or death.

Cromwell s summons affected Mazarin like thunder out
of a clear sky. He had forgotten Lord Neville. It was
necessary to bring to him the papers relating to the mission
on which he had come, and even then he was confused,
or else cleverly simulated confusion. But he had to do
with a man, in many respects, more inflexible than Crom

" I will make inquiries," he said to Israel. " In two or
three days or a week "

" I must be on my way back to London, sir, in two or
three days."

" I cannot be hurried, I have much other business."

" I have only this business in Paris, sir; but it is a busi
ness of great haste. This very hour, if it please your
Eminence, I would make inquiries at the Bastile."

" It does not please me. You must wait."

" Waiting is not in my commission, sir. I am to work,
or to return to London without an hour s delay. Lord


Neville is particularly dear to his Highness ; and if my in
quiries meet not with attention, on the moment, I am
instructed to waste no time. We must then conclude the
envoy of the Commonwealth of England has been robbed
and slain, and it will be the duty of England to take re
dress at once."

u You talk beyond your commission."

" Within it, sir."

" Retire to the anteroom. They will serve you with
bread and wine while I make some inquiries."

" It is beyond my commission to eat or drink until I
have had speech with Lord Neville. I will wait in this
presence, the authority of your Eminence," and Israel let
his sword drop and leaned upon it, gazing steadfastly the
while into the face of the Cardinal. The twelve troopers
with him, followed as one man, his attitude, and even
Mazarin s carefully tutored composure could not long en
dure this silent battery of determined hearts and fixed eyes.
He gave the necessary order for the release of Lord Cluny
Neville, " if such a prisoner was really in the Bastile,"
and sending a body of his own Musketeers with it, directed
Israel to accompany them.

"These insolent, domineering English!" he muttered;
" and this Cromwell, by grace of the devil, their Protector !
If I get not the better of them yet, my name is not Maza-
rin. As for the young man, I meant not this long punish
ment ; I wanted only his papers. As for the jewels, I was
not told they came out of his bag, I did suspect, but what
then ? I am too much given to suspicions, and the jewels
were rare and cheap, and Hortcnse became them well. I
will not give up the jewels the man may go, but the jew
els ? I fear they must go, also, or Spain will have her way.
Cromwell wants an excuse to withdraw, I will not give him


it. And by Mary ! I am sorry for the young man. I
meant not such injury to him ; I must make some atonement
to the saints for it."

This sorrow, though brief and passing, was genuine; cru
elty was perhaps the one vice unnatural to Mazarin, and he
was relieved in what he called his conscience, when he
heard that Lord Neville still lived, if such bare breathing
could be called life. For the Bastile seemed to be the
Land of Forgetfulness. The Governor had so forgotten
Cluny, that his name called up no recollection. He did
not know whether he was in the prison or not. He did not
know whether he was alive or dead. The head gaoler also
had forgotten. Men lost their identity within those walls.
The very books of the prison had forgotten Cluny. Their
keeper grew cross, and positive of Neville s non-entering,
as volume after volume refused to give up his name. But
Israel and his men, standing there so determined and so si
lent, forced him to go back and back, until he came to that
fateful day when, before the dawning, the young man had
been driven within those terrible gates.

"On whose order?" asked Israel, speaking with sharp

" On the order of his Eminence, Cardinal Mazarin," was
the answer.

" I thought so ; " then turning to the head gaoler he
added, "you have the order for release. We are in haste."

" Time is not counted here. We know not haste," was
the answer.

"Then," said Israel, flaming into passion, "you must
learn how to hasten. I give you ten minutes to produce
Lord Neville. After that time, I shall return to his Emi
nence and report your refusal to obey him."

The gaoler had never before been accosted in such Ian-


guage. As word by word was translated to his intelligence,
he manifested an unspeakable terror. It was impossible for
him to conceive the manner of man and the strange au
thority that dared so to address the head gaoler of the Bas-
tile. He left the chamber at once, and within the time
named there were sounds heard which made all hearts stand
still, the slow movement of feet hardly able to walk, the
dismal clangor of iron, and anon the mournful sound of a


human voice. But nothing could have prepared Cluny s
comrades for the sight of their old companion. His tall
form was attenuated to the last point; his eyes, unaccus
tomed to much light, would not at once respond, they
looked as if they had lost vision ; his hair straggled unkempt
over his shoulders, and the awful pallor of the prison on his
face and neck and hands was more ghastly than the pallor
of death. His clothing had decayed ; it hung in shreds
about his limbs ; but there was a glimmer of his old self in
the pitiful effort he made, as soon as conscious of human
presence, to lift up his head and carry himself without fear.
An irrepressible movement of arms, a low wail of pity, met
him as he entered the room, and he looked before him,
anxious, intent, but not yet seeing anything distinctly.

" Cluny ! Cluny ! Cluny ! " cried Israel ; and then Cluny
distinguished the buff and steel uniforms, and knew who it
was that called him. A long, sharp cry of agony, wonder,
joy, answered the call, and he fell senseless into Israel s

They brought him wine, they lifted him to the open
window, they laid bare the skeleton form of his chest, they
called him by name in voices so full of love and pity that
his soul perforce answered their entreaties. Then the Gov
ernor offered him some clothing, but Israel put it passion
ately away. They were worse than Babylonish garments



in his sight; he would not touch them. He asked only for
a public litter, and when it was procured, they laid Cluny
in it, and his comrades bore him through the streets of
Paris to their lodging on the outskirts ot the city.

When they left the gates of the prison there was a large
gathering of men, and it increased as they proceeded, a
pitiful crowd, whose very silence was the highest eloquence.
For they understood. Cluny lay prone and oblivious to
their vision. They had seen him come from the Bastile.
He was dead, or dying, and these angry, weeping soldiers
were his comrades. They began to mutter, to exclaim, to
voice their sympathy more and more intelligibly. Women,
praying and weeping audibly, joined the procession, and
Israel foresaw the possibility of trouble. He felt that in

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 24 of 27)