Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

. (page 26 of 27)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 26 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lin is formed for power and splendour, and he will stand
near the throne."

" If there be a throne."

" Of that, who now doubts ? Cromwell is falling sick,

1 Matilda s desire was granted her. She died childless, and the lands
of de Wick reverted to the Crown. As for Swaff ham, Cymlin, at his
death, left it to the eldest son of his brother Tonbert ; but the young man
longed for America, and soon sold it. During the eighteenth century it
changed hands often ; but in the early years of the nineteenth century the
old house was replaced by a modern structure, less storied but of extensive
proportions and very handsome design.


and you may feel God save the King in the air. If you
had married Stephen, he would have been alive to join in
the cry. I could weep at your obstinacy, Jane."

" Let it pass, dear. I was suckled on Puritan milk.
Stephen and I never could have been one. My fate was
to 20 to the New World. When I was a little child I


dreamed of it, saw it in visions before I knew that it ex
isted. Stephen has escaped this sorrowful world and "

" Oh, then, I would he were here ! This sorrowful
world with Stephen in it was a better world than it is with
out him. Jane, Jane, how he loved you ! "

" And I loved him, as a companion, friend, brother, if you
will. When you lay his body in de Wick, cast a tear and
a flower on his coffin for me. God give him peace ! "

At length their " farewell " came. Jane dreaded it ; she
was sure Matilda would wear emotion to shreds and ex
haustion. But it was not so. She wept, but she was
solemnly silent ; and the last words between them were soft
and whispered, and only those sad, loving monosyllables
which are more eloquent than the most fervid protestations.
And so they parted, forever in this life, and if this life
were all, Death would indeed be the Conqueror. But it is
not all ; even through the death struggle, the Soul carries
high her cup of Love, unspilled.

The next afternoon Jane and Cluny rode through Lon
don streets for the last time. They were full of busy,
happy people, and mingling with them all the bravery and
splendid show of the great company of courtiers that were
in the train of Mazarin s two nephews, the Duke of
Crequin and A4onsieur Mancini ; Ambassadors from the
Kino; of France to congratulate Cromwell " the most invin-

o c-

cible of sovereigns, the greatest and happiest of princes
on the surrender of Dunkirk.


And Jane on the previous day had heard this " most in
vincible of sovereigns, the greatest and happiest of princes,"
declare that " he was weak and weary ; that all the waves
and billows of a sea of troubles had gone over him," and
with tears and outstretched hands entreat his God to "give
him rest from his sorrow and from his fear, and from the
hard bondage wherein he had been called to serve."

On the ship they found Jane s father, Doctor Verity and
Sir Thomas Jevery. There were no tears at this parting,
nor any signs of sorrow ; every one seemed resolved to re
gard it as a happy and hopeful event. For, though not
spoken of, there was a firm belief and promise of a meet
ing again in the future not very far off. Israel held his
little daughter to his heart, and then laid her hand in
Cluny s without a word ; the charge was understood. The
young husband kissed the hand, and clasped it within his
own, and his eyes answered the loving father in a language
beyond deception. When the last few minutes came, and
the men were trooping to the anchor, Doctor Verity raised
his hands, and the three or four in the dim, small cabin
knelt around him ; and so their farewell was a prayer, and
their parting a blessing.

Israel and Doctor Verity walked away together, and for
a mile neither of them spoke a word. There is a time for
speech and a time to refrain from speech, and both men
were in the House of Silence for strength, each finding it
in his own individual way. As they came near to Sandy s,
however, Israel said,

" It is a short farewell, John. It will be my turn next."

" I shall go when you go."

"To the Massachusetts Colony ? "

" Yes. I am ready to go when the time comes."

" It is not far off."


" A few months at the longest."

" He is very ill ? "

"The foundations of his life are shaken, for he lives not
in his power or his fame, or even in the work set him to
do. No, no, Oliver lives in his feelings. They are at the
hottom of his nature ; all else is superstructure. And they
have been rent and torn and shaken till the man, strong as
he is, trembles in every limb. And Fairfax, as well as
Lambert and others, think they can fill great Oliver s
place ! no man can."

" Eor that very reason, when he departs, I will away
from England. I have no heart for another civil war. I
will draw sword under no less a general than Oliver."

" As I said, I go with you. I have some land, and a
little home there already ; and Mistress Adair has promised
to marry me. She is a good woman, and not without some
comeliness of person."

"She is a very handsome woman, and I think surely she
will make you a good wife. You have done well. Did
you tell Jane this ? "

" Yes, I told her."

" My heart is heavy for England."

" She knows not the day of her visitation any better than
Jerusalem did."

" She will bring back the Stuarts ? "

" That is what Monk, and others with him, are after.
They have been at the ears of the army, din, din, din,
until their lies against Oliver have been sucked in. They
have a rancorous jealousy that never sleeps, and no one can
please them that is above them, whether it be Prince, Pro
tector or God. Envy has pursued Oliver like a bird of
prey. Its talons, at last, are in his heart."

" Good-night, John."



" Good-night, Israel. Have you told Martha ? "

" Not yet. She will fret every day till the change comes.
Why should we have a hundred frets, when a dozen may
do ? "

But when Israel went into Martha s presence something
made him change his mind. The mother had been weep
ing, and began to weep afresh when she saw her husband.
He anticipated her sorrowful questions, and with an assump
tion of cheerfulness, told her what a good, brave man the
captain of the ship was, and how happy and hopeful Jane
and Cluny seemed to be. " It did not feel like a parting at
all, Martha," he said ; " and indeed there was no need for
any such feeling. We are going ourselves very soon,

The words were spoken and could not be recalled ; and
he stood, in a moment, ready to face the storm they might
raise. He had not intended them, but what we say and
what we do beyond our intention, is often more fateful and
important than all our carefully prepared words or well laid
plans. Martha looked at her husband with speechless
wonder and distress, and he was more moved by this atti
tude than by her usual garrulous anger. He sat down by
her side and took her hand, saying,

" My dear Martha, I did not think of telling you this
just yet, and especially to-day, but the words were at my
lips, and then they were out, without my leave or license.
Now there is nothing for it, but letting you know, plump
and plain, that you and I, in our gathering years, must up
and out of England. Oliver Cromwell is dying ; when he
is in the grave, what ? Either Stuart, or civil war. If
it is the Stuart, my head will be wanted; and as for fight
ing for Lambert, or even Fairfax or Sir Harry Vane, I will
not do it verily, I will not ! I have fought under Crom-


well ; I will fight under no less a general, and in no less a
quarrel than he led in. That is settled. You said Martha,
for better, or for worse.

She did not answer, and he dropped her hand and con
tinued, " I will never force thee, Martha, not one step. If
thou lovest England better than me "

" I don t ! I don t, Israel ! I love nothing, I love nobody
better than Israel Swaffham. I was thinking of Swaff-

" I shall sign the sale of it to Cymlin as soon as Crom
well dies. The deed is already drawn out, and waiting for
our names. If the Stuart comes back and I believe he will
I should lose SwafFham, as well as my life ; but Cymlin
will marry Matilda, and make obeisance to Charles Stuart,
and the old home will be in the family and keep its own
name. I and thou can build another SwafFham ; thou art
but fifty, and my years are some short of sixty. We are
in the prime of life yet."

" I am forty-eight, not quite that, Israel ; and SwafF
ham was very up and down, and scarce a cupboard in it. I
do miss my boys ; and how I can bear life without Jane, I
don t know. Wherever you go, Israel, I will go; your
God is my God, and your country shall be mine."

" I was sure of that, Martha. God love you, dearest !
And any country where your home is built, and your chil
dren dwell, is a good country ; besides which, this New
World is really a land of milk and honey and sunshine.
Tonbert and Will could not be bought back here with an
earldom. There is another thing, Martha, both of them
are going to be married."

" Married ! I never heard of such a thing."

" I thought I wouldn t tell thee, till needs be ; but tis
so, sure enough."


"And to what kind of women, Israel ? "

" Good, fair women, they tell me ; sisters, orphan daugh
ters of the Rev. John Wilmot. Thou seest, then, Martha,
there may soon be three families coming up, and not a
grandmother among them to look after the children, or give
advice to the young mothers. I don t see what Tonbert s
wife, or Will s wife, or thy own daughter Jane can do with
out thee."

She shook her head slightly, but looked pleased and im
portant. The wife and mother was now completely satis
fied. And Martha Swaffham was blessed with imagination.
She could dream of her new home, and new ties, and give
herself, even in London streets, a Paradise in the unknown
New World. And, at any rate, in the building of the
American Swaffham she would take care that there were
plenty of cupboards. Indeed, her plans and purposes were
so many, and so much to her liking, that Israel was rather
hampered by her expansive hopes and ideas ; and though he
did not damp her enthusiasm by telling her " she was reck
oning without her host," he himself was quite sure there
would be many trials and difficulties to tithe her anticipa

" But it is bad business going into anticipation," he said
to himself. " I ll let Martha build and arrange matters in
her mind as she wants them ; things will be all the likelier
to happen so ; I have noticed that time and time again. It
will be a great water between us, and the sins and sorrows
of six thousand years ; and if there be a Paradise on earth,
it will be where man hasn t had time to turn it into a
something worse."

So the summer days went on, and England had never
been so serene and so secure in her strength and prosperity.
Throughout the land the farmer was busy in his meadows


making hay, and watching the green wheat blow yellow in
the warm winds and sunshine. The shepherds were on the
fells counting the ewes and their lambs ; the traders busy in
their shops ; the ports full of entering and departing ves
sels, and the whole nation yet in a mood of triumph over
the acquisition of Dunkirk. Cromwell was working fever
ishly, and suffering acutely. His favourite child, the Lady
Elizabeth Claypole was still very ill ; he had premonitions
and visions of calamity that filled his heart with apprehen
sion, and kept his soul always on the alert, watching, watch
ing for its coming. It might be that he alone could meet it
and ward it away from those he loved.

It is certain also that he knew the time for his own de
parture was at hand. He said to Doctor Verity, " I have
one more fight, John. Dunbar was a great victory ;
Worcester was a greater one ; but my next fight will give
me the greatest victory of all the last enemy that shall be
destroyed is death. Do you understand ? " And the
Doctor made a movement of affirmation ; he could not

Wonderful was the labour the Protector now performed.
He directed and settled the English affairs in France ; he
arranged the government of the new English plantations in
Jamaica and the West Indies; and he paid particular atten
tion to the needs and condition of the New England Colo
nies, being indeed their protector, and the only English pro
tector they ever had. He took time to enunciate to France,
more strongly than ever before, the rights of all the Protes
tants in Europe ; and he made all preparations for calling
another Parliament to consider, and settle more firmly, the
business of the English Commonwealth. His work was a
stupendous one, and through it all he showed constantly the
feverish haste of a man who has a great task to perform and


sees the sun dropping to the western horizon. But his
heart bore the heaviest share of the heavy burden. It was
as if Death knew that this man s soul could only be de
livered from the flesh by attacking the citadels of feeling.
In every domestic and social relation son, husband, father,
friend the tenderness of his nature made him suffer; and
when on the twenty-third of July Lady Claypole s illness
showed fatal symptoms, he dropped all business, and for
fourteen days and nights hardly left her presence. And her
death on the sixth of August was a crushing and insupport
able blow.

Lady Heneage, who was one of her attendants in these
last terrible days, was removed in a fainting condition,
when all was over, and taken to her old friend Martha
Swaffham, for care and consolation. The two women had
drifted apart during the past four years, but there was only
love between them, and they reverted at once to their old
affectionate familiarity. And such sorrow as that affecting
Lady Heneage, is soon soothed by kind companionship and
sympathetic conversation. She had much to tell that
Martha Swaffham was eager to listen to, though the mat
ter of all was suffering and death.

" The Lord Protector was really her nurse," she said.
" When her mother fainted, and her husband and sisters
could not look on her sufferings, her father held her in his
arms, bore every pang with her and prayed, as I hope,
iMartha, I may never hear any one pray again. It was as
if he clung to the very feet of God, entreating that he, and
he alone, might bear the agony ; that the cup of pain might
pass from his child to him and this for fourteen days,
Martha. I know not how he how we endured it. We
were all at the last point, when suddenly, a wonderful peace
filled the chamber, and the poor Lady Elizabeth lay at ease,


smiling at her father as he wiped the death sweat from her
brow and whispered in her ear words which none but the
dying heard. At the last moment, she tried to say, Father,
but only managed one-half the word ; the other half she took
into heaven with her. It is now the sixth of August, is it
not, Martha ? "


" The Protector will not live long, I think. I heard him
tell her they would not be parted a space worth counting."

" He would say that much for her comfort. He meant
it not in respect of his own days ; no life is a space worth
counting of few days and full of trouble, Alice. How


is her Highness, Elizabeth Cromwell ? "

" Very quiet and resigned. Blow upon blow has be
numbed her. She looks as if she had seen something not
to be spoken of. Lady Mary Fanconberg says the family
ought to leave Hampton Court ; there is a feeling about the
place both unhappy and unnatural. I felt it. Every one
felt it, even the soldiers on guard."

After the death of his beloved daughter Elizabeth, the life
of Cromwell was like the ending of one of those terrible
Norse Sagas with the additional element of a great spiritual
conflict. He was aware of his own apparition at his side;
the air was full of omens ; he felt the menace of some
shadowy adversary in the dark; he saw visions; he dreamed
beyond nature ; he had, at times, the wild spirits of a fey
man, and again was almost beside himself with unspeakable
grief. Israel Swaffharn was constantly with him. The
two men were friends closer than brothers. They had
loved each other when boys, and their love had never known
a shadow.

" But I am in great trouble about him," said Israel to his
wife. " It cannot last. Since Lady Claypolc s death he


eats not, drinks not, sleeps not ; his strong, masculine hand
writing, the very mirror of his courageous spirit, has be
come weak and trembling. He lives much alone, keeps
from his family as if he feared they might be in danger from
his danger. And he thinks and thinks, hour after hour ;
and tis thinking that is killing him. I can tell you one
thing, Martha, a thinking soul is always sorrowful enough,
but when it is a great soul like Oliver s, and it is wretched
for any cause, then every thought draws blood."

" For such dismal thought and feeling there is the Holy

"Yes, yes, Oliver knows the Comforter, and sometimes
there is a message for him. Last night he made Harvey
read him the fourth of Philippians, and he said when he had
listened to it, c This Scripture did once save my life when
my eldest son died, which went as a dagger to my heart, in
deed it did ; then, with a great joy he repeated the words,
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth
me ; adding, c He that was Paul s Christ, is my Christ
too ! "

Cromwell had hoped that his great afflictions would
bring his friends back to his side; but envy, hatred and
greedy ambition are not to be conciliated. Even at this
time, Ludlow, Lambert, Vane, Harrison, Marten, all the
men whom he had trusted, and who had trusted him, stood
aloof from his sorrow ; and their sullen indifference wounded
him to the quick. He had a burning fever both of the body
and soul, but in two weeks he gathered a little strength and
left Hampton Court for Whitehall. His unfinished work
drove at him like a taskmaster. He must make great haste,
for he knew that the night was coming;.

C 1 O

" I am glad he is back in Whitehall," said Martha to her
husband, when she heard of the change. " I remember


something that Jane said about that old, gloomy Court ; he
will get better in London."

u I know not, Martha," answered Israel sadly ; " Fairfax
was with him to-day, and he might as well have drawn
his sword on his old friend, better and kinder had he done

" Fairfax is proud as Lucifer. What did he want ? "

"The Duke of Buckingham has been sent to the Tower
where he ought to have been sent long ago; but he is
married to the daughter of Fairfax, and the haughty Lord
General went to see Cromwell about the matter. He met
him in the gallery at Whitehall and asked that the order for
Buckingham s arrest should be retracted. And Cromwell
told him that if the offense were only against his own life,
the Duke could go free that hour, but that he could not
pardon plotters against the Commonwealth. It grieved
him to the heart to say these words, and Fairfax saw how
ill and how troubled he looked. But he had not one word
of courtesy ; he turned abruptly and cocked his hat, and
threw his cloak under his arm in that insolent way he was
ever used to when in his tempers. And Oliver looked at
me like a man that has been struck in the face by a friend.
Then he went to his desk and worked faithfully, inexor
ably, all day; but but "

" But what, Israel ? "

u It is near the end.

Indeed, this interview with Fairfax seemed to be the last
heart-weight he could carry. That night, the man who
had been used to shelter his dove-like wife from every
trouble in his strong heart, laid his head upon her shoulder
and said pitifully, " O Elizabeth, I am the wretchedest
creature ! Speak some words of hope and peace to me."
Then she soothed and comforted him from the deep wells


of her tenderness, and never once put into words the fearful
thought which lay deep in her heart " What will become
of me when he is gone ? " But Oliver had this same anxious
boding, and he managed that night to tell his wife that if
God, in mercy, called him on the sudden, Israel SwafFham
had his last words and advices for her, words that would
then be from Oliver in heaven to Elizabeth on earth.
They spoke of their old, free, happy life ; of their sons and
daughters both here and there, and mingled for the last
time their tears and prayers together.

" Let us trust yet in God, dear Oliver," she said, as they
rose from their knees ; " is He not sufficient ? "

" Trust in God ! " he cried. " Who else is there in the
heaven above, or in the earth beneath ? And as our John

Milton says

" . . . if this truth fail,
The pillared firmament is rottenness,
And earth s base built on stubble.

Trust in God ! Indeed I do ! God has not yet spoken
His last word to Elizabeth and Oliver Cromwell." Then
he drew her close to his heart, kissed her fondly, and said,
almost with sobs, " My dearest, if I go the way of all the
earth first, thou wilt never forget me ? "

" How could I forget thee ? How could I ? Not in
my life days ! Not in my eternal days ! Heart of my
heart ! My good, brave, true husband, Elizabeth will
never forget thee, never cease to love thee and honour
thee, while the Everlasting One is thy God and my God."

The next day he went to his desk and began to write,
but speedily and urgently called for Israel SwafFham.
When he answered the call, Oliver was in great physical
agony, but he took some papers from a drawer and said,
" When I am no longer here, Israel, give these to my wife.


Thurloe has the key to all State questions ; he knows my
intents and my judgments on them. And there is one more
charge for you : when all is over, speak to the army for me.
Tell the men to remember me while they live. Truly, I
think they will. Tell them I will take love and boldness
to myself, and plead for them when I am nearer to God
than I am now. It may be we shall serve together again
among the hosts of the Most High. Say to them my tears
hinder my last words, as indeed they do. Now let me lean
on you, Israel. I am going to my last hard fight."

When he reached his room, he stood a moment and
looked wistfully round it. It was but a narrow chamber,
but large enough for the awfully close, near conflict, that
he had to fight in it, a conflict which was to put asunder
flesh and spirit, and within its few feet, with strange, strong
pains deliver the Eternal out of Time, and set free his Im
mortal Self from the carnal prison-house of many woes in
which he had suffered for more than fifty-nine years. For
ten terrible days and nights the anguish of this struggle went
on unceasingly, sometimes the great Combatant being " all
here" and full of faith and courage, sometimes far down
the shoal of life and reason, and wandering uneasily through
bygone days of battle and distress and darkness. Then
Israel held his burning hands, and listened, while in a voice
very far off", he ejaculated such passages as had then been
familiar to him : "The shield of His mighty men is made
red, the valiant men are in scarlet. The chariots shall rage
in the streets they shall seem like torches, they shall run
like the lightnings." l And once at the midnight when all
was still he cried, " If the Lord had suffered it, then I had
died on the battle-field as His Man of War, with tumult,
with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet." :

1 Nahum 2:4. y Amos 2 : 2.


He had turned to face his last enemy on the twenty-
fourth of August, and on the thirtieth there was such a
tempest as had never before been seen in England. Whole
forests were laid on the ground ; traffic was swept from the
roads and the streets, and the ships from the stormy seas ;
and the tide at Deptford, to the dismay of the superstitious,
threw up the carcass of a monstrous whale. The cham
bers of Whitehall were filled with the roar of the great
winds. The guards leaned on their arms, praying or talk
ing solemnly together on the prodigy of the storm.

" Adichael and the devil had a dispute about the body of
Moses," said one old grizzled trooper to his companion.
" Are they fighting about our Cromwell, think ye, Abel ? "

" Who knows ? " was the answer. " The Prince of the
Powers of the Air has His battalions out this night, but
Michael and his host will be sufficient. You ll see, Jabez,
when the storm is over, our Cromwell will go ; " and he

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 26

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 26 of 27)