Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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see her.

" No wonder at all," replied Mrs. Swaffham. " She
showed her good sense in keeping away until the victory had
been talked out. You would have been on the verge of
quarreling all the time you were together, and the kindness
between de Wick and Swaffham is a deal older than the
oldest Stuart it is generations old and it is not worth
while killing it for either Stuart or Cromwell."

As she was speaking there was a slight stir in the pas
sage, and Jane smiled at her mother. It was only an illus
tration of the old law they had been talking of Matilda,
because she was approaching them, and had sent her
thoughts in advance. She came in without her usual spirit.
She was dressed in black with not even a flower to relieve its
sombreness ; she had been weeping, and her face was with
out colour or animation.

Jane went to meet her friend, kissed her, and removed
her hat. Then Matilda went to Mrs. Swaffham and laid
her head against her breast, and said, " I have a bad head
ache. I have a bad heartache. Oh, dear ! Oh, dear ! "

" It was bad news for you, dearie," said the motherly
woman ; " you may be sure I thought of you."

" I know you did. It was terrible news. Father has
walked the floor night and day ever since."

" I hope that no one you love was hurt ? "

" Stephen is well, as far as we know. He sent one of
his troopers with the news George Copping, a Hunting
don man. I dare say you know him ? "


" I know who he is."

" I never saw my father so distracted. And it is always
give, give, give. George took away our last silver, and I
am sure nearly all our money. Father has sent away all
the men-servants, but such as are necessary to work the
land ; four of them went back with George to the army.
Poor old Anice ! She has one son with Cromwell, and the
other has now gone to the King. As she cooks, her tears
fall. I have had to send Delia away only Anice and
Audrey are left to care for us, and father says they are more
than he can afford. Though his wound has reopened
since he heard of the Dunbar disaster, he would have gone
north himself with George and the men "

" Oh, my dear Matilda, do not suffer him to do that.
You know much depends upon his keeping quiet at de

" You need not remind me of that, Jane. I know that
we are only Cromwell s tenants, and subject to his will.
We may be sent away at any hour, if General Cromwell
says so."

" Not without proper process of law, Matilda. Crom
well is not the law."

" The King is my father s friend, yet if he move an inch
for the King s help, he will lose everything."

" And he will break his word, which is the greatest loss

* c 1

of all," said Jane. " I know, dear, you would not wish
him to do that."

" Is a promise given under stress to be kept, Jane ? I
doubt it."

" It is a stress bound all round by kindness. I heard my
father speak of it. When the de Wick estate was under
the Parliament s consideration, Cromwell was much dis
turbed. Your two brothers had just been killed in battle,


your mother was very ill, your father suffering from a se
vere wound, and it was the Lord General who wrote your
father a letter which should be graven upon the hearts of
every de Wick. In it he promised that for their old friend
ship s sake, and for the sake of the fight over the Bedford
Level in which fight de Wick stood boldly with Cromwell
that he would stand between de Wick and all bills of for
feiture. He said also that he would not hold your father
accountable for the acts of his son Stephen, if he person
ally restrained himself from all designs and acts injurious
to the Commonwealth. My father said it was such a noble
letter as one brother might have written to another."

u I have heard enough of it. I do not think much of a
kindness cribbed and tethered by this and that condition.
It has made my father nothing but Cromwell s servant. I
am ashamed of it."

u Dr. Verity has been here," said Jane, trying to change
the subject.

" Pray, who does not know that ? He never comes but
he takes some one away for Cromwell. I thought 1 could
have counted on Acton and Fermor remaining at home."

" He thinks the war nearly over, Matilda."

u It is not. Even if King Charles were killed, there
would then be King James to fight. The war may last for
a century. And if this is the world, I would I were out of
it. Dear, shall I ever be happy again ? "

" Yes indeed, Matilda. You will yet be very happy, and
forget this sorrowful time."

u Not while my life lasts, Jane. Trust me, I shall never
forget it."

u Let us stop talking of it. At any rate we can do that.
Tell me about your lovers, Matilda. How many have you
at this present ? "


" The war has taken them all but young Godschall, and
he and I are no longer friends. When he was at de Wick
last, we said so much we have not spoken a word since."

" I am sorry for it."

" Tis a common occurrence, many women endure it."

" And what has come to George St. Amand ? He was
once very much your servant."

" Poor George ! "

" Why do you say poor George ? "

" Because we are told that all titles are to be cancelled
and abolished, and George St. Amand is dumb unless he can
salt every sentence he utters with what my Lord, my
father thinks or says."

" And there was also among your servants, one Philip

" Philip has gone to the enemy. I do not know, and I
will not know, and I scorn to know, anything more about
him. He should be hanged, and cheap at that."

Before Jane could answer, Mrs. Swaffham, who had
left the room, returned to it. She had a hot wine posset in
her hand and a fresh Queen s cake. " Come, my dearie,
and eat and drink," she said. " Keep your stomach in a
good temper, and I ll be bound it will help you to bear
heart-trouble, of all kinds, wonderfully."

Matilda took the posset and cake gratefully, and said,
" I heard Dr. Verity gave the women who had come to
meet him one of his little rages. I hope they liked it."

" He only told us the truth," said Jane. " Yes, we liked

" Well," said Matilda, " I am not one that wants all
England for myself, but I think I could spare Dr. John
Verity, and feel the better of it. May the Scots make
much of him ! "


" He is one of the best of men, Matilda."

" Yes, to you, whom he counts as one of the covenanted.
To me, he is very hard, and I cannot forget that he was
chief in silencing Father Sacy."

" A few years ago Father Sacy got Dr. Verity imprisoned
for preaching the Word of God. He was two years in a
dreadful cell, and his wife and child died while "

" And pray what does the Word of God say about do-
inii good to those who injure you ? Dear jane, never heed
my words. 1 have a privilege to be ill-natured the privi
lege of the losing and the sorrowful."

Thus, in spite of all Jane s efforts, they still found them
selves on dangerous or debatable ground. All topics were
roads leading thither, and they finally abandoned every kind
of tactic and spoke as their hearts prompted them. Then,
though some hard things were said, many very kind things
were also said, and Matilda rose to go home comforted and
helped for, after all, the tongue is servant to the heart. As
she was tying her hat, a maid called Mrs. SwafFham from
the room, and Matilda lingered, waiting for her return.
She stood with Jane at the window. Their hands were
clasped in each other s, but they were silent, and both girls
appeared to be looking at the beds full of late flowers
beautiful, pensive flowers, having a positive air of melan
choly, as if they felt the sadness of the autumn sunset.
But it was not likely that either of them saw the flowers ;
certainly, iMatilda s hrst words gave no intimation that she

"Heigh-ho!" she said, "why should we worry ? Ev
erything comes round in time to its proper place, and then
it will be, as old Anice expects the hooks will find the
eyes that fit them."

As she spoke, Mrs. SwafFham hastily entered the room,


and with her was Lord Cluny Neville. Both girls turned
from the window and caught his eyes at the same moment.
He was, as Dr. Verity said, a man destined to captivate,
not only by his noble bearing and handsome face, but
also by such an indescribable charm of manner as opened
the door of every heart to him. He carried his morion
in his left hand, and in his dress of dark cloth and bright
steel looked the very picture of a Puritan pala din. Bow
ing to both girls, he presented Jane with a letter from
her friend Mary Cromwell, and also with a small parcel
which contained some beautiful ribbons. The pretty gift
made a pleasant introduction to a conversation full of gay
inquiries and interesting items of social information. Ma
tilda took little part in it. She watched the young soldier
with eyes full of interest, and did not refuse his escort to
her carriage ; but as she departed, she gave Jane one look
which left her with an unhappy question in her heart, not
only for that night, but to be recalled long after as premon
itory and prophetic.

During the preparations for the evening meal, and while
Neville was in his chamber removing his armour and re
freshing his clothing, Jane also found time to put on a
pretty evening gown. It was of pale brown lutestring, a
little lighter and brighter in colour than her own hair, and
with its stomacher and collar of white lace it added greatly
to the beauty of her appearance. Something had happened
to Jane ; she was in a delicious anticipation, and she
could not keep the handsome stranger out of her considera
tion. There was a brilliant light in her eyes, and a brilliant
colour on her cheeks, and a happy smile on her lovely bow-
shaped mouth.

When she heard Neville s steady, swift step coming
towards her, she trembled. Why ? She did not ask her-


self, and her soul did not tell her. It indeed warned her,
either of joy or of sorrow, for surely its tremor intimated
that the newcomer was to be no mere visitor of passage,
no neutral guest ; that perhaps, indeed, he might have
entered her home as a fate, or at least as a messenger of
destiny. Eor who can tell, when a stranger walks into
any life, what his message may be ? Bringers of great
tragedies have crossed thresholds with a smile, and many
an unknown enemy has been bidden to the hearth with a

Jane was in no mood for such reflections. This young
soldier, bearing a gift in his hand, had bespoke for himself at
his lirst glance and word the girl s favour. She knew noth
ing of love, and Dr. Verity s warning had not made her
afraid of it. Indeed, there was in her heart a pleasant dar
ing, the touch of unseen danger was exhilarating ; she felt
that she was on that kind of dangerous ground which calls
out all a woman s watchfulness and all her weapons. One
of the latter was the possibility of captivating, instead of
being captivated. It was a natural instinct, never felt be
fore, but which sprang, full-grown, from Jane s heart as
soon as suggested. The desire for conquest ! Who has
not felt its pushing, irresistible impulse ? She accused her
self of having given away to Neville s influence without
any effort to resist it. That thought in itself arrested her
sympathies. Why did she do it ? Might she not just as
well have brought his right to question ? Would she have
succumbed so readily to the influence of some beautiful
woman ? This self-examination made her blush and utter
an exclamation of chagrin.

Neville entered gayly in the midst of it. Me had re
moved his steel corselet, and the pliant dark cloth in which
he was dressed travc additional trrace to his figure and move-


ments. A falling band of Flemish lace was round his
throat, and his fine linen showed beneath the loose sleeves
of his coat in a band of the same material. His breeches
had a bow of ribbon at the knee, and his low shoes of mo
rocco leather a rosette of the same. It was now evident
that his hair was very black, and that his eyebrows made
dark, bold curves above his sunbrowned cheeks and flashing
black eyes eyes, that in the enthusiasm of feeling or
speaking became living furnaces filled with flame. A solar
man, sensitive, radiating ; one who would move both men
and women, whether they would or not.

It was a wonderful evening to both Jane and Mrs. Swaft-
ham. Neville told over again the story of Dunbar, and
told it in a picturesque way that would have been impossi
ble to Dr. Verity. Taking whatever he could find that was
suitable, he built for them the Lammermuir hills, on which
the Scots army lay ; described the swamp at their base ; the
dark stream forty feet deep that ran through it, and the
narrow strip by the wild North Sea, where Cromwell s
army stood at bay. He made them feel the damp and chill
of the gray, desolate place ; he made them see the men
standing at arms all through the misty night; he made them
hear the solemn tones of prayer breaking the silence, and
then they understood how the great Cromwell, moving from
group to group, saturated and inspired every man with the
energy of his own faith and courage. Then he showed
them the mighty onslaught, and the ever-conquering Gen
eral leading it ! Through Neville, they heard his voice
flinging the battle-cry of the Puritan host in the very teeth
of the enemy. They saw him, when the foe fled, leaning
upon his bloody sword, pouring out a triumphal Psalm
of gratitude so strenuously and so melodiously, that
men forgot to pursue, that they might sing. It was a


magnificent drama, though there was only one actor to
present it.

And when the recital was over and they sat silent, being
too much moved to find words for their feeling, he dropped
his voice and said, " There is something else. I should like
to tell you it, yet I fear that you will not believe me. Twas
a strange thing, and beyond nature."

" Tell us," said Jane, almost in a whisper. " We should
like to hear, should we not, mother ? "

Mrs. SwafFham bowed her head, and the young man con
tinued : " It was in the afternoon of the day preceding the
battle. The Captain-General had just come back from
Dunbar, and his face was full of satisfaction. There was
even then on it the light and assurance of victory, and he
called the men round him and pointed out the false step the
Scots were taking. The Lord hath delivered them into
our hands ! he said. And as he spoke, the fog was driven
before the wind and the rain ; and in the midst of it he
mounted his horse to ride about the field. And as he stood
a moment, looking towards the ships and the sea, this man,
this Cromwell, grew, and grew, and grew, until in the sight
of all of us, he was a gigantic soldier towering over the
army and the plain. I speak the truth. I see yet that pro
digious, wraithlike figure, with its solemn face bathed in
the storms of battle. And not I alone saw this vision,
many others saw it also -, and we watched it with awe and
amazement, until it blended with the drifting fogs and dis

" Indeed, I doubt it not," said Mrs. SwafFham. " I have
seen, I have heard, things in SwafFham that could only be
seen and heard by the spiritual senses."

Jane did not speak ; she glanced at the young man, won
dering at his rapt face, its solemn pallor and mystic exalta-


tion, and feeling his voice vibrate through all her senses,
though at the last he had spoken half-audibly, as people do
in extremes of life or feeling.

It is in moments such as these, that Love grows as Ne
ville saw the wraith of Cromwell grow even in a mo
ment s gaze. Jane forgot her intention of captivating, and
yet none the less she accomplished her purpose. Her sen
sitive face, its sweet freshness and clear candour, charmed
by its mere responsiveness ; and not accustomed to resist
or to control his feelings, Neville showed plainly the impres
sion he had received. For when they parted for the night
he held her hand with a gentle pressure, and quick glanc
ing, sweetly smiling, he flashed into her eyes admiration and
interest not to be misunderstood.

And Jane s heart was a crystal rock, only waiting the
touch of a wand. Had she felt the mystic contact ? Her
fine eyes were dropped, but there was a faint, bewitching
smile around her lovely mouth, and there was something
bewildering and something bewildered in her very silence
and simplicity.

Neville was charmed. His heart was so light, so happy,
that he heard it singing as he held the little maiden s hand.
He went into his chamber with the light step of one to
whom some great joy has come, and, full of its vague an
ticipation, sat down a moment to realise what had happened.
" I have caught love from her in a glance," he said.
" What a dainty little creature ! What a little darling she
is ! Shy and quiet as a bird, and yet I ll warrant me she
hath wit and courage to furnish six feet of flesh and blood,
instead of four. Is she fair ? Is she handsome ? I forgot
to look with certainty. She hath the finest eyes I ever saw
my own in a face like a wild flower a small hand, I saw
that in particular and feet like the maiden in the fairy tale


. exquisite feet, prettily shod. Neat and sweet and full of
soul ! Little Jane ! Little darling ! A man were happy
enough if he won your love. And what a rich heart she
must have ! She has made Love grow in me. She has
created it from her own store."

Then he moved his chair to the hearth and looked around.
It was a large room, full of: the wavering shadows of the
blazing logs and the long taper. " What an ancient place ! "
he sighed. " Tis a bed fine enough and big enough for a
monarch. Generations have slept on it. Those pillows
must be full of dreams. If all the souls that have slept in
this room were to be gathered together, how great a com
pany they would be ! If I could see them, I would enlist
all for my hero they should swear to be Cromwell s men !
In solemn faith the room is full of presence." Then he
rose, turned his face bravely to the shadowy place, and
bending his head said, " Wraiths of the dead, I salute you.
Suffer me to sleep in peace in your company."

He did not sit down again, but having cast over himself
the shield and balm of prayer, he soon fell into the sound
sleep of weary youth. The sun was high when he awoke,
and he was ashamed of his apparent indolence and would
scarce delay long enough to eat a hasty breakfast. Then
his horse was waiting, and he stood at the threshold
with Mrs. Swaffham s hand in his. There were tears
in her eyes as she blessed him and bade him " God
speed," and gave him her last messages to her husband
and sons.

" Fare you well," he answered, and " God be with you !
I hope to be sent this way again, and that soon. Will you
give me welcome, madame ? "

" You will be welcome as sunshine," answered Mrs.


Then he looked at Jane, and she said, " God speed you
on your journey. You have words for my father and
brothers, but if you find the right time, say also to General
Cromwell that Jane Swaffham remembers him constantly
in her prayers, and give him these words for his strength
and comfort They shall be able to do nothing against thee,
saith the Lord : My hands shall cover thee.

He bowed his head, and then looked steadily at her ; and
in that momentary communion realised that he had lost
himself, and found himself again, in the being of another
that he had come in contact with something and found his
spirit had touched a kindred spirit. Yet he said only,
" Good-bye, till we meet again."

As he mounted, Mrs. Swaffham asked him if he went by
York, and he answered, " Yes, I know perfectly that road,
and I must not miss my way, for I am a laggard already."

" That is right," she said. " The way that is best tc go
is the way that best you know."

He did not hear the advice, for the moment his horse felt
the foot in the stirrup he was off, and hard to hold with bit
and bridle. They watched him down the avenue, the sun
glinting on his steel armour and morion and the wind toss
ing behind his left shoulder the colours of the Common

When he was quite out of sight, they turned into the
house with a sigh, and Mrs. Swaffham said, "Now, I must
have the house put in order. If. I were you, Jane, I would
go to de Wick this afternoon. Matilda is full of trouble.
I cannot feel indifferent to her."

" She says the kingfishers have left de Wick waters.
They have bred there for centuries, and the Earl is much
distressed at their departure."

" No wonder. Many people think they bring good for-


tune. I would not say different. There are more messen
gers of good and evil than we know of. If I get things in
order, I will also go to de Wick. Reginald de Wick and
I were friends when we could hardly say the word that
was in King James reign. Dear me ! How the time flies ! "

Then Jane went to her room and began to fold away the
prettv things she had worn the previous night. She
smoothed every crease in her silk gown, and fingered the
lace orderly, and folded away her stockings of clocked silk
and her bronzed morocco shoes with their shining silver
buckles. And as she did so, her heart sat so lightly on its
temporal perch that she was singing and did not know it
until her mother opened the door, and like one astonished,
asked, " What are you singing, Jane ? "

"Why, mother! Nothing but some verses by good
George Wither."

Then the mother shut the door again. If George
Wither had written what Jane was singing, she was sure
the v/ords were wise and profitable ; for Wither was the
poet of the Puritans, and his " Hallelujah " all to the
families of the Commonwealth, that the " Christian Year"
has been to our own times. So Jane finished without
further interruption, but with rather less spirit her song
" For Lovers being constrained to be absent from each other."

" Dearest fret not, sigh not so,
For it is not time nor place
That can much divide us two ;
Though it part us for a space."

And she did not know that, at the very same moment,
Cluny Neville was solacing the loneliness of his ride by the
same writer s "Hymn for Victory" giving to its Hebraic
fervour a melodious vigour of interpretation admirably em-


phasised by the Gregorian simplicity of the tune to which

was suno;

" It was alone Thy Providence,

Which made us masters of the field.
Thou art our castle of defense,

Our fort, our bulwark, and our shield.
And had not Thou our Captain been,

To lead us on and off again ;
This happy day, we had not seen,

But in the bed of death had lain."



" To judge events, or actions, without connecting them with
their causes, is manifestly unjust and untruthful. Such judgments
may make inflexible justice to appear tyranny ; righteous retribu
tion to wear the guise of cruelty ; and virtue itself to have the like
ness of vice."

" All love is sweet,

Given or returned. Common as light is love,
And its familiar voice wearies not ever."

PEACH was now confidently predicted, but hope outruns
events, and the winter slowly settled down over the level
dreariness of the land without any apparent change in the
national situation. People grew tired of expecting, and
turned almost sullenly to the daily duties of life. For in
the North, the winter weather would certainly bring the
winter truce, and they must bear the inaction and suspense
as well as they were able.

In de Wick, the situation was pitiably folorn and desolate.
The great trees around it stood with dripping leaves motion
less in the thick fog ; the long grasses lay withered and
brown ; the livid waters of the lake were no longer enliv
ened by the scream of the kingfishers, and about the house
were silence and desolation. Aiatilda would gladly have
escaped its depressing atmosphere for a little while every
day, but she could not, for the roads leading from it were
almost quagmires unless steadied by frost, and it was only
rarely on such occasions that the horses could be spared to



take her as far as Swaffham. These visits were eagerly
expected by both girls, and yet were usually regretted ; for
Matilda could not help saying many hard things, and Jane
could not conscientiously quite pass them over. Much was
excused for the sake of her sorrow and loss and visible
poverty, but even these excuses had limitations and every
interview brought with it many sharp words not quite

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 4 of 27)