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

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glory, and I shall be left in de Wick with no better com
pany than a clock ; for my father speaks to me about once
an hour, and the Chaplain not at all, unless to reprove me."

" But you shall come to London also."

" Do you think so ill of me as to believe I would leave
my father in the loneliness of de Wick ? And you know
if he went to London he would be watched day and night,
and though he were white as innocence about the King,
some one would make him as black as Satan."

" Look now, Matilda, I will myself see Cromwell as soon
as he is in London. I will say to him, My dear Lord and
General, I have a favour to ask ; and he will kiss me and
answer, What is it, little Jane ? and I will tell him that
I want my friend, Matilda de Wick, and that she will not
leave her father alone ; and that will go right down into
his tender heart, to the very soul of him, and he will say
perhaps with tears in his eyes She is a good girl, and I
loved her father, and he stood by me once against the elder
Charles Stuart and the Star Chamber. Yes he did, and I
will leave de Wick in charge of his own honour, and I will
give his daughter my name to shield them both. I will,
surely. Such words as this, good Cromwell will say. I
know it."

" Oh, Jane, dear Jane, if I had to give a reason for loving
you, what could I say for myself? If you can indeed do
this thing for me, how glad I shall be ! " And she stood up
and kissed her friend, and in a little while they went down
stairs together, and Matilda had some boiled milk and bread
and a slice of venison. Then she asked Mrs. Swaffham to
let her have a coach to go home in.



SO SWEET A DREAM 75

" For it is so near Christmas," she said, " that snow, or
no snow, I must go to de Wick. Audrey was making the
Nativity Pie when I left home, and it is that we may re
member my brave dead brothers and my sweet mother as
we eat it. Then we shall talk of them and of the happy
Christmas days gone by, and afterwards go away and pray
for their remembrance and blessedness."

" My dear," said Mrs. Swaffham solemnly, " the dead
are with God. There is no need to pray for them."

" It comforts my heart to ask God that they may remem
ber me. I think surely He will do so. He must know
how we feel at Christmas. He must hear our sad talk of
them, and see our tears, and He has not forbid us anywhere
in the Bible to come to Him about our dead, any more than
about our living. Father Sacy says I may confidently go
to Him ; that He will be pleased that I still remember.
And as I do not forget them, they will not forget me. In
God s very presence they may pray for me."

Mrs. Swaffham kissed her for answer, and they sent her
away with such confidence of good-will and coming happi
ness that the girl almost believed days might be hers in the
future as full of joy as days in the past had been.

" She has a true heart," said Mrs. Swaffham as they
watched the coach disappear ; and Jane answered,

" Yes, she has a true heart ; and when we go to London
the de Wicks must go also. Mother, I think she has yet
a tender fancy for Harry Cromwell it might be." But
Mrs. Swaffham shook her head, and Jane remembered the
miniature, and all day long at intervals wondered whose the
pictured face was. And the snow fell faster and thicker
for many days, and all the narrow ways and lanes were
strangled with it. Mrs. Swaffham constantly spoke of
Neville, and wondered if it were possible for him to make



7 6 THE LION S WHELP

his way north, until one night, more than a week after his
visit, she suddenly said,

"Jane, I have a strong belief that Lord Neville has
reached Edinburgh ;" and Jane smiled brightly back as she
answered, " I have the same assurance, mother." And
this pulse of prescience, this flash and flow of thought and
feeling was no marvel at all to their faithful souls.

" I did not fear for him, he is not a man to miss his
mark," said Mrs. Swaffham.

" And we must remember this, also, mother, that God
takes hands with good men."

" To be sure, Jane, it is all right ; and now I must look
after the house a little." So saying she went away softly
repeating a verse from her favourite Psalm, thus suffusing
with serene and sacred glow the plainest duties of her
daily life.

After this visit, it was cold winter weather, and Cluny
Neville came no more until the pale windy spring was over
the land. And this visit was so short that Mrs. SwafFham,
who had gone to Ely, did not see him at all. For he
merely rested while a fresh horse was prepared for him, eat
ing a little bread and meat almost from Jane s hand as he
waited. Yet in that half-hour s stress and hurry, Love
overleaped a space that had not been taken without it ; for
as he stood with one hand on his saddle, ready to leap into
it, Jane trembling and pale at his side, he saw unshed tears
in her eyes and felt the unspoken love on her lips, and as
he clasped her hand his heart sprang to his tongue, and he
said with a passionate tenderness,

" Farewell, Jane ! Darling Jane ! "then, afraid of his
own temerity, he was away ere he could see the wonder and
joy called into her face by the sweet familiar words.

When he came again, it was harvest time ; the reapers



SO SWEET A DREAM 77

were in the wheat-fields, and as he neared Swaft ham he
saw Jane standing among the bound sheaves, serving the
men and women with meat and drink. For though the day
was nearly over, the full moon had risen, and the labourers
were going to finish their work by its light. He tied his
horse at the gate and went to her side, and oh, how fair
and sweet he found her ! Never had she looked, never had
any woman looked in his eyes, so enthralling. In her
simple dress with its snow-white lawn bodice and apron,
surrounded by the reapers whom she was serving, she
looked like some rural goddess, though Neville thought
rather of some Judean damsel in the fields of Bethlehem.
Her little white hood had fallen backwards, and the twilight
and the moonlight upon her gathered tresses made of them
a kind of glory. The charm of the quiet moon was over
all ; there was no noise, indeed rather a pastoral melancholy
with a gentle ripple of talk threading it about ploughing
and sowing and rural affairs.

In a short time the men and women scattered to their
work, and Cluny, turning his bright face to Jane s, took
both her hands in his and said with eager delight,

" Dear Jane ! Darling Jane ! Oh, how I love you ! "
The words came without intent. He caught his breath
with fear when he realised his presumption, for Jane stood
silent and trembling, and he did not at first understand that
it was for joy which she hardly comprehended and did not
at once know how to express. But the heart is a ready
scholar when love teaches, and as they slowly passed
through the fields of yellow fulness, finding their happy
way among the standing sheaves, Jane heard and under
stood that heavenly talc which Cluny knew so well how to
tell her. The moon s face, warm and passionate, shed her
tender influence over them, and their hearts grew great and



78 THE LION S WHELP

loving in it. For this one hour the bewitching moonlight
of The Midsummer Night s Dream was theirs, and they did
well to linger in it, and to fill their souls with its wondrous
radiance. None just as heavenly would ever shine for them
again ; never again, oh, surely never again, would they
thread the warm, sweet harvest fields, and feel so little below
the angels !

Not until they reached SwafFham did they remember
that they two were not the whole round world. But words
of care and wonder and eager inquiry about war, and rumour
of war, soon broke the heavenly trance of feeling in which
they had found an hour of Paradise. Mrs. SwafFham was
exceedingly anxious. The country was full of frightsome
expectations. Reports of Charles Stuart s invasion of Eng
land were hourly growing more positive. Armed men were
constantly passing northward, and no one could accurately
tell what forces they would have to meet. It was said that
Charles had not only the Highland Clans, but also Irish,
French and Italian mercenaries ; and that foreign troops
had received commissions to sack English towns and vil
lages, in order to place a popish king upon the throne. For
there were not any doubts as to Charles Stuart s religious
predilections. His taking of the Covenant was known to
be a farce, at which he privately laughed, and the most leni
ent judged him a Protestant, lined through and through with
Popery.

So the blissful truce was over, and Jane and Cluny were
part of the weary, warring, working world again. Cluny
knew nothing which could allay fear. He had just come
from London, and he said" The city is almost in panic ;
many are even suspecting the fidelity of Cromwell, and ask
ing why he has permitted Charles Stuart to escape his army.
And yet Cromwell sent by me a letter urging Parliament to



SO SWEET A DREAM 79

get such forces as they had in readiness to give the enemy
some check until he should be able to reach up to him.
And still he added, as the last words, that trust in the Lord
which is his constant battle-cry. How can England fear
with such a General to lead her armv ? "

" And what of the General s family ? " asked Mrs.
SwafFham, "are they not afraid ? "

" They are concerned and anxious, but not fearful. In
deed, the old Lady Cromwell astonished me beyond words.
She smiled at the panic in the city, and said It is the begin
ning of triumph. And when madame, the General s wife,
spoke sharply, being in a heart-pain of loving care, she
answered her daughter-in-law with sweet forbearance in
words I cannot forget: Elizabeth,! know from a sure
word the ground of my confidence. I have seen, I have
heard. Rest on my assurance, and until triumph comes,
retire to Him who is a sure hiding-place. And the light
on her aged face was wonderful ; she was like one waiting
for a great joy, restless at times, and going to the windows
of her room as if impatient for its arrival. I count it a
mercy and a privilege to have seen her faith in God, and in
her great son. It is the substance of the thing we hope for,
the evidence of what we shall all yet see," he cried in a tone
of exaltation. " And now give me a strong, fresh horse ; I
will ride all night ! Oh, that I were at great Cromwell s
side ! Charles Stuart has entered England, but Cromwell s
dash and sweep after him will be something for men and
angels to see ! Not for my life would I miss it."

" Where do you expect to find Cromwell ? "

" I left him at Oueensferry in Fife, cutting off the
enemy s victual. This would force the Stuart either to
fight or go southward, for he has completely exhausted the
North, and it seems he has taken the south road. But it is



80 THE LION S WHELP

incredible that this move is either unexpected or unwelcome
to our General. Once before, he put himself between
England and the Scots, and how God succoured, that is
not well to be forgotten. Those were his words, and you
will notice, that it is how God succoured, not how Crom
well succeeded. With him it is always, The Lord strong
and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle ; " and Cluny s voice
rose and his words rang out sharply to the clatter of the
horse s hoofs on the stone pavement.

Then he turned to Jane. " Darling Jane ! My Jane ! "
and kissing her, he said boldly to Mrs. Swaffham, " I ask
your favour, madame. Jane has this hour promised to be my
wife."

"Jane has then been very forward," answered Mrs.
Swaffham with annoyance, " and both of you very selfish
and thoughtless. While your mother England s heart is at
her lips, in this dread extremity, you two must needs talk
of love and marrying. I am grieved. And Jane s father
has not been spoken to, and he is first of all. I can say
neither yea nor nay in the matter."

" But you will surely speak for us. Give me a kind
word, madame, ere I go." And she could not resist the
youth s beauty and sweet nature, nor yet the thought in her
heart that it might perhaps be his last request. If he should
be slain in battle, and she had refused the kind word, what
excuse would quiet her self-reproach ? Then she looked
kindly at him, and the thought of the young prince David
going out to meet the uncircumcised Philistine who had de
fied the armies of the living God, came into her heart ; and
she drew down his face to hers and kissed and blessed him,
saying, as Saul said to David, " Go, and the Lord be with
thee."

Then he leaped into the saddle, and the horse caught his



SO SWEET A DREAM 81

impatience and shared his martial passion, and with a loud
neigh went flying over the k:ncl. Silently the two women
watched the dark figure 2 row more and more indistinct in

O O

the soft, mysterious moonshine, until at length it was a
mere shadow that blended with the indistinctness o! the
horizon.

u Thank you, dear mother," said Jane softly, and the
mother answered, " In these times who dare say good-bye
in anger : But let me tell you, Jane, you cannot now
think of yourself first. England is at the sword s point ;
your father and brothers are living on a battle-field ; your
lover is only one of thousands fighting for the truth and

O O

the right, and his hie is England s before it is yours. God
and country must be served first, eh, my dear r "

" Yes, mother. First and best of all."

" When Neville has done his duty, he will come for you.
He can no more bear to live without you than without his
eyes. I sec that."

Before Jane could reply, they heard the men and women
coming from the harvesting. They were singing as they
trailed homeward, their harsh, drawling voices in the night s

O O

silence sounding tired and pathetic and bare of melody.
Jane slipped away to the music in her own heart, closing
within herself that Love whose growth had been sweet and
silent as the birth of roses.



CHAPTER V

SHEATHED SWORDS

" The peaceful cities

Lulled in their ease and undisturbed before are all on fire.
The thick battalions move in dreadful form
As lowering clouds advance before a storm ;
Thick smoke obscures the field, and scarce are seen,
The neighing coursers and the shouting men ;
In distance of their darts they stop their course,
Then man to man they rush, and horse to horse.
The face of heaven their flying javelins hide
And deaths unseen are dealt on every side.

the fields are strewed

With fallen bodies, and are drunk with blood."

IT will be well now to recall the positions which Charles
Stuart and Cromwell, with their armies, occupied. The
royalist defeat at Dunbar occurred on September the third,
A. D. 1650, and Charles, after it, sought shelter in the for
tress of Stirling Castle, where he remained until he went to
Perth. Here, on January the first, 1651, he was crowned
King of Scotland, and then he assumed the command of
Captain-General of the Scotch forces, having under him the
Duke of Hamilton and David Leslie. At this time the
Scotch army had become purely royal and malignant,
the Kirk having done its part had retired, leaving the King
to manage his own affairs. During the winter, which was
long and severe, Charles and his army could do nothing ;
but when fine weather came and they understood that Crom
well would march to Perth, the Scotch army went south
ward, fortifying itself on the famous Torwood Hill, between
Stirling and Falkirk.

82



SHEATHED SWORDS 83

This long winter had been one of great suffering to Gen
eral Cromwell. After making himself master of the whole
country south of Forth and Clyde, he had a severe illness,
and lay often at the point of death. In the month of May
two physicians were sent by Parliament from London to
Edinburgh to attend him, but ere they arrived, the Lord
Himself had been his physician and said unto him, Live !
He took the field in June, throwing the main part of his
army into Fife, in order to cut off the enemy s victual.
This move forced the hand of Charles Stuart. His army
was in mutiny for want of provisions, the North country
was already drained, he durst not risk a battle but the road
into England was clear.

O

Cromwell himself had gone northward to Perth, and on
the second of August he took possession of that city ; but
while entering it was told that Charles Stuart, with four
teen thousand men, had suddenly left Stirling and was
marching towards England. Cromwell was neither sur-

O O

prised nor alarmed ; perhaps, indeed, he had deliberately
opened the way for this move by going northward to Perth,
and leaving the road to England open. At any rate, when
Charles reached the border he found Harrison with a strong
body of horse waiting for him, while Fleetwood with his
Yorkshiremen lay heavy on his left flank, and Lambert with
all the English cavalry was jogging on, pressing close the
rear of his army. For in Lambert s ears was ringing night
and day Cromwell s charge to him,

" Use utmost diligence ! With the rest of the horse and

O

men I am hastening up, and by the Lord s help, I shall be
in good time."

Charles had taken the western road by Carlisle, and it
was thought he would make for London. He went at a
flying speed past York, Nottingham, Coventry, until he



!8 4 THE LION S WHELP

reached the borders of Shropshire, summoning every town
he passed, but hardly waiting for the thundering negatives
that answered his challenge ; for the swift, steady tramp of
Cromwell s pursuit was daily drawing nearer and nearer.
Reaching Shrewsbury, he found the gates shut against him,
and his men were so disheartened that the King with cap
in hand entreated them " yet a little longer to stick to him."
For all his hopes and promises had failed, there had been
no rising in his favour, no surrender of walled towns,
and the roads between Shrewsbury and London
were bristling with gathering militia. So Charles turned
westward to Worcester, a city reported to be loyal, where
he was received with every show of honour and af
fection. Here he set up his standard on the ill-omened
twenty-second of August, the very day nine years pre
vious, on which his father had planted his unfortunate
standard at Nottingham.

Meanwhile Cromwell was following Charles with a
steady swiftness that had something fateful in it. He had
taken Perth on the second of August ; he left it with ten
thousand men on the third ; he was on the border by the
eighth ; he was at Warwick on the twenty-fourth, where he
was immediately joined by Harrison, Fleetwood and Lam
bert. Such swiftness and precision must have been pre
arranged, either by Cromwell or by Destiny. It was to be
the last battle of the Civil War, and Cromwell knew it, for
he had beyond the lot of mortals that wondrous insight, that
prescience, which, like the scabbard of the sword Excalibur,
was more than the blade itself the hilt armed with eyes.
There was in his soul, even at Perth, the assurance of Vic
tory, and as he passed through the towns and villages of
England, men would not be restrained. They threw down
the sickle and the spade in the field, the hammer in the



SHEATHED SWORDS 85

forge, the plane at the bench, and catching hold of the stir
rups of the riders, ran with them to the halting-place.
Cromwell had no need to beg Englishmen yet a little longer
to stick to him. His form of rugged grandeur, the majesty
and fierceness of his face, and his air of invincible strength
and purpose, said to all, This is the Pathfinder of your Eng
lish Freedom ! Folloiv Him ! The man was a magnet, and
drew men to him ; he looked at them, and they fell into
his ranks ; he rode singing of Victory at their head, and
women knelt on the streets and by the roadside to pray for
the success of those going up " For the help of the Lord, and
for England. 1 This battle call, ringing from men at full
spur, was taken up even by the old crones and little chil
dren, and their shrill trebles were added to the mighty
shouting of strong men, whose heroic hands were already
tightly closed upon their sword-hilts. So, with his ten thou
sand troops augmented to thirty thousand, he reached War
wick, and making his headquarters at the pretty vil
lage of Keynton near by, he gave his men time to draw
breath, and called a council of war.

Cromwell was now on the very ground where the first
battle of the Civil War had been fought. Nine years pre
vious the Puritan camp had lain at Keynton with the banner
of Charles the First waving in their sight from the top of
Edgehill. Outside the village there was a large farmhouse,
its red tiled roof showing through the laden orchard trees ;
and the woman dwelling there gladly welcomed Cromwell
to rest and comfort.

"All my sons are with General Harrison," she said;
" and I have not seen their faces for two years."

" Nevertheless, mistress," said Cromwell, " they shall
keep Harvest Home with you, and go out to fight no more,
for the end of the war is near at hand." He spoke with



86 THE LION S WHELP

the fervour of a prophet, but she had not faith to believe, and
she answered

" My Lord Cromwell, our Sword and our Saviour, their
names are Thanet, James, and John, and Dickson, and Will.
Surely you have heard of them, dead or alive ? "

His keen eyes lost their fire and were instantly full of
sadness as he answered, " Oh, woman, why did you doubt ?
If they have fallen in battle, truly they are well. Judge not
otherwise. Your blood and your sons blood has not run
to waste."

Two hours after this conversation, Cluny Neville lifted
the latch of the farm gate. He had heard reliably of Crom
well s pursuit of Charles at Newcastle, and turning back
southward, had followed him as closely as the difficulty of
getting horses in the wake of the army permitted. He was
weary and hungry, but he was at last near the chief he
adored. He gave himself a moment of anticipation at the
door of the room, and then he opened it. Cromwell was
sitting at the upper end of a long table. A rough map of
the country around Worcester lay before him, and Harrison,
Lambert, Israel Swaffham, and Lord Evesham were his
companions. There were two tallow candles on the table,
and their light shone on the face of Cromwell. At that
moment it was full of melancholy. He seemed to be listen
ing to the noble fanaticism of Harrison, who was talking
fervidly of the coming of the Kingdom of Christ and the
reign of the saints on earth ; but he saw in an instant the
entrance of Neville, and with an almost imperceptible
movement commanded his approach.

Neville laid the letters of which he was the bearer before
Cromwell, and his large hand immediately covered them.
" Is all well ? " he asked and reading the answer in the
youth s face, added, " I thank God ! What then of the city ? "



SHEATHED SWORDS 87

" Its panic is beyond describing," answered Neville.
" Parliament is beside itself; even Bradshaw is in great
fear ; there are surmises as to your good faith, my lord, and
the rumours and counter-rumours are past all believing. But
London is manifestly with the Commonwealth, and every
man in it is looking to you and to the army for protection.
Some, indeed, I met who had lost heart, and who thought
it better that Charles Stuart should come back than that
England should become a graveyard righting him."

" Such men are suckled slaves," said Lambert. " I would
hang them without word or warrant for it."

" Yea," said Cromwell ; u for Freedom is dead in them.
That s their fault, it will not reach us. Thousands of
Englishmen have died to crown our England with Freedom ;
for Freedom is not Freedom unless England be free ! "
Here he rose to his feet, and the last rays of the setting
sun fell across the rapture and stern seriousness of his face,
across his shining mail and his majestic soldierly figure.
His eyes blazed with spiritual exaltation, and flamed with
human anger, as in a voice, sharp and untunable, but ring
ing with passionate fervour, he cried

" I say to you, and truly I mean it, if England s Red
Cross fly not above free men, let it fall ! Let it fall o er
land and sea forever ! The natural milk of Freedom, the
wine and honey of Freedom, which John Eliot and John
Pym and John Hampden gave us to eat and to drink, broke
our shackles and made us strong to rise in the face of for
sworn kings and red-shod priests, devising our slavery. It
did indeed ! And I tell you, for I know it, that with this
milk of Freedom England will yet feed all the nations of
the world. She will ! Only be faithful, and here and now,
God shall so witness for us that all men must acknowledge
it. For I do know that Charles Stuart, and the men with



88 THE LION S WHELP

him, shall be before us like dust on a turning wheel. We



Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 6 of 27)