Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

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shall have a victory like that of Saul over Nahash, and I
know not of any victory like to it, since the world began
Two of them not left together. Amen! But give me leave
to say this : In the hour of victory it were well for us to re
member the mercy that was in Saul s heart, because that
day, the Lord had wrought salvation in Israel. From
here there are two courses open to us, a right one, and a
wrong one. W.iat say you, Lambert? "

u London is the heart of the nation, and just now it is a
faint heart. I say it were well to turn our noses to London,
and to let the rogues know we are coming."

" What is your thought, Harrison ? "

" Worcester is well defended," he answered musingly.
" It has Wales behind it. We cannot fight Charles Stuart
till we compass the city, and to do that, we must be on both
sides of the river. Then Charles could choose on which
side he would fight, and we could not come suddenly to
help each other."

" What way look you, Israel ? "

"The way of the enemy. I see that he is here. What
hinders that we fight him ? "

" Fight him," said lord Evesham, " better now, than later."

" Fight him ! That, I tell you, is my mind also," said
Cromwell striking the table with his clinched hand. " Some
may judge otherwise, but I think while we hold Charles Stuart
safe, London is safe also."

" Surely," said Lambert, " it may be more expedient to
secure Charles Stuart, but "

"Expedient, expedient!" interrupted Cromwell. "Who
can make a conscience out of expediency ? Expediency says,
; / may be ; Conscience says, / / is. If Worcester were ten
times as strong, I would not hesitate. God has chosen this


battle-field for us, as He chose Dunbar ; and because the
place is strong, and because it is on both sides the river, we
will draw closer and closer our crescent of steel round it. We
will fight against it on both sides of the river, and we will
expect that miracle of deliverance which will surely come,
for we never yet found God failing, when we trusted in
Him. In these parts we struck our first blows for Freedom,
and here, at point and edge, we will strike our last, and then
sheathe our s\vorJs. I give my word to you for this, and I
will fully answer it. But there must be no slackness. The
work is to be thorough, and not to do over again. The


nation wishes it so, I know it. The plain truth is we will
march straight on Worcester ; we will cut off Charles Stuart
from all hope of London ; we will fight him from both sides
of the river, and bring this matter of the Stuarts to an end ;
for they are the great troublers of Israel."

The man and the time and the place had met, and there
was no doubting it. His words burned this assurance into
the hearts of all who heard him, and when he struck his
sword-hilt to emphasise them, they answered with the same
movement, unconscious and simultaneous.

In some remarkable way, this tremendous national crisis
had become known in every corner of the land. If the
great angel who guides and guards the destinies of England

O O C? O O

had sent out a legion of messengers to cry it from every
church tower, there coi:ld not have been any more conscious
intimation of the final struggle. And the very vagueness
and mystery of the conviction intensified its importance,
for generally the information came as the wind blows, no
one knew whence only that the billows of war, though
low and far off, were heard, only that a sense of presence
and movement not visible thrilled and informed men and
women and brought them nearer to their inner selves than


they had ever been before. Indeed, there were many whose
spiritual senses were opened by intense longing and fearing,
and they heard voices and saw portents and visions in the
air above, yea, even on the streets around them.

At Swaffham and de Wick this fateful feeling was ag
gravated by keen personal interests. To Mrs. Swaffham
and Jane the coming battle might mean widowhood and
orphanage; sons and brothers might be among those ap
pointed to die for Freedom s sake. To de Wick it might
mean the extinction of the family, root and branch, the loss
to the lonely Earl and his daughter of the one love on
which their future could build any hope. They could not
bear audibly to surmise these things, but they feared them ; and
not even Jane had yet reached that far-seeing faith, which,
for a noble end, levels life and death. As the days went on
they ceased their usual employments ; Jane went to the vil
lage, or even to Ely in search of news, or perhaps half-way
to de Wick met Matilda on the same errand. Mutual fears
drew them together ; they talked and wept and encouraged
each other, and always parted with the one whispered word
" To-morrow"

At length there came a day when the unnatural tension
grew to its cruel ripeness. The soft gray autumn morn
ing was sensitive through every pulse of Nature, and as the
day wore on a strange still gloom hung far and wide over
the country. The very breath of calamity was in it. Pur
itan and Royalist alike went to the open churches to pray ;
tradesmen left their wares and stood talking and watching
the highways ; women wandered about their homes weep
ing and praying inaudibly, or they let their anxieties fret
them like a lash. The next morning the west wind blew
the sorrow in the air, far-off to sea ; but left an instanta
neous, penetrating sense of something being "all over."


Whatever deed had been done, England would soon ring
with it.

On the third afternoon, there came rumours of a great
Parliamentary victory, rumours that Charles Stuart had been
slain in battle, suppositions and surmises innumerable and
contradictory. Jane went as quickly as possible to dc
Wick, for if indeed there had been a Royalist defeat,
Stephen de Wick might have reached home and life was
hardly to be borne, unless some certainty relieved the ten
sion cutting like a tight thong her heart and brain.

The neglect and desolation of de Wick Park had in it
something unusual : it was that strange air of sorrow, new and
unaccepted, which insists on recognition. It hurried Jane s
steps ; she felt sure she was either going to meet trouble
or that trouble was following after her. When she reached
the house, there were two horses tied, and even two horses
were a strange sight, now, at that door where once there
had been all day long the noise and hurry of sportsmen,
and of coming and going guests. She entered the hall and
saw a man in his stockinged feet softly descending the
stairs. She knew his name and his occupation, and her
heart stood still with fear. The next moment Delia came
forward, and Jane said,

" I am glad to see you back, Delia. Is Lady Ma
tilda well ? Is any one ill ? O Delia, what is the
matter ? Why are you crying ? And why is Jabez Clay
here ? "

" The priest is dead. Clay has been measuring him."

" Dead ! "

" Yes, ma am. He dropped dead when he heard of the
fight and the King s death."

"Then you have news ? "

" The worst news that could come. No one has seen


the King since the battle all is lost Audrey s Ben is back
skin-whole, but he says "

" Is that you, Jane Swaffham ? " cried Matilda, running
down-stairs. " Come here, come here, come here ! " and
seizing her by the arm, she compelled Jane to ascend at
her side. As for Matilda, she was like a woman distraught.
Grief and anger burned white in her face, her eyes blazed,
her speech was shrill, her manner like one possessed. Jane
made no resistance to such impetuous, imperative passion,
and she was hurried up the steps and along the corridor
until Matilda suddenly stopped and threw open the door of
a darkened room.

" Go in, Mistress Swaffham," she cried, "and look your
last on one of Cromwell s victims." And Jane shook her
self free, and stood a moment regarding the placid face of
the dead priest. He was wrapped in his winding sheet,
the Book of Common Prayer lay on his breast, and his
hands were clasped over it.

" Oh, God be merciful ! " said Jane, and Matilda an
swered, " Yes, for men know nothing of mercy. Come,
there is more yet."

Then she opened the door next to the death chamber,
and Jane saw lying on a great canopied bed the dying Earl.
His last breaths were coming in painful sobs, but he
opened his eyes and looked mournfully at Jane for a few
moments. Then the physician sitting by his side motioned
authoritatively to the two girls to leave the room.

" He is dying. You see that. He may live till morning
no longer," said Matilda ; " he is only waiting to see
Stephen, and Stephen will never come. Ben said he was
with the King s horse, and the King is slain, and all is red
ruin and sorrow without end. When you rise to-morrow
morning, you can tell yourself Matilda de Wick is mother-


less, fatherless, brotherless, friendless, and homeless; and I
dare say you will add piously, It is the Lord s doing ; but it
is not the Lord s doing, it is Oliver Cromwell s work. I
would walk every step of the way to London if I might see
him hung when I got there ! "

" Indeed, Matilda, you are cruel to say such things.
You are neither friendless nor homeless."

" Indeed, I am in both cases. I will have no friends
that are partners in Cromwell s crimes, and if Stephen be
dead, de Wick goes only in the male line, and there is not
a male left to our name. Cromwell and his Parliament may
as well take house and lands ; they have slain all who can
hold them all, Reginald, Roland, Stephen, my Uncle Rob
ert, my cousins Rufus and Edward ! What wonder that
Julian Sacy s heart broke, and that my father only waits at
the door of Death to say good-bye to Stephen."

" What can I do for you, dear ? Oh, what can I do ? "
" I will have nothing from you, not even pity, while you
endure, yes, even admire, this monster of cruelty, Oliver

" Cruelty is far from him. He has the heart of a child."
" He is a very demon. He has drenched England in blood."
" He has done nothing of the kind. Why did Charles
Stuart invade England ? What right had he to do so ?
England is not his private estate. England belongs to
Englishmen. No, I will not talk on this subject with you.
When you are in reason send for me, and I will do any
thing, anything, that my heart and hands can do."

" I will not send for you. I never wish to see your face
again. And how poor Stephen loved you ! And you you
have not a tear for his fate. I thank God I am not of
your profession. I can weep for the death of those who
loved me."


With these words Matilda turned sobbing away, and Jane,
slowly at first and then hastily, took the road to Swaffham.
For after she had decided that it was best not to force her
company on her distracted friend, she remembered that the
news which had reached de Wick was probably at Swaff-
ham. It might also have come there with a tale of death and
danger, and her mother be needing her help and comfort.
So she made all possible haste, and as soon as she reached
Swaffham she was aware of a change. The servants were
running about with unusual alacrity, and there was a sense
of hurry and confusion. As soon as Jane spoke, her
mother came quickly towards her. Her look was flurried,
but not unhappy, as she cried, " Have you the news,
Jane ? Tis the greatest victory that hath ever been in
England. Dr. Verity came an hour ago, so tired he could
scarcely sit his horse. He has had a warm drink and sleeps,
but he says no victory was ever like it."

" And my father and brothers ? What of them ? "
" Your father is well ; Tonbert and Will have some
slight sword cuts. Cymlin has taken them to London, and
Dr. Marvel will see to their wounds. We must be ready
to go with Dr. Verity to London on Tuesday morning.
Your father desires it."

" I heard at de Wick that Charles Stuart is slain."
" Dr. Verity believes not such a report. He says, how
ever, that the war is over. The Royalists have now
neither army nor leader. Now, Jane, make some haste.
Put carefully away what is to be left; and pack a small box
with such clothing as you must take with you. Joslyn, the
carrier, will bring the rest. To-morrow, being Sabbath, we
can do nothing towards our journey, but on Monday all
must be finished."

It troubled Jane that there was so little sense of triumph.


"The greatest victory that had ever been in England" ap
peared quite a secondary thing to Mrs. Swaffham in com
parison with the hurried journey to London, and all it
implied. An unspeakable fear had been lifted from every
heart, and yet, instead of the great rejoicing which would
have been fit and natural, there was a little ennui and for-
getfulness a feeling which if it had found words might
have said, " There, now, the trouble is over. We have
felt all we can feel. We would rather sit down and cry a
little than shout to the church bells clanging: all over En?-

o o o

land. We have given of ourselves freely while need was,
now the need is over, let us alone."

Such an appearance of ingratitude troubled Jane in her
very soul. Cromwell so eagerly looked for, so mighty to
help, had not been even named. "What ingrates mortals
are ! " she thought bitterly, " what ingrates both to God and
man. Yet had my father been here, he would have called
the house together and thanked God for His help by the
hand of Oliver Cromwell."

To such thoughts she worked rapidly. Her little box
was soon packed, her room put in order, and she was
beginning to wonder if Dr. Verity s sleep was delaying
supper, when there was a sharp, impatient knock at the
door. Before she could in any way answer it, Matilda
de Wick entered and threw herself on her knees at Jane s

"You said you would help me," she cried; "you said you
would, with heart and hands ! Now, Jane, keep your word !
It is life o r death ! Have pity on me ! Have pity on me ! "

" What is it, Matilda ? What is it you wish ? "

" It is Stephen ; it is his friend Hugh Belward. They
are searching de Wick for them now. I have brought
them to vou. Father told me to come here. I could go


nowhere else, I had no time. Jane, for God s sake save
them ; not for my sake, not for pity s sake, but for God s
sake save them ! They are now outside this door they
may be seen by some servant let them enter may I open
the door? Jane, speak. There is not a moment to lose.
The men seeking them may be on their way here Jane,
Jane ! Why don t you let them in ? You said you would
help me ! Oh, for God s dear sake ! "

" How can I do what you ask me, Matilda? Think of
what you ask "

" I know ; I ask life for two poor souls ready to perish.
One of them loves you Jane, speak why are you wait


" My father my brothers and in this room ? My
own room ? "

"The more sure sanctuary. Be not too nice, when too
much niceness may be murder. Jane, there is no time to
talk. Let them through the door."

" I will call mother," she said ; " let them in until I
bring her here." Then she opened the door, and Matilda
brought the two wayworn, blood-stained, fainting fugitives
within the sanctuary.

Mrs. Swaffham was not long in answering Matilda s pe
tition. That divine compassion that oversteps every ob
stacle, and never asks who or what art thou, saw the visible
necessity and hastened to meet it.

"Surely, surely, my poor lads," she said pitifully," I will
find hiding for you."

" God Himself thank you, madame." sobbed Matilda.
" Father said you would. He told me to bring the boys to
you, and I brought them through the fields and under the
hedges. No one has seen them ; it was nearly dark," she
said hysterically.


" Yes, dearie, and Will shall saddle a horse and take you

" No, no, no ! It would then be known I had come
here in the dark ; and the servants would ask what for, and
suspect the truth. No one must know. I can find my
way and I must now go."

" Tell your father that they who would hurt the young
men must hurt me first."

" It will he the greatest, the last, comfort he can have in
this world." Then she kissed her brother, and with a
glance of farewell pity at his companion, went quickly and
quietly away.

" Go down-stairs, Jane," said Mrs. Swaffham, "and if
Dr. Verity is waiting, order supper to be served. Tell him
not to wait on my necessities, which are many, with so
much packing and putting away to look after. Keep men
and maids busy on the ground floor, and the east side. I
will bestow our friends in the oak room, on the west side
of the house."

To this room she took them, and then brought water and
wine and bread and meat, and some of her son s clothing,
showing them, also, that the wide chimney had been pre
pared for such emergencies by having stout, firm, iron
stirrups placed right and left at very short intervals. " By
these you can easily reach the roof," she said ; " Dr. Verity
did so once, when Laud s men were seeking him. But I
think no Parliament soldiers will search Israel Swaffham s
house for succored malignants. To-night and to-morrow
you can rest and sleep ; I will waken you very early Mon
day morning, and you can go to de Wick for your horses,
ere any one is astir." She kissed them both and poured
out wine and made them drink, and then, looking carefully
to see that no chink in shutters or door let out a glimpse


of candle-light, left them to eat and rest. Her heart
was light, and she had no sense of wrong-doing, although
Stephen had warned her that Parliament had issued an order
threatening all who sheltered royalists with fine and im

41 Parliament s orders are well enough," she said to her
self as she stepped rapidly and lightly away from the scene
of her disobedience, " well enough, but I think far more of
the orders of the King of kings, and He tells me if my
enemy hunger to feed him and give him drink, and of course
shelter and clothing the oil and the twopence the oil for
his visible wants, and the twopence for the wants not seen.
I must not forget the twopence. Thank God, I can spare
a few pounds for the poor lads ! " And her face was so happy
in the thought that she seemed to bring sunshine into the
parlour, where she found Dr. Verity eating a beefsteak
pudding and talking to Jane, who sat with a white and
anxious face trying to smile and answer him.

" Come and rest a little, Martha," he said, " I am not to
halve a day."

" But I am, Doctor. I want to see to my boys wounds."

" Wounds ! Pshaw ! Scratches ! They will be in armour
to enter London when Cromwell does. And what think
you ? Here come a half-a-dozen riders awhile ago, seeking
young de Wick. They said also that it was thought
Charles Stuart might be with him, and they would have
searched SwafFham high and low if I had not been here.
I vouched my word for no Stuart or de Wick in Swaffham,
and told them the whole house was upside down, men and
maids in every room, and you and Jane packing for London.
And the rascals didn t take my word, but went to the
kitchen and asked Tom and Dick and Harry and all the
wenches, and so satisfied themselves."



" The impudent varlets," said Mrs. SwafFham, " to set
your word at naught. I wish that you had called me."

" I told them when they hummed and hawed to light from
their horses and go through the house, and Jane said,
4 Surely, sirs, Dr. Verity will go with you ; and then I let
them have the rough side of my tongue, and said, I d do
no such mean business as search Captain Israel Swaffham s
house for royalists, and he and his three sons fighting them
on every battle-field in England and Scotland. Not I ! So
they went their ways to the kitchen, and learned nothing to
what I told them ; but they got a drink of ale, which was
likely what they wanted. But if Charles Stuart had been
here I would have gladly led the way to him, for I like well
to betray a man who deceives and betrays all men."

" You would not, Dr. Verity," said Jane. " I know you
better than your words. You would have put him on your
own big horse, and put money in his hand, and said, Fly !
I am not thy executioner."

" I say, No, downright."

u I say, Yes," affirmed Mrs. SwafFham. " In the heart
of battle perhaps No, but if he came to you after the battle
and begged for mercy, you would think of the reproach our
Lord Christ gave to the unmerciful steward shouldst not
thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant even
as I had pity on thee."

" You argue like a woman, Martha. There is the
example of Jael."

" I wouldn t do what Jael did if England s crown was
for it. There is not an Englishwoman living, not one
living, who would play Jael. If Charles Stuart has g;>t
away from battle, he has got away ; and if you are looking
to Englishwomen to betray a poor soul in extremities,
Charles Stuart may live to be King of England yet."



"You are making a wicked and impossible suggestion,

" No more wicked and impossible than that there is
another Jael in England. There is not ! "

" Don t flare up in that way, Martha. Thank God, we
are neither of us yet called upon to decide such a question
as Charles Stuart s life or death. But he might come here ;
the courage of despair may bring him. What would you
do ? "

" You are here, and I would leave you to answer that
question for me."

" Well, I wish he would come. There is danger while
he is hiding here and there in the country. What good is
it to quench the fire in the chimney if it be scattered about
the house ? I think we will begin our journey to London on
Monday morning, Martha."

" I cannot. If I had as many hands as fingers, I could
not. You may keep watch and ward to-morrow and Mon
day, and it may be well to do so ; for to tell the truth, I
trust neither men nor maids in the kitchen. For a Parlia
ment half-crown they would hide the devil. When was
this great battle of Worcester fought ? "

" Last Wednesday, on the third day of this month."

" Mother, remember how sad we were all that day. You
said to me, Jane, there is death in the air ; and the men
could not work, and they vowed the beasts trembled and
were not to guide or to hold."

" The third of September ! " said Mrs. Swaffham, "that
was Dunbar day. A great victory was Dunbar ! "

" Worcester was a greater victory ; and there will be
one more third of September, the greatest victory of all.
But where it will be, and over what enemy, only God


" When did the Worcester battle begin ? " asked Jane.

" About four in the afternoon. It was a fair day, the
sun shone brightly over the old city, with its red-tiled roofs,
its orchards and gardens and hop fields, and over the noble
river and long line of the green Malvern hills a few miles
away. And the Royalist army made a grand show with
their waving cloaks and plumes, their gay silk banners, and
their shouts of For God and King ! But they were as stub
ble before steel when Cromwell s iron men faced them with
their stern answering shout of God With Us ! It was a
stiff business, but indeed God was with us. As for Crom
well, he was so highly transported that scarce one dared
speak to him. Wherever he led, a great passion, like to a
tempestuous wind, seized the men, and they crowded and
rushed the enemy from street to street, shouting as they did
so psalms of victory. Yes, Martha, yes, Jane, rushed
them as the devil rushed the demon-haunted hogs into the
sea of Galilee. Oh, I tell you, Cromwell ! our Cromwell !
is always grand, but never so mighty as when on horse
back in front of his army. Then you look at the man,
and thank God for him."

" And the battle began at four ? I remember hearing
Swaffham church strike that hour. I stood in a wretched
mood at the door and counted the strokes. They had a
fateful sound."

" We had been at work all day, but at that hour we had
two bridges over the Severn, and Cromwell with half the
army passed over them to the west side of the city. He
rode in front, and was the first man to cross. Pitscottie s
Highlandmen were waiting for him, and he drove them at
push of pike from hedge to hedge till they were cut to
pieces, every man s son of them, one on the heels of the
other. And when Charles Stuart saw this battle raging on


the west side of the river, he attacked the troops that had
been left with Lambert on the east side. Right glad was
Lambert, and tis said that the Stuart behaved very gallantly
and broke a regiment of militia ; and the troops, being
mostly volunteers, began to waver. But Cromwell saw

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 7 of 27)