Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Hampdens – Part 6
AN HISTORTETTE. BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
CHAPTER VIII. A DAY AT COURT IN MERRY ENGLAND.
The next day was steeped in bliss to Henrietta, though, it had its agitations. Some hours of the morning were spent in strolling along the avenue and about the park with Lady Carlisle, and in sitting in the shade in the flower garden. That none of the gentlemen would be abroad, Henrietta knew: but she was surprised that Lady Carlisle was so entirely at liberty. It came out in the course of conversation, however, that this trip to Hampshire afforded a good opportunity for the Queen to hold her council also; and the Romish agents who had been collecting money in her name, through the priests’ influence with their flocks, were appointed to meet Her Majesty at Basing House, to report of their success in raising funds for paying the expenses of the recent march of troops against the Scotch, and for sustaining the war, if the stiffnecked Covenanters should try the patience of the King too far. There were two informal councils sitting all the morning in different apartments, and the Queen’s ladies were not wanted.
“Did you find it a very fearful thing to converse with the Queen?” Lady Carlisle asked, as she and Henrietta sat in the transparent shadow of a beech, hardly yet in full leaf. “Nobody is near. Tell me how you felt last night.”
“The presence of a sovereign is like no other presence,” Henrietta replied. “The awe is to me, and I suppose to others, a new feeling; but it is not a fear which renders one dumb and dazed.”
“I saw that it did not deprive you of your faculties; and that is probably the reason why Her Majesty was more pleased with you than I have often seen her with a young maiden so untrained in courtly ways. Did you not tremble lest she should judge you less favourably?”
“O no! I was in pain lest my thought of her should prove to have been too high and too endearing. This was my fear, because I have heard much evil of her which I have withstood, as well as much good which I have fully believed.”
“You were so occupied with your own opinion of her, that you forgot to be careful of her opinion of you. Was it so?” the Countess inquired, smiling.
“Just so,” Henrietta replied seriously. “How can it matter what might be the passing impression of a Queen about a girl whom she would forget the next day? But to me it matters much to be assured, that there is nothing mistaken in the utmost reverence and love for those whom God has placed over us.”
“You are a strange girl!” said the Countess. “Does it make no difference to you whether Her Majesty speaks of you with disgust or with favour?”
“O yes! It would be painful to have given her pain, and very pleasant to have her favour.”
“You have it, my dear. Did you discover how pleased she was with you?”
Henrietta had not understood the matter precisely so. She had an impression, from certain tones and half smiles, that—Here she hesitated.
“I knew you would find that out, my child; and that was why I pressed you with questions. Her Majesty had supposed that you had been reared in Puritan prejudice, though not actual undutifulness; and this gave that hardness to her voice last night which her enemies are so fond of describing. But she presently learned to know you better; and you will hear those tones no more. How would you like to be in the Queen’s service?” the lady suddenly asked, after a moment’s pause.
“It could not be,” Henrietta declared. “No child of my father’s could live at Court.”
“Did you observe what the Queen said of His Majesty’s wish to have your father in his government?”
“I did; and my father shall hear of it. But if that were possible, it would be for the sake of my father’s reputation in the kingdom, and as representing the people in the government. It would be a different thing for a girl to be in the Queen’s personal service.”
“But if you could render political service together with the personal—”
“I could not do it. If you would know why, it is because my temper is not patient.”
The Countess laughed, and said her dear child was candid. Did she think the Queen’s temper impatient too, so that quarrels would grow up?
Without expressly answering this, Henrietta explained that there were things done by the authority, and it was said by the orders, of the Crown and the Church, which she owned she could not endure to think of. She could live nowhere where she must rejoice, as the courtiers had done openly, at the punishment of Mr. Prynne and Mr. Bastwick, and—
“O! those things are horrid!” Lady Carlisle declared. “They make one’s blood run cold,—those punishments. But nobody asks one whether one approves of such things. I am sure nobody has ever asked me. Yes, your eyes are asking me now. All I have to say is, that the Lord Deputy considers the utmost severity necessary in these times; and he is always right, you know.”
Henrietta was silent. Lady Carlisle then questioned her closely and eagerly about the opinion entertained of the Lord Deputy by her father and his friends; and so great was the eagerness that Henrietta was glad to have heard no word from any one of them about the Lord Deputy, since he went to Ireland.
“I am afraid of Mr. Pym,” Lady Carlisle declared. “I once knew and esteemed Mr. Pym; and I had hoped better things of him than that he would judge so princely a man as his old friend Wentworth so hardly as he does.”
“They parted asunder about the loan, I have heard,” said Henrietta. “When friends do part, do they not become bitter enemies?”
“Ordinary men may; but it should not be so with men like these. If the princely one is strongwilled and stern, as he has a prerogative to be, the popular one is (or I supposed him to be) so genial, and so wise, that I cannot understand why it is that he hunts the Lord Deputy through all his Irish measures, seeking for means to condemn him. The Lord Deputy scorns all enemies, and ridicules me for my alarm as to what they may do. He believes, as so many of the King’s friends do, that Mr. Pym is like a man possessed of a devil,—full of rage and murderous thoughts, and desiring only to outrage the throne and destroy the kingdom. How far is this true? What has the Lord Deputy to fear from Mr. Pym, think you?”
“I can only judge by what I have seen and heard. I do not believe that Mr. Pym bears malice against any person. I believe that he would be as loyal to the King as any man, if certain evils were frankly set right. He is more likely than my father to be in the King’s service, I should judge.”
“And the Lord Deputy?”
“How can he have anything to fear if he rules by the law? No man can touch him while he sides with the law. If he governs in the way which he admits to be illegal and wilful—”
“Say ‘thorough,’—that is his word.”
“In the way which he calls ‘thorough,’ and which other men call illegal, he must surely expect what cannot but follow.”
“And what is that?”
“That, as he promised, his own right arm should keep his own head.”
Lady Carlisle shuddered, and observed what a fearful destiny it was for a man to be superior to his day and generation. And then she was silent for some time.
“Let us walk further,” she said, at length; and she led the way to a seat formed in a bank of primroses and blue hyacinths, where, if anywhere, a young girl’s heart would open on a sunny spring day.
“I am going to be very free with you, my child,” said Lady Carlisle: “and if I go too far you must stop me. I was not in earnest about your living at Court.”
“I thought so; and I am glad of it,” Henrietta replied.
“I mean only that, loyal as you are, you will never agree in all that the most loyal people must say and do in such times as these. Your proper place is in a home of your own.”
Henrietta murmured that that could never be.
“That is where I think you are wrong,” her friend observed. “I think you not only mistaken, but seriously to blame. Ah! it seems hard to say so when you have crushed your own happiness. Well, well! I will not say all I think; for I cannot bear to see your distress. I will only remind you that there is another who suffers—”
“Do you think I need reminding?” Henrietta forced herself to say. “It was for his sake . . . Oh, you do not know what it is for those who love so—so entirely, to think so differently about the thing which they must be always thinking and speaking about, and taking some course about. It is terrible to part, but—”
“But do you mean, my child, that you, sensible and religious as you are,—you, loving this lover of yours with such a heart as yours, cannot keep your temper where you and he differ? Is this possible?”
“If it were a matter of doctrine and belief,” said Henrietta, “we should have taken each our own part long ago, and have lived together in silence on that one point. But now, if the King is assailed, in war, or in a rude Parliament, and if Harry is among the assailants, what could his wife be to him if she felt as I do?”
“She might be the best of wives to him: she might be the most helpful to the King’s interests of all the women in England: she would hold the position of a heroine, and would earn the blessing pronounced on the peacemakers.”
“Do you really think so?” Henrietta murmured.
“I do: and I believe every real friend you have would say the same. Tell me, have you not been told these things before?”
“Oh yes; but everybody was on Harry’s side; and I knew better than they did why Harry could not be happy with me. They would not j believe me—(but I am sure he did in his heart)—that I should make him miserable.”
“But I who am on the other side think you wrong,—wrong to yourself,—wrong to Harry,—wrong to those to whom you owe loyalty.”
“Do you indeed?”
“See what opportunities for service you are throwing away! Think for a moment what you might have done by a wife and a daughter’s influence! Henrietta! this is a shrinking from . duty which I should not have expected from one so piously and dutifully reared, so—What did; you say, my love?”
“I am very unworthy, I know,” said the poor girl, struggling with her tears.
“Then rouse yourself to recover the path of duty, to redeem the time,” exclaimed Lady Carlisle, imagining that she was speaking in Puritan sympathy. “Consider whether your religion, and your loyalty, and your love, cannot; together guard your temper, and—Oh! I wish I could set before you what a course of duty offers itself to you!”
“It is too late now!” said Henrietta, in a tone which was meant to be calm.
“It may not be too late. If it should prove otherwise, promise me—Well, well! Be tranquil, my dear. How should I act in the matter? you ask—I who never saw this Harry of yours, and have not met his mother for many years. When I say it may not be too late, I speak from what I perceive in you. The inference is fair, is it not?”
Though disturbed in spirits, and weeping many tears, Henrietta was happier at this moment than for years past. She and her friend became very confidential. Lady Carlisle told her of the cruel straits their Majesties were in for want of money. She told of the despair of the Court on this head, because the King, they believed, never would have another Parliament and there was now no other way. Lady Carlisle and she were not so sure that there would never be another Parliament. The King was certainly out of spirits; and if all were known, it might come out that he rather repented of having routed the Parliament at the end of three weeks. Those who talked freely of their Majesties could little imagine the trials they had to undergo. In their position there were daily vexations, from friends as well as enemies. Not a week ago a real trial had overtaken the King and Court. They had lost poor Archy; and he was more missed than many a man of more dignity. Who was Archy? Did not everybody know who Archy was? He was the King’s jester. In times like these the King’s jester was really important,—really a blessing in withdrawing their Majesties’ minds from their troubles, and in diverting the Court while so many quarrels were arising. But it was the Archbishop’s pleasure that Archy should be punished for some words he had dropped, when in his cups, against his Grace. The poor fellow was in prison; and his master was certainly very dull without him: but it was his gracious way to yield in such cases.
Before the ladies reached the house they had exchanged promises of confidential correspondence. While Henrietta was with Sir Oliver, she would have nothing to report, because there was really nothing that she could do for the cause. She was lost there, her friend considered. But, if the time should come when she would be in the midst of people who ought to be glad to know the King better, she should have the means of instructing them. Lady Carlisle would keep her informed of the Royal views and aims, and the injuries they sustained; and Henrietta, on her part, would indicate in the freest way what His Majesty ought to do, or not to do, according to the Puritan view, and point out any particular danger which she might believe His Majesty exposed to. Thus would these friends consecrate their friendship to their King’s service. As she kissed Henrietta at the door of her chamber, Lady Carlisle said into her ear—
“Rest for an hour on that sofa, as I shall do on mine. And while you are resting, think what you might do now, if you were Harry’s wife.”
Henrietta’s old uncle admired her extremely that evening,—occupied as he was with his devotion to their Majesties: and, for her part, Henrietta scarcely knew her old uncle. He was always a gentleman, amidst all his oddities; but he was a different sort of gentleman at Basing from anything she had seen at Biggin House, even when the Lord Deputy was there. Sir Oliver was this evening not only perfectly well dressed and well mannered, but elevated in his whole style of thought and sentiment. Henrietta felt that her father was dignified in one way; and the King in another; and now she perceived that there was yet another style of dignity, of which Sir Oliver was an example. She could only speculate, when she saw their Majesties distinguishing the old man, what they would have thought if they had seen him tossing up his wig because the King had dissolved the Parliament before it could well get to work. On his part, Sir Oliver’s heart warmed to his darling when he saw how pretty she looked, with her heightened colour and her shining eyes.
When His Majesty inquired into their relationship, and spoke some kind words about her, Sir Oliver frankly said that she had never looked so pretty before, and that it was her loyalty that showed itself in that way.
A little later, when Henrietta was in conversation with one of the Queen’s ladies, she was startled by the King’s speaking to her. He sat down, and made her sit also; and in the conversation which ensued she became as simply and sincerely interested as if she had been listening to any other gentleman, in any other apartment. His Majesty inquired about Mr. Hampden’s health, and expressed admiration of his devotedness to what he had considered to be the interests of the country. It was deplorable, he said, that dissensions should arise as they had done; but no opposition of views on public affairs had ever blinded him to the honourable character of Mr. Hampden; so that, when it became necessary to try a certain point in a court of law, he had himself suggested that Mr. Hampden’s case should be the one tried, as that of the most choice antagonist whom he could select. How glad would Henrietta have been to recall one single instance in which her father had regarded the King as honourable, or had spoken of him with respect like this for his personal character, apart from his function! As she could not, she concluded that the King had the advantage in point of liberality and generosity.
His Majesty went on to say that there had been times when he had conceived some hope of a union of forces between the leaders of the opposing views. He had, in fact, consulted some of his friends about the possibility of inducing Mr. Hampden and Mr. Pym, and some of their friends, to aid him in the work of government; and he did not, after all, give up the hope.
On such a point Henrietta could only listen; but the manner of her listening showed the King what her feelings were towards her father, and probably induced him to say some things that would not have been uttered for her own sake. He probably hoped that every word would go to her father when he said, with a sigh, that no man is always wise, and that every man whose business lies in public affairs has occasion at times to regret mistakes: and his immediate reference to some future discussion and arrangement left Henrietta no doubt whatever that the King regretted the haste of his act of the last week, at the very moment when the members of the dispersed Parliament were stirring up indignation against the King in every corner of the country.
She was astonished afterwards at the sudden boldness with which her tongue was unloosed to say what she now did. Thus far she had scarcely spoken: her devout attention and her beaming eyes had been better than speech: but now she earnestly informed the King of her father’s constant assumption that the King must have whatever he needed or desired in the way of supplies; that all that every citizen possessed ought to be at his service as the supreme head of the nation; and that all that was to be insisted on, on the part of the people, was that the supplies should be furnished in the fixed mode,—through the regular channel of the Parliament.
“Ay, that is it,” the King observed, with a mournful shake of the head. “That is the essential point on which the acknowledged Ruler of the State is permitted no freedom,—no use of his own judgment, for which he is responsible to the King of kings. The Parliament has its own duty, and if it outrages that duty, the sovereign must do his. He can permit no interference with his judgment and conscience as to the way in which he will discharge the office of Ruler and Protector of his own kingdom.”
“I wish—” said Henrietta; but she stopped abashed.
“What do you wish?” asked the King, gently. “Speak freely. Tell me your wish. I am sure it is nothing unkind.”
“I feared it was presumptuous,” Henrietta replied. “But I do wish my father might be permitted to explain to your Majesty what he thinks,—and not he only,—what the chief men of the Parliament mean by the part they have taken. If your Majesty could hear from their own lips—”
“And why not?” said the King. “If they have more to say than has been said in the courts and in the House, why do they not say it? I am always to be found. They would not be glad to see me in their Parliament House; but they will always be welcome to my house, if they come as friends, and not as enemies. I fear, however, that we understand one another only too well. If it is otherwise, the time will come of which I spoke, when Mr. Hampden and his friends will assist me with their counsels, and help me to remedy those mischiefs of which they accuse me, while their own perverseness is the true cause. For eleven years they have withstood their sovereign; and what the natural consequence is, let the misery of the country show.”
Henrietta’s eyes were brimming with tears. On inquiry, the King learned what she had seen in Cornwall when the pirates carried off the children. The King sighed, and said he had done what he could to raise the money for ships; and the people would not pay it. Within that very month he had offered to surrender the ship-money, if the Parliament would provide the necessary funds in any way they preferred. Perhaps he ought to have had more patience with them: but they made his duty very hard.—After this, Henrietta had no courage to use the opportunity she had once longed for, and relate the spectacles of the journey from Cornwall.
He had said enough: by the Queen’s looks, directed towards him, it seemed that she thought he was saying too much. He rose with a gesture of farewell, and left Henrietta, but not till he saw that the Queen invited her to her side.
The Queen did not detain her long. She intimated that His Majesty was willing to go great lengths to clear up misunderstandings. He had no reserves. “We mean well,” she said; “whatever the presumption and malice of meddlers may say. When the King has established his principle, and made the Crown respected, the world will learn what we have suffered to preserve the monarchy from insult and degradation. The King will be the first to forgive; but he can never yield.”
Henrietta curtseyed deeply, and would have drawn back: but the Queen assumed a lighter air, and smiled as she said, in an arch way, that these were strange times when pretty damsels were obliged to listen to grave politics, instead of the affairs which ought to engage them. Her advice to such young ladies was to dismiss all these tiresome matters, and love and marry as they ought, and leave it to sober statesmen and sour patriots to manage the business of the nation. Did not Lady Carlisle think so?
Lady Carlisle did, of course, think so; and she covered Henrietta’s retreat very good-naturedly.
Their Majesties’ attendants made much of Henrietta after she had been made so much of by their Majesties; and she was glad when the evening was over. She and Lady Carlisle sat late in their own apartment, pouring out their enthusiasm about the gracious and injured King, and the devoted and spirited Queen, and the blessing of their having so glorious a champion and servant as the Lord Deputy. The last was the theme which made Lady Carlisle insensible to Henrietta’s fatigue as well as her own; and the poor girl was fairly worn out with the excitements of the day before she reached her bed.
She slept at once,—probably because the least interesting topic—the Lord Deputy,—had come last: but throughout her sleep the mournful and beautiful face of the King was before her, and his deep and pathetic voice thrilled her heartstrings. How willingly she would die for these misunderstood and insulted Majesties!
She had said so to Lady Carlisle; and Lady Carlisle had laughed, and asked whether it would not be better,—more feasible and happier,—to marry than to die in their service?
CHAPTER IX. A STRANGE WEDDING IN MERRY ENGLAND.
The return journey the next day passed for the most part in silence. Sir Oliver was probably occupied with the private discussions of the preceding day, which were no doubt of an important and secret character, as he did not say one word about them to Henrietta. He also regarded her with a deference which it had never before entered his head to feel for her. He had never been so proud of any member of his old house as he had been of this girl the evening before, when she seemed to have engaged more of their Majesties’ attention than he had ever done, after a long life of loyalty to the crown and its wearers. The sacredness of the royal favour hung about her to-day; and it was the more impressive from there being no childish elation in her spirits,—no girlish vanity in her looks, nor in what she said. Perhaps, too, Sir Oliver was wearied with the gravity of mind and manners imposed by the occasion; for he slept through stage after stage, and up to within a short distance of home. Henrietta was thankful for the silence of the day. She went over in her mind, again and again, every word that the King had said, that she might report it faithfully to her father, as she was persuaded was the intention of its having been said to her at all. Then, there was the new view of her own duty which had been opened to her. Not only was it Lady Carlisle’s clear opinion that she ought to be Harry’s wife after all (and her belief also that it might not be too late), but it was scarcely possible to doubt that the Queen was interested in the matter, and was far from desiring that she should sacrifice her happiness to her loyalty. It was true,—but how could she explain it to the Queen?—that it was not to her loyalty that she was sacrificing herself, but to Harry: and this brought up all that Lady Carlisle had said about the weakness of character of a woman whose love and duty could not restrain her temper, and enable her to live with people of opinions and feelings on one subject unlike her own. In the mood of exaltation in which she now was, she felt as if she could forbear and endure to any extent, in the character of missionary among the King’s enemies. She was confident that the occasion would never arise. She certainly never could recall Harry: to him the whole matter must have long seemed over: and it was perhaps wrong to have dwelt as she had this day done upon a dream of what might have been. She had acted for the best; and if she had been wrong, it could not be helped now. She must forget herself entirely, and watch for other ways of serving the King’s cause. Lady Carlisle had engaged her to a close correspondence: this would be a very great support and guidance to her,—besides the pleasure of it. Lady Carlisle knew how thankful she would be to receive any commands. She wondered how soon the first letter would come. She seemed to have an immense deal to write to Lady Carlisle.
Even this May night was dark when the coach drew up outside the moat at Biggin House. The Fen fogs thickened the air, so that when the entrance door was opened, the dark figures on the steps showed large against the light in the hall. There were several figures,—three or four: and when the coach steps were let down, and Sir Oliver was fully awake, he observed that there were some visitors.
“Philip is there; I fear—I hope there is nothing amiss!” said Henrietta, in a trembling voice.
“What brings you here, Mr. Philip Hampden?” Sir Oliver asked, as Philip appeared to hand his sister out.
“I will tell you, sir, in a moment,” replied Philip. “Allow me to speak to Henrietta first.” “Surely, surely,” said Sir Oliver, perceiving that there was some bad news. He quickly alighted, cast a glance at one or two bowing strangers on the steps, and hastened to open the door of his own private sitting-room for Henrietta and her brother, shutting it after them before he did the honours to anybody else.
“What is it, Philip?” asked Henrietta.
“Sit down, my dear sister, and I will tell you.—Yes, I bring bad news. You will be a dearer sister than ever henceforward, Henrietta.”
“Margaret!” she exclaimed. “Have we lost Margaret? O! our poor father!”
“We have not lost her yet: but we must submit to part with her. There is a dead infant, and she is dying. Her father and her husband are with her—”
“And I am to go. O Philip! take me at once.”
“That is why I am here. But, Henrietta, hear me further. I have more to say;—no, not more of ill news. God knows this is as much as we can bear. But, Henrietta, my father will never be happy again, unless—”
“And O! how desolate for Richard! Perhaps we ought to think of Richard first: but, Philip,
she was the joy of our father’s life! How is he? How does he look and speak?”
“He is calm,—quite calm: but he looks as if he could never smile again.”
Henrietta covered her face with her hands, and sobs burst their way.
“Now Henrietta, hear me! You and you alone have power to console him. If he must lose one daughter, may not another be restored? I may have been wrong; but I dared not oppose the leading of God’s hand, as it seems to us to be given. Neither dared Harry.”
“Harry!” Henrietta exclaimed, at once calmed, and in an awestruck voice.
“Harry is here,” Philip said. “If you have ceased to love him,—but we cannot believe that it is so,—he will depart without seeing you. He will bear that one stroke more. But, Henrietta, you may be the greatest blessing to our father! You may make so many happy! Margaret herself,—let us hope to find her—not departed; and you know how she wished it.”
Henrietta raised her hand, and her brother stopped.
“It is God’s will,” she said, solemnly. “Never was there a plainer leading.”
Philip was gone, and Harry entered. In a moment both understood that all was again as it had been long ago. Their love had never, in all that dreary time, run low.
“I was afraid,” pleaded Henrietta; “and I am afraid still, though this is the last time that I will say it. O, Harry! may you never repent this return to me,—to one so weak, so passionate—”
“We have both been weak and passionate,—too like idle children for so serious a time and so deep a love. We must help each other, and God will perhaps forgive and strengthen us.”
“And now I must go to Margaret. O! my Margaret,—my sister!”
“We will go; but hear me once more,” pleaded Harry.
He was all powerful with her now. His voice entranced her; his mind filled and overbore her own; he was at once a messenger from Heaven to her, and her own beloved one. She saw everything as he saw it, and admitted all that he prescribed. He told her that his mother answered for Mr. Hampden, that he would approve of there being no delay. If they were to marry at all, they might marry at any hour; for there was nothing to wait for. The waiting had been all too long: and what could so cheer Margaret, what could be such a parting blessing, as this restoration of Henrietta to her house, and this binding of a new son to the family? As for her father, this was the one only possible consolation.
Henrietta had no resistance to make. Messengers should be sent forward instantly, to provide relays of horses all the way to Fawsley; and thus no time would be lost. Dr. Giles—
Dr. Giles! Was he here?
Yes; as an escort,—the minister who had baptised her was next to her father at such a time, even if he were not permitted to marry her to his young friend Harry. But now Dr. Giles would marry them in the early morning. Helen Masham and her sister Joanna were sent for. Henrietta should be at Fawsley at the first possible moment; and she would be a wife,—bringing a husband to help to comfort the sorrowing family.
There was no resistance. To Henrietta it was all irresistible; for it was manifestly ordered for her. Sir Oliver rejoiced without disguise. Henrietta would be happy, and she would not forget her old uncle. There were persons too,—persons in comparison with whom old ruined gentlemen were nothing,—who would be pleased to hear the news; and how could he have any objection to a thing which they were pleased to desire? If his kinsman Hampden must lose his eldest daughter, it was a grievous pity; but here was another daughter, the most loyal-hearted damsel in the world, going to be married to the man she loved; and that was not the less a happy thing that other matters were painful and unfortunate. It was true, the young man was a Puritan, but if some good Royalists did not object on that account, others need not: and it was a question how long a youth who was in that kind of mistake would require to come round under a wife who could teach him better than his guardians had done. There could be no doubt that all would end well where such a woman as his pet Henrietta was concerned. Sir Oliver’s orders were energetic accordingly. The chapel of the mansion was swept and garnished, and something of a wedding breakfast prepared in the course of the night. A coachful of the Mashams arrived early, bringing flowers, and some bridal adornments for Henrietta.
“You will consider others,—you will consider Harry, and Sir Oliver,” said Helen apologetically to Henrietta, as she brought these things into her chamber, soon after sunrise. “We are not forgetting Margaret: but we know what she would wish.”
Henrietta was passive. She was not stunned, as Helen had for a moment feared. The mood of exaltation endured. She had a mission to fulfil: she must be above selfishness and sorrow: she had hitherto, in fact, suffered from the want of self-respect. Now she found herself called to be a heroine. The word might not have occurred to her; but she had the feeling. She had no confidence that she could endure always; but she would not fail in these first hours of her new life. She nerved herself to part with Margaret, bitterly as the thought of Margaret dying wrung her heart incessantly during the night. She lay down and closed her eyes, though sleep was impossible. She even wrote these few lines to Lady Carlisle after she rose.
“I thank God that we have met. You were a prophet and teacher to me, preparing me for duty and obedience. My uncle will tell you what has happened, and what must happen; and some day I will tell you why it is that with a settled mind, though so suddenly, I shall this morning have become the wife of Harry Carewe. We marry in the midst of mourning, so I write no more. You will approve: pray for us also. To you I for the last time sign myself,
Lady Carlisle never told Henrietta what her own remark was on her shaking off that rebel name: and it was not till long afterwards that she told her what the Queen said on hearing the news of her late guest. Her Majesty told the King that that pretty little devotee of a royalist had already married her Puritan lover. She hoped the poor child would make herself happy; for it would really be a disagreeable thing to hear that she had lost herself by marrying a malcontent, for the honour of fetching and carrying in the royal service. Queen Henrietta was not altogether a lady, according to the established English notions of ladyhood.
In a high mood of devotedness Henrietta let her attendants dress her. She appeared without traces of tears; she spoke her vows calmly; she forgot no member of the household in making her farewells; and through it all Harry was, with reason, satisfied. She was devoted; but there was no self-sacrifice. She was obeying Heaven’s will; but it was in no contrariety to her own. Her destiny was taken out of the jurisdiction of her own conscience; and it was to be what she would have desired, but not have dared to seek.
Margaret was living when the party arrived at Fawsley; but there was not any more hope on that account. Her husband and father were so grief-stricken that Henrietta felt at the first moment as if uncertain whether it was they who came out to receive her. It was a settled thing in the minds of them all that there was no other such daughter, no other such young wife as Margaret; and life without her seemed black as night to those who were nearest to her.
“I know that no one can comfort you,” said Henrietta, as she stood with her father’s arms about her: “but I shall be with you henceforward, to do what I can. If there is any solace,—any help,—any service that Harry and I can render—”
“I can only bless you, my child, for bringing me comfort in an hour like this.”
“It is a comfort to you, then,—what we have done?”
“I could not have believed that my heart could be so lightened, my love. It seems to me that after long straying, and losing each other in the thorny thicket, my Henrietta and Harry have been led to meet in a pleasant glade, and that they follow it, hand in hand, to their own old home, just when eyes and hearts are longing for them. Oh, yes, my girl! this is indeed comfort.”
Margaret would have said as much if she could have spoken. But life was flickering in her brain and on her lips. Her countenance showed her satisfaction in seeing Henrietta by her bedside: and she touched the wedding-ring again and again in a way which Henrietta understood. They thought she commended her child to her sister. Her father, certainly. Then she seemed to desire to be alone with Richard; and no one else saw her again living. In two hours Richard was heard to go into his own study; and those who entered Margaret’s chamber found her in her last long sleep, as he had laid her down when she had breathed her last breath on his shoulder.
The household remained together till she was laid in the vault of the Knightleys. Then, anxious to be worthy of her who had wrought with them in many a painful duty, they dispersed on their several errands. Philip went home to Hampden, with Henrietta and her husband, and the poor infant given into their charge. Richard, glad to be anywhere but at home, became his father’s envoy to those leaders of the parliament party who had long been in league, with Fawsley for their rendezvous. Mr. Hampden feared that he had been absent from London too long,—selfish in his private griefs. The Lord Deputy was now known to have advised at the council-board that the King should help himself at pleasure from his people’s substance, as they would do nothing that he desired; and the Lord Deputy must be called to account for this counsel. Some one had given a warrant to Sir William Beecher to search the persons of Lords Brooke and Say, and the Earl of Warwick; and not only had their cabinets and desks been opened and rifled, but the officers had entered their chambers when they were in bed, and had emptied the pockets of their clothes. There was no doubt in men’s minds that this was done by the King’s order; but the point must be ascertained: and Mr. Hampden’s presence was necessary to it. There were riots in Southwark and Lambeth,—the people being unrestrainable when they found that no gaol delivery was to be hoped for from the Parliament. If there was to be no Parliament, they would themselves deliver the prisoners who were crowding the gaols, for refusal or inability to pay the ship-money and other charges, or for refusing to attend the popish services exhibited in the churches by the archbishop and his creatures. The White Lion prison in Southwark was thrown open by a rising of the people; and the vengeance taken by the Royalist lawyers was sure to be so severe that the parliament leaders went to town to check their proceedings, and support any judge who might be faithful to his trust. Judge Reeve was one who deserved their support; for, when the assizes came on, he refused to try any man concerned in the riot as for a capital offence, considering the disorder of the time. He would have no hand in shedding any man’s blood for the doings of the day, he declared; but he would punish for mischief-making by imprisonment. The two risings yielded only one victim to the gallows; and the King and his advisers decided among themselves that all obligation to the law was now at an end, and that they must rule by the strong arm. The Lord Deputy went to work afresh in Ireland; the archbishop called his own creatures together in what he called synods, and ordered them to levy contributions from the clergy at his dictation; and the King took his own affairs into his own hands, as he said. It had come to be a measuring of forces between him and the leaders of the Parliament; and the latter had enough to do during that fearful summer. Mr. Hampden and Mr. Pym took a lodging together in London; and there were the plans laid for checking the career of the King’s evil counsellors. There was delivered, by safe hands, the correspondence from all parts of the country which related new grievances, or showed how the preparations for a final demand of a parliament were going on; and thence issued forth encouragements to all good citizens, in and out of office, to hold to their duty in the day of the nation’s trouble. In the consultations held there, and in all places to which he was summoned, Mr. Hampden was as prepared in judgment, and as ready in feeling, as if he had had no interests beyond those of the public: but those who knew him best were aware that he wept through many an hour when others slept; and it was the remark of the lightest among his acquaintance, that from the day of his daughter’s death he had scarcely been seen to smile.