Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Hampdens - Part 10



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Those who would not look forward, and those who did, found themselves ere long involved in the fearful experiences of civil war. For three months from the failure of the King’s scheme to seize the Parliament leaders by trespass and violence in their own House, there were attempts at a treaty between the King, who insisted on ruling without a parliament, and the nation, which insisted on its right of parliamentary government. The King wanted those months, and a few more, for preparation; and he therefore kept up the pretence of negotiation as long as possible. At last it was over. At last the parliament and people were wearied out. At last Lady Carlisle had done all she could to restrain her friends from deadly conflict; and things must take their course. She could go on seeing the right side of everybody’s conduct, and worshipping the ablest man she knew, whether on the one side or the other: she could still perplex passionate and simple-minded people by her practice of helping both parties in turn, or even at once: but she could not, after all, avert civil war. She had notified to certain friends, so that it could not but reach Cousin Oliver’s ears, the discouragement which had struck the hearts of the Royal family when the King’s standard was overthrown by a storm, the first night of its erection: and wild was the exultation in the prayers of the Puritan camp in consequence. She had placed her services at the Queen’s command when Her Majesty stole away with her children to France; but the Queen had preferred foreign attendants, unmitigated papists, and thoroughgoing champions of Divine Right, and had given gracious permission to her dear friend the Countess to remain behind. Thus Lady Carlisle was at liberty to devote herself to the care of any suffering friends, and especially of Mr. Pym, whose health and strength were impaired by the prodigious toils and anxieties of recent years. She had saved the country by frustrating the King’s (or rather the Queen’s) plan of seizing the five members, and using the opportunity for putting down the parliament by force of arms. She hoped she had saved the King by securing him an interval for negotiation with men far less disposed to violence than himself: but the King had not sincerity enough for negotiation with honest men. When it appeared clear to such a mind as Lady Carlisle’s that Mr. Pym and his coadjutors were contending for rights which the King could not understand, and did not believe in, it was a settled thing that nothing more was now possible than to keep up each mind to its true temper, and to ensure the fullest play to the greatest ability. Henrietta did not pretend to comprehend this: but she revered a cast of mind so much above her own, as she supposed. She saw that Colonel Urrey (as he now was) kept up his intimate acquaintance with Lady Carlisle and other royalists, while acting in full concert with Mr. Hampden in the war; and she had no further doubt of the ability of such very enlightened friends to judge of their own course, without being insulted by criticism from such as herself. She prayed to be made as enlightened as they were; for she was very unhappy. Both of them approved and encouraged her deepest persuasions and strongest emotions in regard to the King; yet each acted with the Parliament leaders,—the one in council and the other in the field. There was nothing for herself, she felt, but to do nothing.

Therefore she busied herself in affairs which must be innocent. She had charmed back Margaret’s child to her house and her heart. She made Harry believe her the very best of mothers, by the fine promise of her own infant. She adorned Hampden House for the reception of her father’s bride, and welcomed the lady with a grace which won something of his old tenderness from her father. When the dreadful blow fell on him which caused the royalist scribes to exhibit him in lampoons as a reprobate from God’s favour, a man marked by calamity in retribution for his treason to the King,—when Philip died of fever at the outset of the war, Henrietta was the consoler of the household and the widespreading family; so that Cousin Oliver himself considered that Mr. Hampden’s probation was not complete while such an one remained to him of his elder children. A man who had at home the solace of a wife after so many widowed years, and of such a daughter, redeemed from the snare of the fowler, and snatched as a brand from the burning,—a man so specially favoured could not be said to have drunk his fill of the cup of bitterness. Such things could be discussed only in Mr. Hampden’s absence; for he was impatient when any thoughts or words were wasted on such a question as whether this or that person was happy or no. It was no time for caring about pain or pleasure. It was one of those junctures when all that had been done by good men of an elder time for the purification of religion and the security of liberty was at stake. The Bible and Magna Charta were now to be sustained or thrown into a corner and trampled under foot; and no man in possession of his understanding could decline any sacrifice in their defence, or stop for a single moment in his work to weep over losses of his own, or sigh for blessings that were swept away. No mention of Philip therefore passed Mr. Hampden’s lips; and his joy in a wife worthy of him was shown by the trust he reposed in her as a helper in his work rather than by any change in his manner and discourse.

Such change as might be observed was not in the direction of lightness and cheerfulness. He had many cares, and he found them very burdensome. He was rarely at home, because he held what was called a joint command with Lord Essex; and Lord Essex was the most vexatious of partners in any business, from his delays and his fickleness. There were many losses incurred, and many successes missed by lack of ability or of zeal in officers of various ranks; but the vexation which gnawed Mr. Hampden’s heart was his colleague’s unfitness or unworthiness.

Meantime the work went on well in Buckinghamshire. Cousin Oliver had raised a body of troops which were the pride of the whole family connexion. Harry was resolved that the Hampden troop should not be far behind the Cromwell Ironsides; and he had fine material ready to his hand. The sportsmen who knew every hollow of the hills, and were familiar with the passes of the Chiltern range, and could ride as English huntingmen only do, were the very stuff out of which to make a trusty force for the service of the Parliament; and great was the rejoicing when Mr. Hampden returned for a few hours now and then, and his approbation of the soldierly trim of his country neighbours could be obtained. At his own house all hands were busy. The women were laying in stores of food and medicines and clothing, in case of any siege of Hampden House; and they diligently set themselves to learn as much as women might of the art of defence. Henrietta was meantime at Prestwood, for the most part; and there she passed her days with the two children, much as if no civil war was raging within a hundred miles, and might roll that way any hour.

The day came when Harry’s household must move to a safer place. Mr. Hampden foreboded that Prince Rupert would fall upon such of the Parliament force as was in and about Thame: and when Lord Essex failed to secure those posts by reinforcements, advice came to Harry and Colonel Urrey and other officers to bring their troops together to join Colonel Hampden on his descent from the short cut across the hills. Harry and all his neighbours but one obeyed. That one was Colonel Urrey; and he had other work to do.

It was a busy day at Hampden House. The ladies were finishing the embroidering of the Hampden motto on the colonel’s standard. Vestigia nulla retrorsum: such was the text which illustrated the life of their father, as the daughters said while plying their needles in haste. They had given out the knots of riband which distinguished the Hampden green men. They had provided a new orange scarf for their father to wear over his armour, as an officer of the Parliament. The one he had worn hitherto was soiled and stained; and now, when he rode forth from his own gate, all should be bright upon him. And so it should be with Harry. Hitherto every service had been appointed to him but actual fighting. If he was now on the verge of his first battle, he should go forth in gay trim. Dusty day marchings and damp night watching had dimmed his lustre; but now he should be as trim as any cavalier in the King’s army.

They little knew how near the event was. There came a message that Gunter’s force was hard pressed and needed reinforcement, at Chalgrove Field. Colonel Hampden was gone there, having put himself at the head of Sheffield’s horse, and picked up some of Gunter’s dragoons, wherewith to harass Prince Rupert on the right of his position, and get round to the aid of the Parliament force, till Essex should bring up the main body of troops. Harry was to dispatch as many horse as he could spare, with due regard to the safety of Hampden House, where he was to stay in command of a sufficient guard.

Harry did not stay. Colonel Hampden never wore the scarf; but his standard went to the fight on Chalgrove Field.

Henrietta had not known nor conceived what it would be to send men forth to fight against their King. If she had imagined what passion it was that she had been smothering within her for so many months, and how the dread of battle and the horror of blood would work upon her, she would rather have hidden herself and the children in any chalk-pit of the hills than have been at Hampden House that day.

Her husband had but a moment. He asked her to pray for her father and her husband, first that they might do their duty, and next that they might come home to those who loved them best.

No,—she could not so pray. She could not mock Heaven by such a prayer when her husband was going forth on the most undutiful errand in the world. She could not pray for the success of crime against an anointed King.

“You will not pray against us, Henrietta?”

“Will I not? Day and night I pray for the King; and shall I not now?”

Harry was bursting away, when she called after him:

“I pray for you too, Harry. I pray that you may be spared the punishment of your crime,—of your—I will not say what.”

“Henrietta,” he said, approaching her again, “I believe you despise me.”

“I do, most heartily, in your hours of waywardness, which you are so proud of.”

“I believe you hate me, Henrietta.”

“I hate your treason. Lift your hand against your King, and I shall abhor you. Save him,—turn the battle if it goes against him, and I will forgive you everything.”

“Is this your dismissal of your husband to his duty as an Englishman?”

“I have heard enough talk of public duty. I should like to see something of the thing.”

“Is this the way you strengthen your husband’s heart now the hour has come?”

“Make what you can of it. Go!”

He was gone. She saw his face as he rushed past the window. Her heart was in her mouth at the sight, and she flung her child on the floor, and burst from the room and from the house, crying upon Harry to come back—to come back for one moment. Whether he heard the cry was never known. None others who heard it ever forgot it. Harry deputed another to his post of guard at Hampden, and galloped to Chalgrove Field.

The first news thence was that Colonel Hampden was coming. Next, that he was coming because he had received some slight hurt. No one in the house believed this. He would not come away from a battle-field, or from the merest skirmish, for a slight hurt. The nearest surgeons had been sent for before he alighted. His head drooped, he had clung to his horse with one hand, the other arm being disabled; and he was in great pain. He said he believed he should live, and the surgeons said the mischief was not of a fatal nature; but, as the household all acknowledged afterwards, they never had any hope. His frame had long been so worn, and his spirit so jarred, that his vital forces were low.

Henrietta was missed from his bedside. No one knew where she was, till little Dick Knightley said that uncle Carewe and she had been angry, and he had run away, and aunt too. She came back and took up the baby, and Dick believed she had carried baby away.

She came back. Some one who knew her had met her on the road hastening towards Chalgrove, and had turned her back, and taken her into his own house. She would not have been safe at Prestwood, and there was no persuading her to set foot within the Hampden gates again. She had accused herself of murdering her husband; and this might be in a manner true. Mr. Carewe had been even less like himself than Mr. Hampden in the fight. Both fought like desperate men, and Mr. Carewe especially seemed to thrust himself in the way of danger. His horse stumbled in the growing corn: he did not shelter himself by the hedgerows as he might have done: he pushed his horse wherever the enemy were thickest. The enemy helped him to his death only too willingly. Colonel Urrey showed himself openly on the King’s side to-day, and he seemed to glory in it. “That is Colonel Hampden,” he had shouted to the prince’s officers, “that is Mr. Carewe,” “that is Luke,” “that is Gunter,” and few of those whom he pointed out but fell or were wounded. Mr. Carewe was among the dead.

During the week that Colonel Hampden lived there was much for everybody to suffer, and but little consolation of any kind. There was no triumph in the case, nothing creditable or hopeful in the conflict of the day, and nothing that was encouraging in prospect. Four hundred troopers had engaged prince Rupert’s far larger numbers, in expectation of the Lord General coming up in force; but he never came. Colonel Hampden’s assumption of the command of Sheffield’s troop was needless, and his rush into the fight was precipitate. It was a mistake to come down from the heights to attack the King’s force in the corn-fields, where they had taken up their own ground. There was rank treason abroad that day, and Colonel Urrey had slain, as if by his own hands, the neighbours, and acquaintance, and comrades of many years, whose confidence he had no doubt sought in the King’s service. The whole business was humiliating, the affliction almost intolerable: and the noisy triumph of the royalists made itself heard even in the innermost chambers of Hampden House.

The dying man there was not one to be troubled by vexations so low. To him it was a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment, and his soul was not moved by misgivings such as were haunting more than one mind about him. He endured sore pain of body; and he concealed neither that nor the anguish of his mind. His country’s fate was dark to his eyes. If Mr. Pym died,—as was but too probable,—who was to guide affairs, and how was the valour of the people to be led? He was too religious a man to doubt that the kingdom would be cared for by the Ruler of the world; and he was too upright and generous a gentleman to doubt now of his own part in what had been done for the preservation of the liberties of England, or to repent of any sacrifice made in the cause. He was clear that if the people and their parliament had not withstood the King, worse miseries would have overtaken the nation. Yet, while neither doubting, repenting, nor distrusting, he mourned with a bitter grief. “Confound and level in the dust, O Lord!” he prayed, “those who would rob the people of their liberty and lawful prerogative. Save my bleeding country! Have these realms in thy special keeping!”

The same words were uttered in prayer, with the change of one word, on the King’s side. So it is in all civil wars.

Not all the sweet and solemn strains that she was afterwards wont to hear overpowered in Henrietta’s heart the echoes which came to her ear from her father’s grave;—the muffled drums, the volley fired over his coffin, and the rise and fall of the psalm sung by the troop as they marched back from the churchyard—

Why go we mourning,—mourning,—mourning,
Because of the oppression of the enemy?


That sweet and solemn music which Henrietta heard daily for the rest of her life was in France. When Uncle Oliver had passed from dotage to death, when the King lay in his bloody grave, and Cousin Oliver vexed all pious souls by sitting in the King’s seat, Henrietta was still on the rack of her misery. She had murdered her husband, after failing in every duty she had undertaken, and disappointing every expectation she had encouraged; and her remorse corroded her soul. But she could not die, and she dared not pray for death. At length, Queen Henrietta Maria came over to England for a time: and Lady Carlisle, impelled by some sense of duty towards the young creature whose enthusiasm she had fostered, brought her under that notice from the Queen which she avoided for herself. The Queen’s griefs, with all the trials of sore poverty in addition, had not worn her so low as Henrietta’s; and the compassionate gaze which the Queen cast on the image of woe before her was a strong hint to her priestly followers.

The result was natural enough; and Henrietta was soon in retreat for life in the Queen’s nunnery at Chaillot. She felt how great the mercy was; and the relief was beyond all previous conception. Her new guides satisfied her, in due time, that she was in no way guilty, though singularly unfortunate. She had sinned, indeed, so far as that everybody sins; but with the particular guilt which she mourned she was in no way chargeable. She learned to see—what was so very clear to Catholic eyes—that her whole life had been a conflict between her personal instincts of loyal duty and the delusions of her education, and of the people about her. Her very strifes with her husband had been a divine voice protesting against the impiety of her nation and her family, and asserting her own higher intelligence and virtue. Her Puritan relatives were answerable for all that had happened: and she had only to give thanks, day and night, for her rescue from perplexity and misery, and for the complacency and peace in which she was now resting at last.

There was one trouble still,—a pain which did not die out as her understanding sank to the level of the minds of her sister-recluses. She was in pain for the souls of her father and her husband,—so dreadfully guilty as they had been of rebellion, and cut off from salvation by their making the Bible and not the Church the anchor of their hope. She did what she could: she prayed for them as long as she lived, and when they were dead, obtained as many masses as possible for the repose of their souls.

Thus Henrietta passed her life, up to the age of grey hairs,—her own having been grey from the week of the Chalgrove fight. Her son was in no danger as to his faith and his prospects in life, however it might be about his morals. He was first a page of the Queen’s, and then of the young King’s. When too old for a page he became a courtier, and was liked none the less for being a Catholic, even after the Restoration.

Before Henrietta breathed her last, she heard some awkward news from England: but it did not trouble her very deeply. She was cured of her keenness of feeling; and she lived and died peacefully in the assurance that if men do but revere and obey their King without reserve, it rests with Heaven to see to the quality of the King.

If her countrymen had but been aware of this in time, whatever else might have happened, there would have been no middle-class heretic, like Cousin Oliver, thrust in upon the line of English Kings, to make the nation blush to its latest day at the comparison between him and the Stuarts,—the family evidently appointed to reign over Old England for ever.

Such was the view in which Henrietta lived and died.