Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Hampdens - Part 2

THE HAMPDENS.

AN HISTORTETTE. BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.

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CHAPTER II. LOVERS’ PERILS IN MERRY ENGLAND.

When the young men entered the Priory gate they found a family group seated in the sunshine on the lawn. The ladies and children seemed to have assembled there in eagerness for news; and the eagerness must be great to overcome their dread of marauders from the sea. Lady Carewe related that she found there was no keeping the young people within; so she had issued forth with them, to see that no one of them passed the gate. She had placed scouts, so that no enemy could approach unobserved: but she did not seriously suppose that any pirates remained in the neighbourhood, or would appear while the country was excited with rage and terror.

“I believe there is nothing to fear,” Richard began,” when his wife exclaimed that he was too hoarse to speak. He was in fact so thirsty and hoarse after his oratory,—this being his first public speech,—that he was glad to be led by Margaret to the house, for refreshment and rest. It was observed that, voiceless as he was, he was eagerly conversing with his wife, even pausing again and again, till they disappeared within the door. Harry Carewe was inquiring of Lucy and Kitty where Henrietta was,—the only absent member of the party. The sisters looked round, had seen her not long before, supposed she had stolen away, as usual, and might probably be found in her favourite green walk among the ruins.

“Very imprudent!” Harry grumbled, as he ran towards the ruins, whence he made a sign that all was well, Henrietta appearing at the moment.

“There go two of them,” Alice complained, “to tell Margaret and Henrietta everything before we have heard a word about the pirates.”

“We will tell you about the whole matter,” said the younger Eliot. “Only let us have a draught of yonder ale,—our throats are so dry.” And he went to meet the servant who was bringing a pitcher and tankard from the house.

Your throat dry, Edmund?”

“Yes, Miss Alice. Every throat was dry; for you must know, such of us as were not orators had to sustain those who were. We had to cheer Knightley; and he so spoke that we could not but do it with all our hearts, and with all our strength.”

Edmund related how the gentry and farmers were riding in every direction to inform the people that something was now to be done about the ship-money, and about guarding the seas. It was a proud hearing for the family when Edmund told how the very name of Mr. Hampden put spirit into every man present; or, if there were any there who took the other side, they held their peace.

“So far well,” Lady Carewe observed. “But will any action follow? Will these Cornishmen take a part from this day forward? or will they only hold their voices, ready to shout for the next patriot that they may chance to see?”

“Richard says he never saw men in earnest, if these are not.”

“In earnest to do what?” Alice asked. “What would they do next?”

“They will insist on a parliament.”

“What is a parliament?” Nathanael wanted to know.

Lady Carewe shook her head, and sighed forth her sorrow that there should be an English boy,—a boy of such a family as the Hampdens,—that had not heard at least as much of Parliament as of the Court, and who did not even know what a parliament was.

“But what is it?” Nathanael demanded. “Is it——

He was stopped by a pair of hands laid on his mouth from behind. It was Henrietta; and as the boy struggled, she whispered in his ear, and let him go.

“What does she say?” asked Edmund in great surprise.

“She says I must not ask that question,—about a parliament. Yes,—about a parliament,” the boy repeated in a defiant way. “If Edmund speaks of a parliament here, and Richard down in the town, why may not I?”

“Because it is unlawful and wrong: the King has forbidden it,” Henrietta replied.

“Aunt Carewe, is that true?” asked Lucy and Kitty.

“It is true that the King has made a proclamation that no person in the kingdom shall even speak of a parliament: but it does not follow that you may not ask what a parliament is, nor that Richard may not advise the Cornishmen to get another parliament if they can.”

“But aunt, how can that be?”

“How indeed?” murmured Henrietta, as she stood with face averted.

“In the first place,” Lady Carewe explained, “the King could hardly mean that any institution of the country should not be spoken of as a historical fact: and, in the next place, the King may have been led into a mistake in issuing such an order.”

“There, Henrietta, what do you say to that?” asked Alice.

“I say,” she replied, “that I think we have nothing to do but to obey the King’s command, whatever it means.”

“And whether he has a right to issue it or not?” Harry inquired.

“Yes, Harry,” she replied, looking up with heightened colour. “Who can possibly have any right to suppose the King wrong, and disobey him for that reason?”

“Who can judge?” Nathanael asked of his aunt. “Does anybody know better than the King what he should order?”

“The wisest and best men in parliament,—in the country,” Lady Carewe continued, remembering that the boy did not know the significance of a citizen being in parliament—“the wisest men now living in England consider the King to be misled. They have for years been hoping to bring him to reason by inducing him to call together the great national council,—that is, the parliament: and he is so vexed at their steadiness in asking this, that he now forbids that the subject shall be discussed by anybody.”

“But who are the wise men who tease the King?”

“Your father is one of them: and some persons consider him the wisest of them all.”

“But, aunt,” Lucy broke in, “I am sure my papa never teases anybody.”

“That is true, my dear. Your father is a gentleman of an even and sweet temper, and of such noble and gentle manners that not even the Queen, with her foreign prejudices and her foreign papists about her, can frown upon Mr. Hampden. But your father is as steady as he is gentle: he never gives up, and he never will give up the demand that the people of England shall be governed by the law: and, as the King chooses to make his own will the law, there can be no agreement between him and the wise men who think and say what your father thinks and says.”

Who were these wise men? the children desired to know. John Eliot was too young, they supposed; but if his father had been alive, would he have been one?

There could be no doubt about that, as the children would see when they came to understand why their father’s best friend had died in prison,—full of virtues as he was, and without any fault. Nathanael and his sisters saw that Edmund’s eyes were full of tears, and they hastened from the subject. They went over the names of all their father’s best-known friends. Was Dr. Giles, the rector at home, one of the wise men? Was Sir Richard Knightley? Was Mr. Pym? Was Mr. Hyde?”

Henrietta advised them to ask whether Sir Thomas Wentworth—(they remembered Sir Thomas Wentworth?)—was he one of the wise men of the nation?

Edmund replied that he had once been so; but that his backsliding was now known to all the kingdom.

“He is a dutiful subject,” exclaimed Henrietta, “and a hero for his bold faithfulness to his sovereign. If ever a man was thorough, it is he.”

“You have taken up his own word, Henrietta,” said Harry. “He will have everything ‘thorough.

“Just so,” Henrietta agreed. He was a man whose words and character corresponded.

“But you know, Henrietta,” Lucy sagely observed, “if he does not think as our papa does, he cannot be right.”

Henrietta made no reply to this; and the children went on with their catalogue.

Was Cousin Oliver one of the wise men? Henrietta was smiling: but they were not considering whether Cousin Oliver was as good-looking as papa, or as merry and handsomely dressed as Mr. Pym, or as dignified and gentle as Lord Falkland, and Lord Say, and Lord Brook. He certainly wore very ugly clothes, and when he came up from the decoys, after his fowling, he might be taken for one of his own boatmen: but he was very good, for all that; and he might perhaps be very wise.

Yes, the cousins, Mr. Hampden and Mr. Oliver Cromwell, were of one mind on the state of the kingdom.

“And Uncle Oliver?” asked Henrietta, with a half-smile.

Lady Carewe thought it would have been kinder not to bring forward the name of Uncle Oliver. Sir Oliver Cromwell was old; he had made some mistakes in life which had compelled him to leave Hinchinbrooke, and retire into the Fens. It was more respectful to an old and unfortunate gentleman to pass him by in silence than to make inquiry about his wisdom.

“O aunt!” Henrietta exclaimed, “you mistake me utterly. I honour Uncle Oliver more, I believe, than all of you together. He has made no mistake in the main point. He is devoted to his sovereign; and, in my eyes, that virtue atones for mistakes which more thrifty men never make.”

“I am sure that is enough about Uncle Oliver, considering that we never saw him,” Lucy declared. “Why cannot the King and Queen, and so many wise men, settle matters so that there may not be all this quarrelling? I am sure, Henrietta, that you and Harry have been quarrelling again. Ah! you may pretend what you like,—and so may Harry; but we know very well when you have been disputing. Kitty will tell you so. Harry’s face is red, and you look—”

“Lucy, I think you are talking very unkindly,” said Lady Carewe, who had been listening in another direction till her son’s name caught her ear. Lucy was duly abashed.

“I will tell you,” said Henrietta, panting with emotion of some sort, “why the King and these wonderfully wise men cannot settle their quarrel. It is because the wise men will not. They cry out for a parliament—”

“There now, Henrietta! you are speaking of a parliament!”

“I am speaking on behalf of the King,” Henrietta said, with dignity, as if this gave her a right to a topic which all others must avoid. “Those who cry out for a parliament choose to forget that when there was one, it refused the King the money he wanted; and that, if there were to be another, it would be obstinate in its own way, and disoblige and check its sovereign in every possible case.”

“That would be very rude and very wicked,” Nathanael sagely declared. This much support animated Henrietta.

“All this talk about the ship-money, and about the soap, and the beer and wine, and the saltpetre and sedan-chairs, and all the rest of the monopolies, is disgusting,” she declared, “when we all know that the King must have money, like any other gentleman, and more of it—”

“Yes, certainly,” said Nathanael, nodding assent.

“And that if the nation will not give him the means of living, he must take them as he can. There is as much stir about the salt, as if the King was doing something wicked on purpose—”

“So he is,” said Edmund. “You should have heard what the fishermen below were saying about that this morning. When the salt becomes as bad as the soap is now, there will be an end of their trade.”

“Then they should ask themselves how the King can call a parliament which would only contradict and vex him. For my part, I think he is only consulting his own dignity, and what is due to the Queen and her family, in making himself independent of his undutiful people, and showing them how he can do without them.”

“That is a point which remains to be proved,” Edmund Eliot observed. Harry was no longer present, to hear or to reply. When Henrietta began to speak her mind, he had pushed his hat from his brow, and slowly walked away from the party.

“I know I am saying what no one else here will believe,” Henrietta declared, with a slight trembling in her voice. Nathanael came round to her and held her hand; and she kissed his forehead, addressing her remaining words to him.

“When everybody is harsh with a sovereign who is above human judgment,” she said, “it is the right and the duty of even the humblest of his subjects to declare for right and duty. It might be easier to be silent—”

“Not to you surely, Henrietta,” said Alice.

“I think it is easier to Henrietta to speak than to be silent,” Lady Carewe observed with a smile. “But I trust we are all willing that everyone should think and speak his or her own thoughts and feelings. When we are strong for the freedom of the whole country, we must see to it that every one has liberty at home.”

“Thank you, aunt,” Henrietta sighed.

“But that there may be liberty on either part, I must observe that everything that Henrietta has taken for granted in what she has said is the very subject-matter of the controversy between the King and his people. Your father, and Cousin Oliver, and Mr. Pym, Henrietta, are strong in one common conviction as they consult together round the lamp at Hampden, or at St. Ives, or in London: and you are confident of the direct contrary, on the lawn here at sunset, by the sea-side. Be faithful to what you believe; but can you really be displeased with those who differ from you? I do not seek an answer, my love—”

“But, aunt, I must answer. If it is right that kings should be obeyed—”

“That is the very question under the circumstances,” Edmund observed. He would have explained the “circumstances,” but that Henrietta covered her face with her hands in horror. She could not reason with any one who could make a question of obedience to God’s vicegerent upon earth. As she ran towards the house, Nathanael sped after her. She waited for him, put her arm round his neck, and was evidently talking caressingly with him.

“Do look at Harry!” Edmund whispered to Alice. “One would think he was jealous of her own young brother.”

Harry was gazing after her from the shadow of an arch in the ruins. His mother was of opinion that it was growing too late to sit out of doors—not for fear of the pirates, but of the dews. She rose from her seat, and all followed her into the house.

It was not a happy evening for anybody. The young men went out at dark to see the watch set, and visit the stations on the rocks for a mile or two on either hand. The servants came in, every half-hour, with painful accounts of the increasing anguish of the bereaved parents, who had been assured by some Job’s comforters that their children were gone into a slavery, the horrors of which were indescribable. Lady Carewe saw enough this night of the effect of such a calamity on the young people to determine her to remove them homewards as soon as the journey could be arranged. It was little like a bridal-party, from the bride herself, who wept afresh at every detail of the grief below, to the frightened Kitty, who would not leave hold of her aunt’s hand. That kind aunt moved about the room, speaking a word of comfort to one and another. Leaning over Margaret, she whispered:

“These are dark early days, my child, for you: but you have a special blessing in a husband who does what he can to protect and console.”

Margaret looked up, smiling through her tears, and promised to try to do her part worthily. Richard thought there might be darker days coming: but he would never be found faltering, she was sure, in the very darkest.

“There is a light for the people of God, to guide their feet, amidst the snares of a false church,” said Lady Carewe.

“God’s light is the crown of the King,” Henrietta said. “In disobeying the King, the people choose darkness rather than light.”

“Let us take refuge in the Word, and in prayer,” said Lady Carewe. And she summoned the servants to worship. She read from the Old Testament of the wars and the promises of the chosen people, and prayed for a share in the promises for all who were under chastisement through the sins of rulers. When the household rose from their knees, she dismissed them to their rest. She and one or two of the servants would sit up for the young men’s return.

The young men returned before Margaret and Henrietta were in bed, and the sisters listened from the stair-head for the news. Nothing had happened to cause any fresh alarm. Yet Henrietta could not sleep. She believed that her aunt and Harry were still below when all the house was quiet; and it was late when she heard Harry’s step softly mounting the stairs, and saw her aunt’s light under the door as she passed. Lady Carewe was the last up, though she had invited Henrietta to an early walk down to the fishermen’s cottages, where she wished to visit the unhappy mothers betimes, before the neighbours should crowd in with their rough and wounding sympathy. Henrietta hoped that she herself was the last awake, for her mind was too troubled for rest. She did sleep, however, for the sun shining in suddenly showed her that a new day was come.

CHAPTER III. LOVERS’ PENITENCE IN MERRY ENGLAND.

Lady Carewe was in no haste to reach the cottages. They were not her only object. She led the way through the flower-garden, and gathered the violets, and lingered over the hyacinths while they were sparkling with dew; and she described the Fawsley gardens in which Margaret was to take her delight. There was no trace of displeasure in her manner, and Henrietta was relieved and softened. When they had passed out upon the cliff, they sauntered in the morning sun, and dazzled their eyes with the glitter on the sea. When they had reached a recess, carpeted with grass, Lady Carewe proposed to sit awhile, and see the boats go out from the beach below.

“Now my child,” said she, “I wish you would open your heart to me as if I were your mother. You are as a daughter to me; and you always will be; and I wish to know of every care which troubles your mind.”

“Oh! Aunt! Indeed I cannot speak of that,” replied Henrietta. “To you of all persons I can least say what I feel.”

“I hope to prove to you that that is a mistake, my love. I do not ask what trouble has come between you and Harry, because I know it.”

“I was sure he and you were consulting together last night,” Henrietta said.

“We were. My son has told me all. He sees where he was wrong. I see where you were both wrong; and I trust to see you both right when you begin to discover how great a thing your mutual love is; how much too great a thing to be made the sport of passion—”

“Passion, Aunt!”

“Yes, passion in you, exciting passion in him. What but passion could make young creatures like you forget your ignorance of affairs which strain the best faculties of the best men in the nation? What but passion could make either of you turn away from the path of pleasantness and peace which God has opened to you in marriage, to stake your happiness on the chances of public affairs with which neither of you has any call to meddle?”

“Surely we have a duty, aunt, to those whom God has placed in authority over us—”

“No doubt, my dear; and who is more devoted to that duty than the father and the friends whom you lightly condemn,—whose experience you slight, whose public virtue you do not even understand? What duty can you have in comparison with that which weighs upon your father? And if you and he take different views of the same duty, which is the more likely to be right?”

“Have I not warrant for loyalty to our King and Queen?” Henrietta asked. “Can I help it if, when we read in God’s Word of submission to those who are in authority, of obedience to be rendered as we would render it to God, my heart glows with the longing to comfort and serve the sovereigns who are insulted by rude men, and presumptuous boys, and pert women? I must tell you, aunt, my whole soul is full of reverence when I think of the king’s countenance, so divinely melancholy, and—”

“And of the Queen’s?” asked Lady Carewe, smiling.

“The Queen’s sorrow does not show as melancholy,” said Henrietta. “She is too great to weep. She has a noble spirit, possessed of a natural right to inflict rebuke. Lady Carlisle says that when she recounts to her ladies any new outrage on the king’s authority, any check to his purposes by wilful men, she has the air of one inspired. It is impossible to meet her eye at such a moment, it flashes so gloriously. Her consort is twice a king when she is by his side. Can I help honouring such a queen, and insisting on her being honoured, when her meanest subjects are encouraged by those who should be patterns of loyalty, to watch her conduct and revile her name?—Consider, aunt, I bear her name! Should that not bind me to her?”

“Not more than we are all bound by God having placed her on the throne. To say that she is Queen is to express our duty to her. Of that duty there is no question, my dear. The question is, how most faithfully to fulfil that duty, together with the duty of the King’s subjects to one another, and to generations to come. But this is not the question for you and me at this moment. The burden lies, not on us, but on men who have understanding, and knowledge, and conscience equal to such a charge. You and I have a more humble task.”

“I know all you would say about that, aunt, but if Harry and I cannot agree—”

“Well, my child, what then?”

“O! I do not know what I would say! I cannot settle my mind about what we ought to do. I only know I am very miserable.”

And Henrietta laid her head on her aunt’s shoulder, and wept bitter tears.

“Harry is miserable too,” said Lady Carewe. “It was my wish to ascertain what you thought, and not to give you advice in a case in which you must judge for yourselves. But the one thing that I can do is to set before you both the choice you have to make.”

“O, do so!” cried Henrietta.

“There is no doubt of your love for each other?”

A convulsive pressure of the hand gave Lady Carewe an instant confirmation on this point.

“You are both certain at this moment that you can never be happy apart?”

Another confirmation.

“Whether or not it might prove to be so, such is the present conviction of both of you. The question then is, whether differences of judgment, and strong prejudice or conviction on any matter of controversy, should make you part, at the entire sacrifice of the happiness of both. If you think that duty commands this sacrifice, I have no more to say;—no one ought to have a word to say.”

There was a pause; but Henrietta did not speak, or lift her head.

“In such a case you must immediately part, and meet no more for some years at least.”

“I could go to Uncle Oliver’s,” Henrietta murmured; but her aunt felt that her heart was throbbing as if it would burst.

“Or Harry must depart.” Struggling with the trembling of her own voice, Lady Carewe related how Harry recoiled from the idea of remaining in England, except in Henrietta’s company; and how he would hasten to the American settlements, if he must indeed lose all he cared for in life.

Henrietta saw now how serious a question it was whether her particular notion of loyalty ought to impose all this misery. She did not say so; but she told as much by her question.

“But how can we live together if we wrangle as we did yesterday?”

“That is indeed the question, my child. I would ask whether you could not agree either to humble your young minds to learn from wiser folk about these great affairs of the Church and the State, or to refrain from disputing upon them. I should say that you must either agree to this or part: and I am quite sure that the one thing which you must eschew, as you would eschew sin and sorrow, is such dispute as each of you at this moment rues.”

Henrietta sighed. She was not yet ready to promise anything.

“Youthful enthusiasm will account for almost any marvel,” Lady Carewe proceeded; “or else it would be incomprehensible to me that the daughter of John Hampden should, with such significance as she can, cast reproach on her father’s loyalty to the King, while the King himself declares, in the most public manner, his trust in that loyalty.”

Henrietta sprang to her feet, exclaiming—

“The King says so!”

“He more than says it,” replied Lady Carewe, suppressing a remark on the actual value of the King’s word. “As there must be some notice taken in the courts of refusals to pay this ship-money, it is rumoured that your father will be the first put upon his trial. Men say that he is chosen because the King declares that, such is Mr. Hampden’s honour, and virtue, and devotedness to the crown of England that, if he shall be found to be in error, all others will repent of their recusancy.”

This account, which Lady Carewe had from a sure source, was to Henrietta’s mind like a breeze which sweeps the heaven clear of clouds. She saw at once that where the King suspended his judgment, she well might. In a few moments, she was laughing at her own conceit, and ready to cry again with remorse for the wilfulness which had made three persons at least so miserable. It was settled that Harry and she should abstain from dispute till it appeared whether they could agree. Lady Carewe wished she had not requested Harry to leave them uninterrupted during their walk: but she would abridge his suspense as much as she might. She and Henrietta hastened to the cottages; and there they found their task shortened. Most of the dwellings were empty. Some agents of the Kings—two Royal Commissioners—were in the town; and the women had run thither to tell their tale, and implore the King to send after the pirates, and recover the children. Some of the fishermen on the sands were talking, with scowling brows. Nothing good, they said, would be got out of these gentry, for their errand was a bad one. They were more like pirates themselves than the avengers of piracy. It had lately been said that the King was about to claim, or to authorise claims of, the soil which lay between high and low water, all round Great Britain, and up the tidal rivers. It had been supposed impossible that such a trespass could really be proposed for a moment; but there was no doubt that the Commissioners had been setting surveyors to work to ascertain the tidal limits, and measure and calculate the soil between. A seizure of that soil would affect the rights of so many old inhabitants, and the customs of the river and the shore, that signs of tumult began to appear. It was best to hie home, Lady Carewe thought. Henrietta could not help thinking how much more dutiful it would be to give the King what he asked in the way of supplies than to force him to such methods of obtaining money; but she did not now say this. She had said it very often without convincing anybody,—unless it were Nathanael; and at this moment she saw what reminded her of her new resolution to keep silence on matters of state which were in controversy.

She had seen the crown of a hat above the park-fence as they approached the gate. Harry was among the trees, watching their entrance. A smile from his mother, and the blush on Henrietta’s face, showed him that he might join them.

“Forgive me!” he and Henrietta whispered to each other at the same moment. He drew her arm within his own; and they reached the house in a state of spirits which relieved the heavy anxiety of the brothers and sisters who were on the lookout for them. As Lady Carewe was taking her seat at the breakfast-table, she heard the music she loved best,—the hearty laugh which was natural to Harry, under all but the most dreary circumstances. Henrietta looked mirthful too, when she entered the breakfast-room. She frankly owned afterwards that her folly in making a quarrel about matters which did not offend the King himself, was fair game for any who chose to laugh at it. Harry and she had laughed at themselves and one another, and they must try not to make one another cry any more.

Some of the party, however, looked very grave before breakfast was over. A horseman, well armed, spurred up the lawn, and arrived in a foam at the great door, as the family rushed out upon the steps. It was Simon, Mr. Hampden’s own groom. All was well at home; but Mr. Hampden desired the whole party to return without delay. The coast was not safe, Mr. Hampden’s letter to Lady Carewe declared. He was grieved to spoil the pleasure of the young people: but these were times in which pain and trouble abounded over pleasure; and even the youngest—even his pets, Lucy and Kitty—must learn to bear disappointment with good humour. As for Nathanael, he was as well aware as some older persons that the true manly spirit is cheerful under vexations.

This was admitted to be true; and the children behaved heroically about leaving the sea and the ruins almost before they had begun to enjoy them: but they told one another privately that they thought it very hard that they should have this particular disappointment to bear. They were always willing, or tried to be so, to endure affliction: but then they could not have imagined such a thing as being obliged to leave the beach and the rocks before they had had any play there. If it had but been any other trial!