Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Hampdens - Part 3

THE HAMPDENS.

AN HISTORTETTE. BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.

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CHAPTER IV. TRAVELLING FOR PLEASURE IN MERRY ENGLAND.

There was much beauty in the country through which the travellers passed; but there were sights by the way-side which made them grieve that the malice of man could so spoil the life that might have been so happy. Where the blue sea lay open on the horizon, the country people were looking out for a strange sail, doubtful whether the coast-boats might venture out or not. When the party turned more inland, the vales and lanes through which they rode seemed to them like a paradise: but they found that trouble had entered there as everywhere else. A mansion looked from a distance as fair an abode as could be seen, with its shrubberies around it, and its meadows stretching to the foot of the hills; but, on drawing near, such confusion was evident that Richard and a servant rode in among the throng on the lawn to hear whether such an abode could be for sale. It was not for sale; but a high royalist of the county had begged the estate for a relation of his, in case of its being forfeited. Such forfeiture was threatened, and was believed to be probable, because the owner had disobliged the King's Commissioners, who had demanded of him a behaviour towards his neighbours, about the ship money, which he refused as illegal. In order to alarm and punish him, his tenants were compelled to pay their rents to the King instead of their landlord,—some who refused being now in prison. In the fields and meadows there were armed men, compelling the labourers to take off the gates and pile them up for firewood, and to root up the hedges, and level the banks; and as this work proceeded, the cattle were driven into the ploughed fields, to feed upon the young wheat and oats. Where this devastation did not proceed fast enough, there were brutal fellows throwing the soil into heaps, and spoiling the surface with rubbish, and bricks and stones. As Richard turned to ride away, some rude people mocked at his grieved countenance, and invited him to stay till dark, when he might chance to see a grand bonfire. The owner was not visible. He was gone to seek for protection and justice under the law: and hence the haste to levy his rents and impair his property during his absence. The under-valued estate would be given away to some partizan who would pay ship-money, or a fine, or would lend a sum of money to the King; and such grants once made were never known to be revoked. Richard Knightley took note of the name and position of the gentleman who seemed to be so wronged, and doubted not that in him would be found an eager champion for law and a constitutional parliament, whenever the hour should come for reinstating both.

Further on, there was a rare old church standing on the green, near a village where the pride of the people was in the church, with its range of fine monuments of the ancient family of the Reresbys, the last of whose male heirs had died ten years before. There was a monument to him in the church, put up by his daughters in love and reverence, and preserved by all the neighbours from their pride in him, and gratitude for his deeds in the parish. From this church shouts of merriment came, and as Lady Carewe’s coach passed by, men were throwing out to the children in the churchyard bits of stone to play with. The pieces were carved. One was the curl of a periwig, one was a nose, and another a finger. A labourer gave information of what this meant. Some messengers had arrived to demand certain plate and arms from the ladies at the Grange. There was little plate and no arms; and the strangers forced the keys of the church from the sexton, and proceeded to search the monuments for concealed treasure and weapons.

“It is pure malice,” said a yeoman, who had ridden in on the first alarm, but too late. His countenance was very dark as he said that the monument of his old landlord had cost six hundred pounds; but that this was a trifle compared with the cost of breaking it up.

“You mean the grief to the ladies, his daughters?” Richard inquired.

“Why, yes,” the man replied. “It may, as like as not, break their hearts to see their father’s effigy so insulted; and their hearts are too good to break in such a way. But the wrong-doers may have to pay, too. Such a day’s work as this will help the score that the Malignants are running up in account with Old England.”

“How do you know but that you are speaking to Malignants?” Harry asked to which the farmer replied that he knew God-fearing gentry from Malignants, and the whole country was learning the distinction fast enough.

“Will you seek redress for this outrage, for the sake of these harassed daughters?” Richard inquired.

“No,” replied the yeoman, decidedly. “Neither I, nor any one under the rule of our sheriff will seek redress, in the ladies’ names, nor any other. To do so is only to draw on further loss and insult. We may see about taking satisfaction,—a full satisfaction,—when the fitting time comes: but we shall not ask it. At least, one will not,” he said, checking his rash speech. “I ought to speak only for myself and my household.”

Henrietta, who rode with Harry, prompted him to ask whether it was possible that the King could know of such doings, and whether messengers would not be sent to give him the information.

The yeoman had no doubt of the King’s general knowledge—that his own will about ship-money, and the Archbishop’s about church matters, was enforced with strong severity; and if he did not know much more than this, he ought to know it, and it would be the worse for him if he did not.

“Do stop him!” said Henrietta to her cavalier. “I cannot bear to listen to such an undutiful way of talking.”

Harry created a diversion by asking what the Archbishop had been doing; but the answer did not console Henrietta. The farmer told them that they would see, in a village seven miles forward on their road, the tokens of Archbishop Laud’s strong will in the ruined and deserted appearance of the place. In consequence of a priest having been sent there who was as bad as a papist, if not one outright, the people, rich and poor, provided for their own worship, while paying the church dues as readily as they had ever done. The Archbishop would be satisfied with nothing less than every man, woman and child attending every service in the church; whereas no man or woman could think it right to attend upon popish forms, or to let their children do so. When their own magistrates were unwilling to fine and imprison them for absenting themselves from church, other magistrates were found willing to go any lengths: and thus the people were all ruined, and scarcely any remained. The yeoman requested the party to look round, and take note of the state of things in that village, and they would see that he had not spoken anything but the truth. Seeing in Harry’s face a look of interest about his open zeal, he observed that he had been born in that village; but that his interest in it was from his wife’s having come from thence in the midst of the troubles.

“She, for one, has found a happy refuge,” Harry observed. His new acquaintance thanked him, but without a smile. Her parents were in a distant churchyard. Their hearts were broken in their own home; but they could not be buried there. As the church had become damp and dreary during the people’s lives, so the churchyard was all weedy and desolate now they were dead. There being nothing more to spoil there, the King’s messengers were beginning on the monuments of another church, where there was no complaint of neglect of the services.

Henrietta turned her horse when her companions had gone on, to assure the yeoman that the King certainly could not know all that was done in his name. Whenever he did, the country would see a noble redress. The farmer made his obeisance; but Henrietta began to dislike him, because he evidently put no faith in her promises on behalf of the royal power.

She was lost in thought all the way to the nettle-grown churchyard; and Harry respected her silence. He was rewarded for this by some confidence on her part.

“There is nothing that I would not do,—nothing that I would not risk,” she said, “to bring all this to his knowledge.”

“I wish I could help you,” said Harry, in all sincerity.

“Would you? Then surely it might be done! O! Harry! it must be done! It is too terrible that such disorders should go on; and that the gentlest of kings should be charged with them! You see,” she proceeded, drawing her horse close to Harry’s, and leaning over to him, that no word might be picked up,—“Lady Carlisle has always been indulgent to me; and she can do anything with the Queen; and the Queen can do anything with the King.”

“Hardly, in such grave affairs as these of the levies of money. In the church matter she might: but—”

“Well, then; Lady Carlisle can do anything with Lord Wentworth, and he is all-powerful with the King.”

“He is; but his temper is hard and inhuman. The people tremble when the Archbishop goes by, doubting whether he be not Satan in actual presence; but, for my part, I think Wentworth is the real devil, for pride and hardness, and banishment from that part of grace which is called repentance.”

“But Lady Carlisle,—she makes his black brows relax, and puts music into his voice in the very moment of wrath. If I could tell Lady Carlisle what we have seen—”

“It can do nothing but good,” Harry agreed; and Henrietta became more thoughtful than ever.

After the desolate village, the evil signs and tokens seemed to multiply. A very painful scene was in full view from the windows of the inn where they stopped for the night. A gem of a garden stretched between the parsonage and the inn; and it was the delight of the widow of the last clergyman. There were strangers here too, pretending to search for something hidden. By dusk they had buried all the lovely spring flowers, and turned up the velvet turf. In the morning, when Henrietta looked out, the fountain in the centre was a heap of ruin, and the fruit-trees, white with blossom, were prostrate. The landlord shook his head when Lady Carewe inquired kindly for the widow; and the tears filled his eyes when he said that she had neither husband nor child, so that everyone was glad to see the pleasure she could take in her garden. She would pine now more than before; and neither King nor Church was likely to do her any good. Most people thought that times were much changed in Merry England.

So thought the travelling party the more painfully the further they went. In the course of that day they witnessed several disturbances, from the peremptoriness of the tax-gatherers, and the discontent of the people. One of the strangest spectacles was in a country-place, where four roads met, and where, on that account, the pound was placed. There was nothing unusual in the array of soldiers who were about the pound; nor in the exclamations of the people; for such incidents occurred at every turn. The strangeness was in the aspect of the squire of the neighbourhood and his lady, who was on a pillion behind her husband. The squire in a loud voice, heard by all present, but by no means in a passionate manner, demanded that the cattle in the pound should be fed till some arrangement should be arrived at. The tax-gatherer declared that he had his orders to permit no access to the animals till the owner or owners should have paid the amount of ship money due. While the listeners kept quiet to hear what was said, the feeble low of the starving cattle reached the lady’s ear. These were her cows,—her whole dairy,—her pets, and the great amusement and interest of her leisure: they were dying of hunger, and no one could get near them, by day or night. She laid her head against her husband’s shoulder, and the sight of her grief stimulated the rage of the people. There could be no rescue, however, for there was a double ring of soldiers round the enclosure.

“She has not asked me to give way,” the squire observed, as Richard rode up to offer his sympathy.

“I honour her devotion to a great cause,” Richard replied. “My wife and I shall remember this act of fortitude when our turn comes.”

“You mean to refuse the payment of ship-money?” the squire quickly asked.

“Assuredly. As the son-in-law of Mr. Hampden—”

The squire took off his hat, and bowed to his saddle, in homage to the young couple. Richard went on:

“All Mr. Hampden’s children must expect to suffer from the malice of the time, as his case is to be pursued to extremity; and when the trial presses hardest, we shall remember this moment.”

The lady looked up, observing that her husband’s conscience being engaged in the matter, she could not say a word; but she did not think the King or his servants could be so cruel to innocent cows and their little calves. She had come herself, in the middle of the night, with only a servant or two, bringing hay. She did not want to release the cattle, because it was impossible: she never saw such a bar and padlock as had been put upon the gate: she only wanted to feed the poor things; but there were the soldiers,—all awake, and enjoying themselves over a fire in the road, singing songs, and frightening the cows. While she was telling her story, her husband privately informed Richard that he should remove her from the neighbourhood before night, so that she should hear no more before the cattle were all dead, and would not be fancying all night that she heard them lowing and moaning. The gentlemen agreed that there must come an end to such tyranny, and that the end could be nothing but rebellion, unless some arrangement could be presently made. They were of one mind, too, about the importance of Mr. Hampden’s resistance. It would put the right spirit into half the country gentlemen of England. When the squire had again made his lowest bow to the family of Mr. Hampden, the tax-gatherer was further than ever from any hope of handling any ship-money in that parish. He would make an example, he resolved, by seizing all the cows of all the recusants, and starving them every one.

After the pains and troubles of the journey, the aspect of home was full of comfort. It was not many days since the travellers had left it; but it was as charming in their eyes as if a year had gone over their heads. Those few days had made a real change. The turf on the slopes of the Chiltern Hills was greener. The children said they had never seen anything so green. Where the clefts of the hills were darkest with a growth of juniper and scattered firs, the light green sprays of the beech began to show in brilliant contrast. The rounded chalk ridges were dotted over with box, and there were clumps of box in the hollows; but there was there also an intermixture of the bright verdure of spring; and where the hanging woods followed the undulations of the hills, the winter barrenness was almost gone. As the cloud shadows and sungleams sped over the uplands, the verdure seemed to go and come. There were deer on the slope above Hampden House, and large flocks of sheep were on the down. In the meadows below the kine were grazing, or ruminating, or pacing down to the water. The church stood up in the sun out of its beech-grove, on a spur of the hill. As the party approached the mansion, several horses in the paddock came rushing to the fence to see the arrival of their brethren in the cavalcade. Margaret remarked on this. There were several strange horses, and she thought there must be guests, though there had been no expectation of any.

There were guests. When the master came out to greet sister and children, he was followed, not only by Dr. Giles, but by Cousin Oliver. John Eliot’s first information to Edmund was that there were other guests within,—Lord Brook and Mr. Petherick, and Mr. Pym, Sir Samuel Luke and Mr. Urrey, their near neighbour. There must be serious business in hand to cause such a gathering; and very serious indeed the business was.

Before John Eliot had arrived with his news of the pirate attack in Cornwall, these friends of Mr. Hampden’s had arranged to meet at his house, in the absence of his family, to consider the course to be pursued if the prosecution of Mr. Hampden should be rigorously proceeded with. The proved defencelessness of the Cornish coast was a strong and appropriate grievance, and John Eliot had been summoned to the library to relate the story and answer inquiries upon it. His guardian had not recommended his longer stay, not having confidence in his judgment or discretion. It was otherwise with Richard Knightley. While the travellers were refreshing themselves with an early supper, one after another of the councillors dropped in to hear about the adventures of the way.

As one story of oppression after another was told, Cousin Oliver’s face grew gloomy. He started up, and paced the room at the further end, bringing up text after text of condemnation of those who spoil widows’ houses, and neglect dumb beasts, and care more for the King’s house than the fulfilling of promises to the poor. Neighbour Urrey stormed, and spoke treason, so that Henrietta looked up in her father’s face, in a way which showed him that she could not bear it. Mr. Hampden and Lord Brook gently urged moderation in the presence of women and children who were as yet untrained to the troubles of the time.

“I may add,” said the fond father, “that these children of mine have been reared in duty, as well as shielded from troubles of public concern. Here is one,” he continued, drawing Henrietta towards him, and seating her by his side, “who would be an attendant spirit, if it were possible, to gratify every wish and every fancy of the Queen her namesake—to say nothing of the King. This child of mine is our young romancist, our muse of loyalty, who meditates on the sacredness of kings, and searches her mother-tongue for golden words which may express the claims of monarchs and the duty of subjects. Is it not so, my child?”

Cousin Oliver had drawn near, and was now behind her chair. He echoed the words, saying:

“Is it so, child?”

At the same moment, he laid his strong hand on her head, and turned her face up till their eyes met.

“Is it so, child?”

“It is true,” said she, “that there is nothing I would not do or suffer to heal this quarrel,—to persuade angry people that nothing that is cruel can come from the King. He must have money, I suppose: the people will not give him any—”

“Tush!” cried Cousin Oliver. “The child is puffed up with vanity.”

Her father held up a warning finger; and Henrietta, blushing, said she had gone further than became her in such a presence; but she only intended to say that merciful kings sometimes had cruel servants; and then they were blamed for severities of which they knew nothing. Cousin Oliver intimated that this was not a discovery left for young damsels to make; and neighbour Urrey laughed insultingly. On this Dr. Giles remarked that it was, in his eyes, more seemly to see an over-tenderness towards the royal family than an over-readiness to judge them. If he knew the young members of this family, they were on the side of grace and devotion, rather than rude censure of those in high places.

“How is it with you, my child?” Mr. Hampden asked, when Henrietta was presently lost in thought.

“I was considering,” she answered, in a confidential whisper, “how all might be healed if I could be, as you said, an attendant spirit. If I had the fairy gift of a purse of treasure, always full, how soon I might appease all this trouble, and give the King all he wants, so that the people might take no heed to parliaments.”

“That would be no sacrifice,” her father objected. “I thought your desire was for self-sacrifice. Am I right? Well, then, there is something better in your grasp than fairy gifts. Could you give up the fortune you have been promised? Could you dress and work like a woman of a lower station? Could you leave this house and park, and pass your days in a street of a town? I ask you this seriously, Henrietta.”

“I would try,” she answered. “But this saving would be but little to present to the King.”

“There is another way of serving him, besides giving him presents,” her father whispered. He was himself about to ascertain the law and right in a way which must convince the King or the people, and put them in the right way. But so much of his estate and fortune might be lost in the trial, that his children would have either to forgive him or to work and endure with him. Henrietta was the one of all his children for whom he felt the most sorrow and the strongest compassion, if ruin should come to pass. She was about to reply, but he counselled her to make no pledge till she had reflected. Then he blessed her, and rose to lead the way once more to the library, where his councillors followed him. Richard was beckoned in by Mr. Hampden.

The consultation was long and most grave. Mr. Pym cheerfully told how strong was the resentment in Somersetshire. Cousin Oliver Cromwell showed that in the Fens, and he believed in the whole range of the Eastern Counties, public opinion needed only direction; and he charged himself with organising an Eastern Counties Association: and though he had left Huntingdon, his influence there remained, to be put to use. Lord Brook answered for Northamptonshire, where, with the aid of the Knightleys, a strong opposition could be set up to the aggressions of the King’s party. Each gentleman present had information which showed that the Scotch were disposed to go any lengths in repudiating the imposition of episcopacy, and the tyranny of the English Pope, Archbishop Laud. If war were necessary for this end, the people of Scotland were ready for war. Neighbour Urrey declared himself ashamed that the mention of war should have come first from beyond Berwick. If the English were as brave, they would, ere this, have marched upon London, and dictated terms to the King, and sent the Queen’s popish followers packing to the Continent. No one present approved of such haste and violence. It was indispensable to the cause of the nation that every breach of the laws should come from the King’s side; and it ought to be supposed to the latest moment that the King would at length call a parliament when the Courts should have declared the law in Mr. Hampden’s case, and when the King should be convinced that the ship-money could not be levied, and that further grants of monopolies would not be tolerated. Urrey’s scorn of this patience could be well endured when the whole council were against him; and no one cared to resent his declaration that he believed that every one of them would, in a few months, be won over by the false promises of the King, and the blandishments and popish arts of the Queen. He was silenced at length by the rebuke of Dr. Giles, who reminded him that the resistance now to be organised was a religious work, into which no passion, and no disloyalty might enter: and Oliver plainly told him that he, for one, would walk by the guidance of the Spirit, and not by the wrath of the flesh. It was decided, finally, that each should work in his own province while awaiting the action against Mr. Hampden; and that, whenever notice was received of the trial being definitively ordered, the present Council should meet again at Sir Richard Knightley’s, at Fawsley. Richard engaged to proceed homewards without delay, and prepare his father for the part he was known to be willing to act in the struggle which seemed to be now inevitable. Late as the hour was, Dr. Giles strengthened their hearts and calmed their spirits by reading the Word and by prayer: and, late as the hour was, Mr. Hampden requested Richard to remain in the library when the neighbours, Dr. Giles and Mr. Urrey, had gone home, and the other guests had retired to their chambers.

Mr. Hampden wrote for a few moments at his desk, and then summoned Richard to his side. He put into his hand a bill for four thousand pounds; and when his son-in-law looked in his face for an explanation, he said:

“This sum is the amount which I designed that Margaret should receive at my death. In the present peril of my fortunes, it will be a relief to my mind that your reasonable expectations should be fulfilled, and Margaret’s portion put beyond the reach of any enemy. Yes,” he continued, in reply to Richard’s remonstrance at his thus reducing his income during his life, “I have not overlooked the inconvenience of my income being reduced by this endowment of my elder daughters (for Henrietta’s portion shall be secured in like manner), but if my property is left to me, it will be a small misfortune that it is somewhat impaired; and if I am to be beggared, it will be an ease to my mind that you and Harry Carewe have received your due.”

“Beggared, my dear father!” exclaimed Richard.

“It may not be so, Richard: but it also may. You heard Mr. Pym relate how the Lord Deputy Wentworth has accomplished the ruin of Lord Mountnorris, and with what favour he is treated at Court in consequence. If the King made him relate the whole process twice over, to himself first, and then before the Council, and if this policy is favoured as being thorough, it is plain that the same course will be followed with every man who is prosecuted for more reason than Lord Mountnorris ever gave.”

“It is said, however, that the King himself selected your name, sir, when the list of recusants was put before him, on account of the respect he bears you. Is not this a sign that the King intends the trial to be a fair challenge before the law?”

“If the King had shown in any one particular a deference towards the law, I should gladly interpret his choice as you and some others do: but there are reasons which seem to me weightier for believing that he selects a man of some influence, in order to bring his prerogative to bear with a more crushing weight.”

“It is a dreadful thought!” exclaimed Richard.

“These are times in which no dread can be admitted into the minds of honest men,” Mr. Hampden replied, cheerfully. “If my friend Eliot die, the first great martyr in the cause which will have many martyrs, his friend Hampden may well be willing to be a confessor, in the mere sacrifice of money and lands,—and of this home, if need be. Henrietta told me that the place never looked so lovely as she saw it this evening. It seemed so to me as I gazed down upon it from the hills yesterday: but I looked upon it as lent for our present use and our present joy; and if we must soon—my children and I—live close, and in a mean style, in some street or cottage, we can be content while we live in the brightness of love and a quiet conscience. I do not doubt my children, Richard.”

As Richard was silent, his father-in-law looked in his face.

Richard had no doubt of the dutifulness, on any hand, nor of the affection of the whole family towards their father. But, of the domestic harmony and the quiet conscience he could not be sure when he thought of Henrietta. He told all that had passed at Port Eliot; and a great gravity passed over the calm and benign countenance of Mr. Hampden as be listened. His remark at the close was that there was always something to fear when a lively and jesting spirit in a man was married to a lively and romantic spirit in a woman: but the peril was in themselves; and whether their temptation seemed to come from a public conflict between liberty and prerogative, or from the trifling incidents of every-day life, was of less consequence than might appear. The young couple loved each other, so that no parent could think of separating them. If they should at length find their two modes of loyalty irreconcilable, they must preserve their loyalty to each other by withdrawing from the scene of strife. This had been in his mind, Mr. Hampden said, when he entered so largely into the scheme of Lord Say and Sele, and Lord Brook, of a settlement in the Isle of Providence. At Saybrook, which would have become a town in another year, Harry and his wife would find scope for their great energies, without excuse for domestic disagreement when so far from the war of tyranny on the one hand, and discontent on the other. He thanked Richard for his warning, which he accepted, he said, as an injunction to watch over his noble-hearted child as father and mother in one. When he dismissed his son-in-law to his short rest (for the dawn was already in the sky), he hinted to him, with a smile, that if Henrietta seemed to engross a large share of his anxiety and tenderness, it was because of the need in her case. In Margaret he had a friend, on whom his heart and mind might repose. Unbroken contentment was the blessing which she conferred. Her father and her husband might speak of this together, though the privilege was too sacred to be easily discussed with others.

Thus, with full but tranquil hearts, they parted for the short remainder of the night.

Margaret was not to be persuaded to stay behind her husband. She preferred the fatigue to separation; and by the time the household assembled for worship, she and Richard were some miles on their way to Fawsley.