Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Hampdens - Part 4
AN HISTORTETTE. BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
CHAPTER V. A CERTAIN NOVEMBER IN MERRY ENGLAND.
The fifth of November 1637 was as noisy a day all over England as any fifth of November since 1605. Perhaps it was the most tumultuous of all the anniversaries of the Gunpowder Treason, for reasons which belonged to the year. The main roads leading to London were thronged, and in London, lodgings were scarce and dear. It was something new that a case in the law-courts should so largely increase the population of London in the dampest and dreariest month of the year; but, as some people asked, had there ever been a law case of such public importance before? The trial of Mr. Hampden, for refusing to pay ship-money to the amount of twenty shillings, was to come on in the Exchequer Court on the 6th of November: and the expectation was, that if Mr. Hampden should chance to win his cause, he would be tried again for refusing to pay thirty shillings, in respect of his property in another district. All England was in waiting for the judgment that should be passed; and all England and Scotland were waiting to see what would follow from the punishments in Palace-Yard, which were quite as vehemently talked of as the ship-money. Some gentlemen of character, education, and ability as authors, had been pilloried and mutilated, in accordance with a Star-chamber sentence, procured by Archbishop Laud; and the restraint thus put upon men’s tongues, and the cruelty which showed itself in the temper of the leading Gospel minister of the kingdom, thrilled through the whole heart of the nation. Thus, many as were the travellers from all parts going up to attend Mr. Hampden’s trial, or to learn all particulars on the spot, there were nearly as many more who used that cause as a pretext for meeting and consulting with others who were no more reconciled to the tyranny of Churchmen under a Stuart, than their fathers had been under a Tudor. The occasion was too good not to be seized by Scotch leaders for coming to an understanding with English Puritans; and by men who had not forgotten what a parliament was, to consult with newly risen patriots about obtaining another; and by the country members of the King’s party, to parade their loyalty in the eyes of the Court and the judges. Added to these, there were ladies and gallant gentlemen who relished the prospect of a gay season in London at the beginning of the winter, and cared more for assemblies, and banquets, and balls, than for the honour of the Crown and the safety of the country. Some of all these orders of persons made up the throng which kept the inns busy, and the roads in their worst condition, on the fifth of that November. In former years, the innkeepers had driven a good trade on that day by pretending to suppose that every traveller who did not desire to toast the King at every stage was a Papist. This time, there was perhaps more ale and good wine asked for than in any former year; but the increase was in no proportion to the numbers; and it was agreed by all the hosts along the road, that the Papists had grown audacious. Whether it was the favour of the Queen towards the Papists, or their trust in the protection of the High Church, with Laud at the summit of it, they certainly did not, through meekness and fear, drink more on that day than they had a mind to.
While the stream of travellers thus set strongly towards London, a small party was riding eastwards which fixed the attention of the innkeepers on the road by their crossing the route of all the rest, by their having no questions to ask on the great affair of the day, and by the livery of the servant who was in attendance on the lady of the party. The groom in green livery put on grand airs of mystery wherever he stopped, and let it be known that he could give, instead of needing, information about the gentleman who was to be tried in London. He drew attention to his livery, and when asked about it, said that the inquirers might find out whose service he was in, it not being his business to tell. Thus challenged, curious people did find out that the livery was Mr. Hampden’s, and consequently that the lady was Mr. Hampden’s daughter. It was indeed Henrietta: and the news spread before the party, so that all hope of passing unobserved was at an end, and so much attention was offered at every stage, that Henrietta’s desire to finish her journey as soon as possible made her regardless of all fatigue. Her eldest brother Philip and her maid were her companions; and Philip was well pleased to push on, as he was anxious to be in London as soon as possible after the opening of the trial. A hindrance occurred which vexed him for a moment; but it was the cause of his release a day sooner than he had expected.
He was escorting his sister to the mansion of old Sir Oliver Cromwell in the Fens. Old Sir Oliver was their great-uncle; and of all his relations, Henrietta was his favourite. He had made overtures towards adopting her, when the troubles of the time were dividing families, and when relatives and friends grouped themselves by their sympathies, rather than by the nearness of their family ties. From the time of Margaret’s marriage Henrietta had never entertained the idea of leaving her father, who could ill-spare the solace of an elder daughter’s presence: but Henrietta was now in trouble; and for the sake of the whole family she found it best to hide herself and her griefs in her old uncle’s house far away. At Huntingdon, she was within an easy ride of Biggin House, Sir Oliver’s mansion: but there she was obliged to stop. The place was so full, and in such a state of agitation, that no horses could be had. There was nothing to be done but to stay there for the night.
While the brother and sister were consulting whether or not to disturb their great-aunt, Mrs. Cromwell, who lived retired at Huntingdon, they were joined by Cousin Oliver, who had heard that Mr. Hampden’s livery was in the town, and at once sought out the young people. He told them that there was no inn in the town which was fit for Henrietta to pass the night in; and he bade them be thankful that his mother’s house was open to them as a refuge. He insisted on their accompanying him there without delay; and they were as glad to do so as he could desire. It was a drawback that they could not appear in the street without having a crowd for an escort, but the distance was inconsiderable. As they issued from the inn yard, the crowd raised a cheer for the Lord of the Fens. Cousin Oliver lifted his hand; and there was silence in a moment.
“I will not be called Lord of the Fens,” he declared, in a voice which was heard to the end of the street, “I am lord of nothing; and no man is Lord of the Fens. I will tell you in public meeting this day what Lord you shall praise for the great work which has been done in our Fen land, and what other Lord you shall withstand in his pride about those doings. Come, one and all, and hear what shall then be said; but my will now is to pass quietly whither I am going. Fall back, and be silent till I return among you within one hour;—perhaps,” and he pointed to the church clock at hand, “within half-an-hour from the striking of the clock.”
The people fell back, and ceased cheering; but there was no preventing them from following; and when the party reached the old dame’s modest house, she was seen at the window, brought there by the hum of many voices, and the tramp of many feet. When she saw her son at the entrance, the door flew open, and Henrietta was glad to rush into the quiet of a private house.
She was kindly welcomed, in consideration of the hand that brought her. In a few minutes she was alone with her hostess. Cousin Oliver engaged to forward her to Biggin House the next day; and Philip Hampden was thus free to make his way to London as soon as his horse was sufficiently rested to proceed.
“Shall I bear your greeting to our father?” he asked his sister, as he bade her farewell. “Do not look reproachfully at me. I do not doubt your love: but may I tell him that he has your prayers for his release from the persecution of the wicked?”
“Tell him, with my humble duty,” she replied, “that I pray daily for his health and peaceful deliverance from all trouble. He knows how I pray that right may prevail.”
“That is his prayer; that is the prayer of every one on his side,” Philip replied. “Beseech the Lord, Henrietta, that the wicked may be confounded, and that the kingdom may have peace.”
“But how shall we learn from day to day,” asked Henrietta, “how the trial proceeds? You say it may be many days. Cannot a messenger bring us tidings? And how often?”
Philip smiled and told her that there would be no part of the country,—no village, however remote, to which the news of each day’s proceedings would not spread as fast as man and horse could carry the tidings. He reminded her of the great number of poor men who were in prison for the same cause, besides the richer citizens whose estates were threatened for their opposition to the ship-money. Among others, the owners of the new properties in the Fens were almost to a man against the King’s demands: and they had swift messengers ready to pass to and fro day and night.
Dame Cromwell, overhearing this, said that the swiftest messengers of all were engaged. Pigeons abounded among the granaries all along the Ouse; and numbers of them had been carried to London, after having been trained for weeks past. She added that no household was more sure of daily tidings than Sir Oliver’s. If Henrietta did not know why, she would surely and speedily learn.
Henrietta so well knew why, that she was glad, when left alone with the old lady, to find the discourse turn on other subjects.
The old lady stood hearkening till her son, and the crowd which followed him, had left the street. Then she said:
“My son will not permit himself to be called Lord of the Fens; but it is not for him to choose how men shall consider him, any more than what the Lord shall appoint him to do.”
“Is this recovery of the Fens his work then?” Henrietta asked.
“Not more than it is Sir Oliver’s, and many another man’s. The adventurers as a body, with the Earl of Bedford at their head, have, and deserve to have, the credit of reclaiming the land. My son has his share of that honour; but it is for a more perilous work that the country—his own eastern country—gives him that title. Have you not heard of it, my dear?”
“I heard of some trouble, as one hears of trouble on every hand,” said Henrietta, sighing.
“Trouble everywhere from wickedness in high places,” the dame observed. “The adventurers have spent out of their fortunes more money than you would believe;—more money than some of them could have raised but for the prospect of profitable estates which should pay for everything. Among them they were to possess, according to their Charter, ninety-five thousand acres of the new land; and, now that their money is spent, and they should be entering into possession, the King . . . .”
Henrietta turned away her head impatiently, and her hostess stopped short.
“Pardon me!” said Henrietta. “I was dismayed for the moment,—dismayed that, whatever happens, men’s minds take hold of it, to turn it to complaint against the King.”
“Let the King keep his royal word, my young cousin, and men’s complaints would be as the idle wind. But with the adventurers in the Levels he has broken faith by so heavily taxing their estates that, if he carries his measures against them, many of them will be ruined men. While the dispute lasts, due care of the new works is neglected; and if it be not speedily settled, the waters will encroach again; and the fair fields which you will see to-morrow will be mere swamp, more muddy and unwholesome than before.”
“It will be only like the rest of the country,” sighed Henrietta. “The whole kingdom seems to be in the way to become—”
“To become what?” the dame inquired, with evident curiosity.
“No place for dutiful men to live in,” Henrietta replied.
“Too true!” the dame agreed. “Dutiful men and women are making up their minds to suffer and die, because of the wickedness in high places: but good citizens will struggle manfully for the right. My son has the whole eastern country with him in this matter of the Levels; and the cause is so clear, and the people are so resolved that a handful of courtiers shall not ruin such a work, that they will sustain my son against all trespassers, even if the King himself be one. It would be well that the King should hear whom they call the Lord of the Fens.”
Henrietta trusted that the King would hear at the same time that Cousin Oliver refused the title.
The old lady perceived that the subject was in some way unwelcome, and from a sense of hospitality she dropped it. In the course of the evening, however, it became clear that no topic could interest her long which did not lead round to her son Oliver. When Henrietta spoke of her father’s belief that his cousin Oliver would be a great man in the country, as he already was in the eyes of the family, the Puritan mother’s godly jealousy was aroused by the awakening of old associations. Her mind was carried back to the days when the cousins were boys and under her rule. She observed, with some sternness—
“I do not know why Oliver’s friends beset him with flatteries. I am sure he required the rod as much as any of his six sisters. There was no end to my trouble with him.”
“And now see your reward!” Henrietta observed. “I have heard my father say how noble and brave a nature was always struggling under—”
“Under what?” sharply asked the dame.
“Under what appeared to require the rod. Nay, aunt Cromwell, I refer only to what you yourself have just said. No one honours his standing now more than my father.”
“Of course; all the world honours it,” replied the dame; “all whose respect is true honour. As for the King and the Court, how should they know how to honour a God-fearing man and a soldier of liberty! Ah! if such a man as Oliver could be king—”
“Such as Cousin Oliver be king!” exclaimed Henrietta, amused.
“Yes, my young cousin. If worldlings and perjured Papists could give place, but for five years, to a servant of the Lord, like my Oliver, this land might be redeemed in its swift course to perdition. I do not speak as of anything probable, and by your countenance one might see that I was speaking folly. But there have been times when kings have been of the Lord’s appointing,—by the head and shoulders taller than other men, as Saul, when the Lord gave a king first to His people. There have been things more strange than that a man who obtains a natural obedience as Lord of the Fens, while living in the fens, should be the ruler of the country when he shows his strength through the whole country.”
Henrietta was in fact smiling. She smiled again at the idea when Cousin Oliver appeared at the supper table in time to say the long grace, and when he returned thanks, in the evening prayer, for the power which the Word had had through his poor utterance, in strengthening the people to stand for their liberties. He prayed for the King, however; for his long life, and his rescue from the snares which would make him an enemy to the pure reformed Church. Henrietta could only hope that aunt Cromwell could join in this prayer as sincerely as her son evidently offered it.
Henrietta, heavy at heart as she was, smiled again at the same image when Cousin Oliver put her on her horse early the next morning. She had been to the old lady’s bedside to bid her farewell, and had received her well-meant injunctions not to be ensnared by the graces of old Sir Oliver, or by the conversation of any Royalists she might meet at his house. If she should hear a word in defence of ship-money, or of the late meddling with the religion of Scotland, she had only to ride over to Huntingdon, and take refuge with her old aunt. She would know when to flee to this refuge, by hearing her own father disrespectfully spoken of—
“That will never happen in my presence, in any one of the family houses,” Henrietta declared.
“Perhaps not,” the dame said. “But there is the other case. You have heard of Jenny Geddes, and what she did about the collects—”
“Took the collect to be colic; and administered her joint-stool as a cure?”
“It is an over-serious case for a jest,” the dame remarked. “I was about to say that if Jenny Geddes is made a mock of in your presence, you will find a refuge here for your wounded feelings. While your father stands up against them that trouble the Lord’s people, every child of his may look upon my house as a home.”
Henrietta kissed the old lady’s hand, thanked her, and was departing, when she was recalled for one more exhortation. Her hostess had not been insensible to the depression which had appeared in her countenance and manner. It was dutiful to grieve for a parent’s troubles; but such grief should be swallowed up in joy that a father should be honoured by being made a confessor in a great cause; so that if John Hampden should be this day consigned to prison, to die there like his friend Eliot, a dutiful daughter ought to give thanks on that very account every day of her life.
Henrietta could not bear this,—her heart knowing its own bitterness, and her dutifulness being by no means of the supposed quality. When she appeared in the court, her colour was high, and her eyes were full of tears; but again she smiled at the thought of Cousin Oliver enacting royalty. His grim face, his yeoman’s suit, and his abrupt manner, were as opposite as possible to all the notions she had gathered from Lady Carlisle, and her aunt Carewe, and from her own fancy as to the bearing of a king.
Yet there was something kingly in Cousin Oliver’s position in his own district. Without apology to his companions, he stopped where it pleased him, and diverged from the road where it suited him. He examined the embankments; he dismounted to measure the depth of the water; he tried the firmness of the soil wherever it looked suspicious. As if by magic, people collected wherever he halted for a moment. On casting a glance over the wide plain, so lately under water, and still glistening here and there with meres and full watercourses, it seemed as if the whole area was uninhabited, except where a farmstead or a group of cottages stood forth conspicuously. Yet men and women collected by scores and by hundreds. They came up from the decoys; they came out from behind the embankments; they sprang ashore from the boats on the Ouse;—there were men from the ploughtail; there were women from the dairies and poultry yards; there were boys with their birding-traps, and their dogs from hunting vermin. Little children with rushen helmets and bows and arrows ran along to keep up with the horses, in hope of a word or a look from the Lord of the Fens. For everybody who, as Cousin Oliver said, had ears to hear, he had one exhortation to give—to pay no penny of the new taxes till the case was settled; but to stand fast in refusal, even as Mr. Hampden who was tried to-day in London for refusing to pay ship-money.
The journey became slower from mile to mile; and by mid-day Cousin Oliver declared that this would not do. He commissioned some of the people to spread the tidings along the road, and back among the farms, that he would return before night, and hear those who had aught to say to him, at certain stations. He must now ride straight for Biggin House. This settled, the party set forward at a good pace.
Cousin Oliver was not to reach Biggin House to-day. From a cross road, five miles short of it, he saw a party approaching, and presently distinguished the livery of the Mashams, who were cousins of his. The servants who bore it were escorting their young mistress, Helen Masham, who was on her way to Biggin House, where she was to be Henrietta’s companion. The damsels, formerly playmates, were delighted to meet; and Cousin Oliver perceived that he was no longer wanted. He sent a dutiful message to his uncle, gave his blessing very devoutly to his young kinswomen, turned his horse’s head, and rode away at speed.
Biggin House did not look very tempting from the outside, on this foggy November day. The grass in the park was coarse and dank; the dead leaves lay thick in what had been the avenue; the trees stood irregularly, as the best of them had been felled: some were lying on their sides, overgrown with fungus and moss; and those which were standing were bare, and many of them half dead. The moat was overfull of turbid water; and some of the woodwork of the draw-bridge had fallen into it. The house had a mouldy appearance on the open side; and where the trees sheltered the other walls, the blackened old bricks and stone mullions were streaked with green moss from breaches in the rotting spouts above. Things were better inside, however; and, besides a blazing fire in the great hall, there was abundance of warmth in the welcome the old gentleman had ready for his kinswomen.
“On my life, a pretty brace of Puritans as ever I saw,” said he, giving each of them a hearty hug: “and as good as you are pretty, to come and be company to your solitary old uncle in fog-time. We must have a bargain. You find all the duty; and I must see whether I cannot find some pleasure without waiting for Christmas. We do contrive to brighten up the old place at Christmas: but we will have a dance between this day and that. Hey, Henrietta! You have not grown too starched for a dance, I hope.”
“My dear uncle, no!” Henrietta replied. “We dance every evening at home in cold weather.”
“Who dances? Not your grim father?”
“My father is never grim, uncle. How can you fancy it? He is our favourite partner; and he favours us all round.”
“Right good, my dear! And Aunt Carewe?”
“Yes, she dances, when she is not playing for us. We are so many at home that we can make out a country dance without guests, when by chance no guests are there.”
“On my life, I am glad to hear it. By John Hampden’s surliness about the King’s affairs I was afraid he had gone gospel-mad, like his cousin Oliver. You never see him dance, I will warrant.”
The girls laughed.
“If you got him to stand up, he would break out into praying, instead of making the figure. He would twang out a grace before dancing, loud enough to drown the music. Now tell me, Henrietta, were not you ashamed to be seen riding with such a cavalier? You, Helen; were you not glad that he turned whence he came? Why, you would have seen your grooms laughing behind his back.”
Helen hastened to explain that all the servants of all the Mashams revered Cousin Oliver, and would on no account jest at his expense. Henrietta, being questioned, admitted that his boots were muddy, and his coat rusty, and his beaver battered; but, so far from being ashamed of him, she had felt as if in a great man’s train, all the way from Huntingdon. Sir Oliver listened courteously while she related the incidents of the journey, and then observed:
“Ay! they do call him the Lord of the Fens, the disloyal wretches! When the fogs are gone, and the land is in its spring green, we must get the real Lord of the Fens to come.”
“The Earl of Bedford?” Helen asked.
“Bless my soul, no! We will give the people something better than an Earl to look at. No, child, I mean the King. And why not? His father came to me at Hinchinbrooke, once upon a time, to hunt; and he, and the Queen too, may come here to hawk. Our fowling here is sport for a king, I can tell you: and it is a rare country for the Queen’s hawks, if she will come and try.”
The girls looked at each other in some dismay at the thought of having to play hostess to such a party.
“I agree with you,” said Sir Oliver, looking round upon the somewhat dingy walls and shabby furniture of the great dining-room in which they sat. “This is no proper banqueting-hall for princes. But I lost a fortune twice over in entertaining the Court all day, and in gaming with them at night: and the King knows that poor old Sir Oliver is a wrecked man. He would take kindly what I have to offer, and excuse shortcomings. Times are altered with him too, as with his friends. He finds shortcomings everywhere, and no offers. But I must not forget that I am talking to little Puritans. If I trouble them with an old man’s loyalty, they will be running away, and telling all I say to the crop-ears.”
“Uncle Oliver, you do not know me,” Henrietta said, very emphatically, and with a flushing cheek.
Helen observed that there was nobody of her acquaintance, she believed, who did not wish to serve and please the King within the limits of an Englishman’s duty.
If so, Sir Oliver replied, all was well. They would drink His Majesty’s health, with one voice, every day. Meanwhile his young cousins must make themselves at home in their own apartments; and he summoned servants to show them the way.
As they were leaving the room, Henrietta’s turn came last to make her curtsey at the door; and she was beckoned back with such caution as to show her she was to return alone. The old man took her in his arms, seated her on his knee, and said in her ear:
“This is the way we used to tell each other our secrets when you were just high enough to peep into this pocket. Come! tell me your little secret now. What is this between you and Harry Carewe? There! you can hide your face against my shoulder, as you did when I told you ghost stories. And now tell me what is the matter about Harry Carewe.”
“I thought you knew, uncle. I thought—”
“I have heard something; but I want to hear your account of it. Is Harry a disloyal rascal?”
“O, no, no! Do not blame Harry. I dare say I am more to blame than Harry. I know Aunt Carewe thinks so.”
“But my father thinks so too; and I believe it is true. But, uncle, we cannot live together. So we have parted.”
“If Harry is not a disloyal rascal, why have you parted? I don’t understand.”
“I know I am to blame; but my temper will not stand the things he says. And he thinks the same of his temper.—What things? O! I cannot tell you about them. I cannot bear to think of them. He thinks that things are right which I think wrong; and—”
“And he is hard upon the King?—No! Then he is hard upon the Queen?”
“Not so much that as—In short, uncle, we think so differently about all these quarrels, in which everybody that belongs to us has some share, that we were always losing patience with each other. That was it.”
“If that was all, my darling, everybody that belongs to you will lose patience with you both. I suppose you love each other. Well, well! there is nothing to say about that, I see. Two young creatures in love, and quarrelling, not for any jealousy.”
“Only jealousy about their Majesties, uncle. I cannot bear to hear such things as they all say—”
“Ay, ay! I knew how it was: and so you come for refuge to your old uncle as a true Loyalist. Your uncle is proud of you, my love. As for Master Harry, he shall know—”
“O, uncle! let Harry alone! Do not say a word to him! He thinks he is right; and I know I have tried him. And we can never meet again. Let me live quietly with you here. However this trial in London may end, my father will not be often at Hampden this winter. If he gains his cause, he will have business in Scotland—”
“Ha! what takes him there? Is he going to make his bow to Jenny Geddes? If he does, that stool of hers shall be his stool of repentance.”
“There is some public business which will detain him there,” Henrietta went on: “and Aunt Carewe will not leave the children; and I could not bear—”
“I see; you could neither keep up your friendship with her nor deprive her of Harry’s presence. This is clearly the home for you at present, my love; and I rejoice to have you here But, Henrietta, you must cheer up. When His Majesty has brought his perverse children back to their duty, Harry will come back to his. I may not put it so? Well, then, I will put it the other way: you and Harry will come back to each other.”
“Never! never!” Henrietta insisted. “Never! never!” she repeated to herself as she went to her chamber, and while she was settling herself there as in her permanent home. She did not see how she could ever return to Hampden till Harry should be married to some one more worthy of him than herself. Dear Hampden! she should never see it more till she should be old and grave, and past feeling things so strongly. Her youth would be spent here in the Fens; and when Uncle Oliver was in his grave, and she should have ceased to have cares because she would have ceased to have feelings, she should return to Hampden, to watch over Aunt Carewe in her old age, and be a daughter to her, though Harry would have long had another wife.
“Never! never!” she said again to Helen as at night, when they should have been asleep, they were sitting together by the fire in Henrietta’s chamber. It struck her that she had to repeat this assurance very often. Her family seemed all of one mind about her affairs,—all confident that Harry and she would come together again. But perhaps she would never have to contradict Helen upon it after this night. When she had relieved her mind of the whole story to this friend of her whole life,—when she had related all that had been said by Harry and by herself, and what bitter things she was conscious of having uttered, and how desperate Harry’s feelings had become under her sarcasms,—Helen did not repeat her belief that such evils could disappear and leave no trace. Henrietta said that passion might be mutually forgiven; but how could she be sure that passion would not be roused again,—that there would not be more sarcasms, and more misery from them, Helen fervently agreed. The present pain was the least, great as it was. Henrietta was quite right in stopping in time: and all the rest were quite wrong in trying to persuade two young people, who could not be happy for a month at a time now, to run the risk of spending their lives together.
“They say,” suggested Henrietta, “that public affairs must be settled very soon; and then the danger will be over. When the King has taught the people their duty, and established his right . . . .”
“Who says that?” asked Helen. “Not your father,—not Lady Carewe?”
“Uncle Oliver said so to-day; and I know Lord Wentworth thinks so. Lady Carlisle gives it out everywhere.”
“On the other hand,” said Helen, “your father and mine, and every public man they have confidence in, are no less confident that the victory will be the other way. When the King is humbled so far as to summon his parliament . . . . What is the matter? O! in this part of the country we do not regard the proclamation against naming the parliament. My father says we might as well leave off speaking of the Bible by order of the Pope. As I was saying . . . .”
“No matter!” Henrietta interrupted. “I know what you would say.”
Helen persevered so far as to ask whether it was not too serious a risk to commit the happiness of a marriage to the chances of a political strife,—some called it a rebellion, and some a revolution,—on the issue of which no two wise men were agreed. She considered Henrietta right in her decision,—noble-minded, generous, and prudent.
“I am so glad . . . .” sobbed Henrietta, as her head lay on Helen’s shoulder. “I am so glad . . . .” And the sobs came thicker, and the tears in floods.
Puritans as the Mashams were, they had read certain stage plays of a writer who was much thought of at the time; and one line of a tragedy of that player’s now darted across Helen’s memory; “Well, thou hast comforted me marvellous much!” and her heart smote her.
“I cannot bear to grieve you,” she said. “But you have done so nobly and so wisely, that it is due to you to say that I agree with you.”
“Of course you must say what you think,” replied Henrietta; “I am so glad . . . .”
Still she was unable to express the cause of her satisfaction. She was obliged to let Helen lay her in her bed; and then she was soothed by Helen’s singing a hymn familiar in the household worship at home, and apt to operate like a spell in reducing passion to a calm.