Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Hampdens - Part 5
AN HISTORTETTE. BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
CHAPTER VI. THE IRISH LORD DEPUTY IN MERRY ENGLAND.
The apparatus of carrier-pigeons was but little employed, after all. For the first two or three days of the trial of Mr. Hampden, the agitation throughout the kingdom was excessive: and for many more days the citizens went on saying that it was the most important cause that had ever been tried in Westminster Hall. But the dulness, and the long protraction of the arguments had their natural effect on the commonalty of England. Attorney-General Noy, though long in his grave, was burnt in effigy, as he had been every year since he devised the tax of shipmoney: bets were laid by the King’s party on the lawyers who were opposed to each other in the cause: prayer-meetings were held in Puritan dwellings for the restraining of the King’s unlawful power: “diurnal writers” were reaping a harvest, from the demand of their services by leading public men who wished to keep their respective districts punctually informed of the aspect and incidents of the trial; and the families of the lawyers, as well as of the recusants who were represented by Mr. Hampden, grew restless towards the close of every day, till the end. But the general public presently found that they could not understand the legal arguments; and when assured that some weeks might pass before there was a verdict, and some months before there was a sentence (in case of Mr. Hampden being defeated), they spared themselves the trouble and expense of their winged messengers, and waited very willingly till the hint should pass round that they were wanted for the defence of the nation’s liberties.
There was rapid travelling, however, on all the great roads, during that November. Gentlemen of both parties exercised their public spirit in compassing the speedy passage of news,—placing relays of horses, and sometimes riding themselves; especially when they could thus spend their Sundays at home. The wide-spread family connection of the Cromwells included St. John, the lawyer, who defended his relative, Mr. Hampden, in such a way as to make the whole family very proud and hopeful of him and his cause. Sir Oliver himself wavered in his wishes when nephew St. John’s law and eloquence were extolled by visitors and in letters, consoling himself beforehand in his own way for whatever might be the result. If His Majesty gained the cause, it would be a glorious thing; and John Hampden would be no worse in the end. He would lose some money; and he might be under a bar and bolt for a time, which would be the proper reward of his wilfulness: but he was too much of a gentleman to be personally ill-treated for a matter of twenty shillings. If John Hampden should win, no matter, if gentlemen would but treat such a decision with the contempt it deserved. That the King would do so there could be no doubt. He must have money; and he would take it in his own royal way, whatever St. John and the Judges might say. As for St. John, he was a made man. It did not follow that his politics were wrong because he spoke on the other side. A lawyer must speak on the side which engages him; and next time, he would be more eloquent still, because he would have a better cause.
Sir Oliver would not be satisfied without hearing whatever Henrietta would tell him of her father’s letters to her; and Henrietta was as ready to read as her old uncle to hear. Her heart overflowed with love and gratitude to her father, whose thoughts were so much with her that he passed no one day of the trial without writing at least a few words to her. He suffered almost as she did under her trouble; and he felt that no duty could intercept that of supporting his motherless child under the frustration of her intended marriage. When Henrietta had read her uncle what she could out of those precious sheets which arrived almost daily, he swore that it was a thousand pities that a gentleman who had so loyal a heart should have let any Puritan scoundrels make a tool of him in the sight of all England; and he bade Helen pray, if she must pray outside the service-book, that John Hampden might have the seven devils cast out of him, and return to his duty. Helen quietly replied that she did pray for Mr. Hampden,—that he might be delivered from the devils who were, not within him, but about him.
Though the family interest in such a trial could not die out, the family alarm diminished day by day. It was impossible that a gentleman as much extolled for his modesty and gentle dignity by the one party, as for his public spirit by the other, should meet with any ignominious treatment: but still, when the moment came, Henrietta could not ask the news. Her maid informed her, as she was dressing for dinner, that a dark gentleman had ridden up, in great haste, wishing to speak with Sir Oliver without dismounting: but Sir Oliver was out woodcock-shooting, which vexed the gentleman so as to make him swear terribly. He had thrown himself from his horse, however, and demanded to be furnished with writing materials in a chamber, where he was certainly dressing; for his servant was now attending on him. The servant would not tell his master’s name, nor let his livery be seen.
This part of the story did not fix Henrietta’s attention; for gentlemen who swore terribly when vexed, and rode up unexpectedly, were of almost daily occurrence at Biggin House. It was the stranger’s intention of riding on, after telling his news, which agitated her. The two girls appeared, when summoned, with a heightened colour and a troubled manner.
The dark gentleman was with Sir Oliver. Henrietta knew him in a moment, and whispered to Helen that it was Lord Wentworth.
“Do you know whom we have the honour of entertaining, young ladies?” asked Sir Oliver.
Henrietta named him as she made her reverent curtsey. Being asked by his lordship whether he ought to have recognised her, she innocently replied that Lady Carlisle had shown her a portrait which left no room for doubt. The name of Lady Carlisle, and the name of Hampden each bespoke Lord Wentworth’s graciousness; and he at once applied himself to soften to Henrietta the blow of hearing that the trial had ended unfavourably for her father. He said that there would be no present result to himself, and none of any serious consequence at any time: and if he should lose a little money, he had gained, on the other hand, a treasure of honour and praise. The judges themselves had declared that they could scarcely quarrel with the event which had fixed the eyes of all England on Mr. Hampden, seeing that the temper and demeanour of so noble a gentleman was the best rebuke that could be given to the low sectaries and seditious brawlers who troubled the King’s reign.
In the course of dinner Sir Oliver relieved his lordship of the fear that Henrietta would be overwhelmed by the event of the trial. He extolled her for as loyal a damsel as existed outside of the Court. This removed all constraint; and Lord Wentworth spoke as openly of what had passed as his hearers listened eagerly. He could have wished, he said, that the twelve judges had been loyal without exception. That three of them should have countenanced the popular undutifulness would spoil the flavour of victory to the King.
“What possessed them to desert the King?” Sir Oliver inquired. “Their ermine should be pulled over their heads,” he concluded; “that is my opinion.”
“As for what possessed them, I was curious to discover,” Lord Wentworth said. “I find that a lady’s spirit has cost His Majesty one of his judges. Croke is an apprehensive man and pliable in proportion. That he should stiffen his neck is an opposition which no person about the Court had imagined. It is true, he bore an anxious countenance from the day the trial was resolved on; but so did many another man. It was remarked on the first day of the last week of the pleadings that he had assumed a sudden cheerfulness and strength. Some said it was because his task was nearly over, and the reward at hand; but the real occasion was that his lady had taken his conscience into her charge.”
“How could she do that?” Helen asked. “Who but a Popish priest can take charge of consciences?”
“My Lady Croke has that power, it appears,” Lord Wentworth replied. “She besought her husband to dismiss all solicitude for her and her children in giving judgment. She was willing to suffer want and disgrace with him rather than that he should mispronounce the law.”
“Surely she is a noble lady!” Henrietta exclaimed.
“Surely,” said Helen, “this was a freeing, and not a binding of the conscience.”
Lord Wentworth smiled, and said it interested him to see how faithful women were in defending their sex. Sir Oliver was of opinion that a whipping all round would do them much good—all but his little Henrietta. She was too loyal to need a whipping; and, if he had his will, her father should have it instead of her. Lord Wentworth laughed; and Sir Oliver asked whether it was true that he had counselled His Majesty to punish those Buckinghamshire gentry like mutinous schoolboys.
Being obliged to answer, Lord Wentworth said, in his blandest way, that it was not precisely so. He had dropped the jesting remark that he wished Mr. Hampden and his imitators were well whipped into their right senses; and this foolish jest had got wind. But he approved all due application of reason first, as was shown by the pains he had taken to keep the judges whom he knew to the straight line. Nothing could be done with Denham, who was of a disputatious and troublesome temper; but from Sutton better things might have been hoped.
“What is his ground?” Helen asked.
“So wide a ground,” the Lord Deputy answered, “that I spent more time and ink upon him than upon many an ordinance in Ireland. I announced to him that in a time of public danger, a levy of money must be made. No man disputes that. But further, the King alone is judge of the necessity, and of the fit method of supplying it. Ordinary persons can see but the surface of events; whereas the Ruler of the State has the deepest insight of any man, and may use his pleasure in revealing or concealing his special occasions: and, for any subject to presume to set himself up as a judge of such matters, so far above his duty, is contrary to the reverence and gratitude with which so gracious a sovereign is to be regarded. This was my argument.”
“Your Lordship might have added,” said Sir Oliver, “that it is very gracious of His Majesty to relieve us all of care and trouble in such affairs. For my part, I had rather pay all I have, down to this tankard, than undergo the trouble of hearing all that perverse men say, and having to decide between this and that. If His Majesty will take care of the State, and leave us to our sport, and our own affairs, I, for one, shall thank him from the bottom of my soul.”
“But Uncle,” said Helen, “if you give the King all, down to your tankard, you will have neither affairs nor sport to occupy and amuse you. Is not this what Judge Sutton says?”
“He says,” replied the Lord Deputy, “that it is one thing to offer His Majesty one’s substance, in a spirit of love and duty, and another to have one’s substance levied, so that no room is left for grace on the one hand, nor for gratitude on the other. A low, trafficking method of speech, to my apprehension.”
“It is my father’s method,” Henrietta observed, with a flushing cheek. “And he adds that if the law is set aside in levying the taxes, no man can call anything his own.”
“And no man ought to call anything his own,” Sir Oliver broke in, “till he is first assured that His Majesty has no need of it. For my part, it would be my pleasure and delight to give all my fortune to His Majesty, if I had not spent it long ago. Here is my Lord Deputy, with his six thousand pounds a year: do you suppose the King would have to ask twice for it?”
The Lord Deputy smiled, and observed that the King was not so unreasonable as to impose on any servant the labour of governing Ireland, and then taking from him the reward of his toil.
When the young cousins had withdrawn, Helen observed that it was well for those who were about the King’s person to speak so, knowing that they had only to ask for gifts to receive whatever they desired: but to make one of them rich, a hundred meaner men were stripped of the rewards of their toil. Men were asking what was the use of law in these days: and they would ask it more fiercely now when three honest judges were contemptuously treated as disloyal for declaring the law which they were engaged to administer.
While they were discussing these high subjects, the Lord Deputy was inquiring of his host whether it was due to Lady Carlisle that Henrietta was loyal, though a Hampden, and was hearing how the pale and anxious countenance that she showed was due to that loyalty which had caused her to break off her marriage with a Puritan coxcomb, and take refuge with her uncle. The consequence was that the Lord Deputy treated her with a tenderness that evening which made it a memorable day to Henrietta, and which inspired her prayer that night with thankfulness that the King was permitted, amidst his troubles, to repose on the friendship of the most high-minded of his subjects. Helen, meantime, was praying that the protection of the law might be speedily restored to the unhappy people of England, and that the souls of their champions might be strengthened till the oppression of tyrants and the treachery of their instruments should be overpast.
In the morning, Sir Oliver had a serious word to say to his young kinswomen. The Lord Deputy had left his kind commands for them. His presence in these parts was nowhere known: he was on his way to a secret destination; and in truth, he would have appointed Sir Oliver to meet him elsewhere if he had not been informed that no guests were just now at Biggin House. He entreated the damsels to forget him, and to regard his visit as if it had never been.They willingly promised to speak no word of it, and Helen immediately burned a long letter she had written before breakfast. But, as for forgetting the Lord Deputy, that was more than either could promise. In due time it appeared that he had not forgotten them.
CHAPTER Vll. ROYALTY IN RETREAT IN MERRY ENGLAND.
The months passed on, and nobody of any rank found the times improve. The Court came to know what actual want was. The King and Queen were in debt on all hands, and their devices to pay their adherents daily increased the distresses of their people. The only persons who had any wealth which they dared use, were a class who paid in dishonour, and in suffering from the hatred of society for their pecuniary profit. These were the holders and the agents of monopolies, and the collectors of the king’s taxes, of which shipmoney remained the chief. After Mr. Hampden’s sentence was pronounced, and he had to pay not only the twenty shillings in dispute, but costs to the extent of 2000l, under an interdict to appeal to any other court, the government manifested its triumph by carrying on the levy with extreme violence. The King must have money for the inevitable war with his Scotch subjects; and he made it the test of loyalty to provide him with funds. There was scarcely an article of the commonest need and use which was not made the property of monopolists; so that the citizens found it more and more difficult to live, from the dearness of everything which they ate or drank, wore or used. Trade was almost stopped; for few had wherewith to buy; and there were few commodities which were worth buying. The very money disappeared; and, instead of gold and silver, there were brass counters in men’s purses; but this was going a step too far, as the King’s advisers were soon compelled to inform him. It was hard to part with precious coin actually flowing in; but either it or his cause must go; and the brass money remained only as a topic for seditious speakers. To compensate for the disappointment of the gold and silver, the merchants of the kingdom were preyed upon. When they would not or could not pay the large sums demanded from them, they were cast into prison, where they lay without trial till they died or paid exorbitantly for release. There was not the less business in the law-courts; for the King discovered in the trials of his subjects a source of revenue more lucrative than any other. The judges being his humble friends, they were well disposed to serve him; and the fines they imposed in almost every case that was brought before them afforded a larger revenue than any tax that could be devised. Country gentlemen must pay high for leave to build a new house: merchants must pay high for leave to unlade their ships: in every shop there were purveyors examining and taxing the stock and sales: in every market there were clerks levying dues upon the stalls, and upon everything sold at them: and then there were guards and soldiers to be paid for protecting these collectors from the vengeance of the people. There was little use in the proclamation which forbade all mention of a parliament, for the nation had now no other hope.
As everything at length hung on this question of a parliament, so it was with so small a matter as Henrietta’s remaining at Biggin, or returning home. Mr. Hampden was seldom at home for more than a few hours. At one time he was in Scotland for several weeks; and none of his family, unless it was Lady Carewe, heard more of him than that he was in health, and tenderly mindful of his children. He wrote to them often; but he wrote of their interests and feelings, and not at all of his own business. For many weeks he was journeying all over England, in company sometimes with Mr. Pym, and sometimes with Lord Say, or other friends of the law and the people. There had been plans, more than once, for Henrietta to go to the Knightleys. Margaret and her husband had urged it; and Henrietta was willing: but some obstacle always arose. The country was, in truth, unsafe for travellers: and once, when a sufficient escort was provided by her brother Philip, her uncle discovered that a conference of Roundheads was to be held at Fawsley; and Sir Oliver made it a test of Henrietta’s duty and love to the King and himself that she should not leave him for such company. Let Margaret come to Biggin instead. But Margaret had now an infant whom she could neither leave nor bring so far on a road so disorderly; and the sisters had to be satisfied with correspondence. Going to Hampden was yet more impracticable. Lady Carewe was always there; and, though she and Henrietta could have met in all freedom and affection, she must not be deprived of Harry’s frequent visits. Biggin House became Henrietta’s natural home while the disturbance of the kingdom continued; and she was seldom without the companionship of Helen, or one of Helen’s sisters. Once also, her own sisters, Alice and Lucy, were brought under good escort, and remained for a month. The result of the visit and of some interviews with the Mashams at their home, and with Aunt Cromwell at Ely, was a strange disturbance of mind to Henrietta. The King and Court were spoken of in a way which irritated and shocked her, and when she remonstrated, she was told such stories of the time as made her ask whether she was out of her wits, or whether her relations were. Aunt Cromwell had been happy to return to her native Ely, where she could at once renew the associations of her youth, and be the proud mother of the Lord of the Fens; and her satisfactions made her very; communicative, while they happily enabled her to dispense with answer or comment. As her boast was true, that everybody of Oliver’s kin was safe in these eastern parts, she had no difficulty in summoning Henrietta at short intervals, now that Oliver passed the greater part of his time from home: and she spent hours together in describing what the Fens were like fifty years ago, and repeating everything that Queen Elizabeth and King James had said when entertained by the family in their progresses. The contrast between the complacency of her tone in regard to those sovereigns and the sharp and bitter contempt with which she spoke of the reigning King perplexed Henrietta. What to believe and think she did not know: and when she would consult Sir Oliver, she obtained no satisfaction. He said that everything she heard against the King and Court was, of course, a pack of lies; and that if she was what he thought her, she would never allow such things to pass her lips, or to vex her mind.
When the King had at length, in the extremity of embarrassment, called a parliament, it seemed the order of the day for everybody to rejoice; and Sir Oliver tried to do his part by protesting that all the mischief was over now, and that he hoped the people were sensible of His Majesty’s condescension: but Henrietta heard some very deep sighs as the old gentleman sat thinking; and he swore so fearfully at the noise of the bell-ringing and shouting which came on the wind, on the day of the assembling of parliament, and he was so inexorable about keeping the drawbridge up that day, that no member of his household should escape to join in any rejoicings, that she could not but have misgivings about this sudden reconciliation between the Crown and the people. In a day or two, it was clear that he did not choose to know anything that passed in the House of Commons. He advised her to read and believe nothing of the speeches made by her father and his friends. The diurnal writers were poor devils of poets and the like, who would sit up all night and write anything for half-a-crown: they wrote to please their patrons: and not one thing in twenty that they said was true. Within three weeks, however, Sir Oliver believed, without reservation, the news of the day, as sent abroad by these very writers. The story ran that the King had dissolved the parliament, finding that the Commons were bent upon discussing their own grievances, instead of replenishing his purse. Sir Oliver swore his gayest oaths, flung his wig up to the ceiling, caught Henrietta in his arms, and shouted victory! When it occurred to him that it might not be altogether exhilarating to her that her father, and nearly all her relations were baffled in the great work and interest of their lives, he kissed her tenderly, told her it was nothing more than a proper lesson which would make them wiser, and foretold that they would be quiet now that they had had their wish of a parliament, and had found that it would not do.
Henrietta’s best hope was that she should be enlightened by Helen, who was expected after the next Sabbath: but on the Sunday night her uncle abruptly informed her that he had been obliged to defer Helen’s visit for a short time,—perhaps a week, perhaps longer. Henrietta should decide that point. As she looked up at him in surprise, he shuffled in his chair, half laughed, half whistled, whispered in her ear that he wanted her to go a little journey with him,—not very far, nor for very long; and then burst out into one of his loud songs, to stop all inquiries. In sending her to her chamber, very early, he advised her to be stirring betimes, and to see that her maid packed up her very best dresses and ornaments. They might not be wanted; but it was as well to be provided. They were to start after breakfast; and Henrietta’s maid was, on no account, to go with her. No matter what the inconvenience might be: not a word must be said about the maid going.
Henrietta might be excused for wondering, while her hair was brushed that night, whose wits were astray now.
Early as she was up in the morning, she was aware that the old gentleman was stirring before her. She heard his loud voice, and his tread, upstairs and down. He was never careless of his dress, as some old gentlemen become after long living alone. He considered a good style of dress to be an important external distinction between loyalist gentry and their Puritan neighbours; and therefore he was always to be found in handsome trim, except when returning from sport in the marshes. But this morning there were some additional touches which showed that his mind had been employed on the details of his appearance. He seized upon Henrietta, on her entering the breakfast-room, turned her round with his finger and thumb, and viewed everything she wore with a critical eye. It was strange,—this anxiety about her being well dressed, while yet she was forbidden to take her maid. Again, it was strange that provisions and wine were put into the coach, if the journey was not to be a long one. It showed that it was to be a posting journey. For an instant it flashed before Henrietta’s mind that some scheme for conveying her home was in her uncle’s brain; but second thoughts showed that this could not be. There had been time enough, however, for her face to be crimsoned, and then to grow pale, as the image of Harry awaiting her at the gate of Hampden flitted across her mind. Sir Oliver observed it, put his arm round her, bade her fear nothing, and moreover whispered that he would tell her whatever she wished to know, as soon as they were safe off, and could talk comfortably in the coach. He was as good as his word.
“What would’st thou give, little one,” said he, as soon as they were on the road, “to pay thy duty to a certain namesake of thine?”
“The Queen!” cried Henrietta, starting from her seat.
“Aye, the Queen! But see, child, you must keep your seat. In such roads as these . . .”
“I will, sir. I will sit quite still if you will tell me where we are going. Where is the Queen?”
“Where we shall be before midnight, if our post-horses are as good as my messenger engages that they shall be. He has been travelling all night to secure our horses in the King’s name. Do you know a place called ‘Loyalty,’ Henrietta?”
“Is not Basing House in Hampshire called so?”
“It is; and to Basing House we are going. We are bringing loyalty to ‘Loyalty,’ as the King’s Secretary is pleased to observe in this letter. Hum! no. I will not show you this letter; but here is one within it which concerns you. The truth is, the King has privately summoned a few friends of his, of the eastern and southern counties, to meet and confer with him; and Basing House is the rendezvous. I conceive that the Court are apprehensive of disaffection in the eastern district, where our family is widespread, and in a manner powerful, and that I am on that account honoured with this summons. It is a sign of the privacy observed by the King that the business is managed through a lady of the Bedchamber. Here is the lady’s letter.”
Lady Carlisle’s first inquiry was whether her little friend Henrietta had forgotten her. If she was remembered at all, it was probably as the lady who had taught her little friend to honour the King, and admire Sir Thomas Wentworth, as the Lord Deputy then was. Two such friends ought to meet again; and it was the writer’s particular request to Sir Oliver that he would bring Henrietta, when he came to Basing. If it were necessary to enforce her wish by something stronger, she was empowered to do so; but an authoritative command would not be required by an old squire of dames so devoted as Sir Oliver had ever been to his admiring Lady Carlisle. A postscript suggested that it would be prudent to bring no Abigail to such a rendezvous; and Henrietta might therefore depend on due service being provided.
The hours till night were not too many for the alternate reveries and consultations of the travellers. That Sir Oliver should be trusted to any extent was no wonder, but that any bearing the name of Hampden should be admitted to the royal presence . . . . perhaps it would be to Lady Carlisle’s presence only. It was not certain, Henrietta observed, that the invitation meant more. Sir Oliver’s way of patting her cheek, and his fond smile, showed Henrietta that he expected nothing short of the highest honour of all.
Sir Oliver was right. The dusk of the May night was still tinged with a glow from the west when the coach drew up before the great flight of steps at Basing House; and it was late enough for Henrietta to suppose that she would be left to herself till the morning: but she was followed into her chamber by Lady Carlisle’s maid, who informed her that her ladyship would expect her to supper in her own dressing-room in half-an-hour, unless she should be too fatigued with her journey. The invitation was of course accepted.
Nothing could exceed the kindness of her reception, or the interest of every word that fell from her entertainer. It was so during the meal; but much more so when it and the servants were dismissed. Lady Carlisle said she knew whom she was speaking to, and how securely she might converse . . . . Ah! her little friend looked surprised; but there was nothing very surprising in this.
“I am not so rash,” Lady Carlisle continued, “as to take you into confidence at once because you were a pretty and clever child when we last met. It is because I have heard of you since,—heard such things said of you by so exalted a person,—that I regard you with as much trust and affection as if we had been elder and younger sister all the time.”
This seemed to Henrietta, amidst her keen delight at such a welcome, somewhat extravagant, till a few words more made all clear.
“You had not forgotten me, my dear child?”
Henrietta’s laugh pronounced the notion absurd.
“Well, then, you cannot have forgotten the Lord Deputy, whom you have seen more recently. I was sure he must have impressed himself deeply on your mind. Indeed, no one who has once seen him can ever find the impression of his countenance grow dim: and no one who has heard him discourse fails to feel the thrill of his voice at intervals for ever after.”
Henrietta said to herself that the openness of this admiration showed how harmless it was. Lord Carlisle had been quite right in his lifetime to make himself easy, and let gossips talk. Many a happy friendship must be given up if an opinion was asked of low or foolish people who could not understand such a thing as an honest and self-forgetting enthusiasm. Lady Carlisle went on:
“And he is far from forgetting you, my dear. I have never seen him so interested on so short an acquaintance. I think,” and here she looked smilingly in Henrietta’s face, “you must be happier now than you were then.”
“I am very happy at this moment,” Henrietta fervently declared.
“Thank you, my love! I take that pleasant assurance to myself. But I was thinking of a deeper cause. The Lord Deputy spoke of a somewhat pale and wan cheek, and eyes that told of too many tears. Nay, my love, you must not think hardly of him for speaking thus to me. He knew what was then the weight on your heart; and he was quite won by the loyalty . . .”
“But, Lady Carlisle,” interrupted Henrietta, “it was not loyalty that made me do it: it was not about loyalty, or the contrary, that we parted. Indeed I cannot allow you to think so.”
“There peeps out your Puritan training, my child. I doubt not there is some nice distinction in your mind, as well as a most religious dread of praise. But it is enough that you and your lover would have been married long ago if he had been as loyal to the King as you.”
Henrietta could not deny this; and she was silent.
“Such sacrifices move great minds deeply,” Lady Carlisle continued, “and the Lord Deputy spoke with strong feeling about you. May I tell him that—Yes, surely I may, now that your eyes are bright again, and your face all health and beauty,—may I tell him that you have found your reward, and are at peace?”
“I do not desire or deserve reward,” sighed Henrietta. “I brought my punishment on myself; and I cannot make a merit of it.”
“Little saint!” cried Lady Carlisle, embracing her. “You will make us all take heed to the honesty of our speech. May I then tell him in all honesty that you have outlived your grief?”
Henrietta was silent; and, when further pressed, said “No.” Her faint tone and the paleness of her face bore witness to the sincerity and the difficulty with which she had replied.
Lady Carlisle was shocked. She said she should never be able to bear the remembrance of her cruelty. Nothing had been further from her thoughts than that an attachment which had ended so could be still too strong for her little heroine’s peace. But the heroic are always placable; and perhaps Henrietta would forgive her.
Nothing was easier, Henrietta said; and she truly felt it. But the conversation did not flow quite so freely afterwards, till a knock at the door of the anti-chamber startled Lady Carlisle out of a reverie which she was pursuing with her eyes on the dancing flame of a small wood fire.
“I must attend Her Majesty,” she said. “I must be gone. Amuse yourself here,” and she threw towards Henrietta some books, and two or three of the diurnal sheets which were becoming common. “Amuse yourself here, if you like to wait my return. But I may be detained an hour; and you can go to rest when you will. This little bell will bring the woman who is to attend upon you.” And the Lady of the Bedchamber was gone.
She soon reappeared,—all smiles. Her Majesty desired to make Henrietta’s acquaintance, and would receive her now, if she was not too much fatigued, and if she would disregard Her Majesty’s undress.
Nothing could be easier as a first passage of intercourse with Royalty. Henrietta’s dread had been that she should faint when the moment came for seeing the faces, and hearing the voices, which she had dreamed of, sleeping and waking, for as many years as she could remember. The apprehension crossed her mind now; but it was gone in a moment. It was no depression, but exaltation that the summons created. She cast a glance into the mirror, and then at Lady Carlisle, who replied to what was in her mind.
“No matter! For once dress is not important. Her Majesty knows that you have travelled all day: and Her Majesty is expecting us.”
The Queen was reading one of the newsletters of the day while an attendant combed out her long hair. As she shook back the curls on Lady Carlisle’s approach, her black eyes shone in the candle-light, so as to satisfy Henrietta so far in regard to her beauty.
The Queen held out her hand to be kissed, and then, instead of withdrawing it, took Henrietta’s hand in hers, and made her change her kneeling for a sitting posture on her footstool.
“There! sit there!” she said. “And tell me,—is it true that you are my namesake?”
“I have the honour to bear the same name with your Majesty.”
“But you are not named after me? No, you are not quite so young. But we are both Henrietta. And your other name?” she said, smiling down upon Henrietta; “are you of that in like manner proud?”
“My other name is Hampden,” said Henrietta quietly: “a name of which all who bear it are apt to be proud.”
“And with good right,” said the Queen. “Is not the family a very old one?” she asked of Lady Carlisle.
“A Baldwin de Hampden is in Domesday Boke, Madam, as the owner of the very estate in Buckinghamshire which Mr. John Hampden inhabits at this day. Is it not so, my dear?”
“And,” the Queen interposed, “for which he refuses to pay the charges due to the King.” She smiled as Henrietta hung her head, and continued:
“This is no dishonour to the old name, though it may be the mistake of one bearer of that name. I can assure you that the King believes he has no more honourable subject than Mr. Hampden; and I have heard him say that he would rather have so honest a gentleman in his government than enlisting less worthy persons against it.”
Henrietta said what she felt; that she could imagine no event so happy as that her father should be in the King’s political service;—in such office as should imply their so far thinking alike as that they could act to a common end.
The bells of the French clock in the corner of the apartment here rang out their midnight chime; and Henrietta was dismissed to her rest, with an injunction to take her fill of sleep. The ladies would spend the next morning in retirement, as there would be an assemblage of gentlemen who must not be disturbed. Henrietta might sleep till noon if she pleased.
“She speaks like a king’s daughter,” the Queen observed, half laughingly, to Lady Carlisle, after the door closed behind Henrietta. “I suppose the children of these portentous malcontents always believe their fathers created to tread upon true kings.”
Lady Carlisle said, apologetically, that Mr. Hampden’s influence in the country, since the trial, had really been enough to turn his children’s heads. They would learn, sooner or later, what such popularity was worth in comparison with genuine and hereditary loyalty. This child hardly needed such instruction, she believed; for she had a heart and mind as true and devoted as if she had been born and bred in a Court.
“Indeed!” the Queen exclaimed. “Who would have thought it! We must encourage the damsel, and see—”
Here the Queen fell into musing. After the hair was done, and the attendant dismissed, Lady Carlisle remained for ten minutes leaning on the back of the Queen’s chair, and conversing in low tones. She had been disappointed in her notion of marrying a Hampden to some loyal young gentleman connected with the Court. The child’s affections were not free. The months that had passed had not cured the attachment to her Roundhead lover.
“Perhaps it may be better so,” the Queen quietly remarked. “My Lady Carlisle, you are half asleep. Is it not true that a person who stands between two parties—You clasp your hands. You comprehend? Inquire for me, then, of your own rare judgment, whether it may not be an easier thing to induce a young maiden of enthusiasm to wed the man she loves, than to extinguish her love, in order to marry some gentleman unknown. If she may be equally a mediator in either case, which plan is likely to be the easiest of accomplishment?”
Lady Carlisle was in raptures at the condescension of Her Majesty’s genius, which did not disdain the interests of a young daughter of a country gentleman: but the Queen’s air of condescension vanished as she coldly declared that the King’s interests equalised all classes and all qualifications in her eyes.
This was, Lady Carlisle said, precisely what she meant to express: but when she felt strongly she was apt to offend where she most desired to commend her duty.