Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/The Hampdens - Part 7
AN HISTORTETTE. BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
CHAPTER X. POLITICAL IDEAS IN MERRY ENGLAND.
For some weeks after their return to Buckinghamshire, Harry and his wife lived in a retirement so complete that they might have appeared insensible to the hurry and discomposure of the country. Harry thought it a small price to pay for the satisfaction of his heart, and for a happy home to withdraw himself from public affairs. He could do as much good by staying at home as others by moving about, because he could administer the affairs of the family which others were too busy to attend to. Mr. Hampden had desired the young people to settle themselves, if they so pleased, in his house of Crestwood, within three miles of his own dwelling: and there Harry carried on the farming of both estates, and acted in Mr. Hampden’s place towards the tenants.
It was a calm season for the young people, and for Lady Carewe. Every morning Harry went forth, in his yeoman’s trim, to look after the crops, or the stock in the pastures, or to meet the tenants on business, leaving Henrietta with the little Dick Knightley for her companion, and with enough of domestic business to occupy her. He returned to dinner full of country news of a small kind; but of the large news of the kingdom not a word ever passed his lips. Henrietta never inquired: and he never spoke to her on the old sore subject without inquiry. In the summer evenings, they often rode over to Hampden; or the Hampden coach brought lady Carewe and the young people. They could not be very merry, seeing Mr. Hampden so little, and knowing that they should never see Margaret more: but they loved their home, and enjoyed the delights of its hills. Every pass and gully of those hills was familiar to them; and after long rides, the lawns at home, the seat on the terrace at sunset, the lingering in the flower gardens till the moon was bright, were the sweetest repose!
“If it could but last!”
That was the thought in all their minds. While such events were proceeding as the King’s mock parliament of peers at York, brought to an end by the petitioning of the indignant patriot lords, and of the angry city of London, and of every considerable place in the kingdom, it was unnatural that any intelligent woman, and especially a Hampden, should be in utter ignorance of such portentous facts. Harry could speak with all his neighbours, and utter his opinions everywhere but in his own house. He saw his mother almost every morning in his rounds. He saw Dr. Giles on other days than Sundays, and in other places than the church. The tenants were of the Hampden politics almost to a man; and thus Harry’s news and his opinions need not burn in his pocket, though he must preserve silence towards his wife. The question was how Henrietta could bear the utter oblivion of public affairs in which she was living.
“I do not think there is any oblivion in the case,” Lady Carewe observed one day.
“O aunt!” exclaimed Alice, who was now the established eldest daughter at home, “who is there to tell her anything?”
“I do not know, Alice; but I am persuaded that she has means of information.”
“And why not?” asked Harry. “Why should she not hear, in the way she best likes, whatever she desires to know?”
“Quite right, Harry!” his mother said. “It is much to be wished that every one should look our public affairs in the face.”
“But how can Henrietta hear if nobody tells her anything, and she reads no news-letters?” Alice persisted.
“She blames Lady Carlisle for not reciprocating her correspondence openly,” said Harry.
“She does, does she?” exclaimed Lady Carewe.
“She shows me all the letters—I mean, she shows me that she is sending letters to Lady Carlisle as often as she wants to send. I carry them to the letter-bag myself.”
“You don’t see the letters themselves, Harry?”
“By my own desire I do not. Nor do I vex her with the sight of what I say to her father or Richard about the King’s behaviour. It would make her unhappy.”
“Where does she address her letters to Lady Carlisle?”
“To wherever the Court may be when Lady Carlisle is in waiting, which I believe she usually is.”
“How does Henrietta know where the Court is? It is never in the same place many weeks together. How does she follow its movements?”
“That I do not know,” was Harry’s reply.
It set his mother musing; but if Henrietta had been present, she could not have thrown much light upon the mystery.
It was quite true that, as she told Harry, she wished Lady Carlisle would send her letters without fears and suspicions, as Henrietta sent hers. How the Court lady did transmit her letters Henrietta had no idea whatever; and she did not consult Harry because Lady Carlisle made it a test of her faithfulness that, having liberty to correspond in any manner with whomsoever she would, she should use that liberty as her correspondent understood it. Henrietta saw no need for mystery in sending her own letters; but, after giving due notice that there need be no mystery on the other side either, she could only receive the letters as they came; and they came in all manner of strange ways. Sometimes she found one in her work-basket or her dressing-box; sometimes a packet was lying in her path on the lawn, or in the lane; sometimes it was in the pocket of her saddle, or in her bible at church. No servant admitted any knowledge of the matter; and she saw no consciousness in any of their faces. As her own letters were sent away by her husband’s hand, she did not apprehend any whispered scandal: and she let the matter take its course.
Thus the summer and autumn passed away. When the election of Mr. Hampden was coming on, it was plain that she was aware how the people exulted over that impatience of the King which had rendered a fresh parliament inevitable;—a parliament which would show a bolder spirit, and demand greater concessions than the last. Henrietta observed to her husband that His Majesty himself certainly regretted that impatience, and that therefore she supposed he had committed an error. She naturally desired, too, that her father should be honourably returned to the new House; and she heard with satisfaction the accounts Harry daily brought home of the enthusiasm of the yeomen of the county on behalf of Mr. Hampden. She was present with her family when his election was declared, though she did not conceal her disgust at the levity of the popular tone, and especially at the disloyal violence of Mr. Urrey, their neighbour.
“Nobody regards what Urrey says,” was Harry’s reply, when she wished Mr. Urrey would never speak to her, for that she did not know how to hold her patience in replying. “Nobody minds what Urrey says. He is all talk and no work. He may lead a clodpole or two here and there into mischief; but they soon find him out, and let him rail at the fine people of the land as he pleases.”
This was all very well; but Henrietta described Mr. Urrey in her next letter to Court as a fellow whom it would be well to beware of; in return for which she received thanks which might be jest or earnest, but which puzzled her for the moment.
After the parliament met, Henrietta’s tranquillity was visibly shaken. The reversal of so many acts of the King’s policy in so few weeks shocked her; and the questions which sometimes escaped from her anxious heart proved that she feared for the King’s safety, as well as his throne: but the first time of her showing herself completely overpowered was when the news of Lord Strafford’s attainder was flying through the kingdom,—and far beyond the kingdom, over all Europe and across the Atlantic. Day after day, as the process had continued, Henrietta had been no less cheerful than usual, though the affair was of a nature which could not be passed over in silence. It was discussed in all companies as an event, when it was not argued as a political question. There was a prevalent belief that Lord Strafford could never be brought to punishment; but that, if he were, all would be lost for the royal cause. As Henrietta was serene, as well as silent, it was supposed by her family that she felt full assurance of his safety. The greater was her grief when she saw what must come to pass.
It was a lovely month of April; and on one of its brightest days, towards sunset, a groom of Mr. Hampden’s came riding at full speed up to the hall door, desiring to see Harry without a moment’s delay. Harry was in the fields; and till he could be fetched, Henrietta questioned the man, who could only tell her that he brought a letter which he was to deliver into Mr. Carewe’s own hand, and that Mr. Carewe was expected at Mr. Hampden’s lodging in Gray’s Inn Lane in the course of the night. Henrietta bestirred herself to pack his portmanteau, and have supper on the table; and then she waited till he should come forth from his conference with the messenger.
He thanked her for speeding his departure, saying that there was a riot imminent in London. Yes, it was about Lord Strafford. The King had gone to the House of Lords, to declare his opinion . . .
“I am sure Lord Strafford did not send him,” Henrietta exclaimed.
“Certainly not: Lord Strafford considers it a step fatal to himself.”
“His Majesty will take care of that,” Henrietta replied, very severely. “For a time the Earl will have to retire from public business: that much must be yielded to the clamour: but not a hair of his noble head will be touched while the King reigns; and his retirement will repair his health (so wasted in the King’s service!) and he will emerge from his disgraces—the great statesman of his time!”
Harry shook his head mournfully, and his wife smiled in his face.
“My love, there is more going forward than you know. The matter has been brought to extremity by the discovery of a plot. The people are up in defence of the parliament—”
“There is always talk of plots,” said Henrietta. “Who now believes in them?”
“All believe in this plot; for the King’s handwriting is in the hands of the Commons.”
“It is a forgery, Harry.”
Harry was silent. In a moment his wife sprang from her seat.
“Let me go with you, Harry! I will be ready before you have supped: I will ride fast. You shall arrive not one minute later for my being with you.”
“Impossible, my love. It is a scene for men only.”
“Lady Carlisle is there. I must learn the truth. Harry, I must go! If you will not wait, I will follow.”
“Hear me, Henrietta! This plot has brought the King to extremity. The army was to have marched up from the North, and taken possession of London. There was to have been a camp round the Parliament House, and another at the Tower . . . . You have hoped—I see it by your face—that Lord Strafford would have escaped to France—”
“And who has prevented it?” cried Henrietta. “The King and the Earl have no traitors in their train. Loyal men are loyally served. This is the work of some miserable, double-damned spy of the parliament! Lord Strafford is safe, however. Mr. Pym may hunt him like a bloodhound; but he is too noble game to be torn by—”
“Let us say no more,” said Harry. “My love, you do not know what you ask about this going to London.”
“Harry, I must go. I have reasons.”
“There are reasons why you would repent it within one hour. I grieve to say it; but the King is disgraced; the Queen is in terror—”
“I must go,” Henrietta persisted.
“Stay till you hear from me, Henrietta. If I find it possible, I will send for you. Till then,—do you hear me?—you remain here, or with my mother.”
“You never yet laid your commands upon me, Harry.”
“Never before: but I do now. Lady Carlisle would tell you that I am right. Yes, ask her. But whether she is to be found—”
Henrietta laughed somewhat scornfully. Loyal and dutiful persons were in no hurry to hide, she said. Where there was most danger, there would the Court be. The King himself, it seemed, had confronted the Lords, in defence of his best and greatest servant.
Harry caressed and comforted his wife, entreated her to send for her sisters, and not to pine. He would write: he would send for her the first possible moment. It would not do. Henrietta was indignant, was unbelieving, was cold, was all but insulting; and her husband rode away with a heavy heart.
He supposed that it would be many days before his return: but he was at his own door again the next day but one. Not being expected at home, he rode round by Hampden to tell his news there, the story of the army plot, the story of the King’s intrusion upon the Lords,—the story of the mob of three thousand citizens who demanded Strafford’s death, and denounced all who were supposed to favour him; the story, too, of the royal consternation and its effects. Mr. Hampden said the point of revolution was reached; and he had summoned Harry to consult with him about rallying the tenantry to the parliament cause, and preparing for defence, if the army should be brought down to overawe the constituencies of the leading members of the House. Harry had Mr. Hampden’s commission to act for him in Buckinghamshire, as Richard had enough to do in his own county, and among his father’s connections.
“Go home, now, to poor Henrietta,” said Lady Carewe. “She looked just now—”
“Have you seen her already? Mother, you are very good to us!”
“I saw her yesterday; it was Alice who went this morning. Alice says she must have been weeping all night. She would not tell why: and she would not let Alice stay.”
“And as I passed the gate in coming away,” said Alice, “I saw the most unwelcome of all neighbours going up to the house, across the lawn,—Mr. Urrey.”
“She would not see him, of course.”
“But she did. That is, he entered the house; and he did not come away while I was in sight of it.”
“He went in to write me the news, no doubt,” said Harry. “I shall find a note on my table, containing the tidings I could tell him. He is so vehement that I never ask Henrietta to receive him as a guest. It is strange that he does not resent our neglect. Henrietta would surely have had spirit to refuse to receive him and his news.”
This was a mistake. When Harry entered his own house he saw more than surprise in the servants’ faces. Henrietta was prostrate on the sofa in the dining-room, sobbing as if her heart would break. Her husband tenderly raised her, and she seemed to find comfort for her trouble in his arms.
“O! love,” she sobbed. “I never thought to grieve in this way before you. I am so sorry you have caught me!”
“As if I would not know all your griefs!” cried Harry. “I hope that rude fellow Urrey has not been vexing you.”
“Mr. Urrey!” cried Henrietta, turning scarlet.
“You did not see him, surely,” said Harry. “It is being too complaisant to listen to his savage talk; but who but he could have shaken you so?”
“I have seen him,” Henrietta confessed, with her face hidden on Harry’s shoulder. “And he brought me such dreadful news!”
“About Lord Strafford? He might have left it to me,” Harry observed in great vexation.
“But Lady Carlisle tells me, too;” and in a mood of unwonted confidence, Henrietta put the letter into her husband’s hand.
It was very short. It told that she, Lady Carlisle, should never be happy again. She could not have conceived such misery. The King found, at the last moment, that he could not save his best friend, the most loyal of servants, the most incomparable minister, the man who was the glory and grace of the whole realm. The Queen herself assured the King that he had no choice. He had yielded everything! The parliament was to continue, however it might behave; and the King would never again intrude upon either House. It was shocking humiliation: but, O! what was that to this fearful sacrifice of the man who had been his main support in the conflict he had sustained with a turbulent people! Wretched as she was, Lady Carlisle said, she would rather be Lord Strafford’s friend than the enemies who had hunted him to his death. Sooner than be the cruel, vindictive Pym, or even the generous but over-strict Mr. Hampden, she would be the heart-broken Lucy Carlisle. In a P.S., she said that one consolation remained,—that of worshipping the memory of the King’s best friend, and cherishing eternal contempt and detestation of his persecutors.
“To be sacrificed in this way at last!” Henrietta exclaimed. “I am certain that no doubt of his life at least being safe ever entered his mind. O! I wonder what he said when they told him the news!”
“I can tell you,” said Harry. “He said: ‘Put not your trust in princes!’”
Henrietta started, and then said she did not believe it. He was too wise and good a man to imagine that the King would let him die, if it was possible to save him.
Harry afterwards repented answering this. The occasion was a weighty one, however; and the natural triumph took the form of warning to one not behind Strafford himself in loyalty. Henrietta was told, but concealed that she knew it, that Strafford had held the King’s assurance, on the word of a Prince, that he should not die. Harry further illustrated his warning to his wife not to trust this particular Prince by instance upon instance of breach of the royal word, since the troubles began.
“You make everything worse!” Henrietta complained. “As if it were not enough that the greatest man in the kingdom, the kind-hearted hero who has been so good to me, in the midst of his mighty affairs, and Lady Carlisle’s best friend, is—O! I cannot bear it! And you come to me at such a time, and tell me that the King is false, and the Queen a coward, and I a poor forsaken dupe!”
“Forsaken! while I am your husband, Henrietta!”
“And how did you become my husband but by promising to leave me to myself and my friends on these terrible affairs? And now you make me miserable in myself, and would spoil my dearest friendships!”
“How you mistake me!” cried Harry. “But I will not say another word. Events will speak for themselves only too soon. Shall I leave you, or tell you why your father sent for me?”
“O! leave me! Do not come near me till I can bear it better.” As he reached the door she raised her head to say, “If I have been unjust, Harry, it was you who made me.”
It did not console Harry to find, some hours later, that, while his wife could not bear his presence, she had given orders that if Mr. Urrey should call, anything he might convey should be at once brought up to her dressing-room; and that, if he wished to speak with her, she would see him in the dining-room. Urrey must be in some mischief, Harry thought, or was making sport of Henrietta’s notorious loyalty. He must be watched, and must know that he was watched.
Urrey, however, stood well with the stout men of Buckinghamshire at this time. When Harry went among them, as Mr. Hampden’s representative, to confer with them on the defence of the country, in case of the army being turned to an ill use, he found that Urrey had been before him everywhere, using much more exciting language, and proposing stronger measures. He would have thrown great difficulties in the way of Harry’s work, if Harry’s own frankness, and steady attachment to Mr. Hampden had not been thoroughly understood. Urrey insinuated that the Carewes were but half-hearted in the national cause. The young man’s mother was rather too fond of her daughter-in-law, who, to his knowledge, was in constant correspondence with the Court; and, as for the young man, he did nothing more than follow the lead of the Hampdens and Knightleys, when, as every patriot knew, it was high time that those gentry should be made to move a little faster. This tone did not generally succeed. Two or three hotheaded men were for rebellion at the very moment that the King had given way on the great point of a permanent parliament; but of the rest, all but the few who wished to sit still and do nothing under any circumstances, fully agreed with Harry—that their duty was to keep watch on public affairs, and be ready to act, either by sustaining their members in parliament, or, if the dreary need should arise, by preparing to oppose by force any violent use of his prerogative by the King.
“Harry,” said his wife when he came home that evening, “when are you going to London again?”
“I do not know, my love. It depends on events there.”
“I wish you would let me go with you. There is room for me in my father’s lodging.”
“O yes; but I dread the agitation for you. Your health is not your own just now; and you can have no idea what London is like at this time.”
“I could bear it better there than here. And, to say the truth, Harry, I do not like Mr. Urrey.”
“Nor do I.”
“He has always been respectful in his words and manner; but I cannot imagine how Lady Carlisle can make a friend of him as she does. I had much rather see her than have letters through anybody’s hands; and particularly this gentleman’s.”
“Why will you not go to Hampden, and rest there with my mother? There you can conduct your correspondence in your own way. Mr. Urrey will not vex you there; and my mother will see that your letters go and come freely, without any desire to know what is in them.”
No: Henrietta had set her heart on going to London: and there she was, accordingly, before many days.
It did not conduce to her tranquillity to meet her friend. Lord Strafford was dead, and Lady Carlisle was not broken-hearted. The time was out of joint, and it perplexed Henrietta greatly.
Her father had made an hour of leisure to receive her; and Mr. Pym spent a few minutes with them the first evening. The two friends lodged in the same house, and usually dined together: and Mr. Pym now told Henrietta that Lady Carlisle was so impatient to see her that she would spend with her two or three hours that day.—Yes, why not? Lady Carlisle was an old friend of Mr. Pym’s. He was always sure of a welcome at her abode; but it was more convenient that she should visit her friends in London than that they should visit her, while she was in actual and frequent attendance on the Queen. Lady Carlisle was therefore not a rare visitor in Gray’s Inn Lane; and she was coming that day.
“Father, what does this mean?” Henrietta asked, when Mr. Hampden and she were alone for a few moments.
“In times like these,” he said, “men’s minds, and yet more, women’s minds are unsettled. Some have hopes that the strife may be accommodated; and, since the yielding of the King in the matter of the permanence of the parliament, I will not answer for it that patriotic men, as well as loyal women, may not have believed that Lord Strafford was the sacrifice which might be accepted as a peace-offering.”
“Is there hope—?” she stopped; and her father answered her unspoken thought.
“Whatever is, or may be, said of Mr. Pym being covertly on the King’s side is untrue. He is, like myself, bound to the cause of parliamentary government. If you had seen his face, and marked the trembling of his hands among his papers at one moment when the great prisoner was at the bar of the house, you would fully comprehend Mr. Pym’s mind.”
“What moment was that?”
“It was a moment when Lord Strafford cast a glance that way. When their eyes met, it was not only the searching strength of the man’s gaze that moved Mr. Pym. It was that it came from a countenance so wasted and so wistful, and from a friend of past years, who said in that glance, ‘Will you slay me, as one unfit to live?’”
“And what then?” asked the weeping Henrietta.
“In a moment the weakness passed away from both. The wrong-doer was unfit to live in a time like this. The accuser proved, as his duty bade him, that it was so; and the wrong-doer did not dispute our right to judge him, but bent his mind to his fate. The accuser who has carried through that great trial may well be trusted, if any man may, with the conduct of the cause of which that great trial was the opening.”
Henrietta’s heart sank at the thought of a further unrolling of a history so dreary; and Lady Carlisle’s conversation, interesting to the last degree, perplexed far more than it reassured her.
“After my letter, my child, you almost wonder that I am alive? You thought I should die of grief?”
“No,” said Henrietta, “I expected something better from you. Loyal hearts must not break at such a time, but be strong.”
“That is the noble view. My little Puritan always sees the heroic side: and I am sure we all have need of it.”
“If the loyal are right,” said Henrietta, “God will not give the most strength to the Puritans.”
“How true that is!” exclaimed Lady Carlisle. “How events show it! But a few weeks ago, how little could I (and others who are greater than I) have conceived that we could endure the death of such a friend in such a way! that we could resign ourselves to it as a necessary thing, and almost forgive those who did it?”
“Do you mean that the King so takes the death of Lord Strafford?” asked Henrietta, astonished. “I have refused to believe the rumours of the King’s—. I shrink from the word; but the people say he deserted his minister.”
“Desertion is not the word, my love. I can assure you,—and you knew the nobleness of the man well enough to believe it without question,—Strafford wrote to His Majesty to desire him not to feel bound by his pledge concerning the preservation of his life.”
Henrietta was silent.
“I can show you the letter,” the Countess said. “If it was for the public good that he should die, he set the King free from all pledges to protect him. No, no! there was no desertion!”
“Besides,” the Countess went on, replying to Henrietta’s unspoken thought, “the promise was given when we all supposed that such a man’s death must be the greatest of calamities,—that his loss as a Minister of the Crown, as a ruler of the people, would be irreparable.”
“We have always so imagined,” said Henrietta, sighing.
“And how short-sighted we are! how little we know when we are most confident!” sighed the Countess in response. “We all know now that he could never have served the King again, that he must have been removed altogether from public affairs. Does not that make a great difference, my child?”
“But who knows this, and how?”
“Is it possible, my love, that you have not read Mr. Pym’s accusations? Have you not heard of the King’s avowal to the Lords that Lord Strafford must be for ever excluded from public affairs? Ah! if you had been here then! If you had been with me in the House of Lords when the little Prince of Wales carried in the King’s letter, you would have seen how His Majesty and everybody suffered.”
“You hoped that letter would prevail,” said Henrietta, “or you would not have been there.”
“O yes! we all hoped, as long as we could; and it was right to make every effort, you know. The King told us all (and I can testify how true it was) that it had grieved his heart to sign the sentence the day before. He said, as he took the pen, that Strafford was the happier man of the two.”
“No doubt of that,” sighed Henrietta.
“Well! when the young Prince entered the House with the letter, we all had to rise, of course; and I, though behind a curtain, could scarcely stand. What a moment it was! I cannot say I had much hope when the postscript came to be read,—entreating that if Strafford could not be spared, he might live till the Saturday. It showed that His Majesty had no hope. Do not you see this, my love?”
“Certainly: but why show it so plainly? It made the letter of no use.”
“As the Queen said, my child, the time was past for the King to consult his own feelings. All would be lost if the enemy had not their own way in this case. Every effort had been made; there was to have been a rescue—”
“I know, I know,” Henrietta interrupted.
“You have heard about that plot: then perhaps you have heard what a scene it was in the House when Mr. Pym disclosed the whole story. Mr. Pym is a wonderful man, Henrietta!”
“Perhaps so: but tell me one thing. What made the King first promise Lord Strafford that his life should be safe, and then sign away his life?”
“Hush—sh—sh! my dear,” whispered the Countess. “You forget whom you are speaking of. You forget the noble release I told you of.”
“No. I do not forget either.”
“But you forget those sayings of Strafford’s which you used to repeat with such admiration;—that it is vain and foolish and presumptuous to judge of the conduct of the King, because he must understand his affairs so much better than others can,—must know his own reasons, and so on. Do not you remember, my dear?”
“O yes; and I see how true it is when it is a case of raising money, and other management of the business of the realm: but when a word of honour passes between gentleman and gentleman—I cannot understand it.”
“No, my love: we women cannot judge of gentlemen’s feelings and obligations in such serious matters. If you had seen the Prince of Wales—”
“I was thinking of him,” said Henrietta. “What a lesson for him!”
“He is very young, my love.”
“A boy of eleven knows what a word of honour means. If he does not then, he never will.”
“And he is precocious, I must own,” said the Countess. “You should see him making love among the maids of honour! But I cannot laugh yet. Amusing subjects revolt me. Everybody at Court feels this, and I am sure Mr. Pym does no less. It is true, as you say, my love, that God gives strength on both sides, otherwise Mr. Pym could never have gone through his task in such a way; and we, the friends of the departed, could not have borne such a calamity as we do. You heard how the dear old archbishop was shaken? I told Mr. Pym, and I thought you might know in that way. Our friend wished to meet the dear archbishop once more; and the day before his death he begged the Lieutenant of the Tower to permit it. The Lieutenant told him how to proceed to get leave; but he had too high a spirit to ask any favour of the parliament, though I should certainly have asked Mr. Pym if I had been aware at the moment. So our friend sent a message to the archbishop to beg his prayers, and that he would come to the window that dreadful morning.
“And did he?”
“He did, and, do you know, he fainted! O no, it is no wonder. I am sure it was the most miserable day of my life. They say there was not a smile seen in the whole Court that day. I cannot answer for it, for I shut myself up; and the Queen was so good as to desire that I might not be disturbed. But they told me afterwards.” After a pause, she continued, with a shudder, “I thought I should have lost my wits that day. I could think of nothing but—O my child! was it not a noble head? What an eye! what a smile! Ah! I know by that sigh how you sympathise; and you are aware he thought very kindly of you. You remember?”
“Do you suppose I can ever forget that?”
“No: his notice and his friendship were a real honour. Who can express what we have lost?”
“It is not only our own loss,” said Henrietta, “but what will become of the country, with its best men gone, and taken off in such a way? We have no other such statesman and friend for our King to rest on.”
“No man exactly like him, my child, that is true; but the King of kings, as he himself said, does not leave the sovereigns whom he anoints without friends and helpers. If one is taken, another springs up. If a statesman of one kind of genius dies, another appears. Mr. Pym, now, is a wonderful man, you must own.”
“Mr. Pym!” exclaimed Henrietta. “Can you compare that fat man, with his stout health, and his appetite, and his merriment, and his good liking for his dinner, and his showy dress, with Lord Strafford?”
“Ah! you are thinking of that dark, pale, wasted face, and the life like an anchoret’s, and the proud courtesy, and the politic gravity. How striking it was! But, my dear, the contrast was no greater than between Mr. Pym and those groaning Puritans, that he is supposed to be like. What is there of the sour Gospeller or the insolent malcontent about him?”
“No more than about my father.”
“Just so! And as for the statesmanship, is it not possible that a great man may do more by reconciling the King with his people, than by spurring him on to override them? You know there was once an idea that Mr. Hampden might serve the King in the Government. Well! I may tell you now, that that could never have happened while Lord Strafford lived. But now the King is free to take his own course, and satisfy his own likings. And Mr. Pym is a wonderful man! No man is like him for knowledge of his time!”
Henrietta sat thinking that these changes had better pass over Strafford’s grave than over his living head; and her friend perhaps detected her line of thought, for she altered her strain very quickly.
“You have had your distresses, my child, I am sure. I fear you have made no great way with your husband and his mother.”
“I have not tried,” Henrietta answered. “Harry is so good to me! I cannot tell you how forbearing he has been. And he has no thought of disloyalty, I am sure.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Lady Carlisle, with amazement.
“As he understands loyalty, he is very loyal, I assure you.”
“Is it possible! And so you are satisfied, after such an expenditure of doubt!”
“I did not say that,” Henrietta muttered.
Lady Carlisle put her arms round her.
“Tell me,” she whispered. “After all your devotedness, are you not happy?”
“Who is happy in these days?’ sighed Henrietta. “No, I am not satisfied while everybody around me is deficient in the very instinct which is so strong in me. But we must not speak of this. I chose my lot; and I must not complain of it. But, Lady Carlisle, I am no saint nor martyr.”
“And none but a saint or martyr should marry a Puritan and disaffected husband. I understand, my love.—O yes, I do. And now tell me—how will it be about your little one when it comes?—How is it to be about the observances? What do Puritan papas do about such matters?”
“Harry and I hoped that you would be one of the sponsors. Were we too presumptuous?”
“So far from it that I was thinking of something better—something far more worth your wishing.—Yes; I see you apprehend. If it could be done,—how would you like that the Queen—I dare not yet say anything of His Majesty—should stand sponsor for your child?”
Henrietta’s clasped hands and crimson face showed her rapture.
“Well: do not depend too much on my idea. I really feel confident of their Majesties’ interest in you to that point.—And, then, there is the consideration of their strong desire to propitiate the great leaders in the parliament. Do not you think it might have a good effect in the country that a grandchild of Mr. Hampden, and a Carewe, should be so honoured by their Majesties?”
Henrietta thought it would be the finest thing in the world for everybody. She did not believe her husband and her father could resist so angelical a piece of goodness in their Majesties who certainly had—“O! so much to forgive!”
Neither husband nor father was in any rapture on the proposal being mentioned. Harry said that he owned he could not understand Lady Carlisle, and that there must be some corroboration of her impression about their Majesties’ good will before he could give any sort of assent. In any case, he would ask no favour at Court, and he expressly forbade his wife to seek any, directly or indirectly. He and Mr. Hampden agreed, however, that if the honour should be spontaneously offered, it ought to be gracefully accepted. It was not a moment for churlish behaviour when the King had conceded some important matters, and was evidently disposed to come to some understanding with the chiefs of the popular cause.
“They are so chilling!” Henrietta complained to herself. “They never let me enjoy anything without a check! They spoil my pleasure beforehand about the christening of my own baby.”
Out of this it came that Harry was told that he had no heart, or none except for public affairs: and that he cared more for his precious dignity than for either wife or child. And before Henrietta had time to repent of her hasty speech, her husband had said that he had foreseen how it would be if he let her come to London. Her Court friends knew her weak side, and took advantage of it. He would not allow it: she must, for her own sake and for his honour, go down into the country before she had done any irreparable mischief by her unnatural and unpatriotic friendships.