Friends, Though Divided by G. A. Henty
Chapter XXVI. Rest at Last.
Harry slept at an inn in Westminster, and the next morning on going down to his breakfast, he found people much excited, a rumor having gone about that an attack had been made upon Cromwell's house during the night, and that several had been killed, but no harm done to the general. An hour afterward a messenger brought word that General Cromwell wished to see Colonel Furness. After his breakfast Harry had at once gone out and purchased clothes suitable to a country gentleman; in these he proceeded to the general, and was at once shown up to his room.
"Your news was trustworthy, Colonel Furness, and Oliver Cromwell owes his life to you. Soon after midnight one of the serving wenches opened the back door, and eight men entered. Had no watch been set, they would doubtless have reached my room unobserved, by the staircase which leads from that part of the house. As it was, I had a guard in waiting, and when the men were fairly inside they fell upon them. The soldiers were too quick with them, being hot at the plot which was intended against my life, and all were killed, together with the wench who admitted them, who was stabbed by one of the men at the first alarm, thinking doubtless she had betrayed them. I hear that none of them have the air of gentlemen, but are clearly broken men and vagabonds. The haste of my soldiers has prevented me from getting any clew as to those who set them on, but I am sure that no English gentleman, even although devoted to the cause of Charles Stuart, would so plot against my life. And now, sir, I thank you heartily for the great service you have rendered me. My life is, I think, precious to England, where I hope to do some good work before I die. I say only in return that henceforth you may come and go as you list; and I hope yet that you will sit by me in Parliament, and aid me to set things in England in order. Do not take this, sir, as in any way a recompense for saving my life. The war is over; a few of those who had troubled, and would always trouble the peace of England, have been executed. Against the rest we bear no malice. They are free to return to their homes and occupations as they list, and so long as they obey the laws, and abstain from fresh troubles and plots, none will molest them. But, sir, in order that no molestation or vexation may occur to you, here is a free pass, signed by General Fairfax and two of the commissioners, saying that you are at liberty to go or come and to stay where you please, without hindrance or molestation from any."
Harry took the document, bowed, and withdrew.
"It is a thousand pities," he said to himself, "that his majesty the king has not somewhat of this man's quality. This is a strong man, and a true. He may have his faults--ay, he has them--he is ambitions, he is far more fanatical for his religion than was Charles I. for his. He is far more absolute, far more domineering than was King Charles. Were he made king to-morrow, as I hear he is like enough to be, he would trample upon the Parliament and despise its will infinitely more than any English king would ever have dared to do. But for all that he is a great man, honest, sincere, and, above all, to be trusted. Who can say that for the Stuarts?"
Upon the day of his arrival Harry had written to Jacob telling him the cause of his sudden departure, and promising to return by the first ship, He hesitated now whether he should sail at once, or go down to see his father, but he determined that it would be best, at any rate in the first place, to return to Hamburg and look after his companion, and then to come over to see his father, before carrying out his intention of proceeding to Virginia. A ship would, he found, be sailing in three days, and he wrote to his father telling him that he had been in London for a day or two, but was forced by the illness of Jacob to return at once; but that upon his friend's recovery he would come back to Abingdon for a short time before leaving. He arrived at Hamburg without adventure. On reaching the hotel he was informed that Jacob was delirious, and that his life was despaired of. The rascally boatman could not have given the message with which he had been charged, since Jacob, upon the day after he was first missed, had risen from his bed, and insisted on going in search of him. He had, after many inquiries, learned that one answering to his description had taken part in a fray in a drinking-house--interfering to protect a Bohemian singer from insult. Beyond this nothing could be heard of him. He had not been seen in the fray in the street, when several of the rioters had been captured and carried off by the watch, and some supposed that he might have left the place at the back, in which case it was feared that he might have been fallen upon and assassinated by the ruffians in the low quarter lying behind the drinking hall. Jacob had worked himself into a state of high fever by his anxiety, and upon returning to the hotel had become so violent that they were forced to restrain him. He had been bled and blistered, but had remained for a fortnight in a state of violent fever and delirium. This had now somewhat abated, but he was in such a weak state that the doctors feared the worst.
The return of Harry did more for him than all the doctors of Hamburg. He seemed at once to recognize his voice, and the pressure of his hand soothed and calmed him. He presently fell into a deep sleep, in which he lay for twelve hours, and on opening his eyes at once recognized his friend. His recovery now was rapid, and in a week he was able to sit up.
One morning the servant told Harry that a gentleman wished to speak to him, and a moment after his father entered. With a cry of delight father and son flew into each other's arms. It was four years since they had met, and both were altered much. The colonel had aged greatly, while Harry had grown into a broad and powerful man.
"My dear father, this is an unexpected pleasure indeed," Harry said, when the first burst of delight was over. "Did you not get my letter from London, saying that I hoped shortly to be with you?"
"From London!" the colonel exclaimed, astonished. "No, indeed; I have received no letter save that which your boy brought me. We started a week later for Southampton, where we were detained nigh ten days for a ship."
"And who is the we, father?" Harry asked anxiously.
"Ah," the old man said, "now you are in a hurry to know. Who should it be but Master Rippinghall and a certain young lady?"
"Oh, father, has Lucy really come?"
"Assuredly she has," Colonel Purness said, "and is now waiting in a private room below with her brother, for Sir Harry. I have not congratulated you yet, my boy, on your new dignity."
"And you really consent to my marriage, sir?"
"I don't see that I could help it," the colonel said, "since you had set your mind on it, especially as when I came to inquire I found the young lady was willing to go to Virginia. But we must talk of that anon. Yes, Harry, you have my full consent. The young lady is not quite of the rank of life I should have chosen for you; but ranks and classes are all topsy-turvy in England at present, and when we are ruled over by a brewer, it would be nice indeed to refuse to take a wool-stapler's sister for wife. But seriously, Harry, I am well contented. I knew little of the young lady except by common report, which spoke of her as the sweetest and kindest damsel in Abingdon. But now I have seen her, I wonder not at your choice. During the fortnight we have been together I have watched her closely, and I find in her a rare combination of gentleness and firmness. You have won her heart, Harry, though how she can have kept thee in mind all this time is more than I can tell. Her brother tells me that he placed no pressure upon her either for or against, though he desired much for your sake, and from the love he bore you, that she should accept of your suit. Now you had better go down, and learn from her own lips how it stands with her."
It need not to describe the meeting between Harry and his old friends. Herbert was warm and cordial as of old. Lucy was but little changed since Harry had seen her four years before, save that she was more fair and womanly.
"Your letter gave me," Herbert said, "a mixed feeling of pleasure and pain. I knew that my little sister has always looked upon you as a hero of romance, and though I knew not that as a woman her heart still turned to you, yet she refused so sharply and shrewishly all the suitors who came to her, that I suspected that her thoughts of you were more than a mere child's fancy. When your letter came I laid no pressure upon her, just as in other cases I have held aloof, and indeed have gained some ill-will at the hands of old friends because I would not, as her brother, and the head of the family, lay stress upon her. I read your letter to her, and she at first said she was ready to obey my wishes in the matter, and to go with you to Virginia if I bade her. I said that in such a matter it was her will and not mine which I wished to consult, and thus pressed into a corner, she owned that she would gladly go with you."
"Harry," the girl said, "for my tongue is not as yet used to your new title, under other circumstances I should have needed to be wooed and won like other girls. But seeing how strangely you are placed, and that you were about to start across the sea, to be absent perhaps for many years, I felt that it would not be worthy either of me or you were I to affect a maiden coyness and so to throw difficulties in your way. I feel the honor of the offer you have made me. That you should for so many years have been absent and seen the grand ladies of the court, and have yet thought of your little playfellow, shows that your heart is as true and good as I of old thought it to be, and I need feel no shame in acknowledging that I have ever thought of you with affection."
For the next few days there was much argument over the project of going to Virginia. Herbert, when he heard what had happened in London, joined his entreaties to those of Sir Henry, asserting that he had only consented to Lucy's going to so outlandish a place in the belief that there was no help for it, and that he did not think it fair for Harry to take her to such a life when he could stay comfortably at home. Sir Henry did not say much, but Harry could see how ardently he longed for him to remain. As for Lucy, she stood neutral, saying that assuredly she did not wish to go to Virginia, but that, upon the other hand, she should feel that her consent had been obtained under false pretenses, and that she had been defrauded of the enjoyment of a proper and regular courtship, did it prove that Harry might have come home and sought her hand in regular form. Harry's reluctance to remain arose principally from the fact that he had gained permission to do so by an act of personal service which he had done the king's great enemy. Had he been included in a general amnesty he would gladly have accepted it. However, his resolution gave way under the arguments of Herbert, who urged upon him that he had no right, on a mere point of punctilio, to leave his father in his old age, and to take Lucy from her country and friends to a life of hardship in the plantations of Virginia. At last he yielded. Then a difficulty arose with Lucy, who would fain have returned to Abingdon with her brother, and urged she should there have time given her to be married in regular fashion. This Harry would by no means consent to, and as both Sir Henry and Herbert saw no occasion for the delay, they were married a fortnight later at the Protestant church at Hamburg, Jacob, who was by this time perfectly restored to health, acting as his best man.
One of the first steps which Harry took after his return to Hamburg was to inquire about the gypsy maid who had done him such service. She was still singing at the drinking-house. Harry went down there in the daytime and gave one of the drawers a crown to tell her quietly that the Englishman she knew would fain see her, and would wait for her at a spot he named on the walk by the river bank, between ten and twelve the next day. Here, accompanied by Lucy, who, having heard of the service which the girl had rendered him, fully entered into his anxiety to befriend her, he awaited her the next day. She came punctual to the appointment, but in great fear that the old gypsy would discover her absence. Upon Harry telling her that Lucy, who was about to become his wife, would willingly take her to England and receive her as a companion until such time as some opportunity for furthering her way in life might appear, Zita accepted the proposal with tears of joy. She abhorred the life she was forced to lead, and it was only after many beatings and much ill-usage from the gypsies that she consented to it, and it made her life the harder, inasmuch as she knew that she had not been born to such a fate, but had been stolen as a child.
"What could have been their motive in carrying you away?" Lucy asked.
"I believe," the girl said, "from what they have told me, that I was taken in revenge. My father had charged one of the gypsies with theft, and the man having been hung, the others, to avenge themselves, carried me off."
"But why did you not, when you grew old enough, tell your story to the magistrates, and appeal to them for assistance?"
"Alas!" the girl said, "what proofs have I for my tale? Moreover, even were I believed, and taken from the gypsies, what was there for me to do, save to beg in the streets for charity?"
They now arranged with her the manner of her flight. She was afraid to meet them again lest her footsteps should be traced, for she was sure that the gypsies would carry her away to some other town if they had the least suspicion that she had made friends with any capable of taking her part, as the whole party lived in idleness upon the money she gained by singing. It was arranged, therefore, that the night before they were to depart Harry should appear in the singing hall, and should take his place near the door. She should let him know that she perceived him by passing her hand twice across her forehead. When the performance was over she should, instead of leaving as usual by the back way, slip down the steps, and mingle with those leaving the hall. Outside the door she would find Harry, who would take her to the hotel, where dresses would be provided for her. There she should stop the night, and go on board ship with them in the morning.
These arrangements were all carried out, and four days after the wedding of Harry and Lucy the party, with Zita, sailed for England. Had the tenantry on the Furness estate known of the home-coming of their young master and his bride, they would have given him a grand reception; but Harry and his father both agreed that this had better not be, for that it was as well to call no public attention to his return, even though he had received Cromwell's permission.
After all his adventures, Sir Harry Furness dwelt quietly and happily with his father. In the following years the English fleet fought many hard battles with the Dutch, and the Parliament, in order to obtain money, confiscated the property of most of those Cavaliers who had now returned under the Act of Amnesty. Steps were taken against Sir Henry Furness, but as he had taken no part in the troubles after the close of the first civil war, Cromwell, on receiving an application from him, peremptorily quashed the proceedings.
On April 20, 1653, Cromwell went down to the House with a body of troops, and expelled the Parliament, who were in the act of passing a bill for their own dissolution, and a new representation. He thus proved himself as tyrannous and despotic as any sovereign could have been. A new Parliament was summoned, but instead of its members being elected in accordance with the customs of England, they were selected and nominated by Cromwell himself. The history of England contains no instance of such a defiance of the constitutional rights of the people. But although he had grasped power arbitrarily and by force, Cromwell used it well and wisely, and many wise laws and great social reforms were passed by the Parliament under his orders. Still the fanatical party were in the majority in this body, and as Cromwell saw that these persons would push matters further than he wished, he made an arrangement with the minority, who resigned their seats, thereby leaving an insufficient number in the House to transact business. Cromwell accepted their resignation, and the Parliament then ceased to exist.
Four days later, on the 16th of December, Cromwell assumed the state and title of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. For the next five years he governed England wisely and well. The Parliament was assembled, but as its proceedings were not in accordance with his wishes, he dissolved it, and for the most part governed England by his own absolute will. That it was a strong will and a wise cannot be questioned, but that a rising, which originally began because the king would not yield to the absolute will of Parliament, should have ended in a despotism, in which the chief of the king's opponents should have ruled altogether without Parliaments, is strange indeed. It is singular to find that those who make most talk about the liberties of Englishmen should regard as their hero and champion the man who trod all the constitutional rights of Englishmen under foot. But if a despot, Cromwell was a wise and firm one, and his rule was greatly for the good of the country. Above all, he brought the name of England into the highest honor abroad, and made it respected throughout Europe. Would that among all Englishmen of the present day there existed the same feeling of patriotism, the same desire for the honor and credit of their country, as dwelt in the breast of Oliver Cromwell.
On August 30, 1658, Cromwell died, and his son Richard succeeded him. The Parliament and the army soon fell out, and the army, coming down in force, dissolved Parliament, and Richard Cromwell ceased at once to have any power. The army called together forty-two of the old members of the Long Parliament, of extreme republican views, but these had no sooner met than they broke into divisions, and England was wholly without a government. So matters went on for some time, until General Monk, with the army of the north, came up to London. He had for weeks been in communication with the king. For a time he was uncertain of the course he should take, but after awhile he found that the feeling of London was wholly averse to the Parliament, and so resolved to take the lead in a restoration. A Parliament was summoned, and upon the day after its assembling Monk presented to them a document from King Charles, promising to observe the constitution, granting full liberty of conscience, and an amnesty for past offenses. Parliament at once declared in favor of the ancient laws of the kingdom, the government to be by King, Lords and Commons; and on May 8, 1660, Charles II. was proclaimed king, and on the 30th entered London in triumph.
Sir Harry Furness sat in the Parliament which recalled the king, and in many subsequent ones. His father came to London to see the royal entry, and both were most kindly received by the king, who expressed a warm hope that he should often see them at court. This, however, was not to be. The court of King Charles offered no attractions to pure-minded and honorable men. Sir Henry came no more to London, but lived quietly and happily to the end of a long life at Furness Hall, rejoicing much over the happiness of his son, and in the society of his daughter-in-law and her children. Herbert Rippinghall sat in Parliament for Abingdon. Except when obliged by his duties as a member to be in London, Sir Harry Furness lived quietly at Furness Hall, taking much interest in country matters. Twenty-eight years later James II fled from England, and William of Orange mounted the throne. At this time Sir Harry Furness was sixty-one, and he lived many years to see the freedom and rights for which Englishmen had so hotly struggled and fought now enjoyed by them in all their fullness.
A few words as to the other personages of this story. Jacob, three years after Harry's return to England, married the Spanish girl Zita, and settled down in a pretty house called the Dower House, on the Furness property, which, together with a large farm attached to it, Sir Henry Furness settled upon him, as a token of his affection and gratitude to him for the faithful services he had rendered to his son.
William Long was made bailiff of the estate, and Mike remained the attached and faithful body-servant of Sir Harry, until he, ten years later, married the daughter and heiress of a tradesman in Abingdon, and became a leading citizen of that town.
Although Harry was not of a revengeful disposition, he rejoiced exceedingly when he heard, two or three months after the king's restoration, of the execution of that doubly-dyed traitor, the Earl of Argyll.