Imágenes de páginas
PDF
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic]

good was growing feebler. Financial embarrassments gathered round him. The sailors and soldiers went unpaid, even though Bremen had not been occupied and no English army was struggling—it can hardly be doubted— towards certain defeat in the heart of Germany.

The Parliament he contemplated never came into existence. Another great Royalist plot took up for a time all the energies of the Government. Oliver, with his usual clemency, contented himself with two executions, those of Dr. Hewit and Sir Henry Slingsby, whilst three more victims expiated their share in a project for raising a tumult in London. Once more affairs appeared to take a more favourable turn. The victory of the Dunes, in which the French army, aided by 6,000 English troops, overthrew the Spaniards, was won on June 4, whilst the surrender of Dunkirk on the 14th, together with the subsequent gains of the allies in Flanders put out of the question any landing of the exiled King in England with Spanish aid. The thought of bringing a new Parliament together might seem capable of realisation under these happy auspices, and preparations were made for its meeting in November.

\Vhether, if that Parliament, if ever it had met, would have supported the Protectorate more firmly than its predecessors, is a question which can never be answered. All that can be said is that the radical elements of the situation remained unchanged. Oliver had been deeply saddened by his failure, and his anxious thoughts told on his already enfeebled health. Death had been busy in his family circle. Young Rich, the newly-wedded husband of his daughter Frances, died in February.’ On August 6 his best-beloved daughter, Lady Claypole, passed away after a long and painful illness. Oliver’s sorrowing vigils by her bedside broke down what remained to him of bodily endurance. Now and again indeed he was able to take the air, and on one of these occasions, George Fox coming to talk with him on the persecutions of the Friends, marked the changed expression ofhis face. “ Before I came to him,” noted Fox, “as he rode at the head of his life-guard, I saw and felt a waft of death go forth against him; and when Icame to him he looked like a dead man.” On August 24 the Protector moved to \Vhitehall.

‘Her second marriage with Sir John Russell took place after the Restoration.

208 OLIVER CROMWELL.

The ague from which he suffered increased in violence. On Sunday, August 29, prayers were offered up in the churches for his recovery. The following day was the day of that great storm which fixed itselfin the memory of that generation. The devil, said the Cavaliers, had come to fetch home the soul of the murderer and tyrant. Around the bedside of the dying potentate more friendly eyes were keeping watch. “The doctors,” wrote Thurloe to Henry Cromwell far away in Ireland, “are yet hopeful that he may struggle through it, though their hopes are mingled with much fear.” Twen ty-four hours later the hopeful signs were still dwelt on. “ The Lord,” wrote Fleetwood, “is pleased to give some little reviving this evening; after a few slumbering sleeps, his pulse is better.” Scriptural words of warning and comfort were constantly on the sick man’s lips. _“It is a fearful thing,” he three times repeated, “to fall into the hands of the living God.” The anxious questioning was answered by his strong assurance of mercy. “Lord,’ he muttered, as the evening drew in, “though I am a miserable and wretched creature, I am in covenant with Thee through grace, and I may, I will come to Thee for Thy people. Thou hast made me, though very unworthy, a mean instrument to do them some good, and Thee service, and many of them have set too high a value upon me, though others wish, and would be glad of my death. Lord, however thou do dispose of me, continue and go on to do good for them. Give them consistency of judgment, one heart, and mutual love; and go on to deliver them, and with the work of reformation, and make the name of Christ glorious in the world. Teach those who look too much on Thy instruments to depend more upon Thyself. Pardon such as desire to trample upon the dust of a poor worm, for they are Thy people too. And pardon the folly of this short prayer; even for Jesus Christ’s sake. And give us a good night, ifit be Thy pleasure. Amen.”

Before long hope ceased to be possible. Oliver himself knew that his life was rapidly drawing to an end. “I would,” he said, “ be willing to be further serviceable to God and His people, but my work is done.” A few more prayers, a few more words, and on September 3, the anniversary of Dunbar and \Vorcester, as well as of the hopeful meeting of his first Parlia

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »