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(11) Charles : i.e., Charles I., who ascended the throne of England on the death of his father in 1625, and was beheaded in 1649. (17) Lord High Protector: Oliver Cromwell, who was the leading spirit during the struggle between Charles I. and the parliament, was made chief ruler of England under this title in 1653, and died in 1658. During this period the government of England was called a connionwealth” (republic), but Cromwell was absolute king in everything but naine.
1. The young people soon became acquainted; for boys, whether the sons of monarchs or of peasants, all like play, and are pleased with one another's society. What games they diverted themselves with, I can not tell. Perhaps they played at ball, perhaps at blindman's buff, perhaps at leapfrog.
2. Meanwhile King James and his nobles were feasting with Sir Oliver in the great hall. The king sat in a gilded chair, under a canopy, at the head of a long table. Whenever any of the company addressed him, it was with the deepest reverence.
If the attendants offered him wine or the various delicacies of the festival, it was upon their bended knees.
3. But fate had ordained that good King James
should not finish his dinner in peace. On a sudden there arose a terrible uproar in the room where the children were at play. Angry shouts and shrill cries of alarm were mixed up together; while the voices of elder persons were likewise heard, trying to restore order among the children. The king and everybody else at table looked aghast.
4. “Mercy on us!” muttered Sir Oliver; "that graceless nephew of mine is in some mischief or other.” Getting up from table, he ran to see what was the matter, followed by many of the guests, and the king among them. They all crowded to the door of the play-room.
5. On looking in, they beheld the little Prince Charles, with his rich dress all torn and covered with the dust of the floor. His royal blood was streaming from his nose in great abundance. He gazed at Noll with a mixture of rage and affright, and at the same time a puzzled expression, as if he could not understand how any mortal boy should dare to give him a beating As for Noll, there stood his sturdy little figure, bold as a lion, looking as if he were ready to fight, not only the prince, but king and kingdom too.
6. “You little villain!” cried his uncle. What have you been about? Down on your knees, this instant, and ask the prince's pardon. How dare you lay your hands on the king's majesty's royal son ?”
“He struck me first,” grumbled the valiant little Noll, "and I've only given him his due.”
7. Sir Oliver and the guests lifted up their hands in astonishment and horror. No punishment seemed severe enough for this wicked little varlet, who had dared to resent a blow from the king's own son. Some of the courtiers were of opinion that Noll should be sent prisoner to the Tower of London, and brought to trial for high treason. Others, in their zeal, were about to chastise the boy in the royal presence.
8. But King James, who sometimes showed a good deal of sagacity, ordered them to desist. “Thou art a bold boy,” said he, looking fixedly at little Noll; “and, if thou live to be a man, my son Charlie would do wisely to be friends with thee.”—“I never will!” cried the little prince, stamping his foot.
9. “Peace, Charlie, peace!” said the king; and then addressing Sir Oliver and the attendants, “Harm not the urchin; for he has taught my son a good lesson, if heaven do but give him grace to profit by it. Hereafter, should he be tempted to tyrannize over the stubborn race of Englishmen, let him remember little Noll Cromwell and his own bloody nose."
10. So the king finished his dinner and departed; and for many a long year the childish quarrel between Prince Charles and Noll Cromwell was forgotten. But when old King James was dead, and Charles sat upon his throne, he seemed to forget that he was but a man. He wished to have the property and lives of the people of England entirely at his own disposal. But the Puritans, and all who loved liberty, rose against him, and beat him in many battles.
11. Throughout this war between the king and nobles on one side and the people of England on the other, there was a famous leader, who did more to ruin the royal authority than all the rest. The contest seemed like a wrestling match between King Charles and this strong man.
And the king was overthrown. 12. When the discrowned monarch was brought to trial, that warlike leader sat in the judgment hall. Many judges were present besides himself; but he alone had the power to save King Charles, or to doom him to the scaffold. After sentence was pronounced, this victorious general was entreated by his own children, on their knees, to rescue his majesty from death.
13. “No!” said he sternly. “Better that one man should perish than that the whole country should be ruined for his sake. It is resolved that he shall die!”
14. When Charles, no longer a king, was led to the scaffold, his great enemy stood at a window of the royal palace of Whitehall. He beheld the poor victim of pride, and an evil education, and misused power, as he laid his head upon the block. He looked on with a steadfast gaze while the executioner lifted the fatal ax and smote off that anointed head at a single blow.
15. At night, when the body of Charles was laid in the coffin, in a gloomy chamber, the general entered, lighting himself with a torch. Its gleam showed that he was now growing old; his visage was scarred with battle-marks; his brow was wrinkled with care. Probably there was not a single trait, either of aspect or
manner, that belonged to the little Noll who had battled so stoutly with Prince Charles. Yet this was he!
16. He lifted the coffin lid, and caused the light of his torch to fall upon the dead monarch's face. Then his mind went back over all the marvelous events that had brought the hereditary King of England to this dishonored coffin, and had raised himself, a humble individual, to the possession of kingly power.
17. Why was it that this great king fell, and that humble Oliver Cromwell had been raised to the august station of “Lord High Protector” of England ? King Charles had fallen, because, in his manhood, as when a child, he disdained to feel that every human creature was his brother. He deemed himself a superior being, and fancied that his subjects were created only for a king to rule over. And Cromwell rose, because, in spite of his many faults, he mainly fought for the rights and freedom of his fellow-men.
HEADS FOR COMPOSITION.
I. THE PRINCE AND NOLL AT PLAY: the terrible uproar.
-appearance of Prince Charles — of Noll — indignation of the uncle — Noll's reply.
III. FEELINGS OF THE SPECTATORS: what Sir Oliver and the courtiers thought — sensible verdict of the king - what he said to Noll — the prince's anger - the king's remark on the “good lesson."