OLIVER CROMWELL AND GEORGE FOX
THE Lord Protector of England lay sleeping. In the small room adjoining the great bare bed-chamber of Whitehall, where each night Oliver Cromwell for a few hours tried to forget the plots that shook his uncertain seat and the quarrels and complaints that threatened to crush him, two soldiers talked together in low voices. It was seven o'clock, and already the castle was bustling with activity.
"It is the Protector's wont to be astir by now," muttered Harvey, who waited upon Cromwell. "I am loathe to disturb him. Tell me, Captain Drury, what manner of man is this Fox who clamors for justice before Cromwell himself? I have heard much of his works, since I have seen something of these Quakers."
"He has been in my charge only on this journey to Whitehall," answered Drury, "yet I feel as though he had known me since I was a child, so do those eyes of his penetrate the very soul. He was seized at Leicester for exhorting large meetings not to take in vain the name of the Lord, either in oaths or in any other way. It is reported that he plots against the government and incites to fresh rebellion; but I do not credit these reports, for ft more peaceful-appearing man I have never beheld."
At this moment a door, opposite the one into Cromwell's chamber, opened quietly, and a broad-shouldered man entered with dignity and decision. His hair, over a broad forehead, was parted, and hung in a thick mass to the shoulders. His clear, quick eyes swept over the two startled soldiers and then to the closed bedroom door.
"Does Oliver still sleep? My business is the Lord's business, and is imperative" he spoke in a low, clear voice.
Before Harvey could answer, a deep voice from within called loudly:
"Who calls in the Lord's name and is withheld?"
"It is thy friend, George Fox, who would speak with thee." And, before the soldiers could interfere, Fox had disappeared into the room. They stared at each other. "Would not Cromwell, who tolerated intimacies from none, eject this mere prisoner with even greater speed than he entered? They listened breathlessly, only to hear the voice of George Fox, "Peace be with this house" followed by a solemn hush. Then a low word of greeting from Cromwell, and Fox's voice again came to them in snatches unhurried, impressive in its very tones.
"In this thy hour of great responsibility, Oliver, keep thou above all in the fear of God, that thou mayest receive wisdom from Him, and order all things under thy hand to God's glory "
And after several minutes, during which they could not catch a word, the soldiers heard Cromwell's voice raised in argument:
"But you quarrel with our very ministers."
"Nay, friend," replied Fox, "they quarrel with me and with my friends, but we enter into conflict with no man. We proclaim to all that the power of the Holy Spirit is given to each direct, and none may use his gift for hire."
The attention of the two soldiers was at this moment distracted by the entry of a group of officers who demanded that the Protector be told that his treasurer awaited to consult him on matters of great importance. Harvey entered to deliver the message, and Cromwell turned to him slowly, as though awakening from another world. Before Harvey could speak
Cromwell strode to Fox, grasped him by the hand, and, gazing deep into those clear, untroubled eyes, his own harassed with care and brimming with emotion, murmured: "Come again to my house; for, if thou and I were but an hour of a day together, we should be nearer one to the other."
A long look, a handclasp as between brothers and Cromwell wheeled suddenly, crying out loudly: "Gentlemen, of what matters would ye speak with me?"
George Fox, with Captain Drury at his heels, moved through the crowd of soldiers, who stared curiously at the prisoner holding his head so high before the Lord Protector of England. A moment later they stared still more, when Cromwell interrupted an officer to say to Harvey: "Run quickly after yonder good man and bid him go free wheresoever he willeth."