A DARKENING PROSPECT
As the chestnuts in the park turned from green to gold, it must have been borne upon the King that the halcyon days of his sojourn at Hampton Court had gone with the summer, and that his prospects had become ominous and gloomy as never before. It was only too evident that his chance of coming to a settlement with the army or its leaders had practically vanished. The proceedings of Cromwell and Ireton were taking on a more and more equivocal complexion, and to even so naturally unsuspicious a nature as the King's, must have borne the appearance of a double game, all the more so from extravagant fulsomeness of their professions--Ireton had avowed that if only five men would join with him he would hazard his life and fortunes to redeem His Majesty from slavery to "that vile party" (the Presbyterians), and Cromwell, though he put it at ten men, repeatedly avowed the same thing.* These men, who were shortly to be the foremost in compassing the King's death, were protesting somewhat too much for plausibility.
Charles appears to have been sufficiently well informed about the debates in the Army Council at Putney--perhaps through the medium of Lady Fairfax, who was quite as loyal a subject as she was a wife--to have realized how dire had become the peril in which he stood from the ultra-revolutionary elements that threatened at any moment now to gain entire control of the army, in spite of anything that even Cromwell could do to hold them in check. And once that had taken place, the King's life would hardly be worth a month's, and perhaps not a day's purchase. For the extremist firebrands were frankly out for his blood, and it would only be a question of whether he would be lynched out of hand, or done to death after some mockery of a trial. The danger that his most loyal supporters had foreseen, when they had urged him to make his peace at any price demanded of him by the more conservatively minded generals, now loomed fearfully imminent. The King's palace seemed likely to prove his death trap.
And in spite of their professions, an ominous change was____________________