Grey Head takes Protector to task

The time was the period shortly after the forces of Right and Prudence had triumphed in the long battle against the Dissolution and Corruption.

With the King dead, the new Lord Protector had shunned appearing at Westminster, preferring in his impatience to meet instead with his Grand Council at Millbank and issue decrees against the baiting of bears, the hunting of foxes and dancing in public. But now he was to appear in the Chamber of the House of Commons, where all were assembled for Lord Protector's Question Time. Awaiting him sat the few, battered remnants of the Cavalier cause - hugely outnumbered by the victorious army of puritans and democrats. The chronicler, an eminent antiquarian, takes up the tale.

"Thus, to acclaime from his own side - attired in his spotted tie of office - he entered into the Chamber, taking his place next to Bulstrode Prescott and not far from Mr Secretary Strawe and Mr Chancellor Browne. And, though he loved not the bearpit, yet his face bore smiles, and he condescended to bow from the hippe most prettily.

Then called Madam Speaker Boothroyd for questioners, recommending to the Lord Protector that he first address himself to the petition made by Cynog Dafis, the Welsh Digger from Ceredigion, concerning the Earthe Summit in New York.

`Yea,' said the Protector, `for all thinges are made new, and we shall support the new forest convention, and younge people shall join Youth Task Forces and plant trees and not offend their neighbours with midnight carousal.'

Hardly had this vision of the New Jerusalem been conjured, than took place a strange occurrence that affrighted many. For who should appear but the old, dead king, his grey, hoary head tucked under his arm, and moaning thus. `Dissimulation! For had not the Protector told the House that no referendum would happen in Caledonia, save that the populace had seen the Bill beforehand? But now the Grand Council are saying that onlie the White Paper will be published. So is there not some kind of mistake?'

Those around him remarked that he spoke better with his head off than when it was attached. For now was the Lord Protector discomfited; maybe (he bethought himself) he had indeed fallen into error, though if t'were, t'were a small matter. `The position has always been clear!'

The grey head smiled, more animated than ever it had been in life, which amazed all that did see it. "The right honourable gentleman is both wriggling and waffling," it said. "So whye does he not just allow his error?"

Lusty Cavaliers were now shouting divers insultes such as "wriggler!" "more ale! and "come hither, wench!", resting their spurres on the benches and celebrating in such wise as had not been their lot this many a month. The sound of their riot drowned all other conversation.

The Lord Protector gazed upon this unseemliness with contempt, vowing (said many) to come hither less often, for all the good it did (the Lord was calling him to work upon the Nation's training and skills).

As evidence of the idleness of affairs in this place he must perforce gaze upon the dolorous countenance of William Cash, ancient and tedious knighte of Stone, who wished to offer anew the advice that he had previously given to the dead king, concerning the Europe conference in Amsterdamme.

The Lord Protector regarded him with a curious expression. `Let us hope'. quoth he, `that it does me more good than it did him'.

In the crook of an arm, the grey head smiled ruefully."

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