In the early spring of 1648, Oliver fell ill. For a time there was great trouble and sorrow in his home, for it was thought that he would die. But at last he began to get better. "It hath pleased God to raise me out of a dangerous sickness," he writes. "I received in myself the sentence of death that I might learn to trust in Him that raiseth from the dead."
And now he had need of all his strength and energy again. Now it was time for the army and the Parliament to forget their quarrels and work together. For months the country had been full of unrest. The Royalists, it is true, had been beaten, the King was a prisoner. But there were still many in the land who were ready to fight for him. At last they broke out, and what is called the Second Civil War began.
In London a captain of train-bands was attacked by a mob of young men crying, "King Charles, King Charles." The men of Kent marched to Blackheath, in arms. But Fairfax routed them and drove them back to Rochester. They took Canterbury, however, and tried to take Dover. In Essex too there was fighting. But there again Fairfax beat them, and drove them into Colchester, which he began to besiege. A Scots army, it was said, was marching once more over the Border, this time to fight, not for the Parliament, but for the King. So a Parliamentarian officer, named Lambert, was sent to meet them. The Welsh too had risen, under some revolted Parliamentarians, and against them marched Cromwell. On all sides the fires of war had burst forth again.
With rapid marches Cromwell rode across England. With him were his own men—his Ironsides, and a company of men under Colonel Pride. Of Colonel Pride you will hear again.
Wales is a country full of mountains. Its people are kindly and friendly, easily pleased, easily made angry, "His Welsh blood is up" being a proverb. They are not English, these people, but are the descendants of the old Britons who, when the English came from over the sea, were driven from their homes by them. They were driven back, step by step, across the island, until they found a refuge among the mountains of the west. There, through hundreds of years, they lived safe from the conquering English, for these heathen foes dared not follow the old Britons into the lonely, barren, mountain passes.
There are four ranges of mountains in Wales—the Snowdon Mountains, the Berwyn Mountains, the Plinlimmon Mountains, and the Black Mountains. The little country is so full of them that there seems to be hardly room for anything else. Only along the valleys of the rivers there is a little cultivated land, where corn grows. But on the hillsides, hundreds and thousands of sheep graze, and, in Cardiganshire and Montgomeryshire, ponies too. The valleys are dotted with little agricultural towns, and the hillsides with sheep-farms, but in places one may wander for miles without seeing a human being, without hearing a sound except the bleat of sheep, the rush and tumble of a brook or the cry of wild birds.
Unlike the hill country of Scotland and the north of England, Wales has no lakes, or at least only one called Bala, in Merionethshire. But it has many mountain tarns and rushing streams, none of them, however, because of the nature of the land, being of much use for commerce. But, although the country is poor in agriculture, and in the north poor in commerce too, it is rich in beautiful scenery. Every year many visitors flock to Wales, drawn there by the loveliness of hill and valley. So wealth is brought in another way to the people.
In the south of the country, the part through which Cromwell was now marching, everything is different. Here there is no loneliness or quiet. It is a busy stir of mining and manufacture. For here lies one of the most famous coal fields of the world. Welsh coal has been found to be better than any other coal for boilers and engines, so now hardly anything else is used on board steamers. Since this has been found out, during the last forty years, the Welsh ports of Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport have grown quickly. Now Cardiff exports more coal than any port in all the world.
Besides this good ordinary coal there is another kind called anthracite found here. It is hard, heavy and bright, more like a stone than coal. It does not dirty one's fingers to touch it. It is not easy to light, and instead of burning with a flame it only glows and has no smoke, giving out great heat.
This smokeless coal is very useful for many manufactures, such as iron-smelting, lime-burning and hop-drying. But it has never been much used in houses, because of being so hard to light, and because it makes such a loud crackling.
It is cheaper to bring factories to coal than to carry coal to factories, so other great industries have risen in South Wales. The chief of these are copper- and iron-smelting. And although a good deal of iron is found in Wales, much of what is used is imported from Spain, as the Spanish ore is found to be much better, and therefore cheaper in the end. Of the copper, some comes from Cornwall, some from South America, and some is even brought all the way from Australia.
Wales is but a small country, yet no greater contrasts could anywhere be found. There are rugged hills, sunny valleys, busy ports, quiet seaside villages, noisy smoky manufacturing and mining towns, all within its borders. There, among the mountains, the air and sky are clear and blue; in the coal district the air is thick with smoke, and the sky lurid with flames.