William Ainsworth.

Guy Fawkes: or, The Gunpowder Treason: An Historical Romance





It is well, returned the old man, bowing respectfully. Heaven shield us from further misfortune!

Humphrey Chetham having assisted Viviana into the saddle, and the rest of the party having mounted, they took the road to Chester, while Heydocke returned to the Hall.

CHAPTER XI.
THE PILGRIMAGE TO ST. WINIFRED'S WELL

Early on the following morning, the party, who had ridden hard, and had paused only for a short time at Knutsford to rest their steeds, approached the ancient and picturesque city of Chester. Skirting its high, and then partly fortified walls, above which appeared the massive tower of the venerable cathedral, they passed through the east-gate, and proceeding along the street deriving its name from that entrance, were about to halt before the door of a large hostel, called the Saint Werburgh's Abbey, when, to their great surprise, they perceived Catesby riding towards them.

I thought I could not be mistaken, cried the latter, as he drew near and saluted Viviana. I was about to set out for Manchester with a despatch to you from your father, Miss Radcliffe, when this most unexpected and fortunate encounter spares me the journey. But may I ask why I see you here, and thus attended? he added, glancing uneasily at Humphrey Chetham.

A few words from Father Oldcorne explained all. Catesby affected to bend his brow, and appear concerned at the relation. But he could scarcely repress his satisfaction.

Sir William Radcliffe must join us now, he whispered to the priest.

He must he shall, replied Oldcorne, in the same tone.

Your father wishes you to join him at Holt, Miss Radcliffe, remarked Catesby, turning to her, whence the pilgrimage starts to-morrow for Saint Winifred's Well. There are already nearly thirty devout persons assembled.

Indeed! replied Viviana. May I inquire their names.

Sir Everard and Lady Digby, replied Catesby; the Lady Anne Vaux and her sister, Mrs. Brooksby; Mr. Ambrose Rookwood and his wife, the two Winters, Tresham, Wright, Fathers Garnet and Fisher, and many others, in all probability unknown to you. The procession started ten days ago from Gothurst, in Buckinghamshire, Sir Everard Digby's residence, and proceeded from thence by slow stages to Norbrook and Haddington, at each of which houses it halted for some days. Yesterday, it reached Holt, and starts, as I have just told you, to-morrow for Holywell. If you are so disposed, you will be able to attend it.

I will gladly do so, replied Viviana. And since I find it is not necessary to hurry forward, I will rest myself for a short time here.

So saying, she dismounted, and the whole party entered the hostel. Viviana withdrew to seek a short repose, and glance over her father's letter, while Catesby, Guy Fawkes, and Oldcorne, were engaged in deep consultation. Humphrey Chetham, perceiving that his attendance was no further required, and that he was an object of suspicion and dislike to Catesby, for whom he also entertained a similar aversion, prepared to return.

And when Viviana made her appearance, he advanced to bid her farewell.

I can be of no further service to you, Viviana, he said, in a mournful tone; and as my presence might be as unwelcome to your father, as it seems to be to others of your friends, I will now take my leave.

Farewell, Mr. Chetham, she replied. I will not attempt to oppose your departure; for, much as I grieve to lose you and that I do so these tears will testify, I feel that it is for the best. I owe you much more far more than I can ever repay. It would be unworthy in me, and unfair to you, to say that I do not, and shall not ever feel the deepest interest in you; that, next to my father, there is no one whom I regard nay, whom I love so much.

Love! Viviana? echoed the young merchant, trembling.

Love, Mr. Chetham, she continued, turning very pale; since you compel me to repeat the word. I avow it boldly, because and her voice faltered, "I would not have you suppose me ungrateful, and because I never can be yours.

I will not attempt to dissuade you from the fatal determination you have formed of burying your charms in a cloister, rejoined Humphrey Chetham. But, oh! if you do love me, why condemn yourself why condemn me to hopeless misery?

I will tell you why, replied Viviana. Because you are not of my faith; and because I never will wed a heretic.

I am answered, replied the young merchant, sadly.

Mr. Chetham, interposed Oldcorne, who had approached them unperceived; it is in your power to change Viviana's determination.

How? asked the young merchant, starting.

By being reconciled to the Church of Rome.

Then it will remain unaltered, replied Chetham, firmly.

And, if Mr. Chetham would consent to this proposal, I would not," said Viviana. Farewell, she added, extending her hand to him, which he pressed to his lips. Do not let us prolong an interview so painful to us both. The best wish I can desire for you is, that we may never meet again.

Without another word, and without hazarding a look at the object of his affections, Chetham rushed out of the room, and mounting his horse, rode off in the direction of Manchester.

Daughter, observed Oldcorne, as soon as he was gone, I cannot too highly approve of your conduct, or too warmly applaud the mastery you display over your feelings. But and he hesitated.

But what, father? cried Viviana, eagerly. Do you think I have done wrong in dismissing him?

By no means, dear daughter, replied the priest. You have acted most discreetly. But you will forgive me if I urge you nay, implore you not to take the veil; but rather to bestow your hand upon some Catholic gentleman

Such as Mr. Catesby, interrupted Viviana, glancing in the direction of the individual she mentioned, who was watching them narrowly from the further end of the room.

Ay, Mr. Catesby, repeated Oldcorne, affecting not to notice the scornful emphasis laid on the name. None more fitting could be found, nor more worthy of you. Our Church has not a more zealous servant and upholder; and he will be at once a father and a husband to you. Such a union would be highly profitable to our religion. And, though it is well for those whose hearts are burthened with affliction, and who are unable to render any active service to their faith, to retire from the world, it behoves every sister of the Romish Church to support it at a juncture like the present, at any sacrifice of personal feeling.

Urge me no more, father, replied Viviana, firmly. I will make every sacrifice for my religion, consistent with principle and feeling. But I will not make this; neither am I required to make it. And I beg you will entreat Mr. Catesby to desist from further importunity.

Oldcorne bowed and retired. Nor was another syllable exchanged between them prior to their departure.

Crossing the old bridge over the Dee, then defended at each extremity by a gate and tower, the party took the road to Holt, where they arrived in about an hour. The recent conversation had thrown a restraint over them, which was not removed during the journey. Habitually taciturn, as has already been remarked, Guy Fawkes seemed gloomier and more thoughtful than ever; and though he rode by the side of Viviana, he did not volunteer a remark, and scarcely appeared conscious of her presence. Catesby and Oldcorne kept aloof, and it was not until they came in sight of the little town which formed their destination that the former galloped forward, and striking into the path on the right, begged Viviana to follow him. A turn in the road shortly afterwards showed them a large mansion screened by a grove of beech-trees.

That is the house to which we are going, observed Catesby.

And as he spoke, they approached a lodge, the gates of which being opened by an attendant, admitted them to the avenue.

Viviana's heart throbbed with delight at the anticipated meeting with her father; but she could not repress a feeling of anxiety at the distressing intelligence she had to impart to him. As she drew near the house she perceived him walking beneath the shade of the trees with two other persons; and quickening her pace, sprang from her steed, and almost before he was aware of it was in his arms.

Why do I see you here so unexpectedly, my dear child? cried Sir William Radcliffe, as soon as he had recovered from the surprise which her sudden appearance occasioned him. Mr. Catesby only left this morning, charged with a letter entreating you to set out without delay, and now I behold you. What has happened?

Viviana then recounted the occurrences of the last few days.

It is as I feared, replied Sir William, in a desponding tone. Our oppressors will never cease till they drive us to desperation!

They will not! rejoined a voice behind him. Well may we exclaim with the prophet 'How long, O Lord, shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? Shall I cry out to thee suffering violence, and thou wilt not save? Why hast thou showed me iniquity and grievance, to see rapine and injustice before me? Why lookest thou upon them that do unjust things, and holdest thy peace when the wicked devoureth the man that is more just than himself?'"

Viviana looked in the direction of the speaker and beheld a man in a priestly garb, whose countenance struck her forcibly. He was rather under the middle height, of a slight spare figure, and in age might be about fifty. His features, which in his youth must have been pleasing, if not handsome, and which were still regular, were pale and emaciated; but his eye was dark, and of unusual brilliancy. A single glance at this person satisfied her it was Father Garnet, the provincial of the English Jesuits; nor was she mistaken in her supposition.

Of this remarkable person, so intimately connected with the main events of the history about to be related, it may be proper to offer some preliminary account. Born at Nottingham in 1554, in the reign of Queen Mary, and of obscure parentage, Henry Garnet was originally destined to the Protestant Church, and educated, with a view to taking orders, at Winchester school, whence it was intended he should be removed in due course to Oxford. But this design was never carried into effect. Influenced by motives, into which it is now scarcely worth while inquiring, and which have been contested by writers on both sides of the question, Garnet proceeded from Winchester to London, where he engaged himself as corrector of the press to a printer of law-books, named Tottel, in which capacity he became acquainted with Sir Edward Coke and Chief Justice Popham, one of whom was afterwards to be the leading counsel against him, and the other his judge. After continuing in this employment for two years, during which he had meditated a change in his religion, he went abroad, and travelling first to Madrid, and then to Rome, saw enough of the Catholic priesthood to confirm his resolution, and in 1575 he assumed the habit of a Jesuit. Pursuing his studies with the utmost zeal and ardour at the Jesuits' College, under the celebrated Bellarmine, and the no less celebrated Clavius, he made such progress, that upon the indisposition of the latter, he was able to fill the mathematical chair. Nor was he less skilled in philosophy, metaphysics, and divinity; and his knowledge of Hebrew was so profound that he taught it publicly in the Roman schools.

To an enthusiastic zeal in the cause of the religion he had espoused, Garnet added great powers of persuasion and eloquence, a combination of qualities well fitting him for the office of a missionary priest; and undismayed by the dangers he would have to encounter, and eager to propagate his doctrines, he solicited to be sent on this errand to his own country. At the instance of Father Persons, he received an appointment to the mission in 1586, and he secretly landed in England in the same year. Braving every danger, and shrinking from no labour, he sought on all hands to make proselytes to the ancient faith, and to sustain the wavering courage of its professors. Two years afterwards, on the imprisonment of the Superior of the Jesuits, being raised to that important post, he was enabled to extend his sphere of action; and redoubling his exertions in consequence, he so well discharged his duties, that it was mainly owing to him that the Catholic party was kept together during the fierce persecutions of the latter end of Elizabeth's reign.

Compelled to personate various characters, as he travelled from place to place, Garnet had acquired a remarkable facility for disguise; and such was his address and courage, that he not unfrequently imposed upon the very officers sent in pursuit of him. Up to the period of Elizabeth's demise, he had escaped arrest; and, though involved in the treasonable intrigue with the king of Spain, and other conspiracies, he procured a general pardon under the great seal. His office and profession naturally brought him into contact with the chief Catholic families throughout the kingdom; and he maintained an active correspondence with many of them, by means of his various agents and emissaries. The great object of his life being the restoration of the fallen religion, to accomplish this, as he conceived, great and desirable end, he was prepared to adopt any means, however violent or obnoxious. When, under the seal of confession, Catesby revealed to him his dark designs, so far from discouraging him, all he counselled was caution. Having tested the disposition of the wealthier Romanists to rise against their oppressors, and finding a general insurrection, as has before been stated, impracticable, he gave every encouragement and assistance to the conspiracy forming among the more desperate and discontented of the party. At his instigation, the present pilgrimage to Saint Winifred's Well was undertaken, in the hope that, when so large a body of the Catholics were collected together, some additional aid to the project might be obtained.

One of the most mysterious and inexplicable portions of Garnet's history is that relating to Anne Vaux. This lady, the daughter of Lord Vaux of Harrowden, a rigid Catholic nobleman, and one of Garnet's earliest patrons and friends, on the death of her father, in 1595, attached herself to his fortunes, accompanied him in all his missions, shared all his privations and dangers, and, regardless of calumny or reproach, devoted herself entirely to his service. What is not less singular, her sister, who had married a Catholic gentleman named Brooksby, became his equally zealous attendant. Their enthusiasm produced a similar effect on Mr. Brooksby; and wherever Garnet went, all three accompanied him.

By his side, on the present occasion, stood Sir Everard Digby. Accounted one of the handsomest, most accomplished, and best-informed men of his time, Sir Everard, at the period of this history only twenty-four, had married, when scarcely sixteen, Maria, heiress of the ancient and honourable family of Mulshoe, with whom he obtained a large fortune, and the magnificent estate of Gothurst, or Gaythurst, in Buckinghamshire. Knighted by James the First at Belvoir Castle, on his way from Scotland to London, Digby, who had once formed one of the most brilliant ornaments of the court, had of late in a great degree retired from it. Notwithstanding, writes Father Greenway, that he had dwelt much in the Queen's court, and was in the way of obtaining honours and distinction by his graceful manners and rare parts, he chose rather to bear the cross with the persecuted Catholics, et vivere abjectus in domo Domini, than to sail through the pleasures of a palace and the prosperities of the world, to the shipwreck of his conscience and the destruction of his soul. Having only when he completed his minority professed the Catholic religion, he became deeply concerned at its fallen state, and his whole thoughts were bent upon its restoration. This change in feeling was occasioned chiefly, if not altogether, by Garnet, by whom his conversion had been accomplished.

Sir Everard Digby was richly attired in a black velvet doublet, with sleeves slashed with white satin, and wore a short mantle of the same material, similarly lined. He had the enormous trunk hose, heretofore mentioned as the distinguishing peculiarity of the costume of the period, and wore black velvet shoes, ornamented with white roses. An ample ruff encircled his throat. His hat was steeple-crowned, and somewhat broader in the leaf than was ordinarily worn, and shaded with a plume of black feathers. His hair was raven black, and he wore a pointed beard, and moustaches. His figure was tall and stately, and his features grave and finely formed.

By this time the group had been joined by the others, and a friendly greeting took place. Guy Fawkes was presented by Catesby to Sir William Radcliffe and Sir Everard Digby. To Garnet he required no introduction, and Father Oldcorne was known to all. After a little further conversation, the party adjourned to the house, which belonged to a Welsh Catholic gentleman, named Griffiths, who, though absent at the time, had surrendered it to the use of Sir Everard Digby and his friends.

On their entrance, Viviana was introduced by her father to Lady Digby, who presided as hostess, and welcomed her with great cordiality. She was then conducted to her own room, where she was speedily joined by Sir William; and they remained closeted together till summoned to the principal meal of the day. At the table, which was most hospitably served, Viviana found, in addition to her former companions, a large assemblage, to most of whom she was a stranger, consisting of Anne Vaux, Mr. Brooksby and his wife, Ambrose Rookwood, two brothers named Winter, two Wrights, Francis Tresham, persons of whom it will be necessary to make particular mention hereafter, and several others, in all amounting to thirty.

The meal over, the company dispersed, and Viviana and her father, passing through an open window, wandered forth upon a beautiful and spreading lawn, and thence under the shade of the beech-trees. They had not been long here, anxiously conferring on recent events, when they perceived Garnet and Catesby approaching.

Father, dear father! cried Viviana, hastily, I was about to warn you; but I have not time to do so now. Some dark and dangerous plot is in agitation to restore our religion. Mr. Catesby is anxious to league you with it. Do not do not yield to his solicitations!

Fear nothing on that score, Viviana, replied Sir William, I have already perplexities enow, without adding to them.

I will leave you, then, she replied. And, as soon as the others came up, she made some excuse for withdrawing, and returned to the house. The window of her chamber commanded the avenue, and from it she watched the group. They remained for a long time pacing up and down, in earnest conversation. By and by, they were joined by Oldcorne and Fawkes. Then came a third party, consisting of the Winters and Wrights; and, lastly, Sir Everard Digby and Tresham swelled the list.

The assemblage was then harangued by Catesby, and the most profound attention paid to his address. Viviana kept her eye fixed upon her father's countenance, and from its changing expression inferred what effect the speech produced upon him. At its conclusion, the assemblage separated in little groups; and she perceived, with great uneasiness, that Father Garnet passed his arm through that of her father, and led him away. Some time elapsed, and neither of them re-appeared.

My warning was in vain; he has joined them! she exclaimed.

No, Viviana! cried her father's voice behind her. I have not joined them. Nor shall I do so.

Heaven be praised! she exclaimed, flinging her arms around his neck.

Neither of them were aware that they were overheard by Garnet, who had noiselessly followed Sir William into the room, and muttered to himself, For all this, he shall join the plot, and she shall wed Catesby.

He then coughed slightly, to announce his presence; and, apologizing to Viviana for the intrusion, told her he came to confess her previously to the celebration of mass, which would take place that evening, in a small chapel in the house. Wholly obedient to the command of her spiritual advisers, Viviana instantly signified her assent; and, her father having withdrawn, she laid open the inmost secrets of her heart to the Jesuit. Severely reprobating her love for a heretic, before he would give her absolution, Garnet enjoined her, as a penance, to walk barefoot to the holy well on the morrow, and to make a costly offering at the shrine of the saint. Compliance being promised to his injunction, he pronounced the absolution, and departed.

Soon after this, mass was celebrated by Garnet, and the sacrament administered to the assemblage.

An hour before daybreak, the party again assembled in the chapel, where matins were performed; after which, the female devotees, who were clothed in snow-white woollen robes, with wide sleeves and hoods, and having large black crosses woven in front, retired for a short time, and re-appeared, with their feet bared, and hair unbound. Each had a large rosary attached to the cord that bound her waist.