William Ainsworth.

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





As he spoke, he took the primer from the knight's hand, and laid it upon the altar.

This conduct is inexplicable, cried Garnet, angrily. You will answer for it to others, as well as to me.

I will answer for it to all, replied Guy Fawkes. Let Sir William Radcliffe declare before me, and before Heaven, that he approves the measure, and I am content he should take the oath.

I cannot belie my conscience by saying so, replied the knight, who appeared agitated by conflicting emotions.

Yet you have promised to join us, cried Garnet, reproachfully.

Better break that promise than a solemn oath, rejoined Guy Fawkes, sternly. Sir William Radcliffe, there are reasons why you should not join this conspiracy. Examine your inmost heart, and it will tell you what they are.

I understand you, replied the knight.

Get hence, cried Garnet, unable to control his indignation, or I will pronounce our Church's most terrible malediction against you.

I shall not shrink from it, father, rejoined Fawkes, humbly, but firmly, seeing I am acting rightly.

Undeceive yourself, then, at once, returned Garnet, and learn that you are thwarting our great and holy purpose.

On the contrary, replied Fawkes, I am promoting it, by preventing one from joining it who will endanger its success.

You are a traitor! cried Garnet, furiously.

A traitor! exclaimed Guy Fawkes, his eye blazing with fierce lustre, though his voice and demeanour were unaltered, "I, who have been warned thrice, twice by the dead, and lastly by a vision from heaven, yet still remain firm to my purpose, I, who have voluntarily embraced the most dangerous and difficult part of the enterprise, I, who would suffer the utmost extremity of torture, rather than utter a word that should reveal it, a traitor! No, father, I am none. If you think so, take this sword and at once put an end to your doubts.

There was something so irresistible in the manner of Guy Fawkes, that Garnet remained silent.

Do with me what you please, continued Fawkes; but do not compel Sir William Radcliffe to join the conspiracy. He will be fatal to it.

No one shall compel me to join it, replied the knight.

Perhaps it is better thus, returned Garnet, after a pause, during which he was buried in reflection. I will urge you no further, my son. But before you depart you must swear not to divulge what you have just learnt.

Willingly, replied the knight.

There is another person who must also take that oath, said Guy Fawkes, having accidentally become acquainted with as much as yourself.

And stepping out of the chapel, he immediately afterwards returned with Viviana.

You will now understand why I would not allow Sir William to join the conspiracy, he observed to Garnet.

I do, replied the latter, gloomily.

The oath administered, the knight and his daughter quitted the chapel, accompanied by Guy Fawkes.

Viviana was profuse in her expressions of gratitude, nor was her father less earnest in his acknowledgments.

A few hours after this, Sir William Radcliffe informed Sir Everard Digby that it was his intention to depart immediately, and, though the latter attempted to dissuade him by representing the danger to which he would be exposed, he continued inflexible. The announcement surprised both Catesby and Garnet, who were present when it was made, and added their entreaties to those of Digby but without effect. Catesby's proposal to serve as an escort was likewise refused by Sir William, who said he had no fears, and when questioned as to his destination, he returned an evasive answer. This sudden resolution of the knight coupled with his refusal to join the plot, alarmed the conspirators, and more than one expressed fears of treachery. Sir Everard Digby, however, was not of the number, but asserted that Radcliffe was a man of the highest honour, and he would answer for his secrecy with his life.

Will you answer for that of his daughter? demanded Tresham.

I will, replied Fawkes.

To put the matter beyond a doubt, observed Catesby, I will set out shortly after him, and follow him unobserved till he halts for the night, and ascertain whether he stops at any suspicious quarter.

Do so, my son, replied Garnet.

It is needless, observed Sir Everard Digby; but do as you please.

By this time, Radcliffe's horses being brought round by Heydocke, he and his daughter took a hasty leave of their friends. When they had been gone a few minutes, Catesby called for his steed; and, after exchanging a word or two with Garnet, rode after them. He had proceeded about a couple of miles along a cross-road leading to Nantwich, which he learnt from some cottagers was the route taken by the party before him, when he heard the tramp of a horse in the rear, and, turning at the sound, beheld Guy Fawkes. Drawing in the bridle, he halted till the latter came up, and angrily demanded on what errand he was bent.

My errand is the same as your own, replied Fawkes. I intend to follow Sir William Radcliffe, and, if need be, defend him.

Whatever Catesby's objections might be to this companionship, he did not think fit to declare them, and, though evidently much displeased, suffered Guy Fawkes to ride by his side without opposition.

Having gained the summit of the mountainous range extending from Malpas to Tottenhall, whence they beheld the party whose course they were tracking enter a narrow lane at the foot of the hill, Catesby, fearful of losing sight of them, set spurs to his steed. Guy Fawkes kept close beside him, and they did not slacken their pace until they reached the lane.

Having proceeded along it for a quarter of a mile, they were alarmed by the sudden report of fire-arms, followed by a loud shriek, which neither of them doubted was uttered by Viviana. Again dashing forward, on turning a corner of the road, they beheld the party surrounded by half-a-dozen troopers. Sir William Radcliffe had shot one of his assailants, and, assisted by Heydocke, was defending himself bravely against the others. With loud shouts, Catesby and Guy Fawkes galloped towards the scene of strife. But they were too late. A bullet pierced the knight's brain; and he no sooner fell, than, regardless of himself, the old steward flung away his sword, and threw himself, with the most piteous lamentations, on the body.

Viviana, meanwhile, had been compelled to dismount, and was in the hands of the troopers. On seeing her father's fate, her shrieks were so heart-piercing, that even her captors were moved to compassion. Fighting his way towards her, Catesby cut down one of the troopers, and snatching her from the grasp of the other, who was terrified by the furious assault, placed her on the saddle beside him, and striking spurs into his charger at the same moment, leapt the hedge, and made good his retreat.

This daring action, however, could not have been accomplished without the assistance of Guy Fawkes, who warded off with his rapier all the blows aimed at him and his lovely charge. While thus engaged, he received a severe cut on the head, which stretched him senseless and bleeding beneath his horse's feet.

CHAPTER XIV.
THE PACKET

On recovering from the effects of the wound he had received from the trooper, Guy Fawkes found himself stretched upon a small bed in a cottage, with Viviana and Catesby watching beside him. A thick fold of linen was bandaged round his head, and he was so faint from the great effusion of blood he had sustained, that, after gazing vacantly around him for a few minutes, and but imperfectly comprehending what he beheld, his eyes closed, and he relapsed into insensibility. Restoratives being applied, he revived in a short time, and, in answer to his inquiries how he came thither, was informed by Catesby that he had been left for dead by his assailants, who, contenting themselves with making the old steward prisoner, had ridden off in the direction of Chester.

What has become of Sir William Radcliffe? asked the wounded man in a feeble voice.

Catesby raised his finger to his lips, and Fawkes learnt the distressing nature of the question he had asked by the agonizing cry that burst from Viviana. Unable to control her grief, she withdrew, and Catesby then told him that the body of Sir William Radcliffe was lying in an adjoining cottage, whither it had been transported from the scene of the conflict; adding that it was Viviana's earnest desire that it should be conveyed to Manchester to the family vault in the Collegiate Church; but that he feared her wish could not be safely complied with. A messenger, however, had been despatched to Holt; and Sir Everard Digby, and Fathers Garnet and Oldcorne, were momentarily expected, when some course would be decided upon for the disposal of the unfortunate knight's remains.

Poor Viviana! groaned Fawkes. She has now no protector.

Rest easy on that score, rejoined Catesby. She shall never want one while I live.

The wounded man fixed his eyes, now blazing with red and unnatural light, inquiringly upon him, but he said nothing.

I know what you mean, continued Catesby; you think I shall wed her, and you are in the right. I shall. The marriage is essential to our enterprise; and the only obstacle to it is removed.

Fawkes attempted to reply, but his parched tongue refused its office. Catesby arose, and carefully raising his head, held a cup of water to his lips. The sufferer eagerly drained it, and would have asked for more; but seeing that the request would be refused, he left it unuttered.

Have you examined my wound? he said, after a pause.

Catesby answered in the affirmative.

And do you judge it mortal? continued Fawkes. Not that I have any fear of Death. I have looked him in the face too often for that. But I have somewhat on my mind which I would fain discharge before my earthly pilgrimage is ended.

Do not delay it, then, rejoined the other. Knowing I speak to a soldier, and a brave one, I do not hesitate to tell you your hours are numbered.

Heaven's will be done! exclaimed Fawkes, in a tone of resignation. I thought myself destined to be one of the chief instruments of the restoration of our holy religion. But I find I was mistaken. When Father Garnet arrives, I beseech you let me see him instantly. Or, if he should not come speedily, entreat Miss Radcliffe to grant me a few moments in private.

Why not unburthen yourself to me? returned Catesby, distrustfully. In your circumstances I should desire no better confessor than a brother soldier, no other crucifix than a sword-hilt.

Nor I, rejoined Fawkes. But this is no confession I am about to make. What I have to say relates to others, not to myself.

Indeed! exclaimed Catesby. Then there is the more reason why it should not be deferred. I hold it my duty to tell you that the fever of your wound will, in all probability, produce delirium. Make your communication while your senses remain to you. And whatever you enjoin shall be rigorously fulfilled.

Will you swear this? cried Fawkes, eagerly. But before an answer could be returned, he added, in an altered tone, No, no, it cannot be.

This is no time for anger, rejoined Catesby, sternly, or I should ask whether you doubt the assurance I have given you?

I doubt nothing but your compliance with my request, returned Fawkes. And oh! if you hope to be succoured at your hour of need, tell Miss Radcliffe I desire to speak with her.

The message will not need to be conveyed, said Viviana, who had noiselessly entered the room; she is here.

Guy Fawkes turned his gaze in the direction of the voice; and, notwithstanding his own deplorable condition, he was filled with concern at the change wrought in her appearance by the terrible shock she had undergone. Her countenance was as pale as death, her eyes, from which no tears would flow, as is ever the case with the deepest distress, were glassy and lustreless, her luxuriant hair hung in dishevelled masses over her shoulders, and her attire was soiled and disordered.

You desire to speak with me, she continued, advancing towards the couch of the wounded man.

It must be alone, he replied.

Viviana glanced at Catesby, who reluctantly arose, and closed the door after him. We are alone now, she said.

Water! water! gasped the sufferer, or I perish. His request being complied with, he continued in a low solemn voice, Viviana, you have lost the dearest friend you had on earth, and you will soon lose one who, if he had been spared, would have endeavoured, as far as he could, to repair the loss. I say not this to aggravate your distress, but to prove the sincerity of my regard. Let me conjure you, with my dying breath, not to wed Mr. Catesby.

Fear it not, replied Viviana. I would rather endure death than consent to do so.

Be upon your guard against him, then, continued Fawkes. When an object is to be gained, he suffers few scruples to stand in his way.

I am well aware of it, replied Viviana; and on the arrival of Sir Everard Digby, I shall place myself under his protection.

Should you be driven to extremity, said Fawkes, taking a small packet from the folds of his doublet, break open this; it will inform you what to do. Only promise me you will not have recourse to it till all other means have failed.

Viviana took the packet, and gave the required promise.

Conceal it about your person, and guard it carefully, continued Fawkes; for you know not when you may require it. And now, having cleared my conscience, I can die easily. Let me have your prayers.

Viviana knelt down by the bedside, and poured forth the most earnest supplications in his behalf.

Perhaps, she said, as she arose, and it is some consolation to think so, you may be saved by death from the commission of a great crime, which would for ever have excluded you from the joys of heaven.

Say rather, cried Guy Fawkes, whose brain began to wander, which would have secured them to me. Others will achieve it; but I shall have no share in their glory, or their reward.

Their reward will be perdition in this world and in the next, rejoined Viviana. I repeat, that though I deeply deplore your condition, I rejoice in your delivery from this sin. It is better far better to die thus, than by the hands of the common executioner.

What do I see? cried Guy Fawkes, trying to raise himself, and sinking back again instantly upon the pillow. Elizabeth Orton rises before me. She beckons me after her I come! I come!

Heaven pity him! cried Viviana. His senses have left him!

She leads me into a gloomy cavern, continued Fawkes, more wildly; but my eyes are like the wolf's, and can penetrate the darkness. It is filled with barrels of gunpowder. I see them ranged in tiers, one above another. Ah! I know where I am now. It is the vault beneath the Parliament-house. The King and his nobles are assembled in the hall above. Lend me a torch, that I may fire the train, and blow them into the air. Quick! quick! I have sworn their destruction, and will keep my oath. What matter if I perish with them? Give me the torch, I say, or it will be too late. Is the powder damp that it will not kindle? And see! the torch is expiring it is gone out! Distraction! to be baffled thus! Why do you stand and glare at me with your stony eyes? Who are those with you? Fiends! no! they are armed men. They seize me they drag me before a grave assemblage. What is that hideous engine? The rack! Bind me on it break every limb ye shall not force me to confess ha! ha! I laugh at your threats ha! ha!

Mother of mercy! release him from this torture! cried Viviana.

So! ye have condemned me, continued Fawkes, and will drag me to execution. Well, well, I am prepared. But what a host is assembled to see me! Ten thousand faces are turned towards me, and all with one abhorrent bloodthirsty expression. And what a scaffold! Get it done quickly, thou butcherly villain. The rope is twisted round my throat in serpent folds. It strangles me ah!

Horror! exclaimed Viviana. I can listen to this no longer. Help, Mr. Catesby, help!

The knife is at my breast it pierces my flesh my heart is torn forth I die! I die! And he uttered a dreadful groan.

What has happened? cried Catesby, rushing into the room. Is he dead?

I fear so, replied Viviana; and his end has been a fearful one.

No no, said Catesby; his pulse still beats but fiercely and feverishly. You had better not remain here longer, Miss Radcliffe. I will watch over him. All will soon be over.

Aware that she could be of no further use, Viviana cast a look of the deepest commiseration at the sufferer, and retired. The occupant of the cottage, an elderly female, had surrendered all the apartments of her tenement, except one small room, to her guests, and she was therefore undisturbed. The terrible event which had recently occurred, and the harrowing scene she had just witnessed, were too much for Viviana, and her anguish was so intense, that she began to fear her reason was deserting her. She stood still, gazed fearfully round, as if some secret danger environed her, clasped her hands to her temples, and found them burning like hot iron, and, then, alarmed at her own state, knelt down, prayed, and wept. Yes! she wept, for the first time, since her father's destruction, and the relief afforded by those scalding tears was inexpressible.

From this piteous state she was aroused by the tramp of horses at the door of the cottage, and the next moment Father Garnet presented himself.

How uncertain are human affairs! he said, after a sorrowful greeting had passed between them. I little thought, when we parted yesterday, we should meet again so soon, and under such afflicting circumstances.

It is the will of Heaven, father, replied Viviana, and we must not murmur at its decrees, but bear our chastening as we best may.

I am happy to find you in such a comfortable frame of mind, dear daughter. I feared the effect of the shock upon your feelings. But I am glad to find you bear up against it so well.

I am surprised at my own firmness, father, replied Viviana. But I have been schooled in affliction. I have no tie left to bind me to the world, and shall retire from it, not only without regret, but with eagerness.

Say not so, dear daughter, replied Garnet. You have, I trust, much happiness in store for you; and when the sharpness of your affliction is worn off, you will view your condition in a more cheering light.

Impossible! she cried, mournfully. Hope is wholly extinct in my breast. But I will not contest the point. Is not Sir Everard Digby with you?

He is not, daughter, replied Garnet, and I will explain to you wherefore. Soon after your departure yesterday, the mansion we occupied at Holt was attacked by a band of soldiers, headed by Miles Topcliffe, one of the most unrelenting of our persecutors; and though they were driven off with some loss, yet, as there was every reason to apprehend, they would return with fresh force, Sir Everard judged it prudent to retreat; and accordingly he and his friends, with all their attendants, except those he has sent with me, have departed for Buckinghamshire.

Where, then, is Father Oldcorne? inquired Viviana.

Alas! daughter, rejoined Garnet, I grieve to say he is a prisoner. Imprudently exposing himself during the attack, he was seized and carried off by Topcliffe and his myrmidons.

How true is the saying that misfortunes never come single! sighed Viviana. I seem bereft of all I hold dear.

Sir Everard has sent four of his trustiest servants with me, remarked Garnet. They are well armed, and will attend you wherever you choose to lead them. He has also furnished me with a sum of money for your use.

He is most kind and considerate, replied Viviana. And now, father," she faltered, there is one subject which it is necessary to speak upon; and, though I shrink from it, it must not be postponed.

I guess what you mean, daughter, said Garnet, sympathizingly; you allude to the interment of Sir William Radcliffe. Is the body here?

It is in an adjoining cottage, replied Viviana in a broken voice. I have already expressed my wish to Mr. Catesby to have it conveyed to Manchester, to our family vault.

I see not how that can be accomplished, dear daughter, replied Garnet; but I will confer with Mr. Catesby on the subject. Where is he?

In the next room, by the couch of Guy Fawkes, who is dying, said Viviana.

Dying! echoed Garnet, starting. I heard he was dangerously hurt, but did not suppose the wound would prove fatal. Here is another grievous blow to the good cause.

At this moment the door was opened by Catesby.

How is the sufferer? asked Garnet.

A slight change for the better appears to have taken place, answered Catesby. His fever has in some decree abated, and he has sunk into a gentle slumber.

Can he be removed with safety? inquired Garnet; for, I fear, if he remains here, he will fall into the hands of Topcliffe and his crew, who are scouring the country in every direction. And he recapitulated all he had just stated to Viviana.