William Ainsworth.

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





Catesby was for some time lost in reflection.

I am fairly perplexed as to what course it will be best to pursue, he said. Dangers and difficulties beset us on every side. I am inclined to yield to Viviana's request, and proceed to Manchester.

That will be rushing into the very face of danger, observed Garnet.

And, therefore, may be the safest plan, replied Catesby. Our adversaries will scarcely suspect us of so desperate a step.

Perhaps you are in the right, my son, returned Garnet, after a moment's reflection. At all events, I bow to your judgment.

The plan is too much in accordance with my own wishes to meet with any opposition on my part, observed Viviana.

Will you accompany us, father? asked Catesby; or do you proceed to Gothurst?

I will go with you, my son. Viviana will need a protector. And, till I have seen her in some place of safety, I will not leave her.

Since we have come to this determination, rejoined Catesby, as soon as the needful preparations can be made, and Guy Fawkes has had some hours' repose, we will set out. Under cover of night we can travel with security; and, by using some exertion, may reach Ordsall Hall, whither, I presume, Viviana would choose to proceed, in the first instance, before daybreak.

I am well mounted, and so are my attendants, replied Garnet; and, by the provident care of Sir Everard Digby, each of them has a led horse with him.

That is well, said Catesby. And now, Viviana, may I entreat you to take my place for a short time by the couch of the sufferer. In a few hours everything shall be in readiness.

He then retired with Garnet, while Viviana proceeded to the adjoining chamber, where she found Guy Fawkes still slumbering tranquilly.

As the evening advanced, he awoke, and appeared much refreshed. While he was speaking, Garnet and Catesby approached his bedside, and he seemed overjoyed at the sight of the former. The subject of the journey being mentioned to him, he at once expressed his ready compliance with the arrangement, and only desired that the last rites of his church might be performed for him before he set out.

Garnet informed him that he had come for that very purpose; and as soon as they were left alone, he proceeded to the discharge of his priestly duties, confessed and absolved him, giving him the viaticum and the extreme unction. And, lastly, he judged it expedient to administer a powerful opiate, to lull the pain of his wound on the journey.

This done, he summoned Catesby, who, with two of the attendants, raised the couch on which the wounded man was stretched, and conveyed him to the litter. So well was this managed, that Fawkes sustained no injury, and little inconvenience, from the movement. Two strong country vehicles had been procured; the one containing the wounded man's litter, the other the shell, which had been hastily put together, to hold the remains of the unfortunate Sir William Radcliffe.

Viviana being placed in the saddle, and Catesby having liberally rewarded the cottagers who had afforded them shelter, the little cavalcade was put in motion. In this way they journeyed through the night; and shaping their course through Tarporley, Northwich, and Altringham, arrived at daybreak in the neighbourhood of Ordsall Hall.

CHAPTER XV.
THE ELIXIR

On beholding the well-remembered roof and gables of the old mansion peeping from out the grove of trees in which it was embosomed, Viviana's heart died away within her. The thought that her father, who had so recently quitted it in the full enjoyment of health, and of every worldly blessing, should be so soon brought back a corpse, was almost too agonizing for endurance. Reflecting, however, that this was no season for the indulgence of grief, but that she was called upon to act with firmness, she bore up resolutely against her emotion.

Arrived within a short distance of the Hall, Catesby caused the little train to halt under the shelter of the trees, while he rode forward to ascertain that they could safely approach it. As he drew near, everything proclaimed that the hand of the spoiler had been there. Crossing the drawbridge, he entered the court, which bore abundant marks of the devastation recently committed. Various articles of furniture, broken, burnt, or otherwise destroyed, were lying scattered about. The glass in the windows was shivered; the doors forced from their hinges; the stone-copings of the walls pushed off; the flower-beds trampled upon; the moat itself was in some places choked up with rubbish, while in others its surface was covered with floating pieces of timber.

Led by curiosity Catesby proceeded to the spot where the stables had stood. Nothing but a heap of blackened ruins met his gaze. Scarcely one stone was standing on another. The appearance of the place was so desolate and disheartening, that he turned away instantly. Leaving his horse in a shed, he entered the house. Here, again, he encountered fresh ravages. The oak-panels and skirting-boards were torn from the walls; the ceilings pulled down; and the floor lay inch-deep in broken plaster and dust. On ascending to the upper rooms, he found the same disorder. The banisters of the stairs were broken; the bedsteads destroyed; the roof partially untiled. Every room was thickly strewn with leaves torn from valuable books, with fragments of apparel, and other articles, which the searchers not being able to carry off had wantonly destroyed.

Having contemplated this scene of havoc for some time, with feelings of the bitterest indignation, Catesby descended to the lowest story; and, after searching ineffectually for the domestics, was about to depart, when, turning suddenly, he perceived a man watching him from an adjoining room. Catesby instantly called to him; but, seeing that the fellow disregarded his assurances, and was about to take to his heels, he drew his sword, and threatened him with severe punishment if he attempted to fly. Thus exhorted, the man who was no other than the younger Heydocke advanced towards him; and throwing himself at his feet, begged him in the most piteous terms to do him no injury.

I have already told you I am a friend, replied Catesby, sheathing his sword.

Ah! Mr. Catesby, is it you I behold? cried Martin Heydocke, whose fears had hitherto prevented him from noticing the features of the intruder. What brings your worship to this ill-fated house?

First let me know if there is any enemy about? replied Catesby.

None that I am aware of, rejoined Martin. Having ransacked the premises, and done all the mischief they could, as you perceive, the miscreants departed the day before yesterday, and I have seen nothing of them since, though I have been constantly on the watch. The only alarm I have had was that occasioned by your worship just now.

Are you alone here? demanded Catesby.

No, your worship, answered Martin. There are several of the servants concealed in a secret passage under the house. But they are so terrified by what has lately happened, that they never dare show themselves, except during the night-time.

I do not wonder at it, replied Catesby.

And now may I inquire whether your worship brings any tidings of Sir William Radcliffe and Mistress Viviana? rejoined Martin. I hope no ill has befallen them. My father, old Jerome Heydocke, set out to Holywell a few days ago, to apprise them of their danger, and I have not heard of them since.

Sir William Radcliffe is dead, replied Catesby. The villains have murdered him. Your father is a prisoner.

Alas! alas! cried the young man, bursting into tears; these are fearful times to live in. What will become of us all?

We must rise against the oppressor, replied Catesby, sternly. Bite the heel that tramples upon us.

We must, rejoined Martin. And if my poor arm could avail, it should not be slow to strike.

Manfully resolved! cried Catesby, who never lost an opportunity of gaining a proselyte. I will point out to you a way by which you may accomplish what you desire. But we will talk of this hereafter. Hoard up your vengeance till the fitting moment for action arrives.

He then proceeded to explain to the young man, who was greatly surprised by the intelligence, that Viviana was at hand, and that the body of Sir William had been brought thither for interment in the family vault at the Collegiate Church. Having ascertained that there was a chamber, which, having suffered less than the others, might serve for Viviana's accommodation, Catesby returned to the party.

A more melancholy cavalcade has been seldom seen than now approached the gates of Ordsall Hall. First rode Viviana, in an agony of tears, for her grief had by this time become absolutely uncontrollable, with Catesby on foot, leading her horse. Next came Garnet, greatly exhausted and depressed; his eyes cast dejectedly on the ground. Then came the litter, containing Guy Fawkes; and, lastly, the vehicle with the body of Sir William Radcliffe. On arriving at the gate, Viviana was met by two female servants, whom Martin Heydocke had summoned from their hiding-places; and, as soon as she had dismounted, she was supported, for she was scarcely able to walk unaided, to the chamber destined for her reception. This done, Catesby proceeded, with some anxiety, to superintend the removal of Fawkes, who was perfectly insensible. His wound had bled considerably during the journey; but the effusion had stopped when the faintness supervened. He was placed in one of the lower rooms till a sleeping-chamber could be prepared for him. The last task was to attend to the remains of the late unfortunate possessor of the mansion. By Catesby's directions a large oak table, once occupying the great hall, was removed to the Star Chamber, already described as the principal room of the house; and, being securely propped up, for, like the rest of the furniture, it had been much damaged by the spoilers, though, being of substantial material, it offered greater resistance to their efforts, the shell containing the body was placed upon it.

Better he should lie thus, exclaimed Catesby, when the melancholy office was completed, than live to witness the wreck around him. Fatal as are these occurrences, he added, pursuing the train of thought suggested by the scene, they are yet favourable to my purpose. The only person who could have prevented my union with Viviana Radcliffe her father lies there. Who would have thought when she rejected my proposal a few days ago, in this very room, how fortune would conspire and by what dark and inscrutable means to bring it about! Fallen as it is, this house is not yet fallen so low, but I can reinstate it. Its young mistress mine, her estates mine, for she is now inheritress of all her father's possessions, the utmost reach of my ambition were gained, and all but one object of my life for which I have dared so much, and struggled so long achieved!

What are you thinking of, my son? asked Garnet, who had watched the changing expression of his sombre countenance, "what are you thinking of? he said, tapping him on the shoulder.

Of that which is never absent from my thoughts, father the great design, replied Catesby; and of the means of its accomplishment, which this sad scene suggests.

I do not understand you, my son, rejoined the other.

Does not Radcliffe's blood cry aloud for vengeance? continued Catesby; and think you his child will be deaf to the cry? No, father, she will no longer tamely submit to wrongs that would steel the gentlest bosom, and make firm the feeblest arm, but will go hand and heart with us in our project. Viviana must be mine, he added, altering his tone, ours, I should say, for, if she is mine, all the vast possessions that have accrued to her by her father's death shall be devoted to the furtherance of the mighty enterprise.

I cannot think she will refuse you now, my son, replied Garnet.

She shall not refuse me, father, rejoined Catesby. The time is gone by for idle wooing.

I will be no party to forcible measures, my son, returned Garnet, gravely. As far as persuasion goes, I will lend you every assistance in my power, but nothing further.

Persuasion is all that will be required, I am assured, father," answered Catesby, hastily, perceiving he had committed himself too far. But let us now see what can be done for Guy Fawkes.

Would there was any hope of his life! exclaimed Garnet, sighing deeply. In losing him, we lose the bravest of our band.

We do, returned Catesby. And yet he has been subject to strange fancies of late.

He has been appalled, but never shaken, rejoined Garnet. Of all our number, you and he were the only two upon whom I could rely. When he is gone, you will stand alone.

Catesby made no reply, but led the way to the chamber where the wounded man lay. He had regained his consciousness, but was too feeble to speak. After such restoratives as were at hand had been administered, Catesby was about to order a room to be fitted up for him, when Viviana, whose anxiety for the sufferer had overcome her affliction, made her appearance. On learning Catesby's intentions, she insisted upon Fawkes being removed to the room allotted to her, which had not been dismantled like the rest. Seeing it was in vain to oppose her, Catesby assented, and the sufferer was accordingly carried thither, and placed within the bed a large antique piece of furniture, hung with faded damask curtains. The room was one of the oldest in the house, and at the further end stood a small closet, approached by an arched doorway, and fitted up with a hassock and crucifix, which, strange to say, had escaped the ravages of the searchers.

Placed within the couch, Guy Fawkes began to ramble as before about the conspiracy; and fearing his ravings might awaken the suspicion of the servants, Catesby would not suffer any of them to come near him, but arranged with Garnet to keep watch over him by turns. By degrees, he became more composed; and, after dozing a little, opened his eyes, and, looking round, inquired anxiously for his sword. At first, Catesby, who was alone with him at the time, hesitated in his answer, but seeing he appeared greatly disturbed, he showed him that his hat, gauntlets, and rapier were lying by the bedside.

I am content, replied the wounded man, smiling faintly; that sword has never left my side, waking or sleeping, for twenty years. Let me grasp it once more perhaps for the last time.

Catesby handed him the weapon. He looked at it for a few moments, and pressed the blade to his lips.

Farewell, old friend! he said, a tear gathering in his eye, farewell! Catesby, he added, as he resigned the weapon to him, I have one request to make. Let my sword be buried with me.

It shall, replied Catesby, in a voice suffocated by emotion, for the request touched him where his stern nature was most accessible: I will place it by you myself.

Thanks! exclaimed Fawkes. And soon after this, he again fell into a slumber.

His sleep endured for some hours; but his breathing grew fainter and fainter, so that at the last it was scarcely perceptible. A striking change had likewise taken place in his countenance, and these signs convinced Catesby he had not long to live. While he was watching him with great anxiety, Viviana appeared at the door of the chamber, and beckoned him out. Noiselessly obeying the summons, and following her along the gallery, he entered a room where he found Garnet.

I have called you to say that a remedy has been suggested to me by Martin Heydocke, observed Viviana, by which I trust Guy Fawkes may yet be saved.

How? asked Catesby, eagerly.

Doctor Dee, the warden of Manchester, of whom you must have heard, she continued, is said to possess an elixir of such virtue, that a few drops of it will snatch him who drinks them from the very jaws of death.

I should not have suspected you of so much credulity, Viviana, replied Catesby; but grant that Doctor Dee possesses this marvellous elixir which for my own part I doubt how are we to obtain it?

If you will repair to the college, and see him, I doubt not he will give it you, rejoined Viviana.

Catesby smiled incredulously.

I have a claim upon Doctor Dee, she persisted, which I have never enforced. I will now use it. Show him this token, she continued, detaching a small ornament from her neck; tell him you bring it from me, and I am sure he will comply with your request.

Your commands shall be obeyed, Viviana, replied Catesby; but I frankly confess I have no faith in the remedy.

It is at least worth the trial, my son, observed Garnet. Doctor Dee is a wonderful person, and has made many discoveries in medicine, as in other sciences, and this marvellous specific may, for aught we know, turn out no imposture.

If such is your opinion, replied Catesby, I will set out at once. If it is to be tried at all, it must be without delay. The poor sufferer is sinking fast.

Go then, cried Viviana, and heaven speed your mission! If you could prevail upon Doctor Dee to visit the wounded man in person, I should prefer it. Besides, I have another request to make of him but that will do hereafter. Lose not a moment now.

I will fly on the wings of the wind, replied Catesby. Heaven grant that when I return the object of our solicitude may not be past all human aid!

With this, he hurried to an out-building in which the horses were placed, and choosing the strongest and fleetest from out their number, mounted, and started at full gallop in the direction of Manchester; nor did he relax his speed until he reached the gates of the ancient College. Hanging the bridle of his smoking steed to a hook in the wall, he crossed the large quadrangular court; and finding the principal entrance open, passed the lofty room now used as the refectory, ascended the flight of stone stairs that conducts the modern visitor to the library, and was traversing the long galleries communicating with it, and now crowded with the learning of ages, bequeathed by the benevolence of his rival, Humphrey Chetham, when he encountered a grave but crafty-looking personage, in a loose brown robe and Polish cap, who angrily demanded his business.

Apologizing for the intrusion, Catesby was about to explain, when a small oak door near them was partly opened, and an authoritative voice, from within, exclaimed, Do not hinder him, Kelley. I know his business, and will see him.

The seer made no further remark, but pointing to the door, Catesby at once comprehended that it was Dee's voice he had heard; and, though somewhat startled by the intimation that he was expected, entered the room. He found the Doctor surrounded by his magical apparatus, and slowly returning to the chair he had just quitted.

Without looking behind him to see whom he addressed, Dee continued, I have just consulted my show-stone, and know why you are come hither. You bring a token from Viviana Radcliffe.

I do, replied Catesby, in increased astonishment. It is here.

It is needless to produce it, replied Dee, still keeping his back towards him. I have seen it already. Kelley, he continued, I am about to set out for Ordsall Hall immediately. You must accompany me.

Amazement! cried Catesby. Is the purpose of my visit then really known to your reverence?

You shall hear, rejoined Dee, facing him. You have a friend who is at the point of death, and having heard that I possess an elixir of wonderful efficacy, are come in quest of it.

True, replied Catesby, utterly confounded.

The name of that friend, pursued Dee, regarding him fixedly, is Guy Fawkes, your own, Robert Catesby.

I need no more to convince me, reverend sir, rejoined Catesby, trembling, in spite of himself, that all I have heard of your wonderful powers falls far short of the truth.

You are but just in time, replied Dee, bowing gravely, in acknowledgment of the compliment. Another hour, and it would have been too late.

Then you think he will live! cried Catesby, eagerly.

I am sure of it, replied Dee, provided

Provided what? interrupted Catesby. Is there aught I can do to ensure his recovery?

No, replied Dee, sternly. I am debating within myself whether it is worth while reviving him for a more dreadful fate.

What mean you, reverend sir? asked Catesby, a shade passing over his countenance.

You understand my meaning, and therefore need no explanation, replied Dee. Return to Ordsall Hall, and tell Miss Radcliffe I will be there in an hour. Bid her have no further fear. If the wounded man breathes when I arrive, I will undertake to cure him. Add further, that I know the other request she desires to make of me, and that it is granted before it is asked. Farewell, sir, for a short time.

On reaching the court, Catesby expanded his chest, shook his limbs, and exclaimed, At length, I breathe freely. The atmosphere of that infernal chamber smelt so horribly of sulphur that it almost stifled me. Well, if Doctor Dee has not dealings with the devil, man never had! However, if he cures Guy Fawkes, I care not whence the medicine comes from.