William Ainsworth.

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





Then it will be in vain, I am sure, to endeavour to induce her to accompany you till her father is interred, observed Garnet.

True, replied Catesby; I had forgotten that. We shall meet the hoary juggler at the church, and an opportunity may occur for executing my purpose there. Unless he will swear at the altar not to betray us, he shall die by my hand.

An oath in such a case would be no security, my son, returned Garnet; and his slaughter and that of his companion would be equally inefficacious, and greatly prejudicial to our cause. If he means to betray us, he has done so already. But I have little apprehension. I do not think him well affected towards the government, and I cannot but think, if you had not thus grossly insulted him, he would have favoured rather than opposed our design. If he was aware of the plot, and adverse to it, what need was there to exert his skill in behalf of our dying friend, who, but for him, would have been, ere this, a lump of lifeless clay? No, no, my son. You are far too hasty in your judgment. Nor am I less surprised at your injustice. Overlooking the great benefit conferred upon us, because some trifling scheme has been thwarted, you would requite our benefactor by cutting his throat.

Your rebuke is just, father, returned Catesby. I have acted heedlessly. But I will endeavour to repair my error.

Enough, my son, replied Garnet. It will be advisable to go well armed to the church to-night, for fear of a surprise. But I shall not absent myself on that account.

Nor I, rejoined Catesby.

The conversation was then carried on, on other topics, when they were interrupted by the entrance of Viviana, who came to consult them about the funeral. It was arranged since better could not be found that the vehicle used to bring thither the body of the unfortunate knight should transport it to its last home. No persuasions of Garnet could induce Viviana to relinquish the idea of attending the ceremony; and Catesby, though he affected the contrary, secretly rejoiced at her determination.

Night came, and all was in readiness. Viviana to the last indulged a hope that Humphrey Chetham would arrive in time to attend the funeral with her; but, as he did not appear, she concluded he had received Doctor Dee's warning. Martin Heydocke was left in charge of Guy Fawkes, who still continued to slumber deeply, and, when within half an hour of the appointed time, the train set out.

They were all well mounted, and proceeded at a slow pace along the lane skirting the west bank of the Irwell. The night was profoundly dark; and, as it was not deemed prudent to carry torches, some care was requisite to keep in the right road. Catesby rode first, and was followed by Garnet and Viviana, after whom came the little vehicle containing the body. The rear was brought up by three of the servants sent by Sir Everard Digby; a fourth acting as driver of the sorry substitute for a hearse.

Not a word was uttered by any of the party. In this stealthy manner was the once-powerful and wealthy Sir William Radcliffe, the owner of the whole district through which they were passing, conveyed to the burial-place of his ancestors!

In shorter time than they had allowed themselves for the journey, the melancholy cavalcade reached Salford Bridge, and crossing it at a quick pace, as had been previously arranged by Catesby, arrived without molestation or notice (for no one was abroad in the town at that hour) at the southern gate of the Collegiate Church, where, it may be remembered, Guy Fawkes had witnessed the execution of the two seminary priests, and on the spikes of which their heads and dismembered bodies were now fixed. An old man here presented himself, and, unlocking the gate, informed them he was Robert Burnell, the sexton. The shell was then taken out, and borne on the shoulders of the servants towards the church, Burnell leading the way. Garnet followed; and as soon as Catesby had committed the horses to the care of the driver of the carriage, he tendered his arm to Viviana, who could scarcely have reached the sacred structure unsupported.

Doctor Dee met them at the church porch, as he had appointed, and, as soon as they had passed through it, the door was locked. Addressing a few words in an under tone to Viviana, but not deigning to notice either of her companions, Dee directed the bearers of the body to follow him, and proceeded towards the choir.

The interior of the reverend and beautiful fane was buried in profound gloom, and the feeble light diffused by the sexton's lantern only made the darkness more palpable. On entering the broad and noble nave nothing could be seen of its clustered pillars, or of the exquisite pointed arches, enriched with cinquefoil and quatrefoil, inclosing blank shields, which they supported. Neither could its sculptured cornice; its clerestory windows; its upper range of columns, supporting demi-angels playing on musical instruments; its moulded roof crossed by transverse beams, enriched in the interstices with sculptured ornaments, be distinguished. Most of these architectural glories were invisible; but the very gloom in which they were shrouded was imposing. As the dim light fell upon pillar after pillar as they passed, revealing their mouldings, piercing a few feet into the side aisles, and falling upon the grotesque heads, the embattled ornaments and grotesque tracery of the arches, the effect was inexpressibly striking.

Nor were the personages inappropriate to the sombre scene. The reverend figure of Dee, with his loose flowing robe and long white beard; the priestly garb and grave aspect of Garnet; the soldier-like bearing of Catesby, his armed heel and rapier-point clanking upon the pavement; the drooping figure of Viviana, whose features were buried in her kerchief, and whose sobs were distinctly audible; the strangely-fashioned coffin, and the attendants by whom it was borne; all constituted a singular, and, at the same time, deeply-interesting picture.

Approaching the magnificent screen terminating the nave, they passed through an arched gateway within it, and entered the choir. The west-end of this part of the church was assigned as the burial-place of the ancient and honourable family, the head of which was about to be deposited within it, and was designated from the circumstance, the Radcliffe chancel. A long slab of grey marble, in which a brass plate, displaying the armorial bearings of the Radcliffes, was inserted, had been removed, and the earth thrown out of the cavity beneath it. Kelley, who had assisted in making the excavation, was standing beside it, leaning on a spade, with a lantern at his feet. He drew aside as the funeral train approached, and the shell was deposited at the edge of the grave.

Picturesque and striking as was the scene in the nave, it fell far short of that now exhibited. The choir of the Collegiate Church at Manchester may challenge comparison with any similar structure. Its thirty elaborately-carved stalls, covered with canopies of the richest tabernacle work, surmounted by niches, mouldings, pinnacles, and perforated tracery, and crowned with a richly-sculptured cornice; its side aisles, with their pillars and arches; its moulded ceiling rich in the most delicate and fairy tracery; its gorgeous altar-screen of carved oak; and its magnificent eastern window, then filled with stained glass, form a coup-d'?il of almost unequalled splendour and beauty. Few of these marvels could now be seen. But such points of the pinnacles and hanging canopies of the stalls, of the fa?ades of the side-aisles, and of the fretted roof, as received any portion of the light, came in with admirable effect.

All is prepared, you perceive, observed Dee to Viviana. I will retire while the ceremony is performed. And gravely inclining his head, he passed through an arched door in the south aisle, and entered the chapter-house.

Garnet was about to proceed with the service appointed by the Romish Church for the burial of the dead, when Viviana, uttering a loud cry, would have fallen, if Catesby had not flown to her assistance, and borne her to one of the stalls. Recovering her self-possession the next moment, she entreated him to leave her; and while the service proceeded, she knelt down and prayed fervently for the soul of the departed.

Placing himself at the foot of the body, Garnet sprinkled it with holy water, which he had brought with him in a small silver consecrated vessel. He then recited the De Profundis, the Miserere, and other antiphons and prayers; placed incense in a burner, which he had likewise brought with him, and having lighted it, bowed reverently towards the altar, sprinkled the body thrice with holy water, at the sides, at the head, and the feet; and then walking round it with the incense-burner, dispersed its fragrant odour over it. This done, he recited another prayer, pronounced a solemn benediction over the place of sepulture, and the body was lowered into it.

The noise of the earth falling upon the shell aroused Viviana from her devotions. She looked towards the grave, but could see nothing but the gloomy group around it, prominent among which appeared the tall figure of Catesby. The sight was too much for her, and, unable to control her grief, she fainted. Meanwhile, the grave was rapidly filled, all lending their aid to the task; and nothing was wanting but to restore the slab to its original position. By the united efforts of Catesby, Kelley, and the sexton, this was soon accomplished, and the former, unaware of what had happened, was about to proceed to Viviana, to tell her all was over, when he was arrested by a loud knocking at the church door, accompanied by a clamorous demand for admittance.

We are betrayed! exclaimed Catesby. It is as I suspected. Take care of Viviana, father. I will after the hoary impostor, and cleave his skull! Extinguish the lights quick! quick!

Garnet hastily complied with these injunctions, and the choir was plunged in total darkness. He then rushed to the stalls, but could nowhere find Viviana. He called her by name, but received no answer, and was continuing his fruitless search, when he heard footsteps approaching, and the voice of Catesby exclaimed,

Follow me with your charge, father.

Alas! my son, she is not here, replied Garnet. I have searched each stall as carefully as I could in the dark. I fear she has been spirited away.

Impossible! cried Catesby. And he ran his hand along the row of sculptured seats, but without success. She is indeed gone! he exclaimed distractedly. It was here I left her nay, here I beheld her at the very moment the lights were extinguished. Viviana! Viviana!

But all was silent.

It is that cursed magician's handiwork! he continued, striking his forehead in despair.

Did you find him? demanded Garnet.

No, replied Catesby. The door of the chapter-house was locked inside. The treacherous villain did well to guard against my fury.

You provoked his resentment, my son, rejoined Garnet. But this is not a season for reproaches. Something must be done. Where is Kelley?

At the suggestion, Catesby instantly darted to the spot where the seer had stood. He was not there. He then questioned the servants, whose teeth were chattering with fright, but they had neither heard him depart, nor could tell anything about him; and perceiving plainly from their trepidation that these men would lend no aid, even if they did not join the assailants, he returned to communicate his apprehensions to Garnet.

During all this time the knocking and vociferations at the door had continued with increased violence, and reverberated in hollow peals along the roof and aisles of the church.

The emergency was a fearful one. Catesby, however, had been too often placed in situations of peril, and was too constitutionally brave, to experience much uneasiness for himself; but his apprehensions lest Garnet should be captured, and the sudden and mysterious disappearance of Viviana almost distracted him. Persuading himself she might have fallen to the ground, or that he had overlooked the precise spot where he had left her, he renewed his search, but with no better success than before; and he was almost beginning to believe that some magic might have been practised to cause her disappearance, when it occurred to him that she had been carried off by Kelley.

Fool that I was, not to think of that before! he exclaimed. I have unintentionally aided their project by extinguishing the lights. But now that I am satisfied she is gone, I can devote my whole energies to the preservation of Garnet. They shall not capture us so easily as they anticipate.

With this, he approached the priest, and grasping his hand drew him noislessly along. They had scarcely passed through the arched doorway in the screen, and set foot within the nave, when the clamour without ceased. The next moment a thundering crash was heard; the door burst open, and a number of armed figures bearing torches, with drawn swords in their hands, rushed with loud vociferations into the church.

We must surrender, my son, cried Garnet. It will be useless to contend against that force.

But we may yet escape them, rejoined Catesby. And glancing hastily round he perceived a small open door in the wall at the right, and pointing it out to the priest, hurried towards it.

On reaching it, they found it communicated with a flight of stone steps, evidently leading to the roof.

Saved! saved! cried Catesby, triumphantly. Mount first, father. I will defend the passage.

The pursuers, who saw the course taken by the fugitives, set up a loud shout, and ran as swiftly as they could in the same direction, and by the time the latter had gained the door they were within a few yards of it. Garnet darted up the steps; but Catesby lingered to make fast the door, and thus oppose some obstacle to the hostile party. His efforts, however, were unexpectedly checked, and, on examination, he found it was hooked to the wall at the back. Undoing the fastening, the door swung to, and he instantly bolted it. Overjoyed at his success, and leaving his pursuers, who at this moment arrived, to vent their disappointment in loud menaces, he hastened after Garnet. Calling loudly to him, he was answered from a small dark chamber on the right, into which the priest had retreated.

We have but prolonged our torture, groaned Garnet. I can find no outlet. Our foes will speedily force an entrance, and we must then fall into their hands.

There must be some door opening upon the roof, father, rejoined Catesby. Mount as high as you can, and search carefully. I will defend the stairs, and will undertake to maintain my post against the whole rout.

Thus urged, Garnet ascended the steps. After the lapse of a few minutes, during which the thundering at the door below increased, and the heavy blows of some weighty implement directed against it, were distinctly heard, he cried,

I have found a door, but the bolts are rusty I cannot move them.

Use all your strength, father, shouted Catesby, who having planted himself with his drawn sword at an advantageous point, was listening with intense anxiety to the exertions of the assailing party. Do not relax your efforts for a moment.

It is in vain, my son, rejoined Garnet, in accents of despair. My hands are bruised and bleeding, but the bolts stir not.

Distraction! cried Catesby, gnashing his teeth with rage. Let me try.

And he was about to hasten to the priest's assistance, when the door below was burst open with a loud crash, and the assailants rushed up the steps. The passage was so narrow that they were compelled to mount singly, and Catesby's was scarcely a vain boast when he said he could maintain his ground against the whole host. Shouting to Garnet to renew his efforts, he prepared for the assault. Reserving his petronels to the last, he trusted solely to his rapier, and leaning against the newel, or circular column round which the stairs twined, he was in a great measure defended from the weapons of his adversaries, while they were completely exposed to his attack. The darkness, moreover, in which he was enveloped offered an additional protection, whereas the torches they carried made his mark certain. As soon as the foremost of the band came within reach, Catesby plunged his sword into his breast, and pushed him back with all his force upon his comrades. The man fell heavily backwards, dislodging the next in advance, who in his turn upset his successor, and so on, till the whole band was thrown into confusion. A discharge of fire-arms followed; but, sheltered by the newel, Catesby sustained no injury. At this moment, he was cheered by a cry from Garnet that he had succeeded in forcing back the bolts, terror having supplied him with a strength not his own; and, making another sally upon his assailants, amid the disorder that ensued, Catesby retreated, and rapidly tracking the steps, reached the door, through which the priest had already passed. When within a short distance of the outlet, Catesby felt, from the current of fresh air that saluted him, that it opened upon the roof of the church. Nor was he deceived. A few steps placed him upon the leads, where he found Garnet.

It is you, my son, cried the latter, on beholding him; I thought from the shouts you had fallen into the hands of the enemy.

No, Heaven be praised! I am as yet safe, and trust to deliver you out of their hands. Come with me to the battlements.

The battlements! exclaimed Garnet. A leap from such a height as that were certain destruction.

It were so, replied Catesby, dragging him along. But trust to me, and you shall yet reach the ground uninjured.

Arrived at the battlements, Catesby leaned over them, and endeavoured to ascertain what was beneath. It was still so dark that he could scarcely discern any objects but those close to him, but as far as he could trust his vision, he thought he perceived a projecting building some twelve or fourteen feet below; and calling to mind the form of the church, which he had frequently seen and admired, he remembered its chantries, and had no doubt but it was the roof of one of them that he beheld. If he could reach it, the descent from thence would be easy, and he immediately communicated the idea to Garnet, who shrank aghast from it. Little time, however, was allowed for consideration. Their pursuers had already scaled the stairs, and were springing one after another upon the leads, uttering the most terrible threats against the destroyer of their comrade. Hastily divesting himself of his cloak, Catesby clambered over the battlements, and, impelled by fear, Garnet threw off his robe, and followed his example. Clinging to the grotesque stone waterspouts which projected below the battlements, and placing the points of his feet upon the arches of the clerestory windows, and thence upon the mullions and transom bars, Catesby descended in safety, and then turned to assist his companion, who was quickly by his side.

The most difficult and dangerous part of the descent had yet to be accomplished. They were now nearly thirty feet from the ground, and the same irregularities in the walls which had favoured them in the upper structure did not exist in the lower. But their present position, exposed as it was to their pursuers, who, having reached the point immediately overhead, were preparing to fire upon them, was too dangerous to allow of its occupation for a moment, and Garnet required no urging to make him clamber over the low embattled parapet. Descending a flying buttress that defended an angle of the building, Catesby, who was possessed of great strength and activity, was almost instantly upon the ground. Garnet was not so fortunate. Missing his footing, he fell from a considerable height, and his groans proclaimed that he had received some serious injury. Catesby instantly flew to him, and demanded, in a tone of the greatest anxiety, whether he was much hurt.

My right arm is broken, gasped the sufferer, raising himself with difficulty. What other injuries I have sustained I know not; but every joint seems dislocated, and my face is covered with blood. Heaven have pity on me!

As he spoke, a shout of exultation arose from the hostile party, who, having heard Garnet's fall, and the groans that succeeded it, at once divined the cause, and made sure of a capture. A deep silence followed, proving that they had quitted the roof, and were hastening to secure their prey.

Aware that it would take them some little time to descend the winding staircase, and traverse the long aisle of the church, Catesby felt certain of distancing them. But he could not abandon Garnet, who had become insensible from the agony of his fractured limb, and, lifting him carefully in his arms, he placed him upon his shoulder, and started at a swift pace towards the further extremity of the churchyard.