William Ainsworth.

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





At the period of this history, the western boundary of the Collegiate Church was formed by a precipitous sandstone rock of great height, the base of which was washed by the waters of the Irwell, while its summit was guarded by a low stone wall. In after years, a range of small habitations was built upon this spot, but they have been recently removed, and the rock having been lowered, a road now occupies their site. Nerved by desperation, Catesby, who was sufficiently well acquainted with the locality to know whither he was shaping his course, determined to hazard a descent, which, under calmer circumstances, he would have deemed wholly impracticable. His pursuers, who issued from the church porch a few seconds after he had passed it, saw him hurry towards the low wall edging the precipice, and, encumbered as he was with the priest, vault over it. Not deeming it possible he would dare to spring from such a height, they darted after him. But they were deceived, and could scarcely credit their senses when they found him gone. By the light of their torches they perceived him shooting down the almost perpendicular side of the rock, and the next moment a hollow plunge told that he had reached the water. They stared at each other in mute astonishment.

Will you follow him, Dick Haughton? observed one, as soon as he had recovered his speech.

Not I, replied the fellow addressed. I have no fancy for a broken neck. Follow him thyself if thou hast a mind to try the soundness of thy pate. I warrant that rock will put it to the proof.

Yet the feat has just been done, and by one burthened with a wounded comrade into the bargain, remarked the first speaker.

He must be the devil, that's certain, rejoined Haughton; and Doctor Dee himself is no match for him.

He has the Devil's luck, that's certain, cried a third soldier. But, hark! he is swimming across the river. We may yet catch him on the opposite bank. Come along, comrades.

With this, they rushed out of the churchyard; made the best of their way to the bridge; and crossing it, flew to the bank of the river, where they dispersed in every direction, in search for the fugitive. But they could not discover a trace of him or his wounded companion.

CHAPTER XVII.
THE RENCOUNTER

Catesby himself could scarcely tell how he accomplished his hair-breadth escape. Reckless almost of the result, he slided down the rock, catching at occasional irregularities as he descended. The river was of great depth at this point, and broke the force of his fall. On rising, he struck out a few yards, and suffered himself to be carried down the stream. He had never for one moment relinquished his hold of Garnet, and being an admirable swimmer, found little difficulty in sustaining him with one arm, while with the other he guided his course in the water. In this way he reached the shore in safety, about a hundred yards below the bridge, by which means he avoided his pursuers, who, as has just been stated, searched for him above it.

After debating with himself for a short time as to what course he should pursue, he decided upon conveying Garnet to the Hall, where he could procure restoratives and assistance; and though he was fully sensible of the danger of this plan, not doubting the mansion would be visited and searched by his pursuers before morning, yet the necessity of warning Guy Fawkes outweighed every other consideration.

Accordingly, again shouldering the priest, who, though he had regained his sensibility, was utterly unable to move, he commenced his toilsome march; and being frequently obliged to pause and rest himself, more than an hour elapsed before he reached his destination.

It was just growing light as he crossed the drawbridge, and seeing a horse tied to a tree, and the gate open, he began to fear the enemy had preceded him. Full of misgiving, he laid Garnet upon a heap of straw in an outbuilding, and entered the house. He found no one below, though he glanced into each room. He then noiselessly ascended the stairs, with the intention of proceeding to Guy Fawkes's chamber.

As he traversed the gallery, he heard voices in one of the chambers, the door of which was ajar, and pausing to listen, distinguished the tones of Viviana. Filled with astonishment, he was about to enter the room to inquire by what means she had reached the Hall, when he was arrested by the voice of her companion. It was that of Humphrey Chetham. Maddened by jealousy, Catesby's first impulse was to rush into the room, and stab his rival in the presence of his mistress. But he restrained his passion by a powerful effort.

After listening for a few minutes intently to their conversation, he found that Chetham was taking leave, and creeping softly down-stairs, stationed himself in the hall, through which he knew his rival must necessarily pass. Chetham presently appeared. His manner was dejected; his looks downcast; and he would have passed Catesby without observing him, if the latter had not laid his hand upon his shoulder.

Mr. Catesby! exclaimed the young merchant, starting as he beheld the stern glance fixed upon him I thought

You thought I was a prisoner, no doubt, interrupted Catesby, bitterly. But you are mistaken. I am here to confound you and your juggling and treacherous associate.

I do not understand you, replied Chetham.

I will soon make myself intelligible, retorted Catesby. Follow me to the garden.

I perceive your purpose, Mr. Catesby, replied Chetham, calmly; but it is no part of my principles to expose my life to ruffianly violence. If you choose to lay aside this insolent demeanour, which is more befitting an Alsatian bully than a gentleman, I will readily give you such explanation of my conduct as will fully content you, and satisfy you that any suspicions you may entertain of me are unfounded.

Coward! exclaimed Catesby, striking him. I want no explanation. Defend yourself, or I will treat you with still greater indignity.

Lead on, then, cried Chetham: I would have avoided the quarrel if I could. But this outrage shall not pass unpunished.

As they quitted the hall, Viviana entered it; and, though she was greatly surprised by the appearance of Catesby, his furious gestures left her in no doubt as to his purpose. She called to him to stop. But no attention was paid by either party to her cries.

On gaining a retired spot beneath the trees, Catesby, without giving his antagonist time to divest himself of the heavy horseman's cloak with which he was encumbered, and scarcely to draw his sword, assaulted him. The combat was furious on both sides, but it was evident that the young merchant was no match for his adversary. He maintained his ground, however, for some time with great resolution; but, being hotly pressed, in retreating to avoid a thrust, his foot caught in the long grass, and he fell. Catesby would have passed his sword through his body, if it had not been turned aside by another weapon. It was that of Guy Fawkes, who, followed by Martin Heydocke, had staggered towards the scene of strife, reaching it just in time to save the life of Humphrey Chetham.

Heaven be praised! I am not too late! he exclaimed. Put up your blade, Catesby; or, turn it against me.

CHAPTER XVIII.
THE EXPLANATION

Uttering an exclamation of rage, Catesby turned fiercely upon Fawkes, and for a moment appeared disposed to accept his invitation to continue the combat with him. But as he regarded the other's haggard features, and perceived in them the traces of his recent struggle with death as he saw he was scarcely able to wield the blade he opposed against him his wrath changed to compassion, and he sheathed his sword. By this time, Humphrey Chetham had sprung to his feet, and picking up his fallen weapon, stood on his defence. But finding that Catesby meditated no further hostilities, he returned it to the scabbard.

I owe my life to you, he said to Guy Fawkes, in a tone of deep gratitude.

You owe it to Viviana Radcliffe, not to me, returned Fawkes feebly, and leaning upon his sword for support. Had it not been for her cries, I should have known nothing of this quarrel. And I would now gladly learn what has occasioned it.

So would I, added Chetham; for I am as ignorant as yourself how I have offended Mr. Catesby.

I will tell you, then, returned Catesby, sternly. You were a party to the snare set for us by Dr. Dee, from which I narrowly escaped with life, and Father Garnet at the expense of a broken limb.

Is Garnet hurt? demanded Fawkes, anxiously.

Grievously, replied Catesby; but he is out of the reach of his enemies, of whom, he added, pointing to Chetham, one of the most malignant and treacherous now stands before you.

I am quite in the dark as to what has happened, observed Fawkes, having only a few minutes ago been roused from my slumbers by the shrieks of Viviana, who entreated me to come and separate you. But I cannot believe Humphrey Chetham so treacherous as you represent him.

So far from having any enmity towards Father Garnet, observed Chetham, my anxious desire was to preserve him; and with that view, I was repairing to Dr. Dee, when I encountered Mr. Catesby in the hall, and before I could offer any explanation, I was forced by his violence and insults into this combat.

Is this the truth, Catesby? asked Fawkes,

Something near it, rejoined the latter; but perhaps Mr. Chetham will likewise inform you by whose agency Viviana was transported hither from the Collegiate Church?

That inquiry ought rather to be made of the lady herself, sir," rejoined Chetham, coldly. But, as I am assured she would have no objection to my answering it, I shall not hesitate to do so. She was conveyed hither by Kelley and an assistant, who departed as soon as their task was completed.

Indeed! exclaimed Catesby between his ground teeth. But how chanced it, sir, that you arrived here so opportunely?

I might well refuse to answer a question thus insolently put, rejoined Chetham. But to prevent further misunderstanding, I will tell you, that I came by Viviana's invitation at midnight; and, ascertaining from my servant, Martin Heydocke, whom I found watching by the couch of Guy Fawkes, the melancholy business on which she was engaged, I determined to await her return, which occurred about an hour afterwards, in the manner I have just related.

I was in the court-yard when Mistress Viviana was brought back," interposed Martin Heydocke, who was standing at a respectful distance from the group; and, after Kelley had delivered her to my charge, I heard him observe in an under tone to his companion, 'Let us ride back as fast as we can, and see what they have done with the prisoners.'"

They made sure of their prey before it was captured, observed Catesby, bitterly. But we have disappointed them. Dee and his associate may yet have reason to repent their perfidy.

You will do well not to put yourself again in their power, observed Humphrey Chetham. If you will be counselled by me, you and Guy Fawkes will seek safety in instant flight.

And leave you with Viviana? rejoined Catesby, sarcastically.

She is in no present danger, replied Chetham. But, if it is thought fitting or desirable, I will remain with her.

I do not doubt it, returned Catesby, with a sneer; but it is neither fitting nor desirable. And, hark ye, young sir, if you have indulged any expectations with regard to Viviana Radcliffe, it is time you were undeceived. She will never wed one of your degree, nor of your faith.

I have her own assurance she will never wed at all, replied Chetham, in an offended tone. But had she not crushed my hopes by declaring she was vowed to a convent, no menaces of yours, who have neither right nor title thus to interfere, should induce me to desist from my suit.

Either resign all pretensions to her hand, or prepare to renew the combat, cried Catesby, fiercely.

No more of this, interposed Guy Fawkes. Let us return to the house, and adjust our differences there.

I have no further business here, observed Humphrey Chetham. Having taken leave of Viviana, he added, with much emotion, I do not desire to meet her again.

It is well, sir, rejoined Catesby: yet, stay! you mean us no treachery?

If you suspect me, I will remain, replied Humphrey Chetham.

On no account, interposed Guy Fawkes. I will answer for him with my life.

Perhaps, when I tell you I have procured the liberation of Father Oldcorne, returned Chetham, and have placed him in security in Ordsall cave, you will admit that you have done me wrong.

I have been greatly mistaken in you, sir, I must own, observed Catesby, advancing towards him, and extending his hand. But Humphrey Chetham folded his arms upon his breast, and bowing coldly, withdrew. He was followed by Martin Heydocke, and presently afterwards the tramp of his horse's feet was heard crossing the drawbridge.

CHAPTER XIX.
THE DISCOVERY

Tendering his arm to Fawkes, who was almost too feeble to walk unsupported, Catesby led him slowly to the Hall. On reaching it, they met Viviana, in a state bordering upon distraction, but her distress was speedily relieved by their assurances that the young merchant had departed unhurt, a statement immediately afterwards confirmed by the entrance of Martin Heydocke, charged with a message from his master to her. Without communicating his design to the others, and, indeed, almost shunning Viviana, Catesby proceeded to the outbuilding where he had deposited Garnet. He found him in great pain, and praying fervently to be released from his suffering.

Do not despair, father, said Catesby, in as cheerful a tone as he could assume, the worst is over. Viviana is in safety. Father Oldcorne has escaped, and is within a short distance of us, and Guy Fawkes is fully able to undertake a journey of any distance. You are our sole concern. But I am assured, if you will allow me to exercise the slight surgical skill I possess in your behalf, that you will be able to accompany us.

Do with me what you please, my son, groaned Garnet. But, if my case is as desperate as I believe it, I entreat you not to bestow any further care upon me, and, above all, not to expose yourself to risk on my account. Our enemies are sure to pursue us, and what matter if I am captured? They will wreak their vengeance on a worthless carcass, for such I shall soon be. But it would double the anguish I now endure, if you and Fawkes were to fall into their hands. Go, then, and leave me here to perish. My dying moments will be cheered by the conviction that the great enterprise for which alone I desire to live will not be unaccomplished.

There is no need to leave you, father, replied Catesby, nor shall any consideration induce me to do so, till I have rendered you every aid that circumstances will permit.

My son, replied Garnet, faintly, the most efficacious balm you can apply will be the certainty that you are in safety. You say Viviana is here. Fly with Fawkes, and leave me to her care.

She must go with us, observed Catesby, uneasily.

Not so, my son, returned Garnet; her presence will only endanger you. She must not go. And you must abandon all hopes of an union with her.

I would as soon abandon the great design itself, returned Catesby, moodily.

If you persist in this, you will ruin it, rejoined Garnet. Think of her no more. Bend your thoughts exclusively on the one grand object, and be what you are chosen to be, the defender and deliverer of our holy Church.

I would gladly act as you advise me, father, replied Catesby; but I am spell-bound by this maiden.

This is idle from you, my son, replied Garnet, reproachfully. Separate yourself from her, and you will soon regain your former mastery over yourself.

Well, well, father, rejoined Catesby, the effort, at least, shall be made. But her large possessions, which would be so useful to our cause, and which, if I wedded her, would be wholly devoted to it, think of what we lose, father.

I have thought of it, my son, replied Garnet; but the consideration does not alter my opinion: and if I possess any authority over you, I strictly enjoin you not to proceed farther in the matter. Viviana never can be yours.

She shall be, nevertheless, muttered Catesby, and before many hours have elapsed, if not by her own free will, by force. I have ever shown myself obedient to your commands, father, he added aloud, and I shall not transgress them now.

Heaven keep you in this disposition, my dear son! exclaimed Garnet, with a look of distrust: and let me recommend you to remove yourself as soon as possible out of the way of temptation.

Catesby muttered an affirmative, and taking Garnet in his arms, conveyed him carefully to his own chamber, and placing him on a couch, examined his wounds, which were not so serious as either he or the sufferer imagined, and with no despicable skill for the experiences of a soldier's life had given him some practice bandaged his broken arm, and fomented his bruises.

This done, Garnet felt so much easier, that he entreated Catesby to send Viviana to him, and to make preparations for his own immediate departure. Feigning acquiescence, Catesby quitted the room, but with no intention of complying with the request. Not a moment he felt must be lost if he would execute his dark design, and, after revolving many wild expedients, an idea occurred to him. It was to lure Viviana to the cave where Father Oldcorne was concealed; and he knew enough of the pliant disposition of the latter to be certain he would assent to his scheme. No sooner did this plan occur to him than he hurried to the cell, and found the priest, as Chetham had stated. As he had foreseen, it required little persuasion to induce Oldcorne to lend his assistance to the forced marriage, and he only feared the decided opposition they should encounter from Viviana.

Fear nothing, then, father, said Catesby; in this solitary spot no one will hear her cries. Whatever resistance she may make, perform the ceremony, and leave the consequences to me.

The plan is desperate, my son, returned Oldcorne, but so are our fortunes. And, as Viviana will not hear reason, we have no alternative. You swear that if you are once wedded to her, all her possessions shall be devoted to the furtherance of the great cause.

All, father I swear it, rejoined Catesby, fervently.

Enough, replied Oldcorne. The sooner it is done, the better.

It was then agreed between them that the plan least likely to excite suspicion would be for Oldcorne to proceed to the Hall, and under some plea prevail upon Viviana to return with him to the cave. Acting upon this arrangement, they left the cell together, shaping their course under the trees to avoid observation; and while Oldcorne repaired to the Hall, Catesby proceeded to the stable, and saddling the only steed left, rode back to the cave, and concealing the animal behind the brushwood, entered the excavation. Some time elapsed before the others arrived, and as in his present feverish state of mind moments appeared ages, the suspense was almost intolerable. At length, he heard footsteps approaching, and, with a beating heart, distinguished the voice of Viviana. The place was buried in profound darkness; but Oldcorne struck a light, and set fire to a candle in a lantern. The feeble glimmer diffused by it was not sufficient to penetrate the recesses of the cavern; and Catesby, who stood at the farther extremity, was completely sheltered from observation.

And now, father, observed Viviana, seating herself with her back towards Catesby, upon the stone bench once used by the unfortunate prophetess, I would learn the communication you desire to make to me. It must be something of importance since you would not disclose it at the Hall.

It is, daughter, replied Oldcorne, who could scarcely conceal his embarrassment. I have brought you hither, where I am sure we shall be uninterrupted, to confer with you on a subject nearest my heart. Your lamented father being taken from us, I, as his spiritual adviser, aware of his secret wishes and intentions, conceive myself entitled to assume his place.

I consider you in the light of a father, dear sir, replied Viviana, and will follow your advice as implicitly as I would that of him I have lost.

Since I find you so tractable, child, returned Oldcorne, reassured by her manner, I will no longer hesitate to declare the motive I had in bringing you hither. You will recollect that I have of late strongly opposed your intention of retiring to a convent.

I know it, father, interrupted Viviana; but

Hear me out, continued Oldcorne; recent events have strengthened my disapproval of the step. You are now called upon to active duties, and must take your share in the business of life, must struggle and suffer like others, and not shrink from the burthen imposed upon you by Heaven.