William Ainsworth.

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





I do not shrink from it, father, replied Viviana: and if I were equal to the active life you propose, I would not hesitate to embrace it, but I feel I should sink under it.

Not if you had one near you who could afford you that support which feeble woman ever requires, returned Oldcorne.

What mean you, father? inquired Viviana, fixing her dark eyes full upon him.

That you must marry, daughter, returned Oldcorne, unite yourself to some worthy man, who will be to you what I have described.

And was it to tell me this that you brought me here? asked Viviana, in a slightly offended tone.

It was, daughter, replied Oldcorne; but I have not yet done. It is not only needful you should marry, but your choice must be such as I, who represent your father, and have your welfare thoroughly at heart, can approve.

You can find me a husband, I doubt not? remarked Viviana, coldly.

I have already found one, returned Oldcorne: a gentleman suitable to you in rank, religion, years, for your husband should be older than yourself, Viviana.

I will not affect to misunderstand you, father, she replied; you mean Mr. Catesby.

You have guessed aright, dear daughter, rejoined Oldcorne.

I thought I had made myself sufficiently intelligible on this point before, father, she returned.

True, replied Oldcorne; but you are no longer, as I have just laboured to convince you, in the same position you were when the subject was formerly discussed.

To prevent further misunderstanding, father, rejoined Viviana, I now tell you, that in whatever position I may be placed, I will never, under any circumstances, wed Mr. Catesby.

What are your objections to him, daughter? asked Oldcorne.

They are numberless, replied Viviana; but it is useless to particularize them. I must pray you to change the conversation, or you will compel me to quit you.

Nay, daughter, if you thus obstinately shut your ears to reason, I must use very different language towards you. Armed with parental authority, I shall exact obedience to my commands.

I cannot obey you, father, replied Viviana, bursting into tears, "indeed, indeed I cannot. My heart, I have already told you, is another's.

He who has robbed you of it is a heretic, rejoined Oldcorne, sternly, and therefore your union with him is out of the question. Promise me you will wed Mr. Catesby, or, in the name of your dead father, I will invoke a curse upon your head. Promise me, I say.

Never, replied Viviana, rising. My father would never have enforced my compliance, and I dread no curse thus impiously pronounced. You are overstepping the bounds of your priestly office, sir. Farewell.

As she moved to depart, a strong grasp was laid on her arm, and turning, she beheld Catesby.

You here, sir? she cried, in great alarm.

Ay, replied Catesby. At last you are in my power, Viviana.

I would fain misunderstand you, sir, she rejoined, trembling; but your looks terrify me.

You mean no violence?

I mean that Father Oldcorne shall wed us, and that too without a moment's delay, replied Catesby, sternly.

Monster! shrieked Viviana, you will not, dare not commit this foul offence. And if you dare, Father Oldcorne will not assist you. Ah! what means that sign? I cannot be mistaken in you, father? You cannot be acting in concert with this wicked man? Save me from him! save me.

But the priest kept aloof, and taking a missal from his vest, hastily turned over the leaves. Viviana saw that her appeal to him was vain.

Let me go! she shrieked, struggling with Catesby. You cannot force me to wed you whether I will or not; and I will die rather than consent. Let me go, I say? Help! help! And she made the cavern ring with her screams.

Heed her not, father, shouted Catesby, who still held her fast, but proceed with the ceremony.

Oldcorne, however, appeared irresolute, and Viviana perceiving it, redoubled her cries.

This will be no marriage, father, she said, even if you proceed with it. I will protest against it to all the world, and you will be deprived of your priestly office for your share in so infamous a transaction.

You will think otherwise anon, daughter, replied Oldcorne, advancing towards them with the missal in his hand.

If it be no marriage, observed Catesby, significantly, the time will come when you may desire to have the ceremony repeated.

Mr. Catesby, cried Viviana, altering her manner, as if she had taken a sudden resolution, one word before you proceed with your atrocious purpose, which must end in misery to us all. There are reasons why you can never wed me.

Ha! exclaimed Catesby, starting.

Is it so, my son? asked Oldcorne, uneasily.

Pshaw! exclaimed Catesby. She knows not what she says. Proceed, father.

I have proofs that will confound you, cried Viviana, breaking from him. And darting towards the light, she took from her bosom the packet given her by Guy Fawkes, and tore it open. A letter was within it, and a miniature.

Opening the letter, she cast her eye rapidly over its contents, and then looking up, exclaimed in accents of delirious joy, Saved! saved! Father Oldcorne, this man is married already.

Catesby, who had watched her proceedings in silent astonishment, and was now advancing towards her, recoiled as if a thunderbolt had fallen at his feet.

Can this be true? cried the priest, in astonishment.

Let your own eyes convince you, rejoined Viviana, handing him the letter.

I am satisfied, returned Oldcorne, after he had glanced at it. We have both been spared the commission of a great crime. Mr. Catesby, it appears from this letter that you have a wife living in Spain.

It is useless to deny it, replied Catesby. But, as you were ignorant of the matter, the offence (if any) would have lain wholly at my door; nor should I have repented of it, if it had enabled me to achieve the object I have in view.

Thank Heaven it has gone no further! exclaimed Oldcorne. Daughter, I humbly entreat your forgiveness.

How came that packet in your possession? demanded Catesby fiercely of Viviana.

It was given me by Guy Fawkes, she replied.

Guy Fawkes! exclaimed Catesby. Has he betrayed his friend?

He has proved himself your best friend, by preventing you from committing a crime, which would have entailed wretchedness on yourself and me, returned Viviana.

I have done with him, and with all of you, cried Catesby, with a fierce glance at Oldcorne. Henceforth, pursue your projects alone. You shall have no further assistance from me. I will serve the Spaniard. Englishmen are not to be trusted.

So saying, he rushed out of the cavern, and seeking his horse, mounted him, and rode off at full speed.

How shall I obtain your forgiveness for my conduct in this culpable affair, dear daughter? said Oldcorne, with an imploring look at Viviana.

By joining me in thanksgivings to the Virgin for my deliverance," replied Viviana, prostrating herself before the stone cross.

Oldcorne knelt beside her, and they continued for some time in earnest prayer. They then arose, and quitting the cave, proceeded to the Hall.

CHAPTER XX.
THE DEPARTURE FROM THE HALL

Guy Fawkes was as much surprised to hear of the sudden departure of Catesby as he was concerned at the cause; but he still thought it probable he would return. In this expectation, however, he was disappointed. The day wore on, and no one came. The uncertainty in which Fawkes was kept, added to his unwillingness to leave Garnet, still detained him, in spite of the risk he ran, at the Hall; and it was only when urged by Viviana that he began seriously to reflect whither he should bend his steps. Towards evening, Garnet was so much better, that he was able to sit up, and he passed some hours in conference with Oldcorne.

If I do not suffer a relapse, he observed to the latter, I will set out with Guy Fawkes to-morrow, and we will proceed by easy stages to London.

I cannot but approve your resolution, returned Oldcorne; for though so long a journey may be inconvenient, and retard your recovery, yet every hour you remain here is fraught with additional peril. I will accompany you. We shall both be safer in the capital; and perhaps Viviana, now she will be no longer exposed to the persecutions of Catesby, will form one of the party.

I should not wonder, replied Garnet. I shall be deeply concerned if Catesby has really abandoned the enterprise. But I cannot think it. I did all I could to dissuade him from prosecuting this union, knowing how hopeless it was, and little thinking he would be rash enough to seek to accomplish it by force, or that he would find an assistant in you.

Say no more about it, father, I entreat you, rejoined Oldcorne. The scheme failed, as it deserved to do; and I sincerely repent the share I was induced by Catesby's artful representations to take in it. If we have lost our leader we have still Guy Fawkes, who is a host in himself, and as true as the steel that hangs by his side.

We cannot spare Catesby, replied Garnet. With many faults, he has one redeeming quality, courage. I am not sorry he has been thwarted in his present scheme, as if he returns to us, as I doubt not he will, it will fix his mind steadily on the one object, which should be ever before it. Give me your arm, father. I am glad to find I can walk, though feebly. That is well, he added, as they emerged upon the gallery; I shall be able to reach Viviana's chamber without further assistance. Do you descend, and see that Martin Heydocke is on the watch.

In obedience to the injunctions of his superior, Oldcorne went in search of Martin Heydocke, who had been stationed in the court-yard to give timely notice of any hostile approach; but not finding him there, he proceeded towards the drawbridge. Garnet, meanwhile, had reached the door of Viviana's chamber, which was slightly ajar, and he was about to pass through it, when he perceived that she was on her knees before Guy Fawkes, whom she was addressing in the most passionate terms. The latter was seated at a table, with his head upon his hand, in a thoughtful posture. Surprised at the sight, and curious to hear what Viviana could be saying, Garnet drew back to listen.

When you quit this house, were the first words that caught the listener's ear, we shall never meet again; and oh! let me have the consolation of thinking that, in return for the devoted attachment you have shown me, and the dangers from which you have preserved me, I have preserved you from one equally imminent. Catesby, from whatever motive, has abandoned the conspiracy. Do you act likewise, and the whole dreadful scheme will fall to the ground.

Catesby cannot abandon it, replied Fawkes. He is bound by ties that no human power can sunder. And, however he may estrange himself from us now, when the time for action arrives, rest assured he will not be absent.

It may be so, replied Viviana; but I deny that the oath either he or you have taken is binding. The deed you have sworn to do is evil, and no vow, however solemnly pronounced, can compel you to commit crime. Avoid this sin avoid further connexion with those who would work your undoing, and do not stain your soul with guilt from which it will never be cleansed.

You seek in vain to move me, replied Guy Fawkes, firmly. My purpose is unalterable. The tempest that clears away the pestilence destroys many innocent lives, but it is not the less wholesome on that account. Our unhappy land is choked with the pestilence of heresy, and must be freed from it, cost what it will, and suffer who may. The wrongs of the English Catholics imperatively demand redress; and, since it is denied us, we must take it. Oppression can go no farther; nor endurance hold out longer. If this blow be not struck we shall have no longer a religion. And how comes it, Viviana, that you, a zealous Catholic, whose father perished by these very oppressors, and who are yourself in danger from them, can seek to turn me from my purpose?

Because I know it is wrongful, she replied. I have no desire to avenge the death of my slaughtered father, still less to see our religion furthered by the dreadful means you propose. In his own due season, the Lord will redress our wrongs.

The Lord has appointed me one of the ministers of his vengeance, cried Fawkes, in a tone of enthusiasm.

Do not deceive yourself, returned Viviana, it is not by Heaven, but by the powers of darkness, that you are incited to this deed. Do not persevere in this fatal course, she continued, clasping her hands together, and gazing imploringly in his face, do not do not!

Guy Fawkes continued in the same attitude as before, with his gaze turned upwards, and apparently lost in thought.

Have I no power to move you? cried Viviana, her eyes streaming with tears.

None whatever, replied Guy Fawkes, firmly.

Then you are lost, she rejoined.

If it is Heaven's will, I am, answered Fawkes; but at least I believe I am acting rightly.

And rest assured you are so, my son, cried Garnet, throwing open the door, and stepping into the room. I have overheard your conversation, and I applaud your resolution.

You need have no fears of me, father, replied Fawkes. I do not lightly undertake a project; but once embarked in it nothing can turn me aside.

In this case your determination is wisely formed, my son, returned Garnet; and if Viviana will ever give me an opportunity of fully discussing the matter, I am sure I can satisfy her you are in the right.

I will discuss it with you whenever you think proper, she replied. But no arguments will ever convince me that your project is approved by Heaven.

Let it pass now, daughter, rejoined Garnet; enough has been said on the subject. I came hither to tell Guy Fawkes, that if our enemies permit us to pass the night without molestation (as Heaven grant they may!) I think I shall be strong enough to set out with him to-morrow, when I propose we should journey together to London.

Agreed, replied Fawkes.

Father Oldcorne will accompany us, pursued Garnet.

And I, too, will go with you, if you will permit me, said Viviana. I cannot remain here; and I have no further fears of Mr. Catesby. Doctor Dee told me my future fate was strangely mixed up with that of Guy Fawkes. I know not how it may be, but I will not abandon him while there is a hope to cling to.

Viviana Radcliffe, rejoined Guy Fawkes, coldly, deeply as I feel the interest you take in me, I think it right to tell you that no efforts you can use will shake me from my purpose. If I live, I will execute my design.

While I live, I will urge you to it, remarked Garnet.

And while I live, I will dissuade you from it, added Viviana. We shall see who will obtain the victory.

We shall, replied Garnet, smiling confidently.

Hear me further, continued Viviana; I do not doubt that your zeal is disinterested; yet still, your mode of life, and the difficulties in which you are placed, may not unnaturally influence your conduct. That this may no longer be the case, I here place part of my fortune at your disposal. I require little or nothing myself. But I would, if possible, save one to whom I owe so much, and whom I value so much, from destruction.

I fully appreciate your generosity to give it its lightest term Viviana, returned Guy Fawkes, in a voice of deep emotion. Under any circumstances I should reject it, under the present, I do so the more positively, because the offer, kind as it is, seems to imply that my poverty leads me to act contrary to my principles. Gold has no power over me: I regard it as dross; and when I could easily have won it, I neglected the opportunity. As no reward would ever induce me to commit an action my conscience disapproved, so none will deter me from a purpose which I regard as my duty.

Enough, replied Viviana, sadly. I will no longer question your motives, or oppose your plan, but will pray Heaven to open your eyes to the truth.

Your conduct is in all respects worthy of you, daughter, observed Garnet, kindly.

You have rejected one offer, continued Viviana, looking at Fawkes; but I trust you will not decline that I am about to propose to you.

What is it? asked Fawkes, in some surprise.

It is that I may be permitted to regard you as a father, replied Viviana, with some hesitation. Having lost my own father, I feel I need some protector, and I would gladly make choice of you, if you will accept the office.

I willingly accede to your request, and am much flattered by it, Viviana, replied Fawkes. I am a homeless man, and a friendless, and the affection of such a being as yourself will fill up the only void in my heart. But I am wedded to the great cause. I can never be more to you than a father.

Nay, I ask nothing more, she replied, blushing deeply.

Having thus arranged the terms upon which we shall travel, observed Garnet, with a smile, nothing is needed but to prepare for our journey. We start early to-morrow morning.

I shall be ready at daybreak, replied Viviana.

And I am ready now, added Guy Fawkes. In my opinion, we run great risk in remaining here another night. But be it as you will.

At this moment they were interrupted by the entrance of Father Oldcorne, who with a countenance of great alarm informed them he could nowhere find Martin Heydocke.

Do you suspect any treachery on his part? asked Garnet of Viviana.

I have always found him trustworthy, she answered; and his father was my father's oldest servant. I cannot think he would betray us. At the same time, I must admit his disappearance at this juncture looks suspicious.

If my strength were equal to it, returned Guy Fawkes, I would keep watch throughout the night; but that might prevent me from accompanying you to-morrow. My advice, I repeat, is to set out at once.

This opinion, however, was overruled by Garnet and Viviana, who did not think the danger so urgent, and attributed the absence of Martin Heydocke to some unimportant cause. Guy Fawkes made no further remonstrance, and it was agreed they should start, as originally proposed, at daybreak.

The party then separated, and Viviana wandered alone over the old house, taking a farewell, which she felt would be her last, of every familiar object. Few things were as she had known them, but even in their present forlorn state they were dear to her; and the rooms she trod, though dismantled, were the same she had occupied in childhood.

There is no pang more acute to a sensitive nature than that occasioned by quitting an abode or spot endeared by early recollections and associations, to which we feel a strong presentiment we shall never return. Viviana experienced this feeling in its full force, and she lingered in each room as if she had not the power to leave it. Her emotions at length became so overpowering, that to relieve them she strolled forth into the garden. Here, new objects awakened her attention, and recalled happier times with painful distinctness. Twilight was fast deepening, and, viewed through this dim and softened medium, everything looked as of old, and produced a tightening and stifling sensation in her breast, that nothing but a flood of tears could remove.

The flowers yielded forth their richest scents, and the whole scene was such as she had often beheld it in times long ago, when sorrow was wholly unknown to her. Perfumes, it is well known, exercise a singular influence over the memory. A particular odour will frequently call up an event and a long train of circumstances connected with the time when it was first inhaled. Without being aware whence it arose, Viviana felt a tide of recollections pressing upon her, which she would have willingly repressed, but which it was out of her power to control. Her tears flowed abundantly, and at length, with a heart somewhat lightened of its load, she arose from the bench on which she had thrown herself, and proceeded along a walk to gather a few flowers as memorials of the place.

In this way, she reached the further end of the garden, and was stooping to pluck a spray of some fragrant shrub, when she perceived the figure of a man behind a tree at a little distance from her. From his garb, which was that of a soldier, she instantly knew he was an enemy, and, though greatly alarmed, she had the courage not to scream, but breaking off the branch, she uttered a careless exclamation, and slowly retraced her steps. She half expected to hear that the soldier was following her, and prepared to start off at full speed to the house; but, deceived by her manner, he did not stir. On reaching the end of the walk, she could not resist the inclination to look back, and glancing over her shoulder, perceived the man watching her. But as she moved, he instantly withdrew his head.

Her first step on reaching the house was to close and fasten the door; her next to hasten to Guy Fawkes's chamber, where she found him, together with Garnet and Oldcorne. All three were astounded at the intelligence, agreeing that an attack was intended, and that a large force was, in all probability, concealed in the garden awaiting only the arrival of night to surprise and seize them. The disappearance of the younger Heydocke was no longer a mystery. He had been secured and carried off by the hostile party, to prevent him from giving the alarm. The emergency was a fearful one, and it excited consternation amongst all except Guy Fawkes, who preserved his calmness.