William Ainsworth.

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

I foresaw we should be attacked to-night, he said, and I am therefore not wholly unprepared. Our only chance is to steal out unobserved; for resistance would be in vain, as their force is probably numerous, and I am as helpless as an infant, while Father Garnet's broken arm precludes any assistance from him. The subterranean passage leading from the oratory to the further side of the moat having been stopped up by the pursuivant and his band, it will be necessary to cross the drawbridge, and as soon as it grows sufficiently dark, we must make the attempt. We have no horses, and must trust to our own exertions for safety. Catesby would now be invaluable. It is not his custom to desert his friends at the season of their greatest need.

Great as is my danger, observed Viviana, I would rather, so far as I am concerned, that he were absent, than owe my preservation to him. I have no fears for myself.

And my only fears are for you, rejoined Fawkes.

Half an hour of intense anxiety was now passed by the party. Garnet was restless and uneasy. Oldcorne betrayed his agitation by unavailing lamentations, by listening to every sound, and by constantly rushing to the windows to reconnoitre, until he was checked by Fawkes, who represented to him the folly of his conduct. Viviana, though ill at ease, did not allow her terror to appear, but endeavoured to imitate the immoveable demeanour of Guy Fawkes, who always became more collected in proportion to the danger by which he was threatened.

At the expiration of the time above mentioned, it had become quite dark, and desiring his companions to follow him, Guy Fawkes drew his sword, and, grasping Viviana's hand, led the way down stairs. Before opening the door, he listened intently, and, hearing no sound, issued cautiously forth. The party had scarcely gained the centre of the court, when a caliver was discharged at them, which, though it did no damage, served as a signal to the rest of their foes. Guy Fawkes, who had never relinquished his hold of Viviana, now pressed forward as rapidly as his strength would permit, and the two priests followed. But loud shouts were raised on the drawbridge, and it was evident it was occupied by the enemy.

Uncertain what to do, Guy Fawkes halted, and was about to return to the house, when a shout from behind told him their retreat was intercepted. In this dilemma there was nothing for it but to attempt to force a passage across the drawbridge, or to surrender at discretion; and though Guy Fawkes would not at other seasons have hesitated to embrace the former alternative, he knew that his strength was not equal to it now.

While he was internally resolving not to yield himself with life, and supporting Viviana, who clung closely to him, the clatter of hoofs was heard rapidly approaching along the avenue, and presently afterwards two horsemen galloped at full speed toward the drawbridge. The noise had likewise attracted the attention of the enemy; who, apprehensive of a rescue, prepared to stop them.

But the tremendous pace of the riders rendered this impossible. A few blows were exchanged, a few shots fired, and they had crossed the drawbridge.

Who goes there? shouted Guy Fawkes, as the horsemen approached him.

It is the voice of Guy Fawkes, cried the foremost, whose tones proclaimed it was Catesby. They are here, he cried, reining in his steed.

Where is Viviana? vociferated his companion, who was no other than Humphrey Chetham.

Here here, replied Guy Fawkes.

With the quickness of thought, the young merchant was by her side, and in another moment she was placed on the saddle before him, and borne at a headlong pace across the drawbridge.

Follow me, cried Catesby. I will clear a passage for you. Once across the drawbridge, you are safe. A hundred yards down the avenue, on the right, you will find a couple of horses tied to a tree. Quick! quick!

As he spoke, a shot whizzed past his head, and a tumultuous din in the rear told that their pursuers were close upon them. Striking spurs into his steed, Catesby dashed forward, and dealing blows right and left, cleared the drawbridge of its occupants, many of whom leaped into the moat to escape his fury. His companions were close at his heels, and got over the bridge in safety.

Fly! fly! cried Catesby, "to the horses the horses! I will check all pursuit.

So saying, and while the others flew towards the avenue, he faced his opponents, and making a desperate charge upon them, drove them backwards. In this conflict, though several shots were fired, and blows aimed at him on all sides, he sustained no injury, but succeeded in defending the bridge sufficiently long to enable his friends to mount.

He then rode off at full speed, and found the party waiting for him at the end of the avenue. Father Oldcorne was seated on the same steed as his superior. After riding with them upwards of a mile, Humphrey Chetham dismounted, and resigning his horse to Viviana, bade her farewell, and disappeared.

And now to London! cried Catesby, striking into a road on the right, and urging his steed to a rapid pace.

Ay, to London! to the Parliament House! echoed Fawkes, following him with the others.


Book the Second.

The next point to be considered is the means to compass and work these designs. These means were most cruel and damnable; by mining, and by thirty-six barrels of powder, having crows of iron, stones, and wood, laid upon the barrels, to have made the breach the greater. Lord! what a wind, what a fire, what a motion and commotion of earth and air would there have been! Sir Edward Coke's Speech on the Trial of the Conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot.


Towards the close of the sixth day after their departure from Ordsall Hall, the party approached the capital. The sun was setting as they descended Highgate Hill, and the view of the ancient, and then most picturesque city, was so enchanting, that Viviana, who beheld it for the first time, entreated her companions to pause for a few minutes to allow her to contemplate it. From the spot where they halted, the country was completely open to Clerkenwell, and only a few scattered habitations lay between them and the old grey ramparts of the city, with their gates and fortifications, which were easily discernible even at that distance. Above them rose the massive body and central tower of Saint Paul's cathedral, a structure far surpassing that which has succeeded it, while amid the innumerable gables, pointed roofs, and twisted chimneys of the houses sprang a multitude of lesser towers and spires, lending additional beauty to the scene. Viviana was enraptured, and, while gazing on the prospect, almost forgot her sorrows. Guy Fawkes and Catesby, who were a little in advance of the others, turned their gaze westward, and the former observed to his companion,

The sun is setting over the Parliament House. The sky seems stained with blood. It looks portentous of what is to follow.

I would gladly behold the explosion from this hill, or from yon heights, replied Catesby, pointing towards Hampstead. It will be a sight such as man has seldom seen.

I shall never live to witness it! exclaimed Guy Fawkes, in a melancholy tone.

What! still desponding? returned Catesby, reproachfully. I thought, since you had fully recovered from your wound, you had shaken off your fears.

You misunderstand me, replied Fawkes. I mean that I shall perish with our foes.

Why so? cried Catesby. There will be plenty of time to escape after you have fired the train.

I shall not attempt it, rejoined Fawkes, in a sombre voice. I will abide the result in the vault. If I perish, it will be a glorious death.

Better live to see the regeneration of our faith, and our restoration to our rights, rejoined Catesby. But we will speak of this hereafter. Here comes Garnet.

Where do you propose we should lodge to-night? asked the latter, riding up.

At the house at Lambeth, where the powder is deposited, returned Catesby.

Will it be safe? asked Garnet, uneasily.

We shall be safer there than elsewhere, father, replied Catesby. If it is dark enough to-night, Fawkes and I will remove a portion of the powder. But we are losing time. We must pass through the city before the gates are closed.

In this suggestion Garnet acquiesced, and calling to Viviana to follow them, for, since his late atrocious attempt, Catesby had not exchanged a word or look with her, but during the whole of the journey kept sedulously aloof, the whole party set forward, and proceeding at a brisk pace, soon reached the walls of the city. Passing through Cripplegate, they shaped their course towards London Bridge. Viviana was filled with astonishment at all she saw: the multitude and magnificence of the shops, compared with such as she had previously seen; the crowds in the streets, for even at that hour they were thronged; the varied dresses of the passengers the sober garb of the merchant, contrasting with the showy cloak, the preposterous ruff, swelling hose, plumed cap, and swaggering gait of the gallant or the ruffler; the brawls that were constantly occurring; the number of signs projecting from the dwellings; all she witnessed or heard surprised and amused her, and she would willingly have proceeded at a slower pace to indulge her curiosity, had not her companions urged her onward.

As they were crossing Eastcheap, in the direction of Crooked-lane, a man suddenly quitted the footpath, and, rushing towards Garnet, seized his bridle, and cried,

I arrest you. You are a Romish priest.

It is false, knave, returned Garnet. I am as good a Protestant as thyself, and am just arrived with my companions from a long journey.

Your companions are all rank Papists, rejoined the stranger. You yourself are Father Garnet, superior of the Jesuits, and, if I am not deceived, the person next you is Father Oldcorne, also of that order. If I am wrong you can easily refute the charge. Come with me to the council. If you refuse, I will call assistance from the passengers.

Garnet saw he was lost if he did not make an immediate effort at self-preservation, and resolving to be beforehand with his assailant, he shouted at the top of his voice,

Help! help! my masters. This villain would rob me of my purse.

He is a Romish priest, vociferated the stranger. I call upon you to assist me to arrest him.

While the passengers, scarcely knowing what to make of these contradictory statements, flocked round them, Guy Fawkes, who was a little in advance of Catesby, rode back, and seeing how matters stood, instantly drew a petronel, and with the butt-end felled the stranger to the ground. Thus liberated, Garnet struck spurs into his steed, and the whole party dashed off at a rapid pace. Shouts were raised by the bystanders, a few of whom started in pursuit, but the speed at which the fugitives rode soon bore them out of danger.

By this time they had reached London Bridge, and Viviana, in some degree recovered from the fright caused by the recent occurrence, ventured to look around her. She could scarcely believe she was crossing a bridge, so completely did the tall houses give it the appearance of a street; and, if it had not been for occasional glimpses of the river caught between the openings of these lofty habitations, she would have thought her companions had mistaken the road. As they approached the ancient gateway (afterwards denominated Traitor's Tower), at the Southwark side of the bridge, she remarked with a shudder the dismal array of heads garnishing its spikes, and pointing them out to Fawkes, cried,

Heaven grant yours may never be amongst the number!

Fawkes made no answer, but dashed beneath the low and gloomy arch of the gate.

Striking into a street on the right, the party skirted the walls of Saint Saviour's Church, and presently drew near the Globe theatre, above which floated its banner. Adjoining it was the old Bear-garden the savage inmates of which made themselves sufficiently audible. Garnet hastily pointed out the first-mentioned place of amusement to Viviana as they passed it, and her reading having made her well acquainted with the noble dramas produced at that unpretending establishment little better than a barn in comparison with a modern playhouse, she regarded it with deep interest. Another theatre the Swan speedily claimed her attention; and, leaving it behind, they came upon the open country.

It was now growing rapidly dark, and Catesby, turning off into a narrow lane on the right, shouted to his companions to keep near him. The tract of land they were traversing was flat and marshy. The air was damp and unwholesome for the swamp had not been drained as in later times, and the misty exhalations arising from it added to the obscurity. Catesby, however, did not relax his pace, and his companions imitated his example. Another turn on the right seemed to bring them still nearer the river, and involved them in a thicker fog.

All at once Catesby stopped, and cried,

We should be near the house. And yet this fog perplexes me. Stay here while I search for it.

If you leave us, we shall not readily meet again, rejoined Fawkes.

But the caution was unheeded, Catesby having already disappeared. A few moments afterwards, Fawkes heard the sound of a horse's hoofs approaching him; and, thinking it was Catesby, he hailed the rider.

The horseman made no answer, but continued to advance towards them.

Just then the voice of Catesby was heard at a little distance, shouting, I was right. It is here.

The party then hastened in the direction of the cry, and perceived through the gloom a low building, before the door of which Catesby, who had dismounted, was standing.

A stranger is amongst us, observed Fawkes, in an under tone, as he rode up.

Where is he? demanded Catesby, hastily.

Here, replied a voice. But, fear nothing. I am a friend.

I must have stronger assurance than that, replied Catesby. Who are you?

Robert Keyes, replied the other, Do you not know my voice?

In good truth I did not, rejoined Catesby; and you have spoken just in time. Your arrival is most opportune. But what brings you here to-night?

The same errand as yourself, I conclude, Catesby, replied Keyes. I came here to see that all was in safety. But, who have you with you?

Let us enter the house, and you shall learn, replied Catesby.

With this, he tapped thrice at the door in a peculiar manner, and presently a light was seen through the windows, and a voice from within demanded who knocked.

Your master, replied Catesby.

Upon this, the door was instantly unbarred. After a hasty greeting between Catesby and his servant, whom he addressed as Thomas Bates, the former inquired whether aught had occurred during his absence, and was answered that, except an occasional visit from Mr. Percy, one of the conspirators, no one had been near the house; everything being in precisely the same state he had left it.

That is well, replied Catesby. Now, then, to dispose of the horses.

All the party having dismounted, their steeds were led to a stable at the back of the premises by Catesby and Bates, while the others entered the house. It was a small, mean-looking habitation, standing at a short distance from the river-side, on the skirts of Lambeth Marsh, and its secluded situation and miserable appearance seldom induced any one to visit it. On one side was a deep muddy sluice communicating with the river. Within, it possessed but slight accommodation, and only numbered four apartments. One of the best of these was assigned to Viviana, and she retired to it as soon as it could be prepared for her reception. Garnet, who still carried his arm in a sling, but who was in other respects almost recovered from his accident, tendered every assistance in his power, and would have remained with her, but she entreated to be left alone. On descending to the lower room, he found Catesby, who, having left Bates in care of the horses, produced such refreshments as they had brought with them. These were scanty enough; but a few flasks of excellent wine which they found within the house made some amends for the meagre repast. Viviana was solicited by Guy Fawkes to join them; but she declined, alleging that she was greatly fatigued, and about to retire to rest.

Their meal ended, Catesby proposed that they should ascertain the condition of the powder, as he feared it might have suffered from being so long in the vault. Before making this examination, the door was carefully barred; the shutters of the windows closed; and Guy Fawkes placed himself as sentinel at the door. A flag beneath the grate, in which a fire was never kindled, was then raised, and disclosed a flight of steps leading to a vault beneath. Catesby having placed a light in a lantern, descended with Keyes; but both Garnet and Oldcorne refused to accompany them.

The vault was arched and lofty, and, strange to say, for its situation, dry a circumstance owing, in all probability, to the great thickness of the walls. On either side were ranged twenty barrels filled with powder; and at the further end stood a pile of arms, consisting of pikes, rapiers, demi-lances, petronels, calivers, corslets, and morions. Removing one of the barrels from its station, Catesby forced open the lid, and examined its contents, which he found perfectly dry and uninjured.

It is fit for use, he observed, with a significant smile, as he exhibited a handful of the powder to Keyes, who stood at a little distance with the lantern; if it will keep as well in the cellar beneath the Parliament House, our foes will soon be nearer heaven, than they would ever be if left to themselves.

When do you propose to transport it across the river? asked Keyes.

To-night, replied Catesby. It is dark and foggy, and fitting for the purpose. Bates! he shouted; and at the call his servant instantly descended. Is the wherry at her moorings?

She is, your worship, replied Bates.

You must cross the river instantly, then, rejoined Catesby, and proceed to the dwelling adjoining the Parliament House, which we hired from Ferris. Here is the key. Examine the premises, and bring word whether all is secure.

Bates was about to depart, when Keyes volunteering to accompany him, they left the house together. Having fastened down the lid of the cask, Catesby summoned Fawkes to his assistance, and by his help as many barrels as could be safely stowed in the boat were brought out of the vault. More than two hours elapsed before Bates returned. He was alone, and informed them that all was secure, but that Keyes had decided on remaining where he was, it being so dark and foggy, that it was scarcely possible to cross the river.

I had some difficulty in landing, he added, and got considerably out of my course. I never was out on so dark a night before.

It is the better for us, rejoined Catesby. We shall be sure to escape observation.

In this opinion Guy Fawkes concurred, and they proceeded to transport the powder to the boat, which was brought up the sluice within a few yards of the door. This done, and the barrels covered with a piece of tarpaulin, they embarked, and Fawkes, seizing an oar, propelled the skiff along the narrow creek.

As Bates had stated, the fog was so dense that it was wholly impossible to steer correctly, and Fawkes was therefore obliged to trust to chance as to the course he took. However, having fully regained his strength, he rowed with great swiftness, and, as far as he could judge, had gained the mid-stream, when, before he could avoid it, he came in violent contact with another boat, oversetting it, and plunging its occupants in the stream.

Disregarding the hints and even menaces of Catesby, who urged him to proceed, Fawkes immediately lay upon his oars, and, as the water was perfectly smooth, succeeded, without much difficulty, in extricating the two men from their perilous situation. Their boat having drifted down the stream, could not be recovered. The chief of these personages was profuse in his thanks to his deliverers, whom he supposed were watermen, and they took care not to undeceive him.

You may rely upon my gratitude, he said; and when I tell you I am the Earl of Salisbury, you will be satisfied I have the means of evincing it.

The Earl of Salisbury! exclaimed Catesby, who was seated by Fawkes, having taken one of the oars. Is it possible?

I have been on secret state business, replied the Earl, and did not choose to employ my own barge. I was returning to Whitehall, when your boat struck against mine.

It is our bitterest enemy, observed Catesby, in an under tone, to Fawkes. Fate has delivered him into our hands.

What are you about to do? demanded Fawkes, observing that his companion no longer pulled at the oar.

Shoot him, replied Catesby. Keep still, while I disengage my petronel.