“It shall not be,” returned Fawkes, laying a firm grasp upon his arm. “Let him perish with the others.”
“If we suffer him to escape now, we may never have such a chance again," rejoined Catesby. “I will shoot him.”
“I say you shall not,” rejoined Fawkes. “His hour is not yet come.”
“What are you talking about, my masters?” demanded the Earl, who was shivering in his wet garments.
“Nothing,” replied Catesby, hastily. “I will throw him overboard,” he whispered to Fawkes.
“Again I say, you shall not,” replied the latter.
“I see what you are afraid of,” cried the Earl. “You are smugglers. You have got some casks of distilled waters on board, and are afraid I may report you. Fear nothing. Land me near the palace, and count upon my gratitude.”
“Our course lies in a different direction,” replied Catesby, sternly. “If your lordship lands at all, it must be where we choose.”
“But I have to see the King to-night. I have some important papers to deliver to him respecting the Papists,” replied Salisbury.
“Indeed!” exclaimed Catesby. “We must, at least, have those papers,” he observed, in a whisper, to Fawkes.
“That is a different affair,” replied Fawkes. “They may prove serviceable to us.”
“My lord,” observed Catesby, “by a strange chance you have fallen into the hands of Catholics. You will be pleased to deliver these papers to us.”
“Ah! villains, would you rob me?” cried the Earl. “You shall take my life sooner.”
“We will take both, if you resist,” replied Catesby, in a menacing tone.
“Nay, then,” returned Salisbury, attempting to draw his sword, “we will see who will obtain the mastery. We are equally matched. Come on; I fear you not.”
But the waterman who had rowed the Earl was not of equal courage with his employer, and refused to take part in the conflict.
“It will be useless to contend with us,” cried Catesby, relinquishing the oar to Fawkes, and springing forward. “I must have those papers," he added, seizing the Earl by the throat, “or I will throw you overboard.”
“I am mistaken in you,” returned Salisbury; “you are no common mariner.”
“It matters not who or what I am,” rejoined Catesby, fiercely. “Your papers, or you die.”
Finding it in vain to contend with his opponent, the Earl was fain to yield, and reluctantly produced a packet from his doublet, and delivered it to him.
“You will repent this outrage, villain,” he said.
“Your lordship will do well to recollect you are still in my power," rejoined Catesby. “One thrust of my sword will wipe off some of the injuries you have inflicted on our suffering party.”
“I have heard your voice before,” cried Salisbury; “you shall not escape me.”
“Your imprudence has destroyed you,” retorted Catesby, clutching the Earl's throat more tightly, and shortening his sword, with the intent to plunge it into his breast.
“Hold!” exclaimed Fawkes, grasping his arm, and preventing the blow.
“His life,” replied Catesby, struggling to liberate his arm.
“Let him swear not to betray us,” rejoined Fawkes. “If he refuses, I will not stay your hand.”
“You hear what my companion says, my lord,” cried Catesby. “Will you swear to keep silence as to what has just occurred?”
After a moment's hesitation, Salisbury assented, and Catesby relinquished his grasp.
During this time, the boat had drifted considerably down the stream, and, in spite of the darkness, Catesby noticed with some uneasiness that they were approaching more than one vessel. The Earl of Salisbury also perceived this, and raised a cry for help, but was instantly checked by Catesby, who took a seat beside him, and placing the point of his rapier at his breast, swore he would stab him if he made any further clamour.
The threat, and the dangerous propinquity of his enemy, effectually silenced the Earl, and Catesby directed Fawkes to make for the shore as quickly as he could. His injunctions were obeyed, and Fawkes plied the oars with so much good-will, that in a few minutes the wherry struck against the steps, which projected far into the water, a little to the right of the Star Chamber, precisely on the spot where Westminster Bridge now stands.
Here the Earl and his companion were allowed to disembark, and they had no sooner set foot on land than Guy Fawkes pushed off the boat, and rowed as swiftly as he could towards the centre of the stream. He then demanded of Catesby whether he should make for the Parliament House, or return.
“I scarcely know what to advise,” replied Catesby. “I do not think the Earl will attempt pursuit. And yet I know not. The papers we have obtained may be important. Cease rowing for a moment, and let us listen.”
Guy Fawkes complied, and they listened intently, but could only hear the rippling of the current against the sides of the skiff.
“We have nothing to fear,” observed Catesby. “He will not pursue us, or he cannot find a boat.”
As he spoke, the glimmer of torches was visible on the shore, and the plunge of oars into the water convinced him his opinion was erroneous.
“What course shall we take?” inquired Fawkes.
“I care not,” replied Catesby, sullenly. “If I had had my own way, this would not have happened.”
“Have no fears,” replied Fawkes, rowing swiftly down the stream. “We shall easily escape.”
“We will not be taken alive,” returned Catesby, seating himself on one of the barrels, and hammering against the lid with the butt-end of his petronel. “I will sooner blow us all to perdition than he shall capture us.”
“You are right,” replied Fawkes. “By my patron, Saint James, he is taking the same course as ourselves.”
“Well, let him board us,” replied Catesby. “I am ready for him.”
“Do as you think proper if the worst occurs,” returned Fawkes. “But, if we make no noise, I am assured we shall not be perceived.”
With this he ceased rowing, and suffered the boat to drop down the stream. As ill-luck would have it, it seemed as if the hostile bark had struck completely into their track, and, aided by the current, and four sturdy rowers, was swiftly approaching.
“The Earl will be upon us in a few minutes,” replied Catesby. “If you have any prayers to offer, recite them quickly, for I swear I will be as good as my word.”
“I am ever prepared for death,” replied Fawkes. “Ha! we are saved!”
This last exclamation was occasioned by his remarking a large barge, towards which they were rapidly drifting.
“What are you about to do?” cried Catesby. – "Leap on board, and abandon the skiff, together with its contents?”
“No,” replied Fawkes; “sit still, and leave the rest to me.”
By this time, they had approached the barge, which was lying at anchor, and Guy Fawkes, grasping at a boat-hook, fixed it in the vessel as they passed, and drew their own boat close to its side – so close, in fact, that it could not be distinguished from it.
The next moment, the chase came up, and they distinctly perceived the Earl of Salisbury seated in the stern of the boat, holding a torch. As he approached the barge, he held the light towards it; but the skiff being on the off-side, entirely escaped notice. When the chase had got to a sufficient distance to be out of hearing, the fugitives rowed swiftly in the contrary direction.
Not judging it prudent to land, they continued to ply the oars, until fatigue compelled them to desist, and they had placed some miles between them and their pursuers.
“Long before this, the Earl must have given up the chase,” observed Catesby. “We must return before daybreak, and either land our powder near the Parliament House, or take it back to the vault at Lambeth.”
“We shall run equal risk either way,” replied Fawkes, “and, having ventured thus far, we may as well go through with it. I am for landing at Westminster.”
“And I,” rejoined Catesby. “I do not like giving up a project when I have once undertaken it.”
“You speak my sentiments exactly,” returned Fawkes. “Westminster be it.”
After remaining stationary for about an hour, they rowed back again, and, aided by the stream, in a short time reached their destination. The fog had in a great degree cleared off, and day began to break as they approached the stairs leading to the Parliament House. Though this was not what they desired, inasmuch as the light added to the risk they would have run in landing the powder, it enabled them to ascertain that no one was on the watch.
Running swiftly in towards a sort of wharf, protected by a roofed building, Catesby leapt ashore, and tied the skiff to a ring in the steps. He then desired Fawkes to hand out the powder as quickly as he could. The order was promptly obeyed, and in a few minutes several barrels were on the strand.
“Had you not better fetch Keyes to help us, while I get out the rest?" observed Fawkes.
Catesby assented, and hurrying to the house, found Keyes, who was in great alarm about them. He instantly accompanied the other to the wharf, and by their united efforts the powder was expeditiously and safely removed.
The habitation, to which the powder was conveyed, adjoined, as has already been stated, the Parliament House, and stood at the south-west corner of that structure. It was a small building, two stories high, with a little garden attached to it, surrounded by lofty walls, and belonged to Whinneard, the keeper of the royal wardrobe, by whom it was let to a person named Ferris. From the latter it was hired by Thomas Percy, one of the conspirators, and a relative of the Earl of Northumberland, – of whom it will be necessary to speak more fully hereafter, – for the purpose to which it was now put.
Having bestowed the barrels of powder carefully in the cellar, and fastened the door of the house and the garden-gate after them, the trio returned to the boat, and rowed back to Lambeth, where they arrived without being noticed. They then threw themselves upon the floor, and sought some repose after their fatigue.
It was late in the day before they awoke. Garnet and Oldcorne had been long astir; but Viviana had not quitted her chamber. Catesby's first object was to examine the packet he had obtained from the Earl of Salisbury, and withdrawing to a corner, he read over the papers one by one carefully.
Guy Fawkes watched his countenance as he perused them, but he asked no questions. Many of the documents appeared to have little interest, for Catesby tossed them aside with an exclamation of disappointment. At length, however, a small note dropped from the bundle. Catesby picked it up, opened it, and his whole expression changed. His brow grew contracted; and, springing to his feet, he uttered an ejaculation of rage, crying, “It is as I suspected. We have traitors among us.”
“Whom do you suspect?” cried Fawkes.
“Tresham!” cried Catesby, in a voice of thunder, – "the fawning, wily, lying Tresham. Fool that I was to league him with us.”
“He is your own kinsman,” observed Garnet.
“He is,” replied Catesby; “but were he my own brother he should die. Here is a letter from him to Lord Mounteagle, which has found its way to the Earl of Salisbury, hinting that a plot is hatching against the state, and offering to give him full information of it.”
“Traitor! false, perjured traitor!” cried Fawkes. “He must die.”
“He shall fall by my hand,” rejoined Catesby. “Stay! a plan occurs to me. He cannot be aware that this letter is in my possession. I will send Bates to bid him come hither. We will then charge him with his criminality, and put him to death.”
“He deserves severe punishment, no doubt,” replied Garnet; “but I am unwilling you should proceed to the last extremities with him.”
“There is no alternative, father,” replied Catesby. “Our safety demands his destruction.”
Garnet returned no answer, but bowed his head sorrowfully upon his breast. Bates was then despatched to Tresham; and preparations were made by the three lay conspirators for executing their fell design.
It was agreed, that on his arrival, Tresham should be seized and disarmed, and after being interrogated by Catesby touching the extent of his treachery, should be stabbed by Guy Fawkes. This being resolved upon, it became a question how they should act in the interim. It was possible that, after the loss of his papers, some communication might take place between the Earl of Salisbury and Lord Mounteagle, and through the latter with Tresham. Thus prepared, on the arrival of Bates, Tresham, seeing through their design, instead of accompanying him, might give information of their retreat to the officers. The contingency was by no means improbable; and it was urged so strongly by Garnet, that Catesby began to regret his precipitancy in sending the message. Still, his choler was so greatly roused against Tresham, that he resolved to gratify his vengeance at any risk.
“If he betrays us, and brings the officers here, we shall know how to act,” he remarked to Fawkes. “There is that below which will avenge us on them all.”
“True,” replied Fawkes. “But I trust we shall not be obliged to resort to it.”
Soon after this, Bates returned with a message from Tresham, stating that he would be at the rendezvous at nightfall, and that he had important disclosures to make to them. He desired them, moreover, to observe the utmost caution, and not to stir abroad.
“He may, perhaps, be able to offer an explanation of his conduct," observed Keyes.
“Impossible,” returned Catesby. “But he shall not die without a hearing.”
“That is all I desire,” returned Keyes.
While the others were debating upon the interrogations they should put to Tresham, and further examining the Earl of Salisbury's papers, Garnet repaired to Viviana's chamber, and informed her what was about to take place. She was filled with consternation, and entreated to be allowed to see Guy Fawkes for a few moments alone. Moved by her supplications, Garnet complied, and presently afterwards Fawkes entered the room.
“You have sent for me, Viviana,” he said. “What would you?”
“I have just heard you are about to put one of your companions to death,” she replied. “It must not be.”
“Viviana Radcliffe,” returned Fawkes, “by your own desire you have mixed yourself up with my fortunes. I will not now discuss the prudence of the step you have taken. But I deem it necessary to tell you, once for all, that any attempts to turn me from the line of conduct I have marked out to myself will fail. Tresham has betrayed us, and he must pay the penalty of his treason.”
“But not with his life,” replied Viviana. “Do you not now perceive into what enormities this fatal enterprise will lead you? It is not one crime alone that you are about to commit, but many. You constitute yourselves judges of your companion, and without allowing him to defend himself, take his life. Disguise it as you may, it is assassination – cold-blooded assassination.”
“His life is justly forfeited,” replied Guy Fawkes, sternly. “When he took the oath of secrecy and fidelity to our league, he well knew what the consequences would be if he violated it. He has done so. He has compromised our safety. Nay, he has sold us to our enemies, and nothing shall save him.”
“If this is so,” replied Viviana, “how much better would it be to employ the time now left in providing for your safety, than in contriving means of vengeance upon one, who will be sufficiently punished for his baseness by his own conscience. Even if you destroy him, you will not add to your own security, while you will commit a foul and needless crime, equal, if not exceeding in atrocity that you seek to punish.”
“Viviana,” replied Fawkes, in an angry tone, “in an evil hour, I consented to your accompanying me. I now repent my acquiescence. But, having passed my word, I cannot retract. You waste time, and exhaust my patience and your own by these unavailing supplications. When I embarked in this enterprise, I embraced all its dangers, all its crimes if you will, and I shall not shrink from them. The extent of Tresham's treachery is not yet known to us. There may be – and God grant it! – extenuating circumstances in his conduct that may save his life. But, as the case stands at present, his offence appears of that dye that nothing can wash it out but his blood.”
And he turned to depart.
“When do you expect this wretched man?” asked Viviana, arresting him.
“At nightfall,” replied Fawkes.
“Oh! that there were any means of warning him of his danger!” she cried.
“There are none,” rejoined Fawkes, fiercely, – "none that you can adopt. And I must lay my injunctions upon you not to quit your chamber.”
So saying, he retired.
Left alone, Viviana became a prey to the most agonizing reflections. Despite the strong, and almost unaccountable interest she felt in Guy Fawkes, she began to repent the step she had taken in joining him, as calculated to make her a party to his criminal conduct. But this feeling was transient, and was succeeded by a firmer determination to pursue the good work she had undertaken.
“Though slight success has hitherto attended my efforts,” she thought, “that is no reason why I should relax them. The time is arrived when I may exert a beneficial influence over him; and it may be, that what occurs to-night will prove the first step towards complete triumph. In any case, nothing shall be wanting to prevent the commission of the meditated atrocity.”
With this, she knelt down and prayed long and fervently, and arose confirmed and strengthened in her resolution.
Meanwhile, no alteration had taken place in the purposes of the conspirators. Night came, but with it came not Tresham. Catesby, who, up to this time had managed to restrain his impatience, now arose, and signified his intention of going in search of him, and was with difficulty prevented from carrying his threat into execution by Guy Fawkes, who represented the folly and risk of such a course.
“If he comes not before midnight, we shall know what to think, and how to act,” he observed; “but till then let us remain tranquil.”
Keyes and the others adding their persuasions to those of Fawkes, Catesby sat sullenly down, and a profound silence ensued. In this way, some hours were passed, when just at the stroke of midnight, Viviana descended from her room, and appeared amongst them. Her countenance was deathly pale, and she looked anxiously around the assemblage. All, however, with the exception of Fawkes, avoided her gaze.
“Is he come?” she exclaimed at length. “I have listened intently, but have heard nothing. You cannot have murdered him. And yet your looks alarm me. Father Garnet, answer me, – is the deed done?”
“No, my daughter,” replied Garnet, sternly.
“Then he has escaped!” she cried, joyfully. “You expected him at nightfall.”
“It is not yet too late,” replied Fawkes, in a sombre tone; “his death is only deferred.”
“Oh! do not say so,” she cried, in a voice of agony. “I hoped you had relented.”
At this moment a peculiar knock was heard at the door. It was thrice repeated, and the strokes vibrated, though with different effect, through every bosom.
“He is here,” cried Catesby, rising.
“Viviana, go to your chamber,” commanded Guy Fawkes, grasping her hand, and leading her towards the stairs.
But she resisted his efforts, and fell on her knees.
“I will not go,” she cried, in a supplicating tone, “unless you will spare this man's life.”
“I have already told you my fixed determination,” rejoined Fawkes, fiercely. “If you will not retire of your own free will, I must force you.”
“If you attempt it, I will scream, and alarm your victim,” she replied. “Mr. Catesby,” she added, “have my prayers, my entreaties, no weight with you? Will you not grant me his life?”
“No!” replied Catesby, fiercely. “She must be silenced,” he added, with a significant look at Fawkes.
“She shall,” replied the latter, drawing his poniard. “Viviana!” he continued, in a voice, and with a look that left no doubt as to his intentions, “do not compel me to be your destroyer.”
As he spoke, the knocking was repeated, and Viviana uttered a prolonged and piercing cry. Guy Fawkes raised his weapon, and was about to strike, but his resolution failed him, and his arm dropped nerveless to his side.
“Your better angel has conquered!” she cried, clasping his knees.
While this was passing, the door was thrown open by Catesby, and Tresham entered the room.
“What means this outcry?” he asked, looking round in alarm. “Ah! what do I see? Viviana Radcliffe here! Did she utter the scream?”
“She did,” replied Viviana, rising, “and she hoped to warn you by it. But you were led on by your fate.”
“Warn me from what?” ejaculated Tresham, starting. “I am among friends.”
“You are among those who have resolved upon your death,” replied Viviana.
“Ah!” exclaimed Tresham, making an effort to gain the door, and draw his sword.
In both attempts, however, he was foiled, for Catesby intercepted him, while Fawkes and Keyes flung themselves upon him, and binding his arms together with a sword-belt, forced him into a chair.
“Of what am I accused?” he demanded, in a voice tremulous with rage and terror.