William Ainsworth.

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





You shall learn presently, replied Catesby. And he motioned to Fawkes to remove Viviana.

Let me remain, she cried, fiercely. My nature is changed, and is become as savage as your own. If blood must be spilt, I will tarry to look upon it.

This is no place for you, dear daughter, interposed Garnet.

Nor for you either, father, retorted Viviana, bitterly; unless you will act as a minister of Christ, and prevent this violence.

Let her remain, if she will, observed Catesby. Her presence need not hinder our proceedings.

So saying, he seated himself opposite Tresham, while the two priests placed themselves on either side. Guy Fawkes took up a position on the left of the prisoner, with his drawn dagger in his hand, and Keyes stationed himself near the door. The unfortunate captive regarded them with terrified glances, and trembled in every limb.

Thomas Tresham, commenced Catesby, in a stern voice, you are a sworn brother in our plot. Before I proceed further, I will ask you what should be his punishment who violates his oath, and betrays his confederates? We await your answer?

But Tresham remained obstinately silent.

I will tell you, since you refuse to speak, continued Catesby. It is death death by the hands of his associates.

It may be, replied Tresham; but I have neither broken my oath, nor betrayed you.

Your letter to Lord Mounteagle is in my possession, replied Catesby. Behold it!

Perdition! exclaimed Tresham. But you will not slay me? I have betrayed nothing. I have revealed nothing. On my soul's salvation, I have not! Spare me! spare me! and I will be a faithful friend in future. I have been indiscreet I own it but nothing more. I have mentioned no names. And Lord Mounteagle, as you well know, is as zealous a Catholic as any now present.

Your letter has been sent to the Earl of Salisbury, pursued Catesby, coldly. It was from him I obtained it.

Then Lord Mounteagle has betrayed me, returned Tresham, becoming pale as death.

Have you nothing further to allege? demanded Catesby. As Tresham made no answer, he turned to the others, and said, Is it your judgment he should die?

All, except Viviana, answered in the affirmative.

Tresham, continued Catesby, solemnly, prepare to meet your fate like a man. And do you, father, he added to Garnet, proceed to shrive him.

Hold! cried Viviana, stepping into the midst of them, "hold! she exclaimed, in a voice so authoritative, and with a look so commanding, that the whole assemblage were awe-stricken. If you think to commit this crime with impunity, you are mistaken. I swear by everything sacred, if you take this man's life, I will go forth instantly, and denounce you all to the Council. You may stare, sirs, and threaten me, but you shall find I will keep my word.

We must put her to death too, observed Catesby, in an under tone to Fawkes, or we shall have a worse enemy left than Tresham.

I cannot consent to it, replied Fawkes.

If you mistrust this person, why not place him in restraint? pursued Viviana.

You will not mend matters by killing him.

She says well, observed Garnet; let us put him in some place of security.

I am agreed, replied Fawkes.

And I, added Keyes.

My judgment, then, is overruled, rejoined Catesby. But I will not oppose you. We will imprison him in the vault beneath this chamber.

He must be without light, said Garnet.

And without arms, added Keyes.

And without food, muttered Catesby. He has only exchanged one death for another.

The flag was then raised, and Tresham thrust into the vault, after which it was restored to its former position.

I have saved you from the lesser crime, cried Viviana to Guy Fawkes; and, with Heaven's grace, I trust to preserve you from the greater!

CHAPTER III.
THE ESCAPE PREVENTED

Viviana having retired to her chamber, apparently to rest, a long and anxious consultation was held by the conspirators as to the next steps to be pursued. Garnet was of opinion that, as the Earl of Salisbury was aware of a conspiracy against the state being on foot among the Catholics, their project ought to be deferred, if not altogether abandoned.

We are sure to be discovered, he said. Arrests without end will take place. And such rigorous measures will be adopted by the Earl, such inquiries instituted, that all will infallibly be brought to light. Besides, we know not what Tresham may have revealed. He denies having betrayed our secret, but no credit can be attached to his assertions.

Shall we examine him again, father, cried Catesby, and wring the truth from him by threats or torture?

No, my son, replied Garnet; let him remain where he is till morning. A night of solitary confinement, added to the stings of his own guilty conscience, is likely to produce a stronger effect upon him than any torments we could inflict. He shall be interrogated strictly to-morrow, and, I will answer for it, will make a full confession. But even if he has revealed nothing material, there exists another and equally serious ground of alarm. I allude to your meeting with the Earl on the river. I should be the last to counsel bloodshed. But if ever it could be justified, it might have been so in this case.

I would have slain him if I had had my own way, returned Catesby, with a fierce and reproachful look at Fawkes.

If I have done wrong, I will speedily repair my error, observed the latter. Do you desire his death, father? and will you absolve me from the deed? he added, turning to Garnet.

It is better as it is, replied Garnet, making a gesture in the negative. I would not have our high and holy purpose stained by common slaughter. The power that delivered him into your hands, and stayed them, no doubt preserved him for the general sacrifice. My first fear was lest, having noticed the barrels of powder within the boat, he might have suspected your design. But I am satisfied his eyes were blinded, and his reason benighted, so that he could discern nothing.

Such was my own opinion, father, replied Fawkes. Let us observe the utmost caution, but proceed at all hazards with the enterprise. If we delay, we fail.

Right, returned Catesby; and for that counsel I forgive you for standing between me and our enemy.

Upon this, it was agreed that if nothing occurred in the interim, more powder should be transported to the habitation in Westminster on the following night, that Fawkes and Catesby, who might be recognised by Salisbury's description, should keep close house during the day, and that the rest of the conspirators should be summoned to assist in digging the mine. Prayers were then offered up by the two priests for their preservation from peril, and for success in their enterprise; after which, they threw themselves on benches or seats, and courted slumber. All slept soundly except Fawkes, who, not being able to close his eyes, from an undefinable apprehension of danger, arose, and cautiously opening the door, kept watch outside.

Shortly afterwards, Viviana, who had waited till all was quiet, softly descended the stairs, and, shading her light, gazed timorously round. Satisfied she was not observed, she glided swiftly and noiselessly to the fire-place, and endeavoured to raise the flag. But it resisted all her efforts, and she was about to abandon the attempt in despair, when she perceived a bolt on one side, that had escaped her notice. Hastily withdrawing it, she experienced no further difficulty. The stone revolved on hinges like a trap-door, and lifting it, she hurried down the steps.

Alarmed by her approach, Tresham had retreated to the further end of the vault, and snatching up a halbert from the pile of weapons, cried, in a voice of desperation

Stand off! I am armed, and have severed my bonds. Off, I say! You shall not take me with life.

Hush! cried Viviana, putting her finger to her lips, I am come to set you free.

Do I behold an inhabitant of this world? cried Tresham, crossing himself, and dropping the halbert, or some blessed saint? Ah! he exclaimed, as she advanced towards him, it is Viviana Radcliffe my preserver. Pardon, sweet lady. My eyes were dazzled by the light, and your sudden appearance and speech, and I might almost say looks, made me think you were some supernatural being come to deliver me from these bloody-minded men. Where are they?

In the room above, she replied, in a whisper, "asleep, and if you speak so loud you will arouse them.

Let us fly without a moment's delay, returned Tresham, in the same tone, and hastily picking up a rapier and a dagger.

Stay! cried Viviana, arresting him. Before you go, you must tell me what you are about to do.

We will talk of that when we are out of this accursed place, he replied.

You shall not stir a footstep, she rejoined, placing herself resolutely between him and the outlet, till you have sworn neither to betray your confederates, nor to do them injury.

May Heaven requite me, if I forgive them! cried Tresham between his ground teeth.

Remember! you are yet in their power, she rejoined. One word from me, and they are at your side. Swear! and swear solemnly, or you do not quit this spot.

Tresham gazed at her fiercely, and griped his dagger, as if determined to free himself at any cost.

Ah! she ejaculated, noticing the movement, you are indeed a traitor. You have neither sense of honour nor gratitude, and I leave you to your fate. Attempt to follow me, and I give the alarm.

Forgive me, Viviana, he cried, abjectly prostrating himself at her feet, and clinging to the hem of her dress. I meant only to terrify you; I would not injure you for worlds. Do not leave me with these ruthless cut-throats. They will assuredly murder me. Do not remain with them yourself, or you will come to some dreadful end. Fly with me, and I will place you beyond their reach will watch over your safety. Or, if you are resolved to brave their fury, let me go, and I will take any oath you propose. As I hope for salvation I will not betray them.

Peace! cried Viviana, contemptuously. If I set you free, it is not to save you, but them.

What mean you? asked Tresham, hesitating.

Question me not, but follow, she rejoined, and tread softly, as you value your life.

Tresham needed no caution on this head, and as they emerged from the trap-door in breathless silence, and he beheld the figures of his sleeping foes, he could scarcely muster sufficient courage to pass through them. Motioning him to proceed quickly, Viviana moved towards the door, and to her surprise found it unfastened. Without pausing to consider whence this neglect could arise, she opened it, and Tresham, who trembled in every limb, and walked upon the points of his feet, stepped forth. As he crossed the threshold, however, a powerful grasp was laid upon his shoulder, and a drawn sword presented to his breast, while the voice of Fawkes thundered in his ear, Who goes there? Speak, or I strike.

While the fugitive, not daring to answer, lest his accents should betray him, endeavoured vainly to break away, Viviana, hearing the struggle, threw open the door, and exclaimed, It is Tresham. I set him free.

You! cried Fawkes, in astonishment. Wherefore?

In the hope that his escape would induce you to abandon your design, and seek safety in flight, she rejoined. But you have thwarted my purpose.

Fawkes made no reply, but thrust Tresham forcibly into the house, and called to Catesby, who by this time had been roused with the others, to close and bar the door. The command was instantly obeyed, and as Catesby turned, a strange and fearful group met his view. In the midst stood Tresham, his haggard features and palsied frame bespeaking the extremity of his terror. His sword having been beaten from his grasp by Fawkes, and his dagger wrested from him by Keyes, he was utterly defenceless. Viviana had placed herself between him and his assailants, and screening him from their attack, cried

Despatch me. The fault is mine mine only and I am ready to pay the penalty. Had I not released him, he would not have attempted to escape. I am the rightful victim.

She speaks the truth, gasped Tresham. If she had not offered to liberate me, I should never have thought of flying. Would to Heaven I had never yielded to her solicitations!

Peace, craven hound! exclaimed Fawkes, furiously; you deserve to die for your meanness and ingratitude, if not for your treachery. And it is for this miserable wretch, Viviana, he added, turning to her, that you would have placed your friends in such fearful jeopardy, it is for him, who would sacrifice you without scruple to save himself, that you now offer your own life?

I deserve your reproaches, she rejoined, in confusion.

Had I not fortunately intercepted him, pursued Fawkes, an hour would not have elapsed ere he would have returned with the officers; and we should have changed this dwelling for a dungeon in the Tower, these benches for the rack.

In pity stab me! cried Viviana, falling at his feet. But oh! do not wound me with your words. I have committed a grievous wrong; but I was ignorant of the consequences; and, as I hope for mercy hereafter, my sole motive, beyond compassion for this wretched man, was to terrify you into relinquishing your dreadful project.

You have acted wrongfully, very wrongfully, Viviana, interposed Garnet: but since you are fully convinced of your error, no more need be said. There are seasons when the heart must be closed against compassion, and when mercy becomes injustice. Go to your chamber, and leave us to deal with this unhappy man.

To-morrow you must quit us, observed Fawkes, as she passed him.

Quit you! she exclaimed. I will never offend again.

I will not trust you, replied Fawkes, unless but it is useless to impose restrictions upon you, which you will not perhaps, cannot observe.

Impose any restrictions you please, replied Viviana. But do not bid me leave you.

The time is come when we must separate, rejoined Fawkes. See you not that the course we are taking is slippery with blood, and beset with perils which the firmest of your sex could not encounter?

I will encounter them nevertheless, replied Viviana. Be merciful," she added, pointing to Tresham, and mercy shall be shown you in your hour of need. And she slowly withdrew.

While this was passing, Catesby addressed a few words aside to Keyes and Oldcorne, and now stepping forward, and fixing his eye steadily upon the prisoner, to note the effect of his speech upon him, said

I have devised a plan by which the full extent of Tresham's treachery can be ascertained.

You do not mean to torture him, I trust? exclaimed Garnet, uneasily.

No, father, replied Catesby. If torture is inflicted at all, it will be upon the mind, not the body.

Then it will be no torture, observed Garnet. State your plan, my son.

It is this, returned Catesby. He shall write a letter to Lord Mounteagle, stating that he has important revelations to make to him, and entreating him to come hither unattended.

Here! exclaimed Fawkes.

Here, repeated Catesby; and alone. We will conceal ourselves in such manner that we may overhear what passes between them, and if any attempt is made by the villain to betray our presence, he shall be immediately shot. By this means we cannot fail to elicit the truth.

I approve your plan, my son, replied Garnet; but who will convey the letter to Lord Mounteagle?

I will, replied Fawkes. Let it be prepared at once, and the case will be thought the more urgent. I will watch him, and see that he comes unattended, or give you timely warning.

Enough, rejoined Garnet. Let writing materials be procured, and I will dictate the letter.

Tresham, meanwhile, exhibited no misgiving; but, on the contrary, his countenance brightened up as the plan was approved.

My life will be spared if you find I have not deceived you, will it not? he asked, in a supplicating voice.

Assuredly, replied Garnet.

Give me pen and ink, then, he cried, and I will write whatever you desire.

Our secret is safe, whispered Catesby to Garnet. It is useless to test him further.

I think so, replied Garnet. Would we had made this experiment sooner!

Do not delay, I entreat you, implored Tresham. I am eager to prove my innocence.

We are satisfied with the proof we have already obtained, returned Garnet.

Tresham dropped on his knees in speechless gratitude.

We are spared the necessity of being your executioners, my son," pursued Garnet, and I rejoice at it. But I cannot acquit you of the design to betray us; and till you have unburthened your whole soul to me, and proved by severe and self-inflicted penance that you are really penitent, you must remain a captive within these walls.

I will disguise nothing from you, father, replied Tresham, and will strive to expiate my offence by the severest penance you choose to inflict.

Do this, my son, rejoined Garnet; leave no doubt of your sincerity, and you may be yet restored to the place you have forfeited, and become a sharer in our great enterprise.

I will never trust him more, observed Fawkes.

Nor I, added Keyes.

I will, rejoined Catesby: not that I have more faith in him than either of you; but I will so watch him that he shall not dare to betray us. Nay, more, he added, in an under tone, to Garnet, I will turn his treachery to account. He will be a useful spy upon our enemies.

If he can be relied on, observed Garnet.

After this, you need have no fears, rejoined Catesby, with a significant smile.

The first part of your penance, my son, said Garnet, addressing Tresham, shall be to pass the night in solitary vigil and prayer within the vault. Number your transgressions, and reflect upon their enormity. Consider not only the injury your conduct might have done us, but the holy church of which you are so sinful a member. Weigh over all this, and to-morrow I will hear your confession; when, if I find you in a state of grace, absolution shall not be refused.

Tresham humbly bowed his head in token of acquiescence. He was then led to the vault, and the flag closed over him, as before. This done, after a brief conversation, the others again stretched themselves on the floor, and sought repose.

CHAPTER IV.
THE MINE

Some days elapsed before the conspirators ventured forth from their present abode. They had intended to remove the rest of the powder without loss of time, but were induced to defer their purpose on the representations of Tresham, who stated to Garnet, that in his opinion they would run a great and needless risk. Before the expiration of a week, Tresham's apparent remorse for his perfidy, added to his seeming zeal, had so far reinstated him in the confidence of his associates, that he was fully absolved of his offence by Garnet; and, after taking fresh oaths of even greater solemnity than the former, was again admitted to the league. Catesby, however, who placed little faith in his protestations, never lost sight of him for an instant, and, even if he meditated an escape, he had no opportunity of effecting it.

A coldness, stronger on his side than hers, seemed to have arisen between Viviana and Guy Fawkes. Whenever she descended to the lower room, he withdrew on some excuse; and though he never urged her departure by words, his looks plainly bespoke that he desired it. Upon one occasion, she found him alone, the others being at the time within the vault. He was whetting the point of his dagger, and did not hear her approach, until she stood beside him. He was slightly confused, and a deep ruddy stain flushed his swarthy cheeks and brow; but he averted his gaze, and continued his occupation in silence.

Why do you shun me? asked Viviana, laying her hand gently upon his shoulder. And, as he did not answer, she repeated the question in a broken voice. Guy Fawkes then looked up, and perceived that her eyes were filled with tears.

I shun you, Viviana, for two reasons, he replied gravely, but kindly; first, because I would have no ties of sympathy to make me cling to the world, or care for it; and I feel that if I suffer myself to be interested about you, this will not long be the case: secondly, and chiefly, because you are constantly striving to turn me from my fixed purpose; and, though your efforts have been, and will be unavailing, yet I would not be exposed to them further.

You fear me, because you think I shall shake your resolution, she rejoined, with a forced smile. But I will trouble you no more. Nay, if you wish it, I will go.

It were better, replied Fawkes, in accents of deep emotion, and taking her hand. Painful as will be the parting with you, I shall feel more easy when it is over. It grieves me to the soul to see you the daughter of the proud, the wealthy Sir William Radcliffe an inmate of this wretched abode, surrounded by desperate men, whose actions you disapprove, and whose danger you are compelled to share. Think how it would add to my suffering if our plot which Heaven avert should be discovered, and you be involved in it.