Guy Fawkes: or, The Gunpowder Treason: An Historical Romance
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“Do not think of it,” replied Viviana.
“I cannot banish it from my thoughts,” continued Fawkes. “I cannot reconcile it to my feelings that one so young, so beautiful, should be thus treated. Dwelling on this idea unmans me – unfits me for sterner duties. The great crisis is at hand, and I must live only for it.”
“Live for it, then,” rejoined Viviana; “but, oh! let me remain with you till the blow is struck. Something tells me I may yet be useful to you – may save you.”
“No more of this, if you would indeed remain,” rejoined Guy Fawkes, sternly. “Regard me as a sword in the hand of fate, which cannot be turned aside, – as a bolt launched from the cloud, and shattering all in its course, which may not be stopped, – as something terrible, exterminating, immovable. Regard me as this, and say whether I am not to be shunned.”
“No,” replied Viviana; “I am as steadfast as yourself. I will remain.”
Guy Fawkes gazed at her in surprise mixed with admiration, and pressing her hand affectionately, said,
“I applaud your resolution. If I had a daughter, I should wish her to be like you.”
“You promised to be a father to me,” she rejoined. “How can you be so if I leave you?”
“How can I be so if you stay?” returned Fawkes, mournfully. “No, you must indulge no filial tenderness for one so utterly unable to requite it as myself. Fix your thoughts wholly on Heaven. Pray for the restoration of our holy religion – for the success of the great enterprise – and haply your prayers may prevail.”
“I cannot pray for that,” she replied; “for I do not wish it success. But I will pray – and fervently – that all danger may be averted from your head.”
At this moment, Catesby and Keyes emerged from the vault, and Viviana hurried to her chamber.
As soon as it grew dark, the remaining barrels of powder were brought out of the cellar, and carefully placed in the boat. Straw was then heaped upon them, and the whole covered with a piece of tarpaulin, as upon the former occasion. It being necessary to cross the river more than once, the conduct of the first and most hazardous passage was intrusted to Fawkes, and accompanied by Keyes and Bates, both of whom were well armed, he set out a little before midnight. It was a clear starlight night; but as the moon had not yet risen, they were under no apprehension of discovery. The few craft they encountered, bent probably on some suspicious errand like themselves, paid no attention to them; and plying their oars swiftly, they shot under the low parapet edging the gardens of the Parliament House, just as the deep bell of the Abbey tolled forth the hour of twelve. Keeping in the shade, they silently approached the stairs. No one was there, not even a waterman to attend to the numerous wherries moored to the steps; and, without losing a moment, they sprang ashore, and concealing the barrels beneath their cloaks, glided like phantoms summoned by the witching hour along the passage formed by two high walls, leading to Old Palace Yard, and speedily reached the gate of the habitation.In this way, and with the utmost rapidity, the whole of the fearful cargo was safely deposited in the garden; and leaving the others to carry it into the house, Guy Fawkes returned to the boat. As he was about to push off, two persons rushed to the stair-head, and the foremost, evidently mistaking him for a waterman, called to him to take them across the river.
“I am no waterman, friend,” replied Fawkes; “and am engaged on business of my own. Seek a wherry elsewhere.”
“By heaven!” exclaimed the new-comer, in accents of surprise, “it is Guy Fawkes. Do you not know me?”
“Can it be Humphrey Chetham?” cried Fawkes, equally astonished.
“It is,” replied the other. “This meeting is most fortunate. I was in search of you, having somewhat of importance to communicate to Viviana.”
“State it quickly, then,” returned Fawkes; “I cannot tarry here much longer.”
“I will go with you,” rejoined Chetham, springing into the boat, and followed by his companion. “You must take me to her.”
“Impossible,” cried Fawkes, rising angrily; “neither can I permit you to accompany me. I am busied about my own concerns, and will not be interrupted.”
“At least, tell me where I can find Viviana,” persisted Chetham.
“Not now – not now,” rejoined Fawkes, impatiently. “Meet me to-morrow night, at this hour, in the Great Sanctuary, at the farther side of the Abbey, and you shall learn all you desire to know.”
“Why not now?” rejoined Chetham, earnestly. “You need not fear me. I am no spy, and will reveal nothing.”
“But your companion?” hesitated Fawkes.
“It is only Martin Heydocke,” answered Chetham. “He can keep a close tongue as well as his master.”
“Well, sit down, then,” returned Fawkes, sullenly. “There will be less risk in taking them to Lambeth,” he muttered, “than in loitering here." And rowing with great swiftness, he soon gained the centre of the stream.
“And so,” he observed, resting for a moment on his oars, “you still cherish your attachment to Viviana, I see. Nay, never start, man. I am no enemy to your suit, though others may be. And if she would place herself at my disposal, I would give her to you, – certain that it would be to one upon whom her affections are fixed.”
“Do you think any change likely to take place in her sentiments towards me?” faltered Chetham. “May I indulge a hope?”
“I would not have you despair,” replied Fawkes. “Because, as far as I have noticed, women are not apt to adhere to their resolutions in matters of the heart; and because, as I have just said, she loves you, and I see no reasonable bar to your union.”
“You give me new life,” cried Chetham, transported with joy. “Oh! that you, who have so much influence with her, would speak in my behalf.”
“Nay, you must plead your own cause,” replied Fawkes. “I cannot hold out much hope at present; for recent events have cast a deep gloom over her spirit, and she appears to be a prey to melancholy. Let this wear off, – and with one so young and so firm-minded it is sure to do so, – and then your suit may be renewed. Urge it when you may, you have my best wishes for success, and shall have my warmest efforts to second you.”
Humphrey Chetham murmured his thanks in accents almost unintelligible from emotion, and Guy Fawkes continued,
“It would be dangerous for you to disembark with me; but when I put you ashore, I will point out the dwelling at present occupied by Viviana. You can visit it as early as you please to-morrow. You will find no one with her but Father Oldcorne, and I need scarcely add, it will gladden me to the heart to find on my return that she has yielded to your entreaties.”
“I cannot thank you,” cried Chetham, warmly grasping his hand; “but I hope to find some means of evincing my gratitude.”
“Prove it by maintaining the strictest secresy as to all you may see or hear, – or even suspect, – within the dwelling you are about to visit," returned Guy Fawkes. “Knowing that I am dealing with a man of honour, I require no stronger obligation than your word.”
“You have it,” replied Chetham, solemnly.
“Your worship shall have my oath, if you desire it,” remarked Martin Heydocke.
“No,” rejoined Fawkes; “your master will answer for your fidelity.”
Shortly after this, Guy Fawkes pulled ashore, and his companions landed. After pointing out the solitary habitation, which possessed greater interest in Humphrey Chetham's eyes than the proud structures he had just quitted, and extracting a promise that the young merchant would not approach it till the morrow, he rowed off, and while the others proceeded to Lambeth in search of lodging for the night, made the best of his way to the little creek, and entered the house.
He found the other conspirators anxiously awaiting his arrival, and the certainty afforded by his presence that the powder had been landed in safety gave general satisfaction. Preparations were immediately made for another voyage. A large supply of provisions, consisting of baked meat of various kinds, hard-boiled eggs, pasties, bread, and other viands, calculated to serve for a week's consumption, without the necessity of having recourse to any culinary process, and which had been previously procured with that view, together with a few flasks of wine, occupied the place in the boat lately assigned to the powder. At the risk of overloading the vessel, they likewise increased its burthen by a quantity of mining implements – spades, pickaxes, augers, and wrenching irons. To these were added as many swords, calivers, pikes, and petronels, as the space left would accommodate. Garnet and Catesby then embarked, – the former having taken an affectionate farewell of Viviana, whom he committed, with the strictest injunction to watch over her, to the care of Father Oldcorne. Guy Fawkes lingered for a moment, doubting whether he should mention his rencounter with Humphrey Chetham. He was the more undecided from the deep affliction in which she was plunged. At last, he determined upon slightly hinting at the subject, and to be guided as to what he said further by the manner in which the allusion was received.
“And you decide upon remaining here till we return, Viviana?” he said.
She made a sign in the affirmative.
“And you will see no one?”
“No one,” she answered.
“But, should any old friend find his way hither – Humphrey Chetham, for instance – will you not receive him?”
“Why do you single out him?” demanded Viviana, inquiringly. “Is he in London? Have you seen him?”
“I have,” replied Guy Fawkes; “I accidentally met him to-night, and have shown him this dwelling. He will come hither to-morrow.”
“I wanted only this to make me thoroughly wretched,” cried Viviana, clasping her hands with anguish. “Oh! what unhappy chance threw him across your path? Why did you tell him I was here? Why give him a hope that I would see him? But I will not see him. I will quit this house rather than be exposed to the meeting.”
“What means this sudden excitement, Viviana?” cried Guy Fawkes, greatly surprised by her agitation. “Why should a visit from Humphrey Chetham occasion you uneasiness?”
“I know not,” she answered, blushing deeply; “but I will not hazard it.”
“I thought you superior to your sex,” rejoined Fawkes, “and should never have suspected you of waywardness or caprice.”
“You charge me with failings that do not belong to me,” she answered. “I am neither wayward nor capricious; but I would be willingly spared the pain of an interview with one whom I thought I loved.”
“Thought you loved!” echoed Fawkes, in increased astonishment.
“Ay, thought,” repeated Viviana, “for I have since examined my heart, and find he has no place in it.”
“You might be happy with him, Viviana,” rejoined Fawkes, reproachfully.
“I might have been,” she replied, “had circumstances favoured our union. But I should not be so now. Recent events have wrought an entire change in my feelings. Were I to abandon my resolution of retiring to a cloister, – were I to return to the world, – and were such an event possible as that Humphrey Chetham should conform to the faith of Rome, – still, I would not – could not wed him.”
“I grieve to hear it,” replied Fawkes.
“Would you have me wed him?” she cried, in a slightly mortified tone.
“In good sooth would I,” replied Fawkes; “and I repeat my firm conviction you would be happier with him than with one more highly born, and of less real worth.”
Viviana made no reply, and her head declined upon her bosom.
“You will see him,” pursued Fawkes, taking her hand, “if only to tell him what you have just told me.”
“Since you desire it, I will,” she replied, fixing a look of melancholy tenderness upon him; “but it will cost me a bitter pang.”
“I would not tax you with it, if I did not think it needful,” returned Fawkes. “And now, farewell.”
“Farewell, – it may be, for ever,” replied Viviana, sadly.
“The boat is ready, and the tide ebbing,” cried Catesby, impatiently, at the door. “We shall be aground if you tarry longer.”
“I come,” replied Fawkes. And, waving an adieu to Viviana, he departed.
“Strange!” he muttered to himself, as he took his way to the creek. “I could have sworn she was in love with Humphrey Chetham. Who can have superseded him in her regard? Not Catesby, of a surety. 'Tis a perplexing sex. The best are fickle. Heaven be praised! I have long been proof against their wiles.”
Thus musing, he sprang into the skiff, and assisting Catesby to push it into deep water, seized an oar, and exerted himself stoutly to make up for lost time. The second voyage was as prosperous as the first. A thick veil of cloud had curtained the stars; the steps were deserted as before; and the provisions, arms, and implements were securely conveyed to their destination.
Thus far fortune seemed to favour their undertaking, and Garnet, falling on his knees, offered up the most fervent thanksgivings. Prayers over, they descended to the cellar, and their first care was to seek out a place as free from damp as possible, where the powder could be deposited till the excavation, which it was foreseen would be a work of time and great labour, was completed. A dry corner being found, the barrels were placed in it, and carefully concealed with billets of wood and coals, so as to avert suspicion in case of search. This, with other arrangements, occupied the greater part of the night, and the commencement of the important undertaking was deferred till the morrow, when an increase of their party was anticipated.
Throughout the whole of the day no one stirred forth. The windows were kept closed; the doors locked; and, as no fires were lighted, the house had the appearance of being uninhabited. In the course of the morning they underwent considerable alarm. Some mischievous urchins having scaled the garden wall, one of them fell within it, and his cries so terrified his playmates that they dropped on the other side, and left him. The conspirators reconnoitred the unhappy urchin, who continued his vociferations in a loud key, through the holes in the shutters, uncertain what to do, and fearing that this trifling mischance might lead to serious consequences, when the subject of their uneasiness relieved them by scrambling up the wall near the door, and so effecting a retreat. With this exception, nothing material occurred till evening, when their expected associates arrived.
The utmost caution was observed in admitting them. The new-comers were provided with a key of the garden-gate, but a signal was given and repeated before the house-door was opened by Bates, to whom the office of porter was intrusted. As soon as the latter had satisfied himself that all was right, by unmasking a dark lantern, and throwing its radiance upon the faces of the elder Wright, Rookwood, and Percy, he stamped his foot thrice, and the conspirators emerged from their hiding-places. A warm greeting passed between the confederates, and they adjourned to a lower chamber, adjoining the vault, where the sound of their voices could not be overheard, and where, while partaking of a frugal meal – for they desired to eke out their store of provisions as long as possible – they discoursed upon their plans, and all that had occurred since their last meeting. Nothing was said of the treachery of Tresham – his recent conduct, as already observed, having been such as to restore him in a great degree to the confidence of his companions. Percy, whose office as a gentleman-pensioner gave him the best opportunities of hearing court-whispers and secrets, informed them it was rumoured that the Earl of Salisbury had obtained a clue to some Catholic plot, whether their own he could not say; but it would seem from all that could be gathered, that his endeavours to trace it out had been frustrated.
“Where is Lord Mounteagle?” demanded Catesby.
“At his mansion near Hoxton,” replied Percy.
“Have you observed him much about the court of late, or with the Earl of Salisbury?” pursued Catesby.
“No,” replied Percy. “Yet now, I bethink me, I did observe them together, and in earnest conversation about a week ago. But Lord Mounteagle knows nothing of our plot.”
“Hum!” exclaimed Catesby, shrugging his shoulders, while significant looks were exchanged by the others, and Tresham hung his head. “Lord Mounteagle may not know that you or I, or Fawkes, or Rookwood, are conspiring against the State; but he knows that a plot is hatching amongst our party. It is from him that the Earl of Salisbury derived his information.”
“Amazement!” exclaimed Percy.
“A good Catholic, and betray his fellows!” cried Rookwood; “this passes my comprehension. Are you sure of it?”
“Unhappily we are so, my son,” replied Garnet, gravely.
“We will speak of this hereafter,” interposed Catesby. “I have a plan to get his lordship into our power, and make him serve our purposes in spite of himself. We will outwit the crafty Salisbury. Can any one tell if Tresham's sudden disappearance has been noticed.”
“His household report that he is on a visit to Sir Everard Digby, at Gothurst,” replied Rookwood. “I called at his residence yesterday, and was informed that a letter had just been received from him dated from that place. His departure, they said, was sudden, but his letter fully accounted for it.”
“The messenger who bore that letter had only to travel from Lambeth," observed Catesby, smiling.
“So I conclude,” returned Rookwood.
“And, now that our meal is ended, let us to work,” cried Fawkes, who had taken no part in the foregoing conversation. “I will strike the first blow,” he added, rising and seizing a matk.
“Hold, my son!” exclaimed Garnet, arresting him. “The work upon which the redemption of our holy church hangs must be commenced with due solemnity.”
“You are right, father,” replied Fawkes, humbly.
Headed by Garnet, bearing a crucifix, they then repaired to the vault. A silver chalice, filled with holy water, was carried by Fawkes, and two lighted tapers by Catesby. Kneeling down before that part of the wall against which operations were about to be directed, and holding the crucifix towards it, Garnet commenced praying in a low but earnest tone, gradually raising his voice, and increasing in fervour as he proceeded. The others knelt around him, and the whole formed a strange and deeply-interesting group. The vault itself harmonized with its occupants. It was of great antiquity; and its solid stone masonry had acquired a time-worn hoary tint. In width it was about nine feet, and of corresponding height, supported by a semi-circular arch, and its length was more than twenty feet.
The countenances of the conspirators showed that they were powerfully moved by what was passing; but next to Garnet, Guy Fawkes exhibited the greatest enthusiasm. His ecstatic looks and gestures evinced the strong effect produced upon his superstitious character by the scene. Garnet concluded his prayer as follows: —
“Thus far, O Lord, we have toiled in darkness and in difficulty; but we have now arrived at a point where all thy support is needed. Do not desert us, we beseech thee, but let thy light guide us through these gloomy paths. Nerve our arms, – sharpen our weapons, – and crumble these hard and flinty stones, so that they may yield to our efforts. Aid our enterprise, if thou approvest it, and it be really, as in our ignorance we believe it to be, for the welfare of thy holy Church, and the confusion of its enemies. Bear witness, O Lord, that we devote ourselves wholly and entirely to this one end, – and that we implore success only for thy glory and honour.”
With this he arose, and the following strains were chanted by the whole assemblage: —
HYMN OF THE CONSPIRATORS
This hymn raised the enthusiasm of the conspirators to the highest pitch, and such was the effect produced by it, as it rolled in sullen echoes along the arched roof of the vault, that several of them drew their swords, and crossed the blades, with looks of the most determined devotion to their cause. When it was ended, Garnet recited other prayers, and sprinkled holy water upon the wall, and upon every implement about to be used, bestowing a separate benediction on each. As he delivered the pick-axe to Guy Fawkes, he cried in a solemn voice —
“Strike, my son, in the name of the Most High, and in behalf of our holy religion, – strike!”
Guy Fawkes raised the weapon, and stimulated by excitement, threw the whole strength of his arm into the blow. A large piece of the granite was chipped off, but the matk snapped in twain. Guy Fawkes looked deeply disconcerted, and Garnet, though he concealed his emotion, was filled with dismay.
“Let me take your place,” cried Keyes, advancing, as Guy Fawkes retired.
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