William Ainsworth.

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

Keyes was a powerful man, and exerting his energies, he buried the point of the pick-axe so deeply in the mortar, that he could not remove it unassisted. These untoward circumstances cast a slight damp upon their ardour; but Catesby, who perceived it, went more cautiously to work, and in a short time succeeded with great labour in getting out the large stone upon which the others had expended so much useless exertion. The sight restored their confidence, and as many as could work in the narrow space joined him. But they found that their task was much more arduous than they had anticipated. More than an hour elapsed before they could loosen another stone, and though they laboured with the utmost perseverance, relieving each other by turns, they had made but a small breach when morning arrived. The stones were as hard and unyielding as iron, and the mortar in some places harder than the stones.

After a few hours' rest, they resumed their task. Still, they made but small progress; and it was not until the third day that they had excavated a hole sufficiently wide and deep to admit one man within it. They were now arrived at a compost of gravel and flint stones; and if they had found their previous task difficult, what they had now to encounter was infinitely more so. Their implements made little or no impression on this unyielding substance, and though they toiled incessantly, the work proceeded with disheartening slowness. The stones and rubbish were conveyed at dead of night in hampers into the garden, and buried.

One night, when they were labouring as usual, Guy Fawkes, who was foremost in the excavation, thought he heard the tolling of a bell within the wall. He instantly suspended his task, and being convinced that he was not deceived, crept out of the hole, and made a sign to the others to listen. Each had heard the awful sound before; but as it was partially drowned by the noise of the pick-axe, it had not produced much impression upon them, as they attributed it to some vibration in the wall, caused by the echo of the blows. But it was now distinctly audible deep, clear, slow, like a passing bell, but so solemn, so unearthly, that its tones froze the blood in their veins.

They listened for a while in speechless astonishment, scarcely daring to look at each other, and expecting each moment that the building would fall upon them, and bury them alive. The light of a single lantern placed upon an upturned basket fell upon figures rigid as statues, and countenances charged with awe.

My arm is paralysed, said Guy Fawkes, breaking silence; I can work no more.

Try holy water, father, cried Catesby. If it proceeds from aught of evil, that will quell it.

The chalice containing the sacred lymph was brought, and pronouncing a solemn exorcism, Garnet sprinkled the wall.

The sound immediately ceased.

It is as I thought, father, observed Catesby; it is the delusion of an evil spirit.

As he spoke, the tolling of the mysterious bell was again heard, and more solemnly, more slowly than before.

Sprinkle the wall again, in Heaven's name, father, cried Fawkes, crossing himself devoutly.

Avoid thee, Sathanas!

Garnet complied, and throwing holy water upon the stones, the same result followed.


On the morning after his encounter with Guy Fawkes, Humphrey Chetham, accompanied by Martin Heydocke, took his way to Lambeth Marsh. With a throbbing heart he approached the miserable dwelling he knew to be inhabited by Viviana, and could scarcely summon courage to knock at the door. His first summons not being answered, he repeated it more loudly, and he then perceived the face of Father Oldcorne at the window, who, having satisfied himself that it was a friend, admitted him and his attendant.

You were expected, my son, said the priest, after a friendly greeting. Guy Fawkes has prepared Viviana for your coming.

Will she not see me? demanded the young merchant, uneasily.

I believe so, replied Oldcorne. But I will apprise her of your arrival. Be seated, my son.

He then carefully fastened the door, and repaired to Viviana's chamber, leaving Chetham in that state of tremor and anxiety which a lover, hoping to behold his mistress, only knows.

It was some time before Viviana appeared, and the young merchant, whose heart beat violently at the sound of her footstep, was startled by the alteration in her looks, and the extreme coldness of her manner. Oldcorne was with her, and motioning Martin Heydocke to follow him, the youthful pair were left alone.

You desire to see me, I am given to understand, sir, observed Viviana, in a freezing tone.

I have journeyed to London for that express purpose, replied Humphrey Chetham, tremulously.

I am much beholden to you, sir, returned Viviana, in the same repelling tone as before; but I regret you should have taken so much trouble on my account.

To serve you is happiness, not trouble, Viviana, replied Humphrey Chetham, ardently; and I am overjoyed at finding an opportunity of proving my devotion.

I have yet to learn what service I must thank you for, she returned.

I can scarcely say that I am warranted in thus intruding upon you," replied Chetham, greatly abashed; but, having learnt from my servant, Martin Heydocke, that Doctor Dee had set out for London, with the view of seeking you out, and withdrawing you from your present associates, I was determined to be beforehand with him, and to acquaint you, if possible, with his intentions.

What you say surprises me, replied Viviana. Doctor Dee has no right to interfere with my actions. Nor should I obey him were he to counsel me, as is scarcely probable, to quit my companions.

I know not what connexion there may be between you to justify the interposition of his authority, replied Chetham; neither did I tarry to inquire. But presuming from what I heard, that he would attempt to exercise some control over you, I set out at once, and, without guide to your retreat, or the slightest knowledge of it, was fortunate enough, on the very night of my arrival in London, to chance upon Guy Fawkes, who directed me to you.

I am aware of it, was the chilling answer.

I will not avouch, pursued Chetham, passionately, that I have not been actuated as much by an irrepressible desire to see you again, as by anxiety to apprise you of Doctor Dee's coming. I wanted only a slight excuse to myself to induce me to yield to my inclinations. Your departure made me wretched. I thought I had more control over myself. But I find I cannot live without you.

Alas! alas! cried Viviana, in a troubled tone, and losing all her self-command. I expected this. Why why did you come?

I have told you my motive, replied Chetham; but, oh! do not reproach me!

I do not desire to do so, returned Viviana, with a look of agony. I bitterly reproach myself that I cannot meet you as of old. But I would rather far rather have encountered Doctor Dee, had he come hither resolved to exert all his magical power to force me away, than have met you.

Have I unwittingly offended you, Viviana? asked Chetham, in astonishment.

Oh! no no no! she replied, you have not offended me; but

But what? he cried, anxiously.

I would rather have died than see you, she answered.

I will not inquire wherefore, rejoined Chetham, because I too well divine the cause. I am no longer what I was to you.

Press this matter no further, I pray of you, returned Viviana, in much confusion, and blushing deeply. I shall ever esteem you, ever feel the warmest gratitude to you. And what matters it whether my heart is estranged from you or not, since I can never wed you?

What matters it? repeated the young merchant, in accents of despair, "it matters much. Drowning love will cling to straws. The thought that I was beloved by you, though I could never hope to possess your hand, reconciled me in some degree to my fate. But now, he added, covering his face with his hands, "now, my heart is crushed.

Nay, say not so, cried Viviana, in a voice of the deepest emotion. I do love you, as a sister.

That is small comfort, rejoined Chetham, bitterly. I echo your own wish. Would we had never met again! I might, at least, have deluded myself into the belief that you loved me.

It would have been better so, she returned. I would inflict pain on no one far less on you, whom I regard so much, and to whom I owe so much.

You owe me nothing, Viviana, rejoined Chetham. All I desired was to serve you. In the midst of the dangers we have shared together, I felt no alarm except for your sake. I have done nothing nothing. Would I had died for you!

Calm yourself, sir, I entreat you, she returned.

You did love me once? demanded Chetham, suddenly.

I thought so, she answered.

The young merchant uttered an exclamation of anguish, and a mournful pause ensued, broken only by his groans.

Answer me, Viviana, he said, turning abruptly upon her, "answer me, and, in mercy, answer truly, do you love another?

It is a question I cannot answer, she replied, becoming ashy pale.

Your looks speak for you! he vociferated, in a terrible tone, "you do! His name? his name? that I may wreak my vengeance upon him.

Your violence terrifies me, returned Viviana, withdrawing the hand he had seized. I must put an end to this interview.

Pardon me, Viviana! cried Chetham, falling on his knees before her "in pity pardon me! I am not myself. I shall be calmer presently. But if you knew the anguish of the wound you have inflicted, you would not add to it.

Heaven knows I would not! she returned, motioning him to rise. And, if it will lighten your suffering, know that the love I feel for another if love, indeed, it be, is as hopeless as your own. But it is not a love of which even you could be jealous. It is a higher and a holier passion. It is affection mixed with admiration, and purified from all its grossness. It is more, perhaps, than the love of a daughter for her father but it is nothing more. I shall never wed him I love could not if I would. Nay, I would shun him, if I did not feel that the hour will soon come when the extent of my affection must be proved.

This is strange sophistry, returned Chetham; and you may deceive yourself by it, but you cannot deceive me. You love as all ardent natures do love. But in what way do you mean to prove your affection?

Perhaps, by the sacrifice of my life, she answered.

I can tell you who is the object of your affections! said Chetham. It is Guy Fawkes.

I will not deny it, replied Viviana; he is.

Hear me, then, exclaimed Chetham, who appeared inexpressibly relieved by the discovery he had made; in my passage across the river with him last night, our conversation turned on the one subject ever nearest my heart, yourself, and Guy Fawkes not only bade me not despair, but promised to aid my suit.

And he kept his word, replied Viviana, for, while announcing your proposed visit, he urged me strongly in your behalf.

Then he knows not of your love for him? demanded Chetham.

He not only knows it not, but never shall know it from me, nor must he know it from you, sir, rejoined Viviana, energetically.

Fear it not, said Chetham, sighing. It is a secret I shall carefully preserve.

And now that you are in possession of it, she answered, I no longer feel your presence as a restraint. Let me still regard you as a friend.

Be it so, replied Humphrey Chetham, mournfully; and as a friend let me entreat you to quit this place, and abandon your present associates. I will not seek to turn your heart from Fawkes nor will I try to regain the love I have lost. But let me implore you to pause ere you irretrievably mix yourself up with the fortunes of one so desperate. I am too well aware that he is engaged in a fearful plot against the State, though I know not its precise nature.

You will not betray him? she cried.

I will not, though he is my rival, returned Chetham. But others may nay, perhaps have done so already.

Whom do you suspect? demanded Viviana, in the greatest alarm.

I fear Doctor Dee, replied the young merchant; but I know nothing certainly. My servant, Martin Heydocke, who is in the Doctor's confidence, intimated as much to me, and I have reason to think that his journey to town, under the pretext of searching for you, is undertaken for the purpose of tracing out the conspirators, and delivering them to the Government.

Is he arrived in London? inquired Viviana, eagerly.

I should think not, returned Chetham. I passed him, four days ago, on this side Leicester, in company with Kelley and Topcliffe.

If the wretch Topcliffe was with him, your conjectures are too well founded, she replied. I must warn Guy Fawkes instantly of his danger.

Command my services in any way, said Chetham.

I know not what to do, cried Viviana, after a pause, during which she betrayed the greatest agitation. I dare not seek him out; and yet, if I do not, he may fall into the hands of the enemy. I must see him at all hazards.

Suffer me to go with you, implored Chetham. You may rely upon my secrecy. And now I have a double motive for desiring to preserve Fawkes.

You are, indeed, truly noble-hearted and generous, replied Viviana; and I would fully confide in you. But, if you were to be seen by the others, you would be certainly put to death. Not even Fawkes could save you.

I will risk it, if you desire it, and it will save him, replied the young merchant, devotedly. Nay, I will go alone.

That were to insure your destruction, she answered. No no it must not be. I will consult with Father Oldcorne.

With this, she hurried out of the room, and returned in a short time with the priest.

Father Oldcorne is of opinion that our friends must be apprised of their danger, she said. And he thinks it needful we should both go to their retreat, that no hindrance may be offered to our flight, in case such a measure should be resolved upon.

You cannot accompany us, my son, added Oldcorne; for though I am as fully assured of your fidelity as Viviana, and would confide my life to you, there are those who will not so trust you, and who might rejoice in the opportunity of removing you.

Viviana! exclaimed Chetham, looking entreatingly at her.

For my sake, if not for your own, do not urge this further, she returned. There are already dangers and difficulties enow without adding to them. You would be safer amid a horde of robbers than amidst these men.

And it is to such persons you commit yourself? cried Chetham, reproachfully. Oh! be warned by me, ere it is too late! Abandon them!

It is too late, already, replied Viviana. The die is cast.

Then I can only lament it, returned Chetham, sadly. Suffer me, at least, to accompany you to some place near their retreat, that you may summon me in case of need.

There can be no objection to that, Viviana, observed Oldcorne; provided Humphrey Chetham will promise not to follow us.

Readily, replied the young merchant.

I am unwilling to expose him to further risk on my account, said Viviana. But be it as you will.

It was then agreed, that they should not set out till nightfall, but proceed, as soon as it grew dark, to Lambeth, where Humphrey Chetham undertook to procure a boat for their conveyance across the river.

The hour of departure at length arrived. Viviana, who had withdrawn to her own room, appeared in her travelling habit, and was about to set forth with her companions, when they were all startled by a sudden and loud knocking at the door.

We are discovered, she cried. Doctor Dee has found out our retreat.

Fear nothing, rejoined Chetham, drawing his sword, while his example was imitated by Martin Heydocke; they shall not capture you while I live.

As he spoke, the knocking was repeated, and the door shaken so violently as to threaten to burst its fastenings.

Extinguish the light, whispered Chetham, and let Father Oldcorne conceal himself. We have nothing to fear.

Where shall I fly? cried Oldcorne despairingly. It will be impossible to raise the flag, and seek refuge in the vault.

Fly to my room, cried Viviana. And finding he stood irresolute, as if paralysed with terror, she took his arm, and dragged him away. The next moment the door was burst open with a loud crash, and several armed men, with their swords drawn, followed by Topcliffe, and another middle-aged man, of slight stature, and rather under-sized, but richly dressed, and bearing all the marks of exalted rank, rushed into the room.

You are my prisoner! cried Topcliffe, rushing up to Chetham, who had planted himself, with Martin Heydocke, at the foot of the stairs. I arrest you in the King's name!

You are mistaken in your man, sir, cried Chetham, fiercely. I have committed no offence. Lay a hand upon me, at your peril!

How is this? cried Topcliffe. Humphrey Chetham here!

Ay, returned the young merchant; you have fallen upon the wrong house.

Not so, sir, replied Topcliffe. I am satisfied from your presence that I am right. Where you are, Viviana Radcliffe is not far off. Throw down your arms. You can offer no resistance to my force, and your zeal will not benefit your friends, while it will place your own safety in jeopardy.

But Chetham fiercely refused compliance, and after a few minutes' further parley, the soldiers were about to attack him, when Viviana opened a door above, and slowly descended the stairs. At her appearance the young merchant, seeing that further resistance would be useless, sheathed his sword, and she passed between him and Heydocke, and advanced towards the leaders of the band.

What means this intrusion? she asked.

We are come in search of two Jesuit priests, whom we have obtained information are hidden here, replied Topcliffe; "as well as of certain other Papists, disaffected against the State, for whose apprehension I hold a warrant.

You are welcome to search the house, replied Viviana. But there is no one within it except those you see.

As she said this, Chetham, who gazed earnestly at her, caught her eye, and from a scarcely-perceptible glance, felt certain that the priest, through her agency, had effected his escape. But the soldiers had not waited for her permission to make the search. Rushing up-stairs they examined the different chambers, there were two small rooms besides that occupied by Viviana, and found several of the priests' habiliments; but though they examined every corner with the minutest attention, sounded the walls, peered up the chimneys, underneath the bed, and into every place, likely and unlikely, they could find no other traces of those they sought, and were compelled to return to their leader with tidings of their ill success. Topcliffe, with another party, continued his scrutiny below, and discovering the moveable flag in the hearth, descended into the vault, where he made certain of discovering his prey. But no one was there; and, the powder and arms having been removed, he gained nothing by his investigations.

Meanwhile, his companion, and evidently from his garb, and the deference paid him, though he was addressed by no title which could lead to the absolute knowledge of his rank, his superior, seated himself, and put many questions in a courteous but authoritative tone to Viviana respecting her residence in this solitary abode, the names of her companions, where they were, and upon what scheme they were engaged. To none of these questions would she return an answer, and her interrogator, at last, losing patience, said,

I hold it my duty, to inform you that you will be carried before the Council, and if you continue thus obstinate, means will be taken and those none of the gentlest to extort the truth from you.

You may apply the torture to me, replied Viviana, firmly; but it will wrest nothing from me.

That remains to be seen, replied the other; I only trust you will not compel me to put my threat into execution.

At this moment Topcliffe emerged from the vault, and the soldiers returned from their unsuccessful search above.

They have escaped us now, remarked Topcliffe to his superior. But I will conceal a party of men on the premises, who will be certain to capture them on their return.

Viviana uttered an exclamation of irrepressible uneasiness, which did not escape her auditors.

I am right, you see, observed Topcliffe, significantly, to his companion.

You are so, replied the other.

As this was said, Viviana hazarded a look at Humphrey Chetham, the meaning of which he was not slow to comprehend. He saw that she wished him to make an effort to escape, that he might warn her companions, and regardless of the consequence, be prepared to obey her. While those around were engaged in a last fruitless search, he whispered his intentions to Martin Heydocke, and only awaited a favourable opportunity to put them in execution. It occurred sooner than he expected. Before quitting the premises, Topcliffe determined to visit the upper rooms himself, and he took several of the men with him.