William Ainsworth.

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





Nor I, added Ipgreve, especially as she is to be placed on the rack.

She has a chain of gold round her throat, I have observed, said the old woman; we must get that.

I have it, said Viviana, in a low tone, and imitating as well as she could the accents of Ruth. Here it is.

Did she give it thee? cried the old woman, getting up, and grasping Viviana's lacerated fingers with such force, that she had difficulty in repressing a scream. Did she give it thee, I say?

She gave it me for you, gasped Viviana. Take it.

While the old woman held the chain to the fire, and called to her husband to light a lamp, that she might feast her greedy eyes upon it, Viviana flew to the door.

Just as she reached it, the shrill voice of Dame Ipgreve arrested her.

Come back! cried the dame. Whither art thou going at this time of night? I will not have thee stir forth. Come back, I say.

Pshaw! let her go, interposed Ipgreve. I dare say she hath an appointment on the Green with young Nicholas Hardesty, the warder. Go, wench. Be careful of thyself, and return within the hour.

If she does not, she will rue it, added the dame. Go, then, and I will see the prisoner.

Viviana required no further permission. Starting off as she had been directed on the left, she ran as fast as her feet could carry her; and, passing between two arched gateways, soon reached the By-ward Tower. Showing the pass to the warder, he chucked her under the chin, and, drawing an immense bolt, opened the wicket, and gallantly helped her to pass through it. The like good success attended her at the Middle Tower, and at the Bulwark Gate. Scarcely able to credit her senses, and doubting whether she was indeed free, she hurried on till she came to the opening leading to the stairs at Petty Wales. As she hesitated, uncertain what to do, a man advanced towards and addressed her by name. It was Humphrey Chetham. Overcome by emotion, Viviana sank into his arms, and in another moment she was placed in a wherry, which was ordered to be rowed towards Westminster.

CHAPTER IX.
THE COUNTERPLOT

Startled, but not dismayed for he was a man of great courage by the sudden address and appearance of Guy Fawkes, Lord Mounteagle instantly sprang to his feet, and drawing his sword, put himself into a posture of defence.

You have betrayed me, he cried, seizing Tresham with his left hand; but if I fall, you shall fall with me.

You have betrayed yourself, my lord, rejoined Guy Fawkes; or rather, Heaven has placed you in our hands as an instrument for the liberation of Viviana Radcliffe. You must take an oath of secrecy a binding oath, such as, being a good Catholic, you cannot break, not to divulge what has come to your knowledge. Nay, you must join me and my confederates, or you quit not this spot with life.

I refuse your terms, replied Mounteagle, resolutely; I will never conspire against the monarch to whom I have sworn allegiance.

I will not join you. I will not aid you in procuring Viviana Radcliffe's release. Nor will I take the oath you propose. On the contrary, I arrest you as a traitor, and I command you, Tresham, in the King's name, to assist me in his capture.

But suddenly extricating himself from the grasp imposed upon him, and placing Guy Fawkes between him and the Earl, Tresham rejoined,

It is time to throw off the mask, my good lord and brother. I can render you no assistance. I am sworn to this league, and must support it. Unless you assent to the conditions proposed, and which for your own sake I would counsel you to do, I must, despite our near relationship, take part against you, even, he added, significantly, if your destruction should be resolved upon.

I will sell my life dearly, as you shall find, replied Mounteagle. And, but for the sake of my dear lady, your sister, I would stab you where you stand.

Your lordship will find resistance in vain, replied Guy Fawkes, keeping his eye steadily fixed upon him. We seek not your life, but your co-operation. You are a prisoner.

A prisoner! echoed Mounteagle, derisively. You have not secured me yet.

And as he spoke, he rushed towards the door, but his departure was checked by Bates, who presented himself at the entrance of the passage with a drawn sword in his hand. At the same moment, Catesby and Keyes issued from the closet, while Garnet and the other conspirators likewise emerged from their hiding-places. Hearing the noise behind him, Lord Mounteagle turned, and beholding the group, uttered an exclamation of surprise and rage.

I am fairly entrapped, he said, sheathing his sword, and advancing towards them. Fool that I was, to venture hither!

These regrets are too late, my lord, replied Catesby. You came hither of your own accord. But being here, nothing, except compliance with our demands, can ensure your departure.

Yes, one thing else, thought Mounteagle, "cunning. It shall go hard if I cannot outwit you. Tresham will act with me. I know his treacherous nature too well to doubt which way he will incline. Interest, as well as relationship, binds him to me. He will acquaint me with their plans. I need not, therefore, compromise myself by joining them. If I take the oath of secrecy, it will suffice and I will find means of eluding the obligation. I may thus make my own bargain with Salisbury. But I must proceed cautiously. Too sudden a compliance might awaken their suspicions.

My lord, said Catesby, who had watched his countenance narrowly, and distrusted its expression, we must have no double-dealing. Any attempt to play us false will prove fatal to you.

I have not yet consented to your terms, Mr. Catesby, replied Mounteagle, and I demand a few moments' reflection before I do so.

What say you, gentlemen? said Catesby. Do you agree to his lordship's request?

There was a general answer in the affirmative.

I would also confer for a moment alone with my brother Tresham, said Mounteagle.

That cannot be, my lord, rejoined Garnet, peremptorily. And take heed you meditate no treachery towards us, or you will destroy yourself here and hereafter.

I have no desire to speak with him, father, observed Tresham. Let him declare what he has to say before you all.

Mounteagle looked hard at him, but he made no remark.

In my opinion, we ought not to trust him, observed Keyes. It is plain he is decidedly opposed to us. And if the oath is proposed to him, he may take it with some mental reservation.

I will guard against that, replied Garnet.

If I take the oath, I will keep it, father, rejoined Mounteagle. But I have not yet decided.

You must do so, then, quickly, my lord, returned Catesby. You shall have five minutes for reflection. But first, you must deliver up your sword.

The Earl started.

We mean you no treachery, my lord, observed Keyes, and expect to be dealt with with equal fairness.

Surrendering his sword to Catesby, Mounteagle then walked to the farther end of the room, and leaning against the wall, with his back to the conspirators, appeared buried in thought.

Take Tresham aside, whispered Catesby to Wright. I do not wish him to overhear our conference. Watch him narrowly, and see that no signal passes between him and Lord Mounteagle.

Wright obeyed; and the others gathering closely together, began to converse in a low tone.

It will not do to put him to death, observed Garnet. From what he stated to Tresham, it appears that his servant was aware of his coming hither. If he disappears, therefore, search will be immediately made, and all will be discovered. We must either instantly secure ourselves by flight, and give up the enterprise, or trust him.

You are right, father, replied Rookwood. The danger is imminent.

We are safe at present, observed Percy, and may escape to France or Flanders before information can be given against us. Nay, we may carry off Mounteagle with us, for that matter. But I am loth to trust him.

So am I, rejoined Catesby. I do not like his looks.

There is no help, said Fawkes. We must trust him, or give up the enterprise. He may materially aid us, and has himself asserted that he can procure Viviana's liberation from the Tower.

Pshaw! exclaimed Catesby, impatiently. What has that to do with the all-important question we are now considering?

Much, returned Fawkes. And I will not move further in the matter unless that point is insisted on.

You have become strangely interested in Viviana of late, observed Catesby, sarcastically. Could I suspect you of so light a passion, I should say you loved her.

A deep flush dyed Fawkes's swarthy cheeks, but he answered in a voice of constrained calmness,

I do love her, as a daughter.

Humph! exclaimed the other, drily.

Catesby, rejoined Fawkes, sternly, you know me well too well, to suppose I would resort to any paltry subterfuge. I am willing to let what you have said pass. But I counsel you not to jest thus in future.

Jest! exclaimed Catesby. I was never more serious in my life.

Then you do me wrong, retorted Fawkes, fiercely; and you will repeat the insinuation at your peril.

My sons my sons, interposed Garnet, what means this sudden this needless quarrel, at a moment when we require the utmost calmness to meet the danger that assails us? Guy Fawkes is right. Viviana must be saved. If we desert her, our cause will never prosper. But let us proceed step by step, and first decide upon what is to be done with Lord Mounteagle.

I am filled with perplexity, replied Catesby.

Then I will decide for you, replied Percy. Our project must be abandoned.

Never, replied Fawkes, energetically. Fly, and secure your own safety. I will stay and accomplish it alone.

A brave resolution! exclaimed Catesby, tendering him his hand, which the other cordially grasped. I will stand by you to the last. No we have advanced too far to retreat.

Additional caution will be needful, observed Keyes. Can we not make it a condition with Lord Mounteagle to retire, till the blow is struck, to his mansion at Hoxton?

That would be of no avail, replied Garnet. We must trust him wholly, or not at all.

There I agree with you, father, said Percy. Let us propose the oath of secrecy to him, and detain him here until we have found some secure retreat, utterly unknown to him, or to Tresham, whence we can correspond with our friends. A few days will show whether he has betrayed us or not. We need not visit this place again till the moment for action arrives.

You need not visit it again at all, rejoined Fawkes. Everything is prepared, and I will undertake to fire the train. Prepare for what is to follow the explosion, and leave the management of that to me.

I cannot consent to such a course, my son, said Garnet. The whole risk will thus be yours.

The whole glory will be mine, also, father, rejoined Fawkes, enthusiastically. I pray you, let me have my own way.

Well, be it as you will, my son, returned Garnet, with affected reluctance. I will not oppose the hand of Heaven, which clearly points you out as the chief agent in this mighty enterprise. In reference to what Percy has said about a retreat till Lord Mounteagle's trust-worthiness can be ascertained, he added to Catesby, I have just bethought me of a large retired house on the borders of Enfield Chase, called White Webbs. It has been recently taken by Mrs. Brooksby, and her sister, Anne Vaux, and will afford us a safe asylum.

An excellent plan, father, cried Catesby. Since Guy Fawkes is willing to undertake the risk, we will leave Lord Mounteagle in his charge, and go there at once.

What must be done with Tresham? asked Percy. We cannot take him with us, nor must he know of our retreat.

Leave him with me, said Fawkes.

You will be at a disadvantage, observed Catesby, should he take part, as there is reason to fear he may do, with Lord Mounteagle.

They are both unarmed, returned Fawkes; but were it otherwise, I would answer with my head for their detention.

All good saints guard you, my son! exclaimed Garnet. Henceforth, we resign the custody of the powder to you.

It will be in safe keeping, replied Fawkes.

The party then advanced towards Lord Mounteagle, who, hearing their approach, instantly faced them.

Your decision, my lord? demanded Catesby.

You shall have it in a word, sir, replied Mounteagle, firmly.

I will not join you, but I will take the required oath of secrecy.

Is this your final resolve, my lord? rejoined Catesby.

It is, replied the Earl.

It must content us, observed Garnet; though we hoped you would have lent your active services to further a cause, having for its sole object the restoration of the church to which you belong.

I know not the means whereby you propose to restore it, father," replied Mounteagle, and I do not desire to know them. But I guess that they are dark and bloody, and as such I can take no part in them.

And you refuse to give us any counsel or assistance? pursued Garnet.

I will not betray you, replied Mounteagle. I can say nothing further.

I would rather he promised too little, than too much, whispered Catesby to Garnet. I begin to think him sincere.

I am of the same opinion, my son, returned Garnet.

One thing you shall do, before I consent to set you free, on any terms, my lord, observed Guy Fawkes. You shall engage to procure the liberation of Viviana Radcliffe from the Tower. You told Tresham you could easily accomplish it.

I scarcely knew what I said, replied Mounteagle, with a look of embarrassment.

You spoke confidently, my lord, rejoined Fawkes.

Because I had no idea I should be compelled to make good my words," returned the Earl. But as a Catholic, and related by marriage to Tresham, who is a suspected person, any active exertions in her behalf on my part might place me in jeopardy.

This excuse shall not avail you, my lord, replied Fawkes. You must weigh your own safety against hers. You stir not hence till you have sworn to free her.

I must perforce assent, since you will have no refusal, replied Mounteagle. But I almost despair of success. If I can effect her deliverance, I swear to do so.

Enough, replied Fawkes.

And now, gentlemen, said Catesby, appealing to the others, are you willing to let Lord Mounteagle depart upon the proposed terms?

We are, they replied.

I will administer the oath at once, said Garnet; and you will bear in mind, my son, he added, in a stern tone to the Earl, that it will be one which cannot be violated without perdition to your soul.

I am willing to take it, replied Mounteagle.

Producing a primer, and motioning the Earl to kneel before him, Garnet then proposed an oath of the most solemn and binding description. The other repeated it after him, and at its conclusion placed the book to his lips.

Are you satisfied? he asked, rising.

I am, replied Garnet.

And so am I, thought Tresham, who stood in the rear, that he will perjure himself.

Am I now at liberty to depart? inquired the Earl.

Not yet, my lord, replied Catesby. You must remain here till midnight.

Lord Mounteagle looked uneasy, but seeing remonstrance would be useless, he preserved a sullen silence.

You need have no fear, my lord, said Catesby. But we must take such precautions as will ensure our safety, in case you intend us any treachery.

You cannot doubt me, sir, after the oath I have taken, replied Mounteagle, haughtily. But since you constitute yourself my jailer, I must abide your pleasure.

If I am your jailer, my lord, rejoined Catesby, I will prove to you that I am not neglectful of my office. Will it please you to follow me?

The Earl bowed in acquiescence; and Catesby, marching before him to a small room, the windows of which were carefully barred, pointed to a chair, and instantly retiring, locked the door upon him. He then returned to the others, and taking Guy Fawkes aside, observed in a low tone,

We shall set out instantly for White Webbs. You will remain on guard with Tresham, whom you will, of course, keep in ignorance of our proceedings. After you have set the Earl at liberty, you can follow us if you choose. But take heed you are not observed.

Fear nothing, replied Fawkes.

Soon after this, Catesby, and the rest of the conspirators, with the exception of Guy Fawkes and Tresham, quitted the room, and the former concluded they were about to leave the house. He made no remark, however, to his companion; but getting between him and the door, folded his arms upon his breast, and continued to pace backwards and forwards before it.

Am I a prisoner, as well as Lord Mounteagle? asked Tresham, after a pause.

You must remain with me here till midnight, replied Fawkes. We shall not be disturbed.

What! are the others gone? cried Tresham.

They are, was the reply.

Tresham's countenance fell, and he appeared to be meditating some project, which he could not muster courage to execute.

Be warned by the past, Tresham, said Fawkes, who had regarded him fixedly for some minutes. If I find reason to doubt you, I will put it out of your power to betray us a second time.

You have no reason to doubt me, replied Tresham, with apparent candour. I only wondered that our friends should leave me without any intimation of their purpose. It is for me, not you, to apprehend some ill design. Am I not to act with you further?

That depends upon yourself, and on the proofs you give of your sincerity, replied Fawkes. Answer me frankly. Do you think Lord Mounteagle will keep his oath?

I will stake my life upon it, replied Tresham.

The conversation then dropped, and no attempt was made on either side to renew it. In this way several hours passed, when at length the silence was broken by Tresham, who requested permission to go in search of some refreshment; and Guy Fawkes assenting, they descended to the lower room, and partook of a slight repast.

Nothing further worthy of note occurred. On the arrival of the appointed hour, Guy Fawkes signified to his companion that he might liberate Lord Mounteagle; and immediately availing himself of the permission, Tresham repaired to the chamber, and threw open the door. The Earl immediately came forth, and they returned together to the room in which Guy Fawkes remained on guard.

You are now at liberty to depart, my lord, said the latter; and Tresham can accompany you, if he thinks proper. Remember that you have sworn to procure Viviana's liberation.

I do, replied the Earl.

And he then quitted the house with Tresham.

You have had a narrow escape, my lord, remarked the latter as they approached Whitehall, and paused for a moment under the postern of the great western gate.

True, replied the Earl; but I do not regret the risk I have run. They are now wholly in my power.

You forget your oath, my lord, said Tresham.

If I do, replied the Earl, I but follow your example. You have broken one equally solemn, equally binding, and would break a thousand more were they imposed upon you. But I will overthrow this conspiracy, and yet not violate mine.

I see not how that can be, my lord, replied Tresham.

You shall learn in due season, replied the Earl. I have had plenty of leisure for reflection in that dark hole, and have hit upon a plan which, I think, cannot fail.

I hope I am no party to it, my lord, rejoined Tresham. I dare not hazard myself among them further.

I cannot do without you, replied Mounteagle; but I will ensure you against all danger. It will be necessary for you, however, to act with the utmost discretion, and keep a constant guard upon every look and movement, as well as upon your words. You must fully regain the confidence of these men, and lull them into security.

I see your lordship's drift, replied Tresham. You wish them to proceed to the last point, to enhance the value of the discovery.

Right, replied the Earl. The plot must not be discovered till just before its outbreak, when its magnitude and danger will be the more apparent. The reward will then be proportionate. Now, you understand me, Tresham.

Fully, replied the other.

Return to your own house, rejoined Mounteagle. We need hold no further communication together till the time for action arrives.

And that will not be before the meeting of Parliament, replied Tresham; for they intend to whelm the King and all his nobles in one common destruction.

By Heaven! a brave design! cried Mounteagle. It is a pity to mar it. I knew it was a desperate and daring project, but should never have conceived aught like this. Its discovery will indeed occasion universal consternation.

It may benefit you and me to divulge it, my lord, said Tresham; but the disclosure will deeply and lastingly injure the Church of Rome.

It would injure it more deeply if the plot succeeded, replied Mounteagle, because all loyal Catholics must disapprove so horrible and sanguinary a design. But we will not discuss the question further, though what you have said confirms my purpose, and removes any misgiving I might have felt as to the betrayal. Farewell, Tresham. Keep a watchful eye upon the conspirators, and communicate with me should any change take place in their plans. We may not meet for some time. Parliament, though summoned for the third of October, will, in all probability, be prorogued till November.