William Ainsworth.

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





In that case, replied Tresham, you will postpone your disclosure likewise till November?

Assuredly, replied Mounteagle. The King must be convinced of his danger. If it were found out now, he would think lightly of it. But if he has actually set foot upon the mine which a single spark might kindle to his destruction, he will duly appreciate the service rendered him. Farewell! and do not neglect my counsel.

CHAPTER X.
WHITE WEBBS

Tarrying for a short time within the house after the departure of the others, Guy Fawkes lighted a lantern, and concealing it beneath his cloak, proceeded to the cellar, to ascertain that the magazine of powder was safe. Satisfied of this, he made all secure, and was about to return to the house, when he perceived a figure approaching him. Standing aside, but keeping on his guard for fear of a surprise, he would have allowed the person to pass, but the other halted, and after a moment's scrutiny addressed him by name in the tones of Humphrey Chetham.

You seem to haunt this spot, young sir, said Fawkes, in answer to the address. This is the third time we have met hereabouts.

On the last occasion, replied Chetham, I told you Viviana was a prisoner in the Tower. I have now better news for you. She is free.

Free! exclaimed Fawkes, joyfully. By Lord Mounteagle's instrumentality? But I forget. He has only just left me.

She has been freed by my instrumentality, replied the young merchant. She escaped from the Tower a few hours ago.

Where is she? demanded Guy Fawkes, eagerly.

In a boat at the stairs near the Parliament House, replied Chetham.

Heaven and Our Lady be praised! exclaimed Fawkes. This is more than I hoped for. Your news is so good, young sir, that I can scarce credit it.

Come with me to the boat, and you shall soon be satisfied of the truth of my statement, rejoined Chetham.

And followed by Guy Fawkes, he hurried to the river side, where a wherry was moored. Within it sat Viviana, covered by the tilt.

Assisting her to land, and finding she was too much exhausted to walk, Guy Fawkes took her in his arms, and carried her to the house he had just quitted.

Humphrey Chetham followed as soon as he had dismissed the waterman. Placing his lovely burthen in a seat, Guy Fawkes instantly went in search of such restoratives as the place afforded. Viviana was extremely faint, but after she had swallowed a glass of wine, she revived, and, looking around her, inquired where she was.

Do not ask, replied Fawkes; let it suffice you are in safety. And now, he added, perhaps, Humphrey Chetham will inform me in what manner he contrived your escape. I am impatient to know.

The young merchant then gave the required information, and Viviana added such particulars as were necessary to the full understanding of the story. Guy Fawkes could scarcely control himself when she related the tortures she had endured, nor was Chetham less indignant.

You rescued me just in time, said Viviana.

I should have sunk under the next application.

Thank Heaven! you have escaped it, exclaimed Fawkes. You owe much to Humphrey Chetham, Viviana.

I do, indeed, she replied.

And can you not requite it? he returned. Can you not make him happy? Can you not make me happy?

Viviana's pale cheek was instantly suffused with blushes, but she made no answer.

Oh, Viviana! cried Humphrey Chetham, you hear what is said. If you could doubt my love before, you must be convinced of it now. A hope will make me happy. Have I that?

Alas! no, she answered. It would be the height of cruelty, after your kindness, to deceive you. You have not.

The young merchant turned aside to hide his emotion.

Not even a hope! exclaimed Guy Fawkes, after what he has done. Viviana, I cannot understand you. Does gratitude form no part of your nature?

I hope so, she replied, nay, I am sure so, for I feel the deepest gratitude towards Humphrey Chetham. But gratitude is not love, and must not be mistaken for it.

I understand the distinction too well, returned the young merchant, sadly.

It is more than I do, rejoined Guy Fawkes; and I will frankly confess that I think the important services Humphrey Chetham has rendered you entitle him to your hand. It is seldom whatever poets may feign, that love is so strongly proved as his has been; and it ought to be adequately requited.

Say no more about it, I entreat, interposed Chetham.

But I will deliver my opinion, rejoined Guy Fawkes, because I am sure what I advise is for Viviana's happiness. No one can love her better than you. No one is more worthy of her. Nor is there any one to whom I so much desire to see her united.

Oh, Heaven! exclaimed Viviana. This is worse than the torture.

What mean you? exclaimed Fawkes, in astonishment.

She means, interposed Chetham, that this is not the fitting season to urge the subject that she will never marry.

True true, replied Viviana. If I ever did marry I ought to select you.

You ought, replied Fawkes. And I know nothing of the female heart, if it can be insensible to youth, devotion, and manly appearance like that of Humphrey Chetham.

You do know nothing of it, rejoined Chetham, bitterly. Women's fancies are unaccountable.

Such is the received opinion, replied Fawkes; but as I am ignorant of the sex, I can only judge from report. You are the person I should imagine she would love nay, to be frank, whom I thought she did love.

No more, said Humphrey Chetham. It is painful both to Viviana and to me.

This is not a time for delicacy, rejoined Guy Fawkes. Viviana has given me the privilege of a father with her. And where her happiness is so much concerned as in the present case, I should imperfectly discharge my duty if I did not speak out. It would sincerely rejoice me, and I am sure contribute materially to her own happiness, if she would unite herself to you.

I cannot I cannot, she rejoined. I will never marry.

You hear what she says, remarked Chetham. Do not urge the matter further.

I admire maiden delicacy and reserve, replied Fawkes; but when a man has acted as you have done, he deserves to be treated with frankness. I am sure Viviana loves you. Let her tell you so.

You are mistaken, replied Chetham; and it is time you should be undeceived. She loves another.

Is this so? cried Fawkes, in astonishment.

She made no answer.

Whom do you love? he asked.

Still, no answer.

I will tell you whom she loves and let her contradict me if I am wrong, said Chetham.

Oh, no! no! in pity spare me! cried Viviana.

Speak!" thundered Fawkes. Who is it?

Yourself, replied Chetham.

What! exclaimed Fawkes, recoiling, "love me! I will not believe it. She loves me as a father but nothing more nothing more. But you were right. Let us change the subject. A more fitting season may arrive for its discussion.

After some further conversation, it was agreed that Viviana should be taken to White Webbs; and leaving her in charge of Humphrey Chetham, Guy Fawkes went in search of a conveyance to Enfield.

Traversing the Strand, every hostel in which was closed, he turned up Wych-street, immediately on the right of which there was a large inn (still in existence), and entering the yard, discovered a knot of carriers moving about with lanterns in their hands. To his inquiries respecting a conveyance to Enfield, one of them answered, that he was about to return thither with his waggon at four o'clock, it was then two, and should be glad to take him and his friends. Overjoyed at the intelligence, and at once agreeing to the man's terms, Guy Fawkes hurried back to his companions, and, with the assistance of Humphrey Chetham, contrived to carry Viviana (for she was utterly unable to support herself) to the inn-yard, where she was immediately placed in the waggon, on a heap of fresh straw.

About an hour after this, but long before daybreak, the carrier attached his horses to the waggon, and set out. Guy Fawkes and Humphrey Chetham were seated near Viviana, but little was said during the journey, which occupied about three hours. By this time it was broad daylight; and as the carrier stopped at the door of a small inn, Guy Fawkes alighted, and inquired the distance to White Webbs.

It is about a mile and a half off, replied the man. If you pursue that lane, it will bring you to a small village about half a mile from this, where you are sure to find some one who will gladly guide you to the house, which is a little out of the road, on the borders of the forest.

He then assisted Viviana to alight, and Humphrey Chetham descending at the same time, the party took the road indicated a winding country lane with high hedges, broken by beautiful timber and proceeding at a slow pace, they arrived in about half an hour at a little cluster of cottages, which Guy Fawkes guessed to be the village alluded to by the carrier. As they approached it, a rustic leaped a hedge, and was about to cross to another field, when Guy Fawkes calling to him, inquired the way to White Webbs.

I am going in that direction, replied the man. If you desire it, I will show you the road.

I shall feel much indebted to you, friend, returned Fawkes, and will reward you for your trouble.

I want no reward, returned the countryman, trudging forward.

Following their guide, after a few minutes' brisk walking they reached the borders of the forest, and took their way along a patch of greensward that skirted it. In some places their track was impeded by gigantic thorns and brushwood, while at others avenues opened upon them, affording them peeps into the heart of the wood. It was a beautiful sylvan scene. And as at length they arrived at the head of a long glade, at the farther end of which a herd of deer were seen, with their branching antlers mingling with the overhanging boughs, Viviana could not help pausing to admire it.

King James often hunts within the forest, observed the countryman. Indeed, I heard one of the rangers say it was not unlikely he might be here to-day. He is at Theobald's Palace now.

Indeed! exclaimed Fawkes. Let us proceed. We lose time. Are we far from the house?

Not above a quarter of a mile, was the answer. You will see it at the next turn of the road.

As the countryman had intimated, they speedily perceived the roof and tall chimneys of an ancient house above the trees, and as it was now impossible to mistake the road, Guy Fawkes thanked their guide for his trouble, and would have rewarded him, but he refused the gratuity, and leaping a hedge, disappeared.

Pursuing the road, they shortly afterwards arrived at a gate leading to the house a large building, erected probably at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign and entering it, they passed under an avenue of trees. On approaching the mansion, they observed that many of the windows were closed, and the whole appearance of the place was melancholy and deserted. The garden was overgrown with weeds, and the door looked as if it was rarely opened.

Not discouraged by these appearances, but rather satisfied by them of the security of the asylum, Guy Fawkes proceeded to the back of the house, and entering a court, the flags and stones of which were covered with moss, while the interstices were filled with long grass, Guy Fawkes knocked against a small door, and, after repeating the summons, it was answered by an old woman-servant, who popped her head out of an upper window, and demanded his business.

Guy Fawkes was about to inquire for Mrs. Brooksby, when another head, which proved to be that of Catesby, appeared at the window. On seeing Fawkes and his companions, Catesby instantly descended, and unfastened the door. The house proved far more comfortable within than its exterior promised; and the old female domestic having taken word to Anne Vaux that Viviana was below, the former lady, who had not yet risen, sent for her to her chamber, and provided everything for her comfort.

Guy Fawkes and Humphrey Chetham, neither of whom had rested during the night, were glad to obtain a few hours' repose on the floor of the first room into which they were shown, and they were not disturbed until the day had considerably advanced, when Catesby thought fit to rouse them from their slumbers.

Explanations were then given on both sides. Chetham detailed the manner of Viviana's escape from the Tower, and Catesby in his turn acquainted them that Father Oldcorne was in the house, having found his way thither after his escape from the dwelling at Lambeth. Guy Fawkes was greatly rejoiced at the intelligence, and shortly afterwards had the satisfaction of meeting with the priest. At noon, the whole party assembled, with the exception of Viviana, who, by the advice of Anne Vaux, kept her chamber, to recruit herself after the sufferings she had undergone.

Humphrey Chetham, of whom no suspicions were now entertained, and of whom Catesby no longer felt any jealousy, was invited to stay in the house; and he was easily induced to pass his time near Viviana, although he might not be able to see her. Long and frequent consultations were held by the conspirators, and letters were despatched by Catesby to the elder Winter at his seat, Huddington, in Worcestershire, entreating him to make every preparation for the crisis, as well as to Sir Everard Digby, to desire him to assemble as many friends as he could muster against the meeting of Parliament, at Dunchurch, in Warwickshire, under the plea of a grand hunting-party.

Arrangements were next made as to the steps to be taken by the different parties after the explosion. Catesby undertook, with a sufficient force, to seize the Princess Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of James the First, who was then at the residence of the Earl of Harrington, near Coventry, and to proclaim her queen, in case the others should fail in securing the princes. It was supposed that Henry, Prince of Wales, (who, it need scarcely be mentioned, died in his youth,) would be present with the King, his father, in the Parliament House, and would perish with him; and in this case, as Charles, Duke of York, (afterwards Charles the First,) would become successor to the throne, it was resolved that he should be seized by Percy, and instantly proclaimed. Other resolutions were decided upon, and the whole time of the conspirators was spent in maturing their projects.

And thus weeks, and even months, stole on. Viviana had completely regained her strength, and passed a life of perfect seclusion, seldom, if ever, mixing with the others. She, however, took a kindly farewell of Humphrey Chetham, before his departure for Manchester (for which place he set out about a fortnight after his arrival at White Webbs, having first sought out his servant, Martin Heydocke); but though strongly urged by Guy Fawkes, she would hold out no hopes of a change in her sentiments towards the young merchant. Meetings were occasionally held by the conspirators elsewhere, and Catesby and Fawkes had more than one interview with Tresham but never, except in places where they were secure from a surprise.

The latter end of September had now arrived, and the meeting of Parliament was still fixed for the third of October. On the last day of the month, Guy Fawkes prepared to start for town; but before doing so he desired to see Viviana. They had not met for some weeks; nor, indeed, since Fawkes had discovered the secret of her heart, (and perhaps of his own,) had they ever met with the same freedom as heretofore. As she entered the room, in which he awaited her coming, a tremor agitated his frame, but he had nerved himself for the interview, and speedily subdued the feeling.

I am starting for London, Viviana, he said, in a voice of forced calmness. You may guess for what purpose. But as I may never behold you again, I would not part with you without a confession of my weakness. I will not deny that what Humphrey Chetham stated, and which you have never contradicted namely, that you loved me, for I must speak out has produced a strong effect upon me. I have endeavoured to conquer it, but it will return. Till I knew you I never loved, Viviana.

Indeed! she exclaimed.

Never, he replied. The fairest had not power to move me. But I grieve to say notwithstanding my struggles I do not continue equally insensible.

Ah! she ejaculated, becoming as pale as death.

Why should I hesitate to declare my feelings? Why should I not tell you that though blinded to it so long I have discovered that I do love you? Why should I hesitate to tell you that I regret this, and lament that we ever met?

What mean you? cried Viviana, with a terrified look.

I will tell you, replied Fawkes. Till I saw you, my thoughts were removed from earth, and fixed on one object. Till I saw you, I asked not to live, but to die the death of a martyr.

Die so still, rejoined Viviana. Forget me oh! forget me.

I cannot, replied Fawkes. I have striven against it. But your image is perpetually before me. Nay, at this very moment, when I am about to set out on the enterprise, you alone detain me.

I am glad of it, exclaimed Viviana, fervently. Oh that I could prevent you could save you!

Save me! echoed Fawkes, bitterly. You destroy me.

How? she asked.

Because I am sworn to this project, he rejoined; and if I were turned from it, I would perish by my own hand.

Oh! say not so, replied Viviana, but listen to me. Abandon it, and I will devote myself to you.

Guy Fawkes gazed at her for a moment passionately, and then, covering his face with his hands, appeared torn by conflicting emotions.

Viviana approached him, and pressing his arm, asked in an entreating voice, Are you still determined to pursue your dreadful project?

I am, replied Fawkes, uncovering his face, and gazing at her; but, if I remain here a moment longer, I shall not be able to do so.

I will detain you, then, she rejoined, and exercise the power I possess over you for your benefit.

No! he replied, vehemently. It must not be. Farewell, for ever!

And breaking from her, he rushed out of the room.

As he gained the passage, he encountered Catesby, who looked abashed at seeing him.

I have overheard what has passed, said the latter, and applaud your resolution. Few men, similarly circumstanced, would have acted as you have done.

You would not, said Fawkes, coldly.

Perhaps not, rejoined Catesby. But that does not lessen my admiration of your conduct.

I am devoted to one object, replied Fawkes, and nothing shall turn me from it.

Remove yourself instantly from temptation, then, replied Catesby. I will meet you at the cellar beneath the Parliament House to-morrow night.

With this, he accompanied Guy Fawkes to the door; and the latter, without hazarding a look behind him, set out for London, where he arrived at nightfall.

On the following night, Fawkes examined the cellar, and found it in all respects as he had left it; and, apprehensive lest some difficulty might arise, he resolved to make every preparation. He, accordingly, pierced the sides of several of the barrels piled against the walls with a gimlet, and inserted in the holes small pieces of slow-burning match. Not content with this, he staved in the tops of the uppermost tier, and scattered powder among them to secure their instantaneous ignition.

This done, he took a powder-horn, with which he was provided, and kneeling down, and holding his lantern so as to throw a light upon the floor, laid a train to one of the lower barrels, and brought it within a few inches of the door, intending to fire it from that point. His arrangements completed, he arose, and muttered,

A vessel is provided for my escape in the river, and my companions advise me to use a slow match, which will allow me to get out of harm's way. But I will see the deed done, and if the train fails, will hold a torch to the barrels myself.

At this juncture, a slight tap was heard without.

Guy Fawkes instantly masked his lantern, and cautiously opening the door, beheld Catesby.

I am come to tell you that Parliament is prorogued, said the latter. The House does not meet till the fifth of November. We have another month to wait.

I am sorry for it, rejoined Fawkes. I have just laid the train. The lucky moment will pass.

And, locking the door, he proceeded with Catesby to the adjoining house.

They had scarcely been gone more than a second, when two figures muffled in cloaks emerged from behind a wall.

The train is laid, observed the foremost, and they are gone to the house. You might seize them now without danger.

That will not answer my purpose, replied the other. I will give them another month.

Another month! replied the first speaker. Who knows what may happen in that time? They may abandon their project.

There is no fear of that, replied the other. But you had better go and join them.