William Ainsworth.

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


Tresham, for it will have been conjectured that he was one of the speakers mentioned in the preceding chapter, on separating from Lord Mounteagle, took the same direction as the conspirators. He hesitated for some time before venturing to knock at the garden-gate; and when he had done so, felt half-disposed to take to his heels. But shame restrained him; and hearing footsteps approach, he gave the customary signal, and was instantly admitted by Guy Fawkes.

What brings you here? demanded the latter, as they entered the house, and made fast the door behind them.

I have just heard that Parliament is prorogued to the fifth of November, replied Tresham, and came to tell you so.

I already know it, returned Fawkes, gloomily; and for the first time feel some misgiving as to the issue of our enterprise.

Why so? inquired Tresham.

November is unlucky to me, rejoined Fawkes, and I cannot recollect a year in my life in which some ill has not befallen me during that month, especially on the fifth day. On the last fifth of November, I nearly died of a fever at Madrid. It is a strange and unfortunate coincidence that the meeting of the Parliament should be appointed for that particular day.

Shall I tell you what I think it portends? hesitated Tresham.

Do so, replied Fawkes, and speak boldly. I am no child to be frightened at shadows.

You have more than once declared your intention of perishing with our foes, rejoined Tresham. The design, though prosperous in itself, may be fatal to you.

You are right, replied Fawkes. I have little doubt I shall perish on that day. You are both aware of my superstitious nature, and are not ignorant that many mysterious occurrences have combined to strengthen the feeling, such as the dying words of the prophetess, Elizabeth Orton, her warning speech when she was raised from the dead by Doctor Dee, and lastly, the vision at St. Winifred's Well. What if I tell you the saint has again appeared to me?

In a dream? inquired Catesby, in a slightly sceptical tone.

Ay, in a dream, returned Fawkes. But I saw her as plainly as if I had been awake. It was the same vapoury figure the same transparent robes, the same benign countenance, only far more pitying than before that I beheld at Holywell. I heard no sound issue from her lips, but I felt that she warned me to desist.

Do you accept the warning? asked Tresham, eagerly.

It is needless to answer, replied Fawkes. I have laid the train to-night.

You have infected me with your misgivings, observed Tresham. Would the enterprise had never been undertaken!

But being undertaken, it must be gone through with, rejoined Catesby, sternly. Hark'e, Tresham. You promised us two thousand pounds in aid of the project, but have constantly deferred payment of the sum on some plea or other.

Because I have not been able to raise it, replied Tresham, sullenly.

I have tried in vain to sell part of my estates at Rushton, in Northamptonshire. I cannot effect impossibilities.

Tush! cried Catesby, fiercely. You well know I ask no impossibility. I will no longer be trifled with. The money must be forthcoming by the tenth of October, or you shall pay the penalty with your life.

This is the language of a cut-throat, Mr. Catesby, replied Tresham.

It is the only language I will hold towards you, rejoined Catesby, contemptuously. Look you disappoint me not, or take the consequences.

I must leave for Northamptonshire at once, then, said Tresham.

Do as you please, returned Catesby. Play the cut-throat yourself, and ease some rich miser of his store, if you think fit. Bring us the money, and we will not ask how you came by it.

Before we separate, said Tresham, disregarding these sneers, I wish to be resolved on one point. Who are to be saved from destruction?

Why do you ask? inquired Fawkes.

Because I must stipulate for the lives of my brothers-in-law, the Lords Mounteagle and Stourton.

If anything detains them from the meeting, well and good, replied Catesby. But no warning must be given them. That would infallibly lead to a discovery of the plot.

Some means might surely be adopted to put them on their guard without danger to ourselves? urged Tresham.

I know of none, replied Catesby.

Nor I, added Fawkes. If I did, I would warn Lord Montague, and some others whom I shall grieve to destroy.

We are all similarly circumstanced, replied Catesby. Keyes is anxious for the preservation of his patron and friend, Lord Mordaunt, Percy, for the Earl of Northumberland. I, myself, would gladly save the young Earl of Arundel. But we must sacrifice our private feeling for the general good.

We must, acquiesced Fawkes.

We shall not meet again till the night of the tenth of October, said Catesby, when take care you are in readiness with the money.

Upon this, the conversation dropped, and soon afterwards Tresham departed.

When he found himself alone, he suffered his rage to find vent in words. Perdition seize them! he cried, I shall now lose two thousand pounds, in addition to what I have already advanced; and, as Mounteagle will not have the disclosure made till the beginning of November, there is no way of avoiding payment. They would not fall into the snare I laid to throw the blame of the discovery, when it takes place, upon their own indiscretion. But I must devise some other plan. The warning shall proceed from an unknown quarter. A letter, written in a feigned hand, and giving some obscure intimation of danger, shall be delivered with an air of mystery to Mounteagle. This will serve as a plea for its divulgement to the Earl of Salisbury. Well, well, they shall have the money; but they shall pay me back in other coin.

Early on the following day, Catesby and Fawkes proceeded to White Webbs. Garnet was greatly surprised to see them, and could not conceal his disappointment at the cause of their return.

This delay bodes no good, he observed. Parliament has been so often prorogued, that I begin to think some suspicion is entertained of our design.

Make your mind easy, then, replied Catesby. I have made due inquiries, and find the meeting is postponed to suit the King's convenience, who wishes to prolong his stay at Royston. He may probably have some secret motive for the delay, but I am sure it in no way concerns us.

Everything being now fully arranged, the conspirators had only to wait patiently for the arrival of the expected fifth of November. Most of them decided upon passing the interval in the country. Ambrose Rookwood departed for Clopton, near Stratford-upon-Avon, a seat belonging to Lord Carew, where his family were staying. Keyes went to visit Lord Mordaunt at Turvey, in Bedfordshire; and Percy and the two Wrights set out for Gothurst, in Buckinghamshire, to desire Sir Everard Digby to postpone the grand hunting-party which he was to hold at Dunsmore Heath, as an excuse for mustering a strong party of Catholics, to the beginning of November. The two Winters repaired to their family mansion, Huddington, in Worcestershire; while Fawkes and Catesby, together with the two priests, remained at White Webbs. The three latter held daily conferences together, but were seldom joined by Fawkes, who passed his time in the adjoining forest, selecting its densest and most intricate parts for his rambles.

It was now the beginning of October, and, as is generally the case in the early part of this month, the weather was fine, and the air pure and bracing. The forest could scarcely have been seen to greater advantage. The leaves had assumed their gorgeous autumnal tints, and the masses of timber, variegated in colour, presented an inexpressibly beautiful appearance. Guy Fawkes spent hours in the depths of the wood. His sole companions were the lordly stag and the timid hare, that occasionally started across his path. Since his return, he had sedulously avoided Viviana, and they had met only twice, and then no speech had passed between them. One day, when he had plunged even deeper than usual into the forest, and had seated himself on the stump of a decayed tree, with his eyes fixed on a small clear rivulet welling at his feet, he saw the reflection of a female figure in the water; and, filled with the idea of the vision of Saint Winifred, at first imagined he was about to receive another warning. But a voice that thrilled to his heart's core, soon undeceived him, and, turning, he beheld Viviana. She was habited in a riding-dress, and appeared prepared to set out upon a journey.

So you have tracked me to my solitude, he observed, in a tone of forced coldness. I thought I was secure from interruption here.

You will forgive me, I am sure, when you know my errand, she replied. It is to take an eternal farewell of you.

Indeed! he exclaimed. Are you about to quit White Webbs?

I am, she mournfully rejoined. I am about to set out with Father Oldcorne for Gothurst, where I shall remain till all is over.

I entirely approve your determination, returned Fawkes, after a short pause.

I knew you would do so, or I should have consulted you upon it, she rejoined. And as you appear to avoid me, I would fain have departed without taking leave of you, but found it impossible to do so.

You well know my motive for avoiding you, Viviana, rejoined Fawkes. We are no longer what we were to each other. A fearful struggle has taken place within me, though I have preserved an unmoved exterior, between passion and the sense of my high calling. I have told you I never loved before, and fancied my heart immoveable as adamant. But I now find out my error. It is a prey to a raging and constant flame. I have shunned you, he continued, with increased excitement, because the sight of you shakes my firmness, because I feel it sinful to think of you in preference to holier objects, and because, after I have quitted you, your image alone engrosses my thoughts. Here, in the depths of this wood, by the side of this brook, I can commune with my soul, can abstract myself from the world and the thoughts of the world from you yes, you, who are all the world to me now, and prepare to meet my end.

Then you are resolved to die? she cried.

I shall abide the explosion, and nothing but a miracle can save me," returned Fawkes.

And think not it will be exerted in your behalf, she replied. Heaven does not approve your design, and you will assuredly incur its vengeance by your criminal conduct.

Viviana, replied Guy Fawkes, rising, man cannot read my heart, but Heaven can; and the sincerity of my purpose will be recognised above. What I am about to do is for the regeneration of our holy religion; and if the welfare of that religion is dear to the Supreme Being, our cause must prosper. If the contrary, it deserves to fail, and will fail. I have ever told you that I care not what becomes of myself. I am now more than ever indifferent to life, or rather, he added, in a sombre tone, I am anxious to die.

Your dreadful wish, I fear, will be accomplished, replied Viviana, sadly. I have been constantly haunted by frightful apprehensions respecting you, and my dead father has appeared to me in my dreams. His spirit, if such it were, seemed to gaze upon me with a mournful look, and, as I thought, pronounced your name in piteous accents.

These forebodings chime with my own, muttered Fawkes, repressing a shudder; but nothing shall shake me. It will inflict a bitter pang upon me to part with you, Viviana, the bitterest I can ever feel, and I shall be glad when it is over.

I echo your own wish, she returned, and deeply lament that we ever met. But the fate that brought us together must for ever unite us.

What mean you? he inquired, gazing fixedly at her.

There is one sad consolation which you can afford me, and which you owe me for the deep and lasting misery I shall endure on your account," replied Viviana; "a consolation that will enable me to bear your loss with fortitude, and to devote myself wholly to Heaven.

Whatever I can do that will not interfere with my purpose, you may command, he rejoined.

What I have to propose will not interfere with it, she answered. Now, hear me, and put the sole construction I deserve on my conduct. Father Garnet is at a short distance from us, behind those trees, waiting my summons. I have informed him of my design, and he approves of it. It is to unite us in marriage solemnly unite us that though I may never live with you as a wife, I may mourn you as a widow. Do you consent?

Guy Fawkes returned an affirmative, in a voice broken by emotion.

The moment the ceremony is over, pursued Viviana, I shall start with Father Oldcorne for Gothurst. We shall never meet again in this world.

Unless I succeed, said Fawkes.

You will not succeed, replied Viviana. If I thought so, I should not take this step. I look upon it as an espousal with the dead.

So saying, she hurried away, and disappearing beneath the covert, returned in a few seconds with Garnet.

I have a strange duty to perform for you, my son, said Garnet to Fawkes, who remained motionless and stupified; but I am right willing to perform it, because I think it will lead to your future happiness with the fair creature who has bestowed her affections on you.

Do not speculate on the future, father, cried Viviana. You know why I asked you to perform this ceremony. You know, also, that I have made preparations for instant departure; and that I indulge no hope of seeing Guy Fawkes again.

All this I know, dear daughter, returned Garnet; but, in spite of your anticipations of ill, I still hope that your union may prove auspicious.

I take you to witness, father, said Viviana, that in bestowing my hand upon Guy Fawkes, I bestow at the same time all my possessions upon him. He is free to use them as he thinks proper, even in the furtherance of his design against the state, which, though I cannot approve it, seems good to him.

This must not be, cried Fawkes.

It shall be, rejoined Viviana. Proceed with the ceremony, father.

Let her have her own way, my son, observed Garnet, in a low tone. Under any circumstances, her estates must now be necessarily yours.

He then took a breviary from his vest, and placing them near each other, began to read aloud the marriage-service appointed by the Romish Church. And there, in that secluded spot, and under such extraordinary circumstances, with no other witnesses than the ancient trees around them, and the brook rippling at their feet, were Guy Fawkes and Viviana united. The ceremony over, Guy Fawkes pressed his bride to his breast, and imprinted a kiss upon her lips.

I have broken my faith to Heaven, to which I was first espoused, he cried.

No, she returned; you will now return to your first and holiest choice. Think of me only as I shall think of you, as of the dead.

With this, the party slowly and silently returned to the house, where they found a couple of steeds, with luggage strapped to the saddles, at the door.

Father Oldcorne was already mounted, and in a few minutes Viviana was by his side. Before her departure, she bade Guy Fawkes a tender farewell; and at this trying juncture her firmness nearly deserted her. But rousing herself, she sprang upon her horse, and urging the animal into a quick pace, and followed by Oldcorne, she speedily disappeared from view. Guy Fawkes watched her out of sight, and shunning the regards of Catesby, who formed one of the group, struck into the forest, and was not seen again till the following day.

The tenth of October having arrived, Guy Fawkes and Catesby repaired to the place of rendezvous. But the night passed, and Tresham did not appear. Catesby was angry and disappointed, and could not conceal his apprehensions of treachery. Fawkes took a different view of the matter, and thought it not improbable that their confederate's absence might be occasioned by the difficulty he found in complying with their demands; and this opinion was confirmed the next morning by the arrival of a letter from Tresham, stating that he had been utterly unable to effect the sales he contemplated, and could not, therefore, procure the money till the end of the month.

I will immediately go down to Rushton, said Catesby, and if I find him disposed to palter with us, I will call him to instant account. But Garnet informs me that Viviana has bestowed all her wealth upon you. Are you willing to devote it to the good cause?

No! replied Fawkes, in a tone so decisive that his companion felt it would be useless to urge the matter further. I give my life to the cause, that must suffice.

The subject was never renewed. At night, Catesby, having procured a powerful steed, set out upon his journey to Northamptonshire, while Fawkes returned to White Webbs.

About a fortnight passed unmarked by any event of importance. Despatches were received from Catesby, stating that he had received the money from Tresham, and had expended it in procuring horses and arms. He also added that he had raised numerous recruits on various pretences. This letter was dated from Ashby St. Leger's, the seat of his mother, Lady Catesby, but he expressed his intention of proceeding to Coughton Hall, near Alcester, in Warwickshire, the residence of Mr. Thomas Throckmorton (a wealthy Catholic gentleman), whither Sir Everard Digby had removed with his family, to be in readiness for the grand hunting-party to be held on the fifth of November on Dunsmore Heath. Here he expected to be joined by the two Wrights, the Winters, Rookwood, Keyes, and the rest of the conspirators, and undertook to bring them all up to White Webbs on Saturday the twenty-sixth of October.

By this time, Guy Fawkes had in a great degree recovered his equanimity, and left alone with Garnet, held long and frequent religious conferences with him; it being evidently his desire to prepare himself for his expected fate. He spent the greater part of the nights in solitary vigils fasted even more rigorously than he was enjoined to do and prayed with such fervour and frequency, that, fearing an ill effect upon his health, and almost upon his mind, which had become exalted to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, Garnet thought it necessary to check him. The priest did not fail to note that Viviana's name never passed his lips, and that in all their walks in the forest he carefully shunned the scene of his espousals.

And thus time flew by. On the evening of the twenty-sixth of October, in accordance with Catesby's intimation, the conspirators arrived. They were all assembled at supper, and were relating the different arrangements which had been made in anticipation of the important event, when Garnet observed with a look of sudden uneasiness to Catesby, You said in one of your letters that you would bring Tresham with you, my son. Why do I not see him?

He sent a message to Coughton to state, that having been attacked by a sudden illness, he was unable to join us, replied Catesby, but as soon as he could leave his bed, he would hasten to London. This may be a subterfuge, but I shall speedily ascertain the truth, for I have sent my servant Bates to Rushton, to investigate the matter. I ought to tell you, he added, that he has given substantial proof of his devotion to the cause by sending another thousand pounds, to be expended in the purchase of arms and horses.

I hope it is not dust thrown into our eyes, returned Garnet. I have always feared Tresham would deceive us at the last.

This sudden illness looks suspicious, I must own, said Catesby. Has aught been heard of Lord Mounteagle?

Guy Fawkes heard that he was at his residence at Southwark yesterday," returned Garnet.

So far, good, replied Catesby. Did you visit the cellar where the powder is deposited? he added, turning to Fawkes.

I did, replied the other, and found all secure. The powder is in excellent preservation. Before quitting the spot, I placed certain private marks against the door, by which I can tell whether it is opened during our absence.

A wise precaution, returned Catesby. And now, gentlemen, he added, filling a goblet with wine, success to our enterprise! Everything is prepared, he continued, as the pledge was enthusiastically drunk; I have got together a company of above two hundred men, all well armed and appointed, who will follow me wherever I choose to lead them. They will be stationed near Dunsmore Heath on the fifth of next month, and as soon as the event of the explosion is known, I shall ride thither as fast as I can, and, hurrying with my troops to Coventry, seize the Princess Elizabeth. Percy and Keyes will secure the person of the Duke of York, and proclaim him King; while upon the rest will devolve the arduous duty of rousing our Catholic brethren in London to rise to arms.

Trust to us to rouse them, shouted several voices.