William Ainsworth.

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





Proceeding with unabated impetuosity, they soon cleared a few more miles, and had just left Stony Stratford behind them, when they overtook a solitary horseman, who proved to be John Wright, and a little further on they came up with Percy, and Christopher Wright.

Though their numbers were thus increased, they did not consider themselves secure, but flinging their cloaks away to enable them to proceed with greater expedition, hurried on to Towcester. Here Keyes quitted his companions, and shaped his course into Warwickshire, where he was afterwards taken, while the others, having procured fresh horses, made the best of their way to Ashby Saint Leger's.

About six o'clock, Catesby and his companions arrived at his old family seat, which he had expected to approach in triumph, but which he now approached with feelings of the deepest mortification and disappointment. They found the house filled with guests among whom was Robert Winter who were just sitting down to supper. Catesby rushed into the room in which these persons were assembled, covered with mud and dirt, his haggard looks and dejected appearance proclaiming that his project had failed. His friends followed, and their appearance confirmed the impression that he had produced. Lady Catesby hastened to her son, and strove to comfort him; but he rudely repulsed her.

What is the matter? she anxiously inquired.

What is the matter! cried Catesby, in a furious tone, and stamping his foot to the ground. All is lost! our scheme is discovered; Guy Fawkes is a prisoner, and ere long we shall all be led to the block. Yes, all!" he repeated, gazing sternly around.

I will never be led thither with life, said Robert Winter.

Nor I, added a young Catholic gentleman, named Acton of Ribbesford, who had lately joined the conspiracy. Though the great design has failed, we are yet free, and have swords to draw, and arms to wield them.

Ay, exclaimed Robert Winter, all our friends are assembled at Dunchurch. Let us join them instantly, and we may yet stir up a rebellion which may accomplish all we can desire. I, myself, accompanied Humphrey Littleton to Dunchurch this morning, and know we shall find everything in readiness.

Do not despair, cried Lady Catesby; all will yet be well. Every member of our faith will join you, and you will soon muster a formidable army.

We must not yield without a blow, cried Percy, pouring out a bumper of wine, and swallowing it at a draught.

You are right, said Rookwood, imitating his example. We will sell our lives dearly.

If you will adhere to this resolution, gentlemen, rejoined Catesby, we may yet retrieve our loss. With five hundred stanch followers, who will stand by me to the last, I will engage to raise such a rebellion in England as shall not be checked, except by the acknowledgment of our rights, or the dethronement of the king.

We will all stand by you, cried the others.

Swear it, cried Catesby, raising the glass to his lips.

We do, was the reply.

Wearied as we are, cried Catesby, we must at once proceed to Dunchurch, and urge our friends to rise in arms with us.

Agreed, cried the others.

Summoning all his household, and arming them, Catesby then set out with the rest for Dunchurch, which lay about five miles from Ashby Saint Leger's.

They arrived there in about three quarters of an hour, and found the mansion crowded with Catholic gentlemen and their servants. Entering the banquet hall, they found Sir Everard Digby at the head of the board, with Garnet on his right hand. Upwards of sixty persons were seated at the table. Their arrival was greeted with loud shouts, and several of the guests drew their swords and flourished them over their heads.

What news? cried Sir Everard Digby. Is the blow struck?

No, replied Catesby; we have been betrayed.

A deep silence prevailed. A change came over the countenances of the guests. Significant glances were exchanged, and it was evident that general uneasiness prevailed.

What is to be done? cried Sir Everard Digby, after a pause.

Our course is clear, returned Catesby. We must stand by each other. In that case, we have nothing to fear, and shall accomplish our purpose, though not in the way originally intended.

I will have nothing further to do with the matter, said Sir Robert Digby of Coleshill, Sir Everard's uncle. And rising, he quitted the room with several of his followers, while his example was imitated by Humphrey Littleton and others.

All chance for the restoration of our faith in England is over," observed Garnet, in a tone of despondency.

Not so, father, replied Catesby, if we are true to each other. My friends, he cried, stopping those who were about to depart, in the name of our holy religion I beseech you to pause. Much is against us now. But let us hold together, and all will speedily be righted. Every Catholic in this county, in Cheshire, in Lancashire, and Wales, must flock to our standard when it is once displayed do not desert us do not desert yourselves for our cause is your cause. I have a large force at my command; so has Sir Everard Digby, and together we can muster nearly five hundred adherents. With these, we can offer such a stand as will enable as to make conditions with our opponents, or even to engage with them with a reasonable prospect of success. I am well assured, moreover, if we lose no time, but proceed to the houses of our friends, we shall have a large army with us. Do not fall off, then. On you depends our success.

This address was followed by loud acclamations; and all who heard it agreed to stand by the cause in which they had embarked to the last.

As Catesby left the banqueting-hall with Sir Everard, to make preparations for their departure, they met Viviana and a female attendant.

I hear the enterprise has failed, she cried, in a voice suffocated by emotion. What has happened to my husband? Is he safe? Is he with you?

Alas! no, replied Catesby; he is a prisoner.

Viviana uttered a cry of anguish, and fell senseless into the arms of the attendant.

CHAPTER XIV.
THE EXAMINATION

Disarmed by Sir Thomas Knevet and his followers, who found upon his person a packet of slow matches and touchwood, and bound hand and foot, Guy Fawkes was dragged into the cellar by his captors, who instantly commenced their search. In a corner behind the door they discovered a dark lantern, with a light burning within it; and moving with the utmost caution for they were afraid of bringing sudden destruction upon themselves they soon perceived the barrels of gunpowder ranged against the wall. Carefully removing the planks, billets, and iron bars with which they were covered, they remarked that two of the casks were staved in, while the hoops from a third were taken off, and the powder scattered around it. They also noticed that several trains were laid along the floor, everything, in short, betokening that the preparations for the desperate deed were fully completed.

While they were making this investigation, Guy Fawkes, who, seeing that further resistance was useless, had remained perfectly motionless up to this moment, suddenly made a struggle to free himself; and so desperate was the effort, that he burst the leathern thong that bound his hands, and seizing the soldier nearest to him, bore him to the ground. He then grasped the lower limbs of another, who held a lantern, and strove to overthrow him, and wrest the lantern from his grasp, evidently intending to apply the light to the powder. And he would unquestionably have executed his terrible design, if three of the most powerful of the soldiers had not thrown themselves upon him, and overpowered him. All this was the work of a moment; but it was so startling, that Sir Thomas Knevet and Topcliffe, though both courageous men, and used to scenes of danger especially the latter rushed towards the door, expecting some dreadful catastrophe would take place.

Do him no harm, cried Knevet, as he returned to the soldiers, who were still struggling with Fawkes, "do him no harm. It is not here he must die.

A moment more, and I had blown you all to perdition, cried Fawkes. But Heaven ordained it otherwise.

Heaven will never assist such damnable designs as yours, rejoined Knevet. Thrust him into that corner, he added to his men, who instantly obeyed his injunctions, and held down the prisoner so firmly that he could not move a limb. Keep him there. I will question him presently.

You may question me, replied Fawkes, sternly; but you will obtain no answer.

We shall see, returned Knevet.

Pursuing the search with Topcliffe, he counted thirty-six hogsheads and casks of various sizes, all of which were afterwards found to be filled with powder. Though prepared for this discovery, Knevet could not repress his horror at it, and gave vent to execrations against the prisoner, to which the other replied by a disdainful laugh. They then looked about, in the hope of finding some document or fragment of a letter, which might serve as a clue to the other parties connected with the fell design, but without success. Nothing was found except a pile of arms; but though they examined them, no name or cipher could be traced on any of the weapons.

We will now examine the prisoner more narrowly, said Knevet.

This was accordingly done. On removing Guy Fawkes's doublet, a horse-hair shirt appeared, and underneath it, next his heart, suspended by a silken cord from his neck, was a small silver cross. When this was taken from him, Guy Fawkes could not repress a deep sigh.

There is some secret attached to that cross, whispered Topcliffe, plucking Knevet's sleeve.

Upon this, the other held it to the light, while Topcliffe kept his eye fixed upon the prisoner, and observed that, in spite of all his efforts to preserve an unmoved demeanour, he was slightly agitated.

Do you perceive anything? he asked.

Yes, replied Knevet, there is a name. But the character is so small I cannot decipher it.

Let me look at it, said Topcliffe. This is most important, he added, after gazing at it for a moment; the words inscribed on it are, 'Viviana Radcliffe, Ordsall Hall' You may remember that this young lady was examined a short time ago, on suspicion of being connected with some Popish plot against the state, and committed to the Tower, whence she escaped in a very extraordinary manner. This cross, found upon the prisoner, proves her connexion with the present plot. Every effort must be used to discover her retreat.

Another deep sigh involuntarily broke from the breast of Guy Fawkes.

You hear how deeply interested he is in the matter, observed Topcliffe, in a low tone. This trinket will be of infinite service to us in future examinations, and may do more for us with this stubborn subject even than the rack itself.

You are right, returned Knevet. I will now convey him to Whitehall, and acquaint the Earl of Salisbury with his capture.

Do so, replied Topcliffe. I have a further duty to perform. Before morning I hope to net the whole of this wolfish pack.

Indeed! exclaimed Knevet. Have you any knowledge of the others?

Topcliffe smiled significantly.

Time will show, he said. But if you do not require me further, I will leave you.

With this, he quitted the cellar, and joined the Earl of Mounteagle and Tresham, who were waiting for him outside at a little distance from the cellar. After a brief conference, it was arranged, in compliance with the Earl of Salisbury's wishes, that if they failed in entrapping the conspirators, nothing should be said about the matter. He then departed with Tresham. Their subsequent proceedings have already been related.

By Sir Thomas Knevet's directions, Guy Fawkes was now raised by two of the soldiers, and led out of the cellar. As he passed through the door, he uttered a deep groan.

You groan for what you have done, villain, said one of the soldiers.

On the contrary, rejoined Fawkes, sternly, I groan for what I have not done.

He was then hurried along by his conductors, and conveyed through the great western gate, into the palace of Whitehall, where he was placed in a small room, the windows of which were strongly grated.

Before quitting him, Sir Thomas Knevet put several questions to him, but he maintained a stern and obstinate silence. Committing him to the custody of an officer of the guard, whom he enjoined to keep strict guard over him, as he valued his life, Knevet then went in search of the Earl of Salisbury.

The Secretary, who had not retired to rest, and was anxiously awaiting his arrival, was delighted with the success of the scheme. They were presently joined by Lord Mounteagle; and after a brief conference it was resolved to summon the Privy Council immediately, to rouse the King, and acquaint him with what had occurred, and to interrogate the prisoner in his presence.

Nothing will be obtained from him, I fear, said Knevet. He is one of the most resolute and determined fellows I ever encountered.

And he then related the desperate attempt made by Fawkes in the vault to blow them all up.

Whether he will speak or not, the King must see him, said Salisbury. As soon as Knevet was gone, the Earl observed to Mounteagle, You had now better leave the palace. You must not appear further in this matter, except as we have arranged. Before morning, I trust we shall have the whole of the conspirators in our power, with damning proofs of their guilt.

By this time, my lord, they are in Tresham's hands, replied Mounteagle.

If he fails, not a word must be said, observed Salisbury. It must not be supposed we have moved in the matter. All great statesmen have contrived treasons, that they might afterwards discover them; and though I have not contrived this plot, I have known of its existence from the first, and could at any time have crushed it had I been so minded. But that would not have answered my purpose. And I shall now use it as a pretext to crush the whole Catholic party, except those on whom, like yourself, I can confidently rely.

Your lordship must admit that I have well seconded your efforts," observed Mounteagle.

I do so, replied Salisbury, and you will not find me ungrateful. Farewell! I hope soon to hear of our further success.

Mounteagle then took his departure, and Salisbury immediately caused all such members of the Privy Council as lodged in the palace to be aroused, desiring they might be informed that a terrible plot had been discovered, and a conspirator arrested. In a short time, the Duke of Lennox, the Earl of Marr, Lord Hume, the Earl of Southampton, Lord Henry Howard, Lord Mountjoy, Sir George Hume, and others, were assembled; and all eagerly inquired into the occasion of the sudden alarm.

Meanwhile, the Earl of Salisbury had himself repaired to the King's bedchamber, and acquainted him with what had happened. James immediately roused himself, and desired the chamberlain, who accompanied the Earl, to quit the presence.

Will it be safe to interrogate the prisoner here? he asked.

I will take care your Majesty shall receive no injury, replied Salisbury; and it is absolutely necessary you should examine him before he is committed to the Tower.

Let him be brought before me, then, directly, said the King. I am impatient to behold a wretch who has conceived so atrocious so infernal a design against me, and against my children. Hark 'e, Salisbury, one caution I wish to observe. Let a captain of the guard, with his drawn sword in hand, place himself between me and the prisoner, and let two halberdiers stand beside him, and if the villain moves a step, bid them strike him dead. You understand?

Perfectly, replied Salisbury, bowing.

In that case, you may take off his bonds that is, if you think it prudent to do so not otherwise, continued James. I would not have the knave suppose he can awe me.

Your Majesty's commands shall be fulfilled to the letter, returned the Earl.

Lose no time, Salisbury, cried James, springing out of bed, and beginning to dress himself without the assistance of his chamberlain.

The Earl hastily retired, and ordered the attendants to repair to their royal master. He next proceeded to the chamber where Guy Fawkes was detained, and ordered him to be unbound, and brought before the King. When the prisoner heard this mandate, a slight smile crossed his countenance, but he instantly resumed his former stern composure. The smile, however, did not escape the notice of Salisbury, and he commanded the halberdiers to keep near to the prisoner, and if he made the slightest movement in the King's presence, instantly to despatch him.

Giving some further directions, the Earl then led the way across a court, and entering another wing of the palace, ascended a flight of steps, and traversed a magnificent corridor. Guy Fawkes followed, attended by the guard. They had now reached the antechamber leading to the royal sleeping apartment, and Salisbury ascertained from the officers in attendance that all was in readiness. Motioning the guard to remain where they were, he entered the inner room alone, and found James seated on a chair of state near the bed, surrounded by his council; the Earl of Marr standing on his right hand, and the Duke of Lennox on his left, all anxiously awaiting his arrival. Behind the King were stationed half a dozen halberdiers.

The prisoner is without, said Salisbury. Is it your Majesty's pleasure that he be admitted?

Ay, let him come in forthwith, replied James. Stand by me, my lords. And do you, varlets, keep a wary eye upon him. There is no saying what he may attempt.

Salisbury then waved his hand. The door was thrown open, and an officer entered the room, followed by Guy Fawkes, who marched between two halberdiers. When within a couple of yards of the King, the officer halted, and withdrew a little on the right, so as to allow full view of the prisoner, while he extended his sword between him and the King. Nothing could be more undaunted than the looks and demeanour of Fawkes. He strode firmly into the room, and without making any reverence, folded his arms upon his breast, and looked sternly at James.

A bold villain! cried the King, as he regarded him with curiosity not unmixed with alarm. Who, and what are you, traitor?

A conspirator, replied Fawkes.

That I know, rejoined James, sharply. But how are you called?

John Johnson, answered Fawkes. I am servant to Mr. Thomas Percy.

That is false, cried Salisbury. Take heed that you speak the truth, traitor, or the rack shall force it from you.

The rack will force nothing from me, replied Fawkes, sternly; neither will I answer any question asked by your lordship.

Leave him to me, Salisbury, leave him to me, interposed James. And it was your hellish design to blow us all up with gunpowder? he demanded.

It was, replied Fawkes.

And how could you resolve to destroy so many persons, none of whom have injured you? pursued James.

Dangerous diseases require desperate remedies, replied Fawkes. Milder means have been tried, but without effect. It was God's pleasure that this scheme, which was for the benefit of his holy religion, should not prosper, and therefore I do not repine at the result.

And are you so blinded as to suppose that Heaven can approve the actions of him who raises his hand against the King against the Lord's anointed? cried James.

He is no king who is excommunicated by the apostolic see, replied Fawkes.

This to our face! cried James, angrily. Have you no remorse no compunction for what you have done?

My sole regret is that I have failed, replied Fawkes.

You will not speak thus confidently on the rack, said James.

Try me, replied Fawkes.

What purpose did you hope to accomplish by this atrocious design?"' demanded the Earl of Marr.

My main purpose was to blow back the beggarly Scots to their native mountains, returned Fawkes.

This audacity surpasses belief, said James. Mutius Sc?vola, when in the presence of Porsenna, was not more resolute. Hark 'e, villain, if I give you your life, will you disclose the names of your associates?

No, replied Fawkes.

They shall be wrung from you, cried Salisbury.

Fawkes smiled contemptuously. You know me not, he said.

It is idle to interrogate him further, said James. Let him be removed to the Tower.

Be it so, returned Salisbury; and when next your Majesty questions him, I trust it will be in the presence of his confederates.

Despite the villain's horrible intent, I cannot help admiring his courage, observed James, in a low tone; and were he as loyal as he is brave, he should always be near our person.

With this, he waved his hand, and Guy Fawkes was led forth. He was detained by the Earl of Salisbury's orders till the morning, it being anticipated that before that time the other conspirators would be arrested. But as this was not the case, he was placed in a wherry, and conveyed, as before related, to the Tower.