William Ainsworth.

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


Book the Third.

The conclusion shall be from the admirable clemency and moderation of the king; in that, howsoever these traitors have exceeded all others in mischief, yet neither will the king exceed the usual punishment of law, nor invent any new torture or torment for them, but is graciously pleased to afford them as well an ordinary course of trial as an ordinary punishment much inferior to their offence. And surely worthy of observation is the punishment by law provided and appointed for high treason: for, first, after a traitor hath had his just trial, and is convicted and attainted, he shall have his judgment to be drawn to the place of execution from his prison, as being not worthy any more to tread upon the face of the earth whereof he was made; also, for that he hath been retrograde to nature, therefore is he drawn backward at a horsetail. After, to have his head cut off which had imagined the mischief. And, lastly, his body to be quartered, and the quarters set up in some high and eminent place, to the view and detestation of men, and to become a prey for the fowls of the air. And this is a reward due to traitors, whose hearts be hardened; for that it is a physic of state and government to let out corrupt blood from the heart. Sir Edward Coke's Speech on the Gunpowder Treason.


Intimation of the arrest of Guy Fawkes having been sent to the Tower, his arrival was anxiously expected by the warders and soldiers composing the garrison, a crowd of whom posted themselves at the entrance of Traitor's Gate, to obtain a sight of him. As the bark that conveyed the prisoner shot through London Bridge, and neared the fortress, notice of its approach was given to the lieutenant, who, scarcely less impatient, had stationed himself in a small circular chamber in one of the turrets of Saint Thomas's or Traitor's Tower, overlooking the river. He hastily descended, and had scarcely reached the place of disembarkation, when the boat passed beneath the gloomy archway, the immense wooden wicket closed behind it; and the officer in command springing ashore, was followed more deliberately by Fawkes, who mounted the slippery stairs with a firm footstep. As he gained the summit, the spectators pressed forward; but Sir William Waad, ordering them in an authoritative tone to stand back, fixed a stern and scrutinizing glance on the prisoner.

Many vile traitors have ascended those steps, he said, but none so false-hearted, none so bloodthirsty as you.

None ever ascended them with less misgiving, or with less self-reproach, replied Fawkes.

Miserable wretch! Do you glory in your villany? cried the lieutenant. If anything could heighten my detestation of the pernicious creed you profess, it would be to witness its effects on such minds as yours. What a religion must that be, which can induce its followers to commit such monstrous actions, and delude them into the belief that they are pious and praiseworthy!

It is a religion, at least, that supports them at seasons when they most require it, rejoined Fawkes.

Peace! cried the lieutenant, fiercely, or I will have your viperous tongue torn out by the roots.

Turning to the officer, he demanded his warrant, and glancing at it, gave some directions to one of the warders, and then resumed his scrutiny of Fawkes, who appeared wholly unmoved, and steadily returned his gaze.

Meanwhile, several of the spectators, eager to prove their loyalty to the king, and abhorrence of the plot, loaded the prisoner with execrations, and finding these produced no effect, proceeded to personal outrage.

Some spat upon his face and garments; some threw mud, gathered from the slimy steps, upon him; some pricked him with the points of their halberds; while others, if they had not been checked, would have resorted to greater violence. Only one bystander expressed the slightest commiseration for him. It was Ruth Ipgreve, who, with her parents, formed part of the assemblage.

A few kindly words pronounced by this girl moved the prisoner more than all the insults he had just experienced. He said nothing, but a slight and almost imperceptible quivering of the lip told what was passing within. The jailer was extremely indignant at his daughter's conduct, fearing it might prejudice him in the eyes of the lieutenant.

Get hence, girl, he cried, and stir not from thy room for the rest of the day. I am sorry I allowed thee to come forth.

You must look to her, Jasper Ipgreve, said Sir William Waad, sternly. No man shall hold an office in the Tower who is a favourer of papacy. If you were a good Protestant, and a faithful servant of King James, your daughter could never have acted thus unbecomingly. Look to her, I say, and to yourself.

I will, honourable sir, replied Jasper, in great confusion. Take her home directly, he added, in an under tone to his wife. Lock her up till I return, and scourge her if thou wilt. She will ruin us by her indiscretion.

In obedience to this injunction, Dame Ipgreve seized her daughter's hand, and dragged her away. Ruth turned for a moment to take a last look at the prisoner, and saw that his gaze followed her, and was fraught with an expression of the deepest gratitude. By way of showing his disapproval of his daughter's conduct, the jailer now joined the bitterest of Guy Fawkes's assailants; and ere long the assemblage became infuriated to such an ungovernable pitch, that the lieutenant, who had allowed matters to proceed thus far in the hope of shaking the prisoner's constancy, finding his design fruitless, ordered him to be taken away. Escorted by a dozen soldiers with calivers on their shoulders, Guy Fawkes was led through the archway of the Bloody Tower, and across the Green to the Beauchamp Tower. He was placed in the spacious chamber on the first floor of that fortification, now used as a mess-room by the Guards. Sir William Waad followed him, and seating himself at a table, referred to the warrant.

You are here called John Johnson. Is that your name? he demanded.

If you find it thus written, you need make no further inquiry from me," replied Fawkes. I am the person so described. That is sufficient for you.

Not so, replied the lieutenant; and if you persist in this stubborn demeanour, the severest measures will be adopted towards you. Your sole chance of avoiding the torture is in making a full confession.

I do not desire to avoid the torture, replied Fawkes. It will wrest nothing from me.

So all think till they have experienced it, replied the lieutenant; but greater fortitude than yours has given way before our engines.

Fawkes smiled disdainfully, but made no answer.

The lieutenant then gave directions that he should be placed within a small cell adjoining the larger chamber, and that two of the guard should remain constantly beside him, to prevent him from doing himself any violence.

You need have no fear, observed Fawkes. I shall not destroy my chance of martyrdom.

At this juncture a messenger arrived, bearing a despatch from the Earl of Salisbury. The lieutenant broke the seal, and after hurriedly perusing it, drew his sword, and desiring the guard to station themselves outside the door, approached Fawkes.

Notwithstanding the enormity of your offence, he observed, I find his Majesty will graciously spare your life, provided you will reveal the names of all your associates, and disclose every particular connected with the plot.

Guy Fawkes appeared lost in reflection, and the lieutenant, conceiving he had made an impression upon him, repeated the offer.

How am I to be assured of this? asked the prisoner.

My promise must suffice, rejoined Waad.

It will not suffice to me, returned Fawkes. I must have a pardon signed by the King.

You shall have it on one condition, replied Waad. You are evidently troubled with few scruples. It is the Earl of Salisbury's conviction that the heads of many important Catholic families are connected with this plot. If they should prove to be so, or, to be plain, if you will accuse certain persons whom I will specify, you shall have the pardon you require.

Is this the purport of the Earl of Salisbury's despatch? asked Guy Fawkes.

The lieutenant nodded.

Let me look at it, continued Fawkes. You may be practising upon me.

Your own perfidious nature makes you suspicious of treachery in others, cried the lieutenant. Will this satisfy you?

And he held the letter towards Guy Fawkes, who instantly snatched it from his grasp.

What ho! he shouted in a loud voice; what ho! and the guards instantly rushed into the room. You shall learn why you were sent away. Sir William Waad has offered me my life, on the part of the Earl of Salisbury, provided I will accuse certain innocent parties innocent, except that they are Catholics of being leagued with me in my design. Read this letter, and see whether I speak not the truth.

And he threw it among them. But no one stirred, except a warder, who, picking it up, delivered it to the lieutenant.

You will now understand whom you have to deal with, pursued Fawkes.

I do, replied Waad. But were you as unyielding as the walls of this prison, I would shake your obduracy.

I pray you not to delay the experiment, said Fawkes.

Have a little patience, retorted Waad. I will not balk your humour, depend upon it.

With this, he departed, and repairing to his lodgings, wrote a hasty despatch to the Earl, detailing all that had passed, and requesting a warrant for the torture, as he was apprehensive, if the prisoner expired under the severe application that would be necessary to force the truth from him, he might be called to account. Two hours afterwards the messenger returned with the warrant. It was in the handwriting of the King, and contained a list of interrogations to be put to the prisoner, concluding by directing him to use the gentler torture first, et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur. And so God speed you in your good work!

Thus armed, and fearless of the consequences, the lieutenant summoned Jasper Ipgreve.

We have a very refractory prisoner to deal with, he said, as the jailer appeared. But I have just received the royal authority to put him through all the degrees of torture if he continues obstinate. How shall we begin?

With the Scavenger's Daughter and the Little Ease, if it please you, honourable sir, replied Ipgreve. If these fail, we can try the gauntlets and the rack; and lastly, the dungeon among the rats, and the hot stone.

A good progression, said the lieutenant, smiling. I will now repair to the torture-chamber. Let the prisoner be brought there without delay. He is in the Beauchamp Tower.

Ipgreve bowed and departed, while the lieutenant, calling to an attendant to bring a torch, proceeded along a narrow passage communicating with the Bell Tower. Opening a secret door within it, he descended a flight of stone steps, and traversing a number of intricate passages, at length stopped before a strong door, which he pushed aside, and entered the chamber he had mentioned to Ipgreve. This dismal apartment has already been described. It was that in which Viviana's constancy was so fearfully approved. Two officials in the peculiar garb of the place a sable livery were occupied in polishing the various steel implements. Besides these, there was the chirurgeon, who was seated at a side table, reading by the light of a brazen lamp. He instantly arose on seeing the lieutenant, and began, with the other officials, to make preparations for the prisoner's arrival. The two latter concealed their features by drawing a large black capoch, or hood, attached to their gowns over them, and this disguise added materially to their lugubrious appearance. One of them then took down a broad iron hoop, opening in the centre with a hinge, and held it in readiness. Their preparations were scarcely completed when heavy footsteps announced the approach of Fawkes and his attendants. Jasper Ipgreve ushered them into the chamber, and fastened the door behind them. All the subsequent proceedings were conducted with the utmost deliberation, and were therefore doubly impressive. No undue haste occurred, and the officials, who might have been mistaken for phantoms or evil spirits, spoke only in whispers. Guy Fawkes watched their movements with unaltered composure. At length, Jasper Ipgreve signified to the lieutenant that all was ready.

The opportunity you desired of having your courage put to the test is now arrived, said the latter to the prisoner.

What am I to do? was the reply.

Remove your doublet, and prostrate yourself, subjoined Ipgreve.

Guy Fawkes obeyed, and when in this posture began audibly to recite a prayer to the Virgin.

Be silent, cried the lieutenant, or a gag shall be thrust into your mouth.

Kneeling upon the prisoner's shoulders, and passing the hoop under his legs, Ipgreve then succeeded, with the help of his assistants, who added their weight to his own, in fastening the hoop with an iron button. This done, they left the prisoner with his limbs and body so tightly compressed together that he was scarcely able to breathe. In this state he was allowed to remain for an hour and a half. The chirurgeon then found on examination that the blood had burst profusely from his mouth and nostrils, and in a slighter degree from the extremities of his hands and feet.

He must be released, he observed in an under tone to the lieutenant. Further continuance might be fatal.

Accordingly, the hoop was removed, and it was at this moment that the prisoner underwent the severest trial. Despite his efforts to control himself, a sharp convulsion passed across his frame, and the restoration of impeded circulation and respiration occasioned him the most acute agony.

The chirurgeon bathed his temples with vinegar, and his limbs being chafed by the officials, he was placed on a bench.

My warrant directs me to begin with the 'gentler tortures,' and to proceed by degrees to extremities, observed the lieutenant, significantly. You have now had a taste of the milder sort, and may form some conjecture what the worst are like. Do you still continue contumacious?

I am in the same mind as before, replied Fawkes, in a hoarse but firm voice.

Take him to the Little Ease, and let him pass the night there, said the lieutenant. To-morrow I will continue the investigation.

Fawkes was then led out by Ipgreve and the officials, and conveyed along a narrow passage, until arriving at a low door, in which there was an iron grating, it was opened, and disclosed a narrow cell about four feet high, one and a few inches wide, and two deep. Into this narrow receptacle, which seemed wholly inadequate to contain a tall and strongly-built man like himself, the prisoner was with some difficulty thrust, and the door locked upon him.

In this miserable plight, with his head bent upon his breast, the cell being so contrived that its wretched inmate could neither sit, nor recline at full length within it, Guy Fawkes prayed long and fervently; and no longer troubled by the uneasy feelings which had for some time haunted him, he felt happier in his present forlorn condition than he had been when anticipating the full success of his project.

At least, he thought, I shall now win myself a crown of martyrdom, and whatever my present sufferings may be, they will be speedily effaced by the happiness I shall enjoy hereafter.

Overcome, at length, by weariness and exhaustion, he fell into a sort of doze it could scarcely be called sleep and while in this state, fancied he was visited by Saint Winifred, who, approaching the door of the cell, touched it, and it instantly opened. She then placed her hand upon his limbs, and the pain he had hitherto felt in them subsided.

Your troubles will soon be over, murmured the saint, and you will be at rest. Do not hesitate to confess. Your silence will neither serve your companions nor yourself. With these words the vision disappeared, and Guy Fawkes awoke. Whether it was the effect of imagination, or that his robust constitution had in reality shaken off the effects of the torture, it is impossible to say, but it is certain that he felt his strength restored to him, and attributing his recovery entirely to the marvellous interposition of the saint, he addressed a prayer of gratitude to her. While thus occupied, he heard for it was so dark he could distinguish nothing a sweet low voice at the grating of the cell, and imagining it was the same benign presence as before, paused and listened.

Do you hear me? asked the voice.

I do, replied Fawkes. Is it the blessed Winifred, who again vouchsafes to address me?

Alas, no! replied the voice; it is one of mortal mould. I am Ruth Ipgreve, the jailer's daughter. You may remember that I expressed some sympathy in your behalf at your landing at Traitor's Gate to-day, for which I incurred my father's displeasure. But you will be quite sure I am a friend, when I tell you I assisted Viviana Radcliffe to escape.

Ha! exclaimed Guy Fawkes, in a tone of great emotion.

I was in some degree in her confidence, pursued Ruth; and, if I am not mistaken, you are the object of her warmest regard.

The prisoner could not repress a groan.

You are Guy Fawkes, pursued Ruth. Nay, you need have no fear of me. I have risked my life for Viviana, and would risk it for you.

I will disguise nothing from you, replied Fawkes. I am he you have named. As the husband of Viviana for such I am I feel the deepest gratitude to you for the service you rendered her. She bitterly reproached herself with having placed you in so much danger. How did you escape?

I was screened by my parents, replied Ruth. It was given out by them that Viviana escaped through the window of her prison, and I was thus preserved from punishment. Where is she now?

In safety, I trust, replied Fawkes. Alas! I shall never behold her again.

Do not despair, returned Ruth. I will try to effect your liberation; and though I have but slender hope of accomplishing it, still there is a chance.

I do not desire it, returned Fawkes. I am content to perish. All I lived for is at an end.

This shall not deter me from trying to save you, replied Ruth; and I still trust there is happiness in store for you with Viviana. Amid all your sufferings, rest certain there is one who will ever watch over you. I dare not remain here longer, for fear of a surprise. Farewell!

She then departed, and it afforded Guy Fawkes some solace to ponder on the interview during the rest of the night.

On the following morning Jasper Ipgreve appeared, and placed before him a loaf of the coarsest bread, and a jug of dirty water. His scanty meal ended, he left him, but returned in two hours afterwards with a party of halberdiers, and desiring him to follow him, led the way to the torture-chamber. Sir William Waad was there when he arrived, and demanding in a stern tone whether he still continued obstinate, and receiving no answer, ordered him to be placed in the gauntlets. Upon this, he was suspended from a beam by his hands, and endured five hours of the most excruciating agony his fingers being so crushed and lacerated that he could not move them.

He was then taken down, and still refusing to confess, was conveyed to a horrible pit, adjoining the river, called, from the loathsome animals infesting it, the dungeon among the rats. It was about twenty feet wide and twelve deep, and at high tide was generally more than two feet deep in water.

Into this dreadful chasm was Guy Fawkes lowered by his attendants, who, warning him of the probable fate that awaited him, left him in total darkness. At this time the pit was free from water; but he had not been there more than an hour, when a bubbling and hissing sound proclaimed that the tide was rising, while frequent plashes convinced him that the rats were at hand. Stooping down, he felt that the water was alive with them that they were all around him and would not, probably, delay their attack. Prepared as he was for the worst, he could not repress a shudder at the prospect of the horrible death with which he was menaced.

At this juncture, he was surprised by the appearance of a light, and perceived at the edge of the pit a female figure bearing a lantern. Not doubting it was his visitant of the former night, he called out to her, and was answered in the voice of Ruth Ipgreve.

I dare not remain here many minutes, she said, because my father suspects me. But I could not let you perish thus. I will let down this lantern to you, and the light will keep away the rats. When the tide retires you can extinguish it.

So saying, she tore her kerchief into shreds, and tying the slips together, lowered the lantern to the prisoner, and without waiting to receive his thanks, hurried away.

Thus aided, Guy Fawkes defended himself as well as he could against his loathsome assailants. The light showed that the water was swarming with them that they were creeping by hundreds up the sides of the pit, and preparing to make a general attack upon him.