William Ainsworth.

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

At one time, Fawkes determined not to oppose them, but to let them work their will upon him; but the contact of the noxious animals made him change his resolution, and he instinctively drove them off. They were not, however, to be easily repulsed, and returned to the charge with greater fury than before. The desire of self preservation now got the better of every other feeling, and the dread of being devoured alive giving new vigour to his crippled limbs, he rushed to the other side of the pit. His persecutors, however, followed him in myriads, springing upon him, and making their sharp teeth meet in his flesh in a thousand places.

In this way the contest continued for some time, Guy Fawkes speeding round the pit, and his assailants never for one moment relaxing in the pursuit, until he fell from exhaustion, and his lantern being extinguished, the whole host darted upon him.

Thinking all over, he could not repress a loud cry, and it was scarcely uttered, when lights appeared, and several gloomy figures bearing torches were seen at the edge of the pit. Among these he distinguished Sir William Waad, who offered instantly to release him if he would confess.

I will rather perish, replied Fawkes, and I will make no further effort to defend myself. I shall soon be out of the reach of your malice.

This must not be, observed the lieutenant to Jasper Ipgreve, who stood by. The Earl of Salisbury will never forgive me if he perishes.

Then not a moment must be lost, or those ravenous brutes will assuredly devour him, replied Ipgreve. They are so fierce, that I scarcely like to venture among them.

A ladder was then let down into the pit, and the jailer and the two officials descended. They were just in time. Fawkes had ceased to struggle, and the rats were attacking him with such fury that his words would have been speedily verified, but for Ipgreve's timely interposition.

On being taken out of the pit, he fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood; and when he came to himself, found he was stretched upon a couch in the torture-chamber, with the chirurgeon and Jasper Ipgreve in attendance. Strong broths and other restoratives were then administered; and his strength being sufficiently restored to enable him to converse, the lieutenant again visited him, and questioning him as before, received a similar answer.

In the course of that day and the next, he underwent at intervals various kinds of torture, each more excruciating than the preceding, all of which he bore with unabated fortitude. Among other applications, the rack was employed with such rigour, that his joints started from their sockets, and his frame seemed torn asunder.

On the fourth day he was removed to another and yet gloomier chamber, devoted to the same dreadful objects as the first. It had an arched stone ceiling, and at the further extremity yawned a deep recess. Within this there was a small furnace, in which fuel was placed, ready to be kindled; and over the furnace lay a large black flag, at either end of which were stout leathern straps.

After being subjected to the customary interrogations of the lieutenant, Fawkes was stripped of his attire, and bound to the flag. The fire was then lighted, and the stone gradually heated. The writhing frame of the miserable man ere long showed the extremity of his suffering; but as he did not even utter a groan, his tormentors were compelled to release him.

On this occasion, there were two personages present who had never attended any previous interrogation. They were wrapped in large cloaks, and stood aloof during the proceedings. Both were treated with the most ceremonious respect by Sir William Waad, who consulted them as to the extent to which he should continue the torture. When the prisoner was taken off the heated stone, one of those persons advanced towards him, and gazed curiously at him.

Fawkes, upon whose brow thick drops were standing, and who was sinking into the oblivion brought on by overwrought endurance, exclaimed, It is the King; and fainted.

The traitor knew your Majesty, said the lieutenant. But you see it is in vain to attempt to extort anything from him.

So it seems, replied James; and I am greatly disappointed, for I was led to believe that I should hear a full confession of the conspiracy from his own lips. How say you, good Master chirurgeon, will he endure further torture?

Not without danger of life, your Majesty, unless he has some days' repose, replied the chirurgeon, even if he can endure it then.

It will not be necessary to apply it further, replied Salisbury. I am now in full possession of the names of all the principal conspirators; and when the prisoner finds further concealment useless, he will change his tone. To-morrow, the commissioners appointed by your Majesty for the examination of all those concerned in this dreadful project, will interrogate him in the lieutenant's lodgings, and I will answer with my life that the result will be satisfactory.

Enough, said James. It has been a painful spectacle which we have just witnessed, and yet we would not have missed it. The wretch possesses undaunted resolution, and we can never be sufficiently grateful to the beneficent Providence that prevented him from working his ruthless purpose upon us. The day on which we were preserved from this Gunpowder Treason shall ever hereafter be kept sacred in our church, and thanks shall be returned to Heaven for our wonderful deliverance.

Your Majesty will act wisely, replied Salisbury. The Ordinance will impress the nation with a salutary horror of all Papists and traitors, for they are one and the same thing, and keep alive a proper feeling of enmity against them. Such a fearful example shall be made of these miscreants as shall, it is to be hoped, deter all others from following their cause. Not only shall they perish infamously, but their names shall for ever be held in execration.

Be it so, rejoined James. It is a good legal maxim Crescente maliti?, crescere debuit et ?na.

Upon this, he left the chamber, and, traversing a number of subterranean passages with his attendants, crossed the drawbridge near the Byward Tower to the wharf, where his barge was waiting for him, and returned in it to Whitehall.

At an early hour on the following day, the commissioners appointed to the examination of the prisoner, met together in a large room on the second floor of the lieutenant's lodgings, afterwards denominated, from its use on this occasion, the Council Chamber. Affixed to the walls of this room may be seen at the present day a piece of marble sculpture, with an inscription commemorative of the event. The commissioners were nine in number, and included the Earls of Salisbury, Northampton, Nottingham, Suffolk, Worcester, Devon, Marr, and Dunbar, and Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice. With these were associated Sir Edward Coke, attorney-general, and Sir William Waad.

The apartment in which the examination took place is still a spacious one, but at the period in question it was much larger and loftier. The walls were panelled with dark lustrous oak, covered in some places with tapestry, and adorned in others with paintings. Over the chimney-piece hung a portrait of the late sovereign, Elizabeth. The commissioners were grouped round a large heavily carved oak table, and, after some deliberation together, it was agreed that the prisoner should be introduced.

Sir William Waad then motioned to Topcliffe, who was in attendance with half a dozen halberdiers, and a few moments afterwards a panel was pushed aside, and Guy Fawkes was brought through it. He was supported by Topcliffe and Ipgreve, and it was with the greatest difficulty he could drag himself along. So severe had been the sufferings to which he had been subjected, that they had done the work of time, and placed more than twenty years on his head. His features were thin and sharp, and of a ghastly whiteness, and his eyes hollow and bloodshot. A large cloak was thrown over him, which partially concealed his shattered frame and crippled limbs; but his bent shoulders, and the difficulty with which he moved, told how much he had undergone.

On seeing the presence in which he stood, a flush for a moment rose to his pallid cheek, his eye glowed with its wonted fire, and he tried to stand erect but his limbs refused their office and the effort was so painful, that he fell back into the arms of his attendants. He was thus borne forward by them, and supported during his examination. The Earl of Salisbury then addressed him, and enlarging on the magnitude and horrible nature of his treason, concluded by saying that the only reparation he could offer was to disclose not only all his own criminal intentions, but the names of his associates.

I will hide nothing concerning myself, replied Fawkes; but I shall be for ever silent respecting others.

The Earl then glanced at Sir Edward Coke, who proceeded to take down minutes of the examination.

You have hitherto falsely represented yourself, said the Earl. What is your real name?

Guy Fawkes, replied the prisoner.

And do you confess your guilt? pursued the Earl.

I admit that it was my intention to blow up the King and the whole of the lords spiritual and temporal assembled in the Parliament House with gunpowder, replied Fawkes.

And you placed the combustibles in the vault where they were discovered? demanded Salisbury.

The prisoner answered in the affirmative.

You are a Papist? continued the Earl.

I am a member of the Church of Rome, returned Fawkes.

And you regard this monstrous design as righteous and laudable as consistent with the religion you profess, and as likely to uphold it?" said the Earl.

I did so, replied Fawkes. But I am now convinced that Heaven did not approve it, and I lament that it was ever undertaken.

Still, you refuse to make the only reparation in your power you refuse to disclose your associates? said Salisbury.

I cannot betray them, replied Fawkes.

Traitor! it is needless, cried the Earl; they are known to us nay, they have betrayed themselves. They have risen in open and armed rebellion against the King; but a sufficient power has been sent against them; and if they are not ere this defeated and captured, many days will not elapse before they will be lodged in the Tower.

If this is the case, you require no information from me, rejoined Fawkes. But I pray you name them to me.

I will do so, replied Salisbury; and if I have omitted you can supply the deficiency. I will begin with Robert Catesby, the chief contriver of this hell-engendered plot, I will next proceed to the superior of the Jesuits, Father Garnet, next, to another Jesuit priest, Father Oldcorne, next, to Sir Everard Digby, then, to Thomas Winter and Robert Winter, then, to John Wright and Christopher Wright, then, to Ambrose Rookwood, Thomas Percy, and John Grant, and lastly, to Robert Keyes.

Are these all? demanded Fawkes.

All we are acquainted with, said Salisbury.

Then add to them the names of Francis Tresham, and of his brother-in-law, Lord Mounteagle, rejoined Fawkes. I charge both with being privy to the plot.

I have forgotten another name, said Salisbury, in some confusion, that of Viviana Radcliffe, of Ordsall Hall. I have received certain information that she was wedded to you while you were resident at White Webbs, near Epping Forest, and was cognisant of the plot. If captured, she will share your fate.

Fawkes could not repress a groan.

Salisbury pursued his interrogations, but it was evident, from the increasing feebleness of the prisoner, that he would sink under it if the examination was further protracted. He was therefore ordered to attach his signature to the minutes taken by Sir Edward Coke, and was placed in a chair for that purpose. A pen was then given him, but for some time his shattered fingers refused to grasp it. By a great effort, and with acute pain, he succeeded in tracing his Christian name thus:

While endeavouring to write his surname, the pen fell from his hand, and he became insensible.


On coming to herself, Viviana inquired for Garnet; and being told that he was in his chamber alone, she repaired thither, and found him pacing to and fro in the greatest perturbation.

If you come to me for consolation, daughter, he said, you come to one who cannot offer it. I am completely prostrated in spirit by the disastrous issue of our enterprise; and though I tried to prepare myself for what has taken place, I now find myself utterly unable to cope with it.

If such is your condition, father, replied Viviana, what must be that of my husband, upon whose devoted head all the weight of this dreadful calamity now falls? You are still at liberty still able to save yourself still able, at least, to resist unto the death, if you are so minded. But he is a captive in the Tower, exposed to every torment that human ingenuity can invent, and with nothing but the prospect of a lingering death before his eyes. What is your condition, compared with his?

Happy most happy, daughter, replied Garnet, and I have been selfish and unreasonable. I have, given way to the weakness of humanity, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for enabling me to shake it off.

You have indulged false hopes, father, said Viviana, whereas I have indulged none, or rather, all has come to pass as I desired. The dreadful crime with which I feared my husband's soul would have been loaded is now uncommitted, and I have firm hope of his salvation. If I might counsel you, I would advise you to surrender yourself to justice, and by pouring out your blood on the scaffold, wash out your offence. Such will be my own course. I have been involuntarily led into connexion with this plot; and though I have ever disapproved of it, since I have not revealed it I am as guilty as if I had been its contriver. I shall not shun my punishment. Fate has dealt hardly with me, and my path on earth has been strewn with thorns, and cast in grief and trouble. But I humbly trust that my portion hereafter will be with the blessed.

I cannot doubt it, daughter, replied Garnet; and though I do not view our design in the light that you do, but regard it as justifiable, if not necessary, yet, with your feelings, I cannot sufficiently admire your conduct. Your devotion and self-sacrifice is wholly without parallel. At the same time, I would try to dissuade you from surrendering yourself to our relentless enemies. Believe me, it will add the severest pang to your husband's torture to know that you are in their power. His nature is stern and unyielding, and, persuaded as he is of the justice of his cause, he will die happy in that conviction, certain that his name, though despised by our heretical persecutors, will be held in reverence by all true professors of our faith. No, daughter, fly and conceal yourself till pursuit is relinquished, and pass the rest of your life in prayer for the repose of your husband's soul.

I will pass it in endeavouring to bring him to repentance, replied Viviana. The sole boon I shall seek from my judges will be permission to attempt this.

It will be refused, daughter, replied Garnet, and you will only destroy yourself, not aid him. Rest satisfied that the Great Power who judges the hearts of men, and implants certain impulses within them, for his own wise but inscrutable purposes, well knows that Guy Fawkes, however culpable his conduct may appear in your eyes, acted according to the dictates of his conscience, and in the full confidence that the design would restore the true worship of God in this kingdom. The failure of the enterprise proves that he was mistaken that we were all mistaken, and that Heaven was unfavourable to the means adopted, but it does not prove his insincerity.

These arguments have no weight with me, father, replied Viviana; I will leave nothing undone to save his soul, and whatever may be the result, I will surrender myself to justice.

I shall not seek to move you from your purpose, daughter, replied Garnet, and can only lament it. Before, however, you finally decide, let us pray together for directions from on high.

Thus exhorted, Viviana knelt down with the priest before a small silver image of the Virgin, which stood in a niche in the wall, and they both prayed long and earnestly. Garnet was the first to conclude his devotions; and as he gazed at the upturned countenance and streaming eyes of his companion, his heart was filled with admiration and pity.

At this juncture the door opened, and Catesby and Sir Everard Digby entered. On hearing them, Viviana immediately arose.

The urgency of our business must plead an excuse for the interruption, if any is needed, said Catesby; but do not retire, madam. We have no secrets from you now. Sir Everard and I have fully completed our preparations, he added, to Garnet. Our men are all armed and mounted in the court, and are in high spirits for the enterprise. As the service, however, will be one of the greatest danger and difficulty, you had better seek a safe asylum, father, till the first decisive blow is struck.

I would go with you, my son, rejoined Garnet, if I did not think my presence might be an hinderance. I can only aid you with my prayers, and those can be more efficaciously uttered in some secure retreat, than during a rapid march or dangerous encounter.

You had better retire to Coughton with Lady Digby and Viviana, said Sir Everard. I have provided a sufficient escort to guard you thither, and, as you are aware, there are many hiding-places in the house, where you can remain undiscovered in case of search.

I place myself at your disposal, replied Garnet. But Viviana is resolved to surrender herself.

This must not be, returned Catesby. Such an act at this juncture would be madness, and would materially injure our cause. Whatever your inclinations may prompt, you must consent to remain in safety, madam.

I have acquiesced in your proceedings thus far, replied Viviana, because I could not oppose them without injury to those dear to me. But I will take no further share in them. My mind is made up as to the course I shall pursue.

Since you are bent upon your own destruction, for it is nothing less, it is the duty of your friends to save you, rejoined Catesby. You shall not do what you propose, and when you are yourself again, and have recovered from the shock your feelings have sustained, you will thank me for my interference.

You are right, Catesby, observed Sir Everard; it would be worse than insanity to allow her to destroy herself thus.

I am glad you are of this opinion, said Garnet. I tried to reason her out of her design, but without avail.

Catesby, cried Viviana, throwing herself at his feet, by the love you once professed for me, by the friendship you entertained for him who unhesitatingly offered himself for you, and your cause, I implore you not to oppose me now!

I shall best serve you, and most act in accordance with the wishes of my friend, by doing so, replied Catesby. Therefore, you plead in vain.

Alas! cried Viviana. My purposes are ever thwarted. You will have to answer for my life.

I should, indeed, have it to answer for, if I permitted you to act as you desire, rejoined Catesby. I repeat you will thank me ere many days are passed.

Sir Everard, exclaimed Viviana, appealing to the knight, I entreat you to have pity upon me.

I do sincerely sympathise with your distress, replied Digby, in a tone of the deepest commiseration; but I am sure what Catesby advises is for the best. I could not reconcile it to my conscience to allow you to sacrifice yourself thus. Be governed by prudence.

Oh no no! cried Viviana, distractedly. I will not be stayed. I command you not to detain me.

Viviana, said Catesby, taking her arm, this is no season for the display of silly weakness either on our part or yours. If you cannot control yourself, you must be controlled. Father Garnet, I intrust her to your care. Two of my troop shall attend you, together with your own servant, Nicholas Owen. You shall have stout horses, able to accomplish the journey with the greatest expedition, and I should wish you to convey her to her own mansion, Ordsall Hall, and to remain there with her till you hear tidings of us.

It shall be as you direct, my son, said Garnet. I am prepared to set out at once.

That is well, replied Catesby.

You will not do me this violence, sir, cried Viviana. I appeal against it, to you, Sir Everard.

I cannot help you, madam, replied the knight, indeed, I cannot.

Then Heaven, I trust, will help me, cried Viviana, for I am wholly abandoned of man.

I beseech you, madam, put some constraint upon yourself, said Catesby. If, after your arrival at Ordsall, you are still bent upon your rash and fatal design, Father Garnet shall not oppose its execution. But give yourself time for reflection.