William Ainsworth.

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





The birds are flown, he said, as you will find, if you search the nest. But come to the hall with a sufficient force betimes to-morrow morning, and I will show you where to find them. I shall claim, however, my share of the reward, though I must not appear in the matter.

Having fully arranged their plan, he procured the ale from his mother, and returned to the hall. The conspirators soon disposed of the jug, threw themselves on a couch in the room, and instantly dropping asleep, enjoyed such repose as only falls to the lot of those who have similarly suffered. And it was well they did sleep soundly, for it was the last tranquil night they ever enjoyed!

Humphrey Littleton, who, as has been stated, reposed implicit confidence in the cook, had committed the key of the chamber to him, strictly enjoining him to call them in the morning; and the fellow, feeling secure of his prey, retired to rest.

About seven o'clock, he burst suddenly into the room, and with a countenance of well-feigned alarm, which struck tenor into the breasts of the conspirators, cried

Master Hazlewood and the officers are below, and say they must search the house. Poynter is with them.

The villain has betrayed us! cried Stephen Littleton. Fools that we were to spare his life!

There is no use in lamenting your indiscretion now, sir, replied the cook; leave it to me, and I will yet effect your escape.

We place ourselves entirely in your hands, said Stephen Littleton.

Go down stairs, sir, said the cook to Humphrey Littleton, and hold Master Hazlewood in conversation for a few minutes, and I will engage to get the gentlemen safely out of the house.

Humphrey Littleton obeyed, and descending to the steward, told him he was willing to conduct him to every room in the house.

I am certain they are here, and shall not quit it till I find them," rejoined Hazlewood. Ah! he exclaimed, as if struck by a sudden thought, you say they are not in the house. Perhaps, they are in the garden in the summer-house? We will go and see.

So saying, he took half-a-dozen of his men with him, leaving Poynter and the rest with Humphrey Littleton, who was perplexed and alarmed at his conduct.

Meanwhile, the cook led the two conspirators along the gallery, and from thence down a back staircase, which brought them to a small door communicating with the garden. A few seconds were lost in opening it, and when they issued forth they encountered Hazlewood and his men, who instantly arrested them. The unfortunate conspirators were conveyed under a strong guard to London, where they were committed to the Tower, to take their trial with their confederates.

CHAPTER VII.
VIVIANA'S LAST NIGHT AT ORDSALL HALL

On the evening of the third day after quitting Dunchurch, Viviana Radcliffe and her companions arrived at Ordsall Hall. They had encountered many dangers and difficulties on the journey, and were well-nigh overcome with fatigue and anxiety.

Fearful of being detained, Garnet had avoided all the larger towns in the way, and had consequently been driven greatly out of the direct course. He had assumed the disguise which he usually wore when travelling, that of a lawyer, and as he possessed great mimetic talent, he sustained the character admirably. Viviana passed for his daughter, and his servant, Nicholas Owen, who was almost as clever an actor as his master, represented his clerk, while the two attendants performed the parts of clients. At Abbots'-Bromley, where they halted for refreshment on the second day, having spent the night at a small village near Lichfield, they were detained by the landlord, who entertained some suspicions of them; but Garnet succeeded in frightening the man into allowing them to depart. They underwent another alarm of the same kind at Leek, and were for two hours locked up. But on the arrival of a magistrate, who had been sent for by the host, Garnet gave so plausible an account of himself that the party were instantly set at liberty, and arrived without further molestation at their journey's end.

Viviana's last visit to the hall had been sad enough, but it was not so sad as the present. It was a dull November evening, and the wind moaned dismally through the trees, scattering the yellow leaves on the ground. The house looked forlorn and desolate. No smoke issued from the chimneys, nor was there any external indication that it was inhabited. The drawbridge was down, and as they passed over it, the hollow trampling of their steeds upon the planks vibrated painfully upon Viviana's heart. Before dismounting, she cast a wistful look around, and surveyed the grass-grown and neglected court, where, in years gone by, she had sported; the moat on whose brink she had lingered; and the surrounding woods, which she had never looked upon, even on a dreary day like the present, and when they were robbed in some measure of their beauty, without delight. Scanning the deserted mansion from roof to foundation, she traced all its gables, angles, windows, doors, and walls, and claimed every piece of carved work, every stone as a familiar object, and as associated with other and happier hours.

It is but the wreck of what it was, she thought. The spirit that animated it is fled. Grass grows in its courts no cheerful voices echo in its chambers no hospitality is maintained in its hall but neglect, gloom, and despair claim it as their own. The habitation and its mistress are well matched.

Guessing from the melancholy expression of her countenance what was passing within, and thinking it advisable to turn the current of her thoughts, Garnet assisted her to alight, and committing the care of their steeds to Owen and the others, proceeded with her to the principal entrance. Everything appeared in nearly the same state as when they had last seen it, and the only change that had taken place was for the worse. The ceilings were mapped and mildewed with damps; the once-gorgeously stained glass was shivered in the windows; the costly arras hung in tattered fragments from the walls; while the floors, which were still strewn with plaster and broken furniture, were flooded with the moisture that had found its way through the holes in the roof.

Bear up, dear daughter, said Garnet, observing that Viviana was greatly distressed by the sight, and let the contemplation of this scene of havoc, instead of casting you down, inspire you with just indignation against enemies from whom it is vain to expect justice or mercy. How many Catholic mansions have been thus laid waste! How many high-born and honourable men, whose sole fault was their adherence to the religion of their fathers, and their refusal to subscribe to doctrines against which their consciences revolted, have been put to death like your father; nay, have endured a worse fate, for they have languished out their lives in prison, while their families and retainers have undergone every species of outrage! How many a descendant of a proud line, distinguished for worth, for loyalty, and for devotion, has stood, as you now stand, upon his desolate hearth has seen misery and ruin usurp the place of comfort and happiness and has heard the very stones beneath his feet cry out for vengeance. Accursed be our oppressors! he added, lifting up his hands, and elevating his voice. May their churches be thrown down their faith crushed their rights invaded their children delivered to bondage their hearths laid waste, as ours have been. May this, and worse come to pass, till the whole sk of heresy is uprooted!

Hold, father! exclaimed Viviana, even here, beholding this miserable sight, and with feelings keenly excited, I cannot join in your terrible denunciation. What I hope for what I pray for, is toleration, not vengeance. The sufferings of our brethren will not have been in vain, if they enable our successors to worship God in their own way, and according to the dictates of their consciences. The ruthless conduct of our persecutors must be held in as much abhorrence by all good Protestants as our persecution of that sect, when we were in the ascendant, is regarded by all worthy members of our own Church. I cannot believe that by persecution we can work out the charitable precepts inculcated by our Saviour, and I am sure such a course is as adverse to the spirit of religion as it is to that of humanity. Let us bear our sorrows with patience, let us utter no repinings, but turn the other cheek to the smiter, and we shall find, in due time, that the hearts of our oppressors will relent, and that all the believers in the True God will be enabled to worship him in peace, though at different altars.

Such a season will never arrive, daughter, replied Garnet, severely, till heresy is extirpated, and the false doctrines now prevailing utterly abolished. Then, indeed, when the Church of Rome is re-established, and the old and true religion restored, universal peace will prevail. And let me correct the grievous and sinful error into which you have fallen. Our church is always at war with heresy; and if it cannot uproot it by gentle means, authorizes, nay enjoins the employment of force.

I will not attempt to dispute with you upon points of faith, father," returned Viviana; I am content to think and act according to my own feelings and convictions. But I will not give up the hope that in some milder and wiser age, persecution on either side will cease, and the sufferings of its victims be remembered only to soften the hearts of fanatics, of whatever creed, towards each other. Were a lesson wanting to ourselves, surely it might be found in the result that has attended your dark and criminal enterprise, and in which the disapproval of Heaven has been signally manifested.

Not so, daughter, replied Garnet. An action is not to be judged or justified by the event attending it, but by its own intrinsic merits. To aver the contrary were to throw a doubt upon the Holy Scriptures themselves, where we read in the Book of Judges that the eleven tribes of Israel were commanded to make war upon the tribe of Benjamin, and yet were twice defeated. We have failed. But this proves nothing against our project, which I maintain to be righteous and praiseworthy, undertaken to overthrow an heretical and excommunicated monarch, and to re-establish the true faith of the Most High throughout this land.

I lament to find that you still persist in error, father, replied Viviana; but you cannot by any sophistry induce me to coincide with you in opinion. I hold the attempt an offence alike against God and man, and while I rejoice at the issue that has attended it, I deplore the irreparable harm it will do to the whole body of Catholics, all of whom will be connected, by the bigoted and unthinking of the hostile party, with the atrocious design. Not only have you done our cause an injury, but you have in a measure justified our opponents' severity, and given them a plea for further persecution.

No more of this, daughter, rejoined Garnet, impatiently, or I shall deem it necessary to reprove you. Let us search the house, and try to find some habitable chamber in which you can pass the night.

After a long search, they discovered a room in comparatively good order, and leaving Viviana within it, Garnet descended to the lower part of the house, where he found Nicholas Owen, and the two other attendants.

We have chanced upon a scanty supply of provender for our steeds," remarked Owen, with a doleful look; but we are not likely to obtain a meal ourselves, unless we can feed upon rats and mice, which appear to be the sole tenants of this miserable dwelling.

You must go to Manchester instantly, and procure provisions, returned Garnet. But take heed you observe the utmost caution.

Fear nothing, replied Owen, If I am taken, your reverence will lose your supper that is all.

He then set out upon his errand, and Garnet proceeded to the kitchen, where, to his great surprise, he found the hearthstone still warm, and a few lighted embers upon it, while crumbs of bread, and little fragments of meat scattered about, proved that some one had taken a meal there. Startled by this discovery, he continued his search, but as fruitlessly as before; and though he called to any one who might be hidden to come forth, the summons was unanswered. One of the attendants had placed a few sticks upon the smouldering ashes, and on returning to the kitchen, it was found that they had kindled. A fire being thus obtained, some of the broken furniture was used to replenish it, and by Garnet's commands another fire was speedily lighted in Viviana's chamber. Night had now come on, and Owen not returning, Garnet became extremely uneasy, and had almost given him up, when the absentee made his appearance, with a large basket of provisions under his arm.

I have had some difficulty in obtaining them, he said; and fancying I observed two persons following me, was obliged to take a circuitous route to get back. The whole town is in commotion about the plot, and it is said that the most rigorous measures are to be adopted towards all the Catholic families in the neighbourhood.

Sighing at the latter piece of intelligence, Garnet selected such provisions as he thought would be acceptable to Viviana, and took them upstairs to her. She ate a little bread, and drank a cup of water, but refused to taste anything else, and finding it in vain to press her, Garnet returned to the kitchen, where, being much exhausted, he recruited himself with a hearty meal and a cup of wine.

Left alone, Viviana knelt down, and clasping a small crucifix to her breast, prayed long and fervently. While she was thus engaged, she heard the door open gently behind her, and turning her head, beheld an old man clothed in a tattered garb, with long white hair flowing over his shoulders, and a beard of the same snowy hue descending upon his breast. As he advanced slowly towards her, she started to her feet, and a brighter flame arising at the moment from the fire, it illumined the intruder's wobegone features.

Is it possible! she exclaimed, "can it be my father's old steward, Jerome Heydocke?

It is, indeed, my dear young mistress, replied the old man, falling on his knee before her. Heaven be praised! he continued, seizing her hand, and bedewing it with tears; I have seen you once again, and shall die content.

I never expected to behold you more, good Heydocke, returned Viviana, raising him. I heard you had died in prison.

It was so given out by the jailers, to account for my escape, replied the old steward; and I took care never to contradict the report by making my appearance. I will not distress you by the recital of all I have endured, but will simply state that I was confined in the prison upon Hunt's Bank, whence I escaped in the night by dropping upon the rocks, and from them into the river, where it was supposed I was drowned. Making my way into the country, I concealed myself for a time in barns and out-buildings, until, at length, I ventured back to the old house, and have dwelt in it unmolested ever since. I should have perished of want long ago, but for the kindness of Mr. Humphrey Chetham. He used to send my son regularly to me with provisions; and, now that Martin is gone to London, on business, as I understood, relating to you, he brings them to me himself. He will be here to-morrow.

Indeed! exclaimed Viviana. I must see him.

As you please, returned the old man. I suppose those are your companions below. I was in my hiding-place, and hearing voices and footsteps, did not dare to venture forth till all was still. On approaching this room, which I have been in the habit of occupying lately, and peeping through the door, which was standing ajar, I perceived a female figure, and thinking it must be you, though I scarcely dared to trust the evidence of my senses, I ventured in. Oh! my dear, dear young mistress, what a joy it is to see you again! I fear you must have suffered much, for you are greatly altered.

At this moment, Garnet entered the room. He started on seeing the old steward. But an explanation was instantly given him.

You, then, are the person by whom the fire was recently lighted in the kitchen? he asked.

Heydocke replied in the affirmative.

I came to bid you farewell for the night, dear daughter, said Garnet, and to assure you that you may rest without fear, for we have contrived to make fast the doors. Come with me, my son, he added to the steward, and you shall have a comfortable meal below.

Making a profound reverence to Viviana, the old man followed him down stairs.

Viviana continued to pace to and fro within her chamber for some time, and then, overcome with fatigue, flung herself upon the bedstead, on which a cloak had been thrown. Sleep soon closed her eyes, but it was disturbed by frightful and distressing dreams, from which she was suddenly aroused by a touch upon the arm. Starting up, she perceived the old steward by the side of her couch, with a light in his hand.

What brings you here, Heydocke? she demanded, with surprise and alarm.

You have slept soundly, my dear young mistress, or you would not require to be informed, replied the steward. There! do you not hear it? he added, as a loud knocking resounded from below.

Viviana listened for a moment, and then as if struck by a sudden idea, hurried down stairs. She found Garnet and the others assembled in the hall, but wholly unnerved by fright. Hide yourselves, she said, and no ill shall befal you. Quick! not a moment is to be lost!

Having allowed them sufficient time for concealment, she demanded in a loud voice who was without?

Friends, was the reply.

It is the voice of Doctor Dee, replied Heydocke.

Indeed! exclaimed Viviana. Admit him instantly.

Heydocke obeyed, and throwing open the door, gave entrance to the Doctor, who was wrapped in his long furred gown, and carried a lantern. He was accompanied by Kelley and Humphrey Chetham.

Your visit is singularly timed, Mr. Chetham, said Viviana, after she had saluted the party; but you are not the less welcome on that account. I much desired to see you, and indeed should have sent for you to-morrow. But how did you know I was here?

The only explanation I can offer you is this, replied Chetham. I was hastily summoned from my residence at Crumpsall by Kelley, who told me you were at Ordsall Hall, and that Doctor Dee was about to visit you, and desired my company. Thus summoned, I came at once.

A strange explanation indeed! replied Viviana.

Close and fasten the door, said Dee, in an authoritative tone to Kelley, and as soon as his commands were obeyed, he took Viviana's hand, and led her to the farther end of the hall.

My art informed me of your arrival, Viviana, he said. I am come to save you. You are in imminent danger.

I well know it, she replied; but I have no wish to fly from justice. I am weary of my life, and would gladly resign it.

I would call to your recollection, Viviana, pursued Dee, that I foretold the disastrous result of this plot, in which you have become unhappily involved, to Guy Fawkes, and warned him not to proceed in it. But he would not be advised, and is now a prisoner in the Tower.

All I wish is to go thither, and die with him, rejoined Viviana.

If you go thither, you will die before him, said Dee.

I would do so, she replied.

Viviana Radcliffe, returned Dee, in a compassionate tone, I truly grieve for you. Your attachment to this heinous traitor completely blinds you. The friendship I entertained for your mother makes me anxious to serve you to see you happy. It is now in your power to be so. But if you take another false step, your fate is decided, and you will die an early death. I will answer for your safety nay, what is more, I will undertake that ere long you shall again be mistress of this mansion, and have your estates restored to you.

You promise fairly, sir, she replied, with a mournful smile.

I have not yet done, pursued Dee. All I require for the service is, that when freed by the death of Guy Fawkes from the chain that now binds you, for I am aware of your ill-starred union with him, you shall bestow your hand upon Humphrey Chetham.

It may not be, replied Viviana, firmly. And if you could in truth read the secrets of the heart, you would know that mine would instantly reject the proposal.

Think not it originates with me, Viviana, said Humphrey Chetham, who had approached them unobserved. My previous experience of your character would alone have prevented me from becoming a party to any such proposal, had I known it would be made. Do not, I beseech you, sir, he added to Dee, clog your offer with conditions which will effectually prevent its accomplishment.

You are true to yourself, Mr. Chetham, rejoined Viviana, and will not, therefore, wonder that I continue so. Were I to assent to Doctor Dee's proposal, I should be further from happiness than I am now, even if he could make good his words, and restore me to the station I have forfeited. I have received a shock from which I shall never recover, and the only haven of repose to which I look forward is the grave.