William Ainsworth.

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





Oh, no, father! exclaimed Viviana, you shall not go.

Daughter, replied Oldcorne, solemnly, I have long borne the cross of Christ, have long endured the stripes, inflicted upon me by the adversaries of our faith, in patience; and my last actions and last breath shall testify to the truth of our holy religion. But, though I could endure aught on my own account, I cannot consent to bring misery and destruction upon others. Hinder me not, dear daughter. I will go at once.

Hold, father! interposed Catesby. The step you would take may bring about what you are most anxious to avoid. If you are discovered and apprehended in this neighbourhood, suspicion will still attach to your protectors, and the secret of your departure will be wrung from some of the more timid of the household. Tarry where you are. Let the pursuivant make his search. I will engage to baffle his vigilance.

He speaks the truth, dear father, returned Viviana. You must not shall not depart. There are plenty of hiding-places, as you know, within the mansion. Let them be as rigorous as they may in their search, they will not discover you.

Whatever course you adjudge best for the security of others, I will pursue, rejoined Oldcorne, turning to Catesby. Put me out of the question.

My opinion has already been given, father, replied Catesby. Remain where you are.

But, if the officers should ascertain that my father is at Chester, and pursue him thither? cried Viviana, suddenly struck by a new cause of alarm.

A messenger must be immediately despatched after him to give him warning, returned Catesby.

Will you be that messenger? asked the maiden, eagerly.

I would shed my heart's best blood to pleasure you, returned Catesby.

Then I may count upon this service, for which, rest assured, I will not prove ungrateful, she rejoined.

You may, answered Catesby. "And yet I would, on Father Oldcorne's account, that my departure might be delayed till to-morrow.

The delay might be fatal, cried Viviana. You must be in Chester before that time.

Doubt it not, returned Catesby. Charged with your wishes, the wind shall scarcely outstrip my speed.

So saying, he marched irresolutely towards the door, as if about to depart, when, just as he had reached it, he turned sharply round, and threw himself at Viviana's feet.

Forgive me, Miss Radcliffe, he cried, if I once again, even at a critical moment like the present, dare to renew my suit. I fancied I had subdued my passion for you, but your presence has awakened it with greater violence than ever.

Rise, sir, I pray, rejoined the maiden, in an offended tone.

Hear me, I beseech you, continued Catesby, seizing her hand. Before you reject my suit, consider well that in these perilous seasons, when no true Catholic can call his life his own, you may need a protector.

In the event you describe, Mr.

Catesby, answered Viviana, I would at once fulfil the intention I have formed of devoting myself to Heaven, and retire to the convent of Benedictine nuns, founded by Lady Mary Percy, at Brussels.

You would much more effectually serve the cause of your religion by acceding to my suit, observed Catesby, rising.

How so? she inquired.

Listen to me, Miss Radcliffe, he rejoined, gravely, and let my words be deeply graven upon your heart. In your hands rests the destiny of the Catholic Church.

In mine! exclaimed Viviana.

In yours, returned Catesby. A mighty blow is about to be struck for her deliverance.

Ay, marry, is it, cried Oldcorne, with sudden fervour. Redemption draweth nigh; the year of visitation approacheth to an end; and jubilation is at hand. England shall again be called a happy realm, a blessed country, a religious people. Those who knew the former glory of religion shall lift up their hands for joy to see it returned again. Righteousness shall prosper, and infidelity be plucked up by the root. False error shall vanish like smoke, and they which saw it shall say where is it become? The daughters of Babylon shall be cast down, and in the dust lament their ruin. Proud heresy shall strike her sail, and groan as a beast crushed under a cart-wheel. The memory of novelties shall perish with a crack, and as a ruinous house falling to the ground. Repent, ye seducers, with speed, and prevent the dreadful wrath of the Powerable. He will come as flame that burneth out beyond the furnace. His fury shall fly forth as thunder, and pitch upon their tops that malign him. They shall perish in his fury, and melt like wax before the fire.

Amen! ejaculated Catesby, as the priest concluded. You have spoken prophetically, father.

I have but recited a prayer transmitted to me by Father Garnet," rejoined Oldcorne.

Do you discern any hidden meaning in it? demanded Catesby.

Yea, verily my son, returned the priest. In the 'false error vanishing like smoke,' in the 'house perishing with a crack,' and in the 'fury flying forth as thunder,' I read the mode the great work shall be brought about.

And you applaud the design? asked Catesby, eagerly.

Non vero factum probo, sed eventum amo, rejoined the priest.

The secret is safe in your keeping, father? asked Catesby, uneasily.

As if it had been disclosed to me in private confession, replied Oldcorne.

Hum! muttered Catesby. Confessions of as much consequence to the state have ere now been revealed, father.

A decree has been passed by his holiness, Clement VIII., forbidding all such revelations, replied Oldcorne. And the question has been recently propounded by a learned brother of our order, Father Antonio Delrio, who, in his Magical Disquisitions, putteth it thus: 'Supposing a malefactor shall confess that he himself or some other has laid Gunpowder, or the like combustible matter, under a building '"

Ha! exclaimed Catesby, starting.

'And, unless it be taken away,'" proceeded the priest, regarding him fixedly, 'the whole house will be burnt, the prince destroyed, and as many as go into or out of the city will come to great mischief or peril!'"22
Confitetur maleficus se vel alium posuisse pulverem vel quid aliud sub tali limine, et nisi tollantur domum comburendam, principem interiturum, quotquot urbem egredienturque in magnam perniciem aut periculum venturos. Delrio Disq. Mag., lib. vi. cap. i. [Edit. 1600.]


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Well! exclaimed Catesby.

The point then arises, continued Oldcorne, whether the priest may make use of the secret thus obtained for the good of the government, and the averting of such danger; and, after fully discussing it, Father Delrio decides in the negative.

Enough, returned Catesby.

By whom is the blow to be struck? asked Viviana, who had listened to the foregoing discourse in silent wonder.

By me, answered Catesby. It is for you to nerve my arm.

You speak in riddles, she replied. I understand you not.

Question Father Oldcorne, then, as to my meaning, rejoined Catesby; he will tell you that, allied to you, I could not fail in the enterprise on which I am engaged.

It is the truth, dear daughter, Oldcorne asseverated.

I will not inquire further into this mystery, returned Viviana, for such it is to me. But, believing what you both assert, I answer, that willingly as I would lay down my life for the welfare of our holy religion, persuading myself, as I do, that I have constancy enough to endure martyrdom for its sake, I cannot consent to your proposal. Nay, if I must avouch the whole truth, she continued, blushing deeply, my affections are already engaged, though to one with whom I can never hope to be united.

You have your answer, my son, observed the priest.

Catesby replied with a look of the deepest mortification and disappointment; and, bowing coldly to Viviana, said, I now depart to obey your behests, Miss Radcliffe.

Commend me in all duty to my dear father, replied Viviana, and believe that I shall for ever feel bound to you for your zeal.

Neglect not all due caution, father, observed Catesby, glancing significantly at Oldcorne. Forewarned, forearmed.

Doubt me not, my son, rejoined the Jesuit. My prayers shall be for you.


Gentem auferte perfidam
Credentium de finibus,
Ut Christo laudes debitas
Persolvamus alacriter.

After receiving a parting benediction from the priest, Catesby took his leave. His steed was speedily brought to the door by the old steward; and mounting it, he crossed the drawbridge, which was immediately raised behind him, and hastened on his journey.

CHAPTER IV.
THE SEARCH

Immediately after Catesby's departure, Heydocke was summoned to his mistress's presence. He found her with the priest, and was informed that in all probability the house would be visited that night by the messengers of the Privy Council. The old steward received the intelligence as he might have done his death-warrant, and looked so bewildered and affrighted, that Viviana half repented having acquainted him with it.

Compose yourself, Master Heydocke, she said, trying to reason him out of his fears; the search may not take place. And if it does, there is nothing to be alarmed at. I am not afraid, you perceive.

Nothing to be alarmed at, my dear young lady! gasped the steward. You have never witnessed a midnight search for a priest by these ruffianly catchpoles, as I have, or you would not say so. Father Oldcorne will comprehend my uneasiness, and excuse it. The miscreants break into the house like robbers, and treat its inmates worse than robbers would treat them. They have no regard for decency, no consideration for sex, no respect for persons. Not a chamber is sacred from them. If a door is bolted, they burst it open; a cabinet locked, they tarry not for the key. They pull down the hangings, thrust their rapier-points into the crevices of the wainscot, discharge their fire-arms against the wall, and sometimes threaten to pull down the house itself, if the object of their quest be not delivered to them. Their oaths, abominations, and menaces are horrible; and their treatment of females, even of your degree, honoured mistress, too barbarous to relate. Poor Lady Nevil died of the fright she got by such a visit at dead of night to her residence in Holborn. Mrs. Vavasour, of York, lost her senses; and many others whom I could mention have been equal sufferers. Nothing to be alarmed at! Heaven grant, my dear, dear young lady, that you may never be fatally convinced to the contrary!

Suppose my apprehensions are as great as your own, Master Heydocke," replied Viviana, who, though somewhat infected by his terrors, still maintained her firmness; I do not see how the danger is to be averted by idle lamentations and misgivings. We must meet it boldly; and trust to Him who is our only safeguard in the hour of peril, for protection. Do not alarm the household, but let all retire to rest as usual.

Right, daughter, observed the priest. Preparations for resistance would only excite suspicion.

Can you depend on the servants, in case they are examined? asked Viviana of the steward, who by this time had partially recovered his composure.

I think so, returned Heydocke; but the threats of the officers are so dreadful, and their conduct so violent and outrageous, that I can scarcely answer for myself. I would not advise your reverence to remain in that hiding-place, he added, pointing to the chimney-piece; they are sure to discover it.

If not here, where shall I conceal myself? rejoined Oldcorne, uneasily.

There are many nooks in which your reverence might hide, replied the steward; but the knaves are so crafty, and so well experienced in their vocation, that I dare not recommend any of them as secure. I would advise you to remain on the watch, and, in case of alarm, I will conduct you to the oratory in the north gallery, adjoining Mistress Viviana's sleeping-chamber, where there is a panel in the wall, known only to myself and my master, opening upon a secret passage running many hundred yards underground, and communicating with a small outbuilding on the other side of the moat. There is a contrivance in this passage, which I will explain to your reverence if need be, which will cut off any possibility of pursuit in that quarter.

Be it so, replied the priest. I place myself in your hands, good Master Heydocke, well assured of your fidelity. I shall remain throughout the night in this chamber, occupied in my devotions.

You will suffer me to pray with you, father, I trust? said Viviana.

If you desire it, assuredly, dear daughter, rejoined Oldcorne; but I am unwilling you should sacrifice your rest.

It will be no sacrifice, father, for I should not slumber, even if I sought my couch, she returned. Go, good Heydocke. Keep vigilant watch: and, if you hear the slightest noise without, fail not to give us warning.

The steward bowed, and departed.

Some hours elapsed, during which nothing occurred to alarm Viviana and her companion, who consumed the time in prayer and devout conversation; when, just at the stroke of two, as the former was kneeling before her spiritual adviser, and receiving absolution for the slight offences of which a being so pure-minded could be supposed capable, a noise like the falling of a bar of iron was heard beneath the window. The priest turned pale, and cast a look of uneasiness at the maiden, who said nothing, but snatching up the light, and motioning him to remain quiet, hurried out of the room in search of the steward. He was nowhere to be found. In vain, she examined all the lower rooms, in vain, called to him by name. No answer was returned.

Greatly terrified, she was preparing to retrace her steps, when she heard the sound of muttered voices in the hall. Extinguishing her light, she advanced to the door, which was left ajar, and, taking care not to expose herself to observation, beheld several armed figures, some of whom bore dark lanterns, while others surrounded and menaced with their drawn swords the unfortunate steward. From their discourse she ascertained that, having thrown a plank across the moat, and concealed themselves within the garden until they had reconnoitred the premises, they had contrived to gain admittance unperceived through the window of a small back room, in which they had surprised Heydocke, who had fallen asleep on his post, and captured him. One amongst their number, who appeared to act as leader, and whom, from his garb, and the white wand he carried, Viviana knew must be a pursuivant, now proceeded to interrogate the prisoner. To every question proposed to him the steward shook his head; and, in spite of the threats of the examinant, and the blows of his followers, he persisted in maintaining silence.

If we cannot make this contumacious rascal speak, we will find others more tractable, observed the pursuivant. I will not leave any corner of the house unvisited; nor a soul within it unquestioned. Ah! here they come!

As he spoke, several of the serving-men, with some of the female domestics, who had been alarmed by the noise, rushed into the hall, and on seeing it filled with armed men, were about to retreat, when they were instantly seized and detained. A scene of great confusion now ensued. The women screamed and cried for mercy, while the men struggled and fought with their captors. Commanding silence at length, the pursuivant proclaimed in the King's name that whoever would guide him to the hiding-place of Father Oldcorne, a Jesuit priest, whom it was known, and could be proved, was harboured within the mansion, should receive a free pardon and reward; while those who screened him, or connived at his concealment, were liable to fine, imprisonment, and even more severe punishment. Each servant was then questioned separately. But, though all were more or less rudely dealt with, no information could be elicited.

Meanwhile, Viviana was a prey to the most intolerable anxiety. Unable to reach Father Oldcorne without crossing the hall, which she did not dare to attempt, she gave him up for lost; her sole hope being that, on hearing the cries of the domestics, he would provide for his own safety. Her anxiety was still farther increased when the pursuivant, having exhausted his patience by fruitless interrogatories, and satisfied his malice by frightening two of the females into fits, departed with a portion of his band to search the house, leaving the rest as a guard over the prisoners.

Viviana then felt that, if she would save Father Oldcorne, the attempt must be made without a moment's delay, and at any hazard. Watching her opportunity, when the troopers were occupied, some in helping themselves to such viands and liquors as they could lay hands upon, some in searching the persons of the prisoners for amulets and relics, while others, more humane, were trying to revive the swooning women, she contrived to steal unperceived across the lower end of the hall. Having gained the passage, she found to her horror that the pursuivant and his band were already within the star-chamber. They were sounding the walls with hammers and mallets, and from their exclamations, she learnt that they had discovered the retreat behind the fire-place, and were about to break it open.

We have him, roared the pursuivant, in a voice of triumph. The old owl's roost is here!

Viviana, who stood at the door, drew in her breath, expecting that the next moment would inform her that the priest was made captive. Instead of this, she was delighted to find, from the oaths of rage and disappointment uttered by the troopers, that he had eluded them.

He must be in the house, at all events, growled the pursuivant; nor is it long since he quitted his hiding-place, as this cushion proves. We will not go away without him. And now, let us proceed to the upper chambers.

Hearing their footsteps approach, Viviana darted off, and quickly ascending the principal staircase, entered a long corridor. Uncertain what to do, she was about to proceed to her own chamber, and bar the door, when she felt her arm grasped by a man. With difficulty repressing a shriek, she strove to disengage herself, when a whisper told her it was the priest.

Heaven be praised! cried Viviana, you are safe. How how did you escape?

I flew upstairs on hearing the voices, replied Oldcorne. But what has happened to the steward?

He is a prisoner, replied Viviana.

All then is lost, unless you are acquainted with the secret panel he spoke of in the oratory, rejoined Oldcorne.

Alas! father, I am wholly ignorant of it, she answered. But, come with me into my chamber; they will not dare to invade it.

I know not that, returned the priest, despairingly. These sacrilegious villains would not respect the sanctity of the altar itself.

They come! cried Viviana, as lights were seen at the foot of the stairs. Take my hand this way, father.

They had scarcely gained the room, and fastened the door, when the pursuivant and his attendants appeared in the corridor. The officer, it would seem, had been well instructed where to search, or was sufficiently practised in his duty, for he proceeded at once to several hiding-places in the different chambers which he visited. In one room he detected a secret staircase in the wall, which he mounted, and discovered a small chapel built in the roof. Stripping it of its altar, its statue of the Virgin, its crucifix, pix, chalice, and other consecrated vessels, he descended, and continued his search. Viviana's chamber was now the only one unvisited. Trying the door, and finding it locked, he tapped against it with his wand.

Who knocks? asked the maiden.

A state-messenger, was the reply. I demand entrance in the King's name.

You cannot have it, she replied. It is my sleeping-chamber.

My duty allows me no alternative, rejoined the pursuivant, harshly. If you will not admit me quietly, I must use force.

Do you know to whom you offer this rudeness? returned Viviana. I am the daughter of Sir William Radcliffe.

I know it, replied the pursuivant; but I am not exceeding my authority. I hold a warrant for your father's arrest. And, if he had not been from home, I should have carried him to prison along with the Jesuit priest whom, I suspect, is concealed within your chamber. Open the door, I command you; and do not hinder me in the execution of my duty.

As no answer was returned to the application, the pursuivant commanded his men to burst open the door; and the order was promptly obeyed.

The chamber was empty.

On searching it, however, the pursuivant found a door concealed by the hangings of the bed. It was bolted on the other side, but speedily yielded to his efforts. Passing through it, he entered upon a narrow gallery, at the extremity of which his progress was stopped by another door, likewise fastened on the further side. On bursting it open, he entered a small oratory, wainscoted with oak, and lighted by an oriel window filled with stained glass, through which the newly-risen moon was pouring its full radiance, and discovered the object of his search.

Father Oldcorne, I arrest you as a Jesuit and a traitor, shouted the pursuivant, in a voice of exultation. Seize him! he added, calling to his men.

You shall not take him, cried Viviana, clinging despairingly to the priest, who offered no resistance, but clasped a crucifix to his breast.