William Ainsworth.

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





Sir Henry Bromley, however, now considered himself justified in placing Mr. Abingdon and his lady under arrest, and Topcliffe redoubled his exertions to discover the hiding-place of the two priests. He examined every part of the gallery most carefully, took down one of the chimney-pieces, (singularly enough, it was the wrong one,) but was still unable to discover their retreat.

Meanwhile, the poor wretches inside found it impossible to endure their condition longer. Anything seemed preferable to the lingering and agonizing death they were now enduring, and they resolved to delay their surrender no longer. Had they been able to hold out a few hours more, they would have escaped; for Sir Henry Bromley was so fatigued with the search, and so satisfied that nothing further would come of it, that he resolved, notwithstanding Topcliffe's efforts to dissuade him, to depart on the morrow. Of this they were ignorant, and having come to the determination to surrender, Garnet opened the entrance to the chimney, and hearing voices below, and being too feeble to get out unassisted, he called to the speakers for aid. His voice was so hollow, and had such a sepulchral sound, that those who heard it stared at each other in astonishment and affright.

Who calls? cried one of the troopers, after a pause.

One of those you seek, replied Garnet. Come and help us forth.

Upon hearing this, and ascertaining whence the voice came from, one of the men ran to fetch Sir Henry Bromley and Topcliffe, both of whom joyfully obeyed the summons.

Is it possible they can be in the chimney? cried Topcliffe. Why, I myself have examined it twice.

We are here, nevertheless, replied Garnet, who heard the remark; and if you would take us alive, lose no time.

The hint was not lost upon Topcliffe. Casting a triumphant look at Bromley, he seized a torch from one of his attendants, and getting into the chimney, soon perceived the entrance to the recess.

On beholding his prey, he uttered an exclamation of joy, and the two miserable captives, seeing the savage and exulting grin that lighted up his features, half repented the step they had taken. It was now, however, too late, and Garnet begged him to help them out.

That I will readily do, father, replied Topcliffe. You have given us a world of trouble. But you have made ample amends for it now.

Had we been so minded, you would never have found us, rejoined Garnet. This cell would have been our sepulchre.

No doubt, retorted Topcliffe, with a bitter laugh. But a death on the scaffold is preferable to the horrors of starvation.

Finding it impossible to remove Garnet, whose limbs were so cramped that they refused their office, he called to the troopers below to bring a ladder, which was placed in the chimney, and then, with some exertion, he succeeded in getting him down. This done, he supported him towards Sir Henry Bromley, who was standing near a small table in the gallery.

I told you your time would not be thrown away, Sir Henry, he observed; here is Father Garnet.

It is well you yielded yourself to-night, father, he added, to Garnet, with his customary cynical chuckle; for Sir Henry had resolved to depart to-morrow.

Indeed! groaned Garnet. Help me to a chair.

While this was passing, Oldcorne was brought down by two of the troopers, and the unfortunate priests were conveyed to an adjoining chamber, where they were placed in a bed, their stiffened limbs chafed, and cordials administered to them. They were reduced, however, to such extremity of weakness, that it was not judged prudent to remove them till the third day, when they, together with their two servants, Owen and Chambers, who were as much enfeebled as themselves, were conveyed to Worcester.

CHAPTER IX.
WHITEHALL

Such was the expedition used by Humphrey Chetham and Viviana, that they accomplished the journey to London in an extraordinarily short space of time. Proceeding direct to Whitehall, Viviana placed a letter in the hands of a halberdier, and desired that it might be given without delay to the Earl of Salisbury. After some demur, the man handed it to an usher, who promised to lay it before the Earl. Some time elapsed before the result of its reception was known, when an officer, accompanied by two sergeants of the guard, made his appearance, and commanded Viviana and her companion to follow him.

Crossing a wide hall, which was filled with the various retainers of the palace, who regarded them with a sort of listless curiosity, and ascending a flight of marble steps, they traversed a long corridor, and were at length ushered into the presence of the Earl of Salisbury. He was seated at a table, covered with a multitude of papers, and was busily employed in writing a despatch, but immediately stopped on their entrance. He was not alone. His companion was a middle-aged man, attired in a suit of black velvet, with a cloak of the same material; but as he sat with his back towards the door, it was impossible to discern his features.

You may leave us, said Salisbury to the officer, but remain without.

And be ready to enter at a moment's notice, added his companion, without altering his position.

The officer bowed, and retired with his followers.

Your surrender of yourself at this time, Viviana Radcliffe, said the Earl, weighs much in your favour; and if you are disposed freely to declare all you know of the conspiracy, it is not impossible that the King may extend his mercy towards you.

I do not desire it, my lord, she replied. In surrendering myself, I have no other aim than to satisfy the laws I have outraged. I do not seek to defend myself, but I desire to offer an explanation to your lordship. Circumstances, which it is needless to detail, drew me into connexion with the conspirators, and I became unwillingly the depositary of their dark design.

You were guilty of misprision of treason in not revealing it, remarked the Earl.

I am aware of it, she rejoined; but this, I take heaven to witness, is the extent of my criminality. I held the project in the utmost abhorrence, and used every argument I was mistress of to induce its contrivers to abandon it.

If such were the case, demanded the Earl, what withheld you from disclosing it?

I will now confess what torture could not wring from me before, she replied. I was restrained from the disclosure by a fatal passion.

I suspected as much, observed the Earl, with a sneer. For whom?

For Guy Fawkes, returned Viviana.

God's mercy! Guy Fawkes! ejaculated the Earl's companion, starting to his feet. And turning as he spoke, and facing her, he disclosed heavy but not unintellectual features, now charged with an expression of the utmost astonishment. Did you say Guy Fawkes, mistress?

It is the King, whispered Humphrey Chetham.

Since I know in whose presence I stand, sire, replied Viviana, I will answer the interrogation. Guy Fawkes was the cause of my concealing my acquaintance with the plot. And more, I will confess to your Majesty, that much as I abhor the design, if he had not been a conspirator, I should never have loved him. His sombre and enthusiastic character first gave him an interest in my eyes, which, heightened by several important services which he rendered me, soon ripened into love. Linked to his fortunes, shrouded by the same gloomy cloud that enveloped him, and bound by a chain from which I could not extricate myself, I gave him my hand. But the moment of our union was the moment of our separation. We have not met since, and shall meet no more, unless to part for ever.

A strange history! exclaimed James, in a tone that showed he was not unmoved by the relation.

I beseech your Majesty to grant me one boon, cried Viviana, falling at his feet. It is to be allowed a single interview with my husband not for the sad gratification of beholding him again not for the indulgence of my private sorrows but that I may endeavour to awaken a feeling of repentance in his breast, and be the means of saving his soul alive.

My inclinations prompt me to grant the request, Salisbury, said the King, irresolutely. There can be no risk in doing it eh?

Not under certain restrictions, my liege, replied the Earl.

You shall have your wish, then, mistress, said James, and I trust your efforts may be crowned with success. Your husband is a hardy traitor a second Jacques Clement and we never think of him without the floor shaking beneath our feet, and a horrible smell of gunpowder assailing our nostrils. Blessed be God for our preservation! But whom have we here? he added, turning to Humphrey Chetham. Another conspirator come to surrender himself?

No, my liege, replied Chetham; I am a loyal subject of your Majesty, and a stanch Protestant.

If we may take your word for it, doubtless, replied the King, with an incredulous look. But how come you in this lady's company?

I will hide nothing from your Majesty, replied Chetham. Long before Viviana's unhappy acquaintance with Fawkes for such I must ever consider it my affections had been fixed upon her, and I fondly trusted she would not prove indifferent to my suit. Even now, sire, when all hope is dead within me, I have not been able to overcome my passion, but love her as devotedly as ever. When, therefore, she desired my escort to London to surrender herself, I could not refuse the request.

It is the truth, my liege, added Viviana. I owe Humphrey Chetham (for so this gentleman is named) an endless debt of gratitude; and not the least of my present distresses is the thought of the affliction I have occasioned him.

Dismiss it from your mind, then, Viviana, rejoined Chetham. It will not mitigate my sorrows to feel that I have added to yours.

Your manner and looks seem to give a warranty for loyalty, young sir," said the King. But I must have some assurance of the truth of your statement before you are set at large.

I am your willing prisoner, my liege, returned Chetham. But I have a letter for the Earl of Salisbury, which may vouch perhaps for me.

And as he spoke, he placed a letter in the Earl's hands, who broke open the seal, and hastily glanced at its contents.

It is from Doctor Dee, he said, from whom, as your Majesty is aware, we have received much important information relative to this atrocious design. He answers for this young man's loyalty.

I am glad to hear it, rejoined the King. It would have been mortifying to be deceived by so honest a physiognomy.

Your Majesty will be pleased to attach your signature to this warrant for Viviana Radcliffe's committal to the Tower, said Salisbury, placing a paper before him.

James complied, and the Earl summoned the guard.

Have I your Majesty's permission to attend this unfortunate lady to the fortress? cried Chetham, prostrating himself before the King.

James hesitated, but glancing at the Earl, and reading no objection in his looks, he assented.

Whispering some private instructions to the officer respecting Chetham, Salisbury delivered the warrant to him. Viviana and her companion were then removed to a small chamber adjoining the guard-room, where they remained for nearly an hour, at the expiration of which time the officer again appeared, and conducted them to the palace-stairs, where a large wherry awaited them, in which they embarked.

James did not remain long with his councillor, and as soon as he had retired, Salisbury summoned a confidential attendant, and told him to acquaint Lord Mounteagle, who was in an adjoining apartment, that he was now able to receive him. The attendant departed, and presently returned with the nobleman in question. As soon as they were alone, and Salisbury had satisfied himself they could not be overheard, he observed to the other,

Since Tresham's committal to the Tower yesterday, I have received a letter from the lieutenant, stating that he breathes nothing but revenge against yourself and me, and threatens to betray us, if he is not released. It will not do to let him be examined by the Council; for though we can throw utter discredit on his statement, it may be prejudicial to my future designs.

True, my lord, replied Mounteagle. But how do you propose to silence him?

By poison, returned Salisbury. There is a trusty fellow in the Tower, a jailer named Ipgreve, who will administer it to him. Here is the powder, he added, unlocking a coffer, and taking out a small packet; it was given me by its compounder, Doctor Dee. It is the same, I am assured, as the celebrated Italian poison prepared by Pope Alexander the Sixth; is without scent or taste; and destroys its victim without leaving a trace of its effects.

I must take heed how I offend your lordship, observed Mounteagle.

Nay, rejoined Salisbury, with a ghastly smile, it is for traitors like Tresham, not true men like you, to fear me.

I understand the distinction, my lord, replied the other.

I must intrust the entire management of this affair to you, pursued Salisbury.

To me! exclaimed Mounteagle. Tresham is my brother-in-law. I can take no part in his murder.

If he lives, you are ruined, rejoined Salisbury, coldly. You must sacrifice him or yourself. But I see you are reasonable. Take this powder, and proceed to the Tower. See Ipgreve alone, and instruct him to drug Tresham's wine with it. A hundred marks shall be his reward when the deed is done.

My soul revolts from the deed, said Mounteagle, as he took the packet. Is there no other way of silencing him?

None whatever, replied Salisbury, sternly. His blood be upon his own head.

With this, Mounteagle took his departure.

CHAPTER X.
THE PARTING OF VIVIANA AND HUMPHREY CHETHAM

Humphrey Chetham was so oppressed by the idea of parting with Viviana, that he did not utter a single word during their transit to the Tower. Passing beneath the gloomy archway of Traitors' Gate, they mounted the fatal steps, and were conducted to the guard-room near the By-ward Tower. The officer then despatched one of the warders to inform the lieutenant of Viviana's arrival, and telling Humphrey Chetham he would allow him a few minutes to take leave of her, considerately withdrew, and left them alone together.

Oh! Viviana! exclaimed Chetham, unable to repress his grief, my heart bleeds to see you here. If you repent the step you have taken, and desire freedom, say so, and I will use every effort to liberate you. I have been successful once, and may be so again.

I thank you for your devotion, she replied, in a tone of profound gratitude; but you have rendered me the last service I shall ever require of you. I deeply deplore the misery I have occasioned you, and regret my inability to requite your attachment as it deserves to be requited. My last prayers shall be for your happiness; and I trust you will meet with some being worthy of you, and who will make amends for my insensibility.

Be not deceived, Viviana, replied Chetham, in a broken voice; I shall never love again. Your image is too deeply imprinted upon my heart ever to be effaced.

Time may work a change, she rejoined; though I ought not to say so, for I feel it would work none in me. Suffer me to give you one piece of counsel. Devote yourself resolutely to the business of life, and you will speedily regain your peace of mind.

I will follow your instructions implicitly, replied Chetham; but have little hope of the result you promise me.

Let the effort be made, she rejoined; "and now promise me to quit London to-morrow. Return to your native town, employ yourself in your former occupations; and strive not to think of the past, except as a troubled dream from which you have fortunately awakened. Do not let us prolong our parting, or your resolution may waver. Farewell!

So saying, she extended her hand towards him, and he pressed it passionately to his lips.

Farewell, Viviana! he cried, with a look of unutterable anguish. May Heaven support you in your trials!

One of them I am now enduring, she replied, in a broken voice. Farewell for ever, and may all good angels bless you!

At this moment, the officer appeared, and announcing the approach of the lieutenant, told Chetham that his time had expired. Without hazarding another look at Viviana, the young merchant tore himself away, and followed the officer out of the Tower.

Obedient to Viviana's last request, he quitted London on the following day, and acting upon her advice, devoted himself on his return to Manchester sedulously to his mercantile pursuits. His perseverance and integrity were crowned with entire success, and he became in due season the wealthiest merchant of the town. But the blighting of his early affections tinged his whole life, and gave a melancholy to his thoughts and an austerity to his manner originally foreign to them. True to his promise, he died unmarried. His long and worthy career was marked by actions of the greatest benevolence. In proportion as his means increased, his charities were extended, and he truly became a father to the fatherless and the destitute. To him the town of Manchester is indebted for the noble library and hospital bearing his name; and for these admirable institutions by which they so largely benefit, his memory must ever be held in veneration by its inhabitants.

CHAPTER XI.
THE SUBTERRANEAN DUNGEON

Regarding Viviana with a smile of savage satisfaction, Sir William Waad commanded Jasper Ipgreve, who accompanied him, to convey her to one of the subterranean dungeons below the Devereux Tower.

She cannot escape thence without your connivance, he said; and you shall answer to me for her safe custody with your life.

If she escapes again, your worship shall hang me in her stead," rejoined Ipgreve.

My instructions from the Earl of Salisbury state that it is the King's pleasure that she be allowed a short interview with Guy Fawkes, said the lieutenant, in a low tone. Let her be taken to his cell to-morrow.

The jailer bowed, and motioning the guard to follow him with Viviana, he led the way along the inner ward till he arrived at a small strong door in the wall a little to the north of the Beauchamp Tower, which he unlocked, and descended into a low cavernous-looking vault. Striking a light, and setting fire to a torch, he then led the way along a narrow gloomy passage, which brought them to a circular chamber, from which other passages diverged, and selecting one of them, threaded it till he came to the door of a cell.

Here is your dungeon, he said to Viviana, as he drew back the heavy bolts, and disclosed a small chamber, about four feet wide and six long, in which there was a pallet. My dame will attend you soon.

With this, he lighted a lamp, and departing with the guard, barred the door outside. Viviana shuddered as she surveyed the narrow dungeon in which she was placed. Roof, walls, and floor were of stone; and the aspect of the place was so dismal and tomb-like, that she felt as if she were buried alive. Some hours elapsed before Dame Ipgreve made her appearance. She was accompanied by Ruth, who burst into tears on beholding Viviana. The jailer's wife had brought a few blankets and other necessaries with her, together with a loaf of bread and a jug of water. While disposing the blankets on the couch, she never ceased upbraiding Viviana for her former flight. Poor Ruth, who was compelled to assist her mother, endeavoured by her gestures and looks to convey to the unfortunate captive that she was as much devoted to her as ever. Their task completed, the old woman withdrew, and her daughter, casting a deeply-commiserating look at Viviana, followed her, and the door was barred without.

Determined not to yield to despondency, Viviana knelt down, and addressed herself to Heaven; and, comforted by her prayers, threw herself on the bed, and sank into a peaceful slumber. She was awakened by hearing the bolts of her cell withdrawn, and the next moment Ruth stood before her.

I fear you have exposed yourself to great risk in thus visiting me," said Viviana, tenderly embracing her.

I would expose myself to any risk for you, sweet lady, replied Ruth. But, oh! why do I see you here again? The chief support of Guy Fawkes during his sufferings has been the thought that you were at liberty.

I surrendered myself in the hope of beholding him again, rejoined Viviana.

You have given a fond, but fatal proof of your affection, returned Ruth. The knowledge that you are a captive will afflict him more than all the torments he has endured.

What torments has he endured, Ruth? inquired Viviana with a look of anguish.

Do not ask me to repeat them, replied the jailer's daughter. They are too dreadful to relate. When you behold his shattered frame and altered looks, you will comprehend what he has undergone.

Alas! exclaimed Viviana, bursting into tears, I almost fear to behold him.

You must prepare for a fearful shock, returned Ruth. And now, madam, I must take my leave. I will endeavour to see you again to-morrow, but dare not promise to do so. I should not have been able to visit you now, but that my father is engaged with Lord Mounteagle.