William Ainsworth.

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





With Lord Mounteagle! cried Viviana. Upon what business?

Upon a foul business, rejoined Ruth. No less than the destruction of Mr. Tresham, who is now a prisoner in the Tower. Lord Mounteagle came to the Well Tower this evening, and I accidentally overheard him propose to my father to administer poison to the person I have named.

I do not pity their victim, returned Viviana. He is a double-dyed traitor, and will meet with the fate he deserves.

Farewell, madam, said Ruth. If I do not see you again, you will know that you have one friend in this fortress who deeply sympathizes with your afflictions.

So saying, she withdrew, and Viviana heard the bolts slipped gently into their sockets.

Vainly, after Ruth's visit, did she try to compose herself. Sleep fled her eyes, and she was haunted all night by the image of Fawkes, haggard and shattered by torture, as he had been described by the jailer's daughter. Day and night were the same to her, and she could only compute progress of the time by her own feelings, judging by which, she supposed it to be late in the day when she was again visited. The bolts of her cell being withdrawn, two men clad in long black gowns, and having hoods drawn over their faces, entered it. They were followed by Ipgreve; and Viviana, concluding she was about to be led to the torture, endeavoured to string herself to its endurance. Though he guessed what was passing in her breast, Jasper Ipgreve did not care to undeceive her, but motioning the hooded officials to follow him with her, quitted the cell. Seizing each a hand, the attendants led her after him along a number of intricate passages, until he stopped before the door of a cell, which he opened.

Be brief in what you have to say, he cried, thrusting her forward. I shall not allow you much time.

Viviana no sooner set foot in the cell than she felt in whose presence she stood. On a stool at the further end of the narrow chamber, with his head upon his breast, and a cloak wrapped around his limbs, sat Fawkes. A small iron lamp, suspended by a rusty chain from the ceiling, served to illumine his ghastly features. He lifted his eyes from the ground on her entrance, and recognising her, uttered a cry of anguish. Raising himself by a great effort, he opened his arms, and she rushed into them. For some moments, both continued silent. Grief took away their utterance; but at length, Guy Fawkes spoke.

My cup of bitterness was not sufficiently full, he said. This alone was wanting to make it overflow.

I fear you will blame me, she replied, when you learn that I have voluntarily surrendered myself.

Guy Fawkes uttered a deep groan.

I am the cause of your doing so, he said.

You are so, she replied. But you will forgive me when you know my motive. I came here to urge you to repentance. Oh! if you hope that we shall meet again hereafter if you hope that we shall inherit joys which will requite us for all our troubles, you will employ the brief time left you on earth in imploring forgiveness for your evil intentions.

Having had no evil intentions, replied Fawkes, coldly, I have no pardon to ask.

The Tempter who led you into the commission of sin under the semblance of righteousness, puts these thoughts into your heart, replied Viviana.

You have escaped the commission of an offence which must have deprived you of the joys of heaven, and I am thankful for it. But if you remain impenitent, I shall tremble for your salvation.

My account will soon be settled with my Maker, rejoined Fawkes; and he will punish or reward me according to my deserts. I have acted according to my conscience, and can never repent that which I believe to be a righteous design.

But do you not now see that you were mistaken, returned Viviana, "do you not perceive that the sword which you raised against others has been turned against yourself, and that the Great Power whom you serve and worship has declared himself against you?

You seek in vain to move me, replied Fawkes. I am as insensible to your arguments as to the tortures of my enemies.

Then Heaven have mercy upon your soul! she rejoined.

Look at me, Viviana, cried Fawkes, and behold the wreck I am. What has supported me amid my tortures in this dungeon in the presence of my relentless foes? what, but the consciousness of having acted rightly? And what will support me on the scaffold except the same conviction? If you love me, do not seek to shake my faith! But it is idle to talk thus. You cannot do so. Rest satisfied we shall meet again. Everything assures me of it. Wretched as I appear in this solitary cell, I am not wholly miserable, because I am buoyed up by the certainty that my actions are approved by Heaven.

I will not attempt to destroy the delusion, since it is productive of happiness to you, replied Viviana. But if my earnest, heartfelt prayers can conduce to your salvation, they shall not be wanting.

As she spoke, the door of the cell was opened by Jasper Ipgreve, who stepped towards her, and seized her roughly by the hand.

Your time has expired, mistress, he said; you must come with me.

A minute longer, implored Fawkes.

Not a second, replied Ipgreve.

Shall we not meet again? cried Viviana, distractedly.

Ay, the day before your execution, rejoined Ipgreve. I have good news for you, he added, pausing for a moment, and addressing Fawkes. Mr. Tresham, who I told you has been brought to the Tower, has been taken suddenly and dangerously ill.

If the traitor perishes before me, I shall die content, observed Fawkes.

Then rest assured of it, said Viviana. The task of vengeance is already fulfilled.

She was then forced away by Ipgreve, and delivered by him to the hooded officials outside, who hurried her back to her dungeon.

CHAPTER XII.
THE TRAITOR BETRAYED

Lord Mounteagle arrived at the Tower shortly after Viviana, and repairing at once to the lieutenant's lodgings, had a brief conference with him, and informed him that he had a secret order to deliver to Jasper Ipgreve, from the Earl of Salisbury, touching the conspirators. Sir William Waad would have summoned the jailer; but Mounteagle preferred visiting him at the Well Tower, and accordingly proceeded thither.

He found Ipgreve with his wife and daughter, and telling him he desired a moment's private speech with him, the jailer dismissed them. Suspecting that the new-comer's errand related in some way to Viviana, Ruth contrived to place herself in such a situation that she could overhear what passed. A moment's scrutiny of Jasper's villanous countenance satisfied Mounteagle that the Earl of Salisbury was not mistaken in his man; and, as soon as he supposed they were alone, he unhesitatingly opened his plan to him. As he expected, Jasper exhibited no reluctance to undertake it; and, after some further discussion, it was agreed to put it in execution without delay.

The sooner Mr. Tresham is silenced the better, said Jasper; for he threatens to make disclosures to the Council that will bring some noble persons, with a significant look at Mounteagle, into trouble.

Where is he confined? demanded the other.

In the Beauchamp Tower, replied Ipgreve.

I will visit him at once, said Mounteagle; and when I have conferred with him, will call for wine. Bring two goblets, and in that which you give to Tresham place this powder.

Ipgreve nodded assent, and with a grim smile took the packet. Shortly after this, they quitted the Well Tower together, and passing under the archway of the Bloody Tower, crossed the green, and entered the fortification in which the traitor was confined. Tresham was treated with far greater consideration than the other conspirators, being allowed the use of the large room on the upper floor of the Beauchamp Tower, which was seldom allotted to any persons except those of the highest distinction. When they entered, he was pacing to and fro within his chamber in great agitation; but he immediately stopped on seeing Mounteagle, and rushed towards him.

You bring me my liberation? he said.

It is impossible to effect it at present, returned the other. But make yourself perfectly easy. Your confinement will not be of long duration.

I will not be trifled with, cried Tresham, furiously. If I am examined by the Council, look to yourselves. As I hope for salvation, the truth shall out.

Leave us, said Mounteagle, with a significant look at the jailer, who quitted the chamber.

Hark'e, Mounteagle, said Tresham, as soon as they were alone, I have been your tool thus far. But if you propose to lead me blindfold to the scaffold, you are greatly mistaken. You think that you have me safe within these walls; that my voice cannot be heard; and that I cannot betray you. But you are deceived fearfully deceived, as you will find. I have your letters the Earl of Salisbury's letters, proving that you were both aware of the plot and that you employed me to watch its progress, and report it to you. I have also letters from Doctor Dee, the warden of Manchester, detailing his acquaintance with the conspiracy, and containing descriptions of the persons of Fawkes and Catesby, which I showed to the Earl of Salisbury. These letters are now in my possession, and I will deliver them to the Council, if I am not released.

Deliver them to me, and I swear to you, you shall be set free, said Mounteagle.

I will not trust you, rejoined Tresham. Liberate me, and they are yours. But I will not rob myself of vengeance. I will confound you and the false Earl of Salisbury.

You wrong us both by your unjust suspicions, said Mounteagle.

Wrong you! echoed Tresham, contemptuously. Where is my promised reward? Why am I in this dungeon? Why am I treated like a traitor? If you meant me fairly, I should not be here, but like yourself at liberty, and in the enjoyment of the King's favour. But you have duped me, villain, and shall rue it. If I am led to the scaffold, it shall be in your company.

Compose yourself, rejoined Mounteagle, calmly. Appearances, I own, are against us. But circumstances render it imperatively necessary that the Earl of Salisbury should appear to act against you. You have been charged by Guy Fawkes, when under the torture, of being a confederate in the design, and your arrest could not be avoided. I am come hither to give you a solemn assurance that no harm shall befal you, but that you shall be delivered from your thraldom in a few days perhaps in a few hours.

You have no further design against me, said Tresham, suspiciously.

What motive could I have in coming hither, except to set your mind at rest? rejoined Mounteagle.

And I shall receive my reward? demanded Tresham.

You will receive your reward, returned Mounteagle, with significant emphasis. I swear it. So make yourself easy.

If I thought I might trust you, I should not heed my imprisonment, irksome though it be, rejoined Tresham.

It cannot be avoided, for the reasons I have just stated, replied Mounteagle. But come, no more despondency. All will be well with you speedily. Let us drown care in a bumper. What ho! jailer, he added, opening the door, a cup of wine!

In a few minutes, Ipgreve made his appearance, bearing two goblets filled with wine on a salver, one of which he presented to Mounteagle, and the other to Tresham.

Here is to your speedy deliverance from captivity! said Mounteagle, draining the goblet. You will not refuse that pledge, Tresham?

Of a surety not, replied the other. To my speedy deliverance!

And he emptied the cup, while Mounteagle and the jailer exchanged significant glances.

And now, having fully discharged my errand, I must bid you farewell," said Mounteagle.

You will not forget your promise? observed Tresham.

Assuredly not, replied the other. A week hence, and you will make no complaint against me. Are you sure you did not give me the wrong goblet? he added to Ipgreve, as they descended the spiral staircase.

Quite sure, my lord, returned the jailer, with a grim smile.

Mounteagle immediately quitted the Tower, and hastening to Whitehall, sought out the Earl of Salisbury, to whom he related what he had done. The Earl complimented him on his skilful management of the matter; and congratulating each other upon having got rid of a dangerous and now useless instrument, they separated.

On the following day, Tresham was seized with a sudden illness, and making known his symptoms to Ipgreve, the chirurgeon who attended the prison was sent for, and on seeing him, pronounced him dangerously ill, though he was at a loss to explain the nature of his disorder. Every hour the sick man grew worse, and he was torn with racking pains. Connecting his sudden seizure with the visit of Lord Mounteagle, an idea of the truth flashed upon him, and he mentioned his suspicions to the chirurgeon, charging Jasper Ipgreve with being accessory to the deed. The jailer stoutly denied the accusation, and charged the prisoner in his turn with making a malicious statement to bring him into discredit.

I will soon test the truth of his assertion, observed the chirurgeon, taking a small flat piece of the purest gold from his doublet. Place this in your mouth.

Tresham obeyed, and Ipgreve watched the experiment with gloomy curiosity.

You are a dead man, said the chirurgeon to Tresham, as he drew forth the piece of gold, and perceived that it was slightly tarnished. Poison has been administered to you.

Is there no remedy no counter-poison? demanded Tresham, eagerly.

The chirurgeon shook his head.

Then let the lieutenant be summoned, said Tresham; I have an important confession to make to him. I charge this man, pointing to the jailer, with giving poisoned wine to me. Do you hear what I say to you?

I do, replied the chirurgeon.

But he will never reveal it, said Ipgreve, with great unconcern. I have a warrant from the Earl of Salisbury for what I have done.

What! cried Tresham, can murder be committed here with impunity?

You have to thank your own indiscretion for what has happened," rejoined Ipgreve. Had you kept a close tongue in your head, you would have been safe.

Can nothing be done to save me? cried the miserable man, with an imploring look at the chirurgeon.

Nothing whatever, replied the person appealed to. I would advise you to recommend your soul to God.

Will you not inform the lieutenant that I desire to speak with him?" demanded Tresham.

The chirurgeon glanced at Ipgreve, and receiving a sign from him, gave a promise to that effect.

They then quitted the cell together, leaving Tresham in a state of indescribable agony both of mind and body. Half an hour afterwards, the chirurgeon returned, and informed him that the lieutenant refused to visit him, or to hear his confession, and wholly discredited the fact of his being poisoned.

I will take charge of your papers, if you choose to commit them to me," he said, and will lay them before the Council.

No, replied Tresham; while life remains to me I will never part with them.

I have brought you a mixture which, though it cannot heal you, will, at least, allay your sufferings, said the chirurgeon.

I will not take it, groaned Tresham. I distrust you as much as the others.

I will leave it with you, at all events, rejoined the chirurgeon, setting down the phial.

The noise of the bolts shot into their sockets sounded to Tresham as if his tomb were closed upon him, and he uttered a cry of anguish. He would have laid violent hands upon himself, and accelerated his own end, but he wanted courage to do so, and continued to pace backwards and forwards across his chamber as long as his strength lasted. He was about to throw himself on the couch, from which he never expected to rise again, when his eyes fell upon the phial. What if it should be poison! he said, it will end my sufferings the sooner.

And placing it to his lips, he swallowed its contents. As the chirurgeon had foretold, it alleviated his sufferings, and throwing himself on the bed he sank into a troubled slumber, during which he dreamed that Catesby appeared to him with a vengeful countenance, and tried to drag him into a fathomless abyss that yawned beneath their feet. Shrieking with agony, he awoke, and found two persons standing by his couch. One of them was the jailer, and the other appeared, from his garb, to be a priest; but a hood was drawn over his head so as to conceal his features.

Are you come to witness my dying pangs, or to finish me? demanded Tresham of the jailer.

I am come for neither purpose, replied Ipgreve; I pity your condition, and have brought you a priest of your own faith, who, like yourself, is a prisoner in the Tower. I will leave him with you, but he cannot remain long, so make the most of your time. And with these words, he retired.

When he was gone, the supposed priest, who spoke in feeble and faltering accents, desired to hear Tresham's confession, and having listened to it, gave him absolution. The wretched man then drew from his bosom a small packet, and offered it to the confessor, who eagerly received it.

This contains the letters of the Earl of Salisbury and Lord Mounteagle, which I have just mentioned, he said. I pray you lay them before the Privy Council.

I will not fail to do so, replied the confessor.

And reciting the prayer for one in extremis over the dying man, he departed.

I have obtained the letters from him, said Mounteagle, throwing back his hood as he quitted the chamber, and addressing the jailer. And now you need give yourself no further concern about him, he will be dead before morning.

Jasper Ipgreve locked the door upon the prisoner, and proceeded to the Well Tower. When he returned, he found Mounteagle's words had come to pass. Tresham was lying on the floor quite dead his collapsed frame and distorted countenance showing the agonies in which he must have expired.

CHAPTER XIII.
THE TRIAL

The trial of the conspirators, which had been delayed in order that full evidence might be procured against them, was, at length, appointed to take place in Westminster Hall, on Monday, the 27th of January, 1606. Early on the morning of this day, the eight surviving confederates (Garnet and Oldcorne being at this time secreted at Hendlip) were conveyed in two large covered wherries from the fortress to the place of trial. In spite of the severity of the weather, it was snowing heavily, and the river was covered with sheets of ice, they were attended by a vast number of boats filled with persons anxious to obtain a sight of them. Such was the abhorrence in which the actors in the conspiracy were held by the populace, that, not content with menaces and execrations, many of these persons hurled missiles against the wherries, and would have proceeded to further violence if they had not been restrained by the pikemen. When the prisoners landed, a tremendous and fearful shout was raised by the mob stationed at the head of the stairs, and it required the utmost efforts of the guard to protect them from injury. Two lines of soldiers, with calivers on their shoulders, were drawn out from the banks of the river to the entrance of the Hall, and between them the conspirators marched.

The melancholy procession was headed by Sir William Waad, who was followed by an officer of the guard and six halberdiers. Then came the executioner, carrying the gleaming implement of death with its edge turned from the prisoners. He was followed by Sir Everard Digby, whose noble figure and handsome countenance excited much sympathy among the beholders, and Ambrose Rookwood. Next came the two Winters, both of whom appeared greatly dejected. Next, John Grant and Robert Bates, Catesby's servant, who had been captured at Holbeach. And lastly, Keyes and Fawkes.

Bitterly and justly incensed as were the multitude against the conspirators, their feelings underwent some change as they beheld the haggard countenance and shattered frame of Guy Fawkes. It was soon understood that he was the individual who had been found in the vault near the Parliament House, with the touchwood and matches in his belt ready to fire the train; and the greatest curiosity was exhibited to see him.

Just as the foremost of the conspirators reached the entrance of the Hall, a terrific yell, resembling nothing human, except the roar of a thousand tigers thirsting for blood, was uttered by the mob, and a tremendous but ineffectual attempt was made to break through the lines of the guard. Never before had so large an assemblage been collected on the spot. The whole of the space extending on one hand from Westminster Hall to the gates of Whitehall, and on the other to the Abbey, was filled with spectators; and every roof, window, and buttress was occupied. Nor was the interior of the Hall less crowded. Not an inch of room was unoccupied; and it was afterwards complained in Parliament, that the members of the house had been so pressed and incommoded, that they could not hear what was said at the arraignment.