William Ainsworth.

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





The conspirators were first conveyed to the court of the Star-Chamber, where they remained till the Lords Commissioners had arrived, and taken their seats. The commissioners were the Earl of Nottingham, Lord High Admiral of England; the Earl of Suffolk, Steward of the Household; the Earl of Worcester, Master of the Horse; the Earl of Devonshire, Master of the Ordnance; the Earl of Northampton, Warden of the Cinque-Ports; the Earl of Salisbury, Principal Secretary of State; Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice; Sir Thomas Fleming, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer; and Sir Thomas Walmisley and Sir Peter Warburton, Knights, and both Justices of the Common Pleas.

Summoned by an usher, the conspirators were conducted to a platform covered with black cloth, which had been erected at the lower end of the Hall. A murmur of indignation, vainly sought to be repressed by the grave looks of the Commissioners, burst from the immense assemblage, as they one by one ascended the steps of the platform. Guy Fawkes was the last to mount, and his appearance was followed by a deep groan. Supporting himself against the rail of the scaffold, he surveyed the assemblage with a stern and undaunted look. As he gazed around, he could not help marvelling at the vast multitude before him. The whole of the peers and all the members of the House of Commons were present, while in a box on the left, though screened by a lattice, sat the Queen and Prince Henry; and in another on the right, and protected in the same way, the King and his courtiers.

Silence being peremptorily commanded, the indictment was read, wherein the prisoners were charged with conspiring to blow up the King and the peers with gunpowder, and with attempting to incite the Papists, and other persons, to open rebellion; to which all the conspirators, to the no small surprise of those who heard them, and were aware that they had subscribed their confessions, pleaded not guilty.

How, sir! cried the Lord Chief Justice, in a stern tone to Fawkes. With what face can you pretend to deny the indictment, when you were actually taken in the cellar with the powder, and have already confessed your treasonable intentions?

I do not mean to deny what I have confessed, my lord, replied Fawkes. But this indictment contains many matters which I neither can nor will countenance by assent or silence. And I therefore deny it.

It is well, replied the Lord Chief Justice. Let the trial proceed.

The indictment being opened by Sir Edward Philips, sergeant-at-law, he was followed by Sir Edward Coke, the attorney-general, who in an eloquent and elaborate speech, which produced an extraordinary effect upon the assemblage, expatiated upon the monstrous nature of the plot, which he characterised as the greatest treason that ever was plotted in England, and against the greatest king that ever reigned in England;" and after narrating the origin and progress of the conspiracy, concluded by desiring that the confessions of the prisoners should be openly read.

This done, the jury were ordered by the Lord Chief Justice to retire, and the injunction being obeyed, they almost instantly returned with a verdict of guilty.

A deep, dread silence then prevailed throughout the Hall, and every eye was bent upon the conspirators, all of whom maintained a composed demeanour. They were then questioned by the Lord Chief Justice whether they had anything to say why judgment of death should not be pronounced against them.

All I have to crave of your lordships, said Thomas Winter, is, that being the chief offender of the two, I may die for my brother and myself.

And I ask only that my brother's request may not be granted, said Robert Winter. If he is condemned, I do not desire to live.

I have nothing to solicit not even pardon, said Keyes, carelessly. My fortunes were always desperate, and are better now than they have ever been.

I desire mercy, said Rookwood, not from any fear of death, but because so shameful an ending will leave a perpetual stain upon my name and blood. I humbly submit myself to the King, and pray him to imitate our Supreme Judge, who sometimes punishes corporally, but not mortally.

I have been guilty of a conspiracy, intended but never effected, said John Grant, and solicit forgiveness on that plea.

My crime has been fidelity to my master, said Bates. If the King will let me live, I will serve him as faithfully as I did Mr. Catesby.

I would not utter a word, said Fawkes, looking sternly round; if I did not fear my silence might be misinterpreted. I would not accept a pardon if it were offered me. I regard the project as a glorious one, and only lament its failure.

Silence the vile traitor, said the Earl of Salisbury, rising.

And as he spoke two halberdiers sprang up the steps of the scaffold, and placing themselves on either side of Fawkes, prepared to gag him.

I have done, he said, contemptuously regarding them.

I have nothing to say save this, said Sir Everard Digby, bowing to the judges. If any of your lordships will tell me you forgive me, I shall go more cheerfully to the scaffold.

Heaven forgive you, Sir Everard, said the Earl of Nottingham, returning his reverence, as we do.

I humbly thank your lordship, replied Digby.

Sentence was then passed upon the prisoners by Lord Chief Justice Popham, and they were removed from the platform.

As they issued from the Hall, and it became known to the assemblage without that they were condemned, a shout of fierce exultation rent the air, and they were so violently assailed on all sides, that they had great difficulty in reaching the wherries. The guard, however, succeeded, at length, in accomplishing their embarkation, and they were conveyed back in safety to the Tower.

CHAPTER XIV.
THE LAST MEETING OF FAWKES AND VIVIANA

Up to this time, Viviana had not been allowed another interview with Guy Fawkes. She was twice interrogated by the Privy-Council, but having confessed all she knew of the conspiracy, excepting what might implicate Garnet and Oldcorne, neither of whom she was aware had been apprehended, she was not again subjected to the torture. Her health, however, rapidly sank under her confinement, and she was soon reduced to such an extreme state of debility that she could not leave her bed. The chirurgeon having been called in by Dame Ipgreve to attend her, reported her condition to Sir William Waad, who directed that every means should be adopted for her restoration, and that Ruth Ipgreve should remain in constant attendance upon her.

Ascertaining all particulars relative to Guy Fawkes from the jailer's daughter, it was a sad satisfaction to Viviana to learn that he spent his whole time in devotion, and appeared completely resigned to his fate. It had been the Earl of Salisbury's purpose to bring Viviana to trial at the same time as the rest of the conspirators, but the chirurgeon reporting that her removal at this juncture would be attended with fatal consequences, he was compelled to defer it.

When the result of the trial was made known to Viviana by Ruth, though she had anticipated the condemnation of Guy Fawkes, she swooned away, and on her recovery, observed to Ruth, who was greatly alarmed at her looks, I feel I am going fast. I should wish to see my husband once more before I die.

I fear it is impossible, madam, replied Ruth; but I will try to accomplish it.

Do so, rejoined Viviana; and my blessing shall rest ever on your head.

Have you any valuable? inquired Ruth. My heart bleeds to make the demand at such a moment. But it is the only way to produce an effect on the avaricious nature of my father.

I have nothing but this golden crucifix, said Viviana; and I meant to give it to you.

It will be better employed in this way, rejoined Ruth, taking it from her.

Quitting the cell, she hurried to the Well Tower, and found her father, who had just returned from locking up the conspirators in their different dungeons, sitting down to his evening meal.

What is the matter with the wench? he cried, staring at her. You look quite distracted. Is Viviana Radcliffe dead?

No; but she is dying, replied Ruth.

If that is the case I must go to her directly, observed Dame Ipgreve. She may have some valuable about her which I must secure.

You will be disappointed, mother, rejoined Ruth, with a look of irrepressible disgust. She has nothing valuable left but this golden crucifix, which she has sent to my father, on condition of his allowing Guy Fawkes to see her before she dies.

Give it me, wench, cried Jasper Ipgreve; and let her die in peace.

She will not die in peace unless she sees him, replied Ruth. Nor shall you have it, if you do not comply with her request.

How! exclaimed her father, do you dare

Think not to terrify me, father, interrupted Ruth; I am resolute in this. Hear me, she cried, seizing his arm, and fixing a look upon him that seemed to pierce his soul, "hear me, she said, in a tone so low as to be inaudible to her mother; she shall see him, or I will denounce you as the murderer of Tresham. Now will you comply?

Give me the cross, said Ipgreve.

Not till you have earned it, replied his daughter.

Well, well, he rejoined; if it must be, it must. But I may get into trouble in the matter. I must consult Master Forsett, the gentleman jailer, who has the charge of Guy Fawkes, before I dare take him to her cell.

Consult whom you please, rejoined Ruth, impatiently; but lose no time, or you will be too late.

Muttering imprecations on his daughter, Ipgreve left the Well Tower, and Ruth hurried back to Viviana, whom she found anxiously expecting her, and related to her what she had done.

Oh, that I may hold out till he comes! cried Viviana; but my strength is failing fast.

Ruth endeavoured to comfort her; but she was unequal to the effort, and bursting into tears, knelt down, and wept upon the pillow beside her. Half an hour had now elapsed. It seemed an age to the poor sufferers, and still the jailer came not, and even Ruth had given up all hope, when a heavy tread was heard in the passage; the door was opened; and Guy Fawkes appeared, attended by Ipgreve and Forsett.

We will not interrupt your parting, said Forsett, who seemed to have a touch of humanity in his composition. And beckoning to Ruth to follow him, he quitted the cell with Ipgreve.

Guy Fawkes, meanwhile, had approached the couch, and gazed with an expression of intense anguish at Viviana. She returned his glance with a look of the utmost affection, and clasped his hand between her thin fingers.

I am now standing on the brink of eternity, she said in a solemn tone, and I entreat you earnestly, as you hope to insure our meeting hereafter, to employ the few days left you in sincere and hearty repentance. You have sinned sinned deeply, but not beyond the power of redemption. Let me feel that I have saved you, and my last moments will be happy. Oh! by the love I have borne you by the pangs I have endured for you by the death I am now dying for you let me implore you not to lose one moment, but to supplicate a merciful Providence to pardon your offence.

I will I will, rejoined Fawkes, in broken accents. You have opened my eyes to my error, and I sincerely repent it.

Saved! saved! cried Viviana, raising herself in the bed. Opening her arms, she strained him to her bosom; and for a few moments they mingled their tears together.

And now, she said, sinking backwards, kneel by me pray for forgiveness pray audibly, and I will join in your prayer.

Guy Fawkes knelt by the bedside, and addressed the most earnest supplications to Heaven for forgiveness. For a while he heard Viviana's gentle accents accompany him. They grew fainter and fainter, until at last they totally ceased. Filled with a dreadful apprehension, he sprang to his feet. An angelic smile illumined her countenance; her gaze was fixed on him for one moment it then grew dim and dimmer, until it was extinguished.

Guy Fawkes uttered a cry of the wildest despair, and fell to the ground. Alarmed by the sound, Forsett and Ipgreve, who were standing outside, rushed into the cell, and instantly raised him. But he was now in a state of distraction, and for the moment seemed endowed with all his former strength. Striving to break from them, he cried, in a tone of the most piercing anguish, You shall not tear me from her! I will die with her! Let me go, I say, or I will dash out my brains against these flinty walls, and balk you of your prey.

But his struggles were in vain. They held him fast, and calling for further assistance, conveyed him to his cell, where, fearing he might do some violence to himself, they placed him in irons.

Ruth entered the cell as soon as Fawkes and the others had quitted it, and performed the last sad offices for the departed. Alternately praying and weeping, she watched by the body during the whole of the night. On the following day, the remains of the unfortunate Viviana were interred in the chapel of Saint Peter on the Green, and the sole mourner was the jailer's daughter.

Peace be with her! cried Ruth, as she turned away from the grave. Her sorrows at last are over.

CHAPTER XV.
SAINT PAUL'S CHURCHYARD

Guy Fawkes was for some time wholly inconsolable. His stoical nature seemed completely subdued, and he wept like an infant. By degrees, however, the violence of his grief abated, and calling to mind the last injunctions of her whose loss he mourned, he addressed himself to prayer, and acknowledging his guilt, besought her intercession with Heaven for his forgiveness.

It will not seem strange, when his superstitious character is taken into consideration, that he should fancy he received an immediate proof that his prayers were heard. To his excited imagination it appeared that a soft unearthly strain of music floated in the air over his head; that an odour like that of Paradise filled his cell; while an invisible finger touched his brow. While in this entranced state, he was utterly insensible to his present miserable situation, and he seemed to have a foretaste of celestial happiness. He did not, however, desist from prayer, but continued his supplications throughout the day.

On that night, he was visited by the lieutenant, who announced to him that the execution of four of the conspirators was fixed for Thursday (it was then Tuesday), while his own and that of the three others would not take place till the following day.

As you are the greatest traitor of all, your execution will be reserved to the last, pursued Waad. No part of the sentence will be omitted. You will be dragged to Old Palace Yard, over against the scene of your intended bloody and damnable action, at a horse's tail, and will be there turned off the gallows, and hanged, but not till you are dead. You will then be embowelled; your vile heart, which conceived this atrocious design, will be torn beating from your breast; and your quarters will be placed on the palace gates as an abhorrent spectacle in the eyes of men, and a terrible proof of the King's just vengeance.

Guy Fawkes heard the recapitulation of his dreadful sentence unmoved.

The sole mercy I would have craved of his Majesty would have been permission to die first! he said. But Heaven's will be done! I deserve my doom.

What! is your stubborn nature at length subdued? cried the lieutenant in surprise. Do you repent of your offence?

Deeply and heartily, returned Fawkes.

Make the sole amends in your power for it, then, and disclose the names of all who have been connected with the atrocious design, rejoined Waad.

I confess myself guilty, replied Fawkes, humbly. But I accuse no others.

Then you die impenitent, rejoined the lieutenant, and cannot hope for mercy hereafter.

Guy Fawkes made no answer, but bowed his head upon his breast, and the lieutenant, darting a malignant look at him, quitted the cell.

On the following day, the whole of the conspirators were taken to St. John's chapel, in the White Tower, where a discourse was pronounced to them by Doctor Overall, Dean of St. Paul's, who enlarged upon the enormity of their offence, and exhorted them to repentance. The discourse over, they were about to be removed, when two ladies, clad in mourning habits, entered the chapel. These were Lady Digby and Mrs. Rookwood, and they immediately flew to their husbands. The rest of the conspirators walked away, and averted their gaze from the painful scene. After an ineffectual attempt to speak, Lady Digby swooned away, and was committed by her husband, while in a state of insensibility, to the care of an attendant. Mrs. Rookwood, however, who was a woman of high spirit, and great personal attractions, though the latter were now wasted by affliction, maintained her composure, and encouraging her husband to bear up manfully against his situation, tenderly embraced him, and withdrew. The conspirators were then taken back to their cells.

At an early hour on the following morning the four miserable persons intended for death, namely, Sir Everard Digby, the elder Winter, John Grant, and Bates, were conducted to the Beauchamp Tower. Bates would have stood aloof from his superiors; but Sir Everard Digby took him kindly by the hand, and drew him towards them.

No distinctions must be observed now, he said. We ought to beg pardon of thee, my poor fellow, for bringing thee into this strait.

Think not of me, worshipful sir, replied Bates. I loved Mr. Catesby so well, that I would have laid down my life for him at any time; and I now die cheerfully in his cause.

Mr. Lieutenant, said Robert Winter to Sir William Waad, who stood near them with Forsett and Ipgreve, I pray you commend me to my brother. Tell him I die in entire love of him, and if it is possible for the departed to watch over the living, I will be with him at his last hour.

At this moment, a trampling of horses was heard on the green, and the lieutenant proceeding to the grated window, saw four mounted troopers, each having a sledge and hurdle attached by ropes to his steed, drawn up before the door. While he was gazing at them, an officer entered the room, and informed him that all was in readiness. Sir William Waad then motioned the prisoners to follow him, and they descended the spiral staircase.

The green was thronged with horse and foot soldiers, and as the conspirators issued from the arched door of the fortification, the bell of Saint Peter's chapel began to toll. Sir Everard Digby was first bound to a hurdle, with his face towards the horse, and the others were quickly secured in the same manner. The melancholy cavalcade was then put in motion. A troop of horse-soldiers in their full accoutrements, and with calivers upon their shoulders, rode first; then came a band of halberdiers on foot; then the masked executioner mounted on a led horse, then the four prisoners on the hurdles, one after the other; then the lieutenant on horseback; while another band of horse-soldiers, equipped like the first, brought up the rear. They were met by the Recorder of London, Sir Henry Montague, and the sheriffs, at the gate of the Middle Tower, to the latter of whom the lieutenant, according to custom, delivered up the bodies of the prisoners. After a short delay, the train again set forward, and emerging from the Bulwark Gate, proceeded through an enormous concourse of spectators towards Tower-street.

Aware that a vast crowd would be assembled in the city, and apprehensive of some popular tumult, the Lord Mayor had issued precepts to the aldermen of every ward, commanding them to cause one able and sufficient person, with a halbert in his hand, to stand at the door of every dwelling-house in the open street in the way that the traitors were to be drawn towards the place of execution, there to remain from seven in the morning until the return of the sheriffs. But these were not the whole of the arrangements made to preserve order. The cavalcade, it was fixed, was to proceed along Tower-street, Gracechurch street, Lombard-street, Cheapside, and so on to the west end of Saint Paul's cathedral, where the scaffold was erected. Along the whole road, on either side, a line of halberdiers was drawn up, while barriers were erected against the cross streets. Nor were these precautions needless. Such a vast concourse was collected, that nothing but the presence of a strong armed force could have prevented confusion and disorder. The roofs of all the houses, the towers of the churches, the steps of the crosses were covered with spectators, who groaned and hooted as the conspirators passed by.

The scaffold, as has just been stated, was erected in front of the great western entrance of the cathedral. The mighty valves of the sacred structure were thrown open, and disclosed its columned aisles crowded with spectators, as was its roof and central tower. The great bell, which had begun to toll when the melancholy procession came in sight, continued to pour forth its lugubrious sounds during the whole of the ceremonial. The rolling of muffled drums was likewise heard above the tumultuous murmurs of the impatient multitude. The whole area from the cathedral to Ludgate-hill was filled with spectators, but an open space was kept clear in front of the scaffold, in which the prisoners were one by one unbound from the hurdles.