William Ainsworth.

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





During this awful pause, they had sufficient time to note the whole of the dreadful preparations. At a little distance from them was a large fire, on which boiled a caldron of pitch, destined to receive their dismembered limbs. A tall gallows, approached by a double ladder, sprung from the scaffold, on which the hangman was already mounted with the rope in his hand. At the foot of the ladder was the quartering-block, near which stood the masked executioner with a chopper in his hand, and two large sharp knives in his girdle. His arms were bared to the shoulder; and a leathern apron, soiled by gory stains, and tied round his waist, completed his butcherly appearance. Straw was scattered upon the scaffold near the block.

Sir Everard Digby was the first to receive the fatal summons. He mounted with a firm footstep, and his youth, his noble aspect, and undaunted demeanour, awakened, as before, the sympathy of the beholders. Looking round, he thus addressed the assemblage:

Good people, I am here about to die, ye well know for what cause. Throughout the matter, I have acted according to the dictates of my conscience. They have led me to undertake this enterprise, which, in respect of my religion, I hold to be no offence, but in respect of the law a heinous offence, and I therefore ask forgiveness of God, of the King, and of the whole realm.

Crossing himself devoutly, he then knelt down, and recited his prayers in Latin, after which he arose, and again looking round, said in an earnest voice,

I desire the prayers of all good Catholics, and of none other.

Then none will pray for you, replied several voices from the crowd.

Heedless of the retort, Sir Everard surrendered himself to the executioner's assistant, who divested him of his cloak and doublet, and unfastened his collar. In this state, he mounted the ladder, and the hangman fulfilled his office.

Robert Winter was next summoned, and ascended the scaffold with great firmness. Everything proclaimed the terrible tragedy that had just been enacted. The straw was sprinkled with blood, so was the block, so were the long knives of the executioner, whose hands and arms were dyed with the same crimson stain; while in one corner of the scaffold stood a basket, containing the dismembered limbs of the late unfortunate sufferer. But these dreadful sights produced no effect on Robert Winter. Declining to address the assemblage, he at once surrendered himself to the assistant, and shared the fate of his friend.

Grant was the next to follow. Undismayed as his predecessor, he looked round with a cheerful countenance, and said,

I am about to suffer the death of a traitor, and am content to die so. But I am satisfied that our project was so far from being sinful, that I rely entirely on my merits in bearing a part in it, as an abundant satisfaction and expiation for all the sins I have at other times of my life committed.

This speech was received by a terrific yell from the multitude.

Wholly unmoved, however, Grant uttered a few prayers, and then crossing himself, mounted the ladder and was quickly despatched. The bloody business was completed by the slaughter of Bates, who died as resolutely as the others.

These executions, being conducted with the utmost deliberation, occupied nearly an hour. The crowd then separated to talk over the sight they had witnessed, and to keep holiday during the remainder of the day; rejoicing that an equally-exciting spectacle was in store for them on the morrow.

CHAPTER XVI.
OLD PALACE YARD

Guy Fawkes's tranquillity of mind did not desert him to the last. On the contrary, as his term of life drew near its close, he became more cheerful and resigned; his sole anxiety being that all should be speedily terminated. When Ipgreve took leave of him for the night, he threw himself on his couch and soon fell into a gentle slumber. His dreams were soothing, and he fancied that Viviana appeared to him clad in robes of snowy whiteness, and regarding him with a smiling countenance, promised that the gates of eternal happiness would be opened to him on the morrow.

Awaking about four o'clock, he passed the interval between that time and his summons by the jailer in earnest prayer. At six o'clock, Ipgreve made his appearance. He was accompanied by his daughter, who had prevailed on him to allow her to take leave of the prisoner. She acquainted Fawkes with all particulars of the interment of Viviana, to which he listened with tearful interest.

Would my remains might be laid beside her! he said. But fate forbids it!

Truly, does it, observed Ipgreve, gruffly; unless you would have her body removed to the spikes of Whitehall gates.

Disregarding this brutal speech, which called a blush of shame to the cheeks of Ruth, Fawkes affectionately pressed her hand, and said,

Do not forget me in your prayers, and sometimes visit the grave of Viviana.

Doubt it not, she replied, in accents half suffocated by grief.

Fawkes then bade her farewell, and followed the jailer through various intricate passages, which brought them to a door opening upon one of the lower chambers of the Beauchamp Tower. Unlocking it, Ipgreve led the way up the circular staircase, and ushered his companion into the large chamber where Rookwood, Keyes, and Thomas Winter were already assembled.

The morning was clear, but frosty, and bitterly cold; and when the lieutenant appeared, Rookwood besought him to allow them a fire as their last earthly indulgence. The request was peremptorily refused. A cup of hot spiced wine was, however, offered them, and accepted by all except Fawkes.

At the same hour as on the previous day, the hurdles were brought to the entrance of the fortification, and the prisoners bound to them. The recorder and sheriffs met them at the Middle Tower, as they had done the other conspirators, and the cavalcade set forth. The crowd was even greater than on the former occasion; and it required the utmost exertion on the part of the guard to maintain order. Some little delay occurred at Ludgate; and during this brief halt, Rookwood heard a cry, and looking up, perceived his wife at the upper window of one of the habitations, waving her handkerchief to him, and cheering him by her gestures. He endeavoured to answer her by signs; but his hands were fast bound, and the next moment, the cavalcade moved on.

At Temple Bar another halt occurred; and as the train moved slowly forward, an immense crowd, like a swollen stream, swept after it. The two gates at Whitehall, then barring the road to Westminster, were opened as the train approached, and a certain portion of the concourse allowed to pass through. The scaffold, which had been removed from Saint Paul's, was erected in the middle of Old Palace Yard, in front of the House of Lords. Around it were circled a band of halberdiers, outside whom stood a dense throng. The buttresses and pinnacles of the Abbey were covered with spectators; so was the roof of the Parliament House, and the gallery over the entrance.

The bell of the Abbey began to toll as the train passed through the gates of Whitehall, and its deep booming filled the air. Just as the conspirators were released from the hurdles, Topcliffe, who had evidently from his disordered attire arrived from a long journey, rode up, and dismounted.

I am just in time, he cried, with an exulting glance at the conspirators; this is not the last execution I shall witness. Fathers Garnet and Oldcorne are prisoners, and on their way to London. I was a long time in unearthing the priestly foxes, but I succeeded at last.

At this moment an officer approached, and summoned Thomas Winter to mount the scaffold. He obeyed, and exhibited no symptom of quailing, except that his complexion suddenly turned to a livid colour. Being told of this by the lieutenant, he tried to account for it by saying that he thought he saw his brother precede him up the steps. He made a brief address, protesting he died a true Catholic, and in that faith, notwithstanding his offences, hoped to be saved.

Rookwood followed him, and indulged in a somewhat longer oration. I confess my offence to God, he said, in seeking to shed blood, and implore his mercy. I likewise confess my offence to the King, of whose majesty I humbly ask forgiveness; and I further confess my offence to the whole state, of whom in general I entreat pardon. May the Almighty bless the King, the Queen, and all their royal progeny, and grant them a long and happy reign! May He turn their hearts to the Catholic faith, so that heresy may be wholly extirpated from the kingdom!

The first part of this speech was well received by the assemblage, but the latter was drowned in groans and hootings, amid which Rookwood was launched into eternity.

Keyes came next, and eyeing the assemblage disdainfully, went up the ladder, and threw himself off with such force that he broke the rope, and was instantly despatched by the executioner and his assistants.

Guy Fawkes now alone remained, and he slowly mounted the scaffold. His foot slipped on the blood-stained boards, and he would have fallen, if Topcliffe, who stood near him, had not caught his hand. A deep silence prevailed as he looked around, and uttered the following words in a clear and distinct voice:

I ask forgiveness of the King and the state for my criminal intention, and trust that my death will wash out my offence.

He then crossed himself and knelt down to pray, after which his cloak and doublet were removed by the executioner's assistant and placed with those of the other conspirators. He made an effort to mount the ladder, but his stiffened limbs refused their office.

Your courage fails you, sneered Topcliffe, laying his hand upon his shoulder.

My strength does, replied Fawkes, sternly regarding him. Help me up the ladder, and you shall see whether I am afraid to die.

Seeing how matters stood, the executioner who stood by, leaning upon his chopper, tendered him his blood-stained hand. But Fawkes rejected it with disgust, and exerting all his strength, forced himself up the ladder.

As the hangman adjusted the rope, he observed a singular smile illumine the features of his victim.

You seem happy, he said.

I am so, replied Fawkes, earnestly, "I see the form of her I loved beckoning me to unfading happiness.

With this, he stretched out his arms and sprang from the ladder. Before his frame was exposed to the executioner's knife, life was totally extinct.

CHAPTER XVII.
THE LAST EXECUTION

Little more remains to be told, and that little is of an equally painful nature with the tragical events just related.

Fathers Garnet and Oldcorne, together with Mr. Abingdon and their servants, arrived in London on the 12th of February, about a fortnight after the execution of the other conspirators. They were first taken to the Gate-house at Westminster, and were examined on the following day by the Earl of Salisbury and the Privy-Council at the Star-Chamber. Nothing could be elicited from them, and Garnet answered the Earl's interrogatories with infinite subtlety and address. The examination over, they were ordered to be removed to the Tower.

Topcliffe accompanied them to the stairs. As they proceeded thither, he called Garnet's attention to a ghastly object stuck on a spike over the palace gates.

Do you recognise those features? he asked.

No, replied Garnet, shudderingly averting his gaze.

I am surprised to hear it, rejoined Topcliffe, for they were once well known to you. It is the head of Guy Fawkes. Of all the conspirators, he added, with a bitter laugh, he was the only one who died truly penitent. It is reported that this happy change was wrought in him by Viviana Radcliffe.

Heaven have mercy upon his soul! muttered Garnet.

I will tell you a strange tale about Catesby, pursued Topcliffe. He was buried in the garden at Holbeach with Percy, but an order was sent down by the Earl of Salisbury to have their bodies disinterred and quartered. When Catesby's head was severed from the trunk, to be set on the gates of Warwick, fresh blood spouted forth, as if life were in the veins.

You do not expect me to believe this idle story? said Garnet, incredulously.

Believe it or not, as you please, returned Topcliffe, angrily.

On arriving at the fortress, Garnet was lodged in the large chamber of the Beauchamp Tower, and allowed the attendance of his servant, Nicholas Owen, while Oldcorne was equally well accommodated in the Constable Tower. This leniency was the result of the policy of the Earl of Salisbury, who hoped to obtain disclosures from the two Jesuit priests which would enable him to strike the decisive blow he meditated against the Papists. But he was unsuccessful. They refused to make any confessions which would criminate themselves, or implicate others; and as none of the conspirators, not even Tresham, had admitted their connexion with the plot, it was difficult to find proof against them. Garnet underwent daily examinations from the Earl of Salisbury and the commissioners, but he baffled all their inquiries.

If we cannot wring the truth from you by fair means, Mr. Garnet, said Salisbury, we must have recourse to torture.

Minare ista pueris, replied Garnet, contemptuously.

Leave these two priests to me, my lord, observed Sir William Waad, who was present at the examination, which took place at the council-chamber in his lodgings, "leave them to me, he said in a low voice to the Earl, and I will engage to procure a full confession from their own lips, without resorting to torture.

You will render the state an important service by doing so, replied Salisbury, in the same tone. I place the matter entirely in your hands.

The lieutenant set to work without loss of time. By his directions, Garnet and Oldcorne were removed from their present places of confinement to two subterranean cells immediately adjoining each other, but between which a secret recess, contrived in the thickness of the wall, and built for the purpose it was subsequently put to, existed. Two days after they had been so immured, Ipgreve, who had received his instructions, loitered for a moment in Oldcorne's cell, and with affected hesitation informed him that for a trifling reward he would enable him to hold unreserved communication with his fellow-prisoner.

Oldcorne eagerly caught at the bait, but required to be satisfied that the jailer could make good his words. Ipgreve immediately proceeded to the side of the cell, and holding a lamp to the wall, showed him a small iron knob.

Touch this spring, he said, and a stone will fall from its place, and enable you to converse with Father Garnet, who is in the next cell. But you must take care to replace the stone when any one approaches.

Promising to observe the utmost caution, and totally unsuspicious of the deceit practised upon him, Oldcorne gave Ipgreve the reward, and as soon as he was gone, touched the spring, and found it act precisely as the jailer had stated.

Garnet was greatly surprised to hear the other's voice, and on learning how the communication was managed was at first suspicious of some stratagem, but by degrees his fears wore off, and he became unreserved in his discourse with his companion, discussing the fate of the conspirators, their own share in the plot, the probability of their acquittal, and the best means of baffling their examiners. All these interlocutions were overheard and taken down by the lieutenant and two other witnesses, Forsett and Lockerson, private secretary to the Earl of Salisbury, who were concealed in the recess. Having obtained all the information he desired, Sir William Waad laid his notes before the Council, and their own confessions being read to the priests, they were both greatly confused, though neither would admit their authenticity.

Meanwhile, their two servants, Owen and Chambers, had been repeatedly examined, and refusing to confess, were at last suspended from a beam by the thumbs. But this producing no result, they were told that on the following day they would be placed on the rack. Chambers then offered to make a full confession, but Owen, continuing obstinate, was conveyed back to his cell. Ipgreve brought him his food as usual in the evening, and on this occasion, it consisted of broth, and a small allowance of meat. It was the custom of the jailer to bring with him a small blunt-pointed knife, with which he allowed the prisoner to cut his victuals. Having got possession of the knife, Owen tasted the broth, and complaining that it was quite cold, he implored the jailer to get it warmed for him, as he felt extremely unwell. Somewhat moved by his entreaties, and more by his appearance, Ipgreve complied. On his return, he found the unfortunate man lying in one corner of the cell, partially covered by a heap of straw which ordinarily formed his bed.

Here is your broth, he said. Take it while it is hot. I shall give myself no further trouble about you.

It will not be needed, gasped Owen.

Alarmed by the sound of his voice, Ipgreve held the light towards him, and perceived that his face was pale as death. At the same time, he remarked that the floor was covered with blood. Instantly divining the truth, the jailer rushed towards the wretched man, and dragging away the blood-stained straw, found he had inflicted a frightful wound upon himself with the knife which he still held in his grasp.

Fool that I was, to trust you with the weapon! cried Ipgreve. But who would have thought it could inflict a mortal wound?

Any weapon will serve him who is resolved to die, rejoined Owen. You cannot put me on the rack now. And with a ghastly expression of triumph, he expired.

Soon after this, Oldcorne and Abingdon were sent down to Worcester, where the former was tried and executed. Stephen Littleton suffered death at the same time.

On Friday, the 23rd of March, full proofs being obtained against him, Garnet was arraigned of high treason at Guildhall. The trial, which excited extraordinary interest, was attended by the King, by the most distinguished personages, male and female, of his court, and by all the foreign ambassadors. Garnet conducted himself throughout his arraignment, which lasted for thirteen hours, with the same courage and address which he had displayed on his examinations before the commissioners. But his subtlety availed him little. He was found guilty and condemned.

The execution of the sentence was for some time deferred, it being hoped that a complete admission of his guilt would be obtained from him, together with disclosures relative to the designs of the Jesuit party. With this view, the examinations were still continued, but the rigour with which he had been latterly treated was relaxed. A few days before his execution, he was visited by several eminent Protestant Divines, Doctor Montague, Dean of the Chapel Royal; Doctor Neile, Dean of Westminster; and Doctor Overall, Dean of Saint Paul's; with whom he had a long disputation on points of faith and other spiritual matters.

At the close of this discussion, Doctor Overall remarked, I suppose you expect, Mr. Garnet, that after your death, the Church of Rome will declare you a martyr?

I a martyr! exclaimed Garnet, sorrowfully. O what a martyr I should be! If, indeed, I were really about to suffer death for the Catholic religion, and had never known of this project, except by means of sacramental confession, I might perhaps be accounted worthy the honour of martyrdom, and might deservedly be glorified in the opinion of our church. As it is, I acknowledge myself to have sinned in this respect, and deny not the justice of the sentence passed upon me.

Satisfied, at length, that no further disclosures could be obtained from him, the King signed the warrant for his execution on the 2nd of May.

The scaffold was erected at the west end of Saint Paul's Cathedral, on the spot where Digby and the other conspirators had suffered. A vast assemblage was collected as on the former occasion, and similar precautions were taken to prevent tumult and disturbance. The unfortunate man's torture was cruelly and unnecessarily prolonged by a series of questions proposed to him on the scaffold by Doctor Overall and the Dean of Westminster, all of which he answered very collectedly and clearly. He maintained his fortitude to the last. When fully prepared, he mounted the ladder, and thus addressed the assemblage:

I commend myself to all good Catholics. I grieve that I have offended the King by not revealing the design entertained against him, and that I did not use more diligence in preventing the execution of the plot. I commend myself most humbly to the lords of his Majesty's council, and entreat them not to judge too hardly by me. I beseech all men that Catholics may not fare the worse for my sake, and I exhort all Catholics to take care not to mix themselves with seditious or traitorous designs against the King's Majesty, whom God preserve!