William Ainsworth.

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





Leave go your hold, young mistress, rejoined the pursuivant, grasping Oldcorne by the collar of his vestment, and dragging him along; and rest thankful that I make you not, also, my prisoner.

Take me; but spare him! in mercy spare him! shrieked Viviana.

You solicit mercy from one who knows it not, daughter, observed the priest. Lead on, sir. I am ready to attend you.

Your destination is the New Fleet, father, retorted the pursuivant, in a tone of bitter raillery; unless you prefer the cell in Radcliffe Hall lately vacated by your saintly predecessor, Father Woodroofe.

Help! help! shrieked Viviana.

You may spare your voice, fair lady, sneered the pursuivant. No help is at hand. Your servants are all prisoners.

The words were scarcely uttered, when a sliding panel in the wall flew open, and Guy Fawkes, followed by Humphrey Chetham, and another personage, sprang through the aperture, and presented a petronel at the head of the pursuivant.

CHAPTER V.
CHAT MOSS

The pursuivant was taken so completely unawares by the sudden appearance of Guy Fawkes and his companions, that he made no attempt at resistance. Nor were his attendants less confounded. Before they recovered from their surprise, Humphrey Chetham seized Viviana in his arms, and darting through the panel, called to the priest to follow him. Father Oldcorne was about to comply, when one of the soldiers, grasping the surcingle at his waist, dragged him forcibly backwards. The next moment, however, he was set free by Guy Fawkes, who, felling the man to the ground, and interposing himself between the priest and the other soldier, enabled the former to make good his retreat. This done, he planted himself in front of the panel, and with a petronel in each hand, menaced his opponents.

Fly for your lives! he shouted in a loud voice to the others. Not a moment is to be lost. I have taken greater odds, and in a worse cause, and have not been worsted. Heed me not, I say. I will defend the passage till you are beyond reach of danger. Fly! fly!

After them! vociferated the pursuivant, stamping with rage and vexation; after them instantly! Hew down that bold traitor. Show him no quarter. His life is forfeit to the king. Slay him as you would a dog!

But the men, having no fire-arms, were so much intimidated by the fierce looks of Guy Fawkes, and the deadly weapons he pointed at their heads, that they hesitated to obey their leader's injunctions.

Do you hear what I say to you, cravens? roared the pursuivant. Cut him down without mercy.

They dare not move a footstep, rejoined Guy Fawkes, in a decisive tone.

Recreants! cried the pursuivant, foaming with rage, is my prey to be snatched from me at the very moment I have secured it, through your cowardice? Obey me instantly, or, as Heaven shall judge me, I will denounce you to my Lord Derby and the Commissioners as aiders and abettors in Father Oldcorne's escape! and you well know what your punishment will be if I do so.

What! are you afraid of one man?

Our pikes are no match for his petronels, observed the foremost soldier, sullenly.

They are not, rejoined Guy Fawkes; and you will do well not to compel me to prove the truth of your assertion. As to you, Master Pursuivant," he continued, with a look so stern that the other quailed before it, unwilling as I am to shed blood, I shall hold your life, if I am compelled to take it, but just retribution for the fate you have brought upon the unfortunate Elizabeth Orton.

Ha! exclaimed the pursuivant, starting. I thought I recognised you. You are the soldier in the Spanish garb who saved that false prophetess from drowning.

I saved her only for a more lingering death, rejoined Guy Fawkes.

I know it, retorted the pursuivant. I found her dead body when I visited her cell on my way hither, and gave orders to have it interred without coffin or shroud in that part of the burial-ground of the Collegiate Church in Manchester reserved for common felons.

I know not what stays my hand, rejoined Guy Fawkes, fiercely. But I am strongly tempted to give you a grave beside her.

I will put your daring to the proof! cried the pursuivant, snatching a pike from one of his followers, and brandishing it over his head. Throw down your arms, or you die!

Back! exclaimed Guy Fawkes, presenting a petronel at him, or I lodge a bullet in your brain.

Be advised by me, and rush not on certain destruction, good Master Pursuivant, said the foremost soldier, plucking his mantle. I see by his bloodthirsty looks that the villain is in earnest.

I hear footsteps, cried the other soldier; our comrades are at hand.

Then it is time for me to depart, cried Guy Fawkes, springing through the secret door, and closing it after him.

Confusion! exclaimed the pursuivant; but he shall not escape. Break open the panel.

The order was promptly obeyed. The men battered the stout oak board, which was of great thickness, with their pikes, but it resisted every effort, nor was it until the arrival of a fresh band of soldiers with lights, mallets, chisels, and other implements suitable to the purpose, that it could be forced open. This accomplished, the pursuivant, commanding his attendants to follow him, dashed through the aperture. As they proceeded singly along the narrow passage, the roof became so low that they were compelled to adopt a stooping posture. In this manner they hurried on until their further progress was stopped by a massive stone door, which appeared to descend from above by some hidden contrivance, no trace of bolt or other fastening being discernible. The flag fitted closely in channels in the walls, and had all the appearance of solid masonry. After examining this obstacle for a moment, the pursuivant was convinced that any attempt to move it would be impracticable, and muttering a deep execration, he gave the word to return.

From the course it appears to take, he observed, this passage must communicate with the garden, perhaps with the further side of the moat. We may yet secure them, if we use despatch.

To return to the fugitives. On arriving at the point where the stone door was situated, which he discovered by the channels in the wall above-mentioned, Guy Fawkes searched for an iron ring, and, having found it, drew it towards him, and the ponderous flag slowly dropped into its place. He then groped his way cautiously along in the dark, until his foot encountered the top of a ladder, down which he crept, and landed on the floor of a damp deep vault. Having taken the precaution to remove the ladder, he hastened onwards for about fifty yards, when he came to a steep flight of stone steps, distinguishable by a feeble glimmer of light from above, and mounting them, emerged through an open trap-door into a small building situated at the western side of the moat, where, to his surprise and disappointment, he found the other fugitives.

How comes it you are here? he exclaimed, in a reproachful tone. I kept the wolves at bay thus long, to enable you to make good your retreat.

Miss Radcliffe is too weak to move, replied Humphrey Chetham; and I could not persuade Father Oldcorne to leave her.

I care not what becomes of me, said the priest. The sooner my painful race is run the better. But I cannot will not abandon my dear charge thus.

Think not of me, father, I implore you, rejoined Viviana, who had sunk overpowered with terror and exhaustion. I shall be better soon. Master Chetham, I am assured, will remain with me till our enemies have departed, and I will then return to the hall.

Command me as you please, Miss Radcliffe, replied Humphrey Chetham. You have but to express a wish to insure its fulfilment on my part.

Oh! that you had suffered Mr. Catesby to tarry with us till the morning, as he himself proposed, dear daughter, observed the priest, turning to Viviana.

Has Catesby been here? inquired Guy Fawkes, with a look of astonishment.

He has, replied Oldcorne. He came to warn us that the hall would be this night searched by the officers of state; and he also brought word that a warrant had been issued by the Privy Council for the arrest of Sir William Radcliffe.

Where is he now? demanded Fawkes, hastily.

On the way to Chester, whither he departed in all haste, at Viviana's urgent request, to apprise her father of his danger, rejoined the priest.

This is strange! muttered Guy Fawkes. Catesby here, and I not know it!

He had a secret motive for his visit, my son, whispered Oldcorne, significantly.

So I conclude, father, replied Fawkes, in the same tone.

Viviana Radcliffe, murmured Humphrey Chetham, in low and tender accents, something tells me that this moment will decide my future fate. Emboldened by the mysterious manner in which we have been brought together, and you, as it were, have been thrown upon my protection, I venture to declare the passion I have long indulged for you; a passion which, though deep and fervent as ever agitated human bosom, has hitherto, from the difference of our rank, and yet more from the difference of our religious opinions, been without hope. What has just occurred, added to the peril in which your worthy father stands, and the difficulties in which you yourself will necessarily be involved, makes me cast aside all misgiving, and perhaps with too much presumption, but with a confident belief that the sincerity of my love renders me not wholly undeserving of your regard, earnestly solicit you to give me a husband's right to watch over and defend you.

Viviana was silent. But even by the imperfect light the young merchant could discern that her cheek was covered with blushes.

Your answer? he cried, taking her hand.

You must take it from my lips, Master Chetham, interposed the priest; Viviana Radcliffe never can be yours.

Be pleased to let her speak for herself, reverend sir, rejoined the young merchant, angrily.

I represent her father, and have acquainted you with his determination, rejoined the priest. Appeal to her, and she will confirm my words.

Viviana, is this true? asked Chetham. Does your father object to your union with me?

Viviana answered by a deep sigh, and gently withdrew her hand from the young merchant's grasp.

Then there is no hope for me? cried Chetham.

Alas! no, replied Viviana; nor for me of earthly affection. I am already dead to the world.

How so? he asked.

I am about to vow myself to Heaven, she answered.

Viviana! exclaimed the young man, throwing himself at her feet, reflect! oh! reflect, before you take this fatal this irrevocable step.

Rise, sir, interposed the priest, sternly; you plead in vain. Sir William Radcliffe will never wed his daughter to a heretic. In his name I command you to desist from further solicitation.

I obey, replied Chetham, rising.

We lose time here, observed Guy Fawkes, who had been lost for a moment in reflection. I will undertake to provide for your safety, father. But, what must be done with Viviana? She cannot be left here. And her return to the hall would be attended with danger.

I will not return till the miscreants have quitted it, said Viviana.

Their departure is uncertain, replied Fawkes. When they are baulked of their prey they sometimes haunt a dwelling for weeks.

What will become of me? cried Viviana, distractedly.

It were vain, I fear, to entreat you to accept an asylum with my father at Clayton Hall, or at my own residence at Crumpsall, said Humphrey Chetham.

Your offer is most kind, sir, replied Oldcorne, and is duly appreciated. But Viviana will see the propriety on every account of declining it.

I do; I do, she acquiesced.

Will you entrust yourself to my protection? observed Fawkes.

Willingly, replied the priest, answering for her. We shall find some place of refuge, he added, turning to Viviana, where your father can join us, and where we can remain concealed till this storm has blown over.

I know many such, rejoined Fawkes, both in this county and in Yorkshire, and will guide you to one.

My horses are at your service, said Humphrey Chetham. They are tied beneath the trees in the avenue. My servant shall bring them to the door, and, turning to his attendant, he gave him directions to that effect. I was riding hither an hour before midnight, he continued, addressing Viviana, to offer you assistance, having accidentally heard the pursuivant mention his meditated visit to Ordsall Hall, to one of his followers, when, as I approached the gates, this person, pointing to Guy Fawkes, crossed my path, and, seizing the bridle of my steed, demanded whether I was a friend to Sir William Radcliffe. I answered in the affirmative, and desired to know the motive of his inquiry. He then told me that the house was invested by a numerous band of armed men, who had crossed the moat by means of a plank, and were at that moment concealed within the garden. This intelligence, besides filling me with alarm, disconcerted all my plans, as I hoped to have been beforehand with them their inquisitorial searches being generally made at a late hour, when all the inmates of a house intended to be surprised are certain to have retired to rest. While I was bitterly reproaching myself for my dilatoriness, and considering what course it would be best to pursue, my servant, Martin Heydocke, son to your father's old steward, who had ridden up at the stranger's approach, informed me that he was acquainted with a secret passage communicating beneath the moat with the hall. Upon this, I dismounted; and fastening my horse to a tree, ordered him to lead me to it without an instant's delay. The stranger, who gave his name as Guy Fawkes, and professed himself a stanch Catholic, and a friend of Father Oldcorne, begged permission to join us, in a tone so earnest, that I at once acceded to his request. We then proceeded to this building, and after some search discovered the trap-door. Much time was lost, owing to our being unprovided with lights, in the subterranean passage; and it was more than two hours before we could find the ring connected with the stone door, the mystery of which Martin explained to us. This delay we feared would render our scheme abortive, when, just as we reached the panel, we heard your shrieks. The spring was touched, and you know the rest.

And shall never forget it, replied Viviana, in a tone of the deepest gratitude.

At this juncture, the tramp of horses was heard at the door; and the next moment it was thrown open by the younger Heydocke, who, with a look, and in a voice of the utmost terror, exclaimed, They are coming! they are coming!

The pursuivant? cried Guy Fawkes.

Not him alone, but the whole gang, rejoined Martin. Some of them are lowering the drawbridge, while others are crossing the plank. Several are on horseback, and I think I discern the pursuivant amongst the number. They have seen me, and are hurrying in this direction.

As he spoke, a loud shout corroborated his statement.

We are lost! exclaimed Oldcorne.

Do not despair, father, rejoined Guy Fawkes. Heaven will not abandon its faithful servants. The Lord will deliver us out of the hands of these Amalekites.

To horse, then, if you would indeed avoid them, urged Humphrey Chetham. The shouts grow louder. Your enemies are fast approaching.

Viviana, said Guy Fawkes, are you willing to fly with us?

I will do anything rather than be left to those horrible men, she answered.

Guy Fawkes then raised her in his arms, and sprang with his lovely burthen upon the nearest charger. His example was quickly followed by Humphrey Chetham, who, vaulting on the other horse, assisted the priest to mount behind him. While this took place, Martin Heydocke darted into the shed, and instantly bolted the door.

It was a beautiful moonlight night, almost as bright as day, and the movements of each party were fully revealed to the other. Guy Fawkes perceived at a glance that they were surrounded; and, though he had no fears for himself, he was full of apprehension for the safety of his companion. While he was debating with himself as to the course it would be best to pursue, Humphrey Chetham shouted to him to turn to the left, and started off in that direction. Grasping his fair charge, whom he had placed before him on the saddle, firmly with his left arm, and wrapping her in his ample cloak, Guy Fawkes drew his sword, and striking spurs into his steed, followed in the same track.

The little fabric which had afforded them temporary shelter, it has already been mentioned, was situated on the west of the hall, at a short distance from the moat, and was screened from observation by a small shrubbery. No sooner did the fugitives emerge from this cover, than loud outcries were raised by their antagonists, and every effort was made to intercept them. On the right, galloping towards them on a light but swift courser, taken from Sir William Radcliffe's stables, came the pursuivant, attended by half-a-dozen troopers, who had accommodated themselves with horses in the same manner as their leader. Between them and the road leading to Manchester, were stationed several armed men on foot. At the rear, voices proclaimed that others were in full pursuit; while in front, a fourth detachment menaced them with their pikes. Thus beset on all sides, it seemed scarcely possible to escape. Nothing daunted, however, by the threats and vociferations with which they were received, the two horsemen boldly charged this party. The encounter was instantaneous. Guy Fawkes warded off a blow, which, if it had taken effect, must have robbed Viviana of life, and struck down the fellow who aimed it. At the same moment, his career was checked by another assailant, who, catching his bridle with the hook of his pike, commanded him to surrender. Fawkes replied by cleaving the man's staff asunder, and, having thus disembarrassed himself, was about to pursue his course, when he perceived that Humphrey Chetham was in imminent danger from a couple of soldiers who had stopped him, and were trying to unhorse his companion. Riding up to them, Guy Fawkes, by a vigorous and well-directed attack, speedily drove them off; and the fugitives, being now unimpeded, were enabled to continue their career.

The foregoing occurrences were witnessed by the pursuivant with the utmost rage and vexation. Pouring forth a torrent of threats and imprecations, he swore he would never rest till he had secured them, and urging his courser to its utmost speed, commanded his men to give chase.

Skirting a sluice, communicating between the Irwell and the moat, Humphrey Chetham, who, as better acquainted with the country than his companions, took the lead, proceeded along its edge for about a hundred yards, when he suddenly struck across a narrow bridge covered with sod, and entered the open fields. Hitherto Viviana had remained silent. Though fully aware of the risk she had run, she gave no sign of alarm not even when the blow was aimed against her life; and it was only on conceiving the danger in some degree past, that she ventured to express her gratitude.

You have displayed so much courage, said Guy Fawkes, in answer to her speech, that it would be unpardonable to deceive you. Our foes are too near us, and too well mounted, to make it by any means certain we shall escape them, unless by stratagem.

They are within a hundred yards of us, cried Humphrey Chetham, glancing fearfully backwards. They have possessed themselves of your father's fleetest horses; and, if I mistake not, the rascally pursuivant has secured your favourite barb.

My gentle Zayda! exclaimed Viviana. Then indeed we are lost. She has not her match for speed.

If she bring her rider to us alone, she will do us good service," observed Guy Fawkes, significantly.

The same notion, almost at the same moment, occurred to the pursuivant. Having witnessed the prowess displayed by Guy Fawkes in his recent attack on the soldiers, he felt no disposition to encounter so formidable an opponent single-handed; and finding that the high-mettled barb on which he was mounted, by its superior speed and fiery temper, would inevitably place him in such a dilemma, he prudently resolved to halt, and exchange it for a more manageable steed.

This delay was of great service to the fugitives, and enabled them to get considerably ahead. They had now gained a narrow lane, and, tracking it, speedily reached the rocky banks of the Irwell. Galloping along a foot-path that followed the serpentine course of the stream for a quarter of a mile, they arrived at a spot marked by a bed of osiers, where Humphrey Chetham informed them there was a ford.

Accordingly, they plunged into the river, and while stemming the current, which here ran with great swiftness, and rose up above the saddles, the neighing of a steed was heard from the bank they had quitted. Turning at the sound, Viviana beheld her favourite courser on the summit of a high rock. The soldier to whom Zayda was intrusted had speedily, as the pursuivant foresaw, distanced his companions, and chose this elevated position to take sure aim at Guy Fawkes, against whom he was now levelling a caliver. The next moment a bullet struck against his brigandine, but without doing him any injury. The soldier, however, did not escape so lightly. Startled by the discharge, the fiery barb leaped from the precipice into the river, and throwing her rider, who was borne off by the rapid stream, swam towards the opposite bank, which she reached just as the others were landing. At the sound of her mistress's voice she stood still, and allowed Humphrey Chetham to lay hold of her bridle; and Viviana declaring she was able to mount her, Guy Fawkes, who felt that such an arrangement was most likely to conduce to her safety, and who was, moreover, inclined to view the occurrence as a providential interference in their behalf, immediately assisted her into the saddle.