William Ainsworth.

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





They are beyond all human aid, the latter replied.

Heaven have mercy on their souls! ejaculated the priest Pray for them, dear daughter. Pray heartily, as I am about to do. And he recited in an audible voice the Romish formula of supplication for those in extremis.

Averting her gaze from the spectacle, Viviana joined fervently in the prayer.

By this time two of the strugglers had disappeared. The third, having freed himself from his horse, contrived for some moments, during which he uttered the most frightful cries, to keep his head above the swamp. His efforts were tremendous, but unavailing, and served only to accelerate his fate. Making a last desperate plunge towards the bank where the fugitives were standing, he sank above the chin. The expression of his face, shown by the ghastly glimmer of the fen-fires, as he was gradually swallowed up, was horrible.

Requiem ?ternam dona eis, Domine, exclaimed the priest.

All is over, cried Humphrey Chetham, taking the bridle of Viviana's steed, and leading her onwards. We are free from our pursuers.

There is one left, she rejoined, casting a look backwards.

It is the pursuivant, returned Guy Fawkes, sternly. He is within shot, he added, drawing his petronel.

Oh, no no! in pity spare him! cried Viviana. Too many lives have been sacrificed already.

He is the cause of all the mischief, answered Guy Fawkes, unwillingly replacing the petronel in his belt, and may live to injure you and your father.

I will hope not, rejoined Viviana; but, spare him! oh, spare him!

Be it as you please, replied Guy Fawkes. The marsh, I trust, will not be so merciful.

With this, they slowly resumed their progress. On hearing their departure, the pursuivant renewed his cries in a more piteous tone than ever; but, in spite of the entreaties of Viviana, nothing could induce her companions to lend him assistance.

For some time they proceeded in silence, and without accident. As they advanced, the difficulties of the path increased, and it was fortunate that the moon, emerging from the clouds in which, up to this moment, she had been shrouded, enabled them to steer their course in safety. At length, after a tedious and toilsome march for nearly half a mile, the footing became more secure, the road widened, and they were able to quicken their pace. Another half mile landed them upon the western bank of the morass. Viviana's first impulse was to give thanks to Heaven for their deliverance, nor did she omit in her prayer a supplication for the unfortunate beings who had perished.

Arrived at the point now known as Rawson Nook, they entered a lane, and proceeded towards Astley Green, where perceiving a cluster of thatched cottages among the trees, they knocked at the door of the first, and speedily obtained admittance from its inmates, a turf-cutter and his wife. The man conveyed their steeds to a neighbouring barn, while the good dame offered Viviana such accommodation and refreshment as her humble dwelling afforded.

Here they tarried till the following evening, as much to recruit Miss Radcliffe's strength, as for security.

At the young merchant's request, the turf-cutter went in the course of the day to see what had become of the pursuivant. He was nowhere to be found. But he accidentally learned from another hind, who followed the same occupation as himself, that a person answering to the officer's description had been seen to emerge from the moss near Baysnape at daybreak, and take the road towards Manchester. Of the unfortunate soldiers nothing but a steel cap and a pike, which the man brought away with him, could be discovered.

After much debate, it was decided that their safest plan would be to proceed to Manchester, where Humphrey Chetham undertook to procure them safe lodgings at the Seven Stars, an excellent hostel, kept by a worthy widow, who, he affirmed, would do anything to serve him. Accordingly, they set out at nightfall, Viviana taking her place before Guy Fawkes, and relinquishing Zayda to the young merchant and the priest. Shaping their course through Worsley, by Monton Green and Pendleton, they arrived in about an hour within sight of the town, which then, not a tithe of its present size, and unpolluted by the smoky atmosphere in which it is now constantly enveloped, was not without some pretensions to a picturesque appearance. Crossing Salford Bridge, they mounted Smithy-Bank, as it was then termed, and proceeding along Cateaton-street and Hanging Ditch, struck into Whithing (now Withy) Grove, at the right of which, just where a few houses were beginning to straggle up Shude Hill, stood, and still stands, the comfortable hostel of the Seven Stars. Here they stopped, and were warmly welcomed by its buxom mistress, Dame Sutcliffe. Muffled in Guy Fawkes's cloak, the priest gained the chamber to which he was ushered unobserved. And Dame Sutcliffe, though her Protestant notions were a little scandalized at her dwelling being made the sanctuary of a Popish priest, promised, at the instance of Master Chetham, whom she knew to be no favourer of idolatry in a general way, to be answerable for his safety.

CHAPTER VI.
THE DISINTERMENT

Having seen every attention shown to Viviana by the hostess, who, as soon as she discovered that she had the daughter of Sir William Radcliffe of Ordsall, under her roof, bestirred herself in right earnest for her accommodation, Humphrey Chetham, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, it was past midnight, expressed his determination to walk to his residence at Crumpsall, to put an end to any apprehension which might be entertained by the household at his prolonged absence.

With this view, he set forth; and Guy Fawkes, who seemed to be meditating some project which he was unwilling to disclose to the others, quitted the hostel with him, bidding the chamberlain sit up for him, as he should speedily return. They had not gone far when he inquired the nearest way to the Collegiate Church, and was answered that they were then proceeding towards it, and in a few moments should arrive at its walls. He next asked the young merchant whether he could inform him which part of the churchyard was allotted to criminals. Humphrey Chetham, somewhat surprised by the question, replied, At the north-west, near the charnel, adding, I shall pass within a short distance of the spot, and will point it out to you.

Entering Fennel Street, at the end of which stood an ancient cross, they soon came in sight of the church. The moon was shining brightly, and silvered the massive square tower of the fane, the battlements, pinnacles, buttresses, and noble eastern window, with its gorgeous tracery. While Guy Fawkes paused for a moment to contemplate this reverend and beautiful structure, two venerable personages, having long snowy beards, and wrapped in flowing mantles edged with sable fur, passed the end of the street. One of them carried a lantern, though it was wholly needless, as it was bright as day; and as they glided stealthily along, there was something so mysterious in their manner, that it greatly excited the curiosity of Guy Fawkes, who inquired from his companion if he knew who they were.

The foremost is the warden of Manchester, the famous Doctor Dee," replied Humphrey Chetham, divine, mathematician, astrologer, and if report speaks truly, conjuror.

Is that Doctor Dee? cried Guy Fawkes, in astonishment.

It is, replied the young merchant: and the other in the Polish cap is the no-less celebrated Edward Kelley, the doctor's assistant, or, as he is ordinarily termed, his seer.

They have entered the churchyard, remarked Guy Fawkes. I will follow them.

I would not advise you to do so, rejoined the other. Strange tales are told of them. You may witness that it is not safe to look upon.

The caution, however, was unheeded. Guy Fawkes had already disappeared, and the young merchant, shrugging his shoulders, proceeded on his way towards Hunt's Bank.

On gaining the churchyard, Guy Fawkes perceived the warden and his companion creeping stealthily beneath the shadow of a wall in the direction of a low fabric, which appeared to be a bone-house, or charnel, situated at the north-western extremity of the church. Before this building grew a black and stunted yew-tree. Arrived at it, they paused, and looked round to see whether they were observed. They did not, however, notice Guy Fawkes, who had concealed himself behind a buttress. Kelley then unlocked the door of the charnel, and brought out a pickaxe and matk. Having divested himself of his cloak, he proceeded to shovel out the mould from a new-made grave at a little distance from the building. Doctor Dee stood by, and held the lantern for his assistant.

Determined to watch their proceedings, Guy Fawkes crept towards the yew-tree, behind which he ensconced himself. Kelley, meanwhile, continued to ply his spade with a vigour that seemed almost incomprehensible in one so far stricken in years, and of such infirm appearance. At length he paused, and kneeling within the shallow grave, endeavoured to drag something from it. Doctor Dee knelt to assist him. After some exertion, they drew forth the corpse of a female, which had been interred without coffin, and apparently in the habiliments worn during life. A horrible suspicion crossed Guy Fawkes. Resolving to satisfy his doubts at once, he rushed forward, and beheld in the ghastly lineaments of the dead the features of the unfortunate prophetess, Elizabeth Orton.

CHAPTER VII.
DOCTOR DEE

How now, ye impious violators of the tomb! ye worse than famine-stricken wolves, that rake up the dead in churchyards! cried Guy Fawkes, in a voice of thunder, to Doctor Dee and his companion; who, startled by his sudden appearance, dropped the body, and retreated to a short distance. What devilish rites are ye about to enact, that ye thus profane the sanctity of the grave?

And who art thou that darest thus to interrupt us? demanded Dee, sternly.

It matters not, rejoined Fawkes, striding towards them. Suffice it you are both known to me. You, John Dee, warden of Manchester, who deserve to be burnt at the stake for your damnable practices, rather than hold the sacred office you fill; and you, Edward Kelley, his associate, who boast of familiar intercourse with demons, and, unless fame belies you, have purchased the intimacy at the price of your soul's salvation. I know you both. I know, also, whose body you have disinterred it is that of the ill-fated prophetess, Elizabeth Orton. And if you do not instantly restore it to the grave whence you have snatched it, I will denounce you to the authorities of the town.

Knowing thus much, you should know still more, retorted Doctor Dee, namely, that I am not to be lightly provoked. You have no power to quit the churchyard nay, not so much as to move a limb without my permission.

As he spoke, he drew from beneath his cloak a small phial, the contents of which he sprinkled over the intruder. Its effect was wonderful and instantaneous. The limbs of Guy Fawkes stiffened where he stood. His hand remained immovably fixed upon the pommel of his sword, and he seemed transformed into a marble statue.

You will henceforth acknowledge and respect my power, he continued. Were it my pleasure, I could bury you twenty fathoms deep in the earth beneath our feet; or, by invoking certain spirits, convey you to the summit of yon lofty tower, pointing to the church, and hurl you from it headlong. But I content myself with depriving you of motion, and leave you in possession of sight and speech, that you may endure the torture of witnessing what you cannot prevent.

So saying, he was about to return to the corpse with Kelley, when Guy Fawkes exclaimed, in a hollow voice,

Set me free, and I will instantly depart.

Will you swear never to divulge what you have seen? demanded Dee, pausing.

Solemnly, he replied.

I will trust you, then, rejoined the Doctor; "the rather that your presence interferes with my purpose.

Taking a handful of loose earth from an adjoining grave, and muttering a few words, that sounded like a charm, he scattered it over Fawkes. The spell was instantly broken. A leaden weight seemed to be removed from his limbs. His joints regained their suppleness, and with a convulsive start, like that by which a dreamer casts off a nightmare, he was liberated from his preternatural thraldom.

And now, begone! cried Doctor Dee, authoritatively.

Suffer me to tarry with you a few moments, said Guy Fawkes, in a deferential tone. Heretofore, I will freely admit, I regarded you as an impostor; but now I am convinced you are deeply skilled in the occult sciences, and would fain consult you on the future.

I have already said that your presence troubles me, replied Doctor Dee. But if you will call upon me at the College to-morrow, it may be I will give you further proofs of my skill.

Why not now, reverend sir? urged Fawkes. The question I would ask is better suited to this dismal spot and witching hour, than to daylight and the walls of your study.

Indeed! exclaimed Dee. Your name?

Guy Fawkes, replied the other.

Guy Fawkes! echoed the Doctor, starting. Nay, then, I guess the nature of the question you would ask.

Am I then known to you, reverend sir? inquired Fawkes, uneasily.

As well as to yourself nay, better, answered the Doctor. Bring the lantern hither, Kelley, he continued, addressing his companion. Look!" he added, elevating the light so as to throw it upon the countenance of Fawkes: it is the very face, the bronzed and strongly-marked features, the fierce black eye, the iron frame, and foreign garb of the figure we beheld in the show-stone.

It is, replied Kelley. I could have singled him out amid a thousand. He looked thus as we tracked his perilous course, with his three companions, the priest, Chetham, and Viviana Radcliffe, across Chat Moss.

How have you learned this? cried Guy Fawkes, in amazement.

By the art that reveals all things, answered Kelley.

In proof that your thoughts are known to me, observed Dee, I will tell you the inquiry you would make before it is uttered. You would learn whether the enterprise on which you are engaged will succeed.

I would, replied Fawkes.

Yet more, continued Dee. I am aware of the nature of the plot, and could name to you all connected with it.

Your power is, indeed, wonderful, rejoined Fawkes in an altered tone. But will you give me the information I require?

Hum! muttered Dee.

I am too poor to purchase it, proceeded Fawkes, unless a relic I have brought from Spain has any value in your eyes.

Tush! exclaimed Dee, angrily. Do you suppose I am a common juggler, and practise my art for gain?

By no means, reverend sir, said Fawkes. But I would not willingly put you to trouble without evincing my gratitude.

Well, then, replied Dee, I will not refuse your request. And yet I would caution you to beware how you pry into the future. You may repent your rashness when it is too late.

I have no fear, rejoined Fawkes. Let me know the worst.

Enough, answered Dee. And now listen to me. That carcass having been placed in the ground without the holy rites of burial being duly performed, I have power over it. And, as the witch of Endor called up Samuel, as is recorded in Holy Writ, as Erichtho raised up a corpse to reveal to Sextus Pompeius the event of the Pharsalian war, as Elisha breathed life into the nostrils of the Shunamite's son, as Alcestis was invoked by Hercules, and as the dead maid was brought back to life by Apollonius Thyaneus, so I, by certain powerful incantations, will allure the soul of the prophetess, for a short space, to its former tenement, and compel it to answer my questions. Dare you be present at this ceremony?

I dare, replied Fawkes.

Follow me, then, said Dee. You will need all your courage.

Muttering a hasty prayer, and secretly crossing himself, Guy Fawkes strode after him towards the grave. By the Doctor's directions, he, with some reluctance, assisted Kelley to raise the corpse, and convey it to the charnel. Dee followed, bearing the lantern, and, on entering the building, closed and fastened the door.

The chamber in which Guy Fawkes found himself was in perfect keeping with the horrible ceremonial about to be performed. In one corner lay a mouldering heap of skulls, bones, and other fragments of mortality; in the other a pile of broken coffins, emptied of their tenants, and reared on end. But what chiefly attracted his attention, was a ghastly collection of human limbs, blackened with pitch, girded round with iron hoops, and hung, like meat in a shambles, against the wall. There were two heads, and, though the features were scarcely distinguishable, owing to the liquid in which they had been immersed, they still retained a terrific expression of agony. Seeing his attention directed to these revolting objects, Kelley informed him they were the quarters of the two priests who had recently been put to death, which had been left there previously to being placed on the church-gates. The implements, and some part of the attire used by the executioner in his butcherly office, were scattered about, and mixed with the tools of the sexton; while in the centre of the room stood a large wooden frame supported by trestles. On this frame, stained with blood and smeared with pitch, showing the purpose to which it had been recently put, the body was placed. This done, Doctor Dee set down the lantern beside it; and, as the light fell upon its livid features, sullied with earth, and exhibiting traces of decay, Guy Fawkes was so appalled by the sight that he half repented of what he had undertaken.

Noticing his irresolution, Doctor Dee said, You may yet retire if you think proper.

No, replied Fawkes, rousing himself; I will go through with it.

It is well, replied Dee. And he extinguished the light.

An awful silence now ensued, broken only by a low murmur from Doctor Dee, who appeared to be reciting an incantation. As he proceeded, his tones became louder, and his accents those of command. Suddenly, he paused, and seemed to await a response. But, as none was made, greatly to the disappointment of Guy Fawkes, whose curiosity, notwithstanding his fears, was raised to the highest pitch, he cried, Blood is wanting to complete the charm.

If that is all, I will speedily supply the deficiency, replied Guy Fawkes; and, drawing his rapier, he bared his left arm, and pricked it deeply with the point of the weapon.

I bleed now, he cried.

Sprinkle the corpse with the ruddy current, rejoined Doctor Dee.

Your commands are obeyed, replied Fawkes. I have placed my hand on its breast, and the blood is flowing upon it.

Upon this the Doctor began to mutter an incantation in a louder and more authoritative tone than before. Presently, Kelley added his voice, and they both joined in a sort of chorus, but in a jargon wholly unintelligible to Guy Fawkes.

All at once a blue flame appeared above their heads, and, slowly descending, settled upon the brow of the corpse, lighting up the sunken cavities of the eyes, and the discoloured and distorted features.

The charm works, shouted Doctor Dee.

She moves! she moves! exclaimed Guy Fawkes. She is alive!

Take off your hand, cried the Doctor, or mischief may ensue. And he again continued his incantation.

Down on your knees! he exclaimed, at length, in a terrible voice. The spirit is at hand.

There was a rushing sound, and a stream of dazzling lightning shot down upon the corpse, which emitted a hollow groan. In obedience to the Doctor's commands, Guy Fawkes had prostrated himself on the ground: but he kept his gaze steadily fixed on the body, which, to his infinite astonishment, slowly arose, until it stood erect upon the frame. There it remained perfectly motionless, with the arms close to the sides, and the habiliments torn and dishevelled. The blue light still retained its position upon the brow, and communicated a horrible glimmer to the features. The spectacle was so dreadful that Guy Fawkes would fain have averted his eyes, but he was unable to do so. Doctor Dee and his companion, meanwhile, continued their invocations, until, as it seemed to Fawkes, the lips of the corpse moved, and an awful voice exclaimed, Why have you called me?

Daughter! replied Doctor Dee, rising, in life thou wert endowed with the gift of prophecy. In the grave, that which is to come must be revealed to thee. We would question thee.

Speak, and I will answer, replied the corpse.

Interrogate her, my son, said Dee, addressing Fawkes, and be brief, for the time is short. So long only as that flame burns have I power over her.

Spirit of Elizabeth Orton, cried Guy Fawkes, if indeed thou standest before me, and some demon hath not entered thy frame to delude me, by all that is holy, and by every blessed saint, I adjure thee to tell me whether the scheme on which I am now engaged for the advantage of the Catholic Church will prosper?