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ligious conferences with him; it being evidently his desire to pre. pare himself for his expected fate. He spent the greater part of the nights in solitary vigils-fasted even more rigorously than he was enjoined to do-and prayed with such fervour and frequency, that, fearing an ill effect upon his health, and almost upon his mind, which had become exalted to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, Garnet thought it necessary to check him. The priest did not fail to note that Viviana's name never passed his lips, and that, in all their walks in the forest, he carefully shunned the scene of his espousals.
And thus time flew by. On the evening of the twenty-sixth of October, in accordance with Catesby's intimation, the conspirators arrived. They were all assembled at supper, and were relating the different arrangements which had been made in anticipation of the impor event, when Garnet observed, with a look of sudden uneasiness, to Catesby, 'You said, in one of your letters, that you would bring Tresham with you, my son. Why do I not see him?'
'He sent a message to Coughton to state, that having been attack ed by a sudden illness, he was unable to join us,' replied Catesby, 'but, as soon as he could leave his bed, he would hasten to London. This may be a subterfuge, but I shall speedily ascertain the truth, for I have sent my servant Bates to Rushton, to investigate the matter. I ought to tell you,' he added, 'that he has given substantial proof of his devotion to the cause by sending another thousand pounds to be expended in the purchase of arms and horses.'
'I hope it is not dust thrown into our eyes,' returned Garnet. 'I have always feared Tresham would deceive us at the last.'
This sudden illness looks suspicious, I must own,' said Catesby. 'Has aught been heard of Lord Mounteagle ?'
'Guy Fawkes heard that he was at his residence at Southwark yesterday,' returned Garnet.
So far good,' replied Catesby. 'Did you visit the cellar where the powder is deposited?' he added, turning to Fawkes.
I did,' replied the other, and found all secure. The powder is in excellent preservation. Before quitting the spot I placed certain private marks against the door, by which I can tell whether it is opened during our absence.'
'A wise precaution,' returned Catesby. And now, gentlemen,' he added, filling a goblet with wine, success to our enterprise ! Everything is prepared,' he continued, as the pledge was enthusiastically drunk, I have got together a company of above two hundred men, all well-armed and appointed, who will follow me wherever I choose to lead them. They will be stationed near Dunsmore Heath on the fifth of next month; and as soon as the event of the explosion is known, I shall ride thither as fast as I can, and, hurrying with my troops to Coventry, seize the Princess Elizabeth. Percy and Keyes will secure the person of the Duke of York, and proclaim him King;
while upon the rest will devolve the arduous duty of rousing our Catholic brethren in London to rise to arms.'
'Trust to us to rouse them,' shouted several voices.
'Let each man swear not to swerve from the fulfilment of his task,' cried Catesby; 'swear it upon this cup of wine, in which we will all mix our blood.'
And as he spoke, he pricked his arm with the point of his sword, and suffered a few drops of blood to fall into the goblet, while the others, roused to a state of frenzied enthusiasm, imitated his example, and afterwards raised the horrible mixture to their lips, pronouncing at the same time the oath.
Guy Fawkes was the last to take the pledge, and crying in a loud voice, 'I swear not to quit my post till the explosion is over,' he drained the cup.
After this, they adjourned to a room in another wing of the house, fitted up as a chapel, where mass was performed by Garnet, and the sacrament administered to the whole assemblage. They were about to retire for the night, when a sudden knocking was heard at the door. Reconnoitring the intruder through an upper window, overlooking the court, Catesby perceived it was Bates, who was holding a smoking and mud-bespattered steed by the bridle.
'Well, what news do you bring?' cried Catesby, as he admitted him. Have you seen Tresham ?'
'No,' replied Bates. 'His illness was a mere pretence. He has left Rushton secretly for London.'
'I knew it,' cried Garnet. 'He has again betrayed us.' 'He shall die,' said Catesby.
And the determination was echoed by all the other conspirators. Instead of retiring to rest, they passed the night in anxious deli. beration, and it was at last proposed that Guy Fawkes should proceed without loss of time to Southwark, to keep watch near the house of Lord Mounteagle, and, if possible, ascertain whether Tresham visited it.
To this he readily agreed. But before setting out, he took Catesby aside for a moment, and asked, 'Did you see Viviana at Coughton ?'
'Only for a moment, and that just before I left the place,' was the answer. 'She desired to be remembered to you, and said you were never absent from her thoughts or prayers.'
Guy Fawkes turned away to hide his emotion, and mounting one of the horses brought by the conspirators, rode off towards London.
THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER.
On the same day as the occurrences last related, Lord Mounteagle, who was then staying at Southwark, suddenly intimated his
intention of passing the night at his country mansion at Hoxton; a change of place which, trivial as it seemed at the moment, afterwards assumed an importance, from the circumstances that arose out of it. At the latter part of the day, he accordingly proceeded to Hoxton, accompanied by his customary attendants, and all appeared to pass on as usual, until just as supper was over, one of his pages arrived from town, and desired to see his lordship immediately.
Affecting to treat the matter with indifference, Lord Mounteagle carelessly ordered the youth to be ushered into his presence, and when he appeared, he demanded his business. The page replied, that he brought a letter for his lordship, which had been delivered under circumstances of great mystery.
'I had left the house just as it grew dusk,' he said, on an errand of little importance, when a man muffled in a cloak, suddenly issued from behind a corner, and demanded whether I was one of your lordship's servants? On my replying in the affirmative he produced this letter, and enjoined me as I valued my life and your lordship's safety, to deliver it into your own hands without delay.'
So saying, he delivered the letter to his lord, who, gazing at its address, which was, 'To the Right Honourable the Lord Mounteagle,' observed, 'There is nothing very formidable in its appearance. What can it mean?'
Without even breaking the seal, which was secured with a silken thread, he gave it to one of his gentlemen, named Ward, who was standing near him.
'Read it aloud, sir,' said the Earl, with a slight smile. I have no doubt it is some vapouring effusion, which will afford us occasion for laughter. Before I hear what the writer has to say, I can pro mise him he shall not intimidate me.'
Thus exhorted, Ward broke open the letter, and read as follows:'My lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore, I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift from your attendance at this Parliament, for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. Think not slightingly of this advice, but retire into the country, where you may expect the event in safety, for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall re ceive a terrible blow this Parliament, and yet they shall not know who hurts them. This counsel is not to be contemned. It may you good, and can do you no harm, for the danger is passed as soon as you have burned the letter. God, I hope, will give you grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.'
'A singular letter!' exclaimed Mounteagle, as soon as Ward had finished. What is your opinion of it?'
'I think it hints at some dangerous plot, my lord,' replied Ward, who had received his instructions, some treason against the
state. With submission, I would advise your lordship instantly to take it to the Earl of Salisbury.'
'I see nothing in it,' replied the Earl. What is your opinion, Mervyn?' he added, turning to another of his gentlemen, to whom he had likewise given his lesson.
'I am of the same mind as Ward,' replied the attendant. 'Your lordship will hardly hold yourself excused, if you neglect to give due warning, should aught occur hereafter.'
'Say you so, sirs?' cried Lord Mounteagle. 'Let me hear it once more.'
The letter was accordingly read again by Ward, and the Earl feigned to weigh over each passage.
'I am advised not to attend the Parliament,' he said, "for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of this time." That is too vague to be regarded. Then I am urged to retire into the country. The recommendation must proceed from some discontented Catholic, who does not wish me to be present at the opening of the house. This is not the first time I have been so adjured. "They shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament, and yet shall not see who hurts them." That is mysterious enough, but it may mean nothing,—any more than what follows, namely, "the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter."'
'I do not think so, my lord,' replied Ward; and though I cannot explain the riddle, I am sure it means mischief.'
'Well,' said Lord Mounteagle,' since you are of this mind, I must lose no time in communicating the letter to the Secretary of State. It is better to err on the safe side.'
Accordingly, after some further consultation, he set out at that late hour for Whitehall, where he roused the Earl of Salisbury, and showed him the letter. It is almost needless to state that the whole was a preconcerted scheme between these two crafty statesmen; but as the interview took place in the presence of their attendants, the utmost caution was observed.
Salisbury pretended to be greatly alarmed at the communication, and coupling it, he said, with previous intelligence which he had received, he could not help fearing, to adopt the words of the writer of this mysterious letter, that the Parliament was indeed threatened with some terrible blow.' Acting, apparently, upon this supposition, he caused such of the lords of the Privy Council as lodged at Whitehall to be summoned, and submitting the letter to them, they all concurred in the opinion that it referred to some dangerous plot, though none could give a guess at its precise nature.
It is clearly some Popish project,' said Salisbury, 'or Lord Mounteagle would not have been the party warned. We must keep a look-out upon the disaffected of his faith.'
'As I have been the means of revealing the plot to your lordship,
-if plot it be-I must pray you to deal gently with them,' rejoined Mounteagle.
'I will be as lenient as I can,' returned Salisbury. But in a matter of this kind little favour can be shown. If your lordship will enable me to discover the principal actors in this affair, I will take care that no innocent party suffers.'
'You ask an impossibility,' replied Mounteagle. I know nothing beyond what can be gathered from that letter. But I pray your lordship not to make it a means of exercising unnecessary severity towards the members of my religion.'
'On that you may rely,' returned the Earl. His Majesty will not return from the hunting expedition on which he is engaged at Royston till Thursday next, the 30th. I think it scarcely worth while (considering his naturally timid nature, with which your lordships are well acquainted) to inform him of the threatened danger, until his arrival at the palace. It well then be time enough to take any needful steps, as Parliament will not meet for four or five days afterwards.'
In the policy of this course the Privy Councillors agreed, and it was arranged that the matter should be kept perfectly secret until the King's opinion had been taken upon the letter. The assemblage then broke up, it being previously arranged that, for fear of some attempt upon his life, Lord Mounteagle should remain within the palace till full inquiries had been instituted into the affair.
When the two confederate nobles were left alone, Salisbury observed, with a slight laugh, to his companion,
'Thus far we have proceeded well, and without suspicion, and, rely upon it, none shall fall on you. As soon as all is over, the most important post the King has to bestow shall be yours.'
'But what of Tresham ?' asked Mounteagle. He was the deliverer of this letter, and I have little faith in him.'
'Hum!' said Salisbury, after a moment's reflection, 'if you think it desirable, we can remove him to the Tower, where he can be easily silenced.'
'It will be better so,' replied Mounteagle. He may else babble hereafter. I gave him a thousand pounds to send in his own name to the conspirators the other day to lure them into our nets.'
'It shall be repaid you a hundred-fold,' replied Salisbury. But we are observed, and must therefore separate.'
So saying, he withdrew to his own chamber, while Lord Mounteagle was ushered to the apartments allotted to him.
To return to Guy Fawkes. Arriving at Southwark, he stationed himself near Lord Mounteagle's residence. But he observed nothing to awaken his suspicions, until early in the morning he perceived a page approaching the mansion, whom from