Page images

veyed to a horrible pit, adjoining the river, called, from the loathsome animals infesting it, the dungeon among the rats.' It was about twenty feet wide and twelve deep, and at high tide was generally more than two feet deep in water.

Into this dreadful chasm was Guy Fawkes lowered by his attendants, who, warning him of the probable fate that awaited him, left him in total darkness. At this time the pit was free from water; but he had not been there more than an hour, when a bubbling and hissing sound proclaimed that the tide was rising, while frequent plashes convinced him that the rats were at hand. Stooping down, he felt that the water was alive with them,—that they were all around him,— and would not, probably, delay their attack. Prepared as he was for the worst, he could not repress a shudder at the prospect of the horrible death with which he was menaced.

At this juncture, he was surprised by the appearance of a light, and perceived at the edge of the pit a female figure bearing a lantern. Not doubting it was his visitant of the former night, he called out to her, and was answered in the voice of Ruth Ipgreve.

'I dare not remain here many minutes,' she said, because my father suspects me. But I could not let you perish thus. I will let down this lantern to you, and the light will keep away the rats. When the tide retires you can extinguish it.'

[ocr errors]

So saying, she tore her kerchief into shreds, and trying the slips together, lowered the lantern to the prisoner, and without waiting to receive his thanks, hurried away.

Thus aided, Guy Fawkes defended himself as well as he could against his loathsome assailants. The light showed that the water was swarming with them,-that they were creeping by hundreds up the sides of the pit, and preparing to make a general attack upon


At one time, Fawkes determined not to oppose them, but to let them work their will upon him; but the contact of the noxious animals made him change his resolution, and he instinctively drove them off. They were not, however, to be easily repulsed, and returned to the charge with greater fury than before. The desire of self-preservation now got the better of every other feeling, and the dread of being devoured alive giving new vigour to his crippled limbs, he rushed to the other side of the pit. His persecutors, however, followed him in myriads, springing upon him, and making their sharp teeth meet in his flesh in a thousand places.

In this way the contest continued for some time, Guy Fawkes speeding round the pit, and his assailants never for one moment relaxing in the pursuit, until he fell from exhaustion, and his lantern being extinguished, the whole host darted upon him.

Thinking all over, he could not repress a loud cry, and it was scarcely uttered, when lights appeared, and several gloomy

figures bearing torches were seen at the edge of the pit. Among these he distinguished Sir William Waad, who offered instantly to release him if he would confess.

'I will rather perish,' replied Fawkes, and I will make no further effort to defend myself. I shall soon be out of the reach of your malice.'

"This must not be,' observed the lieutenant to Jasper Ipgreve, who stood by. The Earl of Salisbury will never forgive me if he


'Then not a moment must be lost, or those ravenous brutes will assuredly devour him,' replied Ipgreve. "They are so fierce that I scarcely like to venture among them.'

A ladder was then let down into the pit, and the jailor and the two officials descended. They were just in time. Fawkes had ceased to struggle, and the rats were attacking him with such fury that his words would have been speedily verified, but for Ipgreve's timely interposition.

On being taken out of the pit, he fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood; and when he came to himself, found he was stretched upon a couch in the torture-chamber, with the chirurgeon and Jasper Ipgreve in attendance. Strong broths, and other restoratives, were then administered; and his strength being sufficiently restored to enable him to converse, the lieutenant again visited him, and questioning him as before, received a similar answer.

In the course of that day and the next, he underwent at intervals various kinds of torture, each more excruciating than the preceding, all of which he bore with unabated fortitude. Among other applications, the rack was employed with such rigour, that his joints started from their sockets, and his frame seemed torn asunder.

On the fourth day, he was removed to another and yet gloomier chamber, devoted to the same dreadful objects as the first. It had an arch stone ceiling, and at the further extremity yawned a deep recess. Within this there was a small furnace, in which fuel was placed ready to be kindled, and over the furnace lay a large black flag, at either end of which were stout leathern straps. After being subjected to the customary interrogations of the lieutenant, Fawkes was stripped of his attire, and bound to the flag. The fire was then lighted, and the stone gradually heated. The writhing frame of the miserable man ere long showed the extremity of his sufferings, but as he did not even utter a groan, his tormentors were compelled to release him.

On this occasion, there were two personages present who had never attended any previous interrogation. They were wrapped in large cloaks, and stood aloof during the proceedings. Both were treated with the most ceremonious respect by Sir William Waad, who consulted them as to the extent to which he should continue

the torture. When the prisoner was taken off the heated stone, one of those persons advanced towards him, and gazed curiously at him.

Fawkes, upon whose brow thick drops were standing, and who was sinking into the oblivion brought on by overwrought endurance, exclaimed, 'It is the King,' and fainted.

'The traitor knew your Majesty,' said the lieutenant. But you see it is in vain to attempt to extort anything from him.'

'So it seems,' replied James, and I am greatly disappointed, for I was led to believe that I should hear a full confession of the conspiracy from his own lips. How say you, good master chirurgeon, will he endure further torture?'


'Not without danger of life, your Majesty, unless he has some days' repose,' replied the chirurgeon, even if he can endure it then.' 'It will not be necessary to apply it further,' replied Salisbury. 'I am now in full possession of the names of all the principal conspirators, and when the prisoner finds further concealment useless, he will change his tone. To-morrow, the commissioners appointed by your Majesty for the examination of all those concerned in this dreadful project, will interrogate him in the lieutenant's lodgings, and I will answer with my life that the result will be satisfactory.'

'Enough,' said James. It has been a painful spectacle, which we have just witnessed, and yet we would not have missed it. The wretch possesses undaunted resolution, and we can never be sufficiently grateful to the beneficent Providence that prevented him from working his ruthless purpose upon us. The day on which we were preserved from this Gunpowder Treason shall ever hereafter be kept sacred in our Church, and thanks shall be returned to Heaven for our wonderful deliverance.'

"Your Majesty will act wisely,' replied Salisbury. The ordinance will impress the nation with a salutary horror of all Papists and traitors, for they are one and the same thing, and keep alive a proper feeling of enmity against them. Such a fearful example shall be made of these miscreants as shall, it is to be hoped, deter all others from following their cause. Not only shall they perish infamously, but their names shall for ever be held in execration.'

'Be it so,' rejoined James. It is a good legal maxim-Crescente malitiâ, crescere debuit et pæna.'

Upon this, he left the chamber, and, traversing a number of subterranean passages with his attendants, crossed the draw-bridge near the Byward Tower to the wharf, where his barge was waiting for him, and returned in it to Whitehall.

At an early hour in the following day, the commissioners appointed to the examination of the prisoner met together in a large room on the second floor of the lieutenant's lodgings, afterwards denominated, from its use on this occasion, the

Council Chamber. Affixed to the walls of this room may be seen at the present day a piece of marble sculpture, with an inscription commemorative of the event. The commissioners were nine in number, and included the Earls of Salisbury, Northampton, Nottingham, Suffolk, Worcester, Devon, Marr, and Dunbar, and Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice. With these were associated Sir Edward Coke, attorney-general, and Sir William Waad.

The apartment in which the examination took place is still a spacious one, but at the period in question it was much larger and loftier. The walls were panelled with dark lustrous oak, covered in some places with tapestry, and adorned in others with paintings. Over the chimney-piece hung a portrait of the late sovereign, Elizabeth. The commissioners were grouped round a large heavily carved oak table, and, after some deliberation together, it was agreed that the prisoner should be introduced.

Sir William Waad then motioned to Topcliffe, who was in attendance with half-a-dozen halberdiers, and a few moments afterwards a panel was pushed aside, and Guy Fawkes was brought through it. He was supported by Topcliffe and Ipgreve, and it was with the greatest difficulty he could drag himself along. So severe had been the sufferings to which he had been subjected, that they had done the work of time, and 'placed more than twenty years on his head. His features were thin and sharp, and of a ghastly whiteness, and his eyes hollow and bloodshot. A large cloak was thrown over him, which partially concealed his shattered frame and crippled limbs; but his bent shoulders, and the difficulty with which he moved, told how much he had undergone.

On seeing the presence in which he stood, a flush for a moment rose to his pallid cheek, his eye glowed with its wonted fire, and he tried to stand erect-but his limbs refused their office-and the effort was so painful, that he fell back into the arms of his attendants. He was thus borne forward by them, and supported during his examination. The Earl of Salisbury then addressed him, and enlarging on the magnitude and horrible nature of his treason, concluded by saying that the only reparation he could offer was to disclose not only all his own criminal intentions, but the names of his associates.

'I will hide nothing concerning myself,' replied Fawkes; but I shall be for ever silent respecting others.'

The Earl then glanced at Sir Edward Coke, who proceeded to take down minutes of the examination.

'You have hitherto falsely represented yourself,' said the Earl. 'What is your real name?'

Guy Fawkes,' replied the prisoner.

'And do you confess your guilt?' pursued the Earl.

'I admit that it was my intention to blow up the King and the whole of the lords spiritual and temporal assembled in the Parliament House with gunpowder,' replied Fawkes.

" And you placed the combustibles in the vault where they were discovered?' demanded Salisbury.

The prisoner answered in the affirmative.

'You are a papist ?' continued the Earl.

'I am a member of the Church of Rome,' returned Fawkes.

And you regard this monstrous design as righteous and laudable -as consistent with the religion you profess, and as likely to up. hold it?' said the Earl.

'I did so,' replied Fawkes.

But I am now convinced that Heaven did not approve it, and I lament that it was ever undertaken.' 'Still you refuse to make the only reparation in your power-you refuse to disclose your associates?' said Salisbury.

'I cannot betray them,' replied Fawkes.


'Traitor! it is needless,' cried the Earl; they are known to us— nay, they have betrayed themselves. They have risen in open and armed rebellion against the King; but a sufficient power has been sent against them; and if they are not ere this defeated and captured, many days will not elapse before they will be lodged in the Tower.'

'If this is the case, you require no information from me,' rejoined Fawkes. 'But I pray you name them to me.'


'I will do so,' replied Salisbury; and if I have omitted any, you can supply the deficiency. I will begin with Robert Catesby, the chief contriver of this hell-engendered plot,-I will next proceed to the superior of the Jesuits, Father Garnet,-next, to another Jesuit priest, Father Oldcorne,-next, to Sir Everard Digby,-then, to Thomas Winter and Robert Winter, then, to John Wright and Christopher Wright,-then to Ambrose Rookwood, Thomas Percy, and John Grant,-and lastly, to Robert Keyes.'

'Are these all?' demanded Fawkes.

'All we are acquainted with,' said Salisbury.

Then add to them the names of Francis Tresham, and of his brother-in-law, Lord Mounteagle,' rejoined Fawkes. 'I charge both with being privy to the plot.'

'I have forgotten another name,' said Salisbury, in some confu. sion, that of Viviana Radcliffe, of Ordsall Hall. I have received certain information that she was wedded to you while you were resident at White Webbs, near Epping Forest, and was cognisant of the plot. If captured, she will share your fate.'

Fawkes could not repress a groan.

Salisbury pursued his interrogations, but it was evident from the increasing feebleness of the prisoner, that he would sink under it if the examination was further protracted. He was

« PreviousContinue »