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busied themselves in seeing the wants of their followers attended to, and such a change was effected by good fare and a few hours' repose, that the spirits of the whole party revived, and confidence was once more restored. A slight damp, however, was again thrown upon the satisfaction of the leaders by the return of Thomas Winter and Stephen Littleton from Grafton. Their mission had proved wholly unsuccessful. Mr. Talbot had not merely refused to join them, but had threatened to detain them.
'He says we deserve the worst of deaths,' observed Thomas Winter, in conclusion, and that we have irretrievably injured the Catholic cause.'
'And I begin to fear he speaks the truth,' rejoined Christopher Wright. However, for us there is no retreat.'
'None whatever,' rejoined Catesby, in a sombre tone.
choose between death upon the battle-field, or on the scaffold.' The former be my fate,' cried Percy.
'And mine,' added Catesby.
An anxious and perturbed night was passed by the conspirators, and many a plan was proposed and abandoned. It had been arranged among them that they should each in succession make the rounds of the place, to see that the sentinels were at their posts,-strict orders having been given to the latter to fire upon whomsoever might attempt to fly,-but as Catesby, despite his great previous fatigue, was unable to rest, he took this duty chiefly upon himself.
Returning at midnight from an examination of the court-yard, he was about to enter the house, when he perceived before him a tall figure with a cloak muffled about its face, standing in his path. It was perfectly motionless, and Catesby, who carried a lantern in his hand, threw the light upon it, but it neither moved forward, nor altered its position. Catesby would have challenged it, but an undefinable terror seized him, and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. An idea rose to his mind that it was the spirit of Guy Fawkes, and by a powerful effort he compelled himself to address it. 'Are you come to warn me ?' he demanded.
The figure moved in acquiescence, and withdrawing the cloak, revealed features of ghastly paleness, but resembling those of Fawkes.
'Have I long to live?' demanded Catesby.
The figure shook its head.
'Shall I fall to-morrow?' pursued Catesby.
The figure again made a gesture in the negative.
'The next day?'
Solemnly inclining its head, the figure once more muffled its ghastly visage in its cloak, and melted from his view.
For some time, Catesby remained in a state almost of stupefaction. He then summoned up all the resolution of his nature, and
instead of returning to the house, continued to pace to and fro in the court, and at last walked forth into the garden. It was profoundly dark, and he had not advanced many steps when he suddenly encountered a man. Repressing the exclamation that rose to his lips, he drew a petronel from his belt, and waited till the person addressed him.
'Is it you, Sir John Foliot?' asked a voice, which he instantly recognized as that of Topclifie.
'Ay,' replied Catesby in a low tone.
'Did you manage to get into the house?' pursued Topcliffe. 'I did,' returned Catesby; 'but speak lower. There is a sentinel within a few paces of us. Come this way.'
And grasping the other's arm, he drew him further down the walk. 'Do you think we may venture to surprise them?' demanded Topcliffe.
'Hum!' exclaimed Catesby, hesitating, in the hope of inducing the other to betray his design.
'Or shall we wait the arrival of Sir Richard Walsh, the sheriff of Worcestershire, and the posse comitatus?' pursued Topcliffe.
'How soon, do you think, the Sheriff will arrive?' asked Catesby, scarcely able to disguise his anxiety.
'He cannot be here before daybreak-if so soon,' returned Topcliffe, and then we shall have to besiege the house, and though I have no fear of the result, yet some of the conspirators may fall in the skirmish; and my orders from the Earl of Salisbury, as I have already apprised you, are, to take them alive.'
'True,' replied Catesby.
'I would not for twice the reward I shall receive for the capture of the whole party, that that desperate traitor, Catesby, should be slain,' continued Topcliffe. The plot was contrived by him, and the extent of its ramifications can alone be ascertained through him.'
"I think I can contrive their capture,' observed Catesby; 'but the utmost caution must be used. I will return to the house, and find out where the chief conspirators are lodged. I will then throw open the door, and will return to this place, where you can have our men assembled. If we can seize and secure the leaders, the rest will be easy.'
'You will run great risk, Sir John,' said Topcliffe, with affected
'Heed not that,' replied Catesby. You may expect me in a few minutes. Get together your men as noiselessly as you can.'
With this he hastily withdrew.
On returning to the house, he instantly roused his companions, and acquainted them with what had occurred.
'My object,' he said, 'is to make Topcliffe a prisoner. We may
obtain much useful information from him. As to the others, if they offer resistance, we will put them to death.'
What force have they?' asked Sir Everard Digby, with some uneasiness.
'It is impossible to say precisely,' replied Catesby; 'but not more than a handful of men I should imagine, as they are waiting for Sir Richard Walsh.'
'I know not what may be the issue of this matter,' observed Robert Winter, whose looks were unusually haggard; but I have had a strange and ominous dream, which fills me with apprehension.'
'Indeed!' exclaimed Catesby, upon whose mind the recollection of the apparition he had beheld, rushed.
'Catesby,' pursued Robert Winter, taking him aside, ‘if you have any sin unrepented of, I counsel you to make your peace with Heaven, for I fear you are not long for this world.'
'It may be so,' rejoined Catesby, firmly, and I have many dark and damning sins upon my soul, but I will die as I have lived, firm and unshaken to the last. And now, let us prepare for our foes.'
So saying, he proceeded to call up the trustiest of his men, and enjoining profound silence upon them, disposed them in various places, that they might instantly appear at his signal. After giving them other directions, he returned to the garden, and coughed slight ly. He was answered by a quickly-approaching footstep, and a voice demanded,
'Are you there, Sir John?'
Catesby answered in a low tone in the affirmative.
Come forward, then,' rejoined Topcliffe.
As he spoke there was a rush of persons towards the spot, and seizing Catesby, he cried, in a triumphant tone, while he unmasked a lantern, and threw its light full upon his face,
'You are caught in your own trap, Mr. Catesby. You are my prisoner.'
'Not so, villain,' cried Catesby, disengaging himself by a powerful effort.
Springing backwards, he drew his sword, and making the blade describe a circle round his body, effected his retreat in safety, though a dozen shots were fired at him. Leaping the garden wall, he was instantly surrounded by the other conspirators, and the greater part of the band, who, hearing the reports of the fire-arms, had hurried to the spot. Instantly putting himself at their head, Catesby returned to the garden; but Topcliffe and his party had taken the alarm and fled. Torches were brought, and by Catesby's directions a large heap of dry stubble was set on fire. But, though the flames revealed every object for a considerable distance around them, no traces of the hostile party could be discerned.
After continuing their ineffectual search for some time, the con
spirators returned to the house, and abandoning all idea of retiring to rest, kept strict watch during the remainder of the night. Little conversation took place. All were deeply depressed; and Catesby paced backwards and forwards within a passage leading from the hall to the dining-chamber. His thoughts were gloomy enough, and he retraced the whole of his wild and turbulent career, pondering upon its close, which, he could not disguise from himself, was at hand.
'It matters not,' he mentally ejaculated; 'I shall not die ignominiously, and I would rather perish in the vigour of manhood, than linger out a miserable old age. I have striven hard to achieve a great enterprise, and having failed, have little else to live for. This band cannot hold together two days longer. Our men will desert us, or turn upon us to obtain the price set upon our heads. And were they true, I have little reliance upon my companions. They have no longer the confidence that can alone insure success, and I expect each moment some one will propose a surrender. Surrender! I will never do so with life. Something must be done-something worthy of me-and then let me perish. I have ever prayed to die a soldier's death.'
As he uttered these words unconsciously aloud, he became aware of the presence of Robert Winter, who stood at the end of the passage watching him.
'Your prayer will not be granted, Catesby,' said the latter. 'Some dreadful doom, I fear, is reserved for you and all of us.'
'What mean you?' demanded the other, uneasily.
'Listen to me,' replied Robert Winter. 'I told you I had a strange and appalling dream to-night, and I will now relate it. I thought I was in a boat upon the river Thames, when all at once the day which had been bright and smiling, became dark and overcast-not dark like the shades of night, but gloomy and ominous, as when the sun is shrouded by an eclipse. I looked around, and every object was altered. The tower of St. Paul's stood awry, and seemed ready to topple down-so did the spires and towers of all the surrounding fanes. The houses on London Bridge leaned frightfully over the river, and the habitations lining its banks on either side, seemed shaken to their foundations. I fancied some terrible earthquake must have occurred, or that the end of the world was at hand.'
'Go on,' said, Catesby, who had listened with profound attention to the relation.
'The stream, too, changed its colour,' continued Robert Winter, and became red as blood; and the man who rowed my boat was gone, and his place occupied by a figure masked and habited like an executioner. I commanded him to row me ashore, and in an instant the bark shot to land, and I sprang out, glad to be liberated from my mysterious conductor. My steps involuntarily led me toward the
cathedral; and on entering it I found its pillars, shrines, monuments, and roof hung with black. The throng that ever haunt Paul's Walk had disappeared, and a few dismal figures alone traversed the aisles. On approaching them I recognized, in their swollen, death-like, and blackened lineaments, some resemblance to you and our friends. I was about to interrogate them, when I was awakened by yourself.'
'A strange dream, truly,' observed Catesby, musingly, and, coupled with what I myself have seen to-night, would seem to bode evil.' And he then proceeded to describe the supernatural appearance he had beheld to his companion.
All is over with us,' rejoined Robert Winter. We must prepare to meet our fate.'
'We must meet it like men-like brave men, Robert,' replied Catesby. We must not disgrace ourselves and our cause.'
'You are right,' rejoined Robert Winter; but these visions are more terrible than the contemplation of death itself.'
If you require further rest, take it,' returned Catesby. In an hour I shall call up our men, and march to Hewel Grange.'
'I am wearied enough,' replied Robert Winter, but I dare not close my eyes again.'
Then recommend your soul to Heaven,' said Catesby. I would be alone. Melancholy thoughts press upon me, and I desire to unburden my heart to God.'
Robert Winter then left him, and he withdrew into a closet where there was an image of the Virgin, and kneeling before it, prayed long and fervently. Arising in a calmer frame of mind, he returned to the hall, and summoning his companions and followers, their horses were brought forth, and they commenced their march.
It was about four o'clock when they started, and so dark, that they had some difficulty in finding the road. They proceeded at a slow pace, and with the utmost caution; but notwithstanding this, and though the two Winters and Grant, who were well acquainted with the country, led the way, many trifling delays and disasters occurred. Their baggage-cart frequently stuck fast in the deep ruts, while the men, missing their way, got into the trenches skirting the lane, and were not unfrequently thrown from their horses. More than once, too, the alarm was given that they were pursued, and a sudden halt ordered; but these apprehensions proved groundless; and, after a most fatiguing ride, they found themselves at Stoke Prior, and within two miles of Hewel Grange.
Originally built in the early part of the reign of Henry the Eighth, and granted, by that monarch, to an ancestor of its present possessor, Lord Windsor, this ancient mansion was quadrangular in form, and surrounded by a broad deep fosse. Situated in the heart of an extensive park, at the foot of a gentle hill, it was now approached from the brow of the latter beautiful eminence by the rebel party. But