« PreviousContinue »
As she spoke, she drew from her pocket a small, square, Dutchshaped bottle.
Give it me,' cried Ruth, snatching it from her. I am sure the young lady will pay for it.'
• You are very kind,' said Viviana faintly. “But I have no means of doing so,'
• I knew it ! cried the old woman, fiercely. • I knew it. Give me back the flask, Ruth. She shall not taste a drop. Do you not hear she has no money, wench. Give it me, I say.'
Nay, mother, for pity's sake,' implored Ruth. ‘Pity, forsooth !' exclaimed the old woman, derisively. “If I and thy father, Jasper Ipgreve, had any such feeling, it would be high time for him to give up his post of jailor in the Tower of London. Pity for a poor prisoner! Thou a jailor's daughter, and
I am ashamed of thee, wench. But I thought this was a rich Catholic heiress, and had powerful and wealthy friends.'
"So she is,' replied Ruth; and though she may have no money with her now, she can command any amount she pleases. I heard Master Topcliffe tell young Nicholas Hardesty, the warder, so. She is the daughter of the late Sir William Radcliffe, of Ordsall Hall in Lancashire, and sole heiress of his vast estates.'
* Is this so, sweet lady ? inquired the old woman, stepping towards the couch. 'Are you truly Sir William Radeliffe's daughter?'
. I am,' replied Viviana. • But I have said I require nothing from you. Leave me.'
No-no, dear young lady,' rejoined Dame Ipgreve, in a whining tone, which was infinitely more disagreeable to Viviana than her previous harshness, 'I cannot leave you in this state. Raise her head, Ruth, while I pour a few drops of the cordial down her throat.'
'I will not taste it,' replied Viviana, putting the flask aside.
"You will find it a sovereign restorative,' replied Dame Ipgreve, with a mortified look ; but as you please.
I will not urge you against your inclination. The provisions I have been obliged to bring you are too coarse for a daintily.nurtured maiden like
you, but you shall have others presently.' ' It is needless,' rejoined Viviana. Pray leave me.'
Well, well, I am going,' rejoined Dame Ipgreve, hesitating. "Do you want to write to any one ? I can find means of conveying a letter secretly out of the Tower.'
Ah !' exclaimed Viviana, raising herself. ' And yet no-no-I dare not trust you.'
• You may,' replied the avaricious old woman, – provided you
pay me well."
• I will think of it,' returned Viviana. • But I have not strength to write now.'
. You must not give way thus,-indeed, you must not, dear lady,
said Ruth, in a voice of great kindness. • It will not be safe to leave you. Suffer me to remain with you.'
Willingly,' replied Viviana ; most willingly.'
go and prepare a nourishing broth for her. Take heed and make a shrewd bargain with her for thy attendance,' she added in a hasty whisper, as she retired.
Greatly relieved by the old woman's departure, Viviana turned to Ruth, and thanked her in the warmest terms for her kindness. A few minutes sufficed to convert the sympathy which these two young persons evidently felt towards each other into affectionate regard, and the jailor's daughter assured Viviana, that so long as she should be detained, she would devote herself to her.
By this time, the old woman had returned with a mess of hot broth, which she carried with an air of great mystery beneath her cloak. Viviana was prevailed upon by the solicitations of Ruth to taste it, and found herself much revived in consequence. Her slight meal ended, Dame Ipgreve departed, with a promise to return in the evening with such viands as she could manage to introduce unob. served, and with a flask of wine.
• You will need it, sweet lady, I fear,' she said ; 'for my husband tells me you are in peril of the torture. Oh! it is a sad thing, that such as you should be so cruelly dealt with! But we will take all the care of you we can. You will not forget to requite us. You must give me an order on your steward, or on some rich Catholic friend. I am half a Papist myself,--that is, I like one religion as well as the other, -and I like those best, whatever their creed may be, who pay best. That is my maxim. And it is the with
my husband. We do all we can to scrape together a penny for our child.'
No more of this, good mother,' interrupted Ruth. "It distresses the lady. I will take care she wants nothing.'
' Right, child, right,' returned Dame Ipgreve ;-'do not forget what I told you,' she added in a whisper.
And she quitted the cell.
Ruth remained with Viviana during the rest of the day, and it was a great consolation to the latter to find that her companion was of the same faith as herself,-having been converted by Father Poole, a Romish priest who was confined in the Tower during the latter part of Elizabeth's reign, and whose sufferings and constancy for his religion had made a powerful impression on the jailor's daughter. As soon as Viviana" ascertained this, she made Ruth, so far as she thought prudent, a confidante in her misfortunes, and after beguiling some hours in conversation, they both knelt down and offered up fervent prayers to the Virgin. Ruth then departed, promising to return in the evening with her mother.
Soon after it became dark, Dame Ipgreve and her daughter re
appeared, the former carrying a lamp, and the latter a basket of provisions. Ruth's countenance was so troubled, that Viviana was certain that some fresh calamity was at hand.
• What is the matter ?' she hastily demanded.
* Make your meal first, dear young lady,' replied Dame Ipgreve. 'Our news might take away your appetite, and you will have to pay for your supper, whether you eat it or not.'
*You alarm me greatly,'cried Viviana, anxiously. What ill news do you bring ?'
'I will not keep you longer in suspense, madam,' said Ruth: “You are to be examined to-night by the lieutenant and certain members of the Privy Council, and if you refuse to answer their questions, I lament to say you will be put to the torture.'
'Heaven give me strength to endure it ! ejaculated Viviana, in a despairing tone.
'Eat, madam, eat,' cried Dame Ipgreve, pressing the viands upon her. "You will never be able to go through with the examination, if you starve yourself in this way.'
Are you sure,' inquired Viviana, appealing to Ruth, that it will take place so soon ?'
Quite sure,' replied Ruth. "My father has orders to attend the lieutenant at midnight.'
'Let me advise you to conceal nothing,' insinuated the old wo. man. •They are determined to wring the truth from you, and they will do so.'
* You are mistaken, good woman,' replied Viviana, firmly. 'I will die before I utter a word.'
You think so now,' returned Dame Ipgreve, maliciously. But the sight of the rack and the thumbscrews will alter your tone. At all events, support nature.'
• No,' replied Viviana ; 'as I do not desire to live, I will use no effort to sustain myself. They may kill me if they please.'
• Misfortune has turned her brain,' muttered the old woman. "[ must take care and secure my dues. Well, madam, if
will not eat the supper I have provided, it cannot be helped. I must find some one who will. You must pay for it all the same. My husband, Jasper Ipgreve, will be present at your interrogation, and I am sure, for my sake, he will use you as lightly as you can. Come, Ruth, you must not remain here longer.'
Oh, let her stay with me, implored Viviana. "I will make it well worth your while to grant me the indulgence.'
What will you give ? cried the old woman, eagerly. But nono-I dare not leave her. The lieutenant may
and find her, and then I should lose my place. Come along, Ruth. She shall attend you after the interrogation, madam. I shall be there myself.'
'Farewell, madam,' sobbed Ruth, who was almost drowned in tears. • Heaven grant you constancy to endure your trial !!
* Be ruled by me,' said the old woman. “Speak out, and secure your own safety.'
She would have continued in the same strain, but Ruth dragged her away. And casting a commiserating glance at Viviana, she closed the door.
The dreadful interval between their departure and midnight was passed by Viviana in fervent prayer. As she heard through the barred embrasure of her dungeon the deep strokes of the clock toll out the hour of twelve, the door opened, and a tall, gaunt personage, habited in a suit of rusty black, and with a large bunch of keys at his girdle, entered the cell. s.;
'You are Jasper Ipgreve ?' said Viviana, rising.
•Right,' replied the jailor. 'I am come to take you before the lieutenant and the council. Are you ready?'
Viviana replied in the affirmative, and Ipgreve quitting the cell, outside which two other officials in sable habiliments were stationed, led the way down a short spiral staircase, which brought them to a narrow vaulted passage. Pursuing it for some time, the jailor halted before a strong door, cased with iron, and, opening it, admitted the captive into a square chamber, the roof of which was supported by a heavy stone pillar, while its walls were garnished with implements of torture. At a table on the left sat the lieutenant and three other grave-looking personages. Across the lower end of the chamber a thick black curtain was stretched, hiding a deep recess; and behind it, as was evident from the glimmer that escaped from its folds, there was a light. Certain indistinct, but ominous sounds, issuing from the recess, proved that there were persons within it, and Viviana's quaking heart told her what was the nature of their proceedings.
She had ample time to survey this dismal apartment, and its occupants, for several minutes elapsed before a word was addressed to her by her interrogators, who continued to confer together in an undertone, as if unconscious of her presence. During this pause, broken only by the ominous sounds before-mentioned, Viviana scanned the countenances of the group at the table, in the hope of discerning in them some glimpses of compassion; but they were inscrutable and inexorable, and scarcely less dreadful to look upon than the hideous implements on the walls.
Viviana wished the earth would open and swallow her, that she might escape from them. Anything was better than to be left at the mercy of such men. At certain times, and not unfrequently at the most awful moments, a double current of thought will flow through the brain, and at this frightful juncture it was so with Viviana. While shuddering at all she saw around her, nay dwelling upon it, another and distinct train of thought led her back to former scenes of happiness, when she was undisturbed by any but remote apprehensions of danger. She thought of her tranquil residence at Ordsall,--of the flowers she had tended in the garden, -of her father,
and of his affection for her,-of Humphrey Chetham, and of her early and scarce acknowledged attachment to him,-and of his generosity and devotion, and how she had requited it. And then, like a sullen cloud darkening the fair prospect, arose the figure of Guy Fawkes—the sombre enthusiast—who had unwittingly exercised such a baneful influence upon her fortunes.
'Had he not crossed my path,' she mentally ejaculated, 'I might have been happy-might have loved Humphrey Chetham--might, perhaps, have wedded him !'
These reflections were suddenly dispersed by the lieutenant, who in a stern tone commenced his interrogations.
As upon her previous examination, Viviana observed the utmost caution, and either refused to speak, or answered such questions only as affected herself. At first, in spite of all her efforts, she trembled violently, and her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth. But after a while, she recovered her courage, and regarded the lieutenant with a look as determined as his own.
• It is useless to urge me farther,' she concluded. 'I have said all I will say.'
'Is it your pleasure, my lords,' observed Sir William Waad to the others, 'to prolong the examination ?'
His companions replied in the negative, and the one nearest him remarked, 'Is she aware what will follow ?'
'I am,' replied Viviana resolutely, “and I am not to be intimidated.'
Sir William Waad then made a sign to Ipgreve, who immediately stepped forward and seized her arm. You will be taken to that recess,' said the lieutenant, where the question will be put to you. But as we shall remain here, you have only to utter a cry, if you are willing to avow the truth, and the torture shall be stayed. And it is our merciful hope that this may be the case.'
Summoning up all her resolution, and walking with a firm footstep, Viviana passed with Ipgreve behind the curtain. She there beheld two men and a woman,—the latter was the jailor's wife, who instantly advanced to her, and besought her to confess.
“There is no help for it, if you refuse,' she urged; 'not all your wealth can save you.'
Mind your own business, dame,' interposed Ipgreve, angrily, and assist her to unrobe.'
Saying this, he stepped aside with the two men, one of whom was the chirurgeon, and the other the tormentor, while Dame Ipgreve helped to take off Viviana's gown. She then tied a scarf over her shoulders, and informed her husband she was ready.
The recess was about twelve feet high, and ten wide. crossed near the roof, which was arched and vaulted, by a heavy beam, with pulleys and ropes at either extremity. But what chiefly attracted the unfortunate captive's attention was a couple of iron gauntlets attached to it, about a yard apart. Upon the ground under