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AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE.
BY W. HARRISON AINSWORTH, ESQ.
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
BOOK THE SECOND.
THE FLIGHT OF THE CONSPIRATORS.
On the same night, and at the same hour that Guy Fawkes was captured, the other conspirators held their rendezvous in Lincoln's Inn Walks. A presentiment of the fate awaiting them filled the breasts of all, and even Catesby shared in the general depression. Plan after plan was proposed, and, as soon as proposed, rejected; and they seemed influenced only by alarm and irresolution. Feeling, at length, that nothing could be done, and that they were only increasing their risk by remaining together longer, they agreed to separate, appointing to meet at the same place on the following night, if their project should not, in the interim, be discovered.
'Before daybreak,' said Catesby, 'I will proceed to the cellar under the Parliament House, and ascertain whether anything has happened to Guy Fawkes. My heart misgives me about him, and I reproach myself that I have allowed him to incur this peril alone.'
'Guy Fawkes is arrested,' said a voice near them, and is at this moment under examination before the King.'
It is Tresham who speaks,' cried Catesby; 'secure him.'
The injunction was instantly obeyed. Tresham was seized, and several weapons pointed against his breast. He did not, however, appear to be dismayed, but so far as could be discerned in the obscurity, seemed to maintain great boldness of demeanour.
'I have again ventured among you at the hazard of my life,' he said, in a firm tone, 'to give you this most important intelligence; and am requited, as I have ever been of late, with menaces and violence. Stab me, and see whether my death will avail you in this extremity. I am in equal danger with yourselves, and whether I perish by your hands, or by those of the executioner, is of little moment.'
'Let me question him before we avenge ourselves upon him,' said Catesby to Rookwood. 'How do you know that Guy Fawkes is a prisoner.'
'I saw him taken,' replied Tresham, 'and esteem myself singularly fortunate that I escaped the same fate. Though excluded from further share in the project, I could not divest myself of a strong
desire to know how matters were going on, and I resolved to visit the cellar secretly at midnight. As I stealthily approached it, I remarked several armed figures beneath a gateway, and conjecturing their purpose, instantly concealed myself behind a projection of the wall. I had not been in this situation many minutes, when the cellar door opened, and Guy Fawkes issued from it.'
'Well!' cried Catesby, breathlessly.
The party I had noticed immediately rushed forward, and secured him before he could offer any resistance,' continued Tresham. After a brief struggle, certain of their number dragged him into the cellar, while others kept watch without. I should now have flown, but my limbs refused their office, and I was therefore compelled, however reluctantly, to see the end of it. In a short time Guy Fawkes was brought forth again, and I heard some one in authority give directions that he should be instantly taken to Whitehall, to be interrogated before the King and the Privy Council. He was then led away, and a guard placed at the door of the cellar. Feeling certain I should be discovered, I continued for some time in an agony of ap. prehension, not daring to stir. But, at length, summoning up sufficient resolution, I crept cautiously along the side of the wall, and got off unperceived. My first object was to warn you.'
'How did you become acquainted with our place of rendezvous?' demanded the elder Wright.
'I overheard you, at our last interview at White Webbs, appoint a midnight meeting in this place,' replied Tresham, and I hurried hither in the hope of finding you, and have not been disappointed.'
'When I give the word, plunge your swords into his breast,' said Catesby, in a low tone.
'Hold!' cried Percy, taking him aside. 'If we put him to death in this spot, his body will be found, and his slaughter may awaken suspicions against us. Guy Fawkes will reveal nothing.'
'Of that I am well assured,' said Catesby. 'Shall we take the traitor with us to some secure retreat, where we can detain him till we learn what takes place at the palace, and if we find he has betrayed us, despatch him?'
'That would answer no good purpose,' returned Percy. 'The sooner we are rid of him the better. We can then deliberate as to what is best to be done.'
'You are right,' rejoined Catesby. If he has betrayed us, life will be a burthen to him, and the greatest kindness we could render him would be to rid him of it. Let him go. Tresham,' he added, in a loud voice, 'you are free. But we meet no more.' 'We have not parted yet,' cried the traitor, springing backwards, and uttering a loud cry. I arrest you all in the King's name.'
The signal was answered by a band of soldiers, who emerged from
behind the trees where they had hitherto been concealed, and instantly surrounded the conspirators.
'It is now my turn to threaten,' laughed Tresham.
Catesby replied by drawing a petronel, and firing it in the supposed direction of the speaker. But he missed his mark. The ball lodged in the brain of a soldier who was standing beside him, and the ill-fated wretch fell to the ground.
A desperate conflict now ensued. Topcliffe, who commanded the assailing party, ordered his followers to take the conspirators alive, and it was mainly owing to this injunction that the latter were indebted for their safety. Whispering his directions to his companions, Catesby gave the word, and making a simultaneous rush forward, they broke through the opposing ranks, and instantly dispersing, and favoured by the gloom, they baffled pursuit.
'We have failed in this part of our scheme,' said Tresham to Topcliffe, as they met half an hour afterwards. 'What is to be done?'
'We must take the Earl of Salisbury's advice upon it,' returned Topcliffe. I shall now hasten to Whitehall to see how Guy Fawkes's interrogation proceeds, and will communicate with his lordship.'
Upon this, they separated.
None of the conspirators met again that night. Each fled in a different direction, and, ignorant of what had happened to the rest, sought some secure retreat. Catesby ran towards Chancery Lane, and passing through a narrow alley, entered the large gardens which then lay between this thoroughfare and Fetter Lane. Listening to hear whether he was pursued, and finding nothing to alarm him, he threw himself on the sod beneath a tree, and was lost in painful reflection.
'All my fair schemes are marred by that traitor, Tresham,' he muttered. 'I could forgive myself for being duped by him, if I had slain him when he was in my power. But that he should escape to exult in our ruin, and reap the reward of his perfidy, afflicts me even more than failure.'
Tortured by thoughts like these, and in vain endeavouring to snatch such brief repose as would fit him for the fatigue he might have to endure on the morrow, he did not quit his position till late in the morning of a dull November day-it was, as will be recollected, the memorable Fifth-had arrived.
He then arose, and slouching his hat, and wrapping his cloak around him, shaped his course towards Fleet Street. From the knots of persons gathered together at different corners,-from their muttered discourse and mysterious looks, as well as from the general excitement that prevailed-he felt sure that some rumour of the plot had gone abroad. Shunning observation as much as he could, he entered a small tavern near Fleet Bridge, and called for a flask of wine and some food. While dis