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AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE.
BY W. HARRISON AINSWORTH, ESQ.
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
BOOK THE SECOND.
VIVIANA, as has already been intimated, after her capture at the house at Lambeth, was conveyed to the Star-chamber. Here she was detained until a late hour on the following day, when she underwent a long and rigorous examination by certain members of the Privy Council, who were summoned for that purpose by the Earl of Salisbury. Throughout this arduous trial she maintained the utmost composure, and never for a single moment lost her firmness. On all occasions, her matchless beauty and dignity produced the strongest impression on the beholders; but on no occasion had they ever produced so strong an effect as the present. Her features were totally destitute of bloom, but their very paleness, contrasted as it was with her large dark eyes, which blazed with unwonted brilliancy, as well as with her jet-black hair, so far from detracting from her loveliness, appeared to add to it.
As she was brought before the Council, who were seated round a table, and remained standing at a short distance from them, guarded by Topcliffe and two halberdiers, a murmur of admiration pervaded the group-nor was this feeling lessened as the examination proceeded. Once, when the Earl of Salisbury adverted to the unworthy position in which she, the daughter of the proud and loyal Sir William Radcliffe, had placed herself, a shade passed over her brow, and a slight convulsion agitated her frame. But the next moment she recovered herself, and said,
'However circumstances may appear against me, and whatever opinion your lordships may entertain of my conduct, the King has not a more loyal subject than myself, nor have any of you made greater efforts to avert the danger by which he is threatened.' 'Then you admit that his Majesty is in danger ?' cried the Earl of Salisbury, eagerly.
'You cannot expect us to believe your assertion,' replied the 'unless you approve it by declaring all you know touching this conspiracy.'
'I admit nothing,' replied Viviana. But I affirm that I am his true and loyal subject.'
'I have already told you, my lord,' she returned, 'that my lips are sealed on that subject.'
'You disclaim, then, all knowledge of a plot against the King's life, and against his government?' pursued Salisbury.
Viviana shook her head.
'You refuse to give up the names of your companions, or to reveal their intentions ?' continued the Earl.
'I do,' she answered firmly.
'Your obstinacy will not save them,' rejoined the Earl in a severe tone, and after a brief pause. 'Their names and their atrocious designs are known to us.'
If such be the case,' replied Viviana, 'why interrogate me on the subject?'
'Because-but it is needless to give a reason for the course which justice requires me to pursue,' returned the Earl. You are implicated in this plot, and nothing can save you from condign punishment but a frank and full confession.'
'Nothing can save me then, my lord,' replied Viviana, 'but Heaven knows I shall perish unjustly.
A consultation was then held by the lords of the council, who whispered together for a few minutes. Viviana regarded them anxiously, but suffered no expression of uneasiness to escape her. As they again turned towards her, she saw from their looks, some of which exhibited great commiseration for her, that they had come to a decision (she could not doubt what!) respecting her fate. Her heart stopped beating, and she could scarcely support herself. Such, however, was the control she exercised over herself that, though filled with terror, her demeanour remained unaltered. She was not long kept in suspense. Fixing his searching gaze upon her, the Earl of Salisbury observed in a severe tone,
'Viviana Radcliffe, I ask you for the last time whether you will avow the truth?'
No answer was returned.
'I will not disguise from you,' continued the Earl, 'that your youth, your beauty, your constancy, and, above all, your apparent innocence, have deeply interested me, as well as the other noble persons here assembled to interrogate you, and who would willingly save you from the sufferings you will necessarily undergo, from a mistaken fidelity to the heinous traitors with whom you are so unhappily leagued. I would give you time to reflect, did I think the delay would answer any good purpose. I would remind you that no oath of secrecy, however solemn, can be binding in an unrighteous cause. I would tell you that your first duty is to your prince and governor, and that it is as great a crime, as unpardonable in the eyes of God as of man, to withhold the revelation of a conspiracy against the state, should it come to your knowledge, as to conspire against it yourself. I would lay all this before you. I would show you the magnitude of your offence, the danger in which you stand,
and the utter impossibility of screening your companions, who ere long will be confronted with you-did I think it would avail. But, as you continue obstinate, justice must take its course.'
I am prepared for the worst, my lord,' replied Viviana, humbly. 'I thank your lordships for your consideration: but I take you all to witness that I profess the utmost loyalty and devotion for my sovereign, and that, whatever may be my fate, those feelings will remain unchanged to the last.'
Your manner and your words are so sincere, that, were not your conduct at variance with them, they might convince us,' returned the Earl. As it is, even if we could credit your innocence, we are bound to act as if you were guilty. You will be committed to the Tower till his Majesty's pleasure is known. And I grieve to add, if you still continue obstinate, the severest measures will be resorted to to extract the truth from you.'
As he concluded he attached his signature to a warrant which was lying on the table before him, and traced a few lines to Sir William Waad, lieutenant of the Tower.
This done, he handed the papers to Topcliffe, and waving his hand, Viviana was removed to the chamber in which she had been previously confined, and where she was detained under a strict guard, until Topcliffe, who had left her, returned to say that all was in readiness, and bidding her follow him, led the way to the river-side, where a wherry, manned by six rowers, was waiting for them.
The night was profoundly dark, and, as none of the guard carried torches, their course was steered in perfect obscurity. But the rowers were too familiar with the river to require the guidance of light. Shooting the bridge in safety, and pausing only for a moment to give the signal of their approach to the sentinels on the ramparts, they passed swiftly under the low-browed arch of Traitor's Gate.
THE JAILOR's daughter.
As Viviana set foot on those fatal stairs, which so many have trod, and none without feeling that they took their first step towards the scaffold, she involuntarily shrank backward. But it was now too late to retreat; and she surrendered her hand to Topcliffe, who assisted her up the steps. Half-a-dozen men-at-arms, with a like number of warders bearing torches, were present; and as it was necessary that Topcliffe should deliver his warrant into Sir William Waad's own hands, he committed his prisoner to the warders, with instructions to them to take her to the guard-room near,the By-ward Tower, while he proceeded to the lieutenant's lodgings.
It was the first time Viviana had beheld the terrible pile ir which she was immured, though she was well acquainted with its history, and with the persecutions which many of the professors of her faith
had endured within it during the recent reign of Elizabeth; and as the light of the torches flashed upon the grey walls of the Bloody Tower, and upon the adjoining ramparts, all the dreadful tales she had heard rushed to her recollection. But having recovered the first shock, the succeeding impressions were powerless in comparison, and she accompanied the warders to the guard-room without expressing any outward emotion. Here a seat was offered her, and as the men considerately withdrew, she was able to pursue her reflections unmolested. They were sad enough, and it required all her firmness to support her.
When considering what was likely to befall her in consequence of her adherence to the fortunes of Fawkes and his companions, she had often pictured some dreadful situation like the present, but the reality far exceeded her worst anticipations. She had deemed herself equal to any emergency, but as she thought upon the dark menaces of the Earl of Salisbury, she felt it would require greater fortitude than she had hitherto displayed to bear her through her trial. Nor were her meditations entirely confined upon herself. While trembling for the perilous situation of Guy Fawkes, she reproached herself that she could not requite, even in thought, the passionate devotion of Humphrey Chetham.
'What matters it now,' she thought, that I cannot love him? I shall soon be nothing to hin, or to any one. And yet I feel I have done him wrong, and that I should be happier if I could requite his attachment. But the die is cast. It is too late to repent, or to retreat. My heart acquits me of having been influenced by any unworthy motive, and I will strive to endure the keenest pang without a murmur.'
Shortly after this, Topcliffe returned with Sir William Waad. On their entrance, Viviana arose, and the lieutenant eyed her with some curiosity. He was a middle-aged man, tall, stoutly-built, and having harsh features, stamped with an expression of mingled cunning and ferocity. His eyes had a fierce and bloodthirsty look, and were overshadowed by thick and scowling brows. Saluting the captive with affected courtesy, he observed,
'So you refuse to answer the interrogations of the Privy Council, madam, I understand. I am not sorry for it, because I would have the merit of wringing the truth from you. Those who have been most stubborn outside these walls, have been the most yielding within them.'
'That will not be my case,' replied Viviana, coldly.
'We shall see,' returned the lieutenant, with a significant glance at Topcliffe.
Ordering her to follow him, he then proceeded along the ward in the direction of the Bloody Tower, and passing beneath its arched gateway, ascended the steps on the left, and led her to his lodgings.
Entering the habitation, he mounted to the upper story, and tracking a long gallery, brought her to a small circular chamber in the Bell Tower. Its sole furniture were a chair, a table, and a couch.
'Here you will remain for the present,' observed the lieutenant, smiling grimly, and placing a lamp on the table. It will depend upon yourself whether your accommodations are better hereafter.' With this, he quitted the cell with his attendants, and barred the door outside.
Left alone, Viviana, who had hitherto restrained her anguish, suffered it to find vent in tears. Never had she felt so utterly forlorn and desolate. All before her was threatening and terrible, full of dangers real and imaginary; nor could she look back upon her past career without something like remorse.
'Oh that Heaven would take me to itself!' she murmured, clasping her hands in an agony of distress, for I feel unequal to my trials. Oh! that I had perished with my dear father! For what dreadful fate am I reserved ?-Torture,-I will bear it, if I can. But death by the hands of the public executioner,-it is too horrible to think of! Is there no way to escape that?'
As this hideous thought occurred to her, she uttered a loud and prolonged scream, and fell senseless on the floor. When she recovered it was daylight; and, weak and exhausted, she crept to the couch, and throwing herself upon it, endeavoured to forget her misery in sleep. But, as is usually the case with the afflicted, it fled her eyelids, and she passed several hours in the severest mental torture, unrelieved by a single cheering thought.
About the middle of the day, the door of the cell was opened by an old woman with a morose and forbidding countenance, attended by a younger female, who resembled her in all but the expression of her features, (her look was gentle and compassionate,) and who appeared to be her daughter.
Without paying any attention to Viviana, the old woman took a small loaf of bread and other provisions from a basket she had brought with her, and placed them on the table. This done, she was about to depart, when her daughter, who had glanced uneasily at the couch, observed in a kindly tone,
'Shall we not inquire whether we can be of service to the poor young lady, mother?'
'Why should we concern ourselves about her, Ruth?' returned the old woman, sharply. 'If she wants anything, she has a tongue, and can speak. If she desires further comforts,' she added, in a significant tone, 'they must be paid for.'
'I desire nothing but death,' groaned Viviana.
'The poor soul is dying, I believe,' cried Ruth, rushing to the
couch. 'Have you no cordial-water about you, mother?'
Truly have I,' returned the old woman; things besides. But I must be paid for them.'
and I have other