Изображения страниц



[1605. there. He became, however, a zealous Papist; and, having served in the Spanish army in Flanders, acquired some of the Spanish notions of the Christian treatment by which heresy was to be extirpated. Guido Fawkes and Thomas Winter came to London together in 1604; and a few days after there was a remarkable meeting between Catesby, Wright, Winter, Fawkes, and a new malcontent, Thomas Percy, a relation of the earl of Northumberland. From the time of this meeting, at which the first words which Percy uttered, were, "Shall we always, gentlemen, talk, and never do any thing ?"there was abundant work, and very hard work, for these five fanatics.

The confession of Thomas Winter, on the 23rd of November, is a very elaborate paper, minutely detailing the rise and progress of the conspiracy. It is perfectly consistent in its details with the facts derived from other sources; and altogether presents so vivid a picture of the energy and perseverance of these misguided men, that we shall use occasionally its exact words in detailing their proceedings after they were solemnly banded together in their dangerous enterprise. They gave each other an oath of secrecy, a chamber where no other body was ;" and, going "into the next room, heard mass, and received the blessed sacrament upon the same." The object for which the oath was taken was then disclosed by Catesby to Percy, and by Winter and Wright to Fawkes. In the State Paper Office there is an agreement between Thomas Percy and Henry Ferrers, for the hire of a house next the parliament-house. It is dated, May 24th, 1604;-and is endorsed by Salisbury. "The bargain between Ferrers and Percy for the bloody cellar, found in Winter's lodging."* Eighteen months were these five men carrying their terrible secret close in their bosoms; imparting it to very few others; never doubting their own unaided power to produce a revolution by one stunning blow; and, from the very nature of the means they employed, exposed to detection at every step. "The bloody cellar," was not under the parliament chamber. They saw no chance of preparing a mine beneath that chamber, but by breaking through the massive foundation wall of the House of Lords. Fawkes received the keys of the house next the parliament-house; and they were ready for their work previous to the expected meeting of parliament. But the parliament was again prorogued to February, 1605; so they departed to the country for awhile. They then took another house at Lambeth, "where," says Winter, "we might make provision of powder and wood for the mine, which being there made ready, should in a night be conveyed by boat to the house by the parliament, because we were loth to foil that with often going in and out." The charge of this Lambeth house was given to Robert Keyes; who, although sworn as a member of the confederacy, appears to have been received as a trusty honest man," who was ready to earn money for his services. At the beginning of Michaelmas term, 1604, Fawkes and Winter conferred with Catesby in the country, and they agreed "that now was the time to begin and set things in order for the mine." Percy's house was wanted for a meeting of the Commissioners for the Scotch Union. It was an official house; and Percy, its temporary tenant, was obliged to defer his unsuspected proceedings. Percy held the office of a GentlemanPensioner, which may account for the absence of all suspicion as to his

[ocr errors]

* Mrs. Green's "Calendar of State Papers," p. 113.




objects. The conferences of the commissioners were ended a fortnight before Christmas; and then other labours were commenced in right earnest within those walls. Percy and Wright now joined Catesby, Winter, and Fawkes; "and we," says Winter, "against their coming, had provided a good part of the powder; so as we all five entered with tools fit to begin our work, having

[graphic][merged small]

provided ourselves with baked meats, the less to need sending abroad. We entered late in the night." They had to get through a stone wall three yards in thickness. Their labour was far beyond what they had expected; and they sent to Lambeth for Keyes, and obtained the adhesion to their plot of Christopher Wright, the brother of John. Fawkes, with the boldness which characterised him, vindicated himself and his associates from the belief that they were men of low birth and mean employments, to whom such toil was habitual; but that they were "gentlemen of name and blood." In his examination of the 8th of November, he says, "not any was employed in or about this action, no, not so much as in digging or mining, that was not a gentleman. And while the others wrought, I stood a sentinel to descry any man that came near; and when any man came near to the place, upon warning given by me, they ceased until they had again notice from me to proceed. All we seven lay in the house, and had shot and powder; being resolved to die in that place before we should yield or be taken." Father Greenway expresses his surprise that men delicately nurtured should, in a short space of time, have accomplished far more rough work than men who had been bred to laborious occupation would have accomplished. They were enthusiasts. They had little sense of fatigue, in the confidence that they were engaged in a holy work to which they were called by the immediate



[1605. voice of heaven. Whether they were driven on their desperate course by those who claimed to be interpreters of the divine voice must remain to some extent a matter of doubt. They were all followers of the Jesuits. There were none of the conspirators who belonged to the more loyal body of Catholics who were guided by the secular priesthood. The Jesuit missionaries were, at this period, hiding in the secret chambers of old manor-houses to avoid expulsion from the kingdom. But if these seven gentlemen who worked in the mine had been bound together in their atrocious purpose by those who ruled over their consciences, they were at least faithful to their secret advisers. As they worked, they beguiled the time by discoursing about what should be their first proceeding when they had accomplished the sweeping destruction of all the estates of the realm. They were to carry off prince Charles, and his sister Elizabeth, prince Henry having perished with the king. They were then to proclaim the heir-apparent, and appoint a Protector of the kingdom, during the minority of the sovereign. They were to ask help of foreign princes, when "the business was acted." What next they were to do with a state so "out of joint," was not manifest. They were sometimes beset with superstitious fears. They heard a sound from the middle of the wall, as of a tinkling bell. It was an unearthly sound, and was heard no more when holy water had been sprinkled again and again. They did not resume their labours till February, 1605, having learnt that parliament was to be again prorogued. But now their plan of operations was changed. They had "wrought also another fortnight in the mine against the stone wall, which was very hard to beat through," when they heard a rushing noise above their heads. Fawkes, always foremost in any danger, went to ascertain the cause, in his usual disguise of a porter's frock. He found that above the spot where they had been mining was a cellar in the occupation of a coaldealer, and that he was moving his coals, being about to give up possession. That cellar was immediately under the parliament chamber. They seized upon the opportunity. The cellar was hired, and was quickly filled with barrels of gunpowder, covered over with fagots and billets. In May all their stores were carried in, and, locking the cellar, they departed from London. Fawkes went to Flanders to see if any foreign plotting looked promising. Catesby employed the summer in raising a troop of horse, for service in Flanders, as a part of an English regiment levied by the Spanish ambassador. This troop was officered by Catesby's immediate friends. The conspiracy widened by the introduction to its secrets of sir Everard Digby, Ambrose Rookwood, and Francis Tresham. Digby was only twenty-four years of age, and was evidently a weak tool of the Jesuits, whom he secreted in his house. "He cordially joined in the project from religious zeal, as soon as he satisfied himself that the action had been approved by his spiritual advisers.' Rookwood was also a young man, who had been repeatedly prosecuted for harbouring priests in his house. He had scruples about joining in so extensive a scheme of slaughter, saying, "it was a matter of conscience to take away so much blood;" but Catesby silenced him by saying "it had been resolved on good authority that in conscience it might be done." Tresham and Catesby were cousins. Tresham had taken a prominent part

* Mr. Jardine refers to Digby's letters, published in 1678, as evidence of this.




in the Essex conspiracy; and he very narrowly escaped arraignment and execution; for it was he who kept guard over the Lord Keeper in Essex House, and told him that having stayed two years for a motion in Chancery, he hoped his lordship would now be at leisure to hear him. We have seen how Tresham was suspected to have been the author of the letter to lord Mounteagle; and it appears that Catesby had great misgivings of the success of his scheme from the time that Tresham became possessed of its perilous


We now resume our narrative from the point at which we left the bewildered conspirators at Dunchurch, after the seizure of Fawkes. The timid adherents to some vague plan of revolt having departed, and left the bolder spirits to their own resolves, these daring confederates determined at once to march with their armed

retainers, in the hope to excite a general insurrection of Roman Catholics in the midland counties, and in Wales. They set out from Dunchurch at ten o'clock on that same night of the 5th, having despatched a letter to the Jesuit Garnet, who was in the neighbourhood with sir Everard Digby's family. They marched through Warwick, where they helped themselves to horses, on to Alcester; and having seized some armour at lord Windsor's, on Wednesday night they had reached Holbeach, the house of Stephen Littleton, one of their friends. Their numbers were gradually diminished by desertion. Not one man joined them. The Roman Catholic party saw that the odious enterprise would long retard any hope of toleration from the government. The conspirators were pursued by the sheriff of Worcestershire with his posse comitatus. Digby fled from them at Holbeach, and was seized at Dudley; for the hue and cry had gone through the country. Those who remained at Holbeach prepared to defend the house against assault. An accidental circumstance filled them with terrible forebodings-a circumstance which Coke cleverly alluded to, upon the trial of Fawkes and others, as an exemplification of the principle that there is no law more just than that the wicked should perish by their own acts:— "Observe," he said, "a miraculous accident which befel in Stephen Littleton's house called Holbeach, in Staffordshire, after these traitors had been two days in open rebellion, immediately before their apprehension; for some of them standing by the fire-side, and having set two pounds and a half of powder to

Musketeer, 1603.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »