The Life Of A Conspirator Part 11

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[229] Jardine, p. 38.

This intending actor in a very dark deed arrived in dull, stormy, and gloomy weather. Much rain had fallen, and the dead leaves lay wet and dank about the gables and recesses of Gothurst. There were, then, none of the modern arrangements of hot-water pipes, or other contrivances for keeping out the cold in a large stone house, of which luxurious people avail themselves so freely in these days, and the long rooms must have felt chilly, on the October nights, beyond a certain radius from the piles of burning logs in the large open grates.

People talking secrets do not find the family or social circle round the fire a very convenient place in which to interchange their confidences, and Sir Everard Digby and Guy Fawkes had good reason one evening, when supper was ended, for withdrawing to a dark and distant corner to discuss the terrible scheme in which both were so deeply engrossed; neither Sir Everard's wife nor his chaplain, nor Father Garnet, nor either of the ladies who were staying in the house, could be permitted to hear a word of their whisperings about the details and prospects of the fatal plot; so the two conspirators were obliged to forego the warmth of the cheerful fire until their conversation should be ended.

A damp chill, in spite of the flickering light from the burning wood, seems to have suggested to the host the probable condition of a certain fireless cellar in Westminster; for he muttered in a low tone to his guest[230] "that he was much afraid that the Powder in the cellar was grown dank, and that some new must be provided, lest that should not take fire," words which show that, having once yielded to the temptations of Catesby, the ill-fated youth had thrown himself heart and soul into the diabolical conspiracy. The biographer of Sir Everard Digby may well wish that he had never been guilty of any such speech.

[230] _Gunpowder Treason_, Barlow, p. 68.


Both Catesby and Fawkes left Gothurst as October wore on; so also did any other conspirators who may have visited it. Most of them betook themselves to White Webbs, a desolate, half-timbered house, with "many trap-doors and pa.s.sages,"[231] on Enfield Chase, to the north of London, about ten miles from the cellar where their gunpowder lay.

[231] Cal. Sta. Pa. Dom., 1603-10, p. 256.

This house had been taken, a long time before this, by Anne Vaux, and was rented by her[232] as a convenient place near London for the meeting of priests and the Catholic laity. Unfortunately, it had gradually got more into the hands of her relatives, who found it useful for other purposes. These relatives were Catesby and Tresham.

[232] _Ib._, 1603-10, p. 297.

At one time White Webbs had been inhabited almost exclusively by Jesuits, being used as a centre for the renovation of vows, religious retreats, and conferences upon the affairs of their missions.[233] In his examination,[234] Father Garnet said "that it was a s.p.a.cious house fitt to receave so great a company that should resort to him thither; there being two bedds placed in a chamber, but thinketh there have not been above the number of 14 Jesuits at one time there." Disastrously for himself and his order, he was obliged to confess[235] that "Catesby and Wynter, or Mr Catesby alone, came to him to White Webbs and tould this exam{t}. there was a plott in hand for the Cath{c}. cause against the King and the State," a.s.suring him that it was something quite "lawfull"; but that he had "dissuaded him," and that "he promised to surcea.s.se."

[233] _Records S. J._, Vol. iv. p. 83, footnote.

[234] S. P. Dom. James I., Vol. xix. n. 16

[235] S. P. Dom. James I., Vol. xix. n. 44.

It was no secret that White Webbs had been one of the princ.i.p.al meeting-places of the Jesuits; therefore, after they had given up going there, and it had got into the hands of Catesby and his band of conspirators, the Government, not altogether unnaturally, supposed that the Jesuits had purposely a.s.signed it to the plotters as a convenient place from which to carry out their dread design.

This, however, was not the case; for, in October 1605, Father Garnet had intended to have gone thither, but finding that Catesby and his friends had established themselves in the house, most likely with the purpose of carrying out the "plott in hand," which he so greatly feared, he did not dare to go there,[236] "and so accepted the offer of Sir Everard to be his tenants at Coughton." He felt the more anxious to go to Coughton because Catesby had promised to come there on the 31st;[237] and he says, "I a.s.suredly, if they had come, had entered into the matter, and perhaps might have hindered all." As the modern Jesuit, Father Pollen, says, "to be able to do this he would, of course, have to ask Catesby to allow him to open the matter, but of success in this, considering that Catesby had of his own accord offered to tell him, he did not much doubt, and, perhaps to make the negotiations easier, he had ordered Greenway to be there too." The pity is that he had not "entered into the matter" earlier. Nervous and horror-stricken, he had refused to allow Catesby to tell him the details, when he had reason for believing a plot to be brewing; he was tongue-tied when he afterwards met Catesby, having heard those details in confession; yet, after being for some time at Gothurst with Catesby, it was not until Catesby had left that he came to the conclusion that he might, and that it was highly desirable that he should, beg Catesby's leave to speak to him of a subject which had been transmitted to him through the confessional, at Catesby's desire.

[236] _Father Garnet and the Gunpowder Plot_, p. 22.

[237] _Father Garnet and the Gunpowder Plot_, p. 23. See also Lingard, Vol. vii. chap. i.

A zealous Catholic like Sir Everard would be comforted by learning that an envoy had been privately despatched to Rome, to explain everything to the Pope, from the point of view of the conspirators, as soon as the great event should have taken place. The person selected for this purpose was Sir Edward Baynham, a member of a good Gloucestershire family, and an intimate friend of Catesby's. He had started in September. Unluckily for himself, Father Garnet, on hearing that Baynham was going to Rome, as Catesby's messenger, had encouraged it, believing,[238] "that he had procured Baynham's mission in order to inform the Pope generally of the Plot, and that this was the reason why he so confidently expected from his Holiness a prohibition of the whole business." Father Garnet's approval of Baynham's mission was thus capable of quotation, or rather misquotation, to Sir Everard Digby, and would naturally confirm the reports of his full approval of the conspiracy, as previously cited by Catesby.

[238] Garnet's letters to the fathers and brethren, Palm Sunday, after his trial. _Antilogia_, p. 141. Jardine, p. 319.

This mission of Baynham to Rome was destined to bring trouble upon the conspirators, Sir Everard among them. In the indictment afterwards made against them, was the following Count.[239] "That after the destruction of the King, the Queen, the Prince, and the Royal Issue Male, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, the Knights and Burgesses; they should notifie the same to Foreign States; and therefore Sir _Edmund Bayham_, an attainted person of Treason, and stiling himself prince of the d.a.m.ned crew, should be sent, and make the same known to the Pope, and crave his aid; an Amba.s.sador fit, both for the message and persons, to be sent betwixt the Pope and the Devil."

[239] _Gunpowder Treason_, p. 13.

The last week of October must have been a time of great anxiety to Sir Everard. His companions at Gothurst appear to have been his wife and his two little children, Mrs Vaux, her sister-in-law, Anne Vaux, and Father Garnet. In the meantime he was making his preparations for the pretended coursing-meeting at Dunchurch. He was arranging how the arms, armour, and ammunition were to be conveyed in carts, covered over with other things to conceal them, and he was getting his men and horses ready for the start. He was also making preparations for the journey of his wife, children, and guests to Coughton, and for this party, alone, a good many servants and horses were required.

It is highly improbable that Catesby and the other conspirators at White Webbs kept up communications with their friend and ally at Gothurst; so most likely he was spared the anxiety of the news that on Sat.u.r.day, the 26th, Lord Mounteagle had received, when at supper, an anonymous letter, warning him to "devyse some exscuse" for absenting himself from the "parleament," and to "retyere" himself into the "contri" where he might "expect the event in safti for thoghe theare be no apparance of anni stir yet i saye they shall receyve a terribel blowe this parleament and yet they shall not seie who hurts them &c.";[240] and that Lord Mounteagle[241] ordered a man in his service to read this letter then and there before the party a.s.sembled. Most likely, too, Sir Everard did not learn till much later that when, early in the following week, Catesby and Winter heard of the delivery of this letter of warning, they suspected Tresham of being its author; that, on Wednesday, the 30th, they summoned him, after he had been down in Northamptonshire for about a week, to come at once to White Webbs, with the full intention of poignarding him on the spot, if they could convince themselves that he had been guilty of writing and sending the warning, and that he denied it, with such firmness and so many oaths, that they hesitated to a.s.sa.s.sinate him, while still doubting his sincerity.

[240] Lingard, Vol. vii. chap. i.

[241] It would be beyond my sphere, nor have I the s.p.a.ce, to go into the vexed question of the authorship of this letter. Nor can I here inquire whether Mounteagle was privy to the plot. A very affectionate letter from Mounteagle to Catesby is given in _Archaeologia_, Vol. xxviii. pp. 423-4, and with it are some interesting remarks by Mr Bruce upon this subject. He infers from some, at first sight, playful words about "the ellimentes of Aier and fyre," and "the fyre of your spirite," that Mounteagle referred to the Gunpowder Plot; and he suspects that in telling Catesby that he "acc.u.mptes thy person the only sone that must Ripene our harvest," Mounteagle implies that Catesby is the chief instigator of the great blow that is to deliver the Catholics from persecution.

The letter invites Catesby to meet him at Bath, and Mr Bruce says, "Catesby went to Bath about Michaelmas 1605, it now appears, in consequence of the above invitation. Percy, and, as we may conclude, Lord Mounteagle, met him there." This must have been either immediately before, or immediately after, Catesby revealed the Plot to Sir Everard Digby. Mr Bruce thinks before.

On Tuesday, the 29th of October, Lady Digby, her children, guests, and servants, started for Coughton, a journey of some fifty miles. In mentioning Coughton, it may be worth noticing how many of those whose names are more or less connected, even indirectly, with the story of the Gunpowder Plot were related to each other. The owner of Coughton, Thomas Throckmorton, was a cousin both of Catesby's and of Tresham's, although he never had anything to do with the conspiracy. He was also a cousin of the Vaux family, his grandmother having been a daughter of a Lord Vaux of Harrowden.

It being known that Father Garnet was to be at Coughton for All Hallows'

Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day, many Catholics in the neighbourhood came thither in order to attend ma.s.s and go to their religious duties.

The feast of All-Hallows used then to be kept with some solemnity, and it was Father Garnet's custom on such occasions to sing the ma.s.s,[242]

where it was practicable and safe to do so, and also to preach.

Lingard[243] thought that it was "plain that Garnet had acted very imprudently at Coughton, probably had suffered expressions to escape him which, though sufficiently obscure then, might now prove his acquaintance with the plot; for he writes to Anne Vaux, on March 4th, 'there is some talk here of a discourse made by me or Hall; I fear it is that which I made at Coughton.'--Autib. 144." He certainly recited the prayer for the conversion of England, which had been authorised for that purpose by Cardinal Allen; and, although it was used that day throughout the world, being taken from the office of the feast,[244] his doing so was afterwards used in evidence against him as an act of treason. The words

"Gentem auferte perfidam Credentium de finibus, Ut Christo laudes debitas Persolvamus alacriter."[245]

from a hymn in the Office, had certainly no reference to the Gunpowder Plot.

[242] _Father Garnet and the Gunpowder Plot_, p. 23.

[243] Hist, of Eng., Vol. vii. Appendix H.H.H.

[244] _Father Garnet and the Gunpowder Plot_, p. 23.

[245] See Jardine, p. 217.

On Sat.u.r.day, the second of November, Sir Everard was up early, superintending the arrangements for his start a day or two later, as well as the putting away of valuables at Gothurst, and the closing of the house in preparation for a long absence. Already some of his horses and men had been sent on to Dunchurch, together with his greyhounds, which were all-important for appearance sake.

Possibly my readers may have experienced the sensation caused by the unexpected and very sudden arrival of a hitherto invariably welcome friend at a moment when his presence was not exactly convenient. Now few men, if any, were so dear to Sir Everard as Father Gerard, and he used to be specially welcome when he occasionally rode to Gothurst early in a morning to say a ma.s.s in its chapel; but when Sir Everard saw "his brother," as he usually called him, riding up to Gothurst on that particular Sat.u.r.day morning, and when he was told by the Father that he had come to say his ma.s.s in his chapel on this All Souls' Day, he wished, for the first time, that his favourite guest had not taken it into his head to come on that Sat.u.r.day morning, "of all Sat.u.r.day mornings." He knew that all the chapel furniture, as well as the chalices, vestments, and other necessaries for saying ma.s.s, had been carefully hidden away, with the exception of those which had been sent on to Dunchurch with a view to having ma.s.s said during his stay there.

Besides, everything was in a state of fuss and confusion in antic.i.p.ation of the start; and, as his family were to remain for some time at Coughton, the house was on the point of being shut up. One reason why the presence of Father Gerard might be particularly unwelcome just then was that, about that time, Digby may have been superintending the "great provision of armour and shot, which he sent before him in a cart with some trusty servants" to Dunchurch.[246]

[246] _Narrative of the G. P._, by Father Gerard, p.92.

When told that it would be impossible to have ma.s.s at Gothurst that morning, Father Gerard, in addition to his expression of disappointment--for All Souls' is a Feast upon which no priest likes to miss saying ma.s.s--may have shown signs of embarra.s.sment; for the presence of a stranger prevented his asking his host the reasons. As soon as an opportunity offered itself, Father Gerard beckoned to Sir Everard to follow him into a room in which they would be alone.[247]

There he told him that he could not understand the sudden alteration in the arrangements of his house, the putting away of so many things as if a long absence was contemplated, the removal of the family to Coughton, the preparations for a journey to Dunchurch with such an unusual number of men and horses, and--now that he came to think of it--the sales of land and stock, of which Sir Everard had spoken to him not long ago, as if to raise money for some special purpose. All this, as an intimate friend, Father Gerard was in a position to say to his so-called "brother"; and he ventured to go further and inquire whether he "had something in hand for the Catholic cause."

[247] _Life of Father J. Gerard_, p. ccx.x.xvi.-vii.

Sir Everard's answer was "No, there is nothing in hand that I know of, or can tell you of."

Father Gerard then replied that he had some reason to feel anxious on the subject, as Sir Everard was much too careful a man to injure his estate by leaving it understocked, and by selling any portion of it in order to purchase horses, hire men, and spend money in other ways, unless he had some great object in view for what he believed to be the good of the Catholic cause; and, added the Father, "Look well that you follow counsel in your proceedings, or else you may hurt both yourself and the cause."

Ah! if some such words as these had been addressed to him by Father Garnet at the time he first joined the conspiracy, how much misery he might have been saved.

Perhaps Father Gerard's persistence in suspecting and implying that Sir Everard had "something in hand," after he had avowed that he had "nothing" may have irritated him, for he replied, with dignity: "I respect the Catholic cause much more than my own commodity, as it should well appear whenever I undertake anything."

Father Gerard was not to be put off in this manner, and he asked once more, "whether there were anything to be done," and, if so, whether help was expected from any foreign power.

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The Life Of A Conspirator Part 11 summary

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