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AN AISTORICAL ROMANCE.
BY W. HARRISON AINSWORTH, ESQ.
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
BOOK THE THIRD.
About six o'clock in the morning the conspirators reached Leamington Priors, at that time an inconsiderable village, and having ridden nearly twenty miles over heavy and miry roads, for a good deal of rain had fallen in the night, they stood in need of some refreshment. Accordingly, they entered the first farm-yard they came to, and proceeding to the cow-houses and sheepfolds, turned out the animals within them, and fastening up their own steeds in their places, set before them whatever provender they could find. Those, and they were by far the greater number, who could not find better accommodation, fed their horses in the yard, which was strewn with trusses of hay, and great heaps of corn. The whole scene formed a curious picture. Here was one party driving away the sheep and cattle which were bleating and lowing—there, another rifling a henroost, and slaughtering its cackling inmates. On this hand, by the direction of Catesby, two stout horses were being harnessed with ropes to a cart, which he intended to use as a baggage-waggon; on that, Sir Everard Digby was interposing his authority to prevent the destruction of a fine porker.
Their horses fed, the next care of the conspirators was to obtain something for themselves, and ordering the master of the house, who was terrified almost out of his senses, to open his doors, they entered the dwelling, aud causing a fire to be lighted in the chief room, began to boil a large kettle of broth upon it, and to cook other provisions. Finding a good store of eatables in the larder, rations were served out to the band. Two casks of strong ale were like. wise broached, and their contents distributed ; and a small keg of strong waters being also discovered, it was disposed of in the same way. This, however, was the extent of the mischief done.
All the con spirators, but chiefly Catesby and Sir Everard Digby, dispersed themselves amongst the band, and checked any disposition to plunder. The only articles taken away from the house were a couple of old rusty swords and a caliver. Catesby proposed to the farmer to join the expedition. But having now regained his courage, the
sturdy churl obstinately refused to stir a foot with them, and even ventured to utter a wish that the enterprise might fail.
. I am a good Protestant, and a faithful subject of King James, and will never abet Popery and treason,' he said.
This bold sally would have been answered by a bullet from one of the troopers if Catesby had not interfered.
"You shall do as you please, friend,' he said, in a conciliatory tone. “We will not compel any man to act against his conscience, and we claim the same right ourselves. Will you join us, good fellows ? he added, to two farming men, who were standing near their master. • Must I confess to a priest ?' asked one of them.
Certainly not,' replied Catesby. You shall have no constraint whatever put upon you. All I require is obedience to my commands in the field.
* Then I am with you,' replied the fellow.
· Thou’rt a traitor and rebel, Sam Morrell,' cried the other hind, ' and wilt come to a traitor's end. I will never fight against King James. And if I must take up arms, it shall be against his enemies, and in defence of our religion. No priests-no papistry for me.'
* Well said, Hugh,' cried his master; ' we'll die in that cause if need be.'
Catesby turned angrily away, and giving the word to his men to prepare to set forth, in a few minutes all were in the saddle; but on inquiring for the new recruit, Sam Morrell, it was found he had dis. appeared. The cart was laden with arms, ammunition, and a few sacks of corn, and the line being formed, they commenced their march.
The morning was dark and misty, and all looked dull and dispiriting. The conspirators, however, were full of confidence, and their men, exhilarated and refreshed by their meal, appeared anxious for an opportunity of distinguishing themselves. Arrived within half a mile of Warwick, whence the lofty spire of the church of St. Nicholas, the tower of Saint Mary's, and the ancient gates of this beautiful old town could just be discerned through the mist, a short consultation was held by the rebel leaders as to the expediency of attacking the castle, and carrying off the horses with which they had learnt its stables were filled.
Deciding upon making the attempt, their resolution was communicated to their followers, and received with loud acclamations. Catesby then put himself at the head of the band, and they all rode forward at a brisk pace. Crossing the bridge over the Avon, whence the castle burst upon them in all its grandeur and beauty, Catesby dashed forward to an embattled gate commanding the approach to the structure, and knocking furiously against it, a wicket was opened
by an old porter, who started back on beholding the intruders. He would have closed the wicket, but Catesby was too quick for him, and springing from his steed, dashed aside the feeble opposition of the old man, and unbarred the gate. Instantly mounting again, he galloped along a broad and winding path cut so deeply in the rock, that the mighty pile they were approaching was completely hidden from view. A few seconds, however, brought them to a point from which its three towers reared themselves full before them. Another moment brought them to the edge of the moat, at this time crossed by a stone bridge, but then filled with water, and defended by a drawbridge.
As no attack like the present was apprehended, and as the owner of the castle, the celebrated Fulke Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke, to whom it had been recently granted by the reigning monarch, was then in the capital, the drawbridge was down, and though several retainers rushed forth on hearing the approach of so many horsemen, they were too late to raise it. Threatening these persons with destruction if any resistance was offered, Catesby passed through the great entrance, and rode into the court, where he drew up his band.
By this time, the whole of the inmates of the castle had collected on the ramparts, armed with calivers and partisans, and whatever weapons they could find, and though their force was utterly disproportioned to that of their opponents, they seemed disposed to give them battle. Paying no attention to them, Catesby proceeded to the stables, where he found upwards of twenty horses, which he exchanged for the worst and most jaded of his own, and was about to enter the castle in search of arms, when he was startled by hearing the alarm-bell rung. This was succeeded by the discharge of a culverin on the summit of the tower, named after the redoubted Guy, Earl of Warwick; and though the bell was instantly silenced, Rookwood, who had dislodged the party from the ramparts, brought word that the inhabitants of Warwick were assembling, that drums were beating at the gates, and that an attack might be speedily expected. Not desiring to hazard an engagement at this juncture, Catesby gave up the idea of ransacking the castle, and ordered his men to their horses.
Some delay, however, occurred before they could all be got together, and, meanwhile, the ringing of bells and other alarming sounds continued. At one time, it occurred to Catesby to attempt to maintain possession of the castle ; but this design was overruled by the other conspirators, who represented to him the impracticability of the design. At length, the whole troop being assembled, they crossed the drawbridge, and speeded along the rocky path. Before the outer gate they found a large body of men, some on horseback, and some on foot, drawn up. These persons, however, struck
with terror at their appearance, retreated, and allowed them a free passage.
On turning to cross the bridge, they found it occupied by a strong and well-armed body of men, headed by the Sheriff of Warwick. shire, who showed no disposition to give way. While the rebel party were preparing to force a passage, a trumpet was sounded, and the Sheriff, riding towards them, commanded them in the King's name to yield themselves prisoners.
We do not acknowledge the supremacy of James Stuart, whom you call king,' rejoined Catesby, sternly. We fight for our liberties, and for the restoration of the Holy Catholic religion which we profess. Do not oppose us, or you will have cause to rue your temerity.'
Hear me, cried the Sheriff, turning from him to his men; promise you all a free pardon in the King's name, if you will throw down your arms, and deliver up your leaders. But if, after this warning, you continue in open rebellion against your sovereign, you will all suffer the vilest death.'
* Rejoin your men, sir,' said Catesby, in a significant tone, and drawing a petronel.
• A free pardon and a hundred pounds to him, who will bring me the head of Robert Catesby,' said the Sheriff, disregarding the menace.
* Your own is not worth half the sum,' rejoined Catesby; and, levelling the petronel, he shot him dead.
The Sheriff's fall was the signal for a general engagement. Exasperated by the death of their leader, the royalist party assailed the rebels with the greatest fury, and as the latter were attacked at the same time in the rear, their situation began to appear perilous. But nothing could withstand the vigour and determination of Catesby. Cheering on his men, he soon cut a way across the bridge, and would have made good his retreat, if he had not perceived, to his infinite dismay, that Percy and Rookwood had been captured.
Regardless of any risk he might run, he shouted to those near to follow him, and made such a desperate charge upon the royalists that in a few minutes he was by the side of his friends, and had liberated them. In trying, however, to follow up his advantage he got separated from his companions, and was so hotly pressed on all sides, that his destruction seemed inevitable. His petronels had both brought down their mark; and in striking a blow against a stalwart trooper his sword had shivered close to the handle. In this defenceless state his enemies made sure of him, but they miscalculated his resources.
He was then close to the side of the bridge, and before his pur. pose could be divined, struck spurs deeply into his horse, and cleared the parapet with a single bound. A shout of astonishment and
admiration arose alike from friend and foe, and there was a general rush towards the side of the bridge. The noble animal that had borne him out of danger was seen swimming towards the bank, and, though several shots were fired at him, he reached it in safety. This gallant action so raised Catesby in the estimation of his followers, that they welcomed him with the utmost enthusiasm, and rallying round him, fought with such vigour, that they drove their oppo. nents over the bridge and compelled them to flee towards the town.
Catesby now mustered his men, and finding his loss slighter than he expected, though several were so severely wounded that he was compelled to leave them behind, rode off at a quick pace. After proceeding for about four miles along the Stratford road, they turned off on the right into a narrow lane leading to Snitterfield, with the intention of visiting Norbrook, the family residence of John Grant. On arriving there, they put the house into a state of defence, and then assembled in the hall, while their followers recruited themselves in the court-yard.
'So far well,' observed Catesby, flinging himself into a chair; 'the first battle has been won.'
• True,' replied Grant; but it will not do to tarry here long. This house cannot hold out against a prolonged attack.'
• We will not remain here more than a couple of hours,' replied Catesby : ‘but where shall we go next? I am for making some desperate attempt which shall strike terror into our foes.'
· Are we strong enough to march to the Earl of Harrington's mansion near Coventry, and carry off the Princess Elizabeth ?' asked Percy.
'She were indeed a glorious prize,' replied Catesby; but I have no doubt on the first alarm of our rising she has been conveyed to a place of safety. And even if she were there, we should have the whole armed force of Coventry to contend with. No-no, it will not do to attempt that.'
Nothing venture, nothing have l'cried Sir Everard Digby. We ought, in my opinion, to run any risk to secure her.'
You know me too well, Digby,' rejoined Catesby, 'to doubt my readiness to undertake any project, however hazardous, which would offer the remotest chance of success.
But in this I see none, unless, indeed, it could be accomplished by stratagem. Let us first ascertain what support we can obtain, and then decide upon the measures to be adopted.' I am content,' returned Digby.
Old Mr. Talbot of Grafton is a friend of yours, is he not ?? continued Catesby, addressing Thomas Winter. "Can you induce him to join us ?
“I will try,' replied Thomas Winter ; but I have some misgiv