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The King's Book - X. The Siege at Holbeache

Now the violent taking away of those horses, long before day, did seem to be so great a riot in the eyes of the common people that knew of no greater mystery. And the bold attempting thereof did engender such a suspicion of some following rebellion in the hearts of the wiser sort, as both great and small began to stir and arm themselves upon this unlooked for accident. But before twelve or sixteen hours passed, Catesby, Percy, the Winters, Wrights, Rookewood, and the rest, bringing then the assurance that their main plot was failed and bewrayed, whereupon they had built the golden mountain of their glorious hopes; they then took their last desperate resolution, to flock together in a troop, and wander, as they did, for the reasons aforetold. But, as upon the one part, the zealous duty to their God, and their Sovereign, was so deeply imprinted in the hearts of all the meanest and poorest sort of the people, although then, knowing of no further mystery than such public misbehaviours, as their own eyes taught them, as notwithstanding of their fair shews and pretences of their Catholic cause, no creature, man, or woman, through all the country would once so much as give them, willingly, a cup of drink, or any sort of comfort or support, but with execrations detested them, so, on the other part, the sheriffs of the shires, through which they wandered, conveying their people with all speed possible, hunted as hotly after them, as the evilness of the way, and the unprovidness of their people upon that sudden could permit them. And so, at last, after Sir Richard Verney, Sheriff of Warwickshire, had carefully and straightly been in chase of them to the confines of his county, part of the meaner sort being also apprehended by him; Sir Richard Walsh, Sheriff of Worcestershire, did likewise dutifully and hotly pursue them through his shire” and, having gotten sure trial of their taking harbour at the house above named, he did send trumpeters and messengers unto them, commanding them in the King’s name, to render unto him his Majesty’s Minister; and knowing no more at that time, of their guilt, than was publicly visible, did promise, upon their dutiful and obedient rendering unto him, to intercede at the King’s hands, for the sparing of their lives; who received only from them this scornful answer, they being better witnesses to themselves of their inward evil consciences, “That he had need of better assistance, than of those few numbers that were with him before he could be able to command or control them.”

But here fell the wondrous work of God’s justice, that while this message passed between the Sheriff and them, the Sheriff’s and his people’s hearts being justly kindled and augmented by their arrogant answer; and so, they preparing themselves to give a furious assault, and the other party making themselves ready within the house to perform their promise by a defense as resolute; it pleased God that in the mending of the fire, in their chamber, one small spark should fly out, and light among less than two-pound weight of powder, which, was drying a little from the chimney ; which, being thereby blown up, so maimed the faces of some of the principal rebels and the hands and sides of others of them, blowing up with it also a great bag of powder, which, notwithstanding, never took fire, as they were not only disabled and discouraged thereby from any further resistance, in respect Catesby himself, Rookewood, Grant, and divers others of greatest account among them were, thereby, made unabole for defense, but also wondrously struck with amazement in their guilty consciences, calling to memory how God had justly punished them with the same instrument, which they should have used for the effectuating of so great a sin, according to the old Latin saying, In quo peccemus, in eodem plectimur ; as they presently (see the wonderful power of God’s justice upon guilty consciences) did all fall down upon their knees praying to God to pardon them for their bloody enterprise; and, thereafter, giving over any further debate, opened the gate, suffered the Sheriff’s people to rush in furiously among them, and desperately sought their own present destruction: the three specials of them joining backs together, Catesby, Percy, and Winter, whereof two, with one shot, Catesby and Percy, were slain, and the third, Winter, taken and saved alive.

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