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The King's Book - IX. The Flight

But here let us leave Faukes in a lodging fit for such a guest, and taking time to advise upon his conscience, and turn ourselves to that part of the history which concerns the fortune of the rest of the partakers in that abominable treason. The news was no sooner spread abroad that morning, which was upon a Tuesday, the fifth of November, and the first day designed for that session of Parliament; the news, I say, of this so strange and unlooked-for accident was no sooner divulged, but some of those conspirators, namely Winter, and the two brothers of Wright’s, though it high time for them to hasten out of the town (for Catesby was gone the night before, and Percy at four of the clock in the morning the same day of the discovery) and all of them held their course, with more haste than good speed, to Warwickshire, toward Coventry, where the next day morning, being Wednesday, and about the same hour that Faukes was taken in Westminster, one Grant, a gentleman having associated unto him some others of his opinion, all violent Papists, and strong Recusants, came to the stable of one Benocke, a rider of great horses, and having violently broken up the same, carried along with them all the great horses that were therein, to the number of seven or eight, belonging to divers noblemen and gentlemen of that county, who had put them into the rider’s hands to be made for their service. And so both that company of them which fled out of London, as also Grant and his accomplices, met all together at Dunchurch, at Sir Everard Digby’s lodging, the Tuesday at night, after the discovery of the treacherous attempt; the which Digby had likewise, for his part, appointed a match of hunting, to have been hunted the next day, which was Wednesday, though his mind was, Nimrod-like, upon a far other manner of hunting, more bent upon the blood of reasonable men than brute beasts.

This company, and hellish society, thus convened, finding their purpose discovered, and their treachery prevented, did resolve to run a desperate course; and since they could not prevail by so private a blow, to practice by public rebellion, either to attain to their intents, or at least to save themselves in the throng of others. And therefore, gathering all the company they could unto them, and pretending the quarrel of religion, having intercepted such provision of armour, horses and powder, as the time could permit, thought, by running up and down the country, both to augment piece and piece their numbers (dreaming to themselves, that they had the virtue of a snowball, which being little at first, and tumbling down from a great hill, groweth to a great quantity, by increasing itself with the snow that it meeteth by the way), and also, that they beginning first this great shew, in one part of the country, should by their sympathy and example, stir up and encourage the rest of their religion, in other parts of England to rise, as they had done there. But, when they had gathered their force to the greatest, they came not to the number of four score, and yet were they troubled, all the hours of the day, to keep and contain their own servants from stealing from them; who, notwithstanding all their care, daily left them, being far inferior to Gideon’s host in numbers, but far more, in faith or justice of quarrel.

And so, after that this Catholic troop had wandered a while through Warwickshire to Worcestershire, and from thence to the edge and boarders of Staffordshire, this gallantly armed band had not the honour, at the last, to be beaten with a King’s lieutenant, or extraordinary commissioner, sent down for that purpose, but only by the ordinary Sheriff of Worcestershire were they all beaten, killed, taken, or dispersed.

Wherein, ye have to note this following circumstance so admirable, and so lively displaying the greatness of God’s justice, as it could not be concealed, without betraying the manner the glory due to Almighty for the same.

Although divers of the King’s proclamations were posted down after these traitors with all the speed possible, declaring the odiousness of that bloody attempt, the necessity to have had Percy preserved alive, if it had been possible, and the assembly together of that rightly damned crew, now no more darkened conspirators, but open and avowed rebels; yet the far distance of the way, which was above 100 miles, together with the extreme deepness thereof, joined also with the shortness of the day, was the cause that the hearty and the loving affections of the King’s good subjects in those parts prevented the speed of his proclamations. For, upon the third day after the flying down of these rebels, which was upon the Friday next after the discovery of their plot, they were most of them all surprised by the Sheriff of Worcestershire, at Holbeach, about the noon of the day, and that in the manner following.

Grant, of whom I have made mention before, for taking the great horses, who had not all the preceding time stirred from his own house till the next morning after the attempt should have been put in execution; he then laying his accounts without his host, as the proverb is, that their plot had, without failing, received the day before their hoped-for success; took, or rather stole, out those horses, as I said before, for enabling him, and so many of that foulest society, that had still remained in the country about him, to make a sudden surprise upon the King’s eldest daughter, the Lady Elizabeth, having her residence near by that place, whom they thought to have used for the colour of their treacherous design, him Majesty, her father, her mother, and male children being all destroyed above, and to this purpose also had that Nimrod, Digby, provided his hunting match against that same time, that numbers of people being flocked together, upon the pretence thereof, they might the easier have brought to pass the sudden surprise of the person.

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