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Authors: Ann Turnbull

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BOOK: The Gunpowder Plot
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The two of them stood up, brushed dust from their clothes, crept into the kitchen, and saw –

A ghost!

Screams rang out. Eliza screamed. Lucy screamed. And the ghost screamed – it was Bessy, in her nightgown.

“Oh, Bessy, hush!” gasped Eliza.

“Oh, Mistress!” Bessy curtseyed and
began
to cry. “Oh, I thought you were ghosts!”

“We thought
you
were,” said Lucy. “And now – ”

Now they were caught. Mistress Rowley appeared in the kitchen in her nightgown and cap, a candle in her hand. At the sight of Lucy and Eliza she too gave a shriek.

“Oh! Whatever – ? Your linen…your hair!”

In the candlelight Eliza saw that her nightgown was torn and dirty. Lucy's was the same, and her hair was full of fragments of wood.

“We have something important to tell – ” Lucy began.

But there was no chance to explain.
Voices
and footsteps sounded from above; doors opened; and into the kitchen came first Cecily, then Mistress Perks, then Eliza's parents, and finally Lucy's father, all talking and all wearing nightcaps – which made Eliza want to giggle, despite her fear.

Mistress Rowley calmed Bessy, while Eliza's mother exclaimed in horror at the sight of the girls. “You should both be beaten!” she said. “Where
have
you been?”

“In the cellar,” said Lucy. “The big cellar under the House of Lords. And we need to tell the gentlemen what we saw.”

“You will do no such thing!” cried Eliza's mother. “Not in your nightclothes! It is most
immodest!
You will go straight up to your bedchamber and – ”

Her husband interrupted her. “My dear, we are all in our nightclothes and anxious to return to bed. But here we are, awake, and it seems the girls have something to tell us.” He glanced at his cousin. “I think we should hear it?” And Lucy's father nodded.

So, once again, Eliza and Lucy found themselves in a private room, face to face with their fathers.

They tried to describe what had happened.

“You went into the great cellar?” Eliza's father said. “But that door has been blocked for years. What were you doing down there?”

Lucy
explained about John Johnson. “We don't believe he is really a servant. That's a disguise. I think he is a spy – ”


I
think,” said Eliza, “that he's a thief. He's planning to steal the barrels of wine.”

Her father looked puzzled. “What barrels of wine?”

“The ones stored there.”

“I thought you said there was firewood and coal stored there?”

“There is, and the barrels are behind it – rows and rows of them. Are they for a feast after the State Opening of Parliament? I thought – ” But the two men were looking at each other and frowning.


The Lords have no wine stored in that cellar,” said Eliza's father. “You say it's behind the firewood – hidden?”

“Yes,” said Eliza and Lucy together.

Eliza's father turned to his cousin. “We must report this immediately.”

Lucy's father agreed. “Lucy,” he said, “you have not invented this? If you have, I shall be angry.”

Lucy was indignant. “No! We both saw the barrels.”

“Go up to bed, then,” Eliza's father said. “You were right to tell us.”

“Will Mother punish us?” Eliza felt tired and tearful now.


Probably not. But tomorrow you must stay indoors with her.”

The girls went upstairs together, almost too weary to talk. Except that Eliza said, “I do hope Mouser is not in danger.”

  
8
  

A Midnight Raid

There was a strange atmosphere in the house the next day. The girls' parents talked together in low, troubled tones. They sounded shocked and fearful.

Eliza and Lucy longed to know what was going on, but Mistress Perks kept them busy with lessons, and no one would tell them anything.

They were sent to bed early.

Hours later, in the dead of night, Eliza was
woken
by voices in the street outside. Then came the sound of tramping boots and the clink of metal.

Soldiers!
she thought.

She got up and opened the window.

A group of soldiers was approaching – and they had a prisoner with them.

“Lucy!” she whispered.

But Lucy was already awake and sliding out of bed. She leaned beside Eliza on the windowsill.

“It's John Johnson,” she said.

As the group came closer Eliza saw that she was right. Two of the soldiers held lanterns and their light fell on the face of
John
Johnson. The man did not struggle. But he must have heard the girls whispering, for suddenly he glanced up at the open window and saw them. Eliza jumped in fright and pulled Lucy down beside her, below the sill. Hidden there, they heard the soldiers move on.


He will go to the Tower,” said Lucy.

“Yes.” It gave Eliza a strange feeling to think that their suspicions had led to a man being arrested and taken to prison.

* * *

In the morning a servant summoned Eliza and Lucy to appear before their parents.

All three adults looked serious.

Both girls curtseyed. Eliza felt small and frightened. Lucy's hand crept into hers and she knew her cousin must be feeling the same.

But no one was angry with them.

“We have been asked by the captain of
the
guard to thank you for reporting your suspicions of John Johnson,” Eliza's father said. “I will tell you what happened because we don't want you hearing rumours or listening to servants' tittle-tattle. There was a midnight raid on the great cellar. The suspect was found there with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder – ”


Gunpowder!
” exclaimed Eliza and Lucy together.

“Thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, and a fuse.”

Eliza and Lucy stared at each other. Those barrels! They'd never thought of gunpowder.


He has been taken to the Tower for questioning,” Eliza's father continued. “It is believed his plan was to blow up the House of Lords this very day when Parliament assembled and His Majesty King James, Queen Anne and Prince Henry and all the lords were there.”

“So – you too, Uncle. And my father,” said Lucy.

She gazed at her father in such shock that he bent down and hugged her. “Both of us. And possibly all of you in this house as well, for there was a mighty quantity of powder.”

“But – why?” exclaimed Eliza.

“Many Catholics are angry because
His
Majesty has not granted them the freedom of worship they hoped for,” said her father. “The authorities were alerted by letter a few days ago that a great blow would be struck at Westminster today. Now they will question the prisoner to find out who the other plotters are.”

* * *

Later that morning, Lucy sat writing busily in her notebook, while Eliza gazed out of the window and thought about what might have happened. She imagined the company assembling in the great hall above
the
cellar, the Lords robed in silks and furs, King James resplendent in his crown and cloth of gold, and with him Queen Anne and Prince Henry. The bishops would be there, and all the courtiers like her father, and the ushers and trumpeters and standard-bearers.

If the gunpowder had ignited, they would all have been blown to pieces. Perhaps she and Lucy and her mother and all their household would have died too.

Who would do such a thing?

  
9
  

Mouser's Secret

‘
His name is Guy Fawkes, not John Johnson.
' Lucy was reading aloud to Eliza from her notebook. ‘
He is a Catholic gentleman from Yorkshire and was a soldier in the service of the King of Spain. They are questioning him in the Tower.
'

That means torture,
thought Eliza, with a shudder.

‘
The plotters are on the run and trying to raise a rebellion in the Midlands,
' Lucy
continued.
‘
Several plotters have blown themselves up in an accident with their gunpowder. Mistress Perks says this is God's judgment.
'

Lucy and her father had stayed on in London longer than planned because of the emergency. Eliza was glad. She loved having Lucy to stay. And these were interesting times – but also alarming ones.

“Is it true,” Eliza asked her mother, “that they planned to capture the Lady Elizabeth from Coombe Abbey and make her their queen – to do whatever they told her?”

“Yes, it's true,” her mother said.

“We met her,” said Lucy.

It
was shocking to think of the princess – a girl of their age – being the prisoner of such men. And they had other worries. The plotters were nearly all Catholic gentlemen from the Midlands, and the girls' parents were acquainted with some of them.

“Are we safe?” Eliza asked. “They are accusing Catholics of treason.” She looked searchingly at her mother. “My father is secretly a Catholic, isn't he?”

BOOK: The Gunpowder Plot
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