Brief And Bitter Hearts by Dorothy Davies

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EXTRACT FOR
Brief And Bitter Hearts 
(Dorothy Davies)


Brief and Bitter Hearts

Guy Fawkes’ comments on his story

 

I thought long about the way to tell you of my life.  It was one of devotion, of commitment, of faith and of what they, the authorities of the time, perceived as treason.  I thought hard about writing it as a story, distancing myself from the events, for they were harsh and horrible beyond imagination.  I thought about it and with my trusted and beloved channel and friend, Dorothea, attempted to write it that way. But she stopped, for it came over as dry and a little dull.  I agreed with her and we tried to write it from my heart and mind. I still had problems and so she invoked the help of a writer on my side of life who worked with me, gently and with great love, to bring out the best of my abilities.  I am extremely grateful for his assistance and to Dorothea for arranging it for me.  I would not have thought of it myself.  With his guidance we turned the book back the way it was originally, the way I really wanted it to be.

And so – for Dorothea, for my friend Eugene and for you, my readers, here it is.  The complete and unexpurgated story of Guy Fawkes, the man you love to hate, the figure you have burned in effigy so many times, the person who has given High Petergate in York and the village of Scotton a name to conjure with, a name to put on its inns and hotels and places of interest, a name that has survived 400 years and will continue to survive for I see, with surprise and shock, that there are even islands and places around the world named after me.  Such fame has shaken me to my spiritual core.  I have to do something to set the record straight about what happened then and why, to explain what drove me to such lengths, what was in my mind and my heart.  So much is not known, so much is surmised.  So much is mistaken by historians and as always, they seek only to read the facts and not look behind them for the man who created those facts.  But then, is that not the sole reason for Dorothea to channel these books, so that we, the originators of that piece of history, as it were, can put the record straight?  As His Majesty King Henry VIII rightly said in his book, there are three sources, secondary, primary and original. Which would you care to believe?

We lay much work on this one’s shoulders – and fingers – in giving her this task. She patiently transcribes the words, does the editing when we go on too long, sorts out the timelines to be sure we do not stray from our path and most of all, gives us unconditional love.  No spirit with a story to tell can resist such a person, such an invitation, such a project. 

With those thoughts in mind, I commend to you the story of Guy/Guido Fawkes, patriot, traitor, soldier, revolutionary, terrorist, call me what you will.  But do me the honour, please, of reading my story, so that you can begin to understand a little more.  And, whilst I have your attention, I beg of you, do not judge me by your standards.  My life in my time was very different from yours. The only thing which has not changed is people blowing something – or someone – up to make a point, political, religious or just fanatical. 

In that regard, history has not changed at all.

And, you are still torturing people, are you not?

 

Guy Fawkes


Chapter One

 

The man lying in the darkness of the lonely cell could not decide what was most difficult to endure, the pain which consumed him or the bitter cold which burned him.  For the first time in his life he began to believe that Hell was not a place of endless heat, flames and vile demons, but the empty lonely coldness of a dungeon when the body, which was of necessity lying on the ice cold floor, had been racked beyond endurance.  He clung to life for no reason that he could rationalise in his pain-swamped mind.  Why not let go, deprive them of their show piece execution, of their taunting and their smug satisfaction that another traitor had been dealt with?  Why not give himself into the hands of the great God who surely awaited him in Heaven?  Ah, he thought, groaning as another wave of intense pain swept him from head to foot, ah, if only it were possible to still the heart by a thought!  If it were, he would do it in an instant but no matter how hard he tried, he remained alive – just.

Was it still night or was it already day? Would they come for him soon, to carry him to the traitor’s death that he knew awaited him?  He had lost all sense of time for the Tower was a dark place of endless torment and suffering. All he knew was that he hurt and that it would soon all be over.

He heard footsteps on the cold stone, a jangle of ice as chains rattled and keys knocked against one another.  He heard a curse as the lock refused to give under the hand of the person trying to gain access. 

Then the door opened and a light shone into his eyes.  He painfully raised an arm to shield himself from the beam. 

“It lives.” Someone spat into the dungeon.  “We will be back for you tomorrow, scum. Be ready to meet thy Maker!”

The door slammed, the mechanism protested but finally moved, locking him in, as if they believed the broken man could get up, open the heavy door and walk out.  Fools, he thought with intense bitterness.  Fools!  I could no more raise a hand to them than I could fly through these walls and disappear forever.

But I can disappear for a while, came another thought.  I can escape the pain.  I can go back.

The darkness closed in on him like a thick, suffocating blanket.  He allowed his mind to go blank and then to go back, back, back…

 

*****

 

“Guy! Come downstairs, please! It’s time for your meal.”

Mother’s voice carried that ‘do not argue with me’ tone which had to be obeyed.  Guy reluctantly scrambled from his bed where he had been lying perfectly still, creating pictures by using the fine cracks in the ceiling.  It was something he liked to do and hated being interrupted, but he knew well his mother would not tolerate any delay.  He hastily straightened the quilted coverlet, tugged the pillow back into its place and left the room.

The wooden stairs, which sometimes felt as if they went on forever, creaked as he hurried down, through the hall and into the parlour where the table had been set for him and his sisters.  Anne and Elizabeth were already in their seats, heads bowed, demure and quiet, their curls tied up with ribbons, for all the world as if they were waiting for Grace to be said.  Guy suspected they had been talking about him and had stopped when he came in the room but he had no way of proving it.  He loved his sisters but had no illusions about them.  He knew well that they were prepared to join forces and gang up on him if necessary, if it was something they wanted or something they wanted to get out of.  Both these things happened with great regularity.

The parlour was immaculate as always, the plates, cups and cutlery precisely aligned on the gleaming white cloth which covered the scrubbed table. The fire had been made up so that it glowed with a friendliness that permeated the room, the cushions on the settle were precisely set against one another.  He breathed in the smell of fresh bread, sharp cheese, wood ash and that indefinable scent of mother: soap, lavender and comfort. 

“There you are!”  She was standing by the door waiting for him and impatiently pushed him toward his chair.  “Come now, quickly! Say Grace, all of you, and then eat. You know your father is said to be home early today.”

The prayer of gratitude was murmured into the cloth by the three children in discordant harmony and then, before either of his sisters did so, Guy reached for the crusty loaf in the centre of the table.  He paused as a ray of sunshine seemed to fall across the room, making a beam of light which illuminated the bread and the silver dish on which it stood. 

“Look!” he said out loud but no one looked. His sisters were chattering again, his mother was indifferent to everything inside the house because she was listening to the sounds from outside. Guy knew she was awaiting hearing his father’s footsteps on the pathway.  I wonder if I will ever be the centre of someone’s life, he mused even as he became irritated that no one else saw the sunbeam for what it was, a miracle, at least to him.  A cloud covered the sun for a moment, the sunshine disappeared and the bread resumed its dull life as a loaf on a silver platter.  But the moment, the memory, burned itself into Guy’s mind.  It was surely a gift from God, that sunshine, that food, that moment, a gift which he treasured.  It had come so close after their saying Grace, saying thank you for the food, it could be nothing else.  He startled himself with the thought and knew he had to ponder it later, when he was alone. 

Mother sat by the fireside, mending a shirt for Father while they ate. She was watching their table manners and listening to the two girls talking about lace and ribbons, someone’s cat having a litter of kittens and their desire to have one or more of them, what someone had said about them … conversations which were of no interest to Guy. He ate mechanically: bread, cheese, meat, it all tasted the same to him because his mind was elsewhere. He was desperately trying to work out if there was a way of approaching Father to ask for help with the spinning toy that had mysteriously broken earlier that day.  He doubted it, Father had no patience with broken toys and Guy consistently had a parade of them.  He seemed to be cursed with clumsiness; things were damaged or fractured if he so much as touched them.  His toys were invariably broken in a very short time but he could never work out how it had happened.

Although he ate without much thought of what he was eating, he did appreciate the spring water, drawn from their well, in the plain pewter tankard reserved for him. The water was cold and fresh - and needed. He had not realised he was so thirsty.  The afternoon had somehow drifted away from him as he made pictures in his mind. He had been transporting his very young self to a place where there was no clumsiness, where all toys remained in one piece, where his sisters took him into their games and into their lives, where Mother considered him before Father, where he was not an outsider.

Mother’s chair creaked as she moved to tend to the sewing. Elizabeth and Anne murmured together.  Somewhere, possibly in their garden, a bird called endlessly as if it knew no other sound to make whilst other bird cries made a background sound that was part of life. Carriage wheels rumbled over the cobblestones of Stonegate, hooves clattered on the road, harness creaked, dogs barked, voices of both children and adults filled the small room where the Fawkes family sat. The whole thing became one pleasant sound and Guy absorbed it all, taking it in and holding it as a memory he thought he would cherish for a long time.  Added to the miracle of the sunbeam lighting the bread, he thought the day was a special one, outstanding in a series of days which were very much like one another with only Sundays being the exception to the mundane routine.

Father was coming home early.  That meant the moment they were through eating, Mother would rush around and clear the table, then, with the maid’s help, begin the preparations for his father’s tea which would be more elaborate than theirs.  Father would have ale to drink from a fine tankard which Guy greatly admired but dared not touch.  It had elaborate engraving all around it, a weaving endless pattern he longed to trace with a fingertip, but knew even that would be likely to bring disaster to the tankard and it was Father’s, so that would never do.  Mother would also ensure he and his sisters were in the house, no going out to play with the likelihood of getting grubby before Father arrived. This was so that he could greet his family and then take his place by the fireside.  He would have the papers he carried home with him in a large satchel made of fine leather which was as soft as wool from years of use and polish.  Papers that Father would study after he had taken his meal, papers that absorbed his every thought so that even if Guy stood by his side with the broken toy in his hands, Father would not know he was there.

It meant that they had to be quieter than usual, too, for Father was ‘working’ when reading the papers and he did not want the sound of boisterous children to disturb him.  Guy knew the words even if he did not fully understand what they meant.   Mother said them every time Father was due home, whether he was early or not. 

Soon the food was gone and permission was given for them to leave the table.  Guy knew his sisters were planning on collecting wild flowers which they would put in a vase to please Father. He wondered again how they could do that and not break anything.  His experience of putting water into something on the table had resulted in a small flood which had earned him a stiff reprimand he still remembered.  Well, they could go and get their flowers, something they seemed capable of doing without getting dirty.  To be on the safe side, it was better if he stayed indoors, despite the fine weather which tempted him to go outside and play.  Mother would not be best pleased if he did for he was bound to get dirt on himself somehow.

The stairs seemed like a mountain but he climbed them steadily, carefully, clinging to the banister with one small hand, pulling himself up.  He wanted to return to the sanctuary of his room, with its feeling of security created by the rich panelling, the thick drapes around his bed, the rugs his mother had made for the pegged floor and the years of familiarity.  He had known no other place to sleep. He loved the pictures he could see in the ceiling, the cabinet for his hose and boots, the shelves for his toys, the soft bed which cradled him, the casement window which looked out into the busy, bustling, ever changing street below.  It was like nowhere else.  It was his world.

He knelt on the large chest that contained his clothes, unaware of the hardness of the wood.  The world outside was constantly moving, ever interesting.  From that height he could watch people without them knowing he was there. He could see the carriages making their way through the throng. There were street vendors who carried trays or bags of wares, business men in smart clothes like Father’s, ladies in their beautiful coloured gowns, shawls, bonnets and cloaks.  He watched for an age, losing himself in the busy life of York, unaware of the passing of time.  From this perspective he was not a part of the scene, but above it, an onlooker, not a participant.  There was a hint of loneliness in the realisation but one he ignored.  It was good to watch and not be seen.  You could learn a lot from that.

A larger than usual crow flew by the window, close enough that Guy could see the extended flight feathers.  I wish I could fly, he thought suddenly.  I wish I could fly out of here, swoop over the city, roost in a tree, go where I want and see what I want!  And fly back when I had seen it all and I could then think about it.

The thought was interrupted by the sound of the front door with its distinctive thump.  Father was home.   Guy snatched up the broken toy which he had left by the side of the chest and walked out onto the landing, not wanting to rush and perhaps fall.  His instinct was to run down the stairs but this was important. If Father was in a good mood, if the day’s work at the great Minster had gone well, he might even be sympathetic to the request to mend it.

As he reached the top of the stairs, a sudden thought gripped his mind.  He turned round and went back into his room to think about it before it escaped. 

The ray of sunshine.  It was a gift from God.  Yes, that I already knew. But why me?  Why did no one else see it?  Or if they did, why didn’t they say? Why was it there at that moment?

His parents had impressed on him that God was an all-seeing, all-powerful figure. The priest at church and various aunts and uncles had added to this, they invariably asked if he said his prayers before bed and asked for strength to be good.  God was not a gift giving sort of person.  He gave rules instead. 

But He gave me that ray of sunshine!  I know he did! 

Guy tried to make sense of the conundrum, but he was too young to rationalise his thoughts.   He sighed, shrugged and went back to the door.  If God was able to offer him a ray of sunshine then God was able to offer him some kind of reason for it all.  If he waited long enough it might happen. One of his mother’s favourite expressions was ‘wait and see’.  He would wait and see.

Another thought struck him.  If that was God speaking to me, would He arrange for Father to be kind about my broken toy? If He could, then he would know the message was for him.

“God,” he whispered into the quiet afternoon air, “if that sunshine was for me, give me a sign.  Let Father be kind about my broken toy.  This I know You can do.”  He felt a little scared for a moment: who was he to try and do some kind of deal with God? What if God decided to teach him a lesson?  But then again, if God was trying to speak to him, he needed a sign.  The priest talked of signs, of burning bushes, of manna from Heaven.  Surely even a boy as young as he could ask for a sign? 

With a fast beating heart he went downstairs.

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