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AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE,
BY W. HARRISON AINSWORTH, ESQ.
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
BOOK THE FIRST.
AN EXECUTION IN MANCHESTEB, AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
MORE than two hundred and thirty years ago, or, to speak with greater precision, in 1604, at the latter end of June, it was rumoured one morning in Manchester that two seminary priests, condemned at the late assizes under the severe penal enactments then in force against the Papists, were about to suffer death on that day. Attracted by the report, large crowds flocked towards the place of execution, which, in order to give greater solemnity to the spectacle, had been fixed at the southern gate of the old collegiate church. Here a scaffold was erected, and near it upon a heap of blazing coals smoked a large cauldron filled with boiling pitch, intended to receive the quarters of the miserable sufferers. The place was guarded by a small band of soldiers, habited in their full accoutrements of corslet and morion, and armed with swords, half-pikes, and calivers. Upon the steps of the scaffold stood a square-built, ill-favoured personage, whose office it was easy to divine, busied in spreading a bundle of straw upon the boards. He was dressed in a buff jerkin, and had a long-bladed knife thrust into his girdle. Besides these persons, there were two pursuivants, or state-messengers,-officers appointed by the Privy Council to make search throughout the provinces for recusants, Popish priests, and other religious offenders. They were occupied at this moment in reading over a list of suspected per
Neither the executioner nor his companions appeared in the slightest degree impressed by the horrible tragedy about to be enacted, for the former whistled carelessly as he pursued his task, while the latter laughed and chatted with the crowd, or jestingly pointed their matchlocks at the jackdaws wheeling about them in the sunny air, or perching upon the pinnacles and tower of the adjoining fane. Not so the majority of the assemblage. Most of the older and wealthier families in Lancashire still continuing to adhere to the ancient faith of their fathers, it will not be wondered that many of their dependents should follow their example. And, even of those who were adverse to the creed of Rome, there were few who did not murmur at the rigorous system of persecution adopted towards its professors.
At nine o'clock, the hollow rolling of a muffled drum was heard at a distance. The deep bell of the church began to toll, and presently afterwards the mournful procession was seen advancing from the market-place. It consisted of a troop of mounted soldiers, equipped in all respects like those stationed at the scaffold, with their captain at their head, and followed by two of their number with hurdles attached to their steeds, on which were tied the unfortunate victims. Both were young men-both apparently