A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green
The Scaffold. by Andrea Phillips
Guilty. Hang, Draw and Quarter him.
Her new boots pinched her feet, so it was hard to stand on tip toe for long: the crowd pushed around her. She touched the rough yellowish wool of the jerkin in front of her: a fairly tall man smelling of leather, a pewter spoon stuck into his knitted hat. She leaned left to look over his shoulder and could just see the gibbet arm. She felt for the secret pocket in her bodice, pressing the rosary beads into her skin. A slow dull drum beat echoed around the square and a shallow hush came over the crowd. Three men on the platform. One stumbled over the top step, nearly fell, but righted his footing. Fine black boots, thigh high. Did she feel guilty? There he was, like Christ, about to be crucified taking on the sins of the world. But Christ might have had an easier death. This man would be hanged and left till life had almost left his body, then cut down, disembowelled and hacked into quarters. Guilty of wanting to return our country to the true faith. Guilty of doing God’s work. She peered around the thick neck, breathing in his sweat, as a penance. The preacher was proclaiming a monotone of brief prayers, barely heard. The trap slapped open, the rope stretched taut and the crowd cheered. Her toes hurt. She stifled a gasp, her throat tightened as she turned, head held high, pushing her way back through the swaying bustle of people.
He knew she would be somewhere in the crowd and wanted her to know he was brave enough to risk his life for the beliefs they held. He accidentally caught the eye of one of his fellows, on the far side of the scaffold, and checked to see the other two. They’d hatched this plan but a few days ago, and were excited by the extent of their daring. His rough gardener’s garb itched on his legs and it reeked. They’d camped two nights, along with other hanging obsessives, and had positioned themselves haphazardly at the front . She was insistent that it was a hot-headed scheme, madness, risking capture, torture, family name. But they were young and foolhardy, defying the parents, and wouldn’t be told. As the drum sounded, their hearts doubled the beat, and the procession slowly approached the gallows. There, their hopes died. Not five or six soldiers surrounded the stage, but fifty-five or six. Did anyone see the dawning of stark disappointment on their faces? Their noble plan to leap up, using their weight to break his neck, vanished. He crumbled over, in a wave of nausea. Guido would hang interminably, before an indifferent mob, and suffer extended agony. Shoulder to shoulder they stood, the barrier of redcoats, and a reversed musket makes a loud crack against the head, when swung.
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