Work in Progress
Although I frequently decide to concentrate only on one book at a time, I inevitably find myself with more ideas than I need, so end up with several works in progress. At the moment, I’m busy with several new books, including:
“Ere she come.”
Glancing to my left, I stared at the fellow next to me. His toothless mouth reeking of sour ale. He grinned and pointed, as if there were any need to confirm the spectacle before us.
“Dare say her’ll not be a-smiling soon, eh?” He grinned again.
Stepping away from him, I pushed through the crowd towards the corner of the lane where the main procession trundled past. Shouts of ‘there’s the bitch’ and ‘hang ‘er high’ grew more vociferous, as the hoard surged forwards to get a better view. I watched the Marshall striding down the middle of the road, staff held in front of himself like a flaming torch. Behind him, the cart clattered along, its unfortunate cargo clinging to the rail in front of her.
“Ain’t so clever now, is she?” said a fat woman holding a sour-looking child. Giving me a dig in the ribs, she added, “Serve her right, ay, sir?”
Ignoring her, I forced my way between jostling bodies, to a stall selling wooden models of the gibbet, a tiny rag doll hanging from each one by a thread. Setting one foot on a broken crate and resting a hand on the fellow next to me, I hoisted myself up for a better view.
And there she stood, her thin form swaying, struggling to stay upright with the movement of the oxcart, dark hair wafting almost beautifully in the autumn breeze. Her eyes turned towards me as if she’d known precisely where I’d be at that moment. A smile slid across her mouth.
I blinked, felt the urge to look away, found myself unable to move. My gaze fastened on her mouth, the still-red lips and too-white teeth. Around her neck, the collar and straps that forced her to face the front of the cart, prevented all but the smallest movements one way or another. Encased in handcuffs, her thin wrists seemed too frail for the eight and twenty years she’d lived, and her bared ankles bled where leg-irons chafed against the skin.
As her carriage rolled past, she turned to face the front. I gazed after her, watching her skinny body wavering, struggling to stay on two legs. Across the back of the cart her coffin rested between the rails in readiness for her burial. Behind, the cavalry trotted along, muskets clasped to their chests, ready for action, as if at any moment the prisoner might break free of her bonds and fly up into the air.
A shout rang out, something about ‘justice for the dead’ and within seconds, the crowd joined in, pouring forwards like a storm tide, carrying those behind me beyond the end of the lane and out into the melee that followed the procession. Jostled from my lofty position, I could not help but be carried along with them, a raging torrent, chasing death.
We passed along Holborn, St. Giles, and onto the Tyburn Road, the narrow streets lined with eager onlookers, hawkers and balladeers, making the best of the spectacle. I stumbled past one man in a wide-brimmed hat, chanting, “Good luck charms and bangles, get ‘em ‘ere ladies and gents…”
He thrust a hand in front of me, shaking a collection of colourful bracelets.
“Protect ye self, sir, for the witch shall have ye still.”
“Let’s hope not,” I muttered, pushing him aside.
Twenty yards further on, the cart had reached its destination.