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 his left, Robert Winter rubs his nose and stares at the fellow next to him. The idiot’s toothless mouth reeks of sour ale as he grins and points, as if there were any need to confirm the spectacle before them.
“Dare say her’ll not be a-smiling soon, eh?” He grins again.
Stepping away, Winter pushes through the crowd towards the corner of the lane where the main procession trundles past. Shouts of ‘there’s the bitch’ and ‘hang ‘er high’ grow more vociferous, as the hoard surges forwards to get a better view. Winter watches the Marshall striding down the middle of the road, staff held in front of himself like a flaming torch. Behind, the cart clatters along, its unfortunate cargo clinging to the rail in front of her.
“Ain’t so clever now, is she?” says a fat woman holding a sour-faced child. Giving Winter a dig in the ribs, she adds, “Serve her right, ay, sir?”
Ignoring her, Winter forces his 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 a foot on a broken crate and resting a hand on the corner of the stall, he hoists himself up for a better view.
And there she is, 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 turn towards Winter as if she’d known precisely where he’d be at that moment. A smile slides across her mouth.
He blinks, feels the urge to look away, finds himself unable to move. His gaze fastens on that mouth, the still-red lips and too-white teeth, and he sees her lips moving.
Around her neck, the collar and straps that force her to face the front of the cart, prevent all but the smallest movements one way or another. Encased in handcuffs, her thin wrists seem too frail for the eight and twenty years she’s lived, and her bared ankles bleed where leg-irons chafe against the skin.
As her carriage rolls past, she turns to face the front. Winter gazes after her, watching her skinny body wavering, struggling to stay on her feet. Across the back of the cart, her coffin rests between the rails in readiness for the burial. Behind, the cavalry trot 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 rings out, something about ‘justice for the dead’ and within seconds, the crowd joins in, pouring forwards like a storm tide, carrying those behind beyond the end of the lane and out into the melee that follows the procession. Jostled from his lofty position, Winter cannot help but be carried along with them, a raging torrent, chasing death.
They pass 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. Winter stumbles past one man in a wide-brimmed hat, chanting, “Good luck charms and bangles, get ‘em ‘ere ladies and gents.”
He thrusts a hand in front of Winter, shaking a collection of colourful bracelets.
“Protect ye self, sir, for the witch shall have ye still.”
“Let’s hope not,” he mutters, pushing the man aside.
Twenty yards further on, the cart has reached its destination. It takes a few minutes for the Marshall and his assistants to back up the cart, bringing it to rest directly beneath one of the three beams of the gallows. On a normal day, several prisoners would be hanged at the same time. But this is no normal day.