Next morning at daybreak the hammering of the carpenters had ceased in the Market Place, and their lamps, that burned dim in their sockets, like lights across a misty sea, were one by one put out. Draped in black, the ghastly thing that they had built during the night stood between the turrets of the guard-house.
Already the townspeople were awake. People were hurrying to and fro. Many were entering the houses that looked on to the market. They were eager to secure their points of vantage from which to view that morning’s spectacle.
The light came slowly. It was a frosty morning. At seven o’clock a thin vapor hung in the air and waved to and fro like a veil. It blurred the face of the houses, softened their sharp outlines, and seemed at some moments to carry them away into the distance. The sun rose soft and white as an autumn moon behind a scarf of cloud.
At half past seven the Market Place was thronged. On every inch of the ground, on every balcony, in every window, over every portico, along the roofs of the houses north, south, east, and west, clinging to the chimney-stacks, hanging high up on the pyramidical turrets of the guard-house itself, astride the arms of the old cross, peering from between the battlements of the cathedral tower and the musket lancets of the castle, were crowded, huddled, piled, the spectators of that morning’s tragedy.
What a motley throng! Some in yellow and red, some in black; men, women, and children lifted shoulder-high. Some with pale faces and bloodshot eyes, some with rubicund complexion and laughing lips, some bantering as if at a fair, some on the ground hailing their fellows on the roofs. What a spectacle were they in themselves!
There at the northeast of the Market Place, between Scotch Street amid English Street, were half a hundred men and boys in blouses, seated on the overhanging roof of the wooden shambles. They were shouting sorry jests at half a dozen hoydenish women who looked out of the windows of a building raised on pillars over a well, known as Carnaby’s Folly.
On the roof of the guard-house stood five or six soldiers in red coats. One fellow, with a pipe between his lips, leaned over the parapet to kiss his hand to a little romping serving-wench who giggled at him from behind a curtain in a house opposite. There was an open carriage in the very heart of that throng below. Seated within it was a stately gentleman with a gray peaked beard, and dressed in black velvet cloak and doublet, having lace collar and ruffles; and side by side with him was a delicate young maiden muffled to the throat in fur. The morning was bitterly cold, but even this frail flower of humanity had been drawn forth by the business that was now at hand. Where is she now, and what?
A spectacle indeed, and for the eye of the mind a spectacle no less various than for the bodily organ.