The Lancashire Witches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 866 pages of information about The Lancashire Witches.
on the other’s laughing features.  Different were they too, in degree, and here social position was infinitely in favour of the fairer girl, but no one would have judged it so if not previously acquainted with their history.  Indeed, it was rather the one having least title to be proud (if any one has such title) who now seemed to look up to her companion with mingled admiration and regard; the latter being enthralled at the moment by the rich notes of a thrush poured from a neighbouring lime-tree.

Pleasant was the garden where the two girls stood, shaded by great trees, laid out in exquisite parterres, with knots and figures, quaint flower-beds, shorn trees and hedges, covered alleys and arbours, terraces and mounds, in the taste of the time, and above all an admirably kept bowling-green.  It was bounded on the one hand by the ruined chapter-house and vestry of the old monastic structure, and on the other by the stately pile of buildings formerly making part of the Abbot’s lodging, in which the long gallery was situated, some of its windows looking upon the bowling-green, and then kept in excellent condition, but now roofless and desolate.  Behind them, on the right, half hidden by trees, lay the desecrated and despoiled conventual church.  Reared at such cost, and with so much magnificence, by thirteen abbots—­the great work having been commenced, as heretofore stated, by Robert de Topcliffe, in 1330, and only completed in all its details by John Paslew; this splendid structure, surpassing, according to Whitaker, “many cathedrals in extent,” was now abandoned to the slow ravages of decay.  Would it had never encountered worse enemy!  But some half century later, the hand of man was called in to accelerate its destruction, and it was then almost entirely rased to the ground.  At the period in question though partially unroofed, and with some of the walls destroyed, it was still beautiful and picturesque—­more picturesque, indeed than in the days of its pride and splendour.  The tower with its lofty crocketed spire was still standing, though the latter was cracked and tottering, and the jackdaws roosted within its windows and belfry.  Two ranges of broken columns told of the bygone glories of the aisles; and the beautiful side chapels having escaped injury better than other parts of the fabric, remained in tolerable preservation.  But the choir and high altar were stripped of all their rich carving and ornaments, and the rain descended through the open rood-loft upon the now grass-grown graves of the abbots in the presbytery.  Here and there the ramified mullions still retained their wealth of painted glass, and the grand eastern window shone gorgeously as of yore.  All else was neglect and ruin.  Briers and turf usurped the place of the marble pavement; many of the pillars were festooned with ivy; and, in some places, the shattered walls were covered with creepers, and trees had taken root in the crevices of the masonry.  Beautiful at all times were these magnificent ruins; but never so beautiful as when seen by the witching light of the moon—­the hour, according to the best authority, when all ruins should be viewed—­when the long lines of broken pillars, the mouldering arches, and the still glowing panes over the altar, had a magical effect.

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The Lancashire Witches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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