The Lancashire Witches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 866 pages of information about The Lancashire Witches.

Dreary was the prospect on all sides.  Black moor, bleak fell, straggling forest, intersected with sullen streams as black as ink, with here and there a small tarn, or moss-pool, with waters of the same hue—­these constituted the chief features of the scene.  The whole district was barren and thinly-populated.  Of towns, only Clithero, Colne, and Burnley—­the latter little more than a village—­were in view.  In the valleys there were a few hamlets and scattered cottages, and on the uplands an occasional “booth,” as the hut of the herdsman was termed; but of more important mansions there were only six, as Merley, Twistleton, Alcancoats, Saxfeld, Ightenhill, and Gawthorpe.  The “vaccaries” for the cattle, of which the herdsmen had the care, and the “lawnds,” or parks within the forest, appertaining to some of the halls before mentioned, offered the only evidences of cultivation.  All else was heathy waste, morass, and wood.

Still, in the eye of the sportsman—­and the Lancashire gentlemen of the sixteenth century were keen lovers of sport—­the country had a strong interest.  Pendle forest abounded with game.  Grouse, plover, and bittern were found upon its moors; woodcock and snipe on its marshes; mallard, teal, and widgeon upon its pools.  In its chases ranged herds of deer, protected by the terrible forest-laws, then in full force:  and the hardier huntsman might follow the wolf to his lair in the mountains; might spear the boar in the oaken glades, or the otter on the river’s brink; might unearth the badger or the fox, or smite the fierce cat-a-mountain with a quarrel from his bow.  A nobler victim sometimes, also, awaited him in the shape of a wild mountain bull, a denizen of the forest, and a remnant of the herds that had once browsed upon the hills, but which had almost all been captured, and removed to stock the park of the Abbot of Whalley.  The streams and pools were full of fish:  the stately heron frequented the meres; and on the craggy heights built the kite, the falcon, and the kingly eagle.

There were eight watchers by the beacon.  Two stood apart from the others, looking to the right and the left of the hill.  Both were armed with swords and arquebuses, and wore steel caps and coats of buff.  Their sleeves were embroidered with the five wounds of Christ, encircling the name of Jesus—­the badge of the Pilgrimage of Grace.  Between them, on the verge of the mountain, was planted a great banner, displaying a silver cross, the chalice, and the Host, together with an ecclesiastical figure, but wearing a helmet instead of a mitre, and holding a sword in place of a crosier, with the unoccupied hand pointing to the two towers of a monastic structure, as if to intimate that he was armed for its defence.  This figure, as the device beneath it showed, represented John Paslew, Abbot of Whalley, or, as he styled himself in his military capacity, Earl of Poverty.

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The Lancashire Witches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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