The ceremony of delivering up the bodies of the prisoners to the earl was gone through by the sheriff, and their sentences were then read aloud by a clerk. After this the earl, who had hitherto remained covered, took off his cap, and in a solemn voice spoke:—
“John Paslew, somewhile Abbot of Whalley, but now an attainted and condemned felon, and John Eastgate and William Haydocke, formerly brethren of the same monastery, and confederates with him in crime, ye have heard your doom. To-morrow you shall die the ignominious death of traitors; but the king in his mercy, having regard not so much to the heinous nature of your offences towards his sovereign majesty as to the sacred offices you once held, and of which you have been shamefully deprived, is graciously pleased to remit that part of your sentence, whereby ye are condemned to be quartered alive, willing that the hearts which conceived so much malice and violence against him should cease to beat within your own bosoms, and that the arms which were raised in rebellion against him should be interred in one common grave with the trunks to which they belong.”
“God save the high and puissant king, Henry the Eighth, and free him from all traitors!” cried the clerk.
“We humbly thank his majesty for his clemency,” said the abbot, amid the profound silence that ensued; “and I pray you, my good lord, when you shall write to the king concerning us, to say to his majesty that we died penitent of many and grave offences, amongst the which is chiefly that of having taken up arms unlawfully against him, but that we did so solely with the view of freeing his highness from evil counsellors, and of re-establishing our holy church, for the which we would willingly die, if our death might in anywise profit it.”
“Amen!” exclaimed Father Eastgate, who stood with his hands crossed upon his breast, close behind Paslew. “The abbot hath uttered my sentiments.”
“He hath not uttered mine,” cried Father Haydocke. “I ask no grace from the bloody Herodias, and will accept none. What I have done I would do again, were the past to return—nay, I would do more—I would find a way to reach the tyrant’s heart, and thus free our church from its worst enemy, and the land from a ruthless oppressor.”
“Remove him,” said the earl; “the vile traitor shall be dealt with as he merits. For you,” he added, as the order was obeyed, and addressing the other prisoners, “and especially you, John Paslew, who have shown some compunction for your crimes, and to prove to you that the king is not the ruthless tyrant he hath been just represented, I hereby in his name promise you any boon, which you may ask consistently with your situation. What favour would you have shown you?”
The abbot reflected for a moment.
“Speak thou, John Eastgate,” said the Earl of Derby, seeing that the abbot was occupied in thought.
“If I may proffer a request, my lord,” replied the monk, “it is that our poor distraught brother, William Haydocke, be spared the quartering block. He meant not what he said.”