The Lancashire Witches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 866 pages of information about The Lancashire Witches.
rain began to fall; at first slightly, but afterwards in heavy continuous showers.  Melancholy was the aspect of the abbey, and it required no stretch of imagination to fancy that the old structure was deploring the fate of its former ruler.  To those impressed with the idea—­and many there were who were so—­the very stones of the convent church seemed dissolving into tears.  The statues of the saints appeared to weep, and the great statue of Saint Gregory de Northbury over the porch seemed bowed down with grief.  The grotesquely carved heads on the spouts grinned horribly at the abbot’s destroyers, and spouted forth cascades of water, as if with the intent of drowning them.  So deluging and incessant were the showers, that it seemed, indeed, as if the abbey would be flooded.  All the inequalities of ground within the great quadrangle of the cloisters looked like ponds, and the various water-spouts from the dormitory, the refectory, and the chapter-house, continuing to jet forth streams into the court below, the ambulatories were soon filled ankle-deep, and even the lower apartments, on which they opened, invaded.

Surcharged with moisture, the royal banner on the gate drooped and clung to the staff, as if it too shared in the general depression, or as if the sovereign authority it represented had given way.  The countenances and deportment of the men harmonized with the weather; they moved about gloomily and despondently, their bright accoutrements sullied with the wet, and their buskins clogged with mire.  A forlorn sight it was to watch the shivering sentinels on the walls; and yet more forlorn to see the groups of the abbot’s old retainers gathering without, wrapped in their blue woollen cloaks, patiently enduring the drenching showers, and awaiting the last awful scene.  But the saddest sight of all was on the hill, already described, called the Holehouses.  Here two other lesser gibbets had been erected during the night, one on either hand of the loftier instrument of justice, and the carpenters were yet employed in finishing their work, having been delayed by the badness of the weather.  Half drowned by the torrents that fell upon them, the poor fellows were protected from interference with their disagreeable occupation by half a dozen well-mounted and well-armed troopers, and by as many halberdiers; and this company, completely exposed to the weather, suffered severely from wet and cold.  The rain beat against the gallows, ran down its tall naked posts, and collected in pools at its feet.  Attracted by some strange instinct, which seemed to give them a knowledge of the object of these terrible preparations, two ravens wheeled screaming round the fatal tree, and at length one of them settled on the cross-beam, and could with difficulty be dislodged by the shouts of the men, when it flew away, croaking hoarsely.  Up this gentle hill, ordinarily so soft and beautiful, but now abhorrent as a Golgotha, in the eyes of the beholders, groups of rustics and monks had climbed over ground rendered slippery with moisture, and had gathered round the paling encircling the terrible apparatus, looking the images of despair and woe.

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The Lancashire Witches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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