Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 131

“Alas! dear husband, what shall we do?” cried Alice. “Accursed be all treason! But who can have betrayed you to your foes? Go into my bedchamber, dear William, and defend yourself there, for it is the strongest room in the house. The children and I will go with you, and I will guard the door while you defend the windows.”

The plan was speedily carried out, and while William took his stand by the window Alice seized a pole-axe and stationed herself by the door. “No man shall enter this door alive while I live,” said she.

“William continued his wonderful archery”

Thereupon he leaped lightly down, and fought so fiercely that he nearly escaped through the throng, for the worthy citizens of Carlisle were not anxious to capture him; but the soldiers, urged by the sheriff and justice, threw doors and windows upon him, hampered his blows, and seized and bound him, and cast him into a deep dungeon.

The Sheriff Gives Sentence

“Now, William of Cloudeslee,” quoth the sheriff, “you shall be hanged with speed, as soon as I can have a new gallows made. So noted an outlaw merits no [Pg 233] common gibbet; a new one is most fitting. To-morrow at prime you shall die. There is no hope of rescue, for the gates of the town shall be shut. Your dear friends, Adam Bell and Clym of the Cleugh, would be helpless to save you, though they brought a thousand more like themselves, or even all the devils in Hell.”

Early next morning the justice arose, went to the soldiers who guarded the gates, and forbade them to open till the execution was over; then he went to the market-place and superintended the erection of a specially lofty gallows, beside the pillory.

News is Brought to the Greenwood

Among the crowd who watched the gallows being raised was a little lad, the town swineherd, who asked a bystander the meaning of the new gibbet.

“It is put up to hang a good yeoman, William of Cloudeslee, more’s the pity! He has done no wrong but kill the King’s deer, and that merits not hanging. It is a foul shame that such injustice can be wrought in the king’s name.”