The Hanging of the Notorious AC

The following eyewitness account was first published in the South Leicester Mercury:

I felt the approach of the condemned woman before I heard the cart. A shiver of tension passed through the crowd. Hat feathers twitched. The low drone of conversations dropped away to almost nothing. And then she was there – a slight figure in the distance, just visible above a sea of heads, as if she was wading. And like a sea, the crowd surged. Bodies pressed and I found myself shuffling forwards. How they made room for the cart, I do not know. Yet soon she was behind the scaffold.

First to climb the wooden stairs was the rotund figure of the executioner, Clarence Hob, masked yet a celebrity known to all. Over his shoulder rested a length of rope, one end tied in a noose. Next up was a red coated Marshall carrying a roll of parchment. Then the condemned woman began to climb. A sound like a breeze moving through dry grass whispered around me as all drew in breath.

She looked about her, eyes wide, taking in the huge expanse of the crowd. If any had come to see some noble moment, some gesture of defiance against the aristocrats, they would be disappointed. She was a girl, scared and alone. There would be no final speech.

Clarence Hob had been testing the middle of the three chains, gripping the hook and lifting his feet so that his considerable weight hung from the beam. Now he made fast the rope. I watched as he placed a sack over her head.

The full text is to be reproduced in the book Unseemly Science.

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  • Introduction

    Aspects of the Gas-Lit Empire are laid out in these pages for your perusal. Here are maps, monographs and mysteries. Here also you may follow clues through the maze of its streets and alleyways. Hidden stories await the perceptive eye.