Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/35

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15
THE ELIZABETHAN CHARACTER

executed. There was an element of poetic justice in such a penalty, which shows itself again in the Halifax punishment, thus described by Harrison.

"Witches are hanged or sometimes burned; but thieves are hanged generally on the gibbet or gallows, saving at Halifax where they are beheaded after a strange manner, and whereof I find this report. There is and has been of ancient time a law or rather, a custom at Halifax, that whosoever does commit any felony, and is taken with the same, or confesses the fact upon examination, if it be valued by four constables to amount to the sum of thirteen pence halfpenny, he is forthwith beheaded upon one of the next market-days (which fall usually upon Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), or else upon the same day that he is so convicted, if market be then holden. The engine wherewith the execution be done is a square block of wood of the length of four feet and a half, which does ride up and down in a slot … between two pieces of timber, that are framed and set upright, of five yards in height. In the nether end of the sliding block is an axe, keyed or fastened with an iron into the wood, which being drawn up to the top of the frame is there fastened by a wooden pin (with a notch made into the same, after the manner of a Sampson's post) unto the midst of which pin also there is a long rope