The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“I have already said that the fire has no terrors for me,” replied Underhill. “When the spirit has once asserted its superiority over the flesh, the body can feel no pain. Upon the rack—in that dreadful engine, which fixes the frame in such a posture that no limb or joint can move—I was at ease. And to prove that I have no sense of suffering, I will myself administer the torture.”

So saying, and raising with some difficulty his stiffened arm, he held his hand over the flame of a lamp that stood upon the table before him, until the veins shrunk and burst, and the sinews cracked. During this dreadful trial, his countenance underwent no change. And if Bonner had not withdrawn the lamp, he would have allowed the limb to be entirely consumed.

“Peradventure, thou wilt believe me now,” he cried triumphantly; “and wilt understand that the Lord will so strengthen me with his holy spirit that I may be ‘one of the number of those blessed, which, enduring to the end, shall reap a heavenly inheritance.'”

“Take him away,” replied Bonner. “His blood be upon his own head. He is so blinded and besotted, that he does not perceive that his death will lead to damnation.”

“No, verily,” rejoined Underhill, exultingly; “for as Saint Paul saith, There is no damnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, which walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory?”

“Hence with the blasphemer,” roared Bonner; “and spare him no torments, for he deserves the severest ye can inflict,”

Upon this, Underhill was removed, and the bishop’s injunctions in respect to the torture literally fulfilled.

Brought to trial for the attempt upon the queen’s life, he was found guilty, and received the royal pardon. Nothing could be elicited as to his having any associates or instigators to his crime. And the only matter that implicated another was the prayer for the restoration of Jane, written in a leaf of the Bible found upon his person at the time of his seizure. But though he was pardoned by Mary, he did not escape. He was claimed as a heretic by Bonner; examined before the ecclesiastical commissioners; and adjudged to the stake. The warrant for his execution was signed, as above related, by the queen.

On the night before this terrible sentence was carried into effect, he was robed in a loose dress of flame-coloured taffeta, and conveyed through the secret passages to Saint John’s Chapel in the White Tower, which was brilliantly illuminated, and filled with a large assemblage. As he entered the sacred structure, a priest advanced with holy water, but he turned aside with a scornful look. Another, more officious, placed a consecrated wafer to his lips, but he spat it out; while a third forced a couple of tapers into his hands, which he was compelled to carry. In this way, he was led along the aisle by his guard, through the crowd of spectators who divided as he moved towards the altar, before which, as on the occasion of the Duke of Northumberland’s reconciliation, Gardiner was seated upon the faldstool, with the mitre on his head. Priests and choristers were arranged on either side in their full habits. The aspect of the chancellor-bishop was stern and menacing, but the miserable enthusiast did not quail before it. On the contrary, he seemed inspired with new strength; and though he had with difficulty dragged his crippled limbs along the dark passages, he now stood firm and erect. His limbs were wasted, his cheeks hollow, his eyes deep sunken in their sockets, but flashing with vivid lustre. At a gesture from Gardiner, Nightgall and Wolfytt, who attended him, forced him upon his knees.

“Edward Underhill,” demanded the bishop, in a stern voice, “for the last time, I ask thee dost thou persist in thy impious and damnable heresies?”

“I persist in my adherence to the Protestant faith, by which alone I can be saved,” replied Underhill, firmly. “I deserve and desire death for having raised my hand against the queen’s life. But as her highness has been graciously pleased to extend her mercy towards me, if I suffer death it will be in the cause of the gospel. And I take all here present to witness that I am right willing to do so, certain that I shall obtain by such means the crown of everlasting life. I would suffer a thousand deaths, yea, all the rackings, torments, crucifyings, and other persecutions endured by the martyrs of old, rather than deny Christ and his gospel, or defile my faith and conscience with the false worship of the Romish religion.”

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