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which he before had endured in his body; the more because he had now lost his God, whose divine grace had formerly been his comfort and support; whereas he now could find no comfort, either from God or man; but the heavens were become to him as of brass, and the earth as iron.
In this melancholy condition, he went to one of the prisons, where some others, his fellow priests, were confined, to seek for counsel and comfort from them; and here, having confessed his fault, with great marks of a sincere repentance, and received absolution, desiring to repair the scandal he had given, in the same place where he had sinned, he returned to the church of Bridewell, and there, in the middle of the congregation, declared with a loud voice, That he had done very ill in coming lately to church with them, and joining in their service, which, said he, you untruly call the service of God, for it is, indeed, the service of the devil. Ke would have said much more, but was prevented by the people, who immediately laid hold of him, and stopping his mouth, dragged him to prison, where they thrust him into a dungeon so low, and so straight, that he could neither stand up in it, nor lay himself down at his full length to sleep. Here they loaded him with irons, and kept him for a whole month upon bread and water, of which they allowed him so small a pittance, that it was scarce enough to keep him alive, not suffering any one to come near him to comfort him or to speak to him.
At the month's end, he was' translated from this dungeon to a lodging at the top of the house, where, at least, he could see the light, and was less straightened for room; but the adversaries of his faith made this lodging more troublesome to him than the former, by plying him continually, sometimes with threats, sometimes with prayers and promises, to engage him to go again to church, and to seem, at least, outwardly, whatever he might inwardly believe, to be of their religion; so that their continued opportunities made him perfectly weary of his life. In the mean time, the catholics, who heard of his sufferings, durst not attempt to come near him, to succour or comfort him, for fear of being taken for the persons who had persuaded him to what he had done, till Mrs. Margaret Ward, a gentlewoman of a courage above her sex, undertook to do it.
She was in the service of a lady of the first rank, who then resided at London, and hearing of the most afflicted condition of Mr. Watson, asked and obtained leave of her lady to go and attempt to visit and relieve him. In order to this, she changed her dress, and taking a basket upon her arm, full of provisions, went to the prison, but could not have leave to come at the priest, till, by the intercession of the jailor's wife, whom Mrs. Ward had found means to make her friend: with much ado she obtained permission to see him from time to time, and bring him necessaries, upon condition that she should be searched in coming in and going out, that she might carry no letier to him, or from him; which was so strictly observed for the first month, that they even broke the loaves or pies that she brought him, lest any paper should thereby be conveyed to him; and all the while she was with him, care was taken that some one should stand by to hear all that was said. But, at length, beginning to be persuaded that she came out of pure compassion to assist him, they were less strict in searching her basket, and in harkening to their conversation, so that he had an opportunity of telling her, that he had found a way by which, if he had a cord long enough for that purpose, he could let himself down from the top of the house, and make his escape.
Mrs. Ward soon procured the cord, which she brought in her basket under the bread and other eatables, and appointed two catholic watermen, who were let into thR secret, to attend with their boat near Bridewell, between two and three o'clock the next morning; at which time, Mr. Watson, applying to the corner of the cornish, his cord, which he had doubled, not sufficiently considering the heighth of the building, began to let himself down, holding the two ends of the cord in his hands, with a design of carrying it away with him, after he got down, that it might not be discovered by what means he had made his escape. But, by that time he had come down something more than half the way, he found that his cord, which he had doubled, was not now long enough; and he, for some time, remained suspended in the air, being neither able to ascend or descend, without danger of his life.
At length, recommending himself to God, he let go one end of his cord, and suffered himself to fall down upon an old shed or penthouse, which, with the weight of his body, fell in with a great noise. He was very much hurt and stunned by the fall, and broke his right leg and right arm; but the watermen run in immediately to his assistance, and carried him away to their boat. Here he soon came to himself, and, feeling the cord, remembered his coat which he had left in the fall, which he desired one of the watermen to go and bring him. And when they were now advanced in their way, he bethought himself of the cord, and told the watermen, that if they did not return to fetch it, the poor gentlewoman that had given it him, would certainly be put to trouble. But it was now too late; for the noise having alarmed the jailor, and others in the neighbourhood, they came to the place, and finding the cord, immediately suspected what the matter was: and made what search they could to find the priest, but in vain; for the watermen, who had carried him off, took proper care to conceal him, and keep him safe, till he was cured: but God was pleased, that, instead of one who thus escaped from prison, two others, upon this occasion, should meet with the crown of martyrdom, as we shall now see.
For the jailor, seeing the cord, and being convinced that no one but Mrs. Ward could have brought it to the prisoner, and having before found out where she lived, sent early in the morning justices and constables to the house, who, rushing in, found her up, and just upon the point of going out, in order to change her lodgings. They immediately apprehended her, and carried her away to prison, where they loaded her with irons, and kept her in this manner for eight days. Dr. Champney and father Ribadaneira add, that they hung her up by the hands, and cruelly scourged her, which torments she bore with wonderful courage, saying,—They were preludes of martyrdom, with which, by the grace of God, she hoped she should be honoured.
After eight days, she was brought to the bar, where, being asked by the judges, if she was guilty of that treachery to the queen, and to the laws of the realm, of furnishing the means, by which a traitor of a priest, as they were pleased to call him, had escaped from justice? She answered, with a cheerful countenance, in the affirmative: and that she never, in her life, had done any thing of which she less repented, than of the delivering that innocent lamb from the hands of those bloody wolves. They sought to terrify her by their threats, and to oblige her to confess where the priest was, but in vain; and, therefore, they proceeded to pronounce sentence of death upon her, as in cases of felony: but, withal, they told her, that the queen was merciful; and that if she would ask pardon of her majesty, and would promise to go to church, she should be set at liberty, otherwise, she must look for nothing but certain death.
She answered, that as to the queen, she had never offended her majesty; and that it was not just to confess a fault, by asking pardon for it, where there was none: that as to what she had done in favouring the priest's escape, she believed the queen herself, if she had the bowels of a woman, would have done as much, if she had known the ill treatment he underwent. That as to the going to their church, she had, for many years, been convinced that it was not lawful for her so to do, and that she found no reason now to change her mind, and would not act against her conscience; and, therefore, they might proceed, if they pleased, to the execution of the sentence pronounced against her; for that death, for such a cause, would be very welcome to her; and that she was willing to lay down, not one life only, but many, if she had them, rather than betray her conscience, or act against her duty to God and his holy religion.
She was executed at Tyburn, August 30, 1588, showing to the end a wonderful constancy and alacrity; by which the spectators were much moved and greatly edified.
Whilst these things were acting, Mr. Watson was under cure in the waterman's house, who, as soon as he was recovered, thought proper to withdraw further from danger; and that he might be the better disguised, changed clothes with the waterman, who joyfully accepted the change, and put on, with great devotion, the clothes of one whom he regarded as a confessor of Christ. But not long after, walking in the streets, he met the jailor, who took notice of the clothes, and caused him to be apprehended and carried before a justice of the peace, where, being examined how he came by those clothes, he confessed the whole truth; upon which he was committed, prosecuted, and condemned ; and making the same answers as Mrs. Ward had done, with regard to the begging the queen's pardon, and going to church, he endured the same death with much spiritual joy in his soul, and a constancy which many admired, and were very much edified by it.
WILLIAM WAY, PRIEST.*
He was born in Cornwall, had his education in Douay college, during its residence at Rhemes; was an alumnus and priest of that college, and from thence was sent upon the English mission, in 1586. When and how he was apprehended I have not found, or how long he had been in prison before his execution, or any other particulars relating to him, only, that he was prosecuted and condemned upon the penal statutes, for having been made priest beyond the seas by Roman authority, and coming into this realm, and remaining here. For this supposed treason he was hanged, bowelled, and quartered at Kingston, in Surry. Some say, on the 1st of October; but the bishop of Chalcedon's catalogue says, on the 23d of September, who believes him to be the same whom Mr. Stow, in his chronicle, calls Flower, when writing of the year 1588, he says, 'on the 23d of September, a seminary priest, named Flower, was hanged, headed, and quartered, at Kingston.' Though bishop Yepez, and others, speak of Mr. Flower, and Mr. Way, as of two different persons.
ROBERT WILCOX, EDWARD CAMPIAN, AND CHRISTOPHER BUXTON, PRIESTS, t
Robert Wilcox was born at Chester, and performed his studies at Rhemes, where the English college then resided. Of this college, he was an alumnus and priest; and from hence, was sent upon the mission in 1586. His mission seems to have been in Kent. When, and how he fell into the hands of the persecutors, I have not found; but only, that he was condemned to die, as in cases of high treason, merely, upon account of his character and functions; and, in consequence of this sentence, was hanged, drawn, and quartered, at Canterbury. Raissius says, it was some time in September. Others affirm it was on the 1st of October, 1588. Mr. Edward Campian, and Mr. Buxton, priests, and Mr. Widmerpool, a layman, suffered with him. Mr. Wilcox was the first who was called upon to go up the ladder, which he did, with great cheerfulness; and, when he was up, turning to his companions with a smiling countenance, he bid them be of good cheer, telling them, That he was going to heaven before them, where he should carry the tidings of their coming after him.
He suffered with great constancy and alacrity, to the great edification of the faithful, and confusion of the persecutors.
* From the Douay Diaries and Catalogues.
t From the same memoirs, and from Dr. Champney's manuscript history.
Edward Campian was born in Kent, of a gentleman's family, was an alumnus and priest of Douay college, during its residence at Rhemes; from whence, he was sent upon this mission, in 1587. He was apprehended, prosecuted and condemned to die, merely for his character and exercising his priestly functions in England; and for this supposed treason was hanged, bowelled, and quartered, on the same day, and at the same place, with Mr. Wilcox, and with the same courage and cheerfulness.
Christopher Buxton was born in Derbyshire, and brought up in Mr. Garlick's school at Tidswell in that county; from whence, be passed over to the college then residing at Rhemes, and there, for some time, prosecuted his studies. Dr. Champney, in his manuscript history, with Raissius and Molanus, in their printed catalogues, call him a priest of Douay college; but as I find not his name in the old Douay catalogue of those that were sent priests from Rhemes upon the mission, I rather believe the account given by the bishop of Chalcedon, who calls him alumnus and cleric of the college of Douay, during its residence at Rhemes, but priest of the college of Rome. He was condemned for the same cause as Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Campian, viz. for coming into England, being a priest, and remaining there contrary to the statute; and suffered at the same time and place, and with the like courage. He was the youngest of the three, and was obliged to stand a spectator of the barbarous butchery of his companions: but, when the persecutors, thinking, perhaps, that his constancy had been shook with the sight of this scene of blood, offered him his life upon condition that he would conform to their religion, he generously answered, that he would not purchase a corruptible life at such a rate; and that, if he had a hundred lives he would willingly lay them all down in defence of his faith.
Robert Widmerpool, who suffered at the same time, was a gentleman, born at Widmerpool, in Nottinghamshire, who was, for some time, tutor to the sons of Henry Piercy, earl of Northumberland. The cause for which he was condemned to die, was his hospitality to priests, and in particular, his having introduced a priest into the house of the countess of Northumberland. At the place of execution, he, with great affection, kissed both the ladder and the rope, as the instruments of his martyrdom; and having now, the rope about his neck, began to speak to the people, giving God most hearty thanks, for bringing him to so great a glory, as that of dying for his faitlj and truth, in the same place where the glorious martyr, St. Thomas of Canterbury, had shed his blood for the honour of his divine Majesty. Some of the people, at these words, cried out, away, away with the traitor; but he, not moved at all, with their clamours, looking round him, and recommending himself to the prayers of the catholics, was flung off the ladder, and so happily exchanged this mortal life for immortality.