The Hanging of Siliam MartinA Story by Truman S. Booth
A medieval tragedy.
The hanging of Siliam Martin was well attended, to say the least. More than half the village was present, and during harvest that was an impressive feat. The wooden stand was old, but sturdy, and as Siliam climbed the steps to stand atop the trap door alone, not a creak came from the structure. Or, at least, none were heard over the dull murmur of the uneasy crowd.
Normally, a great uproar would pass through the congregation as the accused assumed his final position, but there was a nearly tangible reverence present as Siliam Martin planted his feet below the overhanging beam. Two scowling men stood beside the deadly apparatus. One began to loudly recite Mr. Martin’s crimes; the other walked around the modest hangman’s box and climbed the stairs as well, stopping silently to Siliam’s right.
“Siliam Martin,” the spokesman shouted. The crowd’s silence grew even more absolute. “You are hereby condemned to public death by hanging on account of the following crimes: intruding a nobleman’s household, raping his daughter, and murdering him by the blade.”
“I murdered no one,” Siliam interrupted quite loudly, alarming several of the audience members. He looked positively heroic, even with his hands bound tightly behind his back with bloodstained rope. His dark hair was long and full, falling in waves around his chiseled face. His dark blue eyes, shining with tears, looked adamantly into the sky, refusing to hide his muscular neck, soon to be broken by the noose dangling before his nose. He was tall like his father, strong from nearly eighteen years in the fields, and free from any signs of the plague. Dozens of young women in the crowd gazed dreamily upon his fantastic figure; others sobbed quietly, mourning the death of their fantasies; but one young lady at the very front of the crowd, nearer than anyone to the dazzling man facing the noose, was one Chelsea Angaire, whose flowing tears made mud of the dirt on her expensive blouse.
The spokesman continued from Siliam’s outburst without pause. “In light of your transgressions, let it be known that on this twelfth day of Harvest you are to be hung, burned, and scattered among your family’s field.”
Finished, he nodded his head to the man on the stand, whose gnarled hands reached for the noose to pull around Siliam’s young neck. The spectators’ hearts rose into their throats as the coarse rope scraped his forehead, abusing his brazen hair.
It was here that I stepped forth, unable to ignore the sobs of sweet Chelsea Angaire. From above, Siliam’s eyes darted to meet mine, and I knew that Chelsea, as well, had focused on the back of my head.
“Pull no more!” I shouted, lifting my arm at the man. He was still for moment, long enough for me to hop onto the platform in a single leap. Our audience gasped at my actions; the spokesman began to shout.
“Pray tell, young man, what is the meaning of this?”
Still facing the accused, I pursed my lips and nodded curtly at Siliam. His face expressed only confusion. I urged the hangman to back away before turning to face the crowd: it looked even more enormous from a heightened elevation.
“My friends,” I shouted in a voice much higher pitched than my own. I swallowed, trying my best to retain composition. “This man is innocent of the crimes hereto mentioned.”
Their silence disappeared, replaced by a continuously growing roar. I stuck out my chest, for though I was much less impressive than Siliam, my stature and youth commanded some degree of attention among them. They quieted gradually, and I spoke again when I felt most of them would hear.
“Many of you are aware of the details which paint Mr. Martin’s current picture, if not all of you. And were it not for a certain absence, this speech would never sail from my mouth to thy ears. And yet, as of yesterday, Sir Thomas Angaire is dead, and I am free to speak.”
I dared not look at Chelsea when I mentioned her late father. I did not know what her reaction would be: perhaps, with the majority of the crowd, she made no change in her demeanor; perhaps she hung her head in sorrow; perhaps she glared at me with an unforgiving scowl; or perhaps she smiled at the mention of her father’s death, for she had so hated the man.
I continued, intentionally unaware of her emotional response. “Siliam Martin is not guilty of sneaking into the Angaire’s house. He did not, as is accused, force Thomas’s fair daughter into bed. And his is not the hand that slit Sir Thomas’s throat.” I adjusted my stance, holding both fists at my sides and staring directly into the setting sun. “These crimes were committed by me.”
Open mouths gasped in unison. Below me, Chelsea gaped. Siliam successfully stifled a smile.
“Three nights ago, it was I who climbed through Chelsea’s window. It was I who pushed her past the sinful boundaries of love. It was I, not Siliam Martin, who lured Sir Angaire into the empty fields and ran a blade beneath his jaw. I spilt the blood of our village’s noble overseer, raped his daughter of surpassing beauty, and can no longer allow the blame to sit upon this honest man’s shoulders.”
I pointed dramatically at Siliam and hung my head as the audience’s roar was thunderously resurrected. For several minutes I kept my eyes closed tightly, imagining the world away as my memories danced upon my eyelids. I saw the Angaire family riding into our humble village ten years earlier. I saw the stern, gray face of Sir Thomas, the weak, pale face of his plague-ridden wife, and the young, perfect face of his daughter, Chelsea, atop her very own pony. I was eight at the time, plowing with my father, but love knows no age or position.
For many years I watched Chelsea from afar. The noble family changed our village very little, but her presence changed my life forever, as it did Siliam Martin’s.
Siliam was bigger, handsomer, and overall more impressive than me in every area. As if that wasn’t enough, he was confident and did not fear Chelsea’s father as I did. Somehow he found moments to talk with her, introduce himself and all the charm that came with him. She fell for him as quickly as I had fallen for her, but in her case there was reciprocation to feed the flame. My case had only desire and envy, the most explosive of all fuels.
The plague took my father and Chelsea’s mother in the same day. My father, a widower since my birth, was a wonderful, kind man, both to me and to the villagers. His burial had been even better attended than Siliam’s hanging, though the Angaire’s believed the attendees were honoring Lady Angaire. Somehow, as their bodies were buried in nearby graves, I found myself standing beside Chelsea, fifteen years old and more beautiful than ever.
“I’m sorry about your mother,” I found myself saying.
She had turned to me with a teary smile. “Thank you. I’m sorry about your father. Did you love him?”
I was not aware Chelsea knew of my father’s death, let alone that I was his son. Her response nearly knocked me off my feet, and I took longer than was necessary to answer. “Yes, with all my heart.”
She sighed as a tear dripped from her chin. “It must be wonderful to love a father.”
I turned to her questioningly. “Do you love your father?”
She laughed aloud, surprising some of our mourning neighbors. “No,” she whispered, “I most certainly do not. He is a nasty man. I wish it was he who had caught the plague.”
I could hardly believe my ears, but before I could question her more, Siliam arrived and comforted the poor girl better than I would have known how.
Years passed without a word between us, but my eyes rarely left her face. I had one brother, but he was old enough to take care of himself, as was I. We sold most of the family farm, keeping only a large enough section to feed ourselves. My half was simple to maintain, and I found myself with much spare time. I spent every minute of it watching Miss Angaire from afar, admiring her poise, her beauty, despising her company, laughing when her father shouted at Siliam to leave his daughter alone. It was a heartbreaking lifestyle.
I felt hands on my shoulders and opened my eyes, stumbling towards the noose. It was slipped quickly around my neck by gnarled hands, and as my eyes adjusted to the dim twilight, I saw Siliam and Chelsea side by side in the front of the crowd, staring at me with wide, disbelieving eyes. His arm was wrapped around her shoulder, and her tears had evidently not ceased for some time. Unable to bear their appreciative expressions, I shut my eyes again, forcing my mind back to days gone by.
There it was, the Angaire’s mansion. Compared to the meager huts and cottages owned by the villagers, Sir Thomas’s home was a castle. By the light of the moon, I watched from behind the nearby bakery as Siliam climbed through Chelsea’s window night after night after night. Since her sixteenth birthday, he visited her chambers in utmost secrecy at least three nights a week, often more. Most nights I would lean against the bakery, fall asleep to its sweet aromas, dreaming of climbing through that window myself. Other nights, when I was particularly despondent, I would sneak up to the house and sit below the window, listening furiously to the stifled sounds of their passion.
It was in this position, curled into a quivering ball, that I heard Siliam discovered. Sir Thomas burst into his daughter’s room, immediately professing that he was going to “kill that wretched farm boy”. Chelsea screamed for him to stop; there was a struggle of some sort; and suddenly Siliam was above my head, leaping from the window like a terrified horse. He sprinted towards the bakery and I followed suit, frightened that Sir Thomas would mistake me for his daughter’s lover in his rage.
Siliam ran all the way across the village, lying down in a tall wheat field ready for harvest. Without thinking, I followed him, falling on my stomach at his side.
“What on earth are you doing?” he asked me between gasps of breath.
“Hiding,” I managed to say. He opened his mouth to speak, but we heard the galloping of a horse in the distance, along with the hoarse shouts of Sir Angaire. Keeping completely still and quiet, we tried to flatten ourselves into the ground as deeply as possible. For what seemed like hours, we held our breath, praying that the beast would take his master away. The shouts never grew very loud, and before long it was completely silent again.
Siliam elbowed my ribs and jerked his thumb upwards, silently commanding me to stand up first. I did so cautiously, and when I was certain Sir Thomas was gone, I helped Siliam to his feet.
“What were you doing below the window?” Siliam whispered to me with a bewildered expression.
I grimaced, having hoped he had not seen me there. After a shrug, I admitted “Listening.”
Siliam cracked up, doubling over himself in laughter. I was offended initially, but soon joined in, cackling loudly at the ridiculousness of my behavior.
“You like her, do you?” he asked me as we left the wheat.
“I love her,” I said, hanging my head. “I have since the day she arrived.”
“As have I,” he said, gazing lovingly at the moon as if it was her shining face. “I’m sorry, friend, I really am. I can’t imagine how it must feel for you.”
Again, I merely shrugged. “Awful. But I am glad she has you. You make her happy.”
He gave me a surprised smile and patted me on the back. “Thanks, friend. That’s a bit of good news if I ever heard some.”
We walked to his house together, for it was nearest of our resting places.
“What do you think Sir Thomas will do to you tomorrow?” I asked.
Siliam shook his head. “Nothing noble. I’ll try to avoid him the best I can.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for you,” I promised, and he patted me on the back again before entering his house quietly. I walked to mine alone.
Siliam did a fine job avoiding Sir Thomas, despite the fact that he had everyone under his command searching the village for two days, spreading the rumor that Siliam had forced lovemaking upon Chelsea. Between working in the fields, hiding in friends’ dwellings, and wearing disguises, Siliam managed to avoid his fate for over forty hours. But one afternoon, as Siliam Martin picked up the straw from a recently harvested field of wheat, Sir Thomas Angaire spotted him, alone and vulnerable in the plot. No other farmers were near, having moved on to a field of hay several acres south.
With visible fury, Sir Thomas galloped his horse into the field and leapt upon Siliam, wielding a sword. Quick and agile, Siliam was able to dodge his brash attacks until help arrived in the form of an envious new friend. With my father’s knife in hand, I leapt onto the nobleman’s back and slit his throat before he could kill my true love’s true love.
We left the scene quickly, aware of the consequences of killing a noble. Later that day, as we contemplated what was to be done behind the bakery, the Angaire’s servants discovered and surrounded us. In an act of cowardice, I shouted “He’s trying to steal my bread!” Without question, the servants latched upon a stunned Siliam and dragged him to the mansion.
My eyes opened again as the spokesman finished repeating the crimes punishable by hanging, now resting on my head. With effort, I turned toward Siliam. He seemed to be thanking me, nodding in a reverently approving manner. On their own accord, my eyes swiveled to meet Chelsea’s. They glistened with messy emotions: sorrow, shock, confusion, with joy, understanding, and gratitude trying to break through. I tried to say “I love you,” but I couldn’t. I tried to smile, but I couldn’t.
The platform dropped, and I fell for a moment.
© 2011 Truman S. Booth
Truman S. Booth
the Bubble, UT
AboutI am a young writer, but I believe that talent knows no age--although they tend to increase together. There are a few things I love, and a few things I hate. I love language, piano, animated movie.. more..