Before the second course was served, the Garter, followed by Clarenceux and Norroy, together with the heralds and pursuivants, advanced towards the sovereign's canopy, and cried thrice in a loud voice, "Largesse!"
Upon this, all the knights-companions arose and took off their caps. The Garter then proceeded to proclaim the king's titles in Latin and French, and lastly in English, as follows:—"Of the most high, most excellent, and most mighty monarch, Henry the Eighth, by the grace of God King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of the most noble Order of the Garter."
This proclamation made, the treasurer of the household put ten golden marks into the Garter's cap, who making a reverence to the sovereign, retired from the hall with his followers.
"Come, my lord legate," said Henry, when this ceremony was at an end, "we will drink to my future queen. What ho! wine!" he added to the Earl of Surrey, who officiated as cup-bearer.
"Your highness is not yet divorced from your present consort," replied Campeggio. "If it please you, I should prefer drinking the health of Catherine of Arragon."
"Well, as your eminence pleases," replied the king, taking the goblet from the hand of Surrey; "I shall not constrain you."
And looking towards the gallery, he fixed his eyes on the Lady Anne and drained the cup to the last drop.
"Would it were poison," muttered Sir Thomas Wyat, who stood behind the Earl of Surrey, and witnessed what was passing.
"Give not thy treasonable thoughts vent, gossip," said Will Sommers, who formed one of the group near the royal table, "or it may chance that some one less friendly disposed towards thee than myself may overhear them. I tell thee, the Lady Anne is lost to thee for ever. Think'st thou aught of womankind would hesitate between a simple knight and a king? My lord duke," he added sharply to Richmond, who was looking round at him, "you would rather be in yonder gallery than here."
"Why so, knave?" asked the duke.
"Because the Fair Geraldine is there," replied the jester. "And yet your grace is not the person she would most desire to have with her."
"Whom would she prefer?" inquired the duke angrily.
The jester nodded at Surrey, and laughed maliciously.
"You heard the health given by the king just now, my lord," observed the Duke of Suffolk to his neighbour the Duke of Norfolk; "it was a shrewd hint to the lord legate which way his judgment should decline. Your niece will assuredly be Queen of England."
"I did not note what was said, my lord," replied Norfolk; "I pray you repeat it to me."
Suffolk complied, and they continued in close debate until the termination of the banquet, when the king, having saluted the company, returned to the presence-chamber.
Of the Ghostly Chase beheld by the Earl of Surrey and the Duke of Richmond in Windsor Forest.
On that same night, and just as the castle clock was on the stroke of twelve, the Earl of Surrey and the Duke of Richmond issued from the upper gate, and took their way towards Herne's Oak. The moon was shining brightly, and its beams silvered the foliage of the noble trees with which the park was studded. The youthful friends soon reached the blasted tree; but nothing was to be seen near it, and all looked so tranquil, so free from malignant influence, that the Duke of Richmond could not help laughing at his companion, telling him that the supposed vision must have been the offspring of his over-excited fancy. Angry at being thus doubted, the earl walked off, and plunged into the haunted dell. The duke followed, but though they paused for some time beneath the gnarled oak-tree, the spirit did not appear.
"And thus ends the adventure of Herne the Hunter!" laughed the duke, as they emerged from the brake. "By my halidom, Surrey, I am grievously disappointed. You must have mistaken some large stag, caught by its antlers in the branches of the oak-tree, for the demon."
"I have told you precisely what occurred," replied Surrey angrily. "Ha! there he is—look! look!"
And he pointed to a weird figure, mounted on a steed as weird-looking as itself, galloping through the trees with extraordinary swiftness, at a little distance from them. This ghostly rider wore the antlered helmet described by Surrey, and seemed to be habited in a garb of deer-skins. Before him flew a large owl, and a couple of great black dogs ran beside him. Staring in speechless wonder at the sight, the two youths watched the mysterious being scour a glade brightly illumined by the moon, until, reaching the pales marking the confines of the Home Park, he leaped them and disappeared.
"What think you of that?" cried Surrey, as soon as he had recovered from his surprise, glancing triumphantly at the duke. "Was that the offspring of my fancy?"
"It was a marvellous sight, truly!" exclaimed Richmond. "Would we had our steeds to follow him."
"We can follow him on foot," replied the earl—"he is evidently gone into the forest."
And they set off at a quick pace in the direction taken by the ghostly rider. Clambering the park pales, they crossed the road leading to Old Windsor, and entered that part of the forest which, in more recent times, has been enclosed and allotted to the grounds of Frogmore. Tracking a long vista, they came to a thick dell, overgrown with large oaks, at the bottom of which lay a small pool. Fleeter than his companion, and therefore somewhat in advance of him, the Earl of Surrey, as he approached this dell, perceived the spectral huntsman and his dogs standing at the edge of the water. The earl instantly shouted to him, and the horseman turning his head, shook his hand menacingly, while the hounds glared fiercely at the intruder, and displayed their fangs, but did not bark. As Surrey, however, despite this caution, continued to advance, the huntsman took a strangely shaped horn that hung by his side, and placing it to his lips, flames and thick smoke presently issued from it, and before the vapour had cleared off, he and his dogs had disappeared.. The witnesses of this marvellous spectacle crossed themselves reverently, and descended to the brink of the pool; but the numerous footprints of deer, that came there to drink, prevented them from distinguishing any marks of the steed of the ghostly hunter.
"Shall we return, Surrey?" asked the duke.
"No," replied the earl. "I am persuaded we shall see the mysterious huntsman again. You can return, if you think proper. I will go on."
"Nay, I will not leave you," rejoined Richmond.
And they set off again at the same quick pace as before. Mounting a hill covered with noble beeches and elms, a magnificent view of the castle burst upon them, towering over the groves they had tracked, and looking almost like the work of enchantment. Charmed with the view, the young men continued to contemplate it for some time. They then struck off on the right, and ascended still higher, until they came to a beautiful grove of beeches cresting the hill where the equestrian statue of George the Third is now placed. Skirting this grove, they disturbed a herd of deer, which started up, and darted into the valley below.
At the foot of two fine beech-trees lay another small pool, and Surrey almost expected to see the spectral huntsman beside it.
From this spot they could discern the whole of the valley beyond, and they scanned it in the hope of perceiving the object of their search. Though not comparable to the view on the nearer side, the prospect was nevertheless exceedingly beautiful. Long vistas and glades stretched out before them, while in the far distance might be seen glittering in the moonbeams the lake or mere which in later days has received the name of Virginia Water.
While they were gazing at this scene, a figure habited like a keeper of the forest suddenly emerged from the trees at the lower end of one of the glades. Persuaded that this person had some mysterious connection with the ghostly huntsman, the earl determined to follow him, and hastily mentioning his suspicions and design to Richmond, he hurried down the hill. But before he accomplished the descent, the keeper was gone.
At length, however, on looking about, they perceived him mounting the rising ground on the left, and immediately started after him, taking care to keep out of sight. The policy of this course was soon apparent. Supposing himself no longer pursued, the keeper relaxed his pace, and the others got nearer to him.
In this way both parties went on, the keeper still hurrying forward, every now and then turning his head to see whether any one was on his track, until he came to a road cut through the trees that brought him to the edge of a descent leading to the lake. Just at this moment a cloud passed over the moon, burying all in comparative obscurity. The watchers, however, could perceive the keeper approach an ancient beech-tree of enormous growth, and strike it thrice with the short hunting-spear which he held in his grasp.
The signal remaining unanswered, he quitted the tree, and shaped his course along the side of a hill on the right. Keeping under the shelter of the thicket on the top of the same hill, Surrey and Richmond followed, and saw him direct his steps towards another beech-tree of almost double the girth of that he had just visited. Arrived at this mighty tree, he struck it with his spear, while a large owl, seated on a leafless branch, began to hoot; a bat circled the tree; and two large snakes, glistening in the moonlight, glided from its roots. As the tree was stricken for the third time, the same weird figure that the watchers had seen ride along the Home Park burst from its riften trunk, and addressed its summoner in tones apparently menacing and imperious, but whose import was lost upon the listeners. The curiosity of the beholders was roused to the highest pitch, but an undefinable awe prevented them from rushing forward.
Suddenly the demon hunter waved a pike with which he was armed, and uttered a peculiar cry, resembling the hooting of an owl. At this sound, and as if by magic, a couple of steeds, accompanied by the two hounds, started from the brake. In an instant the demon huntsman vaulted upon the hack of the horse nearest to him, and the keeper almost as quickly mounted the other. The pair then galloped off through the glen, the owl flying before them, and the hounds coursing by their side.
The two friends gazed at each other, for some time, in speechless wonder. Taking heart, they then descended to the haunted tree, but could perceive no traces of the strange being by whom it had been recently tenanted. After a while they retraced their course towards the castle, hoping they might once more encounter the wild huntsman. Nor were they disappointed. As they crossed a glen, a noble stag darted by. Close at its heels came the two black hounds, and after them the riders hurrying forward at a furious pace, their steeds appearing to breathe forth flame and smoke.
In an instant the huntsmen and hounds were gone, and the trampling of the horses died away in the distance. Soon afterwards a low sound, like the winding of a horn, broke upon the ear, and the listeners had no doubt that the buck was brought down. They hurried in the direction of the sound, but though the view was wholly unobstructed for a considerable distance, they could see nothing either of horsemen, hounds, or deer.
How the Fair Geraldine bestowed a Relic upon her Lover—How Surrey and Richmond rode in the Forest at Midnight—And where they found the Body of Mark Fytton, the Butcher.
Surrey and Richmond agreed to say nothing for the present of their mysterious adventure in the forest; but their haggard looks, as they presented themselves to the Lady Anne Boleyn in the reception-chamber on the following morning, proclaimed that something had happened, and they had to undergo much questioning from the Fair Geraldine and the Lady Mary Howard.
"I never saw you so out of spirits, my lord," remarked the Fair Geraldine to Surrey; "you must have spent the whole night in study—or what is more probable, you have again seen Herne the Hunter. Confess now, you have been in the forest."
"I will confess anything you please," replied Surrey evasively.
"And what have you seen?—a stranger vision than the first?" rejoined the Fair Geraldine.
"Since your ladyship answers for me, there is no need for explanation on my part," rejoined Surrey, with a faint laugh. "And know you not, that those who encounter super natural beings are generally bound to profound secrecy?"
"Such, I hope, is not your case, Henry?" cried the Lady Mary Howard, in alarm;—"nor yours, my lord?" she added to the Duke of Richmond.
"I am bound equally with Surrey," returned the duke mysteriously
"You pique my curiosity, my lords," said the Fair Geraldine; "and since there is no other way of gratifying it, if the Lady Mary Howard will accompany me, we will ourselves venture into the forest, and try whether we cannot have a meeting with this wild huntsman. Shall we go to-night?
"Not for worlds," replied the Lady Mary, shuddering; "were I to see Herne, I should die of fright."
"Your alarm is groundless," observed Richmond gallantly. "The presence of two beings, fair and pure as yourself and the Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, would scare away aught of evil."
The Lady Mary thanked him with a beaming smile, but the Fair Geraldine could not suppress a slight laugh.
"Your grace is highly flattering," she said. "But, with all faith in beauty and purity, I should place most reliance in a relic I possess—the virtue of which has often been approved against evil spirits. It was given by a monk—who had been sorely tempted by a demon, and who owed his deliverance to it—to my ancestor, Luigi Geraldi of Florence; and from him it descended to me."
"Would I had an opportunity of proving its efficacy!" exclaimed the Earl of Surrey.
"You shall prove it, if you choose," rejoined the Fair Geraldine. "I will give you the relic on condition that you never part with it to friend or foe."
And detaching a small cross of gold, suspended by a chain from her neck, she presented it to the Earl of Surrey.
"This cross encloses the relic," she continued; "wear it, and may it protect you from all ill!"
Surrey's pale cheek glowed as he took the gift. "I will never past with it but with life," he cried, pressing the cross to his lips, and afterwards placing it next his heart.
"I would have given half my dukedom to be so favoured," said Richmond moodily.
And quitting the little group, he walked towards the Lady Anne. "Henry," said the Lady Mary, taking her brother aside, "you will lose your friend."
"I care not," replied Surrey.
"But you may incur his enmity," pursued the Lady Mary. "I saw the glance he threw at you just now, and it was exactly like the king's terrible look when offended."
"Again I say I care not," replied Surrey. "Armed with this relic, I defy all hostility."
"It will avail little against Richmond's rivalry and opposition," rejoined his sister.
"We shall see," retorted Surrey. "Were the king himself my rival, I would not resign my pretensions to the Fair Geraldine."
"Bravely resolved, my lord," said Sir Thomas Wyat, who, having overheard the exclamation, advanced towards him. "Heaven grant you may never be placed in such jeopardy!"
"I say amen to that prayer, Sir Thomas," rejoined Surrey "I would not prove disloyal, and yet under such circumstances—"
"What would you do?" interrupted Wyat.
"My brother is but a hasty boy, and has not learned discretion, Sir Thomas," interposed the Lady Mary, trying by a significant glance to impose silence on the earl.
"Young as he is, he loves well and truly," remarked Wyat, in a sombre tone.
"What is all this?" inquired the Fair Geraldine, who had been gazing through the casement into the court below.
"I was merely expressing a wish that Surrey may never have a monarch for a rival, fair lady," replied Wyat.
"It matters little who may be his rival," rejoined Geraldine, "provided she he loves be constant."
"Right, lady, right," said Wyat, with great bitterness. At this moment Will Sommers approached them. "I come to bid you to the Lady Anne's presence, Sir Thomas, and you to the king's, my lord of Surrey," said the jester. "I noticed what has just taken place," he remarked to the latter, as they proceeded towards the royal canopy, beneath which Henry and the Lady Anne Boleyn were seated; "but Richmond will not relinquish her tamely, for all that."
Anne Boleyn had summoned Sir Thomas Wyat, in order to gratify her vanity by showing him the unbounded influence she possessed over his royal rival; and the half-suppressed agony displayed by the unfortunate lover at the exhibition afforded her a pleasure such as only the most refined coquette can feel.
Surrey was sent for by the king to receive instructions, in his quality of vice-chamberlain, respecting a tilting-match and hunting-party to be held on successive days—the one in the upper quadrangle of the castle, the other in the forest.
Anxious, now that he was somewhat calmer, to avoid a rupture with Richmond, Surrey, as soon as he had received the king's instructions, drew near the duke; and the latter, who had likewise reasoned himself out of his resentment, was speedily appeased, and they became, to all appearance, as good friends as ever.
Soon afterwards the Lady Anne and her dames retired, and the court breaking up, the two young nobles strolled forth to the stately terrace at the north of the castle, where, while gazing at the glorious view it commanded, they talked over the mysterious event of the previous night.
"I cannot help suspecting that the keeper we beheld with the demon hunter was Morgan Fenwolf," remarked the earl. "Suppose we make inquiry whether he was at home last night. We can readily find out his dwelling from Bryan Bowntance, the host of the Garter."
Richmond acquiesced in the proposal, and they accordingly proceeded to the cloisters of Saint George's Chapel, and threading some tortuous passages contrived among the canons' houses, passed through a small porch, guarded by a sentinel, and opening upon a precipitous and somewhat dangerous flight of steps, hewn out of the rock and leading to the town.
None except the more important members of the royal household were allowed to use this means of exit from the castle, but, of course, the privilege extended to Richmond and Surrey. Here in later times, and when the castle was not so strictly guarded, a more convenient approach was built, and designated, from the number of its stairs, "The Hundred Steps."
Having accomplished the descent in safety, and given the password to the sentinel at the foot of the steps, the two young nobles emerged into the street, and the first object they beheld was the body of the miserable butcher swinging from the summit of the Curfew Tower, where it was left by order of the king.
Averting their gaze from this ghastly spectacle, they took their way up Thames Street, and soon reached the Garter. Honest Bryan was seated on a bench before the dwelling, with a flagon of his own ale beside him, and rising as he saw the others approach, he made them a profound salutation.
Upon leaning what they sought, he told them that Morgan Fenwolf dwelt in a small cottage by the river-side not far from the bridge, and if it pleased them, he would guide them to it himself—an offer which they gladly accepted.
"Do you know anything of this Fenwolf?" asked Surrey, as they proceeded on their way.
"Nothing particular," replied Bryan, with some hesitation. "There are some strange reports about him, but I don't believe 'em."
"What reports are they, friend?" asked the Duke of Richmond.
"Why, your grace, one ought to be cautious what one says, for fear of bringing an innocent man into trouble," returned the host. "But if the truth must be spoken, people do say that Morgan Fenwolf is in league with the devil—or with Herne the Hunter, which is the same thing."
Richmond exchanged a look with his friend.
"Folks say strange sights have been seen in the forest of late," pursued Bryan—"and it may be so. But I myself have seen nothing—but then, to be sure, I never go there. The keepers used to talk of Herne the Hunter when I was a lad, but I believe it was only a tale to frighten deer-stealers; and I fancy it's much the same thing now."
Neither Surrey nor Richmond made any remark, and they presently reached the keeper's dwelling.
It was a small wooden tenement standing, as the host had stated, on the bank of the river, about a bow-shot from the bridge. The door was opened by Bryan, and the party entered without further ceremony. They found no one within except an old woman, with harsh, wrinkled features, and a glance as ill-omened as that of a witch, whom Bryan Bowntance told them was Fenwolf's mother. This old crone regarded the intruders uneasily.
"Where is your son, dame?" demanded the duke.
"On his walk in the forest," replied the old crone bluntly.
"What time did he go forth?" inquired Surrey.
"An hour before daybreak, as is his custom," returned the woman, in the same short tone as before.
"You are sure he slept at home last night, dame?" said Surrey.
"As sure as I am that the question is asked me," she replied. "I can show you the very bed on which he slept, if you desire to see it. He retired soon after sunset—slept soundly, as he always sleeps—and arose as I have told you. I lighted a fire, and made him some hot pottage myself."
"If she speaks the truth, you must be mistaken," observed Richmond in a whisper to his friend.
"I do not believe her," replied Surrey, in the same tone. "Show us his chamber, dame."
The old crone sullenly complied, and, throwing open a side door, disclosed an inner apartment, in which there was a small bed. There was nothing noticeable in the room except a couple of fishing-nets, a hunting-spear, and an old cross-bow. A small open casement looked upon the river, whose clear sparkling waters flowed immediately beneath it.
Surrey approached the window, and obtained a fine view of the Brocas meads on the one hand, and the embowered college of Eton on the other. His attention, however, was diverted by a fierce barking without, and the next moment, in spite of the vociferations of the old woman, a large black staghound, which Surrey recognised as Fenwolf's dog, Bawsey, burst through the door, and rushed furiously towards him. Surrey drew his dagger to defend himself from the hound's attack, but the precaution was needless. Bawsey's fierceness changed suddenly to the most abject submission, and with a terrified howl, she retreated from the room with' her tail between her legs. Even the old woman uttered a cry of surprise.
"Lord help us!" exclaimed Bryan; "was ever the like o' that seen? Your lordship must have a strange mastery over dogs. That hound," he added, in a whisper, "is said to be a familiar spirit."
"The virtue of the relic is approved," observed Surrey to Richmond, in an undertone.
"It would seem so," replied the duke.
The old woman now thought proper to assume a more respectful demeanour towards her visitors, and inquired whether her son should attend upon them on his return from the forest, but they said it was unnecessary.
"The king is about to have a grand hunting-party the day after to-morrow," observed Surrey, "and we wished to give your son some instructions respecting it. They can, however, be delivered to another keeper."
And they departed with Bryan, and returned to the castle. At midnight they again issued forth. Their steeds awaited them near the upper gate, and, mounting, they galloped across the greensward in the direction of Herne's Oak. Discerning no trace of the ghostly huntsman, they shaped their course towards the forest.
Urging their steeds to their utmost speed, and skirting the long avenue, they did not draw the rein till they reached the eminence beyond it; having climbed which, they dashed down the farther side at the same swift pace as before. The ride greatly excited them, but they saw nothing of the wild huntsman; nor did any sound salute their ears except the tramp of their own horses, or the occasional darting forth of a startled deer.
Less than a quarter of an hour brought them to the haunted beech-tree; but all was as silent and solitary here as at the blasted oak. In vain Surrey smote the tree. No answer was returned to the summons; and, finding all efforts to evoke the demon fruitless, they quitted the spot, and, turning their horses' heads to the right, slowly ascended the hill-side.
Before they had gained the brow of the hill the faint blast of a horn saluted their ears, apparently proceeding from the valley near the lake. They instantly stopped and looked in that direction, but could see nothing. Presently, however, the blast was repeated more loudly than before, and, guided by the sound, they discerned the spectral huntsman riding beneath the trees at some quarter of a mile's distance.
Striking spurs into their steeds, they instantly gave him chase; but though he lured them on through thicket and over glade—now climbing a hill, now plunging into a valley, until their steeds began to show symptoms of exhaustion—they got no nearer to him; and at length, as they drew near the Home Park, to which he had gradually led them, he disappeared from view.
"I will take my station near the blasted oak," said Surrey, galloping towards it: "the demon is sure to revisit his favourite tree before cock-crowing."
"What is that?" cried the Earl of Surrey, pointing to a strange and ghastly-looking object depending from the tree. "Some one has hanged himself! It may be the caitiff, Morgan Fenwolf."
With one accord they dashed forward, and as they drew nearer the tree, they perceived that the object that had attracted their attention was the body of Mark Fytton, the butcher, which they had so recently seen swinging from the summit of the Curfew Tower. It was now suspended from an arm of the wizard oak.
A small scroll was stuck upon the breast of the corpse, and, taking it off, Surrey read these words, traced in uncouth characters—"Mark Fytton is now one of the band of Herne the Hunter."
"By my fay, this passes all comprehension," said Richmond, after a few moments' silence. "This castle and forest seem under the sway of the powers of darkness. Let us return. I have had enough of adventure for to-night."
And he rode towards the castle, followed more slowly by the earl.
How the Earl of Surrey and the Fair Geraldine plighted their troth in the Cloisters of Saint George's Chapel.
Barriers were erected on the following day in the upper ward of the castle, and the Lady Anne and her dames assembled in the balcony in front of the royal lodgings, which was decorated with arras, costly carpets, and rich stuffs, to view the spectacle.
Perfect in all manly accomplishments, Henry splintered several lances with his brother-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk, who formed an admirable match for him in point of weight and strength; and at last, though he did not succeed in unhorsing the duke, he struck off his helmet, the clasp of which, it was whispered, was left designedly unfastened; and being thereupon declared the victor, he received the prize—a scarf embroidered by her own hands—from the fair Anne herself.
He then retired from the lists, leaving them free for the younger knights to run a course at the ring. The first to enter the arena was Sir Thomas Wyat; and as he was known to be a skilful jouster, it was expected he would come off triumphantly. But a glance from the royal balcony rendered his arm unsteady, and he missed the mark.
Next came the Duke of Richmond, superbly accoutred. Laughing at Wyat's ill success, he bowed to the Fair Geraldine, and taking a lance from his esquire, placed it in the rest, and rode gallantly forward. But he was equally unsuccessful, and retired, looking deeply chagrined.
The third knight who presented himself was Surrey. Mounted on his favourite black Arabian—a steed which, though of fiery temper, obeyed his slightest movement—his light symmetrical figure was seen to the greatest advantage in his close-fitting habiliments of silk and velvet. Without venturing a look at the royal balcony, the earl couched his lance, and bounding forward, bore away the ring on its point.
Amid the plaudits of the spectators, he then careered around the arena, and approaching the royal balcony, raised his lance, and proffered the ring to the Fair Geraldine, who blushingly received it. Henry, though by no means pleased with Surrey's success, earned as it was at the expense of his son, complimented him upon his skill, and Anne Boleyn joined warmly in his praises.
The lists were then closed, and the royal party retired to partake of refreshments; after which they proceeded to the butts erected in the broad mead at the north of the castle, where the Duke of Shoreditch and his companions shot a well-contested match with the long-bow.
During these sports, Surrey placed himself as near as he could to the Fair Geraldine, and though but few opportunities occurred of exchanging a syllable with her, his looks spoke a sufficiently intelligible language. At last, just as they were about to return to the palace, he breathed in an imploring tone in her ear—
"You will attend vespers at Saint George's Chapel this evening. Return through the cloisters. Grant me a moment's interview alone there."
"I cannot promise," replied the Fair Geraldine. And she followed in the train of the Lady Anne.
The earl's request had not been unheard. As the royal train proceeded towards the castle, Will Sommers contrived to approach the Duke of Richmond, and said to him, in a jeering tone "You ran but indifferently at the ring to-day, gossip. The galliard Surrey rode better, and carried off the prize."
"Pest on thee, scurril knave—be silent!" cried Richmond angrily; "failure is bad enough without thy taunts."
"If you had only missed the ring, gossip, I should have thought nothing of it," pursued Will Sommers; "but you lost a golden opportunity of ingratiating yourself with your lady-love. All your hopes are now at an end. A word in your ear—the Fair Geraldine will meet Surrey alone this evening."
"Thou liest, knave!" cried the duke fiercely.
"Your grace will find the contrary, if you will be at Wolsey's tomb-house at vesper-time," replied the jester.
"I will be there," replied the duke; "but if I am brought on a bootless errand, not even my royal father shall save thee from chastisement."
"I will bear any chastisement your grace may choose to inflict upon me, if I prove not the truth of my assertion," replied Sommers. And he dropped into the rear of the train.
The two friends, as if by mutual consent, avoided each other during the rest of the day—Surrey feeling he could not unburden his heart to Richmond, and Richmond brooding jealously over the intelligence he had received from the jester.
At the appointed hour the duke proceeded to the lower ward, and stationed himself near Wolsey's tomb-house. Just as he arrived there, the vesper hymn arose from the adjoining fane, and its solemn strains somewhat soothed his troubled spirit. But they died away; and as the jester came not, Richmond grew impatient, and began to fear he had been duped by his informant. At length the service concluded, and, losing all patience, he was about to depart, when the jester peered round the lower angle of the tomb-house, and beckoned to him. Obeying the summons, the duke followed his conductor down the arched passage leading to the cloisters.
"Tread softly, gossip, or you will alarm them," said Sommers, in a low tone.
They turned the corner of the cloisters; and there, near the entrance of the chapel, stood the youthful pair—the Fair Geraldine half reclining upon the earl's breast, while his arm encircled her slender waist.
"There!" whispered the jester, chuckling maliciously, "there! did I speak falsely—eh, gossip?"
Richmond laid his hand upon his sword.
"Hist!" said the jester; "hear what the Fair Geraldine has to say."
"We must meet no more thus, Surrey," she murmured:
"I feel I was wrong in granting the interview, but I could not help it. If, when a few more years have flown over your head, your heart remains unchanged."
"It will never change!" interrupted Surrey. "I here solemnly pledge my troth to you."
"And I return the pledge," replied the Fair Geraldine earnestly. "I vow to be yours, and yours only."
"Would that Richmond could hear your vow!" said Surrey; "it would extinguish his hopes."
"He has heard it!" cried the duke, advancing. "But his hopes are not yet extinguished."
The Fair Geraldine uttered a slight scream, and disengaged herself from the earl.
"Richmond, you have acted unworthily in thus playing the spy," said Surrey angrily.
"None but a spy can surprise interviews like these," rejoined Richmond bitterly. "The Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald had better have kept her chamber, than come here to plight her troth with a boy, who will change his mind before his beard is grown."
"Your grace shall find the boy man enough to avenge an insult," rejoined Surrey sternly.
"I am glad to hear it," returned the duke. "Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, I must pray you to return to your lodgings. The king's jester will attend you. This way, my lord."
Too much exasperated to hesitate, Surrey followed the duke down the passage, and the next moment the clashing of swords was heard. The Fair Geraldine screamed loudly, and Will Sommers began to think the jest had been carried too far.
"What is to be done?" he cried. "If the king hears of this quarrel, he will assuredly place the Earl of Surrey in arrest. I now repent having brought the duke here."
"You acted most maliciously," cried the Fair Geraldine; "but fly, and prevent further mischief."
Thus urged, the jester ran towards the lower ward, and finding an officer of the guard and a couple of halberdiers near the entrance of St. George's Chapel, told them what was taking place, and they immediately hastened with him to the scene of the conflict.
"My lords!" cried the officer to the combatants, "I command you to lay down your weapons."
But finding no respect paid to his injunctions, he rushed between them, and with the aid of the halberdiers, forcibly separated them.
"My lord of Surrey," said the officer, "you are my prisoner. I demand your sword."
"On what plea, sir?" rejoined the other.
"You have drawn it against the king's son—and the act is treason," replied the officer. "I shall take you to the guard house until the king's pleasure is known."
"But I provoked the earl to the conflict," said Richmond: "I was the aggressor."
"Your grace will represent the matter as you see fit to your royal father," rejoined the officer. "I shall fulfil my duty. My lord, to the guard-house!"
"I will procure your instant liberation, Surrey," said Richmond.
The earl was then led away, and conveyed to a chamber in the lower part of Henry the Eighth's gate, now used as a place of military punishment, and denominated the "black hole."
Of Tristram Lyndwood, the old Forester, and his Grand- daughter Mabel—Of the Peril in which the Lady Anne Boleyn was placed during the chase—And by whom she was rescued.
In consequence of the announcement that a grand hunting party would be held in the forest, all the verderers, rangers, and keepers assembled at an early hour on the fourth day after the king's arrival at Windsor in an open space on the west side of the great avenue, where a wooden stand was erected, canopied over with green boughs and festooned with garlands of flowers, for the accommodation of the Lady Anne Boleyn and her dames, who, it was understood, would be present at the chase.
At a little distance from the stand an extensive covert was fenced round with stout poles, to which nets were attached so as to form a haye or preserve, where the game intended for the royal sport was confined; and though many of the animals thus brought together were of hostile natures, they were all so terrified, and seemingly so conscious of the danger impending over them, that they did not molest each other. The foxes and martins, of which there were abundance, slunk into the brushwood with the hares and rabbits, but left their prey untouched. The harts made violent efforts to break forth, and, entangling their horns in the nets, were with difficulty extricated and driven back; while the timid does, not daring to follow them, stood warily watching the result of the struggle.
Amongst the antlered captives was a fine buck, which, having been once before hunted by the king, was styled a "hart royal," and this noble animal would certainly have effected his escape if he had not been attacked and driven back by Morgan Fenwolf, who throughout the morning's proceedings displayed great energy and skill. The compliments bestowed on Fenwolf for his address by the chief verderer excited the jealousy of some of his comrades, and more than one asserted that he had been assisted in his task by some evil being, and that Bawsey herself was no better than a familiar spirit in the form of a hound.
Morgan Fenwolf scouted these remarks; and he was supported by some others among the keepers, who declared that it required no supernatural aid to accomplish what he had done—that he was nothing more than a good huntsman, who could ride fast and boldly—that he was skilled in all the exercises of the chase, and possessed a stanch and well-trained hound.
The party then sat down to breakfast beneath the trees, and the talk fell upon Herne the Hunter, and his frequent appearance of late in the forest (for most of the keepers had heard of or encountered the spectral huntsman); and while they were discussing this topic, and a plentiful allowance of cold meat, bread, ale, and mead at the same time, two persons were seen approaching along a vista on the right, who specially attracted their attention and caused Morgan Fenwolf to drop the hunting-knife with which he was carving his viands, and start to his feet.
The new-comers were an old man and a comely young damsel. The former, though nearer seventy than sixty, was still hale and athletic, with fresh complexion, somewhat tanned by the sun, and a keen grey eye, which had lost nothing of its fire. He was habited in a stout leathern doublet, hose of the same material, and boots rudely fashioned out of untanned ox-hide, and drawn above the knee. In his girdle was thrust a large hunting-knife; a horn with a silver mouthpiece depended from his shoulder, and he wore a long bow and a quiver full of arrows at his back. A flat bonnet, made of fox-skin and ornamented with a raven's wing, covered his hair, which was as white as silver.
But it was not upon this old forester, for such his attire proclaimed him, that the attention of the beholders, and of Morgan Fenwolf in especial, was fixed, but upon his companion. Amongst the many lovely and high-born dames who had so recently graced the procession to the castle were few, if any, comparable to this lowly damsel. Her dress—probably owing to the pride felt in her by her old relative was somewhat superior to her station. A tightly-laced green kirtle displayed to perfection her slight but exquisitely-formed figure A gown of orange-coloured cloth, sufficiently short to display her small ankles, and a pair of green buskins, embroidered with silver, together with a collar of the whitest and finest linen, though shamed by the neck it concealed, and fastened by a small clasp, completed her attire. Her girdle was embroidered with silver, and her sleeves were fastened by aiglets of the same metal.
"How proud old Tristram Lyndwood seems of his granddaughter," remarked one of the keepers.
"And with reason," replied another. "Mabel Lyndwood is the comeliest lass in Berkshire."
"Ay, marry is she," rejoined the first speaker; "and, to my thinking, she is a fairer and sweeter flower than any that blooms in yon stately castle—the flower that finds so much favour in the eyes of our royal Hal not excepted."
"Have a care, Gabriel Lapp," observed another keeper. "Recollect that Mark Fytton, the butcher, was hanged for speaking slightingly of the Lady Anne Boleyn; and you may share his fate if you disparage her beauty."
"Na I meant not to disparage the Lady Anne," replied Gabriel. "Hal may marry her when he will, and divorce her as soon afterwards as he pleases, for aught I care. If he marries fifty wives, I shall like him all the better. The more the merrier, say I. But if he sets eyes on Mab Lyndwood it may somewhat unsettle his love for the Lady Anne."
"Tush, Gabriel!" said Morgan Fenwolf, darting an angry look at him. "What business have you to insinuate that the king would heed other than the lady of his love?"
"You are jealous, Morgan Fenwolf," rejoined Gabriel, with a malignant grin. "We all know you are in love with Mabel yourself."
"And we all know, likewise, that Mabel will have nothing to say to you!" cried another keeper, while the others laughed in chorus. "Come and sit down beside us, Morgan, and finish your breakfast."
But the keeper turned moodily away, and hied towards Tristram Lyndwood and his granddaughter. The old forester shook him cordially by the hand, and after questioning him as to what had taken place, and hearing how he had managed to drive the hart royal into the haye, clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Thou art a brave huntsman, Morgan. I wish Mab could only think as well of thee as I do."
To this speech Mabel not only paid no attention, but looked studiously another way.
"I am glad your grandfather has brought you out to see the chase to-day, Mabel," observed Morgan Fenwolf.
"I dame not to see the chase, but the king," she replied, somewhat petulantly.
"It is not every fair maid who would confess so much," observed Fenwolf, frowning.
"Then I am franker than some of my sex," replied Mabel. "But who is the strange man looking at us from behind that tree, grandfather!
"I see no one," replied the old forester.
"Neither do I," added Morgan Fenwolf, with a shudder. "You are wilfully blind," rejoined Mabel. "But see, the person I mentioned stalks forth. Now, perhaps, he is visible to you both."
And as she spoke, a tall wild-looking figure, armed with a hunting-spear, emerged from the trees and advanced towards them. The garb of the newcomer somewhat resembled that of a forester; but his arms and lower limbs were destitute of covering, and appeared singularly muscular, while his skin was swarthy as that of a gipsy. His jet-black hair hung in elf-locks over his savage-looking features.
In another moment he was beside them, and fixed his dark piercing eyes on Mabel in such a manner as to compel her to avert her gaze.
"What brings you here this morning, Tristram Lyndwood?" he demanded, in a hoarse imperious tone.
"The same motive that brought you, Valentine Hagthorne," replied the old forester—"to see the royal chase."
"This, I suppose, is your granddaughter?" pursued Hagthorne.
"Ay," replied Tristram bluntly.
"Strange I should never have seen her before," rejoined the other. "She is very fair. Be ruled by me, friend Tristram—take her home again. If she sees the king, ill will come of it. You know, or should know, his character."
"Hagthorne advises well," interposed Fenwolf. "Mabel will be better at home."
"But she has no intention of returning at present," replied Mabel. "You brought me here for pastime, dear grandfather, and will not take me back at the recommendation of this strange man?"
"Content you, child—content you," replied Tristram kindly. "You shall remain where you are."
"You will repent it!" cried Hagthorne.
And hastily darting among the trees, he disappeared from view.
Affecting to laugh at the occurrence, though evidently annoyed by it, the old forester led his granddaughter towards the stand, where he was cordially greeted by the keepers, most of whom, while expressing their pleasure at seeing him, strove to render themselves agreeable in the eyes of Mabel.
From this scene Morgan Fenwolf kept aloof, and remained leaning against a tree, with his eyes riveted upon the damsel. He was roused from his reverie by a slight tap upon the shoulder; and turning at the touch, beheld Valentine Hagthorne. Obedient to a sign from the latter, he followed him amongst the trees, and they both plunged into a dell.
An hour or two after this, when the sun was higher in the heavens, and the dew dried upon the greensward, the king and a large company of lords and ladies rode forth from the upper gate of the castle, and taking their way along the great avenue, struck off on the right when about half-way up it, and shaped their course towards the haye.
A goodly sight it was to see this gallant company riding beneath the trees; and pleasant was it, also, to listen to the blithe sound of their voices, amid which Anne Boleyn's musical laugh could be plainly distinguished. Henry was attended by his customary band of archers and yeomen of the guard, and by the Duke of Shoreditch and his followers. On reaching the haye, the king dismounted, and assisting the Lady Anne from her steed, ascended the stand with her.
He then took a small and beautifully fashioned bow from an attendant, and stringing it, presented it to her.
"I trust this will not prove too strong for your fair hands," he said.
"I will make shift to draw it," replied Anne, raising the bow, and gracefully pulling the string. "Would I could wound your majesty as surely as I shall hit the first roe that passes."
"That were a needless labour," rejoined Henry, "seeing that you have already stricken me to the heart. You should cure the wound you have already made, sweetheart-not inflict a new one."
At this juncture the chief verderer, mounted on a powerful steed, and followed by two keepers, each holding a couple of stag-hounds in leash, rode up to the royal stand, and placing his horn to his lips, blew three long mootes from it. At the same moment part of the network of the haye was lifted up, and a roebuck set free.
By the management of the keepers, the animal was driven past the royal stand; and Anne Boleyn, who had drawn an arrow nearly to the head, let it fly with such good aim that she pierced the buck to the heart. A loud shout from the spectators rewarded the prowess of the fair huntress; and Henry was so enchanted, that he bent the knee to her, and pressed her hand to his lips. Satisfied, however, with the' achievement, Anne prudently declined another shot. Henry then took a bow from one of the archers, and other roes being turned out, he approved upon them his unerring skill as a marksman.
Meanwhile, the hounds, being held in leash, kept up a loud and incessant baying; and Henry, wearying of his slaughterous sport, turned to Anne, and asked her whether she was disposed for the chase. She answered in the affirmative, and the king motioned his henchmen to bring forward the steeds.
In doing this, he caught sight of Mabel, who was standing with her grandsire among the keepers, at a little distance from the stand, and, struck with her extraordinary beauty, he regarded her for a moment intently, and then called to Gabriel Lapp, who chanced to be near him, and demanded her name.
"It is Mabel Lyndwood, an't please your majesty," replied Gabriel. "She is granddaughter to old Tristram Lyndwood, who dwells at Black Nest, near the lake, at the farther extremity of Windsor Forest, and who was forester to your royal father, King Henry the Seventh, of blessed memory."
"Ha! is it so?" cried Henry.
But he was prevented from further remark by Anne Boleyn, who, perceiving how his attention was attracted, suddenly interposed.
"Your majesty spoke of the chase," she said impatiently. "But perhaps you have found other pastime more diverting?"
"Not so—not so, sweetheart," he replied hastily.
"There is a hart royal in the haye," said Gabriel Lapp. "Is it your majesty's pleasure that I set him free?
"It is, good fellow—it is," replied the king.
And as Gabriel hastened to the netted fencework, and prepared to drive forth the hart, Henry assisted Anne Boleyn, who could not help exhibiting some slight jealous pique, to mount her steed, and having sprung into his own saddle, they waited the liberation of the buck, which was accomplished in a somewhat unexpected manner.
Separated from the rest of the herd, the noble animal made a sudden dart towards Gabriel, and upsetting him in his wild career, darted past the king, and made towards the upper part of the forest. In another instant the hounds were un coupled and at his heels, while Henry and Anne urged their steeds after him, the king shouting at the top of his lusty voice. The rest of the royal party followed as they might, and the woods resounded with their joyous cries.
The hart royal proved himself worthy of his designation. Dashing forward with extraordinary swiftness, he rapidly gained upon his pursuers—for though Henry, by putting his courser to his utmost speed, could have kept near him, he did not choose to quit his fair companion.
In this way they scoured the forest, until the king, seeing they should be speedily distanced, commanded Sir Thomas Wyat, who, with the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, was riding close behind him, to cross by the lower ground on the left, and turn the stag. Wyat instantly obeyed, and plunging his spurs deeply into his horse's sides, started off at a furious pace, and was soon after seen shaping his rapid course through a devious glade.
Meanwhile, Henry and his fair companion rode on without relaxing their pace, until they reached the summit of a knoll, crowned by an old oak and beech-tree, and commanding a superb view of the castle, where they drew in the rein.
From this eminence they could witness the progress of the chase, as it continued in the valley beyond. An ardent lover of hunting, the king watched it with the deepest interest, rose in his saddle, and uttering various exclamations, showed, from his impatience, that he was only restrained by the stronger passion of love from joining it.
Ere long, stag, hounds, and huntsmen were lost amid a thicket, and nothing could be distinguished but a distant baying and shouts. At last even these sounds died away.
Henry, who had ill brooked the previous restraint, now grew so impatient, that Anne begged him to set off after them, when suddenly the cry of hounds burst upon their ears, and the hart was seen issuing from the dell, closely followed by his pursuers.
The affrighted animal, to the king's great satisfaction, made his way directly towards the spot where he was stationed; but on reaching the side of the knoll, and seeing his new foes, he darted off on the right, and tried to regain the thicket below. But he was turned by another band of keepers, and again driven towards the knoll.
Scarcely had Sir Thomas Wyat reined in his steed by the side of the king, than the hart again appeared bounding up the hill. Anne Boleyn, who had turned her horse's head to obtain a better view of the hunt, alarmed by the animal's menacing appearance, tried to get out of his way. But it was too late. Hemmed in on all sides, and driven to desperation by the cries of hounds and huntsmen in front, the hart lowered his horns, and made a furious push at her.
Dreadfully alarmed, Anne drew in the rein so suddenly and sharply, that she almost pulled her steed back upon his haunches; and in trying to avoid the stag's attack, caught hold of Sir Thomas Wyat, who was close beside her. In all probability she would have received some serious injury from the infuriated animal, who was just about to repeat his assault and more successfully, when a bolt from a cross-bow, discharged by Morgan Fenwolf, who suddenly made his appearance from behind the beech-tree, brought him to the ground.
But Anne Boleyn escaped one danger only to encounter another equally serious. On seeing her fling herself into the arms of Sir Thomas Wyat, Henry regarded her in stern displeasure for a moment, and then calling angrily to his train, without so much as deigning to inquire whether she had sustained any damage from the accident, or making the slightest remark upon her conduct, rode sullenly towards the castle.
By what means Sir Thomas Wyat obtained an Interview with Anne Boleyn—And how the Earl of Surrey saved them from the King's anger.
The incident above related gave new life to the adherents of Catherine of Arragon, while it filled those devoted to Anne Boleyn with alarm. Immediately on Anne's return to the castle Lord Rochford had a private interview with her, and bitterly reproached her for endangering her splendid prospects. Anne treated the matter very lightly—said it was only a temporary gust of jealousy—and added that the king would be at her feet again before the day was past.
"You are over-confident, mistress!" cried Rochford angrily. "Henry is not an ordinary gallant."
"It is you who are mistaken, father," replied Anne. "The king differs in no respect from any of his love-smitten subjects. I have him in my toils, and will not let him escape."
"You have a tiger in your toils, daughter, and take heed he breaks not forcibly through them," rejoined Rochford. "Henry is more wayward than you suppose him. Once let him take up a notion, and nothing can shake him from it. He has resolved upon the divorce as much from self-will as from any other consideration. If you regain your position with him, of which you seem so confident, do not consider yourself secure—not even when you are crowned queen—but be warned by Catherine of Arragon."
"Catherine has not the art to retain him," said Anne. "Henry will never divorce me."
"Take care he does not rid himself of you in a more summary manner, daughter," rejoined Rochford. "If you would stand well with him, you must study his lightest word, look, and action—humour him in every whim—and yield to every caprice. Above all, you must exhibit no jealousy."
"You are wrong in all but the last, father," returned Anne. "Henry is not to be pleased by such nice attention to his humours. It is because I have shown myself careless of them that I have captivated him. But I will take care not to exhibit jealousy, and, sooth to say, I do not think I shall have cause."
"Be not too sure of that," replied Rochford. "And at all events, let not the king have cause to be jealous of you. I trust Wyat will be banished from court. But if he is not, do not let him approach you more."
"Poor Sir Thomas!" sighed Anne. "He loved me very dearly."
"But what is his love compared to the king's?" cried Rochford. "Tut, tut, girl! think no more of him."
"I will not, my lord," she rejoined; "I see the prudence of your counsel, and will obey it. Leave me, I pray you. I will soon win back the affections of the king."
No sooner had Rochford quitted the chamber than the arras at the farther end was raised, and Wyat stepped from behind it. His first proceeding was to bar the door.
"What means this, Sir Thomas?" cried Anne in alarm. "How have you obtained admittance here?"
"Through the secret staircase," replied Wyat, bending the knee before her.
"Rise, sir!" cried Anne, in great alarm. "Return, I beseech you, as you came. You have greatly endangered me by coming here. If you are seen to leave this chamber, it will be in vain to assert my innocence to Henry. Oh, Sir Thomas! you cannot love me, or you would not have done this."
"Not love you, Anne!" he repeated bitterly; "not love you I Words cannot speak my devotion. I would lay down my head on the scaffold to prove it. But for my love for you, I would throw open that door, and walk forth so that all might see me—so that Henry might experience some part of the anguish I now feel."
"But you will not do so, good Sir Thomas—dear Sir Thomas," cried Anne Boleyn, in alarm.
"Have no fear," rejoined Wyat, with some contempt; "I will sacrifice even vengeance to love."
"Sir Thomas, I had tolerated this too long," said Anne. "Begone—you terrify me."
"It is my last interview with you, Anne," said Wyat imploringly; "do not abridge it. Oh, bethink you of the happy hours we have passed together—of the vows we have interchanged—of the protestations you have listened to, and returned—ay, returned, Anne. Are all these forgotten?"
"Not forgotten, Sir Thomas," replied Anne mournfully; "but they must not be recalled. I cannot listen to you longer. You must go. Heaven grant you may get hence in safety!"
"Anne," replied Wyat in a sombre tone, "the thought of Henry's happiness drives me mad. I feel that I am grown a traitor—that I could slay him."
"Sir Thomas!" she exclaimed, in mingled fear and anger.
"I will not go," he continued, flinging himself into a seat. "Let them put what construction they will upon my presence. I shall at least wring Henry's heart. I shall see him suffer as I have suffered; and I shall be content."
"This is not like you, Wyat," cried Anne, in great alarm. "You were wont to be noble, generous, kind. You will not act thus disloyally?
"Who has acted disloyally, Anne?" cried Wyat, springing to his feet, and fixing his dark eyes, blazing with jealous fury, upon her—"you or I? Have you not sacrificed your old affections at the shrine of ambition? Are you not about to give yourself to one to whom—unless you are foresworn—you cannot give your heart? Better had you been the mistress of Allington Castle—better the wife of a humble knight like myself, than the queen of the ruthless Henry."
"No more of this, Wyat," said Anne.
"Better far you should perish by his tyranny for a supposed fault now than hereafter," pursued Wyat fiercely. "Think not Henry will respect you more than her who had been eight-and-twenty years his wife. No; when he is tired of your charms—when some other dame, fair as yourself, shall enslave his fancy, he will cast you off, or, as your father truly intimated, will seek a readier means of ridding himself of you. Then you will think of the different fate that might have been yours if you had adhered to your early love."
"Wyat! Wyat! I cannot bear this—in mercy spare me!" cried Anne.
"I am glad to see you weep," said Wyat; "your tears make you look more like your former self."
"Oh, Wyat, do not view my conduct too harshly!" she said. "Few of my sex would have acted other than I have done."
"I do not think so," replied Wyat sternly; "nor will I forego my vengeance. Anne, you shall die. You know Henry too well to doubt your fate if he finds me here."
"You cannot mean this," she rejoined, with difficulty repressing a scream; "but if I perish, you will perish with me."
"I wish to do so," he rejoined, with a bitter laugh.
"Wyat," cried Anne, throwing herself on her knees before him, "by your former love for me, I implore you to spare me! Do not disgrace me thus."
But Wyat continued inexorable.
"O God!" exclaimed Anne, wringing her hands in agony. A terrible silence ensued, during which Anne regarded Wyat, but she could discern no change in his countenance.
At this juncture the tapestry was again raised, and the Earl of Surrey issued from it.
"You here, my lord?" said Anne, rushing towards him.
"I am come to save you, madame," said the earl. "I have been just liberated from arrest, and was about to implore your intercession with the king, when I learned he had been informed by one of his pages that a man was in your chamber. Luckily, he knows not who it is, and while he was summoning his attendants to accompany him, I hurried hither by the secret staircase. I have arrived in time. Fly—fly! Sir Thomas Wyat!"
But Wyat moved not.
At this moment footsteps were heard approaching the door—the handle was tried—and the stern voice of the king was heard commanding that it might be opened.
"Will you destroy me, Wyat?" cried Anne.
"You have destroyed yourself," he rejoined.
"Why stay you here, Sir Thomas?" said Surrey, seizing his arm. "You may yet escape. By heaven! if you move not, I will stab you to the heart!"
"You would do me a favour, young man," said Wyat coldly; "but I will go. I yield to love, and not to you, tyrant!" he added, shaking his hand at the door. "May the worst pangs of jealously rend your heart!" And he disappeared behind the arras.
"I hear voices," cried Henry from without. "God's death! madam, open the door—or I will burst it open!"
"Oh, heaven! what is to be done?" cried Anne Boleyn, in despair.
"Open the door, and leave all to me, madam," said Surrey; "I will save you, though it cost me my life!"
Anne pressed his hand, with a look of ineffable gratitude, and Surrey concealed himself behind the arras.
The door was opened, and Henry rushed in, followed by Richmond, Norfolk, Suffolk, and a host of attendants.
"Ah! God's death! where is the traitor?" roared the king, gazing round.
"Why is my privacy thus broken upon?" said Anne, assuming a look of indignation.
"Your privacy!" echoed Henry, in a tone of deep derision—"Your privacy! —ha!—ha! You bear yourself bravely, it must be confessed. My lords, you heard the voices as well as myself. Where is Sir Thomas Wyat?"
"He is not here," replied Anne firmly.
"Aha! we shall see that, mistress," rejoined Henry fiercely. "But if Sir Thomas Wyat is not here, who is? for I am well assured that some one is hidden in your chamber."
"What if there be?" rejoined Anne coldly.
"Ah! by Saint Mary, you confess it!" cried the king. "Let the traitor come forth."
"Your majesty shall not need to bid twice," said Surrey, issuing from his concealment.
"The Earl of Surrey!" exclaimed Henry, in surprise. "How come you here, my lord? Methought you were under arrest at the guard-house."
"He was set free by my orders," said the Duke of Richmond.
"First of all I must entreat your majesty to turn your resentment against me," said the earl. "I am solely to blame, and I would not have the Lady Anne suffer for my fault. I forced myself into her presence. She knew not of my coming."
"And wherefore did you so, my lord?" demanded Henry sternly.
"Liberated from the guard-house at the Duke of Richmond's instance, my liege, I came to entreat the Lady Anne to mediate between me and your majesty, and to use her influence with your highness to have me betrothed to the Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald."
"Is this so, madam?" asked the king.
Anne bowed her head.
"But why was the door barred?" demanded Henry, again frowning suspiciously.
"I barred it myself," said Surrey, "and vowed that the Lady Anne should not go forth till she had granted my request."
"By our lady you have placed yourself in peril, my lord," said Henry sternly.
"Your majesty will bear in mind his youth," said the Duke of Norfolk anxiously.
"For my sake overlook the indiscretion," cried the Duke of Richmond.
"It will not, perhaps, avail him to hope that it may be overlooked for mine," added Anne Boleyn.
"The offence must not pass unpunished," said Henry musingly. "My lord of Surrey, you must be content to remain for two months a prisoner in the Round Tower of this castle."
"Your majesty!" cried Richmond, bending the knee in supplication.
"The sentence is passed," replied Henry coldly; "and the earl may thank you it is not heavier. Richmond, you will think no more of the fair Geraldine; and it is my pleasure, Lady Anne, that the young dame withdraw from the court for a short while."
"Your majesty shall be obeyed," said Anne; "but—"
"But me no buts, sweetheart," said the king peremptorily. "Surrey's explanation is satisfactory so far as it goes, but I was told Sir Thomas Wyat was here."
"Sir Thomas Wyat is here," said Will Sommers, pointing out the knight, who had just joined the throng of courtiers at the door.
"I have hurried hither from my chamber, my liege," said Wyat, stepping forward, "hearing there was some inquiry concerning me."
"Is your majesty now satisfied?" asked Anne Boleyn.
"Why, ay, sweetheart, well enough," rejoined Henry. "Sir Thomas Wyat, we have a special mission for you to the court of our brother of France. You will set out to-morrow."
"You have saved your head, gossip," whispered Will Sommers in the knight's ear. "A visit to Francis the First is better than a visit to the Tower."
"Retire, my lords," said Henry to the assemblage; "we owe some apology to the Lady Anne for our intrusion, and desire an opportunity to make it."
Upon this the chamber was instantly cleared of its occupants, and the Earl of Surrey was conducted, under a guard, to the Round Tower.
Henry, however, did not find it an easy matter to make peace with the Lady Anne. Conscious of the advantage she had gained, she determined not to relinquish it, and, after half an hour's vain suing, her royal lover proposed a turn in the long gallery, upon which her apartments opened. Here they continued conversing—Henry pleading in the most passionate manner, and Anne maintaining a show of offended pride.
At last she exhibited some signs of relenting, and Henry led her into a recess in the gallery, lighted by a window filled with magnificent stained glass. In this recess was a seat and a small table, on which stood a vase filled with flowers, arranged by Anne's own hand; and here the monarch hoped to adjust his differences with her.
Meanwhile, word having reached Wolsey and Campeggio of the new cause of jealousy which the king had received, it was instantly resolved that the former should present to him, while in his present favourable mood, a despatch received that morning from Catherine of Arragon.
Armed with the letter, Wolsey repaired to the king's closet. Not finding him there, and being given to understand by an usher that he was in the great gallery, he proceeded thither. As he walked softly along the polished oak floor, he heard voices in one of the recesses, and distinguished the tones of Henry and Anne Boleyn.
Henry was clasping the snowy fingers of his favourite, and gazing passionately at her, as the cardinal approached.
"Your majesty shall not detain my hand," said Anne, "unless you swear to me, by your crown, that you will not again be jealous without cause."
"I swear it," replied Henry.
"Were your majesty as devoted to me as you would have me believe, you would soon bring this matter of the divorce to an issue," said Anne.
"I would fain do so, sweetheart," rejoined Henry; "but these cardinals perplex me sorely."
"I am told by one who overheard him, that Wolsey has declared the divorce shall not be settled these two years," said Anne; "in which case it had better not be settled at all; for I care not to avow I cannot brook so much delay. The warmth of my affection will grow icy cold by that time."
"It were enough to try the patience of the most forbearing," rejoined the king, smiling—"but it shall not be so—by this lily hand it shall not! And now, sweetheart, are we entirely reconciled?
"Not yet," replied Anne. "I shall claim a boon from your majesty before I accord my entire forgiveness."
"Name it," said the king, still clasping her hand tenderly, and intoxicated by the witchery of her glance.
"I ask an important favour," said Anne, "but as it is one which will benefit your majesty as much as myself, I have the less scruple in requesting it. I ask the dismissal of one who has abused your favour, who, by his extortion and rapacity, has in some degree alienated the affections of your subjects from you, and who solely opposes your divorce from Catherine of Arragon because he fears my influence may be prejudicial to him."
"You cannot mean Wolsey?" said Henry uneasily.
"Your majesty has guessed aright," replied Anne.
"Wolsey has incurred my displeasure oft of late," said Henry; "and yet his fidelity—"
"Be not deceived, my liege," said Anne; "he is faithful to you only so far as serves his turn. He thinks he rules you."
Before Henry could reply, the cardinal stepped forward.
"I bring your majesty a despatch, just received from the queen," he said.
"And you have been listening to our discourse?" rejoined Henry sternly. "You have overheard—"
"Enough to convince me, if I had previously doubted it, that the Lady Anne Boleyn is my mortal foe," replied Wolsey.
"Foe though I am, I will make terms with your eminence," said Anne. "Expedite the divorce—you can do so if you will—and I am your fast friend."
"I know too well the value of your friendship, noble lady, not to do all in my power to gain it," replied Wolsey. "I will further the matter, if possible. But it rests chiefly in the hands of his holiness Pope Clement the Seventh."
"If his majesty will listen to my counsel, he will throw off the pope's yoke altogether," rejoined Anne. "Nay, your eminence may frown at me if you will. Such, I repeat, shall be my counsel. If the divorce is speedily obtained, I am your friend: if not—look to yourself."
"Do not appeal to me, Wolsey," said Henry, smiling approval at Anne; "I shall uphold her."
"Will it please your majesty to peruse this despatch?" said Wolsey, again offering Catherine's letter.
"Take it to my closet," replied the king; "I will join you there. And now at last we are good friends, sweetheart."
"Excellent friends, my dear liege," replied Anne; "but I shall never be your queen while Wolsey holds his place."
"Then, indeed, he shall lose it," replied Henry.
"She is a bitter enemy, certes," muttered Wolsey as he walked away. "I must overthrow her quickly, or she will overthrow me. A rival must be found—ay, a rival—but where? I was told that Henry cast eyes on a comely forester's daughter at the chase this morning. She may do for the nonce."
Of the Mysterious Disappearance of Herne the Hunter in the Lake.
Unable to procure any mitigation of Surrey's sentence, the Duke of Richmond proceeded to the Round Tower, where he found his friend in a small chamber, endeavouring to beguile his captivity by study.
Richmond endeavoured to console him, and was glad to find him in better spirits than he expected. Early youth is seldom long dejected, and misfortunes, at that buoyant season, seem lighter than they appear later on in life. The cause for which he suffered, moreover, sustained Surrey, and confident of the Fair Geraldine's attachment, he cared little for the restraint imposed upon him. On one point he expressed some regret—namely, his inability to prosecute the adventure of Herne the Hunter with the duke.
"I grieve that I cannot accompany you, Richmond," he said; "but since that is impossible, let me recommend you to take the stout archer who goes by the name of the Duke of Shoreditch with you. He is the very man you require."
After some consideration the duke assented, and, promising to return on the following day and report what had occurred he took his leave, and went in search of the archer in question. Finding he had taken up his quarters at the Garter, he sent for him and proposed the matter.
Shoreditch heard the duke's relation with astonishment, but expressed the greatest willingness to accompany him, pledging himself, as Richmond demanded, to profound secrecy on the subject.
At the appointed hour—namely, midnight—the duke quitted the castle, and found Shoreditch waiting for him near the upper gate. The latter was armed with a stout staff, and a bow and arrows.
"If we gain sight of the mysterious horseman to-night," he said, "a cloth-yard shaft shall try whether he is of mortal mould or not. If he be not a demon, I will warrant he rides no more."
Quitting the Home Park, they shaped their course at once towards the forest. It was a stormy night, and the moon was obscured by thick clouds. Before they reached the hill, at the end of the long avenue, a heavy thunderstorm came on, and the lightning, playing among the trees, seemed to reveal a thousand fantastic forms to their half-blinded gaze. Presently the rain began to descend in torrents, and compelled them to take refuge beneath a large beech-tree.
It was evident, notwithstanding his boasting, that the courage of Shoreditch was waning fast, and he at last proposed to his leader that they should return as soon as the rain abated. But the duke indignantly rejected the proposal.
While they were thus sheltering themselves, the low winding of a horn was heard. The sound was succeeded by the trampling of horses' hoofs, and the next moment a vivid flash of lightning showed a hart darting past, followed by a troop of some twenty ghostly horsemen, headed by the demon hunter.
The Duke of Richmond bade his companion send a shaft after them; but the latter was so overcome by terror that he could scarcely fix an arrow on the string, and when he bent the bow, the shaft glanced from the branches of an adjoining tree.
The storm continued with unabated fury for nearly an hour, at the expiration of which time it partially cleared off, and though it was still profoundly dark, the duke insisted upon going on. So they pressed forward beneath the dripping trees and through the wet grass. Ever and anon the moon broke through the rifted clouds, and shed a wild glimmer upon the scene.
As they were tracking a glade on the farther side of the hill, the spectral huntsmen again swept past them, and so closely that they could almost touch their horses. To the duke's horror, he perceived among them the body of the butcher, Mark Fytton, sitting erect upon a powerful black steed.
By this time, Shoreditch, having somewhat regained his courage, discharged another shaft at the troop. The arrow struck the body of the butcher, and completely transfixed it, but did not check his career; while wild and derisive laughter broke from the rest of the cavalcade.
The Duke of Richmond hurried after the band, trying to keep them in sight; and Shoreditch, flinging down his bow, which he found useless, and grasping his staff, endeavoured to keep up with him. But though they ran swiftly down the glade, and tried to peer through the darkness, they could see nothing more of the ghostly company.
After a while they arrived at a hillside, at the foot of which lay the lake, whose darkling waters were just distinguishable through an opening in the trees. As the duke was debating with himself whether to go on or retrace his course, the trampling of a horse was heard behind them, and looking in the direction of the sound, they beheld Herne the Hunter, mounted on his swarthy steed and accompanied only by his two black hounds, galloping furiously down the declivity. Before him flew the owl, whooping as it sailed along the air.
The demon hunter was so close to them that they could perfectly discern his horrible lineaments, the chain depending from his neck, and his antlered helm. Richmond shouted to him, but the rider continued his headlong course towards the lake, heedless of the call.
The two beholders rushed forward, but by this time the huntsman had gained the edge of the lake. One of his sable hounds plunged into it, and the owl skimmed over its surface. Even in the hasty view which the duke caught of the flying figure, he fancied he perceived that it was attended by a fantastic shadow, whether cast by itself or arising from some supernatural cause he could not determine.
But what followed was equally marvellous and incomprehensible. As the wild huntsman reached the brink of the lake, he placed a horn to his mouth, and blew from it a bright blue flame, which illumined his own dusky and hideous features, and shed a wild and unearthly glimmer over the surrounding objects.
While enveloped in this flame, the demon plunged into the lake, and apparently descended to its abysses, for as soon as the duke could muster courage to approach its brink, nothing could be seen of him, his steed, or his hounds.
THUS ENDS THE FIRST BOOK OF THE CHRONICLE OF WINDSOR CASTLE
BOOK II. HERNE THE HUNTER
Of the Compact between Sir Thomas Wyat and Herne the Hunter.
On the day after his secret interview with Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas Wyat received despatches from the king for the court of France.
"His majesty bade me tell you to make your preparations quickly, Sir Thomas," said the messenger who delivered the despatches; "he cares not how soon you set forth."
"The king's pleasure shall be obeyed," rejoined Wyat.
And the messenger retired.
Left alone, Wyat remained for some time in profound and melancholy thought. Heaving a deep sigh, he then arose, and paced the chamber with rapid strides.
"Yes, it is better thus," he ejaculated. "If I remain near her, I shall do some desperate deed. Better—far better—I should go. And yet to leave her with Henry—to know that he is ever near her—that he drinks in the music of her voice, and basks in the sunshine of her smile—while I am driven forth to darkness and despair—the thought is madness! I will not obey the hateful mandate! I will stay and defy him!"
As he uttered aloud this wild and unguarded speech, the arras screening the door was drawn aside, and gave admittance to Wolsey.
Wyat's gaze sunk before the penetrating glance fixed upon him by the Cardinal.
"I did not come to play the eavesdropper, Sir Thomas," said Wolsey; "but I have heard enough to place your life in my power. So you refuse to obey the king's injunctions. You refuse to proceed to Paris. You refuse to assist in bringing about the divorce, and prefer remaining here to brave your sovereign, and avenge yourself upon a fickle mistress. Ha?"
Wyat returned no answer.
"If such be your purpose," pursued Wolsey, after a pause, during which he intently scrutinised the knight's countenance, "I will assist you in it. Be ruled by me, and you shall have a deep and full revenge."
"Say on," rejoined Wyat, his eyes blazing with infernal fire, and his hand involuntarily clutching the handle of his dagger.
"If I read you aright," continued the cardinal, "you are arrived at that pitch of desperation when life itself becomes indifferent, and when but one object remains to be gained—"
"And that is vengeance!" interrupted Wyat fiercely. "Right, cardinal—right. I will have vengeance—terrible vengeance!"
"You shall. But I will not deceive you. You will purchase what you seek at the price of your own head."
"I care not," replied Wyat. "All sentiments of love and loyalty are swallowed up by jealousy and burning hate. Nothing but blood can allay the fever that consumes me. Show me how to slay him!"
"Him!" echoed the cardinal, in alarm and horror. "Wretch! would you kill your king? God forbid that I should counsel the injury of a hair of his head! I do not want you to play the assassin, Wyat," he added more calmly, "but the just avenger. Liberate the king from the thraldom of the capricious siren who enslaves him, and you will do a service to the whole country. A word from you—a letter—a token—will cast her from the king, and place her on the block. And what matter? The gory scaffold were better than Henry's bed."
"I cannot harm her," cried Wyat distractedly. "I love her still, devotedly as ever. She was in my power yesterday, and without your aid, cardinal, I could have wreaked my vengeance upon her, if I had been so minded."
"You were then in her chamber, as the king suspected?" cried Wolsey, with a look of exultation. "Trouble yourself no more, Sir Thomas. I will take the part of vengeance off your hands."
"My indiscretion will avail you little, cardinal," replied Wyat sternly. "A hasty word proves nothing. I will perish on the rack sooner than accuse Anne Boleyn. I am a desperate man, but not so desperate as you suppose me. A moment ago I might have been led on, by the murderous and traitorous impulse that prompted me, to lift my hand against the king, but I never could have injured her."
"You are a madman!" cried Wolsey impatiently, "and it is a waste of time to argue with you. I wish you good speed on your journey. On your return you will find Anne Boleyn Queen of England."
"And you disgraced," rejoined Wyat, as, with a malignant and vindictive look, the cardinal quitted the chamber.
Again left alone, Wyat fell into another fit of despondency from which he roused himself with difficulty, and went forth to visit the Earl of Surrey in the Round Tower.
Some delay occurred before he could obtain access to the earl. The halberdier stationed at the entrance to the keep near the Norman Tower refused to admit him without the order of the officer in command of the tower, and as the latter was not in the way at the moment, Wyat had to remain without till he made his appearance.
While thus detained, he beheld Anne Boleyn and her royal lover mount their steeds in the upper ward, and ride forth, with their attendants, on a hawking expedition. Anne Boleyn bore a beautiful falcon on her wrist—Wyat's own gift to her in happier days—and looked full of coquetry, animation, and delight—without the vestige of a cloud upon her brow, or a care on her countenance. With increased bitterness of heart, he turned from the sight, and shrouded himself beneath the gateway of the Norman Tower.
Soon after this, the officer appeared, and at once according Wyat permission to see the earl, preceded him up the long flight of stone steps communicating with the upper part of the keep, and screened by an embattled and turreted structure, constituting a covered way to the Round Tower.
Arrived at the landing, the officer unlocked a door on the left, and ushered his companion into the prisoner's chamber.
Influenced by the circular shape of the structure in which it was situated, and of which it formed a segment, the farther part of this chamber was almost lost to view, and a number of cross-beams and wooden pillars added to its sombre and mysterious appearance. The walls were of enormous thickness, and a narrow loophole, terminating a deep embrasure, afforded but scanty light. Opposite the embrasure sat Surrey, at a small table covered with books and writing materials. A lute lay beside him on the floor, and there were several astrological and alchemical implements within reach.
So immersed was the youthful prisoner in study, that he was not aware, until a slight exclamation was uttered by Wyat, of the entrance of the latter. He then arose, and gave him welcome.
Nothing material passed between them as long as the officer remained in the chamber, but on his departure Surrey observed laughingly to his friend, "And how doth my fair cousin, the Lady Anne Boleyn?"
"She has just ridden forth with the king, to hawk in the park," replied Wyat moodily. "For myself, l am ordered on a mission to France, but I could not depart without entreating your forgiveness for the jeopardy in which I have placed you. Would I could take your place."
"Do not heed me," replied Surrey; "I am well content with what has happened. Virgil and Homer, Dante and Petrarch, are the companions of my confinement; and in good sooth, I am glad to be alone. Amid the distractions of the court I could find little leisure for the muse."
"Your situation is, in many respects, enviable, Surrey," replied Wyat. "Disturbed by no jealous doubts and fears, you can beguile the tedious hours in the cultivation of your poetical tastes, or in study. Still, I must needs reproach myself with being the cause of your imprisonment."
"I repeat, you have done me a service," rejoined the earl, "I would lay down my life for my fair cousin, Anne Boleyn, and I am glad to be able to prove the sincerity of my regard for you, Wyat. I applaud the king's judgment in sending you to France, and if you will be counselled by me, you will stay there long enough to forget her who now occasions you so much uneasiness."
"Will the Fair Geraldine be forgotten when the term of your imprisonment shall expire, my lord?" asked Wyat.
"Of a surety not," replied the earl.
"And yet, in less than two months I shall return from France," rejoined Wyat.
"Our cases are not alike," said Surrey. "The Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald has plighted her troth to me."
"Anne Boleyn vowed eternal constancy to me," cried Wyat bitterly; "and you see how she kept her oath. The absent are always in danger; and few women are proof against ambition. Vanity—vanity is the rock they split upon. May you never experience from Richmond the wrong I have experienced from his father."
"I have no fear," replied Surrey.
As he spoke, there was a slight noise in that part of the chamber which was buried in darkness.
"Have we a listener here?" cried Wyat, grasping his sword.
"Not unless it be a four-legged one from the dungeons beneath," replied Surrey. "But you were speaking of Richmond. He visited me this morning, and came to relate the particulars of a mysterious adventure that occurred to him last night."
And the earl proceeded to detail what had befallen the duke in the forest.
"A marvellous story, truly!" said Wyat, pondering upon the relation. "I will seek out the demon huntsman myself."
Again a noise similar to that heard a moment before resounded from the lower part of the room. Wyat immediately flew thither, and drawing his sword, searched about with its point, but ineffectually.
"It could not be fancy," he said; "and yet nothing is to be found."
"I do not like jesting about Herne the Hunter," remarked Surrey, "after what I myself have seen. In your present frame of mind I advise you not to hazard an interview with the fiend. He has power over the desperate."
Wyat returned no answer. He seemed lost in gloomy thought, and soon afterwards took his leave.
On returning to his lodgings, he summoned his attendants, and ordered them to proceed to Kingston, adding that he would join them there early the next morning. One of them, an old serving-man, noticing the exceeding haggardness of his looks, endeavoured to persuade him to go with them; but Wyat, with a harshness totally unlike his customary manner, which was gracious and kindly in the extreme, peremptorily refused.
"You look very ill, Sir Thomas," said the old servant; "worse than I ever remember seeing you. Listen to my counsel, I beseech you. Plead ill health with the king in excuse of your mission to France, and retire for some months to recruit your strength and spirits at Allington."
"Tush, Adam Twisden! I am well enough," exclaimed Wyat impatiently. "Go and prepare my mails."
"My dear, dear master," cried old Adam, bending the knee before him, and pressing his hand to his lips; "something tells me that if I leave you now I shall never see you again. There is a paleness in your cheek, and a fire in your eye, such as I never before observed in you, or in mortal man. I tremble to say it, but you look like one possessed by the fiend. Forgive my boldness, sir. I speak from affection and duty. I was serving-man to your father, good Sir Henry Wyat, before you, and I love you as a son, while I honour you as a master. I have heard that there are evil beings in the forest—nay, even within the castle—who lure men to perdition by promising to accomplish their wicked desires. I trust no such being has crossed your path."
"Make yourself easy, good Adam," replied Wyat; "no fiend has tempted me."
"Swear it, sir," cried the old man eagerly—"swear it by the Holy Trinity."
"By the Holy Trinity, I swear it," replied Wyat.
As the words were uttered, the door behind the arras was suddenly shut with violence.
"Curses on you, villain! you have left the door open," cried Wyat fiercely. "Our conversation has been overheard."
"I will soon see by whom," cried Adam, springing to his feet, and rushing towards the door, which opened upon a long corridor.
"Well!" cried Wyat, as Adam returned the next moment, with cheeks almost as white as his own—"was it the cardinal?"
"It was the devil, I believe!" replied the old man. "I could see no one."
"It would not require supernatural power to retreat into an adjoining chamber!" replied Wyat, affecting an incredulity he was far from feeling.
"Your worship's adjuration was strangely interrupted," cried the old man, crossing himself devoutly. "Saint Dunstan and Saint Christopher shield us from evil spirits!"
"A truce to your idle terrors, Adam," said Wyat. "Take these packets," he added, giving him Henry's despatches, "and guard them as you would your life. I am going on an expedition of some peril to-night, and do not choose to keep them about me. Bid the grooms have my steed in readiness an hour before midnight."
"I hope your worship is not about to ride into the forest at that hour?" said Adam, trembling. "I was told by the stout archer, whom the king dubbed Duke of Shoreditch, that he and the Duke of Richmond ventured thither last night, and that they saw a legion of demons mounted on coal-black horses, and amongst them Mark Fytton, the butcher, who was hanged a few days ago from the Curfew Tower by the king's order, and whose body so strangely disappeared. Do not go into the forest, dear Sir Thomas!"
"No more of this!" cried Wyat fiercely. "Do as I bid you, and if I join you not before noon to-morrow, proceed to Rochester, and there await my coming."
"I never expect to see you again, sir!" groaned the old man, as he took his leave.
The anxious concern evinced in his behalf by his old and trusty servant was not without effect on Sir Thomas Wyat, and made him hesitate in his design; but by-and-by another access of jealous rage came on, and overwhelmed all his better resolutions. He remained within his chamber to a late hour, and then issuing forth, proceeded to the terrace at the north of the castle, where he was challenged by a sentinel, but was suffered to pass on, on giving the watch-word.
The night was profoundly dark, and the whole of the glorious prospect commanded by the terrace shrouded from view. But Wyat's object in coming thither was to gaze, for the last time, at that part of the castle which enclosed Anne Boleyn, and knowing well the situation of her apartments, he fixed his eyes upon the windows; but although numerous lights streamed from the adjoining corridor, all here was buried in obscurity.