"Vain woman, your pride will be abased," rejoined Wolsey bitterly.
"Vain man, you are already abased," replied Anne. "A few weeks ago I would have made terms with you. Now I am your mortal enemy, and will never rest till I have procured your downfall."
"The king will have an amiable consort, truly," sneered Wolsey.
"He will have one who can love him and hate his foes," replied Anne; "and not one who would side with them and thee, as would be the case with the Duchess d'Alencon or the Princess Renee. Henry, you know the sole terms on which you can procure my hand."
The king nodded a playful affirmative.
"Then dismiss him at once, disgrace him," said Anne.
"Nay, nay," replied Henry, "the divorce is not yet passed. You are angered now, and will view matters more coolly to-morrow."
"I shall never change my resolution," she replied.
"If my dismissal and disgrace can save my sovereign, I pray him to sacrifice me without hesitation," said Wolsey; "but while I have liberty of speech with him, and aught of power remaining, I will use it to his advantage. I pray your majesty suffer me to retire."
And receiving a sign of acquiescence from the king, he withdrew, amid the triumphant laughter of Anne.
How Tristram Lyndwood was interrogated by the King.
Anne Boleyn remained with her royal lover for a few minutes to pour forth her gratitude for the attachment he had displayed to her, and to confirm the advantage she had gained over Wolsey. As soon as she was gone, Henry summoned an usher, and giving him some instructions respecting Mabel Lyndwood, proceeded to the Curfew Tower.
Nothing was said to him of the strange noise that had been heard in the upper chamber, for the arquebusiers were fearful of exciting his displeasure by a confession of their alarm, and he descended at once to the dungeon.
"Well, fellow," he cried, sternly regarding the captive, who arose at his entrance, "you have now had ample time for reflection, and I trust are in a better frame of mind than when I last spoke with you. I command you to declare all you know concerning Herne the Hunter, and to give me such information respecting the proscribed felon, Morgan Fenwolf, as will enable me to accomplish his capture."
"I have already told your highness that my mouth is sealed by an oath of secrecy," replied Tristram, humbly, but firmly.
"Obstinate dog! thou shalt either speak, or I will hang thee from the top of this tower, as I hanged Mark Fytton the butcher," roared Henry.
"You will execute your sovereign pleasure, my liege," said the old man. "My life is in your hands. It is little matter whether it is closed now or a year hence. I have well nigh run out my term."
"If thou carest not for thyself, thou mayest not be equally indifferent to another," cried the king. "What ho! bring in his granddaughter."
The old man started at the command, and trembled violently. The next moment, Mabel was led into the dungeon by Shoreditch and Paddington. Behind her came Nicholas Clamp. On seeing her grandsire, she uttered a loud cry and would have rushed towards him, but she was held back by her companions.
"Oh grandfather!" she cried, "what have you done?-why do I find you here?"
Tristram groaned, and averted his head.
"He is charged with felony and sorcery," said the king sternly, "and you, maiden, come under the same suspicion."
"Believe it not, sire," cried the old man, flinging himself at Henry's feet; "oh, believe it not. Whatever you may judge of me, believe her innocent. She was brought up most devoutly, by a lay sister of the monastery at Chertsey; and she knows nothing, save by report, of what passes in the forest."
"Yet she has seen and conversed with Morgan Fenwolf," the king.
"Not since he was outlawed," said Tristram.
"I saw him to—day, as I was brought to the castle," cried Mabel, "and—" but recollecting that she might implicate her grandfather, she suddenly stopped.
"What said he?—ha!" demanded the king.
"I will tell your majesty what passed," interposed Nicholas Clamp, stepping forward, "for I was with the damsel at the time. He came upon us suddenly from behind a great tree, and ordered her to accompany him to her grandsire."
"Ha!" exclaimed the king.
"But he had no authority for what he said, I am well convinced," pursued Clamp. "Mabel disbelieved him and refused to go, and I should have captured him if the fiend he serves had not lent him a helping hand."
"What says the prisoner himself to this?" observed the king. "Didst thou send Fenwolf on the errand?"
"I did," replied Tristram. "I sent him to prevent her from going to the castle."
Mabel sobbed audibly.
"Thou art condemned by thy own confession, caitiff," said the king, "and thou knowest upon what terms alone thou canst save thyself from the hangman, and thy grand-daughter from the stake."
"Oh, mercy, sire, mercy!" shrieked Mabel.
"Your fate rests with your grandsire," said the king sternly. "If he chooses to be your executioner he will remain silent."
"Oh, speak, grandsire, speak!" cried Mabel. "What matters the violation of an unholy vow?"
"Give me till to-morrow for consideration, sire," said the old man.
"Thou shalt have till midnight," replied the king; "and till then Mabel shall remain with thee."
"I would rather be left alone," said Tristram.
"I doubt it not," replied the king; "but it shall not be." And without bestowing a look at Mabel, whose supplications he feared might shake his purpose, he quitted the vault with his attendants, leaving her alone with her grandsire.
"I shall return at midnight," he said to the arquebusier stationed at the door; "and meanwhile let no one enter the dungeon—not even the Duke of Suffolk—unless," he added, holding forth his hand to display a ring, "he shall bring this signet."
Of the Brief Advantage gained by the Queen and the Cardinal.
As the king, wholly unattended—for he had left the archers at the Curfew Tower—was passing at the back of Saint George's Chapel, near the north transept, he paused for a moment to look at the embattled entrance to the New Commons—a structure erected in the eleventh year of his own reign by James Denton, a canon, and afterwards Dean of Lichfield, for the accommodation of such chantry priests and choristers as had no place in the college. Over the doorway, surmounted by a niche, ran (and still runs) the inscription—
"AEDES PRO SACELLANORUM CHORISTARUM COVIVIIS EXTRUCTA, A.D. 1519."
The building has since been converted into one of the canons' houses.
While he was contemplating this beautiful gateway, which was glimmering in the bright moonlight, a tall figure suddenly darted from behind one of the buttresses of the chapel, and seized his left arm with an iron grasp. The suddenness of the attack took him by surprise; but he instantly recovered himself, plucked away his arm, and, drawing his sword, made a pass at his assailant, who, however, avoided the thrust, and darted with inconceivable swiftness through the archway leading to the cloisters. Though Henry followed as quickly as he could, he lost sight of the fugitive, but just as he was about to enter the passage running between the tomb-house and the chapel, he perceived a person in the south ambulatory evidently anxious to conceal himself, and, rushing up to him and dragging him to the light he found it was no other than the cardinal's jester, Patch.
"What does thou here, knave?" cried Henry angrily.
"I am waiting for my master, the cardinal," replied the jester, terrified out of his wits.
"Waiting for him here!" cried the king. "Where is he?"
"In that house," replied Patch, pointing to a beautiful bay-window, full of stained glass, overhanging the exquisite arches of the north ambulatory.
"Why, that is Doctor Sampson's dwelling," cried Henry; "he who was chaplain to the queen, and is a strong opponent of the divorce. What doth he there?"
"I am sure I know not," replied Patch, whose terror increased each moment. "Perhaps I have mistaken the house. Indeed, I am sure it must be Doctor Voysey's, the next door."
"Thou liest, knave!" cried Henry fiercely; "thy manner convinces me there is some treasonable practice going forward. But I will soon find it out. Attempt to give the alarm, and I will cut thy throat."
With this he proceeded to the back of the north ambulatory, and finding the door he sought unfastened, raised the latch and walked softly in. But before he got half-way down the passage, Doctor Sampson himself issued from an inner room with a lamp in his hand. He started on seeing the king, and exhibited great alarm.
"The Cardinal of York is here—I know it," said Henry in a deep whisper. "Lead me to him."
"Oh, go not forward, my gracious liege!" cried Sampson, placing himself in his path.
"Wherefore not?" rejoined the king. "Ha! what voice is that I heard in the upper chamber? Is she here, and with Wolsey? Out of my way, man," he added, pushing the canon aside, and rushing up the short wooden staircase.
When Wolsey returned from his interview with the king, which had been so unluckily interrupted by Anne Boleyn, he found his ante-chamber beset with a crowd of suitors to whose solicitations he was compelled to listen, and having been detained in this manner for nearly half an hour, he at length retired into an inner room.
"Vile sycophants!" he muttered, "they bow the knee before me, and pay me greater homage than they render the king, but though they have fed upon my bounty and risen by my help, not one of them, if he was aware of my true position, but would desert me. Not one of them but would lend a helping hand to crush me. Not one but would rejoice in my downfall. But they have not deceived me. I knew them from the first—saw through their hollowness and despised them. While power lasts to me, I will punish some of them. While power lasts!" he repeated. "Have I any power remaining? I have already given up Hampton and my treasures to the king; and the work of spoliation once commenced, the royal plunderer will not be content till he has robbed me of all; while his minion, Anne Boleyn, has vowed my destruction. Well, I will not yield tamely, nor fall unavenged."
As these thoughts passed through his mind, Patch, who had waited for a favourable moment to approach him, delivered him a small billet carefully sealed, and fastened with a silken thread. Wolsey took it, and broke it open; and as his eye eagerly scanned its contents, the expression of his countenance totally changed. A flash of joy and triumph irradiated his fallen features; and thrusting the note into the folds of his robe, he inquired of the jester by whom it had been brought, and how long.
"It was brought by a messenger from Doctor Sampson," replied Patch, "and was committed to me with special injunctions to deliver it to your grace immediately on your return, and secretly."
The cardinal sat down, and for a few moments appeared lost in deep reflection; he then arose, and telling Patch he should return presently, quitted the chamber. But the jester, who was of an inquisitive turn, and did not like to be confined to half a secret, determined to follow him, and accordingly tracked him along the great corridor, down a winding staircase, through a private door near the Norman Gateway, across the middle ward, and finally saw him enter Doctor Sampson's dwelling, at the back of the north ambulatory. He was reconnoitring the windows of the house from the opposite side of the cloisters in the hope of discovering something, when he was caught, as before mentioned, by the king.
Wolsey, meanwhile, was received by Doctor Sampson at the doorway of his dwelling, and ushered by him into a chamber on the upper floor, wainscoted with curiously carved and lustrously black oak. A silver lamp was burning the on the table, and in the recess of the window, which was screened by thick curtains, sat a majestic lady, who rose on the cardinal's entrance. It was Catherine of Arragon.
"I attend your pleasure, madam," said Wolsey, with a profound inclination.
"You have been long in answering my summons," said the queen; "but I could not expect greater promptitude. Time was when a summons from Catherine of Arragon would have been quickly and cheerfully attended to; when the proudest noble in the land would have borne her message to you, and when you would have passed through crowds to her audience-chamber. Now another holds her place, and she is obliged secretly to enter the castle where she once ruled, to despatch a valet to her enemy, to attend his pleasure, and to receive him in the dwelling of an humble canon. Times are changed with me, Wolsey—sadly changed."
"I have been in attendance on the king, madam, or I should have been with you sooner," replied Wolsey. "It grieves me sorely to see you here."
"I want not your pity," replied the queen proudly. "I did not send for you to gratify your malice by exposing my abject state. I did not send for you to insult me by false sympathy; but in the hope that your own interest would induce you to redress the wrongs you have done me."
"Alas! madam, I fear it is now too late to repair the error I have committed," said Wolsey, in a tone of affected penitence and sorrow.
"You admit, then, that it was an error," cried Catherine. "Well, that is something. Oh! that you had paused before you began this evil work—before you had raised a storm which will destroy me and yourself. Your quarrel with my nephew the Emperor Charles has cost me dear, but it will cost you yet more dearly."
"I deserve all your reproaches, madam," said Wolsey, with feigned meekness; "and I will bear them without a murmur. But you have sent for me for some specific object, I presume?"
"I sent for you to give me aid, as much for your own sake as mine," replied the queen, "for you are in equal danger. Prevent this divorce—foil Anne—and you retain the king's favour. Our interests are so far leagued together, that you must serve me to serve yourself. My object is to gain time to enable my friends to act. Your colleague is secretly favourable to me. Pronounce no sentence here, but let the cause be removed to Rome. My nephew the emperor will prevail upon the Pope to decide in my favour."
"I dare not thus brave the king's displeasure, madam;" replied Wolsey.
"Dissembler!" exclaimed Catherine. "I now perceive the insincerity of your professions. This much I have said to try you. And now to my real motive for sending for you. I have in my possession certain letters, that will ruin Anne Boleyn with the king."
"Ha!" exclaimed the cardinal joyfully; "if that be the case, all the rest will be easy. Let me see the letters, I pray you, madam."
Before Catherine could reply, the door was thrown violently open, and the king stood before them.
"Soh!" roared Henry, casting a terrible look at Wolsey, "I have caught you at your treasonable practices at last! And you, madam," he added, turning to Catherine, who meekly, but steadily, returned his gaze, "what brings you here again? Because I pardoned your indiscretion yesterday, think not I shall always be so lenient. You will leave the castle instantly. As to Wolsey, he shall render me a strict account of his conduct."
"I have nothing to declare, my liege," replied Wolsey, recovering himself, "I leave it to the queen to explain why I came hither."
"The explanation shall be given at once," said Catherine. "I sent for the cardinal to request him to lay before your majesty these two letters from Anne Boleyn to Sir Thomas Wyat, that you might judge whether one who could write thus would make you a fitting consort. You disbelieved my charge of levity yesterday. Read these, sire, and judge whether I spoke the truth."
Henry glanced at the letters, and his brow grew dark.
"What say you to them, my liege?" cried Catherine, with a glance of triumph. "In the one she vows eternal constancy to Sir Thomas Wyat, and in the other—written after her engagement to you—he tells him that though they can never meet as heretofore, she will always love him."
"Ten thousand furies!" cried the king. "Where got you these letters, madam?"
"They were given to me by a tall dark man, as I quitted the castle last night," said the queen. "He said they were taken from the person of Sir Thomas Wyat while he lay concealed in the forest in the cave of Herne the Hunter."
"If I thought she wrote them," cried Henry, in an access jealous fury, "I would cast her off for ever."
"Methinks your majesty should be able to judge whether they are true or false," said Catherine. "I know her writing well—too well, alas!—and am satisfied they are genuine."
"I am well assured that Wyat was concealed in the Lady Anne's chamber when your majesty demanded admittance and could not obtain it—when the Earl of Surrey sacrificed himself for her, and for his friend," said Wolsey.
"Perdition!" exclaimed the king, striking his brow with his clenched hand. "Oh, Catherine!" he continued, after a pause, during which she intently watched the workings of his countenance, "and it was for this light-hearted creature I was about to cast you off."
"I forgive you, sire—I forgive you!" exclaimed the queen, clasping his hands, and bedewing them with grateful tears. "You have been deceived. Heaven keep you in the same mind!"
"You have preserved me," said Henry, "but you must not tarry here. Come with me to the royal lodgings."
"No, Henry," replied Catherine, with a shudder, "not while she is there."
"Make no conditions, madam," whispered Wolsey. "Go."
"She shall be removed to-morrow," said Henry.
"In that case I am content to smother my feelings," said the queen.
"Come, then, Kate," said Henry, taking her hand. "Lord cardinal, you will attend us."
"Right gladly, my liege," replied Wolsey. "If this mood will only endure," he muttered, "all will go well. But his jealousy must not be allowed to cool. Would that Wyat were here!"
Doctor Sampson could scarcely credit his senses as he beheld the august pair come forth together, and a word from Wolsey explaining what had occurred, threw him into transports of delight. But the surprise of the good canon was nothing to that exhibited as Henry and Catherine entered the royal lodgings, and the king ordered his own apartments to be instantly prepared for her majesty's reception.
How Tristram Lyndwood and Mabel were liberated.
Intelligence of the queen's return was instantly conveyed to Anne Boleyn, and filled her with indescribable alarm. All her visions of power and splendour seemed to melt away at once. She sent for her father, Lord Rochford, who hurried to her in a state of the utmost anxiety, and closely questioned her whether the extraordinary change had not been occasioned by some imprudence of her own. But she positively denied the charge, alleging that she had parted with the king scarcely an hour before on terms of the most perfect amity, and with the full conviction that she had accomplished the cardinal's ruin.
"You should not have put forth your hand against him till you were sure of striking the blow," said Rochford. "There is no telling what secret influence he has over the king; and there may yet be a hard battle to fight. But not a moment must be lost in counteracting his operations. Luckily, Suffolk is here, and his enmity to the cardinal will make him a sure friend to us. Pray Heaven you have not given the king fresh occasion for jealousy! That is all I fear."
And quitting his daughter, he sought out Suffolk, who, alarmed at what appeared like a restoration of Wolsey to favour, promised heartily to co-operate with him in the struggle; and that no time might be lost, the duke proceeded at once to the royal closet, where he found the king pacing moodily to and fro.
"Your majesty seems disturbed," said the duke.
"Disturbed!—ay!" exclaimed the king. "I have enough to disturb me. I will never love again. I will forswear the whole sex. Harkee, Suffolk, you are my brother, my second self, and know all the secrets of my heart. After the passionate devotion I have displayed for Anne Boleyn—after all I have done for her—all I have risked for her—I have been deceived."
"Impossible, my liege?" exclaimed Suffolk.
"Why, so I thought," cried Henry, "and I turned a deaf ear to all insinuations thrown out against her, till proof was afforded which I could no longer doubt."
"And what was the amount of the proof, my liege?" asked Suffolk.
"These letters," said Henry, handing them to him, "found on the person of Sir Thomas Wyat."
"But these only prove, my liege, the existence of a former passion—nothing more," remarked Suffolk, after he had scanned them.
"But she vows eternal constancy to him!" cried Henry; "says she shall ever love him—says so at the time she professes devoted love for me! How can I trust her after that? Suffolk, I feel she does not love me exclusively; and my passion is so deep and devouring, that it demands entire return. I must have her heart as well as her person; and I feel I have only won her in my quality of king."
"I am persuaded your majesty is mistaken," said the duke. "Would I could think so!" sighed Henry. "But no—no, I cannot be deceived. I will conquer this fatal passion. Oh, Suffolk! it is frightful to be the bondslave of a woman—a fickle, inconstant woman. But between the depths of love and hate is but a step; and I can pass from one to the other."
"Do nothing rashly, my dear liege," said Suffolk; "nothing that may bring with it after-repentance. Do not be swayed by those who have inflamed your jealousy, and who could practise upon it. Think the matter calmly over, and then act. And till you have decided, see neither Catherine nor Anne; and, above all, do not admit Wolsey to your secret counsels."
"You are his enemy, Suffolk," said the king sternly.
"I am your majesty's friend," replied the duke. "I beseech you, yield to me on this occasion, and I am sure of your thanks hereafter."
"Well, I believe you are right, my good friend and brother," said Henry, "and I will curb my impulses of rage and jealousy. To-morrow, before I see either the queen or Anne, we will ride forth into the forest, and talk the matter further over."
"Your highness has come to a wise determination," said the duke.
"Oh, Suffolk!" sighed Henry, "would I had never seen this siren! She exercises a fearful control over me, and enslaves my very soul."
"I cannot say whether it is for good or ill that you have met, my dear liege," replied Suffolk, "but I fancy I can discern the way in which your ultimate decision will be taken. But it is now near midnight. I wish your majesty sound and untroubled repose."
"Stay!" cried Henry, "I am about to visit the Curfew Tower, and must take you with me. I will explain my errand as we go. I had some thought of sending you there in my stead. Ha!" he exclaimed, glancing at his finger, "By Saint Paul, it is gone!"
"What is gone, my liege?" asked Suffolk.
"My signet," replied Henry, "I missed it not till now. It has been wrested from me by the fiend, during my walk from the Curfew Tower. Let us not lose a moment, or the prisoners will be set free by him,—if they have not been liberated already."
So saying, he took a couple of dags—a species of short gun—from a rest on the wall, and giving one to Suffolk, thrust the other into his girdle. Thus armed, they quitted the royal lodgings, and hurried in the direction of the Curfew Tower. Just as they reached the Horseshoe Cloisters, the alarm-bell began to ring.
"Did I not tell you so?" cried Henry furiously; "they have escaped. Ha! it ceases!—what has happened?"
About a quarter of an hour after the king had quitted the Curfew Tower, a tall man, enveloped in a cloak, and wearing a high conical cap, presented himself to the arquebusier stationed at the entrance to the dungeon, and desired to be admitted to the prisoners.
"I have the king's signet," he said, holding forth the ring. On seeing this, the arquebusier, who recognised the ring, unlocked the door, and admitted him. Mabel was kneeling on the ground beside her grandsire, with her hands raised as in prayer, but as the tall man entered the vault, she started to her feet, and uttered a slight scream.
"What is the matter, child?" cried Tristram..
"He is here!—he is come!" cried Mabel, in a tone of the deepest terror.
"Who—the king?" cried Tristram, looking up. "Ah! I see! Herne is come to deliver me."
"Do not go with him, grandsire," cried Mabel. "In the name of all the saints, I implore you, do not."
"Silence her!" said Herne in a harsh, imperious voice, "or I leave you."
The old man looked imploringly at his granddaughter.
"You know the conditions of your liberation?" said Herne.
"I do—I do," replied Tristram hastily, and with a shudder.
"Oh, grandfather!" cried Mabel, falling at his feet, "do not, I conjure you, make any conditions with this dreaded being, or it will be at the expense of your salvation. Better I should perish at the stake—better you should suffer the most ignominious death, than this should be."
"Do you accept them?" cried Herne, disregarding her supplications.
Tristram answered in the affirmative.
"Recall your words, grandfather—recall your words!" cried Mabel. "I will implore pardon for you on my knees from the king, and he will not refuse me."
"The pledge cannot be recalled, damsel," said Herne; "and it is to save you from the king, as much as to accomplish his own preservation, that your grandsire consents. He would not have you a victim to Henry's lust." And as he spoke, he divided the forester's bonds with his knife. "You must go with him, Mabel," he added.
"I will not!" she cried. "Something warns me that a great danger awaits me."
"You must go, girl," cried Tristram angrily. "I will not leave you to Henry's lawless passion."
Meanwhile, Herne had passed into one of the large embrasures, and opened, by means of a spring, an entrance to a secret staircase in the wall. He then beckoned Tristram towards him, and whispered some instructions in his ear.
"I understand," replied the old man.
"Proceed to the cave," cried Herne, "and remain there till I join you."
Tristram nodded assent.
"Come, Mabel!" he cried, advancing towards her, and seizing her hand.
"Away!" cried Herne in a menacing tone.
Terrified by the formidable looks and gestures of the demon, the poor girl offered no resistance, and her grandfather drew her into the opening, which was immediately closed after her.
About an hour after this, and when it was near upon the stroke of midnight, the arquebusier who had admitted the tall stranger to the dungeon, and who had momentarily expected his coming forth, opened the door to see what was going forward. Great was his astonishment to find the cell empty! After looking around in bewilderment, he rushed to the chamber above, to tell his comrades what had happened.
"This is clearly the work of the fiend," said Shoreditch; "it is useless to strive against him."
"That tall black man was doubtless Herne himself." said Paddington. "I am glad he did us no injury. I hope the king will not provoke his malice further."
"Well, we must inform Captain Bouchier of the mischance," said Shoreditch. "I would not be in thy skin, Mat Bee, for a trifle. The king will be here presently, and then—"
"It is impossible to penetrate through the devices of the evil one," interrupted Mat. "I could have sworn it was the royal signet, for I saw it on the king's finger as he delivered the order. I wish such another chance of capturing the fiend would occur to me."
As the words were uttered, the door of a recess was thrown suddenly open, and Herne, in his wild garb, with his antlered helm upon his brow, and the rusty chain depending from his left arm, stood before them. His appearance was so terrific and unearthly that they all shrank aghast, and Mat Bee fell with his face on the floor.
"I am here!" cried the demon. "Now, braggart, wilt dare to seize me?"
But not a hand was moved against him. The whole party seemed transfixed with terror.
"You dare not brave my power, and you are right," cried Herne—"a wave of my hand would bring this old tower about your ears—a word would summon a legion of fiends to torment you."
"But do not utter it, I pray you, good Herne—excellent Herne," cried Mat Bee. "And, above all things, do not wave your hand, for we have no desire to be buried alive,—have we, comrades? I should never have said what I did if I had thought your friendship within hearing."
"Your royal master will as vainly seek to contend with me as he did to bury me beneath the oak-tree," cried Herne. "If you want me further, seek me in the upper chamber."
And with these words he darted up the ladder-like flight of steps and disappeared.
As soon as they recovered from the fright that had enchained them, Shoreditch and Paddington rushed forth into the area in front of the turret, and shouting to those on the roof told them that Herne was in the upper room—a piece of information which was altogether superfluous, as the hammering had recommenced, and continued till the clock struck twelve, when it stopped. Just then, it occurred to Mat Bee to ring the alarm-bell, and he seized the rope, and began to pull it; but the bell had scarcely sounded, when the cord, severed from above, fell upon his head.
At this juncture, the king and the Duke of Suffolk arrived. When told what had happened, though prepared for it, Henry burst into a terrible passion, and bestowed a buffet on Mat Bee, that well nigh broke his jaw, and sent him reeling to the farther side of the chamber. He had not at first understood that Herne was supposed to be in the upper room; but as soon as he was made aware of the circumstance, he cried out—"Ah, dastards! have you let him brave you thus? But I am glad of it. His capture is reserved for my own hand."
"Do not expose yourself to this risk, my gracious liege," said Suffolk.
"What! are you too a sharer in their womanish fears, Suffolk?" cried Henry. "I thought you had been made of stouter stuff. If there is danger, I shall be the first to encounter it. Come," he added, snatching a torch from an arquebusier. And, drawing his dag, he hurried up the steep steps, while Suffolk followed his example, and three or four arquebusiers ventured after them.
Meanwhile Shoreditch and Paddington ran out, and informed Bouchier that the king had arrived, and was mounting in search of Herne, upon which the captain, shaking off his fears, ordered his men to follow him, and opening the little door at the top of the stairs, began cautiously to descend, feeling his way with his sword. He had got about half-way down, when Henry sprang upon the platform. The light of the torch fell upon the ghostly figure of Herne, with his arms folded upon his breast, standing near the pile of wood, lying between the two staircases. So appalling was the appearance of the demon, that Henry stood still to gaze at him, while Bouchier and his men remained irresolute on the stairs. In another moment, the Duke of Suffolk had gained the platform, and the arquebusiers were seen near the head of the stairs.
"At last, thou art in my power, accursed being!" cried Henry. "Thou art hemmed in on all sides, and canst not escape!"
"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Herne.
"This shall prove whether thou art human or not," cried Henry, taking deliberate aim at him with the dag.
"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Herne. And as the report rang through the room, he sank through the floor, and disappeared from view.
"Gone!" exclaimed Henry, as the smoke cleared off; "gone! Holy Mary! then it must indeed be the fiend. I made the middle of his skull my aim, and if he had not been invulnerable, the bullet must have pierced his brain.
"I heard it rebound from his horned helmet, and drop to the floor," said Bouchier.
"What is that chest?" cried Henry, pointing to a strange coffin-shaped box, lying, as it seemed, on the exact spot where the demon had disappeared.
No one had seen it before, though all called to mind the mysterious hammering; and they had no doubt that the coffin was the work of the demon.
"Break it open," cried Henry; "for aught we know, Herne may be concealed within it."
The order was reluctantly obeyed by the arquebusiers. But no force was required, for the lid was not nailed down; and when it was removed, a human body in the last stage of decay was discovered.
"Pah! close it up," cried Henry, turning away in disgust. "How came it there?"
"It must have been brought by the powers of darkness," said Bouchier; "no such coffin was here when I searched the chamber two hours ago. But see," he suddenly added, stooping down, and picking up a piece of paper which had fallen from the coffin, "here is a scroll."
"Give it me!" cried Henry; and holding it to the light, he read the words, "The body of Mark Fytton, the butcher, the victim of a tyrant's cruelty."
Uttering a terrible imprecation, Henry flung the paper from him; and bidding the arquebusiers burn the body at the foot of the gallows without the town, he quitted the tower without further search.
How Wolsey was disgraced by the King.
On the following day, a reconciliation took place between the king and Anne Boleyn. During a ride in the great park with his royal brother, Suffolk not only convinced him of the groundlessness of his jealousy, but contrived to incense him strongly against Wolsey. Thus the queen and the cardinal lost the momentary advantage they had gained, while Anne's power was raised yet higher. Yielding to her entreaties not to see Catherine again, nor to hold further conference with Wolsey until the sentence of the court should be pronounced, Henry left the castle that very day, and proceeded to his palace of Bridewell. The distress of the unhappy queen at this sudden revolution of affairs may be conceived. Distrusting Wolsey, and putting her sole reliance on Heaven and the goodness of her cause, she withdrew to Blackfriars, where she remained till the court met. As to the cardinal himself, driven desperate by his situation, and exasperated by the treatment he had experienced, he resolved, at whatever risk, to thwart Henry's schemes, and revenge himself upon Anne Boleyn.
Thus matters continued till the court met as before in the Parliament-chamber, at Blackfriars. On this occasion Henry was present, and took his place under a cloth of estate,—the queen sitting at some distance below him. Opposite them were the legates, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the whole of the bishops. The aspect of the assemblage was grave and anxious. Many eyes were turned on Henry, who looked gloomy and menacing, but the chief object of interest was the queen, who, though pale as death, had never in her highest days of power worn a more majestic and dignified air than on this occasion.
The proceedings of the court then commenced, and the king being called by the crier, he immediately answered to the summons. Catherine was next called, and instead of replying, she marched towards the canopy beneath which the king was seated, prostrated herself, and poured forth a most pathetic and eloquent appeal to him, at the close of which she arose, and making a profound reverence, walked out of the court, leaning upon the arm of her general receiver, Griffith. Henry desired the crier to call her back, but she would not return; and seeing the effect produced by her address upon the auditory, he endeavoured to efface it by an eulogium on her character and virtues, accompanied by an expression of deep regret at the step he was compelled to take in separating himself from her. But his hypocrisy availed him little, and his speech was received with looks of ill-disguised incredulity. Some further discourse then took place between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Rochester; but as the queen had absented herself, the court was adjourned to the next day, when it again met, and as she did not then appear, though summoned, she was pronounced contumacious. After repeated adjournments, the last session was held, and judgment demanded on the part of the king, when Campeggio, as had been arranged between him and Wolsey, declined to pronounce it until he had referred the matter to the Pope, and the court was dissolved.
About two months after this event, during which time the legate's commission had been revoked, while Henry was revolving the expediency of accomplishing the divorce through the medium of his own ecclesiastical courts, and without reference to that of Rome, a despatch was received from the Pope by the two cardinals, requiring them to cite the king to appear before him by attorney on a certain day. At the time of the arrival of this instrument, Campeggio chanced to be staying with Wolsey at his palace at Esher, and as the king was then holding his court at Windsor, they both set out for the castle on the following day, attended by a retinue of nearly a hundred horsemen, splendidly equipped.
It was now the middle of September, and the woods, instead of presenting one uniform mass of green, glowed with an infinite variety of lovely tints. And yet, despite the beauty of the scene, there was something melancholy in witnessing the decline of the year, as marked by those old woods, and by the paths that led through them, so thickly strewn with leaves. Wolsey was greatly affected. "These noble trees will ere long bereft of all their glories," he thought, "and so, most likely, will it be with me, and perhaps my winter may come sooner than theirs!"
The cardinal and his train had crossed Staines Bridge, and passing through Egham, had entered the great park near Englefield Green. They were proceeding along the high ridge overlooking the woody region between it and the castle, when a joyous shout in the glades beneath reached them, and looking down, they saw the king accompanied by Anne Boleyn, and attended by his falconers and a large company of horsemen, pursuing the sport of hawking. The royal party appeared so much interested in their sport that they did not notice the cardinal and his train, and were soon out of sight. But as Wolsey descended Snow Hill, and entered the long avenue, he heard the trampling of horses at a little distance, and shortly afterwards, Henry and Anne issued from out the trees. They were somewhat more than a bow-shot in advance of the cardinal; but instead of halting till he came up, the king had no sooner ascertained who it was, than, despatching a messenger to the castle, who was seen galloping swiftly down the avenue, he rode off with Anne Boleyn towards the opposite side of the park. Though deeply mortified by the slight, Wolsey concealed his vexation from his brother cardinal, and pursued his way to the castle, before which he presently arrived. The gate was thrown open at his approach, but he had scarcely entered the lower ward when Sir Henry Norris, the king's groom of the stole, advanced to meet him, and, with a sorrowful expression of countenance, said that his royal master had so many guests at the castle, that he could not accommodate him and his train.
"I understand your drift, sir," replied Wolsey; "you would tell me I am not welcome. Well, then, his eminence Cardinal Campeggio and myself must take up our lodging at some hostel in the town, for it is necessary we should see the king."
"If your grace is content to dismiss your attendants," said Norris in a low tone, "you and Cardinal Campeggio can be lodged in Henry the Third's Tower. Thus much I will take upon me; but I dare not admit you to the royal lodgings."
Wolsey tried to look unconcerned, and calling to his gentleman usher, George Cavendish, gave him some instructions in a low voice, upon which the other immediately placed himself at the head of the retinue, and ordered them to quit the castle with him, leaving only the jester, Patch, to attend upon his master. Campeggio's attendants being comparatively speaking, few in number, were allowed to remain, and his litter was conveyed to Henry the Third's Tower—a fortification standing, as already stated, in the south side of the lower ward, near the edge of the dry moat surrounding the Round Tower. At the steps of this tower Wolsey dismounted, and was about to follow Campeggio into the doorway, when Will Sommers, who had heard of his arrival, stepped forward, and with a salutation of mock formality, said, "I am sure it will grieve the king, my master, not to be able to accommodate your grace's train; but since it is larger than his own, you will scarce blame his want of hospitality."
"Nor the courtesy of his attendants," rejoined Wolsey sharply. "I am in no mood for thy jesting now. Stand aside, sirrah, or I will have the rod applied to thy back!"
"Take care the king does not apply the rod to your own, lord cardinal," retorted Will Sommers. "If he scourges you according to your deserts, your skin will be redder than your robe." And his mocking laugh pursued Wolsey like the hiss of a snake into the tower.
Some two hours after this, Henry and his attendants returned from the chase. The king seemed in a blithe humour, and Wolsey saw him laugh heartily as Will Sommers pointed with his bauble towards Henry the Third's Tower. The cardinal received no invitation to the royal banquet; and the answer to his solicitation for an interview was, that he and Campeggio would be received in the presence-chamber on the following morning, but not before.
That night a great revel was held in the castle. Masquing, dancing, and feasting filled up the evening, and the joyous sounds and strains reached Wolsey in his seclusion, and forced him to contrast it with his recent position, when he would have been second only to the king in the entertainment. He laid his head upon his pillow, but not to rest, and while tossing feverishly about his couch, he saw the arras with which the walls were covered, move, and a tall, dark figure step from behind it. The cardinal would have awakened his jester, who slept in a small truckle-bed at his feet, but the strange visitor motioned him to be still.
"You may conjecture who I am, cardinal," he said, "but in case you should doubt, I will tell you. I am Herne the Hunter! And now to my errand. There is a damsel, whom you once saw in the forest near the great lake, and whom you promised to befriend. You can assist her now—to-morrow it may be out of your power."
"I have enough to do to aid myself, without meddling with what concerns me not," said Wolsey.
"This damsel does concern you," cried Herne. "Read this, and you will see in what way."
And he tossed a letter to Wolsey, who glanced at it by the light of the lamp.
"Ha! is it so?" he exclaimed. "Is she—"
"Hush!" cried Herne, "or you will wake this sleeper. It is as you suppose. Will you not aid her now? Will you not bestow some of your treasure upon her before it is wholly wrested from you by the king? I will do aught you wish, secretly and swiftly."
"Go, then, to my palace at Esher," cried the cardinal. "Take this key to my treasurer—it is the key of my coffers. Bid him deliver to you the six caskets in the cabinet in the gilt chamber. Here is a token by which he will know that you came from me," he added, delivering him a small chain of gold, "for it has been so agreed between us. But you will be sure to give the treasure to Mabel."
"Fear nothing," replied Herne. And stretching forth his hand to receive the key and the chain, he glided behind the tapestry, and disappeared.
This strange incident gave some diversion to Wolsey's thought; but ere long they returned to their former channel. Sleep would not be summoned, and as soon as the first glimpse of day appeared, he arose, and wrapping his robe around him, left his room and ascended a winding staircase leading to the roof of the tower.
The morning promised to be fine, but it was then hazy, and the greater part of the forest was wrapped in mist. The castle, however, was seen to great advantage. Above Wolsey rose the vast fabric of the Round Tower, on the summit of which the broad standard was at that moment being unfurled; while the different battlements and towers arose majestically around. But Wolsey's gaze rested chiefly upon the exquisite mausoleum lying immediately beneath him; in which he had partly prepared for himself a magnificent monument. A sharp pang shook him as he contemplated it, and he cried aloud, "My very tomb will be wrested from me by this rapacious monarch; and after all my care and all my cost, I know not where I shall rest my bones!"
Saddened by the reflection, he descended to his chamber, and again threw himself on the couch.
But Wolsey was not the only person in the castle who had passed a sleepless night. Of the host of his enemies many had been kept awake by the anticipation of his downfall on the morrow; and among these was Anne Boleyn, who had received an assurance from the king that her enmity should at length be fully gratified.
At the appointed hour, the two cardinals, proceeded to the royal lodgings. They were detained for some time in the ante-chamber, where Wolsey was exposed to the taunts and sneers of the courtiers, who had lately so servilely fawned upon him. At length, they were ushered into the presence chamber, at the upper end of which beneath a canopy emblazoned with the royal arms woven in gold, sat Henry, with Anne Boleyn on his right hand. At the foot of the throne stood Will Sommers, and near him the Dukes of Richmond and Suffolk. Norfolk, Rochford, and a number of other nobles, all open enemies of Wolsey, were also present. Henry watched the advance of the cardinals with a stern look, and after they had made an obeisance to him, he motioned them to rise.
"You have sought an interview with me, my lords," he said, with suppressed rage. "What would you?"
"We have brought an instrument to you, my liege," said Wolsey, "which has just been received from his holiness the Pope."
"Declare its nature," said Henry.
"It is a citation," replied Wolsey, "enjoining your high ness to appear by attorney in the papal court, under a penalty of ten thousand ducats."
And he presented a parchment, stamped with the great seal of Rome, to the king, who glanced his eye fiercely over it, and then dashed it to the ground, with an explosion of fury terrible to hear and to witness.
"Ha! by Saint George!" he cried; "am I as nothing, that the Pope dares to insult me thus?"
"It is a mere judicial form your majesty," interposed Campeggio, "and is chiefly sent by his holiness to let you know we have no further jurisdiction in the matter of the divorce."
"I will take care you have not, nor his holiness either," roared the king. "By my father's head, he shall find I will be no longer trifled with."
"But, my liege," cried Campeggio.
"Peace!" cried the king. "I will hear no apologies nor excuses. The insult has been offered, and cannot be effaced. As for you, Wolsey—"
"Sire!" exclaimed the cardinal, shrinking before the whirlwind of passion, which seemed to menace his utter extermination.
"As for you, I say," pursued Henry, extending his hand towards him, while his eyes flashed fire, "who by your outrageous pride have so long overshadowed our honour—who by your insatiate avarice and appetite for wealth have oppressed our subjects—who by your manifold acts of bribery and extortion have impoverished our realm, and by your cruelty and partiality have subverted the due course of justice and turned it to your ends—the time is come when you shall receive due punishment for your offences."
"You wrong me, my dear liege," cried Wolsey abjectly. "These are the accusations of my enemies. Grant me a patient hearing, and I will explain all."
"I would not sharpen the king's resentment against you, lord cardinal," said Anne Boleyn, "for it is keen enough; but I cannot permit you to say that these charges are merely hostile. Those who would support the king's honour and dignity must desire to see you removed from his counsels."
"I am ready to take thy place, lord cardinal," said Will Sommers; "and will exchange my bauble for thy chancellor's mace, and my fool's cap for thy cardinal's hat."
"Peace!" thundered the king. "Stand not between me and the object of my wrath. Your accusers are not one but many, Wolsey; nay, the whole of my people cry out for justice against you. And they shall have it. But you shall hear the charges they bring. Firstly, contrary to our prerogative, and for your own advancement and profit, you have obtained authority legatine from the Pope; by which authority you have not only spoiled and taken away their substance from many religious houses, but have usurped much of our own jurisdiction. You have also made a treaty with the King of France for the Pope without our consent, and concluded another friendly treaty with the Duke of Ferrara, under our great seal, and in our name, without our warrant. And furthermore you have presumed to couple yourself with our royal self in your letters and instructions, as if you were on an equality with us."
"Ha! ha! 'The king and I would have you do thus!' 'The king and I give you our hearty thanks!' Ran it not so, cardinal?" cried Will Sommers. "You will soon win the cap and bells."
"In exercise of your legatine authority," pursued the king, "you have given away benefices contrary to our crown and dignity, for the which you are in danger of forfeiture of your lands and goods."
"A premunire, cardinal," cried Will Sommers. "A premunire!—ha! ha!"
"Then it has been your practice to receive all the ambassadors to our court first at your own palace," continued Henry, "to hear their charges and intentions, and to instruct them as you might see fit. You have also so practised that all our letters sent from beyond sea have first come to your own hands, by which you have acquainted yourself with their contents, and compelled us and our council to follow your devices. You have also written to all our ambassadors abroad in your own name concerning our affairs, without our authority; and received letters in return from them by which you have sought to compass your own purposes. By your ambition and pride you have undone many of our poor subjects; have suppressed religious houses, and received their possessions; have seized upon the goods of wealthy spiritual men deceased; constrained all ordinaries yearly to compound with you; have gotten riches for yourself and servants by subversion of the laws, and by abuse of your authority in causing divers pardons of the Pope to be suspended until you, by promise of a yearly pension, chose to revive them; and also by crafty and untrue tales have sought to create dissention among our nobles."
"That we can all avouch for," cried Suffolk. "It was never merry in England while there were cardinals among us."
"Of all men in England your grace should be the last to say so," rejoined Wolsey; "for if I had not been cardinal, you would not have had a head upon your shoulders to utter the taunt."
"No more of this!" cried the king. "You have misdemeaned yourself in our court by keeping up as great state in our absence as if we had been there in person, and presumptuously have dared to join and imprint your badge, the cardinal's hat, under our arms, graven on our coins struck at York. And lastly, whenever in open Parliament allusion hath been made to heresies and erroneous sects, you have failed to correct and notice them, to the danger of the whole body of good and Christian people of this our realm."
"This last charge ought to win me favour in the eyes of one who professes the Opinions of Luther," said Wolsey to Anne. "But I deny it, as I do all the rest."
"I will listen to no defence, Wolsey," replied the king. "I will make you a terrible example to others how they offend us and our laws hereafter."
"Do not condemn me unheard!" cried the cardinal, prostrating himself.
"I have heard too much, and I will hear no more!" cried the king fiercely. "I dismiss you from my presence for ever. If you are innocent, as you aver, justice will be done you.. If you are guilty, as I believe you to be, look not for leniency from me, for I will show you none." And, seating himself, he turned to Anne, and said, in a low tone, "Are you content, sweetheart?"
"I am," she replied. "I shall not now break my vow. False cardinal," she added aloud, "your reign is at an end."
"Your own may not be much longer, madam," rejoined Wolsey bitterly. "The shadow of the axe," he added, pointing to the reflection of a partisan on the floor, "is at your feet. Ere long it may rise to the head."
And, accompanied by Campeggio, he slowly quitted the presence-chamber.
THUS ENDS THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE CHRONICLE OF WINDSOR CASTLE
BOOK V. MABEL LYNDWOOD
How the Earl of Surrey and the Fair Geraldine met in King James's Bower in the Moat—And how they were surprised by the Duke of Richmond.
IN order to preserve unbroken the chain of events with which the last book of this chronicle concluded, it was deemed expedient to disturb the unity of time, so far as it related to some of the less important characters; and it will now be necessary, therefore, to return to the middle of June, when the Earl of Surrey's term of captivity was drawing to a close.
As the best means of conquering the anxiety produced by the vision exhibited to him by Herne, increased as it was by the loss of the relic he had sustained at the same time, the earl had devoted himself to incessant study, and for a whole month he remained within his chamber. The consequence of his unremitting application was that, though he succeeded in his design and completely regained his tranquillity, his strength gave way under the effort, and he was confined for some days to his couch by a low fever.
As soon as he was sufficiently recovered to venture forth, he mounted to the summit of the Round Tower, in the hope that a walk round its breezy battlements might conduce to his restoration to health. The day was bright and beautiful, and a gentle wind was stirring; and as Surrey felt the breath of heaven upon his cheek, and gazed upon the glorious. prospect before him, he wondered that his imprisonment had not driven him mad. Everything around him, indeed, was calculated to make the sense of captivity painful. The broad and beautiful meads, stretching out beneath him, seemed to invite a ramble over them; the silver river courted a plunge into its waves, the woods an hour's retirement into their shady recesses, The bells of Eton College rang out merrily, but their sound saddened rather than elated him. The road between Eton and Windsor, then marked by straggling cottages with gardens between them, with here and there a dwelling of a better kind, was thronged with herds of cattle and their drivers, for a fair was held that day in the town of Windsor, to which they were hastening. Then there were country maidens and youthful hinds in their holiday apparel, trooping towards the bridge. Booths were erected, near which, in the Brocas meads, the rustic sports of wrestling, running, and casting the bar were going forward, while numbers of boats shot to and fro upon the river, and strains of music proceeded from a large gilt barge moored to its banks. Nearer, and in the broad green plain lying beneath the north terrace, were a company of archers shooting at the butts. But these sights, instead of affording pleasure to Surrey, only sharpened the anguish of his feelings by the contrast they offered to his present position.
To distract his thoughts, he quitted the near view, and let his eye run along the edge of the horizon, until it rested upon a small speck, which he knew to be the lofty spire of Saint Paul's Cathedral. If, as he supposed, the Fair Geraldine was in attendance upon Anne Boleyn, at the palace at Bridewell, she must be under the shadow of this very spire; and the supposition, whether correct or not, produced such quick and stifling emotions, that the tears rushed to his eyes.
Ashamed of his weakness, he turned to the other side of the tower, and bent his gaze upon the woody heights of the great park. These recalled Herne the Hunter; and burning with resentment at the tricks practised upon him by the demon, he determined that the first use he would make of his liberty should be to seek out, and, if possible, effect the capture of this mysterious being. Some of the strange encounters between Herne and the king had been related to him by the officer on guard at the Norman Tower but these only served as stimulants to the adventure. After a couple of hours thus passed on the keep, he descended refreshed and invigorated. The next day he was there again, and the day after that; when, feeling that his restoration was well nigh complete, he requested permission to pass the following evening in the dry moat of the donjon. And this was readily accorded him.
Covered with green sod, and shaded by many tall trees growing out of the side of the artificial mound on which the keep was built, the fosse offered all the advantages of a garden to the prisoners who were allowed to take exercise within it. Here, as has been mentioned, King James the First of Scotland first beheld, from the battlements above, the lovely Jane Beaufort take her solitary walk, and by his looks and gestures contrived to make her sensible of the passion with which she inspired him; and here at last, in an arbour which, for the sake of the old and delightful legend connected with it, was kept up at the time of this chronicle, and then bore the name of the royal poet, they had secretly met, and interchanged their vows of affection.
Familiar with the story, familiar also with the poetic strains to which the monarch's passion gave birth, Surrey could not help comparing his own fate with that of the illustrious captive who had visited the spot before him. Full of such thoughts, he pensively tracked the narrow path winding between the grassy banks of the fosse—now casting up his eyes to the keep—now looking towards the arbour, and wishing that he had been favoured with such visitings as lightened the captivity of the Scottish king. At last, he sought the bower—a charming little nest of green leaves and roses, sheltering a bench which seemed only contrived for lovers—and taking out his tablets, began to trace within them some stanzas of that exquisite poem which has linked his name for ever with the Round Tower. Thus occupied, the time stole on insensibly, and he was not aware that he had over-stayed the limits allowed him, till he was aroused by the voice of the officer, who came to summon him back to his prison.
"You will be removed to your old lodging, in the Round Tower, to-morrow night, my lord," said the officer.
"For what reason?" demanded the earl, as he followed his conductor up the steep side of the mound. But receiving no reply, he did not renew the inquiry.
Entering a door in the covered way at the head of the flight of steps communicating with the Norman Tower, they descended them in silence. Just as they reached the foot of this long staircase, the earl chanced to cast back his eyes, and, to his inexpressible astonishment, perceived on the landing at the head of the steps, and just before the piece of ordnance commanding the ascent, the figure of Herne the Hunter.
Before he could utter an exclamation, the figure retreated through the adjoining archway. Telling the officer what he had seen, Surrey would fain have gone in quest of the fiendish spy; but the other would not permit him; and affecting to treat the matter as a mere creation of fancy, he hurried the earl to his chamber in the Curfew Tower.
The next day, Surrey was removed betimes to the Round Tower, and the cause of the transfer was soon explained by the discharge of ordnance, the braying of trumpets and the rolling of drums, announcing the arrival of the king. From the mystery observed towards him, Surrey was led to the conclusion that the Fair Geraldine accompanied the royal party; but he in vain sought to satisfy himself of the truth of the surmise by examining, through the deep embrasure of his window, the cavalcade that soon afterwards entered the upper quadrangle. Amid the throng of beautiful dames surrounding Anne Boleyn he could not be certain that he detected the Fair Geraldine; but he readily distinguished the Duke of Richmond among the nobles, and the sight awakened a pang of bitter jealousy in his breast.
The day wore away slowly, for he could not fix his attention upon his books, neither was he allowed to go forth upon the battlements of the tower. In the evening, however, the officer informed him he might take exercise within the dry moat if he was so inclined, and he gladly availed himself of the permission.
After pacing to and fro along the walk for a short time, he entered the arbour, and was about to throw himself upon the bench, when he observed a slip of paper lying upon it. He took it up, and found a few lines traced upon it in hurried characters. They ran thus:—"The Fair Geraldine arrived this morning in the castle. If the Earl of Surrey desires to meet her, he will find her within this arbour at midnight."
This billet was read and re-read by the young earl with feelings of indescribable transport; but a little reflection damped his ardour, and made him fear it might be a device to ensnare him. There was no certainty that the note proceeded in any way from the Fair Geraldine, nor could he even be sure that she was in the castle. Still, despite these misgivings, the attraction was too powerful to be resisted, and he turned over the means of getting out of his chamber, but the scheme seemed wholly impracticable. The window was at a considerable height above the ramparts of the keep, and even if he could reach them, and escape the notice of the sentinels, he should have to make a second descent into the fosse. And supposing all this accomplished how was he to return? The impossibility of answering this latter mental interrogation compelled him to give up all idea of the attempt.
On returning to his prison-chamber, he stationed himself at the embrasure overlooking the ramparts, and listened to the regular tread of the sentinel below, half resolved, be the consequences what they might, to descend. As the appointed time approached, his anxiety became almost intolerable, and quitting the window, he began to pace hurriedly to and fro within the chamber, which, as has been previously observed, partook of the circular form of the keep, and was supported in certain places by great wooden pillars and cross-beams. But instead of dissipating his agitation, his rapid movements seemed rather to increase it, and at last, wrought to a pitch of uncontrollable excitement, he cried aloud— "If the fiend were to present himself now, and offer to lead me to her, I would follow him."
Scarcely were the words uttered than a hollow laugh broke from the farther end of the chamber, and a deep voice exclaimed—"I am ready to take you to her." "I need not ask who addresses me," said Surrey, after a pause, and straining his eyes to distinguish the figure of the speaker in the gloom.
"I will tell you who I am," rejoined the other. "I am he who visited you once before—who showed you a vision of the Fair Geraldine—and carried off your vaunted relic—ho! ho!"
"Avoid thee, false fiend!" rejoined Surrey, "thou temptest me now in vain."
"You have summoned me," returned Herne; "and I will not be dismissed. I am ready to convey you to your mistress, who awaits you in King James's bower, and marvels at your tardiness."
"And with what design dost thou offer me this service?" demanded Surrey.
"It will be time enough to put that question when I make any condition," replied Herne. "Enough, I am willing to aid you. Will you go?"
"Lead on!" replied Surrey, marching towards him.
Suddenly, Herne drew a lantern from beneath the cloak in which he was wrapped, and threw its light on a trap-door lying open at his feet.
Surrey hesitated a moment, and then plunged down the steps. In another instant the demon followed. Some hidden machinery was then set in motion, and the trap-door returned to its place. At length, Surrey arrived at a narrow passage, which appeared to correspond in form with the bulwarks of the keep. Here Herne passed him, and taking the lead, hurried along the gallery and descended another flight of steps, which brought them to a large vault, apparently built in the foundation of the tower. Before the earl had time to gaze round this chamber, the demon masked the lantern, and taking his hand, drew him through a narrow passage, terminated by a small iron door, which flew open at a touch, and they emerged among the bushes clothing the side of the mound.
"You can now proceed without my aid," said Herne: "but take care not to expose yourself to the sentinels."
Keeping under the shade of the trees, for the moon was shining brightly, Surrey hastened towards the arbour, and as he entered it, to his inexpressible delight found that he had not been deceived, but that the Fair Geraldine was indeed there.
"How did you contrive this meeting?" she cried, after their first greetings had passed. "And how did you learn I was in the castle, for the strictest instructions were given that the tidings should not reach you."
The only response made by Surrey was to press her lily hand devotedly to his lips.
"I should not have ventured hither," pursued the Fair Geraldine, "unless you had sent me the relic as a token. I knew you would never part with it, and I therefore felt sure there was no deception."
"But how did you get here?" inquired Surrey.
"Your messenger provided a rope-ladder, by which I descended into the moat," she replied.
Surrey was stupefied.
"You seem astonished at my resolution," she continued; "and, indeed, I am surprised at it myself; but I could not overcome my desire to see you, especially as this meeting may be our last. The king, through the Lady Anne Boleyn, has positively enjoined me to think no more of you and has given your father, the Duke of Norfolk, to understand that your marriage without the royal assent will be attended by the loss of all the favour he now enjoys."
"And think you I will submit to such tyranny?" cried Surrey.
"Alas!" replied the Fair Geraldine in a mournful tone, "I feel we shall never be united. This conviction, which has lately forced itself upon my mind, has not made me love you less, though it has in some degree altered my feelings towards you."
"But I may be able to move the king," cried Surrey. "I have some claim besides that of kindred on the Lady Anne Boleyn—and she will obtain his consent."
"Do not trust to her," replied the Fair Geraldine. "You may have rendered her an important service, but be not too sure of a return. No, Surrey, I here release you from the troth you plighted to me in the cloisters."
"I will not be released from it!" cried the earl hastily; "neither will I release you. I hold the pledge as sacred and as binding as if we had been affianced together before Heaven."
"For your own sake, do not say so, my dear lord," rejoined the Fair Geraldine; "I beseech you, do not. That your heart is bound to me now, I well believe—and that you could become inconstant I will not permit myself to suppose. But your youth forbids an union between us for many years; and if during that time you should behold some fairer face than mine, or should meet some heart you may conceive more loving—though that can hardly be—I would not have a hasty vow restrain you. Be free, then—free at least for three years—and if at the end of that time your affections are still unchanged, I am willing you should bind yourself to me for ever."
"I cannot act with equal generosity to you," rejoined Surrey in a tone of deep disappointment. "I would sooner part with life than relinquish the pledge I have received from you. But I am content that my constancy should be put to the test you propose. During the long term of my probation, I will shrink from no trial of faith. Throughout Europe I will proclaim your beauty in the lists, and will maintain its supremacy against all comers. But, oh! sweet Geraldine, since we have met in this spot, hallowed by the loves of James of Scotland and Jane Beaufort, let us here renew our vows of eternal constancy, and agree to meet again at the time you have appointed, with hearts as warm and loving as those we bring together now."
And as he spoke he drew her towards him, and imprinted a passionate kiss on her lips.
"Let that ratify the pledge," he said.
"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed a deep voice without.
"What was that?" demanded the Fair Geraldine in a tone of alarm.
"You have the relic, have you not?" inquired the earl in a low tone.
"No!" she replied, "your messenger merely showed it to me. But why do you ask? Ah! I understand. The fiendish laughter that just now sounded in my ears proceeded from—"
"Herne the Hunter," replied Surrey, in a whisper. "But fear nothing. I will defend you with my life. Ah! accursed chance! I have no weapon."
"None would avail against him," murmured the Fair Geraldine. "Lead me forth; I shall die if I stay here."
Supporting her in his arms, Surrey complied, but they had scarcely gained the entrance of the arbour, when a tall figure stood before them. It was the Duke of Richmond. A gleam of moonlight penetrating through the leaves, fell upon the group, and rendered them distinctly visible to each other.
"Soh!" exclaimed the duke, after regarding the pair in silence for a moment, "I have not been misinformed. You have contrived a meeting here."
"Richmond," said Surrey sternly, "we once were dear and loving friends, and we are still honourable foes. I know that I am safe with you. I know you will breathe no word about this meeting, either to the Fair Geraldine's prejudice or mine.
"You judge me rightly, my lord," replied the duke, in a tone of equal sternness. "I have no thought of betraying you; though, by a word to my royal father, I could prevent all chance of future rivalry on your part. I shall, however, demand a strict account from you on liberation."
"Your grace acts as beseems a loyal gentleman," replied Surrey. "Hereafter I will not fail to account to you for my conduct in any way you please."
"Oh! let me interpose between you, my lords," cried the Fair Geraldine, "to prevent the disastrous consequences of this quarrel. I have already told your grace I cannot love you, and that my heart is devoted to the Earl of Surrey. Let me appeal to your noble nature—to your generosity—not to persist in a hopeless suit."
"You have conquered madam," said the duke, after a pause. "I have been to blame in this matter. But I will make amends for my error. Surrey, I relinquish her to you."
"My friend!" exclaimed the earl, casting himself into the duke's arms.
"I will now endeavour to heal the wounds I have unwittingly occasioned," said the Fair Geraldine. "I am surprised your grace should be insensible to attractions so far superior to mine as those of the Lady Mary Howard."
"The Lady Mary is very beautiful, I confess," said the duke; "and if you had not been in the way, I should assuredly have been her captive."
"I ought not to betray the secret, perhaps," hesitated the Fair Geraldine, "but gratitude prompts me to do so. The lady is not so blind to your grace's merits as I have been."
"Indeed!" exclaimed the duke. "If it be so, Surrey, we may yet be brothers as well as friends."
"And that it is so I can avouch, Richmond," rejoined the earl, "for I am in my sister's secret as well as the Fair Geraldine. But now that this explanation has taken place, I must entreat your grace to conduct the Fair Geraldine back to her lodgings, while I regain, the best way I can, my chamber in the Round Tower."
"I marvel how you escaped from it," said Richmond; "but I suppose it was by the connivance of the officer."
"He who set me free—who brought the Fair Geraldine hither—and who, I suspect, acquainted you with our meeting, was no other than Herne the Hunter," replied Surrey.
"You amaze me!" exclaimed the duke; "it was indeed a tall dark man, muffled in a cloak, who informed me that you were to meet at midnight in King James's bower in the moat, and I therefore came to surprise you."
"Your informant was Herne," replied Surrey.
"Right!" exclaimed the demon, stepping from behind a tree, where he had hitherto remained concealed; "it was I—I, Herne the Hunter. And I contrived the meeting in anticipation of a far different result from that which has ensued. But I now tell you, my lord of Surrey, that it is idle to indulge a passion for the Fair Geraldine. You will never wed her."
"False fiend, thou liest!" cried Surrey.
"Time will show," replied Herne. "I repeat, you will wed another—and more, I tell you, you are blinder than Richmond has shown himself—for the most illustrious damsel in the kingdom has regarded you with eyes of affection, and yet you have not perceived it."
"The Princess Mary?" demanded Richmond.
"Ay, the Princess Mary," repeated Herne. "How say you now, my lord?—will you let ambition usurp the place of love?"
"No," replied Surrey. "But I will hold no further converse with thee. Thou wouldst tempt to perdition. Hence, fiend!"
"Unless you trust yourself to my guidance, you will never reach your chamber," rejoined Herne, with a mocking laugh. "The iron door in the mound cannot be opened on this side, and you well know what the consequence of a discovery will be. Come, or I leave you to your fate." And he moved down the path on the right.
"Go with him, Surrey," cried Richmond.
Pressing the Fair Geraldine to his breast, the Earl committed her to the charge of his friend, and tearing himself away, followed the steps of the demon. He had not proceeded far when he heard his name pronounced by a voice issuing from the tree above him. Looking up, he saw Herne in one of the topmost branches, and at a sign, instantly climbed up to him. The thick foliage screened them from observation, and Surrey concluded his guide was awaiting the disappearance of the sentinel, who was at that moment approaching the tree. But such apparently was not the other's intentions; for the man had scarcely passed than Herne sprang upon the ramparts, and the poor fellow turning at the sound, was almost scared out of his senses at the sight of the dreaded fiend. Dropping his halbert, he fell upon his face with a stifled cry Herne then motioned Surrey to descend, and they marched together quickly to a low door opening into the keep. Passing through it, and ascending a flight of steps, they stood upon the landing at the top of the staircase communicating with the Norman Tower, and adjoining the entrance to Surrey's chamber.
Apparently familiar with the spot, Herne took down a large key from a nail in the wall, against which it hung, and unlocked the door.
"Enter," he said to Surrey, "and do not forget the debt you owe to Herne the Hunter."
And as the earl stepped into the chamber, the door was locked behind him.
How Sir Thomas Wyat found Mabel in the Sandstone Cave, and what happened to him there
A week after the foregoing occurrence, the Earl of Surrey was set free. But his joy at regaining his liberty was damped by learning that the Fair Geraldine had departed for Ireland. She had left the tenderest messages for him with his sister, the Lady Mary Howard, accompanied with assurances of unalterable attachment.
But other changes had taken place, which were calculated to afford him some consolation. Ever since the night on which he had been told the Lady Mary was not indifferent to him, Richmond had devoted himself entirely to her; and matters had already proceeded so far, that he had asked her in marriage of the Duke of Norfolk, who, after ascertaining the king's pleasure on the subject, had gladly given his consent, and the youthful pair were affianced to each other. Surrey and Richmond now became closer friends than ever; and if, amid the thousand distractions of Henry's gay and festive court, the young earl did not forget the Fair Geraldine, he did not, at least, find the time hang heavily on his hands.
About a week after Wolsey's dismissal, while the court was still sojourning at Windsor, Surrey proposed to Richmond to ride one morning with him in the great park. The Duke willingly assented, and mounting their steeds, they galloped towards Snow Hill, wholly unattended. While mounting this charming ascent at a more leisurely pace, the earl said to his companion, "I will now tell you why I proposed this ride to you, Richmond. I have long determined to follow up the adventure of Herne the Hunter, and I wish to confer with you about it, and ascertain whether you are disposed to join me."
"I know not what to say, Surrey," replied the duke gravely, and speaking in a low tone. "The king, my father, failed in his endeavours to expel the demon, who still lords it in the forest."
"The greater glory to us if we succeed," said Surrey.
"I will take counsel with Lady Mary on the subject before I give an answer," rejoined Richmond.
"Then there is little doubt what your grace's decision will be," laughed Surrey. "To speak truth, it was the fear of your consulting her that made me bring you here. What say you to a ride in the forest to-morrow night?"
"I have little fancy for it," replied Richmond; "and if you will be ruled by me, you will not attempt the enterprise yourself."
"My resolution is taken," said the earl; "but now, since we have reached the brow of the hill, let us push forward to the lake."
A rapid ride of some twenty minutes brought them to the edge of the lake, and they proceeded along the verdant path leading to the forester's hut. On arriving at the dwelling, it appeared wholly deserted, but they nevertheless dismounted, and tying their horses to the trees at the back of the cottage, entered it. While they were examining the lower room, the plash of oars reached their ears, and rushing to the window, they descried the skiff rapidly approaching the shore. A man was seated within it, whose attire, though sombre, seemed to proclaim him of some rank, but as his back was towards them, they could not discern his features. In another instant the skiff touched the strand, and the rower leaping ashore, proved to be Sir Thomas Wyat. On making this discovery they both ran out to him, and the warmest greetings passed between them. When these were over, Surrey expressed his surprise to Wyat at seeing him there, declaring he was wholly unaware of his return from the court of France.
"I came back about a month ago," said Wyat. "His majesty supposes me at Allington; nor shall I return to court without a summons."
"I am not sorry to hear it," said Surrey; "but what are you doing here?"
"My errand is a strange and adventurous one," replied Wyat. "You may have heard that before I departed for France I passed some days in the forest in company with Herne the Hunter. What then happened to me I may not disclose; but I vowed never to rest till I have freed this forest from the weird being who troubles it."
"Say you so?" cried Surrey; "then you are most fortunately encountered, Sir Thomas, for I myself, as Richmond will tell you, am equally bent upon the fiend's expulsion. We will be companions in the adventure."
"We will speak of that anon," replied Wyat. "I was sorry to find this cottage uninhabited, and the fair damsel who dwelt within it, when I beheld it last, gone. What has become of her?
"It is a strange story," said Richmond. And he proceeded to relate all that was known to have befallen Mabel.
Wyat listened with profound attention to the recital, and at its close, said, "I think I can find a clue to this mystery, but to obtain it I must go alone. Meet me here at midnight to-morrow, and I doubt not we shall be able to accomplish our design."
"May I not ask for some explanation of your scheme?" said Surrey.
"Not yet," rejoined Wyat. "But I will freely confess to you that there is much danger in the enterprise—danger that I would not willingly any one should share with me, especially you, Surrey, to whom I owe so much. If you do not find me here, therefore, to-morrow night, conclude that I have perished, or am captive."
"Well, be it as you will, Wyat," said Surrey; "but I would gladly accompany you, and share your danger."
"I know it, and I thank you," returned Wyat, warmly grasping the other's hand; "but much—nay, all—may remain to be done to-morrow night. You had better bring some force with you, for we may need it."
"I will bring half a dozen stout archers," replied Surrey—"and if you come not, depend upon it, I will either release you or avenge you."
"I did not intend to prosecute this adventure further," said Richmond; "but since you are both resolved to embark in it, I will not desert you."
Soon after this, the friends separated,—Surrey and Richmond taking horse and returning to the castle, discoursing on the unlooked—for meeting with Wyat, while the latter again entered the skiff, and rowed down the lake. As soon as the hut was clear, two persons descended the steps of a ladder leading to a sort of loft in the roof, and sprang upon the floor of the hut.
"Ho! ho! Ho!" laughed the foremost, whose antlered helm and wild garb proclaimed him to be Herne; "they little dreamed who were the hearers of their conference. So they think to take me, Fenwolf—ha!"
"They know not whom they have to deal with," rejoined the latter.
"They should do so by this time," said Herne; "but I will tell thee why Sir Thomas Wyat has undertaken this enterprise. It is not to capture me, though that may be one object that moves him. But he wishes to see Mabel Lyndwood. The momentary glimpse he caught of her bright eyes was sufficient to inflame him."
"Ah!" exclaimed Fenwolf, "think you so?"
"I am assured of it," replied Herne. "He knows the secret of the cave, and will find her there."
"But he will never return to tell what he has seen," said Fenwolf moodily.
"I know not that," replied Herne. "I have my own views respecting him. I want to renew my band."
"He will never join you," rejoined Fenwolf.
"What if I offer him Mabel as a bait?" said Herne.