William Harrison Ainsworth
Part 6 out of 7
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,
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
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
"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
"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 he 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
"You wrong me, my dear liege," cried Wolsey abjectly. "These are the
accusations of my enemies. Grant me a patient hearing, and I will
"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
"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,
"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-
THUS ENDS THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE CHRONICLE OF WINDSOR
BOOK V MABEL LYNDWOOD
I 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
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 he necessary, therefore, to return to the
middle of June, when the Earl of Surrey's term of captivitywas 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
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 illustri6us 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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"Soh!" exclaimed the duke, after regarding the pair in silence for a
moment, "I have not been misinformed. You have contrived a meeting
"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
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
"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
"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, arid 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
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
And as the earl stepped into the chamber, the door was locked behind
II. 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
"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
"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
"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.
"You will not do so, dread master?" rejoined Fenwolf, trembling and
turning pale. "She belongs to me."
"To thee, fool!" cried Herne, with a derisive laugh. "Thinkest thou I
would resign such a treasure to thee? No, no. But rest easy, I will not
give her to Wyat."
"You mean her for yourself, then? "said Fenwolf.
"Darest thou to question me? "cried Herne, striking him with the hand
armed with the iron gyves. "This to teach thee respect."
And this to prove whether thou art mortal or rejoined Fenwolf, plucking
his hunting-knife from his belt, and striking it with all his force against
the other's breast. But though surely and forcibly dealt, the blow
glanced off as if the demon were cased in steel, and the intended
assassin fell back in amazement, while an unearthly laugh rang in his
ears. Never had Fenwolf seen Herne wear so formidable a look as he at
that moment assumed. His giant frame dilated, his eyes flashed fire,
and the expression of his countenance was so fearful that Fenwolf
shielded his eyes with his hands.
"Ah, miserable dog!" thundered Herne; "dost thou think I am to be hurt
by mortal hands, or mortal weapons? Thy former experience should
have taught thee differently. But since thou hast provoked it, take thy
Uttering these words, he seized Fenwolf by the throat, clutching him
with a terrific gripe, and in a few seconds the miserable wretch would
have paid the penalty of his rashness, if a person had not at the
moment appeared at the doorway. Flinging his prey hastily backwards,
Herne turned at the interruption, and perceived old Tristram Lyndwood,
who looked appalled at what he beheld.
"Ah, it is thou, Tristram?" cried Herne; "thou art just in time to witness
the punishment of this rebellious hound."
"Spare him, dread master !oh, spare him!" cried Tristram imploringly.
"Well," said Herne, gazing at the half-strangled caitiff, "he may live. He
will not offend again. But why hast thou ventured from thy hiding-place,
"I came to inform you that I have just observed a person row across the
lake in the skiff," replied the old man. "He appears to be taking the
direction of the secret entrance to the cave."
"It is Sir Thomas Wyat," replied Herne, "I am aware of his proceedings.
Stay with Fenwolf till he is able to move, and then proceed with him to
the cave. But mark me, no violence must be done to Wyat if you find
him there. Any neglect of my orders in this respect will be followed by
severe punishment. I shall be at the cave ere long; but, meanwhile, I
have other business to transact."
And quitting the hut, he plunged into the wood.
Meanwhile, Sir Thomas Wyat, having crossed the lake, landed, and
fastened the skiff to a tree, struck into the wood, and presently
reached the open space in which lay the secret entrance to the cave.
He was not long in finding the stone, though it was so artfully
concealed by the brushwood that it would have escaped any
uninstructed eye, and removing it, the narrow entrance to the cave was
Committing himself to the protection of Heaven, Wyat entered, and
having taken the precaution of drawing the stone after him, which was
easily accomplished by a handle fixed to the inner side of it, he
commenced the descent. At first, he had to creep along, but the
passage gradually got higher, until at length, on reaching the level
ground, he was able to stand upright. There was no light to guide him,
but by feeling against the sides of the passage, he found that he was in
the long gallery he had formerly threaded. Uncertain which way to turn,
he determined to trust to chance for taking the right direction, and
drawing his sword, proceeded slowly to the right.
For some time he encountered no obstacle, neither could he detect the
slightest sound, but he perceived that the atmosphere grew damp, and
that the sides of the passage were covered with moisture. Thus
warned, he proceeded with great caution, and presently found, after
emerging into a more open space, and striking off on the left, that he
had arrived at the edge of the pool of water which he knew lay at the
end of the large cavern.
While considering how he should next proceed, a faint gleam of light
became visible at the upper end of the vault. Changing his position, for
the pillars prevented him from seeing the source of the glimmer, he
discovered that it issued from a lamp borne by a female hand, who he
had no doubt was Mabel. On making this discovery, he sprang
forwards, and called to her, but instantly repented his rashness, for as
he uttered the cry the light was extinguished.
Wyat was now completely at a loss how to proceed. He was satisfied
that Mabel was in the vault; but in what way to guide himself to her
retreat he could not tell, and it was evident she herself would not assist
him. Persuaded, however, if he could but make himself known, he
should no longer be shunned, he entered one of the lateral passages,
and ever and anon, as he proceeded, repeated Mabel's name in a low,
soft tone. The stratagem was successful. Presently he heard a light
footstep approaching him, and a gentle voice inquired -
"Who calls me?"
"A friend," replied Wyat.
"Your name?" she demanded.
"You will not know me if I declare myself, Mabel," he replied, "but I am
called Sir Thomas Wyat."
"The name is well known to me," she replied, in trembling tones; "and I
have seen you once--at my grandfather's cottage. But why have you
come here? Do you know where you are?
"I know that I am in the cave of Herne the Hunter," replied Wyat; "and
one of my motives for seeking it was to set you free. But there is
nothing to prevent your flight now."
"Alas! there is," she replied. " I am chained here by bonds I cannot
break. Herne has declared that any attempt at escape on my part shall
be followed by the death of my grandsire. And he does not threaten
idly, as no doubt you know. Besides, the most terrible vengeance would
fall on my own head. No,--I cannot--dare not fly. But let us not talk in
the dark. Come with me to procure a light. Give me your hand, and I
will lead you to my cell."
Taking the small, trembling hand offered him, Wyat followed his
conductress down the passage. A few steps brought them to a door,
which she pushed aside, and disclosed a small chamber, hewn out of
the rock, in a recess of which a lamp was burning. Lighting the lamp
which she had recently extinguished, she placed it on a rude table.
"Have you been long a prisoner here?" asked Wyat, fixing his regards
upon her countenance, which, though it had lost somewhat of its
bloom, had gained much in interest and beauty.
"For three months, I suppose," she replied; "but I am not able to
calculate the lapse of time. It has seemed very--very long. Oh that I
could behold the sun again, and breathe the fresh, pure air!
"Come with me, and you shall do so," rejoined Wyat.
"I have told you I cannot fly," she answered. "I cannot sacrifice my
"But if he is leagued with this demon he deserves the worst fate that
can befall him," said Wyat. "You should think only of your own safety.
What can be the motive of your detention?"
I tremble to think of it," she replied; " but I fear that Herne has
conceived a passion for me."
"Then indeed you must fly," cried Wyat; "such unhallowed love will tend
to perdition of soul and body."
"Oh that there was any hope for me!" she ejaculated.
"There is hope," replied Wyat. "I will protect you--will care for you--will
"Love me! "exclaimed Mabel, a deep blush overspreading her pale
features. "You love another."
"Absence has enabled me to overcome the vehemence of my passion,"
replied Wyat, "and I feel that my heart is susceptible of new emotions.
But you, maiden," he added coldly," you are captivated by the
admiration of the king."
"My love, like yours, is past," she answered, with a faint smile; "but if I
were out of Herne's power I feel that I could love again, and far more
deeply than I loved before--for that, in fact, was rather the result of
vanity than of real regard."
"Mabel," said Wyat, taking her hand, and gazing into her eyes," if I set
you free, will you love me?"
"I love you already," she replied; "but if that could be, my whole life
should be devoted to you. Ha!" she exclaimed with a sudden change of
tone, "footsteps are approaching; it is Fenwolf. Hide yourself within
Though doubting the prudence of the course, Wyat yielded to her
terrified and imploring looks, and concealed himself in the manner she
had indicated. He was scarcely ensconed in the recess, when the door
opened, and Morgan Fenwolf stepped in, followed by her grandfather.
Fenwolf gazed suspiciously round the little chamber, and then glanced
significantly at old Tristram, but he made no remark.
"What brings you here?" demanded Mabel tremblingly.
"You are wanted in the cave," said Fenwolf.
"I will follow you anon," she replied.
"You must come at once," rejoined Fenwolf authoritatively."Herne will
Upon this Mabel rose, and, without daring to cast a look towards the
spot where Wyat was concealed, quitted the cell with them. No sooner
were they all out, than Fenwolf, hastily shutting the door, turned the
key in the lock, and taking it out, exclaimed, "So we have secured you,
Sir Thomas Wyat. No fear of your revealing the secret of the cave now,
or flying with Mabel--ha! ha!" to here
III. In what manner Herne declared his Passion for Mabel.
Utterly disregarding her cries and entreaties, Fenwolf dragged Mabel
into the great cavern, and forced her to take a seat on a bench near the
spot where a heap of ashes showed that the fire was ordinarily lighted.
All this while, her grandfather had averted his face from her, as if
fearing to meet her regards, and he now busied himself in striking a
light and setting fire to a pile of fagots and small logs of wood.
"I thought you told me Herne was here," said Mabel in a tone of bitter
reproach, to Fenwolf, who seated himself beside her on the bench.
"He will be here ere long," he replied sullenly.
"Oh, do not detain Sir Thomas Wyat!" cried Mabel piteously; "do not
deliver him to your dread master! Do what you will with me--but let him
"I will tell you what I will do," replied Fenwolf, in a low tone; "I will set
Sir Thomas at liberty, and run all risks of Herne's displeasure, if you will
promise to be mine."
Mabel replied by a look of unutterable disgust.
"Then he will await Herne's coming where he is," rejoined Fenwolf.
Saying which he arose, and, pushing a table near the bench, took the
remains of a huge venison pasty and a loaf from a hutch standing on
one side of the cavern.
By this time Old Tristram, having succeeded in lighting the fire, placed
himself at the farther end of the table, and fell to work upon the viands
with Fenwolf. Mabel was pressed to partake of the repast, but she
declined the offer. A large stone bottle was next produced and emptied
of its contents by the pair, who seemed well contented with their
Meanwhile Mabel was revolving the possibility of flight, and had more
than once determined to make an attempt, but fear restrained her. Her
grandsire, as has been stated, sedulously avoided her gaze, and turned
a deaf ear to her complaints and entreaties. But once, when Fenwolf's
back was turned, she caught him gazing at her with peculiar
significance, and then comprehended the meaning of his strange
conduct. He evidently only awaited an opportunity to assist her.
Satisfied of this, she became more tranquil, and about an hour having
elapsed, during which nothing was said by the party, the low winding of
a horn was heard, and Fenwolf started to his feet, exclaiming--
"It is Herne!"
The next moment the demon huntsman rode from one of the lateral
passages into the cave. He was mounted on a wild-looking black
horse, with flowing mane and tail, eyes glowing like carbuncles, and in
all respects resembling the sable steed he had lost in the forest.
Springing to the ground, he exchanged a few words with Fenwolf in a
low tone, and delivering his steed to him, with orders to take it to the
stable, signed to Tristram to go with him, and approached Mabel.
"So you have seen Sir Thomas Wyat, I find," he said, in a stern tone.
Mabel made no answer, and did not even raise her eyes towards him.
"And he has told you he loves you, and has urged you to fly with him--
ha? "pursued Herne.
Mabel still did not dare to look up, but a deep blush overspread her
"He was mad to venture hither," continued Herne; "but having done so,
he must take the consequences."
"You will not destroy him? "cried Mabel imploringly. "
"He will perish by a hand as terrible as mine," laughed Herne - " by that
of famine. He will never quit the dungeon alive unless--"
"Unless what?" gasped Mabel.
"Unless he is leagued with me," replied Herne. "And now let him pass,
for I would speak of myself. I have already told you that I love you, and
am resolved to make you mine. You shudder, but wherefore? It is a
glorious destiny to be the' bride of the wild hunter--the fiend who rules
the forest, and who, in his broad domain, is more powerful than the
king. The old forester, Robin Hood, had his maid Marian; and what was
he compared to me? He had neither my skill nor my power. Be mine,
and you shall accompany me on my midnight rides; shall watch the
fleet stag dart over the moonlight glade, or down the lengthened vista.
You shall feel all the unutterable excitement of the chase. You shall
thread with me the tangled grove, swim the river and the lake, and
enjoy a thousand pleasures hitherto unknown to you. Be mine, and I
will make you mistress of all my secrets, and compel the band whom I
will gather round me to pay you homage. Be mine, and you shall have
power of life and death over them, as if you were absolute queen. And
from me, whom all fear, and all obey, you shall have love and worship."
"And he would have taken her hand; but she recoiled from horror.
"Though I now inspire you with terror and aversion," pursued "the time
will come when you will love me as passionately as I was beloved by
one of whom you are the image."
And she is dead? "asked Mabel, with curiosity.
"Dead I" exclaimed Herne. "Thrice fifty years have flown since she
dwelt upon earth. The acorn which was shed in the forest has grown
into a lusty oak, while trees at that time in their pride have fallen and
decayed away. Dead!--yes, she has passed from all memory save mine,
where she will ever dwell. Generations of men have gone down to the
grave since her time--a succession of kings have lodged within the
castle but I am still a denizen of the forest. For crimes I then committed
I am doomed to wander within it,and I shall haunt it, unless released, till
the crack of doom."
"Liberate me!" cried Mabel; "liberate your other prisoner and we will
pray for your release."
"No more of this!" cried Herne fiercely. "If you would not call down
instant and terrible punishment on your head - punishment that I cannot
avert, and must inflict--you will mention nothing sacred in my hearing,
and never allude to prayer, I am beyond the reach of salvation."
"Oh, say not so! "cried Mabel, in a tone of commiseration. "I will tell you
how my doom was accomplished," rejoined Herne wildly. "To gain her
of whom I have just spoken, and who was already vowed to Heaven, I
invoked the powers of darkness. I proffered my soul to the Evil One if
he would secure her to me, and the condition demanded by him was
that I should become what I am--the fiend of the forest, with power to
terrify and to tempt, and with other more fearful and fatal powers
"Oh! "exclaimed Mabel.
"I grasped at the offer," pursued Herne. "She I loved became mine. But
she was speedily snatched from me by death, and since then I have
known no human passion except hatred and revenge. I have dwelt in
this forest, sometimes alone, sometimes at the head of a numerous
band, but always exerting a baneful influence over mankind. At last, I
saw the image of her I loved again appear before me, and the old
passion was revived within my breast. Chance has thrown you in my
way, and mine you shall be, Mabel."
"I will die rather," she replied, with a shudder.
"You cannot escape me," rejoined He me, with a triumphant laugh; "you
cannot avoid your fate. But I want not to deal harshly with you. I love
you, and would win you rather by persuasion than by force. Consent to
be mine, then, and I give Wyat his life and liberty."
"I cannot--I cannot!" she replied.
"Not only do I offer you Wyat's life as the price of your compliance,"
persevered Herne; "but you shall have what ever else you may seek--
jewels, ornaments, costly attire, treasure--for of such I possess a
"And of what use would they be to me here?" said Mabel.
"I will not always confine you to this cave," replied Herne."You shall
go where you please, and live as you please, but you must come to me
whenever I summon you."
"And what of my grandsire? "she demanded.
"Tristram Lyndwood is no relative of yours," replied Herne. "I will now
clear up the mystery that hangs over your birth. You are the offspring
of one who for years has exercised greater sway than the king within
this realm, but who is now disgraced and ruined, and nigh his end. His
priestly vows forbid him to own you, even if he desired to do so."
"Have I seen him?" demanded Mabel.
"You have," replied Herne; "and he has seen you--and little did he know
when he sought you out, that he was essaying to maintain his own
power, and overturn that of another, by the dishonour of his daughter--
though if he had done so," he added, with a scoffing laugh," it might not
have restrained him."
"I know whom you mean" said Mabel. "And is it possible he can be my
"It is as I have told you," replied Herne. "You now know my resolve. To-
morrow at midnight our nuptials shall take place."
"Nuptials!" echoed Mabel.
"Ay, at that altar," he cried, pointing to the Druid pile of stones; "there
you shall vow yourself to me and I to you, before terrible witnesses. I
shall have no fear that you will break your oath. Reflect upon what I
With this he placed the bugle to his lips, blew a low call upon it, and
Fenwolf and Tristram immediately answering the summons, he
whispered some instructions to the former, and disappeared down one
of the side passages.
Fenwolf's, deportment was now more sullen than before. In vain did
Mabel inquire from him what Herne was about to do with Sir Thomas
Wyat. He returned no answer, and at last, wearied by her importunity,
desired her to hold her peace. Just then, Tristram quitted the cavern
for a moment, when he instantly changed his manner, and 'said to her
quickly, " I overheard what passed between you and Herne. Consent to
be mine, and I will deliver you from him."
"That were to exchange one evil for another," she replied, "If you would
serve me, deliver Sir Thomas Wyat."
"I will only deliver him on the terms I have mentioned" replied Fenwolf.
At this moment, Tristram returned, and the conversation ceased.
Fresh logs were then thrown on the fire by Fenwolf, and, at his request,
Tristram proceeded to a hole in the rock, which served as a sort of
larder, and brought from it some pieces of venison, which were broiled
upon the embers.
At the close of the repast, of which she sparingly partook, Mabel was
conducted by Morgan Fenwolf into a small chamber opening out of the
great cavern, which was furnished like the cell she had lately occupied,
with a small straw pallet. Leaving her a lamp, Fenwolf locked the door,
and placed the key in his girdle.
IV. How Sir Thomas Wyat was visited by Herne in the Cell.
Made aware by the clangour of the lock, and Fenwolf's exulting
laughter, of the snare in which he had been caught, Sir Thomas Wyat
instantly sprang from his hiding-place, and rushed to the door; but being
framed of the stoutest oak, and strengthened with plates of iron, it
defied all his efforts, nerved as they were by rage and despair, to burst
it open. Mabel's shrieks, as she was dragged away, reached his ears,
and increased his anguish; and he called out loudly to her companions
to return, but his vociferations were only treated with derision.
Finding it useless to struggle further, Wyat threw himself upon the
bench, and endeavoured to discover some means of deliverance from
his present hazardous position. He glanced round the cell to see
whether there was any other outlet than the doorway, but he could
discern none, except a narrow grated loophole opening upon the
passage, and contrived, doubtless, for the admission of air to the
chamber. No dungeon could be more secure.
Raising the lamp, he examined every crevice, but all seemed solid
stone. The recess in which he had taken shelter proved to be a mere
hollow in the wall. In one corner lay a small straw pallet, which, no
doubt, had formed the couch of Mabel; and this, together with the stone
bench and rude table of the same material, constituted the sole
furniture of the place.
Having taken this careful survey of the cell, Wyat again sat down upon
the bench with the conviction that escape was out of the question; and
he therefore endeavoured to prepare himself for the worst, for it was
more than probable he would be allowed to perish of starvation. To a
fiery nature like his, the dreadful uncertainty in which he was placed
was more difficult of endurance than bodily torture. And he was
destined to endure it long. Many hours flew by, during which nothing
occurred to relieve the terrible monotony of his situation. At length, in
spite of his anxiety, slumber stole upon him unawares; but it was filled
with frightful visions.
How long he slept he knew not, but when he awoke, he found that the
cell must have been visited in the interval, for there was a manchet of
bread, part of a cold neck of venison, and a flask of wine on the table.
It was evident, therefore, that his captors did not mean to starve him,
and yielding to the promptings of appetite, he attacked the provisions,
determined to keep strict watch when his gaoler should next visit him.
The repast finished, he again examined the cell, but with no better
success than before; and he felt almost certain, from the position in
which the bench was placed, that the visitor had not found entrance
through the door.
After another long and dreary interval, finding that sleep was stealing
upon him fast, he placed the bench near the door, and leaned his back
against the latter, certain that in this position he should be awakened if
any one attempted to gain admittance in that way. His slumber was
again disturbed by fearful dreams; and he was at length aroused by a
touch upon the shoulder, while a deep voice shouted his own name in
Starting to his feet, and scarcely able to separate the reality from the
hideous phantasms that had troubled him, he found that the door was
still fastened, and the bench unremoved, while before him stood Herne
"Welcome again to my cave, Sir Thomas Wyat I" cried the demon, with a
mocking laugh. "I told you, on the night of the attempt upon the king,
that though you escaped him, you would not escape me. And so it has
come to pass. You are now wholly in my power, body and soul--ha! ha!"
"I defy you, false fiend," replied Wyat. "I was mad enough to proffer you
my soul on certain conditions; but they have never been fulfilled."
"They may yet be so," rejoined Herne.
"No," replied Wyat, " I have purged my heart from the fierce and
unhallowed passion that swayed it. I desire no assistance from you."
If you have changed your mind, that is nought to me, " rejoined the
demon derisively--" I shall hold you to your compact."
"Again I say I renounce you, infernal spirit!" cried Wyat; "you may
destroy my body--but you can work no mischief to my soul."
"You alarm yourself without reason, good Sir Thomas," replied Herne, in
a slightly sneering tone. "I am not the malignant being you suppose
me; neither am I bent upon fighting the battles of the enemy of mankind
against Heaven. I may be leagued with the powers of darkness, but I
have no wish to aid them; and I therefore leave you to take care of your
soul in your own way. What I desire from you is your service while living.
Now listen to the conditions I have to propose. You must bind yourself
by a terrible oath, the slightest infraction of which shall involve the
perdition of the soul you are so solicitous to preserve, not to disclose
aught you may see, or that may be imparted to you here. You must also
swear implicit obedience to me in all things--to execute any secret
commissions, of whatever nature, I may give you--to bring associates to
my band--and to join me in any enterprise I may propose. This oath
taken, you are free. Refuse it, and I leave you to perish."
"I do refuse it," replied Wyat boldly. "I would die a thousand deaths
rather than so bind myself. Neither do I fear being left to perish here.
You shall not quit this cell without me."
"You are a stout soldier, Sir Thomas Wyat," rejoined the demon, with a
scornful laugh; "but you are scarcely a match for Herne the Hunter, as
you will find, if you are rash enough to make the experiment. Beware!
"he exclaimed, in a voice of thunder, observing the knight lay his hand
upon his sword," I am invulnerable, and you will, therefore, vainly strike
at me. Do not compel me to use the dread means, which I could
instantly employ, to subject you to my will. I mean you well, and would
rather serve than injure you. But I will not let you go, unless you league
yourself with me. Swear, therefore, obedience to me, and depart hence
to your friends, Surrey and Richmond, and tell them you have failed to
"You know, then, of our meeting?" exclaimed Wyat.
"Perfectly well," laughed Herne. "It is now eventide, and at midnight
the meeting will take place in the forester's hut. If you attend it not, I
will. They will be my prisoners as well as you. To preserve yourself and
save them, you must join me."
"Before I return an answer," said Wyat, "I must know what has become
of Mabel Lyndwood."
Mabel Lyndwood is nought to you, Sir Thomas," rejoined Herne coldly.
"She is so much to me that I will run a risk for her which I would not run
for myself," replied Wyat. "If I promise obedience to you, will you
liberate her? will you let her depart with me?"
"No," said Herne peremptorily. "Banish all thoughts of her from your
breast. You will never behold her again. I will give you time for
reflection on my proposal. An hour before midnight I shall return, and if
I find you in the same mind, I abandon you to your fate."
And with these words he stepped back towards the lower end of the
cell. Wyat instantly sprang after him, but before he could reach him a
flash of fire caused him to recoil, and to his horror and amazement, he
beheld the rock open, and yield a passage to the retreating figure.
When the sulphureous smoke, with which the little cell was filled, had in
some degree cleared off, Wyat examined the sides of the rock, but
could not find the slightest trace of a secret outlet, and therefore
concluded that the disappearance of the demon had been effected by
V. How Mabel escaped from the Cave with Sir Thomas Wyat.
The next day Mabel was set at liberty by her gaoler, and the hours flew
by without the opportunity of escape, for which she sighed, occurring
to her. As night drew on, she became more anxious, and at last
expressed a wish to retire to her cell. When about to fasten the door,
Fenwolf found that the lock had got strained, and the bolts would not
move, and he was therefore obliged to content himself with placing a
bench against it, on which he took a seat.
About an hour after Mabel's retirement, old Tristram offered to relieve
guard with Fenwolf, but this the other positively declined, and leaning
against the door, disposed himself to slumber. Tristram then threw
himself on the floor, and in a short time all seemed buried in repose.
By-and-by, however, when Fenwolf's heavy breathing gave token of the
soundness of his sleep, Tristram raised himself upon his elbow, and
gazed round. The lamp placed upon the table imperfectly illumined the
cavern, for the fire which had been lighted to cook the evening meal
had gone out completely. Getting up cautiously, and drawing his
hunting-knife, the old man crept towards Fenwolf, apparently with the
intent of stabbing him, but he suddenly changed his resolution, and
dropped his arm.
At that moment, as if preternaturally warned, Fenwolf opened his eyes,
and seeing the old forester standing by, sprang upon him, and seized
him by the throat.
"Ah traitor!" he exclaimed; "what are you about to do?"
"I am no traitor," replied the old man. "I heard a noise in the passage
leading to Wyat's cell, and was about to rouse you, when you awakened
of your own accord, probably disturbed by the noise."
"It may be," replied Fenwolf, satisfied with the excuse, and
relinquishing his grasp. "I fancied I heard something in my dreams. But
come with me to Wyat's cell. I will not leave you here."
And snatching up the lamp, he hurried with Tristram into the passage.
They were scarcely gone, when the door of the cell was opened by
Mabel, who. had overheard what had passed; and so hurriedly did she
issue forth that she over-turned the bench, which fell to the ground with
a considerable clatter. She had only just time to replace it, and to
conceal herself in an a!1joining passage, when Fenwolf rushed back
into the cavern.
It was a false alarm," he cried. "I saw Sir Thomas Wyat in his cell
through the loop-hole, and I have brought the key away with me. But I
am sure I heard a noise here."
"It must have been mere fancy," said Tristram. "All is as we left
"It seems so, certes," replied Fenwolf doubtfully. "But I will make sure."
; While he placed his ear to the door, Mabel gave a signal to Tristram
that she was safe. Persuaded that he heard some sound in the
chamber, Fenwolf nodded to Tristram that all was right, and resumed
In less than ten minutes he was again asleep. Mabel then emerged
from her concealment, and cautiously approached Tristram, who
feigned, also, to slumber. As she approached him, he rose noiselessly
to his feet.
"The plan has succeeded," he said in a low tone. "It was I who spoiled
the lock. But come with me. I will lead you out of the cavern."
Not without Sir Thomas Wyat," she replied; " I will not leave him here."
"You will only expose yourself to risk, and fail to deliver him," rejoined
Tristram. "Fenwolf has the key of his cell.Nay, if you are determined
upon it, I will not hinder you. But you must find your own way out, for I
shall not assist Sir Thomas Wyat."
Motioning him to silence, Mabel crept slowly, and on the points of her
feet, towards Fenwolf.
The key was in his girdle. Leaning over him, she suddenly and
dexterously plucked it forth.
At the very moment she possessed herself of it, Fenwolf stirred, and
she dived down, and concealed herself beneath the table. Fenwolf,
who had been only slightly disturbed, looked up, and seeing Tristram in
his former position, which he had resumed when Mabel commenced her
task, again disposed himself to slumber.
Waiting till she was assured of the soundness of his repose, Mabel
crept from under the table, signed to Tristram to remain where he was,
and glided with swift and noiseless footsteps down the passage leading
to the cell.
In a moment, she was at the door--the key was in the lock--and she
stood before Sir Thomas Wyat.
A few words sufficed to explain to the astonished knight how she came
there, and comprehending that not a moment was to be lost, he
followed her forth.
In the passage, they held a brief consultation together in a low tone, as
to the best means of escape, for they deemed it useless to apply to
Tristram. The outlet with which Sir Thomas Wyat was acquainted lay
on the other side of the cavern; nor did he know how to discover the
particular passage leading to it.
As to Mabel, she could offer no information, but she knew that the
stable lay in an adjoining passage.
Recollecting, from former experience, how well the steeds were
trained, Sir Thomas Wyat eagerly caught at the suggestion, and Mabel
led him farther down the passage, and striking off through an opening
on the left, brought him, after a few turns, to a large chamber, in which
two or three black horses were kept.
Loosening one of them, Wyat placed a bridle on his neck, sprang upon
his back, and took up Mabel beside him. He then struck his heels
against the sides of the animal, who needed no further incitement to
dash along the passage, and in a few seconds brought them into the
The trampling of the horse wakened Fenwolf, who started to his feet,
and ran after them, shouting furiously. But he was too late. Goaded by
Wyat's dagger, the steed dashed furiously on, and plunging with its
double burden into the pool at the bottom of the cavern, disappeared.
VI. Of the Desperate Resolution formed by Tristram and Fenwolf, and
how the Train was laid.
Transported with rage at the escape of the fugitives, Fenwolf turned to
old Tristram, and drawing his knife, threatened to make an end of him.
But the old man, who was armed with a short hunting-sword, stood
upon his defence, and they remained brandishing their weapons at
each other for some minutes, but without striking a blow.
"Well, I leave you to Herne's vengeance," said Fenwolf, returning his
knife to his belt. "You will pay dearly for allowing them to escape."
"I will take my chance," replied Tristram moodily: "my mind is made up
to the worst. I will no longer serve this fiend."
"What! dare you break your oath?" cried Fenwolf. "Remember the
"I care not for them," replied Tristram. "Harkee, Fenwolf: I know you will
not betray me, for you hate him as much as I do, and have as great a
desire for revenge. I will rid the forest of this fell being."
"Would you could make good your words, old man!" cried Fenwolf. "I
would give my life for vengeance upon him."
"I take the offer," said Tristram; "you shall have vengeance."
"But how?" cried the other. "I have proved that he is invulnerable and
the prints of his hands are written in black characters upon my throat.
If we could capture him, and deliver him to the king, we might purchase
our own pardon."
No, that can never be," said Tristram. " My plan is to destroy him."
"Well, let me hear it," said Fenwolf.
"Come with me, then," rejoined Tristram.
And taking up the lamp, he led the way down a narrow lateral passage.
When about half-way down it, he stopped before a low door, cased with
iron, which he opened, and showed that the recess was filled with large
"Why, this is the powder-magazine," said Fenwolf. "I can now guess
how you mean to destroy Herne. I like the scheme well enough; but it
cannot be executed without certain destruction to ourselves."
"I will take all the risk upon myself," said Tristram, "I only require your
aid in the preparations. What I propose to do is this. There is powder
enough in the magazine, not only to blow up the cave, but to set fire to
all the wood surrounding it. It must be scattered among the dry brush-
wood in a great circle round the cave, and connected by a train with
this magazine. When Herne comes hack, I will fire the train."
"There is much hazard in the scheme, and I fear it will fail," replied
Fenwolf, after a pause, "nevertheless, I will assist you."
"Then, let us go to work at once," said Tristram, " for we have no time
to lose. Herne will be here before midnight, and I should like to have all
ready for him."
Accordingly, they each shouldered a couple of the bags, and returning
to the cavern, threaded a narrow passage, and emerged from the
secret entrance in the grove.
While Fenwolf descended for a fresh supply of powder, Tristram
commenced operations. Though autumn was now far advanced, there
had been remarkably fine weather of late; the ground was thickly
strewn with yellow leaves, the fern was brown and dry, and the
brushwood crackled and broke as a passage was forced through it.
The very trees were parched by the long-continued drought. Thus
favoured in his design, Tristram scattered the contents of one of the
bags in a thick line among the fern and brushwood, depositing here and
there among the roots of a tree, several pounds of powder, and
covering the heaps over with dried sticks and leaves.
While he was thus employed, Fenwolf appeared with two more bags of
powder, and descended again for a fresh supply. When he returned,
laden as before, the old forester had already described a large portion
of the circle he intended to take.
Judging that there was now powder sufficient, Tristram explained to
his companion how to proceed; and the other commenced laying a train
on the left of the secret entrance, carefully observing the instructions
given him. In less than an hour, they met together at a particular tree,
and the formidable circle was complete.
"So far, well I" said Tristram, emptying the contents of his bag beneath
the tree, and covering it with leaves and sticks, as before; "and now to
connect this with the cavern."
With this, he opened another bag, and drew a wide train towards the
centre of the space. At length, he paused at the foot of a large hollow
"I have ascertained," he said, "that this tree stands immediately over
the magazine; and by following this rabbit's burrow, I have contrived to
make a small entrance into it. A hollow reed introduced through the
hole, and filled with powder, will be sure to reach the store below."
"An excellent ideal" replied Fenwolf. " I will fetch one instantly."
And starting off to the side of the lake, he presently returned with
several long reeds, one of which was selected by Tristram and thrust
into the burrow. It proved of the precise length required; and as soon
as it touched the bottom, it was carefully filled with powder from a horn.
Having connected this tube with the side train, and scattered powder
for several yards around, so as to secure instantaneous ignition,
Tristram pronounced that the train was complete.
"We have now laid a trap from which Herne will scarcely escape," he
observed, with a moody laugh, to Fenwolf.
They then prepared to return to the cave, but had not proceeded many
yards, when Herne, mounted on his sable steed, burst through the
"Ah! what make you here? " he cried, instantly checking his career. "I
bade you keep a strict watch over MabeL Where is she?
"She has escaped with Sir Thomas Wyat," replied Fenwolf, "and we
have been in search of them. "
Escaped!" exclaimed Herne, springing from his steed, and rushing up to
him; "dogs! you have played me false. But your lives shall pay the
penalty of your perfidy."
"We had no hand in it whatever," replied Fenwolf doggedly. "She
contrived to get out of a chamber in which I placed her, and to liberate
Sir Thomas Wyat. They then procured a steed from the stable, and
plunged through the pool into the lake."
"Hell's malison upon them, and upon you both!" cried Herne. "But you
shall pay dearly for your heedlessness, - if, indeed, it has not been
something worse. How long have they been gone?"
"It may be two hours," replied Fenwolf.
"Go to the cave," cried Herne, "and await my return there; and if I
recover not the prize, woe betide you both!"
And with these words, he vaunted upon his steed and disappeared.
"And woe betide you too, false fiend!" cried Fenwolf. "When you come
back you shall meet with a welcome you little expect. Would we had
fired the train, Tristram, even though we had perished with him!"
It will be time enough to fire it on his return," replied the old forester; "it
is but postponing our vengeance for a short time. And now to fix our
positions. I will take my station in yon brake."
"And I in that hollow tree," said Fenwolf. "Whoever first beholds him
shall fire the train."
"Agreed!" replied Tristram. "Let us now descend to the cave and see
that all is right in the magazine, and then we will return and hold
ourselves in readiness for action."
VII. How the Train was fired, and what followed the Explosion.
About ten o'clock in the night under consideration, Surrey and
Richmond, accompanied by the Duke of Shoreditch, and half a dozen
other archers, set out from the castle, and took their way along the
great park, in the direction of the lake.
They had not ridden far, when they were overtaken by two horsemen
who, as far as they could be discerned in that doubtful light, appeared
stalwart personages, and well mounted, though plainly attired. The
new-comers very unceremoniously joined them.
"There are ill reports of the park, my masters," said the foremost of
these persons to Surrey, " and we would willingly ride with you across
"But our way may not be yours, friend," replied Surrey, who did not
altogether relish this proposal. "We are not going farther than the
"Our road lies in that direction," replied the other, " and, if you please,
we will bear you company as far as we go. Come, tell me frankly," he
added, after a pause," are you not in search of Herne the Hunter?"
"Why do you ask, friend?" rejoined the earl somewhat angrily.
"Because if so," replied the other, "I shall be right glad to join you, and
so will my friend, Tony Cryspyn, who is close behind me. I have an old
grudge to settle with this Herne, who has more than once attacked me,
and I shall be glad to pay it."
"If you will take my advice, Hugh Dacre, you will ride on, and leave the
achievement of the adventure to these young galliards," interposed
"Nay, by the mass! that shall never be," rejoined Dacre, "if they have no
objection to our joining them. If they have, they have only to say so, and
we will go on."
"I will be plain with you, my masters," said Surrey. "We are determined
this night, as you have rightly conjectured, to seek out Herne the
Hunter; and we hope to obtain such clue to him as will ensure his
capture. If, therefore, you are anxious to join us, we shall be glad of
your aid. But you must be content to follow, and not lead--and to act as
you are directed - or you will only be in the way, and we would rather
dispense with your company."
"We are content with the terms--are we not, Tony?" said Dacre.
His companion answered somewhat sullenly in the affirmative.
"And now that the matter is arranged, may I ask when you propose to
go? "he continued.
"We are on our way to a hut on the lake, where we expect a companion
to join us," replied Surrey.
"What! Tristram Lyndwood's cottage?" demanded Dacre.
"Ay," replied the earl, "and we hope to recover his fair granddaughter
from the power of the demon."
"Ha! say you so?" cried Dacre; "that were a feat, indeed!"
The two strangers then rode apart for a few moments, and conversed
together in a low tone, during which Richmond expressed his doubts of
them to Surrey, adding that he was determined to get rid of them.
The new-comers, however, were not easily shaken off. As soon as they
perceived the duke's design, they stuck more pertinaciously to him and
the earl than before, and made it evident they would not be dismissed.
By this time they had passed Spring Hill, and were within a mile of the
valley in which lay the marsh, when a cry for help was heard in the
thicket on the left, and the troop immediately halted. The cry was
repeated, and Surrey, bidding the others follow him, dashed off in the
direction of the sound.
Presently, they perceived two figures beneath the trees, whom they
found, on a nearer approach, were Sir Thomas Wyat, with Mabel in a
state of insensibility in his arms.
Dismounting by the side of his friend, Surrey hastily demanded how he
came there, and what had happened?
"It is too long a story to relate now," said Wyat; "but the sum of it is,
that I have escaped, by the aid of this damsel, from the clutches of the
demon. Our escape was effected on horseback, and we had to plunge
into the lake. The immersion deprived my fair preserver of sensibility,
so that as soon as I landed, and gained a covert where I fancied myself
secure, I dismounted, and tried to restore her. While I was thus
occupied, the steed I had brought with me broke his bridle, and darted
off into the woods. After a while, Mabel opened her eyes, but she was
so weak that she could not move, and I was fain to make her a couch in
the fern, in the hope that she would speedily revive. But the fright and
suffering had been too much for her, and a succession of fainting-fits
followed, during which I thought she would expire. This is all. Now, let
us prepare a litter for her, and convey her where proper assistance can
Meanwhile, the others had come up, and Hugh Dacre, flinging himself
from his horse, and pushing Surrey somewhat rudely aside, advanced
towards Mabel, and, taking her hand, said, in a voice of some emotion,
"Alas! poor girl! I did not expect to meet thee again in this state."
"You knew her, then?" said Surrey.
Dacre muttered an affirmative.
"Who is this man? "asked Wyat of the earl.
"I know him not," answered Surrey. "He joined us on the road hither."
"I am well known to Sir Thomas Wyat," replied Dacre, in a significant
tone, "as he will avouch when I recall certain matters to his mind. But
do not let us lose time here. This damsel claims our first attention. She
must be conveyed to a place of safety, and where she can be well
tended. We can then return to search for Herne."
Upon this, a litter of branches were speedily made, and Mabel being laid
upon it, the simple conveyance was sustained by four of the archers.
The little cavalcade then quitted the thicket, and began to retrace its
course towards the castle. Wyat had been accommodated with a horse
by one of the archers, and rode in a melancholy manner by the side of
They had got back nearly as far as the brow of Spring Hill, when a
horseman, in a wild garb, and mounted on a coal black steed, lashed
suddenly and at a furious pace, out of the trees on the right. He made
towards the litter, over-turning Sir Thomas Wyat, and before any
opposition could be offered him, seized the inanimate form of Mabel,
and placing her before him on his steed, dashed off as swiftly as he
came, and with a burst of loud, exulting laughter.
"It is Herne! it is Herne!" burst from every lip. And they all started in
pursuit, urging the horses to their utmost speed. Sir Thomas Wyat had
instantly remounted his steed, and he came up with the others.
Herne's triumphant and demoniacal laugh was heard as he scoured
with the swiftness of the wind down the long glade. But the fiercest
determination animated his pursuers, who, being all admirably
mounted, managed to keep him fully in view.
Away! away! he speeded in the direction of the lake; and after him they
thundered, straining every sinew in the desperate chase. It was a wild
and extraordinary sight, and partook of the fantastical character of a
At length Herne reached the acclivity, at the foot of which lay the
waters of the lake glimmering in the starlight; and by the time he had
descended to its foot, his pursuers had gained its brow.
The exertions made by Sir Thomas Wyat had brought him a little in
advance of the others. Furiously goading his horse, he dashed down
the hillside at a terrific pace.
All at once, as he kept his eye on the flying figure of the demon, he was
startled by a sudden burst of flame in the valley. A wide circle of light
was rapidly described, a rumbling sound was heard like that preceding
an earth-quake, and a tremendous explosion followed, hurling trees and
Back to Full Books