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How The Earl Of Surrey And The Fair Geraldine Plighted Their Troth In The Cloisters Of Saint George's Chapel

How The Earl Of Surrey And The Fair Geraldine Met In King James's Bower In The Moat

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How King Henry The Eighth Held A Chapter Of The Garter

What Passed Between Anne Boleyn And The Duke Of Suffolk And How Herne The Hunter Appeared To Her In The Oratory

How Mabel Lyndwood Was Taken To The Castle By Nicholas Clamp

Showing How Morgan Fenwolf Escaped From The Garter Tower

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In What Manner Herne Declared His Passion For Mabel

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How Tristram Lyndwood Was Interrogated By The King

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How Sir Thomas Wyat Found Mabel In The Sandstone Cave And What Happened To Him There

Comprising The Fourth Epoch In The History Of The Castle

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In What Manner Wolsey Put His Scheme Into Operation








Foiled in his scheme of making Wyat the instrument of Anne Boleyn's
overthrow, Wolsey determined to put into immediate operation the plan
he had conceived of bringing forward a rival to her with the king. If a
choice had been allowed him, he would have selected some high-born dame
for the purpose; but as this was out of the question--and as, indeed,
Henry had of late proved insensible to the attractions of all the
beauties that crowded his court except Anne Boleyn--he trusted to the
forester's fair granddaughter to accomplish his object. The source
whence he had received intelligence of the king's admiration of Mabel
Lyndwood was his jester, Patch--a shrewd varlet who, under the mask
of folly, picked up many an important secret for his master, and was
proportionately rewarded.

Before executing the scheme, it was necessary to ascertain whether the
damsel's beauty was as extraordinary as it had been represented; and
with this view, Wolsey mounted his mule one morning, and, accompanied by
Patch and another attendant, rode towards the forest.

It was a bright and beautiful morning, and preoccupied as he was, the
plotting cardinal could not be wholly insensible to the loveliness of
the scene around him. Crossing Spring Hill, he paused at the head of a
long glade, skirted on the right by noble beech-trees whose silver stems
sparkled in the sun shine, and extending down to the thicket now called
Cooke's Hill Wood. From this point, as from every other eminence on
the northern side of the forest, a magnificent view of the castle was
obtained.

The sight of the kingly pile, towering above its vassal woods, kindled
high and ambitious thoughts in his breast.

"The lord of that proud structure has been for years swayed by me,"
he mused, "and shall the royal puppet be at last wrested from me by a
woman's hand? Not if I can hold my own."

Roused by the reflection, he quickened his pace, and shaping his course
towards Black Nest, reached in a short time the borders of a wide swamp
lying between the great lake and another pool of water of less extent
situated in the heart of the forest. This wild and dreary marsh,
the haunt of the bittern and the plover, contrasted forcibly and
disagreeably with the rich sylvan district he had just quitted.

"I should not like to cross this swamp at night," he observed to Patch,
who rode close behind him.

"Nor I, your grace," replied the buffoon. "We might chance to be led by
a will-o'-the-wisp to a watery grave."

"Such treacherous fires are not confined to these regions, knave,"
rejoined Wolsey. "Mankind are often lured, by delusive gleams of glory
and power, into quagmires deep and pitfalls. Holy Virgin; what have we
here?"

The exclamation was occasioned by a figure that suddenly emerged from
the ground at a little distance on the right. Wolsey's mule swerved so
much as almost to endanger his seat, and he called out in a loud angry
tone to the author of the annoyance--"Who are you, knave? and what do
you here?"

I am a keeper of the forest, an't please your grace, replied the
other, doffing his cap, and disclosing harsh features which by no means
recommended him to the cardinal, "and am named Morgan Fenwolf. I
was crouching among the reeds to get a shot at a fat buck, when your
approach called me to my feet."

"By St. Jude! this is the very fellow, your grace, who shot the
hart-royal the other day," cried Patch.

"And so preserved the Lady Anne Boleyn," rejoined the cardinal. "Art
sure of it, knave?"

"As sure as your grace is of canonisation," replied Patch. "That shot
should have brought you a rich reward, friend--either from the king's
highness or the Lady Anne," remarked Wolsey to the keeper.

"It has brought me nothing," rejoined Fenwolf sullenly.

"Hum!" exclaimed the cardinal. "Give the fellow a piece of gold, Patch."

"Methinks I should have better earned your grace's bounty if I had let
the hart work his will," said Fenwolf, reluctantly receiving the coin.

"How, fellow?" cried the cardinal, knitting his brows.

"Nay, I mean no offence," replied Fenwolf; "but the rumour goes that
your grace and the Lady Anne are not well affected towards each other."

"The rumour is false," rejoined the cardinal, "and you can now
contradict it on your own experience. Harkee, sirrah! where lies
Tristram Lyndwood's hut?"

Fenwolf looked somewhat surprised and confused by the question.

"It lies on the other side of yonder rising ground, about half a mile
hence," he said. "But if your grace is seeking old Tristram, you will
not find him. I parted with him, half-an-hour ago, on Hawk's Hill, and
he was then on his way to the deer-pen at Bray Wood."

"If I see his granddaughter Mabel, it will suffice," rejoined the
cardinal. "I am told she is a comely damsel. Is it so?"

"I am but an indifferent judge of beauty," replied Fenwolf moodily.

"Lead my mule across this swamp, thou senseless loon," said the
cardinal, "and I will give thee my blessing."

With a very ill grace Fenwolf complied, and conducted Wolsey to the
farther side of the marsh.

"If your grace pursues the path over the hill," he said, "and then
strikes into the first opening on the right, it will bring you to the
place you seek." And, without waiting for the promised blessing, he
disappeared among the trees.

On reaching the top of the hill, Wolsey descried the hut through an
opening in the trees at a few hundred yards' distance. It was pleasantly
situated on the brink of the lake, at the point where its width was
greatest, and where it was fed by a brook that flowed into it from a
large pool of water near Sunninghill.

From the high ground where Wolsey now stood the view of the lake was
beautiful. For nearly a mile its shining expanse was seen stretching out
between banks of varied form, sometimes embayed, sometimes running out
into little headlands, but everywhere clothed with timber almost to the
water's edge. Wild fowl skimmed over its glassy surface, or dipped in
search of its finny prey, and here and there a heron might be detected
standing in some shallow nook, and feasting on the smaller fry. A flight
of cawing rooks were settling upon the tall trees on the right bank, and
the voices of the thrush, the blackbird, and other feathered songsters
burst in redundant melody from the nearer groves.

A verdant path, partly beneath the trees, and partly on the side of the
lake, led Wolsey to the forester's hut. Constructed of wood and clay,
with a thatched roof, green with moss, and half overgrown with ivy, the
little building was in admirable keeping with the surrounding scenery.
Opposite the door, and opening upon the lake, stood a little boathouse,
and beside it a few wooden steps, defended by a handrail, ran into
the water. A few yards beyond the boathouse the brook before mentioned
emptied its waters into the lake.

Gazing with much internal satisfaction at the hut, Wolsey bade Patch
dismount, and ascertain whether Mabel was within. The buffoon obeyed,
tried the door, and finding it fastened, knocked, but to no purpose.

After a pause of a few minutes, the cardinal was turning away in extreme
disappointment, when a small skiff, rowed by a female hand, shot round
an angle of the lake and swiftly approached them. A glance from Patch
would have told Wolsey, had he required any such information, that this
was the forester's granddaughter. Her beauty quite ravished him, and
drew from him an exclamation of wonder and delight. Features regular,
exquisitely moulded, and of a joyous expression, a skin dyed like a
peach by the sun, but so as to improve rather than impair its hue; eyes
bright, laughing, and blue as a summer sky; ripe, ruddy lips, and pearly
teeth; and hair of a light and glossy brown, constituted the sum of
her attractions. Her sylph-like figure was charmingly displayed by
the graceful exercise on which she was engaged, and her small hands,
seemingly scarcely able to grasp an oar, impelled the skiff forwards
with marvellous velocity, and apparently without much exertion on her
part.

Unabashed by the presence of the strangers, though Wolsey's attire could
leave her in no doubt as to his high ecclesiastical dignity, she sprang
ashore at the landing-place, and fastened her bark to the side of the
boathouse.

"You are Mabel Lyndwood, I presume, fair maiden?" inquired the cardinal,
in his blandest tones.

"Such is my name, your grace," she replied; "for your garb tells me I am
addressing Cardinal Wolsey."

The cardinal graciously inclined his head.

"Chancing to ride in this part of the forest," he said, "and having
heard of your beauty, I came to see whether the reality equalled the
description, and I find it far transcends it."

Mabel blushed deeply, and cast down her eyes.

"Would that Henry could see her now!" thought the cardinal, "Anne
Boleyn's reign were nigh at an end.--How long have you dwelt in this
cottage, fair maid?" he added aloud.

"My grandsire, Tristram Lyndwood, has lived here fifty years and more,"
replied Mabel, "but I have only been its inmate within these few weeks.
Before that time I lived at Chertsey, under the care of one of the lay
sisters of the monastery there--Sister Anastasia."

"And your parents--where are they?" asked the cardinal curiously.

"Alas! your grace, I have none," replied Mabel with a sigh. "Tristram
Lyndwood is my only living relative. He used to come over once a month
to see me at Chertsey--and latterly, finding his dwelling lonely, for
he lost the old dame who tended it for him, he brought me to dwell with
him. Sister Anastasia was loth to part with me--and I was grieved to
leave her--but I could not refuse my grandsire."

"Of a surety not," replied the cardinal musingly, and gazing hard at
her. "And you know nothing of your parents?"

"Little beyond this," replied Mabel:--"My father was a keeper of the
forest, and being unhappily gored by a stag, perished of the wound--for
a hurt from a hart's horn, as your grace knows, is certain death; and
my mother pined after him and speedily followed him to the grave. I
was then placed by my grandsire with Sister Anastasia, as I have just
related--and this is all my history."

"A simple yet a curious one," said Wolsey, still musing. "You are the
fairest maid of low degree I ever beheld. You saw the king at the chase
the other day, Mabel?"

"Truly, did I, your grace," she replied, her eyes brightening and her
colour rising; "and a right noble king he is."

"And as gentle and winning as he is goodly to look upon," said Wolsey,
smiling.

"Report says otherwise," rejoined Mabel.

"Report speaks falsely," cried Wolsey; "I know him well, and he is what
I describe him."

"I am glad to hear it," replied Mabel; "and I must own I formed the same
opinion myself--for the smile he threw upon me was one of the sweetest
and kindliest I ever beheld."

"Since you confess so much, fair maiden," rejoined Wolsey, "I will be
equally frank, and tell you it was from the king's own lips I heard of
your beauty."

"Your grace!" she exclaimed.

"Well, well," said Wolsey, smiling, "if the king is bewitched, I cannot
marvel at it. And now, good day, fair maiden; you will hear more of me."

"Your grace will not refuse me your blessing?" said Mabel.

"Assuredly not, my child," replied Wolsey, stretching his hands over
her. "All good angels and saints bless you, and hold you in their
keeping. Mark my words: a great destiny awaits you; but in all changes,
rest assured you will find a friend in Cardinal Wolsey."

"Your grace overwhelms me with kindness," cried Mabel; "nor can I
conceive how I have found an interest in your eyes--unless Sister
Anastasia or Father Anslem, of Chertsey Abbey, may have mentioned me to
you."

"You have found a more potent advocate with me than either Sister
Anastasia or Father Anselm," replied Wolsey; "and now, farewell."

And turning the head of his mule, he rode slowly away.

On the same day there was a great banquet in the castle, and, as usual,
Wolsey took his station on the right of the sovereign, while the papal
legate occupied a place on the left. Watching a favourable opportunity,
Wolsey observed to Henry that he had been riding that morning in the
forest, and had seen the loveliest damsel that eyes ever fell upon.

"Ah! by our Lady! and who may she be?" asked the king curiously.

"She can boast little in regard to birth, being grandchild to an old
forester," replied Wolsey; "but your majesty saw her at the hunting
party the other day."

"Ah, now I bethink me of her," said Henry. "A comely damsel, in good
sooth."

"I know not where her match is to be found," cried the cardinal. "Would
your majesty had seen her skim over the lake in a fairy boat managed by
herself, as I beheld her this morning. You would have taken her for a
water-sprite, except that no water-sprite was half so beautiful."

"You speak in raptures, cardinal," cried Henry. "I must see this
damsel again. Where does she dwell? I have heard, but it has slipped my
memory."

"In a hut near the great lake," replied Wolsey. "There is some mystery
attached to her birth, which I have not yet fathomed."

"Leave me to unriddle it," replied the king laughingly.

And he turned to talk on other subjects to Campeggio, but Wolsey felt
satisfied that the device was successful. Nor was he mistaken. As Henry
retired from the banquet, he motioned the Duke of Suffolk towards him,
and said, in an undertone--"I shall go forth at dusk to-morrow even in
disguise, and shall require your attendance."

"On a love affair?" asked the duke, in the same tone.

"Perchance," replied Henry; "but I will explain myself more fully anon."

This muttered colloquy was overheard by Patch, and faithfully reported
by him to the cardinal.





Next: Of The Visit Of The Two Guildford Merchants To The Forester's Hut

Previous: Of The Compact Between Sir Thomas Wyat And Herne The Hunter



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