Most ViewedHow 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
Of The Combat Between Will Sommers And Patch
How King Henry The Eighth Held A Chapter Of The Garter
Of The Meeting Of King Henry The Eighth And Anne Boleyn At The Lower Gate
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
How Herne Appeared To Henry In The Home Park
In What Manner Herne Declared His Passion For Mabel
Least ViewedHow Tristram Lyndwood Was Interrogated By The King
Of The Interview Between Henry And Catherine Of Arragon In The Urswick Chapel
The Last Great Epoch In The History Of The Castle
Of The Mysterious Noise Heard In The Curfew Tower
Comprising The Fourth Epoch In The History Of The Castle
How Herne The Hunter Appeared To Henry On The Terrace
How Sir Thomas Wyat Found Mabel In The Sandstone Cave And What Happened To Him There
Of The Desperate Resolution Formed By Tristram And Fenwolf And How The Train Was Laid
How Anne Boleyn Received Proof Of Henry's Passion For Jane Seymour
What Passed Between Norris And The Tall Monk
Of The Earl Of Surrey's Solitary Ramble In The Home Park
In the twentieth year of the reign of the right high and puissant King
Henry the Eighth, namely, in 1529, on the 21st of April, and on one
of the loveliest evenings that ever fell on the loveliest district in
England, a fair youth, having somewhat the appearance of a page, was
leaning over the terrace wall on the north side of Windsor Castle, and
gazing at the magnificent scene before him. On his right stretched the
broad green expanse forming the Home Park, studded with noble trees,
chiefly consisting of ancient oaks, of which England had already learnt
to be proud, thorns as old or older than the oaks, wide-spreading
beeches, tall elms, and hollies. The disposition of these trees was
picturesque and beautiful in the extreme. Here, at the end of a sweeping
vista, and in the midst of an open space covered with the greenest
sward, stood a mighty broad-armed oak, beneath whose ample boughs,
though as yet almost destitute of foliage, while the sod beneath them
could scarcely boast a head of fern, couched a herd of deer. There lay
a thicket of thorns skirting a sand-bank, burrowed by rabbits, on this
hand grew a dense and Druid-like grove, into whose intricacies the
slanting sunbeams pierced; on that extended a long glade, formed by a
natural avenue of oaks, across which, at intervals, deer were passing.
Nor were human figures wanting to give life and interest to the scene.
Adown the glade came two keepers of the forest, having each a couple of
buckhounds with them in leash, whose baying sounded cheerily amid the
woods. Nearer the castle, and bending their way towards it, marched a
party of falconers with their well-trained birds, whose skill they had
been approving upon their fists, their jesses ringing as they moved
along, while nearer still, and almost at the foot of the terrace wall,
was a minstrel playing on a rebec, to which a keeper, in a dress of
Lincoln green, with a bow over his shoulder, a quiver of arrows at his
back, and a comely damsel under his arm, was listening.
On the left, a view altogether different in character, though scarcely
less beautiful, was offered to the gaze. It was formed by the town of
Windsor, then not a third of its present size, but incomparably
more picturesque in appearance, consisting almost entirely of a long
straggling row of houses, chequered black and white, with tall gables,
and projecting storeys skirting the west and south sides of the castle,
by the silver windings of the river, traceable for miles, and reflecting
the glowing hues of the sky, by the venerable College of Eton,
embowered in a grove of trees, and by a vast tract of well-wooded and
well-cultivated country beyond it, interspersed with villages, churches,
old halls, monasteries, and abbeys.
Taking out his tablets, the youth, after some reflection, traced a few
lines upon them, and then, quitting the parapet, proceeded slowly, and
with a musing air, towards the north west angle of the terrace. He
could not be more than fifteen, perhaps not so much, but he was tall and
well-grown, with slight though remarkably well-proportioned limbs;
and it might have been safely predicted that, when arrived at years of
maturity, he would possess great personal vigour. His countenance was
full of thought and intelligence, and he had a broad lofty brow,
shaded by a profusion of light brown ringlets, a long, straight, and
finely-formed nose, a full, sensitive, and well-chiselled mouth, and
a pointed chin. His eyes were large, dark, and somewhat melancholy in
expression, and his complexion possessed that rich clear brown tint
constantly met with in Italy or Spain, though but seldom seen in
a native of our own colder clime. His dress was rich, but sombre,
consisting of a doublet of black satin, worked with threads of Venetian
gold; hose of the same material, and similarly embroidered; a shirt
curiously wrought with black silk, and fastened at the collar with black
enamelled clasps; a cloak of black velvet, passmented with gold, and
lined with crimson satin; a flat black velvet cap, set with pearls and
goldsmith's work, and adorned with a short white plume; and black velvet
buskins. His arms were rapier and dagger, both having gilt and graven
handles, and sheaths of black velvet.
As he moved along, the sound of voices chanting vespers arose from Saint
George's Chapel; and while he paused to listen to the solemn strains,
a door, in that part of the castle used as the king's privy lodgings,
opened, and a person advanced towards him. The new-comer had broad,
brown, martial-looking features, darkened still more by a thick
coal-black beard, clipped short in the fashion of the time, and a pair
of enormous moustachios. He was accoutred in a habergeon, which gleamed
from beneath the folds of a russet-coloured mantle, and wore a steel cap
in lieu of a bonnet on his head, while a long sword dangled from beneath
his cloak. When within a few paces of the youth, whose back was towards
him, and who did not hear his approach, he announced himself by a loud
cough, that proved the excellence of his lungs, and made the old walls
ring again, startling the jackdaws roosting in the battlements.
"What! composing a vesper hymn, my lord of Surrey?" he cried with a
laugh, as the other hastily thrust the tablets, which he had hitherto
held in his hand, into his bosom. "You will rival Master Skelton, the
poet laureate, and your friend Sir Thomas Wyat, too, ere long. But
will it please your lord-ship to quit for a moment the society of the
celestial Nine, and descend to earth, while I inform you that, acting
as your representative, I have given all needful directions for his
majesty's reception to-morrow?"
"You have not failed, I trust, to give orders to the groom of the
chambers for the lodging of my fair cousin, Mistress Anne Boleyn,
Captain Bouchier?" inquired the Earl of Surrey, with a significant
"Assuredly not, my lord!" replied the other, smiling in his turn. "She
will be lodged as royally as if she were Queen of England. Indeed, the
queen's own apartments are assigned her."
"It is well," rejoined Surrey. "And you have also provided for the
reception of the Pope's legate, Cardinal Campeggio?"
"And for Cardinal Wolsey?" pursued the other.
The captain bowed again.
"To save your lordship the necessity of asking any further questions,"
he said, "I may state briefly that I have done all as if you had done it
"Be a little more particular, captain, I pray you," said Surrey.
"Willingly, my lord," replied Bouchier. "In your lord ship's name, then,
as vice-chamberlain, in which character I presented myself, I summoned
together the dean and canons of the College of St. George, the usher of
the black rod, the governor of the alms-knights, and the whole of the
officers of the household, and acquainted them, in a set speech-which, I
flatter myself, was quite equal to any that your lordship, with all your
poetical talents, could have delivered--that the king's highness, being
at Hampton Court with the two cardinals, Wolsey and Campeggio, debating
the matter of divorce from his queen, Catherine of Arragon, proposes to
hold the grand feast of the most noble order of the Garter at this his
castle of Windsor, on Saint George's Day--that is to say, the day after
to-morrow--and that it is therefore his majesty's sovereign pleasure
that the Chapel of St. George, in the said castle, be set forth and
adorned with its richest furniture; that the high altar be hung with
arras representing the patron saint of the order on horseback, and
garnished with the costliest images and ornaments in gold and silver;
that the pulpit be covered with crimson damask, inwrought with
flowers-de-luces of gold, portcullises, and roses; that the royal stall
be canopied with a rich cloth of state, with a haut-pas beneath it of
a foot high; that the stalls of the knights companions be decked with
cloth of tissue, with their scutcheons set at the back; and that all be
ready at the hour of tierce-hora tertia vespertina, as appointed by his
majesty's own statute--at which time the eve of the feast shall be held
"Take breath, captain," laughed the earl.
"I have no need," replied Bouchier. "Furthermore, I delivered your
lordship's warrant from the lord chamberlain to the usher of the black
rod, to make ready and furnish Saint George's Hall, both for the supper
to-morrow and the grand feast on the following day; and I enjoined the
dean and canons of the college, the alms-knights, and all the other
officers of the order, to be in readiness for the occasion. And now,
having fulfilled my devoir, or rather your lordship's, I am content to
resign my post as vice-chamberlain, to resume my ordinary one, that of
your simple gentleman, and to attend you back to Hampton Court whenever
it shall please you to set forth."
"And that will not be for an hour, at the least," replied the earl; "for
I intend to take a solitary ramble in the Home Park."
"What I to seek inspiration for a song--or to meditate upon the charms
of the fair Geraldine, eh, my lord?" rejoined Bouchier. "But I will not
question you too shrewdly. Only let me caution you against going near
Herne's Oak. It is said that the demon hunter walks at nightfall, and
scares, if he does not injure, all those who cross his path. At curfew
toll I must quit the castle, and will then, with your attendants proceed
to the Garter, in Thames Street, where I will await your arrival. If we
reach Hampton Court by midnight, it will be time enough, and as the moon
will rise in an hour, we shall have a pleasant ride."
"Commend me to Bryan Bowntance, the worthy host of the Garter," said the
earl; "and bid him provide you with a bottle of his best sack in which
to drink my health."
"Fear me not," replied the other. "And I pray your lordship not to
neglect my caution respecting Herne the Hunter. In sober sooth, I have
heard strange stories of his appearance of late, and should not care to
go near the tree after dark."
The earl laughed somewhat sceptically, and the captain reiterating his
caution, they separated--Bouchier returning the way he came, and Surrey
proceeding towards a small drawbridge crossing the ditch on the eastern
side of the castle, and forming a means of communication with the Little
Park. He was challenged by a sentinel at the drawbridge, but on giving
the password he was allowed to cross it, and to pass through a gate on
the farther side opening upon the park.
Brushing the soft and dewy turf with a footstep almost as light and
bounding as that of a fawn, he speeded on for more than a quarter of a
mile, when he reached a noble beech-tree standing at the end of a clump
of timber. A number of rabbits were feeding beneath it, but at his
approach they instantly plunged into their burrows.
Here he halted to look at the castle. The sun had sunk behind it,
dilating its massive keep to almost its present height and tinging the
summits of the whole line of ramparts and towers, since rebuilt and
known as the Brunswick Tower, the Chester Tower, the Clarence Tower, and
the Victoria Tower, with rosy lustre.
Flinging himself at the foot of the beech-tree, the youthful earl
indulged his poetical reveries for a short time, and then, rising,
retraced his steps, and in a few minutes the whole of the south side of
the castle lay before him. The view comprehended the two fortifications
recently removed to make way for the York and Lancaster Towers, between
which stood a gate approached by a drawbridge; the Earl Marshal's Tower,
now styled from the monarch in whose reign it was erected, Edward the
Third's Tower; the black rod's lodgings; the Lieutenant's--now Henry the
Third's Tower; the line of embattled walls, constituting the lodgings of
the alms-knights; the tower tenanted by the governor of that body, and
still allotted to the same officer; Henry the Eight's Gateway, and the
Chancellor of the Garter's Tower--the latter terminating the line
of building. A few rosy beams tipped the pinnacles of Saint George's
Chapel, seen behind the towers above-mentioned, with fire; but, with
this exception, the whole of the mighty fabric looked cold and grey.
At this juncture the upper gate was opened, and Captain Bouchier and his
attendants issued from it, and passed over the drawbridge. The curfew
bell then tolled, the drawbridge was raised, the horsemen disappeared,
and no sound reached the listener's ear except the measured tread of the
sentinels on the ramparts, audible in the profound stillness.
The youthful earl made no attempt to join his followers, but having
gazed on the ancient pile before him till its battlements and towers
grew dim in the twilight, he struck into a footpath leading across the
park towards Datchet, and pursued it until it brought him near a dell
filled with thorns, hollies, and underwood, and overhung by mighty oaks,
into which he unhesitatingly plunged, and soon gained the deepest part
of it. Here, owing to the thickness of the hollies and the projecting
arms of other large overhanging timber, added to the uncertain light
above, the gloom was almost impervious, and he could scarcely see a
yard before him. Still, he pressed on unhesitatingly, and with a sort of
pleasurable sensation at the difficulties he was encountering. Suddenly,
however, he was startled by a blue phosphoric light streaming through
the bushes on the left, and, looking up, he beheld at the foot of an
enormous oak, whose giant roots protruded like twisted snakes from the
bank, a wild spectral-looking object, possessing some slight resemblance
to humanity, and habited, so far as it could be determined, in the skins
of deer, strangely disposed about its gaunt and tawny-coloured limbs. On
its head was seen a sort of helmet, formed of the skull of a stag, from
which branched a large pair of antlers; from its left arm hung a heavy
and rusty-looking chain, in the links of which burnt the phosphoric fire
before mentioned; while on its right wrist was perched a large horned
owl, with feathers erected, and red staring eyes.
Impressed with the superstitious feelings common to the age, the young
earl, fully believing he was in the presence of a supernatural being,
could scarcely, despite his courageous nature, which no ordinary matter
would have shaken, repress a cry. Crossing himself, he repeated, with
great fervency, a prayer, against evil spirits, and as he uttered it the
light was extinguished, and the spectral figure vanished. The clanking
of the chain was heard, succeeded by the hooting of the owl; then came a
horrible burst of laughter, then a fearful wail, and all was silent.
Up to this moment the young earl had stood still, as if spell-bound; but
being now convinced that the spirit had fled, he pressed forward, and,
ere many seconds, emerged from the brake. The full moon was rising as he
issued forth, and illuminating the glades and vistas, and the calmness
and beauty of all around seemed at total variance with the fearful
vision he had just witnessed. Throwing a shuddering glance at the
haunted dell, he was about to hurry towards the castle, when a large,
lightning-scathed, and solitary oak, standing a little distance from
him, attracted his attention.
This was the very tree connected with the wild legend of Herne the
Hunter, which Captain Bouchier had warned him not to approach, and he
now forcibly recalled the caution. Beneath it he perceived a figure,
which he at first took for that of the spectral hunter; but his fears
were relieved by a shout from the person, who at the same moment
appeared to catch sight of him.
Satisfied that, in the present instance, he had to do with a being of
this world, Surrey ran towards the tree, and on approaching it
perceived that the object of his alarm was a young man of very athletic
proportions, and evidently, from his garb, a keeper of the forest.
He was habited in a jerkin of Lincoln green cloth, with the royal badge
woven in silver on the breast, and his head was protected by a flat
green cloth cap, ornamented with a pheasant's tail. Under his right
arm he carried a crossbow; a long silver-tipped horn was slung in
his baldric; and he was armed with a short hanger, or wood-knife. His
features were harsh and prominent; and he had black beetling brows, a
large coarse mouth, and dark eyes, lighted up with a very sinister and
He was attended by a large savage-looking staghound, whom he addressed
as Bawsey, and whose fierceness had to be restrained as Surrey
"Have you seen anything?" he demanded of the earl.
"I have seen Herne the Hunter himself, or the fiend in his likeness,"
And he briefly related the vision he had beheld.
"Ay, ay, you have seen the demon hunter, no doubt," replied the keeper
at the close of the recital. "I neither saw the light, nor heard the
laughter, nor the wailing cry you speak of; but Bawsey crouched at my
feet and whined, and I knew some evil thing was at hand. Heaven shield
us!" he exclaimed, as the hound crouched at his feet, and directed her
gaze towards the oak, uttering a low ominous whine, "she is at the same
The earl glanced in the same direction, and half expected to see the
knotted trunk of the tree burst open and disclose the figure of the
spectral hunter. But nothing was visible--at least, to him, though it
would seem from the shaking limbs, fixed eyes, and ghastly visage of the
keeper, that some appalling object was presented to his gaze.
"Do you not see him?" cried the latter at length, in thrilling accents;
"he is circling the tree, and blasting it. There! he passes us now--do
you not see him?"
"No," replied Surrey; "but do not let us tarry here longer."
So saying he laid his hand upon the keeper's arm. The touch seemed to
rouse him to exertion: He uttered a fearful cry, and set off at a quick
pace along the park, followed by Bawsey, with her tail between her legs.
The earl kept up with him, and neither halted till they had left the
wizard oak at a considerable distance behind them.
"And so you did not see him?" said the keeper, in a tone of exhaustion,
as he wiped the thick drops from his brow.
"I did not," replied Surrey.
"That is passing strange," rejoined the other. "I myself have seen him
before, but never as he appeared to-night."
"You are a keeper of the forest, I presume, friend?" said Surrey. "How
are you named?"
"I am called Morgan Fenwolf," replied the keeper; "and you?"
"I am the Earl of Surrey;' returned the young noble.
"What!" exclaimed Fenwolf, making a reverence, "the son to his grace of
The earl replied in the affirmative.
"Why, then, you must be the young nobleman whom I used to see so often
with the king's son, the Duke of Richmond, three or four years ago,
at the castle?" rejoined Fenwolf "You are altogether grown out of my
"Not unlikely," returned the earl. "I have been at Oxford, and have only
just completed my studies. This is the first time I have been at Windsor
since the period you mention."
"I have heard that the Duke of Richmond was at Oxford likewise,"
"We were at Cardinal College together," replied Surrey. "But the duke's
term was completed before mine. He is my senior by three years."
"I suppose your lordship is returning to the castle?" said Fenwolf.
"No," replied Surrey. "My attendants are waiting for me at the Garter,
and if you will accompany me thither, I will bestow a cup of good ale
upon you to recruit you after the fright you have undergone."
Fenwolf signified his graceful acquiescence, and they walked on in
silence, for the earl could not help dwelling upon the vision he had
witnessed, and his companion appeared equally abstracted. In this sort
they descended the hill near Henry the Eighth's Gate, and entered Thames
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