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





A week after the foregoing occurrence, the Earl of Surrey was set free.

But his joy at regaining his liberty was damped by learning that the

Fair Geraldine had departed for Ireland. She had left the tenderest

messages for him with his sister, the Lady Mary Howard, accompanied with

assurances of unalterable attachment.



But other changes had taken place, which were calculated to afford him

some consolation. Ever since the night on which he had been told the

Lady Mary was not indifferent to him, Richmond had devoted himself

entirely to her; and matters had already proceeded so far, that he had

asked her in marriage of the Duke of Norfolk, who, after ascertaining

the king's pleasure on the subject, had gladly given his consent, and

the youthful pair were affianced to each other. Surrey and Richmond now

became closer friends than ever; and if, amid the thousand distractions

of Henry's gay and festive court, the young earl did not forget the

Fair Geraldine, he did not, at least, find the time hang heavily on his

hands.



About a week after Wolsey's dismissal, while the court was still

sojourning at Windsor, Surrey proposed to Richmond to ride one morning

with him in the great park. The Duke willingly assented, and mounting

their steeds, they galloped towards Snow Hill, wholly unattended. While

mounting this charming ascent at a more leisurely pace, the earl said

to his companion, "I will now tell you why I proposed this ride to you,

Richmond. I have long determined to follow up the adventure of Herne the

Hunter, and I wish to confer with you about it, and ascertain whether

you are disposed to join me."



"I know not what to say, Surrey," replied the duke gravely, and speaking

in a low tone. "The king, my father, failed in his endeavours to expel

the demon, who still lords it in the forest."



"The greater glory to us if we succeed," said Surrey.



"I will take counsel with Lady Mary on the subject before I give an

answer," rejoined Richmond.



"Then there is little doubt what your grace's decision will be," laughed

Surrey. "To speak truth, it was the fear of your consulting her that

made me bring you here. What say you to a ride in the forest to-morrow

night?"



"I have little fancy for it," replied Richmond; "and if you will be

ruled by me, you will not attempt the enterprise yourself."



"My resolution is taken," said the earl; "but now, since we have reached

the brow of the hill, let us push forward to the lake."



A rapid ride of some twenty minutes brought them to the edge of

the lake, and they proceeded along the verdant path leading to the

forester's hut. On arriving at the dwelling, it appeared wholly

deserted, but they nevertheless dismounted, and tying their horses

to the trees at the back of the cottage, entered it. While they were

examining the lower room, the plash of oars reached their ears, and

rushing to the window, they descried the skiff rapidly approaching the

shore. A man was seated within it, whose attire, though sombre, seemed

to proclaim him of some rank, but as his back was towards them, they

could not discern his features. In another instant the skiff touched the

strand, and the rower leaping ashore, proved to be Sir Thomas Wyat.

On making this discovery they both ran out to him, and the warmest

greetings passed between them. When these were over, Surrey expressed

his surprise to Wyat at seeing him there, declaring he was wholly

unaware of his return from the court of France.



"I came back about a month ago," said Wyat. "His majesty supposes me at

Allington; nor shall I return to court without a summons."



"I am not sorry to hear it," said Surrey; "but what are you doing here?"



"My errand is a strange and adventurous one," replied Wyat. "You may

have heard that before I departed for France I passed some days in the

forest in company with Herne the Hunter. What then happened to me I may

not disclose; but I vowed never to rest till I have freed this forest

from the weird being who troubles it."



"Say you so?" cried Surrey; "then you are most fortunately encountered,

Sir Thomas, for I myself, as Richmond will tell you, am equally bent

upon the fiend's expulsion. We will be companions in the adventure."



"We will speak of that anon," replied Wyat. "I was sorry to find this

cottage uninhabited, and the fair damsel who dwelt within it, when I

beheld it last, gone. What has become of her?



"It is a strange story," said Richmond. And he proceeded to relate all

that was known to have befallen Mabel.



Wyat listened with profound attention to the recital, and at its close,

said, "I think I can find a clue to this mystery, but to obtain it I

must go alone. Meet me here at midnight to-morrow, and I doubt not we

shall be able to accomplish our design."



"May I not ask for some explanation of your scheme?" said Surrey.



"Not yet," rejoined Wyat. "But I will freely confess to you that there

is much danger in the enterprise--danger that I would not willingly any

one should share with me, especially you, Surrey, to whom I owe so much.

If you do not find me here, therefore, to-morrow night, conclude that I

have perished, or am captive."



"Well, be it as you will, Wyat," said Surrey; "but I would gladly

accompany you, and share your danger."



"I know it, and I thank you," returned Wyat, warmly grasping the other's

hand; "but much--nay, all--may remain to be done to-morrow night. You

had better bring some force with you, for we may need it."



"I will bring half a dozen stout archers," replied Surrey--"and if you

come not, depend upon it, I will either release you or avenge you."



"I did not intend to prosecute this adventure further," said Richmond;

"but since you are both resolved to embark in it, I will not desert

you."



Soon after this, the friends separated,--Surrey and Richmond taking

horse and returning to the castle, discoursing on the unlooked--for

meeting with Wyat, while the latter again entered the skiff, and rowed

down the lake. As soon as the hut was clear, two persons descended the

steps of a ladder leading to a sort of loft in the roof, and sprang upon

the floor of the hut.



"Ho! ho! Ho!" laughed the foremost, whose antlered helm and wild garb

proclaimed him to be Herne; "they little dreamed who were the hearers of

their conference. So they think to take me, Fenwolf--ha!"



"They know not whom they have to deal with," rejoined the latter.



"They should do so by this time," said Herne; "but I will tell thee why

Sir Thomas Wyat has undertaken this enterprise. It is not to capture me,

though that may be one object that moves him. But he wishes to see

Mabel Lyndwood. The momentary glimpse he caught of her bright eyes was

sufficient to inflame him."



"Ah!" exclaimed Fenwolf, "think you so?"



"I am assured of it," replied Herne. "He knows the secret of the cave,

and will find her there."



"But he will never return to tell what he has seen," said Fenwolf

moodily.



"I know not that," replied Herne. "I have my own views respecting him. I

want to renew my band."



"He will never join you," rejoined Fenwolf.



"What if I offer him Mabel as a bait?" said Herne.



"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

fate!"



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, Tristram?"



"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 revealed.



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

grandsire."



"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 you."



"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

that recess."



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

become impatient."



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.





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