How Sir Thomas Wyat Hunted With Herne





Accompanied by Wyat, and followed by the whole cavalcade, Herne dashed

into the glen, where Fenwolf awaited him. Threading the hollow, the

troop descried the hart flying swiftly along a sweeping glade at

some two hundred yards distance. The glade was passed--a woody knoll

skirted--a valley traversed--and the hart plunged into a thick grove

clothing the side of Hawk's Hill. But it offered him no secure retreat.

Dragon and Saturn were close upon him, and behind them came Herne,

crashing through the branches of the trees, and heedless of all

impediments. By-and-by the thicket became more open, and they entered

Cranbourne Chase. But the hart soon quitted it to return to the great

park, and darted down a declivity skirted by a line of noble oaks. Here

he was so hotly pressed by his fierce opponents, whose fangs he could

almost feel within his haunches, that he suddenly stopped and stood at

bay, receiving the foremost of his assailants, Saturn, on the points of

his horns. But his defence, though gallant, was unavailing. In another

instant Herne came up, and, dismounting, called off Dragon, who was

about to take the place of his wounded companion. Drawing a knife from

his girdle, the hunter threw himself on the ground, and, advancing on

all fours towards the hart, could scarcely be distinguished himself

from some denizen of the forest. As he approached the hart snorted and

bellowed fiercely, and dashed its horns against him; but the blow was

received by the hunter upon his own antlered helm, and at the same

moment his knife was thrust to the hilt into the stag's throat, and it

fell to the ground.



Springing to his feet, Herne whooped joyfully, placed his bugle to his

lips, and blew the dead mot. He then shouted to Fenwolf to call away and

couple the hounds, and, striking off the deer's right forefoot with his

knife, presented it to Wyat. Several large leafy branches being gathered

and laid upon the ground, the hart was placed upon them, and Herne

commenced breaking him up, as the process of dismembering the deer is

termed in the language of woodcraft. His first step was to cut off

the animal's head, which he performed by a single blow with his heavy

trenchant knife.



"Give the hounds the flesh," he said, delivering the trophy to Fenwolf;

"but keep the antlers, for it is a great deer of head."



Placing the head on a hunting-pole, Fenwolf withdrew to an open space

among the trees, and, halloing to the others, they immediately cast off

the hounds, who rushed towards him, leaping and baying at the

stag's head, which he alternately raised and lowered until they were

sufficiently excited, when he threw it on the ground before them.



While this was going forward the rest of the band were occupied in

various ways--some striking a light with flint and steel--some gathering

together sticks and dried leaves to form a fire--others producing

various strange-shaped cooking utensils--while others were assisting

their leader in his butcherly task, which he executed with infinite

skill and expedition.



As soon as the fire was kindled, Herne distributed certain portions of

the venison among his followers, which were instantly thrown upon the

embers to broil; while a few choice morsels were stewed in a pan with

wine, and subsequently offered to the leader and Wyat.



This hasty repast concluded, the demon ordered the fire to be

extinguished, and the quarters of the deer to be carried to the cave. He

then mounted his steed, and, attended by Wyat and the rest of his troop,

except those engaged in executing his orders, galloped towards Snow

Hill, where he speedily succeeded in unharbouring another noble hart.



Away then went the whole party--stag, hounds, huntsmen, sweeping like a

dark cloud down the hill, and crossing the wide moonlit glade, studded

with noble trees, on the west of the great avenue.



For a while the hart held a course parallel with the avenue; he then

dashed across it, threaded the intricate woods on the opposite side,

tracked a long glen, and leaping the pales, entered the home park. It

almost seemed as if he designed to seek shelter within the castle, for

he made straight towards it, and was only diverted by Herne himself,

who, shooting past him with incredible swiftness, turned him towards the

lower part of the park.



Here the chase continued with unabated ardour, until, reaching the banks

of the Thames, the hart plunged into it, and suffered himself to be

carried noiselessly down the current. But Herne followed him along the

banks, and when sufficiently near, dashed into the stream, and drove him

again ashore.



Once more they flew across the home park--once more they leaped its

pales--once more they entered the great park--but this time the stag

took the direction of Englefield Green. He was not, however, allowed

to break forth into the open country; but, driven again into the thick

woods, he held on with wondrous speed till the lake appeared in view. In

another instant he was swimming across it.



Before the eddies occasioned by the affrighted animal's plunge had

described a wide ring, Herne had quitted his steed, and was cleaving

with rapid strokes the waters of the lake. Finding escape impossible,

the hart turned to meet him, and sought to strike him with his horns,

but as in the case of his ill-fated brother of the wood, the blow was

warded by the antlered helm of the swimmer. The next moment the clear

water was dyed with blood, and Herne, catching the gasping animal by the

head, guided his body to shore.



Again the process of breaking up the stag was gone through; and when

Herne had concluded his task, he once more offered his gourd to Sir

Thomas Wyat. Reckless of the consequences, the knight placed the flask

to his lips, and draining it to the last drop, fell from his horse

insensible.





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