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

it."



"But our way may not be yours, friend," replied Surrey, who did not

altogether relish this proposal. "We are not going farther than the

lake."



"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

Cryspyn.



"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

be rendered."



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 the

litter.



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

dream.



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 fragments of rock into the air.



Astounded at the extraordinary occurrence, and not knowing what might

ensue, the pursuers reined in their steeds. But the terror of the scene

was not yet over. The whole of the brushwood had caught fire, and blazed

up with the fury and swiftness of lighted flax. The flames caught the

parched branches of the trees, and in a few seconds the whole grove was

on fire.



The sight was awfully grand, for the wind, which was blowing strongly,

swept the flames forward, so that they devoured all before them.



When the first flash was seen the demon had checked his steed and backed

him, so that he had escaped without injury, and he stood at the edge of

the flaming circle watching the progress of the devastating element; but

at last, finding that his pursuers had taken heart and were approaching

him, he bestirred himself, and rode round the blazing zone.



Having by this time recovered from their surprise, Wyat and Surrey

dashed after him, and got so near him that they made sure of his

capture. But at the very moment they expected to reach him, he turned

his horse's head, and forced him to leap over the blazing boundary.



In vain the pursuers attempted to follow. Their horses refused to

encounter the flames; while Wyat's steed, urged on by its frantic

master, reared bolt upright, and dislodged him.



But the demon held on his way, apparently unscathed in the midst of the

flames, casting a look of grim defiance at his pursuers. As he passed

a tree, from which volumes of fire were bursting, the most appalling

shrieks reached his ear, and he beheld Morgan Fenwolf emerging from a

hole in the trunk. But without bestowing more than a glance upon his

unfortunate follower, he dashed forward, and becoming involved in the

wreaths of flame and smoke, was lost to sight.



Attracted by Fenwolf's cries, the beholders perceived him crawl out of

the hole, and clamber into the upper part of the tree, where he roared

to them most piteously for aid. But even if they had been disposed

to render it, it was impossible to do so now; and after terrible and

protracted suffering, the poor wretch, half stifled with smoke, and

unable longer to maintain his hold of the branch to which he crept, fell

into the flames beneath, and perished.



Attributing its outbreak to supernatural agency, the party gazed on in

wonder at the fire, and rode round it as closely as their steeds would

allow them. But though they tarried till the flames had abated, and

little was left of the noble grove but a collection of charred and

smoking stumps, nothing was seen of the fiend or of the hapless girl

he had carried off. It served to confirm the notion of the supernatural

origin of the fire, in that it was confined within the mystic circle,

and did not extend farther into the woods.



At the time that the flames first burst forth, and revealed the

countenances of the lookers--on, it was discovered that the self-styled

Dacre and Cryspyn were no other than the king and the Duke of Suffolk.



"If this mysterious being is mortal, he must have perished now,"

observed Henry; "and if he is not, it is useless to seek for him

further."



Day had begun to break as the party quitted the scene of devastation.

The king and Suffolk, with the archers, returned to the castle; but

Wyat, Surrey, and Richmond rode towards the lake, and proceeded along

its banks in the direction of the forester's hut.



Their progress was suddenly arrested by the sound of lamentation, and

they perceived, in a little bay overhung by trees, which screened it

from the path, an old man kneeling beside the body of a female, which

he had partly dragged out of the lake. It was Tristram Lyndwood, and the

body was that of Mabel. Her tresses were dishevelled, and dripping with

wet, as were her garments; and her features white as marble. The old man

was weeping bitterly.



With Wyat, to dismount and grasp the cold hand of the hapless maiden was

the work of a moment.



"She is dead!" he cried, in a despairing voice, removing the dank

tresses from her brow, and imprinting a reverent kiss upon it.

"Dead!--lost to me for ever!"



"I found her entangled among those water-weeds," said Tristram, in tones

broken by emotion, "and had just dragged her to shore when you came up.

As you hope to prosper, now and hereafter, give her a decent burial. For

me all is over."



And, with a lamentable cry, he plunged into the lake, struck out to a

short distance, and then sank to rise no more.





How The King And The Duke Of Suffolk Were Assailed By Herne's Band How Tristram Lyndwood And Mabel Were Liberated facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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