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.





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