Of The Combat Between Will Sommers And Patch





Mabel's heart fluttered violently at the usher's announcement, and for

a moment the colour deserted her cheek, while the next instant she was

covered with blushes. As to poor Patch, feeling that his indiscretion

might place him in great jeopardy and seriously affect his master, to

whom he was devotedly attached, he cast a piteous and imploring look at

his antagonist, but was answered only by a derisive laugh, coupled

with an expressive gesture to intimate that a halter would be his fate.

Fearful that mischief might ensue, the good-natured Simon Quanden got

out of his chair and earnestly besought Will not to carry matters too

far; but the jester remained implacable.



It was not unusual with Henry to visit the different offices of the

castle and converse freely and familiarly with the members of his

household, but it was by no means safe to trust to the continuance of

his good humour, or in the slightest degree to presume upon it. It is

well known that his taste for variety of character often led him, like

the renowned Caliph Haroun Al Raschid, to mix with the lower classes of

his subjects in disguise, at which times many extraordinary adventures

are said to have befallen him. His present visit to the kitchen,

therefore, would have occasioned no surprise to its occupants if it

had not occurred so soon after the cardinal's arrival. But it was this

circumstance, in fact, that sent him thither. The intelligence brought

by Wolsey of the adjournment of the court for three days, under the plea

of giving the queen time for her allegations, was so unlooked for by

Henry that he quitted the cardinal in high displeasure, and was about to

repair to Anne Boleyn, when he encountered Bouchier, who told him

that Mabel Lyndwood had been brought to the castle, and her grandsire

arrested. The information changed Henry's intentions at once, and he

proceeded with Bouchier and some other attendants to the kitchen, where

he was given to understand he should find the damsel.



Many a furtive glance was thrown at the king, for no one dared openly

to regard him as he approached the forester's fair granddaughter. But

he tarried only a moment beside her, chucked her under the chin, and,

whispering a word or two in her ear that heightened her blushes, passed

on to the spot where the two jesters were standing.



"What dost thou here, knave?" he said to Will Sommers.



"I might rather ask that question of your majesty," replied Will; "and I

would do so but that I require not to be told."



"I have come to see what passeth in my household," replied the king,

throwing himself into the chair lately occupied by the chief cook. "Ah,

Hob and Nob, my merry rascals," he cried, patting the turnspits, who ran

towards him and thrust their noses against his hand, "ye are as gamesome

and loving as ever, I see. Give me a manchet for them, Master Cook,

and let not the proceedings in the kitchen be stayed for my presence. I

would not have my supper delayed, or the roasts spoiled, for any false

ceremony. And now, Will, what hast thou to say that thou lookest so hard

at me?"



"I have a heavy charge to bring against this knave, an' please your

majesty," replied Will Sommers, pointing to Patch.



"What! hath he retorted upon thee too sharply?" replied the king,

laughing. "If so, challenge him to the combat, and settle the grievance

with thy lathen dagger. But refer not the matter to me. I am no judge in

fools' quarrels."



"Your own excepted," muttered Will. "This is not a quarrel that can be

so adjusted," he added aloud. "I charge this rascal Patch with speaking

disrespectfully of your highness in the hearing of the whole kitchen.

And I also charge his master the cardinal with having secreted in his

cellars at Hampton a vast amount of treasure, obtained by extortion,

privy dealings with foreign powers, and other iniquitous practices, and

which ought of right to find its way to your royal exchequer."



"'And which shall find its way thither, if thou dost not avouch a

fable," replied the king.



"Your majesty shall judge," rejoined Will. And he repeated the story

which he had just before related.



"Can this be true?" exclaimed Henry at its close.



"It is false, your highness, every word of it," cried Patch, throwing

himself at the king's feet, "except so far as relates to our visits to

the cellar, where, I shame to speak it, we drank so much that our senses

clean forsook us. As to my indiscreet speech touching your majesty,

neither disrespect nor disloyalty were intended by it. I was goaded to

the rejoinder by the sharp sting of this hornet."



"The matter of the treasure shall be inquired into without delay," said

Henry. "As to the quarrel, it shall be settled thus. Get both of you

upon that table. A flour-bag shall be given to each; and he who is first

knocked off shall be held vanquished."



The king's judgment was received with as much applause as dared be

exhibited by the hearers; and in an instant the board was cleared, and a

couple of flour-bags partly filled delivered to the combatants by Simon

Quanden, who bestirred himself with unwonted activity on the occasion.



Leaping upon the table, amid the smothered mirth of the assemblage,

the two jesters placed themselves opposite each other, and grinned such

comical defiance that the king roared with laughter. After a variety of

odd movements and feints on either side, Patch tried to bring down his

adversary by a tremendous two-handed blow; but in dealing it, the weight

of the hag dragged him forward, and well-nigh pitched him head foremost

upon the floor. As it was, he fell on his face upon the table, and in

this position received several heavy blows upon the prominent part of

his back from Will Sommers. Ere long, however, he managed to regain his

legs, and, smarting with pain, attacked his opponent furiously in

his turn. For a short space fortune seemed to favour him. His bag

had slightly burst, and the flour, showering from it with every blow,

well-nigh blinded his adversary, whom he drove to the very edge of the

table. At this critical juncture Will managed to bring down his bag full

upon his opponent's sconce, and the force of the blow bursting it, Patch

was covered from crown to foot with flour, and blinded in his turn. The

appearance of the combatants was now so exquisitely ridiculous, that the

king leaned back in his chair to indulge his laughter, and the mirth of

the spectators could no longer be kept within decorous limits. The very

turnspits barked in laughing concert.



"Well fought on both sides!" cried Henry; "it were hard to say which

will prove the victor. Now, knaves, to it again--ha! ha!--to it again!"



Once more the bags were wielded, descended, and the blows were so well

directed on either side, that both combatants fell backwards. Again the

king's laughter rose loud and long. Again the merriment of the other

beholders was redoubled. Again Hob and Nob barked joyously, and tried

to spring on to the table to take part in the conflict. Amid the general

glee, the combatants rose and renewed the fight, dealing blows thick

and fast--for the bags were now considerably lightened of their

contents--until they were completely hidden from view by a cloud of

white dust.



"We cannot see the fray," remarked Henry; "but we can hear the din of

battle. Which will prove the victor, I marvel?"



"I am for Will Sommers," cried Bouchier.



"And I for Patch," said Simon Quanden. "Latterly he hath seemed to me to

have the advantage."



"It is decided!" cried the king, rising, as one of the combatants was

knocked off the table, and fell to the floor with a great noise. "Who is

it?"



"Patch," replied a faint voice. And through the cloud of dust struggled

forth the forlorn figure of the cardinal's jester, while Will Sommers

leaped triumphantly to the ground.



"Get thee to a wash-tub, knave, and cleanse thyself," said Henry,

laughing. "In consideration of the punishment thou hast undergone, I

pardon thee thy treasonable speech."



So saying, he rose, and walked towards Mabel, who had been quite as much

alarmed as amused by the scene which had just taken place.



"I hope you have been as well cared for, damsel," he said, "since your

arrival at the castle, as you cared for the Duke of Suffolk and myself

when we visited your cottage?



"I have had everything I require, my liege," replied Mabel timidly.



"Dame Quanden will take charge of you till to-morrow," rejoined the

king, "when you will enter upon the service of one of our dames."



"Your majesty is very considerate," said Mabel, "but I would rather go

back at early dawn to my grandsire."



"That is needless," rejoined the king sternly. "Your grandsire is in the

castle."



"I am glad to hear it!" exclaimed Mabel. And then, altering her tone, for

she did not like the expression of the king's countenance, she added, "I

hope he has not incurred your majesty's displeasure."



"I trust he will be able to clear himself, Mabel," said Henry, "but he

labours under the grave suspicion of leaguing with lawless men."



Mabel shuddered, for the thought of what she had witnessed on the

previous night during the storm rushed forcibly to her recollection. The

king noticed her uneasiness, and added, in a gentler tone, "If he makes

such confession as will bring the others to justice, he has nothing to

fear. Dame Quanden, I commit this maiden to your charge. To-morrow she

will take her place as attendant to the Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald."



So saying, he moved off with Bouchier and the rest of his attendants,

leaving Mabel to the care of the cook's good humoured spouse, who seeing

her eyes filled with tears, strove to cheer her, and led her towards a

small side-table, where she pressed wine and cates upon her.



"Be of good cheer, sweetheart," she said, in a soothing tone; "no harm

will befall your grandfather. You are much too high in favour with the

king for that."



"I liked the king much better as I saw him at our cottage, good dame,"

replied Mabel, smiling through her tears, "in the guise of a Guildford

merchant. He seemed scarcely to notice me just now."



"That was because so many eyes were upon you, sweet-heart," replied

Deborah; "but sooth to say, I should be better pleased if he did not

notice you at all."



Mabel blushed, and hung her head.



"I am glad you are to be an attendant on the Lady Fitzgerald," pursued

Deborah, "for she is the fairest young lady at court, and as good and

gentle as she is fair, and I am sure you will find her a kind mistress.

I will tell you something about her. She is beloved by the king's son,

the Duke of Richmond, but she requites not his passion, for her heart

is fixed on the youthful Earl of Surrey. Alack-a-day! the noble rivals

quarrelled and crossed swords about her; but as luck would have it, they

were separated before any mischief was done. The king was very wroth

with Lord Surrey, and ordered him to be imprisoned for two months in the

Round Tower, in this castle, where he is now, though his term has very

nearly expired."



"How I pity him, to be thus harshly treated!" remarked Mabel, her eyes

swimming with tears, "and the Lady Elizabeth too! I shall delight to

serve her."



"I am told the earl passes the whole of his time in poring over books

and writing love-verses and sonnets," said Deborah. "It seems strange

that one so young should be a poet; but I suppose he caught the art from

his friend Sir Thomas Wyat."



"Is he a friend of Sir Thomas Wyat?" asked Mabel quickly.



"His close friend," replied Deborah; "except the Duke of Richmond,

now his rival, he had none closer. Have you ever seen Sir Thomas,

sweetheart?"



"Yes, for a few moments," replied Mabel confusedly.



"I heard that he lingered for a short time in the forest before his

departure for Paris," said Dame Quanden. "There was a strange rumour

that he had joined the band of Herne the Hunter. But that must have been

untrue."



"Is he returned from France?" inquired Mabel, without heeding the

remark.



"I fancy not," replied the good dame. "At all events, he is not come to

the castle. Know you not," she added, in a low confidential tone, "that

the king is jealous of him? He was a former suitor to the Lady Anne

Boleyn, and desperately in love with her; and it is supposed that his

mission to France was only a pretext to get him out of the way."



"I suspected as much," replied Mabel. "Alas! for Sir Thomas; and alas!

for the Earl of Surrey."



"And alas! for Mabel Lyndwood, if she allows her heart to be fixed upon

the king," said Deborah.



While this was passing the business of the kitchen, which had been

interrupted by the various incidents above related, and especially by

the conflict between the two jesters, was hurried forward, and for some

time all was bustle and confusion.



But as soon as the supper was served, and all his duties were fully

discharged, Simon Quanden, who had been bustling about, sat down in his

easy-chair, and recruited himself with a toast and a sack posset. Hob

and Nob had their supper at the same time, and the party at the table,

which had been increased by the two archers and Nicholas Clamp, attacked

with renewed vigour a fresh supply of mead and ale, which had been

provided for them by Jack of the Bottles.



The conversation then turned upon Herne the Hunter; and as all had heard

more or less about him, and some had seen him, while few knew the legend

connected with him, Hector Cutbeard volunteered to relate it; upon which

all the party gathered closer together, and Mabel and Deborah left off

talking, and drew near to listen.





Of The Brief Advantage Gained By The Queen And The Cardinal Of The Compact Between Sir Thomas Wyat And Herne The Hunter facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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