Of The Desperate Resolution Formed By Tristram And Fenwolf And How The Train Was Laid





Transported with rage at the escape of the fugitives, Fenwolf turned to

old Tristram, and drawing his knife, threatened to make an end of him.

But the old man, who was armed with a short hunting-sword, stood upon

his defence, and they remained brandishing their weapons at each other

for some minutes, but without striking a blow.



"Well, I leave you to Herne's vengeance," said Fenwolf, returning his

knife to his belt. "You will pay dearly for allowing them to escape."



"I will take my chance," replied Tristram moodily: "my mind is made up

to the worst. I will no longer serve this fiend."



"What! dare you break your oath?" cried Fenwolf. "Remember the terrible

consequences."



"I care not for them," replied Tristram. "Harkee, Fenwolf: I know you

will not betray me, for you hate him as much as I do, and have as great

a desire for revenge. I will rid the forest of this fell being."



"Would you could make good your words, old man!" cried Fenwolf. "I would

give my life for vengeance upon him."



"I take the offer," said Tristram; "you shall have vengeance."



"But how?" cried the other. "I have proved that he is invulnerable and

the prints of his hands are written in black characters upon my throat.

If we could capture him, and deliver him to the king, we might purchase

our own pardon."



"No, that can never be," said Tristram. "My plan is to destroy him."



"Well, let me hear it," said Fenwolf.



"Come with me, then," rejoined Tristram.



And taking up the lamp, he led the way down a narrow lateral passage.

When about half-way down it, he stopped before a low door, cased with

iron, which he opened, and showed that the recess was filled with large

canvas bags.



"Why, this is the powder-magazine," said Fenwolf. "I can now guess how

you mean to destroy Herne. I like the scheme well enough; but it cannot

be executed without certain destruction to ourselves."



"I will take all the risk upon myself," said Tristram, "I only require

your aid in the preparations. What I propose to do is this. There is

powder enough in the magazine, not only to blow up the cave, but to set

fire to all the wood surrounding it. It must be scattered among the dry

brush-wood in a great circle round the cave, and connected by a train

with this magazine. When Herne comes hack, I will fire the train."



"There is much hazard in the scheme, and I fear it will fail," replied

Fenwolf, after a pause, "nevertheless, I will assist you."



"Then, let us go to work at once," said Tristram, "for we have no time

to lose. Herne will be here before midnight, and I should like to have

all ready for him."



Accordingly, they each shouldered a couple of the bags, and returning

to the cavern, threaded a narrow passage, and emerged from the secret

entrance in the grove.



While Fenwolf descended for a fresh supply of powder, Tristram

commenced operations. Though autumn was now far advanced, there had

been remarkably fine weather of late; the ground was thickly strewn with

yellow leaves, the fern was brown and dry, and the brushwood crackled

and broke as a passage was forced through it. The very trees were

parched by the long-continued drought. Thus favoured in his design,

Tristram scattered the contents of one of the bags in a thick line among

the fern and brushwood, depositing here and there among the roots of a

tree, several pounds of powder, and covering the heaps over with dried

sticks and leaves.



While he was thus employed, Fenwolf appeared with two more bags of

powder, and descended again for a fresh supply. When he returned, laden

as before, the old forester had already described a large portion of the

circle he intended to take.



Judging that there was now powder sufficient, Tristram explained to his

companion how to proceed; and the other commenced laying a train on the

left of the secret entrance, carefully observing the instructions given

him. In less than an hour, they met together at a particular tree, and

the formidable circle was complete.



"So far, well!" said Tristram, emptying the contents of his bag beneath

the tree, and covering it with leaves and sticks, as before; "and now to

connect this with the cavern."



With this, he opened another bag, and drew a wide train towards the

centre of the space. At length, he paused at the foot of a large hollow

tree.



"I have ascertained," he said, "that this tree stands immediately over

the magazine; and by following this rabbit's burrow, I have contrived

to make a small entrance into it. A hollow reed introduced through the

hole, and filled with powder, will be sure to reach the store below."



"An excellent ideal," replied Fenwolf. "I will fetch one instantly."



And starting off to the side of the lake, he presently returned with

several long reeds, one of which was selected by Tristram and thrust

into the burrow. It proved of the precise length required; and as soon

as it touched the bottom, it was carefully filled with powder from a

horn. Having connected this tube with the side train, and scattered

powder for several yards around, so as to secure instantaneous ignition,

Tristram pronounced that the train was complete.



"We have now laid a trap from which Herne will scarcely escape," he

observed, with a moody laugh, to Fenwolf.



They then prepared to return to the cave, but had not proceeded many

yards, when Herne, mounted on his sable steed, burst through the trees.



"Ah! what make you here?" he cried, instantly checking his career. "I

bade you keep a strict watch over Mabel. Where is she?"



"She has escaped with Sir Thomas Wyat," replied Fenwolf, "and we have

been in search of them."



"Escaped!" exclaimed Herne, springing from his steed, and rushing up

to him; "dogs! you have played me false. But your lives shall pay the

penalty of your perfidy."



"We had no hand in it whatever," replied Fenwolf doggedly. "She

contrived to get out of a chamber in which I placed her, and to liberate

Sir Thomas Wyat. They then procured a steed from the stable, and plunged

through the pool into the lake."



"Hell's malison upon them, and upon you both!" cried Herne. "But you

shall pay dearly for your heedlessness,--if, indeed, it has not been

something worse. How long have they been gone?"



"It may be two hours," replied Fenwolf.



"Go to the cave," cried Herne, "and await my return there; and if I

recover not the prize, woe betide you both!"



And with these words, he vaunted upon his steed and disappeared.



"And woe betide you too, false fiend!" cried Fenwolf. "When you come

back you shall meet with a welcome you little expect. Would we had fired

the train, Tristram, even though we had perished with him!"



"It will be time enough to fire it on his return," replied the old

forester; "it is but postponing our vengeance for a short time. And now

to fix our positions. I will take my station in yon brake."



"And I in that hollow tree," said Fenwolf. "Whoever first beholds him

shall fire the train."



"Agreed!" replied Tristram. "Let us now descend to the cave and see that

all is right in the magazine, and then we will return and hold ourselves

in readiness for action."





Of The Compact Between Sir Thomas Wyat And Herne The Hunter Of The Earl Of Surrey's Solitary Ramble In The Home Park facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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