Of The Earl Of Surrey's Solitary Ramble In The Home Park





In the twentieth year of the reign of the right high and puissant King

Henry the Eighth, namely, in 1529, on the 21st of April, and on one

of the loveliest evenings that ever fell on the loveliest district in

England, a fair youth, having somewhat the appearance of a page, was

leaning over the terrace wall on the north side of Windsor Castle, and

gazing at the magnificent scene before him. On his right stretched the

broad green expanse forming the Home Park, studded with noble trees,

chiefly consisting of ancient oaks, of which England had already learnt

to be proud, thorns as old or older than the oaks, wide-spreading

beeches, tall elms, and hollies. The disposition of these trees was

picturesque and beautiful in the extreme. Here, at the end of a sweeping

vista, and in the midst of an open space covered with the greenest

sward, stood a mighty broad-armed oak, beneath whose ample boughs,

though as yet almost destitute of foliage, while the sod beneath them

could scarcely boast a head of fern, couched a herd of deer. There lay

a thicket of thorns skirting a sand-bank, burrowed by rabbits, on this

hand grew a dense and Druid-like grove, into whose intricacies the

slanting sunbeams pierced; on that extended a long glade, formed by a

natural avenue of oaks, across which, at intervals, deer were passing.

Nor were human figures wanting to give life and interest to the scene.

Adown the glade came two keepers of the forest, having each a couple of

buckhounds with them in leash, whose baying sounded cheerily amid the

woods. Nearer the castle, and bending their way towards it, marched a

party of falconers with their well-trained birds, whose skill they had

been approving upon their fists, their jesses ringing as they moved

along, while nearer still, and almost at the foot of the terrace wall,

was a minstrel playing on a rebec, to which a keeper, in a dress of

Lincoln green, with a bow over his shoulder, a quiver of arrows at his

back, and a comely damsel under his arm, was listening.



On the left, a view altogether different in character, though scarcely

less beautiful, was offered to the gaze. It was formed by the town of

Windsor, then not a third of its present size, but incomparably

more picturesque in appearance, consisting almost entirely of a long

straggling row of houses, chequered black and white, with tall gables,

and projecting storeys skirting the west and south sides of the castle,

by the silver windings of the river, traceable for miles, and reflecting

the glowing hues of the sky, by the venerable College of Eton,

embowered in a grove of trees, and by a vast tract of well-wooded and

well-cultivated country beyond it, interspersed with villages, churches,

old halls, monasteries, and abbeys.



Taking out his tablets, the youth, after some reflection, traced a few

lines upon them, and then, quitting the parapet, proceeded slowly, and

with a musing air, towards the north west angle of the terrace. He

could not be more than fifteen, perhaps not so much, but he was tall and

well-grown, with slight though remarkably well-proportioned limbs;

and it might have been safely predicted that, when arrived at years of

maturity, he would possess great personal vigour. His countenance was

full of thought and intelligence, and he had a broad lofty brow,

shaded by a profusion of light brown ringlets, a long, straight, and

finely-formed nose, a full, sensitive, and well-chiselled mouth, and

a pointed chin. His eyes were large, dark, and somewhat melancholy in

expression, and his complexion possessed that rich clear brown tint

constantly met with in Italy or Spain, though but seldom seen in

a native of our own colder clime. His dress was rich, but sombre,

consisting of a doublet of black satin, worked with threads of Venetian

gold; hose of the same material, and similarly embroidered; a shirt

curiously wrought with black silk, and fastened at the collar with black

enamelled clasps; a cloak of black velvet, passmented with gold, and

lined with crimson satin; a flat black velvet cap, set with pearls and

goldsmith's work, and adorned with a short white plume; and black velvet

buskins. His arms were rapier and dagger, both having gilt and graven

handles, and sheaths of black velvet.



As he moved along, the sound of voices chanting vespers arose from Saint

George's Chapel; and while he paused to listen to the solemn strains,

a door, in that part of the castle used as the king's privy lodgings,

opened, and a person advanced towards him. The new-comer had broad,

brown, martial-looking features, darkened still more by a thick

coal-black beard, clipped short in the fashion of the time, and a pair

of enormous moustachios. He was accoutred in a habergeon, which gleamed

from beneath the folds of a russet-coloured mantle, and wore a steel cap

in lieu of a bonnet on his head, while a long sword dangled from beneath

his cloak. When within a few paces of the youth, whose back was towards

him, and who did not hear his approach, he announced himself by a loud

cough, that proved the excellence of his lungs, and made the old walls

ring again, startling the jackdaws roosting in the battlements.



"What! composing a vesper hymn, my lord of Surrey?" he cried with a

laugh, as the other hastily thrust the tablets, which he had hitherto

held in his hand, into his bosom. "You will rival Master Skelton, the

poet laureate, and your friend Sir Thomas Wyat, too, ere long. But

will it please your lord-ship to quit for a moment the society of the

celestial Nine, and descend to earth, while I inform you that, acting

as your representative, I have given all needful directions for his

majesty's reception to-morrow?"



"You have not failed, I trust, to give orders to the groom of the

chambers for the lodging of my fair cousin, Mistress Anne Boleyn,

Captain Bouchier?" inquired the Earl of Surrey, with a significant

smile.



"Assuredly not, my lord!" replied the other, smiling in his turn. "She

will be lodged as royally as if she were Queen of England. Indeed, the

queen's own apartments are assigned her."



"It is well," rejoined Surrey. "And you have also provided for the

reception of the Pope's legate, Cardinal Campeggio?"



Bouchier bowed.



"And for Cardinal Wolsey?" pursued the other.



The captain bowed again.



"To save your lordship the necessity of asking any further questions,"

he said, "I may state briefly that I have done all as if you had done it

yourself."



"Be a little more particular, captain, I pray you," said Surrey.



"Willingly, my lord," replied Bouchier. "In your lord ship's name, then,

as vice-chamberlain, in which character I presented myself, I summoned

together the dean and canons of the College of St. George, the usher of

the black rod, the governor of the alms-knights, and the whole of the

officers of the household, and acquainted them, in a set speech-which, I

flatter myself, was quite equal to any that your lordship, with all your

poetical talents, could have delivered--that the king's highness, being

at Hampton Court with the two cardinals, Wolsey and Campeggio, debating

the matter of divorce from his queen, Catherine of Arragon, proposes to

hold the grand feast of the most noble order of the Garter at this his

castle of Windsor, on Saint George's Day--that is to say, the day after

to-morrow--and that it is therefore his majesty's sovereign pleasure

that the Chapel of St. George, in the said castle, be set forth and

adorned with its richest furniture; that the high altar be hung with

arras representing the patron saint of the order on horseback, and

garnished with the costliest images and ornaments in gold and silver;

that the pulpit be covered with crimson damask, inwrought with

flowers-de-luces of gold, portcullises, and roses; that the royal stall

be canopied with a rich cloth of state, with a haut-pas beneath it of

a foot high; that the stalls of the knights companions be decked with

cloth of tissue, with their scutcheons set at the back; and that all be

ready at the hour of tierce-hora tertia vespertina, as appointed by his

majesty's own statute--at which time the eve of the feast shall be held

to commence."



"Take breath, captain," laughed the earl.



"I have no need," replied Bouchier. "Furthermore, I delivered your

lordship's warrant from the lord chamberlain to the usher of the black

rod, to make ready and furnish Saint George's Hall, both for the supper

to-morrow and the grand feast on the following day; and I enjoined the

dean and canons of the college, the alms-knights, and all the other

officers of the order, to be in readiness for the occasion. And now,

having fulfilled my devoir, or rather your lordship's, I am content to

resign my post as vice-chamberlain, to resume my ordinary one, that of

your simple gentleman, and to attend you back to Hampton Court whenever

it shall please you to set forth."



"And that will not be for an hour, at the least," replied the earl; "for

I intend to take a solitary ramble in the Home Park."



"What I to seek inspiration for a song--or to meditate upon the charms

of the fair Geraldine, eh, my lord?" rejoined Bouchier. "But I will not

question you too shrewdly. Only let me caution you against going near

Herne's Oak. It is said that the demon hunter walks at nightfall, and

scares, if he does not injure, all those who cross his path. At curfew

toll I must quit the castle, and will then, with your attendants proceed

to the Garter, in Thames Street, where I will await your arrival. If we

reach Hampton Court by midnight, it will be time enough, and as the moon

will rise in an hour, we shall have a pleasant ride."



"Commend me to Bryan Bowntance, the worthy host of the Garter," said the

earl; "and bid him provide you with a bottle of his best sack in which

to drink my health."



"Fear me not," replied the other. "And I pray your lordship not to

neglect my caution respecting Herne the Hunter. In sober sooth, I have

heard strange stories of his appearance of late, and should not care to

go near the tree after dark."



The earl laughed somewhat sceptically, and the captain reiterating his

caution, they separated--Bouchier returning the way he came, and Surrey

proceeding towards a small drawbridge crossing the ditch on the eastern

side of the castle, and forming a means of communication with the Little

Park. He was challenged by a sentinel at the drawbridge, but on giving

the password he was allowed to cross it, and to pass through a gate on

the farther side opening upon the park.



Brushing the soft and dewy turf with a footstep almost as light and

bounding as that of a fawn, he speeded on for more than a quarter of a

mile, when he reached a noble beech-tree standing at the end of a clump

of timber. A number of rabbits were feeding beneath it, but at his

approach they instantly plunged into their burrows.



Here he halted to look at the castle. The sun had sunk behind it,

dilating its massive keep to almost its present height and tinging the

summits of the whole line of ramparts and towers, since rebuilt and

known as the Brunswick Tower, the Chester Tower, the Clarence Tower, and

the Victoria Tower, with rosy lustre.



Flinging himself at the foot of the beech-tree, the youthful earl

indulged his poetical reveries for a short time, and then, rising,

retraced his steps, and in a few minutes the whole of the south side of

the castle lay before him. The view comprehended the two fortifications

recently removed to make way for the York and Lancaster Towers, between

which stood a gate approached by a drawbridge; the Earl Marshal's Tower,

now styled from the monarch in whose reign it was erected, Edward the

Third's Tower; the black rod's lodgings; the Lieutenant's--now Henry the

Third's Tower; the line of embattled walls, constituting the lodgings of

the alms-knights; the tower tenanted by the governor of that body, and

still allotted to the same officer; Henry the Eight's Gateway, and the

Chancellor of the Garter's Tower--the latter terminating the line

of building. A few rosy beams tipped the pinnacles of Saint George's

Chapel, seen behind the towers above-mentioned, with fire; but, with

this exception, the whole of the mighty fabric looked cold and grey.



At this juncture the upper gate was opened, and Captain Bouchier and his

attendants issued from it, and passed over the drawbridge. The curfew

bell then tolled, the drawbridge was raised, the horsemen disappeared,

and no sound reached the listener's ear except the measured tread of the

sentinels on the ramparts, audible in the profound stillness.



The youthful earl made no attempt to join his followers, but having

gazed on the ancient pile before him till its battlements and towers

grew dim in the twilight, he struck into a footpath leading across the

park towards Datchet, and pursued it until it brought him near a dell

filled with thorns, hollies, and underwood, and overhung by mighty oaks,

into which he unhesitatingly plunged, and soon gained the deepest part

of it. Here, owing to the thickness of the hollies and the projecting

arms of other large overhanging timber, added to the uncertain light

above, the gloom was almost impervious, and he could scarcely see a

yard before him. Still, he pressed on unhesitatingly, and with a sort of

pleasurable sensation at the difficulties he was encountering. Suddenly,

however, he was startled by a blue phosphoric light streaming through

the bushes on the left, and, looking up, he beheld at the foot of an

enormous oak, whose giant roots protruded like twisted snakes from the

bank, a wild spectral-looking object, possessing some slight resemblance

to humanity, and habited, so far as it could be determined, in the skins

of deer, strangely disposed about its gaunt and tawny-coloured limbs. On

its head was seen a sort of helmet, formed of the skull of a stag, from

which branched a large pair of antlers; from its left arm hung a heavy

and rusty-looking chain, in the links of which burnt the phosphoric fire

before mentioned; while on its right wrist was perched a large horned

owl, with feathers erected, and red staring eyes.



Impressed with the superstitious feelings common to the age, the young

earl, fully believing he was in the presence of a supernatural being,

could scarcely, despite his courageous nature, which no ordinary matter

would have shaken, repress a cry. Crossing himself, he repeated, with

great fervency, a prayer, against evil spirits, and as he uttered it the

light was extinguished, and the spectral figure vanished. The clanking

of the chain was heard, succeeded by the hooting of the owl; then came a

horrible burst of laughter, then a fearful wail, and all was silent.



Up to this moment the young earl had stood still, as if spell-bound; but

being now convinced that the spirit had fled, he pressed forward, and,

ere many seconds, emerged from the brake. The full moon was rising as he

issued forth, and illuminating the glades and vistas, and the calmness

and beauty of all around seemed at total variance with the fearful

vision he had just witnessed. Throwing a shuddering glance at the

haunted dell, he was about to hurry towards the castle, when a large,

lightning-scathed, and solitary oak, standing a little distance from

him, attracted his attention.



This was the very tree connected with the wild legend of Herne the

Hunter, which Captain Bouchier had warned him not to approach, and he

now forcibly recalled the caution. Beneath it he perceived a figure,

which he at first took for that of the spectral hunter; but his fears

were relieved by a shout from the person, who at the same moment

appeared to catch sight of him.



Satisfied that, in the present instance, he had to do with a being of

this world, Surrey ran towards the tree, and on approaching it

perceived that the object of his alarm was a young man of very athletic

proportions, and evidently, from his garb, a keeper of the forest.



He was habited in a jerkin of Lincoln green cloth, with the royal badge

woven in silver on the breast, and his head was protected by a flat

green cloth cap, ornamented with a pheasant's tail. Under his right

arm he carried a crossbow; a long silver-tipped horn was slung in

his baldric; and he was armed with a short hanger, or wood-knife. His

features were harsh and prominent; and he had black beetling brows, a

large coarse mouth, and dark eyes, lighted up with a very sinister and

malignant expression.



He was attended by a large savage-looking staghound, whom he addressed

as Bawsey, and whose fierceness had to be restrained as Surrey

approached.



"Have you seen anything?" he demanded of the earl.



"I have seen Herne the Hunter himself, or the fiend in his likeness,"

replied Surrey.



And he briefly related the vision he had beheld.



"Ay, ay, you have seen the demon hunter, no doubt," replied the keeper

at the close of the recital. "I neither saw the light, nor heard the

laughter, nor the wailing cry you speak of; but Bawsey crouched at my

feet and whined, and I knew some evil thing was at hand. Heaven shield

us!" he exclaimed, as the hound crouched at his feet, and directed her

gaze towards the oak, uttering a low ominous whine, "she is at the same

trick again."



The earl glanced in the same direction, and half expected to see the

knotted trunk of the tree burst open and disclose the figure of the

spectral hunter. But nothing was visible--at least, to him, though it

would seem from the shaking limbs, fixed eyes, and ghastly visage of the

keeper, that some appalling object was presented to his gaze.



"Do you not see him?" cried the latter at length, in thrilling accents;

"he is circling the tree, and blasting it. There! he passes us now--do

you not see him?"



"No," replied Surrey; "but do not let us tarry here longer."



So saying he laid his hand upon the keeper's arm. The touch seemed to

rouse him to exertion: He uttered a fearful cry, and set off at a quick

pace along the park, followed by Bawsey, with her tail between her legs.

The earl kept up with him, and neither halted till they had left the

wizard oak at a considerable distance behind them.



"And so you did not see him?" said the keeper, in a tone of exhaustion,

as he wiped the thick drops from his brow.



"I did not," replied Surrey.



"That is passing strange," rejoined the other. "I myself have seen him

before, but never as he appeared to-night."



"You are a keeper of the forest, I presume, friend?" said Surrey. "How

are you named?"



"I am called Morgan Fenwolf," replied the keeper; "and you?"



"I am the Earl of Surrey;' returned the young noble.



"What!" exclaimed Fenwolf, making a reverence, "the son to his grace of

Norfolk?"



The earl replied in the affirmative.



"Why, then, you must be the young nobleman whom I used to see so often

with the king's son, the Duke of Richmond, three or four years ago,

at the castle?" rejoined Fenwolf "You are altogether grown out of my

recollection."



"Not unlikely," returned the earl. "I have been at Oxford, and have only

just completed my studies. This is the first time I have been at Windsor

since the period you mention."



"I have heard that the Duke of Richmond was at Oxford likewise,"

observed Fenwolf.



"We were at Cardinal College together," replied Surrey. "But the duke's

term was completed before mine. He is my senior by three years."



"I suppose your lordship is returning to the castle?" said Fenwolf.



"No," replied Surrey. "My attendants are waiting for me at the Garter,

and if you will accompany me thither, I will bestow a cup of good ale

upon you to recruit you after the fright you have undergone."



Fenwolf signified his graceful acquiescence, and they walked on in

silence, for the earl could not help dwelling upon the vision he had

witnessed, and his companion appeared equally abstracted. In this sort

they descended the hill near Henry the Eighth's Gate, and entered Thames

Street.





Of The Desperate Resolution Formed By Tristram And Fenwolf And How The Train Was Laid Of The Ghostly Chase Beheld By The Earl Of Surrey And The Duke Of Richmond In Windsor Forest facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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