Of The Mysterious Disappearance Of Herne The Hunter In The Lake

Unable to procure any mitigation of Surrey's sentence, the Duke of

Richmond proceeded to the Round Tower, where he found his friend in a

small chamber, endeavouring to beguile his captivity by study.

Richmond endeavoured to console him, and was glad to find him in better

spirits than he expected. Early youth is seldom long dejected, and

misfortunes, at that buoyant season, seem lighter than they appear later

on in life. The cause for which he suffered, moreover, sustained Surrey,

and confident of the Fair Geraldine's attachment, he cared little

for the restraint imposed upon him. On one point he expressed some

regret--namely, his inability to prosecute the adventure of Herne the

Hunter with the duke.

"I grieve that I cannot accompany you, Richmond," he said; "but since

that is impossible, let me recommend you to take the stout archer who

goes by the name of the Duke of Shoreditch with you. He is the very man

you require."

After some consideration the duke assented, and, promising to return on

the following day and report what had occurred he took his leave, and

went in search of the archer in question. Finding he had taken up his

quarters at the Garter, he sent for him and proposed the matter.

Shoreditch heard the duke's relation with astonishment, but expressed

the greatest willingness to accompany him, pledging himself, as Richmond

demanded, to profound secrecy on the subject.

At the appointed hour--namely, midnight--the duke quitted the castle,

and found Shoreditch waiting for him near the upper gate. The latter was

armed with a stout staff, and a bow and arrows.

"If we gain sight of the mysterious horseman to-night," he said, "a

cloth-yard shaft shall try whether he is of mortal mould or not. If he

be not a demon, I will warrant he rides no more."

Quitting the Home Park, they shaped their course at once towards the

forest. It was a stormy night, and the moon was obscured by thick

clouds. Before they reached the hill, at the end of the long avenue, a

heavy thunderstorm came on, and the lightning, playing among the trees,

seemed to reveal a thousand fantastic forms to their half-blinded gaze.

Presently the rain began to descend in torrents, and compelled them to

take refuge beneath a large beech-tree.

It was evident, notwithstanding his boasting, that the courage of

Shoreditch was waning fast, and he at last proposed to his leader that

they should return as soon as the rain abated. But the duke indignantly

rejected the proposal.

While they were thus sheltering themselves, the low winding of a horn

was heard. The sound was succeeded by the trampling of horses' hoofs,

and the next moment a vivid flash of lightning showed a hart darting

past, followed by a troop of some twenty ghostly horsemen, headed by the

demon hunter.

The Duke of Richmond bade his companion send a shaft after them; but the

latter was so overcome by terror that he could scarcely fix an arrow

on the string, and when he bent the bow, the shaft glanced from the

branches of an adjoining tree.

The storm continued with unabated fury for nearly an hour, at the

expiration of which time it partially cleared off, and though it was

still profoundly dark, the duke insisted upon going on. So they pressed

forward beneath the dripping trees and through the wet grass. Ever and

anon the moon broke through the rifted clouds, and shed a wild glimmer

upon the scene.

As they were tracking a glade on the farther side of the hill, the

spectral huntsmen again swept past them, and so closely that they could

almost touch their horses. To the duke's horror, he perceived among

them the body of the butcher, Mark Fytton, sitting erect upon a powerful

black steed.

By this time, Shoreditch, having somewhat regained his courage,

discharged another shaft at the troop. The arrow struck the body of the

butcher, and completely transfixed it, but did not check his career;

while wild and derisive laughter broke from the rest of the cavalcade.

The Duke of Richmond hurried after the band, trying to keep them in

sight; and Shoreditch, flinging down his bow, which he found useless,

and grasping his staff, endeavoured to keep up with him. But though they

ran swiftly down the glade, and tried to peer through the darkness, they

could see nothing more of the ghostly company.

After a while they arrived at a hillside, at the foot of which lay the

lake, whose darkling waters were just distinguishable through an opening

in the trees. As the duke was debating with himself whether to go on or

retrace his course, the trampling of a horse was heard behind them, and

looking in the direction of the sound, they beheld Herne the Hunter,

mounted on his swarthy steed and accompanied only by his two black

hounds, galloping furiously down the declivity. Before him flew the owl,

whooping as it sailed along the air.

The demon hunter was so close to them that they could perfectly discern

his horrible lineaments, the chain depending from his neck, and his

antlered helm. Richmond shouted to him, but the rider continued his

headlong course towards the lake, heedless of the call.

The two beholders rushed forward, but by this time the huntsman had

gained the edge of the lake. One of his sable hounds plunged into it,

and the owl skimmed over its surface. Even in the hasty view which the

duke caught of the flying figure, he fancied he perceived that it was

attended by a fantastic shadow, whether cast by itself or arising from

some supernatural cause he could not determine.

But what followed was equally marvellous and incomprehensible. As the

wild huntsman reached the brink of the lake, he placed a horn to his

mouth, and blew from it a bright blue flame, which illumined his own

dusky and hideous features, and shed a wild and unearthly glimmer over

the surrounding objects.

While enveloped in this flame, the demon plunged into the lake, and

apparently descended to its abysses, for as soon as the duke could

muster courage to approach its brink, nothing could be seen of him, his

steed, or his hounds.

Of The Meeting Of King Henry The Eighth And Anne Boleyn At The Lower Gate Of The Mysterious Noise Heard In The Curfew Tower facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail