Of The Mysterious Noise Heard In The Curfew Tower





On quitting the kitchen, Henry, having been informed by Bouchier that

Tristram Lyndwood was lodged in the prison-chamber in the lower gateway,

proceeded thither to question him. He found the old man seated on a

bench, with his hands tied behind him; but though evidently much alarmed

at his situation, he could not be brought either by threats or proffers

to make any confession.



Out of patience, at length, the king ordered him to be conveyed to

the dungeon beneath the Curfew Tower, and personally superintended his

removal.



"I will find a means of shaking his obstinacy," said Henry, as he

quitted the vault with Bouchier. "If I cannot move him by other means,

I may through his granddaughter I will interrogate him in her presence

to-night."



"To-night, sire!" exclaimed Bouchier.



"Ay, to-night," repeated the king. "I am resolved, even if it should

cost the life of this maiden, whose charms have moved me so, to break

the infernal machinery woven around me. And now as I think it not

unlikely the miscreant Herne may attempt the prisoner's deliverance,

let the strictest watch be kept over the tower. Station an arquebusier

throughout the night at the door of the dungeon, and another at the

entrance to the chamber on the ground floor. Your own post must be on

the roof of the fortification, that you may watch if any attempt is made

to scale it from the town side, or to get in through the loopholes.

Keep a sharp lookout Bouchier, for I shall hold you responsible if any

mischance occurs."



"I will do my best, my liege," replied Bouchier; "and were it with a

mortal foe I had to contend, I should have no fear. But what vigilance

can avail against a fiend?"



"You have heard my injunctions, and will attend to them," rejoined the

king harshly. "I shall return anon to the examination."



So saying, he departed.



Brave as a lion on ordinary occasions, Bouchier entered upon his present

duty with reluctance and misgiving; and he found the arquebusiers by

whom he was attended, albeit stout soldiers, equally uneasy. Herne had

now become an object of general dread throughout the castle; and the

possibility of an encounter with him was enough to daunt the boldest

breast. Disguising his alarm, Bouchier issued his directions in an

authoritative tone, and then mounted with three arquebusiers to the

summit of the tower. It was now dark, but the moon soon arose, and her

beams rendered every object as distinguishable as daylight would have

done, so that watch was easily kept. But nothing occurred to occasion

alarm, until all at once, a noise like that of a hammer stricken against

a board, was heard in the chamber below.



Drawing his sword, Bouchier hurried down the steps leading into this

chamber, which was buried in darkness, and advanced so precipitately

and incautiously into the gloom, that he struck his head against a

crossbeam. The violence of the blow stunned him for a moment, but as

soon as he recovered, he called to the guard in the lower chamber to

bring up a torch. The order was promptly obeyed; but, meanwhile, the

sound had ceased, and, though they searched about, they could not

discover the occasion of it.



This, however, was not so wonderful for the singular construction of the

chamber, with its numerous crossbeams, its deep embrasures and recesses,

its insecure and uneven floor, its steep ladder-like staircases, was

highly favourable to concealment, it being utterly impossible, owing

to the intersections of the beams, for the searchers to see far before

them, or to move about quickly. In the midst of the chamber was a large

wooden compartment enclosing the cumbrous and uncouth machinery of the

castle clock, and through the box ran the cord communicating with the

belfry above. At that time, pieces of ordnance were mounted in all

the embrasures, but there is now only one gun, placed in a porthole

commanding Thames Street, and the long thoroughfare leading to Eton. The

view from this porthole of the groves of Eton, and of the lovely

plains on the north-west, watered by the river, is enchanting beyond

description.



Viewed from a recess which has been partly closed, the appearance of

this chamber is equally picturesque and singular; and it is scarcely

possible to pass beneath its huge beams or to gaze at the fantastic yet

striking combinations they form in connection with the deep embrasures,

the steep staircases and trap-doors, and not feel that the whole place

belongs to romance, and that a multitude of strange and startling

stories must be connected with it. The old architects were indeed great

romancers, and built for the painter and the poet.



Bouchier and his companion crept about under the great meshwork of

beams-peered into all the embrasures, and beneath the carriages of

the culverins. There was a heap of planks and beams lying on the floor

between the two staircases, but no one was near it.



The result of their investigations did not tend to decrease their alarm.

Bouchier would fain have had the man keep watch in the chamber, but

neither threats nor entreaties could induce him to remain there. He

was therefore sent below, and the captain returned to the roof. He had

scarcely emerged upon the leads when the hammering recommenced more

violently than before. In vain Bouchier ordered his men to go down. No

one would stir; and superstitious fear had by this time obtained such

mastery over the captain, that he hesitated to descend alone. To add to

his vexation, the arquebusier had taken the torch with him, so that he

should have to proceed in darkness.



At length he mustered up courage to make the attempt; but he paused

between each step, peering through the gloom, and half fancying he could

discern the figure of Herne near the spot where the pile of wood lay.

Certain it was that the sound of diabolical laughter, mingled with the

rattling of the chain and the sharp blows of the hammer, smote his

ears. The laughter became yet louder as Bouchier advanced, the hammering

ceased, and the clanking of the chain showed that its mysterious wearer

was approaching the foot of the steps to meet him. But the captain

had not nerve enough for the encounter. Invoking the protection of the

saints, he beat a precipitate retreat, and closed the little door at the

head of the steps after him.



The demon was apparently satisfied with the alarm he had occasioned, for

the hammering was not renewed at that time.





Of The Mysterious Disappearance Of Herne The Hunter In The Lake Of The Secret Interview Between Norris And Anne Boleyn And Of The Dissimulation Practised By The King facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback