Of The Visit Of The Two Guildford Merchants To The Forester's Hut





Tristam Lyndwood did not return home till late in the evening; and when

informed of the cardinal's visit, he shook his head gravely.



"I am sorry we went to the hunting party," he observed. "Valentine

Hagthorne said mischief would come of it, and I wish I had attended to

his advice."



"I see no mischief in the matter, grandsire," cried Mabel. "On the

contrary, I think I have met with excellent fortune. The good cardinal

promises me a high destiny, and says the king himself noticed me."



"Would his regards had fallen anywhere than on you," rejoined Tristram.

"But I warrant me you told the cardinal your history--all you know of

it, at least."



"I did so," she replied; "nor did I know I was doing any harm."



"Answer no such inquiries in future," said Tristram angrily.



"But, grandfather, I could not refuse to answer the cardinal," she

replied, in a deprecating voice.



"No more excuses, but attend to my injunctions," said Tristram. "Have

you seen Morgan Fenwolf to-day?"



"No; and I care not if I never see him again," she replied pettishly.



"You dislike him strangely, Mab," rejoined her grandfather; "he is the

best keeper in the forest, and makes no secret of his love for you."



"The very reason why I dislike him," she returned.



"By the same rule, if what the cardinal stated be true--though, trust

me, he was but jesting--you ought to dislike the king. But get my

supper. I have need of it, for I have fasted long."



Mabel hastened to obey, and set a mess of hot pottage and other viands

before him. Little more conversation passed between them, for the old

man was weary, and sought his couch early.



That night Mabel did nothing but dream of the king--of stately chambers,

rich apparel, and countless attendants. She awoke, and finding herself

in a lowly cottage, and without a single attendant, was, like other

dreamers of imaginary splendour, greatly discontented.



The next morning her grandsire went again to Bray Wood, and she was

left to muse upon the event of the previous day. While busied about

some trifling occupation, the door suddenly opened, and Morgan Fenwolf

entered the cottage. He was followed by a tall man, with a countenance

of extreme paleness, but a noble and commanding figure. There was

something so striking in the appearance of the latter person, that it

riveted the attention of Mabel. But no corresponding effect was produced

on the stranger, for he scarcely bestowed a look upon her.



Morgan Fenwolf hastily asked whether her grandsire was at home, or near

at hand, and being answered in the negative, appeared much disappointed.

He then said that he must borrow the skiff for a short while, as he

wished to visit some nets on the lake. Mabel readily assented, and

the stranger quitted the house, while Fenwolf lingered to offer some

attention to Mabel, which was so ill received that he was fain to hurry

forth to the boathouse, where he embarked with his companion. As soon as

the plash of oars announced their departure, Mabel went forth to watch

them. The stranger, who was seated in the stern of the boat, for the

first time fixed his large melancholy eyes full upon her, and did not

withdraw his gaze till an angle of the lake hid him from view.



Marvelling who he could be, and reproaching herself for not questioning

Fenwolf on the subject, Mabel resolved to repair the error when the

skiff was brought back. But the opportunity did not speedily occur.

Hours flew by, the shades of evening drew on, but neither Fenwolf nor

the stranger returned.



Soon after dusk her grandfather came home. He did not express the least

astonishment at Fenwolf's prolonged absence, but said that he was sure

to be back in the course of the evening, and the skiff was not wanted.



"He will bring us a fine jack or a carp for dinner to-morrow, I'll

warrant me," he said. "If he had returned in time we might have had

fish for supper. No matter. I must make shift with the mutton pie and a

rasher of bacon. Morgan did not mention the name of his companion, you

say?"



"He did not," replied Mabel; "but I hope he will bring him with him. He

is the goodliest gentleman I ever beheld."



"What! a goodlier gentleman than the king!" cried Tristram.



"Nay, they should not be compared," replied Mabel: "the one is stout

and burly; the other slight, long-visaged, and pale, but handsome

withal--very handsome."



"Well, I daresay I shall see him anon," said Tristram. "And now for

supper, for I am as sharp-set as a wolf; and so is old Hubert," he

added, glancing affectionately at the hound by which he was attended.



Mabel placed the better part of a huge pie before him, which the old

forester attacked with great zeal. He then fell to work upon some slices

of bacon toasted over the embers by his granddaughter, and having washed

them down with a jug of mead, declared he had supped famously. While

taking care of himself, he did not forget his hound. From time to time

he threw him morsels of the pie, and when he had done he gave him a

large platterful of bones.



"Old Hubert has served me faithfully nigh twenty years," he said,

patting the hound's shaggy neck, "and must not be neglected."



Throwing a log of wood on the fire, he drew his chair into the

ingle-nook, and disposed himself to slumber. Meanwhile, Mabel busied

herself about her household concern, and was singing a lulling melody to

her grandfather, in a voice of exquisite sweetness, when a loud tap was

heard at the door. Tristram roused himself from his doze, and old Hubert

growled menacingly.



"Quiet, Hubert--quiet!" cried Tristram. "It cannot be Morgan Fenwolf,"

he added. "He would never knock thus. Come in, friend, whoever thou

art."



At this invitation two persons darkened the doorway. The foremost was a

man of bulky frame and burly demeanour. He was attired in a buff jerkin,

over which he wore a loose great surcoat; had a flat velvet cap on his

head; and carried a stout staff in his hand. His face was broad and

handsome, though his features could scarcely be discerned in the

doubtful light to which they were submitted. A reddish-coloured beard

clothed his chin. His companion, who appeared a trifle the taller of the

two, and equally robust, was wrapped in a cloak of dark green camlet.



"Give you good e'en, friend," said the foremost stranger to the

forester. "We are belated travellers, on our way from Guildford

to Windsor, and, seeing your cottage, have called to obtain some

refreshment before we cross the great park. We do not ask you to bestow

a meal upon us, but will gladly pay for the best your larder affords."



"You shall have it, and welcome, my masters," replied Tristram, "but I am

afraid my humble fare will scarcely suit you."



"Fear nothing," replied the other; "we have good appetites, and are not

over dainty. Beshrew me, friend," he added, regarding Mabel, "you have a

comely daughter."



"She is my granddaughter, sir," replied Tristram.



"Well, your granddaughter, then," said the other; "by the mass, a lovely

wench. We have none such in Guildford, and I doubt if the king hath such

in Windsor Castle. What say you, Charles Brandon?"



"It were treason to agree with you, Harry La Roy," replied Brandon,

laughing, "for they say the king visits with the halter all those who

disparage the charms of the Lady Anne Boleyn. But, comparisons apart,

this damsel is very fair."



"You will discompose her, my masters, if you praise her thus to her

face," said Tristram somewhat testily. "Here, Mab, bring forth all my

scanty larder affords, and put some rashers of bacon on the fire."



"Cold meat and bread will suffice for us," said Harry: "we will not

trouble the damsel to play the cook."



With this Mabel, who appeared a good deal embarrassed by the presence of

the strangers, spread a cloth of snow-white linen on the little table,

and placed the remains of the pie and a large oven cake before them. The

new-comers sate down, and ate heartily of the humble viands, he who had

answered to the name of Harry frequently stopping in the course of his

repast to compliment his fair attendant.



"By our Lady, I have never been so waited on before," he added, rising

and removing his stool towards the fire, while his companion took up a

position, with his back against the wall, near the fireplace. "And now,

my pretty Mabel, have you never a cup of ale to wash down the pie?"



"I can offer you a draught of right good mead, master," said Tristram;

"and that is the only liquor my cottage can furnish."



"Nothing can be better," replied Harry. "The mead, by all means."



While Mabel went to draw the liquor, Tristram fixed his eyes on Harry,

whose features were now fully revealed by the light of the fire.



"Why do you look at me so hard, friend?" demanded Harry bluffly.



"I have seen some one very like you, master," replied Tristram, "and one

whom it is no light honour to resemble."



"You mean the king," returned Harry, laughing. "You are not the first

person who has thought me like him."



"You are vain of the likeness, I see, master," replied Tristram, joining

in the laugh. "How say you, Mab?" he added to his granddaughter, who at

that moment returned with a jug and a couple of drinking-horns. "Whom

does this gentleman resemble?"



"No one," returned Mabel, without raising her eyes.



"No one," echoed Harry, chucking her under the chin. "Look me full in

the face, and you will find out your mistake. Marry, if I were the royal

Henry, instead of what I am, a plain Guildford merchant, I should prefer

you to Anne Boleyn."



"Is that said in good sooth, sir?" asked Mabel, slightly raising

her eyes, and instantly dropping them before the ardent gaze of the

self-styled merchant.



"In good sooth and sober truth," replied Henry, rounding his arm and

placing his hand on his lusty thigh in true royal fashion.



"Were you the royal Henry, I should not care for your preference," said

Mabel more confidently. "My grandsire says the king changes his love as

often as the moon changes--nay, oftener."



"God's death!--your grandsire is a false knave to say so! cried Harry.



"Heaven help us! you swear the king's oaths," said Mabel. "And wherefore

not, sweetheart?" said Harry, checking himself. "It is enough to make

one swear, and in a royal fashion too, to hear one's liege lord unjustly

accused. I have ever heard the king styled a mirror of constancy. How

say you, Charles Brandon?--can you not give him a good character?"



"Oh! an excellent character," said Brandon. "He is constancy

itself--while the fit lasts," he added, aside.



"You hear what my friend says, sweetheart," observed Harry; "and I

assure you he has the best opportunities of judging. But I'll be sworn

you did not believe your grand-sire when he thus maligned the king."



"She contradicted me flatly," said Tristram. "But pour out the mead,

girl; our guests are waiting for it."



While Mabel, in compliance with her grandsire's directions, filled the

horn, the door of the cottage was noiselessly opened by Morgan Fenwolf,

who stepped in, followed by Bawsey. He stared inquisitively at the

strangers, but both were so much occupied by the damsel that he remained

unnoticed. A sign from the old forester told him he had better retire:

jealous curiosity, however, detained him, and he tarried till Harry had

received the cup from Mabel, and drained it to her health. He then drew

back, closed the door softly, and joined a dark and mysterious figure,

with hideous lineaments and an antlered helm upon its brows, lurking

outside the cottage.



Meanwhile, a cup of mead having been offered to Brandon, he observed to

his companion, "We must now be setting forth on our journey. Night is

advancing, and we have five long miles to traverse across the great

park."



"I would stay where I am," rejoined Harry, "and make a bench near

the fire serve me in lieu of a couch, but that business requires our

presence at the castle to-night. There is payment for our meal, friend,"

he added, giving a mark to Tristram, "and as we shall probably return

to-morrow night, we will call and have another supper with you. Provide

us a capon, and some fish from the lake."



"You pay as you swear, good sir, royally," replied Tristram. "You shall

have a better supper to-morrow night."



"You have a dangerous journey before you, sir," said Mabel. "They say

there are plunderers and evil spirits in the great park."



"I have no fear of any such, sweetheart," replied Harry. "I have a

strong arm to defend myself, and so has my friend Charles Brandon. And

as to evil spirits, a kiss from you will shield me from all ill."



And as he spoke, he drew her towards him, and clasping her in his arms,

imprinted a score of rapid kisses on her lips.



"Hold! hold, master!" cried Tristram, rising angrily; "this may not be.

'Tis an arrant abuse of hospitality."



"Nay, be not offended, good friend," replied Harry, laughing. "I am

on the look-out for a wife, and I know not but I may take your

granddaughter with me to Guildford."



"She is not to be so lightly won," cried Tristram; "for though I am but

a poor forester, I rate her as highly as the haughtiest noble can rate

his child."



"And with reason," said Harry. "Good-night, sweet-heart! By my crown,

Suffolk!" he exclaimed to his companion, as he quitted the cottage, "she

is an angel, and shall be mine."



"Not if my arm serves me truly," muttered Fenwolf, who, with his

mysterious companion, had stationed himself at the window of the hut.



"Do him no injury," returned the other; "he is only to be made

captive-mark that. And now to apprise Sir Thomas Wyat. We must intercept

them before they reach their horses."





Of The Secret Interview Between Norris And Anne Boleyn And Of The Dissimulation Practised By The King Of Tristram Lyndwood The Old Forester And His Granddaughter Mabel facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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