How Tristram Lyndwood And Mabel Were Liberated

Intelligence of the queen's return was instantly conveyed to Anne

Boleyn, and filled her with indescribable alarm. All her visions of

power and splendour seemed to melt away at once. She sent for her

father, Lord Rochford, who hurried to her in a state of the utmost

anxiety, and closely questioned her whether the extraordinary change had

not been occasioned by some imprudence of her own. But she positively

denied the c
arge, alleging that she had parted with the king scarcely

an hour before on terms of the most perfect amity, and with the full

conviction that she had accomplished the cardinal's ruin.

"You should not have put forth your hand against him till you were sure

of striking the blow," said Rochford. "There is no telling what secret

influence he has over the king; and there may yet be a hard battle to

fight. But not a moment must be lost in counteracting his operations.

Luckily, Suffolk is here, and his enmity to the cardinal will make him

a sure friend to us. Pray Heaven you have not given the king fresh

occasion for jealousy! That is all I fear."

And quitting his daughter, he sought out Suffolk, who, alarmed at what

appeared like a restoration of Wolsey to favour, promised heartily to

co-operate with him in the struggle; and that no time might be lost,

the duke proceeded at once to the royal closet, where he found the king

pacing moodily to and fro.

"Your majesty seems disturbed," said the duke.

"Disturbed!--ay!" exclaimed the king. "I have enough to disturb me. I

will never love again. I will forswear the whole sex. Harkee, Suffolk,

you are my brother, my second self, and know all the secrets of

my heart. After the passionate devotion I have displayed for Anne

Boleyn--after all I have done for her--all I have risked for her--I have

been deceived."

"Impossible, my liege?" exclaimed Suffolk.

"Why, so I thought," cried Henry, "and I turned a deaf ear to all

insinuations thrown out against her, till proof was afforded which I

could no longer doubt."

"And what was the amount of the proof, my liege?" asked Suffolk.

"These letters," said Henry, handing them to him, "found on the person

of Sir Thomas Wyat."

"But these only prove, my liege, the existence of a former

passion--nothing more," remarked Suffolk, after he had scanned them.

"But she vows eternal constancy to him!" cried Henry; "says she shall

ever love him--says so at the time she professes devoted love for me!

How can I trust her after that? Suffolk, I feel she does not love me

exclusively; and my passion is so deep and devouring, that it demands

entire return. I must have her heart as well as her person; and I feel I

have only won her in my quality of king."

"I am persuaded your majesty is mistaken," said the duke. "Would I

could think so!" sighed Henry. "But no--no, I cannot be deceived. I

will conquer this fatal passion. Oh, Suffolk! it is frightful to be the

bondslave of a woman--a fickle, inconstant woman. But between the depths

of love and hate is but a step; and I can pass from one to the other."

"Do nothing rashly, my dear liege," said Suffolk; "nothing that may

bring with it after-repentance. Do not be swayed by those who have

inflamed your jealousy, and who could practise upon it. Think the

matter calmly over, and then act. And till you have decided, see neither

Catherine nor Anne; and, above all, do not admit Wolsey to your secret


"You are his enemy, Suffolk," said the king sternly.

"I am your majesty's friend," replied the duke. "I beseech you, yield to

me on this occasion, and I am sure of your thanks hereafter."

"Well, I believe you are right, my good friend and brother," said Henry,

"and I will curb my impulses of rage and jealousy. To-morrow, before I

see either the queen or Anne, we will ride forth into the forest, and

talk the matter further over."

"Your highness has come to a wise determination," said the duke.

"Oh, Suffolk!" sighed Henry, "would I had never seen this siren! She

exercises a fearful control over me, and enslaves my very soul."

"I cannot say whether it is for good or ill that you have met, my dear

liege," replied Suffolk, "but I fancy I can discern the way in which

your ultimate decision will be taken. But it is now near midnight. I

wish your majesty sound and untroubled repose."

"Stay!" cried Henry, "I am about to visit the Curfew Tower, and must

take you with me. I will explain my errand as we go. I had some thought

of sending you there in my stead. Ha!" he exclaimed, glancing at his

finger, "By Saint Paul, it is gone!"

"What is gone, my liege?" asked Suffolk.

"My signet," replied Henry, "I missed it not till now. It has been

wrested from me by the fiend, during my walk from the Curfew Tower. Let

us not lose a moment, or the prisoners will be set free by him,--if they

have not been liberated already."

So saying, he took a couple of dags--a species of short gun--from a

rest on the wall, and giving one to Suffolk, thrust the other into his

girdle. Thus armed, they quitted the royal lodgings, and hurried in

the direction of the Curfew Tower. Just as they reached the Horseshoe

Cloisters, the alarm-bell began to ring.

"Did I not tell you so?" cried Henry furiously; "they have escaped. Ha!

it ceases!--what has happened?"

About a quarter of an hour after the king had quitted the Curfew Tower,

a tall man, enveloped in a cloak, and wearing a high conical cap,

presented himself to the arquebusier stationed at the entrance to the

dungeon, and desired to be admitted to the prisoners.

"I have the king's signet," he said, holding forth the ring. On seeing

this, the arquebusier, who recognised the ring, unlocked the door, and

admitted him. Mabel was kneeling on the ground beside her grandsire,

with her hands raised as in prayer, but as the tall man entered the

vault, she started to her feet, and uttered a slight scream.

"What is the matter, child?" cried Tristram..

"He is here!--he is come!" cried Mabel, in a tone of the deepest terror.

"Who--the king?" cried Tristram, looking up. "Ah! I see! Herne is come

to deliver me."

"Do not go with him, grandsire," cried Mabel. "In the name of all the

saints, I implore you, do not."

"Silence her!" said Herne in a harsh, imperious voice, "or I leave you."

The old man looked imploringly at his granddaughter.

"You know the conditions of your liberation?" said Herne.

"I do--I do," replied Tristram hastily, and with a shudder.

"Oh, grandfather!" cried Mabel, falling at his feet, "do not, I conjure

you, make any conditions with this dreaded being, or it will be at the

expense of your salvation. Better I should perish at the stake--better

you should suffer the most ignominious death, than this should be."

"Do you accept them?" cried Herne, disregarding her supplications.

Tristram answered in the affirmative.

"Recall your words, grandfather--recall your words!" cried Mabel. "I

will implore pardon for you on my knees from the king, and he will not

refuse me."

"The pledge cannot be recalled, damsel," said Herne; "and it is to save

you from the king, as much as to accomplish his own preservation, that

your grandsire consents. He would not have you a victim to Henry's

lust." And as he spoke, he divided the forester's bonds with his knife.

"You must go with him, Mabel," he added.

"I will not!" she cried. "Something warns me that a great danger awaits


"You must go, girl," cried Tristram angrily. "I will not leave you to

Henry's lawless passion."

Meanwhile, Herne had passed into one of the large embrasures, and

opened, by means of a spring, an entrance to a secret staircase in

the wall. He then beckoned Tristram towards him, and whispered some

instructions in his ear.

"I understand," replied the old man.

"Proceed to the cave," cried Herne, "and remain there till I join you."

Tristram nodded assent.

"Come, Mabel!" he cried, advancing towards her, and seizing her hand.

"Away!" cried Herne in a menacing tone.

Terrified by the formidable looks and gestures of the demon, the poor

girl offered no resistance, and her grandfather drew her into the

opening, which was immediately closed after her.

About an hour after this, and when it was near upon the stroke of

midnight, the arquebusier who had admitted the tall stranger to the

dungeon, and who had momentarily expected his coming forth, opened the

door to see what was going forward. Great was his astonishment to find

the cell empty! After looking around in bewilderment, he rushed to the

chamber above, to tell his comrades what had happened.

"This is clearly the work of the fiend," said Shoreditch; "it is useless

to strive against him."

"That tall black man was doubtless Herne himself." said Paddington. "I

am glad he did us no injury. I hope the king will not provoke his malice


"Well, we must inform Captain Bouchier of the mischance," said

Shoreditch. "I would not be in thy skin, Mat Bee, for a trifle. The king

will be here presently, and then--"

"It is impossible to penetrate through the devices of the evil one,"

interrupted Mat. "I could have sworn it was the royal signet, for I saw

it on the king's finger as he delivered the order. I wish such another

chance of capturing the fiend would occur to me."

As the words were uttered, the door of a recess was thrown suddenly

open, and Herne, in his wild garb, with his antlered helm upon his brow,

and the rusty chain depending from his left arm, stood before them. His

appearance was so terrific and unearthly that they all shrank aghast,

and Mat Bee fell with his face on the floor.

"I am here!" cried the demon. "Now, braggart, wilt dare to seize me?"

But not a hand was moved against him. The whole party seemed transfixed

with terror.

"You dare not brave my power, and you are right," cried Herne--"a wave

of my hand would bring this old tower about your ears--a word would

summon a legion of fiends to torment you."

"But do not utter it, I pray you, good Herne--excellent Herne," cried

Mat Bee. "And, above all things, do not wave your hand, for we have no

desire to be buried alive,--have we, comrades? I should never have said

what I did if I had thought your friendship within hearing."

"Your royal master will as vainly seek to contend with me as he did to

bury me beneath the oak-tree," cried Herne. "If you want me further,

seek me in the upper chamber."

And with these words he darted up the ladder-like flight of steps and


As soon as they recovered from the fright that had enchained them,

Shoreditch and Paddington rushed forth into the area in front of the

turret, and shouting to those on the roof told them that Herne was in

the upper room--a piece of information which was altogether superfluous,

as the hammering had recommenced, and continued till the clock struck

twelve, when it stopped. Just then, it occurred to Mat Bee to ring the

alarm-bell, and he seized the rope, and began to pull it; but the bell

had scarcely sounded, when the cord, severed from above, fell upon his


At this juncture, the king and the Duke of Suffolk arrived. When told

what had happened, though prepared for it, Henry burst into a terrible

passion, and bestowed a buffet on Mat Bee, that well nigh broke his jaw,

and sent him reeling to the farther side of the chamber. He had not at

first understood that Herne was supposed to be in the upper room; but

as soon as he was made aware of the circumstance, he cried out--"Ah,

dastards! have you let him brave you thus? But I am glad of it. His

capture is reserved for my own hand."

"Do not expose yourself to this risk, my gracious liege," said Suffolk.

"What! are you too a sharer in their womanish fears, Suffolk?" cried

Henry. "I thought you had been made of stouter stuff. If there is

danger, I shall be the first to encounter it. Come," he added, snatching

a torch from an arquebusier. And, drawing his dag, he hurried up the

steep steps, while Suffolk followed his example, and three or four

arquebusiers ventured after them.

Meanwhile Shoreditch and Paddington ran out, and informed Bouchier that

the king had arrived, and was mounting in search of Herne, upon which

the captain, shaking off his fears, ordered his men to follow him, and

opening the little door at the top of the stairs, began cautiously to

descend, feeling his way with his sword. He had got about half-way down,

when Henry sprang upon the platform. The light of the torch fell upon

the ghostly figure of Herne, with his arms folded upon his breast,

standing near the pile of wood, lying between the two staircases. So

appalling was the appearance of the demon, that Henry stood still to

gaze at him, while Bouchier and his men remained irresolute on the

stairs. In another moment, the Duke of Suffolk had gained the platform,

and the arquebusiers were seen near the head of the stairs.

"At last, thou art in my power, accursed being!" cried Henry. "Thou art

hemmed in on all sides, and canst not escape!"

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Herne.

"This shall prove whether thou art human or not," cried Henry, taking

deliberate aim at him with the dag.

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Herne. And as the report rang through the room, he

sank through the floor, and disappeared from view.

"Gone!" exclaimed Henry, as the smoke cleared off; "gone! Holy Mary!

then it must indeed be the fiend. I made the middle of his skull my aim,

and if he had not been invulnerable, the bullet must have pierced his


"I heard it rebound from his horned helmet, and drop to the floor," said


"What is that chest?" cried Henry, pointing to a strange coffin-shaped

box, lying, as it seemed, on the exact spot where the demon had


No one had seen it before, though all called to mind the mysterious

hammering; and they had no doubt that the coffin was the work of the


"Break it open," cried Henry; "for aught we know, Herne may be concealed

within it."

The order was reluctantly obeyed by the arquebusiers. But no force was

required, for the lid was not nailed down; and when it was removed, a

human body in the last stage of decay was discovered.

"Pah! close it up," cried Henry, turning away in disgust. "How came it


"It must have been brought by the powers of darkness," said Bouchier;

"no such coffin was here when I searched the chamber two hours ago. But

see," he suddenly added, stooping down, and picking up a piece of paper

which had fallen from the coffin, "here is a scroll."

"Give it me!" cried Henry; and holding it to the light, he read the

words, "The body of Mark Fytton, the butcher, the victim of a tyrant's


Uttering a terrible imprecation, Henry flung the paper from him; and

bidding the arquebusiers burn the body at the foot of the gallows

without the town, he quitted the tower without further search.