"His majesty bade me tell you to make your preparations quickly, Sir Thomas," said the messenger who delivered the despatches; "he cares not how soon you set forth."
"The king's pleasure shall be obeyed," rejoined Wyat.
And the messenger retired.
Left alone, Wyat remained for some time in profound and melancholy thought. Heaving a deep sigh, he then arose, and paced the chamber with rapid strides.
"Yes, it is better thus," he ejaculated. " If I remain near her, I shall do some desperate deed. Better -- far better -- I should go. And yet to leave her with Henry -- to know that he is ever near her -- that he drinks in the music of her voice, and basks in the sunshine of her smile -- while I am driven forth to darkness and despair -- the thought is madness! I will not obey the hateful mandate! I will stay and defy him!"
As he uttered aloud this wild and unguarded speech, the arras screening the door was drawn aside, and gave admittance to Wolsey.
Wyat's gaze sunk before the penetrating glance fixed upon him by the Cardinal.
"I did not come to play the eavesdropper, Sir Thomas," said Wolsey; "but I have heard enough to place your life in my power. So you refuse to obey the king's injunctions. You refuse to proceed to Paris. You refuse to assist in bringing about the divorce, and prefer remaining here to brave your sovereign, and avenge yourself upon a fickle mistress. Ha?"
Wyat returned no answer.
"If such be your purpose," pursued Wolsey, after a pause, during which he intently scrutinised the knight's countenance, "I will assist you in it. Be ruled by me, and you shall have a deep and full revenge."
"Say on," rejoined Wyat, his eyes blazing with infernal fire, and his hand involuntarily clutching the handle of his dagger.
If I read you aright," continued the cardinal, "you are arrived at that pitch of desperation when life itself becomes indifferent, and when but one object remains to be gained --
"And that is vengeance!" interrupted Wyat fiercely. "Right, cardinal -- right. I will have vengeance -- terrible vengeance!"
"You shall. But I will not deceive you. You will purchase what you seek at the price of your own head."
"I care not," replied Wyat. "All sentiments of love and loyalty are swallowed up by jealousy and burning hate. Nothing but blood can allay the fever that consumes me. Show me how to slay him!"
"Him!" echoed the cardinal, in alarm and horror. "Wretch! would you kill your king? God forbid that I should counsel the injury of a hair of his head! I do not want you to play the assassin, Wyat," he added more calmly, "but the just avenger. Liberate the king from the thraldom of the capricious siren who enslaves him, and you will do a service to the whole country. A word from you -- a letter -- a token -- will cast her from the king, and place her on the block. And what matter? The gory scaffold were better than Henry's bed."
"I cannot harm her," cried Wyat distractedly. "I love her still, devotedly as ever. She was in my power yesterday, and without your aid, cardinal, I could have wreaked my vengeance upon her, if I had been so minded."
"You were then in her chamber, as the king suspected?" cried Wolsey, with a look of exultation. "Trouble yourself no more, Sir Thomas. I will take the part of vengeance off your hands."
"My indiscretion will avail you little, cardinal," replied Wyat sternly. "A hasty word proves nothing. I will perish on the rack sooner than accuse Anne Boleyn. I am a desperate man, but not so desperate as you suppose me. A moment ago I might have been led on, by the murderous and traitorous impulse that prompted me, to lift my hand against the king, but I never could have injured her."
"You are a madman! " cried Wolsey impatiently, "and it is a waste of time to argue with you. I wish you good speed on your journey. On your return you will find Anne Boleyn Queen of England."
"And you disgraced," rejoined Wyat, as, with a malignant and vindictive look, the cardinal quitted the chamber.
Again left alone, Wyat fell into another fit of despondency from which he roused himself with difficulty, and went forth to visit the Earl of Surrey in the Round Tower.
Some delay occurred before he could obtain access to the earl. The halberdier stationed at the entrance to the keep near the Norman Tower refused to admit him without the order of the officer in command of the tower, and as the latter was not in the way at the moment, Wyat had to remain without till he made his appearance.
While thus detained, he beheld Anne Boleyn and her royal lover mount their steeds in the upper ward, and ride forth, with their attendants, on a hawking expedition. Anne Boleyn bore a beautiful falcon on her wrist -- Wyat's own gift to her in happier days -- and looked full of coquetry, animation, and delight -- without the vestige of a cloud upon her brow, or a care on her countenance. With increased bitterness of heart, he turned from the sight, and shrouded himself beneath the gateway of the Norman Tower.
Soon after this, the officer appeared, and at once according Wyat permission to see the earl, preceded him up the long flight of stone steps communicating with the upper part of the keep, and screened by an embattled and turreted structure, constituting a covered way to the Round Tower.
Arrived at the landing, the officer unlocked a door on the left, and ushered his companion into the prisoner's chamber.
Influenced by the circular shape of the structure in which it was situated, and of which it formed a segment, the farther part of this chamber was almost lost to view, and a number of cross-beams and wooden pillars added to its sombre and mysterious appearance. The walls were of enormous thickness, and a narrow loophole, terminating a deep embrasure, afforded but scanty light. Opposite the embrasure sat Surrey, at a small table covered with books and writing materials. A lute lay beside him on the floor, and there were several astrological and alchemical implements within reach.