But she returned a peremptory refusal.
"She shall not stir an inch! " cried the falconer. "It is thou, Morgan Fenwolf, who must go with me. Thou art a proscribed felon, and thy life is forfeit to the king. Yield thee, dog, as my prisoner!"
"Thy prisoner!" echoed Fenwolf scornfully. "It would take three such as thou art to make me captive! Mabel Lyndwood, in your grandfather's name, I command you to come with me, and let Nick Clamp look to himself if he dares to hinder you."
"Nick will do something more than hinder her," rejoined the falconer, brandishing his staff, and rushing upon the other. "Felon hound! I command thee to yield!"
Before the falconer could reach him, Morgan Fenwolf plucked a long hunting-knife from his girdle, and made a desperate stab at his assailant. But Clamp avoided the blow, and striking Fenwolf on the shins, immediately afterwards closed with him.
The result was still doubtful, when the struggle was suddenly interrupted by the trampling of horse approaching from the side of Windsor; and at the sound Morgan Fenwolf disengaged himself from his antagonist and plunged into the adjoining wood. The next moment Captain Bouchier rode up, followed by a small band of halberdiers, and receiving information from the falconer of what had occurred, darted with his men into the wood in search of the fugitive. Nicholas Clamp and his companion did not await the issue of the search, but proceeded on their way.
As they walked at a brisk pace, they reached the long avenue in about half-an-hour, and took their way down it. When within a mile of the castle they were overtaken by Bouchier and his followers, and the falconer was much disappointed to learn that they had failed in tracking Morgan Fenwolf to his lair. After addressing a few complimentary words to the maiden, Bouchier rode on.
Soon after this the pair quitted the great park, and passing through a row of straggling houses, divided by gardens and closes, which skirted the foot of Castle Hill, presently reached the lower gate. They were admitted without difficulty; but just as they entered the lower ward the falconer was hailed by Shoreditch and Paddington, who at the moment issued from the doorway of the guard-room.
Clamp obeyed the call and went towards them, and it was evident, from the gestures of the archers, that they were making inquiries about Mabel, whose appearance seemed to interest them greatly. After a brief conversation with the falconer they approached her, and, respectfully addressing her, begged leave to attend her to the royal lodgings, whither they understood she was going. No objection being made to the proposal by Mabel, the party directed their course towards the middle ward.
Passing through the gateway of the Norman Tower, they stopped before a low portal in a picturesque Gothic wing of the castle, with projecting walls and bay-windows, which had been erected in the preceding reign of Henry the Seventh, and was consequently still in all its freshness and beauty.
IV How Mabel was received by the Party in the Kitchen -- And of the Quarrel between the two Jesters.
Addressing himself to a stout-built yeoman of the guard, who was standing within the doorway, Nicholas Clamp demanded admittance to the kitchen, and the man having detained them for a few moments, during which he regarded Mabel with a very offensive stare, ushered them into a small hall, and from thence into a narrow passage connected with it. Lighted by narrow loopholes pierced through the walls, which were of immense thickness, this passage described the outer side of the whole upper quadrangle, and communicated with many other lateral passages and winding stairs leading to the chambers allotted to the household or to the state apartments. Tracking it for some time, Nicholas Clamp at length turned off on the right, and, crossing a sort of ante-room, led the way into a large chamber with stone walls and a coved and groined roof, lighted by a great window at the lower end. This was the royal kitchen, and in it yawned no fewer than seven huge arched fireplaces, in which fires were burning, and before which various goodly joints were being roasted, while a number of cooks and scullions were congregated round them. At a large table in the centre of the kitchen were seated some half-dozen yeomen of the guard, together with the clerk of the kitchen, the chief bargeman, and the royal cutler, or bladesmith, as he was termed.
These worthies were doing ample justice to a chine of beef, a wild-boar pie, a couple of fat capons, a peacock pasty, a mess of pickled lobsters, and other excellent and inviting dishes with which the board was loaded. Neither did they neglect to wash down the viands with copious draughts of ale and mead from great pots and flagons placed beside them. Behind this party stood Giovanni Joungevello, an Italian minstrel, much in favour with Anne Boleyn, and Domingo Lamellino, or Lamelyn -- as he was familiarly termed -- a Lombard, who pretended to some knowledge of chirurgery, astrology, and alchemy, and who was a constant attendant on Henry. At the head of the bench, on the right of the table, sat Will Sommers. The jester was not partaking of the repast, but was chatting with Simon Quanden, the chief cook, a good- humoured personage, round-bellied as a tun, and blessed with a spouse, yclept Deborah, as fond of good cheer, as fat, and as good- humoured as himself. Behind the cook stood the cellarman, known by the appellation of Jack of the Bottles, and at his feet were two playful little turnspits, with long backs, and short forelegs, as crooked almost as sickles.
On seeing Mabel, Will Sommers immediately arose, and advancing towards her with a mincing step, bowed with an air of mock ceremony,and said in an affected tone," Welcome, fair mistress, to the king's kitchen. We are all right glad to see you; are we not, mates?"