Tottering to the seat which Henry and Jane had just quitted, Anne sank into it. After a little time, having in some degree recovered her composure, she was about to return to the great hall, when Norris appeared.
"I did not deceive you, madam," he said, "when I told you the king was insensible to your charms; he only lives for Jane Seymour."
"Would I could dismiss her!" cried Anne furiously.
"If you were to do so, she would soon be replaced by another," rejoined Norris. "The king delights only in change. With him, the last face is ever the most beautiful.",
"You speak fearful treason, sir! " replied Anne; "but I believe it to be the truth."
"Oh, then, madam!" pursued Norris, "since the king is so regardless of you, why trouble yourself about him? There are those who would sacrifice a thousand lives, if they possessed them, for your love."
"I fear it is the same with all men," rejoined Anne. "A woman's heart is a bauble which, when obtained, is speedily tossed aside."
"Your majesty judges our sex too harshly," said Norris. "If I had the same fortune as the king, I should never change."
"The king himself once thought so -- once swore so," replied Anne petulantly. "It is the common parlance of lovers. But I may not listen to such discourse longer."
"Oh, madam!" cried Norris, "you misjudge me greatly. My heart is not made of the same stuff as that of the royal Henry. I can love deeply -- devotedly -- lastingly."
"Know you not that by these rash speeches you place your head in jeopardy?" said Anne."
"I would rather lose it than not be permitted to love you," he replied.
"But your rashness endangers me," said the queen. "Your passion has already been noticed by Jane Seymour, and the slightest further indiscretion will be fatal."
"Nay, if that he so," cried Norris, "and your majesty should he placed in peril on my account, I will banish myself from the court, and from your presence, whatever the effort cost me."
"No," replied Anne, " I will not tax you so hardly. I do not think," she added tenderly, "deserted as I am by the king, that I could spare you."
"You confess, then, that I have inspired you with some regard?" he cried rapturously.
"Do not indulge in these transports, Norris," said Anne mournfully. "Your passion will only lead to your destruction - perchance to mine. Let the certainty that I do love, content you, and seek not to tempt your fate further."
"Oh, madam! you make me the happiest of men by the avowal," he cried. "I envy not now the king, for I feel raised above him by your love."
"You must join the revel, Norris," said Anne; "your absence from it will be observed."
And extending her hand to him, he knelt down and pressed it passionately to his lips.
Ah! we are observed," she cried suddenly, and almost with a shriek. "Rise, sir!"
Norris instantly sprang to his feet, and, to his inexpressible dismay, saw the figure of a tall monk gliding away. Throwing a meaning look at the almost sinking queen, he followed the mysterious observer into the great hall, determined to rid himself of him in some way before he should have time to make any revelations.
Avoiding the brilliant throng, the monk entered the adjoining corridor, and descending the great staircase, passed into the upper quadrangle. From thence he proceeded towards the cloisters near St. George's Chapel, where he was overtaken by Norris, who had followed him closely.
"What would you with me, Sir Henry Norris? "cried the monk, halting.
"You may guess," said Norris, sternly and drawing his sword. "There are secrets which are dangerous to the possessor. Unless you swear never to betray what you have seen and heard, you die."
The tall monk laughed derisively.
"You know that your life is in my power," he said, " and therefore you threaten mine. Well, e'en take it, if you can."
As he spoke, he drew a sword from beneath his robe, and stood upon his defence. After a few passes, Norris's weapon was beaten from his grasp.
"You are now completely at my mercy," said the monk, "and I have nothing to do but to call the guard, and declare all I have heard to the king."
"I would rather you plunged your sword into my heart," said Norris.
"There is one way -- and only one -- by which my secrecy may be purchased," said the monk.
"Name it," replied Norris. "Were it to be purchased by my soul's perdition, I would embrace it."
"You have hit the point exactly," rejoined the monk drily. "Can you not guess with whom you have to deal?"
"Partly," replied Norris "I never found such force in mortal arm as you have displayed."
"Probably not," laughed the other: "most of those who have ventured against me have found their match. But come with me into the park, and you shall learn the condition of my secrecy."
"I cannot quit the castle," replied Norris; "but I will take you to my lodgings, where we shall be wholly unobserved."
And crossing the lower ward, they proceeded to the tower on the south side of it, now appropriated to the governor of the alms knights.
About an hour after this Norris returned to the revel. His whole demeanour was altered, and his looks ghastly. He sought the queen, who had returned to the seat in the embrasure.
"What has happened?" said Anne, in a low tone, as he approached her. "Have you killed him?"
"No," he replied; "but I have purchased our safety at a terrible price."
"You alarm me, Norris; what mean you?" she cried. "I mean this," he answered, regarding her with passionate earnestness: "that you must love me now, for I have perilled my salvation for you. That tall monk was Herne the Hunter."