Anne Boleyn remained with her royal lover for a few minutes to pour forth her gratitude for the attachment he had displayed to her, and to confirm the advantage she had gained over Wolsey. As soon as she was gone, Henry summoned an usher, and giving him some instructions respecting Mabel Lyndwood, proceeded to the Curfew Tower.
Nothing was said to him of the strange noise that had been heard in the upper chamber, for the arquebusiers were fearful of exciting his displeasure by a confession of their alarm, and he descended at once to the dungeon.
"Well, fellow," he cried, sternly regarding the captive, who arose at his entrance, "you have now had ample time for reflection, and I trust are in a better frame of mind than when I last spoke with you. I command you to declare all you know concerning Herne the Hunter, and to give me such information respecting the proscribed felon, Morgan Fenwolf, as will enable me to accomplish his capture."
"I have already told your highness that my mouth is sealed by an oath of secrecy," replied Tristram, humbly, but firmly.
"Obstinate dog! thou shalt either speak, or I will hang thee from the top of this tower, as I hanged Mark Fytton the butcher," roared Henry.
"You will execute your sovereign pleasure, my liege," said the old man. "My life is in your hands. It is little matter whether it is closed now or a year hence. I have well nigh run out my term."
"If thou carest not for thyself, thou mayest not be equally indifferent to another," cried the king. "What ho! bring in his granddaughter."
The old man started at the command, and trembled violently. The next moment, Mabel was led into the dungeon by Shoreditch and Paddington. Behind her came Nicholas Clamp. On seeing her grandsire, she uttered a loud cry and would have rushed towards him, but she was held back by her companions.
"Oh grandfather!" she cried, "what have you done?-why do I find you here?"
Tristram groaned, and averted his head.
"He is charged with felony and sorcery," said the king sternly, and you, maiden, come under the same suspicion."
"Believe it not, sire," cried the old man, flinging himself at Henry's feet; "oh, believe it not. Whatever you may judge of me, believe her innocent. She was brought up most devoutly, by a lay sister of the monastery at Chertsey; and she knows nothing, save by report, of what passes in the forest."
"Yet she has seen and conversed with Morgan Fenwolf," the king.
"Not since he was outlawed," said Tristram.
"I saw him to -- day, as I was brought to the castle," cried Mabel, "and -- " but recollecting that she might implicate her grandfather, she suddenly stopped.
"What said he ? -- ha!" demanded the king.
"I will tell your majesty what passed," interposed Nicholas Clamp, stepping forward, "for I was with the damsel at the time. He came upon us suddenly from behind a great tree, and ordered her to accompany him to her grandsire."
"Ha!" exclaimed the king.
"But he had no authority for what he said, I am well convinced," pursued Clamp. "Mabel disbelieved him and refused to go, and I should have captured him if the fiend he serves had not lent him a helping hand."
"What says the prisoner himself to this? " observed the king. "Didst thou send Fenwolf on the errand?"
"I did," replied Tristram. " I sent him to prevent her from going to the castle."
Mabel sobbed audibly.
"Thou art condemned by thy own confession, caitiff," said the king, "and thou knowest upon what terms alone thou canst save thyself from the hangman, and thy grand-daughter from the stake."
"Oh, mercy, sire, mercy! " shrieked Mabel.
"Your fate rests with your grandsire," said the king sternly. "If he chooses to be your executioner he will remain silent."
"Oh, speak, grandsire, speak!" cried Mabel. "What matters the violation of an unholy vow?"
"Give me till to-morrow for consideration, sire," said the old man.
"Thou shalt have till midnight," replied the king; "and till then Mabel shall remain with thee."
"I would rather be left alone," said Tristram.
"I doubt it not," replied the king; " but it shall not be." And without bestowing a look at Mabel, whose supplications he feared might shake his purpose, he quitted the vault with his attendants, leaving her alone with her grandsire.
"I shall return at midnight," he said to the arquebusier stationed at the door; "and meanwhile let no one enter the dungeon -- not even the Duke of Suffolk -- unless," he added, holding forth his hand to display a ring, "he shall bring this signet."