To this speech Mabel not only paid no attention, but looked studiously another way.
"I am glad your grandfather has brought you out to see the chase to- day, Mabel," observed Morgan Fenwolf.
"I dame not to see the chase, but the king," she replied, somewhat petulantly.
"It is not every fair maid who would confess so much," observed Fenwolf, frowning.
"Then I am franker than some of my sex," replied Mabel. "But who is the strange man looking at us from behind that tree, grandfather!
"I see no one," replied the old forester.
"Neither do I," added Morgan Fenwolf, with a shudder. "You are wilfully blind," rejoined Mabel. "But see, the person I mentioned stalks forth. Now, perhaps, he is visible to you both."
And as she spoke, a tall wild-looking figure, armed with a hunting-spear, emerged from the trees and advanced towards them. The garb of the newcomer somewhat resembled that of a forester; but his arms and lower limbs were destitute of covering, and appeared singularly muscular, while his skin was swarthy as that of a gipsy. His jet-black hair hung in elf-locks over his savage-looking features.
In another moment he was beside them, and fixed his dark piercing eyes on Mabel in such a manner as to compel her to avert her gaze.
"What brings you here this morning, Tristram Lyndwood?" he demanded, in a hoarse imperious tone.
"The same motive that brought you, Valentine Hagthorne, replied the old forester -- " to see the royal chase."
"This, I suppose, is your granddaughter?" pursued Hagthorne.
"Ay," replied Tristram bluntly.
"Strange I should never have seen her before," rejoined the other. "She is very fair. Be ruled by me, friend Tristram -- take her home again. If she sees the king, ill will come of it. You know, or should know, his character."
"Hagthorne advises well," interposed Fenwolf. "Mabel will be better at home."
"But she has no intention of returning at present," replied Mabel. "You brought me here for pastime, dear grandfather, and will not take me back at the recommendation of this strange man?"
"Content you, child -- content you," replied Tristram kindly. "You shall remain where you are."
"You will repent it!" cried Hagthorne.
And hastily darting among the trees, he disappeared from view.
Affecting to laugh at the occurrence, though evidently annoyed by it, the old forester led his granddaughter towards the stand, where he was cordially greeted by the keepers, most of whom, while expressing their pleasure at seeing him, strove to render themselves agreeable in the eyes of Mabel.
From this scene Morgan Fenwolf kept aloof, and remained leaning against a tree, with his eyes riveted upon the damsel. He was roused from his reverie by a slight tap upon the shoulder; and turning at the touch, beheld Valentine Hagthorne. Obedient to a sign from the latter, he followed him amongst the trees, and they both plunged into a dell.
An hour or two after this, when the sun was higher in the heavens, and the dew dried upon the greensward, the king and a large company of lords and ladies rode forth from the upper gate of the castle, and taking their way along the great avenue, struck off on the right when about half-way up it, and shaped their course towards the haye.
A goodly sight it was to see this gallant company riding beneath the trees; and pleasant was it, also, to listen to the blithe sound of their voices, amid which Anne Boleyn's musical laugh could be plainly distinguished. Henry was attended by his customary band of archers and yeomen of the guard, and by the Duke of Shoreditch and his followers. On reaching the haye, the king dismounted, and assisting the Lady Anne from her steed, ascended the stand with her.
He then took a small and beautifully fashioned bow from an attendant, and stringing it, presented it to her.
"I trust this will not prove too strong for your fair hands," he said.
"I will make shift to draw it," replied Anne, raising the bow, and gracefully pulling the string. "Would I could wound your majesty as surely as I shall hit the first roe that passes."
"That were a needless labour," rejoined Henry, " seeing that you have already stricken me to the heart. You should cure the wound you have already made, sweetheart-not inflict a new one."
At this juncture the chief verderer, mounted on a powerful steed, and followed by two keepers, each holding a couple of stag-hounds in leash, rode up to the royal stand, and placing his horn to his lips, blew three long mootes from it. At the same moment part of the network of the haye was lifted up, and a roebuck set free.
By the management of the keepers, the animal was driven past the royal stand; and Anne Boleyn, who had drawn an arrow nearly to the head, let it fly with such good aim that she pierced the buck to the heart. A loud shout from the spectators rewarded the prowess of the fair huntress; and Henry was so enchanted, that he bent the knee to her, and pressed her hand to his lips. Satisfied, however, with the' achievement, Anne prudentlv declined another shot. Henry then took a bow from one of the archers, and other roes being turned out, he approved upon them his unerring skill as a marksman.
Meanwhile, the hounds, being held in leash, kept up a loud and incessant baying; and Henry, wearying of his slaughterous sport, turned to Anne, and asked her whether she was disposed for the chase. She answered in the affirmative, and the king motioned his henchmen to bring forward the steeds.
In doing this, he caught sight of Mabel, who was standing with her grandsire among the keepers, at a little distance from the stand, and, struck with her extraordinary beauty, he regarded her for a moment intently, and then called to Gabriel Lapp, who chanced to be near him, and demanded her name.
"It is Mabel Lyndwood, an't please your majesty," replied Gabriel. "She is granddaughter to old Tristram Lyndwood, who dwells at Black Nest, near the lake, at the farther extremity of Windsor Forest, and who was forester to your royal father, King Henry the Seventh, of blessed memory."
" Ha! is it so? " cried Henry.
But he was prevented from further remark by Anne Boleyn, who, perceiving how his attention was attracted, suddenly interposed.
"Your majesty spoke of the chase," she said impatiently. But perhaps you have found other pastime more diverting?"
"Not so -- not so, sweetheart," he replied hastily.
"There is a hart royal in the haye," said Gabriel Lapp. "Is it your majesty's pleasure that I set him free?
"It is, good fellow -- it is," replied the king.
And as Gabriel hastened to the netted fencework, and prepared to drive forth the hart, Henry assisted Anne Boleyn, who could not help exhibiting some slight jealous pique, to mount her steed, and having sprung into his own saddle, they waited the liberation of the buck, which was accomplished in a somewhat unexpected manner.
Separated from the rest of the herd, the noble animal made a sudden dart towards Gabriel, and upsetting him in his wild career, darted past the king, and made towards the upper part of the forest. In another instant the hounds were un coupled and at his heels, while Henry and Anne urged their steeds after him, the king shouting at the top of his lusty voice. The rest of the royal party followed as they might, and the woods resounded with their joyous cries.
The hart royal proved himself worthy of his designation. Dashing forward with extraordinary swiftness, he rapidly gained upon his pursuers -- for though Henry, by putting his courser to his utmost speed, could have kept near him, he did not choose to quit his fair companion.
In this way they scoured the forest, until the king, seeing they should be speedily distanced, commanded Sir Thomas Wyat, who, with the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, was riding close behind him, to cross by the lower ground on the left, and turn the stag. Wyat instantly obeyed, and plunging his spurs deeply into his horse's sides, started off at a furious pace, and was soon after seen shaping his rapid course through a devious glade.
Meanwhile, Henry and his fair companion rode on without relaxing their pace, until they reached the summit of a knoll, crowned by an old oak and beech-tree, and commanding a superb view of the castle, where they drew in the rein.
From this eminence they could witness the progress of the chase, as it continued in the valley beyond. An ardent lover of hunting, the king watched it with the deepest interest, rose in his saddle, and uttering various exclamations, showed, from his impatience, that he was only restrained by the stronger passion of love from joining it.
Ere long, stag, hounds, and huntsmen were lost amid a thicket, and nothing could be distinguished but a distant baying and shouts. At last even these sounds died away.
Henry, who had ill brooked the previous restraint, now grew so impatient, that Anne begged him to set off after them, when suddenly the cry of hounds burst upon their ears, and the hart was seen issuing from the dell, closely followed by his pursuers.
The affrighted animal, to the king's great satisfaction, made his way directly towards the spot where he was stationed; but on reaching the side of the knoll, and seeing his new foes, he darted off on the right, and tried to regain the thicket below. But he was turned by another band of keepers, and again driven towards the knoll.
Scarcely had Sir Thomas Wyat reined in his steed by the side of the king, than the hart again appeared bounding up the hill. Anne Boleyn, who had turned her horse's head to obtain a better view of the hunt, alarmed by the animal's menacing appearance, tried to get out of his way. But it was too late. Hemmed in on all sides, and driven to desperation by the cries of hounds and huntsmen in front, the hart lowered his horns, and made a furious push at her.
Dreadfully alarmed, Anne drew in the rein so suddenly and sharply, that she almost pulled her steed back upon his haunches; and in trying to avoid the stag's attack, caught hold of Sir Thomas Wyat, who was close beside her. In all probability she would have received some serious injury from the infuriated animal, who was just about to repeat his assault and more successfully, when a bolt from a cross-bow, discharged by Morgan Fenwolf, who suddenly made his appearance from behind the beech-tree, brought him to the ground.
But Anne Boleyn escaped one danger only to encounter another equally serious. On seeing her fling herself into the arms of Sir Thomas Wyat, Henry regarded her in stern displeasure for a moment, and then calling angrily to his train, without so much as deigning to inquire whether she had sustained any damage from the accident, or making the slightest remark upon her conduct, rode sullenly towards the castle.