So immersed was the youthful prisoner in study, that he was not aware, until a slight exclamation was uttered by Wyat, of the entrance of the latter. He then arose, and gave him welcome.
Nothing material passed between them as long as the officer remained in the chamber, but on his departure Surrey observed laughingly to his friend, "And how doth my fair cousin, the Lady Anne Boleyn?"
"She has just ridden forth with the king, to hawk in the park," replied Wyat moodily. "For myself, l am ordered on a mission to France, but I could not depart without entreating your forgiveness for the jeopardy in which I have placed you. Would I could take your place."
"Do not heed me," replied Surrey; "I am well content with what has happened. Virgil and Homer, Dante and Petrarch, are the companions of my confinement; and in good sooth, I am glad to be alone. Amid the distractions of the court I could find little leisure for the muse."
"Your situation is, in many respects, enviable, Surrey," replied Wyat. "Disturbed by no jealous doubts and fears, you can beguile the tedious hours in the cultivation of your poetical tastes, or in study. Still, I must needs reproach myself with being the cause of your imprisonment."
"I repeat, you have done me a service," rejoined the earl."I would lay down my life for my fair cousin, Anne Boleyn, and I am glad to be able to prove the sincerity of my regard for you, Wyat. I applaud the king's judgment in sending you to France, and if you will be counselled by me, you will stay there long enough to forget her who now occasions you so much uneasiness."
"Will the Fair Geraldine be forgotten when the term of your imprisonment shall expire, my lord?" asked Wyat.
"Of a surety not," replied the earl.
"And yet, in less than two months I shall return from France," rejoined Wyat.
"Our cases are not alike," said Surrey. "The Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald has plighted her troth to me."
"Anne Boleyn vowed eternal constancy to me," cried Wyat bitterly; "and you see how she kept her oath. The absent are always in danger; and few women are proof against ambition. Vanity -- vanity is the rock they split upon. May you never experience from Richmond the wrong I have experienced from his father."
"I have no fear," replied Surrey.
As he spoke, there was a slight noise in that part of the chamber which was buried in darkness.
"Have we a listener here?" cried Wyat, grasping his sword.
"Not unless it be a four-legged one from the dungeons beneath," replied Surrey. "But you were speaking of Richmond. He visited me this morning, and came to relate the particulars of a mysterious adventure that occurred to him last night."
And the earl proceeded to detail what had befallen the duke in the forest.
"A marvellous story, truly!" said Wyat, pondering upon the relation. "I will seek out the demon huntsman myself."
Again a noise similar to that heard a moment before resounded from the lower part of the room. Wyat immediately flew thither, and drawing his sword, searched about with its point, but ineffectually.
"It could not be fancy," he said; "and yet nothing is to be found."
"I do not like jesting about Herne the Hunter," remarked Surrey, "after what I myself have seen. In your present frame of mind I advise you not to hazard an interview with the fiend. He has power over the desperate."
Wyat returned no answer. He seemed lost in gloomy thought, and soon afterwards took his leave.
On returning to his lodgings, he summoned his attendants, and ordered them to proceed to Kingston, adding that he would join them there early the next morning. One of them, an old serving-man, noticing the exceeding haggardness of his looks, endeavoured to persuade him to go with them; but Wyat, with a harshness totally unlike his customary manner, which was gracious and kindly in the extreme, peremptorily refused.
"You look very ill, Sir Thomas," said the old servant; "worse than I ever remember seeing you. Listen to my counsel, I beseech you. Plead ill health with the king in excuse of your mission to France, and retire for some months to recruit your strength and spirits at Allington."
"Tush, Adam Twisden! I am well enough," exclaimed Wyat impatiently. "Go and prepare my mails."
"My dear, dear master," cried old Adam, bending the knee before him, and pressing his hand to his lips; "something tells me that if I leave you now I shall never see you again. There is a paleness in your cheek, and a fire in your eye, such as I never before observed in you, or in mortal man. I tremble to say it, but you look like one possessed by the fiend. Forgive my boldness, sir. I speak from affection and duty. I was serving-man to your father, good Sir Henry Wyat, before you, and I love you as a son, while I honour you as a master. I have heard that there are evil beings in the forest -- nay, even within the castle -- who lure men to perdition by promising to accomplish their wicked desires. I trust no such being has crossed your path."
"Make yourself easy, good Adam," replied Wyat; "no fiend has tempted me."
"Swear it, sir," cried the old man eagerly -- " swear it by the Holy Trinity."
"By the Holy Trinity, I swear it! " replied Wyat.
As the words were uttered, the door behind the arras was suddenly shut with violence.
"Curses on you, villain! you have left the door open," cried Wyat fiercely. "Our conversation has been overheard."
" I will soon see by whom," cried Adam, springing to his feet, and rushing towards the door, which opened upon a long corridor.
"Well!" cried Wyat, as Adam returned the next moment, with cheeks almost as white as his own -- " was it the cardinal?"
"It was the devil, I believe!" replied the old man. "I could see no one."
"It would not require supernatural power to retreat into an adjoining chamber!" replied Wyat, affecting an incredulity he was far from feeling.