Though scarcely eighteen, the Duke of Richmond looked more than twenty, and his lips and chin were clothed with a well-grown though closely-clipped beard. He was magnificently habited in a doublet of cloth of gold of bawdekin, the placard and sleeves of which were wrought with flat gold, and fastened with aiglets. A girdle of crimson velvet, enriched with precious stones, encircled his waist, and sustained a poniard and a Toledo sword, damascened with gold. Over all he wore a loose robe, or housse, of scarlet mohair, trimmed with minever, and was further decorated with the collar of the Order of the Garter. His cap was of white velvet, ornamented with emeralds, and from the side depended a small azure plume. He rode a magnificent black charger, trapped in housings of cloth of gold, powdered with ermine.

By the duke's side rode the Earl of Surrey attired -- as upon the previous day, and mounted on a fiery Arabian, trapped in crimson velvet fringed with Venetian gold. Both nobles were attended by their esquires in their liveries.

Behind them came a chariot covered with cloth of silver, and drawn, like the first, by four horses in rich housings, containing two very beautiful damsels, one of whom attracted so much of the attention of the youthful nobles, that it was with difficulty they could preserve due order of march. The young dame in question was about seventeen; her face was oval in form, with features of the utmost delicacy and regularity. Her complexion was fair and pale, and contrasted strikingly with her jetty brows and magnificent black eyes, of oriental size, tenderness, and lustre. Her dark and luxuriant tresses were confined by a cap of black velvet faced with white satin, and ornamented with pearls. Her gown was of white satin worked with gold, and had long open pendent sleeves, while from her slender and marble neck hung a cordeliere -- a species of necklace imitated from the cord worn by Franciscan friars, and formed of crimson silk twisted with threads of Venetian gold..

This fair creature was the Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, daughter of Gerald Fitzgerald, ninth Earl of Kildare, who claimed descent from the Geraldi family of Florence; but she was generally known by the appellation of the Fair Geraldine -- a title bestowed upon her, on account of her beauty, by the king, and by which she still lives, and will continue to live, as long as poetry endures, in the deathless and enchanting strains of her lover, the Earl of Surrey. At the instance of her mother, Lady Kildare, the Fair Geraldine was brought up with the Princess Mary, afterwards Queen of England; but she had been lately assigned by the royal order as one of the attendants -- a post equivalent to that of maid of honour -- to Anne Boleyn.

Her companion was the Lady Mary Howard, the sister of the Earl of Surrey, a nymph about her own age, and possessed of great personal attractions, having nobly-formed features, radiant blue eyes, light tresses, and a complexion of dazzling clearness. Lady Mary Howard nourished a passion for the Duke of Richmond, whom she saw with secret chagrin captivated by the superior charms of the Fair Geraldine. Her uneasiness, however, was in some degree abated by the knowledge, which as confidante of the latter she had obtained, that her brother was master of her heart. Lady Mary was dressed in blue velvet, cut and lined with cloth of gold, and wore a headgear of white velvet, ornamented with pearls.

Just as the cavalcade came in sight of Datchet Bridge, the Duke of Richmond turned his horse's head, and rode up to the side of the chariot on which the Fair Geraldine was sitting.

"I am come to tell you of a marvellous adventure that befell Surrey in the Home Park at Windsor last night," he said. "He declares he has seen the demon hunter, Herne."

"Then pray let the Earl of Surrey relate the adventure to us himself," replied the Fair Geraldine. "No one can tell a story so well as the hero of it."

The duke signed to the youthful earl, who was glancing rather wistfully at them, and he immediately joined them, while Richmond passed over to the Lady Mary Howard. Surrey then proceeded to relate what had happened to him in the park, and the fair Geraldine listened to his recital with breathless interest.

"Heaven shield us from evil spirits!" she exclaimed, crossing herself. "But what is the history of this wicked hunter, my lord? and why did he incur such a dreadful doom?"

"I know nothing more than that he was a keeper in the forest, who, having committed some heinous crime, hanged himself from a branch of the oak beneath which I found the keeper, Morgan Fenwolf, and which still bears his name," replied the earl. "For this unrighteous act he cannot obtain rest, but is condemned to wander through the forest at midnight, where he wreaks his vengeance in blasting the trees."

"The legend I have heard differs from yours," observed the Duke of Richmond: "it runs that the spirit by which the forest is haunted is a wood-demon, who assumes the shape of the ghostly hunter, and seeks to tempt or terrify the keepers to sell their souls to him."

"Your grace's legend is the better of the two," said Lady Mary Howard, "or rather, I should say, the more probable. I trust the evil spirit did not make you any such offer, brother of Surrey?"

The earl gravely shook his head.

"If I were to meet him, and he offered me my heart's dearest wish, I fear he would prevail with me," observed the duke, glancing tenderly at the Fair Geraldine.

"Tush! -- the subject is too serious for jesting, Richmond," said Surrey almost sternly.

"His grace, as is usual in compacts with the fiend, might have reason to rue his bargain," observed Lady Mary Howard peevishly.

"If the Earl of Surrey were my brother," remarked the Fair Geraldine to the Lady Mary, "I would interdict him from roaming in the park after nightfall."

"He is very wilful," said Lady Mary, smiling, "and holds my commands but lightly."