Accompanied by Wyat, and followed by the whole cavalcade, Herne dashed into the glen, where Fenwolf awaited him. Threading the hollow, the troop descried the hart flying swiftly along a sweeping glade at some two hundred yards distance. The glade was passed -- a woody knoll skirted -- a valley traversed -- and the hart plunged into a thick grove clothing the side of Hawk's Hill. But it offered him no secure retreat. Dragon and Saturn were close upon him, and behind them came Herne, crashing through the branches of the trees, and heedless of all impediments. By-and-by the thicket became more open, and they entered Cranbourne Chase. But the hart soon quitted it to return to the great park, and darted down a declivity skirted by a line of noble oaks. Here he was so hotly pressed by his fierce opponents, whose fangs he could almost feel within his haunches, that he suddenly stopped and stood at bay, receiving the foremost of his assailants, Saturn, on the points of his horns. But his defence, though gallant, was unavailing. In another instant Herne came up, and, dismounting, called off Dragon, who was about to take the place of his wounded companion. Drawing a knife from his girdle, the hunter threw himself on the ground, and, advancing on all fours towards the hart, could scarcely be distinguished himself from some denizen of the forest. As he approached the hart snorted and bellowed fiercely, and dashed its horns against him; but the blow was received by the hunter upon his own antlered helm, and at the same moment his knife was thrust to the hilt into the stag's throat, and it fell to the ground.
Springing to his feet, Herne whooped joyfully, placed his bugle to his lips, and blew the dead mot. He then shouted to Fenwolf to call away and couple the hounds, and, striking off the deer's right forefoot with his knife, presented it to Wyat. Several large leafy branches being gathered and laid upon the ground, the hart was placed upon them, and Herne commenced breaking him up, as the process of dismembering the deer is termed in the language of woodcraft. His first step was to cut off the animal's head, which he performed by a single blow with his heavy trenchant knife.
"Give the hounds the flesh," he said, delivering the trophy to Fenwolf; " but keep the antlers, for it is a great deer of head."
Placing the head on a hunting-pole, Fenwolf withdrew to an open space among the trees, and, halloing to the others, they immediately cast off the hounds, who rushed towards him, leaping and baying at the stag's head, which he alternately raised and lowered until they were sufficiently excited, when he threw it on the ground before them.
While this was going forward the rest of the band were occupied in various ways -- some striking a light with flint and steel -- some gathering together sticks and dried leaves to form a fire -- others producing various strange-shaped cooking utensils -- while others were assisting their leader in his butcherly task, which he executed with infinite skill and expedition.
As soon as the fire was kindled, Herne distributed certain portions of the venison among his followers, which were instantly thrown upon the embers to broil; while a few choice morsels were stewed in a pan with wine, and subsequently offered to the leader and Wyat.
This hasty repast concluded, the demon ordered the fire to be extinguished, and the quarters of the deer to be carried to the cave. He then mounted his steed, and, attended by Wyat and the rest of his troop, except those engaged in executing his orders, galloped towards Snow Hill, where he speedily succeeded in unharbouring another noble hart.
Away then went the whole party -- stag, hounds, huntsmen, sweeping like a dark cloud down the hill, and crossing the wide moonlit glade, studded with noble trees, on the west of the great avenue.
For a while the hart held a course parallel with the avenue; he then dashed across it, threaded the intricate woods on the opposite side, tracked a long glen, and leaping the pales, entered the home park. It almost seemed as if he designed to seek shelter within the castle, for he made straight towards it, and was only diverted by Herne himself, who, shooting past him with incredible swiftness, turned him towards the lower part of the park.
Here the chase continued with unabated ardour, until, reaching the banks of the Thames, the hart plunged into it, and suffered himself to be carried noiselessly down the current. But Herne followed him along the banks, and when sufficiently near, dashed into the stream, and drove him again ashore.
Once more they flew across the home park -- once more they leaped its pales -- once more they entered the great park -- but this time the stag took the direction of Englefield Green. He was not, however, allowed to break forth into the open country; but, driven again into the thick woods, he held on with wondrous speed till the lake appeared in view. In another instant he was swimming across it.
Before the eddies occasioned by the affrighted animal's plunge had described a wide ring, Herne had quitted his steed, and was cleaving with rapid strokes the waters of the lake. Finding escape impossible, the hart turned to meet him, and sought to strike him with his horns, but as in the case of his ill-fated brother of the wood, the blow was warded by the antlered helm of the swimmer. The next moment the clear water was dyed with blood, and Herne, catching the gasping animal by the head, guided his body to shore.
Again the process of breaking up the stag was gone through; and when Herne had concluded his task, he once more offered his gourd to Sir Thomas Wyat. Reckless of the consequences, the knight placed the flask to his lips, and draining it to the last drop, fell from his horse insensible.
VII. How Wyat beheld Mabel Lyndwood -- And how he was rowed by Morgan Fenwolf upon the Lake.
When perfect consciousness returned to him, Wyat found himself lying upon a pallet in what he first took to be the cell of an anchorite; but as the recollection of recent events arose more distinctly before him, he guessed it to be a chamber connected with the sandstone cave. A small lamp, placed in a recess, lighted the cell; and upon a footstool by his bed stood a jug of water, and a cup containing some drink in which herbs had evidently been infused. Well-nigh emptying the jug, for he felt parched with thirst, Wyat attired himself, took up the lamp, and walked into the main cavern. No one was there, nor could he obtain any answer to his calls. Evidences, however, were not wanting to prove that a feast had recently been held there. On one side were the scarcely extinguished embers of a large wood fire; and in the midst of the chamber was a rude table, covered with drinking-horns and wooden platters, as well as with the remains of three or four haunches of venison. While contemplating this scene Wyat heard footsteps in one of the lateral passages, and presently afterwards Morgan Fenwolf made his appearance.