Surrey and Richmond agreed to say nothing for the present of their mysterious adventure in the forest; but their haggard looks, as they presented themselves to the Lady Anne Boleyn in the reception- chamber on the following morning, proclaimed that something had happened, and they had to undergo much questioning from the Fair Geraldine and the Lady Mary Howard.
"I never saw you so out of spirits, my lord," remarked the Fair Geraldine to Surrey; "you must have spent the whole night in study -- or what is more probable, you have again seen Herne the Hunter. Confess now, you have been in the forest."
"I will confess anything you please," replied Surrey evasively.
"And what have you seen? -- a stranger vision than the first?" rejoined the Fair Geraldine.
"Since your ladyship answers for me, there is no need for explanation on my part," rejoined Surrey, with a faint laugh. "And know you not, that those who encounter super natural beings are generally bound to profound secrecy?"
"Such, I hope, is not your case, Henry?" cried the Lady Mary Howard, in alarm; -- " nor yours, my lord?" she added to the Duke of Richmond.
"I am bound equally with Surrey," returned the duke mysteriously
"You pique my curiosity, my lords," said the Fair Geraldine; "and since there is no other way of gratifying it, if the Lady Mary Howard will accompany me, we will ourselves venture into the forest, and try whether we cannot have a meeting with this wild huntsman. Shall we go to-night?
"Not for worlds," replied the Lady Mary, shuddering; "were I to see Herne, I should die of fright."
"Your alarm is groundless," observed Richmond gallantly. "The presence of two beings, fair and pure as yourself and the Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, would scare away aught of evil."
The Lady Mary thanked him with a beaming smile, but the Fair Geraldine could not suppress a slight laugh.
"Your grace is highly flattering," she said. "But, with all faith in beauty and purity, I should place most reliance in a relic I possess -- the virtue of which has often been approved against evil spirits. It was given by a monk- who had been sorely tempted by a demon, and who owed his deliverance to it -- to my ancestor, Luigi Geraldi of Florence; and from him it descended to me."
"Would I had an opportunity of proving its efficacy!" exclaimed the Earl of Surrey.
"You shall prove it, if you choose," rejoined the Fair Geraldine. "I will give you the relic on condition that you never part with it to friend or foe."
And detaching a small cross of gold, suspended by a chain from her neck, she presented it to the Earl of Surrey.
"This cross encloses the relic," she continued; "wear it, and may it protect you from all ill!"
Surrey's pale cheek glowed as he took the gift. "I will never past with it but with life," he cried, pressing the cross to his lips, and afterwards placing it next his heart.
"I would have given half my dukedom to be so favoured," said Richmond moodily.
And quitting the little group, he walked towards the Lady Anne."Henry," said the Lady Mary, taking her brother aside, you will lose your friend.""
I care not," replied Surrey. "
But you may incur his enmity," pursued the Lady Mary. "I saw the glance he threw at you just now, and it was exactly like the king's terrible look when offended."
"Again I say I care not," replied Surrey. "Armed with this relic, I defy all hostility."
"It will avail little against Richmond's rivalry and opposition," rejoined his sister.
"We shall see," retorted Surrey. "Were the king himself my rival, I would not resign my pretensions to the Fair Geraldine."
"Bravely resolved, my lord," said Sir Thomas Wyat, who, having overheard the exclamation, advanced towards him. "Heaven grant you may never be placed in such jeopardy!"
"I say amen to that prayer, Sir Thomas," rejoined Surrey "I would not prove disloyal, and yet under such circumstances -- "
"What would you do?" interrupted Wyat.
"My brother is but a hasty boy, and has not learned discretion, Sir Thomas," interposed the Lady Mary, trying by a significant glance to impose silence on the earl.
"Young as he is, he loves well and truly," remarked Wyat, in a sombre tone.
"What is all this? "inquired the Fair Geraldine, who had been gazing through the casement into the court below.
"I was merely expressing a wish that Surrey may never have a monarch for a rival, fair lady," replied Wyat.
"It matters little who may be his rival," rejoined Geraldine, "provided she he loves be constant."
"Right, lady, right," said Wyat, with great bitterness. At this moment Will Sommers approached them. "I come to bid you to the Lady Anne's presence, Sir Thomas, and you to the king's, my lord of Surrey," said the jester. "I noticed what has just taken place," he remarked to the latter, as they proceeded towards the royal canopy, beneath which Henry and the Lady Anne Boleyn were seated; "but Richmond will not relinquish her tamely, for all that."
Anne Boleyn had summoned Sir Thomas Wyat, in order to gratify her vanity by showing him the unbounded influence she possessed over his royal rival; and the half-suppressed agony displayed by the unfortunate lover at the exhibition afforded her a pleasure such as only the most refined coquette can feel.
Surrey was sent for by the king to receive instructions, in his quality of vice-chamberlain, respecting a tilting-match and hunting-party to be held on successive days -- the one in the upper quadrangle of the castle, the other in the forest.
Anxious, now that he was somewhat calmer, to avoid a rupture with Richmond, Surrey, as soon as he had received the king's instructions, drew near the duke; and the latter, who had likewise reasoned himself out of his resentment, was speedily appeased, and they became, to all appearance, as good friends as ever.