On quitting the kitchen, Henry, having been informed by Bouchier that Tristram Lyndwood was lodged in the prison-chamber in the lower gateway, proceeded thither to question him. He found the old man seated on a bench, with his hands tied behind him; but though evidently much alarmed at his situation, he could not be brought either by threats or proffers to make any confession.

Out of patience, at length, the king ordered him to be conveyed to the dungeon beneath the Curfew Tower, and personally superintended his removal.

"I will find a means of shaking his obstinacy," said Henry, as he quitted the vault with Bouchier. "If I cannot move him by other means, I may through his granddaughter I will interrogate him in her presence to- night."

"To-night, sire!" exclaimed Bouchier.

"Ay, to-night," repeated the king. "I am resolved, even if it should cost the life of this maiden, whose charms have moved me so, to break the infernal machinery woven around me. And now as I think it not unlikely the miscreant Herne may attempt the prisoner's deliverance, let the strictest watch be kept over the tower. Station an arquebusier throughout the night at the door of the dungeon, and another at the entrance to the chamber on the ground floor. Your own post must be on the roof of the fortification, that you may watch if any attempt is made to scale it from the town side, or to get in through the loopholes. Keep a sharp lookout Bouchier, for I shall hold you responsible if any mischance occurs."

"I will do my best, my liege," replied Bouchier; "and were it with a mortal foe I had to contend, I should have no fear. But what vigilance can avail against a fiend?"

"You have heard my injunctions, and will attend to them," rejoined the king harshly. "I shall return anon to the examination."

So saying, he departed.

Brave as a lion on ordinary occasions, Bouchier entered upon his present duty with reluctance and misgiving; and he found the arquebusiers by whom he was attended, albeit stout soldiers, equally uneasy. Herne had now become an object of general dread throughout the castle; and the possibility of an encounter with him was enough to daunt the boldest breast. Disguising his alarm, Bouchier issued his directions in an authoritative tone, and then mounted with three arquebusiers to the summit of the tower. It was now dark, but the moon soon arose, and her beams rendered every object as distinguishable as daylight would have done, so that watch was easily kept. But nothing occurred to occasion alarm, until all at once, a noise like that of a hammer stricken against a board, was heard in the chamber below.

Drawing his sword, Bouchier hurried down the steps leading into this chamber, which was buried in darkness, and advanced so precipitately and incautiously into the gloom, that he struck his head against a crossbeam. The violence of the blow stunned him for a moment, but as soon as he recovered, he called to the guard in the lower chamber to bring up a torch. The order was promptly obeyed; but, meanwhile, the sound had ceased, and, though they searched about, they could not discover the occasion of it.

This, however, was not so wonderful for the singular construction of the chamber, with its numerous crossbeams, its deep embrasures and recesses, its insecure and uneven floor, its steep ladder-like staircases, was highly favourable to concealment, it being utterly impossible, owing to the intersections of the beams, for the searchers to see far before them, or to move about quickly. In the midst of the chamber was a large wooden compartment enclosing the cumbrous and uncouth machinery of the castle clock, and through the box ran the cord communicating with the belfry above. At that time, pieces of ordnance were mounted in all the embrasures, but there is now only one gun, placed in a porthole commanding Thames Street, and the long thoroughfare leading to Eton. The view from this porthole of the groves of Eton, and of the lovely plains on the north-west, watered by the river, is enchanting beyond description.

Viewed from a recess which has been partly closed, the appearance of this chamber is equally picturesque and singular; and it is scarcely possible to pass beneath its huge beams or to gaze at the fantastic yet striking combinations they form in connection with the deep embrasures, the steep staircases and trap-doors, and not feel that the whole place belongs to romance, and that a multitude of strange and startling stories must be connected with it. The old architects were indeed great romancers, and built for the painter and the poet.

Bouchier and his companion crept about under the great meshwork of beams-peered into all the embrasures, and beneath the carriages of the culverins. There was a heap of planks and beams lying on the floor between the two staircases, but no one was near it.

The result of their investigations did not tend to decrease their alarm. Bouchier would fain have had the man keep watch in the chamber, but neither threats nor entreaties could induce him to remain there. He was therefore sent below, and the captain returned to the roof. He had scarcely emerged upon the leads when the hammering recommenced more violently than before. In vain Bouchier ordered his men to go down. No one would stir; and superstitious fear had by this time obtained such mastery over the captain, that he hesitated to descend alone. To add to his vexation, the arquebusier had taken the torch with him, so that he should have to proceed in darkness.

At length he mustered up courage to make the attempt; but he paused between each step, peering through the gloom, and half fancying he could discern the figure of Herne near the spot where the pile of wood lay. Certain it was that the sound of diabolical laughter, mingled with the rattling of the chain and the sharp blows of the hammer, smote his ears. The laughter became yet louder as Bouchier advanced, the hammering ceased, and the clanking of the chain showed that its mysterious wearer was approaching the foot of the steps to meet him. But the captain had not nerve enough for the encounter. Invoking the protection of the saints, he beat a precipitate retreat, and closed the little door at the head of the steps after him.