No sooner were the words uttered, than the thundering tramp of the steeds resounded, and the opponents met midway. Both their lances were shivered; but as the king did not, in the slightest degree, change his position, he was held to have the best of it. Courses were then run by the others, with varied success, the Marquis of Dorset being unhorsed by Sir Henry Norris, whose prowess was rewarded by the plaudits of the assemblage, and what was infinitely more dear to him, by the smiles of the queen.
"You have ridden well, Norris," cried Henry, advancing towards him. "Place yourself opposite me, and let us splinter a lance together."
As Norris reined back his steed, in compliance with the injunction, the tall monk stepped from out the line, and drawing near him, said, "If you wish to prove victorious, aim at the upper part of the king's helmet." And with these words he withdrew.
By the time Norris had placed his lance in the rest, the trumpet sounded. The next moment the word was given, and the champions started. Henry rode with great impetuosity, and struck Norris in the gorget with such good will that both he and his steed were shaken.
But Norris was more fortunate. Following the advice of the monk, he made the upper part of the king's helmet his mark, and the blow was so well dealt, that, though he did not dislodge the royal horseman, it drove back his steed on its haunches.
The success was so unequivocal that Norris was at once declared the victor by the judge. No applause, however, followed the decision, from a fear of giving offence to the king.
Norris dismounted, and committing his steed to the care of an esquire, and his lance to a page, took off his helmet and advanced towards the royal gallery, near which the Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyat were standing talking with the other dames. As Norris drew near, Anne leaned over the edge of the gallery, and smiled at him tenderly, and, whether by design or accident, let fall her embroidered handkerchief.
Norris stooped to pick it up, regarding her as he did so with a glance of the most passionate devotion. A terrible gaze, however, was fixed on the unfortunate pair at that moment. It was that of the king. While Henry was careering in front of the gallery to display himself before Jane Seymour, a tall monk approached him, and said, "Look at Sir Henry Norris!"
Thus addressed, Henry raised his beaver, that he might see more distinctly, and beheld Norris take up the embroidered handkerchief, which he recognised as one that he had given, in the early days of his affection, to the queen.
The sight stung him almost to madness, and he had great difficulty in repressing his choler. But if this slight action, heightened to importance, as it was, by the looks of the parties, roused his ire, it was nothing to what followed. Instead of restoring it to the queen, Norris, unconscious of the danger in which he stood, pressed the handkerchief fervently to his lips.
"I am hitherto the victor of the jousts," he said; "may I keep this as the prize?"
Anne smiled assent.
"It is the proudest I ever obtained," pursued Norris. And he placed it within his helmet.
Does your majesty see that?" cried the tall monk, who still remained standing near the king
"Death of my life!" exclaimed Henry, "it is the very handkerchief I gave her before our union! I can contain myself no longer, and must perforce precipitate matters. What ho!" he cried, riding up to that part of the gallery where the Duke of Suffolk was seated -" let the jousts be stopped!"
"Wherefore, my dear liege?" said Suffolk. "The Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyat are about to run a course."
"Let them he stopped I say!" roared Henry, in a tone that admitted of no dispute. And wheeling round his charger, he dashed into the middle of the barriers, shouting in loud, authoritative accents, "The jousts are at an end! Disperse!"
The utmost consternation was occasioned by the announcement. The Duke of Suffolk instantly quitted his seat, and pressed through the crowd to the king, who whispered a few hasty words in his ear. Henry then called to the Earl of Surrey, the Marquis of Dorset, the Lord Clifford, Wyat, and some others, and bidding them attend him, prepared to quit the court. As he passed the royal gallery, Anne called to him in an agonised voice- "Oh, Henry! what is the matter? -- what have I done?"
But without paying the slightest attention to her, he dashed through the Norman Gate, galloped down the lower quadrangle, and quitted the castle.
The confusion that ensued may be imagined. All saw that something extraordinary and terrible had taken place, though few knew precisely what it was. Dismay sat in every countenance, and the general anxiety was heightened by the agitation of the queen, who, uttering a piercing scream, fell back, and was borne off in a state of insensibility by her attendants.
Unable to control himself at the sight, Norris burst through the guard, and rushing up the great staircase, soon gained the apartment to which the queen had been conveyed. Owing to the timely aid afforded her, she was speedily restored, and the first person her eyes fell upon was her lover. At the sight of him a glance of affection illumined her features, but it was instantly changed into an expression of alarm.
At this juncture the Duke of Suffolk, who, with Bouchier and a party of halberdiers, had entered the room, stepped up to the queen, and said- "Will it please you, madam, to retire to an inner apartment? I grieve to say you are under arrest."
"Arrest!" exclaimed Anne; " for what crime, your grace?"
"You are charged with incontinency towards the king's highness," replied Suffolk sternly.
"But I am innocent!" cried Anne -" as Heaven shall judge me, I am innocent!"
"I trust you will be able to prove yourself so, madam," said Suffolk. "Sir Henry Norris, your person is likewise attached."
"Then I am lost indeed!" exclaimed Anne distractedly.
Do not let these false and malignant accusations alarm you, madam," said Norri. "You have nothing to fear. I will die protesting your innocence."
"Sir Henry Norris," said the duke coldly, "your own imprudence has brought about this sad result."
"I feel it," replied Norris; "and I deserve the worst punishment that can be inflicted upon me for it. But I declare to you as I will declare upon the rack, if I am placed upon it -- that the queen is wholly innocent. Let her not suffer for my fault."
"You hear what Sir Henry says," cried Anne; "and I call upon you to recollect the testimony he has borne."
"I shall not fail to do so, madam," replied Suffolk. "Your majesty will have strict justice."
"Justice! "echoed Anne, with a laugh of bitter incredulity. "Justice from Henry the Eighth?"
"Beseech you, madam, do not destroy yourself," said Norris, prostrating himself before her. "Recollect by whom you are surrounded. My folly and madness have brought you into this strait, and I sincerely implore your pardon for it."
"You are not to blame, Norris," said Anne; "it is fate, not you, that has destroyed me. The hand that has dealt this blow is that of a queen within the tomb."
"Captain Bouchier," said the Duke of Suffolk, addressing that officer, who stood near him," you will convey Sir Henry Norris to the strong- room in the lower gateway, whence he will be removed to the Tower."
"Farewell for ever, Norris!" cried Anne. "We shall meet no more on earth. In what has fallen on me I recognise the hand of retribution. But the same measure which has been meted to me shall be dealt to others. I denounce Jane Seymour before Heaven! She shall not long retain the crown she is about to snatch from me!"
"That imprecation had better have been spared, madam," said the duke.
"Be advised, my gracious mistress," cried Norris, "and do not let your grief and distraction place you in the power of your enemies. All may yet go well."
"I denounce her!" persisted Anne, wholly disregarding the caution; "and I also denounce the king. No union of his shall be happy, and other blood than mine shall flow.
At a sign from the duke she was here borne, half suffocated with emotion, to an inner apartment, while Norris was conveyed by Bouchier and a company of halberdiers to the lower gateway, and placed within the prison chamber.