As the king, wholly unattended -- for he had left the archers at the Curfew Tower -- was passing at the back of Saint George's Chapel, near the north transept, he paused for a moment to look at the embattled entrance to the New Commons -- a structure erected in the eleventh year of his own reign by James Denton, a canon, and afterwards Dean of Lichfield, for the accommodation of such chantry priests and choristers as had no place in the college. Over the doorway, surmounted by a niche, ran (and still runs) the inscription --
"AEDES PRO SACELLANORUM CHORISTARUM COVIVIIS EXTRUCTA, A.D. 1519."
The building has since been converted into one of the canons' houses.
While he was contemplating this beautiful gateway, which was glimmering in the bright moonlight, a tall figure suddenly darted from behind one of the buttresses of the chapel, and seized his left arm with an iron grasp. The suddenness of the attack took him by surprise; but he instantly recovered himself, plucked away his arm, and, drawing his sword, made a pass at his assailant, who, however, avoided the thrust, and darted with inconceivable swiftness through the archway leading to the cloisters. Though Henry followed as quickly as he could, he lost sight of the fugitive, but just as he was about to enter the passage running between the tomb-house and the chapel, he perceived a person in the south ambulatory evidently anxious to conceal himself, and, rushing up to him and dragging him to the light he found it was no other than the cardinal's jester, Patch.
"What does thou here, knave?" cried Henry angrily.
"I am waiting for my master, the cardinal," replied the jester, terrified out of his wits.
"Waiting for him here! "cried the king. " Where is he?"
"In that house," replied Patch, pointing to a beautiful bay-window, full of stained glass, overhanging the exquisite arches of the north ambulatory.
"Why, that is Doctor Sampson's dwelling," cried Henry; "he who was chaplain to the queen, and is a strong opponent of the divorce.What doth he there?"
"I am sure I know not," replied Patch, whose terror increased each moment. "Perhaps I have mistaken the house. Indeed, I am sure it must be Doctor Voysey's, the next door."
"Thou liest, knave! " cried Henry fiercely; "thy manner convinces me there is some treasonable practice going forward. But I will soon find it out. Attempt to give the alarm, and I will cut thy throat."
With this he proceeded to the back of the north ambulatory, and finding the door he sought unfastened, raised the latch and walked softly in. But before he got half-way down the passage, Doctor Sampson himself issued from an inner room with a lamp in his hand. He started on seeing the king, and exhibited great alarm.
"The Cardinal of York is here -- I know it," said Henry in a deep whisper. "Lead me to him."
"Oh, go not forward, my gracious liege!" cried Sampson, placing himself in his path.
"Wherefore not?" rejoined the king. "Ha! what voice is that I heard in the upper chamber? Is she here, and with Wolsey? Out of my way, man," he added, pushing the canon aside, and rushing up the short wooden staircase.
When Wolsey returned from his interview with the king, which had been so unluckily interrupted by Anne Boleyn, he found his ante-chamber beset with a crowd of suitors to whose solicitations he was compelled to listen, and having been detained in this manner for nearly half an hour, he at length retired into an inner room.
"Vile sycophants!" he muttered, "they bow the knee before me, and pay me greater homage than they render the king, but though they have fed upon my bounty and risen by my help, not one of them, if he was aware of my true position, but would desert me. Not one of them but would lend a helping hand to crush me. Not one but would rejoice in my downfall. But they have not deceived me. I knew them from the first -- saw through their hollowness and despised them. While power lasts to me, I will punish some of them. While power lasts!" he repeated. "Have I any power remaining? I have already given up Hampton and my treasures to the king; and the work of spoliation once commenced, the royal plunderer will not be content till he has robbed me of all; while his minion, Anne Boleyn, has vowed my destruction. Well, I will not yield tamely, nor fall unavenged."
As these thoughts passed through his mind, Patch, who had waited for a favourable moment to approach him, delivered him a small billet carefully sealed, and fastened with a silken thread. Wolsey took it, and broke it open; and as his eye eagerly scanned its contents, the expression of his countenance totally changed. A flash of joy and triumph irradiated his fallen features; and thrusting the note into the folds of his robe, he inquired of the jester by whom it had been brought, and how long.
"It was brought by a messenger from Doctor Sampson," replied Patch, "and was committed to me with special injunctions to deliver it to your grace immediately on your return, and secretly."
The cardinal sat down, and for a few moments appeared lost in deep reflection; he then arose, and telling Patch he should return presently, quitted the chamber. But the jester, who was of an inquisitive turn, and did not like to be confined to half a secret, determined to follow him, and accordingly tracked him along the great corridor, down a winding staircase, through a private door near the Norman Gateway, across the middle ward, and finally saw him enter Doctor Sampson's dwelling, at the back of the north ambulatory. He was reconnoitring the windows of the house from the opposite side of the cloisters in the hope of discovering something, when he was caught, as before mentioned, by the king.
Wolsey, meanwhile, was received by Doctor Sampson at the doorway of his dwelling, and ushered by him into a chamber on the upper floor, wainscoted with curiously carved and lustrously black oak. A silver lamp was burning the on the table, and in the recess of the window, which was screened by thick curtains, sat a majestic lady, who rose on the cardinal's entrance. It was Catherine of Arragon.