"It is the king who is crazed, not me! " cried Mark. "He would sacrifice his rightful consort to his unlawful passion; and you, base hirelings, support the tyrant in his wrongful conduct I"
"Saints protect us! " exclaimed Bryan. " Why, this is flat treason. Mark, I can no longer uphold you."
"Not if you do not desire to share his prison, mine host," cried the Duke of Shoreditch. "You have all heard him call the king a tyrant. Seize him, my masters!"
"Let them lay hands upon me if they dare!" cried the butcher resolutely. "I have felled an ox with a blow of my fist before this, and I promise you I will show them no better treatment."
Awed by Mark's determined manner, the bystanders kept aloof.
"I command you, in the king's name, to seize him!" roared Shoreditch. "If he offers resistance he will assuredly be hanged."
"No one shall touch me!" cried Mark fiercely.
"That remains to be seen," said the foremost of the Earl of Surrey's attendants. " Yield, fellow!"
"Never!" replied Mark; "and I warn you to keep off."
The attendant, however, advanced; but before he could lay hands on the butcher he received a blow from his ox-like fist that sent him reeling backwards for several paces, and finally stretched him at full length upon the ground. His companions drew their swords, and would have instantly fallen upon the sturdy offender, if Morgan Fenwolf, who, with the Earl of Surrey, was standing among the spectators, had not rushed forward, and, closing with Mark before the latter could strike a blow, grappled with him, and held him fast till he was secured, and his arms tied behind him.
"And so it is you, Morgan Fenwolf, who have served me this ill turn, eh?" cried the butcher, regarding him fiercely. "I now believe all I have heard of you."
"What have you heard of him? "asked Surrey, advancing.
"That he has dealings with the fiend--with Herne the Hunter," replied Mark. "If I am hanged for a traitor, he ought to be burnt for a wizard."
"Heed not what the villain says, my good fellow," said the Duke of Shoreditch; "you have captured him bravely, and I will take care your conduct is duly reported to his majesty. To the castle with him! To the castle! He will lodge to-night in the deepest dungeon of yon fortification," pointing to the Curfew Tower above them, "there to await the king's judgment; and to-morrow night it will be well for him if he is not swinging from the gibbet near the bridge. Bring him along."
And followed by Morgan Fenwolf and the others, with the prisoner, he strode up the hill.
Long before this Captain Bouchier had issued from the hostel and joined the earl, and they walked together after the crowd. In a few minutes the Duke of Shoreditch reached Henry the Eighth's Gate, where he shouted to a sentinel, and told him what had occurred. After some delay a wicket in the gate was opened, and the chief persons of the party were allowed to pass through it with the prisoner, who was assigned to the custody of a couple of arquebusiers.
By this time an officer had arrived, and it was agreed, at the suggestion of the Duke of Shoreditch, to take the offender to the Curfew Tower. Accordingly they crossed the lower ward, and passing beneath an archway near the semicircular range of habitations allotted to the petty canons, traversed the space before the west end of Saint George's Chapel, and descending a short flight of stone steps at the left, and threading a narrow passage, presently arrived at the arched entrance in the Curfew, whose hoary walls shone brightly in the moonlight.
They had to knock for some time against the stout oak door before any notice was taken of the summons. At length an old man, who acted as bellringer, thrust his head out of one of the narrow pointed windows above, and demanded their business. Satisfied with the reply, he descended, and, opening the door, admitted them into a lofty chamber, the roof of which was composed of stout planks, crossed by heavy oaken rafters, and supported by beams of the same material. On the left a steep ladder-like flight of wooden steps led to an upper room, and from a hole in the roof descended a bell-rope, which was fastened to one of the beams, showing the use to which the chamber was put.
Some further consultation was now held among the party as to the propriety of leaving the prisoner in this chamber under the guard of the arquebusiers, but it was at last decided against doing so, and the old bellringer being called upon for the keys of the dungeon beneath, he speedily produced them. They then went forth, and descending a flight of stone steps on the left, came to a low strong door, which they unlocked, and obtained admission to a large octangular chamber with a vaulted roof, and deep embrasures terminated by narrow loopholes. The light of a lamp carried by the bellringer showed the dreary extent of the vault, and the enormous thickness of its walls.
"A night's solitary confinement in this place will be of infinite service to our prisoner," said the Duke of Shoreditch, gazing around. "I'll be sworn he is ready to bite off the foolish tongue that has brought him to such a pass."
The butcher made no reply, but being released by the arquebusiers, sat down upon a bench that constituted the sole furniture of the vault.
"Shall I leave him the lamp?" asked the bellringer; "he may beguile the time by reading the names of former prisoners scratched on the walls and in the embrasures."
"No; he shall not even have that miserable satisfaction," returned the Duke of Shoreditch. "He shall be left in the darkness to his own bad and bitter thoughts."
With this the party withdrew, and the door was fastened upon the prisoner. An arquebusier was stationed at the foot of the steps; and the Earl of Surrey and Captain Bouchier having fully satisfied their curiosity, shaped their course towards the castle gate. On their way thither the earl looked about for Morgan Fenwolf, but could nowhere discern him. He then passed through the wicket with Bouchier, and proceeding to the Garter, they mounted their steeds, and galloped off towards Datchet, and thence to Staines and Hampton Court.
Windsor Castle -by- William Harrison Ainsworth