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How the Earl of Surrey and the Fair Geraldine met in King James's Bower in the Moat--And how they were surprised by the Duke of Richmond.
IN order to preserve unbroken the chain of events with which the last book of this chronicle concluded, it was deemed expedient to disturb the unity of time, so far as it related to some of the less important characters; and it will now he necessary, therefore, to return to the middle of June, when the Earl of Surrey's term of captivitywas drawing to a close.
As the best means of conquering the anxiety produced by the vision exhibited to him by Herne, increased as it was by the loss of the relic he had sustained at the same time, the earl had devoted himself to incessant study, and for a whole month he remained within his chamber. The consequence of his unremitting application was that, though he succeeded in his design and completely regained his tranquillity, his strength gave way under the effort, and he was confined for some days to his couch by a low fever.
As soon as he was sufficiently recovered to venture forth, he mounted to the summit of the Round Tower, in the hope that a walk round its breezy battlements might conduce to his restoration to health. The day was bright and beautiful, and a gentle wind was stirring; and as Surrey felt the breath. of heaven upon his cheek, and gazed upon the glorious. prospect before him, he wondered that his imprisonment had not driven him mad. Everything around him, indeed,. was calculated to make the sense of captivity painful. The broad and beautiful meads, stretching out beneath him, seemed to invite a ramble over them; the silver river courted a plunge into its waves, the woods an hour's retirement into their shady recesses, The bells of Eton College rang out merrily, but their sound saddened rather than elated him. The road between Eton and Windsor, then marked by straggling cottages with gardens between them, with here and there a dwelling of a better kind, was thronged with herds of cattle and their drivers, for a fair was held that day in the town of Windsor, to which they were hastening. Then there were country maidens and youthful hinds in their holiday apparel, trooping towards the bridge. Booths were erected, near which, in the Brocas meads, the rustic sports of wrestling, running, and casting the bar were going forward, while numbers of boats shot to and fro upon the river, and strains of music proceeded from a large gilt barge moored to its banks. Nearer, and in the broad green plain lying beneath the north terrace, were a company of archers shooting at the butts. But these sights, instead of affording pleasure to Surrey, only sharpened the anguish of his feelings by the contrast they offered to his present position.
To distract his thoughts, he quitted the near view, and let his eye run along the edge of the horizon, until it rested upon a small speck, which he knew to be the lofty spire of Saint Paul's Cathedral. If, as he supposed, the Fair Geraldine was in attendance upon Anne Boleyn, at the palace at Bridewell, she must be under the shadow of this very spire; and the supposition, whether correct or not, produced such quick and stifling emotions, that the tears rushed to his eyes.
Ashamed of his weakness, he turned to the other side of the tower, and bent his gaze upon the woody heights of the great park. These recalled Herne the Hunter; and burning with resentment at the tricks practised upon him by the demon, he determined that the first use he would make of his liberty should be to seek out, and, if possible, effect the capture of this mysterious being. Some of the strange encounters between Herne and the king had been related to him by the officer on guard at the Norman Tower but these only served as stimulants to the adventure. After a couple of hours thus passed on the keep, he descended refreshed and invigorated. The next day he was there again, and the day after that; when, feeling that his restoration was well nigh complete, he requested permission to pass the following evening in the dry moat of the donjon. And this was readily accorded him.
Covered with green sod, and shaded by many tall trees growing out of the side of the artificial mound on which the keep was built, the fosse offered all the advantages of a garden to the prisoners who were allowed to take exercise within it. Here, as has been mentioned, King James the First of Scotland first beheld, from the battlements above, the lovely Jane Beaufort take her solitary walk, and by his looks and gestures contrived to make her sensible of the passion with which she inspired him; and here at last, in an arbour which, for the sake of the old and delightful legend connected with it, was kept up at the time of this chronicle, and then bore the name of the royal poet, they had secretly met, and interchanged their vows of affection.
Familiar with the story, familiar also with the poetic strains to which the monarch's passion gave birth, Surrey could not help comparing his own fate with that of the illustri6us captive who had visited the spot before him. Full of such thoughts, he pensively tracked the narrow path winding between the grassy banks of the fosse--now casting up his eyes to the keep--now looking towards the arbour, and wishing that he had been favoured with such visitings as lightened the captivity of the Scottish king. At last, he sought the bower--a charming little nest of green leaves and roses, sheltering a bench which seemed only contrived for lovers--and taking out his tablets, began to trace within them some stanzas of that exquisite poem which has linked his name for ever with the Round Tower. Thus occupied, the time stole on insensibly, and he was not aware that he had over-stayed the limits allowed him, till he was aroused by the voice of the officer, who came to summon him back to his prison.
"You will be removed to your old lodging, in the Round Tower, tomorrow night, my lord," said the officer.
"For what reason?" demanded the earl, as he followed his conductor up the steep side of the mound. But receiving. no reply, he did not renew the inquiry
Entering a door in the covered way at the head of the flight of steps communicating with the Norman Tower, they descended them in silence. Just as they reached the foot of this long staircase, the earl chanced to cast back his eyes, and,to his inexpressible astonishment, perceived on the landing at the head of the steps, and just before the piece of ordnance commanding the ascent, the figure of Herne the Hunter.
Before he could utter an exclamation, the figure retreated through the adjoining archway. Telling the officer what he had seen, Surrey would fain have gone in quest of the fiendish spy; but the other would not permit him; and affecting to treat the matter as a mere creation of fancy, he hurried the earl to his chamber in the Curfew Tower.
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Windsor Castle -by- William Harrison Ainsworth