The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“Wherever a cat can go, I can,” thought Xit. “That roof reached, I could pass along the summits of the ramparts and fortifications connecting it with the lieutenant’s lodgings; and on arriving there, it were easy to descend the chimney, and get into the earl’s chamber. Bravo! That will do.”

The plan so enchanted him, that he was in a fever to put it in execution. This, however, could not take place till night, and retiring to a little distance to survey the premises, he satisfied himself, after some consideration, that he had discovered the chimney communicating with the earl’s room. When the proper time arrived, he cautiously approached the tree, and looking round to make sure no one observed him, he clambered up it with the agility of a squirrel. Notwithstanding his caution, a serious accident had nearly befallen him. Just as he was about to spring upon the wall, the bough on which he stood broke. Luckily he caught hold of a projection of the building, and saved himself. But he was some minutes before he recovered from the fright. The noise, too, had nearly betrayed him to the sentinels, who approached within a few paces of him. But the darkness was so profound, that he escaped observation. When they returned to their posts he proceeded along the ridge of the battlements, and dropping upon the ballium wall, proceeded with the utmost caution to the edge of the ramparts. He then passed on tip-toe close to the guard, and hastening forward, reached the tiled roof of the lieutenant’s house, up which he clambered, as noiselessly and actively as the animal he emulated.

On gaining the chimney he was in search of, he untied a cord with which he had provided himself, and securing it to the brickwork, let one end drop down the aperture. He then descended, and soon came to a level with the chamber, and perceiving a light within it, resolved to reconnoitre before he ventured further. Courtenay was asleep on a couch in the comer, while two attendants were likewise slumbering upon seats near the door. At a loss how to act, as he could scarcely awaken the earl without disturbing the guards, Xit got out of the chimney, and crept cautiously towards the couch. He would fain have extinguished the lamp, but it was out of his reach. Planting himself on the further side of the couch, so as to conceal himself from the attendants, he ventured at length slightly to shake the sleeper. Courtenay started, and uttered an exclamation which immediately aroused his guards.

“Who touched me?” he demanded angrily.

“No one, my lord,” replied the foremost of the men, glancing at the door and round the chamber. “Your lordship must have been dreaming.”

“I suppose it must be so,” replied the earl, looking round, and perceived nothing. “And yet—”

At this moment a slight pressure on the hand warned him to be silent.

“If your lordship wishes it, we will search the room,” observed the second soldier.

“No, no, it is needless,” replied Courtenay. “I have no doubt it was a dream.”

In a few minutes, the soldiers were again snoring, and Xit popping his head from beneath the coverlet, in a low tone delivered his message. The earl expressed his satisfaction, and proceeded to make inquiries respecting the Princess Elizabeth. On learning that, she had quitted the Tower the day before, he had much ado to restrain his joy. And when he ascertained by what means the dwarf had obtained access to the chamber, he was desirous to attempt an escape by the same way, but was dissuaded by Xit, who represented to him the risk he would incur, adding that even if he escaped from his present prison, he would be unable to quit the Tower.

The dwarf then departed as he came. Climbing up the chimney, he drew the rope after him, retraced his course over the fortifications; and on reaching the Bloody Tower, contrived, with much exertion, and no little risk, to lay hold of a branch of the tree, down which he clambered. The next day, he related the successful issue of his trip to his employer.

De Noailles did not remain idle. He had already mentioned his project to the Duke of Suffolk, Lord Thomas Grey, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Sir James Croft, Sir Peter Carew, and Sir Thomas Wyat, all of whom eagerly joined in it. With most of these, but especially with Wyat, afterwards the leader of the rebellion against Mary, the main inducement to conspire was aversion to the queen’s meditated alliance with the Prince of Spain. With the Duke of Suffolk and his ambitious brother, Lord Thomas Grey, it was (as De Noailles had foreseen) the hope that in the tumult the Lady Jane Grey might be restored that purchased their compliance. The conspirators had frequent secret meetings in the apartments of the French ambassador, where they conferred upon their plans. Suffolk, though pardoned for his late treason by Mary, was yet detained a prisoner on parole within the Tower. His brother had not taken a sufficiently prominent part to bring him into trouble. The bravest of their number was Wyat, of whom it may be necessary to say a few words.

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