The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“What is this, sir?” she demanded.

“The warrant for the burning of Edward Underhill, the miscreant who attempted your highness’s life,” replied Bedingfeld.

“How!—burned! and I had pardoned him,” exclaimed Mary.

“He has been delivered over by the council to the ecclesiastical authorities, and such is the sentence pronounced against him,” returned the knight.

Mary sighed, and attached her signature to the scroll.

“The hour of execution, and the place?” demanded Bedingfeld.

“To-morrow at midnight, on the Tower Green,” replied Mary.

Soon after this, it being intimated to the queen that all was in readiness at the Lion’s Tower, she arose and proceeded thither, attended by a large retinue of nobles and dames. On the way a momentary interruption occurred, and Simon Renard, who walked a few paces behind her, stepped forward, and whispered in her ear, “I beseech your highness to remain to-night in the Tower. I have somewhat of importance to communicate to you, which can be more safely revealed here than elsewhere.”

Mary bowed assent, and the train set forward. A large assemblage was collected within the area in front of the Lions’ Tower, but a passage was kept clear for the royal party by two lines of halberdiers drawn up on either side. Og and Magog were stationed at the entrance, and reverentially doffed their caps as she passed. Mary graciously acknowledged the salute, and inquired from the elder giant what had become of his diminutive companion.

“He is within, an’ please your majesty,” replied Og, “waiting to signalise himself by a combat with a bear.”

“Indeed!” rejoined Mary smiling. “It is a hardy enterprise for so small a champion. However, large souls oft inhabit little bodies.”

“Your highness says rightly,” observed Og. “But your illustrious father, to whom I have the honour to be indirectly related,” and he inclined his person, “was wont to observe that he had rather have a large frame and small wit, than much wit and a puny person.”

“My father loved to look upon a man,” replied Mary, “and better specimens of the race than thee and thy brethren he could not well meet with.”

“We are much beholden to your highness,” replied Og; “and equally, if not more so, to your royal father. Whatever we can boast of strength and size is derived from him. Our mother—”

“Some other time,” interrupted Mary, hastily passing on.

“Have I said aught to offend her highness?” asked Og of his brother, as soon as they were alone.

“I know not,” returned Magog. “But you fetched the colour to her cheeks.”

On reaching the steps, Mary tendered her hand to Sir Henry Bedingfeld, and he assisted her to ascend. A temporary covering had been placed over the gallery, and the stone parapet was covered with the richest brocade, and velvet edged with gold fringe. The queen’s chair was placed in the centre of the semicircle, and as soon as she was seated, Sir Henry Bedingfeld stationed himself at her left hand, and waved his staff. The signal was immediately answered by a flourish of trumpets; and a stout, square-built man, with large features, an enormous bushy beard, a short bull throat, having a flat cap on his head, and a stout staff in his hand, issued from a side-door and rendered, profound obeisance. It was Hairun. His homage rendered, the bearward proceeded to unfasten the door of the central cage, in which a lion of the largest size was confined; and uttering a tremendous roar that shook the whole building, the kingly brute leaped forth. As soon as he had reached the ground, he glared furiously at his keeper, and seemed to meditate a spring. But the latter, who had never removed his eye from him, struck him a severe blow on the nose with his pole, and he instantly turned tail like a beaten hound, and fled howling to the further extremity of the area. Quickly pursuing him, Hairun seized him by the mane, and, in spite of his resistance, compelled him to arise, and bestriding him, rode him backwards and forwards for some time; until the lion, wearying of the performance, suddenly dislodged his rider, and sprang back to his den. This courageous action elicited great applause from the beholders, and the queen loudly expressed her approbation. It was followed by other feats equally daring, in which the bearward proved that he had attained as complete a mastery over the savage tribe as any lion-tamer of modern times. Possessed of prodigious personal strength, he was able to cope with any animal, while his knowledge of the habits of the beast rendered him perfectly fearless as to the result. He unloosed a couple of leopards, goaded them to the utmost pitch of fury, and then defended himself from their combined attack. A tiger proved a more serious opponent. Springing against him, he threw the bearward to the ground, and for a moment it appeared as if his destruction was inevitable. But the brute’s advantage was only momentary. In this unfavourable position, Hairun seized him by the throat, and nearly strangling him with his gripe, pulled him down, and they rolled over each other. During the struggle, Hairun dealt his antagonist a few blows with his fist, which deprived him of his wind, and glad to retreat, he left the bearward master of the field.

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