The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“My master, the giant Magog, awaits you without, worshipful sir,” said Xit, with a profound reverence.

Weighing his sense of duty against his love, he found the latter feeling too strong to be resisted. Contenting himself, therefore, with tracing a hasty line of caution upon a leaf torn from his tablets, he secured it with a silken thread, and delivering it to an attendant, commanded him instantly to take it to the Lord Guilford Dudley. The man departed, and Cholmondeley, putting himself under the guidance of the dwarf, followed him to the great stairs, down which he strutted with a most consequential air, his long rapier clanking at each step he took. Arrived at the portal, the young esquire found the three giants, who had just been relieved from further attendance by another detachment of warders, and, accompanied by them, proceeded along the ward in the direction of the Gate Tower. Sentinels, he perceived, were placed at ten paces’ distance from each other along the ramparts; and the guards on the turrets, he understood from his companions, were doubled. On reaching the Gate Tower, they found a crowd of persons, some of whom, on presenting passes from the Duke of Northumberland, were allowed to go forth; while others, not thus provided, were peremptorily refused. While the giants paused for a moment to contemplate this novel scene, an officer advanced from the barbican and acquainted the keepers of the inner portal that a prisoner was about to be brought in. At this intelligence, a wicket was opened, and two heralds, followed by a band of halberdiers, amidst whom walked the prisoner, stepped through it. Torches were then lighted by some of the warders, to enable them to discern the features of the latter, when it appeared, from his ghastly looks, his blood-stained apparel, and his hair, which was closely matted to his head by the muddy stream that flowed from it, that some severe punishment had been recently inflicted upon him. He was a young man of nineteen or twenty, habited in a coarse dress of brown serge, of a slight but well-proportioned figure, and handsome features, though now distorted with pain and sullied with blood, and was instantly recognised by Cholmondeley as the individual who had rowed Gunnora Braose towards the queen. On making the discovery, Cholmondeley instantly demanded, in a stern tone, of the heralds, how they had dared, in direct opposition to their sovereign’s injunctions, to punish an offender whom she had pardoned.

“We have the Duke of Northumberland’s authority for what we have done,” replied the foremost herald, sullenly; “that is sufficient for us.”

“The punishment we have inflicted is wholly disproportioned to the villain’s offence, which is little short of high treason,” observed the other. “When we proclaimed the Queen’s Highness at Cheapside, the audacious knave mounted a wall, flung his cap into the air, and shouted for Queen Mary. For this we set him in the pillory, and nailed his head to the wood; and he may think himself fortunate if he loseth it not as well as his ears, which have been cut off by the hangman.”

“Ungrateful wretch!” cried Cholmondeley, addressing the prisoner, his former commiseration being now changed to anger; “is it thus you requite the bounty of your queen?”

“I will never acknowledge a usurper,” returned Gilbert, firmly.

“Peace!” cried the esquire; “your rashness will destroy you.”

“It may so,” retorted Gilbert, boldly; “but while I have a tongue to wag, it shall clamour for Queen Mary.”

“Where are you going to bestow the prisoner?” inquired Gog from the foremost herald.

” In the guard-room,” replied the man, “or some other place of security, till we learn his grace’s pleasure.”

“Bring him to the Stone Kitchen, then,” returned Gog. “He will be as safe there as anywhere else, and you will be none the worse for a can of good liquor, and a slice of one of Dame Trusbut’s notable pasties.”

“Agreed;” rejoined the heralds, smiling; “bring him along.”

While this was passing, Cholmondeley, whose impatience could brook no further delay, entreated Magog to conduct him at once to the habitation of the fair Cicely. Informing him that it was close at hand, the giant opened a small postern on the left of the gateway leading to the western line of fortifications, and ascending a short spiral staircase, ushered his companion into a chamber, which, to this day, retains its name of the Stone Kitchen. It was a low, large room, with the ceiling supported by heavy rafters, and the floor paved with stone. The walls were covered with shelves, displaying a goodly assortment of pewter and wooden platters, dishes and drinking-vessels; the fire-place was wide enough to admit of a whole ox being roasted within its limits; the chimney-piece advanced several yards into the room, while beneath its comfortable shelter were placed a couple of benches on either side of the hearth, on which a heap of logs was now crackling. Amid the pungent smoke arising from the wood could be discerned, through the vast aperture of the chimney, sundry hams, gammons, dried tongues, and other savoury meats, holding forth a prospect of future good cheer. At a table running across the room, and furnished with flagons and pots of wine, several boon companions were seated. The chief of these was a jovial-looking warder who appeared to be the life and soul of the party, and who had a laugh, a joke, or the snatch of a song, for every occasion. Opposite to him sat Peter Trusbut, the pantler, who roared at every fresh witticism uttered by his guest till the tears ran down his cheeks. Nor did the warder appear to be less of a favourite with Dame Potentia, a stout buxom personage, a little on the wrong side of fifty, but not without some remains of comeliness. She kept his glass constantly filled with the best wine, and his plate as constantly supplied with the choicest viands, so that, what with eating, drinking, singing, and a little sly love-making to Dame Trusbut, Ribald, for so was the warder named, was pretty well employed. At the lower end of the table was placed a savage-looking person, with red blood-shot eyes and cadaverous countenance. This was Mauger, the headsman. He was engaged in earnest conversation with Master Hairun, the bearward, assistant-keeper of the lions, an office, at that time, of some consequence and emolument. In the ingle nook was ensconced a venerable old man with a snowy beard descending to his knees, who remained with his eyes fixed vacantly upon the blazing embers. Seated on a stool near the hearth, was a little boy playing with a dog, whom Cholmondeley perceived at once was Cicely’s companion; while the adjoining chair was occupied by the fair creature of whom the enamoured esquire was in search. Pausing at the doorway, he lingered for a moment to contemplate her charms. A slight shade of sadness clouded her brow—her eyes were fixed upon the ground, and she now and then uttered a half-repressed sigh. At this juncture, the jolly-looking warder struck up a Bacchanalian stave, the words of which ran as follows:—

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