The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

While pushing through them, a sudden bustle was heard behind, and he was very unceremoniously thrust back by Simon Renard, who was conducting Dudley to the queen’s presence.

“Another prisoner!” exclaimed Xit. “I wonder what Renard will get for his pains. If I could but take Wyat, my fortune were indeed made. First, I will go and see what has become of Bret; and then, if I can do so without much risk, I will venture outside the portcullis of the By-ward Tower. Who knows but I may come in for another good thing!”

Thus communing with himself, Xit went in search of the unfortunate captain of the trained bands, while Renard entered the council-chamber with Dudley. The latter, though faint from loss of blood, on finding himself in the queen’s presence, exerted all his strength, and stood erect and unsupported.

“So far your highness is victorious,” said Renard; “one of the rebel-leaders is in your power, and ere long all will be so. Will it please you to question him, or shall I bid Mauger take off his head at once?”

“Let me reflect a moment,” replied Mary, thoughtfully. “He shall die,” she added, after a pause; “but not yet.”

“It were better to behead him now,” rejoined Renard.

“I do not think so,” replied Mary. “Let him be removed to some place of safe confinement, the dungeon beneath Saint John’s Chapel.”

“The only grace I ask from your highness is speedy death,” said Dudley.

“Therefore I will not grant it,” replied Mary. “No, traitor! you shall perish with your wife.”

“Ah!” exclaimed Dudley, “I have destroyed her.”

And as the words were pronounced, he reeled backwards, and would have fallen, if the attendants had not caught him.

“Your majesty has spared Mauger a labour,” observed Renard, sarcastically.

“He is not dead,” replied Mary; “and if he were so, it would not grieve me. Remove him; and do with him as I have commanded.”

Her injunctions were obeyed, and the inanimate body of Dudley was carried away.

Renard was proceeding to inform the queen that the insurgents had been driven from the Brass Mount, when a messenger arrived with tidings that another success had been gained. Sir Henry Jerningham having encountered the detachment under the Duke of Suffolk, and driven them back to their vessels, was about to assist the Earl of Pembroke and Sir Henry Bedingfeld in a sally upon Sir Thomas Wyat’s party. This news so enchanted Mary, that she took a valuable ring from her finger and presented it to the messenger, saying, “I will double thy fee, good fellow, if thou wilt bring me word that Wyat is slain, and his traitorous band utterly routed.”

Scarcely had the messenger departed, when another appeared. He brought word that several vessels had arrived off the Tower, and attacked the squadron under the command of Admiral Winter; that all the vessels, with the exception of one, on board which the Duke of Suffolk had taken refuge, had struck; and that her majesty might now feel assured of a speedy conquest. At this news, Mary immediately fell on her knees, and cried, “I thank thee, O Lord! not that thou hast vouchsafed me a victory over my enemies, but that thou hast enabled me to triumph over thine.”

“The next tidings your highness receives will be that the siege is raised,” observed Renard, as the queen arose; “and, with your permission, I will be the messenger to bring it.”

“Be it so,” replied Mary. “I would now gladly be alone.” As Renard issued from the principal entrance of the White Tower, and was about to cross the Green, he perceived a small group collected before Saint Peter’s Chapel, and at once guessing its meaning, he hastened towards it. It was just beginning to grow light, and objects could be imperfectly distinguished. As Renard drew nigh, he perceived a circle formed round a soldier whose breast-plate, doublet, and ruff had been removed, and who was kneeling with his arms crossed upon his breast beside a billet of wood. Near him, on the left, stood Mauger, with his axe upon his shoulder, and on the right, Gardiner holding a crucifix towards him, and earnestly entreating him to die in the faith of Rome; promising him, in case of compliance, a complete remission of his sins. Bret, for he it was, made no answer, but appeared, from the convulsive movement of his lips, to be muttering a prayer. Out of patience, at length Gardiner gave the signal to Mauger, and the latter motioned the rebel captain to Jay his head upon the piece of timber. The practised executioner performed his task with so much celerity that a minute had not elapsed before the head was stricken from the body, and placed on the point of a spear. While the apparatus of death and the blood-streaming trunk were removed, Xit, who was one of the spectators, seized the spear with its grisly burden, and, bending beneath the load, bore it towards the By-ward Tower. A man-at-arms preceded him, shouting in a loud voice, “Thus perish all traitors.”

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