The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“Ay, do so, child,” said Jane, “I shall be glad to have you with me. And, if you desire it, you shall remain constantly near my person.”

“It is more happiness than I deserve, gracious madam,” replied Cicely, dropping upon her knee. “And though your majesty has many attendants more highly born, you will find none more faithful.”

“I fully believe it,” replied Jane, with a sigh. “Rise, damsel. Henceforth you are one of my attendants.”

Cicely replied by a look of speechless gratitude, while, summoning a guard, Dudley proceeded to the By-ward Tower. The giants informed him they had just returned from Nightgall’s lodging, and that he was absent. He then commanded them to accompany him to the entrance of the subterranean dungeons beneath the Devilin Tower.

“It will be useless to attempt to gain admission without the keys, my lord,” replied Og; “and they are in Master Nightgall’s keeping.”

“Has no one else a key?” demanded Dudley, impatiently.

“No one, unless it be Gillian Mauger, the headsman,” replied Xit; “I will bring him to your lordship, instantly.”

So saying, he hurried off in search of the executioner, while Dudley, attended by the two giants, proceeded slowly in the direction of the Beauchamp Tower. In a short time, the dwarf returned with Mauger, who limped after him as quickly as a lame leg would permit. He had no key of the dungeon, and on being questioned, declared there was no other entrance to it.

“Break open the door instantly, then,” cried Dudley.

Mauger declared this was impossible, as it was cased with iron, and fastened with a lock of great strength.

Magog, who was standing at a little distance with his arms folded upon his breast, now stepped forward, and, without saying a word, lifted up a large block of stone placed there to repair the walls, and hurling it against the door, instantly burst it open.

“Bravely done,” cried Lord Guilford. “How can I reward the service?”

“I scarcely know how to ask it of your lordship,” rejoined Magog; “but if you could prevail upon her majesty to issue her commands to Dame Placida Paston to bestow her hand upon me, you would make me the happiest of mankind.”

“If the dame be willing, surely she does not require enforcement,” replied Dudley, laughing; “and if not”—

“She has half promised her hand to me, my lord,” said Xit, “and your lordship can scarcely doubt to whom she would give the preference.”

“She has indeed a fair choice betwixt giant and dwarf I must own,” replied Dudley. “But bring torches and follow me. More serious business now claims my attention.”

“I will guide your lordship through these dungeons,” said Xit. “I have often accompanied Master Nightgall in his visits, and can conduct you to every cell.”

“Lead on then,” said Dudley.

After traversing a vast number of passages, and examining many cells, all of which were vacant, they at length came to the dungeon where Cholmondeley had been confined. Here they found Nightgall, who at first attempted to exculpate himself, and made a variety of wild accusations against the esquire, but when he found he was utterly disbelieved, he confessed the whole truth. Dismissing some of his companions in search of the esquire, who it was evident, if the jailer’s statement was to be credited, must have lost himself in some of the passages. Dudley was about to follow them, when Nightgall flung himself at his feet, and offered, if his life were spared, to reveal all the secret practices of the council which had come to his knowledge. Dudley then ordered the rest of his attendants to withdraw, and was so much astonished at Nightgall’s communication that he determined upon instantly conveying him to the palace. After a long, but ineffectual search for Cholmondeley, whose escape has already been related, Dudley contented himself with leaving Xit and Og to look for him; and placing Nightgall in the custody of the two other giants, returned with him to the palace.

While this was passing, the queen had received an unexpected visit. She had retired to her closet with Cicely, and was listening to a recapitulation of the young damsel’s love affair, when the hangings were suddenly drawn aside, and Simon Renard stepped from a masked door in the wall. Surprise for a moment held her silent, and Cicely was so much astonished by the appearance of the intruder, and so much alarmed by his stern looks, that she stood like one petrified. Renard’s deportment, indeed, was most formidable, and could not fail to impress them both with terror. He said nothing for a moment, but fixed his black flaming eyes menacingly on the queen. As she remained speechless, he motioned Cicely to withdraw, and she would have obeyed had not Jane grasped her arm and detained her.

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