The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

THE night of Queen Mary’s entrance into the Tower was spent by Simon Renard, the Duke of Norfolk, Gardiner (the new Lord Chancellor), Courtenay, Arundel, Pembroke, and other noble and honourable persons composing her council, in framing a public declaration of her religious opinions, to be proclaimed on the morrow, and in deliberating on other mighty matters connected with the establishment of her government. Throughout this consultation, when any difference of opinion arose, the matter was invariably deferred to the judgment of the imperial ambassador, whose decision was regarded as final; and as he was looked upon as the chief instrument in crushing the late rebellion, so it was supposed he could, by his sagacity and influence, establish Mary upon her throne.

It was late when the council separated, and instead of returning to his apartments in the palace, Renard, fevered and wearied by the protracted discussion at which he had assisted, preferred refreshing himself by a stroll in the open air. Accordingly, he proceeded to the Green, and began to pace backwards and forwards, at a brisk pace, between the lieutenant’s lodgings and the chapel. He continued this exercise for nearly an hour, pondering upon recent events, and revolving future schemes within his plotting brain, when just as day was breaking, and the hoary walls of the White Tower began to reveal themselves in all their grandeur, he perceived a man, armed with a caliver, advancing to meet him. Renard stood still, and throwing his ample cloak over his shoulder, awaited the new comer’s approach. It proved to be a warder, who, having seen him as he was going his rounds, at first supposed he had some ill designs in view, but finding out his mistake, as he drew nearer and recognised the Spanish ambassador, with whose person he was familiar, he was about to withdraw, when Renard called him back and demanded his name.

“I am called Gervase Winwike, your excellency,” replied the man, “and am one of the senior warders of the Tower.”

“Whither are you going, friend?” inquired Renard.

“To the summit of the White Tower,” answered Winwike; “to see that the sentinels are at their posts.”

“Is it inconsistent with your duty to take me with you?” asked the ambassador.

“By no means,” rejoined the warder. “I shall feel honoured by your presence. We shall reach the roof just at sunrise, and the view from thence, on a fine clear morning like the present, is magnificent beyond compare, and will amply repay your excellency for climbing up so many steps as you will have to scale to obtain it.”

“Let us make what haste we can, then,” said Renard, “I am impatient to behold it.”

Thus exhorted, Winwike led the way to the north-west turret of the ancient structure, before a door in which a sentinel was stationed, who, on receiving the pass-word, lowered his halbert, and suffered them to enter. They were now within a small circular chamber, from which a flight of spiral stone steps ascended. Followed by Renard, the warder commenced the ascent. Light was admitted at intervals through loop-holes, gradually diminishing in width as they approached the exterior of the walls, and serving to reveal their immense thickness. As they mounted, Winwike pointed out to his companion the entrance of a passage communicating with the council-chamber. Renard was much struck with the substantial and beautiful masonry of the turret; but being anxious to gain the roof as soon as possible, he urged his companion to quicken his pace, and they soon arrived at an arched door, which Winwike threw open, and they stepped upon the roof.

Springing upon the platform, Renard was about to rush to the battlements, when Winwike offered to lead him to the best point of view. As he followed his conductor towards the southwest angle, Renard cast his eye over the roof. Cannon were placed on the raised platform, while armed men were stationed at twenty paces distant from each other. In the centre of the building stood a tall staff, from which floated the royal banner.

Depositing his caliver against the wall of the turret, Winwike told his companion to look around. Renard obeyed, and a glorious panorama met his gaze. Immediately beneath him lay the fortress, with its chain of towers, its ramparts, its fortifications, its bridges, and its broad deep moat. Beyond was spread out old and picturesque London, with its numerous steeples, above which rose the massive tower of St. Paul’s. A little on the left was old London Bridge, covered with outhouses—the noise of the falling water, and the mills, being distinctly audible where they stood. Nearer, lay the river glittering in the sunbeams, and filled with a forest of masts. Renard contemplated this prospect for some time in silent admiration.

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