Repeated charges were made upon the savage animal by James, but it was next to impossible to get a blow at him for some time; and when at length the monarch made the attempt, he struck too low, and hit him on the snout, upon which the infuriated boar, finding himself wounded, sprang towards the horse, and ripped him open with his tusks.
The noble charger instantly rolled over on his side, exposing the royal huntsman to the fury of his merciless assailant, whose tusks must have ploughed his flesh, if at this moment a young man had not ridden forward, and at the greatest personal risk approached the boar, and, striking straight downwards, cleft the heart of the fierce brute with his spear.
Meanwhile, the King, having been disengaged by the prickers from his wounded steed, which was instantly put out of its agony by the sword of the chief huntsman, looked for his deliverer, and, discovering him to be Richard Assheton, was loud in his expressions of gratitude.
“Faith! ye maun claim a boon at our hands,” said James. “It maun never be said the King is ungrateful. What can we do for you, lad?”
“For myself nothing, sire,” replied Richard.
“But for another meikle—is that what ye wad hae us infer?” cried the King, with a smile. “Aweel, the lassie shall hae strict justice done her; but for your ain sake we maun inquire into the matter. Meantime, wear this,” he added, taking a magnificent sapphire ring from his finger, “and, if you should ever need our aid, send it to us as a token.”
Richard took the gift, and knelt to kiss the hand so graciously extended to him.
By this time another horse had been provided for the monarch, and the enormous boar, with his feet upwards and tied together, was suspended upon a pole, and borne on the shoulders of four stout varlets as the grand trophy of the chase.
When the royal company issued from the wood a strike of nine was blown by the chief huntsman, and such of the cavalcade as still remained on the field being collected together, the party crossed the chase, and took the direction of Hoghton Tower.
CHAPTER IX.—THE BANQUET.
On the King’s return to Hoghton Tower, orders were given by Sir Richard for the immediate service of the banquet; it being the hospitable baronet’s desire that festivities should succeed each other so rapidly as to allow of no tedium.
The coup-d’oeil of the banquet hall on the monarch’s entrance was magnificent. Panelled with black lustrous oak, and lighted by mullion windows, filled with stained glass and emblazoned with the armorial bearings of the family, the vast and lofty hall was hung with banners, and decorated with panoplies and trophies of the chase. Three long tables ran down it, each containing a hundred covers. At the lower end were stationed the heralds, the pursuivants, and a band of yeomen of the guard, with the royal