ANY of the English monarchs have delighted in the pleasures of the chase. Their hunting expeditions have often led them into out-of-the-way places where they were unknown, and their adventures gave rise to good stories, which have done much to enliven the dry pages of national history. Bluff King Hal was a jovial huntsman, and was one day enjoying the pastime in the glades of Windsor Forest, when he missed his way, and, to his surprise, found himself near the Abbey at Reading. He keenly felt the pangs of hunger, and resolved to try and get a meal at the table of the Abbey hard by.
After disguising himself, he made his way to the house, under the pretence of being one of the king’s guards. He was invited to partake of a sirloin of beef, and he did such justice to it as to 175 surprise not a little the worthy abbot. The latter pledged his guest’s royal master, adding that if his weak stomach could digest such as meal as his visitor had just eaten he would gladly give a hundred pounds. He lamented that he could only take for his dinner the wing of a chicken, or other equally small dainty. The burly stranger pledged him in return, and after expressing his gratitude, departed without his identity being discovered.
After a few short weeks had passed, another stranger wended his way to the Abbey of Reading, armed with a warrant from king Henry VIII. to take the abbot a prisoner, and lodge him in the Tower. It was with a heavy heart that the abbot journeyed to London. His prison fare was very plain, and consisted of bread and water, and provided in small quantities, so that he not only suffered in mind, but also from the want of food. He often wondered what he had done to displease the king, but could not obtain any information on the subject. A change at last came over the scene. A fine sirloin of beef was placed on his table, and he was bidden to feast to his heart’s content. He did not need any pressing to do justice to the joint, for he was almost famished, 176 and dined more like a glutton than a man with a weak stomach. The king watched with amusement, from a secret place, the abbot enjoying his dinner, and, when he had nearly completed it, stepped forth from his hiding place, and demanded one hundred pounds for curing the poor abbot of his indigestion, and reminded him of their former meeting at the Abbey of Reading. The patient gladly paid his physician the stipulated fee, and, with a light purse and a merry heart, bent his steps homeward.