Nightgall’s dark hints respecting Cholmondeley were not without effect upon Cicely, who, well aware of his fierce and revengeful character, could not help fearing some evil; and when he quitted the Stone Kitchen, an undefinable impulse prompted her to follow him. Hastily descending the stairs, on gaining the postern she descried him hurrying along the road between the ballium wall and the external line of fortifications, and instantly decided on following him.
On reaching the projecting walls of the Beauchamp Tower, behind which she sheltered herself, she saw that he stopped midway between that fortification and the next turret, then known as the Devilin, or Robin the Devil’s Tower, but more recently, from having been the prison of the unfortunate Earl of Essex, as the Devereux Tower. Here he disappeared. Hastening to the spot, Cicely looked for the door, through which he must have passed; and after some little search, discovered it. Pushing against it, it yielded to the pressure, and admitted her to a low passage, evidently communicating with some of the subterranean dungeons which she knew existed under this part of the fortress.
She had scarcely set foot within this passage, when she perceived the jailer returning; and had barely time to conceal herself behind an angle of the wall, when he approached the spot where she stood. In his haste he had forgotten to lock the door, and he now, with muttered execrations, hastened to repair his error; cutting off by this means the possibility of Cicely’s retreat. And here, for the present, it will be necessary to leave her, and return to the Stone Kitchen.
The attention which must otherwise have been infallibly called to Cicely’s disappearance was diverted by the sudden entrance of a very singular personage, whose presence served somewhat to damp the hilarity of the party. This was Master Edward Underhill, a man of some ability, but of violent religious opinions, who, having recently been converted to the new doctrines, became so zealous in their support and propagation, that he obtained among his companions the nickname of the “Hot-gospeller.” He was a tall thin man, with sandy hair, and a scanty beard of the same colour. His eyes were blear and glassy, with pink lids utterly devoid of lashes, and he had a long lantern-shaped visage. His attire was that of a gentleman-pensioner.
Rebuking the assemblage for their unseemly mirth, and mounting upon a stool, Master Underhill would fain have compelled them to listen to a discourse on the necessity of extirpating papacy and idolatry from the land, but he was compelled, by the clamour which his exordium occasioned, to desist. He was, moreover, brought down, with undue precipitation, from his exalted position by Xit, who, creeping under the stool, contrived to overset it, and prostrated the Gospeller on the floor, to the infinite entertainment of the guests, and the no small damage of his nose.
This incident, though received in good part even by the principal sufferer, served to break up the party. Apprehensive of some further disturbance, and not without fears that the giants might indulge as freely with the fluids as they had done with the solids, Dame Trusbut took advantage of the occurrence to dismiss her guests, which she did without much ceremony.
It was then for the first time that she noticed the absence of Cicely. Not being able to find her, the recollection of the handsome esquire, and of the attention he had paid her, rushed to her mind; and with a dreadful foreboding of impending misery, she despatched her husband to the palace to make inquiries after him; while she herself went to the gate—to the ramparts—everywhere, in short, that she thought it likely she could gain any information—but everywhere without success.
The giants, meanwhile, with Xit, betook themselves to their lodging in the By-ward Tower. The herald and the men-at-arms, who, it may be remembered, had charge of the prisoner Gilbert, not having received any further instructions respecting him, accompanied them thither. They were also attended by Master Edward Underhill, who was bent upon admonishing them, having been given to understand they were relapsing into papacy.
Arrived at the entrance of the By-ward Tower, the giants volunteered to take charge of the prisoner till the morning, an offer which was gladly accepted by the herald, who, intrusting him to their care, departed. But the Gospeller was not to be got rid of so easily. He begged to be admitted, and, partly by entreaties, partly by a bribe to the dwarf, succeeded in his object. The first care of the giants, on entering their abode—an octagonal chamber of stone, about sixteen feet wide, and twenty high, with a vaulted ceiling, supported by sharp groined arches of great beauty, springing from small slender columns—was to light a candle placed in front of an ancient projecting stone fire-place. Their next was to thrust the prisoner into the arched embrasure of a loop-hole at one side of it.
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