Unable to assign any cause for his imprisonment, and wholly at a loss to imagine what offence he had committed, he taxed his brain as to everything that had recently happened to him. This naturally directed his thoughts to the fair Cicely, and with her gentle image came the recollection of the malicious countenance and threatening gestures of Lawrence Nightgall. Remembering what Magog had told him of the jealousy and vindictive nature of this person, and remembering also that he had heard him described as the chief jailer, he felt that he need seek no further for the motive and the author of his imprisonment.
The assurance, however, which he had thus gained, afforded him no consolation, but rather tended to increase his disquietude. If he had been a prisoner of state, he might have hoped for eventual release; but placed in the hands of so remorseless and unscrupulous an enemy as Nightgall had shown himself, he felt he had little to hope. This consideration filled him with anguish, which was heightened as he thought of the triumph of his savage rival, who by some means—for he seemed desperate enough to have recourse to any expedient—might possess himself of the object of his passion. Fired by this thought, Cholmondeley again sprang to his feet, and strove with all his force to burst his bondage. But the effort was fruitless; and by lacerating his hands, and straining his limbs, he only added bodily torture to his mental suffering. Exhausted at length, he sank once more upon the floor.
By this time, having become habituated to the gloom of the place, he fancied he could make out that it was an arched cell of a few feet in width, and corresponding height. The only light admitted was from the entrance, which appeared to open upon a passage branching off on the left, and upon a further range of dungeons extending in the same direction.
Not altogether unacquainted with the prisons of the Tower, Cholmondeley felt against the walls to try whether he could find any of those melancholy memorials which their unfortunate inmates delighted to bequeath to their successors, and which might serve as a clue to the particular place of his confinement. But nothing but the smooth surface of the stone met his touch. This circumstance, however, and the peculiar form of the cell, induced him to think that it must be situated beneath, or at no great distance from the Devilin Tower, as he had heard of a range of subterranean dungeons in that quarter: and, it may be added, he was right in his conjecture.
The cell in which he was thrown was part of a series of such dreadful receptacles, contrived in the thickness of the ballium wall, and extending from the Beauchamp Tower to the Devilin Tower. They were appropriated to those prisoners who were doomed to confinement for life.
Horrible recollections then flashed upon his mind of the dreadful sufferings he had heard that the miserable wretches immured in these dungeons underwent—how some were tortured, some destroyed by secret and expeditious means, others by the more lingering process of starvation. As the latter idea crossed him, he involuntarily stretched out his hand to ascertain whether any provisions has been left him; but he could find none.
The blood froze in his veins as he thought of dying thus; his hair stiffened upon his head; and he was only prevented from crying out to make his lamentable case known to the occupants of any of the adjoining cells, by the conviction of its utter futility. But this feeling passed away, and was succeeded by calmer and more consolatory reflections. While in this frame of mind, Nature asserted her sway, and he dropped asleep.
How long he remained thus, he knew not; but he was awakened by a loud and piercing scream. Raising himself, he listened intently. The scream was presently repeated in a tone so shrill and unearthly, that it filled him with apprehensions of a new kind. The outcry having been a third time raised, he was debating within himself whether he should in any way reply to it, when he thought he beheld a shadowy figure glide along the passage. It paused at a short distance from him. A glimmer of light fell upon the arch on the left, but the place where the figure stood was buried in darkness. After gazing for some time at the mysterious visitant, and passing his hand across his brow to assure himself that his eyesight did not deceive him, Cholmondeley summoned courage enough to address it. No answer was returned; but the figure, which had the semblance of a female, with the hands raised and clasped together as if in supplication or prayer, and with a hood drawn over the face, remained perfectly motionless. Suddenly, it glided forward, but with a step so noiseless and swift, that almost before the esquire was aware of the movement, it was at his side. He then felt a hand cold as marble placed upon his own, and upon grasping the fingers they appeared so thin and bony, that he thought he must have encountered a skeleton. Paralysed with fright, Cholmondeley shrunk back as far as he was able; but the figure pursued him, and shrieked in his ear, “My child, my child!—you have taken my child!”
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