« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
“ Amen,' said the priest, to the last determination. God have mercy on his soul for the other! Leave the box with me, and
“ Father Lungen puzzled and racked his brain to trace some clue to the meaning of the box. Alas ! that the finder had been a dumb animal. It was impossible to learn from what quarter it came. He examined it again and again, and was beginning to despond, when a possible key to the truth presented itself to his ingenious mind.
“While closely inspecting the workmanship of the box it struck him that the walnut wood from which it had been carved, was similar in colour to much of the furniture in the castle. It had been a whim of some former owner of the castle, to use walnut for that purpose instead of oak.
From this inkling, his thoughts darted to the idea of John's confinement; then he remembered once to have observed that the tressel in the dungeon was, like the rest of the furniture, also made of this same wood.
“Possessed of this notion, he hastened to test his conjecture by experiment. The window of the dungeon opens as you know upon the east front, almost under the large window of the oratory. It is only a few feet from the ground on the outside of the house, but owing to the thickness of the wall, and the angle of the aperture, the prisoner sees nothing but the light, and looking inwards all is obscurity.
“Father Lungen's impression now was that the little box, and crucifix, had been cut from the dungeon tressel, and then thrown by the prisoner through the aperture.
The address on the box, and the nature of its contents, would not create suspicion. If they reached Lady Maud, the ambiguity of the motto, and her own interest in his fate, might reveal alike the constancy, and the situation of her father's prisoner.
“ Thus thinking, he chose a fitting moment, and, thrusting his head as far as he could into the dungeon window, called on the name of Boulton. Instantly he was answered ; and from the dark cell into which his sight could not penetrate, a voice replied whose tones the good Padre at once recognised as those of his long lost friend.
“ The priest soon communicated his discovery to Lady Maud. Her joy at first knew no bounds; but it was soon destined to receive a check in the difficulty of effecting his release, or even of holding the smallest intercourse with her lover. They learnt that Lord Longvale himself was the only person who ever entered the dungeon. chance of bribing the gaoler was at once destroyed. Endless were the schemes devised by Lady Maud to elude the vigilance of her father. They only served, as she too late discovered, to rouse his suspicion, and enable him to frustrate her design
Therefore every “After many fruitless endeavours to effect their
purpose, it was agreed that Father Lungen should at a certain hour obtain possession of the dungeon key; and, having done so, meet Lady Maud in the oratory, whence they were to proceed to the cell together.
“At the appointed time Maud repaired to the chapel. All was dark; the whole castle was wrapt in sleep and silence. Alone in such a spot, at such an hour, the superstitious notions prevailing in those days might have terrified a stronger mind than hers; but, feeble and dying as she was,
the thoughts of once more seeing and speaking with her lover, gave her an almost preter
“ She had not waited many moments when the priest entered, holding the key in one hand and a small horn lantern in the other. Touching a spring which opened a door in the paneling, the two descended the stone staircase, and paused at the foot of the steps to unlock the iron-bound gate of the cell. The rusty bolts flew back, the heavy door grated on its hinges, and as the light fell on the worn frame of the prisoner, Lady Maud recognized her betrothcd, and sank lifeless to the ground ere he could rush forward to support her. John raised her in his arms, and soon her senses were restored. Holy was the love of both as he clasped her delicate form to his breast. No difference of creed marred the perfect concord of their hearts. The spirit of their prayer was one. One pang of joy, and love, and praise rose to Heaven in deepest thankfulness for the fulness of that moment; and, though unspoken, the words of Ruth were the thoughts of both: “Thy God shall be my God. Whither thou goest I will go!'