Hitherto, no success had attended the searchers. The mosaical rods had continued motionless. At length, however, Lilly reached a part of the wall where a door appeared to have been stopped up, and playing the rods near it, they turned one over the other.
“The treasure is here!” he exclaimed. “It is hidden beneath this flag.”
Instantly, all were in action. Quatremain called to his assistants to bring their mattocks and the iron bar. Rochester ran up and tendered his aid; Etherege did the same; and in a few moments the flag was forced from its position.
On examination, it seemed as if the ground beneath it had been recently disturbed, though it was carefully trodden down. But without stopping to investigate the matter, the mason and the younger verger commenced digging. When they were tired, Lilly and Quatremain took their places, and in less than an hour they had got to the depth of upwards of four feet. Still nothing had been found, and Lilly was just about to relinquish his spade to the mason, when, plunging it more deeply into the ground, it struck against some hard substance.
“It is here—we have it!” he cried, renewing his exertions.
Seconded by Quatremain, they soon cleared off the soil, and came to what appeared to be a coffin or a large chest. Both then got out of the pit to consider how they should remove the chest; the whole party were discussing the matter, when a tremendous crash, succeeded by a terrific yell, was heard at the other end of the church, and a ghastly and half-naked figure, looking like a corpse broken from the tomb, rushed forward with lightning swiftness, and shrieking—“My treasure!—my treasure!—you shall not have it!”—thrust aside the group, and plunged into the excavation.
When the bystanders recovered sufficient courage to drag the unfortunate sexton out of the pit, they found him quite dead.
According to his promise, Doctor Hodges visited the grocer’s house early on the following day, and the favourable opinion he had expressed respecting Stephen Bloundel was confirmed by the youth’s appearance. The pustule had greatly increased in size; but this the doctor looked upon as a good sign: and after applying fresh poultices, and administering a hot posset-drink, he covered the patient with blankets, and recommending as much tranquillity as possible, he proceeded, at Bloundel’s request, to ascertain the state of health of the rest of the family. Satisfied that all the household (including Blaize, who, being a little out of order from the quantity of medicine he had swallowed, kept his bed) were uninfected, he went upstairs, and finding the two boys quite well, and playing with their little sister Christiana, in the happy unconsciousness of childhood, he tapped at the door of Mrs. Bloundel’s chamber, and was instantly admitted. Amabel did not raise her eyes at his entrance, but continued the employment on which she was engaged. Her mother, however, overwhelmed him with inquiries as to the sufferer, and entreated him to prevail upon her husband to let her take his place at the sick bed.