“I will not!” answered Raymond, throwing back his head in a gesture of noble, fearless defiance; “I will not do thy vile bidding. Joan is my true love, my faithful and loving lady. Her heart is mine and mine is hers, and her faithful knight I will live and die. Do your worst. I defy you to your face. There is a God above who can yet deliver me out of your hand if He will. If not — if it be His will that I suffer in a righteous cause — I will do it with a soul unseared by coward falsehood. There is my answer; you will get none other. Now do with me what you will. I fear you not.”
Peter Sanghurst’s aspect changed. The fury died out, to be replaced by a perfectly cold and calm malignity a hundred times more terrible. He stooped and picked up the pen, replacing it with the parchment and inkhorn in a pouch at his girdle. Then throwing off entirely the long monk’s habit which he had worn on his entrance, he advanced step by step upon Raymond, the glitter in his eye being terrible to see.
Raymond did not move. He was already standing against the wall at the farthest limit of the cell. His foe slowly advanced upon him, and suddenly put out two long, powerful arms, and gripped him round the body in a clasp against which it was vain to struggle. Lifting him from his feet, he carried him into the middle of the chamber, and setting him down, but still encircling him with that bear-like embrace, he stamped thrice upon the stone floor, which gave out a hollow sound beneath his feet.
The next moment there was a sound of strange creaking and groaning, as though some ponderous machinery were being set in motion. There was a sickening sensation, as though the very ground beneath his feet were giving way, and the next instant Raymond became aware that this indeed was the case. The great flagstone upon which he and his captor were standing was sinking, sinking, sinking into the very heart of the earth, as it seemed; and as they vanished together into the pitchy darkness, to the accompaniment of that same strange groaning and creaking, Raymond heard a hideous laugh in his ear.
“This is how his victims are carried to the Lord of Navailles’s torture chamber. Ha-ha! ha-ha! This is how they go down thither. Whether they ever come forth again is quite another matter!”
CHAPTER XXIV. GASTON’S QUEST.
When Gaston missed his brother from his side in the triumphant turning of the tables upon the French, he felt no uneasiness. The battle was going so entirely in favour of the English arms, and the discomfited French were making so small a stand, that the thought of peril to Raymond never so much as entered his head. In the waning light it was difficult to distinguish one from another, and for aught he knew his brother might be quite close at hand. They were engaged in taking prisoners such of their enemies as were worthy to be carried off; and when they had completely routed the band and made captive their leaders, it was quite dark, and steps were taken to encamp for the night.