To a sad dungeon beneath the ground was I led, exceeding dark, for the only light entered through a narrow slit in the rocky roof; and I saw that the walls and roof were rugged and rough, half cavern and half cell. Alas! alas! sad moment indeed it was when I was thrust therein, with my arms bound to my back and my wounds still undrest, my body stiff and full of pain, and my head dizzy and heavy after so great excitement. Helplessly enough I crawled around the rocky walls, and found a barrier that seemed framed of wood across the entry. I felt, and found that it hung like a great gate on a bar of iron that ran through holes cut in the solid rock. I looked in despair up to the narrow slip above. In agony of spirit I even for a short space threw myself as I might against the door, against the rock.
At length I knew it was hopeless, and I crawled to a heap of plundered goods, and lay on them passive for a season. Perchance I slept, and at least a little space forgot my troubles, but not heavily, for a very gentle moving of the door appalled me, and in a moment I was half on my feet. There was no need for such alarm, for he that entered came softly in and whispered that he was a friend. A moment I thought here was a wile of my foes to catch me, but I looked long and sternly at my visitor, and decided he had not come to work deceit. A man he was of noble and knightly aspect, easy in his bearing, frank in his gaze, exceeding handsome, so far as by the dim light I could judge. He came close and stood by me, and spoke softly.
“Hush, lad,” he said, “fear me not, for I come hither as a friend! And if thou art to be saved from torture and death, thou must trust me as the saint trusts his God. Wilt thou do this?”
I murmured beneath my breath that I did not doubt him, and bade him for the sake of God not to delay.
“Thou dost not know me, Nigel de Bessin,” he said, “but I know thee already, and with many another stood this day in yonder antechamber and heard thy words to Geoffroy. Now, those words I loved to hear, and I have been in a struggle since I heard thee, the one part of me saying, ‘Save this lad,’ and the other part counselling me to let thee die. But I am here to save thee.”
“Yea! yea!” I broke in; “but how may it be done?”
“Trust me,” he said, “and in an hour’s space, for it is even now evening, the chateau will be at rest, and our sentinels are slack of watch. Meanwhile, refresh thyself, and prepare even now for what may be thy hardest battle.” He laid before me some eatables and a little flask of wine, and with a slash of his poniard cut the cord from my arms, which for long hung cramped and aching, so tight had they been bound.
With that he vanished out of the cell, and hope again sprang up in my heart, and I thanked Heaven for sending me such aid in my woes, even here in the womb of the earth.