And it was a wonder; for Marchdale was not an old man, although he might be considered certainly as past the prime of life, and he was of a strong and athletic build. But it was the suddenness of his attack upon him which had given Charles Holland the great advantage, and had caused the defeat of the ruffian who came bent on one of the most cowardly and dastardly murders that could be committed—namely, upon an unoffending man, whom he supposed to be loaded with chains, and incapable of making the least efficient resistance.
Charles soon again recovered sufficient breath and strength to proceed towards the Hall, and now warned, by the exhaustion which had come over him that he had not really anything like strength enough to allow him to proceed rapidly, he walked with slow and deliberate steps.
This mode of proceeding was more favourable to reflection than the wild, rapid one which he had at first adopted, and in all the glowing colours of youthful and ingenious fancy did he depict to himself the surprise and the pleasure that would beam in the countenance of his beloved Flora when she should find him once again by her side.
Of course, he, Charles, could know nothing of the contrivances which had been resorted to, and which the reader may lay wholly to the charge of Marchdale, to blacken his character, and to make him appear faithless to the love he had professed.
Had he known this, it is probable that indignation would have added wings to his progress, and he would not have been able to proceed at the leisurely pace he felt that his state of physical weakness dictated to him.
And now he saw the topmost portion at Bannerworth Hall pushing out from amongst the trees with which the ancient pile was so much surrounded, and the sight of the home of his beloved revived him, and quickened the circulation of the warm blood in his veins.
“I shall behold her now,” he said—“I shall behold her how! A few minutes more, and I shall hold her to my heart—that heart which has been ever hers, and which carried her image enshrined in its deepest recesses, even into the gloom of a dungeon!”
But let us, while Charles Holland is indulging in these delightful anticipations—anticipations which, we regret, in consequence of the departure of the Bannerworths from the Hall, will not be realized so soon as he supposes—look back upon the discomfited hypocrite and villain, Marchdale, who occupies his place in the dungeon of the old ruins.
Until Charles Holland actually had left the strange, horrible, and cell-like place, he could scarcely make up his mind that the young man entertained a serious intention of leaving him there.
Perhaps he did not think any one could be so cruel and so wicked as he himself; for the reader will no doubt recollect that his, Marchdale’s, counsel to Varney, was to leave Charles Holland to his fate, chained down as he was in the dungeon, and that fate would have been the horrible one of being starved to death in the course of a few days.