“I think that without a light now,” he said, “I can turn the screws well.”
“Yes; there are but four.”
“Try it, then.”
Henry did so, and from the screws having very large heads, and being made purposely, for the convenience of removal when required, with deep indentations to receive the screw-driver, he found no difficulty in feeling for the proper places, and extracting the screws without any more light than was afforded to him from the general whitish aspect of the heavens.
“Now, Mr. Chillingworth,” he said “another of your matches, if you please. I have all the screws so loose that I can pick them up with my fingers.”
“Here,” said the doctor.
In another moment the pew was as light as day, and Henry succeeded in taking out the few screws, which he placed in his pocket for their greater security, since, of course, the intention was to replace everything exactly as it was found, in order that not the least surmise should arise in the mind of any person that the vault had been opened, and visited for any purpose whatever, secretly or otherwise.”
“Let us descend,” said Henry. “There is no further obstacle, my friends. Let us descend.”
“If any one,” remarked George, in a whisper, as they slowly descended the stairs which conducted into the vault—“if any one had told me that I should be descending into a vault for the purpose of ascertaining if a dead body, which had been nearly a century there, was removed or not, and had become a vampyre, I should have denounced the idea as one of the most absurd that ever entered the brain of a human being.”
“We are the very slaves of circumstances,” said Marchdale, “and we never know what we may do, or what we may not. What appears to us so improbable as to border even upon the impossible at one time, is at another the only course of action which appears feasibly open to us to attempt to pursue.”
They had now reached the vault, the floor of which was composed of flat red tiles, laid in tolerable order the one beside the other. As Henry had stated, the vault was by no means of large extent. Indeed, several of the apartments for the living, at the hall, were much larger than was that one destined for the dead.
The atmosphere was dump and noisome, but not by any means so bad as might have been expected, considering the number of months which had elapsed since last the vault was opened to receive one of its ghastly and still visitants.
“Now for one of your lights. Mr. Chillingworth. You say you have the candles, I think, Marchdale, although you forgot the matches.”
“I have. They are here.”
Marchdale took from his pocket a parcel which contained several wax candles, and when it was opened, a smaller packet fell to the ground.
“Why, these are instantaneous matches,” said Mr. Chillingworth, as he lifted the small packet up.