“He did escape!” thundered the monk, throwing back his hood. “Look up, John Paslew. Look up, false abbot, and recognise thy victim.”
“Borlace Alvetham!” cried the abbot. “Is it, indeed, you?”
“You see, and can you doubt?” replied the other. “But you shall now hear how I avoided the terrible death to which you procured my condemnation. You shall now learn how I am here to repay the wrong you did me. We have changed places, John Paslew, since the night when I was thrust into the cell, never, as you hoped, to come forth. You are now the criminal, and I the witness of the punishment.”
“Forgive me! oh, forgive me! Borlace Alvetham, since you are, indeed, he!” cried the abbot, falling on his knees.
“Arise, John Paslew!” cried the other, sternly. “Arise, and listen to me. For the damning offences into which I have been led, I hold you responsible. But for you I might have died free from sin. It is fit you should know the amount of my iniquity. Give ear to me, I say. When first shut within that dungeon, I yielded to the promptings of despair. Cursing you, I threw myself upon the pallet, resolved to taste no food, and hoping death would soon release me. But love of life prevailed. On the second day I took the bread and water allotted me, and ate and drank; after which I scaled the narrow staircase, and gazed through the thin barred loophole at the bright blue sky above, sometimes catching the shadow of a bird as it flew past. Oh, how I yearned for freedom then! Oh, how I wished to break through the stone walls that held me fast! Oh, what a weight of despair crushed my heart as I crept back to my narrow bed! The cell seemed like a grave, and indeed it was little better. Horrible thoughts possessed me. What if I should be wilfully forgotten? What if no food should be given me, and I should be left to perish by the slow pangs of hunger? At this idea I shrieked aloud, but the walls alone returned a dull echo to my cries. I beat my hands against the stones, till the blood flowed from them, but no answer was returned; and at last I desisted from sheer exhaustion. Day after day, and night after night, passed in this way. My food regularly came. But I became maddened by solitude; and with terrible imprecations invoked aid from the powers of darkness to set me free. One night, while thus employed, I was startled by a mocking voice which said,
“‘All this fury is needless. Thou hast only to wish for me, and I come.’
[Illustration: ALVETHAM AND JOHN PASLEW.]
“It was profoundly dark. I could see nothing but a pair of red orbs, glowing like flaming carbuncles.
“‘Thou wouldst be free,’ continued the voice. ’Thou shalt be so. Arise, and follow me.’
“At this I felt myself grasped by an iron arm, against which all resistance would have been unavailing, even if I had dared to offer it, and in an instant I was dragged up the narrow steps. The stone wall opened before my unseen conductor, and in another moment we were upon the roof of the dormitory. By the bright starbeams shooting down from above, I discerned a tall shadowy figure standing by my side.