The lanterns were dashed down and extinguished till but one remained, a red and wavering star. Hoarse voices shouted for light, for none knew friend from foe. It came; some one had fired the tapestries and the blaze ran up them to the roof. Then fearing lest they should be roasted, the Abbot’s folk gave way and fled to the farther door, followed by their foes. Here it was that most of them fell, for they jammed in the doorway and were cut down there are on the stair beyond.
While Bolle still plied his axe fiercely, some one caught his arm and screamed into his ear—
“Let be! Let be! The wretch is sped.”
In his red wrath he turned to strike the speaker, and saw by the flare that it was Cicely.
“What do you here?” he cried. “Get gone.”
“Fool,” she answered in a low, fierce voice, “I seek my husband. Show me the path ere it be too late, you know it alone. Come, Jeffrey Stokes, a lantern, a lantern!”
Jeffrey appeared, sword in one hand and lantern in the other, and with him Emlyn, who also held a sword which she had plucked from a fallen man, Emlyn still foul with the filth of the sewer and the mud of the moat.
“I may not leave,” muttered Thomas Bolle. “I seek Maldon.”
“On to the dungeons,” shrieked Emlyn, “or I will stab you. I heard them give word to kill Harflete.”
Then he snatched the light from Jeffrey’s hand, and crying “Follow me,” rushed along a passage till they came to an open door and beyond it to stairs. They descended the stairs and passed other passages which ran underground, till a sudden turn to the right brought them to a little walled-in place with a vaulted roof. Two torches flared in iron holders in the masonry, and by the light of them they saw a strange and fearful sight.
At the end of the open place a heavy, nail-studded door stood wide, revealing a cell, or rather a little cave beyond—those who are curious can see it to this day. Fastened by a chain to the wall of this dungeon was a man, who held in his hand a three-legged stool and tugged at his chain like a maddened beast. In front of him, holding the doorway, stood a tall, lank priest, his robe tucked up into his girdle. He was wounded, for blood poured from his shaven crown and he plied a great sword with both hands, striking savagely at four men who tried to cut him down. As Bolle and his party appeared, one of these men fell beneath the priest’s blows, and another took his place, shouting—
“Out of the way, traitor. We would kill Harflete, not you.”
“We die or live together, murderers,” answered the priest in a thick, gasping voice.
At this moment one of them, it was he who had spoken, heard the sound of the rescuers’ footsteps and glanced back. In an instant he turned and was running past them like a hare. As he went the light from the lantern fell upon his face, and Emlyn knew it for that of the Abbot. She struck at him with the sword she held, but the steel glanced from his mail. He also struck, but at the lantern, dashing it to the ground.