At length they were descending the long low hill, or rather undulation, leading to the wooded vale of Lynwood, and the bright lights of the Keep began to gleam like stars in the darkness—stars indeed to the eager eyes of the young Knight, who gazed upon them long and affectionately, as he felt himself once more at home. “I wonder,” said he, “to see the light strongest towards the east end of the Castle! I knew not that the altar lights in the chapel could be seen so far!” Then riding on more quickly, and approaching more nearly, he soon lost sight of them behind the walls, and descending the last little rising ground, the lofty mass of building rose huge and black before him.
He wound his bugle and rode towards the gate, but at the moment he expected to cross the drawbridge, Ferragus suddenly backed, and he perceived that it was raised. “This is some strange chance!” said he, renewing the summons, but in vain, for the echoes of the surrounding woods were the only reply. “Ralph must indeed be deaf!” said he.
“Let him be stone deaf,” said Gaston; “he is not the sole inhabitant of the Castle. Try them again, Sir Eustace.”
“Hark!—methought I heard the opening of the hall door!” said Eustace. “No! What can have befallen them?”
“My teeth are chattering with cold,” said Gaston, “and the horses will be ruined with standing still in the driving rain. Cannot we betake ourselves to the village hostel, and in the morning reproach them with their churlishness?”
“I must be certified that there is nothing amiss,” said Sir Eustace, springing from his saddle; “I can cross the moat on one of the supports of the bridge.”
“Have with you then, Sir Knight,” said Gaston, also leaping to the ground, while Eustace cautiously advanced along the narrow frame of wood on which the drawbridge had rested, slippery with the wet, and rendered still more perilous by the darkness. Gaston followed, balancing himself with some difficulty, and at last they safely reached the other side. Eustace tried the heavy gates, but found them fastened on the inside with a ponderous wooden bar. “Most strange!” muttered he; “yet come on, Gaston, I can find an entrance, unless old Ralph be more on the alert than I expect.”
Creeping along between the walls and the moat, till they had reached the opposite side of the Keep, Eustace stopped at a low doorway; a slight click was heard, as of a latch yielding to his hand, the door opened, and he led the way up a stone staircase in the thickness of the wall, warning his follower now and then of a broken step. After a long steep ascent, Gaston heard another door open, and though still in total darkness, perceived that they had gained a wider space. “The passage from the hall to the chapel,” whispered the Knight, and feeling by the wall, they crept along, until a buzz of voices reached their ears, and light gleamed beneath a heavy dark curtain which closed the passage. Pausing for an instant, they heard a voice tremulous with fear and eagerness: “It was himself! tall plume, bright armour! the very crosslet on his breast could be seen in the moonlight! Oh! it was Sir Reginald himself, and the wild young French Squire that fell with him in Spain!”