Only one who has at some time passed where lengthened creeping was necessary, will know how Richard felt, with water under him, pitch-darkness about him, and the rock within an inch or two of his body all round. By and by the slope became steeper and the ascent more difficult. The air grew very close, and he began to fear he should be stifled. Then came a hot breath, and a pair of eyes gleamed a foot or two from his face. Had he then followed into the den of the animal by which poor Marquis had been so frightfully torn? But no: it was Marquis himself waiting for him!
‘Go on, Marquis,’ he said, with a sigh of relief.
The dog obeyed, and in another moment a waft of cool air came in. Presently a glimmer of light appeared. The opening through which it entered was a little higher than his horizontally posed head, and looked alarmingly narrow.
But as he crept nearer it grew wider, and when he came under it he found it large enough to let him through. When cautiously he poked up his head, there was the huge mass of the keep towering blank above him! On a level with his eyes, the broad, lilied waters of the moat lay betwixt him and the citadel.
Marquis had brought him to the one neglected, therefore forgotten, and thence undefended spot of the whole building. Before the well was sunk in the keep, the supply of water to the moat had been far more bountiful, and provision for a free overflow was necessary. For some reason, probably for the mere sake of facility in the construction, the passage for the superfluous water had been made larger than needful at the end next the moat. About midway to its outlet, however—a mere drain-mouth in a swampy hollow in the middle of a field—it had narrowed to a third of the compass. But the quarriers had cut across it above the point of contraction; and no danger of access occurring to lord Herbert or Mr. Salisbury, while they found a certain service in the tiny waterfall, they had left it as it was.
The passage for the overflow of the water of the moat was under the sunk walk which, reaching from the gate of the stone court round to the gate of the fountain court, enclosed the keep and its moat, looping them on as it were to the side of the double quadrangle of the castle. The only way out of this passage, at whose entrance Richard now found himself, was into the moat. As quietly therefore as he could, he got through the opening and into the water, amongst the lilies, where, much impeded by their tangling roots, which caused him many a submergence, but with a moon in her second quarter over his head to light him, he swam gently along. As he looked up from the water, however, to the huge crag-like tower over his head, the soft moonlight smoothing the rigour but bringing out all the wasteness of the grim blank, it seemed a hopeless attempt he had undertaken.