Same day, later
I have made the effort, and God
helping me, have come safely back to this room. I must put down every detail in
order. I went whilst my courage was fresh straight to the window on the south
side, and at once got outside on this side. The stones are big and roughly cut,
and the mortar has by process of time been washed away between them. I took off
my boots, and ventured out on the desperate way. I looked down once, so as to
make sure that a sudden glimpse of the awful depth would not overcome me, but
after that kept my eyes away from it. I know pretty well the direction and distance
of the Count's window, and made for it as well as I could, having regard to the
opportunities available. I did not feel dizzy, I suppose I was too excited, and
the time seemed ridiculously short till I found myself standing on the window
sill and trying to raise up the sash. I was filled with agitation, however, when
I bent down and slid feet foremost in through the window. Then I looked around
for the Count, but with surprise and gladness, made a discovery. The room was
empty! It was barely furnished with odd things, which seemed to have never been
The furniture was something the same style as that in the south rooms,
and was covered with dust. I looked for the key, but it was not in the lock, and
I could not find it anywhere. The only thing I found was a great heap of gold
in one corner, gold of all kinds, Roman, and British, and Austrian, and Hungarian,
and Greek and Turkish money, covered with a film of dust, as though it had lain
long in the ground. None of it that I noticed was less than three hundred years
old. There were also chains and ornaments, some jewelled, but all of them old
At one corner of the room was a heavy door. I tried it, for,
since I could not find the key of the room or the key of the outer door, which
was the main object of my search, I must make further examination, or all my efforts
would be in vain. It was open, and led through a stone passage to a circular stairway,
which went steeply down.
I descended, minding carefully where I went for
the stairs were dark, being only lit by loopholes in the heavy masonry. At the
bottom there was a dark, tunnel-like passage, through which came a deathly, sickly
odour, the odour of old earth newly turned. As I went through the passage the
smell grew closer and heavier. At last I pulled open a heavy door which stood
ajar, and found myself in an old ruined chapel, which had evidently been used
as a graveyard. The roof was broken, and in two places were steps leading to vaults,
but the ground had recently been dug over, and the earth placed in great wooden
boxes, manifestly those which had been brought by the Slovaks.
nobody about, and I made a search over every inch of the ground, so as not to
lose a chance. I went down even into the vaults, where the dim light struggled,
although to do so was a dread to my very soul. Into two of these I went, but saw
nothing except fragments of old coffins and piles of dust. In the third, however,
I made a discovery.
There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were
fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead
or asleep. I could not say which, for eyes were open and stony, but without the
glassiness of death, and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor.
The lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement, no pulse, no
breath, no beating of the heart.
I bent over him, and tried to find any
sign of life, but in vain. He could not have lain there long, for the earthy smell
would have passed away in a few hours. By the side of the box was its cover, pierced
with holes here and there. I thought he might have the keys on him, but when I
went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them dead though they were, such a
look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled from the place,
and leaving the Count's room by the window, crawled again up the castle wall.
Regaining my room, I threw myself panting upon the bed and tried to think.