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of himself. The louder and the longer the man talked, the less probable was the
chance that the Pagan's labours in the interior of the wall would be suspected or
Softly clearing away the brushwood at the entrance of the hole that he had made
the night before, Ulpius crept in as far as he had penetrated on that occasion; and
then, with mingled emotions of expectation and apprehension which affected him
so powerfully, that he was for the moment hardly master of his actions, he slowly
and cautiously uncovered his light.
His first glance was intuitively directed to the cavity that opened beneath him. He
saw immediately that it was less important, both in size and depth, than he had
imagined it to be. The earth at this particular place had given way beneath the
foundations of the wall, which had sunk down, deepening the chasm by their
weight, into the yielding ground beneath them. A small spring of water (probably
the first cause of the sinking in the earth) had bubbled up into the space in the
brick-work, which bit by bit, and year by year, it had gradually undermined. Nor
did it remain stagnant at this place. It trickled merrily and quietly onward--a tiny
rivulet, emancipated from one prison in the ground only to enter another in the
wall, bounded by no grassy banks, brightened by no cheerful light, admired by no
human eye, followed in its small course through the inner fissures in the brick by
no living thing but a bloated toad, or a solitary lizard: yet wending as happily on
its way through darkness and ruin, as its sisters who were basking in the sunlight
of the meadows, or leaping in the fresh breezes of the open mountain side.
Raising his eyes from the little spring, Ulpius next directed his attention to the
prospect above him.
Immediately over his head, the material of the interior of the wall presented a
smooth, flat, hard surface, which seemed capable of resisting the most vigorous
attempts at its destruction; but on looking round, he perceived at one side of him
and further inwards, an appearance of dark, dimly-defined irregularity, which
promised encouragingly for his intended efforts. He descended into the chasm of
the rivulet, crawled up on a heap of crumbling brick-work, and gained a hole
above it, which he immediately began to widen, to admit of his passage through.
Inch by inch, he enlarged the rift, crept into it, and found himself on a fragment of
the bow of one of the foundation arches, which, though partly destroyed, still
supported itself, isolated from all connection with the part of the upper wall which
it had once sustained, and which had gradually crumbled away into the cavities
He looked up. An immense rift soared above him, stretching its tortuous
ramifications, at different points, into every part of the wall that was immediately
visible. The whole structure seemed, at this place, to have received a sudden and
tremendous wrench. But for the support of the sounder fortifications at each side
of it, it could not have sustained itself after the shock. The Pagan gazed aloft, into
the fearful breaches which yawned above him, with ungovernable awe. His small,
fitful light was not sufficient to show him any of their terminations. They looked,
as he beheld them in dark relief against the rest of the hollow part of the wall, like
mighty serpents twining their desolating path right upward to the ramparts above;
and he, himself, as he crouched on his pinnacle with his little light by his side,