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The Land of the Changing Sun

Chapter 10
To Thorndyke the dark corridor seemed endless. The king's last words had now a sinister
meaning, and Bernardino's whispered warning filled him with dread. "Keep your
presence of mind," she urged; was it then, some frightful mental ordeal he was about to
pass through?
Presently they came to a door. Thorn- dyke heard his guide feeling for the bolt and key-
hole. The rattling of the keys sounded like a ghostly threat in the empty corridors. The air
was as damp as a fog, and the stones were cold and slimy. After a moment the guard
succeeded in unlocking the door and roughly pushed the Englishman forward. The door
closed with a little puff, and Thorndyke felt about him for the guide; but he was alone.
For a moment there was no sound. With the closing of the door it seemed to him that he
was cut off from every living creature. In the awful silence he could hear his own heart
beating like a drum.
"Stand where you are!" came in a hissing whisper from the darkness near by, and then the
invisible whisperer moved away, making a weird sound as he slid his hand along a wall,
till it died away in the distance.
A cold thrill ran over him. He was a brave man and feared no living man or beast, but the
superstitious fears of his childhood now came upon him with redoubled force. For several
minutes he did not stir; presently he put out his hand to the door and his blood ran cold.
There was no knob, latch, or key-hole, and he could feel the soft padding into which the
door closed to keep out sound. Then he remembered the warning of the princess, and
strove with all his might to fight down his apprehensions. "For your life keep your
presence of mind," he repeated over and over, but try as he would his terror over-powered
him. He laughed out loud, but in the dreadful silence and darkness his laugh sounded
unearthly.
A cold perspiration broke out on him. It seemed as if hours passed before he again heard
the sliding noise on the wall. Some one was coming to him. The sound grew louder and
nearer, till a firm hand was laid on his arm; it felt as cold as ice through his clothing.
"Come," a voice whispered, and the Englishman was led forward. Presently another door
opened--a door that closed after them without any sound. Here the silence was more
intensified, the darkness thicker as if compressed like air.
Hands were placed on the shoulders of Thorndyke and he was gently forced into a chair.
As soon as he was seated two metal clamps grasped like a vise his arms between the
elbows and the shoulders, and two more fastened round his ankles.
There was a faint puff of air from the door and the prisoner felt that he was alone. Terror
held him in bondage. He tried to think of Bernardino, but in vain. Did they intend to drive
him to madness? He began to suspect that the king had discovered his natural superstition
 
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