The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne HTML version

Chapter XI
ALLEYN was no where to be found. The Earl went himself in quest of him, but
without success. As he returned from the terrace, chagrined and disappointed,
he observed two persons cross the platform at some distance before him; and he
could perceive by the dim moon-light which fell upon the spot, that they were not
of the castle. He called to them: no answer was returned; but at the sound of his
voice they quickened their pace and almost instantly disappeared in the darkness
of the ramparts. Surprized at this phenomenon, the Earl followed with hasty
steps, and endeavoured to pursue the way they had taken. He walked on silently,
but there was no sound to direct his steps. When he came to the extremity of the
rampart, which formed the North angle of the castle, he stopped to examine the
spot, and to listen if any thing was stirring. No person was to be seen, and all
was hushed. After he had stood some time surveying the rampart, he heard the
low restrained voice of a person unknown, but the distance prevented his
distinguishing the subject of the conversation. The voice seemed to approach the
place where he stood. He drew his sword, and watched in silence their motions.
They continued to advance, till, suddenly stopping, they turned, and took a long
survey of the fabric. Their discourse was conducted in a low tone; but the Earl
could discover by the vehemence of their gesture, and the caution of their steps,
that they were upon some design dangerous to the peace of the castle. Having
finished their examination, they turned again towards the place where the Earl
still remained; the shade of a high turret concealed him from their view, and they
continued to approach till they arrived within a short space of him, when they
turned through a ruined arch-way of the castle, and were lost in the dark
recesses of the pile. Astonished at what he had seen, Osbert hastened to the
castle, whence he dispatched some of his people in search of the unknown
fugitives; he accompanied some of his domestics to the spot where they had last
disappeared. They entered the arch-way, which led to a decayed part of the
castle; they followed over broken pavement the remains of a passage, which was
closed by a low obscure door almost concealed from sight by the thick ivy which
overshadowed it. On opening this door, they descended a flight of steps which
led under the castle, so extremely narrow and broken as to make the descent
both difficult and dangerous. The powerful damps of long pent-up vapours
extinguished their light, and the Earl and his attendants were compelled to
remain in utter darkness, while one of them went round to the habitable part of
the castle to relume the lamp. While they awaited in silence the return of light, a
short breathing was distinctly heard at intervals, near the place where they stood.
The servants shook with fear, and the Earl was not wholly unmoved. They
remained entirely silent, listening its return, when a sound of footsteps slowly
stealing through the vault, startled them. The Earl demanded who passed;–he
was answered only by the deep echoes of his voice. They clashed their swords
and had advanced, when the steps hastily retired before them. The Earl rushed
forward, pursuing the sound, till overtaking the person who fled, he seized him; a
short scuffle ensued; the strength of Osbert was too powerful for his antagonist,