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and dully did the hard flagging return the stroke of his liccl as he pursued his scrutiny. At length the metallic ringing of an iron plate, immediately behind the marble effigy of Sir Ranulph, re solved the point. There it was that the priest had found access to the vault; but Alan's disappointment was excessive, when he discovered that this plate was fastened on the underside, and all communication thence with the churchyard, or to wherever else it might conduct him, cut off: but the present was not the season for further investigation, and tolerably pleased with the discovery he had already made, he returned to his silent march round the sepulchre.
At length a sound, like the sudden shutting of the church door, broke upon the profound stillness of the holy edifice. In the hush that succeeded, a footstep was distinctly heard threading the aisle.
“He comes-he comes!” exclaimed Alan, joyfully; adding, an instant after, in an altered voice, “but he comes alone."
The footstep drew near to the mouth of the vault-it was upon the stairs. Alan stepped forward to greet, as he supposed, his grandson, but started back in astonishment and dismay as he encountered in his stead Lady Rookwood. Alan retreated, while the lady advanced, swinging the iron door after her, which closed with a tremendous clang. Approaching the statue of the first Sir Ranulph, she paused, and Alan then remarked the singular and terrible expression of her eyes, which appeared to be fixed upon the statue, or upon some invisible object near it. There was something in her whole attitude and inanner calculated to impress the deepest terror on the beholder. And Alan gazed upon her with an awe which momently increased. Lady Rookwood's bearing was as proud and erect as we have formerly described it to have been -her brow was as haughtily bent-her chiselled lip as disdainfully curled; but the staring, changeless eye, and the deep-heaved sob which occasionally escaped her, betrayed how much she was under the influence of mortal terror. Alan watched her in amazement. He knew not how the scene was likely to terminate, nor what could have induced her to visit this ghostly spot at such an hour, and alone; but he resolved to abide the issue in silence-profound as her own. After a time, however, his impatience got the better of his fears and scruples, and he spoke.
“What doth Lady Rookwood in the abode of the dead?” asked he, at length.
She started at the sound of his voice, but still kept her eye fixed upon the vacancy.
“Hast thou not beckoned me hither, and am I not come?" returned she, in a hollow tone. " And now thou askest wherefore I am here. I am here because, as in thy life I feared thee not, neither in death do I fear thee. I am here because
“ What scest thou?" interrupted Peter, with ill-suppressed terror.
6 What see I-ha-ha!” shouted Lady Rookwood, amidst discordant laughter; "that which might appal a heart less stout than mine—a figure anguish-writhen, with veins that glow as with a subtle and consuming flame. A substance yet a shadow, in thy living likeness. Ha—frown if thou wilt; I can return thy glances."
" Where dost thou see this vision?" demanded Alan.
“Where!" cchoed Lady Rookwood, becoming for the first time sensible of the presence of a stranger. “Ha—who are you that question me?—what are you?-speak!"
“No matter who or what I ain,” returned Alan, “ I ask you what you behold."
“Can you see nothing?”
“ It is,” replied Lady Rookwood; “I have followed him hither, and I will follow him whithersoever he leads ine, were it to-
“What doth he now?” asked Alan; “ do you see him still?”
“ The figure points to that sarcophagus,” returned Lady Rookwood—“ can you raise
the lid?" No," replied Alan; "my strength will not avail to lift it.” “ Yet let the trial be made," said Lady Rookwood; “ the figure points there still—iny own arm shall aid you.”
Alan watched her in dumb wonder. She advanced towards the marble monument, and beckoned him to follow. He reluctantly complied. Without any expectation of being able to move the ponderous lid of the sarcophagus, at Lady Rookwood's renewed request he applied himself to the task. What was his surprise, when, beneath their united efforts, he found the ponderous slab slowly revolve upon its vast hinges, and, with little further difficulty, it was completely clevated; though it still required the excrtion of all Alan's strength to prop it open, and prevent its falling back.
“What does it contain ?” asked Lady Rookwood. “A warrior's ashes," returned Alan.
“ There is a rusty dagger upon a fold of faded linen,” cried Lady Rookwood, holding down the light.
“ It is the weapon with which the first dame of the housc of Rookwood was stabbed," said Alan, with a grim smile:
" Which wloso findeth in the tomb
Shall clutch until the hour of doom;
S suith tnc rhyme. Ilave you seen enough?”
“No," said Lady Rookwood, precipitating lierself into the marble coffin. “That weapon shall be mine."
“Come forth—come forth,” cried Alan. “My arın tremblesI cannot support the lid."
“I will have it, though I grasp it to eternity,” shricked Lady Rookwood, vainly endeavouring to wrest away the dagger, which was fastened, together with the linen upon which it l.ay, by some adhesive substance to the bottom of the shell.
At this moment Alan Rookwood happened to cast his eye upward, and he then beheld what filled him with new terror. The axe of the sable statue was poised above its head, as in the act to strike him. Some secret machinery, it was evident, existed between the sarcophagus lid and this mysterious image. But in the first impulse of his alarm Alan abandoned his hold of the slab, and it sunk slowly downwards. He uttered a loud cry as it moved. Lady Rookwood heard this cry.
She raised herself at the same moment--the dagger was in her hand-she pressed it against the lid, but its downward force was too great to be withstood. The light was within the sarcophagus, and Alan could discern her features. The expression was terrible. She uttered one shriek, and the lid closed for ever.
Alan was in total darkness. The light had been enclosed with Lady Rookwood. There was something so horrible in her probable fate, that even he shuddered as he thought upon it. Exerting all his remaining strength, he essayed to raise the lid, but now it was more firmly closed than ever. It defied all his power. Once, for an instant, he fancied that it yieided to his straining sinews, but it was only his hand that slided upon the surface of the marble. It was fixed-immovable. The sides and lid rang with the strokes which the unfortunate lady bestowed upon them with the dagger's point; but those sounds were not long heard. Presently all was still; the marble ceased to vibrate with her blows. Alan struck the lid with his knuckles, but no response was returned. All was silent.
He now turned his attention to his own situation, which had become sufficiently alarming. An hour must have clapsed, yet Luke had not arrived. The door of the vault was closed—the key was in the lock, and on the outside. He was himself a prisoner within the tomb. What if Luke should not return? What if he were slain, as it might chance, in the enterprise? That thought flashed across his brain like an electric shock. None knew of his retreat but his grandson. He might perish of famine within this desolate vault.
He checked this notion as soon as it was formed-it was too dreadful to be indulged in. A thousand circumstances might conspire to detain Luke. He was sure to come.
Yet the solitudethe darkness was awful, almost intolerable. The dying and the dead were around him. He dared not stir.