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insensate remains. One of the attendants slowly rolled back the cloth that concealed them; and with the resolute stare of desperation, I fixed my eyes on the deathset features. With what sudden revulsion did the blood rush back to my heart when I beheld a countenance totally unknown, and so different from the mild and benignant lineaments of my friend, as to assure me, at a glance, that I was looking on a stranger! It was the corpse of a man of stout, athletic frame; his apparel, though soiled and torn, betokening the gentleman, and his mustachioed lip the profession he belonged to. The blow of a bludgeon had beaten in his skull near to the left temple, and evidently proved the primary cause of death, though the tattered state of his dress declared he had maintained a protracted struggle for life. Who he was I left for others to discover. Grief had rendered me so selfish, that I looked upon as quite immaterial to me whether he was the son of a
lord or of a begger, now that I had ascertained he was not the friend I bewailed. This conviction rekindled a spark of sickly hope within my breast; and, in a state of mind impossible to describe, I hastened from the
What was it that at such a moment directed my steps towards the identical church under which lay the vaults mentioned in the commencement of this narrative? Was it chance an involuntary impulse, that acted as my guide? or did heaven, as a punishment for my
it mar found
want of due resignation, decree that I should be the wretched instrument of bringing to light the awful cause of my friend's mysterious disappearance! Be this as it may, almost unconscious of the way I had sauntered, I found myself perambulating under the walls of the cemetery within whose confines the church was situated. The chime of the clock, as it told an hour, at length roused me from the gloomy reverie in which I had been absorbed; and noticing that the gate, as on our former visit, stood a-jar, I mechanically turned into the inclosure. The sexton likewise, as before, was there, engaged in his mournful occupation; and the same undefinable impulse, which had thus impelled me to invade his dreary realm, tempted me to address him. In the course of a few brief observations, I came to learn that Walsingham had a second time visited the vaults, and that on the day succeeding our first visit, and at the hour when they received the remains of the noble personage for whom we had seen a receptacle preparing within their dark recesses.* ́ A pang struck to my heart as I listened; and it was not diminished by the narrátor going on to say, that during the ceremony of inhumation, the mourners had been alarmed by finding that foul air of the most unwholesome nature filled some of the cavities; and that in consequence of several of the more inquisitive having nearly suffered death by suffocation, the whole had made a hurried retreat, and the door of entrance been forthwith shut. In a trembling voice I enquired if
he had noticed my friend subsequent to the event? but on this point he could not take upon himself to give à decided auswer. He was too much occupied at the moment had too many things to attend to, to have time for remarking every strange face that surrounded him; but certain sure he was, that he (Walsingham) must have left the vaults at the time the general flight took place at all events, no man in his sober senses would have voluntarily permitted himself to be closed up in such a den, with the choak-damp as his enemy, and the noisome rat as his companion.
This mode of reasoning had rationality on its side, but it did not satisfy me, for suspicions of fearful import began to take possession of my mind. I recalled to recollection Walsingham's inquisitive disposition -the gloomy pleasure he professed to derive from meditating among the bones of the dead-and, above all, the intense hold these subterraneous repositories seemed to have taken of his thoughts. Nor did it escape me that nearly a week had elapsed since all access to or from the vaults had been cut off; and, consequently, that all earthly succour could prove of no avail to whomever they might inclose. But to remain longer in doubt was greater agony than to ascertain the truth at once; and, holding out a handful of silver, in a tone between entreaty and command, I requested the sexon to give me admission into the sepulchres without delay. The man looked at the money-then at me-then at the
money again—threw down his mattock, and pocketing the bribe with self-satisfied grin, proceeded to gratify
what he doubtless thought a very singular humour.
Now that the catastrophe of my tale approaches, the pen trembles in my feeble grasp; a cold shiver, such as the first breath from that charnel-house occasioned, creeps over me; and the smell of earth-worms and vermin seems to prevail throughout the chamber in which I write. In order to dissipate the perpetual darkness to which these subterraneous apartments were subjected, my conductor brought from his dwelling, to which he had been obliged to repair for the key, a lanthorn, containing a lighted candle; but the faint beam it shed barely seemed to display the grim features of the place. The galloping and pattering of many tiny feet, and the crash of rotten boards and mouldering bones, proclaimed the numerical strength of the legion of rats our entrance disturbed, and put to flight from their unholy carnival. All was gloom within; and the cadaverous blast that rushed forth as the door fell back, was of itself sufficient, at any other time, to have made me retreat in dismay; but now my friend was paramout in my thoughts, and elevating the lanthorn, which had been consigned to my charge, I strode resolutely into the vault. Suddenly my feet became entangled in what I at first conceived to be a bundle of withered faggots, and thrown off my equilibrium by the interruption, I tottered, and sank down on one knee. In
that moment, the light flashing from the lanthorn I carried, fell on, and allowed me to perceive that I had stumbled over a human skeleton-as fresh and white as if the surgeon's knife had but newly done scraping the bones, save that here and there the green mildew of putrefaction displayed itself in unseemly blotches. A cry of horror escaped me as I gazed on the grinning teeth and empty sockets; and it was echoed by the sexton, as he pointed with astonishment to the hair that still remained on the but half-stript skull. From the few words he made use of, I could infer, that he conjectured some of the coffins had been wrenched open by the rats, and the corpse dragged out and devoured. To me this seemed a very improbable circumstance; but I was too much agitated by the terrible phantoms of my own imagination, to contradict a supposition I would gladly have embraced. In the end, he left me, in order to procure me more light and assistance, to replace the bones once more within the shell from which he fancied they had been torn.
My perturbation of mind, during his absence, is not to be described. As my tremulous hand, from time to time, caused the beams from the lanthorn to waver, and play on the fleshless visage at my feet, fancy rioted in horrors; and I found it impossible to divest myself of the idea, that the dark curling hair that still covered the scalp, bore a close resemblance to that which shaded the temples of Walsingham. I felt inexpressibly relieved