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    Chapter 22

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    Chapter 22
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    The long day during which the lovers had drained a cup at once so sweet
    and so bitter, and one of the two had felt alike the throb of pain and
    the thrill of kisses, came to an end at last; and without further
    incident. Encouraged by the respite--for who that is mortal does not
    hope against hope--they ventured on the following morning to lower the
    shutters, and this to a great extent restored the house to its normal
    aspect. Anne would have gone so far as to attend the morning preaching
    at St. Pierre, for it was Friday; but her mother awoke low and nervous,
    the girl dared not quit her side, and Claude had no field for the urgent
    dissuasions which he had prepared himself to use.

    The greater part of the day she remained above stairs, busied in the
    petty offices, and moving to and fro--he could hear her tread--upon the
    errands of love, to see her in the midst of which might well have
    confuted the slanders that crept abroad. But there were times in the day
    when Madame Royaume slept; and then, who can blame Anne, if she stole
    down and sat hand in hand with Claude on the settle, whispering
    sometimes of those things of which lovers whisper, and will whisper to
    the world's end; but more often of the direr things before these two
    lovers, and so of faith and hope and the love that does not die. For the
    most part it was she who talked. She had so much to tell him of the long
    nightmare, the nightmare of months, that had oppressed her; of her
    prayers, and fears and fits of terror; of Basterga's discovery of the
    secret and the cruel use he had made of it; of the slow-growing
    resignation, the steadfast resolve, the onward look to something, beyond
    that which the world could do to her, that had come to be hers. With her
    face hidden on his breast she told him of her thoughts upon her knees,
    of the pain and obloquy through which, if the worst came, she knew she
    must pass, and of her trust that she would be able to bear them;
    speaking in such terms, so simply, so bravely, and with so lofty a
    contemplation, that he who listened, and had been but a week before a
    young man as other young men, grew as he listened to another stature,
    and thought for himself thoughts that no man can have and remain as he
    was, before the tongues of fire touched his heart.

    And then again, once--but that was in the darkening of the Friday
    evening when the wound in her cheek burned and smarted and recalled the
    wretched moment of infliction--she showed him another side; as if she
    would have him know that she was not all heroic. Without warning, she
    broke down; overcome by the prospect of death, she clung to him, weeping
    and shuddering, and begging him and imploring him to save her. To save
    her! Only to save her! At that sight and at those sounds, under the
    despairing grasp of her arms about his neck, the young man's heart was
    red-hot; his eyes burned. Vainly he held her closer and closer to him;
    vainly he tried to comfort her. Vainly he shed tears of blood. He felt
    her writhe and shudder in his arms.

    And what could he do? He strove to argue with her. He strove to show her
    that accusation of her mother, condemnation of her mother, dreadful as
    they must be to her, so dreadful that he scarcely dared speak of them,
    need not involve her own condemnation. She was young, of blameless life,
    and without enemies. What could any cast up against her, what adduce in
    proof of a charge so dark, so improbable, so abnormal?

    For answer she touched the pulsing wound in her cheek.

    "And this?" she said. "And the child that I killed?"--with a bitter
    laugh unlike her own. "If they say so much already, if they say that
    to-day, what will they say to-morrow? What will they say when they have
    heard her ravings? Will it not be, the old and the young, the witch and
    her brood--to the fire? To the fire?"

    The spasm that shook her as she spoke defied his efforts to soothe her.
    And how could he comfort her? He knew the thing to be too likely, the
    argument too reasonable, as men reasoned then; strange and foolish as
    their reasoning seems to us now. But what could he do. What? He who sat
    there alone with her, a prisoner with her, witness to her agony, scalded
    by her tears, tortured by her anguish, burning with pity, sorrow,
    indignation--what could he do to help her or save her?

    He had wild thoughts, but none of them effectual; the old thoughts of
    defending the house, or of escaping by night over the town wall; and
    some new ones. He weighed the possibility of Madame Royaume's death
    before the arrest; surely, then, he could save the girl, and they two,
    young, active and of ordinary aspect, might escape some whither? Again,
    he thought of appealing to Beza, the aged divine, whom Geneva revered
    and Calvinism placed second only to Calvin. He was a Frenchman, a man of
    culture and of noble birth; he might stand above the common
    superstition, he might listen, discern, defend. But, alas, he was so old
    as to be bed-ridden and almost childish. It was improbable, nay, it was
    most unlikely, that he could be induced to interfere.

    All these thoughts Anne drove out of his head by begging him, in moving
    terms of self-reproach, to forgive her her weakness. She had regained
    her composure as abruptly, if not as completely, as she had lost it; and
    would have had him believe that the passion he had witnessed was less
    deep than it seemed, and rather a womanish need of tears than a proof of
    suffering. A minute later she was quietly preparing the evening meal,
    while he, with a sick heart, raised the shutters and lighted the lamp.
    As he looked up from the latter task, he found her eyes fixed upon him,
    with a peculiar intentness: and for a while afterwards he remarked that
    she wore an absent air. But she said nothing, and by-and-by, promising
    to return before bed-time, she went upstairs to her mother.

    The nights were at their longest, and the two had closed and lighted
    before five. Outside the cold stillness of a winter night and a freezing
    sky settled down on Geneva; within, Claude sat with sad eyes fixed on
    the smouldering fire. What could he do? What could he do? Wait and see
    her innocence outraged, her tenderness racked, her gentle body given up
    to unspeakable torments? The collapse which he had witnessed gave him as
    it were a foretaste, a bitter savour of the trials to come. It did not
    seem to him that he could bear even the anticipation of them. He rose,
    he sat down, he rose again, unable to endure the intolerable thought. He
    flung out his arms; his eyes, cast upwards, called God to witness that
    it was too much! It was too much!

    Some way of escape there must be. Heaven could not look down on, could
    not suffer such deeds in a Christian land. But men and women, girls and
    young children had suffered these things; had appealed and called Heaven
    to witness, and gone to death, and Heaven had not moved, nor the angels
    descended! But it could not be in her case. Some way of escape there
    must be. There must be.

    Why should she not leave her mother to her fate? A fate that could not
    be evaded? Why need she, whose capacity for suffering was so great, who
    had so much of life and love and all good things before her, remain to
    share the pains of one whose span in any case was nearing its end? Of
    one who had no longer power--or so it seemed--to meet the smallest
    shock, and must succumb before she knew more of suffering than the name.
    One whom a rude word might almost extinguish, and a rough push thrust
    out of life? Why remain, when to remain was to sacrifice two lives in
    lieu of one, to give and get nothing, to die for a prejudice? Why
    remain, when by remaining she could not save her mother, but, on the
    contrary, must inflict the sharpest pang of all, since she destroyed the
    being who was dearest to her mother, the being whom her mother would die
    to save?

    He grew heated as he dwelt on it. Of what use to any, the feeble
    flickering light upstairs, that must go out were it left for a moment
    untended? The light that would have gone out this long time back had she
    not fostered it and cherished it and sheltered it in her bosom? Of what
    avail that weak existence? Or, if it were of avail, why, for its sake,
    waste this other and more precious life that still could not redeem it?


    He must speak to her. He must persuade her, press her, convince her;
    carry her off by force were it necessary. It was his duty, his clear
    call. He rose and walked the room in excitement, as he thought of it. He
    had pity for the old, abandoned and left to suffer alone; and an
    enlightening glimpse of the weight that the girl must carry through life
    by reason of this desertion. But no doubt, no hesitation--he told
    himself--no scruple. To die that her mother might live was one thing.
    To die--and so to die--merely that her mother's last hours might be
    sheltered and comforted, was another, and a thing unreasonable.

    He must speak to her. He would not hesitate to tell her what he thought.

    But he did hesitate. When she descended half an hour later, and paused
    at the foot of the stairs to assure herself that her passage downstairs
    had not roused her mother from sleep, the light fell on her listening
    face and tender eyes; and he read that in them which checked the words
    on his lips; that which, whether it were folly or wisdom--a wisdom
    higher than the serpent's, more perfect than the most accurate
    calculation of values and chances--drove for ever from his mind the
    thought that she would desert her charge. He said not a word of what he
    had thought; the indignant reasoning, the hot, conclusive arguments fell
    from him and left him bare. With her hands in his, seeking no more to
    move her or convince her, he sat silent; and by mute looks and dumb
    love--more potent than eloquence or oratory--strove to support and
    console her.

    She, too, was silent. Stillness had fallen on both of them. But her
    hands clung to his, and now and again pressed them convulsively; and now
    and again, too, she would lift her eyes to his, and gaze at him with a
    pathetic intentness, as if she would stamp his likeness on her brain.
    But when he returned the look, and tried to read her meaning in her
    eyes, she smiled. "You are afraid of me?" she whispered. "No, I shall
    not be weak again."

    But even as she reassured him he detected a flicker of pain in her eyes,
    he felt that her hands were cold; and but that he feared to shake her
    composure he would not have rested content with her answer.

    This sudden silence, this new way of looking at him, were the only
    things that perplexed him. In all else, silent as they sat, their
    communion was perfect. It was in the mind of each that the women might
    be arrested on the morrow; in the mind of each that this was their last
    evening together, the last of few, yet not so few that they did not seem
    to the man and the girl to bulk large in their lives. On that hearth
    they had met, there she had proved to him what she was, there he had
    spoken, there spent the clouded never-to-be-forgotten days of their
    troubled courtship. No wonder that as they sat hand in hand, their hair
    almost mingling, their eyes on the red glow of the smouldering log, and,
    not daring to look forward, looked back--no wonder that their love grew
    to be something other than the common love of man and maid, something
    higher and more beautiful, touched--as the hills are touched at
    sunset--by the evening glow of parting and self-sacrifice.

    Silent amid the silence of the house; living moments never to be
    forgotten; welcoming together the twin companions, love and death.

    But from the darkest outlook of the mind, as of the eye, morning dispels
    some shadows; into the most depressing atmosphere daylight brings hope,
    brings actuality, brings at least the need to be doing. Claude's heart,
    as he slipped from his couch on the settle next morning, and admitted
    the light and turned the log and stirred the embers, was sad and full of
    foreboding. But as the room, its disorder abated, took on a more
    pleasant aspect, as the fire crackled and blazed on the hearth, and the
    flush of sunrise spread over the east, he grew--he could not but grow,
    for he was young--more cheerful also. He swept the floor and filled the
    kettle and let in the air; and had done almost all he knew how to do,
    before he heard Anne's foot upon the stairs.

    She had slept little and looked pale and haggard; almost more pale and
    wan than he had ever seen her look. And this must have sunk his heart to
    zero, if a certain item in her aspect had not at the same time diverted
    his attention. "You are not going out?" he cried in astonishment. She
    wore her hood.

    "I am not going to defend myself again," she answered, smiling sadly.
    "Have no fear. I shall not repeat that mistake. I am only going----"

    "You are not going anywhere!" he answered firmly.

    She shook her head with the same wan smile. "We must live," she said.


    "And to live must have water."

    "I have filled the kettle."

    "And emptied the water-pot," she retorted.

    "True," he said. "But surely it will be time to refill it when we want

    "I shall attract less attention now," she answered quietly, "than later
    in the day. There are few abroad. I will draw my hood about my face, and
    no one will heed me."

    He laughed in tender derision. "You will not go!" he said. "Did you
    think that I would let you run a risk rather than fetch the water from
    the conduit."

    "You will go?"

    "Where is the pot?"

    He fetched the jar from its place under the stairs, snatched up his cap,
    and turning the key in the lock was in the act of passing out when she
    seized his arm. "Kiss me," she murmured. She lifted her face to his, her
    eyes half closed.

    He drew her to him, but her lips were cold; and as he released her she
    sank passively from his embrace, and was near falling. He hesitated.
    "You are not afraid to be left?" he said. "You are sure?"

    "I am afraid of nothing if I know you safe," she answered faintly. "Go!
    go quickly, and God be with you!"

    "Tut! I run no danger," he rejoined. "I have a strong arm and they will
    leave me alone." He thought that she was overwrought, that the strain
    was telling on her; his thoughts did not go beyond that. "I shall be
    back in five minutes," he continued cheerfully. And he went, bidding her
    lock the door behind him and open only at his knock.

    He made the more haste for her fears, passed into the town through the
    Porte Tertasse, and hastened to the conduit. The open space in front of
    the fountain, which a little later in the day would be the favourite
    resort of gossips and idlers, was a desert; the bitter morning wind saw
    to that. But about the fountain itself three or four women closely
    muffled were waiting their turns to draw. One looked up, and, as he
    fancied, recognised him, for she nudged her neighbour. And then first
    the one woman and then the other, looking askance, muttered something;
    it might have been a prayer, or a charm, or a mere word of gossip. But
    he liked neither the glance nor the action, nor the furtive, curious
    looks of the women; and as quickly as he could he filled his pot and
    carried it away.

    He had splashed his fingers, and the cold wind quickly numbed them. At
    the Tertasse Gate, where the view commanding the river valley opened
    before him, he was glad to set down the vessel and change hands. On his
    left, the watch at the Porte Neuve, the gate in the ramparts which
    admitted from the country to the Corraterie--as the Tertasse admitted
    from the Corraterie to the town proper--was being changed, and he paused
    an instant, gazing on the scene. Then remembering himself, and the need
    of haste, he snatched up his jar and, turning to the right, hurried to
    the steps before the Royaumes' door, swung up them and, with his eyes
    on the windows, set down his burden.

    He knocked gently, sure that she would not keep him waiting. But she did
    not come at once; and by-and-by, seeing that a woman at an open door a
    little farther down the Corraterie was watching him with scowling
    eyes--and that strange look, half fear, half loathing, which he was
    growing to know--he knocked more loudly, and stamped to warm his feet.

    Still, to his astonishment, she did not come; he waited, and waited, and
    she did not come. He would have begun to feel alarmed for her, but, what
    with the cold and the early hour, the place was deserted; no idle gazers
    such as a commotion leaves behind it were to be seen. The wind, however,
    began to pierce his clothes; he had not brought his cloak, and he
    shivered. He knocked more loudly.

    Perhaps she had been called to her mother? That must be it. She had gone
    upstairs and could not on the instant leave her charge. He clothed
    himself in reproaches; but they did not warm him, and he was beginning
    to stamp his feet again when, happening to look down, he saw beside the
    water-can and partly hidden by its bulge, a packet about the size of a
    letter, but a little thicker. If he had not mounted the steps with his
    eyes on the windows, searching for her face, he would have seen it at
    once, and spared himself these minutes of waiting. He took it up in
    bewilderment, and turned it in his numbed hands; it was heavy, and from
    it, leaving only a piece of paper in his grasp, his purse fell to the
    ground. More and more astonished, he picked up the purse, and put it in
    his pocket. He looked at the window, but no one showed; then at the
    paper in his hand. Inside the letter were three lines of writing.

    His face fell as he read them. "_I shall not admit you_," they ran.
    "_If you try to enter, you will attract notice and destroy me. Go, and
    God bless and reward you. You cannot save me, and to see you perish were
    a worse pang than the worst._"

    The words swam before his eyes. "I will beat down the door," he
    muttered, tears in his voice, tears welling up in his heart and choking
    him. And he raised his hand. "I will----"

    But he did nothing. "_You will attract notice and destroy me._" Ah, she
    had thought it out too well. Too well, out of the wisdom of great love,
    she had known how to bridle him. He dared not do anything that would
    direct notice to the house.

    But desert her? Never; and after a moment's thought he drew off, his
    plans formed. As he retired, when he had gone some yards from the door,
    he heard the window closed sharply behind him. He looked back and saw
    his cloak lying on the ground. Tears rose again to his eyes, as he
    returned, took it up, donned it, and with a last lingering look at the
    window, turned away. She would think that he had taken her at her word;
    but no matter!

    He walked along the Corraterie, and passing the four square watch-towers
    with pointed roofs that stood at intervals along the wall, he came to
    the two projecting demilunes, or bastions, that marked the angle where
    the ramparts met the Rhone; a point from which the wall descended to the
    bridge. In one of these bastions he ensconced himself; and selecting a
    place whence he could, without being seen, command the length of the
    Corraterie, he set himself to watch the Royaumes' house. By-and-by he
    would go into the town and procure food, and, returning, keep guard
    until nightfall. After dark, if the day passed without event, he would
    find his way into the house by force or fraud. In a rapture of
    anticipation he pictured his entrance, her reluctant joy, her tears and
    smiles, and fond reproaches. As he loved her, as he must love her the
    more for the trick she had played him, she must love him the more for
    his return in her teeth. And the next day was Sunday, when it was
    unlikely that any steps would be taken. That whole day he would have
    with her, through it he would sit with her! A whole day without fear? It
    seemed an age. He did not, he would not look beyond it!

    He had not broken his fast, and hunger presently drove him into the
    town. But within half an hour he was at his post again. A glance at the
    Royaumes' house showed him that nothing had happened, and, resuming his
    seat in the deserted bastion, he began a watch that as long as he lived
    stood clear in his memory of the past. The day was cold and bright, and
    frosty with a nipping wind. Mont Blanc and the long range of snow-clad
    summits that flanked it rose dazzlingly bright against the blue sky. The
    most distant object seemed near; the wavelets on the unfrozen water of
    the lake gave to the surface, usually so blue, a rough, grey aspect. The
    breeze which produced this appearance kept the ramparts clear of
    loiterers; and even those who were abroad preferred the more sheltered
    streets, or went hurriedly about their business. The guards were content
    to shiver in the guardrooms of the gate-towers, and if Claude blessed
    once the kind afterthought which had dropped his cloak from the window,
    he blessed it a dozen times. Wrapt in its thick folds, it was all he
    could do to hold his ground against the cold. Without it he must have
    withdrawn or succumbed.

    Through the morning he watched the house jealously, trembling at every
    movement which took place at the Tertasse Gate; lest it herald the
    approach of the officers to arrest the women. But nothing happened, and
    as the day wore on he grew more hopeful. He might, indeed, have begun
    to think Anne over-timid and his fears unwarranted, if he had not seen,
    a little before sunset, a thing which opened his eyes.

    Two women and some children came out of a house not far from the
    bastion. They passed towards the Tertasse Gate, and he watched them.
    Before they came to the Royaumes' house, the children paused, flung
    their cloaks over their heads, and, thus protected, ran past the house.
    The women followed, more slowly, but gave the house a wide berth, and
    each passed with a flap of her hood held between her face and the
    windows; when they had gone by they exchanged signals of abhorrence. The
    sight was no more than of a piece with the outrage on Anne; but, coming
    when it did, coming when he was beginning to think that he had been
    mistaken, when he was beginning to hope, it depressed Claude dismally.

    For comfort he looked forward to the hour when it would be dark. "By
    hook or by crook," he muttered, "I shall enter then."

    He had barely finished the sentence, when he observed moving along the
    ramparts towards him a figure he knew. It was Grio. There was nothing
    strange in the man's presence in that place, for he was an idler and a
    sot; but Claude did not wish to meet him, and debated in his mind
    whether he should retreat before the other came up. Pride said one
    thing, discretion another. He wanted no fracas, and he was still hanging
    doubtful, measuring the distance between them, when--away went his
    thoughts. What was Grio doing?

    The Spaniard had come to a stand, and was leaning on the wall, looking
    idly into the fosse. The posture would have been the most natural in the
    world on a warm day. On that day it caught Claude's attention; and--was
    he mistaken, or were the hands that, under cover of Grio's cloak,
    rested on the wall busy about something?

    In any case he must make up his mind whether he moved or stayed. For
    Grio was coming on again. Claude hesitated a moment. Then he determined
    to stay. The next he was glad he had so determined, for Grio after
    strolling on in seeming carelessness to a point not twenty yards from
    him, and well commanded from his seat, leant again on the wall, and
    seemed to be enjoying the view. This time Claude was sure, from the
    movement of his shoulders, that his hands were employed.

    "In what?" The young man asked himself the question; and noted that
    beside Grio's left heel lay a piece of broken tile of a peculiar colour.
    The next moment he had an inspiration. He drew up his feet on the seat,
    drew his cloak over his head and affected to be asleep. What Grio, when
    he came upon him, thought of a man who chose to sleep in the open in
    such weather he did not learn, for after standing a while--as Claude's
    ears told him--opposite the sleeper, the Spaniard turned and walked back
    the way he had come. This time, and though he now had the wind at his
    back, he walked briskly; as a man would walk in such weather, or as a
    man might walk who had done his business.

    Claude waited until his coarse, heavy figure had disappeared through the
    Porte Tertasse; nay, he waited until the light began to fail. Then,
    while he could still pick out the red potsherd, he approached the wall,
    leant over it, and, failing to detect anything with his eyes, passed his
    fingers down the stones.

    They alighted on a nail; a nail thrust lightly into the mortar below the
    coping stone. For what purpose? His blood beginning to move more quickly
    Claude asked himself the question. To support a rope? And so to enable
    some one to leave the town? The nail, barely pushed into the mortar,
    would hardly support the weight of a dozen yards of twine.

    Perhaps the nail was there by chance, and Grio had naught to do with it.
    He could settle that doubt. In a few moments he had settled it. Under
    cover of the growing darkness, he walked to the place at which he had
    seen Grio pause for the first time. A short search discovered a second
    nail as lightly secured as the other. Had he not been careful it would
    have fallen beneath his touch.

    What did the nails there? Claude was not stupid, yet he was long in
    hitting on an explanation. It was a fanciful, extravagant notion when he
    got it, but one that set his chilled blood running, and his hands
    tingling, one that might mean much to himself and to others. It was
    unlikely, it was improbable, it was out of the common; but it was an
    explanation. It was a mighty thing to hang upon two weak nails; but such
    as it was--and he turned it over and over in his mind before he dared
    entertain it--he could find no other. And presently, his eyes alight,
    his pulses riotous, his foot dancing, he walked down the
    Corraterie--with scarce a look at the house which had held his thoughts
    all day--and passed into the town. As he passed through the gateway he
    hung an instant and cast an inquisitive eye into the guard-room of the
    Tertasse. It was nearly empty. Two men sat drowsing before the fire,
    their boot-heels among the embers, a black jack between them.

    The fact weighed something in the balance of probabilities: and in
    growing excitement, Claude hurried on, sought the cookshop at which he
    had broken his fast--a humble place, licensed for the scholars--and ate
    his supper, not knowing what he ate, nor with whom he ate it. It was
    only by chance that his ear caught, at a certain moment, a new tone in
    the goodwife's voice; and that he looked up, and saw her greet her

    "Ay!" the man said, putting off his bandoleer, and answering the
    exclamation of surprise which his entrance had evoked. "It's bed for me
    to-night. It's so cold they will send but half the rounds."

    "Whose order is that?" asked a scholar at Claude's table.

    "Messer Blondel's."

    "Shows his sense!" the goodwife cried roundly. "A good man, and knows
    when to watch and when to ha' done!"

    Claude said nothing, but he rose with burning cheeks, paid his share--it
    was seven o'clock--and, passing out, made his way back. It should be
    said that in addition to the Tertasse Gate, two lesser gates, the
    Treille on the one hand and the Monnaye on the other, led from the town
    proper to the Corraterie; and this time he chose to go out by the
    Treille. Having ascertained that the guard-room there also was almost
    denuded of men, he passed along the Corraterie to his bastion, hugging
    the houses on his right, and giving the wall a wide berth. Although the
    cold wind blew in his face he paused several times to listen, nor did he
    enter his bastion until he had patiently made certain that it was

    The night was very dark: it was the night of December the 12th, old
    style, the longest and deadest of the year. Far below him in the black
    abyss on which the wall looked down, a few oil lamps marked the island
    and the town beyond the Rhone. Behind him, on his left, a glimmer
    escaping here and there from the upper windows marked the line of the
    Corraterie, of which the width is greatest at the end farthest from the
    river. Near the far extremity of the rampart a bright light marked the
    Porte Neuve, distant about two hundred yards from his post, and about
    seventy or eighty from the Porte Tertasse, the inner gate which
    corresponded with it. Straight from him to the Porte Neuve ran the
    rampart a few feet high on the inner side, some thirty feet high on the
    outer, but shrouded for the present in a black gloom that defied his
    keenest vision.

    He waited more than an hour, his ears on the alert. At the end of that
    time, he drew a deep breath of relief. A step that might have been the
    step of a sentry pacing the rampart, and now pausing, now moving on,
    began to approach him. It came on, paused, came on, paused--this time
    close at hand. Two or three dull sounds followed, then the sharper noise
    of a falling stone. Immediately the foot of the sentry, if sentry it
    was, began to retreat.

    Claude drove his nails into the palms of his hands and waited, waited
    through an eternity, waited until the retreating foot had almost
    reached, as he judged, the Porte Tertasse. Then he stole out, groped his
    way to the wall, and passed his hand along the outer side until he came
    to the nail. He found it. It had been made secure, and from it depended
    a thin string.

    He set to work at once to draw up the string. There was a small weight
    attached to it, which rose slowly until it reached his hand. It was a
    stone about as large as the fist, and of a whitish colour.
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