In the midst of a great psalm, on the geyser column of which his
spirit was borne heavenward, young Delaware all of a sudden found
the keys dumb beneath his helpless fingers: the bellows was empty,
the singing thing dead. He called aloud, and his voice echoed
through the empty chapel, but no living response came back. Tom Fool
had grown weary and forsaken him. Disappointed and baffled, he rose
and left the chapel, not immediately from the organ loft, by a door
and a few upward steps through the wall to the minstrels' gallery,
as he had entered, but by the south door into the court, his
readiest way to reach the rooms he occupied with his father, near
the marquis's study. Hardly another door in either court was ever
made fast except this one, which, merely in self-administered
flattery of his own consequence, the conceited sacristan who assumed
charge of the key, always locked at night. But there was no reason
why Delaware should pay any respect to this, or hesitate to remove
the bar securing one-half of the door, without which the lock
retained no hold.
Although Tom had indeed deserted his post, the organist was mistaken
as to the cause and mode of his desertion: oppressed like every one
else with the sultriness of the night, he had fallen fast asleep,
leaning against the organ. The thunder only waked him sufficiently
to render him capable of slipping from the stool on which he had
lazily seated himself as he worked the lever of the bellows, and
stretching himself at full length upon the floor; while the coolness
that by degrees filled the air as the rain kept pouring, made his
sleep sweeter and deeper. He lay and snored till midnight.
A bell rang in the marquis's chamber.
It was one of his lordship's smaller economic maxims that in every
house, and the larger the house the more necessary its observance,
the master thereof should have his private rooms as far apart from
each other as might, with due respect to general fitness, be
arranged for, in order that, to use his own figure, he might spread
his skirts the wider over the place, and chiefly the part occupied
by his own family and immediate attendants--thereby to give himself,
without paying more attention to such matters than he could afford,
a better chance of coming upon the trace of anything that happened
to be going amiss. 'For,' he said, 'let a man have ever so many
responsible persons about him, the final responsibility of his
affairs yet returns upon himself.' Hence, while his bedroom was
close to the main entrance, that is the gate to the stone court, the
room he chose for retirement and study was over the western gate,
that of the fountain-court, nearly a whole side of the double
quadrangle away from his bedroom, and still farther from the
library, which was on the other side of the main entrance--whence,
notwithstanding, he would himself, gout permitting, always fetch any
book he wanted. It was, therefore, no wonder that, being now in his
study, the marquis, although it rang loud, never heard the bell
which Caspar had hung in his bedchamber. He was, however, at the
moment, looking from a window which commanded the very spot--namely,
the mouth of the archway--towards which the bell would have drawn
The night was still, the rain was over, and although the moon was
clouded, there was light enough to recognise a known figure in any
part of the court, except the shadowed recess where the door of the
chapel and the archway faced each other, and the door of the hall
stood at right angles to both.
Came a great clang that echoed loud through the court, followed by
the roar of water. It sounded as if a captive river had broken
loose, and grown suddenly frantic with freedom. The marquis could
not help starting violently, for his nerves were a good deal shaken.
The same instant, ere there was time for a single conjecture, a
torrent, visible by the light of its foam, shot from the archway,
hurled itself against the chapel door, and vanished. Sad and
startled as he was, lord Worcester, requiring no explanation of the
phenomenon now that it was completed, laughed aloud and hurried from
When he had screwed his unwieldy form to the bottom of the stair,
and came out into the court, there was Tom Fool flying across the
turf in mortal terror, his face white as another moon, and his hair
standing on end--visibly in the dull moonshine.
His terror had either deafened him, or paralysed the nerves of his
obedience, for the first call of his master was insufficient to stop
him. At the second, however, he halted, turned mechanically, went to
him trembling, and stood before him speechless. But when the
marquis, to satisfy himself that he was really as dry as he seemed,
laid his hand on his arm, the touch brought him to himself, and,
assisted by his master's questions, he was able to tell how he had
fallen asleep in the chapel, had waked but a minute ago, had left it
by the minstrels' gallery, had reached the floor of the hall, and
was approaching the western door, which was open, in order to cross
the court to his lodging near the watch-tower, when a hellish
explosion, followed by the most frightful roaring, mingled with
shrieks and demoniacal laughter, arrested him; and the same instant,
through the open door, he saw, as plainly as he now saw his noble
master, a torrent rush from the archway, full of dim figures,
wallowing and shouting. The same moment they all vanished, and the
flood poured into the hall, wetting him to the knees, and almost
carrying him off his legs.
Here the marquis professed profound astonishment, remarking that the
water must indeed have been thickened with devils to be able to lay
hold of Tom's legs.
'Then,' pursued Tom, reviving a little, 'I summoned up all my
'No great feat,' said the marquis.
But Tom went on unabashed.
'I summoned up the whole of my courage,' he repeated, 'stepped out
of the hall, carefully examined the ground, looked through the
arch-way, saw nothing, and was walking slowly across the court to my
lodging, pondering with myself whether to call my lord governor or
sir Toby Mathews, when I heard your lordship call me.'
'Tom! Tom! thou liest,' said the marquis. 'Thou wast running as if
all the devils in hell had been at thy heels.'
Tom turned deadly pale, a fresh access of terror overcoming his
'Who were they, thinkest thou, whom thou sawest in the water, Tom?'
resumed his master. 'For what didst thou take them?'
Tom shook his head with an awful significance, looked behind him,
and said nothing.
Perceiving there was no more to be got out of him, the marquis sent
him to bed. He went off shivering and shaking. Three times ere he
reached the watch-tower his face gleamed white over his shoulder as
he went. The next day he did not appear. He thought himself he was
doomed, but his illness was only the prostration following upon
In the version of the story which he gave his fellow-servants, he
doubtless mingled the after visions of his bed with what he had when
half-awake seen and heard through the mists of his startled
imagination. His tale was this--that he saw the moat swell and rise,
boil over in a mass, and tumble into the court as full of devils as
it could hold, swimming in it, floating on it, riding it aloft as if
it had been a horse; that in a moment they had all vanished again,
and that he had not a doubt the castle was now swarming with
them--in fact, he had heard them all the night long.
The marquis walked up to the archway, saw nothing save the grim wall
of the keep, impassive as granite crag, and the ground wet a long
way towards the white horse; and never doubting he had lost his
chance by taking Tom for the culprit, contented himself with the
reflection that, whoever the night-walkers were, they had received
both a fright and a ducking, and betook himself to bed, where,
falling asleep at length, he saw little Molly in the arms of mother
Mary, who, presently changing to his own lady Anne that left him
about a year before little Molly came, held out a hand to him to
help him up beside them, whereupon the bubble sleep, unable to hold
the swelling of his gladness, burst, and he woke just as the first
rays of the sun smote the gilded cock on the bell-tower.
The noise of the falling drawbridge and the out-rushing water had
roused Dorothy also, with most of the lighter sleepers in the
castle; but when she and all the rest whose windows were to the
fountain court, ran to them and looked out, they saw nothing but the
flight of Tom Fool across the turf, its arrest by his master, and
their following conference. The moon had broken through the clouds,
and there was no mistaking either of their persons.
Meantime, inside the chapel door stood Amanda and Rowland, both
dripping, and one of them crying as well. Thither, as into a safe
harbour, the sudden flood had cast them; and it indicated no small
amount of ready faculty in Scudamore that, half-stunned as he was,
he yet had the sense, almost ere he knew where he was, to put up the
long bar that secured the door.
All the time that the marquis was drawing his story from Tom, they
stood trembling, in great bewilderment yet very sensible misery,
bruised, drenched, and horribly frightened, more even at what might
be than by what had been. There was only one question, but that was
hard to answer: what were they to do next? Amanda could contribute
nothing towards its solution, for tears and reproaches resolve no
enigmas. There were many ways of issue, whereof Rowland knew
several; but their watery trail, if soon enough followed, would be
their ruin as certainly as Hop-o'-my-Thumb's pebbles were safety to
himself and his brothers. He stood therefore the very bond slave of
perplexity, 'and, like a neutral to his will and matter, did
Presently they heard the approaching step of the marquis, which
every one in the castle knew. It stopped within a few feet of them,
and through the thick door they could hear his short asthmatic
They kept as still as their trembling, and the mad beating of their
hearts, would permit. Amanda was nearly out of her senses, and
thought her heart was beating against the door, and not against her
own ribs. But the marquis never thought of the chapel, having at
once concluded that they had fled through the open hall. Had he not,
however, been so weary and sad and listless, he would probably have
found them, for he would at least have crossed the hall to look into
the next court, and, the moon now shining brightly, the absence of
all track on the floor where the traces of the brief inundation
ceased, would have surely indicated the direction in which they had
The acme of terror happily endured but a moment. The sound of his
departing footsteps took the ghoul from their hearts; they began to
breathe, and to hope that the danger was gone. But they waited long
ere at last they ventured, like wild animals overtaken by the
daylight, to creep out of their shelter and steal back like
shadows--but separately, Amanda first, and Scudamore some slow
minutes after--to their different quarters. The tracks they could
not help leaving in-doors were dried up before the morning.
Rowland had greater reason to fear discovery than any one else in
the castle, save one, would in like circumstances have had, and that
one was his bedfellow in the ante-chamber to his master's bedroom.
Through this room his lordship had to pass to reach his own; but so
far was he from suspecting Rowland, or indeed any gentleman of his
retinue, that he never glanced in the direction of his bed, and so
could not discover that he was absent from it. Had Rowland but
caught a glimpse of his own figure as he sneaked into that room five
minutes after the marquis had passed through it, believing his
master was still in his study, where he had left his candles
burning, he could hardly for some time have had his usual success in
regarding himself as a fine gentleman.
Amanda Serafina did not show herself for several days. A bad cold in
her head luckily afforded sufficient pretext for the concealment of
a bad bruise upon her cheek. Other bruises she had also, but they,
although more severe, were of less consequence.
For a whole fortnight the lovers never dared exchange a word.
In the morning the marquis was in no mood to set any inquiry on
foot. His little lamb had vanished from his fold, and he was sad and
lonely. Had it been otherwise, possibly the shabby doublet in which
Scudamore stood behind his chair the next morning, might have set
him thinking; but as it was, it fell in so well with the gloom in
which his own spirit shrouded everything, that he never even marked
the change, and ere long Rowland began to feel himself safe.