Page:Marietta, or the Two Students.djvu/47

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THE TWO STUDENTS.

41

very day of her death, and had no suspicion of the approaching catastrophe. She had entered the room the morning ensuing her last meeting with Eugene, and found it without an occupant, while the clothes, tattered and torn, were scattered about the room in the greatest confusion. Her amazement was turned to fear when she saw that the few articles of dress belonging to the wretched girl were all as they had been thrown off the previous night, and a ring which had been given her by her destroyer, whose mistress she had once been, was lying on the floor.

A horrible suspicion crossed her mind, nor was it lessened by the discovery of an empty vial, which emitted a strong acid odor. She returned pale with fright to her room, and soon learned from the hag that Alice was dead. This circumstance increased the fear she had always entertained for the body snatcher, and she associated with him every thing that was base and wicked.

It was not singular, then, that a sensation of terror greater than she had ever before experienced, shook her frame, and blanched her cheeks, while her heart throbbed as though it were about to leap through the walls of its narrow prison. Thick stepped towards her bed, and she fancied she heard his hurried breathing, as panting with expectation he listened to learn if his victim was yet aware of his approach. Again he lifted carefully his foot, and placed a greater distance between himself and the door, which, in his eagerness to make sure of his prize, he had forgotten to close or secure, as his natural shrewdness would have dictated in calmer moments.

That was a fearful moment to Cecil, whose limbs were scarcely able to support her, and who could with difficulty refrain from shrieking with fright. She knew that he would soon discover that the bed was without an occupant, and immediately search every corner of the room to find her, as he had good reason to suppose that she had not escaped. Another step was made, and the body-snatcher, with the hellish fires of brutal lust burning in his bosom, imagined himself so much nearer the consumation of his wishes. Cecil hears, as with trembling eagerness he draws his hot breath through his fixed teeth. He felt sure that the desired object was in his power, and he should soon clasp her in his arms—possess her; and it stirred up that wild tumult in his breast which his savage nature was susceptible of feeling

The victim stood still, afraid to move, as the least noise would reveal her hiding place, and yet she knew, to remain where she was, would ensure the consequence which she feared. She resolved many times to emerge quietly and stealthily from behind the door, and flee, but her limbs refused to obey, and half fainting, she maintained her position. He reached the bed, and Cecil heard the wild beatings of his heart as he stood for an instant preparing to reach forth his arms, throw himself upon the bed, and then make sure of his victim. Ah! he finds he is baffled when he thought the very moment of possession had arrived. With an imprecation too dreadful to repeat, he was about to turn from the bed, when gathering the remains of her strength and energy, Cecil darts like a spectre from the apartment.

As quick and noiseless as is that movement, he observes it, and showering curses upon her for her cunning, with fiendish eagerness starts in pursuit, guided only by the light, and almost inaudible footsteps of her who flies like a frightened deer at his approach.

But whither shall she go, or where escape? She knows not, she cares not, if she elude only the monster upon her track, scenting her steps as a fierce bloodhound, in sight of his prey.

Quicker than the wind she flies through many rooms, entries, and dark passages, guided only by an instinct imparted by fear. Now she ascends swiftly a flight of steps, while a short distance behind, she hears the heavy, hasty tread of Thick, who, in a hoarse voice, bids her desist.

But he still feels certain of his prey, and confident that she cannot ascend much father, and can find no means of egress. She is at the top of the stairs, and again darts onward through the thick darkness, like one endowed with supernatural power, and upheld by another's strength.

With a surprising skill, and celerity she throws open doors, springs through forsaken chambers, whose floors shake beneath the light pressure of her feet—