Page:Marietta, or the Two Students.djvu/48

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through many windings, and mazes, and again mounts a crumbling stair-case. She is considerably in advance of her pursuer, who in vain taxes every faculty to attain his object. Many of the boards over which he hastens bend fearfully beneath his weight, and threaten to precipitate him to the story below, but he heeds not the danger, thinks only of the one hellish passion that is consuming him, and its gratification.

The stairs shake and creak beneath his heavy tramp, although they scarcely gave any indications of the zephyr-like movements of Cecil.

Onward still they fly, the pursuer and the pursued, through passages long untroden, deserted and decayed.—Another flight of steps is mounted She is on the third story, and still hears behind her the footsteps of her persecutor, but he advances with more caution, as if fearful that the floor will yield beneath him. And now she hears his voice calling more franticly than ever upon her to stop, for death lay before her if she proceed. One that she dreaded more than death, was behind, and she heeded not the warning.

"In God's name go no father," shrieked Thick, "or you fall to the first floor. Cecil! Cecil! hear me," continued the body snatcher, mounting with more care than heretofore, the third flight of stairs. "You are rushing to certain death, stop mad woman, I warn you of the danger."

Thick was right; there was danger before her, although he cared little for her safety, yet feared that his prey might escape by the hand of death, before she had satisfied his brutal desire. She is upon the fourth flight of steps—they totter beneath her weight, but she presses onward, and gains the top in safety. She now believed she had gained a place of comparative safety, believing that her pursuer would not dare to trust himself upon the decaying stairs, and she pauses a moment to rest. He stands at the foot of the steps, listening to hear what direction she has taken. He heard nothing, and stung to madness resolved to ascend. Cecil hears him place his foot upon the first step, then the second, and so upward, and with throbbing heart, she momentarily expects, the frail fabric with a crash, will give way beneath him. Horror, he has ascended nearly to the top, and she turns to flee, fearful that he may gain her hiding-place in safety: but in a moment she hears a crash, that told her that the steps had fallen. But where was her pursuer? He had caught with his powerful hands the floor upon each side, and with an extraordinary exibition of strength, drawn himself safely to the fourth story. Tired with the unwonted exertion, he paused to rest, while Cecil continues her flight.

"Stop Cecil, stop," again cried Thick, in tones of fear, "advance to yonder room and you are dashed to pieces. I will not harm you—for God's sake hear me—will you rush to certain destruction?

That part of the basement story over which they now stood, had been formerly used as a ware-house; and the others over it, for places of storage, the heavier articles being raised from the lower story, by means of a windlass through an opening in the several floors.