I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me by monkish ingenuity
in torture. My cognizance of the pit had become known to the
inquisitorial agents -- the pit whose horrors had been destined for
so bold a recusant as myself -- the pit, typical of hell, and
regarded by rumor as the Ultima Thule of all their punishments. The
plunge into this pit I had avoided by the merest of accidents, I knew
that surprise, or entrapment into torment, formed an important
portion of all the grotesquerie of these dungeon deaths. Having
failed to fall, it was no part of the demon plan to hurl me into the
abyss; and thus (there being no alternative) a different and a milder
destruction awaited me. Milder! I half smiled in my agony as I
thought of such application of such a term.
What boots it to tell of the long, long hours of horror more than
mortal, during which I counted the rushing vibrations of the steel!
Inch by inch -- line by line -- with a descent only appreciable at
intervals that seemed ages -- down and still down it came! Days
passed -- it might have been that many days passed -- ere it swept so
closely over me as to fan me with its acrid breath. The odor of the
sharp steel forced itself into my nostrils. I prayed -- I wearied
heaven with my prayer for its more speedy descent. I grew frantically
mad, and struggled to force myself upward against the sweep of the
fearful scimitar. And then I fell suddenly calm, and lay smiling at
the glittering death, as a child at some rare bauble.