Nor had I erred in my calculations -- nor had I endured in vain. I at
length felt that I was free. The surcingle hung in ribands from my
body. But the stroke of the pendulum already pressed upon my bosom.
It had divided the serge of the robe. It had cut through the linen
beneath. Twice again it swung, and a sharp sense of pain shot through
every nerve. But the moment of escape had arrived. At a wave of my
hand my deliverers hurried tumultuously away. With a steady movement
-- cautious, sidelong, shrinking, and slow -- I slid from the embrace
of the bandage and beyond the reach of the scimitar. For the moment,
at least, I was free.
Free! -- and in the grasp of the Inquisition! I had scarcely stepped
from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when
the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up, by
some invisible force, through the ceiling. This was a lesson which I
took desperately to heart. My every motion was undoubtedly watched.
Free! -- I had but escaped death in one form of agony, to be
delivered unto worse than death in some other. With that thought I
rolled my eves nervously around on the barriers of iron that hemmed
me in. Something unusual -- some change which, at first, I could not
appreciate distinctly -- it was obvious, had taken place in the
apartment. For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling abstraction, I
busied myself in vain, unconnected conjecture. During this period, I
became aware, for the first time, of the origin of the sulphurous
light which illumined the cell. It proceeded from a fissure, about
half an inch in width, extending entirely around the prison at the
base of the walls, which thus appeared, and were, completely
separated from the floor. I endeavored, but of course in vain, to
look through the aperture.