The next day Mabel was set at liberty by her gaoler, and the hours flew by without the opportunity of escape, for which she sighed, occurring to her. As night drew on, she became more anxious, and at last expressed a wish to retire to her cell. When about to fasten the door, Fenwolf found that the lock had got strained, and the bolts would not move, and he was therefore obliged to content himself with placing a bench against it, on which he took a seat.
About an hour after Mabel's retirement, old Tristram offered to relieve guard with Fenwolf, but this the other positively declined, and leaning against the door, disposed himself to slumber. Tristram then threw himself on the floor, and in a short time all seemed buried in repose.
By-and-by, however, when Fenwolf's heavy breathing gave token of the soundness of his sleep, Tristram raised himself upon his elbow, and gazed round. The lamp placed upon the table imperfectly illumined the cavern, for the fire which had been lighted to cook the evening meal had gone out completely. Getting up cautiously, and drawing his hunting-knife, the old man crept towards Fenwolf, apparently with the intent of stabbing him, but he suddenly changed his resolution, and dropped his arm.
At that moment, as if preternaturally warned, Fenwolf opened his eyes, and seeing the old forester standing by, sprang upon him, and seized him by the throat.
"Ah traitor!" he exclaimed; "what are you about to do?"
"I am no traitor," replied the old man. "I heard a noise in the passage leading to Wyat's cell, and was about to rouse you, when you awakened of your own accord, probably disturbed by the noise."
"It may be," replied Fenwolf, satisfied with the excuse, and relinquishing his grasp. "I fancied I heard something in my dreams. But come with me to Wyat's cell. I will not leave you here."
And snatching up the lamp, he hurried with Tristram into the passage. They were scarcely gone, when the door of the cell was opened by Mabel, who. had overheard what had passed; and so hurriedly did she issue forth that she over-turned the bench, which fell to the ground with a considerable clatter. She had only just time to replace it, and to conceal herself in an a!1joining passage, when Fenwolf rushed back into the cavern.
It was a false alarm," he cried. "I saw Sir Thomas Wyat in his cell through the loop-hole, and I have brought the key away with me. But I am sure I heard a noise here."
"It must have been mere fancy," said Tristram. "All is as we left it."
"It seems so, certes," replied Fenwolf doubtfully. "But I will make sure."
; While he placed his ear to the door, Mabel gave a signal to Tristram that she was safe. Persuaded that he heard some sound in the chamber, Fenwolf nodded to Tristram that all was right, and resumed his seat.
In less than ten minutes he was again asleep. Mabel then emerged from her concealment, and cautiously approached Tristram, who feigned, also, to slumber. As she approached him, he rose noiselessly to his feet.
"The plan has succeeded," he said in a low tone. "It was I who spoiled the lock. But come with me. I will lead you out of the cavern."
Not without Sir Thomas Wyat," she replied; " I will not leave him here."
"You will only expose yourself to risk, and fail to deliver him," rejoined Tristram. "Fenwolf has the key of his cell.Nay, if you are determined upon it, I will not hinder you. But you must find your own way out, for I shall not assist Sir Thomas Wyat."
Motioning him to silence, Mabel crept slowly, and on the points of her feet, towards Fenwolf.
The key was in his girdle. Leaning over him, she suddenly and dexterously plucked it forth.
At the very moment she possessed herself of it, Fenwolf stirred, and she dived down, and concealed herself beneath the table. Fenwolf, who had been only slightly disturbed, looked up, and seeing Tristram in his former position, which he had resumed when Mabel commenced her task, again disposed himself to slumber.
Waiting till she was assured of the soundness of his repose, Mabel crept from under the table, signed to Tristram to remain where he was, and glided with swift and noiseless footsteps down the passage leading to the cell.
In a moment, she was at the door -- the key was in the lock -- and she stood before Sir Thomas Wyat.
A few words sufficed to explain to the astonished knight how she came there, and comprehending that not a moment was to be lost, he followed her forth.
In the passage, they held a brief consultation together in a low tone, as to the best means of escape, for they deemed it useless to apply to Tristram. The outlet with which Sir Thomas Wyat was acquainted lay on the other side of the cavern; nor did he know how to discover the particular passage leading to it.
As to Mabel, she could offer no information, but she knew that the stable lay in an adjoining passage.
Recollecting, from former experience, how well the steeds were trained, Sir Thomas Wyat eagerly caught at the suggestion, and Mabel led him farther down the passage, and striking off through an opening on the left, brought him, after a few turns, to a large chamber, in which two or three black horses were kept.
Loosening one of them, Wyat placed a bridle on his neck, sprang upon his back, and took up Mabel beside him. He then struck his heels against the sides of the animal, who needed no further incitement to dash along the passage, and in a few seconds brought them into the cavern.
The trampling of the horse wakened Fenwolf, who started to his feet, and ran after them, shouting furiously. But he was too late. Goaded by Wyat's dagger, the steed dashed furiously on, and plunging with its double burden into the pool at the bottom of the cavern, disappeared.