Sequel to the key of the Porte Rouge

That night Esmeralda had fallen asleep in her little chamber full of hope and sweet thoughts, the horrors of the past forgotten. She had been sleeping for some time, dreaming, as ever, of Phœbus, when she seemed to hear some sound. Her slumbers were light and broken — the sleep of a bird; the slightest thing awoke her. She opened her eyes. The night was very dark. Nevertheless, she saw a face peering in at her through the window — a lamp shed its light on this apparition. The moment it found itself observed by Esmeralda the apparition extinguished the lamp. However, the girl had had time to recognise the features. She closed her eyes in terror.

“Oh,” she murmured weakly, “the priest!”

All her past misfortunes flashed like lightning through her mind. She fell back upon her bed frozen with horror.

The next moment she felt something in contact with the whole length of her body which sent such a shudder through her that she started up in bed, wide awake and furious. The priest had glided up beside her and clasped his arms about her.

She tried to scream but could not.

“Begone, monster! begone, assassin!” she said, in a voice hoarse with passion and dread.

“Have pity! have pity!” murmured the priest, pressing his lips to her shoulder.

She clutched his tonsured head by its scant remaining locks and strove to repel his kisses as if he had been biting her.

“Have pity!” repeated the unhappy wretch. “Didst thou but know what my love for thee is! ’Tis fire! ’tis molten lead — a thousand daggers in my heart!”

He held her arm fast with a superhuman grip. “Let me go!” she cried wildly, “or I spit in thy face!”

He released her. “Vilify me — strike me — be angry — do what thou wilt; but in mercy, love me!”

She struck him with the fury of a child. She raised her pretty hands to tear his face. “Away, demon!”

“Love me! love me!” pleaded the unhappy priest, coming close to her again and answering her blows by caresses.

Suddenly she felt that he was overpowering her. “There must be an end to this,” said he, grinding his teeth.

She was vanquished, panting, broken, in his arms, at his mercy. She felt a lascivious hand groping over her, and making one supreme effort she screamed, “Help! help! a vampire! a vampire!”

But no one came. Only Djali was awakened and bleating in terror.

“Keep quiet,” panted the priest. Suddenly in her struggles the gipsy’s hand came against something cold and metallic. It was Quasimodo’s whistle. She seized it with a spasm of relief, put it to her lips, and blew with all her remaining strength. The whistle came clear, shrill, piercing.

“What is that?” said the priest. Almost as he spoke he felt himself dragged away by vigorous arms; the cell was dark, he could not distinguish clearly who it was that held him, but he heard teeth gnashing with rage, and there was just sufficient light in the gloom to show him the glitter of a great knife–blade just above his head.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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