Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/72

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
64
IDALIA

that magnificent attitude;—then down she came with a crash on her fore feet, while from the black barricade of the levelled pine, through the thick screen of stiffened branches, shone the gleam of half a dozen rifles, the long lean barrels glistening in the twilight.

The brigands lay in ambush waiting him; and the hoarse shout of arrest was pealed back by the echoes.

"Your papers—or we fire!"

And the steel muzzles covered him front and rear, while the challenge rang out down the vault of the hollowed rocks.

Swiftly as lightning his eyes swept over the rifles and numbered them—eight against one; rapidly as the wind he drew his pistol from his holster and fired among them; a shrill shriek pierced the air, a man reeled headlong down into the gorge of the river foaming below, and without breathy without pause, Erceldoune put the bay at the leap, trusting the rest to her hunter's blood, and facing the levelled death-dealers full in the front. The gallant beast deserved his faith; she rose point-blank at the barricade, and leapt with one mighty bound the great pine-barrier and the glittering line of steel. She landed safe;—a second, and she would