Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/73

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"SOUFFRIR EN ROI."

have raced onward, distancing all shot and defying all pursuit; but with a yell that rang from rock to rock, the murderous barrels she had overleapt and cleared, covered her afresh; the sharp crack of the shots echoed through the pass, three balls pierced her breast and flanks, bedding themselves where the life lay, and with a scream of piteous agony she threw her head upward, swayed to and fro an instant, and fell beneath him—dead. He sprang from the saddle ere her weight could crash him, and, with his back against the ledge of granite, turned at bay; hope he had not, succour there could be none in those dense mountain solitudes, those wastes of vast unpeopled pine-woods; in that hour he had but one thought—to sell his life dearly, and to deserve bis country's trust.

The echoes of the conflict rang in quick succession on the stillness, thundered back by the reverberations of the hills, it was hot, close, mortal work in that narrow choked defile, Erceldoune, with his back against the granite, and his dead bay at his feet between him and his foes, had the strength and the fury of a legion, now that his wrath was up in all its might, and the blood-thirst wakened in him. A ball broke his right arm above the wrist; it fell useless at his side. He laughed aloud: