Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/75

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at his feet, the sole barrier between him and the cross-fire levelled at him, stood Erceldoune, reared to his fall height, motionless as though he were a statue.

"Death, or surrender!"

The summons hissed through the silence with a deadly meaning, a hoarse snarl such as the hounds give when the stag holds them too long at bay. Erceldoune stood erect, his eyes glancing calmly down on the semicircle of the long shining lines of steel, each of whose hollow tubes earned his death-warrant; a look upon his face before which the boldest, though they held his life in their hands and at their mercy, quailed; he knew how he should save his trust and his papers, though he knew that his life must pay the forfeit. He calmly watched the levelled rifles, and a half smile passed over his face;—they had brought eight against one!—it was a distinction, at least, to take so much killing.

"The devil will never give in!" swore with savage Hungarian oaths the farthest of the band. Seize him, and bind him!—we don't want his blood."

"Take the papers, and gag him. Carl is right; we want them, not him," muttered another, in