Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/77

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"SOUFFRIR EN ROI."

menacing as the wrath that lightens up a lion's eyes, while on his lips was a laugh—a laugh for the coward caution of his assassins, the womanish cruelty which compassed him with such timorous might of numbers, fearing one man unarmed and wounded!

"Death, or surrender!"

The cry echoed again, loud and hoarse now as the hounds' bay, baffled and getting furious for blood.

His back was reared against the rock; his left arm pressed against his breast, holding to him the seals that were his trust; his eyes looked down upon them steadily as he answered:

"Fire!"

And while his voice, calm and unfaltering, gave the word of command for his own death-volley, with a swift sadden gesture, unlooked-for and unarrested by them, he lifted his left hand, and hurled far away through the gloom, till they sank with a loud splash into the bed of the swollen rushing river, the white bag of the English despatches;—lost for ever in the deep gorge, and whirled on into darkness with the passage of foaming waters, where no spy could reach and no foe could rob them.