Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/81

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to one that the fate of the English State courier would never be heard of, but would remain in the shroud of an impenetrable mystery, whilst he lay in the lonely and untrodden ravine, till the bears and the vultures left his bones to whiten unburied when they had sated their hunger on the sinewy limbs of the man who had fallen to avoid the surrender of his honour and his trust.

Darkness closes thus over the fate of many; he is "missing," and we know no more.

Nearly lifeless thus, Erceldoune had remained through the long hours where his assassins had left him; about him only the shrieking of the owls, the sough of the winds among the pines, and the distant roar of the beasts of prey, to whom his enemies had trusted for the completion and the burial of their work. Weaker men would have succumbed to less danger than he had often brooked and passed through scathless; and even now the athletic strength within him refused to perish. The flowing of the blood had stopped, a laboured sigh now and then gave sign of vitality, though not of consciousness; then, as the night was waning, a shudder ran through all his frame, and his eyes unclosed, looking upward, without light or sense, to the starlit vault above.