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|Part III||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
XLVI Others In The Park
|Page 4 of 5||
Then the troopers obeyed, closing up round the coach wherein brother and sister sat huddled against one another.
One of the men said under his breath:
"Ah! but the citizen agent knows how to curse! One day he will break his gullet with the fury of his oaths."
In the meanwhile the runner had come nearer, always at the same breathless speed.
The next moment he was challenged:
"Qui va la?"
"A friend!" he replied, panting and exhausted. "Where is citizen Heron?"
"Here!" came the reply in a voice hoarse with passionate excitement. "Come up, damn you. Be quick!"
"A lanthorn, citizen," suggested one of the drivers.
"No--no--not now. Here! Where the devil are we?"
"We are close to the chapel on our left, citizen," said the sergeant.
The runner, whose eyes were no doubt accustomed to the gloom, had drawn nearer to the carriage.
"The gates of the chateau," he said, still somewhat breathlessly, "are just opposite here on the right, citizen. I have just come through them."
"Speak up, man!" and Heron's voice now sounded as if choked with passion. "Citizen Chauvelin sent you?"
"Yes. He bade me tell you that he has gained access to the chateau, and that Capet is not there."
A series of citizen Heron's choicest oaths interrupted the man's speech. Then he was curtly ordered to proceed, and he resumed his report.
"Citizen Chauvelin rang at the door of the chateau; after a while he was admitted by an old servant, who appeared to be in charge, but the place seemed otherwise absolutely deserted--only--"
"Only what? Go on; what is it?"
"As we rode through the park it seemed to us as if we were being watched, and followed. We heard distinctly the sound of horses behind and around us, but we could see nothing; and now, when I ran back, again I heard. There are others in the park to-night besides us, citizen."
There was silence after that. It seemed as if the flood of Heron's blasphemous eloquence had spent itself at last.
"Others in the park!" And now his voice was scarcely above a whisper, hoarse and trembling. "How many? Could you see?"
"No, citizen, we could not see; but there are horsemen lurking round the chateau now. Citizen Chauvelin took four men into the house with him and left the others on guard outside. He bade me tell you that it might be safer to send him a few more men if you could spare them. There are a number of disused farm buildings quite close to the gates, and he suggested that all the horses be put up there for the night, and that the men come up to the chateau on foot; it would be quicker and safer, for the darkness is intense."
Even while the man spoke the forest in the distance seemed to wake from its solemn silence, the wind on its wings brought sounds of life and movement different from the prowling of beasts or the screeching of night-birds. It was the furtive advance of men, the quick whispers of command, of encouragement, of the human animal preparing to attack his kind. But all in the distance still, all muffled, all furtive as yet.
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