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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
|Page 2 of 8||
The door was partially open; on of the soldiers pushed it further, but within all was darkness, the charcoal fire only lighting with a dim, red light the furthest corner of the hut. The soldiers paused automatically at the door, like machines waiting for further orders.
Chauvelin, who was prepared for a violent onslaught from within, and for a vigorous resistance from the four fugitives, under cover of the darkness, was for the moment paralyzed with astonishment when he saw the soldiers standing there at attention, like sentries on guard, whilst not a sound proceeded from the hut.
Filled with strange, anxious foreboding, he, too, went to the door of the hut, and peering into the gloom, he asked quickly,--
"What is the meaning of this?"
"I think, citoyen, that there is no one there now," replied one of the soldiers imperturbably.
"You have not let those four men go?" thundered Chauvelin, menacingly. "I ordered you to let no man escape alive!--Quick, after them all of you! Quick, in every direction!"
The men, obedient as machines, rushed down the rocky incline towards the beach, some going off to right and left, as fast as their feet could carry them.
"You and your men will pay with your lives for this blunder, citoyen sergeant," said Chauvelin viciously to the sergeant who had been in charge of the men; "and you, too, citoyen," he added turning with a snarl to Desgas, "for disobeying my orders."
"You ordered us to wait, citoyen, until the tall Englishman arrived and joined the four men in the hut. No one came," said the sergeant sullenly.
"But I ordered you just now, when the woman screamed, to rush in and let no one escape."
"But, citoyen, the four men who were there before had been gone some time, I think. . ."
"You think?--You?. . ." said Chauvelin, almost choking with fury, "and you let them go. . ."
"You ordered us to wait, citoyen," protested the sergeant, "and to implicitly obey your commands on pain of death. We waited."
"I heard the men creep out of the hut, not many minutes after we took cover, and long before the woman screamed," he added, as Chauvelin seemed still quite speechless with rage.
"Hark!" said Desgas suddenly.
In the distance the sound of repeated firing was heard. Chauvelin tried to peer along the beach below, but as luck would have it, the fitful moon once more hid her light behind a bank of clouds, and he could see nothing.
"One of you go into the hut and strike a light," he stammered at last.
Stolidly the sergeant obeyed: he went up to the charcoal fire and lit the small lantern he carried in his belt; it was evident that the hut was quite empty.
"Which way did they go?" asked Chauvelin.
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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