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Part III Baroness Emmuska Orczy

XLVI Others In The Park

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The carriage rolled and rocked on its springs; Marguerite, giddy and overtired, lay back with closed eyes, her hand resting in that of Armand. Time, space and distance had ceased to be; only Death, the great Lord of all, had remained; he walked on ahead, scythe on skeleton shoulder, and beckoned patiently, but with a sure, grim hand.

There was another halt, the coach-wheels groaned and creaked on their axles, one or two horses reared with the sudden drawing up of the curb.

"What is it now?" came Heron's hoarse voice through the darkness.

"It is pitch-dark, citizen," was the response from ahead. The drivers cannot see their horses' ears. They wait to know if they may light their lanthorns and then lead their horses."

"They can lead their horses," replied Heron roughly, "but I'll have no lanthorns lighted. We don't know what fools may be lurking behind trees, hoping to put a bullet through my head--or yours, sergeant--we don't want to make a lighted target of ourselves--what? But let the drivers lead their horses, and one or two of you who are riding greys might dismount too and lead the way--the greys would show up perhaps in this cursed blackness."

While his orders were being carried out, he called out once more:

"Are we far now from that confounded chapel?"

"We can't be far, citizen; the whole forest is not more than six leagues wide at any point, and we have gone two since we turned into it."

"Hush!" Heron's voice suddenly broke in hoarsely. What was that? Silence, I say. Damn you--can't you hear?"

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There was a hush--every ear straining to listen; but the horses were not still--they continued to champ their bits, to paw the ground, and to toss their heads, impatient to get on. Only now and again there would come a lull even through these sounds--a second or two, mayhap, of perfect, unbroken silence--and then it seemed as if right through the darkness a mysterious echo sent back those same sounds--the champing of bits, the pawing of soft ground, the tossing and snorting of animals, human life that breathed far out there among the trees.

"It is citizen Chauvelin and his men," said the sergeant after a while, and speaking in a whisper.

"Silence--I want to hear," came the curt, hoarsely-whispered command.

Once more every one listened, the men hardly daring to breathe, clinging to their bridles and pulling on their horses' mouths, trying to keep them still, and again through the night there came like a faint echo which seemed to throw back those sounds that indicated the presence of men and of horses not very far away.

"Yes, it must be citizen Chauvelin," said Heron at last; but the tone of his voice sounded as if he were anxious and only half convinced; "but I thought he would be at the chateau by now."

"He may have had to go at foot-pace; it is very dark, citizen Heron," remarked the sergeant.

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El Dorado
Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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