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|Part III||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
XLVI Others In The Park
|Page 3 of 5||
"En avant, then," quoth the other; "the sooner we come tip with him the better."
And the squad of mounted men, the two coaches, the drivers and the advance section who were leading their horses slowly restarted on the way. The horses snorted, the bits and stirrups clanged, and the springs and wheels of the coaches creaked and groaned dismally as the ramshackle vehicles began once more to plough the carpet of pine-needles that lay thick upon the road.
But inside the carriage Armand and Marguerite held one another tightly by the hand.
"It is de Batz--with his friends," she whispered scarce above her breath.
"De Batz?" he asked vaguely and fearfully, for in the dark he could not see her face, and as he did not understand why she should suddenly be talking of de Batz he thought with horror that mayhap her prophecy anent herself had come true, and that her mind wearied and over-wrought--had become suddenly unhinged.
"Yes, de Batz," she replied. "Percy sent him a message, through me, to meet him--here. I am not mad, Armand," she added more calmly. "Sir Andrew took Percy's letter to de Batz the day that we started from Paris."
"Great God!" exclaimed Armand, and instinctively, with a sense of protection, he put his arms round his sister. "Then, if Chauvelin or the squad is attacked--if--"
"Yes," she said calmly; "if de Batz makes an attack on Chauvelin, or if he reaches the chateau first and tries to defend it, they will shoot us ... Armand, and Percy."
"But is the Dauphin at the Chateau d'Ourde?"
"No, no! I think not."
"Then why should Percy have invoked the aid of de Batz? Now, when--"
"I don't know," she murmured helplessly. "Of course, when he wrote the letter he could not guess that they would hold us as hostages. He may have thought that under cover of darkness and of an unexpected attack he might have saved himself had he been alone; but now--now that you and I are here-- Oh! it is all so horrible, and I cannot understand it all."
"Hark!" broke in Armand, suddenly gripping her arm more tightly.
"Halt !" rang the sergeant's voice through the night.
This time there was no mistaking the sound; already it came from no far distance. It was the sound of a man running and panting, and now and again calling out as he ran.
For a moment there was stillness in the very air, the wind itself was hushed between two gusts, even the rain had ceased its incessant pattering. Heron's harsh voice was raised in the stillness.
"What is it now?" he demanded.
"A runner, citizen," replied the sergeant, "coming through the wood from the right."
"From the right?" and the exclamation was accompanied by a volley of oaths; "the direction of the chateau? Chauvelin has been attacked; he is sending a messenger back to me. Sergeant--sergeant, close up round that coach; guard your prisoners as you value your life, and--"
The rest of his words were drowned in a yell of such violent fury that the horses, already over-nervous and fidgety, reared in mad terror, and the men had the greatest difficulty in holding them in. For a few minutes noisy confusion prevailed, until the men could quieten their quivering animals with soft words and gentle pattings.
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