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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

For Life Or Death

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Soudeikin took the money with a salute and a whispered farewell, and Ivan trotted his horses quietly down the lane and swung round into the road at the end of it.

So far all had gone well, but the supreme moment of peril had yet to come. A mile away down the road was the guardhouse on the Tobolsk road leading out of the town, and this had to be passed before there was even a chance of safety.

As there was no hope of getting the sleigh past unobserved, Colston had determined to trust to a rush when the moment came. He had given Natasha and the Princess a magazine pistol apiece, and held a brace in his own hands; so among them they had a hundred shots.

Ivan kept his horses at an easy trot till they were within a hundred yards of the guard-house. Then, at a sign from Colston, he suddenly lashed them into a gallop, and the sleigh dashed forward at a headlong speed, swept round the curve past the guard-house, hurling one of the sentries on guard to the earth, and away out on to the Tobolsk road.

The next instant the notes of a bugle rang out clear and shrill just as another sounded from the other end of the town. Colston at once guessed what had happened. The inspector of the patrols, in going his rounds, had called at Soudeikin house to see if all was right, and had discovered the tragedy that had taken place. He looked back and saw a body of Cossacks galloping down the main street towards the guard-house, waving their lanterns and brandishing their spears above their heads.

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"Whip up, Ivan, they will be on us in a couple of minutes!" he cried and Ivan swung his long whip out over his horses' ears, and shouted at them till they put their heads down and tore over the smooth snow in gallant style.

By the time the race for life or death really began they had a good mile start, and as they had only four more to go Ivan did not spare his cattle, but plied whip and voice with a will till the trees whirled past in a continuous dark line, and the sleigh seemed to fly over the snow almost without touching it.

Still the Cossacks gained on them yard by yard, till at the end of the fourth mile they were less than three hundred yards behind. Then Colston leant over the back of the sleigh, and taking the best aim he could, sent half a dozen shots among them. He saw a couple of the flying figures reel and fall, but their comrades galloped heedlessly over them, yelling wildly at the tops of their voices, and every moment lessening the distance between themselves and the sleigh.

Colston fired a dozen more shots into them, and had the satisfaction of seeing three or four of them roll into the snow. At the same time he put a whistle to his lips, and blew a long shrill call that sounded high and clear above the hoarse yells of the Cossacks.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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