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Title: Through Russian Snows - A Story of Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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[Illustration: THROUGH RUSSIAN SNOWS

G·A·HENTY]

[Illustration: SERGEANT JULIAN WYATT RECEIVES THE CROSS OF THE LEGION OF
HONOUR.]

                       THROUGH RUSSIAN SNOWS

                           A STORY OF

                     NAPOLEON'S RETREAT FROM MOSCOW

                               BY

                           G.A. HENTY

            Author of "Beric the Briton," "One of the 28th,"
            "Condemned as a Nihilist," "For Name and Fame,"
            "In the Heart of the Rockies," etc.

       _WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY W.H. OVEREND AND THREE MAPS_

                           NEW YORK
                   CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
                            1902

                    COPYRIGHT, 1895, BY
                   CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

                      THE CAXTON PRESS
                          NEW YORK.



PREFACE


There are few campaigns that, either in point of the immense scale upon
which it was undertaken, the completeness of its failure, or the
enormous loss of life entailed, appeal to the imagination in so great a
degree as that of Napoleon against Russia. Fortunately, we have in the
narratives of Sir Robert Wilson, British commissioner with the Russian
army, and of Count Segur, who was upon Napoleon's staff, minute
descriptions of the events as seen by eye-witnesses, and besides these
the campaign has been treated fully by various military writers. I have
as usual avoided going into details of horrors and of acts of cruelty
and ferocity on both sides, surpassing anything in modern warfare, and
have given a mere outline of the operations, with a full account of the
stern fight at Smolensk and the terrible struggle at Borodino. I would
warn those of my readers who may turn to any of the military works for a
further history of the campaign, that the spelling of Russian places and
names varies so greatly in the accounts of different writers, that
sometimes it is difficult to believe that the same person or town is
meant, and even in the narratives by Sir Robert Wilson, and by Lord
Cathcart, our ambassador at St. Petersburg, who was in constant
communication with him, scarcely a name will be found similarly spelt. I
mention this, as otherwise much confusion might be caused by those who
may compare my story with some of these recognized authorities, or
follow the incidents of the campaign upon maps of Russia.

                                   Yours sincerely,

                                               G.A. HENTY.



                              CONTENTS


      CHAP.                                               PAGE

      I. TWO BROTHERS,                                      11

      II. BEFORE THE JUSTICES,                              30

      III. IN A FRESH SCRAPE,                               48

      IV. THE SMUGGLER'S CAVE,                              67

      V. FOLLOWING A TRAIL,                                 84

      VI. A COMMISSION,                                    103

      VII. A FRENCH PRISON,                                122

      VIII. PISTOL PRACTICE,                               140

      IX. A DUEL,                                          158

      X. SMOLENSK,                                         177

      XI. WITH THE RUSSIAN ARMY,                           195

      XII. BORODINO,                                       213

      XIII. WITH THE REAR-GUARD,                           242

      XIV. NEY'S RETREAT,                                  263

      XV. IN COMFORTABLE QUARTERS,                         292

      XVI. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING,                          309



                              ILLUSTRATIONS


    SERGEANT JULIAN WYATT RECEIVES THE CROSS OF THE LEGION
    OF HONOUR,                                      _Frontispiece_, 253

    "MARK MY WORDS, YOU YOUNG SCOUNDREL, I WILL BE EVEN
    WITH YOU YET,"                                                   57

    JULIAN FINDS HIMSELF A PRISONER AMONG THE SMUGGLERS,             64

    "CAPTAIN MARSHALL'S PISTOL FELL TO THE GROUND, AND HE
    STAGGERED BACK A PACE,"                                         162

    "ON THE MARCH LITTLE STEPHANIE OFTEN CHOSE TO BE CARRIED
    ON JULIAN'S SHOULDER,"                                          260

    "I AM THE COUNTESS STEPHANIE WORONSKI. I AM GLAD TO
    SEE YOU,"                                                       278

    THE LAST OF A VETERAN OF NAPOLEON'S _GRANDE ARMÉE_,             310

    JULIAN INTRODUCES STEPHANIE TO HIS BROTHER FRANK,               321

    Map showing the Route of Napoleon's March to Moscow,            180

    Plan of the Battle of Smolensk,                                 186

    Plan of the Battle of Borodino,                                 214



[Illustration]

THROUGH RUSSIAN SNOWS



CHAPTER I

TWO BROTHERS


When Colonel Wyatt died, all Weymouth agreed that it was a most
unfortunate thing for his sons Julian and Frank. The loss of a father is
always a misfortune to lads, but it was more than usually so in this
case. They had lost their mother years before, and Colonel Wyatt's
sister had since kept house for him. As a housekeeper she was an
efficient substitute, as a mother to the boys she was a complete
failure. How she ever came to be Colonel Wyatt's sister was a puzzle to
all their acquaintances. The Colonel was quick and alert, sharp and
decisive in speech, strong in his opinions, peremptory in his manner,
kindly at heart, but irascible in temper. Mrs. Troutbeck was gentle and
almost timid in manner; report said that she had had a hard time of it
in her married life, and that Troutbeck had frightened out of her any
vestige of spirit that she had ever possessed. Mrs. Troutbeck never
argued, and was always in perfect agreement with any opinion expressed,
a habit that was constantly exciting the wrath and indignation of her
brother.

The idea of controlling the boys never once entered her mind. So long
as the Colonel was alive there was no occasion for such control, and in
this respect she did not attempt after his death to fill his place. It
seemed, indeed, that she simply transferred her allegiance from the
Colonel to them. Whatever they did was right in her eyes, and they were
allowed to do practically whatever they pleased. There was a difference
in age of three years and a half between the brothers; Julian at the
time of his father's death being sixteen, while Frank was still a few
months short of thirteen. Casual acquaintances often remarked that there
was a great likeness between them; and, indeed, both were
pleasant-looking lads with somewhat fair complexions, their brown hair
having a tendency to stand up in a tuft on the forehead, while both had
grey eyes, and square foreheads. Mrs. Troutbeck was always ready to
assent to the remark as to their likeness, but would gently qualify it
by saying that it did not strike her so much as it did other people.

"Their dispositions are quite different," she said, "and knowing them as
I do, I see the same differences in their faces."

Any close observer would, indeed, have recognized it at once. Both faces
were pleasant, but while Julian's wore an expression of easy good
temper, and a willingness to please and to be pleased, there was a lack
of power and will in the lower part of the face; there was neither
firmness in the mouth nor determination in the chin. Upon the other
hand, except when smiling or talking, Frank's lips were closely pressed
together, and his square chin and jaw clearly indicated firmness of will
and tenacity of purpose. Julian was his aunt's favourite, and was one of
the most popular boys at his school. He liked being popular, and as long
as it did not put him to any great personal trouble was always ready to
fall in with any proposal, to take part in every prank, to lend or give
money if he had it in his pocket, to sympathize with any one in
trouble.

"He has the most generous disposition of any boy I ever saw!" his aunt
would frequently declare. "He's always ready to oblige. No matter what
he is doing, he will throw it aside in a moment if I want anything done,
or ask him to go on an errand into the town. Frank is very nice, he is
very kind and all that sort of thing, but he goes his own way more, and
I don't find him quite so willing to oblige as Julian; but then, of
course, he is much younger, and one can't expect a boy of twelve to be
as thoughtful to an old woman as a young fellow of nearly seventeen."

As time went on the difference in their characters became still more
marked. Julian had left school a year after his father's death, and had
since been doing nothing in particular. He had talked vaguely of going
into the army, and his father's long services would have given him a
claim for a commission had he decided upon writing to ask for one, but
Julian could never bring himself to decide upon anything. Had there been
an old friend of his father's at hand ready to settle the matter for him
he would have made no opposition whatever, but his aunt was altogether
opposed to the idea, and so far from urging him to move in the matter
she was always ready to say, whenever it happened to be mentioned,
"There is no hurry, my dear Julian. We hear terrible stories of the
hardships that the soldiers suffer in Spain; and although, if you decide
upon going, of course I can't say no, still there can be no hurry about
it."

This was quite Julian's own opinion. He was very comfortable where he
was. He was his own master, and could do as he liked. He was amply
supplied with pocket-money by his aunt; he was fond of sailing, fishing,
and shooting; and as he was a general favourite among the boatmen and
fishermen he was able to indulge in his fondness for the sea to as large
an extent as he pleased, though it was but seldom that he had a chance
of a day's shooting. Julian had other tastes of a less healthy
character; he was fond of billiards and of society, he had a fine voice
and a taste for music, and the society he chose was not that most
calculated to do him good. He spent less and less of his time at home,
and rarely returned of an evening until the other members of the
household were in bed. Whatever his aunt thought of the matter she never
remonstrated with him, and was always ready to make the excuse to
herself, "I can't expect a fine young fellow like that to be tied to an
old woman's apron-strings. Young men will be young men, and it is only
natural that he should find it dull at home."

When Julian arrived at the age of nineteen it was tacitly understood
that the idea of his going into the army had been altogether dropped,
and that when a commission was asked for, it would be for Frank.
Although Julian was still her favourite, Mrs. Troutbeck was more
favourably disposed towards Frank than of old. She knew from her friends
that he was quite as popular among his schoolmates as his brother had
been, although in a different way. He was a hard and steady worker, but
he played as hard as he worked, and was a leader in every game. He,
however, could say "no" with a decision that was at once recognized as
being final, and was never to be persuaded into joining in any forbidden
amusement or to take share in any mischievous adventure. When his own
work was done he was always willing to give a quarter of an hour to
assist any younger lad who found his lessons too hard for him, and
though he was the last boy to whom any one would think of applying for a
loan of money, he would give to the extent of his power in any case
where a subscription was raised for a really meritorious purpose.

Thus when the school contributed a handsome sum towards a fund that was
being raised for the relief of the families of the fishermen who had
been lost, when four of their boats were wrecked in a storm, no one
except the boys who got up the collection knew that nearly half the
amount for which the school gained credit came from the pocket of Frank
Wyatt.

The brothers, though differing so widely in disposition, were very fond
of each other. In his younger years Frank had looked up to his big
brother as a sort of hero, and Julian's good-nature and easy-going
temper led him to be always kind to his young brother, and to give him
what he valued most--assistance at his lessons and a patient attention
to all his difficulties. As the years went on, Frank came to perceive
clearly enough the weak points in his brother's character, and with his
usual outspokenness sometimes remonstrated with him strongly.

"It is horrible to see a fellow like you wasting your life as you do,
Julian. If you don't care for the army, why don't you do something else?
I should not care what it was, so that it but gave you something to
occupy yourself, and if it took you out of here, all the better. You
know that you are not doing yourself any good."

"I am not doing myself any harm, you young beggar," Julian replied good
temperedly.

"I don't know, Julian," the boy said sturdily; "you are not looking half
as well as you used to do. I am sure late hours don't suit you, and
there is no good to be got out of billiards. I know the sort of fellows
you meet there are not the kind to do you any good, or that father would
have liked to see you associate with if he had been alive. Just ask
yourself honestly if you think he would. If you can say 'yes,' I will
shut up and say no more about it; but can you say 'yes'?"

Julian was silent. "I don't know that I can," he said after a pause.
"There is no harm in any of them that I know of, but I suppose that in
the way you put it, they are not the set father would have fancied, with
his strict notions. I have thought of giving it up a good many times,
but it is an awkward thing, when you are mixed up with a lot of
fellows, to drop them without any reason."

"You have only got to say that you find late hours don't agree with you,
and that you have made up your mind to cut it altogether."

"That is all very well for you, Frank, and I will do you justice to say
that if you determined to do a thing, you would do it without minding
what any one said."

"Without minding what any one I did not care for, said," Frank
interrupted. "Certainly; why should I heed a bit what people I do not
care for say, so long as I feel that I am doing what is right."

"I wish I were as strong-willed as you are, Frank," Julian said rather
ruefully, "then I should not have to put up with being bullied by a
young brother."

"You are too good tempered, Julian," Frank said, almost angrily. "Here
are you, six feet high and as strong as a horse, and with plenty of
brain for anything, just wasting your life. Look at the position father
held here, and ask yourself how many of his old friends do you know.
Why, rather than go on as you are doing, I would enlist and go out to
the Peninsula and fight the French. That would put an end to all this
sort of thing, and you could come back again and start afresh. You will
have money enough for anything you like. You come into half father's
£16,000 when you come of age, and I have no doubt that you will have
Aunt's money."

"Why should I?" Julian asked in a more aggrieved tone than he had
hitherto used.

"Because you are her favourite, Julian, and quite right that you should
be. You have always been awfully good to her, and that is one reason why
I hate you to be out of an evening; for although she never says a word
against you, and certainly would not hear any one else do so, I tell you
it gives me the blues to see her face as she sits there listening for
your footsteps."

"It is a beastly shame, and I will give it up, Frank; honour bright, I
will."

"That is right, old fellow; I knew you would if you could only once peep
in through the window of an evening and see her face."

"As for her money," Julian went on, "if she does not divide it equally
between us, I shall, you may be sure."

"I sha'n't want it," Frank said decidedly. "You know I mean to go into
the army, and with the interest of my own money I shall have as much as
I shall possibly want, and if I had more it would only bother me, and do
me harm in my profession. With you it is just the other way. You are the
head of the family, and as Father's son ought to take a good place. You
could buy an estate and settle down on it, and what with its management,
and with horses and hunting and shooting, you would be just in your
element."

"Well, we will see about it when the time comes. I am sure I hope the
old lady will be with us for a long time yet. She is as kind-hearted a
soul as ever lived, though it would have been better for me, no doubt,
if she held the reins a little tighter. Well, anyhow, Frank, I will cut
the billiards altogether."

They exchanged a silent grip of the hand on the promise, and Julian,
looking more serious than usual, put on his hat and went out. There was
a curious reversal of the usual relations between the brothers. Julian,
although he always laughed at his young brother's assumption of the part
of mentor, really leant upon his stronger will, and as often as not,
even if unconsciously, yielded to his influence, while Frank's
admiration for his brother was heightened by the unfailing good temper
with which the latter received his remonstrances and advice. "He is an
awfully good fellow," he said to himself when Julian left the room.
"Anyone else would have got into a rage at my interference; but he has
only one fault; he can't say no, and that is at the root of everything.
I can't understand myself why a fellow finds it more difficult to say no
than to say yes. If it is right to do a thing one does it, if it is not
right one leaves it alone, and the worst one has to stand, if you don't
do what other fellows want, is a certain amount of chaff, and that hurts
no one."

Frank, indeed, was just as good tempered as Julian, although in an
entirely different way. He had never been known to be in a passion, but
put remonstrance and chaff aside quietly, and went his own way without
being in the slightest degree affected by them.

Julian kept his promise, and was seen no more in the billiard saloon.
Fortunately for him the young fellows with whom he was in the habit of
playing were all townsmen, clerks, the sons of the richer tradesmen, or
of men who owned fishing-boats or trading vessels, and others of that
class--not, indeed, as Frank had said, the sort of men whom Colonel
Wyatt would have cared for his son to have associated with--but harmless
young fellows who frequented the billiard-rooms as a source of amusement
and not of profit, and who therefore had no motive for urging Julian to
play. To Mrs. Troutbeck's delight he now spent four or five evenings at
home, only going out for an hour to smoke a pipe and to have a chat with
the fishermen. Once or twice a week he would be absent all night, going
out, as he told his aunt, for a night's fishing, and generally returning
in the morning with half a dozen mackerel or other fish as his share of
the night's work.

Sometimes he would ask Frank to accompany him, and the latter, when he
had no particular work on hand, would do so, and thoroughly enjoyed the
sport.

Smuggling was at the time carried on extensively, and nowhere more
actively than between Weymouth and Exmouth on the one hand, and Swanage
on the other. Consequently, in spite of the vigilance of the revenue
men, cargoes were frequently run. The long projection of Chesil Beach
and Portland afforded a great advantage to the smugglers; and Lieutenant
Downes, who commanded the revenue cutter _Boxer_, had been heard to
declare that he would gladly subscribe a year's pay if a channel could
be cut through the beach. Even when he obtained information that a cargo
was likely to be run to the west, unless the winds and tides were alike
propitious, it took so long a time to get round Portland Bill that he
was certain to arrive too late to interfere with the landing, while, at
times, an adverse wind and the terrors of the "race" with its tremendous
current and angry waves would keep the _Boxer_ lying for days to the
west of the Island, returning to Weymouth only to hear that during her
absence a lugger had landed her cargo somewhere to the east.

"Job himself would have lost his temper if he had been a revenue officer
at Weymouth," Lieutenant Downes would exclaim angrily. "Why, sir, I
would rather lie for three months off the mouth of an African river
looking for slavers, than be stationed at Weymouth in search of
smuggling craft, for a month; it is enough to wear a man to a
thread-paper. Half the coast population seem to me to be in alliance
with these rascals, and I am so accustomed to false information now,
that as a rule when one of my men gets a hint that a cargo is going to
be run near Swanage I start at once for the west, knowing well enough
that wherever the affair is to come off it certainly will not be within
ten miles of the point named. Even in Weymouth itself the sympathy of
the population lies rather with the smugglers than the revenue men."

The long war with France had rendered brandy, French wines, lace, and
silks fabulously dear, and the heavy duties charged reduced to a
minimum the legitimate traffic that might otherwise have been carried
on; therefore, even well-to-do people favoured the men who brought these
luxuries to their doors, at a mere fraction of the price that they would
otherwise have had to pay for them. Then, too, there was an element of
romance in the career of a smuggler who risked his life every day, and
whose adventures, escapes, and fights with the revenue men were told
round every fireside. The revenue officer was not far wrong when he said
that the greater portion of the population round the coast, including
all classes, were friendly to, if not in actual alliance with, the
smugglers. Julian was well aware that many of the fishermen with whom he
went out often lent a hand to the smugglers in landing their goods and
taking them inland, or in hiding them in caves in the cliffs known only
to the smugglers and themselves. He had heard many stories from them of
adventures in which they had been engaged, and the manner in which, by
showing signal lights from the sea, they had induced the revenue men to
hurry to the spot at which they had seen a flash, and so to leave the
coast clear for the landing of the goods.

"It must be great fun," he said one day. "I must say I should like to
take part in running a cargo, for once."

"Well, Master Julian, there would not be much difficulty about that, if
so be you really mean it. We can put you up to it easy enough, but you
know, sir, it isn't all fun. Sometimes the revenue men come down upon us
in spite of all the pains we take to throw them off the scent. Captain
Downes is getting that artful that one is never sure whether he has been
got safely away or not. A fortnight ago he pretty nigh came down on a
lugger that was landing a cargo in Lulworth Cove. We thought that it had
all been managed well. Word had gone round that the cargo was to be run
there, and the morning before, a woman went on to the cliffs and got in
talk with one of the revenue men. She let out, as how her husband had
been beating her, and she had made up her mind to pay him out. There was
going, she said, to be a cargo run that night at a point half way
between Weymouth and Lyme Regis.

"I know she did the part well, as she acted it on three or four of us
afterwards, and the way she pretended to be in a passion and as spiteful
as a cat, would have taken any fellow in. In course the revenue chap
asked her what her name was and where she lived, and I expect they did
not find her when they looked for her afterwards in the place she told
him. He wanted her to go with him to the officer of the station, but she
said that she would never do that, for if it got to be known that she
had peached about it, it would be as much as her life was worth. Well, a
boy who was watching saw the revenue chap go off, as soon as she was out
of sight, straight to the coast-guard station, and ten minutes later the
officer in charge there set off for Weymouth.

"The boy followed and he saw him go on board the _Boxer_. Directly
afterwards Captain Downes came ashore with him and had a long talk with
the chief of the coast-guard there; then he went on board again, and we
all chuckled when we saw the _Boxer_ get up her anchor, set all sail,
make out to Portland, and go round the end of the rock. Two hours later
a look-out on the hills saw her bearing out to sea to the southwest,
meaning, in course, to run into the bay after it was dark. On shore the
officer at Weymouth got a horse and rode along the cliffs to the
eastward. He stopped at each coast-guard station, right on past
Lulworth, and soon afterwards three parts of the men at each of them
turned out and marched away west.

"We thought that we had fooled them nicely, and that evening half a
dozen of our boats sailed into Lulworth harbour and anchored there
quiet. One of them rowed ashore and landed two hands to look round. They
brought back news as there were only two or three revenue men left at
the station, and it would be easy enough to seize them and tie them up
till it was all over. In course, everything worked for a bit just as we
thought it would. The lugger we were expecting showed her light in the
offing and was signalled that the coast was clear. It was a dark night,
and the two revenue men on duty in the cove were seized and tied up by
some of the shore band without a blow being struck. Two or three chaps
were placed at the door of the station, so that if the two men left
there turned out they would be gagged at once. Everything was ready, and
a big lot of carts came down to the water's edge. The lugger anchored
outside the cove; we got up our kedges and rowed out to her, and a dozen
shoreboats did the same. As soon as we got alongside they began to
bundle the kegs in, when not three hundred yards away came a hail, 'What
craft is that?'

"It struck us all into a heap, and you could have heard a pin drop. Then
came the hail again, 'If you don't answer I will sink you,' whereupon
the skipper of the lugger shouted out, 'the _Jennie_ of Portsmouth.'
'Lend a hand, lads, with the sails,' he whispered to us; 'slip the
cable, Tom.' We ran up the sails in a jiffy, you may be sure, and all
the sharper that, as they were half-way up, four guns flashed out. One
hulled the lugger, the others flew overhead. Close as they were they
could not have seen us, for we could scarce see them and we were under
the shadow of the cliffs, but I suppose they fired at the voices. 'Sink
the tubs, lads,' the skipper said as the lugger glided away from us.
There was a nice little air blowing off shore, and she shot away into
the darkness in no time. We all rowed into the mouth of the cove for
shelter, and were only just in time, for a shower of grape splashed the
water up a few yards behind us.

"We talked it over for a minute or two, and settled that the _Boxer_
would be off after the lugger and would not pay any more attention to
us. Some of them were in favour of taking the kegs that we had got
ashore, but the most of us were agin that, and the captain himself had
told us to sink them, so we rowed out of the cove again and tied sinkers
to the kegs and lowered them down three or four hundred yards west of
the mouth of the cove. We went on board our boats and the other chaps
went on shore, and you may guess we were not long in getting up our
sails and creeping out of the cove. It was half an hour after the first
shots were fired before we heard the _Boxer_ at it again. I reckon that
in the darkness they could not make out whether the lugger had kept
along east or west under the cliffs, and I expect they went the wrong
way at first, and only found her at last with their night-glasses when
she was running out to sea.

"Well, next morning we heard that the shore men had not landed five
minutes when there was a rush of forty or fifty revenue men into the
village. There ain't no doubt they had only gone west to throw us off
our guard, and, as soon as it was dark, turned and went eastward. They
could not have known that the job was to come off at Lulworth, but were
on the look-out all along, and I reckon that it was the same with the
_Boxer_. She must have beaten back as soon as it was dark enough for her
not to be seen from the hills, and had been crawling along on the
look-out close to the shore, when she may have caught sight of the
lugger's signal. Indeed, we heard afterwards that it called back the
coast-guard men, for they had passed Lulworth and were watching at a
spot between that and St. Alban's Head, where a cargo had been run a
month or two before, when they caught sight of the signal off Lulworth.
Well, you may guess they did not get much for their pains. The carts had
all made off as soon as they heard the _Boxer's_ guns, and knew that the
game was up, for the night anyhow, and they found every light out in
Lulworth, and everyone, as it seemed, fast asleep. I believe, from what
I have heard, that there was a great row afterwards between Captain
Downes and the revenue officer ashore. The chap ashore would have it
that it was all the captain's fault for being in such a hurry, and that
if he had waited an hour they would have got all the carts with the
cargo, even if he had not caught the lugger.

"Well, that was true enough; but I don't see that Downes was to blame,
for until he came along he could not be sure where the lugger was, and
indeed she was so close in under the cliff that it is like enough he
would have missed her altogether and have gone on another two or three
miles, if it had not been that they caught the noise of the boats
alongside her taking in the kegs. The lugger got away all right; she is
a fast craft, and though the _Boxer_ can walk along in a strong wind, in
a light breeze the lugger had the legs of her altogether. That shows
you, Mr. Julian, that Captain Downes has cut his eye-teeth, and that it
is mighty hard to fool him. He was never nearer making a good capture
than he was that night. The lugger ran her cargo two nights afterwards
at the very spot where the woman had told the revenue man that she was
going to do it. There was a little bit of a fight, but the coast-guard
were not strong enough to do any good, and had to make off, and before
they could bring up anything like a strong force, every bale and keg had
been carried inland, and before morning there was scarce a farmhouse
within ten miles that had not got some of it stowed away in their snug
hiding-places. Downes will be more vicious than ever after that job, and
you see, master, you are like to run a goodish risk of getting your head
broke and of being hauled off to jail. Still, if you would like to join
some night in a run we can put you in the way."

"Yes, I should like it very much," Julian said. "There can't be much
risk, for there has not been anything like a regular fight anywhere
along this part of the coast for the last two years, and from what I
have heard, there must have been twenty cargoes run in that time."

"All that, sir, all that; nigher thirty, I should say. There is three
luggers at it reg'lar."

"Are they French or English?"

"Two of them is French and one English, but the crews are all mixed.
They carry strong crews all of them, and a longish gun in their sterns,
so that in case they are chased they may have a chance of knocking away
a spar out of anything after them. They would not fight if a cutter came
up alongside them--that might make a hanging matter of it, while if none
of the revenue chaps are killed it is only a case of long imprisonment,
though the English part of the crew generally have the offer of entering
on a king's ship instead, and most of them take it. Life on board a
man-of-war may not be a pleasant one, but after all it is better than
being boxed up in a prison for years. Anyhow, that is the light in which
I should look at it myself."

"I should think so," Julian agreed. "However, you see there is no great
risk in landing the kegs, for it is very seldom you get so nearly caught
as you did at Lulworth. Let me know when the next affair is coming off,
Bill, and if it is anywhere within a moderate distance of Weymouth I
will go with you if you will take me. Anyhow, whether I go or not, you
may be quite sure that I shall keep the matter to myself."

"The most active chap about here," Bill said after he had hauled his
nets, and the boat was making her way back to Weymouth, "is that
Faulkner. He is a bitter bad one, he is. Most of the magistrates about
here don't trouble their heads about smuggling, and if they find a keg
of first class brandy quite accidental any morning on their doorstep,
they don't ask where it comes from, but just put it down into their
cellars. Sometimes information gets sworn before them, and they has to
let the revenue people know, but somehow or other, I can't say how it
is," and the fisherman gave a portentous wink, "our fellows generally
get some sort of an idea that things ain't right, and the landing don't
come off as expected; queer, ain't it? But that fellow Faulkner, he
ain't like that. He worries hisself about the smugglers just about as
much as Captain Downes does. He is just as hard on smugglers as he is on
poachers, and he is wonderful down on them, he is. Do you know him,
sir?"

"I know him by sight. He is a big, pompous man; his place is about two
miles up the valley, and there are some large woods round it."

"That is so, sir; and they say as they are chock-full of pheasants. He
has a lot of keepers, and four years ago there was a desperate fight
there. Two keepers and three poachers got shot, and two others were
caught; they were tried at the 'sizes for murder and hanged. He is a
regular bully, he is, but he ain't no coward. If he was he would never
stir out after sunset, but instead of that he is out night after night
on the cliffs, when there is any talk of a cargo being run. He is known
to carry pistols about with him, and so though his life has been
threatened many times, nothing has ever come of it. One thing is, he has
got a big black horse, about the best horse there is in this part of the
country, and he always rides mighty fast down into the town or up on to
the cliffs, where he gets among the revenue men, and in course he is
safe enough. He was down with that lot at Lulworth that night, and they
say he cussed and swore loud enough to be heard all over the village,
when they found that they had got there too late. He is a bitter bad
weed, is Faulkner."

"I know he is very unpopular even in the town," Julian said. "He is the
hardest magistrate on the bench, and if it were not for the others not a
man brought before him would ever get off. I have heard that he is very
much disliked by the other magistrates, and that some time ago, when he
wanted to join the club, they would not have him at any price. I can't
make out why a fellow should go out of his way to make himself disliked.
I can understand his being down on poachers; no one likes to be robbed,
but the smuggling cannot make any difference to him one way or the
other."

"No; that is what we says. It don't concern him, 'cept that magistrates
are bound in a sort of way to see that the law is not broken. But why
shouldn't he do like the others and go on his way quiet, unless he gets
an information laid before him, or a warning from the revenue people as
he is wanted. You mark my words, Master Julian, some night that chap
will get a bullet or a charge of shot in his body."

After this Julian went on more than one occasion with Bill and other
fishermen to look on at the landing of contraband cargoes. If the
distance was within a walk they would start from Weymouth straight
inland, and come down by the road along which the carts were to fetch
the goods up, for it was only occasionally that the fishermen would take
their boats. At Lulworth, of course, there had been no risk in their
doing so, as boats, when fishing to the east, would often make their way
into the cove and drop anchor there for a few hours. But when the run
was to be made at lonely spots, the sight of fishing boats making in to
anchor would have excited the suspicions of the coast-guard on the
cliffs. The number of fishermen who took part in the smugglers'
proceedings was but small. All of these had either brothers or other
relations on board the luggers, or were connected with some of the
smugglers' confederates on shore. They received a handsome sum for their
night's work, which was at times very hard, as the kegs had often to be
carried up steep and dangerous paths to the top of the cliffs, and then
a considerable distance across the downs to the nearest points the carts
could come to.

It was the excitement of the adventure, however, rather than the pay,
and the satisfaction derived from outwitting the revenue men, that was
the main attraction to the fishermen. Julian took no share in the work.
He went dressed in the rough clothes he wore on the fishing excursions
at night, and heartily enjoyed the animated bustle of the scene, as
scores of men carrying kegs or bales on their backs, made their way up
some narrow ravine, silently laid down their loads beside the carts and
pack-horses, and then started back again for another trip. He
occasionally lent a hand to lash the kegs on either side of the horses,
or to lift a bale into the cart. No one ever asked any question; it was
assumed that he was there with one of the carts, and he recognized the
wisdom of Bill's advice the first time he went out.

"It is best not to speak till you are spoken to, Master Julian; there is
more chaps there besides yourself, as are thought to be sound asleep in
their beds at Weymouth, and it is just as well to keep yourself to
yourself. There is never no knowing when things may go wrong, and then
it is as likely as not that some one may peach, and the fewer names as
comes out the better. Now you mind, sir, if there is an alarm, and the
revenue chaps come down on us, you just make a bolt at once. It ain't no
business of yours, one way or the other. You ain't there to make money
or to get hold of cheap brandy; you just go to look on and amuse
yourself, and all you have got to do is to make off as hard as you can
go directly there is an alarm. Everyone else does the same as gets a
chance, I can tell you. The country people never fight; though the
smugglers, if they are cornered, and can't get back to the lugger
without it, will use their weapons if they see a chance; but you have
got nothing to do with that. Don't you wait a minute for me and my
mates, for we shall bolt too. If we were on the shore when they came on
us we should embark with the crew and get on board the lugger. In
course, if just a few of the revenue men were fools enough to come on
us, they would be tumbled over in double quick time, and tied up till
the goods were all taken inland, and be left till some of their mates
found them in the morning.

"That is how it is, you know, that we get most of our cargoes run. One
of the chaps on the cliff may make us out, but you see it takes a long
time to send along the line and get enough of them together to interfere
with us. Unless they have got a pretty good strong force together, they
ain't such fools as to risk their lives by meddling with a hundred men
or more, with a lot of valuable goods to land, and the knowledge that if
they are caught it is a long term in jail. The men know well enough that
if there is anything on, there will be a watch kept over them, and that
if they were to fire a pistol as a signal, there would be news of it
sent to the smugglers in no time. Sometimes, too, the coast-guards
nearest the point where the landing is to be, are pounced on suddenly
and tied up. I reckon, too, that a good many of them keep an eye shut as
long as they can, and then go off pretty leisurely to pass the word
along that they have heard oars or have seen signals, especially if they
have got a hot-headed boatswain in charge of their station, a sort of
chap who would want to go down to meddle with a hundred men, with only
five or six at his back. A man with a wife and some children, perhaps,
don't relish the thought of going into a bad scrimmage like that if he
can keep out of it; why should he? He gets a bit of money if they make a
good seizure, but he knows well enough that he ain't going to make a
seizure unless he has got a pretty strong party; and you take my word
for it, four times out of five when we make a clear run, it is because
the coast-guard keep an eye closed as long as they dare. They know well
enough that it ain't such an uncommon thing for a man to be found at the
bottom of the cliff, without anything to show how he got there, and the
coroner's jury finds as it was a dark night and he tumbled over, and
they brings in a verdict according. But it ain't every man as cares
about taking the risk of accidents of that kind, and, somehow or other,
they happens to just the chaps as is wonderful sharp and active. They
have all been sailors, you know, and are ready enough for a fight when
they are strong enough to have a chance, but that is a very different
thing from walking backwards and forwards on a dark night close to the
edge of a cliff, three or four hundred feet high, without a comrade
within a quarter of a mile, and the idea that an accident of this kind
might occur any time."



CHAPTER II

BEFORE THE JUSTICES


One morning when Frank was dressing, the servant came up and told him
that a fisherman, who said his name was Bill Bostock, wanted to speak to
him. As he had often been out with Julian in the man's boat, he put on
his jacket and ran to the door.

"Good morning, Bill!" he said; "what is it?"

"I will talk with you outside, sir, if you don't mind."

A good deal surprised Frank put on his cap and went out with him.

"There has been a bad business, Master Frank, a mighty bad job."

"What sort of a job, Bill?"

"A smuggling affair, Master Frank. There was a fight. I hears one of the
revenue men was killed. I don't know as that is so, but some of them
have been knocked about, and have got some pistol wounds, no doubt. But
that ain't the worst part of the business. Mr. Julian is among those as
has been caught."

"Julian!" Frank exclaimed in astonishment. "Why, what in the world had
Julian got to do with it?"

"Well, sir," the sailor said apologetically, "you see it was like this.
Mr. Julian is a young gentleman as loves a bit of a spree, and he has
been out many a night with some of us to see a cargo run."

Frank uttered an exclamation of surprise and consternation.

"I thought perhaps as you knowed it, sir."

"I never dreamt of such a thing, Bill. How could Julian have been so mad
as to mix himself up in such a business? I suppose this is your doing;
you must have led him into this mischief."

"No, sir," the sailor said in an aggrieved voice. "How was I to lead a
young gentleman like your brother into a thing as he didn't choose to
do? I don't say as I didn't mention to him, promiscuous like, that I
lent a hand some times in running a cargo; but how was I to know as he
would up and say, 'I will go with you some night, Bill.' Well, I argues
with him, and I points out to him as he might get into a scrape; but,
says he, 'I am not going to take no share in it, but just want to look
on and see the fun,' as he calls it. I points out to him as it was not
always fun, but he puts that aside, and, says he, it would not be fun
unless there was a little excitement about it. He promised me faithful
that he would always cut and run as soon as he heard there was any talk
of the revenue men a-coming, and what was I to do? I don't say, sir, as
how if it had been you I would have taken you with me, 'cause you are
young, you see, and I should have felt as I was 'sponsible for you. But
Mr. Julian is a man now, and when he says, 'I mean to go with you
anyhow, Bill,' it was not for me to say, you sha'n't go. Mr. Julian, he
is a sort of gent that gets over one somehow, and there ain't no saying
'no' to him."

"Well, it is of no use talking about that now," Frank said impatiently.
"First tell me all about it, and then we will see what had best be
done."

"Well, Master Frank, it was eight miles to the west. The chaps concerned
in it thought they had managed to throw dust into the eyes of Captain
Downes, and to get the _Boxer_ away to Swanage, and how he got wind of
the affair, and where it was to be, is more nor I can tell. Everything
was going on smooth enough, and half the cargo was in the carts, when
all of a sudden there was a shout 'Surrender, you scoundrels!' and that
fellow Faulkner dashed up with a pistol in his hand, and behind him came
a score of revenue men. I dodged under a cart and bolted. I heard some
pistol shots fired, for just at that time a lot of the smugglers had
come up to the carts with kegs. As if the firing on shore had been a
signal, I heard directly after some guns down by the water, and knew
that Downes and the _Boxer_ had come on the lugger. I made straight
back, but I could not sleep all night for wondering whether Mr. Julian
had got off too, and I was up afore it was light, and went round to one
or two of the other chaps as was there. One had not come back; the other
had only been in half an hour. He had hid up, close to where we was
surprised.

"After it was over the revenue chaps lit a lot of lanterns and then made
a big fire, and by its light my mate could see pretty well what was
going on. They had got about twenty prisoners. Most of the country
people and carts had, luckily enough for them, gone off with their loads
a few minutes afore the revenue men came up. A dozen pack-horses and
three or four carts had been took, and, in course, all the loads the men
were carrying up. Among those who was took was Mr. Julian. He was
standing close to me when they came up, and I expect he was collared
immediate. Faulkner, he sat down on a tub by the side of the fire and
takes out a book, and the prisoners was brought up one by one and
questions asked them. Mr. Julian was one of the last. Faulkner got up
from his seat and rowed him tremendous. What he said my mate could not
catch, but he could hear his voice, and he was going on at him cruel;
then I suppose Mr. Julian lost his temper, and my mate says he could see
that he was giving it him back hot. I expect it was something wonderful
hard and nasty he said, for Faulkner jumped at him and hit him in the
face. Then your brother threw himself on him. My mate says he would have
thrown him backwards into the fire, if some of the revenue men had not
seized him and dragged him off.

"After that there was a row between Faulkner and Captain Downes, who had
come up just before with half a dozen sailors. I expect Downes was
telling him that he ought to be ashamed of himself. Anyhow they got to
high words, as was easy to be heard. Half an hour later most of them
started with the prisoners, leaving half a dozen of the officers to look
after the things they had taken. When they had gone, my mate went down
close to the water, and was able to make out the cutter and the lugger
anchored close together--so she has been caught. There was nothing else
to wait for, so he tramped off home and had only been in a few minutes
before I came to him."

"This is awful," Frank said, in dismay. "The only thing I see that can
be done is for me to go and have a talk with Captain Downes. He was a
friend of my father's; and I think he is a kind-hearted man, though, of
course, he has to be sharp in carrying out his duty of trying to put
down smuggling. Well, I will run in for breakfast now, or my aunt will
wonder what has become of me; then I will go straight on board the
_Boxer_.

"She is not in yet," Bill said. "She would not start until daylight; and
I don't suppose she will be round for another two hours. You see she is
not clear of Portland Bill yet."

"That is unfortunate. However, I hope I shall see him before the
magistrates sit. What time do they meet?"

"They generally sit at eleven o'clock; but it ain't their day, and they
will have to be summoned special. I should not wonder if they don't meet
till two o'clock; because they could not be sure what time the _Boxer_
will get round, and, as he will have taken some prisoners in the lugger,
they would not begin until he arrived."

"Very well; I will go round to the court-house after breakfast, and
inquire what time the sitting will be. Anyhow, I hope to be able to see
the lieutenant before they meet. I don't know that any good can come of
it; for, as he had nothing to do with Julian's capture, he certainly
would not be able to save him from appearing, especially after that row
with Faulkner."

"He's a bad un that, Master Frank, and I wish your brother had chucked
him into that fire. A bit of burning might have done him good; and, if
ever a chap deserved it, he did."

Frank went back into the house.

"My dear Frank," Mrs. Troutbeck exclaimed, "where have you been? I have
never known you keep breakfast waiting before. Why, what is the matter,
dear? Nothing about Julian, I hope; hasn't he come home yet?"

"No, Aunt; and I am sorry to say that he has got into an awkward scrape.
It seems that he went out, for the fun of the thing, to see a cargo run.
The revenue people came up, and he was one of those who were caught. Of
course he had nothing to do with the smuggling part of the business, nor
with a bit of a fight there was. Still, as he was there, I am afraid
there is no doubt that he will have to appear before the magistrates
with the others."

Mrs. Troutbeck sat in speechless consternation.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" she exclaimed at last. "How could he have been so
silly? It is dreadful, my dear, and it will be such a disgrace. What
shall we do?"

"There is nothing to do, Aunt, that I can see. As to the disgrace, that
is nothing very dreadful. No end of people are mixed up in smuggling;
and I have heard that many of the gentry wink at it, and are glad enough
to buy a keg of brandy cheap without asking any questions where it comes
from. So the mere fact that Julian went to have a look at a cargo being
run is not anything very serious. I suppose it was against the law even
to be present, but there was nothing disgraceful about it. It is lucky
my holidays began last week, and if there is anything to be done I can
do it."

"Could not Mr. Downes get him off? He used often to be here in your
father's time, though I have not seen much of him since; but I am sure
he would do anything he could."

"I have been thinking of that, Aunt. The _Boxer_ was there last night
and captured the smuggler, but her crew had nothing to do with the fight
on shore; and, therefore, I don't think there is any chance of his being
able to interfere in the matter. Still, I will see him as soon as the
cutter comes in."

On going down to the court-house, Frank found that the magistrates would
meet at two o'clock. Then, as the _Boxer_ had only just appeared round
Portland, he went and saw the chief officer of the coast-guard to
endeavour to obtain permission to have an interview with Julian.

"I am sorry I can do nothing in the matter, lad," he replied. "It is out
of my hands, owing to a magistrate being present at the capture. It was,
indeed, his business more than ours; for it was he who obtained
information of the affair, and called upon us to aid him in the capture
of men engaged in unlawful practices. Therefore, you see, the prisoners
are in the hands of the civil authorities. I hear he has given strict
orders that no one is, on any pretence, to speak to the prisoners."

"I hear that he struck my brother."

"I don't know how you heard it, lad, but it is true. However, I do not
feel at liberty to say anything about it. I am very sorry for your
brother, who is a fine young fellow. However, I hope that as he was
unarmed, and was not, I suppose, actually concerned in the smuggling
business, the matter will be passed over lightly, even if he is not
discharged at once. At any rate, we shall in no way press the case
against him."

Frank, indeed, afterwards learned that the officer dropped a hint to the
men to make as little as possible of Julian's capture, and of the
vigorous resistance he had made when first seized.

The _Boxer_ dropped anchor off the town at twelve o'clock, and the
lieutenant landed at once. The officer of the coast-guard went down to
meet him on the quay, and for half an hour they walked up and down the
parade together, in earnest conversation. Frank remained on the opposite
side of the road until they stopped, and the commander of the _Boxer_
beckoned to him.

"Well, lad," he said, as Frank came up, "this is a nasty scrape that
your brother has got into; but I don't think they can do anything to
him. Mr. Moorsby has been telling me that you have been to him; but
neither he nor I can do anything in the matter--it is in the civil
hands. If it had been anyone else but Faulkner who had been in charge, I
have no doubt it could have been managed. Of course, your brother ought
not to have been there, but as he was only looking on, and taking no
active part in the affair, he might have been released without any
difficulty. However, I don't think you need worry yourself. Certainly,
we shall not press the case against him. It is unfortunate that he used
his tongue as sharply as he did to Mr. Faulkner, though I don't say but
that he had great provocation, or that what he said was not perfectly
true; still, it would have been much better left unsaid. However, I
question if before the hearing is over Faulkner will not have cause to
regret that he did not let your brother go home as soon as they got back
here."

He nodded, and Frank understood that there was no more to say, and,
thanking the officer, turned and walked off home. The fisherman met him
on the way.

"You keep up your heart, Mr. Frank. Me and some of the others have been
having a talk with the coast-guards, and they will be all right. Of
course, there is not one of them that does not know Mr. Julian, so they
won't say more than they can help against him; and every one of them is
glad to hear that he gave it to that Faulkner hot. He ain't no more a
favourite with them than he is with other people, and it was not by
their own will that they ran in and pulled your brother off him. If they
hadn't, he would not have been sitting on the bench to-day, nor for many
a week, I reckon; for he would have been pretty badly burned if he had
fallen across that fire. So you may be sure that they will make it easy
for Mr. Julian, and I expect you will have him back home this evening.
They would never have took him at all if they had known who he was; but,
of course, being dark, and he in his fishing togs, they did not see it
was him."

Frank returned home in much better spirits than he had left. His aunt
was standing at the window, and hurried to the door to let him in.

"Well, Frank, have you got him out? I hoped you would have brought him
home with you."

"There was no chance of that, Aunt. Of course, when anyone is taken and
locked up, he cannot be discharged until the case has been gone into.
But I have seen Mr. Moorsby, the coast-guard officer on shore, and
Captain Downes, and they both say that the case will not be pressed
against him, and that, as he was not taking any part in the affair, and
merely looking on, they don't think anything will be done to him. The
coast-guardsmen who will have to give evidence all know him, and will
not say anything against him if they can help it. So I should not be at
all surprised, Aunt, if we have him back here this afternoon."

"Oh, I do wish," Mrs. Troutbeck said tearfully, "that it could have been
managed so that he would not have been obliged to be placed in the dock
with smugglers and all sorts of people."

"It would, no doubt, have been better if it could have been avoided,
Aunt, but there is no helping it; and if he is discharged it won't go
for much against him--certainly not here, where nobody regards smuggling
as a crime."

At half-past one Frank went down to the court-house. It was already
crowded, but Captain Downes, who came up at the same moment, took him
in, and obtained a place for him at the solicitors' table. The seizure
had created quite a sensation in Weymouth, not only because two or three
Weymouth men were among the prisoners, but because, owing to the fight
that had taken place, the matter was very much more serious than a mere
capture of contraband goods. There was a general buzz of conversation
until three magistrates came in and took their places, and there was a
little murmur of satisfaction as Colonel Chambers, the chairman, took
his seat; for, had he not been present, Mr. Faulkner, who was next in
seniority, would have taken the chair. A minute later, twelve prisoners
were brought in. Five Frenchmen and two Englishmen were a portion of the
crew of the smuggler; two were farmers' men, the drivers of the carts;
one was a local fisherman; the eleventh was one of the party that had
gone from Weymouth; Julian Wyatt made up the number.

Two or three of the party had their heads bandaged up; one had his arm
in a sling; several others had marks of hard knocks, and Julian a pair
of black eyes. When the little murmur that followed the entry of the
prisoners had subsided, and the crier had called out "Silence in court,"
the inquiry began.

Mr. Moorsby was the first witness. He deposed that having received
information that a landing of contraband goods was likely to take place,
he, accompanied by Mr. Faulkner, who represented the civil authorities,
went to the spot. They perceived that a landing of goods was taking
place; but, as it had been arranged that his party should not show
themselves until the revenue cutter came up and seized the lugger, they
remained in hiding until they heard from a man placed down by the shore
that the cutter was coming in. Then they rushed out and seized the
parties engaged in the proceedings. Some of them resisted violently, and
a serious fray took place. Three of his men were wounded with pistol
shots, one of them very seriously. One of the smugglers had been killed,
and three were so seriously injured that they could not at present be
placed in the dock.

"Are any of the prisoners represented in court?" the chairman asked.

A solicitor sitting next to Frank rose. "I represent Mr. Julian Wyatt,"
he said. Frank looked up at him in surprise. The idea of obtaining legal
assistance for Julian had not occurred to him, and he wondered how his
brother had been able to communicate with a solicitor. "I would suggest,
your honour," the latter went on, "that the evidence should be taken
separately in the different charges, as there is a considerable
difference in the position of prisoners."

Another solicitor rose. "I appear for John Turnbull and William Sims,"
he said, "and I would support the appeal of Mr. Probert. My clients, who
are farming men, took no part whatever in the fray, which is the serious
portion of the affair. While I am ready to admit that they were engaged
in the illegal operation of aiding in the landing of contraband goods,
I shall be able to prove that they are innocent of the more serious
charge of resisting by force their capture by the revenue officers, and
with using deadly weapons against the representatives of the law, and
that their case stands in an altogether different category to that of
the main body of the prisoners."

"You do not intend, I hope," Mr. Faulkner said, "to express a wish that
we should have what would practically be twelve investigations instead
of one, or that the witnesses should all be obliged to go that number of
times into the box."

"By no means, your honour; I am only intimating my intention of
cross-examining each witness as to the share my clients took in the
affair, and pointing out beforehand that their case stands on an
entirely different footing to that of the men who took part in the more
serious charge of resisting the officers."

One after another of the coast-guard men gave their evidence, each
identifying one or more of the prisoners in whose capture they had taken
a personal part. None of the first five had anything to say regarding
Julian. Then James Wingfield entered the box. After stating that he was
the coxswain of the Weymouth coast-guard boat he proceeded:

"When Mr. Moorsby gave the order I ran forward. I saw a biggish man
standing with his hands in the pockets of his pea-jacket. He seemed to
be looking on, and was not at work; but, thinking that he might be a
leader, me and Harry Wilkens ran at him and seized him. It was not until
afterwards we knew that he was Mr. Julian Wyatt. After we had caught him
I handed him over to Wilkens, and that is all I know about him."

He then proceeded to testify against several of the other prisoners in
whose capture he had taken part. When he had finished his evidence,
Julian's solicitor rose.

"You say that the prisoner you first took, Mr. Wyatt, was taking no
active part in the affair?"

"No, sir, he was just standing there looking on."

"And did he resist the capture?"

"Not to say resist, sir. When we first clapped hands on him he gave a
start, for we had come upon him sudden, without noise. He just tried to
shake us off, not knowing, I reckon, who we were; but as soon as I said,
'In the King's name, you are my prisoner,' he was just as quiet as a
lamb."

The solicitor sat down. Then the chairman asked the witness if any arms
were found on the prisoner.

"No, sir."

"Not even a stick?"

"I won't say as he may not have had a bit of a stick, your honour,
though I did not notice it, his hands being in his pockets; anyhow, he
did not try to use it."

Wilkens was the next witness, and his evidence, as far as Julian was
concerned, was precisely similar to that of the coxswain. Against the
seven men of the lugger the evidence was conclusive. All had resisted
desperately, and this had enabled several of their party to make their
escape in the darkness. The Weymouth fisherman had been caught coming up
from the beach with a keg on his shoulder, and had thrown it down and
attempted to run away, but had made no resistance when he had been
taken; the two farm men had been captured at their horses' heads, and
had at once surrendered. When the evidence had been gone through, Mr.
Probert addressed the court on behalf of Julian. He urged that there was
no evidence whatever to show that he was concerned either in the
smuggling operations or in the resistance to the revenue officers.

"I do not pretend," he said, "that he was there by accident; but I
maintain that he was there simply in the capacity of a looker-on. He
stands, in fact, precisely in the same position that any member of the
general public might do, who had been present as a spectator at any sort
of riot. It is unquestionably a very unwise action on the part of any
individual to attend a meeting of any sort at which it is possible that
riotous proceedings may take place, but I maintain that, however
imprudent and foolish, there is nothing criminal in his doing so, and I
am sure that there is no case on record in which a man has been punished
for his presence at a riot in which he did not participate. My client
acted foolishly, but I ask the court to say that his foolishness was not
criminal. He had accidentally learned that there was to be a landing of
contraband goods, and, with the thoughtlessness of youth, he went to see
what he considered the fun. Even if there had been a shadow of
criminality in his being present, I should ask you to say that the
unpleasant experience that he has undergone--his detention for twelve
hours in a police cell, and his appearance here--is ample punishment for
his boyish escapade, which might have been committed by any
high-spirited young fellow of nineteen."

After the other solicitor had addressed the court on behalf of the two
farmers' men, the magistrates consulted together. The spectators,
watching them attentively, saw that for a time they seemed unanimous,
then it was equally evident that there was a difference of opinion on
some point or other, and they presently rose and left the court.

"It is Faulkner against the other two," Mr. Probert whispered to Frank.
"Of course they were unanimous about the smugglers, but I expect they
differed as to the others. It is lucky that the Colonel is in the chair.
Harrington is a mild little fellow, and Faulkner would be able to twist
him round his finger if there were only the two of them, but there is no
fear of that with the Colonel there to keep him straight."

In ten minutes they returned, and by the flushed, angry face of Mr.
Faulkner, Frank judged at once that he had been overruled. The chairman
briefly announced the decision of the court, and committed the seven
smugglers for trial on the whole of the charges. The Weymouth fisherman
was also committed, but only on the charge of being engaged in the
unlawful act of defrauding His Majesty's revenue, and was allowed out on
bail. The two farm labourers were fined fifty pounds apiece, which their
solicitor at once paid.

"The majority of the bench are in favour of your immediate discharge,
Mr. Wyatt, being of opinion that the evidence has failed altogether to
prove any of the charges against you, and, being of opinion that you
have already paid dearly enough for your reckless folly in attending an
unlawful operation of this kind, they trust that it will be a lesson to
you for life. The other and more serious charge against you will now be
taken."

Frank, who was in the act of rising from his seat in delight at Julian's
acquittal, sank down again in dismay at the concluding words. He had no
idea of any further charge.

"What is it?" he whispered to Mr. Probert.

"Faulkner has charged him with an attempt to murder him. Have you not
heard of it? Don't be frightened. I have seen the witnesses, and have no
doubt that this case will break down like the other."

After all the prisoners but Julian had been removed from the dock, Mr.
Faulkner left the bench and took his seat in the body of the court. The
charge was then read over by the clerk, and Mr. Faulkner's name was
called; as he stepped into the witness-box, a low hiss ran through the
fishermen who formed a large proportion of the spectators.

"Silence!" the chairman said angrily. "If I hear any repetition of this
indecent demonstration, I will have the court cleared at once."

Mr. Faulkner then proceeded to give his evidence. "He had," he said,
"spoken severely to the prisoner in his quality as a magistrate, upon
his taking part in smuggling transactions. At this the prisoner became
violently abusive and uttered such murderous threats that he thought he
would have struck him, and in self-defence he (the witness) gave him a
blow, whereupon the prisoner had sprung upon him like a tiger, had
lifted him in his arms, and had carried him bodily towards the fire, and
would assuredly have thrown him into it had he not been prevented from
doing so by some of the coast-guardsmen."

Mr. Probert rose quietly. "You are a magistrate, Mr. Faulkner, I
believe?" Mr. Faulkner gave no reply to the question, and after a little
pause the solicitor went on: "Do you consider that, as a magistrate, Mr.
Faulkner, it comes within your province to abuse a prisoner unconvicted
of any crime?"

"I deny that I abused him," Mr. Faulkner said hotly.

"There is no occasion for heat, sir," Mr. Probert said quietly. "You are
in the position of a witness at present and not of a magistrate, and
must reply like any other witness. Well, you deny having abused him. Do
you consider that calling a gentleman of good standing in this town, the
son of a distinguished officer, a loafing young scoundrel, not abuse; or
by telling him that six months in one of His Majesty's jails would do
him a world of good?"

"I deny that I used those words."

"Well, sir, that is a question of pure credibility. It is possible that
I may be in a position to prove to the satisfaction of the bench that
you did use them, and many others of an equally offensive character. Mr.
Wyatt naturally resented such language, which you had no more right to
address to him than you would have to address to me. If a magistrate
forgets his position, and abuses a prisoner in the language of a
fish-fag, he must expect to be answered in the same way by anyone of
spirit. You say that, thereupon, he became abusive and used murderous
threats? Now we should like to hear a little more about this. First of
all, let us hear the abuse, will you? Tell the court, if you please,
Mr. Faulkner, what were the abusive expressions," he added.

"He said, sir, that I was a disgrace to the bench."

There was a general laugh in the court, which was instantly repressed.
Mr. Faulkner's eyes ran furiously over the crowded benches.

"I must ask you to look at me, Mr. Faulkner," the solicitor said mildly.
"Well, he said that you were a disgrace to the bench. That is scarcely,
perhaps, as much a matter of abuse as one of private opinion. What did
he say next?"

"He said I was a curse to the whole neighbourhood."

"Again a mere matter of opinion."

"And after that that I was a sneaking, meddlesome, interfering old fox."

There was again a buzz of laughter, mingled with exclamations of "So you
are," "He wasn't far wrong;" upon which Colonel Chalmers directed the
constable to turn all the offending parties out of court. Some fishermen
nearest to the door were hustled out.

"Well, I am afraid that I must admit," Mr. Probert said, "that to call
you a meddlesome old fox was abusive, although nothing like so abusive
as to call a man a loafing young scoundrel. Now as to the threats."

"He said that I would be brought home one of these days with a bullet in
my body."

"That is purely a matter of prophecy, Mr. Faulkner, and not a threat,
unless he intended you to understand that it was he who would fire the
bullet. Do you mean to tell the court that you had any reason to suppose
that this young gentleman, whose reputation is untarnished, and who has
never had a charge brought against him except the ridiculous one that
has just been dismissed, intended to imply by those words that he
himself had any idea of taking your life?"

"It might bear that construction."

"It might bear any construction in the mind of a man determined to see
everything in the worst possible light. It is a matter of public
notoriety, Mr. Faulkner, that you have received several threatening
letters, and that the active part you have taken against poachers and
smugglers has caused some feeling against you. Do you not think it
likely that when Mr. Wyatt used the words you have repeated he referred
to this circumstance?"

"A magistrate who does his duty must necessarily be unpopular with the
criminal classes."

"Possibly, Mr. Faulkner, though I have known many magistrates who did
their duty and who were by no means unpopular; but you have not answered
my question. Do you not think that in saying what he did Mr. Wyatt
simply alluded to the fact of your well-known unpopularity, and to the
threatening letters that you have received?"

"Possibly he did," Mr. Faulkner admitted reluctantly, "although that was
not my impression at the time."

"Well, then, unless there were further threats, as you call them, I
think we have disposed of the alleged abuse and the alleged murderous
threats. Now we come to the other charge. You thought that he was about
to strike you, and in self-defence gave him a blow. What made you think
that he was going to strike you?"

"He made a step towards me with a threatening gesture."

"Oh, I dare say that he was angry, but a gentleman who has been called a
loafing young scoundrel is somewhat apt to lose his temper. You might
even do so yourself, Mr. Faulkner, if so addressed. Well, then, he made
a step towards you; thereupon you struck him in the face, and judging
from his appearance you struck him pretty hard, and then you say he
caught you up and carried you along. It says a good deal for his
strength that he was able to do so. Now you say he carried you towards
the fire, and would have thrown you upon it had not some of the
coast-guardsmen interfered in time. Now, how do you know that that was
his intention?"

"I firmly believe that it was so."

"It is not a question of belief. You might believe that he was going to
throw you up to the moon. You struggled, I suppose--you would scarcely
submit to be carried like a baby--I imagine that is about the long and
short of it. But even if he had intended to throw you on the fire, which
certainly seems to be merely a matter of your imagination, you can
hardly pretend that had he carried out this intention that it would have
been murder. Surely with a score of your friends standing by, you would
have been hauled out immediately, none the worse except for a few singes
and a burn or two. This was not a burning fiery furnace, Mr. Faulkner,
but merely a bit of a bonfire from a few sticks that had been set on
fire in order to throw a little light on the proceedings."

"I might have been very seriously burnt."

"Well, even supposing that you had been, that is not a question of
murder. I presume that you framed this indictment you have charged the
prisoner, not with an intention of committing grievous damage upon you,
but with murder, and if you now admit that, under the circumstances,
death could hardly have resulted by any possibility from this imaginary
intention of throwing you on the fire being carried out, it is clear
that the charge of murder must drop through. I have no further questions
to ask you, though I may have some remarks to make after having heard
your witnesses."



CHAPTER III

IN A FRESH SCRAPE


The first witness called by Mr. Faulkner was Captain Downes.

"Will you tell us what you know about this affair?" the chairman said.

"After having captured the smuggler, I took six men and went up to see
if I could be of any assistance to Mr. Moorsby, and also to hear whether
he had been as successful with his capture as I had. I found that
everything was over, and that a fire had been lighted. I was talking to
Mr. Moorsby when my attention was excited by loud words between Mr.
Faulkner and Mr. Wyatt, with whom I am acquainted. Mr. Faulkner struck
him in the face, and there was a scuffle, the prisoner lifting the
magistrate, although a much heavier man, completely off his feet. In the
course of the scuffle they approached the fire, and being afraid that
they might fall into it, I ran up with Mr. Moorsby and some of the men,
and pulled them away."

"Did it seem to you, Captain Downes, that the prisoner was carrying Mr.
Faulkner straight to the fire?"

"He was certainly going straight in that direction, but whether
intentionally or not I am unable to say."

"Do you think that if you and your men had not interfered they would
have fallen into the fire?"

"I think they would certainly have done so."

"Do you think that the prisoner intended to throw Mr. Faulkner into the
fire?"

"That I cannot say."

"Have you any questions to ask the witness, Mr. Faulkner?" the chairman
asked.

"You do not think it likely, I suppose, that the prisoner could have
intended himself to tumble into the fire?"

"I should think it very unlikely."

Mr. Faulkner sat down, and Mr. Probert rose.

"You think it very unlikely, Captain Downes, that Mr. Wyatt would
deliberately have walked into the fire, and I quite share your opinion;
but it has not yet been proved that he was deliberately going towards
the fire at all. You say he lifted Mr. Faulkner in his arms. Now it
seems to me that, having done so, he would not be able to see at all
which way he was going, as Mr. Wyatt's eyes would both be on a level
with Mr. Faulkner's chest; moreover, it must be evident that, judging
from his present appearance, he could scarcely have seen anything at
all, after receiving such a blow. Does it not strike you as being still
more likely that, partially blinded as he was, and being unwilling to
strike the magistrate in return, however much the latter had forfeited
all claim to respect, he closed with him, and in the heat of passion
lifted him up and carried him along at random?"

"I think that very likely," the lieutenant replied.

"Had you yourself been struck as the prisoner was struck, Captain
Downes, what course do you think it would have been proper for you to
pursue?"

"I don't know what would have been proper, but I know what I should have
done. Magistrate or no magistrate, I should have knocked my assailant
down, or at any rate I should have tried to."

"As a naval man, Captain Downes, you have had some experience of the
conduct gentlemen generally observe to their prisoners. I presume that
it is not their custom to strike them, even if they did make a somewhat
free use of their tongues?"

"Certainly not," Captain Downes said emphatically.

"Would you go so far as to say that you would consider it to be a
disgraceful and cowardly act?"

"I should so consider it."

There was again a murmur of applause in court, which was instantly
arrested when Mr. Probert held up his hand deprecatingly. "Thank you,
Captain Downes," he went on. "Now we come to the question of the quarrel
that gave rise to this affair. Mr. Faulkner has not thought fit to ask
you any questions about it. Were you standing close enough to hear what
passed?"

"I was standing close by, and both Mr. Faulkner and the prisoner spoke
loudly enough to be heard at such a distance."

"The magistrate first began the conversation?"

"He did."

"He used very strong language, did he not?"

"Very strong."

"Did you think that he was justified in using such strong language?"

"Certainly not; I thought that it was most improper."

"And do you think that a gentleman accosted so improperly is to be
greatly blamed if he uses strong language in return?"

"It would no doubt have been better if he had held his tongue at the
time, and have called him to account afterwards."

"Still the provocation was very strong, Captain Downes, and you could
not altogether blame him."

"I did not blame him at all," the witness said curtly.

"And what did you think when Mr. Faulkner suddenly struck his prisoner
in the face?"

"Am I to answer that question?" the witness asked the bench.

"I do not think that it is an improper question," the chairman replied.

"Very well, sir. Then, if I must say it, I thought it was one of the
most blackguardly and cowardly things I ever saw done."

"Thank you, Captain Downes. I do not think it necessary to ask you any
further questions."

"Have you any more witnesses to call, Mr. Faulkner?" the chairman asked
coldly.

Mr. Faulkner's face was white with rage. "I have a dozen other
witnesses," he said hoarsely, "but I have no doubt they will all follow
the lead their officer has set them. I shall therefore call no more."

"I do not think, your worships," Mr. Probert said, rising, "that it is
necessary for me to address you. I would only submit to you that there
is not a shadow of evidence to support the charge of an attempt to
murder. As to the abusive language, I cannot say that my client's words
were a retort courteous, but they were only a retort natural, and were
simply the consequence of the extraordinary conduct of Mr. Faulkner,
acting at the time in his capacity of magistrate. As to the charge of
threatening language, it is altogether absurd. My client simply asserted
what is true by common report--that Mr. Faulkner had been threatened,
and that it was possible that those threats might some day or other be
carried into effect. I have only, therefore, to leave the case in the
hands of your worships."

The two magistrates put their heads together for a short time. Then the
chairman said: "The bench is of opinion that the charge of attempted
murder is altogether without foundation, and that of abusive language
and the use of threats should never have been brought, seeing that they
were the result of what we cannot but consider the very ill-judged and
improper conduct of the plaintiff. You are therefore discharged, Mr.
Wyatt; but my colleague and myself cannot but again express a hope that
this and the preceding charge may prove a lesson to you to avoid taking
part, even as a spectator, in such breeches of the law as those which
led to this very regrettable occurrence."

As the magistrate concluded, a roar of applause rose in the court. In
vain the constables shouted for silence. The chairman at once ordered
the room to be cleared, and at the same time motioned to Julian not to
leave the court, as he was preparing to do. When the court was cleared,
he called Julian up to him.

"I think, Mr. Wyatt," he said, "it would be as well for you to remain
here for a time, and then go out by the back way. It would be very
unfortunate if any demonstration took place. Enough harm has been done
already; do not let us make it any worse."

"Certainly not, sir. I am heartily sorry for what has occurred," and
beckoning to Frank, who was still seated at the solicitors' table, he
retired with him to a waiting-room.

"Thank goodness, Julian, you have got out of that scrape."

"Thank goodness, indeed, Frank. I behaved like an awful fool, but I
never dreamt that anything like this would come of it. I have been to
see cargoes run several times. It was very good fun. I never helped in
any way, and had always made up my mind that I would make myself scarce
if the revenue people should turn up, but it all happened so suddenly
that I was a prisoner before I knew what was going on. As to the other
affair, no doubt it would have been better for me to have said nothing,
but of course I knew that he had no right to say what he did, and I had
not the least idea that he would hit me; when he did, I went at him in a
fury, and I don't mind acknowledging that I did intend to chuck him in
the fire--not with any idea of killing him, you know, though I did think
he would be burnt a bit."

"It was lucky you sent for Probert, Julian; I had never thought of it."

"No more did I, Frank. I was perfectly astonished when he got up and
said that he appeared for me, but I supposed that Aunt or you had sent
for him."

"I am sure Aunt didn't, or she would have told me."

"I should not be surprised, Frank, if it were Captain Downes. In the
first place, he was a friend of Father's, and in the next place, because
he is heartily sick of Faulkner's constant interference and the way he
goes on. I expect that if Mr. Moorsby had got up he would have said just
the same things."

"I will leave you here for a few minutes, Julian. I must run round and
tell Aunt; she is in a fearful stew about you."

Frank ran out at the main entrance. A number of fishermen were hanging
about outside. Bill came up to him:

"Isn't Mr. Julian coming out, Master Frank?"

"Not at present. The magistrates don't want any fuss in the streets, no
more does my brother, and he will stay there till every one has cleared
off, so the best thing you can do, Bill, is to persuade the others to go
off home. Julian knows well enough that you are all pleased that he has
got off, but you see if there were a fuss got up about it in the streets
it would do him harm and not good."

"All right, sir, I will get them off. They just wanted to give him a
cheer."

"Well, they did that in Court, Bill, and you know that he appreciates
their good intentions. Well, I must be off."

Mrs. Troutbeck was still on the watch. However, she did not come to the
door. Frank opened it, and ran into the parlour. His Aunt had dropped
into a chair, with her handkerchief to her eyes.

"So he has not come back with you, Frank. It is dreadful. What are they
going to do with him?"

"They are not going to do anything, Aunt. He has been acquitted. Only
he did not come home with me because there are a lot of sailors waiting
outside to cheer him, and the magistrates did not want a row over him,
nor did Julian either. I have just run home to tell you that it is all
right, and now I am going back for him. I expect by the time I get there
they will all have gone, and we may be home in a quarter of an hour, so
I think, Aunt, the best thing you can do is to get tea ready, for I
don't expect he has had much to eat there, or any appetite to eat it."

It was good advice, for Mrs. Troutbeck was on the point of going into
hysterics from joy and relief. However, the thought of the necessity for
getting a good meal to welcome Julian on his arrival turned her thoughts
into another channel, and, wiping her eyes hastily, she rose and gave
directions, while Frank started again for the court-house. The fishermen
had left, but there were still a number of boys about the place. The
private entrance was, however, free from observers, and the brothers
started at once, keeping to the back streets until they neared the
house.

"My dear Julian," Mrs. Troutbeck exclaimed as she threw her arms round
his neck, "what a relief it is to have you back again. It has been
terrible for you."

"It hasn't been very pleasant, Aunt," he replied cheerfully, "but it is
all right now, and certainly I ought not to grumble. I have had better
luck than I deserved. I was a fool to go there, but I did not think that
there was any real chance of the revenue people coming down upon us. It
was thought they had been thrown off the scent altogether."

"What a dreadful face you have got, Julian!"

"Oh, that is nothing, Aunt; it will go off in a few days, and until it
has I must either stay indoors or keep out of the town altogether."

"I am afraid tea won't be ready for a few minutes, Julian. You see I
have had such a very short notice."

"I can hold on comfortably, Aunt; besides, I have got to have a change
and a wash. That is of more importance than tea just at present."

After the meal was over, Frank gave the details of the examination, the
narrative being very frequently stopped by exclamations and questions on
the part of Mrs. Troutbeck.

"I have never heard of such a wicked thing. The idea of that man
charging you with attempting to murder him! Julian, he ought to be
punished for it."

"I fancy he has been punished, Aunt. I don't see how he is to keep his
commission as a justice after what was said in court. Still, it is a bad
thing for me. I was discharged, but it will always be against me. If I
ever get into any sort of trouble again, people will say: 'Ah, yes; he
was charged with attempting murder when he was a young fellow, and
although he was lucky enough to get off then, there must have been
something in it. He is evidently a man of ungovernable temper.'"

"But, my dear Julian, everyone knows that you have a very sweet temper."

"I was not in a sweet temper then at any rate, Aunt."

"Of course not, Julian. I should not have been so myself if anyone had
hit me such a terrible blow as that in the face."

Her nephews both laughed, for they had never seen her ruffled out of her
usual serenity.

"Well, Aunt, don't let us talk any more about it," Julian said. "I would
give a good deal if it hadn't happened. As it is, one must make the best
of it, and I hope that it will be forgotten in time. I wish now that I
had gone into the army, but it is too late for that. I shall think over
what I had best take to. I should certainly like to get away from here
until it has blown over altogether."

On the following morning Frank met Captain Downes, and learned that he
was right in his conjecture, and that it was he who had retained Mr.
Probert's services in Julian's behalf before the magistrates.

For the next few days Julian kept in the house, except that after
nightfall he went out for a long walk. The report of the proceedings in
the court had caused a great sensation in Weymouth, and the feeling was
so strong against Mr. Faulkner that he was hooted in the streets when he
rode into the town. The general expectation was that he would resign his
position on the bench; and when at the end of a week he did not do so, a
private meeting of the other magistrates was held, and it was whispered
in the town that a report of the proceedings at the court had been sent
to the Home Secretary, with an expression of opinion that Mr. Faulkner's
brother magistrates felt that they could not sit again with him on the
bench after what had taken place.

Ten days after the affair Julian started early one morning for a day's
rabbit-shooting at the house of a friend who lived some six miles up the
valley. Some snow fell in the course of the afternoon and put a stop to
shooting, and he started to walk home. When he was within a few hundred
yards of Mr. Faulkner's place he heard a horse coming along behind him.
The snow that had fallen had deadened the sound of the hoofs on the
road, and, looking round, he saw Mr. Faulkner riding fast, at a distance
of but fifty yards away. Had he caught sight of him sooner Julian would
have left the road and entered the wood to avoid him, but it was too
late now, and he hoped that at any rate the man would pass on without
speaking. The horseman had apparently not recognized Julian until he
came abreast of him, when, with a sudden exclamation, he reined in his
horse.

[Illustration: "MARK MY WORDS, YOU YOUNG SCOUNDREL, I WILL BE EVEN WITH
YOU YET."]

"So it is you, Julian Wyatt?" he said, in a tone of suppressed fury.

"It is I, Mr. Faulkner," Julian replied quietly; "and as I don't want
to have anything to say to you, I think that you had better go on your
way without interfering with me."

"Mark my words, you young scoundrel, I will be even with you yet."

"The debt is not all on your side, Mr. Faulkner. I, too, have got a debt
to pay; and perhaps some day we may square matters up, when you have not
got a score of coast-guardsmen at your back. However, I am content to
leave matters as they are so long as you do the same. As to your owing a
debt to me, it is yourself you have to thank for the trouble you have
got into; it was no doing of mine. However, I warn you that you had
better abstain from insulting me again. I did not strike you back when
you hit me last time, but if you call me scoundrel again you shall see
that I can hit as hard as you can, and I will teach you to keep a civil
tongue in your head."

"You mark my words," Mr. Faulkner repeated. "I will have you watched,
and I will hunt you down, and if I am not mistaken I will put a rope
round your neck one of these days." So saying, he struck spurs into his
horse and galloped on.

Julian stood looking after him until he saw him turn in at his gate. The
drive to the house led, as he knew, diagonally through the wood, and as
he walked forward he heard the horse's galloping hoofs grow louder and
louder. Suddenly there was the report of a gun some seventy or eighty
yards away. It was mingled with that of a sudden cry, and Julian heard
the horse galloping on even faster than before. With an exclamation of
"Good heavens! something has happened!" he broke through the hedge and
ran in the direction of the sound. As he approached it he thought that
he caught sight of a man running through the trees, but he kept straight
on until he came upon the drive. Twenty yards away Mr. Faulkner lay
stretched on the ground. He went up to him, and stooped over him. His
eyes were closed, and as he lay on his back Julian saw blood oozing
through a bullet-hole in his coat high up on the left side of the chest.

Feeling sure that Mr. Faulkner was dead he started up, and without a
moment's hesitation ran into the wood again, in the direction where he
had thought that he had seen a figure. A minute later he came upon some
footprints on a bare spot between the trees, where the snow had fallen
lightly. Noting the direction they took, he followed at once. He saw no
more signs of footprints, but followed the direction as nearly as he
could until he came to the farthest side of the wood; then he leaped out
into the field beyond, and followed the edge of the wood until he again
reached the road. He then turned and went back again, and fifty yards
from the point where he had first run out he came upon the footprints
again.

"He was going to take to the hills, he muttered," as he set off along
the track. He ran at a trot, and as he went, loaded both barrels of his
gun. "Very likely the villain will show fight," he said to himself; "I
must take him by surprise if I can."

After a quarter of a mile's run he reached the foot of the hill, and
near its crest, three-quarters of a mile away, caught sight of the
figure of a man. A moment later he had passed over the crest. Julian
started at full speed up the hill. There was no need to follow the
footprints now; indeed the strong wind that was blowing had swept the
snow into the hollows, and the face of the hill was bare. When he
reached the top of the hill he had decreased his distance considerably.
He saw to his surprise that the man was bearing to the right, a course
that would ere long bring him to the edge of the cliff. The run up the
hill had left him breathless, and for some time the man, who was also
running, fully maintained his lead. Then Julian began to gain upon him.
The man had again changed his course, and was now going parallel with
the line of cliffs. Three miles from the point where he had reached the
top Julian was within a quarter of a mile of him. He would have caught
him before this, had he not been obliged at times to make detours so as
to avoid passing high ground, where the man, if he looked back, would
have perceived him. By this time he was almost sure that the fugitive
was a poacher, who had been recently released from a term of two years
in prison for poaching in Mr. Faulkner's preserves. At last he saw him
turn sharp to the right again. "Where on earth is he going?" Julian said
to himself. "The cliffs are not many hundred yards away."

Hitherto he had supposed that the man was keeping away from the cliff to
avoid meeting any of the coast-guards who would be on duty there, but
this change of direction puzzled him completely. Keeping his eye on the
poacher, he saw him enter a small clump of bushes, from which he did not
emerge. Julian at once slackened his pace down to a walk. It was likely
enough that the man had noticed that he was being pursued, and had
determined to rid himself of the pursuer. It was not a pleasant idea,
that the fellow might now be kneeling among the bushes with his gun at
his shoulder.

"It could hardly be that either," he said to himself, "for if he
intended to shoot me he would have turned the other way; for the sound
of his gun would be probably heard by some of the coast-guard, and they
could not fail to see him running away. At any rate," he muttered, "I am
not going to turn back after such a chase as I have had."

Standing still and looking at the spot, he saw that the clump of bushes
grew in a slight hollow, and that by turning to the right he would be
able to approach within twenty or thirty yards of it without exposing
himself to view. This he did, and in a short time lost sight of the
bushes. Moving with great caution, he made his way towards them, and
when he approached the slope into the hollow, lay down and crawled
along, keeping his gun in front of him. As he neared the spot he lay
down on his stomach in the short turf and wound himself along until he
could see down into the bushes. With his gun at his shoulder, and his
finger on the trigger, he gazed down into the hollow. To his surprise he
could see no signs of the fugitive. The leafless boughs afforded but
slight shelter, and after gazing fixedly at them for two or three
minutes, he became convinced that the man was no longer there. As soon
as he came to this conclusion he stood up and looked over the
surrounding country. It was bleak and bare, and entirely destitute of
hedges or any other shelter.

It was but for five or six minutes at the utmost that he had lost sight
of the bushes, and in that time the man could not have got far. "Where
on earth has he hidden himself?" Julian muttered.

He went down to the clump of bushes, still holding his gun in readiness
for instant use. The patch was but some thirty feet long by half as
wide. He walked backwards and forwards among the low bushes, but the
fugitive was certainly not there. Going to the end of the patch he could
see plainly enough the track where the man had entered, for although
there was little snow on the top of the ground it lay among the tufts of
grass. He walked round the clump, but there were no signs of any
footsteps leaving it. "This is the rummest thing I ever saw," he
muttered; "the fellow can't have flown away; yet, he certainly has not
walked off."

Thinking it over, an idea suddenly occurred to him. When sailing along
the coast with Bill, the latter had one day pointed out to him a hole in
the cliff some twenty feet above high-water mark. "Do you see that hole,
Mr. Julian?"

"Yes, I see it plain enough. What of it?"

"Well, sir, if I owned all the goods that have been taken into that hole
on dark still nights I should be a rich man."

"Do you mean to say that they run cargoes there, Bill?"

"Not kegs--they are too heavy and too awkward to get away--but laces,
and silks, and such like. Many a lugger when she comes from abroad lands
all them sorts of things here, and then sails away and takes her chance
of running the rest of the cargo somewhere else."

"But how can anyone get up there? I see nothing like a path."

"There ain't no path, sir. The revenue men would have found it out long
ago if there had been. The boat comes along, as I said, of a dark night,
when there is no swell on, and the chaps inside show a tiny light to
guide them to the spot. When the boat comes, they lower a rope down and
haul the bales up; and then the boat goes back to the lugger, and she
ups sail, and no one is the wiser."

"But what do they do with the stuff? I don't mean, where do they stow
it, but how do they get it away?"

"There is a passage somewhere," Bill replied. "I don't know where it
goes out. I reckon there ain't half a dozen men in Weymouth who do know.
I should say, except the men whose business it is to take the goods
inland and forward them to London, there is only one chap who is in the
secret; and he is not in Weymouth now--he is in jail. That is Joe
Markham. He is in for poaching. But for a good many years he sailed in
one of those French luggers. Then, as I have heard, he was keeper of the
cave for a bit; but he had to give it up--he was too well known to the
coast-guard, and they kept too sharp an eye on him for him to venture to
go out. He had had enough of the sea, and no doubt he had got some money
laid by; anyhow, he took a cottage by the river, and took to poaching,
more for devilment, I should say, than because he wanted the money. I
expect he was well paid by the smugglers, for he used to get up half the
stories to put them off the scent, and never missed being present when a
run was made."

This conversation came back to Julian's memory, as he stood by the clump
of bushes wondering what had become of the man that he had pursued, and
it flashed upon him that the spot where he was standing could not be far
from the smugglers' cavern, and that the entrance to this might very
well be among these bushes. The man knew where that entrance was, and
nothing was more likely than that he should make for it as a place of
concealment until an opportunity occurred to get on board a lugger and
cross the channel. It was a very likely place; men could come and go at
night without risk of being seen or heard by any of the coast-guardsmen
on the cliff, and would not be likely to encounter anyone within two or
three miles of it. Years might pass without anyone happening to enter
the bushes.

Laying down his gun, Julian began to search in earnest. It was half an
hour before, feeling about in the coarse grass, he came upon a handle.
He pulled at it, gently at first, then as it did not yield, he exerted
his strength, and it gave way, and a section of the rough herbage rose,
while three feet away it sank in the same proportion. Raising it higher,
he saw that the trap-door--for such it was--was two feet wide by about
five feet long and eighteen inches deep; it was, in fact, a deep tray
pivoted on the centre and filled with earth, on which grass grew as
freely as in the ground adjoining.

The greater portion of the trap was overhung by bushes, which grew so
thickly around the part which sank that the probability was small indeed
that anyone would tread upon it. Julian saw, too, that under the handle
was a bolt that, when fastened, would hold the trap firmly down. No
doubt the man in his haste had forgotten to fasten it before he
descended. Looking down, Julian saw a circular hole like a well,
evidently artificially made in the chalk; a ladder was fastened against
one side.

[Illustration: JULIAN FINDS HIMSELF A PRISONER AMONG THE SMUGGLERS.]

Julian hesitated. Should he return to Weymouth, inform the authorities
that he had traced the murderer of Mr. Faulkner to a place of
concealment, and bring them there to arrest him, or should he go down
and encounter him single-handed? Although of a fearless disposition, he
would have decided on the more prudent course had it not been that to
have done so, would have let the authorities into the knowledge of the
smugglers' cave. Although he had determined to have nothing more to do
with them, this he felt would be an act of treachery, for it was only
because he had been believed by Bill to be absolutely trustworthy, that
the latter had told him of the existence of this cavern and of the
secret exit, and without that information he would never have searched
for and discovered the trap-door. Then, too, the thought that the credit
he would gain by the capture of the murderer single-handed would go far
to efface the memory of the disgrace that had befallen him, helped to
decide him.

He fetched his gun and slung it over his shoulder, got upon the ladder,
and pulled the trap-door down behind him. As he did so he found that it
moved easily, and that he could push it up again without any difficulty,
and feeling the bolt, discovered that it had been partially shot, but
not sufficiently to catch fairly, although containing so far a hold of
the frame, that it had torn a groove in the somewhat rotten wood with
the force that he had used to raise it. He went down the ladder very
cautiously, until, after descending for some thirty steps, his foot
encountered solid ground. After a moment's consideration he knelt down
and proceeded on his hands and knees. Almost immediately he felt the
ground slope away in front of him. He got on to his feet again. Holding
out his arms he found that the passage was about four feet wide, and he
began to descend with extreme care, feeling his way along both walls. He
had gone, he thought, about fifty yards when the passage made a sharp
turn, still descending, and at a considerable distance ahead the light
streamed in through a rugged hole. He walked more confidently now, and
soon the light was sufficient to enable him to see the path he was
following.

On arriving at the aperture, he saw that, as he expected, he was looking
over the sea. On one side of the hole there was a shelf cut in the
chalk. This was stained as if by oil, and he guessed at once that it was
a look-out and a spot for signalling a craft in the offing. The path
here turned again and ran parallel with the face of the cliff. There was
no occasion to exercise care in walking now, as here and there the light
streamed in through openings a few inches long. He now unslung his gun,
stooped and took off his boots, and then proceeded noiselessly. The
descent was considerable, and in some places steps had been cut. At last
he arrived at a door. It was roughly but very solidly made, and would
doubtless sustain an attack for some time before it yielded, and so
would give time to the occupants, in case the trap-door was discovered,
to make their escape by the lower entrance on to the beach. There was a
latch to it. Lifting this quietly, he found the door yielded, and,
holding his gun in his right hand ready to cover the fugitive the moment
he entered, Julian threw the door wide open and sprang forward.

He had not calculated on a further descent, but the floor of the cave
was five feet below him, and he fell heavily upon it, the gun going off
as it struck the floor. Instantaneous as the fall had been, his eyes had
taken in the scene. Several lanterns faintly lit up the cave; while in
the centre a table, at which several figures were sitting, was
illuminated by three or four candles. He was partly stunned by the
heaviness of his fall, but vaguely heard shouts of surprise and alarm,
and was, a minute later, roughly seized and dragged along. Then he felt
that he was being tightly bound. For some minutes he was left to
himself, but he could see three men with guns in their hands standing
near the door by which he had entered, listening attentively. Presently
he heard steps coming down the passage and two other men came through
the door, shut and bolted it carefully, and then came down the steps
into the cabin.

They spoke to their comrades as they came in, and the news was evidently
satisfactory, for the men leaned their guns against the wall and came to
the table. There was some talk for a few minutes, and then Julian was
raised and placed in a sitting position on the head of a cask by the
table. One of the men then addressed him in French. Julian, who by this
time had recovered from the effects of his fall, shook his head. The
other then spoke to the poacher, who had seated himself opposite Julian,
and the latter then said:

"You are the young fellow who was tried in court three weeks ago, are
you not?"

"Yes, I am."

"I thought so; I was there. It was the very day I got to Weymouth. Well,
what the deuce are you doing here? You are the chap who has followed me
all the way up the hill?"

Julian nodded.

"What did you follow me for?"

"Because I was in the road when you shot Faulkner. I heard the gun, and
ran in and found him dead. I caught sight of you in the wood, and went
in chase of you."

"What did you intend to do, you young fool?"

"I intended to capture you," Julian said fearlessly.

"What for? I have done you a good service as well as myself. You had no
reason to bear him any good-will, and some of the men who were there
told me that though Downes got you off, it was true that you were going
to throw Faulkner into the fire."

"So I was; but he had just struck me and I was in a furious passion; but
that was a different thing altogether to shooting a man in cold blood."

"He got me two years' imprisonment," the man said, "which to my mind was
a good reason for shooting him when I got the chance; and another thing
was he would never leave us alone, but was always on our heels. There
are two or three men in prison now that he got sent there, and eight
more are waiting their trial. He made war on us, and I have turned the
tables on him.

"I heard that you had been at several of the runs, and of course you are
in with some of our fellows. How did you get to know about the entrance
to this place?"

"I only knew that there was a cave here, that it was used by the
smugglers, and that it had an entrance somewhere. The man who told me
knew well that I was to be trusted, but it was only because you
disappeared among those bushes, and that there were no footprints to
show that you had left them, that it appeared to me that the passage
might be there, and so I looked about until I found the handle to the
trap-door."

"Why didn't you go and call the coast-guard? There was a station not a
quarter of a mile away."

"Because I could not have done that without betraying the secret of the
cavern. I found the entrance myself, but I should never have done so, if
I had not been told about the cave and the secret passage, and I felt
that it would be an act of treachery to betray it."

"And you were really fool enough to think that if you captured me
single-handed I should walk with you like a lamb to the gallows?"

"I didn't intend to give you a chance of making a fight. I intended to
rush straight in and covered you with my gun."

"Well, you have plenty of pluck, young fellow, if you haven't much
wisdom; but if you think that after getting in here, I shall let you go
out again to bring the constables down on me you are mistaken
altogether."



CHAPTER IV

THE SMUGGLER'S CAVE


Joe Markham had, as soon as he arrived, told the French smugglers that
he had shot the magistrate who had for the last five or six years given
them so much trouble and caused them so much loss, and who had, as the
last affair showed, become more dangerous than ever, as he could only
have obtained information as to the exact point of landing by having
bribed someone connected with them.

"It was a case of his life or our business," he said. "If he had not
been got out of the way we must have given up the trade altogether on
this part of the coast; besides, he has been the cause, not only of
several seizures of cargoes, but of the death of eight or ten of our
comrades and of the imprisonment of many others. Now that he is out of
the way we shall find things a great deal easier."

"It served him right," the leader of the party said, "and you have
rendered good service; but what are you going to do? Do you think that
any suspicion will fall upon you?"

"Yes; I have put myself in an awkward position, I am afraid. I thought
that the job had been so well managed that it could never be traced to
me, but when I got up to the top of the hill I saw a fellow just
starting from the bottom. I did not think much of it at the time, but he
came up so quickly after me that he must have run all the way up. He has
chased me hard, and as he got nearer I could see that he had a gun too.
He was not more than a quarter of a mile away when I got to the
trap-door."

"Why didn't you hide yourself in the bushes and put a bullet into him,
Markham?"

"For several reasons. In the first place, the gun might have been heard
by some of those cussed revenue men. Then there would be an inquiry and
a search. They would have seen by the direction he had been going, that
he must have been shot from the bushes, and as no one would have been in
sight when they ran up, the thing would have been such a puzzle to them
that you may be sure they would have suspected there must be some hidden
way out of the clump. Besides, they would probably have hunted every
inch of the ground to see if they could find anything that would give
them a clue as to who had fired the shot. That is one reason."

"And quite good enough without any others," the Frenchman said.

"Well, there was another one that went for almost as much with me. I
shot down Faulkner because he was a curse to us all. He had imprisoned
several of my pals, and done a lot of damage to the trade, and was
likely to break it up altogether, besides which I had a big grudge
against him on my own account. But I should not have liked to shoot down
this fellow in cold blood. I had no feeling against him; he has done me
no harm; I did not even know who he was. If he had overtaken me in the
open, you may be sure that I should have made a fight of it, for it
would have been my life against his. I don't pretend to be soft; there
is little enough of that about me, and I have fought hard several times
in the old days when we were surprised; but I could not have shot down
that fellow without giving him a chance of his life. If there had not
been the trap-door to escape by I should have stood up, given him fair
warning, and fought it out man to man. As it was--" at this point the
conversation had been arrested by the sudden entrance of Julian.

"Who is he?" the chief of the smugglers asked Joe when he had finished
his conversation with the prisoner. "Is he a spy?"

"No; he is a young chap as lives down in the town. He is a pal of some
of our friends there, and has been with them at the landings of goods.
He was caught in that last affair, but got off because they could not
prove that he was actually engaged in the business. He is an enemy of
Faulkner's too; they had a row there, and Faulkner hit him in the face.
You can see the mark still; and he would have thrown Faulkner on to the
bonfire they had lit if he had not been prevented by some of the
coast-guards. It is through what he had heard from our friends of this
cavern, and there being an entrance to it somewhere, that he came to
look for the trap-door. I certainly pushed the bolt forward when I came
down, but I was in a hurry, so I suppose it could not have caught
rightly."

"Well, what is to be done, Joe?"

"I don't know. You see he knows about my shooting Faulkner. I would
trust him not to peach about this cavern or the trap-door, but I don't
know as I would about the other thing. It seems to me that he is just as
likely to be suspected of having a hand in it as I am. His row with
Faulkner is the talk of the place, and when Faulkner is found with a
bullet in him, he will be the first fellow to be suspected. Well, if
that was so, and you see he would not be able to account for himself for
three or four hours afterwards, he might be driven to peach on me to
save his own life, and he would be obliged to give all the story about
following me and coming down here. There would be an end of the best
hiding-place in the country, and I should not be able to show my face on
this side of the Channel again."

"I should say the safest plan would be to cut his throat and chuck him
into the sea, and have done with it."

"No, I won't have that," the poacher said positively. "Your lugger will
be in to-night, and we will take him across with us to France."

"That is all very well," one of the men said; "but what is to prevent
his coming back again?"

"We could prevent it somehow or other. We could get up a tale that he
was an English sailor we had picked up at sea, and hand him over to the
authorities, and tell them his story was, that he had fallen overboard
from an English ship of war. Then they would send him away to some place
in the interior where they keep English prisoners of war, and there he
might lie for years; perhaps never get back again. He does not know a
word of French, as you saw when you spoke to him, so he can't contradict
any story we may tell, and if by chance any questions should be asked, I
can just say what suits us."

"He might ruin us all if he came back," the smuggler growled.

"It ain't likely that he will come back," the poacher said. "I have
heard that they die off like flies in those prisons of yours; and,
besides, I will guarantee if he does, he will never split about this
place. He is a gentleman, and I will get him to swear to me, and you may
be sure he will not break his oath."

"But how about yourself?"

"Well, as he won't come back for some years, I will take my chance of
that. He has got no evidence against me; it would be his word against
mine. He would tell his story and I should tell mine, and mine would be
the most likely. I should say I met him on the hills with his gun, and,
knowing who I was, and what cause I had got to hate Faulkner, he told me
that he had shot him, and asked me to get him on board a smuggler craft
and across the Channel, and that I had done so: and that is all I should
know about it. No, I am not afraid of anything he might say when he
comes back again."

Julian had watched the speakers anxiously during this conversation. He
was wholly ignorant of French, but from the tone and manner of the
speakers, he gathered that the poacher was speaking in his favour. He
had expected no mercy; his life was nothing to these French smugglers;
and he was surprised to find the man, whose life he thought he held in
his hand if released, apparently pleading his cause.

"Look here, young fellow!" the poacher said, turning towards him. "In
the first place, these men are afraid that you may betray the existence
of this place, and their opinion is that the best thing to make us safe
would be to cut your throat and throw you out of the mouth of the cave
into the sea. I told them that you knew of the cave from one of our
friends, and could be trusted to keep the secret; at any rate they
demand, in the first place, that you shall take an oath never to split
about it."

"I will do that willingly enough," Julian said, with a great feeling of
relief.

Joe Markham then dictated a terrible oath, which had been always taken
by all those made acquainted with the existence of the cave, and this
Julian repeated after him. The poacher then told the smugglers what
Julian had sworn to.

"Now, young fellow, I may tell you that we are going to take you over to
France to-night. You may think I shall be asking you to take another
oath, like that, not to say anything against me, but I ain't going to. I
shot the man, and I don't pretend to be sorry for it. He was a hard, bad
chap, and he got what he deserved. I owed him a long score, not only for
myself, but for others, and if I had not shot him, someone else would
have done so sooner or later. I shall do what I can to prevent you
coming back here, though I don't think you will say anything against me
when you do come back. In the first place, like enough I shall take to
the sea again, and may be settled in France before you return. In the
next place, I may be dead; and, most of all, you have got no evidence
against me. If I were here, and you told the story, of course I should
say that it was a lie, and that you had shot the man yourself, and I
had got you out of the way by sending you across to France in a lugger,
so I think you will see that it is best to keep a quiet tongue in your
head; anyhow I am ready to take my chance of it."

"They will be horribly alarmed when I don't get home to-night," Julian
said.

"Well, they must be alarmed," the poacher said carelessly. "You have
interfered in this business, which was none of yours, and you have got
to take the consequences; you may think yourself a lucky fellow that you
are not by this time drifting about on the tideway."

"I feel that," Julian said; "and though I did not understand a word of
what you said, I am sure that it was owing to you that I am not there. I
could not have promised that I would never say a word to anyone about
you, because one can never tell how one may be placed; but, after what
you have done, I think that I can safely promise that I will never go
out of my way to denounce you."

"I don't want any promise about it," the poacher replied. "I have made
up my mind to leave Weymouth, for, after having been in jail two years,
I shall always have the constables as well as the revenue men keeping
their eye on me, so I had intended all along to take to the lugger
again, and live on board her as I did before, and I only stayed here
until I could settle accounts with Faulkner. I have no doubt that they
will suspect me of this business. There are plenty of men who know that
I had sworn to be even with him, and my disappearance is sure to be put
down to that. Now, in the next place, will you promise not to try to
escape, because if you do, I will get them to take these ropes off you?
I dare say you have been thinking that if you could get free you would
make a run for the mouth of the cave and dive in, for it is about high
water now."

Julian had, in fact, been thinking so, but as he saw that unless he gave
his promise he would have to remain in the cords that were cutting into
his wrists, he at once took the required oath. Joe told the Frenchmen,
and they then unfastened Julian's cords.

"We may as well carry up the bales at once," their leader said, "before
it gets dark. It is no use giving anyone at sea a chance of seeing a
light. Tell him to take one and come up with us. I am not going to leave
him here by himself, promise or no promise."

The poacher translated the order to Julian. Some bales were taken out
from beneath a tarpaulin at the end of the cave, and, each shouldering
one, they proceeded up the passage until they reached the foot of the
ladder. Here they laid the bales down, and then returned to the cave.

"Is that all?" Julian asked.

"Yes, those bales are worth a lot of money. There is fifteen hundred
pounds worth of lace in one of them. The others are silks and satins,
and worth another five hundred. To-night, when we hear the signal, I and
three of the Frenchmen will go up. We shall find two men there, and
shall carry the bales to a place a mile and a half away, where they will
be hidden until it is convenient to send them up to London, or wherever
they are going to dispose of them--that is their business; ours is
finished when they hand us over the money for them. They will come at
eight o'clock, and at ten the lugger will be off the coast here and send
a boat ashore for us. So you have got five or six hours yet, and I
should say the best thing you can do is to turn in and sleep till then.
There are plenty of blankets in that corner and a pile of sheep-skins
that you can sleep on."

Julian nodded, threw two or three of the sheep-skins down in a corner,
rolled another up for a pillow, drew a blanket over him, and for the
first time looked round the cave. It was lighted only by a small hole
used as a look-out; at present a blanket hung before this. There was a
door similar to that by which he had entered from above leading to the
lower cave. How far that lower entrance might be below them Julian had
no means of knowing, but from the view he had obtained of the sea
through a large loop-hole he had passed in his descent, he did not think
that the cavern he was in could be less than seventy or eighty feet
above the water. The sole ventilation, as far as he could see, was the
current of air that found its way in through the door from below, and
passed up through that above, and what could come in through the
loop-hole seawards. Doubtless in warmer weather both the doors stood
open, but were now closed more for warmth than for any other purpose,
although he had noticed that the lower one had been bolted and locked
after he had been first captured.

As he lay down he wondered how it was all going to end. His position was
at once perilous and uncertain. He had, so far, escaped better than he
could have expected, for from the looks the Frenchmen had given him, he
had no doubt what his fate would have been had not the man he had been
chasing spoken in his favour. His life therefore seemed for the present
safe, but the future was very dark. The poacher had spoken as if he was
not likely to return for some years. They surely could not intend to
keep him on board ship all that time. Could they mean to put him upon
some vessel sailing abroad? What a way Frank and his aunt would be in!
They would learn that he had started for home early in the afternoon,
and it would be absolutely certain that he could not have strayed from
the road nor met with any accident coming along the valley. It would
certainly be awkward his being missed on the same day Faulkner had been
shot, especially as, according to the time he had started for home, he
would have come along the road somewhere about the time the magistrate
was shot.

It was a horrible thought that suspicion might fall upon him. Those who
knew him would be sure that he could have had nothing whatever to do
with the murder; still, the more he thought of it the more he felt that
suspicions were certain to rise, and that he would find it extremely
difficult to explain matters on his return. The memory of his quarrel
with the magistrate was fresh in everybody's mind, and even his friends
might well consider it singular that his words to Faulkner should so
soon have been carried into effect. It is true that Joe Markham would be
missing too, and that the man's own acquaintances would have no great
difficulty in guessing that he had carried out his threats against
Faulkner, but they would certainly not communicate their opinion to the
constables, and the latter might not think of the man in connection with
the murder, nor notice that he was no longer to be seen about the town.

Even were he himself free to leave the cave now and return to Weymouth,
he would find himself in a most awkward position. There was, of course,
no shadow of evidence against him save that he was known to have
quarrelled with Faulkner, and must have been very near the spot the
moment he was killed, but how could he explain six or seven hours'
absence? He could but say that he had caught sight of a man in the
plantation and followed him for miles among the hills, and had lost
sight of him at last. He had not a shadow of evidence to produce in
confirmation of his story; in fact there was no direct evidence either
way. There could be no doubt he would have to remain under a cloud of
suspicion. It was bad enough before, but this would be altogether
intolerable, and it was perhaps best, after all, that he was to be taken
away, and his future decided for him.

He should have gone anyhow, and no doubt he would be able to get some
opportunity of writing to Frank and setting his mind at rest as to his
safety, and telling him something about what had happened, and that he
had been kidnapped and carried over to France. He had acted like a fool,
no doubt, but Frank would understand why he had followed his first
impulse and gone alone after the man who committed the murder, instead
of going to the constables and telling them that some unknown man had
killed the magistrate. One thing seemed certain, he should never be able
to go back to Weymouth again unless the affair was cleared up, and he
did not see how that ever could be.

At this point Julian's thoughts became confused. The voices of the men
talking at the table seemed to get further and further away, and then he
was conscious of nothing more until he heard a bell tinkle faintly
somewhere overhead. There was a movement in the cave, and he sat up. All
the men went out by the upper door. When they had left he got up and
went to see if the lower door was so fastened that he could not open it.
He had no idea of breaking his word, but did so out of curiosity rather
than from any other feeling. He found that the bolts could be pulled
back, but that the lock was a very strong one, and the jamb was, at the
point where the bolt shot into it, covered with a piece of iron, so that
no instrument could be used for forcing back the bolt.

"It may be," he thought, "that some other prisoner has been confined
here at some time or other, or possibly this has been done in order that
if the trap-door above should be found, and the revenue men come down
that way, the smugglers in their flight might lock the door behind them
and so have time to get away in a boat or along at the foot of the
cliffs before their pursuers could get down to the lower entrance and
open fire upon them."

Then he lay down again. He wondered whether the pull of the bell he had
heard could be hidden in the grass like the handle of the trap. It might
only be a very small knob, but he had looked so closely among the
bushes that he wondered it had escaped him. In three or four minutes the
French captain came down again, and walked across to where he was lying:

"_Pauvre diable!_" he muttered, and then went back to the table, filled
himself a glass of spirits and water, and lit his pipe. A moment later a
thought seemed to strike him, and he came across to Julian again and
touched him. He at once sat up. The Frenchman motioned him to come to
the table, went to a cupboard, brought out a wooden platter with a large
lump of cold beef and a loaf of bread and some cheese, poured him out a
horn of brandy and water, and motioned him to eat. Julian attacked the
food vigorously. He had had some lunch with his friends before starting
for his walk back to Weymouth, but that had been nearly seven hours
before, and his run across the hills in the keen air had given him a
sharp appetite, so he did full justice to the food.

"This is not a bad fellow after all," he said to himself, as the
smuggler, when he had finished, brought out a box of cigars and placed
it before him. "He would have knocked me on the head without
compunction, in the way of business; but now when he has concluded that
I am not dangerous, he comes out as a good fellow." He nodded pleasantly
to the Frenchman as he lit the cigar, which was an excellent one, and
far better than any Julian had been accustomed to smoke with his
associates in the billiard room.

The Frenchman's thoughts were not dissimilar to his own. "He is a brave
_garçon_," he said to himself, "and makes the best of things. He is a
fine-looking fellow, too, and will be a big man in another year or two.
It is a misfortune that we have got to take him and shut him up in
prison. Why did he mix himself up in this affair of Markham? That is the
way with boys. Instead of being grateful to the man that had killed his
enemy, he must needs run after him as if he had done him an injury.
Well, it can't be helped now; but, at least, I will make him as
comfortable as I can as long as he is on board the lugger."

In another half hour Joe Markham returned with the French sailors.
"There is a big stir down in Weymouth," he said to Julian. "I heard from
our friend that the place is like a hive of bees. I tell you, Mr. Wyatt,
that it is a lucky thing for you that you found the trap-door and came
down here. You mayn't like being our prisoner; but it is a lot better
than being in a cell down in Weymouth with a charge of murder hanging
over you, which you would have been if you had gone straight back
again."

"A charge of murder!" Julian repeated, springing to his feet. "How could
such a charge be brought? It could not have been known so soon that I
was missing. I must go back and face it. If I run away, now I have been
openly accused, everyone will make sure of my guilt."

"Well, sir, I should say it is a sight better that they should suspect
you, and you safely over in France, than that they should suspect you
with you in their hands; but at any rate, you see you have no choice in
the matter. You could only clear yourself by bringing me into it; though
I doubt, as things have turned out, that that would help you a bit."

"I warn you that I shall make my escape, and come back again as soon as
I can," Julian said passionately.

"Well, sir, if you have a fancy for hanging, of course you can do so;
but from what I hear, hanging it would be, as sure as you stand there.
There is a warrant out against you, and the constables are scouring all
the country."

"But what possible ground can they have to go upon except that smuggling
affair?"

"Well, if what our friend told me is true, they have very good grounds,
as they think, to go on. He was talking with one of the constables, and
he told him that Faulkner is not dead yet, though he ain't expected to
last till morning. His servants came out to look for him when the horse
came back to the house without him. A man rode into Weymouth for the
doctor, and another went to Colonel Chambers and Mr. Harrington. By the
time they got there Faulkner was conscious, and they took his dying
deposition. He said that he had had a row with you a short distance
before he had got to his gate, and that you said you would be even with
him. As he was riding up through the wood to his house, he suddenly
heard a gun and at the same moment fell from his horse. A minute later
you came out from the wood at the point where the shot had been fired.
You had a gun in your hand. Feeling sure that your intention was to
ascertain if he was done for, and to finish him off if you found that he
was not, he shut his eyes and pretended to be dead. You stooped over
him, and then made off at full speed. Now, sir, that will be awkward
evidence to get over, and you must see that you will be a long way safer
in France than you would in Weymouth."

Julian sank down, crushed by the blow. He saw that what the poacher said
was true. What would his unsupported assertion go for as against the
dying man's deposition? No doubt Faulkner had stated what he believed to
be the truth, though he might not have given quite a fair account of
what had taken place in the road; still, there would be no
cross-examining him as to what had passed there, and his statement would
stand unchallenged. As things now stood, Julian's own story that he had
pursued a man over the hills, and had lost him, would, wholly
unsupported as it was, be received with absolute incredulity. He had
been at the spot certainly at the time. He had had words with Faulkner;
he had had a gun in his hands; he had come out and leaned over the
wounded man within less than a minute of the shot being fired. The chain
of evidence against him seemed to be complete, and he sat appalled at
the position in which he found himself.

"Look here, youngster," the poacher said, "it is a bad job, and I don't
say it isn't. I am sorry for you, but I ain't so sorry as to go and give
myself up and get hung in your place; but I'll tell you what I will do.
When I get across to France I will draw up a statement and swear it
before a magistrate, giving an account of the whole affair, and I will
put it in a tin case and always carry it about with me. I will direct it
to Colonel Chambers, and whenever anything happens to me it shall be
sent to him. I am five-and-twenty years older than you are, and the life
I lead ain't likely to give me old age. To make matters safer, I will
have two copies made of my statement--one I will leave in the hands of
one of our friends here. The craft I am in may be wrecked some day, or
sunk by one of the cutters; anyhow, whichever way it comes, he is
certain to hear of my death, and I shall tell him that when he hears of
it he is to send that letter to Chambers."

"Thank you," Julian said earnestly. "It may not come for a long time,
but it will be something for me to know that some day or other my name
will be cleared of this horrible accusation; but I would rather have
gone and faced it out now."

"It would be just suicide," the man said. "Weymouth ain't the only place
in the world; and it is better for you to live out of it, and know you
will get cleared some day, than to get hung, with only the consolation
that perhaps twenty years hence they may find out they have made a
mistake."

"It isn't so much myself I am thinking of as my brother and aunt. My
going away and never sending them a word will be like confessing my
guilt. It will ruin my brother's life, and kill my aunt."

"Well, I'll tell you what I will do," Markham said. "You shall write a
letter to your brother, and tell him your story, except, of course,
about this cave. You can say you followed me, and that I and some
smugglers sprang on you and captured you, and have carried you across to
France. All the rest you can tell just as it happened. I don't know as
it will do me any harm. Your folks may believe it, but no one else is
likely to do so. I don't mean to go back to Weymouth again, and if I did
that letter would not be evidence that anyone would send me to trial on.
Anyhow, I will risk that."

"Thank you, with all my heart," Julian said gratefully. "I shall not so
much mind, if Frank and Aunt get my story. I know that they will believe
it if no one else does, and they can move away from Weymouth to some
place where it will not follow them. It won't be so hard for me to bear
then, especially if some day the truth gets to be known. Only please
direct your letters to 'Colonel Chambers, or the Chairman of the
Weymouth magistrates,' because he is at least ten years older than you
are, and might die long before you, and the letter might never be opened
if directed only to him."

"Right you are, lad. I will see to that."

Just at this moment one of the sailors came down from the look-out
above, and said that the signal had just been made from the offing, and
that the lugger's boat would be below in a quarter of an hour. All
prepared for departure; the lower door was unbolted, the lights
extinguished, and they went down to the lower entrance. It was reached
by a staircase cut in the chalk, and coming down into a long and narrow
passage, at the further end of which was the opening Julian had seen
from the sea. The party gathered at the entrance. In a few minutes a
boat with muffled oars approached silently; a rope was lowered, a noose
at its upper end being placed over a short iron bar projecting three or
four inches from the chalk a foot or two inside the entrance.

The French captain went down first. Julian was told to follow. The
sailors and Markham then descended. A sharp jerk shook the rope off the
bar, and the boat then rowed out to the smuggler, which was lying half a
mile from shore. As soon as they were on board the sails were sheeted
home, and the craft began to steal quietly through the water, towing the
boat behind it. The whole operation had been conducted in perfect
silence. The men were accustomed to their work; there was no occasion
for orders, and it was not until they were another mile out that a word
was spoken.

"All has gone off well," the captain then said. "We got the laces and
silks safely away, and the money has been paid for them. The revenue
cutter started early this morning, and was off Lyme Regis this
afternoon, so we shall have a clear run out. We will keep on the course
we are laying till we are well beyond the race, and then make for the
west. We have sent word for them to be on the look-out for us at the old
place near Dartmouth to-morrow night, and if we are not there then, the
night after; if there is danger, they are to send up a rocket from the
hill inland."

The wind was but light, and keeping a smart look-out for British
cruisers, and lowering their sails down once or twice when a suspicious
sail was seen in the distance, they approached the rocky shore some two
miles east of the entrance to the bay at ten o'clock on the second
evening after starting. A lantern was raised twice above the bulwark,
kept there for an instant, and then lowered.

"I expect it is all right," the captain said, "or they would have sent
up a rocket before this. Half-past eight is the time arranged, and I
think we are about off the landing place. Ah, yes, there is the signal!"
he broke off as a light was shown for a moment close down to the water's
edge. "Yes, there it is again! Lower the anchor gently; don't let it
splash."

A light anchor attached to a hawser was silently let down into the
water.

"Now, off with the hatches; get up the kegs."

While some of the men were engaged at this work, others lowered the
second boat, and this, and the one towing behind, were brought round to
the side. Julian saw that all the men were armed with cutlasses, and had
pistols in their belts. Rapidly the kegs were brought up on deck and
lowered into the boat.

"Ah, here comes Thompson," the captain said, as a very small boat rowed
up silently out of the darkness. "Well, my friend, is all safe?" he
asked in broken English as the boat came alongside.

"Safe enough, captain. Most of the revenue men have gone round from here
to the other side of the bay, where they got news, as they thought, that
a cargo was going to be run. The man on duty here has been squared, and
will be away at the other end of his beat. The carts are ready, a
quarter of a mile away. I made you out with my glass just before sunset,
and sent round word at once to our friends to be in readiness."

The boats started as soon as their cargoes were on board, and the work
went on uninterruptedly for the next two hours, by which time the last
keg was on shore, and the boats returned to the lugger. The men were in
high spirits. The cargo had been a valuable one, and the whole had been
got rid of without interruption. The boats were at once hoisted up, the
anchor weighed, and the lugger made her way out to sea.

"What port do you land at?" Julian asked Markham.

"We shall go up the Loire to Nantes," he replied; "she hails from there.
To-morrow morning you had best put on that sailor suit I gave you
to-day. Unless the wind freshens a good deal we sha'n't be there for
three or four days, but I fancy, from the look of the sky, that it will
blow up before morning, and, as likely as not, we shall get more than we
want by evening. There is generally a cruiser or two off the mouth of
the river. In a light wind we can show them our heels easily enough, but
if it is blowing at all their weight tells. I am glad to be at sea
again, lad, after being cooped up in that cursed prison for two years.
It seems to make a new man of one. I don't know but that I am sorry I
shot that fellow. I don't say that he didn't deserve it, for he did; but
I don't see it quite so strongly as I did when I was living on bread and
water, and with nothing to do but to think of how I could get even with
him when I got out; besides, I never calculated upon getting anyone else
into a mess, and I am downright sorry that I got you into one, Mr.
Wyatt. However, the job is done, and it is no use crying over spilt
milk."

Markham's prediction turned out correct. A fresh wind was blowing by the
morning, and two days later the lugger was running along, close under
the coast, fifteen miles south of the mouth of the Loire, having kept
that course in order to avoid any British cruisers that might be off the
mouth of the river. Before morning they had passed St. Nazaire, and were
running up the Loire.



CHAPTER V

FOLLOWING A TRAIL


Frank had started early for a walk with one of his school friends.
Returning through the town at three in the afternoon, he saw people
talking in groups. They presently met one of their chums.

"What is going on, Vincent?"

"Why, have you not heard? Faulkner, the magistrate, has been shot."

"Shot!" the two boys exclaimed. "Do you mean on purpose or
accidentally?"

"On purpose. The servants heard a gun fired close by, and a minute later
his horse galloped up to the door. Two men ran along the drive, and, not
a hundred yards from the house, found him lying shot through the body.
Three of the doctors went off at once. Thompson came back ten minutes
ago, for some instruments, I believe. He stopped his gig for a moment to
speak to the Rector, and I hear he told him that it might be as well for
him to go up at once, as there was very little probability of Faulkner's
living through the night."

"Well, I can't say that I am surprised," Frank said. "He has made
himself so disliked, there are so many men who have a grudge against
him, and he has been threatened so often, that I have heard fellows say
dozens of times he would be shot some day. And yet I suppose no one ever
really thought that it would come true; anyhow it is a very bad affair."

Leaving the other two talking together, Frank went on home. Mrs.
Troutbeck was greatly shocked at the news.

"Dear, dear!" she said, "what dreadful doings one does hear of. Who
would have thought that a gentleman, and a magistrate too, could have
been shot in broad daylight within a mile or two of us. I did not know
him myself, but I have always heard that he was very much disliked, and
it is awful to think that he has been taken away like this."

"Well, Aunt, I don't pretend to be either surprised or shocked. If a man
spends his life in going out of his way to hunt others down, he must not
be surprised if at last one of them turns on him. On the bench he was
hated; it was not only because he was severe, but because of his
bullying way. See how he behaved in that affair with Julian. I can't say
I feel any pity for him at all, he has sent many a man to the gallows,
and now his time has come."

At five o'clock it was already dusk, the shutters had been closed, and
the lamp lighted. Presently the servant entered.

"There is someone wants to speak to you, Master Frank."

Frank went out into the hall. The head of the constabulary and two of
his men were standing there. Much surprised, Frank asked the officer
into the other sitting-room.

"What is it, Mr. Henderson?" he said.

"It is a very sad business, a very sad business, Mr. Wyatt. Your brother
is not at home, I hear?"

"No. Julian went over this morning to have a day's rabbit-shooting with
Dick Merryweather. I expect it won't be long before he is back. There is
nothing the matter with him?" he asked, with a vague feeling of alarm at
the gravity of the officer's face.

"It is a very painful matter, Mr. Wyatt; but it is useless trying to
hide the truth from you, for you must know it shortly. I hold a warrant
for your brother's arrest on the charge of attempted wilful murder."

Frank's eyes dilated with surprise and horror.

"You don't mean--" he gasped, and then his faith in his brother came to
his aid, and he broke off indignantly: "it is monstrous, perfectly
monstrous, Mr. Henderson. I suppose it is Faulkner, and it is because of
that wretched smuggling business that suspicions fall on him, as if
there were not a hundred others who owe the man a much deeper grudge
than my brother did; indeed he had no animosity against him at all, for
Julian got the best of it altogether, and Faulkner has been hissed and
hooted every time he has been in the town since. If there was any
ill-feeling left over that matter, it would be on his part and not on
Julian's. Who signed the warrant? Faulkner himself?"

"No; it is signed by the Colonel and Mr. Harrington. They took the dying
deposition of Mr. Faulkner. There is no harm in my telling you that,
because it must be generally known when your brother is brought up, but
till then please do not let it go further. He has sworn that he overtook
Mr. Wyatt two or three hundred yards before he got to his own gate.
There was an altercation between them, and he swears that your brother
used threats. He had a double-barrelled gun in his hand, and as Faulkner
was riding up the drive to the house he was fired at from the trees on
his left, and fell from his horse. Almost directly afterwards Mr. Wyatt
ran out from the spot where the gun had been fired. Thinking he would
finish him if he thought he was still alive, Mr. Faulkner closed his
eyes and held his breath. Your brother came up and stood over him, and
having satisfied himself that he was dead, ran off through the trees
again."

"I believe it is a lie from beginning to end," Frank said passionately.
"Julian has brought him into disgrace here, and the fellow invented this
charge out of revenge. If it had been in the road, and Faulkner had
struck Julian as he did before, and Julian had had his loaded gun in his
hand, I don't say but that in his passion he might have shot him; still,
I don't believe he would, even then. Julian is one of the best-tempered
fellows in the world; still, I would admit that, in the heat of the
moment, he might raise his gun and fire, but to say that he loaded his
gun after Faulkner had gone on--for I am sure it was empty as he came
along, as I have never known him to bring home his gun loaded--and that
he then went and hid behind a tree and shot a man down. Why, I would not
believe it if fifty honest men swore to it, much less on the oath of a
fellow like Faulkner."

"I can't say anything about that, Mr. Wyatt; I have only my duty to do."

"Yes, I understand that, Mr. Henderson. Of course he must be arrested,
but I am sure no one will believe the accusation for a minute. Oh!" he
exclaimed, as a fresh idea struck him, "what was Faulkner shot with?"

"It is a bullet wound."

"Well, that is quite enough," Frank exclaimed triumphantly. "Julian had
his double-barrelled gun with him, and had been rabbit-shooting; and if
it had been he who fired it would have been with a charge of shot. You
don't suppose he went about with a bullet in his pocket to use in case
he happened to meet Faulkner, and have another row with him. Julian
never fired a bullet in his life, as far as I know. There is not such a
thing as a bullet-mould in the house."

The officer's look of gravity relaxed. "That is important, certainly,"
he said, "very important. I own that after hearing the deposition read
it did seem to me that, as the result of this unfortunate quarrel, your
brother might have been so goaded by something Mr. Faulkner said or did,
that he had hastily loaded his gun, and in his passion run across the
wood and shot him down. But now it is clear, from what you say, that it
is most improbable he would have a bullet about him, and unless it can
be proved that he obtained one from a gunmaker or otherwise, it is a
very strong point in his favour. I suppose your brother has not returned
this afternoon?"

"No. I asked the servant, when I got home at three, whether he had
returned, though I did not expect him back so soon, and she said that he
had not come in, and I am sure he has not done so since."

"Then I will not intrude any longer. I shall place one of my men in
front of the house and one behind, and if he comes home his arrest will
be managed quietly, and we will not bring him in here at all. It will
save a painful scene."

When the officer had left, Frank returned to his aunt.

"What is it, Frank?" she asked.

"Well, Aunt, it is a more absurd affair than the other; but, absurd as
it is, it is very painful. There is a warrant out for the arrest of
Julian on the charge of attempting to murder Mr. Faulkner."

Mrs. Troutbeck gave a cry, and then burst into a fit of hysterical
laughter. After vainly trying to pacify her, Frank went out for the
servant, but as her wild screams of laughter continued he put on his
hat and ran for the family doctor, who lived but a few doors away. He
briefly related the circumstances of the case to him, and then brought
him back to the house. It was a long time before the violence of the
paroxysm passed, leaving Mrs. Troutbeck so weak that she had to be
carried by Frank and the doctor up to her room.

"Don't you worry yourself, Aunt," Frank said, as they laid her down upon
the bed; "it will all come out right, just as the last did. It will all
be cleared up, no doubt, in a very short time."

As soon as the maid had undressed Mrs. Troutbeck, and had got her into
bed, the doctor went up and gave her an opiate, and then went down into
the parlour to Frank, who told him the story in full, warning him that
he must say nothing about the deposition of Mr. Faulkner until it had
been read in court.

"It is a very grave affair, Frank," the old doctor said. "Having known
your brother from his childhood, I am as convinced as you are that,
however much of this deposition be true or false, Julian never fired the
shot; and what you say about the bullet makes it still more conclusive,
if that were needed--which it certainly is not with me. Your brother had
an exceedingly sweet and even temper. Your father has often spoken to me
of it, almost with regret, saying that it would be much better if he had
a little more will of his own and a little spice more of temper. Still,
it is most unfortunate that he hasn't returned. Of course, he may have
met some friend in the town and gone home with him, or he may have
stayed at Mr. Merryweather's."

"I don't think he can have stopped in the town anyhow," Frank said; "for
the first thing he would have heard when he got back would have been of
the shooting of Faulkner, and he would have been sure to have come home
to talk it over with me. Of course, he may have stopped with the
Merryweathers, but I am afraid he has not. I fancy that part of
Faulkner's story must be true; he could never have accused Julian if he
had not met him near his gate--for Julian in that case could have easily
proved where he was at the time. No, I think they did meet, and very
likely had a row. You know what Faulkner is; and I can understand that
if he met Julian he would most likely say something to him, and there
might then be a quarrel; but I think that his story about Julian coming
out and looking at him is either pure fancy or a lie. No doubt he was
thinking of him as he rode along; and, badly wounded as he was, perhaps
altogether insensible, he may have imagined the rest."

"That is all quite possible," the doctor agreed; "but in that case
Julian's not coming home is all the more extraordinary. If he met
Faulkner between two and three o'clock, what can he have been doing
since?"

This was a question Frank could not answer.

"I can't tell, sir," he said after a long pause; "I really can't
imagine. Still, nothing in the world would make me believe that Julian
did what he is charged with."

Several times Frank went outside the door, but the constable was still
there. At last, after sitting and looking at the fire for some time he
put on his cap and went to the residence of the chief constable.

"Excuse me, Mr. Henderson, but I have been thinking it over ever since
you left. Whoever did this murder did not probably return to the road,
but struck off somewhere across the fields. There was snow enough in the
middle of the day to cover the ground; it stopped falling at two
o'clock, and has not snowed since. Might I suggest that in the morning a
search should be made round the edge of the wood. If there are
footprints found it might be of great importance."

"You are quite right, Mr. Wyatt, and I had already determined to go
myself, with a couple of constables, at daylight."

"May I go with you, sir?"

"If you please. But you must remember that the evidence of footprints
which we may find may be unfavourable to your brother."

"I have not the slightest fear of that," Frank said confidently.

"Very well, then, Mr. Wyatt. The two constables will be here at
half-past seven, and I shall be ready to start with them at once. Should
you by any chance be late, you will, no doubt, be able to overtake us
before we get there."

The next morning Frank was at the office half an hour before the
appointed time. Fortunately no snow had fallen in the night. The chief
constable looked grave and anxious when the search began; Frank was
excited rather than anxious. He had no fear whatever as to the result of
the investigation; it would disclose nothing, he felt certain, to
Julian's disadvantage. The continued absence of the latter was
unaccountable to him, but he felt absolutely certain that it would be
explained satisfactorily on his return.

The moment they got across the hedge into the fields skirting the wood
the chief constable exclaimed:

"Stay, men; here are footprints by the edge of the trees! Do not come
out until I have carefully examined them. Do you not think," he went on,
turning to Frank, "that it would be much better that you should not go
further with me, for you see I might have to call you as a witness?"

"Not at all, Mr. Henderson; whatever we find, I shall have no objection
to being a witness, for I am certain that we shall find nothing that
will tend to incriminate my brother. I see what you are thinking
of--that these footprints were Julian's. That is my own idea too. At any
rate, they are the marks of a well-made boot of large size, without
heavy nails."

The constable nodded. "There are two sets," he said, "one going each
way; and by the distance they are apart, and the fact that the heel is
not as deeply marked as the rest of the print, whoever made them was
running."

"Certainly," Frank agreed; "he ran up to the hedge and then turned. Why
should he have done that?"

"Probably because he saw some vehicle or some persons walking along the
road, and did not wish to be seen."

"Possibly so, Mr. Henderson; but in that case, why did he not keep among
the trees both coming and going, instead of exposing himself, as he must
have done running here; for the hedge is thin, and any one walking
along, much less driving, could have seen him."

Mr. Henderson looked at Frank with a closer scrutiny than he had before
given him.

"You are an acute observer, Mr. Wyatt. The point is an important one. A
man wishing to avoid observation would certainly have kept among the
trees. Now, let us follow these footprints along; we may learn something
further."

Presently they came to the point where Julian had come out from the
wood.

"You see he was in the wood, Mr. Wyatt," the constable said.

"I quite see that," Frank said. "If these are the marks of Julian's
boots--and I think they are--we have now found out that he came out of
the wood at this point, ran for some purpose or other, and without an
attempt at concealment, as far as the hedge; then turned and ran back
again, past the point where he had left the wood. Now let us see what he
did afterwards--it may give us a clue to the whole matter."

Fifty yards further they came on the spot where Julian had turned off on
the poacher's track.

"There it is, Mr. Henderson!" Frank exclaimed triumphantly. "Another man
came out of the wood here--a man with roughly-made boots with hob-nails.
That man came out first; that is quite evident. The tracks are all in a
line, and Julian's are in many places on the top of the other's. They
were both running fast. But if you look you will see that Julian's
strides are the longest, and, therefore, he was probably running the
fastest."

"It is as you say, Mr. Wyatt. The lighter footprints obliterate those of
the heavier boots in several places. What can be the meaning of this,
and what can the second man have been doing in the wood?"

"The whole thing is perfectly plain to me," Frank said excitedly.
"Julian was in the road, he heard the report of the gun close by in the
wood, and perhaps heard a cry; he jumped over the hedge and made for the
spot, and possibly, as Mr. Faulkner said, ran into the drive and stooped
over him; then he started in pursuit of the murderer, of whom he may
possibly have obtained a sight. There was not enough snow under the
trees for him to follow the footprints, he therefore ran to the edge of
the wood, and then to the road, in search of the man's track. Then he
turned and ran back again till he came upon them leaving the wood, and
then set off in pursuit."

"By Jove! Mr. Wyatt," the officer said, "I do think that your
explanation is the right one. Give me your hand, lad; I had no more
doubt five minutes ago that your brother had, in a fit of passion, shot
Mr. Faulkner than I have that I am standing here now. But I declare I
think now that he acted as you say. How you have struck upon it beats me
altogether."

"I have been thinking of nothing else all the night, Mr. Henderson. I
put myself in Julian's position, and it seemed to me that, hearing a gun
fired so close at hand, even if he did not hear a cry, Julian knowing
how often the man had been threatened, might at once have run to the
spot, and might have behaved just as Faulkner says he did. All that
seemed to me simple enough; Julian's absence was the only difficulty,
and the only way I could possibly account for it, was that he had
followed the murderer."

"It was very imprudent," Mr. Henderson said gravely.

"Very; but it was just the sort of thing Julian would have done."

"But, however far he went, he ought to be back before this."

"That is what I am anxious about, Mr. Henderson. Of course he ought to
be back. I am terribly afraid that something has happened to him. This
man, whoever he was, must have been a desperate character, and having
taken one life from revenge, he would not hesitate to take another to
secure his own safety. He had a great advantage over Julian, for, as we
know, his gun carried bullets, while Julian had nothing but small shot.
Which way shall we go next, Mr. Henderson--shall we follow the track or
go into the wood?"

"We will go into the wood; that will take us a comparatively short time,
and there is no saying how far the other may lead us. But, before we do
so, I will call up my two men, take them over the ground, and show them
the discoveries we have made. It is as well to have as many witnesses as
possible."

The two constables were called up and taken along the line of track, and
the chief constable pointed out to them that the man with well-made
boots was evidently running after the other. Then they entered the wood.
Carefully searching, they found here and there prints of both the boots.
They went out into the drive, and, starting from the spot where Mr.
Faulkner had been found, made for a large tree some thirty yards to the
left.

"Just as I thought," Mr. Henderson said. "Someone has been standing
here, and, I should think, for some little time. You can see that the
ground is kicked up a bit, and, though it was too hard to show the marks
of the boots plainly, there are many scratches and grooves, such as
would be made by hob-nails. Now, lads, search about closely; if we can
find the wad it will be a material point."

After five minutes' search one of the men picked up a piece of
half-burned paper. Frank uttered an exclamation of satisfaction as he
held it up.

"Julian always used wads. This never came from his gun. Now let us go
back to the tree, Mr. Henderson, and see which way the man went after
firing the shot."

After careful search they found the heavy footprints at several spots
where the snow lay, and near them also found traces of the lighter
boots. The trees then grew thicker, but following the line indicated by
the footprints, they came to the spot where he had left the wood.

"You see, Mr. Henderson," Frank said, "Julian lost the footprints just
where we did, and bore a little more to the left, striking the edge of
the wood between where the man had left it and the road. Now, sir, we
have only to find the spot where Julian first left the road, and try to
trace his footsteps from there to the spot where Mr. Faulkner was lying.
We know that the shot was fired from behind that tree--and if my
brother's footsteps miss this spot altogether, I think the case will be
absolutely proved."

They went back into the road, and found where Julian had crossed the
untrodden snow between it and the hedge, and had pushed his way through
the latter. It was only here and there that footprints could be found;
but, fortunately, some ten yards to the right of the tree there was an
open space, and across this he had evidently run.

"You have proved your case, Mr. Wyatt," the chief constable said,
shaking Frank cordially by the hand. "I am indeed glad. Whoever the man
was who shot Mr. Faulkner, it was certainly not your brother. Now let us
start at once on the tracks."

Frank's face became more serious than it had been during the previous
search, as soon as they took up the double track across the fields.
Before, he had felt absolutely confident that whatever they might find
it could only tend to clear Julian from this terrible accusation; now,
upon the contrary, he feared that any discovery they might make would
confirm his suspicions that evil had befallen him. Scarcely a word was
spoken as they passed along the fields.

"The man with the hob-nailed boots is taking to the hills," the chief
constable remarked.

"I am afraid so, Mr. Henderson; and as they are bare of snow there will
be no chance of our following him."

When they came to the point where the snow ended they stopped.

"There is an end of our search, Mr. Wyatt. We must return to the town.
The magistrates will meet at eleven o'clock, and I and the constables
must be there. But I will send off two men directly we get back, to go
along the cliffs and question all the men who were on duty yesterday
afternoon as to whether they saw two men with guns crossing the hills,
one being probably some distance behind the other. I think, perhaps, you
had better come to the court. I don't say that it will be absolutely
necessary, but I think it would be better that you should do so; and you
see it would be useless for you to be hunting over those hills alone. As
soon as the court is over I will take four men and will myself start to
search for him. There is no saying whether we may not find some sign or
other. I shall be glad if you will go with me; you have shown yourself a
born detective this morning, for had you been trained to it all your
life you could not have followed the scent up more unerringly."

"I will certainly go with you, Mr. Henderson, and I will be at the
court-house. I would start at once for the hills, but I have had nothing
to eat this morning, and, what is much more important, I want to ease
my aunt's mind. Of course, she was as certain as I was that Julian had
nothing whatever to do with this, but naturally it will be an immense
relief to her to know that the suspicion of so dreadful a crime no
longer rests on him."

When Frank returned home he found that Mrs. Troutbeck was so prostrated
with the shock that she was still in bed, where the doctor had ordered
her to remain. As soon, however, as she heard that Frank was back, she
sent down for him to come up. Her delight was extreme when he told her
of the discoveries he had made, and that the constables had no doubt the
warrant for Julian's arrest would be withdrawn. She became anxious again
when she found that Frank could give no satisfactory explanation of his
long absence.

"I would not trouble about it, Aunt," he said, soothingly; "no doubt we
shall hear of him before long. Let us be content that he has come well
out of this terrible accusation, just as he did from the former charge,
and let us hope that the explanation of his absence will be just as
satisfactory when we hear it. Even if I thought that Julian had got into
any trouble, it would be infinitely easier to bear than a knowledge that
he was suspected of murder, for it would have been murder, Aunt. I heard
just now that Faulkner died last night."

The meeting of magistrates was an informal one, as they agreed, directly
they heard that Julian was not in custody, that they could proceed no
further in the matter. Mr. Henderson, after answering their first
question, followed them into their private room.

"So you did not lay hands on him last night," Colonel Chambers said. "We
shall have to alter the warrant, for I find that Mr. Faulkner is dead."

"I think, gentlemen," the chief constable said quietly, "that after you
have heard what I have to tell, you will have to withdraw the warrant
altogether."

"Eh! what? Do you mean to say, Henderson, that you think the young
fellow did not fire the shot after all? I would give a hundred pounds if
I could think so, but, with Faulkner's deposition before us, I don't see
how there can be any possible doubt in the matter. Besides, I was
present when he gave it, and though it may have been coloured a good
deal by his feeling against young Wyatt, I am convinced that he
believed, at any rate, that he was speaking the truth."

"I have no doubt he did, sir, and I had no more doubt than you have as
to Mr. Wyatt's guilt; indeed, until his brother pointed out one very
important fact, nothing would have persuaded me that he did not fire the
shot. I don't say that it was at all conclusive, but it sufficed to show
that the matter was by no means so certain as it seemed to be. I found
him at the house when I went there to arrest his brother. Of course, the
young fellow was greatly shocked when I told him the nature of the
charge, and declared it to be absolutely impossible. So certain was he,
that even when I told him the nature of Mr. Faulkner's depositions, he
was more puzzled than alarmed. The first question he asked was whether
Mr. Faulkner had been killed by shot or by a ball. When I said by a ball
his face cleared up altogether. His brother, he said, and as we know,
had been rabbit-shooting at Mr. Merryweather's. He would have had small
shot with him, but young Wyatt said that he did not think his brother
had ever fired a bullet in his life. He knew there was not such a thing
as a bullet in the house. Mr. Wyatt could not possibly have known that
he was likely to meet Mr. Faulkner on his way back from shooting, and
therefore, unless upon the rather improbable theory that he went about
with the intention of shooting Mr. Faulkner whenever he met him, and
that he had bought a bullet in the town and carried it always about with
him for the purpose, it was clear that he could not have fired that
shot."

"There is something in that, Mr. Henderson. A good deal in it, I am
ready to admit, but nothing that would really counteract the effect of
Faulkner's direct testimony, given when he knew that he was dying."

"No, sir; still it is a point that I own I had entirely overlooked;
however, that is not now so important. I will now tell you what has
taken place this morning."

And he then related the story of the discovery of the tracks, that
proved that Julian had not gone near the tree behind which the murderer
had for some time been standing, and how, after running in and finding
Mr. Faulkner's body, he had set out in pursuit of the scoundrel.

"I have the two constables outside who were with me, Colonel, and if you
like to question them, they will, I am sure, confirm my statement in all
respects."

"I am glad indeed to hear your story, Mr. Henderson," Colonel Chambers
said warmly. "The lad's father was an old friend of mine, and it was
terrible to think that his son could have committed such a dastardly
crime. What you say seems to me quite conclusive of his innocence, and,
at the same time, is not in any way in contradiction with the
deposition. I give you very great credit for the manner in which you
have unravelled this mystery."

"The credit, sir, is entirely due to Mr. Wyatt's brother. He had formed
the theory that, as in his opinion his brother was certainly innocent of
the crime, the only possible way in which he could account for his
absence from home that night was that, upon hearing the gun fired so
close at hand, Mr. Wyatt had at once run to the spot, found the body of
Mr. Faulkner, and had then immediately started in pursuit of the
murderer. Setting out with me on the search with this theory strongly
fixed in his mind, young Wyatt seized at once every point that confirmed
it, and pointed out to me that the man with heavy boots had crossed the
fields at a run, and that the other had followed as soon as he came
upon the footprints, after searching for them up and down by the edge of
the wood. Once we had got this clue to follow up, the matter was then
plain enough. The search through the wood showed us the whole
circumstances of the case, as I have related them to you, just as
plainly as if we had witnessed the affair. But if I had not been set
upon the right trail, I say honestly that I doubt whether I should have
unravelled it, especially as the snow is rapidly going, and by this
afternoon the footprints will have disappeared."

"Well, as a matter of form, we will take down your statement, Mr.
Henderson, and then take those of the constables."

"Young Mr. Wyatt is outside, if you would like to hear him, sir."

"Certainly we will," the Colonel said. "He must be a wonderfully shrewd
young fellow, and I think we ought to take his statement, if only to
record the part he played in proving his brother's innocence. But where
is the brother, Mr. Henderson; hasn't he come back yet?"

"No, sir; and I own that I regard his absence as alarming. You see the
murderer, whoever he is, was armed with a rifle, or at any rate with a
gun that carried bullets, while Mr. Wyatt had only a shot gun. Such a
fellow would certainly not suffer himself to be arrested without a
struggle, and when he found that he was being followed across the hills,
would be likely enough to shoot down his pursuer without letting him get
close enough to use his fowling-piece. I have sent two constables up to
inquire of the coast-guard men along the cliffs whether they observed
any man with a gun crossing the hills yesterday afternoon, and whether
they heard a gun fired. As soon as you have before you the statements of
the constables who were with me this morning, I intend to take them and
two others and start myself for a search over the hills, and I am very
much afraid that we shall come upon Mr. Wyatt's body."

"I sincerely hope not," Colonel Chambers said; "but I own that I can see
no other way for accounting for his absence. Well, if you will call the
clerk in, he will take down your statement at once. What do you think,
Harrington? It seems to me that when we have got the four statements we
shall be fully justified in withdrawing the warrant against young
Wyatt."

"I quite think so, Colonel. You see, the facts will all come out at the
coroner's inquest, and, when they do so, I think there will be a good
deal of strong feeling in the place if it is found that young Wyatt has
been killed while bravely trying to capture Faulkner's murderer, while
at the same time our warrant for his apprehension for the murder was
still in force."

"Yes, there is a good deal in that, Harrington. If Faulkner had not died
I think that it would have been best merely to hold the warrant over in
order that when Wyatt comes back, if he ever does come back, all these
facts might be proved publicly; now that will all be done before the
coroner."

The statements of Mr. Henderson and the two constables were taken down.
Frank was then called in.

"I congratulate you most heartily upon the innocence of your brother
having been, to our minds, so conclusively proved, and, as Mr. Henderson
tells us, chiefly owing to your shrewdness in the matter. Before you
begin, you can repeat your opinion about the bullet that you pointed out
to the chief constable last night, in order that the point may be
included in your statement. After that you can tell us the story of your
search in the wood."

When Frank had finished, Colonel Chambers said: "This is a very awkward
thing about your brother's disappearance. While giving him the fullest
credit for his courage in following a desperate man armed with a rifle,
it was certainly a rash undertaking, and I fear that he may have come to
harm."

"I don't suppose when he started, that it was so much the idea of
capturing the man, Julian had in his mind, as of seeing who he was. Had
my brother come back with only the statement that some man unknown had
shot Mr. Faulkner, his story might not have been credited. Certainly, in
the teeth of Mr. Faulkner's depositions, it would not have been believed
when there was no evidence to support it. Still, I don't suppose it had
even entered Julian's mind that any suspicion could possibly fall upon
him. I am greatly afraid that he has been killed or badly hurt; if not,
I can see but one possible way of accounting for his absence. Mr.
Faulkner was extremely active in the pursuit of smugglers, and had, we
know, received many threatening letters. If the man was a smuggler, as
seems to me likely, he may have gone to some place where he had comrades
awaiting him, and, Julian pursuing him, may have been seized and made
prisoner. You see, sir, he knew many of them, and, after the affair the
other day, was probably regarded as a friend, and they may hold him in
their keeping only until the man who fired the shot can get safely out
of reach."

"I hope that this may prove so indeed," the magistrate said. "It is at
any rate possible. And now we will detain you no longer, for Mr.
Henderson told me that you were going to accompany them in their search
among the hills. I see that it is just beginning to snow, which will, I
fear, add to your difficulties."

For some days an active search was maintained, but no trace was
discovered of Julian Wyatt, or of the man whom he had followed. From
inquiries that had been instituted in the town, the chief constable had
learned that the man Markham, who had a few weeks before returned after
serving out his sentence for poaching in Mr. Faulkner's preserves, had
disappeared from his lodgings on the day of the murder and had not
returned. As he was known to have uttered many threats against the
magistrate, a warrant was issued for his arrest on the day after the
coroner's jury, having heard the whole of the evidence, brought in a
verdict that Mr. Faulkner had been wilfully murdered by a person or
persons unknown.



CHAPTER VI

A COMMISSION


About a week after the coroner's inquest, the servant one evening
brought in a letter that had been left at the door by a man who looked
like a fisherman. Frank gave a shout of joy as he glanced at the
address.

"It is Julian's handwriting, Aunt," he shouted, and then exclaimed, as
Mrs. Troutbeck, who was on the sofa, gave a low cry and fell back
fainting, "What an ass I am to blurt it out like that!" Then he rang the
bell with a vigour that brought down the rope. "Here, Mary," he
exclaimed, as the servant re-appeared at the door with a scared face,
"Aunt has fainted; do what you can for her. I will run round for the
doctor directly; but I must look at this letter first. It is from Mr.
Julian."

"Lor', sir, that is good news!" the girl exclaimed, as she hurried
across to her mistress. After the custom of her class, she had hitherto
looked upon the matter in the darkest possible light, and had joined in
the general conviction that Julian had been killed.

Julian's letter was written on board the smuggler.

"My dear Frank, I am afraid you must all have been in a horrible fright
about me, and no wonder. I am a most unfortunate fellow, and seem to be
always putting my foot in it, and yet really I don't think I was to
blame about this. In the first place, I may tell you that I am on board
a French smuggler, that we have just entered the Loire, and that in a
few hours shall be at Nantes. The smugglers will bring this letter back
to England, and as they say they shall probably sail again a few days
after they get in, I hope it will not be very long before it comes to
hand. And now as to how I got here."

Julian then related the story of the quarrel with Mr. Faulkner, of
hearing the gun fired, of running in and finding the body, and of his
pursuit of the murderer.

"After a long tramp on the hills he took to a place of hiding. I am
bound by oath to afford no clue as to where that place is, and can only
say that upon my following him in, I was pounced upon by some French
smugglers who were there with him, and trussed up like a fowl. Then
there was a discussion what to do with me, in which the man I had been
following joined. Of course I did not understand the language, but I
could see that the smugglers were in favour of cutting my throat for
having discovered their hiding-place, and that the man himself was,
contrary to what I should have expected, arguing in my favour. He had
been a smuggler as well as a poacher, but although he had murdered Mr.
Faulkner, and knew that I had pursued him for that crime, he undoubtedly
saved my life. They first made me take an oath not to reveal their
hiding-place, and then said that they should carry me over to France,
and would take steps so that I should not return to England for some
years.

"What those steps will be I cannot say, but I feel sure that they will
in some way prevent my coming back for a long time. They can't keep me
themselves, but may hand me over as a prisoner to the French
authorities. Before we sailed the man told me he had learnt that a
warrant was out against me for the murder of Faulkner, and that Faulkner
had declared it was I who shot him. If I could possibly have escaped I
would have come back to stand my trial, though I can see plainly enough
that it might go very hard with me, for there would be only my word,
which would go for nothing against Faulkner's accusation, and the fact
of our quarrel. However, I would have come rather than disappear with
this awful charge against me. The man has given me permission, not only
to write and tell you this story, but even to give you his name, which
is Joseph Markham. He had only been a short time out of prison, where he
had been sent for poaching, and he killed Faulkner simply for revenge.
He told me that he did not mind my getting his name as, in the first
place, he had no idea of returning to Weymouth, and intended making
France his home; and, in the second place, because, although you might
believe my story, no one else would, and even if he showed himself in
Weymouth, this letter, written by a man accused of the murder, would not
be accepted for a moment against him. However, there is no doubt that
the fellow has behaved extremely well to me, and I should be sorry to
get him into trouble over this business with Faulkner, which is no
affair of mine.

"You can, of course, show this letter to whom you like, but I don't
expect anyone except you and Aunt to believe it. I have hopes of being
cleared some day, for Markham has promised me to write out a full
confession of his shooting Faulkner, and to swear to it before a French
magistrate. He is going to write it in duplicate, and carry one copy
about with him, directed to Colonel Chambers, or the senior magistrate
at Weymouth, and to send the other copy to someone at home, who will
produce it in case of his death in France, or by drowning at sea. I do
not think that, if I get away, I shall return to England until I hear of
his death. I am awfully sorry for you, old fellow, and for Aunt. But
with this frightful accusation hanging over me, I don't think your
position would be better if I were to come back and be hung for murder;
and I see myself that the case is so strong against me that it would
almost certainly come to that if they laid hands on me. I am specially
sorry that this trouble should come upon you now, just as you were going
to try to get a commission, for of course they could hardly give one to
a fellow whose brother is accused of murder, and if they did, your
position in the army would be intolerable. Now, good-bye, dear old
Frank; give my fond love to Aunt, who has always been too good to me. If
I get an opportunity I will write again, but I hardly fancy that I shall
get a chance to do so, as, even if I were free to write I don't see how
letters can be sent from France except through smugglers. God bless you,
old fellow.

                                       "Your unfortunate brother,

                                                       "JULIAN."

Happily, by the time he had finished reading the letter, the servant had
succeeded in restoring Mrs. Troutbeck.

"It is exactly what we thought, Aunt. Julian was seized by smugglers,
and has been taken over to France, and I am afraid it will be some time
before he gets back again, especially as he believes that this charge is
hanging over him. I won't read you the letter now, but to-morrow when
you are strong enough you shall read it yourself. I must take it the
first thing in the morning to Colonel Chambers, who will, I am sure, be
very glad to hear that Julian is safe, for I know that he thinks he was
shot by the man he pursued. He will be interested, too, and so will Mr.
Henderson, at seeing how exactly we were right in the conclusions we
arrived at."

Mrs. Troutbeck was quite satisfied with the explanation, and was at once
taken up to bed by the servant, while Frank, seeing that it was as yet
but eight o'clock, put on his cap and ran to Mr. Henderson's. The latter
was at home, and received with great pleasure the news that Julian was
alive. He read the letter through attentively.

"If we had seen the whole thing happen, we could not have been closer
than we were in our conclusion as to how it all came about. Well, the
news that it is Markham who shot Mr. Faulkner does not surprise me, for,
as you know, I have already a warrant out against him on the charge. I
fear that there is little chance that we shall lay hands on him now, for
he will doubtless learn from some of his associates here of the evidence
given at the coroner's inquest, and that your brother has been proved
altogether innocent of the crime. I can understand that, believing, as
he did, the evidence against Mr. Wyatt to be overwhelming, he had no
great objection to his giving his name; for, as the matter then stood,
your brother's story would only have been regarded as the attempt of a
guilty man to fix the blame of his crime on another. As it has turned
out, the letter is a piece of important evidence that might be produced
against Markham, for all the statements in it tally with the facts we
have discovered for ourselves. Still I congratulate you most heartily. I
certainly thought that your brother had been murdered, though our
efforts to find any traces of the crime have failed altogether. I am
afraid, as he says, it will be a long time before he manages to get
away; still, that is a comparatively unimportant matter, and all that I
can hope is that this fellow Markham will come to a speedy end. Of
course you will show this letter to everyone, for now that nobody
believes for a moment that your brother was Mr. Faulkner's murderer,
everyone will be glad to hear that the mystery is cleared up, and that
he is simply in France instead of being, as all supposed, buried in some
hole where his body would never be discovered.

"All that can possibly be said against him now is that he behaved
rashly in following a desperate man instead of coming back to us for
assistance; but I quite see that, under the circumstance of his
relations with the magistrate, he was doubly anxious to bring the
latter's murderer to justice, and, as we now know, the latter would
certainly have got away unsuspected had your brother not acted as he
did."

Colonel Chambers was equally pleased when Frank called upon him the next
morning, and begged him, after showing the letter to his friends, to
hand it over to him for safe keeping, as, in the event of Markham ever
being arrested, it would be valuable, if not as evidence, as affording
assistance to the prosecution.

"Do you think, Colonel Chambers, that they will be able to keep Julian
away for a long time?"

"If his supposition is a correct one, and they intend to hand him over
to the French authorities as a prisoner of war, it may be a long time
before you hear of him. There are many towns all over France where
English prisoners are confined, and it would be practically impossible
to find out where he is, or to obtain his release if you did find out,
while the two nations are at war. There are very few exchanges made, and
the chances of his being among them would be very small. However, lad,
things might have been a great deal worse. This tremendous war cannot go
on for ever. Your brother is strong and healthy; he seems to be, from
all I hear, just the sort of fellow who would take things easily, and
although the lot of prisoners of war, whether in England or France,
cannot be called a pleasant one, he has a fairer chance than most, of
going through it unharmed.

"The experience may be of benefit to him. Of course, when this matter
first began, I made close enquiries in several quarters as to his
character and habits. I need not say that I heard nothing whatever
against him; but there was a sort of consensus of opinion that it was a
pity that he had not some pursuit or occupation. As you know, he mixed
himself up to some extent with smugglers, he spent his evenings
frequently in billiard-rooms, and altogether, though there was nothing
absolutely against him, it was clear that he was doing himself no good."

"He had given up the billiard-table," Frank said. "He promised me that
he would not go there any more, and I am sure he wouldn't."

"I am glad to hear it, lad; still I think that this experience will do
him good rather than harm. He was a kindly, good-tempered, easy-going
young fellow, a little deficient, perhaps, in strength of will, but very
generally liked, and with the making of a fine man about him; and yet he
was likely, from sheer easiness of temper and disinclination to settle
down to anything, to drift with the stream till he ruined his life. That
is how I read his character from what I have heard of him, and that
being so, I think this complete break in his life may ultimately be of
considerable benefit to him."

"Perhaps it will, sir. A better brother never lived, but he may have
been too ready to fall in with other people's views. I think that it was
a very great pity that he did not apply for a commission in the army."

"A great pity," Colonel Chambers agreed. "A young fellow who will start
in pursuit of a desperate man who is armed with a gun, would be the sort
of fellow to lead a forlorn hope. And what are you going to do, Frank?"

"I am going to try and get a commission, sir, now that Julian is
completely cleared. I shall set about it at once. I am sixteen now.
Colonel Wilson, with whom my father served in Spain, wrote at his death,
and said that if either of us wished for a commission, he would, when
the time came, use his influence to get him one, and that after father's
services he was sure there would be no difficulty about it."

"None whatever. Colonel Wyatt's sons have almost a right to a
commission. If you will write to Sir Robert Wilson at once, and let me
know when you get his reply, I will write to a friend at the
Horse-guards and get him to back up the request as soon as it is sent
in."

Three weeks later Frank received an official document, informing him
that he had been gazetted to the 15th Light Dragoons, and was to join
the depot of his regiment at Canterbury immediately. Mrs. Troutbeck had
been consulted by Frank before he wrote to Colonel Sir R. Wilson. As it
had, since Julian decided not to enter the army, been a settled thing
that Frank should apply for a commission, she had offered no objection.

"It is only right, my dear," she said, with tears in her eyes and a
little break in her voice, "that one of my dear brother's sons should
follow in his footsteps. I know that he always wished you both to join
the army, and as Julian had no fancy for it, I am glad that you should
go. Of course it will be a trial, a great trial to me; but a young man
must go on his own path, and it would be wrong indeed for an old woman
like me to stand in his way."

"I don't know, Aunt, that it is so. That is my only doubt about applying
for the commission. I can't help thinking that it is my duty to stay
with you until Julian comes back."

"Not at all, Frank. It would make me much more unhappy seeing you
wasting your life here, than in knowing you were following the course
you had marked for yourself. I shall do very well. Mary is a very good
and attentive girl, and I shall get another in to do most of her work,
so that she can sit with me and be a sort of companion. Then, you know,
there are very few afternoons that one or other of my friends do not
come in for an hour for a gossip or I go in to them. I take a good deal
of blame to myself for all this trouble that has come to Julian. I think
that if, three years ago, I had pressed it upon him that he ought to go
into the army, he would have done so; but certainly anything that I did
say was rather the other way, and since he has gone I see how wrong I
was, and I certainly won't repeat the mistake with you. Even now Julian
may come back long before you go. I don't mean before you go away from
here, but before you go out to join your regiment, wherever that may be.
You are sure to be a few months at the depôt, and you know we have
agreed to write letters to Julian, telling him that the matter is all
cleared up, and that everyone knows he had nothing to do with the
murder, so of course he will try to escape as soon as he gets one of
them."

"Yes, when he gets one, Aunt. I will give the letters to men who are, I
know, connected with the smugglers, and possibly they may be taken over,
but that is a very different thing from his getting them. We may be sure
that the smugglers who have taken Julian over will not trouble
themselves about detaining him. They would never go to all the bother of
keeping and watching him for years. If they keep him at all it will be
on board their craft, but that would be a constant trouble, and they
would know that sooner or later he would be able to make his escape. If
they have handed him over to the French authorities he may have been
taken to a prison hundreds of miles from Nantes, and the smugglers would
not know where he was and would be unable to send a letter to him. No,
Aunt, I feel confident that Julian will come home, but I am afraid that
it will be a long time first, for as to his escaping from prison, there
is no chance whatever of it. There are numbers of English officers
there; many of them must be able to speak French well, and the naval
officers are able to climb ropes and things of that sort that Julian
could not do. It is very rare indeed that any of them, even with these
advantages, make their escape, and therefore I cannot hope that Julian
will be able to do so."

"Well, then, my dear, I must wait patiently until he does. I only hope
that I may be spared to see him back again."

"I am sure I hope so, Aunt. Why should you always call yourself an old
woman? when you know that you are not old in years. Why, you said last
birthday that you were fifty-nine, and it is only because you are such a
hand at staying indoors, and live such a quiet life, that it makes you
think yourself old. I should think this war won't last very much longer.
If it does all the men in Europe will be used up. Of course, as soon as
peace is made Julian will be sent home again."

The same day that the post brought Frank the news of his commission, it
brought a letter from Colonel Wilson saying that he was at present in
town, and giving him a warm invitation to come up and stay with him for
a week, while he procured his necessary outfit. A fortnight later Frank
arrived in town and drove to Buckingham Street, where Colonel Wilson was
lodging. He received Frank very kindly, and when the lad would have
renewed the thanks he had expressed in the letter he had written on
receiving the news of his having obtained his commission, the Colonel
said:

"It was a duty as well as a pleasure. Your father saved my life at
Aboukir. I had been unhorsed and was guarding myself as well as I could
against four French cuirassiers, who were slashing away at me, when your
father rode into the middle of them, cut one down and wounded a second,
which gave me time to snatch a pistol from the holster of my fallen
horse and to dispose of a third, when the other rode off. Your father
got a severe sabre wound on the arm and a slash across the face. Of
course, you remember the scar. So you see the least I could do, was to
render his son any service in my power. I managed to get you gazetted to
my old regiment, that is to say, my first regiment, for I have served in
several. I thought, in the first place, my introduction would to some
extent put you at home there. In the second, a cavalry man has the
advantage over one in a marching regiment that he learns to ride well,
and is more eligible for staff appointments. As you know, I myself have
done a great deal of what we call detached service, and it is probable
that I may in the future have similar appointments, and, if so, I may
have an opportunity of taking you with me as an aide. Those sort of
appointments are very useful. They not only take one out of the routine
of garrison life and enable one to see the world, but they bring a young
officer's name prominently forward, and give him chances of
distinguishing himself. Therefore I, as an old cavalry man, should much
prefer taking an assistant from the same branch, and indeed would almost
be expected to do so. From what I hear, I think that, apart from my
friendship for your father, you are the kind of young fellow I should
like with me."

Frank looked rather surprised.

"I had a letter," Colonel Wilson went on, "from Colonel Chambers, who
was a captain in the 15th when I joined. He spoke in very high terms of
you, and sent a copy of the proceedings and reports connected with the
murder of that magistrate, and said that it was almost entirely due to
your sharpness that your brother was cleared of the suspicion that had
not unreasonably fallen upon him, and the saddle put upon the right
horse. There is a sort of idea that any dashing young fellow will do for
the cavalry, and no doubt dash is one of the prime requisites for
cavalry officers, but if he is really to distinguish himself and be
something more than a brave swordsman, more especially if he is likely
to have the opportunity of obtaining a staff appointment, he needs other
qualities, for on a reconnaissance a man who has a quick eye, good
powers of observation and thoughtfulness, may send in a report of a most
valuable kind, while that of the average young officer might be
absolutely useless.

"Having said this much, I would advise you strongly to devote a couple
of hours a day regularly to the study of French and German. You may find
them invaluable, especially if you are engaged on any diplomatic
mission, and much more useful at first than the study of writers on
military tactics and strategy. There will be plenty of time for that
afterwards. At Canterbury you will have no difficulty in finding a
master among the many French _émigrés_, and as there are at present two
or three troops of one of our German Hussar regiments there, and some of
these men belong to families who preferred exile and service in the
ranks to living under French domination, you may find a soldier who will
be glad enough to add to his pay by a little teaching. A draft went out
only a fortnight or so since to your regiment, and you are therefore
likely to be some time at Canterbury before you are ordered out, and as
the time in a garrison town hangs heavily on hand, a little steady work
will help to make it pass not unpleasantly."

"I will certainly do so, sir. We had a French master at school. It was
not compulsory to learn the language, but I thought it might be useful
if I went into the army, and so took it up. I don't say that I can speak
well at all, but I know enough to help me a good deal."

"That is right, lad. Ah, here is supper. I am sure you must want it
after being eighteen hours on the outside of a coach in such weather as
this, though I daresay as far as food went you did not do badly."

"No, sir; there was plenty of time at the stopping-places for meals, and
as I was well wrapped up the cold was nothing."

Frank, however, could not deny that he felt very stiff after his
journey, and was not sorry to retire to bed as soon as he had eaten his
supper. There were few men in the army who had seen so much and such
varied service as Colonel Sir Robert Wilson. Joining the army in 1793,
he served through the campaigns of Flanders and Holland. In 1797, having
attained the rank of captain, he was detached from his regiment and
served on Major-general St. John's staff during the rebellion in
Ireland. Two years later he rejoined his regiment and proceeded to the
Helder, and was engaged in all the battles that took place during that
campaign. On the Convention being signed he purchased a majority in one
of the regiments of German Hussars in our service. He was then sent on a
mission to Vienna, and having fulfilled this, went down through Italy to
Malta, where he expected to find his regiment, which formed part of
General Abercrombie's command. He joined it before it landed in Egypt,
and served through the campaign there. He then purchased his
lieutenant-colonelcy, and exchanged into the 20th Light Dragoons. He was
with that portion of his regiment which formed part of Sir David Baird's
division, and sailed first to the Brazils and then to the Cape of Good
Hope, which possession it wrested from the Dutch.

On his return to England he was directed to proceed on the staff of Lord
Hutchinson to Berlin, but on his arrival at Memel was despatched to the
Russian headquarters as British commissioner. He continued with the
Russian army during the next two campaigns, and on the signature of the
treaty of Tilsit returned to England, and made several journeys to St.
Petersburg with confidential despatches, and brought to England the
first news that the Czar had concluded an alliance with Napoleon and was
about to declare war against England. In 1808 Sir Robert Wilson was sent
to Portugal to raise the Portuguese legion, and, acting independently as
a Brigadier-general, rendered very valuable services, until in 1809 the
legion was absorbed in the Portuguese army. He was now waiting for other
employment.

The colonel went out with Frank after breakfast next morning and
ordered his uniform and equipments. Frank was well supplied with money,
for by the terms of his father's will either of his sons who entered the
army was entitled to draw two hundred pounds a year to pay for outfit,
horse, and as allowance until he came of age, when he would receive his
share of the capital. Mrs. Troutbeck had, when he said good-bye to her,
slipped a pocket-book with bank-notes for a hundred pounds into his
hands.

"Money is always useful, Frank," she said, when he protested that he was
amply supplied, "and if you should ever find that your allowance is
insufficient write to me. I know that you are not in the least likely to
be extravagant or foolish, but you see what a scrape your brother has
got into, without any fault of your own, and you may also find yourself
in a position where you may want money. If you do, write to me at once."

After the orders had been given, Sir Robert Wilson took Frank about
London to see some of the sights. At dinner he asked him many questions
as to his studies and amusements, and the way in which his day was
generally spent. After dining at Sir Robert's club they returned to his
lodgings.

"I am very pleased, Frank," he said as he lighted a cigar, "both with
what I have heard of you and with what I see for myself. Now I will
speak to you more freely than I did before, but mind, what I say is
strictly confidential. Government have obtained secret information which
points surely to the fact that Napoleon is meditating an offensive war
against Russia. He is accumulating troops in Germany and Poland out of
all proportion to the operations he has been carrying on against
Austria. When that war will break out is more than I or anyone can say,
but when it does take place I have Lord Wellesley's promise that I shall
go out there in the same position I held during their last war, that is,
as British commissioner with the Russian army. Now, lad, in that
position I shall be entitled to take a young officer with me as my
assistant, or what, if engaged on other service, would be called
aide-de-camp. One cannot be everywhere at once, and I should often have
to depend upon him for information as to what was taking place at points
where I could not be present.

"He would, too, act as my secretary. It may possibly be a year before
Napoleon's preparations are completed; but even in a year I should
hardly be justified in choosing so young an officer from my old
regiment, unless he had some special qualifications for the post. Now,
for your father's sake, Frank, and because I like you and feel sure that
you are just the man I require, I should like to take you, but could not
do so unless you had some special knowledge that I could urge as a
reason for applying for you. There is only one such qualification that I
know of, namely, that you should be able to speak the Russian language.
When I spoke to you about learning French and German I did so on general
principles, and not with a view to this, for it did not seem to me that
I could possibly select you to go with me on this service; but I have
since thought it over, and have come to the conclusion that I could do
so, if you did but understand Russian. It is a most difficult language,
and although I can now get on with it fairly after my stay out there, I
thought at first I should never make any headway in it. It would,
therefore, be of no use whatever for you to attempt it unless you are
ready to work very hard at it, and to give up, I should say, at least
four hours a day to study."

"I should be quite ready to do that, sir," Frank said earnestly, "and I
thank you indeed for your kindness. But who should I get to teach me?"

"That we must see about. There are, I have no doubt, many Russian Poles
in London who speak the language well, and who have picked up enough
English for your purpose. The Poles are marvellous linguists. We will go
to-morrow to the headquarters of the Bow Street runners. They are the
detectives, you know, and if they cannot at once put their hands upon
such a man as we want, they will be able to ferret out half a dozen in
twenty-four hours. One of these fellows you must engage to go down to
Canterbury and take lodgings there. They are almost always in destitute
circumstances, and would be content with very moderate pay, which would
not draw very heavily on your resources. Thirty shillings a week would
be a fortune to one of them. Even if this war should not come off--but I
have myself no doubt about it--the language might in the future be of
great value to you. I don't suppose there is a single officer in the
English army, with the exception of myself, who knows a word of Russian,
and in the future it might secure you the position of military attaché
to our embassy there. At any rate it will render it easy for me to
secure you an appointment on my mission when it comes off, and in that
case you will be a witness of one of the most stupendous struggles that
has ever taken place. You think you can really stick to it, Frank? You
will have, no doubt, to put up with a good deal of chaff from your
comrades on your studious tastes."

"I sha'n't mind that, sir. I have often been chaffed at school, because
I used to insist on getting up my work before I would join anything that
was going on, and used to find that if I took it good temperedly, it
soon ceased."

The next day they went to Bow Street. Sir Robert's card was sufficient
to ensure them attention, and several of the detectives were questioned.
One of them replied, "I think that I know just the man. He occupies an
attic in the house next to mine. He is a young fellow of
four-and-twenty, and I know he has been trying to support himself by
giving lessons in German, but I don't think that he has ever had a
pupil, and I believe he is nearly starving. His landlady told me that he
has parted with all his clothes except those that he stands upright in.
Of late he has been picking up a few pence by carrying luggage for
people who land at the wharves. I have not spoken to him myself, but she
tells me that he is a perfect gentleman, and though sometimes, as she
believes, he has not so much as a crust of bread between his lips all
day, he regularly pays his rent of a Saturday."

"I should think that he would be just the man for us. Would you see him
when you go home this afternoon, and ask him to come to No. 44
Buckingham Street, either this evening at nine, or at the same hour
to-morrow morning? I have written my address on this card."

At nine o'clock that evening the landlady came upstairs and said, rather
doubtfully, that a young man had called to see Sir Robert, and that he
had one of Sir Robert's cards.

"That is right, Mrs. Richards. I was expecting him."

The Pole was brought up. He was a pale young man, dressed in a thin suit
of clothes that accorded but ill with the sharp frost outside. He bowed
respectfully, and said in very fair English, "I am told, sir, that you
wish to speak to me."

"Take a seat, sir. By the way, I do not know your name."

"Strelinski," the man said.

"I am told that you are desirous of giving lessons in languages."

"I am, sir, most desirous."

"Mr. Wyatt, this gentleman here, is anxious to learn Russian."

The man looked with some surprise at Frank. "I should be glad to teach
it, sir," he said doubtfully, "but Russian is not like French or
English. It is a very difficult language to learn, and one that would
require a good deal of study. I should not like to take money without
doing something in return, and I fear that this gentleman would be
disappointed at the small progress he would make."

"Mr. Wyatt has just obtained a commission, and he thinks that as there
are few, if any, officers in the army who speak it fluently, it might be
of great advantage to him. He is, therefore, prepared to work hard at
it. I myself," he went on in Russian, "speak it a little, as you see; I
have already warned him of the difficulty of the language, and he is not
dismayed. He is going down to Canterbury to join the depôt of his
regiment in the course of a few days, and he proposes that you should
accompany him and take a lodging there."

The young man's face had a look of surprise when he was addressed in the
Russian language, and Frank saw a faint flush come across his face and
tears flow to his eyes as he heard the offer.

"What terms would you ask? He might require your services for a year."

"Any terms that would keep me from starving," the man said.

"May I ask what you were in your own country, Mr. Strelinski?"

"I was educated for the law," the Pole said. "I took my degree at the
University of Warsaw, but I was suspected of having a leaning towards
the French--as who had not, when Napoleon had promised to deliver us
from our slavery--and had to fly. I had intended at first to enter one
of the Polish regiments in the French service, but I could not get
across the frontier, and had to make north, getting here in an English
ship. The war between you and France prevented my crossing the sea
again, and then I resolved to earn my living here, but--" and he
stopped.

"You have found it hard work. I can quite understand that, Mr.
Strelinski. It is terribly hard for any foreigner, even with good
introductions, to earn a living here, and to one unprovided with such
recommendations well-nigh impossible. Please to sit here for a moment.
Frank, come into the next room with me."

"Well, what do you think?" he asked when they were alone.

"I should think that he will do splendidly, sir, and his being a
gentleman will make it very pleasant for me. But I should not like to
offer him as little as thirty shillings a week."

"I have no doubt that he would be delighted with it, Frank, but as he
will have to pay his lodgings out of it and furnish his wardrobe, we
might say two pounds, if you can afford it."

"I can afford it very well, sir. My aunt gave me a hundred pounds when I
came away from home, and that will pay for it for one year. I am sure I
shall like him."

"He impresses me very favourably too," Sir Robert said, "and perhaps I
may find a post for him here if we go out, though we need not think of
that at present. Well, let us go in to him again. I have no doubt that
the poor fellow is on thorns."

"I have talked it over with Mr. Wyatt," he went on when they had
returned to the sitting-room; "he will probably require your services
for a year, though possibly he may have to join his regiment sooner than
that. He is willing to pay two pounds a week for your services as his
instructor. Will that suit you?"

"It is more than sufficient," the Pole said in a broken voice. "For half
of that I could keep myself."

"Yes, but there will be your lodgings to pay, and other matters; and if
you are willing to accept two pounds, which appears to us a fair rate of
remuneration, we will consider that as settled. It is a cold night, Mr.
Strelinski. You had better take a glass of wine and a biscuit before you
venture out."

He fetched a decanter of port and a tin of biscuits from the sideboard,
and placed them in front of him; then he made a sign to Frank to leave
the room. In a few minutes he called him back again. Frank found the
Pole standing with his hat in his hand ready to leave. There was a look
of brightness and hope in his face, which was a strong contrast to his
expression on entering. He bowed deeply to Sir Robert, and took the hand
that Frank held out to him.

"You have saved me," he said, and then, without another word, turned and
left the room.

"I have insisted upon his taking ten pounds on account of his salary, as
I told him that he must have warm clothes and make a decent figure in
Canterbury. You are to deduct ten shillings a week from his pay till it
is made up. The poor fellow fairly broke down when I offered it to him.
There is no doubt that he is almost starved, and is as weak as a rat. He
is to come to-morrow at twelve o'clock. I have business that will take
me out all day, so you can have a quiet chat with him and break the
ice."



CHAPTER VII

A FRENCH PRISON


Julian Wyatt had expected that there would be some formalities on his
arrival at Nantes--that he should probably be taken before a court of
some sort,--and he determined to make a protest, and to declare that he
had been forcibly brought over from England. At the same time he felt
that to do so would make little difference in his position. When Holland
was overrun with the French, all English residents were thrown into
prison, and the same thing had happened after the short peace; still he
determined to make the effort, for he thought that as a civilian he
might not be placed in a military prison, and might, therefore, have a
better chance of making his escape. He had, however, no opportunity for
protest or remonstrance. The captain of the lugger and two of his men
went ashore as soon as the craft was moored alongside the quay.

A quarter of an hour later they returned with a sergeant and two
soldiers. The captain pointed him out to the sergeant. The latter
crossed the plank on to the deck, put his hand on Julian's shoulder, and
motioned to him to follow him ashore.

"Good-bye, young fellow!" Markham said, as, feeling the uselessness of
protest or resistance, Julian moved towards the plank. "I am very sorry
for you, but there is nothing else to do, and you will be as well there
as anywhere, for you couldn't show your face in Weymouth. I will keep my
promise, never fear; and some day or other everyone shall know that you
had nothing to do with giving that fellow the end he deserved."

Julian was marched along the quay for some distance, and then through
the streets till they came to a large building. The sergeant rang the
bell at the gate. When it was opened he entered with Julian, leaving the
two soldiers without. A sub-officer of the prison came up, and the
sergeant handed to him a paper, which was an order signed by the mayor
for the governor of the prison to receive an English sailor, name
unknown, age twenty-one, who had been picked up at sea by the master of
the French lugger _Lucille_. The official gave a receipt to the sergeant
for the prisoner, and a warder then led Julian away to a vaulted hall,
where some forty or fifty men were either lying on some straw or were
walking up and down in the endeavour to warm themselves. Julian saw at
once that they were English sailors, although their clothes were for the
most part ragged and torn.

"Hulloa, mate!" one of them said as the door closed behind him. "Have
you come all alone? For the most part we arrive in batches. Where do you
hail from, and what was your ship?"

"I hail from Weymouth," Julian replied cheerfully, his habit of making
the best of things at once asserting itself. "I don't know that I can be
said to belong to any ship, but I made the passage across in a French
smuggling lugger, the _Lucille_. I suppose I ought to feel indebted to
them, for they brought me across without asking for any passage-money;
but they have played me a dirty trick here, for they have handed me over
to the authorities, as far as I can understand the matter, as a
man-of-war sailor they have picked up."

"What were you doing on board?" another sailor asked. "Did you have to
leave England in a hurry?"

"I left in a hurry because I could not help it. Going across the hills I
came quite accidentally upon one of the smugglers' hiding-places, and
was seized before I had time to say a word. There was a little
discussion among themselves as to what they would do with me, and I
should have had my throat cut if an Englishman among them had not known
that I was friends with most of the fishermen there, and had been
present once or twice when a cargo was run. So they finally made up
their minds to bring me over here, and as they feared I might, if I
returned, peach as to their hiding-place, they trumped up this story
about me, and handed me over to the French to take care of."

"Well, that story will do just as well as another," one of the sailors
laughed. "As to their taking care of you, beyond looking sharp that you
don't get away, the care they give you ain't worth speaking of. We are
pretty nigh starved, and pretty nigh frozen. Well, there is one thing,
we shall get out of it in two or three days, for we hear that we are all
to be marched off somewhere. A batch generally goes off once a
fortnight."

"Are you mostly men-of-war's men?"

"None of us, at least not when we were taken, though I reckon most of us
have had a spell at it one time or other. No; we all belong to two ships
that were captured by a couple of their confounded privateers. The one I
belonged to was bound for Sicily with stores for some of the troops
stationed there; the other lot were on their way to the Tagus. They
caught us off Finisterre within a couple of days of each other. We both
made a fight of it, and if we had been together when they came up, we
might have beaten them off; but we had not any chance single-handed
against two of them, for they both carried much heavier metal than we
did. I don't think we should have resisted if we had not thought that
the noise of the guns might have brought one of our cruisers up. But we
had no such luck, and so here we are."

"I suppose, lad, you haven't got anything to pay your footing with? They
did not leave us a _sou_ in our pockets, and I don't suppose the
smugglers were much more generous to you."

"Yes, they were," Julian said. "I have a guinea and some odd silver. I
will keep the odd silver for the present, for it may come in handy later
on; but here is the guinea, and if there are any means of getting
anything with it, order what you like."

There was a shout of satisfaction, followed by an animated debate as to
how the money should be spent. Julian learnt that there was no
difficulty in obtaining liquor in the prison, as one of the warders had
permission to sell it in quantities not exceeding one glass, for which
the charge was four _sous_, and also that prisoners with money could
send out for food. After much discussion, it was finally settled that
forty-five pints of soup and the same number of rations of rum should be
obtained. The soup was but three _sous_ a pint, which would leave them
enough for a tot of grog all round next day. One of them, who had been
first mate on board--for Julian found that only the masters had separate
treatment as officers--went across to the man who supplied liquor. The
warder soon returned with him, carrying four bottles, a large stone jar
of water, and two or three small tin cups. The mate, who spoke French
pretty fluently, had a sharp argument with him as to the amount in
French money that he should receive as change out of the guinea; and as
he had learnt from one of the last batch that had been sent away, the
proper rate of exchange in the town, he finally got the best of it, and
the work of serving out the liquor then began.

A few of the sailors tossed off their allowance without water, but most
of them took it half and half, so as to make it go further. Undoubtedly
if the warder would have sold more than one allowance to each man the
whole of the guinea would at once have been laid out, but he was firm on
this point. Soon afterwards the prisoners' dinner was brought in. It
consisted of a slice of black bread to each man and a basin of very thin
broth, and Julian was not surprised at the hungry look that he had
noticed on the men's faces.

"Pretty poor fare, isn't it, mate?" one of them said as he observed the
air of disfavour with which Julian regarded his rations. "It has been a
matter of deep calculation with these French fellows as to how little
would do just to keep a man alive, and I reckon they have got it to a
nicety. This is what we have three times a day, and I don't know whether
one is most hungry when one turns in at night, or when one turns out in
the morning. However, we shall be better off to-night. We get our supper
at six, and at eight we shall get in that stuff you paid for. It is a
precious deal better than this, I can tell you; for one of our chums
managed to hide two or three shillings when they searched us, and got
some in, and it was good, and no mistake; and they give half a slice of
bread with each pint. It is better bread than this black stuff they give
us in prison. Though an English dog would turn up his nose at it, still
it helps to fill up."

The second supper was voted a great success, and after it was eaten, the
men, cheered by its warmth, and freed for a time from the annoying
feeling of hunger they generally experienced, became quite merry.
Several songs were sung, but at the conclusion of a grand chorus an
armed warder came in and ordered them to be silent.

"If the governor hears you making that row," he said, "you will have one
of your meals cut off to-morrow."

The threat was effectual, and the men lay down in the straw as close as
they could get to each other for warmth, as by this means the thin rug
each had served out to him sufficed to spread over two bodies, and their
covering was thus doubled. Julian had really another guinea besides the
silver in his pocket, but he had thought it better to make no mention of
this, as in case of his ever being able to make his escape, it would be
of vital service to him. The following day there was another council
over the ten francs still remaining. A few would have spent it in
another allowance of rum all round, but finally, by an almost unanimous
vote, it was determined that fifteen clay pipes should be obtained, and
the rest laid out in tobacco. The forty-five were solemnly divided into
three watches. Each member of a watch was to have a pipe, which was to
be filled with tobacco. This he could smoke fast or slow as he chose,
or, if he liked, could use the tobacco for chewing. At the end of half
an hour the pipes were to be handed over to the next watch, and so on in
regular order until evening.

This plan was carried out, and afforded unbounded satisfaction, and many
loudly regretted that it had not been thought of at first, as the money
spent on grog would have largely extended the time the tobacco would
hold out. So jealous did the men become of their store of tobacco that
the mate was requested to fill all the pipes, as some of the men in
helping themselves rammed their pipes so closely that they held double
the proper allowance of tobacco. This treat at once established Julian
as a popular character, and upon his lamenting, when talking to the
mate, his inability to speak French, the latter offered to teach him as
much as he could. Directly he began three or four of the younger sailors
asked to be allowed to listen, a school was established in one corner of
the room, and for several hours a day work went on, both master and
pupils finding that it greatly shortened the long weary hours of
idleness.

Three weeks passed without change. Then they were told that next morning
they would be marched away to make room for another batch of prisoners
that had been brought into the fort that afternoon. All were glad of the
change, first, because it was a change, and next, because they all
agreed they could not be worse off anywhere than they were at Nantes.
They were mustered at daybreak, formed up in fours, and with a guard of
twenty soldiers with loaded muskets marched out from the prison gates.
The first day's journey was a long one. Keeping along the north bank of
the Loire, they marched to Angers, which they did not reach until night
was falling. Many of the men, wholly unaccustomed to walking, were
completely worn out before they reached their destination, but as a
whole, with the exception of being somewhat footsore, they arrived in
fair condition. Julian marched by the side of the first mate, and the
lesson in French was a long one, and whiled away the hours on the road.

"It would not be difficult for us, if we were to pass the word down, to
fall suddenly on our guards and overpower them," the mate said in one of
the pauses of their talk. "A few of us might be shot, but as soon as we
had knocked some of them over and got their arms, we should easily make
an end of the rest. The difficulty would be what to do afterwards."

"That is a difficulty there is no getting over," Julian said. "With the
exception of yourself, there is not one who speaks French well."

"I don't speak it well," the mate said. "I know enough to get on with,
but the first person that I addressed would see at once that I was a
foreigner. No; we should all be in the same boat, and a very bad boat it
would be. We should all be hunted down in the course of twenty-four
hours, and I expect would be shot twelve hours afterwards. I think that
instead of sending twenty men with us they might safely have sent only
two, for it would be simply madness to try to escape. If one alone could
manage to slip off there would be some chance for him. There is no doubt
that the Bretons are bitterly opposed to the present state of things,
and have not forgotten how they suffered in their rising early in the
days of the Republic. They would probably conceal a runaway, and might
pass him along through their woods to St. Malo or one of the other
seaports, and thence a passage across might be obtained in a smuggler,
but it would be a hazardous job."

"Too hazardous for me to care to undertake, even if I got the chance to
slip away," Julian said.

"You are right, mate; nothing short of a big reward would tempt any of
the smugglers to run the risk of carrying an escaped prisoner out of the
country; and as I have not a penny in my pocket, and nothing to draw on
at home--for there is only my pay due up to the date we were captured
when we were only eight days out--I should not have the slightest chance
of getting away. No; I shall take whatever comes. I expect we are in for
it to the end of the war, though when that will be is more than any man
can tell."

They were marched into the prison at Angers, where they were provided
with a much more bountiful meal than they had been accustomed to, a good
allowance of straw, and two blankets each. To their great satisfaction
they were not called at daybreak, and on questioning one of the warders
who brought in their breakfast, the first mate learnt that after the
march to Angers it was customary to allow a day's rest to the prisoners
going through. They were ready for the start on the following morning,
and stopped for that night at La Flèche. The next march was a long one
to Vendôme, and at this place they again halted for a day. Stopping for
a night at Beaugency, they marched to Orleans, where was a large prison.
Here they remained for a week. The guards who had accompanied them from
Nantes left them here at Orleans and returned by water.

From Orleans they struck more to the north, and after ten days' marching
arrived at Verdun, which was, they learned, their final destination.
Here there were fully a thousand English prisoners, for the most part
sailors. The greater portion of them were lodged in wooden huts erected
in a great courtyard surrounded by a high wall. The food was coarse, but
was much more abundant than it had been at Nantes. The newly arrived
party were quartered together in one of the huts.

Night and day sentries were posted on the wall, along which a wooden
platform, three feet from the top, permitted them to pass freely; on
this sentry-boxes were erected at short intervals. As soon as their
escort had left them, the newcomers were surrounded by sailors eager to
learn the last news from England--how the war was going on, and what
prospect there was of peace. As soon as their curiosity was satisfied,
the crowd speedily dispersed. Julian was struck with the air of listless
indifference that prevailed among the prisoners, but it was not long
before he quite understood it. Cut off from all news, without hope of
escape or exchange, it was difficult for even the most light-hearted to
retain their spirits.

As sailors, the men were somewhat better able to support the dull
hopelessness of their lives than others would have been. Most of them
were handy in some way or other, and as they were permitted by the
authorities to make anything they could, they passed much of their time
in working at something or other. Some cut out and rigged model ships,
others knitted, some made quilts from patches purchased for a trifle by
the warders for them in the town, some made fancy boxes of straw, others
carved walking-sticks, paper-cutters, and other trifles.

Each day, two or three of their number had permission to go down into
the town to sell their own and their comrades' manufactures, and to buy
materials. There was a fair sale for most of the articles, for these
were bought not only by the townspeople, but by pedlars, who carried
them through the country. The prices obtained were small, but they
afforded a profit over the money laid out in materials, sufficient to
purchase tobacco and other little luxuries--the introduction of spirits
into the prison being, however, strictly forbidden. Of more importance
than the money they earned, was the relief to the tedium of their life
in the work itself. Julian found a similar relief in studying French.
There were some among the prisoners who spoke the language far better
than did the mate, and after three months' work with the latter, Julian
was advised by him to obtain a better teacher. He found no difficulty in
getting one, who spoke French really well, to talk with him three or
four hours a day on condition of being supplied with tobacco during that
time; and as tobacco was very cheap, and could be always bought from the
soldiers, Julian's store of money was not much diminished by the outlay.

He himself had now regularly taken to smoking; not at first because he
liked it, but because he saw how much it cheered and comforted his
comrades, who, however, generally used it in the sailor fashion of
chewing. Escape was never talked of. The watch kept was extremely
strict, and as on getting outside of the walls of the courtyard, they
would but find themselves in a town girt in by walls and fortifications,
the risk was altogether too great to be encountered. It had been
attempted many times, but in the great majority of cases the fugitives
had been shot, and their bodies had always been brought back to the
prison in order to impress the others with the uselessness of the
attempt. A very few, indeed, had got away; at least, it was supposed
that they had done so, as their bodies had not been brought back; but it
was generally considered that the chances were enormously against their
being able to make their way over the wide extent of country between
Verdun and the sea, and then to succeed in obtaining a passage to some
neutral port, from which they could make their way to England. Several
times offers of freedom were made to such of the prisoners as
volunteered to enter the French army or navy, but very few availed
themselves of them.

At the end of ten months, Julian was able to speak French fluently.
Large bodies of troops were continually marching through the town bound
for the east, and the prisoners learned from the guards that the general
belief was that Napoleon intended to invade Russia.

"I have a good mind to enlist," Julian said one day, to his friend the
mate. "Of course, nothing would persuade me to do so if it were a
question of fighting against the English. But now that I have learnt
French fairly, I begin to find this life horrible, and am longing
intensely to be doing something. There are the reasons that I have
already told you of why, even if I were free, I could not go home. I
might as well be taking part in this campaign as staying in prison.
Besides, I should have infinitely better chances of escape as a soldier
than we have here, and if I find I don't like it, I can at least try to
get off."

"Well, placed as you are, Wyatt, I don't know that I should not be
inclined to do the same. At any rate, you would be seeing something of
life, instead of living like a caged monkey here. Of course, as you say,
no one would dream of such a thing if one would have to go to Spain to
fight our fellows there. Still, if by any chance, after this Russian
business, your regiment was ordered back to France, and then to Spain,
you would at any rate have a fair chance of escaping on such a journey.
I would not do it myself, because I have a wife at home. One hopes,
slight as the chance seems to be, that some day there will be a general
exchange of prisoners. But as you can't go home, I don't know but that
it would be a good plan for you to do what you propose. At any rate,
your life as a soldier would be a thousand times better than this dog's
existence."

"I could put up with that for myself, but it is awful seeing many of the
men walking about with their heads down, never speaking for hours, and
the pictures of hopeless melancholy. See how they die off, not from
hunger or fever, for we have enough to eat, but wasting away and dying
from home-sickness, and because they have nothing to live for. Why, of
the forty-five of us who came up together, ten have gone already; and
there are three or four others who won't last long. It is downright
heartbreaking; and now that I have no longer anything to keep my
thoughts employed a good part of the day, I begin to feel it myself. I
catch myself saying, what is the use of it all, it would be better make
a bolt and have done with it. I can quite understand the feelings of
that man who was shot last week. He ran straight out of the gate; he had
no thought of escape; he simply did it to be shot down by the sentries,
instead of cutting his own throat. I don't believe I could stand it
much longer, Jim; and even if I were certain of being killed by a
Russian ball I think I should go."

"Go then, lad," the man said. "I have always thought that you have borne
up very well; but I know it is even worse for you than it is for us
sailors. We are accustomed to be cooped up for six months at a time on
board a ship, without any news from outside; with nothing to do save to
see that the decks are washed, and the brasses polished, except when
there is a shift of wind or a gale. But to anyone like yourself, I can
understand that it must be terrible; and if you feel getting into that
state, I should say go by all means."

"I will give you a letter before I enlist, Jim; and I will get you, when
you are exchanged, to go down with it yourself to Weymouth, and tell
them what became of me, and why I went into the French army. Don't let
them think that I turned traitor. I would shoot myself rather than run
the risk of having to fight Englishmen. But when it is a choice between
fighting Russians and going out of my mind, I prefer shouldering a
French musket. I will write the letter to-day. There is no saying when
they may next call for volunteers; for, as you know, those who step
forward are taken away at once, so as to prevent their being persuaded
by the others into drawing back."

The next day Julian wrote his letter. He recapitulated the arguments he
had used to the mate, and bade Frank and his aunt a final farewell. "I
may, of course, get through the campaign," he said. "The French soldiers
here seem to think that they will sweep the Russians before them, but
that is their way. They talked of sweeping us out of the Peninsula, and
they haven't done it yet; and there is no doubt that the Russians are
good soldiers, and will make a big fight of it. I hope you won't feel
cut up about this, and really I care little whether I leave my bones in
Russia or not. It may be twenty years or even longer before that fellow
Markham's letter arrives to clear me. And until then I cannot return to
England, or at any rate to Weymouth; indeed, wherever I was, I should
live with the knowledge that I might at any moment be recognized and
arrested. Therefore while others here have some hope of a return home,
either by an exchange of prisoners or by the war coming to an end, I
have nothing to look forward to. So you see, old fellow, that it is as
well as it is.

"I have to earn my own living somehow, and this way will suit me better
than most. Only, of one thing be sure, that if at the end of the Russian
war I return alive, and my regiment is sent where there is a chance of
fighting our people, I shall take an opportunity of deserting. As I have
told you, I can speak French fairly well now, and after a few months in
a French regiment I shall be able to pass as a native, and should have a
good chance of making my way somehow through the country to the
frontier. My idea at present is that I should make for Genoa and ship
there as a sailor on board an Italian vessel, or, better still, if we
happen to be masters of the place, or our fleet near, should either
enlist in one of our regiments, or ship on board one of our men-of-war.
I should, of course, take another name, and merely say that I had been
captured by the French at sea, had been a prisoner at Verdun, and had
managed to get free, and make my way across the country. Probably in any
case I shall do this when the regiment returns from Russia. Two or three
years' absence, and a fair share of the hardships of a soldier's life,
and a disguise, might enable me without detection to travel down to
Weymouth and see Aunt, and learn if there had been any news from
Markham.

"Whether I shall find you there or not I can't tell. I have but little
hope that you will be able to get a commission. This affair of mine
will be, I fear, an absolute bar to that. But, wherever you may be, I
shall do my best to find you out, after I have seen Aunt. This will be
given you by a good fellow named Jim Thompson. He has been a first mate,
and has been a good friend to me ever since I have been over here. If he
is exchanged, he will bring it to you; if not, he will give it to one of
the men who is exchanged to post it on his arrival in England. I shall
direct it both to you and Aunt, so that if you are away from Weymouth
she will open it. God bless you both."

Three days later a notice was posted in the prison saying that any of
the prisoners who chose to volunteer for service in Germany were at
liberty to do so. They would not be called upon at any future time for
service against British troops, but would have the liberty to exchange
into regiments destined for other service. Eight men, including Julian,
came forward, when, an hour later, a French officer entered and called
for volunteers. Julian had already announced his intention of doing so
to his comrades in the hut, and to his other acquaintances.

"You see," he said, "we shall not be called upon for service against the
English, and I would rather fight the Russians than stay in this place
for years."

Hitherto the men who had volunteered had been hooted by their
fellow-prisoners as they went out, but the promise that they should not
be called upon for service against British troops made a great
difference in the feeling with which the offer was regarded, and had it
not been for the hope that everyone felt that he should ere long be
exchanged, the number who stepped forward would have been greatly
increased. A strong French division had marched into Verdun that
morning, and the new volunteers were all divided among different corps.
Julian, who now stood over six feet, was told off to a Grenadier
regiment. A uniform was at once given to him from those carried with
the baggage of the regiment, and the sergeant of the company in which he
had been placed took him to its barrack-room.

"Comrades," he said, "here is a new recruit. He is an Englishman who has
the good sense to prefer fighting the Russians to rotting in prison. He
is a brave fellow, and speaks our language well, and I think you will
find him a good comrade. He has handed over twenty francs to pay his
footing in the company. You must not regard him as a traitor to his
country, my friends, for he has received from the colonel a paper
authorizing him to exchange into a regiment destined for other service,
in case, after we have done with the Russians, we should be sent to some
place where we should have to fight against his countrymen."

In half an hour Julian felt at home with his new comrades. They differed
greatly in age: some among them had grown grizzly in the service, and
had fought in all the wars of the Republic and Empire; others were lads
not older than himself, taken but a month or two before from the plough.
After they had drunk the liquor purchased with his twenty francs, they
patted him on the back and drank to the health of Jules Wyatt, for
Julian had entered under his own surname, and his Christian name was at
once converted to its French equivalent. With his usual knack of making
friends, he was soon on excellent terms with them all, joined in their
choruses, and sang some English songs whose words he had as an exercise
translated into French, and when the men lay down for the night on their
straw pallets it was generally agreed that the new comrade was a fine
fellow and an acquisition to the company.

The division was to halt for two days at Verdun, and the time was spent,
as far as Julian was concerned, in the hands of a sergeant, who kept him
hard at work all day acquiring the elements of drill. On the third
morning the regiment marched off at daybreak, Julian taking his place
in the ranks, with his knapsack and firelock. After the long confinement
in the prison he found his life thoroughly enjoyable. Sometimes they
stopped in towns, where they were either quartered in barracks or
billeted on the inhabitants; sometimes they slept under canvas or in the
open air, and this Julian preferred, as they built great fires and
gathered round them in merry groups. The conscripts had by this time got
over their home-sickness, and had caught the martial enthusiasm of their
older comrades. All believed that the Grande Armée would be invincible,
and fears were even expressed that the Russians would not venture to
stand against them. Some of the older men, however, assured them that
there was little chance of this.

"The Russians are hardy fighters, comrades," one of the veterans said.
"_Parbleu!_ I who tell you, have fought against them, and they are not
to be despised. They are slow at manuoevring, but put them in a place
and tell them to hold it, and they will do it to the last. I fought at
Austerlitz against the Austrians, and at Jena against the Prussians, and
in a score of other battles in Germany and Italy, and I tell you that
the Russians are the toughest enemies I have met, save only your
Islanders, Jules. I was at Talavera, and the way your people held that
hill after the cowardly Spaniards had bolted and left them, and at last
rolled us down it, was a thing I don't want to see again. I was wounded
and sent home to be patched up, and that is how I come to be here
marching against Russia instead of being under Soult in Spain. No,
comrades, you take my word for it, big as our army will be, we shall
have some tough fighting to do before we get to Moscow or St.
Petersburg, whichever the Little Corporal intends to dictate terms in."

"It is as you say, Victor," one of the other veterans said, "and it is
all the better. It would be too bad if we had to march right across
Europe and back without firing a shot, but I, who know the Russians
too, feel sure that that will never be."

Many a merry martial song was sung at the bivouac fires, many a story of
campaigns and battles told, and no thought of failure entered the minds
of anyone, from the oldest veteran to the youngest drummer-boy. Of an
evening, after halting, Julian generally had half an hour's drill,
until, three weeks after leaving Verdun, he was pronounced fit to take
part in a review under the eyes of the Emperor himself. His readiness to
oblige, even to undertaking sentry duty for a comrade who had grown
footsore on the march, or was suffering from some temporary ailment, his
cheeriness and good temper, had by this time rendered him a general
favourite in the company, and when he was dismissed from drill the
veterans were always ready to give him lessons with the sabre or rapier
in addition to those he received from the _maître d'armes_ of the
regiment. Julian entered into these exercises with great earnestness.
Quarrels between the men were not infrequent, and these were always
settled by the sabre or straight sword, the officers' permission being
necessary before these duels took place. It was seldom that their
consequences were very serious. The _maître d'armes_ was always present,
and put a stop to the fight as soon as blood was drawn. At present
Julian was on the best terms with all his comrades, but he felt that, if
he should become involved in a quarrel, he of all men must be ready to
vindicate his honour and to show that, Englishman as he was, he was not
a whit behind his comrades in his readiness to prove his courage. Thus,
then, he worked with ardour, and ere long became able to hold his own
even with the veterans of the regiment.



CHAPTER VIII

PISTOL PRACTICE


"You are a rum fellow, Wyatt," one of the captains of the depôt of his
regiment said to Frank a fortnight after he joined.

"How am I rum?"

"Why, about that Russian fellow. I never heard of a young cornet
setting-to to work like a nigger, when there is no occasion in the world
for him to do so."

"There is no absolute occasion perhaps, but you see Russian may be very
useful some day."

"Well, yes, and so might any other out-of-the-way language."

"It is an off-chance, no doubt; still it is better to be doing something
that may turn out useful than to be walking up and down the High Street
or playing billiards. I don't spend much time over it now, for there is
a good deal to do in learning one's work, but when I once get out of the
hands of the drill-sergeant and the riding-master I shall have a lot of
time to myself, and shall be very glad to occupy some of it in getting
up Russian."

"Of course it is your own business and not mine, Wyatt; but I am afraid
you won't find things very pleasant if you take a line of your own and
don't go with the rest."

"I have no wish not to go with the rest," Frank protested. "When there
is anything to be done, whether it is hunting or any sort of sport, I
shall certainly take my share in it; but don't you think yourself,
Captain Lister, that it is much better for a fellow to spend part of his
time reasonably than in lounging about, or in playing billiards or
cards?"

"I don't say that it isn't better, Wyatt, but that is hardly the
question. Many things may be better than others, but if a fellow doesn't
go with the run he gets himself disliked, and has a very hard time of
it."

"I used to hear a good deal of the same thing when I was at school,"
Frank said quietly, "but I don't think I was disliked for sticking to
work sometimes, when other fellows were playing. Surely when one is from
morning till night with other men, it can matter to no one but himself
if he gives two or three hours a day to work."

"It does not matter to anyone, Wyatt. I am quite willing to grant it,
but for all that, I am afraid, if you stick to it, you will have to put
up with a great deal of chaff, and not always of a good-natured kind."

"I can put up with any amount of chaff," Frank replied; "I mean chaff in
its proper sense. Anything that goes beyond that, I shall, I hope, be
able to meet as it deserves. Perhaps it would be better if I were to
take half an hour a day off my Russian studies and to spend that time in
the pistol-gallery."

Captain Lister looked at him earnestly. "I think you will do,
youngster," he said approvingly, "that is the right spirit. There is a
lot of rough fun and larking in a regiment, and the man that goes
through it best, is he who can take a joke good-temperedly as long as it
does not go beyond the bounds of moderation, but who is ready to resent
any wilful insult: but I think you would be very wise to do as you say.
Half an hour in a pistol-gallery every day is likely to be of vastly
more use to you than any amount of Russian. The reputation that a man is
a crack shot with a pistol will do more than anything in the world to
keep him out of quarrels. Here at the depôt at any rate, where the
fellows are for the most part young, it would certainly save you a good
deal of annoyance if it were known that, although not by any means a
quarrelsome fellow, you were determined to put up with nothing beyond
good-humoured jokes. Well, lad, I don't want to interfere with your
hobby, only I advise you not to ride it too hard, at any rate at first.
When the men all know you and get to like you, and see that, apart from
this fancy of yours, you are an all-round good fellow, as I can see you
are, they will let you go your own way. At any rate, as captain of your
troop, I will do all I can to make things pleasant for you, but don't
forget about the pistol practice. At a depôt like this, where there are
half a dozen regiments represented, you will meet with a larger
proportion of disagreeable men than you would in your own ante-room. You
see, if colonels have such men, they are glad enough to rid the regiment
of them by leaving them at the depôt, and any serious trouble is more
likely to come from one of them than from anyone in your own regiment."

"I will take your advice, certainly," Frank said; "the more so that the
time spent in learning to be a good shot with a pistol will be most
useful in a campaign, even if there is no occasion ever to put it to the
test when at home."

"There is a gunsmith in St. Margaret's Street. It is a small shop, but
the man, Woodall is his name, has got a long shed that he uses as a
pistol-gallery, a quarter of a mile out beyond the gate. He is an
admirable shot himself as well as an excellent workman, and you can't do
better than go to him. Tell him that you want to become a good shot with
the pistol, and are willing to pay for lessons. If he takes you in hand
it won't be long before he turns you out as a fair shot, whether you
ever get beyond that depends on nerve and eye, and I should think that
you have no lack of either."

"I hope not," Frank said, with a smile. "At any rate I will see him this
afternoon."

"Put on your cap at once, and I will go down with you," Captain Lister
said; "and mind, I think if I were you I should say nothing about it at
the depôt until he tells you that he has done with you. Knowing that
the man is a learner might have just the opposite effect of hearing that
he is a crack shot."

In a quarter of an hour they arrived at the gunsmith's. "Woodall,"
Captain Lister said, "my friend, Mr. Wyatt, who has lately joined, has a
fancy for becoming a first-rate pistol shot."

"He couldn't have a more useful fancy, Captain Lister. My idea is, that
every cavalry-man--trooper as well as officer--should be a dead shot
with a pistol. The sword is all very well, and I don't say it is not a
useful weapon, but a regiment that could shoot--really shoot well--would
be a match for any three French regiments, though they were Boney's
best."'

"He wants you take him in hand yourself, Woodall, if you can spare the
time to do so; of course, he is ready to pay you for your time and
trouble, and would meet you at any hour you like to name in the
afternoon at your shed."

"All right, sir. It is a rum thing to me that, while every officer is
ready to take any pains to learn the sword exercise, they seem to think
that pistol-shooting comes by nature, and that, even on horseback, in
the middle of the confusion of a charge, you have only got to point your
pistol and bring down your man. The thing is downright ridiculous! It
will be a pleasure to teach you, Mr. Wyatt. I should say, from your
look, you are likely to turn out a first-rate shot."

"It won't be for want of trying if I don't," Frank replied.

"If you will take my advice, sir, you will learn to shoot with both
hands. For a civilian who never wants to use a pistol except in a duel,
the right hand is all that is necessary, but for a cavalry-man, the left
is the useful hand. You see an officer always carries his sword in his
right hand, and if he has got to shift it to his left before he can use
his pistol, he could never use it at all, if hard pressed in a fight.
Another thing is, that the left side is the weak side of a horseman.
His sword is all right in defending him if attacked on the right, but if
he is attacked on the left he is fighting under a big disadvantage. He
has much more difficulty in guarding himself on that side, and he has
nothing like the same reach for striking as he has on the other."

"That is quite true, now I come to think of it," Frank said; "though I
never gave it a thought before. Yes, I see that the left hand is the
most useful one, and I will practice with that as well as with the
other. Well, what hour will suit you?"

"It don't make much difference to me, sir; the evenings are getting
longer; you can see well enough until five."

"Well, then, shall we say half-past four?"

"Half-past four will suit very well, Mr. Wyatt. It is four o'clock now,
so if you like to take your first lesson to-day I will meet you at the
shed in half an hour. You cannot miss the place, it is on the right side
of the road and stands by itself, and there is my name over the door."

"Thank you; I will be there," Frank replied.

"I may as well come with you, Wyatt," Captain Lister said. "I will fire
a few shots myself, for I have had no practice for the last two years,
and I have a fancy to see what I can do with my left hand. I have never
tried with it, and I quite agree with Woodall that it is the left hand
that a cavalry-man should use."

Frank was a good deal surprised at first to see how much more difficult
it was to hit a mark, even at the distance of twelve paces, than he
imagined that it would be. Woodall would not allow him to take aim.

"You will never get a chance to do that, Mr. Wyatt, in a fight; you have
got to whip out your pistol, to throw up your arm and fire. It has got
to be done by instinct rather than by aim. It is all very well to aim
when you are on your feet and standing perfectly steady, but on a horse
half-mad with excitement, and perhaps going at a gallop, you could no
more hold your arm steady on a mark than you could fly. Put down the
pistol for a time. Now you know, sir, when you point at a thing with
your first finger extended, however quickly you do it, you will be there
or thereabout, and it is the same thing if you have got a pistol in your
hand. You see that black patch on the wall to the right of the target.
Now turn your back to it. Now, when I give the word, turn on your heels,
and the moment your eye catches that patch throw up your arm with your
forefinger extended and point to it. When you get it up there, hold it
as steady as you can. Now, sir!"

Frank did as he was ordered.

"Now, sir, look along your arm. You see you are pointing very nearly at
the centre of the patch. You are just a little high. Now try it with
your left. There, you see, you are not quite so accurate this time--you
are six inches to the left of the patch, and nearly a foot high.
Remember that it's always better to aim a little low than a little high,
for the tendency of the hand in the act of pulling the trigger is to
raise the muzzle. Now, sir, try that half a dozen times, using the hands
alternately. Very good! Now take this empty pistol--no, don't hold it
like that! Not one man in twenty, ay, not one in a hundred, holds a
pistol right, they always want to get the first finger on the trigger.
Now, you want the first finger to point with, the second finger is quite
as good to pull with, in fact better, for going straight, as it does,
with the arm, there is less tendency to throw up the muzzle. Now take it
like this; you see my forefinger lies along in the line of the barrel,
that is the really important point. Get into the way of always grasping
your pistol so that the first finger is in an exact line with the
barrel, then, you see, just as your finger naturally follows your eye
and points at the spot, so your pistol must be in the same line. It is
best to have the middle and third fingers both on the trigger, and the
little finger and thumb alone grasping the butt.

"You will find that a little difficult at first, but you will soon get
accustomed to it, and your little finger will rapidly gain strength,
and, you see, the hold of your first finger along the barrel helps the
other two to steady it. By having the middle and third fingers both on
the trigger, you give a pressure rather than a pull to it, and they will
soon come to give that pressure at the very moment when the first finger
gets on the mark aimed at. Now try it half a dozen times with the pistol
unloaded, and after pressing the trigger keep your hand and arm in as
nearly the same position, so as to see if it is pointing truly at the
mark. Very good! Now try with the left hand. There, you see, that hand
is not so accustomed to its work, and though you might have hit the
target, I doubt if either of the shots would have struck the inner
circle. Now we will try with the pistol loaded."

Six shots were fired alternately with the right and left hand. Those of
the former were all within a few inches of the bull's-eye, while none of
the others went wide of the outside.

"Very good, indeed," the gunsmith said. "I don't hesitate to say that in
a very short time you will become a fair shot, and at the end of three
months, if you practise regularly, a first-class one. Your hand is very
steady, your eye true, and you have plenty of nerve. Now, sir, I should
advise you to keep that unloaded pistol in the drawer of your table, and
whenever you have nothing else to do, spend five minutes in taking quick
aims at marks on the wall, using your hands alternately. Now, Captain
Lister, will you try a few shots?"

Taking a steady aim, Captain Lister put his bullets almost every time
into the bull's-eye, but, to Frank's surprise, when he came to try
quick firing in the way he had himself done, the captain's shooting was
much less accurate than his own.

"It is a question of eye," the gunsmith said next day, when Frank was
alone with him. "You see Captain Lister's shooting was fair when he took
a steady aim, but directly he came to fire as he would in action, and
that without the disturbing influences of excitement and of the motion
of his horse, he was nowhere. He did not even once hit the target in
firing with his left hand. He would certainly have missed his man and
would have got cut down a moment later, and even with his right hand his
shooting was very wild."

Captain Lister himself was evidently disconcerted at finding how useless
his target practice would be to him in the field, and, two or three
times in the next week, went with Frank to practise. He improved with
his right hand, but did not seem to obtain any accuracy in firing with
his left, while Frank, at the end of a month, came to shoot as well with
one hand as with the other.

Frank worked steadily at Russian, and although he found it extremely
difficult at first, soon began to make progress under his teacher, who
took the greatest pains with him. He soon got over the good-tempered
chaff of the subalterns of his detachment, who, finding that he was at
other times always ready to join in anything going on, and was wholly
unruffled by their jokes, soon gave it up. They agreed among themselves
that he was a queer fellow, and allowed him to go his own way without
interference. At the end of three months he was discharged from drill
and riding school, and had thenceforth a great deal more time on his
hands, and was able to devote three hours of a morning and two of an
afternoon to Russian.

He was delighted with his master, whom he came to esteem highly, finding
him a most intelligent companion as well as an unwearied teacher.
Strelinski, indeed, would have been glad to have devoted twelve hours a
day instead of five, could Frank have afforded the time. He was a very
different man now to what he was when he had first called at Sir Robert
Wilson's lodgings. He looked well and happy; his cheeks had filled out,
and he carried himself well; he dressed with scrupulous care, and when
Frank had no engagement with his comrades, the Pole accompanied him on
long rides on his spare charger, he having been accustomed to riding
from his childhood. From him Frank learned a great deal of the state of
things in Poland and Russia, and gained a considerable insight into
European politics, besides picking up a more intimate colloquial
knowledge of Russian than he gained at his lessons. Of an evening Frank
not unfrequently went to parties in the town. The gallant deeds of our
troops in Spain had raised the military to great popularity throughout
the country, and the houses of all the principal inhabitants of
Canterbury were hospitably opened to officers of the garrison.

Many of the young men preferred billiards and cards in the mess-room,
but Frank, who declined to play billiards, and had not acquired
sufficient skill at cards to take a hand at whist, was very glad to
accept these invitations. He specially enjoyed going to the houses of
the clergy in the precincts of the cathedral; most of them were very
musical, and Frank, who had never heard much music at Weymouth, enjoyed
intensely the old English glees, madrigals, and catches performed with a
perfection that at that time would have been hard to meet with except in
cathedral towns.

After three months the gunmaker no longer accompanied Frank to his
shooting-gallery.

"It would be robbing you to go on with you any longer, Mr. Wyatt. When a
man can turn round, fire on the instant and hit a penny nine times out
of ten at a distance of twelve paces, there is no one can teach him
anything more. You have the best eye of any gentleman I ever came
across, and in the twenty years that I have been here I have had
hundreds of officers at this gallery, many of them considered crack
shots. But I should go on practising, if I were you, especially with
your left hand. It is not quite so good as the right yet, although very
nearly so. I will come down once a week or so and throw up a ball to you
or spin a penny in the air; there is nothing like getting to hit a
moving object. In the meantime you can go on practising at that plummet
swinging from the string. You can do that as well by yourself as if I
were with you, for when you once set it going it will keep on for five
minutes. It is not so good as throwing up a penny, because it makes a
regular curve; but shooting, as you do, with your back to it, and so not
able to tell where it will be when you turn round, that don't so much
matter."

"What is the best shooting you ever heard of?"

"The best shot I ever heard tell of was Major Rathmines. He could hit a
penny thrown up into the air nineteen times out of twenty."

"Well, I will go on practising until I can do that," Frank said. "If a
thing is worth doing it is worth doing well."

"And you will do it, Mr. Wyatt; there is nothing you could not do with
practice."

"There is one thing I wish you would do for me--that figure you have got
painted as a target is ridiculous. I wish you would get some one who has
an idea of painting to do another figure. I want it painted, not
standing square to me, but sideways, as a man stands when he fights a
duel. I want it drawn with the arm up, just in the same position that a
man would stand in firing. I hope I shall never be called upon to fight
a duel. I think it is a detestable practice; but unfortunately it is so
common that no one can calculate on keeping out of it--especially in the
army."

"Well, sir, you need not be afraid of fighting a duel, for you fire so
mighty quick that you would be certain of getting in the first shot,
and if you got first shot there would be an end of it."

"Yes, but that would be simple murder--neither more nor less, whatever
people might call it--and I doubt whether, accustomed as I am to fire
instantly the moment I catch sight of a thing, that I could help hitting
a man in the head. Now what I want to become accustomed to is to fire at
the hand. I should never forgive myself if I killed a man. But if ever I
did go out with a notorious duellist who forced the duel upon me, I
should like to stop his shooting for the rest of his life. So I want to
be able to hit his hand to a certainty. Of course the hand is an easy
enough mark, and by getting accustomed to the height and the exact
position it would be in, I should get to hit it without fail."

"A very good idea, sir. The hand is not much of a mark when holding a
pistol, still it is a good bit bigger than a penny piece, and you would
soon get to hit it just as certainly."

For the next three months Frank fired fifty shots a day--twenty-five
with each hand--and at the end of that time could hit a penny thrown up
by Woodall, eighteen times out of twenty.

"That is good enough," he said; "now I shall only practise once a week,
to keep my hand in."

Frank had not been without an incentive to gain exceptional proficiency
with a pistol. Although he got on very well with his comrades of his own
depôt, there was a captain of a lancer regiment who had not unfrequently
taxed his patience to its farthest limit. The man was a noted duellist,
and was known to be a dead shot. On the strength of this, he was in the
habit of making remarks so offensive, that they would have at once been
taken up, if uttered by anyone else in barracks. For the last two months
he had made a special butt of a young cornet, who had recently joined
the depôt of the Dragoons. He was a pleasant lad, with plenty of spirit
and pluck, but he had a slight impediment in his speech, although when
giving the word of command he never hesitated. It was this defect that
was the object of Captain Marshall's ill-natured remarks. The lad tried
to laugh them off and to ignore the offensiveness of the tone, but he
felt them deeply, and confided to Frank--to whom he had specially
taken--that he could not stand it much longer.

"I never used a pistol in my life until you advised me the other day to
take some lessons from Woodall, and of course he would put a bullet
through my head; but I can't help that. As it is, everyone must think me
a coward for standing it, and at any rate I can show them that I am not
that."

"Don't you mind, Wilmington," Frank said one day, "and don't make a fool
of yourself. You put up with it a little longer, and something may occur
to put a stop to it. He may go away on leave, or he may get a hint that
he had better retire from the service. I have heard that it is likely
enough that he will get a hint the next time he has an affair of this
sort. The last two were with civilians, and I believe that is the reason
why so few accept our invitations to mess; but I fancy if he gets into
trouble again with one of ourselves he will have to go."

"Well, I will try to go on a little longer if you say so, Wyatt, but--"

"There are no 'buts' in it, Wilmington. You must give me your word of
honour that you will go on as you have done. Don't be afraid of anyone
thinking you a coward. There is no cowardice in refusing to fight a man
who is so much your superior in skill that it would be nothing short of
suicide in standing up against him. I have a private reason for
believing that it won't last long."

"In that case I will give you my word of honour, Frank."

A week later there was an unusually large party at mess, the depôts were
very strong, and some forty officers sat down; and it being a guest
night, four or five civilians were present. Dinner went on without
incident until one of the mess waiters asked Wilmington whether he would
take sirloin of beef or goose. He replied, "B-b-b-b-beef." There
happened to be a slight lull in the conversation at the moment, and
Wilmington's effort to get the word out made him raise his voice so that
it was generally heard.

"Waiter," Captain Marshall said loudly, "bring me some g-g-g-g-goose."

Wilmington's face flushed and then turned deadly pale. He looked
appealingly at Frank, who was sitting next to him. The latter whispered,
"Remember your word of honour. Get up and leave the room." There was a
dead hush from those present as the young cornet rose and left the room,
and then a low murmur of indignation. Captain Marshall looked round
searchingly, as if to pick out one of those who had thus shown signs of
resentment. But directly the door closed upon Wilmington, Frank rose to
his feet.

"I wish, Mr. President," he said in a clear, steady voice, "to ask you,
whether a man who, relying upon his skill with the pistol, wantonly
insults another, is not a blackguard and unfit for the society of
gentlemen?"

Had a thunderbolt fallen in the room those present could not have been
more surprised. Some of Frank's comrades knew that he often went to
Woodall's shooting-gallery to practise with the pistol, but they had no
idea that he had attained any great skill in its use, and their
impression when he spoke was that he must have gone out of his mind thus
publicly to insult Marshall. The latter was at least as much astonished
as anyone else. He started as if struck with a blow, and then, leaning
across the table, he said in a low voice to Frank, who was sitting just
opposite to him:

"Of course, you are prepared to answer to me for this, Mr. Wyatt?"

"Certainly," Frank said carelessly; "and at any time you please."

There was a strange hush in the dining-room until the cloth was removed.
The guests, under one excuse or another, took their departure almost
immediately after the king's health had been drunk; the officers talked
in low tones together, and very soon rose from the table.

"Will you act for me, Captain Lister?" Frank said, going up to him
quietly.

"Certainly, lad; but this is a horrible business. If it had been merely
an ordinary quarrel the colonel would have interfered to stop it, but
after what you said before us all, and with strangers present too, I am
afraid it must go on. You must be mad, lad. I have not seen you shoot
since that first evening when we went down, and two or three times
shortly afterwards. Woodall told me that you were getting on well; but
however well you may have got on, you can be no match with a pistol for
a man like Marshall; and you may be sure he won't spare you after so
public an affront."

"I must take my chance," Frank said quietly. He had himself begged the
gunmaker to say little to anyone about his shooting. "Come across to my
quarters. I suppose he will be sending over there at once."

They had just taken their seats when there was a hurried knock on the
door, and Wilmington came in, pale and agitated.

"This cannot go on, Wyatt!" he exclaimed. "You put me on my word of
honour and then take it up yourself. Don't you see that I am hopelessly
disgraced in letting you be Marshall's victim for what he said of me. I
shall go to him and insist upon my right to take the matter up myself."

"Sit down a minute, Wilmington, and be reasonable. If I get shot you
can, if you like, go out and get shot next day. But I don't mean to get
shot. There is one broad distinction between you and me--you can't
shoot, and I can. Marshall could kill you without the slightest risk to
himself, and I flatter myself that if I chose to do so, I could kill him
with the same certainty. I shall not choose to do so. I don't want the
blood of any man--not even of a ruffian like this--to rest upon my head.
I shall simply prevent him from ever fighting another duel."

Captain Lister and the young cornet gazed at Frank as if they doubted
his sanity.

"Do you quite know what you are saying, lad?" the former said kindly,
after a pause. "You don't look as if you had been taking anything before
dinner, and we know that you are always abstemious at mess; still you
are talking strangely."

"I daresay you think so," Frank replied with a smile. "You fancy the
excitement of this quarrel has a little turned my head. But it has not
done so. In the first place, I have learnt to be so quick in firing that
I am sure to get first shot."

"Yes, you might do that, lad," Captain Lister said sadly; "but it would
be the very worst thing you could do. With a hurried shot like that it
would be ten to one you missed him, and then he would quietly shoot you
down."

"Not only shall I not miss him," Frank replied, "but I will lay you any
wager you like that I will carry off his trigger-finger, and probably
the second and third. Feel my hand. You see I am perfectly cool--as cool
as I shall be to-morrow--and I do not think there is anything wild about
my eye. It is simply as I say: I am a first-rate shot--probably as much
better than Marshall as he is better than Wilmington. Ah, here is his
man! Please arrange it for to-morrow morning, if possible. The sooner it
is over the better."

Captain Lister nodded and went out. He returned in a quarter of an hour.

"It is to come off to-morrow," he said, "at six o'clock. It is to be in
the field outside the wall, on the other side of the town. I have told
my man to have the dogcart ready at half-past five. It did not take us
long to arrange matters. His second is Rankin, of his regiment; and I
don't think he liked the job at all. He began by saying:

"'I am afraid, Captain Lister, that there is no chance of our arranging
this unhappy business. Nothing short of a public apology, and the
acknowledgment that Mr. Wyatt was in liquor when he uttered the words
will satisfy my principal, and I had great difficulty in bringing him
even to assent to that.'

"I said that you had not the most remote idea of making any apology
whatever. Therefore, we had only to arrange the preliminaries of a
meeting.

"This was soon done. I could see that the young fellow was very much cut
up over the affair, and that he had undertaken to act for Marshall
because he was afraid to refuse. It did not take us five minutes
altogether. I looked in at the doctor's after we separated, to ask him
to go with us.

"'It is none of my aid you are likely to want, Captain Lister,' he said,
'and I protest against the whole affair; it is nothing short of
cold-blooded murder. Still, of course, I will go.'

"And now, lad, let us hear something more about your shooting."

"It is just as I told you, Captain Lister. I suppose I have an unusually
good eye and steady hand, and have a sort of natural aptitude for
shooting. Woodall said that he considered me as good a shot as any man
in the country, if not better. I am afraid we mustn't fire a pistol
here, or I think I could convince you."

"No, we mustn't fire in barracks at this time of the evening, Wyatt. But
if you are as good as that, the prospects are better than I thought they
were. What can you do, lad?"

"I can hit a penny spun up into the air eighteen times out of twenty
with my right hand, and sixteen or seventeen with my left."

"Is that so? Well, that ought to be good enough for anything," Lister
said. "It sounds almost miraculous. Now, let us have a look at your
pistols, lad."

"They are all right," Frank said. "I was using them this afternoon, and
cleaned them when I came back."

"And you really mean to aim at his hand?"

Frank nodded.

"Well, of course, if you go a little high or a little low you will still
have him; but if you go an inch or two wide you may miss him altogether.
I would much rather, lad, that you aimed at the body. The fellow has
never shown mercy to anyone, and there is no reason why you should show
mercy to him."

"Don't be afraid of my missing him." And Frank spoke so confidently that
his hearers felt satisfied he must at least have some good foundation
for his faith in his skill.

"Well, I think you had better turn in now, Wyatt. Will you come across
and have a cup of coffee with me before you start?"

"Thank you. Will you mind sending your servant across to call me at a
quarter to five? I am not at all good at waking myself."

"All right, lad; I don't think I am likely to get much sleep."

"Don't say much to the others when you go out," Frank said. "You can
tell them that, from what I say, it won't be such a one-sided affair as
they seem to think."

"All right. I will tell them as much as that, for they are in such a
state of mind about it that it would be kind to give them a little
consolation."

"By the way, Captain Lister, do I go out in uniform or in mufti?"

"In mufti, lad. Put on a gray or dark-coloured suit. Gray is the best;
but, above all, don't take a coat with conspicuous buttons or anything
to catch the eye, that would be a fatal mistake. Good night, lad; I
shall turn in in better spirits than I expected to do."

Wilmington did not speak, but grasped Frank's hand warmly.

"Don't come out to-morrow," Frank said.

"I couldn't," the lad replied in a broken voice, "but I shall see you
before you start."

"The major will come on with the doctor," Captain Lister said, as, after
taking their coffee next morning, they went out to the trap standing at
the door. Frank looked round the barrack yard, but no one was about. "I
sent them all away before you came, Wyatt. The lads all looked so
woebegone that I put it to them whether they considered that the sight
of their faces was likely to improve your nerve. As to young Wilmington,
he was like a ghost. I had almost to threaten to put him under arrest
before I could persuade him to go without seeing you. No one will be
there but the major. He told me that he considered it his duty to
represent the regiment, but he quite approved of all the others staying
away. He said the fewer there were present at an infamous business like
this the better. By the way, I made a condition with Rankin that you
were to be placed back to back, and neither was to move until the signal
was given; and I insisted that this should be by pistol shot, as
otherwise you could not both see the signal equally well. I said that
this was fairer than for you to stand face to face, and would increase
the chances of the affair not being a fatal one."

"Thank you, Lister. I was wondering whether you had made that condition,
for if we stood ready to fire he might draw his trigger before I did,
and things might go quite differently to what I had decided on. A bad
marksman might hold his fire, but Marshall would rely so implicitly on
his skill that he would be sure to try and get first shot; for if I
fired first and missed, he would know that the feeling against him if he
shot me down afterwards would be very strong."

"Now jump up, lad; I will take the reins. All right."

The soldier servant standing at the head of the horse released the hold
of the reins, swung himself up behind as the horse started and they
drove out through the barracks gates, followed by the eyes of all
Frank's comrades who, as soon as they heard the sound of the wheels, ran
to their windows or doors to take, as they believed, their last look at
him. They had, indeed, obtained slight consolation from the words with
which Captain Lister had sent them off to their quarters--"Keep up your
spirits, lads. There is many a slip between the cup and the lip, and I
have strong hopes that the affair is not going to turn out as bad as you
fancy."



CHAPTER IX

A DUEL


Captain Lister was very much more nervous than his principal as they
drove on to the ground. In spite of Frank's confidence he could not
bring himself to believe that the young fellow could be a match for a
practised duellist, although he had, after he had left Frank's room the
evening before, gone into the town and knocked up the gunmaker, who had
sometime before gone to bed. When, however, Captain Lister confided to
him the nature of his errand, he fully confirmed what Frank had said.

"Of course, I have not seen him stand up before a man with a pistol in
his hand," he said, "but as far as shooting goes I would back him
against any man in England; and I don't think, Captain Lister, that you
need be afraid of him in the matter of nerve. Pistol shooting depends
upon two things--nerve and eye; and he could never be the shot he is if
he had not an extraordinary amount of both qualities. I will wager that
he will be as cool as a cucumber. How are they to stand?"

"Back to back, and to turn at the signal of a pistol shot."

"Then he is all right, Captain. You need not worry about him. He is as
quick as lightning, and he will get first shot, never fear, and more
than that, I wouldn't mind betting that he carries off one of the
fellow's fingers."

"Why, how do you know that?" Captain Lister asked in surprise. "He can't
have been here since I left him."

"No, sir, he has not been here; but he told me that if he ever got into
a duel he would aim at his opponent's hand, and he has been practising
specially for that. He had a target made on purpose, but that did not
please him, and we rigged out an arm holding a pistol and fixed it to
the target just in the position it would be if the painted figure were
firing at him. We had to have a rough sort of hand made of iron, for it
would have cost a fortune if had been made of anything else. Sometimes
he would have it painted white, sometimes gray, sometimes black, either
of which it might be, if a man wore gloves, but it did not make any
difference to him; and I have seen him hit it twenty times following,
over and over again."

All this had been very reassuring to Captain Lister, and if it had not
been for Marshall's reputation he would have gone to the place of
meeting feeling confident that all would go well, but the fact that it
was Frank's first duel, while Marshall had been in some eight or ten
affairs, prevented his feeling otherwise than nervous as to the result.
They were first upon the ground; the major and doctor arriving two
minutes later.

"You may as well tell the major, Captain Lister, that he need not be
alarmed. He is looking terribly anxious, and so is the doctor."

Captain Lister nodded, and went up to them as they dismounted from the
gig. "I fancy that it is going to be all right, doctor," he said, "Wyatt
tells me so himself, and what he says is confirmed by Woodall, the
gunsmith. It seems the lad is an extraordinarily good shot. I told you
last night that he had been practising a good deal, but I did not like
to raise your hopes too high until I had seen Woodall. I will bet you a
guinea that Wyatt comes out of it all right."

"I could not bet on it, Lister, though I would pay the guinea with
greater pleasure than I ever felt at winning one; but I hear that
Marshall is a very quick shot."

"So is Wyatt, major, and as the young 'un has been practising regularly,
I fancy he will be as quick or quicker than the other."

"Well, I hope to heaven that it may turn out so. Nothing would please me
more than that Wyatt should put a ball into the fellow's head. Men like
him are a curse to the army."

"I don't think he will put a ball in his head, major, but I shall not be
surprised if he carries off one of his fingers. He has conscientious
scruples about killing the man, and he is going to aim at his hand."

The Major shook his head. "I am afraid that settles it, Lister. It may
do for a good shot to try experiments of that sort with a bad one, but
not against a man like Marshall. It would be far better for him to aim
at the body. That is a good big mark, and if he is as good a shot as you
say, and is quick enough to pull his trigger first, it would make
matters safe, but as to aiming at his hand it would be sheer madness.
You tell him what I think of it. Ah! here comes the others."

As soon as Captain Marshall and his second alighted, the latter came
forward and spoke to Captain Lister. They talked for a minute together
and then proceeded to choose the ground. This was quickly done, as there
were no trees, and it being a cloudy morning neither party would have
any advantage from the light. The two cases of pistols were then
examined. They were of the same calibre and about the same weight, and
Marshall's second at once agreed to Captain Lister's proposal that each
should fire with his own pistol, so that neither should be placed at the
disadvantage of using a weapon that he was unaccustomed to. Captain
Lister proposed that they should toss which of the two seconds should
fire the signal, but Rankin said, "I would rather not do it, Captain
Lister. I need hardly tell you that I would give anything not to be here
in my present capacity, and I would very much rather that a third party
should fire it--either your major or the surgeon."

Lister went across to the major, who at once consented to give the
signal. The pistols were then loaded, the ground measured, and the
principals placed in position. The major took two pistols--one loaded
with ball, the other with powder only, and then placed himself some ten
paces on one side of the line of fire.

"Now," he said, "gentlemen, I shall say 'Are you ready?' and on
receiving no answer shall fire; but mind I am determined that if either
of you makes a move to turn, or raises his arm by as much as an inch
from his side before he hears the shot I will shoot him down at once. Do
you both understand that?"

Both answered "Yes."

He waited a moment, and then said "Are you ready?" Then a second later
he fired. Both the antagonists turned swiftly on their heels, their arms
going up as they did so. Then the two shots rang out. They seemed almost
simultaneous; but Captain Lister, whose eyes were fixed on Marshall, saw
that his hand jerked in the act of firing, and that his ball must have
flown high. At the same moment his pistol fell to the ground, and he
staggered back a pace. Then, with an exclamation of fury, he caught his
right hand in his left, and stood rocking himself in pain. His second
and the surgeon ran up to him.

"Are you hit, Marshall?" the former said.

"Of course I am hit," he said savagely. "You don't suppose I should have
dropped the pistol if I hadn't been. I believe that young villain has
carried off one of my fingers."

"I must protest against this language, Marshall," Lieutenant Rankin said
indignantly. "I am bound to bear testimony that your opponent has acted
extremely well, and that his conduct has been that of an honourable
gentleman."

At this moment Captain Marshall turned deadly pale and would have fallen
had not Rankin and the doctor caught him, and lowered him gradually to
the ground.

"He will do no more shooting," the surgeon said grimly, "the ball has
carried off his trigger finger. Cut his coat-sleeve off, Rankin. Don't
you see he is bleeding a great deal? Lister, please bring me those
bandages at once."

Captain Lister,--who had, as soon as he saw Marshall's pistol fall, run
up to Frank and grasped his hand warmly, saying, "Thank heaven, my dear
lad, that it has turned out as you said it would. I congratulate you
with all my heart,"--at once ran to fetch the bandages, and they all
gathered round the wounded man, Frank turning very white as he saw him
lying insensible.

"What is it, doctor? I aimed at his hand. I hope it has not done any
serious damage, except there." The latter was too busy to answer. "Bring
the tourniquet," he said to Rankin, and as he ran off he looked up at
the major.

"The ball evidently struck the first finger on the knuckle, and went in
between the first and middle finger and then ran up the wrist and along
the arm, and has gone out, as you see above the elbow, cutting an
artery as it went, and smashing the bone just above the elbow. The first
thing is to stop the bleeding."

[Illustration: "CAPTAIN MARSHALL'S PISTOL FELL TO THE GROUND, AND HE
STAGGERED BACK A PACE."]

He took the tourniquet from Rankin, and applied it two or three inches
above the elbow, and continued to screw until the rush of blood ceased.
Then he bandaged the arm and hand and fastened it across Marshall's
chest. "That is all I can do now," he said. "I think there is no doubt I
shall have to amputate above the elbow; but we will take him back first.
I wish we had a stretcher."

"We have a stretcher," the major said. "I told off four men with one
half an hour before we started. I thought we should want it to bring
Wyatt back." He put a whistle to his lips and blew loudly. A minute
later four troopers ran out from behind a cottage a hundred yards away.
They had, no doubt, been furtively observing the combat, for there was
an expression of gladness and triumph on their faces as they arrived.

"Lay Captain Marshall on the stretcher," the surgeon said. "Lift him
carefully and carry him to his quarters. I will drive on at once and get
things ready. I suppose, Mr. Rankin, you will go with him. You had
better cover him up with a rug. Have either of you any brandy? I forgot
to bring any with me."

"I have a flask," the major replied. "I will get it for you at once."

"We may as well be off, Wyatt," Captain Lister said to Frank; "it is of
no use your waiting here any longer. We can do no good."

"I am sorry he is hurt so," Frank said, as they drove off.

"Then you will be the only man that is," Captain Lister replied. "You
have rid the army of a pest; that is to say, you have rendered him
harmless. Possibly he may not retire. There are plenty of men in the
service who have lost an arm; however, I should think he will go. The
disgrace will be worse to him than the wound."

"Still, I am heartily sorry that I hurt him so much," Frank repeated. "I
meant to take off one or two of his fingers, and spoil his shooting for
the rest of his life; but I never thought of the ball going up his arm
as it did."

"Well, if you had not hit him where you did, you would be lying on that
stretcher now. It was a close thing between the two shots, not more than
a fifth of a second, I should say, and if you had only hit him in the
body, I have no doubt that he would have fired before he fell; and if
ever a man meant to kill another, he did. I could see it in his eye, as
he stood there waiting for the signal. Well, Wyatt, you can stop in the
army until you get to be a general, but one thing is morally certain,
that after this affair no one will venture to insult you, and your first
duel is likely to be your last."

"I sincerely trust so," Frank said gravely. "I think I can say that
assuredly I shall never be the first to insult anyone else, and that if
ever I fight again, it will, as in this case, not be in my own quarrel."

As they drove along the straight road towards the barracks, they saw a
number of men clustered outside the gate.

"They are on the look-out," Captain Lister said. "They will have heard
from the mess waiters the news of the quarrel last night, and I don't
suppose there was a soul in barracks that did not know what our errand
was when we drove out this morning. I expect if you had been killed they
would have had to move either the Lancers' depôt or ours away from
Canterbury, for the men of the two regiments would have been sure to
have fought whenever they met each other."

As soon as they were near enough to the gates for their figures to be
made out, there was a sudden movement among the men. Several took off
their caps and waved them, while others threw them into the air.

"This is not exactly discipline, Wyatt," Captain Lister said, with a
smile; "but it shows conclusively enough that you are a favourite with
the men."

There were roars of cheering as they went in through the gates, in spite
of Captain Lister holding up his hand and shaking his head. As they
drove across the barrack square to Frank's quarters the subalterns came
rushing out. "Glad indeed to see you back again, Wyatt," the first who
run up exclaimed; "so it was arranged without fighting after all?"

"Not at all, Macalister," Captain Lister replied, as he reined in the
horse at Frank's door. "Wyatt did exactly what he told me he was going
to do--carried off Marshall's trigger-finger. But the bullet did what he
had not intended it should--ran up the arm and smashed it above the
elbow, and the doctor says that he thinks the arm will have to come
off."

A shout of satisfaction rose from the group, and Wilmington grasped
Frank's hand as he leapt down.

"Thank God that you are safe, Wyatt," he exclaimed. "I should never have
forgiven myself if anything had happened to you. Of course, what you
said last night cheered me a good deal, but I could hardly help thinking
afterwards that you had made the best of it for that purpose."

"No, I did not, Wilmington. I felt absolutely confident that I should
hit him on the hand. Now, I want some breakfast; I ordered it to be
ready before I started."

"Well, you are a cool hand, Wyatt," Lister said. "If we ever get into a
hand-to-hand affair with the French, I hope you will take me under your
protection."

"We will see about it," Frank laughed. "Well, come up now. I ordered the
breakfast for two, and I see Smith is bringing the dishes across from
the kitchen."

"Oh, I say, Wyatt, you must let the rest of us up too. We can't wait to
hear all about it until you have done."

"Come up, by all means. There is really nothing to tell you."

However, as the breakfast was being eaten, Captain Lister answered all
questions.

"So he did not take it well," one of the subalterns said. "That is just
what you would expect from a fellow like that."

"I don't think we should be too hard on him in that respect. It is very
trying to any man's temper when he makes absolutely sure of doing a
thing and is beaten by a novice. It was surprise, no doubt, as well as
pain--and I fancy the pain was pretty sharp--that caused him to lose his
temper. I expect that if he had been fighting with an old hand whom he
thought dangerous, he would have borne the wound in a very different
way. Now, look here, lads, there is one thing that you must bear in
mind. Don't treat this affair as if it were a sort of triumph for the
corps. I have no doubt that all the fellows in the Lancers will be every
bit as much pleased as we are, at the way things have turned out; but we
must not assume that. I should say you had much better not make any
allusion to the affair, unless others speak to you about it. Of course,
it will make a great deal of talk; there is no getting over that. But
don't let it be a subject to be discussed in the mess-room. Duels
between officers of different regiments have, before now, led to a lot
of bad feeling, and I have known one such duel lead to half a dozen
others. The Lancers are in no way to blame for Marshall's conduct; but,
if they found any disposition among us to crow over it, it might give
rise to ill-feeling, which would be bad enough if it were merely two
regiments in garrison together, but would be a terrible nuisance in a
depôt where there is a common mess. Therefore, when the matter is talked
over, as it is sure to be, it is best to let the talking be done by
others, and to keep your own mouths closed. Wyatt is the last fellow in
the world to wish to pose as a conquering hero."

"Thank you, Lister," Frank said. "I am sure I never wish to hear the
thing mentioned again. I have taken a lot of pains to become a good
shot, and it seems that I have a natural aptitude that way. There is
nothing more to feel boastful about than if nature had made me a giant,
and I had thereby been able to thrash a man of ordinary strength. I am
very glad that I have put it out of Marshall's power to bully other men,
and, as he had several times done, to force them into duels, when his
skill gave him such an advantage that it was nothing short of murder. I
think that I shall go across to the major, and ask him to give me a
fortnight's leave. I have not been away since I joined, and I had a
letter yesterday saying that my aunt was not very well; so I should like
to run down to Weymouth to see her."

"It would be a very good plan, Wyatt, and I am sure the major will give
you leave at once."

When he had finished his breakfast, Frank went across to the major's
quarters.

"I have not had time to congratulate you yet, Wyatt," the major said
warmly, as he entered. "You have rendered a service to the army in
general, and to our regiment in particular; for it would have been a
nasty thing if it had got about that one of us had been grossly insulted
without taking the matter up. If you had not interfered, the commandant
told me that he should have reported the matter at headquarters. Had
Wilmington taken it up, he would have refused to let the matter go on,
until he had received an answer from the Horse-guards; and he would have
done the same in your case, if you had not used such strong language.
Your words practically forced Marshall into challenging you. Still,
although we, who were present, should all have approved of Wilmington's
not being allowed to throw away his life by going out with Marshall, one
can't deny that it would have caused unpleasantness. Those who only
heard that one of our fellows had put up with a gross insult without
taking any steps, and had, so to speak, sheltered himself under the
authority of the commandant, would have considered it an ugly business,
and we should have found it very unpleasant when we joined the army in
Spain. Therefore, we all feel very much indebted to you for having
championed the honour of the regiment. You are a marvellous shot, lad,
and you will have one satisfaction, which is, that when this affair is
talked about, and it is known that you said beforehand that you intended
to take off Marshall's trigger-finger, and that you did it, there is no
chance of your ever being forced into a quarrel as long as you remain in
the army."

"Thank you, Major. I have just come across to ask you if you will allow
me a fortnight's leave of absence. I really want to pay a visit to my
aunt at Weymouth, and I think it will be a very good plan for me to get
away from here until this affair has blown over a little."

"A very good plan indeed, my lad. Certainly, you can have your leave. I
will draw it out this moment, and take it over to the commandant, who
will, I am sure, countersign it at once. Which way do you think of
going?"

"I think I will go by the coach, that comes along here at twelve
o'clock, to Dover; that is, if I see in the paper that there is any hoy
sailing for the west this evening or to-morrow. The wind is in the east,
and, with luck, I should get down there sooner than by going up to town
and taking the coach."

"Here is the list of sailings," the major said, taking up a broad-sheet
from a side table. "Yes, the hoy _Keepsake_ will sail, weather
permitting, from Dover this evening for Plymouth, touching at
Southampton and Weymouth. That would just suit you. You had better not
have more than a fortnight, for I think it likely we may get orders for
the two troops to sail before long. Be sure and leave your address at
the orderly-room."

From the major's Frank went straight to Strelinski's lodging, and told
him that he would have a fortnight's holiday.

"I do not want it," the Pole said; "but I am glad that you should have
one, for you have been working very hard lately, and it is now nearly
nine months since you came down here."

"I will get you to write an account of my progress, Strelinski. I told
Sir Robert Wilson that he should have one every three months, and the
third is nearly due now. He was very pleased at your last report."

"This will be even better, for you have been able to give a good deal
more time to it, since you have not had so many drills. Besides,
progress is not so manifest at first, until one is able to converse a
little; after that it goes on rapidly."

Strelinski at once sat down and wrote the report.

Frank read it with some interest, for Strelinski was not in the habit of
saying what he thought of his progress.

"I think you have made this too strong," he said, as he laid it down.

"Not at all," the Pole replied. "We are able to talk freely now, and it
is very seldom that you are at a loss for a word. I can say
conscientiously that you are now able to converse rapidly and well in
it. I could not say that your writing leaves nothing to be desired.
Having acquired it so much by ear and conversation, you are not perfect
in your grammar or construction when you write it; but that is of little
consequence. Sir Robert Wilson will naturally write in his own language,
and is not likely to have despatches to send in Russian. You are quite
fit to act as an interpreter to deliver messages, and to carry on any
ordinary conversation. There is a report that there has been a duel this
morning, and that an officer was carried through the town on a
stretcher."

"Yes. The wound is not a very serious one, but he will probably lose his
forearm."

"And it was you who hit him," the Pole said quietly.

"How do you know that, Strelinski?"

"I guessed it. You have told me how you were practising, and how well
you were getting on. I guessed you had some special purpose for taking
so much pains, and you did not come in yesterday evening as usual. Then,
too, you tell me he was hit in the arm, and you mentioned the other day
that you were practising at that, and showed me the iron hand you had
had made to hold a pistol."

"Well, yes, it was I. The fellow insulted a young comrade in my
regiment, knowing well that he could not shoot; so I took it up, and
there was an end of it."

"I am glad I knew nothing about it until it was all over. I should have
been very unhappy if I had known that you were going to risk your life."

"I do not think there was any risk in it. As I told you, I have
practised shooting very quickly, and felt sure that I should get first
shot, and knew that there was no chance of my missing. The man was a
dangerous fellow, and has fought many duels, but he will not now fight
any more; and he will, I should think, leave the service. Well, I must
not stay any longer, for I go by the twelve o'clock coach, and have to
write a letter to Sir Robert Wilson before I start."

Frank caught the coach without difficulty, and on arriving at Dover went
down and took his berth on board the hoy.

"We shall start at eight sharp," the skipper said.

"I will be on board in good time. I think you are likely to have a quick
passage."

"Yes, if the wind holds we shall be at Southampton tomorrow evening. I
shall get out the cargo by torchlight, for with this wind I don't want
to lose an hour. I don't know how much there will be to take in, but I
reckon anyhow that we shall be off by nine o'clock in the morning, and
if we have luck shall be at Weymouth before dark."

Frank went on shore to the hotel and dined, and spent the time until the
hour fixed for sailing in going over the fortifications. The voyage was
a quick and pleasant one, and although the accommodation was rough it
was vastly superior to that which he had been accustomed to when going
out in the fishing boats. The skipper's calculations as to time were
verified, and they entered the river at Weymouth forty-eight hours after
leaving Dover. Mrs. Troutbeck was delighted to see Frank. He had indeed
written a fortnight before, saying he hoped to be able before long to
get a few days' leave and should come down to see her, and she was
therefore not greatly surprised at his arrival.

"You have grown a good deal, my dear boy," she said after they had
chatted together for some time, "but you are not changed so much as I
expected."

"Well, Aunt, I don't see how I can change much till the hair begins to
grow on my face. Putting on uniform doesn't in itself make one a man;
but of course I feel older, and I think I have grown a bit. But there is
no chance of my ever shooting up like Julian. Of course, you have heard
nothing from him, Aunt, or you would have written to me at once!"

"Nothing, Frank. That fisherman, Bill, came in the other day, and said
he had only heard what we knew before, that he had been sent to gaol,
and that he had been marched away with a batch of prisoners somewhere
inland. The smugglers could not learn what prison they had gone to. They
said that the people of Nantes did not know that, as the guards who went
with them from there only received orders to take them a short distance,
and they were then handed over to other soldiers, who went so much
further with them, and as their escort might be changed a dozen times
not even the officials at Nantes had an idea where they were taken to at
last."

"No news of Markham, Aunt?"

"Only that he is one of the regular crew of that French lugger now."

Frank looked up all his old friends and spent a pleasant week. His visit
did his aunt a great deal of good, and the servant told him that she was
quite a different woman since he had come home again.

"She missed you wonderful, Master Frank, and though she used to go about
as usual, she did not seem to take an interest in things as she did
before. I expect, now that she has seen you again, and has perked up a
bit, she will fall into her old ways more regular. Now she has heard
from you all about what you are doing, and your friends, and such like,
and she knows that you are well and not changed, she will feel more
comfortable, and won't be always worriting herself. Mr. Henderson often
comes in and talks about you, and that always seems to do her good. And
Colonel Chambers, he looks in sometimes, and she tells me that they both
think a great deal of you, and of course that pleases her; and she looks
forward wonderful to your letters coming regular once a week. I don't
think you need trouble yourself about her, Master Frank. She has not
really much the matter with her; only you know it was always her way to
worrit about things, and you can't expect her to be otherwise, and I do
think your coming here will do her a lot of good."

Two mornings later one of the coast-guard came in. "Captain Downes will
be glad, sir, if you will go on board; there is something particular
that he wants to speak to you about."

Frank at once put on his hat.

"We had a sharp fight with the smugglers last night, your honour," the
sailor said as they started. "We had been cruising about for two days to
the west, and yesterday morning we made out to sea and held east, and at
ten o'clock came into Swanage Bay. We came upon the lugger that has
fooled us so many times, and for once we caught her napping. They were
at work unloading a cargo when we came up, and she did not make us out
until we were within a couple of cables'-length of her, then she slipped
and ran; I expect she would have shown us her heels as usual, but we
gave her a broadside, and that big spar of hers came down with a run,
and we were alongside in no time. They made a tough fight of it, but
pretty nigh half her crew were ashore with the kegs. Howsomever we were
not long in beating them below, though two or three of our chaps were
pretty badly hurt, and three of theirs killed before the scrimmage was
over. We did not trouble about the chaps ashore. I expect they were
accounted for all right, for we heard some pistol shots there, but we
came back here at once with the lugger, and got in two hours ago."

"Are the prisoners all French?" Frank asked eagerly.

"Ay, sir, just as French as can be. I was one of the party as took them
ashore and lodged them in jail; and there was no doubt about their all
being French. They had all got rings in their ears; besides, you could
tell from the cut of their jib that they were Frenchies."

In ten minutes Frank stepped on to the deck of the _Boxer_. Captain
Downes met him there. "I congratulate you, Mr. Wyatt," he said warmly.
"I suppose you have been hearing that we had a sharp tussle with the
smugglers, and at last captured that confounded lugger that has given us
so much trouble for the past two years. Though I am mightily pleased at
that, I am more pleased still that among those on board was that fellow
Markham. He fought like a tiger. I reckon he knew that his neck was in a
noose, for he would, of course, have heard from his friends here that
the matter of Faulkner's murder had been cleared up, and there was a
warrant out against him. Well, he got a pistol shot in his chest, and
after it was all over we found that he was pretty near gone. As soon as
a lantern was put to his face two or three of the men knew him at once,
and I went up to him. He was pretty well past speaking, but as I stooped
over him he said, 'You have got me this time, Captain Downes, and no
mistake. Well, it don't make much matter; I was getting sick of the
life. You look in the pocket of my jacket when I am gone, and you will
find a letter there. I swore to young Wyatt that I would clear him of
that charge of shooting Faulkner. I shot him myself, and I have put it
all down there.'

"He died a quarter of an hour later, and here is the letter. I am going
to take it over to Colonel Chambers, but I thought you would like to go
with me. Of course, your brother was really cleared of all suspicion,
but it is just as well to have got it under the real man's own hand."

"I am delighted, Captain Downes. When I was told, as I came along, of
the lugger being captured, I hoped that you might possibly have
something like this to tell me, for I had heard, since I came here, that
he was still on board her, and as it was not likely he would risk going
ashore, I thought perhaps you had got him prisoner. But this is better
altogether, for if he had been put on trial for Faulkner's murder, he
would, no doubt, have accused Julian, and though I think the evidence
was strong enough to fix the guilt on the man, there might have been
some who would have believed what he said. Now it will be altogether
cleared up. Though when Julian will be found and brought home is more
than anyone can say."

"Well, we need not trouble about that, lad, just at present. He is
cleared, which is the principal thing, and sooner or later he is sure to
find his way back again."

Frank landed with Captain Downes. Taking a trap they drove to the
magistrate's, where fortunately they found Mr. Henderson, who had gone
up to arrange for the examination of the prisoners. Both were greatly
pleased when, on the letter being opened, it was found to contain a full
confession of the murder, attested by a French magistrate, and
corroborating in every respect the facts contained in Julian's letter,
and as proved by the evidence given at the coroner's inquest. "I will
give this letter to the Weymouth paper to insert," Colonel Chambers
said, "and will send copies to the London papers, with a few lines
recalling the facts of the murder and the proofs that had accumulated of
Markham's share in it, and which show beyond all doubt the _bona-fides_
of the confession."

"Thank you very much, Colonel," Frank said. "I only wish I knew where to
send a copy to Julian."

"I am sure I wish that you could do so," the colonel said. "Poor fellow!
he has paid dearly indeed for his well-meant though rash attempt to
seize Faulkner's murderer. I shall have finished my business in two or
three minutes, and shall be glad if you will stop to have a chat with
me."

As soon as the magistrate had concluded his talk with Mr. Henderson, and
the latter had gone off to carry out the arrangements, Colonel Chambers
turned to the captain and said, "Have you seen any of the London papers,
Downes?"

"No, Colonel. I have had enough to think of this morning since we moored
up. Is there anything of importance in them?"

"Nothing perhaps extraordinarily important, but something certainly
interesting at the present moment. Here is the _Morning Herald_. This is
the item: 'Our correspondent at Canterbury states that much excitement
has been lately caused in military circles there by an affair of
honour--'" "Oh, that is too bad!" Frank broke in hotly--"'between an
officer of the Lancers, Captain M--l, and a cornet of the 15th Light
Dragoons, Mr. W--t. It is said that Captain M--l has been engaged in
several similar encounters, and is famous for his skill with the pistol.
The affair began, we understand, at a mess-dinner of the cavalry depôt a
few days since, at which several well-known gentlemen of the town were
present. Captain M--l used insulting language to a recently-joined
young officer of the Dragoons. Mr. W--t took the matter up hotly, and
rising, denounced Captain M--l in such strong language that a duel
became inevitable. In view of the youth and supposed inexperience of Mr.
W--t, the affair was regarded with extreme disapprobation by the
officers of Captain M--l's regiment, as well as by those of the
Dragoons. It seems, however, that Mr. W--t had for some time been
practising with the pistol under the tuition of our respected townsman,
Mr. Woodall the gunsmith, and before the parties met he confided to the
officer who acted as his second that he intended to aim at his
opponent's trigger-finger and so to incapacitate him from further
adventures of the kind. Extraordinary as it may appear, this intention
was carried out. Captain M--l not only lost his finger, but the bullet
passed up his arm and broke it above the elbow. We understand that the
limb has been successfully amputated by the surgeons of the two corps.
This singular feat on the part of the young officer, when opposed to so
skilled a duellist as Captain M--l, has created a profound sensation
throughout the garrison.'

"Well, Master W--t, what have you to say to that?"

"I don't know that I have anything to say to it, Colonel," Frank
replied, "except that it is a great nuisance that such a thing should be
talked about. I suppose I have a good eye and a steady hand. I have
practised steadily every day since I joined, and have got to shoot
pretty straight. The man was a notorious bully, and if the young fellow
he had insulted had gone out with him, it would have been nothing short
of murder; and yet if he had not gone out with him I believe he would
have shot himself, rather than suffer the disgrace of putting up with an
insult. So as I felt pretty certain that I could disable Marshall
without having to do him any serious injury, I took it up and hit him in
the hand as I intended to."

"Well, Downes," Colonel Chambers said, "it seems to me that these two
brothers are born to get into adventures and to get well out of them.
However, Frank, although you have acted very creditably, and must
certainly be a wonderful shot with a pistol, don't do this sort of thing
too often."

"I am not going to, sir. I hope that I shall never fight a duel again,
and I didn't practise for that, but to be able to use my pistols on
service."

Three days later Frank said good-bye to his aunt and friends, and
returned to Canterbury, travelling this time by coach, as no craft
happened to be sailing for Dover.



CHAPTER X

SMOLENSK


Julian's regiment arrived at Konigsberg early in March, and found that
it was to form part of Ney's division. The whole country round had been
turned into an enormous camp, and every town was the centre round which
a great array of tents was clustered. The troops were of many
nationalities--French, Poles, Bavarians, Saxons, Prussians, Austrians,
and even Spanish. Never since the hordes of Attila swept over Europe had
so vast an army been gathered. The total force collected for the
invasion of Russia amounted to 651,358 men, of whom some 520,000 were
infantry, 100,000 cavalry, and the remainder artillery and engineers.
They had with them 1372 guns.

April passed without any movement. The troops became impatient, and even
the veterans, whose confidence in Napoleon was implicit, shook their
heads.

"We ought to be across the frontier before this," an old sergeant of
Julian's company said to him, as they smoked a pipe together over two
mugs of German beer.

"It isn't that I think there will be much fighting, for what can Russia
do against such an army as this? They say Alexander has been busy since
the peace of Tilsit, but at that time he could scarce place 50,000 men
in the field. No one fears the Russians; but it is a big country, and
they say that in winter the cold is horrible. We shall have long
distances to march, and you know how much time is always wasted over
making a treaty of peace. If we are to be back again before winter we
ought to be off now. Of course, the Emperor may mean to hold St.
Petersburg and Moscow until next spring, and I daresay we could make
ourselves comfortable enough in either place; but when you come to
winter six hundred and fifty thousand men, and a couple of hundred
thousand horses, it is a tremendous job; and I should think the Emperor
would send all this riff-raff of Spaniards, Germans, and Poles back, and
keep only the French as a garrison through the winter. Still, I would
much rather that we should all be back here before the first snow falls.
I don't like these long campaigns. Men are ready to fight, and to fight
again, twenty times if need be, but then they like to be done with it.
In a long campaign, with marches, and halts, and delays, discipline gets
slack, men begin to grumble; besides, clothes wear out, and however big
stores you take with you, they are sure to run short in time. I wish we
were off."

But it was not until the 16th of May that Napoleon arrived at Dresden,
where he was met by the Emperor and Empress of Austria, the Kings of
Prussia and Saxony, and a host of archdukes and princes, and a fortnight
was spent in brilliant fêtes. Napoleon himself was by no means blind to
the magnitude of the enterprise on which he had embarked, and
entertained no hopes that the army would recross the frontier before the
winter. He had, indeed, before leaving Paris, predicted that three
campaigns would be necessary before lasting terms of peace could be
secured. Thus an early commencement of the campaign was of
comparatively slight importance; but, indeed, the preparations for the
struggle were all on so great a scale that they could not, with all the
energy displayed in pushing them forward, be completed before the end of
June.

Thus, then, while Napoleon delayed in Paris and feasted at Dresden, the
roads of Germany were occupied by great hosts of men and enormous trains
of baggage waggons of all descriptions, moving steadily towards the
Russian frontier. On the 12th of June Napoleon arrived at Konigsberg.
Ney's division had marched forward a fortnight before, and the Emperor
on his route from Konigsberg to the frontier reviewed that division with
those of Davoust and Oudinot, and also two great cavalry divisions.

To oppose the threatening storm Alexander had gathered three armies. The
first, stationed in and round Wilna under General Barclay de Tolly,
comprised 129,050 men; the second, posted at Wolkowich, and commanded by
Prince Bagration, numbered 48,000; the third had its headquarters at
Lutsk, and was commanded by Count Tormanssow; while the reserve, which
was widely scattered, contained 34,000 men. Thus the total force
gathered to oppose the advance of Napoleon's army of 650,000 was but
211,050. It had, too, the disadvantage of being scattered, for it was
impossible to foresee by which of the several roads open to him,
Napoleon would advance, or whether he intended to make for St.
Petersburg or Moscow.

During the next few days the divisions intended to form the advance
moved down towards the Niemen, which marked the frontier, and on the
24th of June three bridges were thrown across the river near Kovno, and
the passage began. The French cavalry drove off the Cossacks who were
watching the passage, and the same evening the Emperor established his
headquarters at Kovno, and the corps of Davoust, Oudinot, and Ney
crossed the bridges, and with the cavalry under Murat, composing
altogether a force of 350,000 men, marched forward at a rapid pace on
the 26th for Wilna, seventy-five miles distant. It was not until a few
days before Napoleon crossed the frontier that the Russians obtained any
definite information as to the force with which he was advancing, and
their commander-in-chief at once saw that it would be hopeless to
attempt to oppose so large a body. A great mistake had been committed in
occupying a position so near the frontier, but when the necessity for
retreat became evident, no time was lost in carrying it into effect, and
orders were despatched to the commanders of the various armies to fall
back with all speed. Thus, although the French accomplished the
wonderful feat of marching seventy-eight miles in two days, which was
done in the hope of falling upon the Russians before they had time to
concentrate, they found the town already evacuated, and the whole of the
immense magazines collected there destroyed.

Almost simultaneously with the passage of the Niemen by the three corps
under the French marshals, those of Prince Eugene and the other generals
also crossed, but further south, and also advanced at full speed in
hopes of interposing between the three Russian armies, and of preventing
their concentration. For the next week the French pressed hard upon the
rear of the retreating Russians, but failed to bring on a battle, while
they themselves suffered from an incessant downpour of rain which made
the roads well-nigh impassable. The commissariat train broke down, and a
hundred pieces of cannon and 5000 ammunition waggons had to be
abandoned. The rain, and a bitterly cold wind that accompanied it,
brought on an epidemic among the horses, which were forced to depend
solely upon the green rye growing in the fields. Several thousands died;
the troops themselves suffered so much from thirst and hunger that no
less than 30,000 stragglers fell out from the ranks and spread
themselves over the country, burning, ravaging, plundering, and
committing terrible depredations. Such dismay was caused by their
treatment that the villages were all abandoned, and the whole population
retired before the advance of the French, driving their flocks and herds
before them, and thus adding greatly to the difficulties of the
invaders.

[Illustration: MAP SHOWING THE ROUTE OF NAPOLEON'S MARCH TO MOSCOW.]

The greater portion of these straggling marauders belonged not to the
French corps, but to the allies, who possessed none of the discipline of
the French soldiery, and whose conduct throughout the campaign was
largely responsible for the intense animosity excited by the invaders,
and for the suffering that afterwards befell them.

As the pursuit continued even Napoleon's best soldiers were surprised at
their failure to overtake the Russians. However long their marches,
however well planned the operations, the Russians always out-marched and
out-manoeuvred them. It seemed to them almost that they were pursuing a
phantom army, a will-o'-the-wisp, that eluded all their efforts to grasp
it, and a fierce fight between the rear-guard of Barclay de Tolly's army
and the advance-guard of Murat's cavalry, in which the latter suffered
severely, was the only fight of importance, until the invaders, after
marching more than half-way to Moscow, arrived at Witebsk.

Nevertheless they had suffered severely. The savage ferocity with which,
in spite of repeated proclamations and orders, the invading army treated
the people, had exasperated the peasantry almost to madness, and taking
up arms, they cut down every straggler, annihilated small parties,
attacked baggage trains, and repeated in Russia the terrible retaliation
dealt by the Spanish guerillas upon their invaders.

On the right of the French advance there had been heavier fighting.
There General Schwarzenberg with his 30,000 Austrians had advanced
against the third Russian army, under Tormanssow. A brigade of the
division under Regnier, which was by Napoleon's order marching to join
Schwarzenberg, entered Kobrin, where it was surrounded by Tormanssow,
and after a brave resistance of nine hours, in which it lost 2000 killed
and wounded, the remainder, 2300 in number, were forced to surrender.
Tormanssow then took up a strong position with his 18,000 men, and
awaited the attack of the united forces of Schwarzenberg and Regnier,
38,000 strong.

The battle lasted all day, the loss on either side being between four
and five thousand. Tormanssow held his position, but retired under cover
of night. On the 3rd of August the armies of Barclay and Bagration at
last succeeded in effecting a junction at Smolensk, and towards that
town the French corps moved from various quarters, until 250,000 men
were assembled near it, and on the 15th of August, Murat and Ney arrived
within nine miles of the place.

Smolensk, a town of considerable size, on the Dnieper, distant 280 miles
from Moscow, was surrounded by a brick wall thirty feet high and
eighteen feet thick at the base, with loopholed battlements. This wall
formed a semicircle of about three miles and a half, the ends resting on
the river. It was strengthened by thirty towers, and at its forts was a
deep dry ditch. The town was largely built of wood. There were no heavy
guns upon the walls, and the city, which was completely commanded by
surrounding hills, was in no way defensible, but Barclay de Tolly felt
himself obliged to fight.

The greatest indignation prevailed in Russia at the retreat of the
armies without attempting one determined stand, the abandonment of so
large a tract of country to the French, and the suffering and ruin
thereby wrought among the population of one of the richest and most
thickly-peopled districts of Russia. Barclay's own plan had been to draw
the enemy farther and farther into the country, knowing that with every
mile of advance their difficulties would increase and their armies
become weakened by fatigue, sickness, and the assaults of the peasantry.
But the continued retreats were telling upon the spirit of his own
troops also. To them the war was a holy one. They had marched to the
frontier burning to meet the invader, and that, from the moment of his
crossing the Niemen, they should have to retreat, hunted and harassed
like beaten men, goaded them to fury. The officers were no less
indignant than the men, and Barclay found that it was absolutely
necessary to make a stand.

The French were as eager as the Russians to fight, and when it became
known that the enemy seemed determined to make a stand at Smolensk they
were filled with exultation. Ney's corps was the first to appear before
the town, and took up its position on rising ground a short distance
from the suburbs lying outside the wall and next to the river. Davoust's
corps was to his right, Poniatowski's division came next, while Murat
with his cavalry division completed the semicircle.

"The Russians must be mad," was the comment of the veterans of Julian's
regiment. "The place is of no strength; the artillery will breach the
walls in no time. They have but one bridge by which to retreat across
the river, and we shall soon knock that to pieces with our guns on the
right, and shall catch all who are in the town in a trap."

The obstinate resistance, however, that had been given by the Russians
to the attacks on their rear-guard had impressed the invaders with a
respect for their foes, that was in strong contrast to the feeling
entertained when they crossed the frontier, save only among the soldiers
who had met the Russians before, and who knew with what dogged valour
they always fought, especially when on the defensive.

"It is going to be tough work, Jules, I can tell you," one of them said
to Julian, whose English birth was now almost forgotten, and who, by
the good temper he always manifested, however long the marches and
however great the fatigues, had become a general favourite. "I guess we
are only going to fight because the Russians are tired of retreating,
just as we are tired of pursuing them. They can gain nothing by fighting
here. We outnumber them tremendously. The great bulk of their army lies
on the heights on the other side of the river, and there is nothing to
prevent their retreating to some strong position, where they might give
battle with advantage. On the other hand, there is no reason why we
should fight here. We have come down thirty or forty miles out of the
direct road to Moscow, and if, instead of doing so, we had crossed the
river, and had gone straight on, the Russians must have evacuated the
town and pushed on with all speed in order to get between us and Moscow.
But this marching about without getting a battle discourages men more
even than defeat, and I hope that it will do something to restore
discipline among the Germans and Austrians, ay, and among our own troops
too. I have been through a number of campaigns, and I have never seen
such disorder, such plunder, such want of discipline as has been shown
since we entered Russia. I tell you, Jules, even a defeat would do us
good. Look at the Russians; they never leave a straggler behind them,
never a dismounted gun, while the roads behind us are choked up with our
abandoned guns and waggons, and the whole country is covered with our
marauders. I should be glad if one of the brigades was ordered to break
up into companies and to march back, spreading out across the whole
country we have traversed, and shooting every man they met between this
and the frontier, whether he was French, German, Austrian, or Pole."

"It has been terrible," Julian agreed, "but at least we have the
satisfaction of knowing that Ney's corps d'armée has furnished a smaller
share of stragglers than most of the others."

"That is true enough, but bad is the best, lad. Some of our battalions
are nearly all young soldiers, and I can't say much for their conduct,
while the seven battalions of Spaniards, Wurtemburgers, and men from the
Duchy of Baden have behaved shamefully, and I don't think that the four
squadrons of Polish cavalry have been any better. We have all been bad;
there is no denying it; and never should we have conquered Germany,
crushed Prussia, and forced Austria to submit, had our armies behaved in
the way they have done of late. Napoleon would soon have put a stop to
it then. He would have had one or two of the worst regiments drawn up,
and would have decimated them as a lesson to the rest. Now his orders
seem to go for nothing. He has far too much on his mind to attend to
such things, and the generals have been thinking so much of pressing on
after the enemy that they have done nothing to see the orders carried
into effect. It was the same sort of thing that drove the Spaniards into
taking to the mountains, and causing us infinite trouble and great loss
of life. Fortunately, here we are so strong that we need fear no
reverse, but if a disaster occurred I tell you, Jules, we should have
good cause to curse the marauders who have converted these lazy peasants
into desperate foes."

"I should think we ought not to lose many men in taking that town,
sergeant. There seem to be no guns on the walls. We have the suburbs to
cover our advance, and attacking them on all sides, as we shall do, we
ought to force our way in without much trouble."

"It would seem so, lad; yes, it would seem so. But you know in Spain it
once cost us five days' fighting after we got inside a town. I allow it
was not like this. The streets were narrow, the houses were of stone,
and each house a fortress, while, as you can see from here, the streets
are wide and at right angles to each other, and the houses of brick,
and, I fancy, many of them of wood. Still, knowing what the Russians
are, I would wager we shall not capture Smolensk with a loss of less
than ten thousand men, that is if they really defend it until the last."

The following day, the 16th of August, a cannonade was kept up against
the walls by the French artillery, the Russians replying but seldom. The
next morning it was discovered that Prince Bagration had marched with
his army from the hills on the other side of the river to take post on
the main Moscow road so as to prevent the position being turned by the
advance of a portion of the French army by that route. During the night
Barclay had thrown two pontoon bridges across the river in addition to
the permanent bridge. At daybreak a dropping fire broke out, for both
Davoust and Ney had sent bodies of troops into the suburbs, which they
had entered without opposition, and these now opened an irritating fire
on the Russians upon the wall. At eight o'clock the firing suddenly
swelled into a roar. Doctorow, the Russian general in command of the
troops in the town, made a sortie, and cleared the suburbs at the point
of the bayonet. Napoleon, believing that the Russian army was coming out
to attack him, drew up Ney and Davoust's troops in order of battle, with
70,000 infantry in the first line, supported by Murat's 30,000 cavalry.

Partial attacks were continued against the suburbs, but the Russians
obstinately maintained themselves there. Finding that they showed no
signs of advancing to attack him, Napoleon at two o'clock gave orders
for a general assault, and the whole of the French troops advanced
against the suburbs. The attack of Ney's corps was directed against the
Krasnoi suburb, which faced them, and against an advanced work known as
the citadel. For two hours a terrible struggle went on. The Russians
defended all the suburbs with desperate tenacity, every house and garden
was the scene of a fierce encounter, men fought with bayonet and clubbed
muskets, the cannon thundered on the heights, and Poniatowski
established sixty guns on a hill on the French right, but a short
distance from the river, and with these opened fire upon the bridges. It
seemed that these must soon be destroyed, and the retreat of the Russian
troops in Smolensk entirely cut off. In a short time, however, the
Russians on the other side of the river planted a number of guns on a
rise of equal height to that occupied by Poniatowski's artillery, and as
their guns took his battery in flank, he was ere long forced to withdraw
it from the hill.

[Illustration: PLAN OF THE BATTLE OF SMOLENSK.]

It was only after two hours' fighting that the Russians withdrew from
the suburbs into the town itself, and as the bridges across the river
had not suffered greatly from the fire of the great French battery,
Barclay sent Prince Eugene of Wurtemberg across to reinforce the
garrison. As soon as the Russians retired into the town a hundred and
fifty guns opened fire on the wall to effect a breach, and at five a
desperate assault was made upon one of the gates, which was for a moment
captured, but Prince Eugene charged forward with his division and
recaptured it at the point of the bayonet. The French shell and grape
swept the streets and set fire to the town in a score of places, and
several of the wooden roofs of the towers upon the wall were also in
flames. After a pause for a couple of hours the French again made a
serious and desperate assault, but the Russians sternly held their
ground, and at seven o'clock made a sortie from behind the citadel, and
drove the French out of the Krasnoi suburb. At nine the cannonade
ceased. The French fell back to the position from which they had moved
in the morning, and the Russians reoccupied the covered ways in front of
the wall to prevent a sudden attack during the night.

"What did I tell you, Jules?" the old sergeant said mournfully, when the
shattered remains of the regiment fell out and proceeded to cook their
food. "I said that the capture of that town would cost us 10,000 men. It
has cost Ney's corps alone half that number, and we have not taken it;
and yet we fought well. Had every man been as old a soldier as myself
they could not have done their duty better. _Peste!_ these Russians are
obstinate brigands."

"It was desperate work," Julian said, "more terrible than anything I
could have imagined. How anyone escaped alive is more than I can say.
Every wall, every house seemed to be fringed with fire. I heard no word
of command during the day; all there was to do was to load and
fire--sometimes to rush forward when the rest did so, sometimes to fall
back when the Russians poured down upon us. Shall we begin again
to-morrow?"

"I suppose so," the sergeant replied. "We certainly sha'n't march away
until we have taken it. Perhaps the enemy may evacuate it. The whole
town is a sea of flames; there is nothing to fight for, and next time we
shall no doubt breach the walls thoroughly before we try. You see, we
undervalued the Russians, and we sha'n't make that mistake again. Well,
lad, we have both got out of it without serious damage, for that bullet
you got through your arm will soon heal up again, but there is one
thing, if you remain in the army for the next twenty years you are not
likely to see harder fighting."

That night, indeed, Smolensk was evacuated by the Russians, contrary to
the wishes of both officers and men, Prince Eugene and General Doctorow
declaring that they could hold on for ten days longer. This might
doubtless have been done, but Barclay was afraid that Napoleon might
sweep round and cross the river somewhere to his left, and that in that
case he must fall back, and the town would have to be evacuated in the
day time when the enemy could sweep the bridges with their fire. By
three o'clock in the morning the whole force in the city had crossed,
and the bridges were burnt behind them. The flames acquainted the French
with the fact that the city had been evacuated, and at daybreak they
entered the town, and soon afterwards their skirmishers opened fire on
the Russians on the other side of the river. At eight o'clock a Spanish
brigade crossed the river waist deep, and entered the suburb known as
St. Petersburg, on the right bank; but they were at once attacked; many
were killed or taken prisoners, and the rest driven across the river
again.

General Barclay then withdrew his army to the heights, wishing to tempt
the enemy to cross, intending to give them battle before all had made
the passage; but Napoleon kept his troops in hand, except that his
artillery maintained a fire to the right against the Russians. At eight
o'clock in the evening some skirmishers crossed the river, and fires
shortly broke out in St. Petersburg, and in an hour several hundred
houses, extending for a mile along the river, were in a blaze, while
those in Smolensk were still burning fiercely. At night the Russians
again fell back. The direct road lay parallel with the river, but as it
was commanded by the enemy's guns General Barclay directed the force,
divided into two columns, to march by cross roads. These led over two
steep hills, and, owing to the harness breaking, these roads soon became
blocked, and the march was discontinued till daylight enabled the
drivers to get the five hundred guns and the ammunition trains up the
hills.

The French, finding that the Russian army was going off, crossed the
river in force and furiously attacked their rear-guard, and tried to
penetrate between it and the main body of the army, but Prince Eugene's
division was sent back to assist General Korf, who commanded there. In
the meantime two columns of the French moved along the main road to
Moscow with the evident intention of heading the Russian army at
Loubino, the point where the cross road by which they were travelling
came into it. This they might have accomplished owing to the much
shorter distance they had to travel and the delays caused by the
difficulty of getting the guns over the hills, but a small Russian
corps under Touchkoff had been sent forward to cover that point. Ney had
crossed the river early by two bridges he had thrown over it, and
Touchkoff, as he saw this force pressing along the main road, took up a
position where he covered Loubino, and for some hours repulsed all the
efforts of the French to pass.

At three o'clock the pressure upon Touchkoff became so severe that
several regiments from Barclay's column, which was passing safely along
while he kept the road open for them, were sent to his assistance, and
the fight continued. Napoleon believed that the whole Russian force had
taken post at Loubino, and sent forward reinforcements to Ney. The woods
were so thick that it was some time before these reached him, the guns
of one of the columns being obliged to go a mile and a half through a
wood before they could turn, so dense was the growth of the trees. Ney
now pressed forward with such vigour that Touchkoff was driven from his
position in advance, upon the village itself, where he was again
reinforced by four infantry battalions, two regiments of cavalry, and
heavy guns. Murat with his cavalry endeavoured to turn the Russian left,
but the two Russian cavalry regiments, supported by their artillery,
maintained their ground. Soon after five o'clock the French had received
such large reinforcements that the Russians were forced to give way, and
were in full retreat when Barclay himself arrived upon the scene, and
rallied them. The battle was renewed, and the last effort of the French
was repulsed by a charge with the bayonet by the Russian grenadiers.

In the charge, however, General Touchkoff, by whose valour the Russian
army had been saved, was carried too far in advance of his men, and was
taken prisoner. It was not until midnight that the rear of Barclay's
column emerged from the cross road, in which it had been involved for
twenty-four hours. In this fight the French and Russians lost about
6000 men each. Had Junot joined Ney in the attack on Touchkoff's force
the greater part of the Russian army must have been destroyed or made
prisoners.

The Russian army now pursued its march towards Moscow unmolested save by
some attacks by Murat's cavalry. Ney's corps d'armée had borne the brunt
of the fighting at Loubino, and had been diminished in strength by
another 4000 men. In this battle, however, Julian's regiment, having
suffered so heavily in the attack at Smolensk, was one of those held in
reserve. Napoleon was greatly disappointed at the escape of the Russian
army from his grasp. Only 30,000 Russians had been engaged both in the
action in their rear and in that at Loubino, while the whole of the
French army round Smolensk, with the exception of the corps of Junot,
had in vain endeavoured to break through the defence and to fall upon
the main body of the army so helplessly struggling along the road.

In the attack on Smolensk 12,000 of Napoleon's best soldiers had fallen.
Loubino cost him 6000 more, and although these numbers were but small in
proportion to the total strength of his army, they were exclusively
those of French soldiers belonging to the divisions in which he placed
his main trust. It was now a question with him whether he should
establish himself for the winter in the country he occupied, accumulate
stores, make Smolensk a great depôt that would serve as a base for his
advance in the spring, or move on at once against Moscow. On this point
he held a council with his marshals. The opinion of these was generally
favourable to the former course. The desperate fighting of the three
previous days had opened their eyes to the fact that even so great a
force as that led by Napoleon could not afford to despise the Russians.
The country that was at present occupied was rich. There were so many
towns that the army could go into comfortable quarters for the winter,
and their communications with the frontier were open and safe. It was
unquestionably the safer and more prudent course.

With these conclusions Napoleon agreed in theory. It had originally been
his intention to winter in the provinces that he had now overrun, and to
march against St. Petersburg or Moscow in the spring. He had, however,
other matters besides those of military expediency to consider. In the
first place, the Poles were exasperated at his refusal to re-establish
at once their ancient kingdom, a refusal necessitated by the fact that
he could not do so without taking from Austria and Prussia, his allies,
the Polish districts that had fallen to their share. Then, too, the
Poles felt the terrible pressure of supporting the army still in Poland,
and of contributing to the vast expenses of the war, and were the
campaign to continue long their attitude might change to one of open
hostility. In the next place, the conclusion of peace, brought about by
the efforts of England, between both Sweden and Turkey with Russia,
would enable the latter to bring up the whole of the forces that had
been engaged in the south with the Turks, and in the north watching the
Swedish frontier, and would give time for the new levies to be converted
into good soldiers and placed in the field.

Then, too, matters were going on badly in Spain. He could place but
little dependence upon Austria, Prussia, or Germany. Were he absent
another year from France he might find these countries leagued against
him. Therefore, although recognizing the justice of the arguments of his
marshals, he decided upon pushing on to Moscow, and establishing himself
there for the winter. He did not even yet recognize the stubbornness and
constancy of the Russian character, and believed that the spectacle of
their ancient capital in his hands would induce them at once to treat
for peace. The decision was welcome to the army. The general wish of the
soldiers was to get the matter over, and to be off home again. The
obstinacy with which the Russians fought, the rapidity with which they
marched, the intense animosity that had been excited among the peasants
by the cruel treatment to which they had been exposed, the recklessness
with which they threw away their lives so that they could but take
vengeance for their sufferings, the ferocity with which every straggler
or small detachment that fell into their hands was massacred--all these
things combined to excite a feeling of gloom and anxiety among the
soldiers.

There were no merry songs round the bivouac fires now; even the thought
of the plunder of Moscow failed to raise their spirits. The loss of so
many tried comrades was greatly felt in Ney's division. It had at first
numbered over 40,000, and the losses in battle and from sickness had
already reduced it by more than a fourth. Even the veterans lost their
usual impassive attitude of contentment with the existing state of
things.

"What I don't like," growled one of the old sergeants, "is that there is
not a soul in the villages, not a solitary man in the fields. It is not
natural. One gets the same sort of feeling one has when a thunderstorm
is just going to burst overhead. When it has begun you don't mind it,
but while you are waiting for the first flash, the first clap of
thunder, you get a sort of creepy feeling. That is just what the sight
of all this deserted country makes me feel. I have campaigned all over
Europe, but I never saw anything like this."

A growl of assent passed round the circle, and there was a general
repetition of the words, "It is not natural, comrade. Even in Spain,"
one said, "where they hate us like poison, the people don't leave their
villages like this. The young men may go, but the old men and the women
and children remain, and the priest is sure to stop. Here there is not
so much as a fowl to be seen in the streets. The whole population is
gone--man, woman, and child."

"It makes one feel," another said gloomily, "as if we were accursed,
infected with the plague, or something of that sort."

"Well, don't let us talk about it," another said with an effort at
cheerfulness. "There is Jules, he is the merriest fellow in our company.
Come here, Jules. We are all grumbling. What do you think of things?"

"I don't think much about them one way or the other," Julian said as he
came up. "We have not a great deal further to go to Moscow, and the
sooner we get there the better. Then we shall have the satisfaction of
seeing some people."

"Yes, Jules, that is what is vexing us, that everyone runs away at our
approach."

"And no fools either," Julian replied, "considering the villainous way
in which they have been harried. Even peasants have some feeling, and
when they are treated like wild beasts they will turn. It seems to me
that instead of ill-treating them we ought, with such a march as this
before us, to have done everything in our power to show them that,
although we were going to fight any armies that opposed us, we had no
ill-feeling against the people at large. If they had found us ready to
pay for everything we wanted, and to treat them as well as if they had
been our own country people, there would have been no running away from
us. Then, as we advanced we could have purchased an abundant supply of
food everywhere. We should have had no fear as to our communications,
and might have wandered a hundred yards outside our sentries without the
risk of having our throats cut. However, it is of no use going over
these arguments again. The thing has been done and cannot be undone, and
we have but to accept the consequences, and make the best of them. A man
who burns a wood mustn't complain a month afterwards because he has no
fuel. However, I hope that in another day or two we shall be moving on.
As long as we are going there is no time to feel it dull; it is the
halt, after being so long in motion, that gives us time to talk, and
puts fancies into our heads. We did not expect a pleasure excursion when
we started."



CHAPTER XI

WITH THE RUSSIAN ARMY


When Frank arrived at Canterbury he found things in confusion, and
received the news that two troops had orders to march the next morning
for Portsmouth, where they were to embark for Spain.

"Why, the major said he would write!" he exclaimed. "His letter must
have missed me somehow. I shall have enough to do to get ready
to-night."

"You are not going, Wyatt," Wilmington, who was his informant, said.
"The order expressly stated that Cornet Wyatt was not to accompany his
troop, as his services were required in another direction, and that
another officer was to take his place, and I am going with your troop.
Lister has been grumbling desperately. What on earth can they want you
for? However, there is a batch of letters for you in the ante-room, and
I daresay you will learn something about it from them."

Frank ran in. There were two letters. One was an official document; the
direction of the other was in Sir Robert Wilson's handwriting. He opened
this first.

"My dear Wyatt, your letter inclosing Strelinski's certificate came in
the nick of time. I had already made an application that you should be
attached to me for service, on the ground that you belonged to my old
regiment, and knew something of Russian; but your age and short service
were against you, and I doubt whether I should have succeeded, as the
post is considered an important one. However, when I went and showed
them the Pole's report as to your knowledge of Russian, and pointed out
that this was a far more important matter in the present case than any
question of age or service, the commander-in-chief at once agreed, and
you will no doubt receive an intimation that you are appointed my
aide-de-camp. I have been made a brigadier-general. It is not as yet
settled when we shall start. I have only just received my official
appointment, and there is no saying when I may get my final
instructions; for it is to a certain extent a political affair, and this
sort of thing always drags on for a long time before it comes to a head.
It is lucky that your matter is arranged now, for I hear at the
Horse-guards that your troop is ordered out to Spain. No doubt, just at
the moment, you will be sorry that you are not going with it, but I can
assure you that this business will be vastly more useful to you in your
profession, than anything you would be likely to meet with as a cavalry
subaltern in Spain."

For a moment, indeed, Frank did regret that he was not going to
accompany his troop. He was so sure, however, that Sir Robert Wilson was
acting for the best that he put aside this feeling. The official letter
was a simple notification that he was appointed aide-de-camp to General
Sir Robert Wilson, but that he was to remain at the depôt and continue
his ordinary duties until a further intimation reached him. The
excitement of departure had, Frank was glad to find, quite thrown that
caused by his duel into the background. All the officers who were to go
were busy with their preparations, and Frank was occupied until a late
hour that night in assisting them in packing not only the baggage that
was to be taken, but the heavy cases that were to be stored away until
their return. Many were the regrets expressed by the officers who were
going out that Frank was not to accompany them, and much curiosity
expressed as to the reason for which he was kept behind. He felt that,
although Sir Robert Wilson had not specially enjoined silence, it would
be undesirable that any information as to the probability of his
proceeding to Russia should be given. He therefore said:

"I only know that Sir Robert Wilson, who was a great friend of my
father's, and who obtained my commission for me, is going to have a
command somewhere, and has asked for me as one of his aides-de-camp on
the ground of his friendship for my father, and his former connection
with our regiment."

"Well, then, very likely we shall see you out there before long, Wyatt,"
Captain Lister said. "Of course, it is a compliment to the regiment, but
I daresay you feel it as a nuisance at present."

"I should like to be going with you all, Lister; but I suppose this is
best for me in the long run."

"Of course it is. It is always a good thing for a fellow to serve on the
staff. You have ten times as good a chance of getting mentioned in the
despatches, as have the men who do all the fighting. Still, I have no
doubt you will deserve any credit you may get, which is more than is the
case nine times out of ten."

"How is Marshall getting on?"

"He is going on all right. He has sent in his papers, and I suppose he
will be gazetted out by the time he is able to travel. I can assure you
that there was quite as much satisfaction in the Lancers at the turn the
affair took as there was with us."

"Does the major go with you, Lister?"

"No; he remains in command of the depôt for the present. Of course, he
will go out if a vacancy occurs above him; but in any case he will go
with the next draft, and the next two troops will be wound up to service
pitch in another couple of months, so I expect by the spring he will be
out there. I should not have minded if we too had waited until then,
for of course the army have gone into its winter quarters, and there
will be nothing doing for the next three or four months; and I take it
we should be a good deal more comfortable here, than posted in some
wretched little Spanish town till operations commence again. No doubt
you will be out there long before the first shot is fired."

Another three months passed, and on the 28th of March, 1812, Frank
received an official order to join Sir Robert Wilson at once, and a
letter from the general, informing him that they were to sail on the 8th
of April. The letter was written in haste, and gave no intimation
whatever as to their destination. During this three months Frank had
worked almost incessantly at Russian. He had informed the major in
confidence that he believed Sir Robert Wilson was going as British
Commissioner to the Russian army when the war broke out with France.

"Ah! that accounts for your working so hard at Russian, Wyatt," the
major said in reply. "I suppose you had received a hint from Sir
Robert."

"Yes, Major. He told me that as he had been commissioner with the
Russians in their last war, it was probable that, if the rumours that
Napoleon intended to invade Russia proved correct, he might be appointed
again, and said that if I could get up enough of the language to speak
it pretty fluently, he would apply for me."

"Well, you deserve it, Wyatt; for there is no doubt that you have worked
hard indeed; and it will be a capital thing for you. Is there anything I
can do?"

"Yes, sir. I thought, perhaps, that when you knew what I am going to do,
you would relieve me of some of the ordinary drills, as I should like to
spend as much time as possible before I go, in getting up Russian."

"Certainty," the major said. "After the official information that you
were not to proceed with the draft, as you would be required for special
service, I have a right to consider you as a supernumerary here, and
will relieve you of all ordinary drills and parades. You must, of
course, take your turn as officer of the day, and if there are any
special parades ordered, or any field days with the Lancers, you will
attend, but otherwise you will be free of all duty. The two next troops
to go have their full complement of officers, so that really you are not
wanted."

As soon as Frank received Sir Robert Wilson's letter he went to
Strelinski.

"It has come," he said. "I have to go up to town tomorrow, as I embark
on the 8th. I am awfully sorry that our lessons have come to an end.
However, they have lasted over the year that we talked of at first."

"I am sorry too, Mr. Wyatt; though really I feel that in no case need
you have continued your studies any longer. The last three months has
made a great difference, for you have been talking Russian some eight or
ten hours a day, and are now sufficiently acquainted with the language
for any purpose whatever, except perhaps writing a book in it. If I had
not known that you might leave at any time, I should myself have told
you that I considered there was no advantage to be gained by your going
on with me any longer. I shall, of course, go up to London with you
to-morrow."

"I am sorry for your sake, as well as my own, that our lessons are over,
Strelinski."

"It cannot be helped," the Pole replied. "It has been a God-send to me.
When I first met you, I was well-nigh hopeless. Now I shall begin the
battle again with fresh courage. I have saved enough money to keep me,
with care, for many months, and doubtless your recommendation that you
have learned Russian from me, will make matters more easy for me than
they were before."

On arriving in town Frank went at once to Sir Robert Wilson's lodging.
He found the general in, and after the first greetings, learned from him
that they were to accompany the newly-appointed ambassador to
Constantinople. "Our object there," Sir Robert said, "is to arrange, if
possible, a peace between Russia and Turkey. There is no doubt whatever
that Napoleon intends war. It is not declared yet, but it is absolutely
certain, and it is of vital importance that Russia should have her hands
free in other directions. As soon as this is arranged,--and I have no
doubt that it will be managed, for it is so necessary to Russia that she
will grant any terms, in reason, that Turkey can ask,--I am to journey
north and join the headquarters of the Russian army."

This was delightful news to Frank. European travel in those days was
rare, and to have the opportunity of visiting Constantinople, as well as
being present at the tremendous encounter about to take place, was an
unexpected pleasure indeed.

"There is one thing I want to speak to you about, Sir Robert," he said
presently. "It is about Strelinski. I have been thinking that perhaps,
as war is about to break out between Russia and France, you might be
kind enough to get a post for him as interpreter at the War Office or
Foreign Office."

"I have already thought of that," the general said. "You wrote so highly
of him in your letters, that I felt I could thoroughly recommend him,
and I spoke about it only the day before yesterday to the Marquis of
Wellesley, and he said at once that they should be glad to have such a
man, as it would enable me to send over official documents and other
Russian statements without the trouble and loss of time in translating
them, and as the man is from Russian Poland, he could give information
concerning the country and the roads and other matters that would help
them to understand what is going on, especially as, until my arrival
there, they will have to depend upon Russian documents sent over by our
ambassador at St. Petersburg. Tell him to be here at eleven o'clock
to-morrow morning, and be here yourself in uniform. I have an
appointment with Lord Wellesley at half-past."

Frank had put up at the hotel where the coach stopped, and had invited
Strelinski to stay there with him until he started; and on his return he
delighted the Pole by telling him that there was some chance of Sir
Robert Wilson obtaining for him an appointment as interpreter. The next
day Frank and Strelinski accompanied Sir Robert Wilson to the War
Office. They remained in the ante-chamber while the general went in to
Lord Wellesley's apartments. In half an hour an officer came out and
called Frank in.

"Sir Robert Wilson has spoken very warmly in your favour, Mr. Wyatt,"
Lord Wellesley said, holding out his hand, as Sir Robert introduced him,
"and his report is confirmed by your commanding officer, Major Tritton,
who gives an excellent account of you. But you must not deprive His
Majesty's army of the services of any more of its officers, Mr. Wyatt.
Of course I received full details of that affair, and I am bound to say
that it seems you behaved admirably, and you must be a wonderful shot.
You don't look like a fire-eater either. It is a bad practice, Mr.
Wyatt, a very bad practice. Well, well," he broke off, seeing a slight
smile on Sir Robert's lips, "I suppose I have no right to say anything
about it, having been an offender myself. However, from what I have
learned, if ever a duel was justified, yours was. Well, sir, I hope that
your future career will correspond with the reports that I have received
of your past conduct. You are very fortunate in having been chosen for
so important a service as that upon which you are now embarking, and I
need hardly say that it will be of great value to you in your
profession."

Frank expressed his thanks, and then retired. Strelinski was then called
in, and in a few minutes returned radiant.

"What do I not owe to you," he said, "to you and General Wilson? I have
been appointed interpreter on a salary of two hundred a year. Think of
it! my fortune is made."

"I congratulate you indeed," Frank replied warmly. "I did not like to
raise your hopes too high, but I felt sure, by what Sir Robert said,
that it was as good as settled. I am almost as pleased as you are, for I
should have been awfully sorry to go away, without knowing that you were
comfortably settled here."

"What are you going to do, Wyatt, till you start?" General Wilson asked,
as they left the War Office.

"It depends whether I can be useful here; if so, I am of course ready to
do anything, but if you will not in any way want me, I shall start this
evening by the coach for Weymouth, and join you at Portsmouth. I will
send my baggage off at once by waggon."

"Do so by all means, Wyatt. Direct it 'Care of General Wilson, His
Majesty's ship _Argo_.' You had better be there on the afternoon of the
7th, and go on board at once. We shall be down that evening, and shall
sleep at the _George_, and go on board the first thing in the morning."

Frank found his aunt in good health. He stayed there three days, and
then posted to Portsmouth, getting there early on the morning of the
7th. The _Argo_ was lying at Spithead. Taking a wherry he went out to
her at once. He found that all was in readiness, and that a small cabin
had been assigned to him next to that of Sir Robert Wilson. His trunk
was already there, and leaving his small portmanteau in his cabin, he
went ashore and took up his quarters at the _George_. The ambassador,
his secretary, and General Wilson arrived together in a post-chaise in
the evening, and at eight o'clock next morning they all went on board.

The voyage was long and tedious, but Frank was very glad of a stay for
two or three days at Gibraltar, and as long at Malta.

The _Argo_ arrived at Constantinople at the end of June, and they found
that the treaty of peace between Turkey and Russia had been already
arranged. A month was spent in vexatious delays, which were the more
irritating as it was known that Napoleon had arrived at the frontier,
and was on the point of crossing the Niemen, if he had not already done
so. At last the British ambassador succeeded in overcoming the inertness
of the Porte; on the 14th of July the treaty was finally ratified, and
on the 27th Sir Robert Wilson was sent by our ambassador to Shumla to
arrange details with the Grand Vizier. Thence he went to the Congress at
Bucharest, which was the headquarters of the Russian Admiral,
Tchichagow, who commanded their army of the Danube.

After having finally arranged these matters, he started north with
Frank, furnished with an order to postmasters on the road to supply them
instantly with relays of horses. Travelling night and day without a
stop, they arrived at Smolensk on the day before the French attacked the
place. Sir Robert had expected to find the Emperor here, but learnt that
he was still at St. Petersburg. Being personally acquainted with all the
Russian generals he was received with the greatest courtesy, and at once
placed himself at the disposal of the commander-in-chief, while Frank
was introduced to the members of the staff.

Sir Robert Wilson found that a very grave state of things was
prevailing. The generals were in open dissension with Barclay for having
suffered the enemy to overrun so many provinces, and for not making any
dispositions to defend the line of the Dnieper.

Next morning the Englishmen were awakened by a roar of musketry. They
had been furnished with horses, and, dressing hastily, mounted, and
joined the commander-in-chief's staff, which was taking up its position
on the hill, whence a general view could be obtained of what was passing
on the other side of the river. An aide-de-camp was on the point of
starting as they rode up to ascertain the exact position of things in
the town, and Sir Robert ordered Frank to accompany him. Frank had been
introduced to the aide-de-camp on the previous day, and as they dashed
down towards the bridge, he said:

"The fighting seems very heavy."

"It will be heavier before they take Smolensk," the Russian said. "There
are 20,000 men in the town, and reinforcements can be sent across as
required. At present the fighting is in the suburbs, but they won't
drive us out of them as quickly as they expect."

After crossing the bridge they made their way to the headquarters of
General Doctorow, and were at once shown in. The Russian saluted: "The
commander-in-chief sends his compliments to you, general, and wishes to
know how things are going on, and whether you need reinforcements. He
desires that you should send messengers every ten minutes acquainting
him with the progress of affairs."

"All goes well at present. The troops are everywhere doing their duty.
As yet we need no reinforcements. They are making but little way in any
of the suburbs, but of course their attack is not yet fully developed."

"Allow me to introduce to your Excellency this British officer, Mr.
Wyatt, aide-de-camp to General Wilson, who arrived in our camp yesterday
afternoon as British commissioner."

"You have come at an opportune moment, sir, to see fighting. If you had
come sooner you would have seen nothing but running away. If you would
like to make a tour of the walls to see what is going on, an officer
shall accompany you."

Frank accepted the invitation with thanks. He had nothing at present to
report more than the aide-de-camp would take back, and he knew that Sir
Robert would be glad of further particulars. He therefore asked him to
tell Sir Robert why he had stayed, and at once proceeded to the walls,
accompanied by an officer of Doctorow's staff. From there, little could
be seen of the fighting. The musketry fire, indeed, had almost ceased,
and the French could be seen retiring up the hill, where dense masses of
troops were drawn up. Returning to the general's quarters he mounted and
rode back to the commander-in-chief's staff.

"The affair has scarcely begun yet," he said to Sir Robert, "but the
whole of the French army is drawn up in line of battle, and, I should
say, is about to assault the town in full force."

For some hours there was a lull, but about mid-day heavy masses of
troops were seen descending from the French positions, and as they
approached the suburbs a roar of musketry broke out. Twice in the course
of the next two hours Frank was sent down into the town. He reported
that, although resisting with the greatest obstinacy, the Russians were
being driven out of the suburbs. Just as he returned the second time,
Sir Robert Wilson, who was examining the enemy's position with a
telescope, observed that ten batteries of artillery were making their
way up the steep hill on the other side of the river. He at once
reported this to the general, adding: "They will very speedily knock the
bridges into pieces and isolate the garrison altogether. But I think,
sir," he added, "if you place some batteries on the hill on this side,
you will take them in flank. The two hills are both about the same
height, and they will be completely exposed to your fire."

"Very well," General Barclay replied, "I will order eight batteries up
there at once, and you will oblige me if you will accompany them and
indicate the best position for them to take up. Colonel Stellitz, you
will at once carry the order to the artillery, and request the officer
in command of the batteries to post them as General Wilson may advise."

Sir Robert and the colonel, followed by Frank, at once rode off. Just as
they reached the artillery, the French battery opened fire. Exclamations
of rage burst from the soldiers as the shot splashed into the water
round the bridges and the shell burst over them. The general in command
of the artillery, on receiving the order, directed eight batteries to
follow General Wilson. At a gallop they dashed up the hill, and in ten
minutes had unlimbered and opened fire upon the French. The effect was
visible at once. Much confusion was observed among the artillery-men,
and in a short time several of the guns were dismounted, and four or
five powder waggons blown up. Then a loud cheer burst from the Russian
artillery-men as they saw the French bring up the horses from behind the
shelter of the crest, limber-up and drive off with the guns. But from
other points of vantage 150 guns were now pouring their fire into the
town, and, as the flames broke out from several quarters, exclamations
of grief and fury were heard from the Russian soldiers.

Smolensk was, like Moscow, considered a sacred city, and the soldiers
were affected rather by the impiety of the act than by the actual
destruction that was being wrought. As General Wilson and Frank rode
back to the spot where General Barclay was stationed, a mass of Russian
infantry moved down the hill towards the bridges, and at once began to
cross.

"Whose division is that?" Sir Robert asked an officer as they joined the
staff.

"It is Prince Eugene's," he replied. "They are pressing us hard now,
having driven Doctorow's men out of the covered way, and are massing for
an assault on one of the gates."

The fire continued unabated until seven o'clock. Then a messenger came
across with the news that the French were drawing off, and that the
covered way was being reoccupied. General Wilson was warmly thanked by
the Russian commander-in-chief for having silenced the batteries that
had threatened the bridges. That evening, when he issued the order for
the evacuation of Smolensk, the disaffection with Barclay de Tolly broke
out with renewed force, and during the night a body of generals came to
Sir Robert Wilson's tent. He was at the time occupied in dictating a
despatch to Frank, whom he requested to retire directly he saw the rank
of his visitors. As soon as they were alone they said that it had been
resolved to send to the Emperor not only the request of the army for a
new chief, but a declaration in their own name and that of the troops
"that if any order came from St. Petersburg, to suspend hostilities and
greet the invaders as friends"--for it had all along been believed that
the retrograde movements were the result of the advice of the minister,
Count Romanzow--"such an order would be regarded as one that did not
express his Imperial Majesty's real sentiments and wishes, but had been
extracted from his Majesty under false representations or external
control, and that the army would continue to maintain its pledge and to
pursue the contest till the invader was driven beyond the frontier."

"We are here, General Wilson," one of the generals said, "to beg you to
undertake the delivery of this message to the Emperor. It would mean
death to any Russian officer who undertook the commission, but, knowing
your attachment to the Emperor, and his equally well-known feelings
towards yourself, no person is so well qualified to lay the expression
of our sentiments before him. Your motives in doing so cannot be
suspected; coming from you, the Emperor's self-respect would not suffer
in the same way as it would do, were the message conveyed to him by one
of his own subjects."

One after another the generals urged the request.

Sir Robert listened to their arguments, and then said: "This is
altogether too grave a matter for me to decide upon hastily. I know
thoroughly well that there is no thought of disloyalty in the mind of
any of you towards the will of the Emperor, but the act is one of the
gravest insubordination, and it is indeed a threat that you will disobey
his Majesty's commands in the event of his ordering a suspension of
hostilities. As to the conduct of the commander-in-chief, I am not
competent to express any opinion whatever, but as a soldier I can
understand that this long-continued retreat and the abandonment of so
many provinces to the enemy, without striking a single blow in their
defence, is trying in the extreme, both to yourselves and your brave
soldiers. I shall not leave the army until I see it fairly on the march
again, but before I start I will give you my reply."

The generals thanked Sir Robert warmly, and then withdrew.

"I shall write no more to-night, Wyatt," the general said when Frank
entered the tent. "I have other grave matters to think about. You had
best lie down at once, and get a few hours' sleep. To-morrow is likely
to be an eventful day, for the operation of withdrawing the army from
this position and getting on to the main road again will be full of
peril, and may indeed end in a terrible disaster."

As soon as the Russian army had repulsed the attacks of the French and
resumed its march towards Moscow, Sir Robert Wilson left it and
proceeded to St. Petersburg, where he had promised the Russian generals
to inform the Czar of the opinion and disposition of the army, their
dissatisfaction with the general, and their determination to continue
the combat and to refuse to recognize any negotiations or armistice that
might be made with the enemy.

"I shall leave you here, Wyatt," the General said, on the morning after
the desperate defence of Loubino had saved the army. "There is little
chance of the French pressing the Russians any further. I think it
probable that they may go into winter quarters where they now are; but
in any case they cannot hope to outmarch us, and, if they follow, the
battle will be in the position the Russians may choose. Even were there
more fighting imminent, I should still start to-day for St. Petersburg;
I only came round by Smolensk, as you know, because I thought that the
Emperor would be found there. My first duty is to see him, and to report
to him the arrangements that have been made on the Danube with the Grand
Vizier and his people, by which the whole of the Russian army there will
be able to join in the defence against the French. As soon as I have
done so and explained to his Majesty the position here, I shall rejoin;
and I hope the Czar will also be coming down here, for his presence
would be most useful--not in the military way, for no men in the world
could fight better than the Russians are doing,--but the army fears,
above all things, that peace will be made before it has an opportunity
of wiping out, what it considers its disgrace, in allowing the French to
overrun so many rich provinces without striking a blow.

"In point of fact, the defence of Smolensk, and the way in which some
20,000 men yesterday withstood for hours the assault of three or four
times their number, would be sufficient to prove to the world their
fighting qualities. In my own mind, I consider that Barclay has acted
wisely in declining to hazard the whole fortune of the war upon a single
battle against an enemy which, from the first, has outnumbered him
nearly threefold, but he should never have taken up his position on the
frontier if he did not mean to defend it. Any other army than this would
have become a disorganized rabble long ago. There is nothing so trying
to troops as to march for weeks hotly chased by an enemy. Three times in
the Peninsula we have seen what a British army becomes under far less
trying circumstances. If the Russians did but know it, this retreat of
theirs, and the admirable manner in which they have maintained their
discipline, is as creditable as winning a great victory would be; still
one can understand that the sight of this flying population, the
deserted fields, this surrender of provinces to an enemy, is mortifying
in the highest degree to their pride.

"Nevertheless, Barclay's policy, though I think it has been carried a
great deal too far--for with troops who will fight as ours did yesterday
he might have fought a dozen battles like that of Loubino, and would
have compelled the French to advance slowly instead of in hot
pursuit--has been justified to a great extent. From all I hear, the
invading army has already suffered very great losses from fever and
hardship, the effect of the weather, and from the number of stragglers
who have been cut off and killed by the peasantry. Their transport has
especially suffered, vast numbers of their horses having died; and in a
campaign like this, transport is everything. In the various fights that
have taken place since they entered Russia, they have probably suffered
a heavier loss than the Russians, as the latter have always fought on
the defensive; and the French loss has fallen on Napoleon's best troops,
while the Russian army is all equally good.

"Lastly, although the Russians are discontented at their continued
retreat, their _morale_ does not seem to have suffered in any way, and
it is probable that the long marches, the inability to bring on a
general engagement, the distance from home, and the uncertainty about
the future has told heavily upon that of the French, who are vastly more
susceptible to matters of this kind than are the Russians. You will
remain with the headquarter staff, and I wish you, while I am away, to
obtain accurate details of the movements of the various columns, and to
write a full report every evening of the march and of all matters of
interest. I do not want you to forward these to me, but to keep them
for future reference. I hope to rejoin before any further fighting takes
place."

Sir Robert reached St. Petersburg on the 24th of August, but it was not
until ten days later that he saw the Emperor, who had gone with Lord
Cathcart, the British Ambassador, to meet the King of Sweden, and to
conclude the negotiations that secured his co-operation. The information
that General Wilson had brought of the admirable behaviour of the army
did much to allay the alarm that prevailed in St. Petersburg; and, after
dining with the Emperor on the evening of the arrival of the latter at
his capital, he had a long private interview with him. The Emperor had
already been made acquainted with the dissatisfaction in the army, and
Marshal Kutusow had been sent to replace General Barclay, and he asked
Sir Robert whether he thought the new commander would be able to restore
subordination and confidence in the army. Sir Robert replied that he had
met the marshal, and had informed him of the exact state of things
there: that the latter had conjured him to acquaint the Emperor with the
fullest details, and in accordance with that request, and in order to
prevent his Majesty having the pain of hearing it from the lips of one
of his own subjects--who perhaps would be less able to convince him of
the intense feeling of loyalty to himself that still prevailed--he had
consented to be the mouthpiece of the generals of the army. He then
reported to him the interviews that he had had with the general
officers, suppressing the names of those present, and the message they
had desired him to deliver.

The Emperor was greatly moved. However, the manner in which the general
fulfilled the mission with which he was charged, and his assurances that
the act of seeming insubordination and defiance of the imperial
authority was in no way directed against him, but against his advisers,
whom they believed to be acting in the interests of Napoleon, had their
effect, and the Emperor promised to give the matter every
consideration, and to answer him definitely on the following day. At
the next meeting he gave Sir Robert his authority to assure the army of
his determination to continue the war against Napoleon while a Frenchman
remained in arms on Russian soil, and that, if the worst came to the
worst, he would remove his family far into the interior, and make any
sacrifice rather than break that engagement. At the same time, while he
could not submit to dictation in the matter of his ministers, he could
assure them that these should in no way influence him to break this
promise.

During Sir Robert's stay in St. Petersburg the Emperor took every
occasion to show him marked favour, as if anxious to assure those whose
views Sir Robert had represented, that he was in no way displeased with
them for the attitude they had assumed; and upon his leaving to rejoin
the army the Emperor directed him to repeat in the most formal manner
his declaration that he would not enter into or permit any negotiations
with Napoleon; and added that he would sooner let his beard grow to his
waist, and eat potatoes in Siberia.

Frank had been active during the battle of Loubino. Sir Robert Wilson
had taken up his post with Touchkoff during the action which was so
desperately fought to cover the retreat of the main army, and Frank had
acted as aide-de-camp, and, having carried orders to various parts of
the field, had excellent opportunities of seeing the whole of the
battle; and the Russian general in making his report of the engagement
had mentioned his name among those who had rendered distinguished
services. His horse had been shot under him, his cap had been carried
away by a bullet, and he had received a slight flesh wound in his leg.
Although this was of small consequence, it had caused the insertion of
his name among those of the officers wounded in the battle. He was to
see no more fighting for a time; for, although the army of Wittgenstein
fought two or three severe actions with the divisions of St. Cyr and
Oudinot, the main army fell back without again fighting until it took up
the position that Marshal Kutusow had selected for giving battle.



CHAPTER XII

BORODINO


Barbarously as the French army behaved on its advance to Smolensk,
things were even worse as they left the ruined town behind them and
resumed their journey towards Moscow. It seemed that the hatred with
which they were regarded by the Russian peasantry was now even more than
reciprocated. The destruction they committed was wanton and wholesale;
the villages, and even the towns, were burnt down, and the whole country
made desolate. It was nothing to them that by so doing they added
enormously to the difficulties of their own commissariat; nothing that
they were destroying the places where they might otherwise have found
shelter on their return. They seemed to destroy simply for the sake of
destruction, and to be animated by a burning feeling of hatred for the
country they had invaded.

Since the days of the thirty years' war in Germany, never had war been
carried on in Europe so mercilessly and so destructively. As he saw the
ruined homes or passed the bodies of peasants wantonly shot down, Julian
Wyatt regretted bitterly that he had not been content to remain a
prisoner at Verdun. Battles he had expected; but this destruction of
property, this warring upon peaceful inhabitants, filled him with
horror; his high spirits left him, and he no longer laughed and jested
on the march, but kept on the way in the same gloomy silence that
reigned among the greater part of his companions. When half way to
Moscow a fresh cause of uneasiness manifested itself. The Russians no
longer left their towns and villages for the French to plunder and burn,
but, as they retreated, themselves applied fire to all the houses, with
a thoroughness and method which showed that this was not the work of
stragglers or camp-followers, but that it was the result of a settled
plan. At last news came that the Russians had resolved to fight a
pitched battle at Borodino, and the spirits of the army at once rose.

Napoleon halted them for two days, in order that they might rest and
receive provisions from the baggage trains following. On the 4th of
September they marched forward as before, in three columns, preceded by
Murat's cavalry, which brushed aside the hordes of Cossack horse.
Half-way to Gratz, a Russian division stoutly held for some time a
height up which the road wound, but after some sharp fighting was forced
to retreat.

The Russian position at Borodino was a strong one. The right was covered
by the rivulet of Kolocza, which was everywhere fordable, but ran
through a deep ravine. Borodino, a village on the banks of this rivulet,
formed their centre, and their left was posted upon steeply rising
ground, almost at right angles with their right. Borodino itself--which
lay on the northern side of the Kolocza--was not intended to be held in
force. The rivulet fell into the river Moskwa half a mile beyond
Borodino. Field-works had been thrown up at several points, and near the
centre were two strong redoubts commanding Borodino and the high-road.
Other strong works had been erected at important points.

[Illustration: PLAN OF THE BATTLE OF BORODINO.]

Considerably in advance of the general line of the position a strong
work had been erected; this it was necessary to take before the main
position could be attacked, and at two in the afternoon of the 5th,
Napoleon directed an assault to be made upon this redoubt. It was
obstinately held by the Russians. They were several times driven out,
but, as often, reinforcements came up, and it was captured by them;
and finally, after holding it until nightfall, they fell back to their
main position, the loss having been heavy on both sides. The next day
was spent by Napoleon in reconnoitring the Russian position and deciding
the plan of attack. Finally he determined to make a strong demonstration
against the village of Borodino, and, under cover of this, to launch his
whole army upon the Russian left wing. On the morning of the 7th,
Napoleon posted himself on an eminence near the village of Chewardino.
Near the spot, earthworks were thrown up during the night for the
protection of three batteries, each of twenty-four guns. Davoust and Ney
were to make a direct attack on the enemy's left. Poniatowski was to
endeavour to march through the woods and gain the rear of the Russian
position. The rest of the force were to keep the Russian centre and
right in check. The Imperial Guard formed the reserve.

On the Russian side Bagration's army formed the left, Beningsen's the
centre, and Barclay's the right. The French force numbered about
150,000, the Russian from 80,000 to 90,000. The French had a thousand
guns, the Russians 640. At six in the morning of the 7th of September
the French batteries opened fire along the whole line, and the Russians
at once replied. The roar of artillery was incessant, and ere long the
rattle of musketry swelled the din, as Davoust launched the division of
Desaix, and Ney that of Campans, against three small redoubts in front
of the Russian position. Impetuous as was the assault, the Russians
received it with unflinching courage; two of the Russian generals were
wounded, but the assault was repulsed. Ney moved up another division,
and after severe fighting the redoubts were carried. They were held,
however, but a short time, for Woronzow led forward his grenadiers in
solid squares, and, supporting the advance by a charge of cavalry,
recaptured them, and drove the French back across the ravine in front of
them.

There was now a short pause in the attack, but the roar of artillery and
musketry continued unbroken. Poniatowski now emerged from the wood, and
fell upon the Russian left rear, capturing the village of Outitska.
Touchkoff, a brother of the general who had been captured at Loubino,
who commanded here, fell back to a height that dominated the village and
the ground beyond it, and maintained himself until mid-day. On the
French left, where the Viceroy Beauharnois commanded, the advance was
stubbornly opposed, and the French artillery was several times silenced
by the guns on the eminence. At last, however, the Russians were driven
across the rivulet, and the French occupied Borodino. Leaving a division
of infantry to protect his rear, the Viceroy crossed the stream and
advanced against a great battery in front of the village of Gorki.
Davoust and Ney remained motionless until nine o'clock, as Napoleon
would not forward the reinforcements they had asked for until he learned
that Poniatowski had come into action, and that the Viceroy had crossed
the stream and was moving to the attack of the Russian centre. Now,
reinforced by the division of Friant, they moved forward.

For an hour the Russians held their advanced works, and then were forced
to fall back; and the French, following up their advantage, crossed a
ravine and occupied the village of Semianotsky, which had been partially
destroyed on the previous day by the Russians, so that if captured it
would afford no cover to the French. It was but for a short time that
the latter held it. Coming up at the head of his grenadiers, Touchkoff
drove them out, recrossed the ravine, and recaptured the advance works
they had before so obstinately contested. In turn the French retook the
three redoubts; but, again, a Russian division coming up wrested the
position from them, and replanted their flag there. Napoleon, seeing
that no impression could be made on the Russian left, now sent orders
to the Viceroy to carry the great redoubt before Gorki. In spite of the
difficulties presented by the broken ground, the three French divisions
pressed forward with the greatest gallantry, and, heedless of the storm
of grape poured upon them, stormed the redoubt. But its late defenders,
reinforced by some battalions from Doctorow's corps, dashed forward to
recover the position, and fell with such fury upon the French that the
regiment that had entered the redoubt was all but annihilated, and the
position regained, while at the same moment two regiments of Russian
cavalry fell upon reinforcements pressing forward to aid the defenders,
and threw them into disorder.

The Viceroy now opened fire on the redoubt with all his artillery,
inflicting such loss upon the defenders that it was soon necessary to
relieve them with a fresh division. Ney, finding it impossible to carry
and hold the three redoubts in front of him, directed Junot to endeavour
to force his way between the main Russian left and Touchkoff's division;
but he was met by Prince Eugene's Russian corps, which brought his
advance to a standstill. Junot's presence there, however, acted as a
support to Poniatowski, who, covered by the fire of forty pieces of
cannon, advanced against Touchkoff's division. For a time he gained
ground, but the Russian general, bringing up all his troops, assumed the
offensive, and, driving Poniatowski back, recovered the lost ground. The
brave Russian leader, however, was mortally wounded in the fight. It was
now twelve o'clock, and so far the French had gained no advantage.
Napoleon felt the necessity for a decisive effort, and concentrating his
whole force, and posting 400 guns to cover the advance, sent it forward
against the Russian left.

The Russians, perceiving the magnitude of the movement, despatched large
reinforcements to the defenders, and at the same time, to effect a
diversion, sent the greater portion of their cavalry round to menace
the French rear at Borodino. Three hundred Russian guns opposed the four
hundred of the French, and amidst the tremendous roar of the guns, the
great mass of French infantry hurled themselves upon the Russians. For a
time no impression could be made, so sternly and fiercely did the
Russians fight, but Bagration, their commander, with several other
generals, were badly wounded and forced to retire. Konownitsyn assumed
the command, but the loss of the general, in whom they placed implicit
confidence, told upon the spirits of his troops, and Konownitsyn was
forced to abandon the three redoubts, and to take up a new position
behind Semianotsky, where he re-established his batteries and checked
the progress of the enemy.

A portion of the French cavalry now made a desperate attempt to break
through the Russian left, but two regiments of the Imperial Guard,
throwing themselves into squares, maintained their position until five
regiments of Russian cuirassiers came up and forced their assailants
back. At this critical moment the great mass of Russian cavalry that had
been sent round to attack the Viceroy fell upon his rear, drove his
cavalry into the village with great loss, and pressed the infantry so
hard that the Viceroy himself had to take refuge in one of his squares.
Having thus succeeded in distracting the enemy's attention, arresting
his tide of battle, and giving time to the Russians to reform and plant
their batteries afresh, the Russian cavalry withdrew. The Viceroy
recrossed the stream again, and prepared to make another attack upon the
great bastion he had before captured, and the whole line again advanced.
While the Viceroy attacked the great redoubt in front, Murat sent a
division of his cavalry round to fall upon its rear, and, although swept
by artillery and infantry fire, the brave horsemen carried out their
object, although almost annihilated by the fire of the defenders of the
redoubt.

The French infantry took advantage of the attention of the defenders
being diverted by this attack, and with a rush stormed the work; the
four Russian regiments who held it fought to the last, refusing all
offers of quarter, and maintaining a hand-to-hand conflict until
annihilated. The Russian artillery, in the works round Gorki, swept the
redoubt with their fire, and under its cover the infantry made repeated
but vain attacks to recapture it, for their desperate bravery was
unavailing against the tremendous artillery fire concentrated upon them,
while the French on their part were unable to take advantage of the
position they had gained. Napoleon, indeed, would have launched his
troops against the works round Gorki, but his generals represented to
him that the losses had already been so enormous, that it was doubtful
whether he could possibly succeed, and if he did so, it could only be
with such further loss as would cripple the army altogether.

At three o'clock Napoleon, whose whole army, with the exception of the
Imperial Guard, had been engaged, felt that nothing further could be
done that day, and ordered the battle to cease. He had gained the three
redoubts on the Russians' left and the great redoubt captured by the
Viceroy, but these were really only advanced works, and the main
position of the Russians still remained entirely intact. At night the
French retired from the positions they had won, to those they had
occupied before the battle begun, retaining possession only of the
village of Borodino. The loss of the combatants during the two days'
fighting had been nearly equal, no less than 40,000 men having been
killed on each side, a number exceeding that of any other battle in
modern times. Napoleon expected that the Russians would again give
battle next morning, but Kutusow, contrary to the opinion of most of his
generals, decided on falling back. Beningsen, one of his best officers,
strongly urged him to take up a position at Kalouga, some seventy miles
to the south of Moscow. The position was a very strong one. Napoleon
could not advance against Moscow, which was in a position to offer a
long and determined resistance, until he had driven off the Russian
army. At Kalouga they could at any moment advance on to his line of
communication, cut off all his supplies, and isolate him from France.

The advice was excellent, but Kutusow, who was even more unfitted than
Barclay for the post of commander-in-chief, refused to adopt this
course, and fell back towards Moscow, followed by the French. The
sufferings of the latter had already become severe--the nights were
getting very cold, the scarcity of food was considerable, the greater
part of the army was already subsisting on horse-flesh, the warm
clothing, which was becoming more and more necessary, was far in the
rear, their shoes were worn out, and it was only the thought that they
would have a long period of rest and comfort in Moscow, that animated
them to press forward along the fifty miles of road between Borodino and
that city.

Julian had passed through the terrible battle unscathed. It seemed to
him, when fighting had ceased for the day, that it was almost miraculous
a single man should have survived that storm of fire. While the fight
had actually been going on, the excitement and the ardour of battle had
rendered him almost insensible to the danger. With the soldiers as with
their generals the capture of the three small redoubts became, as the
day went on, a matter on which every thought was bent, every energy
concentrated; it was no longer a battle between French and Russians, but
a struggle in which each man felt that his personal honour was
concerned. Each time that, with loud cheering, they stormed the
blood-stained works, they felt the pride of victory; each time that,
foot by foot, they were again forced backwards, there was rage in every
heart and a fierce determination to return and conquer.

In such a struggle as this, when men's passions are once involved,
death loses its terror; thickly as comrades may fall around, those who
are still erect heed not the gaps, but with eyes fixed on the enemy in
front of him, with lips set tightly together, with head bent somewhat
down as men who struggle through a storm of rain, each man presses on
until a shot strikes him, or he reaches the goal he aims at. At such a
time the fire slackens, for each man strives to decide the struggle,
with bayonet or clubbed musket. Four times did Julian's regiment climb
the side of the ravine in front of the redoubts, four times were they
hurled back again with ever-decreasing numbers, and when at last they
found themselves, as the fire slackened, masters of the position, the
men looked at each other as if waking from some terrible dream, filled
with surprise that they were still alive and breathing, and faint and
trembling, now that the exertion was over and the tremendous strain
relaxed. When they had time to look round, they saw that but one-fourth
of those who had, some hours before, advanced to the attack of the
redoubt of Chewardino remained. The ground around the little earthworks
was piled thickly with dead Frenchmen and Russians, and ploughed up by
the iron storm that had for eight hours swept across it. Dismounted
guns, ammunition boxes, muskets, and accoutrements were scattered
everywhere. Even the veterans of a hundred battles had never witnessed
such a scene, had never gone through so prolonged and terrible a
struggle. Men were differently affected, some shook a comrade's hand
with silent pressure, some stood gazing sternly and fixedly at the lines
where the enemy still stood unconquered, and tears fell down many a
bronzed and battle-worn face; some sobbed like children, exhausted by
their emotions rather than their labours.

The loss of the officers had been prodigious. Eight generals were killed
and thirty wounded, and nearly two thousand officers. The colonel and
majors of Julian's regiment had fallen, and a captain, who was but sixth
on the list when the battle began, now commanded. Between three o'clock
and dusk the men were engaged in binding up each other's wounds, eating
what food they carried in their haversacks, and searching for more in
those of the fallen. Few words were spoken, and even when the order came
to evacuate the position and retire to the ground they had left that
morning, there was not a murmur; for the time no one seemed to care what
happened, or what became of him. Once on the ground where they were to
bivouac, fresh life was infused into their veins. The chill evening air
braced up their nerves; great fires were lighted with brushwood, broken
cartridge-boxes, and the fragments of gun-carriages and waggons; and
water was brought up from the stream. Horse-flesh was soon being
roasted, and as hunger and thirst were appeased, the buzz of
conversation rose round the fires, and the minds as well as the tongues
of men seemed to thaw from their torpor.

"Well, comrade, so you too have gone through it without a scratch,"
Julian's friend, the sergeant, said to him. "Well, you will never see
such a fight again if you grow gray in the service. Where are those who
scoffed at the Russians now? They can fight, these men. It was a battle
of giants. No one could have done more than we did, and yet they did as
much; but to-morrow we shall win."

"What! do you think we shall fight again to-morrow?"

"That is for the Russians to say, not for us. If they stand we must
fight them again. It is a matter of life and death for us to get to
Moscow. We shall win to-morrow, for Napoleon will have to bring up the
Imperial Guard, 20,000 of his best troops, and the Russians put their
last man into the line of battle to-day, and, never fear, we shall win.
But I own I have had enough of it. Never before have I hoped that the
enemy in front of us would go off without a battle, but I do so now. We
want rest and quiet. When spring comes we will fight them again as
often as they like, but until then I for one do not wish to hear a gun
fired."

"I am sure I do not, sergeant," Julian agreed; "and I only hope that we
shall get peace and quiet when we reach Moscow."

"Oh, the Russians will be sure to send in to ask for terms of peace as
soon as we get there," the sergeant said confidently.

"I hope so, but I have great doubts, sergeant. When people are ready to
burn their homes rather than that we should occupy them, to desert all
that they have and to wander away they know not where, when they will
fight as they fought to-day, I have great doubts whether they will talk
of surrender. They can bring up fresh troops long before we can. They
will have no lack of provisions. Their country is so vast that they know
that at most we can hold but a small portion of it. It seems to me that
it is not of surrender they will be thinking, but of bringing up fresh
troops from every part of their empire, of drilling and organizing and
preparing for the next campaign. I cannot help thinking of what would
happen to us if they burnt Moscow, as they have burned half a dozen
towns already."

"No people ever made such a sacrifice. What, burn the city they consider
sacred!--the old capital every Russian thinks of with pride! It never
can be, but if they should do so, all I can say is, God help us all. Few
of us would ever go back to France."

"So it seems to me, sergeant. I have been thinking of it lately, and
after the way in which the Russians came on, careless of life, under the
fire of our cannon to-day, I can believe them to be capable of
anything."

The next morning it was found that the Russian lines were deserted. So
the French army set forward again on its march, and on the morning of
the 14th arrived within sight of Moscow. Kutusow had at one time seemed
disposed to fight another battle in front of the city, and had given a
solemn promise to its governor that he should have three days' notice of
any change in his determination, and so allow time for him to carry out
his intention to evacuate the town, when the municipal authorities were,
methodically and officially, to proceed to destroy the whole city by
fire. This promise Kutusow broke without giving any notice whatever. On
the 13th, at a council of war, he overruled the objections of his
generals, and determined to retreat, his arguments being that the ground
was unsuited for defensive operations; that the defeat of the one
disciplined army would endanger the final success of the war; and that
it was for Russia, not for any one city, they were fighting.

The argument was not without reason; but, if he had resolved not to
fight again, he should have accepted the advice to take up a position on
Napoleon's flank. Had he done this, the French could have made no
advance, and Moscow would have been saved from destruction.

As the army began its passage through the capital the exodus of the
inhabitants commenced. Already the wealthier classes had removed their
effects, and the merchants the greater part of their goods. Now the
whole population poured out into the streets, and thousands of carts and
vehicles of all descriptions, packed closely with household furniture,
goods, and effects of all kinds, moved towards the gates. Out of 200,000
inhabitants 180,000 left the city, with 65,000 vehicles of every kind.
In addition to these were enormous quantities of fugitives from every
town and village west of Smolensk, who had hitherto accompanied the
army, moving through the fields and lanes, so as to leave the roads
unencumbered for the passage of the guns and trains.

Every Russian peasant possesses a roughly-made cart on two or four
wheels, and as their belongings were very scanty, these, as a rule,
sufficed to hold all their property. The greater portion of the
fugitives had passed out of the city at two o'clock in the afternoon,
and shortly afterwards Murat with his cavalry passed across the river by
a ford and entered the town. A few desperate men left behind opened
fire, but were speedily overpowered and killed, but a number of
citizens, mad with fury, rushed so furiously upon Murat and his staff,
that he was obliged to open fire upon them with a couple of light guns.

At three o'clock Napoleon arrived with his guards, expecting to be met
on his arrival by the authorities of the city with assurances of their
submission and prayers for clemency for the population. He was astounded
with the silence that reigned everywhere, and at hearing that Moscow had
been evacuated by the population. Full of gloomy anticipations he
proceeded to the house Murat had selected for him. Strict orders were
issued against pillage, and the army bivouacked outside the city. The
troops, however, were not to be restrained, and as soon as it was dark
stole away and entered the town in large numbers and began the work of
pillage. Scarcely had they entered when in various quarters fires broke
out suddenly. The bazaar, with its ten thousand shops, the crown
magazines of forage, wines, brandy, military stores, and gunpowder were
speedily wrapped in flames. There were no means of combating the fire,
for every bucket in the town had been removed by the orders of the
governor.

Many a tale of strange experience in all parts of Europe was told around
the camp-fires of the grenadiers of the Rhone that evening. Several of
the younger men had been among those who had gone into Moscow in search
of plunder. They had returned laden with goods of all sorts, and but few
without a keg of spirits. The colonel had foreseen this, and had called
the sergeants together.

"My braves," he said, "I am not going to punish anyone for breaking
orders to-night. If I had been carrying a musket myself I have no doubt
that I should have been one of those to have gone into the town. After
such a march as we have had here, it is only natural that men should
think that they are entitled to some fun; but there must be no
drunkenness. I myself shall be at the quarter-guard, and six of you will
be there with me. Every bottle of spirits brought in is to be
confiscated. You will take it in your charge, and serve out a good
ration to every man in the regiment, so that those who have done their
duty and remained in camp shall fare as well as those who have broken
out. I have no doubt there will be sufficient brought in for all. What
remains over, you can serve out as a ration to-morrow. It is good to be
merry, but it is not good to be drunk. The grenadiers have done their
share of fighting and deserve their share of plunder, but do not let
pleasure go beyond the line of duty. Give a good ration to each man,
enough to enjoy the evening, and to celebrate our capture of Moscow, but
not enough to make them noisy. It is like enough that the general will
be round to-night to see how things are going on, and I should wish him
to see us enjoying ourselves reasonably. Anything else that is brought
in, with the exception of spirits, can be kept by the men, unless of
course there is a general order issued that all plunder is to be given
up."

As fully half the regiment were away, and as every man brought back one
or more bottles or kegs of spirits, the amount collected at the
quarter-guard was very considerable. Those of the men who, on coming
back, showed any signs of intoxication were not allowed a share, but
half a litre of spirits was served out to every other man in the
regiment; and although a few of those who had brought it in grumbled,
the colonel's decision gave general satisfaction, and there were merry
groups round the bivouac fires.

"I have marched into a good many capitals," the old sergeant said. "I
was with the first company that entered Madrid. I could never make out
the Spaniards. At one time they are ready to wave their hats and shout
"Viva!" till they are hoarse. At another, cutting your throat is too
good for you. One town will open its gates and treat you as their
dearest friends, the next will fight like fiends and not give in till
you have carried the last house at the point of the bayonet. I was fond
of a glass in those days; I am fond of it now, but I have gained wit
enough to know when it is good to drink. I had a sharp lesson, and I
took it to heart."

"Tell us about it, comrade," Julian said.

"Well it was after Talavera. We had fought a hard battle there with the
English, and found them rough customers. The Spaniards bolted like
sheep. As soldiers, they are the most contemptible curs in the world.
They fought well enough in the mountains under their own leaders, but as
soldiers, why, our regiment would thrash an army of 15,000 of them. The
English were on the top of the hill--at least at the beginning there
were a few of them up there, and we thought that it would be an easy job
to drive them off, but more came up, and do what we would, we could not
manage it; so it ended with something like a drawn battle. We claimed
the victory, because they fell back the next morning, and they claimed
it because they had repulsed all our attacks. However, we reaped the
benefit; they really fell back, because those rascally Spaniards they
were fighting for, starved them; and, besides that, we had two other
divisions marching to interpose between them and Portugal, and that old
fox Wellington saw that unless he went off as fast as he could, he would
be caught in a trap.

"They got a good start of us, but we followed, and three nights after
Talavera two companies of us were quartered for the night in the village
right out on the flank of the line we were following. Well, I got hold
of a skin of as good wine as ever I drank. Two or three of us stole out
to enjoy it quietly and comfortably, and so thoroughly did we do it,
that I suppose I somehow mistook my way back to my quarters, wandered
aside, and then lay down to sleep. I must have slept soundly, for I
heard neither bugle nor drum. When I awoke the sun was high, and there
was a group of ugly-looking Spaniards standing near me. I tried to jump
up on to my feet, but found that my arms and legs were both tied.
However, I managed to sit up and looked round. Not a sign of our uniform
was there to be seen; but a cloud of dust rising from the plain, maybe
ten miles away, showed where the army had gone.

"Well, I gave it up at once. A single French soldier had never found
mercy at the hands of the Spaniards, and I only wondered that they had
not cut my throat at once, instead of taking the trouble to fasten me
up. I knew enough of their language to get along with, and, putting as
bold a face as I could on it, I asked them what they had tied me up for.
They laughed in an unpleasant sort of way, and then went away. 'Let me
have a drink of water,' I said, for my throat was nearly as dry as a
furnace. They paid no attention, and till sunset left me there in the
full heat of the sun. By the time they came back again I was half mad
with thirst. I supposed then, as I have supposed ever since, that they
did not cut my throat at once, because they were afraid that some other
detachment might come along, and that if they found my body or a pool of
blood, they would, as like as not, burn the village over their heads.
Anyhow at sunset four men came, cut the ropes from my feet, and told me
to follow them. I said that I would follow willingly enough if they
would give me a drink of water first, but that if they didn't they might
shoot me if they liked, but not a step would I walk.

"They tried kicking and punching me with their guns, but finding that I
was obstinate, one of them called to a woman down by the village to
bring some water. I drank pretty near a bucketful, and then said I was
ready to go on. We went up the hill and then on some ten miles to a
village standing in the heart of a wild country. Here I was tied to a
post. Two of them went away and returned in a few minutes with a man
they called El Chico. I felt before that I had not much chance, but I
knew now that I had none at all, for the name was well enough known to
us as that of one of the most savage of the guerilla leaders. He abused
me for ten minutes, and told me that I should be burnt alive next
morning, in revenge for some misconduct or other of a scouting party of
ours. I pointed out that as I was not one of that scouting party it was
unfair that I should be punished for their misdeeds; but, of course, it
was of no use arguing with a ruffian like that, so he went away, leaving
me to my reflections.

"I stood all night with my back to that post. Two fellows with muskets
kept guard over me, but even if they hadn't done so I could not have got
away, for I was so tightly bound that my limbs were numbed, and the
cords felt as if they were red hot. In the morning a number of women
brought up faggots. El Chico himself superintended their arrangement,
taking care that they were placed in a large enough circle round me that
the flames would not touch me; so that, in fact, I should be slowly
roasted instead of burned. I looked about in the vague hope one always
has that something might occur to save me, and my heart gave a jump when
I saw a large body of men coming rapidly down a slope on the other side
of the village. They were not our men, I was sure, but I could not see
who they were; anyhow there might be someone among them who would
interpose to save me from this villain.

"Everyone round me was too interested in what was going on to notice
anything else; and you may be sure that I did not look that way again,
for I knew well enough that if the guerilla had noticed them he would
shoot me at once rather than run any risk of being baulked of his
vengeance. So it was not until they began to enter the village that
anyone noticed the new arrivals. A mounted officer, followed by four
troopers, dashed down ahead and rode up to us, scattering the crowd
right and left. I saw at once by his uniform that he was an English
officer, and knew that I was saved. I fancy I must have been weak, for I
had had nothing to eat the day before, and had been tied up all night.
For a time I think I really fainted. When I recovered some soldiers had
cut my bonds, and one was pouring some spirits down my throat. The
English officer was giving it hot to El Chico.

"'You dog!' he said, 'it is you, and the fellows like you, who bring
discredit on your country. You run like sheep when you see a French
force under arms. You behave like inhuman monsters when, by chance, a
single man falls into your power. I have half a mind to put you against
that wall there and have you shot; or, what would meet your deserts
better, hang you to yonder tree. Don't finger that pistol, you
scoundrel, or I will blow your brains out. Be off with you, and thank
your stars I did not arrive ten minutes later; for if I had come too
late to save this poor fellow's life, I swear to you that I would have
hung you like a dog. Who is the head man of the village?'"

A man stepped forward.

"'What do you mean, sir,' said the officer sternly, 'by permitting this
villain to use your village for his atrocities? As far as I can see you
are all as bad as he is, and I have a good mind to burn the whole place
over your ears. As it is, I fine the village 800 gallons of wine, and
4000 pounds of flour, and 10 bullocks. See that it is all forthcoming in
a quarter of an hour, or I shall set my men to help themselves. Not a
word! Do as you are ordered!'

"Then he dismounted, and was coming to me, when his eye fell on El
Chico. 'Sergeant,' he said to a non-commissioned officer,' take four
men and march that fellow well outside the village, and then stand and
watch him; and see that he goes on, and if he doesn't, shoot him.' Then
he came over to me. 'It is well that I arrived in time, my lad,' he said
in French.' How did you get into this scrape?'

"'It was wine did it, sir. I drank too much at our bivouac in a village
down the plain, and did not hear the bugles in the morning, and got left
behind. When I awoke they had tied me up, and they kept me lying in the
sun all day, not giving me as much as a drop of water. At sunset they
marched me up here and tied me to that post, and El Chico told me that I
should be roasted in the morning; and so it certainly would have been if
you had not come up.

"I learned that he was a Colonel Trant. He commanded a force of
Portuguese, and was a daring partizan leader, and gave us a great deal
of trouble. I was never more pleased than I was at seeing the disgust of
those villagers as they paid the fine imposed on them, and I should
imagine that when El Chico paid his next visit there, his reception
would not be a cordial one. The brigade had been marching all night, and
halted for six hours, and the bullocks, flour, and wine furnished them
with a good meal all round. It was an hour or two before I was able to
stand, but after a while the circulation got right, and I was able to
accompany them when they marched. They did not know until I told them
that our force had passed on ahead of them in pursuit of Wellington. I
made no secret of that, for they would have heard it from the first
peasant they met. When we started, the colonel asked me what I meant to
do.

"'I don't want to keep you prisoner, my man,' he said. 'In the first
place, I don't wish to be troubled with looking after you; and in the
second, you cannot be considered as a prisoner of war, for you were
unarmed and helpless when we found you. Now, we are going to march all
night. I am not going to tell where we are going; but I think it likely
that we shall pass within sight of your camp-fires, and in that case I
will leave you to make your way down to them, and will hand you back
your musket and pouch, which you may want if you happen to fall in with
a stray peasant or two.'

"I had noticed that they had taken along my musket and pouch, which had
been brought up by the fellows that guarded me. They were strapped on to
a mule's pack, of which they had about a couple of dozen with them, but
I little thought the gun was going to be given me again.

"'Monsieur le Colonel,' I said, 'I thank you from my heart. I should
have felt disgraced for ever if I were to go into the camp unarmed. Now,
I shall be able to go in with my head erect, and take my punishment for
having got drunk, and failing to fall in at the assembly, like a man. On
the honour of a French soldier, I swear that I shall for ever regard the
English as the most generous of foes.'

"It was noon when we started, and at nine o'clock at night, as we were
keeping along high up on the hills, I saw our bivouac fires. A minute or
two later, the colonel rode up.

"'There are your fires, lad,' he said. 'I don't fancy there is any
village between us and the spot where your people are encamped. However,
as there is a moon, you will be able to avoid one if you come upon it;
and seeing you are armed, any peasants you may meet will scarcely
venture to attack you within musket-shot of your own lines. Here is a
note I have written to the colonel of your regiment telling him of the
plight I found you in, and expressing a hope that what you have gone
through may be considered a sufficient punishment for your indulgence in
too much wine. Good-night.'

"Well, I got down safely enough. Of course, when I got to our line of
pickets, I was challenged, and sent in a prisoner. In the morning I was
taken before the colonel. He rated me soundly. I can tell you. When he
had finished, I saluted and handed him the note. He read it through, and
handed it to the major.

"'A letter from the enemy,' he said. 'It is from Trant, who must be a
good fellow as well as a brave soldier, as we know to our cost. Tell me
more about this, Rignold.'

"I told him.

"'I agree with the Englishman,' he said. 'You have had a lesson that
will last you all your life. I wish I had means of sending an answer
back to this English colonel, thanking him for his generous treatment.
If he ever falls into our hands, I will take care that this action of
his shall be brought to the general's notice. You can go.'

"Well, you see, that lesson has lasted all my life; and I am certainly
not likely to forget it here, where the peasants are every bit as savage
as the Spaniards. But as for the English, though I have fought with them
half a dozen times since, and have been beaten by them too, I have
always had a liking for them. That was one reason why I took to you,
youngster, from the first."

"They fight well, do they?" one of the other sergeants asked. "I never
was in Spain, but I thought from the bulletins that we generally beat
them."

"Bulletins!" growled Rignold, "who can believe bulletins? We have got so
accustomed to writing bulletins of victory that when we do get thrashed
we can't write in any other strain. Why, I tell you that we who have
fought and conquered in Italy and Austria, in Prussia and on the Rhine,
have learned to acknowledge among ourselves, that even our best troops
were none too good when it came to fighting the English. I fought a
dozen battles against them, and in not one of them could I honestly say
that we got the best of it. Talavera was the nearest thing. But we were
fairly thrashed at Busaco and Salamanca. Albuera we claimed as a drawn
fight, but such a drawn fight I never wish to share in again. The day
had been going well. The Spaniards of course bolted, horse and foot. But
at last matters cleared up, and we advanced against them in heavy
columns. Soult called up all the reserves. We had captured six of their
guns. Our columns had crowned the hill they held, and we cheered loudly,
believing that the battle was won, when an English brigade in line fell
upon us. Our guns swept them with grape, and that so terribly that for a
time they fell into confusion. But to our astonishment they rallied, and
came down on us. We were four to one, but we were in columns, and strove
in vain to form into line to meet them. Volley after volley swept away
the head of our formation. Soult exposed himself recklessly. Officers
and men ran forward, and we kept up a fire that seemed as if it must
destroy them, and yet on they came, cheering incessantly. Never did I
see such a thing. Never did any other man there see such a thing. They
came down upon us with the bayonet. We strove, we fought like madmen;
but it was in vain, and we were hurled down that hill in utter
confusion.

"We heard afterwards that of the 6000 British soldiers who began the
day, but 1800 stood unwounded at the end. They had with them 24,000
Spaniards, but, of course, we never counted them as anything, and they
did their allies more harm than good by throwing them into confusion in
their flight. We had 19,000 infantry, all veteran troops, mind you, and
yet we could not storm that hill, and drive those 6000 Englishmen off
it. We lost over 8000 men, and that in a battle that lasted only four
hours. Our regiment suffered so that it was reduced to a third of its
number. We fought them again at Salamanca, and got thrashed there; soon
after that we were sent back to France to fill up our ranks again, and I
for one was glad indeed when we were sent to the Rhine and not back to
Spain; for I tell you I never want to meet the English again in battle.
Borodino was bad enough, and for stubborn, hard fighting, the Russians
have proved themselves as tough customers as one can want to meet; but
the English have more dash and quickness. They manoeuvre much more
rapidly than do the Russians, and when they charge, you have either got
to destroy them or to go."

"You are right there, comrade," another said. "I was with my regiment,
the 5th, at Badajoz. It was a strong place. Phillipson, who was in
command, was a thoroughly good officer. He had strengthened the defences
in every way, and the garrison was 5000 strong. We reckoned we could
hold out for three months anyhow. 15,000 men sat down before us on the
17th of March, and began to open trenches against a strong outlying
fort. We made several sorties, and did all we could to hinder them, but
on the 25th they stormed the fort. It was defended desperately, but in
an hour it was all over. Still, that was only an outlying work. Soult
was known to be advancing to our relief; but he waited to gather as
large a force as possible, believing, reasonably enough, that we could
hold out a month, while we still calculated on holding out for three.
The English worked like demons, and on the 6th of April they had made
two breaches. We had prepared everything for them. We had planted mines
all over the breaches. We had scores of powder barrels, and hundreds of
shells ready to roll down. We had guns placed to sweep them on both
flanks and along the top. We had a stockade of massive beams in which
were fixed sword blades, while in front of this the breach was covered
with loose planks studded with sharp iron points.

"Every man behind the stockade had half a dozen spare muskets. A legion
of devils could not have taken the place. They did not take it, but
never did mortal men try harder. Even when they felt that it was
absolutely impossible, they stood there amid that storm of shot and
shell, exploding powder barrels, and bursting mines. Two thousand men
were killed in that breach, and yet they still stood there. Our own
triumph was but a short one, for another British division had carried
the castle. While we were exulting in victory, the town was lost. Thus,
you see, they had in twenty days captured the fortress that we and
everyone else made sure we could defend for at least three months.
Fortunately we were exchanged a short time afterwards, and so I escaped
being sent to an English prison. I agree with you, Rignold. I am ready
to do my share of fighting, but I would rather do it against any one,
even against these Russians, than against the English; and I think you
will find that every man who has served in Spain would say the same."

"After all, comrades," another veteran said, "it seems to me that it
does not make much difference who you have got to fight against, for you
see the generals make things about even. If one of our generals finds
that there are say 50,000 Spaniards marching against him, while his
force is only 10,000, he gives battle. Well, he won't give battle to
50,000 Austrians unless he has got something like 35,000. I should say
that after Borodino he would like to have 40,000, at least, against
50,000 Russians. No doubt the English calculate the same way, and, in
Spain, we must admit that we always found them ready to fight when, as
far as numbers went, we outmatched them. So I take it that the
difference between the fighting powers of armies is not felt so much as
you would think by each soldier, because allowance for that is made by
the generals on both sides, and the soldiers find themselves always
handicapped just in proportion to their fighting powers. So you see
there is a big element of luck in it. The question of ground comes in,
and climate, and so on. Now, taking Spain, though 10,000 against 50,000
would be fair enough odds in a fight in the open, if a hundred of us
were attacked by 500 Spaniards among the mountains, it would go very
hard with us. And, again, though 1000 Frenchmen might repulse 3000 of
those Mamelukes if they attacked us in the cool of the morning or in the
evening, yet if we were caught in the middle of the day, with the sun
blazing down, and parched with thirst, we might succumb. Then, of
course, the question of generals counts for a great deal. So you see
that even supposing both sides agree, as it were, as to the fighting
powers of their troops, the element of luck counts for a lot, and before
you begin to fight you can never feel sure that you are going to win."

"Well, but we do win almost everywhere, Brison."

"Yes, yes; because we have Napoleon and Ney and Soult and the rest of
them. We have had to fight hard many and many a time, and if the battle
had been fought between the same armies with a change of generals,
things would have gone quite differently to what they did."

"You were with Napoleon in Egypt, were you not?" Julian asked.

"Yes, I was there; and, bad as this desolate country is, I would anyhow
rather campaign here than in Egypt. The sun seems to scorch into your
very brain, and you are suffocated by dust. Drink as much as you will,
you are always tormented by thirst. It is a level plain, for the most
part treeless, and with nothing to break the view but the mud villages,
which are the same colour as the soil. Bah! we loathed them. And yet I
ought not to say anything against the villages, for, if it had not been
for one of them, I should not be here now. I will tell you the tale. Two
hundred of us had been despatched to seize some of the leading sheiks,
who were said to be holding a meeting in some place fifteen miles away
from where we were encamped. We had a squadron of horse and a hundred of
our men. We afterwards found that the whole story was a lie, invented to
get us into a trap. We were guided by a villainous-looking rogue on a
camel, and beyond the fact that we were marching south-east, we had no
idea where we were going. Half the cavalry kept ahead. We had marched
four hours, when, on coming on to the crest of one of the sand-hills, we
saw about half a mile away a little clump of mud huts. Near the foot of
some high hills to the right were some tents.

"'There it is,' the guide said, pointing to the tents. And the cavalry
set off at a gallop, followed by the guide, who soon fell far into their
rear. Just as the cavalry reached the tents, we saw two great masses of
horsemen appear from behind the sand-hills on either flank, and with
loud yells ride down upon them. With a shout of fury we were about to
break into a run, but the major who was in command said, 'It is useless,
comrades. There is but one hope. Make for that village. We can hold
that; and there, if any of our comrades escape, they will find shelter.
Double, march.' Off we went, but it was against the grain. We could hear
the cracking of pistols, the shouts of our brave fellows, the yells of
the Arabs, and our hearts were there; but we felt that the major was
right. There must have been fully a couple of thousand of the Arabs, and
we should have but thrown away our lives. It was a terrible run. The
heat was stifling; the dust rose in clouds under our feet. We could
scarce breathe, but we knew that we were running for life. As we neared
the village, we heard yells behind us.

"'A hundred yards further, lads,' the major shouted. We did it, and when
we reached the first house we halted. Three hundred yards away were a
dozen of our troopers, followed by a mob of Arabs. The Major faced
twenty men about, and ordered the rest of us to divide ourselves among
the huts. There were but nine of these. The villagers, who had seen us
coming, had bolted, and we had just got into the houses when we heard
the rear-guard open fire. There was a young lieutenant with the
troopers, and, as they rode in, he ordered them to dismount, and to lead
their horses into the huts. A moment later the rear-guard ran in. We
felt for a moment like rats caught in a trap, for, in the hut I was in,
there were but two rooms. One had no light but what came in at the door;
the other had an opening of about nine inches square, and that not
looking into the street. In a moment, however, we saw that there was a
ladder leading up to the flat roof, and we swarmed up. These houses are
all built with flat roofs made of clay like the walls. Some of them have
a parapet about a foot high; some of them none at all. In better-class
villages some of the parapets are a good deal higher; so that the women
can sit there unobserved from the other roofs.

"The hut we were in had a low parapet, and we threw ourselves down
behind it. The street was full of horsemen, yelling and discharging
their guns at the doors; but when, almost at the same moment, a rattling
fire broke out from every roof, the scene in the street changed as if by
magic. Men fell from their horses in all directions. The horses plunged
and struggled, and so terrible was the _mêlée_ that, had the houses
stood touching each other, I doubt whether a man of those who entered
would have got out alive. As it was, they rode out through the openings,
leaving some sixty or seventy of their number dead in the street. We had
breathing time now. The whole of the Arab horsemen presently surrounded
us, but the lesson had been so severe that they hesitated to make
another charge into the village. The major's orders, that we were not to
throw away a shot, unless they charged down in force, were passed from
roof to roof round the village. We were ordered to barricade the doors
with anything we could find, and if there was nothing else, we were,
with our bayonets, to bring down part of the partition walls and pile
the earth against the door. Each hut was to report what supply of water
there was in it. This was to be in charge of the non-commissioned
officer, or the oldest soldier if there was not one, and he was to see
that it was not touched at night. It was to be divided equally among all
the huts.

"'You will understand, men,' he shouted from his roof, 'that our lives
depend more upon the water than upon your arms. We could defend this
place against that horde for a year; but if water fails altogether,
there will be nothing to do but to sally out and sell our lives as
dearly as we can.' Fortunately, we had still water with us, for it was
not known whether we should find any on the march, and we had been
ordered to leave our kits behind, and to carry, in addition to the
water-bottles, a skin holding about a gallon. In our hut we found eight
porous jars, each of which would hold about a couple of gallons. Six of
them were full. The empty ones we filled up from our skins, for these
jars keep the water wonderfully cool. In none of the other huts had they
found so good a supply as ours, but all had more or less water; and, on
totalling them up, it was found that there was an average of four jars
in each hut, without, of course, counting that which we had brought. As
there were a hundred and ten of us, this gave a total supply of a
hundred and eighty-two gallons; rather better than a gallon and a half a
man.

"The major ordered that the allowance was to be a pint night and morning
for the first four days. If help did not come at the end of that time,
it was to be reduced by half. We could see where the water came from.
There was a well-worn path from the village to a hollow about three
hundred yards away, and we could see that there was a great hole, and it
was down this that the women went to fill their water-jars. It was a
consolation to us that it was so close, for, if the worst came to the
worst, half of us could go down at night and refill the jars. No doubt
they would have to fight their way, but, as the rest could cover them by
their fire, we felt that we should be able to manage it. For the next
four days we held the place. We slept during the day. The Arabs did not
come near us then; but as soon as it got dusk they began to crawl up,
and flashes of fire would break out all round us.

"Unfortunately, there was no moon, and as they came up pretty nearly
naked, their bodies were so much the colour of the sand that they could
not be made out twenty yards away. They were plucky enough, for they
would come right in among the houses and fire through the doors, and
sometimes a number of them would make a rush against one; but nothing
short of bursting the doors into splinters would have given them an
entry, so firmly did the piles of earth hold them in their places. In
the middle of the fifth day a cloud of dust was seen across the plain
from the direction in which we came. No one had a doubt that it was a
party sent to our relief, and every man sprang to his feet and swarmed
up on to the roof, as soon as the man on watch above told us the news;
directly afterwards the major shouted, 'Each man can have a ration of
water.'

"In a few minutes we saw the Arabs mount and ride off, and it was not
long before five hundred of our cavalry rode into the village. We had
only lost five men; all had been shot through the head as they were
firing over the parapet. We had each night buried those who fell, and in
five minutes after the arrival of the cavalry, were ready to start on
our march back. If it had not been for that village, and for the
quickness with which the major saw what was the only thing to be done,
not a single man would ever have got back to camp to tell what had
happened. They were brave fellows, those Arabs; and, if well drilled by
our officers, would have been grand troops on such an expedition as
this, and would have taught the Cossacks a good many things at their own
game.

"The Egyptian infantry were contemptible, but the Arabs are grand
horsemen. I don't say that in a charge, however well drilled, they
could stand against one of our cuirassier regiments. Men and horses
would be rolled over; but for skirmishing, vidette duty, and foraging,
no European cavalry would be in it with them. They are tireless, both
horses and men, and will go for days on a little water and a handful of
dates; and if the horses can get nothing else, they will eat the dates
just as contentedly as their masters."

Several times as these stories had been told, the group had risen to
their feet to watch the fires that were burning in various parts of the
town, and just as the sergeant brought his story to a close, the
assembly sounded.

"I have been expecting that for some time," Brison said. "As our
division is nearest to the city, I thought they would be sure to turn us
out before long, to put out those fires. They must be the work of some
of our rascally camp-followers, or of some of the ruffians of the town,
who have been breaking into deserted houses and plundering them. Well,
the liquor is finished, and there is always interest in fighting a
fire."

Five minutes later, the Grenadiers of the Rhone and six other regiments
of their division marched into Moscow to extinguish the flames.



CHAPTER XIII

WITH THE REAR-GUARD


Napoleon had as yet no idea that the fires were other than accidental,
and the next morning removed his headquarters to the Imperial Palace,
the Kremlin, from which he fondly hoped to dictate terms of peace to
Russia. But it was not long before the truth became evident. Every hour
fresh fires broke out, and, spreading rapidly, by nightfall the whole
city was in flames. On the following day the Kremlin itself became so
uninhabitable from the heat, that the Emperor was forced to withdraw
from it, and could not return till the 20th, when heavy rain
extinguished the flames, which had already consumed nine-tenths of the
city. Of 48,000 houses only 700 escaped; of 1600 churches 800 were
destroyed and 700 damaged; of 24,000 wounded French and Russians in the
hospitals more than 20,000 perished in the flames. In the meantime
Kutusow had tardily adopted the advice he had before rejected, had moved
round with his army and taken up his position on the Oka river, near
Kulouga, where he menaced the French line of communication. Already the
Cossack cavalry were hovering round Moscow, intercepting convoys and
cutting up small detachments, while the horses of the French cavalry
were so worn out by fatigue and famine that in several affairs with the
Russian cavalry the latter gained decisive advantages.

"You are right again, comrade," the old sergeant said to Julian, who had
been promoted to the rank of sergeant after the battle of Borodino, as
they stood together on the night of the 15th gazing at the terrible
spectacle of the city enveloped in flames. "_Peste!_ these Russians are
terrible fellows. Who could have thought of such a thing? It is a bad
look-out for us."

"A terrible look-out, there is no denying it," Julian agreed. "It is
impossible for the army to stay here without food, without forage,
without shelter, with our communications threatened, and the Russian
army on our flank. I see nothing for it but to retreat, and the sooner
we are out of it the better. Were I the Emperor I would issue orders for
the march to begin at daylight. In another month winter will be on us,
and none can say what disasters may befall the army."

Had the order been given that day the French army might have made its
way back to the frontier, with heavy loss doubtless, but without
disaster. But Napoleon could not bring himself to believe that the
Russians would refuse to enter into negotiations. He tried through
various sources to send proposals to Alexander, and even opened secret
negotiations with Kutusow, and had arranged for a private meeting with
him, when the matter was stopped by Sir Robert Wilson, who had received
specific instructions from the Emperor Alexander to interpose in his
name to prevent any negotiations whatever being carried on. Thus week
after week of precious time passed, and then a portion of the army moved
against the Russians. Several engagements took place, the advantage
generally resting with the Russians, especially in an engagement with
Murat, who suffered a decisive repulse.

Julian had, as soon as the fire in Moscow burnt itself out, employed
himself in endeavouring to buy some warm garments. Money was plentiful,
for there had been no means of spending it since they entered Russia,
and he was fortunate in being able to buy some very warm tinder-garments
that had been looted by the plunderers on the night of their first
arrival before Moscow. He also purchased a peasant's sheep-skin caftan
with a hood, and sewed this into his military cloak so as to form a
lining, the hood being for the time turned inside. From another
sheep-skin he manufactured a couple of bags to be used as mittens,
without fingers or thumbs. Many of his comrades laughed at him as he did
his work, but as the days grew colder most of them endeavoured to follow
his example, and the skins of sheep brought in occasionally by the
cavalry were eagerly bought up. Encouraged by his success, Julian next
manufactured a pair of sheep-skin leggings, with the wool inside. They
were sewn up at the bottom, so that they could be worn over his boots.
The shape left much to be desired, but by cutting up a blanket he made
two long bands, each three inches wide and some twenty feet long. These
he intended to wrap tightly round the leggings when in use.

The leggings, gloves, and bands were stowed away in his knapsack, almost
everything else being discarded to make room for them; for he felt sure
that there would be no inspection of kits until the frontier had been
crossed.

Still, Napoleon could not bring himself to issue a general order for a
retreat, but corps after corps was moved along the western road.
Mortier's division remained last in Moscow, and marched on the 23rd of
October, after having, by Napoleon's orders, blown up the Kremlin, the
Church of St. Nicholas, and the adjoining buildings. The safest line of
retreat would have been through Witebsk, but Napoleon took the more
southern road, and the army believed that it was intended to fight
another great battle with the Russians.

The weather at first was fine. On the 24th the vanguard, under the
Viceroy, came in contact with Doctorow's division, and a fierce fight
took place near Malo Jaroslavets. The French were checked, and Kutusow,
coming up with the main army, it was apparent to all, that the French
vanguard could be overwhelmed and Napoleon's retreat brought to a
standstill. But, just as the generals were all expecting the order to
attack, Kutusow, whose previous conduct in entering into secret
negotiations with Napoleon had excited strong suspicions of his good
faith, announced that he had changed his mind, and ordered the Russian
army to draw off, thus for a time saving the French from complete
disaster.

The battle, however, had been a sanguinary one, no less than ten
thousand being killed on each side. After the retirement of the Russians
the retreat was continued. Davoust commanded the advance; Ney's division
was to cover the rear. The French army at first moved very slowly, for
it was not until the 29th that Napoleon reached Borodino. He himself had
long been in ill-health; bodily pain had sapped his energy. He had for a
long time been unable to sit on a horse, and had travelled in a close
carriage. Consequently he seemed to have lost for a time all his energy
and quickness of decision, and after five weeks thrown away at Moscow,
another was wasted in slow movements when haste was of the greatest
importance. The French suffered, too, from the disadvantage that, while
their every movement was discovered and reported by the ubiquitous
Cossacks, they themselves were in absolute ignorance of the strength and
movements of the enemy.

On the 6th of November a bitter frost set in, and the soldiers awoke
chilled to the bone, and with gloomy anticipations of what would happen
when the full rigour of a Russian winter was upon them. In some respects
the frost was an advantage, for it hardened the roads, that were before
often almost impassable from the amount of heavy traffic that had passed
over them. But, upon the other hand, floating masses of ice speedily
covered the rivers, rendering the work of fording them painful and
difficult in the extreme. A Russian division had, on the 3rd, pressed
hotly on the retreating column just as they reached the Wiazma river. A
sanguinary conflict took place, the corps of the Viceroy passed through
the town on its banks, and crossed the river in fair order, but that of
Davoust broke and crossed in great confusion, covered by Ney's division,
which retreated steadily, facing about from time to time, and repulsing
the infantry attacks, but suffering heavily from the artillery. Ney set
the town on fire to cover his retreat, crossed the bridges, and there
stemmed the further advance of the Russians.

The French loss in the engagement was 6000 killed and wounded, and 2000
prisoners. The Viceroy was directed to march on Witebsk, but he was
overtaken by the enemy when endeavouring to throw a bridge over the
half-frozen little river called the Vop. The bridge, hastily made, gave
way. The banks were extremely steep. The Grenadiers waded through the
river, though the water, full of floating ice, came up to their breasts;
but the artillery following were unable to climb the bank, and the guns
were soon frozen fast in the river, and they and the whole of the
baggage had to be left behind. A similar misfortune befell another of
the Viceroy's divisions, which had remained behind to cover the retreat,
and of the 14,000 soldiers who commenced the march but 6000 remained
with their colours, and but 12 of the 92 guns that had accompanied them.

The condition of the French army rapidly deteriorated. The cold had
already become intense, and the soldiers being weak with hunger were the
less able to support it. The horses died in great numbers, and their
flesh was the principal food upon which the troops had to rely. No one
dared straggle to forage, for the Cossacks were ever hovering round, and
the peasants, emerging from their hiding-places in the forests,
murdered, for the most part with atrocious tortures, everyone who fell
out of the ranks from wounds, exhaustion, or frost-bite.

Julian had, since their retreat began, again recovered his spirits. He
was now not fighting to conquer a country against which he had no
animosity, but for his own life and that of the thousands of sick and
wounded.

"I am glad that we are in the rear-guard," he said to a number of
non-commissioned officers who were one evening, when they were fortunate
enough to be camped in a wood, gathered round a huge fire.

"Why so, Jules? It seems to me that we have the hardest work, and,
besides, there is not a day that we have not to fight."

"That is the thing that does us good," Julian replied. "The columns
ahead have nothing to do but to think of the cold, and hunger, and
misery. They straggle along; they no longer march. With us it is
otherwise. We are still soldiers; we keep our order. We are proud to
know that the safety of the army depends on us; and, if we do get
knocked over with a bullet, surely that is a better fate than dropping
from exhaustion, and falling into the hands of the peasants."

"You are right, Jules," several of them exclaimed. "It is better a
thousand times."

"We have a bad prospect before us," Julian went on. "There is no denying
that; but it will make all the difference how we face it. Above all
things we have got to keep up our spirits. I have heard that the
captains of the whalers in the northern seas do everything in their
power to interest and amuse their crews. They sing, they dance, they
tell stories of adventures, and the great thing is to keep from brooding
over the present. I am but a young sergeant, and most of you here have
gone through many a campaign, and it is not for me to give advice, but I
should say that above all things we ought to try to keep up the spirits
of our men. If we could but start the marching songs we used to sing as
we tramped through Germany, it would set men's feet going in time, would
make them forget the cold and hunger, and they would march along erect,
instead of with their eyes fixed on the ground, and stumbling as if they
could not drag their feet along. We should tell them why we sing, or
they might think it was a mockery. Tell them that the Grenadiers of the
Rhone mean to show that, come what may, they intend to be soldiers to
the last, and to face death, whether from the Russians or from the
winter, heads erect and courage high. Let us show them that, as we have
ever done our duty, so we shall do it to the end, and that it will be a
matter of pride that throughout the division it should be said, when
they hear our songs, 'There go the Grenadiers of the Rhone, brave
fellows and good comrades; see how they bear themselves.'"

"Bravo, bravo, Jules! bravo, Englishman!" the whole of the party
shouted. "So it shall be, we swear it. The Grenadiers of the Rhone shall
set an example."

Suddenly the voices hushed, and Julian was about to look round to see
the cause of their silence, when a hand was laid on his shoulder, and,
turning, he saw Ney standing beside him, with three or four of his
staff. They had come up unobserved, and had stopped a few paces away
just as Julian began to speak.

"Bravo, comrade!" the marshal said; "spoken in the true spirit of a
soldier. Were there a dozen men like you in every regiment I should have
no fear for the future. Did they call you Englishman?"

"Yes, General. I was a prisoner at Verdun, though neither an English
soldier or sailor, and when a call came for volunteers, and I was
promised that I should not be called upon to fight against my own
countrymen, I thought it better to carry a French musket than to rot in
a French prison."

"And you have carried it well," the marshal said. "Had you not done so
you would not have won your stripes among the men of the Grenadiers of
the Rhone, where every man has again and again shown that he is a hero.
Carry out your brave comrade's idea, lads. We all want comforting, and
my own heart will beat quicker to-morrow as I ride along and hear your
marching song, and I shall say to myself, 'God bless the brave
Grenadiers of the Rhone;' I trust that others will follow your example.
What is your name, sergeant?"

"Julian Wyatt, General."

"Put it down in my note-book," Ney said to one of his staff.
"Good-night, comrades, you have done me good. By the way, a hundred
yards to your left I marked a dead horse as I came along; it may help
your suppers." Then, amid a cheer from the soldiers, Ney moved on with
his staff.

It was not many minutes before portions of the horse were cooking over
the fire.

"I feel another man already," one of the younger sergeants laughed, as
they ate their meal. "Jules is right; good spirits are everything."

"Bear that in mind to-morrow, Antoine," another said. "It is easy enough
to be cheerful when one is warm and has got some meat, even though it
be only horse-flesh and mightily tough at that, between your teeth; but
it is harder to be so after sixteen hours of marching and fighting."

"Well, we will try anyhow, Jacques."

Another quarter of an hour and the circle broke up, the non-commissioned
officers going off to the companies to which they belonged.

Wood being plentiful, great fires were kept blazing all night, and round
each was told what Julian had said, the commendation Ney had given the
regiment, and his warm approval of the plan. As soon as the order was
given to march in the morning, and Julian started one of their old
marching songs, it was taken up from end to end of the column, to the
astonishment of the officers and of the men of other regiments within
hearing. The effect upon the men themselves was electrical. The dogged
look of determination with which they had before plodded along was
supplanted by an air of gaiety. They marched along in time to the music
with a step that was almost elastic. Not since they had crossed the
Niemen had the song been heard; occasionally a singer was silent for a
minute or two, and passed his hand across his eyes as he thought of the
many voices of comrades, now hushed for ever, that had then joined in
the chorus. Half-an-hour later Ney, followed by his staff, rode along
past the column. As he reached the head he spoke to the colonel, and the
order was at once given for the regiment to form up in hollow square.
When they had done so the colonel shouted, "Attention!" Ney took off his
plumed hat and said, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all:

"Grenadiers of the Rhone, I salute you. All honour to the regiment that
has set an example to the army of cheerfulness under hardships. You will
be placed in the order of the day with the thanks of your marshal for
the spirit you have shown. Maintain it, my friends; it will warm you
more thoroughly than food or fire, and will carry you triumphantly
through whatever fate may have in store for us."

A deep cheer burst from the regiment as the gallant soldier bowed to his
horse's mane and then rode on with his staff, while the regiment, again
breaking into a song, continued its march. Late in the afternoon they
were again engaged. The long columns ahead were delayed by crossing a
narrow bridge over a river, and for two hours the rear-guard had to
stand firm against constant attacks by the Russians. At one time a heavy
column of Russian infantry moved down upon them, but Ney, riding up to
the grenadiers, said:

"I give you the post of honour, comrades. Drive back that column."

The colonel gave the order to charge, and the regiment rushed forward
with such ardour to the attack, that the Russians were compelled to fall
back with heavy loss, and shortly afterwards news came that the bridge
was clear, and the rear-guard followed the rest of the army. Forty of
the grenadiers had fallen, among them their colonel and two other
officers. The next morning, before the regiment marched, the major as
usual read out to it the order of the day. The marshal expressed his
approbation of the spirit which the Grenadiers of the Rhone had
manifested.

"This fine regiment," he said, "has ever merited eulogium for the manner
in which it has sustained the honour of its flag in every engagement in
which it has taken part. The marshal considers, however, that even
higher praise is due to it for its bearing in the present stress of
circumstances. Good spirits, and the resolution to look at things in a
cheerful light, is the best method of encountering them, and it cheered
the hearts of all near them to hear them singing their marching songs.
The marshal in passing them was struck with the renewal of their martial
appearance, as they marched, head erect, in time to their songs, and he
hopes that their example will be followed by the other regiments of the
corps, and is sure that not only will it be to the advantage of the
discipline and efficiency of the troops, but it will greatly conduce to
their own well-being, and the manner in which they will be able to
support cold, hunger, and fatigue."

The marshal had brought the conduct and fine bearing of the Grenadiers
of the Rhone under the attention of the Emperor. In spite of the fact
that the soldiers of Ney's corps had to endure a larger amount of
hardship than that of the rest of the army, from the necessity of
constant vigilance, and from the long hours they were upon the road,
their health suffered less than that of other troops. In the first
place, they had an absolute faith in their commander; in the next, they
were in the post of honour, and on them the safety of the whole army
depended. Thus the constant skirmishing, and, occasionally, hard
fighting that went on, braced them up, and saved them from the moody
depression that weighed upon the rest of the army. They had, too, some
material advantage from the broken-down waggons and vehicles of all
sorts that fell behind. Every day they obtained a certain amount of
stores, while from the bodies of those who had dropped from exhaustion,
sickness, or cold they obtained a supply of extra clothing.

The morning after the reading of Ney's order of the day commending the
regiment, an order from Napoleon himself was read at the head of the
regiment, Ney taking his place by the side of the newly promoted
colonel. The Emperor said that he had received the report of Marshal Ney
of the conduct and bearing of the Grenadiers of the Rhone, together with
a copy of his order of the day, and that this was fully endorsed by the
Emperor, who felt that the spirit they were showing was even more
creditable to them than the valour that they had so often exhibited in
battle, and that he desired personally to thank them. The marshal had
also brought before his notice the conduct of Sergeant Wyatt of that
regiment, who had, he was informed, been the moving spirit in the
change that he so much commended, and, as a mark of his approbation, he
had requested the marshal himself, as his representative, to affix to
his breast the ribbon of the cross of the Legion of Honour.

The colonel called upon Sergeant Wyatt to come forward. Julian did so,
saluted, and stood to attention, while the marshal dismounted and pinned
to his breast the insignia of the order, while the regiment saluted,
and, as Julian returned to his place in the ranks, burst into a hearty
cheer. As soon as the marshal had ridden off, and the regiment fell out,
the officers gathered round Julian and congratulated him upon the honour
he had received, and, at the same time, thanked him heartily for the
credit that the regiment had gained, through his means, while the
enthusiasm of the soldiers knew no bounds. A word of praise from the
Emperor was the distinction that French soldiers and French regiments
most coveted, and to have been named, not only by their marshal in his
orders, but by the Emperor in a general order to the army, was an honour
that filled every heart with pride.

Julian had been a favourite before, but henceforth his popularity was
unbounded. Many of the other regiments followed the example of the
grenadiers, and, in spite of the ever-increasing cold and the constantly
augmenting hardships, Ney's corps retained their discipline and
efficiency. Their appearance, indeed, was no longer soldierly. Their
garments were in rags. Many wore three or four coats. Their legs were
encased in hay-bands, strips of blanket, or sheep-skins. Julian now took
out for the first time from his knapsack the leggings that he had
manufactured, and, with the strips of blanket that he wound round them,
they differed in appearance in no degree from the leggings of some of
his comrades, except that they enveloped the feet also. On the day
following the reading of Napoleon's order, the grenadiers came upon an
overturned caleche. It had been ransacked by a regiment that had
preceded them. The driver and a woman lay dead beside it, and they would
have passed on without paying any attention to it, had it not been for a
faint cry that met the ears of Julian, as his company passed close by
it. He dropped back a few paces to an officer, and asked leave to fall
out for a minute. Going to the carriage he found lying there among the
cushions a little girl some five or six years old. Her cloak had been
stripped off her, and she was blue with cold. Julian hesitated.

"I will try anyhow," he muttered to himself. He first ripped open one of
the cushions, pulled out the woollen stuffing, and wrapped it round the
child's arms and legs, binding it there with strips of the velvet
covering the cushions. Then he took off his cloak, and raised her on to
his back, having first cut off one of the reins. With this he strapped
her securely in that position, put on his warm cloak again, and then,
hurrying forward, soon overtook the rear of his regiment.

"Bravo, Jules!" many of his comrades said, as he passed along the
column; while others asked, "Why do you encumber yourself with that
child? It is enough now for every man to look to himself, and you cannot
carry her far."

"I will do what I can," he replied. "She is not so heavy as my knapsack
when it is full, and it is empty now; I am only keeping it because it is
useful as a pillow. I can't say how far I can carry her, but as long as
I can go she shall. We have taken lives enough, heaven knows. It is as
well to save one if one gets the opportunity."

In half an hour Julian felt a movement on the part of his little burden,
whose hands he had been chafing with his own unoccupied one. Presently
something was said in Russian. He did not reply, and then there was a
little struggle, and the voice said in French: "Nurse, where am I? Where
are you taking me? Where is the carriage?"

"Do not fret, little one," Julian replied in the same language. "I am a
friend, and will take care of you. Your carriage broke down, and so I am
carrying you until we can get you another. Are you warm?"

"Yes," the child said. "I am quite warm, but I want my nurse."

"Nurse can't come to you now, my dear; but I will try to be a good nurse
to you."

"I want to see what you are like."

"You shall see presently," he said. "It would be very cold if you were
to put your head outside. The best thing that you can do is to try to
get to sleep."

The warmth doubtless did more than Julian's exhortation, for the child
said no more, and Julian felt certain after a short time that she had
gone off to sleep. He was now in his place with his company again, and
joined in the song that they were singing, softly at first, but, as he
felt no movement, louder and louder until, as usual, his voice rose high
above the chorus. Nevertheless, his thoughts were with the child. What
was he to do with her? how was she to be fed? He could only hope for the
best. So far Providence had assuredly made him the means of preserving
her life, and to Providence he must leave the rest. It might be all for
the best. The weight was little to him, and there was a sense of warmth
and comfort in the little body that lay so close to his back. What
troubled him most was the thought of what he should do with her when he
was engaged with the Russians. He decided that she must stay then in one
of the carts that carried the spare ammunition of the regiment, and
accompanied it everywhere. "At any rate, if I should fall," he said,
"and she be left behind, she has only to speak in Russian when the enemy
come up, and no doubt they will take care of her. Her father must be a
man of some importance. The carriage was a very handsome one. If she can
make them understand who she is, there is no doubt they will restore
her to her parents."

There was but little fighting that day, and when the regiment fell out,
fortunately halting again in a wood, Julian waited until the fires were
lighted, and then unloosened the straps and shifted the child round in
front of him. She opened her eyes as he did so.

"Well, little one, here we are at our journey's end," he said
cheerfully. "You have had a nice sleep, and you look as warm as a
toast."

She was indeed changed. A rosy flush had taken the place of the
bluish-gray tint on her cheeks; her eyes were bright, and she looked
round at the strange scene with a face devoid of all fear.

"Are you my new nurse?" she asked.

"Yes, dear."

"You look nice," she said calmly, "but I should like Claire, too."

"She can't come at present, little one, so you must put up with me."

"Are you one of those wicked Frenchmen?" she asked.

"I am an Englishman. Some of them are Frenchmen, but all Frenchmen are
not wicked. You will see that all my friends here will be very kind to
you, and will do everything they can to make you comfortable, till we
can send you to your friends again."

The child was silent for some time.

"There was a great noise," she said gravely, "and guns fired, and the
coachman fell off the box, and then nurse called out and opened the door
and jumped out, and then the horses plunged and the carriage fell over,
and I don't know any more."

"There was an accident," Julian said. "Don't think about that now. I
will tell you about it some day."

"I am hungry," the child said imperiously. "Get me something to eat."

"We are going to cook our suppers directly, dear. Now let us go and sit
by that fire. I am afraid you won't find the supper very nice, but it is
the best we have got. What is your name?"

"I am the Countess Stephanie Woronski," the little maid said; "and what
is your name?"

"My name is Julian Wyatt."

"It is a funny name," the child said; "but I think I like it."

Julian carried her to the fire, and seated her with her feet before it.

"Where is my cloak," she asked, as on setting her down she perceived the
deficiency; "and what are those ugly things?" and she looked at the
swathing round her arms and legs.

"Some bad men took your cloak," he said; "none of these men here did it;
and you were very cold when I found you, so I put some of the stuffing
from the cushions round you to keep you warm, and you must wear them
till I can get you another cloak. Comrades," he went on, to the soldiers
who had gathered round to look at the little figure, "this is the
Countess Stephanie Woronski, and I have told her that you will all be
very kind to her and make her as comfortable as you can as long as she
is with us."

There was a general hum of assent, and when the child went gravely among
them, shaking hands with each, many an eye was moistened, as the men's
thoughts went back to their own homes, and to little sisters or nieces
whom they had played with there. Soon afterwards the colonel came by,
and Julian, stepping forward, saluted him and said:

"I have picked up a little girl to-day, Colonel."

"So I have been told, Sergeant. I think it was a mistake, but that is
your business. Everyone is getting weaker, and you are not likely to be
able to carry her for long. However, of course, you can take her if you
like, and as long as there are horses to drag the ammunition carts you
can put her in them when you choose."

"It is only when we are fighting that I should want to stow her away.
She does not weigh more than a knapsack, Colonel."

"Well; just as you like, Sergeant. If you wanted to take along ten
children I could not say no to you. She is a pretty little thing," he
added, as he went nearer to her.

"Yes, Colonel. She says that she is a countess."

"Poor little countess!" the colonel said tenderly. "She will want
something warmer than she has got on now."

"We will manage that, Colonel. She will be warm enough as long as she is
on the march with me; but as, even before that fire, she has not enough
on her, we will contrive something. In the first broken-down
baggage-waggon that we come across, we are pretty sure to find something
that we can fit her out in."

As yet the pressure of hunger had not come severely upon the grenadiers.
In the fights with the Russians some of the horses of their own cavalry
and artillery, and those of the enemy, were daily killed, besides the
animals which dropped from fatigue were at once shot and cut up.
Moreover, a small ration of flour was still served out, and the supper
that night, if rough, was ample. Julian sat facing the fire with his
cloak open and the child nestling up close to him. As soon as supper was
over half a dozen of the soldiers started off.

"We will bring back a fit-out, Jules, never fear. It will be strange if
there is not something to be picked up in the snow between us and the
next corps."

In half an hour they came in again, one of them carrying a bundle. By
this time the child was fast asleep, and, taking off his cloak and
wrapping it round her, Julian went across to them on the other side of
the fire.

"What have you got?"

"A good find, Jules. It was a young officer. He was evidently coming
back with an order, but his horse fell dead under him. The lad had lost
an arm, at Borodino I expect, and was only just strong enough to sit his
horse. We think that the fall on the hard snow stunned him, and the
frost soon finished the work. He had been well fitted out, and some of
his things will do for the little one. He had a fur-lined jacket which
will wrap her up grandly from head to foot. Here are a pair of thick
flannel drawers. If we cut them off at the knee you can tuck all her
little clothes inside it, and they will button up under her arms and
come down over her feet. She will look queer, but it will keep her warm.
This pair of stockings will pull up her arms to her shoulders, and here
is another pair that was in his valise. They are knitted, and one will
pull down over her ears. You see they are blue, and if you cut the foot
off and tie up the hole it will look like a fisherman's cap, and the
other will go over her head and tie up under her chin."

"Splendid, comrade! That is a first-rate fit-out. I am obliged to you
indeed."

"You need not talk of a little thing like that, Sergeant. There is not a
man in the regiment who would not do a good deal more than that for you:
besides we have all taken to the child. She will be quite the pet of the
regiment. Moreover, the lad's valise was well filled. We have tossed up
for choice, and each of us has got something. Henri got the cloak, and a
good one it is. I had the next choice, and I took his blanket, which is
a double one. Jacques had the horse rug, Ferron had another pair of
drawers and his gloves, and Pierre, who has got a small foot, took his
boots. So we have all done well."

As Julian lay down with his hood over his head and the child held
closely in his arms under his cloak, he felt strangely warm and
comfortable, and breathed a prayer that he might be spared to carry the
little waif he had rescued, in safety across the frontier.

"I will keep her with me," he said, "until she gets a bit bigger. By
that time the war may be all over, and I will send her to my aunt, if I
dare not go home myself. She will take care of her, and if she should
have gone, I know Frank will do the best he can for the child, and may
be able, through the Russian embassy, to send her back to her friends."

The cold was so intense in the morning that the child offered no
objection to her novel habiliments. Some inches had to be cut from the
bottom of the jacket to keep it off the ground, and the strip served as
a band to keep it close round her waist.

"It is too big," she said a little fretfully.

"It is large, Stephanie," Julian said, "but then, you see, there is the
advantage that when you like you can slip your arms altogether out of
the sleeves, and keep them as warm as a toast inside. Now you get on my
back and we will fasten you more comfortably than I could do yesterday."

This, with the assistance of a couple of soldiers, was done. Then,
putting on his cloak again, Julian fell in with his comrades, and, as
usual, striking up a merry song, in which the rest at once joined,
continued his march.

Day passed after day. The Russians pressed hotly on the rear, and many
times Ney's corps had to face about and repel their attacks. Sometimes
when the fighting was likely to be serious Julian handed his charge over
to the care of the driver of one of the ammunition carts, but as a rule
he carried her with him, for she objected strongly to leaving him. On
the march she often chose to be carried on his shoulder--a strange
little figure, with the high fur collar of the jacket standing up
level with the top of her head, and a yellow curl or two making its way
through the opening in front. She soon picked up the songs that were
most often sung, and her shrill little voice joined in. She was now a
prime favourite with all the men.

[Illustration: "ON THE MARCH LITTLE STEPHANIE OFTEN CHOSE TO BE CARRIED
ON JULIAN'S SHOULDER."]

Food became scarcer every day. The cavalry were now almost wholly
dismounted, the horses still available being taken for the guns. Among
the divisions in front the disorganization was great indeed. It was a
mob rather than an army, and only when attacked did they form up, and
with sullen fury drive off the foe. At other times they tramped along
silently, ragged, and often shoeless, their feet wrapped in rough
bandages. Whenever one fell from weakness, he lay there unnoticed, save
that sometimes a comrade would, in answer to his entreaties to kill him
rather than to leave him to the mercy of the peasants, put his musket to
his head and finish him at once. No one straggled, except to search a
deserted cottage on the line, for all who fell into the hands of the
peasants--who followed the army like wolves after a wounded stag--were
either put to death by atrocious tortures, or stripped and left to
perish by cold. All the sufferings inflicted by the army in its advance
upon the peasantry were now repaid an hundredfold, and the atrocities
perpetrated upon all who fell into their hands were so terrible that Sir
Robert Wilson wrote to the Czar, imploring him for the honour of the
country to put a stop to them. Alexander at once issued a proclamation
offering the reward of a gold piece for every French prisoner brought
in, and so saved the lives of many hundreds of these unfortunates. In
the French army itself all feelings of humanity were also obliterated.
The men fought furiously among themselves for any scrap of food, and a
dead horse was often the centre of a desperate struggle. Those who fell
were at once stripped of their garments, and death came all the sooner
to put an end to their sufferings. The authority of the officers was
altogether unheeded.

Day by day the numbers dwindled away. The safety of the French army thus
far was chiefly due to the vacillation, if not the absolute treachery,
of Kutusow. Moving on by roads well supplied with provisions, and
perfectly acquainted with the movements of the enemy, he was able to
outmarch them, and several times had it absolutely in his power to
completely overwhelm the broken remains of Napoleon's army. But, in
spite of the entreaties of the generals and the indignation of the army,
he obstinately refused to give the order. The French army no longer
travelled by a single road; sometimes the corps were separated from each
other by great masses of Russian troops. Numerous detached battles were
fought; but in each of these the French troops, although suffering
heavily, displayed their old courage, and either by hard fighting cut
their way through obstacles, or managed by long and circuitous marches
to evade them.

Napoleon's plans, which, if carried out, would have saved the army, were
brought to nought by the incapacity of the generals charged with the
duty. The vast depôts and stores that had been formed at various points
fell successively into the hands of the various Russian armies now
operating against the French. Bridges of vital importance on the line of
retreat were captured and destroyed, and repeated defeats inflicted upon
the armies that should have joined Napoleon as he fell back. Everywhere
fatal blunders were made by the French commanders, and it seemed as if
Heaven had determined to overthrow every combination formed by
Napoleon's sagacity, in order that the destruction of his army should be
complete. The army of Macdonald, that should have joined him, was itself
warmly pressed by the forces of Wittgenstein and the garrison of Riga,
which had been greatly reinforced. Schwarzenberg, with the Austrian
army, fell back without striking a blow; for the Austrians, in view of
the misfortunes that had befallen Napoleon, were preparing to cast off
their alliance with him; and to aid in his discomfiture, Wittgenstein
was ordered by Alexander to withdraw at once from his operations against
Macdonald and to march upon Borizov on the Berezina, the point towards
which Napoleon was making; while Admiral Tchichagow, with the army of
the Danube, that had been engaged in watching the Austrians, was to
march in the same direction, and also interpose to cut off the French
retreat.



CHAPTER XIV

NEY'S RETREAT


Ney's corps, as usual, had remained at Smolensk as the rear-guard of the
army. The rest and abundance of food did much to restore their _morale_.
Ney had utilized the time they remained there to see that the arms were
examined, and new ones served out from the magazines in place of those
found to be defective. A certain amount of clothing was also served out
to the troops, and discipline restored. The numerous stragglers
belonging to the divisions that had gone on were incorporated with his
regiments, and all prepared for the toilsome and dangerous march before
them. They believed that at Krasnoi they should come up with the main
body of the army. But Krasnoi had already fallen, and the enemy were
mustering thickly along the road.

"We have a rough time before us, Jules," one of the veterans said. "I
should not say as much to any of the youngsters, but your spirits seem
proof against troubles. You see, in the first place, we know really
nothing of what is going on. For the last four days we have heard the
sound of cannon in the air. It is a long way off, and one feels it
rather than hears it; but there has certainly been heavy and almost
constant fighting. Well, that shows that there are Russians ahead of
us. Never was I in a country before where we could get no news. It is
all guess-work. There may be 50,000 Russians already between us and
Davoust's division, and there may be only a handful of Cossacks. It is a
toss-up. Nothing seems to go as one would expect in this country. We are
at a big disadvantage; for the skill of our generals is thrown away when
they are working altogether in the dark.

"Do you know, this reminds me a good deal of our pursuit of your army to
Corunna; only there I was one of the hunters, while here we are the
hunted. When we entered the towns they had quitted we heard that they
were altogether disorganized--a mere rabble of fugitives. But whenever
we came up to them they turned round and fought like their own
bull-dogs; and never did they make a stronger stand than they did when
we came up at last and caught them at Corunna. There was the army we had
been told was a disorganized mass standing in as good order, and with as
firm a front, as if they had but just landed from their ships. And it
was not in appearance only. They had 16,000 men; we had 20,000. They had
only six or eight cannon, having embarked the remainder on board their
ships; we had over fifty guns; and with Soult in command of us, there
was not a man but regarded the affair as being as good as over, and
considered that the whole of them would fall into our hands. Well, it
wasn't so. We were on higher ground than they were, and soon silenced
their little guns; and the village of Elvira, in front of their
position, was carried without difficulty.

"Suddenly their reserve marched round, fell on our flank, and threatened
our great battery that was in position there. They drove us out of
Elvira, and for a time held us in check altogether. The fight round
there became very hot; but they pushed forward and continued to attack
us so desperately that they partly rolled our left up, and if it had not
been that night set in--the fight had not begun until two
o'clock--things would have gone very badly with us, for we were falling
back in a great deal of confusion. There was a river behind us with but
a single bridge by which we could retreat, and I can tell you we were
glad indeed when the English ceased to press us and the firing stopped.
All night their picket-fires burned, and we were expecting to renew the
battle in the morning, when we found that their position was deserted,
and that they were embarking on board their ships. That shows that
although troops may be greatly disorganized in a retreat they do not
fight any the worse when you come up to them.

"The English had practically no guns, they had no cavalry, they were
inferior in numbers, and yet they beat us off. Their back was against a
wall. You see, they knew that if they didn't do it there was nothing but
a French prison before them. It is the same thing with us, lad; we don't
want to fight--we want to get away if we can. But if we have got to
fight we shall do it better than ever, for defeat would mean death; and
if a soldier has got to die, he would a thousand times rather die by a
musket-ball or a bayonet-thrust than by cold and hunger. There is one
thing in our favour, the country we have to cross now is for the most
part forest; so we shall have wood for our bivouacs, and if we have to
leave the road it will cover our movements and give us a chance of
making our way round the enemy. You will find that child a heavy burden,
Jules. I do not blame you for bringing her along with you, but when
things come to such a pass as this a man needs every ounce of his
strength."

"I am aware of that," Jules said, looking at Stephanie as she stood
laughing and talking with some of the soldiers at a fire close by; "but
I believe that I shall save her. I cannot help thinking she would never
have given that little cry which met my ears as I passed by the broken
carriage, if it had not been meant that she should be saved. To all
appearance she was well-nigh insensible, and she would have suffered no
more pain. It would have been a cruel instead of a kind action to save
her, when she was already well-nigh dead. I firmly believe that, whoever
falls during the struggle that may be before us, that child will get
through safely and be restored to her parents. I don't say that I think
that I myself shall go through it, but my death does not necessarily
mean hers. If she falls into the hands of the peasants, and tells them
who she is, they may take care of her for the sake of getting a reward,
and she may in time be restored to her friends. At any rate, as long as
I have strength to carry her I shall assuredly do so; when I cannot, I
shall wrap her in my cloak and shall lie down to die, bidding her sit
wrapped up in it till she sees some Russians approaching. She will then
speak to them in their own language and tell them who she is, and that
they will get a great reward from her parents if they take care of her
and send her to them."

"You are a good fellow, comrade--a man with a heart. I trust that,
whoever gets out of this alive, you may be one of them. To most of us it
matters little one way or the other. We have had our share of good luck,
and cannot expect that the bullets will always avoid us. Now let us turn
in, for we march at daybreak. At any rate, we may think ourselves lucky
to have had five days' rest here, with no more trouble than was needed
to keep the Russians from occupying that place across the river."

Julian called Stephanie to him, lay down by the side of his comrade near
the fire, and was soon fast asleep. They were under arms before daylight
broke, and in a few minutes were on the way. They had marched but half a
mile when a series of tremendous explosions were heard--the magazines
left behind at Smolensk had been blown up, together with such buildings
as the fire had before spared. 112 guns had been left behind, there
being only sufficient horses remaining to draw twelve. The fighting
force was reduced to 7000 combatants, but there were almost as many
stragglers, more or less armed, with them. The march led by the side of
the Dnieper, and they bivouacked that night at Korodnia. The next day
they arrived at a point within four miles of Krasnoi, where, on a hill,
fronted by a deep ravine, 12,000 Russians, with forty guns, had taken up
their position.

A thick mist covered the lower ground, and the advance of the French was
not perceived by the enemy until they were within a short distance of
its crest. Then the forty guns poured a storm of grape into the leading
regiment. The survivors, cheering loudly, rushed forward at the
batteries, and had almost reached them, when a heavy mass of Russian
infantry flung themselves upon them with the bayonet, and after a short
but desperate struggle hurled them down the hill again. The Russian
cavalry charged them on the slope, and swept through their shattered
ranks. Ney, ignorant that Napoleon had already left Krasnoi, and that
the whole Russian army barred his way, made another effort to force a
passage. He planted his twelve guns on a height above the ravines, and
sent forward several companies of sappers and miners to endeavour to
carry the battery again. Gallantly they made their way up the hill
through a storm of fire. But the Russians again fell upon them in great
force, and few indeed were enabled to make the descent of the hill and
rejoin their comrades.

Darkness had set in now, and Ney, finding it impossible to make his way
further, and feeling sure that had the Emperor been still at Krasnoi he
would have sent a force to his assistance, fell back into the forest.
His position was a desperate one; the scanty supply of provisions with
which they had started was exhausted, and they were in an unknown
country, surrounded by foes, without a guide, without carriage for the
wounded, without an idea of the direction in which to march. The Russian
general sent in two flags of truce, offering him terms of capitulation
which would save the life of himself and of his brave soldiers. Ney,
however, was not yet conquered. He detained the messengers with the
flags of truce, lest they might take news to their general of the
position of his force, and then, with all capable of the exertion,
continued his march. They passed in silence within half a mile of the
Cossack fires, and reaching a village on the Dnieper, attempted the
passage; but the ice broke under the first gun, and it was necessary to
abandon the whole of the artillery and every vehicle.

Before the entire body had passed, the Cossacks, attracted by the sound
made by the troops marching across the ice, arrived and captured several
hundred prisoners, for the most part stragglers. In a village further on
they found temporary rest, surprising a few Cossacks and capturing their
horses, which afforded a ration to the troops; but on the next morning a
great swarm of Cossacks appeared on the plain and opened a heavy
artillery fire. Unable to advance in that direction the column turned
towards a wood on its left, but as it was about to enter the refuge, a
battery concealed there poured a volley of grape into them. The column
hesitated, but Ney dashed to the front, and they rushed forward and
drove the battery from the wood. All day they continued their march
through the forest, until, coming upon a village, they obtained a few
hours' rest and shelter and some food.

It had been a terribly heavy day, for the snow here was not, as on the
road, trampled down, and the marching was very heavy. Julian had carried
the child the greater part of the day. The grenadiers had not been
actively engaged, as they formed the rear-guard, and several times his
friend the sergeant relieved him of Stephanie's weight.

"This is better luck than I looked for, comrade," he said as they cooked
the food they had found in the village, filled their pipes, and sat down
by a blazing fire. "_Peste!_ I was frightened as we crossed the river
last night. We knew the ice was not strong, and if it had given way as
we crossed, not a man upon it would have reached the other side.
However, it turned out for the best, and here we are again, and I
believe that we shall somehow get through after all. Ney always has good
luck. There is never any hesitation about him. He sees what has to be
done and does it. That is the sort of man for a leader. I would rather
serve under a man who does what he thinks best at once, even if it turns
out wrong, than one who hesitates and wants time to consider. Ney has
been called 'the child of victory,' and I believe in his star. Anyone
else would have surrendered after that fight yesterday, and yet you see
how he has got out of the scrape so far. I believe that Ney will cross
the frontier safe, even if he carries with him only a corporal's guard."

Julian was too exhausted to talk, and every moment of rest was precious.
Therefore, after smoking for a short time, he lay down to sleep. At
daybreak the next morning the march through the forest continued. When
from time to time they approached its edge, the Cossacks could be seen
hovering thickly on the plain; but they dared not venture into the wood,
which was so close that their horses would be worse than useless to
them. At three o'clock, when within twenty miles of Orsza, two Polish
officers volunteered to push ahead to that town on some peasant's horses
that had been brought from the village where they had slept to acquaint
the commander of any French force that might be there with their
situation, and to pray for assistance. After a halt of an hour the
column pushed on again. When they had marched another twelve miles the
forest ceased. Night had long since fallen, and a thick fog hung over
the ground. This served to hide their movements, but rendered it
difficult in the extreme for them to maintain the right direction.

Their way led over a steep hill, which was climbed with great
difficulty by the exhausted troops; but on reaching the summit they saw
to their horror a long line of bivouac fires illuminating the plain in
front of them. Even the most sanguine felt despair for a moment. Ney
himself stood for a few minutes speechless, then he turned to his men.

"There is but one thing to do, comrades," he said. "It is death to stay
here. Better a thousand times meet it as soldiers. Let us advance in
absolute silence, and then rush upon our enemies and strive to burst our
way through. They cannot know that we are so near, and, aided by the
surprise, we may force a passage. If we fail, we will, before we die,
sell our lives so dearly that our enemies will long bear us in
remembrance."

In silence the column marched down the hill. No sound proclaimed that
the enemy had taken the alarm. When within charging distance, the line
levelled its bayonets and rushed forward to the fires. To their
stupefaction and relief, they found no foe to oppose them. The fires had
been lighted by order of the Cossack general to make them believe that
an army lay between them and Orsza, and so cause them to arrest their
march. Half an hour was given to the men to warm themselves by the
fires, then the march was resumed. Three miles further the sound of a
large body of men was heard, then came a challenge in French, "_Qui
vive!_" A hoarse shout of delight burst from the weary force, and a
minute later they were shaking hands with their comrades of Davoust's
division. The Polish messengers had, in spite of the numerous Cossacks
on the plains, succeeded in reaching Orsza safely. The most poignant
anxiety reigned there as to the safety of Ney's command; and Davoust, on
hearing the welcome news, instantly called his men under arms and
advanced to meet them.

The delight on both sides was extreme, and Ney's soldiers were supplied
with food that Davoust had ordered his men to put in their haversacks. A
halt of three or four hours was ordered, for the column had been
marching for eighteen hours, and could go no further. At daybreak they
completed the remaining eight miles into Orsza. Napoleon himself was
there. Here they rested for five days. Food was abundant, and arms were
distributed to those who needed them. Ammunition was served out, and
Napoleon employed himself with great energy in reorganizing his forces
and in distributing the stragglers,--who were almost as numerous as
those with the standards,--among them. Ney's corps was now too small for
separate service, and henceforth was united to that of Davoust. The halt
did wonders for the men. They were billeted among the houses of the
town, and warmth and abundant food revived their strength. They looked
forward with some confidence to reaching the spot where great magazines
had been prepared, and where they would take up their quarters until the
campaign recommenced in the spring.

Napoleon's plans, however, were all frustrated by the inconceivable
blunders and follies of the generals, to whom were entrusted the task of
carrying them out. Everywhere, in turn, they suffered themselves to be
deceived and caught napping. The important positions entrusted to them
were wrested from their hands. Minsk, where there were supplies for the
whole army for months, had been captured, and now Borizow, where the
passage of the Berezina was to be made, was captured almost without
resistance. Well might Napoleon when he heard the news exclaim in
despair:

"Will there never be an end to this blundering?"

Great as the cold had been before, it increased day by day in severity.
Happily for the French, Kutusow, with the main Russian army, was far in
their rear, and they might well hope, when joined by Victor, who was to
meet them near the Berezina with his division, to be able to defeat the
two Russian armies that barred their way, either force being inferior to
their own.

Stephanie had borne the march wonderfully well. Since leaving Smolensk,
she had had no walking to do. The cold was so great that she was glad to
remain during the day snuggled up beneath Julian's cloak. The marching
songs had ceased. Hunted as they were, silence was imperative, and
indeed the distances traversed and the hardships endured were so great
that even Julian felt that he had no longer strength to raise his voice.
Few words indeed were spoken on the march, for the bitter cold seemed to
render talking almost impossible.

Being in ignorance of the forces concentrating to cut him off, Napoleon
ordered Oudinot's corps to march forward to secure the passage at
Borizow, and Victor that at Studenski, but Tchichagow arrived at Borizow
before Oudinot, and began to cross the bridge there. Oudinot, however,
fell upon him fiercely before his whole army had passed over, and the
Russians drew back across the bridge, destroying it behind them.
Napoleon on his arrival found the Russian army of the Danube drawn up on
the opposite bank ready to dispute his passage. He at once sent bodies
of troops up and down the river to deceive the Russian admiral as to the
point at which he intended to force a passage. Victor had already come
in contact with Wittgenstein and had fought a drawn battle with him, and
now moved to join Napoleon at the spot decided upon for the passage of
the Berezina, near Studenski.

On the evening of the 25th of November Napoleon arrived there with
Oudinot's corps. The engineers immediately commenced the construction of
two bridges, and the cavalry and light infantry crossed the river to
reconnoitre the enemy, and some batteries were established to cover the
work. Materials were very scarce, and it was not until noon on the
following day that the bridges were reported practicable. Oudinot's
corps crossed at once, but the rest of the troops passed over in great
confusion, which was increased by the frequent breaking down of the
bridges. Victor took up a position to cover the rear, but one of his
divisions was cut off by Wittgenstein, and eight thousand men forced to
surrender. The main body of the French army, completely panic-stricken
by the thunder of guns in their rear, crowded down in a confused mass.
The passage was frequently arrested by fresh breakages in the bridges;
hundreds were pushed off into the river by the pressure from behind;
others attempted to swim across, but few of these succeeded in gaining
the opposite bank, the rest being overpowered by the cold or overwhelmed
by the floating masses of ice. Thousands perished by drowning. By the
28th the greater part of the French army had crossed, Victor's corps
covering the passage and repulsing the efforts of Wittgenstein up to
that time; then being unable to hold the Russians at bay any longer he
marched down to the bridge, forcing a way through the helpless crowd
that still blocked the approaches.

Altogether the loss of the French amounted to 28,000 men, of whom 16,000
were taken prisoners.

On the same day Tchichagow attacked in front with his army, but,
animated by Napoleon's presence, and by despair, the French fought so
fiercely that he was repulsed with much loss, and the way lay open to
Wilna. The intensity of the cold increased daily, and the sufferings of
the army were proportionately great. On the 5th of December Napoleon
handed over the wreck of the army, now reduced to 45,000 men, to Murat;
while the Viceroy was to have the chief command of the infantry.

By the time they reached the Berezina, Davoust's corps had been
diminished to a few thousand men, and on Victor taking the post of
rear-guard, they were relieved from that arduous task, and were among
the first who crossed the fatal bridge. From there to Wilna there was
comparatively little fighting. Kutusow's army was still far behind, and
although Wittgenstein and the Admiral hung on their rear, the French
army still inspired sufficient respect to deter them from attacking it
in force.

As the army approached the Berezina, scarce a hundred men of the
Grenadiers of the Rhone still hung together, and these were so feeble
that they staggered rather than marched along. Rations had ceased to be
issued, and the troops depended solely upon the flesh of the horses of
the waggons conveying the military chests, treasure, and artillery, and
from what they could gather in the deserted villages. So desperate were
they now that even the fear of falling into the hands of the peasants
was insufficient to deter them from turning off, whenever a village
appeared in sight, in the hope of finding food, or, if that failed, at
least a few hours' shelter. Not one of them was in such good condition
as Julian, who had been sustained not only by his naturally high
spirits, but by the prattle of the child, and by the added warmth of her
sleeping close to him at night.

She now, for the most part, trotted beside him, and it was only when
very tired that the child would allow him to take her up. She herself
had never been short of food, for however small the portion obtained,
enough for her was always set aside before it was touched. One day
Julian had, with some of his comrades, entered a village. The others had
insisted on lying down for a sleep, after devouring a little food they
were fortunate enough to find in one of the houses. Julian's efforts to
induce them to continue the march were in vain. They lighted a huge fire
on a hearth with wood obtained by breaking up some of the doors, and
declared that they would be warm for once, whatever came of it. The
column was already some distance off, and night was closing in. Julian
therefore started alone. He was carrying the child now, and for an hour
he kept on his way. Still there were no signs of a road, and he at last
became convinced that he must have gone in the wrong direction. He
walked for half an hour longer, and then coming upon a small hut, he at
once determined to pass the night there.

Laying the sleeping child down, he covered her over with his cloak. Then
he broke up some woodwork, cut a portion of it into small pieces, mixed
the contents of a cartridge with a little snow and placed it among them,
and then drew the charge from his musket, put a little powder into it,
and discharged it into the heap. In a few minutes a bright fire was
blazing, and taking the child in his arms, he lay down before it, and
was soon asleep. He was awakened some time afterwards by a strange
noise. He sprang up at once, threw some fresh wood on the embers, and,
grasping his musket, stood listening. In a minute the noise was renewed;
something was scratching at the door, and a moment later he heard a
pattering of feet overhead. Then came a low whimper and a snarl, and the
truth at once rushed upon him. He was surrounded by wolves.

For a long time the march of the army had been accompanied by these
creatures. Driven from the forest by cold and hunger, and scenting blood
from afar, they had hung upon the skirts of the army, feasting on the
bones of the horses and the bodies of the dead. Julian examined the
door. It was a strong one, and there was no fear of their making an
entry there. The roof, too, seemed solid; and the window, which was
without glass, had a heavy wooden shutter. Hoping that by morning the
wolves, finding that they could not enter, would make off, Julian lay
down by the fire again, and slept for some hours. When he woke daylight
was streaming in through a crack in the shutter. On looking through this
and through the chinks of the door, he saw to his dismay that the wolves
were still there. Some were sitting watching the house; others were
prowling about. It was clear that they had no intention whatever of
leaving. The child had been roused by his movements.

"Stephanie wants breakfast," she said decidedly, as he broke up some
more wood and rekindled the fire.

"I am afraid, dear, you will have to wait," he said. "I have not got any
to give you."

"Let us go and get some," she said, standing up.

"I would, Stephanie; but there are some wolves outside, and we can't go
until they move."

"Wolves are bad beasts. Stephanie was out riding in the sleigh with
papa, when they came out from a wood and ran after us, and they would
have killed us if the horses had not been very fast. Papa shot some of
them, but the others did not seem to mind, and were close behind when we
got home, where the men came out with forks and axes, and then they ran
away. Stephanie will wait for her breakfast."

Julian thought for some time, and, then going to the window, opened the
shutters and began to fire at the wolves. Several were killed. They were
at once torn to pieces by their companions, who then withdrew to a safe
distance, and sat down to watch. Julian had not even hoped that it would
be otherwise. Had he waited, it was possible that they would at last
leave the hut and go off in the track of the army; but even in that
case, he would not, he felt, be able to overtake it alone, for, weak as
he was, he felt unequal to any great exertion, and he and his charge
might be devoured by these or other wolves, long before he came up with
the column, or they might be killed by Cossacks or by peasants. The last
were the most merciless enemies, for death at their hands would be
slower and more painful than at the hands of the wolves, but at least
the child might be saved, and it was in hopes of attracting attention
that he opened fire. He continued therefore to discharge his gun at
intervals, and to his great satisfaction saw in the afternoon a number
of peasants approaching. The wolves at once made off.

"Stephanie," he said, "there are some of your people coming. They will
soon be here, and you must tell them who you are, and ask them to send
you to your father, and tell them that he will give them lots of money
for bringing you back to him."

"Yes," the child said, "and he will thank you very, very much for having
been so good to me."

"I am afraid, Stephanie, that I shall not go back with you. The people
kill the French whenever they take them."

"But you are not French; you are English," she said, indignantly.
"Besides, the French are not all bad; they were very good to me."

"I am afraid, dear, that it will make very little difference to them my
being an Englishman. They will see that I am in French uniform, and will
regard me as an enemy just as if I were French."

"I will not let them hurt you," she said sturdily. "They are serfs, and
when I tell them who I am they will obey me, for if they don't I will
tell them that my father will have them all flogged to death."

"Don't do that, dear. You are a long way from your father's house, and
they may not know his name; so do not talk about flogging, but only
about the money they will get if they take you back. They are poor men,
they have had a great deal to suffer, and have been made very savage; so
it is best for you to speak kindly and softly to them. Now, dear, let us
turn down that collar, so that they can see your face, and take your
things off your head, and then go out and speak to them. They are close
here."

The child did as he told her, and as he opened the door she stepped out.
The peasants, who were only some twenty yards away, stopped in surprise
at the appearance of the strange little figure before them. Her golden
hair fell over her shoulders, and the long loose jacket concealed the
rest of her person. She spoke to them in Russian, in a high, clear
voice:

"I am the Countess Stephanie Woronski. I am glad to see you. I was
travelling to go to my father, when there was an accident, and my nurse
and the coachman were both killed; and I should have died too, but a
good man--an Englishman--took me up, and he has carried me many days,
and has fed me and kept me warm and been my nurse. He must go with me
back to my father; and my father will give you lots of money for taking
us both to him, and you must remember that he is an Englishman and not a
Frenchman, although somehow he has been obliged to go with their army;
and he is very, very good."

All this time Julian was standing behind her, musket in hand, determined
to sell his life dearly. The peasants stood irresolute; they conferred
together; then one of them advanced, and took off his fur cap and bowed
to the child.

"Little mistress," he said, "we are but peasants, and do not know the
name of your honoured father; but assuredly we will take you to our
village, and our priest will find out where he lives, and will take you
home to him; but this man with you is a Frenchman, and an enemy."

The child stamped her foot angrily. "Pig of a man!" she exclaimed
passionately, "Do I, then, lie? I tell you he is English. I have a
French coat on, just as he has. Will you say next that I am a French
girl? I tell you that my friend must come with me, and that when I come
to my father he will give you much money. He is a friend of the Czar,
and if I tell him that you have hurt my friend, he and the Czar will
both be angry."

A murmur broke from the group of peasants. The anger of the Czar was, of
all things, the most terrible. Doubtless this imperious, little countess
was a great lady, and their habitual habit of subservience to the nobles
at once asserted itself, and, while they had hesitated before, the
threat of the Czar's anger completed their subjugation.

[Illustration: "I AM THE COUNTESS STEPHANIE WORONSKI. I AM GLAD TO SEE
YOU."]

"It shall be as the little mistress wills it," the peasant said humbly.
"No harm shall be done to your friend. We cannot promise that the troops
will not take him away from us, but if they do not he shall go with you
when we find where your father lives. If he has saved your life, he must
be, as you say, a good man, and we will take care of him."

"They will take care of you," the child said in French, turning to
Julian. "I told them that my father would reward them, and that the Czar
would be very angry with them if they hurt you; and so they have
promised to take you with me to him."

Julian at once placed his gun against the wall, and, taking her hand,
walked forward to the peasants.

"Tell them," he said, "that the English are the friends of Russia, and
that there are some English officers now with their army, for I have
several times seen scarlet uniforms among the Russian staff."

The child repeated this to the peasants. One of them went into the hut,
and looked round; and then securing Julian's musket, rejoined the
others, who at once started across the snow, one of the party carrying
Stephanie. On her telling them that she was hungry, some black bread was
produced. She gave the first piece handed her to Julian, and then sat
contentedly munching another. The peasants had now come to the
conclusion that the capture would bring good fortune to them, and one of
them took from the pocket of his sheep-skin caftan a bottle, which he
handed to Julian. The latter took a drink that caused him to cough
violently, to the amusement of the peasants, for it was _vodka_, and the
strong spirit took his breath away after his long abstinence from
anything but water. It did him good, however, and seemed to send a glow
through every limb, enabling him to keep pace with the peasants. Their
course lay north, and after four hours' walking they arrived at a
good-sized village at the edge of a forest.

Their arrival created much excitement. There was a hubbub of talk, and
then they were taken into the largest house in the village. Stephanie,
who had been asleep for some time, woke up; and Julian threw aside his
cloak, for the close heat of the interior was almost overpowering. A
very old man, the father of the families that occupied the house,--for
in Russia married sons all share the houses of their parents,--made a
deep bow to Stephanie, and placed a low seat for her before the stove.
Julian helped her off with her jacket and her other encumbrances, and
her appearance in a pretty dress evidently increased the respect in
which she was held by the peasants. In a short time bowls of hot broth
were placed before them, and, weak as was the liquor, both enjoyed it
immensely after their monotonous diet of horse-flesh. Then Stephanie was
given a corner on the cushion placed on a wide shelf running round the
apartment. The place next to her was assigned to Julian, who, after
swallowing another glass of vodka, was in a few minutes sound asleep,
with a sweet consciousness of rest and security to which he had long
been a stranger.

In the morning there was a gathering composed of the papa or priest of
the village and the principal men. When it was concluded, Stephanie was
informed that none of them knew the place of residence of her father,
but that a messenger had been sent off to the nearest town with a letter
from the priest to the bishop there, asking him to inform them of it.
She was asked how many days had passed since she had fallen in with the
French, and how long she had been travelling before she did so. Julian
was able to say exactly where he had fallen in with her--about thirty
miles from Smolensk. Stephanie herself was vague as to the time she had
travelled before the accident to the carriage, "days and days" being the
only account that she could give of the matter. The priest then spoke to
her for some time in Russian.

"They want you," she said to Julian, "to take off your uniform and to
put on clothes like theirs. They say that though they wish to take you
with me to my father, they might on the way fall in with other people or
with soldiers, who would not know how good you are, and might take you
away from them and kill you, so that it would be safer for you to travel
in Russian dress. You won't mind that, will you?"

"Not at all, Stephanie; I think that it is a very good plan indeed."

A quarter of an hour later Julian was equipped in the attire of a
well-to-do peasant, with caftan lined with sheep-skin, a round fur cap,
a thick pair of trousers of a dark rough cloth, bandages of the same
material round the leg from the knee to the ankle, and high loose boots
of untanned leather with the hair inside. The transformation greatly
pleased the peasants, whose hatred of the French uniform had hitherto
caused them to stand aloof from him, and they now patted him on the
shoulder, shook his hand, and drank glasses of _vodka_, evidently to his
health, with great heartiness. Julian could, as yet, scarcely believe
that all this was not a dream. From the day that he had crossed the
Niemen he had been filled with gloomy forebodings of disaster, and
sickened by the barbarities of the soldiers upon the people, while,
during the retreat, he had been exposed to constant hardship, engaged in
innumerable fights and skirmishes, and impressed with the firm belief
that not a Frenchman would ever cross the frontier save as a prisoner.
After this the sense of warmth, the abundance of food, and the absence
of any necessity for exertion seemed almost overpowering, and for the
next three or four days he passed no small proportion of his time in
sleep.

Stephanie was quite in her element. She was treated like a little queen
by the villagers, who considered her presence among them a high honour
as well as a source of future reward. They were never weary of
listening to the details of her stay among the French, and accorded to
Julian a good deal of deference both for the kindness he had shown the
little countess and for the service that he had thereby rendered to
themselves. It was ten days before an answer was received as to the
count's estates. They lay, it said, far to the south, but the bishop was
of opinion that the little countess had better be sent to St.
Petersburg, as the count had a palace there, and would be certain to be
at the capital at the present juncture of affairs. He offered that, if
they would bring her to him, he would see that she was sent on thither
by a post-carriage, but that in view of the extreme cold it would be
better that she should not be forwarded until the spring.

A village council was held on the receipt of this letter, and the
proposal that she should be sent by the bishop was unanimously
negatived. It seemed to the villagers that in such a case the glory of
restoring Stephanie to her parents, and the reward that would naturally
accrue from it, would not fall to them; but, at the same time, no
alternative method occurred to them. Finally, after much consultation,
Stephanie was asked to interpret the bishop's letter to Julian, and when
she had done so she was told to add: "They think, Julian, that if they
send us to the bishop papa will not know that it was they who found me
and took care of me."

Julian understood the difficulty. He first inquired how much the village
could raise to pay for the expenses of a post-carriage to St.
Petersburg. He said that it would, of course, be only a loan, and would
be repaid by the count. This led to a considerable amount of discussion,
but the difficulty was much diminished when Julian said that he could
himself supply five napoleons towards the fund. It had been decided that
three times that amount would be required to pay all expenses of travel,
and the priest agreeing to contribute an equal amount to Julian's, the
remaining sum was speedily made up. It was then arranged that the
priest would himself go to Borizow and obtain the _podorojna_ or order
for the supply of post-horses at the various stations. He would have to
name those who would accompany him. The head man of the village was
unanimously elected to go with him, and after some talk it was settled
that Julian should be put down as Ivan Meriloff, as a foreign name would
excite suspicion and cause much trouble, and possibly he might be
detained as a prisoner, in which case the peasants saw that there would
be considerable difficulty in inducing the little countess to go with
them. The priest was absent three days, and then returned with the
necessary document authorizing him to start from Borizow in four days'
time. Julian was sorry when the time came for his departure. After four
months of incessant hardship and fatigue, the feeling of rest and
comfort was delightful. He had been more weakened than he was aware of
by want of food, and, as his strength came back to him, he felt like one
recovering from a long illness, ready to enjoy the good things of life
fully, to bask in the heat of the stove, and to eat his meals with a
sense of real enjoyment.

Rumours had come in every day of the terrible sufferings of the French
as they were hotly pressed by the triumphant Russians, and of the
general belief that but few would survive to cross the Niemen. Still,
while the French were thus suffering the Russians were in but little
better plight, following, as they did, through a country that had been
swept bare of everything that could be burned by the retreating French.
Their sufferings from cold were terrible, 90,000 perished, and out of
10,000 recruits, who afterwards marched for Wilna, as a reinforcement,
only 1500 reached that city, and the greater portion of these had at
once to be taken to the hospital mutilated from frost-bite. Thus, then,
the number of Russians that perished was at least as great as that of
their harassed foes, and this in their own climate, and without the
necessity for the constant vigilance, that had assisted to break down
the retreating army.

Julian was instructed in the Russian words to reply if asked by any of
the postmasters whether he was the Ivan Meriloff mentioned in the
passport, and, on the day after the return of the priest, they started
in a sledge filled with hay and covered with sheep-skins.

Julian with Stephanie were nestled up in the hay at one end of the
sledge, the two Russians at the other. On reaching Borizow they stopped
at the post-house, and on producing the _podorojna_ were told that the
carriage and horses would be ready in half an hour. They had brought a
considerable amount of provisions with them, and now laid in a stock of
such articles as could not be procured in the villages. When the
post-carriage came round, a large proportion of the hay in the sledge
was transferred to it, together with the sheep-skins. There was no
luggage, and four horses were deemed sufficient. The wheels had, of
course, been taken off the vehicle, and it was placed on runners. The
driver climbed up to his seat, cracked his whip furiously, and the
horses started at a gallop. The motion was swift and pleasant, indeed
travelling in Russia is much more agreeable in winter than in summer,
for the roads, which in summer are often detestable, are in winter as
smooth as glass, over which the sledge glides with a scarce perceptible
movement, and the journeys are performed much more rapidly than in
summer.

The distance between the post-houses varied considerably, being
sometimes only nine miles apart, sometimes as many as twenty, but they
were generally performed at a gallop, the priest, at Julian's
suggestion, always giving somewhat more than the usual drink-money to
the driver, and in five days from the time of their leaving Borizow they
arrived at St. Petersburg, halting only for a few hours each night at
post-houses. They had no difficulty in ascertaining where the Woronski
palace was situated, and, taking a _droski_, drove there at once.
Stephanie clapped her hands as she saw it.

"You ought to have put on your cloak, Julian, and to have packed me up
under it as you used to carry me, and to take me in like that."

"I am afraid that grand-looking personage at the door would not have let
me in. As it is, he is looking at us with the greatest contempt."

"That is Peter," the child said. "Peter, Peter, what are you standing
staring for? Why don't you come and help me down as usual?"

The porter, a huge man with a great beard, and wearing a fur cap and a
long fur-trimmed pelisse, almost staggered back as the child spoke. He
had, as Julian said, been regarding the _droski_ and its load with an
air of supreme contempt, and had been about to demand angrily why it
ventured to drive up into the courtyard of the palace. He stood
immovable until Stephanie threw back her sheep-skin hood, then, with a
loud cry, he sprang down the steps, dashed his fur cap to the ground,
threw himself on his knees, and taking the child's hand in his, pressed
it to his forehead. The tears streamed down his cheeks, as he sobbed
out, "My little mistress, my little mistress! and you have come back
again to be the light of our hearts--oh, what a joyful day is this!"

"Thank you, Peter. Now, please lift me down. I am quite well. Are papa
and mamma well?"

"The gracious countess is not well, little mistress, but when she knows
that you are back, she will soon regain her health. His excellency, your
father, is not ill, but he is sorely troubled. He has been away for a
fortnight searching for news of you, and returned but last week. I don't
know what his news was, but it was bad, for the countess has been worse
since he returned."

"This gentleman has told me, Peter, that I must not run in to see them
without their being told first that I am safe, and that you had better
fetch Papa Serge. This is the English gentleman, Peter, who saved my
life when I was almost dead with cold, and carried me for days and days
under his cloak, and kept me warm close to him when we lay down in the
snow at night."

Again the Russian fell on his knees, and seizing Julian's hand, put it
to his forehead. Then he jumped up, "Why am I keeping you out in the
cold?" he said. "Come in, little mistress, and I will send to fetch the
papa."

"Cover up your head, Stephanie," Julian said as, holding his hand
tightly, they entered the hall together. "If others were to see you the
news would run through the house like wildfire, and it would come to
your mother's ears before it had been broken to her. Tell Peter to take
us into a quiet room, and not to inform the man he sends to the priest
that you are here."

Followed by the village priest and the peasant they entered a room
fitted as a library.

"It is here papa writes his letters," Stephanie said, throwing back her
hood again and taking off her cloak; "isn't it nice and warm?"

Coming in from the temperature of some forty degrees below freezing, it
was to Julian most uncomfortably warm. It was some four or five minutes
before the door opened, and Papa Serge, the family chaplain, entered
with a somewhat bewildered face, for he had been almost forcibly dragged
down by Peter, who had refused to give any explanation for the urgency
of his demand that he should accompany him instantly to the count's
study. When his eyes fell on Stephanie, who had started up as he
entered, he gave a cry of joy. A moment later she sprang into his arms.

"Dear, dear, Papa Serge!" she said, as she kissed his withered cheeks
warmly. "Oh I do love to be home again, though I have been very happy,
and everyone has been very kind to me. Now, you mustn't stay here,
because I want to see papa and mamma; and this gentleman says--he is my
great friend, you know, and I call him Nurse Julian--that you must go
and tell them first that I have come, and that you must tell them very
gently, so that it won't upset poor mamma."

"Tell him, Stephanie, that he had better say at first only that someone
has just come with the news that you are quite safe, and that you will
be here soon, and then after a little while, he had better call your
father out and tell him the truth. By the way, ask if they are together
now."

The child put the question.

"No, the countess is in bed and the count is walking up and down the
great drawing-room. He does it for hours at a time."

"In that case, Stephanie, tell Serge to speak first to your father, and
to bring him down here to you. He will break it to your mother better
than anyone else would do."

The priest was too deeply moved to speak, but upon Stephanie translating
what Julian had said, put her down and left the room. As soon as he had
done so the priest who had travelled with them, and who, with his
companion, had been standing in an attitude of respect while Stephanie
was speaking, said to her:

"Little countess, we will go out into the hall and wait there. It were
better that his excellency, your father, should meet you here alone."

"He would not mind," Stephanie said, "but if you think that you had
better go, please do."

The two peasants left the room somewhat hastily. They had been
absolutely awed at the splendour of the house, which vastly surpassed
anything they had ever imagined, and were glad to make an excuse to
leave the room and so avoid seeing the count until his daughter had
explained the reason of their presence there. Julian guessed their
reason for leaving and was about to follow them when Stephanie took him
by the hand.

"No," she said, "you are not to go, Julian. It is you who saved my life,
and it is you who must give me back to papa." A few minutes elapsed,
then the door was suddenly thrown open and the count ran in.

"My Stephanie! my little Stephanie!" he cried, as he caught her up. "Oh,
my little girl! we never thought to see you again--it seems a miracle
from heaven. Do not cry, darling," he said presently, as she lay sobbing
with her head on his shoulder. "It is all over now, and you will come to
think of it in time as a bad dream."

"Not a _very_ bad one, papa. It has been funny and strange, but not bad.
Oh, and I meant this gentleman--he is an English gentleman, papa--to
have put me into your arms, only somehow I forgot all about it when you
came in. I call him Nurse Julian, papa, because he has been my nurse. He
has carried me for days and days on his back under his warm cloak, and I
have slept curled up in his arms; and sometimes there were battles. Oh,
such a noise they made! When it was a big battle he stowed me away in a
waggon, but sometimes when it was a small one, and he had not time to
take me to the waggon, he carried me on his back, and I used to jump at
first when he fired his gun, but I soon got accustomed to it, and he
always got me plenty of food, though it was not very nice. But he didn't
often get enough, and he became very thin and pale, and then I used
sometimes to run along by his side for a bit, and I only let him carry
me when I was very tired, and at last we were in a little hut by
ourselves, and some peasants came. They looked very wicked at first, but
I told them who I was, and that you would give them money if they
brought me back to you, and so we went to their village and stayed
there, and it was warm and nice, and there was plenty of food, and dear
Julian got strong again, and then they brought us here in a
post-carriage, and two of them came with me. They are out in the hall
now."

The count set his little daughter down, and coming up to Julian threw
his arms round his neck and kissed him in Russian fashion. "My
benefactor!" he exclaimed, "I don't understand all that Stephanie has
told me, but it is enough that you saved her life, and that you nursed
her with the tenderness of a mother, and have restored her to us as one
from the grave. Never can I fully express my thanks or prove my
gratitude to you, but now you will, I trust, excuse me. I am burning to
carry the news of our dear one's return to her mother, whose condition
is giving us grave anxiety. She is far too weak to stand any sudden
shock, and I will merely tell her now that news has come that a little
girl whose description corresponds with that of Stephanie has been found
and is on her way here, and may arrive very shortly. More than that I
shall not venture upon to-day, unless, indeed, I find that the
excitement and suspense is likely to be even more injurious to her than
the state of dull despair in which she now lies. If I see that it is so
I must go on, little by little, till she guesses the truth. Now,
Stephanie, you had better come up to your own room. Of course, your
friend will come with you," he added with a smile as Stephanie took
Julian's hand. "But you had better wait three or four minutes so that I
may give strict orders to the household that everything is to be kept
perfectly quiet, and that not a sound is to be heard in the house. There
will be time enough for rejoicings afterwards."

The count, who was a handsome man some thirty years old, now left the
room. He paused in the hall for a minute, shook the priest and his
companion warmly by the hand, and assured them that they should be
handsomely rewarded for the kindness they had shown to his daughter,
and then after speaking to Peter he ran lightly upstairs to his wife's
room. Stephanie waited for about five minutes and then said:

"I should think that papa has had time to give the orders. Now, Julian,
shall we go?"

"Yes, dear, I think we might do so."

On going out into the hall a singular spectacle presented itself. The
grand staircase was lined on each side with kneeling men and women.
There was a sound of suppressed sobbing, and a low murmur was heard as
Stephanie appeared.

"Go first, Stephanie dear," Julian said in a low voice; "they want to
kiss your hands."

Stephanie showed no shyness, for, stopping on each step, she held out
her hands to the kneeling figures, who murmured prayers and blessings.
As they kissed them, she said softly to each, "Thank you very much, but
I must not talk now. This gentleman is my friend. It is he who saved my
life, and nursed me, and carried me. You must all love him for my sake,"
whereupon, as Julian followed her, he met with a reception similar to
that given to their young mistress. He was glad when at last they
reached the top of the stairs and Stephanie led the way into her own
room, which was a sort of glorified nursery. Here two or three maids
were laying a table, and as the door closed behind him they crowded
round her and by turns kissed and hugged her. Then an old woman, who had
sat apart until the girls had had their turn, came forward. She placed
her hands solemnly on the child's head:

"May the great Father bless you, my child. I have seen many glad days
since I entered the service of your house sixty years ago. I was present
at your grandfather's wedding, and your father's, but never was there so
bright and happy a day as this, which but half an hour ago was so dark
and sad. It was but three days ago that the whole household went into
mourning for you, for the news your father brought home seemed to show
that all hope was at an end. In five minutes all this has changed. You
see the maids have got on their festive dresses, and I will warrant me
they never changed their things so rapidly before. Now we have but to
get your beloved mother strong again, which, please God, will not be
long, and then this will be the happiest house in all Russia."

"This is my nurse, my new nurse, Elizabeth. His name is Julian, and he
is an English gentleman, as you will see better when he gets some nice
clothes on. He has carried me days and days across the snow, and kept me
warm by night and day, and done everything for me. He doesn't speak
Russian, but he can speak French, and so, of course, we got on very
nicely; and I have been in battles, Elizabeth, think of that! and I was
not afraid a bit, and I was quite happy all the time, only, of course, I
am very, very glad to get home again."

The meal was now laid, and Julian and the child sat down to it with a
vigorous appetite. Their food while in the village had been coarse
though plentiful, and Julian especially appreciated the delicate flavour
and perfect cooking of the many dishes of whose names and contents he
was absolutely ignorant. An hour after they had finished, the count came
in.

"Your mother has borne it better than I expected, Stephanie," he said.
"I have been able to break the news to her sooner than I expected. Come
with me; be very quiet and do not talk much. She will be well content to
have you lying quietly in her arms." So saying, he lifted her and
carried her off, saying to Julian, "I will return and have the pleasure
of a talk with you after I have left Stephanie with her mother."



CHAPTER XV

IN COMFORTABLE QUARTERS


It was an hour before the Count returned to the nursery. "Ah, my
friend," he said, "what happiness have you brought to us. Already my
wife is a new creature. I had begun to think that I should lose her too,
for the doctors told me frankly that they feared she would fall into a
decline. Now her joy is so great that it was with difficulty that I
could tear myself away from contemplating her happiness, but the doctor
came in and recommended that she should try and sleep for a time, or if
she could not sleep that she should at least lie absolutely quiet, so
Stephanie has nestled down by her side, and I was able to come to you."
He now led the way to a luxuriously furnished smoking-room.

"This is my snuggery," he said. "The library below is where I go into
matters with my stewards, receive persons who come on business, and so
on. This is where I read and receive my friends. Now, will you help
yourself to those cigars, and let us talk. At present I know nothing.
Stephanie was left down at our estate, near Kieff, under the charge of
her French nurse, who has been with her since she was born. She was
rather governess than nurse of late. She was a French _émigré_, and of
good French family, and we had implicit confidence in her. I wrote to
her when the invasion first began, saying that as at present we could
not tell whether St. Petersburg or Moscow would be Napoleon's object of
attack, but as all the centre of Russia would be involved in the war, I
wished that Stephanie should remain quietly with her. I said that,
should any French army approach Kieff, she was to take Stephanie at once
to my estate near Odessa.

"After the invasion began I sent off several letters to the same
effect, two by my own couriers, but owing to our army falling back so
rapidly, I imagine that none of the letters ever reached the nurse. Of
course, the whole postal communication of the country has been thrown
into confusion. At last, two months ago, a messenger from Kieff brought
me a letter from her making no allusion to those I had sent her, but
saying that as she heard that the French army was at Moscow she felt
sure I should wish her to bring Stephanie to us, and that, after a
consultation with my steward, she would in three days start direct after
sending off her letter. We were, of course, thunderstruck. She
apparently had the idea that the whole of the French were at Moscow, and
that it would, therefore, be perfectly safe to cross the roads between
them and the frontier. The poor woman said that should they by any
chance come across any body of her countrymen, she was sure that they
would not interfere with a woman and child. Her anxiety seemed to relate
solely to the weather and food, but she assured me that she would bring
an abundance of wraps of all sorts, and a supply of provisions in the
_fourgon_ sufficient for the journey.

"Half an hour after I received the letter I sent off two couriers. They
were, of course, to go round east of Moscow and then to Kieff. They were
to drive at the top of their speed the whole way, and I obtained a
special order for them to be instantly furnished with post-horses
everywhere. In the meantime there was nothing to do but to wait. My
orders were that immediately they arrived they were to send off a fresh
messenger by the way they had come, saying whether Stephanie had
started, and they were bearers of letters of instruction to the steward
that six mounted men were instantly to follow the road the carriage had
taken, making inquiries at every post-house, and to endeavour to trace
them, and if the clue was anywhere lost to bring word to me. I waited
ten days, then I got news that Stephanie had left five weeks before my
messengers arrived there. The nurse's letter had been a very long time
in coming to me, and they had started, as she said, three days after it
was written, therefore if they had got safely through the country
occupied by the French they should have arrived here at least three
weeks before.

"According to the dates there was little doubt that they must have
crossed the main road from Moscow to the frontier at the very time when
the French army on its retreat would be moving along. All that we had
heard and knew of the terrible distress, both of their army and of our
own, showed that at that time the intense suffering of the French and
the savage reprisals of our peasantry had reduced them to a state when
nothing was respected, and that a pair of valuable horses and a heap of
costly furs, to say nothing of the food carried, would be prizes almost
beyond value. Deprived of these, a nurse and child would, in a few
hours, die of the cold. That some such fate must have befallen them
seemed almost certain, for otherwise they must have joined us.

"I could tell pretty well the road that they would follow, and started
along it. Half way between here and Smolensk I met the six men. What
they said confirmed my worst fears. They had learnt where the carriage
had last halted for the night. The party had not travelled post, but had
kept their own horses and had travelled only by day. Had they lingered
only one day anywhere on the way they would have crossed the Moscow road
on the day after the rear-guard of the French had passed.

"But news travelled slowly, and no doubt, at the post-house where they
slept, no word that the French army was passing along had been received.
Beyond that, the men had been able to gather no news whatever of the
carriage. The country was a desert, tenanted only by dead; and the men's
descriptions of what they saw were so horrible that my blood was
frozen. However, I kept on my journey, taking them with me. We went to
the post-house where the carriage had last stopped, and then took up the
search. There were half a dozen roads by which they might have
proceeded; however, we took the most easterly one, and then, when it
crossed the main road, followed the latter. It was choked with deserted
waggons and guns. Dead bodies lay everywhere; many partly devoured by
wolves; all stripped of their clothing. After making our way through
this terrible scene for a few miles, we saw, fifty yards from the road,
the remains of a sleigh. Its bright yellow colour caught our eyes, and
when we got to it there was no room for doubt. The body of the sleigh
was gone--had been burnt for firewood; but the colour was that of my own
carriage, and two of the men who belonged to the stables at Kieff said
that they could swear to it, owing to a new iron that had been put on to
one of the runners the day before it had started. But there were other
signs. Portions of the harness lay about, and on one of these enough of
the silver-work remained to show that it was ours.

"Then we searched farther. Turning over a mound of newly-fallen snow, we
found the bodies of the coachman and the nurse. We searched for hours,
but could not find that of the child; but as to her fate we had no
doubt. She might have run away into the forest, or she might have been
devoured by wolves. That she was dead was certain. I left four of the
men there. They were to establish themselves in the nearest village, and
to continue the search day by day, and to remain there, if necessary,
till the spring came and the snow disappeared. I returned here ten days
ago with the news that all hope was at an end, and that Stephanie was
lost to us for ever. Now, sir, will you tell me how it was that you
saved her? You were doubtless with the French army, though how you came
to be there is almost as great a puzzle as how Stephanie was saved."

"I will tell you that afterwards, Count," Julian replied.

Then he related how, on marching past the overturned carriage, he heard
what would doubtless have been Stephanie's last cry, and had found her
lying half-frozen among the cushions. He stated the means he had taken
to restore warmth to her, and how he had strapped her to his back under
his warmly-lined cloak.

Then he gave, as well as he could remember, the details of each day's
experience: how Stephanie had become a general pet of the soldiers; how
they had manufactured a warm cloak and hood for her; how she had ridden
on shoulders, and had joined in the marching songs of the regiment, and
had really kept well and in good spirits on the march; how, as he got
too weak to carry her, she had trotted by his side; and how his
comrades, in spite of their exhaustion, had been willing to relieve him
of her weight. Then he told how, at last, they had separated from the
regiment when but a few hours' march from the Berezina; and how
Stephanie in turn had saved his life from the peasants.

"So you see, Count," he concluded, "the kindness that I had shown your
child has already been repaid to me many fold. Not only did she save my
life from the peasants, but I have no doubt that her pretty talk, and
the occupation she offered to my thoughts, and her warmth as she nestled
close to me at night, were the means of my retaining my strength to a
far greater degree than was the case with most of my comrades, and
enabled me to survive when so many dropped dead from cold and
exhaustion."

"That may be so, my friend," the count said. "God has doubtless rewarded
you for your good action, but that in nowise lessens our obligations
towards you. Now, will you tell me somewhat of your own history?"

"It is a long story, Count."

"All the better, my friend. I trust that my wife is asleep by this
time, and the child with her, and nothing can be of greater interest to
me than to hear it."

Julian therefore related his story in full, and produced the paper given
him on his enlistment, guaranteeing that he should not be called upon to
fight against his countrymen.

"Since we entered Russia, Count," he said, "and I have seen the savage
manner in which the peasantry were treated, not so much by the French
troops as by the allies, I bitterly regretted that I had enlisted; but,
at the time, no notion of this had ever entered my mind. I have told you
that the life at Verdun was intolerable. We died in hundreds, for a sort
of dull despair seemed to settle on everyone; and, although for a long
time I had borne up against it, I had come to the point when death would
have been welcome. A return to my own country seemed closed to me, owing
to the circumstances I have related to you; and I entered the French
service, just as, in the wars a couple of hundred years ago, Englishmen
and Scotchmen were to be found fighting as soldiers of fortune in the
armies of well-nigh every power of Europe."

"I cannot blame you, Mr. Wyatt. Yours is a singular and most unfortunate
story, and it seems to me that, had I been in your place, I should have
acted precisely the same, and should have been glad to take service
under any flag rather than have remained to rot in a prison. Certainly
you had a thousand times better excuse than had the Austrians and
Prussians, who, after having been our allies, entered upon this savage
war of invasion without a shadow of excuse, save that it was the will of
Napoleon. However, I think that it will be as well, in order to save any
necessity for explanation, that I should introduce you to my friends as
an English gentleman who has come to me with the warmest
recommendations, and whom I am most anxious to serve in any way. This is
not a time when men concern themselves in any way with the private
affairs of others. There is not a family in Russia, high or low, who
has not lost one or more members in this terrible struggle. Publicly,
and as a nation, we rejoice at our deliverance, and at the destruction
of our enemies. Privately, we mourn our losses.

"They have been terrible. As yet we scarcely know how great; but I
imagine that they will be found to have been no less than that of the
enemy. We hear that, in the pursuit, and without having taken any part
in the actual fighting after Krasnoi, Kutusow's army alone has lost
nearly 100,000 men from cold and fatigue; while, of the central army of
Napoleon, but four hundred infantry and six hundred cavalry repassed the
Niemen with their arms and standards. The other Russian divisions
suffered as severely as those with Kutusow. The Emperor has himself gone
to Wilna to endeavour to alleviate the sufferings of the sick and
wounded, with which the city is crammed. Wide as will be the mourning in
France, it will be no less so in Russia. Now, the first thing to do is
to provide you with suitable garments. This I will put in hand
immediately; but, until they can be procured, you must content yourself
with some of mine, though, as you are some four inches taller than I am
and far wider, they will suit you but poorly. However, I have an ample
store of dressing-gowns and wraps, and you must remain indoors a
prisoner until you are properly fitted out. By the way, I had an
interview with the two honest men who came with you before I returned to
you, and have arranged their business fully to their satisfaction. The
Papa will be able to build himself a new church, and the villagers to
repair all the losses they have suffered in the campaign.

"They were," he said, with a smile, "anxious to see you, as they said
that they had an account to settle with you, as you had furnished
one-third of the money required for the trip. However, I told them that
they could set their minds at rest on that score, for that I would
settle with you privately. I only mention it that you should not think
they had gone off without any remembrance of your share in the
business."

An hour later, a tailor with his assistant came to measure Julian. Three
days later, the Count suggested that he should go for a drive with him
in his sledge, and, wrapped up in furs, Julian took his place beside him
in a splendidly-appointed open vehicle. Stephanie sat between them. The
sledge was drawn by three horses--the centre one in shafts, while those
on either side ran free. A purple net covered the three animals almost
touching the ground, and so preventing the particles of snow being
thrown up by their hoofs into the sledge. The driver, in fur cap and
pelisse, and with an immense beard, sat on a seat in front. A number of
bells were attached to the harness of the horses, and to a bow-shaped
piece of wood that arched over the head of the central horse.

"This is an improvement on the post-waggons, Stephanie," Julian said.

The child nodded brightly. "You said it would all seem like a dream,
Julian," she remarked presently, as they dashed swiftly down the broad
street of the Nevsky, crowded with vehicles of all kinds, from the
splendidly-appointed sledges, like their own, to the lumbering vehicles
of the peasants piled up with firewood. "It almost seems like a dream
already, and yet you know I was very comfortable with you."

"It will be something for you to look back upon all your life," her
father said. "There will be many who will have strange and sad memories
of the war, but not one who will have a stranger experience than you
have to talk about. Happily, there was, as far as you are concerned, but
little sadness in it."

Julian was delighted with the brightness and gaiety of St. Petersburg,
with its broad streets, its stately palaces, its fine cathedrals, and
its busy population. The universal use of furs prevented the symbols of
mourning being apparent, and, as they drove along in the luxurious
equipage, even he, like the child, could scarce believe that the
desperate fight at Smolensk, the even longer and more obstinate contest
at Borodino, and the terrible scenes on the retreat, were realities. On
his return to the palace, Julian understood the object of the Count in
having taken him for a drive, for he found the _armoires_ and wardrobes
of his room crammed with garments of all descriptions.

Here was underclothing of every kind, sufficient for a life-time;
morning suits, riding suits, dress suits, visiting suits, in bewildering
variety. In one wardrobe were three superb overcoats, lined with the
most costly furs, half a dozen fur caps of various patterns, four huge
fur rugs, high boots lined with fur, a dozen pairs of fur gloves for
walking and driving; and arranged along the wall were ten pairs of boots
of different kinds, fur-lined slippers, and dress boots. He examined
them all with something like consternation.

"What nonsense!" he exclaimed. "What am I to do with all these things?
It is magnificent; but it is too much altogether. Why, these furs alone
are worth hundreds of pounds! No doubt the count is extremely rich. I
have already heard him speak of three or four estates in different parts
of Russia, and this palace is fit for a prince. Of course, he can afford
it well enough, but to me all this is quite overpowering. I should like
to see Aunt's face if I were to turn up at Weymouth with all this kit."

There was a letter lying on the table. He opened it. It was, as he had
expected, from the count.

"My dear Mr. Wyatt, you will, I am sure, accept the little outfit that I
have provided, in the same spirit in which I have obtained it, and will
oblige me by making no allusion to it whatever, or to the contents of
the enclosed pocket-book, which will provide you with ready-money while
you are staying here. They are but poor tokens of the life-long
obligations you have conferred upon the countess and myself."

The pocket-book contained a roll of Russian notes to the value of a
thousand pounds. Julian felt that there was indeed nothing to do but, as
the letter said, to accept the presents in the spirit in which they were
made. Everything showed that thoughtful kindness had been exercised. On
the dressing-table stood a superb travelling-case of Russian leather,
fitted with all necessaries of the toilet in ivory, mounted with silver,
and with his initials engraved upon the back of the various brushes.
Hitherto he had made no attempt to remove the soft brown beard that had
grown untouched from the day when the army had turned its back upon
Moscow. He now set to and shaved himself, and then dressed for dinner.
In glancing at one of the long cheval glasses in the room, he could not
but feel a distinct satisfaction at his appearance. Except in shop
windows in Germany, he had not, since he left home, had the opportunity
of seeing more of himself than could be gathered from the tiny glass
that formed part of his kit.

He now saw himself as he was, a tall figure of six feet two in height,
with a broad pair of shoulders. The scenes of the last six months had
given an expression of power and decision to his face that it had lacked
before. The stern, set look of battle had left its mark upon it, and
though a distinctly pleasant and kindly one, it was undoubtedly that of
a soldier who had seen hard service and had looked death many times in
the face. All question as to what he should say to the count was set at
rest on his entry into the drawing-room, for the count took him by the
hand, and, leading him across the room, presented him to the countess,
who had for the first time made her appearance. She rose as they came
across, and with trembling hands and eyes full of tears, came up to him.

"Ah, Mr. Wyatt," she said, "what can I say to the saviour of my child?
I have had difficulty in restraining my patience so long; but it was
only to-day that the doctor gave me permission to leave my room."

She held out both her hands to him. He bowed deeply over them and raised
them to his lips. "My happiness is no less than your own, countess," he
said, "that God has permitted me to be the means of bringing your child
back again. It was no great thing to do on my part; and, as I have told
the count, the little act of kindness was vastly more than repaid, for
your daughter assuredly saved my life from the peasants, as I saved hers
from the cold. Your little daughter is quite a heroine," he said more
lightly. "I can assure you that even when the bullets were flying about
thickly she evinced no signs of fear, and the way in which she stood
before me facing those enraged peasants was splendid."

"It shows her perfect faith in you, Mr. Wyatt. A child who has absolute
confidence in the person in whose charge she is, is almost without fear.
Her idea of danger is derived almost entirely from the conduct of those
around her. If they show fear, she is terrified; while if their manner
convinces her that they have no fear, she does not understand that
danger can exist. She is evidently deeply attached to you, as indeed she
has reason to be, and when I get tired with talking to her, and say to
her, 'Now you must go, dear,' she trots off as contentedly to you as if
you were indeed what she calls you, her nurse, much more so than she
used to do to Claire. The poor woman was a most careful nurse and an
excellent instructress, although she did start so madly, as it would
seem, on this journey. But the child never really took to her, as she
had not the faculty of winning affection. She was thoroughly
trustworthy, and would, I believe, have given her life for the child,
but she was certainly rather precise in manner, and was perhaps a little
too peremptory in giving her orders. That was, I admit, a fault on the
right side, for Stephanie is so accustomed to adulation on the part of
the servants, that she rather needs a firm hand over her. However, the
child has scarcely mentioned Claire's name since her return, while yours
is incessantly on her lips."

"She has not been in any way spoilt by adulation, Countess, and has been
as amenable to my slightest wish as the humblest peasant child could be;
but she certainly has a pretty little air of dignity. It was funny to
see how she queened it among the French soldiers, who always called her
Mademoiselle la Comtesse, and always put aside the best piece of their
scanty ration of meat for her."

"Yes, she has been telling me how good they were to her. What a war this
has been, Mr. Wyatt."

So they chatted until dinner was announced; then the countess lay down
on the sofa, and Stephanie came in and sat on a low stool beside her,
while her father and Julian went to the dining-room. After the meal was
over the count proposed that Julian should accompany him on a visit to
the Nobles' Club. The sledge was already waiting at the door, and in a
few minutes they arrived, not, as Julian had expected, at a stately
building, but at a garden.

"This is our skating place," the count said as they entered. "We have
guest-nights here once a week during the winter. As a rule, those
present are simply the invited guests of members; but to-night the
tickets are sold at twenty roubles each, and the proceeds go to the
funds for the benefit of the wounded. It will furnish a handsome sum,
for everyone is here, and there are few indeed who have paid as little
as the twenty roubles. Some sent cheques for as much as five hundred
roubles for their tickets, and a hundred may be taken as the average.
This is the first time that we have had a military band, for music is
naturally considered out of place when everyone is in mourning and such
vast numbers of our soldiers are still suffering horribly; but as this
is for their benefit it is considered as an exception. You will not see
much skating; the ice will be far too crowded."

It was indeed a brilliant scene. The gardens were lighted with myriads
of lamps. The sheet of ice was of a very irregular shape and broken by
several islets, upon which grew trees. From their branches hung numbers
of lanterns, while the bank round the ice was studded with lamps. The
crowds walking about by the edge of the lake were all wrapped up in
furs. A large proportion of those on skates wore uniforms, while the
ladies were in short, tightly-fitting jackets, trimmed with fur, and
with coquettish little fur caps. The crowd was far too great for any
attempt at figure-skating, but they moved swiftly round and round the
lake in a sort of procession, each lady accompanied by a cavalier, who
held her hand, and all skating with a grace and freedom that was to
Julian surprising indeed. The scene, with its bright colours and rapid
movement, was almost bewildering, and Julian was glad to turn away and
go up to the pavilion, where hot coffee and liquors were handed to all
comers.

The count spoke to many acquaintances, introducing Julian to each of
them as his great friend, Monsieur Wyatt, an Englishman. After waiting
an hour in the gardens they drove to the club itself. There were here a
large number of gentlemen, all of whom had been for a few minutes at the
garden. Here more introductions took place, and the count put down
Julian's name as an honorary member. "You will have a long day's work
to-morrow, Monsieur Wyatt."

"How is that, Count?"

"It will be your duty to call upon every gentleman to whom I have
introduced you; that is to say, to leave a card at the door, and every
one of them will leave a card at my house for you. I will make out a
list for you in the morning of the names and addresses. You will find a
sledge at the door at three o'clock; it will be at your disposal while
you remain with me. It is a small and light one, like this, with a pair
of horses. It is seldom that three horses are used unless ladies are of
the party. There is much for you to see, and it will be more pleasant
for you to be your own master and go about as you please."

The following morning, after breakfast, the count said, as they lit
their cigars, "Have you formed any plans yet, Mr. Wyatt? Of course I do
not mean for the present. It is understood that this is your home as
long as you will be good enough to make it so, and the longer you stay
the greater pleasure it will give us; but I mean for the future. Are you
thinking of returning to England?"

"I am intending to write at once to my brother. Whether he is at home or
not, of course I cannot say. He was going into the army, but I greatly
fear that the unfortunate affair in which I was engaged will have
rendered that impossible. At any rate, I shall also write to my aunt; if
alive she is sure to be there. In the first place, I shall tell them
what has become of me. There has been no possibility of my sending a
letter from the time I left home, with the exception of one written
while crossing the Channel, and which the smugglers promised to deliver
on their return. They must think that I am dead by this time, and my
letter will, at any rate, relieve their anxiety. In the next place, I am
most anxious to know if anything has been heard further from the
smuggler. He gave me his solemn promise that in the event of his death a
letter acknowledging that he was the murderer should be sent to the
magistrates of Weymouth. I have no reason in the world for supposing
that he is dead, for he was not above middle age, and if, as is but too
probable, no such letter had been received, I cannot return home. I
might, however, return to London, and thence take ship to some foreign
country--either to the United States or to South America, or perhaps to
our own colony of Canada, and make my way there or enlist in the
English army."

"Or you might stay here?"

"I might stay here, count, but as I am ignorant of Russian, and have no
trade or profession, I do not well see what I could possibly do."

"You would not be long in picking up Russian," the count said, "and if
you could make up your mind to settle down here until you learn that
your innocence of this foul charge has been completely proved, there
would be no necessity for any trade or profession. Why, Monsieur, you do
not suppose that the countess and I are without heart, or would allow
you, the preserver of our child, to struggle for an existence here or
anywhere else! We have more money than we know what to do with. We have
six estates in different parts of Russia. We have some ten thousand
serfs. However, we can settle nothing until you receive an answer to
your letter; after that we will talk matters over seriously. At any
rate, do not trouble about your future. This is the reason that I have
spoken to you to-day. Your future is our care, and you can leave it
safely in our hands."

"You are too good altogether, Count," Julian said; but the Russian
checked him with a peremptory gesture of his hand.

"Let us have no talk like that, Mr. Wyatt. You will only pain me deeply,
and make me think less well of you than I do now. Stephanie is to us
infinitely more than all our possessions, and did we assign to you all
else that we have in the world we should feel that the balance of
obligation was still against us. Now let us talk of other matters. In
the first place, about sending your letter. Of course, at present the
Baltic is frozen, and the ports beyond are all in the hands of the
French. Sweden, however, is in alliance with us, and our despatches for
England go up through Finland, then across the ice to Sweden, and by
land to Gothenburg, and thence by sea to England. It is a round-about
journey, but it is performed rapidly; and as there are English packets
always ready to sail from Gothenburg, your letters should, under
favourable circumstances, be in England in a fortnight.

"I should incline to advise you to write them in duplicate, for the
packet might be captured by a French privateer on its way, and it would
be safer therefore to despatch copies of your letters ten days after
those you first send off. In five weeks, if all goes well, you may
expect an answer. In the meantime, I hope you will find enough to amuse
you here, although the opera is closed, and there will be nothing like
gaieties this season; still, there will be dinner parties and the club;
and when you feel that you want a change I have an estate some five
hours' sledge drive from here. It consists largely of forest, but there
is plenty of game, elk and bears. If you are fond of shooting I can
promise you good sport."

"Thanks, indeed, Count. I am quite sure that I shall not be tired of St.
Petersburg in five or six weeks' time, and as for shooting, I do not
feel at present as if I should ever care to fire a gun again, certainly
not to take life, unless to satisfy hunger. I have seen so many horses
and dogs die, and have felt so much pity for them that I do not think
that I shall ever bring myself to take the life of a dumb beast again. I
am afraid I became somewhat callous to human life. I have seen thousands
of men die, and came somehow to regard it as their fate; and certainly,
during the retreat it came in most cases as a happy release from
suffering. But I could never, to the end, see a horse that had fallen
never to rise again, or a starving dog lying by its master's body,
without having intense pity for the poor creatures, who had, through no
fault or will of their own, come to this grievous end. No doubt you, as
a sportsman, Count, may consider this as overstrained feeling. I am
quite willing to admit that it may be so. I can only say that at present
I would not fire at an elk or a bear on any condition whatever."

"I can understand your feelings. I myself have had the cry of a horse
pulled down by wolves, in my ears for days, and I can well imagine how
the sight of so much suffering day after day among thousands of animals
would in time affect one."

The next three weeks passed most pleasantly for Julian. Every day there
were calls to make, excursions to various points to be undertaken, and
dinner parties nearly every evening, either at the count's, at the
houses of his friends, or at the club. He found French almost
universally spoken among the upper class, and was everywhere cordially
welcomed as a friend of the count's. The latter was sometimes questioned
by his intimate acquaintances as to his English friend, and to them he
replied, "Monsieur Wyatt is the son of a colonel in the English army. He
has rendered me a very great service, the nature of which I am not at
liberty to disclose. Suffice that the obligation is a great one, and
that I regard him as one of my dearest friends. Some day, possibly, my
lips may be unsealed, but you must at present be content to take him on
my sponsorship."

The countess had gained strength rapidly, and there were no grounds for
any further uneasiness as to her health; she was now able to take daily
drives with Stephanie.

"The child has become quite a military enthusiast," she said to Julian
one day. "Nothing pleases her so much as to look on at the troops
drilling."

St. Petersburg was indeed crowded with soldiers. New armies were rising
in all parts of Russia, and great preparations were being made to
recommence the campaign in the spring, this time upon foreign ground. No
sacrifices were too great to demand from the people. Nobles and
merchants vied with each other in the amount of their contributions,
and as it was certain that Austria, and probably Prussia would join the
alliance, hopes were entertained that the power that had dominated
Europe for so many years would be finally crushed. Already serious
disasters had fallen upon France in Spain. It was probable that ere long
the whole of the Peninsula would be wrested from her, and that she would
be threatened with an invasion in the south, as well as in the east. In
spite, therefore, of the terrible losses and calamities she had
suffered, Russia looked forward with ardent hope and expectations to the
future.



CHAPTER XVI

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


Frank Wyatts's work throughout the campaign had been arduous in the
extreme. It is true that it was done on horseback instead of on foot,
that he had not hunger to contend against, and that for the most part
his nights were passed in a shelter of some kind. But from daybreak
until sunset, and frequently till midnight, he was incessantly occupied,
from the moment when Napoleon turned his back on Moscow, until the last
remnant of his army crossed the frontier. Until after the battle at
Malo-Jaroslavets on the 24th of October, when the French army owed its
safety solely to Kutusow's refusal to hurl all his forces against it, he
had remained at headquarters, where he was assisted in his work by the
Earl of Tyrconnel, who was now also acting as aide-de-camp to Sir Robert
Wilson. He was a delightful companion and a most gallant young officer,
and a fast friendship became established between him and Frank, during
the time the Russian army was remaining inactive, while Napoleon was
wasting the precious time at Moscow, unable to bring himself to
acknowledge the absolute failure of his plans caused by the refusal of
the Russians to treat with him, after his occupation of their ancient
capital. But after Kutusow had allowed the French to slip past they saw
but little of each other, for one or other of them was always with the
troops pressing hard on the French rear, it being their duty to keep Sir
Robert, who was necessarily obliged to stay at headquarters, thoroughly
informed of all that was going on in front, and of the movements both of
the French and Russian divisions.

Sir Robert himself was so utterly disgusted with the obstinacy and, it
almost seemed, deliberate treachery of Kutusow that, for the most part,
he accompanied General Benningsen, who was a prompt and dashing soldier,
and who, with the whole of the Russian generals, was as furious with the
apathy and delays of the worn-out old man who was in command, as they
had been with those of Barclay. The English general still acted as the
Emperor's special representative, and kept him fully acquainted with all
that was going on. Alexander was as much dissatisfied as were his
generals and soldiers with Kutusow's refusal to put an end to the
terrible struggle, by an action which must have ended in the destruction
or capture of Napoleon and his army. He felt, however, that he could not
at present remove him from his command. Kutusow was a member of the old
nobility, who were straining every nerve for the national cause, were
stripping their estates of their serfs, and emptying their coffers into
the military chests, and who would have greatly resented his removal.

The people at large, too, overjoyed at the retreat of Napoleon and the
success of their arms, and ignorant of all the real circumstances of the
case, regarded Kutusow with enthusiastic admiration; and Alexander felt
that, great as might be his faults, the injury that would be inflicted
by his supercession would be greater than the benefits derived from it.
An ample supply of horses had been placed at the disposal of the English
general and his aides-de-camp, and Frank, having three always at his
orders, was able to ride them by turns, and therefore got through an
immense amount of work. The scenes that everywhere met his eyes were far
more trying than the fatigues he had to undergo. The hideous barbarities
that were perpetrated by the peasants upon the French who fell into
their hands, filled him with burning indignation, and at times placed
his life in serious danger when he endeavoured to interfere on their
behalf. He always started on his rides in the morning with his
saddle-bag stored with provisions, and a small keg of spirits fastened
behind him, and these were divided during the day among the unfortunate
men, Russians and French alike, who, wounded or exhausted, had sunk by
the way.

[Illustration: THE LAST OF A VETERAN OF NAPOLEON'S GRANDE ARMÉE.]

Innumerable were the appeals made to him daily to end their sufferings
with a pistol-ball; and, although he could not bring himself to give
them the relief they craved, on several occasions, when he saw that the
case was altogether beyond hope, and that but a few hours of mortal
agony remained, he yielded to their entreaties, handed them one of his
pistols, and walked a few paces away, until the sharp report told him
that their sufferings were over.

The horrors of the hospitals at Wilna and other places affected him even
more than the scenes of carnage that he had witnessed at Borodino. At
Wilna the Earl of Tyrconnel was seized with a fever and died, and Frank
lay for some time ill, and would probably have succumbed had not Sir
Robert obtained a lodging for him at the house of a landed resident,
three or four miles from the infected city. He was, in a sense, thankful
for the illness, because it spared him the sight of the last agony of
the broken remains of Napoleon's army. Quiet and rest soon did their
work. The breakdown was the result more of over-fatigue, and of the
horrors of which he was so continually a witness, than of actual fever.
Frank, therefore, rapidly recovered, and declared after a fortnight that
he could again sit on his horse.

The general, however, would not hear of this.

"I shall be leaving for St. Petersburg myself in a few days," he said,
"and we will travel together by post. You will be sorry to hear that
to-day Kutusow has been decorated with the great order of St. George.
The Emperor himself begged me not to be present. He called me into his
cabinet and confessed to me that it would be too humiliating to him were
I to be there. He acknowledged that he felt by decorating this man with
the great Order he was committing a trespass upon the institution; but
he had no choice. It was a cruel necessity to which he had to submit,
although he well knew that the marshal had done few things he ought to
have done, with nothing against the enemy that he could avoid, and that
all his successes had been forced upon him."

Sir Robert himself had urgent need of change and rest. The
responsibility upon his shoulders had been tremendous. The Emperor had
relied upon him entirely for information as to the true state of things
in the army, and the Russian generals regarding him as specially the
Emperor's representative, had poured their complaints into his ears.

Had they but received the slightest encouragement from him they would
have led their divisions against the French in spite of the orders of
the marshal, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he persuaded
them to restrain their exasperated troops, and to submit to carry out
the disastrous policy, which entailed as much loss and suffering upon
the Russian soldiers as upon the French.

It was the end of January when Sir Robert Wilson and Frank reached St.
Petersburg, and, putting up in apartments assigned to them in the
palace, rested for a few days.

One bright morning Frank strolled down to the Nobles' Club, of which he
and the general had been made honorary members. It was his first visit
to St. Petersburg. His fur coat was partly open and showed his British
uniform. He was looking about with interest at the scene in the Nevsky
Prospect when he noticed a gentleman in a handsomely appointed sledge
looking fixedly at him. As the uniform attracted general attention he
thought little of this, but after going a short distance the sledge
turned and passed him at a slow rate of speed. The gentleman again gazed
fixedly at him, then stopped the coachman, and leaped from the sledge to
the pavement.

"Frank!" he exclaimed, "is it you, or am I dreaming?"

Frank stepped back a pace in astonishment. It was the voice rather than
the face that he recognized.

"Julian!" burst from his lips, "my brother, can it be really you?"

Julian held out both his hands, and they stood for a moment in silence,
gazing into each other's face. Julian was the first to break the
silence.

"Jump in here, Frank," he said, leading the way to the sledge. "They
must all think that we have gone mad, and we shall have a crowd round us
in a minute."

Still completely bewildered, Frank followed his brother.

"Drive out into the country," Julian said to the coachman as he took his
seat. "This is little short of a miracle, old fellow," he said, as they
drove off. "I thought you were living quietly at Weymouth; you thought I
was rotting in a French prison, and here we run against each other in
the heart of Russia."

"I can hardly believe even yet that it is you, Julian, you have altered
so tremendously. Thank God, old man, that I have found you."

"Thank God, my dear Frank, that, as I see, that stupid business of mine
has not prevented your entering the army, as I was afraid it would do;
though how you come to be here is more than I can guess."

"I am General Wilson's aide-de-camp, and have been with him all through
the war; and you, Julian, what on earth are you doing here? But first of
all, I suppose you have not heard that you have been cleared completely
of that charge of murder."

Julian's face paled at the sudden news, and he sat for a minute or two
in silence.

"Quite cleared, Frank?" he asked in a low tone; "cleared so that no
doubt remains, and that I can go home without fear of having it thrown
into my face?"

"Completely and entirely," Frank replied. "You were cleared before you
had been gone a day. The coroner's jury brought in an open verdict, but
a warrant was issued against that poacher Markham; and your letter
first, and his confession a year later, completely bore out the evidence
at the inquest, and established his guilt beyond question."

"To think that I should never have known it," Julian said. "If I had
dreamt of it I would have attempted to break out from Verdun, and make
my way home. I don't know that I should have succeeded, but at any rate
I should have tried. But tell me all about it, Frank; my story will keep
just at present."

"You seem to have fallen on your legs, anyhow," Frank remarked. "May I
ask if this is your Imperial Highness's sledge. I have learned something
of the value of furs since I came out here, and that coat of yours is
certainly worth a hundred pounds, and this sable rug as much more."

"It is not my sledge, nor is it my rug, though I have two or three of
them quite as handsome. The coat is my own, the sledge belongs to my
intimate friend Count Woronski, with whom I am at present staying."

"You really must tell me your story first," Frank said, laughing. "Now
that you know you are cleared, you can very well wait to hear all the
details, and I refuse to say a word until you have told me what all this
means."

"Well, Frank," Julian said seriously, "mine is not altogether a pleasant
story to tell now; but I acted for the best, and under the belief that
there was no chance of my being able to return for years to England. The
story is too long for me to give you the details now, but I will give
you the broad facts. I was sent prisoner to Verdun. I was there about
ten months. There was fever in the place, and we died off like sheep.
There seemed no possibility of escape, and if I could have got away I
could not, as I thought, make for England. I was getting hopeless and
desperate, and I don't think I could have held out much longer. Then
there was an offer made to us that any of us who liked could obtain
freedom by enlisting in the French army. It was expressly stated that it
was going east, and that at the end of the campaign we should,--if our
corps was ordered to a place where it was likely to come in contact with
the English,--be allowed to exchange into a regiment with another
destination.

"Well, it seemed to me that it mattered very little what became of me.
Even should I be exchanged and sent to England I could not have stayed
there, but must have gone abroad to make my living as best I could, and
I thought I might as well go as a soldier to Russia as anywhere else; so
I accepted the offer, little knowing what would come of it. I regretted
it heartily when I saw the misery that was inflicted by the misconduct,
partly of the French, but much more of the Poles and Germans, on the
unfortunate inhabitants. However, there I was, and I did my duty to the
best of my power. When I tell you that I was in Ney's division, you may
imagine that I had my share of it all."

"Extraordinary!" Frank said, "to think that you and I should both have
been through this campaign, and on opposite sides. Why, we must have
been within musket shot of each other a score of times."

"I have no doubt I saw you," Julian said; "for I often made out a bit
of scarlet among the dark masses of the Russians, and thought that there
must be some English officers with them. The first time I noticed them
was on the heights opposite to Smolensk. Two officers in scarlet were
with the batteries they planted there and drove our own off the hill on
our side of the river."

"Those were the general and myself, Julian. We had only joined two days
before. But still, I am as much in the dark as ever. What you have said
explains how you come to be in Russia, but it does not at all explain
how you came to be here like this."

"It was on the day after we got past the Russians. It was a strong place
with a hard name--Jaro something or other. The next day, as we were
marching along, we came across an overturned carriage. A coachman and a
woman were lying dead. On nearing it, I heard a little cry, and I
stepped out from the side of my company--I was a sergeant and was
marching on the flank--and I found among the cushions a little girl,
about six years old, who was already almost frozen to death. I fastened
her on to my back under my cloak, and carried her along with me. She
came round, and was a dear little creature. Well, I carried her all
through the retreat. Sometimes, when there was an alarm, I had time to
stow her away in one of the waggons; when there was not, she went on my
back into the middle of the fighting, and you know that was pretty rough
occasionally. However, we both of us seemed to possess a charm against
balls. We got on all right until the day before we were to arrive at the
Berezina. Then I went out foraging with some companions; they got into a
hut, lit a fire, and would not leave, so I started alone with her.

"I lost my way, and was found by a lot of peasants, who would have made
very short work of me, but the child stepped forward like a little queen
and told them that she was the Countess of Woronski, and that her
father was a friend of the Czar's, and that if they sent us to him they
would get a great reward. Thinking that it was good enough, they took us
to their village and dressed me up in peasant's clothes, and kept us
there a fortnight. Then the head man and the village Papa came with us
here by post. The child's father and mother had given her up as dead,
and their gratitude to me is boundless. It has been deemed unadvisable
to say anything about my ever being with the French, and I am simply
introduced by the count as an English gentleman whom he regards as his
very dear friend. I sent letters home to you and Aunt a fortnight since,
and if I had heard that the charge of murder was still hanging over me I
should probably have remained here for good. The count has already
hinted that there is an estate at my disposal. He is as rich as Croesus,
and he and the countess would be terribly hurt if I were to refuse to
accept their tokens of gratitude. They have no other child but
Stephanie, and she is, of course, the apple of their eye."

"Well, you have had luck, Julian. I did think that if you once got out
of prison you would be likely to fall upon your feet, because you always
had the knack of making yourself at home anywhere; but I had no idea of
anything like this. Well, I don't think you are to blame for having
entered the French service rather than remaining a prisoner, especially
as you were, as far as you knew, cut off from returning home. Still, I
agree with you that it is as well not to talk about it at present. It is
marvellous to think that you were with Ney through all that fighting.
The doings of the rear-guard were, I can assure you, the subject of the
warmest admiration on the part of the Russians. Sir Robert Wilson
considers that the retreat from Smolensk was one of the most
extraordinary military exploits ever performed. And so you were made a
sergeant after Borodino? Well, Julian, to win your stripes among such a
body as Ney led is no slight honour."

"I received another, Frank; not so much for valour as for taking things
easy." He took from his pocket the cross of the Legion of Honour. "This,
Frank, is an honour Napoleon sent to me, and Ney pinned on my breast. I
would rather that it had been Wellington who sent it, and say Picton who
pinned it on; but it is a big honour none the less, and at any rate it
was not won in fighting against my own countrymen. This document it is
wrapped up in, is the official guarantee that I received on enlisting,
that I should under no circumstances whatever be called upon to serve
against the English."

"You have a right to be proud of the cross, Julian. I should be proud of
it myself, British officer as I am. But how do you say that you got it
for taking things easy?"

"It was not exactly for taking things easy, but for keeping up the men's
spirits. Discipline was getting terribly relaxed, and they were losing
their military bearing altogether. A lot of us non-commissioned officers
were talking round a fire, and I suggested that we should start marching
songs again as we used to do on our way through Germany. It would cheer
the men up, get them to march in military order and time, and shorten
the road. Ney and some of his staff happened to be within hearing, and
he praised the idea much more than it deserved. However, the men took it
up, and the effect was excellent. Other regiments followed our example,
and there can be no doubt that, for a time, it did have a good effect.
Ney reported the business to Napoleon, who issued an order praising the
Grenadiers of the Rhone for the example they had set the army, bestowing
the Legion of Honour on me, and ordering that henceforth marching songs
should be sung throughout the army. However, singing was dropped at
Smolensk. After leaving there we were reduced to such a handful that we
had not the heart to sing, but it did its work, for I believe that the
improvement effected by the singing in the _morale_ of Ney's troops had
at least something to do with our being able to keep together, and to
lessen the fatigues of those terrible marches.

"Now tell me more about yourself. How was it that you had the wonderful
luck to be chosen to accompany Sir Robert Wilson as his aide-de-camp?"

"It was to his suggestion when I first joined, Julian, and to nearly a
year's steady work on my part. He got me gazetted into his old regiment,
the 15th Light Dragoons, and at the same time told me that if, as was
already anticipated, Russia broke off her alliance with Napoleon, he was
likely to be offered his former position of British commissioner at the
Russian headquarters. He said that if by the time that came off I had
got up Russian, he would apply for me to go with him, so I got hold of a
Russian Pole in London, a political exile, a gentleman and an awfully
good fellow. I took him with me down to Canterbury, where our depôt was,
and worked five or six hours a day with him steadily, so that when, at
the outbreak of war, Sir Robert got his appointment he was able to apply
for me upon the ground, that I had a thoroughly good colloquial
knowledge of Russian."

"You always were a beggar to work, Frank," his brother said admiringly.
"I worked for a bit myself pretty hard at Verdun, and got up French well
enough to pass with, but then you see there was no other mortal thing to
do, and I knew that it would be useful to me if ever I saw a chance of
escape. Of course, at that time I had no idea of enlisting: but it must
have been a different thing altogether for a young officer to give up
every amusement, as you must have done, and to slave away at a crack-jaw
language like Russian."

"It required a little self-denial I have no doubt, Julian, but the work
itself soon became pleasant. You may remember in the old days you used
to say that I could say 'No,' while you could not."

"That is true enough, Frank. I was a great ass in those days, but I
think that now I have learnt something."

"I should think you have, Julian," Frank said, looking closely at his
brother. "The expression of your face has very much changed, and you
certainly look as if you could say 'No' very decidedly now."

By this time they had, after a long drive, re-entered the city.

"You must come home with me first, Frank. I must introduce you to the
count and countess, and to Stephanie. Then to-morrow morning you must
come round early. I have heard nothing yet as to how the truth about
that murder came out so rapidly. It seemed to me that the evidence was
conclusive against me, and that even the letter that I wrote telling you
about it, was so improbable that no one but you and Aunt would credit,
in the slightest."

"It did look ugly at first, Julian. When I heard Faulkner's deposition I
could see no way out of it whatever. I could not suppose that a dying
man would lie, and, absolutely sure of your innocence as I was, could
make neither head nor tail of the matter. Is this the mansion? You
certainly have fallen on good quarters."

Leaving their fur coats in the hall they went upstairs. They found the
countess seated in an arm-chair. The count was reading the last gazette
from the army to her, and Stephanie was playing with a doll. The count
and his wife looked surprised as Julian entered with a young English
officer.

"I have the honour, countess," Julian said, "to present to you my
brother, who is aide-de-camp to the English General, Sir Robert Wilson,
whom he accompanied throughout the campaign. Count, you will, I am sure,
rejoice with me, in this unexpected meeting."

"We are glad, indeed, to make the acquaintance of the brother of our
dear friend," the countess said, holding out her hand to Frank.

[Illustration: JULIAN INTRODUCES STEPHANIE TO HIS BROTHER FRANK.]

"I regret, countess, that I am not able to reply to you in French,"
Frank said in Russian. "I had thought that Russian would be absolutely
necessary here, but I find that almost everyone speaks French. Had I
known that, I could have saved myself a good deal of labour, for to us
your language is very difficult to acquire."

"You speak it extremely well, Mr. Wyatt," the count said. "I can
scarcely imagine how you have acquired such familiarity with it in your
own country."

"I learned it from a Russian Pole, a political exile, with whom I worked
for about six hours a day for nearly twelve months, in order that I
might qualify myself to accompany Sir Robert Wilson."

"This is my little friend Stephanie, Frank," Julian said, lifting the
child up on his shoulder, her favourite place.

"And this is my Nurse Julian," the child said with a laugh. "Isn't he a
big nurse?"

"He is big," Frank agreed, looking up at him. "I feel quite small beside
him. He was always a great deal taller than I was, and he has grown a
good bit since I saw him last. But he looks rather big for a nurse."

"He is not too big at all," Stephanie said earnestly. "He could never
have carried me so far if he had not been very big and strong. Could he,
papa?"

"No, Stephanie; though I think goodness of heart had as much to do with
it as strength of body. Your brother has, of course, told you, Mr.
Wyatt, how deep an obligation he has laid us under."

"He said that he had had the good fortune to find your little girl, and
that he took her along with him in the retreat; but he seemed to
consider that the service she did him when they fell among the Russian
peasants quite settled matters between them. Doubtless, they mutually
saved each other's lives."

"Mr. Wyatt," the count said gravely, "the one act was momentary and
without risk. The other was done at the cost of labour and sacrifice
daily and hourly for nearly a month. You have been through the campaign,
and know how frightful were the sufferings, how overwhelming the
exhaustion of the soldiers. You can judge, then, how terrible was the
addition to a soldier's labours to have to carry a child like that for
so long, when his own strength was hourly weakening, and when every
additional pound of weight told heavily upon him. The tears come into
the eyes of the countess and myself every time we think of it. It was an
act of self-devotion beyond words; altogether beyond the understanding
of those who know not how terrible were the sufferings endured on the
march."

"They were indeed terrible, Count," Frank said gravely. "It was agony
for me to witness them, and I cannot but share your wonder how my
brother supported the extra weight, even of your little daughter, and
came through it safely, while tens of thousands of men not so burdened
fell and died along the road."

Julian did not understand what was being said, but he guessed by their
faces what they were speaking of.

"I suppose you are saying that it was hard work carrying the child," he
broke in in English; "but I can tell you that I believe it aided me to
get through. It gave me something to think of besides the snow, the
distance, and the Russians. She was always cheerful and bright, and her
merry talk lightened the way, but in addition to that the warmth of her
body against my back by day and curled up in my arms at night, greatly
helped to keep life in me. I think that it was largely due to her that I
got through safely where many men as strong as myself died."

The count looked inquiringly at Frank, who translated what Julian had
said. He smiled, "Your brother is determined to try to make out that
the obligation is all on his side, but it will not do. There is the
simple fact that we have our little daughter again, safe and sound. If
it had not been for him she would have been lost to us for ever."

Julian went down to the door with Frank. "Of course you will tell the
general all about it, Frank. I suppose he knows something of the
circumstances under which I went away, as he was a friend of our
father's, and got you your commission, and takes such an interest in
you. I daresay he will be shocked to hear that I have been carrying a
French musket, but I am not ashamed of it myself, and consider that
under the circumstances I was perfectly justified in doing so. Come
round in the morning the first thing after breakfast. I have yet to
learn all about how you found out that Markham committed that murder,
and then you can tell me, too, what the general says."

On going upstairs Julian told his hosts that he had been completely
cleared of the charge that had hung over him and darkened his life, and
that there was nothing to prevent him from returning to England. They
expressed much gratification at the news, but at the same time said that
for themselves they could not but regret that this would prevent their
having the pleasure they had looked forward to of having him settled
near them.

"This, however, we must talk about again," the count said. "At any rate,
I hope that you will from time to time come over to stay for a while
with us and Stephanie."

"That I will assuredly do, Count," Julian said warmly. "I do not quite
know at present what I shall do. As I have told you, I shall, in
addition to my share of my father's money, inherit some from my aunt,
and shall be able, if I choose, to buy a small estate and settle down. I
am too old to go into our army now, but, besides, I think that ere long
this European struggle will be over, and in that case there will be
nothing for a soldier to do. Still in any case I shall be able
occasionally to make a voyage here; and I can assure you that it will be
one of my greatest pleasures to do so."

Sir Robert Wilson was greatly surprised when he heard from Frank of his
meeting with his brother, and of the adventures through which he had
passed.

"I do not blame him in any way," he said. "Had he been a king's soldier
or sailor the matter would have been altogether different. To have
entered a foreign army then would have been a breach of his oaths. But
as a private individual he was free to take service abroad, as tens of
thousands of English, Scotch, and Irish have done before him. It would,
of course, have been much better had he entered the army of a power
friendly to England, but the document that he received on enlisting goes
far to absolve him from any responsibility in the matter. At any rate,
he was not a deserter, and seeing that he could not go back to England
even if he escaped, that he was practically friendless in the world, and
that, had he not acted as he did he might have died at Verdun, I do not
think that even a severe moralist would be able to find any fault with
his decision. So he was one of Ney's heroes! Well, Frank, when this war
is over, and the bitterness between the two nations has passed away, he
will have good cause to feel proud of having been one of that
unconquerable band. No troops have ever gained greater glory by victory
than they have by retreat; besides to have won his stripes in such
company, and to have received the Legion of Honour from Ney, is as high
an honour as any soldier could wish for. At the same time, I think that
he and his friends have done wisely in keeping silence as to the part he
played--it might have led to all sorts of trouble. Had it been known, he
might have been claimed as a prisoner of war; and even if this had not
been done, he might have been embroiled in quarrels with hot-headed
young Russians; and it is scarcely probable, Frank, that he is such a
dead shot with the pistol as you are."

The next morning Julian heard from Frank full details of the manner in
which the truth had been arrived at of the circumstances of Mr.
Faulkner's murder.

"By Jove! Frank," he exclaimed, when his brother brought the story to a
conclusion; "you ought to have been a Bow Street runner. I can't think
how it all occurred to you. Thinking it over, as I have done hundreds of
times, it never once occurred to me that the footprints in the snow
might prove that I had set off in pursuit of Markham, and that they
would have shown that he was standing behind that tree whence the shot
was fired, while I went straight from the road to the place where
Faulkner was lying. What a head you have, old fellow!"

"It was simple enough, Julian. I was certain that you had not committed
the murder, and it was therefore clear that someone else must have done
so. Then came the question, first, how Faulkner had come to charge you
as he had done, and, second, how and why you had disappeared. The only
conceivable explanation that I could find was that you must have run
into the wood, caught sight of the murderer, and followed him up.
Directly we found your footprints on the snow overlapping his it made
that a certainty. We had only then to go into the wood and pick up the
whole story bit by bit. For a time I certainly thought that you had been
killed by the friends of the man that you had followed, and you may
imagine what a relief it was to us when your letter came.

"And now, old fellow, I suppose you will be going home? Sir Robert has
told me that he will be willing to give me leave at once, and that he
considers I ought to have a thorough rest, to get the seeds of that
horrible hospital fever out of my blood. Therefore, I am ready to start
with you whenever you are ready to go. He does not know yet whether he
will continue as commissioner here when the campaign recommences in the
spring; but there is little doubt that he will do so, and in that case I
shall rejoin as soon as the weather breaks sufficiently for operations
to commence. I got my lieutenantcy three months ago owing to the
vacancies made in the regiment during the campaign in Spain; and Sir
Robert has been good enough to speak so strongly of my services here
that I have every chance of getting another step before I return."

"I see no reason why I should not start at the end of the week, Frank.
Of course, I am extremely comfortable here; but now that I know I can go
back all right I am longing to be home again. Indeed I should soon get
tired of having nothing to do but to drive about and eat dinners here;
and besides, I cannot but feel that I am in a false position, and am
very anxious to get out of it."

Frank nodded. "I quite understand that, old fellow, and I agree with you
thoroughly. A question might be asked any day that you could not reply
to without saying how you came to be here; and for the sake of the count
as well as yourself, that should be avoided if possible."

The count was loud in his expressions of regret when he heard that
Julian was about to leave with his brother at once; but when Julian
urged that he was constantly in fear that some chance question might be
asked, and that the falseness of his position weighed heavily upon him,
the count could not but admit the justice of the view he took.
Preparations were immediately begun for departure. They were to travel
by sledge through Finland, passing through Vibourg to Abo, and there to
cross the Gulf of Bothnia to the Swedish coast, a few miles north of
Stockholm, and to travel across the country to Gothenburg. The count
placed one of his travelling carriages on runners at their disposal as
far as Abo, and insisted on sending one of his own servants with them to
attend to their wants on the road.

Stephanie was inconsolable at the approaching departure of her friend,
and even the promise that he would return and pay them another visit
before very long, scarcely pacified her. In three days all was ready.
The luggage, packed in a light waggon, had been sent off in charge of
one of the count's servants forty-eight hours before; and the travelling
carriage had but to take three or four great hampers stored with
provisions and wines. The count and countess had had on the previous day
a long talk with Frank, who at their request called at an hour when
Julian would be out paying a long round of farewell visits. The
conversation was a serious one, and had ended by the count saying:

"You see, Mr. Wyatt, nothing will alter the determination of the
countess and myself in this matter; and if you had not consented to
accept our commission and to carry out our wishes, we should have had no
course open but to communicate with our embassy in London, and to
request them to appoint someone to act as our agent in the matter. This
would not have been so satisfactory, for the agent would of course have
been ignorant of your brother's tastes and wishes; whereas you will be
able to learn from him exactly the position that would be most
agreeable. All we ask is that you will not go below the minimum we have
named, and the more you exceed it the better we shall be pleased. You
know well how we feel in the matter, and that anything that can be done
in this way will still fall very far short of the measure of gratitude
we feel towards your brother."

"I will carry out the commission that you have given me to the best of
my abilities, Count; and will endeavour to act as if my brother was an
entire stranger."

"Thank you greatly, Mr. Wyatt. I agree with you that if you dismiss
altogether from your mind the fact that your brother is interested in
the matter, and that you regard yourself as simply carrying out a
business transaction as our agent, it will simplify matters greatly. I
don't wish you to have the trouble of the actual details. I shall write
myself to our ambassador, who is a personal friend of mine, and request
him, as soon as he hears from you, to instruct an English lawyer to
carry out all the business part of the arrangement."

The journey across Finland was a very pleasant one. Both were in high
spirits. The cloud that had hung over Julian had been dispelled, and
Frank's constant anxiety about him had been laid to rest. They had gone
safely through the most wonderful campaign of modern times, and were now
on their way home. Julian's supply of money was untouched save for the
purchase of a variety of presents for his aunt. They travelled only by
day. The carriage was constructed with all conveniences for sleeping in,
and when, on their arrival at the end of their day's journey, they
returned from a stroll down the town to an excellent dinner prepared by
their servant, they had but to turn in for a comfortable night's rest in
the vehicle. At Abo they found their baggage awaiting them.

"By Jove! Julian," Frank said laughing, as he looked at the great pile
of trunks in the post-house, "one would think that you were carrying the
whole contents of a household. Those modest tin cases comprise my share
of that pile."

"It is tremendous!" Julian said almost ruefully. "I feel quite ashamed
to turn up with such an amount of baggage. The first thing we must do,
as soon as we get back, is to effect a division. I am afraid that my
outside clothes will be of no use to you--they would require entire
remaking; but all the other things will fit you as well as me. I do
believe that there are enough to last me my life-time; and it will be
downright charity to relieve me of some of them. You may imagine my
stupefaction when I came back one day to the count's and found my room
literally filled with clothes."

"I will help you a bit," Frank laughed. "The campaign has pretty well
destroyed all my kit, and I shan't be too proud to fill up from your
abundance."

They found that the servant who had preceded them with the baggage had
already made all the arrangements for their crossing the gulf. The
extreme cold had everywhere so completely frozen the sea that there was
no difficulty in crossing, which, they learned, was not often the case.
Three sledges had been engaged for their transport. The distance was
about 120 miles; but it was broken by the islands of the Aland
Archipelago, and upon one or other of these they could take refuge in
the event of any sudden change of weather. They were to start at
midnight, and would reach Bomarsund, on the main island of Aland, on the
following evening, wait there for twenty-four hours to rest the animals,
and would reach the mainland the next day.

The frost continued unbroken, and they crossed the gulf without
difficulty, travelled rapidly across Sweden, and reached England without
adventure of any kind. They waited for a day in London. Frank carried
despatches from Sir Robert Wilson, and was occupied at the War Office
all day, having a very long interview with the minister, to whom he gave
a much more detailed account of the campaign than had been given in the
general's reports. The minister expressed much satisfaction at the
information he afforded, and said at the conclusion of the interview:

"Sir Robert has spoken several times as to your services, and I am happy
to inform you that your name will appear in the next gazette as promoted
to the rank of captain. I consider that the manner in which you devoted
yourself to the acquisition of the Russian language was most highly
meritorious, and I wish that many young officers would similarly acquire
foreign or oriental languages. I trust that you will thoroughly recover
your health, so as to be able to rejoin Sir Robert Wilson by the time
that the troops take the field again. The campaign is likely to be a
most important, and--we have great grounds for hoping--a final one."

Before leaving the building Frank found out where Strelinski was at
work. He was engaged in translating a mass of Russian documents. He rose
from his seat with an exclamation of delight when he saw Frank, who,
after a short chat, asked him to come that evening to his hotel. He
there learned that the Pole was getting on very well. His knowledge of
German as well as of Russian had been very valuable to him; his salary
had already been raised, and he was now at the head of a small
department, having two of his countrymen and three Germans under him,
and his future in the office was quite assured.

"The work is somewhat hard," he said, "for when a ship comes in from
Germany or Russia we are often at work all night, sometimes
eight-and-forty hours at a stretch, but we are all paid overtime. The
work is pleasant and interesting, and your officials are good enough to
say that we get through a wonderful amount in the time, and the minister
has twice expressed his approbation to me. Ah, Mr. Wyatt, how much do I
owe to you and the good general?"

"I owe fully as much to you as you owe to me, Strelinski," Frank said.
"Putting aside the interest there has been in witnessing such mighty
events, it has been a splendid thing for me in my profession. I shall be
gazetted captain this week, while I am pretty sure of a brevet majority
at the end of the next campaign, and of further employment in the same
line afterwards."

Julian was not present at the interview. He had never been in London
before, and after spending the day in strolling through the streets and
visiting the principal sights, had gone to a theatre, leaving Frank to
talk with the Pole. The latter had not left when Julian returned. He and
Frank had found such an abundance of subjects to talk about that they
were scarcely aware how the time had passed. The latter proposed that
they should go to one of the fashionable taverns to supper. Julian would
have excused himself, but Frank insisted on his accompanying him. As
they were sitting there, two gentlemen passed by their table. One of
them stared hard at Frank, and then with an angry exclamation turned
away. Then Strelinski said:

"That is your old antagonist, unless I am mistaken, Mr. Wyatt. You
pointed him out to me once when I was in barracks with you, and I
thought I remembered his face; that empty sleeve assures me that it is
him."

Frank nodded.

"What is that?" Julian asked.

"Oh, it is nothing," his brother said hastily.

"No, no, Mr. Wyatt, it was a grand thing. Has not your brother told you
of it, Mr. Julian?"

"No, he has told me nothing about an antagonist."

"You do not know, then, that Mr. Frank may claim to be the finest pistol
shot in the British army."

Julian looked at his brother in astonishment. "I did not know that you
had ever fired a pistol in your life, Frank."

"I practised pretty hard while I was at Canterbury," Frank answered. "I
suppose that I had a good eye for it, and certainly came to be what you
would call a good shot, though I dare say there are others just as good.
I got involved in a quarrel with the man who has just passed me, who was
a captain in the Lancers, and a notorious bully and duellist. We went
out. I hit him in the hand, and he lost his arm above the elbow, and
there was the end of it."

"Perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me a little more about it, Mr.
Strelinski," Julian said, turning to the Pole, and in spite of a growl
from Frank that there was nothing to tell, the Pole related the whole
circumstances of the quarrel, the feeling that had been excited by it,
Frank's expressed determination not to inflict serious injury upon the
man but to carry away his trigger-finger only, and so put an end to his
duels in the future, and the manner in which his intention was carried
out.

"Well, I congratulate you, Frank, very heartily," Julian said, when
Strelinski had finished. "Why on earth did you not tell me about this
before?"

"Really, Julian, there was nothing to tell about. It was a disagreeable
incident altogether, and I considered then, as I have considered since,
that it was hardly fair of me to go out with him when I was so certain
of my shooting, and it was a hundred to one in my favour. I should never
have done it if he had not forced the quarrel upon young Wilmington; for
the young fellow must either have gone out, which would have been
throwing away his life, or left the service."

"Unfair, my dear Frank! why the man himself had always relied upon his
superior skill, and you were able to beat him at his own game. Well, I
wish I could shoot as well. However, as I am not going to do any more
soldiering, I don't know that it would be of much use to me; still I
should like to be able to do it."

The next morning they started by coach for Weymouth, leaving Julian's
heavier luggage to follow by carrier waggon. Mrs. Troutbeck's joy, when
her two nephews arrived together, for a time completely overpowered her,
and smelling salts and other restoratives had to be brought into play
before she recovered. The event created quite an excitement in Weymouth.
The appearance of Frank's name so frequently in Sir Robert Wilson's
despatches had been a source of pride to the whole town, and especially
to his old school-fellows, while the clearing up of the mystery that had
so long hung over Julian's fate was no less interesting. The sympathy
with him was so great and general that no one was surprised or shocked
that, under the circumstances, he had been driven to enlist in the
French army, and had taken part in the Russian campaign. Indeed, the
fact that he had been one of Ney's celebrated division, whose bravery
had excited general admiration, was considered a feather in his cap,
especially when it became known that he had been awarded the Cross of
the Legion of Honour by Napoleon himself. Had not the brothers received
the proposal most unfavourably, a public dinner would have been got up
to celebrate their return.

"Well, Julian, you will have to settle what you mean to do with
yourself," Frank said one day. "You can never settle down here without
any occupation whatever, after what you have gone through."

"No, I quite feel that, Frank. I have had enough of soldiering; that one
campaign is enough for a life time. I really can hardly make up my mind
what to do. Aunt was speaking to me yesterday afternoon when you were
out. The dear old soul said that it was nonsense for me to wait for her
death, wasting my life here, and that she was anxious to hand me over at
once half her money. She said that that would be £10,000, and with the
£8,000--my share of father's money--I could then buy an estate."

"It would be the best thing you could do, Julian, but, of course, there
is no hurry about it. What part of the country would you prefer to
settle in?"

"I don't know, Frank, I have never thought much about it. I don't think
I should choose anywhere near Weymouth, and I would rather go to a
flatter country, and a better wooded one. If I bought land, I should
like to have land that I could cultivate myself, so as to give me an
interest in it, and I should like, after a time, to be on the bench,
which would give one a good deal of occupation. I suppose I shall marry
some day, and so would prefer to be within reach of a town. I should
think, from what you say, the country round Canterbury must be pretty.
There is a garrison there, Dover is within reach, and it is a good deal
more handy for getting up to town than it is from here. However, as you
say, there is plenty of time for me to think about that."

Mrs. Troutbeck was, as Julian had predicted, astounded upon the arrival
of his baggage. "I never saw such a thing!" she exclaimed, as trunk
after trunk was carried into the house. "That Russian count of yours,
Julian, must be a little cracked, I should think. Why, my dear boy, if
you were to get stout what in the world would you do with all these
things?"

"That is a contingency I have never thought of, Aunt. You quite frighten
me. I must go in for a course of severe exercise to prevent the chance
of such a thing occurring."

"You might take to shooting," Mrs. Troutbeck said doubtfully; "and I am
sure that at present there is not a gentleman round who would not be
glad to give you a day's shooting."

"I have done enough shooting, Aunt," Julian said gravely. "It was the
means of my getting into a bad scrape here. In Russia it was often part
of my duty to shoot dying horses, to say nothing of shooting men, and I
have no desire ever to take a gun in my hands again. I have looked up my
old friend Bill, and shall take to sailing again, but I will promise you
that I will keep clear of smugglers."

Two days later Frank announced his intention of going up to London for a
few days, as he thought he had better offer to be of any assistance he
could at the War Office. He was away for nearly three weeks, and on his
return mentioned that he had run down to Canterbury, and had seen some
of his old friends at the depôt. A fortnight later he received a bulky
letter from town, and in the course of the day asked his aunt if she
felt equal to taking a journey with him.

"A journey, my dear!" she repeated in surprise. "Where do you want to go
to?"

"Well, Aunt, I want to go to London in the first place; we will travel
by post-chaise, so that everything will be comfortable; afterwards we
may go somewhere else. I can't tell you anything about it now; it is a
little secret. But I do very much want you and Julian to go with me."

"Then, of course we will, my dear," the old lady said. "I should very
much like to visit London again, and see the theatres and shows. What do
you say, Julian?"

"Of course I will go, Aunt, though I can't think what Frank has got in
his head. Still, I am very tired of Weymouth, and it will be a change. I
was saying to Dick Halliburne yesterday that unless I could hit on
something to do, I should have to ask them if they would let me go to
school again."

Six days later they drove up in a post-chaise to a fine mansion some
three miles from Canterbury. Julian's astonishment at Frank's mysterious
proceedings had been growing ever since they left Weymouth.

"Who on earth are we going to see here?" he asked, as they approached
the mansion.

"Restrain your impatience for a few minutes longer, Julian, then you
shall know all about it. This mansion, I may tell you, belongs to a
friend of mine. It is the centre of an estate of some 2,000 acres, and
its rent-roll is about £3,000 a year."

"Very nice indeed!" Julian said. "Well, I won't ask any more questions
till we get there."

A gentleman appeared at the door as the carriage drove up. He shook
hands warmly with Frank, who introduced him to his companions as Mr.
James Linton, solicitor to the Russian embassy. The gentleman led the
way to a very handsome drawing-room, then he looked inquiringly at
Frank, who nodded. From a mahogany box on the table Mr. Linton produced
a large packet of papers.

"Mr. Wyatt," he said to Julian, "it is my pleasant duty to present you
with these documents. They are the title-deeds of this mansion and the
surrounding property. In purchasing them I have followed out the
instructions of Count Woronski, and have had the benefit of the
assistance of your brother in selecting an estate that would, he
thought, from its situation, be agreeable to you."

Julian looked at the speaker as if unable to take in the sense of his
words.

"I beg your pardon," he said hesitatingly. "I don't think I quite
understand you."

"It is as I said, Mr. Wyatt. Count Woronski wrote to me expressing his
desire to present you with an estate here as some slight token, as he
expressed it, of the enormous obligation under which you have placed him
and the countess, his wife. I may say that his instructions to me would
have authorized the purchase of a much larger estate than this, but he
begged me to be guided by the advice of your brother, Captain Wyatt, in
the matter, and the latter obliged me by taking the responsibility of
choosing an estate off my hands, and has selected this. My part in the
business has therefore been confined to carrying out the legal part in
the matter and completing the purchase."

"My dear Frank," Julian said, "this is monstrous."

"I have only carried out the wishes of the count, Julian. He and the
countess had a long conversation with me, and it was with some
reluctance that I accepted the mission to select an estate for you, and
only because he said that if I refused, he should have to request the
Russian ambassador to ask one of his secretaries to do so, and that it
would be very much more satisfactory to him that the place chosen should
be, in point of situation and other respects, just what you would
yourself like."

"I am overpowered, Mr. Linton. It has all come upon me so much by
surprise that I do not know what I ought to say or do."

"There can be no doubt what you ought to do," the solicitor replied.
"Count Woronski is a very wealthy nobleman. You have rendered to him and
his wife one of the greatest services one man can render to another. The
count mentioned in his letter that had you remained in Russia it was his
intention to transfer one of his estates to you, and the smallest of
them is of much greater value than this. As to your refusing the gift,
it is, if I may say so, impossible. Nothing could exceed the delicacy
with which the count has arranged the business, and he would naturally
feel deeply hurt were you to hesitate to accept this token of his
gratitude. I am sure you must see that yourself."

"I do indeed see it," Julian said, "and I feel that it would be not only
ungrateful but wrong for me to refuse this noble gift. But you will
admit that it is natural that I should for a time be overwhelmed by it.
I am not so ungracious as to refuse so magnificent a present, although I
feel that it is altogether disproportionate, not to the service I was
fortunate enough to render, but to my action in rendering it. Well, Mr.
Linton, I can only thank you for the part you have taken in the matter.
Of course, I shall write at once to the count and countess expressing my
feelings as to this magnificent gift, and will send the letter to the
embassy to be forwarded at the first possible opportunity. And now what
is the next thing to be done, for I feel almost incapable of forming any
plans at present?"

"I would suggest, Mr. Wyatt, that in the first place you should drive
round your estate. There are horses and carriages in the stable. The
estate had only been advertised a day or two before your brother came up
to town, and the purchase included the furniture, horses and carriages,
and the live stock on the home farm. I engaged the coachman, grooms, and
gardeners to remain until, at least, you should decide whether to take
them into your service. I should suggest also that, after driving round
the place, you should return to Canterbury for the night. Beyond an old
man and his wife, who are in charge of the house, I have not made any
arrangements, thinking it better to leave that to you and Mrs.
Troutbeck."

"You will have to move here, you know, Aunt," Frank said. "I gave
orders, before we came away from Weymouth, to Mary to lock up the house,
and to come up to town by the coach two days later, and then to come on
to Canterbury. I have no doubt that we shall find her at the _Fountain_
when we get there. I daresay you will be able to hear of some good
servants at the Hotel."

"You have taken away my breath altogether, Frank," Mrs. Troutbeck said.
"However, I am too bewildered to think for myself, and for the present
must do whatever you tell me."

Before Frank started three weeks later to rejoin Sir Robert Wilson he
had the satisfaction of seeing Julian comfortably established in his new
position, and settling down to the life. He himself went through the
tremendous campaign that brought about the conclusion of the war and the
downfall of Napoleon, and was present at the great battles of Lutzen,
Bautzen, Reichenbach, Dresden, Culm, and Leipsic. At the termination of
the war he received the rank of brevet major, and the appointment of
military attaché to the British embassy in Russia. He remained there for
some years, and then retired from the army with the rank of colonel.

Mrs. Troutbeck had by this time passed away, having first had the
pleasure of seeing a mistress installed at Julian's. The latter was now
a justice of the peace, and one of the most popular landowners in the
county. Mrs. Troutbeck, at Julian's earnest request, left the whole of
her property to Frank, nor could the latter persuade his brother to take
any share of it. Frank had no inclination for a country life, and
settled down near London, where, after a time, he too married.

He then went in for politics, and was returned for a Kentish
constituency. Although he took no very prominent part in party politics
he became one of the recognized authorities in the house on all matters
connected with the affairs of Eastern Europe, and took a lively interest
in the movements set on foot for the benefit of the British soldier.
Julian kept his promise to the count, and for many years went over
occasionally to stay with him. His wife accompanied him until the cares
of a rising family detained her at home. To the end of their lives
neither Frank nor he ever regretted that they had taken part in the
memorable campaign in Russia.

THE END.





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