"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?"
"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."
"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.
"I would, Stephanie; but there are some wolves outside, and we can't go until they move."
Another quarter of an hour and the circle broke up, the non-commissioned officers going off to the companies to which they belonged.
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."
"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."
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.
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.
"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."
"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."