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.
"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?"
"And after that that I was a sneaking, meddlesome, interfering old fox."
"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."
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.
"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."
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.
"Certainly," Frank agreed; "he ran up to the hedge and then turned. Why should he have done that?"
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.
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.
"He might ruin us all if he came back," the smuggler growled.