"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."
"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!"
"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.
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.
"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.
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."
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.
"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."
"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.