"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."
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 dep?t 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.
"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?"
"It is a bullet wound."
"Would you go so far as to say that you would consider it to be a disgraceful and cowardly act?"
"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."
"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."
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.
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.