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.
"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.
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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 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."
"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?"
"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.
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.
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?"
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.
"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."