"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."
Almost simultaneously with the passage of the Niemen by the three corps under the French marshals, those of Prince Eugene and the other generals also crossed, but further south, and also advanced at full speed in hopes of interposing between the three Russian armies, and of preventing their concentration. For the next week the French pressed hard upon the rear of the retreating Russians, but failed to bring on a battle, while they themselves suffered from an incessant downpour of rain which made the roads well-nigh impassable. The commissariat train broke down, and a hundred pieces of cannon and 5000 ammunition waggons had to be abandoned. The rain, and a bitterly cold wind that accompanied it, brought on an epidemic among the horses, which were forced to depend solely upon the green rye growing in the fields. Several thousands died; the troops themselves suffered so much from thirst and hunger that no less than 30,000 stragglers fell out from the ranks and spread themselves over the country, burning, ravaging, plundering, and committing terrible depredations. Such dismay was caused by their treatment that the villages were all abandoned, and the whole population retired before the advance of the French, driving their flocks and herds before them, and thus adding greatly to the difficulties of the invaders.
"It will be something for you to look back upon all your life," her father said. "There will be many who will have strange and sad memories of the war, but not one who will have a stranger experience than you have to talk about. Happily, there was, as far as you are concerned, but little sadness in it."
On the following morning Frank met Captain Downes, and learned that he was right in his conjecture, and that it was he who had retained Mr. Probert's services in Julian's behalf before the magistrates.
At nine o'clock that evening the landlady came upstairs and said, rather doubtfully, that a young man had called to see Sir Robert, and that he had one of Sir Robert's cards.
Strelinski at once sat down and wrote the report.
"I should think that he would be just the man for us. Would you see him when you go home this afternoon, and ask him to come to No. 44 Buckingham Street, either this evening at nine, or at the same hour to-morrow morning? I have written my address on this card."
"He wants you take him in hand yourself, Woodall, if you can spare the time to do so; of course, he is ready to pay you for your time and trouble, and would meet you at any hour you like to name in the afternoon at your shed."
"What is going on, Vincent?"
She held out both her hands to him. He bowed deeply over them and raised them to his lips. "My happiness is no less than your own, countess," he said, "that God has permitted me to be the means of bringing your child back again. It was no great thing to do on my part; and, as I have told the count, the little act of kindness was vastly more than repaid, for your daughter assuredly saved my life from the peasants, as I saved hers from the cold. Your little daughter is quite a heroine," he said more lightly. "I can assure you that even when the bullets were flying about thickly she evinced no signs of fear, and the way in which she stood before me facing those enraged peasants was splendid."
"Drive out into the country," Julian said to the coachman as he took his seat. "This is little short of a miracle, old fellow," he said, as they drove off. "I thought you were living quietly at Weymouth; you thought I was rotting in a French prison, and here we run against each other in the heart of Russia."