"It makes one feel," another said gloomily, "as if we were accursed, infected with the plague, or something of that sort."
Frank had started early for a walk with one of his school friends. Returning through the town at three in the afternoon, he saw people talking in groups. They presently met one of their chums.
"The Russians must be mad," was the comment of the veterans of Julian's regiment. "The place is of no strength; the artillery will breach the walls in no time. They have but one bridge by which to retreat across the river, and we shall soon knock that to pieces with our guns on the right, and shall catch all who are in the town in a trap."
As he lay down he wondered how it was all going to end. His position was at once perilous and uncertain. He had, so far, escaped better than he could have expected, for from the looks the Frenchmen had given him, he had no doubt what his fate would have been had not the man he had been chasing spoken in his favour. His life therefore seemed for the present safe, but the future was very dark. The poacher had spoken as if he was not likely to return for some years. They surely could not intend to keep him on board ship all that time. Could they mean to put him upon some vessel sailing abroad? What a way Frank and his aunt would be in! They would learn that he had started for home early in the afternoon, and it would be absolutely certain that he could not have strayed from the road nor met with any accident coming along the valley. It would certainly be awkward his being missed on the same day Faulkner had been shot, especially as, according to the time he had started for home, he would have come along the road somewhere about the time the magistrate was shot.
"I don't know what would have been proper, but I know what I should have done. Magistrate or no magistrate, I should have knocked my assailant down, or at any rate I should have tried to."
"By no means, your honour; I am only intimating my intention of cross-examining each witness as to the share my clients took in the affair, and pointing out beforehand that their case stands on an entirely different footing to that of the men who took part in the more serious charge of resisting the officers."
"Unfair, my dear Frank! why the man himself had always relied upon his superior skill, and you were able to beat him at his own game. Well, I wish I could shoot as well. However, as I am not going to do any more soldiering, I don't know that it would be of much use to me; still I should like to be able to do it."
Stephanie was quite in her element. She was treated like a little queen by the villagers, who considered her presence among them a high honour as well as a source of future reward. They were never weary of listening to the details of her stay among the French, and accorded to Julian a good deal of deference both for the kindness he had shown the little countess and for the service that he had thereby rendered to themselves. It was ten days before an answer was received as to the count's estates. They lay, it said, far to the south, but the bishop was of opinion that the little countess had better be sent to St. Petersburg, as the count had a palace there, and would be certain to be at the capital at the present juncture of affairs. He offered that, if they would bring her to him, he would see that she was sent on thither by a post-carriage, but that in view of the extreme cold it would be better that she should not be forwarded until the spring.
"I am sorry he is hurt so," Frank said, as they drove off.