The next three weeks passed most pleasantly for Julian. Every day there were calls to make, excursions to various points to be undertaken, and dinner parties nearly every evening, either at the count's, at the houses of his friends, or at the club. He found French almost universally spoken among the upper class, and was everywhere cordially welcomed as a friend of the count's. The latter was sometimes questioned by his intimate acquaintances as to his English friend, and to them he replied, "Monsieur Wyatt is the son of a colonel in the English army. He has rendered me a very great service, the nature of which I am not at liberty to disclose. Suffice that the obligation is a great one, and that I regard him as one of my dearest friends. Some day, possibly, my lips may be unsealed, but you must at present be content to take him on my sponsorship."
"I do not want it," the Pole said; "but I am glad that you should have one, for you have been working very hard lately, and it is now nearly nine months since you came down here."
"I would suggest, Mr. Wyatt, that in the first place you should drive round your estate. There are horses and carriages in the stable. The estate had only been advertised a day or two before your brother came up to town, and the purchase included the furniture, horses and carriages, and the live stock on the home farm. I engaged the coachman, grooms, and gardeners to remain until, at least, you should decide whether to take them into your service. I should suggest also that, after driving round the place, you should return to Canterbury for the night. Beyond an old man and his wife, who are in charge of the house, I have not made any arrangements, thinking it better to leave that to you and Mrs. Troutbeck."
Julian was too exhausted to talk, and every moment of rest was precious. Therefore, after smoking for a short time, he lay down to sleep. At daybreak the next morning the march through the forest continued. When from time to time they approached its edge, the Cossacks could be seen hovering thickly on the plain; but they dared not venture into the wood, which was so close that their horses would be worse than useless to them. At three o'clock, when within twenty miles of Orsza, two Polish officers volunteered to push ahead to that town on some peasant's horses that had been brought from the village where they had slept to acquaint the commander of any French force that might be there with their situation, and to pray for assistance. After a halt of an hour the column pushed on again. When they had marched another twelve miles the forest ceased. Night had long since fallen, and a thick fog hung over the ground. This served to hide their movements, but rendered it difficult in the extreme for them to maintain the right direction.
"Yes, I understand that, Mr. Henderson. Of course he must be arrested, but I am sure no one will believe the accusation for a minute. Oh!" he exclaimed, as a fresh idea struck him, "what was Faulkner shot with?"
"I cannot blame you, Mr. Wyatt. Yours is a singular and most unfortunate story, and it seems to me that, had I been in your place, I should have acted precisely the same, and should have been glad to take service under any flag rather than have remained to rot in a prison. Certainly you had a thousand times better excuse than had the Austrians and Prussians, who, after having been our allies, entered upon this savage war of invasion without a shadow of excuse, save that it was the will of Napoleon. However, I think that it will be as well, in order to save any necessity for explanation, that I should introduce you to my friends as an English gentleman who has come to me with the warmest recommendations, and whom I am most anxious to serve in any way. This is not a time when men concern themselves in any way with the private affairs of others. There is not a family in Russia, high or low, who has not lost one or more members in this terrible struggle. Publicly, and as a nation, we rejoice at our deliverance, and at the destruction of our enemies. Privately, we mourn our losses.
"For several reasons. In the first place, the gun might have been heard by some of those cussed revenue men. Then there would be an inquiry and a search. They would have seen by the direction he had been going, that he must have been shot from the bushes, and as no one would have been in sight when they ran up, the thing would have been such a puzzle to them that you may be sure they would have suspected there must be some hidden way out of the clump. Besides, they would probably have hunted every inch of the ground to see if they could find anything that would give them a clue as to who had fired the shot. That is one reason."
The morning after the reading of Ney's order of the day commending the regiment, an order from Napoleon himself was read at the head of the regiment, Ney taking his place by the side of the newly promoted colonel. The Emperor said that he had received the report of Marshal Ney of the conduct and bearing of the Grenadiers of the Rhone, together with a copy of his order of the day, and that this was fully endorsed by the Emperor, who felt that the spirit they were showing was even more creditable to them than the valour that they had so often exhibited in battle, and that he desired personally to thank them. The marshal had also brought before his notice the conduct of Sergeant Wyatt of that regiment, who had, he was informed, been the moving spirit in the change that he so much commended, and, as a mark of his approbation, he had requested the marshal himself, as his representative, to affix to his breast the ribbon of the cross of the Legion of Honour.
"We are glad, indeed, to make the acquaintance of the brother of our dear friend," the countess said, holding out her hand to Frank.