"It is only right, my dear," she said, with tears in her eyes and a little break in her voice, "that one of my dear brother's sons should follow in his footsteps. I know that he always wished you both to join the army, and as Julian had no fancy for it, I am glad that you should go. Of course it will be a trial, a great trial to me; but a young man must go on his own path, and it would be wrong indeed for an old woman like me to stand in his way."
"Are they French or English?"
On going out into the hall a singular spectacle presented itself. The grand staircase was lined on each side with kneeling men and women. There was a sound of suppressed sobbing, and a low murmur was heard as Stephanie appeared.
"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."
The French were as eager as the Russians to fight, and when it became known that the enemy seemed determined to make a stand at Smolensk they were filled with exultation. Ney's corps was the first to appear before the town, and took up its position on rising ground a short distance from the suburbs lying outside the wall and next to the river. Davoust's corps was to his right, Poniatowski's division came next, while Murat with his cavalry division completed the semicircle.
Frank had been active during the battle of Loubino. Sir Robert Wilson had taken up his post with Touchkoff during the action which was so desperately fought to cover the retreat of the main army, and Frank had acted as aide-de-camp, and, having carried orders to various parts of the field, had excellent opportunities of seeing the whole of the battle; and the Russian general in making his report of the engagement had mentioned his name among those who had rendered distinguished services. His horse had been shot under him, his cap had been carried away by a bullet, and he had received a slight flesh wound in his leg. Although this was of small consequence, it had caused the insertion of his name among those of the officers wounded in the battle. He was to see no more fighting for a time; for, although the army of Wittgenstein fought two or three severe actions with the divisions of St. Cyr and Oudinot, the main army fell back without again fighting until it took up the position that Marshal Kutusow had selected for giving battle.
"Well, you are a cool hand, Wyatt," Lister said. "If we ever get into a hand-to-hand affair with the French, I hope you will take me under your protection."
"Ah! that accounts for your working so hard at Russian, Wyatt," the major said in reply. "I suppose you had received a hint from Sir Robert."
"Well, then, unless there were further threats, as you call them, I think we have disposed of the alleged abuse and the alleged murderous threats. Now we come to the other charge. You thought that he was about to strike you, and in self-defence gave him a blow. What made you think that he was going to strike you?"
"Mark my words, you young scoundrel, I will be even with you yet."
"I hope so, but I have great doubts, sergeant. When people are ready to burn their homes rather than that we should occupy them, to desert all that they have and to wander away they know not where, when they will fight as they fought to-day, I have great doubts whether they will talk of surrender. They can bring up fresh troops long before we can. They will have no lack of provisions. Their country is so vast that they know that at most we can hold but a small portion of it. It seems to me that it is not of surrender they will be thinking, but of bringing up fresh troops from every part of their empire, of drilling and organizing and preparing for the next campaign. I cannot help thinking of what would happen to us if they burnt Moscow, as they have burned half a dozen towns already."
"This is my nurse, my new nurse, Elizabeth. His name is Julian, and he is an English gentleman, as you will see better when he gets some nice clothes on. He has carried me days and days across the snow, and kept me warm by night and day, and done everything for me. He doesn't speak Russian, but he can speak French, and so, of course, we got on very nicely; and I have been in battles, Elizabeth, think of that! and I was not afraid a bit, and I was quite happy all the time, only, of course, I am very, very glad to get home again."