"This gentleman has told me, Peter, that I must not run in to see them without their being told first that I am safe, and that you had better fetch Papa Serge. This is the English gentleman, Peter, who saved my life when I was almost dead with cold, and carried me for days and days under his cloak, and kept me warm close to him when we lay down in the snow at night."
Julian was instructed in the Russian words to reply if asked by any of the postmasters whether he was the Ivan Meriloff mentioned in the passport, and, on the day after the return of the priest, they started in a sledge filled with hay and covered with sheep-skins.
"Are any of the prisoners represented in court?" the chairman asked.
"You are not going, Wyatt," Wilmington, who was his informant, said. "The order expressly stated that Cornet Wyatt was not to accompany his troop, as his services were required in another direction, and that another officer was to take his place, and I am going with your troop. Lister has been grumbling desperately. What on earth can they want you for? However, there is a batch of letters for you in the ante-room, and I daresay you will learn something about it from them."
"Mr. Wyatt has just obtained a commission, and he thinks that as there are few, if any, officers in the army who speak it fluently, it might be of great advantage to him. He is, therefore, prepared to work hard at it. I myself," he went on in Russian, "speak it a little, as you see; I have already warned him of the difficulty of the language, and he is not dismayed. He is going down to Canterbury to join the dep?t of his regiment in the course of a few days, and he proposes that you should accompany him and take a lodging there."
A quarter of an hour later Julian was equipped in the attire of a well-to-do peasant, with caftan lined with sheep-skin, a round fur cap, a thick pair of trousers of a dark rough cloth, bandages of the same material round the leg from the knee to the ankle, and high loose boots of untanned leather with the hair inside. The transformation greatly pleased the peasants, whose hatred of the French uniform had hitherto caused them to stand aloof from him, and they now patted him on the shoulder, shook his hand, and drank glasses of vodka, evidently to his health, with great heartiness. Julian could, as yet, scarcely believe that all this was not a dream. From the day that he had crossed the Niemen he had been filled with gloomy forebodings of disaster, and sickened by the barbarities of the soldiers upon the people, while, during the retreat, he had been exposed to constant hardship, engaged in innumerable fights and skirmishes, and impressed with the firm belief that not a Frenchman would ever cross the frontier save as a prisoner. After this the sense of warmth, the abundance of food, and the absence of any necessity for exertion seemed almost overpowering, and for the next three or four days he passed no small proportion of his time in sleep.
"No, sir," the sailor said in an aggrieved voice. "How was I to lead a young gentleman like your brother into a thing as he didn't choose to do? I don't say as I didn't mention to him, promiscuous like, that I lent a hand some times in running a cargo; but how was I to know as he would up and say, 'I will go with you some night, Bill.' Well, I argues with him, and I points out to him as he might get into a scrape; but, says he, 'I am not going to take no share in it, but just want to look on and see the fun,' as he calls it. I points out to him as it was not always fun, but he puts that aside, and, says he, it would not be fun unless there was a little excitement about it. He promised me faithful that he would always cut and run as soon as he heard there was any talk of the revenue men a-coming, and what was I to do? I don't say, sir, as how if it had been you I would have taken you with me, 'cause you are young, you see, and I should have felt as I was 'sponsible for you. But Mr. Julian is a man now, and when he says, 'I mean to go with you anyhow, Bill,' it was not for me to say, you sha'n't go. Mr. Julian, he is a sort of gent that gets over one somehow, and there ain't no saying 'no' to him."下载
So they chatted until dinner was announced; then the countess lay down on the sofa, and Stephanie came in and sat on a low stool beside her, while her father and Julian went to the dining-room. After the meal was over the count proposed that Julian should accompany him on a visit to the Nobles' Club. The sledge was already waiting at the door, and in a few minutes they arrived, not, as Julian had expected, at a stately building, but at a garden.
"This is our skating place," the count said as they entered. "We have guest-nights here once a week during the winter. As a rule, those present are simply the invited guests of members; but to-night the tickets are sold at twenty roubles each, and the proceeds go to the funds for the benefit of the wounded. It will furnish a handsome sum, for everyone is here, and there are few indeed who have paid as little as the twenty roubles. Some sent cheques for as much as five hundred roubles for their tickets, and a hundred may be taken as the average. This is the first time that we have had a military band, for music is naturally considered out of place when everyone is in mourning and such vast numbers of our soldiers are still suffering horribly; but as this is for their benefit it is considered as an exception. You will not see much skating; the ice will be far too crowded."
One bright morning Frank strolled down to the Nobles' Club, of which he and the general had been made honorary members. It was his first visit to St. Petersburg. His fur coat was partly open and showed his British uniform. He was looking about with interest at the scene in the Nevsky Prospect when he noticed a gentleman in a handsomely appointed sledge looking fixedly at him. As the uniform attracted general attention he thought little of this, but after going a short distance the sledge turned and passed him at a slow rate of speed. The gentleman again gazed fixedly at him, then stopped the coachman, and leaped from the sledge to the pavement.