At three o'clock Napoleon, whose whole army, with the exception of the Imperial Guard, had been engaged, felt that nothing further could be done that day, and ordered the battle to cease. He had gained the three redoubts on the Russians' left and the great redoubt captured by the Viceroy, but these were really only advanced works, and the main position of the Russians still remained entirely intact. At night the French retired from the positions they had won, to those they had occupied before the battle begun, retaining possession only of the village of Borodino. The loss of the combatants during the two days' fighting had been nearly equal, no less than 40,000 men having been killed on each side, a number exceeding that of any other battle in modern times. Napoleon expected that the Russians would again give battle next morning, but Kutusow, contrary to the opinion of most of his generals, decided on falling back. Beningsen, one of his best officers, strongly urged him to take up a position at Kalouga, some seventy miles to the south of Moscow. The position was a very strong one. Napoleon could not advance against Moscow, which was in a position to offer a long and determined resistance, until he had driven off the Russian army. At Kalouga they could at any moment advance on to his line of communication, cut off all his supplies, and isolate him from France.
It is Faulkner against the other two, Mr. Probert whispered to Frank. "Of course they were unanimous about the smugglers, but I expect they differed as to the others. It is lucky that the Colonel is in the chair. Harrington is a mild little fellow, and Faulkner would be able to twist him round his finger if there were only the two of them, but there is no fear of that with the Colonel there to keep him straight."
What I don't like, growled one of the old sergeants, "is that there is not a soul in the villages, not a solitary man in the fields. It is not natural. One gets the same sort of feeling one has when a thunderstorm is just going to burst overhead. When it has begun you don't mind it, but while you are waiting for the first flash, the first clap of thunder, you get a sort of creepy feeling. That is just what the sight of all this deserted country makes me feel. I have campaigned all over Europe, but I never saw anything like this."
Julian had, since their retreat began, again recovered his spirits. He was now not fighting to conquer a country against which he had no animosity, but for his own life and that of the thousands of sick and wounded.
Possibly so, Mr. Henderson; but in that case, why did he not keep among the trees both coming and going, instead of exposing himself, as he must have done running here; for the hedge is thin, and any one walking along, much less driving, could have seen him.
Well, Frank, have you got him out? I hoped you would have brought him home with you.
There were roars of cheering as they went in through the gates, in spite of Captain Lister holding up his hand and shaking his head. As they drove across the barrack square to Frank's quarters the subalterns came rushing out. "Glad indeed to see you back again, Wyatt," the first who run up exclaimed; "so it was arranged without fighting after all?"
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.
PLAN OF THE BATTLE OF BORODINO.
'There it is,' the guide said, pointing to the tents. And the cavalry set off at a gallop, followed by the guide, who soon fell far into their rear. Just as the cavalry reached the tents, we saw two great masses of horsemen appear from behind the sand-hills on either flank, and with loud yells ride down upon them. With a shout of fury we were about to break into a run, but the major who was in command said, 'It is useless, comrades. There is but one hope. Make for that village. We can hold that; and there, if any of our comrades escape, they will find shelter. Double, march.' Off we went, but it was against the grain. We could hear the cracking of pistols, the shouts of our brave fellows, the yells of the Arabs, and our hearts were there; but we felt that the major was right. There must have been fully a couple of thousand of the Arabs, and we should have but thrown away our lives. It was a terrible run. The heat was stifling; the dust rose in clouds under our feet. We could scarce breathe, but we knew that we were running for life. As we neared the village, we heard yells behind us."
Well, sir, if you have a fancy for hanging, of course you can do so; but from what I hear, hanging it would be, as sure as you stand there. There is a warrant out against you, and the constables are scouring all the country.
What did you follow me for?
One morning when Frank was dressing, the servant came up and told him that a fisherman, who said his name was Bill Bostock, wanted to speak to him. As he had often been out with Julian in the man's boat, he put on his jacket and ran to the door.
Since we entered Russia, Count, he said, "and I have seen the savage manner in which the peasantry were treated, not so much by the French troops as by the allies, I bitterly regretted that I had enlisted; but, at the time, no notion of this had ever entered my mind. I have told you that the life at Verdun was intolerable. We died in hundreds, for a sort of dull despair seemed to settle on everyone; and, although for a long time I had borne up against it, I had come to the point when death would have been welcome. A return to my own country seemed closed to me, owing to the circumstances I have related to you; and I entered the French service, just as, in the wars a couple of hundred years ago, Englishmen and Scotchmen were to be found fighting as soldiers of fortune in the armies of well-nigh every power of Europe."
They found that the servant who had preceded them with the baggage had already made all the arrangements for their crossing the gulf. The extreme cold had everywhere so completely frozen the sea that there was no difficulty in crossing, which, they learned, was not often the case. Three sledges had been engaged for their transport. The distance was about 120 miles; but it was broken by the islands of the Aland Archipelago, and upon one or other of these they could take refuge in the event of any sudden change of weather. They were to start at midnight, and would reach Bomarsund, on the main island of Aland, on the following evening, wait there for twenty-four hours to rest the animals, and would reach the mainland the next day.
I will certainly do so, sir. We had a French master at school. It was not compulsory to learn the language, but I thought it might be useful if I went into the army, and so took it up. I don't say that I can speak well at all, but I know enough to help me a good deal.