"Yes; I have put myself in an awkward position, I am afraid. I thought that the job had been so well managed that it could never be traced to me, but when I got up to the top of the hill I saw a fellow just starting from the bottom. I did not think much of it at the time, but he came up so quickly after me that he must have run all the way up. He has chased me hard, and as he got nearer I could see that he had a gun too. He was not more than a quarter of a mile away when I got to the trap-door."
"No; he remains in command of the dep?t for the present. Of course, he will go out if a vacancy occurs above him; but in any case he will go with the next draft, and the next two troops will be wound up to service pitch in another couple of months, so I expect by the spring he will be out there. I should not have minded if we too had waited until then, for of course the army have gone into its winter quarters, and there will be nothing doing for the next three or four months; and I take it we should be a good deal more comfortable here, than posted in some wretched little Spanish town till operations commence again. No doubt you will be out there long before the first shot is fired."
"Nothing, Frank. That fisherman, Bill, came in the other day, and said he had only heard what we knew before, that he had been sent to gaol, and that he had been marched away with a batch of prisoners somewhere inland. The smugglers could not learn what prison they had gone to. They said that the people of Nantes did not know that, as the guards who went with them from there only received orders to take them a short distance, and they were then handed over to other soldiers, who went so much further with them, and as their escort might be changed a dozen times not even the officials at Nantes had an idea where they were taken to at last."
"The credit, sir, is entirely due to Mr. Wyatt's brother. He had formed the theory that, as in his opinion his brother was certainly innocent of the crime, the only possible way in which he could account for his absence from home that night was that, upon hearing the gun fired so close at hand, Mr. Wyatt had at once run to the spot, found the body of Mr. Faulkner, and had then immediately started in pursuit of the murderer. Setting out with me on the search with this theory strongly fixed in his mind, young Wyatt seized at once every point that confirmed it, and pointed out to me that the man with heavy boots had crossed the fields at a run, and that the other had followed as soon as he came upon the footprints, after searching for them up and down by the edge of the wood. Once we had got this clue to follow up, the matter was then plain enough. The search through the wood showed us the whole circumstances of the case, as I have related them to you, just as plainly as if we had witnessed the affair. But if I had not been set upon the right trail, I say honestly that I doubt whether I should have unravelled it, especially as the snow is rapidly going, and by this afternoon the footprints will have disappeared."
"It is as you say, Victor," one of the other veterans said, "and it is all the better. It would be too bad if we had to march right across Europe and back without firing a shot, but I, who know the Russians too, feel sure that that will never be."
"We have a bad prospect before us," Julian went on. "There is no denying that; but it will make all the difference how we face it. Above all things we have got to keep up our spirits. I have heard that the captains of the whalers in the northern seas do everything in their power to interest and amuse their crews. They sing, they dance, they tell stories of adventures, and the great thing is to keep from brooding over the present. I am but a young sergeant, and most of you here have gone through many a campaign, and it is not for me to give advice, but I should say that above all things we ought to try to keep up the spirits of our men. If we could but start the marching songs we used to sing as we tramped through Germany, it would set men's feet going in time, would make them forget the cold and hunger, and they would march along erect, instead of with their eyes fixed on the ground, and stumbling as if they could not drag their feet along. We should tell them why we sing, or they might think it was a mockery. Tell them that the Grenadiers of the Rhone mean to show that, come what may, they intend to be soldiers to the last, and to face death, whether from the Russians or from the winter, heads erect and courage high. Let us show them that, as we have ever done our duty, so we shall do it to the end, and that it will be a matter of pride that throughout the division it should be said, when they hear our songs, 'There go the Grenadiers of the Rhone, brave fellows and good comrades; see how they bear themselves.'"