He then went in for politics, and was returned for a Kentish constituency. Although he took no very prominent part in party politics he became one of the recognized authorities in the house on all matters connected with the affairs of Eastern Europe, and took a lively interest in the movements set on foot for the benefit of the British soldier. Julian kept his promise to the count, and for many years went over occasionally to stay with him. His wife accompanied him until the cares of a rising family detained her at home. To the end of their lives neither Frank nor he ever regretted that they had taken part in the memorable campaign in Russia.
Julian nodded, threw two or three of the sheep-skins down in a corner, rolled another up for a pillow, drew a blanket over him, and for the first time looked round the cave. It was lighted only by a small hole used as a look-out; at present a blanket hung before this. There was a door similar to that by which he had entered from above leading to the lower cave. How far that lower entrance might be below them Julian had no means of knowing, but from the view he had obtained of the sea through a large loop-hole he had passed in his descent, he did not think that the cavern he was in could be less than seventy or eighty feet above the water. The sole ventilation, as far as he could see, was the current of air that found its way in through the door from below, and passed up through that above, and what could come in through the loop-hole seawards. Doubtless in warmer weather both the doors stood open, but were now closed more for warmth than for any other purpose, although he had noticed that the lower one had been bolted and locked after he had been first captured.
"It would no doubt have been better if he had held his tongue at the time, and have called him to account afterwards."
Mr. Faulkner's face was white with rage. "I have a dozen other witnesses," he said hoarsely, "but I have no doubt they will all follow the lead their officer has set them. I shall therefore call no more."
"That is right, old fellow; I knew you would if you could only once peep in through the window of an evening and see her face."
"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.
"My dear Frank, I am afraid you must all have been in a horrible fright about me, and no wonder. I am a most unfortunate fellow, and seem to be always putting my foot in it, and yet really I don't think I was to blame about this. In the first place, I may tell you that I am on board a French smuggler, that we have just entered the Loire, and that in a few hours shall be at Nantes. The smugglers will bring this letter back to England, and as they say they shall probably sail again a few days after they get in, I hope it will not be very long before it comes to hand. And now as to how I got here."
The next day Julian wrote his letter. He recapitulated the arguments he had used to the mate, and bade Frank and his aunt a final farewell. "I may, of course, get through the campaign," he said. "The French soldiers here seem to think that they will sweep the Russians before them, but that is their way. They talked of sweeping us out of the Peninsula, and they haven't done it yet; and there is no doubt that the Russians are good soldiers, and will make a big fight of it. I hope you won't feel cut up about this, and really I care little whether I leave my bones in Russia or not. It may be twenty years or even longer before that fellow Markham's letter arrives to clear me. And until then I cannot return to England, or at any rate to Weymouth; indeed, wherever I was, I should live with the knowledge that I might at any moment be recognized and arrested. Therefore while others here have some hope of a return home, either by an exchange of prisoners or by the war coming to an end, I have nothing to look forward to. So you see, old fellow, that it is as well as it is.
He fetched his gun and slung it over his shoulder, got upon the ladder, and pulled the trap-door down behind him. As he did so he found that it moved easily, and that he could push it up again without any difficulty, and feeling the bolt, discovered that it had been partially shot, but not sufficiently to catch fairly, although containing so far a hold of the frame, that it had torn a groove in the somewhat rotten wood with the force that he had used to raise it. He went down the ladder very cautiously, until, after descending for some thirty steps, his foot encountered solid ground. After a moment's consideration he knelt down and proceeded on his hands and knees. Almost immediately he felt the ground slope away in front of him. He got on to his feet again. Holding out his arms he found that the passage was about four feet wide, and he began to descend with extreme care, feeling his way along both walls. He had gone, he thought, about fifty yards when the passage made a sharp turn, still descending, and at a considerable distance ahead the light streamed in through a rugged hole. He walked more confidently now, and soon the light was sufficient to enable him to see the path he was following.
"Now, off with the hatches; get up the kegs."