“I’m sorry to say, my young friend,” the doctor said to Jack, for Dick had now gone off in a quiet doze, “that the affair has assumed a very serious aspect. The count is dead. He recovered consciousness before he died, and denounced you both as having made a sudden and altogether unprovoked attack upon him. He had, he affirmed, discovered that you were meditating a breach of your parole, and that he had informed you that the privileges extended to you would, therefore, be withdrawn. Then, he said, transported by rage, you sprang upon him. He drew his sword and attempted to defend himself, but the two of you, closing with him, hurled him through the window, in spite of his struggles.”
The other officer had, while the doctor was speaking, been examining the writing-table.
“I do not see the papers he spoke of,” he said to the doctor.
Then, turning to the sergeants of the guard, he asked if any papers upon the table had been touched. The sergeant replied that no one had gone near the table since he had entered the room.
“In that case,” the officer said, “his mind cannot have been quite clear, although he seemed to speak sensibly enough. You heard him order me, doctor, to fold up a report and attesting statement directed to the Minister of the Interior, and to post them immediately? It is clear that there are no such documents here. I entered the room with the sergeant almost at the moment when the struggle ended, and as no one has touched the table since, it is clear that they cannot have been here. Perhaps I may find them on the table downstairs. It is now,” he said, turning to Jack, “my duty to inform you that you are in custody for the deliberate murder of Count Smerskoff, as sworn to by him in his last moments.”
“He was a liar when he was alive,” Jack said, “and he died with a falsehood on his lips. However, sir, we are at your orders.”
A stretcher was brought in, Dick was placed upon it, and under a guard the midshipmen were marched to the prison, the soldiers with difficulty keeping back the crowd who pressed forward to see the English prisoners who had murdered the governor.
Doctor Bertmann walked with Jack to the prison door. Upon the way he assured Jack that he entirely believed his version of the story, as he knew the governor to be a thoroughly bad man.
“Singularly enough,” he said, “I had intended to see you to-day. I went back to Sebastopol on the very day after you arrived here, with a regiment marching down, and left again with a convoy of wounded after only two days’ stay there. I got here last night, and I had intended coming out to call upon you at Count Preskoff’s to-day. You would, no doubt, like me to see him at once, and inform him of what has taken place.”
Jack said that he would be very much obliged, if he would do so.
“I will return this afternoon to see my patient,” Doctor Bertmann said, as they parted, “and will then bring you news from the count, who will, no doubt, come to see you himself.”