Dick gave an account of the struggle and the causes which led to it, owning himself greatly to blame for his imprudence in acquainting the governor with his knowledge of his secret. He also gave full credit to Jack for his promptness, not only in seizing the governor and so saving a repetition of the blow, which would probably have been fatal, but also in destroying the report and forged evidence of Paul before interruption. The lads gained great credit with all for their gallantry, and Katinka said, laughing, “It is wrong to say so, I suppose, now he is dead, but I should like to have seen the count struggling as Jack carried him along, like a little ant with a great beetle.” They all laughed.
“Oh, come now,” Jack said; “there was not so much difference as all that. He was not over six feet, and I suppose I am only about five inches less, and I’m sure I was not much smaller round the shoulders than he was.”
“And now about your route,” the count said. “You must not lose time. Do you both quite agree with me that it would be next to impossible for you to pass through the lines of our army and to gain your own?”
“Quite impossible,” Dick agreed. “Jack and I have talked it over again and again, and are of opinion that it could not be done even in Russian uniforms. We should be liable to be questioned by every officer who met us as to the reason of our being absent from our regiment, and should be certain to be found out. We thought that it might be possible to get hold of a fishing-boat, and sail down to join the fleet. There would be of course the risk of being blown off the shore or becalmed, and it would be difficult to lay in a stock of provisions.”
“Besides,” the count said, “there is no blockade at Odessa, and our small war-steamers cruise up and down the coast, so that you would be liable to capture. No, I am sure your best way will be to go by land through Poland. There are still large bodies of troops to the southwest, facing the Turks, and it would be better for you to keep north of these into Poland. You can go as wounded soldiers on furlough returning home; and, being taken for Poles, your broken Russian will appear natural. I will give you a letter which the countess has written to the intendant of her estates in Poland, and he will do everything in his power.”