A council of the leaders was hastily summoned.
Lublin was a large town garrisoned by some 5000 Russian troops, and even had the whole of the insurgent bands been collected, they would not have been strong enough to attempt a repetition of their late successful surprise, especially, as after that occurrence, the Russian troops would be everywhere on the alert.
All agreed that the loss of their most successful leader would be a death-blow to the revolt in that part of the country. The personal popularity of the young leader was immense, and the prestige which he had won by his several successes had excited the greatest confidence among his followers. So important was his life considered that the midshipmen urged that at all costs his rescue should be attempted, and although the enterprise appeared a desperate one, their proposal was finally agreed to.
A few men were at once despatched to Lublin to find out what was going on, and when and where the execution would take place, while 500 chosen men prepared to march through the forests to a point within a few miles of the town, where the spies were to rejoin them.
Just as they were starting the idea struck Dick that the Russian uniforms might be utilized, and, much to their disgust, half the party were ordered to dress themselves in the hated garb. The transformation was soon effected, and the band set out on their march.
Upon the third evening they arrived at the indicated spot, where several of the spies were already awaiting them. These informed them that the trial would take place on the following day, and that it was generally supposed that the count would be executed the next morning as there could be no doubt what the finding of the court would be.
Next day the midshipmen, accompanied by several of the leaders, all in peasants’ dress, visited the town to learn its general features, and make themselves acquainted with the approaches to the great square, where it was considered probable the execution would take place. They found the whole population moody and depressed. The news of the successes of the patriot bands had already spread far and wide, and had excited high hopes in every Polish breast. The fact, then, that the most successful leader was in the hands of their enemies had spread universal grief and consternation. After learning all the particulars they desired, the party rejoined their friends in the forest. The greatest difficulty existed from the fact that it would be impossible for the rescuing party to carry either muskets or their long scythes. Some twenty revolvers had fallen into their hands in the two fights, and with these the officers had all armed themselves. A certain portion of the men cut long sticks, like ox-goads, made to fit the bayonets; others fitted short handles to their scythes, while others carried short heavy sticks, to which again bayonets were fitted. A hundred of those dressed as soldiers were to carry their muskets, and, under the orders of one of their leaders, to march boldly down the street, so timing their arrival as to reach the square just at the time at which the execution was to take place, while the rest were to mix with the crowd.