They leaped into a boat. Jack seized the sculls, the rope which fastened them to the shore was cut, and with a last shout of farewell to the count, they pulled off into the stream. For a few minutes the sound of battle continued, and then suddenly died away, as Count Stanislas, his object accomplished, drew off his men.
A few minutes’ rowing brought the boat to the opposite bank. Here they found Austrian sentries, who accosted them in German. As, however, the Austrian Government offered no obstacle to Polish fugitives entering the frontier, the lads were conducted to the officer of the troops at the little village which faced that on the Russian bank. Here they were questioned, first in Polish and then in German, but upon the boys repeating the word “English,” the officer, who spoke a little French, addressed them in that language, and Dick explained that they were English naval officers taken prisoners at Sebastopol, and making their escape through Poland. He then asked if there was a surgeon who could dress his wound, but was told that none was procurable nearer than a town fifteen miles away. A country cart was speedily procured and filled with straw, and upon this Dick lay down, while Jack took his seat by the peasant who was to drive the cart.
It was eleven o’clock in the day when they entered the town, and the peasant drew up, in accordance with the instructions he had received, at the best hotel, the landlord of which was in no slight degree surprised at such an arrival, and was disposed to refuse them admittance. Jack, however, produced a bundle of Russian notes, at which sight the landlord’s hesitation vanished at once, and in half an hour a surgeon stood by Dick’s bedside dressing his wound. It was a severe one, the bone being broken between the elbow and shoulder.
The next day Dick was in a state of high fever, due more to the hardship and exposure through which he bad passed than to the wound, and for a week lay between life and death. Then he began to mend, but the doctor said that it would be long before he could use his arm again, and that rest and quiet were absolutely necessary to restore him.
A week later, therefore, the midshipmen left the town, Dick having determined that he would travel home by easy stages, while Jack, of course, would journey direct to join his ship.
He had written immediately upon his arrival to acquaint his family, and that of Dick, that both were alive and had escaped from Russia. The tailors had been set to work, and the midshipmen presented a respectable appearance. Dick was still so weak that he could scarcely stand, and Jack tried hard to persuade him to stay for another week. But Dick was pining to be home, and would not hear of delay. A day’s travel in a diligence brought them to a railway station, and twelve hours later they arrived at Vienna.
Here they stopped for a day in luxurious quarters, and then Jack, after seeing his friend into the train on his way home, started to travel over the Semmering pass down to Trieste, where he knew he should find no difficulty in obtaining a steamer to Constantinople.