The dancing was kept up, with unflagging energy, during the whole night; and then, after a substantial breakfast, the men and women were muffled up in furs, and took their places in the sledges.
The count would gladly have had Charlie remain with him until spring began, but he was anxious to rejoin the army; and, seeing that this was so, the count did everything in his power to facilitate his journey, which, after talking it over, had been decided should be direct towards the royal camp. The count’s brother insisted upon accompanying him on the journey, as in this way many of the difficulties would be avoided. Two sledges were prepared, the one for the use of Charlie and Count John, and the other for the two servants and baggage. Both were horsed by the fastest animals in the count’s stables.
Charlie himself had been loaded with presents, which he had been obliged somewhat reluctantly to accept, as he saw that a refusal would hurt and mortify his kind hosts. He had, on his arrival, been provided with an ample wardrobe of clothes of all kinds, and to these were now added dolmans, cloaks, rugs, and most costly furs. A splendid gun, pistols, and a sword, with the hilt studded with gems, completed his outfit; while Stanislas had been presented with a heavy purse of money.
The whole of the retainers of the castle were assembled to see them start, and the count and countess, at parting, made him promise to come and pay them another visit, if the fortune of war should bring him within the possibility of reaching them.
The journey was a delightful one. Each night they put up at the chateau of some nobleman. To many of these Count John Staroski was personally known; at the others, his name secured at once a hearty welcome for himself and his companion. Travelling only by day, and at the full speed of the horses, they escaped interruption by the marauding bands, and in fourteen days after starting they drove into the town where Charles of Sweden had his headquarters, after being twice stopped and questioned by bodies of Swedish horse.
The town was crowded with troops, and they had some difficulty in finding a lodging for themselves, and stabling for the horses. As soon as this was done, Charlie proceeded alone to the quarters of Count Piper.
Charlie sent in his name, and was shown in at once.
“I glad, indeed, to see you, Captain Carstairs,” the minister said, as he entered. “We had given you up for lost. We heard first that you had been murdered in the streets of Warsaw. A month later, a man brought a letter to me from your Scotch friend Ramsay, to say that you were accused of the murder of a Jew trader, a man, it seems, of some importance in Warsaw. Ramsay said that you were in the company of a band of brigands, and that the man who went with you as your servant had joined