“I have much to do now,” the czar said, “and must hand you over to the care of one of my officers. He will accompany you, in my carriage, to the spot where the vessel is lying, near the mouth of the river, and will there see you on board. Should the fortune of war again throw you into our hands, do not lose an hour in sending a message to Peter Michaeloff.”
So saying, the czar shook hands with Charlie, beckoned an officer to him and gave him instructions, and then moved away among the workmen, while Charlie, with his conductor, took their places in the vehicle and drove rapidly off.
An hour later, he was on board the Swedish vessel, whose master and crew were delighted at their sudden and unlooked for release. The former was overjoyed, for the vessel was his own property.
“You will find your things in your cabin, sir,” he said. “They were sent on board this morning, together with food and wine sufficient for a month’s voyage, whereas, with this wind, we ought not to be more than four days. At which port will you land?”
“I would rather go to Gottenburg, captain, though it is farther for you than Stockholm.”
“It shall be Gottenburg, sir. It is thanks to you that I have got my liberty and my ship, and a day or two can make no difference to me.”
Charlie, indeed, had thought the matter over as he drove along. He would not be able to rejoin the army until it had gone into winter quarters, and therefore decided that he would go to Gottenburg, apply for six months’ leave, and spend the winter with his father. Somewhat puzzled at the mention of his things having gone on board, he went into the cabin, and found there a handsome pelisse trimmed with costly furs, two robes composed of valuable skins, and a change of clothes.
The wind held fair, blowing strongly, and four days later he arrived at Gottenburg.
Charlie was received with delight by his father, whom he had not seen since the spring of the previous year.
“Then you got my letter, Charlie?” Sir Marmaduke asked, when the first greetings were over. “And yet, I do not see how you could have done so. It is little over a fortnight since I wrote, and I had not looked for you for another month yet.”
“I have certainly received no letter, father. A fortnight ago I was in a Russian prison, and my arrival here, in so short a time, seems to me almost miraculous;” and he then briefly related his singular experiences.
“Now about the letter, father,” he said, as he concluded. “I suppose you must have written to ask me to get leave for a time, as it seems that you were expecting me shortly. I suppose you felt that you would like me with you, for a time.”
“So I should, lad, of that you may be sure, but I should not have called you away for that. No, I had this letter the other day from old Banks. You know he writes to me once a year. His letters have been only gossip so far, for you know my precious cousin kicked him out of the house, as soon as he took possession; but this is a different matter. Read it for yourself.”