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PREFACE

For the next three months Frank fired fifty shots a daytwenty-five with each handand at the end of that time could hit a penny thrown up by Woodall, eighteen times out of twenty.

"You have taken away my breath altogether, Frank," Mrs. Troutbeck said. "However, I am too bewildered to think for myself, and for the present must do whatever you tell me."

Almost simultaneously with the passage of the Niemen by the three corps under the French marshals, those of Prince Eugene and the other generals also crossed, but further south, and also advanced at full speed in hopes of interposing between the three Russian armies, and of preventing their concentration. For the next week the French pressed hard upon the rear of the retreating Russians, but failed to bring on a battle, while they themselves suffered from an incessant downpour of rain which made the roads well-nigh impassable. The commissariat train broke down, and a hundred pieces of cannon and 5000 ammunition waggons had to be abandoned. The rain, and a bitterly cold wind that accompanied it, brought on an epidemic among the horses, which were forced to depend solely upon the green rye growing in the fields. Several thousands died; the troops themselves suffered so much from thirst and hunger that no less than 30,000 stragglers fell out from the ranks and spread themselves over the country, burning, ravaging, plundering, and committing terrible depredations. Such dismay was caused by their treatment that the villages were all abandoned, and the whole population retired before the advance of the French, driving their flocks and herds before them, and thus adding greatly to the difficulties of the invaders.

G.A. HENTY.

"Every man behind the stockade had half a dozen spare muskets. A legion of devils could not have taken the place. They did not take it, but never did mortal men try harder. Even when they felt that it was absolutely impossible, they stood there amid that storm of shot and shell, exploding powder barrels, and bursting mines. Two thousand men were killed in that breach, and yet they still stood there. Our own triumph was but a short one, for another British division had carried the castle. While we were exulting in victory, the town was lost. Thus, you see, they had in twenty days captured the fortress that we and everyone else made sure we could defend for at least three months. Fortunately we were exchanged a short time afterwards, and so I escaped being sent to an English prison. I agree with you, Rignold. I am ready to do my share of fighting, but I would rather do it against any one, even against these Russians, than against the English; and I think you will find that every man who has served in Spain would say the same."

"I should be quite ready to do that, sir," Frank said earnestly, "and I thank you indeed for your kindness. But who should I get to teach me?"

"Certainly, lad; but this is a horrible business. If it had been merely an ordinary quarrel the colonel would have interfered to stop it, but after what you said before us all, and with strangers present too, I am afraid it must go on. You must be mad, lad. I have not seen you shoot since that first evening when we went down, and two or three times shortly afterwards. Woodall told me that you were getting on well; but however well you may have got on, you can be no match with a pistol for a man like Marshall; and you may be sure he won't spare you after so public an affront."